Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Booze Riddled Christmas Pudding

I first took over making the Christmas Pudding in our family back in Oz 5 years ago. The first year I stuck religiously to my grandmothers recipe that had been created with love and much stirring many years before I was born.

The second year, I halved the amount and doubled the booze, as I am a lush and so are my family. That year my Uncle declared it better than Nan's (much to my mortification - just because it obviously was, dosnt mean it should be said so allowed, especially not in front of my Nan!) Thankfully, she agreed. Then he fell off his chair.

Now, being in London, where at the moment it is cold and miserable, boiling the pud for the 5-7 hours is a joy as it warms the house, as opposed to in Sydney when I make it mid-year and freeze! This is my first year hosting Christmas from scratch, it has always been Mum or Nan, with me helping out in the kitchen and doing booze runs to make sure we dont run out.
Not my Mistress

So, as I am hosting a couple of friends this year, my first job is to make the Pud. This year, I had the added benefit of my new kitchen pal, Mistress Fifi La Rouge L'Amore (Mistress for short). My pretty red pal. She has taken over from my old Kenwood back in Oz, an original classic who is still loved and missed - she had been my Mums for many years before finding her way into my kitchen when I moved out of home ohhhh 20 years ago now.

And so, to the recipe.

Nans Christmas Pudding (My Way)
750g mixed fruit/peel/cherries - I always add extra cherries
750ml brandy (you could use rum if you prefer)
250g butter
2 cups brown sugar
6 eggs
4 cups soft breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon self raising flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoon marmalade

  • Soak the fruit in the alcomohol for at least a week, stirring once a day with good thoughts. I had mine soaking this time for 4 weeks. Drain the fruit, reserving the booze as you will use this to "feed" the pudding for the next few weeks.
  • Cream the eggs and brown sugar together in a large bowl. Gradually add the eggs one at a time. Add the breadcrumbs, then when combined add the soaked fruit. Finally add the flour and mixed spices.
  • Line the base of the pudding bowl with a circle of nonstick baking paper. Pour in the pudding batter, then top with another larger circle of baking paper with 2-3 “pleats” in it to allow for expansion, then put on the lid.
  • Place an old tea towel or facewasher in the bottom of a large saucepan, place the pudding on top of the towel (you don’t want in in direct contact with the base of the saucepan), fill to ¾ up the side of the bowl with boiling water. I then use al-foil to pad around the top of the saucepan before pushing the lid into place and keep the maximum of steam in. Boil for 4-5 hours. Check every so often to make sure you have plenty of water and top up if necessary. If doing in a slow cooker, cook on high for 7 hours, or low for 12.
  • Allow to cool then feed a tablespoon or 2 of the reserved booze every few days.
  • To serve, reheat in the bowl for 3 hours on high in the slow cooker, or simmer for 1-2 hours on the stove top. I like to flame it as I take it to the table as well - cause there can never be too much booze at Christmas!

Makes 1 large pudding, plus a small one or two for quality assurance.

This vid was taken last Christmas at my parents place in Australia, a small fishing village named Ulladulla 3 hours south of Sydney. The Hussyband has cameo, and his words that were cut off were mocking my Uncle and his chair falling off tendencies.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moules Marinière

On a cold autumnal afternoon in London, I decided to whip up a batch of mussels for the Hussyband so we could snuggle up, eat with our fingers and slurp juices sucked up by torn chunks of crusty bread as they dribbled down our arms.

You see people out and about, tucking into pots of mussels in restaurants, daintily trying to eat them with knives and forks....oh the travesty! The waste! Mussels are meant to be dug into, fingers licked, chins dripped. The are not a dainty dish, nor are they for the weak hearted, first date or meeting the inlaws.

Mussels should be eaten using the shell as both a spoon and extraction implement. Use a gentle back and forth motion on the top portion of the mussel shell to detach it from the bottom shell. This only needs to be done for the first mussel. Hold the bottom shell with one hand and use the upper shell as a scoop to scrape the mussel from the lower section. Bring the shell to your lips and allow the mussel to slide into your mouth, with a good splash of the cooking juices.

Three things you will need to have handy:

  1. A finger bowl
  2. Paper towels/serviettes
  3. A bowl to dump all the empty shells in.

Now you know how to eat them, get cooking a pot now and enjoy!

Moules Marinière

1kg/2.2lbs fresh mussels
115g/4oz unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped 200ml/7fl oz dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1-2 fresh red chillis, or 1 tablespoon dried chilli flakes (less or more depending on your personal chilli taste)
large handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
crusty baguette sliced, to serve

To prepare the mussels, pull away the beard from around the shell and scrub with a stiff brush under cold running water.

Heat 50g/2oz of the unsalted butter in a large saucepan. When hot and foaming add the garlic, shallots, wine, bay leaf and chilli. Cook over a medium heat until the shallots are soft and translucent.

Bring the shallots and wine mixture to the boil. Add the mussels, cover the saucepan, gently shake the pan and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes, until the mussels open. Discard any mussels that remain closed after cooking or are shriveled. Be careful as you do this, and don't burn your arm like I did!

Strain the mussels over a large saucepan using a colander and set aside. Place the mussels into a large bowl. Retain the mussel juices in the pan and return to the heat. Add the parsley and remaining butter and bring to the boil.

Pour the juices over the mussels and serve with a big pile of crusty bread.

Serves 2

Adapted from a recipe by Antony Worrall Thompson

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fifteen Cornwall

So a couple of weeks back, the Hussyband and I went on a Haggis Adventures bus trip for 5 days through Devon and Cornwall. This was a bare bones trip, with a very comfortable bus and tour guide, and staying in backpacker hostels (I will not get started on my hatred on the accommodation part of the trip.) Being that we were being forced to stay in dorm rooms, I rightly justified that we could afford to go to a Really Nice Dinner (TM). And considering we would be staying in Newquay for 2 nights, where better to go that to Fifteen Cornwall for a splash up dinner...(well nowhere really, Padstein was too far away!)

My original attempts at booking seemed to have gone seamlessly, via Toptable, but less than a week before departure I get a rather distressing phone call. Our reservation had been cancelled. Strike a scene of hair pulling, wailing and pounding of my head against a wall, ok a bit dramatic. On calling Fifteen I was told that I would only be able to get a table at 6pm or 9pm - too early to ensure we had arrived on the bus, and too late for this hungry little camper who would normally eat by 8pm and settled into drinking. Following a tweet, the gorgeous Jo from the Fifteen Marketing Team, came to our rescue and got us a table...HUZZAH!

So after a day crossing Dartmoor, patting ponies, climbing waterfalls and trying not to kill an idiot boy from the 'Gong up the back of the bus, we rocked into Newquay and dumped our gear at the hostel, showered, frocked up into a dress (shocking the backpackers) and slapping on the spack filler, we grabbed a cocktail and sat outside the bar of our hostel enjoying the view (which was awesome I will admit).

Heading over to Watergate Bay, we wanted to check out The Beach Hut for a pre-dinner cocktail and to watch the sunset and surfers. What a view. Words cant describe, so just look at this and wish that every day ended with a view as chilled as this.

Heading upstairs to Fifteen for our reservation, we were greeted by friendly helpful staff, an amazing view, and a well decorated interior - all pinks and browns...I love pink bits!

Started off with some more cocktails - Fifteens Amazing Dry Martini (Skyy Vodka stirred down with a touch of Noilly Prat, some orange bitters and a twist of lemon or mammoth olive) for Hussyband, and a Cider Car (Somerset 10yo cider brandy shaken with Cointreau & lemon) for me in honor of being in Scrumpy territory.

Now, the menu at Fifteen changes daily, and is to reflect the very best seasonal produce available, with at least 80% of this produce sourced from Cornwall. So I was excited to see what was going to be on offer for our visit.

Once seated at our table, we were presented with a wooden platter of Baker Tom’s bread baked daily and the best Puglian green olives. The bread was crusty with a hint of sweetness, and the olives were plump, juicy and full of bite.

First up "to get us started" (according to the menu) was a Crostini of Cornish mackerel ‘in carpione’ with pickled chard and St Austell bay mussels. Never having been a fan of oily fish, I had not tried mackerel before (that and it isn't hugely prevalent in Oz) - and I was brave, and surprised. My mouth was filled with flavor, it was fishy, but not in an in your  face kind of way, and the mussels and pickled chard offset it perfectly. Nom nom. More please?

From here on, we had to pick, luckily Hussyband is easily swayed, so we got one of each for the insalata and primi courses and "shared". Also with luck - we have very different likes and dislikes, so while we go to try each dish, we also got to hog the ones we liked best.

Insalata of juicy Italian flat white peach, mozzarella di bufala, Buttervilla’s funky leaves and aged balsamic  - now to me funky leaves means that they will either dance on my palate or smell like a pair of footballers socks. Thankfully it was the former and not the latter! This salad was light, with the peach, mozzarella and balsamic coming together in a way that I would not have expected. Sorry for the over exposed pic...but you get the idea!

Bresaola della Valtellina, Newlina’s green beans, micro leaves with thyme and mustard dressing - Hussyband the Carnivore was thrilled with this, salad, with meat. I found the dressing to die for and wanted to lick the plate. Hussyband beat me to it. He is a tramp and gets his tongue out whenever he can I am afraid.

Of the primi's Hussyband's favorite was the lightest potato gnocchi with Angus oxtail ragu and horseradish gremolata, I had to tear the plate away from him to try the lovely slow cooked meat sauce, with pillows of potato-y goodness, and the gremolata was just strong enough to give the back of my nasal passage an ushiro mawashi geri (a back kick for the non-martial arts minded among you) as it slid down my throat.

For me, the aged carnaroli risotto of girolle mushrooms, tarragon and mature pecorino ticked all the boxes. Coated the ribs, smelled earthy and sweet, with a good grating of pecorini to tart it up. I could quite happily curl up in front of a fire and devour a huge bowl of this on a cold winters night. Just what the doctor would order considering how London's weather is now turning!!

Onto the mains, and this is where we had a spot of trouble. 2 people. 4 mains. How to choose?

I ended up picking the Crispy fillet of line caught sea bass, with herby Charlotte potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and the best salsa verde. The skin was crispy and perfectly seasoned, with the salsa verde giving a lovely herbacious bite to it. The potatoes, just lush, but the broccoli just looked like normal broccoli (tasted great anyway).

Hussyband being the meat loving caveman that he is, went for the Roast fillet of Angus beef, borlotti beans, ruby chard and a rosemary and anchovy dressing. The meat was well cooked and bloody (as it should be!) I did not get to try any of his vegetables, as by the time I got my nose out of my own plate, he had scoffed everything but the meat - he always leaves the best to last, whereas I prefer to have a bit of everything on my fork at once.

The dishes we passed on, with difficulty, were the Pan fried Cornish brill, beautifully dressed fregola with heritage tomatoes and basil pesto and the Rotolo di patate (baked potato, spinach and ricotta roll), fagioli in umido and Parmigiano Reggiano.

By this stage, our stomachs were starting to strain at our waist bands, but we forced ourselves to share the best polka raspberry and vanilla mousse, creamy mascarpone and summer fruits from the Dolci e Formaggi selection. It was tart, sweet, in your face, innocent and debauched all rolled into one plate. If I could have taken some back to the hostel, our bunk mates would not have gotten any sleep. Yes, I loved it. Bonus brownie points: it has pink and purple bits, and that the purple bit was a pretty flower. Yes, girlie girl moment. Get over it.

Deserts that we passed on, were  the Amazing Amedei ‘No.9’ chocolate truffle tart, chocolate and chilli sorbet and frozen Muscat grapes, and the Formaggi: Stichelton, Driftwood and Old Winchester with walnut and date bread and Fifteen’s fantastic fruity chutney.

No room for coffee, we waddled out of there stuffed, satiated and satisfied that our contribution to the Foundations coffers was worth every cent.

Tasting Menu at £55 per person. Wine pairings optional at £42 per person (we didnt).

Fifteen Cornwall
On the Beach
Watergate Bay

T: 01637 861000

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Turkish Delight Vodka

I have a love for pink bits. And vodka. So to combine the two can only be good right? Flavored vodka is easy to make, and don't believe the naysayers - it is not a way to cover the taste of cheap vodka, I wont flavor what I would not drink normally. It is the same with vodka as it is with wine ----- if you wont drink it, don't cook with it (or in this case toss some sugary goodness in, change its color and make it tasty!)

Now this recipe is as simple as a recipe can be, with just 2 ingredients. You will need about 350g of good fresh turkish delight (the sort covered in icing sugar), I prefer the classic rose flavored, but there are plenty of choices these days, so taste a few and see what grabs your fancy. You will also need 3/4 of a 750ml bottle of vodka. now, I like Absolut for flavoring, but as I said - if you wont drink it normally, then don't try and flavor it.

Rinse all of the icing sugar off of the turkish delight, then dice it up into 1cm cubes (they need to go through the neck of the vodka bottle). Taste a few pieces as you go (quality control and all that), and push all the cubes into the bottle, put the lid back on and give it a damn good shake (think Tom Cruise in Cocktail).

Store the bottle in a cool dark place, and shake once or twice a day until the turkish delight has dissolved.

When you go to serve it, this is important, DO NOT SHAKE IT prior to serving as the sediment will cloud the liquid.

How do I drink it? Icy cold and neat in a shot is good. Or you could mix it with lemonade, make a TD Martini with a topping layer of Cadbury's Chocolate Liquor (or any other type), mixes nicely with lychee really are only limited by your imagination!

So, however you say it where you are, I raise my glass to you. Cheers! Slainte! Salut! Salud! Pura Vida! Proost! Gan Bei! Kippis! Kampai! Skaal!

EDITED TO ADD: L'CHAIM! For the delightful Kanga_Rue

Friday, August 13, 2010

Karaage - Japanese Fried Chicken

This weekend I am off on a small journey. Hussyband and I are catching the train and ferry to the Isle of Wight for a weekend of frivolity, Garlic Festival, drinking and silliness. Now, every good journey needs a good meal, and let’s face it people, train food in the UK is just god-awful. So, with this in mind, I bought myself a tiffin. 4 pretty boxes held together with a clasp, in shades of green and blue (I wanted pink, but Hussyband does not share my love of all things pink and would refuse to carry it - and possibly eat from it.)

So, I have 4 trays to fill - the top one is easy, olives and semi-dried tomatoes, the second one with sliced meats, the third with some cold quiche (to soak up the icy beers that will be in a strategically placed bag) and karaage.

I first tried karaage when I was in a small smoke filled izakaya in Osaka almost a year ago. Now, when you are holidays, you usually get up to things you would not dream of in the RealWorld. I normally wouldnt wear a silly mask and do karaoke...ok I would do karaoke, but not in a silly mask. Normally I would try to avoid anything deep fried, but when in Rome (or Osaka) one does what one must. It was crunchy and tangy and....oh my. It was just so damned good, especially with a 1 litre glass of cold Asahi, a flask (or 3) of sake and my beloved sitting opposite me sharing food.

On returning to Sydney, we immediately started to plan our move to London, and an embargo was placed on me buying anymore recipe books. But one more might have slipped in. It had to. It covered so many delicious things that I had eaten, so many foodie memories. Izakaya - The Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson, was a way to remember some awesome nights drinking and singing and yelling PAIZURI! at the top of our lungs to the eternal amusement of the salarymen who we inevitably ended up drinking and laughing and swapping slang and special words with.

The book is more a guide to some amazing restaurants and chefs, and is interspersed with over 60 recipes that will make foodies hearts go a-flutter.

My take on karaage has been refined over a couple of attempts and versions - skin off, skin on, sake, no-sake...but now for your feasting pleasure I bring you the perfect picnic food.

500g skin-on boneless chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sake
3 cloves of crushed garlic (please, whatever you do, do not use jarred garlic - it is wrong wrong wrong)
an inch or so of ginger grated
Vegetable oil, for frying

Mix everything together in a big glass bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and shove it in the fridge for an hour or so to marinate. While it marinates, have a glass or two of chilled sake, as it is wrong to only waste sake on food, in fact in some prefectures it is probably a crime which would see a samurai ct off my head, so drink 3 to be safe.

Using a heavy based saucepan or frypan (or deep fryer), bring oil to the boil.

Remove the chicken from the fridge, and removing as much excess marinade from the chicken, drench a piece at a time in the cornflour and immediately place it in the oil, and cook until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.

Now here is the tricky bit. Serve it hot with lemon wedges, or if you are patient enough to wait, cold with lemon wedges. A couple of bottles of Asahi and some sake will round it out pretty bloody good as well.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Great Rivington Lobster Massacre

Let me tell you a story of 4 maidens, cast adrift on a harsh unknown sea. There were two Australians, a South African and a Swede. They had found themselves on a desolated shore – no bars, no restaurants, no shoe stores....and then like a mirage on the horizon, they spied their salvation. Glittering in the distance, a purveyor of fine food and beverage...The Rivington Grill in Greenwich.

OK, so I am being a tad melodramatic, but living in South East London, there is a distinct lack of awesome dining options for hungry TwEaters. More so in Woolwich Arsenal where KangaRue and I make our home, slightly better across the river where CookSister resides, and Cathy257? Well Gotenberg is home to some of the best restaurants in Sweden, but she was staying in Holland Park in West London – so it was a double trek for her to catch up with us.

I had met CookSister at Food Blogger Connect a few months ago, and we have stayed in touch on Twitter, this was our first chance to catch up in person since, and her first meeting with KangaRue and all of us were meeting Cathy257 for the first time. And look that, I am rambling already!

We started the evening with a drink on the outdoor terrace...ok it was the second drink for Kanga and I, but she is a bad influence at all times and I accept no responsibility.

Moving inside, we settled in to view the room, and the menu. A wonderfully crusty hot loaf of bread with salty butter was deposited on our table. The smell of freshly baked bread is only surpassed by the smell of rain on hot asphalt and freshly mown grass for me, and I was in a very happy place.

3 of the 4 of us decided to be unoriginal and go for the Heritage Tomato Salad with Lovage and Wensleydale. KangaRue bucked natural order and went for the Chilled Beetroot and Horseradish Soup.

My salad was gorgeous – about 6 or 7 different types of heritage tomatoes that tasted like they had just come off the vine, served at room temperature so the full flavour was apparent with creamy shards on Wensleydale cheese. Kanga’s soup was gorgeous to look at (hey I like pink bits!) and tasted of the earth with a nice kick in the back of the nasal passage from the horseradish as it went down.

I also am on a quest – to try as many different oysters in the UK as I can get my tongue around. So, on seeing oysters on the specials board, and there being no minimum, I ordered one for myself. Now, as luck would have it, the kitchen stuffed up – so we got 3...poor Kanga missed out as these little suckers were lush.

When the waitress had been talking us through the specials of the day, it had been a unanimous decision that we were all going for the Lobster Special. A whole lobster served with chips, and a rich luscious unctuous mayonnaise. Now, I know you are thinking “She has just quit her job and is ordering LOBSTER?” But, as we had booked an online special, we were getting 50% off the really was very affordable.

The lobsters arrived, and they were, well, they were huge. With a large separate dish of crispy fluffy perfectly salted chips that on their own I would have been happy with....but I had a whole lobster before me. And so, after thanking the crustacean gods for their sacrifice, I dived in. There were juices flying, shells cracking and flesh sucking....all accompanied by the sounds of 4 women in a happy food place.

As the piles in front of us grew small, our bellies and the plate of discarded shell grew significantly larger. 1 lobster makes for a lot of shell....4 makes for a mountain!

By this stage our asses were getting numb, as the chairs were not the most comfortable for a long leisurely session, so we moved to the couches to digest and contemplate....could we fit in dessert? Why yes...I believe we can! Just.

CookSister and I had been eyeing off the Honeycomb Ice Cream with Hot Toffee Sauce since we arrived at the restaurant...and were heartbroken to be informed it was sold out. We took them up on the offer of good old fashioned vanilla, with the toffee sauce and were very happy. Thick oozey toffee goodness was a perfect accompaniment to the icecream which cut it nicely.

Kanga went for the chocolate mousse, which she was disappointed in (I tried it – and have to agree that I got the better pud!) Cathy went for the Eton Mess – her first ever!

Of course, booze was consumed....but like the bad blogger I am, I was too happy by the end of the night to remember what it was. All I can say, was it was really good, and there was a lot of it.

In summary: lovely company, great food on the most part, lots of booze, laughter and silliness. Bad points: chairs not so comfie, tables to close together, choccie mousse needs work.

All in all a great night, and cant wait to do it again. South East London Foodies Must Unite!

For other versions of this dinner please see Cathy and Kanga's blogs!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tom's Kitchen - 7 Hour Lamb

Last week at Taste of London, Tom Aitkins lamb was one of my favourite dishes. As luck would have it, Allens of Mayfair, also at the festival, had a lovely shoulder of lamb that had my name on it, and was lugged back home across London by a very boozey me at the end of the night.

Early Sunday morning, while the rest of the house slept, I was up surfing the net, writing my last post, and getting caffine into my system to start the day off right, and let the lamb come up to room temperature. Then the fun began.

Peeling and slicing onions has never been a chore for me. I used to prepare jars of caramlised onions when they were in season to store and share with friends back home in Oz. Here, it was another story. I dont know if it is because they are stronger, or because I have not cooked for a few months, but 8 onions equated to about half a box of tissues and the uncontrollable laughter of my Hussyband as I sliced and sniffed away. I really must get a mandolin! This would have to one of my worst photos ever...thanks Hussyband!

Now, having just moved and being under strict instructions not to buy everything I desire for the kitchen, I do not have a casserole or dutch oven in the house. So, for those of you similarily impaired, just use a nice deep sided baking dish, and tent the whole thing really well with a couple of layers of foil in both directions. It works just as well, with the added bonus of not having to scrub a lid clean at the end! Laziness/penny pinching has its uses. The last hour or so the foil came off, the balsamic goes on, and I had to paste every was worth the effort!

I served this with a huge pile of mash, and some green beans. You might also add carrots, peas or brocollini to the table.

The meat was fall apart tender - you really do not need a knife, and the left overs I mised through with the balsamic onions and froze for another day when I envision them either forming the base for a pie, or making the best damned toasted sandwich ever.

Tom Aitkins 7 Hour Lamb Recipe
1 shoulder Lamb (weighing 2.5 kilos)
1 bunch thyme
8 whole medium sized onions, peeled
2 garlic bulbs, peeled cloves
250ml balsamic vinegar
2g Maldon sea salt
150ml olive oil

See here for the method

Serves: 6

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Oyster Shucking and Dinner at Le Cafe Anglais

Last week, my trusty foodie sidekick Kanga_Rue and I headed to Le Cafe Anglais in sunny West London just near Bayswater tube for an instructional afternoon as to how to shuck our own oysters. I got to the restaurant just as the boys from Wright Bros Oyster and Porter House at Borough Market were setting up for the impending hoard of hungry mollusk lovers.

Finding us a seat at one of the few tables I waited patiently for Kanga, damned the London Tube and its ability to slow our scoffing down! The crowd was building and I caved to mental peer group pressure and went to have a sneaky sample.

There were four types of oysters on the menu today - Scottish, Irish, English and French. The offerings for topping them were simple and classic - wedges of lemon, red wine vinegar with shallots and also red and/or green Tabasco.

I found the Scottish to be gorgeously meaty, but very salty. The Irish just slid down my throat with barely a quiver of complaint at their fate. The English had quite a brittle shell which I had to pick away from on occasion. And the French (which I had been warned were the saltiest) were actually quite delicate and creamy. Now, to ensure quality control, we did sample them a number of times each, and were certain by the end of the session that they were all fantabulous.

After about 45mins of sliding the delicious bivalves down our gullets, we decided that it was time to have dinner. Kanga had been raring me up all week for one of the restaurant signature dishes - the Parmesan Custard and Anchovy Toast. It was like a little savory creme brulee, cut by the slightly fishy and crunchy toast soldiers. To wash this down we had a tea infused Bayswater Martini by the gorgeous barmen, Robert Voller. Oh.My.God. This was perfect - on the nose you could smell a tea infusion and oranges, and it tasted like the best martini I have possibly ever had (Hussyband would be so jealous as he loves a good martini!)

Now, being that we had kind of scoffed ourselves senseless on the oysters, we decided against our original plan of having mussels for mains. Instead we took chef/proprietor Rowley Leigh's suggestion of the Pike Boudin with Fines Herbes for our starter (we were good girls and shared our courses so we would not get banned from future escapades by our suffering spouses...and we were kinda stuffed as well). This was the most divine little sausage of seafood - almost mousse like in texture, but with a crunchy top where it had been finished, swimming in a sea of happiness...we used our fingers and bread to soak up every drop of sauce (hey we can be classy when we want to but this was too good to waste!)

Our main for the evening was to be the Wood Pigeon with Braised Peas (and a side of Gratin Dauphinois). You can tell when you are eating proper game, when you bits down into a piece of moist tender breast, only to be met with the crunch of shot. I had never tasted pigeon before, and I found it to be quite tasty, Kanga demonstrated the fine art of how to get the meat from every inch of bone...cant wait to see her on frogs legs! The braised peas and jus were perfect foil for the rich meat, and the dauphinois...well, everything is better with potatoes baked in cream don't you think? We washed all of this down with a carafe of Ponte Pietra 2009 Corvina Del Veneto...hic.

Finally the pudding. Kanga was hoping that they would still have the chocolate gooey concoction she had when last there, but alas this was not the case. So we settled on the Queen of Puddings, with a glass each of the Monbazillac 2006 Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure. Now, we could have come to blows here, as just maybe we should have gotten two desserts. This was good. Nay, better than good. It was a layered clouds of lusciousness. It starts at the bottom with a lemon curd and sponge, then an oh-so-delicate layer of raspberry, and topped with peaks of sweet just stiff meringue. It was...well, the picture shows how much we enjoyed it I think!

Then we took our adieus and stumbled back for the slog to SE18....thankfully in a booze laced sphere of happiness that not even stinking hot overcrowded Tubes could erase. Another happy food excursion.

PS: I never did manage to shuck an oyster, it was too crowded. Kanga on the otherhand, was more persistent and managed to shuck her first - what a proud little shucker she was too!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Taste of London 2010

On a cold, threatening to rain, grey London evening we queued with the masses to enter a Taste of London in Regents Park. We were on a mission, Kanga_Rue and I, we were a hunting. Two things on our hunt for Kanga: Trinity's pig trotter on toasted pain polaine, fried quail eggs, sauce gribiche and pork crackling, and the Nyetimber bubbles. For me: Tom Aitkins 7 hour lamb, and Club Gascon's Pimm's foie gras (yes my love of foie gras continues.)

As the gates opened, so did the heavens, and we dashed inside to start what would be a trip for the taste buds all over the globe.

First foodie stop was Dinings. I have a love of Japanese food that spans the Pacific Ocean, and this first plate of the evening just enhanced it. A dish of seared wagyu sushi with sauteed foie gras, finished with a touch of wasabi and drizzled with a sweet soy reduction. It exploded in my mouth, and then settled in to the most glorious velvety sweetness.

We moved on from here, staying under the canopy and delightfully dry, to L'Anima for the smoked purple aubergine and burrata with basil and chilli jam. The aubergine (or eggplant to my Aussie roots) was smooth, the burrata yummy and the chilli jam and basil cut through everything to make an amazing mouthful. Chef Francesco Mazzei was hanging out in front of house, and kindly answered our questions and explained his dish.

But, we must not tarry, as we only have 4 short hours to hold the nosebag in place.

Onwards and upwards! Next stop the Auchentoshan Whiskey booth, for a couple of aged single malts, and very refreshing mix of 12 year old with soda water and orange. Wold have been perfect if the temperature was a few degrees higher!

We whizz by the Laverstoke Park Farm stand - tasting their marvellous buffalo milk mozzarella, assorted biltongs (what is there not to love about dried meat?), organic ales and the most luscious toffee icecream imaginable.

Now we get to put a tick next to one of Kanga's aims, the Nyetimber champagne stand. The south of England shares similar geology and soils to the Champagne region, the chalk seam found there reappearing from under the Channel across the Sussex and Hampshire downlands. We tasted the 2005 Classic Cuvee, which was a bright golden hue, and filled my mouth and nose with vanilla and citrus fruits fill the nose.

After that lovely little respite, we moved onto Club Gascon to tick one of my boxes, with the Pimm's Foie Gras Plancha. A rich, evil, glorious piece of foie gras, oh so naughtily floating in a little pool of Pimms's complete with strawberries and cucumber (yuck), with a summer cloud of foam floating above. If this is English Summer on a plate, I am staying here.

Right next door, was my other tick, Tom's Kitchen. I had tweeted Tom earlier in the asking for his recommendation - the lamb, or the foie gras, and was advised in no uncertain terms to go the lamb. Tom was onsite on Friday night, and was kind enough to come out front and meet us. He is so much cuter in real life, and I am now more than slightly besotted. But to the lamb. It was moist and meaty, with silky caramalised onions and a potato foam (rather than mash). This is a highlight of the event for me. So much so that I went and bought a shoulder of lamb from the boys at Allens of Mayfair and am cooking it Tom's way as I type.

We were on a run, and going for 3 in a row the kitchen next door was recommended to us by a colleague of Kanga's...Trishna's. We had a gorgeous plate of seafood biryani with cucumber and black pepper raita. The rice was perfectly cooked, the seafood fresh and plentiful, and the raita pulled it all together to make a happy place in our bellies.

Time for a drink again, and we headed to the Chapel Down Winery - a glass of bubbles for me, and a pinot for Kanga. The display of Colchester Oysters was too much for me, having not had an oyster in ohhhh 2 weeks? 2 with lemon and Tabasco, and another 2 with red wine and shallot vinaigrette slid down our throats with little sighs of pleasure. Ours not theirs.

Glorious Foods were giving out belly warmer samples (much needed as it was pissing down by this stage). The curry chicken soup, and the roasted squash soup were both very delicious. We signed the petition to get them into Waitrose...fingers crossed guys!

Kanga left me to break the seal, so I went to have another drink. The boys from Floridita London were more than happy to have my custom and I had something boozey and gorgeous...then I had to have a layback, which kinda wiped the memory of what I was minty...I think. The rum was awesome. Hic.

Kanga came back with another of our wants (but not essentials) and the continuation of my infatuation with goats cheese. Whipped goats cheese with pickled beetroot and Regents Park honey from Odette's was light and fluffy and well with the honey cutting through the slight tartness of the beetroot. Tasted as good as it looked.

Kanga was thirsty again, so we headed to the Rekorderlig tent for a strawberry and lime cider, sitting on deck chairs out of the rain. We didn't drink much...really.

We stopped off on our way somewhere and tried some ales and bitters, including Blue Moon from North America, as I have said for years, Americans can make good beer, they just never drink it themselves.

The goats cheese stuffed zucchini flowers, sorry courgettes, were very tasty, and carried on our love affair of goats cheese (I wonder if you could do goats cheese and foie gras together....maybe not). This tasty beastie was from Salt Yard, and having now realised it is not far from my office, a late night dinner will be held there very soon.

Things were starting to get hazy, so we stopped for a few more drinks, two different stands, two different toffee vodkas....hazey hazey...maybe another layback or two...

I got myself together to make a few last minute buys as the stalls were now closing - some lovely garlicky goodness, a few chucks of meat and another stiff drink saw us out the doors and stumbling home.

My only regret is we didn't have more time, as we did not even manage to hit half of the stalls, Kanaga didn't get her trotters and I was still able to walk unassisted home from the DLR (well Hussyband carried the bags, but I mostly carried myself.) Kanga got a cab.