Forgotten Dishes 8: Soufflé Suissesse

This title is cheating. Souffle Suissesse is very much not a forgotten dish. However, I felt I wanted a link of some sort……

I was looking through the Sunday Times magazine, and found a recipe for this soufflé which looked fairly easy. Oh silly me. It’s apparently a Michel Roux Jr. signature dish… but hey, it’s a soufflé! I can make soufflés!

How can I have got it so wrong? Maybe I haven’t got the right dishes. Maybe I haven’t got the right techniques. I’m sure I got the right ingredients. There’s oodles of cream in this. It should be a sure success, even if not perfect.

Well, it was very rich, but as you can see, it was a puddle of rich goo. We ate it; the ever-enterprising Mrs O. even turned the left-overs into a flan. I think I’ll stick to tried and tested cheese soufflé in the future and leave such things to the professionals.

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Brasserie Zédel, Picadilly, London

It was our 31st wedding anniversary, and the brief was to go somewhere romantic. Brasserie Zédel certainly was. It’s an Art Deco beauty; the food is wonderful and the service is faultless.

Zédel

We went on a day when London was, bizarrely, patrolled by armed police and soldiers, following the sick atrocity in Manchester. The guns didn’t seem to worry most Londoners and tourists. The brasserie is just outside Picadilly Circus tube station; you go through a bar/ café, down into the depths and into what was a hotel ballroom. It’s just lovely. I couldn’t take photos that would do it justice. Look at the website: Brasserie Zédel. From where I was sitting, it reminded me of Manet’s painting of the bar at the Folies Bergere, but it’s far lovelier.

We splashed out, but there are some very good fixed price menus. Mrs O, with her customary sense of adventure, had frogs’ legs, with a garlic mayonnaise, which were excellent, then chicken in a champagne sauce, which was even better. I had a delicious fish soup, with rouille (a sauce of chilli peppers, garlic, etc.) and gruyère. This was outstanding, the rouille adding a lovely tang. My confit duck with lentils was good but not outstanding; to be honest, lentils are not really my thing, and I just find them uninspiring after the first few mouthfuls. We had the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu, a very appropriate and enjoyable white.

Dessert was outstanding. We both had Café Gourmand: a trio of lemon tart, with a lovely crunchy top, a rhubarb crème, and a chocolate roulade, with a cafetière of coffee (just coffee, none of your cappuccino latte frappé thingies). Oh, and a Cointreau. Just to show that lunchtime drinking is not yet dead.

The waiting staff are just remarkable (especially in a restaurant with apparently 300 seats.) I have never, ever had such good service. They were polite, helpful and attentive without being pushy. I get the feeling that they treat everybody, from business lunchers to tourists to middle-aged couples celebrating their anniversary with the same courtesy.

The cost for us was just over £100, with service; however fixed prices start at £9.75. This was an unforgettable meal for us. We strolled out into the London sunshine, rather sleepy, to see the Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain. (A curate’s egg. Don’t worry if you missed it.) We recommend Brasserie Zédel without such reservations.

(I have shown one picture from the website, without knowing any copyright issues; I will of course remove it if there are any problems.)

Forgotten Dishes 7: Memsahib Scones

A strange cultural mix, this one.

In the days of British rule in India a memsahib instructed her cook to make her fruit scones. Unfortunately she was very peremptory and had not bothered to learn Hindi. The poor cook did her best, and ended up with what were basically chapatis layered with local fruit.

These were apparently rather appreciated by the British rulers and enjoyed a brief popularity.

They were mentioned in an old children’s book called something like ‘Child Heroes of the Raj’, allegedly as a true story. (This stirring book was along the lines of one I used to have called ‘From Powder Monkey to Admiral’.) I read it at school in our very eccentric class library. I have never seen it since and have been unable to trace it.

I have no idea what these chapati/ scones look like, so have photographed some of Mrs Oblique’s creations with some fruit that is grown in India. Yes, it is. I checked.

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Boston Tea Party, Honiton

Boston Tea Party is a small chain of cafés in the South West. We visited the Honiton branch for breakfast on a Sunday. It is, as we trendy types say, jolly good.

It is located in what was presumably a Georgian shop in the High Street. It has wooden floors and somewhat varied wooden tables and chairs. In this respect it is like the Exeter branch, which we used to visit some years ago. (That may well have changed, but was quirky and equally lovely.)

I had Eggs Royale, on sourdough bread, with slices of radish. Sourdough is annoyingly overused, but it really worked with the eggs and salmon, as to my surprise did the radish. It was delicious. Mrs Oblique had Chorizo Hash, with spinach, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and poached egg on top. It was equally delicious; we really couldn’t fault it. The coffee (proper filter coffee) was excellent. Miss Oblique as usual went for pains au chocolat and there was appropriate silence while she ate them.

What’s not to like? Nothing. The rest of the menu looks varied but not over-long, and it all involves a large proportion of locally sourced ingredients. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff are friendly, polite and attentive but not pushy. If you sit at the front there is a pleasant view of the street and the non-conformist churchgoers opposite. There is a garden at the back. The customers are a mix of regulars and visitors. I commend it!

BTP

Footnote: I notice that BTP now have 19, soon to be 20, cafés. I hope they maintain their independent feel. Catch them now! (No, of course they don’t sponsor me…..)

Boston Tea Party

BTP Honiton

Lakaz Maman, Southampton

If there was one post I wish I could popularise more, this is it: Lakaz Maman is just so good but I feel it’s neglected.

We are extraordinarily lucky (some might say spoilt) to be able to eat a huge variety of foods from other cultures and countries. Lakaz Maman, with its take on Mauritian street food, is a welcome addition.

We visited with Misses Oblique #1 and #3 on a Saturday lunchtime. As you may know, our youngest daughter is ‘developmentally delayed’ and one of our unconscious criteria for a good meal out is how well she is received. At Lakaz Maman she was made welcome by a young, polite and attentive waiting staff. As a result, she was calm and happy and as a result we could enjoy our meal in a relaxed way.

lakazSo to the food. Mrs O. has a chicken and prawn ‘Magic Bowl’: a stir fry, delicately spiced, with a fried egg (which ought not to work but does). With some trepidation (I am famously wimpy about hotly spiced food) I try a braised mutton ‘Cari Lakaz Maman’ accompanied by fragrant rice, chutney and pickle, which is  the best curry I have ever eaten, and does not blow my head off as feared. Miss O. #1 has a special: a mutton burger, with soft and tasty meat, served with chips. The photograph is of my Cari Lakaz Maman and sadly does not do it justice.

(Why does one always slip into the present tense when writing a food review? Have I said this before? OK, but why?)

You can bring your own booze, for a corkage charge, but I wouldn’t bother; their range of soft drinks is excellent and appropriate. I have mint and lemongrass iced tea, which is surprisingly refreshing and a great accompaniment to the food; Mrs O. has iced coffee and there’s no fuss about finding milk for Miss O. #3. They happily provide lots of tap water. We even find room for puddings: chilli and lime chocolate pots, which have a suitable chilli kick, mango and lime chocolate slice, which satisfies even chocaholic me with its blend of chocolate and fruits and salted caramel sauce, and ‘Puddine Coco’, a dessert of coconut milk and fruit. The staff recommend this and it’s delicious.

Our youngest diner has samosas: adventurous for her, but amazingly she eats them. These are followed by chocolate ice cream (of course), with suitable toppings.

There is a reasonably wide but not bewildering range of food, with specials. On a future occasion I would like to try the ‘Gajaks’, which seem to be something like tapas, including prawn and fennel croquettes and ‘Octopus Dippers’.

I just can’t fault this place. The food is tasty, spiced sensitively and a fair price. It’s a light and comfortable atmosphere, and it’s conveniently located in Bedford Place. The service is excellent, attentive but not pushy. I thoroughly recomend it. (No, they’re not paying me or giving me free meals. I mean it.)

Lakaz Maman website

Forgotten Dishes 6: Bilston Marmalade

Marmalade is hardly a forgotten dish, and there are endless recipes. However, I needed an excuse to publicise this one, the origins of which are shrouded in the mists of time and family history. It’s incredibly simple and we find it works very well. OK, OK, Mrs O. finds it works really well. As official taster, I think it’s delicious. Note it’s a smooth one, not chunky.

Ingredients:

dscn6481As always, these can be varied according to taste and circumstances. The Mrs Oblique cooking method is an art, not a science. “Don’t fuss about it!” (Mrs O.)

8 Seville oranges

1 sweet orange, clementine or satsuma

18 cups water

16 cups sugar

Method: Again this is not exact.

Cut oranges in half. Squeeze out juice and remove pips. Keep the pips.

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Chop orange peel into chunks.

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Liquidise skins, with some water. Like this.

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Boil the juice and liquidised skins with the rest of the water for 1/2 hour or until soft. Boil the pips for 10 minutes and keep.

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Add sugar. Put pips and water through a sieve into the pan. (This produces the pectin, a natural setting agent.)

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Boil until set. It gets very hot!

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Test by putting a spoonful on a saucer and cooling. Needs tasting of course. WHEN COOL!

Sterilise jars with boiling water. Fill jars and seal tightly.

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Footnotes: Despite what I have claimed to the contrary elsewhere, Seville oranges are not the same as poorman oranges: the latter are otherwise known as New Zealand grapefruit. My grandmother claimed that she “always put a sweet one in”. It does seem to add something. Originally I guess that the skins were minced; I know that there were butchers in the Bilston side of Mrs O’s family!

If anybody uses this recipe, please let us know. Of course hygiene is very important…. This was just going to be an outline of a family favourite. I don’t know how it turned into such an epic!

Forgotten Dishes 7: Memsahib Fruit Scones

An unusual cultural clash, this one.

In the days of British rule in India, a memsahib instructed her Indian cook to make her fruit scones. Unfortunately she was very peremptory and had not bothered to learn any Hindi. The poor cook did her best, but she ended up with chapatis layered with local friut.Apparently they were rather appreciated and enjoyed a brief popularity with the colonial rulers.

They were mentioned (and it was alleged that this was a true story) in a children’s book called something like ‘Child Hero of the Raj’. (This was along the lines of other stirring tales such as ‘From Powder Monkey to Admiral’.) I read it at school in my English teacher’s varied library but have never seen it since and can find no trace of it. Was it all a figment of my vivid imagination?

Note: I have no idea of what this looked like or how exactly it was made, so have photographed some of Mrs Oblique’s creations along with some fruit which is grown in India. Yes it is. I checked.

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