If you can't find a restaurant or cookbook here it's because I have
either not yet reviewed or did not like it.
Please look elsewhere for negative reviews.
Contact Chrissie Walker
mostlyfood[at]live.co.uk. For restaurant and hotel
or call +44(0)1925 418182
Capital Spice by Chrissie Walker
collection of over 100 recipes from 21 of the very best
Indian chefs. Saturday Kitchen Live regulars and Michelin-star chefs
Atul Kochhar and Vivek Singh are just two of the 21 top Indian chefs
who star in this anthology of spice-inspired recipes. Emerging out of
London, these chefs have helped to sculpt the city into the spice
capital of the world with their clever culinary skills.
Chrissie Walker has collated all of these incredibly mouthwatering
recipes into one beautiful volume, writing a framework around each to
contextualise their history and importance in this fascinatingly rich
and diverse scene.
Capital Spice is a collection of delicious recipes which allow you to
recreate the dishes of this rich crop of world-class chefs, and
experience a little of the magic of some of the capital's very best
restaurants. The foreword is written by Sanjeev Kapoor, India's most
recognised TV chef and restaurateur.
Atul Kochhar at Benares
Prahlad Hegde at Bombay Brasserie
Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala at Café Spice Namaste
Rohit Khattar and Manpreet Singh Ahuja at Chor Bizarre
Hari Nagaraj at Cinnamon Club
Vivek Singh at Cinnamon Kitchen
Shamil Thakar and Naved Nasir at Dishoom
Navin Bhatia at Dockmaster’s House
Claire Fisher at Ganapati
Rajesh Suri and Samir Sadekar at Imli
Mehernosh Mody at La Porte des Indes
Shusma and Deepak Kapoor at Ma Goa
Sanjay Anand at Madhu’s
Dhayalan Paul, Gerard McCann and Lara Zanzarin at Mint Leaf Lounge
Anirudh Aurora at Moti Mahal
Sriram Aylur at Quilon
Manish Sharma at Sitaaray
Reza Mahammad and Brinder Narula at Star of India
Alfred Prasad at Tamarind
Karam Sethi at Trishna
Jasbinder Singh, Claudio Pulze and Luigi Gaudino at Zaika
Chrissie Walker is Editor and Owner of Mostly Asian Food and Mostly
Food and Travel Journal, which garner more than 350,000 readers per
more than 3000 followers on social media.
Published August 2012 by Absolute Press, an imprint of Bloomsbury
288 pages, 120 colour photographs, ISBN 978-1-906-65072-8, price
Order from your favourite bookshop or email mostlyfood[at]live.co.uk
His restaurant is at JW Steakhouse at The Grosvenor House
Hotel. I posed the logical question: It’s ‘JW Steakhouse’
– is that ‘JW’ you, or is it JW Marriott, or did you get the job
because you have the right initials? Chef Julian Ward laughs. ’I think
it’s just a coincidence – but maybe it was destiny!’
JW Steakhouse is an authentic American steakhouse. It’s not themed with
swathes of red, white and blue flags, there are no Davy Crockett hats
ahangin’ and one can’t find Southern State car number plates anywhere.
No, this is just, simply, the style of steakhouse that one can truly
find in, say, Manhattan. Julian looks every inch the appropriate chef
for such an establishment.
Chef Julian Ward gives an overview: ‘We have about 130 covers, and 170
with the outside terrace, which is poplar in the summer. It’s informal,
there is a buzz, it’s relaxed, there is a concept of sharing. We do a
special every day, a main, side and dessert, we ring the changes and
this helps to maintain the interest of the staff. I will ask the junior
chefs to come up with ideas for specials or sides. The English
asparagus season is just getting going, and we will be doing specials
with that, perhaps with a hollandaise or prosciutto or with beef
I asked Julian who was the most influential in his young life with
regard to food and eating. Were any of his family involved in catering?
‘My grandmothers on both sides were great cooks. My grandmother in
Trinidad used to have a bakery in Baltimore, and then brought it back
to Trinidad. My father also cooks, so the family were all involved,
especially when catering for weddings and functions. I had always loved
cooking, and I can see the same thing in my sons now: my youngest son
Jaden, aged 6, comes into the kitchen now. I remember at that age
cutting up tomatoes, peeling potatoes, having fun expressing myself on
the plate, and Jaden was the same last night, making dinner, putting
cocktail sticks in the burgers. That kind of finesse in understanding
food is in the blood. That’s the enjoyment of food, and when my two
youngest sons are in the kitchen it’s a beautiful thing to see that
they are driven to food in the same way I am.’
Were there any particular dishes that impressed Julian? ‘My
grandmother’s Macaroni Pie was probably the most memorable dish from my
childhood. She’s passed away now, but my Mum makes it in the same way,
and now my children love her macaroni pie. Mum makes home-made
ice-cream, too, so when the kids want ice-cream they will make it
together, just as I used to with my grandmother. It was never about
just going to the ice-cream van when it came around – it was “You want
ice-cream? OK, we’ll make ice-cream”, and we’d spend two hours churning
it in the pail!’
Was it Julian’s ambition to be a chef? ‘At school I
always wanted to be a chef and if not that, then something in
sports, but I had a great opportunity having a great teacher in Home
Economics and I was lucky, I had that drive to see it through and
finished with an ‘A’ in the subject. Then I had to decide where I went
from there, and my Head of Year teacher was great, he gave me a list of
people to apply to. I wrote to everyone – the Army, all the hotels in
London, small cafés, Claridges, the Dorchester, Simpsons – and
eventually I had an acceptance from the Savoy, so that was the decision
‘So I went straight from school to the Savoy, and
Anton Edelmann was head chef there. He is still a great mentor to me,
and I remember his first words to me were, “Well, life is over now, you
will always be a chef! Do you want to be like me?” At such a young age
you look up to someone like Anton and you think: “Wow, 70 chefs under
you, all saying ‘Yes, Chef!’ to you, all having that respect!”, and you
say, “Yes, this is where I want to be!”
‘So really this is where life began for me, giving me an understanding
of different cultures and foods – so much more than the cooking shows
on TV. It’s only when you have been in the industry for a few years
that you begin to appreciate what you are involved in. Only after I
left the hotel did I realise what a grounding I had, what an important
stepping-stone. Even today Anton continues to be a mentor to me – I
speak to him at least twice a week, and he had a great influence on my
coming here to Grosvenor House, as his first head-chef position had
been here. I look on him as a culinary father-figure. Anton has always
been looking over my shoulder, wherever I am in the world. He seems
always to have known where I was, what I was doing, and kept his eye on
me. I have phoned him for advice about job moves and when I talked
about coming here he said, “Go for it!” This is a place where I can
grow – there’s so much more I can do and learn, and working with Nigel
Boschetti, the Executive Chef, gives me a balance.
‘I spent four years at the Savoy, and then I went to Germany for a
year, cooking Bavarian food, Thai and Japanese, and worked at the
Mangostin in Munich. It was a great experience to be working away from
home at that age, and I decided that I wanted to go to America, but
knew that at only 20 years old there was no point, as there would be
few opportunities. I had the chance to work for Marco Pierre White at
Quo Vadis, and spent a year there. It was a tough time, and there was a
lot of pressure to retain the Michelin star, which, along with all his
other restaurant interests, took its toll on Marco and the rest of us.
‘I went to several London establishments, opened Sketch, DMD, Plateau,
Pierre Garnier, a boutique hotel outside London, came back to London
and had a great opportunity to open the restaurant at the Royal
Institution. In the meantime I had been to the USA and spent three
years there. I had an idea what to expect, having visited the States on
holiday, but I realised that they are very lucky not to have the same
seasonality as here – produce is available all year round because of
the diversity of climates around the continent. Although when I went to
Aspen, I really felt the difference, because it’s like being in a box.
When supplies came in, that’s what you had, and when it was gone, that
‘I learnt a lot in the US, and I still take note of developments and
new openings whenever I visit family there. I bring that experience to
JW Steakhouse, and so much thought and understanding of what a true
steakhouse is about has gone into the design of JW.
‘Most of the menu had been tested and trialled by Nigel before I
arrived, and we don’t change the core items, like
the steaks and the cheesecake dessert. We use great USDA beef as well
as British, and we do a ‘Steak of the Month’ where I bring my own
influences to bear, plus we do have daily specials and seasonal
changes, of course, such as for Christmas. For our lunchtime menu we
are just bringing on a BLT and a Reubens Sandwich, and a Mississippi
Mud Pie served with a Bourbon ice-cream – maybe not as big as the
cheesecake, but a nice slice!’ Julian laughs again, as that legendary
cheesecake is enough to defeat any but the most dedicated diner and is
quite a generous helping for a couple.
‘I enjoy using my food experiences to enhance the dishes. For the
Kentucky Derby we added a few twists to the Sunday Roast like the Grits
and Bacon, and Collard Greens, to make our American guests feel like
we’re celebrating the Kentucky Derby. It was nice to be able to show
our younger chefs these products for the first time. I think our
guests, of whatever nationality, come here for that ‘American
steakhouse’ experience, and are not intimidated by the style of the
Steak is the key ingredient at JW Steakhouse and they offer something
for every carnivore. ‘The Tomahawk is our signature steak – it’s a
bone-in rib-eye that we cut and prep and age for a further 15 days, in
sizes from 900 to 1400 grams. The ‘wet-aging’ process ensures a very
tender result – you can cut it with a fork. I came to work for the
quality and authenticity that this restaurant offers, and that’s so
important, and I’m learning about consistency as well as the different
cuts of meat, always finding something new to experiment with.’
Does Julian cook when he goes home and what does he enjoy eating? ‘I
have always loved my grandmother’s recipes: oxtail, curry goat. My
grandmother’s from Barbados, my dad from Trinidad, so meals were very
Caribbean based ...but Sunday was for our Sunday Roast. It was the
traditional English meal with all the family sitting down together. At
home, cooking is fun, and I teach my wife and the kids things that they
can cook quickly during the week. It’s about passing on the things that
I have learnt. Some people get so anxious about cooking, but I think if
you break it down into easy stages you can make it fun, as well as
simple and healthy.’
We have had a few days of warm weather and our thoughts
turn to summer baking and afternoon tea in the garden. We decorate the table with flowers and the cakes
with icing but we can add some charming touches to those sweet treats:
No, not real butterflies but rather those from Dr. Oetker. They are
wafer butterflies with colourful wings and work perfectly with summer
baked goods. Their soft pastel hues complement delicate buttercream or
fondant. They give that professional touch to even the simplest of
Butterfly Swirl Cupcakes
9 Dr. Oetker Cupcake Cases
175g (6oz) baking margarine, softened
175g (6oz) caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
Dr. Oetker Natural Vanilla Extract
200g (7oz) plain flour
2 sachets (2 tsp) Dr. Oetker Baking Powder (Gluten Free)
75g (3oz) white vegetable fat, softened
75g (3oz) lightly salted butter, softened
275g (9½ oz) icing sugar
5ml (1 tsp) Dr. Oetker Natural Vanilla Extract
Dr. Oetker Bright Red, Lime Green and Sky Blue Gel Food Colours
Dr. Oetker Wafer Butterflies
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan, gas mark 5). Line a
cupcake tin with 9 cupcake cases. In a mixing bowl, beat the margarine
with the sugar until pale, and creamy-light in texture.
2. Gradually whisk in the eggs and add a few drops of Natural Vanilla
Extract, then sift the flour and baking powder on top. Using a large
metal spoon, carefully fold the dry ingredients into the creamy mixture.
3. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake on the middle
shelf in the oven for 20-22 minutes until risen and just firm to the
touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
4. To decorate, put the white fat and butter in a bowl and beat until
soft, smooth, glossy and pale in colour. Gradually sift and beat in the
icing sugar until creamy and soft and add 5ml (1 tsp) Natural Vanilla
Extract. Divide the butter icing in two. Keeping one portion plain,
further divide the other portion between 3 bowls and squeeze a small
amount of a different coloured Gel Food Colour into each bowl and mix
well until the desired colour is achieved.
5. Fit a large piping bag with a 1cm large closed star nozzle. Spoon
one third of the plain icing into another piping bag, and one of the
batches of coloured icing into a third piping bag. Snip the ends off
both bags to make a 1cm gap. Flatten the bags slightly and place them
side by side in the bag with the nozzle. Squeeze the icings evenly down
the bag towards the nozzle and twist closed.
6. Starting in the middle of a cake, pipe the icing round in an
anti-clockwise direction to cover the top of the cake then continue
piping round to form a swirl on top. You should have enough icing for 3
7. Repeat the loading and piping with the other 2 batches of coloured
and plain icing. Decorate the cakes with Wafer Butterflies just before
NOTE: Buttercream can be made using 150g lightly salted butter if
Cooking with Flowers –
Sweet and savoury recipes with rose petals, lilacs, lavender, and other
You might think that cooking with flowers is pushing the
culinary envelope. It’s perhaps reminiscent of the long-gone hippie era
and its ethos of peace, nut loaf and free love. Well, consider this: we
often eat flowers and don’t think of it as one bit retro or
We all eat cauliflower, broccoli, we drink elderflower wine (if we have
to), and rosewater is the flavouring for Turkish Delight. This
beautiful book introduces some attractive and delicious dishes that
will encourage the home cook to look at his/her flowerbed as an
out-door extension to the larder.
One might think that flowers taste too perfumed, too exotic, and too
sweet. Assess each petal on its own merits. Yes, a rose will always
offer that iconic flavour but the pronounced fragrance works well with
a frosting or a syrup drizzle over an otherwise ordinary cake. I have
used rose jam as a key ingredient of an Asian rice pudding.
One of the most simple yet most striking is a presentation rather than
a recipe. It’s tulip ice cream bowls. One removes stamens and pistils
(those pointy bits in the centre of the flowers) from pink tulips and
places a round scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle, with a scatter
of red berries around. If one used a flower of another colour then the
effect could be quite different. A yellow tulip with perhaps a
chocolate ice cream could be served alongside mango, or caramel-coated
A stunning and easy recipe is that for pansy petal pancakes. The
flowers maintain their vibrant colour when cooked in the batter; these
pancakes are versatile and would work well as a unique garnish to fresh
fruits, berries and sorbets. One can also make syrup from blue or black
pansies, and it truly is a colourful and delicious talking-point.
Cooking with Flowers isn’t outlandish. It offers pastel-coloured
innovation. Its recipes are inspiring and accessible – they will
encourage the reader to try different blooms with different recipes to
unique effect. We might become a bit more adventurous with the bounty
of spring and summer. This would be a marvellous gift for any cook or
Cooking with Flowers – Sweet and savoury recipes with rose petals,
lilacs, lavender, and other edible flowers
Author: Miche Bacher
Publisher: Quirk Books
Four Emperors and
How Robert Adam Rediscovered the Tetrarchy
This book is bound to appeal to anyone with a love of what
they assume to be, and indeed what has become, classic
English architecture. We’re talking about Robert Adam’s buildings so
they couldn’t be anything other than quintessentially English, could
they? Well, yes and no.
Four Emperors and an Architect: How Robert Adam Rediscovered the
Tetrarchy illustrates in words and images a significant influence on
the young Adam. It’s only now that we can fully appreciate the impact
of a very particular region and historic era.
We know it these days as the Balkan Peninsula, and it was Robert Adam’s
eventual destination when he embarked on the Grand Tour. Politics, then
as now, made the region difficult to negotiate, and for Adam in
particular as his stay was cut short by the ruling Venetians, who
suspected him of spying. This setback evidently didn’t diminish his
enthusiasm for Spalatro, which was the name Split went by in those
days. He later published his groundbreaking and highly successful work,
The Ruins of Spalatro, which added to the architect’s growing celebrity.
Four Emperors and an Architect: How Robert Adam Rediscovered the
Tetrarchy – even the title of the book is intriguing. Who were the four
Emperors? Diocletian was one of them, and a quarter of the Tetrarchy
(the word describes any form of government where power is divided
between four people, although it has come to signify the system
instituted by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293AD in particular).
The book introduces us to the ruins of Diocletian’s palace, and tells
how it inspired Robert Adam to create iconic features in some of his
most famous houses such as Kedleston Hall, designed by Robert in 1761
and Syon House, Middlesex, begun in 1762. These were also incorporated
into the neoclassical Adelphi Development designs for London.
Four Emperors and an Architect tells of glorious ancient history, of
political cooperation, of the rediscovery of architectural marvels. It
also acts as a superb handbook to anyone interested in visiting the
sites in modern Croatia, as well as encouraging us to take another look
at Robert Adam’s fine buildings nearer home. Author Alicia Salter has
an engaging style and meshes both history and architecture together in
an accessible fashion. This is outstanding value for just £20.
Four Emperors and an Architect: How Robert Adam Rediscovered the
Author: Alicia Salter
Publisher: Lexicon Publishing
Fiori Di Zucca: Recipes and
Memories from My Family's Kitchen Table
This is a family cookbook and the recipes, like the
author, are truly international. Yes, Valentina Harris is Italian from a
globe-trotting family, although she speaks English without a trace of
an accent thanks to her English father and BBC radio. Forget the voice
and notice the animated gestures and one will be in no doubt that this
lady is a passionate Latina. Read interview here.
Fiori Di Zucca: Recipes and Memories from My Family's Kitchen Table has
a marvellous collection of recipes but this is equally a family
history, and it’s no ordinary family. Her grandfather, Count Carlo
Sforza, who became an Italian Ambassador, was posted to Turkey, China,
Corfu, Italy and France. He resigned in 1922 in order to return to
Italy to fight rising fascism. He and his family were eventually forced
to flee his homeland. The family only returned to Italy after the end
of World War 2 and that is where Valentina's mother met her soon-to-be
husband. The scandal over their marriage resulted in her mother and
father being banished to Tuscany, where Valentina spent most of her
Valentina Harris has penned a book that tells of horror, hardship,
love, life and memories. If I have a complaint, it is that the story
finishes too soon. This must surely be the first of several volumes.
OK, so it’s not the literary equivalent of The Perils of Pauline where
each instalment left our heroine dangling over Niagara Falls. As we
know, Valentina became a success and remains so but any lover of a
great tale will want the next instalment of Valentina's autobiography.
But this is a cookbook as well as a saga, and it would still be a
worthwhile buy if it had remained ungarnished by worldwide adventure.
The recipes are eclectic and simple to prepare. Fried courgette flowers
give the book its title ‘Fiori Di Zucca’ and deserves a place in this
volume not only because they are delicious and moreish but because
Valentina was taught to make them by Beppino who worked for Valentina's
family and loved her since they first met when she was just a few days
Torta di Riso is a sweet rice cake. It uses economic ingredients but
the result is more than the sum of its rather ordinary parts. It’s
culinary alchemy. This Torta is sweet and made comforting and addictive
by the liberal use of brandy. It’s a winner and you will already likely
have all the ingredients in your larder.
Baked rice-stuffed tomatoes are delicious hot although I prefer to
serve them at room temperature and preferably while sitting in the
garden on a hot summer evening. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate
we can still enjoy these hot as a starter or part of a main meal. Use
large ripe tomatoes and serve them directly from the tightly-packed
Fiori Di Zucca: Recipes and Memories from My Family's Kitchen Table is
a remarkable book. It’s a heart-warming, sad, humorous and charming
story of courageous and very human characters. It’s a delightful
cookbook covering several continents. It’s a book written with
Valentina Harris’ usual flair and enthusiasm. It’s a book with which to
snuggle. It’s a book with which to cook.
Fiori Di Zucca: Recipes and Memories from My Family's Kitchen Table
Author: Valentina Harris
Published by: Duncan Baird
Pâtisserie at Home
Not many will recognise the name Will Torrent although
that’s not through his lack of respect within the food industry,
more shortage of a TV series exposing him to the public at large, and
that truly is an oversight. Evidently Will is already one of those
quietly appreciated chefs, but this book will surely introduce him to a
Will Torrent started early. At 16 he was cooking at The Fat Duck
restaurant with Heston Blumenthal and then later, at university, he
worked with some of England's renowned chefs such as Brian Turner and
William Curley, our home-grown chocolatier. He has graced the kitchens
of Claridges and The Dorchester, as well as The Lanesborough.
Will has already had a glittering career and has been Young Chef of the
Year, an Acorn Scholar, has appeared on television, become a
pâtisserie consultant for Waitrose, and an ambassador for several
high-profile products, companies and organisations.
Although a rising culinary star, Will is no arrogant, knife-throwing
terror. He is charming, natural and thoughtful. If, as some suggest,
success in the kitchen depends upon the mood of the cook then this
man’s future is assured. Read an interview here.
Pâtisserie at Home offers just what one would hope from a book
with such a title. Yes, there are plenty of recipes, in fact more than
60 of them, but Will also offers inspiration. One can make the recipes
in their entirety, and you will want to do that, but many of these
sweet delights have elements that can be made independently and
There are a host of classic pastries here but also lots of new
temptations that will have the home cook trying different techniques
and ingredients, and new concepts, but there is nothing over-taxing for
the enthusiastic cook. Practise a few of these recipes and the lucky
recipients of your labours will swear you have been attending a
Parisian catering college since last you met.
I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any of these confections should they be
presented at afternoon tea or as a dinner party finale, and I’ll likely
work my way through the whole book just to impress the in-laws, but I
do have some favourites with which to start.
White chocolate and almond truffles are sophisticated and easy to make.
White chocolate has a bad press but I rather like it. OK, so it’s not
really chocolate but it doesn’t have to be. These truffles would be
great additions to the selection of sweets at the end of a meal, or as
edible gifts at almost any time.
Salted caramel is trending just now so Will’s salted caramel and
chocolate tartlets are bound to be popular. They are individual
desserts and we all know how good a ‘whole’ something to oneself is,
somehow more decadent than a slice of a shared cake or tart.
Another must-try recipe is that for Cassis pâté de fruits.
These are very adult jellies that would be just perfect along with a
cup of green tea at the end of a Japanese meal – delicate and
mouth-watering. I am sure one could use the basic recipe but change the
fruit purée for a completely different colour and flavour. I’ll
be trying a blackberry version later in the year.
Pâtisserie at Home opens the door to the mysteries of beautiful
and delicious French fancies, and de-mystifies the art. We all want to
make delicious desserts and baked goods, and Will Torrent gives the
gift of know-how and confidence. This book is amazing value, coming in
at just under £20.00.
Visit Will Torrent here http://www.willtorrent.com/willtorrent/
Pâtisserie at Home
Author: Will Torrent
Published by: Ryland Peters & Small
Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors
Now, just wait – I know you’ll likely ignore this book.
‘Campfire Cuisine’ - you probably think that’s a book for rugged
sorts: thick socks, hiking boots, woolly hats with solar cells, and
that’s not you. But how about ‘Gourmet Recipes’? Well, that’s bound to
be yoghurt, free-range vegetables and knitted meat substitute, isn’t it?
Well, No. Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors is a
chunky volume for those who don’t want to survive on dehydrated ready
meals when off on an adventure. It’s equally appropriate for those who
are back-yard trekkers, cooking by the light of a domestic barbecue or
a gas burner.
This book offers recipes for rather smart food that can be produced
with the most primitive cooking equipment. No need to buy a cheffy
sous-vide, just a single burner stove will get you started. There is
advice on buying the most practical stove and a list of useful utensils
to take along. Plenty of information here about keeping foods fresh and
avoiding food poisoning. It’s not a handbook for the forager and you
are not expected to hunt, shoot or fish for your supper.
There are imaginative recipes here. Savoury cheese s’mores are an adult
version of the original sweet s’mores made with digestive biscuits,
chocolate and marshmallows sandwiched together. This savoury version
uses firm cheese and pesto on wholewheat crackers. One softens the
cheese over the fire or coals and then spreads over the tapenade-coated
biscuits. The book does have sweet s’mores but here they are called
S’moradillas and they take advantage of flour tortillas instead of
Cajun spice-rubbed pork tenderloin is a sophisticated yet simple dish
for home or away. The key to success is the marinade as the cooking
time is short – only 20 minutes or so. Jumbalaya takes longer but the
wait will reward the camper with a hearty one-pot meal. It’s a vibrant
dish with spicy sausage, and shrimps for sweetness.
Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors is a handy
book of easy eclectic recipes for the alfresco fireplace or barbecue.
They are a well-balanced bunch that will delight any lover of good
Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors
Author: Robin Donovan
Publisher: Quirk Books
JW Steakhouse - Grosvenor House
The restaurant is as big as the portions for which it is
famed. JW Steakhouse at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane is
characterful. Those visiting for lunch will appreciate views over sunny
(if one is lucky) Hyde Park. Night brings a city ambiance of passing
headlights and restaurant low-lights.
It’s difficult to make a vast space seem intimate for dinner but the
designers of JW Steakhouse have achieved this by artful use of dark
wood, tiled floors and blackboards that serve both to decorate and
edify. The high ceiling which could have given the space all the charm
of an aircraft hanger has been used to advantage with impressive shaded
lights making quite a decor statement.
JW Steakhouse has the air of an authentic US steakhouse. The
rich-coloured carpentry, bar and well-spaced tables would not be out of
place in Manhattan, although there the ceiling would likely be lower
and clad in zinc. The menu at JW would be appreciated each side of the
Atlantic and beyond: steak as the main feature but lots of classic
American items as supporting cast.
Seafood is prized in the US and their Atlantic and Pacific coasts
provide the best of both fish and shellfish. Maryland Style Lump Crab
Cake was my choice of starter. This is a traditional dish from a region
famed for its crabs. These cakes are remarkable for their texture –
light and flaky and that is due to the amount of pure crab and merciful
lack of the bready filler that creates a much more dense and heavy
patty. This must surely be a signature starter here.
Americans take their beef seriously. It’s not just about quantity
(although JW caters for dedicated eaters) but quality
provided by US Department of
Agriculture-certified Creekstone Kansas Black Angus Beef. They
specialise at JW Steakhouse in hand-cut selections of prime beef,
grilled to order. The steaks are seared under a 650°C grill
(broiler). I think beef of this quality is best enjoyed rare or medium
We tried one of the smaller cuts and it was striking. The Filet was
cooked to medium rare and was a cliché. You would doubtless have
heard the phrases ‘you could cut it with a spoon’ and ‘as soft as
butter’: well, we conducted a gastronomic experiment and, with very
little effort, cut through this steak with the side of a fork. This
meat needed nothing more than a little sauce (Béarnaise didn’t
mask the natural beef flavour) and a bowl of fries. The adventurous
Brit might also like to try Bourbon Sweet Potato Mash with a
marshmallow crust. This is probably the only spot in London that has
this unique and very sweet side dish.
Vegetarians are not forgotten. I can recommend the JW Chopped Salad
which is a classic preparation of vegetables (in this case a healthy
nine of them), feta cheese for tang, avocado for richness and
then a topping of crispy fried onions, all dressed with a citrus
Another pure vegetarian choice would be Butternut Squash Gnocchi filled
with porcini mushrooms, chicory and toasted hazelnuts. Fish lovers
could order Crispy Skinned Scottish Salmon, Seared Tuna Steak au
Poivre, or Grilled Jumbo Shrimps in garlic butter, which are bound to
So it’s dessert time, although if you ordered those marshmallowy sweet
potatoes you might feel you have eaten dessert with the steak. There is
the ubiquitous Warm Apple Pie but there are some other more adventurous
yet truly American options such as Whoopie Pies with Bailey's Milk
Shake, or Pecan Pie with Honey Bourbon Ice Cream, but a hotel staff
member had mentioned, with a glint in his eye, that we should try the
It’s proclaimed on one of those aforementioned blackboards as ‘The best
Cheesecake this side of the Pond’. If you investigate still further
then you will have the sense that this might be on the large side: ‘You
may not want to share but you should’ gives you the lie of the culinary
land – or just consider it as a warning.
We ordered just one portion of cheesecake which is in
whole individual biscuit-crumb-based
cheesecake that was too big for any individual of my acquaintance. This
could serve 4 and those diners wouldn’t feel short-changed. You’ll be
grateful when your waiter asks ‘Want a box for that?’
At the end of the evening you will realise that those well-spaced
tables are not just a design feature but a consideration for diners’
comfort. Those folks will want to push chairs back and bless elastic
waistbands, and consider that booking a room for a doze at Grosvenor
House Hotel might have been a good idea.
Grosvenor House Hotel
JW Steakhouse London
86 Park Lane
London W1K 7TL
This is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful hotels
in London, a city that has some of the most beautiful hotels in
the world. It’s a boutique hotel set in a Victorian townhouse but its
red brick and ornate stonework make this a jewel in an already
glittering city crown.
St James’s Hotel and Club has a superb location: just yards from
St.James’s Palace, Mayfair and Green Park it has an enviable plot at
the end of a cul-de-sac, which offers both convenience and quiet. Rare
The original club was at another location and was established by the
Earl Granville and Marchese d’Azeglio, a Sardinian Minister, After an
altercation at the Travellers Club they decided to found a competing
club for travelling diplomats and in April 1859 Francis Cavendish sent
invitations from the Foreign Office to every British Embassy and
legation in order to recruit the first members for the St James’s Club.
From the start the club attracted the great and the good (and some not
so good). They came from the nobility and included Lord Randolph
Churchill (Winston’s dad), writers such as Charles Dickens (who
documented lives of Londoners who could never have become members), and
Arthur Sullivan, the composer (partner of W. S. Gilbert), was also a
member. All those wanting to join had to be elected but those
working in the British diplomatic service and the Foreign Office were
usually admitted with no questions asked. The subscription was eleven
guineas and the entrance fee twenty-five guineas (a guinea was £1
and 1 shilling) which was a considerable sum.
During the early 70s financial difficulties resulted in
the closure of the
its present location thanks to Peter
de Savary. He is a celebrated international businessman who has a wide
repertoire of interests. He has been involved in the petroleum
industry, shipping, property, import/export and of course clubs and
This present building at 7-8 Park Place was originally built in 1892 as
apartments for Gentlemen. The façade is imposing and the
uniformed doorman confirms your assumption of formality, although this
hotel isn’t at all stiff, starchy or formal. It’s become a spot
renowned for good food and good times, laced with a sparkling array of
St James’s Hotel and Club was recently refurbished by the famous German
designer Anne Maria Jagdfeld and is now a contemporary space that
retains the comfortable and intimate aspects of a club – that’s a
private club, not a nightclub. There are hundreds of paintings
illustrating Expressionist and Cubist work from all over Europe. They
add to the smart-casual air of a hotel that ‘does it well’.
Multi-award winning chef William Drabble has a coveted Michelin star so
I knew that an afternoon tea here would be well-executed and delicious.
I wasn’t disappointed. It has a traditional format and an amazing
price. It was served in an area sporting many of the aforementioned
paintings, and was a copious and delicious introduction to the style of
this polished yet accessible hotel.
There were the usual selection of sandwiches and they were the expected
savoury start to the mound of baked goods that not only filled the
3-tier stand but occupied the table alongside as well. There rested the
scones and they were remarkable in every regard. They had a classic
flaky texture, buttery flavour and were generously proportioned. A couple
with clotted cream and
homemade strawberry jam would render the rest of the top tier redundant
to all but the most dedicated grazer.
I know it’s all a matter of taste but I think the
of any London Tea I have
recently enjoyed. Yes, I still say ‘enjoy’ as those others have been
excellent, imaginative and beautiful, but the pastries are often
elaborate confections that would not seem out of place in Paris or
Milan. I want a top tier that gives a nod to Victorian drawing rooms,
and some nice fruit cake. The pastries here were familiar in miniature
form and all that I would have wanted to complete this charming event.
St James’s Hotel and Club also offers a very popular Gluten-Free
Afternoon Tea: Selection of sandwiches on gluten-free bread; homemade
gluten-free scones served with clotted cream and homemade strawberry
jam; gluten-free pastries: macaroon with raspberries, almond and
chocolate cake, lemon drizzle cake, Financier with seasonal berries,
chocolate mousse cake, apple and almond cake.
£19.00 per person
Both menus are seasonal and subject to change. The gluten-free
afternoon tea is available every day and must be booked in advance;
this can be done on the same day but before 12 noon.
For reservations please call +44 20 7316 1615 or e-mail
St James’s Hotel and Club
7-8 Park Place
London SW1A 1LS
Phone: +44 20 7316 1615
A roasting jack was a machine popular in Tudor times. It
was a mechanism for rotating meat on a skewer or spit.
Often it was a kitchen menial who had the sweaty job of slowly turning
the meat in front of a roaring fire, and sometimes it was even a dog on
a treadmill that kept the joints turning. A Clockjack was a rotisserie
powered by falling weights or springs just as one would find in a
Grandfather clock. They were commonly called Spit Engines in Europe but
Clock Jack was the name in North America.
We have all seen rotisseries in markets in France. We buy those
succulent and well-flavoured chickens that have enticed with their
savoury aroma all the way from the car park. We pronounce that ‘we
can’t do it like that in London’ and on our return we wax lyrical to a
drooling audience about the flavour and the texture of ‘chicken like it
used to be’.
But here is that same old-fashioned quality in a thoroughly
contemporary setting. There is no need for that trip across La Manche,
as free-range chickens from Brittany are bronzing in the heart of the
capital. You won’t be negotiating a path through flocks of French
ladies with baskets of artichokes (no, I don’t know what they do with
them, either), nor mapping a route past stalls selling big knickers and
‘designer’ watches for 3 Euros. Clockjack Oven is conveniently situated
much nearer home for easy access by red bus, black cab or Underground.
It’s only been open a few months but it’s celebrated by critic and
regular diner alike and it’s easy to see why. Clockjack
of light wood (the colour of
one of their splendid birds about ¾ of the way to being cooked),
attentive and vivacious staff, and then there is the food – and that’s
the element that will assure the restaurant’s continued success.
One can sit at the ‘bar’ which in reality can be considered as ‘chef’s
table’ as it’s right in front of the vertical rotisseries, or one can
sit at conventional benches or raised banquettes and stools. It’s an
attractive and light space and thankfully the management have not been
tempted to go with the rustic look with faux chimney, copper pots and a
taxidermised rooster. The only stuffing will be on the plate.
The menu isn’t extensive as Clockjack Oven is remaining faithful to its
signature ingredient, with a few other items for vegetarians. Chicken
is simply showcased here. The main dishes offer well-seasoned flavour
from the skin, and both white and dark meats are moist with equally
We ordered Crispy Chicken Bites to nibble while considering the rest of
the menu. These morsels are marinated in buttermilk, coated in
seasoned gram flour (chickpea flour) and they are as far from a
‘nugget’ as you would want them to be. This is food worth fighting for.
Yes, OK, so it’s fried but one isn’t eating Bites every day, the
chicken is free-range and, cooked at the right temperature, isn’t oily.
We enjoyed these with the house sauces and in particular Chilli for
some spice and tangy Caesar.
The birds are marinated in a ‘secret recipe’.
offered in various sized servings
- 3 Pieces (peckish), 4 Pieces (hungry), Whole (10 pieces to share). My
guest ordered the hungry portion along with some double-cooked chips
and house coleslaw, and that constituted a delightful lunch.
Perhaps ridden by misplaced guilt over those Crispy Chicken Bites I
ordered the Chicken House Salad. This was a substantial bowlful of
crunchy romaine lettuce with slices of green apples and much more
chicken than I had expected. The crispy sage and onion balls added an
almost festive note on this wintery day. This wasn’t the ‘I’m not a big
eater so I’ll just have the salad’ class of dish. The Clockjack Oven
Chicken Salad is a meal!
You will pace yourself if you want to make it through to dessert here.
Granted it’s not a huge sweet selection but Lemon Tart with clotted
cream ice cream will make a perfect end to your substantial repast. The
ice cream is outstanding, rich with the flavour of childhood holidays
in Devon. It’s déjà vu all over again at Clockjack Oven.
14 Denman Street
London W1D 7HJ
London! What do we think of? Historic continuity,
elegance, refinement – and tea. So much of what visitors seek in this
capital city includes one or several of these qualities, and there are
a few places that will enable tourist and local alike to enjoy all of
them. Fortnum & Mason is just such an establishment.
Just as Elvis Presley was affectionately known as ‘Elvis’,
Singer Formally Known as
Prince is still ‘Prince’, so ‘Fortnum’s’ will only ever be associated
with Fortnum & Mason. It’s been around long enough to enjoy its own
The story of this magnificent shop is illuminating. That is to say it
started with candles. William Fortnum was a footman in the Royal Palace
of Queen Anne and moonlighted as a grocer. He earned a little extra
money by selling the Queen’s candle stubs to the ladies of the Queen’s
retinue. He persuaded Hugh Mason, his landlord at the time, that here
could be a new business and so in 1707 Fortnum & Mason opened its
doors for the first time.
In 1761, William Fortnum's grandson Charles revived the palace
connection when he went into the service of Queen Charlotte, and that
association did the business no harm at all. The store flourished and
attracted the very best class of shopper and has held Royal Warrants
for the past 150 years. It’s now a ‘department store’ but its core
business remains food.
For over 300 years Fortnum & Mason has been a
purveyor of quality loose teas, and in 1926 the store added a
restaurant that offered afternoon tea as well, and this tradition has
remained. In 2012 the refurbished St James’s Restaurant was
opened by HM the Queen and renamed The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
Fortnum & Mason offers a collection of afternoon teas to
accommodate every taste and appetite. Each one is copious and, as one
would expect, beautifully presented. One can take advantage of a tea
tasting while considering which tea to settle upon for one’s event, for
taking tea here is indeed an event. There will be four teas to try and
they will be brewed and served as if you were a professional taster.
Leaves are first steeped and brewed in white beakers, and then strained
when the tea has infused sufficiently to give the drinker the optimum
benefit of colour, aroma and flavour.
Chose your tea and your preferred sweets and savouries,
and relax in this striking salon. The tables are well-spaced,
reviewer had hoped, wanted, expected from Fortnum’s. The décor
is classic with hints of light Regency creams and
greens, and a scattering of iconic black and white photographs
including a striking profile of Audrey Hepburn.
Fortnum’s Afternoon Tea is available from 12 noon and includes the
expected finger sandwiches of cucumber but with the addition of mint
butter, Coronation Chicken (which was appropriate for the setting),
Ploughman’s (cheese), Rare Breed Hen Egg with Mustard Cress, and
Fortnum’s Smoked Salmon with Lemon Dill Butter.
Fortnum’s scones are rumoured to be made with strong flour, which is
generally what one would use when making bread. Well the departure is
inspired, as these scones were light and fluffy and well-flavoured.
They were served with generous pots of Somerset Clotted Cream and
Fortnum & Mason Preserves.
The top tier of the traditional 3-plate stand held the individual cakes
and patisseries and these showed the skill and the artistic flair of
the pastry chef. They are airy fancies and perfectly formed but the
purist will be eager to inspect the sweet bounty of the Coronation Cake
Carriage. This offers the visitor a slice of Victoriana, as a cake to
cut was always part of the afternoon spread enjoyed in front of a
blazing fire with ladies in crinolines and men in moustaches. There
will probably be a Bakewell tart, a chocolate cake and several other
typically English confections. Have a glance at this display when you
arrive: it’s a good idea to pace oneself!
Those of us with a less-than-sweet tooth are not forgotten at
Fortnum’s. I can highly recommend the Savoury Afternoon Tea with
Fortnum’s Savoury Scones of Ham and Cheese accompanied by an English
Mustard Butter which was outstanding: saffron-coloured with real adult
The top tier, that more usually contains the éclairs and
miniature sweet pastries, now displayed Smoked Salmon Blini with
Cucumber and Herb Dressing, and Mushroom and Chicken Pie with Tarragon.
This was an individual single-crust creation of delicate pastry and
moreish filling. A triumph!
Rosary Goat’s Cheese on Walnut Shortbread with Beetroot, and
Millefeuille of Tomato with Black Olive, Mascarpone and
Marinated White Anchovy all looked too good to eat but I was glad I
made the effort. The combinations of taste, texture and imagination
made this savoury tea a memorable meal, for that is indeed what
Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason offers.
London is blessed with many good venues for afternoon tea, which is
enjoying something of a revival. Fortnum & Mason presents one of
the most thoughtfully constructed menus in a salon that, although newly
refurbished, is bound to retain regular visitors and attract more.
Tea Salon Savouries & English Afternoon Tea
Monday to Saturday 12 noon to 9pm.
Sunday 12noon to 8pm.
Bank Holidays: The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is open as usual.
Reservations: For weekdays 1 week in advance is recommended and for
Saturdays, 6 weeks are advised to ensure availability.
To reserve a table please contact our Reservations Team on 0845 602
5694 between 9am and 6pm Monday to Saturday
Fortnum & Mason plc
Phone: 0845 300 1707
FAX: 020 7437 3278
Visit Fortnum and Mason here
House of Roxy – Putney
Putney has been a bit of a culinary wasteland, with a
couple of exceptions – Ma Goa for Indian, for instance. But now it has
a restaurant and speakeasy for late-night revellers, as well as those
looking for lunch outside the office or for a break from shopping.
Now I had reservations about making a reservation. The name ‘House of
Roxy’ conjures a vision of a seedy spot filled with slot machines,
perhaps with a corner marked ‘Adults Only’. I knew about the speakeasy
and that, I felt sure, would have a solid graffiti-garnished door
partnered with a big bouncer with cauliflower-ear and intermittent
teeth. The reality, I found to my relief, was a lot different.
Perhaps I should qualify ‘a lot different’. The graffiti was there but
it was bespoke, classy and striking. Nobody seems sure how House of
Roxy got its name – although it’s said perhaps to be from the Roxy
Theatre in California – but it’s a nice romantic notion to believe that
the painted lady on the wall might be Roxy, and she welcomes diners
The menu here isn’t long but there are plenty of hot lunch choices and
a well-crafted tapas selection during the evening. Yes, they do larger
plates as well but the small dishes have, it seems, caught the
imagination of the evening clientele. The House of Roxy has only been
open a few months but a freezing Tuesday didn’t put off diners, who
filled the restaurant to near-capacity from 7.30 onwards.
There are some stars on this menu, simple dishes that take advantage of
yes, that cauliflower puts in an appearance but in the form of a
purée rather than ears. Pan-fried scallops served with
cauliflower purée and a sun-blushed tomato vinaigrette. That
shellfish was delicately treated and just introduced to the hotplate
rather than taking up residence above the flames.
Grilled lamb cutlets with aioli and rocket salad were a delight – moist
and simply seasoned and as tender as I have had in any restaurant.
Grilled asparagus with parmesan shavings is a classic. The
spears sported grill marks and that filled me with dread. So often
asparagus is tough and fibrous when cooked on the barbecue, but Roxy
has employed a deft chef called Angelo Ottis. Those spears were almost
buttery in texture, not watery or over-cooked.
The House of Roxy is relatively new and I am sure that
their reputation will grow as will their menu. A conveniently located
spot for an evening with friends, a few drinks and some light bites.
Monday - Thursday 12 noon till midnight
Friday: 12 noon till 02:30am
Saturday: 5pm till 02:30am
House of Roxy
141 Upper Richmond Road
London SW15 2TX
Phone: 020 8785 9203
Breakfast for Dinner
This isn’t as outrageous as it sounds – Breakfast for
Dinner. Granted, the menu shouldn’t include cornflakes but there are so
many dishes that do double duty – both savoury and sweet. Brunch
straddles both and that’s an event that is increasingly popular at
restaurants which have now appreciated our broad cravings.
Authors Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth have tapped into the notion
that breakfast is good at any time. They
Maugham used to say that to eat well in England you should have
breakfast three times a day. Well, I admit that he was referring to the
abysmal standard of British food at the time (a situation that has,
thankfully, been rectified over these past couple of decades) but he
could just as easily have been referring to our general love of what
are usually considered breakfast foods.
Breakfast for Dinner contains an eclectic collection of
simple-to-prepare meals from across the globe. There are some classics
as well as familiar favourites that have been massaged, in a culinary
fashion, into sustaining meals that are appropriate at any time of day.
Shakshuka is a traditional Middle Eastern breakfast dish that, without
tinkering, naturally works well for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Eggs
are poached in a rich and spicy tomato sauce spiked with salty feta.
The yolks of the eggs add a rich creaminess to the sauce. Nothing more
needed with this, apart from some good crusty bread.
Maple Bacon Cupcakes might sound a little challenging but if one
considers the popular North American breakfast of pancakes with maple
syrup and a side of bacon then one can more readily appreciate that
sweet-savoury combination. The cakes are flavoured with maple syrup and
the buttercream icing with chocolate. So far so good. Candied bacon is
the unforgettable garnish (recipe supplied), although some crumbs of
crisp salty bacon would also work.
Habanero-Cheddar Bread Pudding is a punchy and sustaining bake that
would work with sausages or bacon as part of an any-time meal, although
this savoury bread pudding just needs a salad, a squirt or two of good
tomato ketchup or some chutney for an economic dinner. It’s ideal for
breakfast when one has guests as it can be assembled in advance and put
into the oven to serve fresh for your visitors, who will doubtless be
impressed by a hot and flavourful start to their day.
My pick-of-the-book is a Crepe Cake, a very classy confection that
gives a nod to the celebrated Bananas Foster of New Orleans. This is a
stack of 20 thin crepes sandwiched with a sweet banana paste laced with
dark rum. It is another dish that can be made in advance so it’s ideal
for entertaining at a breakfast buffet or as a striking dessert. This
doesn’t cost much but it offers plenty of delicious impact.
Breakfast for Dinner is a delightful book full of inspiration. The
recipes are thoughtful and unique and they will help to encourage the
home cook off the beaten culinary track, and that’s got to be a good
Breakfast for Dinner
Authors: Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth
Published by: Quirk Books
Reza’s African Kitchen
He is our very own flamboyant travelling food aficionado
and this time he introduces us to the colour and flavour of Africa.
Watch his delicious culinary adventure on Food Network UK - Sky 262 and
Freeview 48. Not to be missed.
Episode 1: West Coast
Exploring the rugged Cape West Coast of South Africa, Reza
Mahammad discovers that the people are as hardy and resilient as the
landscape. Starting in the fishing village Paternoster, he meets
a local chef who takes him foraging for mussels in the icy Atlantic
waters. She then teaches him about a variety of wild flora that
can be harvested for the table.
Reza then moves on to Velddrif where he visits a salt farm, goes to sea
with local fisherman in a small boat and has a lesson in making West
Coast-style fishcakes. Taking his West Coast experiences back to his
African Kitchen Reza prepares “Mussels in a Spicy Tomato and Tamarind
Sauce” and “Chilli Crab Cakes.”
Episode 2: Botswana
Botswana’s greatest assets are its natural beauty and
abundant wildlife. Reza Mahammad explores the Okavango Delta on
horseback and gets up close and personal with a few of the Big
Five. He is also curious to find out how the local people prepare
gourmet food in an oasis of winding water channels, open flood plains
and small islands, where most produce has to be brought in via either
plane or boat. Local women demonstrate an array of traditional
cooking methods and Reza gets a first-hand taste of some international
favourites, served the Botswana way. Back in his African kitchen, Reza
uses his experience in the Delta to create a Spicy Roast Chicken and an
Episode 3: Johannesburg
Johannesburg is a bustling city filled with exciting
cuisine, from the traditional to the modern, and everything in between. As the commercial hub of South Africa, its
food is influenced by the numerous peoples that travel here from all
over Africa and beyond.
Reza Mahammad begins his exploration of Johannesburg at an inner-city
artisan food market, where he gets a heady sense of what an eclectic
and cosmopolitan city Jo’burg really is. He then travels to the
leafy suburbs to a typically South African restaurant which specialises
in meat. And then it’s off to Soweto, where he is invited into
the kitchen of Xoliswa Ndoyiya, personal chef to South Africa’s
favourite citizen, who gives him a taste of some of Nelson Mandela’s
favoured dishes. Back in his African kitchen and inspired by his
adventures in Johannesburg, Reza creates a Rib Eye Steak with Mango
Pickle and a Borlotti Bean and Chickpea Casserole.
Episode 4: Zanzibar
Located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania,
Zanzibar and its people have always survived off the abundant sea life
its waters have to offer. Reza Mahammad begins his journey
through the archipelago in a local village kitchen, learning how the
locals prepare their simple, yet delicious seafood dishes. He then
takes to the waters on a traditional dhow and challenges himself to try
snorkelling for a first-hand view of the bountiful sea life. He
then heads to a night market to experience urban Zanzibarian cooking,
where the vibe is electric and the variety is plentiful.
With his inspiration overflowing Reza Mahammad heads back to his
African kitchen to create a Calamari Salad with Mint and Coriander and
his Spicy Prawns in a Coconut Sauce.
Episode 5: Karoo
The semi-desert area in the Western Cape of South Africa
known as the Karoo has a history
Mahammad is eager to experience these local
specialities for himself. With its snow-capped mountains
and breath-taking vistas, the Karoo has also become a sought-after area
for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
In the Karoo, food is at the centre of good country living. Reza
experiences farm hospitality first-hand and the finest home-cooked
comfort food around. He even finds time to make a few feathered
friends along the way. Overwhelmed by the generosity and simplicity of
Karoo life, Reza Mahammad is inspired to create his delicious Rack of
Lamb in a Saffron Sauce and an Ostrich Fillet with Ginger and Orange
Episode 6: Zambia
In Zambia, Reza Mahammad makes a go at trying to catch his
own dinner. Fortunately a few locals are on hand to assist him
and they treat him to a meal made entirely of ingredients sourced from
the Zambezi River. Many of these old food traditions survive in
Zambia today but alongside these, the growth in tourism has seen an
influx of international influences. There is no better example of this
fusion than on The Royal Livingston Express, a luxury fine-dining
experience on board a steam train which travels along one of the most
scenic routes in Southern Africa, through the Zambezi Valley and
parallel to the river itself. Reza takes up the challenge of
assisting Sous Chef Anuj Ovalekar prepare an Indian-influenced lamb
dish, which Reza uses as inspiration for his Lamb Shank Rogan
Josh Reza also prepares an Indian-Spiced Fish Pie.
Episode 7: Durban
Reza Mahammad is in tropical, heady, exotic Durban, home
to the largest Indian population outside of Asia and he’s on a mission
to find out how the local Indian food differs from that of the
sub-continent. With local chef Deena Naidoo as his guide, Reza is never
short of a new experience. Starting on the beachfront as
spectators of the sardine run, Reza and Deena are able to get their
hands on a few fresh sardines which Deena cooks up on the beach.
After a visit to an Indian spice market where Reza is introduced to
Durban’s finest spices with a few unusual names, Deena presents Reza
with Durban’s quintessential dish; the Bunny Chow. Back in his African
kitchen, Reza puts a spin on this Durban classic with his own Brioche
Duck Bunny Chow. He also demonstrates his Chilli-Encrusted
Sardines with Beetroot Salad, and his simple but delicious Steamed Rock
Lobster with a Crème Fraiche Dressing.
Episode 8: Namibia
Although Namibia is home to the oldest desert in the
world, it has a rich bounty of food. With the interior of the
country dedicated to meat farming and the coastline brimming with
seafood, there’s plenty for Reza Mahammad to sink his teeth into. On a
farm owned by a Herero family, Reza is introduced to a variety of
outdoor cooking styles including the potjie and the braai. He
then travels to the coastal town of Luderitz where his host catches
fresh rock lobster, serves him up fresh sea oysters and gives Reza his
very first taste of abalone.
Inspired by both his meat and seafood experiences, Reza heads back to
his African kitchen to serve up a Lamb and Potato Korma
Episode 9: Cape Town
Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest town. Originally known
as ‘The Tavern of the Seas’, it was a supply station for weary sailors
travelling between the East and West. With its history steeped in
food and fresh produce it’s no wonder that today it has a vibrant food
scene, celebrating a confetti of influences and flavours.
Reza Mahammad’s visit to Cape Town starts off with a bang at Signal
Hill where every day a canon is fired to signal noon. He then
heads to the Bo-Kaap to experience one of Cape Town’s strongest
culinary influences: Cape Malay cuisine. Reza also learns a
bit about modern trends that are defining contemporary food in Cape
Town today. Armed with an array of influences, Reza heads back to his
African kitchen to serve up his own version of a Spiced Bobotie with
Apricot Glaze and a decadent Chocolate and Cardamom Panna Cotta.
Episode 10: Zanzibar
The Zanzibar archipelago, also known as the Spice Islands,
has a myriad of cultural influences originally brought to the islands
by the Arabs and Persians and later by the Portuguese merchants and
traders who used the Islands as a base for their travels. These
traders also introduced valuable ingredients, most notably the huge
variety of spices that are still grown there to this day.
Reza Mahammad explores the island’s offerings by beginning at a spice
plantation where he is invited to see where these spices
grow. Reza then visits a local produce market and is given
the opportunity to cook with two chefs, who demonstrate their use of
these locally-produced spices. In his African kitchen, Reza uses the
spices and experiences from Zanzibar to produce a Spiced Semolina Cake
and a Spinach and Leek Pilau.
I received an attractive box of quality assorted teas a
few weeks ago and have been enjoying an exceptional beverage
tea drinker with not only many a
distinctive cuppa, but their hearts with joy at the prospect of more to
Yes, dear reader, horses have been much in the culinary news these past
weeks. Be assured that no racehorse, rocking-horse, seahorse or equine
character of any hue has been harmed in the production of Tea Horse
blends. This company is offering selections of the freshest leaves, and
opening your first brown paper envelope will convince even the
sceptical that a treat is just a few minutes away.
From the first delicate sniff one will appreciate the difference
between Tea Horse products and the usual teabag. Now there is nothing
wrong with a tip of a PG: it’s a cup that cheers for many of us and it
fits the bill for those times when we want a hot refreshing drink. If,
however, one takes the trouble to savour the aroma of a sack of 2000
teabags (and why would you?) one will likely notice …nothing much. An
envelope of a Tea Horse tea will start to excite your nasal passages
and send a teasing invitation to one’s taste buds.
Winter Spice has been much appreciated over these cold
days of snow, frost and grey skies. It’s a blend of Assam and Ceylon
black teas with the addition of vanilla, cloves, orange peel, cinnamon,
pink peppercorns, and cardamom and coriander seeds. If you like other
commercial Chai blends then you will likely be impressed by Winter
A tea purist and Japanese food enthusiast will be drawn to Sencha
Fukujyu. Japanese green tea is delicate but tends to become bitter if
left to over-brew. Freshly made it’s a light tea and refreshing.
Gui Fei (honey) Oolong is a unique tea that can be infused several
times. Each brew presents the drinker with different and more subtle
flavours. It’s a rolled tea so the leaves are presented as little balls
Each month Tea Horse chooses a tea-based theme to help collate a
selection for their subscription boxes, an ideal gift for any tea
lover. The box arrives with its sealed envelopes of teas along with
tasting notes. It’s a mini masterclass every month.
In the box you’ll receive:
4 x 15g or 20g packs of some exceptional loose-leaf tea - enough to
make at least 10 cups of each tea.
40 tea filters. These bio-degradable, unbleached filters are for
brewing the loose-leaf tea without any mess.
Tasting notes and information on that month’s selection.
A Tea Horse subscription is indeed a gift in the best of taste.
The Taste of Portugal – A
voyage of gastronomic discovery combined with recipes, history and
It’s a unique country that has long been popular with
tourists, but those bronzing folks seldom stray from the Atlantic
beaches, and their gastronomic daring drifts only as far as a grilled
sardine and a custard tart. They are missing the true Portuguese
Portugal has a rich history and its food has been influenced by both
invasion and exploration. It has an abundance
rather unprepossessing ingredients into classic and
The author, Edite Vieira, has collected some of the best dishes
Portugal has to offer. The ingredients are, for the most part, readily
available to the non-Portuguese home cook and, equally as important,
the dishes are economic to prepare. They take advantage of seasonal
vegetables and often cheaper cuts of meat. One can produce a sumptuous
and authentic spread for less than the cost of an economy airline
ticket to the Algarve.
Tomato, Egg and Bread Soup is a light meal that uses the bounty of
summer toms in something other than a salad. The addition of potatoes,
bread and onions gives both substance and flavour. The author doesn’t
mention it but one could use good quality tinned tomatoes in winter
when the fresh ones are tasteless. The egg is presented as a poached
Another way to spin out costly but flavourful ingredients is by making
an Acorda. These dishes use bread to bulk out seafood. We are all
familiar with bread and butter pudding so consider this as a savoury
alternative. Use fish stock for a more pronounced favour.
Salt Cod in all forms is loved in Portugal. One can now find it in some
UK fishmongers and any Portuguese deli. It’s easy to recognise, looking
rather out of place amongst all the other goods that one would
recognise as edible. The humble salt cod looks and feels like
Salt Cod Cakes are a Portuguese staple. They have a distinctive taste
and texture from the preserved fish which must first be soaked and
rinsed a few times before being cooked. It’s a simple process but
necessary. Yes, fresh fish could be substituted but then you would just
have, well, Cod Cakes, which would lack the prized flavour of the
Portugal seems to have the highest ratio of pastry shops per head of
population, of any country in Europe. Windows tempt the passer-by
(typically not passing) with sweet tarts and cakes. Rice Patties from
the Azores are made with common store-cupboard ingredients. They are
filled with cooked rice, eggs, sugar and ground almonds and baked for a
swift 15 minutes to dry rather than to colour.
The Taste of Portugal is a culinary journey through time. It shows the
richness of Portuguese food and is well-garnished with anecdote. It’s a
book for those who want to learn more of this undiscovered gem and for
those who want to replicate fondly-remembered meals. A beautifully
The Taste of Portugal
Author: Edite Vieira
Published by: Grub Street
Full of Flavour
Maria Elia is a celebrated chef. She has written several
other cookbooks and has graced our TV screens presenting her delicious
dishes that have been inspired by her Anglo-Cypriot heritage. Yes, she
is an accomplished food professional.
Full of Flavour is something of a departure from the usual chef cookbook.
change to ingredients or
cooking method will be viewed as culinary treason and would best be
undertaken behind locked kitchen doors, never to be publicly admitted,
Maria offers us a masterclass in taste and flexibility. Full of Flavour
is a unique cookbook that will help you evolve as a home cook rather
than just expanding your list of recipes. She gives the reader
permission, nay, encourages them, to change ingredients with the
seasons and you’ll find yourself just tweaking, to your taste, Maria’s
suggested spices and seasonings – and you’ll be confident that you have
the chef’s blessing.
The recipes here are delicious but also practical. Maria turns the less
costly cuts of meat into meltingly tender family dinners. There are
dishes with which you will likely be familiar and others that are
Elia-elevated, but all of them have that eponymous Flavour.
Spiced Carrot Puree with Dukka is a dish that will find its way onto
all your Eastern tapas tables. Maria uses almonds in her dukka rather
than the usual hazelnuts. It’s a mix that will work well as a seasoning
sprinkle on almost any root vegetable puree, but I would also add it to
the breading for fried chicken breasts, which are notoriously bland.
Brisket is a great joint for feeding a crowd without the need for a
mortgage extension. Maria’s is an aromatic, slow-cooked dish with
unmistakable Asian flavours from ginger, coriander and chilli. Just
serve with rice and some green Asian vegetables. This recipe will be
difficult to better, so make it in its original form before you even
Pink Grapefruit Vodka shows Maria’s love of a good cocktail. This is a
simple concoction of, well, vodka and grapefruit or at least the zest
thereof. An easy method but waiting for a couple of weeks to allow the
fruit and booze to infuse is rather taxing – start this just before you
go away to Greece on holiday. When mature it has a distinct citrus
flavour and would make a delightful vodka martini.
Full of Flavour is a cookbook, but there is another element. It teaches
even confident home cooks that there is no need to be a slave to
somebody else’s recipes. Maria Elia gives all of us the tools to adapt
not only her recipes, but all others as well, to our own taste and to
take advantage of fresh seasonal ingredients. A practical and charming
Full of Flavour
Author: Maria Elia
Published by: Kyle Books
America’s PBS TV channel has offered America’s Test Kitchen to its US
viewers for decades. Now we can find PBS in the UK and it’s well worth
investigating its programme schedule, to discover America’s Test
Kitchen for yourself.
The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2013 is the paper representation of
the programmes and your very practical companion
test kitchen, and those recipes have
truly been put through their paces, so the reader can be confident that
they will work.
This is a book for those who not only want to cook better but also want
to know why recipes work. The dishes listed are simple to prepare but
you will learn why ingredients make good partners, as well as tips on
cooking methods. There are lots of step-by-step pictures to aid the
I am particularly impressed by the traditional American recipes.
Country-fried Pork with Gravy is found on many a diner menu and is
simple comfort food. The crust is the star here and it’s rather
different from the usual breading that one finds on regular pork chops.
For those with a sweet tooth there are plenty of recipes to tempt one
away from that New Year’s Resolution diet. Peanut Butter Sandwich
Cookies have the eponymous ingredient in both cookie and filling. The
biscuits (cookies) are good enough to eat un-garnished but that filling
is a delight and far too good for the kids.
The kitchen gadget review section is particularly interesting. There
are products here that you might not find in the UK but those items
recommended have a description of their important features and you can
use these specs to find similar European pots, knives, cutting boards,
oven mitts, etc. This is a handy book as reference when selecting
kitchen-related wedding gifts.
The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2013 is an encyclopaedia of food
advice and all things appertaining to the kitchen. It’s a noble
addition to any cookbook collection but it’s a book truly to use and
from which to cook.
The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2013
Published by: Boston Common Press
Port and the
I would love to tell my readers that I am an expert on
that full and iconic beverage but until recently Port was that festive
tipple that mostly stayed in the sideboard unless Uncle Charles was
over. I, along with most others, considered
shrinking by the year. However, the hitherto dusty
baton of Port appreciation has been taken up and polished by a
discerning ‘next’ generation who know a good thing when they taste it.
I did say ‘until recently’, as just last year I was re-introduced to
Port by Natasha and Adrian Bridge. You might not recognise their names
but they are considered by many to be ‘the first couple of Port’. They
oversee Taylor’s Port and their vintages are far from sideboard fodder.
This book Port and the Douro showcases Taylor’s along with every other
notable producer and exporter. It’s a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of Port
past and present. It’s a story of people and produce.
The industry pivots around Porto (Oporto) on the Douro River in
Portugal and that is the focus of this outstanding book by Richard
Mayson. It’s a volume that will appeal to food and drink lovers,
travellers as well as wine professionals. Richard has not only passion
for his subject but a talent for weaving a fascinating tale of
characters who have peppered the history of this fascinating region.
Port and the Douro covers every aspect of the world of Port, from
growing vines to shipping wines. It’s an essential companion for anyone
visiting this marvellously unspoilt area if they have even the
slightest interest in Port. And if one doesn’t at the start of the tour
it’s likely one will by the end, and even more probable that one’s
return journey will be slowed by the weight of a car-boot filled with
bottles of Port that will illustrate in delicious fashion the variety,
complexity and depth of this unique beverage.
Port and the Douro
Author: Richard Mayson
Published by: Infinite Ideas
As Greek As It Gets
It’s a cuisine we love. Aromatic flavours, fresh
ingredients, un-fussy and delicious dishes. It’s a mystery why there are
not more Greek restaurants and the few that we can find are not as
impressive as this rather smart spot.
As Greek As It Gets is local to the whole of London! It’s just around
the corner from Earl’s Court Underground Station so has a huge
catchment area. This must be not only the best Greek restaurant in that
postcode but likely the best restaurant of any culinary hue in the
One thinks of Greek restaurants as those folksy establishments with
shelves laden with models of blue and white fishing boats and plates
printed with pictures of the Acropolis. As Greek As It Gets sports none
of these dubious souvenirs (although the distinctive company logo is
one of those chaps in white tights with pom-poms on his shoes). You
already know it’s a Greek restaurant – the big clue is in the name. At
this wintery season the only hint of blue is found in the garland of
Christmas lights, and perhaps the flashing alert of a passing police
car. This is London, after all.
It’s a cosy oasis with contemporary charcoal-black walls. The first
floor offers views across the Earl's Court Road. Hardly a hint of its
ethnicity until one reads the menu. It’s uncompromisingly Greek with a
selection of classic dishes that you might well have tasted on your
sun-scorched Aegean holiday isle, but it’s probable that those pale in
The owner of As Greek As It Gets, Dimitri Karonis, opened the
restaurant seven years ago after a bet with YO! Sushi founder, Simon
Woodroffe, who said Dimitri wouldn’t be able to open a successful Greek
restaurant in London. Not sure what the prize was, but perhaps it’s the
undeniable success of the restaurant itself. Dimitri is deservedly
proud of his achievements, making serious Greek food accessible to
Yes, this restaurant has one of the best locations in town but 40% of
the clientele are native Greeks. Now, these folks know more about
authentic Greek food than I ever will and they choose to come here.
They appreciate the food and ambiance and that must surely be an
accolade. The reasonable prices must also contribute to the evident
This restaurant deserves several visits. One scans the menu and selects
a little of this, a dish of that, but it’s all so enticing that as soon
as the waiter disappears one wonders if perhaps that cheese pie might
have been worth a try (it would) or if that fish might have been
memorable (it would). But that’s the beauty of being a local – one can
come back and there won’t be any last-night-of-Grecian-holiday blues.
It’s that colour again.
We settled on some traditional dips to start. Tzatziki - yoghurt,
garlic and cucumber dip - is particularly thick and rich
here. Dimitri buys many of his key ingredients from Greece and even the
bread is flown in part-baked. The Romano Peppers stuffed with feta and
spinach are a speciality here. They are sweet, flavourful and the
filling is substantial and well-balanced. A worthy signature dish.
Garides Saganaki - prawns cooked in ouzo, feta and tomato sauce - is
probably one of the most moreish starters I have ever had. My advice
would be to order one portion each rather than considering sharing.
It’s bound to end in a fight or at the very least a grudging counting
of prawns and harsh words. Don’t miss this dish of succulent seafood
and tangy sauce.
For my main course I chose the delicious and attractively presented
Pork with a cheese sauce. The rounds of meat were tender and juicy and
the sauce gave a striking sharp note. A contemporary and light boardful.
The star of the meal was Arnaki lemonato - lamb in rich lemon sauce
served with mashed potatoes. Dimitri says this is a reminder of his
family dinners back in Greece when he was a child. This looks just what
it is – a plate of home cooking. It’s a dish that reminds one why Greek
cuisine is so appealing. This is traditional food and this recipe has
been enjoyed for generations.
Galaktoboureko - home made milk pie - is a classic dessert. It’s a
thick custard cooked with semolina and encased in delicate and crispy
philo pastry. It’s not an over-decorated and elaborate confection but
it’s easy to see why it’s on the menu. It’s a sweet pie of simple
ingredients but it ticks all the ‘craving’ boxes. Worth saving a little
As Greek As It Gets is remarkable in an understated fashion. It’s
subtle, tasteful in every regard, and the prices will please. It’s a
gem with dishes for every palate and you will enjoy Greek food that’s
as good as it gets and As Greek As It Gets. For my next visitI have my
eye on Tyrokafteri - spicy mixed Greek white cheese dip - and the
chicken gyros plate with pita and tzatziki, and then just a little
taste more of that Galaktoboureko; although it would be rude not to try
How to make delicious soups for all occasions in your
All enthusiastic home cooks have a kitchen stuffed with gadgets and
gizmos. We have a little knife just used to make roses out of radishes,
there is the spiky thing for baking spuds, and an electric carving
knife that granddad uses on Christmas Day, or he would if it wasn’t
lost behind that automatic sauce-making machine.
I can live without all of those but ask me to give up my slow cooker
and this mild-mannered old lady will likely let herself down with a
sprinkle of bad language. It truly is a boon to anyone who cooks and
you don’t even have to be good at it to prepare delicious meals.
Diana Peacock presents a book filled with ideas for soups made in the
slow cooker and they are foolproof. It’s hard to overcook a soup and
the slow cooker will allow you to create warming and delicious soups
with very little effort. If you can chop and stir and put a plug in a
socket then you are set.
It’s winter and money is tight but we still want to eat well. A hearty
soup and some fresh bread will give you a memorable meal, and
soup-making becomes addictive. All these recipes will give you a start
but once you are confident with the techniques you will be writing your
I write about authentic Indian food but I still appreciate those
old-fashioned Anglo dishes that use curry powder. No, it’s not
something you find in Indian homes but a bright yellow Madras curry
powder is the indispensible ingredient in such dishes as Coronation
Chicken and Curried Chicken Soup. The author suggests serving this with
naan bread but one could consider stirring in some leftover cooked rice
to make a very substantial soup.
Lentils are still cheap so Tomato and Lentil Soup will feed a family
for very little cash. Use fresh tomatoes during the summer but I would
choose good quality tinned toms during the winter when the fresh
tomatoes are like pale bullets. Just flavour with dried herbs if you
don’t have a supply of fresh.
It’s the festive season and we have the remains of that turkey. You can
either keep it in the fridge till it goes fuzzy or you can transform
the cooked meat into a meal to feed another crowd with just the
addition of some seasonal vegetables.
Soups for your Slow Cooker - How to make delicious soups for all
occasions in your slow cooker is a practical book and full of delicious
ideas. Nothing cheffy here, it’s just recipes for good economic food.
You don’t need skill, just that slow cooker.
Soups for your Slow Cooker
Author: Diana Peacock
Publisher: How To Books
No Need to Knead – Handmade
artisan breads in 90 minutes
If you love cooking you will likely have wanted to try
baking your own bread but it’s equally possible that you lost your
nerve and didn’t bother. It’s baking and that is culinary alchemy; and
then you add yeast into the equation and, well, how does that work?
I have never had any success with a bread-making machine. One isn’t
of bread fresh from the oven filling the kitchen (I
think estate agents have a spray for that!) Somehow a box with a buzzer
never gives the same result and there is always that unsightly hole in
the middle of the loaf.
No Need to Knead – Handmade artisan breads in 90 minutes suggests
breads that are simple to make even during the week when you would
normally reach for Mothers Pride (can you still get that?) Remember
that 90 minutes doesn’t represent an hour and a half of work, it’s just
the time it takes from flour in the bowl to bread on the table.
Pizza has been demoted over time to a cheap and nasty, and often
bizarre, cooked open sandwich. In reality it’s not that cheap from the
take-away, though still often nasty. Pizza base is simple to make at
home and is bound to be more economic than the one arriving on the back
of a moped. You will have your own bespoke toppings and can divide your
pie to allow the kids to make their own sections, or why not encourage
the children to make the bread from scratch and make small pizzas.
The author, Suzanne Dunaway, has included some delightful recipes using
left-over bread and I am rather taken with her Bread and Cheese
Soufflé. It’s another one of those dishes for feeding a crowd
without breaking the bank. This would be a delightful summer lunch with
just a green salad or with some roasted vegetables as a more
My pick of the recipes is Fougasse de Collioure. This bread looks
special and just the kind of loaf one would seek in a smart artisanal
bakery, a delicious bread with that traditional shape that one finds in
southern France. The crust is rich and glossy and the sprinkle of
large-grain sea salt adds so much to the flavour. This is the bread to
take on a picnic as it won’t readily dry out.
This book will be enjoyed by a novice baker who will gain confidence
making these recipes, but it will be just as appreciated by the
experienced cook who will find a battery of classic and contemporary
breads to tempt family and friends.
No Need to Knead – Handmade artisan breads in 90 minutes
Author: Suzanne Dunaway
Published by: Grub Street
Thirty Six at Dukes Hotel London
Think about Old London and what scene comes to mind? Fog,
intertwined alleys and hidden courtyards, probably. Iron
railings, warm brick, brass plaques. And hotels: yes, every Edwardian
writer seemed to talk about hotels. They were the acceptable places in
which to meet friends and to dine, when restaurants were less numerous
than they are today. But those hotels must surely have been swept aside
by samey modernity, by cold grey cement and sheets of plate glass.
Well, the fog has gone, but Dukes is still standing and still sports
those classic features, and it overlooks its own courtyard behind St
James’s Place, off St James’s Street. It was opened in 1908 although
the courtyard dates from the 1500s, and the hotel still retains that
authentic air of class and propriety, although this is far from a
starchy establishment. It’s celebrated for its Martini Bar and for
mixing the original James Bond cocktail – shaken, not stirred – and the
Champagne Bar is a cosy retreat from the throng of Mayfair.
Thirty Six is Dukes’ restaurant and was opened in September 2011. It
has contemporary grey walls but it fits well with the traditional feel
of the hotel as the architectural features have been retained, the
tables are well-spaced, the upholstered chairs are in muted terracotta
and there are dramatic black accents from lampshades. The silver
chargers and classic cutlery have hand-made colour-marbled glasses as a
Chef Nigel Mendham offers British cuisine but with all the charm and
flair that one would expect across the Channel. His menu takes
advantage of seasonal British ingredients and a lot of imagination. The
descriptions hardly do justice to that with which you will be served.
Nigel seems to add value at every turn with a demitasse of soup here,
some savoury spoon bites there, a pre-dessert when one thinks it is
almost over, and then there are decadent petit fours to round off the
Red Mullet and ‘All things Nicoise’ was my choice of starter and the
reality exceeded my expectations, which ran along the lines of a bit o’
fish atop a French salad. The mullet was the best I have tasted, being
moist and flavourful with a crispy skin which adds so much to the dish.
The ‘Nicoise’ elements were little vignettes of the eponymous salad and
were indispensible ‘sides’ to the mullet.
Rare-breed Pork braised Cheek, Langoustine and Granny Smith Apple was
my guest’s starter. Offal and those previously discarded cuts of meat
are appreciated these days although they often need greater care in
preparation and cooking, but it’s worth that effort. Nigel has combined
deliciously savoury pork with delicate langoustines, and apples have
always been a partner to porcine products. My companion was delighted
with his elevated ‘surf and turf’.
Goosnargh Duck, Sweet Potato, Chestnuts, Duck Samosa and Charred
Sprouts was my main course and it was substantial. The duck was
presented medium-rare and it was perfect – pink and tender. The
miniature samosa and turned potatoes added texture and sweetness to the
tapestry. The sprouts were going to be my nemesis but they were a
revelation. The charring gave flavour and the vibrant green vegetables
still had bite; there was no hint of that unpleasant sprouty taste that
has spoilt many a decent Christmas dinner.
John Dory, Aubergine, Spiced Mussels with Herb Quinoa took the fancy of
my guest. This was a wonderfully attractive plate of yellow hues. The
fish was mild and simply grilled, the aubergines were tender and smoky
and the quinoa was nutty and well-textured, and an inspired
accompaniment. It’s an ancient grain that is becoming more popular,
although it has been appreciated in South America for thousands of
Pear Savarin, Poached Pear, Almond Custard and Pear Sorbet was my
guest’s dessert – or more accurately his dessert served with two
spoons. Savarin is a yeast-sponge cake that one often finds in the
guise of over-sweet and sticky Rum Baba, but Nigel offers this cake as
a lightly soaked confection that
didn’t upstage the fruit. The poached pears had distinct flavour and
the sorbet was refreshing. That extra spoon made impressive in-roads
into the dessert.
Chef Nigel Mendham (interview shortly) has a marvellous stage for his
very evident talents. Dukes has been famed for its Martini Bar and it’s
no surprise that this restaurant, Thirty Six, offers commensurate
quality. It’s a joy!
We want comforting food. It’s cold and wintery and the
economic climate isn’t that hot either. It’s time to get back to those
old-fashioned values. Gennaro Contaldo
introduces us to his Italian family favourites as they do travel rather
well, and they are delicious.
Gennaro often graces our TV screens, sometimes in the company of
Carluccio, another Greedy Italian, or that young Jamie Oliver. Gennaro
is a lovable character with a cheeky grin and a down-to-earth approach
to food. Yes, he is a celebrated food professional but he has never
lost his grasp of domestic kitchen reality.
To be a confident cook we need a battery of recipes that work. We need
to feed family, friends and in-laws so a list of well practised
flavourful dishes that please everybody will save time and worry.
Impressive food doesn’t have to be expensive or even time-consuming.
Let's Cook Italian offers practical recipes for traditional dishes and
sprinkling of contemporary ones. There are, as one would expect,
plenty of suggestions for pasta - dough, sauce and fillings - and some
traditional to Gennaro’s family will likely be new to the British cook.
Culurzones – Sardinian ravioli filled with cheese, potato and fresh
mint - is one such recipe that uses a rich mix of cheeses pillowed by
humble and, as yet, cheap, spud. The sauce is buttery and perfumed with
sage but I would love this ravioli with a herby tomato sauce.
A vibrant dish for the summer is Peperoni All’adrodolce – Tangy
Peppers. Make these when peppers are at their best quality and price.
You can use them at every meal and either hot or cold. The recipe
calls for anchovies: don’t be tempted to leave them out. Your
finished peppers won’t taste fishy, but those fillets give a distinct
salty edge which is key to the success of the dish.
A spectacular and traditional dish is Porchetta – Stuffed and Rolled
Pork Belly. It’s a striking centrepiece to feed a crowd. The most
difficult step is finding a large enough roasting pan, but I can
guarantee that you will feel it’s worth the investment in a new one.
Gennaro has suggestions for side dishes with recipes provided.
Perhaps my pick of the book will be a surprise. It’s a pie, Sformato di
Pane alle Verdure, and Italians
are not famed for that form of savoury patisserie. Gennaro presents a
variation of a family favourite that was eaten around Christmas time.
It would be a vegetarian alternative for the festive season but even
meat eaters would enjoy this robust bread-dough pie with its filling of
artichokes, courgettes, onions and potatoes.
Let's Cook Italian is just what I would expect from Gennaro Contaldo.
It’s charming and family oriented. The recipes have been thoughtfully
chosen and should give no British cook cause for anxiety over
technique or ingredient. A beautiful book and good value for money.
Let's Cook Italian
Author: Gennaro Contaldo
Published by: Anova Books
The Great Northern
The author is Sean Wilson. Yes, that’s a familiar name, or
at least it is if you have been a follower of that celebrated Northern
institution, Coronation Street. He joined the cast of 'Corrie'
in 1985 and stayed till 2005, and has since played in Waterloo Road.
He has always had a passion for cooking and in 2009 Sean started a new
career, the Saddleworth Cheese Company, which went on to win some
coveted cheese awards. But
his interest does not stop at cheese: he is a northerner and has a TV
series to partner this book which promotes the best of northern food in
There are more than 90 recipes for dishes that are northern favourites.
They are economic recipes and hearty. Lots of baked goods and pies but
there are a couple of curries as well. It’s not a culinary history book
but rather a snapshot of how we eat today.
The north of England is famed for its rhubarb, but Rhubarb Curd is new
me. This would make a delicious change from lemon curd or jam for
breakfast, but only make it in small batches during the rhubarb season
as it contains egg yolks so doesn’t keep more than a month. That is the
joy of seasonal food, though, isn’t it? It seems like a treat and we
savour the tang for just that month or so.
Although I am an enthusiastic home cook I might prefer to eat tripe
cooked by somebody else. I have tried it in various guises and I can
say it’s either delicious or a horror. The recipe for Deep-Fried Tripe
is worth a go.
No northern cookbook could hold its head up in polite society if it
didn’t include a recipe for a Lancashire Hotpot. This is simple and
flavourful fare and ideal for weekends when you have guests. It’s
easy to assemble and can be made in your slow cooker and finished in
the oven, although the recipe here uses just an oven.
We do pies well in the UK. They are comforting and cheap but it’s just
as much about the pastry as the filling. Cheese ’N’ Onion Pie doesn’t
cost much to make but it’s loved by not only vegetarians but also those
who would normally demand a slab of meat. It can be eaten at any
temperature but I love it fresh from the oven.
The Great Northern Cookbook offers ‘proper’ food. These are dishes that
won’t break the bank but they are tasty and will be loved by the whole
family. It’s not about cooking innovation but a return to what
has always been good. It’s a culinary reminder.
The Great Northern Cookbook
Author: Sean Wilson
Published by: Hodder
Style Me Vintage -
Tea Parties - A guide to hosting perfect Vintage events
The author of this marvellously ‘vintage’ volume is
actually Lulu Gwynne rather than Betty Blythe as one assumes from the
cover. Betty was a sexy actress in Hollywood when it was new and when
films were considered brash. She was born Elizabeth Blythe Slaughter
but changed her name (probably a good idea) to the shorter version.
Lulu gives a very decided nod to that glamorous era with her tea room
called, unsurprisingly, Betty Blythe. The staff dress the part and the
tea and cakes make this a magnet for anyone looking for a classic
afternoon tea experience.
Tea is enjoying something of a revival and it’s exciting to explore
some culinary themes, and they are very pretty ones, too. Lulu has
considered everything that’s
needed for throwing a Victorian Tea Party, an Edwardian Breakfast, a
1920s Speakeasy, a 1930s Cocktail Party, 1940s Picnic and a 1950s
Street Party. You will be able to dress the part, act the part and
offer delightful food.
Style Me Vintage is full of recipes and they are a delight, but Lulu
encourages the reader to plan events rather than just meals. They won’t
be huge affairs but they can be held in your own home and they will be
Vintage clothes can be found in markets and boutiques and they,
above all, will set the scene. Consider
a 1920s evening with those ornate
flapper dresses and men in dinner suits and black bow ties. Throw in a
couple of cigarette holders and gin in a teapot, and the queue at the
door starts right behind me.
Style Me Vintage - Tea Parties - A guide to hosting perfect
Vintage events is a beautiful book and an ideal gift for avid
party-givers, throwers of sedate tea parties and anyone interested in
hosting a summer bash with panache. It's priced at £9.99
19s 10d) so great value for money.
Style Me Vintage - Tea Parties - A guide to hosting perfect Vintage
Author: Lulu Gwynne (Betty Blythe)
Published by: Anova Books
The Turkish Cookbook –
Regional recipes and stories
Turkish cuisine is considered by many to be one of the
classics. It has had a huge influence on food throughout Europe and
encompasses all those elements that we praise these days: there is an
emphasis on fresh produce, on seasonal vegetables, olive oil and fish
but it also offers us those memorable sweets.
Turkish food is part the heritage of the cuisine of the
Ottoman Empire, which
encompasses Asian, Middle Eastern and
Eastern European influences and has itself had an impact on
Turkey is a large country which straddles Asia and Europe in both
food and culture. The food, unsurprisingly, changes from region to
region taking advantage of climate and geography. There is an abundance
of fish along the coast while another area has favoured meat kebabs
over seafood. Bulgur is a staple in some regions, while rice is
ubiquitous in others.
Authors Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman present us with a delightfully
personal Turkish cookbook that explains the history of the cuisine, and
they introduce us to the diverse cooking traditions of each of the
regions. There is so much covered here that this is almost as much an
inviting Turkish travelogue as a recipe book.
There are a few dishes here that you might have tried on holiday and
some that you may have tasted in restaurants, but there is much that
will be new to the non-Turkish reader. Walnut and Red Pepper Spread
(Muhammara) is a delicious dip and a change from the more common
hummus. I would recommend that you roast the peppers before using in
this simple recipe as it brings a richer flavour.
We know we should eat more vegetables so a dessert that has carrots and
nuts must count as one of your 5 a day. Carrot and Walnut Slices
(Cezerye) are similar to Indian carrot halva but the addition
of coconut and walnuts, which once again put in an appearance, make
this a unique sweet for using up Christmas leftovers.
A favourite savoury dish from this book is Stuffed Onions from the
Black Sea region, another economic dish making the best of winter
produce. The filling is of minced beef and rice seasoned with cinnamon
and garlic with a little pomegranate molasses, which can be found in
many Middle Eastern shops and some larger supermarkets these days.
The Turkish Cookbook – Regional recipes and stories is a gift-quality
cookbook that will tempt any lover of vibrant food into the kitchen,
probably onto the next flight to Istanbul. The dishes are simple to
prepare and not over-spiced, and they are less celebrated than they
deserve. Thank you Grub Street for another stunning volume.
The Turkish Cookbook – Regional recipes and stories
Authors: Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman
Published by: Grub Street
The Modern Vegetarian –
Food adventures for the contemporary palate
Maria Elia is a chef who has graced our small screens and
headed restaurant kitchens, and she has also penned several delightful
cookbooks. Maria isn’t a vegetarian evangelist but The Modern
Vegetarian reflects her passion for flavourful food and in this case
those dishes just happen to be sans
We know we should all eat more of them - vegetables, that is - but we
want meals that are delicious and tempting rather than just
being healthy and nutritious. We want to savour food rather than having
a ‘dose’ of dinner. Gone are the days of over-worthy dishes appealing
to those clad in tie-dye, sandals and likely owning a bandana-wearing
dog that would also be vegetarian. Maria presents us with recipes that
will become regulars on your table.
There are more than 120 recipes here along with striking photography by
Jonathan Gregson. It’s an attractive book that will enable you to make
the best of fresh seasonal produce. Yes, healthy vegetables but also
economic and that’s more of a consideration than ever. There are smart
dishes with which to impress dinner party guests and others that are
more for an evening in the company of the TV. Rosemary Popcorn could be
your snack of choice for the next showing of ‘The Sound of Music’.
Well, Christmas is just around the corner.
Talking of the festive season, I have been rather taken with the
prospect of Christmas Pudding Brulée with Caramelised Blood
It's two recipes in one as Maria suggests that the oranges work well
just garnished with some crème fraîche.
The brulée element makes good use
of left-over pud, and there is bound to be some of that.
Following that sweet note the Honey Dough with Greek Yogurt Mascarpone
Cream is a must-try. These doughnut-like treats have more a cake
texture than that of bread; it has plain flour with both bicarbonate of
soda and baking powder for lift. These would be a delight as part of an
exotic afternoon tea.
Beetroot has long been an underutilised vegetable but it is enjoying
something of a revival. Maria delves into her Greek heritage to bring
us Beetroot Keftedes. These are basically meatballs having the meat
replaced by feta cheese and beetroot. They can be eaten hot or cold and
would make a lovely addition to a meze or tapas spread.
There are also exotic flavours here. Ginger Beer-Battered Stuffed Tofu
with Asian Mushy Peas is exciting. Tofu always needs help: it’s a bland
and boring article when unadorned but this recipe allows it to soak up
flavours. The assembled dish looks enticing and is a tapestry of
flavour and texture. A must-try.
The Modern Vegetarian – Food adventures for the contemporary palate is
a true contender for that much vaunted phrase ‘something for everybody’
but it is indeed a book to encourage even the most dedicated carnivore
to delve into its pages and turn up recipes that they will cook again
and again. Great value for money.
The Modern Vegetarian – Food adventures for the contemporary palate
Author: Maria Elia
Published by: Kyle Books
Brulée - How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings
Introduced French Cuisine to America
We all know the name and his impeccable political
credentials (he was an American Founding Father and the principal
of the Declaration of Independence; he was the third President of the
United States). But Thomas Jefferson lived a full life of controversy
outside the political arena.
Jefferson served as a diplomat, stationed in Paris from August 1784 to
September 1789. He didn’t arrive alone but took with him his eldest
daughter (his wife having recently died) and his slave James Hemings.
Jefferson wanted the 19-year-old Hemings to be trained in French
cooking and he apprenticed James to Chef Combeaux who was a local
Well, that seems benevolent but one adds another dimension to the
adventure when one realises that James Hemings was in fact related to
Jefferson’s wife Martha. His father-in-law, John Wayles, was his
slave's father, making James Jefferson’s half-brother-in-law. Jefferson
inherited the whole Hemings family including James' younger sister
Sally, with whom Jefferson is said to have had at least one child.
Thomas Jefferson loved the good things in life and was struck by the
opulence of Paris. He admired the fine architecture and felt that his
celebrated home, Monticello, (about 11,000 square feet) would have been
considered more of an outbuilding by French aristocratic standards. He
wanted to return to the US with European style and to be able to dine
in an impressive manner.
James must also have been impressed with France and quite envious of
its small black population. They were all free, as slavery did not
in that country. One wonders why he did not make a run for it as there
would have been little that Jefferson could have done to retrieve his
‘property’. But it's possible that James also wanted to continue his
training, as Jefferson promised Hemings his freedom if he would learn
about French cuisine and if he would pass that knowledge on to others
Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulée isn’t
and Parisians in general. It’s an
enthralling read and will be enjoyed by food lovers as well as social
Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulée -
Author: Thomas J. Craughwell
Published by: Quirk Books
Brompton Bar & Grill
This has become, after just one visit, a favourite
restaurant. Brompton Bar and Grill is a confident and classic
establishment with all those attributes for which we search, mostly in
vain, across the Channel. Phrases like ‘you can’t eat like that in
England’ and ‘nobody does a steak like the French’ are oft bandied
around by folks who have not taken a look at what we have in London.
After the Second World War this site was The Brompton Grill, a Greek
Cypriot-run restaurant the like of which is just a memory. It was the
haunt of the great and the good and the not-so-good and offered the
food that was in vogue at the time. After a few incarnations and a
change of hands that original restaurant has become the Brompton Bar
It has the ambiance of the best French bistros I have ever visited. It
isn’t over-themed French but it manages to combine contemporary artwork
with an imposing bar and intimate tables that will seem familiar to any
Francophile. Yes, the staff are also authentically French so the accent
The menu isn’t a mile long and that’s always reassuring. One wants to
feel that one’s dinner is fresh from the chef’s pan rather than frozen
and fiddled with. There are daily specials which are worth considering,
particularly if you are a regular, and you will likely be just that
after the first visit.
The starters are a delight with dishes that would seem at home on a
menu in the Pas de Calais. I ordered Morcilla Black Pudding - Piquant
Tomato Sauce, Fried Burford Brown Egg. This was a substantial tower of
well-seasoned black pudding atop grilled bread. The tomatoes were a
spiced foil to the rich and sunny egg yolk that bathed the whole dish.
This was a well-constructed plateful with rustic ingredients. Don’t
miss this one.
Ham Hock Croquettes served with Sauce Gribiche was my guest’s choice.
The golden croquettes were hearty and the sauce a perfect partner.
Sauce Gribiche is a classic French preparation and the sauce of choice
for tête de veau (calf's head). It’s a mayonnaise-style cold
dressing with chopped gherkin, capers and herbs, and garnished with
hard-boiled eggs. Granted it’s not a thing of beauty but it works
marvellously with the richness of the ham.
My companion chose from the Specials menu for his main course: Whole
Roast Partridge served with celeriac and apple mash and chanterelle
mushrooms. The meat was moist and not over-gamey, and the mash was a
perfect sweet and earthy accompaniment.
Remember that phrase ‘nobody does a steak like the French’? Well, you
can have one of the best steaks outside La Belle France at The Brompton
Bar & Grill. I felt sure it was going to be good before I ordered.
The restaurant is correct in every regard so they would surely excel at
the cornerstone dish of any self-respecting Grill. Ribeye steak was
simply presented and perfect. The meat was juicy, tender and
flavourful, and blessed by delicate cross-hatching from the eponymous
grill. And, yes, chips – chunky, golden, piping hot! A glass of merlot
and I was content. The waitress asks “Would you like ketchup or mustard
with that?” Appreciative guest: “Mustard please – make it ‘French’!”
Mon – Fri Lunch: 12noon – 3pm
Sat – Sun Lunch: 12noon – 3.30pm
Mon – Sat Dinner: 6pm – 10.30pm (Sunday closes at 10pm)
Open all Bank Holidays
Closed Christmas Day only
Brompton Bar & Grill
243 Brompton Road
Phone: 020 7589 8005
Visit Brompton Bar & Grill here
on Classic Dishes
Andy Bates is a Food Network UK chef and is
focus on foods traditionally cooked in a
static home kitchen.
This book offers vibrant contemporary recipes reflecting how we want to
eat in Britain today, but there is just as much that will be familiar
to those lovers of old-fashioned fare – comforting dishes that we crave
in this cold climate of financial woe.
The first chapter showcases Pies, and I believe we do these better than
any other nation. There are recipes here for the pastry for raised
pies, and sweet and savoury shortcrust pies. You can obviously use
these doughs with your own fillings but Andy’s suggestions are
inspired. Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Pie is a striking pie that
takes advantage of ripe summer peppers, courgettes and aubergines. The
layered vegetables make colourful strata when slices are cut.
Scotch Eggs are another British staple and they can be a marvel of
good-quality and well-seasoned egg-stuffed sausagemeat, or the more
common pale, bland and bready articles. Black pudding is enjoying
something of a revival and here it’s used, mixed with pork mince meat,
as a replacement for the original sausage. This combination results in
a richer taste and, I think, a lighter texture.
Perhaps the simplest recipe is for Fromage Fort. This is like a cold
fondue made with garlic, leftover strong cheese, white wine and butter.
The garlic is processed until fine and then all the other ingredients
are added and blended till smooth. This makes a creamy dip that would
be a delicious addition to any spread of tapas or a cold meat platter.
A must-try from this book (it’s one of many) is Blueberry Bakewell Tart
with Raspberry Chantilly Cream. I am not usually keen on chefs
tinkering with much-loved favourites but the addition of these dark
berries to the almond filling adds a fruity edge and moisture to the
sponge, and elevates the regular Bakewell Tart from an afternoon treat
to dinner-party fare.
Modern Twists on Classic Dishes is a delightful melange of old and new,
and a culinary snapshot of some of the best British food. The recipes
are simple and practical, familiar and surprising.
Modern Twists on Classic Dishes
Author: Andy Bates
Published by: Accent Press
My first taste of self-catering was as a 7-year-old and it
did rather taint my expectations of that style of holiday for the
following half-century. It was a ‘chalet’ (3-metre square prefab) in
Sackets Grove. It had a wealth of ornithological interest, being
situated next to Clacton’s municipal dump which was the feeding ground
Ivy Roost Cottage is a world away from that first experience. This
idyllic place has modern luxury writ large. It is thoroughly
contemporary but retains its 400-year-old charm. It sleeps up to 9
people which make this an ideal retreat for a large family group, or
for several couples who want to enjoy all the tranquillity of the New
The New Forest is an expansive and ancient area of woods, heath and
pasture in the south of England and isn’t ‘new’ at all. It was a royal
hunting estate and was created in 1079 by William the Conqueror, who
won the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It was first recorded as "Nova
Foresta" in the Domesday Book in 1086.
Those historic acres begin just beyond the garden wall. A cattle grid
keeps the famous roaming ponies and cattle away from the roses, and the
views of unspoilt heath are memorable. There is truly nothing between
you and the wildlife, and the rejuvenating country walks start at the
Ivy Roost is a large thatched cottage dating back some 400 years. It
has secluded gardens that are immaculate with lawns, borders and fruit
trees. There are paved terraces for sitting and taking traditional
afternoon tea, corners for enjoying some sun in the company of that
best-seller, and a delightful al fresco dining room shaded by a leafy
pergola. A swing will be fought over but the losers of that
confrontation can cheer themselves with a soak in the hot tub. That’s a
worthy consolation prize!
This cottage has been extended and restored to the highest of
standards. It takes advantage of all its original features and they add
so much to its character. There are beams, doors and alcoves that have
remained part of its fabric throughout the centuries but there is
nothing gloomy and dusty here. The walls are an oyster-white and the
woodwork is in various shades of pale heritage neutral colours. Yes,
contemporary finishes but they work so well with the rustic walls and
windows in the older parts of the cottage.
One might worry that all those guests would feel a little confined in a
cottage. There are no such concerns here. It has a
wealth of rooms to suit every purpose, even on those days when the
weather does not cooperate. The younger members of the group will
gravitate to the first floor: the upstairs living room is light and
bright with doors onto a striking furnished roof terrace with the best
views in the house. That terrace will allow you a closer look at the
iconic thatch. The kids might not be so interested in the scenery when
they realise that there is a play station indoors, with a library of
There is a study on the ground floor for those who can’t afford full
work disconnection. The cottage has wireless internet access so you
will be able to keep a finger on the business pulse, although the view
of the garden from the desk will tempt you away from emails.
Next to the study is an intimate sitting room that will be the magnet
for adults on chilly evenings. Ivy Roost is a cottage for all seasons.
It has an inglenook fireplace and a box of logs. There is nothing like
the flicker of a real fire to create a calming ambiance and sense of
wellbeing, but there is fully functioning state-of-the-art central
heating in this and all other rooms. This ‘snug’ provides your
after-dinner late-night-film-watching sanctuary although it’s likely
you will be dozing before the end credits roll. There is a
surround-sound system for the TV, DVD/CD, iPod dock and radio tuner.
You will have cooked the aforementioned dinner in one of the
best-equipped and most thoughtfully designed kitchens. I
am a food writer as well as a travel writer and I was taking notes:
high-end appliances, practical features and plenty of space. The two
ovens, a microwave, a 5-ring hob, dishwasher and full-height fridge
make this a kitchen to give joy to even seasoned food professionals.
The dining table seats a dozen and is at the heart of what makes this
cottage work. It has triple-aspect windows looking over the garden, and
a high beamed ceiling. This is a true entertaining dining room
providing a venue for your most memorable celebrations.
So you have had some lovely walks and enjoyed all that the local
villages have to offer. You have tucked into a sumptuous cottage-cooked
dinner and it’s time to retire. All of you will have well-appointed
bedrooms; there are four of them and each one is different but all are
stylish and comfortable.
The master bedroom has views over the New Forest, a dressing area and
en-suite shower room. There are two further double rooms with their own
shower room on the first floor, as well as a three-bed room and full
bathroom on the ground floor. Everything has been carefully chosen to
create rooms that are attractive and restful.
Ivy Roost Cottage sets the benchmark for self-catering accommodation.
It has quality of furnishings and attention to detail that is hard to
find even in 5-star hotels. It presents a luxurious home-from-home for
relaxing and entertaining, and I recommend it highly.
Ivy Roost Cottage is found on a quiet country road in East Boldre in
the New Forest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. East Boldre has
a village shop, an organic butcher and farm shop, and two excellent
pubs are within easy reach.
It is only 90 miles from London and the journey is usually accomplished
in about 1½ hours.
The Isle of Wight ferry is 5 minutes away.
The cottage is only a short drive from the small town of Lymington on
Beaulieu village and Motor Museum are just a few miles away.
This is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt corners of
the British Isles. The New Forest is an area in southern
England with an expanse of open pasture, heath and forest and it covers
south-west Hampshire, south-east Wiltshire and on to east Dorset.
The New Forest was created as a royal hunting ground by William I, the
chap who came over in 1066. His dedication to sport has allowed these
acres (380 km2) to remain relatively unchanged, and the roaming cattle
and horses add to the charm. Yes, those animals are fearless in the
face of traffic, adopting a strategy of making eye contact with car
drivers whilst continuing to nibble the grass verge with a minimum of
two hooves on the tarmac.
Two of the top hotels in the New Forest National Park have been awarded
the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2012: Careys Manor &
SenSpa in Brockenhurst and its sister hotel The Montagu Arms in
Beaulieu have both received that honour, and one can see why.
The Careys Manor we see today was built in 1888 on the site of former
buildings named after John Carey, who was given the original Manor in
the mid-1600s by Charles II as a reward for his service. The present
owners bought the hotel in 1975 and
later the pub at the front of the hotel which was renovated and
transformed into Le Blaireau, the French Bar and Bistro, giving hotel
visitors even more dining choices.
This casual dining option tempts locals as well as hotel guests. Its
menu offers French classics in an informal setting that will raise a
smile. The walls are covered with Parisian tiles, the tables are
marble-topped, there is a 2CV embedded in the wall, and an alley from
Marseilles has been imported for your Francophile delight.
The changes didn’t stop with the bistro. In 2004, the Health Club
underwent extensive updating and was transformed into the award-winning
SenSpa. It has a pronounced Thai theme with teak carving and mirrors in
the exercise studio, black fabric and bamboo in the areas dedicated to
meditation and quiet. One doesn’t even have to move far from the
swimming pool to enjoy authentic Thai food: the Zen Garden Thai
restaurant has hand-decorated columns and exotic foliage that will
convince the visitor that they have stumbled upon a rather classy
corner of Bangkok.
Back in the main hotel, the Manor Lounge has a wood-vaulted ceiling and
was added to the main building in 1983; it is the area of choice on
cold wintery days. The huge fireplace and soft sofas make the lounge
perfect for, well, lounging and reading the papers, and possibly dozing
near those blazing logs.
The main entrance of Careys Manor is just what one would hope for in a
former Victorian hunting lodge. Its reception is oak panelled with an
inviting open fire. The imposing staircase sweeps guests up to their
rooms, which are well appointed with all the amenities befitting the
Manor’s 4-star status. The Victoriana is picturesque, but one will
appreciate the electricity, TV, hot showers, and all the other benefits
of the 21st century. There is something comforting about staying in a
country house hotel: one finds a timeless quality and a genteel
elegance. Careys Manor is one of the finest of these characterful
hotels, and it’s the attention to detail that has guests returning.
Quality continues in the dining room. Low ceilings, cornice mouldings
and wall-lights contrive to make this an intimate experience. The
tables are well-spaced, the service friendly but unobtrusive, and the
food is outstanding. The menu changes frequently to take advantage of
the freshest of local produce from land and sea, and all dishes are
presented with flair and a touch of innovation. This is British food
with a little French je ne sais quoi, each dish prepared by executive
chef Chris Wheeldon, who deserves his two AA Rosettes.
Careys Manor is a hotel for all seasons and for all occasions. Its
setting in the New Forest is ideal for long walks and for visiting
Beaulieu and other historic villages, as well as Lyndhurst with its
traditional high street and tea rooms. But the Manor has the advantage
over other hotels in the neighbourhood: it has its celebrated SenSpa
which is a destination in its own right. I have visited many excellent
spas in the UK, Europe and Asia but SenSpa is outstanding with its
pool, steam rooms, treatment rooms, and gym. It’s available for the
enjoyment of hotel guests but it’s also appreciated by non-residents
who just want day membership.
Careys Manor is whatever you want it to be – relaxing,
an outing to visit
It’s a chain of restaurants and has branches in both
London and Miami. The menu in the UK is slightly different from that
found in Florida but the style is the same, as are the majority of
It’s situated on Old Compton Street, named after Henry Compton who
raised funds for a local parish church in 1686, although this area was
later to become known for less-godly pursuits. This corner of London is
geographically and historically a long way from those sunny
neighbourhoods of Florida; it does, however, have one common ingredient
in that it became a refuge for immigrants through the ages. The area in
general and this street in particular became home for French refugees
after Charles II gave protection to that country’s fleeing Protestants
in the early 1680s.
The ground floors of those original houses have become shops and
restaurants. Balans makes its home in one of these with a small facade
which hides a sizable restaurant stretching back in Tardis fashion,
offering different and defined dining spaces for its clients, who can
enjoy Balans for almost 24 hours a day. There are few places in London,
or indeed the UK, where one can enjoy some food and perhaps a cocktail
at almost any time.
Balans Soho was warm and welcoming on a cold and wet Sunday morning. It
has the casual air of a French bistrot with a high bar at the front and
booths with red leather, velvet curtains and that distinctive
gold-marbled mirror glass that reflects a rich light. That description
of the front section is accurate, but if it makes Balans sound rather
French-classic the staff and clients contrive to make this a truly
contemporary and animated restaurant.
The daytime menu has those comforting and substantial
dishes that Sundays deserve. A full
English Breakfast is here and will likely be the plate of choice for
those early-morning risers and for those who have not yet made it to
bed – this is Soho after all. But this is Balans and it would be a
shame to stick to the traditional British fare. Steak and eggs is a
hearty start (skirt steak, potatoes, and two free-range eggs) and
appealing if you are a truck driver, but another choice for those
craving some Americana are pancakes with either fruit or bacon; or
cinnamon-sprinkled French toast served with strawberries and banana.
It’s a rib-sticking start but the fruit will make you feel noble.
We ordered pots of tea and toasted crumpets (yes, real crumpets with
the holes on top to catch melted butter) and scanned the menu for
dishes that would set us up for a day of walking. My guest was tempted
by corned beef hash with poached eggs and fire-roasted tomatoes. The
meat was proper corned beef cut from a cured joint rather than the sort
that was ubiquitous a while back – mushy and from a square tin. Lots of
onions in this version of hash, and a manly portion.
Ham and eggs was my breakfast and it was a considerable plateful of
Balans offers this same bill of fare for every day but Sundays are
special. One has time to meet friends and enjoy food together but the
occasion is so much more relaxed when it’s not you doing the early
morning cooking and the inevitable washing up. Balans is an ideal place
to take guests who can choose their brekkie favourites, but Balans
could also be your regular haunt if you are looking for a cosy
banquette to nestle with the papers and perhaps some luxurious smoked
salmon and scrambled eggs.
Monday to Thursday - 7.30am to 5am
Friday to Saturday 7.30am to 6am
Sunday - 7.30am to 2am
Old Compton Street
London, W1D 4UG
Phone: 020 7439 2183
This is the fourth volume in the Leon series, but it isn’t
a traditional restaurant book. The clue is in the name, and then in the
Leon - Family & Friends offers a diverse and eclectic collection of
recipes in a book that has that old-fashioned feel of a
Christmas Annual. You remember that bumper bump in your stocking (most
likely a pillowcase) at the bottom of the bed? It’s the book that you
started to read while surrounded by wrapping paper and you didn’t put
down till the day after Boxing Day, apart from surfacing for meals.
Yes, those much-loved Annuals are a thing of the past, but Leon -
Family & Friends is the adult, food-lover version. Light-hearted
graphics, plenty of short stories and instead of
washing-up-liquid-bottle projects there are recipes that will remain
with you far longer than that something-like-a-rocket ever did. Or
perhaps it’s more of a food family album with all those old pictures of
parents and far-away places. Our strongest memories are around food,
Leon is an 8-year-old chain of restaurants. It’s not your archetypal
fast food concept but it’s about rather good and healthy food rather
quickly. These 200 or so recipes are from friends and family of the
co-founder, John Vincent and of food consultant and cookbook author,
Kay Plunkett-Hogge, although the duo also have their own dishes and
Kay has a culinary heritage that would be the envy of any food writer.
She is steeped in traditional English food simplicity because her
parents were British. Her dad now lives in Malta, introducing a
sprinkle of Mediterranean seasoning, and she is perfectly at ease with
vibrant Thai spices as she was born and brought up in Thailand; and
there is a hint of delicious Americana as Kay lived in the US for a
number of years. Her husband, Fred, adds to the mix with his own
Caribbean connections. Yes, this couple can cook a bit, and meals chez
eux are always exciting. You won’t know what to expect but you can
guarantee it will be a delight, and if it’s Friday dinner there is sure
to be a Martini as garnish.
There are a host of Thai recipes here but Kay has ensured that they are
all simple to prepare and these days the ingredients are readily
available. Pad Krapow Neua is a flexible recipe which can take
advantage of prawns, duck, tofu, chicken, or beef. The finished dish is
topped by a deep-fried egg. That might sound a little eccentric but
eggs cooked this way are, in my humble Western opinion, superior in
texture to the European single-side fry with a bit of a baste.
If you are in the mood for less exotic fare but with flavour then
Oven-fried Chicken with Collard Greens might have your name on it. This
isn’t an apologetic poultry preparation but the sort that makes a
statement, and it could easily become a favourite. The coating is what
makes this an outstanding meal, but it’s economic and ideal for hectic
weekends when you have a house full. Collard Greens are the side dish
(a classic Soul Food vegetable staple) but if you are a stranger to a
collard, and most of us are in the UK, then use baby spring greens.
Perhaps my favourite dish from the book is Lamb Boulangère. It
takes its name from the baker who would cook roasts in his oven for the
local folks. Popping over to your nearest Greggs and asking if they
have a corner to spare might not be practical so just use your domestic
oven. The secret is to roast the meat directly on the oven shelf,
allowing the drippings to anoint the spuds below. Nothing needed with
this apart from a bottle of red and some crusty French bread. This
could be the easiest Sunday lunch you have ever made.
‘Has something for everyone’ is one of those sugary phrases that’s
right up there with ‘what a lovely baby’ and ‘you don’t look a day
older’ but Leon - Family & Friends truly has that mass appeal. Its
recipes are accessible and tempting and the family anecdotes bring the
subject to life. Cooking isn’t just about processing ingredients. It’s
personal and a reflection of who we are. You might find that some of
these recipes become your own culinary heirlooms, with this
well-thumbed book giving memories of its own after another half-century.
Leon - Family & Friends
Authors: Kay Plunkett-Hogge and John Vincent
Published by: Conran Octopus Ltd
Salt Sugar Smoke – How to
preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish
Diana Henry is an accomplished food writer, and Salt Sugar
Smoke does justice to her evident skill and passion. It’s a book you
will intend to just dip into but you will likely find, as I have done,
that it’s a culinary page-turner of inspiration and striking
This book is pertinent to the times. We want to make the best of produce
whole box of veggies and you could have a bargain
on your hands. But you’ll need to do something with that seasonal
We have a siege mentality chez nous when it comes to food – it’s a
family trait. There is a strangely addictive element to the process of
preserving. I am never happier than when the shelves are full, and
particularly with jars sporting my marvellously well-designed home-made
labels advertising the sweet or tangy treats inside. Condiments can
make the simplest of savoury foods into an exotic feast and there is a
hint of smug contentment at the breakfast table when guests ask for
more toast for more jam. All that fruit-preserving sounds very noble
but then there is that other section to the book, which is less W.I.
and more Woo Hoo!, offering recipes for making those slowly-maturing
bottles of alcohol hidden at the back of the larder.
Diana Henry has penned a beautiful and practical book that will enable
you to fill jars and bottles with foods and drinks that are good enough
to share as gifts for family and friends, but are in fact so good that
you might not want to. Diana offers recipes for some traditional goods,
but lots of her preserves are contemporary and international –
something for every taste.
The recipes for cured fish are noteworthy. Pickled Lox are pickled
salmon fillets and were a mainstay of Jewish homes in old New York.
Diana offers a serving suggestion of these fish with waxy boiled
potatoes, but the regular snack for those in the Big Apple was lox
partnered with a bagel.
My favourite recipe from the fishy fare is Beetroot-cured Gravlax. It
looks spectacular as a centrepiece for any buffet but especially at
Christmas, as the colour is so vibrant and festive. This recipe would
feed more than a dozen people but it could be reduced if you don’t have
that many friends! It’s a handy dish for entertaining as all the work
is done well in advance, although I would counsel spending a few
moments sharpening your best knife just before your guests arrive: the
slices of Gravlax need to be thin and regular.
Scarlet Pepper and Chilli Jam is similar to a condiment I first tried
about 20 years ago on a friend’s farm in California. It’s that sweet
and hot combination that is mouth-watering. This is a wonderful recipe
for those few summer weeks when red peppers are at a reasonable price.
Find a chilli that works best for your taste – there are so many around
and they vary in potency. This jam also works using green chillies,
which will give the jars a bejewelled shine.
The drinks chapter has a host of Vodka-based recipes and there are a
couple that I’ll be making right away. Krupnik is delicious and a
spirit that I first tried years ago at Baltic restaurant in London,
which had a display of gallon demi-johns filled with flavoured vodka,
and it would have been rude not to try. Krupnik is sweet, comforting
Another one to make for Christmas is Gdansk Vodka. This has complex and
rich flavours that would be warming on a winter’s night. It’s said to
be best after four years but I would think it would only last that long
if you had forgotten where you put it.
Salt Sugar Smoke – How to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish is
a book to use and one of the best on the subject that I have come
across. There are a few of the usual suspects and the book is no worse
for their inclusion, but there is so much more that is new and
Salt Sugar Smoke – How to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish
Author: Diana Henry
Published by: Mitchell Beazley
Price : £20
Tiny Food Party
This is an amusing book that offers tiny food. You will
likely not have heard of that term, but think bite-sized portions of a
whole variety of dishes, including some that you didn’t ever think
could be reduced to one or two mouthfuls.
Tiny Food Party offers suggestions for tiny food, but the
party can be for as many people as you like. Most sophisticated
gatherings these days have trays of delicate,
attractive and delicious nibbles that can be enjoyed at a leisurely
pace while talking to one’s friends and sipping champagne (or beer or
cola or Continental mineral water). Food helps to create an ambiance.
Jenny Park is a food stylist, Teri Lyn Fisher is a photographer and
their professional partnership has resulted in a delightful volume that
offers practical recipes for small bites that taste as good as they
look. This isn’t just food for posh ladies at cocktail parties,
although there is plenty that will tempt those demanding palates.
There are nibbles in Tiny Food Party that range from the dainty and
beautiful to the robust and substantial. There are finger foods for
every occasion, from the smartest of gatherings when you might want to
impress your guests, to those evenings when you want a variety of
well-presented snacks that will look more complicated than they really
There are four main chapters: Tiny Snack Party, Tiny Dinner Party, Tiny
Dessert Party, Tiny Cocktail Party – a delicious spread, but the
authors won’t mind if you mix and match. Think of these petite dishes
as additions to your meze or tapas repertoire. Baby Bolinhos de
Bacalhau wouldn’t be out of place in the smartest of bars in Portugal.
The recipe takes advantage of flavourful salt cod. Don’t try making
this with regular cod: it needs the distinct taste and texture of the
Pajeon are in the Snacks section but they are refined enough to be
included in the Cocktail chapter as well. These miniature shrimp
pancakes are Korean and exotic without being over-spiced – the punch
comes from the dipping sauce. The filling can be changed if you want to
create a vegetarian pancake. The batter is simple and can be made in
The Dinner Party menu suggests some small but rib-sticking options
ideal for those times when a cheese straw would never be enough. Baby
Shepherds Pies are a take on a traditional family favourite. Change
that minced lamb to beef and you have the ever-popular Cottage pie.
They taste just like the original but a pastry case keeps your fingers
Dessert must be part of any balanced diet and Mini Mochi Ice Cream
Balls will likely be new to your guests. The mochi wrapper contains
green tea powder and are a Japanese sweet or dessert. It’s a confection
that is prized just as much for its texture as its taste, and the
addition of green tea ice cream makes this event finale still more
Tiny Food Party has a wealth of ideas for imaginative miniature dishes.
It will inspire you to come up with your own recipes. There is nothing
too taxing, making this a book not only for the experienced home cook
but it might even encourage youngsters into the kitchen. A gift to be
welcomed by anybody who entertains at home – and the festive season
will soon be with us!
Tiny Food Party
Authors: Jenny Park and Teri Lyn Fisher
Published by: Quirk Books
America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
We in the UK can now watch America’s Test Kitchen, hosted
by Chris Kimble, on PBS. That’s a non-commercial TV station from the US
and they are famed for their quality broadcasting. Yes, they offer
programmes that will appeal to American viewers, but so much of that is
equally pertinent to us on the right-hand-side of the pond.
The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook is a book to use. It
is exactly the style of recipe book that can stay in the kitchen, will
lay flat on the counter and provide recipes that won’t break the bank –
and that’s important in these gloomy times.
This ring-bound and chunky folder offers more than 750 recipes that can
be ready in 45 minutes or less. It takes advantage of fresh ingredients
as well as some convenience products available across the US, but its
strength lies in providing the inspiration to actually get into the
kitchen to cook.
There is a page of ‘Putting Precooked Rice to Work’. There are packets
of ready-cooked rice commercially available, but if you don’t have
access to such products then just make extra rice when you are doing
your regular cooking and put 2 cups-worth into bags and freeze them.
The suggestions here are for Chicken Divan Rice Casserole,
Asian-Inspired Chicken and Rice, and several others that take advantage
of the aforementioned rice along with left-over chicken. Practical,
fast, inexpensive and delicious meals for a family of four.
Salmon is a good buy these days and can be found in freezer cabinets:
then it’s on hand when you have little time. Choose the best quality
you can find. The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook has
Honey-Lime Glazed Salmon, but then it goes on to offer several
variations, as with many recipes here.
Fish of every kind is quick to cook and you will be blessed if your
homeward commute takes you via a good fishmonger or fresh-fish counter
in your supermarket. Try Sesame-Crusted Tuna with Wasabi Dressing – you
could serve this with rice or a salad. Very smart and very healthy.
The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook is a one-stop
every-day recipe book that doesn’t expect the user to know anything
about cooking. It has a wealth of recipes that are simple to follow and
step-by-step pictures to help the novice – soups, pasta, fish, meat,
desserts – everything you will need to feed your family. This isn’t
extravagant cooking but some of the dishes are stylish enough to serve
to dinner-party guests. Every course is considered and 750 recipes will
go a long way to providing plenty of choice for even those picky eaters
at your dinner table. And it’s The America’s Test Kitchen, so you know
those recipes will work. Great value for money.
The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
Publisher: America's Test Kitchen
Only One Indian
It’s every inch a limited edition book. In fact there are
a lot of inches, oozing quality, artistry, style and delicious
food. Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian is a coffee-table book that is
truly the size of a small coffee table, but will likely be more
remarked upon than a four-legged piece of pine. This is the stuff of
which cookbook heirlooms are made.
Satwant Singh ‘Sat’ Bains is chef-proprietor of the two Michelin star
‘Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms’ in Nottingham. He won, as so many
fine chefs have, the prestigious Roux Scholarship in 1999 and was also
one of the winners on the BBC show Great British Menu in 2007.
Chef Sat Bains doesn’t come from a family of restaurateurs or food
writers, although you could say that his early career was associated
with the printed word: he had a paper round. But by the age of 21, he
signed up for a course at Derby College. It wasn’t what Sat would
describe as a serious career move, as he says he only picked the
catering course because it had lots of girls on it.
Chef Sat has worked for the best restaurants all over Europe and the
experience has served him well. He became head chef at the Hotel des
Clos in Nottingham, which was rebranded and relaunched as Restaurant
Sat Bains with Rooms in November 2002. It was awarded a Michelin star
in 2003, and a second star was added to that culinary firmament in 2011.
This first edition of Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian
striking slipcase that protects the soft, black
and embossed linen cover of this unique and sizable tome. Face
Publications always manage to present something daring and cutting-edge.
The large pages are a showcase for stunning photography by John
Arandhara-Blackwell. It’s food but it’s also Sat's passion: he is a
real person and a great character; he is easy to warm to and identify
with. The recipes might be a little challenging but if you break them
down into their constituent parts then you can cook remarkable food.
It’s about practice and confidence. Sat presents seasonal produce with
Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian offers the enticing opportunity of
being able to order dishes featured in the book at Restaurant Sat Bains
even when they’re not on the restaurant’s current menu – that might
save you the trouble of investing in a Thermomix or a pint and a half
of liquid nitrogen. You can actually taste the food that so
marvellously decorates the pages of this book. I’ll be ordering Mutton,
Onion Textures or perhaps Ham, Eggs, Peas ...or both. And then there is
pud: I would go for Buckthorn with a chaser of Peach, Thyme,
Gingerbread. A few visits are in order, and if Michelin were not
disappointed then I know I won’t be.
I have been a cookbook reviewer for the past six years and I am always
happy to suggest books to suit families, home bakers, those who want
budget meals or a touch of the exotic from time to time. They will
remain the cornerstone of my reviews but it’s refreshing periodically
to have the joy of leafing through an exceptional book that won’t ever
be propped up on the kitchen counter. Yes, it’s unashamedly cheffy and
there is the odd gadget that you might not have in your domestic
kitchen, and a few ingredients that aren’t available at the corner shop.
Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian is about inspiration and
innovation but it’s not a dry and technical masterwork. Sat has a great
sense of humour and the contemporary format is engaging. It’s gift
quality and noteworthy, and stands a chance of becoming a gastronomic
collectable ...I certainly won’t be giving my copy away. I might be
getting a more substantial coffee table, though.
Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian
Author: Sat Bains
Published by: Face Publications
Dimensions: 360x270x40mm, boxed: 460x290x60mm
This book is only available through Face Publications and at Restaurant
Sat Bains. www.facepublications.com.
Chef Maria Elia
She is attractive, petite and has a smile that seems a
permanent fixture. Her warm and relaxed demeanour is indeed a
genuine facet of her character, but so is her consummate
professionalism and thirst for excellence. She is a successful chef and
she just happens to be a woman.
I asked Maria Elia about her childhood memories. “My earliest memory is
in fact of food. My dad had a restaurant in Richmond, Surrey, and I
remember being there and tasting things, absorbing the atmosphere. Mum,
who ran front-of-house, would pick me up from nursery and take me there
and I would sit in the kitchen and watch him cook. He would let me do
little jobs like grating the parmesan, or feeding potatoes into the
rumbler, and at four years old that had a great effect on me.”
What were Maria’s most memorable childhood meals? “I can think of some
awful dishes!” Maria laughs. “My sister used to make chili con carne
from a packet. Mum used to make shepherd’s pie and marrowfat peas. My
best friend at school, her mum used to make a really nice shepherd’s
pie with baked beans in it. My auntie in Wales used to make corned beef
Cornish pasties – I loved going to Wales! When we were home my dad used
to bring in a take-away of souvlaki in a lovely pitta bread – my
Maria’s dad is Greek Cypriot and his culinary heritage has provided
more food memories. “We would go to Greek weddings on Sundays
because my dad always knew someone who was getting married. At the
reception I would marvel at all those tables full of food! The best bit
was at the end, when we left, and we were all given a little bag of
sugared almonds or macaroons, and mum would give me hers, too – I loved
that! So on Mondays my school lunchbox would always contain things like
Greek stuffed vine leaves and those macaroons.
“So I’m lucky that I had a Greek dad and an English mum. She would cook
traditional dishes like roast dinners, and my dad Greek meals, so I got
the best of both worlds. I think that what you eat as a child shapes
your appetite for the rest of your life. These days, of course, we are
exposed to many more influences. My dad wasn’t from a family of chefs,
but in his village in the mountains everyone knew how to cook the local
produce, the pigs, goats and sheep – there were no ‘chefs’.”
Did having a chef and restaurant-owner father prepare Maria for her
hectic life in the professional kitchen? “There were times when my dad
was not running a restaurant, and instead he was cheffing for somebody
else or he had a butchery round, so I was always exposed to food and
restaurants, late hours, everyone always at work, busy – I liked that.
When I left school I was
had the Café Royal, and a hotel in the City called City
Yacht – fine-dining establishments. So I was really lucky to be one of
eight taken on that year.
“I knew, at sixteen, that front-of-house was just as important as the
kitchen, having done some waitressing, and I wanted to be qualified in
both. I went to college, I think, with my eyes wide open, although the
cookery part of the course was quite hard: they wanted to teach us,
say, the French way which would take four hours, whereas in a
restaurant kitchen you learn how to do it in maybe one hour!
“As an apprentice, of course I didn’t earn much, but then I was always
at work: pushing the fat from saddles of lamb through the mincer,
cutting the fins off what seemed like 250 trout with iron-age scissors
that gave you blisters! You couldn’t complain, or show any signs of
weakness, or else...
“In 1998, while I was working as a sous-chef at Delfina, I was lucky
enough to get a stage at El Bulli, and that had a big impact. When I
walked in I thought, ‘This is the show-kitchen, where’s the real
kitchen? Oh, this is the kitchen!” I’d never seen a place like this
before – all rounded edges, induction hobs, and there was no gas! Chef
Ferran Adrià told me, ‘Nothing’s impossible; just open your eyes
and start to think outside the box. Everything you thought you knew,
throw out of the window, this is a different way. If it works and it
tastes good, why not?’
“So when I came back from Spain I was made head chef at Delfina. I
wanted to start afresh; I was trying all sorts of things, saying,
‘Taste this, taste this...’, and my goal was to create ‘food with no
boundaries’. At the same time I became aware of the concerns over the
sustainability of fish stocks around the UK. I looked at the balance
between that and the air-miles involved in bringing fish like
barramundi in from Australia, and decided that it was better to
introduce guests to more unusual and plentiful fish, rather than giving
them fish that they might eat at home.
“I was there for ten years, and every week was different. We turned
Delfina into a dining ‘destination’. When it changed hands it seemed
like the end of an era. I continued to work for them for a while, but I
went for an interview for another job, and we were about an hour
through the interview before I learnt that it was going to be a
vegetarian restaurant! This would be a really big challenge. I went on
holiday to Morocco and was really excited by the food there; I filled a
notebook with ideas. When I returned, I found an email from Kyle Cathie
inviting me to write my first cookbook – and it was to be vegetarian!
(The Modern Vegetarian, published April 2009.) That was a great
coincidence, and I got quite excited about the idea of the vegetarian
restaurant. I worked out menus, costed everything, but in the end that
project ran into planning permission problems.
"While doing a tour of Billingsgate fish market I was introduced to
somebody connected with the Whitechapel Gallery; later I got a phone
call asking if I would consider opening up the Whitechapel Gallery
Dining Room and Café. Things do happen for a reason. Every
morning we met in the boardroom to discuss things as a group, which was
a totally different way of working for me, and it was refreshing.
Whitechapel was more ‘modern British’, with great seasonal produce,
totally different, so I took it as far as I could." The restaurant
received positive reviews and was awarded 2 AA Rosettes along with a
mention in the Michelin Guide.
“I did some consultancy work while writing my book, and have been
working with the Joseph stores at Joe’s Café helping to rebrand
it. I finished my latest book last week, and now I feel like writing
another one, and perhaps opening another restaurant!”
What kind of profile would you envisage for your own restaurant? Maria
muses on the future: “It needs to be pitched at the right price –
à la carte at £28 for a main course is not going to do it.
I want people to sit down in my restaurant, take the first mouthful and
say, ‘This really is something! Wow, I’ve never tasted this before! I
want to come back.’
“Working at a restaurant I normally use the kitchen door, of course,
but at least once a day I walk in the front door to see the place as
customers see it.” And I look forward to one day walking through that
door to Maria’s own restaurant, where I will be assured of a delightful
meal with just a hint of Greek herbs and a huge portion of warm
London restaurant review: Hummus
Bros – Fun family fare
An invitation to review Hummus Bros! Aren’t they a
tailoring company? Posh morning coats for hire, wedding togs? Perhaps
dinner jackets – it’s a restaurant review site, after all. No, dear
sartorially inclined reader, Hummus Bros are a couple of lads (although
not actually brothers) who have opened three rather unique casual
restaurants with take-away counters.
Well, there are lots of casual eateries strewn across the length and
breadth of London, so what makes Hummus Bros so noteworthy? It’s the
food on offer. No sign of a cool-cabinet stuffed with under-stuffed
iffy sarnies. No aroma of greasy burgery bits in buns, and the food
here is a world away from dubious cheap ethnic lunches.
So what do Hummus Bros sell? Hummus! We have all bought little tubs of
this from our local supermarkets where it’s presented as a delicate
spread, an addition to a summer buffet table rather than any sort of
main event. We just don’t quite know what to do with it but we buy it
because it makes us look cosmopolitan.
This chickpea confection has not, until now, been part of the UK
culinary tradition. Only a few of us have fond memories of the hummus
our grandmothers used to make. But we would have said the same of
Indian food a few years ago.
Hummus Bros presents the eponymous dish as a real meal and although
that’s new to us here, it is very much a part of the Middle Eastern
fashion of eating. It’s a food that ticks all the practical and
epicurean boxes for me. It’s typical comfort food with a creamy texture
and mild flavour. It’s natural and healthy and it’s easy to eat – in
fact so easy that you don’t even need cutlery, although those nice
brothers do provide ecologically sound wooden forks for the overly
Hummus is converted from a snack into a meal by the addition of
flavourful toppings. There are selections of standards that are
advertised on the menu and there are weekly specials to keep the
regulars engaged. For those who want to perk up the paste there are
bottles of garlic and lemon to sprinkle. Mixed vegetable salad,
tabouleh (bulgar wheat with finely chopped red peppers, tomatoes,
cucumbers, coriander, parsley and mint – authentic with lots of herbs),
Greek salad, smoky barbecued aubergine, falafel salad are all offered
as side dishes.
There are two sizes available: a small bowl of topped hummus
constitutes a light lunch, and a regular portion is a dinner for the
seriously peckish. The mushroom topping with caramelised onions is a
sweet vegetarian option for those who want a hearty and flavourful
meal. All bowls of hummus have brown fluffy pitta bread included:
delicious, and acting as your edible scoop.
Committed carnivores will note that Hummus Bros is not a preachy,
worthy, tie-dye, sandal- toting kinda place. The food isn’t about
feeling noble it’s about feeling full, so chunky beef – a seasonal,
slow cooked stew of tender meat – is one of the suggested toppings, and
it’s truly melting. There is also chicken and that, along with
guacamole, is the most popular of garnishes.
I am a collector of cookbooks so a 5,000-year old recipe was bound to
grab my attention. Fava beans with slow-cooked free-range egg is
a popular breakfast dish in Egypt. I had heard about it but here was my
chance to try it. Anything that’s been on the menu for that long has
evidently got something going for it. After one bowl I am hooked. It’s
a must-try signature dish of smooth hummus and rich, soft beans with
slices of tinted eggs, the addition of which turns a sustaining meal
into a feast. I agree it might not sound a stunner, but it will likely
turn you away from those golden arches.
Talking of fast food outlets... nothing wrong with them, the problem
rests with us, the buying public. If we eat those burgers in moderation
then we have nothing to fear. They provide a meal on the trot and we
have all enjoyed them from time to time when those hunger pangs kick in
and a Mcwendyking is all that’s handy. But we want to encourage our
kids to adopt good eating habits, healthy foods that they will be keen
to eat. Hummus Bros could take the place of burger bars and huts of
pizza. Hummus is kid friendly. The texture is appealing to even the
fussiest of toddlers. The standard dish of hummus with a helping of
chickpeas is fun to eat, with no strong seasonings. Tiny fingers will
grab the peas and little hands will dip the pitta. No crusts to chew so
that’s yet another hurdle out of the way. This food isn’t dumbed down
for children but you will find that they will love to eat just the same
dishes as mum and dad; and mum and dad will love that the kids are
eating! Good for most folks with allergies, as well.
Hummus Bros is keen to stress its eco-friendly philosophy but you won’t
become a regular here for that reason. You’ll return for the food.
The Fulham Road isn’t my usual hunting ground, although
it’s well served by public transport and easily accessible, but after
my recent dining experience I may well become a habitué of that
neighbourhood. Penny Black sits at number 212 as a tastefully
understated icon of real British Food, and is unique in several regards.
The name comes from the stamp, or more accurately some prints of that
philatelic classic. It wasn’t a long-lived symbol of Victorian
communication but it was a trail-blazer, and the eponymous restaurant
might well become just that for the culinary scene in this area. Tony
Ho and his two partners have 3 life-times worth of experience in
opening restaurants, so longevity can reasonably be assured.
The facade is in fact quite muted: a vision of charcoal grey and simple
frosted windows. Those windows do hide the interior somewhat, but I
rather favour the anonymity and those windows could become a trade-mark
for future restaurants – well, I can imagine that anything this good is
bound to become a small and classy chain.
There were a couple of tables outside and those were already occupied
by diners enjoying a glass of British fizz chosen from the quite
remarkable wine list, in fact a chunky catalogue offering many
noteworthy wines, almost all by the glass. Tony Ho has a passion for
wine, and that’s proving to be an asset now that he has his own
One enters to find that mysterious interior is in fact contemporary and
welcoming. A small lounge area has become popular for pre-meal drinks,
and for leisurely coffees after what is sure to be a copious and
full-on feed. Hospitality is generous here and one is bound to linger.
Tony explained that they wanted to create a home-from-home for their
guests – the foodie equivalent of the old-fashioned pub for the
drinking fraternity. A place to bring the family for Sunday lunch (soon
to be reviewed here).
The décor is tasteful and unfussy with aubergine and white walls
which sport not only those Penny Blacks but other pop-art prints and a
rather rude Salvador Dali. (Sit your granny under that and she will
never notice, although she will wonder why everyone is smiling at her.)
Crisp white linen reinforces the impression that this is probably going
to be a fine dining restaurant – traditional food but a high-end
I would describe the menu as British, comforting, vibrant and
inspiring. It’s not retro but it is definitely traditional. The
ingredients are fresh and seasonal, and showcase the best from these
shores and inland as well. Favourite and simple dishes, and some
It was a hot evening so a salad was on the cards for this sticky
reviewer. Ham, goat’s cheese and peaches garnished with mixed leaves
was a substantial plateful. The ham was hand carved, moist and
delicious, the cheese tangy and the peaches ripe, sweet and
summery. A flavourful introduction to the high standards of both
presentation and style.
My guest chose Potted Devon shrimps, watercress, and wholemeal toast.
The shrimps had the real taste of the sea. The recipient of this bounty
was born and bred on the coast and he proclaimed this seafood dish to
be as good as his childhood memories of Sunday teatime. A must-try
whenever it’s on the menu.
Toad in the Hole was my main course. This isn’t a dish with which to be
cheffy. Real toads and a batter made with crushed Mongolian
blue wheat flour isn’t the way to go when preparing such a British
standard. The reality at Penny Black was just what you would hope to
find: an individual pud with three well-seasoned and meaty bangers, a
garnish of lightly cooked carrots and broccoli, and gravy on the side.
I would describe this as “right” and that’s just how it should be.
The Beef Wellington here is already a signature dish and it’s easy to
see why. This was a manly meal of tender and pink-tinged meat encased
in flaky pastry. This is the posh face of standard British cuisine. It
is, in my experience, a difficult dish to do well at home and one best
left to the experts. Meat isn’t cheap and you don’t want to ruin
it so come to Penny Black instead. My guest was glowing with replete
satisfaction... but he still had space for dessert.
What could be more comforting than Bread and Butter Pudding? It was a
regular highlight for dinner at grandma’s. It’s an economic
dessert and a comforting stunner. It should be custardy and unctuous
and piping hot; this one ticked all the boxes.
Penny Black will stick longer than the stamp ever did. One can try and
analyse the reasons it will, but it’s probably enough to say that it’s
quite simply everything a good British restaurant should be. It
has already attracted followers who first came out of curiosity, but
who return because the food and the service will be predictably good.
London restaurant review: Penny Black Restaurant
212 Fulham Road, Chelsea, London SW10 9PJ
Phone: 0845 838 8998
Visit Penny Black here
Beerhouse - Tower Hill
What can be more iconic than the Tower of London? Its
imposing stones and gilded embellishments still have
wow factor. The building must have filled the local population with awe
when first erected back in the early 1080s. William the Conqueror began
to build a massive tower at the centre of his London home, and down the
centuries successive kings have added to the complex.
So you have spent a day of leisure by the Thames. You have had a guided
tour with a Yeoman. (Not to be missed: each of these gentlemen has had
years of service in the army and has rafts of stories to tell.) You now
need some food. A proper meal. Something hearty, reasonable price, not
too exotic as Martha gets hiccoughs if she eats spice, and Abner likes
a slice of meat that he can recognise.
Bavarian Beerhouse at Tower Hill (there is another branch at Old
Street) opened in May 2010. It’s just 50 metres from Tower Hill
Underground station and built under the railway bridge just to the
right of the station exit. The previous tenants were Pitcher and Piano
but it seems it was time for a change. It’s rumoured that the Bavarian
Beerhouse tripled their predecessor’s revenue within the first month.
The Old Street venue was very much a party place but Tower Hill has
loftier horizons... at least on the ground floor. This is a cool,
contemporary restaurant space with Bavarian accents. There are some of
the traditional benches and rustic touches but the ambiance, at least
during the day and early evening, is of casual but calm dining.
The basement level boasts several adjoining rooms and has an atmosphere
similar to that of the Old Street branch. This is more for the lads’
night out or for blokey gatherings to watch sports and the like. A
stag-night favourite, one would imagine. Those long
benches again and low ceilings and its own bar. The basement is ideal
for private functions.
We, an elderly and sedate couple, were seeking some food rather than a
shot-drinking competition. I loved the food at Old Street and it’s just
as good at Tower Hill. It’s a shame that German food is taken as
something of a joke. These are real and unfussy dishes, and I am
a fan. There are sausages aplenty as one would expect, and pork shanks
to satisfy the most robust of rugby players, but I love Jäger
Schnitzel - pork escalope topped with a creamy mushroom sauce and
served with a mound of thin fries. One needs to come hungry to take
advantage of these large portions.
May has a ‘special’: White Asparagus from Germany (Weisser Deutscher
Spargel aus Deutschland). It’s an annual festival of this unique
vegetable, thicker than the usual green asparagus and with a delicate
flavour. There are various dishes showcasing these creamy white and
chunky spears: a soup, or simply served with sauce and boiled potatoes,
or with Black Forest ham. My companion chose breaded pork escalope
topped with white asparagus and Hollandaise sauce, garnished with fried
potatoes. A substantial plateful which was pronounced a winner.
Too full for a dessert we did succumb to shots. No, we
didn’t down them in one gulp and we only tried one each, as a journey
the length of the District Line beckoned. My guest ordered the
Oktoberfest Pudding Schnapps which was berry-based, sweet and dark –
almost Christmassy. I was taken by the Apple Schnapps (Apfelkorn)
because I reasoned it would constitute one of my 5 a day. This was a
stunner and I could happily have consumed several more had time
allowed. Perhaps I have an excuse for a return visit.
Bavarian Beerhouse - Tower Hill is bound to be popular. It’s evidently
already the preferred staging post for local workers and couples
heading West for evenings out. It’s a light, bright and friendly spot
to enjoy good traditional fare. I wish it continued success.
London Restaurant review: Bavarian Beerhouse - Tower Hill
The Arches, 9 Crutched Friars, London EC3N 2AU
Phone 0844 330 20 05
Visit Bavarian Beerhouse here
Bavarian Beerhouse - Old Street
190 City Road, London EC1V 2QH
Cookbook review: Rose Petal Jam
Recipes and Stories from a Summer in Poland
The very title ‘Rose Petal Jam’ evokes shimmering
heat-hazed visions of meadows, trees, clear sky, and perfume wafting on
a warm breeze. One could be anywhere: England on an August afternoon,
perhaps Italy when the world is quiet after lunch. But this book
concerns itself with Poland, and it is enticing.
Rose Petal Jam – Recipes and Stories from a Summer in Poland allows me
to indulge my twin passions of food and travel. It masterfully charts a
path between cookbook and travelogue, and is an illustration of how
something can grow to be more than the sum of its parts.
Beata Zatorska had penned a cookbook, but wouldn’t it have been lacking
something without those touching family stories? She has written a
charming travel book about her beloved Poland, and food has always been
central to the country, its culture and its heritage. Who could
describe Poland and not mention a few of its celebrated dishes? Beata
has achieved a balance that will enthral the home cook and have those
with itchy feet reaching for the AA Big Road Atlas (now extended
These are not just random Polish recipes. This book is an archive of
Beata’s grandmother’s dishes. She was herself a chef and passed on her
passion for food to her granddaughter. So many of the dishes included
have a story – like the stuffed eggs that Beata’s grandmother served
the anxious youngster on the day of her exams. Those exams allowed
Beata eventually to become a doctor.
The Polish kitchen makes the very best of seasonal produce. There is
nothing exotic here, but this book does present a raft of unique (to us
in the UK, at least) ideas for using fruit, vegetables and meat. There
are no extravagant ingredients. You will likely have everything you
need already in your larder or at your local grocers. It won’t be
necessary to buy ethnic kitchen gadgets imported from Warszawa.
Kisiel – Strawberry Fruit Pudding – is a good example of the style of
practical, simple and economic recipes here. Few ingredients, and not a
costly dish if one uses fruit at its summery best rather than making
this for Boxing Day with southern-hemisphere strawberries.
The British climate allows us to take full advantage of wintery dishes
for a full nine months of the year, so I have already pencilled in
Potato Dumplings to garnish a rich and flavourful Polish Beef Goulash.
This is a little different from the Hungarian version, which is
traditionally more of a soup than a stew. A tablespoon of dill is the
surprise ingredient here.
Pierogi are the Polish equivalent of ravioli and my favourites are
those filled with potatoes and cheese. They are described as Russian
Pierogi but they are ubiquitous at the Polish dinner table ...unless my
Polish friends are really Russians. Serve with melted butter and a
garnish of tangy sour cream or even crème fraîche.
We are becoming more familiar with Polish food in the UK. There are
numerous supermarkets offering Polish delicacies in jar and tin, but we
are finding more cafés and delis with shelves and counters laden
with cakes and pastries and ready-made meals. I have not yet come
across Rose Petal Jam but now I can make my own ...along with a few
bottles of pepper vodka ...and perhaps a dish of sweet Angel Wings
alongside. Buy two copies of this book: keep one on the book shelves as
a travel guide for the food lover, and leave the other, soon to be
butter-smeared, in the kitchen as a well-used cookbook and a reminder
of the reasons you will want to visit Poland.
This is a sumptuous and heart-warming book with stunning photography by
Beata’s husband, Simon Target. So this is a family food memoir that we
are invited to borrow. The memories might not be ours but a trip to
Poland will rectify that.
Cookbook review: Rose Petal Jam – Recipes and Stories from a Summer in
Author: Beata Zatorska, Photography by Simon Target
Published by: Tabula Books
Brasserie Worcestershire for dinner
One can search for Italian food in all the famous towns
that boast true Italian or Tuscan culinary heritage: Florence, Siena,
Hawbridge, Pisa, Grosseto. We take advantage of fresh produce,
delicious dressed pasta and desserts fit to ruin any diet. The tourist
soaks up the history of those Italian... but... Hawbridge doesn’t sound
very Italian. Well, it truly is a long way from Italy but it can still
be described as a culinary hub, and in our own very accessible
This transplantation is not due to continental drift. It’s just the home
The experience at the espresso machine obviously inspired Felice. At
fourteen, he embarked on a three-year cookery course at
the Ferdinando Martini Catering College in Montecatini Terme. He worked
in hotel kitchens and ski resorts during his holidays. In 1988 he was
invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Theatre restaurants as a Commis
Chef. Later, Felice became head chef at the Seymour House Hotel in
Chipping Campden and eventually became Chef Manager, remaining there
for over 15 years.
In 2004 Felice and his wife Fiorinda opened their own restaurant.
Fusion opened originally in Alcester; eighteen months later they moved
to a more suitable site and that was the Bird in Hand, Hawbridge,
Stoulton, Worcestershire, where they’ve now settled.
Felice now owns two award-winning restaurants in Worcestershire -
Fusion Brasserie and Fusion Too. His wife and son Daniel work with him,
Fiorinda as front of house manager and Daniel as a chef. Felice is
passionate about local ingredients and works with growers and producers
to promote even the least-adored veggies like the humble sprout. The
menu changes with the seasons so every visit will offer something new.
We were looking forward to good food in a casual and contemporary
restaurant. Contemporary, yes, but Fusion isn’t stark and minimalist.
The walls are painted and unfussy, but the muted maroon and cream were
thoughtful colours that helped to create a cosy ambiance in an open
restaurant space. I was very much taken by the unique salt and pepper
mills on each table. These and other food-related products can be yours
with no need to resort to theft. Fusion has its own shop displaying the
chef’s food products and local crafts.
We had earlier enjoyed a good lunch and arrived less than ravenous, so
settled on what we thought would be moderate-sized dishes. But this
truly was a little bit of Italy and we soon realised that we would go
home stuffed and contented.
We started with breads and dips – Pane casereccio – artisan breads,
served with sun-blush tomato and fusion hummus. This was a considerable
display of the chef’s baking skills as well as a presentation of simple
yet flavourful spreads. Some fruity olive oil and balsamic vinegar
wafted us back to a much less comfortable restaurant in southern Italy
many years ago. No, the best Italian restaurants are not necessarily
back in the old country.
My companion was tempted by the prospect of some beef - Filetto al
Piatto. Thin slices of Aberdeen Angus placed on an extremely hot plate
arrived sizzling and in theatrical fashion, aromatic with garlic and
herbs. The chunky chips were indeed just that – chunky, crisp on the
outside with fluffy interior. My guest was delighted with his
meal and pronounced the meat to be tender and full of flavour. A
deceptively simple dish that once again relies on the quality of the
key ingredient. This is a restaurant that has confidence in its
I felt a pasta was in order. Fusion is, after all, an Italian
restaurant. Just a modest bowl of oil- and garlic-dressed pasta with
some sweet sprouting greens was what I expected and that’s what I got.
Well, not a modest bowl – remember, this is transplanted Italy. The
pasta was cooked, as one would expect, to perfection – al dente. Oil,
but just enough, chilli sufficient to create a glow, and garlic just
for pure rich flavour. A classic dish and enough to defeat a rugby
Fiorinda tempted us with a little taste of dessert. Six little culinary
masterpieces arrived and proved the rule that states that however full
one is there is always a little nook available for something sweet. We
nibbled sponge pudding, savoured sorbet, treated ourselves to just
another bite of tiramisu... The list seemed endless but we enjoyed
those sweets so much that we were glad it was.
We had intended an early night but in true Italian fashion the conversation
Some restaurants are good, there are a few that are
noteworthy, there are others that have memorable food and more that
have striking decor but it’s rare to find a restaurant that can boast a
brace of exceptional attributes. La Porte des Indes is that almost
unique establishment, having both gorgeous food and stunning
surroundings. After just one year of business the restaurant was
nominated for ‘Best Indian Restaurant’ by Carlton London Restaurant
Awards and was awarded ‘Best Indian’ and ‘Best UK’ Restaurant by the
Good Curry Guide.
But why “La Porte des Indes”? Yes, you are quite right, dear reader, it
is French. You might know of The Gateway to India which is a monumental
arch in Mumbai, and La Porte des Indes is French for very much the same
thing. The restaurant presents dishes from many regions of India and
draws on the culinary heritage of French India in particular.
The Union Territory of Pondicherry includes four enclaves located in
three states of South India. It is also known as The French Riviera of
the East (La Côte d'Azur de l'Est) and was considered as part of
France from 1814 till 1954, the date at which it joined the rest of the
by now independent India. The French connection is still evident in
accent, food and architecture.
I was expecting something a bit special. I had done my homework and was
struck by the fact that nobody
that I had talked to had anything other than high
praise for this establishment. La Porte des Indes remains as an
example, in my opinion, of how to get it right. It’s not the cheapest
food around but it’s delicious, well presented and the ambiance is
Just a few minutes from Marble Arch station, La Porte des Indes
occupies a corner plot at a quiet intersection. It’s something of a
Tardis of a building having around 350 covers. Although looking smart
and like a French Cafe from the outside, the inside opens to the most
amazing scene. It’s a two storey former Edwardian ballroom. The ground
floor balcony restaurant opens onto a lower level with a 40-foot
waterfall and a sweeping marble staircase for good measure. Palms add
to the exotic décor which is strikingly Indian-colonial but it
is tasteful rather than kitsch. One’s eye is caught by a painting here,
a wood carving there, a Mogul mural or two, and a glass-domed roof.
Panelled walls and ornamental coving remind us of days when the British
building industry offered an alternative to mediocrity and stippled,
The Jungle Bar on the lower floor is well worth a visit. It has a
tradition of peanut shell-throwing started by some of its celeb
patrons. It has a relaxed and convivial atmosphere with a hunting theme
incorporating tiger-skin rugs and animal paintings recalling the days
when one would travel the Empire to shoot anything with fur or
feathers. There is a good selection of exotic cocktails here to start
your evening. Rain Forest is a non-alcoholic cocktail of freshly
squeezed apple juice, orange juice and root ginger. Refreshing with a
definite touch of the Orient.
La Porte des Indes has a menu that is out of the ordinary. Yes, there
is Chicken Tikka Masala and Vegetable Biryani but take advantage of
your visit and try some less familiar fare. There are dishes here that
you won’t find anywhere else. Head Chef Mehernosh Mody and a battery of
other chefs execute regional specialities with flair. The presentation
of the food is nothing short of magnificent.
Large King Scallops in a Saffron Sauce are delicate and succulent. My
guest and I mopped the fragrant yellow juices with onion and garlic
naan. Roasted Chilli Seekh Kebab offered flavourful heat which was
tempered by Chard Pakoras and Paneer Kebabs. All were served with
chutneys designed to enhance the aromatic qualities of each starter.
The Roast Black Cod at La Porte des Indes is as good as you’ll find
anywhere. It’s marinated in fennel, chilli, mustard, honey, tamarind
and vinegar (an indication of a touch of Portuguese influence perhaps).
It’s wrapped in banana leaf before being flame-grilled giving an end
result which is meltingly moist.
Duck isn’t often seen on Indian restaurant menus but here it is at La
Porte des Indes, giving a nod to its French connection. Magret de
Canard Pulivaar are well-flavoured perfect-pink duck breast fillets
served with a tamarind sauce. It’s said to be unique to the Creole
community of Pondicherry so this will likely be your only chance to try
this dish outside India.
Lotus Root Jaipuri is crunchy and addictive and should be sold by the
bagful in Harrods’ food hall. Rougail d’Aubergine is another house
speciality. Smoked and crushed aubergine, chilli, ginger and fresh lime
combine to make a side dish that doesn’t have searing heat but is
nevertheless robust enough to work with the tamarind sauce coating the
Perhaps my favourite dish of the evening was Poulet Rouge. It’s one of
La Porte des Indes’ signature dishes and is moreish in the extreme.
Chicken is marinated in spices, grilled, shredded and presented in a
creamy and rich sauce. It isn’t a hot and fiery dish so it’s just right
as an introduction to the milder but nonetheless authentic face of
Desserts at Indian restaurants so often disappoint. La Porte des Indes,
however, offers a Pistachio and Rose Kulfi which is to die for. It’s
perfumed and exotic and perfectly matches this palace of a restaurant.
They have a good selection of sorbets as well; Rose and Lychee, Indian
Tamarind, Pomegranate and Imperial Passion Fruit, but they also do a
surprisingly good chocolate mousse served in a folded-leaf cup. The
mousse might hail from France but the presentation is pure subcontinent.
La Porte des Indes is like no other Asian restaurant you might visit. I
am very much taken with its food and exotic atmosphere. I can think of
nowhere better to spend a cold London night than basking in the colour
and warm vibrancy of the long-gone raj. I’ll be back for another
evening... or perhaps Sunday Brunch... or maybe a lunch.
London restaurant review: La Porte des Indes
32 Bryanston Street, London W1H 7EG
TEL: +44 20 7224 0055
review: European Festival Food
This is a book that you’ll find on the shelf in the
cooking section of any good bookshop. You’ll flick though
the pages. Your shopping bag will then be placed neatly on the floor
between your feet. Next a glance around for one of those squidgy sofas
to rest for just a short while as you browse. You might be lucky enough
to have found a bookshop with a coffee shop. A wander through even just
a few pages and you’ll likely be addicted. I assure you, dear reader,
that if you are in any way a consummate foodie or a serious cookbook
collector then you will want to own this book.
Be warned, this is not a glossy coffee-table tome full of appealing
shots of delicious food. No moody or romantic stills of mist-enveloped
valleys nor toothless natives in national costume doing something
ethnic with a sheep’s bladder. This is cover-to-cover writing of the
Yes, European Festival Food is a cookbook, but Elisabeth Luard has
worked her usual magic. Winner of the Glenfiddich Award for Best
Cookery Writer and Winner of the Glenfiddich Trophy, she has long been
respected for attention to detail but also for her style. This is
literature, with food as its vehicle. It’s not a dry and worthy
textbook but a thoroughly accessible good read. A book for bedtime as
well as the kitchen.
Elisabeth is well placed to write of the food of Europe. She has lived
in a lot of it, and has learnt to cook traditional dishes in the
kitchens where those dishes have always always been cooked, from the
(mostly) women who have always cooked them. This book is a veritable
archive of culinary history but it’s also a social history describing
festivals that are less often celebrated.
The pages are awash with charming stories and legends that help to put
the foods into context. Christmas Eve offers Mince Pies if you are in
England. Records of these go back to the 16th century so it’s likely
they existed before that date. The mincemeat really did contain meat in
those days, but now only suet remains to remind us of the original
European Festival Food does not only catalogue religious feast days but
also other annual celebrations. The Glorious Twelfth is noted
throughout Britain as not only my father’s birthday but the first day
of the grouse season. No surprise that there is a recipe here for the
aforementioned bird, roasted, and with its accompanying bread sauce and
fried breadcrumbs. There is a cod festival in Lofoten, an island off
the coast of Norway, and pig-killing festivals seem to be popular in
every country that ever owned a pig. Whenever man has celebrated or
commemorated an event then food has played a major part.
This is another terrific book from Grub Street, one of my favourite
publishers. It’s a gem of a volume that offers seasonal recipes which
have stood the test of time. They are a marvellous collection,
presenting dishes from the cold wind-swept north of Europe with its
Viking heritage to the soft warmth of the south with its more exotic
influences. A masterwork.
Cookbook review: European Festival Food
Author: Elisabeth Luard
Published by: Grub Street
review: No-Oil Cooking
There are many of us now who are overweight and an
increasing number who are clinically obese. In some European countries that figure has
increased (no pun intended) to 25% of the population. That is a
We have more overweight people and the weight by which they are “over”
has also increased. The reasons for the rise in weight-related disease
are simple: modern lifestyle and eating habits. We drive more and walk
less. Our jobs often require little movement apart from fingers
sprinting across computer keys. We don’t think we have time to cook
healthy foods and we choose more and more fatty, pre-prepared foods or
Sanjeev Kapoor presents us with recipes that are both oil-free (that is
to say no added oil) and are still delicious and satisfying. He is
India’s most celebrated chef and food industry guru. Sanjeev is
increasingly recognised by a discerning overseas audience as an
authority on Indian food and his books and TV series Khana Khazana have
long been popular. No-Oil Cooking has his touch of exotica and common
sense which will be appealing to every nationality of reader.
Cooking with no added oil isn’t difficult... but it’s important to have
recipes that have that taste and mouth-feel that at the end of the meal
give us the sensation of having had “proper” food. It’s no good eating
an oil-free meal and then tucking into a huge box of chocolates because
you feel empty.
The chapters cover everything from drinks to main courses to sweets and
everything in between. The recipes listed don’t read like worthy, noble
and boring healthfood dishes. This is tasty food that just happens to
be good for you. The whole family will enjoy these offerings so you
won’t be confronted with the perennial problem of cooking one meal for
the health-conscious folk and a different one for those who just live
to eat. One meal fits all!
Garlic-Flavoured Rasam is my choice from the Beverages, Soups and
Salads chapter. This is comfort food that is, thankfully, good for you.
It is easy to prepare and that preparation only takes 10 minutes. The
cooking time is just 30 minutes, without constant attention.
Corn Bhel couldn’t be simpler and is the ultimate healthy snack.
Sanjeev uses Green Coriander Chutney and Date and Tamarind Chutney for
this delight and he gives both recipes so you’ll have no excuse not to
Vegetable Seekh Kebabs would be a great addition to any barbeque. They
would be welcomed by vegetarians who are so often overlooked on these
occasions but it’s also no-guilt munching for those who are looking for
a healthy option. These are so tempting that you’ll need to make enough
for the meat eaters as well.
No-Oil Cooking offers fast, no-fuss food that is full of flavour,
colour and texture. Your body will thank you and so will your family.
Cookbook review: No-Oil Cooking
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Popular Prakashan
Price: Rs 295
review: La Porte des Indes
Some of you, my dear readers, might be able to translate
that title with ease (education is a marvellous
thing). The Gateway to the Indies is my stab at it but why is it a
French title for a book of Indian food? The subtitle is The legacy of
France in Indian regional cuisine and, yes, there is indeed a region of
India that was a little piece of France ...till 1954.
I had already some idea about Pondicherry as my father had spent time
there in the 1940s (his friend, Taffy, being “deported” to India for
having a liaison with the daughter of a civil servant) but I had no
idea that the French food connection had lasted so long. It’s subtle
There are in fact deux Portes des Indes restaurants, one in London and
the other in Brussels, where it originated. Not probably the city with
the closest of Indian connections but evidently one which was open to
new culinary trends. La Porte des Indes is part of the Blue Elephant
empire and has the same sumptuous decor, that has become the trademark
of both restaurants.
The vibrant driving forces behind both the restaurant and the cookbook
are Mehernosh and Sherin Mody. The book has also benefited from the
skills of food and travel writer John Hellon and we have the gorgeous
results of their collaboration. It’s contemporary, bright and full of
amazing close-up shots by celebrated photographer Tony le Duc.
But the food is the star. There are familiar dishes but even these have
been given the La Porte twist. I hadn’t expected to see Chicken Tikka
Masala, which has become a cliché of Anglicised Indianish food.
This dish, however, is something a bit smart and has a sauce of
turmeric yellow. A cut above the original.
A signature dish of La Porte des Indes is Poulet Rouge (Chicken in a
Creamy Red Sauce) but it is easy for a home cook to make this dish.
It’s rich and stunning and just what you’ll cook if you want to impress
on a budget. Chicken thighs are economic and the other ingredients are
readily available in your local supermarket.
Duck is one of those archetypical French ingredients so here we have
Magret de Canard Pulivaar (Roasted Duck Breasts in a Spicy Tamarind
Sauce). The meat might make you think of romantic bistro meals in Paris
but the marinade and sauce are all Indian. Madame Lourdes Swamy of
Pondicherry is the originator of this recipe.
This is a restaurant cookbook so it has a chapter devoted to cocktails,
and just the names will transport you to the subcontinent. Monsoon
(Midori, melon vodka and champagne), Tamarind Martini (gin, limoncello
and tamarind puree) are just a couple and there are also some lovely
Indian restaurant desserts are often a disappointing bunch but La Porte
des Indes Cookbook has some unique and classy ones. Payasam (green
lentils and tender coconut pudding) is a stunner but it would demand a
visit to an Asian supermarket. Chocolate and Chikki Kulfi is Belgian
Chocolate and Praline Ice Cream and a true liaison of two of the
world’s classic culinary cultures.
La Porte des Indes Cookbook is something a bit special. It’s modern and
full of innovation but it cherishes its French/Indian roots which have
combined to create a cuisine with touches of both. A joy to read and to
Cookbook review: La Porte des Indes Cookbook
Authors: Mehernosh Mody, Sherin Mody and John Hellon
Published by: Pavilion
review: Dal and Kadhi
Sanjeev Kapoor is the Indian chef with the golden touch.
His acclaimed TV series, Khana Khazana, has
enjoyed a 15-year run, has won the Indian Television Academy “Best
Cookery Show” and the “Indian Telly” awards year after year, such is
the popularity of this man.
Dal and Kadhi presents regional comfort food at its best and the book
is as delightful as the food. Each recipe is accompanied by a
photograph by Bharat Bhirangi who has a talent for showing these dishes
in a mouth-watering fashion. You’ll be planning your next meal before
you leave the bookshop.
What could be better than a flavourful dal or kadhi to eat with rice or
roti? Your meal might be humble or you could add a dal to an array of
other dishes to make a sumptuous and satisfying spread. They range in
texture from the rich and substantial to the light and refreshing to
suit the season or the occasion. These are the dishes that people miss
when they leave home and crave when they are in far-off countries.
This book offers 45 recipes that you will want to add to your culinary
repertoire no matter what your home region. They are a broad-based
selection of recipes so there is sure to be something to please every
palate. Dal Makhni is perhaps the most celebrated both in India and
overseas where it has become a restaurant speciality, although seldom
cooked in an authentic style. Maharashtrian Kadhi is a traditional dish
and represents India’s culinary diversity in a most delicious way.
All these dals and kadhis are tempting but as with life in general
there are firsts among equals and I have picked a few that are
particularly tempting. Rajasthani Baati ki Dal is made with split green
gram (dhuli moong dal) and Bengal gram (chana dal) and the resulting
dal is served with traditional baked balls of dough.
Bhindi ni Kadhi is bound to be on my list as I love ladies’ fingers
(bhinda/ bhindi). This is a soupy combination of yogurt and gram flour
(besan) flavoured with spices. The vegetables remain a little crisp
giving the kadhi an interesting texture.
Dal Hari Bhari contains spinach and fenugreek leaves, onions and
spices, and Sanjeev uses it to tempt those who would not normally enjoy
green vegetables. This would be an easy meal when served just with rice.
Dal and Kadhi is an Aladdin’s cave of ideas for quick, tasty and
healthy dishes. One expects lovely books from Sanjeev Kapoor and this
is another in that collection that never disappoints. You don’t have to
spend a lot of money to enjoy good food. This book will show you the
way in fine flavourful fashion.
Cookbook review: Dal and Kadhi
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Popular Prakashan
review: The Blue Elephant
This must surely be the most celebrated of Thai restaurant
empires. It would be diminishing the class and
the quality of the group to describe them as a chain. This is far from
the KF Mac Hut of the Thai food world – think sumptuous and exotic and
The Blue Elephant has a fine reputation wherever you might find it. and
the cookbook now allows its followers to replicate its dishes in their
home kitchens. Those who have never had the pleasure of visiting a Blue
Elephant will soon appreciate the attraction.
Thai food in general has gained worldwide popularity over the past
decade. More of us have the opportunity to travel to Thailand and also
to visit Thai restaurants in our home countries, and we want to try
those dishes for ourselves. The Blue Elephant Cookbook will offer you a
marvelous array of recipes that represent the very essence of Thai food
with all its vibrant flavours.
Blue Elephant recipes are authentic, attractive and tempting. They are
not over-taxing for the competent home cook, and the ingredients are
all availiable either from your favourite supermarket’s Asian food
aisle, from a specialist Thai food store or by mail order via the
internet. You’ll not only learn how to make soups, starters, salads,
main dishes and desserts but also curry pastes and sauces.
Thai Fish Cakes will be instantly recognised by travellers returning
from sun-kissed Thai resorts. They are delicately soft with a crunch
supplied by a garnish of peanuts and refreshing lettuce. Serve this
with Cucumber Sauce (recipe in this book) and you have a delicious
snack or light lunch, or combine with other dishes as part of a Thai
Stir-Fried Seafood with Garlic and Peppercorns (Seafood Krathiam Prik
Thai) is elegant and flavourful and would be an ideal “special” meal.
OK, the prawns, scallops and crab are not cheap but this recipe makes
the best of that seafood, and the finished result is stunning. The base
is Blue Elephant Special Sauce which you can easily make and freeze for
Tuk’s Duck Salad (Laab Ped) is a dish devised by the aforementioned Tuk
who is a chef at the Blue Elephant in London. The duck is grilled and
flavoured with a spice paste and garnished with fried shallots,
chillies, fresh coriander and salad. A simple dish to prepare but it
has great impact.
The Blue Elephant Cookbook is a jewel of a volume and definitely among
my favourite Thai cookbooks. It will be snapped up by lovers of classic
Thai food as well as those who are regular diners at The Blue Elephant
restaurants. A lovely book.
Cookbook review: The Blue Elephant Cookbook
Author: Chefs of Blue Elephant.
Published by: Pavilion – Anova
Cookbook review: Royal
This is a collaboration between two of India’s finest sons
of the culinary arts. If you have not heard of Sanjeev Kapoor (Sanjeev
is probably the most celebrated of Indian chefs, presenting Khana
Khazana on India’s Zee TV) then
you must have been living under a rock with no access either to
cookbooks or the internet, for surely you would have read my previous
review of his work! Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi is an expert on Hyderabadi
cuisine, and Sanjeev's respected friend and colleague.
But what is Hyderabadi cooking? It will be a mystery to most
Westerners, who are very unlikely to have encountered it, and it is
revered by Indians, who might also have trouble tracking down authentic
dishes. It’s truly courtly, special and grand but at least this volume
makes those dishes more accessible to the home cook... and what home
cooking that would be!
Royal Hyderabadi Cooking is an elegantly presented volume with stylish
photography by Bharat Bhirangi illustrating every recipe. The book has
a modern feel with the food being the rich focus in a minimalist
setting. Although the ingredients look a lengthy list for some dishes,
it’s mostly spices that are commonly found in the domestic larder.
Apart from being a striking cookbook, Royal Hyderabadi Cooking is also
something of an archive for a style of food preparation that is
disappearing. The authors have been lucky enough to recruit the
indispensible aid of two national culinary treasures who have lifetimes
of expertise. Begum Mumtaz Khan is considered a living legend and is a
member of the Jagirdhar families of the last Nizam, and has actually
tasted the food from the Royal kitchens. She has conducted cooking
classes and hosted Hyderabadi food festivals.
Ustad Habib Pasha has a passion for Hyderabadi food and a wealth of
experience. He has worked in Hyderabad’s most famous restaurants and
has been generous to our authors with his knowledge, revealing the
secrets of aromatic blends of herbs that help to give this cuisine its
There are so many striking recipes to discover here but I have a few
favourites. Murtabuk is a layered stack of chapattis with a filling of
minced chicken, eggs and spices and is served in wedges as you would a
savoury birthday cake. It was Begum Mumtaz Khan who taught the authors
how to cook this to perfection.
Thikri Ki Dal is a delicious and comforting dal which contains amongst
the spices, onions and ghee... 2 three-inch pieces of earthenware! The
thikri are heated till red hot and then plunged into the food. They are
removed before serving to avoid damage to either guest or crockery.
This method is said to impart a distinctive and earthy flavour. Truly
Double Ka Meetha is a sweet and syrupy dessert that would be a fitting
end to a Royal Hyderabadi meal. It’s a confection of bread, nuts, cream
and saffron and simple to make. I wouldn’t reserve this for just
Hyderabadi meals, this would be welcomed anytime by those with a sweet
The title suggests something sumptuous and rich and that is just what
this food is all about. Royal Hyderabadi Cooking presents recipes that
are regal and festive but accessible to the home cook. Amazing!
Cookbook review: Royal Hyderabadi Cooking
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor and Harpal Singh Sokhi
Published by: Popular Prakashan
review: Low Calorie
You should expect something special when you are presented
with a Sanjeev Kapoor cookbook. Low Calorie
Vegetarian really is something a bit different and this could start an
exotic diet trend.
Sanjeev is probably the most celebrated of Indian chefs, presenting
Khana Khazana on India’s Zee TV. It’s been airing since 1993 and its
600th episode is now just a memory. He has won several awards such as
the Best Executive Chef of India Award and the Mercury Gold Award at
Geneva, which has earned this man international as well as home-grown
Low Calorie Vegetarian Cookbook is just one of many cookbooks from this
charming, handsome and charismatic man. Each book is welcomed by an
adoring audience who have been impressed by the author’s skill on the
small screen. It’s said that Sanjeev never repeats a recipe and will
not need to for several decades; such is his volume of work.
Low calorie carnivorous and low calorie vegetarian recipes have often
seemed to fall into one of two categories: boring or boring with
vegetables. But Sanjeev’s book will strike the right chord with many
readers who want a low calorie diet that offers food with taste and
texture. If you don’t enjoy the food that does you good then you will
fall back into the same old unhealthy eating habits which got you into
your chubby mess to start with.
Low Calorie Vegetarian Cookbook is about flavour, and Sanjeev has a
collection of recipes that will tempt even those with no health or
weight issues. This is good food with intriguing combinations of spices
and fresh ingredients. There are Nutrition Information charts with each
recipe to enable the home cook to make the best choices to achieve a
The recipes are broad-based and you don’t have to be a lover of
traditional Indian food to appreciate the dishes. Sanjeev has French
onion soup but his version raises the bar with French Onion and Garlic
Soup. Spicy Pineapple Boat is light and refreshing but with a little
kick from green chillies. For those who want a cool and summery salad
then Minted Mushrooms should fit the bill. This is a dish of mushrooms,
tomato, cucumber, mint leaves and a dressing of low fat yogurt, and the
addition of lemon juice provides a tang.
However delicious the European-inspired dishes might be, most of us
will be looking for that unmistakable taste of the subcontinent and
it’s here in glorious profusion. Spinach and Cabbage Parantha is a
flatbread with aromatic cardamom and spicy red chilli powder to
complement the vegetables incorporated into the dough.
Desserts are not forgotten. Kesari Phirni is a lovely dessert of
Pistachio nuts perfumed with saffron and cardamom. The sweetness comes
from a sugar substitute such as Equal or Splenda so you can indulge
with no guilt.
Do I have a favourite recipe? Well, you know I do and its Mushroom Dum
Biryani. This is a rice dish made with the traditional method but have
no fear, it’s not difficult and the results will impress both Western
and Asian friends. I’ll make this dish often, not because I have a low
calorie diet (although perhaps I should) but because it’s delicious and
A Western cook will have no problem finding the spices in local
supermarkets or from one of the many online Asian stores. The cooking
techniques are not taxing and you don’t have to take a trip to Mumbai
to kit out your new Asian kitchen. This is a fascinating book with
recipes that will encourage you to make, eat and enjoy flavourful and
Low Calorie Vegetarian Cookbook is the first of Sanjeev Kapoor's books
that I have had the pleasure to review, and there are more to follow.
This volume is bound to be a success with readers from every continent.
Cookbook review: Low Calorie Vegetarian Cookbook
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Popular Prakashan
Price: Rs.250.00, £11.69, $25.00US