food/drink, restaurants, cafes

plums

plums are in season at the moment and are a good source of vitamin C and although they taste sweet, apparently dont spike your sugar levels; if you are lucky enough to have a plum tree, then this is the time to make plum jam,  i just discovered that there is a plum tree at the end of my suffolk garden….. these were shot in my new shed!

Plum Jam

1.5 kilos plums
500 g   3:1 jam sugar (for 3 parts fruit to 1 part jam sugar)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 cloves
1 vanilla bean
1 glug lemon juice. (ie 2 tablespoons)

Wash the plums. Take stones out and cut. (I cut every half in 2-3 pieces)
Mix fruit, juice, sugar and spices (vanilla bean scratched out but adding the outside too).

Slowly bring to a boil. Boil heavily for 3 minutes (according to sugar package).

Fill into sterilized jars – discarding vanilla bean and other spices.  (an easy way is to wrap in muslin so making it easy to remove)

kings cross

cannot believe the changes to kings cross, each month that i visit there are more and more buildings going up and events happening.  today we walked along the canal banks, watching life on the banks – fishing, sunbathing, boats cruising back and forwards, runners, cyclists – its all happening down there.  I still haven’t been to the new pond club – a temporary art installation that you can swim in!  its open in the day and i am pondering whether i am daring enough to brave the cold!  you can climb up to the nearby viewing point and take a peak!  there is also the wonderful skip garden - a portable garden that uses the available land between the building sites and cranes of kings cross -it produces fruit and vegetables that are used in the skip kitchen cafe – definitely on my list of things to do.  there are so many new restaurants around granary square,  caravan, the greek larder, the grain store, dishoom and  the newly opened Ligherman.    I love the bookshop on the boat,  word on the water with a saxophonist playing on top.

figs from my tree

there is something totally satisfying about growing your own produce – be it only a fig!

did you know that the fig was one of the first plants ever cultivated by humans, possibly as early as 9400bc.  figs were also a common food source for the romans.  i find that people either love or hate figs – i think that they are not only delicious, but one of the most beautifully formed fruits, especially once you split them open, that succulent rich colour and texture.

heres a simple recipe from nigella for a perfect fig dessert

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honey and co deli

have always liked honey and co for tea and breakfast, but now you can take home some of the products that they serve, including granola, honey, herb and spices and a selection of baskets and ceramic tiles.   the food is from the middle east, but its very clean and fresh.  its also positioned just off the tottenham court road,  just opposite from their restaurant, so its nice to find somewhere independent to sit and have a break, away from the usual chains.

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lime blossom tea

am loving the lime blossom tea from my cup of tea -  i also bought the glass teapot with strainer, perfect for steeping the herbs in – its a really calming tea and especially good in the evening to help you wind down.

i fell in love with the mariage freres tea shop in selfridges – unfortunately its the only place to buy it in the uk, but i wanted everything!  its pretty pricey, but the packaging makes for a lovely gift and nobody can have too many teas!

a friend bought me some stylish tins of fashionista tea from america – not sure if you can get them here, but there are some lovely blends  all sourced from small tea growers, fair trade too, so everyone wins.

whenever i go back to manchester to visit my mother  i always love to visit teacup and cakes in thomas street.

sadly noticed that my friends’ local launderette in chorlton has gone – along with all the amenities that disappear off our high streets, but is at least replaced with a nice looking brasserie/bar, aptly named the laundrette.   elise has lived in chorlton for over 25 years, and each time i come a new bar/brasserie opens – its one of the things we cant buy on the internet – eating out!

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whitworth gallery

alice and i spent a couple of days in manchester to visit my mother - i think its grandma’s favourite thing to see her grandchildren growing up.  we always eat dim sum at Tai Pan – its reliable,  affordable, easy to park and afterwards you can get your chinese groceries downstairs.  i used to think that dim sum in manchester is infinitely tastier than in london, but now i feel that they are all much the same, though a little cheaper.  definitely the better tasting dim sum come from the higher quality restaurants such as Royal China  - but you also pay a lot more.   afterwards we popped into the newly extended Whitworth Art Gallery -we took my mother before and its a perfect place to go,  lovely park, comfortable airy cafe in a glass extension that makes you feel that you are sitting in the park.  there is a good exhibition on at the moment, sleep, work and death curated by Elizabeth Price.  really enjoyed the film by the lumiere brothers. 

IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY

in the evening, i took alice and her friend to Tom’s chop house - which is a historically interesting restaurant and bar with beautiful victorian details.   a limited menu, but substantial portions and well cooked and presented – its focus is great british food, such as sunday roast, fish and chips.   we also popped into the city gallery to see the vogue 100, a century of style – which  i had strangely missed in london; amazingly this exhibition was free and definitely worth looking at, especially if you love fashion and graphics and style.   i went there with elise and her 13 year old daughter, who amazingly kept off her mobile and pokomon and looked genuinely interested in the photos!  its always lovely to finish with tea and cakes from teacup – the scale and presentation of the cakes is astounding and they have a great selection of speciality teas.    all in all a great visit, but shame about the rain – but then its manchester…….

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rye bread

maude had a go at making rye bread – she took the recipe from Paul Hollywood -  as with all bread its a long process and rye takes longer to rise, but is delicious.

Ingredients

500g rye flour, plus extra for dusting
1tsp salt
2 tsps yeast
20ml treacle (optional)
350ml cool water
olive oil for kneading
Instructions

Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the treacle if using and 3/4 of the water and turn around the mixture with your fingers. Continue to add the rest of the water a little at a time, until you have picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all the water, or you may need to add a little more – you want dough that is soft but not soggy. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and begin to knewad. Keep kneading for 5-10 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft skin. You will find the dough feels different from a conventional wheat flour dough – less smooth and stretchy.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 4 hours.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Fold it repeatedly in on itself until the air is knocked out. Form the dough into a smooth round cob by turning it on the surface and tucking the edges underneath until the top is smooth and tight. Generously dust the inside of a large round proving basket (I used the same mixing bowl) with rye or white flour. Put the dough into it with the smooth side down.
Leave to prove for 2-3 hours; the dough will double in size eventually but will take considerably longer than wheat flour breads. Meanwhile heat your oven to 220C and put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up. Line a baking tray with parchment or silicone paper (I greased and floured a baking tray and it was fine).
When your loaf is risen, invert it carefully onto the prepared tray. Slash a deep crosshatch patter on the top with a sharp knife. Pour hot water into the roasting tray to create steam and put the bread into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. To test, tap the base of the loaf – it should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.

ryebread

 

raw food at nectar cafe

i am so lucky that triyoga has now moved a short walk from me – the range of classes has increased and the cafe is deliciously healthy, with its range of nutritious cold pressed juices and smoothies.  i love the beetroot and chocolate cake – so delicious!  nectar cafe is run by katia phillips, a pioneer of the raw food movement – enjoy the food there or take away!  after you have taken the photos, its lovely to see them on the website.

the pleasures of eating

well our little town is now the destination for restaurants in the area – who would have guessed this.  when we bought our house over 16 years ago, there was only a couple of restaurants, plus a few local bars who did tapas;  now there are a variety of high quality restaurants, not only in the village but in the countryside close by.  there are even cookery classes on the local cuisine – how amazing!  this is the view from our balcony.

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Vejer has been listed in the sunday times top 100 ,  as one of spain’s tastiest town and recently as one of the prettiest towns in Spain.  we just had the big cycling event la vuelta finish in vejer too.  it lists restaurant el patria and el castilleria (our favourite eating place, though mainly excelling in steak and lamb) as places to go as well as participating at Annie B’s , where Annie will take you out to the  local food market and then teach you how to cook local specialities in her beautiful andalucian home;    she will also take you to Barbate to the local fish market – which is still kept to its original working state with an amazing variety of fish to buy, including the famous locally caught tuna.  Barbate is not a pretty town, but a working fishing town – it has one of the best restaurants in the area, el Campero – serving a variety of tuna specialities including sashimi.

our first port of call when we first arrive is always the reliable seafood at la fontanilla in conil - perfectly situated on the beach with awnings to shield from the sun and wind, the food is not just delicious, but it means the kids can wander safely onto the beach whilst you sit and eat. kids being kids, they just get bored sitting in restaurants…… next door, there is another similar restaurant, francisco la fontanilla – equally as good, so if you cant get a table in one, you will be able to get one at the other. remember though that sunday lunchtime is always the busiest time, even out of season. not only the locals come to the beach for lunch, but also visitors from seville and jerez. paella is a classic sunday lunch dish and is delicious at these restaurants – i would tend to say that fish is best by the sea, rather than inland in a village.

Restaurant Sajorami is a lovely restaurant to have lunch or an evening meal and watch the sun set. Its enviable position on the edge of a hill right next to Zahora beach guarantees beautiful sunsets. Zahora beach is the next beach to the Cape Trafalgar. its not cheap, but then you get the stunning view.

the restaurant at hotel antonio in Zahara is a new favourite – with a great position facing the sea, its a classic traditional restaurant, bustling with spanish locals.  its not in the old town of zahara, but still has a lovely beach.  also in zahara, el campero is a delicious place to eat, sister to the more well known one in barbate.

its probably one of the nicest places to sit at sunset. the garden of la chanca restaurant on el palmar offers great views of the sunset with the natural sand dunes between the garden and the beach – we  celebrated our 20th wedding  anniversary  with friends there in the garden and it really was perfect.

this was given to me by one of my clients who stayed one spring, and although the weather wasnt perfectly sunny, she enjoyed a gourmet trail around vejer.  here are her comments, which i think sum up the restaurants in the area.
We loved:
La Patria for the quality of the food and the friendliness of the owners and staff;
El Tresoro for the sublime beef and spectacular view;
La Castilleria for the beautiful food and ambience;
Los Quatro Gatos because it was different;
and El Jardin de Califa because the garden was so lovely and the service was good.

One of the newer restaurants in town, marengo has more modern style tapas but for a change it is good quality food, and of course Garimba has a few tapas dishes that are tasty, though like a lot of the restaurants in the area, they tend to do too many swirls on the side with the sauces.

Up in the new town, by the molinos, old windmills, there is a pizza pasta restaurant, called il Macinino, c/Jose Maria Peman 666.380 946. If you go up there as the sun is setting, there is also a bar close by housed in one of the converted windmills and you can watch the sun set and then eat dinner at the restaurant. The restaurant itself also has great views over the plains of Vejer countryside stretching to the sea, but depending on the time of year, you may want to watch the sunset before eating. Restaurants in spain tend to not open before 8.30pm.

i personally love Vejer out of season, you may not get the super hot weather, but you still get the charm and ambiance of a moorish town which offers a great variety of food and beaches.
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korean restaurants

f you have never tried korean food, then you must – its a great place to take kids too, as you cook food on a hot plate or barbecue grill on your table and it seems to keep them entertained.    the famous dish is bulgogi beef, which is thin slices of marinated beef that you quickly cook on the hot plate (or barbecue) – its absolutely delicious – if you dont eat red meat, you can get chicken or prawns marinated too. bibimbap is a great rice dish, which is cooked in a hot stone pot and a raw egg mixed in at your table – you can get as a vegetarian alternative too.  also try the glass noodles fried with vegetables, so delicious.   our favourite korean is koba in rathbone street, fitzrovia.  however, my friend recently took me to dotori in finsbury park, which was remarkably cheap and very good.