The menu at Les Deux Salon, I suppose, is relatively authentic. Rillettes, terrines, frites, confits and tarts galore, as well as a well-gluggable vin de maison. This latter item is reasonable at £16.50; modest even, for central London. As for the rest of the a la carte menu, I found it overpriced. The starters average at about 8-9 pounds, the mains at 17 (not including sides) and are quite small. I know I’m considered greedy but, really…I’m a 9 stone something girl at the end of the day, hardly a challenging demographic to satiate. If you go for their pre-theatre menu the pricing is better, at £12.95 for two courses, but their standard menu, for me, is not worth it.
I love a good French dinner, and recently, in pursuit of one, I popped into Covent Garden’s Les Deux Salons with the extended familia. Set right around the corner from Charing Cross, it sure is a convenient hop from the busy theatre district and, consequently, its stylish dining rooms are always bustling. But for this, I could care less than a jot, if the food doesn’t impress. I’d eat in an empty, tumble-weeded barn in the wastelands of Zone 8, if it guaranteed me a good meal. And so it was with appetite and aspiration, that I crossed the threshold of this self-proclaimed Parisian bistro, ready for my dinner.
Sometimes in the morning only something sweet will do. This recipe is for those times.
Banana, crisped and sweet with caramelised sugar, gooey and rich french toast, slightly sour yoghurt, spiced with rose water, all drizzled in a warm orange syrup. A creation of dreams.
Recipe (Serves 4)
For the French Toast:
4 thick slices of good white farmhouse bread
4 tbsp butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp granulated white sugar + some extra to sprinkle
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp plain flour
For the syrup:
90g granulated white sugar
Zest of 1 orange (unwaxed)
3 bananas, not too ripe
1 tbsp butter
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
50g natural yoghurt
1 tsp rose water (more, to taste)
1. For the banana: slice the banana diagonally into 1 cm thick slices. Heat a thick based non-stick frying pan until hot. Scatter the sugar inside the frying pan and place the banana slices on top and leave undisturbed until crisp, and caramelised brown. Turn over and caramelise the other side. Finish by chucking in the butter and using it to loosen up the banana slices from the pan, if they are starting to stick.
2. For the syrup: put all the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer on high heat until the mixture reduces to form a syrup. It should be just thicker than water, but not so reduced that it starts to turn brown and caramelise. Reheat when you need it.
3. For the rose yoghurt: mix the yoghurt and rose water together. Taste - add more rose water to taste.
4. For the french toast: mix 2 tablespoons of the melted butter with the eggs, sugar, salt, flour and cinnamon. Heat the rest of the butter in a frying pan until bubbling. Soak the bread in the egg mixture, 30 seconds for each side and then lay into the hot frying pan. Cook for around 2 minutes on each side, until golden. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with a little sugar.
5. Plate: lay the hot french toast on a warm plate, and place pieces of the caramelised banana on top, drizzle some of the yummy hot syrup over and then finish with some drizzles of the rose yoghurt. Serve immediately.
Having spent four very fond years in Scotland, the concept of Burns Night is not unfamiliar. On this evening, normally held January 25th, Scots come together to celebrate the life of Scottish poet Robbie Burns. Traditionally and officially it follows a set format of speeches, an ‘address to the haggis’, celebratory speeches, etcetera etcetera. Unofficially, it’s an excuse to get pissed on whisky, don a kilt and give your nether regions some air.
However, I’ll be the first to admit that as a twenty something , somewhat English female, I find it a struggle to relate to the aged, womanising Robert Burns – who was, after all, a notorious cheat, father of many illegitimate children and on the whole…a bit of a bastard. I sit through speeches every year actively trying to force the emotion he inspires in his countrymen, every year actively failing.
Consequently, this January when I was invited to a London Burns Night what little enthusiasm I could summon was solely because it was organised by Monkey Shoulder, my favourite blended whisky brand. Oh, but how wrong I was.
The evening began traditionally with drinks and general schmoozing. There were some yummy Monkey Shoulder cocktails, such as their modern take on a traditional hot toddy and something else; a sort of crisp, iced punch (and, boy, did it pack one). Then my hopes sank as the speeches began. Someone from the Dufftown Burns Appreciation Society gave an introductory speech, unveiling a special portrait they’d had commissioned in honour of Robbie Burns. Yawn. But wait…upon the brisk whisk-offage of the portrait’s veil, a painting of The Simpsons’ very own Mr Burns was revealed!
Nestled in the extra-London suburb of Watford, I came across one evening a very different sort of place. Rodells, perched upon a sleepy residential street’s corner, is a restaurant-cum-bar with a few startling elements which, coming smugly from London - home of hipster cool food quirks – I couldn’t have expected less to discover. Its patron, Mario, an interesting character with roots in art and music, has transformed it into a fluid, creative space where extraordinary food is but one of several surprises to be had.
The venue was decorated by a local art school and hosts bespoke little pieces of street art scattered here and there. Upon one wall is projected an assortment of random films ranging from the sublime, visually stunning nature shorts, to the absurd, Top Cat. The men’s toilet has a bath in it. Occasionally they’ll plant actors in amongst the customers to behave appallingly and shake things up. Why? It’s just that sort of place.
One of England’s most unique and particular wonders is the traditional public house. A real one is instantly comfortable, beaming hearth and home, the domain of brotherhood, conversation and warmth. Coming from Yorkshire where the noble pub is perhaps even more the cornerstone of day to day living, the institution is particularly close to my heart. London was a struggle at first. Here wine bars reign, champagne bubbles hold supreme and the G&T is King. Conversation between strangers flows not and even the most chipper nod is met with confusion best case, disdain worst. As this sad fact sank in, finding a good pub became less of a wish and more of a necessity for my continued residency.
The criteria? There should be fine ales. These should always take precedence over wine and they should always be on tap. There should be food. Good food. Not the sort to compete with the hordes of fine dining restaurants our nation’s capital has to offer, not complex, nor ethnic nor particularly refined. Just good, simple, tasty British food that doesn’t break the bank. A fire place is preferable and I’d love it if there were plenty of sofas. The music should be mellow, as should the crowd. The Publican should possess eccentricities of the most personable order, and you should never want to cross his wife. I’ll accept it as a bridge too far for the surly South to walk in and chat to my neighbour at the bar, but as long as the staff can raise a smile it’s okay, I’ll choose my battles…
And so, given the extensity of this list and the emotional investment I attach to it, I was not expecting on strolling down some hidden side street in Clerkenwell one evening to find it so easily. But Lo! The Coach and Horses, around the corner from Farringdon station; a cosy nook for me to come, quietly drink and fill my belly in the contentment that only a British pub can bring.
I won’t repeat the above criteria in explaining to you how it fulfils each, and only state that it does, though I’ll spare some text for the food, for it is wonderful and deserves the surplus. Here, they serve dishes to fill the belly and the soul. Flavoursome scotch eggs with rich, molten orange hearts, meaty terrines of game and blood sausage, served with duck eggs and pickles. Fabulous roasts, good gravy (very important) and always a pleasing fish selection. This isn’t food to topple Heston, to shock or surprise. It is just great food.
So please, if you feel like me or are on your own quest of publican discovery, head up to The Coach and Horses, Clerkenwell. Sink a few cold ones, eat some crackling and just tell me it doesn’t feel like home.
26-28 Ray Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 3DJ
It's been a corking year at InGoodTaste, this 2013. If you don't know (why?), InGoodTaste is London's Food radio show that airs on ZoneOneRadio. My fellow presenters and I explore the UK, tracking down the best food, interviewing the best chefs and cooking some pretty darn tasty food.
Listen in to our Best of 2013 InGoodTaste show, in which we revisit the best moments from the past year, including:
Michel Roux, Jr. on MasterChef, the Roux Scholarship and how to judge new talent;
Raymond Blanc telling us the one ingredient he can't live without;
Jay Rayner getting hot under the collar and pouring champagne over himself;
Paul Hollywood, the silver fox himself, giving us top baking tips
Jason Atherton on culinary legend, Ferran Adria
Richard Vines talking about el Bulli
Plus me and host, Clare, chat through the best (and worst) food trends of 2013 and our favourite moments on the show. Think burgers, oysters, suckling pig and a lot, a lot of groaning. Have a listen and happy new year.
Featuring Clare Mulley and Lucy Boler
Produced by Victoria Ferran
This is a fabulously tasty brunch dish, that would brighten up any sleepy Sunday. It's a kind of take on an Eggs Benedict, and, although its moderately tricky, is totally achievable.
Hollandaise is a emulsion sauce made predominantly from BUTTER. It's always going to be good. It's zinged up with a bit of lemon juice, and I've added a savoury kick of thyme, which I think works well with the potato. Incidentally, the potato is fried in more butter, ho ho ho. The caviar is optional but adds a salty element which compliments the creamy sauce and smoked salmon.
Anyway - give it a go. You'll eat well.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
4 free range chicken eggs
4 teaspoons of caviar - lump fish roe is absolutely fine and comes in at about 2 quid a jar!
Smoked salmon - 4 slices
salt and pepper
For the Hollandaise:
2 egg yolks
1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
juice of one lemon (get two just in case)
110g butter, melted
4 sprigs of thyme
For the Rosti:
3 large waxy potatoes
1. Preparation: First of all prep your eggs for poaching - this is a fool proof poaching method and will really help you juggle all the elements later. Take a large square of cling film and lay over a teacup. Poke the clingfilm a little bit inside the cup so there is a bit of a dip, where you can crack an egg into. Oil the clingfilm with some vegetable oil. Crack an egg into it. Gather the sides of the cling film up, squeezing out any air and twist to make a little egg parcel!! Do this for all your eggs and set to one side. This way you can cook all of your eggs at exactly the same time and you have no risk of them coming apart in the water/sitting around while you cook the rest!! Plus they are always, consistently the perfect shape.
2. Set a pan of water on to boil to poach the eggs in later.
3. For the Rosti: parboil the potatoes until tender, but not cooked all the way through. Cover in cold water and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours, if possible. Don't worry too much if you can't do this, but it helps make for a firmer rosti that doesn't fall apart.
4. Coarsely grate the potato and mix in some salt and a good amount of black pepper. Heat some butter and oil in a frying pan. Form the potato into four circular patties and gently place into the sizzling butter. Leave undisturbed in the pan for around 4 minutes, to allow it to begin forming a nice golden crust, and then flip. Cook for around 10 minutes in total until crisp and golden. Season with a little salt and keep warm.
5. For the Hollandaise: take a small saucepan and put the vinegar and peppercorns in it. Reduce over heat for 30 seconds until it has reduced by half. Remove the peppercorns and set to one side.
6. Set up a bain marie - place a sauce pan with about 2 inches of water in it over medium heat and get a glass bowl that fits in the top of it without touching the metal bottom of the pan ready. In the bowl place the vinegar and two eggs, place over the saucepan and continuously whisk until the egg yolks thicken, and go pale and creamy. Make sure that the heat doesn't get too fierce and occasionally take it off the heat to whisk it. You want the eggs to reach a 'ribbon' stage so that you can see the trails that the whisk has left in it, after the whisk is removed. This will take about 2 minutes.
7. Remove from the heat and add about 2 tablespoons, or a trickle, of the melted butter to it and whisk immediately to combine it in. Then put it back over the heat and continue to whisk. Repeat. Back on heat, whisk. Do this continuously, always always whisking until all of the butter is combined. Be very careful not to add the butter to fast or to get it too hot. If you do this the sauce will split - the butter and the yolks (oil and fat) will come apart from each other and it will look like scrambled egg - not what you want and totally irredeemable!!! Take your time with this stage - it's the tricky bit! Don't worry if it is very thick - when you add the lemon juice it thins it out. Add the thyme and season with the lemon juice and a large pinch of salt. Taste and adjust the acidity/ seasoning if required. Keep warm over a very lightly simmering bain marie, whisking frequently.
8. Poach your eggs in the boiling water and clingfilm for 3 minutes.
9. Assemble: put your rosti on the plate and layer a slice of smoked salmon on top. Add the poached egg on top, and then ladle over your thyme hollandaise. Add a teaspoon of caviar to either side and garnish with a sprig of thyme and a good grate of pepper. Serve immediately.
Not to conform to the Yorkshire stereotype, but ooo by gum, I do love a pie. And I do struggle to find a good pork pie especially outside of the North. There's a decent place in Borough Market, but it's nothing like home; juicy, salty pork, achingly flavoursome jelly and crisp, yet crumbly, savoury pastry that just tastes of the pig. Bone quivering. If I was a princess and life was a Disney movie, my prince could forget about a ring or jewels or what not....just present me with a pork pie and I'm yours. Thinking about it, I should probably add this fact to my Tinder profile.
This recipe is a reet good stab at an excellent one. It takes about a day in total to make and get chilled, so make the day before and add it to your slap up weekend lunch table.
Buy the best pork that you can - it's the star of the dish so make it good and make it British.
Ingredients (makes 1 pie):
125g lean pork, e.g. loin
125g fatty pork, e.g. belly
4 rashers of smoked bacon, cubed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 heaped teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (stalks removed)
1 heaped teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2o0ml ham stock
(Or make your own by boiling up some pork bones with onion and herbs, reducing the stock and leaving to cool and set)
Extras: approx. 11cm pork pie tin
1. Cube the pork into small cubes, maybe half a centimeter across. Put into a bowl with the bacon. Season with the cayenne, pepper, salt, thyme and sage and mix together thoroughly. Set aside to let the flavours infuse while you make the pastry.
2. For the pastry, warm the milk and half the lard in a saucepan on low heat until the lard has melted. Leave to cool.
3. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut the remaining lard into small cubes and rub into the flour with your fingers to form breadcrumbs. Then make a well in the centre and gradually mix in the cooled milk and lard mix, to form a smooth dough. If it's too dry, add a bit more water, and be aware that it might not need all the milk lard mix too - use your judgement.
4. Preheat the oven to 160 celsius. Divide the pastry into 2 - one large lump and one small one.
5. Roll out the large lump until it is maybe 4 mm thick. Line the tin by carefully laying it into the tin and pressing it around the sides. It will probably break at this stage, since the pastry is quite brittle. Don't worry about it. Patch together the holes as best you can and just make sure that there are no gaps.
6. Roll out the small lump to form the lid. A good tactic is to roll it out and then cut around the tin - it should be the same size that way.
7. Spoon the pork mix into the tin. Pack it in but not too tightly or you won't be able to fit the jelly in later. Put the lid on top and seal the edges by pinching the pastry together. Make a small circular hole in the centre of the pie top to let steam escape and to allow you to pour the jelly in later - I use a knife to cut a small cross and then use the handle of a wooden spoon to push through.
8. Decorate the top of the pie now if you like with some leaves cut out of the excess pastry. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg - this gives it a lovely glossy shine when it has been baked.
9. Place the pie onto a tray and bake in the centre of the oven for one hour. After one hour, cover the top of the pie with a piece of damp baking paper to stop it browning further, turn the heat down to 140 celsius and cook for another hour.
10. While this is baking, make up your jelly mix by combining the ham stock and gelatin. Use the instructions that come with your gelatin, and leave to cool completely.
11. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, put a small funnel in the hole in the top of the pie and pour in the jelly, until it fills up the whole pie. Put the pie in the fridge and allow the jelly to fully set for a couple of hours. Eat and enjoy.
There is no meat quite so delicious as that of the pig. Juicy, succulent, brimming with salty juice and with the natural texture of exquisite crackling. The King of meats! And if pork is the King, surely that makes the Crown Prince the fabulous suckling pig.
This Christmas our family tried something a little different from your average turkey, and decided to celebrate our holidays with a festive suckling pig. This recipe can be cooked though at any time of the year and makes for a fabulous way to entertain.
What is a suckling pig? Technically a suckling pig is one that is still on its mother's milk - so anything up to around 6 weeks. Commonly what gets sold and branded as 'suckling' is actually a little older, at around 8 weeks, but it who's counting really.
Why is it so good? Suckling pig has been eaten for thousands of years - we have sources telling us of the Romans chowing down on this yummy old Babe! One of the reasons that make it so delicious is that piglets contain a much higher proportion of collagen than their hoary elders. This, when cooked, breaks down to make its flesh sticky, rich and excessively juicy. It's a far more gelatinous, luxurious mouthful than normal pork.
Size matters. Suckling piggies come in a number of delicious sizes. For about 6-8 people go for about a 5kg piglet, and aim for about 750g per person after that. Bear in mind, you won't be able to fit more than about a 6kg pig in a domestic oven. There are ways round cooking a larger one, such as cutting it half, or doing it on a spit on a BBQ, or roasting in a BBQ, but do just bear in mind your facilities when purchasing your pig.
We ended up cooking our pig in our BBQ in a huge roasting tray, since it wouldn't fit in our oven.
Purchasing it. You can order this in at your butchers or look online for a local farm selling them. Try to buy organic and free range. It's much nicer on the poor little piggy while it lives. Also - do try and buy British. This year we got ours from a fabulous farm up in Yorkshire called Mount Grace - it was delicious and I couldn't recommend it enough. A 8 kilo pig costs around £95, so it's not cheap, but then again it's not much more than a good turkey and will serve a hell of a lot more people.
To brine or not to brine. I say brine! Brining is the process of soaking meat in a salted solution over an extended period of time in order to tenderise the meat and make it more juicy. As it soaks in the water, it absorbs up to 8% more water and some of the proteins in the muscle fibres dissolve, making the flesh softer and moister.
Mental preparation. The pig will arrive whole. Prepare for this. It should be gutted, but its head will be on and eyes in. Don't be a baby and just get stuck in. Do not name the pig. It will be very heavy and lugging it around, putting it into bin bags to brine it will make you feel, and appear at first glance, like a murderer. Try not to let the neighbours see - it makes for some awkward 999 calls.
How to cook it
To cook our pig, we used a combination of Jamie Oliver's Christmas suckling pig recipe, some guidance from some excellent blog posts, such as that of The Food Lab, and a bit of our own mother-daughter meddling. You'll need at least 24 hours in advance of the meal to prep it.
See the below recipe. Feel free to eliminate the rub stage - it's delicious just with salt and pepper.
Ingredients (serves 8):
1 suckling pig (approx. 8 kilos)
340g good marmalade
2 red onions
Salt and Pepper
For the brine:
17 litres of water
6.5 cups of salt
4.5 cups of sugar
For the rub (Jamie's Christmas Rub!):
8 fresh bay leaves
8 allspice berries
4 tablespoons fennel seeds
16 tablespoons sea salt
2 stick cinnamon
8 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked
8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
Extras: tinfoil, string, bin bags, a huge roasting tray
1. For the rub: peel the zest from the oranges and lemons. Add this, the bay leaves, all spice berries, fennel seeds and cinnamon to a blender and pulse until roughly ground. Add the rosemary and thyme, and pulse. Stir in the nutmeg and salt. This will keep for a few weeks so you can make it in advance and use it when convenient.
2. For the pig: The first stage is to brine the pig. It's probably easiest to do this in bin bags, unless you have a large cooler or ice bucket you can use. Put the pig into three layers of bin bags (to stop leakage) and pour in the brining solution. Keep this in a cool place, covered in ice (e.g. in an ice cooler chest or in a bath covered with ice), for 12-24 hours.
3. Next the rub. Take the pig out of the brine and dry it with a towel to remove excess moisture. Score the skin all over with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut through into the flesh, about 0.75 of an inch apart. Stuff the pig's insides with the apple, 2 of the clementines and the red onion. If there is any spare room, add some scrunched up tinfoil, to fill up the cavity. Sew the cavity up with the string - this helps hold the pig together a bit. Pop the remaining clementine into its mouth. Put the pig into its roasting tray and sit it upright, in a sort of sphinx position. This gives it maximum skin surface area exposure for plentiful crackling. See the photo below. Coat the pig with the rub and refrigerate for a further 12 hours.
4. To cook: heat the oven to its maximum setting (circa 220 celsius). Cover the pigs ears and tail with tin foil to stop them burning. Put the pig into the oven and turn the heat down to 180 celsius. Roast for around 5 hours at this temperature, or until the internal temperature of the pig reaches 75 degrees. If the back or any other part starts looking a little too dark, cover it with tinfoil. When there are only ten minutes remaining of cooking, remove it from the oven and glaze it with all the marmalade. This gives it a lovely flavour and shine.
5. Once cooked, it should be glossy brown with crispy skin all over. Rest it for around 30 minutes, covered in tin foil to keep it warm.
6. To serve: if you want to carve it, rather than just attack it with your hands like animals, cut around the neck and then down the spine to the tail, to separate off both sets of ribs. Remove the loin and belly meat from below the ribs.
DEVOUR. Immediately and with great enthusiasm.
In a city of concasses, tuiles, ballotines and bites of the unutterably fine, there is occasionally no pleasure quite as exquisite as that of the Sunday hangover fry up. And for this, I wouldn’t even consider going anywhere but Jack’s at the Junction. I’ve been coming here every Sunday since I moved to London, and occasionally on other weekend days too, dependent on the severity of the night before. I can state with full confidence that this is the finest greasy spoon I have ever been to. Always rammed to the gills, a million tables squished into two cosy floors on Lavender Hill, just up the road from Clapham Junction station, Jack’s is the SW11 institution.
Its menu isn’t elaborate and is certainly not refined; it’s just good, simple stuff. Sandwiches, brunches and the kind of breakfasts you cook in a pan. Fry ups comes as a single, double or triple – one of each ingredient, two of each… you get the gist. There’s always one person (inevitably a bloke) who gets big for his boots and orders the triple – I’ve never seen one finished. It’s quite the bargain too for around 6 quid for a double and comes with bottomless tea, coffee or juice. The sandwiches are brilliant; you choose the bread it comes on, which ranges from soft focaccia to huge crusty ‘doorstops’ of white farmhouse bread, as big as a shoebox. There’s nothing like a healthy dose of carbs to chase away the Sunday cobwebs.
Anyway, I beg you, next time you wake up with two small elves wielding pneumatic drills in your temples and a serious case of the woozies, head on down to Jack’s at the Junction. Undoubtedly, I’ll see you there.
Have a peek at the one minute video I made about it for TasteMade.
252 Lavender Hill, London SW11 1LJ
020 7228 9111