Month: June 2012

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

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 …

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

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 …

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

Butter Making Class with Glenilen Farm

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. 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. 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 …

Dabbous: Believe the Hype

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. 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 …

Recipe: Soothe your Soul with 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. …

Smorgasburg in NYC

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 …

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 …

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

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. 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. 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 …

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.

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. 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: …