Thank you for waiting patiently. I have many excuses for delaying my cooking challenge. Nevertheless, I managed to do another letter and another country.
Romania was the chosen country for R. Only eight more countries and dishes to go. Don't get too upset. At this rate, I will still be going until 2020.
When I looked online as well as asking friends and colleagues, the results were not too encouraging or exciting. This was mainly due to two words: Cabbage Rolls.
I do like cabbage but I wouldn't order this dish on a menu if I saw it. I like stuffed vine leaves, it's just this sounded a bit dull. Don't judge me, I am learning.
Two sources I used for help were from Jo Cooks and Traditional Romanian Food blog. I always try to use a few sources just to make sure I have the correct recipe. As well as, just incase, if I do not have all the ingredients, I can see what else is done.
The essence of this dish is rice and pork stuffed into rolled cabbages, cooked drenched/drizzled with tomato sauce. My pictures do not do this dish or recipe justice and I thoroughly recommend looking at the two blogs above for true Romanian cabbage rolls.
Well seasoned, softened cabbage via boiling, is a vessel for flavoursome pork with garlic and rice. Forget the calories with a tortilla or wrap, this is healthy delights for you and yours.
Pork, onions and garlic are all a good base and start for a good dish. Add to that some rice and herbs and spices, what is there not to like?
I know you are capable to read the blogs above, but a quick summary of how to make the rolls:
Quite time consuming near the end, so start cooking this early and not at 9pm like I did.
I actually had my first bite at 11:30pm that evening. It was tasty, moist and filling. A dip or sauce with it, would add more, but it isn't a necessity. The good thing about this recipe is that you can experiment with the flavours and spices and even go vegetarian too.
Thank you Europe and specifically Romanian.
There are hidden gems everywhere, even more so in your own back yard.
I am not a local to Whetstone, but live close by and have visited the area often. I also thought I knew about what was hot or not round there.
I was wrong. I had not heard of the latest restaurant. So I was happy to hear of a new restaurant in Whetstone called Bayleaf.
"It’s been 23 years since the Bayleaf journey began. In this time, we have won many awards and accolades through our takeaway delivery service.We are now proud to offer you a dining experience you have been waiting for, with a restaurant in Whetstone. It has always been and will be our policy that the quality of our food and service is second to none.
Our vision has been to provide a restaurant with a stunning ambience, where you will receive friendly and attentive service. We have introduced a completely new menu, using traditional cooking techniques and the finest ingredients money can buy."
I visited Bayleaf a few weeks ago with my parents. Since my son has arrived (Lucas), they have been super helpful. I also had to leave Laura at home to look after Lucas. Don't worry, I will have my own time with Lucas soon.
As we walked in, we were greeted by a friendly team and the restaurant was quite busy for a Tuesday night. Another reason why I love London, people don't care about what night it is or when they should eat out. When there is good food on offer and they are hungry, they will feast and drink too.
Below is what the Bayleaf team recommended to us and what we ate:
Samander Ki Bhojan (Serves two guests) (SF)A dish to impress the best. Succulent chargrilled king prawns lightly spiced with ajwain seeds and yoghurt, delicately panfried king-sized scallops, accompanied by a light dressed micro salad.
Lajawaab Lamb (Medium) (D)One piece of sheek kebab and two cubes of lamb grill barbecued in a traditional clay oven. Served with fresh salad.
Kanava Koliwada (Medium)Fresh rings of squid pan cooked with ginger, garlic, green chillies, curry leaves, turmeric, onions and fresh tomatoe sauce. Served with micro salad and lime wedge.
Tandoori Mixed Grill (Served with complimentary naan) (N) (D)A combination of chicken tikka, grilled lamb, malai tikka, tandoori chicken and sheek kebab.
Sholay Gost (Served with complimentary pilau rice) (D) (Hot)Cubes of lamb marinated with ginger, garlic, green chilli, black pepper and yoghurt - grilled. Cooked in a thick fresh tomato and onion based sauce together with whole garam masala.
Tandoori Garlic Chicken (Served with complimentary naan) (D) (Hot)Succulent half chicken delicately marinated with fresh smoked garlic, Greek-style yoghurt and a blend of fine spices, including garam masala, green chillies and coriander.
We were treated really well here by all the staff. Funnily enough we were greeted by an Iranian lady so after the formalities we went about inspecting the menu.
The menu isn't complicated, but I initially did get confused about what to order. It is all broken down into easy sections, it is more to do with the fact that each dish sounded great. To avoid any blame by my parents, for choosing the wrong thing, I asked the head waiter to choose.
From above you can see what they recommended. I can tell you now, it was a lot. I wasn't complaining as I managed to have some leftovers and enjoy the food the next day too.
The food was good and Bayleaf is a restaurant I will be returning too. The stand out dishes were the scallop and prawn starter; which is a must. Especially due to the smoke show. The best dish however was, the Sholay gost The lamb was cooked so tenderly and the rich tomato sauce had great depth to it. The aromatic flavours ran throughout and meant that although we had a lot of food; we finished this one.
We had quite a fair bit for starters and the squid and scallops were good; I don't usually order seafood at an Asian restaurant. I am glad they suggested this for us.
Unfortunately, however the dish I would usually order, the lamb chops and sheekh kebab were not that great. They were quite dry and lacked the tandoori grill char that I welcome so much.
For main courses, the tandoori chicken with rice was another dish I would recommend and with rice makes it a filling dish, especially if you wanted it alone.
Bayleaf has evolved itself from just a takeaway joint to a good restaurant. Hearing from friends after this trip, it is a fan favourite and hopefully will last longer than other restaurants in this Whetstone site. Thank you to all at Bayleaf. I'll see you soon.
GOOD TIMES: The SHOLA GOSHT, oh so good. You have to order it
WATCH OUT: The sheekh kebab and lamb chops were not that great
OMG: Scallop smoke display, a good show in a different setting.
I would like to avoid FOMO and the best way to do this is to try out new restaurants. Chai Thali is a new restaurant, starting from street food stall to now permanent location in Camden.
Voted Best Indian Restaurant by Resident Magazine 2017, meant that I was very happy that Oran suggested we try Chai Thali. A few more words below by the restaurant themselves to provide some background.
"From the chaotic streets of Old Delhi to the bustling metropolis of Mumbai and on south to the glittering seashores of Kerala, we scoured the sub-continent to bring you the very best of India’s street food. Rooted in tradition, bursting with aromatic spices and brought to you with a contemporary twist, Chai Thali is a nation of street food all in one place.
Blending the old with the new, Chai Thali is all about India’s traditional and modern street food cultures. Our authentic kerb-side snacks and sharing plates are delicious paired with a craft beer or one of our spice-infused signature cocktails."
As a restaurant the premise is small plates to share, but they do so larger mains which are ideal for feasting.
Curry club is all about sharing. Chai Thali offers this and the way we ordered and asked the restaurant to accommodate made this easier. So between the four of us we ordered:
Since I went to Chai Thali, a lot has happened in the month Mainly that I have become a father. Because of this, I have had to enlist the help of my fellow curry club people for their feedback as my memory is a bit hazy.
Here is some of there feedback below:
Chai Thali is a restaurant I would definitely recommend. Slightly hidden away in Camden you will most probably get a seat. Go as a group or a couple, hell, go alone. Big a few dishes, be rave and I'm confident that you will be satisfied.
OMG: sharing is caring
WATCH OUT: I can't complain to be honest
GOOD TIMES: lovely lamb chops