Posts in Events
Songs I cook to ...
Songs to cook to

1. Cler Achel,Tinariwen from Aman Iman: Water is Life

2. You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, Madeleine Peyroux from Careless Love

3.Roll River Roll, Richard Hawley from Lady’s Bridge

4. Bach: Cello Suite #1 In G, BWV 1007 - Praeludium, performed by Truls Mørk

5. Boquinene, Ibrahim Ferrer from Buenos Hermanos

These are my five choices for the RN First Bite programmes ‘Songs to Cook To' comp.

It wasn’t hard to come up with five. My kitchen activities whether they be meal making, baking or simply doing the washing up are always accompanied by a soundtrack. This could be a podcast or a digital radio tune in (BBC Radio 6 Music is such good fun) or a selection of music from Spotify.

As I was compiling my list however, I had the recurring thought that it’s actually whole albums that I enjoy listening to rather than a ‘playlist’ of individual tracks. Listening to an album in its entirety is such a joy. It as though you are being personally escorted around an artist's gallery by the artist themselves. Albums ebb and flow and beckon you to follow them on to the next audible treat.

Go have a listen to some of the tracks on the expanding playlist.

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, Rufus Wainwright, Lilac Wine, Nina Simone, Return Of The Grievous Angel, Gram Parsons, Banana Boat (Day-O), Harry Belafonte .... there are some odd ones.

What would you add?

EventsAnne Giacomantonio
Supper Club. The first of many.

Amongst food-loving types the words ‘supper club’ have become somewhat ubiquitous. The phrase is flipped around on telly and radio, there are supper club cookbooks, hundreds upon hundreds of blog posts and I’ve been to my fair share. So when I had the opportunity to try my hand at running one along with a friend, I jumped at the chance.

We picked our theme, Christmas in August and sent out word. What surprised me however was the number of times I had to explain the concept to people. Perhaps people aren’t as well acquainted with the idea as I had originally thought?

In a nutshell a supper club is a coming together of strangers and friends to share an often lavish meal created and cooked by amateur home cooks in a domestic or out of the ordinary venue. Invitations can be clandestine and spaces are restricted. Ingredients for the limited menu are usually responsibly and creatively sourced and diners are asked to donate an amount of money they feel reflect the quality of the meal and cover the costs. Labour is donated.

Supper clubs, unlike sometimes-snobbish dinner parties, are about a love of food and the sharing of said food with good company. And our little Christmas in August evening did just that. The middle of the year is the appropriate time for a hot Christmas dinner in Brisbane, Queensland. With ye olde fashioned Christmas carols blaring, candles lit and a waft of mulling wine hanging in the air we welcomed our guests and couraged them to mingle while snacking on  appropriately cheesy, literally and figuratively, Christmas hor d'oeuvres  - a labna ‘present’, vol-au-vent wreath and festive fruit tree.

A traditional Christmas dinner is nothing without turkey and we didn’t want to disappoint. Two of the finest turkeys were purchased from Allsop & England, brined and braised a la Nigella, then roasted before being presented to the waiting crowd. Due to the amateur and frugal nature of events such as this it’s not always possible to cater for every dietary tweak but we did have a nut roast. Which perhaps may not look like much but I promise you it almost stole the show. Try it.

Peas and shallots, fancy roast pumpkin, rosemary roast sebago potatoes and honey carrots accompanied the dual turkeys and the nut roasts. We served these communally at the table which felt just like a family Christmas dinner with guests serving their neighbour and talking about Christmases past and yet to come. As the Food Connect homestead warehouse was the location for the feast we gave carving duties to it’s founder Robert Peakin who did a marvelous fatherly job.

Of course we followed this with Min’s great-aunt’s old-style plum pudding with brandy custard. We even lit up the puddings with blue flames - a trick I will definitely be trying again.

It was hard work. There are things we could have done differently. It was so difficult to keep our menu small as there are so much lovely festive fare to get excited about. It was great to mix researched recipes with old family favourites. It was so satisfying to be able to source local and responsibly produced fruit, veg and meat. Including some cavolo nero from my sister’s backyard. It was great to meet new people and share one of life’s great pleasures.

It really was great fun and, for me, highly addictive. We already have plans for the next event.

EventsAnne Giacomantonio
Urban foraging for all

Last Saturday this little city dweller donned boots and a lovely brown felt/fur hat and headed out for a spot of urban foraging. The word foraging may conjure up images of frolicking in verdant fields with a basket full to the brim with mushrooms and berries of many hues, or chic restaurants such as Norma that produce plates of delicately hand-gathered herbs. Urban foraging however probably produces memories of bin-diving possums or scrapping, sneaky urban foxes. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to be bin-diving in this outfit but I guess you can’t blame the hungry critters when we throw out such amounts of perfectly edible food. Anyway that’s another matter for another day. What our little group of well-dressed urban foragers wanted to know was what tasty little morsels of leaf, herb, fruit and vegetable can be found in our suburbs and perhaps in our very own gardens.

Who better to guide us though the delicious discoveries and pitfalls of the urban palate than Mr Permablitz himself, the aptly named Ben Grub. I say aptly named because as Ben tells us, he’ll eat almost anything. Luckily he also carries around a little reference library in his manly black pull-shopper: Food Plants of the World and Mind-altering and Poisonous Plants of the World. He clearly knew his stuff and the strip of urban turf we were wandering.

Brisbane’s inner city suburb of West End is the perfect patch for pilfering and poking around for edibles. Mr Grub had no shortage of material to demonstrate how a fruitful garden can be cultivated in an urban environment. The suburb’s rich immigrant population combined with a higher density living and community spirit results in streets of tamarind, guava, loofa, olive and curry leaf trees and sweet potato vines. West End gardens are full of paw paw, fig, citrus of all shapes and sizes, spikey dragon fruit cactus, towering coconut palms and mammoth jack fruit which look as though they could kill a man but whose sweet yellow flesh tastes of gummy bears. Fences are laced with grapevine or creeping spinach or Brazilian cherry.

There are also the greens: the wild basil, the carotene-y thickhead weed, the unstoppable mottled all-spice plant and the delightfully named pig weed. It’s all there, alongside the neighbours who’ve jointly planted up their kerbside and housed beehives on rooftops. Truly inspiring.

Ben Grub believes the streets are for the people and the more we make use of them the more richly textured our lives and our plates will be. Luckily he and his permy pals have made a map to help us.

We ended our journey by wending our way downhill for a meal at Tukka, a restaurant that celebrates Australian native foraged flavours. I’d been longing to lunch there for a while but what I didn’t know is that their open-air dining room hides a little walled plot. Raised beds and a gravel path planted with herbs, rosella, lemon myrtle, Davidson plum and a very mean and spikey looking finger lime shrub. Given my recent and seasonally short addiction to finger limes I was quite surprised to find that the plant could do you some real damage. I certainly gained a new appreciation for the farmers. But this is what we had all come to find out, to see what things look like, to identify where and why they grow and to hopefully fill our gardens and our bellies with new and exciting foraged finds.

Special thanks go to the lovely @nataschamirosch for organising, @blitzbrisbane and Chef Bryant Wells for looking after us so well as well as all my fellow foragers.

Pitt Cue Co/Hawksmoor

Sometimes, usually in summer, a combination of conditions aligns to create the perfect London night. Well, what can I say - I experienced one such night a few weeks ago. They just happen upon you; like a mushroom ring after rain they appear from nowhere and for only a very brief period.

The right people, at the right time, in the right place for some very tasty food. In amongst the numerous rainy evenings that have not been uncommon to Summer 2011 came the @HawksmoorLondon’s (London temple to meat) guest chef one-night-only take over of the silver pod of bbq @PittCueCo on the Southbank. Richard Turner, head chef, and Will Beckett, Hawksmoor co-owner, joined Tom Adams and Zeren Wilson who cooked up a storm for those in the know. A chill wind was blowing and the queue was long but the music was playing and the tubo shandies were flowing. Shakey Pete’s Ginger Brew, comprised of gin, homemade ginger syrup, lemon juice topped with London Pride is a thing of beauty. And we ate the Hawksmoor NOTDOG and Tamworth belly pork with spikey red cabbage and fennel seed slaw and pickle. The meat of the barbequed belly pork tore away oh-so-softly even when using the silly street food wooden fork. The NOTDOG of pork and beef and a top secret spice had that satisfyingly, smoky, barbequed squeak as you bit into it.

All this was enough to make the night a success to be sure but it’s the company that can ice the cake of a truly splendid evening. My thanks and special mention to @sloLondon, @LondonFoodFinds and the host of other lovely twitterless luddites [jokes] who helped create the special brand of London social magic.

 

 

Oh and I almost forgot the Pickle Back and Skin (1 x shot of rye whisky, 1 x shot of pickle juice and a wee portion of crackling) - they helped too.

 

Summer at The Petersham Nurseries Cafe

I recently had the great pleasure of dining at Heston Blumenthal’s super-hyped London restaurant Dinner and while I enjoyed the experience it had me wracking my brain for my top 10. Needless to say I didn’t get very far into the list before coming to Skye Gyngell’s fabulous Petersham Nurseries Cafe.

I was lucky, or generous, enough to accompany my significant other to lunch at the Nurseries last year for a birthday treat. And what a treat it was.

The Petersham, who were awarded a Michelin star in the most recent guide, are only open for a three hour window Tuesday to Sunday in the summer months, so when they say ‘bookings essential’ they mean it. Booking are also essentially a month in advance and you’ve got to be quick! I imagine even quicker these days.

Although booking can be a palaver I can only reassure you that it’s well worth it. Our lazy summer lunch was a hazy dream of intriguingly and intelligently matched flavours and textures and a complete delight. Looking back over the photos (yes, I was one of ‘those’ people with a giant camera snapping away) it brings it all back.

Perhaps some (my father included) might describe a bare-floored nursery an unorthodox place for a Michelin starred eatery and certainly compared to the expensive and expansive fit out of Dinnerbyheston it’s a far cry. It doesn’t have floor to ceiling glass or a multi-thousand pound 16th century remodel of a pulley system to roast pineapples. In fact, Gyngell commented in an interview with BBC Woman’s Hour that her kitchen wasn’t even connected to the gas or sewage mains. It’s a completely different kettle of fish but for me it’s an utter inspiration.

Gyngell’s cooking is also a revelation. And this is no exaggeration, having cooked from two of her three cookbooks, and although there is a lot of effort involved the flavours never fail. On that sunny day in May 2010 we gobbled our way through three courses containing a rainbow of flavours; from soft and creamy ricotta di bufala, tomato and sweet salty basil oil, a peppery kick of good chorizo combined with young squid caramelised from the grill, a tender and developed blend of flavours from slow cooking lamb with red peppers, paprika and black olives.

Gyngell’s cooking dialogue makes good use of roasted spices, vert juice, herb oils and other complex arrangements but rather than add a pretention to the meals they leave you with a depth of flavour you really can appreciate.

Dishes on the current menu that have me salivating include: Crab Cakes with Rocket, Lemon Mayonnaise & Chilli Oil, Whole Dover Sole with Jersey Royals, Asparagus, Tardivo & Fontodi Olive Oil, Pannacotta with Alphonso Mango Granita.

Part of the beauty of the Petersham is the friendly egalitarian feel to the experience - but don’t get me wrong, you will still walk away spending £100+ on lunch for two. If you can’t quite squeeze to that the good news is the Nurseries have a lovely tea house with light bites, a good range of teas from the pot and rather good coffee. It really is a lovely adventure to walk over Petersham meadows down the lane and into the cultivated oasis of the nurseries.

Gyngell, hailing from Sydney originally, was awarded Australian Woman of the Year in 2011, an accolade well-earned, but it seems, humbly accepted.

A foray in the fields

You know how it happens. It’s one of those ideas you’ve always thought about looking into or having a proper go at but it never quite eventuates. That is until a stroke of fate or twitter and you find yourself nibbling freshly picked wild greens on a hillside two hours out of London and close to the Bristol channel.

That is exactly where I found myself this past Sunday with a few fellow foodies: @sabrinaghayour + her dear Mum (well it was Mother’s Day after all),  @nicmonks@donalde and @stewed. In a way it felt quite dream-like but this was probably in part due to the 6am start and two hour drive – very capably executed by heavily-caffeinated @donalde.

We had all gathered at a ridiculously early hour – OK, 10am’s not that bad – to glean some knowledge from our host @sarty1, Mr Wild Food Larder, about foraging for the wild foods of the British Isles; where to find, what to gather, what to taste (and what not to). I’ve done a little gathering in my time, mainly from the Thames riverbank near my house for sorrel, a little wild garlic, elder flowers and enough berries for a nice little 2010 vintage batch of jam, but I’ve always wanted to be a little more certain of what I am collecting. Foraging can be a bit of a mug’s game after all and one wrong mushroom or leafy green and you could be in real trouble.

@sarty1 is a fountain of knowledge and his wild food forays, including a very promising sounding mushroom foray in autumn, are very popular. Ours, being the inaugural event for the season, was mainly in search of luscious greens and came with the promise of as much wild garlic as we could carry. Which of course I took to the extreme bringing my lovely large French market basket.

Fortunately @sarty1 is also a dab hand at a spot of charcuterie.  So, greeted with a fresh cup of freshly plunged coffee and a home-cured bacon roll we embraced the damp Sunday morning adventure.

‘Wild food’ has had a resurgence of popularity over the past year or so with the celebrated cooking style of ‘the best restaurant in the world’ where delicate foraged herbs, greens and flowers form a dominant part of the menu. And let’s be honest we all like a bit of free food, don’t we?

Spring is a fantastic time for gathering the fresh salad green types of wild foods and we commenced our day with a wander down the drive to see what we could find. Once you know what you’re looking for it’s clear that there are edible goodies all around. From the tiny delicate fronds of Common Vetch that taste of sweet pea shoots, the citrus bite of Sheeps Sorrel (not to be confused with the poisonous Adders Tongue), to dandelion heads w/ the sunny heads on show and a familiar tasting and weedy looking Garlic Mustard. We all nibbled, ummed and ahhhed trying to guess the identifiable flavours. It really is an exercise of the mind and it’s amazing just how hard it is to recall, on demand, the name of the flavour you know is familiar. It was on the tip of the tongue in the most literal sense.

The flavours of wild food seem to be both delicate and striking at the same time. By its nature it’s hard to gather in large predicable amounts, barring, of course, wild garlic which, in early spring, the term prolific does not begin to describe. But the flavours of the various greens once collected deliver the type of punch that cannot be delivered by mass agriculture. In short they are a delight and an intrigue to the palette.

An additional delight of the day’s foray was foraging by the seaside where we were taught how to identify Rock Samphire – Marsh Samphire’s higher cousin, wild fennel, sea spinach, Alexanders, wild chives, salad burnet and scurvy grass with its sweet white flowers. The wispy tails of fennel are a hit and have us scaling rock faces and dreaming of risotto.

At last the combination of exertion and sea air gets the better of us and we buzz back to our secret-ish location for a locally-sourced lunch including cheeses, venison burgers, hot smoked ham, wild garlic risotto, dips, sauces and spreads of various hues of green and pickled this and that.  It is all an utter delight. To finish things off we are lucky enough to pick up some fresh morels which I pop straight in my oven for drying when I get home.

After a day’s foray I can honestly say I am knackered but brimming with excitement and recipe ideas for my lovely foraged foods. Now the work and the washing begins!

Huge thanks to Andrew (@sarty1) for the foray, to the Mrs for the back-up and the risotto, to Molly for the canine company and all my fellow foodies – may you all have full stomachs and sound sleeps.

You can find recipes for all your lovely foraged goodies at www.thewildfoodlarder.co.uk

@SpaghettiWednesday

This isn’t the first time the head-chef of L’Anima and almost-Michelin stared Francesco Mazzei has appeared at this blog (nor will it be the last I suspect) but this appearance is definitely a special one.

When I caught wind of an event, catch-ily titled SpagWednesday, organised by the foodie and all around good guy Mr Daniel Young of youngandfoodish happening around my 29th birthday I couldn’t resist the temptation to have Mr Mazzei cook me my birthday supper. Mazzei was ‘popping-up’ at a 1950’s greasy spoon style caff on the northshores of the City of London for one night only, serving the classic spaghetti vongole (clams+chilli+parsley+garlic+oil +long strands of spaghetti).

For my Australia readers who may not have had the privilege of visiting a London working caff they are special breed of hospitality. All welcoming and warming without any fuss or finesse.  Usually the location for a morning-after-the-night-before full English breakfast or a simple plate of heartwarming food usually accompanied by chips. Décor usually includes laminate flooring and tables and black board menus – the tea is usually great, the coffee is almost without exception terrible, the toast is hot and white and slathered in margarine.

Spaghetti Wednesday was held at Andrew’s which sit’s happily on Gray’s Inn Road and myself and five of my crew to were delighted to come along  to goggle-up three delicious courses of Italian favourites matched with some ‘cult’ wine. Masi Masianco 2009, a pinot grigio/verduzzo blend.

I do so enjoy events such as this, the atmosphere in the room is infectious, the venue’s always a tad ridiculous and the food ALWAYS delicious. I guess it’s the combined effort and enthusiasm (and expert organisation) that makes them such good value and great fun. Delicious food in unexpected places.

First course was pizza in the focaccia tradition, more northern with a more bread-like crispier base.  One slice of Pizza con i Carciofi alla Romana and one sandwich of Pizza con Porchetta di Ariccia which we all oooh and aaahed over long after it had disappeared from our plate and into our bellies. We are told the portchetta itself is  imported ‘illegally’ straight from mama Italy  - where ever it hails from the marriage of slow roasted pork and rosemary is not a flavour easy forgotten.

But what were here for, the main event, Vongole was next and with Mazzei & co (L’anima’s Lelo and Claudio) buzzing away in the kitchen, the plates began to wiz out onto tables. And after watching a few tables of people dive into their dinner our plates were delivered. It was a vongle where the pasta was al dente and the flavours of the shellfish and parsley were complimented by a buzz of chilli that tempted you to lick your place. It was all too soon slurped away and all you had left was a pretty pile of shells.

The cherry on the SpaghettiWednesday cake was of course a dessert course of tiramisu (pick-me-up). Even though we were told by Mr YoungandFoodish that he had been unsure about the selection of tiramisu for the menu because ‘it was a bit naff’ it is my favourite dessert and L’anima’s execution was perfection. The mascarpone was so light, the hint of masala laced coffee was sweet with the finish of bitter cocoa. Yum!

Thank you to Mr & Mrs YoungandFoodish, Francesco & team from L’anima as well as the hard working staff of Andrew’s (who I saw working away the next day when I popped my head in) and my dear friends helping welcome in my 30th year of life in style.

Ps. Check out the video below ;)

EventsAnne Giacomantonio
Death by burger

Last night I had the enormous pleasure of paying a visit to #MEATEASY, the celebrated static version of the Peckham/London lunch favourite The Meat Wagon. #MEATEASY brings all the deliciousness of the burger, chilli dog, onion ring or fry to the upstairs room of the The Goldsmiths Tavern while it’s being renovated. They have the space till mid March so far so get in quick.

My chilli burger was a big, sloppy, delicious, mess of a thing on the American theme of a burger. Or at least my idea of what an America burger would be like - this idea having been formed from a prodigious education of American teen movies and the briefest of stays in Houston, Texas. I digress, the #MEATEASY burger was fantastic and the jalapenos left my lips tingling to the point of distraction. Juicy does not cover it and it was/is not a burger for the faint of heart or the meat-nervous. I’m not the biggest fan of ‘the onion ring’ generally but it being ‘the done thing’ I indulged and very happy I did too. I gobbled down five crispy, light and wonderfully greasy hoops and went back for the crumbs. Fries and mac’n’cheese are also available and having pinched morsels from my fellow diners plates I can confirm they were just as yummy. But the burger really does take pride of place.

Growing up in Australia the burger came from one of two places. The BBQ or the local fish’n’chip shop. Defining local as local to where ever you are at the time. The best kind of local was by the beach where we would then ate our burgers, that came with egg and pineapple, wrapped in paper, sitting at a picnic table listening to the sea.

I had a conversation with a New Zealand friend of my recently and he practically jumped out of his skin on the mention that burger ‘could’ come with tinned beetroot. For him it was a *must* not a perhaps.

The burger as a food item does happen to be one of those things that incites great personal passions in people. With clamouring return of the The Big D to London chain Byron Burger and the fabled meaty delights of Hawksmoor as contenders for best burger in London tell me how you like your burgers? Juicy and meaty with very little adornment or perhaps with added herbs and spices? Does salad feature, just lettuce and tomato or indulgences such as coleslaw? Cheese or no cheese? And don’t even get me started on the vegetarian option!

Tell me pleeeeease.

At my #MEATEASY supper I had the pleasure dining with @AndreDang @SabrinaGhayour @sloLondon @pausefortea @aurumpress and a few others and we all left groaning with meaty delight and just the slightest satisfying touch of indigestion.

EventsAnne Giacomantonio
¡MEAT FEAST!

The other day I was invited to the celebration, a great party, a party with a Michelin starred chef and a glorious amount of food and bubbly drinks. There was a lot of laughter and kissing of cheeks and smiles. It was they type of party you would take someone special, someone you really wanted to impress and enjoy their company. Only one thing, that someone could not be vegetarian!

Unfortunately/fortunately my someone special is. He is the best type of herbivore, quietly spoken, non-judgemental and completely incapable of sermonising on the benefits a meat-free diet. But for me this event proved one thing:

I could NEVER EVER be a vegetarian.

The event, organised by the Istiuto Valorizzazione Salumi Italiani IVSI, was a celebration of all things cured and carne in Italy. And my, what a celebration it was.

For meat lovers out there, there is no need to explain the smooth unctuous (apologies in advance for adjective usage) salty taste that slides round your mouth when eating good meat products. I hate to be coarse about it but it’s the combination of fat and muscle flesh that combines in a beautiful marriage of flavours. For this reason it is the salame that is top of my favourites list. It was the most prized inhabitant of my school sandwiches along with some cool lettuce and puffy white bread when I was a child and it is the mainstay of any antipasti platter as an adult now. It is also partly why I have no image of the delicious salame on tasting at this event. There wasn’t nearly long enough between the plate to my bocca to photograph its deliciousness.

I did however manage to capture some other tasty meaty morsels and the spectacular carving implement used to shave them from their bulk.

Item 1: Prosciotto di Parma PDO (yes that is Francesco Mazzei of L’anima)

Item 2: Miniature speck and pomadoro pizza  bites.

Item 3: Fried polenta w/ prosciutto di Parma

Item 4: Mortodella (My Mother’s favourite)

Item 5: prosciutto di Parma w/shaved black truffle drizzled oil, honey and vinegar.