Monday 30 August 2010

Antigua and Barbuda: lourobbo's kitchen

Owing to the lack of Antarctican recipes in wide circulation, I decided to combine the repulsive Antarctican Old Fashion cocktails with food from Antigua and Barbuda.

Another Caribbean country, another browse of the internet for a suitable menu. I settled on a one pot recipe - Antiguan seasoned rice for the main. This dish has a vast quantity of ingredients, some quite obscure such as pigs trotters and snout, which I substituted with bacon. It was also a bizarre combination of meats - chicken, salt beef and flaked smoked haddock. as well as the pork influences.

The pot was easy enough to make, and looked good enough to eat. But for a meal with so many ingredients, I was a tad disappointed, it was too bland. James and Suzanne seemed to like it though. I'd made loads - plenty left over for lunch the next day and I did think it actually tasted better reheated and with a large dash of habanero chilli sauce on top. It definitely needed that extra kick.

I attempted a very traditional dessert for Antigua - Ducana. And served this with a tropical pineapple salad.

The pineapple was great, no doubt because of the lashings of rum it was marinaded in. The Ducana, however, wasn't such a hit. I'm really struggling with these coconut puddings, never seem to achieve the right consistency. I imagined it to be far more of a biscuit/cake, but whether I didn't cook it for long enough or had too much coconut in the mix, it fell apart in the bowl. It was overly sweet too.

So all in all, Antigua and Barbuda from lourobbo's kitchen isn't going to make the top 10.

We're all very excited about the next A on the list - Argentina. Caroline suggested Santa Maria del Sur,  in Battersea. Luckily I've booked ahead, it's extremely popular. Bodes well for some decent steak washed down with a glass or two of malbec.

Antarctica: lourobbo's kitchen

This was always going to be a tough one. Penguin and seal steaks are not readily available in Sainsbury's, the best that I could come up with for recipes was an Antarctic BBQ "on the ice". But no food specific to the region, I guess that's unsurprising with a population of just over 3,600.

The Travel Book did however make one suggestion for drinks, an Antarctic Old Fashion. Developed in the late 1950s and perfected at Camp Michigan on the Ross Ice Shelf, it's a bourbon-based concoction.

Take some bourbon, mix with snow ( our case some chilled water) and throw in a couple of lifesaver sweets, preferably the cherry flavour ones. Shake until they dissolve. Serve on a slice of glacier. Not being aware of any glaciers within the M25, I settled for serving it on the rocks.

Couldn't find any penguin burgers either, but they did have the classic McVities penguins, so duly bought a packet to have with our aperitifs.

The chocolate biscuits were significantly better than the cocktails. Not being a bourbon drinker at the best of times, I found it truly disgusting. If I ever have the fortune to get myself a time machine, I won't be visiting 1950s Antarctica with this as the drink of choice.

But big thanks to the Whittens for kindly sending a couple of packs of Lifesavers over from the States to make this experiment possible, the one essential ingredient in this revolting cocktail.

This week was cheating really, but the Argentinian steak is so tantalisingly close that combining Antarctica and Antigua has got us through this cooking spell and back on the restaurant scene.

Next up - Wednesday night at Santa Maria del Sur in Battersea. Nom nom nom.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Anguilla: lourobbo's kitchen


So lucky for me that we have reached Anguilla, as lobster is a main stay. We're on a run of home-cooking at the moment and not likely to find a restaurant in London until Argentina week. But I have stumbled across an excellent website that has loads of recipes, all categorised by island. This is going to make the A to Z task significantly easier - lots of islands, not many specific London restaurants! The Caribbean is going to involve a lot of cooking.

I've never actually cooked lobster before, but Waitrose came up trumps with some fresh lobster tails. Easy to pop in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes and they turn that lovely pink colour.

I decided on lobster cakes for the main course, mixing the chopped lobster meat with the rest of the ingredients which included peppers, spring onions, a white sauce, breadcrumbs with a large pinch of cayenne pepper to give it some heat.

Fried the cakes on the hot plate until they were golden brown on both sides and then served up with a tartar sauce and a green salad.

Warm Chocolate Pie for afters...more breadcrumbs in this recipe and no flour. I started to worry when it didn't look as though it was rising. But the end result was very brownie-like, great with vanilla ice cream. The leftovers will be making their way to the Docklands office tomorrow!

I thoroughly enjoyed cooking from Anguilla, and it's certainly given me the confidence to cook with lobster again. It looks like a fabulous place to visit, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the Caribbean and if they serve lobster by the pot load, seems like a good reason to add it to the holiday wish list.

Next stop - Antarctica!

Friday 13 August 2010

Angola: RealJimBob's kitchen

Another night in, this time at James's place in Greenwich. And the food I'm attempting? Angolan.

There are plenty of recipe choices for Angola, and the Portuguese influence is clear in that many of the main dishes include hot chilli and spices. I settled on two savoury plates, served with some plain rice.

Camaro grelhado com mohlo cru (grilled prawns with raw sauce), quick and easy to make, brushing the prawns with a marinade of spring onions, cumin,white wine vinegar, salt and water. These should really have been shell-on king prawns, skewered and cooked on a BBQ. But overall, plenty of flavour and a recipe keeper.

The second main, a typical Angolan chicken dish, Frango Grelhado Piri Piri. This was very basic grilled chicken with a spicy rub of lemon juice and what should have been habanero chillis. I couldn't find any in Sainsbury's, but they did have some rather powerful scotch bonnet peppers which did the job. Again, tasty and quick to make.

So main course a relative success...on to pudding. A quote from my beloved...."it looks like someone has thrown up in a bowl". Actually, it's Cocada Amarela (yellow coconut pudding). A concoction of coconut, sugar, egg yolks and spices. The first problem, how to get to the coconut flesh. James's first attempt pictured here, tapping along the coconut seam with a knife handle. No joy. Second plan, take coconut down to the street and whack it on the kerb. That worked.

It was described as a coconut egg custard but mine separated and ended up more like sweet scrambled egg with coconut bits. I'm sure this is not how it was supposed to turn out. I blame it on the tools (not my kitchen, guv) and chef's impatience in waiting for the sugar syrup to reduce down.  Not the worst thing I've ever tasted, but too strange a texture. This isn't one for the recipe book.

Overall, Angola not a great success, but the blame here lies with the cook, not the recipes. I'd do the prawns again, they were good and hot (although I'd make sure I used shelled king prawns next time, and leave to marinade for longer).

Photos this week courtesy of RealJimBob.

More home cooking for the next country, Anguilla. And I'm thinking lobster...

Sunday 8 August 2010

Andorra: lourobbo's kitchen

The next few entries in the Travel Book are verging on the obscure. Andorra has proven to be our first "fail", after much trawling of t'interweb and reading other blogs and restaurant sites, I couldn't find anywhere claiming to serve authentic Andorran cuisine. Maybe not surprising, the place is tiny, boasting a population of approximately 84,000, it seems unlikely that even one lone crusader would have moved to London to open a restaurant?

But on the bright side, I get more use out of my newly rebuilt kitchen, we save a bit of cash and I can probably catch up a few weeks on the overall timeline to complete this marathon eating session, as I don't feel the need to wait a whole week to move on to the next country.

So, on the menu Chez lourobbo, this fine Saturday evening? We have Pan con tomate to start. Errr...bread with tomato. The Andorran cuisine is characterised with Northern Spanish influences and this is clear here with Seranno ham. Lots of garlic rubbed into the crusty bread, with tomato pulp and topped with the ham and dash of olive oil. Mmmm.

This was followed by Trinxat, a traditional potato, cabbage and bacon cake. I served it with some grilled pork steaks. Most of the recipes I found for mains focussed on veal, which I'm not overly keen on, and Suzanne certainly wouldn't have touched, so pork seemed a suitable substitute.

Clean plates all round, so gather it was a success. The potato cake was very easy to make, savoy cabbage mashed up nicely. I'd cook this again.

On Tuesday, I shall mostly be cooking Angolan... better go and search out a recipe.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Algeria: Khamsa

Jackpot! Khamsa, situated in an unassuming corner plot on Acre Lane, half way between Clapham Common and Brixton, is a real find.

This week we had substantially more choice. London has it's fair share of Algerian/North African establishments, but we decided on Khamsa, based on consistently good reviews and the fact it wasn't too far from home.

We hadn't booked and were early enough to get a table for 3, but I wouldn't risk turning up without a reservation later in the week. It's not a huge restaurant, but was pleasantly busy for a Wednesday night. A rainy dreary evening in London, but the inside of Khamsa was warm and colourful. The walls are decorated with bright throws and there are plenty of cushions and candles to add to the atmosphere.

So down to business....the food. We started with some drinks: freshly squeezed juices of apple & mint and pear & basil. Khamsa is not licensed, but you are able to BYO. To be honest, I didn't really want any alcohol (yes, yes, I know, you don't often hear me say that!), the food is so tasty, it would have detracted from the dining experience.

For starters, we selected a number of small dishes to share - hummus, couscous and ajhroum di felfel (pepper and tomato salad). These were served with some freshly baked bread for dipping. All delicious and generous portions.

We then opted for 3 different tagine (in Algeria, djwaz) dishes. I had an unusual salmon and couscous foil wrapped parcel that had been cooked in the djwaz, nice tang to it with lots of spiced aubergine. Suzanne had a chicken, sweet potato and spinach dish and James went for beef with chickpeas, served with almond & pomegranate flavoured couscous. These were all served in individual tagines and were extremely filling.

We left just enough room for pudding and coffee. And thank goodness we did, as this is where Khamsa really comes into it's own. The chef/owner is rightly proud of the bakery, everything cooked on site and with a wide variety of ingredients. To finish up our meal, some spiced and rosewater Algerian coffees accompanied by a plate of 5 different pastries to taste. The date and basil morsel was to die for.

This is definitely a restaurant I'd recommend if you find yourself in Brixton/Clapham. We'll certainly be returning, probably when we're next on the way to the Academy and looking for something good to eat before the gig.

Great night, Khamsa! Will "A" end up being for Algeria??

Food: *****
Atmosphere: ****
Value for money:****

More photos of the evening at Khamsa at my lourobbo flickr account.

Khamsa on Urbanspoon