Just had a ‘delicious’ long weekend in London. I’d forgotten how much I missed London and how much fun and excitement one can cram into a few days in one of the most exciting and innovative food cities in the world. And not just food…we also got to the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art, a must see for those of you who, like me, were tormented and baffled by Bacon’s work heretofore. By the way, Bacon was Irish and of course thanks to Barbara Dawson, his studio is now on display in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. We were so longing for an injection of culture so we popped into many galleries and exhibitions. Unfortunately time ran out so we didn’t make it to the revamped Courtauld Institute of Art to see the Van Gough Exhibition – it’s on until the 8th May so hopefully next time but we did manage to get tickets to the glorious Theodore production at The Royal Opera House, much of which was set in a kitchen, four glorious hours with some of the best voices in the world – DiDonato, Orlinski, Julia Bullock…
Too late for
dinner that night but we did have a super tasty tapa lunch at the new José
Pizarro restaurant in the Royal Academy of Art after the Bacon Exhibition,
definitely worth seeking out.
The Thursday evening flight from Cork Airport. (Am I biased or is it the friendliest little airport in the world?) brought us into London in time to have dinner at Quo Vadis on Dean Street, I love Jeremy Lee’s food and there’s no deafening music in the dining room. Right next door is Barrafina, another of my favourite restaurants and is a must if you don’t mind queuing.
I love to wander through a Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. You could and should visit Borough Market particularly if you haven’t been before but I headed for Maltby Street Market under the railway arches and made my way through the little passages to Spa Terminus to find some of the very best ingredients in London – Neal’s Yard Dairy and Mons for best artisan cheese, exceptional salami and cured meats @Ham and Cheese, fruit and veg @Natoora, honey, jams, beers, fantastic bread and pastries @DustyKnuckle pop-up. Pick up a custard doughnut @StJohn’s Bakery and coffee @Monmouth. Both 40 Maltby St. Wine Bar and Flor are still not doing dine-in but you can pick up a picnic or takeout.
Then into a cab over to Brawn in Shoreditch, located at the end of Columbia Rd for a superb lunch (and I don’t use that word lightly) lunch. Wesley, the maître d’ of 7 years is from Cork so we got a warm Cork welcome.
Oren in Dalston is one of the names on all ‘foodies’ top recommendations at present, a wide Mediterranean menu and ear-splitting music but many delicious middle-eastern influences. Put Dishoom on your list too. We went to the Derry Street location in Kensington, an art deco Mecca. There are many, many good things on the menu but don’t miss the iconic Bacon Naan, reminiscent of the Iranian cafés in Mumbai, street food at its irresistible best. We had lunch at Café Cecilia, Max Rocha’s hopping new restaurant in Hackney, just across the road from Regent’s Canal. It and Fallow on 2 St. James’s Market where we had dinner are the hottest tickets in town and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I particularly loved the calcots with Romesco and the deep-fried bread and butter pudding. Haven’t even mentioned the shops but this is a food column. Fortum and Mason is just opposite the Royal Academy of Art so worth wandering into – just saying!
If you are in Kensington High St, check out Sally Clarke’s lovely restaurant and food shop… and on and on it goes…
Café Deco is definitely on the list for my next trip, brilliant reports.
Here are some of the many good things I enjoyed.
Cauliflower Fritters with Aioli
Cauliflower is definitely having a moment. These are addictive and make a delicious nibble, a starter or a side. Florets of Romanesco, calabrese or broccoli also work well here. A plain flour batter with a sprinkle of chilli flakes would be delicious too.
Serves 4 – 6
1 small to medium cauliflower, Romanesco or Calabrese (about 550g/1lb 3/2oz when trimmed) – we allow 75g (3oz) of florets per person
For the batter:
225g (8oz) gram flour (chickpea) or besan
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
300ml (10fl oz) water
olive oil for deep-frying
Trim the cauliflower florets if necessary.
Blanch in boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes, drain well and refresh.
Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the chilli, turmeric and freshly roasted cumin seeds and a half teaspoon of salt. Whisk in enough water to make a batter with a light coating consistency.
Heat the oil in a deep fry (180°C).
Dip one floret into the batter, shake off excess and cook in the hot oil until crisp and golden. Taste, add more seasoning or spice to the batter if necessary. Cook the rest.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve each portion with a little bowl of aioli.
Aioli – Garlic Mayo
‘Aioli’ refers not only to the sauce made with garlic, egg yolks and olive oil, but also to a complete dish where the sauce is served with boned salt-cod, hard-boiled eggs, squid or snails and vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, artichokes and green beans.
225ml (8fl oz) homemade mayonnaise
1-3 cloves of garlic, depending on size
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Crush the garlic and
add to the egg yolks just as you start to make the mayonnaise. Finally add the
chopped parsley and taste for seasoning.
Smoked Eel and Horseradish Sandwich with Pickled Onion
This iconic sandwich from Quo Vadis is one of London’s must haves.
2 rectangular pieces of sourdough bread
extra virgin olive oil
smoked eel from Lough Neagh
Pickled Red Onions
Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Fry the bread until golden on both sides. Slather a generous smear of horseradish sauce on both pieces. Arrange 6-8 pieces of smoked eel on its side on the base. Top with the other slice of bread.
Serve warm with a tangle of pickled onion.
For the Pickled Red Onions
50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar
25g (1oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
110g (4oz) red onions, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin
Put the vinegar, sugar and salt
in a small heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Add the sliced onions and simmer for 2–3
minutes or until they turn pink and wilt. Lift out the cooked onions with a
slotted spoon and transfer them to a sterilised jam jar with a non-reactive
lid. Top up the jar with the hot
vinegar, cover and cool. Once cold,
store in the fridge.
Dishoom Bacon Naan
The Naan breakfast roll from Dishoom in London is justifiably famous, this is my interpretation.
1 naan bread
2-3 smoked streaky bacon rashers
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh coriander
Tomato and Chilli Jam
Fry the bacon until golden and pop on some kitchen paper to absorb any excess fat.
Warm the naan on a dry pan.
Slather the surface of the warm naan with cream cheese, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lay the slices of bacon side by side on one half. Add a couple of coriander sprigs. Fold over. Cut in half crossways. Serve on a warm plate with a little bowl of tomato and chilli jam.
Alternatively, drizzle the tomato and chilli jam generously over the bacon before folding the naan.
Tomato and Chilli Jam
Makes 4 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars
This zingy tomato and chilli jam is a hit with everything from fried eggs to cold meat. Terrific on chicken paillarde or pan-grilled fish or spread on bruschetta with goat’s cheese and rocket leaves.
1kg (2 1/4lbs) very ripe tomatoes
4-8 red chillies
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
about 5cm (2 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
50ml (2fl oz) fish sauce (Nam Pla)
500g (18oz) golden castor sugar
200ml (7fl oz) red wine vinegar
Peel the tomatoes and chop into 1cm dice. Purée the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a blender. Put the purée, sugar and vinegar into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the tomatoes and bring to the boil slowly, stirring occasionally. Cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.
When cooked, pour into warmed,
sterilized glass jars. Allow to
cool. Store in a cool place.
Charred Calcots with Romesco
Max Rocha of Café Cecilia kindly shared this recipe with me – it’s delicious and worth seeking out on your next trip to London!
15 blanched almonds
10 cherry tomatoes
2 red peppers
1 red chilli
1 clove garlic
100g (3 1/2oz) stale bread
100ml (3 1/2fl oz) good quality olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 calcots onions
1/2 head of garlic
1 red chilli
For the Romesco
Toast the nuts in a 170˚C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3 preheated oven for 15 minutes. Set aside.
Place the tomatoes (cut in half), the peppers (cut in half and seeds removed), the whole chilli and the garlic on a baking tray. Coat with olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
Bake in the preheated oven until the peppers and tomatoes are completely cooked (around 40 minutes).
Allow all ingredients to cool. Then blitz the nuts and bread in a food processor to a chunky consistency.
Add your roasted vegetables and blitz to your required consistency. Add the paprika and the olive oil. Add all the roasting juices from the pan. Season with salt to taste and set aside.
For the leeks/calcots.
Bring a pan of water to the boil, once boiling turn down to a low – medium heat.
To the water, add a splash of white wine, half a head of garlic, a fresh chilli, a splash of olive oil and some salt. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Poach the onions/leeks in liquor until tender, roughly 5 minutes. This can be done ahead of time and kept at room temperature.
When ready to serve, heat up a warm griddle pan and char the leeks on both sides. Arrange in an organic tumble on the plate, with a nice spoonful or romesco and a teaspoon of crème fraiche.
Pear, Crozier Blue, Membrillo and Walnut Salad
A delicious combination of texture and flavour inspired by a salad I enjoyed at Quo Vadis on Dean Street.
A mixture of Winter salad leaves – castlefranco, endive, radicchio…
2-3 ripe but firm pears
50g (2oz) Crozier blue cheese, crumbled (Jeremy used Stichelton)
75g (3oz) membrillo, 2cm (3/4 inch) dice
75g (3oz) fresh walnut halves, lightly roasted and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Forum Chardonnay vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon honey
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together.
Half and core the pear, cut into wedges.
Put the salad leaves
into a wide bowl, add the pears, crumbled cheese and membrillo dice. Drizzle with the dressing, toss gently to
coat all the leaves. Add the chopped
walnuts, toss again and taste. Divide
between 4 plates and eat immediately – a gorgeous combination.
Dark Chocolate Mousse with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sea salt
This rich chocolate mousse recipe comes from Rory O’Connell who loves to serve it with pouring cream. A little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkling of flaky sea salt is heavenly…
225g (8oz) chocolate chopped into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces (62% or 70%)
50g (2oz) butter diced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g (8oz) granulated or caster sugar
225ml (8fl oz) water
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt
Place the chocolate and butter in a Pyrex bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of cold water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl and place the pan on the heat. Bring the water to a simmer and immediately turn off the heat, allowing the butter and chocolate to melt gently in the bowl.
Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a spotlessly clean bowl for whisking later. Whisk the yolks to a pale mousse.
To make the caramel, put the sugar and 125ml (4 1/2fl oz) of water into a heavy-based saucepan and place on a low heat. Stir occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve before the liquid comes to a boil. Once it boils and has become a syrup, remove the spoon and do not stir again. Allow the syrup to become a dark chestnut coloured caramel. If it is colouring unevenly in the saucepan, tilt the pan gently to and fro to get it to even out by running the dark caramel into the paler syrup. Do not be tempted to stir as if you put a cold spoon into the caramel, it will “block” and go solid- a disaster. Keep going until the caramel is a deep chestnut colour and almost burnt.* Then immediately and quickly add the remaining 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of water, hot, if possible, to prevent less spluttering.
*For safety, place the saucepan sitting in the dry sink before adding that 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of water as it is in a deeper place and the spluttering caramel just splashes onto the sides of the sink rather than the work top.
Now the caramel will look a bit odd, but once you put the saucepan back on the heat it will cook out to a single consistency again. Cook it until it thickens again – when you dip a spoon into the caramel and allow it to drop off, it will fall in a thickish thread. Pour this gradually on to the whisked egg yolks, whisking all of the time. A food mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand-held electric whisk will do this job perfectly. The mixture will whisk to a mousse in a matter of minutes. Stir the melted chocolate and the vanilla extract into the mouse. You may need to be a little vigorous with the stirring.
Whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak. Do not allow them to over-whip and become grainy. Stir a quarter of the egg white into the mousse to soften it and then fold in the remaining three quarters lightly yet thoroughly.
Pour the mixture into a shallow serving dish. There will not be a lot of mousse, but it is rich so the servings should be small.
Place the mousse in the fridge to chill for 4 hours.
Serve a quenelle of mousse on a cold plate, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a few grains of flaky sea salt… sublime!