After days after days of revising the metaphysical aspects of IR theory, we thought we deserved a fatty break as exam-prep and headed to Meatmarket in Covent Garden today. We were drawn to it because of its relation to Meat liquor (which Isabel has declared previous love for here), and simply couldn’t resist a place with dishes like “Dead hippie burger”. The decoration around the counter is rather random as you have a view of the tourist-packed inside of the Covent Garden Market, whilst surrounded by True Blood-style accessories of a nitty gritty fast food place (plastic knives and forks, industrial sized condiment packages stored in chicken cages at the sides, a big roll of kitchen roll places on each table to wipe off grease), but it is all carried off very well. Playing on their name, the ceiling is full of little tweet-style signs carrying messages of cheesy contact ads filled with meat puns.
We skipped the fries and went for jalapeño poppers with rance sauce as a side, and then opted to share a dead Hippie burger and a Philly cheese steak. Had we not decided to go for a coke each, the bill would have landed on £14 for us both, which is very reasonable given the greasy fulfillment the food gives you. We got one refillable coke each at £2.50 which is very good value considering you can refill it as many times as you want.
Now, the food. The Dead Hippie Burger came charred on the outside and perfectly medium rare on the inside, and was high stacked with two patties, cheese, pickles, Dead Hippie Sauce – of course – and lettuce. For me this didn’t taste like the sauce from previous versions of the Dead Hippie but tasted like McDonald’s ‘sauce for fries’ sauce which you can only find in Portugal and which I (Salted Cod) absolutely love! So that was a nice extra. The bread was glazed and sweet and it was all so very lovely, in a drippy sense. The Philly cheesesteak is basically shaved steak fried with peppers and cheese, all pushed into a glazed hot dog roll. Simple as that sounds, it was chunky, sweet from the pepper, and gorgeous. Most likely also heart-attack inducing. The final decadence in the jalapeño poppers was so over the top it was kind of funny, but somehow ridiculously nice. The deep fried cheese balls with jalapeño were perfectly spicy, and they were served with a dill, mayo and sour cream ranch dressing which added to the deep fried grease by making it taste rich and fresh. So easy to overeat, and so so satisfying.
So the tip is: go on a rainy day when the market hall isn’t too hot, and never ever bring anyone with a heart condition. Else you should be fine. Not as good as Meat Liquor (less choice of food and drinks) but a good 8.5 meatballs out of 10.
Meatmarket, Covent Garden Market, WC2.
When the pavements are boiling and the parks are full of happy families with loud children running around, sneaking away to the partly abandoned “pho-belt” at the bottom of Kingsland road is quite nice. Normally busy Song Que was half empty on my last visit, a nice break from the normally bustling atmosphere in there. Song Que tend to be the critics’ favourite out of the Vietnamese options around here, and not without reason. It is cheap, friendly and the standard is consistently high (at least every time I’ve been).
Vietnamese may also be the perfect food for hot days like this, at least refreshing summer rolls and tangy vermicelli. We started off with four summer rolls to share, and they arrived incredibly fast but tasted fresh and juicy, so I doubt they had been waiting around. They were crunchy and the dipping sauce was perfectly spicy, however I lament the peanut sauce that used to be serve with them. Nonetheless, these are the best summer rolls I’ve tasted in at least a year.
My brother had the mixed seafood stir fry, which he argued was the best out of the lot of what we ordered (me and his girlfriend disagreed, however). They came with fried crispy onion on top and whilst looking rather plain, they were savoury and satisfying. Katrin had the tofu with crispy noodles, which generated an immediate “ah!” and thumbs up to the waiter (which I assume is a good sign).
Having tried all three dishes however, I felt like my vermicelli with grilled pork, shredded pork and spring rolls was the true winner. For all the extras that went into it, I found the £7.90 very reasonable. It was refreshing and incredibly aromatic, whilst also perfect summer food with the cool glass noodles at the bottom, the sweet chili sirup and the filling wholesomeness of the newly baked spring rolls. All the fresh herbs and the cucumber made me feel like summer is actually here, whilst sitting inside a quite Song Que and looking out on the busy Kingsland road flashing by. Song Que also do a £5.90 lunchtime special which may come in handy for cash-strapped students, so it’s all thumbs up for this soothing and light restaurant in the summer heat. 7.5 meatballs out of 10.
London has been miserably rainy lately, but it feels like we might finally be moving towards picnic time! So I’m going to attempt (but hopelessly fail) to revise stuff for exams in parks whilst stuffing my face with nibbles and pretend it’s already summer. Pizzabullar are perfect for this: uncomplicated, unsophisticated food from the 90s. When I was about 7 and a half, we’d eat them on days out in the forest with school (or my friends would; they always had way cooler snacks than I did). My friend Natalie’s mum used to make her these and I was really very jealous. They aren’t particularly healthy, or cheap but lovely nonetheless so they are getting a blog post dedicated to them. The technique of making them is identical to that of Kanelbullar, you just change the dough slightly and the stuff that goes in it. You can mix content around wildly, but the classic involves smoked ham, cheese, tomato sauce and oregano. I added finely chopped and fried mushrooms with fresh thyme to mine.
For the dough you need:
- 12-14 deciliters plain flour
- 50g fresh yeast
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 50g unsalted butter
- 5 deciliters milk
- 1 tsp salt
For the filling:
- 200 g smoked ham (cooked is also alright and can be found cheaply in many basics ranges in the supermarkets)
- 300 g cheese (grated or sliced)
- 1 tube of tomato puree
- 7 finely chopped mushrooms
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
Rub the yeast into small pieces in a bowl, heat up the milk and butter together on the stove and pour it into the bowl to dissolve the yeast when it’s finger-warm. Mix in 9 deciliters of flour, the salt and the baking powder, and stir until you have a dough. Knead it for a while, adding only so much flour you need to keep it from sticking to your hands too badly. Leave the dough to rest in the bowl under a kitchen towel for 40 minutes. If you haven’t baked with fresh yeast before, it will shock you how much it grows:
After 40 minutes, wake it up by kneading it and adding more flour as you go (but be careful not to overdo it, you only want as much flour as you need to keep it from sticking). Split the dough in two, and roll out one half on a floured surface. Roll it into a sausage and then shape it into a rectangular piece, roughly 25×40 cm. Spread tomato puree smoothly on top of it like a pizza, and then top off with the cheese/ham/mushroom mix.
Roll it up and cut into 12 pieces
Place with the cut side up on a baking tray with baking paper underneath, brush the top and all sides with a whisked egg and place some grated cheese on top.
Bake in an oven at 250 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they have browned. Done!
If your pizza buns go a bit stale after a few days (although they keep rather well because of the cheese melting into the dough and sort of preserving them) you can cut them up into small pieces and put in the oven for 15 minutes for little luxury crutons. It looks a bit weird but they taste lovely on soup.
Melanzane a la Parmigiana or aubergine parmigiana for us non-italians is one of my favourite dishes. While it is made solely of vegetables and may seem fresh and healthy it is every bit as decadent as its sister meat lasagna. Typically you deep fry the sliced aubergine before layering it in a casserole dish with tomato sauce, grana padano, and mozarella. Some even add a tad of bechamel sauce to thicken up the layers. While I love almost everything which is deep fat fried (I lived in Belgium for almost ten years…) during the week I have no desire or patience to deep fry aubergines! So I looked online for different parmigiana recipes and came up with a combination of all of them which results in a healthier and easier to make parmigiana.
You will need:
- 3-4 big purple aubergines, sliced.
- 1 can of chopped marzano tomatoes (or the best quality chopped tomatoes/passata you can find – it really makes a difference and they are not that much more expensive).
- 1 small onion, chopped finely.
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.
- Fresh basil
- 2 mozzarella balls.
- 200 grams of grana padano (similar to parmigiano but milder and cheaper), or a mix of grana padano and parmiggiano.
1. Start by slicing and washing the aubergines and sprinkle them heavily with salt. Put in a container and let it rest for a while to get rid of the bitterness. While they are resting start preparing the sauce.
2. Fry the onion and the garlic in olive oil until translucid. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook in a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour. Finish the sauce by adding the basil and wizzing it in a mixer or smoothie machine. Now it’s time to start layering!
3. Start with a layer of tomato sauce, add a layer of aubergine, another layer of sauce, a layer of grana padano and a layer of mozzarella. Repeat in the same order until you have used up the ingredients. Make sure to add extra cheese on the last layer so it crisps up on top.
4. Cook at 180 degrees in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes. Let it rest for a bit before you cut into it.
Enjoy a healthy parmigiana which is as good as the time-consuming, deep fried version!