Sunday, 13 June 2010

Sizzling spice and all things nice

Even blogging about making curry was enough to make me hungry for Tayyabs, the Punjabi curry house in Whitechapel. So, with a friend down from Glasgow last weekend, we duly paid a visit.

Tayyabs is known for its sizzling slabs of spicy meat, its bargainous prices, its loud and buzzy atosphere and the fact that you are likely to have to queue for about an hour on a weekend evening for a table. We arrived at 7.30pm on a Sunday and were amazed to find the queue was only half its Friday/Saturday length - with only 30 minutes before we were sat at a table. The queue still snakes around the tables and you can watch the diners faces light up with ecstasy as spitting plates of meat and other chargrilled goodies waft past. Tables of students, families, older couples, city workers and multiple generations of Pakistani families are all united by the democratic pricing and prospect of amazing food.

We started with lamb chops and grilled paneer. The lamb chops were sizzling, spitting and giving off the most amazing smell. The meat was crispy and hot on the outside and beautifully tender inside. They brought out the animal in me as I picked them up and gnawed at them to get every last bit of meat off the bone. The paneer was for our vegetarian co-diner, but us meat-feasters shared a cube of it, which was also delicious.

The main courses followed in quick succession. Despite Tayyabs being a palace of meat, I opted to have the baby squash dish, Tinder Masala. The pieces of squash are tender and juicy and the sauce is powerfully spicy, fruity and rich and topped with delicious caremalised onions. Others had Lahori Chickar Chana, a chick pea curry, and Karahi Chicken. I obviously wangled myself a generous taster of each - all were amazing.

Almost the best bit, though, is the naan breads. We each had peshwari naan (rice, however well cooked, is a mere vessel) and boy are they something else. You can smell the butter on them from the other side of the restaurant and they are so soft, spongy, fruity. Wow. I could eat them for every meal, for every day of the rest of my life (which may be significantly shortened by their butter quotient!).

We ate until we could eat no more, and then some. And exited very happy into the warm sunset bathed streets of Whitechapel to take the newly opened East London Line back to Dalston. I have such a long list of restaurants that I want to try, which makes it hard to justify visits to the same places over and over again. But when the food and experience is as fantastic at Tayyabs, I'm prepared to make an exception.

Tayyabs is at:
83-89 Fieldgate Street
E1 1JU

Nearest tube is Aldgate East or Whitechapel.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Marrow viewpoint

A while back I saw marrows going for cheap at Waitrose. Never having cooked with those fantastically oversize courgette-type-things I bought one whopper and then puzzled over what to do with it. A straw poll of foodies at work suggested I make some chutney with it and a quick flick through the Observer magazine revealed a recipe for a marrow and tomato masala. Perfect. So I made both!

The marrow masala was a great opportunity to put some of my newer cooking tools to the test. It required a homemade paste (my first ever!), which required my prized Magimix. Toasting the spices and mixing all the other fragrant ingredients (who knew paste involved so much garlic!?) was so much more satisfying than buying a little jar from the supermarket, and now I have my own super quantity of home-made paste to use for future easy curries.

I layered the ingredients in my le creuset cast-iron casserole dish: onions caremalising nicely at the bottom, big hollowed out marrow sections next, then whole plum tomatoes, tinned chick peas all around and butter on top. And cooked it slow and low for two hours. The end result was impeccably tender, fragrant and juicy. It reminded me a little of the baby squash dish at legendary Tayyabs - maybe not quite there on the spice front, but getting there.

So it was totally delicious and hopefully the start of adventures in curry from scratch. I've often thought that if someone said "You can go any cookery course in the world..." that I'd choose some strand of Indian cooking. It seems to be a whole art and science in itself and one which I enjoy immensely. My birthday is next week, so any places on cookery courses gratefully received!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Nostalgic: Dartmouth Park

Allow me to briefly to be nostalgic about my old 'hood.

Just before we left I noticed an interesting-looking pub open up in the spot of an unwelcoming old place on Highgate Road. On my late cycles home from the library after a day's studying I would catch glimpses happy bohemian types sipping ale, bare bulbs, exposed floors, chalk boards. be finished my exams, I thought.

Well, in the brief window between finishing my exams and moving house, I made it to The Southampton Arms. It is a pretty special place - it doesn't have a telephone, you can't reserve tables, it only sells independent UK ales and ciders and pork pies, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, roast pork sandwiches. Nice.

When we rolled in they had already sold out of scotch eggs, so we had a round of pork and cider pie (served with piccalilli) and sausage rolls (served with a light tomato salsa), which were delicious. The pork pie was meaty and fruity, with pastry a million miles removed from those nasty jelly and fat pies you pick up from the supermarket. The sausage rolls also good.

Later on we ordered some pork rolls. Wow. The rolls were so soft and buttery, dusted with flour in a totally old school way. The pork was juice and was accompanied by delicious apple sauce. Though there was only one slice of meat in each roll (not representing the best value for money at £4.50), it was still very delicious.

So if you find yourself on the Parliament Hill side of the Heath on a lovely sunny day, it would be well worth your while to have a post-park snack and pint at the Southampton Arms. It is also much less smug and has much better drinks than the Bull and Last up the road.