Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tomato soup

Maybe it was growing up slurping up copious amounts of Campbells Cream of Tomato soup or it might be my hankering after a taste of summer, but as soon as the thermometer dips, I crave a cup of tomato soup. It has to be served in a mug- not a bowl. Fortunately I've grown out of the tinned variety, especially when it isn't tough to make some yourself. This is my most recent incarnation of cream of tomato soup which I made on a recent chilly spring day. Put on your jimjams, pour a mug of soup, curl up on the couch and watch some dreadful made for tv movie for the night- pure lazy bliss!

Xochitl's Cream of Tomato Soup
Makes a potful- the number of servings depends on if you want to share

1 onion, diced
1 kilo ripe tomatoes, quartered
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
knob of butter
500 ml stock (vegetable or chicken)
100 ml double cream

Heat the olive oil and the butter in a stock pot over medium heat until the butter foams. Turn the heat down, add the onions and cook until translucent and tender (which will be about 10 minutes or so).

Add the tomatoes, paprika and stock. Bring it to be boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes (the tomatoes should be soft).

Using a hand blender, puree the soup. Stir in the cream and serve.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Taste of London

To complete my food weekend, I booked myself a ticket to this year's Taste of London in Regent's Park. Taste of London is an annual resto festival with a few demos and food vendor stalls thrown in for good measure. This year there were 40 restaurants taking part including Fifteen, Fino, Pied a Terre and Tom Aikens. This was matched by a nearly equal amount of drinks choices like Leffe, Codorniu (their Rose cava was the drink of choice at the Bloggermeet) and Innocent smoothies (for the non boozers amongst us).

Included on the costs of some tickets were tokens (tokens sounds to Willy Wonka- the truth was that they were photocopied pieces of badly trimmed paper) that were the "currency" at the restaurant stands. I met up with a friend and once we pooled our tokens together- Taste of London was ours for the taking.

First up was the Pressed Tomato Mosiac, Black Olive Tapenade, Balsamic Vinegar dish from Angela Hartnett at the Connaught. It was refreshing and a great summer dish but it was nothing more than tomatoes with tapenade. A surpise hit was the Chicken Tikka from Benares. It wasn't so much a shocker for me as it was for the Toral and her family who are Indian. Another winner came from Inn the Park. The Saltmarsh lamb chop with white beans and a green sauce had the most tender chops with a herby and lemony green sauce that perked up the dish. It was served with simple white beans that rounded it out and turned it into a hearty meal. From Pied a Terre, somewhere I've been wanting to go to, was a cold Pumpkin & Ginger Soup it was good but a bit too sweet for a cold savoury soup for me. Momo satisfied my need for fried goods after a serious bout of wine tasting with Briouts of cheeses with fresh mint. Pearl offered a Salad of smoked duck with baby beetroot, walnuts and pickled shallots with a dessert of coffee yoghurt with lemon foam thrown in. Salad good but the combo of coffee and lemon not so good. From Fifteen we picked a Creamy risotto of smashed peas, broad beans, mint & ricotta salata. Good but something that could be done at home.

My top rated dish of the day was from Roka, a resto I love. Lamb cutlets in a hot pepper paste and sesame was sublime. They had a large barbecue set up and the cutlets were straight form the grill and served by people who looked like they were having a good time there (which could possibly have something to do with the close proximity to the Caipirnha stand). One bite would have a kick of spice only to be cooled in the next from the sesame sauce.
There were butchers, bakers and jam makers. Juice, wine and port tastings were offered. My advice for anyone going next year would be to start eating right away. We were quickly suckered into the shopping and the day went so fast that we made a mad dash in the last 30 minutes to use our tickets to get any dishes that were left.

You're probably wondering what the pictures of cheese have to do with this. There was a hall of cheese in which some cheese tasting competition had been held but also where you could work your way through quite a few. I just loved walking into a cheese hall and needed a photo. It was easier to take a picture of this rather than my dishes because I have no eye-hand coordination and found it tough to take photos with one hand.

A fun day out and worth the expense- mark it in your calendar for next June.

London Bloggers Unite!

Never before had I had a foodie weekend like the one I just had. On Friday I had to rush from Soho to London Bridge to help Toral with a class and dinner party that after much worry turned out good. It was a super long night so after a lie in on Saturday it was off to a Birthday blogmeet thrown by Johanna (Passionate Cook) and Jeanne (Cook Sister). I will be honest and admit that because I wasn't sure what to expect when meeting up with people I had never met at someone's house that I'd never been to, I needed a wingman as back up and when a foodie friend couldn't make it, I roped in The Boy (much to his bother).

We nibbled on tasty canapes including Baby Potatoes with Wasabi Creme Fraiche and Caviar (considering I'm not a huge fan of caviar, this was a surprise); Proscuito wrapped Figs (something I could nibble on anytime); Mint, Olive, Melon and Feta Skewers (lovely on a hot day) and one of my all time faves, Gazpacho served in tall shot glasses. The grande finale was a chocolate fountain- something I previously found to be an odd novelty and wondered why people didn't just do fondue- but will now admit that once that chocolate gets flowing, it's kinda fun to watch and beats losing your fruit in a fondue pot. I patiently stood and waited for the men in white (The Boy and Andrew from Spittoon) to get chocolate drippings on themselves.

I started the day with some nerves but left happy that I had made to effort to leave my cosy pocket in London and make some new friends. Even The Boy enjoyed it- the ultimate stamp of approval in my book!

If you want to check out the scrumptious photos that Andrew took click here.

If you want to check out the blogs of my fellow canape chomping crew, here's the guest list (I can't remember all the names so I apolgise now):

Hostesses with the mosteses-
Johanna - The Passionate Cook
Jeanne - Cook Sister

Andrew - Spittoon Extra
Pille - Nami Nami
Anna - Baking for Britain
June - Bread,water, salt, oil
Amy - Cooking with Amy
Christina - The Thorngrove Table
Shayna(?) - Owlfish

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Xochitl in a bag

On my last trip home, whilst wandering around Cost Plus wondering how much wicker can one store have, there was a display that caught my eye. Oh yes, I saw XOCHITL tortilla chips. After a lifetime of having the oddest name around, how could I not buy my name in print! Four bucks, a two hour drive to LA and a 10 hour flight later, my chips were home. It took a lot of arguing to convince The Boy that this large bag had to come with me in his carry on luggage but it was worth it.

I made my own salsa to enjoy with my Me chips- homemade salsa is easy to do and tastes miles better than the gloopy jar kind. I was a bit skeptical for some reason but was pleasantly surprised because they tasted like proper Mexican restaurant tortilla chips but just a tad thinner. I totally recommend them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Beetroot Stacks

A recent heatwave in London has kept me out of the kitchen (unless it was for a cold beer or a salad for dinner) for the last few days. I had a craving for beetroot and since I couldn't find any fresh ones that I liked the looks of, I bought some prepared ones form M&S. They don't douse it in too much vinegar and alter it into some sort of purple pickle state. I dislike beetroot for years until I decided to roast a freshly picked one from a pick your own. Now I look forward to summer when I can get bunches of the stuff. Sadly it has a bad, undeserved reputation when you think about the vitamins it's packed with.

Quantities will vary depending on the size beets used but can be easily increased or decreased as needed.

Beetroot Stacks

Serves 2 - 4

Beetroot, 3 baby beets or 1 large one per person
Fresh chives, 1/2 bunch finely chopped
Ricotta, 1 tub (if available try Buffalo milk ricotta)
Sour Cream, 1 tbsp

Trim the bottom of the beets so they while stay upright. Slice the beetroot horizontally into three or four slices depending on size of the beetroot.

Mix the chives, ricotta and sour cream until combined.

Place the bottom slice of a beet on a plate and spread a small teaspoon of the ricotta mixture in the middle. Place another slice of beetroot on top and continue to layer until the beet has been put back together.

Serve with a handful of watercress or rocket and drizzle a little olive oil over the salad leaves.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chicken, Beer and Belgium - Part 2

Belgians have a great sense of humour. They have kindly given everyday products hilarious names to amuse childish tourists like myself. Take the word whip cream for example. In French, it is chantilly. In Dutch, it’s slagroom. Don’t call them chocolate sprinkles anymore; from now own call it hagelslag. In Oostende, you can enjoy a coffee at the Wiener Caffee or buy some bread at De Cock bakery (or buy a cake called Miserable- it did look really good though). I’m not rude and obnoxious about these things but it does allow me to have a giggle session.

I like Belgium, I really do. I’ve always had a great time there that’s usually filled with a fair amount of chicken, beer and waffles. Oostende is somewhere we go to regularly for a night or two away in which we usually stick to the tried and true. This time however, we ventured out and discovered a whole new world.

Once we dropped off our bags at the hotel, we headed to the Taverne Koekoek (see my previous entry for more details). Half a chicken and two beers later, we strolled around town looking to satisfy my urge for a proper waffle only to be told that waffles were only between 12.00-18.00. I had to make due with another beer and a steel determination to find a waffle as soon as day broke.

When I woke up the next morning, my mission for waffles was still strong. My first stop was Lilly’s, on the promenade along the seafront. It was 10am and waffle making for the day had begun. Our waffles were fresh and hot from the iron with a fairly even amount of caramelising on both sides. I would have preferred a bit more crispiness on some of the edges but it was perfectly acceptable. I also recommend Lilly’s for ice cream. Go for nougat- that has bits of candied fruit- or for my favourite, Speculoos. It tastes just like a Speculoos biscuit- full of cinnamon and bits of cookie. Get it to go and go sit on the beach.

Waffle number two came from Benny’s in the centre of town. Not good. There was caramel on the outside but the inside was cold.

My favourite waffle in Oostende still has to be from the outdoor vendor at Cappuccino’s. The outside has bites of gooey caramelised sugar followed by a bite with crunch but with a soft inside. If a meal is what you want, take a seat inside. On our visit I had a goat’s cheese salad and The Boy had an omelette. Some ladies were snacking on trays of mini cakes with a cup of coffee that looked amazing. I loved that they gave you a scoop of ice cream or maybe it was slagroom when you had a coffee. That’s definitely on my list for next time.

Tea-room Cappuccino, Ooststraat 22 Hoek Kapellestraat, 8400 Oostende