Erica’s food files: Opso, Marylebone

16th October 2017 / Erica Cohen

You know those nights when you go and see a special screening of Sister Act in a candlelit church with a live gospel choir?  No, neither did I, till my friend Koh suggested it.  So I was having one of those all singing, all dancing, very cheesy and slightly embarrassing movie nights and we needed some food! We decided on Opso, whose Greek meze menu is enough to make even a fasting nun salivate.

Opso which means ‘delicate morsel of food’ in ancient Greek is all about social laid back dining.  Opso’s modern Greek tapas is a concept that sits very well with me, as you can order everything you fancy, without feeling like a massive fatty, because you’re sharing it. So with our heads full of gospel and sassy one-liners, it was time to order an ungodly amount of Greek food. Praise the Lord!

We started with some classics; Tzatziki, Taramas and Pitta Bread.  Now, these may sound somewhat basic but holy moly, they were the stars of the show.  The generous portion of grilled pitta bread which had been made in-house, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs, was warming and wondrous.  The creamy taramas, came with chopped red olives and herbs and was a reassuring pale pink as opposed to the luminous pink that prevails in most establishments.  The tzatziki was a curious paste-like texture topped with dill and cucumber, again, these little touches helped elevate this humble dip into a dreamy Mediterranean marvel.

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We moved on to the Mac n’ Cheese from the Greek Street Food selection; a filthy, glutenous mix of traditional hylopites pasta with smoked cheese and corn béchamel and all served up in a street food takeaway box, very cute.  We coupled this with Handmade Spanakopita and Pastourmas which didn’t disappoint, the spiced cured beef perfectly offset with the chive oil and coriander.  We then drank beautiful cocktails while I entertained Koh with my misguided musical theatre ambitions.  We agreed the only thing holding me back from becoming a West End star was the outfit.  It was simple,  I just had to find the perfect pair of leggings and I was good to go.  We left on a high, full of false expectation and authentic Greek cuisine. Head to Opso if you’re hungry for a life on the stage or just simply a tasty Mediterranean meal made of high-quality ingredients. Amen to that!

Average meal with starters, 3 mains and dessert: £24

Address: 10 Paddington St, W1U 5QL, Marylebone, London
Telephone: 0207 487 5088
For reservations e-mail: reservations@opso.co.uk

Monday – Friday
Lunch: 12pm – 4pm (last order 3:30pm)
Dinner: 6pm – 11:30pm (last order 10:30pm)

Saturday
Brunch: 10am – 4pm (last order 3:30pm)
Dinner: 5pm – 11:30pm (last order 10:30pm)

Sunday
Brunch: 10am – 4pm (last order 3:30pm)
Dinner: 5pm – 11pm (last order 10pm

 

Erica

Erica’s food files: Super Speedy Shakshouka

9th October 2017 / Erica Cohen

Ingredients:

1 carton of chopped tomatoes

6 free-range, organic eggs

2 garlic cloves

A small bunch of coriander leaves

45g of feta

1 heaped teaspoon of ground cumin

2 flat teaspoons of brown sugar

Ground black pepper 

1 small fresh, thinly sliced hot chilli (stems, seeds and ribs removed)

Total cooking time: 8 minutes

Serves: 3-6 people 

Shakshouka means ‘mixture’ in Arabic and is a dish of poached eggs in a spiced tomato sauce. Its’ origins can be traced back to North Africa, where its popularity quickly spread throughout much of the Middle East and Spain.  As such, it has many different variations, as each Middle Eastern and North African country put their own special mark on this tasty breakfast classic.  Whichever way you have it, Shakshouka is utterly delicious, nutritious and surprisingly simple to make.  This is a take on my dad’s sliced potato version which he would make for us when we little.

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Shakshouka is a spicy little one pot dish, which makes it really easy to prepare, perfect if you’re having one of those lazy, hazy Sundays, with a side of a hangover.  Traditionally Shakshuka is cooked and served in cast iron pan or tagine, but if you don’t happen to have one of these handy, fear not, a large pan with a lid will do the trick just as well. My recipe only takes 8 minutes to make, I KNOW!!  Less time slaving, more time scoffing! Woop!

So, let’s begin…

1 – Pop the pan on a medium heat and pour the tomatoes in.  Add the sugar and chilli and stir.

2 – Crush the garlic gloves.  If you don’t have a garlic crusher, just chop them up thinly. Then add them to the pan together with the cumin and stir gently.

3 – Crumble in the feta and season with black pepper

4 –  Break the eggs into the pan, taking care not to crack the yolks. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to the lowest setting.  Cook for a few minutes until the egg whites are barely set and the yolks are still runny.  You can always check in on them if you’re not sure how they’re doing.  The yolks should look white and give a bit of a jiggle if you gently shake the pan.

5 – Sprinkle on the coriander leaves.  Take off the heat and serve hot and direct from the pan.  Serve with some freshly toasted pitta bread to mop up the yolky gorgeousness, olives or even some natural yoghurt and devour!

Top Tip!  Spoon some of the tomato mixture over the whites of the eggs, this will help it to cook quicker, whilst keeping the yolks nice and runny.

 

Erica

Erica’s food files: Ember Yard, Soho

2nd October 2017 / Erica Cohen

I’d just returned from a surreal 5-week eastern European adventure, having eaten a lifetime’s worth of goulash, sausage and potato dumplings. I was back in London, looking forward to trying some different taste sensations whilst catching up with friends.  This essentially involved a week of eating my own body weight in world food, and several gallons of Aperol Spritz, (clearly, not ready to embrace winter just yet).

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My friend Lottie suggested Ember Yard, part of the famed Salt Yard Group, in our old stomping ground of Soho for a little catch-up.  Its fresh take on Italian and Spanish tapas was just the ticket for my welcome-back-to-London-dining supper.   We started with some dishes from their tapas menu (plates from £5 – £11) and then worked backwards with some sides from the charcuterie and bar snacks menu. Did I mention they have their very own custom built Baroque-style grill, for authentic Mediterranean cooking over charcoal and wood?  Jazzy, right?

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I went for the Sea Bass Carpaccio, which came with stunning bright green chive oil, smoked tomatoes and anchovies.  The saltiness of the anchovies, encased in a light tempura, was the perfect partner to the clean and light sea bass.  Lottie’s choice of Cornish Plaice, Mussels and Sea Aster was an Instagramable dream topped off with a gorgeous saffron dressing. We chose their light and limey Blanc de Morgex, the notes of citrus worked wonders with our fishy dishes. We shared the Courgette Flower which was stuffed with Monte Enebro goat’s cheese and drizzled ever so delicately with honey (I’m assuming from the fanciest of Spanish bees?)

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Curious to sample their bar snacks, we opted for their Chips and Smoked Chorizo Skewers which came with a dreamy saffron aioli.  The unsalted chips had a distinctly un-chip like flavour which may be due to being fried in Iberico pork fat as opposed to regular oil – they were different and delicious all the same.

Service was quick and staff are clearly masters of the menu, suggesting and advising based on our personal foodie preferences. The same menu is available throughout their two-story restaurant and the kitchen is open till midnight Thursday-Saturday, which makes it the perfect place for a late night post-theatre treat.

Word of warning, do not go to Ember Yard ravenously hungry, even going by their 3 plate each suggestion, we could have happily kept eating.  Indeed, Ember Yard is all about incredible taste combinations and savouring the flavour of their fresh, locally sourced creations.  Our night of tapas and travelling tales did not disappoint!

Salt Yard Group is a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Group; all 5 of their central London restaurants have been awarded a two-star Food Made Good Sustainability Rating.

 

Erica