Brilliant baked feta with sweet cherry tomatoes

baked feta and tomato dip - starter recipes - food

It’s Friday evening, I’m late home from work, and ambitiously, I’ve invited a gathering of guests over for an impromptu dinner party to celebrate the start of the weekend. Panic sets in – ‘what an earth can I rustle up in less than twenty minutes that looks and tastes fantastic?!” I can cheat and buy some posh nibbles, or I can be inventive and use up the tasty delights that have been sitting in my fridge, patiently awaiting my creative culinary skills. I know I have feta, I know I have cherry tomatoes, and I’m positive there are some herbs lying around that I can make good use of.

Sometimes these creations of mine turn out disastrously, but this time I’m glad to say it’s a complete success, with my dinner guests practically licking the serving dish clean. Rich cherry tomatoes in a sweet, tangy sauce with crumbled, salty feta baked until creamy and delicious. Serve with crusty wholemeal bread to scoop up the delectable deliciousness. It’s finger food at its finest, and allows you time in the kitchen to tackle the main course!

And for the recipe…

This gorgeous starter is packed full of flavour and only requires about five minutes preparation before throwing everything into the oven to work its magic.

Ingredients

● 2 shallots (finely chopped)
● Drizzle of olive oil
● 1 crushed garlic clove
● 1 can of cherry tomatoes in tomato juice (plus a little water)
● Pinch of chilli flakes
● Pinch of dried herbs (oregano or thyme)
● 200g pack of feta
● Fresh oregano or parsley (to garnish)
● Salt and pepper

What to do 

1)    Finely chop the shallots and fry in a little olive oil, until softened.

2)    Throw in your tin of cherry tomatoes with a dash of water, and turn up the heat until the tomato sauce has reduced.

3)    Add your chilli flakes and seasoning.

4)    Once the sauce has thickened, transfer to an ovenproof dish then sprinkle your crumbled feta on top, with a little salt and pepper.

5)    Bake in the oven at 180°C for about 15 minutes.

6)    Scatter a topping of fresh oregano or parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with fresh, baked bread and get dipping!

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Head to Joe Allen’s, London, for gourmet burgers and chic cocktails

Joe Allen restaurant London

A New York-style brasserie, with a mighty-meaty American menu

Originally opened in the seventies, this theatre-loving, bustling haunt is where actors, producers, directors and West-End stars would habitually hang out supping on cocktails devouring the classic American fare. It still maintains that element of drama and sophistication, with crisp white linen table clothes, waiters clad in long, knee-length aprons with white shirts and black ties, a singing pianist, sultry, ambient lighting and walls adorned with theatre posters from old musicals and images of iconic American stars.

Joe Allen's restaurant - London restaurants - restaurant reviews - foodThe restaurant itself is has a New York/Parisian brasserie feel, with exposed brick walls and wooden floorboards. Very New York and very cool. Not surprising mind you, seeing as the restaurant itself is styled on its original New York venue, so there’s an aura of the Big Apple’s downtown-chic that emanates throughout. I envisage a swarm of Broadway stars herding into the restaurant to serenade the audience with classic show tunes accompanied by a debonair bow-tied gentleman tinkling on the piano.

We’re sat on a romantic table for two, subtly amused I sit opposite my lovely friend Di, and not on an intimate date with sexy man. To help whet our appetites we quite literally dive into a couple of tongue-tingling old fashioned tipples. I opt for the ‘Bitter Queen’, a combination of gin, Dubonnet, rose lemonade with a subtle hint of orange and aromatic bitters. As a Campari lover, this is just the cocktail for me, and of course helps whittle down our choices from the mouthwatering menu.

Joe Allen cocktail - London restaurant reviews - foodIf you’re feeling famished, Joe Allen’s collection of finger-licking American treats will absolutely hit the mark. We’re both ravenous, so if I’m honest, everything looks good, but catching my eye in particular is the creamy lobster macaroni. Who could resist? And then there’s the choice between succulent fillet steak, spiced baby back ribs or half a grilled chicken. What’s not on the menu we notice are the signature burgers, but we spot the waiters gliding through the restaurant gracefully carrying towering sliders filed with bacon, crisp salad, chunky pickles and bubbling cheese. We simply can’t miss out on sampling the restaurant’s definitive dish. We decide to share a steak and burger following our starters of lobster macaroni and crab salad.

Crab salad bloody tomao dressing - Joe Allen restaurant London - restaurant reviews - foodThe crab salad is divine. Delicate flakes of fresh crab with slices of avocado dressed in a tangy Bloody Mary tomato dressing. Refreshingly light and flavoursome, and the perfect entrée before tucking into a mammoth burger. The mac and cheese unfortunately did not quite live up to expectations. I was expecting a thick, cheesy sauce with chunks of exquisite lobster. Instead I bite into a mouthful of macaroni, that has a runny, milky consistency and I’m forced to play ‘hunt the lobster’. A few tiny chunks surface from the mounds of macaroni. It was ok, but certainly nothing nothing to rave about.

Macaroni and cheese - Joe Allen restaurant London - restaurant reviews - foodOur mains are swiftly presented to us in no time at all. I have a glistening fillet steak cooked in the restaurant’s signature steak sauce, accompanied by a delightful slightly spiced chipotle hollandaise sauce – an absolute taste sensation when smothered over my juicy steak.

Steak with hollandaise chipotle sauce - Joe Allen's restaurant London - restaurant reviews - food

Di is presented an impressive burger piled high with crisp salad, slathers of cheese, sizzling crispy bacon rashers and chunky pickles in a toasted brioche bun. Instantly I have food envy but lucky for me we decide to share! As a true burger buff I’m very particular about my sizzling sliders – but this one ticks every box.  The meat is perfectly pink and meltingly tender, the crispy bacon is covered in gooey cheese and the salad and pickles are crunchy and tasty as I bite into the sweet brioche bun. Heavenly. The chipotle hollandaise tastes great with the burger, alongside the spicy steak sauce, to add a cheeky little kick.

Joe Allen burger - London restaurants reviews - foodTo our surprise both plates are literally licked clean, without a leftover in sight. We have to roll ourselves out of the restaurant from a little over indulgence but overall Joe Allen’s gets a big thumbs up. Great burgers, quirky cocktails and a bustling atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit.

For more information on booking a table at Joe Allens, and to view a sample menu visit www.joeallen.co.uk

Scrumptious sauerkraut with smoked sausages and potatoes

Sauerkraut sausages potatoes recipe - food ideas - dinner recipesThis is without a doubt, one of my favourite food dishes of all time. It’s a flavourfest on a plate. Pickled cabbage piled high with chunky smoked sausages and soft, fluffy potatoes. Admittedly it’s a little of an acquired taste, but if you like strong bold flavours (like myself), then like you’ll love this hearty German dish.

Even as a child, I was always partial to some of the finer things in life, especially when it came to food. Rather than eating the traditional roast chicken and veg my mum had kindly prepared for me, I would insist on devouring a bowl of olives or infuriate her by tucking into some spicy salami. I’ve always loved experimenting with worldly foods. Bearing that in mind, at a very young age I developed a complete obsession with a tasty German dish, Sauerkraut. Anything pickled is a winner in my book, but add sausages to the pan and this is pretty much the icing on my savoury cake…

What you’ll need…
Selection of Polish and German smoked sausages such as kabanos, Bratwurst and frankfurters
4-5 White potatoes
2 cloves of garlic
Jar of Sauerkraut pickled cabbage
Two teaspoons pickled capers
Bay leaf (for potatoes)

How to cook…
1. Slice the sausages into sizeable chunks and fry them off in a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil and crushed garlic. You can keep the sausages whole if you prefer.

2. Whilst the sausages are frying, pop the potatoes on to boil with a bay leaf and salt. You can either boil or mash the potatoes, depending on your personal preference. I usually boil then, in a separate pan fry them off in olive oil and garlic.

3. Once the sausages have browned slightly, add the Sauerkraut and fry off until slightly golden in colour. At this stage you can throw in the potatoes (if you choose) and the capers and mix together on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, this way you will infuse the smoky-pickled flavours. Alternatively you can mash the potato then pour the cabbage and sausage mix over the top. Season to taste and pile up those plates!