The ideal combo of oatmeal, pancake and muffin. They’re protein and fibre-full and naturally sweet (no refined sugar), bursting with berries (zero dryness here) and filling. They’re quick to make, and super convenient as they can be made in advance, frozen and defrosted when cravings strike. They also look rather irresistible on any breakfast table, so great for when you have guests.
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Rovi is everything Palomar is not.
Palomar is dark and claustrophobia-inducing. You have to squeeze past ten diners’ bums on bar stools to enter the restaurant, itself a tight, gloomy, un-windowed space. Rovi is spacious, vibrant and airy, the tables circling the room with enough space between them to avoid conversation leakage. The waiters are friendly and attentive without being overbearing, and the open kitchen flashes in the background, fulfilling the promise of the restaurant concept of “fire and fermentation”.
I’ve had multiple debates about small plates, my distaste for them reaching fresh heights at Palomar. Done badly (as in the aforementioned restaurant), they are lazy and mean. In the case of Rovi, however, the opposite is true.
The meal started with hot spiced butter beans that melted on the tongue. They were an on- the-house opener, which was a nice touch. These were swiftly followed by the tempura stems with Szechuan, mandarin and kaffir lime vinegar, the batter so light and so crisp that I crunched my way out of previous tempura-ambivalence.
The spaghetti squash followed, its rich, sweet resplendence counterbalanced with the cold zestiness of the ezme and mandarin yoghurt. Next came the hasselback beets - lifted from their unassuming earthy roots, caramelised and roasted without being messed around with unnecessarily.
I hate to bore you with endless eulogizing but I cannot fail to mention how the red cabbage was glorious with little pops of sweetness from the grapes, or how the celeriac shawarma was so cleverly elevated from the oft-scorned and rejected vegetable that often assumes a mouldy jacket in the bottom of my fridge, to a crispy, umami, centre stage.
Dessert came in the form of fig clafoutis, olive oil and lemon ice cream, and plum and juniper doughnuts, bay leaf cream, and almonds. All was delicate and light, sweet, but not teeth –curdlingly so. But the winner was the salted miso caramels, so good that if I concentrate hard enough I can summon up again their umami, caramelized fudgy- sweet/ savouriness.
Unfortunately, I can’t conjure up any negatives to indulge anyone's schadenfreude (if you’re looking for that, click here). I can, however, thoroughly recommend the well-balanced, carefully flavoured food served in Rovi. This is Ottolenghi at his best, contrasting textures, flavours and temperatures, and pushing ingredients to their limits.
Good for: brunch, family lunch, vegetarians, vegetable-lovers, Ottolenghi obsessives, healthy eating
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
Nowadays we have the fired-up drama, programmes that are lurid, sweary, and sweaty: Iron Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, the straw-haired, backward-sunglass wearing entity that is Guy Fieri. I still find myself sucked into the carefully contrived vortex of dramatics, where someone burns their hand off or the climax is a grotesquely-sized burger oozing with cellulite-whispering cheese.
But I have an enduring appreciation for the most simple of concepts that were the foundation for many of today’s cooking programmes: green peppers, red tomato; Ainsley Harriet, metre long streams of oil with one arm tucked behind his back; clotted nests of finely spun sugar; dishes named with achingly tenuous puns. Sometimes I long for those days of Ready Steady Cook in its original format. Particularly captivating was the down to earth “quickie bag” challenge: a handful of seasonal ingredients, an on-the-spot declaration of the dish to be conjured up, followed by a frenzied 10 minutes to make good on the promise.
It was raw, unedited, unscripted and exposed – a rare combination these days. And that challenge which has now mutated into the MasterChef mystery box challenge is one that I try to set myself every time the contents of the fridge begin to look pitiful. One man’s debris can be another’s feast. All it requires is a little creativity and imagination (unless your fridge stocks only alcohol, like that of several people I know…).
This soup is so simple that it could almost have been formulated from one of these challenges. The ingredients are few, but their freshness and the way they are only lightly cooked, enhances the flavours. In the UK, we have been starved of spring, but this soup will help compensate in its exuberant and zingy viridity.
Although they are to be enjoyed alongside the soup, the Parmesan spelt crackers featured in the photos are by no means a sideshow, and I shall follow up with the recipe for them. They are frighteningly addictive – I unwittingly crunched through half a batch in one hour.
NB: this can be made vegan by substituting olive oil for butter.
Ingredients (serves 4)
50g butter (substitute with 3 tablespoons olive oil if making vegan)
1 large potato, scrubbed but not peeled, and diced
3 cloves garlic
4 sticks celery, roughly chopped
Large sprig fresh thyme
100ml white wine
1 litre vegetable stock. (I use Marigold, which is also available as vegan recipe)
500g frozen peas
20g fresh mint, leaves stripped from stalks
100g fresh baby spinach leaves, washed
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1. Melt butter over medium heat, or gently heat the olive oil
2. Add potato, garlic, celery, sugar, thyme and pinch salt and pepper, and sweat together for about 10 minutes or until the potato is soft, stirring from time to time
3. Add the wine, and cook until the liquid has reduced by roughly one third
4. Add the stock, and bring the mixture to the boil. Keep boiling for 4 minutes
5. Remove the thyme, add the mint leaves, spinach and peas to the boiling mixture, and remove the pot from the heat immediately
6. Blitz in the liquidizer. Adjust the seasoning, and serve warm.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
At the centre of a party you have the brash, garishly dressed harpy in a spandex and lurex flesh-popping, bum-skirting bodycon dress. She’s swishing her long, over-straightened blonde hair in the hope that people, like magpies, will be drawn in by its glinting sheen. But she’s telling the story you’ve heard a hundred times.
The punchlines are obvious and overdone. It’s an opaque boast to show off her intellect and attractiveness. She’s hyperbolising, and the decibels are mounting, in order to suck more people in.
You draw near, but after a few superficial bites, you hit the bone. What appeared to be a sumptuous, resplendent, sticky chicken wing feast was just a scraggly bit of overhyped flesh, and you’re left with a sickly sweet taste, desperate for something more refreshing and with more interest.
That’s when you leave the centre of the room and go over to the quiet person in the corner: modestly dressed, elegant but not overstated, and initially slightly shy. But once you start talking, there’s no stopping - tantalising wit, layers of texture and depth, sweet enough but with refreshing zestiness that intrigues and keeps you going back for more. Guard this salad closely because when others' attention rapidly wanes they’ll be coming over here too. Food envy is not something to be treated lightly, so here’s the recipe:
Ingredients (serves 4)
3 tbsp (60g) smooth peanut butter (unsalted preferably)
4 1/2 tsp (45g) honey
4 1/2 tsp sesame oil
4 1/2 tsp soy sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
15g finely grated fresh ginger
1 medium sized garlic clove, crushed
(optional) 1 small Thai red chilli, very finely chopped
230g red cabbage (approx 1 quarter of a cabbage)
1 red pepper
3 spring onions
60g roasted and salted peanuts, crushed + 10g extra for serving
25g coriander, roughly chopped + 5g extra for serving
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients until smooth and emulsified.
- Finely slice the cabbage horizontally (so the average piece is about 4cm long). Remove the stalk and deseed the red pepper, then slice finely horizontally.
- Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and, with a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds. Then slice finely lengthways and then in half horizontally to create matchsticks. Finely chop the spring onions. Then in a large bowl mix together the cabbage, pepper, cucumber, spring onions, crushed peanuts & roughly chopped coriander.
- Pour the dressing over, and mix through. Scatter with extra crushed peanuts and then the chopped coriander, and serve. If you are making in advance, prepare the salad ingredients and dressing separately, and pour the dressing on just before serving.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
This is the cinnamon apple crumble pie 2.0. Tried, tested, and enhanced... Soft, crunchy, crumbly, fresh, sweet, and on the cusp of sour – the Gail’s Bakery apple crumble cake is what I crave. It’s the ultimate winter treat, although I gaze longingly through the bakery window at them year-round.
I bought the Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook a few months ago in the hope that they had divulged the secret of their signature apple crumble cake. They hadn’t.
As a result I’ve just had to develop my own recipe – more wholesome, with more cinnamon and less sugar, I’ve heard they may even be superior…
320g (11.3 oz) wholegrain spelt flour
110g (3.9oz) icing sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
165g (5.8oz) butter, roughly chopped into cubes
1 large egg, beaten
700 (1lb 5oz) grams of peeled, cored and coarsely grated Bramley apples (about 3 large apples)
70g (2.5oz) caster sugar
80g (2.8oz) wholegrain spelt flour
45g (1.6oz) oats
45g (1.6oz) caster sugar
50g (1.7oz) butter
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
15 hole muffin/cupcake tin, greased (usually they come in 12s, in which case you will need 2 x muffin trays
- In a blender, blitz together dry ingredients. Then add in the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand. Pour in the egg and continue to pulse until the mixture clumps together into a dough. Avoid mixing it more than necessary.
- Flatten the dough roughly into a disc and wrap in cling film or baking parchment. Chill in the freezer while you make the other elements.
- Place all ingredients in a pan and stir over a high heat for about 5 minutes until the apple turns soft but some texture still remains. Strain the mixture using a sieve, pressing down to get rid of excess liquid (about 250ml, which incidentally tastes like a delicious mulled cider). Set aside to cool.
- Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand.
- Preheat an oven to 180˚C.
- On a floured surface, roll out the chilled pasty to a thickness of 0.5cm. Cut the pastry into circles with an area similar to that of the muffin tin holes (about 8-10cm), and press each circle in the holes. You may need to patchwork the pieces together.
- Prick the pastry lining the muffin holes with a fork, and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or cooked through and beginning to golden slightly.
- Take the tin out of the oven and spoon 2tbsp of the cooked apple into each pastry shells. Top the cakes by spooning a few tablespoons of the crumb topping over each cake, patting it down and then sprinkling the rest of the mixture over. I like to clump some of it together before scattering it over in order to add further texture and rustic appeal.
- Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the crumble topping is golden and crisp. Serve hot or cold.
What’s your crumble-to-fruit ratio? If you’re the kind who favours a preponderance of stewed fruit with an insubstantial fairy dusting of oaty-flour, turn away now. If you lean towards the lavish when it comes to crumble proportion - good. Read on…
I have experienced many a crumble: from damson to mulberry to cherry to apple, from autumn to winter to spring to summer. But regardless of the lusciousness of the interior, the crumbles that garner the most attention, that leave people scratching way at the remaining crumbs that have become forged to the side of the pan in yearning for more, are the ones with a superabundance of crumble topping.
Crunchy, nutty, warming and eminently comforting – this is what a good crumble should be. Enough so that you don’t worry about rationing the crumble in your bowl to suit the amount of fruit – enough so that every mouthful has a good proportion of both.
A good crumble, as with so many things, should leave you wanting more.
But what if you don’t want to have to face the risk of eating the whole pot by mistake – or at least you if do want to be able to eat the whole lot, do so in a more measured way?
What if you want to extend the experience beyond the comfort of your kitchen i.e. a portable crumble?
Try these – fruity, nutty, fresh, and summery, with a subtle tang and not overly-sweet. They are extremely quick and easy to make and, more importantly, the crumble–to-fruit ratio is verging on perfect…
½ tsp baking powder
210g white spelt flour (substitute any flour of your choice: plain, gluten-free or otherwise)
115g unsalted butter, roughly chopped
¼ tsp salt
Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
Juice of ½ orange
2 generous cups of strawberries, quartered
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (substitute with 1 tsp of vanilla bean extract if unavailable)
20g unsalted butter
30g finely chopped walnuts (remove if allergic)
50g white spelt flour (substitute with any flour of your choice, plain, gluten-free or otherwise)
Pinch of salt
20cm x 20cm tin lined with baking parchment (or a pan of similar area)
- Preheat oven to 190˚C. Pour sugar, baking powder, flour, salt, and zest in a blender and pulse to combine. Add butter and egg, and pulse until fully combined and has reached a slightly clumpy, damp sand consistency. Pour this into the lined baking pan, and press down to create an even base layer.
- In a bowl, stir together chopped strawberries, orange juice, orange zest and cornstarch. Sprinkle evenly over the base layer (including the fruit juices.)
- Make the topping by pulsing together the butter, sugar, oats, flour and salt until fully combined and sand-like in texture. Stir in the walnuts, then sprinkle the mixture over the strawberries.
- Bake in oven for 30 – 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the base is cooked through. Make sure to check after 20 minutes - you may need to cover the crumble with tin foil to prevent the top from catching (depending on your oven’s temperament). Once cooked, remove from the oven and slice into squares. Eat immediately or later.
'Oats: a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people’ Samuel Johnson, The Dictionary of the English Language, 1755
If I were the type of person that leafed (ironically) through Cosmo, and stumbled across one of those lazy, page-filling content, tree diagrams which happened to ask “what is your spirit animal?”, I know what mine would be. A horse. Well, at least that’s what it would have been during the second year of my time at university in terms of comestibles…
Essay crises necessitate fuel in order to feed the adrenaline and, for me, that fuel came in the form of oats.
When you have a 9 am deadline approaching, and there is only one hour remaining, every minute is precious - so there is no time to spare for cooking oats over the hob until they break down into a creamy mulch.
That’s the excuse I gave myself. Instead, I developed the rather grotesque habit of eating oats straight from the packet, raw and desiccated. In my maddened and pressured state, I savoured the clagginess of the oats, where you can’t quite conjure up enough saliva to swallow them. Ideal.
I have since moved on from this stage (with the very occasional relapse) to a more acceptable way of dealing with my love of oats: Bircher muesli, invented by Bircher Benner, a pioneer of raw foodism, in the late 19th century as a way of curing his jaundice. It worked.
I feel, somewhat justifiably, that it runs in my blood (thick & creamy): my great-great-uncle was a frequent patient at Benner’s rather avant garde Swiss raw food clinic and, one sunny day, he stepped down from a plane on an impromptu visit from Scotland to South Africa with no clothes besides the ones on his back, a vegetable juicing contraption which he trailed behind him on a rickety little cart, and a proselytising passion for Bircher muesli.
I have tried many a Bircher muesli, from Swiss versions to Vietnamese attempts, but I feel I have concocted the ultimate version (excuse my arrogance). Creamy, healthy, juicy, and exotic, it’s effectively manna, and I would happily have it for every meal of the day (jaundiced or not).
The Best Bircher Muesli (Serves 5)
2 Braeburn apples, grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
200ml orange juice
200g natural yogurt
200g almond and coconut milk (can be substituted with dairy or non-dairy alternatives)
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (if you can’t get hold of this, omit it, or substitute with ½ tsp vanilla extract)
50g desiccated coconut, lightly toasted in a pan on a low heat until pale gold)
200g porridge oats
Pinch of salt
200g of fresh fruit of your choice (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, figs, sliced banana work well)
40g coconut chips (optional but adds great texture)
- In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients apart from the fresh fruit and optional coconut chips. If you are making this the night before, cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge overnight to let the oats soak up the flavours. If you are serving the muesli immediately, stir the mixture for a couple of minutes to break down the oats until they are creamy.
- If you are leaving the muesli overnight, allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Scatter mixed berries and fruits and coconut chips over the top and serve.
Line breaks: super|food
Culina definition: ‘superfoods’ – a marketing ploy term assigned to natural ingredients which have been neglected on shop shelves for a while and could do with a PR boost. They have nutritional benefits similar to many other natural ingredients and have the potential to reduce the risk of disease if you consume at least your body weight in said superfood in under an hour.
Cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, quinoa and walnuts have all ridden the calculated PR wave to health fame in the last few years, and indeed that is possibly why they have drifted on to my kitchen shelves.
180g pomegranate seeds (1 pomegranate approx.)
200g feta, crumbled
100g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
50g fresh coriander, finely chopped
10g garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp tahini
8 tbsp natural yogurt
6 tbsp lemon juice
- In a medium sized pan boil 1 litre of water over a high heat. Pour in the quinoa and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the grains are translucent but still slightly al dente. Drain the quinoa in a sieve and set it aside to cool.
- Chop the cauliflower roughly, and blitz in a blender, pulsing until it resembles coarse couscous. If you don’t have a blender, you can grate the cauliflower by hand to achieve a similar effect.
- In a large serving bowl, mix together the quinoa, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, feta, walnuts and coriander.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients to combine. Pour as much as desired of the dressing over the salad just before serving and mix it through.
The pizza oven is raging, rapidly devouring its feed of dry wood and spitting out sweet nutty smoke.
He comes every summer in his Ape brimming with plump mushrooms of dough.
A light sprinkle of flour on a wooden board, and he gets to work.
With wrist flicks and little rotations the round becomes a disc, airborne momentarily to ensure evenness.
A careful spiral of passata with the back of a spoon,
a shower of mozzarella,
and a scattering of whatever’s in the garden: fiori di zucchini, melanzane, pepperoncini…
The flurry of flour continues into the night.
The dinner table is a moderation-free zone.
He only stops when even the strictest of eaters has lost count of the number of pizzas (not slices) he/she has consumed, and physical incapacity is the only limitation.
He doesn’t even really stop there: a couple more are sent to the table per domani.
A pizza “hangover” ensues along with the inevitable promises of “never again” “not for another year”.
But as soon as I hit London soil again I want to relieve that pizza-lover’s fantasy and so I make these.
They’re crisp, thin, verdant, and fresh.
I don’t believe in barren crusts or meanness so the ingredients are abundant and go right up to and beyond the edge of the base.
I use spelt instead of plain flour (as usual) to reduce the GI level and add a nuttier more complex flavour to the dough.
The added bonus of this recipe is that it is ridiculously quick. Kneading is kept to a minimum (5 minutes) and the rising time is the shortest you’ll ever find for pizza dough – ½ hour.
The balsamic-maple reduction is optional but I include it to add extra caramelised sweetness, extra tang and a touch of drama.
Ingredients – makes 4 pizzas
250ml warm water
3 tsp dried yeast (fast active yeast)
500g white spelt flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
30g garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
Grated zest of ½ lemon
A few grinds of Pepper
400g mozzarella (4 balls), chopped finely into cubes
100g parmesan, grated
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
Small bunch of chives, finely chopped
2 red chillies (optional), finely sliced
2 large baking trays or 4 medium baking trays, greased and dusted with flour
Maple Balsamic Reduction (optional)
120ml balsamic vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
- Heat oven to 120˚C for 5 minutes then switch it off.
- In the bowl of a mixer (or large bowl if making by hand) pour in warm water and sprinkle yeast over it. Allow to stand for 5 minutes for the yeast to activate.
- Stir in flour, salt and oil. Knead by hand for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or in a machine fitted with a dough hook for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and when you press your thumb into it, it bounces back up.
- Divide dough into two and place each half in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and place in warmed oven. Allow to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled, then remove from oven and preheat it to its highest temperature, usually 250˚C.
- While the dough is rising, use a vegetable peeler to shave the asparagus: place the asparagus flat on a surface, and holding it at the woody end, shave it from above the woody end to the top of the spear. I sometimes use the ends to make a stock for asparagus risotto.
- Place the ribbons in a bowl and mix with garlic, oil, salt, lemon zest and pepper.
- Once risen, divide each half into two and roll out each quarter into a 0.5cm thick disc. Place on tray and scatter each disc with mozzarella, parmesan, and shaved asparagus. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling.
- Once baked, scatter with spring onions, chives, and chillies, if using. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, if desired, and serve immediately.
Maple Balsamic reduction
- Boil balsamic and maple syrup together over a high heat for about 5 minutes until it thickens slightly to consistency more like that of pure maple syrup. Allow to cool for 1 minute, and drizzle over pizzas.
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
There is a particular trend that is permeating the London dining scene like a contagion.
In the flurry of new openings, and novel and exotic twists on traditional gastronomies, a number of restaurateurs have become smitten with Spanish tapas, and have decided to exploit this style of cuisine for all its worth. Tapas are traditionally displayed on a menu in a long list, and served all at once, so diners can delight in dipping in and out of them with a few drinks as they please. Instead of serving a carefully structured plate of well-balanced complementary elements, the restaurants at fault are breaking the plates down into individual elements.
They call them “small plates”, and I detest them.
You’ll know that you’ve found yourself in this “small plate” trap when the waiter suggests that each person orders three, despite the fact that one is the cost of a normal large plate. Not only do they expand their profits substantially by doing this, but the effort required by the kitchen is significantly reduced. Chefs don’t need to bother about planning dishes when they can just make whatever the hell they like, call it another small plate and let the diner err when structuring their picky little meal. Oh, and these small plates seem to have a life of their own: you see, they can arrive according to their own whim and in any combination. At my most recent visit to a restaurant of this type, all vegetables were deemed unsuitable to be served with fish.
My rage against small plates had been boiling for several weeks when I decided to return to Honey & Co, where I knew my craving for a large plate could be fulfilled. Call me demanding, or even greedy, if you like. I’d been before and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but sadly forgot to bring my camera. This time, however, I was armed. Itamar Srulovich and his wife Sarit Packer rule the roost at this tiny 30 cover Canaan. He’s ex- Ottolenghi - an almost guarantee of success - and the Ottolenghi influence is strongly evident in the cuisine. Décor is kept to a minimum, with stark white walls and patterned blue tiled floor forcing your eye greedily towards the focal countertop display of spiced and perfumed cakes. Despite the minimalism, there is no lack of atmosphere. Most people are so pleased to have acquired their 1.5 hour table slot that they exude an aura of excitement.
The menu is divided into starters and mains (hallelujah) – I plumped for spring salad of peas, courgettes, and warm manouri cheese with a lemon and saffron sauce. Crisp, and light with the nuttiness of the manouri and electric tang of citrus, the dish was very pleasant.
One dining companion went down the more obvious but inevitably delicious route of falafel served with a tabbouleh and tahini sauce – one of the most popular on the menu (the chefs undoubtedly roll falafel in their sleep).
The other opted for the braised artichoke with parsley za’atar and yoghurt dipping sauce.
This was rather a tame option as there only so much you can do to a whole artichoke in terms of flavour(read: very little), and so no matter how delicious the sauce the eating becomes tiresome. It resides alongside eating fish and quail on the bone in my list of things that I just don’t have time for. I can’t be bothered to fuss around with scraping a half centimetre of blandish artichoke flesh against the back of my teeth.
My main course was very good: a plate abounding with plump parcels (aka Menti) of burnt courgette and herb with olive oil braised broad beans and whipped feta, the latter adding a kick of saltiness to draw out the sweetness from the dumplings and green vegetables.
Despite the petit nature of the restaurant (even the waitresses are petite, needing to squeeze between the close-set tables), the kitchen at Honey & Co must go through roughly an entire field of mint every day. It resides proudly on almost every plate, and nor is its presence irrelevant – it lifts the earthier flavours into more summery tones, like for example, the shawarma of slow cooked lamb shoulder burnt pitta and goat’s yoghurt with amba mint and pomegranate. I’m not the greatest fan of lamb, but this dish convinced me that my prejudice was poorly founded.
The lamb was succulent, tender and sweet, and lifted to higher planes with the addition of juicy gems of pomegranate and the ubiquitous mint.
The only disappointment was my dining companion’s chicken makloobah with saffron rice and a lemon yoghurt sauce. Visually, the dish lacked the vibrant flair that every other possessed and was a little bland.
One dining companion went on to order the pink grapefruit and raspberry granita with yoghurt mousse and honeyed oat crisp. The flavours bounced nicely off each other but I found the granita a little too perfumed.
I’m also more inclined to a substantial dessert: I don’t particularly care for palate cleansers. If I’m going to sin, then I’ll sin properly. And there’s one vital way to do that at Honey & Co: the cheesecake with kadaif pastry and honey. Perhaps not the most beautiful of desserts, but more than made up for in flavour – the cheesecake is well balanced, creamy and contrasts perfectly with the crunchy, sticky tangled nest of kadaif.
Bold, well-balanced, vibrant, and generous, the food at Honey & Co is the perfect antidote to the small plate disease.
Suitable for: buisness lunches, casual dates, family, friends, vegetarians
I wandered into my favourite greengrocer yesterday in search of inspiration, and came out laden with half the store. Amongst the wooden crates I found the most beautifully vibrant baby carrots and blushing, freckled pomegranate orb.
Although lentils and carrots are usually associated with comfort and winter, I used fresh orange and pomegranate jewels to lift them to a lighter, more summery dish.
The carrots are poached in orange juice and maple syrup until juicy and softened and the liquid has reduced to a golden caramel. They are then roasted until sticky, slightly charred and a little withered, but dense with succulence and depth of flavour. The caramel is turned into a citrusy dressing to drench the lentils, with the sweetness balanced with the salty kick of feta.
200g puy lentils
2 tsp vegetable bouillon stock
1 litre boiling water
400g baby carrots
Juice of 3 oranges (15 tbsp)
5 tbsp maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
¼ tsp salt
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 oranges supremed (i.e. segmented with skin and membrane removed)
140g pomegranate seeds (half a pomegranate)
20g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- Place lentils, stock and boiling water in a pan over a high heat and allow to simmer with a lid on for 30-35 minutes until fully cooked. They should be soft and no longer chalky, but definitely not mushy. Drain them, and set aside in a bowl to cool.
- While the lentils are cooking, prepare the carrots: pour the orange juice into a large frying pan over a medium high heat, add the maple syrup and salt, and stir to combine. Carefully arrange the carrots in the pan and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or until the carrots have softened and the liquid has reduced by about two thirds and become viscous and syrupy. Remove from the heat.
- Preheat the grill to 230˚C. Remove the carrots from the frying pan (while preserving the syrup), arrange them on a baking tray and grill for 5 minutes (checking after 3 minutes) or until they are slightly charred.
- Into the pan with the remaining syrup, pour in the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, crushed garlic cloves and salt to make the dressing. Stir the mixture over a low heat until fully combined. Pour the warmed dressing over the bowl of lentils.
- To serve, carefully spoon the lentils and any non-absorbed dressing on to a platter, and scatter with pomegranate seeds and crumbled feta. Arrange the orange segments and roasted carrots over the top, and sprinkle with the chopped coriander.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
Last week I panic baked. My usually dependable supply of Dr Karg’s seeded spelt and emmental and pumpkin seed crisp breads had run dry. Only a few sad seeds in the corner of the packet remained, which I ate mournfully, before desperation led me to pulling open drawers in search of the emergency packet I had hidden from myself.
My hunt was rewarded with absolutely no trophies. I must have found them some time before.
Necessity mothered invention: I combined some of my favourite ingredients to make my own version of the crisp breads, and they turned out rather well, perhaps even better than the originals. My family had clearly also been struck by panic, as two batches were devoured in ten minutes…
These crisp breads are ridiculously quick to make, healthy (when you don’t eat the whole batch in one sitting – an almost impossible feat), and delicious. They’re also versatile – the seeds can be eliminated and/or exchanged for other varieties as desired, and they can be served with hummus, red pepper pesto (see my recipe), guacamole etc. They can also be made dairy-free by eliminating the cheese.
115g white spelt flour
100g wholemeal spelt flour
¾ tsp salt
30g sesame seeds
15g poppy seeds
30g pumpkin seeds
50g cheddar, grated
50g parmesan grated, + 5g for sprinkling
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 baking tray, overturned, greased with oil and dusted with flour
- Preheat oven to 220˚C. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together. Pour in water and oil and stir until mixture clumps together into quite a dry dough. You may need to knead it slightly with your hands.
- Place dough on overturned baking tray and roll it out until it reaches the edges of the tray. It should be about 3mm thick.
- Sprinkle with the extra parmesan, prick the dough liberally with a fork, and score it into your preferred geometric shapes. I like 4cm x 10cm rectangles.
- Place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden, and firm to touch. Leave to cool – they will become crisper as they cool.
I often spend summers in Italy. In the evenings, when the vine- ripening summer sun begins to soften and the incessant squeak and rattle of the plough eventually dies, I usually clamber up the nearby hill, meandering across the crest. On one of my walks, I headed towards the nearby palazzo, along the path bordered by Cyprus spears.
Lizards basking in the heat still held by the pale ochre walls scuttled away at my footsteps, and a green shutter creaked in the mild breeze.
The knobbed tree in front stood with its arms filled with waxy green dewdrop-like figs, nodding gently like a recently metamorphosed Ovidian nymph. I reached to tug at a branch, and a cluster melted softly off it. The pink juices dripping down my fingers, I gathered two handfuls and made my companion fill his pockets with the good intention of bringing some back for others to try.
As so often happens, the thoughtful food gift didn’t reach its destination (I ate it), but I went back the next day, and the next. I was converted from someone with a slight aversion to figs to an obsessive.
This salad combines the earthy lusciousness of figs with caramel to add depth and sticky sweetness to the dish. This contrasts with the fresh tanginess of oranges – blood oranges are currently in season so are fantastic to use – and the saltiness of the feta and peppery rocket leaves.
The dressing is fresh, sweet, salty and savoury, tying all the elements together.
Ingredients Serves 2 (or 4, as a side)
8 figs, halved
50g caster sugar
juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (substitute with balsamic vinegar, if necessary)
¼ tsp salt
2 oranges, peeled and sliced into 1/2 cm discs
100g feta, sliced into ½ cm cubes
- Place a shallow frying pan over a medium/high heat, pour in sugar and allow to melt, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning.
- Place halved figs face down in the molten sugar and cook in the caramel for 2 minutes. Turn them over to cook for a further 1 minute. Remove from pan and place on serving plate.
- For the dressing, pour the orange juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pomegranate molasses into the caramelised sugar pan and stir until the caramelised sugar has dissolved into the liquid. Remove from stove and stir in lemon juice.
- Scatter rocket, orange slices and feta on the serving plate with the figs and drizzle with the dressing.
Inspired by Ottolenghi
Khanom krok, crepes, blinis, dosas, tortillas, msemmen, ingera, beghrir, and both pandan and rice pancakes - dense, spongy, fluffy, light,... I've devoured them all. But when it gets to Sunday, and brunch is obligatory, I always revert to American-style pancakes. I want to whisk up something quick, easy and delicious.
The internet is currently riddled with recipes for "sugarless, 2-ingredient protein pancakes". Warning: two ingredients = egg and banana, and there are many things I'd rather eat than a banana omelette. So I came up with my own healthier version of American-style pancakes using wholegrain spelt and coconut oil.
They're fluffy, light and filling, and the wholemeal spelt flour adds a warming nuttiness as well as lowering the overall GI level. They're also really addictive - the photos are of the fourth batch I made on the day (as the first batch were consumed as a solo act, and the second and third were inhaled by my brothers).
I paired them with a very simple mixed berry compote, the recipe for which is below.
Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes
340g wholemeal spelt flour (can be substituted with plain flour, wholemeal wheat or white spelt)
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
450ml unsweetened almond milk (can be substituted with any other kind)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
45g coconut oil, melted + extra to coat frying pan (can be substituted with butter)
500g mixed frozen berries
3 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
1tbsp vanilla extract
1.) In a blender, blitz together all the ingredients until smooth.
2.) Place shallow frying pan over a medium-high heat and melt 1tbsp of coconut butter (or butter, if using), swirling it around to coat the pan.
3) Pour batter into pan to desired pancake size and cook for a couple of minutes until bubbles begin to break through the surface. Flip, and cook for a further couple of minutes until golden.
Mixed Berry Compote
1.) Place pan over high heat, pour in all ingredients, and stir to mix through.
2.) When the berries have melted and the mixture begins to simmer, reduce to a low heat and cook until berries are completely cooked through.
3.) Drench pancakes.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
The architecture of Somerset House is majestic and heavy, with its rather hefty air of hard work and gravity still redolent of the government offices it used to accommodate. But march through the entrance and turn right and along the frowning edifices, and you will find yourself in Spring – and an atmosphere so utterly opposite it might make you gasp.
Airy, high-ceilinged and painted in pastel shades of green and blue, the dining room really is spring-like in feel.
The various light fittings remind one of frog spawn or aubergines or berries, and the origami petals arranged in gently dispersing circular dandelion drifts on the walls imbue the restaurant with a spirit of lightness.
The attire of the staff has provoked much comment: there seems to be a nautical/operating theatre theme. I liked the waiters’ striped t-shirts, and while I wasn’t convinced by the tents worn by the women at reception, their colours nevertheless worked together. However, the woman whom I took to be the maître d’ was, on the other hand, wearing a dark forest green skirt and top combination that did not harmonise with the other staff members’ apparel, and looked both sombre and dowdy.
The menu is not long and there were elements that required explanation. Our waitress, who bore a striking resemblance to Toulouse Lautrec’s La Goulue – appropriately for someone working in a restaurant with its potential for gluttony – and a haughty self-importance to match, made us feel a bit reticent about asking too many questions. She defrosted a little as the meal progressed.
I’m not usually one to order fruit juice, but the pistachio and apple was too good a combination to pass up. It was sublime too – freshly puréed apple with the warmth of roasted pistachios and just a hint of aniseed. One retro rhubarb-striped glassful is simply not enough.
To start, I had a salad of fennel, blood orange, hazelnuts and radicchio. The plating was refined and elegant as you would expect from an establishment so concerned with its aesthetic. I have a weakness for blood oranges too, so this went down well, and the combination of flavours was refreshing. This dish, however, was listed rather deceitfully under mains, and unless you’re on a 5:2 diet, it is only substantial enough to pass as a starter.
I followed the salad with sea bass with Jerusalem artichokes and black olive dressing. All the pressure points of cooking fish well had been thoroughly met, and with flair: the skin was crisp to the point of shattering, and the flesh melted away with minimal cutlery usage. Tender and perfectly seasoned and combined with the salty crushed olives and tomatoes and crunchy-skinned Jerusalem artichokes, this dish was worth its significant price.
My dining companion ordered the fillet of beef with farro, cavolo nero and shredded radicchio. The beef was generously portioned and a fine cut, but it was slightly under seasoned. The farro with pea purée made up for its rather un-photogenic appearance in flavour.
The salad of grilled lamb, chickpeas, radicchio and chilli jam was good without being outstanding, and the vegetarian onion squash with cime di rapa and chilli butter was also flavourful, albeit on the small side - despite our waitress’s assurance that it was a main course. Surprisingly, vegetarians are not abundantly catered for.
The rhubarb element of the winter rhubarb ice cream with meringue and candied ginger dessert looked uncannily like the floor tiles of the women’s loos. This lavatorial reminder didn’t manage to put me off – it takes a lot more than that. The ice cream was tangy and tart and contrasted well texturally with the good, but quite ordinarily so, meringue. The ginger was a wonderful addition titillating the palate whenever a piece found its way on to the spoon.
I enjoy most types of dessert but I am more inclined towards those with substance, which the hazelnut and pear tart with crème fraiche and espresso went some way towards satisfying. The pastry was lovely and crumbly and suffused with hazelnuts but slightly on the dry side. The pears were delicious, too. However, the almost invisible dots of expresso powder were not enough to substantiate the menu’s claim to its existence.
The dark chocolate honeycomb petit fours were a nice touch at the end to accompany our fresh mint teas and coffees.
I’m always sad when a good meal comes to an end, and Spring was indeed a good meal with some especially outstanding dishes. The service was ok without being exceptional (by the end of the meal the waitress had half-smiled once) while the interior is ethereally beautiful – almost a reason to go in itself.
Suitable for: smart dates, celebrations, family, business lunches, healthy eating
Last year I spent a week in the middle of nowhere, in freezing cold, exercising over 6 hours a day in mud/gales/snow/hail, under the supervision of ex-military trainers who pushed me physically beyond my limits until every last droplet of sweat had been purged. My fellow “bootcampers” included a fresh out of prison and rehab drug dealer/addict, a morbidly obese woman who refused to communicate with anyone, a creepy London shop owner, a z-list celebrity from a certain Chelsea based reality TV show, whose ego was undeservedly overblown, and some poor guy whose father had told him he was going on a spa retreat in Spain but despatched him instead into gruelling and bleak middle England.
Our diet was heavily regimented, too: no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, and nothing processed. Despite its virtuousness, it was delicious - fresh, wholesome and innovative - all cooked by an ex-OXO Tower chef. Admittedly, food is the first thing I think of when I wake up anyway, but this feeling became intensified at the camp, especially with a 6 o’clock alarm call, and two hours of torture before breakfast. No, it wasn’t a prison camp: I did this out of choice.
It was one of the only occasions when getting chummy with the chef didn’t reap any edible perks. I did , however, manage to glean the recipe for the breakfast highlight of the week: Bircher muesli. It traditionally has a fluid consistency and is made the night before to allow the oats to become plump with apple juice and yoghurt. This one breaks all the rules but is more delicious, healthier and a hundred times more convenient – most people (excluding me) spare little thought for breakfast, let alone prepare for it the night before.
This recipe is dairy-free and sugar-free simply because I think it’s delicious that way, but feel free to use dairy equivalents, and add some maple syrup if you’re that way inclined – it works equally well. It can also be made gluten-free – just use the appropriate muesli brand.
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 cups sugar-free muesli
1 Braeburn apple, grated and sprinkled with 1 tsp lemon juice (this will prevent it oxidising and going brown)
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup coconut yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt)
3 tbsp coconut milk (or dairy)
2 tbsp apple juice
(1 tbsp maple syrup – optional)
¼ cup coconut yoghurt
A handful of strawberries
2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan over a medium heat for a few minutes until pale brown
- Stir together all topping ingredients. It should be of a thick consistency but feel free to add another splash of coconut milk if you prefer. Leave for 10 minutes to allow the muesli to absorb the flavours.
- Top with yoghurt, and scatter with berries and flaked almonds. Drizzle with maple syrup if you like.
Moist, juicy, dense, fruity, this is the queen of all carrot cakes. I have now abandoned all previous carrot cake recipes in favour of this one
4 large eggs
350g caster sugar
225ml vegetable oil (or any other flavourless oil)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
500g carrots, peeled and grated (about 5 carrots)
200g pineapple chopped roughly into 1cm cubes, and 2 tbsp fresh pineapple juice (you can squeeze it yourself)
zest of 1 orange
juice of ½ orange
100g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 x 20cm round tins, buttered and with base lined with baking parchment
200g butter, at room temperature
500g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
200g icing sugar, sieved
- Preheat oven to 170˚C.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until smooth, resembling a thin custard. Whisk in oil and vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, sieve together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt. Gently fold these dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
- Stir grated carrots, chopped pineapple, pineapple juice, orange zest, orange juice and chopped walnuts into the mixture. Divide mixture between the tins and place in middle of the oven to bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
- Allow to cook on a wire rack, then wrap in tin foil/cling film and place in fridge overnight. This is to aid the icing process. If you don’t have the luxury of time, place cakes in the freezer for half an hour before icing.
- Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until soft, creamy and shiny. Add in cream cheese and sieved icing sugar and continue beating until completely smooth. If the mixture is of an almost runny consistency, place in fridge for half an hour.
- Sandwich the two cakes together using a quarter of the mixture. Use the rest to coat the top and sides. Chill in the fridge before serving. Keeps well for several days in the fridge.
Adapted from Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook
When you get the 4 o’clock slump, moderation is at an all-time low and chocolate bars are winking at you, reach for one of these carb-free, sugar-free, gluten-free fruit & seed bars instead. They are high in protein, vitamin rich, low GI, ridiculously easy to make (no baking), yet despite their virtuousness, they are irresistibly delicious.
500g mixed seeds (I use pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
40g ground almonds (optional)
3 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
3 tsp vanilla bean paste (use vanilla extract if not available)
200g medjool dates
200g dried figs
Pinch of salt
20x25cm baking tray, greased
Makes about 30, depending on size
- Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C.
- Spread out the mixed seeds on a large baking tray (not the pre-greased one) and place in centre of oven to toast for 5 minutes until they are beginning to turn golden. To achieve the same result without an oven, toast them in frying pan over a medium heat and stir continuously for about 5 minutes.
- Blend together figs, dates, vanilla bean paste and salt until they turn to a smooth paste.
- In a large bowl mix together toasted mixed seeds, ground almonds, chia seeds and the fig-date paste until thoroughly combined.
- Press the mixture into the pre-greased baking tray and slice into bars of desired size.
- Wrap the tray with clingfilm and place in freezer for at least an hour, or leave overnight in fridge to set. The bars will last for several weeks.
If you’re undecided as to what to have for breakfast, make this: fruit, oatmeal/porridge and pancakes rolled into one. It’s delicious, quick to make, filling, and just sweet enough to satisfy any sweet craving but also not so sweet that it will send blood glucose levels skyrocketing...
The almond milk & coconut oil can be substituted for their dairy equivalents, (milk & butter) in the same quantity.
Wholegrain spelt flour can be substituted for white/wholegrain wheat flour, or gluten-free.
110g rolled oats
300ml hot unsweetened almond milk
100g coconut oil
60g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium egg
Zest of half a lemon
1 tsp baking powder
140g wholegrain spelt flour
300g frozen mixed berries (or fresh)
11 x 22cm loaf tin (or one of a similar area), greased and dusted with flour
- Preheat oven to 180˚C. Mix oats with hot milk and allow to soak.
- Beat together oil, sugar, honey, vanilla, egg and lemon zest. Sieve in baking powder and flour and mix until just combined. The bran in the wholemeal flour won’t sieve so just add it in once you’ve sieved as much as possible.
- Using a sieve, drain the excess liquid from the soaked oats , then stir them into the mixture.
- Pour into loaf tin and scatter berries on top.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Serve warm or cold.
Yesterday, with cupboards almost bare, I resorted to the very strange assortment of ingredients remaining & concocted this salad. It's low GI, wholesome, healthy, super quick to make, involves minimal cooking and is addictively flavoursome.
250g halloumi cheese cut into 1 cm cubes
1 tbsp. olive oil
400g chickpeas, drained
1 red onion, finely sliced
50g drained, sundried tomatoes, cut into narrow strips
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
40g fresh coriander, including stalks, finely chopped, plus a few sprigs extra for garnish
½ green chilli, finely sliced (optional)
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. harissa
3 tsp. sundried tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
- Fry the cubes of halloumi in the olive oil until they are golden brown.
- Combine all the salad ingredients apart from the dressing, the chilli (if using), and the extra coriander for garnish.
- Mix the dressing ingredients until well combined.
- Shortly before serving the salad, mix the salad with the dressing, and sprinkle with the coriander and chilli.
(Serves 4 as an accompaniment)
1 in 100 people in UK is coeliac . 1 in 20 people in UK is diabetic (http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Documents/Reports/Diabetes-in-the-UK-2012.pdf).
According to the Telegraph, 1 in 5 people is buying gluten-free products, but only 5% of these are buying the products due to coeliac disease. The most common reasons for a non-coeliac buying the gluten-free products are listed as: “digestive health”, “nutritional value” and “to help me lose weight”. These consumers are misguided. Everyone who can is cynically taking advantage by jumping aboard the gluten-free bandwagon: the British gluten-free market is worth £238 million annually (Food Standards Agency) and grew by more than 15 per cent last year. In the US, it is worth around $2.6 billion, a growth of 36 per cent since 2006, with predictions that it may double in size in the next two years.
It’s great that the gluten-free options are increasing for those who have coeliac disease, but the products that are tailored specifically to exclude gluten (bread, biscuits, pastas etc.) and targeted at non-coeliac sufferers are actually detrimental to one’s health.
Gluten-free does not mean that a product is ‘virtuous’ or in any way superior to its glutenous counterpart.
Unless you are coeliac, your body needs the vitamin B, iron and folates that are in gluten-containing grains such as barley, spelt and kamut. That is not to say that these should be had in excess, but they should not be entirely avoided.
Gluten-free products which have been made to substitute for the real bread, pasta, biscuits etc. may be worse for you than what they purport to replace: in order to imitate the gluten contained in their counterparts, the products have to be messed around with a lot more, often resulting in a significantly higher level of fat than their “normal” equivalents. For example, the gluten in bread allows it to maintain its shape and softness; to achieve the gluten-free equivalent, manufacturers often use additives like xanthan gum and hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose or corn starch. In addition, extra sugar and fat are often also added to make products more flavoursome.
It is not just the shops that are propagating the gluten-free message, taking advantage of people’s ignorance, but food bloggers and recipe websites are doing it too. The internet is saturated with gluten-free recipes, and more and more cooks are incorporating gluten-free recipes into their books. Clearly, not a bad thing for coeliac sufferers. There is, however, no transparency. The breads that are made in imitation of the glutenous equivalent use a combination of flours. For example, the Doves Farm’s gluten-free brown flour, with muted-tone, paper bag packaging promoting a wholesome brand image – consists of potato, rice, tapioca buckwheat, carob, sugar beet fibre, and xanthan gum. Doesn’t sound too bad, you might think. In fact, these combined ingredients create a product much higher on the Glycaemic Index (GI) than white flour. The GI is not a fad diet but a measure of the rise in a person's blood sugar level following consumption of a carbohydrate. The NHS recommends diabetics to have a low GI diet as low GI foods break down more slowly and are less likely to cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels in contrast with high GI foods. A low GI lifestyle is not solely beneficial for diabetics but for everyone. Carbohydrates with high GI cause glucose and insulin levels to surge. The body releases the hormone insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. If sugar is not quickly used for energy, insulin removes it from the blood, and it is then converted into triglycerides in the liver. These triglycerides can then be stored as body fat. Standard white bread has a high GI of 71 on average. Gluten-free white bread has a higher GI of 79. Clearly, GI isn’t always a measure of other benefits that are derived from a product, but the fact that shops, companies, bakeries and bloggers are promoting gluten-free products as a virtuous substitute is deeply misleading – they are, in fact, pushing a product that spikes the levels of glucose in a consumer’s blood, causing fat gain, aiding the onset of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
So the question is why is “low GI” not trending? Why is #glutenfree posted on almost 3,000,000 photos on Instagram, and #lowGI only 18,000? Gluten-free products are not necessarily beneficial for your health. Surely there should be greater focus on the GI factor as well as greater transparency in relation to gluten-free products.