Restaurant Review: Steak & Co, Covent Garden

I love London. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a countryside girl at heart, but London gives me a real buzz, and more than anything it excites the foodie in me. I try to be relatively adventurous when eating out – recently I’ve had fabulous meals in a vegetarian pay-by-weight buffet place (I loved it, my boyfriend wasn’t convinced), a charming little Swiss place in Soho, and of course my go-to is the utterly delicious Wahaca. But this time we decided to follow up a recommendation and go pay to cook our own dinner…

 photo 2014-10-11185939_zps266fe77c.jpgWe had decided what we were eating before arriving; steak cooked on a hot stone. The only decision to make was the cut, the butter, the salt, the sauce and the sides. In the end we both went for a (massive) 8oz Rib-Eye. I had garlic butter, mustard salt and pepper sauce, he had chilli butter, chilli sauce and pepper sauce.

 photo ebcb545d-e1dd-42b3-ad6b-b835aa9cd6a8_zps23360018.jpgThe idea is your steak comes underdone – so as I like mine rare it comes to the table blue. You then cook slices to your liking on the hot stone provided, using your flavoured butter, sprinkling with the salt, and dipping into the sauce. A bit theatrical, but the steak is good quality and well-flavoured, and it’s not ridiculously expensive. Our bill came to around £40, which really isn’t bad for central London steak. Mustard salt is delicious, the mushroom sauce I ordered originally should be avoided (the pepper one is lovely!). I’d possibly suggest not getting rib-eye if you like your meat rare – its a cut better suited to being more cooked so the fat renders down.

 photo ff7cc94a-1b61-4889-aa8a-f3fb71fdaf74_zpse56743d0.jpg photo 7f9f8dbf-a96c-401b-891c-a332cffaff06_zps247ae66d.jpgSides were garlic mushrooms for me, sweet potato fries for him. The mushrooms were spectacular, garlicky and cooked to perfection. Only issue was there were so many I couldn’t possibly finish them all. I stole a few sweet potato fries, and surprisingly enjoyed them. Still a little over sweet for my tastebuds though.

 photo 2014-10-11160243_zps52409faf.jpgWe weren’t impressed with the desserts menu at all, instead opting for a wander to Ben & Jerrys at Leictester Square. We had eaten a massive brownie from Borough Market before dinner though!

Have you ever been to a restaurant where you cooked your own food? What do you think about the concept?

Review: Flava-It With Meat Lust (& THE Crispiest Wings)

 photo 2014-09-22182550_zps73fc0616.jpgI love chicken wings. If I wasn’t so self-conscious about making a mess they would be my go-to order in Nandos, and I’m desperate to try some of the London-based wing restaurants too (damn you allergy!). When Meat Lust got in touch about sending me over some marinades, a quick check revealed they’d advise against me having them, but would my family like a try. Fine. I was hugely jealous, until I got the parcel and read the packet. Turns out only the Original BBQ flavour contained tomato, with the three other flavours I was sent being Chloe-safe. I was over the moon, my parents not so as I promptly snuck them back to my Surrey hideaway.

 photo 2014-09-22182613_zps30cd5dea.jpg photo 2014-09-22193827_zps8790a955.jpgBuffalo wings* were the first to be tried out, and I think this was my favourite flavour. Not too sweet, not too spicy, but still a flavourful kick. These marinades are super simple. Scatter the powder over the meat (I rubbed it in slightly) and leave for 10 minutes. That’s it. I would recommend leaving for longer if you have time, but 10 minutes is perfectly fine if that’s all you’ve got. Now for crispy wings here’s a tip I’ve stolen from good ole’Jamie Oliver (probably one of my favourite chefs, as I just love his recipes). A tablespoon of medium ground polenta over your wings before they go in the oven, and they will be crispy, with a texture almost as though they have been deep-fried. I’ve recently been using some Maizemeal* from Real Foods (an amazing site for health foods and a whole range of toiletries and other exciting things. I like to browse it on a Sunday afternoon over cake and tea…). Super quality, crunch and flavour, superior to any I’ve bought from a supermarket. Bake the wings for 30 minutes, turn and bake for another 20. Super crispy skin, moist flesh. The may look a little black in my photo, but they weren’t far from burnt. Utter perfection, although the tray was a bugger to clean.

Louisiana BBQ was my least favourite flavour, far too sweet for my liking, although it did go pretty well with the pork ribs. Ghost Chilli was exceptionally hot, but really good too. I think I would have loved this flavour had the wings been cooked a little better – the lack of polenta made them a little greasy (sorry dad!). No pictures of these two as I was nearly too ill to eat, let alone photograph my food. But despite my general disease, the food still tasted good. I’ll definitely be picking up a few more of these marinades for next summer! I will say however that the photos on the packets aren’t really representative of what you end up with – they definitely weren’t any sauces produced, but delicious all the same.

Disclaimer: I was sent four marinades to review (one of which has killer tomato in, and has been left with family to trial), but this doesn’t alter my opinions at all. I was also (separately) sent the polenta/maizemeal from Real Foods, and again my opinion is unbiased.

What’s your favourite flavour to marinade meat in? Will you be trying any Meat Lust products?

Restaurant Review: Byron Hamburgers, MK

 photo 2014-04-19131504_zpsaea25213.jpgAfter reading that a new burger chain was opening in Milton Keynes (reasonably local to my non-term-time home) I’ve been planning a visit. I finally managed to visit Byron last Saturday, and can honestly say it was worth the wait!

 photo 2014-04-19131436_zps51fbadfa.jpgWe’d done a little bit of shopping beforehand, and were rather hungry for our lunch!

We ordered quite simply – drinks, a classic burger and fries each, and a coleslaw for me. What really impressed me was how well they dealt with any special requests – I wanted my burger without the tomato and my boyfriend requested his without the mayo. Both of these were done without question, and my allergy was noted on our tables ticket.

Fortunately the food arrived quickly.

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 photo 2014-04-19132700_zps5bee01b4.jpgFirst of all – the fries and coleslaw. Its been a long time since I had fries as good as these, and to be honest the only fries I usually have are KFC’s. These were 100x better – crispy, light, well seasoned (although still improved with a sprinkling of salt!) and there was plenty of them. I definitely didn’t need a whole portion to myself, but I’m not sure sharing was an option given how quickly my other half polished off his! The coleslaw was some of the yummiest I’ve eaten, finely sliced veg and a thin dressing meant this was light and crisp against anything else.

Now the burger. As a picture speaks a thousand words, I’ll start with showing you this…

 photo 2014-04-19132912_zps5f8f6e7d.jpgPerfectly cooked for me (I’m sure some would disagree, my mum was disgusted when I spoke about a pink burger!), in a proper burger bun. Too many places have been serving burgers in ‘posh’ buns, but nothing beats these! The bread was soft, not at all stale and (most importantly) held together perfectly when eating. The meat was tender, juicy and wonderfully flavoured – you could definitely tell this was high quality beef!

I’ve been craving a properly cooking pink burger for months, I have a list of burger joints in London I want to visit, but Byron definitely satisfied my craving – proper meaty goodness at its best! I could never be a vegetarian…

 photo 2014-04-19131426-1_zpsaf6d490a.jpgWe were definitely very satisfied eaters! Despite being tempted by the Banoffee concoction, neither of us had room for pudding. Just another excuse to go back!

 photo 2014-04-19134551_zpsb6550ca6.jpgYou can tell from that photo how happy my boyfriend was with his meal! Our bill came to just over £25, which we thought was really reasonable for the quality and quantity of food. We’d have spent roughly the same on a Nandos (the queue for which is usually 45 minutes + in Milton Keynes for Saturday lunch!) and I personally enjoyed this far more. I’ll definitely be back, I’m now craving a cheeseburger!

What burger restaurants do you recommend?

Recipe: Toad in the Hole (+ Yorkshire/ Pancake/ Fritter Batter)

This is a great recipe, one of my favourite meals, and a complete British classic. It is wonderfully simple to make, the basic recipe is ridiculously versatile, and yet so many people shy away from it as (1) they say it is “difficult to make” and (2) apparently it uses “expensive ingredients.” I’m hoping this post will blow both of these concerns out of way!

Firstly, it is so, so, so easy to make, and my recipe requires no scales, no measuring, just a jug, spoon, fork, and a tin. And an oven of course. If your kitchen doesn’t have these, its not really a kitchen.

Secondly, a lot of the ingredients are really basics that you would already have. 1.5kg of flour (ASDA smart price at 45p) lasts me more than a term, salt and pepper at also cheap (and realistically every meal needs them, so I haven’t included them in my costings per portion), milk lasts my house of four a week (6 pints at £1.48). Eggs are £1 for six, and that’s buying free range, as I utterly refuse to buy intensively farmed eggs. I use lard for my toad, but any flavourless oil such as sunflower is fine. Then sausages need not be expensive. Buy the best you can afford, obviously, as the best you buy the better your meal will taste. But you can get 8 decent sausages for under £2. You can get away with using two per person in this recipe but I was greedy and used three for me (but I bought my sausages from Waitrose heavily reduced – 8 for 90p!). I’m going to attempt to include some rough costings within this recipe, but I apologise if these are wrong. I’ve based everything on ASDA prices, using smart price flour, but their standard range everywhere else. My costing will also include some vegetables and gravy (and I use Bisto, so this could be a lot cheaper for you – although Bisto is available in the £1 shops!) I will also include the cost of EVERYTHING if you are making from scratch with an empty kitchen. I hope none of you are doing this though! My estimations are very generous, so the recipe will probably be cheaper!

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I hope I have convinced you to give this recipe a try. It takes little to no time, a tiny bit of pre-planning (although if you are really pushed it isn’t necessary!) and results in a filling and tasty meal that really does remind me of home. Definite comfort food for this dreary, rainy, grey weather. By the way, the photo above is an old one, but the recipe is still the same!

The batter recipe can also be used for individual Yorkshire’s (cook in a muffin tin, for around 5 minutes left), fritters (add your ingredient, I like sweetcorn, and fry in a pan until crispy), or pancakes (leave out the salt and pepper, and fry in flavourless oil for around 1 minute on each side). So it is definitely a good recipe to learn!

Ingredients (I would eat this amount on my own, but with mashed potatoes would serve two!)

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  • 2 eggs (£1 for six, 33p in recipe)
  • 2 spoons of flour (45p for 1.5kg, approx 5p for amount used)
  • Milk (£1.48 for six pints, approx 15-25p for amount used)
  • Salt (29p for 750g, negligible in recipe)
  • Black pepper (29p for 25g, roughly 1p in recipe)
  • 2 sausages (based on £2 for 8, 50p in recipe) – ignore me being greedy and having three!)
  • A chunk of lard, or some oil, around 25g/ml (39p for 250g, approx 5p)
  • Gravy – I use Bisto’s Onion (£1.75 for 170g, approx 30p in recipe)
  • Vegatables – I would have around 1/5 of a cabbage, 1/4 of a broccoli head, and a handful of frozen peas (roughly 50p maximum)

Total cost of recipe – £1.99 including vegetables and gravy, per portion. Starting from scratch would be around £10, but this would leave plenty of ingredients left for other dishes. Scaling up this recipe wouldn’t double the cost, particularly if you just made mashed potatoes instead of extra batter.

Method

Take your two eggs and crack into a jug. Ignore my bloody, plastered finger – I decided to slip with a knife earlier in the day and have badly sliced my finger. Typically I am left handed and it is very painful to write, so am instead drafting lots of blog posts (lucky readers!).

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Add two rounded tablespoons of plain flour to your eggs, beating between each spoon, and trying to beat out all of the lumps (though lumps don’t hurt!).

Add in around 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. The batter will go a funny colour if you use ground pepper, but I find it gives a better flavour.

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Add enough milk (no more than 1/2 a pint – I used two ‘splashes) until you have a thick but pourable consistency that coats the back of a spoon, similar to this next photo.

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If you have time, cover the batter with cling film and leave in a cool place. I like to make this on days (i.e. Wednesdays) when I finish at lunchtime. I will make it as soon as I get in, winding down from lectures, then get on with some work until dinner time. Come then my batter is nicely rested and I have very little prep to do. Here’s my batter resting by the window, with our pretty little garden – we got lucky for a student house!

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When you are ready, heat your oven to about 200 degrees.

Throw your lard in the pan, and let it melt in the oven.

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Once melted add your sausages, and throw back in the oven. If you are using oil, add the sausages straight away.

Cook your sausages until browned all over. This takes about 10 or so minutes, and you may want to poke them with a spoon to ensure they brown evenly.

When your sausages are browned, removed the tin from the oven then quickly pour in your batter.

Put back in the oven, and set your timer for 15 minutes – do not open the oven in this time, or you will end up with a soggy bottom (to your Yorkshire!).

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Try and time your veg and gravy to be ready at roughly the same time (cabbage wants 4-6 minutes boiling, broccoli 2-5, peas 5-6). You can prep your veg whilst it is cooking (here is what I had tonight!)

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Occasionally your Toad may stick to the tin slightly – if it does then add some washing up liquid and pour in boiling water before it cools, and it should just scrub off easily. Mine stuck tonight – it is a rare but annoyance!

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Serve up your toad, add your veg (drain it well) and cover in gravy. Then devour and enjoy!

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Does anyone have any tips for making the perfect Yorkshire Puddings or Toad in the Hole?