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“There is no sauce in the world like hunger.”

Miguel de Cervantes

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Wednesday
Sep122012

Chez Bruce, a perfect lunch

I am particularly partial to long and languorous lunches, there is something special about eating a fine meal over several hours while the sun is shining, preferably on you, but at least outside. This lunch was made more special by the fact that it was my birthday and so I was being treated.

The lunch was on my Mum, her only prerequisite that she didn't want to go anywhere poncy. I had wanted to go to Chez Bruce for some time and it fit this criterion perfectly. Chez Bruce oozes sophistication and class, without feeling stuffy and formal – a difficult balance to strike. The dining room is stylish but understated. The service is smooth, efficient and knowledgeable with a little bit of charm for good measure.

The waiters could see we were going to be hours and gave us the space to chat, open presents and drink our champagne. This is a mark of good service – being able to tell when a table is ready; the chat tends to stop, menus close or are put down, someone tries to catch your eye. Some tables are more relaxed and need coaxing, but it is always clear if a table has been nattering so much that they haven’t had a chance to look at the menu and they will not welcome the interruption.

I digress…

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Thursday
Sep062012

Huevos Cordoniz

Back at Busot it was my turn to cook for the Lippy Witches. I did a spread of a number of things, including a couple of the tapas dishes from MoVida Rustica that I have posted previously – Pinchos and Alcachofas con Jamon. As always, however, the most popular dish was the simplest – Huevos Cordoniz (literally, quail eggs).

When I was 17 I lived in Granada for 3 months. My friend and I found a little bar near where she lived and it became our local. Granada is one of the few places in Spain where you still get free tapas with every wine or beer and Bar Rios on Calle Socrates is one of the few bars in Granada that gives you a choice of what that will be. We went almost every night to fill up before our night out.

The menu at Bar Rios has just 8 items and is very simple – chorizo on a roll, omelette on a roll, lomo on a roll, morcilla on a roll…  but the produce was good quality and all cooked and seasoned perfectly. My favourite was what they called Huevos Cordoniz, a baguette round with a slice of jamon topped with a fried  quail egg. For my English palette – it was like a mini mouthful of bacon and eggs. So simple but so good. I have made it many times since and everyone always loves it.

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Friday
Aug312012

Le Pou de la Neu

Most people are willing to pay a lot of money to dine in front of a view like this. 

At Le Pou de la Neu you don’t have to. Our group of nine managed to get away with 40 euros per head – that bought us 8 starters (which could well have passed for main courses), 9 mains, 4 desserts to share and 6 bottles of fabulous local wines.

Le Pou de la Neu is a hotel and restaurant set in the mountains above the village of Jijona in the Alicante province, Spain. Jijona, or Xixona in Valenciano, is famous for their Turrón de Jijona – a type of nougat made with almonds. This appears on the restaurant menu, along with a number of other local delicacies. The focus of the menu is very much on regional produce and recipes.

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Tuesday
Aug212012

Silvena Rowe's Smoked Aubergine Salad with Hibiscus Salt

I first tried this recipe when holidaying in Spain. Our very dear family friends Gayle and Gilpin have a lovely house in the arid, mountainous region of the Alicante province. I was lucky enough to be invited along to the 2012 congregation of the Lippy Witches Cauldron – an annual celebration of three of my favourite things: cooking, eating and drinking good wine.

On our first evening we were on the food and wine appreciation committee (no cooking, just consuming). Lippy witch Jools and husband Trev cooked up a range of delicious salads, exactly what I felt like after a typically unpleasant Ryan air flight and a stuffy car ride full of wrong turns and familial bickering. My favourite was this salad from Silvena Rowe’s Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume.

Trev wasn’t so sure. Rowe writes in her introduction to the recipe that “The smell of charred aubergines – nutty, smoky and caramelised – is seductive, and that’s what makes this salad what it is.” Trev lost this element because he roasted the aubergines rather than charring them on an open flame. Still, it was a huge success with all the judges and delicious enough to inspire me to make it again – this time with charred aubergines, which did take it to another level.

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Monday
Jul302012

My restaurant recommendations: North London

We have finally reached North London, the place I call home. This is where I dine most often so I have plenty of recommendations.

I noticed when writing this that almost half the suggestions are pubs. I would like to think that says more about the type of place one chooses to dine locally than my drinking habits. When you eat locally you are usually looking for something easy, convenient and good value with a relaxed atmosphere; a pub is generally all those things. 

For the most part, the restaurants included here also fit that description; all are good value and convenient if you live locally, but some of the more popular venues require booking in advance which makes them less ‘easy’ though certainly worth the effort. None of the restaurants are as relaxed as a pub, but none are stuffy and formal either; even the romantic, candlelit Bistro Aix is without pretention.

There are six venues that I haven’t included at this time, which are worth mentioning. Selale and Hala are my favourite kebab houses on Green Lanes, but I have only ever eaten the take away; Isarn was my favourite Thai restaurant for a time but was disappointing on my last visit and I haven’t been in a while. Mosaica at the Factory, Seasons and The Oak and Pastor were all great first time round, but I’ve only been that once so need a repeat visit to decide. I will revisit all these in time and include those I feel confident recommending.

These are my tried and tested local favourites. Get stuck in.

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