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A Remedy for a Head Cold & Jet Lag: Eggs Poached in a Simple Homemade Curry [Recipe]

Eggs poached in homemade curry - perfect for a cold

Eggs poached in homemade curry – perfect for a cold

Singapore was great. My first visit, I was greeted by a vibrant and very friendly city that is obsessed with food. I ate what I could, but never enough. There are so many different dishes to try. I am heading back quite soon on a stopover to complete my list. Which is lost, but more on that in a minute.

As great (and brief) as the trip was, it didn’t end well. My phone, with so many of my photos, all my notes and recorded interviews was MIA. I left without it and have had no luck tracking it down. When I got home my flatmate asked if I had a cold and I realised, fark, I do! I had put it down to hay fever the previous days. I don’t like to moan – especially on here – but after a night of absolutely no sleep and a stonking head cold, with a missing phone, and falling behind with work as I can’t think straight, I feel like crap.

But, there is a solution. There always is. Cosy pjs and a cupboard raid rendered a lunch that I could actually taste, and one that is healthy too. My first thought was turmeric, I need to have it, it is so good for many things, being anti-inflammatory and great for all things intestinal like stomach pain and bloating. It is particularly good for colds too and one of the annoying things about a cold is not being able to taste anything, so I decided that a good, simple and bolshy homemade curry might sort me out. Or ease the torture for fifteen minutes, at least. My second thought was eggs. Eggs are brilliantly comforting and speedy too. They are also terrific in a curry. [Read more]

Lunchtime at Bouillon Chartier in Paris
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When In Paris: Lunch at Bouillon Chartier

Most declare a fond love for Paris. Some find it rude. Those poor Parisians have a reputation to maintain, earned for them, from what I can see, by a small handful of people. Sure, there are some rough characters, but we have them here too, right? I think mainly, we are just intimidated by the language, and their lack of patience for us attempting to speak it. I can’t blame them. I muddle through like a cat that has just had her tongue removed. Limping by, mumbling French through an Irish accent, expecting at any moment to be told off. And I sometimes am.

On a trip to Paris last weekend (very brief and just for one night), I ate at a restaurant that has a reputation for being brusque, rude and maybe not very good at all at times. So why did I go? Because it is a slice of Parisian history and I am eternally curious. Bouillon Chartier is tucked away down an alley off a side street. One of the turn of the (20th) century soup kitchens, Bouillons were established so that anyone could get affordable traditional French food and bouillon (a broth – hence the name), and speedily. Very few are left, and Chartier still serves traditional Bouillon fare, and very cheaply, with starters priced from €1 – €6.80 and mains not exceeding €13.50 (and that includes steak).

Bouillon Chartier, Paris

Bouillon Chartier, Paris

A queue usually snakes outside – at meal times anyway – but it moves very quickly. I expected a lot of tourists, but we seemed to be surrounded by French people. The queue was managed in French too, so I resurrected by primitive teenage French discourse and managed to communicate our needs (he would have spoken English if I wanted him to, but I wanted to practice so persevered). It wasn’t long before we were seated in a beautiful vast room, elbow to elbow with some strangers on a shared table. Which was absolutely fine.

Bouillon Board - Meat Origins

Bouillon Board – Meat Origins

Coats are tossed above your table on baggage racks, and orders scribbled on your table cloth. Service is at times impatient, our waiter marched off at one point as we were taking too long. Maybe it is because London is a great leveller, but I found it more efficient than rude, and wasn’t bothered at all. This is a restaurant that was established to serve speedy well priced food, and this is what it is, plus you get what you pay for.

Starters were traditional, and I couldn’t resist an aggressively unapologetic egg mayonnaise – priced at €2.20 – and two halves of an egg, slapped yolk down, with lots of (good) mayonnaise dumped on top. But it tasted great, even if the egg yolk was lined grey from too much time in the pot. At €2.20 another starter was called for, and I felt a salad might be good. Especially if it was dripping in bacon fat and covered in crispy bacon and croutons. So frisee with lardons and croutons was divined, and some escargots bathing in bright green garlic rich butter came along side (there were two of us, in case you are worrying).

For mains we had fresh sausage with lentils. The lentils had long ago stopped pretending to be firm, and were languid in their dressing, but the flavour was good, and the sausage, crisp and rich, was great. Veal chop, Normandy style in a cream cider sauce with mushrooms was spot on and comforting. The spaghetti on the side, bloated as a depression era fat cat in a butter coat, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Desserts called. Chou with chantilly, an overbearing (but delicious) bun filled with sweet cream, and a delicate puffed prune clafoutis with custard.

We washed our meal down with a bottle of water and a very drinkable bottle of Cahors, and it all came to €65, for two. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again. And, I never say this, but it is worth it for the room alone. A restaurant experience is never just about your meal. It is about the room, the service, the company and everything in between. We seemed to get most things right last Saturday.

http://www.bouillon-chartier.com/

7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris, France ‎+33 1 47 70 86 29

I travelled to France with Eurostar on their #wheninparis campaign

And – you will see that I am fiddling around with the design – please don’t be alarmed and I welcome your feedback – I am doing it live and it is only half way there at the moment. The pumpkins are a temporary measure! :)

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Behind the Scenes at Ottolenghi and Lunch

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Sami Tamimi of Ottolenghi, cooks us lunch

Some of you are going to hate me now, but here goes.

Yesterday I went for lunch behind the scenes at Ottolenghi. The hub of all Ottolenghi activity, where recipes are developed and a lot of the restaurant items and most of the deli items are made.

Ottolenghi are proud of their sourcing, and this is evident from the food. Each bite has an intensity of flavour and freshness that isn’t delivered unless you take extreme care with your ingredients, and how they are stored. Secret places and people. Every good restaurant has these. They generally don’t share them with us.

Except Ottolenghi does now. In response to readers craving exotic ingredients from the books in order to recreate the food at home, Ottolenghi have now set up an online store, and they deliver all over the world. Ingredients, products, and wine too.

Exciting, eh? And really delicious. Date molasses, sumac, za’atar, rose petals, (proper) rose water, dukkah. Fragrant and delicious. I cook a lot with rose petals (see the rose petal butter in my book among others), dried and fresh, but the dried rose petals that we ate there, were fantastic in their fragrance. I was surprised. At once delighted that I could source them, and disappointed with the ones that I had been using before.

Yotam’s co-author and business partner, Sami, cooked us lunch. A gorgeous meal peppered with stories of Sami’s cooking with his grandmother, and stories making homemade mograbiah and pomegranate molasses in the Palestinian sun.

The food was divine, I will be digging out the recipes and recreating them at home for myself and for friends. Great wines too, an unusually complex and rich prosecco from Casa Coste Piane di Loris Follador, a spicy rich orange wine, Tenuta Grillo from Baccabianca, and a spicy soft fruity red wine, a Nerello Mascalese from Caruso & Minini.

Most of the recipes are from Ottolenghi’s books and Guardian column, and all ingredients are available online. So you can also recreate yourself at home.

Enjoy!

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Sweet potato purée with date syrup and black sesame seeds

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Labneh sprinkled with za’atar

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Dukkah

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Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, fresh from the oven

Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, grilled with dukkah and lemon and served with piccolo pepper, cherry tomato, caper, basil and chopped herb salsa

Halibut wrapped in vine leaves, grilled with dukkah and lemon and served with piccolo pepper, cherry tomato, caper, basil and chopped herb salsa

Roasted chicken with sumac, za'atar and fresh lemon

Roasted chicken with sumac, za’atar and fresh lemon

Muftoul & mograbiah salad with dried Iranian lime, celery, tomatoes & cucumber

Muftoul & mograbiah salad with dried Iranian lime, celery, tomatoes & cucumber

Rose cupcakes

Rose cupcakes

Black glutinous rice pudding, with orange blossom, pineapple, banana, rose and green pistachios. Toast with halva on the side (I was greedy!)

Black glutinous rice pudding, with orange blossom, pineapple, banana, rose and green pistachios. Toast with halva on the side (I was greedy!)

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Those rose petals

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Halva on toast – will be my new favourite breakfast although it will have to fight with the rice pudding

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Recipe: Ricotta Frittata with Tomatoes & Fiddleheads

Ricotta Frittata

Life is busy. Life is crazy busy. I’ve left my job and written a book (I am so excited to even type that!). It all happened in 6 months. In the middle of this my Dad has been seriously ill and I have been going home a lot. I have also been travelling elsewhere more than before. I have moved flat too.

I’ve chosen this life, and I love it, I wouldn’t change a thing. Working doing what you love means that work never stops, and being so busy does take a toll. I have been ill more than is normal and I am growing pretty tired of it. I hate being ill at all.

So today as I sat here coughing and wheezing with a scratchy throat, I felt depressed. I needed to eat something that would make me feel good and really wouldn’t take any time to cook or much effort to source the ingredients. I dragged my carcass to the local Waitrose and my face lit up when I spied there on the shelf Laverstoke Park Farm Buffalo Ricotta.

HOORAY! I adore this stuff and when I visited the farm last year I asked if they had any plans to make it, to be met only with an echoing NO. Disappointed. But now they are making it and joy of joy I can get it less than 10 minutes away. So into the basket it went and I skipped/coughed my way home.

I combined some eggs with the ricotta and whisked it with a pinch of salt until the ricotta was the size of breadcrumbs. I then sautéed some sweet small tomatoes and some fiddleheads (I still have a mini stash!) with a clove of finely chopped garlic. When soft I added the egg mixture and popped it into the oven to bake. 15 minutes later a puffy joyful frittata awaited me. It made me smile.

Now why haven’t I done this before? It was so lovely and light a perfect summer dish and very quick too. No fiddleheads? Increase the tomatoes or add some asparagus, whatever works for you. This is perfect quick lunch food for friends to be eaten in the sunshine with some salad.

Recipe: Ricotta Frittata with Tomatoes & Fiddleheads

Serves 4

Ingredients

6 large eggs (free range organic if possible)
200g good ricotta
150g good cherry tomatoes, halved
12 fiddleheads, trimmed and washed (or asparagus spears)
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.
Sauté the tomato and fiddleheads in some oil for about 5 minutes until softening. Add the garlic and after a further minute take it off the heat.
Combine the eggs and ricotta and beat or whisk until the ricotta is the size of breadcrumbs. Season with some sea salt.
Add the tomato mixture and the basil and stir through. Pour into an oiled frying pan with oven proof handle or large pie dish and bake for 15 minutes.
Check progress (it will depend on the size of your pan). When the frittata is set and golden and all puffed up it will be ready to devour.
Enjoy!

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Hidden Ireland: The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

Tucked away in a quiet corner of West Waterford is Ardmore. A seductive, sleepy seaside town, more of a village really, with a long beautiful strand and a hotel perched atop it. Overlooking the whole scene is Ardmore’s round tower, built sometime around the 10th – 12th century. One theory is that they were used to watch the coastline so that when any invaders aproached the locals would hide within.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

I however, have no intention of hiding in a round tower. If you want to find me in Ardmore, I will be hiding and indulging in the Cliff House Hotel. Hugging a cliff edge with a sweeping terrace overlooking the sea, the food options are terrific, offering michelin starred dining or great bar food. We popped over for lunch and gave it a whirl.

The menu reads beautifully and simply, featuring lots of Irish and local produce. Local organic smoked salmon, monkfish from nearby fishing village Helvick, soda bread, Dingle crab and one of my favourite desserts, rhubarb fool. We opted for a couple of things each, in truth one would do, but we wanted to try too many things.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

My sister started with the Organic Smoked Salmon with Egg Salad and croutons, and I the Potted Helvick Monkfish with Horseradish Mayonnaise and Spelt Bread. The Smoked Salmon dish was lovely and well balanced, with the creamy egg countering the smoked salmon nicely. My potted monkfish was presented beautifully in a kilner jar with scallions on top and a light nice selection of leaves on the side. Overall, very good, although I couldn’t detect much horseradish sadly. Ironic as it was my sisters preferred choice, but she doesn’t like horseradish, and I meanwhile was covetting her salmon.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

We moved on to our next dish Caesar Salad “The Cliff” with Chicken for Nodlaig and Dingle Bay Crab on brown soda bread for me. The Caesar Salad was as good an execution of this dish as I have ever sampled and it was excellent. My crab was fresh, generous and light with a perfectly complementary dressing, and the rich brown soda was great with it.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

The menu features several wines by the glass and I had a lovely glass of Macon Vineuse 2008 from Oliver Merlin in Burgundy for €10 a glass. The food was all between €10 & €12, there are more expensive and substantial options like rack of lamb for 28.50 and whole sea bass for €26.50.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford
The bar is lovely, the service friendly, and the view is sensational. If we had better weather, we just couldn’t keep people away from Ireland but our notorious rain might hamper this. We were blessed with sunshine on our visit and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. I plan to go back to try the restaurant where Martijn Kajuiter leads in the kitchen. Previously of Restaurant Kwekerj de Kas, one of my favourite Dutch restaurants, it promises to be inspiring, but we will have to wait to see. I plan to stay there, and tear myself away from my every day reality. I have promised myself that it will be very soon.

The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

http://www.thecliffhousehotel.com/dining

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

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Lunch at Galvin La Chapelle

The Galvin brothers have moved east and opened a new eatery in Spitalfields, or rather two, Galvin La Chapelle for high end dining, and attached, Galvin Cafe de Luxe for more relaxed dining. I’ve been pretty lax this year for checking in on new openings, so when Fiona Beckett, prolific author, blogger and twitterer invited me there for lunch, how could I say no? I couldn’t.

Housed in the former church hall of St Botolph’s in Spitalfields, on the new and spruced up Spital Square, an area once full of character, but sadly now more full of chains, Galvin La Chapelle sits on a corner. Behind an imperial grey doorway lies an arresting cavernous restaurant, with high vaulted ceilings and a glass walled mezzanine area housing the toilets at the back, and a private dining area at the front. It’s very impressive, and screams decadence. The clientele are, given the location, predominantly city types, donning designer suits and brandishing brandy. I am relieved when I spy Fiona, relaxed and smiling at a table by the back.

Fiona was perusing the wine list and in discussions with the somellier. We decided on the food and then asked the sommelier to provide matches by the glass, we also ordered a glass of hermitage to sample with the mains, which retails via an enomatic for circa £50 a glass. Mommmeeeeee, I was excited.

Fiona chose the Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 1994 which would be matched with our mains of tagine of squab pigeon and harissa sauce for me and veal cheek for Fiona. First our starters, and again I must apologise for awful photos, my Canon DSLR was stolen (I may have mentiond), and my little camera is a disaster for me, as I have a benign and utterly harmless lifelong tremor, which means photography on less evolved devices with no flash = BLUR. Ah well.

For starter I went with lasagne of dorset crab, chanterelles and chervil which was matched with a robust glass of white from the Douro, which for me was too dominant, although a delicious white on it’s own. Fiona had the salad of red leg partridge with pomegranate and maple dressing which was deliciously sticky and festive. The Douro went really well with this so we traded our wines. Fiona’s lighter white (which I can’t recall sadly), went really well with my light, foamy and delicate starter.

Mains next, and this is where things were getting exciting. My pigeon tagine arrived. I eyed it with suspicion. My tagine is lived in and the lid is coated with tagine splutter and stains. This one was spick and span and when I touched it, cold. Eh? The lid was removed and underneath was an unexpected and very composed and deconstructed tagine with the squab pigeon in the centre squatted on a pile of cous cous. It wasn’t the unctous comfort food I was expecting but it was delicious and moreish. It went fantastically well with the Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 1994, which, aware of how much of a treat this was, I sipped with caution and delight. The veal cheak was rich, with great depth, and served with a buttery and intense Robuchon style mash. Both dishes were great.

Next for dessert. I chose the blueberry soufflé, coulis and milk ice cream, and Fiona the pear tart tatin with crème fraîche. The blueberry soufflé was fantastic, a glorious and lively shade of lilac, which sadly the photgraph doesn’t show. It was light and very flavoursome, full of airY blueberry goodness and particularly good with the milky ice cream. I had a sparkling red dessert wine with it, Contero Brachetto d’Acqui, of which I wanted a lot more and will be seeking out again.

I really enjoyed it, and look forward to trying the more informal and cheaper Cafe de Luxe next door soon. I very much enjoyed the lunch, but Galvin La Chapelle’s prices are at the high end of the gourmands spectrum with my starter at £11.50, main at £22.50 and dessert at £8.50. The lunch set menu, however is a great deal, offering an enticing boudin noir with apple and pommes mousseline on the day we were there,and priced at £24.50 for three courses, it’s a bit of a bargain. Many thanks to Fiona for treating me to a delicious lunch.

Fiona’s Decanter Review.

Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, London E1
020 7299 0400
www.galvinrestaurants.com

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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