Farewell to 2009! Another Year Over [Part 3]
A smattering of lost January, June, July and a little bit of August
I was a bit remiss in the first portion of my 2009 round up forgetting a number of things that happened at the start of 2009. Little things like an enormous wine tasting taking over the entire Saatchi Gallery from Bibendum Wine which was an amazing introduction to so many wines. The gallery was divided into rooms, champagne room, fine wines room, French room and many more.
Not content with having all of this wine to sample, we also had a Twitter Taste Live there a multi location wine tasting where tasting notes are shared online in 140 characters, over twitter. It was fantastic fun. Anthony Rose, wine writer for The Independent joined us for a while.
I had lunch beforehand at Scotts of Mayfair, which was perfectly nice, but didn’t blow me away, and a mention in the Independent in June 2009 as a Grub 2.0 food blogs to devour, which was another lovely surprise.
I also forgot a few little things from June. Well, that’s a lie, I just wanted to finish the post as quickly as possible so neglected to include them, as the post was starting to addle my tired brain. You see, while in Ireland, I only had mobile internet via a Three dongle, and could only get reception when perched at the end of the couch by the corner of my sisters living room. At that it was slow and constantly cutting out. Do you see how devoted I am to this cause?
Now I am en route home, via many trains, and my dongle has given up the ghost, having lost its identity after the trip to Ireland, it no longer knows its number, and I am damned if I do. So I am researching flickr on my phone, searching those photographic memories, as my actual memory just doesn’t do the job. I am stuck in a freezing cold waiting room, thanking all that is good and holy that I had the foresight to wear an enormous bulky jumper, trying to ignore the smell of pee, and the myriad selection of teenagers socialising and desperately trying to impress each other. I am trying not to snarl, but I am doing a very bad job of it. I am tired people, this is difficult.
So, in June, now a proud member of the work Curry Club, I went to Hot Stuff in Vauxhall with some colleagues. A local and very popular restaurant, I had heard a lot about it, and it was high on my list. It’s been compared to Tayyab’s in the quality and price range, it also appears to have a similar cult status. We descended en masse, well a masse of 9 or 10, and ordered almost everything on the menu. It was all light and fragrant, and mostly delicious. It impressed and I want to go back.
I attended a book launch for a self published book by Aneke Spacie, Twisted Favourites, and Tony Hadley turned up! All true. It was really interesting, and inspiring to see someone who is so fired up. The food is lovely too. Further details here.
I resurrected the tortilla pizza with a myriad of different ingredients, this was my favourite version with smoked buffalo mozarella & oak roasted tomatoes, topped with chilli fried rocket.
I made marrow lasagne, an old favourite I have yet to blog and a good one for the veggies. I also rolled out some summer pastas, prosciutto and broad bean carbonara and crab linguine.
I experimented with Bavette from Jack O’Sheas, Mark Hix style, marinading overnight in olive oil. It was sensational.
The next culinary stop was Tapas Fantasticas off Brick Lane, a mini festival showcasing Spanish wines and food, featuring Spanish restaurants from London and some chefs that had come from Spain. Sadly it disappointed as we had to queue for far too long, and when we got in there, I found the crowd all elbows and rudeness. Having sampled some really good food, and some ok wine, we decided to leave. I am sure there was great wine there, but I was finding the experience stressful, and was happy to go relax elsewhere. I often think that these free festivals would benefit from a token charge of even just £5, as the crowd control, queuing and competitive elements would be very much reduced. We’ll see, hopefully this year they will agree. One of my food highlights there were these little Moro kebabs which were like kebabs squared with regard to flavour. There were also wonderful little croquetas from Asador Sagartoki in Spain.
Also in June, I was experimenting a lot at home, and created a flickr photo set entitled “Experiments with Minced Meats”. I had lots of fun with this, creating a new and favourite spiced lamb meatballs in an aromatic tomato sauce, chorizo and pork meatballs, and lots of different types of burgers. I wasn’t regimented with these as they were the early stages of recipe development and so quite loose, so they weren’t blogged, but I hope to complete these soon.
At the end of June, I had one of my favourite culinary and London moments of 2009. I went into work very early, determined to sample the new Fernandez & Wells breakfast. So early in fact that I was too early for them, and had to go for a cup of coffee nearby. The breakfast was great, featuring Italian pancetta and a fried egg on a superb and enormous Flour Station muffin, with a Monmouth filter coffee for company.
I walked through London afterwards, edging towards my offices in Victoria, and with plenty of time to spare took a detour through St James Park, bumping into the allotment on the way. Curious, I peered my head around, and started talking to one of the allotment gardeners. I spied juicy tomatoes, bountiful herbs, and bouquets of courgette flowers. COURGETTE FLOWERS! Oh, how I want them. They are so hard to find, especially looking like as healthy and glorious this.
I asked the gardener what they did with them. I give them to a lady friend of mine, he replied, she cooks with them. Oh, I retorted, disappointed. He asked what I would do with them, and I listed a flurry of possibilities. He looked around and said, well, she won’t be in until later this week anyway, so do you want a few to take home. YES, PLEASE! I was delighted, they were so pretty and bright, here comes the vegetable bride.
So, off I went, excited and full of stories of great breakfasts, new found enormous breakfast muffins, and altruistic gardeners, but I was first in the office that day, so reluctantly I consigned my floral cargo to the fridge and uploaded my photo to twitter to share my bright yellow news. Later that evening I stuffed them with Irish cheeses Crozier Blue a bold and creamy sheeps blue cheese, and Knocklara, a sharp and tangy sheeps cheese made locally in Waterford. I battered them with tempura batter, deep fried them, and then drizzled them with honey, as they did at Dehesa and Salt Yard, and proudly presented them to a visiting friend. We devoured them in seconds. If a courgette could shriek, it would have done so that night. Blog post here.
Then July rolled in. Summer was here and I was happy as could be with long walks in St James Park soaked in sometimes sunshine at lunchtime. The only downside was the appalling lunch options in Victoria, and my lack of time to make any of my own. I was out and about too much you see.
Next, a fillet steak dinner at home with rocket and horseradish cream. I had a fresh horseradish root to play with and I fancied a change. This was followed later that week by a trip to one of my favourite London restaurants, the Peter Gordon’s Providores in Marylebone, this time to the Tapas room, the cheaper and more casual downstairs option. We munched on ginger and garlic roast pumpkin with goat’s curd, grilled artichokes, cape gooseberries, black vinegar dressing, walnuts and sumac lavosh, crispy crab and tapioca cakes with sriracha yoghurt, Cyprus lamb and bulgar wheat köfte with orange and olive salad, Turkish yoghurt and pomegranate molasses dressing, sautéed garlic snails on chorizo mash with oloroso and parsley, twice cooked middlewhite pork belly on massaman lentils with spinach and sambal bajak and spring rolls of confit duck and chicken, shiitake and feta with green chilli jam. It was an excellent meal, and the wine list is really great, offering some lovely wines by the glass, allowing me to try a few different ones.
Now even more obsessed with courgettes than before, I was desperately seeking a courgette plant at precisely the time when nobody was selling them, they were no longer seedlings you see and all the sensible folk and the planners had snapped them all up. I had just given up, when I happened upon an unlikely supplier, a flower stand in Covent Garden Jubilee Hall market that had one courgette plant and one aubergine plant, which I nabbed immediately and proudly carted home to North East London. I am one of those people that desperately wants an allotment, but I can’t even get on the waiting list for my local one, so two little plants in my small rented garden were the height of my gardening achievements last year, and at that, the aubergine bore no fruit. I do have my herbs of course, but they hardly count. I want to grow vegetables. Some chickens would be nice too.
The rest of the month I stuffed mushrooms, made salads and went home to visit my tiny new niece. Five spice duck breast was a flavoursome mid month supper.
I attended the launch of Cherry Aid at Le Café Anglais, sample lots of wonderful English cherries and wolfed down some excellent cherry based canapés from chef Rowley Leigh. That was a really interesting day, and a very worthwhile cause, cherry farmers were there promoting their English cherries, some of which are breeds which they are trying to revive. As with almost all producers that I have ever met, they were passionate and knowledgeable, and trying their very beast to succeed in a world which is increasingly dominated by blandness and chains. So, this year, get out there and try them, if we don’t they will surely disappear.
Following this I attended one of my favourite wine tastings of the year, an effervescent Italian Wine Tasting at Bibendum Wine. Representatives of each wine were on hand to tell us all about them, feed us fantastic food favourites being the Venetian nibbles to match the Bisol Jeio and Credo. We had a great night, and wandered home with a box of cherries and wine leftovers (shame? Us?). The next day, there was a trail of cherries reminiscent of the breadcrumb trail in Hansel and Gretel, it would have been easy to find us, if you could be bothered.
Eeek, it’s still only July! Are you still with me?
Roast mushroom soup failure revealed a delicious bruschetta with chive cream, and there were many further interpretations of brunch. I roasted some pork belly for friends and paid a first strip to would be favourite Jai Shri Krishna.
Visiting friends gave me lots of opportunities to cook. Pea soups, spiced roast pork belly, chickpea and pomegranate salad, burnt aubergine, peppers and tomato salad, lentil & spinach soup with harissa croutons and strawberries with balsamic vinegar and honey.
We ended the month perfectly with Dine with Dos Hermanos at Casa Brindisa, a great event with lots of interesting people, good food and delicious wines and sherries. Thanks Simon!
The Spanish theme continuted with a Tio Pepe sherry & tapas evening at Camino in King’s Cross, somewhere I had frequented regularly during my many years working locally. It was a really fun evening. Charles Campion came along, and sadly (for him) had to briefly endure some sherry fuelled ranting from me.
I had been approached about doing the Covent Garden Real Food Market, and thought that it might be fun. I also really liked the idea of, for once, having people taste and eat my food. What to cook though, that was the question that rattled my petite addled brain. As I was working full time, I could only commit to one time, so we settled on a date. It would be difficult, as with the project I was working on, I couldn’t take any days off around it, but I wanted to do it, so decided that I would make it happen.
What to serve, given the time constraints? It had to be high quality, and something I would be proud off. It should have some cultural relevance. I am very proud of Irish food, and am always slightly dismayed when people with no experience of modern Irish food culture disrespect it. But, I had no time.
Then, a brainwave. What about Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon? One of my favourite things in the world. In Selfridge’s it retails at somewhere around £70 a kilo, so that wasn’t an option, besides it wasn’t always in stock, but what if I went home and went straight to the source? I would love to visit and see the smokehouse anyway. That was it, a perfect plan was starting to hatch.
So, I contacted Frank and arranged a visit on a rainy trip home for my nieces christening, and after a lovely half hour at the smokehouse, wandered back to London with an enormous box of smoked fish, that fellow passengers eyed with caution and perplexity, and airline staff ignored. Clearly I wasn’t travelling RyanAir. I felt it was only right to have an open brown soda bread sandwich with Frank Hederman smoked salmon in the airport bar which I thoroughly enjoyed, save the iceberg lettuce, but that is one of the downsides of lunching in an airport bar.
I then embarked on a culinary adventure that would carry me through to the end of the year. What a lovely surprise. Come back and read my next installment for the details.