Sunday, 12 June 2011

Don't call me fattee

Fattee is a word often bandied around our house. Mostly because Pete eats absolute shedloads for his slight physique (keen cyclist) and I feel the need to match his appetite (also a cyclist, but I do about 20% of the miles he does).

Fattee is also a favourite leftover and larder meal that usually gets made on day 3 of roast chicken leftovers. The original recipe was from the first Moro cookbook and involves some slightly more lengthy and complicated processes. So this is my lazy cheat's interpretation for when you want to make something nice but don't have time to burn.

What you need (for two portions):
1 tin tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 medium size aubergine
100g long grain or basmati rice
small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 pita bread
2 tsp pine nuts
150ml greek yoghurt
2 portions leftover roast chicken

You need to do a few things at the same time:
- make the tomato sauce - sizzle 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and the chilli flakes in olive oil until slightly golden. Add the tin of tomatoes and the cinnamon. Allow to bubble away and thicken up.
- cook the rice, simples.
- cut the aubergine into 1 cm slices, and then in half again. Ideally you'd charr these on a girddle, but frying is fine too.
- toast the pita, then cut into strips
- toast the pine nuts lightly in a dry frying pan
- chop the flat leaf parsley
- mix the yoghurt with a crushed clove of garlic, maybe a little milk to thin, and some salt and pepper

Once those are all ready it's a layering job and you can decide whether you want to layer plates up individually or as a presentation plate. But you start with the scattering the pita bread at the bottom, then top with rice, spreading it out. Then add the chicken and the aubergine, spreading evenly. Then add the tomato sauce and top that with the yoghurt. Finally sprinkle the flat leaf parsley and toasted pine nuts. Then tuck in!

It might seem a little bit of a fiddly recipe, but all the stages are very easy and you can do multiple things all at the same time. The flavours work well - I always love tomato and yoghurt combinations, and there are some nice smoky notes from the toast, pine nuts and the chargrilled aubergine. It's an immensely satisfying dish and still impressive enough for visitors.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

What is heaven?

Whether you're half Portuguese or not, I'm hoping heaven looks a little something like this:

After all, I have been good.

This is a favourite spot of mine. A table outside Pastelaria Lisboa on Golborne Road, just in the shadow of Trellick Tower, which is one of my favourite buildings, watching the bustle of Portuguese diaspora life in this slightly forgotten corner of West London. When I lived in the suburbs as a young'un, my mum used to take us up here during half-term to give us our fix of pasteis de nata, stock up on Portuguese olive oil (nice and fruity and very good value, I still swear by it) and get us to engage in that side of our cultural background. She would get us to do the ordering Portuguese and we'd be rewarded with those eggy, custardy bits of goodness.

You can get pasteis de nata all over now, or "Portuguese custard tarts" as people call them. They're never as good as the ones you get at Lisboa. And the good news is I can pop over to Camden to Lisboa's deli there, or Stockwell if I was a South Londoner. And they're much cheaper too. £1.50? Pah! Of course, one isn't enough, so if we're being restrained it's three between two; if we've just cycled a long way, two each is totally justifiable. One is over too quickly - when you've fought tooth and nail for that perfect spot outside, you don't want to give it up too quickly.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Back on track

With a three month backlog of delicious meals to tell the world about, where does a boy start? An old favourite.

There are some places I'll go back to over and over again, despite a list of restaurants I want to eat at as long as my arm. It usually involves impressing visitors with "look what amazing stuff I have on my doorstep!". My four regulars, depending on the guest, are Mangal in Dalston, Tayyabs in Whitechapel, Ottolenghi in Islington and Tbilisi, the Georgian restaurant in Holloway. Lately, I've taken meat fiend friends to Mangal for smoky Turkish lamb kebabs, amazing piles of fresh and tangy salad and freshly bakes breads. One friend who visited in January insisted we went again when she came back with her boyfriend in April. That's how good it is.

Dalston is a great place to take visitors. You can build up the mystique as you walk over, telling them about its Jekyll and Hyde character: by day a bustling, multicultural hub, all nail bars, dead chickens, fruit and veg, phone cards, religious chanting and popcorn. As night falls it's the hipster mile, sunglasses, big hair, the early 90s junkie look. But the barbecue smoke oozing out of Kingsland High Street/Stoke Newington Road's many ocakbasi restaurants gives it a summer holiday feel and the warehousey, slightly run down buildings gives it a feel of New York's Lower East Side. You take a right down Arcola Street and enter a bustling smoky grillhouse and you're transported into another world.

You pretty much always have to queue in Mangal, watching the chefs man the grills, the heat making everyone sweat but especially them as they knock the flaming coals around and turn the spitting skewers of prime lamb, quail and chicken. But arrive at a sensible time (ie. not 8pm on a Friday or Saturday night) and you'll be ushered to a table before long. The menu is short and sweet, and we nearly always get a mixed mezze (so cheap) to start - it's just humus, a yoghurt dip, baba ganoush and a tomato and bulgur salad but goes down wonderfully.

For mains I almost always go for the adana kebab, which consists of two minced skewers of lamb. Normally people think of mince as a cheap cousin to fully formed meat, a bit limp and flavourless. But not at Mangal, where it is succulent and more juicy, and has bits of chilli, garlic and herb in the mix. I've been known to deviate to the boyfriend's kebab of choice: cop sis, which are smaller, marinaded cubes of lamb. And my other favourite diversion is the iskender, which you can get either in adana or cop sis form, and is on a bed of bread, topped with tomato sauce and yoghurt. It's more of a dish.

I have just booked a relatively last minute holiday to a lovely little hamlet in southern Turkey. It's my first 'adult' villa holiday, and we've got a pool, barbecue, gardens, bikes and everything. I'm looking forward to eating out big time but also recreating some of my favourite Turkish/levantine dishes in situ.