Friday, July 30, 2010


This week we did a late night opening with Salad Club. It was great fun, and we were washed up and packed up by 10pm which is very unusual, and makes me think we must be getting a little bit better at our evening suppers.

Salad Club is made up of Ellie Grace and Rosie French. Rosie is on maternity leave at the moment, but still managed to make it down with little Alfred (pictured below in all his glory, post nappy change, and much happier), which was a real treat. The evening was rounded off with the attentions of one of Coldharbour Lane's tramps, and it wouldn't have been Brixton if something like this hadn't happened!

Both Ellie and I loved the atmosphere, and it was great to have loads of tables laid up outside on a cool summer evening. Everyone chatted away and had a long dinner without the usual rushing of a restaurant booking. The joy of supper clubs is that your plot is all yours for the evening, not just your allocated slot. So it's more like being at home really, just without the washing up.

The Menu:

Chilled Cucumber and Dill Soup.

Chickpea, Chorizo, Mint, Feta and Roast Squash Salad.
Red Thai Rice with Coppa and Roasted Fennel.
Butter Bean, Courgette and Parsley Salad with lots of garlic.

Mango and Rose Water Ice with Stewed Berries and Lime, Cardomom & Almond Shortbread

Pots of Mint Tea to polish it off.

For Future events contact Salad Club or

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


After this mornings catastrophically disastrous ice cream attempt, I've taken on a much more simple and immediately gratifying task: honeycomb. Having seen this on one of my favourite TV shows, Come Dine with Me (WAG's special) I thought I couldn't go wrong. And sure enough, it's looking perfect. It's super easy. Fool proof even. As mine is setting I'm trying to work out how I can encorporate it into a pudding or even ice cream, with out ballsing it up!

3 tbsp golden syrup
150g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder

Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside. Measure out the golden syrup and sugar into a large wide saucepan. Place this on a low-medium heat. It will gradually all incorporate and melt together. When it has been bubbling gently for a few minutes it should start to turn golden. At the point where it is a red brown at the edges, swirl the pan a few times and then take it off the heat. Now quickly add the baking powder (or bicarbinate of soda). Use a whisk to swiftly beat together. It will bubble in a very satisfying way. Then tip this out onto your baking paper so that it can set immediately. Leave for 2-3 hours to fully set and then go at it with a hammer. I can't wait.


Today I tried my hand at a new idea I've been brewing: ice cream with berries and meringue (like Eton Mess). The reason why it's been on my mind is that when you make ice cream you have loads of left over egg whites. The natural thing to do is make meringues in this instance, and then I thought, why not use summer fruits and make it like a frozen Eton Mess. Only it really did turn out a mess. When I added the meringue, it stopped freezing, and also churning in the maker. I've deposited in the freezer, and can only hope that magic will take its course! Watch this space....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I just bought some sardines on a bit of a whim, and then didn't really know what to do with them. Moments like these, I usually turn to a handful of cook books. Whilst my office is packed to the brim with recipes and books, there are some that I return to time and time again. The Moro books are a constant source of inspiration, and so this is where I found the guide lines for tonight's supper. The recipe appealed to me because I love the combination of fish and vinegar - roll mops and boquerones are two of my all time favourites, mostly because of their hangover soothing qualities. Try either of these on buttery toast and you will feel whole again!

6 Sardines, gutted and scaled
some gram flour (because that's all I had)
2 tbsp olive oil
80ml red wine vinegar
1 fresh bay leaf
some dried thyme, on the stick
1 tsp of green pepper corns
1 dried chilli
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 head of dill flowers (off my gone-to-seed-dill plant)
a generous pinch of salt
a generous pinch of sugar
1/2 a red pepper, very finely sliced
1/2 an onion, very finely sliced
2 tsp capers in vinegar

Pat dry the sardines and then dust with the flour. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and then fry the fishes until they are golden. This will be about 1 minute on each side. Remove to a shallow serving dish.

Using the same pan, place on a medium heat and add the vinegar, and then in close succession, the bay leaf, thyme, the pepper corns, chilli, fennel seeds, dill and sugar and salt. It will simmer and the delicious sharp flavours should slightly catch the back of your throat. Now add the finely sliced pepper and onion and simmer for a few minutes to soften but not totally cook. Immediately pour the mix over the sardines, and then scatter over the capers (another of my favourite vinegar related ingredients). Leave this to sit for a few hours before serving. It's good to note that Sam and Sam Clarke, of Moro, recommended leaving this to melge for up to 48 hours. I'm too hungry though, so haven't got the patience for that!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HELLO SAILOR! it worked a treat

Horay, my ice cream worries are over. It's clearly all about the addition of alcohol. The Sailer Jerry's and Raisin ice cream was just perfect. Easy to scoop, eggy, speckled with vanilla and just plain good.


My relationship with ice cream varies, according to how successful my achievements. To satisfy my desire for proper ice cream, I bought a seriously expensive maker from Cuisinart which is quite a hit, but not as perfect as I'd like. Ice cream is tricky because you want it to live up to the trashy stuff, creamy, homogenous and sweet, and yet you also want it to be seriously rich and custardy and proper. With my home made stuff, sometimes it comes out too hard after the freezer process and doesn't seem to have the 'scoop factor'. It's more about chipping away! So I've been reading David Lebovitz for cold tips, and got some great information from his blog. I recommend it. He really gets down to the nitty gritty of what each ingredient does to the mix, which really helps in understanding the whole process.

A few weekends ago we were given a bottle of Sailor Jerry's Rum. It is named after a famous tattooist who had one of the first salons in Honolulu, and did those great designs for a beefy naval forearm, and the bottle is beautifully labelled in the same way. The rum itself is really vanilla strong and so I thought it would lend itself well to Rum and Raisin ice cream.... and I've followed my reference recipes carefully, so fingers crossed we'll get that scooping going! As this is an alcohol heavy ice, and alcohol doesn't freeze, it can't go wrong?

For the Custard:
500ml full fat milk
600ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
5 egg yolks
230g caster sugar
a pinch of salt

For the rest:

3 handfuls of golden currants
enough Sailor Jerry's Rum to cover these

Place the milk, cream and vanilla pod in a heavy bottomed medium pan on a low flame. When it comes just before the point of boil, remove from the heat and cool for 20 minutes. Then scrape out the vanilla pod and get every last dot into the mix. Now beat together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until it is creamy, light and a little stringy. This should take about 4 minutes. Pour in a little of the milk and beat. Then pour in the rest and thoroughly mix. Place this well combined mixture back into the pan and place on a very low heat, stirring frequently. It should begin to thicken after about 15 minutes, but do not let it split, which is easily done.

Measure out the currants and the rum, soaking them together. Let them sit while your custard cools. When it is room temperature, add the rum and raisins and get out your icecream maker. Churn for 20-25 minutes or if you are doing by hand, beat intermittently over the course of 3 hours, returning each time to the freezer. When you have finished churning, place the soft ice cream in a container and freeze over night.

I'll let you know how mine goes!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

TZATZIKI and The Vineyard

3 Camberwell Grove , London, SE5 8HA

Raf and I decided on an impromptu dinner last week. I’m usually pretty strict about these things and tend to cook at home. Because it’s my job but also because everything is cheaper at home. But going out for dinner has some very appealing merits: someone else does the washing up; you are the consumer and you decide; I always learn stuff about the way other people cook.

The Vineyard has been going for years and is a classic no frills local Greek. The owner sits in the corner, sipping his beer, and keeping a watchful eye on the stream of gorgeous young waitresses, giving nods and gestures to clear tables and take orders, more like a booky at the races than a restauranteur. The food is predictable but mighty good. Kleoftico, Tzatziki, Calamari and all the other things that you make you feel more like Shirley Valentine than your bog-standard self.

The dish that really struck me at the Vineyard, was the Tzatziki. I suppose I make posh stuff – bunches of fresh mint, thick yoghurt and lots of cucumber, and all the other variations. But here, and I totally trust that they are authentic, they use dried mint, thin yoghurt and a smattering of grated cucumber. It’s interesting to see how much we turbo-up dishes that are actually very simple and plain. Brits do the same with Curries. In India, they use one or two leaves of coriander on top of a dhal, but we chop in whole overpowering bunches. I don’t think either is better. But they are notably different.

For the Vineyard’s Tzatziki, buy live natural yoghurt, add a couple of teaspoons of dried mint, crush in a garlic cloves and grate in a little cucumber. They serve this with good pitta. For mine, use strained Greek yogurt, a sliced spring onion, ½ a finely chopped chilli and a diced, deseeded cucumber. I could eat this little treat with anything. Try it with baked sumac courgettes or with a rack of lamb, or as I did at the Vineyard, by dipping deep fried white bait in, like cru d’etes with humous.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Alice and I arranged to meet up on Sunday. She lives up east, so jetted down on the new East London line, and we made our way to Frank's Campari Bar. For those of you with your ears and eyes shut, this is Peckham's hippest hangout, masterminded by the lovely Frank (derrr!) I met Frank a few years ago outside Kings Cross station. And he hasn't changed a bit. He is polite and passionate about his projects and has a dangerous glint in his eye. I imagine girls fall for him left, right and center.

But the bar. It's rough and up on top of the Peckham multistory. Basically, you wouldn't imagine there's anything up there. As you walk round and round, escalating your way up, installations and noises and bits of art confuse you, along with the smell or acrid urine. And then, with the sounds of a choir of Hallelujahs in your head, you see the bar. Bold and red with aprons drying over the roof top, you can see the whole of London from here. Who would have thought it? We found our spot, and ordered from a menu that might seem a little plain. But I know Frank, and know he is a purveyor of all things tasty, having been brought up among the Portuguese cafes of Stockwell.

Naturally we ordered the moniker drink, campari, which was offered in a number of forms. We opted for something a bit breakfasty, with orange juice, which is just how I love it. The detail was that we didn't just get these, we got a lovely caraffe of water too. These are the things that make a meal special. It's the extra mile. Nothing fancy, but it just shows that they are thinking.
So apart from a killer view, and a great breakfast cocktail, we ordered tomatoes on toast, two sausages and a grilled mackerel with a fennel, orange and chicory salad. Most of the items on the menu are sort of plain and small. Think of it like a British fusion tapas and you will get your head around it. It seems odd to be ordering just sausages. But look at them! They were fat, wide and absolutely delicious. And the tomatoes on toast, again plain and potentially boring, were sweet and tart and swimming in their juices and oil. The bread (chewy sourdough) mopped it all up and was spiked with garlic and thyme. When things are simple, you want them to be simply effective. And these dishes definitely were. Added proof, as if we needed it, that good ingredients, when they are good, make for the best food. The last dish that arrived was the Mackerel. Grilled up on the roof and served with this delicate aniseedy salad, it was perfect. The presentation wasn't much, but that's the whole point. It's just good food, not tarted around with. My only reservation, which is a lazy one, is that whole fish are a bit of a pain to eat, because you've got all that boning business.

Alice and I were so immersed in the delights of Frank's that we didn't notice the scorching going on. We left with Lobster backs and happy bellies. And that small and lovely adrenaline rush, which comes of a wholly satisfying experience. Bravo Frank! But don't tell everyone. Because I love my Peckham, just the way it is.


With excess yellow courgettes I made a real nice dinner last night. Slice them in half, pour over some olive oil and sea the crunch over some sea salt. The finishing tweek is a generous douse of Sumac (delicious and tangy and sour) before baking for an hour at 180C. I served it with a sort of tzatziki with chillies and spring onion, and a salad with my favourite new ingredient: china rose radish sprouts. It made for the perfect light supper on a hot evening.