Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Pork joy

Today Brian the meat man made me happy. Apparently it doesn't take much. He delivered a pork belly of outrageous dimension, and after slashing it viciously I massaged it with garlic, fennel seeds, paprika and olive oil and roasted it to golden delicious. As we had a bit of an onion glut, I thought some nice oignons farci on the side would make my day, so blanched, halved and nestled into duck fat, topped with garlic, parsley, thyme, salt and breadcrumbs, they ventured into the oven for a couple of hours and emerged ambrosial. Pork joy indeed.

Also rocking my world this week: quails eggs, rolled in toasted cumin seeds and guerande salt, as featured at the Christening party I cooked for on Sunday, along with 60 meringues filled with rose cream and pomegranate seeds.

Finally, must mention the guilty pleasure roast chicken sandwiches that Camille and I put away at lunchtime. They had a shameful amount to do with tarragon and chicken fat. Don't knock it, chicken fat is the food of the Gods.

Monday, 19 November 2007

squash rage and hotpot

I thought long and hard about what to put on for vegetarians today ... I woke up from a dose yesterday evening with a start as a realised i hadn't done the ordering. Mmmmm Squash I thought. Alex slow roasted some the other week and they were delicious.
Stuffed with feta and toasted pine nuts. So they arrived and I set to them with a knife, slicing them length ways scooping the seeds out sprinkling of salt and pepper... but there was a sticker on the second to last one." Latina Squash, Panama" it said. I was straight on the phone to the veg supplier. "Why bother cooking with the seasons if it's flown in from the other side of the world?" I Said. "You need to specify british or european if thats what you want ... we just get what looks the best quality at the best price. The Supermarkets take all the british stuff so what ever is left is expensive" they said. Am I alone in thinking that this is the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time? I don't shop for fruit and veg from the supermarkets because most of it comes from peru, mexico, thailand or south africa ... and I am blessed with chapel market with its varied produce(yes yes I know a lot of it is from far flown places but there is lot that is not!). Anyway enough squash rage (they did come out nice all the same) and onto my Hotpot.

My Hotpot recipe is taken from Mark Hix's(...I heart him...) British Food Book, although I've changed it here and there over time.

Lamb Neck fillet 2k
Lamb Kidneys 1k (optional)
Maris Pipers 8 large
Spanish Onion 2 large
Quality Lamb of Beef Stock (chicken of vegetable can be used)
Rosemary 3 sprigs
plain flour a cup
salt pepper half a teaspoon of each

Slice the Lamb neck in to chunks about a finger width in thickness and put in a tray or bowl with some of the flour salt and pepper to coat all the meat in the seasoning and flour.

If using the Kidneys, take out the white sinewy stuff with scissors or small knife and slice in half then use the rest of the flour salt and pepper to coat the kidneys. (This will make a gooey mess but this is normal)

Slice the onions thinly and brown/caramalise in frying pan with oil. Bring your stock to the heat and add the onions. Leave simmering until needed. This may seem thin for a gravy but the flour that the lamb is coated in will thicken it when all together in the casserole dish in the oven.

Using the same fryng pan start sealing the lamb neck, this only need about 30 seconds on each side if your pan is hot enough. Set aside the lamb neck on a plate/bowl and repeat with the kidneys.

Peel your potatoes and slice about 2mm thick.... Now its time to start building the Hotpot.

Take a large Casserole dish or earthenware dish. It doesn't matter if you don't have a lid as foil to cover will do.
Line the bottom of the dish with potatoes , overlapping but not too much as this is more a meat than potato dish! Next arrange some of the lamb and the kidneys over the potaoes then pour over some of the onion gravy until almost covering the lamb and kidneys and add some sprigs of rosemary... then more potatoes, lamb and kidneys then onion gravy and rosemary. Carry on going until you fill the dish finishing with a neat layering of potatoes on the top.
Place a lid or cover with foil and put into the oven Gas mark 6 for 2 hours. If you are eating immediatley then take off the lid for the last 15 minutes to brown the potatoes on the top, if having later or the next day then pop in the oven without the lid/foil for 20 minutes of so.

I'm making cassoulet tomorrow. Now that is a recipe ... I'll try and get it on the blog by the end of the week.

How's the mushroom picking Pippa ?... hope you took some photoes to brighten up the blog!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Smoked eel and the origins of chowder

This month is all about eels.
Camille arrived back from Chapel market bearing 'a present' , not an unusual occurence. I wondered if it was going to be a salami or perhaps a vegetable peeler, but no, it was a muscular water beast with leathery skin, in a plastic bag. I had a hangover so I only dealt with the tail end that day, having glimpsed its rapacious features lurking in the bag like a predator in a 'B' movie. The back end became an eel and ale pie, which sounded pleasingly Dickensian.
Later in the week the self same eel (now ripped apart sans qualms) was turned into a brandade, in the place of salt cod, and into smoked eel and bacon chowder. We had been discussing whether something as 'American' as a chowder should feature on our menu, but greed led me to some etymological research and I discovered that chowder comes from the French 'chaudière' , apparently some sort of three-legged iron cauldron in which fishermen made stews from the catch of the day, so as is so often the case, in went the cream and potatoes.
I sadly neglected to immortalise the eel in a photograph, but as it was certainly no oil painting, this may be for the best.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


Halloween was a few days early this year as we celebrated the second birthday of the Charles Lamb Pub. I scooped out 25 Pumpkins of varying size for the locals to carve and this was put to good use in a Black Cabbage, Pumpkin and Pinenut Lasagne .... and Mariannes infamous Pumpkin Pie which brought a couple of regulars running over for their fix. I'll try and pry the recipe out of her to put up here!

Witches Brew was on the house ... a good autumn cider/perry punch spiced with star anise, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, cardamon, clove, soft brown sugar, some sharp apple juice, a little orange peel and a good slug of brandy.

It goes without saying that I was feeling a little worse for wear on Sunday ... too many Jägermeister shots I think.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Christmas Menu

Thanks for sending me the Christmas Menu, Camille! I can't wait to have a taste, it looks great!
It's now up on the Charles Lamb website, together with the new wine list, but I thought it should go up here too:

The Charles Lamb Christmas Menu 2007 - £27.50 per person

Cauliflower Soup with pickled pears and Roquefort

Pheasant and pistachio terrine with cornichons

Smoked Salmon with beetroot relish

Smoked Haddock and Scallop Pie with seasonal vegetables

Daube of Venison with roasted root vegetables

Confit of Duck with red cabbage and celeriac mash

Chou Farci stuffed with wild mushrooms, chestnuts and Reblochon

Tarte Tatin with Calvados crème fraîche

Figgy Pudding with brandy cream

Brie de Meaux and Fenugreek Gouda with chutney

Filter coffee with chocolate truffles

This Christams Menu is available from Tuesday the 4th until Friday 21st of December.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Entente Cordiale Tart

We were invited by some friends for a 'soirée rugby' last saturday - oops, sorry about the result, which slightly pooped the end of the party. Not wanting to take sides (Scotland got knocked out anyway), I took a

Cheddar and Shallot Tart:

Quantites are for a fairly shallow 20cm tart tin - serves 4 mains or 8 starters.

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
50 spelt flour (just to make it more nutty, but you can substitute any wholemeal flour or use all white if you prefer)
75g butter
pinch of salt
1 whole egg
dash of water (if necessary)

Rub ingredients together until they are well mixed and can be formed into a flat lump.
Roll out pastry into well greased tart tin, prick with a fork and bake blind for 10-15 minutes.

For the filling:
200g mature cheddar, grated
6 medium shallots (or 3 medium onions)
50g butter
500ml crème fraîche
2-3 eggs (depending on size)
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of ground piment d'espelette (my favourite! if unavailable, you can use sweet paprika instead)
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper
8 fresh sage leaves (for decoration)

Soften the shallots in butter for 15-20 minutes over a low heat but do not let them brown. Allow to cool.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add all the other ingredients, including the cooled shallots.
Pour into the pre-baked tart tin and decorate with sage leaves.
Bake in a medium oven (mine says 6, but the thermostat's decidedly unreliable!) for around 20 minutes until brown on top.
Allow to cool before slicing.

Serve with English leaf salad and French vinaigrette.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The quinces and the nudity

News from the Auvergne: The three quince trees have had a good year. Luckily the parental vehicle is no longer a 2cv or it would have buckled (on any kind of gradient) under the bulbous weight, both of the quinces and my aligot hungry self. Aligot will, with an inevitability informed by my shameful habit, make an appearance on the Charles Lamb menu next week.

Such was the glut of runner beans (racily named 'Scarlett Runners') in the garden that some had escaped picking and grown over tough - these I podded and their seeds were fabulously pink and lilac, until I dropped them into some chicken stock with tarragon and chicory. Then I ate some magret, roasted with guerande salt over some little garden apples, goose fat pototoes, blettes galore, pale pink onions, a plantation of flat leaf parsley and some quinces baked for 4 hours in Calvados and honey. It is a hard life.

Back in London, I spent the day strategically balancing figs and oysters on naked men for a TV camera. I repeat: it is a hard life.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Sorry haven't been online much ... Went to Paris for a couple of nights (didn't eat anything worthy of comment) and Claudette has had a nasty cold and cough (which I now have!)
My parents are coming back from France in the next couple of days with 20 kilo's of chestnuts for me from their tree in the woods ... I'm very excited! Sanchia is on her way back from her folks place with a load of Quinces, yeah!

Alex made an amazing chicken, cider and calvados casserole last thursday which needs posting up here!

We had a supper club here on Saturday which was held by a couple of friends of mine Tony & Marco. Tony C is a very accomplished cocktail barman who has worked in Heston's Laboratory making alcoholic jellies and Marco has done a stint in Locatelli's Kitchen so I was expecting great things ... and I wasn't disapointed!

The menu revolved around Alcohol and was a short tasting menu

Bloody Mary Oyster Shot
Pea and Dill Aquavit Soup with Wasabi Pea Croutons
Prawn Cocktail with Tequila Marie Rose
Vodka Pasta with sauce alla ????
Poached pear with poire William Marscapone and Butterscotch
Illy Coffee with Damien Allsop Chocolates

One of the guests at the supper club was a master chocolatier who used to be a pastry chef to Gordon Ramsey and came laden with chocolates for us all to sample!!!
It was the night that The Charles Lamb turned Nouvelle Cuisine and it was alot of fun. My personal favourite was the Bloody Mary Oyster Shot which I recreated for the Staff and a couple of regular customers on Sunday morning... I think it might have to feature on my Sunday Menu as its the perfect way to rid yourself of a hangover.
When are you back from France Pippa?
We need to book in another guest chef night hosted by you and Sanchia! Also Wanted to book in Chocolate tasting outing with Paul Young on Camden Passage.

Will be in touch soon with some pictures and recipes xxx

Monday, 24 September 2007

calvados, hazelnuts, ceps and the dill caterpillar

Just letting you know I had a great time in Normandy visiting our friend Mo.. she'd been foraging in the woods and got some beautiful ceps for my omelette - it's great in France, you can just take them to the local pharmacie and they'll test them for you.

We were near Domfront where there's a special appellation for Calvados Domfrontais - it's half apple, half pear and not many people make it any more. Don't worry, I've got a bottle stashed away to bring back for you. We were invited next door to the Baloche brothers' farm and I fell off the wagon when invited to taste their 1958 one. They don't make it on the farm anymore because of all the legal crap surrounding sprits these days, what a tragedy!

We also went to visit a farm growing edible flowers and herbs, mostly for restaurants and markets in the area. They had some amazing things, and they do workshops - should we have a trip sometime? They had some weird caterpillars that were camouflaged in the dill flowers! I got a couple of verveine plants and some anise hyssop to put in the garden in france..

I got a great haul of hazelnuts from Mo's garden as well as some lovely, firm, red cooking apples which will go in a tart later in the week I think.

beetroot houmous and roasted squash puree with chilli

I made these yesterday to kick off an autumn lunch - beautiful gem colours and warm autumn flavours, serve with flatbread or pitta.

beetroot houmous

600g cooked chickpeas
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1 clove of garlic
1 large or 2 small cooked beetroots
2 tablespoons of tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of ground cumin
sea salt

Mash the chickpeas roughly with a fork and finely grate the beetroot, conserving the bright juice. Crush the garlic clove with a little salt and combine all of the ingredients together, including any juice from the beetroot. Taste the houmous - it will have a sweet, earthy flavour - you may want to add more lemon or salt.

If you are short of time, you can opt to pulse all the ingredients together in a blender, but don't blend too smoothly as a bit of texture is a good thing.

I sometimes hold back a few chickpeas for garnishing, along with fronds of dill.

butternut squash puree with chilli

1 squash
3 large red chillis - don't use smaller, hotter chillis as you want the colour without excessive heat
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
fresh rosemary - a couple of stalks
sea salt

Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cover with foil and roast in a hot oven for about an hour, or until thoroughly softened. Leave to cool.
Deseed and finely chop the chillis. Remove the rosemary from the woody stalks and chop it. Finely slice the garlic. Soften these three ingredients with the olive oil on a low heat for about 5 minutes, then take off the heat and add the lemon zest. Scoop the flesh from the roasted squash and mix through the flavoured oil, add salt to taste.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Claudette and the veg box ...

Claudette is getting in the veg box on a near daily basis and enjoys frizee and aubergines!

Autumn, apples, figs....

Hey ... I can't believe the chill in the air , what happened to my indian summer? It is nice to be getting some proper apples and figs and pears though. I've got a delivery of conference pears bramley apples and russet apples (a sixteen kilo mixed box!) arriving tomorrow from the lovely guys from chegworth valley farm. I think tomorrow and thursday might be chutney making days if you've got any tips pippa! Sanchia and Alex are in thekitchen and I'm around if you want to pop by.