Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Tricolore Salad



There are many glorious salads that make summer eating so wonderful and the tricolore is an absolute classic. Named so after the triple colour or three coloured elements that make up both the Italian flag and of course the salad - it's simplicity doesn't take away from it's fresh, vibrant deliciousness. 

Again, this is hardly a recipe. merely a few ingredients thrown together to make up a big bowl of loveliness that can either make up a meal or act as a side with a versatile range of dishes. 

The one thing that I will advise on here is ensuring you buy the best possible quality ingredients to prepare this - with a dish so simple, there is nothing to hide behind so you don't want brown, bruised avocados or unripe tomatoes, everything needs to be just so. 

So to prepare a salad as a side for four, you need 3-4 decent sized and perfectly ripe tomatoes. Simply wash then slice and add to your salad bowl. Halve a large, ripe avocado and remove the stone, then using a teaspoon, scoop out curls of avocado flesh and add to the bowl. Pull or slice a ball of the best quality buffalo mozzarella and scatter around the salad. The final flourish is to add a generous handful of full basil leaves around the bowl and then to dress. 

Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil, be generous as this really does aid the flavour with it's peppery tang. Finally, throw over some coarse sea salt a large pinch will do and some freshly ground black pepper and give a stir or a shake. 

Salmon in a Creamy Horseradish Crumb


This is such a simple yet delicious summer dish that can be prepared in less than five minutes and only takes 10-15 minutes to cook. It's hardly a recipe, just an idea for a quick, weekday winner. Can be served with new potatoes and vegetables - but I like it with a big green salad - and whatever is currently growing nicely in the garden (at the moment my gorgeous Santini tomatoes, radishes and spring onions.)

For two - simply take two salmon fillets, season all round with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you prefer to cook in the oven switch on to 180 degrees. (Personally I like to crisp up the breadcrumbs quickly whilst keeping the salmon nice and moist and juicy so I place under a hot grill instead.)

Either use pre-prepared breadcrumbs - or quickly blitz enough to coat both fillets in a food processor - white or brown or a mixture is absolutely fine here. Give the breadcrumbs a good seasoning too and scatter onto a plate. You can of course add some fresh chopped herbs here too - dill, thyme and oregano all work - but sometimes speed is of the essence and it's fab with or without the herbs.

Next place the salmon fillets into an oven proof dish or a baking tray and spoon over about 1-1.5 tablespoons to each of creamy horseradish, then dip into the breadcrumbs and ensure both top and bottoms are covered. I like to leave the sides uncovered so you can see as the fish is cooking - nobody likes dried up, over-cooked salmon! 

Finally cook the salmon - either in the oven until the breadcrumbs have turned a golden brown - or, if you prefer, follow my lead and place under a very hot grill to toast the breadcrumbs and turn half way through to ensure a lovely golden crispy crumb on both sides. You can literally see the salmon cooking this way too, so can avoid overcooking. For a decent sized fillet - it only really takes 6-7 minutes cooking each side maximum. 



Friday, 23 May 2014

Plaice with Mediterranean Vegetables and Lemon and Parsley Butter


This is a perfect summer evening dinner - so simple to throw together with the minimum of effort and yet so delicious. It's ideal for evenings when you'd rather be spending time in the garden than the kitchen. 

I served this with Jersey Royal's as they are in season now, but this goes equally well with steamed rice, couscous or a jacket potato too. 

Serves 2-3

3 plaice fillets
1 red onion
10 cherry tomatoes
1 red pepper
2 lemons
3 garlic cloves
1.5 tablespoons olive oil 
Few sprigs of oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g butter (room temperature)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley

Firstly preheat the oven the 180 degrees. 

Chop the onion, pepper, tomatoes and 1 lemon into equal sized pieces. Chop the garlic cloves into 2-3 small pieces and place all into an oven proof dish. Drizzle well with olive oil, season and give a good shake. Place the sprigs of oregano around the dish and pop into the oven for 20 minutes. 



If you're serving with Jersey Royals, give these a good wash now and place to cook in lightly salted water in a pan over a moderate heat. Allow to come to the boil then simmer for fifteen minutes or until the potatoes are soft enough to put a fork through (or of course to your own preference). 

After 20 minutes remove the vegetables from the oven and positive the plaice fillets over the top of the vegetables. Season the fish and return to the oven for ten minutes. 

A couple of minutes before removing the plaice and vegetables from the oven, place a small pan on a low heat and add the butter to melt. Finely chop the parsley and then squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and add the chopped parsley and stir through.




Remove dish from the oven and allow to stand for a couple of minutes. In the meantime drain the potatoes and return to the pan and place back on the heat for 30 seconds and give a good shake to draw out any excess liquid.

Plate up the potatoes, plaice and vegetables and drizzle over a generous amount of the lemony parsley butter ensuring to give the potatoes a good coating. Is the remaining half of lemon for a final flourish over the fish. Enjoy! 

A couple of delicious things in 2014

If you've read the previous post, you'll know why there has been a six-month gap, I am with child. Excitingly due in September and the past few months have been a little manic to say the least. I have managed to eat several rather delicious things during this time and here is a little round up that never quite made it as full posts.

Insanely good beef ribs were had at Beard to Tail recently - in what felt like a woman versus food challenge due to the sheet size and deliciousness of the meat - little else was needed. Mocktails were good here also (I'm told also the cocktails!).



In March I headed to my favourite restaurant in Essex, Smiths for my friend Jemma's 30th birthday. Famed for their seafood and fresh fish they have an exceptionally good value set lunch menu - £26.50 for 3 courses and with quite a good selection too. I really enjoyed their version if rollmops - pickled herrings with pickled onions and vegetables, a little salad and a lemon crème fraiche to start. My main was their famed fish pie filled with beautifully cooled salmon, prawns, cod and a rich velvety creamy sauce and topped with buttery and perfectly crisped mash - divine. I completed my meal with roasted pineapple with coconut ice cream, a caramel sauce and some raspberries. As usual for Smiths, every course was delicious and the service was impeccable. 





On Mother's Day we headed out for fish and chips at the seaside (good old Southend) followed by a walk along the front and ice cream. Afterwards we headed back to my Mum's for a traditional 'high tea' that looked so beautiful I had to share. Our high tea included fresh prawns, brown shrimps, cockles, winkles, fresh crab meat sandwiches and a selection of homemade cake - always a winner. 




Last month I enjoyed a week in beautiful Kusadasi in Turkey with my friend Jade and on our last evening we enjoyed a fantastic seafood meze. Alongside all of the usual salads and vegetable dishes as well as fresh dips we enjoyed a whole cooked sea bream, crispy fresh calamari and a casserole of spicy, garlicy prawns that were to die for. Since I've been back I've been utterly obsessed with Mediterranean food! 



A Belated Thanksgiving Post

Before I begin, an apology for the 6-month delay on this and any other posts. As it tends to do, life has simply got the way a tad. December was the usual whirlwind of parties and then in January I found out I was expecting and my life just seemed to get even crazier hectic than usual. I've tried to fit in a little writing this week and as I'll be finishing working duties in a matter of a month or so, I'm hoping not to be so slack.

I was invited by the lovely Food Urchin, way back in November to a Thanksgiving soiree at his home, close to where I live in Essex. This was part of a project he was taking part in with Great British Chefs. On the evening in question I arrived to be greeted by a glass of fizz, Danny (Mr Food Urchin) Gary of Big Spud, Danny's lovely wife and a couple of his friends - a nice start to the festivities.

We sat down to our first course - a tagliatelle with chestnuts, bacon, a sage black butter and a pumpkin velouté. Poor Danny had had a slight nightmare - this was supposed to be tortellini - however as with many wonderful things, the result of this 'mistake' was very pleasing indeed. A light and flavourful sweet note from the pumpkin was set off beautifully by the delicate crunch of the chestnuts and as Danny pointed out, almost everything is improved by bacon. I might add that as well as being an enjoyable dish it was also a rather attractive plate of food too. Bonus. 



By the main event the wine was flowing nicely and conversation was lively - we were ready for the star of the show, the turkey. Happily Danny had used Great British Chef's bank of recipes and came up with an inventive ballotine of soft, moist, melt in the mouth turkey wrapped in Parma ham and with soft, buttery spinach running through it. Wonderful, and a refreshing change from roasted bird. The accompaniments too were fantastic - baby carrots and braised baby gems (a dish I'd never tried but have since recreated at home) and an utterly gorgeous potato rosti. Being the slave to carbs that I am I do love potatoes in all their glorious formats but there is something special and slightly naughty about a rosti and Danny pulled it off perfectly. Soft, well-seasoned potato was encased in a crispy exterior for that all important crunch-factor. The whole dish was prettily dressed with a red wine and thyme jus that tasted as good as it looked. Hat's off to the chef for this as it was a truly gorgeous plate of food prepared in front of us with the minimum of fuss. 



Our final course was an unusual treat - a spiced apple crumble slice, or a hybrid of crumble and pie - for me the perfect pudding. With an old-school hearty stodginess about it (as all crumbles and pies should), it still managed to appear refined. Expertly spiced with soft, juicy cooked apples, the delicious crunch of the crumble and a little vanilla ice cream made for a marvellous mouthful.



I must mention this evening was put on in association with one of Great British Chef's wine partners' - Corney & Barrow and each course was well matched with a different plonk. The dessert wine was my favourite, not least for its comedic name - Sticky Micky Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. It was absolutely delicious, sweet but with an acidic tang that worked well the apple crumble pie. 

I had a wonderful evening with great company and even better food. Thanks again to Food Urchin and apologies for the incredibly tardy post! 



Monday, 11 November 2013

Copa de Cava, Blackfriars



After visiting Gizzi Erskine’s organised Spanish Fiesta themed Street Feast with my brother and some friends back in August, my brother’s name got pulled out of a hat by Copa de Cava as the winner of a meal for two at their Blackfriars venue.

Happily Dan asked me to join him, and so we went one cold, wet and dreary Friday evening in September and had a lovely night.

We were welcomed by a team of super friendly staff, one of which absolutely made our evening, so attentive and warm was she in detailing items from the menu and matching us with a Cava that she thought we would both enjoy according to our palates. She was fantastic and this experience really brought home the fact to me, that good staff really can make or break a place. A very good start.

We enjoyed an array of tapas style dishes and continued to be impressed throughout the evening. We started with some Spanish olives in a dressing of Cava vinegar, thyme, rosemary and lemon zest. The olives alone would have been succulent, plump and juicy and full of flavour but this simple marinade truly elevated them.



The second dish was another simple but addictive dish– ‘Pimientos de Padron’ or sautéed green Galician peppers. These were small bite sized peppers coated in coarse sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil after being lightly charred. They were a delight and an intriguing one at that – one bite was never the same as another, some had a much deeper chilli heat than others – all were divine.

We had a board of charcuterie that was superb. It comprised of chorizo, lomo Iberico, Teruel D.O. Jamon and something I had never tried before but instantly fell in love with – fuet. Fuet is a Catalan speciality, cured pork sausage meat in a pork gut (this concept reminded me a little of a faggot). The meat was so soft and tender that it literally melted in the mouth and whilst it was quite salty, the flavours were just amazing. The charcuterie came with a selection of little bready bites – it would be a great plate of food to enjoy with a friend or two over a few drinks if you were only looking for a snack.



Patatas Bravas came in an unusual way – little cyclinders of fluffy potato in a crisp, delicious coating – I’m not sure how they were cooked, they didn’t taste as if they had been fried, so I’ve no idea how they had such a glorious outside, but I would love to find out. The sauce was smoky with paprika, smooth and velvety – my only complaint would be that in the interests of keeping the dish looking dainty, not enough sauce was given – I could have devoured much more of it.

The next two dishes were our final ones and they really had saved the best two till last. We had octopus with an olive oil mash and I just don’t know where to start. I’m a big fan of octopus anyway, but often it can be too chewy and have a rubbery texture from being overcooked, not so at Copa de Cava. I would hazard a guess that this had been slowly braised on a gentle heat, so tender and wonderful was the final result with just a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of paprika over it to complete it. Served on gorgeously soft mash which had a pepperiness from the olive oil and just the right amount of salt to complement the octopus perfectly. An absolute triumph. The photo is unfortunately not giving this dish justice, due to the lighting and my keenness to start eating the dish.



Our final plate was the favourite for both of us – Presa Iberica, shoulder of rare Iberico pig, with pearly barley, Iberico ham and Manchego. The pork was cooked rare and as with the octopus it was soft, tender and melt in the mouth. It was quite a strong flavour, with an almost game-like quality to it. Personally I loved the accompaniment which was basically a risotto of pearl barley instead of rice – or at least that’s how it both appeared and tasted. Creamy pearl barley that still had a slight crunch or bite to it was flavoured with salty Iberico ham and topped with a generous grating of Manchego cheese – fantastic.



We chose a bottle of the Reserva Aria Segura Viudas after a helpful chat with the waitress. We loved its almost smoky yet light and delicate flavour – it was selected as I said how much I love wines flavoured with peach and apricots, and this fitted the bill perfectly. We also had a glass of the Semi Seco Valarnau Demi Sec ‘Barceona’ to start off with, which was also enjoyable, yet a little drier than the bottle we had.

Copa de Cava is pitted as more of a Cava bar than a restaurant, but there are some seriously good dishes on the menu and I would certainly return. It’s a particularly good spot for catching up with friends. The downstairs section or ‘cave’ where we sat was cosy, warm and busy with a great atmosphere – in short a great venue.

If you’re a fan of Spanish food and Cava then this place is just waiting for you.





Copa de Cava on Urbanspoon

A London Lunch No 12: George's Portobello Fish Bar



From July to October I had the pleasure of working with a lovely team over in Westbourne Park – an area that was completely alien to me in terms of food spots.

Being amongst fellow food-lovers, I was happily introduced to a number of great lunch spots whilst working there and George’s Portobello Fish Bar was one such venue.

A local chippie that has stood the test of time, having been open since 1961, George’s avoids the almost ‘yuppified’ version of what I think of as a chippie in central London and at any given lunch time you can find queues out of the door, which are alone testament to the food on offer.

Both Jamie Oliver and Victoria Beckham have been photographed/quoted as being fans of the food here, and I am happy to join them in their appraisal of this fish and chip mecca.

I have to say I must have picked up lunch time food from George’s at least six or seven times in the mere three months that I worked in the area – whether it be a hungover Friday, a miserably cold and wet Monday or just a bored Wednesday, I needed no excuse to partake in the deliciousness George’s has on offer.

Thick cut, crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside chips are a constant here and topped with a flurry of vinegar and salt, they are quite frankly perfection.

Now during my Westbourne Park stint I tried a number of accompaniments, from saveloys, sausages in batter and other, less traditional, fare, however, the crème de la crème here really is the fish. The cod is just fantastic, again perfectly cooked to flaky deliciousness, full of fresh flavour and coated in a crisp, light batter with just the right amount of grease. They claim to collect their fish daily from Billingsgate market, and this really does show.

Fish and chips will set you back around £7.00 which is reasonable, especially considering the quality of the fish and the decent size of the portion – so what are you waiting for?

Aside from George’s Portobello Fish Bar, here are three other chippies worth a try in London:

1.    Fryer’s Delight, Theobald Road, Holborn
2.    Golden Union, Poland Street, Soho
3.    Poppies, Hanbury Street, Spitalfields



George's Portobello Fish Bar on Urbanspoon