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Declaring an End to the Travel Ban: a Wee Trip to Scotland

How Now Scottish Brown Cow?

So, that travel ban. It lasted 6 weeks instead of 2 months. 6 whole weeks I stayed put in London.

I decided that I had better do it, when after a series of quite intense long distance trips, I found myself exhausted and slipping behind with my work at the end of February. Something had to give, and sadly, just for a little bit, it had to be the travel. So, I carried on with anything planned and cleared May & June for some downtime and focus.

It could never last and I got itchy feet. I simply didn’t want to stay put for as long as I had planned. I love travelling so much and all of the work stuff started to come together really quickly. I also find 6 weeks a perfect period of time for any project. I throw myself into it, get it done, and then am ready for the next one.

Just as I stuck my head over the parapet, Talisker organised a trip to their distillery in Scotland and invited me on it. I jumped. I love whisky anyway (and Irish whiskey too), a tipple now and then and to purists shock, in a cocktail. I even cook with it. Why not? If you use the best tasting ingredients you get the best tasting end results.

Whisky is a complex drink with often quite savoury flavours. We tasted many, the stand out for me was the Talisker 30 year old which screamed porcini to me, in the best way possible. I always find food in everything I taste.

Talisker distillery from the air

Talisker is based on the Isle of Skye, which is really very remote and difficult to get to. So. we went by helicopter. We started the first day with a trip to Cardhu, a new whisky for me.

I must be brief for I have little time today, but what struck me was the passion and commitment to their product. I am a big geek at heart and love the detail behind making an aged single malt. The combination of European oak sherry barrels and American oak bourbon barrels. The patient wait. The analysis and combination of different barrels. The bottling. Then the aged whisky at home by the fire.

For now, some photos, I will be back with more on the whisky itself soon.

Drummuir Castle

Cardhu distillery

Drummuir Castle

Bouquet of herb flowers picked in the castle garden. I couldn’t resist and I hope they don’t mind. They had LOADS! ;)

A whisky as old as me! I had to try it. Unfortunately I did quite late in the evening so no tasting notes :S

Scottish Highlands from the helicopter

Scottish Highlands from the helicopter

Talisker stills

Talisker tasting

All set for a boat trip on the Isle of Skye

Boat trip

Dolphins!

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More Bacon Masterclasses & New Homemade Sweets Class: Because Y’all Can’t Get Enough

Bacon Jam Fudge

Once the word got out about the bacon jam fudge, I was flooded with requests for more classes. So here they are. More bacon classes and a new one, a homemade sweets class.

The bacon class will be as before: bacon jam, candied bacon, bacon jam fudge and bacon vodka. Uh huh. The sweets class will be a brand new one and will have home made Turkish delight, homemade popping candy, flavoured fudge (bacon or marmite or other flavours) and bits like that.

The price has had to go up, but it is still a bargain for a 3 hour class at £75. The reason for the mini price hike is: I wasn’t quite covering my costs, and I need to hire an assistant for the classes. Also, as stressed, I always use only the best ingredients like Denhay Bacon for bacon class, best maple syrup etc. Plus the classes are very hands on with detailed instruction, everyone makes everything themselves, from start to finish, and you get to bring everything home.

There are still some spaces at the Homemade Bread, Butter and Cheese Class next Thursday 21st June at the still original price of £60. We will make 2 types of homemade bread (blaas, a fluffy Irish bread roll from Waterford and soda bread), ham salt, homemade butter and ham salted homemade butter, ricotta and paneer.

Finally, I have also been commissioned to do some private classes and am absolutely open to these. These can be anywhere, and I can also hire the school or travel, depending on details. Drop me a line to discuss possibilities.

Ham Salted Homemade Butter

Dates follow. To book, please email niamh at eatlikeagirl dot com.

Thursday 21st June, 6.30pm – 9.30pm Homemade Bread, Butter and Cheese Class, £60

Thursday 19th July, 6.30 – 9.30pm Bacon Masterclass, £75

Tuesday 24th July, 6.30 – 9.30pm Homemade Sweets Class, £75

Thursday 16th August, 6.30 – 9.30pm Bacon Masterclass, £75

I will continue to hold the classes at the lovely Central St Cookery School in Old St. It is a wonderful space and is so central (hence the name, I guess).

For reviews please see:

Comfort & Spice Class Review from AT Culture / Diary of a Food Perve

Bacon Masterclass Review from Simply Splendiferous (with lovely watercolour illustrations too!)

And to keep up to date with Cooking Class happenings, keep an eye on the Cooking Class page, or email me to be added to the mailing list.

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OFM Awards: Vote Now & Win Tickets to Go to the Ceremony

So, it is that time of year again folks. It’s OFM Awards voting time. This year, as well as the usual terrific prizes (luxury Caribbean holiday, Cuisinart ice cream maker) you can win tickets to go. Which is actually the best prize of all. It is a really exclusive event with the best and the brightest in food. You will need to bring a plus one just to carry the goody bag home.

So get voting, and if you need someone for the best blog category or best cookbook (pipe dream but you know!), I would be thrilled if you voted for me. Also, these awards make such a difference to your favourite producers, restaurants etc. so make sure you lend them your voice, and get their names out there.

Vote here: http://www.easyanswer.net/observer/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/observer-food-monthly-awards

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Butter Making Class with Glenilen Farm

Churning butter. Alan on the left, Cathail is doing his level best at churning, and also making me look exceptionally short (photo from twitter courtesy of @ailbhetweets)

Another week, another cooking class. This time with one of my favourite Irish producers, Glenilen Farms. I have been using their products for years (their butter featured in the photoshoot for my book and I used their products for my pop up café at Electric Picnic last year). So a request to run a class for them was a no brainer. I knew it would be good, and I knew it would be fun.

Homemade butter

Glenilen Farm is an Irish dairy farm in West Cork, that for many years sold all of their milk to the local Co-Op as everyone did. Then one day Val started playing around with it and started selling the products at the local farmer’s market too: butter, yogurt, cream, sour cream, desserts. People loved it and it grew, and now they are widely available and very popular in Ireland. Happily they are now available here too.

Val rinsing the butter

I love to cook and I love to make homemade butter so the class was butter-centric. We made butter from scratch ( as I describe in the recipe in my book, Comfort & Spice) with Alan & Val from Glenilen Farm.

Butter with Ham Salt

We then proceeded to flavour the butter with two of my favourite salts, lovely Irish seaweed and the most popular on the night being one my favourite things, my ham salt.

I do think that this is one of the most overlooked recipes in my book, it is hidden in the introduction and is 1 of 157 recipes, but people, you have to try it. Something I should have said in the recipe too is it is actually much easier if you whizz it in a magimix or blender, now you know. Just make it and put it on your eggs.  You can thank me later.

Moving on from that, we made one of my most popular recent recipes, and actually most popular to date. Bacon Jam Fudge. Yup, that is what you read.

Bacon Jam Fudge

I love making this for so many reasons. Fudge takes a little while and is a labour of love (and for a few seconds here and there a labour of hate). But as you make it, and wonder why this still looks nothing like fudge, all of a sudden fudge overtakes it and you are there.

And then you taste it.

I love seeing the domino effect, all of those faces lighting up. People worrying that they will eat it all before it makes it to their tub, they want to take it home and share the bacon jam fudge love.

Alan & Val were so lovely to work with, and if anything wildly undersell themselves. As they were leaving they mentioned that they were off to the US next week as they are up for an Ernst & Young Entrepreneurship Award. Well deserved. Try their products and you will see what I am talking about.

Further details on Glenilen Farm here, including UK stockists

PSSST! There are still a couple of spaces for the bacon masterclass tonight (where we will make candied bacon | bacon jam | bacon jam fudge | bacon vodka) – just email me on niamh@eatlikeagirl.com if you want to come. There are also spaces on my Homemade Bread Butter and Cheese Class next Thursday. Come!

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Dabbous: Believe the Hype

Dabbous

I can’t bear hype. I don’t like to see trailers of films before I see them, I don’t want to know what happens in any book I read until I am actually reading it, and I don’t want to know the blow by blow detail of a tasting menu before I sit down and eat it. Invariably it takes something from the experience and leads to disappointment. Well, almost invariably.

Dabbous is the most hyped restaurant since Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner opened last year. Everyone has been or wants to go. Everyone is moaning that there are no dinner tables available until 2013 (!). The critics are lauding it. head chef Ollie Dabbous is being heralded as a great new talent. His pedigree is impressive with time spent at Le Manoir, Texture and Hibiscus.

Dabbous

So, I was worried. How could anything or anyone live up to this?

Regardless I wanted to try. Pictures on twitter of coddled eggs and other loveliness were like breadcrumbs for Hansel & Gretel. I couldn’t get in for dinner but I prefer lunch anyway so I booked and waited, and then we finally went.

We started with a cocktail in the bar, an underground space all grey and metal, and very quiet, we were the only people there. A Dillusion for me, bright green with Bombay Sapphire Gin, elderflower cordial, cucumber, dill, lemon and sugar, this was a great pre lunch tipple.

We moved for lunch to the bright upstairs restaurant, opting for the tasting menu at £49 a head at lunchtime. We decided not to go for matching wines (next time!) but went instead for wines by the carafe. We started with a white Torrontes from Argentina at £14.50 a carafe. Then the food started to come.

Olives at Dabbous

All worry faded quietly as I quickly realised that this was very good. Very, very good and utterly deserving of all of the hype.

Fresh warm homemade bread at Dabbous

Olives, freshly churned butter and warm bread were delivered to the table. The bread was in a brown paper bag, so that when you opened it, it was like the bakery had come to your table.

Peas & mint

The first dish was peas with mint. Glorious, fresh, creamy and with bite. It was one of my favourite dishes of our lunch.

Mixed alliums in a pine infusion was fresh and bright.

Mixed alliums in a pine infusion

Mixed alliums in a pine infusion

Coddled free range hens egg with woodland mushrooms and smoked butter was like a blanket on the worst day of the year, with your favourite film too. Gorgeous & a little decadent whilst being simple. I lost sleep over this dish – literally – as I stayed up too late that night looking online for an egg coddler. Which I now have, so watch this space for coddled eggs soon.

Coddled egg with woodland mushrooms and smoked butter

Grilled halibut, iodised sour cream, beetroot and watercress stems was fresh and lovely but a little over shadowed by our previous dish. Still, pleasant and nothing in particular to complain about.

Grilled halibut, iodised sour cream, beetroot and watercress stems

Barbecued iberico pork, savory acorn praline, turnip tops, homemade apple vinegar demanded a switch to red wine and so we ordered a carafe of Fleurie for £19. The pork was intensely meaty and dark, like red and the acorn praline perhaps betraying Ollie Dabbous time in Hibiscus as the last time I had something similar, Claude Bosi cooked it. This was a terrific dish.

Barbecued iberico pork, savory acorn praline, turnip tops, homemade apple vinegar

We opted for the plate of artisanal cheese from the British isles at a £9 supplement. Small nuggets of well chosen and aged cheese were a lovely breather after the pork. The baked apple was much more satisfying than a chutney.

Artisanal cheese from the British isles

The iced lovage palate cleanser was polarising. I quite liked its grassiness, it reminded me of exam time at school and looming summer. My friend didn’t like it at all.

Iced lovage

Dessert was a terrific almost savoury dessert of chocolate ganache, basil moss, sheep’s milk ice cream which was texturally fantastic with a lovely chocolate meringue nestling with the moss and ice cream.

Chocolate ganache, basil moss, sheep’s milk ice cream

We finished with a gorgeous little beeswax canele with a cherry on top.

Beeswax caneles with cherry on top

Head turned, I asked when I could come back. They are booked up forever at this point, and even further now. The manager tells me that while they are booked up there are often cancellations and sometimes walk ins are possible. I mentioned it to a friend who didn’t believe me, but was then delighted when she tried and it turned out to be true. So I will try that.

I am surprised that not many are mentioning the bar. With its own menu featuring crispy chicken wings with fenugreek and toasted garlic (£5), homemade black pudding with mango chutney and a fried organic hen egg (£9) and open steak sandwich with tobacco butter and onions pickled in wheat beer (£14) and that cocktail list. I will try it properly soon and report back.

http://dabbous.co.uk/
Dabbous, 39 Whitfield St, London, W1T 2SF, 0207 3231544

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Recipe: Soothe your Soul with Bacon Macaroni Blue Cheese

Bacon Macaroni Blue Cheese

Yesterday was to be the day when I sorted out all of my stuff. Where I harshly sorted everything, getting rid of the unnecessary and ordering all remaining into organised space. It really needs to be done.

It started well but then I veered wildly off course, texting a friend to ask if there was any chance that she was free for lunch. She was. So I abandoned my self imposed duties and ran off to Maltby St market to eat at 40 Maltby St (beautiful food and natural wines). We then went to José (croquetas, jamon and manzanilla), then The French House (Breton cider), and then Black’s (I hate to say it but absinthe, just one and it was the proper stuff with water dripped over a sugar cube into the absinthe). We then went dancing, which I think saved our skins as we danced a lot of it off.

It was a great day, a real tonic. I know it sounds excessive but I think we all need a blow out on occasion. It is good for mental health. The day itself was like a greatest hits of some of my favourite London places on a mixed alcoholic soundtrack. A fun and a brilliant day, but it has left me, well, rather fragile.

So as I sit here now dealing with all of the crap that I should have dealt with yesterday, I need something to cheer my spirits. I need something punchy and soothing at once. Something that talks me up, and then calms me down. I started thinking mac and cheese. Not just any mac and cheese though, I want something a bit bolshy. Something almost threatening that stares you in the eye and just dares you to eat it.

I want a bacon and roquefort mac and cheese.

It is really very easy, especially with a few bechamel shortcuts that I had to take. I had to take them because I just didn’t have the wherewithal for detail today. I even had to buy lardons out of sheer laziness and lack of motivation to chop bacon. My normal bechamel involves infusing milk with bay leaves and an onion studded with cloves gently for 20 minutes over a low heat. This just wasn’t going to happen. I figured that was ok as the flavours were going to be strong, so the background aromatics would be swamped anyway.

Making a bechamel is actually very soothing when a little distracted. Gently melting the butter, adding the flour and cooking until nutty brown, then slowly adding the milk, all resulting in a gorgeous creamy bechamel. Which you immediately sully with roquefort and then the fried bacon and – very important – bacon fat. This is where the flavour smack is. Add the partially cooked pasta, cover with a breadcrumb and cheese top and bake until nice and crispy. And relax.

How did it work? Like a charm. Rich, smooth, tender, crispy bacon bits, lovely cheesy crispy crust. Unfortunately, in the process of cooking it I melted the handle of my slow cooker, which was gently making a chicken stock too close to the hob. I despair. But that is a story for another day. Tomorrow will be much better.

Notes on the recipe: it is called macaroni cheese but the beady eyed among you will notice that I used pennette rigate, which is basically small narrow penne. It was the best substitute I could get when I decided to make this on a whim.

Making the bacon blue cheese bechamel

RECIPE: BACON MACARONI BLUE CHEESE

Will serve two hungover people or three / four normal people

Ingredients

225g macaroni or similar small pasta
150g streaky bacon or pancetta cut into lardons
150g roquefort
50g butter
50g flour
500ml full fat milk
sea salt for seasoning
a handful of breadcrumbs
50g good melting cheese, grated finely (like a good cheddar)

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.

Cook your pasta until almost cooked but not quite, a couple of minutes less than packet instructions. Run under a cold tap in a colander until cold and leave to the side in water.

Make your bechamel by melting the butter over a medium heat and adding the flour. Mix it thoroughly and cook for a couple of minutes stirring all the time. This is important as you need to cook the flour. Add the milk a little at a time, whisking it in to the flour to ensure no lumps. Bring to just below the boil, add the crumbled blue cheese and melt it through.

Sauté the bacon until starting to crisp and pour it and all of the rendered fat into the roquefort bechamel. Season to taste.

Add the strained pasta to the sauce and stir through. Pour into a greased baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs and grated cheese evenly on top.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the breadcrumbs and cheese has formed a lovely golden crust.

Eat immediately. It is rich so eats well with a side salad or some watercress.

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Smorgasburg in NYC

Smorgasburg in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn

Lets talk about Smorgasburg. It is pretty ace.

What took so long? It has been, oh 5 weeks since I came back from NYC / Montreal / Quebec. Well, my (dis)organisational skills reached a new high when I:

– left half the contents of my memory card on a friends laptop in NYC

– met him weeks later to get them over lunch, got distracted by lunch, and failed to get the photos

– met him again to get the photos, this time over Bompass & Parr’s Crazy Golf on the roof of Selfridge’s (which is really fun – do go), and this time did actually get the photos, which I am using here

– the other half of the photos from that trip are on a memory card which I managed to break. Sweet. So, I am working on that and will be back with more stuff soon.

So: Smorgasburg. In Williamsburgh, that oasis of hipsta cool in Brooklyn, but not in a painful way. NYC hipstas are actually a friendly bunch and they really like food. Not only do they really like it, they are good at making it too. It is becoming quite the destination, Mario Batali was visiting on the morning that I was there.

I even spied Mario Batali in his trademark orange crocs wandering about

We got there early, too early, I would recommend aiming to get there for lunch. A car park overlooking Manhattan by the river houses Smorgasburg, 75 – 100 artisanal food stalls that are – in the main – making and serving great things. We don’t really have anything in London like this, and certainly not of this scale. The closest we have is Maltby St, which is great and one of my favourite spots. But we need something like this too.

Chorizo with salted caramel – made by an English couple at Smorgasburg – sounds wrong but it is very, very right

Run by the same folks that run Brooklyn Flea, in fact some of the stalls overlap, there is a wide variety of interesting and delicious food on offer. All from the area, including the drinks. Brooklyn has two wineries and a brewery, sadly I didn’t have time to visit either but therein is another fantastic reason to go back.

Fabulous kimchi at Smorgasburg

The best kimchi that I have had resides there (apologies for the brutal photograph – I was excited and unfocussed to say the least).

Fantastic jerky at Smorgasburg

Wonderful Kings County Jerky, made from grass fed beef in three flavours: classic, Sichuan ginger and Korean BBQ. They were all utterly mouth watering. Initially made on their balcony until they were advised that they really shouldn’t be making jerky on their balcony (I love that). Now they have a terrific kitchen and are talking to Selfridge’s about exporting their produce over here. I really hope they do.

Great sweets and popcorn, some of which had bacon in (you know how much I love that).

Fantastic popcorn and sweets at Smorgasburg

Bon Chovies. I like a good pun and I love good fresh anchovies so these were a hit. It still makes me smile. Served Jersey style (head on) or head off.

Bon Chovies

Bon Chovies at Smorgasburg

As I waited for my Bon Chovies, I spied a gentleman with a thermomix at the next stall, very busy. I needed to know what he was doing. A thermomix for those not in the know or obsessed is an extremely fancy piece of kit that does wonderful things and is very expensive. It grinds, stirs, freezes, cooks. It does everything. He was making foie gras poutine so I had to have some of that too. It was excellent.

Thermomix action for foie gras poutine at Smorgasburg

Foie gras poutine at Smorgasburg

Homemade mozarella, made on site and fashioned into cheesy corn dogs.

Home made mozarella (made on site) at Smorgasburg

Cheesy corn dog at Smorgasburg

Fantastically creative hot dogs from Asia Dog.

Asia Dog at Smorgasburg

Asia dogs at Smorgasburg, Brooklyn

Mario Batali papped at Smorgasburg

Great little sliders from DuMont burger. Really rich, pungent aged meat.

DuMont slider at Smorgaburg

Pretty great, eh? Just go.

http://www.brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg/

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Update on Shrinking Attempts & Video Interview with AT Culture

One of the things I positively hate about living my life through the internet is how visible things are. An image search reveals more than I can bear, with that now well documented book-weight-gain. I swear it was worse than the baby weight most of my friends gained. My book was my baby.

My post on this very topic is still getting many comments. Most of them are expressions of relief or of shared exasperation. Many of you have emailed too. So I thought that I should update you again.

It took me a while to get started but attempts to shrink back to normal in the last 6 weeks have yielded great results and I am well on track to being back to my old slim self. Which makes me very happy.

All I have done – honestly – is walk for an hour whenever I can and get out and about. 3 times a week is probably what I have averaged on the walking. I want to increase that to 5 and try to do it every day.

I always walk with music playing on my iPod and no internet to distract me. It has been very healthy for my head and really beneficial for work, coming up with ideas and planning my day too. I don’t think I could bear the gym but I have started to get out dancing again, as this is the best exercise ever and I really love it.

With regard to food, I eat out less and try not to snack, unless I am really hungry and need to eat. I used to snack because I wanted to taste something before. I still eat the fatty stuff like pork belly (how could I not?!) but I have a much more balanced approach overall, and I find that as I feel better I want to eat healthier stuff. So, no strict diet but moderation and balance. I feel great for it.

Which brings me neatly to this interview which in part discusses it (and lots of other random stuff). When I watched this video interview with AT Culture I was squirming. It was the an incredibly hot day, I had gotten lost and flustered for 45 minutes immediately before filming, and I was sitting in a window. In algebra terms that equals a BIG RED FACE.

But then I thought, HEY, look how much weight I’ve lost since then? That is fantastic and encourages me to keep going. As do my two favourite red vintage dresses in my wardrobe which should hopefully fit soon. So, it is entirely possible for you too. Just do it, and feel better. Give it time too.

I think it is a nice interview, if you discount the redness and the extra kgs. Maybe just listen to it, and don’t watch (for me?!).

I hope you like it! Thanks Ashleigh & AT Culture.

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PREVIEW: Sat Bains at The Cube at the Royal Festival Hall

The Southbank Centre

The Royal Festival Hall is one of my favourite places in London. I regularly go there for gigs, or for drinks with friends on the balcony in the summer. I love the energy there, it is a lot of fun. From the musical lift (just try it) to disappearing rooms (a water installation which I hope comes back this summer), and the BFI just down the road, I spend a lot of time there, particularly in summer.

Murky but lovely London

Now there is a food angle too, with the arrival of The Cube on the roof of the Royal Festival Hall. Not quite a cube, more cubist, it is there for the summer and has some of the UKs best chefs cooking there. There are only 18 seats, and the menus are tailored, this is a really unusual experience.

Canapés on the balcony

Champagne reception before lunch

I used to be really terrified of heights, and I don’t know what has happened in this last year to stop that, but I was surprised to find myself wandering around the edge of The Cube, high up in the sky, soaking up the view. Big Ben, houses of parliament, the Thames, St Paul’s and others loomed below, and I peered out with no fear. Starting with a cocktail and canapés, which in my excitement I took no notes of (apologies), we spent half an hour soaking it all in.

Sat Bains at The Cube

Sat Bains was cooking today (future chefs will include Tom Kitchin, Claude Bosi and chefs Jonray and Peter Sanchez). It is quite an exciting space and is very bright with sunlight. Even on this grey day.

A room for London at the Queen Elizabeth Hall – how amazing would it be to stay here?!

The food was terrific and it was a perfect tasting menu with each dish lovely and each following even better, even the desserts which I usually have little time for. This was really excellent cooking and I was very impressed. Blow by blow detail follows with the photos below.

In my element (with a mini London Eye growing out of my head)

Prices are steep (I dined as a guest for the preview) – £175 for lunch and £215 for dinner (prices includes Champagne reception, a minimum 6 course tasting menu and matched wines) – but this is a special experience and very competitive when you compare it to the French Laundry pop up last year and Noma pop up this summer, both of which cost considerably more (the French Laundry pop up was £250 excl drinks). It is also very intimate, and you are encouraged to chat to the chef about the food as you go.

The dining room at The Cube

I loved it, and will go back again for more. I will also be going to Nottingham to try Sat’s food there, as soon as I can manage it.

Food pics and geekery follow. Booking details and all other info here: http://www.electrolux.co.uk/Cube/London

NG7 2SA Soup – wild garlic & horseradish

Scallops with vanilla, tomato and elderflower mayonnaise. Served with a Provencal rose – really gorgeous, unexpectedly a brilliant combination

Jersey royal potato poached in dashi, Hungarian air dried ham, slow cooked pork belly, onion jus, finished with ramsons – a perfect dish for me (easy on the Irish comments! ;)

British spring lamb, burnt leek puree, dehydrated leeks, goats cheese puree rolled in leek ash, lemon puree, caper sauce

Beauvale blue cheese from Nottingham on a Banbury cake with tawny port syrup – a new cheese from Cropwell Bishop and Sat is the first to serve it – it was gorgeous, along the lines of roquefort. Served with a tawny port. (terrible phone photo – gobbled it up before I shot it!)

Chocolate with yogurt, cumin and lime. The cumin gave a divine smokiness and savouriness.

Treacle sponge with lemon and thyme

Fantastic white chocolate lollipop with beetroot and freeze dried raspberries

(Part of) the amazing view

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Nyetimber Street Party

Nyetimber Street Party

I am not a royalist. I am really not. But I love a party. And I love English sparkling wine.

Nyetimber is one of the best, with 65 awards since the maiden vintage in 1992, including  ‘Best Worldwide Sparkling Wine’ at the IWSC competition. I brought a bottle of the 2005 vintage to a dear friend in Canada last year. She is a sommelier, occasional wine blogger and owns a terrific wine bar, and I knew she would love it. It is certainly something that people should be very proud of, and putting on their tables.

The street party took place in Battersea, with lunch cooked by Valentine Warner and Rose Prince. It was delicious and lots of fun. I am now craving coronation / jubilee chicken, which I can assure you has never happened before. I will need to work on a recipe.

Nyetimber Diamond Jubilee Chicken with Almonds and Mint

Broad Bean & Sheep Curds Tart

Raspberry Fool with Crown Biscuits

Rose Prince, Bill Knott & Valentine Warner judge the cake competition

Revellers

Starting young

Patriotic

Egg & Spoon Race

Egg & Spoon Race

Dapper Best Dressed House Judges from The Sunday Times

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Fred Smith’s Burgers at the Admiral Codrington: Just GO and Eat Them

Weirdly, after writing that post yesterday, I feel like a weight has been lifted. I have written a list of pre-break posts that I am going to write in the next few weeks and now I am quite looking forward to it. Things that I simply must tell you about / share with you. The first is the wonder of the Fred Smith burgers from the Admiral Codrington in South Kensington.

Fred Smith and his burgers

Now there are two things to mention about this. I am not a Chelsea kind of girl and it is not my part of town, so I had never been here before. A chef friend of mine persuaded me that I was being an idiot and had to go. The food there was that good. So we booked it in.

The second thing is that the recent obsession with burgers has started to melt my brain slightly. I like a good burger, I even love it, but it is dominating the food airwaves in London way too much and sometimes I feel like screaming: CAN’T WE PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT BLOODY BURGERS?!

But back to Fred Smith’s burgers. Because these are absolutely amazing.

I know.

Fred is impressive. Chatting to him about food is so much fun. He does lots of clever things and takes so much joy in it. The cheese on the burgers was amazing. What cheese is it? Well, Fred makes his own. Of course he does. He infuses milk with Ventrèche bacon from Alsace (isn’t Alsace the best place ever? Great punchy bacon and all that lovely wine). He then reduces that down, takes the bacon out (but there is so much of that bacon in this milk now), adds 3 cheeses, then lets that set, and that is the cheese he uses for his burgers.

He uses O’Shea’s beef. For the uninitiated, O’Shea’s is a fantastic Irish butchers in Knightsbridge that sources brilliant meat. It is expensive, but you pay for the superb quality and their knowledge. Fred makes no compromises.

From left to right: the chuckwagon, the big mac and the cheeseburger

Now, the burgers. We had three. One is not on the menu yet and is in development, the chuckwagon. The chuckwagon is a beef burger that is cooked like it is fried chicken. My brain hurt a little but but I loved the idea, and this was the first one we tried. Crisp crumb, yielding pink beef, almost like a tartare, and a layer of that cheese in the middle of the burger. I loved it. My chef friend wanted more acidity but I was so distracted by the wonderful flavour of the beef, and the contrasting texture and that cheese, I didn’t even notice.

The chuckwagon

Next up the Big Mac. Yup – a Big Mac. Only this one is made with O’Shea’s beef. Two 2oz patties, that cheese, gherkins, moist maker, this was so like a big mac, but the best big mac ever.

The cheeseburger

I was getting really full now, even though we were sharing them.

The last one was the cheeseburger. Filthy but so incredibly delicious. That amazing texture, deep pink, lovely char, lots of cheese, great bun. But I was finished. I could only have a bite. But it was delicious.

Selection of starter bits including terrific pork crackling and apple sauce , squid and ceviche

Other things to note: brilliant shredded pork crackling and apple sauce to dip it in, lovely deep fried squid and ceviche, great mac and cheese (with tiny bits of that punch Alsace bacon in).  The beef is aged in house and the restaurant roof rolls back in summer. Pricing is spot on for a burger of this quality: £15, on a par with Hawksmoor and other contemporaries.

The restaurant with the roof rolled back at the Admiral Codrington

Fred is definitely one to watch and one to visit. Do yourself a favour and get down there. These burgers aren’t on the regular menu, he did them specially for us to try, but the cheeseburger is, and it is mighty fine too.

PS. Another great reason to visit the area is Racine, if you haven’t been there yet either.

http://www.theadmiralcodrington.co.uk/