London: relaxed dinner at The Ninth

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You have to search far and wide to find a more relaxed Michelin starred restaurant. In London at least. But that’s also what I love about The Ninth; that it (and its staff) seem so relaxed without losing the professional edge. That just sets a perfect ambience for the guests and you feel like it’s just your table there although there are other guests and staff surrounding you.

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It probably helps that The Ninth is situated in Charlotte Street; still central and an area for dining out, but without the worst hustle and bustle of Soho (and yet – it’s still within walking distance).

Arriving a little late, and flustered, for our dinner here – due to the sometimes terrible London traffic, it was like stepping into a calm oasis. We were seated at our table, felt like we had all the time in the world to decide on the wine and study the menu and immediately we lowered our shoulders and took the time we needed.

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Which wasn’t all that much; the only problem was narrowing down what to eat as we’d happily eaten our way through the entire menu had we been able! Instead we started with a light snack of barbajuan, little parcels filled with spinach, pine nuts and cheese (if I remember correctly). They were very good and the perfect start to our dinner.

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Next we had pasta; orecchiette with an egg yolk and PLENTY of black truffle which I love. This was a lovely dish. So simple but perfectly executed.

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Our next pasta dish was fried gnocchi with mussels, which was also very nice but slightly overshadowed by the truffle feast. In the background lovely baked root vegetables with Fourme d’Ambert. Delicious!

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The piece de resistance here was not the pudding (we were too full to even consider it!) but the main course, a beautiful duck breast cooked to perfection, with rhubarb, rainbow chard and granola. The crispy Belle de Fontenay potatoes and the root vegetables were the perfect accompaniments.

It was such a lovely dinner – and evening. Instead of pudding we had champagne at the nearby Charlotte Street Hotel and then ventured into Soho.

The Ninth, 22 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2NB

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Gnocchi with creamy butternut sauce

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I’m a very seasonal person. Despite the mainly chilly weather at the moment I can’t face putting tights or warm jackets on. Because it is summer. Instead I layer up on my upper body but keep my legs bare (if I’m wearing a skirt or dress for work). I’m used to this approach but people in the office think I’m a little strange. Fair enough, I think.

But when it comes to food it’s harder. Sure, I incorporate as much asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes and new potatoes into my diet as I possibly can, but instead of craving salads I still want warm filling food. So while this autumnal recipe of gnocchi with a lovely creamy butternut squash sauce with both cream and parmesan may suit the post-bikini season better it’s what I fancy eating right now. Until summer arrives. Then bring on the salads!

Gnocchi with creamy butternut sauce, serves 2 

1/2 butternut squash

olive oil

salt & pepper

approx 300 g gnocchi, cooked according to the instructions on the packet 

50-100 ml single cream

finely grated parmesan

a few sprigs of thyme (sage works too!)

Peel the squash and remove the strings and seeds. Cut into even-sized pieces and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Stir to coat all the pieces with oil. Place in the oven and roast until the pumpkin is soft, approx 35 mins in 200C. 

Cook the gnocchi and keep it warm.  

Purée the roasted squash with a stick blender. Add (cold) cream until you have a nice thick sauce. Season with salt, pepper and grated parmesan. Heat up the sauce in a non-stick saucepan while stirring, if needed. Pour the sauce over the gnocchi, top with more grated parmesan and some thyme leaves. 

Fried gnocchi with wild garlic pesto and cherry tomatoes

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I received evidence from my mother last week that the wild garlic season has started in Sweden, and therefore probably in the UK as well. Hurrah!

I love these oniony garlicky green leaves so much, I keep a bundle of blanched ones in the freezer at all times. It feels comforting that I can make wild garlic mayo all year round. Or wild garlic pesto. It’s fab with fried gnocchi (it gives them a bit more texture), fresh cherry tomatoes and plenty of grated parmesan.

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Fried gnocchi with wild garlic pesto and cherry tomatoes, serves 2

1 batch gnocchi 

1 batch wild garlic pesto

150 g cherry tomatoes

finely grated parmesan

Make the pesto and put it aside. Make the gnocchi and cook them. Then fry in butter until golden. Mix with plenty of the pesto. Cut the cherry the tomatoes in half and mix with the gnocchi. Season to taste. Add olive oil if you want a looser consistency. Top with plenty of grated parmesan.

Gnocchi with Stilton sauce and spinach

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Homemade gnocchi is easy to make and unlike when you make pasta you don’t need any machines or tools. Just a bowl, your hands and a fork. I also prefer home made gnocchi to the store bought ones as I find they go soggy faster (and in a different way).

For me, the best ways to serve gnocchi is either boiled with a simple sauce or for a bit more texture, fried with some pancetta and vegetables. During the winter months the sauce option is to prefer and this creamy Stilton sauce with spinach is just wonderful. Pure comfort.

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Gnocchi with Stilton sauce and spinach, serves 2

Inspired by a dish at Carluccio’s in London.

1 batch gnocchi

200 ml cream 

100 g Stilton

grated nutmeg

salt and white pepper

150-200 g fresh spinach

Make the gnocchi ready for the pan. Heat up the cream in a non-stick saucepan and add the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large sacuepan, add 1 cm water and bring to the boil. Add the spinach and put the lid on. Remove the lid after a minute and stir until the spinach have wilted. Drain from water in a sieve. 

Add the gnocchi to boiling water in a large saucepan. When they float up to the surface remove with a slotted spoon. Heat up the sauce. Divide the gnocchi and spinach between two plates. Spoon over the sauce and serve. 

Crispy gnocchi with lardons, rocket and pecorino

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Since I moved to London five years ago I have developed my food skills a lot. I am a better cook and I think even more about food than I did before, which I actually thought was impossible.

And because I am older and also have adopted the British ways a little, I do what I can not to waste food.

I don’t rely on use-by-dates, I use my nose and eyes instead. I utilise the freezer a lot, and plan my meals according to what I have in my fridge that needs to be used up. In fact, I find it so satisfying to use up things I have at hand to create a nice meal, that I sometimes prefer that to trying new exciting recipes. It is hands on problem solving, and very gratifying.

This dish is all about using up leftovers but it is also a very tasty way of doing so.

Crispy gnocchi with lardons, rocket and pecorino, serves 1-2

1/2 batch left over gnocchi

100-125 g lardons, finely chopped

a decent knob of butter

salt, pepper

1-2 handfuls rocket

grated pecorino for serving

Fry the lardons crispy on medium heat in a frying pan. Transfer to a plate and add the butter to the fat in the pan. Fry the gnocchi crispy on both sides and add the lardons back to the pan. Add the rocket and let it wilt. Season well. Plate and serve with grated pecorino. 

 

Gnocchi bake with pancetta

This is my second version of gnocchi bake (you find the first version here). I think gnocchi is a nice substitute for pasta. Ok, yes, technically it IS pasta, but both texture and taste is different because of the added potatoes.

Next up I want to make my own gnocchi, but lackling the time or patience, I recommend the brand Del Ugo. It is fresh gnocchi, that doesn’t need to be cooked before added to the bake.

This dish is rich and creamy, and some days call for nothing less than creamy indulgence. The recipe is very simple, but the pancetta gives the gratin all the flavour it needs. Sometimes there is no need to complicate matters.

Gnocchi bake with pancetta, serves 4

500 g fresh gnocchi

100 g pancetta cubes

200 ml creme fraiche

100 ml cream

chopped parsley

1 handful grated cheese

Fry the pancetta crispy. Drain on kitchen towel. Grease an oven dish. Add gnocchi (uncooked) and the pancetta. Mix creme fraiche and cream (+ salt and pepper) and pour into the dish.  Scatter the parsley and top with the cheese. Bake in 200C 20-30 min.