Pasta e Basta

I came across Pasta e Basta (Fabrizio and Raminta), three months ago in Red Market. I love Italian cuisine, architecture, the people, climate, well almost everything Italian. Surely this made my decision easy when I arrived the market.

I had a quick research on the history of pasta: Apparently, although fried dough dishes were consumed since first century, the first reference to the dried pasta we know is dated 1154, describing it being produced and sold in Sicily. It was eaten dry with the fingers, until tomato sauce was introduced in 1790! Probably no one paid much attention to this pasta revolution, which happened just one year after the French Revolution. Bad timing.

Pasta e Basta (meaning “just pasta“) make their own pasta in small quantities in Hackney, with quality flour and free-range eggs. This is great to know, as I think quality ingredients and freshness are two prerequisites for a good dish, everything else is secondary. On the day of my visit, they were serving Tagliatelle, Papardelle or Gnocchi with either prawn and squid,  or pancetta, or basil and mozarella, all in tomato sauce. They say thin sauces go with thin pasta as sauce slide easily on smooth pasta surface.  Hollow or twisty shapes, on the other hand, are supposed to be better with chunkier sauces, as the saucy bits can nest inside or get caught in the ridges. Based on this, I think Pasta e Basta’s pasta and sauce combinations should work!

In addition to these dishes, there was a guest too: basil ravioli filled with Devonshire crab, served in light prawn and tomato sauce. Local crab and prawns.. I’m definitely in for that.

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Fresella

I was lucky to be born in a country with a very rich and diverse cuisine. Having settlements dating to 10.000 BC, experiencing four seasons to their full, surrounded by sea,  being on many ancient trade routes, habited by countless number of civilizations, and being situated in the intersection of east and west, Turkey has an abundance of amazing food of its own and plus many different cuisines nearby.  Dominant inner-cuisines differ from region to region, even from city to city and they are quite different from each other. Still – all these years, both in Turkey and anywhere I went in the World, my favourite cuisine has always been Mediterranean cuisine. Lightly cooked ripe vegetables, fresh local seafood, drizzles of dense quality olive oil, with a glass of vine.. Feels so elegant and quality, which is why I started walking fast towards Fresella when I first saw them in Red Market at a lunch break.

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Pizza Pilgrims

I took a right from Oxford Street, heading down to Berwick Street, to the market beyond where Pizza Pilgrims resides. Not that I haven’t tried a few on my way back, but it felt uneasy to unwillingly avoid all other gastro-traps along the short walk to the rearmost of the market where the dark green van was enthroned, apart from others. Somehow, or after reading all that stuff about them, I was well aware that I was about to taste something special.

On my way there, abruptly, I found myself in a fragrant aura of rich tomato sauce steam nourished by the fumes seeping out of the stone oven constructed in the van ahaed of me. At that very moment, I charged to the van and rapidly browsed the menu board to pick my feed. I would have picked Margherita of which I believe a ‘pizzaiolo’ can only be rightously evaluated with. But there was ‘Nduja, which is actually margherita topped with ‘nduja itself – a spreadable italian sausage similar to chorizo, but a little spicier. So I went for ‘Nduja this time.

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Tongue ‘n Cheek

As a person who is most interested in unusual and uncommon food, I was very intrigued by Tongue ‘n Cheek since I heard about it. I believe offal food is mostly underrated and the restaurants who manage to cook them properly, just like St. John, become quite famous and valued. From time to time back in Turkey, I used to enjoy and eat dishes like lamb intestines, tripe soup, lamb feet and brain soup, lamb brain salad, and so forth. I know you are are probably turned off now but it is the exact point I am trying to make, these are really delicious when cooked with a bit of skill.

The best place to find good offal dishes in Europe is without a doubt; Rome. Apparently centuries ago, muscular cuts of animals were spared for the rich and noble, and offal cuts were given to the poor. Over time, this situation enabled Romans to come up with distinctive offal dishes and cooking techniques, all under the name “cucina povera” (poor cuisine), and it has a huge importance in modern Rome cuisine.

Cristiano Meneghin left a career in marketing and moved to UK last year to take a part in renaissance of the UK street food culture. He prepares ox tongue (with salsa verde or horseradish & apple), ox cheek (with polenta and vegetables) and polenta (with vegetables). He buys the meat from Woodwards Farm, Cambridgeshire, and the bread from Wild Caper in Brixton. He cooks the meat for 21 hours in a mix of Meantime stout, extra virgin olive oil, thyme, bay leaves, tarragon, rosemary, sea salt, black pepper, and stout beer. In the end all the fat melts, meat becomes extremely tender and gets all the flavours in the mix. Everything sounds perfect so far: We have an Italian person who left everything and moved to the UK, found local quality offal food, cooking it very well and aspiring to transform people’s view towards offal. Knowing these, I made my way to Real Food Market in Southbank Centre.

When I arrived at the Tongue ‘n Cheek stand, they were out of coleslaw and preparing some new. I asked for ox cheek, and enjoyed watching the guy (not sure if he was Cristiano) slicing the carrots slowly and carefully, one by one, and then mixing with lettuce. It was like somebody preparing me some food at their home.

Here is the ox cheek. The only cheek I ever ate was fish cheek (it’s amazing, if you haven’t tried it yet) so the wait was quite exciting.

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