So if you haven’t spotted them and caught up yet, click here for:Phew… half way there!
And then I've got to catch up with everything else I've done since then, ah well, one day at a time.
So if you haven’t spotted them and caught up yet, click here for:Phew… half way there!
I generally veer between Waitrose’s wild boar and prune sausages or a plump
When T said he was coming to the
Regrettably T has a very delicate stomach today and we had to ask Jeremy to produce the gentlest tummy-friendly simple food he could for him. M and I are under no such constrictions however so we were able to tackle Jeremy’s finest with gusto. I started with grilled mutton & pork livers, sage & bacon which although similar to the special I had on my last visit here with M, was way too good to pass and didn’t disappoint in their unctuous meatiness.
M had to prevaricate between crab soup and the ‘made famous on Great British Menu’ crab cakes, mayonnaise (I assure you this is my subtitle as Jeremy would never be so bold!) After some consideration the crab cakes were plumped for. I was hoping that she wouldn’t be able to polish off all three but she did, and she never does that so they must have been good!
For my main course I went for the baked blackface lamb, mustard & parsley crust. Unfortunately the only potatoes on the menu today were boiled and somehow I didn’t think they’d be sticky enough for such a dish – I would have chosen gratin Dauphinoise if I could but I was lucky anyway as Jeremy made me some of his lovely sauté potatoes instead (much better!) The lamb was so melting and with a truly punchy crust. I thought I would be saved an eye-watering experience by avoiding horseradish but that
M opts for the considerably more calming hake, peas & mussels which also seem to go down well. though I don't recall her eating all the vegetables! Though she always says she is saving herself for dessert.
So dessert it is then. I’ve ordered and enjoyed the St Emillion au chocolat on several occasions so I think it’s time for a change, today it’s the equally chocolaty chocolate brownie, fudge sauce & ice cream for both of us.
I thought that as today we’d being doing a little of “and on the left you can see…” for T’s benefit, I would recycle a photograph I took on a previous and unfortunately much later on the day visit.
No.1 is the vertically striped Tower 42, it used to be called the NatWest Tower when the National Westminster Bank resided there quite a few years ago now and ‘fact fans’, it is shaped like the interlocking chevrons of NatWest’s logo.
Now it is famous, at least in my eyes for being the home of always delicious Rhodes24, so named because it’s half way up on the 24th floor of this sky scraping building.
No. 2 is not very distinct but is, rather incongruously amongst all these modern buildings, the
I walk past this building nearly every day and am still always surprised that it’s just right there, so much history in the midst of all this city madness.
No. 3 is the Swiss Re building, though generally referred to as ‘the erotic gherkin’ and hugely controversial. Like marmite, you either love it or hate it. And just so you know, I love it and totally and utterly detest Marmite!
No.4 is just the last span of
No. 5 is the hideous monstrosity that is formerly known as the Tower Thistle and is now the Guoman Thistle and still extremely ugly and looming menacingly next to much more interesting buildings. The lights in the foreground and coming on as I grab this photograph line the river for quite a way, well further than I’ve ever walked anyway and are often to be seen in the background of a London at night shot in a film, especially if they’re trying to be romantic. On one of my visits to Blueprint Café we witnessed Gwyneth Paltrow doing her ‘lights camera action’ bit in front of these very lights and I had to remove my high heeled shoes as I was making too much noise clip-clopping along the river path.
It was so lovely yet poignant and sometimes affecting to see T again as we had so many things both wonderful and definitely not so to catch up on; I only wish he could have indulged in Blueprint Café’s always perfect menu with us. He did select an excellent Australian red wine for us though, unfortunately not from his vineyard but rather wonderful all the same.
M had only come down on the train from
I hope you enjoy the next leg of your world tour, T and I trust we won't leave it so long to meet up again.
I’m not really sure how I ended up with a flock of blackbird pie funnels. I don’t exactly have four and twenty but I have ‘accidentally’ ended up with more than is really deemed necessary. The urge to procure my first pie funnel was when I watching Mark Hix making his magnificent Rabbit and Crayfish Stargazy pie on the Great British Menu and I pondered how I could have managed so long without one. Then a casual glance on eBay with D whilst she was looking for some Clarence Cliff pieces allowed my beady eye to spot a fine Clarence Cliff blackbird funnel, hmmm I really should bid for that little birdy. But when this one flew in, I really felt that it probably should be kept as a thing of beauty and not baked in anything. It is rather old after all and has been well looked after by one careful owner. So I went back to eBay for one with less esteemed provenance and somehow managed to bag a job lot of them. It was an accident I can assure you! But in the usual fashion of eBay browsing I also espied a Royal Worchester darling black bird pie funnel which was unusual as the elegant sculptural bird is inserted into the plain white ceramic funnel after baking. The advantage being that the gorgeous bird doesn’t suffer the ministrations of an unforgiving oven and it adds a certain stateliness to the pie proceedings you must admit.
I had threatened that my next pie would feature all my burgeoning collection of pie funnels randomly gulping for air above the pie crust but I resisted. This elegant bird is my favourite after all, it is rather a little black beauty!
Making a ‘proper’ pie, one with a funnel and all I am immediately transported back to the homely and grown-up kitchen of the fabulous R & G. After a hard day’s work it was so comforting to arrive there and exchange a large bunch of flowers for a fat wodge of the finest of steak and kidney pies. Sat around their antique table, we’d drink wine; listen to music and gossip about just about everything! Happy days!
Stephanie gave us a quirkier challenge for this month’s blog party – “It’s What’s Inside” and immediately I started to think of mini Beef Wellingtons.
This isn’t a big surprise as I am a huge fan of Beef Wellington and I have been pondering miniaturising this fabulous meaty treat for a while. I didn’t really follow a recipe, I had a plan which was vaguely like the details that follow and intended to make a few dozen of these little babies but then my fellow fans of Beef Wellington in any size turned up early. So then it just became critical to get as many as I could into the oven as quickly as possible and then photograph them swiftly before they were inhaled. So speedily I may add that I was unable to light them properly hence the 70's style cookbook food photography - and would the little darlings stay still on the plate whilst I photographed them? The answer is a resounding no! I am pretty sure that the speed that they vanished meant that they were popular; I will definitely be making these gorgeous little Wellingtons again.
MINI CANAPÉ BEEF WELLINGTONS
Ready rolled puff pastry
Beef fillet cut roughly into 2cm cubes
1 lightly beaten egg
(Unfortunately I didn’t make a note of the quantities, I made about 24 but they mysteriously disappeared so I didn’t get to count them and I still had a lot of beef, pâté and pastry left so I could have made a few more plates worth but instead I moved swiftly onto the starters instead)
- Preheat the oven to 200°c.
- Roll out the puff pastry and cut into 4cm squares. My pastry was pre-rolled but I felt it needed to be a little thinner for these canapés.
- Smear the point of a spoon of pâté in the centre of each square and top with a seasoned beef cube. I had pondered making some mushroom duxelle but as one of my prospective diners lives a mushroom-free life I decided to leave it out.
- I tried to fold the pastry over the beef and neatly tuck in the corners like a larger Beef Wellington but on this scale this proved tricky. I preferred to roll each into a beefy ball and line up them all up on a baking sheet.
- Carefully brush each ball with the beaten egg and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until pleasantly puffed and golden brown.
- Allow to cool slightly, (if permitted by your hungry guests) and then transfer to a platter to serve.
My next idea was inspired by a Anton Edelmann scrambled eggs wrapped in smoked salmon recipe I’d espied in a Freedom Food pamphlet that came with this month's Fresh. He lined a ramekin with thinly sliced smoked salmon and then filled it with scrambled egg. The overhanging salmon is tucked over the scrambled egg and turned upside-down to make a perfect parcel.
I lined little bun tins with almost transparent smoked salmon slices and then spooned some unctuous and creamy scrambled egg heavily studded with chives into the indentations. I inverted the resultant little salmony discs and placed on ceramic spoons. They were very good also, another winner!
For my final savoury bite I decided to get some good quality lean minced steak and make oozy cheesy meatballs. I tried to get some Tallegio but failed so cubes of Cheddar was enveloped in the mince mixed with black pepper and thyme. I pan fried these until deliciously seared all over and popped them on my lovely new little canapé spoons. These were very fine as well, I am now definitely a huge fan of one delicious ingredient hidden inside another. Fabulous!
The necessary drink proved the usual per monthly challenge, a thought of Coke Float wafted into my mind but I dismissed it and decided instead that my interpretation would mean plump fresh raspberries would be frozen in Evian (to ensure the resultant ice cubes stayed as clear as possible) and then the fruity cubes were plopped into a tall glass of 7up. As the cubes melted the bubbles got captured inside the raspberries and made a fizzy little dessert.
I look forward to seeing what hidden savouries Stephanie's other guests bring.
I can picture him ambling through the market in Uzès in
I am most grateful that the lovely C of Quadrille tipped me off that this brilliant book was coming to fruition way back in May, and I am delighted to see that Simon has credited her in Week in Week Outs acknowledgements, so we are both much obliged it seems!
The only downside perhaps of this magnificent book is that more commonly Simon Hopkinson’s tomes are slightly larger than a novel size, one that I can easily slip into my bag and savour on meandering journeys home but in the case of Week in Week Out I would have to resort to a rucksack to tote it around, and that is never ever going to happen! This is a fabulous book, I know this will be a firm favourite and could well be the next most useful cookbooks of all time but it is way more than just a collection of recipes it is an evocation of a better world, one where the eggs always have the “hue of Kia-Ora”, the Dijon mustard is always “freshly decanted from a Maille brass spigot” and that new potatoes are always the “tender and sweet Cornish nuggets” from Trevonne Farm near Padstow in Cornwall.
There are just too many astounding recipes in this book to single out but I will list a few as an aide-memoire of the ones I really must try first – Potato gnocchi with garlic and basic cream, Tiny new potatoes with caviar and chives, Lapin à la Dijonnaise, Roast duck with cider, cream and apples and the Cold ham soufflé.
I noticed that Nigella in her new book Nigella Express, clearly my current culinary bible, waxes lyrically about these little golden joys also. She suggests artichoke hearts chopped up in the base of the ramekin, truffle oil added to the cream and/or asparagus spears to dunk in the runny yolk.
But sorry Nigella, Simon Hopkinson does one better in his fabulous Week in Week Out he devotes several pages to oeufs en cocottes and firstly insists on forgoing the ramekin in favour of one of those shallow porcelain dishes with ears. He says he can view the egg better as it cooks to his idea of perfection. I wonder what he'd make of Joël Robuchon serving his in Martini glasses?
Simon bakes his with tarragon or spinach or even to a wonderful Elizabeth David recipe which uses fine herbs, a smidgeon of garlic, a smear of Dijon and finely grated Parmesan dusted on the top. But if that isn't already wonderful enough, he also suggests a very decadent version with not only the fresh eggs being snuggled up to a black truffle in a sealed container for a few days to perfume the egg, the egg shell being conveniently porous. He then slips a few slices of the said black truffle into the creamy mixture. Now that really is a good egg!
I promised that I’d split a GAUCHO SAMPLER with LLcT which was “a taste of all four cuts of prime Argentine beef” and to supplement this as he really is the most solid of little carnivores we also had a spiral cut and marinated chorizo (sirloin) steak, me with béarnaise and LLcT with the chipotle sauce (which was hot). We also had the fat chips, naturally, and some healthy spinach as well.
The meat was rare (apart from E(D)’s), succulent and delicious but eating outside a Gaucho had uncovered an unexpected problem. It may have been wonderful to see our food, I could take vibrant photographs for the first time ever in a Gaucho establishment but we were slightly in the shade and we were absolutely frozen. We did consider asking for some more napkins, many more napkins and draping them around ourselves in a vain attempt to retain some heat. E(D) is always a little chilly even sometimes in the midday sun in
And today I remembered my uneaten cake and dug out a rather overwhelming candle to impale my cake with and round off my birthday week celebrations. I then attempted to share it between the five of us, luckily it is marked coincidentally in five portions but they are mouse-like portions really. It was just a token gesture. Nice rich fruit cake though. A final happy birthday to me!
So feeling guilty after last time I was determined to be ultra prepared. I scanned Nigella Express, made some notes, made a list – checked it twice and placed an order with Ocado. I was trying to decide whether I should dig the leaf out for my round table and extend it into an ovoid but as much as I like egg-shapes, my Virgoean mind is slightly repulsed by the lack of symmetry this would entail. And anyone E(D) is so tiny I’m sure she wouldn’t take much extra room up around the table, so round it is.
I decide that I want everything to be white and crystal. That’s my crystal candelabra with white candles, crystal napkin rings - diamond ring style for the ‘ladies’ and plain for the ‘men’ and crystal wines and water glasses and crystal little menu holders. I picked up some more large glossy white placemats, I’d intended using my new white linen purchased in Copenhagen but someone has been known to dangerously slosh a little too much red wine around so wipe-clean placemats seemed a wiser choice. But for the linen napkins I had a special unveiling. The wonderful Marcia of Inside Story promised me that as a very special treat she’d embroider a ‘J’ on some destined for Concorde Irish linen napkins and deliver half a dozen in time for my party in September. And they turned up today so just in the nick of time! And they are rather beautiful, thank you Marcia.
The menu seemed simple enough, firstly they’d be canapés of Beef Wellingtons that I’d been meaning to make for ages and an intended canapé for Stephanie’s next blog party. For a starter I turned to page 153 of Nigella Express – Scallops and Chorizo. I knew this would appease the solid little carnivore who was coming and in a similar vein I next flicked to page 40 for the Steak Slice with Lemon and Thyme. For dessert I’d watched Nigella make her Instant Chocolate Mousse (on page 159) earlier this week and had popped to Peter Jones to secure some crystal dishes to serve this in. So a speedy menu is designed it just remains to see how swiftly I can whip it up.
The table is laid and looking sparkly and white. I am on schedule (for once) and start the Beef Wellingtons canapés but as I could have anticipated D, MC, LLcT and E(D) turn up a tad early and I haven’t made as many as I’d like. But what I do have get slammed into the oven and my thoughts turn to Scallops and Chorizo. Nigella declares this to be ready “quicker than the speed of light” and she’s right, it’s very soon I am delivering a platter of glistening chorizo coins, plump succulent scallops, showered with fresh parsley and oozing a fabulous orange paprika tinged oil.Next I focus on the Steak Slice with Lemon and Thyme. Everyone likes their beef gently mooing apart for E(D) and I do remember to sauté hers twice or three times as long. It is another super quick dish but I think I should have got some thicker rump steak (unfortunately one can’t specify that when ordering from Ocado) so the rare pile wasn’t as rare as I’d liked. But served with some tender stem broccoli with Parmesan shavings it still went down very well. I would have like to heap the beefy bounty up in a platter with the stack of broccoli next to it but really with five people around the table and a plethora of crystal knick knacks, there is no room at the inn for anything else so I plate up everyones instead.
Eric first delivered us a plate of Mushroom and Cantal Cheese Tartine (p.46 in the British copy of Chocolate & Zucchini) as we heard about Clotilde’s early history discovering food in San Francisco when dot.com work took her there and the local food markets first really opened her taste buds.
After two years in
Eric then reinterpreted her Celeriac Remoulade with Trout Roe (p.119) by substituting the Trout Roe with Smoked Salmon. I can take or leave celeriac, and I am not a missive fan of yoghurt-y dressings so this wasn’t my favourite course but I have to admit that it was a clean zesty taste with the lemon and actually an unusual combination that I am glad I’ve tried.
Next we were able to ask our own burning questions and I have to admit I was intrigued to hear her answers regarding influences and her food heroes, her obviously being one of mine. She mentioned Trish Deseine and her latest book “Nobody Does it Better”, which is a big favourite of mine also. Intriguingly Trish is an Irish woman writing about cooking
She also explains the mechanics of recording the delights she serves up for her guests for her blog and her friends are used to waiting patiently for her to snap away before they can pick up a fork (I have to apologise, I am afraid I am very prone to that – "just one second, let me turn on more lights so I can record this before you commence your scoffing…") but Clotilde admits that she often remakes a dish the next day so she can photograph it beautifully for her blog. But then her photographs are rather stunning so I guessed they couldn’t have been all snatched speedily before a fork is plunged into the middle of it.We next ate a scoop of delicious Tuna and Green Apple Mousse (p. 98) with some pitta bread.
Clotilde talks about her next book which will feature Parisian foodie hangouts. One of the guests is slightly louder and more aggressive (that’s me being polite!) than the rest and asks lots of questions about getting a book published especially the challenges performing this feat in several countries. Methinks she has ulterior motive, perhaps her own book up her sleeve perchance! Eric furnishes us with a plate of delicious Lamb and Prune Meatballs (p. 134) which are lapped up with gusto. This is such a civilised way to meet a cook/chef and enjoy their cookbook and food, very intimate and enjoyable.
We hear how to Clotilde retains her enviable svelte form (swimming if you’re interested) and how her philosophy of Chocolate & Zucchini started. She wanted to exemplify the two facets of her cooking personality, zucchini for her healthy, wholesome love of vegetables and chocolate for her sweet tooth and a penchant for glorious chocolaty loveliness. We accompanied this by a slice of the eponymous Chocolate & Zucchini Cake, it may sound strange but tastes moist and with a little something that you can’t quite identify but stops the chocolate being too rich. It was very good!It was a fabulous evening, and it was worth the wait. Eric certainly asked us to leave fairly suddenly, Clotilde was actually in the middle of a sentence but maybe out enthusiasm had made the extended the event loner than usual. Clotilde has kindly offered to sign my copy of her book several times but I hadn’t bought my slightly dog-eared and much loved copy with me. In the end I thought I’d buy another copy and take her up on her proposal and donate my somewhat oeuf cocotte splattered version to D. And if you haven't discovered her blog yet, you really should.
It was the first time ever that another J, K, H and I had been together. Clearly H has been rather busy the last year with KK so we had plenty to catch up on. And because of the excessive chit-chatting, some say gossiping, the fabulous canapés and sandwiches didn't get as much look in as last time. When we moved onto the little cakes our waitress presented the details of each one and the general consensus was that the red velvet hat was the most delectable and the winner. So when they surprised H and I with a decorated birthday plate they used another red velvet hat-shaped cake to hold our birthday candle. It was a lovely way to celebrate our collective birthdays and just so wonderful to finally get us all together. And K's Z rather enjoyed mushing the take-out cakes into his face later when we carried them home in the little pistachio coloured cardboard handbags.
I haven’t been to the Yacht Club for such a long time. It’s pretty handy for work but they can be a little unwelcoming. I was grabbing a lunch with G who was over form the
I’d always thought the Yacht Club was a civilised place for a cheeky glass of wine after work (assuming we'd managed to get in of course). The Syrrah would be served in a heavy lead crystal cut glass, which always improves the taste. There’s no banging loud music and it’s just a cosy place to sit and out the world to right. And there’s also the good food and the rather tasty Spanish J behind the bar!It seems that all has changed, you don't have to be buzzed in with a secret password but can just stroll like other eateries. Unfortunately I am too early today for the lovely J so I’ll have to amuse myself with some yummy food instead. I go for two starters which are smoked salmon with brown bread and pâté and toast.
There are two fat parcels on my desk today. Yeah, aren’t birthdays great! Okay it transpires that I’ve ordered both of them myself months ago but it’s still nice to get any parcels on a birthday. They are the latest missives from Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver. They both coincide with their new television programs and both contain a plethora of exciting recipes. It has been interesting seeing their new shows. Jamie has been accused in the past of showcasing his aspirational life, family and friends amongst the tasty cooking bits. Much as I love to see food tasted, savoured and enjoyed on a cooking show (I always wondered if Delia ever tastes anything she cooks, I’ve never once see her stick a finger or even the merest point of a spoon in the treat she’s just dished up and I get so annoyed when she says ‘season to taste’, I wonder how she knows because we never see her taste it.) Okay, off my soapbox now but you know what I mean and then there’s Nigella - lots of close-ups of her licking her fingers, smacking her glistening lips and positively salivating over each creation. Clearly there’s a world of difference her. The jury’s still out on her new series, I love many of the recipes but not sure if we really need to see her, getting in and out of black cabs, tucking Bruno into bed I’m sure much earlier than he actually goes to bed or even standing at a bus stop slurping her just whipped up smoothie. And I’m not sure I believe she even gets on many buses. However, it’s supposed to be about the food and I guess that’s the issue you get distracted by their lifestyle and surrounding though admittedly I do enjoy the snoop at the kitchen, the various bits of scrummy kitchen paraphernalia and table bits and pieces but I’m not so interested in the family and friends.
Now Jamie’s show was all a bit like this in the past, jumping on and off his scooter, sliding down banisters, drumming with his band of playing table football with other friends. But his new show is all about his home grown vegetables, yummy things you can whip up with them when they’ve just been picked, dug up or plucked. And the only time we see anyone other than Jamie himself is when he chews the fat and the latest delicious treat with Ben the gardener. A quick flick through the pages and these leap out at me creamy asparagus soup with a poached egg on toast, crispy and delicious asparagus and potato tart, fresh tagliatelle with sprouting broccoli and oozy cheese sauce, incredible roasted shoulder of lamb with smashed veg and greens, really very delicious and simple lamb tartare, smoked barbecued shellfish, beautiful courgette carbonara, balsamic-baked onions and potatoes with roast pork, potato salad with smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraîche, grilled strawberries with PIMM’S and vanilla ice cream, roast of incredible game birds with proper polenta, game ragù with pappardelle, pan-roasted venison with creamy baked potato and celeriac, cheat’s pappardelle with slow-braised leeks and crispy porcini pangrattato, roasted white fish and leeks and finally Italian ham and spinach tart. Phew that’s not bad for starters!
And from the fastest Nigella ever - brandied-bacony chicken, potato and mushroom gratin, steak slice with lemon and thyme, flourless chocolate brownies, oeufs en cocotte, green eggs and ham, croque monsieur bake, maple chicken ‘n’ ribs, coq au Riesling, chicken schnitzel with bacon and white wine, scallops and chorizo, instant chocolate mousse, chicken, mushroom and bacon pie, Cheddar cheese risotto, macaroni cheese, totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies, potato cakes with smoked salmon, scallops-on-the-shell, duck breasts with pomegranate and mint, glitzy chocolate puddings, buttermilk roast chicken, pea and pesto soup and linguine with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms. So not too shabby either!I think I’ve got a lot of quality time coming up in the kitchen soon. Aren’t birthdays grand?