Sunday, 22 February 2009


I don't know about you, but I often fail to appreciate the place in which I live. It is all too easy, in dealing with the everyday drudgery of getting to and from work and the demands of everyday life, to forget that I live in one of the greatest cities in the world. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me of how great my home town really is.

After a quiet morning I set off with my son and one of his mates on the train to London Bridge. Our destination was to be Tate Modern where there was an exhibition entitled "Rodchenko & Popova - Defining Constructivism". Now, I am no Art buff but my son is studying Art as one of his GCSE subjects and so I was doing the dutiful father thing. It was not exactly a selfless gesture however for, as those of you familiar with London will know, to get from London Bridge to Tate Modern involves passing through one of my favourite London landmarks - Borough Market. Borough Market is a foodie nirvana with a host of fantastic retailers and producers selling everything from ostrich eggs and burgers to smoked tomatoes, from Bottarga to the finest acorn fed pata negra ham. You do need a fat wallet (and, on a Saturday early afternoon, ideally a large club to beat off the hordes of tourists) to take full advantage of the market but to me it is one of the places I am happiest in London. There is an excellent post on the Larder Lout blog - here - which details his culinary and alcoholic adventures in the area. I am in awe of his stamina!

I picked up some smoked haddock and some free range eggs as we passed through the market as I was planning on making a kedgeree like dish which I had concocted whilst watching an episode of Masterchef on TV during the week. Unfortunately I got home too late to do that last night - otherwise you would be hearing about that rather than generic ramblings about London. I hope the deconstructed kedgeree will make it into a posting soon.

Anyway, back to London. After the market and a quick souvlaki in a restaurant called "The Real Greek" we headed off to Tate Modern. It is renowned for its bizarre installations in the Turbine Hall (it is a former power station). Yesterday did not disappoint with a giant plastic spider and a series of yellow and blue metal bunkbeds (about 60 of them) each with a paperback book tied to the metal bedstead. Crazy but kind of fun. As we were passing through one of the galleries I caught sight of the first of the above two views and (without wishing to be too poetic about this) my spirits soared. It is views such as this that remind me that I am so lucky to live in London - after all where else can you find bottarga and bunk beds in such close proximity and with a view like the above to add the cherry to the cake. It is good to be reminded how fortunate we are from time to time.

Any art lovers out there would be better searching for a blog with more expert views when it comes to the exhibition. As with so much Art, I know what I like when I see it and really liked the soviet trade union posters but the rest was a little over my head. Still, if it involves passing through the market on a regular basis, I shall be encouraging my son to undertake regular research at Tate Modern as any dutiful parent would!

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Omnivore's Hundred

I spotted the following post on the Very Good Taste Blog and thought that I would give it a go. I have therefore cut and pasted it from the blog (together with instructions) as requested and completed it below. Where I have no immediate idea of what the item is I have just assumed I have never eaten it. Feel free to cut, paste or comment as the mood takes you.

"Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results. "

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho

13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream

21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheesepepper

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal

44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa

94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside ...

Well the snow finally disappeared but last weekend was bitingly cold with bright clear skies and a sharp wind. What better time for a trip to the seaside? I was not after a bucket and spade experience however but, rather an oyster and seafood pick me up. I had never previously been to Whitstable which, for those of you unfamiliar with UK geography, is a small fishing town on the Kent coast, not too far from Canterbury. It has apparently been famed from Roman times (according to the information in the car park) for its oysters.

I set off from the outskirts of London at around 11am on Saturday with my son in tow. He was not madly keen on the trip but the other option was rowing on a practically freezing Thames – Whitstable was definitely the lesser of two evils. Driving there was a little like driving through a Dutch winter landscape – the sun was low and bright and the leafless trees were silhouetted black against the horizon like some survivors of a forest fire. It really was lovely (save in those moments when I was driving blind because of the glare).

It took about 75 minutes to get to Whitstable. It is clearly a town where food is important. Whilst I am sure they are lurking somewhere, I did not see one supermarket. Instead, the high street of Whitstable appears to contain a selection of independent shops with butchers and greengrocers well represented. Also there is a lovely old fish and chip shop (V.C. Jones) with a sign advertising “Fish Luncheons and Suppers”. Whilst I didn’t eat there it looked fantastic and as if you could step back in time simply by crossing the threshold.

Having parked the car we headed for the harbour and the fish market. The inner harbour is very compact and sheltered about three or four fishing boats. Not that the boats looked like they were in need of much shelter. They were small but stocky and reminded you of boxing gloves that would have little difficulty punching through any waves that the English Channel could throw at them.

The fish market was relatively small and housed, on the harbour side, in a black painted, two storey wooden building. The market itself was on the ground floor and above it was the Crab and Winkle restaurant. Fortunately, as we did not have a booking, the restaurant was not busy on a freezing February Saturday and so we easily secured a table near the window overlooking the punchy little fishing boats. The restaurant serves both a set and à la carte menu comprised almost entirely of seafood. There were also one or two specials on the board and a separate blackboard of shellfish options. We ordered some Whitstable native oysters (both raw with shallot vinaigrette and battered) to get us in the mood. They were small but perfectly formed – possibly the best oysters I have tasted and definitely best when eaten raw.

Next we were brought some delicious home made breads with butter and a smoked fish paté. Again, delicious and the paté was a lovely touch. I was by this point half way through a glass of St. Veran and rapidly beginning to regret having driven!

After the bread the first courses arrived. I had ordered a shellfish bisque with rouille, croutons and gruyere cheese. It was warm, salty and reviving but I don’t think the French or the Belgians need worry too much about the competition from Whitstable on this course. My son had a salmon mousse wrapped in smoked salmon which was rich and light at the same time – a good choice by him. For my main course I had grilled mackerel served with braised puy lentils and tiny roasted carrots. The fish was absolutely delicious and the lentils were perfect as an accompaniment to the oily fish. My son ordered the battered Coley fillet. This had seemed a bit safe to me but when it arrived I realised he had again hit the jackpot. The batter on the fish, which took up most of a large serving plate, was perfectly crisp and golden and the fish inside was pure white, flaky and moist. This was served with a small bowl of fries, mushy peas, tartare sauce and a piece of home pickled cucumber. However the fish was the definite star of the show and the accompaniments, though each individually delicious, were only ever going to be, at best, in a supporting role. I can confirm that the pickled cucumber was delicious. It was the only thing that my son did not eat in its entirety.

To end the meal I had a plate of three farmhouse cheeses (chosen from a list of about six) with oatcakes. Whilst delicious and from interesting smaller producers, I am afraid that I did not do them justice after the large main course, and the bread, and the oysters …. My son had a white chocolate pannatone bread and butter pudding which he declared to be delicious. Again, I have to take his word and contented smile for this.

All in all the meal was delicious and a treat for an otherwise boring, freezing cold February Saturday. We ended our stay in Whitstable with a quick visit to the fish market to pick up some mackerel for freezing at home and a brisk trot along the high street before fashionable, but hardly warm, youth clothing dictated we return to the car and home.

I shall be visiting Whitstable again very soon (possibly without a car or overnight!) and commend you to do so too.

Monday, 2 February 2009

It really is freezing in London

Well, for once the weathermen got it right! No trains, no buses - no work!! Weather like this calls for some comfort food methinks!

And still the snow comes down! The back garden is a complete no go area for the cats save in extremis.

I have perused the contents of the fridge and freezer and have found the following ingredients:
- two onions
- 6 Cumberland sausages (again courtesy of Moens Clapham)
- A Swede
- Some Maris Piper potatoes
- Savoy cabbage

I also have some eggs and was contemplating making a toad in the hole with onion gravy but have decided instead to roast the sausages with some onions and thyme and then make the onion gravy in the roasting pan (tricky if you are doing toad in the hole unless you want to wash up another roasting pan - which I do not). I will have the sausages with some buttered savoy cabbage and a mix of mashed potato and mashed swede or, as my mother used to call it, "potch".

I read somewhere recently that eating even one sausage can increase your risk of cancer by X%. When sausages are as good as these bad boys I will take that risk! Happiness is clearly the key to a long life and these are little packets of happiness on a day like today!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

A late lazy sunday lunch

After some months of inactivity I have decided to get back into this blog It is freezing here in London and a battle is raging between my need for food, which is slightly hangover induced,

and the need to watch Liverpool v. Chelsea live on the TV. As a compromise I have put two porchetta chops, some onions and par boiled potatoes in to to roast with a tray of butternut squash with sage and butter. The chops have been in the freezer for a few weeks since I last visited Moens butchers in Clapham - just off the Common and well worth a visit. I noticed, on unwrapping them, that the chops had been labelled Porketta - which for some reason raises thoughts of an overweight Southern Belle! I am sure they will taste good whatever!

I am also cooking some smoked bacon lardons which I will then stir fry quickly with some green beans and savoy cabbage that I have already blanched.

Well, for minimal effort, very delicious and just what was called for - as indeed was the sending off of Frank Lampard!