A couple of days in London is always fun, but this time I was actually commandeered by my publisher and â€œchainedâ€ to the desk by my long suffering editor in an attempt to finish my latest book, 30 Years of the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Iâ€™ve been trawling through write ups and notes and old photos to jog my memory â€“ what a mission.
But despite the deadline the deal is, I must be allowed to eat so itâ€™s an excuse to catch up on the humming London food scene.
I revisited some of my favourite haunts like Barafina, Fino and St John Bread and Wine off Brick Lane in Shoreditch. There I had a fantastic starter of rabbit offal on toast, not everyoneâ€™s idea of a good time but it was perfectly executed and completely delicious. The extra fun thing for me was when ex-student Jenny Swan popped out of the pastry kitchen with a pressie of some St Johnâ€™s Bread and Wine signature dishes, featherlite madeleines, caraway seed cake and an Eccles cake. Same happened at Towpath at 42 De Beauvoir Crescent on Regents Canal where Abigail Baim-Lance who has just graduated from Ballymaloe Cookery School was starting her work experience. By the way if you havenâ€™t been to Towpath, make time on your next trip. Lori Di Mori runs this totally charming cafÃ© out of two stores on the edge of the canal. Much of the seating is outside, the food is simple and seasonal, walkers, joggers and cyclists are coming and going. Swans, dabchicks and house boats glide slowly by. All so chic and Zen like, definitely one of my favourites. There are several iconic dishes including olive oil cake which devotees traipse across town to enjoy with the stunningly good coffee.
Somehow, I managed to get an early table at the much talked about Restaurant Story on Tooley Street in Bermondsey. This is a â€˜white hotâ€™ new restaurant getting blistering reviews for Tom Sellers and his teamâ€™s edgy fun food. The hand dipped candles were made from beef fat which melted into a puddle into a holder to be dipped up with gorgeous crusty sour dough bread. You have a choice of 6 or 10 tiny delectable courses (and they were) plus a couple of playful amuse bouche and petit fours thrown in. Here Frank Guest another of my â€˜babiesâ€™ popped out of the kitchen. Yet another, Dan Morgenthau was in Honey and Co a recently opened restaurant where Israeli husband and wife team Itamar and Sarit Packer have been causing a stir.
The Clove Club located in the refurbished Shoreditch Town Hall is another hot ticket. Isaac McHaleâ€™s no choice menu is worth making a detour for.
Other recent openings on the rapidly changing food scene as well as Restaurant Story â€“ Grain Store, Koya Udon noodle restaurant and Bubbledogs in Charlotte Street which serves hot dogs and fizz. Hot dogs in every shape and form are definitely a trend.
The weekend I was over, virtually every restaurant reviewer was raving about Grain Store overlooking Granary Square. This is quite the departure for Bruno Loubet who was firmly on the Michelin star scene until he almost burnt out and headed to Oz for a few years. Grain Store is maybe the first new non vegetarian restaurant in London to bring vegetables, plants and grains into the dominant position on the plate. Vegetables are listed on the menu first in each dish with the meat or fish at the end.
The best food I ate was in Raw Duck on 5 Amhurst Road in Hackney, they serve the most delicious little plates.
Seared Carpaccio of Rabbit Loin
George Gossip, our game guru, introduced us to this recipe which he tells us he came across in Lindy Wildsmithâ€™s book â€˜Curedâ€™. We all loved it.
Serves 4 as a starter
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
4 rabbit loins, cut from 2 jointed rabbits
To Joint a Rabbit Loin
Use a filleting knife along the length of the spine, ease the loin away from the bone.Â Slide the blade under the loin cutting it free from the bone.Â Repeat on the other side and the other rabbit.
Mix the finely chopped parsley, salt and freshly crushed coriander seeds together.Â Spread the seasoning out on a chopping board; roll the loins in it until completely and evenly coated.Â Wrap individually in clingfilm and freeze for a couple of hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, heat a large frying pan over a high heat.Â Add enough oil to cover the base of the pan and put the rabbit loins in the pan.Â Â Cook on all sides until golden, but this will only take a minute or two, as they are very tender.
Cut the loins into 2cm (3/4 inch) thick slices and garnish with sprigs of chervil and wild garlic flowers or watercress and myrtle berries.
Rory Oâ€™Connellâ€™s Beetroot with Raspberries, Honey and Mint
This salad can be served simply in its own as a light and refreshing starter or can have the addition of a few spoonfuls of thick natural yoghurt or ricotta
2 cooked beetroot, peeled and very thinly sliced by hand or on a mandolin
16 small mint leaves
2 teaspoons of honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oi
Cracked black pepper
Divide the sliced beetroot between 4 white plates or spread over a large flat serving plate.
Cut half of the raspberries in half lengthways and the rest in cross section slices, and scatter over the beets. Season with salt and pepper. Dress the salads with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle on the tiny mint leaves and serve immediately.
Addition of yoghurt, milk snow or labne
Addition of sorrel leaves
1/2 lb (225g) flaky pastry
4 ozs (110g) currants
4 ozs (110g) candied peel
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 1/2 ozs (45g) melted butter
2 ozs (50g) granulated sugar
extra granulated sugar for tops
Roll out the pastry to 3mm (1/8 inch) thickness and cut with 9cm (3 1/2 inch) round cutter.
Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each round, pinch the sides into the centre and turn over and roll out until the fruit is just coming through.Â Brush with cold water dip the top in granulated sugar and slit with a knife 2 or 3 times.
Bake at 220Â°C/425ÂºF/Gas Mark 7 for 15 minutes.
Olive Oil Cake
This is not the Tow Path version but we have been enjoying this olive cake at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Serves 8 – 10
165g (6oz) all purpose white flour
Â½ teaspoon baking powder
Â½ teaspoon baking soda
Â¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large free range organic eggs
225g (8oz) sugar
175ml (6fl oz) plain full fat yoghurt
3 lemons, the finely grated zest
175ml (6 fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the dish
23cm (9 inch) springform tin
Pre-heat the oven 170Â°C/325Â°F/ Mark 3. Lightly oil the base and sides of the tin.
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl.
Preferably in a food mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar on high speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale and voluminous.
Add the natural yoghurt and lemon zest, continue to whisk for a minute or two more. Add the extra virgin olive oil all at once and reduce speed to low. Gradually fold in the flour mixture mousse gently but thoroughly.
Pour the cake mixture into the oiled tin and put into the oven. Transfer to the centre of the preheated oven and cook until the cake is golden for about 40 minutes and a tester comes out clean when inserted into the centre. The edges should have shrunk away from the tin slightly.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 â€“ 10 minutes. Remove and transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
Serve with a cup of coffee or with a blob of crÃ¨me fraiche and some summer berries.
Rich Seed Cake
This recipe for Rich Seed Cake comes from Cookery Notes, 1943. I adore seed cake and canâ€™t resist trying any new recipe I come across. This version has a distinct lemony flavour â€“ quite delicious.
225g (8oz) butter
225g (8oz) caster sugar
350g (12oz) flour
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
grated rind of one lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
20cm (8 inch) round cake tin, lined with silicone paper
Cream the butter and sugar then add the flour and beaten egg alternately, a little at a time. Beat well and add the caraway seeds, lemon rind, and lastly the baking powder. Put in the tin and bake in a moderately hot oven, 180ÂºC/350ÂºF/Gas Mark 4, for about 2 hours.
Courses at Sonairte Eco Center and Gardens in Laytown Co Meath.
Learn how to make Cider with David Llewellyn (Local grower – juice, cider, vinegar and wine maker) www.llewellynsorchard.ie Take home 9 pints of cider.Â Friday 20th Sept. 10am â€“ 4pm â‚¬75 (with tea/coffee & scone)
Home Preserving â€“ Traditional and Modern Methods with Hans Wieland of the Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim and TG4 â€˜GarraÃ Glasâ€™. Sat. 28th September 10am â€“ 4pm â‚¬40 (with tea/coffee & scone) To book tel:Â 041 982 7572 Email:Â firstname.lastname@example.org – www.sonairte.ie
The tenth Taste of West Cork Food Festival will be launched at the Church Restaurant in Skibbereen on Tuesday 3rd September at 7:30pm. The festival takes place from Friday 6th to Sunday 16th September. Over forty excellent West Cork artisan food producers (too numerous to list here) will participate this year. Donâ€™t miss John Minihanâ€™s exhibition of his portraits of West Cork food producers and artisan craft makers in Fieldâ€™s coffee shop. This year the Belling Awards will be awarded nationally and are now known as the Belling West Cork National Artisan Food Awards. For a full list of events visit www.atasteofwestcork.com