Thursday, 26 February 2015

Restaurant Review: Pierino, South Kensington

picture borrowed from the web
I had a business meeting in London yesterday. It doesn't happen very often, but a couple of times a year I go to London to discuss investments and money with the company's trustees. Sounds important, doesn't it..?!
The more fun part of these London trips is when I can meet up with The Student to have a nice catch-up and dinner! I went to meet him close to his halls of residence and he took me to one of his favourite local Italian restaurants - Pierino (37 Thurloe Place, London SW7 2HP) - for dinner. I thought I would mention this as a useful tip as the restaurant is by South Kensington tube station and just around the corner from all the lovely (free) science museums in London. Not that London lacks places to eat, but this was a very successful visit.
We shared a duo of bruschetta for starters and then for main course we both had "Pappardelle Machiavelli" which was "home made princess pasta with smoked salmon and fresh spinach in a cream and white wine sauce". The starter was fine, but the main course was truly one of the very best pasta dishes I have ever tasted. The pasta was amazingly fresh and I gather that princess pasta is long flat strand of pasta - a bit like if you were to cut up a sheet of lasagne plates. The flavour was intense with the right amount of salmon and spinach and without too much white wine sauce which often tends to drown the dish. It was so lovely, but left no room for dessert...
 I am afraid I didn't take any pictures, but I will certainly be back.
We both drank fizzy water and the bill came to just over £30 for the both of us.
You can't complain about that for a truly gorgeous meal.
So, in short - a highly recommended place!

Friday, 20 February 2015

College Wine Tasting!

One of the real perks of being part of academic life in Cambridge is the possibility of belonging to a college. Cambridge is a collegiate university where you are not only a member of the University, but as a student (and often as an academic) you belong to one of the colleges. The Colleges are responsible for admitting students to the University and is the base while you're studying at Cambridge. College is also where you eat, do a lot of socialising, receive academic and pastoral support, and where you often have your supervisions. Colleges also offer various form of entertainment, social activities and sports facilities.
I feel I belong to Clare Hall College since it was The Professor's college while he did his PhD and we lived as a family in college for 2 years when we first came to England. It is a lovely, all embracing, family friendly college and we have very fond memories of the time we lived in college and the many events we have attended throughout the years. They still use one of my old pictures on their website with a very young version of our Student. Although we didn't move far away - our house is a few hundred meters away - it has been a while since I attended any functions in college.
But that all changed last night when my new friend - an amazingly lovely Norwegian visiting professor from Tromsø - suggested we go to a wine tasting evening. I am so pleased that she has embraced college life as I suggested it to her when she arrived here. It gives such a different experience of life here if there is a college connection.
But it was all about wine last night. I am no expert at all on wine, but I tend to really enjoy Italian wine and we regularly buy from this vineyard in Tuscany. However, it is important to keep an open mind and see what else is out there! The evening was fun, informative and tasty where we sampled 14 different wines. Their prices ranged from £5 to about £20. I let my palate do the choosing and intentionally didn't want to be biased thinking a more expensive wine was the better, so out of the 14 wines - here are my 3 favourites, one white and two red:
I don't often drink white wine, but this was a very enjoyable and neither too dry nor too sweet Cantina Ottoventi 'Punto Otto' .8 Grillo Sicilia IGT, Sicily. At around £6 a bottle you really can't complain!

Villa di Vetrice Chianti Rufina Riserva 2010 gives a very attractive aroma and is very well balanced. Price should be around £10 and well worth it!
And finally, Primitivo di Manduria Dunico 2010. Very drinkable, but more pricey at around £17 a bottle. Perhaps for a special occasion, but I think I would rather have go for two of the former.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Easy Does It...

Note to self -
it is very silly to get over confident in the gym and put extra resistance/weight on the workout machines.
You just end up with very painful and torn ligaments in the knee... 
And then you have to take anti-inflammatory medicine and the doctor will ban you from the gym for at least 2 weeks!!!
But he did say I could keep swimming (and possibly biking)...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Tried and Tested: Chicken Korma

Indian food is very popular here in the UK. So much so that Indian dishes have been voted the nations favourite food for years. Although, I am sure many Indian dishes in the UK are adapted to a European palate and very different from their original version. However, I am offering you here our family's take on a very popular curry - Chicken Korma. With its mild, fragrant and tasty herbs and spices it suits most people - particularly if you are not too keen on very hot and spicy food. It truly is a tried and tested recipe which has now settled in this form:
You need:

1kg Chicken breast or mini breast fillets
(You can obviously substitute the chicken with lamb, beef or game)
1 heaped tablespoon of finely grated fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
150g thick (plain) yogurt
1 dried red chilli
2 finely chopped onions

1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil

1 tbsp ground coriander
Pinch of ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala

75g creamed coconut
salt to taste

2 heaped tbsps. ground almonds
finely chopped Coriander Leaves, to garnish
juice of  1/2 lemon

This is how you do it:
Cut the chicken breasts into bite sized chunks and mix it with the ginger, garlic and yogurt. It is preferable to then cover it and marinade for 12 hours or in the fridge overnight.

On the day of cooking you need to liquidise the chopped onion and red chillies, add a little water if you need to blend til a smooth paste.

Heat the ghee/oil in a pan and add the ground coriander, ground black pepper, turmeric and garam masala and stir fry for about 1-minute over a low heat.
Turn up the heat, add the onion and chilli paste and stir fry for 5-10-minutes.

Add the chicken with the yogurt marinade and continue to stir fry for another 10-minutes.

Add the creamed coconut and enough water to *just* cover the chicken (be careful not to add too much water as the flavour may become watery). Bring it to the boil and stir in the ground almonds.

Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is tender (30-40 minutes).

Remove from heat, add lemon juice and salt to taste. Mix well.
Serve with basmati rice and salad of finely chopped tomato, red onion, flat leafed parsley and mango .


Monday, 2 February 2015

Tried and Tested: Sholezard (Persian Saffron Rice Pudding)

picture borrowed from the web
My in-laws have been living with us for quite a while and I am very spoilt with coming home to ready made dinner most days. I tend to do the cooking on the weekends, both to give my mother-in-law a break, but also because I truly enjoy cooking. She is a very good cook, but there are still the occasional Iranian dish not included in her repertoire which I make on occasion. Traditional Iranian cuisine is based on the use of lots of fresh vegetables, pulses, beans, meat, rice and fruit. There are not as many desserts as in Scandinavian cooking, as fresh fruit is often the preferred end to a meal.
Here is an exception to this rule:
(or Persian Saffron Rice Pudding)
You need:
250 grams rice
2 l water
 400 grams sugar
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
 1/2 teaspoon saffron
 2 tablespoons crushed almond
For decoration:
 cinnamon and either slivered almonds or pistachios

This is how I do it:
Wash the rice a few times until the water is clear, then drain.
Add the 2 l of water and bring to a boil, removing the foam.
Cook for 30 mins and then add the sugar and stir well.
Dissolve the saffron in 2 tablespoons of hot water and add to the mix.
Add the oil, cardamom, and the crushed almonds as well. 
Stir carefully, cover and cook at low temperature for another 20 mins. 
Take the lid off and cook for another 20-30 mins.
Chill and serve with pistachio, almond and cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Iranians make the most elaborate decorations - I am not well versed in this respect...
Some add rosewater to the rice while it is cooking, but I omit this as I am not keen on the taste or smell of rosewater.
This rice pudding has a strong flavour of saffron, but it is actually very light, although very sweet.
I made it last weekend and it was well received