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Braised sausages with Potatoes & Puy Lentils

Braised sausages with Potatoes & Puy Lentils

Braised sausages with potatoes & puy lentils is one of my favourite comfort dishes, especially for dark dreary, wet evenings. Lentils, for me, are wonderful anyway, bursting with flavour and so savoury. When you combine them with a good stock, potatoes, onion, good pork sausages and accompany the dish with a full bodied glass of red wine, there’s no better counter to a March evening like we had last night.

I rarely measure anything for this dish, I normally do it by eye, but I thought that it was about time that I started participating in the food blogosphere so I’ve weighed everything and am entering this in Cooksister’s Waiter, there’s something in my… pulses!.

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St. John’s Bar and Restaurant, Smithfield

I recently had the pleasure of going to dinner at St John’s Bar & Restaurant in Smithfield, London. Another work event that has allowed me to explore culinary London, and another restaurant that has been a long time on my hit list.

St John’s Bar & Restaurant was opened in Smithfield by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver in October 1994. The former part smokehouse/part townhouse, is a stunning location for a restaurant with whitewashed walls and high ceilings. Fergus Henderson is famous for his book Nose to Tail Eating, and this is reflected in the daily changing menu, which, frequently includes many types of offal including bone marrow and chitterlings.

My fellow diners were very excited about this, I was slightly nervous. In principal, it fits with my ethic, no waste and the best parts of the animal are not abandoned. I love black & white pudding and other products that are offal related but I had not braved the hardcore offal products. I’ve only been eating meat for a couple of years now (excuses!), in a serious sense anyway, but as always, I am open to experimentation. I wasn’t alone in my trepidation, we even had a pescetarian on board, so we decided to go for a group menu at £40 a head, with our choices of a fish starter and main course and a meat starter and main course. We would also be allowed to get two a la carte starters and main courses. This was perfect, allowing me to play safe and dabble. I was quite excited at the prospect, knowing that I would definitely have a good meal and opportunities to explore.

We arrived and entered the impressive bar, and ordered some wine. Well, a kir royale first and then some red & white for the table. Not long after were ushered to the private eating area. It was quite compact but very sociable, I really liked it. I do think it made life difficult for the waiting staff, however.

The food arrived promptly, and was presented in a no frills way on large sharing plates, again very sociable and I approved. For starters we had Mussels, Leeks & Salsify (top photo) and Venison Saddle, Beetroot & Pickled Walnut. I had both and they were really good, the salsify was beautiful, an unusual ingredient that deserves to be used more. It complemented the mussels perfectly and appeared to blend with the leeks. The venison wastender and delicious, although the beetroot might have overshadowed it a little. We also had a la carte Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad, which I didn’t taste but it was generally very well received. Add to list for my next trip there!

For our main course we had Roast Beef & Horseradish which was served rare. We almost had a scene as everyone wanted some. Really (you know who you are ;)). We also had Brill Baked on Green & White Vegetables, predominantly fennel from what I gathered. I had the brill and it was superb, moist, tender and fragrant with the fennel which cushioned it underneath. The mains were served with big bowls of baby potaotoes and delicious spring greens.

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Easter roundup

I hope everyone has had a lovely Easter, and that, like me you are all full and tucked up nice and warm :-)

I am at home in Ireland, and so, generally enjoying other people’s food (roast pork today! mmm), so I don’t have anything to share with you bar a picture of my Easter egg. Other blogger’s have done wonderfully, so I’ll share a few of my Easter favourites from the web. I am full and feeling a little unhealthy after all this indulgence so I have been focussing (mainly but not exclusively) on the healthier recipes.

There’s Roman Easter Soup at Serious Eats.

Pille, at Nami Nami, made marbled beetroot eggs.

On a similar theme, Eating out Loud has chinese tea eggs.

Not on my savoury buzz? Prefer something sweeter? There are seriously beautiful Golden Easter Eggs on the Kitchn.

And, finally, Cream Puffs in Venice made Easter Egg Nest Cupcakes.

Enjoy the rest of this chocolatey day!

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Kinvara Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon Salad

One of the things that struck me on my recent trip home to Ireland and the Burren, was how fantastically fresh and delicious the seafood was. This is to be expected, as it’s on Galway Bay, however, for an island, surprisingly, lots of Irish people don’t eat fish all that much. I, for one, didn’t really start eating fish until well into my 20’s, and while living in London!

Kinvara itself, is well known for the award winning Kinvara smoked salmon. A small family run business, their organic irish salmon is smoked using age old, smoking techniques over a combination of oak and beech wood, in (to use their words) a state of the art HACCP approved Smokehouse. The salmon is sourced from their salmon farm, Clare Island Seafarm Cooperative, the only organic salmon farm in Ireland (certified organic by IOFGA), 4 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The salmon are fed on the by products of herring and mackerel and ground up crustacean shells. This lends their flesh a deep colour – it is not chosen from a selection of dyes as the colour of other farmed salmon can be. The high water movement in the Atlantic, generates strong currents compelling the salmon to swim like their wild counterparts, resulting in a flesh that is firm with a firm texture and lower fat content.

So, what of the salmon taste? I loved it, for me for what I’ve tried, it is second only to Frank Hedermans organic smoked salmon from the Belvelly smokehouse. Nigel Slater is a fan, and was quoted some years ago as saying “…the best I have eaten this year was a gently smoked fish from Kinvara.” I’d urge you to try it if you can, it is widely available in Ireland and in the UK in Waitrose, Fresh and Wild and Selfridges food hall.

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Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig – Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig / Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Greetings from the Emerald Isle. I’ve spent St Patrick’s Weekend on the cusp of the Burren in Kinvara, Co Galway – the perfect antidote to a busy month in London. Kinvara is a seaside village on the west coast of Ireland, home to Kinvara Smokehouse, the producers of the wonderful Kinvara organic smoked salmon (more on that in coming days). I had much fun with friends and lots of smoked salmon and shellfish, the smoked salmon delicate and pungent at once, and the shellfish – so fresh. Wonderful. I am ready for another crazy month now :)

I cooked a few things but as I’ve spent most of the day travelling back to Dublin, I’ll have to write about those another time. For now, I’ll leave you with some random unedited pictures, straight from my camera via a disgruntled Mac that crashes every time I try to do anything, and, promise to be back soon!

Tractor from the Gort St Patricks Day Parade (Co. Galway)

Ballyvaughan, the Burren

Outside the Russell Gallery, Newquay, the Burren

Boats in Kinvara Harbour

Kinvara Harbour

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Chorizo & Kale Carbonara

Chorizo & Kale Carbobanara

Carbonara is a dish I eat really frequently, usually the original pancetta one, as, purist as I tend to be, I want to do it the right way. Today I varied, as I had a bag of kale and some nice chorizo and some friends that I wanted to cook lunch for. Chorizo and kale are lovely together and I wanted to veer away from my usual chorizo & tomato sauce, which, while delicious, I make too often and I need some variety in my food.

So, after I came upon the idea of making a carbonara, I wondered, as it’s not just for me, wouldn’t it be nice to make it a little luxurious with a touch of cream? Purists, forgive me, carbonara should not have cream I know, but this has kale in anyway, so, surely, I can push it further? I added just a couple of tablespoons to the eggs and smothered the penne in it before adding the chorizo & kale. It was lovely, but feel free to exclude it, it should still be good.

This recipe was for 3 comfortable portions. The sauce takes only as long as the pasta so it’s a really quick meal. Forgive the photos, it was a bit of a battle taking the photo with a half working camera in low light, whilst catching up with old friends I rarely see, and (!)… without the pasta going cold. I am such a soldier, working in these conditions ;-)

Kale & Chorizo Carbonara

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Hinamatsuri – Japanese Girl’s Day

I was in Japan last year around the time of Hinamatsuri – Japanese Girl’s Day or the Doll Festival. It was really charming. Traditionally, all houses (and hotels in my case!) have dolls on display that represent the Emperor and Empress dressed in the traditional dress of the Heian period, often other dolls too representative of other people in the court. It’s believed that these dolls can contain bad spirits and that these bad spirits are removed from the house when the dolls are floated down the river.

I’ve been eating alot of Japanese food of late, and had many trips to the Japan Centre in Picadilly. I spotted the hinamatsuri dolls on my last trip and this prompted a fit of nostalgia and a longing for a break and the thought – I wonder what kind of food is associated with hinamatsuri? I had a browse and I found the most wonderful things. Japanese food is fabulous on so many levels: fresh, bursting with flavour and the presentation is always beautiful. Here’s two items I found, although the first link is actually a link to many other blogs.

The Bento Challenge have a fantastic selection of hinamatsuri themed bento boxes, including one brilliant and very Japanese Hello Kitty one. I also quite like the one with the girl made of ham!

At Just Hungry, Maki has made gorgeous Shell-shaped sushi (Hamaguri-zushi).

As I’ve been a little crap on the food front, I’ll wheel out some of my photos from Japan last year to give you some colour. Girlie photos for a belated girl’s day. Any excuse, I know ;) Enjoy!

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