Recipe: Chicken Khari Curry

KhariCurry6 photo 2014-03-03194816_zps296459ab.jpgYou may remember from my Spicy Pea Toasted Sandwich (which I hope you try, by the way, as its an amazing recipe!) that my boyfriends dad has been taking an Indian Cookery class in Northampton run by Rashmita Shah (I believe she is hosting these workshops this year). Being away at university I’ve yet to sample any other dishes he’s learnt, but he did send me down this recipe, along with a spice mix from Rashmita herself (which I’m amazingly grateful for – so thank you to John and Rashmita – its getting a lot of use!). I was also sent an amended (to remove the evil tomatoes) recipe, which I generally follow to the letter. In fact my only deviations are to add extra veg, generally spinach, and use garlic granules if I don’t have any fresh! I also generally don’t include fresh coriander, simply because I have bought two plants since starting university in 2012, and killed both…

KhariCurry2 photo 2014-03-03192014_zps91a572ab.jpgThe spice mix I am using is made up of hing, whole cumin seeds, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, salt and low sugar. I’ve no idea whether this would work with other spice mixes (and please don’t go and buy generic curry powder…at the very least buy a few separate spices and experiment). I’ve really enjoyed being able to enjoy a curry that isn’t Thai, or a korma – I’ve felt really limited due to my tomato allergy before now! Lets get cooking…

Ingredients (scaled down for one person)

  • 1 portion of chicken
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1.5 tsp spice mix
  • A splash of boiling water
  • Small handful fresh coriander, if you have greener fingers than me!

KhariCurry1 photo 2014-03-03192004_zpse2b57bb2.jpgStart by chopping your onion, garlic and ginger together, as finely as possible. Rashmita suggested grating these ingredients, though I cheated and used an electric chopper. Fry in the oil, which you have heated to a high heat. You want to stir-fry these at a continuous high heat, stirring very frequently, until they are soft and turning golden brown.

KhariCurry3 photo 2014-03-03192901_zps0898b61c.jpgThen add your spice mix to the pan, and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly.

KhariCurry4 photo 2014-03-03193225_zps7c924658.jpgThen add your chicken, and continue stir-frying over the high heat until completely sealed and virtually cooking through.

KhariCurry5 photo 2014-03-03194458_zpsc42fc176.jpgTurn the pan down a little, and add the boiling water slowly, still stirring constantly. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is as thick/thin as you like it. I add my spinach just before it is done. Then serve, garnishing with coriander if you have it.

KhariCurry6 photo 2014-03-03194816_zps296459ab.jpgAnd that’s it! I was shocked at how simple this recipe was, as I always assumed most Indian recipes were complicated and used a long list of ingredients. Okay, I’m using a spice mix, but even that isn’t overly complex! This is a quite and easy recipe, that’s well spiced with a complex flavour. It takes around 20 minutes to make, and for me the difficult part is cooking rice on an electric hob (any tips, please pass them on!).

What’s your favourite curry?

 

Recipe: Chicken Massaman Curry

I first came across this dish as a ready meal. I know, I know, I hate ready meals and think they are awful value, but this was (1) from Waitrose, (2) very nice and (3) reduced. Clearly it didn’t suit the tastes of regular ready meal consumers though, as I’ve never seen it since. I craved this dish for months, then ordered a beef version in a Thai Restaurant in Northampton (if you’re in the area, do give the Thai Emerald a go – one of the best meals I’ve had in the town!) and again loved it. I’m not sure why I waited so long before making my own!

One of the things I love most about this curry is that it tastes pretty Indian, so helps that craving (I really struggle to find a spicy and tomato free Indian curry that’s actually good), but still is fresh and fragrant like the more typical Thai curries. Its creamy, nutty, spicy, and full of interesting textures. Maybe not the healthiest dish in the world, but it is damn good and tasty. Just what I want from a Saturday night curry.

Note: I bought a Massaman curry paste. It is actually one of the most complex curry pastes to make, and the extensive ingredients list (most of which did not reside in my cupboards!) really put me off. So I bought in. I’d love to make up a paste at some point in the future, but spices are expensive, and although I’m slowly building up my collection I’m having to do it one spice at a time, spreading the cost out. Remember, if you are allergic to tomatoes, check the label of any paste you buy. Thai pastes are generally tomato-free, but always check!

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You will need:

  • Chicken breast – one per person
  • 1 onion
  • 1 potato (I’d maybe up this to 2 next time, as this was my favourite part)
  • Half a pot (3-4 tablespoons) of massaman curry paste
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • To taste (I have added the amount I used as a guide) – 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, a squeeze of lime juice, and two handfuls of raw peanuts (ie not the salted snack version)

And to create a delicious curry:

Prepare: chop the chicken into chunks, peel and dice the potato (around 1cm cubes), slice the onion and crush the cardamom pods.

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2014-01-04 18.20.46Then fry the curry paste (with a little oil if it looks dry) along with the crushed cardamom and cinnamon for a minute.

2014-01-04 18.21.06Then fry the chicken in the pan until completely sealed, adding the onion and potato part-way through. When sealed, add the coconut milk (I only needed just over 1.5 cans, so add the second slowly).

2014-01-04 18.34.28Simmer on a very low heat (don’t boil or the coconut milk might split) for around 25-40 minutes until thickened, glossy and the chicken and potato are cooked through. Meanwhile cook any rice or other accompaniments you feel like.

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Stir in the seasonings – fish sauce, tamarind paste and lime juice. The fish sauce should serve as the salt in this recipe. I will warn you – these parts of vital towards the taste. The dish truly wouldn’t be the same without them.

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Serve into warmed bowls, spooning the sauce over the meat/potatoes. I took the last few photos before adding the sauce, hence it might look a little odd! When we ate this the bowls were almost full of the most deliciously thick and savoury sauce.

2014-01-04 19.42.56I really would urge you to try this curry, its a great introduction to Thai food, and is simply one of my favourites.

Whats your favourite curry recipe?

New Year’s Resolutions 2014

Happy New Year everyone, I hope your celebrations seeing in 2014 were lovely! Mine were spent doing some of the catering for a dinner party which has inspired a post or two, but for now I’m going to share with you all my New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve split these into a few categories, and I hope to keep you updated throughout the year, in a bid to keep me on track!

Academic

Weirdly, I’ll only be studying for around 5 months of 2014 as I’ll be on a placement from July, so I’m kinda struggling to this of academic based resolutions. However I have a few broad things I want to work on:

  • Take better notes for all subjects. I’m not a bad notetaker, I’m just inconsistent. And guilty of spending boring lectures on Bloglovin’. My main aim is to work on my notetaking for my more written modules – numerically I’m fine, but I find keeping up with theoretical financial lectures more difficult.
  • Come up with a better revision plan. Basically, I want to make sure I’m not learning content when I should be revising! I guess my main aim is to do more past questions.
  • Make full use of my Filofax. It was a little neglected last term, and my organisation suffered, so I definitely want to improve this.
  • Self-teach Excel. A little add-on which I think best fits in this category. I use Excel for budgeting, but I’d really like to be able to do more of it before I’m required to use it in a professional setting. I just don’t want to look like an idiot for not understanding it!

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Blogging

The important one! 2013 was the year I really started to blog properly and this year I want to go on developing and improving this site.

  • Comment on a blog a day. I’m a massive blog reader, but I always seem to just read rather than participate. I definitely want to start showing other bloggers that I appreciate their work!
  • Keep to a blog schedule. I ideally want to post around three times a week, plus the regular weekly posts such as the What’s Cooking Wednesday series.
  • Improve my photography. I was debating whether to invest in a Nikon bridge camera over the past few weeks, but have ultimately decided against it, instead focussing on my own technique before upgrading my equipment.
  • Continue developing the blog. This is a broad one! I’m considering going self-hosted, I want to alter the design I currently have, and I also want to branch out into other areas – for instance I have a lot of beauty related reviews coming soon.

Cooking/Baking

My main aim is to really tighten up my budget (I’ll need to find the money for a deposit on a new rented property around May time, so money is going to be tight!) and expand my repertoire.

  • Save money. Ideally I want to spend around £10 a week over the next term, with a big shop at the start bringing it up to an average of £15 weekly. I’m also aiming to post a few money-saving tips in the future, including one that saved me a whopping £50 last term!
  • Continue experimenting with tomato-free recipes. I think I’ve cracked the Tomato Free Slow-Cooker Bolognese, but I want to work on a faster version, and also play about with curries.
  • Buy joints of meat. I received Save with Jamie for Christmas, and have been inspired by the leftover recipes. I’m definitely going to be trying a few! Linked with this, I also want to learn how to joint a chicken, as I think this will be a lot cheaper than buying the parts separately.
  • Expand my baking knowledge. Yes, I can cook muffins, but I want to expand into traybakes, and maybe even more impressive cakes. My main aim? To bake my own bread. Hopefully as good as this loaf my boyfriend made a few weeks back.

Bread

Beauty

My blog is going to become a littleee more beauty orientated as I’ve become a lot more interested in it. My aims are;

  • To find the perfect foundation for me. I thought I had found this recently, but its not quite blendable enough for me.
  • Clean and maintain my make-up brushes. I recently invested in a whole new set, and am determined to keep them in the best possible condition.
  • Try Pixi Glow Tonic. I just think that, from what I’ve read, this would be perfect for my skin.
  • Take my make-up off every night. Without fail. I’ve gotten my skin to what is pretty much the best it’s been since pre-teenage years, and now I want to maintain it. Unfortunately I’m kinda lazy, but I’m determined to combat that this year.

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Personal

And finally a mish-mash of things that don’t really come under any category;

  • Exercise more. The standard resolution. For many years my aim has been to begin running, but its slowly beginning to dawn that my ankles are too weak to run without proper supporting trainers, the cost of which I can’t justify right now. So I plan to walk more, be more active, and use online exercise classes to improve my fitness.
  • Learn to knit. Properly. I’ve been trying for over a year, and its probably one of the most difficult and frustrating things I’ve ever tried to do. But I’m determined that by next winter I’ll have knitted myself a scarf.

But really, all of my goals amount to one thing – be a better person in everything I do. A lot of self-improvement is on the cards for me this year!

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? 

Love Your Leftovers: Pizza Pinwheels

If you made my Chicken & Sausage Pie recipe, or indeed any pie recipe, you might find yourself with some spare pastry hanging around. I certainly did! Rather than throw it away (I have a ‘thing’ about throwing perfectly edible things away) I decided to make something, and raided my fridge/freezer for other things to use up. I have to admit though, I was very, very tempted to just make some Cinnamon Swirls

I found some Pesto (from my Tomato-free Bolognese recipe), chorizo, and cheese, and so some version of Pizza was going to be born. I also decided I wanted something portable, so I could use it for lunch the next day, so had a little google and found this recipe…and improvised. Here’s my very quick version, which taste delicious. They are easily adaptable for your own tastes, and whatever you have in too!

I’m not going to write this properly, with a full ingredients list, because it depends on what you want to include, but I’ll outline what I did and the basic method – the rest is up to you!

2013-11-25 16.15.40Take your strip of leftover pastry, and roll in out a little, so it’s long and thinner. Spread with the pesto.

2013-11-25 16.17.30Sprinkle with grated cheese, and top with the chorizo slices. This did make it quite greasy, so next time I’m going to try ham instead.

2013-11-25 16.18.58Roll up tightly – a bit like this:

2013-11-25 16.19.38Then cut into slices – mine worked well at around 1 cm width. Place on a foil covered baking tray.

2013-11-25 16.21.52Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, the cheese should be bubbly, the pastry golden and crisp. All totally yummy!
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Try to resist eating, if you can. These would be great served with a salad as a main meal, but I’m going to enjoy them instead of a sandwich in my lunch box. This is definitely an idea I’ll be trying again, with lots of possible variations!

 

How do you use up leftover pastry?

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Tomato-Free Spaghetti Bolognese

Please note, this recipe has been revised and reposted here – it’s taken nearly 5 years, but I’ve finally developed the best no-tomato spagheti bolognese. Super easy (and easily made vegan with mushrooms and lentils) and so, so tasty!
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Has anyone else managed to recreate recipes they thought were ‘no-goes’ due to allergies?

What’s Cooking Wednesday (#1)

I have been hugely inspired by the weekly posts on one of my favourite food blogs – Buns In My Oven. Karly (the writer) does a post every Wednesday where she lists a load of links to other blogs with yummy looking recipes. I’m going to do a little twist on the theme – I’m going to write what I’m planning on cooking over the next week (seeing as I meal plan and shop every Tuesday, this should be pretty simple for me) and include any foodie blogs where I get inspiration. I’m also planning on starting a Fabulous Friday Finds for other blog links, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Enough of my rambling – here’s my weekly menu. I’ll try and check back during the week and add a short review and picture of my meal, and eventually write up the recipes on new posts and link them in. I’m also going to ATTEMPT at some rough costings in a bid to see how much I actually spend on food over the week.

Wednesday – Chicken and Spaghetti, in a Creamy Mushroom and Spinach Sauce

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For the sauce I used a small onion (10p), a handful of chopped mushrooms (25p) some garlic (10p), a can of condensed mushroom soup (90p), 1/4 of a tub of creme fraiche (25p), a stock cube (10p) and some dry mixed herbs (negligible). This made 4 servings, so around 40p a serving. Please correct me if my maths is wrong as it’s been a long day!

I used one chicken breast, but then froze half in a portion of the sauce – so around 75p worth of chicken per portion. Then around 100g of spaghetti. I bought 500g for 23p from Aldi, but say 10p per portion. Then I added a handful of spinach for around 30p.

All in all, a very healthy and very filling dinner for not much more than £1.50. Winning!

 

Thursday – Tomato Free Lasagne

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My recipe turned out to use 27p worth of meat in each serving of bolognese sauce – coupled with a basic cheese sauce and a few lasagne sheets, this recipe definitely wouldn’t be expensive (as long as you weren’t using super expensive tomato substitutes). This dinner was massively filling, especially with the garlic bread, but it provided much needed comfort food on a night I wasn’t feeling too great!

 

Friday – Homemade Tomato-Free Pizza

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No picture of the finished dish tonight I’m afraid, but the main ingredient in my ‘tomato free’ recipes is often this pesto from Waitrose – I hope they never stop selling it!

 

SaturdaySpicy Sausage Stew.

Sunday – In my house, we all take it in turns to cook a ‘family’ dinner on Sundays. This week Katie (who doesn’t have a blog!) is doing a roasted turkey breast with stuffing.

Monday – Thai Red Curry (with chicken and extra vegetables)

Tuesday – I have a late-running extra careers session at university, so the current plan is to eat out on campus. However if this changes I will reheat a Three Bean Chilli.

Wednesday – Due to aforementioned careers session, we won’t be going shopping on Tuesday next week. So on Wednesday I will rely on whatever that is still fresh, or use one of the many meals I have cooked and frozen.

Does anyone else plan their meals in advance? Which of my meals are you most looking forward to hearing about?

A Love for Slow Cookers

Even I, as a totally abnormal student (we had a house party last Friday, and I played drinking games with a cup of tea…I will add I am taking part in Sober October!), will admit this is an odd post for what is essentially a student lifestyle blog. However I cannot post most of my favourite recipes without proclaiming love for the kitchen gadget that helps me create them, so for the time being we are going to indulge my middle-aged infatuation and talk slow cookers. Or crockpots for those who use that term.

I have no idea where my love for the slow cooker came from. My mum has certainly never used one. My maternal grandmother did…and thats exactly why my mum doesn’t. She is THAT bad a cook that she managed to both dry out the meat and make a watery sauce in a slow cooker. I still shudder with the memories. But for some reason I decided, whilst preparing for university all those months ago, that it would be an essential piece of kit. I was right, and I am SO glad I got one. So glad, in fact, that I now have two…

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Slow Cooker Beef Stew (with mashed potatoes and two types of cabbage)

 

So, why do I love a slow cooker so much. I’ve decided to write you a list! And here it is:

  • Convenience – it means I can fit meal preparation in whenever I’m free, and not have to worry about making a full meal when I get in just before 7.
  • Health/Diet – its a lot easier to hide vegetables when they are soft from slow cooking, so I always get a few extra portions in.
  • Cost – they make the most of cheap ingredients (including cheaper, tougher cuts of meat, as the slow cooking process renders down the fats and makes them soft) and are also low on electricity usage. Its much better to cook a slow for 8 hours in a slow cooker than in the over!
  • Smell – you will walk in to the most delicious smell of cooking food.
  • Cooking dried beans & pulses – I’m becoming a huge eater of these, but having to boil and simmer for a long period of time puts me right off. The slow cooker takes this annoyance away, and makes them a lot more convenient. I will say that I would never cook kidney beans in this way, as they can be toxic without a proper boiling (I always rely on the canned varieties of these!).
  • Cooking with my Tomato-Free Substitutes. I buy these occasionally, but they are thick and dry out easily, so rather than using several jars (as they are expensive) it works well to slow cook the meals using them, and this saves me money. I rather prefer how mince turns out in the slow cooker, although the preparation is actually quite labour intensive.
  • Ease of cooking. Mince type meals aside, I find that it is oh-so-easy to chuck this into my slow cooker, turn it on and go. I’m looking into a timer attachment to make this even better, and easier to work around my very awkward lecture timetable.

 

Student to student, I recommend one with a maximum of a 1.5 litre capacity. In general I can get two portions of a chunkier stew in this, or 3-4 portions of a mince mixture. Really anything bigger would be far too big, and my freezer would be more jam packed than it already is. It’s bad enough chiselling away to get into my drawer now, so more food would NOT be a good idea! If you are bigger family, or even cooking for two people with bigger appetites I would go for around a 3 litre one. I’m already planning to grab a 6l one when I start a family, and that’s a LONG time away. I currently have two of this cooker, and I really recommend it for the excellent price, compactibility, and the wonderful temperature control (so many smaller ones just have ‘off’ or ‘on’).

I also have another list to share with you, this time of tips on how to get the best out of your slow cooker:

  • You don’t always have to precook ingredients and brown meat. It doesn’t hurt the dish to do so, and in some cases it does look a little better if you do, but its not necessary.
  • If cooking with mince, brown off first, drain off the oil AND blot any grease with loads of kitchen paper. I didn’t do this step once, and the spooned off a whole cup full of oil off the finished dish. It kind of put me off!
  • Cut vegetables into as even pieces as possible.
  • For cooking dried beans – rinse the beans under the cold tap to get rid of any dust and grit, and add to slow cooker with approx 3x their volume of water. Cover and turn onto low, and cook for around 8 hours. Halfway through add some seasoning – I tend to go for vegetable stock, onion and garlic. If I’m cooking black beans to refry, I’ll start adding paprika and cumin at this point too. Don’t add salt or seasoning too early as the beans won’t soften.
  • If you are adapting a regular recipe, just use about 1/3 of the amount of liquid, but try to keep proportions of liquid the same.
  • If you do end up with something that is too watery, cornflour is your friend. Mix to a paste in a mug with some cold water, and slowly add to the slow cooker whilst stirring constantly. Stir regular, with the heat on high and lid off, until ready to serve. I like to ‘cook out’ my cornflour for around half an hour for the best texture.
  • I find I always have to add more seasoning to slow cooked meals, particularly spices. But obviously taste and do so to your own preference.
  • I prefer my meals to be serve with fresh vegetables, so will always do a pan of those alongside.
  • To clean your slow cooker, empty it (after cooling), freezing any leftovers, squirt in some washing-up liquid, add boiling water and soak overnight. It should come off easily when you wash up the next day.

So, there’s my preliminary list of slow cooking tips. I will add more periodically when I come across them. As part of my Student’s Survival Menu I am planning on publishing a lot of recipes in the next few weeks, and quite a few will be made in a slow cooker (though they can be adapted to ‘normal’ cooking methods), so please do keep an eye on my blog for these.

 

Does anyone own a slow cooker? What’s your favourite recipe?

 

Recipe: Potato Curry (+ Tomato Free Curry Pastes)

This was another recipe I made on a whim that turned out pretty damn amazing, even if I do say so myself. This time, luckily for you, I did decide to take photographs of the process, and so can share the recipe far more easily with you (rather than with this noodle recipe!).

I found this to be quite quick (definitely around the half an hour mark, and that was with taking photographs and trying to keep things tidy!), really filling (you definitely don’t need the rice with it, but I had a microwaveable packet that needed using up), and healthy. If I was organised I would potentially cook some lentils up the day before and add these, but it isn’t necessary, and would only serve to bulk it up a bit more. Mine tasted pretty much exactly like a takeaway bombay potatoes, and I’m definitely cooking it again. It’s cheap and healthy, where can you go wrong?

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Again, I will try and work out costings for you, but I reckon off the top of my head this will be pretty damn cheap!

Making Tomato Free (with the help of Marks & Spencers)

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I’ve always had a big issue with finding tomato free curry pastes. I don’t really want to make curries from scratch all the time, as I find the ingredients are expensive, and they are so time consuming. Sometimes I want the convenience of a paste. Thai curries, and Malaysian ones (I love, love, love Massaman curry, and really want to try making one at some point – does anyone have any recommend recipes?), always tend to be safe for my tomato allergy, but when you are craving an Indian style curry, only that will do! Marks & Spencer came to my rescue on this occasion – at the time of writing (please ALWAYS check the label yourself!) their Tandoori and Balti pastes were both free from tomatoes. I prefer their Tandoori one, as I find the extra oil means it keeps better once opened, but both are good and well worth the slightly extra pennies you have to spend for M&S products! If anyone has any other tomato-free pastes or products they recommend, feel free to leave a comment.

Ingredients & Costings

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  • Curry paste (discussed above) – you can get a decent one for under £2, and you use less than 1/4 of a jar (50p)
  • I used a new discovery for me – tinned new potatoes. I initially turn my nose up at things like this, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. And at 15p for a big tin (which served me for two meals) from Aldi, you can’t go wrong (8p)
  • Half an onion – I buy four big onions from Aldi for 59p, but the average price for this amount of onion would not be more than 10p
  • Half a pepper – probably around 20p
  • Some oil (price negligible)
  • Half a bag of spinach (around 50p)
  • Optional – some dry spices, and lemon juice (around 10p, if that)
  • To serve – a naan bread. I buy 6 for £1, but average price maybe 20p

Price for the recipe: approx £1.70. I reckon you could easily make this for under £1.50 per serving though, by shopping around for curry pastes, and not using extra spices.

Method

Chop up your onions, and fry off in some oil, until softened. You don’t want crunchy onions here – they’ll take around 10 minutes.

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Meanwhile, drain and wash your potatoes (to get rid of any brine-y water).

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Chop your peppers and add to the pan – cook for around another five minutes. Keep stirring the pan occasionally (I should have mentioned this before!) to prevent sticking and burning).

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Choose your dry spices. I used these:

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Add your dry spices to the pan, and fry whilst stirring constantly for around 2 minutes until fragrant. This cooks them out and stops the finished tests from tasting powdery.

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Add your curry paste, and stir round.

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Throw in your potatoes, and mush up with spoon as they heat to make the consistency you want. Make sure they are heated through properly too – I recommend cooking for five or so minutes.

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I ended up with mine looking a little like this…

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Throw in your spinach and your lemon juice, and let it wilt, around 2 minutes maximum.

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Serve up with naan bread, and rice if feeling greedy, and enjoy your homemade takeaway!

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Does anyone have any yummy curry recipes?

Restaurant Review: Mexican Night Out at Wahaca

This is going to be a very odd kind of restaurant review. Mainly because it will not focus on one visit to the restaurant in question, but several, and so will skip over all but the most outstanding points about the service received. It really is a foodie post, but a foodie post is well deserved by London restaurant chain Wahaca!

 

I can’t quite remember how we discovered Wahaca, but two summers ago me and the boyfriend first visited their Covent Garden restaurant, and were immediately blown away. The service is friendly and quick, the food absolutely delicious, and the prices more than reasonable (which can’t be said for most places around Covent Garden!). I can’t say its the perfect place for a date, as eating some of their tacos can get a little messy, but its the perfect informal night out for friends, families, established couples, or if you want to see whether your new girlfriend actually can stand to look less than perfect in front of you. On that last point – I once read a book where a man took his future wife to Nando’s for a first date as he wanted to see if she was afraid to get messy. I like that idea!

Anyway, we’ve had an almost 100% satification rate when it comes to eating out at Wahaca. In fact, the one meal that wasn’t brilliant (and to be honest, it was the worst kind of meal if you understand me!) was dealt with amazingly by staff, and I have utmost confidence in the company. I would recommend them unreservedly!

 

What I’m going to do is run through some of the items I’ve eaten, and what I loved. There’s pictures of a few things, but not of everything (I’m too greedy to wait!). I will point out that some pictures will have half-eaten dishes in the background. This is because Wahaca bring things out as they are ready. A strategy I like, in that food is fresh, but if you want to control the timing and pace, I suggest you order a few dishes at a time. We did this at our last visit (to the Charlotte Street restaurant, which is great on a summers night, and offered the best service ever!) and it worked well. Throughout this post I will also give a quick guide to eating at Wahaca when avoiding tomatoes, although please bear in mind you should always double check with your waiter, as recipes do change.

First of all, you can’t book a table at Wahaca, so at the busiest restaurants you can be waiting quite a while to sit down. We’ve never waiting for longer than 15 minutes, although I have read reviews of people that have, so do bear that in mind! While you wait you can generally perch in the bar area and enjoy a delicious cocktail. For those of you not drinking I highly, highly recommend the Virgin Mojito – so good!

When you sit down, you’ll be asked if you want any nibbles while you read the menu. We always go for Frijoles and tortilla chips. Wahaca’s Frijoles are basically refried black beans, and are probably one of my favourite things in the world. I crave them virtually constantly, although luckily have managed to recreate a close-ish version, a recipe that I will share soon. Wahaca’s tortilla chips are also very good, freshly fried and crisp, and perfectly seasoned. But the Frijoles are definitely the star, I’m getting hungry just thinking about them! Mmm…frijoles.

2013-06-25 18.23.53They aren’t exactly the prettiest of foods, but they are so good! They are dark, creamy, and rich, but feel quite good for you (which I highly doubt they are, really!), topped with crema (which is a not-so-sour kind of soured cream) and then some crumbled salty cheese. I’ve heard on the interwebs that they used to come topped with cubes of chorizo, but I’ve never seen this on the menu.

Also pictured above is my favourite drink at Wahaca – a virgin Mojito. I try not to drink when I’m in London, as often I’m an hour plus away from home/bed so its really not a good idea (as otherwise I’d be having a proper Mojito!), but this is lovely and refreshing, with lots of apple, mint and lime. Also good is the traditional Horchata, a rice milk drink flavoured with cinnamon.

 

Now, what should you order? We’ve mainly ordered street food in the past. I’ve had one dish of the main menu, and that is the one that caused the bad experience, so we’ll skip over that as the thought still makes my stomach turn slightly. Don’t let that put you off though, as it was a delicious dish and I hope I’ll be able to try it again at some point!

So, street food. It comes in a couple of categories – tacos, tostadas, tacquitos and quesadillas. There is also the Wahaca selection, which is a preset deal of various dishes. I would suggest this for beginners (who don’t have a tomato allergy!). Then there are ‘Street Food Specials’ which change with the seasons.

First, I’m going to discuss the Street Food Specials, and will also mention Wahaca’s Southbank Experiment. It’s impossible for me to give you an up-to-date review of the specials, but they are occasionally repeated so I’ll give you a brief low-down on what I’ve had in the past. A couple of years ago they did fried squid rings with a chipotle dressing, which were amazing crisp, and for a non-seafood restaurant pretty spectacular. No idea if the dressing was tomato-free as back then I was still risking small amounts of tomato. There were some delightful pulled pork tacos with a tomatillo salsa, which were absolutely stunning – just the right amount of texture, and a huge spicy kick. I loved these! Also a variation on pork tacos, the Pastor’s tacos (pictured below) served this spring were well received. Chunks of pork, various other things, although with a pineapple salsa was definitely refreshing, although I found that anything more than tiny dices of pineapple was a bit too fruity for my taste. On the non-tomato-free front there was a kind of spaghetti/noodle dish that didn’t receive huge praise from my boyfriend – I think it was quite spicy, served quite hot, but didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the food.

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Onto the Southbank Experiment now! This is a teeny tiny pop-up style restaurant in shipping containers, in a great location, with a great atmosphere. It includes most of the regular menu, but also some experimental dishes which may end up in more restaurants if they get enough likes – this is where the pulled pork tomatillo tacos were born. Out of the many dishes I’ve eaten at the Southbank experiment, one stood out hugely. It was a sharing platter, included taco ‘shells,’ some green rice, some frijoles, and then a hot casserole pot full of spicy, warming, perfectly flavoured pulled stewed steak. This was absolutely delicious, the best thing I have EVER eaten, and something I would love to see on the menu. Wahaca take note!

Now, tacos. At Wahaca tacos don’t come in those horrible hard shells that are impossible to eat. They come in thin, mini tortilla wrap style things, which you can bite through and not lose (all of) your filling. Yum yum! The selection is – pork pibil, chicken tinga, a steak one (with or without cheese), a cactus and courgette concoction (which I cannot wait to convince my other half to try) and a plantain one. Out of these, my stand out favourite is the pork. It might run down your arm, but it sure is good! Drooling a little just thinking about it… The chicken tinga is very tomato-ey, so obviously I avoid it. The steak isn’t my favourite, mainly due to the texture, and I positively disliked the plantain – mainly because I had it in a sweet taco at the Southbank once and loved it served with salted caramel, chocolate and peanuts!

Excuse the bad photos, I was too busy wanting to get stuck in, but here are some pork pibil tacos

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Toastados are something that I’ve never been particularly keen to try, however I sneaked a non-boyfriend (sorry W!) visit to Wahaca in with my dad recently and we tried the seafood ceviche version. This was lovely and light, with a great kick, and seemed perfect for summer – I will definitely order again!

Onto taquitos. These are tortillas filled with a filled, deep fried, and topped with a crema dressing and some salad. I ask for these without salsas to avoid tomatoes, but unfortunately they are better with.  I love, love, love this dish! The tortilla is lovely and crunchy, the salad still makes it feel healthy. Both versions are delicious – one is a potato one, and the other is a seasoned chicken – not as spicy as a lot of things, but a great dish for starting out with Mexican.

Finally, quesadillas. I must confess I’m not the biggest fan of these, as I find them too rich. However the broad bean and potato version is quite light, gooey with cheese and reminds me a little of a pizza – I do enjoy it, but not at the expense of some of the other amazing things Wahaca serves up!

That’s my street food selection – if I was choosing I’d say pork pibil, both tacquitos, and a seafood ceviche, followed by a quesadilla if there’s room. You can order a pre-set selection, but obviously with my allergies that’s out!

Now, what you must absolutely, no arguments, do is order pudding. Churros to be specific.

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These are Mexican doughnuts, dusted with cinnamon, and dipped into either a dark chocolate sauce, or a rich salted caramel (my preference). Definitely save room for these, as they finish a meal off perfectly. And if you have even more room, the tequila hot chocolate is pretty good too!

So if you are near one and feeling a bit peckish, I thoroughly recommend Wahaca. The food is spicy and sharing-friendly, making it great for a gathering. And the prices are equally as good – the only time I’ve ever spent more than £35 on a meal for two (which in central London, eating so much your boyfriend moans about how full he is, isn’t bad at all!) is when I had a £50 voucher to burn, and ended up supplementing my meal with goodies bought from the shop in Charlotte street.

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Mmm, Wahaca food at home…and that’s a blog post coming soon!

Has anyone eaten at Wahaca? What would you recommend?

Square Meal

Battle of the (Own) Brands

Let’s face it, students have to watch their pennies. Or in my case, watch their pennies leave their pockets as quickly as they’ve made it there (damn Canterbury rents being so expensive they swallow up my entire loan, and more…). So I thought I’d do a post on good-for-the-pocket-and-the-mouth food buys. And maybe some household and cosmetic items too.

So here it is, my cost-saving guide to shopping!

First of all, my first point is to always check the clearance shelves. You can normally find things that you would have considered out of your budget there – like two plaice fish fillets (fresh fish is SO good for you) for £1.20 as apposed to nearly £6. Okay, still not the cheapest meal option. But perhaps having a ‘treat’ meal on your shopping day will keep you satisfied with cheaper items.

I would also advocate looking in ‘cheap’ shops. Aldi is my favourite, along with Poundland, simply because I can easily get items from them.

My parents bring me my favourite from Aldi, seeing as the one here is unhelpfully located in terms of bus stops. I love their own-brand cereal and instant hot chocolate. Their branded bread tends to be far cheaper than other shops too. And according to my parents, their meat is the best quality they’ve had in the last few months. I’m unable to vouch for this, having not tried it.

Poundland is great for things like cereal bars, branded cereal (because who doesn’t like Chocolate Minibix…), and crisps.

I’m now going to completely contradict myself. PLEASE don’t avoid shops deemed as ‘expensive.’ And by that I mean Waitrose and M&S. They can have some seriously good buys, and in some cases work out cheaper than Tesco.

Who knows the much-longed-for Tesco deal of 3-for-£10 meats, mix and match? Its on for a couple of months, spread about throughout the year, or it is as far as I’ve noticed. Well Waitrose does the same deal. But it’s on permanently  And the choice is much greater. You can buy turkey breasts (healthier than chicken, unfortunately out of stock this weekend), and various cuts of meat. There is more weight in the mince and chicken included (550g mince as opposed to 500g). This weekend I purchased two packs of mince, and one of mini chicken breast fillets; this has made two portions of chicken/mushroom casserole (along with two portions of the sauce for pasta), two portions of chicken curry (two portions of the sauce made into vegetable curry), four portions of chilli, three cottage pies, and four portions of bolognese. I personally find some of their vegetables bigger and cheaper than Tesco too, though do check before buying – I notably saved money on the cabbage from Waitrose, and it was far nicer than Tesco! I also must mention that Waitrose do the best dried noodles ever!

M&S is less useful, and I mainly use it for their tomato-free curry paste (the Tandoori is lovely, the Balti is yet to be tried!). However, their Dine In For £10 is excellent, and is the monthly treat when my man comes to visit!

Now…(Own) Brand Winners!

Garlic Bread

Tesco Value (30-something pence a loaf, serves 3) is lovely, cooks great, not too strong, not bland, not greasy or dry – its a winner! Just avoid ASDAs equivilant…

Naan Bread

I must confess I have only tried Tesco’s, but it is very yummy. Their standard ones are the right size for a single portion, the garlic and coriander flavour is just enough, and they are 6 for £1 and freeze really well.

Yoghurt

For individual pots, ASDA is great. I like their 6x125g pots of low fat vanilla/toffee for £1. They do packs of 4 for a £1 too, with slightly more variety in flavour. For bigger pots, I like Tesco’s lemon, as it has just the right amount of bitterness.

Chocolate Mousse

Tesco is the clear winner here, at 24p for four value mousse, that are absolutely yummy. They’re also great frozen!

Scampi

I recently ‘risked’ some Tesco Value Scampi Bites, at £1.25 for two portions. I say risked, as cheap seafood scares me. However, despite oozing some dubious looking liquid during cooking, and having to be turned regularly to prevent going soggy, these were surprisingly nice, and definitely worth buying – I won’t bother with more expensive stuff until I can afford it! That said, if you don’t need to cut pennies too much, go for more expensive versions.

Southern Fried Chicken

Aldi and Tesco’s (both frozen) is very good, as is Waitrose (also frozen, and considerably more expensive).

Pies

Now, nothing beats a Pukka pie. Especially as they’re tomato free. Most other supermarket deep-filled ones are, so I tend to buy (when I’m not treating myself) the shallow puff pastry ones. They’re usually priced at around 2 for £1.10, and whilst they aren’t full of meat, they’re okayish. The chicken ones tend to be far nicer than the steak.

Squash

I love ASDA’s Lemon and Lime double concentrate. Be warned it is very strong, and tastes very nice with vodka. ASDA’s Blackcurrant high juice is another favourite and has been for several years – I don’t drink normal Ribena, only this.

Curry Sauce (Korma)

As I am allergic to tomatoes, I only have a few options here. Tesco Finest Royal Korma sauce has a very, very odd texture – it tastes floury. It is also very expensive! ASDA normal brand Korma is a bigger jar, smells amazing, and tastes okay. It is a little bland, but I tend to marinate my chicken in Mark’s and Spencer’s tandoori paste, which helps. As does adding onions, peppers and chillies. Yes it perhaps bumps the price up a little, but it also bulks it out, so the meat goes further – bulking out meals is something I really, really suggest when cooking on a budget.

Cream Cheese

Bit of an odd one. Philadelphia is lovely, lovely, lovely, and you can honestly tell the difference. But at 1/4 of the price, Tesco’s value version isn’t too bad, just buy the full fat!

Cookies

The best packet of cookies I have ever, ever bought is from Aldi. They are around 30-45p a packet for 20 cookies, and honestly taste far superior to Maryland. They stand up well to dunking into drinks too….

Hair Styling Product

One for the girls. If you have curly hair, humidity is a nightmare, and causes a lot of frizz (and tears). Boots Curl Creme (it is pink) is the only thing that helps me. Apply to wet/damp hair. Only use a tiny tiny bit and rub in between your hands first, so it goes white. It’s very, very cheap and lasts for ages. I have about 5 tubs as a few years ago there was a discontinuation scare.

Hot Chocolate

ALDI for the win! Their big tubs of hot chocolate are £1.09, as opposed to a more general price of £2+, and it does taste very nice. However their individual sachets are really not pleasant, and for here I reccomend Options, which are very pricey. I only buy sachets for taking to work, so it’s not too much of an issue, but definitely wouldn’t ‘live’ off Options hot chocolate as I do the Aldi stuff.

Washing-up Liquid

I personally would never, ever buy Value range washing up liquid, there’s something so sad about getting so little bubbles in the bowl. However, ASDA’s own Lemon washing up liquid is my current favourite. Very bubbly, cuts through grease well, and smells gorgeous (although coming from a family where citrus products are banned, maybe I’m just addicted to the scent!).

Tea Bags

I love Yorkshire tea. It’s my absolute favourite. I can’t afford it. Even after my student loan comes in, I know perfectly well that if I buy it I’ll drink a huge pack in a week, and that’s just too expensive. So I stick to Tesco’s standard brand, or Aldi’s. They are stronger though, so brew for less time.

Cheese

Please, please don’t waste your money buying cheaper stuff. It is awful, and really doesn’t taste nice. More expensive cheese really is the only thing to go, and thats why I save it for a treat (or when the parents pay for shopping!). If you eat a lot of meals that include cheese in the cooking, buy a packet of ready grated parmesan, provides cheesy flavour for a much lower price!

Things to AVOID

  • ASDA Smart Price Garlic Bread – just horribly strong tasting, but not strongly of garlic!
  • Own-Brand White Lasagne sauce – I’ve never found anything close to Dolmio!
  • Own-Brand Chocolate – it’s alright to cook with, but not for eating.
  • ALDI flour- makes Toad in the Hole soggy and watery, and makes pancakes sticky.
  • ASDA Smart Price chocolate mousse – so bitter its inedible!
  • Own brand pesto – bleurgh!
  • Value branded washing up liquid – no bubbles!