London: tapas at Rambla, Soho

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The summer is always really hectic for me, especially since I go home to Sweden for two weeks in August, and that’s why this blog post is so late; I’ve been playing catch-up since then.

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The last week in July is also extra busy because it’s both my own and my dear friend Gaby’s birthdays that week. Just before I go home!

The Friday night was Gaby’s night (and her actual birthday) so after doing my last errands for my trip it was so lovely to arrive to Rambla in Soho and have a nice dinner with the girls!

Rambla is a fairly new tapas restaurant in London, with mainly Catalan food and we were all very excited to try it!

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We started with bubbles – always appropriate when there’s a birthday to celebrate! The cava was really nice, so I recommend you all to think of something to celebrate when you go here. IMG_2096.jpg

Then we ordered a bunch of dishes for all five of us to share around the table. First off were the classic padron pappers. They never disappoint with their saltiness!

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Next we had these delicious croquetas with spinach and pine nut. Yum!

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And chorizo! It was all about the classics to start.

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Then we feasted on crispy fried artichokes with saffron aioli and the most tender octopus with fried garlic and herb sauce. Delicious! I so love to eat this way; picking from plates, trying little bites of everything while chatting away with friends sipping cava.

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One of the favourites of the evening was this hearty and cheesy (yum!) oxtail canelones with navat cheese and caramelised onions. Drool!

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The birthday girl divided it evenly, although I think most of us would happily have had one each. But it was too rich. Especially since we had more yummy cheese to eat…

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This whole baked Navat cheese with crudités and bread to dip was divine too! We were scraping the bottom of the dish in the end, never letting a morsel of good cheese go to waste.

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The classic patatas bravas arrived late as an after thought (I think they forgot them to be honest) but we happily mucnhed our way through these lovely crisp potato bites.

The food here is excellent (especially the octopus and the oxtail canalones!) but the service was a bit of a let down. Some things were forgotten and we had to keep reminding the waiters. After two bottles of cava they didn’t have any more cold ones so we had to swap to rosé cava instead. It’s all little things, but things you expect to run smoothly, and since it was a birthday celebration it was very unfortunate.

With this in mind I’ll still highly recommend Rambla – the food is worth it! – and hopefully they’ve sorted out these kinks by now. Race you to the baked cheese?!

Rambla, 64 Dean St, Soho, London W1D 4QG

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Recipe: Queso fundido!

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Mexican cheese dip. With chorizo and peppers. Melting, bubbly and comforting. I simply cannot think of a better way to start a mid-week cold January supper with some of my closest friends. It was like a warming cheesy hug, telling us if we persevered we would get through the month. Et voila!, it’s February!

We also had prosecco, tacos and lots of fun, which helped.

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But back to the dip. It’s very easy to make and so satisfying to eat. But have plenty of napkins to hand as it is a little messy. Also, be patient and wait for the dip to be completely melted when you serve it. I would suggest putting it in the oven 30 minutes or so before the guests are due to arrive. You can always cover it with tin foil and lower the temperature to keep it hot and bubbling.

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The chorizo and peppers add a lot of flavour to the otherwise unexciting grated mozzarella (I was a little worried it wouldn’t be cheesy enough but it was). But I can’t help but thinking it could be made even better with the addition of jalapenos next time. Stay tuned…

Queso fundido, serves 4

75 g cooking chorizo, finely chopped

1/2 pepper, finely chopped

500 g grated mozzarella

oil for frying

a pinch of cayenne or other chilli powder

To serve: tortilla chips

Fry the chorizo in oil until crispy. Set aside and fry the pepper in the chorizo oil. Drain on kitchen roll. 

In an oven-proof dish, put a layer of cheese, then scatter chorizo and peppers on top and repeat the process until all ingredients are used up. Sprinkle with cayenne and put in a 200C oven until melted and bubbly (approx 40 mins). Serve immediately with tortilla chips.  

Peruvian food at Ceviche, Soho

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Still going through the posts from last year, this is definitely a review I want to share with you:

My flatmate Daisy and I wanted a fun Soho dinner after work one day in the autumn and decided on Ceviche which be both really wanted to try.

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We started off with fantastic pisco sours, and then had wine with the food. Only to have some more cocktails after dinner – I’m not a huge cocktail fun but these were great, especially those pisco sours.

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Food-wise we started with cheese puffs with quince, chilli and sour cream. I remember them being crunchy and nice, the sweet and the sour taking the edge off the fried stuff.

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Obviously we had ceviche in the place called ceviche and this one with seabass, chilli, red onions and sweet potato crisps was seriously good!

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These crispy parcels with pork, spices (more chilli) and coriander were also really nice. The texture of the pork was stringy and soft, just like pulled pork.

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One of my favourites was our second ceviche, with razor clams with chilli and borage. So delicious!

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I also really liked these skewers with extremely tender octopus and fiery chorizo, with coriander mash underneath. Amazing!

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The token vegetable dish was the grilled asparagus with chilli mayo. It worked well with our dishes and was really nice on its own too.

I must say I really enjoyed out visit here and can’t wait to go back. The busy atmosphere, the loudness and the very many tables crammed into the restaurant area together with the excellent food and drink just transports you to South America for the night. Another pisco sour, please!

Ceviche Soho, 17 Frith Street, London W1D 4RG

Tapas at home

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We had some wonderful summer evenings in Sweden and on one of them, we pretended we were in Spain, eating a few homemade tapas dishes. Washing it down with a glass of rosé it was easy to imagine us being near the Mediterranean, instead of the Baltic.

We started with a few pinxtos with salmon and mayonnaise. I’ve eaten many of these in Spain, but they look a bit different in the Basque pinxtos bar, with the salmon chopped and mixed in with the mayonnaise. Flavour wise they’re the same though, and the reason I skipped the shopping was because I was already hangry and prolonging the intake of food would just make matters worse.

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I also made my first ever tortilla! It tasted wonderful, but it’s much flatter than they usually are because I halved the recipe as it was for 6 people. I recommend you make the full recipe so it looks proper though, and the leftovers are yummy to eat the following day too.

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My dad LOVES chorizo so we decided to fry some and serve it with soft peppers in oil. This worked perfectly together with the eggy tortilla.

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Another favourite of ours is the garlicky prawns we order every time we have tapas. This was the first time I made them at home and thought they tasted ‘right’, which just proves how good the cookbook I found the recipe in actually is. Large prawns are best for this dish, but as Sweden has lots of the smaller cold water prawns we used mainly those and it still tasted great!

We also had some other nibbly bits like olives, cured ham (sadly not Spanish Jamon but prosciutto works too) and pickled garlic. I had the intention of making ham croquetas as well but they take a while to make and we were out and about during the day. Instead I made them the day after as a starter and they were divine. Recipe to follow in a separate post.

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Tortilla de patatas (Spanish tortilla), serves 6

Adapted from Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy.

4 medium potatoes, peeled and halved 

1 onion, peeled and halved 

8 eggs

sea salt 

400 ml olive oil

Thinly slice the potato halves, cut  side down. Do the same with the onion.

Pour the olive oil into a deep frying pan and add the thinly sliced onion. Place over a high heat. Once the onion starts to sizzle (this should take about 5 minutes), add the sliced potatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are soft and cooked through. The potatoes and onions should have browned on the edges. Remove the potatoes and onions from the pan and set aside. 

Break the eggs into a large bowl but don’t whisk them. Add the hot potatoes and onions to the eggs season with salt while the potatoes are sitting on top. Carefully mix through; use a fork to break up the eggs but don’t over-mix – just give the mixture a few loops with a fork. If you can, leave the mixture to rest for half an hour to allow the flavours to develop. 

To make the tortilla place a non-stick pan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the pan is hot add the egg mixture. Do not stir the contents of the pan! 

After about 3 minutes you should be able to ease the tortilla from the edge of the pan using a spatula. At this point, cover the pan with a plate (it needs to be larger than the pan). Hold firmly with both hands and flip the pan over on to the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the pan for the other side to cook. Place back on the heat for another 2 minutes (the inside will then be a little runny, but if you want it cooked through, just lower the heat and cook for a few more minutes). 

Chorizo with peppers, serves 3

1 chorizo ring 

oil for frying 

1/2 jar grilled peppers in oil

Remove the skin on the chorizo and cut into 7 cm long pieces. Cut in half lenthways and fry for about 5 minutes on both sides in some oil. Drain the peppers and cut into strips. Add to the chorizo in the pan until warm. Transfer to a bowl and serve. 

Gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns), serves 2

Adapted from Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy.

12 raw king prawns 

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

100 ml olive oil

3 dried chillies (I didn’t have any so used a pinch of cayenne pepper instead)

sea salt

1 tbsp chopped parsley

Peel the prawns and sprinkle with salt. Add oil, garlic and chilli to a frying pan and place over high heat. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add the prawns. Cook for 1 minute on each side, until they just turn pink. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and served immediately in a bowl. Preferably with some bread to dip in the lovely oil. 

Sweet potato fritters with coriander yoghurt and chorizo

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I really like this kind of lighter dishes for my supper. It’s still cooked food so feels like a proper dinner, just not as heavy. The coriander yoghurt is a nice, fresh contrast to the sweeter and earthier flavours of the fritters. Get in!

Sweet potato fritters with coriander yoghurt and chorizo, serves 2

1 large sweet potato, peeled and grated

70 g plain flour

1 egg

60 ml milk

1 tskp cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or chilli flakes

salt, black pepper

10 cm chorizo, chopped

Sauce:

250 ml thick Greek yoghurt

1 decent bunch coriander 

1/2 lime, the juice

1 tbsp olive oil

salt, white pepper

Mix yoghurt and coriander with a blender. Add olive oil. Season to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper.  

Mix eggs and flour in a bowl. Add the milk and whisk until no lumps. Add the grated sweet potatp, spices, salt and pepper. Fry in butter and oil on medium heat until golden brown and cooked through. Remove and fry the chorizo pieces until crisp. Plate up and serve with the coriander yoghurt and chopped coriander.

Baked butternut squash with chorizo and feta

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This simple yet very tasty dish was my supper on Sunday night. I kind of forgot about supper until it was half past eight and by then I couldn’t really be bothered to make anything time consuming as Homeland was about to start at nine. And luckily the oven pretty much cooks this for you. Just a little chopping required from the cook.

bnut3The combination of sweet, salty and spicy is always a winner but especially during the colder months as it really warms you up from within.

Baked butternut squash with chorizo and feta, serves 2

1 medium butternut squash, about 400-500 g

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

a pinch of salt

100g feta, crumbled

60-70 g chorizo, sliced/cubed

Wash the squash, cut in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Cut into large chunks, keeping the skin on. Drizzle with olive oil in an ovenproof dish and season with cumin, smoked paprika and a little salt. Roast in 200C for 20-30 minutes or until soft.

Add the chorizo and crumbled feta to the dish and put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Squid with chorizo, cannellini beans, spinach and aioli

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One reason I love living in London is of course the restaurant scene. It is ever changing and evolving and I love (and hate!) the fact that I can’t keep up. Eating out inspires me a lot as a home cook but it is not always the most impressive and technically difficult dishes that appeal the most.

Since I had a similar version of this squid dish at Terroirs in October I have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to cook it since. So when Laura, another squid lover, came for dinner the other week I knew exactly what to cook.

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The Terroirs original has chickpeas instead of my cannellini beans but other than that I think I hit quite close to home. My homecooked dish was just as satisfying and although this is a straight-forward recipe with simple ingredients the combination is just utterly wonderful. (Chorizo is a bit like bacon – whatever you add it to tastes wonderful.) All it requires is some crusty bread and a nice glass of wine.

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Squid with chorizo, cannellini beans, spinach and aioli, serves 4

400 g squid, sliced into rings

150 g chorizo, sliced

1 tin (400g) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained 

250 g fresh spinach

oil for frying

1/2 lemon, the juice

salt, black pepper

To serve:

chopped parsley

aioli (see below)

crusty bread

Fry the chorizo in the oil. Remove from the pan but keep the oil to flash-fry the squid. A few minutes is all you need. Put the chorizo back in the pan and add the beans. Wilt the spinach in a separate pan and add it to the big pan too. Squeeze with lemon juice, season and serve! 

Aioli, serves 4

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

150 ml vegetable oil

1/2 lemon, the juice

salt, white pepper

1 garlic clove, pressed

Place the yolk in a mixing bowl and start whisking. Add the oil drop by drop and gradually in a thin beam. Once the mayonnaise has thickened, add the lemon juice to loosen it. Then start whisking again and incorporate the remaining oil. Add more lemon for flavour as well as salt, pepper and garlic.