Ramen cookin’ in London

I have always been a great lover of Japanese food, until the moment I arrived in Japan 6 weeks pregnant. Suddenly any food vaguely Japanese made me feel sick. Even a simple of thought of Japanese food made my stomach twirl.

Well, bit of a problem when you are in Japan, I tell you.

Anyhow, I felt like this period is now long passed me, so when I was given the opportunity to learn to cook Japanese dish ramen, I didn’t think twice.

Ramen in itself is very healthy, what makes it special is the broth, which is cooked for hours and hours, to bring out all the goodness. As we were explained, ramen for Japanese is almost equivalent to fast food (but it’s not), which you would have late night after a few pints of beer, or just for lunch.

The course I went to was at Sozai Cooking School, very conveniently located just behind Aldgate station. If you work on the city, it’s very easy to reach.

Our instructor Akemi was brilliant at explaining each step and involving us, students, in the process. For example by sealing the pork belly, as seen above.

To my surprise, we cooked ramen from scratch, which Japanese themselves very rarely do. With huge variety of fresh noodles available at supermarkets, wheeling patties of dough through a pasta maker, is not something an average Japanese person often does. Yet, it was so much fun and gave me a sense of achievement, without doubt.

In a couple of hours, we were to prepare three types of ramen – cold ramen, miso ramen and pork ramen.

All in all I would say that cooking ramen is a lot about mixing the right quantities and timing of cooking, so it’s in fact less complicated than I thought. However, it can always go wrong (which I will explain below).

We started by cooking the pork belly, first by sealing it and then adding it to the sauce consisting of soy sauce, mirin, sake, Chinese wine, star anise and sugar.

After that it was time to prepare the actual noodles. We made the dough out of flour, baking powder, salt, hot and cold water. After letting it set, we put the dough in cling film and kept it in the fridge.


Moving on to prepare the miso ramen. Miso in fact is fermented soy beans – did you know that, as I had no clue?  We learnt that each region in Japan have their own typical miso, like the Italians would have a special pasta sauce or dessert in each village.


By the end of the evening we were all sufficiently hungry. I was nervous to try out the ramen, having vivid memories of not eating ramen in Japan. However, it was delicious. Three(!) bowls of ramen went down as a treat.


So, after such a successful evening I tried to cook it at home. How did it go? I tell you one thing, do not put your baby to bed and leave the pork cooking in the pot unattended, as otherwise … it may not work. Another tip – make your own chicken stock, it will make a huge difference. 


And go on the course, to learn how to make these amazing photographable-instagrammable ramen eggs, which came out just fine.


I’ll definitely keep practising my new found skill of ramen cooking – happy egg-perimentig. 


Sozai Cooking School
5 Middlesex Street
London
E1 7AA

 

Dining in Tallinn: Von Krahli Aed

I seem to become more and more convinced that Tallinn is the most beautiful capital city of Europe. The Old Town, walks by the seaside and stunning sunsets to end the day. Stunning. Tallinn is peaceful, refreshing, yet full of surprise and novelty.

By the same token, there is a street tucked away in the Old Town, which must own the World Record for the best quality restaurant on one street. I’ve already written about Vegan and Rataskaevu 16, this time it was time to visit Von Krahli Aed. 

We managed to get a table without booking on a Wednesday night, contrary to Rataskaevu 16, where it’s always ‘busy.’

The menu looked outstanding and it gave the option to have all dishes either as veggie or non veggie.


We started with the landscape on a plate: A selection of Estonian flavors (Kalamatsi fried cheese, chicken liver paté, rabbit rilettes, Põltsamaa Kuldne jelly, smoked salmon mousse, beetroot hummus).

The description was pretty spot on and it felt pretty adventurous exploring different flavours.

The mains we went for were wild garlic orsotto with honey roasted carrots and rosemary-tomato ketchup and warm quinoa and plum salad with carrot cream and honey roasted carrots. Orsotto was delicious, would definitely recommend that dish.

The desserts, well, I love desserts and I have to say that their chocolate fondant was not great, dry in the middle and a little disappointing after such stunning dishes beforehand. My husband loved the magic mushrooms blackcurrant cream, yoghurt sorbet and chickpea meringue, but my opinion as the dessert expert would be that it had the wow factor for the presentation, but it didn’t deliver for the taste.

So all in all, it’s a fabulous restaurant, it wins my heart above Rataskaevu 16 at the moment and I would wholeheartedly recommend to visit. Maybe just skip the dessert and pop into Vegan for cake instead.

V for Vegan cake overdose

V is a beautiful little vegan restaurant in Tallinn Old Town.  I’m not sure if it’s surprising or not, but it is #2 for Tallinn restaurants on Tripadvisor.It’s also tiny, but perhaps the best places are. My sister and I went for afternoon tea and managed to get a table straight away, but probably best to book in advance for lunch/dinner. We got some pretty looking water with an orange in it whilst we contemplated on which cake to get.

My sister opted for the one with avocado and lime and I went for the berry one. I chose my coffee with almond milk. Mmm. Of course we got to try each other’s cakes and they were both indeed beautifully tasty.

After a bit of chit chat and cake enjoyment, it was time to go. Stepping outside into the sunshine and walking along the cobbled streets of the Old Town felt glorious. We were waved off by the friendly waitress, and genuinely felt like we were very welcome back.

Vegan restaurant V

Rataskaevu 12

+372 6269087

Bring me to the Moon, Tallinn and back… 

Tallinn has been incredibly well dotted with pretty fabulous restaurants. One of them, situated on the edge of trendy Kalamaja area, is Moon. It means Poppy, in English. The dogs are clearly more than welcome, which in itself is a good sign. For those who love dogs, obviously.

I had a leisurely lunch with my sister and father on a sunny afternoon and have to say, it is one of my favourite spots in Tallinn. Not for the decor, to be honest, but the service and food are amazing and worth coming back for.

Whenever I see a veggie burger on the menu, I tend to go for it. So guess what I had. The bun was amazingly fluffy and tasted homemade whilst the burger itself was juicy and full of flavour. Definitely one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. And look at those colours!

My sister went for something I would never have, Boeuf a la tartar. I still have memories of having raw liver and fat inside a mint leaf for breakfast in Lebanon, so it just doesn’t work for me. However, my sister loved it, so if that’s your thing, I’m sure it comes recommended.

My father on the other hand chose the Siberian dumplings, a very Eastern European dish. Simple, hearty and tasty.

I made a change from drinking water and had some kali, which is a very Baltic drink, made out of malt, yeast and bread (that’s what it says on the label). It tastes like bread, but is quite refreshing at the same time. It also tastes like there’s quite a bit of sugar in it, so I wouldn’t overdo it.One of us, and it wasn’t me, had a dessert, chocolate fondant. It looked as good and tasted as good as one that I’ve just recently had in South of France, which says quite a bit, right.So when in Tallinn, stop by.

Kohvik Moon
Võrgu 3, Tallinn 10415
+ 372 6 314 575

 

Pit stop at Põhjaka, Estonia

Põhjaka has most likely become one of my favourite places to stop when travelling from one end of Estonia to the other. It used to be Sämmi grill many years ago, then it got closed (I think), so there was no reason to make a pit stop anymore, apart from buying hot chocolate from Statoil.

Põhjaka seems to have brought back the reason to break up a long journey again.
This restaurant is situated in an old manor house partially renovated, giving a slightly edgy, urban yet old feel to the place. Most importantly, it is very cosy and has little details, which almost make you feel at home.


There is an in-house cat, who has clearly marked its spot on the sofa with a small cat shaped hole. I made the mistake of taking its spot and soon after ended with the cat on my lap.


Põhjaka appears to be particularly child friendly, the menus on the tables are there to be drawn on with plentiful of colours. 


My favourite detail was the one in the loo. They seem to have resolved the problem for mothers on where to leave their child when visiting the loo, by placing a large basket on the window sill. My little cherub was definitely very content there.


And the food? Is pretty good. And arrives quick. Our selection of pork, white fish and liver mains were all delicious. I loved the parsnip purée with my white fish. 

There wasn’t much space left for dessert, so we shared a napoleon cake, my all time favourite. The pastry was a little too crispy for my liking, but just the way my sister likes it.

I finished the meal with a coffee served in a Soviet style cup.

Look forward to visiting again.

Roaming the fields of Cotswolds

Walking as always been one of my favourite ‘active’ things to do. Especially as during my walks I tend to discover so much new, enjoy taking a shortcut or change the route. As it turns out, walking makes us feel good and helps one stay younger, according to a BBC documentary I saw last week. Talk about added bonus.


It was my first proper visit to the Cotswolds recently and there’s probably no better place for walking. There are plenty of walking paths, which are indicated with signs saying ‘walking path’, however, in certain point it is questionable, where the path exactly is, so we ended up walking diagonally across the fields, hoping to pick up the ‘path’ at the other end. However, you will always end up at a beautiful village, with a cosy pub over there. Our destination was Churchill, more specifically, the Chequers pub. When considering the fact that we got rained on along the way, a pub with a fire place was just what we needed.


Food there was fantastic and arrived fast, the hit was the cheese souffle, which disappeared in a flash.

Tummies full, it was time to head off again and hopefully find our way back home across the fields.


Thank god for wellies. Particularly city – country chic Michael Kors ones.

 

Cepages, best kept secret of Notting Hill

Forget about Granger&Co, Cepages is the new winner, a discreet looking hidden away gem of Notting Hill. This is where you should be queuing, especially if you love wine as there’s plenty of it. Small bistro-wine bar in Notting Hill, very French and welcoming serving the most delicious food you can imagine. It’s the perfect spot to go to for a catch up with girlfriends with some wine,or a great date spot or simply a good place to meet some friends for dinner. It’s good for all. The menu has been built up very much as tapas style, everything can be shared. However, you do not have to. My favourites from the menu are the langoustine with leek, scallops and the escargots. Even the desserts are gorgeous. Finding it difficult to make up my mind, I find cafe gourmand as a great option – little bit of everything. To do well, there has to be a soul to a place and that there is in the form of the owners Geoffrey&Dan, who are just great and truly know their wine.

Go on, go have a try.