Sunday, 15 May 2016

MY WEDDING CAKE


Apologies for having neglected this blog for so long - life kind of takes over and my job has been very busy recently and I have also had something else on my mind.  Finally, Mr Redding and I can get married.  We've been together for nine years  but now he is free to make an honest woman of me.  The first time I got married was in 1987 which now seems several life times away.  It has been lovely organising this wedding, deciding exactly what we want rather than what is expected of us.  I have a lot of free time on Sundays so I decided I would make my own cake.  It's a fruit cake using Delia Smith's Christmas cake recipe and I have marzipanned the bottom two layers - the top was left naked as my eldest brother doesn't like marzipan. I used roll out fondant to ice it then decorated with sugar balls stuck on with thick glace icing.  I'm very happy with the way it has turned out, I feel it's very 'us' and that is how we want this wedding to be.  So, I will endeavour to blog more this year but for the next few weeks I will be getting married and honeymooning in Madeira.   

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

MEDLAR, CHELSEA

I don't do restaurant reviews but this was just so enjoyable I have to share. Neither Mr Redding nor I work on a Friday - a sign of the straightened times the charity sector finds itself in but an arrangement we have both embraced. Normally we spend Fridays looking for the ideal seaside town to retire to in a couple of years but this Friday an unexpected work engagement meant we felt justified in taking ourselves out for lunch.  I remembered seeing a couple of reviews of Medlar, and various Twitter people saying how good it was, so on a cold November lunchtime we were very happy to enter the lovely dining room - nothing pretentious, cool and neutral tones, and a gentle murmur of happy people eating...and no music, praise be.

Before we get on to food I must put in a word for our sommelier - we kind of knew what wine we wanted  but he was so thoughtful and knowledgeable, and didn't try to upsell. As someone who comes from a background where a bottle of Piesporter was the height of sophistication even though we were eating steak I can still feel a bit overwhelmed when it comes to wine but he made me feel those 6 evenings spent on a wine tasting course in Putney five years ago weren't totally wasted.

So, with a glass of champagne in hand, we read the menu, ordered and ate - it was all delicious, beautifully cooked, with magical little touches like the rissole that accompanied the venison - and the crab ravioli with its seafood bisque was something I would be happy to have for lunch every day - just the right side of grand French opulence.

I will let the pictures do the talking....

Buffalo burrata with tempura artichoke, speck, rocket pesto, vincotto and hazelnuts

   

Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce







Under blade fillet with shin and pickled walnut croquettes, triple cooked chips and béarnaise



Venison loin with rissole, choucroute, beetroot and braised shallot

Cheese and biscuits


Rose custard with orange, cardamom, saffron and pistachio 











Accompanying it all were delicious wines including a slightly off-dry white from Luxembourg for our starters, an incredibly deep, spicy, complex Cote du Rhone with our mains and an amazing yuzu flavoured sake to go with the pudding. Service was friendly, efficient and professional - the whole experience was delightful, down to the bag of passion fruit marshmallows and chocolate truffles we were given to take home.  When you next need spoiling go to Medlar.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

SPANAKOPITA

I make no claims for the authenticity of this dish. I must have used a recipe the first time I made it but that was many moons ago and now this is the way I do it. It uses quantities of ingredients that are as I buy them so there are no annoying left over bits of packets of stuff apart from the filo - I use exactly half a packet so just freeze the remainder for the next time you make this - and I think you will. We are confirmed meat eaters but this has such refreshing yet comforting flavours you don't miss the meat.  The combination of irony spinach, with notes of dill and mint and the salty tang of feta with the crunch of the pastry and pine nuts is just lovely - I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

INGREDIENTS

450g spinach
I onion sliced finely
25g mint chopped
20g dill chopped
200g feta, broken into walnut sized lumps
Olive oil
135g filo pastry
Handful of pine nuts

7" non stick round cake tin

Heat the oven to 180 degrees



Thoroughly wash the spinach then cook until just wilted. I do this in a large frying pan, it usually takes two batches. Add a tiny bit of oil to make sure it doesn't stick, put the washed spinach in and leave on a low light for 4-5 minutes, turning as it cooks.  You won't need to add any water - in fact, after it has cooked, turn into a large sieve of colander and press until you have extracted as much water as possible. Chop finely and put in  large bowl.

Cook the onion very gently in a splash of olive oil for 7-20 minutes until it has almost melted.

Add the onion, dill and mint to the spinach, mix thoroughly then gently fold in the feta.

Pour about 3 tablespoons of oil into a small bowl and take the filo out of its packaging. If you're a fast worker that's ok, if you're not then over the filo with a damp tea towel to stop it drying out.

Use four sheets of filo, each brushed with oil, to line the cake tin.  Spoon in the spinach mixture then use another couple  of sheets, also brushed with oil, to cover. Trim and fold the filo so that the filling is totally encased. use any left over bits of filo to scrunch up and decorate the top of the pie and sprinkle over the pine nuts.

Bake for around 30 minutes. If you need a side a simple tomato and cucumber salad goes rather nicely.



BLACKCURRANT POLENTA CAKE

Along with a lot of people I am a huge fan of Dan Leppard and am the proud owner of his book 'Short and Sweet'. His Lemon and Poppyseed Cake is a triumph and should be made by everyone immediately but I am also a huge fan of his Cherry Polenta cake.

I don't make cakes or pudding very often but this Sunday I just felt like baking. As I hadn't actually planned anything I had a rake through the freezer where I found a bag of blackcurrants bought frozen from a Garden Centre on the way back from Bath in May - whenever I see blackcurrants I always snap them up as they rarely make it to grocers or supermarkets, I believe Ribena snaffles most of them up and I do love blackcurrants. We are probably talking about around 500g of blackcurrants. I pondered the idea of making a mousse, or perhaps a blackcurrant crumble but then I remembered the cherry polenta cake and thought - why not?

I halved the amount of mix for this cake as there are only 2 of us on a Sunday - I used a correspondingly smaller tin. The addition of pine nuts, as recommended by Dan, really make the cake - adding that bit of crunch to an otherwise sumptuously moist cake. I haven't given you the recipe - you'll have to go and buy the book!




Sunday, 26 July 2015

CHICKEN CHILLI



I am slowly getting my cooking mojo back after a combination of events - my Dad dying in August, being crazy busy at work and getting rushed into hospital at the end of December with dried up kidneys and a digestive system in freefall. But here we are, just about back to full fitness and getting my appetite back, for both eating and cooking. I find my tastes have changed though - I can no longer eat, or particularly enjoy, large amounts of red meat, in fact large amounts of anything are a struggle.  I am making more salads, more fish and old favourites like a lump of roast lamb are taking a back seat.

One of our regular Saturday night meals was chilli con carne but in looking for something lighter I decided to use chicken thighs in the same kind of seasoning and served with an avocado relish and brown and wild rice. The end result was delicious, light enough for me but tasty enough for Mr Redding.  I used chicken thighs because I think it needs to be cooked for a while to meld the flavours and breast would become tough.

INGREDIENTS

CHICKEN CHILLI

500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2cm cubes

I onion, finely sliced
Couple of cloves of garlic crushed or grated
Tin of black eyed beans
4 jalapeno chillies, red or green or a combination, chopped
Dessertspoon of sweet smoked paprika
Teaspoon of ground cumin
Tablespoon of flour
Handful of chopped coriander
Salt

AVOCADO RELISH

I ripe avocado, chopped
I ripe tomato, chopped
I shallot, finely chopped
Juice of a lime
Handful of chopped coriander
Salt

Slowly sweat the onion and garlic off in a generous tablespoon of olive oil until soft and translucent, probably about ten minutes.  Add the chicken, turn up the heat, and when it has all changed colour and browned a little add the beans, chillies, paprika and cumin. Give all that a good stir, then stir in the flour making sure it is all distributed, then stir in half a pint of water, bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.  Taste, season and stir in the coriander just before serving.

To make the avocado relish just combine all the ingredients 10 minutes before you want to eat and chill. I served it with  combination of wild and brown rice. The picture really doesn't do it justice!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

ARTUSI

The lovely thing about being on Twitter in a place like Peckham is that there is a huge foodie and other stuff Twitter community here, so as soon as a rumour starts it gets spread round like a flash and eventually someone who actually knows what is going on chimes in. And so it was with our new Italian restaurant Artusi on Bellenden Road. Waters were muddied for a while as apparently an Italian café is opening up in what was Chaz the Hairdressers but  it soon became clear - Jack Beer, ex Clove Club  and Peckham Bazaar, our very own Balkan grill-fest (sadly closed at the moment whist it is being transformed) was opening an Italian restaurant called Artusi in our midst. There was no 'soft launch', no fanfare, they just opened with a picture of their menu on the chalkboard to whet our appetites posted on Twitter. And what a menu - three starters, two pastas, three mains, two puddings.

The restaurant is an old shop, and is now long and thin extended back into the store rooms with the open kitchen at the back. On arrival the wine list was proffered and I can recommend the house white, the Vermentino and the white vermouth - others can tell you about the natural wines on the list. My first visit was with my friend Tony, better known as award winning food blogger Theskintfoodie - we hadn't seen each other for a while and needed to catch up on new jobs and stuff.   My second visit was with another friend Heather Jordan, a local Chef and Masterchef quarter finalist and my third was with Mr Redding - at last!

The atmosphere is relaxed with very trendy but extremely efficient and friendly service. Slices of Peckham Rye sourdough from The Brick House Bakery arrive with a slab of butter. Dishes I and my companions have loved include excellent squid ink pasta filled with squid; grilled baby artichokes with the smoothest garlicky anchovy bagna cauda I have ever tasted, and, on another occasion, with the greenest tasting salsa verde I have ever enjoyed; melting octopus with wild garlic and asparagus; pork chop cooked in milk and lemon to delicious unctuousness; pappardelle with pancetta and fresh peas; pork belly with broad bean broth and glit head bream. Puddings are equally lovely - olive oil cake, proper tiramisu and ice creams including chocolate, mascarpone and salted honey.

Three courses each with a bottle of wine and a couple of vermouth comes to around £80 for two plus service, which refreshingly isn't included. Since Jay Rayner reviewed the restaurant booking is essential a bit in advance but do give it a go - thoroughly recommended.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

GREEN MAN AND FRENCH HORN

We don't eat out very often, mostly due to straightened financial circumstances and family responsibilities. However, my friend Amanda has been known to entice me out from time to time and, to celebrate my last day on a fundraising contract (I HATE fundraising), we went to Green Man and French Horn, a restaurant that we both remembered had fabulous reviews when it opened.  Its sister restaurants Braun, Terroirs and Soif  are nearby and also heavily influenced my local ToastED in Lordship Lane, East Dulwich.  All good stuff.

We started with a bottle of sparkling Vouvray which was slightly off dry and very lovely  and the perfect thing to drink as we caught up on the last couple of months and decided what we wanted to eat. This took rather  a long time as we were tempted with so many great things but in the end we decided to go for five of the small plates, one of which we shared - we are both very territorial about food.

Details were good - great bread and butter happily replenished without asking. Still or sparkling free 'tap' water. Service throughout was great. But the food...that was divine. Crispily fried fresh anchovies with aioli disappeared within minutes - beautifully fishy and rustled on their paper. Asparagus with fromage blanc, bitter leaves and walnuts was the kind of salad that only the French seem to carry off with the combination of bitter, creaminess, nuttiness and the glorious flavour of asparagus all highlighted by beautiful olive oil and salt. Snails with parsley root and hedgehog mushrooms were declared to be the most tender ever encountered (I didn't indulge, not a huge snail fan). Leek, crab, egg and horseradish was an absolute triumph. A brown crab sauce with horseradish provided a base for gently poached leeks, all topped off with grated egg and white crab meat - simple, beautifully seasoned and a very generous plateful. We shared the chopped raw beef with radish and hedgehog mushrooms - true beefy flavour accentuated by the vegetables and dressing. We shared a 500ml carafe of some rather gorgeous very light red wine but the name escapes me - the waiter recommended it so I am sure he will recommend it to you.

The bill came to £118 for five dishes, a bottle of sparkling wine, a carafe of red, water and limitless bread. For the standard of cooking and the excellence of ingredients I call that great value.