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Fight Hunger. Eat Out. Get Involved.

I’ve learned to say no to anything on Wednesday evenings which may distract me from the all important task of preparing for the food stall at Covent Garden on Thursdays. I stick resolutely to this (almost!), but, last Wednesday was different. I was invited to the launch of Fight Hunger. Eat Out (an Action Against Hunger Campaign) at Konstam (my favourite lunch haunt last year)Restaurants Against Hunger was founded in 1998 – an international movement of restaurant owners, chefs and food writers supporting Action Against Hunger and its goal to end child hunger. I am very interested in this charity, they do great work and I was keen to know more. The sweetener was the fact that one of my favourite singers – Beth Orton – also a supporter of the cause, would be playing a set. How could I not go?

Beth Orton
Beth Orton

The evening started nicely with some fantastic and interesting canapes by Chef patron and Action Against Hunger ambassador Oliver Rowe with Bob & Roberta Smith. These included eggs with carrots replacing the yolks, and fantastic very thin pizzas, which, sadly I have no photo of. It was lovely to see a few familiar faces, and to meet a twitter buddy that I had never met in the flesh before. Supporter of the campaign, Fergus Henderson of St John, was in attendance. I was too shy to say hi, although he was extremely busy, everyone wanted to talk to him.

On to the meat and two veg of the evening, the campaign itself. An inspiring campaign, they were very careful to stress that their goal is extremely challenging, but are aiming to do what they can in a difficult area where few NGO’s fear to tread. Action Against Hunger works in over 40 countries to carry out innovative, lifesaving programmes in nutrition, food security, water and sanitation, health and advocacy. Every year, 6,000 aid workers help over 4 million people worldwide.

Oliver Rowe & Fergus Henderson
Fergus Henderson & Oliver Rowe

Growing up in Ireland, we were ever aware of the problem of hunger in this world. Education was predominantly by the religious orders, and many of these teachers had spent time in the third world, so there was always a keen awareness of these issues. At home, if we left food on our plates, we were scolded for this, when so many children in this world had none. We raised money for third world charities in school campaigns, collected in Christmas campaigns for third world charities, delivering proceeds to the convent after. We even knitted vests for children with few clothes of their own when we were 9 years old. I really hope my baby lemon knitted baby vest I made was of use to someone! We did many sponsored 48 hour fasts, collected money over the lenten period for the third world that would normally have been spent on sweets, and every morning a money box in the shape of the globe would travel the school and we were all encouraged to add something ever day, even if it was just a penny.

Now, I was no saint. This kind of behaviour was entirely normal. Charity in Ireland is very strong and something that is widely encouraged and participated in. In recent years I’ve been lacking, preoccupied with my own concerns as many of us urban dwellers tend to be. So, this seemed like a good opportunity to participate.

I was impressed and inspired by what I had heard of the Fight Hunger, Eat Out campaign, and following on from a couple of conversations on the night, have started to arrange a blogger fundraiser to (hopefully) coincide with the campaign, and support their great work in some way and help get the word out.

Bloggers based in London, if you would like to get involved in our fundraising event, we will need a lot of participants and volunteers. I’ve had a fantastic response already which has been wonderful but we need more. If you are keen in getting involved please get in touch, and I will email you with details once they are confirmed.

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Gotcha! April Fools Day, Restaurant Style

I had to quickly share something with you that caught me out and made me laugh. Konstam’s April Fools Menu. I should be ashamed to admit I believed it, it’s pretty ridiculous, but – hey – I was busy, in the middle of ten things and have a gullible disposition at the best of times. And I’m sticking with that.

So, I used to work near Konstam, the restaurant famed for sourcing everything within the M25 (a motorway that circles London) known to most through the TV show “The Urban Chef”. I loved lunch there, and I love the way they cook, so despite now working miles away, I still receive the emails. It’s like culinary masochism. Every day I look and think how I can’t have it and how crap Victoria is for lunch options.

Today’s menu came through and I read the email.

I’d been pretty busy and in truth my brain was frazzled following a series of meetings, so I thought, intriguing! Wonder what this is about?

So, I opened the attached menu (click image to see larger size).

Konstam April Fools Menu

I thought – wow – Camden Town peacock soup with sour cream & nutmeg! They cooked a peacock?! Wonder what that tastes like. At Braised North London iguana with onion & allspice salad & sour cream, I began to smell a rat. Next pan-roast London Zoo giraffe neck fillet, purple sprouting broccoli, almond & barley salad and pan-fried, aquarium-reared hammerhead shark with mashed potato, braised chard & apple balsamic & garlic dressing. I knew I’d been had, and laughed a lot. I’m still chuckling now.

It brought a smile to my day. I hope it does to yours too :)

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Lunching at Konstam in King’s Cross

Pork Belly Sandwich from Konstam

Regular readers and fellow twitterers will know that I am a big fan of pork belly! An inexpensive but delicious cut of meat, that is transformed into a thing of crispy wonder when given the right amount of care and attention. Spiced with star anise or sweetened with cider and sporting a crispy coat of crackling, it is one of my favourite things to eat in this world.

Konstam at the Price Albert

So, you can imagine my delight when a restaurant local to work started serving pork belly sandwiches at lunch time. Not just any restaurant either, but Oliver Rowe’s Konstam at the Price Albert, a restaurant where most of the produce (where possible) is sourced from within the M25. Many of you will be familiar with it from the TV show, The Urban Chef, that tracked the setup and opening of this fine establishment.

Prior to opening Konstam at the Prince Albert, Oliver ran a cafe of the same name (Konstam). of which I was a big fan and I was disappointed when it closed in favour of the restaurant. Not that I don’t appreciate the fine dining options on offer there, it’s simply not in my price range for a regular lunch. The new lunch menu is of a similar ilk to the old cafe. It changes regularly and features the finest sandwiches including my favourite hot roast pork belly, remoulade and parseley sandwich; chicken and dill mayonnaise; roast winter squash marjoram and lemon; Quicke’s cheddar, marrow chutney and mizuna and many more. The salads are wonderful, fresh, vibrant and dressed beautifully and the soups are packed with flavour and colour e.g Hillingdon beetroot and vodka soup with sour cream and roast butternut soup with Norbury blue & walnuts. There are also more traditional main courses at normal a la carte prices like pan roast Mersea sea bass, jerusalem artichoke pierogi, slow-cooked shoulder of Amersham mutton and braised Amersham pheasant legs.

salad plate at Konstam

Most of the menu is available for take away and I really can’t recommend it enough. It takes a little longer than your average sandwich but that’s because it’s not your average sandwich and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch the chef take the enormous pork belly out of the oven and cut your bit, placing it tenderly between two slices of sourdough, caressed by remoulade and tickled by parsley. The delicate flesh and the crispy crackling, with the fat seeping into the bread. Sounds wrong but it’s oh-so-right. Oh god, I want one now.

I’ve tried a number of dishes and the food, as a rule, is delicious and freshly made while you wait. If you don’t believe me, they were featured in the Time Out lunch feature last week, which reminded me, that I should really blog about the wonder that is the Konstam pork belly sandwich.

So, if you’re in London, try it out! I doubt you’ll be disappointed, I’ve dragged most of my friends there by now and they’re in agreement with me. If you’re not in London, I recommend you try a homemade version for a winter lunch. It’s medicinal and food for the soul and will get you through these next dark days leading to the Winter solstice.

pork belly sandwich at Konstam