Month: June 2011

And that was Argentina! Some highlights

So, that was Argentina. I am back, it’s only 5am BA time , and I have already been awake 3 hours. My flight back was rammed with a noisy school tour and lots of turbulence, so I am, well, very sleepy! What a trip though. It was wonderful. So much to write about. For now, the first in a two part photo post, a little trip down memory lane for me and some highlights and a peek at future posts for you.

Oooops! Accidental Week Off. And LOOK!

Oooops! Accidentally took a week off. Forced in part by a lack of internet in the pampas, a giant party and resulting incapacity in Buenos Aires and 27 hour door-to-door trip home, followed by – and currently in – jet lag. BUT! Look at what greeted me when I got back?! So exciting. Next people to get theirs will be folks that buy on Amazon – usually a little before the real life launch date. Buy Comfort & Spice on Amazon :)

Comfort & Spice Update! New Lovely Cover

Comfort & Spice! Remember that? My cookbook! It seems so long ago that I handed the manuscript in and I have been travelling so much since. We are drawing closer to the publish date now though (September 5th) and it is getting exciting. Exciting, and I am slightly nervous, I must confess. It is normal to be so, I think. Especially for your first book. I have put so much of myself into it, it feels a little raw. I think it must be like watching a first child go to school and hoping that they will be ok. Of course I am very proud of it too. I just hope that you like it as much as I do. I love the new cover. The first cover was a temporary one and this one I feel really represents me and the content a bit better. As one reader said, it’s roast beef pink too! So, don’t forget you can pre-order it on Amazon, and if you do you will get it earlier than in …

Eating Buenos Aires! La Cabrera: Your Sweetbreads, are My Weak-Ness

(the title should make sense to those compos mentis in the 80s ;) In Argentina, you seek out beef. That’s a given. The Argentine and particularly gaucho diets until relatively recently consisted almost entirely of beef and all sorts of offal. All cuts fired over parrilla flames and served toppling on platters. Nothing is  wasted when an animal is slaughtered here, Argentines absolutely love offal. The sweetbreads (thymus and pancreas) are some of the best that I have ever eaten, simply cooked with lemon juice over some hot coals, the crisp offal taste rich and delicate. The chewy rich chitterlings (intestines) are fought over by children. When the bullocks are castrated, the testicles are slung on the parrilla to be eaten. It’s a time of year that all farmers here look forward to. So, the Aubergine Parrillas (BBQs) are a must and they are everywhere. In Buenos Aires, I explored and visited quite a few. I have 3 favourites (so far!), the first being La Cabrera in Palermo. Palermo is like the Notting Hill of …

Eating Argentina: Horseriding in the Andes and a Gaucha Lunch

So, if you’ve been reading for a while, and especially if you are on twitter and follow me there, you will know that this trip to Argentina has been delayed twice. I was supposed to go last November, after I won a trip for a piece published on Bibendum Times, sponsored by Argento Wines with my friend Denise, The Wine Sleuth. I watched from the sidelines (through wet Irish windows) as Denise explored, extended and eventually stayed for 3 months. Pure torture, I couldn’t wait. I had to postpone to January, and then had to postpone again. But, finally I am here, and it’s almost winter, but winter here is like Spring in the UK and it’s lovely. I finally caught up with Argento Wines in Mendoza, and visited the Bodega, Casa Argento and had a wine tasting (more on that later, for now my favourites, as – almost – always, were the reds, especially the reserva Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbecs). The absolute highlight of the 2-day trip to visit them was a trip to …

Eating Argentina: Mendoza! We’re in Empanada Country Now

Where are the best empanadas in Argentina? Everyone says Mendoza but where exactly in Mendoza you will only know if you are a local. Happily I was with one. I was feeling a bit peckish so asked if we could stop off for some empanadas after a long day whizzing around wineries. (It’s a hard life!). It was 5 hours since lunch but still 3 hours from our Argentinian dinner time so my tum was protesting severely. Sure, of course! And she promptly picked up the phone and put in an order. 20 minutes later we were at a small typical house outside Mendoza in a small town called Chacro. These are the best empanadas in Mendoza, I was confidently informed, she is very famous and lots of people come here. An old lady in an apron answered the door and proceeded to joyfully tell us all about a local wedding the week before where one of 5 daughters of a local doctor married an Irish guy and 100 people from Ireland came for the …

Eating Argentina: The Unexpected Magic of a Roadside Parrilla

Some awful days have the most amazing ways of turning themselves around. Take last Monday. I was stranded in Buenos Aires due to that nuisance of a Chilean volcano ushering an ash cloud east. No flights were to be had out of Buenos Aires so my long planned Mendoza trip was on hold and I was at a loose end. What to do? I took a random decision to hit Buenos Aires on a bicycle and see what the city might hold. It was a wonderful day, made extra special by my phenomenally bad sense of direction leading me to a motorway on my bicycle. I know. (But don’t worry it has a great ending) Bicycles aren’t allowed on the motorway, as I quickly found out, and so I got off and walked only a short distance before I spied some red chairs and a food truck. Well, what could it be? Next to a crazy motorway where trucks whizzed and dirt whirled was the most amazing roadside parrilla (Argentinian BBQ), run by a young …

Silly Me! I Forgot to Mention YOU Can Win Great Prizes

…. if you vote (for me? :) in the OFM awards. There are lots of prizes and the chances are pretty good! So, in exchange for a litte vote, you might win: • A wine lover’s trip to Bordeaux • A meal for four at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal • An overnight stay and Michelin-starred lunch at The Manor House in Wiltshire • A year’s supply of Riverford Organic vegetables • A Gourmet Picnic hamper (for two winners) • A Weber One Touch premium BBQ with tool set • A personal wine tutorial and dinner at Orrery in Marylebone • Afternoon tea at Bar Boulud • Tickets to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition plus dinner at the Royal Academy restaurant • A year’s supply of Cafédirect coffee and Presso coffee-maker • Harvey Jones chopping boards (for 10 winners) • A tour of London’s Sipsmith distillery for 10, plus a bottle each to take home Not bad now, eh? So, what are you waiting for? VOTE HERE.

Observer Food Monthly Awards – Last Chance to Vote!

Hi folks! One last mention of the Observer Food Monthly Awards. I was close last year but didn’t win, and that was mainly because I didn’t ask you to vote, so I am not making that mistake this year! The votes close soon (June 24th). I would be very grateful for your vote. It takes seconds, you need a UK address, and you only need to fill in the blog bit unless you have other stuff you want to vote for too (I am sure you do). You can win great prizes too! A wine lover’s trip to Bordeaux, a meal for four at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, an overnight stay and Michelin-starred lunch at The Manor House in Wiltshire, and lots more. Aside from making me very happy, if I get shortlisted I *promise* to publish my chorizo jam recipe. See? Shameless. I withheld it for my book but I had so many recipes it didn’t make it in. Otherwise, more Buenos Aires posts very soon, including the best truck stop parrilla eveer, ceviche …

Eating Buenos Aires: Pizza, Fugazzetta & Empanadas at El Cuartito

So you’re in Buenos Aires. Well, you’ve got to eat like a Porteño and go get yourself some pizza. You weren’t expecting that now, were you? El Cuartito has been making pizza in downtown Buenos Aires since 1934. Not just any ole pizza, they serve the pizza peculiar to Buenos Aires, the fugazzetta (or fugazza con queso). Why pizza? There was a huge influx of Italian immigrants, particularly from Genoa in the 19th and 20th centuries to Argentina. Now, 25 million Argentines are of Italian descent (that is up to 60% of the total population). So, this naturally has had an enormous influence. There are Italian restaurants and pizzerias all over Buenos Aires, and El Cuartito is one of the old standards. Why go? It’s brusque, big and noisy and fun. Bustling and joyful, I loved it. Eat at the counter or queue for a table. Either way, you will be having a proper local experience. The fugazetta is a slightly insane extremely rich deep cheese and onion pizza. If you eat a whole one …

Palate Cleanser: A Postcard from Buenos Aires

So, here in Buenos Aires it is definitely all about the food. From the parrillas to the Peruvian ceviche, the asados to the empanadas. There is so much more here though, it would be a crime to speak only of the food. Colourful shops and streets, eccentircities and lots of style. So, here’s a little palate cleanser before my next food post of things I’ve noticed and loved on the Buenos Aires streets and a few other random bits.

Recipe from Argentina: Rabbit Empanadas

Rabbit Empanadas! I loved them. You loved the idea of them. I couldn’t just sit there and scoff them while tweeting the pictures then blogging about it so you could covet them, now could I? Well, I could but I didn’t think that fair. So, I asked the chef at Fierro Hotel – Hernán Gipponi – if he wouldn’t mind sharing, and very generously he did, and in English too. Thanks so much Hernán. I read the recipe and thought, but of course! Rabbit confit, that explains why they were so rich and delicious. The wonton wrappers give a crisp, light and delicious shell. And the piquant little bites of apple, the sweet onion and the crunch of the pecan nuts. Well, I have to stop typing as I now want to order them again. Make them, do! They’re gorgeous. Rabbit Empanadas Recipe Ingredients 1 Rabbit (clean, about 2kg) rosemary (to taste) garlic (to taste) Olive Oil (enough to cover the rabbit) 2 Granny smith apple 2 onions, finely diced 50 grs pecan nuts Wonton …

Greetings from Buenos Aires: Now *Almost* Awake!

Greetings from Buenos Aires folks. I am on holiday – true – but have also been working writing more recipes, so I don’t feel like I am on holiday just yet. Tomorrow. The beauty of being on holiday here in Argentina, is that in the lovely hotel that I am staying in (Fierro Hotel), I can work from my desk in my room and eat Rabbit Empanaditas (with rabbit, onions, nuts and apple) served with a gorgeous sweet and sour sauce. I will definitely have to try and make something similar when I get home! Otherwise there has been steak, and it’s as good as you’ve heard. The portions are enormous too. I had a half portion of steak ribs for lunch yesterday and had to waddle home after. (I had also had another large empanada and some morcilla – you just have to try, don’t you?). I had such steak and malbec confusion that I tried to pay the waiter 4 times the price in the wrong currency. Thankfully he was honest and kind. He …

Some Thoughts on Book Writing and Starting a Food Blog

The Guardian Word of Mouth published a piece today on bloggers that write books, or blogs that become books, including a mention of mine, and it prompted some interesting conversation. I find that I am talking to people about this topic more and more when they meet me now, especially when they hear that I have written a book. There is a always a lot of questions, somehow people want to understand how this phenomenon or trend has been taken seriously by publishers, also why the hell do I write a food blog so obsessively in the first place? So, why not a few words on that? Firstly, starting a food blog (in the UK) in 2007, was a very different thing to starting one now. There was no expectation of anything coming of it. There were a few pioneers, but there simply wasn’t a culture of blogging about food particularly, certainly not in the way there is now. There seems to be far more food blogs than any other type of blog in the …

A Sleepy Hola from Buenos Aires

Greetings from Buenos Aires, folks! You remember that trip to Argentina that I have had to postpone twice? The one to Argento in Mendoza and also a little while in Buenos Aires back in November, rescheduled to January, then rescheduled to, well, now? Well, finally I am here. Yeehaw! I arrived this morning after a night flight so I am a little fuzzy, but I have had my first meat and malbec escapade in a local Parrilla so I am happy. Very pleasant half bottle of malbec, very pleasant bife de chorizo, chimmichurri to rub it all in, a big pile of mash and a lovely pickled aubergine thing. A huge basket of bread too. Just me to eat it all! The steak was lovely, even though they cook it well done here, it was still very nice. Never thought I would say that. I have been practicing the Spanish for rare steak since as imagine how much better it would be?  It all came to £20 and was a lovely afternoon. Who’s complaining about …

Polpo Has a New Sibling & Da Polpo Hits the Mark

Da Polpo has hit Maiden Lane, yet another great place to eat in Covent Garden. I could not have typed that 2 years ago. Da Polpo comes from the team behind Polpo, Polpetto & Spuntino. It’s very hard to criticise anything that these guys do, because they do it so well. Impressive in itself, and doubly so when you consider the speed of the rollout. Ordinarily I would be worried that somewhere I liked was expanding so quickly, but they do so in style, retaining the quality of the food and each place has its own distinct character. Styled, as the others have been with superb attention to detail to create a place that looks like it has always, effortlessly, been there. Da Polpo sits behind a traditional Venetian style bacaro facade. A long bright room with tables and seats at the bar sits above the aperol bar downstairs, which serves, of course, aperol, plus the full Da Polpo menu. The menu is similar to Polpo, with more of those meatballs. I popped in for …

Ola José! José Pizarro’s New Sherry Bar Hits Bermondsey

At long last, José Pizarro, former head chef at Brindisa Group, has opened his sherry bar in Bermondsey. It’s as good as I hoped it would be, terrific food & wines are served at really decent prices in a lovely cosy room. Better than that, Josés warm personality is evident throughout, it’s really friendly and welcoming. Warm wood counters grace large windows, it’s predominantly standing room here, but that adds to the bustling vibe. The wine list has been put together by Tim Atkin MW and Jo Ahearne MW, and features a terrific house cava by Babot at £6 a glass. I also really enjoyed a glass of Verdejo from (2010 Cuatro Rayas), a fresh and lively sauvignon blanc from Rueda at £6.50 a glass. There is of course the sherry which has its own comprehensive list. I have yet to explore this properly but will definitely be going back there to sample. What of the food? There wasn’t a dud dish when I visited. My favourites were the divine croquetas, perfect tortilla, pisto with …