Dingley Dell Pork Feast at The Leather Bottle

The Leather Bottle is a pub in Earlsfield, and to mark the launch of its luscious new garden with huts that available for private hire, welfare-friendly Suffolk pork farmer Dingley Dell hosted one of its ‘flying visits’ in the form of an al fresco barbecue bonanza with matching beers and ciders early last week.

The evening kicked off with a pig butchery masterclass followed by a six-course meal. First up was the whole hog board which included air-dried pork leg, crispy pig’s ears, potted brawn, mini hot dogs and black pudding trotter fritters served with gooseberry chutney and a purple basil jam. To go with the board was Aspall’s Premier Cru cider, which proved to be a good pairing. The fritters were delicious as was the pork leg, although the pig’s ears were a little chewy.

The whole hog board

The whole hog board

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London’s Week of Food – Slow Food UK and Taste of London

Slow Food UK

Slow Food UK is a non-for-profit organisation that focuses on sustainability and locality to source delicious food. Its focus is to reconnect people with where their food comes from and to help them develop a better understanding about provenance.

This week marks The Slow Food UK Week (18 to 24 June), and to champion its cause the organisation is running a number of foodie events in conjunction with its 53 Slow Food UK Chef Alliance members who are committed to the Slow Food cause. The events are listed on its website and are open to the public. I attended an event on Monday evening hosted and cooked by Francesco Mazzei (L’Amina), Giorgio Locatelli (Locanda Locatelli) and Angela Hartnett (Murano) at L’Amina called ‘Eating the Italian Way’.

L to R: Francesco, Cat Gazzoli (CEO, Slow Food UK), Angela and Giorgio

L to R: Francesco, Cat Gazzoli (CEO, Slow Food UK), Angela and Giorgio

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Waitrose Cookery School

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview evening at the new Waitrose cookery where we were treated to a macaroon masterclass. The school opened this Monday and is situated above the Waitrose John Barnes branch on Finchley Road.

The cookery school is state of the art. No expense was spared to fit it out and it has those sleek white lines that are the trademark look of all the Waitrose supermarkets. I was very impressed. It’s spacious and comfortable and far classier than my days spent in the kitchens at Westminster Kingsway Cookery College.

Waitrose Cookery School

Waitrose Cookery School

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Discover the Origin at La Cucina Caldesi

Discover the Origin

A couple of weeks I went to a ‘Discover the Origin’ event at La Cucina Caldesi Italian Cookery School. Discover the Origin is a campaign representing Italy, France and Portugal in support of five key products from those countries which bear protected origin designations such as Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). Protected origin designations provides assurance to the consumer about the provenance, quality and the authenticity of the origin of the product. With a trend towards ethical sourcing and seasonal produce, etc, greater awareness in this area only seems fitting.

The five key products supported by Discover the Origin are Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)), Burgundy wine (AOC) and Port and Douro Valley wines (Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC)). As a case in point, Parmigiano-Reggiano is not to be confused with any ordinary parmesan cheese. Under Italian law, only versions of this hard granular cheese produced in the Italian areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna and Mantova may be called Parmigiano-Reggiano – hence the PDO designation. Similar cheeses produced elsewhere are instead to be called parmesan.

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Jing Tea Launch

Assam, nilgiri, Earl grey & darjeeling tea cocktails

Assam, nilgiri, Earl grey & darjeeling tea cocktails

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the launch of Jing Teas at The Cinnamon Club. Teas and canapés were served – all of which were very nice. But there were also some tea cocktails, and I must admit to enjoying these best! LOL

Here is a recipe for one of them, the nilgiri tea cocktail

Ingredients:

4 fresh raspberries
50ml tanqueray
25ml nilgiri tea
15ml lime juice
10ml martini rosso
10ml sugar
25ml grapefruit juice

Method:

Mix and pour over ice.

What I found most interesting about the whole evening was chatting to David Hepburn from Jing who told me about some of their specialty teas. One of them is the Japanese Hand-Made Gyokuro Supreme Green Tea from Uji.

Hand picked between the 29th April and 2nd May, and hand-rolled by one of the foremost Gyokuro producers in Japan, only 20 kilos are produced each year. Considered to be one of the highest quality Gyokuro green teas available, the infusion point is only 40-50C. A low water temperature is required so as to not burn the tea.

This tea intrigues me and I intend to buy some to try when it is next available (unfortunately it’s currently out of stock). But Jing also stock some other high end teas, some of which also look very interesting. So if you’re a tea lover, you might want to check out their website. Jing teas can only be purchased online through their website.

Website: http://jingtea.com/


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Bar Boulud

New York based Lyonnaise Chef Daniel Boulud is probably most famous for his namesake fine dining restaurant, Daniel, on the Upper East Side. But his restaurant empire isn’t limited to this three star Michelin restaurant. He has a string of bistro-y type places in The Big Apple including DBGB Kitchen & Bar, Cafe Boulud and DB Bistro Moderne, and also in other cities such as Las Vegas, Vancouver and Beijing. Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge is his first venture in London.

Try as I might, I couldn’t warm to the decor at Bar Boulud. Where Bistro Moderne, which I have been to, has the feel of understated chic, Bar Boulud only looks slightly more glamorous than a high end Holiday Inn. Given that the designer is Adam Tihany (think Sketch and Apsleys), and that the restaurant is part of the 5-star Mandarin Oriental, I found this rather surprising. I know money must have been spent on this set-up – anything with Tihany’s name behind it is expensive. But try as I might, I couldn’t see where the ‘French bistro inspiration’ mentioned on the restaurant’s website comes from. Don’t get me wrong, the place is pleasant and comfortable. But when you think Tihany and Mandarin Oriental, you don’t really expect high end motel. This is a place I would have no problems coming to for lunch, but I would be less sure about for dinner.

So lunch it was. I am surprised at how reasonably priced the menu is. The most expensive main is £23 and there are a number of sausage and hamburger choices which will only set you back £11-13. But in the end we decided to go for a 3 course prix fixe lunch menu for £20. I am not always sold on set menus such as these, but as some of the options in the prix fixe can also be found on the à la carte menu, I thought the prix fixe a good bet. We also decided to supplement the prix fixe menu with a small charcuterie degustation board (£14).

Charcuterie

Charcuterie

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Steve’s Leaves – dinner at the Soho Hotel

On Monday night I was invited to attend a dinner for the launch of Steve’s Leaves at the Soho Hotel. By way of introduction, Steve was the man who introduced the public to the idea of eating young spinach raw in the 1980s. At the time, people thought he was mad, but now it’s a concept that everyone is familiar with. Since then, he has continued experimenting with different baby leaf ideas.

When you talk to Steve, you know he’s completely passionate about leaves. Not only is he a farmer, he is also a leaf doctor. You see, Steve has an impressive PhD in watercress (yes, a PhD in watercress) and today his range includes four different leaf products (baby watercress, super hot rocket, wild red rocket, and a mixture of pea shoots, baby spinach and baby chard). The leaves are farmed using sustainable and environmentally friendly techniques which improves biodiversity. Steve’s Leaves is the only farm to hold the Conservation Grade/Nature Friendly Farming status.

We were able to sample the complete Steve’s Leaves range as part of a delicious 6 course meal.

The first dish was shoots and leaves tossed with toasted almonds, sesame seeds, avocado and a chipotle dressing. The dressing was a recipe of the lovely Thomasina Miers, a former Masterchef winner. She was also present at the dinner.

Shoots and leaves with a chipotle dressing

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Putney Pop-up Restaurants – Haiti Earthquake Appeal

During the month of March, the Phoenix Bar & Grill in Putney, in association with Action Against Hunger, will be hosting a series of pop-up restaurants to raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. The chefs that will be cooking include Philip Howard from The Square, Rowley Leigh, Rick Stein, Bruce Poole, Helena Puolakka, Atul Kochhar, Patrick Williams, and Jesse Dunford Wood. Meals will be priced at £60.00 and at least 90% of the proceeds will go to charity.

For more details click on Putney Pop-Up.

The owner of the Phoenix Bar & Grill is Rebecca Mascarenhas, who also owns Sonny’s in Barnes and co-owns Kitchen W8 with Philip Howard.

And have you heard? Ferran Adrià plans to close El Bulli for good from December 2011 and replace it with a not-for-profit-academy for advanced cuisine!


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