Tag: rambling restaurant

A Southern Spread at Rambling Restaurant: Pulled Pork, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and Squirty Cream!

With an American-themed meal at our last Rambling Restaurant, we just had to do a dessert featuring the never-ending source of birthday party fun for all ages:  shakeable whipped cream in a sleek metal canister. They have it over here in the UK, except they call it…squirty cream. I thought that it might be just an affectionate nickname, but nope.  It even says so on the packaging.

Hilarious. Say hello to the squirty cream and a slice of sweet potato pie.  But wait, dessert first? Nothing wrong with that, but let’s rewind a bit to cover this Southern-inspired feast from the beginning. Sadly, I failed to take photos of the slices of warm cornbread with chunks of sweet corn and a dusting of paprika. You’ll just have to imagine them stacked in cute little baskets and served with pretty rounds of colorful green, red, and yellow jalapeno-chile butter.

Next up, shared ramekins of creamy mac & cheese with a crunchy cheddar and ciabatta breadcrumb topping, served up baked, browned, and bubbling.

The main course was a stomach stuffing plate of pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce on freshly baked rolls, dirty rice (made satisfyingly, mouthwateringly dirty with chicken livers sauteed in the trinity of green pepper, celery, and onion), and a light lemony cole slaw.

We had an extreme overabundance of pulled pork, which is never a bad thing, although this picture’s a bit extreme. WARNING: GRATUITOUS PULLED PORK PICTURE AHEAD.

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A Rambling Aphrodisiac Dinner, Complete With Searing Loins and Gin & Tonic Jelly

Hooray! It’s time for another Rambling Restaurant Singles Night featuring an aphrodisiac dinner, so you know things are bound to get hot.  Particularly when you have five people in a veryverycozy kitchen and have fresh bread baking in the oven, a giant vat of soup bubbling on the stove, and ten large pork loins popping and fizzing boiling oil all over the place.

Really. Hot. Temperatures. Luckily, there was also a dining room full of really hot people (yes yes, as in extremely attractive) all mixing and mingling on the other side of the curtain.  To get their taste buds primed and hearts racing, we served four courses featuring ingredients thought to have aphrodisiac qualities.  Of course, both dessert courses featured what is inarguably the most guaranteed aphrodisiac of them all – a large quantity of alcohol. Which is how we started the night as well, with glasses of passionfruit, raspberry and rosebud fizz.

Each cocktail came with a little tag marked with a suit denoting where to sit for your first table, along with some silly icebreaker questions inside to spark conversation or incite passionate debate.  Our eleven brave men and eleven brave women scattered amongst four tables to wait for these shiny happy braids of dough…

…to toast to perfection into these lovely browned plaits with a soft and fluffy white interior.

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Playtime With Boiling Oil: Experimenting With Deep Fried Mars Bars And More

I should be kept far away from deep frying machines.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a crunchy, golden, batter-encrusted item as much as the next arterial disease-scorning glutton.  The problem is, I never know when to stop. I’ll start off with a perfectly reasonable goal, like 15 or 20 deep fried Mars bars. But by the end of the evening, everything that is fit for human consumption and hasn’t been tied down has gotten thrown in the boiling oil and things are just getting out of hand.

hello my little deep fat fryer friend.

Lest that look of horror on your face prevent you from reading further, let me inform you that I didn’t consume all those crispy, glistening, gooey-with-hot-caramel-and-melted-chocolate deep fried candies on my own. Foodrambler and I made the deep fried Mars bars for Burns Night at Rambling Restaurant, a Scottish culinary extravaganza starring our homemade haggis (so not as disgusting as you might think…eventually).  In case you’re wondering, deep fried Mars bars are a genuine Scottish delicacy according to Wikipedia.  To enhance the Scottishness of the dish, foodrambler had the inspired idea to batter the chocolate logs in another Scottish delicacy: the violently (and controversially) orange-colored soft drink known as Irn-Bru.

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Adventures in Haggis Making: Sheep Innards, Beef Kidney Fat, and Fun with a Deep Fryer

A handful of haggis

When I was told we’d be celebrating our Rambling Restaurant Burns Night with poetry, whiskey, and homemade haggis stabbing, my thoughts went like this:

1. Awesome! I’ve always wanted to try haggis.

2. By the way, what’s Burns Night?

3. And while I’m asking…what, exactly, is haggis?

4.  A sheep heart, lung, and liver minced and mixed with oatmeal and onions and stuffed inside a sheep stomach? <gulp> We are definitely going to need that whiskey.

Haggis, to most ignorant Americans like myself, is one of those iconic Scottish associations like kilts, bagpipes, and Mel Gibson covered in blue facepaint and exuding a throaty roar for ‘FREEEEDOOOM!’ We might have heard of it but almost certainly wouldn’t be able to say what it’s made of, only that it has something to do with terrifying animal parts and probably shouldn’t ever be consumed until after seven shots of Scotch.

Well, let me set the record straight on two fronts.

1. As much as you may love William Wallace in a skirt, kilts weren’t invented for another three centuries (one of the many twists of truth contributing to Braveheart being second on a list of ‘most historically inaccurate’ movies ever made).

2.  Haggis is, shockingly, absolutely delicious.

However, it took quite a long time and a lot of work to get it to that point. And I’ll be  honest, there was a fair amount of  grimacing, gagging, nose-holding, and are-we-really-serving-this-to-paying-customers?-questioning along the way.  It all started with my haggis-making partner-in-crime, foodrambler, hunting in vain and then finally securing three lamb’s plucks – the windpipe, heart, lungs and liver – for our haggis adventure. Following this recipe from the Guardian by Tim Hayward, she began the adventure the previous evening by cutting out the windpipes (blecch), boiling the plucks for several hours then leaving them to cool overnight in the murky cooking liquid.

A rubbery white sheep heart above and a massive chunk of liver below. Not exactly the most appetizing start to a meal, is it?  Don’t worry though, there is deliciousness to come…

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Sugar and Spice is Nice at the Rambling Restaurant

Bright colors are nice too.

At the last Rambling Restaurant of 2009, we served a trio of richly colored dips – chickpea hummous, beetroot hummous, and carrot cumin dip. So pretty in pink.

For maximum dippability, we prepared straight-out-of-a-hot-oven-and-onto-the-grill flatbreads. Take Moro flatbread recipe (recipe below), multiply by 15 (eek!) and you have a lot of steaming hot fresh bread  in your future. Also a lot of rolling pin action. Stop whining, it’s good for the arm muscles.

I know making your own bread for a meal sounds thoroughly unrealistic, but this pita-like bread only needs about 20 minutes to sit. This means you can take about five minutes to make the dough, let it sit while you chop vegetables or prepare something else, and have WOW-YOU’RE-AMAZING homemade bread to accompany your meal. Even if it’s only yourself you’re impressing, it’s totally worth it. Especially when you fold it over and stuff it with sauteed spinach and halloumi cheese and roasted eggplant and other such delights.

We followed up the onslaught of foldable starch and pretty bowls of mush with a Turmeric Lime Chili Chicken over a Roasted Eggplant, Pomegranate Seed, Scallion, Parsley, Mint, Tomato Fattoush with a dollop of Cumin Yogurt Sauce. It’s a lot of ingredients that somehow all work in symbiotic grace to produce a happy mouthful of amazing.

But a discussion of odd-sounding ingredients that don’t really seem like they’d work together but actually will blow your mind would not be complete without Chef foodrambler’s dessert: Orange Blossom Almond Polenta Cake with Coriander Syrup.  You might not think you like coriander, but I DARE you not to like this cake. I like this cake so much I am actually going to make it right now for a Christmas Eve Day Brunch.  I also like you enough to show you this pretty picture which does no justice to the rich, moist, exotically sweet and just a touch of spicy cake perfection.

Garnish with a twist of orange, a sprig of cilantro, and a spoonful of honeyed syrup with dots of coriander seeds.  Staring at this picture makes me very happy that this cake is only several hours in my future.  For those of you gluten-free people out there (sis Irene Bean is testing out a potential gluten allergy),  this cake is made with polenta and not flour. Woohoo!

Now go find yourself some cake too. Happy holidays!

Moro Flatbread

What You Need:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried yeast
a bit less than 1/2 a cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil

NOTE: this amount makes about four small-plate size flatbreads, enough for one very very hungry carb fiend like me, or two normal people. Multiply appropriately depending on your eating party’s level of carbophilia.

What You Do:

1. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl and activate the yeast in the water, if necessary.

2. Slowly pour the water and yeast into the flour and incorporate by hand. Once all the liquid has been mixed in, punch the dough around for a few minutes. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour. Add the oil and keep kneading until you have a single ball of dough with a relatively smooth texture and a bit shiny with oil.

3. Let sit, covered with a damp tea towel, for about 20 minutes.

4. Pull off small balls, larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball, and roll them out to your desired thickness onto a sturdy floured surface. A good rolling pin is handy here, but floured wine bottles work just as well.  We decided to go super-thin at Rambling Restaurant, but I like the thick and fluffy kind too.

5. Once the dough has been rolled out, you can either put them on a lightly floured baking tray or a lightly oiled pan. At RR, we decided to do both – stick it in a hot oven until they puff up and lose their wet doughy sheen, then finish off on a griddle pan for some tasty brownedness. Either way is delicious.

6.  Cook until puffy, browned, and yearning to jump into your mouth. Dip in something tasty and pat yourself on the back for having produced your very own homemade bread. That is, if your hands aren’t busy tearing apart your creation and stuffing it in your mouth.

like you enough to leave you with a picture so you can start drooling yourself.

Holiday Happiness With Perfect Pork Shoulder and Crunchy Crackling

One of the most deliciously useful bits of knowledge I have gained so far in my time in London: how to roast a perfect pork shoulder, complete with addictive crunchy little strips of crackling on the top. At Rambling Restaurant a few weeks ago, chef foodrambler made a classic Sunday roast from the excellent River Cottage MEAT book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. While flipping through the cookbook, I happened upon this recipe for Aromatic Shoulder of Pork ‘Donnie Brasco,’ so named because you can put it in the oven on low heat overnight and ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’ Oh Hugh F-W, you are hilarious. Also, a meat genius.

Since the mere reading of the recipe made my stomach grumble with longing, we decided to make the pork shoulder for three consecutive Rambling Restaurant suppers. After a day’s worth of roasting, you pry apart the brittle outer shell of crackling and dig through a shuddering layer of burning hot pork fat to find the most perfect, tender, juicy, falls-apart-with-the-tug-of-a-fork meat. Shredded with two dueling forks and bathed in an impromptu soy-hoisin-chili-garlic-leftover spring roll dipping sauce mixture, we had guests raving that it was the best pulled pork they’d ever tasted.  And so I recreated it for my family back home in Boston, introducing them to the joy that is garlic and spice-rubbed, high heat-blasted pig skin.  Here’s the recipe so you can do it yourself, very very slightly adapted from Hugh F-W’s recipe in ingredients and time, should you decide at lunch that pork shoulder is essential for dinner, without quite enough time to ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’

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All The Single Lads, Put Your Hands Up

To paraphrase Beyonce, we’re calling all the single lads!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5qx-MVrXfk&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

Rambling Restaurant is looking for some hot male action.  Why, you ask? Do we need a reason? Well, we’ve got one here:

‘Due to popular demand, on Thursday 3rd December & Friday 4th December we are holding a Lone Ramblers’ & Rambling Roses’ Singles Night at Rambling Restaurant!

It’s a 3-course dinner party of aphrodisiac foods & music. Lone Ramblers (gentlemen) and Rambling Roses (ladies) share tables and bring your own booze (no corkage fee). Lone Ramblers move tables every course to keep it lively. Who knows what might happen?!’

We’ve already sold all the Rambling Roses tickets, so it’s time to spread the word amongst your single male friends to get their asses in gear. An evening of great food, wine, music and a cozy room full of available women? Yes, Rambling Restaurant can make your wildest dreams come true.  According to Kanye West, it’s going to be ‘ONE OF THE BEST NIGHTS OF ALL TIME.’


Lone Ramblers,  get your tickets here for the Thursday the 3rd  or here for the Friday the 4th.

We hope to see you there…but not in the outfits like JT and Andy Samberg in the above video, okay? Best to leave a little to the imagination.

Rambling Restaurant Fun: Ninety-Nine Bottles of Wine on the Wall

Thursday’s Rambling Restaurant was a boozy festival of wine tasting and matching canapes  – so many glasses of alcohol that I’m amazed I could stand up straight long enough to take any of these photos. We partnered with the lovely and charming Dan of Bibendum Wines to do a casual and relaxed evening event in our usual secret location. Dan ‘liberated’ a serious stock of bottles from the Bibendum stores for us – Champagne, Riesling, Chardonnay, Malbec, Chianti, and an excellent dessert wine – all matched with bite-size hor d’oeuvres such as the Zamorano cheese with quince jelly and persimmon, above. Below, tasting notes with parmesan crisps awaiting their toppings for the first round of canapes.

The full line-up of booze and bites below…

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Rambling Restaurant Fun, Part One: Summer Rolls and Phenomenal Pork

I’m in the midst of a serious cooking week. Wednesday and Thursday were both Rambling Restaurant nights at our secret location in Camden Town. Tomorrow is our London Thanksgiving party that started as a few friends and has somehow mushroomed to over 20 people and we still didn’t manage to fit everyone we wanted to invite! (Don’t worry though, we’re having a holiday party too and you’re all invited:) Sunday is another Rambling Restaurant, then I fly home to Boston to cook family Thanksgiving. Whew! I’m tired just typing that. Well, actually the soreness in my arms is from all the peeling, chopping, kneading, and rolling I’ve been doing tonight to make three pies and brine two turkeys. Yeeowwwch.

Tonight’s been a primarily solo affair (with Chris’s help on the awkward pouring-brine-into-a-plastic-bag-full-of-raw-turkey action), but luckily the Rambling Restaurants are always fun shared cooking evenings  full of laughter, chatter, catchup on recent nightly activities, dirty jokes, a broken glass or two (or three) and ample glasses of wine to fuel the cooking creativity. Over the last few nights, Chef foodrambler, Michelle, our newest member Sarah and I have served nine different dishes to over forty people. I’ll start with Wednesday’s meal, a classic and relaxing Rambling Restaurant event compared to the hustle and bustle of the next evening’s wine tasting.

Wednesday we served vegetarian Vietnamese summer rolls as a starter – lightly sauced cellophane noodles and an assortment of fresh veggies (carrots, scallions, cucumber, water chestnuts, cilantro) rolled tight in thin rice paper wrappers.  After dipping my fingers in hot water to soften about forty pancakes from their original hardened state, I had some crazyass prune fingers, let me tell you.

Dipped into a sauce of fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy, garlic, scallions, chili and whatever else I put in that I can’t remember,  these bright little bites of freshness are a very happy way to start any meal. But it doesn’t get much better when it’s followed by an insanely good slow-roasted pork shoulder  – rubbed with spices and then whacked into the oven for about nine hours till it falls apart at the poke of a fork into the tenderest shreds of meat.  Mmmmmmmm….way to go foodrambler.

Scored into about centimeter thick strips with a sharp knife, the outer skin becomes the most amazing fatty, crispy, crunchy crackling that is frighteningly addictive. Served on cabbage and egg noodles with a pour of meaty gravy, this dish is pretty much unstoppable. We ended Wednesday night with an apple crumble with cream and a sprinkling of bittersweet caramel dust.  Unfortunately,  I always forget to take pictures of dessert. But don’t worry, I’ve got loads of pictures of the FoodRambler’s amazing canape creations from Thursday, coming up next!

Oh and while I’m posting Rambling Restaurant photos…

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Tapas, Terracotta, and Tons of Tomato Sauce at Rambling Restaurant

Dining Room at Rambling Restaurant

A few weeks ago, Rambling Restaurant explored the world of tapas with enough food to feed a small Spanish village.  Chef foodrambler devised a wide-ranging, drool-inducing, and seemingly never-ending menu of tiny plates served in terracotta dishes, which give off an air of Spanish authenticity no matter what you put in there. That, and a flamboyant Spanish accent.  With a lisp. And castanets.

Kidding.  We kept the Spanish influence to the food. And of course the wine, which is why I have a bit of trouble recalling the menu. If I remember correctly, we served:

Fried Calamari with Capers and Black Pepper

Patatas Bravas (Oven Roasted Crispy Potatoes topped with a zesty tomato sauce)

Roasted Eggplant with Tomato and Bechamel Sauce (whacked back in the oven for a deliciously browned top)

Albondigas (M is for Mmmm and Meatballs)

Honey Glazed Roasted Beets with Thyme and Goat Cheese

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Sauce)

All served with lots of crusty bread for your tomato sauce and garlicky oil dipping pleasure.

crusty bread for dipping at Rambling Restaurant

Followed by Chocolate and Orange Torte with Raspberry Sauce and Cream for dessert. I thought we might have stuffed our diners to the point of no return with the unstoppable onslaught of dishes, but the pudding plates came back wiped clean. A true testament to the power of oozy gooey (goozey?) chocolateyness.

This was our first meal at Rambling Restaurant with just the two of us covering the kitchen and the dining room, leaving very little time for taking photos or other important activities like breathing. Luckily a talented guest photographer was to be found amidst the piled plates and scattered breadcrumbs  – my friend Amit straight outta Brooklyn.  Amit and I, along with our other friend Dave, spent most of his time across the pond eating a swath through East London and capturing it all on film.  This post is basically an excuse to showcase his lovely photographs since I really have nothing useful to say.

We’ll end, as all meals should end, with empty plates and full bellies. No more calamari. Sad face. Come back next time!

No more calamari