Recipe: pizza with asparagus and wild garlic pesto

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I actually had the intention to make a sourdough pizza with this topping but didn’t have enough time in the end, so used my tried and tested Italian pizza dough recipe, courtesy of Gennaro Contaldo, Jamie Oliver’s Italian mentor.

I also used my go-to simple tomato sauce that I use for everything and my homemade wild garlic pesto. My best tip is to pick lots of wild garlic leaves when in season and blanch some of it, squeeze out the liquid and freeze in little parcels. Perfect to use for pesto or mayonnaise.

The all you need is a good buffalo mozzarella, some asparagus, parmesan and olive oil.

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I promise it’s like tasting spring. Delicious!

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Italian pizza dough, 2 pizzas

500 g 00-flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dried yeast

325 ml lukewarm water

Mix flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the yeast. Add the water bit by bit while stirring with a wooden fork. Knead the dough until elastic. Cut the dough into two and shape to round balls. Put the dough balls back in the mixing bowl, sprinkle with flour and cover. Place somewhere warm and let it rise for 90 minutes.

Shape the dough into round pizzas or use a rolling pin to roll it out thinly. Add the toppings you like and bake in 225C, in a low oven, for 8-10 minutes.

Tomato sauce, for one batch pizza dough

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes

salt and pepper

Fry the garlic in the olive oil in a non-stick saucepan. Add the chopped tomatoes, some water and the tomato paste. Cook for 15 minutes while stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. Season to taste and put aside. 

Wild garlic pesto, approx 250 ml pesto

ca 50-70 g wild garlic (about a bunch as stick as a small banana)

30 g almonds

40 g parmesan

1/2 lemon, juice only 

mild oil, approx 100-150 ml 

salt & pepper

Mix wild garlic, almonds, lemon juice and parmesan with a bit of oil to a paste in a food processor or with a stick blender. Keep adding oil until you have the consistency you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keeps in the fridge for 5-7 days. 

Topping per pizza:

1/2 batch tomato sauce

olive oil

1 buffalo mozzarella

4-5 asparagus, blanched and cut into smaller pieces

3-4 tbsp wild garlic pesto

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Roll out the dough and drizzle some olive oil on it. Spread out the tomato sauce. Shred the mozzarella into chunks and place on the pizza. Add the asparagus pieces and dollops of wild garlic pesto. Grate over parmesan. Add a little more olive oil and put it in the oven on 225C, middle to low oven for 8-10 minutes.

Barcelona: Born and burgers at Bacoa

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Lots of restaurants in Barcelona are closed for Sunday dinner, so we hadn’t made any proper plans. Instead we decided to go for a walk, from our hotel in Barri Gotic to the Born district not far away, that went from scruffy to trendy quite recently.

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Now it was filled with restaurant (some closed for the evening, some fully booked) and hipster bars and we really liked the vibe here. I really enjoy walking around different neighbourhoods in a city and get to know the city that way. It paints a picture of what it’s like to live there and that beats queuing for tourist attractions in my book.
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After walking around Born for a while we turned on to the main street by the seafront and saw a packed burger place. Yes, we could eat a nice burger and take a break from tapas. And it was completely rammed with people, young and old, which we took as a good sign.

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The burger chain (they have a few restaurants in Barcelona and one in Madrid) isn’t your typical fast food joint. You order by the counter but get to choose what type of bread you want and any toppings you like to really make the burger your own.

I chose the best quality beef burger, a brioche bun, cheddar and their recommended trimmings and truffle mayo on the side and it was seriously good. The beef was really tender and full of flavour. The garnish nice and fresh and the bun lovely.

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Emma had the chicken burger that had been marinated and was really tender as well, with brioche bun and the recommended toppings. We also shared a side of patatas pravas that were really nice!

Oh, and another good thing. Once you’ve ordered you get an order number, sit down at the wooden tables and then they bring you the food when it’s ready. Much more civilised than McDonald’s. And obviously nicer!

Bacoa, Av. del Marquès de l’Argentera 1, 08003 Barcelona

Barcelona: cocktails at Old Fashioned and late supper at Bar Mut

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After our fab (but early; we sat down at 7pm) dinner at Bodega 1900 we found a nice cocktail bar called Old Fashioned to chill in. It was small and cosy, had nice music on but you could still talk and an extensive cocktail list. Lovely! Also, all the staff were bearded men with white shirts and suspenders. Cute!

I went for a Gin Tonica, the Spanish version of gin and tonic served in a large glass on a stem. I tried one with strawberry notes and it was served with a dried strawberry slice. Really nice!

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Emma asked for a fruity drink and received one with strawberries and raspberries. It was good fun sitting here chatting and people watching for a bit.

Old Fashioned, Calle Santa Teresa nº 1, Gràcia, 08012 Barcelona, Spain

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Until we got hungry again and headed to nearby Bar Mut that I was drying to try. I so love that the restaurants here are open late.

At Bar Mut there’s no printed menu, but some dishes are written on the board and your waiter will tell you the rest. You can also choose your fish and shellfish from the iced counter. Everything’s fresh and seasonal. Simple, but not too simple.

We started off with white asparagus that were perfectly cooked, and served with a light mayonnaise, nuts and leaves.

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I’ve never been able to resist croquetas and this time was no exception. These big ones with iberico ham were amazing!

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Our last dish (I mean, we had had a proper dinner earlier that evening) was a this lovely beef dish with morels and a delicious sauce.

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We walked out happy and full, heading back to the hotel in our taxi for another full day of exploring Barcelona the next day.

They don’t have Uber here but other similar taxi companies (the one we used had its own fleet and all cars had free water and wi-fi – so good!) that we used a lot, especially in the evenings when we were tired from walking all day.

Bar Mut, Pau Clarís nº 192 (Diagonal), Barcelona, Spain

 

Barcelona: amazing dinner at Bodega 1900

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This trip was my second time in Barcelona. The first time I visited with my dear friend Carina we had dinner at Bodega 1900 one night, and I liked it so much I booked it again for this trip.

The restaurant is owned by Albert and Ferran Adria, the brothers behind legendary and now closed El Bulli restaurant. Now they have a whole empire of restaurants in Barcelona and Bodega 1900 is one of the least fancy ones.

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The decor is rather austere and the lighting a bit dull, but don’t let that fool you; the food is seriously good and the waiters really friendly and very professional.

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The house cava is amazing – so I highly recommend you start with that. And these “olives”. They look like olives and taste like olives but it is in fact a little wiggly balls of olive juice. Divine!

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Next we had these juicy and sweet red prawns that were almost buttery, that we dipped in sea salt. A-ma-zing! I could have had several more portions of these. Yum!

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Instead of the regular jamon our charming waiter recommended the more flavoursome Iberico loin. Really good!

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We also had the pan con tomate which was very good!

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We also had these squid hotdog which was just as lovely as I remembered it from my last visit!

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This time they also had a mini pork burger on the menu; filled with thin slices of cooked pork full of umami. It just melted in the mouth. Incredible!

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The quail with potatoes and a very fluffy mustard sauce was perfection! And it was nice with a more substantial dish towards the end of our meal.

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But we weren’t quite full yet so we ordered the peas and mushrooms in this very rich broth and some extra bread. Full of flavour and very comforting. A beautiful if yet very simple dish.

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With twenty minutes to spare before the next sitting we shared the perfect wobbly crema de catalana (mum, you would have loved this one!) and had some coffee.

It was a lovely meal and great evening! I love this place and urge you to book a table well in advance of your Barcelona trip. You can thank me later (maybe with a bottle of that cava?!).

Bodega 1900,  Carrer de Tamarit, 91, 08015 Barcelona, Spain

London: crudo and pasta at Veneta

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SaltYard Group, the company behind favourites like Ember Yard and Opera Tavern recently opened a restaurant in the newly redeveloped area of St James’s, just next to Swedish Aquavit actually. Called Veneta it has a distinct Italian, and Ventian, cuisine, compared to the other restaurants with a more Spanish menu.

I assume it’s because of my frequent visits to Opera Tavern (I wonder how many times I’ve eaten their mini pork and foie gras burger) that I was on the mailing list for Veneta’s soft launch.Either way, I was quick to book a table and went there one night after work with my friend Ro.

As it was a soft launch they offered 50 % off food in exchange for trying things out on us, and requesting feedback.

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Just like the other restaurants in the group, Veneta’s menu consists of small dishes perfect for sharing. I was super excited to see a whole section of the menu devoted to crudo, i.e. raw fish and seafood, which I love and we quickly ordered the raw red prawns with rosemary (top photo). They were plump and sweet and very fragrant from the rosemary. Lovely! Next time I want to try the raw red prawns with lardo.

Next we had the tortelloni, filled with red prawns and served in a seafood broth. It was nice but didn’t blow us away.

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The goat kid ragu with pappardelle however, did. It was just amazing and I predict it will become one of their signature dishes (if it isn’t already!).

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The salt baked carrots and beets with sheep ricotta, date purée and oregano was lovely and the plate was as pretty as a picture. It’s fun to see the vegetable dishes getting as much care and attention as the meat and fish dishes.

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The lamb with chard, lamb fat crisps and caprini fresco cheese was another amazing dish I’ll come back for.

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For pudding both Ro and I were set on having one of the amazing sounding sundaes but they were all sold out (sob) so we had a rethink and settled on fritelle doughnuts for Ro and tiramisu for me.

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The doughnuts were rather compact and chewy but that could have been intentional, as neither of us have had Italian doughnuts before. The taste was lovely though and chocolate sauce, whipped cream and jam works every time. The tiramisu was really nice but lacked a little in presentation I thought.

I could definitely see some teething problems here, like the tables being too close together (it felt like we had dinner with, not next to, our neighbours) and the waiting staff didn’t seem to have worked out a routine yet, but that’s also the whole point of this trial run soft launch.

Food wise I think the savoury dishes were very good and thought out, whereas the puddings could have done with a little more work, however I’m still intrigued by those sundaes and hope they haven’t sold out on my next visit.

I have already planned my meal. Definitely lots of crudo, the kid goat ragu and the lamb. And that ice cream.

Veneta, 3 Norris St, St. James’s Market, London SW1Y 4RJ

Recipe: Cacio e pepe

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Cacio e pepe, this heavenly dish consisting only of pasta, pecorino and black pepper (and a little cooking water from the pasta) has always seemed so daunting to make. I have enjoyed it cooked to perfection in Rome (it’s a Roman dish) but I never thought I could recreate it at home. But then I read Felicity Cloake’s article about the perfect cacio e pepe and decided to have a go as she made it seem so easy. And it turns out, with her guidance, it actually was!

The receipt is perfect. I didn’t change a thing and it worked perfectly the first time. If you’re a cacio e pepe novice like I was I highly recommend reading the article beforehand just to understand the elements of the dish better. And I can’t stress enough how important the quality of the ingredients are; buy some good dried pasta (I love de Cecco) and some really nice pecorino ( I got mine from Natoora) and your finished dish will be just as nice as the one you had in Rome on your holiday.

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Cacio e pepe, serves 2

Adapted from Felicity Cloake’s recipe.

2 tsp black peppercorns

200 g spaghetti 

80 g pecorino romano, at room temperature, finely grated 

Toast the peppercorns in a very hot, dry pan then roughly crush with a pestle and mortar.

Bring a wide shallow pan of well-salted water to the boil, then add the pasta; it should be covered but not by much. Stir occasionally during cooking and, five minutes into the cooking time, scoop out 250 ml water into a wide bowl to allow it to cool slightly.

Drain the pasta and leave it to cool for a minute. Meanwhile, put the cheese and most of the pepper in a large, heavy bowl or pan and beat in some of the pasta water very gradually to make first a paste, and then a sauce the consistency of bechamel. Add the pasta and toss furiously while adding enough of the water to make a sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti.

Divide between warm bowls, sprinkle over a little more pepper, and serve immediately.

 

London: Loved every bite at Kricket Soho

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It feels like almost every day a new fun restaurant opens its doors in Soho. Maybe not quite, but I love how this part of London evolves quicker than the rest.

One of the latest additions to Soho’s Denman Street is the opening of Kricket Soho. Kricket started out in a shipping container in Brixton and created such a following with their trendy Indian dishes that they opened a proper restaurant in Soho.  My friend Felicity, and also my dinner companion this evening, has frequently visited the Brixton restaurant and so was my menu guide here.

Some dishes were completely new additions to the menu, which our waiter kindly highlighted for us. And when I queried if the Grüner Veltliner would work well with the food he poured us a taster so we could decide. And yes, the slightly fruity (but not sweet) Grüner Veltliner complimented the array of dishes perfectly.

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Our first dish of the evening, and a must for Felicity, was the bhel puri – one of their classics consisting of puffed rice, raw mango, tamarind, sev and yoghurt. Sublime!

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The Hyderabad baby aubergines with coconut and curry leaves we had next were nice, but lacked a little oomph compared to the other dishes, we thought.

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The Lasooni scallop with goan sausage, poha and seaweed (we had one each) were really nice! Perfectly cooked, the roe still attached and full of flavour.

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Next we had another seafood dish; butter garlic crab with seaweed papad (papadums) which was also delicious. It was served warm but we still had some left towards the end of the meal and it was just as nice cold.

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The kathi roll with duck leg was utterly moreish and perfectly paired with the peanut chutney and pickled cucumber.

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Although it may not look that special, this kulcha bread with bone marrow and cep was amazing!

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The last dish we had were these grilled lamb chops that we could see on the pass when we arrived and I knew straight away from the smell that they would be delicious. They certainly were and the two sauces; yoghurt with black stone flower and wild garlic chutney were lovely too!

Although using lots of Indian flavours and ingredients there is definitely an element of cross-over here, by using wild garlic and creating dishes full of flavour but not too spicy. I’m sold! And will be back shortly. Probably with Felicity as we both loved it!

Kricket, 12 Denman Street, London W1D 7HH