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Review: Hawksmoor Air St

Hawksmoor Air St

Hawksmoor Air St

Wandering up the stairs of Hawksmoor Air St, having already covetted the wonderful turquoise green leather sofa and chairs in the foyer, I was struck by the beauty and elegance of the enormous art deco style light fitting gracing the ceiling above the stairs. I grinned.

I had been lost for a bit, wandering in and out of streets, up and down roads, down blind alleys. I have lived in London 11 years but am still frequently lost. Then I get frustrated and impatient with it and make terrible decisions and go wildly off course. Even with maps on my phone. I don’t know how.

Hawksmoor Air St

Hawksmoor Air St

I was swiftly calmed on arrival at the new Hawksmoor on Air St, simply just off Regent St. How did I get so lost? I love what they have done here. A gorgeous, large and still intimate room (there are 230 covers). Calm and wooden, part James Bond / part Gotham City. Large semi circle stained glass windows blur the red London buses and the traffic outside. Bang in central London yet in a bubble along side.

Hawksmoor Air St - snapshot of the beautiful stained glass window

Hawksmoor Air St – snapshot of the beautiful stained glass window

Hawksmoor does steak and cocktails, but this new Hawksmoor focusses on fish too. They have partnered with Mitch Tonks of The Seahorse in Devon, who makes sure they get the very best fish fresh every day.

Hawksmoor Air St - queenies with a terrific sherry cocktail on the side

Hawksmoor Air St – queenies with a terrific sherry cocktail on the side

All day I was thinking, I should try the fish but I want a steak, an endless circle of neediness and want. I decided to go half and half when I arrived. The queenies for starters were irresistible, fluffy and light with a crisp crumb, and large jug of tartare sauce. The lobster cocktail was too fabulously retro for me to resist. Large chunks of gorgeous sweet lobster meat in an old school marie rose sauce with lots of crisp lettuce. Irresistible.

Hawksmoor Air St - retro fabulous lobster cocktail

Hawksmoor Air St – retro fabulous lobster cocktail

For main course, I had to have steak. We both did. So, 350g English and – in their words, dictionary thick – sirloin steaks from The Ginger Pig, cooked perfectly medium rare with a lovely char from the grill. Crisp fluffy triple cooked chips on the side, and some bone marrow gravy for me. The mac and cheese should be renamed cheese with mac. It was beautifully intense and rich.

Steak demands red wine, so we consulted the sommelier. He asked which part of the wine list we wanted and I pointed towards the first lot of bottles, something under £40. He recommended a wonderful strong and elegant Spanish red wine that was perfect with the steak and mac n cheese – Cruz de Alba Crianza 2009.

Hawksmoor Air St - sirloin steak

Hawksmoor Air St – sirloin steak

Hawksmoor Air St - triple cooked chips & bone marrow gravy

Hawksmoor Air St – triple cooked chips & bone marrow gravy

Hawksmoor Air St - Super Cheesy Mac N Cheese

Hawksmoor Air St – Super Cheesy Mac N Cheese

I was pretty full now.

How could I resist more retro fabulous classics like salted caramel rolos (SWOON) and a giant jaffa cake? I couldn’t and did not. The fabulous full fat butter old fashioned helped wash it down. A great drink, all of the taste of an old fashioned but in a warm butter blanket which gently eases it down.

Hawksmoor Air St - Salted Caramel Rolos

Hawksmoor Air St – Salted Caramel Rolos

Hawksmoor Air St - jaffa cake

Hawksmoor Air St – jaffa cake

Hawksmoor Air St - full fat old fashioned

Hawksmoor Air St – full fat old fashioned

I didn’t want to leave at this point. I was so cosy and comfortable and enjoying every little thing. Hawksmoor is unashamedly ballsy and full of flavour but so gentle and welcoming at the same time. So, we went to the bar where I had an espresso martini made with vodka, homemade coffee liqeur and Climpson’s coffee.

Reluctantly, I left for home.

I ate at Hawksmoor during the soft launch. All food is 50% off until Thursday 1st November when it launches properly.

I was already a fan. I am now an even bigger one.

Previous posts on Hawksmoor:

Girls Just Want to Have Steak! [Girls Steak Club at Hawksmoor, London]
Hawksmoor – The Burger
Hawksmoor in Seven Dials & the Evolution of the Hawksmoor Burger
Breakfast of Champions at Hawksmoor Guildhall

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Fernando de Castilla Sherry Tasting Matched with José Pizarro’s Food

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Pizarro, sherry tasting, matched food. Well that didn’t require much thinking about. Was I in town? Yes. Well, of course I would go.

José Pizarro has started running wine tastings featuring specified producers and/or regions of their excellent wine & sherry list. Last week was the first and featured Fernando de Castilla, one of the smaller and most admired boutique bodegas of Jerez.

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Five wines were matched with five dishes for a maximum of 20 people on one long table. The cost was £25. José hosted along with Bea from Boutinot Wines (Fernando de Castilla wine importers). Bea took us through the wine, and José took us through the food. Some fabulously geeky facts accompanied all. I was in my element.

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

So, firstly, some sherry facts. So many people think Dot Cotton, when in fact they should be thinking Hackney Hipsta. Well, maybe not quite, but sherry is a fabulous drink and it is such good value for money too. They range from bone dry to syrupy sweet and can be rich and complex or playful and light at either end of the spectrum.

I get a little frustrated when people proclaim: “Oh, but I don’t like sherry!”. Well, maybe you don’t like Harvey’s Bristol Cream, but that is not all sherry. Ok? So lets get started.

We started with a classic fino matched with clams and artichoke. This fino is one of the driest wines in the world, is served ice cold, and is reminiscent of apple, toasted almond and yeast. Artichoke is notoriously difficult to pair with any wine but the bone dry fino was perfect with it.

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey – clams and artichokes

Next up was the sublime Jamon Iberico Manuel Maldonado, a stunning jamon, so rich and nutty, it melts in the mouth. Served with an Antique Amontillado, which served a little warmer is a much richer sherry. Nutty and toasty, and a perfect match for that divine ham. Retail this costs about £1000 a leg and is aged for 4 years. It is worth a trip to Bermondsey just for a plate of this and a matching glass.

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey – superb jamon

The next dish brought things to a darker more intense place with slow cooked Iberico pork cheeks. They were so rich and tender. Served with Antique Oloroso, this sherry is a very small production so it is a real treat to try. The pork cheeks are marinaded overnight in red wine before being cooked slowly. Oloroso is the red wine of sherry, served at an optimum 16 deg C it is a much fuller rounder wine with a silkier mouth feel. Divine.

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey – Iberico pork cheeks

Time for cheese but not just any cheese, a beautiful raw blue from Catalunya, and a lovely glistening raw manchego. Antique Palo Cortado was served alongside, a lovely gently spicy wine, with notes of raisins and nuts.

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey – cheese plate

To finish a chocolate dessert, a mousse with chocolate, olive oil and sea salt and an Antique PX to accompany. Late harvest PX grapes are dried on mats for 10 – 12 days in the sun. The wine is aged for 30 years and is so utterly decadent and divine, I have promised myself a bottle for Christmas.

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey - chocolate mousse

Fernando de Castillo Sherry Tasting & Food Matching at Pizarro, Bermondsey – chocolate mousse

I couldn’t quite believe that all of this cost £25 – the wines were terrific and the food too. The best way to learn about wine is to taste them, and I know people are nervous, but I couldn’t encourage you enough to embrace the opportunity and to go.

The next session will be on the wines of Ribera del Duero, I am not sure which date, but the folks at Pizarro will surely know that so I will see if I can get an update. See you there!

Pizarro
Fernando de Castilla

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Recipe: Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips

Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips

Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips

Kale chips. You are starting to worry now aren’t you? You are remembering that I have recently been to the west coast of Canada (British Columbia), and now you are worried that I have gone all – well, west coast – on you?

Don’t worry, I haven’t. You can still expect to see lots of pork belly, Iberico lard, and all lovely, tasty, and yes, fatty things here. For, we are embracing of all things food.

And that includes kale chips.

Kale chips! What am I talking about? Raw food people love them. They dehydrate kale for hours so that they are left with crispy dry kale. I don’t have a dehydrator so I came up with a way of doing these in the oven. They are a fabulous (and quick) sulphurous little snack.

To make these crispy treats, I dress a single layer of kale with a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil. I then sprinkle them with sea salt and smoked Spanish paprika and roast them in a hot oven until crisp. Don’t neglect the salt, they just don’t taste good without it.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips

Ingredients

Kale, as much as you want to make chips from – washed, dried & cut into strips
smoked paprika
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.

Spread the kale in a single layer on a large oven tray. Don’t be tempted to put more as it just won’t crisp evenly.

Coat in the olive oil, a couple of tablespoons should do it.

Sprinkle with the paprika and sea salt and toss. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Roast until crisp – this will take 10 – 12 minutes. Watch carefully as they will burn.

You’re done. Now it is time to eat them. They eat really well hot or cold.

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Announcing: New Bacon & Christmas Gift Making Classes

Bacon Masterclass this summer - photo from Gastronomical Heights by James Woollerton

Bacon Masterclass this summer – photo from Gastronomical Heights by James Woollerton

Well, that is a mouthful, but I am excited! I have a gorgeous new and central venue for my cooking classes, the kitchen in the beautiful Hampstead Theatre, a stones throw from Swiss Cottage on the Jubilee Line. It is a large industrial kitchen with plenty of space for us to mooch around and cook in.

I will be running the classes over 3 Saturdays, with Christmas Gift Making Classes in the morning, and Bacon Masterclasses in the afternoon (which actually could be described as a very bacon-y Christmas gift class too). All classes will be for 3 hours and there will be a maximum of 14 students per class. As always, the classes are hands on and everyone does everything. So that you can go home confident that you can recreate everything again.

The dates are: Saturday 24th Nov, Saturday 1st Dec, Saturday 8th Dec

Christmas Gift Making Class

Morning, 10am – 1pm, £75

A hands on cooking class teaching students how to make lovely Christmas food gifts, from scratch, including:

Vanilla Marshmallow – made from scratch and irresistible, easy when you know how too
Luxurious Chocolate Truffles (with flavours of your choice incl chilli, rose, pistachio)
Proper Homemade Fudge – from scratch, no shortcuts, an alchemy of butter, milk, sugar and vanilla – you can make vanilla salted fudge or plain vanilla fudge*
Honeycomb – from scratch and perfect for the top of chocolate mousse, to mix with your butter for pancakes for Christmas breakfasts, or simply dipped in chocolate for a treat

* if you have already attended a Bacon Masterclass and can now make fudge as a result, I can substitute Turkish Delight for fudge for you :)

Bacon Masterclass

Afternoon, 2pm – 5pm, £75

The bacon masterclass is back! By popular demand. With new recipes too. In this class we will be making:

Bacon Jam – better than any you have tasted with only the best ingredients. Chipotle fuelled, smoky and sticky.
Candied Bacon – crisp and addictive, most students eat all of this before they even leave the class
Bacon Jam Fudge – it takes time but it is fantastic, and it is amazing with a single malt
Bourbon Bacon Brownie – perfect Christmas tea time snack, isn’t it?

To book, please email me the class and date preference at niamh at eatlikeagirl dot com

For reviews of previous classes, please see:

Gastronomical Heights: Bacon Master Class

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

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

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Delicious Sundays: Stuff a Munchkin (with Chorizo, Cream & Kale)

Stuffed Munchkin

Stuffed Munchkin

I know two things about munchkins. One is that they were the tiny people in the Wizard of Oz that I loved so very much when I watched that film over and over again as a child.

The other is that it is a cynical marketing name for a tiny pumpkin in the supermarkets right now.

I have been sucked in. I love them, both the name and the tiny gorgeous orange pumpkins. Parcels of sweetness that partner so well with savoury and spice. So pretty too. I like to stuff and roast them, many different ways, one simple way I will share with you right now.

The beauty of roasting a pumpkin with things in – both large and very small – is that they are, well, self saucing. As they roast, the firm pumpkin wall softens and becomes part of the stuffing, making a gorgeous pumpkin stew or soup, with very little effort at all.

Stuffed Munchkin

Stuffed Munchkin

Kale and chorizo are the very best of friends. Two gruff culinary partners, one boasts of the earth and the other of meaty spice. They love the more sweet delicate pumpkin too.

With some garlic, cream and approximately 45 minutes in the oven, you are left with a lovely little munchkin, that is bright and cheerful, and really delicious too.

Simple! Perfect for Halloween too.

Enjoy.

Stuffed Munchkin

Stuffed Munchkin



RECIPE: Munchkin Stuffed with Chorizo, Cream & Kale

Ingredients

Per munchkin (avoid the very tiny ones, I always get the larger munchkins so that I can put more filling in)

1 munchkin
Filling: 1 tbsp chopped kale; 1 tbsp chopped chorizo; half a clove of garlic, peeled & finely chopped; enough cream to fill to the top once the rest of the filling is in (probably a couple of tbsp)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Cut the top off your munchkin, taking care to cut as straight as possible as you will be roasting this part too.

Carefully scoop out the seeds using a teaspoon.

When all seeds are removed add the garlic, then the chorizo and kale, finishing with the cream.

Put the munchkin lid back on and roast for approx 45 minutes until the munchkin flesh is just soft.

Gently scoop the flesh from the edges, without tearing the wall and mix with the filling.

Serve hot. I like to serve a little extra chorizo and kale on the side.

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Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

Christmas came early for me this year, with Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas to celebrate the launch of her book of the same name at Food at 52 in London.

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

The food was wonderful. Lightly cured cod with slow baked celeriac started us off. The main course was a terrific roast pork (with lots of crackling), caramel potatoes (new to me but I am hooked) and lots of gravy. Red cabbage and a lovely kale and pomegranate salad were served on the side.

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas – her Mum’s homemade crabapple and redcurrant jellies

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

Dessert was rice pudding but not as we know it, lovely crunchy rice bathed in lots of whipped cream with cherries served on top. Fabulous.

All of the recipes are in Trine’s new book, Scandinavian Christmas. It is absolutely gorgeous, and I think we will be cooking from it for our Christmas dinner this year. If you are new to Trine’s work, I heartily recommend her two previous books The Scandinavian Cookbook and The Nordic Diet. Trine is an inspired and creative cook, and her books are full of deliciousness.

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas

Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas

Next February I will be travelling to Denmark to do a pop up with Trine – more details soon.

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Recipe: Fried Spanish Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta and Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Are you ready? For a molten hot slightly spiced delight? With spiced sweet sausage and gorgeous bright green olives? Stuffed with homemade ricotta, some punchy sweet spicy sobrasada and some earthy sage?

I think you are ready.

These are good. This recipe is based loosely on Ascolane Olives, stuffed olives from the Ascole region in Italy, and usually stuffed with the likes of pork, veal, lard and parmesan. Spuntino in London do a lovely version with anchovies, parmesan and sage. In fact there is a lovely recipe for these in the Polpo Cookbook (a lovely book, and one I would heartily recommend for Italian food fans).

Mine are different. From my previous post you will have seen that I was in Spain last week, with the Olives from Spain folks. We visited olive groves in the sunshine and tasted many varieties from the large queen olives to the very small.

That, combined with a trip to the market in Sevilla the next day was exciting and inspiring. Ideas flooded as I hopped from stall to stall, wanting to buy far more than I could ever take home. As I stood there with some Spanish queen olives in my hand and eyed the sobrasada (in the UK you can buy it from Brindisa too), I decided to make a Spanish version of the Ascolane when I got home.

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Home made ricotta is something that I make regularly. The recipe is in my book and I include a version below. Why make it at home? It is so delicious, rich and creamy. It is ridiculously easy too. Just try it, and you will keep making it too.

The light creaminess of the cheese with the rich sauciness of the sobrasada (and I mean saucy in the bold way), all held together with some earthy sage, makes a terrific stuffing for the lovely delicate queen olive.

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Enjoy! And do let me know how you get on with it.

Note: use fine dry breadcrumbs, if making your own be sure to toast them in a medium oven for about 10 minutes. Dry breadcrumbs stick and clump less. Feel free to substitute (good) shop bought ricotta if you can’t be bothered. The ricotta recipe will make more than you need but you won’t be sad about that.

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

RECIPE: Fried Spanish Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Ingredients

Homemade Ricotta

1 litre full fat milk
250ml cream
pinch of sea salt
juice of 2 lemons
muslin to drain the cheese and a colander

Stuffed Olives

16 large pitted green olives – mine are Spanish queen ones from Brindisa
100g ricotta
50g sobrasada
12 large sage leaves and extra to serve
pinch sea salt
3 bowls containing: one containing 1 egg, beaten; one containing plain flour; one containing breadcrumbs
oil to fry the olives, I actually used Iberico lard but this is hard to come by

Method

Make your ricotta by bringing your milk and cream with the salt to 90 deg C (just before it boils if you have no thermometer). Take off the heat and add the lemon juice. The curds and whey will split (if not add more lemon juice). Strain through a muslin lined colander and leave to sit for a couple of hours to drain.

Weigh out 100g and mash with the sobrasada and shredded sage leaves. Season with sea salt and fill each olive. The easiest way is with a syringe. I used the end of a small teaspoon. This is fiddly but take your time, it is worth doing properly.

Breadcrumb by dipping the stuffed olives in the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. If the breadcrumbs aren’t fully coating the olive, dip in the egg and breadcrumbs again.

Heat enough oil / lard to cover the olives and when a piece of bread starts to fizz and brown on addition, add the olives and fry for a minute or two until golden brown. Drain on kitchen roll. Add the extra sage leaves for 30 seconds or so until they crisp. So delicious! Use these to decorate (and eat).

Serve hot and be careful not to burn yourself as the filling can sometimes escape through the bottom.

Enjoy!

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The pointlessness of my list and some photos from Seville

I bet they are working on a list

I have a list. Really, I do and I try to stick to it. But I just hate sticking to lists. I love grabbing my biro and adding to it. It is stupidly long.

Everything is in the wrong order, but who cares, right? I don’t. Perhaps, I should. But caring about lists is just not my bag, baby. I love clambering up and down my list, reviewing, striking things off because I am bored of just the idea of it. I find it difficult sometimes to get things done. I do always get there in the end though.

I definitely indulge my whims far too much.

I have been cooking all day and have so many recipes to share with you. My favourite would have to be big green olives from Spain stuffed with homemade ricotta, sobrasada (spreadable spicy sausage from Mallorca) and sage, breadcrumbed and then deep fried to form little olive bullets.

The filling is like spicy creamy molten lava. It will shock, burn and make you smile. And you will go for another one. With sobrasada running down your chin, you will dip your hand back in and risk another shot.

Oh and I made candied bacon apples too. Yes, I did, I really did. They are awesome.

Lots more too but, you know, I just fancy sharing some of my photos from Seville with you right now. My list is on the verge of a tantrum. I will deal with it tomorrow.

Patience, readers, that olive recipe will be with you very soon. For now, enjoy a little immersion in Sevilla.

E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Tuna Belly! On toast. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Tuna Belly! On toast. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Amazing anhovies. On toast. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Amazing anhovies. On toast. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Not a looker but a fantastic spiced chickpea and spinach dish. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Not a looker but a fantastic spiced chickpea and spinach dish. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Migas at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Migas at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Amazingly delicious tiny fried fish with egg and other tasty bits at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Amazingly delicious tiny fried fish with egg and other tasty bits at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

iberico pork at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

iberico pork at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Happy campers at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Happy campers at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Churros! In Sevilla, Spain

Churros! In Sevilla, Spain

Little love locks, in Sevilla, Spain

Little love locks, in Sevilla, Spain

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Lazy Grazy Brunch: Eggs in Tomatoes, Iberico Ham, Chorizo & Black Lentils

No egg is an island, at least not for long

I love to travel. I am at my most content when on a train or ferry, calm and relaxed and heading somewhere new with no strains on my time. I enjoy plane journeys for this reason too. It is a rare pleasure to be inaccessible. A short period of invisibility is good for the soul. Times like this are when I come up with most of my ideas, informed with experiences past and anticipated ones of the future, notebook and pen at the ready.

As much as I love being away, I also love to come home. Towards the end of a trip, if I have been away for a bit, I start to need it. Time in my kitchen, lazy days in my pyjamas, indulgent weekend brunches, endless coffees over the weekend papers and in the evening a glass of wine (or two). I especially love the evenings in Autumn, closing in early with a crisp chill. So, even though I have just left the heat of summer behind in Sevilla and British Columbia, I am very happy to be home.

Another joy of travel is the ingredients that I bring home. From Sevilla particularly, I brought jamon, lots of beans, glorious shiny black lentils (lenteja caviar – caviar lentils), Iberico lard, a little bottle of manzanilla, olives and lots of other loveliness. A sleepy afternoon at home, with no plans and little ambition resulted in a cooking marathon that brought me right back home.

This morning, I surveyed the leftovers with a rumbling stomach wondering what would be my brunch. A gentle mound of black lentils cooked in Iberico lard, jamon and chorizo would have to be the centre. Some fresh tomato sauce that I had made to go on pizzas would soften it out and provide some liquid to poach some eggs in. I combined them and tasted, added a little honey to balance, a little worcester sauce for va-va-voom. I cracked in two eggs, and let them cosy in there and cook gently until the white was done, and the yolk was still dripping.

Pyjamas still on, coffee in hand, and these lovely eggs for brunch, the day is mine, and I am taking it.

Happy Sunday.

PS excuse the photo, it is a lazy speedy one from my phone

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A Trip Down Memory Lane at Dingle Food Festival

Lovely Dingle, the view from our house

There are so many stories that I could tell you about Dingle. I could tell about the first dinner that I cooked for over 22 people at the tender age of 22. 22 mainly random people, randomly decided, in a youth hostel in Dingle. My friend Emma and I made Mexican food using what we could get. We didn’t do too bad a job. More importantly, we had a great time. It was a significant moment and one that was instrumental in getting me here.

I could tell you about the time that same summer when we went to beautiful Slea Head nearby, and a local fisherman whose boat had just come back in, offered me a huge crab and a pike. I quickly readied myself and we carried the enormous fish & crab in a blue plastic bag and tried unsuccessfully to hitch a lift the 10 miles or so back.

A gentle pint of Guinnes in the snug in Currans, Dingle, Ireland

One family from Northern Ireland stopped their car to enquire as to what was in the bag, and wished us luck. When they passed us on their way back later, they rolled down the window and roared “WHERE IS THE FASH?!” and delivered us back to our abode.

I could also tell you about the time, when diagnosed with anaemia and told to drink Guinness by my local GP, I ordered a Guinness shandy made with Guinness and Irish red lemonade in a Dingle pub and they almost threw me out. “It is bad enough that you ordered that in English and not Irish, I should throw you out for ordering it at all”. But I pleaded and they made me one. I remember thinking it was alright.

So many stories, let me start with something more recent, Dingle Food Festival last weekend.

Sig of Scandilicious and I, at our demo at Dingle Food Festival

I have an enormous affection for Dingle, a gorgeous seaside town on the west coast of Ireland, famously with over 52 pubs, one for each week of the year. So much so, when asked to write piece for  National Geographic’s Food Journey’s of a Lifetime, I wrote a piece on Dingle pubs some years ago.

To their food festival then, now in its sixth year. A food trail meanders the narrow streets of Dingle and harbour offering tastes starting at €2 a pop. Free cooking demos all day Saturday and Sunday (Scandilicious and I did one) and very reasonable workshops too (I did a bacon workshop to initiate the west coast masses to the joy of bacon fudge and jam).

Lots of live traditional Irish music in pubs throughout the day that you can enjoy between tastes, and lively locals, give Dingle Food Festival the edge.

Bacon Jam fudge in progress at Dingle Food Festival

We stayed in a very sociable and spacious rented house over looking the town, harbour and hills. Two dining areas and a big island kitchen meant that we could cook dinner as well as eat out – my ideal balance, I love having people around. Crab and bacon carbonara was one feature at home, using local crab and McCarthy’s smoked streaky bacon, sliced very finely to provide a bass supporting note. I will publish the recipe soon, once I have tested it thoroughly with less wine in my system ;)

Great scallops, setting the scene for my best meal of the weekend, at Global Village in Dingle

Our best meal was a great seafood dinner at Global Village, a name that somewhat disguises the great cooking inside. I was told it doesn’t matter, they are always busy. So, fair enough.

The girls were determined to wear their wellies

Pubs, we visited many, and lots of my old favourites too. A cosy afternoon hour in the snug in Curran’s, a swift pint at the bar at Foxy John’s, some traditional Irish music at tea time in The Courthouse and we finished the night with some more music at Flaherty’s. Who had been horrified at my Guinness shandy request many years later.

A stolen Sunday hour, post workshop, in the snug in Currans

I will be back. I heart Dingle.

http://dinglefood.com

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I’m Cooking & Teaching Bacon Class at Dingle Food & Wine Festival

Another morning and I am on the move again. This time I am on my way to Ireland for the Dingle Food & Wine Festival. I have been tweeting about it furiously but it really is about time I told you non twitterers in Ireland that I would be there. Forgive the late notice, I have been swamped.

I start as one of the judges for Blas na hÉireann today. I am doing a cooking demo tomorrow with Sig of Scandilicious (at 2pm and free) followed by a book signing at the local book shop. I am teaching one of my bacon classes on Sunday afternoon at 2.30pm. Stripped down to fit into an hour but we will still cover lots (and at a bargain price of €10). Jack & Tim of McCarthy’s of Kanturk will be doing a workshop at 1pm on Hands on Curing your Bacon the Traditional Way, if you want to go bacon crazy.

There is also lots of other great things on including a taste trail, farmers food market and a beer and cider festival. Have a look at the website http://www.dinglefood.com/

With that I sign off. Frazzle dazzle. I stayed awake all day yesterday in the hope that I would sleep but I had a crazy intense 3 hour burst of dreams saturated in maple syrup. I was looking for it everywhere while I slept. It makes sense, maple syrup is the bridge between Canada and bacon class.

Hope to see some of you in Dingle!

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British Columbia, Canada, in Pictures [Part 3]

View from the ferry to Salt Spring Island, BC – the view is of the Gulf Islands

Yesterday, I wrote a post extolling the virtues of a little sleep. This morning, or rather this afternoon, following far too little sleep and an overnight flight from Victoria via Vancouver, I am a shell. Restless legs are my permanent accomplice. I don’t even have the mind to cook. I need to sleep. But not yet, I want to write first.

The past 9 days in British Columbia flew by and I am left with such a positive impression. What I saw was food with such integrity, and people preparing it and serving it who really cared. They care about the provenance of their ingredients, not just because it is trendy, but because it is good. They care about sustainability both in fishing and agriculture / viticulture. The cooking and execution, in the main was great too.

These pictures are from Tuesday, when I visited terrific Whole Beast Meats who use the whole pig carcass and make lots of charcuterie, bacons etc. I then travelled to Salt Spring Island in the Gulf Islands between the US & Canada, and visited Salt Spring Vineyards, Salt Spring Island Cheese, had a terrific lunch at Bruce’s Kitchen . I finished my day with a bacon martini and some very good dim sum at the Hotel Grand Pacific, finishing with a wonderful dinner at Aura, in the Inn at Laurel Point, where conveniently I was staying. My expectations for hotel restaurants are never very high, but the cooking here was fantastic. I focussed on the seafood, including some of the best oysters that I have ever had.

This post is my last BC photo post. I have more photos from the last day but they are few, and the best will be included in the posts which will follow. I will publish a travel guide too, as some of you have requested one. It makes sense also, doesn’t it?

Cory & Geoff at Whole Beast Meats with some impressive looking (and smelling) bacon

Jackalope at Whole Beast Meats – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackalope

I love a ferry journey! Love the water.

This is a real bus stop chair on Salt Spring Island

Calm

Pumpkin field

Delicious champagne method sparkling wine at Salt Spring Vineyards

Rosé tinted glass

Relax

Gorgeous homemade bacon, homemade ricotta & kale tart with beetroot & quinoa salad, roasted plums & homemade mustard at Bruce’s Kitchen

Bruce at Bruce’s Kitchen – terrific food and lovely guy. So knowledgeable too. I have his bacon dressing recipe to share :)

Bruce’s Kitchen – I like his style

Beautiful sunny afternoon, outside Bruce’s Kitchen

Fabulous little fish shop

Sculpture garden at Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island Cheese

Bacon martinis at Hotel Grand Pacific

Superb oysters at Aura, Inn at Laurel Point

Beautiful sablefish at Aura, Inn at Laurel Point

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British Columbia, Canada, in Pictures [Part 2]

Good morning folks! Doesn’t some sleep make the biggest difference?

I felt at the end of my tether last night. I woke up thinking “oh my god, won’t that guy just stop talking about that toaster?!”. In my dream someone was talking incessantly about one. Only I quickly realised that the guy was on TV and had thus invaded my sleepy head. I fell asleep with the TV on.

I am off this morning to Salt Spring Island with Island Time Tours (who I also travelled with yesterday). A wonderful day lies ahead.

For now, and for you, the second part of my photo post. I decided to make it three as I had too many to squeeze in here. So, come back tomorrow for the finale.

Eggs Benedict at Shine Café, Victoria, BC

Hugging a 500 year old cedar on Vancouver Island, BC

Xavier of Cherry Point Vineyards

Xavier of Cherry Point Vineyards with his lovely wines

Cider tasting at Merridale Cider

Prettiest spittoon I have ever used at Venturi Schulze vineyard – terrific wine and balsamic vinegar too

Balsamic vinegar that is over 40 years old, and balsamic vinegar barrels at Venturi Schulze

Enrico Vineyard, BC

Fun tasting and lovely wines at Enrico Vineyard

Short Rib & Truffle Poutine at The Bengal Lounge in Victoria, BC

Enjoying the short rib & truffle poutine :)

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British Columbia, Canada, in Pictures [Part 1]

I have so many things that I wanted to write about, and I had planned to today. After a day of visiting vineyards and then an evening editing photos I am all out of energy. Rather than write something dull and uninteresting and lacking any passion, I thought I would share some of my photos from the trip with you instead. There are some I really love, and not all would actually fit in with any post I might write. I have taken hundreds.

This is the first of two posts. Enjoy, and I will be back soon with the next photo post and then some lovely detail. When I am a little more awake and have the energy to enjoy it. Because one thing is for sure, if I don’t enjoy writing it, you won’t enjoy reading it.

Niamh

Tiny planes I have been zooming around British Columbiain

Dim Sum breakfast in Richmond

Deep fried crispy chicken skin at a Taiwanese restaurant in Richmond

The Okanagan Crushpad – really interesting winery in the process of moving to biodynamic

Drinking a Gewurztraminer slushie at Kettle Valley Winery -so delicious!

Crabapples in Okanagan

Nk’ Mip Cultural Centre in Okanagan

Bob at Nk’Mip Cultural Centre performing a smudging ceremony

Wine tasting at Stoneboat Winery

Garlic Festival in Okanagan

The lovely folks at Forbidden Fruit Winery – terrific wines too

The Pleasure is Ours (in Okanagan)

Best pumpkin display I have ever seen

The Dark Side – at Seven Stones Winery – terrific Meritage

Feeling corny

redfish
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Eating Victoria: Red Fish Blue Fish

Victoria harbour

I have been in British Colombia a week now, and it has been wonderful. It has also been very busy. I have spent the last week in Vancouver doing the urban thing, in Richmond exploring Asian food, the Okanagan visiting wineries and tasting lots of (delicious) wines, and for the coming three days I am on Vancouver Island, based in Victoria.

Pretty busy. So I took today, my first day in Victoria, in my stride, visiting the museum (highly recommended for the First Nations gallery alone), and wandering about, poking my head in here and there, taking turns that would take me somewhere I didn’t know, and in general following my nose. Exactly how I like to travel.

Red Fish, Blue Fish in Victoria, BC

My nose brought me to Red Fish, Blue Fish. A local and modern interpretation of the humble fish and chip shop, in a shipping container by the harbour. A few people had mentioned it on twitter, so I had a look. The menu was everything I have come to expect of one on the West Coast. Vibrant, explicit in their sourcing of ingredients, sustainable and fun.

Red Fish Blue Fish in Victoria, BC

It looked great, so I joined the queue. At the core of their menu is local and sustainable wild Pacific fish. I wanted most things but couldn’t resist the seafood poutine with local shrimp, smoked tuna belly bacon bits, crispy shallots and miso clam gravy. One of my favourite food memories is a miso soup with lots of tiny clams at the bottom of it in Tokyo. I was sold. Also, tuna bacon? I have to try that.

Part of the menu at Red Fish Blue Fish, Victoria BC

I opt for a half size as I also want to try a grill seared albacore tuna tacone with medium rare charred tuna, pea shoots, slaw and lemon pickled onions. With a soft drink and service, it still isn’t $20. I take my seat on the board walk and watch the world go by while I wait.

Seafood Poutine at Red Fish Bluefish, Victoria BC

My half portions arrive and they are enormous. I am ripe for the challenge. The poutine is fresh and light, the seafood is terrific, the tuna bacon a delicious revelation and the gravy delicate but rich enough to carry it.

Albacore Tuna Tacone

The tacone is basically a taco wrap. The tuna is medium rare as promised and with a lovely crisp char on the outside. The slaw and salad give it great texture and balance. Terrific.

I am so happy as I sit there and eat it all, watching the sea planes land in the harbour as the sun sets. Red Fish Blue Fish is a great spot, with great food, ethics and prices. Highly recommended.

http://www.redfish-bluefish.com/
1006 Wharf Street Victoria, BC V8W, Canada
(250) 298-6877