London Calling

Last week we headed off to London with a group of teachers from the cookery school. We were on our school tour, a fact finding mission to check out and experience the London food scene. It’s amazing what can be crammed into two days when you are on a mission.

When we arrived on Friday evening we headed straight for one of London’s best known gastro pubs “Anchor & Hope” on the cut. Here the menu changes not once but twice daily, it’s totally seasonal, simple uncluttered food. They are particularly well known for their shared dish. A salt marsh shoulder of lamb cooked for five hours with Gratin Dauphinoise or it might be a slow cooked and stuffed duck or chicken. That night, it was roast kid with hand cut chips and home made aioli. These dishes are served to parties of 2 and 4 and 6. I’ll shock you by telling you that I started with crispy pig’s tail with aioli. It was so good and was such a hit with the customers that at seven o’clock mine was the last portion on the menu.

You can’t book at the Anchor and Hope (except no choice Sunday lunch menu) but even that doesn’t seem to dampen the punters enthusiasm. By six o’clock in the evening it was wall to wall people and they were five deep on the pavement as well. The food was hearty, delicious and unpretentious and everyone was having a brilliant time.

By 8:30am on Saturday morning we were out of our beds and on our way to Borough, London’s oldest market – it’s vital to get there early, by ten o’clock it’s like St Patrick Street on Christmas Eve. First we made a beeline for the Monmouth Coffee Shop; Anita Le Roy sells a full range of single estate coffees which are first roasted at their site in Maltby Street, Bermondsey. Big blackboards tell the story of the coffee and there is a queue all day for coffee, bread, jam and buttery pastries. Next door is Neal’s Yard dairy famous for Randolf Hoginson’s collection of British and Irish farmhouse cheese. Here we had a tasting of cows and goats mild cheese all in beautiful condition. Mike (Jones?) told us the story of each cheese whetting our appetite with tales of the lush pastures the cows graze on and the passionate and eccentric cheese makers.

Around the corner we peeped into Konditori & Cook, a cake shop that sells fabulous cakes, the sort you’d make yourself if only you had time, energy or inclination. Sweet little square ‘cup cakes’ with messages ‘hug me’, ‘I love you’, ‘mine’, ‘congratulations’, ‘sorry’…one could buy a series to spell out for example ‘Happy birthday’. There were gingerbread men with more good wishes and tons of irresistible cakes and biscuits.

In the Borough market there are lots of inspirational stalls, we ordered Pata Negra at The Brindisa shop and took our turn while the assistant hand cut slivers off the Jamon Iberico. This sublime cured ham the best of which are from the long legged Black Iberian pig, cerdo negro, which feeds on acorns in the woods of Andalucía. (I keep wondering why some Irish pig farmers don’t attempt to cure hams for the growing market for charcuterie.)

Tapas Brindisa on the edge of Borough Market does great little tapas that make a delicious tasting lunch, little squid and octopus dishes, fried pimento de padrou sprinkled with crunchy sea salt, crisp croquettes, deep fried goats cheese, salted anchovies with roasted vegetables on toasted garlic bread, crispy pork belly, sautéed chicken livers…

Then, on to Broadway market in Hackney to Claire Ptak’s stall to taste her iconic cupcakes. This market has an eclectic mix of food and craft. One stall roasts a whole pig on the spit each week and lots of chickens. Close by is another fascinating area for food lovers called Brick Lane, nicknamed the “Curry Mile”. Brick Lane Market is pure East London, which means Jewish Bagel Shops, Bangladeshi Curry Houses, Indian Sari Silks and never enough time to explore everything.

Hackney City Farm is close by an oasis for city children to see chickens, free range pigs, sheep, and donkeys and to learn how to grow vegetables and herbs.

Ottolenghi in Islington is a must, the quality of the salads and baking just knocks your socks off. Beautiful little passion fruit tarts topped with burnished soft meringue and crunchy chocolate, rose petal cupcakes and on and on. It’s just around the corner from the Financier Centre.

Dinner was at Moro in Exmouth Market, Sam and Sam Clarke and their team love to cook Spanish and Moroccan food – you’ll need to book and build in enough time to have a before dinner cocktail at Cafe Kick across the road, they make the best Mojitos and have an extensive list of cocktails.

For those who love fine hand made chocolates there are many options in London, but we visited the shop of young chocolatier Paul A Young in Camden Passage in Islington whose salted caramels alone are worth making a detour for.

Other places of interest for a foodie week-end are Marleybourne Market on Sunday morning. People queue to buy unpasteurised milk and beautiful home grown vegetables, cheese and meats from The Ginger Pig butcher shop on Moxon Street where they bake pork pies in the Aga. Here you can buy dry cured rare breed meat reared on the Yorkshire Moors. Well aged cuts are lined up on the top of the counter and the customer can choose meat that has been hung for two, three, four or five weeks and pay accordingly. It was a joy to see well hung meat and not a drop of sweet and sour sauce in sight.

Patricia Michelson’s iconic cheese shop La Fromagerie with its temperature and humidity controlled cheese rooms is next door. It’s also a market place of fresh and well sourced dry goods. Have breakfast, lunch or supper in the Café and enjoy boiled egg and soldiers.

Finally we journeyed out to Richmond to have lunch in the Petersham Café where Australian chef Skye Gyngell weaves her magic using the best of British food at its seasonal peak. A memorable finale to our action packed two days.

I have chosen some recipes from ‘The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’ (Ebury Press) for you to try, enjoy!

www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk

anchorandhope@btinternet.com

www.konditorandcook.com/docs/Magic.pdf

www.broadwaymarket.co.uk/market.html

www.exmouth-market.com/

www.moro.co.uk/moro/restaurant/default.asp

www.cafekick.co.uk/CK_location.html

www.paulayoung.co.uk/

www.ottolenghi.co.uk/

www.pershamnurseries.com

 

 

 

Ottolenghi’s Grilled Mackerel with Green Olive, Celery and Raisin Salsa

 

All the seemingly contradictory flavours come together here surprisingly well to create a harmonious and balanced delicacy. Mackerel, probably our favourite fish, takes the sweetness and the saltiness wonderfully well, producing a light clean result.

This simple dish relies heavily on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. Mackerel, in particular, is incredible when fresh and inedible when not, so make sure you buy the best.

Serves 4

8 mackerel fillets, pin bones removed

2 tbsp olive oil

coarse sea salt and black pepper

Salsa

125g celery stalks, thinly sliced

60g good-quality green olives, stoned and thinly sliced

3 tbsp 70g good quality plump raisins

1 ½ tbsp sherry vinegar

4 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp honey

15g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

 

Stir together all the salsa ingredients. Taste it; it should be sweet, sour and salty. Season with salt and pepper and leave to sit for at least 15 minutes for the flavours to evolve. (At this point, the salsa can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, if necessary. Before serving allow it to some to room temperature, refresh with extra chopped parsley and adjust the seasoning.)

Set an oven grill to its highest setting. Toss the mackerel fillets gently with the oil and some salt and pepper. Lay the fillets on a flat oven tray, skin side up, and place under the hot grill for 3 – 4 minutes, or until just cooked.

Serve the fish hot or at room temperature, with a spoonful of salsa on top.

 

Ottolenghi’s Radish and Broad Bean Salad

This is an ideal brunch dish for a warm spring day. With the Tahini sauce and bread, it makes a modest meal in itself, without them, a colourful salad – light refreshing and wholesome.

Here we come to the thorny issue of shelling broad beans. Many Arab recipes call for cooking and eating broad beans with their pods. This is recommended for young beans, early in the season, but wouldn’t work for a fresh salad like this one. Going to the next level – skinning the beans – depends on how large the beans are, how thick their skin, and how hard you want to work. Most beans, especially the ones sold frozen are perfectly fine with the skin on. So if you prefer to skip the skinning stage, cook them for a minute longer. You’ll lose a bit of the light; ‘bouncy’ texture but save yourself a lot of time.

Serves 4

500g shelled broad beans fresh or frozen

350g small radishes

½ red onion

2 tblsp finely chopped coriander

30g preserved lemon, finely chopped

juice of 2 lemons

2 tblsp chopped flat leaf parsley

3 tblsp olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin

200ml green tahini sauce (see Fool Proof Food)

4 thick pita breads

salt and black pepper

Place the broad beans in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 1 – 2 minutes, depending on size. Drain through a large colander and rinse in plenty of cold water to refresh them. Remove the beans from their skins by gently squeezing each one with your finger tips.

Cut the radishes into 6 wedges each and mix with the broad beans, onion, coriander, preserved lemon, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, pile a mound of salad in one corner of each serving plate, pour tahini sauce into a small bowl and stand it next to the salad. Set a pita bread next to them.

Ottolenghi’s Roast Aubergine with Saffron Yoghurt

 

This is probably the archetypal Ottolenghi salad: robust contrasting flavours, vibrant and vivacious colours, fresh herbs and nuts – laid out generously to reveal all of the dishes elements.

Serves 4

3 medium aubergines cut into slices 2cm thick, or into wedges

olive oil for brushing

2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

a handful of pomegranate seeds

20 basil leaves

coarse sea salt and black pepper

Saffron Yoghurt

a small pinch of saffron strands

3 tbsp hot water

180g Greek Yoghurt

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 ½ tbsp olive oil

For the sauce, infuse the saffron in hot water in a small bowl for 5 minutes. Pour the infusion into a bowl containing the yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and some salt. Whisk well to get a smooth golden sauce. Taste and adjust the salt, if necessary, then chill. This sauce will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC / gas mark 7. Place the aubergine slices on a roasting tray, brush with plenty of olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 – 35 minutes, until the slices take on a beautiful light brown colour. Let them cool down. The aubergines will keep in the fridge for 3 days; just let come to room temperature before serving.

To serve, arrange the aubergine slices on a large plate, slightly overlapping. Drizzle the saffron yoghurt over them, sprinkle with the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds and lay the basil on top.

Ottolenghi’s Pistachio and rosewater Meringues

 

If you ask someone if they’ve heard of Ottolenghi, the answer is often, ‘Yes, I know, it’s the place with the meringues’. Though we learned how to make the giant meringues at Baker and Spice, it was the multiflavoured, multicoloured ones (proudly filling our windows) that became synonymous with Ottolenghi and earned them lots of imitators, both good and bad.

To make meringues you need a good freestanding electric mixer. Making them by hand is out of the question and using a handheld electric mixer is also not very practical, as the mixture needs a long whisking time and turns too hard for most weak machines.

makes 12 large meringues

600g caster sugar

300g free-range egg whites (about 10)

2 tsp rosewater

60g pistachio nuts, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Spread the sugar evenly over a large oven tray lined with baking parchment. Place the tray in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the sugar is hot (over 100°C). You should be able to see it beginning to dissolve at the edges.

While the sugar is in the oven, place the egg whites in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the sugar is almost ready, start the machine on high speed and let it work for a minute or so, until the whites just begin to froth up.

Carefully pour the sugar slowly on to the whisking whites. Once it has all been added, add the rosewater and continue whisking on high speed for 10 minutes or until the meringue is cold. At this point it should keep its shape when you lift a bit from the bowl and look homogenously silky (you can now taste the mixture and fold in some more rosewater if you want a more distinctive rose flavour).

Turn down the oven temperature to 110°C/Gas Mark ¼. To shape the meringues, line a baking tray (or 2, depending on their size) with baking parchment, sticking it firmly to the tray with a bit of meringue. Spread the pistachios over a flat plate.

Have ready 2 large kitchen spoons. Use one of them to scoop up a big dollop of meringue, the size of a medium apple, then use the other spoon to scrape it off on to the plate of pistachios. Roll the meringue so it is covered with nuts on one side and then gently place it on the lined baking tray. Repeat to make more meringues, spacing them well apart on the tray. Remember, the meringues will almost double in size in the oven.

Place in the preheated oven 110˚C and leave there for about hours. Check if they are done by lifting them from the tray and gently prodding to make sure the outside is completely firm, whilst the centre is still a little soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. The meringues will keep in a dry place, at room temperature, for quite a few days.

 

Fool Proof Food

Ottolenghi’s Green Tahini Sauce

150ml tahini paste

80ml lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ tspn salt

30g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped if making by hand

In a bowl thoroughly whisk the tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic and salt together. The mixture should be creamy and smooth. If it is too thick, add more water. Stir in the chopped parsley, then taste and add more salt if needed.

 

Pour left over smoothie mixture, apple juice, or left over drinking chocolate into ice lolly moulds to freeze for the children to enjoy on a hot Summers day.

Hottips

Glebe House Restaurant

Chef Gillian Hegarty is back in the kitchen at Glebe House, in Baltimore West Cork, after a winter working in Café Paradiso in Cork city. The restaurant opening times are Wednesday to Saturday 7:00pm to 10:00pm and Wednesday to Sunday for breakfast and lunch. There are some summer gigs booked for the Amphitheater including the return of ‘The Hothouse Flowers’ on August 3rd. To book the restaurant phone www.glebegardens.com corleggy@eircom.net slowfood@cookingisfun.ie or phone (021) 4646 785.

028 20232 and visit the website too…

 

Summer Cheese School

Spend the day learning the art of cheese making on the farm at Corleggy in County Cavan. Silke Cropp will teach this course – she has been making goat, cow and sheep cheese for years. Full day course including lunch with a glass of wine and a kilogram of the cheese you make yourself to take home costs €150.00. There are three dates with places available Sunday 9th, Sunday 16th and Sunday 23rd August 2009. Contact Silke Cropp on 049 9522930

 

Slow Food East Cork Mackerel Fishing Trip

Learn how to catch, gut, fillet and cook this delicious and sustainable fish. This event has limited places and is weather permitting €35.00 Slow Food Members €40.00 Non-Members. Prompt departure from Ballycotton Harbour at 5:30pm, Wednesday

17th June 2009. To book email

 

Thrifty Tip