Every now and then I need to pop over to London for a meeting so I use it as an excuse to check out the food scene, perhaps catch a show or maybe visit an exhibition. This time I spent a happy few hours meandering through the Augustus and Gwen John exhibition at the Tate but neither love nor money could secure tickets for David Hall’s play ?? at the National Theatre on Saturday night. The whole run is booked out but it is occasionally possible to get returns if one is prepared to queue at the ticket booth in Leicester Square on the day.
Food lovers who find themselves in London on Saturday morning should don a pair of runners, grab a couple of stout shopping bags and head over the river at London Bridge for the Borough Market. Unless you want to beat your way through crowds, comparable to Patrick Street on Christmas Eve, you’ll need to drag yourself out of bed early. We got there at 11.15am by which time the market was thronged with eager, almost frenzied shoppers, tourists and two rival television crews. I bumped into several friends including a past student dressed in motorbike leathers who was on a mission to pick up a variety of offal for an offal feast he and his pals were cooking that night. Stalls were piled high with vegetables, autumn fruit, wild mushrooms and fresh herbs. Jocular butchers vied to outsell each other with their selection of meat from rare breeds, organic, free-range, well hung and dry aged, Cured meats, salamis, dry-cured bacon, prosciutto….. At Brindisa, Serrano ham and Pata Negra were being sliced off the hoof. Two people worked unceasingly yet couldn’t keep up with the demand. We ordered and paid for 100g of Pata Negra and the sensational Spanish cured ham of the black pigs fattened on acorns in the woods of Aracena in Andalusia. We were told to come back in 30 minutes to collect it. I bought some pimento de padron, the little green peppers from Galicia which are almost impossible to come by outside Spain - fried in oil and sprinkled with coarse salt they are one of my favourite Spanish foods. By now a queue of about 20 people had formed around the corner of the stall for the Chorizo sandwiches, a soft chewy bap split in half lengthwise was filled with a sizzling chorizo, some rocket leaves and a few pieces of piquillo pepper – an irresistible combination. Other stalls were groaning with farmhouse cheese, mouthwatering cakes and cookies and fresh fish. Oliver Beaujouan was over in London for the Selfridges promotion during 6-17 October, highlighting the best produce from South West Ireland, so he was selling his pickled sea weeds and sea weed tapenade to a rapturous public. His assistant sold Silke Cropp’s Corleggy and Drumlin cheeses. When I visited Selfridges to meet some of the Irish artisan producers Tristan Hugh- Jones was opening Irish oysters at the fish counter and Richard Corrigan, the hugely acclaimed Irish chef of Lindsay House was having no difficultly enticing people to taste Irish beef with a Bearnaise sauce made from Kerrygold butter, or an Irish seaweed tapenade. After the market we stopped at the Monmouth Coffee Shop for a reviving cup of freshly ground Fair Trade coffee and some great bread and jam – seek it out, some of the very best coffee in London. Coffee lovers may also want to make a trip to the Algerian Coffee Shop in Old Compton Street. Around the corner – a mecca for cheese lovers - Randolf Hodgson’s Neal’s Yard Dairy has the best selection of British and Irish farmhouse cheese in superb condition in theses islands. Back to Top We had lunch in Brindisa’s new tapas bar, the food was REALLY good, every morsel delicious. We fought over deep fried Monte Enebro cheese with orange blossom honey. Farmhouse Mahon with tomato marmalade and a chicory salad with Cabrales cheese and walnut vinaigrette. Other memorable meals were a breakfast at Baker and Spice in Denver Street (get there early, there was a queue at 9.30 on Sunday morning). Dinner at St Jean Fergus Hendersons’s simple almost Spartan restaurant in a converted Smithfield smoke house is a mecca for passionate meat eaters and offal fiends. There is a now a St John Bread and Wine in Commercial St which boasts a full working bakery and a bistro style modern British menu. I also swung by Babes ‘n Burgers to check out the newest concept in kids food. Owners William and Sam Sarne and their contemporaries now have kids so they want to provide the kind of fast casual restaurant and healthy fast food that they want their kids to eat and really enjoy. They are attracting a new kind of fashionable punter who doesn’t care much about swanky table service but wants more than a mystery meat burger, preferably organic. There’s a nursery room at the back with low tables, easy wipe banquette seats and lots of toys and puzzles. Sam has plans for a Saturday club for dads who can chat and chill while the kids eat cruditees or chicken fingers coated in spelt flour; or great little organic burgers served with Maris Piper chips. Sticky fingers in Phillimore Gardens in Kensington, is another fun restaurant to check out if you are bringing the kids to London. We also had a delicious dinner at Kensington Place, Rowley Leigh’s ever popular eatery on Kensington Church St. Starters and puds were best. If you are there at lunch time don’t miss Sally Clarke’s food shop and bakery across the road. Both Rowley Leigh and Fergus Henderson have published cookbooks – see Hot Tips – here are some of their recipes.
from ‘ Nose to Tail Eating’ by Fergus Henderson
Serves 2 6 lamb’s kidneys, suet and membrane removed and slit in half lengthwise, retaining the kidney shape 3 tbsp. plain flour 1 tsp. cayenne pepper 1 tsp dry English mustard sea salt and pepper a big knob of butter Worcester sauce A healthy splash of chicken stock 2 pieces of toast (white or brown, up to you, though – just an observation – white seems to sup up the juices better) Nip out the white fatty gristle of the kidneys with a knife or scissors. Mix together the flour, cayenne pepper, mustard, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Get a frying pan very hot, throw in a knob of butter, and as this melts roll your kidneys in your spiced flour, then shake them in a sieve to remove excess. Place them in a sizzling pan, cook for 2 minutes each side, add a hearty splash of Worcester sauce and the chicken stock, and let all the ingredients get to know each other. Remove the kidneys to your two waiting bits of toast, let the sauce reduce and emulsify in the pan (do not let it disappear) and pour over the kidneys and toast.
Brined Pork Belly
from ‘Nose to Tail Eating’ by Fergus Henderson
Serves 4 Brine – see recipe 2kg piece of pork belly, with skin and bones on 2 onions, peeled and chopped a miniscule splash of olive oil a pinch of coarse sea salt Brine your pork belly for 3 days, rinse, then score the skin gently with a sharp knife, a Stanley knife is excellent for this purpose. Place the onions on the base of a roasting tray (their purpose is, as well as flavour, to stop the belly sticking.) Lay the belly on top. Rub the skin with a little oil and then the salt. Place in a medium to hot oven for approximately 1½ - 2 hours, keep an eye on it so it does not burn. If you’re anxious that the skin is not crisping up, you start or finish the belly under the grill. When cooked you should have crispy skin on top of soft and giving fatty flesh. Lift off the onions and serve.
Makes 4 litres
You can use this brine to preserve other meats, eg beef brisket or silverside or ox tongue. 400g caster sugar 600g sea salt 12 juniper berries 12 cloves 12 black peppercorns 3 bay leaves 4 litres water Bring all the brine ingredients together in a pot, and bring to the boil so the sugar and salt melt. Decant into a container and allow to cool. When cold add to your meat, and leave it in the brine for the number of days required for your recipe.
Griddled Scallops with Pea Puree and Mint Vinaigrette
‘There’s no place like home by Rowley Leigh’. Serves 2 2 spring onions butter the outside leaves of a lettuce 150g fresh shelled or frozen peas 1 bunch of mint nutmeg sugar ½ glass of white wine 75ml double cream lemon juice 50ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar 125ml sunflower oil 8 scallops, shucked, rinsed and cut in half if very large Although you will not need so much mint vinaigrette, it is difficult to make in smaller quantity and keeps well in the fridge, to accompany some lamb chops on another occasion. To make the puree, slice the spring onions and stew them in a little butter. Finely shred the lettuce leaves and add to the pan, then stir in the peas. Add three or four leaves of mint, a small pinch of nutmeg, a good pinch of sugar and some salt and pepper. Add the white wine and then stew, covered on a low heat for half an hour. When the peas are very tender and swollen, add the cream and simmer briskly to reduce, until it is in danger of catching on the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and puree in a blender until very smooth. Sharpen the seasoning with a little squeeze of lemon and more salt and pepper if it needs it. Put the puree in a small saucepan and keep warm. To make the vinaigrette, pick six or seven sprigs of mint, chop the leaves very roughly and put them in a blender. Add a teaspoon of sugar and a big pinch of salt. Bring the vinegar up to the boil and pour over the mint. Switch on the blender and add the oil in a steady trickle. Check the seasoning and adjust with lemon, salt and pepper if necessary. To cook the scallops, salt them lightly, leave for ten minutes and then pat them dry with kitchen paper. Lightly brush them with a little sunflower oil. Get a heavy, dry frying pan or a griddle very hot and put the scallops on it one by one. Do not move them for a couple of minutes but let them brown well. Turn and cook for another two minutes, then remove. They should be just hot in the middle, but very moist. To serve, arrange the scallops around a mound of the pea puree on each plate and drizzle the vinaigrette between them. Do not drown the scallops.
There are tatins of everything under the sun these days, but this was the first and remains the best. A really heavy pan (preferably made or iron or copper), about 22-24cm in diameter, with straight or almost straight sides is pretty well essential for its successful execution. Cox’s are certainly the ideal apple, partly because they have the necessary acidity and depth of flavour to cope well with all that sugar and partly because they do not fall apart during cooking.
2 lemons 2kg Cox’s apples 125g unsalted butter, slightly softened 125g caster sugar 200g puff pastry Squeeze the juice of the lemons and put it in a large pudding basin or similar shaped bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water. Peel and halve the apples, remove the cores with a teaspoon and roll the halves in the juice. Smear the butter generously all over the base and sides of the cold pan. Sprinkle the sugar on top and give the pan a shake to ensure it is evenly distributed. Drain the apples of any lemon juice and arrange them, standing on their sides, in concentric circles, embedding them in the butter/sugar mix. Pack them in as tightly as you can, then put the pan on the fiercest heat you have. While keeping a beady eye on pan, roll out the puff pastry into a disc about 2cm wider than the rim of the pan and leave it to rest on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a plate in the fridge. Watch the sides of the pan very closely. You are looking for a good, rich caramel colour to develop. Move the pan around on the heat to ensure the mixture caramelises evenly. It needs a certain courage to keep going in order to get a rich, deep toffee colour. This whole process can take ten to twenty minutes, depending on the pan and the strength of the flame. When it is done, transfer to a heatproof surface or a pot rest. After five minutes or so, when the pan has cooled a little, drop the disc of pastry on to the apples and let the edges hang over the sides of the pan. Place the pan in an oven preheated to 220C/gas mark 7 and bake for fifteen minutes, or until the pastry is nicely risen. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a minute. The moment of truth has arrived: place an inverted plate, slightly bigger than the pan, over the top. With one hand firmly in place over the plate, grip the handle equally firmly with your other hand and a cloth and, with a determined turn of the wrist, flip the pan over on to the plate. Lower the plate on to a surface, pause a moment and then lift off the pan. Behold, one hopes, a perfect golden circle of apples. If things are not as perfect as they might be, do not despair, but grab a palette knife and shape the apples into place. This might include a bit of scraping around in the pan, gathering up some residual bits of apple and caramel. Serve warm with a bit of double cream. Foolproof Food Rowley Leigh’s Parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke, celeriac or swede mash. All of these roots gain body and substance from the tolerant spud. Being low in starch, they also help to alleviate the glue problem. Simply cook an equal amount of the root vegetable, cut the same size, with the potato. Although the roots will cook faster than the potato, they are more fibrous and need breaking down more to make a smooth mash. Drain extremely well and take care to dry the mixture thoroughly in the pan before adding the milk. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to parsnip mash to give a sharper, stronger flavour of parsnip. Hot Tips Time Out London Eating and Drinking Guide – the brand new edition of this guide has just been published. With more than 1,200 reviews of the best restaurants, gastropubs, cafes and bars plus a new section covering party venues and entertainment, food and drink shops, cookery and wine courses, this is still the biggest and best guide to London eating and drinking you’ll find. Available from www.timeout.com/shop for £8.99 or £10.99 at good bookshops. Monmouth Coffee Company, 27 Monmouth St, London WC2 Tel 020 7 836 5272 Algerian Coffee Store, 52 Old Compton St. London W1. Tel 020 7 437 2480 Neals Yard Dairy, 17 Short’s Garden, London WC2 Tel 020 7 379 7646 Brindisa, 3 Riverside Workshops, 28 Park St, London SE1. Tel 020 7 403 0282 Lindsay House, 21 Romilly Street, W1D 5AFl Tel 020 7 439 0450 www.lindsayhouse.co.uk St John, 26 John St, London EC1M 4AY Tel 020 7 251 0848 www.stjohnrestaurant.co.uk St John Bread & Wine, 94-96 Commercial St. London E1 Tel 020 7 247 8724 www.stjohnbreadandwine.com Kensington Place, 201 Kensington Church St. London W8 7LX Tel 020 7 727 3184 www.egami.co.uk Clarke’s, 124 Kensington Church St, London W8 4BH Tel 020 7 221 9225 www.sallyclarke.com Babes ‘n Burgers, 275 Portobello Road, London W11 Tel 020 7 727 4163 Sticky Fingers, 1A Phillimore Gardens, W8 7QB London, Tel 020 7 938 5338 www.stickyfingers.co.uk Books – Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson, published by Macmillan, London No Place Like Home by Rowley Leigh published by Fourth Estate, London. Birr Market – Special Halloween Market today 23rd October