Thursday, December 24, 2009

More Tunisian Cakes

Haifa brought some more cakes as a gift to my family for Christmas. Just wanted to share a photo, as they're so pretty. They taste how they look; almond, pistachio, honey, rose water and orange flower water.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Amberley Castle - Review

I grew up near Amberley Castle and my parents still live closeby. Imposing medieval ramparts surround the grand hotel and restaurant, about which I had heard enticing snippets - fairytale wedding receptions (we see the newly-weds' helicopters taking off and landing there), sumptuous rooms, absolutely top-notch meals in the plush dining room and whopping prices.

To justify the prices, I saw staying there as a life experience, and took advantage of their autumn deal - £350 for dinner, bed and breakfast for one night. Ouch. Ignoring that, my companion and I were absolutely going to make the most of this and were really excited to drive up towards the huge floodlit stone walls and wide towers, and through the portcullis.

The welcome was warm and down-to-earth - really helpful and pleasant staff. We were taken up grand and then narrow stairs to our large, beamed room in the roof, with lovely gas fire that had actual fire-like flames. Nice bathroom. Huge bed. Fabulous original features and great interior decor. We had to get the sheets changed, as they seemed to have sand in them, but that sort of problem can happen anywhere. I lifted the table cloth on the curved dressing table to find that it was constructed out of MDF. Come to think of it - I thought - the carpet on the stairs was quite scruffy.

Lovely fire

I tried not to feel disappointed. But couldn't help wondering how people could make such a very real castle feel like a fake one...

Anyway, I ignored all that and got dressed up for supper, my companion looking dapper, and we made our way to the dining room.


The dining room was hushed. I loved the gas fire in the bedroom - like having a real fire but without the responsibility - but I was let down by having a larger version in the dining room, because I had expected a real log fire, complete with crackles and woodsmoke smell. Even a little one would have been nice. Apart from that, the suit of armour and old portraits on the stone walls made for a suitably castley room.

The hushedness was almost deafening and made me want to be rowdy. Everyone was whispering. Even in the poshest restaurants people should surely be enjoying their meal and each other's company, rather than acting like they're at a funeral wake? How did Amberley Castle manage to create this sombre atmosphere that obliged whispering?

I am not going to go into massive detail about the meal, but give an overview: Imaginative and enticing menu, pretty food, lovely flavours, several basic mistakes (e.g. over-cooked sweetbreads). The dishes didn't match up to the descriptions on the menu. The sommelier's advice was difficult to extract and was off the mark. The waiter didn't listen to my questions properly - he was distracted.

All-in-all, it was a special meal, but not in any way deserved of all the hushed pomp it was served in. I enjoyed the food but the price made it hard to swallow, especially as the deal did not include any wine! Another £40...

Medieval dining room

If I had eaten the meal in more normal circumstances it would have been great, but high prices make you notice every negative detail and each slip feels like you're being sold faulty goods. Ditto the rooms.

After supper, we found that our champagne glasses had been taken out of our bedroom. We immediately rang reception but there was no answer. We left the room to go to reception, but suddenly the castle was dark and silent. We had only left dinner a few minutes earlier, but now everyone had gone home or gone to bed! We called out, went to the kitchen, but couldn't find another soul. In the end, we just took some glasses off the tables that were laid for breakfast and tip-toed back to our room.


Breakfast was excellent. Tasty local sausages, plenty of choice, all really good. The dining room seemed friendlier in the morning, and the fire was less conspicuous and more cosy on that blustery wet day. Very enjoyable indeed.


Hugely overpriced. For what they are charging, everything should be perfect and proper - far less pomp and way more attention to detail. I had been so excited about my stay but by the time I left I could no longer ignore all the things I had been ignoring, and overall felt an underwhelming disappointment. And a bit ripped off. And slightly indignant. Nice castle, though.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Apple & Pear Eau de Vie

Having failed to make alcohol with plums and greengages (no sugar meant it turned to vinegar), I'm now attempting eau de vie with apples and pears from the garden. Not strictly legal, but I have a hydrometer to test the alcohol, so it shouldn't make me blind. Updates to follow...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chilies, Cucumbers & Quinces

The Taylors (Biddy's folks) always have a warm and welcoming kitchen, usually with simple, high-quality food on the table. Most veg and fruit is homegrown, bread is freshly baked, and superb (but incredible value) cheese is from the market.

Last time I visited was after a night on the town with Biddy and Maija, so the wholesome food was medicinal as well as delicious. Then I had a long drive home. I arrived back feeling dehydrated and queezy, but had been sent on my way with these lovely vegetables from the Taylors' garden. An absolutely delicious cucumber, tomato, chili and mint salad refreshed and revived me.

A couple of days later, I baked apples with slivers of the Taylors' quinces, adding lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, butter and sloe gin into the mix. Deeelightful with clotted cream, and the quince makes a big difference, transforming sweet 'n sour apples, with its fragrant layers of muskiness.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big Easy Lobster & Steak

I'd been wanting to eat at this American diner in London for ages, so when a girls' night out needed somewhere to eat, I made suggestions. It was the combination of lobster, steak and cocktails that did it for me.

Having looked on the website, and chosen our dishes, two of us phoned separately to check on what deals they had on, because the ones mentioned were out of date. We were both assured that the deal would be running on the Friday night we planned to go.

When we got there, we were told noway! Not on a Friday! We explained our case to the manager, and thankfully got the deals we expected.

Anyway, the food was very tasty, the steak tender and the cocktails excellent. We all had a thoroughly enjoyable meal. But we all agreed that it wouldn't have been worth it and we'd have felt ripped off had we paid the full Friday night price, which would have cost about £40 extra EACH!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oyster Farming Village & Steak, South-West France

I got to France for the last weekend in August, and went on a road trip to the beach for a mate's birthday celebration. A big load friends that go waaay back got together for a couple of days of sun, sea, camping, booze, oysters, steak and booze. It was iconic.

One morning, feeling hungover, we cycled in the fresh morning sun to an oyster farming village, made up of lots of tiny wooden houses, with sand-filled alleyways serving as streets. After exploring the nooks, and chatting to locals, we settled at a seaside restaurant that serves only oysters and wine. My 25 or so oysters went down such a treat. After them and a few glasses of crisp white, my hangover was much more manageable, and the beating sun was calling me to the white sand beach for a nap.

One evening, we cycled through the pine woodland of the Landes national park, to go to the outdoor steak-and-chips restaurant that is a regular beach stop-off for a few of us. 20 round a long table, we were served a selection of different barbecued steaks that had been cut off the carcass just before going on the grill.

Thick, juicy, full of flavour, tender and very rare - everyone loved it! It's so refreshing to be with a big bunch of people, including a lot of Brits, with no-one being fussy about eating beef or the level of cookedness. We just ordered steak and chips for everyone, and let Fred (owner and chef at Chez Fred) do what he does so well.

After putting away my own body weight in meat, chips, ice-cream, wine and cognac, the cycle home in the dark, through woodland, on a narrow path, with no proper lights was a challenge. I wobbled around, couldn't manage to cycle in a straight line, squealed a few times and might have had a tiny tantrum, but I was glad of the ride (and sober) by the time we got back to the campsite.

The food and setting for those couple of days were heavenly, but the best thing was catching up with so many good friends. :)

September in France

...was lovely, as usual. But France Telecom (or France Teleco*ks as I like to call them) managed to mess up both my phone line and internet connection for the whole month I was there - quite an achievement, I know, but inconvenient when you work freelance entirely online. That's why I've been very quiet on the blog and twitter recently.

Anyway, I consoled myself with the endless supply of those juicy garden tomatoes, along with courgettes and aubergines from the garden. Creamy, homegrown aubergines are far more enjoyable than shop-bought ones, both in terms of the unctuous texture and a more fragrant flavour. Courgettes are nuttier. I enjoyed lots of both, roasted, fried and barbecued, often with garlic (raw or cooked with the veg), sometimes with lemon juice, usually with garden herbs.

As for the tomatoes, see my previous post. I just gorged on them as anticipated, and it was fabulous.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Indian Fish Festival

Kasturi are having a fish festival in September, and I was very privileged to get a sneak preview of the festival menu (plus a some chicken), this week.

Kasturi’s Aldgate premises are unassuming from the outside, but elegant and fresh within. The food looks fantastic and tastes even better...

Starting with a dreamy creamy mango lassi (for £2.10) was very enjoyable, especially as the lassi was not too sweet. We were then served an assortment of little starters on one big platter. These included a wonderful crab kebab, packed with fragrant herbs and hot spice, that did not drown the delectable crab flavour. There was also salmon tikki, which I would never have chosen from a menu, (salmon and tikki not quite matching in my head), but which was absolutely delicious – beautifully cooked, as well. Pieces of marinated chicken were the tenderest chicken I have ever eaten, again beautifully cooked. My fellow diner and I were quite stunned by it. I am told that 15 hours of marinating is the key to that tenderness. I don’t know why, but I think I subconsciously assumed that you go to an Indian restaurant for flavour rather than perfectly cooked meat and fish, but this extra dimension of care took the meal onto a whole new level.

Back to the platter, because there were also little chicken joints in a sweet red sauce that had caramelized and gone gooey and crispy during cooking – too sweet (for my taste) to have that alone, but a thoroughly delicious contrast to the other light, fragrant and spicy starters. The starter platter came with a punchy salsa and a gorgeous green sauce, which tasted almost like freshly cut grass, and was apparently made with a mix of herbs, green fruits and seeds.

For our main course, we tried the seafood biryani (£11.95) and mahi rolls (£9.95). The Biryani had a rainbow of flavours, the memory of which are making my mouth water as I write. It included perfectly cooked seafood, of course, with the unexpected addition of dill, which worked really well with the other flavours, and tied the salmon to the rest of the biryani.

Mahi rolls, seafood biryani, vegetable curry and ochra with shallots

The mahi rolls were something else; delicate fillets of fish, encasing a mixture of herbs, spices and chopped fish, and all covered in a fragrant coconut sauce - a very special dish.

Our main course came with a vegetable curry for the biryani, and some addictively scrumptious crispy fried ochra and shallots.

We finished off our delectable meal with mango kulfi to share. I so wanted to try the delightful-sounding dessert with cardamon, saffron, cream and carrot, but just didn’t have room. After my experience of Kasturi, I am not surprised that this multi award-winning restaurant is getting so many rave reviews.

So, if you fancy trying some of the dishes I so enjoyed sampling, make sure you don’t miss the Kasturi Fish Festival! While I was enthusing about the food to the restaurant’s passionate owner and manager, Bashir, he reminded me that the samples I was tasting were not as good as if it were cooked for the festival, because mine was done individually that evening – if cooking in big batches for the festival, the food would have longer to marinate, and flavours would develop further in the larger quantities.

Kasturi specialises in Pakhtoon cuisine, with grilled dishes that make the most of the cooking juices from meat and vegetables. They serve an exciting range of dishes, and place lots of importance on colour and texture, without “changing the true nature of Indian food for the sake of undefined modernisation”.

The service I experienced was good. Some of the junior members of staff seemed a bit nervy, as if it was their first day of work, but the management made sure everything ran smoothly, and general manager, Rahman, was warm, kind, and very helpful.

For more information, visit

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tomato Fest, France

I'll soon be off to catch the end of the French tomato season. However much you pay, wherever you shop, whatever you grow, it is literally not possible to have a true tomato experience in the UK. Toms in Britain are more acidic and the textures are all broken up into skin, seeds, liquid, and solid flesh. In France, in season, they are juicy, fruity, smooth and soft. Not pappy, mind, just with synergistic textures that are tender but satisfying.

Tomato jelly with goats' cheese, France

Anyway, there are some growing in my garden in France, so I am very excited about making the most of them while I'm there. They are the montfavet variety, and I am also looking forward to buying some luscious marmande ones from the village market - they come in all shapes, sizes and colours, and the stall owners ask what you are going to use them for, before selecting suitable specimens from the pile.

Here's what I did with homegrown French tomatoes one year, when I had a glut (see photo above). Now, though, they will be a novelty again, so will probably all end up as tomato salads, which are a completely different and a stupendously delicious dish, if made with the French tomatoes. Hmmm and atop pizzas, and maybe a few gazpachos, and in more imaginative salads. Yeah, well I might play a bit, but no jelly - I'll need all my time to eat tomatoes, and won't have any left to fiddle around with them.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Beer Bread

I am brewing some ale. Today, I siphoned it out of the fermentation bin, leaving the velvety sludge of yeast behind. The sludge smelt so incredibly delicious, filling the senses with powerful beery, yeasty, malty fumes, that I couldn't bear to chuck it all away.

I used a couple of dollops in with wholemeal flour, a spoon of malt extract, slosh of fermenting beer, pinch of salt and some milk, to make bread. It was a complete experiment, because I had no idea if the yeast would work well enough to make the bread rise, or what it would taste like.

Toasted beer bread, buttered

It was a brilliant success! It smelt like a dream bakery from a century ago, as well as a bit of pub carpet (in a good way). Honestly, though, it was such a wonderful smell. Tasted damn good, too! It had a really full flavour that was miraculously similar to the smell.

One slight draw back; my bread had a bitter aftertaste. With butter and jam or cheese, the bitterness wasn't noticeable, but the beery flavour still was. Next time, though, no actual beer, and more malt extract.

The yeast took longer than packet yeast to start working enthusiastically, but after a couple of hours it was really going for it. I kneaded it again, made it into a twisty loaf, left it under cling film to rise again, and then baked it at 180˚C for about 20 - 25 minutes. It came out with a moist and crumby texture, and you know the rest.

I left the lovely, pretty beer loaf on the kitchen surface, and when I went back to take photos, this was all that remained. Which must be an excellent sign.

Bread remains :)

Now, what to do with the rest of the sludge... There's way too much to use just by making another non-bitter loaf. Any ideas?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Plums & Mirabelles

Another non-adventure, really, but it was at least a very rewarding stroll down the garden. I found that the first victoria plums and mirabelles are ready. This means crumble etc, but also some magical eau de vie (distilled alcoholic drink), made with the fallen and half eaten ones...

Today's plums

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Rasperry Pavlova

My ma made this pavlova this evening, with hazelnut meringue, thick cream, toasted hazelnuts and fresh raspberries. Such an enjoyable combination of textures and flavours. It was ideal after a rare roast beef feast.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tunisian Cakes

My brother's Tunisian fiancé came to the UK this week, to meet the family. She brought these beautiful homemade cakes as a gift. They are absolutely delicious; not too sweet, so you can really taste the fragrant pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, orange flower water, rose water and dried fruit that they are made of. As my tactful mum commented in response to opening the boxes of these treasures, "wow, you've really started off well here!".

It makes me emotional when such an effort is put in to make food so pretty and delicate and delicious. For me, that is what life is about, making the most of basic human pleasures, and giving to each other. See! The cakes have even made me philosophical! Is this normal?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Monaco, Cannes & Cuttlefish

A couple of days working in Monaco last week meant parma ham and hot peppers for lunch, whilst watching superyachts and listening to the regular roar of supercars.

I was staying with a friend in Cannes, and the evening meals included a pizza, valpolicella and limoncello in the local Sicilian-run pizzeria, plus two beach picnics. So nice to be on the beach at night and warm! Isn't that what summer is supposed to be like?

Superyachts and swimmers, Cannes

Beach picnic parties consisted of champagne and rosé, all sorts of perfectly ripe French and Italian cheeses, baguettes and olive bread, fruit and olives. There was a plum tart, too, with crumbly pastry and a thick layer of almond paste - mmmmm-m! There was even candlelight, music (a Michael Jackson extravaganza), and dancing!

Camembert by candlelight

On my last day, I had time for some sun-bathing and lunch on the beach, before catching my flight. Attracted by the bustling open kitchen and the sight and smell of the seafood dishes, we picked L'Annex as our beach-side restaurant. I chose the cuttlefish which I had seen being prepared for other diners and looked amazing. My companions chose another cuttlefish and tuna steak. We sipped ice-cold rosé and nibbled light baguette slices as we waited for the griddled seafood to arrive.

We were not disappointed! The seafood itself was perfectly cooked and super-fresh. The pungent garlic and basil sauce that was poured all over it was absolutely mouth-watering. Ideal! Ideal food, ideal to be eating it on Cannes beach! This is one of my favourite ever meal memories.

After the food and wine, my lovely friend hired sun loungers, and I soaked up the rays for as long as possible. We drank sparkling mineral water and cava. When the empty cava bottle was discovered, we were repremanded like naughty school children, for bringing our own drink. This, despite paying a fortune for the loungers, and spending €90 on the meal for 3. Oh well, I forgive them due to the idyllic day and the perfect lunch.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Snail Feast

June spent in France was wonderful; catching up with old friends, enjoying the novelty of the amazing produce, re-acquainting myself with my kitchen and garden, and proper hot summer weather.

When I first arrived, my herbs were being munched by a plague of snails. So I decided to resolve the problem by munching them. Previously, I had been put off by unsuccessful snail-cooking attempts, and there were never that many of them to cook. This time there were dozens and dozens, and I was determined to make them delicious. I had three weeks to purge them (fed only on bread followed by days of nothing at all), before serving them up to friends as a goodbye meal at the end of my stay.

Three weeks of culinary adventures and good times went by. The day of the feast arrived hot and sunny, and I drove my blue banger to the village to get some still-warm baguettes, wine, salad, a massive bunch of parsley and butter. Then, back to my little beauties...

I boiled a huge jam pan of water, rinsed off the snails, shook them to make them retreat into their shells, and winced as I chucked the lot into the boiling water. Job done, the worst bit over. After a few minutes, the snails were draining and cooling and definitely dead. I extracted each one from its shell and removed its twirly gut end, before boiling the meats with herbs and stock veg for 3 hours. The shells were rinsed, boiled in fresh water, and left in the sun to dry.

Meanwhile, I chopped the mountains of garlic and parsley, stirred them into soft butter, and seasoned the mixture with plenty of salt.

Then came a few hours of stuffing each snail back into a shell, each squadged in with a load of the persilade (garlic and parsley butter).

Preparing snails

Next, I dressed the table, mixed the salad, opened the wine, and set out nibbles. Once my guests had arrived, and were having aperitifs, I put the snails in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Out they came, sizzling and smelling fantastic. I dished them up at the table and finally found out that my snail adventure had been a success - they were absolutely delicious, and this was confirmed by my guests, who were Dutch, English and French. The Frenchman commented that he hadn't had snails in ages, and it was funny that this time they had been cooked by an English person. The Dutchman had never eaten snails, and was delighted by them. The Englishman had tasted my previous attempts and was relieved that these were not only edible but extremely palatable and moreish. Hmmm even more salt with the butter next time, though, I think.

Tasty snails

I was thrilled that I had been able to make these slimy creatures tasty at last, and that I had put my snail glut to such extremely good use. All the effort and man hours had been worthwhile. I will definitely be making this a regular pest-control exercise/snail party.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Indonesian Beef Rendang Daging

The lovely Julia invited me and a friend over to try some of her expert Indonesian cooking. She had learned the cuisine from a street food seller, having committed to getting up at 4am everyday of her stay in Indonesia, to spend time cooking with the bemused lady.

Last night we had this scrumptious, rich rendang daging; beef cooked slowly in coconut milk, with herbs, spices and chillies, and served with caramelized shallots sprinkled over the top.

Authentic beef rendang daging

We also drank Clarette de Die infused with apricots as an aperitif, then had a superb starter of Mexican prawn ceviche. After the rendang daging came a cheese selection and salad, and everything was washed down with litres of rosé.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Borage in Pimm's

I'm lucky that my parents have got a whole patch of borage, ready for adding a bit of magic to food and drink. Pink Pimm's and lemonade looked so special and summery yesterday evening, with strawberries, cucumber, tangerine, mint leaves and the pretty blue borage flowers (starflowers). They really do taste of cucumber, although the flavour is quite subtle. I was too wrapped up in enjoying the Pimm's moment with family and friends to take photos, damnit, but here is one I took today of the flowers.

Borage or starflowers

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ché Maté Gourd, Bombilla & Arabic Coffee Pot

These interesting drink vessels were birthday presents. I got the beautiful Arabic coffee pot (plus Arabic coffee, Arabic cakes, some red wine and bowls for serving curry) from my brother, and the calabash (gourd) and bombilla (filtering straw) from my friend Biddy.

Biddy and I had seen everyone drinking ché maté from gourds in Argentina and southern Brazil, and then tried it ourselves on a beach in Bahia (northern Brazil), with Israeli friends who had the equipment. The tea is quite bitter and very much like green tea, I find. I sip it when I'm working alone at a desk in the UK, but it is more enjoyable drunk with friends on a Brazilian beach, and served with homemade coconut sweets from a beach seller...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Arabic Cured Beef

Pirran (bro) came back from Qatar again today, with another excellent present for me; delicious Arabic cured beef. It is strongly infused with a cocktail of aromatic spices, and is very soft and tender. I haven't tasted anything like it before - it's comparable to pastrami, although I don't like pastrami and this amazing stuff is cured raw rather than hot-smoked.

Arabic cured beef

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Homegrown Strawberries

Hmmm... well, I mentioned that I'm excited to get back to my kitchen and to garden produce in France, as well as to the superb local strawberries. So it's of a bummer that the strawberries in my garden are ready right now! Hopefully there'll still be some late ones ripening by the time I get home, but in the meantime I'll have to make do with this juicy photo of a small proportion of the strawbs from my garden, and console myself with the fact that my kind friend who tends the garden is getting a well-deserved reward. (Photo courtesy of gardening friend.) I must plant some more varieties so that there are always strawberries whenever I arrive between May and September.

Juicy, fragrant, delicious, organic, homegrown strawberries.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flavoured Coffee

I've just received some flavoured Colombian coffee samples from Cherizena ( They've recently launched their blueberry cream coffee, and I was dying to try it - love anything blueberry! They also sent vanilla nut flavour and their chocolate and raspberries flavour. All smell gorgeous, although the blueberry and vanilla ones smell slightly sickly, if only because I associate those aromas with very sweet syrups. But here's the beauty of these coffees; I really enjoy having syprups, such as hazelnut, in coffee - especially iced coffee - but I can't bare sugar in white coffee. The syrups are always so sweet, which ruins the whole effect for me, but with these flavoured coffees, you get the taste but don't have to endure sweetness. Brilliant!

The chocolate and raspberries variety smells the most delicious to me, but so far I have only tried the blueberry cream. It was a lovely drink in its own right; you can still enjoy the coffee itself, but the blueberry is satisfyingly strong and leaves a very nice taste in your mouth. You need to be in an indulgent blueberry coffee mood rather than an ordinary coffee mood to enjoy it fully, but I'll definitely be drinking this delight again. Mmm the kitchen smells damn good now, too! I can't wait to try the other flavours, but I've had rather a lot of caffeine already today.

Cherizena make their flavoured coffees simply by soaking robust Arabica Colombian coffee beans in flavour-infused oil, then leaving them to dry naturally. They also sell speciality and rare coffees, without the flavourings.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Yey! Back to France!

...Well, only for 3 weeks (8th - 30th June), which will rush by, but I'm soooo looking forward to being back in my kitchen! Just the prospect of returning is making me all freshly inspired and enthused about cooking, concocting and just generally eating; homemade perfect pizzas cooked in my wood-fired oven, ridiculously rich homemade ice-creams, salads of lush home-grown or market produce and garden herbs, cool summer soups, scrambled village eggs, barbecued meat and fish and cephalopods and fruit and veg and breads, picnics and booze on the beach, croissants and pain au chocolat with coffee, steak tartare, fruits de mer, oozing little goat cheeses... and so on, and on... Ooh, and I'll make a strawberry tart with the wonderously juicy and fragrant local varieties that are in season! Actually, how the hell am I going to fit all of my French food fun into 3 weeks?

My kitchen in France

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Brighton; Kurdish Restaurant Reccommendation, Pomegranate

There are so many restaurants in Brighton, mostly with the same 'for-educated-foodies-but-not-fine-dining' aim, that it is difficult to decide which to try next, and a gamble that your chosen venue will achieve its aim. Here is one to try that you might miss, without a recommendation: Pomegranate, in Kemptown. It's in a side street (Manchester St), just near Harry Ramsden's on the sea front, and it's not only good, but interesting and exciting, too.

For starters, the very fresh garlic chilli prawns were juicy, perfectly cooked and genuinely very spicy and garlicky indeed. They were covered in chili oil and coriander in oil, richly seasoned, and served on top of a light flatbread. The flatbread soaked up the absolutely delicious oil and juices. Yesss! It was that elusive find; a chef who is not afraid of serving plenty of flavour or oil. My companion was so impressed, that he ordered a second plate of the spicy prawn dish to go with his main course.

Prawns with garlic and hot pepper

Next up was lamb kebabs for me, lamb chops for him. The kebab dish was one of the nicest things I've ever had in my mouth; plate-sized, puffy, soft flatbread, with chunks of tender griddled lamb, Pomegranate's 'special butter-yogurt sauce', HOT and fragrant chili oil in a pot, beautifully roasted Mediterranean vegetables, delicate salad (lovely, not-too-sweet honey dressing), and this buttery, salty erm.. stuff all over the bread and soaked into a little mound of rice. I would normally leave all the rice with a carby dish like this, but the butter sauce was so unbelievably delicious, that I had to keep going. I didn't want this dining experience to end, anyway. Plus, I kept having sneaky tastes of the prawns again, and then having to finish once more on the butter.

The generous portion of char-grilled chops came with a mellow lemon and oregano oil, dainty salads and rice. Both massive platefuls were big on presentation, but the portions were not over-sized - just generous and presented with a bit of refined and pretty drama.

Lamb kebabs

Everything was so goddamn tasty, running with flavour and mouthwatering juices, and perfectly balanced in every direction. All the dishes were clearly cooked to order, and everything was certainly made from scratch on the unassuming premises. I really wish I'd had room to taste the delightful-sounding stuffed figs, but hopefully another time. Even though I'm usually on a mission to keep trying new places, this is one place I have to go back to - my mouth waters at the thought.

The prawns were £6.50, the main courses about £12 - amazing value, considering the thought, skill, ingredients and effort that had gone into the food here, compared to other similarly-priced restaurants. I've just seen from Pomegranate's website (, that their ingredients are organic, and the chef (Hassan) is also the joint owner, which all helps.

The waitress (is that the owner/chef's partner, Zelal?) was friendly, attentive and discreet. The timing between courses was ideal. (UPDATE: That wasn't Zelal - we met her the next time we ate here, when she was our waitress - highly professional with a sparkling sense of humour.)

I'm utterly chuffed to have found this eating option! Thank-you, Pomegranate, for a special meal.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Massive Morel

I went for a walk and was scanning the banks and hedgerows for edible goodies, as usual, when this monster loomed before my eyes! Having previously poisoned myself with fungi, I was naturally very paranoid that I had correctly identified the beast, but mycology forum posts have confirmed that it is definitely an edible black morel. Now I have to decide how to cook it...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thanks to Embratur

...for sending me a mini Brazilian food journey, when they heard about my distressing tale, below.

I got some malty Palma Louca lager, some lovely smooth, chocolaty ground coffee (Taylors of Harrogate's Café Brasilia), and some Guarana soft drinks, which remind me of coach trip service station stops in the Amazon. Plus some recipes and the photos from a foodie trip around Brazil. I loved the beer and the coffee, but the trip pics just made me jealous!

Thanks, guys! :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Brazilian Food Journey in London ...that I missed

I've been feeling sad (actually quite distraught) that I'm missing the carnival in Rio and Salvador, but was looking forward to the little ray of sunshine that was the MediaPlace 'Brazilian Food Journey' event at Favela Chic, in London. Embratur, the Brazilian tourist board, were sponsoring the event. So, I eagerly bought my train ticket and planned my journey so that I could get there right from the beginning. Unfortunately, someone jumped in front of a train, so a series of delays, lost conductors and cancellations ensued over the next few hours. When I finally arrived at Favela Chic, the event was over and all the food and drink was gone!! :'( All that was left was the remnants of this table of fruit, which looks like it had been a fabulous replica of a Bahian cocktail stand.

I tried my best to have a Brazilian night anyway, and enjoyed the live Brazilian band, authentic Brazileiro atmosphere, and one or two or three caiparinhas. I was still gutted, though!

Meanwhile, I am currently uploading the story of my own real-life Brazilian food journey to this blog, below. I was away for 3 months, and have so far completed the 1st week of blogs, so keep checking back - more is being added every day.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fragrant Pomegranate

I was inspired by the scents and flavours of the Arabic pastries, and by having pomegranates in the larder. The consequential imaginings of North African/ Tunisian fruit salad made my mouth water, but I did not have all the ingredients necessary (pomegranate, dried dates, banana and other suitable fruits that you might have in stock, with rose water, orange flower water), and wasn't in the mood to chop fruit. So, I just cut a pomegranate in half, and sprinkled the cut edge of one half with orange flower water and rose water, then tucked in with a teaspoon. Delightful! It worked a treat, was fresh and fragrant, and evoked the flavours of the Orient. Makes a refreshing snack.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Arabian Mornings

Pirran (brother, fellow food adventurer) arrived back from Qatar this morning, and had brought my requested merchandise - Arabic coffee and dozens of pastries. The coffee is made with unroasted, ground coffee and a variety of spices and other items, such as lichen (!) and cardamon. Pirran bought it from the souk, where they mix the coffee to order, from the various sacks of aromatic ingredients. I knew he had come up with the goods before he gave them to me, because the amazing smell of the coffee fills the room in an instant, despite it being in sealed plastic bags.

It is drunk in a glass, without milk or sugar, and it is addictive. Especially when used to wash down the sweet, buttery, fragrant pastries and sweetmeats, which are flavoured with rose water, pistachios, almonds and pinenuts.

The coffee and pastries together are an ideal breakfast combination, and are a taste of dusty, sunny, mysterious places.

I'm also grateful to Pirran for transporting the coffee though customs, because it just looks so dodgy...