Review: French & Spice Fusion at Bistro Vadouvan, Putney

I could start and end this review right here: this was the best meal, without doubt, that I have ever eaten in London.

A bold claim for sure, particularly as I’ve been lucky enough to eat in some damn good restaurants. But nearly three months on and this meal is still sticking out in my memory, and for all the good reasons. Friendly and attentive, but far from annoying, staff. Gorgeous plates, cutlery and decor. Cosy blankets for the outside tables (it’s just a shame Caluccio’s nabbed the best spot by the river!). All topped off with some of the most inventive and well-cooked dishes I’ve tried.

We started with cocktails – all strong, all delicous, all very well made – before moving onto wine. No complaints about the drinks, although really the stars here are the food. Bistro Vadouvan combines classical French cuisine with Middle Eastern and Asian flavours, creating original dishes that are both pretty on a plate and rather tasty. With views of the Thames, and stunning sunsets over Putney Bridge, it’s a lovely location and I’m rather pleased it’s within walking distance!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 4_zpsmpcrejwv.jpgI kicked off with the Prawn, Crab and Cucumber Salad. At £12 this was perhaps the one dish I felt was a little over-priced, but equally they were more than generous with the crab. It was fresh, light and summery, with the most delightful Mint, Yuzu and Orange dressing. The sharp flavours of the mint and orange tempered the sweetness of the seafood perfectly. It was also clearly made to order, as the cucumber had yet to impart it’s wateriness that comes from sitting around. The red chilli dotted throughout was fiery and I could have perhaps done without it, though due to the large slices I could delicately remove it.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 2_zpscsuvc8lb.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 3_zpsd2ttjh7x.jpgW ordered the Asparagus, Sprouting Beans, Avocado and Kohlrabi Salad, something which I was tempted by (but knew I’d get to try if he ordered!). Not being the biggest lover of avo as it is, I was slightly put off by the description of the “Fermented Sour Plum Dressing” but it really worked. All of the ingredients were at their peak-freshness, with the avocado lending a creaminess to the dish. Nuts added crunch, and the whole thing tasted light, healthy and absolutely delicious. I loved my seafood-based salad, but this came a close second.

The Spiced Bouillabaisse was also enjoyed, the classic French dish livened up with Middle-Eastern flavours.

Onto the mains, and this is where the stars of the show really were. Though I could only fault the starters if I was being really picky (see chill point about), I could sit here for hours and genuinely not be able to complain about my dish. I mean, it says a lot about the menu when we broke our biggest ‘couple rule’ and couldn’t resist ordered the same thing – Sea bass with Celeriac, Cauliflower & Raz el Hanout. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe at the time of our visit this was served with cod rather than bass – I imagine both work equally well!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 11_zpsvvqdjbzh.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 12_zpsxoryaoep.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 14_zpstph7j6hg.jpgHaving eaten some really excellent fish dishes this year (the unusual Cod & Pineapple at Skosh, and an elegant Crab Lasagne at Galvin La Chapelle), this remains the one I’d happily eat again, and again, and again. The chunky piece of fish was cooked to absolute perfection – flaking into moist chunks with the merest press of a fork. It sat on a bed of Celeriac Hummus, which was creamy, moreish and had a depth of flavour all of it’s own, without detracting from the main dish. Give me a bowl of this and some of the flatbread I saw floating around the restaurant and I’d be a happy girl!  The dish was then topped with a generous serving of Spiced Cauliflower. Flawlessly cooked (soft and tender without a hint of the mushiness cauliflower is prone to) and just so fully of flavour. Again, give me a bowl of cauliflower and I’d probably be quite happy! Drizzled with a lemony-parsley dressing which pulled the whole dish together, I was genuinely sad when I’d finished my plate.

Also on our table was the Glazed Salmon, Carrot & Harissa Yoghurt, and a special involving Lamb Belly. Both seemed to go down extremely well – and next on my list to try is the delicious-looking Poussin Marinated In Sage, Maple Syrup, Garlic & Yoghurt.

In fact, the only negative I have is that the side dishes don’t seem to be particularly well-matched to the mains. Chips and cous-cous are all very good, but perhaps not the most imaginative. That said, on our visit they had a ‘slaw’ on offer which we tentatively ordered to share. Finely sliced cabbage tossed in a spiced-yoghurt and lemon dressing, it was actually far more delicious than the dubious description on the menu and went perfectly with both fish dishes.

A slight running theme is possible here, as like the sides the desserts just didn’t seem overly appealing. However we’d heard good things so ordered a few to share.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 18_zps0138jjek.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 15_zpsnjp2ch4d.jpgThe Exotic Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Creameux was my top pick, and this is coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of cheesecake. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered it in a restaurant before! This was light and almost mousse-like – certainly not the heavy and artery-clogging dish I was expected. Flavours of mango and passion-fruit were strong without being sickly, the plate was garnished with coulis, curd and crispy meringues and the cheesecake topped with an almost gelato-textured sorbet.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 19_zpsk3kpb1ri.jpgW loved the Luxurious Chocolate and Bitter Orange, although I found it a tad heavy and cloying (and certainly wouldn’t have been able to finish it!).  Flavours were reminiscent of a jaffa cake, with the textures smooth. One for chocolate lovers, and only if you’ve got a big appetite.

Even before we’d paid our bill, we were talking about other dishes on the menu we’d like to try on a return visit. Unfortunately with moving, holidays, exams and other annoying things we haven’t yet made it, but watch this space!
And now I’ll end with another picture of the fish dish. Because it was THAT good!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 8_zpsit8mhatr.jpg

Where was your ‘best meal’ eaten?

Recipe: Satay Veggie Salad

I’ve become a real lover of salads this summer. Don’t get me wrong, serve me up a bowl of the classic leaves, cucumber, onion combo and I won’t exactly be toooo impressed, but a bowl of this? I’ll be one happy girl! A substantial bowl of crisp veggies, dressed in some kind of yummy sauce, can make the tastiest of dinners. It needs a mixture of tastes, textures and colours, a dressing that will make it sing.

 photo Radish Salad_zpshtzieibl.jpgI tend to prefer Asian flavours to my salads – chilli heat, lime zing, saltiness from soy or fish sauce. Here I’ve added peanut butter to the mix – because peanut butter. Pretty much anything is made better with peanut butter. Based on this recipe from Waitrose, it’s crunchy, spicy, creamy, salty, zingy and totally fresh and flavourful. Delicious!

It’s also super simple to whip up – and I’ve made it even easier using Very Lazy pastes. These are perfect for stress and hassle-free cooking. I’ve previously only really used them in curries and stir-fries, but they actually work perfectly in salad dressings too. A win in my book, there’s little I hate more than peeling and chopping ginger!

NB: this does work out well as a lunchbox dish, but I’d leave out the cucumber and keep the dressing separate until you’re ready to serve.

 photo Satay Veggie Salad 15_zpspwl1xu1e.jpg photo Satay Veggie Salad 13_zps3xcs4eoo.jpg photo Satay Veggie Salad 8_zpszhg4k9lk.jpg photo Satay Veggie Salad 6_zpsbyk3rnbk.jpgIngredients (Serves 3 generously as a main, or 2 dinner & 2 lunch portions)

  • 3-4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 2 limes, zest and juice
  • fresh ginger (about the size of your thumb), grated or finely chopped (or use the everso useful Very Lazy paste – you could even do the same for the chilli too!)
  • 1 fresh red chilli (remove the seeds if you’re a little scared of heat!)
  • 1 tbsp runny honey (I’d get some cheaper stuff, anything ‘nice’ tastes too much of honey in this)
  • 1 pack of radishes
  • 1 chinese leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch salad onions (around 5-6)
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 cucumber (I didn’t include this in the one I photographed, but it adds a nice freshness!)
  • 1 pack coriander

Prep the veggies – finely slice the radishes and onions, then shred the lettuce. Use a julienne peeler to cut ribbons of the carrot (peel first), then use a veg peeler to gain fine slices of cucumber (discard the watery middle). Chop the coriander.

Then make the dressing. Pop the peanut butter into a small bowl with the lime zest and the finely chopped chilli, then gradually beat in the soy sauce – I find using a fork best for this. Add in the rest of the ingredients, mixing well. Toss together with the veggies, then serve immediately.

 photo Satay Veggie Salad 3_zpsurchabcb.jpgIt makes an amazing side to grilled satay chicken (I have a recipe I need to photograph and blog), but I also love it with cold prawns, or even some baked salmon. Or if I’m having it on it’s own, I like to add some extra nuts for a little additional protein, possibly some blanched and cooled soy beans too.

Yum yum!

*Some products were received from Very Lazy in exchange for a recipe, though all opinions are (as ever!) my own.

Are you a salad fan? What’s your favourite combo?

Recipe: Thai Chicken Cakes & Satay Noodle Salad

I love the spicy, fragrant flavours of Thai food, and this meal has got to be one of the most enjoyable I’ve made lately. It felt like such a treat meal, yet it was pretty painless to make and definitely left me feeling completely virtuous.

 photo Thai Chicken Cakes and Satay Noodle Salad 2_zpslh4xg3qv.jpg

 photo Thai Chicken Cakes_zps2zp4irg5.jpg

The Thai Chicken Cakes are full of flavour, a moist but well-textured ‘burger’ that are spicy and filling. I found it such a different way to enjoy a chicken breast, without too much more effort. Definitely a little lighter than my standard Thai Green Curry too! They do take a bit of time to make (and a lot of washing up) but are totally worth it. You do need to use a decent curry paste though, I’ve been using one from Blue Dragon* recently and it’s so good – a decent kick of chilli, but a good tang and fragrance to it too. Yum!

And the noodle salad. Oh, so good! It’s fabulous cold, great with both chicken and prawns. The combination of rice noodles and peanut butter combine to make an almost creamy dressing that’s full of zingy, spicy flavour. Rice noodles are my new favourite thing, but this will also work well with easier-to-find egg noodles.

Together, these noodles and Thai chicken cakes make the perfect Fakeaway meal, great for a date night, a lazy Friday evening, or even for cooking and cooking for lunchboxes.

 photo Thai Chicken Cakes and Satay Noodle Salad 4_zps3et5bgep.jpg photo Thai Chicken Cakes and Satay Noodle Salad 1_zpszvccywsa.jpgIngredients (for 1)

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai Green Curry Paste (depending on your spice preference)
  • 1 teaspoon line juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 50g rice noodles
  • 1 carrot, spiralized, julienned or peeled
  • Around 1 inch cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • Dressing: 1 teaspoon each of honey, lime juice, fish sauce and peanut butter, plus a dash of soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds

Now, the chicken cakes do need some time to chill so it’s best to make them anywhere from 2 hours in advance. Simply chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and pop into a food chopper along with the paste, lime juice and fish sauce. Season well with salt and pepper, then process until just combined. Spray a plate with oil, then using wet hands roughly shape the mixture into cakes and place on the plate. Spray the tops with a little oil, cover then chill for 2-24 hours.

When ready to cook, heat a little oil in a pan and fry the cakes on both sides until lightly golden. Transfer to a tray and cook at 180C for around 10 minutes. Meanwhile soak the noodles (I add the carrots for the final two minutes), prep the veg and shake all the dressing ingredients together.  Toss the dressing into the noodles, before adding the rest of the salad ingredients. Serve scattered with sesame seeds, alongside the chicken cakes.

 photo Thai Chicken Cakes and Satay Noodle Salad 3_zpsaybmkttb.jpgI know I’ve already said it, but this was such a good meal. I was dubious about the combination of green curry alongside a satay flavour, but it really does work. I’ve kept the salad dressing free of spice as I prefer my cakes super spicy – but go with what you fancy. I’m also planning on trying the cake recipe with prawns instead of chicken – yum yum!

*This post is an entry to the Foodies100 Chinese New Year recipe challenge sponsored by Blue Dragon. The range of Blue Dragon products is available in all major supermarkets at an RRP from £0.69. To find out more, visit www.bluedragon.co.uk

As you might have guessed, I’m a huge fan of Asian flavours! What’s your favourite style of cooking?

Lifestyle: Healthy Asian Food with #LVLoveLife

I finally attended my first blogger event, and I’m a lucky girl because it was a fabulous night!

 photo fc9eedfc-4f83-48ca-b32f-9a7c805584ad_zpsdzgbhckl.jpg photo eaa15bed-9aa1-4203-bad4-d70fadaf953a_zpsoxp5jnnm.jpgBased at the Smart School of Cookery in St Katharine’s Docks (now one of my favourite spots in London), we were shown how to make a feast which was as good for us as it was tantalising on our tastebuds.

 photo 54d6c4ff-8d58-418c-b210-4cda51cfa9a7_zpsznmo3exw.jpg photo db27c1e7-5a90-4c36-9658-c63fbd84c007_zpsk38v9tus.jpgMy favourite course of the night was the first, but it was so spectacular nothing could have topped it. A light salad of rocket and courgette ribbons, dressed with lime, topped with spicy, sweet prawns (courgette for the veggies!) – this was a revelation. I will definitely be recreating this in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for the recipe! So simple, but bloody delicious!

 photo d4c34cca-342a-4689-9cc2-4436d27db682_zpsdnxt7zhd.jpg photo ec726f08-98f7-4709-9679-6ce3f9b562af_zpsgc3lct8c.jpg photo e72a4421-1977-46ee-b75a-e3b3f49ddb66_zpsxygtjbbt.jpg photo 2d12d8e8-73fd-4862-8e8f-3ab24d5610d3_zpslocozbn9.jpgThe veggie-noodle broth which followed was still delicious, but I can’t say I fell in love with it. I felt that although it was bulked out with courgette and carrot, it needed some other vegetable to give it a bit of life. The crouton was pretty delicious though, and not just because I made those!

 photo 3653fce0-3400-43f9-9988-9cb5961cd6fa_zpsatxdlc3b.jpg photo IMG_9733_zpsq9mfcxym.jpgCheck out my croutons! Plus you get to see the red lip I spoke out this week in action, albeit vamped up with a red lip liner!

 photo 4e6728c5-612b-4809-959c-2ff3cee4e4d2_zpsmkyeqwea.jpg photo b8c07a53-547c-4c4e-9538-14a54d4978a0_zpswq0rgqbb.jpgThe final course was nearly as delicious as the first, a chicken curry made with very little oil, the chicken was ridiculously tender, the sauce sweet, coconutty and a little spicy. A kick from the garlic, ginger and coriander were the main flavours, offset with zingy-ness from the lime. I felt it would have taken a bit more chilli though! The sticky rice was also a revelation. I’ve never thought to bake rice, but it worked so well. Slightly crunchy it matched the creamy curry perfectly. Now I just need a pan suitable to go in the oven…

I definitely came away with some fabulous cooking hints too. Never cook with olive oil (I’ve always avoided it anyway!), and grate ginger and chilli straight from the freezer. I’ve been freezing my chillies for a while now but have always defrosted them to end up with soggy, sweet things. Now I know where I am going wrong there will be no stopping me!

 photo 6e1a31fc-0a4e-486e-912a-bfedf4213830_zpsgytqzxy1.jpgWe were all invited to the event by LV as part of their #LVLoveLife campaign. I’m very grateful, not only for the yummy food, but also the chance to meet some of my favourite bloggers – check out Immy May, Jasmine Charlotte, Not Quite Enough and Champagne & Chutney.

Have you took part in a cookery class before? What are your top cooking tips?

Recipe: Asian Steak Salad

When I’m trying to be healthier, my go-to flavours are Asian; Thai, Vietnamese. Fresh, vibrant and aromatic. They instantly brighten up what should be a dull plate of veg, add life, and make things ten times tastier. I always find they fill me up a lot more too.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.10.13_zpsn6lc6hz5.jpgThis salad was inspired by wandering around the aisles of Morrisions (seriously, the one kinda near me is amazing!) for nearly an hour. Their fresh produce was amazing, and after a carb-laden lunch (read more on Saturday) we wanted to lighten things up. The steak came about because chicken  (free range, that actually tastes of something) is expensive. Turns out that with the right ingredients, the thin cuts of cheaper frying steak are more than delicious. I’ll definitely be picking up more of these.

 photo 2015-01-10 19.54.37_zpsenqrwzl9.jpgSteak is also a lot, lot quicker to cook than chicken. These only had a minute on each side, and to be honest I wouldn’t even give them that next time. You can have this salad ready within about 15 minutes of walking through the door. And the dressing? Add noodles and leftover salad – there’s lunch for tomorrow. It also works perfectly to add extra zing to a noodle soup.

Ingredients (for 1, but makes extra dressing)

  • Frying steak
  • 1/2 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli (check the heat by tasting a little bit, and adjust the amount accordingly)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • A splash of soy sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Squeeze of honey
  • Coriander
  • Salad – we went for julienned carrot, watercress and a small amount of onion
  • Sesame seeds – optional, only to top the salad, but we really enjoyed them

 photo 2015-01-10 19.54.57_zpsupq9ewg4.jpgBegin by making the dressing. Finely chop the ginger, chilli and garlic together. Add to a small bowl or mug, then pour over the sauces, lime and honey. Mix together, taste, and add more of an ingredient if you think it needs it.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.01.22_zpsith0jknh.jpgToss your salad together with your coriander.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat, with a teeny amount of oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, and flash fry extremely quickly until just cooked.

Cover the steaks with foil to rest briefly, and tip any sauces from the pan into the dressing.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.08.46_zpsqci8hzwi.jpgToss the salad in the dressing, top with the steak, sprinkle over sesame seeds and serve. I added a teeny bit of rice to mine (and a lot of rice to W’s) but it honestly didn’t need it.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.09.54_zpsyk0ey3wo.jpgThe perfect diet meal!

What’s your favourite healthy recipe?