Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Leon, the brownie farmer

I've heard lots of good things about Leon but I've never had a proper meal here though I’m not entirely sure it’s entirely me as they may be a little organic brown pilaf, falafel and worthy for my tastes. But no matter it’s a great place to pop into falafel and all.

I like the way they transform themselves throughout the day from breakfast bar to coffee shop to lively lunch place then über trendy bar and restaurant in the evening. Today I had some time to kill before a late appointment and I was severely parched as my refreshments at my previous appointment had gone awry so I thought a nice cup of tea would sort me out. It still sounds odd to think of me drinking tea, having only been a fairly recent convert to the way of the leaf. And I like tea at Leon's because I insist on the palest 'black' Earl Grey; they just give me a huge cup of hot water and a tea bag. So much easier! And they're happy to give me more hot water so I can have a second cup with another teabag dunk. I thought if sit down with my cup of tea and a slice of something nice and read – luxury!

I was hoping I could get one of their brownies. They do very good brownies, I like the way they wrap them with looking vintage labels and the chocolate brownie is made with Valrhona chocolate so it can’t be bad. I’ve also tasted the rather delectable lemon and ginger crunch which I forced myself to eat when my throat was sore. I’m sure I recall the medicinal properties of lemon and ginger on a poorly throat, or is that honey?

But clearly they’d been a rush on brownies so I thought I’d try the chocolate tart as an accompaniment to my tea. But my plan of reading was thwarted pretty much the moment I sat down as the lights which had been on ‘day mode’ were suddenly switched to ‘ambience’ and I was plunged into just enough murkiness to see and eat my tart but not to read by comfortably. Annoyingly! So that little avenue of pleasure was closed but I enjoyed the tea and the tart anyway. Leon would seem the perfect place to relax and read a book as long as you don’t turn up on the cusp of the evening shift when clearly books are banished in favour of lively conversation. Though actually what I did was write this post on my BlackBerry, well it's backlit - which is more than can be said for my book and if I can't read I might as well write!

delicious March

In fact I think it will be a very delicious March, they’ve really come up trumps this month and in my opinion, trounced their peers. Actually both delicious and olive make the ‘ever – worthy’ fresh look a little stark and unsophisticated but they’re supportive towards vegetables!

This month’s delicious theme is eating well but on a budget, that seems fair enough as I guess we can’t each truffles every day!

They’ve even been trawling the high street looking for a few homeware bargains and my eye has been caught by some black Manhattan crockery at House of Fraser! Mmmm! The cover shot is a plate of lemon salmon fishcakes with a poached egg on top. The creamy mushroom and lemon spaghetti looks tasty and with a little tweaking could be a store cupboard standby. And the potato, Cheshire cheese and spring onion tarts looks really good, I really like this recipe and wouldn’t change a thing. The cauliflower cheese with ham looks pretty fabulous also; the wholegrain mustard gives the finished dish a pleasing speckled appearance. An enhanced cauliflower cheese; sounds good to me! The frankfurter and mushroom tortilla is a blast from ther past, I remember eating frankfurters as a child, sometimes in a finger shaped bun or with mash (and if my memory serves me correctly probably the Martian-friendly Smash!) Simon Rimmer starts his piece with the words “Potatoes are the finest ingredient in the world…” but then he makes potato cakes with sweet potatoes, curry paste and mayonnaise – hmmm, I don’t think so!

In Janet Street-Porter’s first delicious column she implores us “to keep it simple” and expresses her disgust with eating in “expensive, pretentious places” and as much as she likes Heston she thinks “his approach to food is ludicrous” Looks like we we’re in for a lively column!

There are some seriously splendid looking pies from Angela Boggiano’s new Pie book, the smoked fish and cider pie and the braised lamb shank pie with lamb bones intriguingly poking out of the crust look winners.

I also like the look of the zesty herb and chilli crab salad and blackened five-spice duck with mini roasties and the orange and Campari jellies with caramelised vanilla oranges looks a fabulous jewel bright end to a meal. There are some tasty looking desserts but the winner has to be Marcus Wareing’s astounding custard tart from the Queen’s 80th birthday meal.

We also get treated to the lovely Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini fame giving us a tour of her favourite foodie hangouts of Paris. Now where’s my passport?

And there’s more! There’s a chorizo frittata, baked gnocchi with spinach and mushrooms in the assembly cook section. There’s a reminder how to make perfect pancakes, a sausage and onion rosti and the last page has a wonderful oozing creamy pancetta, Brie and mushrrom croissants. Mmmm, mmmm a delicious month, I think.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A fresh fresh

It seems like I sounded the death knell for fresh too soon because three months after their last issue (the Christmas one) a March issue has materialised. And they’re back, back, back – or are they? They are seemingly unapologetic about the absence; the only reference to their mysterious disappearance is a 'welcome back' at the start of the editor's letter. Though that kind of implies that we the readers have been somewhere, not them! They nearly blew it for me by doing an advertorial entitled 'tantalising tomatoes' two pages in but despite the fact that fresh have never lived up to their peers olive and delicious (I wonder why they all favour lower case, it is more trendy and is that why the older stalwart Good Food magazine has two capital letters?) I was still quite sad at its lack of appearance. There's always something a little less glossy about fresh and I think they use a lot of stock photos. I base this assumption that sometimes the photograph doesn't really depict the accompanying recipe but I guess they have smaller budgets. I can forgive the lack of polish, but some of the articles lack a certain depth that I can’t really put my finger on. And whilst I'm being critical, some of their recipes seem more like serving suggestions and can hardly warrant a full page like this month’s recipe for Greens with Butter Drizzle which is actually a steamed torn up Savoy cabbage served dotted with butter. And this honestly has a full page spread devoted to it.

Well enough from the things I didn't like about the magazine, what did they have in this month which I fancy whipping up? There’s an interesting take on duck with duck, coriander and orange fritters with crispy carrot salad. I’m not crazy about coriander, so I’d probably leave that out. There’s a tasty looking leek, thyme, garlic and blue cheese tart but I’d swap the blue cheese for maybe some Wensleydale. The photograph of the tart is rather interesting, the thyme and leeks are in sharp focus and the rest of the tart is out of focus. This seems quite unusual for food photography nowadays; a gritty realism seems to be the order of the day. The Mother’s Day menu has a succulent looking slow roasted pork loin with red onion, garlic and thyme and another winning potato dish – slow-baked creamy garlic potatoes which is just really gratin Dauphinois with the addition of some leek and spring onions. And I’m never going to complain about gooey chocolate pudding. The St. Patrick’s Day recipes have a couple of odd drinks and a fine looking roasted rosemary potato pizza but the blue cheese would have to be substituted again, maybe for Tallegio. There’s a pizza place near work whose waiters often ignore my request to leave off the blue cheese from the four cheese pizza – to make it more of a three cheese pizza. And I find the blue cheese takes all the other cheeses hostage and overwhelms everything. And blue cheese just tastes off to me!

There are recipes for Caerphilly and wholegrain mustard soufflé and Caerphilly Glamorgan sausages in honour of St David’s Day but neither have any pictures, though saying that there’s a big picture of a Caerphilly cheese. I like the idea of serving the chive speckled scrambled duck egg in the egg shell. I would like try that!

So fresh maybe back, or maybe it's just a one off. It may not be the favourite of my monthly foodie fixes but if there’s some worthy food for thought still, I'm still happy to peruse it.

A bagel already!

Having only been a recent convert to the joy of a fine bagels, I haven’t branched much beyond a smoked salmon and cream cheese (ideally with a touch of chives if available) and with a twist of lemon and black pepper. But today I fancied something a little different so I selected a Bagels Already cheese bagel topped with pesto, cheese and ham. And it was really good! The cheese bagel has a bite of onion running through it; in fact it’s more than a bite as it makes your lips tingle. And the ham wasn’t flabby and processed but had a nice hammy flavour. The pesto was a nice touch and finished it off nicely.

Handily the bagel comes in a little yellow New York cab style box with enough tissue paper to create a barrier and prevent the inevitable crumbs showering over me.

This was a delicious worthy contender to the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel creation. And maybe it’s sacrilegious, but I like mine toasted. Forgive me; I am not a New Yorker!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Emergency salmon tart

Today, I didn't seem to have anything very fresh or lovely lurking in the fridge so I thought I'd try a frozen Just for... Seafood Lovers' (yes, I agree awful name!) salmon and cream tart that I purchased in my last Ocado delivery.
The salmon was really tasty and the the creamy filling has a pleasing little bite, very much to my taste. And the pastry case was just the right balance of crisp, light and pleasingly crumbly. All in all, not bad at all for an emergency ration!

Gordon, we're coming!

In March I happen to be ‘forced’ to spend an evening in New York so to soften the blow I’m off to Gordon Ramsay’s new Manhattan restaurant – London and I’m seriously excited! When I say ‘forced’, I think self imposed layover so I can experience the culinary genius that is Gordon would be more appropriate. Because of flight schedules, I alight from my transatlantic flight in Newark airport, sprucing up and changing into the suitable Michelin establishment attire in the tiny toilet beforehand and then have to hot-foot it straight to the restaurant in deepest Manhattan.
But it’s a very small sacrifice for such gastronomic nirvana! I also just heard that one of my epicurean cohorts for this adventure is ‘with bump’, yes another one!
So let’s hope Gordon’s New York crew cater as fabulously for N and bump as Petrus did for H and bump.

Just check out the menu prestige.
Mmmm, I can smell lobster ravioli already!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

olive on a Sunday

The latest olive magazine plopped onto my doormat and I always have the same quandary. Do I dive straight it picking out tasty titbits as I go or slowly savour each morsel? I know D always wants to be the first to crack the cover on every new magazine and I know what she means the moments before you start reading a new food magazine you don’t know if it will have some great inspirations and run immediately into the kitchen or it will be tomato soaked fest or all abstinence and Asian broth. It might sound rather dramatic for a mere magazine, but I feel the same before opening any book for the first time (and I don’t just mean cookbooks but all books, not even good ones make we want to run and sharpen my Global knives).

It looks extremely hopeful as the cover is shows a fabulous Sunday roast instead of last month’s abundance of healthy eating ideas. And the very first recipe is yummy looking French onion soup. So I started off slowly to ensure I don’t miss any of the little snippets of news as that’s how I found about my food photography course in France last year. This month they send a lucky food editor to the River Cottage HQ “Pig in a Day” course which sounds a real treat and news of soon to be available ready made spam fritters which doesn’t! Next there’s a great profile of Olive top 50 decadent foodies including some of my favourites, Uncle Monty from Withnail and I, Richard Corrigan, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Giles Coren, the Two Fat Ladies, Stephen Fry, Jeffrey Steingarten and the slightly scandalous Elizabeth David. It’s a rather eclectic bunch is rather thought provoking. I love the fact that they’ve included the Swedish Chef and his chocolate mousse recipe that includes the ingredients – chocolate and a moose! Though I think that Simon Hopkinson and Nigel Slater should be there for the incredible mark they’ve already made on the world of food literature and everyone knows what a seminal book Roast Chicken and Other Stories is.

But what about the seasonal recipes? Well for the ‘barren lull’ between the end of the winter vegetables and the spring vegetables there are some great recipes. Firstly, there is a recipe for mussels with garlic and herb breadcrumbs and ever since I fell in the love with the “Popeye” dish at Belgo’s I been trying to find the tray for grilling mussels to recreate it. Maybe I’ve been just looking too hard and I could just use a baking tray like in this recipe. And then it’s purple sprouting broccoli with proscuitto and duck egg which looks seriously tasty also. Jo Pratt’s new book “In the mood for food” is coming out next month and my eye was particularly caught by the berry and ginger crumble. That would seem a perfect way to utilise some of my frozen berries. And not surprisingly, with the fine hunk of beef on the cover, there are some fine Sunday best meaty-licious dishes to tuck into.

I think this month is going to be mighty tasty!

A mussel-y Rick Stein

James Martin’s Saturday Kitchen yesterday featured Oliver Rowe whipping up a rather tasty looking Chervil-stuffed roast chicken salad with shaved turnips, lardons and cider vinaigrette but I’m afraid I fast forwarded through Rachel Allen doing her Thai peanut, vegetable and coconut noodles as it’s not to my taste. James Martin produced the classic Moules marinière with crusty bread for Tony Hadley and the other guests and a Chorizo and Sea Bass dish which was unfortunately spoilt by excessive olives and tomatoes.
But that particularly caught my eye was a fabulous Rick Stein version of a Jane Grigson recipe Mussels en Croustade. It may have been rather retro-seventies bistro but it looked utterly delicious and I intend to try it next time I cook mussels.

Mussels en croustade with leeks and white wine

by Rick Stein from Seafood Lovers' Guide - Serves 4
Preparation time less than 30 mins - Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

4 large, round crusty bread rolls
175g/6oz butter
900g/2lb mussels, cleaned
50ml/2fl oz dry white wine
2 large or 4 small leeks, cleaned and finely chopped
2 tbsp/1fl oz/30ml double cream

1 tsp beurre manie
1 tbsp chopped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

2. Cut a thin slice off the top of each bread roll and set aside. Scoop out all the soft bread from inside each roll with a teaspoon, leaving a wall about 5mm/¼in thick. Melt 50g/2oz of the butter and use to brush the inside of each roll and the lids. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until crisp and golden. Keep warm.

3. Put the mussels into a large pan with the wine, then cover and cook over a high heat for about 3 minutes, shaking the pan now and then, until they have just opened. Tip them into a colander set over a bowl to collect all the cooking liquor. Remove the mussels from their shells, cover and set aside.

4. Melt another 25g/1oz of the butter in a pan. Add the leeks, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes, until soft. Add all the mussel cooking liquor except the last tablespoon or two (which might contain some grit), then bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the remaining butter, the double cream and the beurre manie. Simmer for 1 minute until slightly thickened.

5. Stir the mussels, chives and some seasoning into the sauce. Spoon the mixture into the warm rolls, partly cover with the lids and serve.

Today they were reshowing Rick beginning his French Odyssey again on UKFood. Every time I see it I am reminded how much I would just love the opportunity to travel around France on a proper old barge like Rosa. It just looks such an amazing way to travel through the French countryside, really experience it and enjoy all the delicious food on offer on the way. D, MC and I have always said this is exactly what we'd do if we came into an impressive amount of money, as unfortunately this kind of trip doesn't come cheap. But we can dream, n'est-ce pas?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A late soufflé

I had intended to have another go at Hay, Hay it’s Donna Hay again as I really enjoyed the risotto challenge last month but I hadn’t been checking Tami’s lovely Running with Tweezers blog as often as I should and only realised this evening that the deadline was today for posting a soufflé entry. Aghhh, too late to get the relevant ingredients as it’s nearly midnight and I’m afraid a late night soufflé ingredient run is really out of the question. Actually I have got everything I would need to make a soufflé apart from the very crucial milk for the roux base. I don’t drink milk so I don’t keep it in as a matter of course. I buy it when I intend to make a cauliflower gratin, a cheese soufflé, of course some mash potatoes or when MC is coming to visit and he ‘needs’ it for his tea. And woe betide me not having milk when he’s here! So I’m afraid instead of rustling up a last minute new soufflé I will have to cheat slightly and refer back to the soufflé potatoes D and I made for our hastily arranged New Year’s Eve meal.

This particular recipe from the last issue of Fresh magazine (and by that I don’t mean the most recent one but it seems the last ever) uses a ready-made four cheese sauce as its base. I would normally make a cheese sauce myself and next time I make this I will make my own and perhaps add a little English mustard also to give a little extra kick.

Soufflé Potatoes
Fresh - December 2006 Serves 6

700g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
400g carton fresh four cheese sauce
1-2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Butter to grease
6 tbsp finely grated fresh Parmesan
3 medium eggs, separated

- Cook potatoes in lightly salted boiling water for 20 minutes until tender, then drain and return to pan stirring over the heat for 1-2 minutes to dry.
- Take off the heat, add cheese sauce, mustard and season with black pepper. Mash well until lump free.
- Pre heat oven to 200c. Grease a soufflé dish (or use 6 ramekin dishes) with butter and sprinkle the base and sides with a little of the Parmesan.
- Add the egg yolks to the potatoes and beat in well.
- Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form then gently fold into the potatoes.
- Spoon into the dish, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and then tuck in.

I really filled up the dishes as I only made 2/3rd of the recipe as there were only three of us but that meant I supposedly had enough mixture for four ramekins. I actually used three small ovenproof dishes but there were still lashings of the cheesy mixture but I figure this would enable the rising. And these soufflés really rose! I am sorry to speak ill of a ‘dead’ magazine as it really does seem that Fresh is no more, but it didn’t recommend cooking individual soufflés for less time that a large one and I think I would probably whip them out of the oven quicker next time.

And photographing soufflés, how much fun is that? These were enormous, luckily, when removed from the oven so I had a little chance to compose a moody shot before they sunk too much. And D acting as my glamorous photographic assistant held a black apron behind the rapidly deflating soufflés to give a cleaner background. Though I may not need so much assistance in that matter again as I purchased a 'photo cube soft box' today which no doubt I will explain more fully when it arrives. All very exciting!

Our fabulous potato soufflés carried on cooking well after serving and seemed to get hotter and hotter with spurts of steam shooting out of them every now and then. I think they can be considered the Mount Vesuvius of the potato (or even soufflé) world but they tasted really good so almost burning my mouth was worth it.

Happy souffléing everyone!

Friday, January 26, 2007

What Dean did next and the return of MasterChef

MasterChef goes large is back every weekday on BBC2 at 6.30 pm and I hope we don’t have another “Dean should have won” debacle. Though saying that Digger Dean or to call him by his real name, Dean Edwards has done very well and after a stint at Midsummer House in Cambridge he is running his own catering company in Bristol where he reproduces his culinary magic at dinner parties in your own home. I guess only if you live in Bristol unfortunately, though! The merest glance at the web will prove that many believed he was the true star of the last series, who could forget his nightmare egg cooking for hundreds on a cruise ship whilst Peter stayed in bed ill, hmmm convenient!
Peter, as many believe to be the undeserved winner, has produced a cook book but I haven’t felt the need to add it to my collection. Daksha, the other finalist is also doing very well cooking her Guajarati treats at people’s homes. There was an interesting catch up programme last Monday showing the life changes that have impacted nearly all of the finalists from the last two series. It’s great to see that this show has really turned out contestants that are now earning their living through cooking. The original MasterChef series back in Loyd Grossman and Gary Rhodes' time produced definitely a few well known TV chefs and a raft of cook book writers (including Sue Lawrence from the Blueprint Café event last night) but I don’t think so many went from amateur to professional after their experience.

I did apply for the first series of the new MasterChef before I realised what it was all about. But on the questionnaire we were asked if we wanted to change our lives and become a professional chef and as much as I totally adore food, cooking, eating and all the other foodie diva things I cram into my life, I am not willing to spend my life in a restaurant kitchen. I love visiting professional kitchens but they are so unbelievably hot, I could never wear white and I just don’t do early mornings! I think very much I should stick to feeding me and others just for pleasure as I don’t think I could ever do it for real!

So MasterChef goes large is going to be a purely watchable treat and not a participation event for me, though I do find that I spend a lot of time discussing the more random opinions on the contestants of John Torode and Gregg Wallace. I was pleased to see Ben win the first week on the new series, I think he is a worthy winner and look forward to seeing next week’s contestants beginning on Monday. I still think that the way John and now Gregg over extend their mouths when sampling a forkful of the food is very curious and always makes me think of the ‘wide mouthed frog’. What is that about?
But to see someone else change their life possibly forever, check out the new MasterChef goes large... I know I will be. And I'll try not to mention the "Dean was robbed" travesty again, promise!

Eating well on risotto

There are not many options for grabbing some decent fresh food late at night. But fortunately for me M&S stay open until midnight at Waterloo and last night I was able to grab something for lunch today just before they shut.

I had to think what I could microwave, so their Eat Well range seemed a good bet. And this is what I ended up with – the chicken and asparagus risotto. It does seem a good option, there’s nothing bad in there and appears to be as healthy as possible for a ready meal.

And actually, it tasted pretty good and warmed the cockles of my heart on a chilly day!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Burn, burn, Burns

I’d been really looking forward to the latest Blueprint Café’s cook book club. It was all in aid of a book I wasn’t very familiar with “A Cook’s tour of Scotland” by Sue Lawrence and held very appropriately on Burn’s Night. And I knew it was going to be special because the ever ebullient Jeremy Lee would be be-kilted and generally even more in his Scottish element that usual. And they’d probably be bagpipes!

What I haven’t taken into consideration is my crazy brutal schedule this week. For various work related reasons I have copious early starts and late finishes. I can normally do the late nights as I’ve always been a night owl or ‘creature of the night’ but the mornings – arghhh, I have never been an early bird and I never particularly wanted to catch the worm! So by tonight, I was really running on empty and as much as I’d always greatly enjoyed these cook book events at the Blueprint Café, I guess I had never realised how much hard work they are. As I go by myself, I have to mingle and get to know my new dining companions. I guess this didn’t work as well as usual as I was sat with people who knew each other so I felt a little like a gooseberry but also I think my tiredness meant I just really couldn’t hear everyone properly (or I guess they could have been speaking especially quietly) and it was all rather disorientating. But it did give me a really good chance to examine the cook book of the evening - A Cook’s tour of Scotland. And I was really impressed! I’d been purposely not looking at it to keep it a surprise for tonight and there are some great little recipes from the very first page. The first chapter is Lobster, Langoustines and Crab on the first page has both Jim McFarlane’s Crab Sandwich and Crab Gratin. And especially the Crab Gratin is a recipe I want to try. The second Mussels, Oysters and Scallops has my favourite Scallops with Black Pudding on Champit’ Peas. Champit’ peas are like a kind of mushy peas with both butter beans and peas. I’ve never been crazy about mushy peas; the canapés we got tonight were topped in something called Buster Peas which I would say were similar but without the butter beans and probably not with a more acceptable petits pois but the awful marrowfat peas that I recall from many a childhood fish and chip visit. The third chapter is Salmon and I’d very happily tuck into all four recipes and am planning which one to cook first – Frittata with Smoked Salmon, Smoked Salmon Pâté, Hot-smoked Salmon Pancakes, and Fresh Salmon Chowder. All good, nothing bad! And in the subsequent chapters I’ve alighted on Smokie Pots, the fabulously named Hairy Tatties, Spiced Venison with a Wild Mushroom and Truffle Sauce, Smoked Haddock with Black Pudding and Bacon, Bacon and Mussel Chowder with Cavolo Nero, Cock-a leekie Risotto with Bacon, Clapshot Soup with Haggis Croûtons, Rumblethumps, Squash with Melted Cheese and Dunkers, Gooey Cheese Potatoes with Bacon and to finish off a Raspberry Chocolate Fudge Tart.

But before I hit the kitchen there’s a small matter of a Burn’s Night feast to tuck into:

Wee pies & buster peas
Haggis, clapshot
Baked shoulder of mutton, black pudding, skirlie & kale
A wee cream, rhubarb & shortbread
Coffee, tablet

The wee pies were fabulous little quartered scotch pie topped with a vibrant dash of my not so favourite buster peas. The haggis was the nicest I’ve tasted, they can be a little overwhelmed with pin oatmeal. The clapshot is a Scottish mash, so I’m hardly likely to complain, it is potatoes with turnip (or in England we say Swede). The baked mutton was really sublime, baked long and slow until melting. The black pudding was very fine and had been accompanied from the Hebrides by its maker Ian Macleod. Skirlie is an onion and oatmeal mixture which added an interesting texture to the ever so melting mutton.

The wee cream was a kind of soft rhubarb topped with a sabayon. I think Sue had wanted to reproduce the rhubarb cobbler recipe but Jeremy thought it might be a little heavy after all the other treats. What was quite funny about the wee cream was that it was served in a wine glass but with rather curiously a soup spoon. This meant that none of us could get the spoon into the glass and had to attempt to eat it with the end of the spoon. Our eagled eyed waiter spotted our dilemma and rescued us with a stack on tea spoons. Much more sensible! I was intrigued to find out what a tablet was and it turned out to cross between the mainstays of many a hiker, the Kendal mint cake and fudge. It really was so incredibly sweet!

The whole meal was piped in by an extravagantly attired piper and yes, we did discover what was under the kilt! Jeremy Lee was on incredibly fine form, an imposing site in his tartan-less black kilt and kept us terribly amused between courses. When is he going to bring out his cook book? I chatted to Sir Terence Conran about the incredible food photography course in France with his old friend Roger Stowell and also my pleasure at Marcus Wareing getting another Michelin star. It seems that Sir Terence certainly doesn’t agree with me, doesn’t admire Marcus’ work and cites a certain Carpaccio of Gherkins as a shocking example of his deviant behaviour. Okay, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree!

It was a great evening food-wise but I do realise that I need to be not so tired to make it easier to do the social bit and I intend to be better prepared for next time. Next month I am very excited that we will be enjoying Sophie Conran’s Pies in the cook book club. And I really hope we’ll be tucking into rabbit pie which is Jeremy Lee’s recipe from Sophie’s fabulous book. I cannot wait!

Pie EATer

I popped into EAT (aka Excellence and Taste) today for a pie. I was tired, it was cold and very suitable pie weather. They had a new addition to the range – cauliflower cheese. I could see there was a tomato on top so I asked if there was tomato on the inside as well. The very kind EAT person ducked through a door marked private and consulted with some hidden pie guru returning to assure me that tomato wasn’t to darken my pie. Ah but it was! On returning to the office and turning the EAT pie box into a plate just as you’re encouraged to do I deftly removed the offending tomato from on top of my pie. But on sticking my fork in, I discovered that my tomato free cauliflower cheese pie had indeed been tainted with the evil red stuff. The only good thing is that tomato stands out well in all that pale creaminess and I was able to laboriously pick each tiny bit out. And despite this effort, this was a fine pie. I love cauliflower cheese and then in a pie also, my little Northern heart skipped a beat! All it needed was some mash!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ivory surprise

I haven’t been to the Ivory since it changed from being the Aquarium. Our original plan was to eat at the Lightship as we didn’t want to cross Tower Bridge as we didn’t have a huge amount of time to refuel and return to a much awaited email. I haven’t been to the Lightship for ages, I’ve had some very nice meals there but H is not partial to entering any establishment that might possibly sway due to being on water and the clue is in the name of the restaurant here. So this little avenue of pleasure has been unavailable for a while but P (previously been referred to as designated driver P!) doesn’t seem to be affected by the possibility of a slight rocking. But being a very chilly Wednesday night or for some other undisclosed reason, only one floor was open and there wasn't room for us so they suggested we went to their sister restaurant - the Ivory. I had checked the menu for the Ivory as we passed but thought it was a little odd so wasn’t too delighted that this was all that was on offer. As a plan B, I suggest we went to the bar above the Ivory which I’d had a stunning Wagyu beef cheeseburger with H last year. And I knew that P was craving a beef burger as the picture of my Gourmet Burger Kitchen burger from last Friday made him positively giddy so I thought this may fill the gap. We climbed the stairs to the Ivory bar (formerly the Bang Bar) and ordered two of their finest Wagyu (AKA Kobe) burgers. But we were thwarted; they are still offering Wagyu beef but only in some sort of noodle salad travesty and I had some awful Masa flashback at themere thought. They gave us the menu and it was the menu I’d read downstairs believing it was the Ivory restaurant menu, I asked if this was the same menu as downstairs and they said no – that was the “proper restaurant”. Oh I thought, well why would we perch on a rather uncomfortable looking barstools at the bar, we’d go downstairs and eat at the proper restaurant instead. So we go back downstairs again, get seated and are offered the same menu as upstairs. Are you still following? By now I’m really confused, they shouldn’t really offer the restaurant menu in the bar but sometimes do and we were no nearer to a fabulous Wagyu cheeseburger than when we started. I’m not sure why I didn’t fancy the menu but there were little extras to everything that I should wasn’t crazy about but on closer examination, it actually seemed okay with only minor tweaking. And by now we were rather hungry so we weren’t going anywhere else.

We both ordered the wild mushroom soup with a poached duck egg (I think) in the middle. Again I tried to record this murky looking soup with a curious white lump partially submerged in the centre on my camera phone. It doesn’t look terribly attractive on my camera phone but no matter as the phone is not relinquishing its photographs anyway. I’m still struggling to work out how to type my email address in Cyrillic; I think I will just give up. The appearance may have not been the finest but the soup was very tasty and the poached egg was an interesting and unusual addition. Though P was deeply suspicious and left his intact declaring that eggs are for breakfast.

Next I ordered the pork belly and Brussels tops but not with the proffered sauerkraut (ughhh!) but instead with that ever shining light the end of a bad meal tunnel – potato purée. And P ordered the crumbed chicken breast with coleslaw and gremolata. He was going to plump for the straw potatoes but I pointed him in the direction of the double cooked chips – ‘man’s chips!’ and the waiter backed me up. My pork belly was really good and the mash was very, very good. How could I have doubted them? It was creamy, tasty and extremely copious – and no I didn’t eat it all! But it definitely needs to be added to the mash hall of fame. P was very impressed with his chips - pleasingly fluffy on the inside and perfectly crunchy on the outside. And the chicken? How curious, it was so big and very thin. It in fact was the largest chicken breast I had ever seen carefully flattened by a steam roller and then crumbed. One can only wonder where on earth one gets such a stupendous chicken; I’d dread to see the size of the original bird.

Our meal was so much better than I expected, we didn’t have time for desserts but they looks quite interesting also. I feel quite guilty for the quick glance at the menu that caused me to instantly dismiss them on first examination. I really should try not to judge a restaurant by its menu, there’s probably always some redeeming features and hidden surprises worth exploring. And when the mash is so fine, much can be excused!

An ivory handled fork for the Ivory, I will definitely give them another go even though in my mind they’ve spoilt their original Wagyu dish!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Swanning around the White Swan

I'd heard things about the food in the White Swan in Fetter Lane but we were in the bar not the restaurant and when we finally got around to ordering, the interesting menu had been reduced to one option - sausages and mash. Well I'm hardly going to complain too much about that but unfortunately I found the pork and leek sausages and mustard mash a little lack lustre. The sausages were meaty and a very firm texture so you could pleasingly cut them carefully into perfect slices but just didn't seem to taste of that much. I couldn't really identify the mustard in the mash either.
Though perhaps I'm being harsh, I’d had a seriously long and tiring day and possibly my taste buds had gone to sleep. I would really like to revisit the White Swan and try the restaurant. It all looked very promising and I'm not sure the Hobson's choice menu and my extreme fatigue did the place justice. I did take a picture of my plate of comfort food but unfortunately only on my camera phone and so far it doesn't seem to want to relinquish it. I've been assured it can but when I try the screen goes all Cyrillic on me – that can’t be right!

Monday, January 22, 2007

A starry-eyed Marcus

I’m so delighted that the much deserved Marcus Wareing at Petrus has received a second Michelin star. We had a truly fabulous meal and perfect service at Petrus way back in July and felt that it easily warranted a higher accolade.
Well done Petrus, I hope we get the chance to return and sample the second star!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It arrived!

I was so delighted to read that my, probably not very well packed, parcel has managed to wing its way to sunny Sydney and to the grateful hands of Kate of veggie friendly fame. I’d had a real challenge with the parcel and not because Kate is vegetarian but the Australian department of agriculture are very thorough and so many of the things I’d originally earmarked for my first attempt at blogging by mail were on the prohibited list. I ended up with a spare Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and a special blend of Christmas tea which contained the dreaded fruit peel much despised the border guards. And I'd intended to include a few home-made foodie treats, but I could see that causing extra delay if they suspected any banned substances trying to sneak through.
I swiftly substituted the contains a tiny bit of peel tea for Earl Grey but the Christmas pudding plate was left bereft of pudding as I couldn’t get a guarantee that my choice of replacement - "House of Chocolat’s chocolate pudding" wasn’t going to distress a vegetarian. I decided that it may be safer to concentrate less on food and more on the table so there were scatter snowflakes, a snowflaked table runner and some festive shapes with which to adorn napkins. I also got a few extra goodies from Harvey Nicholls, my favourite ‘Baci di Dama’ embellished hot pot stand, a charming little Miss Christmas ornament and a little silver snowflake necklace. When I decide upon a theme, I like to run with it! I hadn't intended to include anything bedecked with pine cones but if I did, this would allow have been dangerous goods smuggling, so my parcel remained pine cone and seed free.
I’ve been checking veggie friendly very regularly as I had fears that the goodies had been confiscated by vigilant “Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry” inspectors and quarantined... perhaps for ever.
But phew, it has arrived… and I’m very happy! I hope you enjoyed it, Kate?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Eating France at home

I'd been planning to whip up some plump pillows of fresh ravioli to show how it should be done but the pasta trauma of New Year's Day has affected MC and he can't be persuaded to partake in such pasta-y comestibles. I've been consulting recipes for crab or lobster ravioli and trying to come up with something special. But with MC's reticence and being inspired by the whole French thing today it somehow doesn't seem right to make pasta. And to be honest, hanging around a food show all day is mighty tiring so it makes sense to conjure up something simple... And French! A quick pop to Waitrose on the way back from Olympia clinched the deal, we grabbed a couple of Bigham's Breton chickens, a Waitrose French onion soup, a part baked garlic baguette, gratin dauphinois (working on the theory that you can never have too much gratin Dauphinois!), a bag of frozen petit pois, some little gems and a Waitrose tarte au citron.

I located the atmospheric French music CD, the French white fluted plates, the bee glasses and bee linen - all very francais! I even graced the table with the Villeroy and Boch ever so classic candelabra. Okay, not very bistro but très elegante all the same! I suppose I could have grabbed the red and white chequered tablecloth from the picnic hamper, melted a few candles in some leftover wine bottles and really gone retro bistro but if Pont de la Tour can do bistro food served with all the elegance of fine dining, then so can I.

I had envisaged serving a rich little soup in the new (and terribly French) La petite black dress espresso cups (despite them being shockingly Franglais in their names!) with a Parmesan lid. But when I decided to serve French onion soup it really could only be with a melting cheese French bread croute. I wasn’t really sure how that would work with such a small cup so I abandoned the cups in favour of small (over proof) bowls as I wanted to flash them under the grill. We also had some spare garlic bread, so that was served on the side. How lovely do my bee linen napkins look?

This was followed by the Breton Chicken which is one of Bigham’s Kitchen Classics range. This was just basically chicken breast pieces, chopped leeks and bacon which are sautéed and then a tasty chive mornay sauce is poured over the cooked chicken and leeks. This would be an easy dish to put together but the boon of having everything prepped and chopped when I’m time pressured was very useful. The box even suggests a couple of serving options including rather interestingly serving the mixture in a pastry case with French beans. This was accompanied by a creamy oven baked gratin Dauphinois. I had intended to serve Petit Pois à la Française but wanted a recipe that used frozen petit pois and the first that I fell upon was the Crafty French Cook Michael Barry but he does his version without water or stock and rather a lot of cream. I realised whilst I was cooking this that the creamy gratin, the unctuous mornay sauce and the additional cream in the peas could possible push us all to cream overload, so I just quickly substituted stock instead. Next time I think I’ll use the queen of frozen peas Nigella’s recipe. It’s available in both How to Eat and Feast.

Petit Pois à la Française

Recipe courtesy Nigella Lawson

3 small or 2 fat scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 drop garlic-infused oil (or any oil really)

1 Little Gem (Butterhea
d) lettuce, shredded
2 cups frozen petits pois
1/2 cup hot chicken sto
ck (concentrate or cube and hot water is fine)

- Cook the scallions in the butter and oil until soft.
- Stir in the shredded lettuce, and when it is wilted add the frozen peas and stock.
- Cook at a robust simmer, uncovered, until everything is tender and the liquid flavourful and reduced.

D persuaded me that a cheese course might be a ‘little much’ with all the other food so we finished with just a slice of Waitrose tarte au citron which again I couldn’t work out how to serve in an espresso cup so a spotty plate it was, possible highlighting that the black and white themed blogging party only tipped the iceberg of my extensive monochromatic crockery collection!

Vive la France!

Eating France

As the Vive La France show at Olympia is not just about food and wine (unfortunately) but about how to get to France and where to live when you get there, the bits that really interest us don’t take up too much time to explore. That’s okay as D, MC and I seem to be quiet happy to meander through the various stands, MC checking out any wine samples and filling in any competitions to win trips to or holidays in France as we ambled. When we we got a little peckish there were several options: the restaurant, the various stalls selling sausage sandwiches etcetera, Pret à Manger for their usual sandwiches or the four restaurants preparing little sample meals in the Taste Terrace. This set up was very similar to the Taste of London show I’d been to in the summer and some of the dishes were even the same. The variety seemed to clinch it so off to the Taste Terrace we trotted. We decided to make our own French tasting menu after we’d bagged ourselves a table. But that was going to be a problem! There were many people desperately circling clutching little paper plates of food and wondering how they would balance them safely and eat if no tables were forthcoming. One advantage with visiting these events alone is that you can perch on someone’s table to consume your booty but we wanted to eat together so it was going to be much more of a challenge. Eventually with skill and stealth we pounced on a table that was becoming free though we had to share with another couple. If they thought it was remotely odd that all food was photographed before consumption, they never let on.

Now we had a table we could concentrate on food, the first port of call was Club Gascon where we purchased all three of their dishes: duck foie gras, Gascony pie (duck mousse, cream mushrooms and leaves) and cassoulet of tarbais beans, duck machon and Toulouse sausage.

The foie gras was incredibly light and the Gascony pie such a fabulous taste and texture. It is actually a duck mousse and even though doesn’t look the most attractive dish but tastes really good and a great contrast to the slightly bitter leaves. And even though I’m not particularly a bean girl, the cassoulet is actually very fine indeed! The Toulouse sausage is just as it should be firm, meaty and just the right amount of garlic and herbs.

Next it was a trip to Brasserie Roux for gratin de macaroni à la Lyonniase and Le Gavroche for their fabulous daube de boeuf braisée and gratin Dauphinois. The macaroni was interesting as I wondered why Lyonnaise and guessed that it meant with sliced onions but it seemed devoid of onions but had some little pieces of mushrooms. Well maybe, because they denied it! It tasted really flavoursome though and also went remarkably well with the daube de boeuf. The daube itself was small but really good but did look rather a sorry state with the gratin Dauphinois but looks aren’t everything! The gratin may looked curdles but it certainly didn't taste it.

And For the final act we send MC to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and asked him to choose some desserts for us all. We did suggest possible something chocolatey or lemony. He duly returned with raspberry and pistachio tart, a pear tart and some macaroons. D had spotted the macaroons earlier and expressed a desire to try some. And I must admit they looked very impressive in their pastel colours and pleasingly convex slightly shiny tops and all lined up neatly in their various colours. But in my head I suspected they would taste like those spaceships we used to occasionally get on the way home from school. Frankly they tasted of nothing, or maybe paper or even rice paper. But dull, anyway! And certainly not something I’d like to have when there may be more interesting lemon tart or some amazing chocolate confectionery on offer. But they were a revelation; I had the lemon one first and marvelled at the soft yet crisp coating which then pleasingly shattered as I bit into it. And then it just melted on my tongue! The two half shells are sandwiched with a tangy lemony paste and the whole effect is just so good. Why wasn’t I aware of the sheer fabulousness of macaroons before? We also enjoy the pear tart with the crispiest pastry and the raspberry with the surprise pistachio layer – all good, nothing bad!

Feeling sated after our exertions in the taste terrace we continue to explore the stalls and stands selling French goodies both edible and for the home. There’s also a few jewellery stalls and sparkly things are always interesting!

After a long day winding our way around the show we secure some front row seats in the food theatre for the final cooking demonstration at 4 pm. We have enjoyed Club Gascon’s food today so it seems very fitting we end watching their head chef Pascal Aussignac whip up a rabbit baked in clay treat. The presentation is accompanied by a deaf signer for the visitor who cannot hear Pascale’s dulcet French tones and what D and I are most intrigued about is the sign language for ‘rabbit’. It seems to be making bunny ears out of the index and middle finger of each hand almost like making those dreaded imaginary air quotations! Ughh! I’m not sure why D and I found this so enlightening but we did. The lovely Pascal (and he is rather lovely!) wrapped his rabbit in Swiss chard then a cabbage leaf and then the clay. The clay is shaped into a kind of large pasty before baking. The clay keeps the rabbit very moist. This is accompanied by sautéed mushrooms and polenta cooked with milk. I’ve been meaning to try polenta cooked in milk for ages; it looks creamier that normal polenta. I was keen to taste a little but they are terrified that you’ll try something, fall ill and then sue them so testing is strictly forbidden.

Pascal also waxed lyrical about his beloved ‘piment d’ Espelette’ which is a much prized AOC protected Basque pepper that he uses as a condiment instead of freshly ground black pepper. It tastes like paprika but maybe slightly softer in flavour. It is definitely something worth adding to the cupboard, possibly even one of the liquorice piglets!

We’ve had a great day, tasted a a whole host of things, made a few interesting purchases and entered a myriad of competitions. Now all I’ve got to do is decide to cook for everyone tonight. Something French perhaps?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Burgers for gourmets

There are many gourmet burgers available at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen but I generally always plump for the same one - a classic cheese burger but without the salad (dreaded tomatoes), relish (possibly more tomatoes) and definitely not the mayonnaise. And my what a fine burger it is! I haven’t been here for over a year but it’s still as good as ever. D reckons the burgers have shrunk but I still struggle to finish mine - late lunch I’m afraid! D and MC are staying with me because we’re off to Vive la France tomorrow and GBK called to us as we passed.
In the past I have tried the Pesterella, which has pesto and mozzarella and enjoyed it, but burgers for me really have to have come with some good mature Cheddar and preferably some fat chips.
And I blame my Northern roots but I really have to add the chips to my cheeseburger. That to me is burger perfection!
D and MC aren’t so faithful to their usuals and select a classic with some mozzarella and a chilli burger respectively. And we share a small bowl of fat chips between us.
One thing I particularly admire about the Gourmet Burger Kitchen is burgers is all they do. There have a good choice of them and a couple of salads but that’s it. There are vegetarian burgers, exotic burgers and chicken burgers. The meat in the beef burgers is 100% Aberdeen-Angus scotch beef and very tasty and moist and a million miles away from some burger purveyors’ wares. There are no starters and no desserts, just burgers but damn fine burgers. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to stay away for so long. A burger fork for GBK.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Big hand to Bigham's!

I mentioned way back at the end of October that I’d been disappointed to find that Bigham’s Gourmet Chicken and Red Wine pies also contained the some stealth tomatoes. This WAS mentioned on the packet but not on the list of ingredients on Bigham’s website or Ocado, where I’d ordered it from. As they had a feedback section on their site, I’d thought I’d mention it. I don’t normally go out of my way to complain but a feedback button seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
And shortly after this, I was delighted to receive an email asking for my details so their could send me a compensatory voucher. I didn’t actually receive anything from them this time, but it wasn’t as if I was emotionally damaged by the experience, I was just recommending that they adjusted their ingredients on their website so tomato dodgers like me can order their pies safely.
And Bigham’s do have many products that I really do like, especially the Gourmet Beef and Peppercorn pie and the miniature Beef Wellingtons which were used to great effect several times over the festive season. And the oven proof ceramic dishes that come with the pies were most useful when D and I made the fabulous potato soufflés on New Year’s eve.
I'd totally forgotten about the whole thing and then after the Christmas holiday I received another email saying that they’d unfortunately had some technical difficulties and lost my address details. I must admit I was really impressed that they’d continue to follow this up, I seems so rare that companies care about little things like this.
I duly replied and today I received such a lovely letter from their founder himself, Charlie Bigham (picture above) and I am really quite astounded! It’s not a “Dear Miss x, please accept our apologies for ’insert random product here’ and we’ll try to do better blah… blah… blah…” letter but a personal letter commiserating with my tomato related stress and sympathising with my struggle with extracting some of their canapés out of their baking tray and including some vouchers. And these vouchers aren’t some money off coupon to buy more Bigham’s pies, which I am more than happy to do anyway, but proper John Lewis vouchers that I can turn into anything my little sparkly heart desires.

What really lovely people down at Bigham’s!
And they make exceedingly good pies though personally I'm staying away from the tomato based one!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A black and white picture

Today I have mostly eating and thinking in black and white.

In between all those work things I have to do, I have been trying to decide what I want to conjure up for the eighteenth blog party - which is all about black and white and I need to RSVP by tomorrow . I haven’t take part in one of these events before but the idea seems to be to produce some food and drink in keeping with this month’s theme. And this month, when the wonderful Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness suggested “black and white“, I immediately thought that was totally up my boulevard. Well, if the event was only about table decoration this would just be a page from my diary but I had to think about black and white food also. And M’s suggestion to eat whatever I like and take the picture in black and white is not the spirit!
It could have whipped up some little predictable mash potato number, perhaps with some very rich beef dish (like the fabulous daube I had at Le Pont de la Tour which looked almost black) but that‘s too obvious. I guess black olives might have been a good idea, but there only slightly behind tomatoes in my revulsion list and I didn't want to prepare something that I couldn't face eating. I had considered some of my favourite scallop soup with a little caviar flourish as an exotic garnish but it seemed a scallop overload as I'd already decided to see if I could get some fresh scallops for the main feature.

And then of course it was all the decisions regarding crockery. I have black, white, black with white, white with black, black shiny both square and round, black matt, white square, round and with a variety of different rims. Hmm maybe I’ll admit to having a lot of crockery! So decisions, decisions! In the end it was espresso cup and saucer, plate then cappuccino cup and saucer. Particularly odd as I don’t drink coffee!So after due consideration, I got out the black table cloth, the white table runner and napkins, black beaded table mats, the black and white sequinned flowers and then hit the kitchen.

For my starter, with the aid of my trusty shiny Bamix I turned a neat little organic cauliflower into a pale creamy concoction. Though I didn't actually add any cream as I thought my extravagant garnish would be decadent enough. This white onion and cauliflower soup was topped with a few black truffle shavings and served in my new Rosanna “la petite black dress” espresso cups. I’d been hankering for Nigella’s liquorice espresso cups ever since Christmas but they are incredibly tiny (I still really like them though!) and thought these slightly more substantial Rosanna cups would be nice. Though, I should really mention that I don’t really approve of the shameless Franglais range name of “la petite black dress”. Obviously it should be “la petite robe noire” or “the little black dress” not a bizarre mixture of both. But that aside I do rather like these cups, each one is a different black dress and a different phrase written in script in each. I'm using the “femme fatale“ one, there’s also “c’est chic”, “bèbè doll” and again “la petite black dress”. Très chic!
The black truffle wasn’t maybe the most usual accompaniment to the cauliflower, but it was okay.

And then I had some extremely delicious scallops and black pudding on the black damask plates accompanied by a glass of Orange Muscat & Flora sweet white wine.
And in deference to the theme, in a black wine glass! It was either that or Guinness and wild horses wouldn’t persuade to consume stout. I’ve always thought that scallops and black pudding go particularly together, it wasn’t just to fall in with the theme; the translucent sweetness of the scallops is a good foil for the dramatic earthiness of the black pudding. I can assume it’s my Northern roots coming to the fore here as this black pudding came from fine Bury in Lancashire stock (some say home to the black pudding). I suppose I could kind of say “I’m a lassie from Lancashire” though I normally say "Manchester" but I been told by M I should say neither, as I’m actually from Cheshire. The problem with Cheshire is that is used to be famous for two things - one, the perma-smiled cat in Alice in Wonderland or two, the mild white cheese that’s often overlooked in favour of Wensleydale.
But now it’s all about the Cheshire set – the WAGS (wives and girlfriend of highly paid generally England footballers!) spending their days playing golf, in the gym of having their perfectly manicured nails rebuffed at ‘the’ salon of the moment. And is that me? Er no, no and no though I do tend my own talons – Chanel "Noir Ceramic" today in case anyone’s interested! So I’ll stick to saying "Manchester" unless a serious handbag habit forces me to seek a footballer of my very own!

For the finale I plumped for a great new discovery - this rather wonderful white chocolate ice cream that I studded with plump frozen blackberries and blackcurrants. I particularly liked the fact that as the berries defrosted they spread a vibrant purple streak to mingle seductively with the melting white chocolate ice cream. This was seriously fine and was served in my black and white “Baci di dama” Harvey Nix cappuccino cup.
I would never have picked white chocolate ice cream normally as I would always go for Belgian chocolate, raspberry, ginger, mint chocolate chip or strawberry. Also I’ve never been a massive fan of white chocolate per se but it works incredibly well in an ice cream, I guess the inherent vanilla characteristic of good white chocolate really shines in an ice cream.

Clearly I’ve been more than eating black and white today; I’ve also been living it. I unintentionally dressed in black and white this morning; I can only assume it was the subliminal thoughts that drew me to that selection but nevertheless am I well coordinated with my table and the food?
Thank you Stephanie for organising this; I had great fun pondering some sort of liquorice allsorts creation or cod with vanilla or even squid with some sort of squid ink sauce. Thinking of squid ink I considered making some stripy pasta. I would leave half the pasta dough plain and dye the other half with squid ink. I would then cut the black pasta width into fettuccine and then lay the strands on the rolled out white plain pasta. The resultant creation is re-fed through the pasta machine and hey presto, stripy pasta! It looks totally fantastic as say an open ravioli. But I promised to make MC and D some fresh pasta to prove that the so-called finest abomination we had on New Year’s Day is not really how fresh pasta should taste and as they’re staying this weekend, I decided to hold off.

If you want to read how everyone fared in the latest blogging party escapade, check Stephanie's round-up here.

I think my little black and white heart has been sated tonight and tomorrow I might add a bit of colour to my food again!