On The Menu: Congee; Federica; M&S fish cakes; EAT 17's bacon jam; Athenaeum Hotel
This week I've been eating...congee
A few months back, while interviewing the writer, chef and all-round nice man Simon Hopkinson for My Life in Food in these pages, he mentioned congee, a Chinese porridge, which, he said, was great for hangovers or as a comforter when you're feeling under the weather.
Well, at the end of the last week, the weather was heavy and I was definitely under it. Bored, sneezing and with a head that felt like it had been weighted with building sand, I went to Kam Tong, an unfussy Cantonese restaurant in London's Queensway, under chef Chris Kwan, formerly of Zen Mayfair,
I had the congee with 1,000-year egg. Out it came, a steaming bowl of a translucent rice boiled off in stock with the alkali-cooked eggs swimming in it. The eggs were a delight of squidginess but just footnotes to the rice itself, which had a texture looser than porridge with a deeply savoury flavour. It didn't cure, but certainly cheered me.
A swig of Spain
Say hello to Federica, the new drink from Valencia in Spain. Billed as a sort of Spanish take on Limoncello, it's made from lots of sunny ingredients such as oranges, grapes and other citrus fruits from the eastern seabord city. Sound a little tame, right? Actually, it kicks well beyond it 30 per cent alcohol content. Although the bottle suggests mixing it into a gin and tonic or adding a dash of it to a jug of sangria, I thought it was at its best served on the rocks with lots of ice. Let's just hope the sun returns so we can drink it outside, as the Spaniards do. £24.99, selfridges.co.uk
Fast fish cakes
After a long day at work it's nice to come home and unwind by cooking dinner from scratch. But sometimes, when its 8pm and you're starving, you really can't be bothered. Well, for those times you can do worse than the new range of fish cakes from M&S. The two haddock and minted pea creations are particularly great, the fish not overtaken by the potatoes, while the Thai prawn and cod gets a thumbs up, too. The cod, tomato and pesto version, less so. £2.99, marksandspencer.com
Food mash-ups are mercurial things. Sometimes they work (think Heston's bacon-and-egg ice cream), sometimes they definitely don't (garlic beer, anyone?) and sometimes you don't know what to think, as with EAT 17's bacon jam. It sounds appalling, but bear with me. Firstly, it is, in fact, not a jam but an onion chutney – which straight-away makes it more conscionable. And tastewise it's actually pretty good. The mix of bacon, balsamic vinegar, onion, sugar and lemon really hits the spot when smeared on a burger. £14.44, amazon.co.uk
Looking for a place to go for afternoon tea? Don't head to The Ritz, carry on a bit further down Piccadilly to the Athenaeum Hotel, which has just been named the Tea Guild's Top London Afternoon Tea 2012. Apparently, it was its orange-blossom scones that won it. Sittings are at 12.30pm, 3pm and 5.30pm daily. £28.50, athenaeumhotel.com
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