Month: June 2010

From Field to Fork at Laverstoke Park Farm: Ticket Competition & Come See Me at the Amateur BBQ Championships [GULP!]

Laverstoke Park Farm, a very forward thinking biodynamic farm, was one of the places that most struck me on one of my many little trips earlier this year. It’s absolutely remiss of me that I have never told you about it. I have videos of cheese making and gorgeous pictures of Spring lambs, I tried their new and delicious Buffalo ice cream, and was converted to Buffalo biltong. Run by passionate purist Jodi Schekter, former World Champion F1 Driver for Ferrari, he makes no compromises on any ingredients or recipes, and has his fingers in many biodyanmic pies. They make lager, have planted a vineyard for sparkling wine in the future, and have ultimate control over all of their processes, choosing to establish their own abbatoir, to ensure best treatment of the anmials (buffalo, cows and sheep). Grim but important, the point of death is the most crucial one in the process, both for the welfare of the animals and quality of the meat, you don’t want to stress them out, primarily as it’s unkind and the …

Edible Wild Flowers: Elderflowers

Foraging Elderflower Near Caerphilly Castle in Wales Some things just whisk me straight back to my chidhood. The smell of stewing rhubarb or apples. Apple tart with fork prongs holding the pastry together and keeping those argy-bargy apples in. Tiny potatoes covered in soil. Fields of cows. Bushes full of blackberries. The smell of the sea. The sound of the waves as I waited for the school bus every morning. Bright red rose hips that we would try to make itching powder from. The smell of Irish stew on the hob. Elderflowers. I grew up in a rural area, surrounded by farms and the sea. I had no idea how good I had it. Within a 5 minute walk of my house were rocky and sandy beaches and a pier that we would fish crab on. Mackerel would jump out of the water come August and we would run down to the rocky beach with our homemade fishing rods (bamboo for a rod), and homemade weights that we had spent the day making by melting lead …

Launceston Place at Taste of London

I was determined to have some suckling pig at Taste of London. I tried Fino first, but the queue was outrageous, so I fled. I just hate queueing and will go to the restaurant instead. I was keen to try Launceston Place, so popped over to their stand, and there I spied a little piggy, a very small one on a rotisserie. Suckling Pig! I was excited. Except there wasn’t any to be had, except that tiny one on a spit. Come back in an hour they said. I spied a little table nearby and in the interim had some very good goose egg and chips, the goose egg was beaten and runny, and poured on top of the shoestring chips. It was lovely. Time for dessert ahead of mains. I couldn’t resist the strawberries with champagne and clotted cream. I even had a second one. This may explain why I was starting to confuse myself and poor Tristan Welch, not being able to comprehend crown amounts, or how many I needed to pay him. …

Tips for Taste of London

So, you’re off to Taste of London. 4 hours and some of Londons finest restaurants, best producers, and some very fine booze. Just how will you manage?! Here’s my top tips for your trip and the ones that I plan to visit when I hit there later today again. Trinity London Head to Trinity for the dish of the festival, selected on Thursday by a group of judges – Pigs Trotters on Toasted Pain Poilane, Fried Quail Egg, Sauce Gribiche and Crackling. A terrific dish, and one that I have sampled at the restaurant, I couldn’t resist it again. Trinity were selling the crackling at £1 a stick on Thursday, and on the quiestest day of the festival, sold 1,000 sticks. You know you’ve got to go. I also tried their Chargrilled Asparagus, Fried Pheasants Egg and Truffled Homemade Ricotta. Well, it wouldn’t be Trinity if there wasn’t truffle in there, and this was fantastic. I loved the gentle texture and earthy aromas of the truffled ricotta, and dipped the lime green asparagus sticks in …

Taste of London: Preview & Win a Pair of Tickets!

It’s Taste of London time again! I was treated to a preview of some of the dishes that will be available at this weekend’s food & drink festival at Regent’s Park. 9 dishes in one 2 hour lunch, don’t say that I don’t put my figure on the line for your pleasure! Pretty, eh? We were served my favourite Frank Hederman’s Smoked Salmon on Soda Bread with Blason de Bourgogne Chablis and Oysters with Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2005 at Richard Corrigan’s Bentley’s. If you haven’t had Frank Hederman’s Smoked Salmon yet, you really are missing out. Fresh, peaty and smoky with none of the oiliness of the sadder orange confections you see in the supermarkets, it’s perfect with soda bread. I served it at the market last year, and eat it all the time at home. Finally, we had Traditional Fish and Chips served in cones with O:TU Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009 New Zealand. On then to Michelin starred Chinese Yautcha for a Vegetable dim sum platter with Waitrose Champagne Brut NV at Yautcha’s …

Identita, London: The International Chefs Conference

I bounced back from Ireland to the International Chefs Conference, Identità, at Vinopolis. Traditionally held in Italy, it has been held in London for two years now, and is an inspiring couple of days, with chef demonstrations, talks, tastings, and an excellent selection of Italian produce to sample. More bijoux than most food conferences, there was a clear focus on quality and excellence. When I heard about it, I couldn’t resist going along for both days so cleared my diary, and made my way. There is so much that I could tell you about, I’ll start with some photos and highlights. A brilliant and hilarious demo from quirky Hong Kong chef, Alvin Leung. A self taught 2* chef who cooks at his Hong Kong restaurant Bo Innovation, Alvin cooked his interpretation of the English breakfast with lotus root stuffed with bone marrow, lotus seeds and 1000 year old egg. He kicked it off with a martini and his sous chefs name was Devil. He was funny, fresh, and inspiring. I found myself laughing a lot …

Hidden Ireland: The Tannery, Dungarvan

And on to The Tannery. You’ve been waiting for this one, haven’t you? Dungarvan was never really a food destination, not until Paul & Máire Flynn moved in and opened The Tannery in 1997. The Tannery was an old leather factory, I remember it very well from my youth. One distinct time when very young I recall lots of people working with animal hides which were hanging very visibly, lots of steam, and a sense of industry. I remember people in hats and my surprise when I was told exactly where those skins came from. From animals! I remember the stench. I was very small. Since then, I’ve noticed a very big change in attitudes to food in the area. Maybe this was happening already, and the opening of The Tannery crystallised it, but I think it’s fair to say that they were critical to this development. They’ve since opened an award winning guesthouse (Tannery Townhouse) and an award winning Cookery School which I have yet to check out. I have enjoyed food at the …

Hidden Ireland: The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

Tucked away in a quiet corner of West Waterford is Ardmore. A seductive, sleepy seaside town, more of a village really, with a long beautiful strand and a hotel perched atop it. Overlooking the whole scene is Ardmore’s round tower, built sometime around the 10th – 12th century. One theory is that they were used to watch the coastline so that when any invaders aproached the locals would hide within. I however, have no intention of hiding in a round tower. If you want to find me in Ardmore, I will be hiding and indulging in the Cliff House Hotel. Hugging a cliff edge with a sweeping terrace overlooking the sea, the food options are terrific, offering michelin starred dining or great bar food. We popped over for lunch and gave it a whirl. The menu reads beautifully and simply, featuring lots of Irish and local produce. Local organic smoked salmon, monkfish from nearby fishing village Helvick, soda bread, Dingle crab and one of my favourite desserts, rhubarb fool. We opted for a couple of …

Edible Wild Flowers: Three Cornered Leek/Wild Onion

I always have my eyes peeled and my nose finely tuned to the colours, shapes and scents in country hedgerows. A dangerous occupation when there’s lots of silage and manure about, but, worth it for the times that you get an onion-y whiff, and then glimpse beautiful white flowers that taste somewhere between a spring onion and wild garlic. I love wild garlic and use it a lot when it’s in season. It’s incredibly pungent (usually), and is something that I cook, or at least blanche before using. Three cornered leek (sometimes called wild onion and officially called Allium triquetrum) is more delicate, and slender, like a feminine version, with slimmer, angular, less shouty leaves and petite flowers. Perfect in salads, the flowers also make a gorgeous garnish. On a walk to the beach in Glandore last week, I turned a corner and hit the most intense onion smell and smiled, knowing that I would be greeted by beautiful white flowers, looking like swanlike snowdrops. They are also common in London, I did a cheeky …

Hidden Ireland: O’Brien’s Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

Everyone’s been to Dublin, right? And a strong number I would wager to the west of Ireland and Cork City. But who among you has been to Waterford? I know not many as everytime I tell someone where I’m from they gaze back blankly and slightly perturbed until I explain that it’s next to Cork. Ah, Cork! But I am not from Cork, I am from Waterford. West Waterford to be precise. A small county on the Atlantic, Waterford has so much going on. The ocean, mountains, woods, restaurants, pubs, artisan cheese, traditional music, a Gaeltacht (a native speaking area). Lots of great shellfish, seafood, beef & lamb from the mountains. Game, oyster farms, shoals of mackerel leaping out of the water in late summer. Seals, turtles, dolphins, we’ve got them all. I am from Dungarvan a small coastal town in Waterford, set on a harbour with a backdrop of mountains (Irish mountains though you understand, our more petite versions). We have a very well known restaurant, The Tannery, brought to us by Paul Flynn. …

Recipe: Irish Salmon and Crab Fish Cakes

Back in Ireland for a few weeks, to celebrate a friends wedding, my nieces first birthday, and a fairly significant one of my own (quietly for a change), I felt inspired to cook something Irish, something that reminded me of my roots and drew from the surrounding area. I decided on fish cakes. Not something that I would ever eat as a child being the fussiest creature crawling the face of the earth, I discovered them later on, preferring those packed with fish, with crispy exteriors and fresh salads with creamy dressings and sharp capers and cornichons. Maybe some lovely tartare sauce or simply homemade mayonnaise. Irish fish cakes should have potato too though, so I always add a little bit. I haven’t made them in a while, in fact I grew to hate them. It’s the most popular recipe on this blog, but not one of my favourites, and I resented that poor little post from the early days when my photos came from a battered old camera. It’s time to embrace fish cakes …