- 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

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

RECIPE: Italian Arancini

I had a few girlfriends over for dinner last week and I bought some lovely scallops from Moxon's (my all time favourite fishmonger in London) and I bought a dozen plump, juicy scallops and a beast of a 1.5kg Seabass. I made a vegetable risotto using enoki mushrooms, cavolo nero cabbage and fennel... which complimented the seafood perfectly. I stuffed the seabass with fennel discards, lemon, bashed garlic, shallots and some herbs. If only I had taken a picture! But sometimes enjoyment cannot be interrupted by having to take photographs! Sadly despite their only being 4 of us, there wasn't a single scrap of seabass or scallops left but I did find myself left with a rather generous bowl full of risotto which I stuck in the fridge.

Leftovers are such a crime. I myself have always been one of the biggest criminals when it comes to throwing food out because I would buy more than I could use. Oh how times have changed! When I think of how many people in the world are without, I make sure I shop when I need to and I have also devised ways to use up most of the usual foods that get left behind in my fridge. But risotto? Risotto is easy. The Italians have already devised a very clever way to use this up by forming the pretty unsavoury stodgey rice into little balls, filled with either meat ragu or a little square of Mozzarella cheese and frying them. The result? Deliciously golden, crunchy on the outside, round balls of soft tasty rice with an oozy cheese centre. Not to shabby for me, I tell you. But having devoured many of these balls over the years courtesy of Carluccio's restaurants, I was a bit worried my version wouldn't turn out great.... Oh how very wrong I was! They turned out to be so delicious!

I won't lie, I do find dipping things in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs to be all too tedious... BUT when the result is so great and uses up leftovers, its a win-win situation and I'm prepared to go the extra mile! So here is how to make them;

Italian Arancini


**Quantities will depend on how much leftover risotto you have**
Leftover risotto (any kind as long as it's leftover and not fresh)
Japanese Panko or normal breadcrumbs (Panko sold at supermarkets, fishmongers and Oriental shops)
Free range eggs, beaten
Plain flour, seasoned
Mozzarella cheese (not Buffalo for this!) cut into 1 inch cubes

Preheat some oil in a deep pan over a medium-high heat (electric) or medium heat (gas), enough to cover about 3-4 inches of the base. Basically the trick to preparing this is to take a small handful of the cold risotto and gently flatten it out a little in the palm of your hand. Then place a cube of mozzarella cheese in the centre and gathering the edges around the mozzarella, form a nice round ball ensuring there are no cracks. Then roll the ball in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess... then coat in beaten eggs and finally roll generously in panko crumbs and deep fry for about 10 minutes, or until a deep golden brown on all sides.

That's it! That is all there is to it! Next time you have risotto left over and don't fancy reheating it the next day... Why not turn it into these delicious little golden balls of fabulousness? Oh and for the record, I made 9 Arancinis... and they were so tasty, they lasted less then 9 minutes!

Monday, 13 December 2010

RECIPE: Persian-Inspired Winter Wild Rice Salad

I do love a good rice salad... not entirely certain where my love for them comes from. If I'm not wrong, I think it was my Aunt Zahra's house on Boxing Day in the mid-80's and we were served a deliciously crispy roasted goose. I cannot recall all the other side dishes and accoutriment but I do remember a rice salad, studded with raisins in a kind of curried mayonnaisey dressing (similar to that of Coronoation chicken) I'd never had anything like it before and I was quite impressed. To this day, when I make a rice salad (of which there have been MANY) I always visualise that rice salad. Ahhhh, nostalgia is a funny thing.

My Mother has an annual ladies lunch at her work place and the tradition has become that I prepare an enormous salad of some sort and she and the ladies feast on it, along with other contributed dishes. Without boasting, I'm told my salads are always a hit and thank goodness for that as you never want to fall foul of a group of ladies! Especially not when it comes to food or cookery!

The recipe I have just finished making is a Persian-inspired rice salad and it is totally foolproof, therefore I really recommend it as a fab 'alternative' dish for your Christmas or Boxing Day table. Ingredients like Barberries, sour cherries, dill, pistachios and dates are all very Persian... but they are merely a guideline, you can add whatever you like.... Yes even that odd bag of pecan nuts stuffed in the back of your cupboard. Quantities are also vague and not so important; you simply put what you have at home into the salad.... it's that simple.

Persian-Inspired Winter Wild Rice Salad (party size quantity!)

500g of Camargue wild red rice
500g of Wild and long grain rice (mixed, from Sainsburys)
300g of peeled whole pistachios
200g of dried sour cherries
150g of flaked almonds
250g of chopped dates
600g of feta cheese
2 bunches of spring onions, thinly sliced
4 bulbs of fennel, halved and very thinly sliced
Grated zest and juice of 4 unwaxed oranges
2 bunches of dill, finely chopped
200ml of olive oil
125ml red wine vinegar
Maldon sea salt
**optional** 100g of Barberries (Sour Persian red berries, from Persian supermarkets)
**optional** Fresh pomegranate seeds to garnish

Cook your rice according to the instructions on the packet, then drain and wash the rice in cold water to allow the starch to drain away. In a large bowl (or several bowls if you need to) mix all the ingredients together, adding the dried fruits, nuts, spring onions, fennel, dill and mixing well using your hands. Then drizzle the entire amount of olive oil, vinegar, juice and zest of your oranges as well as your salt and incorporate all the dressing evenly, using your hands to ensure every grain of rice gets an even coating. Finally add the dill and mix the ingredients again until even. My best advice is to serve the dish the following day and only at the time of serving should you add the crumbled feta cheese and your optional fresh pomegranate seeds.

It's a simple recipe... But it's a crowd pleaser also. There are lots of different flavours, textures and colours in this dish and nothing overpowering or offensive so it's a win-win situation for all!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

RECIPE: Persian Aubergine and Whey (Kashk-e-Bademjan)

Aubergines are fantastic and the global love for them can be well charted on the spice route from Italy through to Asia, Iran and right through to China. I like them all shapes and sizes, baked, grilled and fried... Spicy, garlicky or herby, I just can't get enough. Whether you call them aubergine or eggplant, these dark and curvy beauties make a great meal.

Fortunately, aubergines have now been cultivated so they are no longer bitter making the 'salting' of aubergines no longer necessary. We Persians have such varied aubergine recipes, but one of my favourites is called 'Kashk-e-Bademjan'. Kashk is simply, whey; which is the remaining liquid after milk has been curdled and strained and 'Bademjan' just means aubergine and this dish is a classic way to start a meal in any Persian restaurant, perfect for starters or even a veggie main course.

Persian Aubergine and Whey (Kashk-e-Bademjan)

4 large aubergines, peel and chop into 1-2 inch squared chunks
3 small onions, diced or thinly sliced into half moons (your choice entirely)
Whey (available from Persian / Middle Eastern supermarkets)
Vegetable oil

In a large preheated pan over a medium-high heat (or medium if using gas) add some oil and slowly caramelise you onions (if they are burning, turn the temperature down) Then add your aubergines to the pan (at this stage you may need to add more oil) and stir the mix well making sure the onions are evenly incorporated. As aubergines act like a sponge for oil, I tend to add a few tablespoons of hot water and cover the pan with a tight lid so the mixture is partially steaming as well as frying, but that's up to you. Add more oil if you wish. Stir the aubergines every 8minutes until they are golden brown. Once the mix is fully cooked and nice and brown, add in your whey Whey is quite salty so I like to drizzle enough to cover the top layer of my aubergines (usually about 4 tablespoons) and then mix it well. Remember you can always add, but you can never take away! Many Persians prefer to serve the aubergine and caramelised onion mix in a flat dish and simply drizzle the whey generously on top so you have a bit of sweet and a bit of salt. Serve it however you like, but for heaven's sake serve it with bread! Preferably Persian naan flatbread, otherwise toasted pittas or Lebanese flat bread are also great!

Monday, 29 November 2010

RECIPE: Persian Sumac-Crusted Shoulder of Lamb

I love lamb. I could harp on endlessly about all the fantastic ways I love to eat the stuff. Grilled, roasted, fried, barbequed... everything from neck fillets to lovely leg; it is all delicious and versatile. But economising (as we all should be doing) I look to the cheaper cuts of meat, which is treated properly and cooked correctly can deliver an abundence of flavour as well as feed the masses in a beyond enjoyable fashion.

Shoulder of lamb is often over-looked by many because it looks awkward, is quite fatty and requires a long cooking time... all of which is true... but the fat is almost completely rendered throughout the cooking process and the slow cooking just ensures that the meat falls of the bone. Every bite is tender, juicy and mouthwateringly succulent and you can use robust flavours and spices to flavour the meat.

Sumac is a popular Persian spice, scarlet in colour and famed for it's sharp, almost citrusy finish. We sprinkle it on grilled meat as well as rice and salads and you can find it at most supermarkets, although the best and most fresh Sumac will always be found at Persian or Middle Eastern supermarkets. The sharp flavour of the Sumac cuts beautifully through the rich lamb meat, making the perfect pairing. Here's how to do it:

Persian Sumac-Crusted Shoulder of Lamb

2.5-3kg shoulder of lamb
2 heaped tablespoons of Sumac
Maldon Sea Salt
A little oil

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (190 if fan assisted) and place the lamb shoulder in to your chosen oven dish/tray. Drizzle a little oil onto the lamb (just enough to make the Sumac stick) and sprinkle your Sumac over the lamb, rubbing the Sumac into every nook and cranny before seasoning generous with Maldon sea salt and placing in the oven. After 15 minutes, turn the heat right down to 160 (or 150 fan assisted) and cook the lamb for about 4 hours straight. Remove the lamb from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 8 minutes before serving. You can literally take a fork and gently pull the lamb apart or be all fancy (and rather unecessary) and use a knife to slice it. Serve with a nice salad or even better a side of rice or cous-cous... And even better, my classic Persian side dish of caramelised onions, sauteed aubergines and whey. (CLICK HERE)

Monday, 22 November 2010

RECIPE: Fig and Vanilla Martini

Let it be know that I am no 'One trick pony'... eating is not my only pleasure. Sometimes you have to broaden your horizons and as much as I love my food, I am rather partial to the odd cocktail and love nothing more than making my own concoctions. I really get stuck into making fruit purees from scratch; everything from fruits of the forest and orchard to lavender and camomile syrups and even tea-based syrups. In my circle of friends, I have a bit of a reputation for being quite the mixologist at times! Granted they can often be quite lethal and as a result, some prove less memorable than others but there is no disputing that they were a hit!

As we enjoy the last of the autumn fruits, I encourage you to guzzle down as many figs as you can before they disappear from our shelves. Wrap them in parma ham and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve with buffalo mozzarella. If sweets are your thing, score a cross in the top of the fig and pinch the bottom to open them out a bit, drizzle with maple syrup, toss some walnuts on to them and bake in the oven at 220 degrees for 10 minutes, serve with vanilla ice cream. It's all about the figs, so blink and you may miss them.

Back to the booze! (Yes, I thought that would get your attention!) I dreamed up a very moreish base for a great Martini using a vanilla pod, some sugar, lemon juice and fig pulp... and here is the quick recipe:

Fig and Vanilla Martini

6 ripe figs
2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Seeds of 1/2 a vanilla pod
3 tablespoons of water
Ice

Tea strainer
Hand blender
Cocktail shaker (or makeshift one!(

Method
Peel the figs and place them in a pan with the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla pod seeds and 3 tablespoons of water. Boil gently over a low-medium heat (or low if using gas) for 15 minutes. Puree the mixture and strain through a sieve. Fill a cocktail shaker ¾ of the way with ice cubes, add a generous tablespoon of the puree and 50ml of vodka. Shake well and serve and pour into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a slice of fig or a vanilla pod for the ultimate glamourous cocktail. Delicious.

**TOP TIP** - Any leftover puree makes for a fabulous breakfast preserve, especially with fresh croissants! (Trust me because that's exactly what I did!)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

RECIPE: Chicken Tikka Masala - A British Classic!

If I'm being honest, chicken tikka masala was not entirely what I set out to make when I started making this dish. The truth is that I actually didn't know what I was going to make, I just knew that I had enough spices and a good tomato sauce as a base which would turn some chicken thighs into something tasty. I guess that says a lot about the kind of cook I am; confident, relaxed and not fearful of the outcome so long as I have good basic ingredients.

I particularly love the flavours of this curry as the sauce is intensely rich and tomatoey with a gentle spice and a more round, authentic flavour than shop/takeaway bought chicken tikka masalas. Granted the tikka masala is not actually Indian, but in fact a British creation... whatever it's origin, we love it and for good reason too. My simple recipe means you can make this classic at home, which certainly beats any other version of chicken tikka masala.

Chicken Tikka Masala (Serves 4)

- 500g skinless and boneless chicken thighs
- 2 medium white onions, diced (You don't need to be too exact/meticulous here)
- 6 inches of fresh ginger, finely grated
- 100g tomato puree
- 350g of FRESH tomato sauce (you can follow my RECIPE for basic tomato sauce or buy ready made fresh pasta sauces in supermarkets)
- 1 heaped teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds
- 4 heaped teaspoons of turmeric powder
- 2 heaped teaspoons of garam masala
- 6 heaped teaspoons of mild curry powder
- 1 heaped teaspoon of cumin powder
- 2 heaped teaspoons of cayenne powder (or 1 if you prefer no heat)
- 2 heaped teaspoons of garlic granules
- 1 Knorr chicken stock pot portions (you know, the ones that Marco Pierre-White pimps on TV) or just a good chicken stock cube
- 1 heaped teaspoon of caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons of double cream
- 120g of 'Total' full fat Greek yoghurt
- Cooking oil
- Water

METHOD

In a large non stick cooking pot over a medium-high heat (or medium heat if using gas) drizzle a generous amount of oil and add you onions and cook them through. If you see them starting to brown, then turn the heat down as you don't want to caramelise them, you just want to cook them properly until they are soft and translucent. Add your mustard seeds and stir well at which point they will begin to pop. Then add your spices, one at a time, stirring the powders well into the onions. You will find that you will need to add a little more oil at this stage as the spices tend to soak up the moisture of the pan, but once you have added all the spices, I would add half a mug of hot water instead of extra oil. Stir the mix well before adding your tomato puree. Tomato puree needs to be 'cooked out' so really stir the contents of the pan well and again, if the pan is dry, add just a little more hot water before ensuring that the puree is thoroughly incorporated.

Once the tomato puree has been cooking for 5 minutes or so, add your skinless and boneless chicken thighs (whole) into the pan and coat them in the onion and spice mix, giving it a good stir. Add your fresh tomato sauce, sugar and chicken stock and again stir well, before pouring enough hot water into the pan to cover the chicken generously. Stir well, reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid and allow to cook for 45 minutes-1 hour. Check every 15 minutes to give the mix a quick stir to prevent the bottom from burning.

Once the cooking time is up, stir in the double cream (gently so you dont break up the chicken too much) and then stir in your Greek yoghurt. Finish by allowing to simmer for another 10 minutes, before serving with basmati rice. Heaven! You can also freeze this curry in an air tight container and it will be just as good to enjoy at a later time.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

RECIPE: Pancetta, Cornish Crackler and Gruyere Quiche

And so the saying goes "Real men don't eat quiche..." - Well I defy any man to refuse the delights of a proper homemade quiche, baked with love.

Quiche isn't really baking in my mind; or at least that is how I rationalise it in my head so as not to 'scare' me from making it. I now dont even bother following recipes, because the basic principles are eggs, cream, cheese and milk combined with your chosen ingredients (whether meat, fish or vegetarian) on top of a shortcrust pastry base. The shape differs depending on my mood (I have even made tacky star and heart shaped quiches for Christmas and Valentines Day) and I love how versatile the fillings can be.

The quiche I have chosen to make uses my favourite ingredients including Italian Pancetta and two different cheeses; one has to be a nice sharp cheddar cheese that can hold it's own through all that double cream, milk and eggs and a nice gooey, cheese that melts really well... So I chose gruyere (which really is a quiche classic) and one of my favourite cheeses for snacking on 'Davidstow Cornish Crackler' Cheddar and here is the recipe:

Pancetta and Cornish Crackler and Gruyere Quiche

400g diced pancetta
250g double cream
5 medium sized eggs (I used Clarence Court 'Mabel Pearman's Burford Brown')
100ml of milk
150g finely grated Davidstow Cornish Crackler Cheddar
150g finely grated Gruyere cheese
1 Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry sheet (from all supermarkets)
Maldon sea salt
Ground black pepper
10 strands of chives, snipped **optional**

Baking beans (or any dried pulses you have lying around)
Oven paper

Method
Find an oven dish that fits your pastry sheet nicely and don't be afraid to roll out the pastry a little to get some extra slack, I did the same thing. Once the pastry is in the oven dish, cover it with oven paper and add your baking beans before baking for 10 minutes in a preheated oven on 200 degrees. Once done, remove from oven and set aside but DO NOT turn the oven off, just reduce the heat down to 180 (or 170 if fan assisted)

In a deep pan over a medium-high heat, fry your pancetta until well cooked and nicely browned. Once done, drain the fat by removing them using a slotted spoon and transfer onto a plate lined with kitchen towels to further help drain excess oil.

In a mixing bowl, add your cream, egg and mix well before adding your grated cheeses, milk, chives, a couple of pinches of salt, some black pepper and mix the ingredients all very well until the bowl resembles an even mixture. Finally add your pancetta and incorporate well and then using a ladel, pour all the contents of the bowl onto your pastry base and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Serve with a nice salad or just by itself.

RECIPE: Sabrina's Winning Come Dine With Me Lamb Recipe

I have been asked time again and to print this recipe on my blog and with the cold weather coming, the warming spice mix makes my spice-crusted rack of lamb the perfect warming treat. Believe it or not, I chose this recipe because it something quick and easy that would make for an impressive meal. The spice rub 'Ras-el-Hanout' contains 14 different spices including rose petals, lavender, mace and ginger which make it incredibly aromatic and flavoursome. I paired the lamb with a nice homemade tabbouleh salad and made a quick sauce using pomegranate molasses/syrup. So here's what to do:

Moroccan Spice-Crusted Rack of Lamb
Rack of lamb (Approx 500-600g & 'French trimmed' 6 bone is ideal)
1 heaped tablespoon of ‘Ras-el-Hanout’(Preferably 'Seasoned Pioneers' brand available in supermarkets, or use Tesco's Finest)
Olive oil
Maldon sea salt

In a small bowl, add the Ras-el-Hanout and a few generous pinches of sea salt
and mix together with a well. Rub your lamb all over with a little oil, then liberally sprinkle both sides of each rack with some of the spice mix and rub the mixture in well. You can allow this to marinade for a few hours or the night before, but it is so aromatic that you can make it straight away without worrying that flavours have not yet penetrated.

In a pre-heated pan on a medium-high (or medium if gas)temperature, lay each lamb rack fat-side down into the pan and seal the flavour into each side of the meat both fat and meat sides. Nicely brown the fat side but don't allow it to cook for too long; 6 mins fat side and a couple of minutes on the ends and reverse side will be perfect. This is the stage, that you can allow them to cool and use them later, or put them straight into a preheated oven (200C) and cook for another 15-20 minutes depending on whether you like your meat rare or medium-well done. Remove from oven and cover with foil, allowing meat to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Pomegranate Jus
Pour the lamb juices from your oven pan into a sauce pan along with 4 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, 100ml of pomegranate juice (like POM) and 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar and stir well over a high heat so the sugar melts and the sauce thickens and emulsifies. Then drizzle over your lamb.

Tabbouleh 'Cups'
1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
2 plump tomatoes (finely diced)
5 whole spring onions (finely slice, both green & white part)
Handful of Bulgar wheat (boiled per packet instructions, rinsed & put aside)
Juice of a whole lemon
Olive oil
Maldon sea salt & pepper
Baby gem lettuce leaves (which make the ‘cup’)

Mix all your chopped ingredients in bowl, drizzle with lemon juice to ensure the mixture is well coated, but not greasy and then add lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste. Take a generous tablespoon on the Tabbouleh and place in a baby gem lettuce leaf and serve.

REVIEW: The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook

I love nothing more than the gift of a new cookbook. It makes me happy to open the cover and peer curiously through the pages looking for new ideas and recipes whilst staring at vibrant images. Visuals are so important for a girl like me; I need to see colour, texture and how things look if I'm ever going to attempt cooking anything from a book.

The Three Sisters Cookbook is a lovely collection of recipes from three sisters, each with different strengths that help fill this evocative book with wonderfully vibrant, simple and delicious looking recipes. Many of the recipes are modern Indian, which is nice... bringing something new and interesting to the table and making the cookery appeal to an even wider audience.

The book itself is colourful and brimming with striking photography, showcasing the simple dishes as well as the more elaborate creations. Desserts aren't abundant in Asian cookery, which is why the 'Desserts and Drinks' section is a nice touch, featuring lots of cooling Indian combinations to serve alongside meals.

I love this kind of book. It's unpretentious and very warming to read the stories of the sisters and how they grew up. Personaly family pictures are also shared with readers, which is a nice touch and overall I would hand-on-heart recommend this as a wonderful gift for anyone this Christmas. You don't have to be a seasoned cook to tackle these recipes, they are simple, well explained and produce great results so head to Amazon and buy yours now... it's half price at just £8.50, so CLICK HERE

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

RECIPE: Toad-in-the-hole... Bonfire night with a BANG!

Guy Fawkes night is nothing without bangers... The meaty, juicy variety of course! After a chilly night of watching fireworks in a park, coming home to a simple but hearty meal is the perfect way to wind down for an evening.

The rule of thumb for making a basic Yorkshire pudding batter is that you need equal measures of plain flour to eggs and milk. It is just that simple really and in fact to ensure my measurements are equal, I measure them using a measuring jug! It may sound a bit odd but its foolproof and works every time so it has to be a winner for me. You can also use any sausages your heart desires, I used lovely pork and leek sausages from my local supermarket, but you can use anything you like, although the better quality sausages you use, the meatier they are which make a better Toad in the hole. I have also used Chorizo sausages (the raw, cooking variety) and Merguez which are both absolutely delicious and add a really different, but utterly delicious twist to a British classic. As usual, the best dishes should be easily adaptable to suit your tastes and so the choice is yours!

Serves 2-4 (depending on how greedy you are)!

Ingredients

Pack of 6 best quality sausages of your choice
4 medium sized eggs (should equate to 200ml)
Plain Flour (measure 200ml quantity in a measuring jug)
200ml of full fat milk
2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Oven paper for baking

Method

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees and line a baking tray and place your sausages on the tray and partially cook them in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they brown nicely (don’t worry about them being undercooked, as they will get a further 20-25 minutes of cooking later) Once the sausages are done, remove and set aside. In an oven proof dish approximately 30cm x 20cm (it really doesn’t have to be exact) add your oil and place the dish into the oven to heat your oil.

Whilst the oil is heating in the oven, start your batter. Taking your measured plain flour, milk and eggs, whisk the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and pour it back into your measuring jug, which will make it easier to pour. Once this is done, remove the dish with the oil from the oven, pour an inch thick layer of batter into the oven dish (this should make it sizzle, then carefully take your sausage and lay them out however you like and then pour the rest of the batter into the dish (pouring around the edges is best) and place the dish back into the oven for 20-25 minutes but reducing your heat to 200 degrees only.

Once done, your batter should have risen beautifully and you will have combination of crispy Yorkshire pudding batter on the top and a slightly softer texture encasing the sausages. Serve with gravy and try not to eat the whole thing yourself. It hits the spot, every single time.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

RECIPE: Perfect Tomato Sauce

Perfect tomato sauce "for what?" you may ask; the simple answer is, for EVERYTHING. In a bid to stick two preverbial fingers up at the crappy pasta sauce market, I am going back to basics and sharing some basic recipes with you that use just a few ingredients.

Although there are some incredibly acceptable and good quality sauces on the market, nothing but nothing beats home-cooking! So here is my simple recipe for a fantastic tomato sauce that is perfect for pastas, bases for stews and fantastic on it's own with a hunk of bread and a drizzle of olive oil. Even better, if you are like me and never get round to using those old tomatoes in the fridge... no matter how squishy they are, whether cherry tomatoes or your garden variety tomato, then this is a perfect way of making use of them no matter how old they are!

Ingredients
2kg of ripe tomatoes
1 heaped teaspoon of caster sugar
1 heaped teaspoon of dried oregano
5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and bashed **optional**
Olive oil
Maldon sea salt
1 pint of water

Method
In a pan over a medium-high heat (or medium heat if using gas) drizzle generously with some olive oil, add your bashed cloves of garlic. Then cut your tomatoes in half and place flat side down in the pan. Sprinkle over your sugar and oregano, season generously with Maldon sea salt and black pepper and allow to cook for 8 minutes, before taking a potato masher or wooden spoon and bashing the tomatoes to break up the pulp. Stir the tomatoes well, add your water and turn the heat down to low-medium (or low if gas) and allow to cook for a couple of hours. After 2 hours, add a little more water if desired and using a hand blender, whizz the contents of the pan until a nice smooth sauce consistency. You can use/eat this immediately or freeze it to save it until needed. You will never reach for dodgy pasta sauces again!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Christmas Traditions and Family Favourites

It's the 1st of November and the Christmas decorations have gone up in my local high street. Unbelievable, but true! So seeing as Christmas will probably be here before we know it, I thought we could share some of our favourite traditional and not so traditional recipes and tips for Christmas Eve/Day and Boxing Day... Hell, even New Years!

My family and I sit down to a non-traditional giant rib of beef with all the trimmings including Yorkshire puds, roast potatoes, stuffing balls, sausages and bacon-wrapped sausages. It works for us; we ditch the Christmas pudding (because nobody likes it) and I serve sticky toffee pudding with vanilla bean custard instead. I also like to bake either cookies or brownies with my nephews on Christmas Day too because it gives the kids a real sense of involvement in the preparations.

Boxing day usually features either duck, roast lamb or roast chicken with things like Gratin Dauphinoise or crispy thinly sliced potatoes and rosemary. New Years Eve is mainly about decadence; so lashings of indulgent Champagne with seafood, rack of lamb, lots of side dishes and cheeses etc... and very little dessert because everyone is usually drunk and dancing!

My best tips for Christmas are don't be afraid to cut corners! I usually buy Duchy beef gravy from Waitrose/Ocado to beef up my gravy and at Christmas they also do a fantastic poultry gravy too. I par-cook all my stuffing balls, sausages and roast potatoes and then finish them off in the oven the next day. I always put out a good selection of crudites, chips and dips on the table before the meal; which always buys me some extra time in the kitchen just in case I am running behind schedule.

This year I would love to add a few new additions to the table, so what are your festive traditions and what do you like to eat? What are your family favourites and which are your favourite tips / recipes?

REVIEW: 28°-50° (Fetter Lane, EC4)

Brainchild of Michelin starred Chef Agnar Sverrisson and his partner, Master Sommelier Xavier Rousset of Icelandic restaurant 'Texture', 28°-50° is a welcome addition to the City. Why 28°-50°? Because virtually all of the world’s vineyards are located between the latitudes of 28° and 50°, both northern and southern hemispheres. Combining in-house wine workshops, tasting events and a reputation for accomplished yet unpretentious cookery, 28° and 50° is making waves for many reasons, but for someone like myself who doesn't drink wine, is there anything other than wine to capture my imagination?

I cycled the bumpy path from my office (on one of Boris' Barclays bikes) to 28°-50° for an express lunch with a friend and was immediately surprised at how small and intimate the space was. I had hald expected it to be some kind of sprawling warehouse where throngs of wine enthusiasts would flock to sniff, quaff and spit their way through an entire wine list. A list so unique, that you can try any wine in several different measures; 75ml, 125ml, 250ml or by the bottle; enabling you to try several different wines with your meal and identifying your favourites as you go.

My friend opted for the special lunch set menu of 2 courses at £15.50 which produced fantastic value starting with a salad of vibrant yellow and red beetroot, generously topped with creamy white goat's cheese and crushed pistachios; followed by a main course of pan-fried mackerel accompanied by artichokes and a caper dressing. I was genuinely impressed with the quality and value of the food on the set menu.

I myself opted for the A La Carte menu, which surprisingly did not cost that much more. I began with a superb duck rillette, almost buttery and rich in flavour with succulent shreds of confit'd duck and an accompanying selection of pickles with huge hunks of bread. Heavenly. My main course was even better with pigs cheek and belly pork, crackling, quince, cale and swede 'spaghetti' topped with a wonderful, sweet jus which rounded off the dish nicely.

Not time for dessert as I was on my lunch break, but I was incredibly surprised at how swift and efficient service at 28°-50° was. The food was fantastic, a few slurps of my friends wine choices were also enjoyable and enough to warrant a second visit whenever I next get the chance. Overall 28°-50° is a fantastic destination whether you are city-based or not. Lunch is great, but at dinner you can enjoy the wine list to its full potential, which really isn't such a bad idea now is it?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Halloween - Top Tips For Using Pumpkin

It's Halloween this weekend and pumpkins are absolutely everywhere! I can't believe that Sainsburys are selling them for just £3.00! Credit crunch in full effect, I would say... but why not stock up and get cooking? Here are 3 great suggestions for what to do with pumpkin this time of year:

Roasted Pumpkin and Rosemary Soup
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a large baking tray with oven paper. Peel and cut the pumpkin into 2 inch chunks and season generously with Maldon sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of dried rosemary and roast in the oven for about 40-50 minutes (until browned and cooked through). Make up 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil in a pan. Add your pumpkin pieces and using a hand blender, blitz the mixture until smooth. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

Seasonal Wild Rice Salad
Peel and chop your pumpkin into 1 inch cubes and in a preheated pan over a medium-high heat, sautee the pumpkin until cooked through and nicely browned and remove from heat. Take 250 grams of either black rice (or black and white mixed rice ) or red Camargue rice, boil per packet instructions and strain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. In a large salad bowl, add your rice, a generous handful of dried cranberries, the same of juicy golden raisins and add your pumpkin. Dice 1 medium sized red onion, chop a small bunch of flat leaf parlsey and take a handful of pine nuts and add them all into the bowl. In a small bowl, measure out 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 200ml of apple juice and 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and dress the salad mixing it well. Allow the flavours to soaks in for 2 hours at room temperature and serve.

Spiced Pumpkin Martinis
250g of peeled pumpkin flesh, diced into chunks and placed in a pan over a low-medium heat. Spinkle 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, 5 tablespoons of light brown sugar and add 250ml of water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook the pumpkin thoroughly with the spices and sugar. Blitz the mixture to a smooth puree using a hand blender and taste to adjust sweetness, remembering that it should be as sweet as a jam would be. Then pass the mixture through a sieve and allow to cool. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture into a cocktail shaker filled 2/3's with ice, add 50mls of Vodka (or white rum if you prefer), place lid on tightly and shake well. Serve in a Martini glass.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

RECIPE: Dark Chocolate Brownies (Ooeey, gooey and to die for...)

Nothing beats the unctuous, chocolatey gooodness of a rich, dark chocolate brownie. There are many pretenders to this title, some of them pathetic imposters using cheap ingredients, mass produced and not remotely in the same league as the really good stuff.

Lately I have found myself spending many a Sunday in the kitchen not just cooking, but baking; Madeleines, loaf cakes, breads and now brownies. I spotted this recipe in a magazine and it boasted pools of gooey dark chocolate, which drew me in, hook, line and sinker. So I made a few tweaks and came up with something really lovely. Now I must tell you that this is not like other brownie mixes; the centre is a lot more sludgey than chewy and when you first remove it from the oven, it does look like it is raw. But the flavour is 100% sinful and utterly scrumptious and for the chocolate lovers among you, this is as close to chocolate Nirvana as you may ever find yourself. The key is to make it the day before you want to consume it, although I confess that I didn't entirely observe this rule and hacked a generous, oozing square of it a couple of hours after it came out of the oven.

Dark Chocolate Brownies

200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (Tesco 72% is fantastic!)
80g cocoa (I used Green & Blacks cocoa powder)
350g caster sugar
60g plain flour
4 large eggs
1 heaped teaspoon of Porters Vanilla bean paste (or 2 tspn of vanilla extract)
1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
200g of melted butter (salted of unsalted)
100g of pecan nuts (optional)
Baking/oven paper

21/22cm squared baking tin

Method
Preheat your oven to 160 (or 150 if fan assisted) and line your baking tin with oven paper.

Add your flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, eggs, melted butter and vanilla into a mixing bowl and mix well using a wooden spoon. Then add your chopped chunks of chocolate into the mixture and mix well again. If you want to use pecan nuts, add them now and stir the mix well again, breaking down some of the pecan halves as your stir. Then pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake the brownies for 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of hours. If you can wait til the next day, take a scoop/square of the mixture and eat it now... But if you can wait til the next day, a more sophisticated and thickly gooey brownie awaits you.

INGREDIENTS: Porters Vanilla Bean Paste

It would be fair to say that I never endorse anything I do not 100% believe in and use myself. I get a lot of product samples sent to me that I don't use or care to endorse and in fact those that I do, such as Maldon Sea Salt, are products not sent to me, but instead items that I cannot live without when cooking.

I was recently sent a release about Porters Vanilla Bean paste and as an avid fan of all things vanilla, I decided to put it to the test. I must admit, I am a purist when it comes to using vanilla, I either use the pods themselves, which are not only terribly expensive, but you end up wasting most of it. Let's face it, once you have scraped the seeds out of a pod, there is only one thing to do... place the hollowed out pod into a jar of sugar; but how many jars of vanilla sugar does one person use in a lifetime? So my favourite alternative is always 'Neilson Massey' vanilla extract, priced at £5.25 per bottle, but you don't get the lovely black flecks of vanilla seeds in your baking, which just isn't the same.

A teaspoon of Porter's vanilla bean paste is the same as using a whole pod and with each squeezy tube containing over 15 pod, a little goes a long way and you really do get your moneys worth. They also have lovely little packs containing 4 x 9g sachets at £4.25 or if you are like me you will go for the larger, better value 270ml squeezy bottle costing £14.25, which at the moment is on special offer at just £9.99 so stock up! Christmas is coming and there are many uses for an ingredient such as this.

Don't limit the use of vanilla to desserts and cakes... I have had some fabulous seafood dishes that used vanilla in the accompanying sauces and foams. Be creative! Just like cinnamon, vanilla isn't sweet unless you add sugar. It is abundently aromatic and can add a wonderful scent and flavour to sauces, chutneys, breads and so much more.

You can order Porters vanilla bean paste online at:

www.porterfoods.co.uk or at the Virtual Farmers Market: www.vfmuk.com

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

RECIPE: Tomato Tarte Tatin with Goats Cheese

I really believe that ready rolled pastry is seriously underrated in this country; just because it is ready-made it does not mean it is bad. In fact, most Chefs would happily use it at home (obviously not in their restaurants) and say that it is a perfectly acceptible substiture to making your own pastry. Phew!

I am a lover of savoury dishes, so this kind of Tarte Tatin is right up my street and topping it with goat's cheese after baking, makes it even more appealing; so here is what you need to recreate this terrific Tatin;

Tomato Tarte Tatin with Goat's Cheese

800g of good quality cherry tomatoes
1 Jus Rol Puff pastry sheet
Good quality balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
Your favourite goat's cheese (I used St Maure) - as much as you like
Maldon sea salt
Olive Oil
Oven/baking paper

METHOD
Keep your pastry refrigerated until it is needed. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees (or 200 if fan-assisted). In a large heavy-based pan over a medium to high heat (gas) or high heat (electric), drizzle some olive oil and add all your tomatoes, dried thyme and sugar and mix well. After 5 minutes, drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes (about a generous tablespoon) which should make the pan sizzle and if it doesnt, turn the heat up to the highest heat. You want to make sure that the tomatoes don't stew, burst or get squashed so a high heat and quick cooking is best.

Remove your pasty from the fridge, score a 1 inch border away from the edge of the pastry. Line your baking tray with oven paper and place the pastry sheet onto the paper. Then using a slotted spoon, gently place the tomatoes within the border that you have created on the pastry. The amount should be just enough to fill the area and then place the tray in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is lovely and brown. Remove from the oven and then slices (or crumble) your favourite goat's cheese on top and voila! The perfect starter, side dish or even main course!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Perfect Roast Chicken

So making roast chicken may not be rocket science but judging from the number of people I know who claim not to know how to produce juicy, moist meat along with deliciously crispy skin, I felt I should share my simple technique with you. Now is the time to enjoy all things roasted; the weather is colder, root vegetables are in season and a juicy, plump chicken beckons!

I must confess that I don't like to go for the larger chickens (or Franken-chickens) that are sold in supermarkets. I lay the blame squarely on my mother for putting me off them as she always said BIG chickens are OLD chickens. Although I now know that this isn't entirely true, there is still something unsettling about a giant chicken with breasts the size of Pamela Andersons. Instead I prefer to opt for a small or medium sized bird, weighing no more than 1.5kg and (as if you needed to ask) YES! IT HAS TO BE FREE-RANGE!!! So here goes:

Perfect Roast Chicken

1 small or medium free-range chicken (forget Organic, free-range is more important!)
2 teaspoons of dried sage (you can use dried thyme if you prefer, or omit herbs entirely)
Maldon sea salt
Black pepper
Good quality olive oil
1 pint of water
Baking/Ovenproof paper
Aluminium foil

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line your tray with baking paper. Place your chicken sideways in the centre of the tray and liberally drizze olive oil over the bird, ensuring the wings, legs, breast and whole bird get a good coating. Use your hands if need be. Then using a couple of teaspoons of Maldon sea salt (DON'T even be tempted to use any other salt) crumble it all over the bird ensuring all parts get a good sprinkle of salt. Then season the bird with black pepper and lastly, the dried sage.

Pour a pint of cold water into the baking tray and roast the bird for 45 minutes (medium bird) and then remove the chicken from the oven and generously baste your it with the juices in the pan (legs, breasts and wings) and then turning the pan the opposite way round, cook for another 45 minutes. TIP: If you choose a small bird, reduce the cooking time to 1hr and 10 minutes. Allow the bird to rest for 10 minutes (covered with foil) before serving. Delicious! For a different variation, before drizzling the oil over the bird, I squeeze the juice of 2 lemons over the bird and then grate the zest of both lemons over it also. Then drizzle oil, season with salt and pepper and use thyme (or dried rosemary) and follow the same cooking instructions to produce a variation on the same perfect roast chicken.

KITCHEN EXCLUSIVE: Top Chefs Pierre Koffmann, Angela Hartnett, Mark Hix and Herbert Berger Cook for Charity

How many Michelin stars can you cram under one roof? The truth is, I lost count after 3. So when I was given exclusive access to the kitchens at 1 Lombard Street restaurant, I took my camera with me to see what I could capture when 4 maestros like Pierre Koffmann, Angela Hartnett, Herbert Berger and Mark Hix joined forces in the name of charity at Action Against Hunger's 'Fine Wine Auction Dinner'.

With a 4-course menu to be prepared and over 180 guests to feed, activity in the kitchen needed to be smooth-running and efficient and I made sure I was there to capture every single step on camera. To my amazement, the Chefs all seemed like old friends and all worked to help each other slice, chop, sear and garnish each others courses. You wouldn't be entirely out of line for believing that Chefs of this calibre would have short tempers and big egos, but you couldn't be more wrong. I had previously had the pleasure of meeting all the Chefs except Angela Hartnett and I was surprised at how incredibly relaxed and down-to-earth she was. To work for Gordon Ramsay is tough enough but to be one of the only leading women in his male-dominated empire, you would have to be tough as old boots. Angela is warm and funny and kept the humour up in the kitchen with tales of when she worked in this very kitchen alongside her best friend that used to work in the pastry department. In fact all 4 Chefs seemed incredibly relaxed on the night and I stopped to chat with each one as they did their thing.

Whilst the kitchen was in full swing, hungry diners chowed down on dishes including Angela Hartnett's 'Vitello Tonnato' and Mark Hix's 'Ling with cockles and sea vegetables'. Chefs, Hotels, Restaurants and Vineyards from around the world donated exquisite, money-can't-buy prizes including a dinner for 16 guests cooked in your own home by Italian Chef supremo Giorgio Locatelli, a VIP dinner at Noma in Copenhagen courtesy of Rene Redzepi as well as art works by Salvador Dali and trips to exclusive resorts and hideaways around the world. Theses incredible auction items helped raised an astounding £227,000 for Action Against Hunger's worthy field projects and aid campaigns.

To read more about this event, click HERE

And to donate or get involved with Action Against Hunger, click HERE

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Madeleine Recipe - From Disaster to Master

I've said it before and I'll say it again... I suck at baking. But sometimes I eat something and think "God, I really need to learn how to make these..." and the delicate little Madeleine cakes at the 3 Daniel Boulud restaurants in NYC, London and Vancouver, are truly wonderfully light Madeleines, gently crisp on the outside and comfortingly warm and featherlight on the inside. I decided that these little sponge beauties are worth the effort and so I ordered a this wonderful Madeleine pan from Amazon and found a recipe online for the exact Madeleines I was looking for.

My first batch were a complete disaster (see 3rd image above)... I realised that the recipe measurements were beyond ridiculous after a bit of guesstimated tweaking, I baked 6 batches of perfectly formed Madeleines that were fantastic. I even got creative and found some pistachio 'butter' (basically 100g of pureed pistachios) from Whole Foods and tweaked the recipe again, using less butter and less flour and produced an even better Madeleine than I could have hoped for in the first place... and here is how I did it:

Perfect Madeleines (Makes 20-22 large Madeleines)

110g plain flour
2 large eggs
75g butter, melted (salted or unsalted, makes no difference really!)
2 heaped tablespoons of light brown sugar
4 heaped tablespoons of caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tablespoon of clear honey
1 teaspoon of best quality vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Pinch of salt
A little icing sugar for dusting
Spray oil for greasing Madeleine pan

Method
Sieve the plain flour and baking powder into a bowl. In a seperate bowl, add your grated lemon zest, honey, brown and white sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and melted butter and mix well with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add your flour and baking powder and incorporated well, without over-mixing it but until an even consistency is reached. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for an hour.
About 10 minutes before the hour is up, preheat your oven to 190 degrees (180 if fan assisted) and then spray your madeleine pan lightly with oil spray. If you have a piping bag, pour the batter into it and carefully pipe your batter in a line into the mould, allowing a gap of about half a centimetre from each side (as the cake will expand!) If you don't have a piping bag (which I didn't) you can use a sandwich bag and cut a small cm wide incision in one corner or simply spoon 1 heaped teaspoon of the mix into the centre of each mould - which will spread out during cooking.

Then place the tray in the oven for 4 minutes, after which you need to turn the tray around so the Madeleines brown evenly and bake for another 4 minutes. Once done refill your tray and repeat baking process. You should if you correctly measured the batter out, have anywhere from 20-22 Madeleines. Allow them to cool for about 10minutes and gently remove them from the mould and dust with a little icing sugar and serve. I defy you not to eat 6 of them all in one go... !

To make the pistachio version, I used 50g of butter instead of 75g and added 100g of pistachio butter with only 50g of flour and I omitted the lemon zest. I must say, these were my favourite...! Maybe its because I'm a pistachio junkie, but they were (past tense, because I literally inhaled them all) very, very good!

Seasonal Produce - Quince


So what exactly is quince? Well, it's fair to say that most people don't have a clue but those who do would say that it in an old English fruit made popular in Tudor times (and Tudor rhymes!) and others would say it is the main ingredient, along with sugar and lemon juice, to a popular Spanish accompaniment to cheese, called 'Membrillo'. Indeed this is true, but what else can I tell you about this knobbly looking giant apple? The Quince is a relative of both the pear and apple and the ripe fruit resembles a very large, yellowish apple. The tree is native to countries such as Iran (woohoo!), Turkey, Syria, Bulgaria and Greece but to name a few, although Turkey are now the world leaders in Quince production.

Usually Quince must be cooked, but my Mother was regaling tales of eating them uncooked - which I would not recommend. The fruit makes wonderful jam and chutney as well as being a great accompany to roasted meats such as pork and chicken. But Persians like to make stews of everything we can lay our hands on and this is exactly how I first came across Quince, nestled in between slow-braised hunks of lamb in a sweet and savoury sauce.

Quinces are greatly underused in this country and I encourage you all to try roasting them by coring and cutting the Quince into quarters, skin on and drizzling with olive oil, seasonsing with salt and roasting them for 45 mins in a preheated oven on 180 degrees. Serve with a nice roasted chicken or maybe even pork belly... delicious.

REVIEW: The Bombay Brasserie

In all the years that I have lived in the neighbourhood, I have never been to Bombay Brasserie, but that is not to say that I haven't wanted to. Finally managed to have dinner there recently and my only disappointment was that I didn't try it sooner and with Chef Oberoi present to host the meal, I know I couldn't possibly in better hands!

The dining room is vast with the opulence of a 5-star hotel ball room; decadent with oversized chandeliers suspended from the ceiling that twinkle in the dimly lit dining area. Both rooms are full of diners, mostly larger groups as well as quite a few groups of Texan business men; their familiar slow-drawl accent faintly twanging in the background and making the room look like a scene from ‘Dallas’ (minus the gallon hats, of course). In another corner of the room, a famous Hollywood actor tucks into a discreet meal as he hides behind his handle-bar moustache whilst fellow diner ogle him.

The food at Bombay Brasserie is quite unique and the combinations, definitely brave. Boldly spiced seared scallops with more than a subtle kick inferno of chilli spice and turmeric, which despite its ferocious heat, worked surprisingly well although my mouth did take some time to reciver from the inferno. Tandoori Halibut on a bed of spicy prawns, crispy coated Tandoori chicken with curry leaves and dainty little potato cakes with a yogurt and sweet tamarind sauce, were all superb. The spicing was a little more subtle with these dishes than the fiery scallop dish but every bit as enjoyable.

Main courses included a perfectly cooked chicken biryani, golden with saffron and turmeric spice, studded with tender chunks of flavoursome chicken and a chicken tikka dishes with a tomato sauce and pickled baby red onions was beyond superb, a really great flavour sensation with the pickling on the baby onions which really complimented the spice layering of the dish.

Desserts are always my least favourite part of the meal in an Indian restaurant. Modern Indian desserts don't cut it for me and this was no exception. A trio of minature desserts including a creme brulee (of sorts) with some kind of spiced cake slices layered into it, reminded me of a bread and butter pudding and was somewhat enjoyable but the orange scented sticky pancake was not my cup of 'chai' at all and the chocolate shell filled with some type of creamy, sweet curd with cardamoms did very little for my tastebuds either. I am, at heart, a savoury girl really and after so many starters and mains, I was perfectly happy with the meal and would whole-heartedly recommend Bombay Brasserie to anyone looking for a glamourous ambience for an Indian meal. I will be going back there again to try the famous weekend buffet lunch (which I'm told you have to book weeks in advance), which is priced very reasonably at £22.00 per person. Certainly a more budget-friendly way to enjoy Bombay Brasserie as the prices can be as eye watering as some of the chillies, but with quality such as this, it's not unreasonables to expect prices to match.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

AA Hospitality Awards 2010

Once in a while I am lucky enough to get invited to some pretty fabulous events and this was most definitely one of them. The London Hilton on Park Lane, where I was once an employee, played host to a gathering of over 700 of the industry's leading Chefs, Restaurateurs and Hoteliers.

The evening's menu was especially created by Marcus Wareing, holder of the AA's ultimate and much-coveted accolade of five Rosette's for Restaurant Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley Hotel. Carpaccio of beef with horseradish cream followed by Halibut with razor clams and lobster accompanied by leek mash and lobster jus and a chocolate and raspberry fondant for dessert, all made for an exquisite meal. Dinner was swiftly followed by entertainment in the form of the incredible Heather Small (formerly of 'M People') who belted out hits her classic hits including 'Proud' and 'Search for the hero'.

The awards section of the evening was hosted by former GMTV host Penny Smith with a little help from England International, Liverpool Midfielder and owner of Southport's 'Warehouse Brasserie' Steven Gerrard. Awards included 'Best Restaurant 2010' for London, Wales, Scotland and England and I was absolutely thrilled that two of my favourite Chefs, Chris and Jeff Galvin took the accolade of London's Best Restaurant for their yearling City-based restaurant Galvin La Chapelle. The Galvin Brothers continue to turn all they touch to 24 karat gold, through a combination of highly-skilled cooking and impeccable front of house standards; an extremely well deserved award, indeed.

The Hardwick in Abergavenny scooped the 'Best Restaurant 2010' award for Wales, where Chef Patron Stephen Terry continues to win admirers from both near and far. Terry has worked with Chefs Michel Roux Jnr and Marco Pierre-White as well as a spell in France at Le Roches and the famous L'Arpege in Paris. I was fortunate enough to be seated with Stephen Terry and his lovely wife Joanna who are wonderfully passionate and Stephen's unpretentious, highly accomplished cookery using well-sourced ingredients are just why he deserves this award. The Hardwick have recently spent over a million pounds adding 8 stylish bedrooms to their existing restaurant and bar and I hope to visit them in Abergavenny in the not too distant future, so watch this space.

For a full list of the 2010 awards winners, visit: http://aahospitalityawards.com/aa-awards-2010.php

Galvin La Chapelle - 35 Spital Square,London E1 6DY
T: 020 7299 0400
W: http://www.galvinrestaurants.com/


The Hardwick - Old Raglan Road, Abergavenny, Wales NP7 9AA
T: 01873 854220
W: http://www.thehardwick.co.uk/