Welcoming May!

Time flies even when it is lockdown, it seems. And although we can’t enjoy the arrival of May the usual way (with picnics and barbecues galore with friends and family), the passing of time seems comforting somehow. Life goes on. And we can celebrate it with the smallest of things. In solitary or over Zoom with friends. Using fresh local produce and eating seasonal. For me, food is so important right now and I’d like to share some of my favourite spring recipes with you here!

First up is this super simple and utterly delicious lemon and basil pasta courtesy of The River Café. It’s so good that when I made it for book club they all asked for the recipe and one of the girls cooked it three (!) times the coming week.

If you have the luxury of a garden, utilise it for cooking. Meat tastes best on the barbecue, even if you’re only cooking for one or two people. And this lemony marinade with honey and herbs is so easy to throw together but elevates your meat no end. Perfect for chicken and pork!

With barbecue meats you need a nice sauce and this garlic and herb (yes, that is the taste of spring to me!) one is super easy to make and is delicious with any oven roasted potatoes, or even chips.

One of my best recipes from last year was this charred and sticky barbecue chicken. It’s simply delish and I urge you to make it!

Although I’m super excited about barbecue season my enthusiasm for the asparagus season is still at an high and this recipe is just what I’m craving; cooked green asparagus with crispy pancetta and a buttery lemony hollandaise with chives. Yum!

This recipe is more for gatherings than lockdown, but scale it down and it’s the easiest starter: cooked asparagus to be eaten with your fingers and dipped in homemade lemon mayo! So delicious!

A Scandi classic that I love a bit extra at this time of year is the bleak roe pizza. It’s best as a starter although I wouldn’t turn down a whole one all to myself!

Moving on the sweet stuff. It’s still rhubarb season and luckily also ice cream season, so why not combine the two into this amazing rhubarb parfait?! It’s easier to make than ice cream (no churning) but so so good!

Another rhubarb favourite is this vanilla pannacotta topped with soft rhubarb. Just to die for and can be made well in advance!

The first British strawberries have arrived and although I prefer to eat the first ones with just during cream and sugar, after a while I like to mix it up, and this muscovado ice cream with lime marinated strawbs is just lovely on a sunny day!

Another spring favourite of mine, is this fantastic key lime pie! I can’t wait to make it this year!

London: Lorne – a neighbourhood restaurant at its best!

I love discovering new restaurants, especially in my own neighbourhood. One evening earlier this year I was meeting up with my friend Daisy for dinner. We had planned to meet around South Ken but as things got moved around we ended up meeting near Victoria instead. We hadn’t booked anywhere to eat but wanted to eat somewhere nice, so popped into A Wong to see if they had had any cancellations. Sadly they hadn’t. But closed to it was Lorne looking all cosy and full of happy people. So we went insid and tried our luck. Lo and behold, they had a table for us in about 20 minutes time. So we popped across the road for a quick drink and as we came back to the restaurant we were seated by bar stools by the door looking out onto the street.

Quite a cosy spot as it was a bit tucked away from the rest of the restaurant, and we could chat undisturbed!

We ordered a few dishes to share straight away, because by this stage we were both quite hungry! The deep fried mac ‘n cheese bites were really delicious and paired well with our cold bottle of white.

Next we shared two starters; crispy egg with haddock and curry sauce (above) and roast quail with butternut squash, pear and hazelnuts (below).

They were both really delicious! Quite delicate in flavour, but lovely combinations and really well prepared. Our waitress was lovely too recommending the quail to us and going through the whole menu and describe the dishes so I could figure out which ones I could have. So helpful!

Our last dish was a main course that we also decided to share, and knowing that the kitchen prepared a smaller plate each for us! So lovely and nice! And the dish; seabass with confit chicken wings, Jerusalem artichoke and pancetta was also utterly delicious!

We had such a lovely evening and felt like we literally stumbled upon a gem! In my own neighbourhood nonetheless. I will definitely go back as soon as I am allowed as this is the type of restaurant everyone should have in their neighbourhood and they so deserve the support.

Lorne, 76 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1DE

Recipe: Slow-Cooked Short Rib with Caramelised Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This comforting hug of a dish was a real hit! Both to cook and, of course, to eat. Cooking wise the oven does most of the work for you; tenderising those short ribs so that they completely fall off the bone when you try to pick them up. Together with the caramelised garlic for the mash, also cooking in the oven at the same time, the scents in the kitchen were a pure delight, and a good indicator of how nice our supper would be.

And indeed it was! Is there anything more joyful than a comforting plate of food that just fits together like peas in a pod?! Soft succulent umami full short ribs marriages so perfectly with the velvety and fluffy mashed potatoes with a lovely hint of earthy and sweet caramelised garlic.

The short rib recipe is courtesy of the brilliant What’s Gaby Cookinghttps://whatsgabycooking.com/garlic-red-wine-braised-short-ribs/, although a bit modified, but the caramelised garlic mashed potato recipe is all my own.

Red wine braised short ribs, serves 2-3

Adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking’s recipe.

900 g bone-in short rib of beef

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1/2 celery stalk, chopped

1 tbsp plain flour

1/2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 -1 bottle red wine

a few sprigs each of parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary

1 bay leaf

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

400 ml beef stock

Preheat oven to 180C. Season short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a casserole dish on medium-high heat. Brown short ribs on all side and transfer to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add the short ribs back in. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, approx 2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Strain sauce from pot and spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve on a pillow of caramelised garlic mashed potatoes.

Caramelised garlic mashed potatoes, serves 2-3

2 heads of garlic

650 g King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into similar sized pieces

3 tbsp salted butter

approx 50 ml whole milk

salt and pepper

While the short ribs are cooking, cut the top off the garlic heads and wrap in tin foil. Place them in the oven until soft, approx 40-60 minutes. Remove until needed for the mashed potatoes.

Boil the potatoes just about covered with salted water on medium-low heat until soft, approx 15-20 pieces, depending on the size of the potato pieces. Drain water and let them sit uncovered for a minute. Add butter and some of the milk and either mash with a masher or beat with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add more milk as you go. Take the foil off the garlic heads and squeeze out the caramelised garlic into the mashed potatoes. Stir well and add more as you taste. Season well and serve with the short rib.

London: Meat Feast at Temper Covent Garden

Late last year, my former colleague Ria (a fellow meat lover!) and I met up for dinner. It was my suggestion that we go to Temper Covent Garden since it’s close to the office where Ria still works and I used to work, and of course because they have nice meat!

The first time I visited Temper, I went to the original Soho branch with my friend Daisy and we both loved it. It was a little too loud but a fun atmosphere and the food was great! Then the Covent Garden location opened and I went there one night with another friend but it was almost empty. So I was afraid it lacked the popularity and atmosphere of the Soho restaurant. But everyone deserves a second chance and this time around it had a nice atmosphere, more people, and the menu was almost identical to the Soho one with all those great dishes that made me love Temper to begin with.

So we sampled a bit of everything. Some tacos – including the famous one, the lovely nachos. Steak, of course! And the most amazing cheesy beef fat potatoes and burrata with jalapeño and lime.

It was a real feast and we loved every bite!

We started with the beef fat nachos which I’ve had every single time I’ve been to Temper and they’re just lovely. It’s a small (but rich) little sharer, perfect for snacking on when you’re contemplating the rest of the menu. Because it is not easy to choose between all the lovely dishes. Still, we managed to make a selection. We had the cheese burger tacos (yes, you read that correctly) and the pork and pineapple tacos and they were both delicious. But the bonkers cheese burger tacos probably won the contest, if I was forced to pick a winner. Tacos as a starter though – what a brilliant idea!

Next we had the piece de resistance, also known as the most amazing sirloin I have ever had. Ever! It was so full of flavour, perfectly cooked and just melt in your mouth fantastic. Especially paired with the beef fat and Ogleshield potatoes and the beef fat béarnaise sauce. We also shared the burrata with jalapeño and lime which was delicious too and, despite its creaminess, added some freshness to it all.

We ate and we drank and we were certainly merry! And I am so glad I went back once more because this time Temper Covent Garden had it all. The food was on par with the Soho branch, but the atmosphere was more relaxed and quieter, perfect for a girl’s night out.

Temper Covent Garden, Yard, 5 Mercer Walk Mercers, London WC2H 9FA

Recipe: Baked Alaska with Dulce de Leche and Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

For me a baked Alaska feels really festive, in a retro sort of way, and it’s the perfect excuse for using sparklers! My mother often makes a baked Alaska for New Year’s Eve too, but hers is with a thicker oat cookie base and she uses regular meringue and cooks her in the oven whereas I prefer Italian meringue and a blow torch.

I also think it’s fun to make individual ones, but only if there aren’t too many of you. This year (I have made this pudding before but with different flavours) I used vanilla and dulce de leche ice cream and served it with a strong dark chocolate sauce. I think it worked really well like this and it’s a joy to eat!

Baked Alaska with dulce de leche and vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, serves 4

4 oat crisps for the base (but make a whole batch – they’re scrumptious on their own too!)

4 large scoops no churn dulce de leche ice cream (recipe below)

4 large scoops no churn vanilla ice cream

1 batch Italian meringue

To serve:

sparklers

chocolate sauce

Place an oat crisp on each plate. Place the ice cream on top trying to make a dome shape. Cover with the meringue using a spatula. Using a blow torch, scorch the meringue until golden brown all around. Serve with sparklers and chocolate sauce.

No churn dulce de leche ice cream

Translated from Fridas bakblogg’s recipe.

500 ml double cream

4 egg yolks

40 ml light Muscovado sugar

1 tin (400 g) dulce de leche (Nestlé caramel)

2 egg whites

Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks and the sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the dulce de leche and beat some more. Whip the cream in a separate bowl and fold it into the dulce de leche mixture. Beat two egg whites until stiff peaks in a separate bowl and fold into the dulce de leche mixture. Pour into a Tupperware box and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

Cinema, nights in and a lovely weekend!

The first week in February was a really nice one (every week pre COVID-19 seems pretty good right now though!). I mainly worked and chilled at home but was a bit sociable at the weekend. On the Monday I made egg salad for lunch that I ate on Finncrisp. So yummy!

In the evening I had burrata with tomatoes and pesto together with leftover crostini from the weekend. Also yum!

The next day I tried a new yoghurt for breakfast and it was absolutely delicious and the passionfruit flavour worked well with the leftover blueberries too!

In the evening I made my favourite noodles and topped them with crispy chilli flakes in oil. Love this simple dish!

On the Wednesday we went to the cinema to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood which was so lovely!

The next night I wasn’t in the mood to cook so ordered Shake Shake. It’s always a winner in my book!

On the Friday we had a quick supper before going to a concert, at a place in Brixton my friend Gaby recommended. The food was yummy and I will write the review soon!

On Saturday, a bit tired after the concert the night before we went over to some friends for lunch and got treated to roast chicken and a really yummy pasta salad! We even stayed for dinner and had a lovely day playing with the kids and catching up.

On the Sunday we just chilled and watched The Irishman. It’s long but really good! For supper we had a caprese salad with crispy baguette, followed by…

… pork fillet, dauphinoise potatoes, red wine sauce and vegetables. Always yummy!

As it was a Sunday I made an apple crumble and raw custard for pudding. A real favourite!

Recipe: Fillet of Beef, Pommes Anna, Mushroom Sauce with Cognac and Charred Spring Onions

New Year’s Eve feels so far away. Was it only three months ago?! But I still remember the lovely evening we had, and the food I cooked of course.

After plenty of bubbly and nibbles we had lobster with beurre blanc, and after that we had fillet of beef with pommes Anna, mushroom sauce with cognac, broccoli and charred spring onions. So yummy!

I cooked the fillet of beef whole, giving the end bits to Emma who prefers her more cooked, the medium pieces for the boys and the rarest for me. My guess work worked out well but I suggest you use a thermometer to get it just right.

I made the sauce the day before and heated it up while the rest was cooking but the rest I did the same evening. Luckily my friends have an open plan kitchen dining room so it’s easy to cook and be sociable at the same time.

Fillet of beef, Pommes Anna, mushroom sauce with cognac, broccoli and charred spring onions, serves 4

800-1000 g fillet of beef

butter and oil for frying

salt and pepper

1 kg maris piper (or similar firm potatoes), peeled and thinly sliced

150 g salted butter, melted

salt and peppar

300 g tenderstem broccoli

1 bunch spring onions, washed and trimmed

Mushroom sauce:

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp neutral oil for frying

100 g fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced

30 g dried black trumpet mushrooms (porcini works too but then you probably need a bit less)

400 ml double cream

1/4 vegetable stock cube

1-2 tsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp cognac

salt and pepper

Start with the potatoes as they need the longest time to prepare (and can be kept warm if needed). Add some melted butter to a cast iron (or oven proof – if you haven’t got one, use a springform) frying pan and cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of potato slices. Add more melted butter, salt and pepper and continue to layer (each slice overlapping others) until it’s full. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top and add something heavy and oven proof as a weight on top. Place in 200C oven for approx 15 minutes, then remove the weight and the paper and cooked until golden on top and soft in the middle (pierce with a pairing knife), approx 45 minutes all together. If it’s getting too brown cover with tin foil. Can be kept warm until needed covered in foil on a 150 C heat.

Next brown the beef on all sides in butter and oil on high heat. Add salt and pepper and place on an oven tray covered in oil. Add garlic and maybe some herbs and place in a 200 C oven until a few degrees shy of the temperature you want. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting it into 1cm though slices. If you want your beef really rare, brown it early but don’t put it in the oven until the potatoes and the sauce are well on their way. You can cook the vegetables as the meat is resting.

For the sauce, cover the dried mushrooms with boiling water in a bowl for a few minutes. Fry the onions and garlic until soft in butter and oil. Remove from pan, add more butter and oil if needed and fry the fresh mushrooms. Season and add it to the fried onions. Lastly, fry the rehydrated dried mushrooms and season. Add the other mushrooms and the onions back to the pan and lower the heat. Add the cream and stock cube and bring to a gentle boil. Add the dijon mustard and cognac and season to taste. If it’s too thick add a little water or fresh cream to make it thinner. Keep warm or reheat just before serving.

Boil the broccoli for approx 3 minutes, until it’s softened a bit but is still a bit crunchy. Drain and cover with kitchen towel. Fry the spring onions in a fry frying pan on high heat until charred.

To plate, cut the Pommes Anna into wedges, add the sauce, vegetables and the meat on top. Add some extra salt and pepper and enjoy!