Review – Dirty burger

This is the best burger I’ve ever had in London. I would say it’s the best burger full stop, but I’m too sentimental about In&Out burgers in San Diego to give that title away. But seriously, this is one of the juiciest and most perfectly balanced burgers I’ve ever come across. It comes from Dirty Burger, which is a newly opened burger shack at a backyard in Kentish town. The area is a bit unwelcoming, but for the amazing burgers, this is absolutely worth the detour.

There’s only three things on the menu: cheeseburger, fries and onion rings. We ordered all three. The burger was made up of a perfect patty – perfectly sealed, made of finely ground mince and hot but rare in the middle. The meat was tasty, juicy and very well spiced – and dare I say it, one notch better than Meatmarket! The cheese was strong, and added a savouriness to the whole thing which I find is unusual for cheeseburgers unless you go for a black & blue variant. It was topped with a creamy dressing, lettuce, thinly sliced tomato and pickle. And then there was the bun, which I read (madly enough) held a 15% fat content. It was glazed, and when you bit into it it oozed a little. In all it’s unhealthiness this is simply sublime, and a bargain bite, given how gourmet it is, at £5.50.

The chips were nice, double fried and crinkle cut which made them very crispy on the outside but nice and soft within. The only drawback were the onion rings. Both me and Mr Meatball could have done without them: they just tasted of batter and weren’t salty enough. Thus I must disagree thoroughly with Timeout’s raving about them. But perhaps it’s me who has a problem with onion rings, I always find there’s too much batter and not enough salt.

The lovely staff gave us two free milkshakes as they messed up our order, and the vanilla Milkshake was loose and sweet, which I like. Not stodgy and frozen like McDonald’s. Dirty Burger has a cute shack eating area, but sadly it doesn’t have the same people-watching view as Meatmarket. The sides aren’t quite as brilliant either. However, given the affordable price and the insanely nice cheeseburger, it is awarded 8.5 meatballs out of ten.

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More Food Trucks – Boston

As mentioned in my previous post I took it as my mission to taste as many of Boston’s food trucks as I could. On Sunday I walked all the way to the South End to SoWa Market – a big market that takes place every Sunday. I quickly moved to the food truck section which was already crowded with hungry Bostonians. I started my lunch with a pork taco at BBQ Smith.

For $3 you got a taco filled with crispy and smoky pulled pork topped with avocado salsa and a spicy sauce. This was incredibly tasty and a really good start to my lunch. They also had really good looking sandwiches but I had to save my stomach for my next truck: Lobsta Love.

Lobsta Love’s lobster slider was all that Chowda’s slimy lobster roll wasn’t: fresh, not drowned in mayo and made to order. The lobster was mixed with mayonnaise and tarragon but kept its strong flavour. The brioche bun was lightly toasted and seemed to be brushed with butter and was the perfect accompaniment to the lobster. Lobsta Love offered many lobster options including a lobster mac and cheese which I will absolutely have to try before I leave Boston. By this point I was pretty full but could not leave before trying famous cheese melts from Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese.

Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese are a bit of food truck royalty as they have won many prizes and have taken part on the Food Network’s Great Food Race, so I knew I was in for a treat. I thought I might as well go all out so I went for the Mighty Rib: Fontina cheese, braised back ribs and caramelised. Yes, ribs, in a cheese toastie! After 20 minutes waiting with other 50 people the beast finally came out. It looked glorious, all cheese and and pork amazingness. This toastie completely changed my idea of what cheese toasties should be and I am definitely recreating this at home. The only thing missing was a bit of spice like some sliced jalapenos or a salsa I could dunk the toastie in. Aside from that…fatty perfection!

All I can say is that Boston is a great city if you like food! Now I can’t wait to go back to London and explore the food truck options there.


Caramelised almond cake (toscatårta)

Me and my brother had a joint 25 and 30 year old birthday party this weekend and I was responsible for desserts. Panicking over what to make – desserts aren’t my strong side – I decided on toscatårta, because it’s delicious and not too hard to make. Essentially toscatårta is a creamy Swedish sponge cake with a divine topping of caramelised almond. It’s one of my gran’s classics and I’ve finally learnt how to make it. (or, at least this variation of it got her approval, and since she’s known as queen of the cakes in my village, I’m more than pleased with that verdict.)

For the sponge you need:

  • 2 decilitres plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 decilitres white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 decilitre double cream (this is the secret to the creaminess of the sponge)
  • 50 grams butter

For the topping:

  • 50 gram almond flakes
  • 50 grams butter
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 decilitre sugar 

You also need a round cake tin with detachable sides, and butter and fine bread crumbs to make it non-stick. Start by putting your oven to 175 degrees and butter the tin on the inside (the best way of doing this is through putting a small knob of butter on some kitchen towel and grease it all over). Add fine bread crumbs by pouring some in the middle and then moving the tin around until it is all covered in them. This is the Swedish way of greasing a tin for any cake, but I suppose you could also line the tin with baking paper.

Then melt the butter on the stove and let cool whilst you whisk together the eggs and the sugar for a fluffy mix. You can do this by hand, but your cake rises better if you can fluff it up with an electric whisk.

Fold in the butter, flour, baking powder and cream, and pour the mixture into your greased tin. Put in the oven for 25 minutes whilst you make the almond topping.

Making the almond topping is simple. Just mix the butter, milk, flour, sugar and almonds in a pan on the stove, and let melt slowly whilst the cake is in the oven. The butter should become completely liquid and the sugar should dissolve, but it doesn’t need more heat once that’s done.

Pardon all the instagrammed photos… left my camera in London.

Once the cake has had its 25 minutes in the oven, take it out and apply the topping carefully all over the cake. Just make sure it doesn’t collect in one hole in the middle. Put back into the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the topping has gone a light golden brown.

Once your beautiful cake is done, the almond should have caramelised at the top, and the sponge gone a light brown at the bottom. Carefully separate the upper edges of the cake from the form with a knife, as they become difficult to separate once the sugar has stiffened. Let rest for a few minutes, and then carefully move the cake from the form to a plate. Decorate with berries and mint, and serve with strong, sweet coffee.


Salted caramel brownies

This recipe comes from a Guardian fashion+food piece, optimistically announcing the time for picnics in British parks. Current gale winds and rainy temperatures sadly suggest otherwise. But this recipe looked amazing, so I made these little beauties inside, in the cold. Completely agreeing with Nigella, I think salted caramel is about the best thing to have come out of chocolate invention… basically, ever. The saltyness and the rich, creamy caramel added with sweet chocolate is just bliss. Even if you think you don’t like mixing sweet and salty, I bet you will enjoy this. And whenever picnic time actually comes along, they will be on top of the list together with sweet white wine, blankets and good books. Just be very, very careful not to overdo the salt, because that will definitely spoil them.

For the caramel, you’ll need:

  • 90 g caster sugar (original recipe says golden caster sugar but that would have involved me buying three different kinds of sugar for this recipe so I just went with normal caster. I think it will taste nuttier and more flavoursome with golden, so go for that if you want to do it proper. But normal caster seemed to work just fine)
  • 60 ml double cream
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 60g unsalted butter, in cubes

For the brownie mix:

  • 200g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150 light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 20 g cocoa powder

Start by making the caramel by melting the caster sugar in two tablespoons of water. Stir until it dissolves, but then be careful to let it bubble away and make a sirup completely undisturbed, moving the pan in swirly moves rather than stirring. Do this until it has bubbled together to a thick, golden brown and reduced a bit. Then add the butter, and let melt, then stir in the cream and butter. Let cool at the side.

Prepare for the brownies by lining a tin with butter and baking paper, and put the oven to 190 degrees. Melt the chocolate and butter. I did this in the microwave, together, but letting it in for 20 second stints and then stirring before continuing. Towards the end the butter is so hot that it melts the last of the chocolate outside of the microwave, and you are therefore safe from burning it by mistake. Then beat together the eggs, vanilla and sugars until they’ve turned fluffy. You can do this by hand (as I did) but it is best done by a electric whisk. It is quite tough on your arms by hand.

When this is done, sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa, add the salt, and then fold in the melted chocolate and butter. Pour half of the mixture into the tin, and dot it with spoonfuls of salted caramel. Then add the second half of the mix, and top off with more sated caramel. You can stir through the whole thing with a spon or something to make sure the caramel swirl reaches all round the cake. But be very careful not to mix too much, of course, for the joy lies in the contrast.

Put this into the oven, and, depending on how deep or wide your dish is let it stay in there for 40 mins to 1 hour. Mine took an hour because it’s a deep dish, but I also think I left it in a little bit too long. It should be only almost firm in the middle when you take it out, so don’t worry if it looks a little wobbly.

Once you’ve let it rest and cool down, cut it into about 18 brownie-sized bits. If you feel like being overly lush, and of course you do, serve with some whipped cream (for what else are you going to do with the rest of the double cream you used to make them…?)


Review – Meatmarket

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.


Traditional New York style cheesecake with wild raspberries

One of my favourite things about Sweden is going foraging. But since foraging season has barely started, this past month back in Sweden I’ve had to go foraging in the freezer box instead (where last seasons foraging finds are kept) which then led to this mix of traditional New York-style baked cheesecake and wild raspberries. If you’ve ever tried wild raspberries you will know that they are incredibly different from commercially grown ones, and have one of the most floral and sweet yet full-bodied flavours of the forest (indeed so strong that my mum won’t eat them because she finds them over-powering). So they really add something to a voluptuous and creamy New York cheesecake. But you can, of course, melt any berries you like on top of this cake, it will still taste divine. Just be prepared – this cake doesn’t take up much of your time, but it takes a long time to make, and it HAS to be given its time in the fridge or you will be sorely disappointed.

I kind of followed Nigella’s recipe for this cake, and for the base, you’ll need:

  • 250 g digestive biscuits (guess it’s meant to be Graham crackers but they’re impossible to get a hold of in Sweden)
  • 150 butter (melted)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
For the filling:
  • 3 1/2 dl sugar (225 g)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 600 g cream cheese
  • 6 eggs yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 heaped teaspoons vanilla sugar, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 ml full fat cream
  • 150 ml sour cream (I used Swedish gräddfil, it worked just as well)
  • the zest and peel of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
For the topping
  • Wild raspberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/1 tbsp cornflour
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+ Patience. The cake is best the day after you made it. A springform will be helpful, but I made it in a clay one.
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Start by crushing the digestive biscuits and mixing them with the sugar and butter. This is probably done easiest by using a food processor, but you can also crush the biscuits by hand (I did). It just takes some time. Then add it to the bottom of the form you are using (pre-greased with butter), and press it out evenly and hard. Put in the fridge to rest for an hour. When the base has been in the fridge for a while, put the sugar and cornflour together, then mix in the cream cheese. Don’t be fooled by my whisk below, at this early stage you’re better helped by something spatula-like (as I quickly discovered…).

After this is mixed together, add the cream, the sour cream, the egg yolks and the lemon zest & peel. Stir constantly whilst mixing these things together. Put your oven to 170 degrees.
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In a separate bowl, with a separate whisk (this is important or the eggs whites will react to the traces of other ingredients), whisk together the egg whites with that half teaspoon of salt. You need your whites to turn into stiff peaks, which takes a while since there is no sugar in this mix. Whisk, whisk, whisk until it look something like the thing below. You may also, as below, need some assistance in doing this, for it really does tire out you arms (I was up sawing birchwood on the morning of making this cake, and that seemed easier somehow…) .
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Then, very gently, fold in the egg whites into the cream cheese mix.
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Take out your base from the fridge, and fill it with the cream cheese mix. Smooth off the top with a spatula or something else flat.
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Bake in the oven for about one hour or a bit more, depending on your oven and the tin you are using. Mine ended up being a little over-baked in the edges so for beauty-reasons I cut off some of the upper ends before applying the melted berries. Once your cake has turned golden at the top, yet hasn’t settled properly in the middle, turn the oven off and leave your cake in there for another two hours without opening. Then open the oven and leave the cake in there for another hour with the door open. Towards the end of that hour, melt your berries on the stove with the sugar until they are all half-crushed. Then stir in the the cornflour, and when it is time to finally take the cake out of the oven, apply the melted berries evenly at the top, and put into your fridge to set for a few hours. Note that it REALLY needs a few hours in there or it won’t be smooth.
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It takes some time, but in the end you will have something as smooth, dreamy and beautiful as this to look at, and most importantly, to eat! And it’s really, really worth the trouble.
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Swedish cinnamon rolls (Kanelbullar)

Swedish cinnamon rolls are lots of work and worth every little bit of it. Cardamom in the dough makes the entire bun aromatic, and since it is made with fresh yeast and milk, and left to rise for over an hour, it is incredibly tender and puffy yet not as heavy and buttery as its Danish cousins. The filling of cinnamon and vanilla gives them an almost gooey centre, and the topping of brittle pearl sugar a contrasting texture. And once you get the hang of it, they aren’t that difficult to make. There is probably nothing in the world that makes your kitchen smell as heavenly as these little cardamom and cinnamon bundles. Promise. Read the rest of this entry »