We were guided to a secret location in East London by UV skulls spray-painted along the pavement and admitted into a long corridor filled with smoke. After creeping tentatively down the corridor we met with a row of statue-still men in white suits who sprung to life and instructed us in robotic voices to ‘fill out a confession slip for entry, Sir or Madam’. After scribing down our dirtiest secrets we exchanged these with more robot actors for a jigsaw puzzle piece and were ushered alone through a secret door in a filing cabinet into another long dark corridor (are you sensing a theme here?).
I’ve been to some surreal food events since I came to London. I’ve been forced into radioactive suits and made to race around rooms on all fours like a pony, eaten soups with eyes in and nitrogen frozen meringues that billow steam when chewed – all in the name of gastronomy. But a recent launch of beer brand Cubanisto really took the biscuit…except that there was certainly nothing so mundane as tea and biscuits there.
If there’re two things I adore in life (cheese excepted) they’re offal and burgers. Liver, when cooked properly (aka NOT well done or chalky), melting in the mouth upon the gentlest chew, is one of life’s most beautiful things. So is the ooze of a butter sautéed sweetbread. Lesser known cuts like cheeks, tail, shin, when slow cooked can result in stews of the richest, most unctuous proportions. I love it when people take these underused ingredients, transform them into delicious things and honour them like they deserve. As for burgers…well, just…burgers (*smiles creepily*).
So when I heard that street food masters Tongue ‘n’ Cheek had taken up food residency in The Joker of Penton Street, Angel, and were serving up burgers made from a patty of ox heart and super dry aged beef, suffice to say I was up for trying them out.
Global Vegetarian Week is coming up and I’ve set myself the challenge of offering some less meaty recipes to the readers of this blog. There are some truly marvellous things that can be cooked up without the need for meat or fish and certainly with some cuisines, the addition of either would be to zero advantage. But to ease myself into it, for my first recipe I’ll be using a core ingredient that normally comes in the meatiest of forms: the Scottish Haggis.
Nowadays however our Scottish cousins have become more sensitive to Vegetarians and have begun producing vegetarian Haggises. I’m using one made by Macsweens of Edinburgh made from a tasty blend of lentils, vegetables, pumpkin seeds and spices and, to be honest, I’ve never sampled a better one.
I’ll be using this to make a vegetarian haggis lasagne, with grana padano and butternut squash. The squash adds a delicious earthy sweetness to the lasagne, coupled with the saltiness of the cheese and creamy sauce. I've jazzed up the sauce a bit to give it a bit more flavour and used some stock instead of just all milk - this makes it a hybrid of a french bechamel and a veloute!
Served with some garlic bread or a simple salad, it’s a delicious recipe that, I promise, will be enjoyed by all.
I’m a tremendous loyalist to South West London. Its leafy commons and open spaces, albeit slightly yuppie population, make for quite the pleasant lifestyle; one which I wouldn’t swap for feeling perpetually uncool in the East. Putney is a quintessentially South West district. It feels like a small village, plonked alongside the amenities of London, and is full of beautiful old riverside pubs. It only lacks, in my opinion, outlets for the forward trends of food and mixology that more urban London provides. Unlike some of the pop ups I’ve been to elsewhere, you’re never going to find some pop up in Putney where you’re served Korean hot dogs or burgers made from spaghetti buns, all whilst inhaling nitrous oxide out of a boot. Nor is this wrong; Putney is classic, it would jar.
So when Hide and Seed opened this Spring, there was definitely room for a restaurant that combined classic rural ambience with something a little more modern. Its décor emulates this; deer horns, hides and dusky lighting, coupled with bare bulbs, wood and vividly coloured furnishings punctuating conservative tartans. Its menus continue this theme. The bar offers natural cocktails made using berries, savoury herbs and spices that are well-made and a little bit different. Food-wise, Head Chef Ricardo Soares uses produce grown on the hotelier’s own farm to blend traditional flavours and modern techniques; cabrito goat and rosemary, beef with burnt onion, 22 hour cooked pig’s head and butternut squash crème brulee.
Hide and Seed brings a welcome touch of creativity to Putney’s dining scene and I’ll certainly be back. Non-South West residents, make the trip and try it – the District Line isn’t that scary.
Hide and Seed, The Lodge Hotel, 52-54 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London SW15 2RN
+44 (0)20 8874 1598
As I grow older and ever more unsuccessful with the mythical species of men, it becomes increasingly clear that my one great love is, in fact, cheese. Cheese won’t forget your birthday or ditch you for its football mates. No, cheese is always there, even when you’re on your period or just want to stay in and watch a movie. It makes me drool more than any movie star I’ve seen, and if you mix it up and try some other types, nobody will ever call you a slapper. Yes, cheese and I are in it for the long hall.
So when ACHICA invited me to a cheese and beer tasting, a veritable gang bang in my world, in Great Britain’s oldest Cheese shop, Paxton and Whitfield, suffice to say I was up for it.
Ahh, Spring. My favourite season and it’s here. Increasing temperatures, growing day light house and the yet absence of flocks of tourists into my city. Even without the food, it’s bliss. Add the advent of spring pea, spring lamb, and asparagus and I’m veritably on cloud 9.
This week I decided to celebrated the new found spring in my step (get it?) with one of my favourite recipes for the season: pea and mint mousse with lemon oil and a parmesan crisp. Refreshing, not too heavy, seasoned off with sharp lemon and some crunchy Maldon sea salt; it is the perfect dish for this time of year.
Serve as a starter or lunch dish and swap out the parmesan for grana padano if you want to make it vegetarian.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
Half a bag of frozen peas
2 sprigs of fresh mint, stalks removed
Juice of half a lemon
1 heaped tablespoon of natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon of parmesan
Pinch of Maldon sea salt
For the parmesan crisp:
Parmesan, as finely grated as possible
For the lemon oil:
Just liberally squeeze lemon juice into some olive oil and whip it up with a fork. About 1 parts to 4, or according to taste.
Garnish: natural yoghurt (optional)
1. For the mousse; boil some water and tip the frozen peas in. Leave, on heat, for around 2-3 minutes until they’re warmed through, beginning to float, but aren’t soft or mushy. Sieve and run under cold water until cooled through.
2. Put in a blender with the mint, yoghurt and parmesan and blitz until finely blended. Season with the lemon juice and Maldon salt, to taste. If it’s a bit dry, add a little more yoghurt – but you want the consistency to be fairly thick; enough to be able to hold its shape. Put in the fridge to chill until ready to serve.
3. For the Parmesan crisp: heat the oven to 180C. Line the back of a baking tray, or a silicone baking sheet, with baking paper. To stop it blowing around in a fan oven, you can pour some oil on the tray and use it to stick the paper down. Get a chef ring, place on the sheet and scatter a heaped teaspoon of parmesan into it so that a thin circle of parmesan is left on the tray when it’s removed. Repeat this until you’ve got as many circles of cheese as you want.
4. Bake in the oven for around 8 minutes until the parmesan has bubbled and is just starting to think about going golden – you don’t want them to brown though so keep a close eye on them. Take them out at this stage, remove from the sheet with a spatula and leave to cool on a rack.
5. Plate up: use a mould to shape a neat circle of the pea and mint mouse onto a chilled plate. Drizzle the lovely lemon oil all around, perch the parmesan crisp on top of the mousse and serve immediately. Enjoy – the true flavour of Spring.
If you follow my blog, you'll know that a dessert beloved to me is the classic tarte tatin. Delicious, oozing with fruit juice and caramel; what more, really, could a girl want. And when Spring comes around and those beautiful Braeburn apples are in season, my heart starts beating for my favourite treat; a true flavour of Spring.
Recently I scaled things down and added a few quirks of rosemary and salt. It works really well. The rosemary adds an earthy, fragrant layer sitting over the succulent apple. The salt's the real star though. Caramel and salt naturally pair well anyway. Salt, as a natural flavour enhancer, brings out the sweetness and slight bitterness of the caramel and binds the whole dish together. In addition, I think there are very few things in life more beautiful than tiny, exquisite little flakes of sea salt (obviously, Maldon), perched on top of something tasty.
These make great individual desserts or canapes for a party.
Ingredients (makes 12 mini tartes):
Equipment: a muffin/ cupcake metal baking tray
1 350g pack of all butter puff pastry, rolled out to about 3mm thickness and cut into circles the size of your cupcake tin holes. An easy way to do this is to make a cardboard circle cut out the same size, then use it as a stencil on the pastry, cutting pastry circles out with a knife.
3 Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and cut into six
200g white granulated sugar
1 sprig of rosemary
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out (and kept!) and pod
Maldon sea salt
1. Preheat an oven to 180C.
2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy based frying pan and leave over medium heat without stirring until the sugar has dissolved in the water and it’s bubbling away. Continue over medium high heat until the mixture thickens into a syrup and then begins turning a deep golden, caramel colour. When it’s turned, stir in the butter and season with a healthy pinch of Maldon sea salt.
3. Lay the apple slices, vanilla (seeds and pod) and the rosemary in the caramel and cook on both sides for around 3-4 minutes, until cooked through, but still firm. Let cool for a couple of minutes so that the caramel isn’t burning hot to handle and remove the rosemary and vanilla.
4. Place your apple slices in the bottom of the cupcake tin slots, probably around two per slot depending on the size. Spoon in some sauce in each.
5. Lay your pastry circles over the apple, and try to tuck the edges down the sides and under the apple a little bit, so that it bakes hugging the apple (see the photos below).
6. Bake in the oven for around 10 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. Remove and leave to cool for a couple of minutes. While the tartes are still warm (otherwise they’ll fuse to the tin), flip them out carefully with a spoon. Serve warm.
When the storms set in blowing trees on our nation's rails and causing as great a standstill as London Midland strikes, no longer let us wring our hands in greyscale waiting rooms, munching on some toxically processed cling film snack. Head on over the road to a little place I discovered the other week; Karpo, set in the Hotel Megaro.
Until recently my experience with Jewish food was being force fed strange soups with balls in by distant New Jersey elderly relatives, and the occasional bagel. These memories, though poignant, have translated into neither grasp nor true appreciation of the cuisine. I hear repeatedly of its wonders, but there’s been a few too many ‘ichs’, ‘achs’ and double-vowels for me to be confident of deciphering the menu and I’ve put it off. But I’ve an adventurous (cum-greedy) spirit, and a rooted fear of missing out (I believe today’s youth coin it ‘FOMO’) and consequently, when the opportunity presented itself to dine at not only the UK’s sole fine dining Jewish restaurant, but one set in the heart of Britain’s oldest synagogue, I happily accepted.
Restaurant 1701 is modern and bright, at odds with its ancient foundations, and of a cut glass fine ambience. A 7 course tasting menu with accompanying wine flight is offered journeying the Jewish world, and it was with Ukrainian Jewish that my excursion began.
Now, I like to think of myself as a relatively modern woman; online dating, picking up the tab, all the clichéd tropes. I’ll happily spank any of you yuppie post-uni-lash-‘lads’ in the workplace and send you smarting back to the Home Counties. No problem, and I’ll do it all in stilettos. But if there’s one domain of the ‘bloke’ that I hadn’t strayed into until recently, it was that of beer. It hasn’t appealed much, paling in comparison to wine or cocktails, its yeasty flows tasting to my untrained palate akin to a muddy bucket of liquid canesten.
But soon after Valentine’s Day I attended quite the exciting event; a ‘girls only’ beer dinner at Paternoster Chop House. The evening aimed to be an education in the art of beer and food pairin; a relatively new dining concept that’s sprung up over the last few years in opposition to traditional wine pairing. Beer expert and brewer Robert Ponsonby took us through 10 fine ales, both international and local, paired with food devised by Head Chef of the Chop House, David Philpot. As a brief aside; you might be familiar with the venue –it’s the swanky restaurant featured in that Channel Four show ‘First Dates’!