Thursday, September 16, 2010

September Secret Dinner

What an equally gorgeous and mucky summer we've had.  Bad for getting a tan but lovely for growing things that need sun and rain.  I've put the menu for the next secret dinner together now and it's just time to get out and start foraging!

Dinners will be September 16th and 17th at 7 pm and the menu is as follows (barring any problems with the foraging).  I did sample some of the cress growing in Bushy Park and it was sharp, peppery perfection!

Secret Dinner September
Foraged Meal

Amuse Bouche:
Mulberry + Red Currant Gin Vesper

Hampstead Heath Nettle Soufflés topped with Pickled Wild Harvested Bracken and Dandelion Greens
Rosehip Jelly glazed Pork with Sour Apples, Rosemary and Flageolet-Haricot Bean Salad
Buckwheat Gnocchi with Bushy Park Watercress Pesto
Frozen Blackberries with Double Cream and Fennel - Black Pepper Dust
Clafouti of My Neighbor's Prune Plums, Fence Grapes and Regent's Park Honey

Friday, September 10, 2010

Borough Market Munching

We have loads of friends coming through London all the time, I often give tips on where to go and what to see all over the city but just this past week I've pointed at least 3 parties in the direction of Borough Market, noting my favorite places to nibble, shop and sip.  It occurred to me that rather than my usual jotting down on a scrap of paper or, when I'm feeling more organized- sending an email with links, I could make a blog entry and just link everyone to it.  If it ever needs an update, well, then just update the blog...

So here goes, a list that will hopefully serve some very well.

I generally enter Borough Market from the London Bridge Station approach.  Passing the temptations of Tapas Brindisa only to save myself for the dining ahead.

This summer I noticed a new addition to the market and was intrigued- rough hewn boutique called The Rabot Estate had opened in a spot just beyond Brindisa and just before that beautiful florist's shop.  I had high hopes on first glance, but more thorough investigation revealed a wall of the Hotel Chocolate range.  I may be a total and unrepentant chocolate snob, but I don't care for Hotel... I first encountered them at The Southbank Chocolate Festival this past spring and was impressed by their marketing and corporate strategies but was unimpressed by their chocolate.  It turns out that Rabot is just a rebranding of Hotel, single sourced, smaller batched but much the same.   Now, if you like Ghiradelli Chocolate or Cadbury, you'll like Hotel and Rabot, I just don't care for it.

So my first stop in the market is generally Monmouth Coffee.  A great place for a flat white, lattĂ©, filter drip, name your poison.  Mind the line if you get there later than the crack of dawn, but they do have kind people who move down the line jotting down orders when the queue is out of hand.

Nest stop, Neal's Yard Dairy, where you can sample your way down the counter and might very well feel like an expert on British cheeses at the end.  Make sure you check out the humidifying system- a beautiful marriage of a rainfall shower head and an old wine barrel.

Now return to the market, taking note of the German Deli across the street.  Go in if you like german things, they have some nice bits and bobs...

Proceed to your left and across the street from Monmouth, right next to Ginger Pig, is Brindisa Spanish Foods Shop (the shop counterpart to the tapas bar down the road and numerous other lovely places in the franchise).  Outside you can't miss, mustn't miss the lovely chorizo + piquillo pepper + rocket + crusty grilled bread drizzled in grassy olive oil sandwiches.  The double is tempting, but there's a lot more eating to do, so go single.  Browse inside the shop and emerge on the other side, perhaps with your carry bag a little heavier from some gran reserva jamon or PX vinegar.  Turn to your right and pop into the queue at Shellseekers and have some of their lovely scallops or any of the other delicious critters they're serving up on a shell.

Keep moving in the direction or detour through the Jubilee Market and settle in for a cooking demo, sample some lovely scrummy truffle goodness.  Or stop in at The Cinnamon Tree stand and pick up a cinnamon biscuit imprinted with a gorgeous elephant image (their shortbread owls are nice, too, but you'll never regret the cinnamon elephant).

At the intersection of Rochester Walk and Middle Row you'll find Roast's little stand (full restaurant is upstairs) where you can have an amazing pork sandwich with crackling.

Just before you cross the road into Green Market take one last detour, wiggling in between the two butchers (Wyndham House Poultry and Northfield Farm), down a side avenue and pick up a creme caramel and a Chegworth Valley juice.  I can highly recommend the Apple Beetroot and the Rhubarb.  Or really any flavor.

Now make your way to the Green Market and definitely pass up the offerings at Fish! Nothing really amazing there.  In the Green Market you'll find some great charcuterie from Spain, France, etc etc.  But the best thing going there is the non-raclette Raclette at Kappacasein.  Really, how could you go wrong with broiled cheese, potatoes and bread and pickly bits?  You can't.  So fill your belly a little more, if you can, with this NR-Raclette.  And keep your eyes peeled for Richard Haward's oysters on the half shell.  You'll want them with fizz if they're offering.

Now if you have any dessert you feel like enjoying picnic style, you can go fight your way to a grassy patch in the garden of Southwark Cathredral.  It's a nice little spot, but the pigeons are ruthless so beware and be watchful!

Now to walk all of this off you'll be happy to know that there's a very pleasant walk along the Thames stretching all the way to The Tate Modern and once they've finished the Blackfriars Tube Station extension all the way to the London Eye and beyond.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Loveli Fungi

I went on my first London foray yesterday in Hampstead Heath, led by Andy Overall of A Fungi To Be With, London's longest standing fungus group.  It started around the end of punk, a good time to shake off the noise put your nose to the still and silent ground and start foraging.
Like anything good and fun, this foray started at the car boot
Telling the edibles from the toxic
Andy is a wealth of information about these clever little colonists, with 20+ years of research under his belt.  As an enthusiast and ranger at Kenwood House estate, he's cataloged hundreds of species in the Heath over the years, and even with that, we managed o find a couple of fungi that stumped him!  Foraging for mushrooms has been a London pre-occupation for a very long, most notably since the second world war and the many european communities who settled here, so there's competition for harvesting in good spots. Still, I managed to come home with enough to show for my not-so-hard work!

My first edible Russula!
A lovely Penny Bun, probably only a day old.  It will mature in 3 days.
I was lucky enough to have found some great things- a couple of edible Russulas, a few Penny Bun Cepes and a couple of Blushers.  The Russulas were right next to a stand of sloes so I did my first picking of London's favorite foraged fruit right there.  The cepes were a bit more tricky, hiding under the fallen seed pods of a very happy Hornbeam tree.

This Bolete oxidizes to a lovely azure blue when cut or bruised
Andy offers a packed schedule of guided forays and even a breakfast foray that includes eating a hearty breakfast at the end of a tour hour search.

The fungal booty.  Caution: Mushrooms with brittle
 gills will crumble in flat bag.
I learned that some of these fungi people (from the good old days and from now) have a good sense of humor, too.  Smell is important in identification and while most smelled of almond or cleaning agent or "normal" things, one of the olfactory terms is "spermatic" as in, smells like sperm.  Yes, that sperm.  Ick.  Then there was the species named for hemorrhoids, the charcoal burner, etc etc and other names that would scare the pants on any unknowing diners.  Also, there's a definite sense of danger in this kind of foraging.  Andy wove tales of what happens when you get the wrong mushroom, blood being cleaned through liquid charcoal, full body tranfusions, kidney transplants... so beware!

I'm waiting for my husband to return from Helsinki to eat them.  Although I've been assured that they are all edible by the pro, just to be safe, we'll dine on them together.  And watch for symptoms...