Friday, 25 September 2015

What Joanna Ate: Weekend of 26th and 27th September

This week has involved lots of lunches (more below).  So the weekend may be rather more abstemious salads for me.  But a few tips for things for places to go/things to bake:
  1. Tuesday’s lunch was a fabulous visit to the newest Barrafinaaddition on Drury Lane.  You can’t book, but get there early to secure your stool.  You must have the crab bun and cuttlefish empanada.  The first, pillowy brioche sandwiching deliciously flavourful crab meat, the second a slice of flaky puff pastry stuffed with inky black cuttlefish.  If you go this weekend, the specials might be the same – if so, have the octopus on potato with chard.
  2. Wednesday’s lunch was at Lurra on Seymour Place (opened earlier this month); the little street getting even better for eating/drinking (there is already The Lockhart for the best fried chicken, one of the branches of Vinoteca, Lurra’s sister restaurant Donostia).  A beautiful light room, and delicious Basque food including the best almonds, toasted sourdough with smoked butter, smoky grilled peppers and courgette flowers stuffed with cod brandade.  Their grill is expertly used for the bigger fish/meat, including these imposing octopus legs (with piquillo sauce) and the wonderful 14 year old Galician beef (blushing, with a proper line of golden fat).  Grace Dent’s review made me go, and I will carry on the recommending.
  3. It’s the time for gluts of apples if you have trees.  Or lots of the lovely English ones in the shops.  My favourite cake is one of my Granny’s, her curly handwriting a little difficult to decipher.  My translation below, for Donna’s wonderful almond/apple cake.  Still keeping the imperial for a vintage recipe:

Mix 5 ounces melted margarine/butter, 2 large eggs, 8 ounces caster sugar, 1 tsp almond essence, 1 tsp baking powder and 8 ounces self-raising flour in a bowl.  Spread half in a tin (roughly an 8” loose bottomed).  Cover with 12 ounces of bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced.  Roughly dot with the other half of the mixture.  Sprinkle with 1 ounce flaked almonds and a little demerara sugar.  Bake at 160 for approximately 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out cleanish (cover with foil for the last 20 minutes if looking too brown).

Thursday, 17 September 2015

What Joanna Ate: Weekend of 19th & 20th September

A mixed weekend of fashion, fridge peering and 16th century jam tarts:
  1. London Fashion Week starts tomorrow.  Moving from Somerset House to the new show space at Soho’s Brewer Street car park.  NCP to slightly more glossy catwalk.  The street food van from nearby Hix will be parked up for sustenance, but I would escape down to Mark’s Bar for a Hix Fix (Morello cherry & Nyetimber English sparkling wine).  For plush tea and cake, the May Fair Hotel has a bespoke LFW SS16 Afternoon Tea (from £35), with special lobby windows by Gareth Pugh, or The Berkeley’s Prêt-à-Portea (dainty patisserie in key designer pieces).
  2. Last September I visited the Locanda Locatelli pizza pop up, down the road from the restaurant (which was in the space now home to Carousel, who have brilliant rotating guest chefs).  The pop-up is back, this time for a rather longer three months on Islington’s Upper Street.  Opened on Tuesday (and from 12pm – 11pm every day but Monday, no reservations), expect delicious toppings like Spicy N'duja and burrata cheese.
  3. Fridge curiosity is a little like supermarket trolley nosiness.  A bit of a window into someone’s everyday.  Peering into a chef’s fridge takes it up a notch, displayed beautifully in the new book Inside Chefs Fridges by Carrie Solomon and Adrian Moore (with an insight into the larders of the likes of Massimo Bottura and Fergus Henderson, alongside a few of their recipes).  
  4. A perfectly apt belated birthday present this Saturday, with an afternoon of historic baking.  If you ever wanted to make bread the Tudor way, now's your chance (at the Chiltern Open Air Museum in Chalfont St Giles).

Thursday, 10 September 2015

What Joanna Ate: Weekend of September 12th and 13th

  1. A little binge book buying this week.  A few on pre-order, including the NOPI book(out today, on the 10th).  An addition to sit alongside fellow Ottolenghi books, it’s the offering of their glossy restaurant sister (with recipes from Yotam and NOPI head chef Ramael Scully).  I especially like NOPI for breakfast, so hopefully a way to recreate their black rice with coconut milk.
  2. As there’s an R in month, it’s now the start of native oyster season.  I do like the saline tang, but it’s really the elaborate ritual that I love (all towering stand, mounds of ice, craggy silver shells, dainty garnishes).  Nab a spot at J Sheekey’s Oyster bar, for their bargain half dozen and glass of champagne for under £20 (they have a special London Fashion Week offer from the 14th – 27th, teaming up with Pol Roger for bubbles).  The Richmond is another brilliant place – try and get there for oyster happy hour (6-7pm Monday to Friday, 5-6pm Saturday), with each for only £1.
  3. A tip from my last weekend is the excellent Molé Taco Bar (just behind Selfridges).  Opened a little under the radar, they have seriously good Mexican food (although never many to choose from, I think maybe the best in a London restaurant).  We had delicious tacos (piled with sticky beef shortrib, or tender octopus), their excellent crispy take on patatas bravas, plus guacamole with pomegranate (surprisingly good addition).
  4. I’ve been cooking with a beautiful bunch of chard this week. Cerise pink veins through the mossy green.  Try and find a bunch – my favourite ways have been sweated down with shallots, then mixed with lots of feta, leafy herbs and eggs, either as a frittata or poured into a filo pie for baking.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

What Joanna Ate: Weekend of September 5th & 6th

Autumn is here.  The self-imposed tights ban hasn’t quite lifted, but the black opaques are close.  It’s all apples, pears and plums. 

A collection of something outdoors (for last straining sunshine) plus more cosy insides for this first September weekend:

  1. It’s the last weekend of Kew Gardens Full of Spice summer festival.  I like the idea of spiced gin cocktails and a massive inflatable red chilli.
  2. Rochelle Canteen is usually only open Monday – Friday for breakfast/elevenses/lunch/tea, but they recently started opening some weekends; this week Friday and Saturday lunch and dinner (12-3pm, 6-8.30pm) and Sunday lunch (12-4pm).  The concise menus are always completely seasonal, pared-back beautiful British food.  It’s not licensed, but you can take a bottle for corkage. You can also book.
  3. The Zetter Townhouse opened a second outpost in Marylebone last month (on Seymour Street).  Therefore a second version of my favourite bar (albeit not 5 minutes up the road, but I’m drawn by the shiny newness for weekend drinks).  Expect more fabulous cocktails from Tony Conigliaro in the decadent and probably a little mad cocktail lounge (plus hotel rooms above).  They’ve named it the home of a Wicked Uncle Seymour.  Surely a perfect host.
  4. If you haven’t been to Druid Street market, do pop there this Saturday (open 9am – 4pm).  It’s just round the corner from Maltby Street Market (I love the wine and snacks at 40 Maltby Street and the St John there), with a few of the arches open plus stalls (things to eat and cook with).  Hopefully the Ampersand cultured butter will be there.  It’s the best butter you will try (I’ve been boring people with tales of it since buying a golden puck a few weeks ago).
  5. Just make these brownies.  Simple to make and the squidgiest you’ll find, with a tart hit of raspberry.  After making this week, they need repeating.

Blog reincarnation. Weekend lists.

It has been a little silent here this year.  I have still been in the kitchen, mixing, whisking, spattering.  Still leafing through piles of books, folding the corner of pages to earmark next recipes.  Still adding to an endless restaurant to-visit list (ticking a few off along the way).

I wanted a break from longer posts.  With a little time to think how people do, and want to, consume food news, reviews, recipes and recommendations. 

I’ve still been dispensing tips on a favourite recipe or new restaurant, often recounting a weekend of food and drink reading/listening/shopping/collating.

So I thought I would start writing on here again.  Each Thursday posting a list of things for the weekend.  It might be a brand new opening, an old (often forgotten) favourite spot, ideas for a seasonal ingredient, a just published book, a brilliant pod cast.

It will pop up on here (or into your inbox if you subscribe), ready for the weekend (or coming days and weeks).  Hopefully a curation of ideas, and a little inspiration.

Friday, 2 January 2015

My favourite cookery books of 2014

My blog does has a few cooking ideas, but is mostly taken up with London's great and good (I tend to leave out the more mediocre).  A lot more of my time is spent in the kitchen though, sometimes testing out my own ideas, but usually working my way through recipe books.  The tiny flat converted lift is very handy as a cooking bookshelf.  I buy a lot of books, with a slightly irrational fear of never being able to able to work my way through all the plates I want to recreate.

Some books I return to time and time again. Some are very dependable, recipes always working.  Some are disappointing, with failures after careful recipe following (I think I can spot the ones who don't fully test). 

I’m finishing 2014 and starting the new year with a list of my favourites.  It's made up of my top books from this past year and the ones I go to for certain types of recipe, plus a few mentions for my all-time favourite writers/books.  I'm planning a bit of a blog break at the start of 2015, with a few new ideas/projects to keep me busy into the new year (do still keep an eye on my Instagram in the meantime).

The restaurant cookbooks: My most used restaurant book is probably the Polpo book (especially great for simple yet still impressive cicheti and salads).  I haven't tried as much (newer to my shelves) from the Bocca dI Lupo book, but will be going to it for Italian recipes (so far the beef and black pepper stew is brilliantly hearty, the celeriac, pecorino and pomegranate salad fragrant and refreshing, and the little baci biscuits something to make time and time again with any leftover egg whites).  I have always loved the Moro books (do make their tagines), and the Morito book of 2014 is no different – you can recreate the dishes from the tapas restaurant offshoot next door (my favourite is the beetroot Borani dip, along with the slow-cooked leeks with yohurt).  Similarly fragrant is the Honey & Co book - everything has turned out truly delicious, with warm, often wrily funny introductions.  Try the bouikos (little feta Balkan pies) and look out for their baking book in 2015 (their cakes are some of the best).                                                

The health conscious for a January detox: I might give in to a fad or two; my cupboards definitely include coconut oil, spirulina, and maca powder, with a Nutribullet on the side (it has mainly produced brown sludge juices). The Hemsley & Hemsley book has probably been one of the most talked of healthy eating books of last year (I like some of the ideas, but some haven't turned out delicious). I really loved Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite – light, beautifully spiced recipes with lots of vegetables, fish and hearty whole grains.  Definitely one of my most used of 2014.

The always seasonal, and lovingly written: Nigel Slater is my favourite food writer, so his Kitchen Diaries needs a mention as one of most turned to.  Both the first and second are his cooking (and a little garden) diary of the year, recipes by date through the seasons – it’s a beautiful read, and I love the styling/photography.

The lesser known, but excellent: Not one of the most publicise, but The Italian Cookery Course is a completely invaluable guide through the cuisine (the Caldesi family also have a cookery school).  It’s full of recipes, with very good pasta sauces and fabulous breads (do try the Ligurian focaccia, stuffed with melting cheese).  Similarly, One by Florence Knight (of Polpetto) doesn’t seem to have had as much championing as deserved – it is a really lovely book, and I like the chapters split by ingredient (ketchup includes a very good beetroot chocolate cake).

The vegetarian, but really just brilliant no fish/meat books: Yotam Ottolenghi followed Plenty with Plenty More (his other books, both Ottolenghi and especially the newer Jerusalem are brilliant too).  More punchy flavour combinations, many heady with spice and herbs, that just happen to be without meat and fish (many would work really well alongside too). Another great book from 2014 is Anna Jones A Modern Way to Eat, her vegetarian book including lots of hearty salads and healthier baking.

The baking books:  Over the last few weeks Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann has been put to good use – I love the seedy, grainy breads and crackers, lots sourdough and rye, many sweet things with spelt (my favourite), rather than prissy, fussy cakes.  If I am feeling like something a little fancier, my new Patisserie Maison book from Richard Bertinet (including the slightly time-consuming, but ultimately worth it Bouche de Noel from last week).  My absolute baking bible has to be Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet - you must buy if you bake, the results are never short of fantastic (including lots of savoury baking along with the sweet and sticky).

There are many more I could talk about, but I’ll leave it at that for the moment.  I’ll still be cooking my way through an ever-expanding pile in this new year.  Happy 2015.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Primeur N5, Stoke Newington

I’m just catching up on a few overdue December posts.  Dinner at Primeur was a few weeks ago, the visit overdue in itself.  I’d meant to visit soon after the May opening, but hadn’t quite made it (despite the rave reports by those who are lucky enough to have it as their neighbourhood restaurant). 

It sits in an old garage on Petherton Road, the upstairs with an open hatch to the kitchen, stools around the edge and large, mostly sharing tables.  The menu is chalked up on the board (it changes nearly daily), made up of small and larger plates (best for sharing).  The wines are chalked up too – a brilliant selection, all available by the glass too (and best thing, not more expensive this way, perfect for trying a few). 

We started with the Jesus sausage (£6.50) and long-stemmed broccoli with a anchovy dressing (£5.50).  A plate of spiced carrots (£5.50) was a mixture of purple and orange, roasted with yoghurt and cumin.  A crispy plate of whole fried shrimp with lemon aioli (£7.50) were not quite as sweet and small as the night before, but very good.

From the larger, beautifully soft plaice (£14), rich in its seaweed butter sauce, offset by tiny cubes of lightly pickled cucumber. We also had the onglet (£14.50), pink under the grassy green parsley sauce, snails on top, all soaking into a delicious piece of beefy toast.  The favourite was the plainer sounding spelt (£10), a nubbly, nuttier risotto, full of wild mushrooms and plenty of parmesan. 

We finished with a very good plate of cheese (£9), the pudding of red wine, pear and almond tart sounded delicious too.  All was brilliant with the dry, deep ruby lambrusco (just a little sparkling, lightly chilled) – a great recommendation, converting us on this wine from its cheaper, tackier friends.

Primeur is the perfect place for a lounging, relaxed weekend lunch or dinner.  The kind of meal to work your way round the wine list too.  There’s a lovely private dining area downstairs too (sits around 10 people).  Just a shame it’s a bit of a long bus trip, rather than round the corner from me.

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