Regulars will know that Last Drop Wines on the Kings Rd is one of my favourite wine shops in London so when Andrea, the owner, invited me to cook for a wine dinner she was hosting I jumped at the chance.
Wines were all from the prestigious Dr Loosen Estate in Mosel showcasing traditional Riesling as part of the 31 Days of German Riesling so the menu had to match.
We were very fortunate to be offered a lovely private courtyard garden just off the Kings Rd and although it was Wimbledon week the weather stayed dry.
Guests were served Dr Loosen Sekt as aperitif followed by
Asparagus, Radish, Buttermilk, Toasted Rye
Urziger Wurzgarten 2015
Hake, Pea, Smoked Eel Broth
Erdener Treppchen 2015 & 2005
Moroccan Chicken, Cauliflower Cous Cous, Kale
Red Slate 2015
Cheese Pear & Honey
Grilled Peach, Cherry, Elderflower
Wehlener Sonnenhur Auslese 2015
Matt Giedraitis, the export director, from the Dr Loosen Estate was on hand to talk us through the wines, informative and entertaining.
The evening was hosted by Andrea from Last Drop wines whose dressing up box covers most of the major wine growing areas of the world so the Rhine Valley wasn’t much of a challenge.
Wine buffs will know that Mosel was largely unaffected by the phylloxera outbreak that devastated most of the vineyards in Europe in the 1870’s so some of these vines are very old indeed. Star wine of the night was definitely the Erdener Treppchen. Best food/wine pairing Moroccan Chicken, Cauliflower Cous Cous & Kale with the Red Slate 2015.
Andrea hosts regular Tuesday evening tastings in the shop so contact Last Drop Wines for details of future tastings and the next wine dinner.
Having been spoilt last week with a visit to Robert Parkers Matter of Taste event in Covent Garden where I had the opportunity to taste many once in a lifetime wines way out of my budget I have been looking at everyday wines that we can all access for under £20. There are so many wine stores now, supermarkets, online, independent retailers, wine clubs etc….. too much choice. I have my own favourite wine shops in London but many of us buy wine as part of our weekly supermarket shop so to kick off I have selected one supermarket and 1 independent retailer but there are plenty more.
For me Waitrose probably has the best supermarket wine department and even the small stores carry some good bottles. Bigger stores offer a great selection and carry a fine wine section too.
Here are few recommendations under £20 currently available.
Good quality claret with some decent bottle age at an affordable price
This is just a taster, there are plenty more and most wine shops are very helpful these days with well trained staff on hand to offer advice and guidance. Some have online chat facilities on their website (Oddbins) to help you choose depending on style of wine, budget etc.
Afternoon tea in London is big business. The Ritz Hotel serves up to 400 every day and menus start at £54 (£30 for children) and to be honest it doesn’t get much better than this provided you can afford it. All the big Plazas with doormen in tails follow suit.
For a restaurant to serve afternoon tea is quite unusual. You have just finished serving lunch, kitchen is getting cleaned down, staff on a break, restaurant is being laid up for the evening service and those couple of hours are a vital respite between shows for all departments. Last thing you need is a coach load of people coming in for cake. Specialised service, extra pressure on the kitchen, very labour intensive pastry items that have to be just right, increased wastage, staff costs etc etc.
So why has Sosharu, a Japanese Restaurant in Farringdon, part of the Jason Atherton group, started serving tea. Well I was lucky enough to be invited to try it at an event hosted by Mash Purveyors and Weiss Chocolate. Regular readers will know that Mash always lay on a great spread and today was no exception with David Swain and Alex Jazevica both indahouse.
At 4.00pm on a Monday the restaurant is buzzing there are many familiar faces here, top chefs from the London restaurant scene, several pastry chefs checking things out, restaurateurs, foodies, the blogger elite. Head Chef Alex Craciun and pastry chef Emily Argent are somewhere in the background working their socks off!
Table lay up was simple, classy and straight Sosharu. We started with Tuna Temaki, tartare of tuna, Tobiko (flying fish roe/not easy to harvest) on a Nori/Wakami/Tapioca (I,m guessing here) cracker basket thing ….bloody delicious total cucumber sandwich wipeout. Then Monaka, Foie Gras, Muscatel Grapes (Mash at their best) Weiss praline powder all contained in an air dried biscuit sandwich thing that defies description so I had to have a look inside before taking a bite.
Sweet things started with Melon Nigiri, watermelon like you have never tasted, clean, minimal sugar, flavour that lingers and shouts WATERMELON. I asked Emily the Pastry Chef what was in it but she wouldn’t even hint at what she done to the watermelon.
Next was a Strawberry and Green Tea Roll. Matcha Tea Roll with iced strawberry and Weiss white chocolate. We finished with Chocolate and Sesame Praline Dome. Skill, art, precision and taste, light meltinthemouth stuff that really showed off the quality of the Weiss Li Chu Vietnamese chocolate.
At £28 a go Sosharu Menu is affordable luxury, innovative, and quite simply delicious. The range of teas is also a welcome change from Assam and Earl Grey (both of which I love) I tried Sencha Asamushi. As someone who has spent their entire life in the kitchen and have had the good fortune to work with some exceptional chefs some might say I have become very particular about what I eat….fussy….yes…..hard to please…..maybe.
I was blown away…get down there.
Big thank you to Mash for inviting me, Weiss for their amazing chocolate and party bag and Sosharu for deciding to up the game on that great British institution afternoon tea.
Sprig is a vegan friendly vegetarian pop up created by ex Dinner at Heston and Chiltern Firehouse chef Peter Pickering.
Soundbites was lucky enough to catch up with Peter during his latest event at the Brockley Mess, sample some dishes and also help out in the kitchen.
Peter’s cooking is light, respectful, informed and delicious. Vegetables are treated with the respect and care normally associated with fancy cuts of meat and fish, attention to detail and a passion for flavour are apparent in every mouthful.
Click Here to listen to the #soundbites interview with Peter. Also available onitunes, Android, Soundcloud
To find out more visit the Sprig website or get tickets for his next pop up Click here
People in many countries have very restricted access to protein in their daily diets, some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life and many more are undernourished .(WFP Hunger statistics). Governments in many underdeveloped countries are turning to the farming of insects to help fill this gap. One of the companies pioneering this in the UK is Mophagy and I was fortunate to meet Harry Harrison, one of the co-founders, earlier this year.
He gave me a real insight into this relatively new food industry and some samples to try too.
The Chef Foundation and Food for the Soul is about to launch a series of online podcasts, snapshots of food that are all around us. What to eat, new talent, trending street food, swanky dining, feeding the homeless, best (and worst) supermarket deals, Fairtrade, school meals, imports, nutrition and anything else that needs shouting about.
These will be live interviews, chat forums, music events, fly on the wall documentaries, workshops, soapboxing, etc. Available on internet radio, the website and social media. Topics already lined up are cooking for the homeless, creating a successful street food stall, financing a restaurant by Crowdfunding and living on bugs (as a source of protein).
Our first production is in the studio being cut to pieces right now.
Supermarkets have totally changed the way we buy alcohol. The booze section in my local Sainsbury takes up 3 aisles, is located near the entrance and the choice is MASSIVE. It is so easy to pick up a bottle of wine (Gin or beer) with your other shopping and there are always deals and bargains. BUT as a discerning drinker, without a huge budget, I rarely find anything I fancy. Waitrose probably have the most interesting supermarket wine shelf.
There are plenty of independent wine shops offering great products at sensible prices. They do not provide the convenience of supermarkets, unless you happen to live next door, but have more interesting wines (beers & spirits) knowledgeable staff and a more enjoyable shopping experience. Here are a few of my favourites in London.
This has to be top of my list. there are 2 shops, South Ken & Islington, but the Kensington branch is by far the best. They operate a sampling system where you buy wine credits on a card and can then taste wines. There are usually about 80 to choose from and some of them are once in a lifetime opportunities. Today they have Chateau Margaux 1924 & 1959, Haut Brion 1989 and Penfolds Grange Bin 95 2002. These are not cheap as you can imagine and there are plenty of more affordable samples too but it is difficult not to try one when you are browsing other wines. Sampler’s strength is independent growers and there is lots on the shelf you will never have heard of. Staff are very knowledgeable, not pushy and let you browse at your own pace. The range of growers Champagne is exceptional.
I bought some 4 Kilos and Domaine of the Bee on my last visit. They also stock Zalto glasses (simply the best) and have a cafe/bar down stairs. The only problem with this shop is that I always end up spending more than I planned.
This stand alone, owner run, old style wine shop is the perfect antidote to supermarket shopping. Andrea knows her wines and her customers, picks all the wines personally and cares about every aspect of her business. The wines are very well displayed and easy to navigate. She always has some older vintages (claret especially) and a good choice of magnums and stickies.
Prices are very good.There are regular informal wine tastings and events, usually with some delicious canapés. I wish I lived nearer!
Another great owner run wine shop with more than one branch. Phil & Swig is where I buy most of my wine as it is quite close to home. They have a good choice from all over the world, South Africa is particularly strong with some great wines from Argentina and Italy too. Good selection of spirits, single malts, micro-beers etc. Last visit I bought some Pulenta Gran Corte,(delicious and very good value) and some old school Gewurztraminer from Rolly Gassman.
They have spent a lot of time and money on the website that is excellent, easy to navigate with good photos of the wines. Also stock Reidel & Zalto glasses with some great decanters and wine accessories.
The Chef Foundation and Food for the Soul now offer a private dining service bringing contemporary fine dining into your own home. Professional chefs, your choice of dishes in your kitchen at affordable prices. Read more….
Hopefully some of you have started the Chef Foundation diet and are now over one week in and have got your heads round the concept and are enjoying a wheat and animal-fat free month. I have been eating lots of fruit, salads, soups and roasted vegetables and as promised here are a few simple recipes to help spice up meal times for you. These can be eaten with other items or as they are as a snack if you get peckish during the day.
You don’t need to weigh or measure anything for these recipes all amounts are just guidelines so just make things so they taste right to you. Add things like salt and pepper bit by bit. You can always add more but it is difficult to take it out!
2 ripe avocados
1 red chilli
1 clove garlic
1 finely chopped shallot
Handful of coriander
Juice of 1 lime
Splash of House dressing/olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Peel and stone the avocados
Place in a bowl and crush with the back of a fork
Add finely chopped chilli , shallot and garlic to taste
Add the juice of 1 lime
Add a handful of roughly chopped coriander
Add a splash of house dressing (see recipe) or Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Some people like to add some chopped tomato too.
This is an excellent addition whether you are dieting or not and can be made with dozens of variations. My favourites are Black Bean Salsa and also Basil and Ginger Salsa and I make mine quite wet but you can add any ingredients you have to hand and just experiment
Sweetcorn (fresh, tinned to frozen)
Chopped tomato (fresh or tinned)
Herbs (basil, parsley, tarragon, coriander) all work well
Sliced spring onions
House dressing/olive oil
Optional extras black beans, cannellini beans, avocado, roast aubergine, mango and much more
Chop and mix
Season to taste
White Bean Hummus
This is great as a dip for raw veg sticks or thin it down with water for a sauce or dressing.
400g Cannellini beans (tinned or dried)If using dried beans soak overnight in cold water with a teaspoon of Bicarb, this will help soften the skins then cook in fresh water till soft.
Handful of Coriander
1 clove of Garlic (you can always add more!)
Juice of 1 lemon
a teaspoon of Tahini (optional…I don’t bother)
Glug of House dressing
Salt & pepper
Pinch of Cayenne pepper or a little Tobasco
Blend all the ingredients except the coriander in a food processor until smooth
Check the flavour, consistancy and seasoning
Finish with roughly chopped coriander and make be some toasted pine nuts
1 kg overripe tomatoes (roughly chopped)
450g chopped Onions
2 cloves Garlic finely chopped
2 eating Apples, skin on just core and chop
pinch Mixed spice
1 shot brandy
200g Brown sugar
500ml balsamic vinegar
Put the onions, spices and liquids in a saucepan and boil until the liquids have reduced by half
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook out slowly for about an hour stirring regularly
The chutney will gradually turn brown as the liquids evaporate, make sure it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan
Tis now the season of the diet and they are big business. Wicksy, front page tabloid stuff & waffle board stomach, is 90 days subscription, yes 90 days. Some slimmers spend years on Weightwatchers making themselves miserable and still cough up every month.
We all overdid it at Christmas…you have to… so January always means diet. It is part punishment, part penance. Each year sees a craze of new wonder diets and fads most seem more focused on relieving you of pounds sterling than imperial.
Diets are difficult to stick to because they are often too complicated, too long, expensive, no fun and because we are all different a lot of them just don’t work.
I have got my own diet that I do twice a year, it is easy and has always worked for me, not just for weight loss but to freshen up and detox too. I call it The Chef Foundation diet. It’s not about eating less, your body needs fuel, It’s not about about suppressing desire cos we all enjoy treats. Its about cutting out a lot of the crap we all eat with an easy and straightforward formula.
The Chef Foundation diet is a short term life style change best adopted for a set period, I recommend a calendar month, this is long enough for your system to purge and change but not too long that the end is never in sight and manageable for most people. I like to start on the 1st of the month and run through. I am on it now.
The rules are simple. No animal fat and no wheat.
Apart from that you can eat and drink what you like. This does not have to be a vegetarian month. If you crave or miss animal protein then chicken breast (no skin) or white fish best poached, steamed or chargrilled can all be eaten. The secret is your mindset which is why a month helps too. By day 3 I am usually on it and the closer the end of the month gets the easier it becomes. Personally I never weigh myself. I know if I am losing weight from the way my clothes fit. When the month is over I feel better, have always lost some weight and have changed the way I look at my food intake. Our western diet is so wheat and additive driven and this causes lots of issues, food intolerance, bowel disorders, cancers etc.
The key for me is plenty of fresh fruit. I always have a big bowl of fruit salad in the fridge, I like acid and aqueous fruits, Grapefruit, orange, apples, melon, pineapple etc but you can add what you like. I eat this for breakfast and to snack on during the day. Evening meal I will have roast vegetables (great hot or cold), rice dishes, soups, salads, there’s loads of choice…sounds dull…not at all. I prepare in bulk and meal times become easy. I then add some fish or other protein when I fancy it. Tart things up with your own homemade dips, salsa, white bean hummus, aubergine and miso, guacamole, easy chutney. Add crunch with seeds and nuts or toasted pearl barley. Bulk up with sticky rice, wheat free granola on your breakfast, so much choice…
If you are going out for an evening meal try to stick to the rules. So don’t order deep pan pizza with extra cheese and chorizo. There are nearly always sensible options available. Reduce your use of salt and sugar and notice how your palate and taste buds wake up.
Prepare things in bulk so that you have food for a couple of days.
Review your shopping habits
Get your partner to join in
Don’t be sanctimonious
Enjoy the month
Don’t weigh yourself every 10 minutes.
This is not just about losing weight it is about rebalancing your body dynamics.
Some recipes and meal plans will follow over the next few days to help you get started.