Champor-Champor – Thai/Malaysian/British fusion?

You know how not long ago I wrote that I never try those cool places that Time Out recommends? Recently that hasn’t been true. Like this weekend, my mother came over all the way from Budapest to visit, and we decided to try a Thai restaurant that Time Out sang odes to.
Champor-Champor is a small restaurant, located very near to London Bridge. If you weren’t looking for it, you might miss it. Officially advertised as Thai/Malaysian cuisine, I thought there was just slightly more to the mix – unfortunately, not for the better.
At first, we received some nibbles, which definitely kicked off the international chaos in tastes – some Bombay mix (speaks for itself) with olive oil and balsamic (a speciality from Italy), and some warm bread, which tasted like it was flavoured with banana butter – this latter was stunningly delicious though.
I must say, the olive oil – sweet bread taste worked together, but I am not sure that this is a symbolic Thai dish. Anyone?
For starters, we tried the green papaya salad with grilled tofu, the scallops with a spicy apple sauce, and a Thai lemongrass prawn soup. I was very excited about the first element of this list, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations – although this is a bit subjective, because I am not a fan of overly sweet things.
It also took me a while to figure out that the crouton-looking bits on the side were actually tofu.
The scallops were delicious and the spices were great with it, and so was the soup – a kind of Tom Yum with flavours of lime and chilli and coconut milk, this is something I’d have any day.
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While so far so good, unfortunately it was the main dishes that disappointed. We ordered the braised pork belly with sugar cane, mash potato and red onion compote; the sizzling beef sirloin; and the roasted monkfish. While delicious in taste, the pork belly had really very little to do with Thai cuisine in my opinion; it was very heavy, fatty and especially with the mash potatoes, it reminded me more of British cooking than Asian.
The sirloin looked fantastic upon arrival, but sadly did not match with taste – it lacked a serious amount of spices (even salt and pepper), and overcooked a little in the hot plate.
The monkfish was delicious though – this was cooked to perfection in texture, although I missed a bit of heat in the mix; but this dish is one I would recommend.
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At this point we were completely stuffed, but we gave some desserts a try anyway – and this brought the overall score of the dinner up significantly. We ordered the chilli-chocolate cheesecake, which was spiced to perfection – all the heat I missed in the monkfish went into this slice of cake, and the mix of dark chocolate and hot chilli was perfect.
We also ordered an intriguing dessert: the Tom Yum brulée. Now, I am already a fan of creme brulée, but this custard, with perfect caramel on top, flavoured with a spice I was unable to detect, along with lime and just a hint of chilli, was so good that I wanted to get the recipe. It was light, fluffy and delicious. Don’t miss this one.
Overall, Champor-Champor is a good restaurant – nice design and intriguing-sounding dishes definitely play to its advantage. But to be perfectly honest, I doubt I will be returning. When I have Asian food, I enjoy the fact that afterwards I don’t feel bloated and heavy, but I didn’t get this after dinner here.
It’s an interesting idea, but not what I was after – although who knows, it still may be worth a visit for someone else?

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Orange-flavoured, Oven-baked Pork Chops – An orange-coloured delicious mess

I haven’t cooked in so long. Diet food is so uninspiring sometimes that it isn’t even worth putting on here. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that if I’m having peppered mackerel with brown rice three times a week, then I most likely won’t be very popular with the food blogging community.
When I finally do come around and cook something though, I always love it. Like this recipe – it was one of those days when you toss together what you have, add a little of what you bought, and then something delicious comes out.
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It’s quite hard to tell from here (bad photography skills strike again) but there is actually more to this picture than potatoes, asparagus tips and two slices of meat. The latter was in fact marinated in a sweet mixture, made up of:
The peel of one orange
The juice of half an orange

2 whole star anise
A splash of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper

So I marinated my pork chops in this for about an hour, until they smelled like a Middle-Eastern dish.

In the meantime, I dressed 0.5 kg of Jersey potatoes in some Maldon salt, thyme and olive oil, and placed them in a hot oven in an oven proof pan. Interestingly, the end result of these potatoes tasted more boiled than roasted, but we’ll come to this in a second.
When the potatoes started to get soft, I added to the pan my pork chops, the orange peel and star anise from the marinade, and poured over the remaining juices. This is when I also chopped up one beautifully bright orange-coloured bell pepper and added it as well. The whole dish was a mix of sweet, sour and acidic, and it smelled absolutely gorgeous.
I let this cook in the oven until the potatoes were boiled and the peppers roasted; I fried up some asparagus tips left over and served it with a soft cheesy roll.
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Overall, the dish was very tasty, but the pork chops were probably the least interesting part in it. In all honesty, they turned out a little dry, despite the orange-marinade.
The best bits though were definitely the potatoes. I’ve never bought this type before, so it might be the fact that they are Jersey-types, but they came out soft and delicious despite me aiming to roast them – they soaked up all the sweet juices and were absolutely amazing. Paired with the sweetness of the pepper and the crispy, slightly sweet and bitter orange peel, it was really quite the dinner.
If nothing else, the colour is definitely stunning though – and again, it’s one of those dishes where you can just toss in whatever you have at home.

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Flesh & Buns – Branching out in the world’s dine-out capital

So according to Time Out London, we live in the world’s dine out capital. And I’m one of those people who will read about all the new, cool, fancy restaurants on Time Out, and then never visit them.
The good news was our old landlord was kind enough to release all our deposit on our flat when we moved (oh yeah, I live in Charlton now), so I felt super rich and decided to drag my boyfriend to a new place. He enjoys a free meal and I enjoy pretending I know what’s hip.
The place is called Flesh & Buns, and this pretty much covers the concept. It is a Japanese-style underground diner, with one long table in the middle, ranging from one end of the room to the other, and a few small booths on both sides. On one end of the table is the kitchen, and the other the bar.
Something like this:
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The short and sweet review of the place would be quite pricey, but delicious food. The longer one goes something like this.
The starters on the menu are all gorgeous, but for the price you pay, they are sadly very tiny. We ordered some sashimi for two, some venison and some salmon and avocado rolls. The taste was exquisite, with delicious Japanese flavours and impressive design, but the above mentioned first two dishes were so tiny that we both had about one and a half gulps of each. There is no doubt they were gorgeous though:
The venison:
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The sashimi plate (can you see what I mean when I say this, for £12, is not really worth it? Especially for two people?) (On the other hand, the fish was to die for.)
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And finally, the sushi, which was flawless:
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After the starters, we definitely felt hungry enough for the mains we had ordered. We both ordered a portion of ‘flesh’ – some salmon teriyaki and some crispy pork belly – which comes with two ‘buns’ each, some pickled vegetables on the side, a matching sauce and some salad leaves, and this was the most outstanding part of the dinner. The pork belly was soft and extremely crispy on top – which instantly won my admiration – and the salmon was nothing like the fish you buy in the supermarket. Both were cooked to perfection, and placed into the steamed buns, it was absolutely perfect. Also, as compared to the size of the starters, the main dishes were huge.
We also ordered a portion of rice, which came flavoured with a raw egg, some chilli, beef, sweetcorn, mushrooms and probably plenty of other stuff; and this because we felt extremely hungry. We probably would have been okay with just the flesh & buns, but it was worth it. The rice came served in a heated bowl, and pretty much cooked in there. Our waiter mixed up the dish when serving it, so the egg cooked in the bowl and the dish stayed warm even when we were scraping the bottom bits.
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At this point we were close to bursting, but Time Out said it would be a crime to miss out on the s’mores served here, so we sacrificed a few (…) more calories to try them.
And thank heavens we did. If you come by here, do not miss out.
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You get your own little fire to toast / melt your marshmallow, with some crisp biscuits to smear them on and some dark chocolate to melt on top, and as small as the portion may seem on this picture, it is actually the perfect size.
Overall, I am definitely happy we made the extra effort to try something new. The only side effect now is that I can’t stop thinking about the taste of the crisp pork belly and the soft steamed bun in my mouth – so I may have to be cheeky and be back here pretty soon.
It won’t break the bank (although it certainly doesn’t help it); but if you’re on the look out for something new and interesting to try, this is definitely a good place to start.
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Three Years and a Main Dish Smothered in Chocolate

We’ve entered into April – the critical month. This is the make-or-break for those who made the ‘this is the year when I keep my diet’ promise when the clock struck twelve on New Year’s Eve. How are you all doing? Hanging in there?
If you are, stop reading this post.
If you’re not, or if you’re open to occasionally sinning just a tiny bit, then stick with me, because I’ve had a lot of fun cooking these dishes.
So my boyfriend, who is my fiancé by now, and I hit magical three years not long ago, and what better way to celebrate than to cook up a delicious meal, drink home-made cocktails and get drunkenly emotional over Glee ending? (I’m not kidding.)
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I had a lot of fun planning the meal. Basically the idea was to make chocolate the theme of the dinner, meaning that everything had to involve chocolate in one way or another. (See why I discouraged dieters?) I mean have you ever seen the movie Chocolat? If you don’t crave the dashing young Johnny Depp, then you sure as hell will crave chocolate…
So for starters we had 6 pan-fried scallops each, in a butter, parsley and white wine sauce – with a grating of dark chocolate on top, more like decoration, but just enough to give it a bit of adventure.
(I don’t have a good enough picture of this, but just believe you me, it was delish.)
The main dish, which I was most proud of, involved a gorgeous piece of silverside beef – seared in a pan, then finished in the oven with a basting of beef stock. Although the marinade is worth mentioning, here is what I used:

3 tbsp olive oil
1 whole dry chipotle chilli, seeds and all, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp Chinese five spice

This I rubbed onto the beef and let it stand for approximately 3 hours. At this point, I picked off all the dry chilli and garlic pieces, and was left with a beautiful, spicy piece of meat.
To go with the beef, I made sautéed potatoes á la Gordon Ramsay, and also pan-fried some fresh asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil and basic seasoning.
However the star of this dish was the chocolate sauce I made to go with the beef – and you wouldn’t believe how delicious it was! The self-made recipe goes:
Approximately 200g dark chocolate, broken up into pieces
3-4 tbsp butter
1 dry chipotle chilli, chopped
1 tsp sugar
A very generous pinch of salt 
And finally, for Chef John, a tiny shake of cayenne pepper
So to make this sauce, simply melt the butter and chocolate together in a bain-Marie as you would for any chocolaty dessert. When starting to look liquid, add the rest of your ingredients with a dash of water to make it a bit more liquid, and cook until you are happy with the spiciness. What you will get is a sense-inducing, deliciously sweet and savory sauce that could pretty much go with anything.
And the result was fantastic…
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Naturally, to finish the meal, we had to have more chocolate – so just to lighten things, I made a chocolate decadence cake. It got me a proposal on Valentine’s Day, so I’m telling you, you can’t go wrong with this…
So the moral of the story today is – if you’re looking to cook something special (or for someone special), be adventurous! It was totally worth it!


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Fried Aubergine With Yoghurt Dressing – Sort of Guilt-free Pleasures

So apart from the gigantic cheese burger for lunch and Super Bowl pizza and beer on Sunday, that diet is still going… Sort of. (Yes, that was the same day.)
This salad, if you can call it that, makes a really easy and cheap dinner for anyone trying not to overdo it. All in all, it costs about £5 – that is, if you don’t already have lime, chillies or yoghurt, and it really doesn’t contain a lot of calories.
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For the delicious dip, you only need a few things:
1 pack of yoghurt – I like thick and sour, like strained Greek, but you can use whatever type you prefer
1 whole chilli, finely chopped 
1 small bunch of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves, finely chopped
1/2 lime’s juice
Salt, pepper to taste
These ingredients make a delicious, spicy dip that goes brilliantly with a lot of things. I used them with my sweetcorn fritters, for example, but they would go with any Asian-type dish as well.
As for the aubergine, the recipe is really easy. One technique I learned is to chop up the aubergine into small cubes and salt it generously an hour before cooking – this drains out the liquid and keeps the aubergine nice and crunchy. Before cooking, wash the pieces thoroughly and drain on kitchen paper until completely dry. Fry the cubes in oil until they’re heated through, and you’re done.
Note – Mix the dip and the aubergine only when you’re ready to eat so that it doesn’t brown.
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And there you have it – a delicious side dish or a healthy, low-cal dinner that takes no effort at all. Sounds good, right?
PS. I of course, as every time, managed to scratch my nose right after chopping my chilli. Avoid.
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Salmon and Tamarind-Flavoured Soba – Healthy Eating for Tuesday Night

I’ve changed the way I look at diets, weirdly enough. I used to be one of those people who prefers not to eat when dieting, because everything would make me feel guilty. I used to think it’s good enough to survive on rice. And then of course, a week or so later, I would throw myself at the chocolate isle and wake up in a pile of wrappers and empty pizza boxes. Ha.
Not anymore though. I suddenly realised I actually love a lot of healthy foods – for example, I never realised that sushi isn’t a crime against humanity when you’re trying to lose weight. Not to mention lately I’ve been a total vegetable-maniac. So my diet is still going, and weirdly (apparently) you can already see some results.
I buy things like matzos, hummus, all kinds of fish, celery, eggs, tomatoes, peppers, mozzarella, wholemeal wraps and loads and loads and loads of green tea. Every time I get hungry between meals, I buy a small bag of mixed nuts, or a smoothie, or have a cup of green tea, and it totally works.
Anyway, I’m here to show you an example of a healthy dinner that is guilt-free but so damn good…
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The gorgeous salmon steak with crispy skin really doesn’t need a lot of attention. The best thing is to salt generously the skin and place it into a hot pan with a little oil, skin down. In 2 minutes, the skin will be crispy.
I also love to leave the middle completely raw (and I mean really) – is that just me? I just turn it pink on the outside, and the inside is still juicy and raw. I love it.
The soba does make 50% of the pleasure though. Soba is a kind of noodle that is usually made from buckwheat wholly, sometimes mixed with flour – as long as you buy the buckwheat version, you can consume this guilt-free. Low in calories, it is absolutely delicious.
Mind you, a bit flavourless, so a bit of help is always good. In this case, I boiled the noodles until ready, and then I mixed it with some chopped green peppers, a dash of soy sauce and a teaspoon of tamarind paste. Heating it through just a little, the noodles take on the delicious taste and are a delight to eat.
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So… low in calories and fat, but absolutely delicious… What are you waiting for, eh?
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Grilled Sardines With Chilli, Lemon and Garlic – The Pros and Cons of Buying Little Fish

I don’t really buy fish. In the supermarkets fillets are quite expensive, and at the fishmonger’s they don’t really like to fillet your stuff. It takes too long and whatnot. I love a good salmon steak any day of the week, and I would be willing to give up my life for a last meal of a rare tuna steak. But do note, these don’t usually have bones at all.
Now sardines, on the other hand, have plenty. So many that in every half bite you take there will probably be at least three. But there are many reasons that speak for buying these babies none the less.
The obvious reason is that they’re cheap. I bought four average-size sardines, whole, for 85 pence. Less than a pound for dinner? Yes please. Another pro is that they’re extremely healthy – I’m not sure why, but that’s what the Internet says so it must be true…
Another unexpected pro: by the time you finish one fish, you’ll probably be half full already. With all the effort put into pulling away a bite, picking out the tiny scales and then finally getting to swallow it, trust me, two sardines will be enough…
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So the cons. The main one for me is pretty much a pro too: and that’s all those tiny bones. I have severe paranoia of fish scales since I saw a friend of mine swallow a small bone when I was really young, and the scene terrified me. (But you know what? I’ve already told you that story here.)
Another personal reason against buying fish, especially whole, is that I have this fear that they’ll come to life. Weird, right? But with their eyes open and staring at me whilst I rub them with chilli and garlic freak me out. Once they’re in the oven I’m fine though.
So there’s that, you decide if it’s worth it. But if you do come by some whole sardines, here’s what I did to them.
For the taste:
2 whole chillies
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 lemon
Salt, pepper
Some fresh parsley if you have some
This recipe is pretty much taken from Jamie Oliver, but I didn’t have parsley for example.
Anyway, just slice your ingredients (except the lemon) and put them into a baking tray with some olive oil. Then in go the fish, and now you can make use of your half a lemon by squeezing the juice all over the fish. All that’s left is to toss it around so that the flavour gets everywhere, and in it goes at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.
You’ll know when it’s done, but if you want to look for something then look for the smell and colour. The fish’ll be bubbly and somewhat coloured, and if you try, you should be able to pull the flesh away really easily. Something like this:
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Served with some boiled or mashed potatoes with an extra squeeze of lemon, these babies are really tasty. Whether it’s worth the effort, I’ll let you decide; but every now and again, I’d say it is.

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