Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Madagascan King Prawn, Avocado & Mango Ceviche | Celia's Saucer

Rose Sancerre Domaine Pierre Martin
While I'm generally more of a red wine lover, in the height of summer, there is nothing better than an almost frosty white or rose wine, that has crisp touches of apples or gooseberries, or sometimes the sweetness of peach.

With a reputation for being a good foodie wine, I often opt for a bottle of Sancerre, and with the buzz that surrounded Loire Valley wines this year for their quality and unbeatable price, I skipped over to my trusted pals at Lay & Wheeler, from whom I learned a great deal when I joined them in Bordeaux for the famous En Primeur week.

Tasting a small sip of the 2014 Sancerre Chavignol Rose, the intensity of the mineral was quick to determine that this would pair well with something light, fresh and slightly sweet, to complement the dry but fruity quality.

What better than one of my favourite dishes in the world? A humble but fleshy ceviche with mango and avocado. 

Have you made ceviche before? It's SO easy and the very first time you try it, it's like a swift, delicious kick to the mouth, as well as a colourful, visual feast.
Ceviche paired with Sancerre Wine from the Loire Valley
I've become so accustomed to throwing ceviche together, I don't follow a recipe but have outlined quantities below for you to cobble together your own; it's a rough and ready dish, one which I like to serve with hunks of rustic, porous bread. 

To make enough for two starter-sized portions, mix together:

Eight Raw Madagascan Tiger Prawns, sliced lengthways and in half
(You could choose any raw prawn but I have a real hang-up with the politics behind farmed prawns and so apart from rarely eating them, if I do, they're always from the ocean even though it's still not a perfect choice)

The juice of two limes

One sliced banana shallot

One red chilli (or half to taste)

One roughly diced ripe avocado 

Half a ripe mango

A handful of chopped coriander

A pinch of salt, pepper and sugar
You must leave the ceviche to 'cook' in the acidic juices for at least twenty minutes and it will keep for up to a day, although it will surely toughen up the longer you leave it. 

Twenty minutes is all I need and then it's lavishly spooned onto bread and devoured, with some of that sharp Sancerre to wash it all down with.

A real summer delight.
Paired with wine from Lay & Wheeler

Friday, 5 June 2015

Chocolate Guinness Cake | Celia's Saucer

Pictures from the kitchen of the Cafe Cat - shelves filled with spices, pots and ceramics

Not one for cutting corners, I suppose you could compare my style of cooking to that of Nigella Lawson: quite decadent. 

No low-fat this, or sugar-free that, please. Just common sense and sharing what some might call the guilt, but what I like to call the delight.

This chocolate Guinness cake is absolutely no exception. There's so much butter and sugar in this bad boy, I advise total and complete denial.

Just enjoy yourself.
Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Nigella Lawson

For the cake

  • 250 ml Guinness
  • 250 grams unsalted butter
  • 75 grams cocoa powder
  • 400 grams caster sugar
  • 142 ml sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 275 grams plain flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

For the topping

  • 300 grams cream cheese
  • 150 grams icing sugar
  • 125 ml double cream (or whipping cream)
For more ridiculously delicious food pictures, you can follow me on Instagram and Pinterest
A rich, dark and moist cake. Perfect for rainy Sunday afternoons. With chocolate, Guinness and vanilla.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Cafes in Islington | Highbury

Islington is a funny little borough. I spend a lot of time wandering around it and I never can quite tell where it begins and where it ends. As an avid cafe fan, I am blessed to live in this nook of North London, where you'll find them liberally peppered about. 

You might have already enjoyed my 'Cafes in Islington | Holloway Road' edition, which tells short tales of some of the establishments I enjoy there. The thing is, that's just three cafes amongst dozens of others on one stretch. So you see, to service the whole of Islington, I've got plenty to write about.

Let's have a look in and around Highbury, starting with possibly my favourite cafe of all, not just because I have fond memories of the area but also for its resident cafe cat, Max, who likes to come challenge my territory. I have had to let it slide though; he is an actual cat after all.
Places to Eat in London: A great little Islington Cafe

Islington and London Cafe, with Mat & Jess

Fink's Cafe is run by the lovely Mat and Jess, who I had the pleasure of interviewing in their opening week and they have a year since brought the place to life, filling it to the rafters with happy customers.

With fare quite unlike anywhere else, they are the masters of small plates and boards: of fish, of cheese, of meats and of other delights. And everything is presented oh-so-beautifully.

It's like a larder full of loveliness. I often have the salmon board with a giant glass of their excellent Vinho Verde.  

Islington Cafes

Spanish Tapas and Jazz Cafe in Highbury, Islington
Highbury Arts Club

While the opening hours of this little gaff and the fact they don't take cards is a touch irksome, it possesses a number of charms that almost help you to forgive them entirely, such as their Spanish/Australian style brunches - think sunny eggs and greens. Open in the evenings for tapas, there's a number of plates to be shared alongside some plinkety plonkety jazz or cosy comedy. I use the adjective cosy because it is small and it gets steamy but, for me, that makes it unique in its place along the Highbury Barn.

A North London Islington Cafe - a great place to eat in Islington
Little Gem

You're likely not to find this place unless you look for it, which is probably what the locals might prefer. Tucked just off Highbury Corner on a residential street (Corsica Street to be exact), Little Gem is a little gem indeed.

Peaceful proprietors of a mean toasted sandwich and serving Monmouth coffee, Little Gem is also Japanese-inspired, with subtle touches from the plates to the curios that adorn the walls.

If you fancy a clandestine coffee date, no one is likely to find you here. 

A lovely French cafe in Islington, North London
Le Peche Mignon

Serving also Monmouth coffee, you'll find this cafe if you slip off Holloway Road en route to Highbury Fields (Ronalds Road).

With shelves filled with French delights and a counter brimming with fresh salads and pastas, it's a pretty busy and cosy spot for a bite to eat and some gentle shopping. This Islington cafe also has a petite garden that is a regular little sun trap, too.

 If you're in Highbury soon, why not check them out for yourself? Or if you're in Islington in general and on the hunt, just tweet me @thecafecat.

For more London sweet spots, be sure to follow me on Instagram.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Larder #2 | Celia's Saucer

Lately, my inclination to bake has stepped up quite a few notches. Perhaps it's all the birthdays, or maybe it's because I miss my grandma and this is something we used to do together. Either way, I've been rather busy. 

The one thing we don't tend to buy is bread but often this means we're left short on a weekend morning at brunch time. I'm a no-fuss kind of bread baker and love a no-knead recipe. The time saved means you can also get creative with fillings - think taleggio and thyme, or walnuts with cranberries, or this week's version: spelt and green olive.
Spelt Bread with Green Olives and a golden crust 
With no-knead bread, you get a really fantastic crust, so it's wonderful straight out of the oven. This does mean, however, that it gets tough when cold. NEVER FEAR. For dinner that evening, or the next day, you can tear it into big chunks, drizzle them in olive oil and grill them lightly to act as croutons or big mops for dip or soup. 

For lunch today, I did just this and had the pleasure of discovering that Palacio de Oriente squid pieces (octopus style) makes a fantastic, protein-filled option. Just a small tin (£1.99) is enough and you can throw in with it whatever you like. I found sundried tomatoes, basil, fresh lemon, balsamic vinegar and some garlic worked well. I had mused that tinned squid might very well taste awful but it was excellently satisfying.
The Cafe Cat Recipes

 Working hard with Lindt chocolate at the moment, I'm liaising with a lot of food bloggers on Lindt dark chocolate recipes. It's all very well asking them if they'd like a big box to play with, but I've always found that it helps to offer suggestions or show examples. Plus, who needs an excuse to bake delicious things?

Lately you might have seen my Dark Coconut Chocolate Creme Brulee but this weekend I got stuck into making a Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Torte, using the best earl grey tea from JING.  The flavours pair so well together but it's a good idea to have some cream handy to cut through... this bad boy is RICH.

Lindt Dark Chocolate and JING Earl Grey Recipes from the Cafe cat

For easier and quicker chocolate fixes, I turned my eye to the garden. With an abundance of hierba buena (spearmint) in the garden at the moment, I ought to be thinking of long, tall mojitos but I've sadly run out of rum and am usually not so extravagant as to buy some. Instead, I melted some of my stash and dipped the leaves in, making a refreshing treat to go alongside my afternoon tea.

Mint leaves covered in Lindt chocolate

And so that's just a few of the things I've been playing with. What have you been making lately? With all the lovely rhubarb, asparagus and more in season, I'd love your suggestions and inspiration. 

This asparagus empanada (Galician-style) didn't really work out for me, although I suspect it was because I chose to use sardines instead of tuna.

Stupid sardines.

 Until next time.
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