Food and Drink

In France, the first of April is also full of pranks in France. The tradition is poisson d’avril (April fish) – children try to stick paper fishes onto their friends’ backs and when it’s discovered, one shouts “Poisson d’avril!”. Simple but effective. On the day at Brasserie Zédel, they went all out for the event, with paper fish to stick on someone’s back at each place, fortune telling fish, and beautiful dark chocolate fish to take home. I was there on invitation – Blai and I actually find ourselves there quite regularly. It almost always has space for a walk-in for two and is priced very well for a centrally-located brasserie…and, of course, we like the food! But this…this was different. It was a one-off for a particularly French way of celebrating April Fools.

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

And I couldn’t help but giggle at the poor victims of the prank that night, many of whom were the waitstaff!

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

Then we watched as every fortune telling fish curled up in our palms…. that’s the usual thing right? That we’re all “passionate” people?!

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

For my meal, I started with Steak Tartare. It was excellent despite it being not much of a looker – all the seasonings had been mixed in with the meat already.

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

I felt an implicit pressure to have fish somewhere in my meal (actually the pressure was all self-inflicted) and chose the Daurade aux Aubergines et Sauce Verte – sea bream. The aubergines under the fish were fantastic!

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

Brasserie Zédel’s menu changes ever so slightly through the seasons and it’s most apparent in their dessert menu. I chose one dessert that I certainly hadn’t seen on the menu before: Soufflé Glacé au Café, Crème Anglaise. The thin custard was poured directly into the heart of the cold coffee mousse. I loved that the combination wasn’t too sweet overall and was a fine ending to the meal, no extra coffee required!

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

And here’s that dark chocolate fish, made in house by their chocolatier, that was presented to each of us at the end of our meal. I’ve been nibbling on it every day since and it’s ridiculously good.

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

Thank you very much to Hattie and Natalie and Brasserie Zédel for the invitation – it was a fun night! I’ve now signed up to the restaurant’s newsletter to get head’s up for their other French celebrations (I hear they do a great Bastille Day).

Brasserie Zédel
20 Sherwood Street
London W1F 7ED

I’m not sure how I learned about the Japanese doria, a rice gratin that’s quite popular in Japan, but it may have been while browsing recipes on the English language site of Cookpad, one of the most popular recipe sharing sites in Japan. Rice gratins. In a way they’re not too dissimilar to the Hong Kong style baked rices but y’know, with cheese. Now why haven’t I got onto that bandwagon?

As is usual with these fleeting obsessions of mine, I had to have one and I started with a bit of research on existing recipes. They’re all a combination of rice with whatever ingredients stirred or fried in, a layer of bechamel (or some other sauce) and a layer of cheese. While most Japanese recipes online are for small individual portions in cute gratin dishes, I opted to make a giant doria for us to share (and there were leftovers too).

Closeup of the Doria

It all starts with a base of fried rice or rice with some toppings. From what I can gather, most of the recipes either use ketchup as a flavouring or even curry. For my fried rice, I opted to just add a bit of soy and some chicken stock base. I had chicken and vegetables in mine.

Fried Rice Base

A layer of bechamel then goes on top of that rice. Another option would be to use Japanese curry or tomato sauce.

Bechamel on Top

Then a layer of grated cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar and crappy mozzarella – I think parmesan is usually used but I had none at the time).

Cheese on Top and Ready for the Oven

The rice gratin had a spell in the oven and voila, I had a gloriously beautiful doria.

Out of the Oven

And oh yes, it was delicious.

Serving the Doria

While this time, I made everything from scratch for my doria, I can see how it could be created from leftovers – rice, sauces, cheeses, etc. Even random ingredients that need using up could be incorporated with the rice. I see many more dorias in my future.

It was back to Dalston a couple weekends ago to try more Turkish food in that hood. It was snowing that day and we hustled our way up Kingsland High Street and I eventually pulled Blai into Şömine. I’d been wanting to try some of their homestyle food for a while though the waiter who greeted us first warned that we couldn’t get kebabs there! They must get that request a lot.

While still choosing between the five or six dishes on the steam table by the window, my attention was drawn to the back of the restaurant where I noticed two women folding pasta. Turkish manti! It was decided – an order of manti had to be part of our lunch as well as a dish from the steam table that came highly recommended by our waiter.

Making Manti

A huge basket of bread and a generously filled pickle plate came immediately to our table which I nibbled on while I watched the women make manti. Roll out the dough, slice it up into little squares, a dab of seasoned lamb mince on each and then press press press to form the unique little star shaped dumplings.

Pickle Plate

Their homemade manti came slathered with garlic yoghurt and chili butter and was fantastic. The bread came in very handy to mop up the butter and yoghurt and the pickles gave a welcome refreshing acidity to counter the rich yoghurt.


From the steam tray came the highly recommended vegetarian dolma. Peppers and courgettes had been stuffed full of seasoned rice – delicious but a little bit of minced lamb wouldn’t have gone amiss. Perhaps we’ll try one of their lamb dishes next time.

Vegetarian Dolma

Our bill for this fine lunch came to £13. I hear that this can be brought even lower if we had stuck to their soups (I saw a man at the next table slurp up a delicious looking lentil soup) which still come with all the bread and pickles. And if you’re lucky enough to live nearby, they’re open 24 hours!

Şömine Restaurant
131 Kingsland High Street
London E8 2PB

Somine on Urbanspoon

Nine ladies dancing!


That’s the day of the 12 days of Christmas assigned to me by Innocent Drinks – the 9th day…which happens to be today. I was one of the 12 bloggers invited to develop a mocktail (that’s a non-alcoholic cocktail if you’ve never come across it before!) using one or more of their juice range. To help, they even sent over a very nice box of mocktail making goodies for inspiration and a supermarket voucher to go get my ingredients.

Innocent Drinks Inspiration Box

I had nine ladies dancing to use as inspiration. Immediately, I thought of Christmas parties and after dinner discos and the need of a refreshing drink to quench one’s thirst. And how appropriate for me too – I don’t drink alcohol and much prefer a mocktail!

Christmas, Christmas, I love Christmas markets! A drink I associate with Germany, land of amazing Christmas markets, is apfelschorle – a 50:50 mixture of apple juice and sparkling water. I reckon it would be just what nine ladies dancing require to wet their whistle.

It was time to jazz up apfelschorle into something a bit more festive though – a bit of rosemary and lime would do the trick. And here’s the mocktail I ended up with after lots of happy testing: An Apple-Rosemary Refresher.

Innocent has turned it into a beautiful recipe card (pdf) that can be downloaded by clicking on the photo below.


Otherwise, here’s the recipe again:

An Apple-Rosemary Refresher
serves 1-2.

For the rosemary syrup:
125ml water
60ml sugar
3-4 sprigs rosemary

100ml Innocent apple juice
100ml sparkling water
5ml lime juice

First make the rosemary syrup. Put the syrup ingredients in a small pot and place over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring slowly to a boil and then turn off the heat and let cool.

Mix together 30ml of the syrup with the rest of the ingredients (except the ice). Pour over ice and serve.

All 12 days of Christmas mocktails will be made into a pdf booklet and I’ll link to it here after all days are complete. Thank you very much, Innocent Drinks, for this – it was fun to come up with a new mocktail recipe!

We’re obviously very dedicated to the Christmas market. Last weekend saw my friend and I take a train to Birmingham to check out their Frankfurt Christmas Market. We arrived at about 1pm and left by a 7pm train (times are approximate!). It was quite easy to find – it’s all located at the centre of the city, just outside the Bullring. We encountered stall upon stall upon stall of German food, drink, and Christmas gifts and decorations.

Giant Christmas Pyramid

The eating started as soon as we saw a stand selling freshly fried potato pancakes. We opted for a dollop of oniony sour cream on the side and munch away we did. I was surprised by the addition of some kind of grain to the potato base but it added a good crunch to the fried fritter.

Potato Pancake

As soon as the last bite went down, we queued for bratwursts – one white and one red, both to share. I love both – the milder white and the punchier smoked red.


Gluhwein for Roxanne and hot chocolate for me. And yes, we kept our mugs as souvenirs (you pay a deposit for it).

Hot Chocolate

There was room for a shared pretzel…


…and two kinds of fried doughnuts too. The quarkbällchen was made with quark, the German fresh cheese, and a paper cone of schmalzkuchen was freshly fried and dusted with lots of powdered sugar.



They all went down much too easily.

Schmalzkuchen with Powdered Sugar

Schokokuss (chocolate kisses) were purchased to take home. While everyone was queuing to buy packs of 10 or 12, I’m glad I showed restraint and only purchased a couple (they’re filled with marshmallow inside…soft, sticky, intensely sweet marshmallow).


It was with a little difficulty that we put down our final savoury bites for the day – they had to be frankfurters! That photo below shows mine – I swear there’s a frankfurter underneath all those pickles and crispy fried onions.


Overall, a most successful eating day!

At Night

Other edibles to look out for are the 1/2 metre long bratwursts, the cheese skewers that are battered and fried, hot chocolate spoons, roast pork shanks, huge roasting hams, cream cakes, and a huge variety of Haribo.

It’s a long journey on a slow train on a Sunday and is probably more manageable on a weekday or Saturday. If you’re utterly in love with Christmas markets, then it’s possibly worth the travel but otherwise I’d recommend visiting if you’re in the region!

All my photos from the day can be found in this Flickr photoset.


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