STREET KITCHEN – supporting UK Growers and Producers

Monday morning in London and there is another tube strike. I’m one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to try and fight my way through the crowded buses to work but I did need to get to the Street Kitchen in Covent Garden.  I wasn’t going to let TFL stop me, so I started to walk and let’s face it, I could do with the exercise.Covent Garden was home to a large food market until 1964 when it was moved to Vauxhall as the New Covent Garden Market. It was nice to see the van start the journey in a place that was once a great British market.

The two chefs behind the Street Kitchen, Jun Tanaka (head chef at Pearl) and Mark Jankel are very passionate about UK produce.  During London Restaurant Festival the two guys decided they would come out of the kitchens and get amongst the people of London. They have certainly done their research too. They have gone to alot of effort to serve ONLY food grown in the UK. Their menu is governed by what is available from the growers and may change accordingly. They haven’t even used any pepper because they couldn’t source it from a UK grower. How that’s for lunch! Hot smoked salmon with beetroot, crushed potato and horseradish. It’s not cheap at £6.50 but it was a pretty large portion of Loch Duart salmon, and it certainly delivered on taste. You know I would rather spend more and know I’m going to eat quality food, supporting British growers than spend less and eat tasteless imported food with a huge carbon footprint.That brings me to the packaging. Sourced from a British company but made in Asia. Mark Jankel was telling us how he had to choose between plastic recyclable containers or biodegradable ones, taking into account the carbon footprint for recycling and manufacturing. He chose biodegradable. This is all part of the journey he is taking with The Food Initiative, through which he will open a restaurant early next year with the same ethos.Dessert was a delicious vanilla cheesecake with a compote of blueberries. The berries were delicious!

I’m really behind these guys who could sit comfortably behind a restaurant kitchen but they are passionate about UK food and want to spread the word!

Street Kitchen is open for the London Restaurant Festival (4th-18th October). Covent Garden from 4th-10th October and finishing in Spitalfields, 15th-18th October.

Ms Macaroon was invited as a guest of Street Kitchen and all photos in this post were taken with my Motorola Milestone XT720.

Mark Hix at the Friday Food Club

A lucky last minute call from Lee of the Friday Food Club and I was on the train to Blackheath to have my dinner cooked by Mark Hix!  Yes, Mark Hix!If your not sure who Mark Hix is and wondering why I was so nervously excited, I’ve linked his website here.  Mark  has such a long, illustrious history in British food I would hate to miss anything out.

The Friday Food Club is very close to Blackheath station and in the apartment of Lee and Fiona Behan. Their bespoke apartment, the old GPO studios, was once and art hall, a film studio, a ‘hotel’ of sorts and home to the London recordings of  the WW2 bomb sirens. I was intrigued, needless to say, and completely in love with the old glass windows adorning their lounge come dining room

Mark, who had been there all day, and Lee were still busy in the kitchen.  Most people had eagerly arrived, 16 people in all.  I sat at our table to read about the reason Mark agreed to cook (aside from being friends with Lee),  Chance UK.

This is a London charity who aim to help reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in 5-11 year olds, by providing mentoring programmes.  Seems even more relevant since Lee and Fiona had their bicycle and golf clubs stolen from the entry to their flat the day before. All proceeds from the night went to Chance UK and Mark gave his night up for free as well. The first tasty morsel to arrive at our table was a Friday Food Club amuse bouche, Deep Fried Quails Eggs with an Asparagus Puree. These were delicious! The breadcrumbs had been well seasoned and crispy! The yolk meltingly soft. I loved it so much I had to copy the recipe from their website. (click here and you can have it too).

Mark brought the next dish to our table and had decided to sit with us for dinner. Popping up and down to the kitchen, he still managed to look relaxed as though he was just having friends round for dinnerHow beautiful does this sharing plate look! Full of duck, chicken and quail eggs, some shelled, some not, sitting on a bed of cress, adorned with baby fennel and chervil. To accompany this Lee had made loaves of white bread, homemade celery salt and mayonnaise.All the dishes of the evening were paired with wonderful wines, chosen by Phillip Mouche. The seasonal mixed eggs were paired with Cremant de Loire De Chancenay 2008, France.De Beauvoir smoked salmon ‘HIX cure’ with shaved fennel salad. A simple, delicately smoked salmon, served with a Sauvignon Blanc Domaine Pont du Livier 2009, Loire, France.  The most interesting aspect to this dish being that Mark smoked this salmon himself. Actually he smokes all the salmon for his restaurants!

He had us all gripped in his story about how he used to smoke it at home but trundling down the backyard with trays full of salmon at 3am was not a good idea. You will never guess where he has his smokers now….on the roof of Selfridges!!! I’m inspired, although there is the slight problem of the absence of a backyard or access to Selfridges roof. The main attraction was Pan Fried Ling with Summer Vegetables, paired with a Sancerre Domaine de la Rossignol 2009, Loire, France. The conversation then turned to the ling, a fish you rarely see on a menu and one alot of us had never tasted. It was cooked perfectly, as you would expect, with an interesting texture. It was a kind of chewy fish, not in a bad way, just unusual. I always love a bit of nutty butter drizzled over my fish too. The broad beans, peas, beans and pea shoots, very British, were a good example of the great produce we have here.

Mark, who is known for his strong support of British food, believes we should be sourcing our fish from small quality producers. I agree, this will thus support not only our environment and economy but encourage the ‘comeback’ of good British fare.Dessert was one you might remember from ‘The Great British Menu’ where Mark served this for a banquet hosted by Prince Charles.  Perry Jelly with Summer Fruits and elderflower ice cream, served with a Prosecco Rose Follador Di Valdobbiadene 2009, Col San Martino, Italy.  Delicious! seriously delicious, not an morsel left on anyones plate.  Lee had made the ice cream in his Gelato 3000, and wouldn’t I love one of those!  I think Lee can’t help but experiment with it because the ice cream was actually a rich custard, elderflower and raspberry ripple delight!

To finish the meal Mark and Lee served a selection of British cheeses with a Cote du Rhone Domaine Bouvachon Nomine 2008, Rhone (organic).  I was too busy taking the opportunity too have my photo taken with Mark, and too full to taste it for that matter. Then I spotted something very sweet!How cool are these chocolates! Made by a friend of Lee and Fiona’s, Angel, from Vintage Patisserie.

I didn’t leave empty handed either. I got a little cherry and ginger muffin to take home (a Friday Food Club regular gift), which came in handy for breakfast the next day. Chance UK also gave each of us a card, to say thanks.BUT that’s not all, I left with such a buzz, I had such a great time! Lee and Fiona are such wonderful hosts. They really looked like they were having a great time too. Mark was relaxed and it was lovely of him to sit at our table and join in our conversation and food, cured salmon, and how to build your own wood-fired oven.

I wish I could pop along to all the dinner’s Friday Food Club are planning (yes i know the chefs they have lined up to come over)! When they are not having fun inviting fantastic chefs to come and cook, Lee (who is a trained chef) does do dinner. I hear his food is superb. You will definitely have a good time, enjoying good food and fun company.

Alice’s Cook Book and Passionfruit Slice

As you know, I don’t usually do brunches, but when there is something special to entice me, I can make the exception.

Brunch with Alice Hart at La Fromagerie is that sort of exception.

Alice seemed a little nervous, in front of this small group, but was sweet, warm, friendly and seemed driven by the thoughts of an environmental, food enthusiast.

Alice’s Cook Book is really not any old ordinary cookbook, but a part of the New Voice In Food series from Quadrille Publishing, supporting new talent in the food world.

I wasn’t sure about the format of the book when I first saw it but the titles of the recipes drew me in. I soon began to enjoy the arrangement of the recipes into picnics, camper vans, seasonal Sunday lunches etc. It began to be a story and I could see that Alice had put alot of herself into this book.

Alice demonstrated a few recipes from the book, discussed her inspiration and enthusiasm for her first cookbook.

The first offering was Blueberry and Granola Muffins. A light muffin made on a wholemeal/plain flour mix, yoghurt, granola and berries. Easy enough and tasty too.

Alice then demonstrated her Roast Courgette and Butternut Agrodolce with Stuffed Courgette Flowers. She really made each dish look easy to do. The courgette and butternut mix was brought together by the agrodolce (sour/sweet), beautifully balanced flavours of sugar and red wine vinegar . La Fromagerie had, of course, supplied an amazing fresh goats cheese with a distinctive citrus flavour. This balanced the dish very well.
Our next brunch treat was something which had caught my eye in her book too. Beetroot-Cured Side of Salmon with Aioli and Shaved Fennel Salad. It is a really beautiful dish. Curing the salmon is an incredibly easy preparation. Aioli, sounds difficult but only requires one strong hand and one gently pouring one (or a food processor!). La Fromagerie had added some borage flowers which had a delicate cucumber taste. A great dish for a party of friends on a summers day.
Our final taste from Alice’s Cook Book was a Mocha Affogato. A complete hit of chocolate icecream, from The Ivy House, with the signature La Fromagerie coffee, Le Piantagioni,  poured hot over the top.

We have a much loved family recipe from my late paternal grandmother for Passionfruit slice. She kept it a secret and all the women were trying to coax it out of my Aunt after her passing. I think my sister now has a copy.

So I was curious to try this version to see how it stands up.

Passionfruit Slice

For the Base:

200g digestive biscuits

60g unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

600g cream cheese

2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

2 free-range egg yolks

1tbsp cornflour, sifted

250g caster sugar

200ml fresh passionfruit juice (the sieved pulp from about 12 fruits, depending on size)

seeds scraped from a vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Topping:

3 gelatine leaves

200ml freshly squeezed orange juice

25g caster sugar

50ml passionfruit pulp or juice

mango or pineapple to serve.

Method:

Preheat oven to 160*C. Line 20x30cm, 6mm deep, tin or dish, with parchment paper.

Place the biscuits in a food processor until finely crushed. Add the melted butter and pulse briefly, then press into the tin. Bake for 10mins and set aside.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. beat in eggs, yolks and cornflour, then the sugar and passionfruit juice and vanilla. Don’t over mix, as too much air will cause the cooked cheesecake to crack.

Pour over biscuit base and smooth the top. bake for about 30 mins, until wobbly in the centre but not brown on top. Turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door open for 15 mins ( to minimise cracking). remove from oven and set aside to cool completely before chilling in the fridge for at least an hr.

To make the topping, soak gelatine in cold water to soften. Heat 4 tblp of the orange juice with the sugar until simmering. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatine sheets. Add the remaining orange juice and passionfruit pulp or juice.

Chill for 20mins, then pour over cheesecake and return to fridge for at least 4 hrs, preferably overnight.

Beautifully creamy and delicate passionfruit, it’s as kitsch as you can get but, of course, it didn’t have a scratch on my Nan’s. :)

Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for providing Alice’s Cook Book.

Summer Cheese Tasting with Patricia Michelson

I love La Fromagerie!! A shop dedicated to the love of artisan cheese and good produce. If you have ever heard Patricia Michelson speak you will understand what I mean. She is madly passionate about her cheese and the produce in her shop.

It all started, for Patricia, when she was skiing in Meribel, France, got lost on the mountain and by the time she found her way to the bottom, had worked up quite an appetite. She bought a slice of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage cheese, with the little she had in her pockets, and continued to nibble away at it while she walked back to her chalet. From that moment on her life changed and she knew she had to bring good cheese to London.

First to open was the little Highbury Park shop in September 1992, then Moxon st, Marylebone in November 2002.

This was a seated tasting, the first to commemorate the release of her second book, CHEESE.

When I arrived I was shown to a more secluded area in the shop where I was presented with a glass of Cremant d’Alsace Rose. Then came the La Fromagerie  ‘signature event nibbles’, gougeres and Parmesan twists. The gougeres were amazing, as usual, although the cayenne hit to the twists was a bit strong for me. After a top up, I strolled around the shop.

The tables, which usually seat a high turn over of hungry people, were being prepared for our evenings tasting.

The first plate to be presented to us was a selection of ‘summer cheeses’.

INNES BUTTONS, Statfold, Stafforshire:  a prize winning, light mousse-like goats cheese, where the goats are played classical music whilst being milked.

SAINT TOLA, Co. Clare: fresh crumbly texture, made with organic milk. When aged has a more citrus taste. These goats are rested for 3 months after Christmas when the cheese is unavailable.

TICKLEMORE, Totnes, Devon: one of my favourites!! semi-soft, using unpasteurised goats milk. This cheese is fresh and gentle. In autumn and winter layer it with celeriac and potatoes for an amazing  gratin.

WIGMORE, Riseley, Berks: an unpasteurised sheep’s milk cheese using vegetable rennet. This cheese is from a cheese maker intent on keeping there cheese Artisian and not overproducing.

WATERLOO, Riseley, Berks: THE TABLE WINNER! a semi-soft cows cheese, made with vegetable rennet. It was rich, bold and very buttery, with a gentle earthy aroma.

KIRKHAM’S LANCASHIRE, Goosnargh, Lancashire: probably my least favourite. A semi-hard unpasteurised cloth bound cow’s milk cheese. This type of cheese has been made for hundreds of years. Patricia feels that it hold all the signs to pre-date Ossau cheeses of the Pyrenees.

Wine Pairing: Chateau Le Roc Cotes du Frontonnais, SW France. 50% Colombard and 50% Ugni Blanc. A wine made south west of Toulouse. A light zest wine giving an intense aroma of grapefruit and orange whilst tasting lovely and fresh with a long fruity palate. What a perfect match to the cheese Patricia had chosen.

 

As an interlude to the cheeses, we were served Asparagus with buttered breadcrumbs and Berkswell.  The green and white asparagus were a welcome relief but the breadcrumbs were soaked in too much butter for my liking and I left most of them.

Our next plate was a surprising Irish selection.

MILLENS, Eyeries, Nr Castletownbere, Co. Cork: rustic earthy cheese made with pasteurised cows milk.

ARDRAHAN, Co.Cork: Favourite on the plate! a semi-soft washed rind cows milk cheese made with vegetable rennet. Style similar to a French Munster or Livarot. It was earthy, rustic and nutty.

ST. GALL, Fermoy, Co. Cork: brine washed cows cheese with a earthy creaminess.

Wine Pairing: Chateau Beaulieu, Marmande, Lot et Garonne, nr Bordeaux. A Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a local grape, Abouriou. We all thought it worked perfectly with the cheeses and very enjoyable to drink.

 

The Blues

Crozier Blue, Co. Tipperary: lovely sharp flavoured, soft textured sheeps milk cheese

Devon Blues, Totnes, Devon: we LOVED this, rich and creamy unpasteurised cows milk cheese. Buttery and gently earthy….delicious!

Harbourne Blue, Totnes, Devon: made with goats milk, this is an unusual blue. You seldom find goats blue as it takes alot of goats to get enough milk to make a large wheel. It was very full, sharp and fruity.

Colston Bassett Stilton, Nottinghamshire: made with pasteurised cows milk using traditional rennet. The makers allow the cheese to mature for 3 months before introducing the blue. It is nutty and rich, a more complex blue.

Bellingham Blue, Castlebellingham, Co. Louth: this cows milk blue will ‘knock your head off’. It is the strongest blue I have EVER tasted. It is sharp and salty (wait for autumn I think).

Wine Pairing: Quinta de la Rosa Tawny Tonel No. 12: delicate, soft with caramel and honey aromas. Perfect.

It was a hot night, and I left, to make my way home in the cool summer breeze with a tummy full of cheese and a happy feeling that I had been well looked after. Patricia was the perfect hostess. Thank you.