Anchovies puff pastry rolls

The third nibble for the party was these anchovies puff pastry rolls that everybody raved about. Thank goodness!, as I hadn’t tested the recipe beforehand.The whole reason I made these was to honour the host who is a serious anchovy lover. Luckily the others liked them too.

The recipe is courtesy of Swedish chef Leila Lindholm, with a few changes; I used puff pastry instead of pizza dough to get a crispy flaky snack. And it really worked.

(Picture courtesy of TV4/Recept.nu; I was to slow to photograph these.)

Anchovies puff pastry rolls, makes about 40

2 rolls ready made butter puff pastry 

200 g softened salted butter

4 garlic cloves

4-6 anchovies fillets, finely chopped

2 tbsp honey

plenty of grated parmesan 

a large bunch of fresh oregano, chopped 

a large bunch of rosemary, chopped 

a little black pepper 

Mix all the ingredients apart from the puff in a bowl. Roll out the pastry and spread a thick even layer of butter on top. Roll into a tight roll from the long edge and cut into 1 cm thick rolls. Place on parchment paper on a tray and bake for 200C until golden and crisp, approx 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Dinner at Bodega 1900, Barcelona, Spain

Bodega 1900

In June (where does the TIME go?!) Carina and I met up in Barcelona for a weekend of sunshine. It was fabulous hanging out on the beach in 30C, sipping Sangria and eating tapas.

Before I went I had quizzed my Spanish colleague about restaurants and got some recommendations from a friend of his. The one that jumped out at me was Ferran Adria’s (famous for El Bulli) casual tapas place,  Bodega 1900.

Bodega 1900 is quite a humble place; it’s not decorated in a fancy way and it’s not expensive, it’s just really nice tapas the Ferran Adria way.

We ordered some of the very traditional tapas dishes (above) and it was all nice but I have had better jamon and pan con tomate elsewhere and was a bit surprised. The patatas bravas were also just good, but didn’t wow us. But bear with me, because then things changed.

The jamon croquetas for example were fabulous and absolutely perfect.
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And once we tried some of the more innovative dishes, like the calamari hot dog recommended by our waitress, we were blown away. It was so so good!

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And these skewers of Iberico pork were the most delicious pork I’ve ever eating. I’m salivating now just looking at the picture.

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We also had these, pretty-as-a-picture pinxtos with seafood (left to right: snow crab; glazed salmon with horseradish and tuna with peppers.) And they were absolutely amazing. Next time I go to Barcelona I’ll definitely pop back in.

Bodega 1900, C/ Tamarit nº 91, 08015 Barcelona, Spain 

Crostini with goat’s cheese crème, pine nuts, honey and rosemary

cro1 Crostinis with different toppings are one of my go-to nibbles. You can prepare both toppings and the bread ahead of time and just assemble before serving, plus the flavour combinations are endless. These guys with goat’s cheese crème (so mild the goat’s cheese haters liked it too!), toasted pine nuts, Acacia honey and rosemary are so yummy and went down a treat at the party. Crostinis with goat’s cheese créme, toasted pine nuts, rosemary and honey, makes 70 2 really long baguettes mild olive oil 500 ml thick French crème fraiche (I used Waitrose’s French full fat crème fraiche)  250 g soft mild goat’s cheese  1 tbsp mild olive oil salt, white pepper 100 g pine nuts 1 bunch rosemary, finely chopped Acacia honey Slice the baguettes and place on trays. Drizzle with oil and toast in the oven (180-200C0 until golden brown, approx 12 minutes. Leave to cool. Add the creme fraiche to a large bowl. Add the crumbled cheese and whip with an electric whisk until combined. Add oil, salt and pepper and combine. Store in the fridge until assembly time.   Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. Leave to cool.  Assemble: Pipe a dollop of cheese crème onto each crostini, top with toasted pine nuts, some chopped rosemary and a small dollop of honey. Serve immediately.  

Eat brain? (Barrafina, Adelaide Street)

bar2Barrafina is one of my favourite tapas places in London, both the newer one in Covent Garden (and dangerously close to my office) and the original on Frith Street in Soho. They have also just opened another restaurant on Drury Lane which I can’t wait to try! I really like that the different restaurants sport different (although similar) menus, which makes it feel like two (or now three) free-standing restaurants and not a chain.

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Felicity and I had dinner here the other week and while waiting for our table we had some Txakoli (semi-sparkling wine from the Basque region which I love) and crab croquetas. When seated at the bar we noticed they had jamon croquetas as a special and we just couldn’t resist haveing some more croquetas. The crab ones are yummy but the jamon ones were perfection. Oh wow!
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Next up we had smoked salmon with white beans, fennel and a dilly dressing. It was nice but a little too mild in flavour.

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The asparagus with romesco sauce was wonderful though, I’ve had it here before and it has always been a great vegetable dish.

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The skewes with Iberico ham were also really nice, but I’ve had even better pork in Spain.

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We then decided to try the lamb’s brain (!). Once when I came here for lunch a lady dining on her own came here especially for the lamb’s brain and raved about it, so I’ve been dying to try it ever since. And I must say I was pleasantly surprised!

The texture is very soft so frying it until crisp on the outside was a smart move and the bold flavours with lots of acidity cuts through the richness very well, so this dish got top marks from me. But, the texture is still a little strange in the mouth (like very very soft sweetbreads but more jelly like) and it’s so rich I would not have been able to finish the dish on my own. But I would happily go back and share it with someone.

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After the savoury dishes we were quite content but you always have room for sorbet, right, so we had a scoop each. Felicity’s mixed berries sorbet was really nice and fruity, the perfect ending to a lovely meal.

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My peach sorbet was a bit too sweet and cloy. But apart from that our dinner was fantastic, just like the company.

Barrafina, Adeleide Street, London WC2N 4HZ

Crowd pleaser: platters of asparagus and lemon mayonnaise

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A few weeks ago I catered food for a friend’s party (where I was also a guest). There were 35 of us altogether enjoying ourselves in the garden drinking wine, playing croquet or table tennis or splashing around the pool. As it was this type of relaxed party the ‘starter’ for the dinner were three different nibbles served on platters and they went down a storm.

We steamed a lot of asparagus and it was all gobbled down by the crowd and I must say I will definitely do this for parties again. It’s perfect finger food, healthy and delicious!

Asparagus with lemon mayo, serves many

a few bunches asparagus

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

300 ml neutral oil

1-2 lemons, juice only

salt, white pepper

Break/cut off the woody ends of the asparagus. 

Make the mayo: Beat the egg yolks with an electric whisk, add the oil drop by drop then in a thin line while whisking. The mixture will thicken nicely and when it’s nice and wobbly you have a perfect mayo. Add lemon juice (liberally) to taste, as well as salt and white pepper. The acid in the lemon juice loosens the texture a bit so add a bit more oil if you want a thicker mayo. 

Cook the asparagus in salted water for approx 3 minutes; until softened but still crunchy. Drain, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Serve immediately. 

Brunch at The Ivy Market Grill, Covent Garden

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Around the same time as The Ivy was refurbished two siblings popped up; the Ivy Chelsea Garden on Kings Road (where it’s near impossible to get a table) and The Ivy Market Grill just by Covent Garden Market.

When Linus and Mirja were visiting at the end of May (where does the time go?!) we went here for Sunday brunch on their last day in town and it was such a nice send off.

The brunch menu is long and has plenty of egg dishes to choose from and everything we had was top notch. We ordered the sourdough for the table not realising it was a whole loaf, still warm. That’s several plus points just there!

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Mirja had the vegetarian Full English breakfast consisting of halliumi, eggs, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, avocado and baked beans served in a mini copper pot. Really fresh and a nice breakfast dish! 2015-05-31 12.53.47

Linus had the thick pancakes with bacon and maple syrup – that’s just up his street. And they were good. It’s so important that the simple dishes are cooked perfectly, and here they were.

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I loved my scrambled eggs with truffle and toasted brioche. Although I make my own scrambled eggs a lot softer, these were still well-made and well seasoned, and the truffle on top was just a delicious pairing!

I will definitely go back here for brunch or breakfast; I like both the ambiance and the menu. Think of The Ivy Market Grill as a low-key alternative to The Wolseley.

The Ivy Market Grill, 1 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8PS

The ultimate chocolate cake with frosting

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This chocolate cake is nothing new. The cake recipe is courtesy of several generations in my family and our staple chocolate cake. And although the frosting is courtesy of The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook it reminds me of the frosting that my grandmother used to cover her chocolate cake (made from this recipe) with when I was a child. It’s not the same recipe (I know for sure she didn’t use Philadelphia in hers) but the taste is very similar.

The only reason I’m posting this cake again is that I’ve re-calculated the measurements to suit a higher cake. The ratio of cake to frosting is just perfect and to me, the cake also has the perfect height.

Chocolate cake with frosting, serves 10

600 ml (480 g) caster sugar

500 ml (300 g) plain flour 

6 tbsp cocoa

4 tsp vanilla

4 tsp baking powder

200 g melted butter

4 eggs

300 ml just-boiled water

Chocolate frosting

200 g icing sugar

75 g softened butter

30 g cocoa

150 g cream cheese, cold

Pre-heat the oven to 175C, butter and two springforms and line the bottoms with baking parchment. Mix sugar, flour, cocoa and baking powder in a large bowl. Add melted butter, vanilla, egg and water and combine. Divide the batter between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool completely. 

Make the frosting: Beat sugar, butter and cocoa with an electric whisk. Add the cream cheese and beat until you have a glossy and even frosting.

Remove the cakes from the tins and remove the baking parchment. Place one cake round upside down on the cake plate and cover with half the frosting. Place the next cake round on top – also upside down – and cover with the rest of the frosting. Decorate with confetti sprinkles and serve.