London calling: Bill Granger celebrates the capital's eclectic food scene
Our chef explains why, despite being a native of sunny Sydney, he feels settled in London – one of the few places in the world where you can easily go Japanese for lunch and Spanish for dinner.
Londoners are always asking me why I've moved here, like it's the oddest choice anyone coming from sunny Sydney could ever make. Well, it's easy: there's this energy here that's infectious and nowhere is the buzz greater than around food.
I love London's diversity – so many different cultures coming together, and the constant excitement around new food concepts. The big trends I can't seem to get enough of at the moment are ramen, tapas and gourmet street food.
London is the only place, other than New York perhaps, where you can be slurping ramen as delicious as you would have in Tokyo for lunch, snacking on simple Spanish dishes for dinner, then tucking into posh hot dogs with the kids at the weekend.
Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com
Chicken miso ramen
Recently, in Japan, this very smart lady I was in a meeting with asked what I wanted for lunch and I made the mistake of saying ramen. I didn't quite realise it till then, but in Tokyo it would equate to going to a greasy spoon for a proper workman's lunch. Nothing wrong with that, except that there was nowhere for her to lean her Prada handbag… So now, I'll just wait till I'm back in London and head out by myself to Bone Daddies in Soho for my pork ramen fix. At home I'll often make this much simpler chicken version instead.
1 tbsp vegetables oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 spring onions, sliced
2cm piece ginger, grated
2 tbsp soy
1.2 litres/2 pints chicken stock
4 skinned chicken thighs
400g/13oz fresh egg noodles
100g/3½oz frozen sweetcorn kernels, defrosted
2 tbsp miso paste
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp caster sugar
4 eggs, soft-boiled and shelled
1 large leek, white part, shredded
Heat the oil in a wok or a saucepan over a high heat. Add the garlic, spring onion and ginger and fry until fragrant. Pour in the soy and stock and bring to the boil then add the chicken and simmer gently for 10 to 12 minutes until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan (though leave the stock simmering) and, once cool enough to handle, shred into large pieces.
Place the egg noodles in a large bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Divide the noodles between 4 large soup bowls. Add the cooked chicken, beansprouts and sweetcorn to the bowls. Stir the miso, sesame oil and sugar into the pan with the simmering stock and ladle it into the bowls. Cut the eggs in half and ease them into the bowls. Serve immediately, topped with the leeks.
I love sitting at the bar at Barrafina, Sam and Eddie Hart's Spanish tapas place in the West End, people-watching while munching on these savoury little morsels. They're great for entertaining – with some padron peppers, cheese and sliced cured meats, who needs anything else?
40g/1¾oz unsalted butter
1 small leek, thinly sliced
100g/3½oz sliced cured Spanish ham, chopped
55g/2¼oz plain flour
400ml/14fl oz milk
1 litre/1¾ pints light-flavoured oil for deep frying
For the breadcrumbs
75g/3oz plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
150g/5oz fine dried white breadcrumbs
Heat the butter in a shallow saucepan over a medium heat. When the butter starts foaming, add the leeks and ham and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the leeks are soft. Add the flour and stir for 5 minutes until biscuit in colour. Slowly pour in the milk, beating as you go. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick and leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and, once cooled, chill for at least 2 hours.
Once the mixture is chilled properly, put the flour on a plate, the beaten egg in a shallow bowl and the breadcrumbs in a baking tray. Shape the croquette mixture into walnut-sized balls then roll them in the flour, dip in the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Chill for a further 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
Heat the oil in a large, high-sided pan to 180C/350F/Gas4, or until a piece of bread fries golden in 20 seconds. Fry the croquettas in batches for 3 to 4 minutes until golden, turning them occasionally so they cook evenly. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little salt before serving with the padron peppers (below).
For the Blistered padron peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
125g/4oz padron peppers
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and the skin is blistered in places. Scatter with sea salt and serve.
Gourmet hot dog
Nowhere does a concept restaurant like London and I've fallen for the charm of Bubbledogs. Hot dogs with champagne is such a ridiculous idea on paper, but I never mind a bit of high and low. I'm sure it's intended for the fashionable crowd, but I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to those worn-out parents who can't face another Byron meal.
1 large tomato, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
1 red chilli, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Squeeze of lime
4 streaky bacon rashers
4 hot-dog buns
Soured cream, to serve
Make a salsa by mixing together the tomato, onions, chilli and olive oil. Season with salt and set aside. Now roughly mash the avocado, place in a separate bowl and stir in the lime juice.
Preheat the grill to high. Arrange the bacon on a baking tray lined with foil. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until crisp. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the frankfurters, cook, turning occasionally, until golden and heated through. Take the buns, frankfurters, bacon, salsa, mashed avocado and a bowl of soured cream to the table and let everyone assemble their own hot dog.
Food preparation: Rosie Reynolds and Marina Filippelli
Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes
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