London is right up there with New York and San Francisco, vying for the title of top food capital in the entire world. Over a weekend in London you can eat your way through tasty bites from anywhere, from Ethiopia to Georgia, from inexpensive but super cool street food to pop-up dinners, super chic cafés to three star Michelin restaurants and everything in between.
Dedicated foodies might want to fit in a couple of Farmers’ Markets to watch what the millennials are putting in their baskets and reusable shopping bags.
On a recent research trip, I visited Borough Market with its 100 plus stalls, superb cheeses, spices and heritage meats. Don’t miss the Ginger Pig, 100 day old chickens and ducks, bursting with flavour, Cannon and Cannon dry cured meat, fat rashers with rind still on, well-aged beef. Brindisa Shop has the best Spanish products and hand sliced Serrano, pata negra, jamon…. Round the corner there is Brindisa Café, a superb place for breakfast. Don’t miss the melting Monte Enebro goat milk cheese with chestnut honey and crispy fried eggs with olive oil fried chips and chorizo.
Round the corner one of our past students Ray O’Connor is the head chef at Padella, there’s always a queue. At lunch time, it moves quite fast – a matter of ten to fifteen minutes but if you want to get a table in the evening, call early to put your name on the list otherwise you could be looking at a two and a half hour wait. However the handmade pasta, gnocchi and carpaccio of Dexter beef with Fiorano olive oil is totally worth the wait.
Black Axe Mangal is also worth the long schlep out to Canonbury Road, great playlist, small plates on bright oil cloth covered tables.
Don’t miss their flat breads topped with lamb offal or squid ink and smoked cod roe. I had the charred Hispi cabbage with Katsuobushi butter, possibly the best dish I have eaten this year. Leave space for the Jameson and honey ice cream….
I love these small restaurants run by feisty passionate young people on a mission to serve super delicious food at reasonable prices, not a starched chef’s toque in sight. No 40 Maltby Street is another mecca of real food and natural wines, small super tasty plates together superbly with gorgeously fresh ingredients, a devilled egg with tiny pink shrimps, a slice of warm juicy glazed ham with a dollop of good mustard, a thick slice of natural sourdough with homemade butter. There were other good things to pair with a glass of Jacot from Slovenian Klinkez but the treacle tart was a triumph. Try to choosing between that and the rhubarb jelly with rosewater cream was agony. Andrew generously sweetly shared the recipe for the Treacle Tart which contains treacle as well as the usual golden syrup.
Duck Soup in Soho and Raw Duck in Hackney both of which have pride of place on my London list, have a new sister restaurant called Little Duck-The Picklery in Hackney, a super chic space with a huge terrazzo table in the centre. Chefs and cooks lovingly prepping food at one side, more small plates and as the name suggests, lots of good pickles and an unbearable choice of little dishes. I particularly enjoyed a radicchio, puntarelle, and walnut salad fresh tasting bitter leaves with chopped walnuts added to the dressing. The smoked mackerel with pickled rhubarb and lovage looked so beautiful and tasted just as good but the buckwheat custard with poached quince and pear scattered with crumble really blew me away. Here again a Ballymaloe Cookery School student, Hannah Lederer was part of the creative team. Definitely one for your London list.
People look forward all week to their coffee but at the Monmouth coffee shop, there will be a long but convivial queue from early morning. You can bond with other single estate coffee aficionados while you wait. If someone can keep your place, you can nip in to Neal’s Yard Dairy next door for some superb Irish and British cheeses or pick up a sweet treat at Baker and Spice on the other side. The Broadway Market in Hackney and the Netil market round the corner may just be the best Farmers Markets in London. This is where the Bao and Violet Cake stalls started. Both are now in “bricks and mortar” but with a prestigious and well deserved following –and there’s so much more….. You are close to the Hackney City Farm and James Ramsden’s Pidgin and Oklava all worth noting.
For a very sophisticated treat in a truly beautiful room, Spring in Somerset House – is hard to beat, Skye Gyngell’s food exudes freshness, looks irresistible on the plate and tastes delicious. www.springrestaurant.co.uk. Finally if you have even one more meal slot check out Westerns Laundry in Highbury East. Trot along to 26 Grains in Seven Dials to taste Alex Hely-Hutchinson savour and sweet porridge bowls. She’s another one of our graduates that make me so proud www.26grains.com
Monte Enebro cheese with walnuts from Brindisa
A simple but irresistible starter that I order every time I go to Brindisa Covent Garden
Serves 2 as a starter
2 slices of Monte Enebro goats cheese, about 70g and 1.5cm thick
2 sliced of grilled bread
small handful raisins
small handful walnuts
2 sliced of grilled bread
Pre heat the grill to medium
Mix a small handful of raisins with walnuts, olive oil, honey and vinegar.
Place a slice of cheese on each of the two slices of grilled bread and put under the grill for about 3 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and colour. Remove and top with the walnuts and raisins in their dressing. Serve ASAP
Duck Soup Soho’s Mackerel under oil, pickled rhubarb & lovage
For the mackerel
2 400g mackerel, filleted
120g coarse sea salt
50g soft brown sugar
1 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
200ml olive oil
Mix together the salt and sugar and rub into the mackerel in a gastro. Press cling film over the fish and allow to cure for 1.5 hours in the fridge.
Rinse well and pat dry. If time, allow to air dry uncovered in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Drizzle the fillets with a little olive oil and pan fry on both sides until coloured and cooked through.
In a tray just large enough for the mackerel fillets add the sliced garlic and olive oil and then add the mackerel fillets while still warm
Allow to marinade for a few hours if possible
For the rhubarb
this will make more than you need but will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and you can serve with cheese or goes very well with ice cream
500g Yorkshire forced rhubarb
250g caster sugar
250ml cider vinegar
4 green cardamom lightly crushed
1 star anise
Pinch of red chilli flakes
Put the sugar, vinegar, water and spices in a pan together and bring to a gentle simmer, then cook for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile cut the rhubarb into 1inch pieces. When the pickling liquor has cooked for 5 minutes, in batches drop the rhubarb in the pan and cook for 30-45 seconds until you see the rhubarb change to a much paler colour, remove straight away with a slotted spoon and allow to cool flat on a baking tray. Repeat this process till all the rhubarb is cooked.
When it all cooked allow the liquor to cool and then poor over the rhubarb, if you pour it over while it is still hot you will over cook the rhubarb and it will go mushy.
To plate the dish gently break up the mackerel fillets with the skin on into large chunk into a large mixing bowl and add some of the oil and a pinch of sea salt
Spoon in the rhubarb allow 2tbl per person and add some of the pickling liquir
Tear in a good handful of lovage and add a squeeze of lemon juice
Gently mix everything together and the dived between 4 plates
Finish with a little pinch of red pepper flakes
Devilled Eggs with Little Shrimps
4 free-range eggs
3-4 tablespoons homemade Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
24-40 cooked shrimp
Watercress or chervil
For the devilled eggs. Hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling water, drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water. (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked). When cold, shell, slice in half lengthways and sieve the yolks, mix the sieved yolk with mayonnaise, add chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon or pipe some filling into each half
Serve two per person with 3 to 5 shrimps, depending on size. Garnish with sprigs of watercress or chervil.
Skye Gyngell’s Guinea Fowl with Farro and Parsley Cream
I cooked this dish for a dinner at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival a couple of years ago, on Darina Allen’s request, and it was well received. Full of friends from all over the world, it was a lovely evening and holds a special place in my memory, so I have a soft spot for this dish.
4 guinea fowl supremes
3 carrots, peeled
2 inner celery stalks (the paler stalks around the heart)
2 tablespoons olive oil
140g farro (or spelt), well rinsed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
30g unsalted butter
2 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the parsley cream
A large bunch of flat-leaf parsley
200ml double cream
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
Have the guinea fowl supremes ready to cook. Cut the carrots and celery into chunky slices on the diagonal. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan, add the carrots and celery and cook gently, without browning, for 5 minutes. Now add the farro and pour in enough water to just cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until the farro and vegetables are just tender to the bite.
Meanwhile, for the parsley cream, strip the leaves from the parsley. Rinse the stalks and place in a small pan. Pour over the cream and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Turn off the heat, leave to infuse for 15 minutes, then strain.
Plunge the parsley leaves into a small pan of boiling water, drain immediately and refresh under cold water. Chop the blanched parsley very finely and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Season the guinea fowl well with salt and pepper. Place a non-stick ovenproof pan over a high heat and add the remaining olive oil. When very hot, add the supremes, skin side down, and cook, without moving, for 5 minutes until the skin is golden brown and quite crisp. Transfer to the middle of the oven and cook for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the wine vinegar, butter and chopped parsley to the farro and vegetables, season well and warm through. Warm the parsley cream over a low heat and add the nutmeg, blanched parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, divide the vegetables and farro between warm plates. Arrange the guinea fowl alongside the vegetables and spoon the parsley cream over the top. Serve at once.
‘Spring: The Cookbook’ by Skye Gyngell published by Quadrille (Images by Andy Sewell).
40 Maltby Street Treacle Tart
Quite simply the best treacle tart I ever tasted. Steve Williams generously shared the recipe with us.
Serves 16 to 20
For the pastry
200g (7oz) white flour
100g (3½ oz) butter
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water approx.
For the Filling
400g (14oz) treacle
450g (1lb) golden syrup
4 lemons, zest and juice
175g (6oz) cream
100g (3½ oz) pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped
360g (12oz) white bread crumbs
400g (14 oz)cooking apples, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
OR 200g (7oz) eating apple & 200g (7oz) cooking apple peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
softly whipped cream or Jersey pouring cream
11 inch (28cm) low sided tin with a pop up base
First make the pastry.
Sieve the flour with the salt, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.
Whisk the egg and add the water. Take a fork or knife, (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more
accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.
Cover with cling film and chill for half an hour if possible, this will make it less elastic and easier to roll out. Line the flan ring and chill again for 15-20 minutes, line with paper and fill with dried beans. Bake blind for 25 minutes, 180°C\350°F\Gas Mark 4. The pastry case must be almost fully cooked. Remove paper and beans, paint with a little lightly beaten egg white and put back into the oven for 5 minutes approx.
Put diced apple into a small saucepan with 100mls cold water, cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium heat until just soft. Drain.
Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F
Weigh the treacle and golden syrup into a large bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, cream, ginger, bread crumbs and cooled cooked apples.
Pour into the cooked pastry case and cook for 40 to 45 minutes until just set. Allow to cool in the tin. Serve with softly whipped cream or Jersey pouring cream.