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Bitesize: Serpentine Gallery Sleepover, Michelin Star Pop-Up at Cowes Week, Festival Brazil at the Southbank Centre and Ping!

Bitesize is back! Every 2 weeks, I will be publishing a selection of interesting things, almost all food and drink related that you may want to do.

Serpentine Gallery Sleepover

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010 by Jean Nouvel

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010 by Jean Nouvel - image copyright - me!

Professional insomniacs or those aspiring may want to check out the sleepover at the Serpentine Gallery.

The Serpentine Gallery and the V&A will stage a unique overnight event of talks, films, experiments and a midnight feast in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010 designed by Jean Nouvel.

Artists, architects and musicians amongst others will host activities throughout the night, exploring ideas of mapping sleep and the psychedelic qualities of insomnia.

You might want to go, because jellymongers Bompass & Parr will be presenting Power Trifles trifles,  containing either calming remedies or powerful stimulants which may keep you up all night (they’re everywhere, right?!). There will also be a Bombay Sapphire Twilight Bar serving specially created night-cap cocktails.

http://www.serpentinegallery.org/2010/06/park_nightssleep_overfriday_30.html

Cowes Week

Cowes Week - sun, sea, spectators and some sailing

Cowes Week - sun, sea, spectators and some sailing - Copyright 2009 Polly Harris

Cowes Week is the one of the UK’s longest running sporting events (beginning in 1826) and one of the world’s best know sailing regattas. This year will see over 8,000 competitors and 100,000 spectators heading to the event. This year sees a pop-up restaurant come to Cowes from Michelin-starred chef Robert Thompson at the beautiful Northwood House.

Guerrilla Gastronomist Omar Allibhoy (I’ve written about Omar’s Tapas Revolution recently) will be offering a tapas takeaway express to boats in the marina on Monday August 2nd as part of his Tapas Revolution. He will give you some too :)

There will also be a local food market during the two weekends of Cowes Week where producers from the Isle of Wight will be selling their produce.

http://www.tapasrevolution.com/
http://www.cowesweek.co.uk/

Festival Brazil at the Southbank Centre, London

Bringing the vibrant, dynamic culture of contemporary Brazil to the heart of London, Festival Brazil celebrates the country’s rich cultural heritage – including music, visual arts, dance, literature, debates and food.

Skylon is celebrating Festival Brazil with a two-course lunch put together by Brazilian chef José Barattino at Skylon Grill and entry to the Ernesto Neto exhibition at Hayward Gallery for just £20.

Throughout the festival there will be outdoor food stalls on the Festival Terrace on 17–18 July, 24–25 July, 7–8 August, 28–30 August.

http://festivalbrazil.southbankcentre.co.uk/shop-eat-drink

Ping!

Ping! St Pancras Table - Photo credit David Parry/PA Wire

Ping! St Pancras Table - Photo credit David Parry/PA Wire

It’s not food but it is fun, Ping! the street ping-pong project launched this week. 100 ping-pong tables have popped up across London’s landmarks and are free to play. www.pinglondon.com

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A Fine Brunch: Homemade Soda Farls, Morcilla & Eggs

Soda Farl, Morcilla & Eggs Brunch

I am quite lazy in the morning, but quite demanding of what is put in my mouth. I only want good bread, to scoop up the runny yolk from my Old Cotswold Legbar eggs, but don’t want to travel to get it. In my neck of the woods we have some great Jewish bakeries but Saturday is Sabbath and they are all closed.

What to do? I don’t want to spend ages proving bread (even though I know I should). So, back to my humble roots I go, it’s time for soda farls. Fried Irish bread, especially for breakfast.

That statement is not dismissive. Soda farls are terrific, and so easy to make. The same as making soda bread, bar the cooking process which is so quick. The farls are cut from the round of dough, and fried on each side for up to 8 minutes over a moderate heat, delivering crisp bronzed farls , perfect for tearing and dipping into your gorgeous egg yolk and scooping some morcilla. I defy you not to chomp into the fluffy interior immediately.

Soda Farl, Morcilla & Eggs Brunch

I added a Spanish twist this morning having recently had some gorgeous Spanish morcilla delivered from Orce Serrano Hams. It really is the good stuff, vacuum packed to order and couriered so that it’s very fresh. This morcilla is extremely soft and almost pliable, with lots of cinnamon and walnut and onions. It can be difficult to source good morcilla like this outside of Spain, especially one so fresh, so I’ll be using them again.

I find the earthy dense morcilla (or black pudding if you’re using that) goes very well with sweet small tomatoes. English tomatoes are so good right now with the summer we’ve been having, I would recommend that you source some.

Start to finish this breakfast, including home made farls, takes no more than half in hour.

Note on the recipe: if you don’t have buttermilk, don’t worry, just acidulate some milk with a teaspoon of lemon or vinegar and this will do fine. You just need something to activate the bicarbonate of soda. Feel free to substitute the morcilla with black pudding or boudin noir.

Homemade Soda Farls, Morcilla & Eggs

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Soda Farls

225g plain flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

150 mls buttermilk

1/2 tsp salt

Serve with:

2 large morcilla sausages or a round of black pudding

a handful of small sweet tomatoes halved

1/2 eggs per person, depending on how hungry you are

Method:

Start with the soda farls. Sift the flour with the salt and the bicarb. Create a well in the centre and add the milk a little at a time until it’s holding together but not too wet.

Knead very briefly (half a minute or so, no more). Shape into a ball and flatten into a circle about 1 cm thick. Divide into 1/8th’s.

Soda Farl, Morcilla & Eggs Brunch

Heat a frying pan, when hot add a little flour and fry on each side on a moderate heat for approx 8 minutes, until golden brown on each side.

While the farls are cooking, fry the morcilla with tomatoes for about 5 minutes and fry the eggs to your liking.

And, there you have it. Fresh bread and a lovely brunch. Enjoy it.

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Braised Gem Lettuce, Broad Beans, Peas & Ham with Quails Eggs

Braised Lettuce w Broad Beans, Peas, Ham & Quails Eggs

As I peered down at my green fingernails, I wondered if it was worth it.

Of course it was.

I love fresh broad beans and double podded (big pod and little skin removed) is the only way to go. So succulent and sweet, and with fresh peas, well, that’s summer sorted, right? Fresh peas I love too. Folk say they’re overrated and that they lose their natural sweetness a couple of hours after being picked. I love the texture and the sweetness you get with them, and there is a certain satisfaction to podding your own.

Braised Lettuce w Broad Beans, Peas, Ham & Quails Eggs

How to make it substantial? Well, braised lettuce is a perfect partner, intensified, slippery and sweet. Some shredded spring onions, and smoked ham cut into strips.

Braised Lettuce w Broad Beans, Peas, Ham & Quails Eggs

Sounds good? Well, let’s make it better by adding some perfectly boiled quails eggs. I love the precision of boiling quails eggs. Dropped into a gently boiling pan of water for exactly 2 minutes 45 seconds and cooled under running water, you will get a perfect soft quails egg every time.

Braised Lettuce w Broad Beans, Peas, Ham & Quails Eggs

This dish is healthy, tasty, looks good and takes very little time at all (podding aside). The flavours are very clean, and it’s very healthy – bacon aside. Just a little precision, and you’ll be smiling the whole way through dinner.

Braised Gem Lettuce, Broad Beans, Peas and Ham with Quails Eggs

Serves 2

Ingredients

500g fresh broad beans (in the pod)
250g fresh peas (in the pod)
2 scallions (spring onions), shredded
a couple of slices of smoked cooked ham or bacon, sliced finely
6 quails eggs
1 head baby gem lettuce, washed and seperated into leaves

Method

Double pod the broad beans by removing the outer pod, and then the little white skins from each bean. Trust me, it’s worth it. Pod the peas.

Cook the beans and peas in boiling water for a few minutes until tender and refresh under a cold tap or in ice water to stop them cooking, and to preserve that bright green colour.

Boil some water and add the eggs for 2 minutes 45 seconds exactly. Refresh under the tapo or in ice cold water to keep the yolks nice and soft (they will keep cooking otherwise). Peel when cold and half.

Fry the ham/bacon and the onions in some olive oil for a couple of minutes. If using bacon, add the onions towards the end so as not to burn them.

Add the lettuce and braise for a couple of minutes until they soften

Add the beans and peas, and when warm serve with the halved quails eggs on top.

Enjoy!

Braised Lettuce w Broad Beans, Peas, Ham & Quails Eggs

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Join in on the Tapas Revolution

The Tapas Revolution - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Omar

From a brief meeting with Omar Allibhoy, I am convinced that he could start a religion. Such passion and charisma, and boy, can he cook! I would join it for sure.

My interest was piqued as soon as I heard about his Tapas Revolution, and when I found out that it was a personal mission, not PR driven or commerce led (he’s not promoting his restaurant, or a book or anything like that), I had to know more.

The Tapas Revolution - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Explaining the "T"

Omar and his friend Danny, both Spanish and passionate about honest home cooked food and both chefs, Omar trained by Ferran Adria at El Bulli is head chef at El Pirata de Tapas, Danny is the head chef at a school in Elephant & Castle. They are perplexed as to why people don’t cook tapas at home.

We go to great lengths to make curries and pastas, but tapas rarely ventures beyond some fried chorizo for most. They want to change that, so they have plotted a T on the map of England, and are whizzing around it on their 50 cc motorbikes, with two African burners and barrels of enthusiasm, cooking tapas with accessible ingredients for the people on the T.

Today they are in Manchester cooking free food in Platts Fields from 12 – 4. If you are anywhere on the T, they will come to you wherever you are and cook for you, and show you how to do it in the process. All you need to bring are plates, cutlery and the liquid refreshment.

The Tapas Revolution - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Cooking Rice with Rabbit & Sausage

They really want you to contact them, and you really should. You can contact them by email (omar@tapasrevolution.com), on twitter (@tapasrevolution) or check their location on FourSquare. You can even call the Tapas Hotline on 07776 294 355.

Here’s a taster of the food they will cook you, all fantastic. The Ajo Bianco (white gazpacho) is the best I have ever had, and that includes trips to Andalucia in Spain. Follow their journey on their hilarious blog (http://www.tapasrevolution.com/) and do meet them.

It’s a brilliant idea, isn’t it? I can promise that you’ll have great food, great fun, and you might learn a thing or two about tapas into the bargain. I am going to try and meet them somewhere along the way. It’s too good a thing to miss.

Tapas Revolution

http://www.tapasrevolution.com/

The Tapas Revolution  - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Omar

The Tapas Revolution - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Rice with Rabbit & Sausage

The Tapas Revolution - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Romesco in the foreground and sensational Ajo Bianco behind

The Tapas Revolution - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Peppers on Toast

The Tapas Revolution - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Piquillo Peppers with Salt Cod

The Tapas Revolution - Preview

The Tapas Revolution - Salad with Chickpeas and Orange

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A Very English Afternoon: Polo, Picnic, Afternoon Tea & Champagne at the Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Polo at Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Polo at Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Well, there’s not been many recipes here, has there? And sincere apologies for that. I try to keep things balanced on this blog, recipes, reviews, recommendations and travel but I’ve hardly been in lately, so recipes have slipped. Woryy not, I have two whole days pencilled in for cooking this weekend and I will be making marshmallow, tarts and lots of lunch/picnic stuff. There should be lots to look forward to in that regard soon.

I’ve been taking advantage of the summer, there’s so much going on and we actually have nice weather too. Nice weather?! Who would have thought. I’m pink and smiling and thoroughly enjoying picnics in the parks, dinners al fresco, supper clubs and so many other things. It feels like London is bubbling over with exciting things and smiling people. Some cranks too, but I’ve come to ignore them.

Polo at The Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Polo at The Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

So, Polo? Eh? I know! Well, I’ve been in London 9 years and I have never been so I could not resist the invite. What is it all about anyway? Men on horses with sticks, chasing a ball or something. Do they score goals? Is it dangerous? Horses are quite scary, no? A picnic and aferrnoon tea too? And Veuve Cliquot Champagne? Ok then. I’ll go.

That’s how I found myself, one of 18,000 spectators in Cawdrey Park on a glorious summer Sunday last weekend. Confused, a little sunburned and very much enjoying myself, it was a wonderful day. I still don’t really understand polo but: picnics, cream teas and Veuvge Cliquot champagne? I definitely do.

Here’s the day in pictures. Don’t fear, I am fully back to normality now after my mini posh escapade :) Although, my taste for champagne and the fine things in life is exacerbated.

Veuve Fridges, Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Veuve Fridges, Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Happy DJ's at Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Happy DJ's at Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Teacup of Champagne at Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Teacup of Rosé Champagne at Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Afternoon Tea @ Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Afternoon Tea @ Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Afternoon Tea at Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Eclairs at the Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Eclairs at the Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Champagne Caddy

Champagne Caddy! Can I have one for home?

Picnic

Picnic time!

Picnic Smoked Salmon

Picnic Smoked Salmon

Picnic Tomato & Mozarella

Picnic Tomato & Mozarella

Picnic Dips & Crudités

Picnic Dips & Crudités

Canapés

Canapés

Canapés

Canapés - Truffle Scented Quail Eggs with Parmesan

Lobster Rolls

Lobster Rolls

I want these Teacups. Oh, and the Smeg too. Please?

I want these Teacups. Oh, and the Smeg too. Please?

Canapés

Canapés

Greg Rusedski & Ruby Wax @ The Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Greg Rusedski & Ruby Wax @ The Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Matthew Williamson @ The Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Matthew Williamson @ The Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Bianca Jagger @ The Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

Bianca Jagger @ The Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup

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We need to talk about Josper

Josper Oven

The Josper at Chapters

Josper! Whazzat? That’s how our conversation went yesterday afternoon, when the Josper (pronouced H-osper) was introduced to the conversation. I started to explain, retreated and promised that I would write about it today.

A Spanish super hot charcoal oven, only 9 restaurants in the UK have one, and happily, I am well acquainted with three: Hawksmoor, L’Anima & most recently Chapters.

IMG_5664

Inside the Josper

You can see from the temperature dial at the top, how intensely hot these ovens get – up to 900 degrees. I stood next to one when the door was opened at 850 degrees, and the heat that erupted was so intense that I jumped backwards involunatarily. As you can see, I like to live on the smoky edge.

Clearly, this isn’t a normal oven, and the quality of the food produced from it is far from normal too. Such intense heat and the charcoal coals produce fantastic charred perfectly rare Longhorn steaks at Hawksmoor, tender and smoky mackerel and juicy steaks at Chapters and smoky and tender bright orange mussels at L’Anima. And that’s just the food that I have tried.

IMG_5483

Josper Cooked Mackerel at Chapters

IMG_5606

Josper Steak Selection at Chapters

At Chapters I tried Josper cooked Fillet, Rib eye, Hanger Steaks and Premium UK & USDA steaks on the bone. Quite the selection, and head chef Trevor Tobin, previously a consulant chef to popular London steak house Goodman when it was being setup, took much pleasure in showing us the steaks and Josper, explaining their providence and finally, allowing us to sample the wares.

IMG_5478

Josper Cooked Steak Tasting menu at Chapters

So, there you go folks! Your new friend Josper. Treat yourself and go try the wares at Chapters, Hawksmoor, or L’Anima soon.

Chapters All Day Dining

Hawksmoor

L’Anima

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The Complete History of Food from Bompass & Parr

The Complete History of Food

So, you’ve read a few reviews of The Complete History of Food, I would wager, by now. That culinary dream team Bompass & Parr have once again captured our imaginations. They’ve somehow acquired an enormous abandoned house in Belvedere Square for a few days, and have transformed it into a mind bending, sometimes nerve wracking but always entertaining food & drink experience.

At 15 minute intervals, small groups are ushered through the experiences in waves of anticipation. Greeted by a wizardly looking gentleman, an overview is given, then a cocktail prescribed. I was told that I was phlegmy (I do have a deep voice and I have been out a lot!), and was prescribed a corresponding cocktail to increase my yellow bile. I was feeling quite bilious as it happened but I kept schtum and made my way to the medieval pirate ship, constructed in the garden.

We had to traverse a pool of live eels, via very narrow platforms. My nerves gave way, I am way too clumsy to attempt this, and they kindly let me in the back door.

The Complete History of Food

Inside the boat, the pirate barman from Lounge Lover delivered a cocktail with rose in – fine choice as it is one of my favourite aromatics. I  also got a little toast with artichoke and red cabbage. We dallied a little, traversed the eels again (eeeek!) and then 4 of us got into the tiniest service lift and ascended to a roof top bar. We were treated to impressive views, champagne & cognac cocktails and a deacdent foie gras and nut truffle with a port reduction from Alexis Gauthier.

The Complete History of Food

The Complete History of Food

The Complete History of Food

What could be next? I couldn’t have predicted it. Scratch and Sniff TV Dinner in a dark 50’s style lounge. Fun and confirmation that I am not a TV dinner kind of lady. Dinner scratched and sniffed, next stop was a constitutional bounce around a bouncing castle shaped like a stomach that had had too many TV dinners. Clumsiness at the forefront of my mind, and fear of injuring my companions, I bounced tenderly  in a corner, and bounced out as soon as it was acceptable. I did love my few minutes in there though, whisked back to childhood.

The Complete History of Food

The Complete History of Food

Down a mushroom lined corridor, we descended the stairs lined with film footage of dinosaurs to the Victorian period and dined in a huge Iguana. A fantastic recreation of a bizarre 1853 dinner where Anatomist Richard Owen and sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins teamed up to create life-sized models of iguanodon dinosaurs at Crystal Palace, and then invited twenty leading scientists to dine there, some in the models. I knew there was a reason why I did science!

The Complete History of Food

The Complete History of Food

The Complete History of Food

I loved the food here, served by Bistrotheque. Duck confit with puy lentils, beetroot and champagne sauce served with a lovely summer cocktail of Courvoisier with green tea, apple juice and elderflower cordial. The green tea was from my favourite, the Rare Tea Company.

The Complete History of Food

The Complete History of Food

Our final course was served in the Renaissance room, where Bompass & Parr greeted us with in a room like a giant fluffy pink blancmange. Lots of sugar sculptures, a huge cake swathed in pink curtains, and small plates of posset circling it. I loved the posset, it had a gorgeous richness and was velevet smooth. Enquiries as to the ingredients left me stumped: ambergris and  cognac – that is regurgitated sperm whale bile and cognac – it was delicious!

The Complete History of Food

I then bounced over to the neurological jelly. The physiologist in me was very curious, and the child in me wanted to play. I inserted my finger and watched the jelly assess my pulse, go bright red and BOUNCE! Well, I blame the eels for that rapid heart rate. We downed a shot of Courvoisier XO and headed for our final drink to the Courvoisier bar for gorgeous cocktails (Parisian Rendez Vous and Sidecars plus one secret warm one not on the menu with coffee beans, orange, cognac and ginger). I settled in and watched a lady with a book she had written on Champagne Exercises, all of the exercises are based around drinking champagne. Maybe exercise is for me after all?! I need to seek that lady out.

The Complete History of Food

The Complete History of Food

The Complete History of Food

All of that fun, drama and excitement is a one off and costs only £25. The attention to detail, the quality and the sheer drama is fantastic. Bargain, I think. Sadly I think it is sold out but if you can get there, do it.

http://www.jellymongers.co.uk/

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The Tio Pepe Tapas Trail: Barrica, Fino & Pinchito Tapas

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

London is an interesting city. Waves of enthusiasm seem to infect leading to trends in food and otherwise. Trends drive me crazy, food is food after all, and if it’s good it’s good. So what if I want to eat sun dried tomatoes and it’s not 1997?! I like ‘em. Sometimes they bring benefits though, and I am happy to succumb. One such trend is the interest in Spanish food and drink and the corresponding surge in quality tapas restaurants in London.

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Centrally this has seen the arrival of Barrica, Fino (relaunched last year) and Pinchito Tapas. Spanish style (perhaps Irish style too!),we embarked on a crawl of these three, taking advantage of the Tio Pepe Tapas Trail. Tio Pepe fino, one of my favourite summer drinks, was available free with any tapa over £4.50. What fun!

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

We started at Barrica. My first time there, I was taken with the warmth of the traditional room with the sunny yellow walls. Lots of wood, a big counter, some tables and high stools. We opted for bar seats and chose Tortilla; Morcilla (Spanish black pudding); Clams, White Beans & Girolles and Galician Octopus. Some of my favourite dishes and Spanish staples (the girolle dish aside), they would be a good test of the kitchen.

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

The tortilla was eggy and runny in the centre and rich, exactly as it should be, tick. The morcilla was very good, a lovely spicey version and finely sliced like a cured sausage, I devoured it quickly. The Galician octopus was tender and delicate. So far so good. The Clams, White Beans & Girolles felt as though it was missing something, I would imagine this is a vegetarian version of clams, white beans and chorizo. It felt like it was missing a fruitiness with the earthiness of the girolles too dominant. Prices circled a very fair £4-6. We sipped on our Tio Pepe Finos and headed on to Fino. Boom boom!

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Fino, an offering from the Hart brothers, owners of Barrafina and Quo Vadis is very smart.  The most expensive of the three we would visit, Fino is a basement room with low ceilings, it’s been very good on previous visits, but it had been some time so I was looking forward to checking in. We grabbed seats by the bar again – the best place to sit always, isn’t it? – and ordered another Spanish staple Pane con Tomate, a lovely fresh & fruity version, some more Morcilla (I can never resist!) – Marcilla Iberica, Fried Quails Eggs, Chorizo Chips (small chorizo sausages wrapped in wafer thin potato and fried), Braised Iberian Pig Cheeks, sensationally rich and tender, they were irresistable. Another glass of Tio Pepe Fino here, but we also indulged in an extra glass of Tio Pepe En Rama, the celebratory 175th anniversary vintage which sold out in hours, but is available at Fino (and also Pinchito) at £5.90 a glass. This was gorgeous and silky with great depth of flavour. We had to have another one when we visited Pinchito next! We are indulgent…

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Before we left we watched a suckling pig (a a very tiny one – seriously not much bigger than a cat) being prepared in the kitchen. Despite concerns for the age of the tiny piglet, we watched with envy. That has got to be done soon.

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Final stop was Pinchito. I have only been there for drinks before, and at that at the Shoreditch one. First impressions are of a trendy bar, which always worries me when it comes to the quality of food (am I an old crank or what?!), however, Pinchito really delivered, and I thought it was probably the closest to what you would get in Spain right now.

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

The staff are also immensely knowledgable, we were all very impressed with our waiter Guillaume, who was so enthusiastic and helpful and full of information. We bought him a glass of En Rama and asked him to join us, which he did, although only briefly before he diligently went back to work.

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

We had Pa amb tomaquet (bread and tomato) which was a terrific version of the dish. The tomato was fruity and had spice with some lovely vinegary back notes. Alioli (garlic dip with toasted bread) was simple and perfect. I was very impressed by now. We hadn’t had croquetas yet so we ordered Croquetas de cocido madrileño (mixed meat croquettes) which were rich and dense. Mixed meat is a nerve wracking description but this worked well, whatever it was.

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

We also had Chorizo a la sidra (chorizo with cider & apple sauce), again simple, rustic and high quality and a plate of very good manchego. More Tio Pepe fino (again free as part of the Tapas trail), an irresistible glass of En Rama and a cocktail – Sevilla Fizz made with Sherry & Cava (costing £6.50) and very, very good, as everything had been until this point.

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

We were ready to bounce out of there by now, and we did. It was a great evening, and a very good showcase of Spanish food in London with only one weakish dish. Barrica was relaxed and a lovely place to catch up with friends, Fino a smarter setting with more elegant food, but the standout for me was Pinchito. High quality, relaxed, friendly and innovative, that’s Spanish cuisine in a sentence for me, and we have it here now in London. I want to go back to try Albondigas (meat balls with green olive sauce) and Hanger steak with paprika alioli (and more cocktails of course). Watch this space, I will tell you all about it when I do.

The Tio Pepe Sherry trail runs from 12-18th of July. It’s brilliant fun and if possible, I’ll be indulging in another glass or two at Iberica and Moro before the week is out.

http://www.pinchito.co.uk/

http://www.finorestaurant.com/

http://www.barrica.co.uk/

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Bitesize: The Tio Pepe Tapas Trail, The Complete History of Food, The Cloudy Bay Shack & Guerrilla Gastronomy

Welcome to my first issue of Bitesize – a new piece on food & drink happenings somewhere near you. Expect to see it every two weeks or so.

I’ve had frequent contact from readers exclaiming/lamenting a missed opportunity. Something great in food or drink that I’ve attended or gobbled up, and they’ve read about here but had missed the chance to go. A review is after the fact after all.

Where can you find out about these things? Well, from now on, here. I hope you like it.

The Cloudy Bay Shack in Parson’s Green, July 24th & 25th

The Cloudy Bay Shack will appear briefly in Parson’s Green on Saturday, July 24th and Sunday, July 25th, open from 11am to 8pm. Tom Aikens has created a seasonal menu to match Cloudy Bay Wines. Choose from a menu of Summer specials from a ‘Dorset crab with chilli and ginger’ paired with Cloudy Bay Chardonnay to a Tom Aikens ‘seven-hour lamb’ paired with Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir. Picnickers can try one of the five tasting dishes paired with a glass of Cloudy Bay for £8.50 whilst listening to live jazz.

Tio Pepe Tapas Trail

Swan around some of London’s finest tapas restaurants, enjoying a free glass of Tio Pepe as you do. Between 12th – 18th July 2010 you can enjoy a free glass of Tio Pepe when you order a tapa (over £4.50) at any of the 9 restaurants on the tapas trail route (one glass per restaurant, per customer). The Tio Pepe Tapas Trail map is available online. Come back tomorrow for my post on a tour of Barrica, Fino & Pinchito Tapas.

The Tapas Revolution – anywhere near you soon!

26-year old cooking whizz Omar Allibhoy, former pupil Ferran Adrià of El Bulli will be setting off on a 550-mile culinary crusade offering a free Spanish cooking masterclass and tapas feast for anyone who lives, works or just happens to find themselves standing or sitting on a giant ‘T’ for ‘Tapas’ on a map of England.

To get a taste of Omar’s guerrilla gastronomy, all would-be diners need do is suggest a place somewhere along the ‘T’ to meet him, providing crockery, cutlery and perhaps some liquid refreshment. Omar will do the rest. Anywhere on the ‘T’ will do. Locations intersected by it include Manchester University, The Peak District, Doncaster, Derby, various lay-bys carparks and public spaces, even Blenheim Palace (should the Duke of Marlborough be feeling peckish).

Kicking off on 19 July, Omar will set off on his 125cc motorbike, two African burners, a selection of saucepans, serving plates, chef’s knives, a chopping board, tent, sleeping bag, five spice jars, a dry-cured pork leg sent over by his mum in Madrid and, of course, his trusty GPS, for homing in on the “T”.

To join The Tapas Revolution simply check your co-ordinates, find an appropriate location on the “T” via the website (www.tapasrevolution.com), then drop an e-mail to Omar (omar@tapasrevolution.com), send him a tweet @TapasRevolution arranging to meet up, or follow him on Foursquare: www.foursquare.com/user/tapasrevolution.

The Complete History of Food with Courvoisier & Bompass & Parr

The inaugural Courvoisier Revolutionary Spirit 2010 kicks off with a must-go, one-off event for the food lovers of London. The Complete History of Food is an exciting epicurean adventure through time, curated by the infamous food and drink experimentalists, Bompas & Parr along with several other partners, including Alexis Gauthier, Saf, Bistrotheque and Lounge Bohemia. Taking place from 14-18 July at  Belgrave Square, this event will seduce and surprise your senses: think flooded Medieval banquets, giant sugar sculptures and dinner in the belly of a dinosaur, all matched to bespoke Courvoisier cocktails.

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Recipe: Courgette and Truffle Carbonara

Courgette & Truffle Carbonara

I have a really bad habit of going food shopping on a whim and being charmed by the glistening ingredients which I can’t resist. I pop them in my trolley gleefully, only to review when I go home and wonder, so how does all of this fit together, and when exactly amd I going to get time to eat it all? Eating it all is never really a worry, although it has worrying effects of late. It does prompt some creative cooking, driven by what I am in the mood for, and what I have nabbed en route home.

I was faced with one such dilemna last night. All I knew is that I wanted to eat something rich, comforting and light, and it had to contain some pasta. Not just any pasta, I was eyeing up my box of Pastificio dei Campi linguine, the grand cru pasta (as declared in Italian food magazine Gambero Rosso) from Gragnano which I have been covetting. I never need an excuse to eat pasta, I love the stuff and frankly am in awe of anyone that can cut out carbs. I just don’t know why you would do that to yourself. However,if you need one, and you just might, good pasta like this cooked al dente is low GI my friends. Eat your fill.

Gragnano is to pasta what Parma is to ham. A town dedicated to artisan pasta making using traditional techniques. The Pastificio dei Campi pasta is finished by hand and gently passed through bronze dies before being slow dried at low temperatures creating pasta with superior flavour and texture, unlike anything you get at your local supermarket. This really is top of the range stuff.

The bronze die lends it a rough outer texture which allows it to grip the sauce eagerly. Interestingly in this age where so many cultures are disconnected from the origins of their food, every box of pasta can be traced back to the day that batch of wheat was sown, the field it was grown in and when it was harvested, directly linking the sourcing of the best limited supply grain back to the farmers. A human connection and real food. Regular readers will know me well enough to realise that quality and sourcing drives my cooking, so it won’t surprise you that this is my primary source of pasta now.

Back to dinner. It was late and I was hungry. I wanted something creamy and rich but not too intense. It is summer after all. My eyes fell upon the new season courgettes, medium sized and shiny, my favourite blue Old Cotswold Legbar eggs with their large golden yolks, some rich aged Grana Padano cheese and some luscious bulbs of garlic. The cupboard yielded some Tetsuya’s Black Truffle Salsa. I knew what I was going to have. A truffle and courgette carbonara.

Odd combination? Perhaps. Although courgette goes very well with rich hard cheeses like Grana Padano, and courgettes love eggs. Truffles love eggs even more, and we all love pasta. Courgettes would ease and comfort the intensity of the truffle, adding a sweetness and some moisture and texture. Like those couples you see with one noisy one and one nice calm one.  You know what I mean, it just works, doesn’t it?

Before I go further, carbonara needs no cream. Just egg yolks and cheese. A lick of garlic on the pan, you can finely chop it, or just cut it in half and fry it briefly to flavour some oil. Egg yolks are so rich and intense and a perfect sauce for the linguine.

Notes on ingredients: you can get the Tetsuya’s Black Truffle Salsa at Harvey Nichols in London, or substitute with grated fresh truffle or some jarred black truffle from the supermarket. Some truffle oil would lend some flavour too. The Pasificio dei Campi linguine is available from Food in the City online UK and internationally, or at Harvey Nichols.

Note on the photograph: the linguine shown in the photo isn’t quite al dente as I gobbled mine up, and photographed a cold portion after, whih had continued to cook as it cooled down. I didn’t waste it though – don’t fear. It makes a tasty leftover dish when fried.

Courgette & Truffle Carbonara

Serves 2

Ingredients:

200g linguine
2 egg yolks
2tbsp Grana Padano (or parmesan)
1 fat clove of garlic cut in half
1 heaped tsp Tetsuya’s Black Truffle Salsa
3 medium courgettes, quatrered lengthways and sliced finely
grated Grana Padano to serve
S&P
Olive oil

Method:

The pasta should take 10 minutes so get that on first.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a moderate heat and add the cove of garlic until starting to brown, discard. You’ve got the garlic flavour now and that’s all you need.
Add the courgettes and cook over a gentle heat for 5/6 minutes until tender.
Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and stir in the cheese. Season with S&P.
When the pasta is almost dente, add the truffle to to the courgette and stir through.
Drain the pasta and add to the truffle/courgette mixture.
Add the pasta mixture to the bowl of eggs and stir quickly preserving the creamyness of the egg yolks and cheese and not allowing it to scramble (really, it never does as long as you’re quick).
Taste & season. Add some more Grana Padano to taste.

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Alvin Leung Masterclass Part 3: The Rest! English Breakfast, Foie Gras with Pat Chun & Sugar Spheres

What a lot of fun this series of posts has been. A trip down the culinary rabbit hole and an inspiration (for me at least, but I hope for you too). I am rounding up this three parter with the other gorgeous dishes covered in the masterclass: Alvin Leung’s Extreme Chinese take on the English Breakfast, Pat Chun Vinegar with Foie Gras, Tomatoes & Ginger Parfait and Sugar Spheres crafted with our own hands.

Alvin Leung Masterclass

Extreme Chinese English Breakfast? Alvin extracted the flavours and ideas and put together an indulgent and very glamorous take on the greasy spoon breakfast. Lotus seeds (like chickpeas but nuttier) with bacon, a sweet carrot puree which perfectly substituted ketchup but with more vibrancy, strips of sous vide duck and mustard foam. Extreme Chinese English Breakfast? Yes, please!

Alvin Leung Masterclass

Pat Chun Vinegar was a new ingredient to me. A sweetened vinegar unique to Hong Kong, it’s used in a traditional post-natal dish of Pork Knuckles & Ginger Stew, made from pork knuckles, eggs, ginger and sweetened vinegar. It is eaten both as a health food and as a celebratory dish after the birth of a child. Rich in calcium and protein, it replaces nutrients lost during childbirth. Here it is combined firstly with tomatoes and roasted, then foie gras fried with a flour coating is added. Eaten foie gras first, then tomatoes, and finally ginger parfait. It is rich, intense, sweet, and finally refreshing. Now, I just have to source some Pat Chun vinegar to make at home.

Alvin Leung Masterclass

Finally some sugar spheres, which were fun and dramatic. Kept under heat, pumped with a hand pump and cooled throughout so it didn’t burst, this was the most fun, but the most pointless bit. I managed to burst it within minutes too. New skill aquired though, I will try and use it practically soon.

Alvin Leung Masterclass

Alvin Leung Masterclass

So, that’s it! Alvin Cheung is a new culinary hero of mine and the best news of all is that he is opening a Bo Innovation in Mayfair this November. So you can try all of this exciting food there. Watch this space for more info!

http://www.boinnovation.com/

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/festivehk2010/eng/wine_dine/overview.jsp

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Alvin Leung Masterclass Part 2: Xiao Long Bao

Following on from yesterdays post: Alvin Leung Masterclass Part 1: Dead Garden, here’s Part 2 on Xiao Long Bao.

Alvin Leung's Interpretation of Xiao Long Bao

Nosey as I am, during the Dead Garden presentation, I spotted what looked like a bath of small egg yolks. Hmmm. I wondered what they were!

Egg yolks! First instinct but incorrect, closer inspection revealed that they were too orangey brown and a funny shape, not perfectly round. I wondered some more about what they were.

Patience is a virtue but it ain’t one of mine. So I watched attentively, and impatiently waited for the reveal. At last it came, they were Xiao Long Bao.

Xiao Long Bao?! They can’t be. Xiao Long Bao are dumplings with minced pork and onion and soup inside. One of my favourite Chinese foods, they require precision and delicacy, for if you burst them whilest transporting them to your mouth, you will lose all of the lovely stock. I’ve done it and can assure you that it’s devestating. Well, as devestating as an eating exerience can be. The build up, the care and attention, then spillage and failure. I have mastered the art now.

But these were an interpretation of Xiao Long Bao. Little balls of porky goodness made of pork stock containing minced pork, spring onion, shallot, sugar, sesame oil and hua diao, a type of rice wine, this was starting to sound like the pork flavour from the meat in the parcel. The pork stock is then combined with xantana (one of those magical thickeners used by molecular gastronomists and enthusiasts), gluco, another specialist powder used to create an egg like consistency, sesame oil & sugar.

Xiao Long Bao spending their last minute in an algin bath

Finally, spoonfuls are placed in an algin bath for 1 minute to create the little balls of Xiao Long Bao. Decorated with a narrow tart strip of ginger that has been marinaded in Chinese Red Vinegar, representing the vinegar & ginger you would dip your Xiao Long Bao in.

Spoon in hand I was curious. I had no idea what this would be like but was intrigued.  A very tender outside burst to reveal the rush of stock and intense meaty flavour so familiar to me from Xiao Long Bao excursions, it was an excellent and very exciting version. I went back for more. Better again, I will try these at home.

Come back tomorrow for Part 3, my piece on Alvin’s interpretation of the English breakfast.

http://www.boinnovation.com/

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/festivehk2010/eng/wine_dine/overview.jsp

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Alvin Leung Masterclass Part 1: Dead Garden

Alvin Leung - Demon Chef

Alvin Leung - Demon Chef

Culinary mastermind Alvin Leung, nicknamed the Demon Chef, recently returned to London from Hong Kong to promote Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival later this year. I was thrilled that he had returned so soon, and that there would be an opportunity for a hands on masterclass at L’atelier des Chefs.

Alvin Leung is quite a character (as I discovered at Identita!), in fact character does not do him justice. Born in the UK, raised in Toronto, Canada and starting his career as an engineer, he travelled the world trying the food in The Fat Duck and El Bulli among others, before embarking on his professional culinary career. Self taught, his restaurant Bo Innovation has gained two michelin stars. Quite an achievement, he is the only self taught chef, apart from Heston Blumenthal, to have attained this.

The last time I saw him he really got my culinary brain ticking. I was inspired to go explore and use the techniques and ingredients that he had used. What would he have in store for us today, I wondered?

We had two hours and Alvin demonstrated four dishes, then we got involved. Creating his interpretations of the English Breakfast, a Dead Garden, Xiao Long Bao and Pat Chun Vinegar with Tomatoes, Foie Gras and Ginger Parfait it was fantastically creative and inspiring. We also made some crazy sugar spheres which I smashed within minutes and not intentionally (I swear!).

These, as you can imagine, were complex and detailed, and I am sure you want to hear about them all, so I am not going to do them the injustice of squeezing them all into one post. I’ll start with the Dead Garden, and come back soon with the others.

Alvin making the dead tree

Alvin making the dead tree

The Dead Garden is a quirky Hong Kong interpretation of the garden dishes featured on many menus now and inspired by Rene Redzepi of Noma. Alvin stated that Hong Kong is full of dead gardens, and so he had to do this. My interest was piqued and I watched excitedly as he started with a layer of spring onion and coriander foam, then added soil made from pureed dried porcini, lemon, lime and flour, finishing with a layer of worms and a dead tree. The caterpillar fungus was sauteed and cooked with a little water until al dente forming the worms, the enoki mushrooms were sauteed and dehydrated overnight, then frazzled them in liquid nitrogen until frozen and crystalline. These formed the tree.

Porcini soil

Porcini soil for the Dead Garden

Finished Dead Garden with some residual liquid nitrogen

Finished Dead Garden with some residual liquid nitrogen

How brilliant is that?! And it tasted great too. The freshness of the green foam with the intense earthiness and umami hit of the porcini soil and the slippery mushroomy worms, finished with the brittle enoki tree. A great combination of textures and balance of flavours. I really must get to Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.

Cheers! Our very own mini Dead Gardens.

Cheers! Our very own mini Dead Gardens

Come back soon for Part 2: Alvin’s interpretation of my favourite Xiao Long Bao.

http://www.boinnovation.com/

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/festivehk2010/eng/wine_dine/overview.jsp

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Posh Lunch Club: Summer Special at Bob Bob Ricard

Bob Bob Ricard

It’s been a little while since I’ve done Posh Lunch Club, there’s one post from Nuno Mendes Viajante still waiting in the wings, but otherwise travel and busy-ness has prevented my weektime posh lunch trips. I’ve had a few things to celebrate recently, this blog turned three (2 months ago!), I had a birthday, and summer has finally come, so I thought I should mark these with an extra special Posh Lunch Club. Who needs an excuse anyway, right?

Posh Lunch Club at the Owners Salon, Bob Bob Ricard

Normally just two dine for Posh Lunch, but this time we stretched to ten, and booked the Owners Salon at luscious Bob Bob Ricard. Edible in every respect, it’s so gorgeous to look at, I want to lick the wallpaper, Willy Wonka style. Except in the bathroom, even though it is possibly the most gorgeous part of this restaurant, truly it is.

Signature Rhubarb G&T

Home of the Rhubarb Gin & Tonic, some terrific Russian food and well executed traditional and comfort foods (Roasts, Chicken Kiev, Cheeseburger), they are also famed for their very shallow wine markups offering fine wines at very reasonable prices with a maximum of £50 on any bottle on the list. Not only is this great value for money, high end wines are often cheaper at Bob Bob Ricard than at retail. Likened frequently to being on the Orient Express, it always whisks me away from whatever is bothering me and the noisy streets of London, to something altogether calmer and more indulgent.

Press and get a glass of Pol Roger

Another reason to go, and this is what made this a very Posh Lunch indeed, is that for the month of July, Bob Bob Ricard are offering a free glass of Pol Roger (yes, that very nice one) with a two course lunch to celebrate it’s arrival as house champagne. Normally £11.50 a glass (and up to £18 a glass elsewhere), it’s a terrific bargain. Better still is the fact that you can order this champagne by pressing the “Press for Champagne” button at your table.

Russian Salad

We kicked off with the Rhubarb G&T. Creamy, sweet and sour with a hint of bitterness from the quinine in the tonic, I just love this drink. It’s a perfect appetiser too and surely counts towards our 5 a day, right? For lunch we then progressed to a Russian Salad which was wildly indulgent featuring lots of shaved truffle atop a softly boiled quails egg, and hidden between the lettuce leaves. This was served with a snifter of Russian Standard Vodka served at -18 degrees. It was a terrific match for the truffle, drawing out the earthiness and exaggerating the flavours. Itw as great with the creamy mayonnaise too.

Chicken Kiev with Sweetcorn Mash

On then to main course. I opted for Chicken Kiev with Sweetcorn and Potato Mash. It’s been years since I’ve had a chicken Kiev and I couldn’t resist trying the BBR interpretation. Served in a copper pan on top of sliced tomatoes, this was very good and the sweetcorn mash was a lovely idea, if a little too sweet for me. It was washed down with our lovely complementary glass of Pol Roger. The veal dishes were also popular amongst Posh Lunchers dining with me that day and I am going to try both the Roast & Veal Holstein on future visits.

Roast Veal

Veal Holstein

Dessert was a Little Layered Lemon Pot with Sugar Glazed Puff Pastry Soldiers and Fresh Raspberries, a perfect dessert for me, so tart and fresh with lovely balance from the sweet pastry soldiers. Gorgeous presentation too, but this is where these guys excel, delivering a feast for the eyes and the palate. Others ordered the impressive Chocolate Glory, the chocolate fondant and the delicious dessert soufflés.

Little Layered Lemon Pot with Sugar Glazed Puff Pastry Soldiers and Fresh Raspberries

Chocolate Glory

Strawberry & Cream Soufflé

Knickerbocker Glory

We finished with a coffee and agreed that it had been a lovely, lovely lunch. Great service just the right side of attentive (I really don’t like to be fussed over). This July offer is terrific value for money. If we had just done the two courses with Rhubarb G&T, my bill would have been under £40 with service (as the champagne is complimentary). The Russian Salad is £8.50 and the vodka £7. If you haven’t been, I would suggest you check it out. It has become a semi-regular haunt for me, and has a firm place in my affections.

Posh Lunch Club is nothing without the company so thanks to Denise, Jeanne, Ailbhe & Tony, Charlie, Petra, Magnus and Helen for making it so much fun and being great company.

http://www.bobbobricard.com/