Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Some Like it Hops

After a bit of a bagel baking disaster and a 5am start to rectify the situation I was slightly jaded come the start of Some Like it Hops, add to that a bit of jet lag and you have a slightly clumsy dazed supperclub host. But everything was alright on the night thankfully; lovely guests, much improved second bake bagels and some delicious beers from Northern Alchemy, Out There Brewing Company and Tyne Bank Brewery. I am fast becoming a craft beer convert, I didn't even know I liked the stuff; turns out I like a lot of it... Add to that some pretty delicious hot salt beef and a few half pints of pickle and you have yourself a splendid evening at The Cumberland Arms...

Monday, 10 March 2014

Some Like it Hops

Some Like it Hops – Sunday 30th March 7pm

Tickets £35 – SOLD OUT

in conjunction with The Cumberland Arms, Out There Brewing Company, Tyne Bank Brewery and Northern Alchemy

Having teamed up with The Cumberland Arms previously for the very successful Autumn Graze market, I have joined forces with the popular Ouseburn pub once again for a very special beer themed evening. This will be dining at the Cumberland as you have never known it before, a three course feast with matching local beers. The event brings together some of the region’s best small breweries. Together we have designed a brilliant evening for food and beer fans alike. It is always very exciting to take my supperclubs to a new location, and this promises to be a unique night for anyone into their food or beer. All the beauty and design of my usual events but with interesting beers and delicious matching food. I’m particularly looking forward to the hot salt beef!

Tyne Bank Brewery, Out There Brewing Company and Northern Alchemy have come together with myself and The Cumberland to design the unique menu, featuring a beer matched to each course from one of each of the breweries. Out There have matched a Belgian style wheat beer to the starter, Northern Alchemy are working on something special to go with the main course; hot salt beef with mustards and pickles and Tyne Bank have a special cherry stout to go with the rich chocolate puddings! The Cumberland is also working on a new beer cocktail to welcome the guests on arrival!

Tickets for the event are £35 and you can book by emailing the Cumberland Arms, you will be contacted for payment when your place is confirmed.

Booking info:
The Cumberland Arms


Beer cocktails on arrival

beer matching by Out There Brewing Company

Potted salmon with lemon and black pepper
Dressed leaves
Wholemeal bread

beer matching by Northern Alchemy

Hot Salt Beef
Celeriac Coleslaw
Homemade bagels
Sweet cucumber pickles
English mustard

beer matching by Tyne Bank Brewery

Profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Experiments in Smoking Part 2

A few weeks ago Mr. Smokerson came out of hibernation for a day; a day of cold smoking experiments. I have previously tried cold smoked cheese, which was delicious; and have been wondering what I could turn to next. I tried some salmon which was less successful. Pretty much all of the different meats I have smoked have been good, but I am keen to branch out. I’m still a total novice and generally just bung in a big bit of meat, some wood chips and hope for the best. There is yet to be any proper science applied to my experiments, but I will continue and hopefully the whys and wherefores will present themselves in time.

Back to cold smoking day... Butter was my first thought; smoked butter must be a good thing? So I decided to smoke the cream and make my own butter, just to make it a bit more interesting; in order for the flavour to run right through, rather than just smoking the outside of a block of butter. Then I thought eggs, and finally ricotta. Mr Smokerson has a couple of shelves inside so there is room to have a few different things going on at once.

Smoked eggs, it seemed like a good idea? They were the most complicated task, I wasn’t sure whether to cook them, shell them, keep them raw, or how long to smoke them for. I did a bit of investigating and there were a lot of different ideas on timing, anything from 20 minutes to 4 hours. I tried them cooked in the end, boiled for 7.5 minutes, a couple shelled and one with its shell still on. You can smoke them raw apparently as the smoke will permeate the shell, but requires a longer smoke. I was still confident that a smoked egg was going to be a wonderful thing, I like eggs, I like smoked stuff. Winner? I read about smoked egg salad, I dreamt up a smoked scotch egg, how could that be bad?

So I was all set, with a bowl of cream, ricotta on a plate and eggs a few ways. I have a little metal mesh tray thing for cold smoking that winds round and round like a maze. You fill it with sawdust, I think mine is oak, it came with my smoker. Then you light a tea light, pop it in at one end, wait until the wood begins to smoulder then take the candle out. The wood dust then burns round the maze very slowly, allowing you to smoke things for long amounts of time.

It is interesting how the smoke affects things differently. After an hour the taste and smell of smoke in the cream was incredibly strong; the ricotta seemed just perfect, a very light smoky taste; and one of the pre shelled eggs had a very mild smoke to it, hardly noticeable at all. So I returned the other two for another hour, there was no way the smoke would have got through the shell of the egg if it has barely affected the shelled one.

I have to say I didn’t really enjoy the egg in the end, and I’m yet to make the Scotch egg version, because every time I think about it, I think ‘I don’t want to eat another egg that tastes of smoke’. It was a bit like you’d had a house fire, gone back the next day and eaten the cold smoky boiled eggs you had left behind... Doesn’t sound that appealing does it?

The ricotta was lovely, mild smoky and creamy. I made some polenta, with fried mushrooms and rosemary, with a dollop of ricotta on top. I think it would be delicious on top of a simple tomato pasta too. I had something similar in Italy in the summer, which was a rich tomato orecchiette pasta topped with aged ricotta, which was so strong and delicious.

The butter is good, very smoky, very. I wasn’t sure what to do with it though. When you taste a bit on its own it is lovely, when you have a bit on bread it seems almost like you’re eating smoked cheese rather than butter. Perhaps it would work on top of a steak? Or to make a white sauce for a fish pie, that seems like a good idea... or wrapped up with corn on the cob to go on the bbq? It’s definitely a niche market however! And a few weeks later I’m not thinking, I wish I had some more of that smoked butter, so it’s likely it won’t material again for a bit...

I think I’m so used to smoking and eating meat that smoked things that aren’t meat end up seeming a bit odd. Why would you want your egg to taste of smoke I ended up asking myself? Which I guess means it probably shouldn’t. So a tick for ricotta, a project to find a use for the butter, and possibly give the eggs a miss next time round...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Rhubarb and Ginger Compot

Our rhubarb at the allotment has survived and begun to re-emerge, I think it is the only thing growing on our plot aside from weeds at the moment, but I'm full of good intentions again this year and will try hard to have a tidy and productive allotment all season long. This is my second lot of rhubarb, I killed the first by stepping on it... I have never managed to do that well with my gardening, time being the main issue, but I seem to improve ever so slightly year on year; when I don't trample on my plants... I wish I had more time to spend there as I really love it. I'm a big fan of rhubarb, unfortunately ours is a little way off from being able to eat, but the shops are full of it at the moment.

I've been making this tasty little Rhubarb and Ginger compot for a long time now, it has even appeared in The Sunday Times. Fancy that... It was part of an article about Britain's best food bloggers, I was asked to send them a picnic recipe, and even though I have never taken this on a picnic and I'm not sure how you even would transport it, I chose this... I think nerves had something to do with it...

You can just eat this on it's own as a little pudding, it is lovely with clotted cream and meringues and I made it into a crumble at the weekend which was delicious. I added a few apples too and topped it with a thick crumble full of oats, butter and ground almonds. I think the ginger is the star of the show here, it just makes the whole thing so delicious!

These amounts will make 5 or 6 little puddings or a small crumble base. To start chop 400g of rhubarb into inch long chunks, finely dice two balls of stem ginger, then add the rhubarb, ginger, 2 tablespoons of the ginger syrup and 30g sugar to a baking tray. The amount of sugar will depend on the natural sweetness of the rhubarb, so start with 30g and keep checking it as it cooks, you might add up to 70g depending. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven at 170°C until the rhubarb is soft and stewed, about 20 minutes. Serve it cold with cream, meringues or use as a crumble base. It is sweet and tart with lovely spicy candied ginger.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Never Very Valentines Supperclub

I had the very talented Wiesia Bojko hanging out with me at last weeks Valentines Supperclub. I thought I would share a few of her beautiful photos with you, you can see more of her work over on her blog here... It was a great evening, there were fairy light hearts on the wall, pheasant hearts in the terrine and lots of canny guests. Everyone had a lovely time! I think the pulled pork was the best ever, falling apart fatty and juicy... There will be dates coming soon for more Supperclubs at Ouse Street Arts Club, The Cumberland Arms and also Carruthers and Kent wine shop, so watch this space...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Blood Orange, Walnut and Ricotta Salad

London was awash with blood oranges last week; every menu we turned to was doing something with them. Margot drizzled them over an impressive looking cheesecake, The Clove Club served them with a delicious goats curd and emerald green fennel granita, Quo Vadis had them with campari or a fennel salad, and Spuntino in a sprightly salad with walnuts. We ate so well, as you might have gathered... I would highly recommend all of the above if you are dining out in the big smoke any time soon...

So instead of filling my bags with the wonders of Liberty jewellery department, which I really wanted to do; I filled my handbag with blood oranges from a delightful little shop called Leila’s near Rochelle Canteen, and brought them all the way back to Newcastle. I realise this is not the most sensible way to shop, but I was worried I wasn’t going to find any in Newcastle and I had Valentine’s diners to feed...

This is a very simple little salad, but very tasty. To serve two for lunch or four as a side, take a bag of watercress, spinach and rocket, one or all varieties will do. I made a little dressing of extra virgin olive oil, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, a tiny bit of maple syrup, salt and pepper, shake it all up and dress the leaves well.

Peel one blood orange and slice thinly, they are so beautiful inside, each one different; then toast a large handful of walnuts and mix both through the leaves. Finally top with some crumbled ricotta. A delicious addition to my salad repertoire if I do say so... The warm toasted walnuts are delicious with the sweet rich orange, creamy ricotta and peppery leaves. I’m on the lookout for more blood oranges to carry on enjoying them while the short season lasts...

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Margot Henderson's Turkish Coffee Cake for a 3rd Birthday

I only noticed at the last minute that my blog is three years old today, but fittingly I had a cake ready to tell you about, and what is a birthday without cake... It doesnt even seem that long ago that I first sat down and chatted about squid but here we are 179 posts later... And we have cake, and Margot Henderson cake at that...

Margot Henderson has become a bit of a role model slash hero of mine over the past year or so. I don’t quite know how it began really; I have always been a huge St. John fan, restaurants, books, recipes... and I had read snippets about Margot, Fergus Henderson's wife. Then I went to a wedding last summer where she did the food, and it was perfect. JUST what I wanted, exactly how wedding food should be, terrines and salads to start, and then chicken pies to share, the pastry was just heaven, golden and suety, I can still remember it quite clearly, even through the haze of endless negroni’s. Really simple but incredibly well done. It brought everyone together in a lovely way that only pie sharing can do, the whole table got on like a house on fire. Hands down the best wedding food ever, there was fois gras in the terrine, how could it not be the best wedding food ever.

And then I read more about Margot and realised that she pretty much does everything I aspire to do... She puts together beautiful looking suppers, caters and has a little place called Rochelle Canteen where you can go for breakfast or lunch during the week, a base for all her catering. And it is all un-fussy, simple, delicious, very well thought out food that I want to eat every day, and hope to emulate in some way as time goes on. I’m going there for lunch on Friday and I couldn’t be more delighted. Her book is my most recent favourite; I am gradually getting through her stories and recipes; lovely beetroot soup with porcini, calming celeriac soup, bloody amazing sticky ginger cake and this Turkish Coffee Cake, which is just a revelation.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and mix 100g of wholemeal flour, 100g of plain flour, 250g of soft brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg in a large bowl. Then add 175g of butter cut into little cubes and rub it through the mix until you have a large breadcrumb mix; this always gives me really sore crampy hands, which doesn’t bare well for the future, I may be arthritic and unable to bake one day I fear... Then take half of this mix and press it into the base of your cake tin. This gives a lovely crunchy base to the cake.

Then add to the remaining mixture 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, 250ml of sour cream, 2 beaten eggs, 60g of chopped walnuts and 4 tablespoons of espresso coffee and beat it all together. Pour this into the tin over the base mixture, and bake for 30 minutes. It is ready when it feels firm and springy to the touch, I perhaps slightly under baked mine, my oven is being a bit temperamental at the moment. I’ll just have to suffer the hardship of making it again; and eating it again... it’s tough. It is so tasty, very moist from the sour cream, caramelly and full of cinnamon, with a lovely crunchy base, very unusual...