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Saffron Risotto with Prawns & Radicchio

It’s been a slightly strange day with changed plans, though I did get to see my lovely friends Jane and Terry this morning, which is a sunshine way to start the day. Evening plans were postponed so I dug around in the freezer, throwing away some things I deemed far too old to risk. I’m not a great freezer user and I forget what’s there. I make things like Bolognese ragù, Boeuf Bourguignon and soup in bulk to freeze portions, and there are always some frozen peas … and gelato, of course – usually tubs of Grom from Waitrose. But I tend to buy things almost day to day and fresh, which is easy when you’re on your own, so forget odd things that have slipped further and further out of sight in the freezer.

The half pack of organic raw prawns, bought only about a month ago, were certainly OK but perhaps good to use them up. Out they came. Some packs of fairly recently homemade chicken stock sat in the bottom basket. Ummmm. Well a risotto would be good. I thought I could fold the prawns into the rice with some peas and fresh mint, as I’ve done many times, but then felt inspired to do something a little different.

In Wholefoods in Richmond I picked up a radicchio. For a long time I resisted Wholefoods on the basis that some of the stuff is very expensive, and I wasn’t happy that they were part of Amazon. It didn’t feel quite right for my food shop. But actually they have some wonderful, high quality produce that I can’t buy anywhere else – including radicchio! – so more and more I go in there and am often delighted by what I find.

I decided to experiment and thought a little mixture of the prawns and stir-fried radicchio on the top of the risotto – which I would flavour with saffron – would be lovely. And it was!

 

Saffron Risotto with Prawns & Radicchio – Serves one

  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • ¼ radicchio, finely sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • butter
  • ½ cup risotto rice
  • 300ml chicken or vegetable stock, hot
  • large pinch of saffron in a little hot water
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan
  • 75-100g raw king prawns
  • balsamic vinegar

 

 

Prepare the vegetables. Put the diced shallot into a pan (big enough to cook the risotto) with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a knob of butter. Cook gently until the shallot is softening. Add the risotto rice.

 

Stir to coat each grain of rice well and cook for a minute or two. Now start adding the hot stock ladleful by ladleful. After 1 or 2 spoons, add the soaked saffron.

Continue to add all the stock a little at a time, stirring continuously. This is the only way to get a nice creamy consistency to your risotto. Once you’ve used up the stock, check the rice is nicely cooked al dente (a slight bite left to it). If it’s not quite tender enough, add a little hot water. Check seasoning. I didn’t add any to near the end as the stock was salted. Turn off the heat.

Add another knob of butter and a little grating of Parmesan and leave to melt. Put the lid on to keep it warm while you prepare the prawns and radicchio.

Now! … before any Italians get upset about cheese with the coming prawns (Italians don’t normally serve Parmesan with fish dishes), I did give this some serious thought. I was making in effect a Risotto alla Milanese and this requires Parmesan. But also I recently saw in the Venice episode of Fred Sirieix’s Remarkable Places to Eat, Fred and Angela Hartnett visit one of her favourite restaurants on the island of Burano. It was particularly exciting as I’d been to Al Gatto Nero with my friend Annie a few years ago and remembered how wonderful it was. Here, Angela assured Fred, they would find the best seafood risotto anywhere. As we watched the chef make the risotto, Angela, Fred – and I! – were surprised to see him add Parmesan. To a fish risotto! Well … hopefully you’ll forgive me doing the same. Though actually my risotto wasn’t fish itself, only the topping.

 

Put a little olive oil in the medium-sized frying pan. Quickly fry the prawns, turning when the first side is pink. Remove to a plate.

Put in the sliced radicchio – with a little more olive oil, if necessary. Fry quickly for just a couple of minutes until the radicchio starts to wilt. Put the prawns back in and just a little balsamic vinegar for some sweetness. Stir. Turn off heat.

 

Remove the lid from the risotto. Beat in the melted butter and Parmesan. This step is called mantecato – basically beating, which makes the risotto nice and creamy.

 

Spoon the risotto onto a serving plate. Then top with the radicchio and prawn mix. Drizzle over a little more olive oil and add a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley, if you have some. I didn’t add more Parmesan; I wanted my Italian friends to talk to me again 🙂

Oh wow! I was really pleased with my experiment. Such gorgeous flavours: the lovely creamy risotto with that distinct saffron flavour; the bitter radicchio and the sweet prawns with just a touch of added sweetness from the balsamic. It looked pretty good too!

 

Taramasalata

I was reading the other day that taramasalata (also taramosalata) has become the forgotten dip due to our recent love affair with hummus. It reminded me that I once made taramasalata a lot. It was always a dip I offered at parties or when friends came round. I can remember making it back in the late 1970s when I was first married and working full time as a book editor and commissioning and editing lots of cookbooks. Thus I dug out one of those cookbooks to look for a taramasalata recipe:

You do of course still see tubs of taramasalata on supermarket shelves but in the main they bear little resemblance to the real thing. For a start, they’re often coloured to make them pink (real taramasalata isn’t bright pink although it may have a pink hue). And they’ll likely have all kinds of things added to bulk them up into a pink froth.

The decline of taramasalata in my own home has come about for a couple of reasons: some family members’ dislike of fish; but mainly, I think, because I always have the ingredients for hummus in my cupboards while taramasalata requires a trip to the fishmonger. I have to confess I even forgot about taramasalata. Then I was reminded of it when I went to the wonderful Oystermen restaurant in May and had Whipped Smoked Cod’s Roe.

It was so amazing, so delicious, that I remember thinking I could just eat that; I didn’t need anything else (though the ‘anything else’ turned out to be very good too).

I was quite surprised at how difficult it was to find a recipe for taramasalata in my books, apart from the old book I’d edited long ago; another sign of its waning popularity? I looked in Rick Stein’s Venice to Istanbul where he travels through Greece; Jamie Oliver goes to Greece in Jamie Does; even Tonia Buxton in her Greek Kitchen didn’t offer a taramasalata recipe. Eventually I found one in Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean Cookery book, which was quite similar to my old book, and of course plenty on the Internet.

Since starting to write the blog, I take more interest in the contents of recipes; what’s ‘authentic’ and different methods and ingredients. Of course, things like taramasalata are dishes from long ago when ingredients were just thrown together with no measurements, each cook adding a little this or that depending on what was available, in season, or to satisfy their own taste. My little book told me that some people like to add a lot of onion, while others none at all. I’ve always added bread to give it bulk and form, but apparently some people add potato (I saw this on the Internet too). Occasionally egg yolks are added, or whipped egg whites to achieve a lighter consistency.

The main ingredient is tarama. Hence the name, and ‘salata’ being salad. Tarama is smoked fish roe. Traditionally the roe of grey mullet is used, but that’s very expensive now, and more usually cod’s roe is used.

What really struck me was the variation in the proportions of smoked cod’s roe to bread. While some cooks add just a tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs, one recipe had about three times the weight of bread to tarama. My old book used about equal proportions.

So, finally, after a lot of promises to myself about making it again – in fact, since that lovely meal in May! – I got round to going to the local fishmonger and buying some smoked cod’s roe. I used my ‘old book’ recipe with a few slight adjustments.

 

Taramasalata

  • 110g smoked cod’s roe
  • 3 slices of white bread (about 100g)
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 200ml olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill (some fresh if you have it)
  • freshly ground black pepper

 

   

First of all soak the smoked cod’s roe in water. My recipe said just 5 minutes and as I’d bought roe described as ‘mildly smoked’, I did that. But you may need an hour’s soaking if it’s strongly smoked and salty – have a little taste. After soaking you’ll find the thin skin will peel off easily.

Cut the crusts from the bread. I had a 2-day old sourdough loaf and that was perfect. Break it into bits and put in a bowl and pour over about 50ml water. You need only leave it briefly before you squeeze out the water. Then put the bread straight into a food processor. Break the smoked cod’s roe over it.

 

Put the chopped shallot and lemon juice into the mix. Add the dill and some black pepper. You may not need salt, depending on how salty the cod’s roe is; taste at the end to check.

 

Pour in the olive oil and blitz in the food processor until smooth and creamy.

 

If it’s too thick, add some water and blitz again. Check seasoning. Transfer to a bowl, cover and put in the fridge for at least an hour. You could, of course, serve straight away if this is a last-minute thing, but the texture and taste do improve from standing and chilling for a while. Covered, it will keep in the fridge for about three days.

When ready to serve, drizzle over a little olive oil and I garnished with a little paprika, but you might like to use chopped fresh dill if you have some, or some parsley.

I served it with some pitta bread and lovely Kalamata olives to add a little more flavour of Greece to my plate.

It was really good; a nice texture and good flavour. The fish flavour was strong but not overpowering and it wasn’t too salty either. It requires a bit more planning ahead to buy the cod’s roe rather than grabbing a tin of chickpeas from the cupboard to make hummus, but it is quite special and I think almost essential if you want to serve some Greek-style mezze.

Travel: Cities with a View … and a Long Climb!

It was while I was climbing a steep path up to the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence in June that it occurred to me that I seem to make a habit of visiting cities where a long steep climb is required to get to an amazing view; a challenge I can’t resist.

I have friends who are serious walkers and hike along ancient roads, up mountains and across moors who don’t take my city walking seriously. But on the day I walked up to the piazzale for that iconic view across beautiful Florence, I walked 17.3km according to my iPhone, and much of that involved huff and puff up almost vertical inclines. Of course food is a big part of my holidays, as regular readers will know, and I eat more than I normally would at home. But I do walk it off! I build up an appetite during the day before I settle at a restaurant table in the evening, a glass of fizz before me as I study the menu and decide on what my gastronomic reward will be for achieving those 25,000 steps!

Walking in cities is about discovery, seeking out the famous sights as well as randomly taking a route down a pretty street or mystery alleyway just because you fancy it. I like to wander, not necessarily with a destination in mind, but towards what attracts me. That’s when you really get to see a city; unhindered by looking at a map or marching determinedly towards a particular sight, you look around; you look up, across and see what’s around you. And if you’re lucky, you may find a gem: an unexpected view; a delightful little cafe or restaurant tucked into a corner; a stunning building; or a beautiful square with some locals sitting on a bench under a tree chatting amiably.

But to see a city in its entirety, you have to climb. There’s no way out of it. Although sometimes you can ‘cheat’ and take a lift, as I did in Turin to go to the top of Mole Antonelliana and enjoy fantastic views across the city.

Often there’s no choice but to go on foot. When you’re in a beautiful city, though, it’s just glorious to celebrate your efforts as you take in a panoramic view at the end of a long climb; often a view beyond the confines of city walls, or maybe out to sea, depending on where you are. Cities aren’t all about museums, art galleries, historic buildings and restaurants. In most cities I’ve been to you can always find a quiet spot … and, as the following will show, very often a spectacular view.

When I left Florence in June, I moved on to Lucca. Here, the Torre Guigini that rises high into the sky in the centre of this beautiful medieval city, has no lift.

Walking up and up and up is the only way to get to the top. But the reward is spectacular.

Back to Turin earlier this year, I found some wonderful peaceful places to walk, like the Parco del Valentino which runs along the edge of the River Po. I also took a walk up a steep road to the Villa della Regina from which you can enjoy magnificent views across the city.

In Siena it’s worth buying a ticket for a tour of the Port del Cielo when you visit the cathedral. You will have to climb up two steep and very narrow spiral staircases but the view will make it all worthwhile. What better way to appreciate and see this incredible city and its famous campo?

Genoa is built on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea so a lot of climbing of steep roads is involved just to get around the city. But take the funicular up to Righi, walk up another steep road, and you will find a great view over the city and out to sea.

San Sebastian is famous for the number of Michelin starred restaurants it has (more than Paris) but also its bars serving the most incredible pinxtos (tapas), which are not only delicious but little works of art. Set by the sea, it’s not somewhere that requires much climbing but it is worth taking a walk up to the summit of Monte Urgull for the fantastic views.

Down towards the south of Spain to Granada, this is another city that requires a lot of climbing of steep pathways just to get around. But the views are incredible and well worth any effort required to see them. Always, rising above you, there is the beautiful and magnificent Alhambra that seems to keep watch over the city.

You mustn’t miss a visit into the Alhambra (and this does require pre-booking, even months ahead), from which there are more amazing views.

From the centre of the city it’s well worth the effort of climbing a steep road out to Sacromonte. Here is the old gypsy area where people once lived in caves, and which was the heart of flamenco. Take a look back down towards the centre. It was one of the most incredible and wonderful views I’ve seen.

Further south still in Spain to Malaga. This is a beautiful city which offers both a strong cultural scene (it was where Picasso was born) and a beach. It’s well worth a walk up to the Gibralfaro Castle (14th century) and Moorish Alcazaba Fortress (parts dating back to 8th century) for views across the city and sea.

 

And let’s not forget Nice, also by the sea. Take a steep and long climb up to the 15th century Tour Bellanda at the top of Castle Hill for a fabulous view over the city.

When you take a holiday in a city it’s all too easy to get caught up in exploring the ground level but it’s always worth seeking out the views from above. Even if it does mean a steep climb on foot!

Travel and the Call of the Familiar

I’m a part-time adventurer when I travel in the sense that I like to go back to familiar, favourite places again and again rather than new all the time. My current ‘again and again’ place is probably Turin, where I went in March for the third time in as many years and can’t wait to go back to. But you can also throw Amsterdam and Venice into the pot of well-worn cities I’ve travelled to many times. I like to discover new places sometimes too, of course, which means that Turin only became a favourite after my first visit in October 2016 while Venice has been a fairly regular haunt since 2006 (and I’d been there a few times before that, going back as far as 1977!). And last year I ‘discovered’ Genoa, Siena and Malaga as well as returning to Amsterdam.

If it seems boring and unadventurous to keep going back to a particular city, then it’s only because I find myself feeling a little ‘at home’ there and want to know it better. I always make a point of doing or seeing something new each visit. And my love of a place is invariably informed by its food. I’m not interested in going anywhere with bad food! I’m a great cafe person and nowhere I’ve been to (even Vienna) can compete with the wonderful historic cafes of Turin and I don’t think I could ever tire of them, from the best croissants I’ve found anywhere (even Paris!) with great coffee in the morning, to the fantastic institution that is aperitivo early evening and nowhere I’ve been does it better. And well, they also invented chocolate (as we know it) so really that says it all!

Venice I love for its beauty and being on the water all the time, taking a vaporetto across the Lagoon to beautiful and peaceful Torcello or to the Lido for a walk on the beach. And food again – sitting early evening by the edge of the Grand Canal with a glass of prosecco and some delicious cichetti.

Amsterdam I love because it’s Amsterdam. Contrary to rumours about the Dutch and bad food, you can indeed find wonderful food there; one of my favourite restaurants anywhere is in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam – De Reiger. And where else but Amsterdam can you find apple pie to die for (figuratively speaking, of course), especially that found at Winkel.

And a day always has to end at the Jordaan’s oldest bar, Cafe Chris, for an oude genever digestif.

Of course my returning time and time again to the same city can seem a little boring to some people so I was intrigued and pleased when I went to a talk by my favourite contemporary artist, Barbara Rae, at the Royal Academy of Art a few months ago, when she talked about how she worked, and how she returned again and again to a place that caught her imagination, until she reached a point where she felt she’d got to the heart of what she was looking for and moved on to somewhere new. She’s famous for her paintings of Arizona, but more recently has been travelling the Northwest Passage – somewhere very different – and painting what she sees in the Arctic.

It’s great to go somewhere new and love it and there have been so many times I’ve come back from a new city and thought, I must go back soon … but then haven’t. Some cities have turned out to be one-stop wonders. But when a city captures your imagination then it’s wonderfully comforting to arrive somewhere you know: you know what you want to see; you know where you want to stay (both actual hotel and geographically). You know where you want to go for morning coffee; where to have a good evening meal. You know what sights you want to see again and those you missed last time but must see this time round. You don’t need to follow a map or keep asking Google how to get somewhere or even where you are; you know your way around. And if you go to the same hotel, you’re often warmly welcomed back, which is a great bonus when you travel alone, as I often do.

I’ve been ‘called back’ to Nice, and will spend a long weekend there next month. I look forward to quickly settling into a familiar city and returning to places I know while also researching new places to visit and eat at. It’s important to embrace the new but also to celebrate the old.

R & H Cafe Gallery, Richmond upon Thames

It was ages ago that my friend Jay told me about the Persian cafe on Richmond Hill and I was immediately keen to try it. Persian food really appealed. However, I rarely walk up Richmond Hill as it’s in the opposite direction to the centre of the town as I make my way in from Twickenham. I pass the cafe when I go to my book group on Tuesday evenings in The Roebuck at the top of Richmond Hill, but the cafe is only open during the day, Wednesdays to Sundays, so it wasn’t an option for an early supper on my way to talk books.

Then yesterday, heading into Richmond in the afternoon, I suddenly remembered R&H Cafe and got off the bus early and walked up the hill. And I’m so glad I did; what a fantastic find.

The inside of the cafe is simple but with attractive Persian (Iranian) touches with beautiful wall hangings and cushions on the wooden seats. Zahna runs the cafe in memory of her parents, Ruby and Hossein, who, she tells us, ‘enriched many people’s lives’ through their charity work and business in Iran and she wants ‘to continue their legacy’. This ambition carries through into the ambience and service, which almost makes you feel like a guest in someone’s home.

All food is prepared from scratch; the beans for the coffee come from a micro roastery in East London. There are also some good tea choices – ‘Fresh mint & Persian Lime’, ‘Cardamon & Black Tea’. Zahna says the food is ‘simple’ with ‘no sophistication’ but it seemed to me a glorious combination of ‘simple’ and ‘exotic’.

I wanted just a coffee and cake – it was mid afternoon and I’d already had lunch. There was an enticing display of homemade cakes on a table; huge watermelons, butternut squash, oranges and other fruit and veg lay underneath. I sat down and ordered a flat white (£3) and a purple carrot muffin (£5). I had to ask what the muffin was and once I was told it was ‘purple carrot’ couldn’t resist trying it.

 

 

Carrot cake can be a bit heavy but this was wonderfully light and tasted delicious; it was one of the best cakes of this kind I’ve had. It did taste different to an orange carrot. Purple carrots are known to be intensely sweet with a slight peppery taste. The cake however wasn’t too sweet and its lightness meant I didn’t feel ‘stuffed’ after eating it. The coffee was excellent too. I knew I’d have to return for lunch one day soon, but meanwhile settled for buying a pot of their carrot jam to take home.

I’ve never had carrot jam before! When my son popped round to my house later in the afternoon we had a tasting and thought it was good and somewhere between a ‘jam’ and ‘chutney’. Freddie (4½) wanted a taste too and liked it so much he wanted more!

Today’s been a serious gardening day. I decided to take a break and go back to the cafe for some lunch. The menu is an all encompassing breakfast/lunch affair. A lot of the dishes involve eggs on top of sauces, tomatoes, walnuts and feta cheese. A few dishes are served only after 1pm and I liked the sound of ‘Shishandaz’: roasted butternut squash, pomegranate molasses & walnut sauce, served with bread and flavoured yoghurt (£14). There were kofte served with split yellow peas, barberry, pistachio, dried plum in savour tomato sauce with bread and salad (£16.50). However, with the prospect of further gardening ahead of me, I decided I needed something quite light. It was also warm and humid outside, so I wanted something fresh too. I chose a salad of Watermelon, feta and walnuts (£12).

It was as simple as it sounds with black sesame seeds sprinkled over the top. There was nothing fancy about it but you could tell it really was freshly put together. The watermelon was delicious and great with the feta and walnuts. It was just the kind of lunch I wanted. It was also huge; I really couldn’t eat all that watermelon! But I was immediately offered a takeaway box so I could take the leftover melon home with me, which was a great touch. I think it would be a good dish to have with someone else and have another dish to share too.

I may have had my fill of watermelon (nice as it was) but decided I had room for a slice of their Orange Blossom Cake (£4) and a macchiato (£2.80).

Slightly heavier than the carrot cake of the day before, but beautifully moist with a sure but not overpowering taste of the orange blossom. It was really good. I can see I’ll have to exercise a terrific amount of willpower not to be heading up to R&H Cafe on a regular basis for cake!

I asked if the gallery was open and negotiated a very steep and narrow spiral staircase to the next floor. Here was an interesting display of Persian items to buy. There were just a few things; clearly carefully chosen, and was nice to have a look around, though I didn’t buy anything.

 

 

I really liked R&H Cafe and I’m sure it will become one of my regular haunts. In a town full of chain cafes and restaurants, it’s wonderfully unique with a special feel to it.

R&H Cafe is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9am to 5pm (6pm on Sat & Sun). It’s closed Monday and Tuesday.

R&H Cafe Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Where to Eat with Kids: Honest Burgers, South Kensington

Freddie and I went on another expedition this morning. This time to South Kensington, home of London’s biggest and most popular museums (the Victoria & Albert, Natural History, and Science museums) and thus in peak holiday time, a very busy place. Hence we set off early and managed to arrive at 10.00am just as doors were opening.

We went first into the V&A who offer a wonderful programme of family events all through the summer holidays. There were lots of people around to offer advice and direct us to where we could pick up an Activity Backpack. There are backpacks for all ages and we chose (with help from an assistant) ‘An Adventure in China’, based on there being lots of animals and dragons in this particular ‘adventure’. The backpack was quite heavy but Freddie (4½) insisted on carrying it on his back. It contained six numbered drawstring bags with various activities on the relevant theme. We headed to the China room where we found some beautiful dragon robes in large glass cases and one of the numbered bags had a jigsaw of a robe, with a picture of it in the guidebook, that Freddie enjoyed putting together. The ‘backpack’ activity is free but I had to leave a credit card as a guarantee of return. There were lots of other free activities. We could have spent the whole day there but Freddie was keen to move on to the ‘Dinosaur House’, aka the Natural History Museum – just down the road.

 

The long queue we’d seen as we arrived in South Kensington at 10.00 had moved on with the opening of the museum and luckily we got in fairly quickly. It’s free to enter the museum and of course for little ones, the main attraction is the dinosaur room.

 

Well two hours of serious museum visiting is enough for any 4½ year old and his Nonna, despite the fun we’d had, and we were both ready for lunch. My plan was to go to Honest Burgers, which we’d passed on the way from South Kensington Tube Station. I’ve been to other Honest Burgers and think they’re great; the best of the chains I’ve sampled. They also have a good Kids’ Menu – and what kid can resist a good burger?

Despite the early lunch hour, just about midday, the restaurant already had lots of people sitting at tables, but we got a good one for 2 by the window at the front. A quarter of an hour later it was full and people were queuing.

A quiz and colouring sheet and crayons came quickly for Freddie, together with the menus. The service at all times was very friendly and efficient.

The kids’ deal is a Burger + chips + drink for £5.50. There was a choice of Free range chicken, 100% British beef or veggie burger. The drinks were homemade lemonade or fruit juice. Freddie chose a beef burger, that comes with their ‘famous’ rosemary and sea salt chips, and lemonade.

Honest Burgers have a different local Honest Burger for each restaurant, so I decided to have the South Ken burger: Beef, smoked raclette cheese (from La Cave à Fromage, a fantastic French cheese shop just down the road), grilled red onions, garlic and parsley mayo, tomato, rocket & pickles … and of course their wonderful rosemary chips (£12.50).

 

Freddie’s lemonade – of which I was given a taste – was excellent; grown-up good. I opted for a Lucky Saint, low alcohol (0.5%) unfiltered lager, that’s made in Germany (£4) and it was also excellent.

 

The food came quite quickly – always a good thing with a little one in tow once they’ve decided they’re hungry! Freddie’s mini burger was actually a good size and he had a huge pile of chips. It came on a special ‘smaller’ plate. There were bottles of tomato ketchup and mayonnaise on the side to help yourself to.

My burger was a great plate of food too.

Their beef is fabulous. They have their own butcher and all the beef comes from the Scottish Highlands. The potatoes for the chips come from a 5th generation potato farmer in West Sussex. Their care to acquiring the best produce shows. The burgers really are very good: meaty, tasty and tender. The chips are very special. I couldn’t manage all my large serving of them, but Freddie had most of his and liked his burger too.

You can add in an extra of vanilla or chocolate ice cream to the Kids’ Menu for £1.50 but we decided to make a move and go to a gelateria further down the road. I paid the bill (£22) and we moved on. Honest Burgers had been great though and lived up to what I’d hoped for given my previous good experiences at other branches. And such an excellent quality of food for kids at £5.50 is great value, especially in central London.

Snowflake Luxury Gelato make their gelato from organic Jersey milk and cream from a family run farm in Somerset. I’d been there before and knew it was good. We each had a small cup with two flavours. Freddie had chocolate & mango; I had watermelon & salted caramel. They have tables upstairs so we were able to sit in comfort and eat them leisurely.

 

What a lovely outing we had: dragons and dinosaurs; burgers and ice cream. I asked Freddie as we were heading home what his favourite thing had been. ‘Lunch,’ he replied. A true food writer’s grandson! 🙂

Honest Burgers - South Kensington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Salmon with Celery, Pine Nut & Green Olive Salsa

I eat salmon about once a week; I love its flavour but also know it’s good for me, being rich in Omega-3s. Sadly a lot of farmed salmon lacks the health benefits and is pretty tasteless. So I always buy organic (which of course must be farmed but I’m counting on it being healthier) or, when in season (roughly April-Sept/Oct), I like to treat myself occasionally to some wild salmon from my local fishmonger. Wild salmon is expensive but if you’re a salmon fan, then it really is superb and very special.

I took a fillet of organic salmon from my freezer for supper today. Usually, to be honest, I don’t do anything very imaginative with it midweek but after the success of the gorgeous bulgur wheat recipe from Ottolenghi’s Simple book a few days ago, I thought it worth taking a look to see if there were any salmon recipes. And in the index I found just one recipe – and it did sound very good. Apparently it featured in one of the Bridget Jones films, but I wasn’t really interested in its glamorous film outing, only that it did indeed sound pretty simple and not too much of a challenge at the end of a busy day.

It’s simple in the sense that there’s nothing difficult about it, but there’s quite a bit of chopping to do and I think it’s essential to do that and have everything ready before you start the actual cooking. It can all be done pretty quickly though. I didn’t actually time myself but it couldn’t have taken more than half an hour from start to eating.

Ottolenghi’s recipe is for 4; he talks of halving it for 2; I roughly quartered it for just me! He also names it after Bridget … but I gave that a miss.

 

Salmon with Celery, Pine Nuts & Green Olive Salsa – Serves One

  • 25g currants, soaked for 20 minutes in hot water
  • 1 salmon fillet
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 celery stick, cut into small dices
  • 10g pine nuts, roughly chopped
  • 10g capers, plus 1 teaspoon of their brine
  • 10g large green olives, cut into small dices
  • 1 pinch saffron mixed with a little hot water
  • 5g parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon

 

   

Soak the currants in the hot water. Drizzle a little olive oil over the salmon fillet and rub gently with your fingers to cover. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and grind over some pepper. Set aside while you make the salsa.

Add the celery and pine nuts to a frying pan with about 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes, watching and turning constantly so it doesn’t burn, until the nuts are turning a nice golden brown. Remove from the heat to a bowl.

Stir in the capers and their brine, olives, saffron and its water, the drained currants and parsley.

 

  

Finely grate in some lemon zest and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Mix all together. Taste. Ottolenghi adds some salt but if your capers and olives are quite salty, I don’t think you’ll need it; I didn’t. But check.

 

Set the salsa aside and cook the salmon. Heat about ½ tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-hot heat. Lay the salmon skin-side down in the hot oil and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the skin is brown and crisp. Turn over and cook for about 2-4 minutes or until the salmon is cooked as you prefer it – I like mine still slightly pink-rare in the middle. Timing will also depend on your salmon cut. Mine was a thick slice but a fillet from the tail end would be quite thin and need less cooking time.

 

When the salmon is ready, lay on a serving plate. Spoon the salsa over the top. (Despite making a quarter of the given ingredients there was still quite a lot; enough really for two and I have some left over despite a generous serving.)

I served the salmon with some lovely little new potatoes tossed in butter and a green salad. Oh … and a glass of chilled white wine! Well, it may be midweek but it did seem quite a special meal.

It was really gorgeous. I loved the salsa. It was quite a crunchy salsa but fabulous, fresh flavours that went perfectly with the fish. It was definitely worth just a little more effort than my usual midweek salmon supper and I’m sure I’ll be doing it again.

Travel Gourmet’s Top 5 Gelaterie in London

I’m reblogging this post from last year after making some revisions. I heard that one of my chosen five had closed down so I’ve added in the wonderful Gelatorino instead! And it’s definitely gelato time now with summer upon us, so make sure you make the most of the wonderful ice cream on offer in London!

Travel Gourmet

With the weather warming up and the sun shining at last, we’re definitely moving into the ‘ice cream season’. Though in truth, I’ll eat ice cream at any time of the year. I confess to having a big addiction to ice cream; well, gelato. I’m an ice cream snob (I’ll own up so you don’t need to accuse me). I don’t buy those old British favourites that you find in your local newsagent, I seek out the many and growing number of wonderful Italian gelaterie in London. Thus this will probably turn into an ongoing post that needs frequent revision (and frequent tastings of gelato!) for I have sampled only a few, so there are many, many more to try. But of the ones I know, here are my favourites. And while I rarely stick my neck out on these pages and attribute rankings – I’m doing it here…

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Bulgur with Tomato, Aubergine & Preserved Lemon Yoghurt

This is an Ottolenghi recipe from his book, Simple. Ottolenghi + Simple are not two words I’d normally put together. His recipes often contain very long lists of ingredients and are quite complicated. However, I was completely addicted to his Jerusalem book when it first came out in 2012 and cooked from it endlessly. Some of the recipes, like Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Za’atar remain family favourites that are still frequently made. That’s not an especially complicated one, but some do take a lot of time and a lot of ingredients. Hence the immediate attraction of Simple. Not surprisingly, my definition of ‘simple’ is not quite the same as Ottolenghi’s. There’s a wonderful sounding Blueberry, Almond & Lemon Cake in it but it requires complicated cooking that involves taking the cake out of the oven a couple of times mid-cooking and really … if I’m making a loaf-tin cake I just want to beat all the ingredients together, tip it all into a tin, put it in the oven and leave it until it’s done.

But then – his food is a miracle. I’ve been to his flagship restaurant and store in Islington a couple of times in recent years and the food is exceptional. You can tell as you eat it that ‘complicated’ = ‘amazing with layers of taste’. It’s that incredible kind of food that stops you in your tracks; you taste and think it’s great, then as you continue to eat another layer of flavour reveals itself, and then yet another, so the whole eating experience is like a wondrous food journey.

I wanted to make something with bulgur wheat. When I was in Comptoir Libanais with Freddie last Thursday he loved the tabbouleh on my mezze plate and we ended up sharing it (kids have very sophisticated tastes these days!). So out came my books at home – Ottolenghi, Moro, and various ‘middle eastern’ others – and I came across this recipe in Ottolenghi Simple. It sounded so wonderful, I just had to make it. And as it turned out, it was actually quite simple. I served it with some lamb kofte but it would make a great vegetarian meal on its own. I ate it warm with supper but it would also make a nice cold ‘salad’ meal too, so is eminently versatile.

(I halved Ottolenghi’s recipe and thus made slight adjustments.)

 

Bulgur with Tomato, Aubergine & Preserved Lemon Yoghurt

Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a side dish

  • 1 aubergine, cut into roughly 3cm chunks
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ tablespoon tomato purée
  • 125g bulgur wheat
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • ½ preserved lemon, with pips removed and finely chopped (12g)
  • 5g fresh mint leaves, finely shredded

 

 

Cook the aubergine first. Preheat an oven to 220C/Fan 200/Gas 7. Cut the aubergine into biggish chunks. Put in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Mix with your hands and lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until nicely browned, turning halfway through cooking.

 

Put the sliced onion in a large frying pan (for which you have a lid) with the oil and cook for about 8 minutes on a medium heat until soft and slightly caramelising. Add the garlic and allspice. Mix well and cook for another minute.

 

Add the cherry tomatoes. Cook for a couple of minutes and mash down a bit with a potato masher. Add the tomato purée, 200ml water and a little salt. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer, put the lid on the pan, and leave for 12 minutes. Check the seasoning.

 

Add the bulgur wheat. Stir in well then remove from the heat. Put the lid back on the pan and leave for 20 minutes off the heat for the bulgur to absorb the sauce and soften.

 

While the bulgur is finishing ‘cooking’ make the yoghurt sauce. Put the yoghurt, preserved lemon and half the mint in a bowl and mix together. Taste and season with a little salt in necessary, but preserved lemon is quite salty so you may not need any more.

   

When the bulgur is ready, transfer to a serving bowl. Flatten a bit and lay the roasted aubergine pieces on top. Then spoon the yoghurt sauce on top of the aubergine. Sprinkle over the remaining mint.

It looked and smelled fantastic and it was truly gorgeous to eat.

It was a great accompaniment to my lamb kofte, with a green salad on the side.

But as I said above, it would also make a great vegetarian dish on its own.

I plan to have the rest tomorrow cold – or at room temperature – as a salad supper. I can see this becoming a great favourite and can’t wait to try it out on the family.

Amorino, Richmond upon Thames

You can never have too much good gelato. Or you can’t if you’re Travel Gourmet. There are so many great gelaterie in London these days, it’s slightly taken the edge off going to Italy, where for so long a highlight of an Italian holiday was eating ice cream that was far superior to anything you’d find back in the UK. However, the up side is that while good gelato may still be a treat, it’s one that can be enjoyed more often. Especially if you live in Richmond upon Thames where Gelateria Danieli, Venchi and Gelatorino have been joined by Amorino.

I’ve written about Amorino before after visiting their Covent Garden branch and it features in my Top 5 Gelaterie in London. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw one getting ready to open on my local patch. I pass the site most days and today the doors opened and I just had to go in for an afternoon treat.

It’s quite a big cafe with plenty of seating to sit down and enjoy not just a gelato but a drink too.

 

Amorino pride themselves on using a lot of organic products with ‘no artificial anything’ and offer a good choice of flavours.

Italian style, you pay at the till first. I asked how many flavours I could have in a small (£3.90) cup. The guy serving me looked thoughtful. Well, you could probably have 3 or 4, he said. Then I remembered that in other Amorino shops I’d been told I could have as many flavours as I liked. So I settled on 3: chocolate sorbet, blackcurrant sorbet and pistachio.

I also ordered a single macchiato espresso (£2.20) and a macaron (£1.90).

Their macarons are very special because they’re filled with gelato. They pack them in thermal takeaway boxes if you want to take some home.

 

I took my cup of gelato to one of the long bars and they said they’d bring my coffee.

It’s an attractive place to sit and enjoy a coffee and gelato treat.

 

My small cup was really quite a good size; perhaps a medium cup elsewhere. The ice cream was very delicious and having a macaron (I chose vanilla) to go with it made it extra special. The macchiato was good-tasting coffee though a little too milky for my preference, but came with a biscuit, continental style.

It’s going to be extremely tempting walking past Amorino nearly every day! But what a great addition to Richmond town centre.

Amorino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato