Thursday, 25 July 2013

L'Anima review

Grana Padano, sometimes wrongly cited as the poorer, milder brother to Parmesan was being celebrated a  few weeks ago at one of London's top Italian restaurants L'Anima.
Being a big fan of both the milder umami and crystal crunch of the texture of said cheese I decided to go along. L'Anima has been on my list of places to visit for a little while now, it regularly appears in critics favourite restaurant lists who cannot understand why it hasn't been awarded a Michelin star, so along with the promise of a cheese based special menu, it was a perfect excuse to visit.

The restaurant itself is set near Liverpool st, set apart from the usual drag and more in the middle of big offices and high rises.

Slick glass walls, sharply dressed receptionists and an all white furniture set out was humanised by the slightly tipsy office workers bashing out the chorus to 'Walking in Memphis' over and over on the piano in the adjoining bar.
Being one of the first sat for the evenings service, we were given all of the servers attention, with the obligatory fresh focaccia from the kitchen quickly brought out with a sharp and fruity olive oil to chew over while choosing our cheesy poison from the menu.

The wine list is overwhelmingly large, and selection of a companion for our meals was not helped by the waiter (no sommelier present it seemed) only being able to point us to a page with the restaurants recommendations. As it was a non celebratory Wednesday night after work we didn't fancy going with the £75 bottle he suggested, so a quick whizz around google soon provided the answer instead :)
Food ordered, we sat back and giggled at 'Hey Jude' tunelessly murdered by the increasingly inebriated suits next door, sadly they were soon replaced by a more skilled if slightly less entertaining tickler of the ivories.

Our starters arrived, Aubergine cream, stracciatella, trout Caviar & 18 month old Grana Padano ice cream for Henry and a slightly less adventurous Charcoal Diver scallops with n'dujaGrana Padano reserve and crispy senise peppers for me.

My finely sliced scallops were delicate and sweet, the peppers provided a little fire below this which became a pleasant burn towards the end and the crunchy sage and gran padona wafers provided a welcome lift in both texture and umami levels.
Now I must admit, I was a little bit of a coward when it came to the fish roe/cheese ice cream/creamy aubergine combo starter- I like to think I am quite adventurous when it comes to food, but I ended up ordering the 'safe' scallop dish.
Well I hold my hands in the air, I was wrong- so, so wrong! A tentative mouthful from proffered spoon revealed a little eel sliver of smokey aubergine, a delightfully cold and rich cheese milkshake with crunchy cheese sprinkles followed by a salty pop of the roe. A multitude of emotions from a spoonful of food is witnessed!: Fear! Surprise! Delight! The 'mmm' moment where in your head you are in pleasures home- mine is sat on a warm sandy beach, sand between toes, sun warmed, Smetanas The moldau rising to a crescendo....  *Snap* Moral; Always choose something on the menu you think you may not enjoy- leave the safest options alone on occasion!

For our mains, we chose the same dish, each wanting more a light repast than a midweek blow out.
Home cured hake with candied figs, tomato emulsion, Grana Padano Reserva crisps and tarragon with green beans and roasted vegetables on the side.

Although the flavours and the textures in this dish were well balanced and everything tasted delightful, it failed to set my world on fire like the starters had done. Weirdly the green beans were some of the best I've tasted in a while however- gently sauteed with garlic and shallots, they retained their vibrant colour and a nice crunch to them.

Being a little full at this point we regretfully opted out of pudding, I was inspired to try some more salty/sweet cheese combinations but sadly I only had room left for a little biscotti :(

Not until I have taken a photo Henry!!

Better :)

In summary we had a luscious meal with some strokes of genius, service was great too. I am more than a little intrigued to come back again and try some more of Francesco Mazzei's wonderful take on Italian food.
1 Snowden St  Broadgate West, London EC2A 2DQ

L'Anima on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable review

Looking over my shoulder at the figure behind me, I wondered if he would follow me through the gap I just found in the coats that hung in the wardrobe...
I couldn't tear my eyes away from the vulnerably naked man who after whirring and dancing through spotlights along the sandy floor, knelt, spent, throwing the sand over his head...
Pick your seat carefully and concentrate on the card on front of you, concentrate on what you want most in this world....
Greedily I rushed into the dressing rooms, reaching for and frantically reading sweethearts letters, picking up and discarding clothing and makeup before a commotion in the next room dragged away my attention..
Placing a bloody teardrop on my mask from the bottle I found in the medical room, I wondered if people would suspect me as a stooge as much as I suspected everyone with a white mask...
Knowing I was on my own, lost sent through me a rush of exhilaration as I slowed down and allowed myself to be led, following my own inquisitiveness..

These were just a few of the scenes in my head I have taken away from Punchdrunk's: Drowned man, A Hollywood Fable. With a mask on your face, you are invited to walk around an immersive and elaborate set full of props you can touch and actors who interact. There are hundreds of sets within, secret passages, constant performances happening somewhere, no set route or path laid out for you to follow. Every persons experience of this amazing event will be different, I've listened jealously to friends descriptions of rooms I never saw and unexpected interactions I perhaps missed by holding onto my friends for the most part. I came out a bit speechless :)

If you are in London and haven't made plans to visit yet, please do! I am about to book tickets for a second visit so I can submerge myself in a world of wonder again..

Tickets are £47.50 here..

Monday, 22 July 2013

Crab Risotto

Sometimes a risotto can seem like too much hard work. Standing in a hot kitchen baby-sitting a pan for 45 minutes, slowly adding stock and stirring, stirring stirring all the time.
Sometimes, though it can be a pleasure. A glass of crisp white in one hand, phone balanced between chin and shoulder, catching up on the gossip with Mum. The kitchen is visited by a cool breeze from the garden, where the boys work hard outside in the sun building up an appetite, the radio hums gently in the background, music and aromas float lazily around the house and slowly you add the stock stirring, stirring stirring all the time.

Crab season runs from April to October, perfect timing for crab sandwiches on the beach. It pays to get your crab from a sustainable source that handpicks the meat, machine picking will have a negative impact on the taste, mine came from a chap called Alan from the crystal clear waters of the Cornish coast :)

This recipe is from Michelin starred chef Simon Hulstone who heads up the kitchen at The Elephant Brasserie in Torquay. His kitchen is a 30 second walk away from the marina where I go crabbing when I'm in the area, so if anyone knows how to prepare fresh British seafood it's this man.

Randomly he is also creating some unique popcorn flavours for the BA silent picture house event I am attending this week, small world :) Take My Breath Away Popcorn - a combination of fiery chili and San Diego spices is what I will be eating from his selection, can you guess the film?

Anyway, to the recipe!

Ingredients (Serves 4) 

  • 2 dressed crabs, brown and white meat separated
  • 1.25l of Fish stock
  • 25g of butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped and crushed
  • 200g of risotto rice
  • 70ml of dry white wine
  • 1 knob of butter
  • salt
  • pepper

To serve

  • 4 tbsp of crème fraîche
  • 1/2 bunch of chives, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • salt

- Place your fish stock in a saucepan and keep it simmering gently 

- Melt butter in another pan and add the garlic, shallots and a pinch of salt. Fry gently on a low heat to soften for about 5 minutes.

- Add the rice and wine and begin the stirring :)

- Add the stock one ladleful at a time, allow the stock to be absorbed in the rice fully before adding more. Stir, stir, stir :)

-Keep stirring in the stock and checking the seasoning. The rice is cooked when it is tender and plump but the centre of the grain retains a firmness

- When the rice is cooked stir in the crème fraîche and brown crab meat. Then stir in the lemon and chives.

- Serve with the reserved white meat on top of the risotto 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Happy as a clam

I was exceedingly happy to eat my simple supper this week, I am not sure the clams felt the same though...

Last week I ate some wonderfully sweet razor clams at High road brassiere and was inspired to put a delivery in with Cornish Fishmongers so I could try and recreate some dishes at home! Luck would have it we had some broad beans fresh in that day too, so I threw them all together in this amazingly simple supper. Apologies, I am not one for exact measures when it comes to making up my own recipes, hopefully the pictures should give you a better idea of quantities if needed. Just remember to taste and adjust the flavours all the way through if needed and it will turn out brilliantly!

(Serves 2 as a light dinner)
About 500g fresh clams
A big handful of par boiled broad beans
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 inch of chorizo, chopped
Big knob of butter
Sprinkle of dried or fresh chillies
A handful of samphire
Slosh of dry white wine
Handful of chopped parsley

Place the clams in a bowl and cover with cold water with lots of salt added, try and leave for at least an hour- this helps remove any grit the little clams are munching on.

In a deep pan fry the shallots in butter with the chorizo and chilli and a little seasoning.

When the shallots have softened and the chorizo has released its orange oils, throw in all of the clams and wine and broad beans. Pop the lid on the pan and allow to steam for about 5 minutes

When all of the clams have opened stir though the samphire and parsley and serve immediately!

Best enjoyed with a hunk of thickly buttered granary bread to mop up the juices :)

This weather may be making you feel clammy, but this dinner won't: eating spicy food when its hot actually helps you keep cool :)

Your welcome!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Forza winning!

Saturday saw me spending a lovely afternoon catching up with my surf yogis Harry and Tanya in a shady beer garden drinking some fruity (and pretty strong!) ales before once more dragging Henry from West to East in the name of street food munching, and once again, it was so worth it :)

I had missed out on trying anything from Pizza pilgrims at Feast last week, as I didn't want to spoil my Forza win experience- I now realise my logic was seriously flawed!

A secret, sunny terrace was our location for the evening, our directions led us round the side of a pub and up a rather cramped stairwell onto the roof where the wood fired ovens were already pumping out some mouth watering smells.

We sat down with a tangy Aperol & chatted to our neighbours as we waited for the chefs to serve up our starters!

The much anticipated first dish was a fresh salad of garlic marinaded courgettes, tzatziki style dip, bruschetta and a tangy sauce.

Pizza after pizza was brought out, margherita, courgette and lemon, spicy njuda, mushroom, and my new favourite flavour- fig, proscuitto and rosemary. Each had a crispy thin sourdough crust and just enough mozzarella to not take away from the flavours of the toppings.

Dessert was vanilla ice cream with bitter green olive oil and crunchy rock salt, another unexpected but amazing flavour combination.

The evening ended with a band playing downstairs, but most of the entertainment came in the form of "The 3 bad mice" who definitely live up to their name :)

A great evening overall, exquisite pizza and a prime sunny location hosted and attended by lovely people.
Next up for Forzawin is a collaboration with The Ginger Pig for 'Cuts', a supper club in an old pickle factory based around: you guessed it- meat! The pizza club ran out of tickets pretty fast, so snap up yours quick!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Upstairs Downstairs on the High road

Happy happy news this week!
Our house has finally sold and we can move out within the month! Goodbye zone 7 (yes, it exists!) 100 minute commutes and a complete lack of anything to do in the area, and hello zone 3!! Stepping off the tube into the sun at Turnham green I was greeted by a warm breeze of fragrance from the flower stall positioned just outside. I floated happily towards the high road, stopping to look into the windows of various shops on my way. Charcuteries with hanging sausages, grocers with a rainbow of produce shining out of the windows, fishmongers, butchers, bakeries, clothes, art- a luxury for someone who's nearest convenience is a Tesco express and a KFC a 20 minute walk away from home.

Not too far in the future, this will be the way I wander home, I have a over romanticised picture of me in my head already. Skipping down the road in a floaty dress, a wooden basket over my arm filled to the brim with temptingly fresh purchases ready to cook an impressive dinner for friends…... ahhhh bliss :)

Despite being on day 3 of a juice 'cleanse' (turns out it was a juice diet, hence why I felt starving constantly) I met with Henry and Joe for a chat and dinner. Dinner turned out to be the juice diets downfall as I impressively managed to eat a whole 3 courses all to my greedy little self :)

High road Brassiere was the location for what I will call my 'first course'
We nabbed a table outside to catch the last of the suns warmth and people watch. Although we were supposed to go upstairs to eat, after a glance at the menu I knew I had to sample some of the seafood courses- summer sees me become a little obsessed with shellfish- missing the beach maybe?
I ordered both the Scallops, samphire and chilli and the Razor clams, chorizo and fava beans whilst Henry opted for the classic Cobb salad.

Apart from the awkward moment when the waiter has to try fitting both plates in front of me everything was perfect! The scallops and chilli were sweet and spicy & well balanced out by the salty samphire. The combination of the sweet clams, and beans with the piquant sausage was my favourite though, with beans so fresh they popped in your mouth.

After a few more glasses of chilled wine and lot more talking, we made our way upstairs to try out some more of the food on offer. They have a different menu and kitchen so we were keen to see if the food would be as good as it was at the brassiere.

I opted for a light salad of courgettes, mozzarella, pine nuts and pesto. Henry and Joe ordered Steak and chips and an Octopus salad.

Despite being a bit full, it was so light I had to finish it all & even managed to taste a little of everyone else's food :) I have since tried to recreate my salad with disappointing results- I'll be sure to ask for the recipe next time I go as I can't stop thinking about it!

Time and talk slowed as we filled up, Henry finished off with a hot chocolate made from a gooey pot of chocolate sauce while Joe and I finished our bottle of a crisp Syrah rose with a cheeseboard accompanied by a tangy balsamic onion chutney.

Fingers crossed it won't be long now! I am so excited to be moving into this area, a new chapter!

High Road Brasserie on Urbanspoon Square Meal