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Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Buffalo Ricotta

I wasn’t going to blog this dish. As I keep saying, and I am sure it’s getting dull by now, my cooking lately has been haphazard, last minute and subject to me destroying pots and sustaining injuries. This is fairly normal behaviour, certainly on the injury front, but you know you’re cooking too late when you put some rice and lentils on the hob and then walk away like it never happened, wondering 10 minutes later, what is that burning smell? Sheesh.

Worry not, I have been eating well, and I am certainly not fading away. I am completely spoiled for choice at lunchtime, from Brindisa stews and sandwiches, to Moro’s spiced lamb, Sporeboys risotto, Gujarati Rasoi’s wonderful veggie curries and Ginnan’s chicken katsu curry. That’s but the tip of what’s available in Exmouth Market. The evenings are another story, they have been busy, and I am not complaining, it’s good to be busy, but I have been missing those stolen kitchen hours here and there poking in cupboards and making something new.

So, to rectify, and also in an attempt to fight the descent of a cold, I did some cooking last week, a little not a lot. Just some quick lunches and salads with some very fresh colourful food in. Salads with peashoots and enormous heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins for tis the season, and some random dishes created from what I’ve been stashing in the fridge and cupboard over the last few weeks. Last night I made one such dish and it was really nice. I decided not to post it though as I took a photo in passing, and it was crap, and I wasn’t much in the mood for styling.

MY! What a long rambling story. I am gettting there, promise!

So, I sat down to eat it, and I thought, this tastes nice! The creamy orzo played nicely with the sweet and caramelised butternut squash and the crispy sage taunted all of it with it’s butteriness. It was lovely! And I ate lots.

So, how do you create this wonder of a random dish? The quantities are flexible and I would encourage you to experiment. I fried an eschalion shallot and one clove of garlic, finely chopped, 2 slices of pancetta and 200g peeled and diced butternut squash for about 7-8 minutes until the butternut squash is cooked.  Add 2 tablespoons of ricotta, I used buffalo but cows is fine. Then add a few handfuls of washed and chopped spinach and 100g of cooked orzo (cooked according to packet instructions) and cook until the orzo is warmed through and the spinach cooked but still bright green. To crown it, shred and fry some sage in butter, and when crispy, stir through and serve.If I had them toasted pine nuts would have been a lovely addition.

This eats well hot or cold. Enjoy!

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The Kitchen at Parson’s Green

Thierry leads the way

Being busy as I have been of late, my cooking has tended toward the repetitive and unbloggable. Something on toast or some chorizo hash with a fried egg, anyone? Pasta soup? Linguine with a variation on a tomato sauce? It’s all good, but it does mean that I don’t have much cooking posts to share, I have however, been doing lots of other interesting things, which I will share with you here. Readers who are fans of cooking posts, I have a pork belly post and a very autumnal buttternut squash and sage orzo salad on it’s way.

Cupcakes at The Kitchen

Cupcakes at The Kitchen

Recently, I had an opportunity to go to the Kitchen in Parson’s Green with some other bloggers, organised through my lovely new employers, TrustedPlaces. A new cooking concept established in the US but new to London and targetting us busy urban types, you order your food online, they do the basic preparation (onion chopping, sauces), you show up, have a very sociable couple of hours putting it all together with friends, the tables are cleared for you and the washup done, and then you go home with your meals for the week, all of which cook really quickly, I didn’t spend more than 15 minutes on any of them.

Run by Natalie Richmond and Michelin starred chef Thierry Laborde, the menu offers comfort food classics from fish cakes to lasagne and I was intrigued.

Organic angus beefburgers

Organic angus beefburgers

I ordered my 4 meals in advance, four portions for one, although you can order one portion for four too! I went for the organic salmon teriyaki, organic angus beef burgers, puy lentil and split pea dahl samosas and veal saltimbocca with green beans and sicilian lemons. We arrived for our 7pm session and were greeted with a glass of wine. Good start after a day in the office! Within minutes we were in The Kitchen, donning our aprons, and surveying our first lot of ingredients and instructions. Thierry and his sous chef were on hand to help us put them together or to offer tips generally. Once complete, your dish was sealed and you had your very own, restaurant quality ready meal ready for your bad to take home.

Veal saltimbocca

Veal saltimbocca

What did I think? It was great fun, very sociable, and the time just flew. I am very fussy about my food and the Kitchen didn’t disappoint, everything is very well sourced and delicious, and I was very happy to get home and try a new dish each evening. It’s also extremely well priced, somewhere between supermarket and lower end restaurant prices. For the cooks out there, you don’t get the recipes but you do learn some techniques, and for this I found it valuable. For delicious and healthy convenient food with instruction, you really can’t go wrong with a trip to Parson’s Green.

Wine at The Kitchen

Wine at The Kitchen

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L’atelier des Chefs

Latelier des Chefs

L'atelier des Chefs

I have a bit of an obssession with food, this is true. Even more so when cooking and trying new things. So, when I heard about a new cookery school that had opened in central London I had to try it.

Firstly, I was curious, l’atelier des Chefs is very popular already in France, and, their arrival in London has been highly publicised in the media and blogosphere. They’ve different types of classes, they run up to 5 sessions a day ranging from a half hour to two hours. For them it’s about the food but also the social experience of sitting down and enjoying your meal with your fellow cooks and a glass of wine. One class runs for half an hour over lunch, called the “Cook, Eat & Run”, then there’s the 60 minute class covering two courses, the 90 minute class covering 3 courses and the 120 minute class covering 3 courses based around a theme (e.g. they’ve one coming up for foie gras). Secondly, I’ve been reading great things, Krista (of Londonelicious) was an immediate convert and she doesn’t even like to cook! So, I registered for on of the “Cook, Eat & Run” lunchtime classes and off I went.


You chose your day around what they’re cooking (at least I did!) and I chose to go the day that they were cooking Risotto di Gambas (prawn risotto for the non-French speakers amongst us – that includes me :-). I arrived a little early as I wanted to take a look around, and was quite impressed with the venue that greeted me, it’s a bright airy space with a vast sparkling kitchen with lots of natural daylight coming through the skylights ahead. They were extremely friendly and offered a glass of water while I waited for the rest of my class to arrive which they did shortly after.

We were greeted by our chef Tony. Now, I am a fan of risotto and when I make it, it takes me some time, so I wondered just how are we going to get this done in half an hour? Well, many hands make light work, Tony took us through what we had to do, and within a few minutes we had been shown how to do everything and I was beheading and shelling super fresh prawns. This particular recipe also included mushrooms (shitake and normal) and I was curious about how this would taste.


We spent a very sociable 17 minutes cooking our risotto (yes – we timed it!), each person taking their turn stirring for risotto is a labour of love. Tony was on hand for any advice and tips along the way. Once the risotto was cooked we left the kitchen and sat at a table outside with our spoils, with white wine and bread to go with it. The risotto was delicious, and I plan to recreate it and experiment with the prawn/mushroom combination. We followed it with a fantastic chocolate mousse dessert – chocolate mousse with five spice crumble and kiwi emulsion – which rendered me speechless temporarily.

Risotto di Gambas

Risotto di Gambas

Chocolate mousse with five spice crumble and kiwi emulsion

Chocolate mousse with five spice crumble and kiwi emulsion

It was a very sociable and uplifting experience, I didn’t know any of my fellow cooks having arrived on my own. This didn’t act as a barrier, everyone was so friendly and really into it, despite the differing levels of experience among the group. The staff were really friendly and encouraging too.

One thing I hadn’t read anywhere was how good the range of produce available to buy is. It’s an eclectic mix from ceramic knives to silicone moulds to tomato vinegar and the El Bulli Spherificaion Kits which I haven’t seen for sale in many places.

I had a great time and I am looking forward to bringing friends and visitors to London there. It’s a lovely and different afternoon in London. In particular, I want to try the macaron classes! Watch this space.

http://www.atelierdeschefs.co.uk/

L'atelier des Chefs on TrustedPlaces

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Tierra Brindisa

I’m a big fan of Brindisa, I am a regular in their shop and have enjoyed tapas at Tapas Brindisa in Borough Market in the past. I enjoyed the tapas but I didn’t enjoy the wait, you can’t book and, being a popular spot, the waiting is almost unbearable. I went once and was so put off by the 2.5 hour wait, I didn’t go back. Then recently I heard that they were opening a new central location, in Soho, and you could book a table there. How revolutionary! So, keen as ever, I orchestrated a couple of tapas evenings at the new Tierra Brindisa.

The first night didn’t go very well, in fact it didn’t go atall. A friend had booked a table for her birthday and when we arrived we found out that the reservation didn’t exist, or at least they didn’t have it. She had booked over the phone, and we know these things happen, especially in the early days of a restaurant, but it was disappointing. They compensated by inviting us to the bar for a glass of wine on the house while we waited for our remaining friends. This was a nice touch, but when we were told 10 minutes later that the seats were booked and we had to leave, not having time to finish the wine we had been given, it left a sour taste.

I had a booking for the following Wednesday with friends, and went with some trepidation, after my experience on my previous visit. I need not have worried, we were given a warm welcome, and more importantly our reservation existed, so we happily sat down and started to peruse the menu. The room itself is lovely, quite intimate and warm and with an open kitchen and tapas bar at the back, it’s also quite vibrant and busy. Exactly what you would expect a tapas bar to be.

Service was brisk and friendly and in no time we had a fine bottle of white wine (As Laxas 2006) and some country toast with tomato. One of our party didn’t eat meat so we decided to focus on the fish and vegetarian dishes, save one meat dish. Now, I know you’re all thinking chorizo, given how much it has featured on this blog, this time, however, it was the Ibérico ham croquetas that I was weak for, having read about them on Dos Hermanos. We also ordered potato tortilla, lentil stew with soft Tiétar goats curd, beetroot with Picos de Europa blue cheese and walnut vinaigrette, red mullet with oven potatoes and black olives, battered hake with allioli, we also got some more bread, this time country toast with allioli.

The food was all very, very good. My only criticism would be that the batter on the hake could have been a little crisper. The croquetas in particular were divine, the tortilla nice and moist and eggy in the middle as it should be, the red mullet combined fantastically well with the olives, and the lentil stew with the goats curd was superb. The beetroot was very delicate and was wonderful with the picos de europa blue cheese and the walnuts.

It was all over very quickly, but we weren’t in anyway rushed, it was all a very relaxing and pleasant experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am very happy that there is another fine rustic tapas establishment in the centre of town. When life gives you a Brindisa that you can book, you have to go there often!

Tierra Brindisa
Tel 020 7534 1690

Tierra Brindisa on TrustedPlaces

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Bits and pieces… and some apologies

So, things have been busy, and I’ve fallen behind with my blogging. I’ve also got lots of emails to catch up on, please forgive me and bear with me. I really appreciate every comment and every mail, but it’s taking me some time to get around to them these days. Also, fellow bloggers, I’ve not had time to visit your blogs so much, this I plan to rectify this coming week.

I’ve been doing really interesting things and have so much to tell you! Watch this space to read about Sherry and Food Matching with Heston Blumenthal and to read about my evening with other London Bloggers with the mixologists at the Diageo bar and to get the recipe for the Eat Like a Girl cocktail that they made for me. It was nice! I also have some cooking time pencilled in this week :)

For now, I’ll leave you with some photos of the activity from the last week, to give you a taste of the posts to come!

Heston Blumenthal

Sheery & Food Matching

Mini Sheerry Trifles

Cocktail Mixing

Cocktail Mixing