Monday 28 May 2007
From Cafe Fernando via Tastespotting:
"How can something dipped in chocolate not taste heavenly? Even better, how can something dipped in two different types of chocolate not taste heavenly? There is no way.
3 ounces bitter chocolate
3 ounces white chocolate
Chop chocolates and place in separate bowls. Place these bowls over a pot of barely simmering water and let stand until melted. Stir until smooth and let cool a little bit. Dip one side of the strawberries in white chocolate and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Dip sides of the strawberries in bitter chocolate. Back to the refrigerator for 10 more minutes… Dip a thin paint brush in bitter chocolate and draw the bow tie and buttons."
From Nudo, via Tastespotting:
Is it worth it?
65 quid for an olive tree for a year. As far as I can make out you get all the extra virgin olive oil that your tree produces, a certificate and a some olive oil soap...
Probably not. But it might make a good present.
"Where's your olive oil from?"... "O, that's just from my own olive tree in Tuscany!"
From Boing Boing:
"The Baker's Edge brownie pan is a labyrinthine trough running through a rectangular pan. The topology means that every brownie cut from the pan has at least two edges, to ensure maximum crunchy/doughy contrasts throughout the snack."
It looks amazing. And what makes it even more attractive is the amount of buzz that surrounds it. To make it even more irrestible is the fact that it is impossible to get hold of in the UK. I've got to call them up in America to place an order. I'm just hoping they have restocked after selling out after their Boing Boing publicity.
Cowie, your Brownies will definitely be the world's best once I get my hands on one of these pans for you.
Victoria went last year and dismissed it this morning as being OK, but nothing special unless you like Morris dancers and throwing sponges at people in stocks. She stayed at home tending to her geraniums.
When we arrived in Bruton, rain pissing down and making all the cows look unhappy, we were bowled over by the number of people scurrying around in their water proof coats. Normally when you go into Bruton you see about 4 people if you're lucky. Hippies everywhere. Insense making my nostrils sting. Colourful jewellery being hawked by keen young girls. Local charity tombolas. All set next to a tranquil, muddy brown steam cutting between the dignified stone walls of Kings Bruton School.
We were enormously impressed by the number of really exciting foodie stalls. Thorner's butchers have supplied me with my supper this evening - a beautifully tender veal rib eye steak which I am planning to sear for a fraction of a second on a super heated grill pan. Cowie had a Sweet Dreams smoothie, smoothified by a bicycle powered blender! Hippie power!
For more on how to make a Bicycle Blender visit the Make site here.
I can't receommend the Bruton Fete enough. It ticks all the foodie boxes: organic, low food miles, local, tasty, democratised, fun! I'm now eagerly looking forward to next years.
Ramsay, you may be a loud mouthed bully and multi millionaire... but your recipe in the Times on Saturday for Shallot and Goat's Cheese Tatin was incredible. Unctious. Oozey. Sweet. Gorgeous. So tasty in fact Cowie's Dad, David, said it was the finest onion based thing he had ever eaten!
Pic from The Spine
Victoria and I pottered off for the day to Clark's village near Glastonbury where I demolished a very tepid hot dog covered in lashings of mustard and ketchup. I cleaned myself up furiously to try to stop the news getting back to Cowie Junior! I managed to resist buying too much stuff from Le Crueset, just picking up some extra strength pan cleaner and a few odds and ends from a closing down sale around the corner. I left the chav ridden shopping mecca with damp feet but with a great sense of relief at the level of restraint I had shown!
Victoria and I nipped into Morrison's in Glastonbury which has to go down as the worst supermarket in the world! Why do they have so many automatic barriers to get in and none to get out?! Maybe it's to stop people having to endure their disgusting shop! The cheese, meat and fish counters were terrifyingly bad. Only one type of goat's cheese was on offer at the inept but pleasantly staffed cheese counter. It took them a good minute and a half to realise they had a customer... Still the cheese was delicious and perfect for the job. If I was doing this recipe again I would like to pay a trip to le Fromagerie first...
The beauty of cooking in the Cowie's kitchen is that they have everything on hand. AGA. Check. Perfect cast iron, oven ready skillet pan. Check. Sprig of thyme from the garden. Check. Glass of chilled white wine. Even better.
The smell of the caramel, shallots, hint of garlic (not in Ramsay's recipe - does that make this recipe my own?), white wine and stock bubbling up together was enought to make you want to give up work and devote yourself lock stock and barrel into the cooking world.
Here's Gordon's recipe coutesy of the Times.
Shallot tatin with goat's cheese and roasted tomatoes
If you can't get hold of Dorstone, look out for Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Chabichou du Poitou, Rosary or Pantysgawn in good cheese shops.
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig of thyme
65g caster sugar
75g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
150ml chicken or vegetable stock
300g puff pastry
Flour, to dust
120g Dorstone, cut in to 4 thick slices
Parsley sprigs, to garnish
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Halve the tomatoes lengthways and place them, cut-side up, in a small shallow roasting tin. Trickle over 2 tbsp of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Strip the leaves from the thyme and sprinkle over. Roast for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened a little but are holding their shape. Remove from the oven; set aside to cool.
2 While the tomatoes are roasting, make a caramel. Sprinkle 50g of the sugar into a 20cm ovenproof shallow frying pan and melt over a moderate heat. Once the sugar has completely melted, turn the heat to high and cook to a mid-golden brown. Remove from the heat, stir in 50g butter and then the vinegar (watch out as it will splutter). Leave to cool in the frying pan.
3 Blanch the shallots in their skins in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and refresh under a cold running tap. Peel off the skins, trim the root ends and cut any larger shallots in half so that they are all roughly the same size.
4 Heat the remaining oil and butter in a large frying pan and add the shallots and last bit of sugar. Sauté over medium heat, tossing and turning them, for 10 minutes until they are golden-brown all over. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and braise the shallots in the liquid for a further 10 minutes until tender. Drain the syrupy liquid; arrange the shallots on top of the caramel in the other pan. Leave to cool.
5 Roll the puff pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to a 23cm round. Use the rolling pin to lift the pastry over the shallots in the pan and position centrally. Tuck the pastry edges down the side of the pan, enclosing the shallots. Transfer to the fridge to cool for 1-2 hours.
6 Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Bake the chilled tart for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden-brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes before inverting on to a large, flat serving plate. Reheat the tomatoes; arrange on top of the tart with the goat's cheese. Drizzle over any tomato juices from the roasting tin; garnish with parsley."
Photos to follow once I get them off Victoria's camera!
Tuesday 22 May 2007
Quite brilliantly the Metro had a feature on an Italian prison which is running an excellent restaurant. All the food is cooked by inmates and delivered to tables by a host of murderers, rapists and thieves! All cutlery is plastic and guests are frisked on arrival.
From the Telegraph:
"Diners are flocking to what could perhaps be termed the most exclusive restaurant in Italy - one located inside a top security prison, where the chefs and waiters are Mafiosi, robbers and murderers.
Serenaded by Bruno, a pianist doing life for murder, the clientele eat inside a deconsecrated chapel set behind the 60 ft-high walls, watch towers, searchlights and security cameras of the daunting 500-year-old Fortezza Medicea, at Volterra near Pisa.
Under the watchful eye of armed prison warders, a 20-strong team of chefs, kitchen hands and waiters prepares 120 covers for diners who have all undergone strict security checks. Tables are booked up weeks in advance.
The prison director, Maria Grazia Giampiccolo, said the inmates had developed a flair for their cooking: "I feel haute cuisine in a place like this prepares the inmates for when they are eventually released. The guests enjoy their meals and although the security seems at first very daunting and imposing, they get over it quite quickly and forget about the guards."
The Mafia may be in charge, but there is no horse's head on this menu. Instead, a smart, middle-aged crowd tucks into a vegetarian signature menu, cooked up by head chef Egidio - serving life for murder - and keenly priced at €25 (£17.50), including a glass of wine with each course."
Both pictures are from the Telegraph.
Saturday 19 May 2007
It's interesting to see that their website also has a link to their blog which charts the way that the enterprise has evolved from a dream into the start of an exciting business.
More when it happens
Cowie and I went to So Japanese in Piccadilly last week on the grounds that our TasteLondon card gave us 50% off and the menu had wagyu beef on it.
Typically, I arrived later being kept late yet again by work. Tom and Cowie were already sitting at our table surrounded by white walls and no other diners. They're going to have to offer even more than 50% off! Having said that many oriental restaurants often seem empty but somehow they must do OK...
The menu was very exciting... the wagyu beef, grilled over coals from Mount Fuji had been getting me going since Cowie had sent me the link 4 days previously. I remember Miles telling me all about the way that Wagyu cows are played Mozart, fed beer and massaged in order to create the most succulent beef you can imagine. Apparently all these embellishments help to disperse the fat throughout the meat giving it the marbled effect you can see below:
We started by sharing a tuna tataki, smoked duck and walnut salad and a delicious scallop and crab tartar. We were bowled over by the quality and freshness of the food. The tuna was simply sublime - delicate, light, straight forward. The duck salad got finished off almost as quickly but wasn't quite up to the tuna's impeccable standards. I got the impression the duck had been waiting around too long... like Cowie normally has to when we meet for dinner. The crab and scallop tartar was placed in front of me, which was very unfair on the others because they barely got a look in! Smooth in texture and subtle of taste this dish was divine. It must have used the freshest sea food imaginable. We also had some delicious tempura vegetables which were light and crispy and some super sushi and sashimi.
Between the 3 of us we shared some blackened miso cod and some sizzling wagyu beef. The cod was firm at first and then yielded with even the gentleist prod of a chop stick. It had clearly been cooked by someone who knows exactly what that are doing. I wouldn't be surprised if they had perfected it whilst working at Nobu. In fairness, the cod upstaged the wagyu beef, which was tasty and moist, but given its star billing, was a bit bathetic.
Throughout the meal we were attentively looked after by an excellent staff who had little else to do but make sure we were having the best time possible. It's just a shame that it was so quiet as some bubble and atmosphere would transform So Japanese into somewhere that wouldn't need to offer 50% off!
At 30 quid each, we were highly impressed with. Almost all of their cooking was excellent. And for the discounted price you can forgive them for the slightly iffy duck and the underwhelming wagyu beef. At full price however, you'd have to think carefully about whether it would be worth going back.
I was late for Cowie's BBQ on Friday so I gave her this book to say sorry. It's full of recipes that are right up her street so I'm looking forward to trying a few of them out.
From what I've heard Allegra is the genius behind Leon restaurants... I'm going to find out more.
On Friday I was lucky enough to be invited to lunch at the Engineer in Primrose Hill. Oli's always banging on about how good it is so I was very excited about seeing if it lived up to his big chat.
Sure enough it did.
We were lucky with the weather which meant we could sit in the garden under the shade of a tall Labernum chatting about cricket and loving the fact that we weren't at work. The menu was short but in a good way. We all would have loved to eat everything on it. I chose the salt beef with piccalilli for starter which was a colourful treat for the eyes but less flamboyant in the mouth. I was hoping for some piquancy but it never delivered. Still it was very pleasant, just not quite the vibrant starter it appeared to be at first sight.
My grilled pork T bone was a delicious piece of meat, beautifully singed by the grill and growling with a salty tapenade. Butter beans and peas swam around the bottom of the bowl complementing the texture of the pork very cleverly.
The others had burgers which looked spectacularly good. Massively meaty with impressive chunky chips on the side.
It all made for a very relaxing experience. Just what everyone wanted at the beginning of summer with the cricket unfolding down the road at Lords and at the end of another hectic week.
I'm looking forward to returning for a leisurely dinner later in the summer.
Amazing tie die cheesecake from Slashfood:
"The response to the photos of the Red Velvet Tie-Dyed Cheesecake from Walt Disney's Pop Century Resort was unanimous: we want the recipe! Short of tracking down the pastry chef and begging, getting the exact recipe might be a challenge. Fortunately, the components of the recipe are simple. It has a red velvet cake layer at the bottom instead of a more traditional crust and once it has been baked, the cake is topped with a cheesecake mixture and baked again. The colors in the cake are all produced with food coloring, including the red velvet cake layer. The best way to start here is by using a boxed cake mix, but if you cannot find a red velvet cake mix, buy a white cake mix and add 1 ounce (1 bottle) of red food coloring to it. It is sure to be a hit at any child's party and will probably be very popular at a party for grown-ups, too."
Looks disgusting but also good fun.
Inspired by the photo below from Delessio's market:
Rob was a bit confused about the whole thing but everyone else bloody loved it. It's a combination of two things that get people excited: bubble wrap and chocolate.
To see more check out the article on NotCot.
Thursday 17 May 2007
"Skates are cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays. They are carnivorous, feeding mostly on smaller fish and crustaceans. They have flat pectoral fins continuous with their head, two dorsal fins and a short, spineless tail. There are more than 200 described species in 25 genera.
Skates are benthic (bottom-dwelling) and are found throughout the world from continental shelves down to the abyssal zone. They are oviparous fishes, laying eggs in a horny case known as a mermaid's purse. It is thought that egg-laying in skates is an evolutionary reversal, that is, skates are descended from ovoviviparous ancestors
The common skate, Dipturus batis, is the largest found in British waters. It has a long, pointed snout. However, the most common skate in British seas is the thornback ray, Raja clavata. They are frequently caught by trawling. Common skate and white skate are assessed as Critically Endangered by IUCN (World Conservation Union) and the fish is listed by the Marine Conservation Society as a "fish to avoid".
Surely creatures and plants should have evolved to taste disgusting.
Wednesday 16 May 2007
Message to all men out there....
If you've never heard of S & B day on March 14 th... then I suggest you type it into google right away!
Hawkmoor seemed to the perfect choice for such an occasion. Renowned for producing the best steaks in London, we were very excited about the trip.
It seems a rather unassuming location, however, once inside the masters in the kitchen certainly know how to cook a bloody good steak! All the meat comes from the Ginger Pig 'Observer Food Monthly Producer of the Year, and is lovingly reared in North Yorkshire'.
Before you sit down to tuck into a mighty piece of beef, be sure to have one their fabulous cocktails at the bar. (In my attempts to impress Cowie with my boozy knowledge I was stiched up by the barman who made me the stongest Cuban concoction you can possibly imagine)
Read below to see what Hawksmoor has to offer...
"Dictionary thick steaks from 28 day hung Longhorn cattle, pork chops from big happy Tamworths, racks of lamb from a flock of Swaledales grazed on heather moorland, all simply cooked on a real charcoal grill."
"For our cocktail list we've scoured our library of long out of print cocktail books. We've resurrected some great long lost classics and have added some of our own, invented by our award-winning bartenders. All are made with the finest ingredients available (and a lot of love)."
Our starter arrived along with someone else's as well which we tried to send back but they were having none of it insisting that we should have it anyway because no-one else was going to eat it! I'm not the kind of man to look a gift scallop in the shell...
Our steaks were tender, juicy, charred, rare as hell and perfectly seasoned. The fat had that brilliant, slightly crisp feel to it that gives me the shivers! This couldn't be London in 2007 without having triple cooked chips in a miniature aluminium bucket! That said they were delicious, especially when supercharged with the thickest bernaise sauce I have ever eaten. It's the kind of thing that would give Oli a reason to die on the spot!
It would be rude of me not to comment on the foot perfect service. The staff were charming and couldn't have made us feel more welcome; some of the best around.
It is quite a trek, especially if you live south of the river... but its worth the trip.
This super restaurant does exactly what it says on the tin.
Simplicity is the key. The menu is entirely dictated by what's on offer at the daily fish market. The fish is extremely fresh and cooked sympathetically.
"We are a unique Seafood Restaurant in that the menu changes daily, offering 15 different Seafood dishes.
Only limited amounts of Seafood are ordered in that "Today's Catch" is precisely what it states and not yesterdays catch.
Complementing the food is a selection of over 50 different international wines. Having been established for over 10 years bookings are highly advisable"
Perversely we loved the fact that both of our first choices had already run out... we landed up improvising a bit after having an in depth chat with our excellent waitress...
We shared some sensational mussels for starter which at first sight looked like a classic moules meunier. I can see Cowie's face now as she took her first delve into our enormous stack of shells and creamy sauce, her eyes rolling back in her head and a faint yelp of delight squeaking out of her mouth. The very simple addition of a sprig of rosemary to the dish whilst steaming the mussles was a master stroke. It transformed a classic dish that you can have a reasonably good version of anywhere, into a really insightful plate of food. We both tried to distract each other as we both deviously tried to eat more than our fair share. The mound of shells on Cowie's plate was a bit of a giveaway though! There can be no higher accolade for a dish than for two people to fight over it!
I can't remember what Cowie had for her main course but can vividly recall my mesmerising skate with a simple burnt buttery caper emulsion. The flesh pulled away from the wing effortlessly in the way only decent skate does. Weirdly I've eaten a disproportionate amount of skate in good restaurants - normally with a butter and caper sauce of some sort - Chez Bruce, Squire and Horse and now at Back to Basics. And I can safely say this one was bloody good! I like the story about skate that it is best when not quite fresh. Very disruptive!
We washed all this extravagant fish down with a beautifully cold bottle of Macon and paid our bill of spot on £100 feeling that we had discovered a gem of a restaurant.
Well worth a visit for those who enjoy a bistro style environment.
Tuesday 15 May 2007
"Various explanations are given of the origin of the name. It may be an arbitrary or jocular variation of dory (itself from the French dorée, gilded), or perhaps an allusion to John Dory, the hero of an old ballad. Others suggest that "John" derives from the French jaune, yellow. The novel An Antarctic Mystery by Jules Verne gives another account, which has some popularity but is probably fanciful: "The legendary etymology of this piscatorial designation is Janitore, the "door-keeper," in allusion to St. Peter, who brought a fish said to be of that species, to our Lord at His command." (St. Peter is said to be keeper of the pearly gates of Heaven.) A related legend says that the dark spot on the fish's flank is St. Peter's thumbprint."
Bloody ugly. Bloody tasty.
Monday 14 May 2007
If you want a decent omlette then there's no choice in the matter. It's imperative that you go to Flash Flash in Barcelona. Full stop.
Here's some blurb about it:
"Hamburgers, steaks salads, and over 70 types of tortillas are served up in a pop-art setting of funky black-and-white murals and white leather banquettes. It's completely authentic; Flash-Flash was opened in 1970 and the interior hasn't been altered since. The Twiggy-like model adorning the walls was the wife of Leopoldo Pomés, a well-known fashion photographer of the time and part owner. Decor aside, the food is very good; the tortillas fly out fresh and fluffy and the bunless burgers are some of the best in town. It's a favorite with uptown business types, some who have been coming here since the place opened."
We had an amazing bacon, cheese, white bean and onion tortilla that couldn't have been more gooey or unctious. Top class. The only problem with this palce is trying to find it and the ubelievably grumpy waiter who'd rather die than smile!
We found out about Flash Flash from the brilliantly quirky "Le Cool" guide book. You can see from the pages below that it isn't your normal Dorling Kindersly boreathon. In fact they've now got a weekly newletter/website for London and various other cities that's quite fun.
To see the map click here.
Situated in the the heart of Mayfair at Shepherd's Market, Le Boudin Blanc seemed to tick all the right boxes. Since this was a birthday treat for Browny, I was after a restaurant that was going to provide exquisite french food at a reasonable price, but in a relaxed and unpretentious environment. Le Boudin Blanc ( translated as the white sausage) didn't let us down.
After a long day in the office, we had a well earned gin and tonic soaking the evening sun in the market square. The place was buzzing with people who hard the same idea as us which created a lovely relaxed but vibrant atmosphere.
The restaurant itself is located up a narrow side street leading off the square. As we approached the venue I knew it was going to be a great evening. Sitting outside, diners were busy tucking into an array of exciting dishes, while others were happy merely watching the world go by with a delicious glass wine.
The divine smell of traditional french cuisine welcomed us inside and a charming waitress took us to our table. Despite it being pretty cosy, it wasn't intrusive; the lighting , setting with the subtle hum of conservation and laughter created a delightful ambiance.
The wine is always Browny's department... it was delicious.. he will enlighten you what it was.
As usual, I could have eaten everything on the menu and we needed a good 15 minutes to have any hope of drawing any conclusions! For starter I had classic fish soup with rouiie, croutons and Parmesan. The silkiness of the soup coupled with the intense depth of flavour made for a winning start. Or so I thought, until I tried a mouthful of Browny's fabulous crab ravioli. We both agreed this was one of the best starters we had ever had. The ratio of crab:pasta was 75:25... simply perfection.
'You can't go too far wrong ordering a rare fillet steak in a place like this.' These were Browny's infamous words as he tucked into his main course. And rare it was... a mild shade of blue would have been a better description; but it was superb. The knife had very little work to do as it glided through the faultless piece of meat. The side dishes of chips, peas with mint, cream and bacon plus spinach complimented the meal extremely well.
Having suffered a minor case of food envy during my first course, I was delighted with my rump of lamb. It was beautiful. Resting on a slab of aubergine, with celeriac mash, the rump was succulent, juicy, tender and oh so scrumpcious. I savoured everylast mouthful; I was sad to see it go.
Despite examining the delicious pudding menu we decided to call it a day there and finished with a coffee and petit four.
What a brilliant evening. Le Boudin Blanc oozes style, romance, class and supreme cooking.
A hidden gem that must be found.