Green pistachios

Whenever I get some gelati, there are always some flavours that entice me more than others. Pistachio is one of them. I always get the pistachio gelato wherever I go. Some might call me boring but I am still looking for the best pistachio gelato!

Of course, when I came across this recipe for pistachio cookies, I had to try it. Too easy and simply amazing!

Pistachio cookies (makes about 16) (from Trissa’s blog)
– 90g PLUS 100g Pistachios (raw & shell-ed)
– 100g almond meal
– 120g caster sugar
– 50g egg whites (from approx. 1 – 2 eggs)
– Green food colouring (optional) – I didn’t use this

1. First, lightly toast the pistachios for around 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 160c. If you are using ready to eat pistachios, you can skip this roasting step. Chop the first 90 grams of pistachio finely (you can use a food processor for this but I used my pestle & mortar) and the other 100 grams of pistachios roughly.

2. In a bowl, place the finely chopped 90g of pistachios, almond meal, sugar and egg whites and mix well until you form a paste. Should you like to add a few drops of food colouring, you may do so in this step.

3. Scoop the cookie batter and form into little balls, then roll them in the remaining 100 grams of pistachios. If you find the batter too sticky, do add a little bit more almond meal to the batter.

4. Place on a baking sheet, leaving around 2 cm space between them and bake for around 13 minutes at 170°C (fan forced).

5. Dust with icing sugar when cool. (You can also skip this step if you like)

*Store in airtight container when cooled.

This recipe makes a delicious batch of pistachio cookies and you can easily have 5-6 at one go. Perfect combination with a cup of good coffee.

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A taste of surprise – Viajante

Birthdays are days on which I like to be spoiled. It is one of my few excuses to dine at nice restaurants and treat myself. For the dude’s birthday, I often plan a full day of surprise. He doesn’t have any idea what the day involves and this year, I took him to Viajante, a Michelin Star restaurant by Nuno Mendes (El Bulli graduate).

Nestled in the former Bethnal Green Town Hall building, we were welcomed into the restaurant by the host and even though we were 20 minutes late (!!!), they were still accommodating and friendly. We were shown our tables and I took to the setting immediately. Gorgeous scandinavian designed tables and chairs gave the restaurant a friendly designer feel. The open kitchen added to the atmosphere and overall, a beautiful, simple and laid back setting, allowing diners to ease into.

We were there for Saturday lunch and the menu gave only a few selections i.e. 3, 6 or 9 courses. We decided quickly upon the three course with beverage pairing, without knowing what it was going to be. A series of amuse-bouche got us started and the dude and I wondered for a long time when the first course was served / going to be served. This guessing game and not knowing what to expect was quite exciting to begin with but also rather nerve wrecking for the first-timers.

Our adventure started off with:

Thai explosion II

Amaranth with sorrel – The crunchy popping was quite exciting though half the time we were guessing what it was.

Squid with monk’s beard – The squid was tender but there wasn’t much of it.

Potato with yeast and black olive – The potato was cooked perfectly and the combination really came together in the mouth.

Bread and butter – my favourite, out of the lot. We were served warm crusty potato baguette and olive focaccia together with in-house made yellow butter and brown butter. The warmth of the bread and the softness of the salted butter were a match made in heaven. Little did we know our first course was about to start…

Nuno Mendes, the very man himself served our first course – Zander with cured yolk, chervil root and fennel. The sommelier introduced us to Quinta da Muradella Gorvia Blanco 2006, Monterrei to go with the fish, as the beverage pairing. The fish was cooked well but the dish didn’t wow me. Personally, the cured yolk and fish didn’t taste too good together. (side note: I do not like uncooked eggs and partly why I didn’t quite take to the dish)

Our second course was duck with cabbage, oysters and barley which was matched with Domaine Jean Tardy et Fils Fixin ‘La Place’ 2007. There was duck heart and duck tongue in the mix of it all, according to our waiter. It was good not to know which was which, as the dude and I had a guessing game whilst we ventured into our duck meat and organs. The duck meat was cooked to perfection, tender and slightly red and it went well with the oysters, weirdly enough. The tongue and heart were really delicate and tender to the bite. I thought it finished off the dish really well. Got a thumbs up from me and the dude.

Funnily enough, the table next to us which sat six ladies weren’t too pleased when they heard heart and tongue in the mix. They started questioning the waiter and asked him to point out the odd bits but he declined. I suppose it was the excitement of what lies within the plate for us though I didn’t think the ladies took too well to the internal organs and one was seen running off her seat towards the toilet, whilst we watched in amusement. On that note, for the non-adventurous diners, this might not be your cup of tea.

Pear with pecan and cider were served next to cleanse our palate before our third and final course came. The freshness of the pear granita was really well paired with the pecan puree and cider, subtle and refreshing. It was so delicious that we were nearly licking our bowls!

We finished our final course with salsify and mellow with chocolate which was matched with Chateu de Jau Muscat de Rivesaltes 2010, a delicious dessert wine. The salsify was a tad too thick and chewy for my liking and we couldn’t quite figure out what it was till the very end.

We headed to the bar (right next to the restaurant) after to have a cleansing ale and were served our petit fours (more food!!!). I could remember the olive oil bites we had and they were simply amazing.

Just before we left, we were given a printed menu of what we had earlier in the afternoon. It gave an ending to the meal and allowed us to recall our earlier dining experience. A nice touch.
The service throughout the afternoon was exceptional although the food was a little hit and miss. I do think it’s a nice restaurant to check out, though I have heard that the more affordable Corner Room also run by Nuno Mendes is actually better.

Meal for two, with beverage pairing, two beers and service came to about £140.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 7/10

Patriot Square,
Bethnal Green,
London E2
Tel: 020 7871 0461.

Viajante on Urbanspoon

Mouth-watering Morocco

On a recent trip to Marrakech, two friends and I were lucky enough to take part in a private cooking class.  Set in a traditional Moroccan house (riad), we were taught by a local lady (with the help of our interpreter, Mohammed) how to make a variety of dishes. 

My friends and I’d spent the days leading up to the class feasting on authentic Moroccan food in restaurants packed with locals.  Sampling tagines, meat skewers, pastillas, salads, dips, sweet biscuits and multiple varieties of the famous mint tea, we were very much looking forward to learning the tricks of the trade so we could prepare similar dishes back home in London.

On the menu for our class was a preserved lemon chicken tagine, zaalouk (Moroccan eggplant dip), bread, and of course, mint tea and biscuits!

Here’s the Zaalouk (eggplant dip) recipe:

3 eggplants
6 ripe tomatoes
Splash of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Generous handful of chopped parsley
Generous handful of chopped coriander

1.  Prick the eggplants a few times with a fork.  Place the eggplants directly on the stove flame to roast.  Turn regularly with tongs making sure all sides are equally cooked.  It should take approx 15 minutes, but keep an eye on them.  Generally if the smoke alarm goes off, it means they are ready!

2.  Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes in half and grate (*this was a new technique for me which proved very effective).  An alternative to grating would be to peel, de-seed and chop very finely.

3.   Once the eggplants are soft and equally charred all over, set aside on the bench to cool.  Once cool enough to touch, use a knife to scrape away the charred skin.  Remove the stalk and finely chop/mash the cooked eggplant until smooth.

4.  Place the tomatoes in a large pan with a splash of olive oil.  Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, parsley, coriander, salt and pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat.

5.  Add the mashed eggplant.  Cook for 5 minutes.

6.  Add a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with some parsley.

Serve with crusty bread or pitta chips.