Monday, 23 March 2015

March 2015 Favourites List

This month's pictures are from the Penang Peranakan Mansion in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. The home of a fabulously wealthy "Straits Chinese" family built in the 19th Century, but later abandoned, it has been restored into a museum to the classic era of Peranakan culture. 

In the 19th Century, people came from China to settle in Malaysia and the Malacca Straits, and they formed relationships with indigenous people; Peranakan culture is the blending of these two cultures. The men were called "Babas", the women "Nyonyas". As a result, the culture is referred to as either "Nyonya" or "Baba and Nyonya". 

The Peranakan Museum is full of exquisite exhibits from the mundane to the sublime. It isn't just about the luxury lifestyle items the wealthy Nyonyas were able to own... kitchen items and clothing are among the treasure on display. 

The grand marriage beds, inlaid furniture, delicate china all draw from Chinese and Peranakan style. However, European sophistication was also valued, as the "Mod Con" appliances and glassware attests. 

I particularly enjoyed the wonderful rooms set aside for jewellery.... The proliferation of glittering diamonds and intricate gold work was utterly arresting.... as I would have been had I attempted to pinch one of the items I had my eye on!

It's a wonderful step back in time to an age filled with romance and grace.... as I hope my pictures capture.  

However, Peranakan culture is still alive in Penang. Nyonya people are proud of their heritage, and maintain their traditions. For visitors, the best way of discovering this heritage is through the fabulous Nyonya food, a wonderful combination of flavours, technique and ingredients drawing from Chinese, indigenous Malay, Thai and Burmese culinary traditions. In Penang, seeking out a Nyonya restaurant to sample this unique cuisine is a must. 




Recipes:

Winter beetroot salad with soy beans, carrot and purple cabbage: http://maisoncupcake.com/winter-beetroot-salad-edamame-soy-beans/

Him Indoors and I struggled to work out how to make Vietnamese pancakes... The internet gave us the answer! Banh Xeo; a very helpful, well explained recipe: http://www.theravenouscouple.com/2009/12/banh-xeo-vietnamese-sizzling-crepes.html

Chicken, Apricot, Ginger & Rosemary Tagine - some warming flavours for the tail end of Winter... http://www.alanabread.com/chicken-apricot-ginger-rosemary-tagine/ 

Speedy pressure cooker Dal Makhani (creamy/buttery lentils) by Miss Masala, Mallika Basu: http://www.quickindiancooking.com/2007/03/13/dal-makhani/

A herby, nutty rice salad, great as a side and possibly a packed lunch at work: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/02/salad-recipes-the-groundnut-cook-residency

Kolkata style chicken and egg kathi roll with coriander and mint chutney. http://chilliandmint.com/2015/01/19/chicken-and-egg-kathi-roll-a-kolkata-speciality/

Vegetarian recipes which Nigel Slater says will satisfy even hardened carnivores: Feta with spinach and blood orange, Baked eggs and vegetables, Aubergine chermoula, Freekeh with peppers and Baked dal and sweet potato. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/15/nigel-slater-five-vegetarian-recipes

Spiced rolled leg of lamb by The Curry Guy, Dan Toombs: http://www.greatcurryrecipes.net/2015/01/19/spiced-rolled-leg-lamb/

A vegetarian/vegan diet day soup by Fiona of London Unattached: http://www.london-unattached.com/2014/09/diet-butternut-squash-and-sweet-potato-soup/

Apple and blackberry pudding cooked in the slow cooker - surprise! http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/blackberry-and-apple-roly-poly-pudding

Love moussaka but feel a bit guilty about all those calories and fat? Here's a skinny moussaka by the lovely Emma. https://supperinthesuburbs.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/skinny-moussaka/

Shukto is a classic Bengali veg dish. Here's how to make it: bengalicuisine.net/2009/shukto/ Cook Like A Bong is a great place for Bangla food fans 

Articles/Know How:

Coconut oil and rapeseed oil are becoming more popular. Here Annie Bell investigates the health issues and cooking practicalities of a few brands. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/which-is-the-best-cooking-oil-from-extra-virgin-olive-oil-to-coconut-10057838.html


Stewing or braising - a practical and helpful "how to" guide for everyone, regardless of level of experience. http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/how-to-braise

Food and travel; how food can be an international language by Tamasin Day Lewis.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/travel/life-well-travelled/11408261/language-food-helps-us-travel-well.html


What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:


Over at Snig's Classroom:

Efficient revision techniques and how to retain more per hour of revision spent: http://snigsclassroom.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/revising-how-to-get-more-bang-for-your.html 

Go With The Flow.... or: Flow charts - Magical Procedural Memory Aid: http://snigsclassroom.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/go-with-flow-flowcharts.html 


Film:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 

Salting The Battlefield

TV:

The Casual Vacancy

Cucumber 

Music:

Chic - C'est Chic

Alt J - This Is All Yours

The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead


Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Five Fields

Fine dining is supposedly out of fashion. I don't know who decides these things, but it is apparently true. Thankfully, I was never one to go in for fads and trends. It's too much like hard work, and I see no reason to turn my back on something I love and enjoy purely because of the given opinion of others. Not that I am saying I constantly go to posh, fine dining restaurants. I just like, every now and then, perhaps for a special occasion to go somewhere where I will get spoilt rotten.

The Five Fields is a fairly new restaurant, which opened last year (2014). Slowly, it has built a reputation through personal recommendations and word of mouth, up to the point where it is now either the #1 or #2 top restaurant in London on Trip Advisor and the winner of the 2014 Square Meal Restaurant of the Year Award. 

My recent visit was one of those rare, ridiculous, complete blow outs that Him Indoors and I have from time to time. Where you know you will have to slacken your belt, so full will you be. Where you know you might need help getting out of your chair when the treat has finished.... A full "tasting menu" with matching wines. I will admit, it's a total indulgence, but at the same time, can we not treat ourselves from time to time?

Canapes


The picture I include here hardly gets across how small and dainty these cute little canapes were! A mere morsel of a snack, these flavour packed canapes were ridiculously tasty. A micro crab tartlet full of succulent crab meat and a tiny little toastie with beetroot and foie gras. What a tease!

Amuse-bouche


A small bowl of onion consomme was brought out next, with a wee teaspoon. If it were possible to distil classic French onion soup so that double the flavour intensity can be achieved, then this would be pretty close. With a small "petal" of onion and a cube of Gruy√®re cheese, this was a tasteful and flavour packed "deconstruction" of a dish which is an unashamed icon.  

Shellfish and potato

Mussel, crab meat, Lebanese (giant) couscous (like small balls of pasta) in creamy purple potato puree.

I will confess that I was a little bit sceptical when this dish arrived. The lavender hue was not what I was expecting from a shellfish course! The dish looked like a Ski blackcurrant yogurt poured into a small dish! The dish proved my scepticism misplaced. It was creamy, generously dotted with crab and mussel meat and the al dente giant couscous gave a welcome variation of texture. 

"Roots"
Dried sliver of fennel. Carrots, Jerusalem artichoke, artichoke root, hazelnut ash.

A superb dish which shows what heights vegetarian food can achieve, the only limit being imagination. The different cooking techniques employed sought to bring out different features of the root vegetables used, varying sweetness and savoury flavours. But most inventive were the many textures; soft, chewy, brittle and just yielding. Wizardry on a plate.

Foie Gras
Foie gras, mirabelle plum slices, mirabelle plum custard, roast turnip, almond, matcha (powdered green tea) foam, miso puree.

The foie gras was seared and caramelised on the outside and soft and oozy on the inside. The plum accompaniments cut through the rich fats of the foie gras. Although foams have become a little mocked for being too "on trend", this was not a mere nod to fashion. The matcha foam added gentle green tea flavours which tied together the foie gras and plum flavours in harmony. 

Orkney Scallop
Hoi sin sauce, roast turnip, gently smoked eel, apple sauce, apple shavings, duck croquette.

A beautifully just cooked scallop The tiny little duck croquette, I will confess, did not offend, but was so small that it did not make much of an impact on the dish. It seemed irrelevant to me. 

Red Grouse

Rich and meaty poached and roasted grouse, full of gamey flavours, in just the right sized small portion so as not to be overpowering. Ably accompanied by chestnut shavings, and cranberry puree to add freshness. 

Beetroot
Beetroot meringue, beetroot mousse, mini raspberry macarons, roast hazlenut with raspberries.

Ordinarily for me beetroot is a "meh" vegetable. I can take or leave it. This dish was another rhapsody in purple; sweet, sharp raspberry, delicate macaron (with fluffy yet squidgy centre) all bringing out the best in the beetroot.  The picture, yet again, doesn't do the dish justice (but I refuse to take a DSLR and flash gun to eat with me), since it looks like something you'd find in a pretty Parisian bakery window as a display of the artistry to be found within. Cute perfection.

Cornish turbot
Turbot with celery and bone marrow.

An unexpected combination of ingredients which somehow produced an unexpectedly well matched dish. It just shows how innovative with flavours and textures the chefs are prepared to be here. The little bone marrow croquette was crispy outside and tender inside. The turbot caramelised on the outside, but only just cooked on the inside; not easy to achieve with such a small delicate piece of fish.

Pre dessert

Muscat grape granite and hazlenut with chocolate and yoghurt.

Served on the most amazing polished fossil dish, the service of this dish made us gasp. The staff had better be careful; it's almost too tempting to walk away with one of these dishes stashed under your coat! 

But let's focus on the dish itself... delicate grape flavours in a light chilled granite. The chocolate presence, whilst slight, is complimentary. Too much chocolate would take away from the fruitiness of the grape and the yoghurt is the counterbalance to everything. Gone too quickly, if you ask me!


Hot buttered rum

Indulgent, fattening and super rich, this was heaven in a small warmed cup. I could have had two! (Although had it been more, I might have ended up being sozzled!)

Petits Fours

I will not pretend that for food £75 per person is cheap. It is not. However, for the quality of the cooking, preparation and presentation, this is very good value for money. There are many Michelin starred restaurants that The Five Fields can stand shoulder to shoulder with who are charging far more for tasting menus. 

Service here is wonderfully friendly and relaxed. There is no snobbery, and diners are made to feel fully at their ease. I felt very welcome. Given that sometimes in top flight restaurants I feel out of place or not moneyed enough, this shows how The Five Fields have achieved a pleasant and convivial atmosphere. 

I would definitely go back... I just need to save up and find an occasion to celebrate!

The Five Fields
8-9 Blacklands Terrace
London 
SW3 2SP
020 7838 1082

8-9 Blacklands Terrace, London, SW3 2SP
8-9 Blacklands Terrace, London, SW3 2SP
8-9 Blacklands Terrace, London, SW3 2SP
http://www.fivefieldsrestaurant.com/ 

Snigdha, Him Indoors and our guest paid for our meal and have received no incentive or payment for this review.