Nopi – almost a year later

When my friends Tobbe and Malin came to visit last week, we had some really nice dining experiences. First up was Nopi, where I went for my birthday last year.

Back then we were a larger group so we sat at a big table on the lower ground floor, whereas this time we sat up on the ground floor.

The food served at Nopi is fresh small plates with unusual flavour combinations. The main menu has three sections; vegetables, fish and meat and there is also a dessert menu. Nopi recommends three small dishes per person, so that’s what we did. We got nine different ones to share.

To start we were served lovely bread to dip in a very grassy olive oil. Really nice but I did miss the dip we got last time.

Roasted aubergine with black garlic, harissa and pine nuts. This dish was nice enough but not spectacular in any way.

The heritage carrot salad with black olives, endive and orange vinaigrette was nice and fresh with nice flavours.

The courgette and manouri fritters with lime yoghurt were nice too, but none of the vegetable dishes we tried said ‘wow’ this time around. Last time those were the best.

But then this came out and blew me away: organic prawns with fennel, feta and Pernod. The prawns were wuite hot and it was really nice with the flecks of salt feta to take the edge off the heat. Also the sauce at the bottom of the pan was delicious. One of my two favourites of the evening.

Scallops with pig’s ear and a sauce made form black beans and ginger was also really nice, although the flavours could have been a little bit stronger. And you can see yourselves that the scallops were perfectly fried. Yu-um.

Malin ate this lovely fried seabass with smoked labneh and pickled lemon when Tobbe and I had the seafood.

She also had this twice-cooked chicken with myrtle salt and chilli sauce that I had last time too. I think this is a staple on the menu and so for a reason.

Tobbe’s choice of sirloin with baby leeks and pickled ginger with coriander and chilli salsa. Nice flavours!

The second of my two favourties was this incredibly tender and flavoursome ox cheek with horseradish cream and sour cherries. Amazing!

Although we didn’t over order we were still incredibly full at the end of our meal and struggled with the last few forkfuls, so there was no way we could have dessert. Instead we went to a nice bar and cocktails – less filling that way.

21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE

Ottolenghi inspired beans with spring onions and feta

I have probably raved about Ottolenghis vegetarian cookbook Plenty enough for you to know that I love it and use it quite a lot.

The only ‘problem’ I have with the some of the recipes are the more uncommon ingredients that are sometimes required. At least uncommon when not found in a London supermarket. If you live in the countryside and have your own garden it is of course different.

I found a lovely recipe of fried butterbeans with feta, springonions and sorrel. Sorrel being that difficult ingredient to find in a London supermarket this time of year.

Because of omitting the sorrel and making a few other substitutes, this is not an Ottolenghi recipe anymore, but close enough. If you want the real deal, then look in his book and make sure you source some sorrel.

I ate this bean salad as it is with some nice bread for supper, but you can easily serve it as a side dish at a barbecue, instead of mash with sausages or any other way you want.

Ottolenghi inspired beans with spring onions and feta, serves 2

1 can (400g) cannellini beans

plenty of butter and oil for frying

1 garlic clove

1 red chilli, finely chopped

8 spring onions, chopped

2 tsp sumac

1/2 lemon, the juice

1/2 tsp salt

more olive oil

as much crumbled feta as you like

Rinse the beans and drain. Heat up the butter and oil in a frying pan and only add enough beans to cover the bottom, to fry them in batches. Fry until the beans are golden brown, remove and fry the other batch(es). Add the garlic, chilli and onions to the last batch. Fry for a couple of minutes and add the other beans. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and sumac. Add salt and olive oil and lastly the feta.

Potluck lunch and caramelized garlic tart

On Sunday a bunch of us were invited to Jess and Chris for a potluck lunch and some board games. A perfect Sunday activity!

The hos and hostess had made a lovely coucous salad with feta and also contributed with nice breads. Ben had made a hearty casserole (more like a hash really) with potatioes, sausage and onions and Tom had made a chicken liver paté which was really nice. David and Debbie brought hams and salamis, and some brought wine.

I contributed with marinaded pork fillet and a caramelized garlic tart I have had my eye on for quite a while.

Jess had also made a dessert, that looked like a trifle but was brownies and meringues covered with cream and creme fraiche. Lovely! And Felicity made a gluten free crumble with a crunchy top. Yum!

I must say it was a really good spread and such fun when everyone contributes!

The tart I made is courtesy of Ottolenghi and it features (of course) in my favourite cookbook Plenty.

It is easy to make as you use ready made puff pastry and it has apart from the obvious caramelized garlic also two types of goat’s cheese in it. I used a mild creamy one but instead of the hard goat’s cheese I used Ossau-Iraty, made of ewe’s milk instead. It worked really well, and the tart was exactly so good as I expected it to be. I will definitely make it again, and I think you should all try it too. It does not disappoint.

Caramelized garlic tarte, serves 6

375 g puff pastry

3 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp balsamic vingear (I used double)

220 ml water

3/4 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp chopped rosemary

1 tsp chopped thyme

120 g mild and creamy goat’s cheese

120 g hard goat’s cheese (I used Ossau-Iraty instead)

2 eggs

100 ml double cream

100 ml creme fraiche

Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the puff pastry and cover the bottom and sides of a quiche dish with it. Put parchment paper and ceramic beads on top and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove and bake until golden brown for another 15 minutes or so. Turn the oven down to 160C.

While the puff is baking, place the garlic in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and add the garlic back to the pan and add the olive oil too. Fry for about 2 minutes, then add the water and balsamic vinegar. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes, then add the sugar and herbs and cook for another 10 minutes or until the liquid is dark and syrupy.

Assemble the tart by shredding the cheese into the pastry case, then add the garlic and the syrup and distribute. Combine eggs, cream and creme fraiche, salt and pepper and pour it into the pastry case. Bale for about 40 minutes in 160C or until the filling is set and the tart is golden brown. Serve warm or lukewarm. Reheats well.

Smoky polenta chips (and burgers)

We had burgers and chips for dinner one day last week. With one big twist; it was polenta chips. And they tasted of smoked cheese.

Unfortunately I can’t take credit for this amazing recipe, that fame belongs to Yotam Ottolenghi, but I am very happy to spread the word.

OK, they’re probably worse to eat from a health perspective than regular chips, but they are so so SO very good. They melt in your mouth and the smokiness is just perfect with the mellow texture. In grams, they contain just as much cheese as polenta, plus they are dipped in flour and then deep-fried, so not exactly healthy. But who cares?!

Smoky polenta chips, serves 3

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe.

375 ml vegetable stock

60 g quick polenta

20 g butter

60 g smoked cheese (the recipe calls for scamorza affumicata, but I used ‘Bavarian smoked cheese’)

salt, pepper

1 dl plain flour

500 ml vegetable (or other neutral) oil

Bring the stock to the boil and add the polenta bit by bit while stirring. Let it simmer for 5 minutes while continue to stir. Remove from the heat and add butter and cheese. Stir to incorporate evenly.

Line a square or rectangular dish (mine was 20 cm and square) with clingfilm and spread the polenta into it, evenly. Leave to cool and place in fridge for at least an hour to set. Remove from the fridge, place the polenta square onto a chopping board and cut it into chip-size pieces. Coat these with flour. Heat up 1-2 cm high with oil in a frying or sauteuse pan until very hot. Deep fry the chips until golden. Drain on kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Burgers, makes 5

500 g lean beef mince

1 egg

50 ml breadcrumbs or one slice of white bread, edges removed and crumbled

1 tsp onion granules

salt, white pepper

2 tbsp  Reggae Reggae sauce or similar

Add egg and breadcrumbs to a bowl. Add the onions, seasoning and sauce. Stir and leave it to swell for a few minutes. Add the mince and mix well with a wooden fork. Divide the meat into 5 even pieces and shape liek burgers. Fry in butter and oil until either medium or well done, according to taste. 

Ottolenghi’s one pot wonder

As I might have told you several times already, I am a huge fan of Ottolenghi’s cooking. Mostly I adore his cookbook Plenty but I also like the Ottolenghi cookbook that was published before Plenty.

This recipe is another one of his creations, an all-in-one-pan-kind-of-meal with quite basic ingredients (potatoes, onions, chilli, garlic, yoghurt, eggs) and some unusual seasoning (sumac and tahini) but it made a perfect weekday supper, would be perfect for breakfast or to cure any bad hangover.

Unfortunately I was all out of tahini without realising it, when I made this dish, so I substituted for the next best thing; za’atar and that worked really well.

Ottolenghi’s one pot wonder, serves 2

Adapted from Ottolenghi’s recipe.

olive oil

3 onions, thinly sliced (I only used one red onion)

200 g baby potatoes, sliced into 5 mm thick slices

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

1/2 tbsp sumac

salt & black pepper

1/2 tsp caster sugar

1 clove of garlic, pressed

100 g Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp olive oil

300 g cherry tomatoes on the vine

4 eggs

1,5 tbsp tahini paste (I used 1 tbsp of za’atar instead)

1 tbsp chopped coriander (which I forgot)

Heat up olive oil in a sauteuse pan. Add the onions, potatoes, chilli, sumac, salt and pepper and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Then add sugar and garlic, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Mix yoghurt, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl and set aside. In a seperate pan, add the tomatoes, vine facing up, when the pan is hot and cook the tomatoes for 3-4 minutes until well charred. Remove from the pan.

Spread the potatoes and onions evenly in its pan and break four eggs on top. Try to keep the yolks whole. Fry for three minutes, until the whites start to set. Then cover and cook for another minute or two for the whites to set completely. Add dollops of the yoghurt, avoiding the yolks, then sprinkle with tahini or za’atar (again, avoiding the yolks). Place the tomatoes, still on the vine, on top and sprinkle with coriander. Serve straight from the pan. 

More birthday celebrations: Nopi

The Friday after my biryhday I got to celebrate becoming a year older together with my London based friends. We met up in the bar The Living Room after work and enjoyed a few drinks, and then we crossed Regent St and went for dinner at Nopi, a new restaurant from the team behind Ottolenghi.

Our table was a large communal one in the basement just outside the kitchen. On the ground floor is was a different atmosphere with small tables of two and four and busier than downstairs. We enjoyed being left alone a bit and to enjoy each other’s company.

To start with we were served homemade nice bread and the most amazing carrot dip. It was all orange (of course) and we could taste lemon and cumin in it. A great start to the meal, and a dip I definitely want the recipe for!

We were a group of eight, and therefore had a group menu, consisting of eight dishes all in all. We started off with two vegetarian dishes, both absolutely fantastic. The first one was a tomato salad with wasabi mascarpone. It sounds simple and it was, but the flavours were lovely. The tomatoes were great produce and the mascarpone dressing had just a hint of wasabi, enough to flavour it but not enough to make it spicy.

We also had an aubergine tart on crisp thin pastry with the mildest and creamiest goat’s cheese I have ever tasted. Fabulous dish, especially for aubergine lovers like me!

The first of the hot dishes to arrive was grilled mackerel with lentils. My sensitive stomach can’t really do lentils, but I had a forkful anyway and it was really nice. A very fresh and summery dish.

The nicest dish (I think we all agreed on that) was one of the simplest ones; broccolini and a most amazing mash. I have never had such a good mash in my life time, and yet my own versions are quite good. 🙂

Next was the meat dishes, like this smoked duck breast with nectarines, beetroot and a sweet sauce. The meat itself was perfect and had a lovely smoked flavour, but I didn’t tink the necatines and beetroot was a great match, not for each other and not with the duck.

We then had twice cooked (barbecued) chicken, which was really nice, but it is still just chicken. I prefer to eat more unusual things in restaurant, things I can’t cook myself…

For dessert we had white chocolate icecream (lovely but didn’t taste that much of white chocolate) with berries and financiers with coffee and pecans, with a maple cream.

I am not that keen on coffee, but this was just a hint and it worked really well with the pecans. The maple cream was superb and after a while we came up with the ultimate way of eating this dessert (i.e. getting as much cream onto the financiers) by dipping the whole little cake into the sauce bowl. Yum!

We were full in a nice way when leaving the restaurant just before midnight, and I definitely want to go back. The food feels quite healthy and I love the Middle Eastern spices.

21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE