Month: September 2010

In Pictures: XIII International Cous Cous Fest in Sicily

Don’t you just love the Italians? So passionate and celebrating everything, there’s a whole week dedicated to cous cous in San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily. Cous Cous? Italy? The West Coast of Sicily faces North Africa and has some culinary influences from there, one of them is cous cous. Proper cous cous, not this instant type we have in so many places here or the soggy one that hasn’t been cooked properly and has turned you off it. This was light and fluffy cous cous, nutty and airy, with seafood as a traditional accompaniment (in Italy). Unusual too, only one other place (I believe in Tunisia) has seafood with their cous cous. Chefs from 9 countries gathered and over 2 days we judged the preliminary rounds of dishes. The jury, 8 Italians (from a 2* Michelin chef to a food journalist from La Stampa), 1 Belgian Food Blogger that lives in and blogs from Rome, and me. Persenting were 2 food tv presenters from Italy, there was a Cous Cous Talk Show every night, labs, and it had it’s own Cous Cous Radio …

A Plea for Help: I Want Fiddlehead Ferns

For this post we must pretend that it is 1952. I am using a manual camera, and I have no real clue how to develop the photographs. I possibly opened the camera and let too much light in damaging the film. I possibly soaked the negatives. And let’s pretend that is how I have these rubbish pictures on this post today. It’s been busy. I keep forgetting things. This morning, I took my bright yellow umbrella and put it right by the door so I wouldn’t forget it. I forgot it. I did the same yesterday with my camera. Left it by the door so I could pick it up as I left.  I forgot it.  So, lumbered with an iphone in lowlight conditions, I do hope that you’ll be forgiving. I really want to write about this as it was so interesting. And I do want Fiddlehead Ferns and I hope that you can help me. Last night the Canadian Tourism Commission laid on a cooking class using Canadian ingredients. Imagine my surprise when the …

Bitesize: London Restaurant Festival

The London Restaurant Festival runs this year from from October 4th – 18th. Special festival menus across the entire price spectrum will be available at restaurants across the capital. I personally would recommend hitting 101 Pimlico Rd, Bistro Bruno Loubet, The Bull & Last, Café Spice Namaste, Great Queen St, Hawksmoor, L’Anima, Le Café Anglais, Racine, St John, Tayyab’s and Viajante. Other highlights are Eat Film where you can watch a film then eat a meal inspired by it, a Jason Atherton Pop-Up, a food debate, another Pop-Up restaurant in an airstream caravan in Spittalfields Market then Covent Garden, proceeds of which will go to Action Against Hunger. There is a rumour that some critics will be cooking too. Eat their food at your own risk ;) Most excitingly there will be an opportunity to try the food of some excellent restaurants outside the capital such as The Waterside Inn, The Walnut Tree & L’Enclume. 10 chefs will be pairing 10 London chefs and producing a Sunday lunch on the 10th October (hence 10-10-10, geddit?). …

A Busiata: Pasta Fresca in San Vito Lo Capo

I just love it when by accident you happen across somewhere special. Wandering home from Cous Cous Fest, tired and no longer able to deal with the crowds, I saw a little doorway with people lingering outside. I spied the sign “a busiata” outside, and then, lo, above the door, “Fresh Pasta”. I peered through the rope doorway and saw a gorgeous little space with a few shelves lined with choice products, a fridge full of glorious handmade pastas, and a counter with some more. Fresh cous cous with herbs and dried cous cous were available, this is the town of cous cous after all. Local almonds, biscotti and other Sicilian biscuits (there are a lot!) graced the counter top and behind it, the matriarch was making busiati. What luck! I waited my turn and attempted to communicate (I really need to learn Italian properly!). I wanted everything, but mindful of RyanAir’s ridiculous restrictions I bought 2kg of fresh busiati – 1kg white & 1kg green for €10. A steal. It’s absolutely gorgeous, it may …

From Top to Bottom: Hello Sicily!

I have been jesting that I have had all four seasons in one month and that is how I contracted a very early Winter cold this year. But, really, it is true. Sparkling summer in Lyon at 35° to London’s Autumn (let’s call it Spring for the story), bouncing over to Ireland for our all year round same season, save two weeks of Summer. Then to an early Winter in Lapland where we were in single digit evenings. Now, HELLO summer in Sicily. Hot hot hot, bright skies, turquoise seas, mosquitos a-go-go. And we’ve hit Autumn today with lots, and lots, of rain. Thundering rain. Wake you from your sleep rain. Electrical blackout rain.Flood your hotel room rain. Yes, it’s very wet here this evening. Fabulous though, I have loved every minute. I am never happier as when I am on the move exploring, trying new things, meeting new people, exploring new food cultures, trying new tastes. Generally successful although Tuna Salami is not my friend. Is it anyones? It actually beats Sweden’s fermented herring with its unexpected fishy power …

Skibbereen Food Festival

I was very much looking forward to my friend’s wedding in Cork. Then she revealed that on the weekend of the wedding, just a  few miles away, a food festival would be taking place. A FOOD FESTIVAL! Wonderful. I was not in the best of shape, having spent most of Friday night lost in the woods on the way back to our house (yes, really, we were renting a cottage in a 10.5 acre private wood on a private island), but I bounded in regardless. West Cork has a terrific food reputation, and what I had seen already at the wedding really whet my appetite. I was surprised to see a big screen with the pope saying mass overseeing proceedings. It whisked me back to Pope Jaun Paul’s visit in 1979 (I think), when the country ground to a halt. I was but a nipper but I remember it so well, mainly because my Dad was glimpsed briefly on TV as he attended. Then I realised that they were just waiting for the All Ireland Gaelic Football …

Recipe: A little bit of Pitepalt

We’re going to eat Pitepalt. Pitepalt? Yes, pitepalt. I hadn’t done my research and had no idea what they were talking about. I chose to keep my mouth shut and wait and see. What a treat then to discover that we were going to be eating supreme comfort food, lakeside in Lapland. Potato dumplings, fried over an open fire with pork belly (YES! pork belly), and served with butter and the sugared lingonberries that we had just foraged. Rich, robust and nutty, the potato dumplings, heavier than gnocchi but delicious nonetheless, were coated with pork fat, with nuggets of pork belly for company, smothered in butter with the tartness of the lingonberries raising the tone. BUT, I can’t have any. Well, yes you can. Quick trip to IKEA for the lingonberries or lingonberry jam, and Bob’s your uncle. I can’t help you with the lake though. This recipe is a variation of one from Paltakademin (the Academy of Palt, an association whose mission it is to spread the word of the pitepalt and help people …

Hel Yes! Scandinavian to the Finnish (Har har!)

(Apologies. I couldn’t resist the title :) My name is Niamh and it’s been 2 days since I’ve had lingonberries. TWO WHOLE DAYS. So there was nothing for it, I had to make my way to Hel Yes! in Shoreditch, a Finnish Pop Up restaurant that is in London throughout London Design Week (for 14 days from September 15th). I was actually there for a press preview, but the lingonberry thing, well that’s important. Scandinavia is everywhere, isn’t it? It certainly is in my life at the moment. Ensconced in Londonewcastle Depot and surrounded by council flats, the setting is certainly urban. Once inside though, it’s all wood and candles, gentle and inviting. Of course there’s also the fibreoptic bat. And this guy, who is apparently Finland’s answer to Jodie Harsh. Serving a set menu of 2 courses for £22 and 3 courses for £25, the menu is traditionally Finnish,serving key Finnish ingredients such as fish roe, game and preserved plants from Finland with the rest of the daily ingredients sourced by the Hel Yes! team of hunters and gatherers from around …

And so now we have Autumn

That was a quick seasonal change, wasn’t it? Over 24 hours? I should have been really miserable yesterday. Utterly miserable. I had a horrible cold (I still have it). I sneezed so many times in a row on the plane back from Stockholm that a neighbouring German businessman looked at me with horror. I can only imagine that I must have sounded like an ebola monkey and looked worse. Grim it was, and I was not happy about it. Returning to work yesterday, I was so congested as to be inaudible. Scratch that, more indecipherable. The cold and my vowels had co-conspired, consonants were absent, and someone actually asked me if I was speaking Irish. No, I am not, but I think I might have started talking to myself in frustration. Roll on yesterday evening, as I dragged my corpse north towards home. I had plans to go to a gig (Iron & Wine if you are interested), but it seemed silly and unfair to anyone near me. So, like a melting sugar mouse, I pushed further …

Greetings from Sweden: Postcard No 2

And so we’re still in Lapland. We’ve migrated South from Kiruna, just beyond the Arctic Circle. We’re now by the river, looking at Finland. If I waved, they could see me. Today involved an exploration of indigenous Sami food. Greta, a native Sami, brought reindeer heart, candied angelica, and other things to try. We also did some fishing, although failed to catch any fish. I blame the boys ;) We finished the evening with a sauna dinner. I must confess that I didn’t participate in the sauna and hot tub  (I forgot my swimsuit!), but I did enjoy the dinner. And I loved sitting on the terrace, looking at Finland, eating lots of herring, reindeer and local specialities, whilst gazing at the starry sky, and… Finland! Photographic highlights:  

Greetings from Sweden: Postcard No 1

Greetings from Lapland! The Culinary Institute of Sweden arranged a trip to Lapland for food journalists and bloggers from all over Europe to experience their food culture for 5 days, and here I am. I have been having the most wonderful time. Over the next 5 days, where possible, I will upload a postcard in the form of the photos that represent the best part of the day, that hopefully you will enjoy. Details later. Here is the first. From Kiruna, within the Arctic Circle. Day 1: Kiruna Wonderful, eh? Back tomorrow :)

Bitesize: Providores Pop-Up, Mark Best at the Loft Project & Hel Yes!

Earlier this year, a trip to Providores & Prudence, a pop-up restaurant at the Sipsmith Distillery in London between Sipsmith & Peter Gordon’s Providores, sparked a lot of attention. I received emails from anxious readers who would have loved to have gone, but found out after they had read it here. Can you let us know in advance next time? Well, of course. And that’s one of the reasons that I started Bitesize, my infrequent update on happenings of interest in London. So, here I have a teeny bit of a scoop for you. I believe I am the first with this information (at least I was when they sent it last night). On Tuesday October 19th, The Providores will have another pop-up, this time in Village Underground performance space in Shoreditch. THE PROVIDORES POP UP NEW ZEALAND WINE DINNER Date: Tuesday 19 October 2010 Tickets: £125 Time: 7pm canapés and sparkling wine, seated for a four course meal at 7.30pm sharp For tickets please email: winebar@theprovidores.co.uk Bar Manager Melanie Ellis, Manager Sophie Uddin and …

Review: Towpath String Quartet Dinner

A good day for ducks it was, and not in the rain sense. Those lucky fellas on the Dalston stretch of the Regents Canal got to listen to beautiful classical music from a String Quartet as the sun set on last Friday evening. Towpath? String Quartet Dinner? Ducks? Ok, let me start from the beginning. Towpath is a cute, very urban and achingly hip new-ish café on a stretch of the canal in Dalston. It’s space is tiny, just barely containing the counter, coffee machine, and essential bits like that. Another adjacent cubby hole houses some tables and a blackboard menu, and tables and chairs line the canal. Owned and run by Italian-American food writer Lori De Mori and her husband, food photographer Jason Lowe, expectations were high, but having previously enjoyed lunches there, I was sure it would be a nice evening. What’s not to like? Good coffee, decent wine, good food, and you eat it all by the canal. A London canal I know, friend to many a shopping trolley but also a friend of …

Pop Up Restaurant: Elliot’s in the Park

Elliot’s of Borough is somewhere you should go. Except you can’t. And for this, I am sorry. It’s not open yet you see. How do I know you should go? Well, I was one of the lucky ones that wangled a seat at their Summer pop-up at the Pavillion in Victoria Park: Elliot’s in the Park. Don’t worry though, it opens early next year, maybe even before then, watch this space. I saw a tweet about it (Twitter is mighty useful!), and booked straight away. Way in advance of going. I really enjoyed it and asked to be put on the waiting list for another night. And I waited. I thought it would never happen but two nights before the last night, 4 people cancelled, and we got their seats. Hooray! Elliot’s chef, Isaac McHale, is one of the new breed of chefs, Noma inspired with local sourcing and vegetables the stars of the show. Isaac specifically is all about edible flowers (as you know I love them too!), and the food is so interesting …

Eating Lyon: Bernachon

Chocolate is not a treat or a sweet but true gourmet food. Maurice Bernachon When Claude Bosi (chef-proprietor at 2* Hibiscus) starts giving tips on where you should eat in Lyon, you take notice. So happily he did exactly that, just a few days before I went to Lyon, in a piece in the Financial Times. I was a little smug (just a tiny bit – promise), when I discovered that the market we were planning to go to, and Le Bec, which we had already booked were on his list. Bernachon wasn’t on my radar, however, so I looked it up and added it to the list. Bernachon is like a museum for edible treats. A mini cathedral to food. You could hear a pin drop. The best of chocolate, sweet and excellent savoury treats. Before you even enter the shop, you’re salivating. Glorious cakes, springy brioche, perfect quenelles, macarons, chocolates, swoon. It has the air of a Sloane St designer shop, only here we are not paying homage to Jimmy Choo or Prada, here the macaron and chocolates …