Thrills without frills
You know those no frills airlines where you get what you pay for but the environment is pretty basic? Well, follow me here on an evening out to a ‘no frills’ restaurant in Kensington, a location where you’d normally certainly expect plenty of frilliness.
For years the Lovely Husband and I have given our now traditional End of Summer Drinks Party at our house to which we invite all our most favourite friends. This year, as every year, the catering was done by a fabulous professional caterer (www.shonapollock.co.uk), one of London’s best, but also a good friend of mine of many years standing. She manages the catering and cooks for some very well-known names, broadcasting companies, christenings, weddings, funerals and every other occasion you can possibly think of, but has always maintained a hands on, sensible approach and unlike so many others, doesn’t charge the earth. This lovely woman, clever, pretty and obviously a very talented cook, suggested we meet up outside of a party environment to catch up on family news. She told me that she had discovered this tiny little Iranian restaurant, she was sure we would enjoy, particularly after our recent visit to that country. And so it came about that on a dull October evening four of us found ourselves at Mohsen, pronounced Mosheen.
When I say no frills, I mean no frills. The place looks like your average builders’ caf. It’s all red plastic seating, wood effect formica tables and mismatched dodgy wall decorations. Quite a surprise in this salubrious area! But it’s cosy and its simplicity gives hope for a reasonable bill. Also, it has no licence to serve alcohol, so bringing your own is the thing to do. Everything here is basic but somehow kind of nice and the service welcoming and efficient. What’s more, the little restaurant is packed. Clearly it’s very popular with the locals.
The main course menu is a vegetarian’s nightmare, consisting mainly of baby lamb in all permutations (the ‘baby’ bit is a tad off putting to me and in any case, lamb is a baby sheep in the first place!), with the odd chicken dish thrown in for good measure, although there are some nice veggie starters: humous, various yoghurt dishes, yummy sounding aubergine mixtures and salads, and of course, wonderful flatbread. We order a selection of starters, all of which are very tasty indeed, though the portions are relatively small. Our main courses of baby lamb fillets, lamb stew with saffron, lamb chops and marinated chicken breast are all presented very nicely, the meat tender and sauces flavoursome These portions are more then generous! You could feed twice as many of us with the offerings on the table. The accompanying bread with the garlicky yoghurt dip goes down faster than we can say “more naan, please”.
It’s a good meal, not spectacular, maybe, but very palatable, wholesome and plentiful. For committed carnivores who like a good grill with top quality meat straight up, Mohsen is a great little find for those evenings when you just fancy a filling meaty alternative to pizza or burgers. We paid £77 for four people, including four starters, water and Iranian tea.
Mohsen, Iranian Restaurant, 152 Warwick Road, London W14 8PS,
A simple and delicious Iranian dish which we cook at home after I fell in love with it in Iran is Chicken Fesenjan. It’s a tasty and warming stew, savoury and slightly fruity, and just that little bit different, so here is the recipe for you to try.
Chicken Fesenjan (serves approx. 6)
1 1/2 large yellow onions, sliced thin
4 tbsp oil
Approx. 800 g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks or equivalent in drumsticks or thighs
225 g walnut halves, shelled
60 ml cold water
235 ml pomegranate concentrate/molasses
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish
Process walnuts in a food processor until they turn to a paste
Add 60 ml of cold water to the processor until paste becomes uniformly beige
Fry the thin onion slices in the oil in large saucepan until golden brown
Remove fried onion from saucepan and set aside
Add chicken pieces to the pan containing the remaining oil and fry to seal
Top the chicken with fried onion rings
Spoon the walnut paste evenly over the chicken and onion.
Add salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle the pomegranate concentrate/molasses over all the other ingredients
Bring to the boil over medium heat (but avoid high heat as the pomegranate concentrate will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn)
Once liquid has boiled, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 15 mins.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for an additional 1 hour 15 mins or until sauce is thickened and the chicken is fork tender and falls apart
Stir every 15 minutes to make sure the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and top up with extra water, if required
If the sauce hasn’t thickened by this time, simmer on low heat uncovered for a further 10 minutes
Serve with pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top and with rice and vegetables of choice.
In the UK all ingredients are available at Waitrose or any Persian super market