31 July 2015

Summer Evening Dinner Parties

 











Roasted and spiced whole cauliflower topped with pomegranate seeds, toasted flaked almonds and yoghurt





Slow-cooked Persian lamb in a pomegranate molasses marinade topped with toasted pine nuts












15 July 2015

Old School lemon bars topped with raspberry ripple Italian meringue






If, like me, you are a fan of all things lemon-based, then you will LOVE this.
My mum actually proclaimed it as the best thing I've made to date- big big words from her..! (Although she is my mum and therefore just slightly biased!)
It is, I must admit, lip-smackingly delicious.
A crunchy, chewy shortbread base topped with a squidgy tangy set lemon filling and then adorned with pillowy Italian meringue and raspberry syrup.
The perfect summer combo and a brilliant (if a little messy!) addition to a picnic.

Ingredients:

For the biscuit base:

225g salted butter
140g caster sugar
200g plain flour
75g ground almonds

For the lemon filling:

6 eggs
600g caster sugar
Zest of 4 lemons
200-230ml fresh lemon juice (about 5-6 lemons)
150g plain flour

For the Italian meringue:

200g caster sugar
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1tsp vanilla paste

For the raspberry syrup:

1tsp lemon juice
200g raspberries
1 tsp vanilla paste


Method:

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C (fan.)

To make the shortbread base, add the soft butter and caster sugar to a large mixing bowl. Cream them together with an electric whisk. Add in the flour and ground almonds and use a wooden spoon to combine everything and bring the mixture together into a loose dough.

Butter and line a rectangular traybake tin and then press the dough into the tin in an equal, thin layer. Chill the shortbread layer in the fridge for about 10 minutes and then bake it in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until starting to turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, caster sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and plain flour with an electric whisk in a large mixing bowl until smooth and fully combined. Remove the tin from the oven and carefully pour over the lemon mixture. Return the tin to the oven (ensuring that it is kept level at all times) and bake the lemon mixture for a further 30-40 minutes until just set. Then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the Italian meringue topping, add the egg whites, caster sugar and cream of tartar to a clean (heatproof) mixing bowl. Whisk to combine all the ingredients. Put a pan of water over a medium-high heat. When the water is simmering, balance the mixing bowl over the saucepan. Continuously whisk the meringue mixture over the heat with a balloon whisk for 5-6 minutes until turns much thicker and silky. The sugar should have all dissolved and the mixture will be more pillowy. It should be warm to the touch or at 120f on a sugar thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to whisk the mixture with an electric whisk on full speed for another 4-5 minutes until the mixture forms glossy and stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla paste for another minute.  You can also find this meringue frosting in my recipe for sweet potato and pecan brownies with a marshmallow frosting.

Once the lemon bars have cooled, turn them out from the tin onto a large board. Using a sharp metal knife, cut the bars until equal squares. Top each square with a generous swirl of the Italian meringue mixture.

To make the raspberry syrup, add the raspberries, lemon juice and vanilla to a small saucepan. Put the pan over a medium heat and leave until it begins to simmer. Simmer the raspberries for about 5-10 minutes until they soften and release their juices and you have a jam-like syrup. Remove from the heat and let it cool completely before spooning over the meringue. 

8 July 2015

Taste of London 2015: Fera at Claridge's



A few weeks ago, I got a surprise message that I hadn't been expecting at all.
It was from Rental Cars letting me know that I was the lucky winner of their competition and an oh-so incredibly amazing prize.
That just so happened to feature my all-time, ABSOLUTE favourite chef, Simon Rogan.

I had won two hospitality tickets to this year's Taste of London festival including a champagne reception, 10 course meal cooked by Simon, a chance to chat to the very chef himself and time to wander around the festival and sample all the amazing dishes on offer as well as an overnight stay in a luxury 5 star hotel.

Rental cars offer affordable car hire all over the world and I'd come across the competition on their Facebook page. You had to enter a photo that you had taken during a trip to one of your favourite locations. I chose a photo from my foodie travels to Vietnam (which you can read about here) and to be honest, I completely forgot that I had entered the competition, thinking that I probably didn't stand a chance.
Therefore it was such a great surprise to find out I'd won and so I immediately got on the phone to my beautiful and also super foodie friend Safia from food & lifestyle blog dear safia and asked her if she'd like to share the prize with me!

So on the friday morning, we headed over to Regent's Park (after a super-delicious brekkie at 26 grains in Neal's Yard- if you're a porridge fan, then you MUST go check them out. They've just received funding to make their pop-up site into a permanent location and they serve the best porridge around!)

We were greeted by one of the event organisers and a whole camera crew!! Something we really weren't expecting and I immediately wished I'd taken more care putting my make-up on that morning!
They handed us our tickets and we skipped right to the front of the queue and along to the hospitality tents (feeling exceptionally VIP!!)

There we were greeted with glasses of fizz and delicious elderflower cocktails and led through to our table in the pop-up dining room.
I have been wanting to visit Fera at Claridge's for a really long time now. The Michelin-starred restaurant hosts Simon Rogan and his team's finest cooking, based on a menu using produce sourced entirely within the UK and evolving with the seasons. The other day, during a short visit to the lake district, I walked passed his restaurant l'enclume based in the village of Cartmel. I can see why they base their material on local produce, as the land round there is just beautiful and bursting with the highest quality natural produce.

We started with 3 different appetisers:
Stewed rabbit deep fried in a really crispy and light batter served with a lovage puree (an old English herb with a delicate celery-like flavour.)



Followed by a seaweed wafer with sea herbs and salsify





And then a pea, crab and calamint soup- that was incredibly light, fresh and palate cleansing.






This was followed by the most amazingly soft and creamy goats curds (something that has become a staple of my diet this year after being influenced by the Spanish love for goats cheese) served with beetroots that had been cooked over coals in their big smoking egg-like oven and topped with crispy chicken skin.



This was my favourite dish of the whole meal - goats cheese and beetroot is always a great combo, especially with a bit of smoky, meaty chicken skin on top.



I also loved the really natural presentation style of all the dishes - beautiful and refined but also incredibly natural and vibrant.

Still smiling and chatting away about the last dish, we were presented with the fish course: Halibut braised in pine oil with roasted asparagus, creamed artichoke and king oyster mushrooms.
This was one of the most interesting dishes I have eaten in a long time- the pine oil gave a really deep natural earthy flavour to the dish that was a surprising yet perfect match for the fish.







The meat course followed with succulent Cornish lamb with salt-baked turnips, runner beans, Jersey Royals and ramsons.



Dessert was almost too beautiful to eat!!

Marinated strawberries with sorrel, elderflower and buttermilk. Simply delicious.





Just in case we hadn't had quite enough to eat, the waitress then bought over a plate of different petit fours for us to try:
Sweet cicely cake with sweet cheese, muscovado dandelion creams and a hazelnut jelly. Now i'm not normally a big jelly fan as the texture reminds me of Turkish delight (one thing I can't stand) and the flavour is normally quite diluted and fake. However I could have eaten a whole batch of this hazelnut jelly. It had such a deep nutty flavour and was like biting into velvet.



We even had chance to meet Simon himself and chat to him about his work both at Fera and his other restaurants as well as the practicalities of producing a meal of such high standards from a make-shift kitchen literally in the middle of a park!

Huge thanks to Rental Cars for such an amazing afternoon. We were even given tickets to re-enter the festival later on and have a wander around the rest of the stalls to see what was on offer.

Having had a quick snooze in the hotel, we managed to forget that we had eaten a huge lunch earlier, and headed on the hunt for some of the festival's award winning dishes. I caught sight of the Pont St burger with Oglesheild cheese, truffle mayonnaise, red onion chutney and crisp onion rings and just had to try it.




Just look at that perfect brioche bun, crispy onions and oozy melted cheese....!!


We also tried the Vietnamese Scotch egg from The House of Ho as well as the buttermilk fried chicken and pine salt from The Clove Club (somewhere at the top of my wish list at the moment!) and the malted marshmallow peanut butter frozen custard topped with crumbled chocolate covered pretzels from Shake Shack which was to die for. Frozen custard should really become the new craze for this summer - its like an even creamier ice cream. Seriously good.




We followed this with some spicy cocktails and Sloemotion gin before strolling through the rest of the stands to get the low down on some of the new and innovative foodie businesses that have started up including Mighty Bee coconut products which are definitely worth checking out. I'm not usually a fan of coconut water but their version really is yummy.











We had such a brilliant foodie day and left feeling very full and very happy!
I'd definitely recommend Taste of London and you can now purchase tickets for the winter version here.
We left with ice creams in hand, on the way to The Marleybone pub for a few more drinks before snuggly into our bath robes and relaxing in our huge comfy beds at the Landmark hotel. A pretty perfect day if you ask me!!