London: Scandi lunch at Aster

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The building works near Victoria station has been going on for years, but now some parts of the development are finally ready. The rest is still a building site but the whole Nova area is brand new and quite exciting. There’s a Shake Shack (yum!), Franco Manca (yes, please!) and lots more restaurants to explore. The Scandinavian one was the first one I tried out, with my dear friends Gaby and Rowena for lunch one weekend.

Aster, as the restaurant is called, has a very nice interior (like all D&D London restaurants) and has a café area, restaurant area, bar and deli.

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We had lunch in the café area but it still felt restauranty enough for a lunch.

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With lots of familiar items on the menu it was difficult to choose but we got there in the end.

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Gaby had the meatballs with potato mash, cream sauce and lingonberries. Really nice and I got a small case of food envy (even though my homemade meatballs are really nice too!).

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I went for the smørrebrød (open-faced Danish sandwiches). One with pork belly, apple sauce and lovely crackling on rye.

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And one with prawns and mayonnaise. The pork sandwich was lovely and ticked all the boxes but I was disappointed with the prawn sandwich. It tasted nice, but I would have expected at least the double amount of prawns. Smørrebrød always have more toppings than bread but here that wasn’t the case.

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Rowena had the Aster Caeser salad with prawns, smoked vendace and rye croutons, but it arrived without the fish on the plate (!) and we had to ask for it. Then it took quite a while until the complete salad arrived and it was also smaller in size than the first one.

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The food was nice though (not wow – but nice) so we had pudding as well. Rowena had the apple cake with custard above which was really nice.

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And Gaby and I had a cinnamon bun each which was amazing. Still warm, buttery and lovely. We also spied people around us having afternoon tea which looked great so definitely want to go back and try that.

There are definitely a few tweaks to be done here, both when it comes to food and service (it was rather slow and wobbly) but hopefully it was all teething problems and it’s fixed now.

Aster restaurant, 150 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5LB

Steak sandwich with spinach and parmesan

During the two weeks I stayed with my friend Nick while waiting to move into the new place, I did cook a bit although I missed my own larder and equipment. I mainly re-used old favourites requiring only ordinary ingredients found in any corner shop, but you can still make some really nice things out of basic ingredients.

Like this steak sandwich for example. The taste of crispy buttery bread and rare steak is divine, and with some green leaves, mayonnaise and good parmesan this a true delight.

Steak sandwich with spinach and parmesan, serves 1

200-300 g sirloin steak

1 ciabatta

salted butter and oil for frying

1-2 tbsp good mayonnaise, like Hellman’s or homemade

1 handful baby spinach

parmesan shavings

salt, black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Season the meat. Cut the ciabatta in half. Heat up a frying pan with butter and oil on medium heat. Fry the bread crispy and golden and remove to a plate. Turn the heat up to high and fry the meat for a minute on either side. Remove to another plate and let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes.

Spread mayonnaise on the breads and top with spinach. Trim the meat and slice it. Divide the meat slices between the breads and top with parmesan shavings, ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tuck in!

Calamari, wild garlic mayo, asparagus and potato wedges

We had this lovely supper one day in the middle of the week, last week. Why? Because we can. No, but squid is so cheap, and it makes such a lovely summery meal.

The best mayo I’ve ever made is the wild garlic mayo, and thanks to mum who dried some leaves for me I can enjoy this all year round. It didn’t work as well with the dried stuff as the fresh leaves, so next time I will try it with the frozen ones my mum has gathered for me. Mum – you’re the best!

Calamari, serves 2

4-5 squid tubes

3 tbsp semolina

2 tsp paprika powder

a pinch of salt

neutral oil  (vegetable oil/ground nut oil)

For serving:

lime and/or lemon wedges

mayo of some sort

Cut the squid into rings. Pour semolina, paprika powder and salt in a large ziplock bag and shake it. Add the squid rings and shake so the rings get coated by the mixture. Heat up 2 cm high of oil in a large pan. Check that it is hot enough by throwing in a small piece of bread. If it browns it is hot. Remove the bread and add a handful calamari. Beware of the oil splashing about. Fry until the calamaris are golden on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon or tong, drain on some kitchen towel. Fry the remaining squid in a few batches. Serve immediately!