Dinner and Drinks at Darkhorse, in Stratford’s East Village

It’s remarkable how much living in Stratford has changed in the four years we’ve been here: in that time we’ve seen the former Olympic Village move from being boarded up, to having a few ghostly residents, to now being the full of life year round. For me and my greedy stomach, the highlight of this has been the array of great restaurants and coffee shops that have now popped up on our doorstep, including Darkhorse among others.

The menu is southern European inspired, but with British roots: think tiger prawns on a bed of swiss chard, roasted guinea fowl with gratin dauphinoise, pork chop with celeriac remoulade, and was all perfectly cooked and presented. The desserts were especially good. I opted for a bitter chocolate tart while J had the hot chocolate bread pudding, which he promptly declared the best he’d ever had. Another highlight for us was the interesting cocktail menu – I tried a bergamot gimlet while J went for a classic Aviation. Delicious, but one was definitely enough on a Wednesday evening as they were pretty strong!

Darkhorse’s menu has been designed so that you can go for the traditional starter and main combo, or make your own ‘picky bits’ selection built up from charcuterie and smaller plates which are fantastic for sharing. It made the perfect mid-week date spot and would be a great way to finish off your day if you’ve been shopping in Westfield and want to get away from all the hustle and bustle for a far more relaxed meal than you can otherwise find.

A review of Darkhorse in E20's East Village: the perfect grown up date spot

Our meal at Darkhorse was complimentary, but we’ll definitely be back (especially as I have my eye on the Baked Vacherin Mont D’Or to share) 

Feta and Pomegranate Molasses Babka

Work of art or savoury babka filling with feta, pomegranate molasses and sumac?

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Savoury babka you say? There is no good reason for you not to get in the kitchen and make this immediately. I was very loosely inspired by Molly Yeh’s za’atar mini babkas but as you can quickly see: they really are quite a long way from them.

Za’atar was lacking in our local supermarket, labneh non-existent (and I was too impatient to embark on making my own), and all the mini babkas seemed like too much effort when I wasn’t convinced that all the changes I’d made would even result in something edible anyway.

I should have made them in mini. This is so ridiculously good as a bread- deeply savoury from the cheese, a kick from the chilli flakes and acidic from the pomegranate molasses and sumac. I ate it grilled for breakfast for several days afterwards, with a big smear of honey on top, and cannot recommend that enough.

Perhaps in a future recipe I’ll do these again in mini, with a honey glaze already thoughtfully provided on top, but this giant babka is just good not to share in the meantime.

Feta and Pomegranate Molasses Babka

Feta and Pomegranate Molasses Babka

Ingredients

  • Babka dough - I used my babka dough without the sugar
  • 150g feta
  • 100g skyr or labneh
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • Pomegranate Molasses
  • Chilli Flakes
  • Fresh thmye

Instructions

  • Once you've made the babka dough and let it had it's first rise, roll it out into the biggest rectangle you can manage. Thinly spread over the skyr or labneh - this is the 'glue' that will hold all the filling together so try to get it all over your base. Then, sprinkle over the feta, sumac, chilli flakes and thyme leaves, finishing with a drizzle of the pomegrante molasses. Think Jackson Pollock painting.
  • To roll it up, start at the largest edge and roll as tightly as you can the whole way across until you have a thick log. Take a serrated knife and cut the log in half, and then twist the two strands together. This will be much longer than your loaf tin, but squash it in. Let the dough rise and puff up for an hour at room temperature, and then bake at 200 C for 35 mins.
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    Spinach Quiche

    Have you ever misguidedly bought a bag of frozen spinach, only to bung in the freezer, in the hope it will be easy to add to meals? Except of course it isn’t, because the older, tougher frozen leaves are just not as good as fresh baby spinach. Perhaps it’s the stuff I’m buying, but if you have some sad frozen leaves lurking in your freezer, this is a very good way to turn in it into a much more delicious spinach quiche (cheese makes everything better, as well all know).

    I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, jiggled around a bit to suit English ingredients. And the pastry recipe recommended is spot on. I used t0 hate making pastry until I realised it is so much better behaved if you make it in the food processor so that the butter and flour is really well combined. Once you’ve done that it is so much simpler to roll out and line a tin. Make the full quantity, divide in two and put one half back in the freezer so you can make this quiche again when you realise how good it is. You’ll thank me later.

    PS – you really go want to let the spinach thaw, and then press as much water out as you can. I gave it some really hard squeezes with my hands which while cold, was effective. Using a potato rice would no doubt would work just was well without the risk of frozen fingers.

    Spinach Quiche

    Spinach Quiche

    Ingredients

    • 300g flour
    • 150g cold butter
    • Pinch salt
    • 85g cream cheese
    • 1/3 cup double cream
    • 3 eggs
    • 280g frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
    • 100g cheddar, grated
    • 4 spring onions, finely sliced

    Instructions

  • To make the pastry, pop your flour and cold butter in a food processor along with the salt and pulse until combined. Add in enough ice cold water to bind it together into a large round, then divide the dough in half. Pop half in the freezer for another time, and then press the other half into a 9 inch quiche disk. Blind bake this for 10 mins at 200C.
  • To make the filling, beat the cream cheese along with the eggs and cream until smooth. Mix in the spinach, spring onions and some salt and pepper before pouring into the tart base. Bake for 25 minutes until set and turning golden brown.
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