- NEWS & ACHIEVEMENTS -

2011
Delicious Magazine Recipe Feature Recipes published in Princes Trust Charity 'Trusty' Cookbook Guest panellist on UKTV Food's 'Market Kitchen' Recipes published in 'Come Dine With Me Special Occasions' book Blog named as a "Media Must-Have" in Jan & Feb issue of Olive Magazine

2010
Launch of Sabrina's one-to-one private cookery tuition Guest critic on Gordon Ramsay's 'F-Word' series finale Organised Top Chef Charity Banquet for Haiti raising £70,000 for 'Action Against Hunger' Seasonal Food & Recipe Writer for 'Blue Tomato'

2009
Winner of Channel 4's 'Come Dine With Me' (West London) 'Bronze' winner in professionally judged 'AA Home Cooking Competition 2009' Appointed resident cookery columnist for Foodepedia

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Friday, 25 September 2009

GAY PAREEEE… “NON, NON" or "OUI, OUI" ?

Is it me or are Parisians really hell-bent on ruining your experience of this beautifully culture-rich city of theirs? Having just come back from Paris this afternoon, never have I wanted to kiss the ground of my homeland, more so than today.

For the best part of two centuries, the French have been renowned for their flair and excellence in all things “Culinaire’. But alas, mes amis, we have reached a proverbial ‘forchette’-in-the-road and I think its time we took a look at the cold hard facts and said what needs to be said. Restaurants in Paris suck. I love France, so ardent Francophiles “Back down” I say! But somewhere after the end of the 1970’s and present day, food in Paris just isn’t what it used to be. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t some amazing places in Paris to eat but shamefully, even some of the best joints in Paris don’t offer food that is anything out of the ordinary.

Now this not to say that France doesn’t produce some of the finest food and wine in the world. We all love the three C’s – Cheese, Chocolate (and my personal favourite) Champagne! I definitely couldn’t live without my favourite ‘St Maure de Touraine’ goat’s cheese, Valrhona chocolate and of course lots of lovely bubbly. Sadly, despite the abundance of marvellous foods that France is so famous for, it seems Paris has become the exception to the rule and it is almost as if it has become its own entity, entirely separate from the rest of France.

We all know that Paris (and more so, Parisians) are famed for their rudeness and abrupt manner. Of course there are also some lovely Parisians, many of whom are my friends, but whilst the recession seemed to shower Paris with the rains of politeness for a while, I can say that the rainy season is well and truly over and drought of the rudeness is well and truly ‘En Vogue’.

So I decided it was high time I named and shamed a few restaurants in Paris, because somewhere along the line, bad food and bad service seems to have become perfectly acceptable. So here goes nothing;

~Le BAD~

‘La Cantine du Faubourg – It’s Paris Fashion Week and last night’s late dinner (10pm) at the Fashionista-clad ‘Cantine du Faubourg’ was a nightmare from start to finish. We arrive at 10:15pm, only to be told by the extremely rude waitress that she doesn’t yet have a table for us. At the end of a long day, it took me a matter of seconds to convey my message of expectation to the young lady in French “It is 10:15pm, we booked for 10pm. We are hungry and I want a table now.” – Bizarrely, we are seated within 2 minutes. I find it almost amusing to watch them be pushy and arrogant towards us Brits, yet be shocked when we push back and even better, do it in their own language. I firmly believe that as a Brit, you are at a disadvantage in Paris, because they have preconceived notions about us “Ros-Bifs” and generally, they don’t like being very nice to us, unless we demonstrate a flair for their language or even better, flash the cash and win them over. The meal itself was ok, but the service was atrocious and after 3 hours and about 100 Euros each, we left having given the waiting staff a piece or two of our collective minds. www.lacantine.com/

‘Barramundi’ - We walked in, waited 10 minutes in a near empty restaurant to be greeted, let alone seated, finally sat down. We waited 20 minutes before even seeing the waitress. Once she arrived, she refused to take our drinks orders and insisted on us placing our food order, but walked away mid-sentence. We waited another 10 minutes for her to come back, before walking out of the restaurant, much to her bemusement. Shocking, as very few restaurants in my life have ever merited a walk out. www.barramundi.fr/

~Le GOOD~

W Sens – (Rue de Ponthieu) – A really nice restaurant that although stylish, doesn’t compromise the overall experience through a mix of the usual bad food and service. Service is great, the staff are lovely and food is very good and not overpriced. The venue is also open late and turns into a club around 11pm. www.sensparis.com/

Mood – (Champs Elysee) – Trendy Franco-Japanese fusion in a funky multi-level restaurant in the heart of Paris’ most famous address. Food is good, not overpriced and for the wilder ones amongst you, it’s a great place to continue the party, as it has its own club nights on sight after dinner. http://www.mood-paris.fr/

Restaurant 1728 – Set in classic dining rooms that were once part of the mansion home of La Fayette, the interior of these wonderful Louis Sixteenth decorated rooms have been lovingly restored and in a contradictive strike, the food served is Oriental, yet delicate and superbly executed. An historic site and not just a culinary jewel, which is well worth a visit. http://www.restaurant-1728.com/

~Le FANTASTIC~

Le Bouillon Racine (Rive Gauche) – For one of the most authentic Parisian experiences in town, ‘Bouillons’ became the most popular restaurants in Paris in the early 1900’s where the working class of the City first met the rich and upper class, during the ‘Art Nouveau’ movement of Paris. www.bouillon-racine.com/

Relais de Venise (Porte Maillot) – Classic ‘Steak Frites’ in the original world famous branch of this restaurant, serving only Entrecote steak, fantastic thin cut fries and that special wll-guarded ‘secret’ sauce.

Le Train Bleu (Gare du Lyon) – Originally named ‘Buffet de la Gare de Lyon’ and the setting of so many famous films, this beautiful restaurant epitomises old world Paris with its ornate wrought iron and glass windows, muraled ceilings and elaborate and superb classic French cuisine. Loved by Brigitte Bardot, Salvador Dali and Coco Chanel, this is a must-see stop on your list of historic destinations in Paris. www.le-train-bleu.com/

Angelina (Rue de Rivoli) – Simply the most unctuous hot chocolate to be found anywhere in the world! Another Paris stalwart, established in 1903, this wonderful little gem serves superb desserts as well as their infamous hot chocolate! www.groupe-bertrand.com/angelina.php

Laduree (Champs Elysee) – For the most sumptuous Macaroons you’ve ever tasted, you must visit these cute little tea rooms that offers tasted! Established in 1862, Laduree has macaroons of every flavour and colour that you could possibly hope for! You cannot leave Paris without a visit to one of their branches. BUT the good news is you can find Laduree at Harrods and Burlington Arcade, W1 in London. www.laduree.fr

Thursday, 17 September 2009

RETRO REVIVAL - GROOVY BABY!!!

I pride myself on keeping my finger firmly on the culinary pulse of our nation.
How do I do this, you may ask? Well, I am hooked on foodie sites like Foodepedia (plug, plug, plug!) Am a loyal subscriber to Olive magazine, Delicious magazine and the new Jamie Oliver magazine, plus through my various Chef and Restaurateur contacts, I am always listening to what people are doing in their restaurants, speaking to Chefs about produce etc and what is and isn’t popular as well as monitoring new restaurant openings as well as inevitable closures. You could say I’m a total geek and you would be right on the money, because that’s exactly what I am! Some girls may obsess with fashion or celebrity gossip, but I am obsessed (not in a “bunny boiler” way) with Chefs, Restaurants, Food programmes and the wonderful commodity that is FOOD!

Having noticed lately that a lot of new restaurants are opening up, the first thing I do is view their menus and you would be surprised to see that we seem to be going all ‘Retro’ and 60’s all of a sudden. Even some of the not-so-new restaurants seem to be following suit and heading back to basics. I never thought the words “Rotisserie”, “Prawn Cocktail” or “Peach Melba” would ever make it onto the menus of restaurants in this day and age, but my friends, it seems that they have become ‘En Vogue’ again and are in fact the height of fashion!

So why have we travelled back in time to one of the most gaudy decades of the 20th century? I think it’s because the 60’s were very much a decade of culinary discovery for Britain. Sainsbury’s claim to have introduced the Avocado (or Avocado ‘pear’ as it was then known) to our supermarket shelves in 1962, although the authenticity of this fact is being disputed by Marks and Spencers - Supermarket wars are alive and well as usual! French cooking was becoming incredibly popular with us Brits, courtesy of Elizabeth David who released her book “French Provincial Cooking” in 1960. A new era was beginning in Britain and the recovery from the effects of rationing after World War II was almost complete for most and the nation was in full party swing. Dinner parties became an opportunity for people to show off their culinary prowess again, with new and sophisticated dishes from Continental Europe and ingredients from exotic corners of the world.

It’s funny how we seem to be going back to basics, back to days where food was simple and straight forward and not at all like the pretentious works of art that Chefs have been subjecting us to for the last two decades. Perhaps the credit crunch has affected us – on some level - in a positive way? By teaching us to scale back on unnecessary things and keep it simple, but delicious, when it comes to cooking. No more microwave meals that taste awful, aren’t fresh and cost more than a few simple ingredients would. Hallelujah! Could we at last be getting the bigger picture? Clearly people aren’t dining out as much anymore, as the restaurant industry has been suffering financially with many top restaurants having to close as a result of the downturn in the economy. People must be staying home more as 2009 has seen a drastic increase in the rate of pregnancy in Britain, if that’s not proof of staying home, then I don’t know what is!

So perhaps the penny has finally dropped and retro is once again very much back in! We are going back to our roots and what we once deemed as tacky is now top of the list of chic. So abandon your bikinis and summer attire, bring on the stretchy elastic-waisted bottoms and lycra-laden clothing, because its time to eat! Scotch eggs, Chicken Kievs, Pints-of-prawns, Crudités and Vichyssoise are all coming back!! But don’t go overboard and start digging out your flairs, platform boots and lava lamps! Only retro food is cool, “Everything else is just square baby, you dig?”…

Saturday, 12 September 2009

THE FABULOUS "BUTCHER" BOYS

Very few supermarkets these days can be credited, in my humble opinion, with offering good quality, reasonably priced, honest and humble meat. Although there are still some good exceptions, by and large the majority are unable to deliver to anything other than your average cheap “Kill it and grill it” beef steak, which has not been aged, grass fed or taken care of in anyway. I, for one, am not the kind of person to plump for a steak that is fire engine red, sweating profusely in its plastic packaging and sitting it a pool of its own blood for days on end until some poor desperate soul decides to buy it. If you think its only cuts of meat that can be a problem, then you are wrong. Think about water logged cheap bacon and dodgy sausages that contain only 30% meat (what the hell is the other 70% made of???) not to mention burgers, chicken and so many other things that just make my skin crawl.

Enough lecturing now, because it really boils down to a choice that each one of us decide to make based on what suits ourselves and our household. Should we be trying to eat smaller quantities or cheaper (or ‘forgotten’) cuts of better quality meat instead or are we going to stick to cheaper, but lesser quality, processed meat produce? This is one of those arguments that divides the nation and will always do so. People argue that cost is a problem, but as “Oranges are not the only fruit” nor is Fillet steak the only meat! The decision is yours.

When was the last time you went to your local butcher? These days the butcher shop, unable to compete with supermarket ‘2 for 1’ deals and slashed prices, is being forced into virtual extinction. BUT the good news is that as we are becoming more aware of poor quality food, the demand for good quality is on the increase and butcher shops are coming back. Local butchers are still the best but some butcher shops, like the illustrious “Lidgates” of Notting Hill (what I like to call a ‘Boutique Butchery’) charge astronomical prices, although do provide top quality meat.

My favourite butcher shop in London for the last 7 years is located conveniently near my office and they do not overcharge at all. “Porterfords” butcher shop is tucked away on Watling Street EC4, right by Bow Church Lane. They are a good, old school butcher shop offering every cut of meat to satisfy your inner carnivore, with thoughtfully selected cuts of meat that have been either stuffed, marinated or trussed to make life easier for us all as well as some superb hot food that is ready to eat and attracts hoards of City traders and bankers every lunchtime. Offering everything from pies to kebabs and wonderfully traditional as well as the more exotic variety of sausages, no wonder it's one of the busiest places in the area at lunch time.

I popped in to Porterford’s on Friday last week, as ever, not knowing what on earth I was gonna come out with. After my usual 10 minute chat and catch up with the wonderfully charming and lovely chaps that work there, my eyes spied a sight that literally took my breath away. The most wonderfully bountiful array of sausages I had seen for quite some time, beckoned for me to take them home… Like puppies in a pet shop, one look and my heart melted. I knew I just had to take them home with me, although these little puppies were gonna end up in my tummy, with a healthy side of good old Colman’s English mustard. Opting for some of each variety, they carefully wrapped them individually for me, taking the time to label each little parcel of porky goodness especially for me. If that's not top notch customer service, then i don't know what is!

In the above image, clockwise from the top left, we have: Smoked chicken and shallot, Italian Salamini, Spicy Italian, Chicken with Lemon and Coriander, Duck and Orange, Lamb and Mint and Honey Roast Pork. Nothing but nothing reads as orgasmicly as this list for me. It’s what I like to call “Gastro-Porn”. I love sausages. They are so versatile and now with so many different varieties available, not only using classic pork, but game, poultry and more exotic beasts like Wild Boar, Venison, Ostrich etc, there is something to suit everyone so there really is no excuse not to be a bit adventurous and try something new.

I think we should be supporting our butchers and not just going in there and grabbing the usual cuts and leaving. Butchers are greatly overlooked these days, because most supermarkets stick a spotty teenager on the meat counter with next-to-no experience or knowledge of the stale produce he is selling. Real butchers, like my “Fabulous Butcher Boys” at Porterfords, are skilled, trained and experienced individuals who are masters in butchery and not just knowledge of the meat itself, but also what to do with it, which cuts are best for certain methods of cooking, as well as being able to recommend different cuts that are classed as “Forgotten” cuts, such as skirt steak, lamb neck, pigs cheeks and so much more beside. So I encourage you to stop and chat for a bit and ask these ‘Maestros of Meat’ for some advice on tips for saving money by choosing different cuts, learning which cooking method suits them best, but also listening to their Pearls of wisdom, when it comes to meat and all the wonderful produce that is available at your butchers shop today, that you may not know about. Just because it isn’t in the window, doesn’t mean it isn’t available. Ask your butcher, if you don’t see what you are looking for. Now is especially a great time for meat, with us being in the prime of Game season and the more robust Autumn meats like Venison coming forth, your regular trip to the supermarket should be preceded with a quick stop at the butchers.

Don’t have a good butcher near you? Why don’t you come and see mine? They are reasonably priced, experienced and friendly and offer lots of lovely produce to suit everyone. Visit the boys at:

Porterfords – 72 Watling Street, The City, London EC4M 9BJ (1 minute from Mansion House tube station) Tel: 020 7248 1396

Tell them Sabrina sent you!