Monday, 25 February 2013

CAU, Cambridge, UK

You might think it's unusual for me to be quite excited about the opening of somewhere that specialises in Argentinian steak. But as a non-meat eater I've realised that places like that often have an excellent range of side dishes that I am more than happy to tuck into (see Byron Burger, which appears to be coming to Cambridge soon- woo!). Anyway, when I was invited along to try out CAU, which has recently opened in the centre of town, I thought it was worth giving a go.

CAU is situated in part of the old Barclays bank site on Benet Street, and has a modern funky design. It's not in the main part of the old bank though, so it looks like we're going to have to wait a while longer to see what's become of those amazing ceilings. Anyway, this (currently) mini-chain sells itself on its range of meat, but in fact has quite a wide-ranging and eclectic menu. We kicked off with starters of salt and pepper squid and some vaguely Asian steamed mussels, which were both excellent. The squid (though a rather small portion) was light and crispy, and the mussels were perfectly cooked in their coconut broth.

I tried the aubergine lasagne for my main course, while the Male Companion Person went for the lomito medallions (I don't really know what that means but it was basically some pieces of steak). My veggie dish was aubergine parmigiana by another name, and very good it was too; densely packed with soft aubergine and enough cheese to add a bit of richness and crunch on top.

My 'lasagne' looks a bit burnt in this picture, and though it was on the path to well caramelised it wasn't actually overdone.

The meat was described as "pretty tasty" by the MCP, who is not known for being effusive.  A side order of chips, which were akin to slimline roast potatoes, were also rather good. We finished things off with some churros for me, and a cornflake ice cream sundae for the MCP. Despite the churros being dusted in quite a lot of sugar, the dark chocolate sauce meant that overall they weren't too sweet. I can't comment much on the sundae, as I only got to try a bit before it rapidly disappeared.

So overall I quite liked CAU. Between us, we sampled a range of seafood, meat and veggie dishes which were all very acceptable, and the service was efficient and friendly without being intrusive. Our bill for three courses each, and a couple glasses of wine, would have been somewhere around the £60 mark, so not excessive. CAU is not destination dining, (and isn't claiming to be), but it's somewhere I'd be happy to go back to for a casual lunch. And having a souce of churros in Cambridge can only be a good thing.

15 Benet Street
Cambridge CB2 3QN

Thanks to the nice people at CAU and their PR person for providing me and the Male Companion Person with our dinner for free and gratis.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Saag- Bengali-style spring greens

I guess going to Kolkata recently has made me think about cooking Bengali food a bit more regularly. So here's something that's pretty easy to make, but is rather delicious. Bengali vegetable dishes don't tend to include garlic, but this recipe for spring greens is an exception. The greens are braised with garlic and kalo jeera (black onion seeds) until soft and very tender, and then finished off with a bit of ghee. It's an ideal side dish to go with other Indian food, but I suspect it would be quite nice with a bit of poached fish too.

Recipe (enough for 4-6 as a side dish):

2-3 heads of spring greens, around 500g, washed and shredded
4-5 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
2-3 heaped tsps kalo jeera/black onion seeds
1-2 Indian green chillis (optional)
1 generous tblsp ghee
1-2 tblsp sunflower (or another plain) oil
1 tsp salt (or adjust to taste)

Heat the oil in a large, wide-bottomed pan, and when it's warm put in the black onion seeds. Swirl them around a bit, and as the oil gets hotter they'll start to spit and pop. This should only take a minute or so, and when they start doing this add the garlic. Turn down the heat if necessary, as the garlic shouldn't really brown much. After another minute put the greens in and give everything a really good stir to make sure that the garlic and kalo jeera aren't all stuck on the bottom of the pan. Pierce the whole green chillis a couple of times, so that they release their flavour but hardly any heat, and add them to the greens with the salt. Give everything another good stir, turn the heat down low, put a lid on, and allow the greens to cook for at least 15 minutes. The residual water left on the leaves from washing them should create some steam which will help cook them, but stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan. When the greens are completely cooked, add the ghee and stir it through to coat all the leaves. This is one of those times when you don't want your vegetables to have any bite to them, and the greens should be cooked all the way through with the stalks easily falling apart. The saag won't look that exciting but the generous amounts of garlic and ghee do a very good job of pepping up these otherwise rather boring vegetables. Serve with rice and dahl, (or something else).