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"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

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Friday
Aug132010

Chorizo, morcilla and potato salad with soft-boiled egg

My cousin came for dinner a while ago and brought some spoils from Borough markets. Amongst them was a large morcilla sausage  (Spanish black pudding) from Brindisa. My invite had been misleading; I'd said I would be “throwing together bits and pieces”, but failed to tell her that these bits and pieces would comprise approximately 6 courses, albeit small ones. Therefore, I very gratefully received the goods, but did not find use for all of them on the night.

Over the last few weeks I have seen the morcilla sitting there and thought that I really ought to do something with it, but knowing it was of a very good quality I wanted to wait until I was ready to do it justice and with this salad I believe I did.

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Thursday
Aug122010

Dotori: Japanese & Korean cuisine in Finsbury Park (the dodgy end)

It is thanks to my friend Alex (aka Blumenthal's biatch), a former chef, that I was introduced to this little gem of a restaurant. The fact that he is a former chef is important, because it means I value his opinion on food. So when he told me that this tiny shop front:

 

... which is on one of the most unpleasant stretches of road in Finsbury Park:

(second only to Fonthill Rd, where the reflection of neon shop lights on patent leather is so bright you have to put your sunglasses on to go inside) was one of his favourite restaurants, rather than just nodding politely and never thinking of it again, I found myself intrigued and requesting further information.

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Tuesday
Aug102010

Be there in five - olive tapenade

If you have ever bought this in a jar from the supermarket, then please pause for a moment before doing so next time and reconsider. It really does only take 5 minutes to make it yourself (well, 10 if you are pitting the olives) and the result is oh, so much better!

I usually make a batch of it and keep it in the fridge for sandwiches or bruschetta-style toasts, e.g. with roast tomato or Portobello mushrooms. It is great with soft white cheeses, such as goats cheese, feta or cream cheese. It also works quite well with lamb dishes, so long as you don’t use too much; it has a very strong flavour, so can overpower a dish if too much is added.

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Sunday
Aug082010

Ray's meatballs, inspired by Jamie Oliver


 

Let's get a few things straight before I start this recipe.

I am in the camp of people who find Jamie Oliver a rather annoying personality (the pseudo-geezer thing), but who appreciate what he has done for food in Britain (example). I like his early books (I only got as far as the first two), but I sit firmly with the Italians when it comes to 'Jamie's Italy'. Basically, if Italy is, as he says, his biggest inspiration ("I should have been Italian"), then why can’t he respect the time-honoured recipes developed over generations instead of coming in and throwing all manner of herbs and spices into dishes that traditionally would have been made up of a few ingredients, cooked simply and allowed to shine. In the words of Angela Hartnett,

Nonna taught me to understand what great Italian cooking is all about: start with the very best raw ingredients and do very little to them; just let them speak for themselves, and make the best of their natural flavours and textures.

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Thursday
Aug052010

Sunday lunch at The Drapers Arms

A rather unappealing and geeky habit of mine is buying the latest good food guides, reading them cover to cover and marking venues according to how much I want to try them out. It all started out quite casually with my marking a venue of interest with a small asterisk, but I soon had so many asterisks that they became meaningless and I had to invest in a more rigorous marking system:

  • A star with a circle around – absolutely must go, life depends on it
  • A star – may self harm if miss out
  • An asterisks – yes but no but
  • A dot – not going to lose any sleep over it
  • Nothing – does this really have any place in the guide?

I now apply this to all my guides, although to save some face I should say that I have only got as far as reading and marking the North and Central London parts of the Which? Good Food Guide 2010 (it covers the whole of the UK, I am not that sad!) and the corresponding chapters in the Michelin London Restaurants and Hotels 2010.

This is the first year that I have bought the Michelin, always having assumed them to err on the side of pretentious and pricey, so I was pleasantly surprised to see so many entries for gastropubs. One such pub is The Drapers Arms, a recommendation corroborated by the Good Food Guide and further substantiated by a star with a circle round in both books (consistent starring and circling on different occasions with no memory of having done so equals extra credibility).

So it was that when my Mum and I found ourselves at the end of a very long line for a table at Ottolenghi, we said a collective “blow this” and headed to The Drapers.

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