Friday, 31 August 2012

Crab cakes

I was reading this Guardian Word of Mouth piece on crab cakes last week, and realised that I'd never eaten one. I'm sure I've had fish cakes with a lot of potato and a hint of crab, but not these American-style crab cakes which have very little filler. So I thought I'd rectify that this weekend.
I used Felicity Cloake's basic recipe, but made a few adjustments based on ingredient availability and the flavours I like.

Recipe (enough for 4-5 crab cakes):

100g fresh crab (half white meat, half brown meat like this one)
100g tinned crab (ideally lump crab)
2 small, mild spring onions, finely sliced
Around 2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
Around 1 tbsp finely grated grana padano cheese (or similar hard cheese)
A grating of nutmeg
Generous sprinkle of paprika
A bit of salt and pepper to season
A couple of tbsp of plain flour for coating
Sunflower oil for frying

Combine all of the above, except the oil, to form a mixture that is firm enough to form into cake shapes. Lightly dust with plain flour, and refrigerate for an hour or so. I used some brown crab meat in my mix and this seemed to create enough moisture to bind everything so I didn't need to add any egg. Once they've firmed up in the fridge, heat a shallow layer of oil in a large frying pan and when it's hot (but not smoking) gently place the crab cakes in. They are quite delicate, but were relatively easy to turn after a few minutes on each side. Everything in them is cooked, so you're really just heating the crab through and browning the outside a bit.

I really liked these crab cakes served with a bit of salad. They were crispy on the outside, but soft inside, with the brown meat contributing a strong crab flavour. I added a bit of cheese as I quite like to defy convention and have some with seafood, but actually you couldn't really taste it. I think it helped a bit with binding though. I will definitely be making these crab cakes again, but I think I might add some stronger flavours such as chilli, and maybe garlic, as I've found that these combine well with brown crab meat. But anyway, I can now successfully cross crab cakes off the 'to eat' list.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Wahaca, Soho, London, UK

I remember watching Thomasina Miers winning Masterchef many years ago, before the programme developed its comedy edge. She was super-keen on promoting Mexican food, and has done a sterling job since then by opening the Wahaca group of restaurants across London. My knowledge of Mexican food remains limited, but Wahaca has been on my list of central London places to visit for absolutely ages. I am obviously on a roll, as after my recent Dishoom success I followed up by making it to Wahaca a couple of weeks ago.
The Soho branch was absolutely packed when we visited on a weekday evening, but we only had a short wait before we were shown to a table. The Male Companion Person and I shared a main course and range of side dishes, so managed to taste a good range of the fish and vegetarian bits of the menu.

Fish tacos were essentially slightly exotic fishfinger sandwiches, which is no bad thing. If our substantial food order hadn't obscured the bottles, I probably would have added some hot sauce to spice these up a little though. The seasonal squid special, which though flavourful and non-chewy, could have done with something lighter than the thick breadcrumb coating they came in.

We also ordered a big green salad, fried sweet potatoes, and some frijoles. So basically quite a lot of food for two people. I particularly loved the warm frijoles topped with cheese, which was rich and exceptionally moreish (not something you can often say about mashed beans).

I got a bit over-excited at the thought of churros, so we had some of those too. This was the other thing I really loved- fried donuts with a dark chocolate sauce. If they had provided a spoon I would have scooped that sauce more directly into my face too.

So I really liked Wahaca. For me the stand-out dishes were the frijoles and the churros, but everything else tasted fresh and was more than pleasant. The restaurant had a nice buzzy atmosphere, and a special mention has to go to our server-person Maciej (I think); he was obviously looking after several large groups as well as us but was still friendly, efficient and helpful, and did not laugh at me when I completely messed up using the card terminal. Wahaca also seems very reasonably priced for central London, as all the above food, a couple of beers, and a non-alcoholic drink was about £35 (without service). I would happily visit Wahaca again, and well done to Tommi Miers for getting her mini-food empire off the ground too.

Wahaca Soho
80 Wardour Street
London W1F OTF

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Elizabeth Shaw chocolate

I have always found it hard to say no to chocolate in any form, so when a nice person from Elizabeth Shaw asked if I'd like to try some of their chocolate I responded in the affirmative. I also thought it would be a good chance to try out something completely new to me. In fact, it turned out that I had eaten some Elizabeth Shaw chocolate previously as they make some very acceptable amaretto flavour chocolate straws (or flutes as they seem to call them) that I enjoyed (a.k.a. scoffed a lot of) last year.

The company have now expanded their established range of mint chocolate crisps and added some new flavours which include caramel, honeycomb, butterscotch and a darker chocolate with cocoa nibs. These come in a number of selection boxes and also in bar form. I have to say that I couldn't tell much difference between the butterscotch, honeycomb, and caramel flavours as they all contained bits of honeycomb in them. But they were also very nice, and as the 'crisps' were actually bite-sized discs they did a good job of filling the need for a hit of sweetness after dinner. The cocoa nibs were not embedded in the darkest of chocolate, but it was still pretty decent. And I'm all in favour of not limiting mint chocolate to the Christmas holidays, so enjoyed those too.

So overall, I quite liked these chocolates. They haven't got the funkiest of brand names, but the actual product is pretty good with a few novel twists.

Elizabeth Shaw Chocolates
I rate them: 7.5/10
Cost: From around £2.00 for a bar.

Thanks to Elizabeth Shaw who sent me my chocolate for free and gratis.