Reviews, recipes, ramblings and other gourmet bites. A food blog of indulgence...

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Dreaming of a blonde Christmas ...

Apologies for having fallen off the face of the earth. December seems to have taken us rather by surprise in a 'butbutit'salreadyonlyaweektilChristmasandthere'sstillsomuchtodooooo' sort of a way. But, we have a tree, it is twinkling away in the corner, and there is a flurry of cards in the post winging their way across the country.

In honour of various Christmas parties and festive drinks, I have dragged myself to the hairdressers and am now sporting a rather sleeker, darker version of my usual frizzy mess. Last night, however, I was in the mood for something a little blonder and creamier (how's that for a tenuous segue?)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Norfolk in the snow

Last weekend we took a well deserved and much looked forward to four days in a National Trust cottage in Norfolk with two of our friends (reliable partners in food indulgence). A weekend of snow, cosy wood fires, food and drink.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Let It Snow ... (but only if it's going to do it properly)

 It had to happen really. For days now there have been articles in the papers prophesying snowclouds of doom, and today they emptied their feathery, freezing little minions all over London.

Now, I am generally a big fan of snow. I never saw very much as a kid, but since moving to London I've had some brilliant snow days and made my very first snow angel. This time around, however, the snow has yet to settle, so we've got that lovely film of treacherous greyish slush on the pavements, and the snowflakes seem to be making a beeline for MY EYES, so I scuttle along blinking frantically like a bemused and shivery mole. In a hat.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A Staple: Pasta, Bacon and Artichoke

There's something immensely satisfying about making a really good dinner out of whatever you happen to have in the fridge and the cupboards. So, sometimes, I cheat, and make sure I have certain things lurking in the fridge, behind the jam, or in the cupboards behind one of Matt's 700 odd jars of Marmite (why one is not enough I will never know, not being a follower of the Marmitian faith.)

The items in question are jars of sundried tomatoes, and artichokes marinated in olive oil. Now, I'm aware that these would hardly be considered a staple food by many, but they are absolutely integral to one of my favourite dishes. This is a recipe of my mum's. It's really very easy, and it was probably (not counting the endless Victoria sponges and lumpy bread rolls I brought home from G.C.S.E food tech lessons) one of the first things I learned to cook.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Easy roast lamb

Matt again,

I've been meaning to finish this post for a while now, the meal happened a few weeks ago and I've been a little slow in getting it written up...

Jen was due back from Bristol at 7 on Sunday, and I wanted to have something nice for her to eat. This was perfect - easy, delicious and looks impressive. The whole recipe derives an extra sense of danger from cooking the meat direct on the oven shelf. Crazy. 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

An autumnal syrup

Apples tend to get overlooked in our house. I for one view them as a rather dull fruit, and will always plump instead for a peach, pear, plum or cluster of sweet, red berries. However, last week I discovered a new way with apples, which seemed to fit the time of year to a T.

The recipe comes from 'At Elizabeth David's Table', and is essentially apples sweated gently in a fruity, sugary syrup until they're just on the point of falling to pieces on your tongue. The dessert as a whole was lovely, lifted delightfully by a large scoop (ok...two...well...actually three) of cinnamon ice cream. But, it was the syrup that really made it.

Monday, 8 November 2010

No apologies

I have a hunch that our dear Nigel Slater might have some competition for the role of this little blog's favoured chef. At least for a while. Nigel, forgive us, you have done nothing wrong ... it's just that I have recently acquired this.

Now, I am aware that I am late enough to this particular party for it to be bordering on the ridiculous, but I have not really come across Elizabeth David until now. I mean, of course, I knew who she was, but I'd never read her food writing or tried her recipes. Which is, as I have quickly realized, a crying shame.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Green park in autumn

No food in this post I'm afraid, just some pictures we took in Green park today...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Adventures (and mis-adventures) in pork

Hi all,

Jen was in Bristol this weekend leaving me to my own devices, and vices - in this case pork. I still haven't managed to persuade Jen that she's wrong not to like the stuff, consequently we don't eat very much of it.

So, when the cat's away....

Saturday night was a recipe from my head, but almost certainly stolen from the back catalogue of Mr Slater, although I don't know from which book - one of those recipes that just seep in through extended staring at desirable food.

Fried pork chops, roasted new potatoes with a make-in-the-pan sauce - tarragon, roasted garlic (odd choice perhaps but the oven was on, so why not) marsala, mascarpone and a squeeze of lemon. I also ate three uncooked, peeled carrots as an unconstructed salad. Tangy sauce beautifully complemented the pig and potatoes, matched of course with a fine bottle of becks. Cheese course was the majority of a goats cheese (La buche - available in Waitrose and Sainsburys, it's surprisingly good, get one that's near its sell by date). Dessert was Muller rice (another of Jen's hated foods).

Sunday, 24 October 2010

All grown up ...

Yesterday was a bread baking sort of a day. Matt was out climbing, and I knew that on his way back he would most likely nip to the shops to grab some food for dinner, and that that food would most likely include a large block of cheese.

So, I decided to bake something to complement said cheese (I assumed we'd be talking stilton here...I was right). A fougasse maybe...perhaps a rosemary and sea salt focaccia...

But then it happened, as I was flipping through Richard Bertinet's book of contemporary bread, Dough. Now, granted, this isn't one of my most well-worn cookbooks (for one thing, it doesn't yet have splodges and greasy butter stains on any of its pages), but I thought I'd read it pretty thoroughly. Apparently not. Yesterday I discovered a WHOLE NEW CHAPTER at the back, about sweet dough, and all the beautiful things you can do with it.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Rising and falling

We have had a run of bad luck in the kitchen recently. First there was the apple cake that was ... erm ... accidentally grilled rather than baked (a delightful mixture of charcoal and raw cake mix ensued). There was the ill-fated batch of cornbread that was more like corn sludge - am still not sure how this happened, whether it was a bad recipe or, more likely, a bad chef (me) to blame. Then of course there was the unfortunate case of the curdled ginger ice-cream (the less said about that the better).

Then we come to Sunday night, and the sad tale of my cupcake tragedy. I had seen this recipe on the very lovely Smitten Kitchen and thought 'Good grief they look amazing.' This is because a) I have eyes and b) I am excited by cake.

Look at the link, go on. Then feel your mouth start to fill up unattractively with saliva! Are they cakes? Are they tiny tiny souffles? Does it matter when they're so amazingly light and filled with cream?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Basil gnocchi with sage butter

Matt here,

This was a mid-week, tag-team effort - I made the gnocchi, Jen made the sauce.

The night before last we had sausage and mash (with onion and marsala gravy) which I will modestly claim was excellent, but that's another story. Anyway, halfway through peeling for the mash, I was thinking about what I was going to do with the other half of the potatoes that I didn't really need. Normally what happens is that I cook far more than I can eat (but proceed to eat them all nonetheless) whilst leaving a small handful of potatoes to go green and plantlike because I can never be bothered to prepare such a small number of spuds...

The solution was simple, peel all the potatoes, cook them and then keep enough for the meal and put the rest in the fridge to have as gnocchi the following evening. I accept that we're not talking Einstein levels of genius here, but still...

Well, it turns out that gnocchi is really easy, oddly satisfying and tastes great when home made. This recipe was adapted from the top 15 search hits on googling "gnocchi recipe" - the most relevant was probably the one on the BBC site, it inspired the basil.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Desert Island Foods

I am frequently to be found accosting people I have recently met, and demanding to know the 5 books/films/songs that could sustain them on a desert island, should they be stranded there. (I'm aware that this is probably quite annoying, especially if in a party situation where I will undoubtedly be accompanying said question with wild gesticulating with a gin and tonic ...)

Anyway ... I really do find the answers fascinating, as they can give you a small snapshot of the way that person views the world - even if it's only a somewhat grainy polaroid of how they view the world at the particular moment I'm talking to them.

So...I wonder if the same applies to food.
Assume - and you'll have to indulge me with the lunatic scenario here - that you are stranded on a desert island. You're not allowed to spear fish from the tropical waters, or go foraging for nuts, berries or brightly-coloured fruit. You can't hunt wild pigs, or shoot birds from the trees with rudimentary whittled arrows. You can't light fires for cooking, or try sucking the nutrients out of seaweed in desperation.

Instead, you must rely on 5 food items, and only 5, to keep you going. These can be snacks, treats or full-on hearty fare, but they should be finished dishes rather than ingredients. They will be provided on tap on this island, by some mysterious-and-as-yet-unspecified benefactor.

What do you choose?

The Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, doing a fair impersonation of a tropical island.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The rain rain rain came down down down...

It seems the times they are a-changing. Trainers have been swapped for snuggly boots, the central heating keeps turning itself on without being asked, food magazines are getting very pumpkin-centric, and you can spot the odd display of crackers, cards and Christmas lights in department stores (because apparently it does now take a full 3 months to prepare for Christmas....gah!) Summer and holidays really do seem a long time ago.

Especially, when the view from our living room window looks like this:

Any plans to go out yesterday evening were literally dampened, and we watched people scurrying around getting soaked to the skin. Two guys had obviously given up entirely and were ambling nonchalantly down the street looking like they'd been swimming in their clothes. Ah, October.

Bacon vodka...

Hi this is a really quick post to let you know about the first stage of a new jelly project.

The Bompas and Parr Jelly book previously mentioned has lots of great stuff in it, but naturally it was the bacon and cola jelly that really drew my attention. First step is to create bacon vodka, this is achieved through a process called "fat washing". There's an interesting thread on the possibilities of this technique here, apparently it takes at least two weeks so watch this space...

For efficiency, make this while cooking a bacon sandwich.  

200g Bacon (smoked and streaky)
200ml Vodka


  1. Fry the bacon.
  2. Transfer to a Tupperware container.
  3. Pour over the vodka, close the container and leave in a dark cupboard for two weeks.
  4. To be continued....
There are no pictures - it looks vile.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Playing with Jelly

Jelly has gone through something of a renaissance recently, and partly this is thanks to the wobbly wizardry (not a phrase I ever thought I'd use) of Sam Bompas and Harry Parr. These two young guys have done for jelly what Heston Blumenthal did for gastronomy. They introduce science, they're not afraid to be a little bit mad, and they delight in the weird and the macabre.

To my mind, jelly was something relegated to kids parties - in a plastic rabbit mould and undoubtedly mashed with a 7-year-old's sugar-crazed delight into blocks of Cornish vanilla ice cream, or (and this is something I admit with my head bowed), eaten in cubes straight from the packet when my throat felt like it contained two spiky golfballs instead of tonsils.

However, the Bompas and Parr Jelly book has illustrated just how classy and inventive jelly can be. It makes really good reading, and has got both me and Matt really fired up about making jelly, not only the recipes featured in the book, but also creating our own. As Bompas and Parr note, anything liquid can be made into jelly. Take a moment and think about the implications of this. Your favourite cocktail - that can be jelly. Custard  - yep, jelly. Any foodstuff that you can liquidise,  you can then jellify. How flippin' exciting!

We've already been flinging such genius ideas as 'beer jelly' and 'gravy jelly' (!) around, with a maniacal glint in our eyes, but we decided not to run before we can walk, and started off with the delicious (and actually fizzy) lemonade jelly from the book.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Spectacular spectacular ...

Margarine antelope from food sculptor Simon Smith

Today has been one of those days where living in London is brilliant. It started to feel like autumn is properly here (i.e crisp, blue sky, cold winds and turning leaves, rather than grey, grey, rain, rain, grey, rain, grey etc etc), the tubes weren't too crowded (unheard of on a Saturday) and we went to a fantastic foodie spectacular hosted by the Experimental Food Society.

I read about the event in the Guardian earlier this week. As, it appears, did most of the rest of London. It was absolutely packed - which is fantastic for all the exhibitors who undoubtedly deserve every bit of recognition they get, but slightly irritating nonetheless as you could barely move without getting elbowed or poked.

The Experiemental Food Society is a collective of outrageous foodies, chefs and creatives who strive to break food out of the confines of the kitchen and bring it into the spotlight in the world of art, science and performance.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Caprice des Dieux

If you've met me, you'll know that I like cheese. I eat lots of it, buy lots of it, talk incessantly about it - I used my holiday allowance this year to live on a goat farm making (and eating) cheese. In fact, this blog was almost a cheese blog. In retrospect, it's definitely for the best that it isn't restricted to cheese and it's much more fun sharing it with Jen than it would have been going it on my own.

I do still want to write about cheese though, and this will be the first of many cheesy posts...

Caprice des Dieux is one of the few good mass produced French industriel (factory) cheeses that have made it across the channel to UK supermarkets (I found this one in a big Sainsburys). It's very recognisable in it's oval blue and white box. If you've been to France, you can pick these up all over the place, they aren't top of the range but they put a lot of the soft cheese found in our supermarkets to shame (I'm looking at you  Le Rustique).

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Mid-week curry

Matt here,

Despite enjoying cooking immensely, sometimes, in the middle of the week, I don't really want to spend the whole evening in the kitchen. This was especially the case this evening as I'm celebrating the purchase of my first DSLR camera. I've spent most of tonight being frustrated with the complexity of it but I am very much looking forward to being able to take lots of good pictures in the future (and posting a few of them here).

I have attached a couple of pictures (from the 200 I took) to this post. Not great I know but it's a start and I still have a lot of settings to play with...

So yes, didn't want to spend too much cooking, but that absolutely does not mean that I don't want to eat nice food. The solution to this dilemma is Nigel Slater's 30 Minute Cook book. I've mentioned it before...

His quick lamb curry is a favourite of ours - quick, easy and delicious - it tastes homely but not basic and goes perfectly with a glass of red and something not particularly intellectually demanding on TV (the final of the Great British Bake Off on iplayer was tonight's offering - guilty pleasure...). 
Jen actually knows the recipe by heart having cooked it so often - she does it beautifully. Tonight I fancied giving it a shot and the results were pretty reasonable, although I perhaps spent rather too much time photographing and too little time paying attention to the food. 

Ok, I'm off to play with my new toy now :)

Monday, 20 September 2010

And I had such good intentions ...

Walking past 'the fruit man' today at lunchtime, I think I must have been hit by some sort of tractor beam. My brain had just about managed to process the words 'Plums .... ooh' before I was being handed about 400 of them in a blue plastic bag.

They had been sitting in the one beam of sunlight that had pushed its way into Clapham today, and were so ripe that they were practically splitting their skins - I had several juicy casualties on the way home.

All afternoon, I was distracted by thoughts of plum pie. It was going to be juicy, crusty with sugar, with crumbly, fruit stained and undoubtedly wonky pastry. By the time 5.30 rolled around, it had been elevated in my mind to the King of Pies, a pudding so tasty that Matt and anyone else who came within 10 feet of it would be struck dumb with awe.

But then I had a driving lesson, and came home and did laundry, and chatted on the phone for a while, and then all of a sudden it was 9 o clock and I hadn't eaten and couldn't quite face making pastry.

So instead, I made nutty, garlicky, buttery mushroom pasta, spiked with parsley and parmesan. I had a beer and watched unashamedly trashy TV. Then, I sliced up the firmest of the plums, pan fried them in butter and brown sugar, until they had shmushed deliciously (shmushed being a technical term) and then ate them with a disgustingly huge blob of clotted cream. Healthy - not so much. Amazing - hell yes.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

That's the way I've always heard it should be ...

It has long been my opinion that any day is made better with the addition of some sort of baked good. This holds particularly true for Fridays. A healthy (or unhealthy) dose of something sweet and crumbly, frosted or cream-filled eases you into the weekend like nothing else.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Matt here,

Risotto is a favourite of ours and a regular, despite its rather long-winded preparation. It's very easy to experiment with and I've always found it to be rather forgiving. I really am very fond of risotto, the ingredients are so simple (stock + rice + stirring = lovely meal) and yet the result is so elegant. There's something comforting about the whole process, to me the stirring is never a chore.
I find that the recipe takes about an hour, from raw ingredients to plate, I suppose you could bash it out in 40 minutes but why not savour the process? Savour it with a glass of wine, throw a glass in the risotto if you fancy it (probably stick to a white wine for this).

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Moule time

Belgos is one of those restaurants where, no matter how long I spend dithering over the menu, I invariably end up going for the same thing - juicy plump mussels in a Thai broth. With chips, naturally.

Yesterday, I took it upon myself to try to recreate this dish at home, without relying on recipes. I love reading recipe books (whether I'm actually cooking or just wanting to lose myself in some tasty writing) but I do find that if I've committed to making such-and-such a meal, I tend to cling to the recipe, going back to check and recheck every step lest I let whatever I'm labouring over burn/collapse/go lumpy/have A.N Other disaster. In other words, I get The Fear.

Yesterday, I decided, The Fear wasn't getting a look in. We went down to Northcote Road to visit the lovely fish van (for me) and the cheese shop of untold delight (for Matt). Armed with a kilo of mussels, I hit the kitchen (with considerable force, if the mess I have left is anything to go by).

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

There is also a sandwich

Matt here,

There are times where the excesses of a previous evening have left me not feeling in peak physical condition. These painful and distressing times call for special measures.

No measure is as special as The Sandwich.

I'm blogging about this superfood today as I had one again over the weekend – it was great. Its magnificence lies in combining the two great food groups (cheese and meat) with the practicality of a sandwich. The mustard is key in cutting through blearyness.

I thought about taking a photo, but a combination of its not-so-photogenic appearance, my desperation to eat it immediately and not wanting to pick up my camera with greasy hands intervened.

The sandwich is of a very specific construction and I will attempt to describe it below.

Two slices of white bread
As much bacon as you have (if it's not smoked then the pig died in vain)
Lots of grated cheddar (should be fairly mature)
English mustard

  1. Fry the bacon to your own taste of done-ness, but not too crunchy.
  2. Whilst sizzling, lightly toast the bread and grate the cheese.
  3. Spread mustard thickly on one slice of toast and add a small hill of grated cheese.
  4. Transfer bacon onto cheese trying to make sure that not too much of the cooking fat is lost.
  5. Put other slice on top and cut in half.
  6. Devour in front of inane TV (maybe Dave) with a cup of coffee and feel slightly better ...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

On Eggs As Forbidden Fruit

In recent months, I have been having annoying digestive wobblings and tummy troubles, and on dr's advice have been searching for the things I eat that seem to trigger this off, in order to eliminate them from my diet.

So it is that for the last 6 weeks or so, eggs have been banished, and, actually, it seems to be working (touch wood).

Now, you'd think that having found a potential trigger and stopped nasty painful yuck-stomach in its tracks for a while would make me happy. But I am a contrary creature, and thus all it appears to have done is to place the egg on a shiny, glittering pedestal of utter deliciousness in my brain. To the point that whenever Matt asks the inevitable 'What shall we do for dinner?' question, I have to refrain from shrieking 'EggseggseggsEGGSeggsarrrrrgheggs!' at him.

Photo from Delia online

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Matt vs. lentils

Hi there,

Jen mentioned that we had puy lentils in the cupboard, tonight I cooked them.

If you'd asked me about eating lentils a couple of months ago I would have made wretching noises, but now I like them, a lot. This culinary U-turn was brought about through a visit to the Clifton Kitchen, where I was so hungry for the confit rabbit that I was prepared to overlook bunny sharing a plate with creamed puy lentils. In fact the rabbit was a bit dry and the least interesting component of what was otherwise a fantastic meal. The lentils were in a rich meat stock and had a hint of cream to them, like an earthy rich risotto. Since that meal, the last two restaurant visits have also had puy lentils prominently in the menu and they've been great.

So, how to cook them? The method below is adapted from the The Guardian, but, not having any grouse to hand, I used a griddle pan to crisp up some de-boned chicken thighs marinated in oil, lemon, chilli and coriander (de-boning chicken thighs is one of my favourite kitchen preparations, it makes me feel like a butcher). I was too rushed to buy any meat stock so I used Marigold.

Very nice, warming and filling, but perhaps lacking the richness of a chefy beef/veal reduction that we had been used to (or perhaps spoilt by). It was an easy preparation at ~30 minutes and made a nice change from the more standard carbohydrates. Definitely one to revisit! Chicken was tasty too...

Monday, 30 August 2010

Paris - Tu Me Manques. (In which Jen bakes lots of madeleines)

Today has been a bit of a wistful, thinky sort of a day. Probably it's because our holidays are over. I am actually quite looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow, but there's always that sadness of something ending - I feel the same on January 6th every year when the Christmas tree comes down and the room suddenly seems like it's just that little bit darker and emptier than it ever has been.

So, after a morning of fiendish flat cleaning, I shut myself away in the kitchen (which is looking lovely and organised, thank you Matt!) with Stacey Kent's stunning Raconte Moi album, and began Operation Madeleine.

Even thinking about madeleines makes me feel better. I first encountered them when I was a language assistant in a primary school near Nantes while I was studying for my A levels. I was there for 3 weeks, and remember being knocked sideways by homesickness. Every day after school, my host-mum had a cup of tea made with honey and a plate of madeleines waiting for me. These were shop bought, and a bit dry and cloying, but they nonetheless made me feel better.

When, a few years later, I moved to Paris for a year, I had to have serious words with my brain in order to keep me from flinging myself with gay abandon onto every tartelette, opera, religieuse and other cream-filled delight that I saw. Apologies for stating the bleeding obvious, but Paris does cake like no other. However, among all these marvels of the patisserie it was the humble, buttery little madeleine I turned to when I needed a pick-me-up.

My lovely friend and super chic Parisienne, Cat, bought me a book on madeleines for my birthday this year, and, unforgivably, it has languished on my bookshelf until today. I shall attempt to refrain from getting too Proustian on you with my madeleine inspired recollections, but after having consumed an alarming number of them today, my brain is soaked with Paris. I feel a list coming on ...

Mon Paris À Moi

Photo by the wonderful Robert Doisneau

  1. Eating ice cream from Berthillon in the pouring rain. Pomme verte and cacao - perfection in two scoops.
  2. That first view of the Eiffel Tower as you round a corner.
  3. The sun catching the stones of the Louvre in the middle of Autumn and making them gold against the silver of the river.
  4. Finally understanding why Monet's waterlilies are such a breathtakingly big deal at L'Orangerie.
  5. The market on the Rue Mouffetard - dithering happily over goats cheese, and being almost hypnotised by rotisserie chickens dripping their amber fat onto the crispy little potatoes underneath.
  6. Dancing at the Caveau de la Huchette with the only man I have ever seen wearing spats in a non ironic fashion.
  7. Candelit Chopin in the freezing cold Eglise de St Ephraim, then hot chocolates afterwards..
  8. Pizza in the office at midnight writing up the report on the first night of the Sarko/Sego election.
  9. People watching at Bastille with a demi-peche.
  10. Notre Dame's rose window. If I could have a tiny version to carry around with me and look at every day I would be a happy woman.

Blue Rhubarb And An Extravaganza Of Cake

We're now back from holiday, back in our little flat, and incredulous at the sheer amount of laundry there is to do. Huge, teetering PILES OF IT. Gah! So, to take my mind of the constant whirry grumble of the washing machine, not to mention the horror of going back to the office, which lurks around the corner, I shall tell you all about our foodie adventures of the past couple of days.

On Friday evening we were in Clifton, staying with Matt's parents in their lovely new flat. To say thank you for putting us up (and putting up with us) on several occasions, we took them out to a newish restaurant just round the corner called Blue Rhubarb. Apparently it used to be a garage, but they've made very good use of the space inside, so it doesn't feel cold or industrial. The deep blue and purple velvet curtains hanging in swags, and the enormous and really-very-swanky-indeed chandelier give it a little bit of sumptuous, almost theatrical flair.

When I was handed the menu, I at first thought it was a bit of an oddity. Packed with British classics, it's obviously trying to give customers a fine dining experience. However, the choice of some of the ingredients and accompaniments seemed to me to be a little too hearty, and more at home on a pub or, dare I say it, a school dinner menu (although that might have something to do with my deep seated dislike of beetroot, swede and their ilk). But as soon as the starters came out, I realised how wrong I had been.

Matt and I love going out to eat, and while we're not connoisseurs of fine dining by any stretch of the imagination, we do like to treat each other to the odd posh meal for birthdays/anniversaries/just-because-it's-a-wednesday. It's funny how easy it is to pigeonhole menus or types of restaurants before you've taken a bite. I suspect I had subconsciously decided that in order for a menu to constitute a 'fine dining' experience, things had to be served in tiny or odd-shaped dishes, with emulsions and foams and other Willy Wonka-esque bits of showmanship. While these things are all undeniably great fun, and very tasty too, I think I need to be less of a menu jackdaw, who's distracted by the shiny, glitzy faff, and focus on the foundations of the dishes themselves.

So, my Blue Rhubarb starter was a welcome eye opener. Buttery soft pigeon breast came served simply but beautifully on a bed on puy lentils (a packet of which is consequently lurking in our kitchen cupboard, watch this space for lentil experiments). The meat was lovely and rare and was complemented perfectly by the sticky and warming lentils. The main courses followed in a similarly delicious vein. My wild mushroom risotto was full of flavour, with the special treat of a truffled marscarpone ball sitting and oozing gorgeousness through the middle of it. Matt had slow roast lamb shoulder served with lamb hash and a carrot and swede mash (which couldn't have been further from my middle-school recollections of hideous lumpy 'yuck swede'). Also at our table, and eliciting many yummy noises was moist and tender chicken breast with creamed cabbage, salty pancetta and saffron, and duck breast with pureed beetroot (a non vinegary, deep and sweet revelation - oh beetroot, how cruelly I have misjudged you!)

The portion sizes were so well judged that although we'd had a lot of pretty rich food, we were all up for pudding. My blueberry and rhubarb cheescake hit all the right notes of bitter, creamy, fruity and sweet, and a blackberry creme brulee was subtle and delicate. All in all, a highly recommended restaurant, serving classic food simply but with real style, and without the bumper price tag that you might be afraid of. Yum!

So then it was back to the Big Smoke, and what better way to get back into London than with an exhibition devoted to cake?!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Profiteroles - Starting as we mean to go on...

Hi, Matt here.

This week we’ve been house-sitting in Axbridge, providing us with a nice big kitchen to play in and a number of exciting new cookbooks to leaf through. We’ve also had the spare time to devote to some slightly more involved recipes that we wouldn't normally attempt mid-week. (Chicken risotto with home-made chicken stock, french onion soup and profiteroles were the highlights, pigeon and mash with red wine reduction was also very good).

Looking through James Martin's Desserts book (beautifully presented but seems to have received mixed reviews in terms of ingredients measurements - not sure if I'll buy this one for myself or not) I spotted a profiterole recipe. Profiteroles have always been one of my favourite desserts, but - and this is essential - only when they have a set chocolate coating. To me the resistance offered by the thick chocolate makes a world of difference from the otherwise soggy homogenous, but admittedly tasty, mess that results from the standard hot sauce presentation. When they're cold you can pick them up and eat them like chocolate eclairs, with a challenging explosive cream element, which to me is very important.

The recipe below is adapted from James, the deviations are discussed in the method. He says to serve with hot chocolate sauce, like so many others he is of course wrong. It's not how my mum makes them.

If you are of a strong enough constitution, they make an excellent addition to breakfast.
Choux pastry is a funny beast and I'm still not sure that I've got it quite right, I will definitely try again soon though and have made a mental note to check what Harold McGee has to say on the matter.
Our guests were impressed with the presentation and the fact that I'd attempted choux pastry, which was nice. Personally, I thought that they were a reasonable success, some were a touch over cooked perhaps, but plenty of cream and chocolate helped to cover that. Next time, I would use more chocolate and consider drizzling white chocolate finely over the tops (to set) and provide a bit more contrast.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Hi there...

Welcome to our blog. This will be the outpost for our culinary musings and we're both very excited about it. We promise to keep it updated as often as possible (I admit, I have been guilty of shameful neglect on a previous blog, as well as several diaries from my teenage years, but I'll do my damnedest to make sure that this one is a keeper!)

So...what's this blog all about? 

We both love to eat, and to cook, to talk about cooking and then to eat some more. If you're looking for a healthy eating blog, this may not be your spiritual cyber home (I'm new to this technological jargon, can you tell?!) That's not to say that we'll eschew salads, spinach and superfoods for the sake of it, but you're more likely to find buttery, sugary, cheesy, boozy recipes that care less about the calories and more about the grin that spreads across your face as you take that first forkful.

I guess the name of our little blog sums it up quite nicely. Take a hunk of veiny, nutty stilton (let's say Colston Bassett if we're going for supreme tastiness), and a ripe, juicy mango. Neither of these are too hard to come by, nor do they cost the earth, but they're a treat. They make you feel indulgent. They make you smile, and that's what this blog is about. (Granted, if you hate blue cheese it may make you run for the hills, but bear with me. As for mango, I don't believe there is anyone who could possibly hate mango - it's like a sunset in your mouth).  We want to write about what we love and what makes us smile, whether it's a tasty recipe, a gorgeous restaurant or a hilarious kitchen catastrophe. We hope you'll enjoy reading, and that some of our foodie scribblings will make you smile, too - or at least make you hungry. Tuck in!

Mango Man - William T Templeton