29 September 2011

Kua 'aina

I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to burgers. I know the difference between a good burger and a bad one but I'm such a carnivore and constantly trying to be good so I don't become grossly overweight that when I decide to have a burger I have the whole thing and it's a real treat. So I was excited about Kua 'aina but not expecting much - we were there for my friends leaving do. She is Hawaiian and although hasn't lived there for a long time I think she's starting to be ever so slightly nostalgic about it so it seemed to be the perfect place for us to turn up and stuff our faces and say farewell.

I was actually quite pleased as were supposed to be going to a vegetarian restaurant which everyone says is excellent but I know would give me no-meat panic as soon as I look at the menu. Joe and I arrived late and everyone had just ordered, Joe in fact was even later than me so by the time he arrived people were tucking into their food. This was no bad thing as it gave us a chance to see what everyone else was having and make our decision. The menu has burgers, sandwiches and salads with a good selection of side dishes from proper fries and coleslaw to dill pickles and sweet potato. And the service is so quick that we got our food not long after everyone else so they didn't have to sit there and watch us eat.

We had bacon and cheese burgers and shared fries and dill pickles. We finished every last scrap. The burgers were cooked quite rare and served in little baskets - there was no dainty way to eat them but that's not part of the deal with Kua 'aina. Little wooden tables, tea lights, old surfing photos everywhere and a relaxed atmosphere, incredibly fast service and great prices this is a fantastic place to go - especially in these money crunching times. I've never been to Hawaii but I really think the atmosphere lives up to the name and the reputation.

Most of us had burgers (avocado and pineapple were other variations - not together though) and a selection of sides - the lady herself had Mahi Mahi sandwich and another veggie had a halloumi sandwich. These were just as big as the burgers and went down really well. We were all full and happy afterwards - except for one guy who ordered a cheese and bacon burger and just got bacon. But as he refused to just ask the waiter for a bit of cheese to be shoved in quickly which I'm sure they would have done happily I can't really count this as a bad thing. There were ten of us drinking beer and being noisy so I think one slight omission is completely acceptable. I've had worse from places where its £40+ a head.

Kua 'aina is proof that you can still go out, eat well and have fun with your friends and not spend loads of money. Highly recommended.

Kua 'Aina on Urbanspoon

21 September 2011

Rachel Allen's Sticky Toffee Pudding

I'm not a pudding eater as you know but another request from my cousin was the Sticky Toffee Pudding she saw in Bakeand I'd never made it again so I thought it was worth a try. It was incredibly popular and I think may well become a regular for quick, easy make ahead puds that are really impressive. My father-in-law even liked it and he usually is not at all enthused by my cooking. I will definitely try and be more organised and cook this ahead, and maybe even freeze it, when I know I have a dinner party coming up.

Sticky toffee pudding

Serves 6

225g dates (stoned weight), chopped
250ml black tea, not too strong
100g butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g self-raising flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Whipped cream to serve

Toffee sauce:
110g butter
250g soft light brown sugar
275g golden syrup
225ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. I made this in a cake tin and then decanted into a round le cruset dish I have so could pour some of the sauce over it. Butter and flour the sides of the tin and line the base with greaseproof paper. You can coo in advance and keep for five or six days in an airtight container in the fridge or three months in the freezer. Just cover with tin foil and warm up in a low oven (defrosting first if frozen).

1. Place the chopped dates and tea in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for a few minutes until the dates are softened and then remove from the heat and put to one side.

2. Beat the butter in a large bowl or in a mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla extract and spices.

3. Fold in the date mixture (including the tea). If you are using a mixer it may be easier to now transfer it all to a big mixing bowl and then sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold gently until mixed.

Pre-cooking... not very appetising
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes until the top is just firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

5. Allow to stand in the tin for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a serving plate or dish. While the cake is cooking make the toffee sauce as shown below.

6. I poured some of the sauce over the pudding and then put the rest into a jug so it could be poured over the slices as they were cut. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

For the toffee sauce:

1. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until it has thickened. Serve warm.
Sticky Toffee Pudding

15 September 2011

Leek and Goats Cheese Tart

Rather refreshingly we have my 19 year old cousin staying with us at the moment before she goes back to uni and she requested a leek and goats cheese tart which I was pretty excited about as I love it and I had a recipe for one that I've wanted to try for ages. It's in Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook and the reason it's so appealing is that the pastry is incredibly easy and use of mustard on the tart base means the rest of the ingredients can be really simple. I did do a couple of tweeks which I'll put in brackets after the ingredients so you can use my version or hers... in fact you should just buy the book. It's wonderful.

So, this tart was delicious, I didn't add all the creamy filling as I was worried about it bubbling over but I could have done, as it was it was fine but I like as much cream as possible!

Leek and Goats cheese tart

Serves 4-6

For the pastry:
120g butter
1/2 tsp salt
200g flour

For the filling:
2 tbsp Dijon mustard (I think one large one would be fine)
4 leeks, thinly sliced (I used three large and there was still too much)
285ml single cream
Salt and Pepper
2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks
200g goats cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
200g soft goats' cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. You need a 23cm flan tin lined - I find it helps to rub a bit of butter round mine.

1. Make the pastry by sifting the flour with the salt and either rub the butter into the flour with your fingers, or pulse in a food processor, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add just enough cold water to bind the dough together.

2. Roll out the dough and line the flan tin. Prick the base and put it in the fridge for at least an hour.

Tart base
3. Cover the tart base with baking paper and fill with baking beans and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove the baking beans and leave to cool.

4. When the pastry has cooled a little, spread the Dijon mustard over the tart base.

5. Beat together the eggs, yolks, cream and seasoning.

6. Gently fry the leeks in the oil until they are soft and put them in the tart. Crumble over the goats cheese and pour the egg mixture on top.

7. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the tart is set - I found it was more like 25.

Finished tart

14 September 2011


Hammersmith is not the first place that springs to mind when you think of great food - there's Indian Zing which is pretty good and you could always walk to Chiswick where there are some lovely places but in fact Hammersmith does a great line in delicious sushi ranging from the affordable lunch in Wasabi to special birthday supper in Minato via fun date night in Yoshi Sushi.

What I love about Minato is that we're usually the only non-Japanese people in there and even though this restaurant is not the cheapest (it's about £25-£40 per person depending on what you have) it is the real deal. Atmospheric with a wide-ranging menu and thoughtful food presentation I can't think of anything I don't love about this restaurant.

We went last night for my mother's 'special' birthday and it didn't disappoint. It's always quite hard to order for six people and include everything that everyone wants so we decided to have three deluxe sushi and sushimi platters and then just add any starters that we personally wanted. These included tasty but unadventurous squid tempura (the batter was slightly heavier than I expect tempura to be but I'm not an expert), salmon and avocado maki, pork dumplings, salmon roe maki, soft shell crab and most excitingly kimchi (a Korean fermented vegetable dish) - which we got brownie points for ordering.

The deluxe platters were just amazing - they arrive on fan shape boards and one was the perfect amount to share between two sushi lovers. Mackerel, salmon, tuna, squid and other sashimi and the most amazing array of sushi I've ever seen some of which I have no idea what they were. Beautifully made, perfectly sized I'm day dreaming about having this for lunch and I only went last night.

The service was charming, helpful and friendly - when we requested a plate of Japanese pickles and were told that they are hard to get since the earthquake in Japan we were bought all the pickles they had left and complimentary miso soup with incredibly tasty seaweed salad to make up for it. We weren't constantly being asked how the food was and I think the only place I've had similar great service is at the River cafe. Highly recommended not only for sushi fans but those who prefer curry, tempura or noodles but especially those West Londoners who feel they are missing out on anywhere good to find it.

Minato on Urbanspoon
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