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Reviews of London's Restaurants, Supper Clubs and Hotels, Wine Tastings, Travel Writing, and Home to the Japanese and French Supper Clubs in Islington

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Tuesday 28 September 2010

Live Cookery Demonstrations in Covent Garden & a Recipe for The Ivy's Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Fattouche and Houmous

I was invited to a sneaky preview at Le Caprice of what some of London's most celebrated chefs will be rustling up at a series of live cooking demonstrations in Covent Garden Market between 30 September and 16 December 2010.

Top chefs including Gary Lee of The Ivy and Steve Tonkin of Dean Street Townhouse will be showing the tricks of their trade through a series of weekly demonstrations as part of a collaboration between the Caprice Holdings Restaurant Group (of The Ivy and Le Caprice fame) and Covent Garden London.

The live demonstrations will be free of charge and will take place in the North Hall of Covent Garden’s Market building every Thursday at 5:30pm and 6:30pm for thirty minutes.

Some of the dishes being demonstrated will include “Baked Razor Clams with Chorizo and Broad Beans” by Richard Kirkwood of J Sheekey & J Sheekey Oyster Bar on 7th October, and “Champagne Risotto with Alba Truffles” by Lee Bull of Le Caprice on 11th November. For a full list of dates, chefs and respective dishes, please see here.

On the evening I visited, Gary Lee (Senior Head Chef of The Ivy) and Iain Graham (Executive Chef of Urban Caprice) showed us how to prepare “Le Caprice’s Spiced Crab with Shrimp and Pea Shoot Salad” and “The Ivy’s Moroccan Spiced Rump of Lamb with Fattouche and Houmous”.

Both dishes were equally delicious but I felt Gary’s lamb was particularly fine, had some great flavours and was easy to prepare. I was given the recipe which I share with you below. Enjoy!

For more information, please visit the Covent Garden London site here.

The Ivy’s Moroccan Spiced Rump of Lamb with Fattouche and Houmous (Serves 2)


2 rumps of lamb, approximately 200g each, fully trimmed
2 tsp harissa

For the “Houmous”:

100g chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
2 cloves garlic, crushed with 1 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon
60ml tahini paste, stir well
Salt and pepper

For the “Dukkah” – a blend of spices and nuts:

8 tbsp sesame seeds
4 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
40g hazelnuts
1 tsp salt
¼ freshly ground pepper

For the “Fattouche” – a rustic salad:

2 tsp sumac (available from Middle Eastern food stores)
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp pepper
1 onion, sliced
4 cos leaves, washed and dried
4 radishes, thickly cut
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1 large cucumber, largely diced
150g mixed herbs (mint, coriander, parsley), chopped
60ml olive oil
40ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tbsp balsamic vinegar


1. To make the “Houmous”: take the soaked chickpeas, and whilst still in the water rub them with your fingers to loosen the skins. These will float to the surface and can be discarded. Place the chickpeas in fresh water and cook for 40 to 60 minutes on the hob until they are tender. Strain them, being careful to retain the cooking liquid. Place the drained chickpeas into a food processor with the crushed garlic, lemon juice, tahini and 2 tbsp of the cooking liquid. Blend until the mixture is smooth, adding more cooking liquid if required, and season. Leave to one side.

2. To make the “Dukkah”: roast or dry fry all the ingredients separately on a baking sheet or frying pan, except for the salt and pepper. If the hazelnuts have skins on them these can be removed after roasting by rubbing with a cloth. Pound the roasted seeds in a pestle and mortar or gently blend them in a food processor, being careful not to over blend them, so that they form an oily paste. Combine the nuts, seeds and salt and pepper, and keep in an air-tight container until ready to serve.

3. In a preheated frying pan, season the rumps of lamb and seal for at least 3 to 4 minutes to ensure all the flavours are locked in and then place in a hot oven. Once cooked (to taste), remove the lamb from the oven, saving the jus to one side. Whilst the lamb is resting, mix together all the ingredients for the “fattouche” salad, ensuring that the herbs are squeezed and covered with the liquid and place in a bowl to be served separately.

4. When ready to serve, place a small amount of harissa onto each plate and a large spoonful of houmous adjacent to it, finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Slice the warm lamb rumps and arrange onto the plate. Sprinkle the lamb with the “dukkah” and finish with a little jus from the meat. Serve with the “fattouche” salad.

5. Enjoy!

Monday 20 September 2010

London Cooking Club - Portuguese Cuisine

Our next London Cooking Club evening will be on:

25th September – “Portuguese Cuisine” – Recipes from cookery book “Piri Piri Starfish” by Tessa Kiros.

Tessa Kyros, one of my favourite food writers, was born to a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father, and spent a year in Portugal exploring its cuisine. She has written three other cookery books that draw on her travels and multicultural roots, and will be launching another on Greek cuisine soon.

The event will be held at my home in Islington, and is now fully subscribed. For other future events and dates, please check our London Cooking Club page or leave me a comment below.

Each person will cook one of Tessa’s dishes and bring a bottle of wine to share - I will coordinate a menu with various options, and each person will choose and prepare one dish. There are no fees to participate in any of the London Cooking Club events.

Most of the Portuguese wines we will be tasting on the evening have been kindly donated by Casa Leal.

Thursday 16 September 2010

London's Best Cookery Schools - Angela Malik

Dim Sum Cooking and a Recipe for Spiced Pork and Water Chestnut Siu Mai Dumplings

When I first moved to London as a 19-year old, I quickly realised that keeping up with my eating-out aspirations was going to cost me a small fortune. Learning how to cook was the solution I found to continue eating the foods I loved, and thanks to cookery schools like Angela's, this has been possible for me.

Opened in the Autumn of 2009, Angela Malik Cookery School in Acton is proving to be a major destination for foodies across town wanting to learn more about Asian cooking. I was fortunate enough to be one of these foodies recently, attending Angela's "Dim Sum at Home" class.

A former chartered accountant, Angela decided to leave years of training, a well paid job and a secure future to pursue her passion in life. After retraining at Leith's School of Food and Wine and gaining some experience at Bibendum, Vong, and with chef Tom Kime, she decided to open her own cookery school.

The emphasis of her teaching is on the five tastes - salt, sweet, bitter, hot and umami, and how to balance these elements in the meals we prepare daily. This is at the core of most Asian cooking, particularly Thai and Japanese, and it is refreshing to see this being addressed for the Western palate.

At the entrance to the cookery school is Angela's delicatessen where she sells some of the goodies made in-house including her signature Indian and Thai pestos, a range of sauces, chutneys, and a variety of cakes and breads.

Classes vary from 1 to 5 hours and cost between £25 and £145 - for a full list of classes, click here. The "Dim Sum at Home" class was a two hour affair which was just enough time for us to learn how to make a couple of different types of dumplings - "Steamed Spiced Pork and Water Chestnut Siu Mai" (see recipe below) and "Japanese Gyoza".

Angela was a confident and charismatic teacher, and her recipes were detailed and easy to follow. I enjoyed her straight-forward, unfussy teaching style and was glad to learn some interesting folding techniques, something that no book can satisfactorily do.

I paired up with the lovely Rebecca, a fellow food blogger who writes Bon Appetit (see my foodie blog list). Rebecca and I clicked from the word go, and it was not long before we were both coming up with some delicious dumplings in all manner of interesting shapes and sizes.

"Spiced Pork and Water Chestnut Siu Mai Dumplings" (makes about 50)


2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 can water chestnuts, rinsed and finely chopped

1 kg minced pork

handful of coriander stalks

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp shao hsing wine or dry sherry

2 tsp sesame oil

generous pinch of caster sugar

salt and pepper

about 50 wonton wrappers each 7.5 cm square

Dipping sauce and to serve:

Dark soy sauce and vinegar for dipping

Roast garlic oil

Coriander leaves


1. To make the stuffing, add spring onions, water chestnuts, pork, coriander roots, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, salt and pepper, mix well in a food processor. Set aside and refrigerate.

2. Set one wonton wrapper on a work surface. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the centre of the wrapper.

3. Lift the wrapper up around the filling, gathering to form a purse. Squeeze the wrapper firmly around the middle, then tap on the bottom to make a flat base. The top should be open. Place the wonton on a tray and cover with a damp dish towel.

4. Line the steamer with grease proof paper and steam the dumplings for 12-15 minutes until tender. Remove each batch from the steamer as soon as they are cooked, cover with foil to keep warm. Serve hot with soy sauce, garlic oil and top each dumpling with a coriander leaf.

5. Enjoy!

I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to Angela Malik, and look forward to returning to her school for another class, or purchasing some of her fine produce in some of London's farmers' markets, or Borough Market where she is a current stall-holder.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Bath Food Festival, Afternoon Tea at the Bath Priory and Italian Lardo!

Bath is a 90 minute train journey from London's Paddington Station, but is to me, a completely different world. A quintessentially English town, Bath has beautifully tended gardens, imposing Georgian houses and impressive crescents. It feels like the perfect setting for one of Jane Austen's many novels, one of Bath's most illustrious residents (Nicolas Cage being another!).

This summer, I was pleased to return to this lovely town to visit its food festival (Bath Food Festival) and to meet "Sam Moody", head chef of The Bath Priory Hotel, who was also doing a cookery demonstration at the festival.


Food festivals and markets of this kind are among the most enjoyable ways I find of spending my time (apart from eating of course). I had a great time tasting and purchasing some of the fine merchandise on offer and chatting to a variety of local producers specialising in foodstuffs from cheese to extra virgin rapeseed oil, chutneys and conserves.

Among these producers were Christian and Rebecca, a delightful couple and founders of Bread Tree, a company specialising in the importing niche and relatively unknown products made by Italian artisans.

I bought a large piece of spicy "LARDO" from them - a type of Italian "salume" (charcuterie), lardo is pork fat cured with rosemary and other herbs and spices, and is normally very thinly sliced and served as topping on grilled "bruschetta" bread. It is similar to Sarlo (the Russian equivalent), and it is a real delicacy.

It was great to meet Sam Moody (The Bath Priory's head chef) and see him in action during his cookery demonstration. Sam cooked a delicious risotto made of different types of fish and seafood, herbs including chervil, tarragon and dill and with plenty of mascarpone and parmesan cheese for extra creaminess and flavour. The risotto was beautifully dressed with Richard Vine's seasonal micro herbs and tasted divine.

The star of the show however was his Hinton Estate beef, purchased from Bartlett & Sons butchers in Bath, and cooked at a constant temperature of 48℃ in Sam's sous vide bath (talk about kitchen envy...).

The meat was then carefully browned and served with a medley of pan-fried wild mushrooms including morel and girolle.

I also attended a wine seminar by Neil Phillips (writer of the The Wine Tipster) who was doing a tasting of "Wines of Rioja". Neil is a great speaker and introduced us to a range of different Riojas including a white (2007 Cosme Palacio) and a most sensational 1995 Gran Reserva called Campillo Tinto which is 100% tempranillo.

Our final stop was at The Bath Priory for afternoon tea at one of the town's most elegant hotels and spas. Sue Williams (our host and the hotel's general manager) gave us a little tour of this luxury, boutique hotel before showing us into the sitting room.

Winner of a Gold Award as the Best Small Hotel in 2009/10, The Bath Priory is a haven of tranquillity and good taste. It is a privately owned and relatively small hotel which feels more like a stately home than a hotel.

The dainty sandwiches, cakes and scones were freshly baked on the premises and tasted delicious @ £17.50 including a tea of choice.

We were also served a lovely sausage roll, and as an extra dessert, panna cotta topped with jam and berries.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Bath, and look forward to returning in 2011 for more Bath Food Festival, afternoon tea at The Bath Priory Hotel and Italian lardo! Many thanks to Syamala of Sauce Communications and to Sue Williams of The Bath Priory for being the perfect hosts.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Picnic at Henley Royal Regatta by Fernandez and Leluu and Ryvita

With days becoming shorter and light winter jackets making a come-back as Autumn inevitably looms, my thoughts go back to the relatively good summer we enjoyed this year. For me, one of the most memorable events this summer was a picnic held at Henley Royal Regatta, organised by Uyen and Simon (of Fernandez and Leluu fame) and sponsored by the good people of Ryvita.

(Pictures courtesy of Greedy Diva)

Joining us on the day were some of my most loved food bloggers - Su-Lin (Tamarind and Thyme), Carly (Greedy Diva), Mimi (Meemalee's Kitchen), Laura (Feast on Scraps) and Rachael (Violets Curd). Simon and Uyen were in charge of the food and what a spread - no tubs of hummus or packs of crisps in sight, but happily, one of the most gastronomic picnics I have ever seen.

(Pictures courtesy of Fernandez and Leluu)
An assortment of cold meats including French pork rillette and ham, Spanish Serrano ham, Italian salami and pork and peppercorn pate were the perfect accompaniment to the different types of French cheeses from La Bouche of Broadway Market which were served on Ryvita crispbreads.

(Picture courtesy of Fernandez and Leluu)
Fresh fish and seafood, purchased at "Fin and Flounder" also from Broadway Market, were served as "sashimi tuna with a wasabi and soya dressing", while enormous prawns were barbecued on site and accompanied platefuls of fresh, green samphire.

(Pictures courtesy of Fernandez and Leluu)
Freshly shucked Northern Rock oysters were served with lemon and Tabasco and were utterly delicious.

(Pictures courtesy of Fernandez and Leluu)
A selection of different breads, baguettes, berries and grapes, and a gorgeous Caprese style salad made of yellow and red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and basil completed a most magnificent spread. Simon's Russian Salad was one of the biggest hits as was Uyen's strawberry and blueberry trifle made of homemade cake and fruit that had been soaked in plenty of Cointreau and tasted divine.

(Picture Courtesy of Fernandez and Leluu)
A few bottles of Laurent Perrier were being knocked about (a big thanks to Su-Lin for topping up my glass with her share, gotta LOVE my teetotal friends) which helped to assuage the scorching heat on the day and wash down Fernandez and Leluu's impeccable food.

(Picture courtesy of Fernandez and Leluu)
So entranced were we with the delicious food, champagne and company that we completely missed the race, entering the enclosure about 5 minutes before the end of the event! What a lovely day nevertheless. Many thanks to Fernandez and Leluu, Ryvita and Wild Card PR for inviting me to Henley Royal Regatta.

(Picture courtesy of Fernandez and Leluu)

Wednesday 8 September 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - Meson Don Felipe

Twenty-three Years of Spanish Food and Wine in London's Southbank

Meson Don Felipe, opened in 1987 on The Cut near Waterloo Station, was one of the first restaurants I visited in London nearly twenty years ago, and is one of the few I keep returning to after all these years.

A real Spanish institution, Meson Don Felipe is a great place for good and unpretentious tapas, live flamenco music and great atmosphere. The place is nearly always heaving - I love sitting by the bar, starting my evening with a chilled bottle of bone dry Manzanilla Sherry (‘La Goya’, Delgado Zuleta - @ £10.50 for ½ bottle) , and some "Almendras" (Toasted and salted marcona almonds) @ £3.50 and "Aceitunas" (Marinated Spanish olives) @ £3.25, while I peruse the tapas menu.

The menu has hardly changed in the 18 years I have been a patron but "daily specials" are always on offer so there are always a couple of new dishes that can be ordered on any visit.

Last month, I went back to Meson don Felipe with Dr G, one of my oldest friends Gary of StartSpace on Columbia Road (see blogroll), and his partner Pablo who is a Brazilian artist.

We ordered a selection of tapas which were as good as expected - hardly haute cuisine but tasty and the perfect accompaniment to the Spanish wine being ordered.

"Pescaditos Fritos" (Deep-fried whitebait) @ £4.95.

"Bacalao frito con alioli" (Deep-fried fresh cod with garlic mayonnaise) @ £5.75.

"Higaditos al jerez" (Chicken livers in Sherry sauce) @ £4.95.

"Patatas Riojanas" (Potatoes cooked with chorizo) @ £4.75.

"ChampiƱones con Setas" (Mixed mushrooms cooked in oil and garlic) @ £4.75.

"Habas con Jamon" (Broad beans with cured ham and mint) @ £4.95.

"Chorizo Castellana" (Hot and spicy Spanish sausage) @ £4.95.

"Jamon y Queso" (Plate of Spanish cured ham, manchego cheese, quince conserve and grapes) @ £5.95.

"Croquetas de atun" (Tuna fish croquettes) @ £4.95.

Meson Don Felipe's Spanish wine list is one of the most comprehensive I have encountered in London, and also one of the most reasonably priced - there are many choices of wine by the glass from £3.65 while bottles start at £13.25.

We ordered a 2005 Muga Reserva @ £26.75 which was a blend predominantly of tempranillo and garnacha, aged for 30 months in oak (6 months in large vats, and 24 months in small barrels), and had deliciously soft tannins, lovely dark berry fruits and a long finish. This was a complex and well balanced wine.

Meson Don Felipe is my place of choice whenever I go to the Young or Old Vic theatres or the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. It can get very busy, so I would recommend booking a table (tables can be booked until 8pm only) if more than two people are coming.

Alternatively sit by the bar and soak up the wonderful atmosphere while watching the staff and other customers going about their business. Service can be erratic at busy times and level of English spoken varies a lot - there have been times when I have not been able to book a table (even though I can speak Portuguese) as people taking the bookings could not communicate in English, but it is worth persevering.

Cost: Around £30 per person including food and Spanish wine.

Likes: wonderful live flamenco music, great atmosphere, and lovely food. Meson's wine list is excellent and very good value.

Dislikes: service can be erratic at busy times and English is not always tip top which some might say adds to the charm of the place.

Verdict: Meson Don Felipe is a real Spanish institution on London's The Cut, serving consistently good, unpretentious and familiar tapas dishes at reasonable prices. The Spanish wine list is also excellent. One of my London gems. I cannot wait to return.

Meson Don Felipe
53 The Cut
London, SE1 8LF
Tel: 020 7928 3237

Meson Don Felipe on Urbanspoon

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