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Chasing Pineapples

an English girl tasting her way around the world

Month

January 2013

Tequila’s Smokey Relative Hiding in Hoxton

Enter through a small shabby door off Hackney Road, tread with care down a dim narrow passageway of stairs and you find yourself in an underground den where the decor is shabby kitsch with juke box and giant balloon lights, and the offering is Mezcal. This smokey spirit comes from Mexico and Tequila, that eye-watering shot found in bars across the land, is actually a variety of mezcal. The name mezcal roughly translates as ‘oven-cooked agave‘ thus the fact that the drink is made from the Mexican Agave plant will come as no surprise.

A Hidden Den in Hoxton
A Hidden Den in Hoxton

Background check over, back to the deliciously dingy mezcal cavern in Hoxton. My cousin took me after work one day and we were seriously early birds, thus we were the only consumers and got the barman all to ourselves, inside knowledge and all! For a novice mezcal drinker, the menu was quite overwhelming as a range of twenty + sipping glasses were on offer. Though to my aid there were detailed descriptions of the distinct flavours of each, allowing me to find something that tickled my fancy. Although the same umbrella drink with a general smokey flavour, the taste and texture between varieties can be drastic… and so can the prices!!

I selected one that did not seem too intense for a first-timer and our barman friend served it up in the traditional way with two orange slices, some chilli powder, and worm..

Yes, that’s correct, worm powder! When I asked what it was made of, our friend put it very bluntly as ‘crushed up worm’ (derrrr!?!). Apparently this is the way to drink it according to Mexican tradition where it is served with a side plate of fried larvae that live on the Agave plant.

Mezcal washed down with a dash of worm powder...
Mezcal washed down with a dash of worm powder…

So swap the lemon for some orange, keep the salt but add some chilli and worm, and there you have a real Mexican upgrade on Tequila.. Not for the squeamish!

Arriba, abajo, al centro, y par dentro‘ .. Cheers!

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Heading East for Turkish in Dalston

Dalston’s streets are teaming with Turkish takeaways and restaurants. This is the area of London that saw incredible community spirit in the face of the bleak weeks of riots. The Turkish community and their friends lined the streets forming a human barricade against the rioters, protecting their livelihoods from destruction. In light of this heroic effort in such bitter times, Dalstonites and East Londoners flocked to Turkish businesses in a community effort to give something back and say thank you. Though I was not there to witness this, I can only imagine it to have been a very emotional period and the effects are lasting as the Turkish eateries continue to thrive.

I have been lucky enough to get a job with my dream company, a UK specialist food retailer based in London. I stayed with my cousin in Dalston last week hence there was many an opportunity to explore the local hubs. Deciding between the many Turkish restaurants in the area, all with fantastic food and great value, proved somewhat of a challenge for my cousin Adam and his girlfriend Lara. They have really established relationships with many of the local businesses and decided that one place in particular stood out.. 19 Numara Bos Cirrik II on Stoke Newington Road.

We wandered in from the freezing cold to a small room buzzing with Turkish families and young East Londoners enjoying the food the was being cooked up on a large open grill in the corner. Adam, having been many a time before, straight away ordered a platter of bread similar to nan bread but slightly crispier, and had the extra treat of meat drippings added.. Very naughty but totally delicious! This was served with refreshing Cacik!

A Mighty Spread for Three in East London
A Mighty Spread for Three in East London

I was warned that starters were not necessary due to the vast portion sizes, so I resisted temptation and went for a Iskender Kebab which consisted of minced lamb grilled on the BBQ snuggly wrapped in more of the meat dripping bread resting on a bed of Iskender yoghurt sauce. This heavy dish was accompanied with complimentary side salads (very oniony but a nice fruity and refreshing addition to the heavy main). So the choice to skip a starter was definitely wise! My cousin went for the mixed grill and his lamb was exceptionally cooked until very tender. We ploughed through the huge dishes which were so good that we kept eating and finding new pockets in our stomachs to fill!

Adam Ploughing Through his Mixed Kebab
Adam Ploughing Through his Mixed Kebab

This was followed by a Turkish tea served in a delightful little glass and with sugar added became sweet but a refreshing ending to a heavy meal.

A Wee Nightcap for the Road
A Wee Nightcap for the Road

I wandered over to the grill to have a nosy as usual, and I was told by the chef to sit down on a stool in front of the bar whilst he talked me through the process that he mastered so well.. he even showed me how he gave the bread that extra flavour and texture, quickly wrapping the large flat pieces around the grilling kebabs so that it soaked up some of the juices. Not for the faint hearted! However, for those with a smaller appetite, the starters and salads looked delicious and a sharing feast could definitely be created if that is more your cup of tea.

So in sum, great food, fantastic value and wonderful people.. this may turn into a weekly cuisine for me!

Satisfied Customers!
Satisfied Customers!

Grandma’s Classic Chocolate Cake

Grandmas Chocolate Cake Seeing in another Celebration
Grandmas Chocolate Cake Seeing in another Celebration

Check out the recipe over at The Ranting Chef : http://rantingchef.com/category/recipes/english-recipes/

Dinner Chez Gray… That Friday Feeling!

When visiting Jill and John Gray in that beautiful city of Bath, one thing is always guaranteed.. a delicious feast! Last visit did not disappoint..

Grub's Up chez Gray!
Grub’s Up chez Gray!

We were welcomed into the kitchen by a tantalising mixture of aromas. The main event was a boeuf bourguignon and to Jill’s horror not only had I recently tasted the real thing on my stop in Burgundy on the Food and Wine Tour, but my mum and brother both confessed to have been served it at separate dinner parties on New Year’s Eve. Poor Jill thus felt she had a lot to live up to. However, she surpassed all possible expectations by not only having slow cooked the dish all day long to create the most tantalising texture but also by adding an extra twist to spice things up a bit. This consisted of giant homemade croutons layered with Dijon mustard and topped with a generous helping of cheese. These were added to the brewing cauldron of taste just before serving to soak up the flavours and slightly crisp. The result was perfection and I can honestly say it beat the authentic version I tried in Burgundy in a tourist-sparse village.. and that is saying something! If Jill will disclose the recipe, I will most definitely enclose it next time!

Just Out of the Oven after 6 Hours..
Just Out of the Oven after 6 Hours..

To follow was Banoffee Pie. Again, Jill’s audience proved rather difficult as the majority of diners did not like banana, but loved Banoffee Pie. Safe to say there was many a piece of banana left on the otherwise scraped clean plates. It was absolutely divine with the smoothest caramel and a crunchy yet buttery base. YUM!

As if that wasn’t enough, John got out a cracking cheeseboard stuffed full of local and international cheeses of all kinds! And THEN he treated us to a few slithers of his delicious Jamón Iberico leg that he was given as a birthday gift from Jill a few months earlier. What a fantastic present idea, though it will set you back a bob or two it lasts for months.. Hint hint friends my birthday is coming up!!

John Crafting the Iberico Ham!
John Crafting the Iberico Ham!

This feast fit for a King definitely put us in that weekend indulgent mood, before we remembered that it was only Thursday night! To confuse us even more, our Friday morning we were served up a full fry up fit only for a Sunday morning. Lucky Crossley family!

Friday Morning Fry Up!
Friday Morning Fry Up!

Thanks Grays, what a treat!!

 

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