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Favourite Bites of 2010: Part 3 (Best Meals)

I know I said that my roundup would take 3 parts, but I lied to myself and I lied to you. I did the exact same last year and it became a living nightmare. There is so much that I want to talk about and I don’t want to shut up so here we go again. Luckily, you’re not in the same room as me and you can escape, I just hope that maybe you want to read on ;)

It’s not my fault really, so much happened in 2010 it was simply bursting, and I have so many recommendations, it would be terrible not to share them with you. In this post, I want to tell you about the best meals that I had throughout the year, and where I had them so that you can have them too.Again, these were my favourites, the ones that really stood out.

Early in the year I had one of my best meals at Trinity in Clapham. Chef patron Adam Byatt runs one of my favourite restaurants in London, I just wished I lived closer. I went several times last year, and I always had a great time and wonderful food.

Trinity a relaxed local restaurant, serving food that punches above that weight. On one occasion we had a bespoke tasting menu (which anyone can request in advance) of 8 courses. We had many great dishes but one spectacular one stood out for me. A sublime dish of Tagliatelle with Black Truffle. I have no photo of that as my camera was broken (WOE!) but there is also the trotters dish, THAT trotters dish. Adam Byatt converts the humble pigs trotter to a delicate thing of beauty, rich and sumptous, with a sauce gribiche that just tears through it, a quails egg that comforts it, and some crunchy pain poilane underneath to hold it all together. Go for that alone. And then have lots more. They also run fun pig masterclasses, which I really enjoyed too.

Steak was a big feature this year, more than any other. This is in part due to the increase in the availability of very good steak in London, and also for one meal, to Daniel Young of Young and Foodish, who organised a fantastic Steak Frites evening at one of my favourites Racine, where we had three main course steak dinners in one sitting. And I wonder why I have put on weight. Well, I don’t really.

The steaks were terrific, and so they would be coming from Irish butchers O’Shea’s in Knightsbridge, the best butchers in London if you are asking me. The food was superb, which it would be with Henry Harris at the realm, even the fillet steak sung when it was delivered. I hope that Daniel organises another one.

The Providores & Prudence Pop-Up at the Sipsmith Distillery was another brilliant evening at the Sipsmith Distillery in Hammersmith. Of course you would expect that when you combine the creativity, skill and eccentricity provided in spades both by Peter Gordon of Providores and Jared Brown of Sipsmith. The matching cocktails were inspired – one was truffle infused and had a generous slice of truffle lurking within, another had shiso leaf used in a similar manner. Peter Gordon’s food was exciting and delicious.

Hawksmoor continued to be a feature, as it was in 2009, with a Girl’s Steak Club evening, launch of the epic brunch which did actually defeat me (trotter baked beans, bone marrow gravy, fried eggs, black pudding, a pork chop, sausages) and then the opening of their branch at Seven Dials which is now one of my favourite places in London. I love the room, I love the food (I highly recommend the burgers) and the cocktails. All you really need to know is that I met friends for lunch at 2pm and left at 10pm. Wibbly wobbly but happy the whole way home.

I paid many visits to Koya in Soho, a conspicuous absence in my posts of 2010. I am not sure why, I was travelling a lot so had little time (this is also why I have yet to write about three lovely meals at Bistro Bruno Loubet, the lovely steak and Frank Hederman Salmon at Goodman and several other noteable absences). I spent many a lunch and evening slurping their perfect udon noodles, always with an onsen tamago (slow poached egg) and those gorgeous crunchy tempura shards.

Tayyab’s is still wonderful. Those amazing spicey, sizzly tender lamb chops, the masala fish, the dry meat, the BYO policy. It’s all wonderful. If you haven’t been, do go.

I visited Viajante 3 times, the first time I wasn’t sure, the second time I really enjoyed it, the third time I had one of my best meals of the year. I can’t improve on what I originally said, so, here it is.

Pork Loin with Langoustine and Rye was perfect. It really was. Every bite was heavenly. The rich iberico pork loin, caressed by the rye foam. The roast langoustine was meaty and rich, the roasted flavour working perfectly with the rye. The onions brightened it. The rioja that was served with it (La Rioja Alta “Vina Arana” Reserva 2001) was one of the most delicious wines that I have had this year. It was the perfect finishing savoury dish, and I would go back for that dish and wine alone. (from That 6 Course Lunch post)

Dumplings. I ate lots of dumplings. At home and out and about they were my comfort food of choice for 2010. I love plonking (er… dipping) those velvet rich dumplings in black vinegar with chilli oil and greedily gobbling them down.  I have yet to find somewhere consistent and reliable that serves them in London, but I have tried. Jen Café in Chinatown is often good for Beijing Dumplings but sometimes bad, Xiao Long Bao, those pillowy dumplings with pork and soup inside at Leong’s Legend are usually good, sadly their new venture Dumplings Legend really disappointed. I had high hopes. If you want to make them at home, I blogged a recipe too.

We had some lovely London Food & Drink Bloggers dinners where 40 of us gathered and ate and there was no blinding with camera flashes. My favourites were at Vinoteca and Bob Bob Ricard. In fact an absolute highlight of last year was those gorgeous Rhubarb G&T’s there. Those dinners have been on a bit of a hiatus as I have had some family stuff in Ireland, but they will be back with a BANG soon. As will the group too.

And there you have it, my favourite meals of 2010. Back soon with Best Books and Random Stuff for 2010, in 2011. Ah well.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Favourite Bites of 2010: Part 2 (Supper Clubs)

So that was Part 1 of my lovely 2010, and here is Part 2. Excitingly since I published it, The Telegraph have listed ELAG as one of the best food blogs with images and it popped up in another top 10, this time of London blogs, not just food! I am, of course, flattered and delighted. Each one is as thrilling as the first. Thank you for reading :)

This portion of my round up is devoted to something that I found myself exploring more and more this year, supper clubs and pop-ups. This new dining format allows up-and-coming chefs and cooks to explore possibilities, test menus and have interesting evenings in unusual places. They sometimes simply allow people that love to cook for people that appreciate it to do just so.

Prices are usually very affordable with lovely BYO drinks policies. Locations are often wonderful, sometimes bizarre. You might find yourself in someone’s living room, other times at a café in a park, and once I found myself in a Hackney furniture studio. I love it.

2010 wasn’t the first year of London’s Supper Clubs, but for me it was the year that they came into their own. This list is based on the ones that I visited so it isn’t exhaustive, but it should serve as a useful guide for those of you considering exploring the scene.

Up-and-coming chefs started to strut their stuff independently adding some new strings to an established and thriving scene. Elliot’s in the Park was a glorious summer setting for Isaac McHales pre launch of his new restaurant (Elliot’s of Borough which should be opening in Borough Market this year). Ben Greenos at Tudor Rd followed soon after cooking up delicious and deceptively spartan food throughout the autumn. You can catch both of these talented guys  cooking at Young Turks dinners with James Lowe of St John in early 2011.

Existing established supper clubs like Green Onions evolved into bigger, more ambitious and very successful ventures (the wonderful Shacklewell Nights in Dalston, relocating to a new home soon).

Some established supper clubs continued to do what they did and were loved for, very, very well (hello Lex Eat and Shed Likes Food). Lex Eat even had an international gingerbread house making workshop before Xmas conducted from their Dalston flat and over the internet.These guys have started to work together too.

Some restaurants and cafés joined in. Towpath Café on Regents Canal had a supper club in the form of a wonderul string quartet dinner at their café and a pop up new season olive oil dinner in Dalston. I am curious to see what they will do next.

Bristol is blessed with new arrival The Montpelier Basement in Bristol already completely booked out, but new dates for 2011 will be released soon, so be sure to get on their mailing list and drop by too.

And that’s Part 2! It wasn’t too painful, I hope. How was it for you? :)

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Favourite Bites of 2010: Part 1 (Recipes, Travel and Posh Lunch Club)

So, that’s it! 2010 is almost gone. It all feels a bit surreal really, the year seemed to both whizz by and at times go slowly, but one thing is for sure, there was a lot packed in.

I’ve never been one for plans and resolutions, preferring to let life take its course and do things as they come up, but this year I promised myself two things: that I would travel a lot more (I have been promising and delivering poorly on that for a long time now) and that I would eat out more, and work a little less. 2009 was great but it was the year of the workaholic where I was concerned.

I must confess that I had a few moments throughout the year where I faltered, its amost 4 years since I started writing this blog, and it takes so much of my time now, I sometimes wondered if it is worth the mammoth effort. Everytime I felt that way, something wonderful happened that lifted my spirits, and spurred me on to continue.

Included in these were a few exciting moments when ELAG was mentioned in Best of the Blogs in The Times; The Times: 40 Bloggers Who Really Count; The Best Food Blogs by Rose Prince in The Telegraph and Highly Commended in the Observer Food Monthly Awards. The year finished on a high with ELAG listed as the No. 1 Food & Beverage Blog on the UK.

The year had many highlights, I will try to be succinct as I go through them in three parts. Bear with me, if you can!

Favourite Recipes

An autumnal Wild Venison with Wild Blackberry Sauce perked up a blue evening.
Braised Gem Lettuce, Broad Beans, Peas & Ham with Quails Eggs was a lovely summer dish. Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes were deliciously simple and quick, and used the terrific smoked haddock from Frank Hederman in Cobh. Balsamic was a feature of the year as I had some silky syrupy balsamic that deserved devouring, and so it appeared again in the warming Balsamic & Thyme Duck with Aubergine & Tomato Mograbiah.

Simple comforting brunches remained a weekend staple, a favourite was the classic American Style Pancakes with Bacon & Maple Syrup. Finally, I also started exploring sweets, and had lots of fun making Yellowman (aka Honeycomb, Cinder Toffee).


Posh Lunch Club

Indulgence reigned for the first half of the year with Posh Lunch Club, a weekly lunch club exploring the set menus of fine dining restaurants. That was enormous fun and ridiculously decadent. I loved it. Although I am suffering now as it destroyed my waistline (it really did!), I need to learn to curb my id. Now that’s not much fun, is it?!

Highlights of Posh Lunch Club were my Paddy’s Day Posh Lunch Club at Racine with that glorious watercress soup with pike boudin and truffle, my mini Scandi breakaway at Texture eating what seemed like delicious woodland landscapes, and two delightfully gentle and gorgeous lunches at Viajante. We also had a gorgeous and indulgent Summer Posh Lunch Club at Bob Bob Ricard. Posh Lunch Club will be starting up again in a few weeks time.

Travel

2010 was a brilliant year for travel, and 2011 looks to top that already, so I am very excited. I love exploring new places and new tastes. My best trips for 2010 were my trip to Lyon on the Eurostar and dicovering the wonderful Le Garet, the perfect bouchon, and the perfect local Lyon market, Marché St Antoine.

The madness and fun and all of that Cous Cous of the International Cous Cous Fest in Sicily (XIII International Cous Cous Fest in Sicily), where I was a judge.

Who could forget that glorious trip to Swedish Lapland? Full of lots of new tastes of bear, arctic grouse, reindeer, and elk. One of my favourite things that I ate this year was in Lapland, a glorious whole fish, cooked over a roaring fire. I was delighted to find some sticky smokey roe inside.

There was our little bloggers expedition to my home county in Ireland, especially our lunch and cookery demo at The Tannery Cookery School in Dungarvan.

Glasgow was wonderful too, I love the Glaswegian sense of humour and absolute commitment to whatever they are doing, we also had a terrific evening at An Evening with Hendrick’s Gin and Bompass & Parr in Glasgow

Come back tomorrow for 2010’s best meals, favourite restaurants and supper clubs.

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Merry Christmas!

Sweden Day 2 - Kiruna/Lapland

A very merry Christmas to you and yours! I wish you a very relaxing, festive and fun few days.

I hope you have a lovely long meal planned. I am cook here (of course!) and we’re starting with Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Pickle and Frank’s Smoked Eel with Bacon & Greens. For mains we’re having 12 hour roast shoulder of pork with spiced apple sauce which I am staying up until 2am to start, fluffy roast spuds and veg. We’re finishing with candied clementines with chocolate sauce and cardamom & chilli chocolate truffles. I will post the recipes soon.

Everybody else has a white Christmas but we’ve no snow here, just a big bright blue sky and crisp sea air. See this satellite pic? I am in the little green band at the bottom :)

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Christmas Giveaway: Laura Santtini Easy Tasty Italian Book & Taste #5 Umami Paste Kit

Xmas Giveaways

This is a lovely and fun giveaway. I have a Laura Santtini Easy Tasty Italian & Taste #5 Umami Paste™ Kit to give away. The book is gorgeous and quirky, the paste took the media by storm earlier this year when announced. Add some to any dish that requires an umami punch and depth of flavour, it really works. Available exclusively from Waitrose, I have one set, and you just need to leave a comment to enter. The competition closes on Christmas Eve.

Here’s the blurb:

For a truly tasty Christmas, Waitrose has teamed up with flavour-expert Laura Santtini and created an inspired Christmas present or stocking filler for any in-the-know foodie or umami-enthusiast.

Exclusive to Waitrose, the specially created kit contains a copy of Laura’s award winning first cookery book Easy Tasty Italian and a tube of her groundbreaking flavour bomb™, Taste #5 Umami Paste™.

The kit provides the secrets behind umami with simple recipes showing how to make the most of the 5th taste sensation and a full size sample of the product that captures the pure, savoury deliciousness of umami.

To see Laura demonstrate a selection of recipes using Taste #5 Umami Paste please visit http://laurasanttini.com/umami.html

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Christmas Giveaway: Wonderful Chocolate from Chocolate by Trish

Xmas Giveaways

From Harvey Nic’s to Selfridge’s this next giveaway is very exciting. Chocolate by Trish are offering two bags of their luxury gorgeous cooking chocolate, one milk & one dark. It’s super stuff, as always, just leave a comment to enter. The competition closes on Christmas Eve.

Should you win, or choose to indulge anyway, there are some wonderful recipes on her website which would be perfect for your festive table: http://www.chocolatebytrish.com/recipes

Here’s the blurb:

Renowned chocolate lover, author of the best-selling and award-winning Je veux du chocolat! (I want chocolate!), Trish Deseine unveiled her unashamedly gorgeous dark, milk and white cook’s chocolate range: Chocolate by Trish in Selfridges stores nationwide, this autumn.

Trish has developed a fantastic range of chocolate ingredients that doesn’t compare to other cooking chocolate. The couverture offers incredible flavour that adds intensity to any dish.

Made in France from the very best cocoa beans the Chocolate by Trish range benefits from a fabulous length and depth of flavour. Because each button is rich in cocoa butter, this wonderful cook’s ingredient melts as enticingly on the tongue as it does smoothly in the bowl. They contain more cocoa butter than you would usually find so they melt even easier without palaver or waste.  Their taste structure is distinctive yet simple.

Xmas GiveawayTrish’s Dark Chocolate Buttons come in two different blends. The elegantly powerful 74% Dark “for baking” buttons have sturdy, earthy, aromatic and intense undertones whilst the sweeter 64% Dark “for covering but mainly nibbling” buttons balance bitterness, acidity, fruity undertones and, of course, sweetness. This means they are the perfect chocolate for moulding and covering, making bonbons and truffles. Creamy yet grown-up 38% Milk Buttons have notes of biscuit and spices and are wonderful for melting, cooking and using in salted caramel mousse. The milk gives the smooth texture we know and love, yet doesn’t stifle the distinct chocolate aromas that sit so well in milk ganache chocolate sauce.

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A Recipe for Yellowman (aka Honeycomb, Cinder Toffee)

Yellowman

YELLOWMAN! How great is that? Yellowman? I love it. The quirky Irish decriptor for Honeycomb, or what the ‘merican folks call cinder toffee. Such fun to make, a joy to eat (for all except your fillings who will retreat to the back of your mouth for safety), and a really ace little Xmas present for those you love from your kitchen.

But, wait! It’s not all fun and games. Making yellowman has it’s downsides. The first is the intense temperature, you need to heat the sugar & golden syrup to 150C to reach hard-crack stage, and you may burn yourself. Of course most of you won’t, but I did, and I have a nice cascade of blisters on my arm. The other, less described danger, is that you may find yourself wandering around your kitchen waving a jam thermometer with melted sugar spindles dripping off it, singing YELLOWMAN to the Elton John’s Rocket Man at the top of your voice.

It was all worth it. Even the burn.

It’s such fun to make. Once the sugar and golden syrup are ready, adding the bicarbonate of soda causes it to foam to about four times the original size like a rush of golden lava. And then it relaxes and you can pour it into your waiting tin and admire the bubbles, and the golden sheen, and wait until you can crack it, and devour it yourself. Plus, it’s ridiculously cheap to make, so take that recession, we can still have Christmas despite your grizzly presence.

What can you do with yellowman? Eat it, give it to friends, cover it in chocolate for delicious odd shaped infinitely better homemade crunchies, put it in some chocolate mousse, have it with chocolate cake. Endless chewy possibilities await.

I have a jam thermometer as I am that kind of kitchen geek, but don’t worry if you don’t. To test whether the concotion is at hard crack stage, wait until it is bubbling and turning a caramel brown, then put a spoonful on a plate and if it solidifies and cracks when you tap it, well you’re done.

My recipe doesn’t include butter as it really doesn’t need it. I also like it dairy free as that way everyone can enjoy it, including lactose intolerants like myself! I also add vinegar as this reacts with the bicarb to create lots of bubbles and you don’t taste it at all. Some recipes add water, I do too as it means the temperature increase is a little gentler and there is a smaller risk of burning it.

This recipe will fill a large tray, use whatever you have, just make sure it’s deep. Also use a deep pot, otherwise you will have honeycomb all over your stove pot!

Enjoy!

A Recipe for Yellowman (aka Honeycomb, Cinder Toffee)

Ingredients

300g White Sugar (caster or granulated)
200g Golden Syrup
100ml Water
1 tbsp Cider or White Wine Vinegar
2 heaped tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method:

Prepare your tin/dish by lining with lightly oiled baking parchment.

Heat the sugar, golden syrup, water and vinegar until it starts to turn amber and reaches 150C/the hard crack stage (explanation above).

Add the bicarb and stir thoroughly, then pour into your lined tin. Leave to cool to room temperature.

If you want it to be cut into ordered shapes, cut with an oiled knife when it’s nearly it room temperature. I like it to look a little rough and tumble so cut it when it’s cool.

Store in an air tight container or gift to friends in small transparent bags or jars. It is delicious covered in chocolate or with chocolate mousse.

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Christmas Giveaway: Two Pasta Hampers from Pastificio dei Campi

**This competition is now closed but there are more live on the homepage** A Pasta Hamper is available through the Facebook Page.

“Like” the page to be entered. Enter on Facebook :).

Christmas Giveaways

I do think pasta is one of my favourite things to eat in this world. I wonder at those people who can do carb free. How and why would you do it?

Pasta is the ultimate comfort food, and when you get the best it raises things an octave higher. Pastificio dei Campi is the pasta that I use in my kitchen. If that’s not enough of a recommendation, it’s the one used in Locanda Locatelli too. It costs more but everything about it is vastly superior.

Pastificio dei Campi comes from Gragnano, a town in Southern Italy that is to pasta what parma is to ham. The pasta is finished by hand and gently passed through bronze dies before being slow dried at low temperatures creating gorgeous pasta. Each box of pasta can be traced back to what day that batch of wheat was sown, what field it was grown in and when it was harvested – directly linking the sourcing of the best limited supply grain back to the farmers.

I know it sounds like I am selling this, and in a way I am, but really, people have asked what the difference is, why it costs more and why I use it, so here it is.

Why pay more?

– flavour
– quality
– there’s no rubbish in here – it’s good for you
– pasta of this level is very high in protein and low GI when served al dente
– the bronze dies leave a rough texture on the pasta which grips on to the sauce
– finally, you are supporting and maintaining a traditional, artisan process

What have I got for you?

2 gorgeous pasta hampers from Pastificio dei Campi. Currently you can only get this through online retailer Food in the City or Harvey Nichols, so I am excited to be able to offer it.  Passionate home cooks, this one is definitely for you. Adopt a pasta habit!

Each set contains Conchiglioni, Orecchiette and Linguine. To enter, just comment. I will choose the winners randomly on Monday at noon.

Good luck!

or Harvey Nichols,
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Christmas Giveaway: A Meal for Two at The Ship, Wandsworth

Oh, I am nice to you, aren’t I? And if you think I am nice, spare a thought for The Ship, who have donated this fantastic prize for a Christmas Giveaway.

The Ship? You know it. That lovely pub down by the river with that lovely beer garden. The food is award winning and delicious (home smoked duck breast with mini scotch egg and cumberland jelly or roast brace of pheasant currently feature), and they are lovely too. They also have Irish trad sessions once a week which I am told are well worth a visit.

So, to win this voucher worth £50 for two, just leave a comment. I will draw a winner at random on Monday am. I do wish I could win this one too!

http://www.theship.co.uk/

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Christmas Giveaway: Fabulous Damien Allsop Chocolates

ganache

HO HO HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

This is the first in a series of giveaways that I will be running over the next few days for you lovely, lovely readers. First up are some wonderful Damien Allsop chocolate – his gorgeous water ganaches. They really are terrific and use no cream. Not that you miss it, you really don’t.

To enter, just comment. That’s it! Simple. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday at noon, and the chocolates will be sent by Damien that day :)

Here’s the blurb.

Damian Allsop’s avant-garde chocolates are created using a unique, water based (rather than cream based) recipe. During many years of tasting chocolate, Damian realised that the cream used in most chocolate recipes actually masks the true flavours of the ingredients, and following this epiphany, he reinvented all his recipes, to be based on water.

The water based ganaches are presented in a box of three, each one a different flavour. In this box is pink grapefruit and rose; passionfruit and coffee and Brazil ganache. The ganaches are available in London delicatessens such as Tavola (W2) and Homa (N16), as well as Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason; or the full Damian Allsop Chocolates collection is available through the website www.damianallsop.com

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A Brunch Classic: American Style Pancakes with Bacon & Maple Syrup

BRUNCH! Pancakes with Bacon & Maple Syrup

BRUNCH! Glorious brunch. Is there any better meal?

I could write a book on brunch recipes, I’ve made so many. I utterly adore lazy weekend mornings, they’re possibly my favourite time. Still in pjs, mixing and stirring, weighing and baking, frying and sizzling. Making coffee, drinking coffee. The huge weekend papers. What’s not to love?

This weekend, both brunches were the same. I rediscovered the joy of American Style Pancakes, those gorgeous pancakes that are fluffy and light, with crispy streaky bacon and ridiculous amounts of maple syrup. The sweet soft pancakes are gorgeous with the crispy salt bacon. The maple syrup is the magical cherry on top.

The recipe is very easy, it’s all about 1’s. 100 ml flour, 100ml milk, 1 big pinch salt, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 heaped tsp baking flour 1 egg. I use Old Cotswold Legbar eggs which are large, so use a large egg to substitute if you can’t get them. They are deliciou though, seek them out if you can.

This recipe will give you enough pancakes for one greedy person – 3 or 4 depending on how big you like them. The batter will be quite thick, you want it to be, but it will be fluid enough to pour, plop and spread.

Fry and devour greedily while you read your paper, or watch your omnibus. Hey, I’m not going to judge you! Weekend mornings are glorious and for the lazy. I hope you’ve enjoyed yours :)

American Style Pancakes with Bacon & Maple Syrup

Serves 1 – multiply as required

Ingredients

100ml milk
100g plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 tsp brown sugar
a generous pinch of sea salt
1 egg, separated into yolk and white
bacon – streaky for me, but whatever you prefer, and as much as you want to eat. I had 6 slices.
Maple syrup
butter, for frying

Method

Sift the flour and baking powder. This is important as the sifting introduces air and will make your pancakes fluffy instead of leaden.

Whisk the egg white until it stiffens and forms soft peaks.

Add the salt and sugar, and create a well in the middle. Place the egg yolk in the centre and add the milk. Stir until you get a batter consistency which has no lumps.

Fold in the egg white gently taking care not to knock out the air you’ve introduced.

Grill the bacon and keep it warm in a warm oven while you cook your pancakes. About 100 degree celsius should suffice.

Heat a frying pan to a medium/high heat. Melt a knob of butter and add a ladelful of pancake mixture. Drop from a few inches above andit will spread to form a circular pancake, or close enough to one.

They will cook quite quickly. As soon as you see bubbles in the batter they are ready to flip. They will cook quickly on the other side too and will need just a minute or so. Take a peak, if browned, they’re done.

Keep warm in the oven with the bacon while you cook the rest of the pancakes, adding each pancake to the oven as they cook.

To serve, stack the pancakes with bacon in between and on top. Drizzle the maple syrup on top to taste. And you’re done.

Enjoy!

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Preview: Christmas Lunch on the Orient Express

IMG_0522-1I do love train travel, and some film or other in the eighties planted an obsession with the Orient Express and a journey somewhere romantic on it in me. Train travel is my favourite way of getting anywhere (tube and London commuter lines being the very large and glaring exception).

I had no idea that the Orient Express actually ran in London. Orient put me off really, I wasn’t expecting it to include Kent. However, day trips operate that take you out of London and back again,  often partnering with upmarket hotels (

like The Goring or The Ritz in London) so that you can extend your luxurious experience.

I was invited to try the Christmas Lunch, a 4 and a half hour experience on a Pullman steam train, offering 5 course with champagne and wine.

We were greeted by a very funny and entertaining group of actors, dressed Great Gatsby style, who travelled throughout the train singing and chatting throughout. Normally, I wouldn’t buy into this at all but in this setting it was actually really fun and charming. A brass quintet played us onto the train, and it wasn’t long until we were whizzing past iconic Battersea Power Station to tour the surrounding countryside.

The Christmas Menu, devised by head chef Matthew Smith, was very enjoyable and steered pleasantly from the traditional Turkey & Ham.

IMG_0493-1IMG_0506-1

IMG_0537-1

IMG_0556-1We started with some festive canapés and then moved onto a Duo of Salmon and Crayfish Parcel accompanied by a lemon and grain mustard dressing.

IMG_0569-1

IMG_0575-1Roasted Pumpkin Soup served with chives and cinnamon crème fraiche was delicately spiced and very flavoursome.

IMG_0579-1

Preview of Xmas Lunch on the Orient Express

Roasted Stuffed Quail, Chicken and Chestnut Sausage served with creamed leek and broad beans, caramelised swede and roasted potatoes with a red wine jus was a welcome change from Turkey, very moist and full of flavour.

Preview of Xmas Lunch on the Orient Express

Dessert was a Trio of Orient Express Desserts – Christmas pudding served with a brandy sauce, apple and mincemeat pastry stack and Cranberry junket. I particularly enjoyed the cranberry junket. There was also a selection of very good cheeses.

It’s not cheap at £290, you would get a 3* meal at The Fat Duck for the same price. What you are buying here is the experience not a restaurant meal. It is fun, nostalgic, romantic and unique, a nice gift for that someone special should you have that kind of cash to spare.

If you’re interested, upcoming Christmas trips are:

14 Dec 2010 Christmas Dinner leaving from Birmingham, Coventry – £195
15 Dec 2010 Chatsworth House at Christmas from London Victoria- £350
17 Dec 2010 Christmas Lunch from London Victoria – £290
17 Dec 2010 Christmas Lunch & a night at The Ritz from London Victoria – £490

There are also New Year’s Eve trips, Valentine’s specials and trips for those in places like Manchester to London’s West End for a show.

Full details on: http://www.orient-express.com/

Preview of Xmas Lunch on the Orient Express

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Supper Club: Green Onions

Green Onions December Supper Club

So, where to next on our supper club adventure? The East End for Green Onions, one of the original supper clubs that has migrated through a number of incarnations. Starting in a one bedroom flat in Clapton and residing there for a year, it now pops up occasionally elsewhere. Sometimes, Claire, the brains behind the operation, delivers it by herself, and very well too. Other times she partners with chefs. Which is what she did last weekend.

Green Onions was most recently was held in an artists/furniture makers studio in Hackney last weekend. Green Onions aim to spread the joy and delight of eating good seasonal British food to the good people of London Town and beyond. The room was buzzing when I arrived. I was LATE having spent what seemed like forever on a crossroads in the rain, twirling the map on my phone around hoping that it would at some point make sense. It never did. Nothing that a glass of toasty Mulled English Cider can’t fix. And it did.

Green Onions December Supper Club

The menu was perfectly Wintry, with a robust ribolita and parmesan to start with lots of sourdough. I do love a good ribolita. That earthy, fruity and hearty Tuscan bean and cavolo nero/kale soup can eradicate any Winter blues.

The main was a seasonal Pot Roast Pheasant with Cured Pig Cheeks and Tomato Salsa. My photo does it no justice at all, which is a great shame as it was really lovely. I was too busy plotting how to eat it all. Or rather, how to eat my share. Cough.

Pheasant legs were braised for 8 hours and the crowns roasted, lending an intensity and lightness at the same time. The pork cheeks were like a tenor singing at the bottom, booming the wonder of the dish, and the tomato salsa a spritely little fairy tiptoeing over the lot. Some velveteen cavolo nero was served on the side. I loved it.

Green Onions December Supper Club

Green Onions December Supper Club

It takes a mighty fine dessert to turn my head. No trouble there for the sensational Chocolate Mouse Cake with Honeycombe and Creme Fraiche. Rich, gooey and crispy, I had seconds. And I never do that with dessert. I am little Miss Savoury but this really did it for me.

Green Onions December Supper Club

Green Onions December Supper Club

BYO as always, we drank some Nero d’Avola and a lovely Lebanese red that I neglected to note down. I do promise to get better with the wine recommendations.

£35 a head and another fun night. What’s not to love about Green Onions?

http://greenonionguerillacooking.blogspot.com/

Green Onions December Supper Club

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Supper Club: The Montpelier Basement in Bristol

Eating out is such a pleasure. Food always is, is it not? Having anyone cook for you is the loveliest thing in the world. The time, the care and effort and then the indulgence. Restaurants are lovely, well, they are when they are good. But sometimes they are just too formal. That is why I have come to love and spend more time at Supper Clubs.

Supper Clubs have really come into their own this year. I have not been to anywhere near all that London is offering, but I have been to a few that would contest any good restaurant. Ben Greeno, who I visited earlier this year, delivers clever and deceptively spartan cuisine. Stolen recreates restaurant menus and do it very, very well. There are others too, which I shall blog about soon. The bottom line is, when they are good, they are very good.

It’s not all about the food, the charming thing about these Supper Clubs is the ambience, fun and randomness you’re sure to get at every one. Better again, the BYO wine policies (with no corkage) which allow me to enjoy better wines than I could otherwise afford with my meal. They are that bit more relaxed too, and I love them for that.

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

Dan & Ellie run Montpelier Basement from their lovely basement flat in Bristol. Dan is the blogger behind Essex Eating (although he now lives in Bristol) and Ellie runs Bristol based Pear Cafe. A mini break from London to check it out, seemed like a fine idea. In its first month it scored a mention from Xanthe Clay in the Telegraph, and subsequently from Fiona Beckett. I was sure it wouldn’t disappoint.

Montpeliers Basement Menu

The room is small, cosy and lovely. Welcomed by the hosts and gifted a glass of sherry with Old Dendike, Thyme and Walnut Gougeres. We were off to a promising start.

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

There were two veggies visiting that night, both with me. Dan & Ellie had gone to an impressive effort to cater for them with two homemade stocks for the soup entree, one veggie and one meat, a fantastic (and delicious!) effort from a domestic kitchen.  I think most would have delivered veggie for all. A flavour packed cup of Jerusalem Artichoke soup arrived. Intense and small, a perfect kick start for our palettes, we all wanted more.

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

Another course to go before the main, Baked Cornish Diver Caught Scallops with Tarragon Crumb were tender, sharp and utterly more-ish. Again, a taste, just enough to whet the appetite and wait impatiently for the next course. The veggies had blewitt mushrooms with tarragon and cream on toast.

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

Main courses were Pork Cheeks in Bennett’s Somerset Cider or Sage Crusted Capricorn Goat’s Cheese with spiced apple chutney each served with sage, mustard and apple mash and buttered Somerset leeks. No contest here, pork cheeks all the way. They were gloriously tender and rich, the apple & mustard mash providing a lovely lift. I still had room for dessert two. Which is lucky, as there were two.

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

Treacle Tart with Clotted Cream Ice Cream Came first, and then a gorgeous Pumpkin Pie, baked especially for Adin, visiting from Brooklyn and in the country for a short time, she had bussed it all the way down from London.

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

We finished with a mini quirky cheese course, an umami packed Montgomery’s Cheddar and Bristol Milk Stout Rarebit.

The whole evening was delicious and wonderfully entertaining. Dan and Ellie are wonderful hosts, superb cooks, and know how to throw a party. The suggested donation is £25 – a bargain, I am sure you will agree.

Montpelier Basement Supper Club

The Montpelier Basement is booked up until the end of the year, but they will soon be releasing dates for next year. Do sign up and check it out.

http://supperclubfangroup.ning.com/profile/TheMontpelierBasement

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Bitesize: Green Onions Supper Club, First Young Turks Dinner & Towpath’s Tuscan Olive Oil Harvest Feast

Green Onions Supper Club

Green Onions Supper Club is back for one night only, this Saturday night! From one half of the brilliant Shacklewell Nights duo, this special dinner will take place in a great Dalston loft space with a guest chef from an established and popular London restaurant, there is some last minute availability. The menu looks perfectly Wintry and delicious.

Mulled English Cider

Ribollita and Parmesan (Italian Winter Minestrone Soup)

Pot Roast Pheasant, Cured Pig Cheeks and Tomato salsa (A Vegetarian
alternative will be available )

Chocolate mouse cake with honeycomb

£35 – BYO

I’ve been to both Shacklewell & Green Onions and highly recomend it. Shacklwell is leading the game for me at the moment, deceptively simple and full flavoured food perfectly executed with a buzzy ambience – review due soon.

Email greenonionguerillacooking@gmail.com to book.

First Young Turks Dinner

On Sunday 19th December 201o, an art gallery, a wine shop and three top chefs will come together to bring you The First Dinner from Young Turks.

Young Turks is a three-way collaboration between gallery Art Work Space, independent wine merchant Bottle Apostle and three of London’s most exciting chefs. For one night only Isaac McHale from Elliots, James Lowe of St John Bread & Wine and Tudor Road’s Ben Greeno will serve up a five- course dinner with cocktails, canapés & wine for £85 per person.

Although the menu is still being crafted, Young Turks promise the food will have a festive feel. All ingredients will naturally be of the highest standard and cooked to perfection and will be paired with carefully selected wines.

I doubt you need convinving, but if you do, check out my posts from Ben & Isaac’s respective Supper Club & Pop-Up:

Supper Club: Ben Greeno’s at Tudor Rd

Pop Up Restaurant: Elliot’s in the Park

Bookings must be made with Bottle Apostle, please call +44 (0) 20 8985 1549 or email info@bottleapostle.com

Towpath’s Tuscan Olive Oil Harvest Feast

This Sunday, Towpath are organising another special dinner at Dalston Boys Club on Boleyn Road in, of course, Dalston. There will be four courses plus a prosecco and Campari aperitif and canapes. There will be a roaring log fire, live music and a wine bar.  This will be the  last big celebratory feast before closing for a couple of months at the end of the year.The String Quartet Supper was so lovely that I would highly recommend it. The cost is £45 per person. Book by emailing jason@jasonlowe.eu by end Friday.

Whet your appetite with my review of thir gorgeous supper club:

Review: Towpath String Quartet Dinner