karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

Eat Cambridge is a food festival this coming March. The main event, an all day fair at the Guildhall will be held on Saturday, the 9th of March from 10:30am to 4:00pm. Throughout the previous and the following week there are many fringe events like popup restaurants, cooking demonstrations and classes, tasting sessions and so on. You can find all the details and information on how to book in the programme.

I will be joining the food debate panel at the McCrum Theatre in the afternoon on Sunday, the 17th of March. From the programme:

Food debate hosted by Tim Hayward
Time: 2pm to 4pm Location: McCrum Theatre, Bene’t
Street, (through the Eagle pub courtyard and on the
right hand side) CB2 3QN Price: £5.50 in advance,
£7.50 on the door
Description: To round Eat Cambridge off nicely we
will be holding a debate between food writers, bloggers
and restaurateurs. Covering issues such as reviews,
freebies and marketing in today’s social media world,
the debate will take on a Question Time format with
a panel of well-respected local food experts taking
comments and questions from the audience. Things
promise to get lively and you’re guaranteed to come
away with some food for thought (sorry, we couldn’t
resist!).
To book: Visit http://www.wegottickets.com/event/206087

I am really excited about this festival and I hope so are you if you live in or near Cambridge or at least visit regularly. Its main aim is to showcase local and independent producers, businesses and activists. Cambridge has long been slated as a clone town but if you know where to look, you will be able to find hidden gems run by passionate people who are worth supporting.

So, what are you waiting for, get booking! 

karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
The Cambridge Brew House opened today in the former premises of the Bun Shop and its various incarnations in King Street. What used to be two rather cramped spaces is now one large open one with diner-style booth seating along the window front to the right of the door with tables and chairs filling the rest of this area with table service. Opposite the door is the bar with quite a wide selection of beers, including currently two house brand ones and a few other locals as well as a few well known beers. In the back to the left of the bar is the onsite brewery bit behind glass. This is not operational yet, their own beer is currently brewed off site until it's all set up. This is also a bit more casual area with a wild mix of seats (chairs, armchairs, bar stools and even a wooden vaulting horse) with low and high tables. I'm not sure if there is seating upstairs as well as it was quite busy and a grabbed one of the last seats on one of the bar tables before ordering a King's Parade and a chicken and mushroom pie. There were lots interesting things on the menu including home smoked and cured meats/fish but I thought a pie would be a good dish to get an idea of their cooking.
The King's Parade is an excellent bitter and one that actually deserves that name, really fully flavoured. I was just about to dig into my pie when Caroline found me and took me to her table. They had already had starters ("British Tapas") which they had enjoyed so I tucked into my pie while they waited for their mains. My portion was a quarter of a bigger pie, rather thick with excellent, crunchy pastry. The filling consisted of large chunks of well cooked, i.e. still nicely moist meat and mushrooms, not as liquid as you often get which also helped keep the pastry crispy. There was also a pile of fluffy chips and a little copper pan with gravy. I only realised now that there was no veg or salad but I didn't really miss it. I really liked it.
I'm looking forward to reading what Heidi thought of her excellent looking pork belly.
The second beer I had was the Misty River, a pale ale that wasn't quite to my taste but I prefer a darker beer, anyway. Heidi didn't fancy the bitter so it's definitely a matter of taste.
I also wanted to try a dessert but there wasn't that much exciting (chocolate/orange torte, "winter berry" Eton mess, and toffee pudding as well as ice creams and a cheese board with three or six cheeses). I'm not a fan of either orange with chocolate nor toffee so I picked the Eton mess which was not bad, not too sweet but with strawberries and blueberries it went a bit against their claim of using local and seasonal ingredients.
We agreed that the desserts needed some work but were rather happy with everything else. Considering it was rather busy indeed and their first day, I couldn't really find fault with the service, either.

The Cambridge Brew House is going to serve food all day, from 12 noon to 9:30 in the evening which makes it ideal for both early and late-ish dinners, lunch or an afternoon snack. I am definitely looking forward to returning soon.

Oh, and they are still offering 50% off on food today (Thursday) so you really can't go wrong.
karohemd: (Chef)
Kavey Eats has a monthly ice cream challenge called "Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream" in which I have taken part twice so far. This month's challenge is any theme from the last year so I thought I'd try my hand at a sorbet.



My Riverford box contained blood oranges which were ideal. I zested the oranges then instead of juicing them I peeled them and blitzed them with my stick blender. In a saucepan I combined the juice, zest, half an inch of grated ginger, half a vanilla pod, two short cinnamon sticks, one star anise, five or so bruised cardamom pods and quite a bit of demerara sugar (don't ask me how much, I did this by eye but enough to make the mix taste really sweet), heated the mix until the sugar was dissolved, pulled the pan off the heat, put a lid on and let it cool off and infuse with the spices. After the mix was cool, I strained it into a tupperware container to remove the spices and put it in the freezer.

I don't have an ice cream machine so I took the container from the freezer every hour or so and stirred it through with a fork to break up any ice chunks that were forming. In my low rated freezer compartment it took almost 24 hours until it resembled sorbet or, to be honest, more like a slushie as it melts quite quickly. It tastes nice, though, fruity, tangy and spicy so I'm really happy with it.

Spiced Blood Orange Sorbet
Served in a tumbler with (shop bought) brownie pieces
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Friday I needed a quick dinner before my next engagement and as The Sea Tree on The Broadway section of Mill Road had been recommended to me by various people I decided to try it. The Sea Tree is part traditional fish&chip shop, part fishmonger (one of the very few independent places selling wet fish in Cambridge) and part eaterie with a handful of small to medium sized tables where you can order both from the fish&chip shop menu and their "alternatives" menu with pan-fried or grilled fillets of or whole sea bass, gilthead bream with a choice of sauces and sides as well as a specials board.
I picked the "whole baked Whitby crab thermidor" which was served with a mixed salad (leaves, peppers, red onions) and chips. The picked and mixed crab meat was served in the shell of the body and was carefully seasoned so the flavour of the crab still came through and it was cooked on the dot, lovely and moist. There was a nice crust on top, too. The chips were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and not soggy at all.
If they can cook something as tricky as crab so well, I'm convinced their other offerings will be just as good. It's a bit out of the way for me but I will definitely be back, most likely for one of their lobster nights. It's not a place to linger because the shop is unsurprisingly rather busy but if you want a quick quality bite before a night out, this is definitely the place to go. They even have an alcohol license and serve beer and wine but I only had orange juice and water because I had a night of cake and cocktails ahead of me.
The bill came to around 13 pounds without service.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Plate Lickers is a supperclub by Jo Kruczynska and Ivana Gresham. I was at the first one and loved it but since then my calendar had been against me so I missed the others until today's "Sunday lunch club".
It was held in the community centre in Ross St. (off Mill Road) which had more of a sports hall than a restaurant feel to it but it worked quite well, mainly because of the nicely laid out and decorated tables.

Proceedings started with an excellent hot toddy and deep fried haggis balls with red onion marmalade.

Platelickers supper club, 01/13 Jo and her haggis treats


The starter was beetroot cured salmon on dill buckwheat blini with creme fraiche:

Beetroot cured salmon
This was my favourite dish of the day, the salmon was pretty much perfect.


The main was stuffed roast loin of pork with tatties&neeps and buttered savoy cabbage:

Roast stuffed loin of pork
The fun bit about this dish was that the gravy came in a giant teapot:
Gravy from a giant teapot



The palate cleanser was a tangy "baked lemon pot", rather like a flavoured burnt cream but without the caramel topping:

Baked lemon pot


The actual dessert was a poached pear with chocolate sauce:

Poached pear, chocolate sauce


There are few more photos below and still more on flickr.

Platelickers supper club, 01/13
Ivana and Jo, our lovely hosts and fantastic cooks.

Platelickers supper club, 01/13 Amazing teapot

Platelickers supper club, 01/13
karohemd: (Chef)
I've been wanting to do this for a while so I finally bought a pack of Gressingham duck legs and some duck fat on Monday.
To prepare, I rubbed the duck pieces with a mix of chopped garlic, sea salt, cracked black pepper and thyme, wrapped the bowl in clingfilm and let it sit in the fridge.
After about three hours, I took the legs out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. Meanwhile, I melted the fat in a saucepan that was big enough to fit the two legs snugly. I scraped off most of the seasoning and dropped the legs into the fat, put on a lid and let them simmer on the lowest setting my cooker offers for three hours or so, checking now and then that the meat was still completely submerged and the fat wasn't boiling.
Now came the tricky part, taking out the legs without them falling apart. I managed this mostly with one leg but the other was in pieces. I let the legs drain on plenty of kitchen paper for a few minutes while I preheated my little grill oven on its highest setting (probably around 220°). The intact leg as well as the skin from the one that fell apart went onto a rack in a tray under the grill for about 15 minutes until it was nicely browned and crispy (possibly a touch too long). It looked like this:

Confit duck leg and scratchings


The meat was soft and the skin crispy without being fatty as all the fat had rendered. Being very lazy I just had a mixed leaf salad and some ciabatta with it. It was very good indeed.

I took the rest of the meat off the other leg, shredded it, wrapped it in foil with some of the fat and kept it in the fridge for lunch today.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
A few months ago Burmese food blogger MiMi Aye and Tim Anderson (MasterChef 2011 winner, among others) got together and planned an homage to the food of David Chang who at the time ran a short popup at St. John's in London. They joked they would be able to do it better or at least definitely cheaper. Encouraged by friends and twitter followers they planned a one-off lunch event and this is what happened yesterday.

Danny, Tim and MiMi
The team in the kitchen (with fellow blogger Danny Kingston on the left), eager to get going


Five spice pork belly bun
First course: Five spice pork belly bun, mustard daikon. The meat was incredibly tender, the daikon crunchy and the sauce had a pleasant warmth to it.


Crispy brawn
Second course: Crispy brawn, chicory, Gochujang mayonnaise. Another celebration of the "cheap" parts of the pig. The meat inside the crispy coating was soft and moist and the spicy mayonnaise went really well with it.


Spicy sausage and rice cakes
Third course: Spicy sausage and rice cakes, Mandalay Mohntee sauce, crispy leek root. I really liked this, too, but I had to be careful of the tiny slices of green chillies that were really hot. The rice cakes were crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle, an interesting texture.


Frozen foie gras
The next course was a bit different: Frozen foie gras, Gewürztraminer gel, pickled lychees, pine nuts. This was interesting but overall a bit too sweet for me.


Bo Ssäm
The "main" course was Bo Ssäm (slow roasted and pulled pork shoulder) with a variety of Shan style kymchee amd sauces. This came on a large platter with lettuce so each guest could assemble their own wraps. Needless to say, the meat was tender and moist and the accompaniments worked really well.


Cereal milk, avocado gelato, chocolate and hazelnut thing
Dessert: Cereal milk, avocado gelato, chocolate and hazelnut thing. The set milk was malty and the avocado gelato worked really well with the crisp. The idea of avocado ice cream sounds bizarre but it worked because it was neither sweet nor savoury, more earthy.


Overall, the food was excellent and there was a huge amount. I had skipped breakfast and was glad for it, I also didn't need dinner in the evening. Everybody I spoke to or overheard loved it, too so the event was a definite success.

Here are a few more photos from behind the scenes. You can click them to view them larger on flickr:

MiMi's crackling MiMi's dishes in diagram format The buns are served

Crispy brawn Kitchen action

Kitchen action Kitchen action Brawn is ready!

Rice cakes Kitchen action

Kitchen action Sausage dish on the pass Kitchen action

Kitchen action Kitchen action

Happy diners Doggy duck

The heroes of the day


Still more photos on flickr.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
After a number of friends and fellow food bloggers had only good things to say about it, a visit at The Ledbury had been on the cards for a while so I booked a table for lunch this Saturday. When I arrived at 13:45, the dining room was packed with a lively atmosphere. I had a table overlooking the dining room with the window in my back so I had both plenty of light and a good view of what was going on elsewhere.
The choice of what to eat was obvious: the tasting menu as that would both give me a good selection of Brett Graham's cuisine and had roast grouse, a game bird I had yet to try. As it was daytime, I didn't feel up to taking the flight of wines as well so asked the sommelier to recommend a glass of white (Alabrino) and red (Sequillo) wine that would take me through the menu which worked rather well.

The meal started with an amuse bouche of which I can't remember the details but contained scallop and wasabi among other elements. Really fresh and full of various flavours. Fresh bread was served as well, an excellent sourdough and one with bacon and onions that almost looked like a Chelsea bun. The rest of the menu follows in photos with a short description.

The Ledbury - Green bean, nectarine, hazelnut salad
Green bean, nectarine, hazelnut salad, grated foie gras. Crunchy beans, really strongly flavoured nuts with the nectarines not sweet but mellowing the flavours. The foie on top just melted on your tongue.

The Ledbury - Heritage tomato
Heritage tomatoes with fresh sheep's cheese (in the cigar). I'm not a fan of tomatoes in general but these were really nice as both the dressing and the cheese took off some of the edge.

The Ledbury - Mackerel
Flame-grilled Mackerel with avocado. This was my first highlight of the menu. The fish was soft and flaking, the skin crispy, most likely the best piece of mackerel I've ever had.

The Ledbury - Lobster
Lobster, leek, potato. Needless to say, this was perfect and full of flavour.

The Ledbury - Pork jowl
Next up one of the best pieces of pork I've had: They cook the jowl for 18 hours at 85 degrees with various spices which makes the meat wonderfully soft while preserving its moistness. The skin is then crisped up to make the crackling you see. I was actually presented with the whole cut before I received my portion which I thought was a nice touch.

The Ledbury - Roast grouse
Then, the main event: Roast grouse (breast, leg and the heart on a skewer), beetroot, red chicory and plums. It was my first taste of grouse and I loved it. I actually thought it would be more gamey than it was. Now I know what the fuss is about.

The Ledbury - Olive oil panacotta, damson, raspberry, sweet cicely
This pre-dessert of olive-oil panacotta, damson sorbet and raspberry was the perfect palate-cleanser after the rich meat mains.

The Ledbury - Figs, pistachio, lemon beignet
The first dessert: Figs, pistachio, lemon beignet. Fruity, nice and fresh. I could have eaten a whole box of those beignets...

The Ledbury - Blackberry tart
The last dessert was a smooth and crunchy tart.

To finish I had a cup of fresh mint tea with petit fours, the latter served in a dried cocoa husk on cocoa nibs.
The Ledbury - Mint tea and petit fours The Ledbury - Petit Fours










At that point, I had reached capacity and had to decline the cheese, as inviting as the trolley looked. So, in total an excellent culinary experience with a varied selection of perfectly executed dishes full of harmonising flavours. Service was spot-on, too, friendly and engaging, there when you needed it and left you in peace while you were eating. This obviously didn't come cheap, the tasting menu, two glasses of wine and tea at the end plus 12.5% service came to just under £150, and while I wouldn't call it a bargain I still felt I had received value for money.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Ceviche is another of the rather recent openings I wanted to visit and finally had a chance when I was in London and had enough time to go before a late starting gig. It's on busy Frith St. in Soho and the restaurant is equally busy with tightly packed wooden tables and chairs/stools. I was there on a Thursday at 6:45 and mine was the only free table, even the pisco bar (where you can also eat) in the front was packed so booking is highly recommended. There aren't starters or mains as such but the food is served as sharing plates (or non-sharing if you're on your own) and they recommend three or four plates per person. Have a look at the menu to get an idea. I had three and a dessert without extras and was thoroughly sated.
Now for the food. I obviously wanted some ceviche so I chose sea bass which I enjoyed. The fish is sliced and mixed with "tiger milk" (a mix of lime juice, chilli and spices) which tenderises the fish and basically cooks it without heat. A very fresh and light dish with just a little kick at the end.
The other cold dish I had was chunks of Pulpo (octopus) grilled on a skewer with slices of chorizo. Octopus is hard to get right and this was perfect, lovely and tender, the rich and chewy chorizo a nice contrast.
I also had Solterón, a salad of palm hearts, spinach, alfalfa, feta and olives in a lime dressing. Also very nice, although the flavour of the palm hearts is a bit odd at first.
For dessert I had the most disappointing dish, at least in value: Lúcuma ice cream with crumbled alfajores (a sugar confection). 5.25 for two scoops of ice cream is a bit steep, even in central London, I thought, but the taste was brilliant.
I couldn't leave without having a cocktail with pisco (the national drink of Peru, a grape brandy) and I chose one with passion fruit. Fresh and very enjoyable.
The bill for this meal (three dishes, one dessert, a glass of the house white and the pisco cocktail) came to 43 pounds which is OK for the location. With exception of the dessert, the food prices are fine and drinks were priced well, too (4.35 for the wine and 7.50 for the cocktail).

So, if you fancy something a little different (but apparently Peruvian cooking is up and coming) and don't mind to be packed into a place with a lively atmosphere (and the odd wobbly table), I can only recommend Ceviche and I will definitely be back as I want to try some of the other dishes.

Sorry for the lack of photos but I was going to a gig afterwards so couldn't take my camera. There are stunning ones by Paul Winch-Furness on their website.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
It had been a while since my last meal at Alimentum (my birthday at the end of March) and I had heard very good things about the new dishes Mark Poynton and his brigade have come up with so I went for a nice lunch on Bank Holiday Tuesday and wonderful it was. The new dishes are fresh and light while still being packed with flavour, some classic, some new and adventurous but always exciting. I had a Chef's tasting menu with matching wines to be able to sample most of the new dishes:

Gougères and popcorn Pea

Proceedings started with fresh gougères and crunchy popcorn and then a bowl of very light and fluffy pea mousse with cottage cheese and crispy Parma ham.

Asparagus

The first starter was asparagus (green and white) salad, hazelnut and truffle. I could have eaten this all day, so light and fresh (and slightly bitter) this was with the crunch of the hazelnut and the earthy slithers of truffle. Brilliant.

Pork

Pork: head (the round slices), cheek (the dark piece on the right), pineapple, acorn and chorizo. The cold ballotine of head reminded me of what is called Pressack in Germany (bits of pig's head cooked in the stomach and usually served as a cold cut). The cheek was braised and so soft you could have eaten it with a spoon. The pieces of pineapple added acidity and sweetness. All quite dark in flavour but not heavy.

Lemon Sole Veronique

Fish is always fantastic at Alimentum and this "Sole Veronique" was no exeption, perfection in a bowl.

Lamb

The main was lamb, rump and belly with broccoli and cous cous. Perfectly cooked meat, the rump soft, the belly crispy and the extras with the beautiful sauce pulling everything together.

Fresh ricotta

Palate cleanser: Fresh ricotta, pineapple and sweet cicely sorbet. Fresh, light, bitter, slightly sweet. Huge smile on my face.

Passionfruit

First dessert: Passionfruit (curd and granita), coffee ice cream and saffron meringue. The coffee might sound a bit strange but it worked really well with the fruitiness and the earthy saffron meringue.

And then, a bit of theatre:
Milk Jam Mousse Milk Jam Mousse

Smoked milk jam mousse, lime, banana and honeycomb. Just glorious, the smoke was really noticeable even minutes later. The dish looks quite substantial but it was really light.

Strawberry

Final dessert: Strawberry (mousse and jelly), apricot sorbet (inside the canneloni) and basil meringue. After the saffron with the passionfruit, the second savoury meringue. Basil goes well with strawberry, anyway, so this was spot on. It's rare that I like meringues as they tend to be too sweet for me but these were both lovely.

Every time I eat at Alimentum, the food is just getting better and their prices are hard to beat considering the quality of cooking. Even after having eaten at Midsummer House, I still maintain this is the best restaurant in Cambridge.
karohemd: (Chef)
This long weekend was perfect for some experimentation in the kitchen so on Monday I used up the rest of the asparagus (I had sauteed spears with my lamb steaks on Sunday evening), cooking the front half of the spears in lemony butter, removed them from the butter and kept them warm. Then I cooked the chopped stems in the same butter with some veg stock. When those were tender, I blitzed them with a stick blender, seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg, stirred in a good dollop of double cream and blitzed again, tilting the blender head to get in as much air as possible. The result was a light, smooth, fluffy soup. The flavour was spot on, too.
I served the soup in a deep plate, with the cooked spears and a poached duck's egg yolk on top. Probably the technically best dish I've ever cooked. Very happy. :o)
Cream of asparagus soup, poached duck's egg yolk
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Restaurant Sat Bains has been on my "to do list" for a while because his food always sounded and looked interesting when featured on TV, reviews or food blogs. A couple of months ago I mentioned my desire to visit and a friend who lives in Nottingham offered to come along and a roof over the head for the night so I took the offer and booked a table for yesterday.
When we arrived we were shown to comfortable seats in the cosy bar/lounge for our pre-dinner drinks. Sat Bains only offers tasting menus, one with seven and one with ten courses with optional matching "wine packages". We decided on the full experience of ten courses with matching wines and we also chose to share the duck egg, ham and pea dish, with which Sat Bains won the starter in Great British Menu 2007, as an additional starter.
Now I have to admit I have a problem, I simply lack the words to describe what followed. The horseradish amuse bouche in two parts, the "ice cream sandwich" and the pannacotta, were already oozing with a variety of perfectly matched flavours. This theme would continue throughout the menu and quite often change while eating a dish, especially when having a sip of the matching wine. In the case of the main, the flavour of the venison tartare developed black pepper flavours when eaten with the treacle bread (the darker of the two you see below). A few dishes tasted differently to what your brain told you they should taste like, especially the chocolate/olive/balsamic dessert.
After our main we were offered a cheese course which I asked to be served at the end (my German genes, I guess). This was not a traditional cheese board but two prepared cheese dishes, both excellent.
Service throughout was spot on, friendly, unassuming and happy to discuss the dishes. The sommelier's wine pairings were also perfect, enhancing, supporting or even sometimes changing the flavours of the dishes in an entirely pleasant way.
We must have made an impression because we were invited into the kitchen to have a chat with Chef Sat Bains who showed us the surprsingly small kitchen, introduced us to his brigade and talked about the food and his philosophy/approach to cooking. Not only did we get to meet this thoroughly charming and gracious chef but were also served an additional off-menu dessert, a treacle sponge with parsnip and apple. The sponge was quite big but so fluffy and light it was almost not there. With this we had a glass of sparkling sake which was again a wonderful match.
It was only when we left the kitchen that we realised that it was already 11 o'clock meaning we had spent over four and a half hours eating and drinking without really noticing the time passing as we were so involved in the whole experience. It wasn't over yet as coffee and chocolates were still to come which we took again in the lounge going full circle around the restaurant if you will. Called "chocolate log" this was again not what you would expect as you can see in the last photo below. Each shard of chocolate (from white to dark) was flavoured differently, a beautiful end to a wonderful experience.
And now, the photos. Rather tricky as the light wasn't brilliant but I think they give you some idea of what we experienced:

Horseradish amuse bouche Horseradish amuse bouche
Horseradish amuse bouche


White and treacle bread
Bread


Duck egg 65°, peas
Duck egg, ham, peas


Scallop, leek (smoked, charred)
Scallop and leek


Jersey royals, dashi, onion juice, ham
Jersey royals, dashi, onion juice, ham


Duck liver "muesli"
Duck liver "muesli"


Loch Duart salmon, asparagus, asparagus gazpacho
Loch Duart salmon, asparagus gazpacho


"Waldorf" salad
"Waldorf" salad


Roe deer, mushroom, pine, thyme, chocolate
Roe deer, mushroom, pine, thyme, chocolate


"The crossover"
"The crossover"


Sweetcorn, miso, passionfruit
Sweetcorn, miso, passionfruit


Chocolate, coffee, olive oil, balsamic
Chocolate, coffee, olive oil, balsamic


Strawberry and cream
Strawberry and cream


Tamilworth cheese with beetroot Blue goat's cheese
Cheese


"Chocolate Log"
"Chocolate log" and coffee
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
The First and Last opened last year in Cambridge in the premises that used to be The Cricketers, reverting to the name of the original pub in that location. I've been a couple of times but for some reason haven't blogged about it yet. The menu contains both pub grub (things like burgers, fish&chips etc. cooked to a high standard) and dishes you would more expect at a restaurant.
I was in town this week for a photography group meetup (more on that in another blog post tomorrow) so dropping in at the First and Last for dinner beforehand sounded like a good idea. Everything sounded exciting but I wanted a lightish starter so went for the chicken roulade with asparagus and red onions.

Chicken roulade with asparagus, red onions, sourdough

Chicken mousse wrapped around asparagus spears, wrapped with parma ham and then fried. Nicely cooked, excellent flavours. The stewed red onions and dressed leaves worked well with the meat.

In the afternoon, they posted a photo of a hake on twitter so I knew what I'd be having as I love that fish and it's hard to find in the shops.

Beer battered hake, thrice cooked chips

The beer batter was crispy and the fish was flaky and moist. The chunky, thrice cooked chips were superb, very fluffy inside and very crispy outside. The home made tartare sauce was lovely and I even liked the peas (no mean feat)! A huge portion, too, I had to leave two chips behind and sadly didn't have any room for pudding, something I will have to amend next time.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
The Pass restaurant is in Sussex and a bit tricky to get to from Cambridge so when I read that Matt would do a "popup" at Cinnamon Kitchen (a few minutes from Liverpool St. station), it sounded like an easy way of sampling his food. After a train and tube journey that took 40 minutes longer than it should have, I arrived at the restaurant in time for the welcome drink (a rather nice Bellini). The meal itself was at the "tandoor bar" in the main restaurant, a long low open kitchen counter with comfortable chairs (not barstools) behind which the chefs worked and were also happy to answer questions and explain what they were doing.

Matt Gillan Lewis Hamblet Matt Gillan

When we arrived the chefs (Matt Gillan, head chef at The Pass, Lewis Hamblet, executive chef at South Lodge and Sarah Payne, junior sous chef) were busy assembling the starter. I ordered a glass each of the recommended wines and after a short introduction to the dish by Matt, the starter was served.

Curried gressingham duck breast, braised leg, blackened onions, pink grapefruit

There were two elements of duck in the dish (Curried gressingham duck breast, braised leg, blackened onions, pink grapefruit), hot slow cooked leg in a parcel and rolled up slices of dark pink breast at room temperature. This might sound slightliy odd but worked perfectly and the additional elements tied everything together adding texture and acidity. The wine, a Pinot Gris, worked well with the dish, even if you would expect a red with duck.

Roasted stone bass, spring onions, chick pea, watercress

The fish dish (Roasted stone bass, spring onions, chick pea, watercress) was next and freshly cooked directly in front of me as were the spring onions. You could see how much are and attention went into cooking the fish and the result was brilliant: Crispy skin and moist, flaky fish with excellent accompaniments.

Main: saddle of lamb, slow cooked belly, lamb fat gnocchi, lemon curd, mushroom

The main event was saddle of lamb, slow cooked belly (sitting underneath the slices of saddle), lamb fat gnocchi, lemon curd, mushroom. The meat had been cooked to medium in a waterbath and was then freshly seared and sliced. The belly had been cooked overnight and then pressed. The gnocchi and mushrooms were freshly fried as well. This dish is actually fighting with the lamb I had at Tuddenham Mill I had earlier this month. The basic idea was the same, a prime and a "cheap" cut of meat with interesting accompaniments but rather different in execution. I loved the contrast of the two cuts of meat, the juicy saddle and the soft and crispy belly (which wasn't greasy at all). The gnocchi were crispy on the outside, soft inside, the mushrooms had great flavour and the lemon curd (as weird as it sounds) tied everything together and provided the acidity that came from the yoghurt in Paul Foster's dish. Genius.

Dessert: vanilla and lime cream, mint gel, cucumber, mango, coconut sorbet

The dessert was vanilla and lime cream (inside the cylinder), mint gel, cucumber, mango, coconut sorbet. Lovely fresh, fruity and not too sweet flavours, some soft, some crunchy with the surprising element being the cucumber balls which had been steeped in a light stock syrup to give it some sweetness. Brilliant.

You can find more photos in this flickr set which will be expanded with a few more shots when I find the time over the next few days.
karohemd: (Chef)
After my light lunch, I fancied a nice piece of meat for dinner. I'm pretty confident in cooking steak my usual way (fast sear and then finished in a low oven) but I wanted to try the method Heston Blumenthal demonstrated in his last TV series.
The steak had quite a chunk of fat on one end so I cut that off, chopped it up and rendered it on a low/medium heat. There was enough fat to lubricate the steak so I didn't need any oil. It most likely helped with the flavour, too.
With the extractor fan on full and window open, I added the steak to the smoking pan and flipped the steak every 15 seconds (roughly, by counting, I didn't actually use a timer), seasoning with salt and pepper halfway through. After four times on each side, so for a total of two minutes, the steak felt as if it was done so I removed it from the pan to a warm plate to let it rest for five minutes. I poured off the fat as suggested in the linked recipe but made a standard red wine reduction instead to which I added the resting juices later.
After resting, the steak was just how I like it, dark pink throughout, wonderfully juicy and with a really nice crust on the outside, quite possibly the best steak I have cooked.
This I served with boulangere potatoes and fresh, blanched asparagus.

Sirloin steak cooked the Heston way, boulangere potatoes, new season asparagus Sirloin steak cooked the Heston way (cut), boulangere potatoes, new season asparagus


I remember watching this episode on TV and myself and many others on twitter found it a bit odd but it really works. I mentioned this to an American friend and she thought it completely normal. Different cultures, different ways of cooking steaks.
karohemd: (Chef)
Last night I bought a pack of salmon fillets at the supermarket (from the saucy fish co.) because I needed something quick for dinner. The first fillet I pan-fried and had some leftover mediterranean couscous with it. Perfect quick evening meal.

This morning I had bought fresh asparagus from my greengrocer and thought I'd attempt something fancy with the other fillet for lunch:
I took off the skin, laid it flat into a frying pan, with a sheet of baking parchment on top and weighed down with a saucpan and then turned on the hob at medium heat. After five minutes, I turned the skin over and cooked the underside for a further five minutes. The result was a perfectly crispy piece of salmon skin.

I split the fillet lengthways to create two equally thick slices, set them next to each other on a sheet of clingfilm, added a spear of asparagus split lengthways, seasoned with salt and pepper and rolled it up tightly, twisting the ends of the clingfilm. This I wrapped in foil in a similar way and poached it in hot water for about five minutes. After unwrapping (ow!), it came out rather well done but still juicy and flaky. I will need to reduce the temperature next time but for that I will need a thermometer...

I also had cooked some lentils in water and seasoned with salt and pepper and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I sliced the ballotine (more difficult than it sounds with flaky fish) and arranged the slices on the lentils, with the skin on the side.
Despite the fish being on the well done side, everything tasted really nice and as a first attempt I call this a success. One of the more "cheffy" things I have attempted.

Ballotine of salmon and asparagus, crispy salmon skin, lentils
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Saturday I finally had the chance to go back to Tuddenham Mill near Newmarket. My first visit was brilliant but in the evening the lighting is so low you can't really appreciate the prettiness of the food and we only ate a la carte so deciding what to have was really hard. So this time I went for lunch on a bright spring day and had an 8-course (counting extras) tasting menu designed by head chef Paul Foster.
As I was just a bit early I had some excellent elderflower cordial (made on site) in the bar, nibbling on parmesan twists and pork crackling.
Parmesan twists, pork crackling

As you can see, those aren't your regular pork scratchings but it's what's left when you render a piece of crackling fat very slowly indeed so all the fat disappears. Very light and crunchy.
Then I took my seat upstairs and the meal proper started:

Bread and Butter

Freshly baked bread and Lincolnshire Poacher butter.

Watermelon, Feta, fried pumpkin seeds

The amuse bouche was very thin slices of watermelon with feta and fried pumpkin seeds and did its job (exciting the palate) perfectly because of the contrast of sweet/acidity from the melon, the saltiness of the cheese and the crunchy seeds.

Organic salmon 40°C, asparagus, peanut, chickweed

Organic salmon 40°C, asparagus, peanut, chickweed. The fish was just cooked and especially when it's this good quality, that's all it needs. It is soft and retains its natural flavour. The asparagus was equally simply cooked and the peanuts added the crunch it needed.

Slow cooked hen's egg, hake brandade, bacon, watercress Slow cooked hen's egg, hake brandade, bacon, watercress

Slow cooked hen's egg, hake brandade, bacon, watercress. What a way to raise the humble egg to new heights. It sounds quite rich but was surprisingly light. Lovely combination of flavours and a nice crunch of bacon on top.

Duck hearts, rhubarb, celery, wild rice

Duck hearts, rhubarb, celery, wild rice. I'm a huge fan of poultry giblets and offal in general so this was great and one of the few instances I liked celery. The rhubarb was really interesting in this, too. This was one of those dishes that just keeps growing in flavour as you eat it.

Lamb rump and shoulder, yoghurt, fennel, quinoa

The main event was lamb rump and shoulder, yoghurt, fennel, quinoa. The piece of rump was cooked on the spot pink and very flavourful indeed. There was a nice bit of fat on it, too. The piece of shoulder was slow cooked and fell apart at the touch. The braised fennel, quinoa, yoghurt, wild garlic and a leaf I couldn't identify tied everything together beautifully. Very easily one of the best lamb dishes I've had.

Goat's milk, tarragon

Goat's milk, tarragon. After the rich lamb dish, this was the perfect palate cleanser. The milk was set similar to a pannacotta but almost like curd cheese in texture and very light. The granita on top wasn't too strong in tarragon flavour and worked really well.

Bitter chocolate textures, sea buckthorn, hazelnut, mint

The main dessert was bitter chocolate textures, sea buckthorn, hazelnut, mint. There was soft mousse, crumbs and more solid bits of really excellent dark chocolate. The bits on the other side added a really good fruity tang and some texture. Sea buckthorn seems to a controversial ingredient as people seem to either love or hate it, a bit like coriander or marmite. To me it's fruity and tangy (I'm not a huge fan of just sweet desserts) but fellow Cambridge foodie @ythos doesn't like the "aftertaste of month-old corpse". ;)

At this point Chef Paul invited me to have a look around the kitchen where we had a chat about the meal while I had my final dessert, an egg custard tart with butermilk, apple and nutmeg (this is the reason there's no photo as I left my camera at the table). The salted Granny Smith apple brought down the sweetish taste of the tart again. The perfect, light finish to a fantastic meal.

Tucked away in a village outside Newmarket, Paul Foster is really pushing the boat out in terms of flavour. While he does use modern cooking techniques, there are no molecular gimmicks, foams or other nonsense. Paul demonstrates that you don't need luxury ingredients like truffles and foie gras to create a luxury dining experience as long as you treat the ingredients well to bring out the maximum of flavour. It's a bit of a shame this fine restaurant is so far out of the way but it's worth the effort and I encourage everyone to try it. Paul Foster's appearance on Great British Menu on BBC2 this week should help boost awareness, too.
karohemd: (Chef)
My butcher had nice pork tenderloin portions so I picked up one and they also had cooking chorizo and morcilla (Spanish black pudding) which I thought would go well with it. I also picked up potatoes and sprouting broccoli from Les Ward across the court and my shopping was done.
I first sliced the chorizo and morcilla and fried them in a dry pan over medium low heat until the slices were crispy and a lot of the fat had rendered. I removed the sausage with a slotted spoon to a warm plate and seared the piece of tenderloin in the rendered fat until browned on all sides and then put it into a low oven to finish.
I deglazed the pan with a glass of cider, seasoned with salt, pepper and a bit of thyme and let it reduce down to a sticky sauce.
After letting it rest for a few minutes, I carved the tenderloin, arranged it on top of the mash, crumbled the chorizo and morcilla over and around it and drizzled with the sauce. A few Maldon salt flakes and a few twists of pepper were the only seasoning (apart from the flavour of the chorizo fat).
Served with simple mash and steamed purple sprouting broccoli.
The crispy chorizo and morcilla provided not only extra flavour but also texture. I was really happy with how it came out.

Pork tenderloin, Chorizo, Morcilla

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karohemd: (Chef)
In my previous "baking" post, I mentioned I'd try making a savoury tart with the shop-bought, ready-rolled puff pastry I bought Saturday (JusRol).
I'm pleased to say it worked really well as you can see below.
I didn't have quite enough left to fill my tray so I patched the last piece together with some offcuts from the weekend and it worked (although you can see the wonky lower right corner), scored a rim into the pastry, spread some diluted tomato puree on the pastry, arranged courgette slices, quartered cherry tomatoes and bits of crushed garlic topped with bits of goats' cheese and finishing with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Maldon sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Into my toaster oven for about fifteen minutes and out came this:
Courgette, Tomato and Goat's Cheese Tart
Photo taken on my phone and processed with instagram, I quite like it.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
For my overnight stay I had more or less randomly picked a hotel just down the road from The Hampshire Hog, a "pub and pantry" I had been wanting to visit for while as I know the owner Ed on twitter and had heard good things about their food. Breakfast wasn't included in my stay so rather than subjecting myself to chain hotel fare, I walked five minutes to the Hog and I'm glad I did. The main room is bright and airy with rough wooden tables and mismatched chairs. When you look at the menu you realise it's a place where you could spend hours having brunch with a variety of dishes but I had lunch coming up at 12:30 and been told to arrive hungry so I only chose a portion of buttermilk pancakes with blueberries, banana and honey butter.

Buttermilk Pancakes, Blueberries, Banana, Honey Butter

The pancakes were crispy on the outside, soft in the middle and the fruit were lovely, too. With it I had a pot of excellent Earl Grey tea (loose leaf, no less, from The Rare Tea Company). As the light was perfect to read by and I didn't have to check out of my hotel before midday, I spent another hour or so with a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. A perfect morning.

My lunch destination was Axis at One Aldwych in Covent Garden. I live in this slightly bizarre world where as a "foodie" on twitter and other social networks I'm in contact not only with other like-minded people but also chefs from around the country. They regularly post menu updates and photos of new dishes and are happy to chat with their followers so I had "known" executive chef Tony Fleming for a while. I even booked my table through him and he promised me an interesting menu after checking for any allergies or dislikes. As I will try everything at least once, I love this sort of arrangement when chefs offer to "cook for me" and I don't necessarily know what I'll be having and the chefs love it when they can exercise their ideas without restriction.

Axis is one of the two restaurants at One Aldwych and situated in the basement but has also its own entrance from street level via a sweeping marble staircase. The dining room is well lit and furnished with tables dressed in white and comfortable chairs. On my table was a personalised printout of my menu entitled "Surf and Turf Tasting" and it looked very exciting indeed. Again I asked the waiter to recommend a couple of glasses of wine to go with the majority of the menu and again his choices were perfect as was service throughout my almost three hour meal.
This was my meal:

Lamb, Lobster, Pea

"Lamb, Lobster, Pea" BBQ style piece of crispy lamb with soft meat and a piece of perfectly cooked lobster tail, brought together by the pea. The antenna, although inedible, was a nice touch.

Scallop, Pork Belly, Prune

"Scallop, Pork Belly, Prune". A soft scallop sitting on a piece of braised pork belly and prune puree. Rather soft and sweet but not overbearingly so and I loved the flavour combination of scallop and pork.

Turbot, Duck, Broccoli

"Turbot, Duck, Broccoli". This combination might sound slightly strange but it worked really well. The turbot was roasted on the bone, the duck cooked dark pink, just how I like it. Some of the best broccoli I've had, too.

Rabbit, Langoustine, Carrot

"Rabbit, Langoustine, Carrot". This was, to my mind, the most inventive dish. The loin meat was wrapped around langoustine which meant it was protected and remained perfectly moist. The other piece was slowly cooked leg meat. The carrot and beet leaves rounded off the dish nicely.

Veal, Crab, Asparagus

"Veal, Crab, Asparagus". The piece of braised rose veal had almost the flavour of beef and fell apart, a truly remarkable piece of meat. It sat on top of the best crab cake I have ever had, it was fresh and light with excellent flavour and flake. The asparagus was tender with a bit of crunch. Lovely.

Gingerbread, Banana, Salt Caramel

"Gingerbread, Banana, Salt Caramel". An excellent gingerbread soufflé, fluffy and light and cooked thoroughly. The piece of banana was crusted with lovely caramel, the ice cream and the salted caramel sauce brought everything together. With that I had a superb Australian dessert wine called Xanadu (the only one I remember, I need to get better at this).

Chef Tony Fleming came out for a chat and gave me a quick tour of the kitchen and the other parts of the hotel. Many thanks to him, his brigade and the front of house staff at Axis for looking after me so well. I walked back to the tube and then to my train to Cambridge a very happy man and didn't need anything else that day, despite clubbing all night and celebrating with friends.

February 2013

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