Pasta aglio e olio; the simplest & most delicious chef’s pasta…

Have you ever noticed how gorgeous movie food looks? How glossy the sauces are, how plump the sausages, how vibrant the salads, how drippy the burgers, how beautiful the patisserie, basically how much it makes you want to eat despite the fact you’re not even vaguely hungry? Ok, well, I’m not sure I ever have that feeling because OH MY GOD, I’M ALWAYS HUNGRY…

…uh, apologies. Not sure where that came from but it’s probably got something to do with the fact that a) I am genuinely always snuffling around for the next thing to eat and b) I had the most amazing, wickedly good & suspiciously simple pasta dish recently and it’s this that we’re going to chat about today.

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Hands up who’s seen the film ‘Chef’? Oh good, that’s most of you…except you back there. Yeah, you in the red sweater…you’ve not seen ‘Chef’? Like, seriously not seen it? Ok well the minute you’ve finished reading this article – woah, woah, woah, WHEN you’ve finished it I said, not now, sit back down please – as I was saying, the minute you finish reading this article, go watch it, inhale it, devour it then come back here and we’ll get cooking.

It’s such a fantastic film, I can’t even tell you how much I adore it and the food they cook in it. Every time I watch it, I’m reminded not only of how much I love ingredients and dishes and menus and prepping and cooking but also of how really great food brings people together in ways nothing else can.

Cooking is an act of love, of support and of generosity and of nourishment. I want to feed you, your stomach and your heart, I want to welcome you to my table, to make you feel good and I want to see in your eyes that exact moment when you taste something and wonder how or why you’ve never had it before but you know you want it, you want a lot of it and you want it now and forever more.

If you want to make something for someone that makes them feel that way, this is the recipe to do it with – Pasta Aglio e Olio or ‘chef’s pasta’ as it’s known in our house, simply translated as ‘pasta with garlic and oil’. Created especially for the film by superstar chef and food-truck founder Roy Choi, it’s temptation on a plate. Seriously, if you’ve ever had a Korean taco that changed your life, you should probably send a quiet thank-you to the man whose modern way of thinking about food is totally influencing what we eat and how.

(For more information about the recipe or the other dishes from the film, head to chefthemovie.com)

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INGREDIENTS (for 2 people)

  • 225 grams of spaghetti (fresh or dried is fine, just follow cooking times on packet; I like to use wholewheat)
  • 120 ml of olive oil
  • 4 decent sized garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 110 grams flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 110 grams fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • rock salt & fresh black pepper

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METHOD

  • Put a large pan of salted water on to boil then add the spaghetti and cook according to the instructions; dried pasta will usually take around 10-12 minutes to leave it a little al dente (‘with bite’) and not soggy.
  • Heat your olive oil in another pan over a low to medium heat; you don’t want your oil too hot or your garlic will burn and be inedible and you will be very sad and hungry.
  • Add all of your sliced garlic and stir frequently until it turns golden brown.
  • Add your red pepper flakes and a generous pinch of rock salt and fresh black pepper; turn the heat down very low now while you finish your pasta.
  • Drain your spaghetti but do not rinse; you want the remnants of pasta water to ‘grab hold’ of the oil when you combine the two.
  • Add your drained spaghetti directly to the pan with the garlic & red pepper oil and gently mix everything together until each strand is coated with oil.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, add your parsley and most of your Parmesan and toss everything together well.
  • Check your seasoning and add more salt & pepper if necessary.
  • Squeeze your lemon over everything to taste
  • Serve with the last of the Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

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I like to serve this with fresh crusty bread to mop up all of that gorgeous garlicky oil but you feel free to go ahead and lick the plate clean if needs be, you’ll find no judgement from me. A goldfish bowl sized glass of red wine also goes down a treat alongside it.

This is one of those dishes that looks as though it takes a hell of a lot more time & effort than it actually does. The reality is it’s simple and the beauty is you’ll get to sincerely enjoy & appreciate a few quality ingredients in one bowl.

The garlic is crazy sweet and pungent, the red pepper flakes add the tiniest dab of heat and the lemon cuts through the richness of the oil. All of that spooned onto twirls of soft pasta…swooning right now. Trust me when I say this is the dish to make when you wanna impress but doubt your own skills…it’s a glorious golden swirl of Italy guaranteed to seduce all who come before it.

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Biting off a slice of something delicious at Loaf…

There’s only one thing I’m as much of a geek about as food and that my friends, is film.

Movies. Cinema. Silver screen. The talkies.

Okay, admittedly we’ve come on a bit since they were last called that but you get my drift. As such unashamed film geeks, J and I run a bet each year to see who can predict the most winners at the Golden Globes, the Baftas and the Oscars which means that we do some serious awards season movie viewing during the run up to these shows. Yes it may be all E! Red Carpet and ‘ooh, who are you wearing?’ and sure, there’s a certain amount of wondering how many celebrities Ricky or Stephen or Tina & Amy can delightfully and ironically insult but let’s be honest, there’s a paid-for-by-the-loser dinner at stake here so you better be damn sure I take it as amicably and nonchalantly as Monica Geller plays Pictionary.

Double bills are a luxurious way for movie nerds to pack in the films but they generally leave you with a pretty short window of time in which to recharge your batteries and ensure that your lunch that day doesn’t consist of day old cinema chain hot dogs and nachos. Next time you happen to be ticking off your Best Picture nominees in central London, swing by Loaf and exile forever images of dry, playdoughy wieners and stale, dusty tortilla chips.

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Cuter than the proverbial button with milk bottle lights, vintage wood benches, glossy subway-esque tiles and a welcome considerably warmer than the temperatures outside – those outside London should know that a blue sky in December is always deceptive – Loaf modestly boasts a small but perfectly formed menu and a welcome spot off the beaten track in which to enjoy quirky tin plates of beautifully homemade fare.

Avoiding every formulaic convention of the chains that close in on you wherever in the world you are nowadays, Loaf takes its inspiration from across the pond, specifically from some of New York’s favourite grilled cheese, comfort food trucks and shops. Fusing the stateside love for dishes like mac’n’cheese and pulled pork with the uncomplicated charm of a British cafe, Loaf offers simple sandwiches on fresh bloomer bread that run the gamut from greasy spoon sausage to upper end truffle egg & mushroom, packed protein boxes and platefuls of full English alongside 7 grilled cheese options and globally influenced salads and wraps.

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Given that it was about as warm & inviting outside as a dinner between Kim Kardashian and the majority readership of Vogue, hot dishes were the only appealing option to us for refueling between dates with Michael Keaton & Angelina Jolie on this wintry day which is how we ended up with these two gorgeous plates.

BBQ pulled pork & beans with brown rice – FYI mashed potatoes and macaroni cheese are also offered as bases for this – and red cabbage slaw was warming and delicious with a thick and sweetly smoky sauce smothering juicy shreds of pork and crisp, amethyst vegetable.

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Jerk chicken with generous chunks of sweet potato in a reggae reggae sauce was the second choice, again served with ample helpings of nutty rice and crunchy cabbage. Herbs & spices blended beautifully in the glossy sauce which was hot enough to blow through any vestiges of a winter cold without scorching your tongue and killing any hopes you had for enjoying any other flavour that day. Both plates were great value at £4.95 for the small sizes as seen above and shared as these were, they made for a well-sized and filling lunch.

The adorably-picky-about-coffee J was won over with an above average latte while the hot chocolate was rich, smooth and a surprisingly enjoyable accompaniment to the hearty platefuls of hot food. Service was genuine and friendly from the warm welcome and sincere goodbye to the quick delivery of food, and seats in the window offered the perfect vantage point from which to watch passing tourists juggle with bags of sale bargains bigger than them and steaming cups of takeaway tea & java.

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You’ll find this delightful, trans-Atlantically styled joint on Tottenham Court Road, smack bang between Warren and Goodge St stations, and you’ll discover that it’s the perfect place to enjoy a Manhattan-style-meets-British-foibles bite to eat. Central London can be a hotbed of cheap, tasteless clones when it comes to lunch on both a monetary & time budget but Loaf proves it doesn’t have to be this way; it’s the ideal spot to enjoy something that tastes good and allows you to support an independant business rather than an international behemoth of coffee beans and conventionality.

http://loaf.uk.com/about

Mac’n’cheese sandwiches & the country’s best burrito; a lesson on how to be deliciously naughty in San Francisco…

This roadtrip has been a voyage of culinary discovery so far and we’ve barely made a dent in it; from donuts to oysters to bourbon to kale, we’ve scaled the high and frankly, even higher points of West Coast dining and the last post resulted in my lauding with honours the fabulous Pacific Catch and their heavenly salmon rice bowls.

But let’s face it, in order to maintain the perfect balance, everything has its opposite; as there are hot dogs, so there must be mustard. As there is gin, so there must be tonic. As there is jelly, so there must be ice-cream. And as there are healthy salads, so there must be treats of such oozy, heavy deliciousness, they’re worth every potentially guilt-inducing moment of devouring.

I say guilt-inducing in jest because I actually don’t think you should ever feel guilt about what you eat. It’s your choice so put in your mouth, your tummy, your body whatever makes you happy and accept the consequences. Personally, I love pretty much everything so I try and eat pretty much everything in moderation. That said, I’ve never in my life put a Ben & Jerry’s pint back in the freezer half-eaten so let that be all you need to know about how slippery that damn slope of moderation can be at times. Anyway my point is, eat what you like & work it off or eat what you like, don’t work it off &  accept that waistbands may tighten unless the only things you eat that make you happy are broccoli and tofu in which case what are you doing reading this blog?

We’ve established then that San Francisco is the playground of the active, the luminous & the healthy but it also has a dark side that is really quite exceptional. Let’s have a look at the savoury portion of the dark side in this post and talk grilled sandwiches stuffed with mac’n’cheese and a burrito that has frequently topped a gazillion shrieking ‘Best Burrito in the World!’ polls…

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