I’ve written before about my addiction to Pinterest. I think it’s a super tool – fun to use and hugely useful too. Recently, Pinterest UK have formed a community of keen UK pinners and have been busy facilitating discussions and organising events to engage with the group.

Recently, I attended a delightful evening with Paul A Young, one of my favourite chocolatiers, organised by Pinterest and Great British Chefs. The event was not only fun but also informative and hands on. Paul taught us his signature Port & Stilton Truffle recipe, making it in front of us from scratch so we could see just how achievable it is. Once the filling was made, everyone was invited to roll and dip to finish the truffles and of course, to taste!

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Here’s an old post featuring a fun video interview I did with Paul back in 2011, just after he opened his Soho shop. Do watch the video, it’s wonderful to see creative forces like Paul talk about what they do – he just lights up as he talks.

Kavey Eats attended this event as a guest of Pinterest UK.

 

Guest post by Diana Chan.

Chinese Seal MINI

Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which this year is on the 31st of January. In Cantonese-speaking Chinese communities everywhere, people greet each other with a hearty Kung Hei Fat Choy! to bring prosperity to the new year.

Chinese New Year is the most intensely celebrated festival in the lunar calendar. It is important that the year starts right, as the beginning of the year influences what comes next. Kung Hei Fat Choy! 恭喜發財literally means wishing you to make a fortune. While I think the English greeting Happy New Year contains the essence of all good wishes and is an excellent example of less is more – happiness is ultimately what matters most – the Cantonese prefer to be more specific.

Kung Hei Fat Choy! can be followed by good wishes that are relevant to the recipient, and there are dozens of commonly used ones to choose from. Just like receiving gifts that have been thoughtfully chosen, receiving a good wish for a desired thing is a joyful feeling indeed.

A Chinese New Year greeting for women: may you be forever young 青春常駐; a greeting for the career ambitious: may you have unobstructed ascent to the very top 平歩青雲.

The first time that we see children in the new year – one’s own children whatever their age, and the unmarried offspring of family and close friends – we give them small red envelopes with money inside for good luck. There are wishes for them too – be healthy 快高長大for the very young and do very well 步步高升for the others.

Desirable things are not only wished to others. Good wishes written in brush and ink calligraphy or neatly printed on pieces of red paper would be prominently displayed around the home to bring the desired blessings to the family. Red is the colour of celebration and good luck.

Cantonese new year customs are a practice in the power of positive thinking and the belief that more is more. In addition to saying, hearing, seeing and giving – good wishes are also delivered via food. An ingredient with a name that sounds like something desirable is used to increase the chances of achieving the hoped-for outcome. Because it is a monosyllabic language, many Chinese words have the same or similar pronunciation. This is a feature that allows much play on words, although not across dialects. For example, two words might have the same pronunciation in Cantonese but not in Mandarin.

Many Cantonese restaurants offer a celebration menu throughout the new year period. When a dish is brought to the table, a well-trained server announces its fortune-bearing name to the guests. Banquets to celebrate the new year are held throughout the first month of the lunar new year, especially for business entertaining. Dishes typically include expensive ingredients, not only as a sign of respect for the guests but also because it is important to the host – being lavish in entertaining encourages prosperity to continue.

Families that enjoy celebrating the new year in traditional ways eat food with names intended to bring blessings of good health, success, prosperity, happiness, togetherness and harmony.

Here is an example of a Chinese New Year dinner in a Cantonese family. Literal translations of the names of the dishes will not convey their meanings so I will not attempt it, except for the key word that associates the name with the key ingredient. The association of a blessing-bearing name with a dish is completely at the discretion of the cook. If you have the occasion or the interest to make such a dinner, you do not need to prepare these same dishes; as long as you use the same key ingredient, you can give the same name to your own creation.

I would like to convey my wishes to you, too, via this virtual celebration meal.

May you have:

美景生輝 Fantastic opportunities to show off your talents

Soup of ox tail, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onion, dried tangerine peel, ginger

Key word: 美, beautiful. Key ingredient: tail 尾

A Cantonese family meal on any important occasion such as new year, mid-autumn festival or a birthday includes a soup that takes hours to simmer. These soups are believed to have health-enhancing properties. The addition of dried tangerine peel and ginger is what makes this ox tail soup Cantonese.

Diana CNY-oxtail soup

 

龍馬精神 Abundant energy and good spirits

Lobster in a ginger, spring onion, garlic, and black bean sauce

Key word: 龍, dragon. Key ingredient: lobster 龍蝦

Lobster in Chinese literally means dragon prawn. The dragon symbolises power and vitality. The name of this dish can be used in any preparation that contains lobster.

Diana CNY-lobster

 

喜氣洋洋 Many celebrations and joyful occasions

Filet of lamb stir fried with leek, garnished with red chilli

Key word: 洋, abundant. Key ingredient: lamb 羊

This is an everyday dish given a festive name. It does not require any special ingredients and is super easy to make – see Diana’s Stir Fry 1-2-3 for how-to. If you would like to get into the spirit of Chinese New Year but not cook Chinese food, then you can give the same name to roast leg of lamb, grilled lamb chops or any dish with lamb.

Diana CNY-lamb

 

金玉滿堂 Money money money

Chicken stew with lily buds, hair moss, dried mushrooms on a bed of silver fungus and lettuce

Key word: 金, gold. Key ingredient: lily buds 金針

If I was unable to make a special trip to a Chinese grocery store to buy lily buds, silver fungus and hair moss, all three of which have names associated with money, I could make a stew of chicken and pumpkin 金瓜 instead. Lettuce 生菜 is also a fortune-bearing ingredient in this dish; it rhymes with money grows 生財.

Diana CNY-chicken

 

花開富貴 More and more money

Broccoli with a sauce of crab and salmon roe

Key word: 花, flower. Key ingredient: broccoli 西籣花

The name of this dish literally means blossoms and wealth. It is customary to have colourful fresh flowers in the home during Chinese New Year. While the crab sauce is delicious, white is not a celebratory colour and something red is needed as a garnish. When it is not possible to get crab with red roe, I scatter salmon roe over the sauce instead.

Diana CNY-broccoli

 

幸福團圓 Many blessings and harmony in the family

Sweet dumplings with sesame filling in a brown sugar and ginger broth

Key word: 圓, round. Key ingredient: round dumplings 湯圓

A circle symbolizes completeness and perfection and such a dessert is associated with a sweet life. It is customary to eat this kind of dumpling on the evening of the first full moon of the new lunar year, when couples celebrate being together.

The new lunar year’s first full moon happens to be on 14th February, Valentine’s Day. What a good occasion to offer and share a variety of chocolate truffles!

Diana CNY-dumplings

 

If you like the idea of consuming a blessing-bearing dinner but find the logistics of preparing a six-course Cantonese meal daunting, try combining two or more key ingredients in the same dish and get the same outcome with much less work. Here is an example of a three-course menu:

龍馬精神 美景生輝 Abundant energy and fantastic opportunities: a starter of lobster tail

花開富貴 喜氣洋洋 Prosperity and numerous joyful occasions: a main course of broccoli and lamb

幸福團圓 Blessings and harmony: a dessert of a perfectly round scoop of ice cream

 

May you have all of the above in a Happy Chinese New Year: good health, good luck, success, prosperity and harmony.

Nov 272013
 

Twenty one and a half years ago, Pete and I started dating. A few months later, I went down to Beckenham to meet my future in-laws. Of course, I had no reason to be, but I was pretty nervous all the same. Not only was I meeting his parents but three of his siblings and two of their offspring too. *gulp*

Baby Sam was about 6 weeks old. I remember how pleased I was when this tiny crying bundle calmed down and stopped crying as soon as I took him into my arms. That felt like a welcome, right there! Of course, the entire family was enormously welcoming and it was a lovely day. But the person who calmed me down the most was little Rosie. She was a two year old whirlwind of excitement and affection and from the first time we met, we were firm friends.

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Here she is (with me) a couple of years later, at our wedding. That’s the date she and Sam (and a few months later, their younger sister Jennifer) officially became my nieces and nephews and I have loved being Aunty Kavey ever since.

Rosie has always been an active partner in keeping the relationship close, sending us cards and letters and calling on the phone. As soon as she was old enough, she came to stay with us for the weekend every few months. At first, Rosie’s mum Kate (Pete’s middle sister) would come with her on the train to Waterloo, I’d meet them at the platform for a handover and Rosie and I would hop onto the tube to our place. As she got older, she’d do the train journey on her own, mum dropping her off at one end and me meeting her off the train at the other.

We spent the weekends cooking together at home; eating out, introducing her to some of our favourite foods; talking about books all three of us had enjoyed reading – she’s a bookworm, like us, and loves science-fiction too; taking her clothes shopping, which was such a pleasure because she’s the complete opposite to the “me me me I want I want” generation.

I think she was about 13 when we took her to Paris. She’s a warm, friendly girl but rather shy, so I pushed her just a tiny bit into using her basic French skills to order her meals and ask for a carafe of water, in restaurants. I can still remember her genuine pride and delight when she did so, and the restaurant staff nodding in understanding and smiling encouragement.

These days, we share a fondness for trawling through charity shops, giggling at some of the outfits she tries on in her hunt for potential LARPing costumes and congratulating each other on our fabulous bargains.

She’s very clever too, did I mention that? All grown up now, she studied at Imperial College London for her bachelors degree in Biology and went on to do a Masters of Science in Ecological Applications. She’s also kind, generous, friendly, loyal and cares for the world around her.

The reason I’m telling you about my lovely niece is that Thorntons approached me recently with an offer I couldn’t refuse. They asked if I’d like to send a gift box of chocolates to someone who deserved them. Did I know someone who needed cheering up and spoiling? Well, yes I did, actually.

These last two years have been hard for Rosie. Last year, after a period of remission, her mum’s cancer came back and this time it was terminal. Rosie moved back home to help and spend time with her mum and younger sister. It wasn’t an easy few months. Kate wanted to die at home, so a bed was set up in the living room; she used the time to put everything in order, to organise her funeral, to sort out her will and decide what would happen to her various animals. This time was bittersweet too – we visited every week that Kate remained with us and enjoyed some of the best conversations we’d ever had, full of reminiscence and laughter and frankness and occasional seriousness. How unfair to lose her at the peak of her life! The months after losing Kate were difficult for everyone, her three children most of all, of course.

Rosie’s had a lot of other tough things to deal with too, since then. I won’t talk about them here, because you don’t need to know. What I do want to do is send a message to Rosie and let her know that everything will turn out OK, she will land on her feet and she will have a good and happy life, even though things feel like a struggle at the moment.

Rosie, my lovely niece, I hope this little parcel from Thortons put a smile on your face. I love you and I’m so proud of you. Chin up!

 

With thanks to Thortons for inviting me to take part in their Christmas Hero campaign.

Here’s a snap Rosie sent me of the goodies she was sent.

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Some of you know that my Pete is a keen home brewer. He often writes about his efforts over on Pete Drinks.

On Wednesday, he spent the day at The Bull, a wonderful pub in Highgate with its own brewery on site. With their brewer Jenna and assistant brewer Jack on hand to help, Pete made his own recipe coffee porter, getting properly stuck in at all steps – weighing the ingredients, cleaning and heating the mashtun, adding the ingredients, sparging, transferring to the kettle, boiling the wort, adding hops, boiling, adding the coffee, transferring to the fermenter, adjusting the gravity and pitching the yeast.

He said it was reassuringly like the process he follows at home, just on a larger scale with (slightly) fancier equipment! Read his post on the experience, here.

If you’re London based, please come along to The Bull on the evening of November 12th, when Pete’s Coffee Porter will be launched. You can view the Facebook invitation here.

(Don’t worry if you can’t make it on the night, the beer will remain on tap for a few weeks until it runs out).

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I hope you can join us!

signed,
Mrs Proud Wife

 

Back in June I spent a lovely weekend attending the Oxford Food Symposium, held in St Catherine’s College, Oxford. It’s very remiss of me not to share the experience here on the blog, as I had a wonderful time attending delightfully diverse lectures, meeting fellow delegates and appreciating the excellent catering. But I made few notes and took no photographs, so it’s unlikely to make it onto the blog…

One of the best things about the weekend was making new friends. Diana and I discovered we had a huge amount in common: not only our interest in food, which was a given for all those attending the symposium, but our style of eating and cooking and much about how we view life and choose to live it.

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When we meet again in London, the week after the symposium, we exchange home made preserves. I am very taken by the beautiful hand-printed card Diane has slipped inside the cellophane around her kumquat marmalade.

I ask her to explain the design. She tells me about a well known proverb in Chinese that goes, “eating a small amount of something increases the enjoyment of its taste”. Diana adapted this to create her own motto, “knowing how to eat increases the enjoyment of tasty food”. When she talks about it, it’s clear how well it encapsulates her passion for food and the way that learning more about the history, traditions, techniques and recipes of the world enhances her enjoyment of food.

Chinese Seal

As for the stamp itself, that’s another lovely story: During the years she and husband Tack lived in Brussels (where they met), the Imperial Palace Museum of Beijing was invited to show an exhibition of cultural items at the Belgian Royal Museums for Art and History, which lasted for 6 months. One of the staff accompanying the exhibition from China was a master in traditional seal carving. Tack persuaded the master to take him on as a student and attended lessons with him every day until he, and the exhibition, returned to China. In the years since then, Tack has designed and carved many beautiful seals including this stunning one for Diana.

During some of our many rambling chats at the symposium, Diana mentioned how she loved the idea of sharing some of her own recipes and cooking tips but didn’t want to start a blog of her own. So I cheekily asked if she’d be interested in being a guest writer for Kavey Eats.

Tomorrow’s post is her first contribution and I hope there will be many more. Please take a moment to leave an encouraging comment for her and if you give her stir fry recipe a go, let us know how you get on!

 

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My friend Jenn is the founder of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, a company dedicated to helping people enjoy great chocolate.

She (and a team of dedicated guides) run chocolate-themed walking tours in Mayfair and Chelsea during which they lead the (small) group between a number of carefully picked specialists. During the tour, you learn more about how chocolate is made, the different types available and how to taste chocolate properly. At each shop you are treated to some specialities ranging from hot chocolate to frozen yoghurt, filled chocolates, plain bars and even macarons.

Jenn has also negotiated discounts in many of the shops, so you can buy your favourites for a little less.

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A nice extra touch is that as a history enthusiast, Jenn is able to share many fascinating stories about the history of London, as you walk from place to place.

My ticket was a very thoughtful birthday gift and I must say, these tours are a fantastic gift idea for those who enjoy chocolate, especially those who are hard to buy for as they have all the socks, vases, books, games, jumpers, posh chutney they need!

Thanks to Jenn for a wonderful day!

Mar 202013
 

Camden High Street, the stretch between Camden and Mornington Crescent stations, suffers a dearth of decent places to eat.

Back in the late ‘90s – early ‘00s, I worked in the beautiful “Black Cat Cigarette Building” opposite Mornington Crescent station, more formally known as Greater London House. It was once a cigarette factory owned by Carreras and the two sleek bronze statues of black cats that flanked the entrance reflected the logo of their main brand, Craven A. The cats had disappeared by the time I started working there, but were re-possessed and returned to their original spots in a huge refurbishment that took place while I was there. That’s when they restored the pretty Art Deco paint colours too.

When looking for somewhere decent to eat out, my colleagues and I rotated between El Parador (still going strong), Café Delancey (long since closed), Pizza Punani (yes really, and no it didn’t last long), two rather excellent local sandwich caffs (both gone too) and a couple of pubs (which don’t even have the same names anymore). There were a few places that were so bad we avoided them altogether, even when we sometimes grew a little bored of the ones that were good enough.

I haven’t been back much since I left in 2002 and when I have it’s mostly been to El Parador, which is still a lovely tapas restaurant, run by the same team as it was back then.

Recently, I received an invitation to visit The Forge & Foundry in Camden. Strictly speaking, these are two distinct entities – The Forge being a music and performance venue and The Foundry being a restaurant and bar. As soon as I saw the address, I knew they were in the location of my old favourite, Café Delancey and was keen to see what had become of the place.

The Forge is a not-for-profit organisation opened in 2009 by musicians Adam and Charlotte Caird. They were keen to create an intimate venue specially designed with natural acoustics for live music. It hosts small concerts and other performances and is also available to book for rehearsals, recordings and other art-based activities.

Also in the same property is The Foundry, a restaurant and bar that is connected to the performance space by a an airy glazed courtyard. The courtyard boasts a beautiful living wall  of plants, the first inside a UK restaurant. I think it would be a lovely space to book for a private function, as there’s plenty of light and space, and it would be perfect if you had a band or musical act booked to play for your guests.

The first time we visited was a special blogger event during which we learned about The Foundry’s Espresso Martini, made with coffee roasted by their neighbour, Camden Coffee Shop. A couple of weeks later, Pete and I went back to see the venue at its best – for dinner followed by the Friday night gig.

On Friday nights, you can either book a regular ticket to enjoy the performance, or one of the handful of dining tables that are set up within the performance space. Tickets for the performance cost £11 (in advance, online). A three course dinner during the performance is £25 and you need to book that via phone.

When we organised our visit, those tables were already taken, so we enjoyed our meal in The Foundry’s dining area. They have a £10 Lunch and Pre Concert menu available from 12-3 pm and 5-7 pm but we ordered from the à la carte menu.

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It was refreshing to be able to choose from an appealing list of cocktails, all priced very reasonably at around £7.50-8. There were also several wines available by the glass, at very reasonable prices, and of course by the bottle.

Cocktails were served in enormous jam jars, jumping on a tired bandwagon trend, but they were very good and generous too. I loved the balance of flavours in the Cherry Drop cocktail of the month and Pete’s Virgin Apple Mojito was similarly very well judged. (The espresso martinis we had on our previous visit were also excellent).

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Pete’s Burrata with Parma ham, cherry tomatoes, mixed leaves and a balsamic reduction (£9.50) was decent. The burrata was creamy with a rich lactic flavour and the other elements were as you’d expect. It was a touch pricy given that it’s a pretty pedestrian set of ingredients, but enjoyable.

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I went for one of the “Gourmet ploughman’s platters”, all of which are served with homemade bread, pickles, onion marmalade, apple, grapes and salad. My Seafood platter (£9.50) came with a generous serving of hot smoked trout, smoked mackerel pate and smoked salmon, all of which were very tasty. However, whilst I must point out how very good the homemade onion marmalade is, I felt it and the pickled gherkins and fruit were far better suited to the Cheese & Meat and British Cheeses platters, and didn’t really work very well with the fish. Instead, for the Seafood platter, I’d rather have a good homemade mayonnaise or aioli, and some much lighter pickles such as soused cucumbers.

The platters also come in a larger size and make lovely shared nibbles if you’re just planning to pop in for drinks and music.

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Pete’s Duck breast with orange cream, cocoa powder and plantain chips (£15) was mixed. He’d really enjoyed the same dish on our previous visit, when the quality and cooking of the duck was perfect. This time, while it was still cooked pleasantly pink the breast hadn’t been properly butchered and had a tough tendon running through every piece and the fat was chewy rather than crisp, as previously. The orange sauce was tasty, with a nice balance between sweet and sharp. The plantain crisps were as strange as the first time though – sandwiched together with an intensely sweet banana cream, they were much more of a dessert pastry than a savoury side.

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My Fillet of beef with foie gras, crostini and madeira sauce (£19.50) was also mixed, though I thought the steak itself was excellent for the price. My beef was correctly cooked, tender and full of flavour. The foie gras on top was decent, though should have been warmer. The sauce was tasty, though again, not hot enough when served, resulting in an almost solid gelatinous texture. The crostini underneath was so butter-soaked it was actually sickly and I couldn’t eat it. And this from someone who often smears an outrageously thick layer of butter onto bread or fruit cake!

Overall I enjoyed the dish, but it needs a few tweaks to shine.

My side of french fries were anaemic and needed longer in the fryer. The green beans were better.

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Pete chose Homemade ice cream or sorbet (£6), and opted for three scoops of sorbet – lemon, orange and pear. These were very good, with a noticeably smoother texture than many we’ve been served elsewhere and rich, intense and fruity flavours.

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I was pretty full but so glad I let manager Samuele tempt me with the Tocino del Cielo (£6), described as an “authentic Spanish crème caramel served with vanilla cream”. The cubes of rich crème caramel were so good, definitely the dish of the day for me. Rich, sweet, and – like the sorbet – incredibly smooth; and they looked so pretty with the gold leaf on top. The vanilla cream was not too sweet, which worked well against the cloying crème caramel. The blitzed caramelised sugar looked pretty, but as it had been left on the slate for too long before serving, it had solidified and become a bit chewy.

This dessert also made me realise why the Spanish like their coffee so dark and strong – the bitterness is needed to cut through all that sugar, but the match is very good. This was a superb finish.

 

Service was patchy though I wouldn’t describe it as poor. Manager Samuele was excellent, both in knowledge and enthusiasm about the food and drinks menus and in anticipating diners’ needs. The rest of the staff were certainly friendly, but we found them lacking in training and not at all attentive, even when the restaurant was virtually empty during the earlier part of the evening. Smiles made up for some of that, but service did let the experience down somewhat.

 

After our meal, we moved into The Forge for the performance. It was fully booked and there was a great buzz to the space.

As Pete was feeling ill, we weren’t able to stay for the whole of Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s performance but we saw enough to appreciate the beauty of her voice and her unique style. Some of her material we enjoyed more, and some less, but appreciated being able to see her perform live in such a small and well-designed space.

 

Within a short walk of both Mornington Crescent and Camden tube stations, The Forge and The Foundry are really easy for us to get to, so I’m planning to keep an eye on the Events list. A few cocktails, a shared platter or two, some fine music and that crème caramel would make for a fine evening!

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of The Forge and The Foundry.

 

Pork from happy pigs tastes better. It really does!

That was certainly the case for the feast of Dingley Dell pork served up at the Leather Bottle, during one of their Flying Visits.

The pub’s huge garden was decked out in bunting, with rows of picnic tables laid out ready for eager pork eaters to take their seats. We were in one of the chalet huts towards one side of the garden, from where we could look out over the main dining area. The BBQ and kitchen were set up near the top of the garden.

We watched a butchery demonstration from a very charming and experienced butcher, who deftly broke down a side of pig. There were short introductory talks by Dingley Dell’s Mark Hayward, who told us about his farm, his pigs and his pork. We enjoyed live entertainment from Suffolk band The Broadside Boys during the evening.

Here are some images from the event, followed by the menu.

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The garden chalet tables

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Setting up tables ready for happy feasters

Mark Hayward, Dingley Dell
Dingley Dell’s Mark Hayward

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Butchery demonstration

The Whole Hog Board ­Air dried pork leg_ crispy pig¹s ears_ potted brawn_ mini hot dogs_ black pudding trotter fritters Gooseberry chutney_ purple basil jam and Young¹s beer bread DingleyDell-1707
The whole hog board

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Pig cheeks, jelly and peas

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Mark’s whole spitted hog

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18 hr cooked pulled pork

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St Louis pork ribs

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The team behind the feast

 

Whole Hog Board: potted brawn, crispy pigs ears, black pudding trotter fritters and mini hot dogs served with gooseberry chutney and purple basil jam – cooked by Stephen Bushnell and Chris Knights of Youngs Pubs.

Apple smoked pig cheeks with mead jelly and pea puree – cooked by Paul Sowden of The Elk Bar in Fulham.

The three mains, to come next, were served with a selection of sides including fantastic sweet potato fries, a root coleslaw and a green salad with heritage tomatoes.

Whole spitted hog, brined with Aspall’s apple juice and cider, then rubbed, marinated, mopped and sauced – cooked by Mark Poynton from Alimentum.

18 hr cooked pulled pork shoulder cooked with herbs and infused with hickory – cooked by Mark Poynton from Alimentum.

St Louis pork ribs cherry smoked with a BBQ and black treacle glaze served with individual terracotta pot bread – cooked by 3 times British BBQ champion and 5 times World finalist Andy Annat.

There was also a pork inspired dessert from Stephen and Chris, which I missed as I had a long journey home.

Meantime and Aspall’s provided drinks matches for each course, though I can’t comment on these as I stuck to soft drinks.

 

My favourites were the mini hot dogs, black pudding trotter fritters and potted brawn from the whole hog board, and the pork ribs and the sweet potato fries from the mains. I also liked the smoked pig cheeks with mead jelly and pea puree better than most on our table, though I agreed with others that serving it in a half pint mug made it impossible to eat easily, resulting in a first few mouthfuls of (unnecessarily copious) leaves, then the pea puree and finally the cheeks and jelly. I did like the combination of cheeks, jelly and peas but would rather have been given them on a regular plate.

 

This feast was priced at just £25 per person, and given that it included matching drinks throughout, I think that’s a terrific deal. I also really liked the pub itself, though we spent little time inside. For those living locally, I’d imagine it’s a lovely place for drinks or dinner.

 

Many thanks to the Leather Bottle and Saffron Powell (from We Love Food) for additional images.

Kavey Eats attended Dingley Dell’s Flying Visit as a guest.

 

Last month, I was invited to help the ETM Group judge their annual chefs competition, in which they invite all the chefs working in any of their restaurants to submit their best dish using wild Scottish salmon from Cruden Bay. Owners Tom and Ed Martin had already narrowed down the entries to 6, to be cooked by their creators for us to judge and choose a winner.

My fellow judges were Tom Martin, Andre Compton (ETM’s biggest regular), Bridget Croft (Group Operations Manager), Jessica Dahlin (Group Events & Marketing Manager) and Stuart Singer (ETM PR).

We gathered in the spacious cellar room under The Jugged Hare and, whilst we waited for the first dish to be presented, agreed our judging criteria. Each of us awarded a mark out of 10 for presentation, originality of idea and, of course, taste. Our total scores out of 30 for each dish were then added together to rank the 6 dishes.

Here are the 6 dishes in the order they were served:

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Mark Fines, Head Chef at The Gun served “pan fried fillet of wild salmon glazed Jersey royals and baby turnips, semi dried cherry tomatoes, wild garlic and Vermouth velouté”, and there was also an olive and anchovy tapenade on the plate.

I thought this looked attractive on the plate. The salmon was nicely cooked. The potatoes didn’t taste of much, regardless of their glaze. The tomatoes had a lovely balance of sweet sharp. To my surprise, the tapenade didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the salmon. The velouté gave a nice flavour too, though I’d not have been able to identify it if asked. Again, it didn’t overwhelm the salmon, nor clash with the other elements.

My score 22/ 30

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Paul Roman, Group Relief Chef entered a dish of “pan fried fillet of wild Scottish salmon, baby fennel, spring peas, asparagus and radish salad, horseradish chantilly”. A small pot of double chicken stock was poured into the dish at the table. As Paul wasn’t able to attend on the day, his dish was cooked for him by Mark Fines.

I really liked the classic combination of salmon and horseradish. The fresh crunchy vegetables underneath worked nicely, like a warm summer salad. Again, the fish itself was cooked perfectly with nice crisp skin. The intense chicken stock was delicious, but I’m not sure it was the ideal choice to pair with the fish.

My score 18/ 30

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Nick Butler, Sous Chef at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms served “pan fried fillet of wild Scottish salmon, foie gras, English samphire and apple salad, apple and vanilla purée” and also mentioned a vanilla and lemon oil.

It’s fair to say this dish was the most controversial, with four of us not convinced by the combination of salmon and foie gras, one undecided and one very keen indeed!

As previously, the salmon was beautifully cooked, with crispy skin. The samphire added a very nice crunchy salty note. But whilst I liked the foie gras, apple and vanilla they simply didn’t work at all with the salmon for me. In fact, this felt to me like two separate dishes on the same plate. I’d be delighted to have the foie gras, apple and vanilla as a starter and the salmon and samphire as a fish course. The rich, meaty, fatty foie gras totally disguised the flavour of the salmon and this dish could just have well been made with a bland white fish, to similar but less expensive effect.

My score 16/ 30

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Faruk Shalaku, Head Chef at The Well served “pan fried fillet of Scottish salmon, spring vegetable, pea shoot salad, chive butter sauce”.

This dish really did look beautiful on the plate, with the vibrant green of peas, beans and shoots against the pink of the fish. Fish was beautifully cooked again. The sauce was weak on flavour though the vegetables made up for that to an extent. I gave this one good marks for presentation, and fair marks for taste, but marked it down for originality. Nothing wrong with a classic, and that’s what we agreed this dish is, but it didn’t feel like a particularly exciting or original idea to enter into a competition.

My score 19/ 30

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Richard O’Connell, Head Chef at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms and The Jugged Hare served “confit of wild salmon, tarragon and Alexander crust, foraged sea beet, Herefordshire rhubarb, lemon crème fraiche, langoustine mousse”.

I loved the appearance of this dish, with the lovely colours from the pink fish and langoustine, the vibrant red rhubarb, the green of the herb crust and the darker green sea beet. It was a really unusual and original combination and yet every single element worked beautifully together on the palate. Not a single element was superfluous. And I was doubly impressed that Richard had been able to present rhubarb, a vegetable I’m not very keen on, in a way that I enjoyed so much.

My score 27/ 30

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Philip Kane, Senior Sous Chef at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms stepped in at the last minute when one of the original finalists was unable to attend. He came up with his idea for a dish very much at the last minute and according to what ingredients he found available!

He presented “butter poached wild salmon, langoustine, rainbow chard and smoked haddock cream”.

The salmon was super soft, and the butter made it even richer. The flavours here were big, with a subtle but pleasant hint of star anise in the fishy cream. The langoustine added a hint of sweetness, the chard a pleasant crunch and mineral flavour and the artichoke pieces (if we identified them correctly) gave a nice texture and taste too.

My score 26/ 30

 

Our aggregated scores revealed Richard O’Connell as the winner and Philip Kane in second place.

As their scores were so close, and Philip had pulled it out of the bag at late notice, Tom decided that both would be awarded the prize of a paid visit to Cruden Bay in Scotland, where the wild salmon is caught.

Congratulations to both and well done to all the chefs; I enjoyed tasting all of your dishes very much.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of The ETM Group.

Sep 212012
 

We don’t go to Hackney often, as it’s not the easiest journey for us on public transport, but we were invited by Justina, founder of The Craft Beer Social Club to attend one of her beer and food pairing events at new brewpub, Duke’s Brew & Cue and were keen to give both the social club and the brewpub a try.

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Founded by Byron Knight and Logan Plant (fab names, no?), the brewery is called Beavertown (after an nickname for the area, honest!) and it supplies both the pub itself and a handful of other outlets with an interesting mix of mainly American-inspired craft beers. Like our local favourite, The Bull in Highgate, the brewery is squeezed into a corner of the kitchen – you can see it if you peer in.

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The setting is rough and ready, what I’m starting to think of as dive bar chic, so prevalent has it become lately. But it looks good, and the place was absolutely buzzing on the Tuesday night of our visit.

Although we had a nice chat with Byron, his partner Logan, who looks after the brewery, wasn’t around. However, cellar master Hannah did an amazing job of introducing the beers and telling us all about them. In fact, her knowledge and huge personality was a big part of the attraction of the place, for me.

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Food wise, it was a mixed bag. The chef had laid on a special menu for the tasting.

Garlic bruschetta, and two goat’s cheese nibbles were mediocre. They were bland rather than offensive but I was disappointed.

The next dish, Sweet Spicy Miso Cod turned things around. Fantastically flavoured, succulent and simply presented with pak choi, this was just delightful and I could have eaten three plates of it in a row! The only sad news is that’s not a normal menu item, so it’s unlikely I (or you) would be able to order it on a future visit.

Next came absolutely enormous Succulent Smoked Beef Ribs. These were great, served with coleslaw and pickled gherkin though I’d have liked a portion of chips along side. These definitely brought out the cave man in everyone, and were good a match for the feel of the place and the wide range of beers on offer.

Dessert was another let down, with a dry and overly sweet chocolate brownie served with candied espresso beans and caramel ice cream. The espresso beans were good and the caramel ice cream pleasant enough, but the brownie was a crime against chocolate.

The normal menu is short and sweet, with pulled pork sliders, pork ribs and beef ribs, a range of steaks, a couple of American salads and a lone veggie burger. Sides include fried pickles and okra with ranch dressing, pit smoked baked beans and pork, seasoned fries, creamed spinach and macaroni cheese. Solidly American and popular with the local crowd.

I’d like to go back and try more of this, as those beef ribs were tasty!

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Read more about the beer in Pete’s review.

 

The Craft Beer Social Club runs beer tasting and brewer events around London. Kavey Eats and Pete Drinks were their guests for the evening.

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