It’s quite a while since I last wrote one of these posts but they’re fun to do occasionally and a great way to mention favourite restaurants I revisit and recipes I cook again. It’s been a good week of friends, food and expeditions. Come and share it with me …
I had a fabulous time last Friday going to a talk at the Royal Academy of Arts to hear one of my favourite artists ‘in conversation’, Barbara Rae (see Art & Food for more). I then went to one of my favourite restaurants in London for some supper. Yalla Yalla, has become my ‘go to’ place for some early evening supper when I’m near Piccadilly Circus. Usually, it’s a pre-theatre meal but this time it was post talk! I sometimes go with friends but it’s a great solo dining place too.
Saturday was a family day. My brother Adam came with my niece Clara (15) and nephew Leo (13). Son Jonathan came too with his family, so there were 8 of us round my table, including 3¾ year old grandson, Freddie, and his 1-year-old brother, Benjamin. There was also a big rugby match at Twickenham so Adam – driving from Kent – and even Jonathan only driving from local Whitton, timed their journey to arrive at my house (close enough to the stadium to hear the crowds singing the National Anthem and screaming whenever a try is made) while the match was in progress. Any other time would be disaster. I can walk to Jonathan’s house in 20 minutes. It once took me 45 minutes to drive home when I made the mistake of leaving after a rugby match ended. Rugby + 2 little boys = need for food flexibility. And there’s nothing more flexible than moussaka. I made it in the morning ready to go into the oven near suppertime but it’s also happy, if there’s any delay, to sit in an oven turned down low for a long time without spoiling.
I decided on a Greek meal … everything could go on the table and people just tuck in as they wanted. Apart from the moussaka I made Labneh, Butter Bean ‘Hummus’ and bought olives and some ciabatta from Your Bakery Whitton. There was also a big green salad to which I added torn leaves of radicchio and shredded fennel and then drizzled lots of extra virgin olive oil from Kalamata over it.
For dessert we took a journey to Italy and the family’s favourite cake – Torta Caprese. A glorious flour-free gooey chocolate cake made with lots of ground almonds and chopped dark chocolate. I served crème fraîche and a bowl of mixed fruits (blueberries, blackberries and raspberries) on the side.
Sunday was my easy food day. Adam and family left after breakfast and so I pulled a portion of the Chicken with Orange and Chicory I made a few weeks ago from the freezer for my supper. It confirmed my belief that you should always make extra of a stew or casserole to put portions in the freezer for a great but instant homemade ready made meal.
On Monday, Freddie and I went on our expedition to Windsor to see the Queen’s castle. Windsor Castle is said to be the Queen’s favourite residence and certainly my little grandson loved visiting it. We were delighted to be told the Queen was actually there – though sadly we caught no sight of her. Food after the castle visit came in the form of a very good Kids’ Menu at Carluccio’s for Freddie and a pasta dish for me (click here for more).
There was a constant Italian theme throughout Tuesday. It began with coffee and pastries in Your Bakery Whitton – an Italian artisan bakery – with my little grandsons. It was one of my ‘Nonna’ (Italian for grandmother) mornings, having the boys. Then I went into Richmond to meet my friend Liz for lunch at Debraggio’s – a great Italian deli where you can eat in or take out. I only wanted a small lunch as I was going out in the evening so I ordered a starter – Melanzane Parmigiano – and they offered to add some salad to it. As you can see from the photo above, it was a great plate of food. Not quite as small as I’d had in mind but too good to not eat it all.
In the evening I went to Masaniello with Italian friend Antonio. He and I discovered it back in 2012 and it’s always nice to return there with him. We shared a Mixed Antipasti to begin.
Then Antonio opted for a pizza while I had ravioli with an aubergine filling and some burrata. It was gorgeous.
There was a bit more Italian on Wednesday (well, in truth, as regular readers will know, there’s always a lot of Italian of some sort in my life!): an Italian lesson with Fabio in the afternoon and then I put together a pasta dish for supper with some chestnut mushrooms, a handful of peas and lots of grated Parmesan on top. It was one of those ‘open the fridge and see what’s inside’ suppers.
I met my good friend Annie for supper at the brilliant Joe Allen. It’s ‘our’ place; our favourite place to get together. We’ve been meeting there regularly for at least 20 years! They don’t serve their usual early evening fixed price menu during December and we didn’t really want 3 courses, so decided against the Christmas Menu and went à la carte instead. I had their fabulous Caesar Salad, which has been one of my favourite starters ever for all the time I’ve been going there. And it really is very very good.
Annie and I both had a great Sea Bream dish for mains but were so busy talking I forgot to take a photo. I promise you it looked as great as it tasted!
A week of favourite restaurants: Yalla Yalla, Masaniello … and then Joe Allen on Thursday. I have to admit that 3 favourite restaurants in one week is pretty good going!