St. John’s Bakery – finally got my hands on one of those famous doughnuts!

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Count your Lucky Stars… they are back!

Since the late 90’s they have only been available at Selfridges, speciality food stores or as gifts from overseas relatives, but it appears that my childhood favourite cereal is now back on our local supermarket shelves. I found these in Tesco, Sudbury branch, which had dedicated a fair few shelves to a vast array of American candies, cereals, snacks and drinks. It appears you can now by chocolate Lucky Charms, Lucky Charms cereal bars and even the Three Musketeers chocolate bar that I have only ever come across on the TV show Friends. I was immediately excited by all these foreign offerings but is it such a good idea to introduce more unhealthy cereals into our already sugar saturated market? Probably not, however seeing as we are being encouraged to have Nutella for breakfast because it contains ‘two whole hazelnuts’ and some milk it will take more than cutting out sugary cereals to solve our obesity problems! Maybe one bowl a week or on special occasions might be ok, but at £5 a box – are they worth it?!

(Of course, my answer is yes!)

My Life Without – The Final Chapter

In my last post I was preparing for a weekend away at Brownstock music festival. As usual when it comes to weekends spent with friends I took the opportunity to bake lots of goodies for us all to enjoy over the couple of days we spent in a field, including sugar-free, dairy-free and wheat-free flapjacks, sunflower and sesame cookies courtesy of the Intolerant Gourmet and some delicious gingerbread biscuits.

Not suprisingly most of the food stalls at the festival did not cater very well for people with allergies or intolerances. There were several burger stands but the burgers contained wheat and even the baked goods stalls had little if no choice on offer. What did save the day was a pancake stand which made free-from pancakes – no dairy, no wheat. It was a godsend! There was also a wrap stall which were very helpful in finding me a large lettuce leaf for me to eat their spicy beef from, however the enjoyment was short-lived as the beef itself was horribly tough and chewy.

A week later I took a short trip to France with a group of school friends. I didn’t come across too many problems here as we prepared and cooked lots of our meals at home so I could easily control what I was eating. On the one occasion we did eat out I had to opt for steak and chips while everyone else enjoyed stone-baked pizzas, however with a steak this big I could hardly complain.

Pretty good Pizza (apparently!)
Large steak – a bit fatty in places but big enough!

Fortunately this was one of the last times I would have to be the odd one out – my two months were soon to be up and I could start introducing my ‘bad’ foods into my diet again.

After speaking with the food nutritionist who I took the original test with it was decided that I would start the ‘reintroducing stage’ with dairy in the first week, wheat the next and eggs, peppers and more particular foods such as the legumes and nuts in the following weeks. During the first week I also started my six month Cordon Bleu Diploma at Tante Marie Culinary Academy which proved to be very good timing as I would need to be able to constantly taste and try all of the food.

However by the end of the first week of eating dairy my skin had erupted and my eczema was back, after a good six weeks of clear skin. For this reason I am still trying to avoid dairy whenever possible, for example I have gone back to having almond milk with my cereal and I’m staying away from cheese (as much as possible at least!). As for the wheat, I so far have not had any bad stomach symptoms. The most I’ve eaten at any one time was several slices of takeaway pizza (I apologise) but this didn’t seem to have any terrible effect. Although I am still trying to avoid it where possible as it doesn’t do any of us any favours! I am still yet to eat a whole egg and to eat peppers again but it is clear from my skin reaction that dairy is my biggest issue.

The two months of My Life Without were definitely worth it. My stomach symptoms do appear to have subsided and even though my skin is bad, when my cookery course has finished and it is easier to control what I eat again, I know I will be able to survive quite happily on a dairy-free diet. It is interesting to learn about the different substitutes and it is exciting to experiment with different ingredients. Even my sister found this out, when she baked a vast amount of free-from goodies for a recent weekend and came up trumps with some fairy cakes and melt-in-your-mouth cookies. All in all it has been a valuable experience and more importantly I now have the utmost respect for those with serious food intolerances and illnesses.

Month No. 2 – My Life without Peppers, Eggs, Dairy, Wheat and other things I should be able to eat.

I am now moving into the second month of my intolerance diet. In case you missed the first, you can catch up here.

A hen party and a wedding –  it hasn’t been a great few weeks. To be fair, the hen party went swimmingly without a hint of gluten or wheat passing my lips, but the wedding was another matter. I had always planned to eat what I wanted on the day, so that I could make the most of the canapés, wedding breakfast and evening treats that we had planned. I didn’t gorge; I avoided the pastry on the beef Wellington and the potato Dauphinoise but I did have a good go at the trio of desserts even if I didn’t lick the plate clean. I had one or two small pieces of cheese on toast which came out later on in the evening but I managed to steer my hands away from the bacon sandwiches. Of course, I also had two slices of wedding cake which I couldn’t possibly turn down especially as it had been expertly made by one of my best friends who is the greatest cake baker I know.

Unfortunately it didn’t stop there. The next day we had a family BBQ, where my gluten-free sausages brought especially for the occasion were hastily ignored in a hungover haze as I scrambled for the first bit of meat I could feast on. I managed to avoid the vast array of baguettes but some how a portion of coronation rice salad and pasta pesto slipped onto my plate. Needless to say, I felt terrible for a good 2-3 days after. Now, I am not putting this all down to the food – it had been a very hectic and tiring week with unnecessary amounts of alcohol consumed so I was bound to feel a little weary after all the excitement, but there was definitely something else awry and my stomach wasn’t happy. Not that I can blame it, after having religiously avoided wheat and dairy I suddenly piled it with the stuff in all sorts of different forms. I have certainly learnt my lesson and when it comes to reintroducing the foods I am cutting out I will be extra careful to make sure I don’t rush the process.

The bank holiday weekend just gone was a lot more successful. Despite eating out on four different occasions I managed to avoid eating any of my bad foods. The first meal was at Cafe Nawaz, a little Indian restaurant behind London Bridge. This is a regular haunt for us; not only is the food really good and cheap, but it is BYOB and only a ten minute walk away from home. The staff were very helpful and recommended something from the tandoori menu, which I was expecting as all of these dishes are dry and without any creamy sauce. However it wasn’t as easy as all that, as peppers are one of my strong intolerances and these featured in quite a few of the options. I chose the Murgh Shashlick, which they describe as ‘diced pieces of tender chicken marinated with fresh herbs and spices and garnished with onions, tomatoes and green peppers, then grilled in the tandoor’. I asked for no peppers which was not a problem and it was served sizzling impressively with some plain rice. It was rather enjoyable, but the onions tasted slightly burnt and I couldn’t help but get extremely jealous as everyone else around me tucked into their rich sauces and naan breads.

The second meal out was lunch the following day at Byrons. We went to their relatively new branch on The Cut, Waterloo, which is made up of three light and airy dining spaces as opposed to one large room. All of their burgers are gluten and wheat-free but of course I couldn’t have the bun. I chose the ‘skinny’ burger, which is served without a bun and with salad. I also had a portion of ‘home-made skin on chips’ which I was told were gluten-free. The salad was dripping in oil but the chips were perfect – not too soggy, not too crispy, just as chips should be. The burger was slightly too rare, resembling steak tartar in some places but by the time I realised exactly how rare it was I had eaten most of it so it obviously didn’t bother me too much.

The next meal out was dinner at The Magdalen. I shan’t go into too much detail as I will be reviewing it separately , but I will say that the waiters very helpful in marking all the dishes on the menu that were wheat, gluten and dairy-free.

My last meal out during this gluttonous weekend was, I’m slightly ashamed to say, another curry. This time we were at Spice of Night, Castlenau in Hammersmith. The staff didn’t seem quite as confident as they were in Nawaz when it came to recommending dishes, but I chose the Sheekh Kebab and a dry vegetable curry. The kebabs had an overpowering and not very enjoyable taste but the vegetables were well cooked with a nice blend of flavours and spices.

Phew – I feel full just writing about what I ate that weekend. Fortunately Monday consisted of one of my new home-made healthy and light favourites – a seafood noodle soup. Incredibly easy, it consists of one packet of frozen mixed seafood, usually containing mussels, squid, scallops and prawns (which I pick out!), lightly fried with garlic then simmered in vegetable bouillon stock with some chilli flakes, rice noodles and any vegetable I fancy (pak choi is a favourite).

It doesn’t look amazing but it is refreshing, light and satisfyingly filling.

This weekend I’m heading to Brownstock musical festival in Essex. Tomorrow morning will be spent baking lots of free-from goodies and I’m looking forward to seeing how well they go down with everyone over the weekend. It will also be interesting to see how well the organisers have catered for people with allergies/intolerances. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Flat Iron Steak – Shoreditch

£10 steak and salad? Who could say no? I didn’t, and last Friday I made my way to Flat Iron, a pop-up steak restaurant above the Owl and Pussycat pub in Shoreditch. They don’t take reservations and the queue was quite long but they supplied popcorn in tin mugs to keep us form straying elsewhere. Once inside the space was busy and noisy but with a cosy and fun atmosphere. We quickly ordered four steaks and salads (there were four of us!) and a portion of chips each. The steak was served on wooden platters and the chips in rustic white bowls. When ordering they recommended the steak to be cooked medium-rare, but we all decided to opt for the rare option instead. This is probably why I was a little disappointed; my steak, cut into thin slices, was a little too tough and possibly would have benefitted from a longer cooking time. It was also rather cold – maybe because the wooden boards didn’t contain the heat very well. On the plus side, the salad was fresh and the chips deliciously salty. They offer a variety of sauces and a good cocktail menu, along with wines and beers.

Popcorn

Fork and cleaver – not something you use everyday!

Salad for two

Generous portions of steak and those wonderfully salty chips

Flat Iron is open Tuesday – Saturday from 6pm – 10pm but it’s not around for long. It closes on 29th August, so if you want a fun, cheap, steak night out get down there quick. Just remember to order medium-rare and be sure to get some popcorn.

(apologies for the poor photography – camera issues)

My Life without Peppers, Eggs, Dairy, Wheat and other things I should be able to eat.

I recently had a food intolerance test and discovered I have a strong intolerance to wheat, durum wheat (found in pasta), brazil nuts (very random) and peppers (not that big a deal as not my favourite veg in the world). I have a medium intolerance to gluten, dairy and eggs and a mild intolerance to soya, legumes (peas and other nice veggies) and yeast. None of these foods make me drastically ill, but I do suffer from occasional IBS and I have had eczema since I was a baby which can be effected by what you eat, mainly dairy products. So, I am cutting out my strong intolerances for 2 months, barely touching my medium intolerances and seldom having my peas and soya (I never have soya anyway but I do LOVE my peas). The method behind the madness is to cut out all these things I am supposedly intolerant to and then to gradually introduce them back into my diet, with the end result hopefully being that I have become more tolerant to them.

Today was my first day of my detox.

Day 1

Breakfast: gluten-free porridge made with rice milk. Rice milk is so very sweet I felt sick from the first mouthful.

Lunch: Turkey breast, broccoli, carrots and some dairy free parmesan on top. It was…so so, nothing I would serve to anyone else.

Dinner: two rice cakes and half a turkey breast as I have terribly bad stomach pains and have had most of the day. The irony is unbelievable.

The next two months are going to be fun. I’ll keep you posted.

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Day 6

After getting over my stomach pains of day 1 my week has consisted of chicken and vegetables and lots of fruit. One dinner was half a tin of gluten-free baked beans, ham and carrots. Again, something I would serve myself and myself only. My main battle this week has been with milk; after failing to like rice milk my next option was goats milk. At first I didn’t mind it; anything seemed marginally better than the rice milk, but after a few breakfasts I came to realise it tastes a bit like normal milk on the verge of turning sour. When heated up to make porridge, this taste gets worse. I have opted back to rice milk for the time being which, by the way, goes much better with cereal than it did porridge. I have invested in some almond milk to try next.

Family visiting is the ultimate excuse to bake and feed, and so I took to the internet to find some gluten, wheat, dairy and egg free recipes to try out. My favourite blog so far is The Intolerant Gourmet, which is where I got the recipe for some strawberry and cream cupcakes which went down a real treat.

For dinner I slow cooked a leg of lamb for 6 1/2 hours. After browning the leg to give it a good strong colour I put it in a large casserole dish with carrots, onion, stock and white wine.

I popped it in our fan oven at 120 and left it to it. I chose to use Kallo’s yeast and gluten-free vegetable stock; I would have preferred to use fresh stock to give the dish more flavour, but it was well received nevertheless.

Of course, it was vital that I found a chocolate bar that suited all my dietary requirements. In Waitrose I came across Kinnerton’s nut, egg, dairy and gluten-free luxury dark chocolate which has proved popular with all the family, although it’s not a patch against Green and Blacks or good old Dairy Milk. Alas, it will have to do for now.

My aim for week 2 is to be more adventurous with my lunch and dinners.  There is only so much more chicken and veg I can take. I think some meat balls may be on their way…

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Day 15

It’s been quite a successful week; the meatballs I was craving when I last wrote saw me through some very yummy meals, accompanied by a simple vegetable tomato sauce.

I have had several meals with friends in the past 9 days, the first was at Prezzo. I had the bacon, chicken and avocado salad, minus the croutons and the dressing. The salad is something I have a lot here so I was more than satisfied with having to eat it. For the second meal I cooked stuffed chicken wrapped in parma ham – my chicken wasn’t stuffed with mozzarella like my friends was, but I didn’t find myself missing it too much. The third meal was lunch at Bar and Wok in Cheltenham, where I had the Char Sui Noodle Soup with gluten free vermicelli noodles. This was delicious but I did look at the menu before we went to check that there was something I could eat. The weekend was rounded off with a BBQ in the park, where I gorged on Tesco Free From sausages, which passed my sausage test, although it should be noted that my sausage connoisseur friend wasn’t too impressed.

My trip to see Batman at the cinema was not hindered either – I stocked up on gluten and dairy free gummy Koala bears from Goody Good Stuff and some of their Sour Fruit Salad sweets. I love going to the cinema, not only for the films but primarily for the pic’n’mix and popcorn! I go all out, with large bags of both normally (yes, cinema trips are my downfall) so it was great to still be able to munch on my special sweeties throughout the film.  These sweets really are good too, I hope to try the Summer Peaches and Tropical fruit mixes next.

For breakfast I think I have cracked it – almond milk. Not as sweet as rice milk it goes perfectly with both my porridge and muesli, although the muesli itself is getting rather bland, it is just porridge oats and dried fruit after all. A new breakfast cereal is the next thing to find I think.

Today I tried some of Mrs Crimbles Sea Salt and Vinegar Potato bakes which were full of flavour and definitely cured my crisp craving. I have found quite a few normal types of crisps that are fine to eat, but some contain wheat flour or soya so I do have to study the labels closely.

This coming weekend I’m out for Steak – can’t go wrong there – but also thai so I will get investigating as to what to avoid.

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Day 25

On Saturday we went to Thai Square in Putney for a friends birthday. I emailed them before to find out what they would recommend and they replied with two dishes, Nua Pad Khing (stir fried beef with ginger, dried mushrooms and onions) and Chicken Chashew Nuts. I went with the latter which was really good, although I felt very jealous of everyone else devouring a £25 three course set menu. I saved a few pennies though – you can’t have everything!

The next day I cooked a stir fry using a vegetable stir fry package from Sainsburys… however I forgot that I’m not meant to be eating peppers so I had to pick them out. It’s not the wheat and gluten that’s the difficult bit, it’s remembering that I’m not meant to have peppers too, and legumes, one of my mild intolerances,  I found out include chickpeas, which I have been feasting on in the past week. So all in all not too successful. But I’ve enjoyed another week of chicken and vegetable lunches without getting too bored. It’s amazing what some Cajun seasoning can do.

In the past ten days I also tried some sheep yoghurt. It was great with some peaches and honey but I felt the effects of it afterwards so I am trying to stay away from sheep and goats products, as well as just cows.

I also brought some Sainsbury’s gluten, wheat and dairy free digestive biscuits – they were a bit too sweet for my liking but satisfied my Sunday evening blues biscuit craving. Similarly, I found Genius gluten-free brown bread to be too sweet as well, but with a bit of sunflower butter and salt on top it was a little more enjoyable.

I have got my sisters hen party this weekend, for which I’m doing lots of ‘nibbley’ bits – lets see if I can make all of them suitable for me to eat.

World Street Food Festival at Southbank -1st to 5th June 2012

The World Street Food Festival saw an expansion of the Southbank’s weekly Real Food Market into an exciting collection of street food vendors serving cuisines from around the world. You could hear the hustle and bustle and smell the exotic mixture of flavours before you saw the stalls and we had a good wander around, taking it all in, before we could even contemplate what to eat. The market was not overly large but there was such a wide variety of cuisines on offer. Walking from stall to stall we came across mussels from the Mussel Men, american hot dogs, huge dishes of paella, korean delights, homemade pasta, sweet Spanish churros, ice cream stalls, patisseries, caribbean curries, greek sausages, indian snacks and lastly, the classic beef burger. To wash it all down there was a choice of coffee, fresh fruit juice, somerset cider and even champagne. Where to begin?

Perfect location behind the Royal Festival Hall

Where to eat?

I have always been a fan of Korean food, both eating out and trying to replicate the dishes at home. It was a massive hit with our friends during a ‘Come Dine With Me’ competition we had last year (we came joint first but that’s not important). BiBimbap were serving a particular favourite, beef bulgogi, a barbecued beef dish which they served in a wrap with lettuce.

Working hard at the Bibimbap stall

Cooking up the beef bulgogi

Luckily we hung around the stall whilst eating the wrap, as they offered us another helping of the meat which we took without hesitation!

Beef Bulgogi from Bibimbap

Our tipple of choice was, of course, the Somerset cider. There was the choice of medium or dry and we even went back to buy a carton to take home. Once you try ‘proper’ cider, and this really is proper cider from the Glastonbury ‘Cider Bus’, there really is no going back!

‘Proper’ cider

1 litre or 2?!

Next stop had to be one of the Malaysian stalls. Malaysia Kitchen for the World were sponsoring the festival and there were many different stalls to choose from, some representing Malaysian restaurants in London.

Sponsors of the festival

I have never tried Malaysian before, not that I know of anyway, and I simply chose the dish which looked the tastiest. I chose VERY well indeed!

Serving up the beef rendang

Beef rendang: slow cooked beef in a coconut and lemon grass sauce. Deliciously tender with a tremendous and unique flavour. I went back twice over the weekend just for this dish. I cannot wait to try a recipe I found on a blog called Rasa Malaysia and to use some of the exotic ingredients involved that I am not yet familiar with, such as galangal and tamarind pulp.

Delicious Beef Rendang with rice and salad

There were many patisseries and delis offering up all sorts of foreign treats.

Ostrich kabanos – an alternative to Peperami!

Polish Deli

I had to resist buying each of these lovely little Eastern Mediterranean pastries from the Arabica Food and Spice Company.

The Arabica Food and Spice Company

Our last taste of the festival came from Tongue ‘n Cheek, serving Italian style nose to tail street food.

Tongue ‘n Cheek

We tried the famous Porky Sub – pork cheek served with a port reduction and coleslaw, however we swapped the latter for salad instead.

Porky Sub from Tongue ‘n Cheek

The cheek was tender and tasty although the port reduction was a little to sweet and for my liking, slightly overpowering the flavour of the meat.

Porky Sub

The festival was free to enter and each dish cost around £5. When you get to try dishes from around the world which you would not normally come across, I think it is well worth a visit. I cannot wait for the Real Food Festival at the end of September.

Patterson’s — Family-run Elegance

During the amazing heat wave we’ve had recently we decided to treat ourselves to some midweek deliciousness. We definitely chose the right spot – the spacious air-conditioned dining room was a welcome relief from the stifling evening. The décor is black and white; simple yet stylish and the room has an elegant and inviting feel to it. We had a 50% discount from booking through Toptable, so with our eyes on all three courses we got down to business.

First we got to choose our bread roll from a varied selection including tomato, olive, walnut and the standard white roll. I like this touch – it adds a bit of excitement, especially when you get to choose from bread you would not normally eat at home. Then followed the amuse-bouche, celeriac velouté, a very tasty rich and creamy soup that set my appetite going nicely.

For our starters we had lobster and seared duck liver on a tart fine of figs with a port wine dressing and the squab breast and leg wrapped in sage and filo pastry with a ragout of peas and bacon with confit celeriac and walnut sauce. Both were presented beautifully and were of a generous portion size, as were the rest of the dishes – always a bonus. The duck liver had a nice, thin, crisp shell but it melted in the mouth and the lobster matched very well with the figs and the port dressing. The squab (a young domestic pigeon) had a very strong yet enjoyably powerful taste.

Lobster and seared duck liver – only photo I got unfortunately as my phone ran out of battery.

For our mains we chose the serloin of beef with seared fois gras, potato fondant, glazed vegetables with an oxtail and hermitage wine sauce and the corn fed chicken breast gratinee with asparagus fritters, potato purée and truffle sauce. The steak was cooked perfectly rare. It apparently was not the best steak Antony has ever had but it was better than many specialty steakhouses, Marco Pierre Whites being one we have recently visited. As for my dish, I don’t normally choose chicken in a restaurant but being such a hot day I wanted a ‘lighter’ meal as opposed to the beef or the herb crusted saddle of lamb which was also on the menu. I was not disappointed – the chicken was moist and topped with just the right amount of blue cheese sauce for my taste – cheese lovers like my sister would have been disappointed! The asparagus fritters were very lightly coated in breadcrumbs, adding a satisfying crunch, which contrasted nicely with the texture of the vegetable itself. The truffle sauce was not very distinguishable but this did not spoil the dish one bit.

Desperate to make the most of our discount we ordered dessert, chocolate fondant with malted milk ice cream and lemon tart with honeyed marscarpone cream. The chocolate fondant looked very impressive but was very rich – chocolate lovers only, I advise. The lemon tart packed a punchy zing, although I do prefer my tarts a little more set. This tart was served warm and almost too soft in the middle for my liking. The ice cream contrasted nicely with the tang of the lemon and it wasn’t sickeningly sweet.

When the bill came they had charged us the full amount which was a slight shock at first, but our waiter was very apologetic and quickly amended the mistake. It was still slightly more than we were expecting, but we were more than satisfied with the whole experience and decided we would both happily return (but with another discount in tow!)

The service was very attentive and we were made to feel very welcome. It is a family-run restaurant with chef Raymond in the kitchen and his wife and children running front of house. Situated just of Regent Street it has a very central location and is well worth a visit if you fancy fine dining without any pretense. Or even just to escape the heat wave.

3 courses, wine and service for 2 = £150 (£100 with 50% discount off food)

 www.pattersonsrestaurant.co.uk

4 Mill Street, London, W1S 2AX

020 7499 1308

A Taste of Summer

Tastecard is a wonderful thing. The other week we had the urge to go out for a mid-week dinner. So, with a craving for meze, I searched the Tastecard website for a greek restaurant and happened to come across My Big Fat Greek, only a ten minute walk away, in Elephant and Castle. From the outside the restaurant currently looks like a building site with scaffolding covering the large front windows. On the inside it resembles a large canteen – I’m not painting a very good picture here I know but this place really is worth a visit. If you have ever been to Greece, or one of its many islands, you will have no doubt eaten in a traditional greek taverna. The tablecloths are plastic with paper covers and the owners are either the friendliest or the most austere that you will ever meet. Sitting in My Big Fat Greek you just have to picture the sea meters away from you to your right, a crystal blue sky up above and you are back in Greece – or in my case, Corfu.

The owner here is of the friendly variety, as is the waitress, who took our order quickly and efficiently – large Meze for two – and enthusiastically explains each dish as she brings us our food. Our first round consisted of all types of Mediterranean delights; houmous, taramasalata, tzatziki, gigantes blaki large (imagine supersized baked beans!), aubergine dip, tirokafteri (chilli cheese dip), beetroot salad and couscous, amongst other things. This was served with pita bread, to dip and dunk as we pleased.

The second course arrived as we were just finishing our dipping – three different types of sausage and a plate of haloumi topped with ham. The sausages were delicious, one even had a hint of cinnamon, and they were a satisfying change from our usual British bangers. The third course, probably very unnecessary but it was what we signed up for, was seafood. I’m not a big prawn fan but Antony devoured the king prawns in garlic in an instant – I believe they were rather good. I can, however, vouch for the calamari, which, as it states in the menu, was “deep-fried to perfection”. The batter was light and crisp and a notch above the chewy stodgy kind you can so unfortunately come across these days.

The last course finally arrived, both of us full to brim, but not full enough to decline some souvlaki – the greek kebab. The lamb pieces were particularly tender although the flavours of the marinade could have been a little more prominent.

The large restaurant itself was fairly empty with 4 or 5 other tables occupied throughout our meal; however don’t let this deter you. It was a Tuesday evening and the atmosphere was still ever so welcoming and friendly. It was clear several of the other diners were regulars, which is always a good sign, and knew the owner well.

Full Meze is £19.95 per person (for a minimum of two people) although I would have to be ravenous to order it again. There are a wide range of greek dishes available, I think the Mini Meze or the Kleftico might be next on the cards, which is half the price. However with 50% tastecard discount the full meze is an absolute bargain and lets face it, we all love a good feast. If you fancy a taste of summer or just a fun meal out I would definitely recommend.

http://www.mybigfatgreek.net

Recipe – Seared Squid and Chorizo Salad

I love calamari. Lets face it – anything deep-fried is delicious, however on the whole I don’t like seafood. I DO like mussels, squid, gavros, white bait, and some meaty white fish like cod, haddock, and the most recent addition to my fish experiences – John Dory. Contradicting myself I know, and often it is just easier to say I hate all seafood but to be honest I just do not like really fishy stuff, or anything that is not either deep-fried or served with a delicious sauce. Nevertheless it is fair to say my fishy taste buds are developing and at quite a rapid pace. Who knows, next year I’ll be wolfing down gambas and salmon en croute like there is no tomorrow (although I doubt it).

Anyway, back to this recipe. I wanted to venture away from deep-fried calamari and thought what better way to cook the squid than with some chorizo. Any recipe containing this amazing spanish sausage is sure to be a winner. Here is what I did.

Serves 2 as main or 4 as a starter

2 uncooked spanish chorizo sausages, roughly chopped*

2 squid  – cleaned (ask your fishmonger to do this if unsure how), body sliced into rings and tentacles divided into three equal pieces.

1 garlic clove

juice of half a lemon

1 tub of good quality houmous**

or

follow this quick recipe to make your own! http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/quickhummousandolive_71473

1) Fry the chorizo over a high heat for 4-5 minutes until fairly brown. Remove with a slotted spoon. Drain the juices and oils and reserve for later.

2) Fry the squid rings and tentacles for 90 seconds.

3) Return the chorizo to the pan, crush in the garlic clove and stir fry for another 30 seconds.

4) Stir in the reserved chorizo oils and lemon juice.

5) Serve immediately: put a generous tablespoon of houmous in the middle of each plate and surround it with the salad leaves. Scatter the plate with the squid and chorizo. Enjoy!

Be careful not to over cook the squid or it will have a rubbery texture.

*this particular packet came from Tesco where the sausages come in packs of 4 and are about two inches long. Waitrose uncooked chorizo comes in smaller pieces – I would use three of these for each person served.

**I used Sabra Houmous extra I found in Tesco. It is so deliciously creamy and a lovely indulgent contrast to the ‘reduced fat’ healthy versions around. Perfect for a special occasion – this dish being a perfect example.