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Sunday, 31 October 2010

THE DISAPPEARING DINING CLUB


...in its own words "is a monthly dinner dance for people who love great food, good company and a bit of well fed, late night dancing about" I know, I know...another pop-up, another dining club...but I pomise you this is no run-of-the-mill -fad-foodie-fare, this is someting pretty, pretty special. 

 Secreted away from the Saturday drunken hustle and bustle of Old Street, the room was pretty but teeny, seating only 10 at a time; hard to believe that they'd held a mini rave here only the week before, eh?! 

Small as it is, it doesn't feel cramped - just cosy! And on entering you feel transported to an Edwardian dining room where time doesn't exist, aided somewhat by the fact that none of the fve (or was it six?!) clocks show the right time...cunning!
We were a motley crue for this first taster-of-things-to-come but wine and conversation flowed freely and before long we were all firm friends: cooing over the decor, nipping outside for quick crafty cigs before returning to the nest of warmth and comfort that was our own exclusive, special, secret dining club.

 I almost forgot about the food so absorbing was the chilled Chenin and absorbing discussion on the merits of sugar daddies (mostly about the swoonable Tom Selleck *sigh*) but the whole table fell silent in awe at the sight of the most huge, most juicy and most succulent prawns I have EVER had in England:


 
The Russian and I were greedy gannets and snaffled ours in seconds, heading back for seconds - well sharing seconds, as much as selfish greed wanted to take over we felt too guilty to deprive our fellow diners.
 
We needn't have worried about rumbling tummies, though, as course after course was delivered to a shorus of "oohs" and "ahhs" followed swiftly by complete silence as we dug in - only interspersed repetitively with "oh. my. god. this is AMAZING".
 
The food was truly scrumptious. I was even convinced to eat the curried soft shell crab, something I'd always refused to eat before - with their trailing 'limbs' they alway seem a bit ick! These were battered,to within an inch of their life, unrecognisable but crispy and juicy and meatily flaky inside. YUM!!!!
 
OH, and I thought Hawksmoor's meaty treats were good but the beef ribs were DIVINE and are definite competition!!


I was seriously stunned.
But not that stunned I didn't partake in a game of Bone Jenga afterwards, super childish, super gross, but SUPER FUN:


I felt like a child in a sweetie shop, every course was a delightful suprise. I could feel myself slipping into a food coma and heartily wished that this was my dining room and next door through the curtain was my sofa / bed so I could just lay down and drift into a smug satisfied sleep!
 
So, it was with relief that a carved out melon filled with refreshing sorbet came to the table - topped with vodka, this was the perfect wake-up I needed.


All of us full of food and wine relaxed, and so vodka, anecdotes and laugter flowed freely till the seriously early hours. Like I said, it's easy to lose track of time! 

 So it was, as the birds were just tooting their morning chorus, we - well the 43 - wended our/its way back home. PJs, bed and a well-deserved lie-in.

 If you love great food, great company an a bit of a dance you can check out more about the Disappearing Dining Club's monthly dinner's on their facebook page or on twitter 
Their launch is 6th November and each supper will be in a different location, somewhere in London, serving dinner from 8pm on the first Saturday of every month, with drinks, music and dancing till as late as they're allowed. 

 Menus, location, DJs and musicians will be announced a week before each dinner party and availability will depend on the size of the location. Seats at the table are first come, first served, so I advise you to please book early so you don't miss out.  

Super super big thanks to Stuart, Maxine (the super-talented chef!), Kate, Caroline and ALL the lovely people we met at DDC. I had the most wonderful evening and I can't wait to come again!!!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

LAST LEGS VETERINARY CLINIC


"Typically you haveto train for
about 8year to become a vet.
With Last Legs Veterinary Clinic
it only takes £8"

7:50pm and the Russian and I were huddled away from the rain under a ginormous tree, in a quietrv esidential street, near an eerily quiet gated entrance to Victoria Park. No we weren't loitering with intent to burgle, we were in fact nervously (excitedly!) awaiting the doctors and nurses who would guide us to the haunted surgery that would host tonight's ghoulish party. 

Traversing the streets of Hackney can be pretty scary at the best of times but we made it unscathed, if a little damp, to our destination; greeted happily with a medicinal absinthe cocktail. If that doesn't keep the cold away I don't know what will! 

Further treats on the menu were Vampire Wines, Canine Conjuctivitis Cocktails with Hapsburg Absinthe, Brandy's Spiked Catnip Tea, Reconstituted Ferret Plasma and Robin's Bizzaregarita - the colour-changing cocktail that first astounded me at the Experimental Food Society event. 

What to soak up all that alcohol though? Still feeling pretty delicate, we chowed down on snacks such as Evil Lamb Samosas, Unlucky Rabbits Feet and the piece de la resistance: Bleeding Jelly by Bompas & Parr. 

Once properly sated, wander round the pretty extraordinary space, steel yourselves for a show of scalpel skills in the operating theatre then dance off the horror till the early hours!!

As I've come to expect, this was another thoroughly fun and imaginative event from The Robin Collective (formed by Robin Fegan, Brandy Wright and Elspeth Rae in 2010, following a year of collaborative projects). 

I'll stop blithering and let the pictures speak for themselves:

Our hostess with the mostest: Brandy Wright

Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches


















Best of all, most of the art is for sale. So if something takes your fancy dut that wallet off and take a memory from the night home!!! 

You've got two more days of fun and frolicks to go - so in their own words "pain the town red...blood red!!"
 

Friday, 29 October 2010

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

1. It's now officially autumn (winter more like) so now's the time to take a long brisk walk, in the fresh (i.e. FREEZING COLD) air and shuffle your feet through fallen red & gold leaves.
2. You get to wear spangly jumpers and scarfs and mittens and hats and sit in front of log fires with humongous goblets of red wine.
3. Goodbye salad, hello stodge & best of all - PUDDINGS!!!

Which brings me to a recipe that's been a long time coming...have I mentioned that I've been out of action of late? I did?! oh, so where was the sympathy?! "Beulah, peel me a grape"...anyway, I'm having NO problem whatsoever putting on the weight I lost (growl) especially scoffing this sweet and sticky treat!!

Fruits of the forest cobbler with vanilla custard











Pack of frozen fruits of the forest (or any fruits you like? blueberry & apple perhaps?) 
250g Marscapone  
Small carton natural fat free yoghurt 
100g light muscavado sugar  
85g butter  
300ml milk 
3 egg yolks 
1 tbsp caster sugar 
1 vanilla pod (split lengthways)

Cobbler
1. Pile the frozen fruit in the pie dish and sprinkle with 50g or a couple of tbsp muscovado sugar 
2. Spoon over the marscapone
3. Rub butter into sifted flour & sugar till they resemble small breadcrumbs
4. Gently mix (but don't overstir) in the natural yoghurt and top the fruit/marscapone
5. Bake for 30 minutes

Custard
1. Heat the milk with the vanilla pod until hot but not boiling
2. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar & pour over the hot milk
3. Return to the heat and stir until thickened
4. Pour over delicious pudding & eat

NB. you can rescue the vanilla pod and once dry pop into a sugar jar to make vanilla sugar for coffee, cakes, etc! 

And so, full of good food and, indeed, cheer...
...I leave you with Ian Drury & The Blockheads!! 

Thursday, 28 October 2010

HAWKSMOOR (SEVEN DIALS)


Super thanks to Qype for the invitation to try out the food and cocktails at London's newest and most exciting opening last night - Hawksmoor. 

Now, I'm a Hawksmoor virgin, never having visited the Spitalfields branch and boy have I been missing out!!

Tucked away down Langley Street (just off Seven Dials) and by Pineapple Studios - perfect for the boys to nip out and have a crafty cig while perving through the windows at the nubile young things stretching their limbs - it's home is a building steeped in history. As the website informs: "We have a tradition to live up to. In 1807 Alderman Combe hosted a Royal Steak Dinner here with guests including the Prince of Wales. A newspaper reported that: "At a late hour the company left the Brewhouse, highly gratified with their beef-steaks, on which the Duchess of York was lavish in her praise, and very pleased with their worthy host's hospitality." We hope our customers will leave just as satisfied."

Walking down the sweeping staircase you feel transported to another place. One of the guys from Qype described it as like something out of Mad Men. Now, I'm ashamed so admit that I am also a Mad Men virgin (gah, I know!!) but from the little I do know, this assertion seems pretty spot on. 

Sitting at the bar I felt the most relaxed and comfortable I have in a while, the whole place just has such a lovely feel to it. Now, this was perhaps in no small part due to to the behemouth of a cocktail that was the Zombie (more on that later) but it was mostly because of the surroundings. 

I love the dark wood panelling on the walls; the reclaimed flooring that reminded me of my school assembly hall; the chemistry tables stretching the bar with filled in bunsen burner holes (and if you concentrate hard enough you can still see the scratched in love tokens CHAZ 4 DAZ); the tiling on the bar snaffled from London Underground; that the owners trawled antique shops for their beautiful crystal decanters and glasses; the brick vaulted ceilings in the dining room; the private dining room like a carriage from the Orient Express. And I love that when you buy a bottle of spirit with your meal you get your own little glass cabinet to store it opened with your own little key.

It's this attention to detail that really grabs you. Chatting to the incredibly friendly staff their passion for the food, drink and place as a whole really shines through and their enthusiasm is infectious. I'm not remotely sorry to say that my gushing praise doesn't stop with the decor, the food is pretty WOW as well. Well the tasters that I had anyway! 

The lamb cutlets were unbelievably juicy, rare and melted in your mouth - I'm actually salivating at the meaty memory now; pork belly ribs flaked and were stickily, smokily and deliciously messy, and their"fat, buttery lobster rolls" were FAT and BUTTERY and meaty and just utterly, utterly gorgeous. 

I am literally champing at the bit to pay a return visit, especially to take up the lovely barman on his suggestion of smearing the fillet steak (sourced from award-winners The Ginger Pig) with bone marrow (mmmmmmm my belly actually just growled then).

The joys of Hawksmoor don't stop there, oh no sireeeee... this is no one-sorry-two-trick pony. Their cocktails are awesome. Seriously. Going back to the Zombie that I was cajoled into ordering, it was no joke to describe it as a monster of a drink, 150ml of alcohol goes into this baby. I'm getting woozy again just thinking about it. Thank goodness then that there's the house rule of no drinking without ordering something to snack on from the bar - responsible drinking (of sorts). 

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this, but I HEART HAWKSMOOR and guys, it's safe to say, I didn't leave satisfied - I left escstatic!!! 

You know what, for all my effusive praise, I still don't think this review has done Hawksmoor justice. So all I can say is that you should get down there and try it out for yourself!! I'd get your reservation in quick though, once word gets around you won't be able to nab a space at the bar let alone grab a table!!!   

Hawksmoor Seven Dials
11 Langley Street,
London,
WC2H 9JG
t. 020 7856 2154  
http://www.thehawksmoor.co.uk






Wednesday, 27 October 2010

I'D GIVE MY RIGHT ARM TO BE AMBIDEXTROUS!


Apols for the tardiness of this post, I had a visit to the hospital (food wasn't too bad actually: lovely roast pork with cherry pie & custard for afters and endless cups of strong sweet tea!) and subsequently been laid up with a gammy right arm for nearly three whole weeks. YES, THREE WHOLE WEEKS of languishing on a sofa and being subjected to Bargain Hunt, Flog It! and 60 Minute Make-over. Okay, maybe 'subjected' is slightly misleading...

Anyway, I've not been able to shop, cook, clean, dress myself, let alone do cooking or typing. and I've been BORED senseless!!! And lost a hell of a lot of weight. Not a bad thing. And what better time to put it all on than winter (which is most certainly is now); and what better passtime for those chilly, dark nights than to scoff myself silly on stodge. After all you don't make friends with salad! 

Okay, stodge is not such a great thing for those watching their waistlines so I've compromised with with a tasty herby treat (not not *that* kind, though that would've been welcomed back in my haze of pain). 

Herby pork loin steaks with celeriac & carrot mash 

















Meat
Pork loin steaks (for however many people you're feeding)
Rosemary, finely chopped
Thyme (lemon thyme is lovely too), leaves picked
Oregano, leaves picked
Basil
Parsley
Bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2/3 cloves of garlic gently smashed (isn't that another oxymoron-ic statement?)
Zest of one lemon
200ml white wine
Mash
Desiree/Maris Piper or heritage potatoes
Garlic clove (or two)
Celeriac, diced 
2 carrots, diced
Lots of lovely butter

1. Pop the celeriac and carrot in one saucepan, cover with cold salted water and bring to boil then simmer for 20 minutes (or until tender - check with a fork). Ditto that with potatoes (and peeled clove or two of garlic) in another saucepan. 
2. Oil & season the meat, put into an oven ready dish (you can trim of fat, or if you likeb the fat on then rub a bit of salt on it)
3. Top each steak with crushed garlic, lemon zest and the chopped herbs (I also smeared a dash of leftover chipotle paste over each of them to give them a kick)
4. Pop a bay leaf in the bottom of the dish and pour in wine. 
5. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for about 20 minutes, take out and rest for five minutes
6. Drain the potatoes and celeriac & carrots - leave in colander with tea towel over top for a couple of minutes. 
7. Once drained mash the potatoes with the butter and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy. 
8. Roughly mash the celeriac and carrot (then mix in with the potato if you wish). 

Serve with a nice chilled glass of white (yay I can finally have alcohol and double yay it doesn't taste like vinegar anymore!!!!!)

From one hospital bed to another... 
... I leave you with the brilliant Jo Brand 

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A CUP O' TEA AN' A SLICE O' CAKE

Known across the world as a variation of tea or cha, it had by the middle of the 18th Century replaced ale and gin as the drink of the masses to become after water, Britain's most drunk drink (try saying that 10 times after a few ales or gins!). 

Thanks to Tea Council for some interesting facts and figures, did you know, for example, that tea breaks are a tradition that have been with us for approximately 200 years; that 80% of office workers now claim they find out more about what's going on at work over a cup of tea than in any other way; and for optimal benefit the number of recommended cups of tea to drink each day is 4.

That's something to tell the boss, eh?!

Many's a time I've drunk tea salty with tears whilst dampening a friend's shoulder, and vice versa. I don't think any of us need any facts or figures to tell us what we already know: there's nothing a cup of hot sweet, strong, rosy lee can't solve. But for the sceptics...here's the proof!

And nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a slice of cake.

Quick & Easy Teacake









350g mixed dried fruit
175g self-raising flour
75g demerara sugar
1 large egg
150ml tea*
*use any tea you like, I had a lovely  Fortnum & Mason Christmas Spiced Tea left over from a gift hamper - perfect for this cake as it's enhanced with cocoa nibs, orange peel & ginger, but a lady grey or earl grey could be nice! 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and grease & line a 1lb loaf tin (I always forget, hasn't been a problem yet)
2. Soak the fruit in the tea for about 30 minutes so it's plumped and moist
3. Beat the egg and the sugar into the fruit then sift in flour and stir to combine
4. Pour into tin and sprinkle with more demerara sugar & bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until risen
5. Leave the loaf in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool

I like mine served with butter and the aforementioned cuppa char! 

So while I sip away and forget the troubles of the world
I leave you with this childhood classic...