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Wild Garlic, Cream Cheese & Roast Tomato Pate on Toast

Wild Garlic, Cream Cheese & Roast Tomato Pate on Toast

Seasonal eating is all the more fun and exciting, when you can forage and get the food for free. The ultimate bargain, and usually something that’s quite hard to find to buy. Wild Garlic is the perfect example of this. I’ve not had time to go to any food markets, and had no idea where I could forage it. I’ve looked around the local parks to no avail, and tried on twitter, coaxing friends and followers to reveal their secret stash with the promise that I would not tell anyone. I got some tips  but there was no time to investigate. I was resigned to a wild garlic free week, when fellow blooger Danny (@fooodurchin on twitter and blogging at food urchin) revealed that his garden was teeming with it, and offered to bring me in my very own wild garlic plant.

Excitement! I couldn’t wait. I popped down to Borough to meet him, we had a great chat, and I left with a large blossoming and lovely plant. I couldn’t resist devouring a leaf or two there and then, although I am not sure I would advise this as it’s a little astringent raw. I enjoyed it but will not be responsible for this should you try it.

Wild Garlic Plant

What to do with it? Well, to start try and keep it alive, so far so good. The flowers are delicious and gorgeous in salads, the leaves great in pestos and mayonnaise, soups and salads. I had a vegetarian friend over for dinner and thought it might be nice to start with something quick and light, that could be done in minutes and free up time for chatting and wine, the most important part of the evening after all!

Wild Garlic can be a little sour, so I wanted to balance it with something sweet, and smooth out the flavour with something light. I decided on tomatoes and cream cheese with a little chilli to lift the flavours. So, I blanched about eight wild garlic leaves for 20 seconds or so, rosted some nice tomatoes from Borough market with a little balsamic vinegar for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, chopped a dried red chilli very finely, and mixed these with about 4 tablespoons of cream cheese. I griddled some good fresh bread, lightly brushed with some olive oil and liberally spread the veggie pate. It was fragrant and light and a nice little stop gap. I’ll be adding it to my repertoire for future quick dishes!

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Speaking of Asparagus…

Brunch

Well, make hay while the sun shines, as they say, and asparagus is in season right now, so I am eating a lot of it. I’m a big fan of the Sunday brunch. The lazing and grazing, the paper, the giant cafetiere of coffee, the pj’s… I love it all. Add asparagus to my list and that’s a near perfect weekend morning.

I’ve always had a taste for fried potatoes, leftover boiled ones that I store in the fridge, waiting patiently for the day that I fry ‘em up! This particular brunch day, I also had an heirlom tomato, the size of a normal tomato but packed with flavour. I had a slice of rosemary pancetta, which I finely chopped and some flat leaf parsley. It needed no more. Fried pancetta and potatoes with some tomato glue, some greenery and a couple of spears of fried asparagus crowned with a fried egg. Glorious.

PS. Real recipes coming back soon – promise :)

Brunch!

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New Season Asparagus with a Poached Egg

New Season Asparagus with a Poached Egg

It’s such a relief when the world starts to wake up again after Winter. Flowers bloom releasing their soft scents in the air, and fruit and vegetables become more lively and interesting. I love Winter vegetables, but they are few, and the bright and broad range offered by late Spring is very welcome.

Favourites for this time of year are varied, but asparagus has got to lead the pack. I love it fried and dipped in molten egg, whether that’s boiled, fried or poached is irrelevant, but that egg yolk has got to be soft. I like to fry the asparagus spears, sometimes wrapped in ham but most often on it’s own, so that I can savour the flavour.

This particular brunch, I wanted a poached egg, sometimes with a tender tum there is nothing better. It was my breakfast of choice on the morning of exams in University, when my stomach would be shredded by adrenaline and needed the comfort of something soft, comforting and delicate, that would also power me through the morning, as I desperately tried to kick start brain cells into action after very little sleep and way too much caffeine. Poached egg on toast it was. Now, as a wage earning member of society, I decadently accompany it with asparagus and savour every morsel.

Poaching eggs requires a little dedication, although not much. You need very fresh eggs, as fresh as you can get, or they won’t form that lovely oval shape when you drop them into the water. The water should not be boiling, it should be just before, when delicate bubbles rise to the surface, not unlike a glass of champagne. Add some vinegar to the water, about a tablespoon, white is best so you don’t discolour the egg. . Some salt for seasoning, and you’re good to go. Stir the water quite vigorously (without splashing yourself!) until you get a whirlpool effect. Drop your egg into the middle, it might be easier if you’ve cracked it already and have it in a glass or ramekin. The whirlpool will pull it together into a nice oval shape, the vinegar helps the egg white congeal quicker and take that perfect shape, and if it’s fresh enough, it will obediently follow, and form a perfect poached egg. It doesn’t take long to cook, I keep an eye on it, and when the white is set but the yolk still wobbly, I retrieve it, and add it to my plate.

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Easter Sunday Lunch

Easter - Pinated Duck Eggs

I have a new house! You may have heard me mention. Once, maybe twice, maybe more? I’ve moved in now and I love it, with it’s big kitchen, range cooker, bay windows looking out onto a little garden, full of yellow and pink flowers, bathed in swathes of light. I’ve yet to unpack but that didn’t stop us having friends around for a big Easter lunch.

Drying Painted Dugg Eggs for Easter

The ground floor with the kitchen and living areas was perfectly respectable, but upstairs behind every door and one in particular (mine!) lay bags and boxes, the house’s unconscious, repressed memories of former houses and bad wardrobe decisions, pots and pans, condiments and kitchen oddities purchased for celebrating obscure festivals, I do love randomness in my life! So, we kept everyone busy downstairs, collaboratively producing a fine Easter lunch, interrupted occasionally by an Easter Egg hunt or a munch on some chocolate or a painted duck egg.

Roast Leg of Lamb for Easter Lunch

So, what did we do? We kept with tradition and had a succulent roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary with lots of crisp roast potatoes served with roast vegetables and a fresh bright tomato salad prepared by my flatmate and friends. I worked with my cooking partner, 3 year old Lola, making chocolate nests for mini eggs, heart shaped chocolate things with leftovers and dessert, a rhubarb coulis with raspberries and rosewater, intended for a fool, but with more fruit than cream it resulted in a half fool or a foolish. We also had some delicious Russian Easter Cake baked my a Russian friend. It was lovely and not unlike panettone.

Chocolate Egg Nests for Easter

The day before we had made lots of painted duck eggs, fun to make and delicious to eat, although, I can confirm that it’s easier to eat many chocolate eggs, duck eggs in swift multiples can move quickly from delicious to tiresome, even if they are the prettiest ones you’ve ever seen.

Rhubarb, Raspberry and Rose Foolish

I hope you had a lovely Easter! It felt so close to Christmas for me, especially as I site here typing and eating chocolate and mini egg nests for breakfast. I need a purge or a detox. Or someone to take me away for the kitchen and the temptation, save me from myself!

Painted Duck Eggs for Easter

Easter Cake

Easter Lunch Table

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Lunch at L’atelier de Joel Robuchon with Bruno Paillard Champagnes

Bruno Paillard Tasting at Joel Robuchon

There’s some invitations that can’t be refused, and an opportunity to go to a 2 Michelin starred restaurant for a 5-course lunch that’s matched to a series of champagnes from a reputable champagne house is one. Added to this, there’s the preceding tasting of 5 disgorgements of champagne aged between 6 months and 12 years. The restaurant was L’atelier de Joel Robuchon and the champagnes Bruno Paillard.

Now, I’m a novice compared to the wine bloggers and wine writers, I know a bit but not alot, I can appreciate a good match between wine and food and am getting better at matching myself but I needed a mini tutorial when it came to appreciating the disgorgements, which was happily provided by Dan from Bibendum and Bruno’s daughter Alice.

So, what’s a disgorgement? Dan advised that it’s the process of removing the dead yeast cells after the second fermentation of the wine. I’ll borrow a little from Denise at The Wine Sleuth to explain further

the wine really comes into it’s own, aging throughout the years, passing through 5 or 6 distinct stages ranging from fruit dominated flavours and aromas all the way to the candied fruits and aged roasted notes of mature champagne (link)

The tasting was a lovely experience, the champagnes becoming progressively richer as they got older, it was interesting to note how the flavours developed. I do prefer the younger, lighter champagnes, but it was great to get a taste of the full gamut of flavours.

Joel and Bruno attended and described, in French with translation, their appreciation of each others craft, of the champagne’s and the food, how their ethics matched, always looking to achieve the best, an artisan product. Bruno was in attendance with his daughter Alice, a really friendly pair, always smiling and keen to help even the inexperienced like me.

The most exciting bit began next, our lunch, preceded by some delicious jamon. Now, this was good, rich and not too salty with bright and delicious fat. All the time, we could see the chefs in action in the open kitchen, moving with delicate precision, I couldn’t wait to tuck in.

Joel Robuchon

We started with Fine jelly flavoured with lemon matched with a fruity Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Privé. This was a really delicious and spritely appetiser, the lemon jelly was topped with fennel cream, which was a lovely fresh and savoury contrast.

This was followed by New potatoes marinated with truffles with shavings of truffles and foie gras, this was exceptional, the textures and flavours of earthy sensual truffle flirting with the foie gras supported beautifully by the sweetness of the new potato, and matched with Brut Millesimé Assemblage 1999 which was bold and rich enough to play with it.

Steamed crayfish with spring vegetables cooked in Paillard’s Blanc de Blancs 1995, a very pretty dish, complete with Patrick from Sponge Bob Square Pants, or so Denise and I thought! It semed straight from a cartoon set in the kitchen, I half expected to hear Spongebob wail. Joking aside, this was a gorgeous dish, with tiny pearls of vegetables, crispy and sweet set in a decadent champagne broth that was slightly sour and had sweet crayfish floating within. It was a treat for the eyes and the taste buds. The champagne served was the same as that within the dish, another rich champagne and a lovely match once more.

Seabass cooked with spiced honey, ginger and baby leek, my favourite dish, the fish was perfect, light moist chunky flakes of fish, lightly scented with delicate aromas and topped with a perfect crispy fish skin. It was paired beautifully with a lovely fruity  NPU (Nec-Plus-Ultra) 1995. It was also served with the famous Joel Robuchon mash, famed to contain more butter than potato, delicious, rich and creamy, it really reminded me of home.

Chou pastry with hazelnut praline and mandarin-flavoured Tahitan vanilla ice cream, a lovely nutty spongy and savoury dessert, fragrant with mandarin. Light and delicious and accompanied by a delicious Rosé Première Cuvée, one of my favourites of the day.

Our next dish was a visual delight, a delicious dessert of fruit and sorbet encased in a sugar sphere – A sugar sphere with Yuzu and an ‘effervescent’ sorbet – which we cracked open delcately with a spoon and delighted at the inertior before, with temporary regret, eating it. That regret quickly dissipated once I tasted the tart fruit and delicate sorbet, with shards of the lovely sugar sphere. This was served with the same fresh and fruity Rosé Première Cuvée.

 

Lastly, we ventured to the roof for coffees and some air on the terrace. A little rain too although, after such a lovely lunch,  my spirits couldn’t be dampened. The coffees were served with a very decadent side, resplendent with popcorn and gold leaf, an unusual combination, very decadent and humble at once.

A wonderful lunch, and a fabulous tasting experience, thanks to Bruno, Alice, Joel & his myriad of chefs and Willie & Dan from Bibendum.

Photoset on flickr.

Denise at The Wine Sleuth has written lovely descriptions of the champagnes – I’d recommend a read.

http://www.joel-robuchon.com/

http://www.champagnebrunopaillard.com/

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Gotcha! April Fools Day, Restaurant Style

I had to quickly share something with you that caught me out and made me laugh. Konstam’s April Fools Menu. I should be ashamed to admit I believed it, it’s pretty ridiculous, but – hey – I was busy, in the middle of ten things and have a gullible disposition at the best of times. And I’m sticking with that.

So, I used to work near Konstam, the restaurant famed for sourcing everything within the M25 (a motorway that circles London) known to most through the TV show “The Urban Chef”. I loved lunch there, and I love the way they cook, so despite now working miles away, I still receive the emails. It’s like culinary masochism. Every day I look and think how I can’t have it and how crap Victoria is for lunch options.

Today’s menu came through and I read the email.

I’d been pretty busy and in truth my brain was frazzled following a series of meetings, so I thought, intriguing! Wonder what this is about?

So, I opened the attached menu (click image to see larger size).

Konstam April Fools Menu

I thought – wow – Camden Town peacock soup with sour cream & nutmeg! They cooked a peacock?! Wonder what that tastes like. At Braised North London iguana with onion & allspice salad & sour cream, I began to smell a rat. Next pan-roast London Zoo giraffe neck fillet, purple sprouting broccoli, almond & barley salad and pan-fried, aquarium-reared hammerhead shark with mashed potato, braised chard & apple balsamic & garlic dressing. I knew I’d been had, and laughed a lot. I’m still chuckling now.

It brought a smile to my day. I hope it does to yours too :)