Eating Out

Two posts!  In as many days! No, my computer has not been hijacked by a super-blogger intent on making you chubby.  I’m trying this new thing called blogging regularly. It’s pretty exciting, and I’m only on the second day.  Joining in my mad cap experiment is Julia Smith, who will work up your appetite with her furious ranting.  I’m sure even political-type creatures stop for tea occasionally.

In keeping with our blog-bond, my recipe tonight is dedicated to her.  Red, juicy meat cooked in its own buttery juices; what better way to say I’m one of people! I will not be conquered! (Or, possibly, I’m a steak-loving dictator…mmm…will have to work on my political themed meals).  But for:

Ten Minute Steak


2 sirloin steaks (mine were British, air-dried, from Waitrose so they must be good)

Roseval new potatoes (enough for two – halved)

Green beans (enough for two – trimmed)

Salt and pepper

Butter and olive oil


Season the steaks well, on both sides and leave to come up to room temperature for 10 – 30 minutes.

Put the oven on a low – medium heat, around 100C, you could roast a couple of Portobello mushrooms and tomatoes in here while everything else is cooking.

Put the potatoes on about 15 minutes before you want to eat.

In a large, flat bottom frying pan, heat a good wodge of butter (30g?) and a good splash of olive oil (2 tbsp?).  Get them really hot, until it’s just starting to brown.

Add the steaks and fry on each for 1 minute. Time yourself. Be firm.

Put the steaks on a resting tray (thanks Grandma!) or on a plate and pop in the warm oven (along with your eating plates).

Add the green beans to the steak pan and fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes.

When the potatoes are ready crush up with a fork and then pour on some of the steak fat.

Serve up like so:

Political Steak


Let’s start with the worst, and get that over with. On weekends we like to eat breakfast at either Hackney City Farm (top quality sausages) or The Premises (proper greasy fry-up). But we’ve eaten in both of them a lot recently and I wanted to try somewhere new. The Book Club opened last week so I thought that would do.

It was absolutely dire. The worst. And we didn’t even eat the food.

The ambiance was all so Shoreditch, so forced and pretentious. But I was willing to forgive all the edgy décor if the food was good. We ordered freshly squeezed orange juice and the full English. It came to £17.50. The bar lady poured out the orange juice from a carton, which said ‘From Concentrate’ across it. It was the kind of juice you would expect at a Travelodge bar or local football match.

I was furious! £2.75 for Sunpride! Not a good start. We waited 40 minutes for the food. We expected the worst, but we also expected to be fed.  So I complained and we got our money back and left, never to return.

We went to Canteen in Spitalfields and had Bloody Mary’s with bacon, eggs and bubble & squeak. On the menu there’s lots of hype about their pure-bread organic well-educated elite cattle, but the food actually delivers. It’s nice. It’s cheered us up anyway (although that could have been the vodka).

It was to be a day of false starts followed by successful surprises.  Next up: the queue for an exhibition I wanted to see was horrendous, so we ditched the culture in favour of Ice Cream Sundaes at Fortnum & Masons. Oh what fun!  We chose the Beekeeper, which came with three big scoops of ice cream, honey, crystallised ginger and honeycomb pieces. It was a very adult way to enjoy children’s food. We spent the next hour in a dizzy sugar high perusing gentleman’s accessories and food hampers.

Honeycomb, honey, ginger, icecream, a wafer! Heaven in a cut glass crystal bowl? Probably

Honeycomb, honey, ginger, ice-cream, a wafer! Heaven in a cut glass crystal bowl? Probably.

So, food for thought, if I may; tried and tested works.

I must apologise, I have been away for a while. Mostly, I have been eating and drinking in Barcelona. A nice long blog with lovely photos to come all about that, I promise.

In the meanwhile, this post is dedicated to dumplings, booze and my darling friend Sinead.  I love eating with Sinead; together we go to the edge of gluttony and beyond – sod the bill and calories and everything else. Every dish we consume together is thought about, discussed and then wolfed. She was the first person I met who I could fully share my obsessive love of food with – from oysters to mini chicken kievs – we share a passion for that YUM factor. I miss not living on the same corridor as her.

When we decided to meet in Chinatown, I knew I had to take her to Fushia Dunlop’s resturant; Ba Shan.  I was looking for an excuse to go after a delightful dumpling feast there with Paul many months ago.

Sinead and I surpassed ourselves: gobbling down a dizzying array of Chinese small bites and traditional street food. We talked about flavours, we dipped in chilli oil, we downed tsingtao beer, we had a Sichuan pepper-eating contest – I think we drew at 3 in one go each. (For those not acquainted with the Sichuan Pepper; they are devilish little peppercorns that are both hot and cold, numbing your mouth in an addictively painful tingle).

Neither of us cared much for the other people dining, as we giggled, shouted and (accidently) threw food all over the floor. We both finished the meal with a loud, proud burp. I’m sure I remember being told in China that eating nosily and belching were considered good manners – a sign that you enjoyed your meal and a compliment to your host. I think we displayed the best manners Ba Shan has ever seen.

 Here are a few of the dishes we sampled. The photos are terrible I’m afraid;


Chinese Burgers

Chinese Burgers; little greasy pockets of slow cooked pork and pickles

Pot-stickers dumplings. Chicken and chive finger shaped finger food.

Pot-stickers dumplings. Chicken and water chesnut stuffed into crispy dumplings; finger shaped finger food.


Pork and chive dumpling, with chilli and garlic sauce. Oh, sweet dumpling joy.

Pork and chive dumpling, with chilli and garlic sauce. Oh, sweet dumpling joy.


Dan Dan Noodles, and in the background garlicky chilli aubergine with minced pork. Sloppy spicey meaty goodness.

Dan Dan Noodles, and in the background garlicky chilli aubergine with minced pork. Sloppy spicey meaty goodness.


As you see with this photographic evidence we really put some food away.  What the photos don’t show is the mini sweet and sour pork ribs, the spicy pickled cucumbers, the deep fried king prawns, the extra round of dumplings and the bright blue jug of cocktails that finished the night.