Category Archives: Ingredients


Being back in my natural habitat – restaurants – feels so good and enervating.  I’d highly recommend making some plans, and, in my limited experience, restaurant teams are ultra covid conscious and so palpably delighted to be able to welcome guests back.  It may just be my halcyon approach: it feels like that there’s a stronger, if more physically distant, bond between diner and server.  

Even if the weather is cold and wet, rest assured us hardcore restaurant lovers will still be honouring reservations, and so must you.  If you don’t fancy turning up, make sure you tell the restaurant to give them enough time to offer the table to hardier spirits.

Special mention must go to the divine, newly and fulsomely planted and, importantly, mostly canopied, garden of Native at Brown’s in Brook Street.   The mushroom with fermented onion served with housemade waffles is a must. Try too Native’s cocktails especially the Negroni made with their own foraged ingredient vermouth.

Who doesn’t love Claridge’s?   I discovered post Native that there is a chic, affordable new way to have a taste of Claridge’s kitchen: at their epicerie, where a takeaway cappuccino and two madeleines from executive chef Martyn Nail’s kitchen cost £4.50.

My favourite, non local, cafe is back: Queens of Mayfair with its Georgian bow windows and glamorous decor including green and gold wallpaper (far superior to Lulu Lytle of Soane’s now notoriously pricey interior) . Unequivocally the best coffee in London and the only cafe in London serving Difference Coffee who only buy some of the best and rarest coffees in the world at auction.  

For the coffee curious try the Geisha Esmeralda experience: it is a delicate, floral coffee that is drunk in a wine glass, The whole performance from grinding the beans by hand to making the coffee with a V60 drip filter, the height of coffee geekiness, is mesmerising to behold.   Queens serve the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted (apart from my own) from Hedone Bakery.

Best things I ate this week

Lucky Balham has a new restaurant/delivery business: Burning Rose. Pad Thai is the bellwether of a Thai kitchen and from the tangy aromas redolent with lemongrass and deeper, earthier spicing, I know this is going to be deeply satisfying. It is a harmonious blending of sweet, sour and umami savoury with the intoxicating mix of fish sauce, tamarind and palm sugar, a good number of king prawns, tofu and stick noodles cooked to just chewy perfection.   Though, a little more peanut crunch wouldn’t have gone amiss. 

The heady aromas do take me back to the food stalls lining Bangkok’s main park where I was once lucky enough to be shown around by David Thompson himself.   Burning Rose’s Chef Matthew Albert worked with Thompson and it shows.  The co-founders are ex Leon and DeliverooJohn Vincent and Cengiz Rahmioglu and have serious ambitions to expand beyond Balham.

Haskapa Powder is being billed as the new super food.  It certainly makes a change from blueberries flown in from the other side of the world. Haskapa, made from a tangy/sweet berry has four times the anthocyanins, naturally occurring plant pigments that give fruit and vegetables their colour and three times the antioxidants.  A spoonful a day in overnight oats is ideal. This is a recipe courtesy of Niki Webster of Home Mix 100g oats qith 250ml coconut milk kefir, 1tsp vanilla essence, 1tsp Haspaka berry powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon: leave overnight and add 2tbsp coconut yoghurt (I use Coconut Collaborative), extra coconut kefir to loosen if necessary and top with 10g toasted coconut flakes). It is great for one’s cognitive powers, blood pressure and boosting. immunity.

Choice bounty selected by Sarah Louis Fairburn who only started her Lincolnshire based hamper company Imp & Maker in December 2020.   I was gifted her Ultimate Staycation hamper for a feature for Femail’s Inspire pages.  It is designed for meeting your arrival in the remote (and only available holiday cottage) you panic-booked which may be in a gorgeous setting but has no food shops of any repute nearby.  The multitude of treats in the hamper include the most enormous Tomahawk steaks and instructions on how to cook these colossi to medium rare perfection alongside Melody potatoes in a hessian bag transformed into delectable potato dauphinoise topped with grated Lincolnshire Poacher; Turner Hardy Lively Spiced Tomato juice and Edwards Potato vodka, acorn-fed Bellota Iberico ham and chorizo, British Blue eggs with astonishing yellow yolks and much, more more.

For weekday nights, I am trying not to drink alcohol and am very taken by wine writer Matthew Jukes new creation Jukes 8, the colour of a sophisticated rose.  It is a cordial made with apple cider vInegar (delightfully present in the taste), watermelon, melon, apple, pear, raspberries and cucumber.  What makes it even more special is its pink floral box designed by Matthew Williamson with inimitable style.

Tielles, Seté

Could the tielle be the next must-try street food?   It’s an olive oil bread dough pie of octopus cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with garlic, saffron, paprika, white wine, ideally local sweet Muscat de Frontignan and eminently portable I’m fascinated by the tielle, as they are so singularly associated with Seté, a charming Mediterranean town , not unlike a Gallic Venice.    The story goes that they were brought to the town by the Cianni family from Italy back in the 1930s though it is likely that the recipe derives from Spanish empanadas.   In 1937 Andrienne Verducci opened the first commercial tielle operation and her grand-daughter Sophie still operates it today with the pastries being cooked, rolled out and made in one half of the shop.

tiellesTielle origins


This was only one highlight of a brilliant food tour by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France which took in many of the most interesting artisan food producers in the market such as Arnaud of Brown Sugar millefeuille maker, Sophie who marinades her own olives, Frederic’s superlative class extra heritage tomatoes and vegetables.   I learnt that monkfish is displayed belly up to best show off its liver necessary for preparation of bourride.

veg at sete mkt

I was fascinated to understand how oysters are cultivated in the Etang de Thau: the baby oysters are cemented onto rods attached to “benches” which are lowered into the sea.   As there is no current, the oysters grow especially quickly and become more plump. Of course, we tasted some oysters too, chewed to better appreciate their taste rather than swallowed.

Visiting Fromagerie Lou Pastrou whose owner Mr Cailhac’s family are one of only five Roquefort producers was another highlight.   Nancy showed us the polite way to cut Roquefort in diagonals to ensure no-one gets too much of the salt crusted rind nor hogs all the creamy centre over a couple of glasses of Viognier named after Thomas Jefferson.   We learnt too that Seté had become a critically important trading centre during Louis XV reign due to its position at the source of the Canal Midi where it meets the sea and many of the embassies had been in Seté rather than Paris, which presumably explained why Thomas Jefferson found himself there.

cheese sete

From Elena Arzak to Trine Hahnemann – my week in food with some of the top female chefs & more

Week started on a high with a Cava wine dinner tasting some of best Spanish cava in the world paired with dishes created by Elena Arzak at Ametsa with Arzak instruction.   My favourite course was the pigeon prepared with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and grape must – sensational.  Wonderful to taste again the cromlech made with manioc dipped in foie gras.  Favourite cava was Recaredo 2006 Brut Nature Gran Reserva – aged 30 months+ a revelation.   Also intrigued by Cava with Malvesia – subtly sweet and served with a chocolate pancake.

Lunch at Newman Street Tavern as excellent as ever with chef Peter Weedon excelling in thoughtfully produced food using the best producers.  Incredible shrimp fritters with whole  crustacea and sublime Galloway beef tartare were absolute joy.  Fish cakes made with pouting showed Peter’s commitment to using all the catch from his favourite fisherman.

Meeting with lovely publisher Muna Reyal of Headline at suitably foodie Honey & Co over luscious rhubarb cheesecake.

Amused by cheese brand Castello’s invention of smorging as a new way of defining smorgasbord.  Creatively brought to life by my favourite Scandi chef Trine Hahnemann who came up with some great matches enlivened by unusual drink combinations too.

The idea to combine a range of tastes including salty, sweet, sour and umami with balance of soft and crunchy textures.  My favourites were Castello blue cheese & asparagus tart on spelt crust with Glebe Farm Spelt beer,  Castello creamy blue with radishes and chives on crisp bread served with Bloody Bloody Mary beetroot and tomato juice, Castello Tickler with crisp parma ham and green tapenade or salami and green pea puree with an intriguing Earl Grey tea, lime and cucumber cordial.  We finished with profiteroles filled with pineapple cheese with a ginger glaze matched with an intrigued egg coffee with a foam of condensed milk and egg.  A really different treat.