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Monthly Archives: October 2008

  • Cake geeks

    We all know computer geeks. Tom from Poke, our dedicated web designers, introduced me yesterday to some of their bread-and-butter: google analytics. This offers the ultimate pleasure to anyone with a website and loads of time to spare. You can find absolutely anything there: who visited your site, when, where are they there from (in our case, UK, USA and Australia are in the lead), how long they bothered to stay tuned, what browser they used etc. etc. etc. Talking to Tom it dawned on me that I am also a geek, a cake geek. The amount of time I can spend waffling about cakes is unlimited; I am sure I can rival any IT buff. And I am not alone. Once a week Sarit, Helen and I meet to do just that. In our regular pastry tastings we spend long hours analysing the minutest and most bizarre and far-fetched elements of a cake, comparing textures and flavours, scrutinizing methods, suggesting alternative components, shapes, moulds, going over recent trends, what’s a must and what’s lost its sparkle, who’s the master of brownies and what makes the ideal cupcake. And we also stuff ourselves with cakes, which is fun and (try to believe me!) an agony.
  • Thanksgiving and christmas menus

    Have a look at our Thanksgiving and Christmas menus. With so many years of experience we think we now have the perfect selection of dishes.
  • Iolanda's apple fritters

    Sweet, sour and wonderfully comforting. Sami got this recipe from his friend Gianluca's mother. Serves 2-4 1 large egg ½ cup milk 2 eating apples, peeled and chopped A handful of sultanas, about 40g 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds Grated zest of 1 lemon 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 tsp baking powder 2 cups of plain flour 1 cup caster sugar 1 tbsp ground cinnamon Vegetable oil for deep frying In a bowl, mix all the ingredients well, apart from the sugar and cinnamon and set aside for 20 minutes. In a separate flat plate, mix the sugar and cinnamon. Heat the vegetable oil well. When hot, use two spoons to drop dollops of the mix into the hot oil, turning them frequently until golden. Lift the fritters from the oil onto kitchen paper. While they are still hot, roll them in the sugar and cinnamon mix. Eat at once!
  • Sami’s trip to Umbria

    If you’re like me and you’re into food head to Umbria; it’s a trip I do together with my partner, Jeremy, and a couple of friends every year in the summer and let me tell you, I really look forward to it every time. We stay at our friend Gianluca Piermaria’s family house in a little village called Cantalupo on the outskirts of Bevagna. The village is very simple, in contrast to the picturesque surroundings of the amazing hills of the area. The Piermaria house is big enough to take us in without feeling cramped. Every time we are there I say “this is the kind of life I would like”. Around the house there are is a fig tree, plum, walnut and vines; also a plot where Gianluca’s mum, Iolanda, grows all the vegetables for the season (and to keep them going for the rest of the year she preserves a lot). There are plenty of chickens, rabbits and cats wandering about! The trip started at three in the morning to catch a flight to Rome at 7am. Two hours later we land in Rome, then a two hour train journey to Foligno, and then another 25 minutes journey by car to Cantalupo. What kept us going was the knowledge that a nice lunch was waiting for us. It was Thursday, which meant “baking bread” day for the rest of the week and while the wood oven was on, lots of other cooking goes on as well. We started with home-made white lasagne with fresh artichoke and sausage meat, followed by a succulent whole roast goose with roasted mix vegetables and the most delicious potatoes that had been swimming in fat underneath the bird, accompanied by a simple tomato, cucumber and lettuce salad from the garden. The finale was a fluffy and “light as a feather” walnut and cinnamon flan, and all that was washed down by a chilled home made white wine! Of course after such a meal nobody could go further than bed for a little nap. It is such a pleasure to go food shopping in Umbria. Even the supermarket stocks seasonal, fresh and only local food; I can’t stop myself from buying far too much stuff to take back home. I keep telling myself not to buy too much and always end up with more than myself and Jeremy can carry - cheese, salami, balsamic, black truffles and my favourite, Acquavita D’uva Regina grappa. Jeremy was lucky this year as it was his birthday when we were there so we celebrated twice. The first time a fabulous dinner cooked by the lovely Iolanda and Gianluca, and the second was at our friends Daniela and Craig’s house, where I made all the salads; then we set up a humble barbecue outside the house and Gianluca cooked lots of different cuts of meat. On the menu were: freshly picked figs with aged pecorino cheese, honey, mint and balsamic; roasted round courgettes with spicy breadcrumbs, parmesan and lemon; celery salad with sultanas, capers, olives and parsley; beef chops; pork belly; 2 types of sausages; lamb cutlets; cakes, pastries and lots and lots of wine! Like any respectable town or village in Umbria, that has its own one celebrated food item (sweet potato, artichoke, pig, wine, olive oil), on the fourth day we went to the [link http://www.prolococantalupocastelbuono.it/ snail (lumaca) festival] which takes place in Cantalupo every year at the end of August. It’s a charity event supporting people in need and the village in general. On the menu, guess what, snails in lots of different ways. Lastly, I must mention Iolanda’s wonderful fritters. We tried them last year and we couldn’t keep our hands off them. This year I promised myself to get the recipe and see how she makes them, which she kindly let me do. Here it is.
  • Spring '09 cooking classes

    A new set of hands-on cooking classes, in collaboration with Leiths, has just been announced. We recommend that you rush to sign up; places are taken up in a flash. The classes offer a great opportunity to enjoy a morning of cooking, eating, drinking and sharing of food experiences. They are taught by Ottolenghi chefs, alongside teachers from Leiths. You can come as a pair, or on your own. The cost of a class is £120. To book please call Leiths School of Food and Wine (020 8749 6400) or book via their website. February 21st Char-grilled fennel salad with red onion, lemon, sumac and dill Braised lamb meatballs with quince, coriander and pomegranate seeds Buttered vermicelli with basmati rice Clementine and almond cake March 14th Okra fritters with lime, cardamom and yoghurt sauce Warm waxy potato and mushroom salad with herbs and truffle oil Purple sprouting broccoli with chilli, garlic and lemon Limoncello and mascarpone trifle April 4th and May 9th Beetroot, aubergine and goat’s cheese with shallot and walnut vinaigrette Grilled chicken with red pepper, chilli, red onion, paprika and basil Potato latkes Mixed herb salad with lemon and honey dressing June 6th Char-grilled asparagus and courgette with pecorino, pistachio and purple basil Seared tuna with salsa verde and cherry tomatoes Herb and panko crusted globe artichoke hearts Fresh berries with vanilla and orange blossom syrup and cream
  • Our mistake

    Big apologies!!! After receiving comments from a few of you we realised there is a mistake in the sweet potato gratin recipe, page 68 in the Ottolenghi cookbook. There should only be 2 teaspoons of malden sea salt in the recipe, and not tablespoons as stated.

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