Reidbury's Kitchen

Food thoughts, recipes and billowing smoke from a home cook's kitchen in London


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An Absolute Winner – Pork Bun Cha!

Pork Bun Cha

Pork Bun Cha

There’s not much I can say about this recipe, other than the fact it is AWESOME! Take a look at the ratings Paul and I give this dish, and you’ll see what I mean! I looked online and found this recipe here.  I had no expectations of what this recipe would turn out like – all I knew is that it’s low calorie, low in fat and full of healthy green things. Given I’m trying to kick start myself to get ‘summer body ready’ (given the current weather, I’mn not sure why I’m bothering though), I just wanted something tasty. And goodness me is this tasty. It’s also the softest, tenderest pork I’ve ever cooked, and I’m notoriously bad at accidentally over-cooking pork. The way I’d describe this dish is a warm layered noodle salad. With a kickass sauce that’s packed full of flavour and heat. (Go easy when you pour it over at the end, otherwise you’ll set your face on fire). The bottom layer is cooked rice vermicelli noodles, middle layer is fresh veg and the top layer is the marinated pork. Top off with the fire sauce.

Given that I love Vietnamese and Thai food, I had practically all the ingredients in the cupboard anyway so strangely it’s quite a ‘cupboard staple’ recipe that I am certainly going to do again. The only thing to get is fresh mint and coriander. Finally, it’s worth noting that whilst this is a recipe for 2 people, there was a lot of sauce left over. I’m quite happy with that as I’ll no doubt use it up soon re-making this dish or a slight variation of it. But you may want to consider halving the sauce recipe if you don’t intend to use it up somehow.

Fresh, zingy and virtuous – what’s not to love?!

KB rating 10/10. PR rating 9.5/10

Pork Bun Cha (Serves 2)

Ingredients

For the pork:

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, peeled of its woody outer leaves, then very finely chopped
  • 3 lime leaves, finely chopped (I only had dry ones which worked fine)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp groundnut oil
  • 200g pork fillet, cut into medallions and bashed out to form thin, flat discs

For the sauce (see comment above re: quantity):

  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (I went for Birds Eye Chilli)
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 100ml rice wine vinegar
  • 100ml fish sauce

For the salad:

  • 100g thin rice noodles (I went for rice vermicelli)
  • 8 romaine lettuce leaves, chopped
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced into matchsticks
  • 6 spring onions, cut into matchsticks
  • 12 large mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Small bunch coriander, chopped

Method:

Place the lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic, turmeric, sugar and fish sauce into a mixing bowl and mix together. Rub the pork with the mixture and leave to marinade for 30 mins.

To make the sauce, combine the garlic, chilli and sugar in a mortar or food processor and pound to a fine paste. Add the lime juice, vinegar, fish sauce and 50 ml water and stir to blend.

Put the noodles in a bowl with boiling water to cover. Let stand until al dente – around 10 mins. Divide the noodles between 2 bowls. Mix the salad ingredients together (apart from the herbs) and top each bowl of noodles with salad.

Heat the oil in a griddle on high until it is almost smoking. Throw on the pork and grill for 3 mins or so until the meat has charred nicely and is just cooked through. Top each bowl with the pork.

Finish by topping each bowl with the herbs and serve with a few tablespoons of the sauce poured over. Leave the rest on the table for people to flavour to their taste.

Full recipe credit: http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/tv-show/cook-yourself-thin-recipes/pork-bun-cha-recipe

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Restaurant Review: Cây Tre

Cây Tre, Old Street

Cây Tre, Old Street

One of the wonderful things about living in East London is the number of great Vietnamese restaurants nearby. I have no doubt that I’ll be posting a full review of one of my absolute faves – Mien Tay – which I’ve already referred to in a previous post, but for now I’m leaving Kingsland Road behind. About 10 mins away lies Cây Tre on Old Street, and it’s rapidly rising up the ranks in my favourite Vietnamese category! There’s something really fresh about Vietnamese food that I love – really clean flavours, but packed with plenty of punch. And it’s one of those cuisines I really want to start mastering at home.

Location and Atmosphere:

Tightly squeezed into a row of terraced properties on Old Street, Cây Tre is not too far away from Hoxton. And it’s worth the wander. The atmosphere is hot and chaotic, but in a good way! In fact, the owner (or manager, I can never quite tell) orders his staff and customers around in equal measure. Whilst walk-ins will always try to be accommodated, there’s absolutely no guarantee. This place is ALWAYS busy, so it’s definitely worth booking ahead if you can. The staff are extremely efficient and during their busiest periods they will not hesitate to rush you through your meal. But honestly, whilst this behaviour would annoy me in many other places, it’s all part of the charm here. It’s not the sort of place you want to stay in for hours anyway. The restaurant is on two-levels, and tables are squeezed in wherever there is room so there’s lots of hustle and bustle. But watching the steady stream of bowls and plates landing on tables around you is guaranteed to get your mouth watering!

The Food:

The food here is really good and the menu is refreshing with lots of dishes I haven’t necessarily seen in other Vietnamese restaurants. So starting with the starters,  whilst I do love Mien Tay on Kingsland Road, the Chilli Salt & Pepper Squid at Cây Tre is definitely the best I’ve tasted. Really lightly battered and with lots of onion and garlic. For a sense of occasion, I can’t help myself ordering the Table Griddled Beef starter which you need to share with a friend. You get a tabletop burner and cook rib-eye steak (in very thin slices) at the table, which you then wrap in rice paper along with noodles, herbs and a kimchi-type dish they provide. It’s very tasty indeed! On to main courses, a couple of dishes stand out in my memory. Fried Sea Bass with Green Mango is delicious, with the green mango and sauce managing to avoid overpowering the delicate fish. Then there’s the Coconut Chicken Curry, the title of which doesn’t really do the dish much justice – the flavours are so much more complex than they sound! And finally their Beef Pho. They have quite an extensive Pho menu, and this one is the only one I’ve tried but I used to have it A LOT when I worked in Old St. It was always worth the walk, and the wait, for lunch!

The Cost:

Whilst I’m sure you can get Vietnamese food marginally cheaper in London, I can’t imagine it’d be by much. And for quality, CâyTre really is great value for money.  I guess one differentiating factor would be in the drinks – some of the restaurants on the Kingsland Road allow you to take your own drink (including Mien Tay) which keeps the cost down. This isn’t the case at Cây Tre, and actually the only thing I felt was a little pricey was £4 for a bottle of lager. But they do have quite a cheap wine list if you so choose. Overall, this place just keeps getting better and better in my opinion, and I would never hesitate to recommend it to people who happen to be in the area.


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Some Recent Restaurant Experiences (And Some Fab Festival Food)

Well it’s been a while since I updated this blog, so lots to talk about. But in this entry I’m going to focus on a number of great restaurants I’ve been to over the last couple of weeks. I’ll start with Bocca di Lupo, an Italian restaurant nestled on a side street in Soho. I was really surprised how small the restaurant was, which added greatly to the atmosphere. The menu is a great combination of sharing food and full dishes. Pretty much anything on the menu comes in two portion sizes, which is great if you want to sample as much of their food as possible. The menu also changes daily. Particular highlights for me were the Courgette Flowers with Mozzarella and Anchovy and the Sea Bream Carpaccio which we shared. As an anchovy cynic I was a bit unsure about the Courgette Flowers dish, but thank God someone else gave it a whirl – the flavour in such a small mouthful was surprising! Paul had Roast Suckling Pig & Grapes as his main which was fantastic although a massive portion. I had the Saltimbocca alla Romana which was a brave choice for me. Very enjoyable but think I’d try something else next time! Desserts were also a triumph, and I’d be interested in going to their shop across the road, Gelupo, for gelato at some point.

Another restaurant we went to over the last few weeks was our tried and tested Thai local, Thai Room, located in Bow Wharf. What looks a bit like a portakabin from the outside is actually a lovely, cosy restaurant that serves some of the best Thai food I’ve eaten. Part of the fun of eating in a great local restaurant is ordering the usual faves! It’s a bit like digging out your favourite jumper when summer starts turning to autumn – comfortable and cosy! We ordered Drunken Beef, Crispy Trout with Three-Flavoured Sauce, Green Curry with Chicken and Pad Thai. All fantastic as usual.  

I was lucky enough to eat in two of my absolute London favourites over the last few weeks. Whilst they sit at extreme ends of the ‘Price Per Head’ scale, I get such huge enjoyment from eating at both of these places – Gaucho and Mien Tay. I do get pretty giddy at any excuse to eat at either and often know what I’m going to order from the moment I find out we’re going!

First up was Mien Tay which, in my humble opinion, is the best Vietnamese on the Kingsland Road. Not only is the food phenomenally good, it’s cheap AND it’s BYO with no corkage fee. I literally couldn’t ask for more! I went with a group of work friends so we didn’t necessarily all share dishes (which I think is the best way to eat at Mien Tay) but I did manage to get some of the classics onto the table. The Crispy Sea Bream with Lemongrass and Chilli was great but, if anything, slightly drier than previous times I’ve ordered it. The Quail with Honey and Spices was as good as ever and I think garnered a few converts! Perhaps the best dish this time was the Beef Wrapped in Rice Paper which I’m sure few people order because the name belies the flavours involved! All in all a great meal – all washed down with some good red wine at Off License prices. Perfection.

This week Paul and I went to my other ‘treat’ restaurant – Gaucho. This time we went to the one in Canary Wharf, and felt very extravagant by going on a Tuesday! This was the first time we’d gone back to a Gaucho since going to Hawksmoor (Seven Dials location), so I was interested in seeing how they compare. Hawksmoor was fantastic and I’m a bit of a cocktail obsessive, so their cocktail menu won me over right from the start. Add in Oysters with Sausage as a starter and I’m pretty much in heaven. Could Gaucho, part of a chain, still deliver? Erm, YES. Definitely YES. We had a brilliant time. We decided to forego the starters and skip straight to the steak – I had my usual 300g Rump whilst Paul went a little off piste and went for a 300g Fillet. Both were unbelievable good – great flavour, cooked to perfection and with a Bearnaise sauce on the side I was a happy bunny. We followed this up with some cheese – I always enjoy it when the waiter shows the cheese selection and the strategic decision to avoid starters was well made! Shame they don’t do Malbec chutney anymore though – it’s now two types of  paste. A Malbec paste and a Torrontes paste – both lovely, but that chutney was special!

Finally, Paul and I went to the Big Chill Festival a few weeks ago. Not only was I concerned about the toilets, the crowd and the weather, I was also worried about the food options (in no way am I the sort of person to take a camping stove and watch some pasta boil for 3 hours). Turns out there was no need to worry about anything, especially the food! We both ate like Kings with a huge range of options.It is a truly global affair as I enjoyed food from France (Boulangere Potatoes with Sausage), India (Vegetarian Thali), Lebanon (Mezze), America (Potato Wedges!), Britain (Pie, Mash, Peas and Gravy) and North Africa (Spicy Fish Bourek – a type of filo parcel). Add in Paul’s choices from Jamaica (Goat Curry), Thailand (Green Curry) and Greece (Harissa Chicken Wrap) and we covered a hell of a lot of the globe!

And special mention to some fantastic drinks at the festival too – firstly, the Cider Bus! No matter what the weather, they had an option that just seemed to work perfectly. In the rain, their hot spicy cider warms you up. When it’s overcast their medium cider hit the spot. And when it was glorious sunshine their Orchard Mist(basically a ‘Somerset Pimms; with cider brandy, lemonade, mint and raspberries) refreshes. God bless the apple.

The Cider Bus, The Big Chill Festival 2011

And an unexpected boozy treat came from the Grand Marnier tent of all things. My experience of Grand Marnier to date is either marinated oranges, done by my Mum as a dessert, or as part of a Crepe Suzette. Turns out if you mix Grand Marnier, Elderflower Cordial and Soda Water and serve in a jug with oranges, lemons and strawberries you get a Grand Espirit. Or in other words, a little taste of summer heaven. Mmmmmm.

The Grand Espirit, Big Chill Festival 2011