Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gin Truffles

Buried in a clock of dark chocolate, lies a kick of 1920s bootlegger bathtub gin. It's mysterious, rambunctious and a little bit naughty. With herbaceous notes and hints of floral, these dark chocolate gin truffles will make you swoon. 

Easy Truffle Recipe

200g dark chocolate
100ml cream
20ml gin (I used my homemade gin)
Cocoa for dusting

In a saucepan, melt the chocolate and cream together. Do not let it burn! Take it off the heat after about 30 seconds or so, as soon as you see the chocolate melting and continue to stir until it is smooth. 

When it has cooled, add the gin.

Chill the ganache in a freezer for about 20 minutes or so.

Shape the ganache into balls and roll in cocoa.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Homemade Gin

Having a longtime desire to create my own homemade, or bathtub, gin, I finally got a-making and there's no turning back now.
Gin is a neutral spirit with a predominant flavour of juniper berry, and then whatever combination of botanicals you desire. For those of us who do not have our own stills (sigh) buying a good quality bottle of vodka serves as the base for the gin. Never cut costs with spirits. You certainly get what you pay for and if it's cheap and nasty, then your gin will be cheap and nasty also. I used Russian Standard Platinum which is clean and smooth. 

Stage one is infusing the spirit with juniper berries. I only made about 350ml of gin, and I used a tablespoon of berries. Let these infuse for a good 24 hours. 

Stage two is the addition of botanicals. This is where you can achieve all sorts of various results depending on the flavours you choose and what style of gin you prefer. I wanted to create a very herbaceous gin with a lot of freshness on the palate. 

The botanicals I used were: fresh basil, coriander, rosemary (not pictured), dried ruby red grapefruit rind, lavender, pink peppercorns, green cardamon pod, all spice berries, coriander seeds, dried thyme, bay leaf and clove. 

I only let these infuse for about 12 hours. The longer is not always the better as the spirit is a very efficient flavour extractor, so you don't want to go too far. Go and sniff your gin to see how it's doing, or dip your finger in. It's all up to your palate.

The gin will turn yellow, and end up looking like a big jar of wee, this is due to the botanicals imparting their colour into the mix. Don't worry. It's what it tastes like that is most important. Strain your gin through whatever means you have - a fine sieve or muslin cloth - and then chill.

I served mine with tonic and a slice of cucumber... The verdict? Awesome. Mr H approved too, and suggested that from now on we should just make our own. Why not? It possesses a charming rawness, is full of flavour and is interesting. What more would one want in a drink?

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Remeniscent of a Sydney-style Asian fusion restaurant - think Miss G's or Longrain -  it's no surprise that Kurobuta is run by an Aussie. After a stellar career in London, Australian chef Scott Hallsworth is going from strength to strength with Kurobuta winning many industry accolades.

After a long day in the field, filling the good folk of the Belgravia Dog Show with booze (the people watching was sublime, especially the woman who accidentally ate a dog biscuit thinking it was a gourmet cookie), we are starving. Having sampled the miso wings from Kurobuta at the Taste of London festival the day before, I was excited for more.
Boldly rocking up on a Saturday evening to the King's Road restaurant (their original is in Marble Arch) with no reservation, and no patience to wait, I say "We don't mind sitting at the bar" and we're in. I rather like sitting at the bar, as you can talk to the staff and get the lowdown on lots of things. Sensing our prodigious hunger, the friendly fellow behind the bar orders us some snacks as we browse the menu. The shocking quality of my snaps is also testament to a severe hunger; hands shaking, head dizzy… I apologise. 

The Sweet Potato and Soba Ko Fries (£4) are sticks of delight. I couldn't even wait to take a photo before diving in. These shards of gold with a crispy soba ko (buckwheat) coating don't last long… They are catapulted into a new class by the addition of a kimchi mayo. This mayo is everything you want in a life partner and more. You'd marry it any day.  I need it. Kindly, the waiter brings out some more to satisfy my dipping needs. Mr H is into it too. With mayo his favourite condiment, this rosy little dish of goodness becomes a star performer of the night.

Jerusalem artichoke rarely features on London menus. It seems to be an undiscovered treasure in the popular collective foodie conscience. It is a damn dreamboat in my book. The Jerusalem Artichoke Chopsticks with Truffle Ponzu Dip (£7), again showcase Kurobuta's ability to combine interesting and possibly unexplored flavour combinations; the earthiness of the Jerusalems and truffle provide glorious bass notes to which the sharpness of the ponzu sings away over the top. Texture is a key player here too - splinters and crack and crunch. 

Continuing on with surprising guest-star ingredients, the gorgonzola in the Japaense Mushrooms with Miso and Pinenuts (£9.75) certainly makes an entrance to notice. As a stand-alone dish, this is probably the least favourite. There is nothing wrong with it per se, however, it just seems lacklustre. Perhaps this would be better served in a bowl over rice. We were riceless. Rice is empty carbs. We are all about the proteins. 

Tuna Sashimi Pizza (£11) is another exploration of texture; soft, nubile tuna on top of a crispy base. This dish is very pretty to look at and is a hit with the young chap on my left, who was eager to see if it lived up to the hype he had heard. 

Tea Smoked Lamb with Smokey Nasu (Japanese eggplant) and Spicy Korean Miso (£15.50) is the kind of dish that garners giggles and looks of bemusement/horror when you're still there gnawing the bone trying to extract every last scrap of flesh ten minutes later. I even had to go in for a final demolition of the bone before I was able to part with it. I love lamb. I love smoke. I love it when these things get together. I also especially love it when you still have a pot of kimchi mayo at your disposal. Yesss. 

With a bowl of flamed edamame with sake, lemon, butter and Maldon salt (£4), we had reached the end of our order. We needed more. BBQ Kurobuta (a Japanese descendant of the Berkshire) Pork Ribs with Honey-Soy-Ginger Glaze (£14) are everything good ribs should be. Although their somewhat ambient temperature is of concern to some, to others, it is of little significance. The meat falls off the bone and the glaze is utterly amazing. Mr H and I are well aware that this glaze is too good to leave in a pool on the bottom of the dish, and still being hungry, see it fit to order BBQ Pork Belly in Steamed Buns with Spicy Peanut Sauce (£13) to mop up that awesome glaze. Fatty, fresh, pockets of joy. Just when you thought I couldn't possibly take worse photos...

Job well done, all washed down by sake and lovely bright, hoppy pale ale (pale ale is Asian foods best friend).

Kurobuta is certainly worth a visit. Go hungry so you can explore the very unLondonesque menu and marvel in just how fine a dipping sauce can be.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pizza Pilgrims

Having eaten at Pizza Pilgrims almost twice in the one week, it is safe to say, it's damn good. With more traditional toppings, such as the Smoked Napoli - olives, capers, fior di latte, basil, smoked anchovies, parmesan and oregano (pictured), the crust is what makes these pizzas standout. With each pizza having a gorgeous lop-sided rusticity, these wood-fired beauties are the prime example of what a great pizza needs to be: well-balanced base vs toppings ratio, not only in amount, but in flavour and texture. Having gone through almost half the menu, the other favourite besides the Smoked Napoli was the Salsiccia e Friarielli - a white pizza with fennel sausage, chilli, wild broccoli, fior di latte, parmesan, basil and olive oil. The wild broccoli is such a sponge and soaks up loads of flavour from its surrounding ingredients and from the oven itself. 

The pizzas are not exactly large. If you are hungry, you can finish one by yourself. If you are not that hungry, one between two is fine. If you are a big, hulking man, you would probably need two. For such good quality fare, and locations (two in Central London, one in Peckham) the prices are utterly reasonable with pizzas ranging from £5 to £10. 

For dessert, try the Nutella and Salted Ricotta Pizza Ring (£5.50). Lashings of Nutella encased in squidgy dough... Drool. 

Oh and a shoutout to the Pale Ale from Brixton Brewing Company. One of the best beers I have had in London. Boom. 

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Crosstown Doughnuts

I have sung the praises of Crosstown Doughnuts before, but it's a tune worthing singing. Make way for the Choc Cinnamon Scroll with Passionfruit Curd. Once you reach the explosion of tart, yellow heaven in the centre you'll know why the girl in the shop (with the funky shirt), said it's her favourite. 

An interesting combination of flavours that I have never encountered before. I rack my brain trying to think of when I saw cinnamon and passionfruit together, but I am amiss. The heat of the cinnamon, the exotic sting of the passionfruit and the comfort of the chocolate make a wonderful combination. 

Go uptown, downtown, to town for Crosstown.

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