Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Halloween means Pumpkin Pie!

My Pumpkin carving skills went down well on the other side of the pond last week and left us with the usual abundance of pumpkin flesh.
I looked up a pumpkin recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook that I'd sent my sister on her arrival to Boston this summer thinking, rather stereotypically, that she might find herself in need of a whole book
dedicated to cupcakes and 'pies'.
She is sadly been too busy with visiters and with settling my nephews into new school.

We baked the pumpkin flesh in the oven on a fairly low heat for about an hour (kind of steaming it) then mashed it into a puree (or magi-mix it)

We had 500g of pureed pumpkin and to that we added
a small tin of condensed milk 375ml
300 grams of light brown sugar
1 egg and one yolk
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
pinch of salt
Mix up in one bowl and fill your pastry cases (this should make two large flan tins lined with crumb or shortcrust pastry)
We cheated(?!) and bought a couple of pre made crumb pie casings but if you use shoert crust be sure to blind bake thoroughly as there is little worse than a pumpkin pie with soggy pastry.
We had ours in a fan assisted oven at 325c for 50 minutes. Shake the tray, if its still wobbling in the middle then they need longer in the oven.
Pumpkin Pie is rather sweet and I serve with creme fraiche to balance out sweetness.

Barking Crab in Boston Harbour

Our last supper in Boston whilst visiting my sister and her family was one of the finest seafood feasts i've ever had.
Not because of the selection or the quality of the wine list or the consistancy of their mayonaise (which was not home made!). It wasn't posh and the service was fast but not refined, it was though, a great meal out with family in a magically simple setting with great food at great prices.
We ordered a huge plate of crab claws and legs from varying varieties ... the King crab legs having the most amount of meat i've ever been able to extract from one crustacean limb!
The kids had deepfried clams?! and fries with sides of coleslaw.
I chose a good friend of mine on the stateside to join the party in my tummy ... Samuel Addams Boston Lager MMMMMMMmmmmmm,
crab and beer heaven.

Balthazar... Lunch in Manhatten.

Whilst in Manhatten last week I couldn't resist visiting my old favourite, Balthazar on Spring Street, Soho.
The chaotic entrance was crowded with an baying crowd of hopefuls, thankfully our good friend William Clarke had secured us a booth with a great view of the festivities.

Exquisite oyster selection from both East and West coast of the Americas and a chunky brandade with toasted sourdough were followed by a steak frites for me, a boeuf bourguignon with parpadelle for Hobby, warm salad of trout with spinach and lentils for Sarah (Williams wonderful wife, and a whole lot more!) and William had a sauteed skate with capers ... all immaculately cooked with plenty of butter and washed down with a wonderful bottle of 2003 Condrieu, just as it should be in a french brasserie.

With the release of Julie and Julia (which I watched on the flight home!) we are reminded that those pesky yanks do know how to cook french food and its great to find it served in the setting of its homeland with wonderful and informed service. Fabulous.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Huntsham Court Farm Longhorn Beef Box...

We had a delivery from Huntsham Court Farm in Hereford last week which consisted of a mixed box of Longhorn Beef bits. All the meat had been hung for 32 days and was of exceptional quality. The Marrow Bones were straight out of the Natural History Museum!

We managed to get 14 Sirloin steaks (which were served with Roquefort butter,new potatoes and a simple salad)
We also got 4 kilos of stewing beef and a couple of oxtails which became partners in a delicious stew based on one that maman used to make when I was little. A lot of people shy away from oxtail as its quite fatty, but you know how me and Sanchia are about all things fat!
Its difficult to tell what quantities as we make so much at the pub so these are guesstimates for approx 6 to 8 people.
One Oxtail
1.5 Kilos of stewing beef
500ml of red wine
500ml of stock
Tin of Tomatoes
Tomato Puree
8 large carrots
8 large shallots
garlic (to taste)
4 sticks of Celery
the peel of 1/2 an orange
12 juniper berries
a couple of mace blades
8 black peppercorns
sea salt

You can see said stew in 3 stages above. Stringing up the oxtail vertebrae is essential otherwise it falls off the bone and you will get lots of oxtail vertebrae and no defined oxtail meat. Sealing the meat in oil also helps it stay together when added to liquid later.

Sweat off lots of shallots, celery and garlic and orange peel in the same oil that sealed the oxtail until soft then add a generous amount of red wine and equal parts beef or veal stock (or veg stock would also be fine as we are putting in plenty of flavoursome beef into this dish).

Add in Carrots and large cubes of stewing beef... and any other root vegetables that you want (turnips and parsnips would work well) and a few Bay leaves, black pepper corns, the mace and the juniper berries... the oxtail can be returned to the pot at this stage. A tin of good quality peeled tomatoes should be added at this point with a couple of spoons of tomato puree. Taste after 10 minutes and add salt to taste ... you may not need any as the stock should have some in already.

This can then be left for approximately 6 to 8 hours on a low heat simmering away. As most stews, this gets better after a day in the fridge! We served ours with a good potato puree/ mashed potatoes ... you need some thing to mop up the juice with so make sure you have some crusty bread on hand.

We have a couple of Huntsham Farm Tongues and a Longhorn Brisket sitting in Brine awaiting some attention from Sanchia ... watch this space for more beefy offal dishes!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Christmas Menu ...

Its ready, finished, priced and signed off.... This years Charles Lamb Christmas menu is ready to be viewed by all. The bookings diary is now officially open!

Bubbles on arrival … so don’t be late!


Butternut Squash Soup with crème fraiche and truffle oil

Smoked trout pate with pickles and toast

Beetroot, goats cheese and hazlenut salad

Speck (smoked ham) with caperberries


Roquefort and Chestnut Dauphinoise with seasonal greens

Confit Duck, Celeriac puree and spiced red cabbage served with a cranberry and apple sauce

Venison and red wine casserole with rosemary suet dumplings

Smoked Pollock and oyster pie with curly kale


Charles Lamb Figgy Pudding with brandy cream

Spiced poached pear with crème fraiche and ameretti

Manchego with quince chutney


Coffee and chocolates

12.5% Service Charge will be added to your bill which is then distributed between the Bar, Floor and Kitchen.

Tables are available for 6 up to 12 persons

Larger groups can be accommodated at certain times, please ask!

A non-refundable deposit of £12 per person is needed to confirm your booking.

Monday, 12 October 2009

happy Camille

Of course Camille's never happier than when in a pork shop...
and here she is in Charctuerie Mas' shop in the Auvergne, watching as her very own ham is prepared...
of course she had carefully calculated her Ryanair hand luggage...
I'm sure she'll be pleased to know that they also have a blog: lesproduitsmas.blogspot.com - get your fill of pig porn!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Melinda Lovells 60th Birthday gathering brought the legs of lamb together for the first tme in months in the unlikely region of Cantal in the Auvergne.

I say unlikely but it is home of Cantal cheese and also Aligot one of our favourite cheesy potato dishes so it was inevitably on a long list of places we'd like to visit. It is also home to Sanchias parents and their wonderful 'Potage' which we spent the weekend raping and pillaging . Well it is after all Harvest time and we did have 25 people to cook for! We had a guest leg of lamb for the weekend too, in the guise of Oliver Rowe chef patron of Konstam at the Prince Albert.... and there were arguments either!

Onions, Beetroots, pumpkins, purple runner beans, carrots, apples and quinces .... and a leg of ham from a local butcher.... There are a few things to fill you in on but I will have to wait until next week when I have photos.
I will leave it to Pippa and Sanchia to add to this escapades tales. More from me next week!

The Eagle (cookbook) has (re)landed!

The Eagle had its 18th Birthday earlier this year and its coming of age has brought with it a reprint of the original Eagle Cookbook with additions from chefs past and present...like David Eyre, Tom Norrington-Davies, Sam & Sam Clarke, Margot Henderson, Trish Hilferty and Ed Mottershaw, the present head chef, to name a few.

The unlikely pair who started it all are Mike Belben (on the left) and David Eyre (on the right) and the forward of the new edition, which is written by Fay Maschler, summarises how it all started and where it stands now amongst all the spin offs and copy cats ... and all of us who learnt a thing or two from working there.

You can buy this book on amazon for a steal and probably buy it in Borders or Waterstones too, however I recommend buying your copy in the eagle after sampling something from the book so that you can see for yourself where the Gastro Pub began!

The Eagle, 159 Farringdon Road EC1R 3AL, 020 7837 1353

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

What a busy Summer!

WOW what a busy summer we've had!
Venice for the Biennale in June ... and the delights of the rialto market and this lovely market on a boat that I spotted!

July brought us Bastille Day (a drizzly one) but there was sunshine in our food with Grand Aioli, Ratatouille, Merguez Galletes, Provencal fish stew, Gateau Breton (see piccy!) and much more...

Later that month a visit to Sablet ... home to Wine,the Mistral, Tour de France .... and Pippa and Pascals wonderful holiday cottage where the afternoons were spent cooking and baking indoors as it was too hot outdoors! (see piccy of Hobby and Claudette helping make a "Tarte Reine Claude")...

Last week Ferragosto was celebrated at the Bar with No Name at 69 Colebrooke Row ...
We had a lovely buffet that included
Fennel, Mozzerella and black olives and orange salad
Fregola and Pine nut and pepper, basil tomato salad
Gorganzola and spinach Frittata
Affettati (ventricina, speck, finochiona, prosciutto cotto )
Sardines in soar (pickled in vinegar red onions and sultanas)
Orange almond and polenta cake
and Americanino cocktails all round kindly sponsered by Martini (see photo of Tony C on Martini Vespa that he didn't want to give back!)

The summer isn't over yet so we'll try and fill you in on a few new ideas and discoveries in the next couple of weeks!

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Porky Pie...

Last Tuesday I arrived at the Charles Lamb to find a veritable plethora of pork goods. This isn't an unusual occurence, but notably they were all too small and annoying to become a main course so I was a bit flummoxed and contemplated eating them all throughout the day and thus disposing of them without waste.
There was pork mince, (probably a surplus from the weekend's scotch eggs), 3 slices of roast pork belly, some insignificant scraps of bacon, and a few confit pig cheeks.
Soon, there were shallots, celery, thyme, garlic and red wine, and some spectacular looking porky jellied stock/gravy all getting up close in a big vat with the pork goods, suet pastry happening in a large quantity, and pie on my mind.
It apparently didn't last long. It sat on the bar with its golden crust and Camille's porcelain blackbird still seated in the middle letting the steam out and people ravaged it. One man had it as a starter, followed by a smoked pork belly main, and then, as an afterthought, took an extra slice home with him for breakfast. That man has my great respect.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Fruit de Mer Supper

Grand Aioli as only Sanchia can do it!!!
Globe artichokes, duck eggs, chicory, carrots , celery, radishes, brown shrimp and winkles. This was our starter ... our vegetables before the seafood feast ahead! It was accompanied with a delicate Provence Rose from Boutinot wines I think Sanchia's ration of garlic cloves to egg yolks in her aioli is 3 to 1 but she may want to correct me if I'm wrong.

Whilst I was was plating up the platters, Papa challenged Laura to an Oyster (from Maldon) shuck off. I wasn't present but on my return from the Kitchen it seemed that Laura had won but both had a sweaty brow. I think its safe to say that although Laura opened more, Papa definately ate more!!!

The Fruit de Mer was amazingly fresh and was simply accompanied by a dry and minerally Muscadet sur lie and Sanchia's lemon mayonnaise.

The dessert was Gateaux Breton, Mamans almond and apple cake and apple sorbet with a Corsican  desert wine, Muscadeu, a light, dusty red dessert wine which went down a storm.

The night ended with desert wine over Papa's crotch, Joyeaux Anniversaire being chanted to Maman sending her into a slight dizz! A wonderful night was had by all and a special thank you to Chris Michel from Boutinot wines for supporting us and Laura from Clerkenwell Kitchen for the use of the kitchen for prep and her expertise on all things live and snappy!!!

Fruit de Mer ... preperation...

We had a Fruit de Mer Supper on Saturday at the Charles Lamb. Langoustines, Crabs, Crevettes, Winkles, Brown Shrimp. First we had to cook it all up.
It a arrived live and snappy Saturday morning and I transported it to Clerkenwell Kitchen and the awaiting expert on all things live and snappy, Laura.
Massive pans of rolling boiling salted pans of water awaited the catch. The Langoustines (scottish) got 2 minutes before being thrown into an icy cold bath. The crabs got 1 minute per 100g (approx 15 minutes each for the monsters we got).

We then made an apple sorbet to go with the Gateau Breton that Sanchia made and the apple and almond cake my mum made.
Bramley apples, peeled , cored and drenched in lemon juice then put in the freezer for 45 mins (to intensify flavour and colour) wizzed up in blender with a splash of juice and some sugar syrup. We popped it into the ice cream machine and after a while grated in some more apple into the mix. Perfect green apple sorbet!

Prudence's Garden ...

We started planting this week. We don't have a garden at the Charles Lamb, but our neighbour Prudence (78 years young!) has one that she is willing to share with us.
We have dug up some woody shrubs (with the help of her grandson) and planted in lots of garden herbs for use in our kitchen! This way Prudence is the envy of many with 3 lunches a week from the Charles Lamb and a visit from myself and Claudette every other night to water and have a bottle of rose before going home for tea! How very civilised!
Above you can see Claudette planting sunflower seeds with Prudence's grand daughter Hannah.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

a few of our favourite things...

I've just got back from France and have brought some of our favourite things that one just doesn't seem to be able to get in London...

Harissa in a tube - it's so handy!
Le Petit Marseillais Savon Liquide du Cuisinier - hand soap for cooks with lemon oil to keep our dainty hands fragrant, no more weird looks for garlicky fingers! (they also make a great "Bricoleur & Jardinier" one with gritty bits)
Benedicta Lemon Mayonnaise - it just tastes of France in the 70's! mmmm those memories!
Spigol - ground spices for couscous or rice in mini sachets and great old-fashioned boxes - an essential for the kitchen store cupboard

I'll drop them by later girls!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

our olive trees have arrived!

Yesterday we finally received delivery (and plantation) of our two ten-year old Verdale olive trees, for the garden at La Tour des Anges

There was a lot of digging and pulling out of huge stones left behind from the house that used to stand where the garden is now.
The trees have had to undergo some drastic pruning for the transplantation, so it'll be a while before we can see them in all their glory...

Verdale is the classic local variety, which grows all around the Mont Ventoux and is primarily for pressing into oil, but you can eat them too. There used to be a huge local production of olive oil until the 1950s when an incredible freeze killed most of the trees and the area was replanted solely with vines (which go into deeper sleep in the winter and can withstand temperatures below -30˚C), which in turn sparked the rise of the Côtes du Rhône appellation.

Here they are planted out - I can't wait to be sitting down there with the Legs of Lamb and a nice chilled bottle of rosé this summer!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Cheesy Tits!!!!!!!!

I found these t-shirts and couldn't resist!

Clerkenwell Kitchen ...

The Lovely ladies at Clerkenwell Kitchen have started opening on Thursday evenings so now all of us who work in the day can sample their delights! Last Thursdays simple short menu was almost impossible to choose off, as I wanted everything. My friend Paula went for the witch sole served with brown shrimp and a wild garlic butter. I was torn between pork belly served with a saffron mash and cockles and the onglet served rare with marrow bread sauce, laura's chips and watercress. As you can see from the bloody plate I went for the onglet!
We had a rhubarb belini to start and a great bottle of Gruner Veltliner. The plate of cheese from the fromagerie broke us and I was sent home with a basket of lovely leaves (dandelion, sorrel, red chicory and some radishes) which had been over ordered. Nice one!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Ransom wars

I think it is finally spring. Or at least, a few errant days of faux spring before real spring arrives. There will be all sorts of my favourite things available, and we can all finally bid a slightly jaded farewell to the parsnip and the jerusalem artichoke (and all their rooty friends). 

Wild garlic leaf season is definitely one of my most eagerly anticipated delights, in good company with English asparagus season and Piedmont porcini-and-truffle o' clock. I was finally rewarded last week and promptly over-ordered with glee, especially as I'd been discussing how soon they would arrive with my friend Oliver at Konstam, and knew he'd have to wait longer to get some from within Greater London, whereas I could cheat and accept those from anywhere nearish. (Although I wasn't in the lead for long as a professional London forager turned up at Konstam with a big sack of them yesterday).
Obviously, I've been slinging them in everything willy nilly all week, (Chicken, salsify and w.g.l. pie... smoked haddock, gruyere and w.g.l tart...) but my favourite new usage has been wild garlic leaf aioli, which today is befriending some confit pig cheeks, chicory and croutons in a nice fatty spring salad.

Wild garlic leaf aioli:

5 egg yolks
1 crushed clove garlic
1 pint mildly flavoured oil 
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
sea salt
2 generous handfuls ransom leaves, shredded

Add the milder oil to the egg yolks and crushed garlic drop by drop to form a smooth emulsion, whisking constantly - you can start to add it in a steady stream about half way through - when you've added all of this oil continue with the extra virgin oil, fold in the shredded leaves, crushing them as you go, then finally add the lemon juice and salt to taste.
Eat with most things... toast... fish... potatoes... eggs... etc

Friday, 27 February 2009

Ripailles at the Charles Lamb...

Sanchia and I are going all out Breton tomorrow for a pork and cider feast (feast = ripailles).
The main event is the Kig ha Farz, a breton version of the classic pot-au-feu. It involves shin of beef, ox cheeks, ham hocks and marrow bones with a tasty stock which you poach your buckwheat flour dumpling wrapped in linen along with cabbage, turnips, carrots.... Cider is being served throughout the 3 courses of course! We will take lots of pictures, I thinks there will be several recipe blogs, including a first tryout on my apple and boudin noir tarte tatin!
Watch this space...

Monday, 23 February 2009

And the pig jelly...

Forgot to mention, Camille saw a pig shaped jelly mould and thought of me. So I made pig shaped ham and parsley terrine, ( a process involving 8 pig's trotters and numerous other bits of pig) which was to my eyes an aesthetic wonder. Splendid.

Day of the egg

On Thursday we over ordered eggs. Happily, I like making egg based sauces. First some saffron aioli (I'm sure I've mentioned this before, so I'll be brief... 2 cloves of garlic per yolk this time). Then tarragon mayonnaise, then some celeriac remoulade, and finally, a delicious Gribiche which adorned in this case slices of ox tongue, but has previously on our menu been a charming bed-fellow to purple sprouting broccoli, baby leeks, asparagus (soon, soon...), globe artichokes, assorted cold meats, and one hungry morning, a solitary but satisfactory breakfast involving a ramekin and a teaspoon.

Sauce Gribiche:

10 hard boiled eggs
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons oil (rapeseed is lovely, but Olive oil does pretty well too)
Tablespoon white wine vinegar
half bunch chopped chervil
half bunch chopped parsley
smaller amount chopped chives
Handful rinsed salted capers, chopped a little
Sea salt and black pepper

Remove the yolks from the eggs and mash with a fork. Combine with the vinegar and mustard. Slowly incorporate the oil ( you don't have to be as careful as with mayonnaise). Fold in the herbs and capers, and season to taste.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Seasoning pork mince...

You could stuff beef tomatoes (tomate farci),large spanish onions (oignon farci)or bell peppers, make scotch eggs or stuff Squid tubes, mussel shells or large clam shells.... a speciality of Setes , a large fishing port in South West France.
1 kilo of Minced pork shoulder will go along way (3 kilos stuffed 10 large squid tubes and made 16 scotch quails eggs for me today!) 
 3 chopped shallots
 4 cloves chopped garlic
chopped sage, tarragon, parsley and thyme
1 egg
pinch of sea salt ground pepper ... also try fennel seeds if stuffing squid, mussels or fishy stuff ... coriander seeds for tomatoes ... celery salt for scotch eggs..
Above you can see me stuffing some rather large squid tubes ... we ordered small ones, however you can't guarantee what you get when you at the mercy of deliveries! Sanchia made a simple tomato sauce with plenty garlic , shallots etc in it  which got blizted by the hand blender then poured over the stuffed "encornet" covered the tray with foil and in the oven for about 45 mins at medium heat. 

 To serve we made some saffron pilaf rice and we scored the squid  pouring the tomato sauce at the side. 

 I think scotch eggs will have to be another post....

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Charles lamb Menu

It occured to me today that we have never posted a menu for the Charles Lamb Pub on the blog ... so here is a  menu that I was inspired to take a photo of as it had  all my favourites (apart from cassoulet) on it!
We change the menu everyday and usually between lunch and dinner too. Its short and sweet and we tend not to waste ... there are usually backup dishes to move onto the menu if its a particularly busy session.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Cassoulet in Castelnaudary...

The birth place of Cassoulet ... it was only a 2 and a half hour drive from where we were sampling wines so I thought it'd be rude not to! Teamed with a night in Carcassone it was hard for my better half to say no too. The Cardogan Guide to the south of France declared this "the best gourmet restaurant in town". Perhaps it was... 20 years ago! The decor was incredibly OTT and out of date but this was more amusing than off putting. It was cold and raining outside and we were pleased we'd made it in time for lunch sessions last orders (2pm!)
There were many pre fixe menus ranging from €13 through to €45 ... not wanting to go crazy for lunch we picked a 4 course affair at €20. 

Foie  Gras wrapped in sausage meat then a thin rolling of lard covered in trotter jelly galore!
as you can see from the photo, the late seventies decor also made it onto my plate along with tasteless tomatoes and olives(?!)
The Cassoulet came with 2 thin chipolata  sized sausage, a piece of pork knuckle and a slice of pork belly along with a  piece of goose which i couldn't work out where on the goose it was from as it was so small and dry! The beans were plentiful of course and delicious too I just thought the whole dish (which was for both of us to share!) was very mean on the meat. 
After the cassoulet arrived "faisselle de fromage blanc" which was homemade fromage frais swimming in cream sprinkled with white sugar which took me straight back to my childhood.
Finally we got creme caramel with a generous amount of liquor. We had this with a lovely bottle of corbieres.

Here is the Chef ... Monsieur Francois Gibassier ... He probably thought I was some guide book critic! We had a lovely lunch and for the price it wasn't bad. I have a theory that if you are known for one thing, and its as much as a faff as cassoulet you're going to get a bit lazy and cut a few corners after doing the same dish day in day out for 20 odd years ... so Castelnaudary may be the birth place of cassoulet and you may be able to get it in every hotel, restaurant, cafe, bar and bistro in town but it may not be the best you'll ever have!