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Some Toronto Food Highlights: Part 1

Flat Rock Winery, Niagara

Toronto had a lot of great food to offer. Burrata frequented more menus than I have seen anywhere else, and there is doubtless many strong multicultural influences (Greek, Japanese, Korean to name but a few).

I had several very good meals while I was there and tried as much local food and local Niagaran and Ontarian wine as I could. It was a wonderful few days.

Here’s a few highlights before I board my flight back.

Pigs Ears with Fennel Salt from Buca, Toronto

Heirloom salad with burrata at Scarpetta

Peameal Bacon Sandwich with Maple Mustard from Carousel, St Lawrence Market

21 day home cured lardo with bread dumplings from Buca - amazing

Suckling Pig Tacos at Nota Bene

Hamachi Ceviche from Nota Bene

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Another Postcard from Toronto: a Snapshot of Toronto Food Culture (the Field part)

It's the CN TOWER! :)

So, Toronto Part 2! And another CN tower shot. I couldn’t resist.

Hannah at Matchbox Farm

Back from Niagara, I visited some local farmers and get a feel for the Toronto food culture from the roots up. Field to Fork and Nose to Tail.

Wild Grapes at Matchbox Farm

I met Hannah from matchbox, a relative newcomer to the farming scene. An ex chef with a passion for good ingredients, Hannah set up Matchbox with her husband and grows approx 100 different crops from chillies to cabbage.

Mainly heirloom products, selected for flavour, with some sourced at the last Slow Food Terra Madre in Italy. Hard work, no doubt, but she does it with aplomb. Brilliant produce comes out of there.

I now need to get me some blue cabbage seeds.

Dingo farms was next.

Denis at Dingo Farms

Dingo Farms

A small family run farm just outside Toronto run by Denis & Denise with their 5 children pitching in. Cows and pigs are the focus of their operation with some rabbits too, a pet project of their son.

Denis & Denise do everything on site, even growing and drying their own feed. Naturally, their produce is in fierce demand from chefs in Toronto. They supply half or whole carcasses to them usually, to be used usually in a nose to tail manner.

Dingo Farm

Denise of Dingo Farm with her *amazing* homemade cheesecake

Finally Cookstown Greens, from David Cohlmeyer, previously a food columnist at the Toronto Globe and Mail.

David Cohlmeyer of Cookstown Greens

In his own words “For a lot of reasons, I concluded that “cheap-food/chemical-agriculture” cannot continue providing nutritious, satisfying food. So in 1988, with the support of several leading Toronto chefs, I set out to demonstrate a natural Canadian alternative.” Cookstown Greens is a magical spot with a wonderful selection of products.

Wild Flowers at Cookstown Greens

Constantly innovating (in a natural non-invasive way) and sourcing new products, David supplies many of Torontos restaurants with his terrific heirloom tomatoes, pumpkin flowers and other edible flowers, purpole potatoes and many other ingredients.

Packing pumpkin flowers for restaurants at Cookstown Greens

Siberian Peas at Cookstown Greens

Wonderful Tomato Salad at Cookstown Greens

Thanks to Tourism Toronto & Slow Food Toronto for helping arrange these visits. It was an education, and I loved seeing these producers names pop up on menus as I visited restaurants and trying them again, this time on a plate with a chefs touch as opposed to straight out of the ground.

Lots to think about, I think we could learn a lot from these guys.

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A Postcard from Toronto

The CN Tower in blazing Toronto sunshine

Greetings from Toronto folks! It’s hot-hot-hot here, if you are looking for summer, we definitely have it.

I’ve been having a brilliant week, firstly visiting the Niagara Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration – a huge tasting and celebration of chardonnays made at 45 latitude. Really interesting, lovely wines and lots of winemakers who are only delighted to introduce you to their wines.

There was lots of great food – smoked barbecued pork chops with local peaches, ribs, pulled pork in buttermilk and corn bread, peach tarts (they’re in season!), blueberry french toast and so much more. And, those falls. Wow.

Then to food in Toronto which I have been very impressed with so far. Brilliant ingredients and a simplicity and elegance in cooking and presentation has really stood out. Lots of attention is paid to seasonality and local produce. It’s all about flavour here, and they have it in spades.

I have one more day here to cram lots in. So many places will have to wait until my next visit.

Some photo highlights for you now with more detail and recommendations soon.

Toronto Skyline from the Rooftop Bar of the Thompson Toronto Hotel

CN Tower Reflection in a Skyscraper

Niagara Falls from a Helicopter

Peach Salad

Niagara Grapes

Lobster Mushroom & Hen of the Woods Mushroom

Trip over the whirlpool at Niagara

Niagara from the Sky

Smoking ribs at Ravine Winery

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GET YO’ GRITS ON! Recipe: Fluffy & Crispy Chorizo & Ricotta Grits

Chorizo & Ricotta Grits - this pic does them no justice - I was hungry :(

My friend Kat from Florida always spoke of grits. I had never had any, and it seemed like the mystical Caesar from Canada (a bloody Mary made with clam juice – sounds wrong but oh my, is it wonderful). I wanted some.

But, where to start with grits? Tough to find in the UK (although Spuntino has recently put some on their menu). I did my research and some compared it to polenta. I could see that that wasn’t quite right as when I occasionally mentioned this to someone from the deep South, they reacted like I was insulting their mother.

I could see that there was quick cook and then old school. I wanted old school so when I went to Florida in February, I sourced proper Carolina plantation grits that came in their own little sack, and thus started a grits adventure.

I played around a bit and discovered that yes, they were gritty, and nutty too. Slightly grey in colour, they need long cooking – an hour to get the right texture (unless you are using quick grits).

I made some plain to have with a chorizo stew and had a eureka moment – why not put the chorizo in, with some ricotta (to make them light and fluffy) and bake them for the last half an hour to get fluffy grits packing a chorizo punch with a nice crispy crust.

Baked Ricotta Grits with Aji Amarillo - a delicious stage in the testing process

I did, and I haven’t looked back. They are a Sunday staple now, and proudly, my Floridian friend has proclaimed them the best grits she ever had.

Notes on the recipe: it seems like a lot of water, it is a lot of water, an not much grits, but these dry little grits need it and they will expand. They will be fluffy, not soggy. Use good ricotta, the best dry stuff, or make your own (easy and recipe in a certain book “Comfort & Spice coming your way soon! :)

Recipe: Chorizo & Ricotta Grits

Serves 4 as part of breakfast (stunning with a fry up) or 2 for lunch

Ingredients:

100g proper grits (not quick cook)
700ml water
150g cured chorizo, diced
100g good ricotta (I used buffalo)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (OPTIONAL: I like heat so I add this but not essential)
sea salt

Method:

Add the water to the grits in a solid pan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for half an hour. They will look like grey molten tar, but don’t worry. Stir occasionally as they will stick.
Preheat your oven to 200 deg C. While it is heating and the grits are cooking, sauté the chorizo until softening in a little oil, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Take off the heat.
Add the ricotta, chorizo and garlic to the grits and mix. Pour into an oiled dish – the bigger the dish the more crispy crust you will have – and roast for 25 – 30 minutes until the crust is a dark orange but not burned.
Try and stop yourself from eating every last bit of them.

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Travel: Bodega Salentein in Mendoza, Argentina

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

Bodega Salentein is really special and should be on everyone’s hit list when they visit Mendoza. Not only is there lots of interesting wine on offer, there is also an impressive large art gallery, outdoor sculptures,  two restaurants and the most amazingly designed winery.  You can stay at the posada too, which if staying in Mendoza is worth your while as it’s 1.5 hours from Mendoza City.

Bodega Salentein - look at this little critter!

Bodega Salentein is stunning – breathtaking really –  set at 1200m in the Valle de Uco in the Andes – only a few miles from where I had my gaucho day as it happens (you can plan to visit both better than I did – visiting days apart and staying in Mendoza in between is not the best way to do it).

Sculpture at Bodega Salentein

Bodega Salentein is designed in the shape of a Jesuit cross, this is in homage to the origins of the wine industry in Argentina as the original vines were planted by Jesuit priests who needed the wine to celebrate mass.Things have progressed since and Argentine wines can compete internationally, and are more likely to appear on a restaurant wine list than in a church.

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina
Far from traditional, the Bodega is sleek and modern yet fits beautifully into its surroundings in the Andes. The four wings of the Bodega cellar converge and meet at a circular central chamber which is it with daylight from above. It resembles an amphitheater and was inspired by ancient classical temples. This is no surprise when you are standing in the middle of it.

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

When you stand in the centre and speak – or shout or sing – bang in the centre – there is the most incredible sound as your voice bounces back from every wall to great you. The wines are stored around this in stainless steel tanks and aged in French oak casks. They often have concerts here too.

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

The wines were great. Three ranges at three different price levels are offered. I loved the Primus range, especially the Malbec which was rich with berries but also pepper and spice. A perfect match for an Argentine steak dinner. The lower priced Killka range had some terrific bargains worth seeking out including a lovely rich Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

Magically I hit on the day when they were launching the Killka ranged and a new exhibit from a very successful local artist in their beautiful gallery. Some brilliant Argentine dishes like Locro were served up, and of course lots of empanadas.

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, ArgentinaSalentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

I will have to return and stay in the posada on site on my next trip, it is beautiful and they run cookery classes, tasting tours, horse riding and much more. They also organise a Transfer + Tour & Tasting + Lunch for $150 per person.

Bodega Salentein is beautiful, cultural and delicious. Magical, I loved it. I just wish that I had more time there.

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

Salentein Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

http://www.bodegasalentein.com/

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London Review: Shacklewell Nights at Restaurants in Residence

Shacklewell Nights at Restaurants in Residence

My expectations are always high for Shacklewell Nights. I’ve been several times and it is always excellent. A collaboration between supper club veteran Claire Roberson and St John chef Jonathan Woolway, great British food served family style is what you can expect here, wherever they decide to cook it (they are always on the move).

The view from the patio at Restaurants in Residence last night

Restaurants in Residence is in an old office block in Canary Wharf looking with fantastic views of the fiscal skyline. We started with some great cocktails (£8 each) on the outdoor patio near the bar, taking it all in.

Tables are for 8, and are shared. Given the location the tables were labelled sales, typing pool etc. We hilariously were in sales, I couldn’t think of a job I would be worse at! It was all good fun though.

Restaurants in Residence Bar

We opted for the wine matching chosen by the sommelier at St John (4 glasses for £32) but you can also choose by the bottle. A really vibrant summery dish started the night, Roast Tomato, Bobby Bean & Berkswell Cheese. I loved this, the tomatoes were beautifully sweet and some nice crisp croutons addictive.

Tomato, Bobby Bean & Berkswell Cheese

Brown Shrimp, Cucumber & Chervil followed. This was beautiful and is responsible for me scooting to my fishmongers to buy some brown shrimp earlier! The salad was lush and the nutty brown shrimps plentiful. I couldn’t resist seconds even though I knew there was more to come.

Brown Shrimp, Cucumber & Chervil

Braised Lamb, Carrots & Mint Sauce were served for main (with Courgette, Goats Curd, Saffron & Mint for veggies). Both neck and shoulder were served and after the light starters we dived deep into rich flavours here. Both were slow cooked and tender with beautiful flavour.

Lamb Shoulder

Peach Sorbet, Elderflower & Schnapps cleansed pour palates and prepared us for the delicious Summer Berries, Meringue & Cream served on a big platter for sharing. Lovely and a perfect finish.

Dessert

Shacklewell Nights is in residence in Canary Wharf for 5 nights. Last night was the second night. Tickets (at £45 excl drinks) for all remaining nights are still available online and over the phone on the day – do go, you won’t regret it. It’s fun, different, and the food is great.

http://createlondon.org/restaurantsinresidence/shacklewell-nights/

http://shacklewellnights.com/

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Bodega Septima: Tasting Menu & Wines

It’s very common in Mendoza, to find wineries with good restaurants. I deliberately looked for the best of these as I wanted the full food & wine experience. Bodega Septima, even in Winter was a stunner, with a large light filled terrace overlooking the Andes. The air is clear and crisp and the sunlight warm.

I started my meal with a glass of their Maria sparkling wine on the terrace. Made using cava techniques it was quite rich and full bodied (no major surprise as Bodega Septima is owned by Spanish winery and cava producer, Codorniu).

Opting for the tasting menu, I had to start with some empanadas, a delicious caprese one (basil, tomato & mozarella), and of course a mendocino beef one.

This was followed by a beautifully fresh and tender beef carpaccio, served with Septima Malbec.

More beef? I know, wasn’t I getting sick of it by now? Not yet, and I knew these guys would do such a good job I had to try it for main course too. A huge hunk of beef was served perfectly medium rare with a herb crust and a beautiful light pumpkin mousse accompanied.

More malbec was very well received.

Dessert was a delicious take on a gaucho dish of fresh cheese with fruits and nuts and it was delicious. It was nice and light after all of that beef too. We had it with a Septima late harvest Gewurztraminer, a really nice pudding wine produced at Bodega Septima. It had a slight tartness which was great with the cheese.

The tasting menu was 190 pesos (£32) excluding wine. A bargain and definitely worth popping by for the full food and wine experience! I could have spent all day on that balcony sipping Maria sparkling wine.

http://www.bodegaseptima.com/turismo.php?lg=en

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Travel: Estancia Los Potreros in the Wild Pampas of Argentina

A trip to Argentina has a few essentials. Steak (check), empanadas (check), malbec and torrontes (check), visits to wineries in Mendoza (check) and a visit to an Estancia to live a gaucho lifestyle for a few days (check).

Argentina has many estancias, the one I visited came highly recommended, indeed I was supposed to visit there with a friend last November but personal circumstances intervened. She insisted that I couldn’t miss it, and when the estancia extended an invitation, I jumped on it.

Los Potreros is an hour or so outside of Cordoba, utterly excised from the urban civilisation where I most often bang my drum, in the wild pampas of Argentina. When I visited in winter (June) it looked like a summer scene to me with a wild brown green expanse bathing in a bright blue sun lit sky. I was going to a place where I had no choice but to relax, eat good food, drink good wine and enjoy it. A perfect break.

The only way to get there is by car, and Los Potreros arrange this for you. I was pretty tired after an intense overnight bus journey (the result of an ash puffing Chilean volcano) so I dozed until we hit the track to the Estancia, which was a couple of miles off the main road. Lou & Kevin were there to greet us with some fresh homemade lemonade before breakfast.

People go to Los Potreros for two reasons: to horse ride and to relax. You don’t need to worry about anything practical. Your food is cooked for you (by their excellent Argentine cook Patricia) and you share your meal with the other guests (up to 12). Alcohol is provided at no extra cost.

I spent the first day blissfully bouncing from breakfast to lunch to afternoon tea and dinner while retiring to my wood fire warmed room to read in bed in between. It was perfect.

Horseriding must be done too, and while most guests went out twice a day for long rides, I chose to go just once. I was very happy hanging around and reading while listening to the chirpy bright green monk parakeets shout obscenities at each other and kick each other out of their  nests. My ride was a beautiful and gentle mini explore of the pampas, a condor even flew overhead.

Kevin and Lou raise cattle, so all of the beef that you eat is their own, the eggs from their chickens. They generate all of their electricity on site. Everything you eat is homemade and delicious.

Highlights were many but, the best for me were an impromptu wine tasting organised by Kevin, and the Argentine Asado, served gaucho style. Three steaks were served one after the other, starting with flank and finishing with the favourite bife de chorizo. Normally Kevin cooks this on his parrilla, which he designed himself, but on this occasion, due to some wintry rain, we had to retire indoors. Patricia’s gorgeous cakes proved irresistible and plentiful too.

I really enjoyed my time there, it allowed me to relax and de-stress after the mania of writing my book. Kevin and Lou are wonderful & warm hosts, and see that you have everything you need while you are there. I can see now why my friend goes there every year, I suspect I will be back too.

Estancia Los Potreros, Cordoba, Argentina

http://www.estancialospotreros.com/

Rates start from $340 per night all inclusive for a minimum 3 night stay (includes accomodation, horse-riding, food & alcohol).

I stayed as a guest of Los Potreros

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Recipe: Spiced Chickpea & Squash Vegetarian Burgers

Spiced Squash & Chickpea Burger

Call it an overdose of meat in Argentina, or an acknowledgement that none of my clothes fit and it’s time to get a little healthier. I want to feel good, and I want to feel lighter. I want to feel like I did 2 years ago before I started to over indulge in this crazy little blog world of mine, and gain weight. So expect some healthier recipes from me here, and the occasional over indulgence.

I can’t diet, I love food too much. I can make lighter, nutritious food that still tastes great and sates my appetite. Ceviche is a perfect example of delicious food that is gorgeous and that won’t pork your waistline. I plan to dedicate my summer to cooking food like this, eating it and blogging it. Hopefully, at the end of it my clothes will fit too. There will be some exercise also – I cycled 15 miles yesterday. And the essential, occasional blowout. Yeehaw!

Recently, a veggie friend came for lunch so I made some lovely veggie burgers. I can never understand why veggie burgers are so crap! Beans and lentils are fabulous so why do they become so nasty in a burger? Because they are crap processed beans I expect. These were perfect for the glorious summer day that we met, light and packed with flavour. I wanted to show my veggie friend that she could have fun at a bbq too.

Chickpeas! What’s not to love? And pumpkin / squash, well I am sold. Spices, well, yes of course. Garlic, fresh coriander, uh-huh. You see where I am going with this. A gooey pattie shaped into a ball, squished and fried and there you have a glorious veggie burger ready to tuck into a bun and be devoured.

Note on the ingredients: These burgers really benefit from home cooked chickpeas but you can try tinned ones too. They will be a little soggier, get the best ones you can and drain them well. Expect the patty to be a little sticky, you don’t want it to be dry after you cook it after all. You will need to roast the pumpkin in advance, any leftovers will make a lovely soup.

Recipe: Spiced Squash & Chickpea Vegetarian Burgers

Ingredients:

300g homecooked or 1 drained tin of chickpeas
300g roast squash or pumpkin, mashed (the weight is after it is roasted – use the rest for a soup!)
75g plain flour, sieved (just to remove any lumps)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
handful of fresh coriander leaves chopped

Method

If your pumpkin is very wet, drain it in a sieve. You won’t need to do this for butternut squash.
Mash with the chickpeas using a potato masher, don’t blend or it will become too gooey, you want it to be rough, with approx half of the chickpeas well mashed.
Toast the spices in a dry pan over a medium heat until fragrant (no more tan a couple of minutes) and grind in a pestle and mortar.
Fry the chilli and ginger for a few minutes in a little oil, then add the garlic for a further minute, and finally the spices and fry for a further 2 – 3 minutes. Add to the pumpkin and chickpeas with the coriander leaves and flour, mix thoroughly and season to taste.
Shape into little round balls (they should be sticky), then squash until about 1 cm thick.
Fry for 3 – 4 minutes on each side and serve hot.

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Where to Eat in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is a terrific city to eat and drink in. There is all that great steak, those sweetbreads, empanadas, Peruvian food including my favourite ceviche, and lots of fine dining too. There is lots of Italian food as a result of a large immigration from the Piedmont primarily from the late 19th century, but I chose not to explore that as we can get a lot of that here. One of the great things about eating out in BA is that when you compare prices to London, it can be a bit of a bargain, although prices are really climbing.

To drink there are pisco sours (a gorgeous Peruvian cocktail), and all the Malbec you can drink. Don’t just focus on the malbec though – Argentina has great Cabernet Suavignons and the Torrontés is delicious (especially from Salta – thank you Fiona Beckett for that tip!).

Notes on eating in Buenos Aires: the portions are large, the Argentines don’t like spice (even pepper) and they love beef as much as you’ve heard and they like it well done. So,you need to learn the following: jugoso is rare – pronounced WHO-go-so and medio – jugoso is medium rare. A word of warning though, Argentine beef isn’t aged like it is here so it’s a little bloody and you will really feel this on some cuts if you get them cooked rare. Otherwise, pack a little tabasco and some spices, and you’ll be sorted.

My favourites and recommendations are:

STEAK

La Cabrera

La Cabrera is wonderful. In Palermo, the prices reflect it but the food is very good. It is touristy but lots of locals dine here too. You can wait for a table and while you do they will give you a glass of sparkling wine.  Meals come with a tonne of extras. Have the beef, and definitely have the sweetbreads.

Don Julio

A friendly welcoming place in Palermo, Don Julio has a terrific wine list and excellent meat. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend here is the vegetables (marrowfat peas anyone?) but the ribs are great and the dulce de leche pancakes are a must for dessert.

Rolaso

An unassuming hidden gem in Palermo, the steak here was one of the best that I had in Buenos Aires. They do a terrific 40 peso lunch deal too (which I had when I went) which will get you steak, chips & wine plus another course – at the current exchange rate, that’s just under £7. One of the owers used to work at Don Julio I believe. And you can tell when you have the Dulce de Leche pancakes – delicious.

La Brigada

Go to La Brigada but don’t go there on the weekend. It’s horrible, like a theme park. Queues of tourists snapping like Will & Kate have just walked by. I thought I might die. Mid week though (and only in the off season I suspect) it is a gem. Great steak, lots of brilliant offal (try the goat sweetbreads), buffalo meat, wild boar, good empanadas and lovely provencal fries (chips tossed in parsley and garlic). Great wine list too. They do the gimmicky cutting of the steak with a spoon, but it’s worth seeing that once, even if it is shamefully touristy.

FINE DINING

Hernán Gipponi at the Fierro Hotel

Hernán cut his culinary teeth in Spain, spending time in kitchens at the Guggenheim Bilbao and Quique Dacosta’s El Poblet in Denia, Valencia, both recipients of two Michelin Stars. He has returned to Buenos Aires and runs a terrific restaurant at the Fierro Hotel. I did the 9 course tasting menu with wine matching, the menu was 190 pesos (currently £32) , the wine matching 90 pesos (£15) or 150 pesos for the premium (£25).

I treated myself to the premium one and it was so lovely, and an education on Argentinian wines. It was a great launch pad to explore as I ate there when I arrived. Considered expensive for Argentina (and worth it-  there were lots of local there), but for us, a bargain. I had a – watch out I am overusing it – terrific meal.  Hernán is a brilliant chef and I loved the food and the experience. It echoed experiences in Spain and London but had its own character.

Highlights were the sweetbreads with fennel and lemongrass matched with a terrific Rutini Gewurztraminer. In the summer, there is a garden out the back where you can enjoy your apertif.

Astrid Y Gaston

Astrid Y Gaston’s Lima sibling was the first Peruvian restaurant to make the Worlds 50 Best list this year. Housed in  big old house painted in vibrant (and tasteful) red and green, Astrid Y Gaston is quite formal (I thought I saw the Maitre D flinch when we arrived) but the service at our table was well informed and friendly.

We did the tasting menu (from memory 6 course) for 240 pesos (£40) and instead of wine matching, ordered some Animal Brut (you just have to, right?!). Highlights were the ceviche and the veal cheek. Recommended although sadly they don’t use chilli as they do in Peru as the Argentines just don’t like it.

PERUVIAN

Sipan

Sipan was an absolute highlight of my trip. A brilliant example of the Buenos Aires fixation of ceviche and sushi joints, the food is excellent, if pricey. Dishes circle 100 pesos (£17) but they are to be shared between at least two. Definitely have the salmon with passion fruit and some causa (cold Peruvian potato dishes, much better than they sound). Wash it down with some pisco sours Also eat in the downtown one, I have been told that the food is better there.

Osaka

Osaka in Palermo is quite Japanese to look at but serves up lots of ceviche too. Sit at the bar and watch them work, it’s fascinating. I had a ceviche tasting plate for 100 pesos (£17), where you choose three of their ceviches. I had a classic and two fusion ones and tow fusion osaka style (the best Japanese technique with the finest Peruvian ingredients). I should have known when I was told it was only a medium portion that it would be huge.

PIZZA & EMPANADAS

El Cuartito

Pizza?! Not just any pizza but cheese thick and rich Buenos Aires fugazzetta. Try the faina too and the empanadas. It’s positively buzzing here and expect queues but it’s a great experience.

San Juanino

I was told the best empanadas in Buenos Aires, and I would have to agree. Try the branch in Recoleta.

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Recipe: Passion Fruit & Lime Salmon Ceviche

I went to Argentina, and I fell in love with Peruvian food. I loved the Argentinian food too, the sweetbreads particularly and the empanadas, especially those gorgeous beef ones from Mendoza. I have long been a fan of chimmichurri with steak, although, controversially, I like to make mine with fresh herbs.I prefer the fresher flavour and softer texture.

The Peruvian food though, that was a revelation. I have been interested in Peruvian food for a while, and bought a number of Peruvian food ingredients when I visited Florida in February. Then my interest was piqued further when Astrid Y Gaston in Lima was selected for the Worlds 50 Best list (I tried the tasting menu at their Buenos Aires branch recently – more on that later). Then I met Martin, a Peruvian entrepreneur in London opening a Ceviche and Pisco bar in London later this year.

It seems Peruvian food is in, and I can absolutely understand why. I just wonder why it took so long?!

I arrived back in London last week obsessed and craving many things, but especially the food that I had at a particular restaurant in Buenos Aires, Sipan. Argentinians love sushi, and they love ceviche,  so hybrid Japaanese-Peruvian restaurants have mushroomed. It sounds like an awful fusion concept but, surprisingly, it really works, and most serve terrific and very fresh sushi and ceviche.

My favourite dish at Sipan was a salmon ceviche with passion fruit. I say ceviche it was more a take on salmon sashimi with a passion fruit sauce poured over it. Ceviche is fish that is allowed to “cook” in citrus for 15 – 20 minutes, so I decided to take those flavours and do a more traditional ceviche at home.

Note on the ingredients: One of the Peruvian products I brought back from the US is called Aji Amarillo, a very fruity and sweet bright yellow chilli, mine was pureed and jarred. It has a unique flavour, almost slightly charred and very sweet and fruity. I love it and have been using it everywhere. You can source it online, but do substitute with fresh chopped chilli if you need to.

Recipe: Passion Fruit & Lime Salmon Ceviche

400g salmon fillet, skin removed and cut into thin slices or strips
2 passion fruits, halved with fruit scooped out and passed through a sieve
juice of 2 limes
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
coriander
2 tsp aji amarillo or 1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
half red onion sliced

Combine the lime, sieved passion fruit, garlic and aji amarillo. Add to the salmon and make sure the salmon is coated thoroughly. Cover and leave to marinade in the fridge for 15 – 20 minutes.
Remove from the fridge and serve with the coriander and red onion.
Eat immediately and enjoy!

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Bitesize! Londons Hottest Meal Tickets: Restaurants in Residence & The Big Feastival

So, I am back from Argentina and trying to ram my calendar as I tend to do. I have been a little out of touch in the wild pampas, to put it mildly! There is some great stuff coming up in London, and some on already, but here’s what’s on my radar for the coming weeks.

Restaurants in Residence

I am a bit late to you with this one, but there’s still lots of time to catch it, and there’s still tickets for at least 3 of the sessions. Restaurants in Residence is bringing together four of Londons best pop-ups (although strictly speaking A Little of What You Fancy is now a proper restaurant and a very good one too – I had excellent steak there last night).

Shacklewell Nights will be in residence from 12 – 16 July. I have been twice now at two different locations, and it has been great each time (post of the most recent one here), so I am not going to miss them! Expect great food from St John chef Jonathan Woolway including Brown Shrimp, Cucumber & Chervil and Braised Lamb Shoulder for main.

A Little of What You Fancy are in residence for two nights only from 8 – 9 July. Their Dalston restaurant is deservedly packed every night, so grab this opportunity to try them in a different setting. Bistrotheque are in session from 19 – 23 July, and last but not least (and I am quite late with this one as it appears from an email from them today that they are almost sold out) The Clove Club are presenting the Young Turks until 7 July. I have not yet eaten at the Clove Club but I really rate Isaac McHale of the Young Turks food.

Tickets for all are available at the Create website.

Brown Shrimp, Cucumber & Chervil from Shacklewell Nights

The Big Feastival

Late to the party with this one too but this looks really good and it brings together my two favourite things – food & music. Organised by the Jamie Oliver Foundation and the Princes Trust and running for the whole weekend, the last day is tomorrow.

I am very excited that two of my favourite bands – The Bees & Guillemots – are playing and there will also be food from some of my favourite restaurants too. Abeno, Cafe Spice Namaste, The Providores, Trinity, Wahaca  and others will be serving food there and there will also be lots of lovely cava available at the Freixenet tent too.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/thebigfeastival/