Cauliflower soup

This tasty soup is very easy and simple to make. I usually use some crispy bacon for some crunch and texture, but this can easily be left out to make the soup a vegetarian version.

1 cauliflower
4 large potatoes
2 medium onions
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp bouillon powder
2 dl double cream
2 dl
sweetcorn
salt
ground black pepper
1 liter
water
150g-200g
bacon

1. Peel and chop the potatoes, onions and garlic. Cut the  cauliflower, and add all four ingredients to a pan. Pour water over, and add the bouillon powder. Bring to boil and simmer until cooked and soft. If you don’t want to use bouillon powder you can always replace the water and the powder with same amount of vegetable stock.

2. Cook the bacon in the oven / under a grill, until overcooked but not burned.  I normally use smoked bacon, but use whatever bacon you prefer. Take out and let cool. Once cooled, crumble to small pieces by hand.

3. Once onions, potatoes, garlic and cauliflower are cooked. Let cool slightly, and puree in a blender. Pour back in the pan and add cream, sweetcorn and crispy bacon crumble. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Marinated oriental salmon

This salmon dish is something I make very regularly. The salmon itself can be steamed, pan fried, grilled or oven cooked. Today I added roasted bone marrow (which I’ve never cooked before) to this dish. In terms of flavour, it doesn’t really contribute much, but it’s supposed to offer some health benefits. I marinade the salmon, and then use the same liquid for the fried vegetables. I tend to use plain basmati rice for this, as the marinade mixture is full of flavour.

serves 2
salmon fillets
(beef bone marrow)
3/4 cup of basmati rice
~~~~~
Marinade
20ml light soy sauce
30ml dark soy sauce
10ml rice vinegar
50ml sesame oil
10ml fish sauce
20ml lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
thumb size piece of root ginger
1 small green chilli
1 shallot
~~~~~
2 mushrooms
1 carrot
1 courgette (zucchini)
handful of mangetouts
handful of baby sweetcorn

1. Finely chop ginger, garlic, chilli and shallot. Mix all marinade ingredients together. Put the salmon fillets in a re-sealable bag, and pour the marinade in. Marinate for 30 minutes, turning over half way through, so that both sides marinate.

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2. Chop the vegetables, to be ready for frying later.

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3. If using bone marrow, season with salt and pepper, and roast in an preheated oven 180°C / 355°F for 20 minutes. Cooked marrow will easily come off the bone with a spoon.

4. Measure 3/4 of a cup of basmati rice. Wash the rice in a bowl or sieve, until the water doesn’t get cloudy anymore (this washes off the starch). Put the washed rice in a pan, add a pinch of salt. Add 1 1/4 cups of boiled water (use same cup /measure you use for the rice). Bring to boil, stir, then reduce to simmer. It should take about 15 minutes until all water has been absorbed.

5. Salmon cooks quickly, which ever way you cook it. I think gentle steaming is a great way to keep the salmon juice and moist. You’ll only need about 7 minutes on a low heat, cover with a lid.

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6. Fry the vegetables in hot oil (I used ground nut oil for this, but you can also use other vegetable oils) for about 5 minutes. Pour the salmon marinade liquid into the pan, and fry for another few minutes.

Chocolate bread

In my husband’s mind, I don’t make this bread often enough (he would still say this even if I made it almost every week). Chocolate bread might sound like a weird concept, and you would probably expect it to be sweet. I don’t think it’s either of the mentioned. Cocoa powder itself is always pretty bitter, and the bread only uses a little bit of sugar to counteract that. The taste of the bread is somewhere in a twilight zone between savory, bitter and sweet, and is quite addictive. You can of course alter the end taste by eating it with normal butter, nutella, peanut butter etc.

450g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
25g cocoa powder
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
2 tbsp light brown muscovado sugar
300ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1. Mix all the dry ingredients flour, salt, cocoa powder, sugar and yeast together. The cocoa powder tends to be a bit lumpy, you can either sift it through a sieve when adding it, or when mixing all ingredients together with a spoon just break the biggest lumps, which is what I do. Kneading the dough will get rid of the remaining lumps.

2. Mix oil and water together.  I use a food processor for kneading, but you can also do it by hand. Whilst mixing / kneading, slowly pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Once it’s all mixed together, knead for 10 minutes. Cover with oiled cling film and a cloth, and place the bowl in a sink with some hot water at the bottom. Leave to rise for 1 hour.

 

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3. Knead again for about 30 seconds. Shape to a log to be length / width of your bread tin. Slightly oil your tin, and place the dough in. Cover with the oiled cling film, and let rise for 30 minutes.

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4. Bake in preheated oven 200°C / 400°F for 25-30 minutes.

5. Cool on a wire rack.

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Restaurant review: M Twickenham, London

Reviewing the latest addition to the M restaurants, the Twickenham branch, is somewhat tricky for me. If, like me, you usually do fine dining more than anything else, this doesn’t really measure up to those standards. If, however, you prefer hearty meals in standard restaurants or pubs, you would consider M to be an upmarket place. Either way, you should be prepared for the pinch to your wallet. Most of my reviews will be of fine dining restaurants, so I think I have to use the same considerations, standards and ratings for comparison. Only very rare restaurants will ever get 5 stars from me. 4 is very good, 3 good and above average. 2 would have something missing and be below average, and 1 poor (I hope I will never have to give 1).

We had been to this restaurant once since it opened a while ago. We thought it was decent enough, although as mentioned above, not exactly the fine dining standard. This time, we decided to go for a Sunday dinner (however not roast, but a la carte). Restaurant was busier than we expected, but we had no problem getting a table. Couple of tables from us there was a group, and they had two big dogs with them. This was inside the restaurant, quite close to the open kitchen. If the place was a country pub this would be something you’d expect, however I was slightly uncomfortable with this, especially when one of the dogs started shaking it’s body. I was trying to calculate the distance and what amount of particles floated onto my food (I don’t really want to think about it too much). I do like dogs, just not in a supposedly upmarket restaurant.

Restaurant had run out of couple of options, one of them being what my husband would’ve ordered.

Apart from the bread, you have to pay for absolutely everything separately. Things got to a good start with the bread. One of the first things we always use for assessing a restaurant is the butter. You still sometimes get butter that’s rock hard, and almost impossible to spread. Perfect butter should be very soft, almost mousse-like. At the M, the butter was perfectly soft. For the wine we went for Argentinian Malbec, which was the restaurant’s own label, and decent enough.

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For starters I had ‘Courgette’, and my husband had ‘Wagyu scotch egg’. I enjoyed my starter, which had differently prepared courgette: fermented, pickled, and courgette flower filled with cheese, coated with batter and deepfried.  The cheese was very light, almost foamy, and oozed out when the flower was cut. Coming from fine dining in mind, the plating was probably lacking a bit of finesse.  My husband’s dish was also nice, however spiced wagyu beef didn’t taste spiced at all. The beef itself was quite like tartare, so if you don’t like raw / medium beef you might want to reconsider your choice. The egg inside was nice and oozy, just as it should be.

With the main, you must be prepared to order sides, as you literally get nothing else on your plate. We ordered spiced chickpeas, spinach and rocket salad, and triple cooked chips. I’m not too big a fan of chunky chips, so asked for skinny fries, but the only option was their chips. When the chips came they were actually ok for me as they were more like skinny fries than chips. The salad came without any utensils, so we had to try to get some out with our knives and forks. That might be awkward if you weren’t just with your other half. The chickpeas for me were slightly too tomato flavoured, not fresh tomato but tinned. They also didn’t appear spiced as promised on the menu. My husband liked them but I was disappointed.

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The star of the meal without doubt was the meat. I had a fillet steak, and my husband had fillet medallions (as his first choice had run out). Both were perfectly cooked as requested, medium-rare. When I saw my piece of meat arrive I was thinking it wouldn’t be, as it’s very difficult to get a thick piece of fillet cooked right. We both ordered black garlic aioli as the sauce for the meat. I couldn’t really decide for quite a while what I thought of it, but I think in the end my decision has been that it’s not my thing. My husband did however like it, so it might just be a question of taste.

For dessert I had ‘bakewell tart’ and my husband had ‘pumpkin brulée’. I thought the cake was quite nice and moist. My husband liked his dessert. I would often order crème brulée in a restaurant, and I’m not sure I would’ve been happy if I had received that. I don’t think it was exactly brulée.

Final additional comments:

One of the serving staff made an insensitive comment whilst serving our food. It didn’t personally affect us, but would have potentially affected someone with a family member suffering from Parkinsons.

We asked to move to the bar with our remaining wine and water after finishing our meal, and it didn’t seem to occur to the staff to take our drinks, until we asked about it again.

The ladies’ and gentlemens’ rooms are supposed to have high-end hand soap. My husband came back horrified. What the bottle said, was the same fragrance as one of his shower gels from the same brand. The colour should be yellow, but was green, and smelled completely different. It was also foamy at the top, and appeared to be something like dish washing liquid. My thought following this is that if you’re lying about something like this, what else would you be lying  about?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Moussaka

Greek food somehow seems to often get forgotten in my kitchen, as well as when dining out. There is no particular reason for it, but it just doesn’t seem to be an obvious first choice. Apart from moussaka that is, which is a dish I make quite regularly.

3 aubergines (eggplants)
~~~~~
2 medium onions
2 green peppers
bunch of parsley
50ml olive oil
25g butter
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 dl tomato puree
4 dl water
500g minced lamb
~~~~~
3 dl milk
2 1/2 tbsp plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs

1. Finely chop onions and parsley. Cut the green peppers into small pieces.

2. Fry the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the chopped green peppers and parsley, fry for 5 minutes.

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3. Add butter, salt, pepper, tomato puree, water and the lamb. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the taste, add more salt and pepper if required.

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4. Mix the flour with the milk, and heat until the mixture thickens. Pour the eggs in whilst mixing, and season with salt.

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5. Cut the aubergines lengthwise, to about 1cm thick slices. Use half of them to layer bottom of an oven casserole dish. Add the lamb mixture, and put a layer of aubergines on top. Pour the white sauce over everything.

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6. Cook in preheated oven 190°C / 375°F  for 45 minutes.

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Salmon soup

I would probably go as far as to say this is my all time favourite Finnish food. My husband and I have been together for nine years, however he still hasn’t bought into the Finnish style soups of thin liquid base with chunky pieces. He does enjoy the flavour of this soup, so I’ve added a step to make this soup (step 1) slightly thicker. It does actually make it richer, so this has now become part of my recipe.

500g salmon
5-6 large potatoes
1.5 liters water
100g fine green beans
3 large onions
bunch of dill
celery stick
2 dl frozen peas
2-3 dl double cream
2 tbsp bouillon powder
sea salt
ground white pepper

1. Peel and cut half of the potatoes into small pieces. Put the pieces in a large pan, with 1 liter of water. Boil for about 30 minutes, until soft, and mash the potatoes.

2. Whilst stage 1 is cooking, peel and cut the remaining potatoes. Finely chop celery. Add both ingeriendts to the mashed potatoes.

3. Cut the green beans, and add to potatoes.

4. Slice all onions, and add to the soup. Pour the remaining 5 dl water into the pan, and add the bouillon powder, pinch of sea salt and pepper.

5. Cut the salmon into bite size pieces. I usually use salmon with skin on, so once I’ve removed the skin I have to wash the pieces, to make sure none of the large scales end up in the soup.

6. Add the salmon to the soup with the peas (as long as the potatoes are cooked through). Pour the cream in. The soup won’t need any more cooking after this, as they are pretty much cooked as soon as they touch the hot liquid. Just heat it up (adding cream and frozen peas may have cooled it). Add couple of more pinches of salt and some pepper, to taste, and add chopped dill. I tend to use scissors to cut the dill straight into the soup.

 

Wiener Schnitzel

This dish, one of Austria’s national offerings, is one of my favourites. It’s a thin piece of breaded, pan fried steak, traditionally veal (however I use sirloin steak when cooking at home). The key is you will use a mallet to hammer the beef thin, which will keep the steak tender. The dish should be served with a slice of lemon, however I ran out of fresh lemons so I just drizzled some lemon juice on top.

sirloin steak
1 dl plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg
2 dl breadcrumbs
butter
slices of lemon

1. Hammer the meat with a mallet until thin, 5-10mm. I tend to place the steak inside a freezer bag for this, to reduce mess. After this, it’s easy to cut the fat off.

2. Mix flour and the spices on a plate. Beat the egg, and place on another plate/ bowl. On a third plate, pour half of the breadcrumbs.

3. First, coat the steak with the flour / spice mix. Second, coat with the egg. When lifting the steak off, let excess egg drain back onto the plate. Third, place on the breadcrumbs, and pour the rest of the breadcrumbs on top. At each stage, make sure the steak is fully coated.

4. Let rest for 5 minutes on your chopping board.

5. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and fry the steak, 2 minutes each side.