Sunday, 25 July 2010

Brixton ting

Don't cross The Baron. Unit 23, Atlantic Road.

Supermalt and other fine beverages.

Rasta Pasta... One of Take Two's many specialities.

Dried fish and extra hot peppers. No stall is complete without them.

Franco Manca: A little slice of Italy in Brixton Market.

The best pizza in London? It's definitely worth the trip South of the River.

Tea and Portuguese carrot cake in Brockwell.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Popping up in the park

Working here tonight... By the look of this video, it's going to be quite an experience!

Elliots in the park from LUCY BEECH on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A new toy to play with (and a finely-chopped gazpacho)

The heat wave may unfortunately be over, but still, after a day of scooting around the city, hurriedly attending to one's business, a clean, refreshing chilled soup will rarely go amiss.

Since I can afford to be a little more leisurely with my business at this particular time, I'm able there are plenty of opportunities for indulging in some of life's simple pleasures... After having purchased a dazzingly sharp new knife, I can think of few things more desirable than to while away a little while turning some ripe fruits and vegetables into a zesty, mellow-spiced gazpacho.

If you are more pushed for time, you can also mix the soup in a blender, although a few hand-sliced tomatoes, peppers and herbs will make all the difference.

Watermelon and mint gazpacho

When making this gazpacho, I basically chopped all the fruit, vegetables, and soft herbs we had to hand... The classic gazpacho is made from little more than tomato, pepper, cucumber and garlic - use that as your base and take it from there.

Serves 6 to 8, depending on portion size

six vine tomatoes, very finely chopped
two small red onions, very finely chopped
a spring onion, finely sliced
two red peppers, very finely chopped
one small cucumber, very finely chopped
flesh of a large slice of watermelon (roughly an eighth of the whole fruit), seeds removed, very finely chopped
half a head of cos lettuce or a couple of little gem, finely shredded
two cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
one red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
the juice of half a lemon and half a lime
a bunch of parsley, very finely chopped
a bunch of basil, very finely chopped
a bunch of mint, very finely chopped
half a litre of cold vegetable stock
a litre of tomato juice
a dash of red wine (or red wine vinegar)
Tobasco and/or Worcestershire sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Croutons and olive oil to serve

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl or pot, except for the croutons, olive oil, and chopped green herbs. Season, and leave to chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, if not up to four hours.

Serve with croutons, a sprinkling of herbs, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Pickled cherries

Just because they're in season, and I had a spare afternoon. Oh, and I have a terrine to make... But more on that later. The recipe here is from
Skye Gyngall's column in the Independent.

Makes roughly a litre in volume

1kg cherries
250g caster sugar
250ml red-wine vinegar
4 cloves of garlic
6 peppercorns

Rinse, dry and pick over the cherries discarding any that are bruised or imperfect. Leave the stalks on. In a generous-sized, non-reactive saucepan, stir together the sugar, red-wine vinegar, garlic and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and cook for around 3 minutes.

Have handy a couple of sterilised jars with the ability to hold approximately 1litre (13/4 pints). Pack the cherries into the sterilised jars. Pour the hot syrup over then cover and seal well.
Leave for the flavours to meld for anything from a week to a month. If the jar is properly sealed, they'll keep for a year.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Fine dining, festival style...

Head to the end of the old railway track, turn right at the Mutant Waste sculptures, and follow the path past the crashed jumbo jet, and the freaky clown face merry-go-round. In the little yurt, next door to the all-night rock'n'roll diner lies the Rocket Lounge Restaurant... Come inside!

1950s Speak Easy evening wear only, please.

The menu. Octopus followed by Ox Heart, or Rabbit Terrine then the Lobster? Decisions, decisions...

And some champagne whilst you wait... The band are just warming up.

Heads down... either the food's too good for talking, or the drugs haven't kicked in yet.

All mod cons; Our kitchen in a field.

Still busy munching.

But after a couple more of these...

...they're all doing this!

View the rest of the photos

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

On Weymouth Harbour

The moon has already taken centre stage in the sky as we round the corner from the Pavilion. Twilight has fallen, and the last of the evening light swathes the harbour in a spectrum of tranquil blues.

We make our way past piles of lobster pots and tethered fishing boats as their reflections slow dance on the water alongside us. It's well passed tea time, and after having walked the length of the beach, we've worked up something of an appetite.

Neon lettering calls out in garish red and green, as a photocopied sign below exclaims “AS SEEN ON ITV HOLIDAY PROGRAM AND CBBC”, complete with double underlining, and a few smudged greasy finger marks. Still, we don't need Judith Chalmer's endorsements to come to Bennett’s on the Waterfront... The smell alone is enough to make you swim across the harbour. The warm, nutty scent of freshly fried potatoes, and crispy beer batter fills the street as grinning punters emerge from the wood-paneled shop front, clutching steaming paper parcels. It's like a belisha beacon, calling out across the water. And I'm utterly mesmerised.

Inside it couldn't be more traditional. The décor consists of a few straggly pot plants, and a row of fizzy pop bottles on a shelf. If you're not sat at one of the Formica-topped booths, then your attention is automatically diverted to the counter. Two women in hair nets stand behind it, gossiping over local affairs as they lift fillet after mouthwatering fillet of fried fish onto the hot plate. I must have been in this chip shop fifty times or more, and still as I wait for the chips to be scooped out onto the paper in front of me, I can barely contain my excitement.

The chips are crunchy, browned along the ridges, but soft, light and floury in the middle, so hot and fresh they burn the roof of my mouth as I eat them. But there's no point in me even trying to stop myself. The flesh of the fish is firm, flakey, delicate; pure, brilliant white. The batter is golden, bubbled all over, and as crisp as conceivably possible. It’s heaven in fried food form. Sent from the Gods. Inevitably, I ditch my wooden fork and break inch-long chunks of fish off with my fingers, eager to feel the varying textures crumble into my mouth, all soused in plenty of salt and vinegar, plus the occasional dab of Heinz tomato ketchup.

We sit and munch our supper, sitting side by side on the bench that overlooks the launch of the mackerel fishing boat. I find it nearly impossible to say anything but “mmmmm” throughout.

And then up the hill to The Boot, where an odd ball assortment of characters spend their drinking hours, night and day. I come here for their perfectly-poured pints of Thatcher’s Gold, but today the Meat Raffle catches my eye first. It's almost enough to make me hang around until the weekend.

We share a table and a drink with very personable chap, who's so merry on the Cheddar Valley cider, he bursts into a fit of giggles with every sentence he attempts to spit out. “It's the worm wood barrels, you see...” I overhear at the bar, “it gives it a hallucinogenic quality.”

Maybe so, or maybe he's just enjoying his night on Weymouth harbour... Either way, who could blame him. Time for another round?

Friday, 2 July 2010

A very English sort of supper

There's possibly nothing more appealing than the fresh fruits and vegetables of an English summer. Crisp beans, plump in their pods, ready to burst out with an audible pop. Peppery lettuces leaves, supple and bouncy, bursting with the vibrant green of six weeks of unprecedented sun. Voluptuous berries in shades of crimson and rouge, skin soft and ripe, a perfume more inviting than the finest floral bouquet.

In the West Country, where I'm currently taking post-festival R&R, there's certainly no shortage of excellent locally grown produce. And there's nothing quite like a trestle table bursting full of the finest farm produce to re-ignite the neurotransmitters. The best beans I've seen this side of the Mendip Hills...

English bean and cheddar salad

This dish is a homage to the simplicity of Chris Gillard's menu at the Rocket Lounge Restaurant, where I spent last week working. After having bought some positively firey watercress at Helen's Healthfoods in Weymouth, and some super-fresh beans at Bridport Farmers' Market, it seemed only fitting to keep the theme of classic English flavours by pairing the greens with some local mature cheddar. The piquant vinaigrette brings the flavours together beautifully.

Serves two as a light main
A large handful of broad beans, podded
A large handful of French beans
A large bunch of watercress
75g mature cheddar cheese, crumbled into chunks

For the mustard vinaigrette
A tsp of dijon mustard
A tbsp of olive oil
lemon juice to taste (roughly a tsp)
salt and finely ground pepper to taste

First, make the dressing. Either whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl, or add to a clean jam jar with a lid, and shake until combined. The mustard should help the oil and lemon juice emulsify.

If your beans are very very fresh, you'll be able to serve them raw. As they age, the natural sugar turns to starch, and the flavour and texture begins to deteriorate. Taste one of each, and if you'd prefer, blanch them for a minute or two in lightly salted boiling water, just to take away the bight. Drain and immediately plunge into iced water.

Combine the watercress, beans and cheddar in a large bowl, and toss with the dressing until everything is lightly coated. It's better to be skant and allow the flavours of the other ingredients to come through.

Serve with crusty bread, and extra dressing on the side for dipping and mopping.

An easy English berry fool

A quick, and extremely luxurious dessert, invented on the spot by my Mother, as a vehicle for her excellent home-made summer berry jam. Use plain yogurt or crème fraiche if you don't have fromage frais, and broken up Digestives, Hob Nobs, or shortbread would make an ample substitute for ratafia biscuits – whatever you have to hand.

Serves two
Four or five ratafia biscuits, roughly broken up
A small tub of fromage frais
Four scoops of raspberry sorbet (which Mum happened to have in the freezer, but Gorgio Locatelli's recipe looks good if you fancy making it)
Rasberry, strawberry, or summer berry jam
Mint garnish to serve

In a tumbler or wine glass, layer the jam, on top of the fromage frais, on top of sorbet, on top of the biscuit. Garnish with mint, and serve.

Thanks to kawilson for the opening shot of the broad beans.