Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Pigs

Rotisseried suckling pigs waiting for collection on Christmas Eve from Place D'Aligre market. Beautifully wrapped!

Doorstop bread (with a fried breakfast on the side)

Staying at Gem's delightful country cottage for a Saturday night brought about her famous Steak and Ale pie and a small cellar of wine. Tremendous hangovers were remedied by a walk on the common in the mid December mist and returning to cook one of the best fried breakfasts I've had. Bread courtesy of Hobbs- just the thing for mopping up that leftover egg yolk/ bacon fat/ tomatoe juices and brown sauce. Really the whole reason for making a full English in the first place.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

I demand some booze!

Although Orlando has been fantastically active on the twittering machine the rest of the blog has ground to a halt with the onslaught of Christmas depression. Some back dated posts to follow as I drag myself out of it, just as the mists descend on Paris. The New Year will also herald the arrival of the long awaited 3rd man...!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

My Mini Guide to Venice Cicchetti Bars

The sunset behind Venice as the waterbus pulled into the various vaporetto stops between Marco Polo airport and Zatterre, a small amount of mist rendered the city into a Melville painting. Venice - a city so incredibly beautiful, romantic yet with a melancholiness about it too.

I spent 4 days there and this is my brief guide to the Cicchetti bars and coffee stops that I've roughly compiled and with much help from @misspigcheeks who took most of the pics.

Before the food though the two art highlights: Firstly the Venice Biennale - absolutely astonishing quantity of art - in particular Mike Nelson's bizarre and intriguing installation at the British Pavillion was like being inside an Orhan Pamuk novel. The pavilions not inside the main drag at the Giardini were great to route around. Secondly the standout spectacle of the two Pinault Modern Art spaces: The Palazzi Grassi & the Punta Della Dogana - both completely fantastic buildings  with awesome selected artworks of the finest quality placed with delicate finesse.

Cicchetti Bars are similar to the Tapas bars of San Sebastian - the food displayed on the counter for you to pick from and have a glass of wine with before moving on to the next one - also like the San Sebastian tapas bars they often have a formal seated part to them which are considerably more pricey to sit in.  All weekend I drank either spritz with Aperol, white Soave, fizzy red Robbosco,  house red or Prosecco - all were are €2.50-€3.50.

Although I went to Venice with a list of recommendations the best places you still chance upon whilst doing a Donald Sutherland and so after a few wrong turns we happened across a tiny square immediately after a low Sotoportego on the Scaleta road were we found our favourite Cicchetti bar.  N nestled in the corner of this street served great cicchetti and always had a buzz about it (I went back 2 more times over the weekend). Full both day and night - queues for the formal area and a youthful buzz missing from some parts of Venice it was a great spot.  Highlights here were baked radiccio with parmesan - confit baby onions that melted in the mouth - octopus salad  & bite size "pepperoni" peppers amongst many other dishes that constantly changed and refreshed.

Another great spot was the Osteria Da Alberto - a beautiful little restaurant with tiny bar by the entrance were we perched out of the cold drinking warming reds eating salt cod baccaro toasts, scallops, langoustine. We went back the following night to try and get a table for a sit-down meal - looking now at reviews it seems like definitely a great spot for something more formal too.

On our way to and from town to our hotel in Dorsoduro we stopped a few times at trattoria De Fiore  on one occasions they had this neat dish of razor clams.

Also of note was the relaxed Osteria Promessi Sposi where I was told told "tranquilo" as I garbled out at lightning fast rate the confused Italian I had learnt so far - a good spot that away from the main street seemed calm and simple but the food was still yummy though perhaps without the bells and whistles of the Alberto or the Scaleta road spot. - Also had a big dining area that was packed with people enjoying it.

The Ruga Rialto also had these tasty roe covered tuna tatare things:

And seriously healthy portions of "fried fish"

Breakfast / Coffee:

Again like with Cicchetti bars you can sit down but part of the fun seems to be standing around casually picking Brioche from the counter whilst your coffee is being readied. Brioche being  the filled croissants - very popular - served from help yourself clear plastic warming things.  Delicious chocolate, marmalade, custard. Dipped, dunked and savoured. all sorts of other pastries on offer too.  

Great coffee up near the jewish district at the Torrefazione on Rio Tera San Leonardo roasted & ground in house and served with a laugh & a smile.  We had great breakfast at the  Rizzardini pastry shop too.

Cicchetti was amazing and like the casual San Sebastian style tapas bars I'm surprised I haven’t seen it done in London - at least not with the same easy going informality of both places.  Perhaps it's thought the weary Londoner simply wouldn't stand up for that length of time - or that they would help themselves and not pay up.  In four days we only sat down for two meals - at one a great plate of pasta with squid in ink & a plate of pasta vongole - the second time a fishy feast at a formal family restaurant that cost 3x the equivalent meal ate as Cicchetti.  

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Elliot's Borough, The Hemingway Victoria Park


Last weekend long walk down to Borough market.
Stopped at Elliot's for Lunch.
A cheery busy bistro - laid back, staff familiar.

Ordered baked squash, squid, salmon salad, fries, oysters,

Oysters were good, but then we were in Borough market so expected them to be and right next to Wright Bros too.

Squid was super delicious - smoky & perfectly cooked.

Some kerfuffle at another table and a lot of people staring at a baked squash served in 2 halves before it got sent back to the kitchen their squash was replaced then out came ours - but it was just 1 half - we asked about it and it seemed the chef deemed half sufficient for us but having been on the business end of a kitchen cockup or two in my youth and although I always think the best of people one couldn't help but suspect a slight bit of legerdemain which left a tart bitterness in the mouth especially when its almost 15 notes for this now half-squash. 

This bitterness meant the salmon salad sort of passed by unnoticed though it looked pretty & the stringy fries looked great but I felt like a dog hoovering pick-up-sticks tryin to work out how to eat them.

Concluded should've bought some oysters in the market and carried on perhaps to Maltby St. to have a look.


Sunday was a roast at the Hemingway Victoria Park Road.
Comfortable, good beer, papers - all good end of the weekend stuff
Roasts & Salmon all round.

Totally delicious - lots of other people seemed to think so too as the place was rammed
Finished with pudding - pinapple & apple crumble with crumble of coconut and coconut ice cream- not 100% convinced this classic needed meddling with.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

2nd November Salad

I'd had rather a large lunch, had a friend coming over, it was a miserable day and knew I had to offer up something warm and comforting but without the stodge of a pie or a stew (as much as I've love those). I've been eternally disappointed by so called Winter Salads but I think this one works rather well.

Serves 2

4 large chicken thighs (I think the bone has all the flavour)
1 clove garlic- young as possible
Cos lettuce (1 large one or 2 mini ones)
4 Figs (very ripe)
1 small, strong red onion

Almonds (a very large and generous handful)


Put the chicken thighs skin side down in a baking dish, season well and cover in dried thyme leaves, a squeeze of lemon juice and a small knob of butter (half a walnut size) on each piece of chicken. Once they are cooked, turn them over skin side on top, give them a quick basting and season and thyme again. Get the skin crispy and then set them aside to rest.

Wash and pull apart the lettuce, chop the hearts into quarters. Slice the red onion thinly. Cut the tops of the stalks off the figs and quarter them.

Finely chop a clove of garlic and heat in a low sided pan that preferably you can serve in. When the oil has started to sizzle, turn the heat down, add the onion, almonds, figs and lettuce. Let it all wilt and warm for about 4 minutes and drizzle good olive oil, rock salt and a squeeze of lemon juice over the top.

Toss the salad in the pan, add the chicken pieces on top and pour over a tablespoon or two of the buttery, lemony cooking juices from the chicken. Serve at the table and dish out onto hot plates.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Technically this was held on the 28th October, but it was still creepy/ delicious. Big moments were the RIP chocolate sour cream cake (Nigellas basic birthday cake recipe with lots of montezuma and that very good french cooking chocolate- parnier? I can't remember). Another highlight was sausage hand- tomato skin for nails and a freshly plummed tomatoe for the fat palm.

In terms of costumes, special mention to Chip Hand- an outfit created by Martha which I sadly don't have a photo of and is too bizarre to describe and give justice to- essentially an over sized Maccy D chip packet attached to her wrist with beautifully formed foam French Fries that fitted onto her fingers and wiggled around, like a fast food poltergeist.

Pumpkin soup with added squash, a couple of carrots and lots of very good dried chilli went down well- though it's a shame the pumpkins we get here are so dowdy compared to what their name suggests them to be- and as they are realised in Italy where a recent Pumpkin soup was just as rowdily fruity as it should be- and a million miles away from my Frankenstein version.

Toasted pumpkin seeds (high oven with lots of salt and a little pepper) vanished in seconds- and also made an appearance pushed into the top of a big white loaf- Graveyard Bread is a lot less effort than it sounds.

The spread itself. SCARY. But not in a salmonella way.
The sociopath who hosted the evening had drawn up a rather terrifying shopping list in her kitchen. Several attendees from the party have still not returned home.

Catching up

10th November and I'm sitting outside in (really) very short shorts and a t-shirt looking at a computer for the first time in a while. I have some catching up to do, whilst feeling lazy in a very still piece of Provence. The best bread for a croque monsier? Emailed suggestions very welcome.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Hake with Mussels in Coconut Broth

So a saturday lunch loomed: fish with mussels and whilst in the aisles i went for a bit of an off-piste excursion by way of coconut milk lemon grass & chilli

After i got back from the shops i found these things in my basket:

chilli flakes
olive oil
hake filets
red potatoes
flat parsley
green beans

Clean the mussels of beards, moustaches, throw broken/ dead mussels.

Chop the shallots, and 2 cloves garlic, fry then add glug of wine and put the cleaned mussels in.
Steam the musssels til they are cooked - i think about 5mins.
I then strained the juices to keep for later and took the mussels out of the shells.

the juices go back in a pan with half tin of coconut milk, lemongrass cut lengthways so easy to remove later, pinch of chilli flakes - shouldve been fresh chilli,
potatoes were boiled then finished with thyme & salt.
Made some sodabread with buttermilk too.

Hake fell apart as soon as it went in the pan - think i should've chosen a different fish.
Samphire fried in butter for few mins.
Mussels re-added to the coconut broth chopped in parsley then spooned over the cooked hake - Done!!
It was really delicious - next time different piece of fish, more fresh chilli in there,  & would reduce the liquor further for a thicker final sauce but all the flavours were great!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Mackerel with Curly Kale

Back to a favourite: Mackerel - this time with with Curly Kale.
This was drafted in as a quick sunday lunch.
One mackerel per person is loads if the mackerel are big.

1x Mackerel per person
Curly Kale - 2 handfull per person
3 Cooked Beetroot
2% Greek Yoghurt
Truffle Balsamic
Hot Horseradish Sauce - should probably be fresh horseradish but...
Fine Polenta to dip the fish in.
Served With Brown Rice

This was sort of thrown together after a sweep round the supermarket.

Get the rice on first 25mins - last 10mins with teatowel to steam.
Next mixed the chopped beets with yoghurt & horseradish - blended then seasoned.
Next clean and prep the mackerel in the polenta & pepper.
Kale in with water for 10mins
Almost dry fry the broccoli with honey and truffle balsamic.
Mackerel just need a few mins each side - and polenta once cooked off gives it a lovely crunch.

It was delicious!

Then it was the persian's turn to cook pudding: a banana strawberry crumble with Heston's salted Caramel ice cream.


Monday, 10 October 2011

Jazzy's night off

My fridge broke over the weekend. I'm blaming the unseasonal October heat but it may have more to do with my over zealous deicing utilising a much neglected hammer and screw driver set from Ikea. Freon gas everywhere is all I'm saying. As such I have no leaves, no left overs, no delicious morceau that I can alchemy into edible gold. So I came home, heated up some classic Heinz baked beans, the can of which I have moved house with 3 times, decanted into a bowl and added some Lea & Perrins. The emergency tin was finally utilised and washed down with a couple of Earl Greys it was probably the most delicious meal I've had all year.


A vaporetto in, a couple of absurd meals, hot weather and a wander around the cemetry. The funniest meal being a Sunday dinner by the water at the Cipriani- an old American man in a suit he was boiling to death in made his only conversation of the meal with wifey- "that girl is wearing jeans!" in reference to my dining partner. I got a filthy look from the waiter for wearing no socks with my brogues (gimme-a-break) but the gazpacho with set cream on top and rabbit risotto were superlative.

Best meal, some cichetti, a walnut pasta and a plate of fried fish washed down with gallons of spritz- my favourite place in venice yet I have never once written down the name...

Smuggled back a kilo of various funghi from Rialto market and made the best mushrooms on toast, topped with slithering of melted parmigianno (another kilo of that imported as well) on my return. No pringles for me thanks Ryanair.

10AM campari on a jetty.

Good rope. Custard donut still slightly warm and an amazing espresso.

Chiodini and farfelli! Oh for living in the Italian hills and foraging for these with my pet pig Bruno. The fat market man wrapped them in brown paper and threw in some generous stalks of parlsley. Back in England even the best mushrooms on toast in the world look a bit like vomit. I was heart broken to find my single porcini had rotten after a day. Should've cut it and dried it. Bugger.

Monday, 3 October 2011

A Mexican in America

New Yoik

Lot to catch up on. First up is La Esquina in New York, on Lafayette. Eat downstairs if you can (you need to book) or you can grab handfuls of gravy soaked tacos and sit in the park across the road, realise you haven't ordered enough and go back for more again and again and again.

There's also a nice room round to the side- in total I ate here 3 times in 2 days. The cheesy/ spicy corn is excellent as is pretty much everything else. Some watermelon juice helps to counter the food exhaustion and jet lag that I brought to the table.

Stayed at the Americano- will be a great hotel when it's created some atmosphere of it's own in a year or two. Despite being the first day they'd served it, breakfast was excellent. Refried beans and eggs. So good I forgot to take a photo until I'd polished it off. Big fan of the coffee pots and tea towels.
Oh and also had a few spare minutes to introduce Matt to the joys of Katzs one lunch time. Also massively snooze inducing. When Harry Met Sally (with it's most famous scene shot over a pastrami sandwich in this very joint) was the only decent film on the way back- I had a little cry over my microwaved, plane mac n cheese.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A Big Pham of Sushi

I've been a fan of Whitecross St. food market for last couple of years - vegi burritos from the muraled Luardos van, piles of salad with extra feta & foccacia from Serpil Erce's salad stall and so on but never been into Pham's until now.

About 8pm on saturday it was fairly busy and we were sat at the sushi bar. Staff were immediately personable and attentive. We eschewed Japanese beer in favour of a cold white.

We ordered a LOT of food and it arrived in perfect intervals.
(please excuse bad iphone pics)

First up was mixed sashimi - it was so incredibly melt-in-the-mouth and so fresh looking and tasteing - almost jewel like.

Next to arrive was for me the highlight of the meal. "Scallop Sashimi With Creamy Spicy Sauce" - this was amazing!  Served in the shell with said spicy sauce - not 100% sure what was in it - think a touch of mayo in there. The scallop and sauce was  topped with roe & sesame seedsthat exploded like popping candy in your mouth it just tasted so good. 

Our neighbour at the sushi bar then shared some of his rock shrimp as we tucked into our next dish: deep fried squid tentacles with this dipping sauce sauce that had this curious cola syrup caramel hint to it.

Sushi rolls followed, samourai & dragon - again delicious - so much more flavoursome than a lot of sushi joints with carefully balanced textures and tastes.

It was delicious, fun and service was great.

Supper for two with a glass of wine each was about £45.

They are on Whitecross St, EC1