Monday Miscellaney

The maelstrom of a disorganised Monday morning always follows a busy weekend.  In an act of sheer denial, I always shun the Sunday night preparation for the week ahead in favour of a Sunday night glass of Beaujolais, therefore I usually arrive for work on Monday completely dishevelled with only half of the things I need and relying on strong coffee to get me through the day.  Today is no exception.

This is what happened in the last week:

Yalla Yalla, Fitzrovia
I was beside myself with excitement when I discovered that the Yalla Yalla in Winsley Street had a take-out counter that sells an impressive range of wraps, sides, desserts and coffee.  The halloumi wrap is one of the most delicious of its kind with black olives, tomato and fresh mint.  The soujoc wrap is a meaty alternative with Lebanese sausages and cucumber tzatziki.  All wraps are under £5 and the perfect size for lunch.  I have resisted the baklava so far, but who knows how long that will last.


Cottage Pie
Following the weekend fridge clear-out, I found I had the ends of several bags of potatoes languishing in the veg drawer so decided to make a cottage pie.  This recipe by James Martin is especially good if you have an uneven oven, as I do, as most of the cooking is done on the hob.  Best eaten on a rainy evening in front of the television.


Divine Pop-up Shop, Covent Garden
Fairtrade chocolate supremos Divine have opened a pop-up shop for Fairtrade Fortnight selling their entire range of delicious chocolate.  They are only open for one more week, so get down there if you can.  The full write up is here.


Chocolate Coconut Brownie
This was a little recipe for Fairtrade Fortnight, inspired by my trip to the Divine pop-up shop.  It had been a really long time since I last made brownies and I forgot how much delight they brought to people – Ollie’s new colleagues were particularly happy to receive them.  Half of the batch has gone into the freezer to bring out for unexpected guests – a little trick I learned from a friend.  The recipe and full write up is here.


The Battle of the Cinnamon Buns
Last week, my colleagues and I set out to settle the debate of who makes the best cinnamon buns, Scandinavian Kitchen or The Nordic Bakery.  After an afternoon of tasting and judging, the results were in:  Scandinavian Bakery won by 9-3.  My colleagues have requested more taste testing.  The full write up is here.


Band of Bakers ‘Baking with Cheese’ Event
Wednesday was the long-awaited ‘Baking with Cheese’ event at The Crooked Well in Camberwell.  Thirty-five bakers came along with an impressive range of cheesy bakes, everything from gougeres and spanikopita to cream cheese brownies and vodka cheesecake.  My bake was a batch of Gruyère, mustard and London Pride-caramelised onion puffs, for which I hope to write up the recipe this week.  Needless to say I had some pretty messed up dreams that night. 


Ganapati, Peckham
This great little Indian restaurant on Holly Grove is one of my favourite lunch spots; the food is great and the lunch deals are excellent value.  If there were not a screeching child and array of toys spread across our communal table it would have been perfect (inconsiderate parents spoil lunches). 


Cafe East, Surrey Quays
A perfect gem in amongst the horrors of Frankie and Benny’s, Pizza Hut and some kind of pseudo-American grill.  You have to walk right to the back of the car park to reach it, but the food is excellent and good value.  My favourite is the lemongrass pork chop enjoyed, naturally, with the super sweet iced coffee with condensed milk ubiquitous in Vietnam.


Shahi Paneer Parcels

Shahi paneer parcels with mint-chilli chutney

Shahi paneer parcels with mint-chilli chutney

Once, when I was a vegetarian, my parents invited all of their friends over for a drink and we ended up ordering a Chinese takeaway. Not able to partake in the shared dishes, I ordered my own portion of salt and pepper tofu, stir fried vegetables and boiled rice.  45 minutes later, the food arrived.  Delayed to the table by a phone call, I realised, to my utter despair, that they had absent-mindedly put my boiled rice on their plates, leaving me with the three portions of special fried rice, studded with the little bits of chicken and prawn that I could not eat.  I ended up having a very carb-light, and disappointing, dinner.  The moral of the story: when people are hungry, and a little drunk, they don’t always think.

For this very reason, I often hide a portion of the vegetarian snacks when hosting parties.  There is nothing worse than having a vegetarian friend arrive at your house a little late only to find that the meat eaters have scarfed all of the goats cheese puffs and olive gougeres, leaving nothing for your meat-free guest to eat but a sad bag of kettle chips.  Of course, being a buffet nazi and screeching “leave them for the vegetarians!” is enough to kill any party atmosphere, so hoarding is actually a much better option.

Speaking of which, I have been working on a vegetarian party snack using paneer and one of the new Vini and Bal sauces.  Paneer is a bit of a divisive foodstuff: genius Asian vegetarian ingredient to some, tasteless rubber to others.  Of course, on its own it is a pretty unremarkable cheese, but it is a cheese that can go into a curry, which makes it a winner for me.  These paneer parcels are similar to a samosa and use the Shahi sauce from the Vini and Bal range, a tomato and cream based sauce, to create a slightly spiced cheese filling.  The addition of some black onion seeds, a chopped green chilli and some fresh coriander give it a kick and the paneer some much-needed flavour.  To accompany these parcels is a simple mint-chilli chutney that has a freshness to cut through the rich pastry and filling.


The recipe below makes 15 parcels.  Double the recipe if you have a larger group of veggies in attendance.

Shahi Paneer Parcels

  • Olive oil
  • 225g paneer, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Vini and Bal’s Shahi sauce
  • Small handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 10 sheets filo pastry

Mint-Chilli Chutney

  • 3 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped coriander
  • 3 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Gently fry the paneer for a few minutes until lightly coloured, then stir in the black onion seeds and chilli and cook for a few minutes more.  Pour over the Vini and Bal’s Shahi sauce and stir to combine.  Continue to cook over a medium heat for approximately 20 minutes – the sauce should thicken and reduce by about a third in this time.    Turn off the heat.

Lay one sheet of filo pastry on a clean work surface, brush with olive oil and lay another sheet on top.  With the pastry in ‘portrait’ (short edge facing you), slice in three lengthways, giving you three long strips.  Spoon a couple of teaspoons of the Shahi mixture on to the top of each strip, before folding over to enclose in a triangle, brush with olive oil and fold over again.  Keep repeating this process, folding in a triangle formation, until all of the pastry has been used up and the parcel resembles a triangular samosa.  Brush with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Repeat this until all of the filo and Shahi mixture has been used up.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.  To make the chutney, pulse all of the ingredients together in a food processor and spoon into ramekins.

More abut Vini and Bal’s here