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.
Barrafina 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.
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!
Next up we had smoked salmon with white beans, fennel and a dilly dressing. It was nice but a little too mild in flavour.
The asparagus with romesco sauce was wonderful though, I’ve had it here before and it has always been a great vegetable dish.
The skewes with Iberico ham were also really nice, but I’ve had even better pork in Spain.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
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
300 ml just-boiled water
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.
The summer has paused (once again) here in London and I sincerely hope my two weeks in Sweden in August will make up for the lack of summer I’ve experienced so far. *crossing fingers*
Luckily, one can help summer along a little by cooking the most summery of recipes. If it tastes like summer IT IS summer, right?!
Noodles with fried squid, lime and mint tastes very fresh and reminds me of balmy nights. What better summer smell is there than the one of charcoal and meat juices?! This marinaded pork fillet with lemon and herbs is utterly delicious! And the easiest (and best) of summer puds is of course the humble mess. For a late lazy lunch with friends (and rosé!) this halloumi salad is easy to whip up.
Happy (make your own) summer!
Chocolate in any shape or form is always a crowd pleaser (especially amongst the chocoholics I work with!) and as predicted this cake was no exception. The bottom of the cake is fairly heavy and dense, with delicate meringue on top – a great combination. It’s best served together with some lightly whipped cream.
Chocolate meringue cake, serves 10
Adapted from Donna Hay’s recipe.
240 g dark chocolate, chopped
180 g unsalted butter, chopped
4 eggs extra, separated
90 g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
50 g plain flour, sifted
½ tsp baking powder, sifted
40 g ground almonds
220 g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
3 tsp cornflour, sifted
25 g cocoa, sifted, plus extra for dusting
Preheat oven to 160ºC. Lightly grease a 24 cm round springform tin, line the base with baking parchment.
Place the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly. Place the eggs, extra egg yolks, brown sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk for 3–4 minutes or until pale and thick.
Add the chocolate mixture, flour, baking powder and almond meal and fold gently to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35–40 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Increase the oven temperature to 180°C. Place the extra eggwhites in the clean bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, whisking until dissolved. Add the vinegar and whisk for a further 2–3 minutes or until the meringue is thick and glossy. Fold through the cornflour and cocoa and spoon the mixture onto the partially cooked cake. Spread evenly and return the cake to the oven for 20–25 minutes or until the meringue is golden and crisp.
Allow the cake to stand at room temperature for 15–20 minutes before gently running a small knife around the edge and removing the ring. Allow the cake to cool at room temperature and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Dust with the extra cocoa to serve.