Nick’s Chocolate, Banana and Pumpkin Brownies

There are several different ways to make brownies. Before establishing my own recipe, I wanted to create a brownie recipe that wasn’t too butter heavy and I wanted the creative variation of incorporating other whole foods. I use banana a lot in baking, but I have never experimented with pumpkin before. In this recipe, I find that mashed pumpkin blends very well with raw cane sugar and is great when combined with mashed bananas. The banana and pumpkin combo also gives these brownies a delightful gooey-like texture and is a much more healthy substitute to using large quantities of butter.

 

INGREDIENTS

A good wedge of pumpkin (peeled and cut into cubes)
2 old bananas
1 cup of raw cane sugar
3 eggs
1-1.5 cups of plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 small slivers of butter
Cocoa Powder (about one third of a cup)
100 grams of dark chocolate
Rapeseed oil

 

Instructions:

1) Wash the pumpkin cubes and boil in a pan of water until soft.

2) Drain the water from the pan and then mash the pumpkin.

3) Pour one quarter of a cup of raw cane sugar into the pan and mix well with the pumpkin.

4) In a bowl, mash the two bananas.

5) Then crack and apply the 3 eggs to the mashed bananas.

6) Whisk the eggs and mashed bananas thoroughly until smooth and finely blended.

7) Add the pumpkin mixture to the banana and egg mixture and blend well.

8) Add and stir in the remaining three quarters of the cup of raw cane sugar to the mixture in the bowl.

9) Sieve the flour and baking powder into a separate larger bowl.

10) Add one of the two small slivers of butter to the flour and mix well with your hands until the butter is fully integrated into the flour.

11) Next, mix in the cocoa powder to the flour.

12) Apply the banana, pumpkin and egg mixture to the flour and cocoa and stir in thoroughly

13) Add drizzles of rapeseed oil to the mixture, which will further moisten it and aid in getting all the remaining flour and cocoa at the bottom of the bowl properly blended in.

14) Break the dark chocolate into small pieces and put in a small bowl.

15) Add boiling water to a small saucepan and cook on a reasonably high heat.

16) Put the bowl over the saucepan. The chocolate should slowly melt.

17) Once the chocolate has melted, apply and stir it into the mixture in the large bowl.

18) Use the second small sliver of butter to sufficiently grease a rectangular baking tray. Then line the tray with parchment paper.

19) Preheat an oven at 180 degrees Celsius.

20) Apply all the brownie mixture to the tray and put the tray in the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

21) Take the brownies out of the oven and with a small knife or food stick, prick the deepest part of the cooked brownie mixture. At this stage it is very important that it retains at least a modest layer of goey-ness. However we don’t want the mixture too dry and cake-like. If the mixture is too goey and liquid-like return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes.

 

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Recipe and photo by Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

Nick’s Rustic Vegan Moussaka

During the last two months of the COVID related lockdown period, I have been spending some time in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking and find it a theraputic and healing outlet. One of my favourite dishes is the famous Eastern Mediterranean dish moussaka. Making moussaka is a veritable treat and worth the effort. It is one of my favourite foods and my plant-based version of this dish is very filling and healthy. When I first made the original meat version of this dish, I followed a recipe on YouTube by the Greek chef Akis Petretzikis. I like his recipe since I find it rather easy to follow. What’s more, he bakes the aubergines, rather than fries them in oil, which I think is a much healthier alternative. I have incorporated some methods and elements of his recipe to this recipe and of course I have brought my own twist to this delicious dish.

In the original classic moussaka recipe, ground beef is used for the mince. Instead of ground beef, I use lentils. I also add some additional flavours to the mince by using cumin seeds and ground paprika.

The béchamel sauce is normally made using butter, milk and egg yolk. For my recipe, the béchamel sauce is completely plant-based and doesn’t include any dairy products or eggs. My version of the sauce is made simply by using extra virgin olive oil, plain flour and soya milk plus ground nutmeg, salt and ground black pepper for taste and flavours.

Lastly, for the first layer of the dish, I have added sweet sliced potatoes to go with the standard sliced potatoes.

 

INGREDIENTS 

1 large potato
1 large sweet potato
1 red onion
1 large aubergine
2 medium sized courgettes
Fresh or dried thyme
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
Salt

For the mince:

2 cans of lentils (or cooked lentils)
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 generous tablespoons of tomato paste
1 red onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
Vegetable oil
Cumin seeds
Ground paprika
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the creamy béchamel sauce:

1 litre of soya milk
Plain Flour
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground nutmeg
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

 

Instructions:

1) Grease well a normal sized baking dish with oil.

2) Peel and thinly slice 1 large ordinary potato and 1 large sweet potato. Then peel and chop one red onion. Next put the sliced potatoes and chopped red onion into a bowl and drizzle them in extra virgin olive oil and add salt, ground black pepper and fresh or dried thyme.

3) Transfer the potatoes and onion mixture into the baking dish and evenly spread out.

 

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The first layer of sliced potatoes and chopped onions before entering the oven 

 

4) Preheat an oven to 200 degrees Celsius and put the baking dish inside for 20 minutes.

5) Whilst the potatoes and onions are cooking, finely and thinly slice the aubergine. Then put the cut slices into the bowl and generously drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and add salt, ground black pepper and fresh or dried thyme.

6) During the remainder of the time, as the potatoes and onions continue to cook, proceed to finely slice the two courgettes.

7) After 20 minutes remove the baking dish from the oven.

8) Then add to the dish, over the cooked potatoes and onions, the second layer of the sliced aubergines.

 

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The second layer of the sliced aubergines

 

9) Return the baking dish to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

10) Whilst that is cooking, transfer the sliced courgettes into the bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and add salt, pepper and thyme before mixing well.

11) Then for the rest of the time, before taking out the dish again, heat some vegetable oil in a wide and deep pan. Add a sprinkling of cumin seeds to the cooking oil. Then proceed to add the chopped red onion and garlic cloves  to the pan and cook on a reasonably high heat for a few minutes.

12) Turn down the heat and add a generous tablespoon of paprika and mix well.

13) Next, add the lentils and two generous tablespoons of tomato paste and mix it thoroughly into the lentils.

14) Then add and stir in the chopped tomatoes.

 

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The lentil mince mix of the dish

 

15) Add salt and ground black pepper to taste. Keep the lentil mince mix on a very low flame stirring occasionally.

15) By now, the potatoes, onions and aubergines should be ready to take out of the oven.

16) Once the baking dish is out of the oven, add the sliced courgettes over the aubergines and then return the baking dish to the oven and cook for 10 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

 

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The third layer comprising of the sliced courgettes

 

17) As the courgettes and other vegetables cook, heat a good amount of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan. As the oil cooks, slowly add small teespoons of plain flour to the oil and mix well and thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Once the mixture becomes like a ball of sticky dough, slowly add a little of the soya milk to the mixture and mix well. Keep repeating this until you end up with a silky textured and creamy-like sauce.

18) Next, add salt and pepper to taste followed by a generous sprinkling of ground nutmeg to further enhance the flavour.

 

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The béchamel should have a silky and creamy texture

 

19) Once the béchamel sauce is ready, add a couple of generous tablespoons of the sauce to the lentil mince mix and stir in well.

20) When the courgettes are ready, take the baking dish out of the oven.

21) Transfer the whole lentil mix from the pan and smother over the courgettes in the dish.

 

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The fourth layer is made up of the lentil mince mix

 

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The plant based béchamel sauce makes up the final layer 

 

22) Next, scoop all the béchamel from the saucepan and cover over the lentils in the dish.

23) Finally return the baking dish to the oven and cook for 30 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius. Once the 30 minutes have elapsed, the moussaka should be ready to serve.

 

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Recipe and photos by Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

The Pimped Up Bar Mleczny

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Pizza King Express is maybe the best place to eat in Budapest. I will probably get shot down in flames for saying this. At the ‘traditional’ restaurants serving Hungarian cuisine you will likely hear more English than Hungarian and will pay more money. You may also encounter surely staff if the place is popular. But not here. The staff here are a bunch of jokers and the food is ridiculously cheap even with a lousy pound sterling. A slice of pizza is 200 Forints (less than 60p). A tiramisu (enough for two) – yes, you better believe it – is 300 Forints (a little north of 80p).

During Communist times in many Eastern European countries you had these places called bar mlecznys, which in Polish literally translates to ‘milk bars’ – dirt cheap restaurants serving pretty basic food, but perfectly good. They used to be very popular with students or anyone without much money. Most of these places are a thing of the past now. There are a few still kicking around. For me Pizza King Express represents a new kind of ‘pimped up’ bar mleczny. That is, it may not be as threadbare as a traditional bar mleczny. Maybe I am stretching it using the words ‘pimped up’. But you get my drift. It has the same prices as the traditional bar mlecznys of yore filled by the same type of people who used to visit the originals. The only difference is that the menu is more global. Dare I say more ‘Westernised’. You can get pizza, kebabs, baklava (delicious sweat cake), tiramisu and rice pudding and all for just a few coins. Its a fraction of the price of Pizza Hut, which is next door, and a better and more delicious experience.

Hungary is not a rich country and wages are feeble. Budapest can be an expensive city if you are a local in menial employment. For that reason places like Pizza King Express are a godsend for locals. Its funny that most congregate here for a slice of cheap pizza and less at the ‘traditional’ Hungarian establishments no matter how good or tasty the food may be at those places.

The original bar mzlecznys were not only a product of Communism. They were a feature of when that part of the world was a much less connected place and people had limited access to information. In today’s post-communist globalised world with this tool called the internet, that has all changed. Younger generations from former communist countries are more aware, savvy and knowledgeable about the world, other cultures and how other people around the world live and their tastes. Pizza King Express caters for this younger generation as well as others who don’t want to spend too much money. In a paradoxical way, it is more ‘authentic’ to eat here than at the traditional restaurants, which promote themselves as ‘authentic’. It may be a pedantic and trivial observation, but there is a kernel of truth to it.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

Five Authentic And Good Value Restaurants In Sarajevo

Sarajevo is a fascinating city to explore and get under the skin of. Yet knowing a handful of authentic and inexpensive places to eat at enhances the experience greatly. In this article I am including, of course, a burek and cevapi place, but also a historical eatery serving traditional Bosnian cuisine for a modest splurge (though still very affordable) and a special local patisserie and ice cream parlour for delicious and cheap sweet treats. Let’s begin with the bureks…

 

1. Buregdžinica ASDŽ

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On a street lined with burekerias, as I like to call them, this small eatery is my pick. The Bosniaks who run it are burek experts with enormous spiral disks of fresh piping hot meat, cheese, potato and spinach bureks ready to go from the morning until the late hours of the evening. I stumbled upon this place by accident on my first night in Sarajevo walking aimlessly in the Baščarsija district. This eatery is a local favourite and for good reason. I settled on a mixture of three not insubstantial spiral slices of meat, potato, and spinach bureks served on a metal plate with lashings of some white yoghurt sauce. And it all came to just 4KMs (2 euros).

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Plate of bureks

Check out the oven. The bureks and other dishes are cooked in giant closed metal pans covered in coals. The meat and chicken with potato dishes are tasty here too but for me this place will always be remembered for its satellite dish sized spiral bureks.

Whilst I was tucking into my bureks, a group of young Bosnians were sitting opposite me. A boy in the group who looked no older than 17/18 fancied himself a homie from Compton. One moment everyone is talking in Bosnian then apropos of nothing the boy riffs in English, ‘I am gonna bust a cap in yo ass n**ga!’. I almost choked on a morsel of spinach burek when I heard that chestnut.

 

2. Nune

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Cevapi at Nune

On Ferhadija street past the big cathedral is this small family run cevapi place. It is owned by the father of a young local tour guide named Edin who does superb free daily morning walking tours with the local tour company Meet Bosnia Travel. If you want good and cheap cevapi in a hole in the wall no frills setting this is a good place. For as little as 3KMs (€1.50), you get a plate of small mini cevapi sausages in warm pitta bread and chopped onions.

 

3. Kod Secka

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This eatery located somewhere in the heart of the Baščarsija district is a solid reference point if you are watching the KMs and have had enough of cevapis and bureks. Kod Secka’s piece de resistance is roast half chicken and potatoes for 5KM (€2.50). It is heavenly. Cheap, tasty and very filling. And a perfect dose of midday rocket fuel for those long walks discovering and unearthing the rich history of Sarajevo.

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Half chicken and potatoes at Kod Secka

 

4. Inat Kuca

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Inat Kuca restaurant is located in an historic building

This restaurant is located in an old house dating back to 1895 by the main Miljacka river. It serves genuine and tasty traditional Bosnian cuisine. This is a solid restaurant to eat at if you fancy a modest splurge, although compared to similar restaurants in other western countries, the prices are inexpensive.

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“Bosanski lonak”

When I visited, I ordered the “Bosanski lonak”, a delicious traditional Bosnian stew consisting of beef and veal, potatoes, vegetables and spices. It was also beautifully presented in a metal bowl with chopped parsley. For just 10KMs (5 euros) this is a very good deal. Other staples on the menu include the “Sarajevski Sahan” for a few KMs more which is a mix of traditional Bosnian dishes and “Japrak Dolma” which is similar to the Polish dish “Golabki” and consists of minced meat, veg and rice wrapped in cabbage leaves.

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On a blue day it is delightful to sit at a table on the outside terrace facing the river. But inside, the restaurant is aesthetically very tasteful in the old Ottoman era style; beautiful Turkish copper lamps hang from the ceiling and other Ottoman style artefacts and old black and white photographs adorn the walls.

 

5. Slasticarna Egipat

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This Macedonian owned family patisserie has been serving customers since 1949

Ice cream parlours and sweet shops are plentiful in the city but not many can match the authenticity, quality, spirit, and even prices of this local ice cream parlour and patisserie run by a Macedonian family. Located on Ferhadija Street like Nune, this sweet treats place has a history dating back to 1949. Entering Egipat is like travelling back in time to former Yugoslavia of the Tito era during the 1960s and 70s. The walls are covered in retro tiles and it is a corner of the city unaffected and little changed by rampant globalisation.

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The spirit here is purely local and reminds me of the old school Jewish bagel shops on Brick Lane in the East End of London. And like those bagel shops, the service can sometimes be indifferent and abrupt but we wouldn’t want it any other way.

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There are six flavours of homemade ice cream. On two occasions I tried the “Egyptian Vanilla” and “Egyptian Chocolate”. Both were excellent and have a flavour and texture that is different to any other kind of ice cream I’ve ever had. But I must warn you the sugar content is off the scales but who cares with ice cream this good. Since tasting their ice cream, I made many repeat visits to sample some of their traditional cakes and other local sweet delights.

 

Sampita is a very sweet Bosnian white cake, like the French Ile Flotante but much heavier with more texture and flavour and less anaemic; a dangerous sugar bomb. The čokoladni rolat is an irresistibly decadent rich and creamy chocolate roll. I also had some rich and tasty heavy cream and chocolate cake. And they also have the famous traditional Turkish baklava cake, which can be found throughout the country owing to its Ottoman past. A scoop of ice cream like most of the other ice cream parlours of Sarajevo will set you back only 1KM (50 cents) and most of the cakes can be purchased for just half a KM more per slice.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

 

Munching Your Way Through Belgrade

Belgrade is a fantastic and great value city to eat your way around and a fabulous food destination in its own right. It is a cosmopolitan city and you can find good international food outlets in addition to more traditional places. Anyone’s who’s travelled across Serbia may be familiar with the countries pekaras, which are traditional bakeries often open 24/7. At these eateries you can pick up a late night sandwich or pastry for only a few coins. Often the ladies who work at these places are delightful and very patient with my bad to non existent Serbian. In fact, quite a few of them speak very good English.

In Belgrade, like the rest of Serbia and most of former Yugoslavia, there are plenty of places selling traditional foods such as Cevapi (Balken sausages), Bureks (Balken pies) and pljeskavicas (hamburgers done the Serbian way) etc. I had my first taste of a burek at some hole in the wall place by Dolac market in Zagreb and I was dying for a bowl of vegetables and water after just a few morsels. My mouth was a cave of low-grade grease. A pljeskavica, on the other hand, is a wonderful thing. I don’t think I’ve ever, in all my time in Serbia, had a substandard pljeskavica.

 

The Best Cevapi in Belgrade: Drama Cevapi

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Cevapi places, or Cevaperias as I like to call them with a Latino tinge, are ten a penny around most of former Yugoslavia. Yet I’ve never tasted Cevapi as divine as the ones I was served here at Drama Cevapi. They are so tender and almost melt in your mouth. For less than $3 you get a metal plate with five Cevapi topped with a handful of chopped onion accompanied with shredded cabbage, a dollop of clotted cream and chilli sauce and some bread. There are other items on the menu but this is the signature dish and what this place does best

 

Pljeskavicas in Belgrade

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It’s hard to pick one place in Belgrade as there are a few places which all do equally good pljeskavicas. Depending on where you are based in the city there are three places which do mean pljeskavicas and they are all open til late so perfect and very convenient after a night out thrashing the rakija and Jelen. I have to admit I probably had the best pljeskavica when I was in Novi Sad, but I was so smashed I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place. If you are in the centre of the city, at the corner of Kolarčeva and Makedonska, is the eatery chain Gyros In City. They do very filling pljeskavicas as well as excellent and cheap Greek style kebabs. I also love the people that work there; jokers of the highest order who always brighten up my day.

Nearby on Maršala Birjuzova is Mikan Restaurant, which serves local food. Adjacent to the main restaurant they have a smaller eatery where you can get Cevapis, pljeskavicas, hamburgers, hotdogs etc. I was served a very generous pljeskavica here by an old lady who spoke no English for 200 Diners. The board menu was all in Cyrillic, which I can read, even if I speak almost no Serbian. A wee tip; if you ever go to Russia (or any country which uses the Cyrillic alphabet), your life will be far less painful if you can decode Cyrillic. Doesn’t matter if you speak little to no Russian. If you can’t decipher Cyrillic you may as well be gallivanting on the moon.

Finally in the Dorćol neighbourhood on Gospodar Jovanova is the small eatery Loki. They are the pljeskavicas specialists and they don’t mess about. There are many cool bars in this neighbourhood and this is a great place to go for a late night pljeskavica.

 

The Bakeries That Never Sleep

Serbia is famous for its 24/7 bakeries. In almost all cities in Serbia you will stumble upon a bakery or pekara, which never closes. Super convenience aside, some serve serve a dazzling range of treats and are very inexpensive. I have two favourite pekaras in Belgrade. The first one is called Skroz Dobra Pekara and located right next to the king of pljeskavicas, Loki, in the Dorćol neighbourhood. You can find filling sandwiches for less than 200 Diners and strudels, pies, cakes and other assorted pastries for less than 100 Diners. What’s more, the ladies who work here are super nice.

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In the centre of town and right by the queen of pljeskavicas, Gyros In City, is another outstanding 24/7 bakery called Pekara Tomo. It is almost identical to Skroz and equally excellent and well stocked with cheap sandwiches and pastries as well as a small side pizza parlour.

 

Znak Pitanja (also called ‘ ? ‘)

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If you ever fancy having a proper slap up traditional Balkan meal with all the trimmings Znak Pitanja is a top notch choice. This restaurant also has the unique distinction of being the oldest tavern or kafana in the city at over 200 years old. I chose the 1kg pork knuckle. It arrived on a large glass tray accompanied with an ample supply of baked potatoes and a side of homemade horseradish sauce. I am not kidding, when the thing arrived it was enough to feed the entire population of Novi Sad. It was perfectly good no nonsense Balkan food.

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I hear they also have traditional live music here so may be worth reserving a table here for a Balkan feast with plenty of pivo and rakija when there is. I think great fun can be had.

 

Vegetarians and vegans in Belgrade: Radost Fina Kuhinjica

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I feel your pain. With the mammoth non stop cevapi/pljeskavica meat feast assault, travelling in Serbia can be a veritable drag. But once in the capital things brighten pretty quickly. I know there are a few veg establishments in the city and that will only grow as more and more people become vegetarian or vegan. In fact in both the cities of Belgrade and Novi Sad you will notice quite a number of ‘Go Vegan’ slogans graffitied throughout both cities. If this keeps up maybe I’ll be eating vegan cevapis and pljeskavicas when I return in five years or so.

I can’t just live on cevapis and pljeskavicas for the rest of my life. Even the most rampant of carnivores need something green from time to time. I read glowing things about a veg restaurant called Radost Fina Kuhinjica so one day I decided to investigate. Aesthetically this restaurant gets full marks. It’s a stylish and trendy place and all the menu booklets are enclosed in old hardback books. There is a backyard area where you can eat. When it’s dark all the tables have lit candles in old school metal candle holders. Instead of local music, I detect The Smiths, Coldplay, Lana Del Ray and The Strokes on the sound system.

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I order the veg burger consisting of tofu and red kidney beans. For the price I was expecting one large juicy veg burger. Instead I got two miniature burgers accompanied with a salad. All the ingredients were no doubt fresh and organic and the salad was perfectly good yet I was a little disappointed with the burgers. They were too plain. There was not enough zing or omph. This is not a bad restaurant and is certainly a cut above many ‘hipster cool’ vegan eateries which are a triumph of style over substance. Perhaps the veg burgers are not where it’s at? Maybe if I had the veg lasagna I would be raving about the place. Either way, as I mentioned before, with the passing of time, the veg scene here in Belgrade will only grow and maybe when I return a few years from now I may find a dazzling of choice of new and great no nonsense veg eateries.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

Four Great Places To Eat In Paris

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Image source: http://www.viator.com

 

Paris has a reputation for being quite a difficult city to find good value places to eat. Most restaurants are overpriced and combined with the colossal amount of people who visit the City of Love this means that it is not uncommon to experience lacklustre levels of service on top of the high prices. However with some research and a healthy sense of adventure gems can be unearthed. I have picked four eateries. Two budget eateries (under 10 euros per head), one mid range restaurant (10-20 euros per head) and one splurge (20-35 euros per head).

If you are really watching the centimes my advice to you would be to stick to baguette sandwiches for 3-4 euros from the ubiquitous boulangeries found all across the city. If you have kitchen facilities in your accommodation, the main supermarkets like Carrefour and Monoprix (or even better one of the big markets in the city) are good places to buy fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meats, wines etc

 
Maoz Vegetarian

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The rue Xavier Privas in the 5th Arrondissement close to the river Seine and Notre Dame cathedral is chock a block full of cheap eats whether you are looking for cheap kebabs or Moroccan staples like couscous and tagines and many mediocre tourist trap restaurants. But by far the best of the cheapies is the falafel eatery chain called Maoz Vegetarian. This budget eatery is probably the healthiest of the four places I am recommending (that’s if you just count the falafels and salads and not the chips and soft drinks). Five euros gets you a pitta with falafel balls and you can choose your salads from the small but excellent salad bar. You can add humus for a euro more. For €8.50 you can include a soft drink and fries. Personally I am happy with just the pitta, fallafal balls, humus and generous salad helping. For six euros this is a super deal.

 
Agad’Or

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Another budget choice. You have more chance of bumping into a back from the dead Jim Morrison here than another tourist here. This is far from haute cuisine. But if you want an authentic ethnic establishment serving cheap hearty portions of food full of locals with roots from the Maghreb then this Moroccan place located in La Goutte d’Or district in the 18th Arrondissement can’t be beat.

The Couscous Maison is what it’s all about here. You receive a mountain of couscous in a bowl served with a stew of chickpeas and vegetables. In another bowl you either get a chicken or meat stew. I went for the chicken. It also comes with a small baguette for breaking and dumping into the food. And it’s all yours for only six euros.

 

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Couscous Maison at Agad’Or

 

It is no-frills food but it is good and filling especially if you are hungry. What’s more the experience and ambiance of the place could easily mislead one to believe they are in a typical Moroccan diner in the ville nouvelle de Tanger.

 
Bouillon Chartier

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This places serves run of the mill traditional French food and perhaps I am making a big mistake including this but a pilgrimage here is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to experience a taste of the old Paris. This restaurant has been in existence for over 100 years and the architecture and interior decor remains unchanged. Some of the waiters have a reputation for being brusque but instead of being annoyed by this I say bring it on!! This is all part and parcel of the experience of dining here. There is no shortage of tourists that come to dine here at this legendary establishment so the waiters can afford to be jaded and downright indifferent. There is one burly old timer waiter here who looks like he’s been working here all his life. What’s more he has a face straight out of a Van Gogh or Manet painting. This restaurant is 1901 Montmartre Paris mixed with Faulty Towers. A rare thing in these aggressively globalised times. I love it!!

 

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Inside Buillon Chartier

 

Now for the food. For my starter I had six Escargots (snails) lathed in massive amounts of garlic and butter.

 

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Six Escargots 

 

There were standard snails and I suppose I only picked them to say that I had tried French snails. They were good but certainly not Michelin Star quality.

For my main course I ordered the infamous French dish Steak Tartare or raw meat. I thought this was going to be rank but it was surprisingly quite tasty (yet I will definitely not be having this regularly for lunch or dinner). The side of frites and Dijon mustard were a good accompaniment.

 

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Steak Tartare

 

When the waiter came to calculate our bill he sketched it all down on the paper table cover. The experience of eating at Chartier will always trump the quality of the food, but it is definitely worth it.

 
A La Biche Au Bois

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If there is one place which I would consider worthy of that elusive splurge, this restaurant close to Gare de Lyon would be it. I went here one Saturday evening for dinner with my two sisters and a friend. We all went for the fixed dinner menu priced at €32.80 a head. This includes a starter, a main, a selection of different cheeses from the legendary cheese board (a work of art in itself) and a desert.

For my starter I went for the Terrine de Canard (two fat slabs of homemade duck pâté). It was just how pâté should taste and be made.

 

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Terrine de Canard 

 

However more impressive was my main course of Coq au Vin which came served in a heavy old school saucepan with a side of mashed potato in a gold coloured scallop shaped dish. The Coq au Vin was rich and delicious and I could barely make my way through all of it.

 

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Coq Au Vin

 

By the time the waiter came with the enormous cheeseboard I was almost game over but I persisted. I went for a wedge of Roquefort, a lump of peppered goats cheese and a slice of tangy Comté cheese. The strength of the Roquefort alone could have shut down my heart but it was a veritable delight as were the other two cheeses.

 

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Fromage!

 

Finally for dessert I was going to go for the Creme Brûlée but instead I went for another French dessert called Ile Flottante which literally translates as ‘Floating Island’. It is like a sweet foam square shaped cloud floating on a sugary egg yolk lake. It was a refreshing and pleasurable end to a hearty marathon of authentic and traditional French food.

 

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Ile Flottante

 

I’ve got very little patience for stylish, jazzed up food and especially nouvelle cuisine which makes me mad. I just want hearty portions of delicious and authentic food from any part of the world that I visit. In the case of French Cuisine, A La Biche Au Bois does a sterling job.

 
By Nicholas Peart

25th September 2016

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Ten Good Places To Eat On The Cheap In London

Being a seasoned traveller myself I know how important it is to watch the coins. And in a city such as London this is especially true. Which is why I’ve decided to share with you all some decent places to eat on a shoestring in this city. Of course one can essentially pick any place that is cheap and there is no shortage of cheap chain eateries like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Wasabi, Eat, Subway etc where cheap meals can be acquired for a few quid. Most of the eateries listed below are small independent eateries in London which I think are good value for money offering decent food at low prices. I also try to include a few cheapies which offer an authentic experience of a London that is sadly disappearing.

 

1. Damascu Bite

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Image source: http://www.londonshopfronts.com

This small Syrian takeaway within spitting distance of Shoreditch High Street station and by Brick Lane in the East End of London does delicious and generous authentic lamb shawarmas using high quality and very tender lamb. A large ample lamb shawarma will set you back only £5.50 whilst a medium sized one about a pound less. This is a hell of a deal. Kebab eateries are ten a penny in London Town but what makes this place unique is that it actually cares about what it sells its customers. Most kebab places just use very cheap processed meat which I wouldn’t even give to my dog. This eatery aside, the best places in London to go for authentic, cheap and tasty kebabs are Edgware Road and Harringay Green Lanes.

 

2. Franco Manca

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Image source: http://www.thebelleabroad.com

This excellent pizza chain is ever expanding but unlike other chains this is a good one which does excellent, cheap and tasty pizzas using sourbread dough. This place has been a roaring success and there are now several Franco Manca restaurants scattered across the city. I usually go to the one located on Berwick Street in Soho just off Oxford Street. You will struggle to find equally delicious pizzas for less than £7 in this city.

 

3. Saravana Bhavan

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Image source: http://www.londonkestrel.com

This Indian restaurant chain serves excellent and authentic South Indian food in generous portions. I especially love the Masala Dosas which are very large and are served on big metal trays with four or five different sauce condiments. What’s more it will only set you back around £3.75. The thalis are delicious too and highly recommended. There are a few of these restaurants scattered around London though sadly there are none which are centrally located. I usually go to the one in Tooting which is located in South London. Tooting is famous for its curry houses and Asian eateries yet this place is one of the best and terrific value for money.

 

4. Fryers Delight

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Image source: http://www.seriouseats.com

More for novelty value than a place to go for regular nourishing food, but if you want to sample original London fish and chips like its 1964 in an authentic environment far away from the trappings of globalisation and the modern world, this place is a dead cert. This fish and chips restaurant located on Theobalds Road in Holborn in central London is very much a solid remaining relic of Old London and much of the loyal clientele are locals. For atmosphere this place is one of the best and the tasty battered haddock or cod and chips comes in generous portions around the £7 mark (cheaper if you take away). Other snacks like savaloys (oi oi!!) and mushy peas are also available.

 

5. Beigel Bake

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Image source: http://www.gannet39.com

Like Fryers, this supremely popular and legendary 24 hour bagel shop located on Brick Lane is an indestructible relic of Old London with prices that haven’t been adjusted for inflation since about 1979. Whenever I come here I almost always go for the salmon and cream cheese bagel for £1.60. The sweet treats are also very good. You can get a slice of apple strudel or cheese cake for slightly north of the pound mark. Ironically, the most expensive item, the salt beef bagel, is the nemesis of the offerings of this place and is truly rank beyond belief; keep clear.

 

6. La Porchetta Pollo Bar

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Image source: http://www.flickr.com

Continuing on our journey of old London eateries, the Pollo bar is a good and cheap no nonsense Italian restaurant located on Old Compton Street in the heart of Soho in central London. Like nearby Franco Manca, this is a great place to go for a cheap Italian dinner. Unlike Franco Manca, this place has history. This restaurant was a favourite of the original Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett during the 1960s.

 

7. Wong Kei

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Image source: http://www.zomato.com

Wong Kei for a long time had the unique reputation of being the restaurant in London with the rudest staff. However since 2014 and a change of management, I read that much of this rudeness has sadly evaporated – but this can be resurrected if you try! This is still very much a cheap and authentic multiple storey Chinese diner located on Wardour street on the edge of Chinatown which serves a wide range of decent Chinese dishes with a complementary metal pot of green tea for around the £6-7 mark. When I recently came here for a meal I fortunately encountered some brusqueness. I am not very good at making decisions and as I spent a long time trying to find somewhere to sit with my own space I could see that the waiters were getting pissed off with me (a great start!!). ‘You gonnah eat here or wah?!’ snapped one of the waiters. I hit pay dirt and in surprisingly little time. I could’ve remained indecisive on where to sit and have taken it further. A seat with my own space was soon made available and I made a dash for it. One of the waiters came with a dirty plastic menu which he smacked down on my table with no emotion and like he was trying to kill a mosquito. A pot of green tea was also brought to me with a similar level of grace and etiquette.
I ordered a hearty and tasty bowl of shredded duck, with loads of sprouts and other vegetables with noodles, which (with the green tea) came to £6.90.
I think if you want to experience the apex of rudeness and brusqueness at this place, the best time to come here is after a night out around 2-4am when this place gets packed and you may only have a limited amount of time to finish your food to make way for the queues of other late night eaters.

 

8. Indian Veg

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Image source: http://cubaninlondon.blogspot.com

This is a solid Indian vegetarian buffet restaurant for under £7 a head located off Chapel Market in Islington close to Angel tube station. The decor is nothing to write home about and all the endless articles and slogans preaching the virtues of a veg diet plastered on every area of space are enough to give anyone unnecessary vertigo. Yet I also find the whole thing quite comical. I try to sit away from the massive murial-like article showing the gradual deterioration of someone on a meat diet from their 20s until their 60s. This aside, I like the food here. The buffet contains a decent selection of potato, veg and tofu carries with chick pea, pakora and onion bhaji trays and a tray of good quality rice. In addition there are a few good salad selections to prevent the whole buffet from being too much of a starch fest. Recommended

 

9. Sonargaon

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Image source: http://www.zomato.com

This is an unpretentious and underrated Bangladeshi buffet restaurant located on the quieter end of Brick Lane. Sonargaon gets unfairly bad reviews which for the most part it doesn’t deserve. Yet this is not a place to go to if you are focused on clean eating. Many of the curry dish trays are high in industrial level quantities of clarified butter and cheap refined oils. If you are sensitive to MSG, perhaps this is not the place for you. On the other hand, if you want unlimited quantities of filling South Asian fare for under eight quid this is a great place. What’s more, it has none of the tourist trappings of the plethora of other curry houses located on Brick Lane. Many of the clientele are locals and after Ramadan you could be mistaken for being in a busy restaurant in downtown Dhaka.

 

10. Fresco

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Image source: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk

I was going to list Maoz, a wonderful little Middle Eastern eatery located on Old Compton Street which serves hearty, healthy and delicious falafels with lashings of humus and mountains of fresh salads for just a few coins. Sadly it has recently closed down and has been replaced by some trendy ice tea bar. As a consequence I’ve had to look elsewhere and it gives me great pleasure to have stumbled upon this little gem of an eatery located on Westbourne Grove close to Notting Hill Gate. This is an excellent Lebanese restaurant which serves very tasty falafel wraps with delicious homemade hummus and a selection of excellent homemade salads. I ordered the Falafel Wrap Special which contains well made falafel balls, hummus and a delicious spinach and pomegranate salad. And for less than a fiver. This is an excellent deal.

 

by Nicholas Peart

29th August 2016

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