Article
2 comments

Sunday Bacon Club at Wilderness Festival and Eat Like a Girl at Blogstock

SUNDAY BACON CLUB AT WILDERNESS

Some exciting news: this year, I am bringing Sunday Bacon Club to Wilderness. Wilderness is an ace food focussed music festival (hooray!) in Oxford, and it doesn’t stop there, it also has lots of theatre, small stages with more eclectic stuff, a roller disco, a spa, yoga and wild swimming. Fun!

I went last year as a punter and had a wonderful time, highlights of which were breakfasts at St John and feasts at Hix & Polpo (there were also feasts from Moro & Ottolenghi), lots of music and dancing, a fantastic French circus thing and late nights down in the woods revelling. I was keen to go back this year and happily an email popped into my inbox. Would I be keen to bring Sunday Bacon Club to the Wilderness Cookery School this year? Well, YES, I would.

Tickets for Wilderness are on sale now (it always sells out so be speedy), as are tickets for Sunday Bacon Club. It is a shorter class than normal at a bargain £40. I am so looking forward to it. Feasts (immense marquee banquets) this year are from Angela Hartnett, Simon Rogan, Polpo, Hix, Moro & Morito. St John are doing a la carte too. And some are sold out already.

My posts from last year, to refresh your memory!
Feasting at Wilderness Part 1: St John Breakfasts, Moro Afternoons & Polpo’s Venetian Banquet
Feasting at Wilderness Part 2: Sunday Lunch at Hix

EAT LIKE A GIRL AT BLOGSTOCK

blog stock - original

I have been invited to host and curate all of the food content for the world’s first bloggers festival, Blogstock. Unlike most blogging events, it is multi-discplinary, and is a great opportunity to meet and collaborate outside of our own niches. It will be held in Elstree, just outside of London.[Read more]

Article
9 comments

Feasting at Wilderness Part 2: Sunday Lunch at Hix

wilderness-15

Live music in the centre of the banqueting tent while we ate our Hix Sunday lunch

Back once more to Wilderness and the memory of one of the most fun and delicious Sunday lunches that I have had in a while. The scene is the Banqueting Tent once more, and the chef this time, Mark Hix. Solid English cooking, more live music, the sun, and a hangover that I needed to work my way out of. Standard for a festival, isn’t it? This was medicinal, and a reminder that I need to revisit his restaurants in London again (and try the ones that I have not yet been to).

The food served was bright and vibrant, and how I love to eat. Big platters shared in the centre of the table and lots of everything. And who doesn’t love a roast chicken on a Sunday? The whipped broad beans were a revelation, but everything was good. As with the Polpo feast the night before this was generous and big. Wilderness know how to do food at a festival, I will be back next year.

wilderness-13

Evesham Radishes with Mayonnaise and Celery Salt

Moyallon Pork Crackling with Bramley Apple Sauce

Moyallon Pork Crackling with Bramley Apple Sauce

wilderness-16

De Beauvoir Smoked Salmon – Hix cure – with Corrigan’s Soda Bread

wilderness-17

Jellied Ham Hock with Picalilli

wilderness-18

Whipped Broad Beans with Grilled Flatbread

wilderness-19

Tramshed Chicken with Baked Garlic Sauce

wilderness-21

Fruits of the Forest Eton Mess

This post follows on from my first Wilderness post: Feasting at Wilderness Part 1: St John Breakfasts, Moro Afternoons & Polpo’s Venetian Banquet

With thanks to Wilderness who invited me to attend the festival 

Article
10 comments

Feasting at Wilderness Part 1: St John Breakfasts, Moro Afternoons & Polpo’s Venetian Banquet

Many years ago, pre blog, when I was just a normal mildly obsessive individual idling on the streets, I had three passions: food, travel & music. Other stuff too, of course but the core directions I would find myself moving in centred around those. I read more music blogs than food blogs when I first started (which seems bizarre I would agree) but I always loved live music, finding great new music to listen to, and this was the best place to do this. Even as my life became increasingly centred on food, I still went to music festivals and gigs and always, almost without fail, despaired at the food there.

wilderness-3

St John at Wilderness – loved the lettering outside

Bring on Wilderness, one of a new breed of festivals that takes food very seriously. Not just by inviting some of London’s best restaurants but also enabling them them to create sumptuous feasts. In the centre of the festival site, there is a large restaurant area with a banquet tent which hosted lunches and dinners from Ottolenghi, Polpo & Hix. Surrounding this was St John & Moro in their own tents providing feasts of their own, but also lifesaving take away food. J Sheekey had a van serving great fish and chips (and also randomly serving red bull). There was many more trucks including some of London’s favourites, but this is what I focussed on, so this is what I will describe here.

wilderness-2

St John at Wilderness

You probably know, but I really hate camping. The late nights and waking up with the dawn light results in a lack of sleep that I can barely cope with, never mind with a hangover. (Next time: glamping with a sleep mask). On this occasion I had a hastily purchased and tiny loathsome tent which I bounded out of promptly every morning and went to feed.

The best breakfast in that situation was a St John life giving bacon and egg roll in a slightly sweet brioche style bun. The bacon was cooked over a BBQ outside and there was coffee. There was also a ridiculous but fantastic welsh rarebit, so huge it wouldn’t fit on the plate. It is one of my favourite things on the St John menu, so it was only right that I should have it at Wilderness too. Wine too, if you were brave enough to have that with breakfast (I wasn’t). In fact, one of my top tips for Wilderness is to avoid the main bar and get your wine in the restaurant area. St John had a great list from the affordable & quaffable to more sublime.

wilderness-1

St John’s lifesaving bacon and egg roll at Wilderness

wilderness-5

St John welsh rarebit – just LOOK at it! And go to St John and have one with a glass of house champagne

Saturday afternoon was spent joyfully idling and soaking it all in with a mid afternoon snack of terrific Moro lamb chops, I only wish that I could have fitted in more there.

wilderness-7

Some dramatic lamb chop cooking at Moro at Wilderness

Roll on Saturday night and the decadent Polpo Venetian feast. The banquet hall was enormous and beautifully decorated. We were all given masks on arrival and everyone sat, chatted and laughed on long tables. There was live music from a small stage in the centre and the atmopshere was electric.

Live music at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Live music at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Starting with an aperol spritz, platters of baccala mantecato crostino, fennel salami & pickled radicchio grissini and carta di musica & sage oil with olives, we were still only at the appetisers. One of the meal highlights followed, the sharp and rich mackerel and horseradish tartare, served with arancini, fennel almond and curly endive salad and an excellent selection of salami and prosciutto.

wilderness-8

Mackerel tartare at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

We are still not even half way through, Rise e Bise came next, served tableside in bowls and the prelude to the main courses, of which there were several. Grilled lamb with salsa verde, spot on heritage tomato panzanella, runner beans with red onion and pecorino salad and one of my favourite parts of the meal, the whole grilled sea bream which was fresh and succulent and fresh off the BBQ from out the back (130 sea bream were grilled for the banquet that night).

wilderness-9

Risi e Bisi served tableside at Polpo’s Ventian Banquet at Wilderness

wilderness-10

Lamb with Salsa Verde

Whole sea bream being grilled on the BBQ for the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Whole sea bream being grilled on the BBQ for the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

For dessert we had a tiramisu, which was light as it was rich and strawberries with clotted cream and aged balsamic. A near perfect meal, the only criticism I would have is that there was too much of it, and how can that be a criticism at all?! It can’t be.

Tiramisu at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Tiramisu at the Polpo Venetian Banquet at Wilderness

Music festivals, pay attention: this is how you do food at a festival. Part 2 soon which will be all about the Hix Sunday Lunch Banquet and a life saving bloody mary.

With thanks to Wilderness who invited me to attend the festival 

Article
3 comments

Waterford Festival of Food 2013: FergusStock with Fergus Henderson, a Banquet in Lismore Castle and a Week to Recover

IMG_0307

Fergus Henderson of St John & Paul Flynn of The Tannery – stars of Waterford Festival of Food

I never thought that I would be having a drink with Fergus Henderson in the pub where I used to try to under age drink when I was 16, but there you go. You never know what life will throw at you.

DCP_9738 copy

With Sally McKenna of the Bridgestone Guides and Fergus Henderson of St John, photo courtesy of David Clynch Photography

Waterford Festival of Food has just whizzed by. One of the rare festivals that I never miss, it is always superb, combining the best of community activities, local producers and chefs with some of the best food talent around. Last year Angela Hartnett cooked at The Tannery, and this year, it was the turn of FergusStock with Fergus Henderson.

IMG_9836

FergusStock Menu at The Tannery

120 were in attendance and 120 were on the waiting list for a superb feast. We started with the now famous bone marrow with sourdough toast and parsley salad, followed by a terrific ox heart and beetroot salad, with the ox heart sliced thin and slightly crisped. It was so tender and full flavoured.

Whole roast brill was next, tender and buttery before the show stopper, a half pot roast pigs head (a marvellous selection of tastes and textures all shielded by the best crispy skin). St John’s famous rarebit was next (I love to pop into the bar for one with a glass of wine), finishing with a super rich chocolate ice cream that had so much chocolate in it, it didn’t dare to melt when left untouched while I digested the preceding courses.

IMG_9841

Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad, waiting for service at the pass

IMG_9911

Pot Roast Half Pigs Head

Not much could top this, but then the next day there was Lunch with the Chefs at Lismore Castle where some of Ireland’s best chefs told their stories in conversation with John McKenna & Catherine Cleary. The food was served by Eunice Power (who I cooked with at our pop up at the festival last year), and was a terrific display of local produce (quinoa excluded!) and great cooking. I grew up near that castle – well 20 miles away – and it was such a treat to eat in there.

IMG_0037

Chandelier and Stained Glass Window at the Banqueting Hall in Lismore Castle

IMG_0213

In Conversation with the Chefs at Lismore Castle

IMG_0103

Pea & Ham Soup

IMG_0080

Knockalara Cheese and Quinoa Salad (Knockalara is a terrific sheeps cheese from Waterford and is available at Neal’s Yard in London – try it)

IMG_0149

Beef main course

There was so much more on, local foraging walks, a seaweed seminar, an enormous farmers and producers market on the Sunday morning, food trails (I did a food trail on Friday night which descended speedily into a singing contest but was all good fun and the best insight into Irish culture for any tourist that wants to see the real Ireland).

The only downside is that it is too easy to get completely carried away as I always do, and by Monday I had had little sleep, too much wine, and lots of fun. I needed a few days to recover.

I am excited to see how they will build on it next year, and am very proud that this all happens on my home turf. One for your diaries: the Waterford Festival of Food.

IMG_0011

Great pork taco with quinoa, black bean, lime and corn salsa from BBQ Joes at the Market on Sunday

You can see more photos of the festival on the Official Photographers website: David Clynch Photography.

Article
13 comments

Taste of Cork

Taste of Cork
Taste of Cork
Taste of Cork

Taste of Cork

I do like to do nice things, and these often involve food, ok, mostly involve food. I can never pass up the chance to attend a food festival, so when a friend mentioned that Taste of Cork would be running for the first time this year in Ireland, I made sure that I would be there for it.

Taste of Cork, like Taste of London, showcases the best food that the area has to offer. It was in a fabulous setting, in the old city gaol, and on a beautiful day. We went along to the evening session, and keen as ever, arrived early to join an enormous queue. Well, to be truthful, I thought I was late as I had the time wrong, but, just as well!

Taste of Cork

Taste of Cork

Now, I’d done a little research, and some Cork restaurants that I really wanted to try were there, so I had already drafted a list in my head, determined to start first with Ballymaloe House and then the Ivory Tower, moving onto Bell Tower, Capella from Castlemartyr. There were some others that I was curious about but these were my top three, anything after that would be a bonus.

Potato soup with garden lovage pesto and chive flowers from Ballymaloe House

First impressions, the venue was great and it was more compact than Taste of London. This, for me, was a good thing, as I only saw a small portion of Taste of London in the time that I was there. Not that that’s a hindrance, next year I’ll just go twice! Nestled in at the base were two of the restaurants from my short list, so I went straight to Ballymaloe House to sample their wares.

Ballymaloe is famous for a few things, their restaurant, Darina Allen, Rachel Allen, Rory O’Connell, their cookery school and their passion for local irish ingredients. I wasn’t ready for a dessert yet, and given I had yet to have anything to eat, a starter seemed like a sensible option. On offer was potato soup with garden lovage pesto and chive flowers. It was pretty, delicious and very smooth, full of flavour, with the chive flowers offering a bold textural contrast, that at first I wasn’t too sure about. By the end, I wanted more.

Ballycotton mackerel with gooseberry sauce and organic Shanagarry salad

The main course available was Ballycotton mackerel with gooseberry sauce and organic Shanagarry salad, however by now, I already had my eye on swordfish from the Ivory Tower next door. The swordfish was served with mango salsa and banana ketchup. I was intrigued by the banana ketchup and wondered how it might taste. It sounds idiotic to say but it tasted exactly like you would expect it to taste – banana flavour with the texture and viscosity of ketchup, yellow of course. It was beautiful with the mango salsa and the swordfish. I fell in love and must try and find a recipe to replicate it.

Blackened Swordfish with Banana Ketchup and Mango Salsa

Next up, a browse around some of the stalls, a taste of the new Lindt chilli chocolate (yum!), some flavoursome irish strawberries, and some prosecco, to wash it all down. The English Market from Cork were there, a fantastic indoor food market that has been serving the city since 1786. There are lots of traditional butchers in there selling the likes of tripe, drisheen and spiced beef, fishmongers, cheese shops, a fresh pasta stall, the farmgate café, it deserves a blog post of it’s own so I’ll leave it for now.

At the Pig’s Back from the English Market had lots of wonderful irish cheeses at Taste of Cork, and I was quite pleased to see a girl there, that had served me at the market some months previously, quite nervously as it was her first day, she seemed to be enjoying herself, which was nice to see.

What else did I eat? White bean soup with pork belly and chorizo oil from Capella, one of the stars of the evening. Definitely one restaurant to return to next time I am in Cork.

Surely, I couldn’t handle another main? Well, they were small, and I just had to! There was roast fillet of pork with black pudding, potatoes, caramelised compote of apple and plums and marjoram juice from Orchid’s at Hayfield Manor in Cork City. Phew, what a mouthful, but the dish itself, regardless of the complexity of the title, tied together beautifully and was responsible for me buying lots of black pudding to bring back to London. A potato and black pudding sandwich with tender fillet of pork on the side – soul food.

Roast fillet of pork with black pudding, potatoes, caramelised compote of apple and plums and marjoram juice from Orchid

What about dessert? I kept it savoury and went back to the Ivory Tower for some pizza ice cream: tomato and basil sorbet, olive and parmesan tuile and it was great.

Pizza ice cream: tomato and basil sorbet, olive and parmesan tuile

What about the food I wanted but didn’t have the space or mental capacity to fit? Herb Coated Slaney Valley Lamb, Carmalised Onion Crushed Potato, Saffron Emulsion from Bell Tower, Capella featured as did the aforementioned mackerel witrh gooseberry sauce from Ballymaloe, the porchetta on the spit, gubbeen cheeses, clonakilty black pudding and the connemara smoked salmon.

Herb Coated Slaney Valley Lamb, Carmalised Onion Crushed Potato, Saffron Emulsion from Bell Tower, Capella
Porchetta

I am afraid I was pretty poor on the demonstration front but I did catch the end of Rory O’Connell who was very enjoyable.

Overall, it was a very pleasant evening with some outstanding food. I’d definitely recommend it and I’d go again.

Article
4 comments

Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig – Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig / Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Greetings from the Emerald Isle. I’ve spent St Patrick’s Weekend on the cusp of the Burren in Kinvara, Co Galway – the perfect antidote to a busy month in London. Kinvara is a seaside village on the west coast of Ireland, home to Kinvara Smokehouse, the producers of the wonderful Kinvara organic smoked salmon (more on that in coming days). I had much fun with friends and lots of smoked salmon and shellfish, the smoked salmon delicate and pungent at once, and the shellfish – so fresh. Wonderful. I am ready for another crazy month now :)

I cooked a few things but as I’ve spent most of the day travelling back to Dublin, I’ll have to write about those another time. For now, I’ll leave you with some random unedited pictures, straight from my camera via a disgruntled Mac that crashes every time I try to do anything, and, promise to be back soon!

Tractor from the Gort St Patricks Day Parade (Co. Galway)

Ballyvaughan, the Burren

Outside the Russell Gallery, Newquay, the Burren

Boats in Kinvara Harbour

Kinvara Harbour

Article
8 comments

Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year! The Chinese New Year festivities start today – the year of the rat – the first year of the 12 year chinese zodiac, an apparant year of plenty, opportunities and good prospects.

I love Chinese New Year in London, Chinatown is just buzzing and there’s always a big celebration organised by the Mayor of London, this year on this coming Sunday. It’s an excuse to explore another culture and join in on the fun. After work I wandered down to Chinatown to grab some chinese pastries from Kowloon Patisserie and some ingredients to make some chinese food over the coming days. Lots were staples that I’ve run out of, and others random things I picked up after they grabbed my interest! Makes for a creative few days.

There were some dragons lions wandering around, no – dancing and jumping to drums, and popping into local businesses, bringing good luck with them and receiving red envelopes, containing cash I believe, for their efforts. There was lots of drums and excitement and police ensuring that their journey was smooth.

The 15 day celebrations are days of feasting, beginning on the first day of the lunar month (today) and ending on the 15th. Many buddhists abstain from meat on the first day as it is believed to ensure longevity. Often noodles are consumed for the same reason, but never cut, as uncut noodles are believed to represent longevity and long life.

I’ve been craving noodles recently, it’s been ages since I’ve made them and they’re perfect for light meals like lunches. So, before I left today, I did a little searching online for a chinese noodle dish that might ensure a quick tasty bite after my chinatown adventure and meet the chinese new year requirements. The dish that caught my eye, I found published in a number of places, but the recipe appears to have originated at eatingwell.com – Long Life Noodles with Green Tea.

This really appealed, I have never had noodles with tea in them before for a start and it looks really light and healthy, a perfect counter to the Chinese pastries I was intent on consuming. Green tea tastes great and it’s healthy, so it looked like I might be on to a winner. The origin of the dish, or this type of dish, is said to be the Yangtze River valley where there are many tea farms and where it’s popular to serve noodles with ingredients like green tea and tofu in summer as they are perceived to be cooling. A little bit of a climate mismatch here really, in February in London, I am not looking to cool down, but I am looking for a new light noodle recipe so I thought that I would give it a go.

I made a few changes to the recipe as I had normal tofu, not baked, although I am sure that smoked would work well here too if I had found it. I couldn’t find a yellow pepper either so doubled the amount of red. My research said that egg noodles are not traditional for this day, but again, it’s what I had so I made do. It’s a really nice recipe, really light, healthy and delicious, the green tea is very subtle and the dressing flavoursome but not overwhelming. Nice hot or cold, I had it hot this evening and will be having it cold for lunch tomorrow! I will be making it again.

This recipe will serve 4.

[Read more]