Tag Archives: food

We Love Chin Chin Labs

12 Sep

Whilst a 99 with a Flake may take you back to days spent on a pebbled beach in your Grandma’s hometown trying not to shiver as you demand an ice cream, these days Mr Whippy just doesn’t quite cut it. In the wake of the molecular gastronomy explosion (teehee) of the last five years, if you’re not using liquid nitrogen then there’s no Michelin star for you mister. It was only a matter of time before molecular gastronomy was condensed enough for us mere mortals to understand, and thanks to the likes of Heston Blumenthal the UK is regularly glued to the telly salivating over white chocolate candle sticks and ‘meat fruit’.

But then came Chin Chin Labs. Chin Chin Labs is said to be Europe’s first and only liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour, allowing customers a glimpse into a world frequented by old French men with lots of letters after their names. Removing all pretentiousness from the equation (so long as you choose to ignore the gaggle of hipsters that wait tables at the restaurant next door), Chin Chin has a simple menu featuring a small handful of flavours that include chocolate and vanilla as well as two specials that change weekly, all for less than a fiver. Tucked away on a cobbled street just off Camden High Street, this tiny cafe with just a few tables and a very friendly team regularly has a line spilling outside.

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Brainchild of the husband and wife team Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur and Nyisha Weber, the duo influenced by the likes of Blumenthal and Ferran Adria wanted to open and affordable ice cream parlour that allowed customers to enter into their smoky lab where the ice cream is made in front of your eyes. Using liquid nitrogen at a somewhat chilly -200c freezes the custardy mixture of ingredients quickly and before ice crystals  form, creating a beautifully smooth and dense ice cream. The ice cream itself is full of the most beautiful yet delicate flavours that blend together perfectly and are only further enhanced by the range of toppings available. The menu is carefully crafted and coincide wonderfully with the not only the weather but the atmosphere of the city. The weekend of Notting Hill Carnival boasted a dairy free Honey Mango & Ginger sorbet that brought the fruity spiciness so prevalent in the colourful festival, without forcing us to leave the comfy confines of North London. Similarly, with one of the hottest weekends of the year came the Coconut (Sun) Cream which was designed to taste the way that coconut sun cream smells, taking you immediately to a Caribbean beach with a pina colada in hand. As the back to school season approaches, the current menu is topped with a Peanut Butter & Grape Jelly special. The toppings on range are equally as inventive, ranging from Fleur De Sel caramel to cardamon and pistachio powder to lavender honeycomb. Chin Chin’s also allows customers the option to buy a bag of some of the toppings including a grilled white chocolate and caramelised pretzels, sold in a vacuum sealed bag reminiscent of those containing astronaut food. This is just one of a handful of small tokens that lends itself so ingeniously to the mad scientists lab that is nestled away in the heart (if not the liver) of London.

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Coconut (Sun) Cream with Lavender Honeycomb

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Honey Mango & Ginger with Cardamon and Pistachio Powder with an adorable medicine spoon

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-Phoebe

 

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1 Ingredient: Caramelised Peach and Prosciutto Quesadillas with Strawberry Salsa & Guacamole

2 Sep

Readers, I’d like to first and fore mostly apologise to you. I feel like we’ve misrepresented ourselves slightly…so far we’ve posted recipes that are vegan, gluten free, dairy free, all kinds of free, when in fact what I usually want to be doing is watching Honey Boo Boo in a dirty t shirt whilst I stuff my fat face with carbs, melted cheese and meat. When people ask me what I’d eat if I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, my immediate response is to wipe the blood off my knuckles and cry for four hours. But if I really had to consider it, it would be a three way tie between sandwiches, roast dinners, and Mexican food…okay, okay, I suppose I could narrow that down to quesadillas. Now at first the three seem unrelated, but let’s do the math here. What do you get when you combine a roast dinner and a sandwich? A perfect hybrid of layers of meat, stuffing and cranberry sauce encased in bready goodness. A sandwich and a quesadilla? Well essentially the two are beautifully interchangeable. Quesadillas are like the Mexican grilled cheese…bubbling, molten cheese glues together a lightly griddled, golden pocket of joy. The word quesadilla is formed from ‘tortilla’ and ‘queso’, meaning cheese, but of course I refused to stop there and thus, the caramelised peach and prosciutto quesadilla was born.

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Ingredients

(For strawberry salsa)

Roughly 6 ripe vine tomatoes, middles scooped out and cut into small chunks

1/2 finely chopped red onion

1 tsp chopped coriander

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1 tbsp jarred jalapeños (alter to taste) finely chopped

Handful of strawberries, cut into small chunks

1 tbsp chopped spring onion

(For guacamole)

1 avocado, flesh scooped out

1 tbsp chopped red onion

1 tsp chopped coriander

Juice of 1/2 lime

(For quesadillas)

1 tortilla

1 large peach cut into chunks

1/2 sliced red onion

1 tsp olive oil

1tsp ground cinnamon

Handful grated cheese (I used a strong cheddar)

Blue cheese to crumble over

4/5 slices of prosciutto

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1. Put a frying pan on med-high heat and add oil. Chop peaches into cubes and slice red onions. Add to pan with cinnamon and reduce the heat. Leave to gently caramelise for about 20 mins while you prepare your dips.

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2. Start on your salsa (although it’s worth getting a bowl ready for the guacamole as they have a lot of the same ingredients). Cut  tomatoes in half and remove the middles so it isn’t too wet (that’s what she said).

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3. Combine salsa ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.

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4. Combine guacamole ingredients in a bowl, season to taste and mash together with fork.

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5. By this point your peaches should be beautifully caramelised. Remove from heat and set aside.

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6. Place a griddle pan on high heat. When hot, put tortilla in pan and sprinkle cheese over one half.

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7. Top with peaches and prosciutto and fold over empty side to form a half-moon shape.

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8. Press down lightly with spatula to hold it together. Remove from heat and serve immediately with guacamole and strawberry salsa.

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-Phoebe

1 Ingredient: Peaches

1 Sep

Alas, the time has arrived once again when summer is rapidly coming to an end. But before we resign our hardly worn sandals to the backs of our wardrobe and slip into a pair of shamelessly fluffy slippers, let’s have one last ditch attempt at embracing the Great British Summertime. Fruit is an overwhelming summer staple in England (largely to do with our affinity for Pimm’s), however peaches, plums and nectarines often get pushed to the side as strawberries waltz around in the spotlight. Yes, they’re versatile and oh so juicy, but they’re not the only ones. The light, sweet flavour of peaches with the slight tinge of acidity they provide make them perfect partners to rich, salty flavours such as cured meats and blue cheeses. They are just as complementary to sweet flavours and the fresh, woody textures are only further enhanced with a scattering of brown sugar or cinnamon.

Like most people, my Pinterest boards are filled with things I’ll never get around to doing, and yet I couldn’t resist experimenting with the sweet little pie pops I’ve been seeing around. A small dollop of store bought jam seemed a bit of a disservice to them though and I wanted to ensure that they tasted as good as they looked, which is a level of adorable that could only be matched by Zooey Deschanel knitting by a fire whilst wearing a onesie.

Peach and Salted Butterscotch Pie Pops 

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It’s even smiling…

These little pie bites are filled with a peach and salted butterscotch jam, however it doesn’t stop there. As with most pastry, there’s always the worry of it coming out a little bit dry, so I wanted to make a dunking syrup to serve with the pies. Lazily all I did was add water to oh hot damn, this is my jam and then sieve it, leaving me with a glorious butterscotch-y peachy sauce.

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Ingredients

(For peach and salted butter jam and syrup)

400g (roughly 2 large) peaches

70ml/1/3 cup lemon juice

200g/1 cup brown sugar

200g/1 cup preserving sugar

1 tsp good quality salt

100ml/1/2 cup water

(For pie dough)

200g/2 cups plain flour

55g/1/2 stick cold butter

70ml/1/3 cup cold water

(Glaze for pie)

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp milk

1tbsp icing sugar

(Other)

Cookie cutters

Lollypop sticks or paper straws

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1. To make the jam, remove the skin from peaches (I went at them old school with a peeler but do what you please), and cut into cubes. Add to pan with brown sugar, preserving sugar, lemon juice and water (omit water if you’re not making the syrup) and bring to boil. Simmer on gentle heat for 20 mins.

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2. Whilst jam is simmering, make your dough. Sift flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Cut butter into cubes and rub into flour using your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs. Add cold water and stir using blade of a knife, before scrunching together with your hands to form dough. The texture should be firm yet incorporated, so add a drop more water if it’s not holding but resist the urge to add too much as you want the dough to be dry. Wrap dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 15 mins.

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3. Turn the heat up on the jam and allow to boil for 10 mins. Once it’s ready it should be thick and syrupy, and peaches should have softened down to a pulp. Don’t worry if they haven’t, just mash it gently with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool, add salt to taste. There should be just enough salt to compliment the sweetness of the jam but not so much that it overpowers it. At this point, strain the jam through a sieve to leave you with a sticky jam and a delicious salted butterscotch syrup.

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4. Preheat oven to 190 degrees/375f. Take your dough out of the fridge and place on lightly dusted surface. Grab a rolling pin (I bought one specially for the occasion) and roll your dough. You want it to be thick enough to support the filling, yet not so thick that the dough overpowers the filling. I found that roughly half a cm was the perfect thickness.

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5. Cut out desired shapes. The need to be big enough to hold the filling yet not so big that they can’t be supported on a stick. My cutters were about 2 inches wide. Press lollypop stick/striped straw (I cut mine in half) into heart, dab a small amount of water on either side and seal a small strip of dough over straw to help to support it.

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6. Spoon a small amount (maybe a teaspoon) of jam into the centre. Dab water lightly around the edges and place cut out on top. Press your fingers around the edges to seal down well.

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7. Go around the edges using a lolly pop stick or a fork to help to bind the two sides together. Plus it helps all the cuteness.

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8. Using the tip of a knife, pierce two small holes in each pop to let any steam escape. To get a golden brown finish, I mixed egg yolk with icing sugar and milk and lightly brushed each pop with glaze. I also sprinkled a small pinch of pink decorative sugar on each.

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9. Bake for 15 minutes or until very lightly golden. Cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes, and then serve with syrup.

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-Phoebe

Camden Eats

28 Aug

Bank holiday Monday’s are a beautiful, scared thing. As soon as 5 o’clock hits on Friday afternoon a Prosecco mist descends upon Primrose Hill as ties are collectively loosened and heels kicked off.  The August bank holiday in particular symbolises the colourful Notting Hill Carnival and the last dregs of British sunshine. So of course as the hangover faded and the sun came out on Monday, there was no better way to spend it than eating our way around Camden’s famous market, indulging in everything from the most flavoursome falafel I’ve ever tasted to liquid nitrogen mango and ginger ice cream dusted in cardamon and pistachio. Mention ‘Camden food stalls’ and what springs to mind are rows of interchangable greasy noodles being thrust in your face as you dodge mardy teenagers trying to find their way to Cyber Dog. However slightly lesser know is Camden Lock’s West Yard, a courtyard opening onto the canal filled with elegant, pocket size boutiques and bright, unique cafes. But the best feature of the cobbled courtyard is undoubtably the dozens of world food stalls that range from Peruvian lamb to Argentinian burgers to Polish pierogis…

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The trick here is to get as many samples as possible…some stalls are more generous than others but most places will give you a small taster if you ask. We managed to get our paws on everything from ginger fudge to jerk pork, before landing on 2 mains. The prices are very reasonable and a box of food will usually range from £4.50-£6.50, with drinks and desserts starting from £2. Here are my top 5 favourites…

5.   Mama’s Jerk Station Marinated in an authentic secret jerk sauce passed down through generations  of Jamaican women, Mama’s Jerk has some of the most succulent, mouth watering meat (no innuendos please) I’ve ever tasted, each bite soaked in flavour. The fried plantain also looked amazing although I regretfully didn’t try it.

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4. Hola Paella The sight of this giant pan of bright paella is one that transports you to a sun drenched Mediterranean terrace surrounded by jugs of chilled sangria and coolly glamorous friends. The paella itself is the perfect level of moisture and boasts aromatic seafood and that crucial hint of saffron.

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3. From the (uncertain) powers of deduction, I’ve decided that the Godlike falafel that was generously and repeatedly offered to us by some handsome gentlemen was from Pakistani stand Roti House. I use these powers as the falafel was so mind blowingly good that I momentarily forgot how to use a camera.

2. Turkish Wraps was definitely a big winner of the day. The sausage, cheese and spinach wrapped in flatbread was packed with flavour and prepared right in front of you on a hot plate. The Number 2 (heehee) is the most popular item on the menu (and with good reason), although I would definitely be tempted by the lahmacun.

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1. Finally (and perhaps rather unambitiously on my behalf), the winner is the equally unambitiously named Pulled Pork. I am a complete sucker for any succulent, shredded meat and this was no exception. The incredibly tender pork is coated in barbecue sauce and paired with a chunky coleslaw, gherkins and jalapeños all on a soft, seeded bread. The owner didn’t seem one for frivolous pleasantries, but can you blame him when the woman in front of me wanted her meat on the side of the pulled pork SANDWICH she was ordering? Ugh, people.

_MG_8215So if you’re in Camden, take a rain check on the questionable meats slathered in fluorescent sauces available in the main market, and instead get lost in the enticing maze of culinary delights that the West Yard has to offer.

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Galician Octopus

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Polish Pierogi Menu

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-Phoebe

1 Ingredient: Artichoke Soup in a Crusty Bread Bowl

19 Aug

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Not to go all Walter White on you, but these little suckers are pretty cool. Yes, this week it’s another of Pinterest’s most coveted aphrodisiacs; the artichoke. Basically there are two main types of artichoke; Jerusalem artichokes, which are apparently part of the sunflower family but look more like weird little ginger-parsnip hybrids. The other is the globe artichoke, named so presumably because of its rounded, smooth appearance, which is part of the thistle family (imagine the raucous holidays). Now globe artichokes contain a compound called cynarin which as well as doing a bunch of good stuff for your liver and kidneys, temporarily suppresses bitterness receptors making everything eaten shortly after taste sweet. Enough of the chemistry lesson though, the point is that artichokes are tasty, versatile, delicious and good for you, and this is what we’ve been up to…

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Ingredients

Approx. 400g potatoes (I used Exquisia), peeled and chopped

1 can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped

2 leeks, washed and roughly chopped

1 litre chicken stock

1 round bread loaf (I used a caramelised onion bread)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon tarragon

Optional (and highly recommended) roquefort to garnish

Method

        1.   Roughly chop all the vegetables, cover with 1 litre chicken stock and add chopped tarragon, bring to the boil and simmer for 25 mins.

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        2.   Whilst the veg is simmering, slice the top off the loaf and hollow out. Brush inside of loaf with olive oil and place in preheated oven at 175c for 15 mins (10 points to Gryffindor if you somehow manage to avoid scoffing down the remains).

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3.   Remove the vegetables from heat and blend well using a hand blender. Add lemon juice and season to taste.

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        4.   Pour soup into baked bread bowl, sprinkle over tarragon and a dash of olive oil, and crumble over roquefort.

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A few notes…

  • Switch the chicken stock for vegetable stock and omit the roquefort for a vegan alternative.
  • On the topic of roquefort…oh my god did that addition make me do that Emma Stone Lobster Shack gif face. Yuummmmmm.
  • You may notice the lack in presence in actual artichokes here. Well that’s just because I live in a pretty shitty area and I’m not sure that many people know about vegetables yet. If you fancy making life that little bit more complicated for yourself then by all means use fresh artichokes.
  • Be prepared to make a mess as the savage in you tears down those glorious bread-y walls.

-Phoebe

A long and winding road; Two girls’ longstanding battle with macaroons.

18 Aug

Just like anyone with a Pinterest account and an Instagram filter, I have fallen head over heels in love with macaroons (or ‘macarons’ if we’re going to get fancy). This obsession began a few years ago as I nonchalantly picked up this pretty little foreign object, not knowing that it would brazenly barge into my life, stick its smug flag into my brain and set up camp. That first bite hit me like a dozen eggs (harharhar). The perfectly crisp shell collapsed beneath my teeth to reveal meringue-y goodness mingled with a bittersweet chocolate ganache, and suddenly I was hooked. However the bottomless Prosecco took its toll on me and as I tumbled into bed that evening, macaroons became a hazy dream.

The next time I stumbled across macaroons was during another long, wine fuelled afternoon at a food festival. Amongst the stalls of gourmet mac and cheese and cooking demonstrations was a lonely little stall that stirred that little macaroon monster that had gripped its hooks into me that fateful day. I still didn’t know exactly what they were, but within the hour there I was, my mouth stained more than that hippy bloke’s big coat (ed. I think I mean Joseph and his technicolour dream coat…R.E. never was my strong point). This time I managed to remain just sober enough to retain some information about my new found discovery, and took home a box full of these colourful little treats. From then on my daydreams revolved around the moment I could get home, put the kettle on and nibble on these little bits of heaven whilst reading the papers (*cough* Daily Mail online) and pondering life’s great mysteries (is Kris Humphries black or white??). Obviously the creme de la creme of macaroons lies in the cobbled streets of Paris, tucked into boutique bakeries as Pierre Herme’s minions elegantly pipe lavender infused buttercream onto perfectly crafted shells, but £3 for a macaroon is not a cheap habit and it was time to take matters into my own hands.

As anyone that has worked with meringue can tell you, that is one tricky thing to master. Yes, yes, in theory ‘whisk to stiff peaks’ doesn’t sound overly complicated, however whisk for a minute too long and you’re left with a big, soupy mess, too little and you have a grainy mulch on your hands. I did my research and ordered Hisako Ogita’s ‘I Love Macarons’ (http://www.amazon.co.uk/I-Love-Macarons-Hisako-Ogita/dp/0811868710), stocked up on icing sugar, and armed myself with a piping nozzle and some baking sheets.

As I should have predicted, my first attempt was a flop. I didn’t let them set for long enough and I forgot to rap the second and third batch (crucial in forming the pied, which is a defining characteristic in a proper macaroon). However it could have been worse, and undeterred I enlisted Kate to make a second batch with me.

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The first attempt

We all too enthusiastically began weighing out our ingredients and fantasising about the complex flavour combinations we were going to put on our award winning bakery that would spark a cronut-like craze. People were going to be queuing down the street. Should we drop out of uni now or later? Ah. Thank goodness we held off. If this was a spiritual journey towards creating the ultimate macaroon, this was a bad acid trip on a beach in Thailand. The batter was hardly thicker than water and our pitiful attempt at red velvet ended up in a muddy burgundy.

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The face of defeat

After a handful more tragic attempts, things began to look up. Some 2 years after my meet cute with macaroons, I finally managed to conjure up something that vaguely resembled those little cookies I loved so dearly.

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Success! ‘Better than Laduree!’ said someone…probably

So, after many failures, I have compiled a list of tips that I found helped smooth out the process:

-Draw out circles using the widest part of your piping nozzle on a piece of greaseproof paper and keep that piece of paper. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort if you just pop that underneath a transluscent baking sheet rather than drawing it out every time.

-Yes, follow the recipe carefully, but not too carefully. On my first few attempts I was so careful to stick to the recipe that I failed to notice the mess that was unfolding in front of me.

-Don’t sweat the small stuff. I once spend an hour bashing ground almonds with a pestle and mortar because the grains were too big to fit through my sieve. Don’t do this.

-If you have the means, get a decent food processor. I don’t have the means, so use one I got from Wilkinson’s for a fiver and you can definitely tell the difference.

-Start off simple. Don’t be over adventurous with flavours until you’re confident.

-Avoid liquid food colouring. Instead go for a gel, paste or powder.

-Never stop whisking, Jack. Once you’ve turned on that electric whisk, don’t stop until you get the right consistency.

-Allow to cool for a few minutes before you remove the shells from the baking sheet.

-Very lightly butter your baking sheet to stop the shells from sticking.

-Read your recipe over a few times and make sure you understand it. Terms like ‘macaronage’ sound made up but it’s an important step in getting the consistency right.

So happy macaroonage, people of the internet, may your pied’s walk a smoother path than mine, and other macaroon puns.

-Phoebe

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