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Posts Tagged ‘Bristol’

Granted. I’ve been absent for a long time – family life combined with running your own business can do that to your social networking life – but I’m ready to get back to food blogging. It’s something I really enjoy doing and have missed. I only hope that I can find the time and energy to do it again.

I might have been away from my blog but I haven’t been far from food. It’s just that my approach to food has adapted to suit the limited time available for cooking and, naturally, to my little boy’s developing tastes.

_EP_8202-01For a while, when LC was little, I struggled to cope with not having time in the kitchen after work (cooking had always been my creative outlet and the way I relaxed) but we’re now over some very difficult hurdles and there’s a little more time on an evening to cook. I’m working through recipes in the cookbooks that gathered on my shelves over the last two years and were subsequently neglected as well as rediscovering old favourites. Books like Persiana, Made in India, New Indian, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, Comptoir Libanais, the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook and, more recently, Indian Kitchen: Secrets of Indian home cooking have reignited my passion for cooking and, importantly for me, my desire to experiment and create ‘new’ dishes.

I’ve had a little ‘me’ time when I’ve been able to hone some skills and learn new ones. I’ve been on a baking course with Hart’s Bakery and almost perfected my sourdough, I joined Wai Yee Hong and Bishopston Supper Club for the first ever #dumplingfest and learned how to make samosas with a new foodie friend, Arushi.

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Seeing LC enjoy food and want to spend time with me in the kitchen has really helped. I feel immensely proud when he names fruit and vegetables, can recognise ingredients in a cooked dish or sniffs the air and tells me he can smell that I’m cooking curry! I also felt slightly embarrassed when nursery staff reported how, as they told the children they were going to bake cakes, he jumped it to explain to them all how to make one and listed the ingredients needed.

He wants to help with everything from growing vegetables in the garden to shopping, stirring, whisking and even sweeping up. He’s been a great excuse to make time in the kitchen to do things I’ve never done or haven’t done for a long time; make pasta, stale bread gnocchi, oatcakes, meringues, jellies and cakes. He’s eager to learn, soaks up everything I teach him and demonstrates what he’s learnt in his play kitchen where he makes paella, risotto, pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage sandwiches and a bloody good cup of tea!

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And what about eating out? We still do that, just not as frequently. We have sneaky days off with LC in nursery so we can have breakfast or lunch out, or sometimes both! We eat out at lunchtime with LC and occasionally we indulge in a night out, with the help of the amazing people in our lives who offer to babysit.

The Bristol food scene continues to thrive. The variety and quality of food available is outstanding. We’ve had incredible steaks at The Ox, the most amazing chicken wraps from Matina in St Nick’s market, Sunday lunches with a difference at the Kensington Arms, Yurt Lush and Bishopston Supper Club, tapas to die for at Bravas and Pata Negra, the best brunches at RosemarinoBaker & Co and Souk Kitchen, consistently good food at out local, The Victoria Park, stunning fish and chips at Salt and Malt, spice fixes from the Jamaican Diner, authentic Indian cooking from Romy’s Kitchen, a complete surprise tasting menu at the Lido and fantastic salt beef from Aron’s Jewish Delicatessen.

_EP_3760_1Further afield we’ve tucked in at the Hardwick and eaten the best pea and ham soup we’ve ever tasted at the Hind’s Head. Even further afield we were wowed by the food and hospitality in Copenhagen. Aaman’s open sandwiches, DOP hotdogs and Papiroen street food market were highlights of our trip. Sadly there was no visit to Noma!

So, I’ve discovered that there is still room for food in our lives…it’s just that we’re on a diet!

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The central pathI’ll get my excuses out of the way early. I’ve been meaning to go to The Ethicurean for quite some time but have never made it. Until today.

Bad excuse and reason to pull my finger out number one: It is situated around 10 miles from our house in Bristol and, not being cyclists, realistically it means driving out there, for which I’d have to be the designated driver. When there are so many good places to eat in and around town to which we can walk somewhere else has taken precedence when we’ve been choosing a restaurant.

Rubbish excuse and reason to just head on over there number two: The Ethicurean struck me as the kind of place you’d want to visit on a good day, not in the depths of winter. A bright, warm, sunny, spring day like today is an ideal day to go but having visited, I can imagine going back time and again, in all seasons. Yes, there are the gardens to wander round which is always going to be more pleasant when it’s dry but the café is set up to accommodate all weathers.

The Ethicurean was, until recently, one of Bristol’s best kept secrets. It’s a café (you could argue it’s a restaurant) within the grounds of a stunningly beautiful, organised and expansive walled garden and orchard. It’s that kitchen garden and orchard as well as local produce (foraged, shot, donated or ethically sourced) which inspires Chef Pennington and his team in their compact kitchen.

The lunch menu was relatively short (five or six choices for each course) but varied enough. Thought had clearly gone into what could be produced for such good value within the confines of their small premises and from the seasonal produce available. It wasn’t overly ambitious but neither was it uninteresting.

St. George Mushrooms w/ Jonogold Apple, Ribwort Plantain & MintThe produce was the true focus of each of the dishes, no more obvious than in my starter of St George mushrooms; a raw assembly of thin slices of mushroom, jonogold apple, mint and ribwort plantain. Everything tasted so fresh and was bursting with flavour.

Jed’s ham hock consommé was as equally fresh tasting and at the same time satisfying and soothing. Perfectly clear, slightly salty and intensely ‘hammy’, it contained decent chunks of ham hock, fresh wilted rainbow chard and a poached egg.

Roast Sirloin of BeefThe goat in my meatballs and Jed’s roast beef were incredibly flavoursome. It perhaps sounds like mumbo jumbo to some but I’m convinced that the flavour and texture of the meat we ate was the result of well-cared for, bred, slaughtered and butchered animals. These were animals which had had a good diet and a good (albeit short in the case of the goat) life and were so much more enjoyable as a result.

The vegetables from the garden tasted like vegetables should taste and, I’d like to say that these guys can make mashed potato. It was probably laced with pounds of butter but boy did it taste good!

Not having a sweet tooth, for me it was an obvious choice to end the meal; the cheese platter. A very generous portion of Old Demdike, Gorwydd Caerphilly, Keen’s Cheddar and Blue Vinny with a wonderful carrot pickle, onion marmalade and membrillo. Incidentally, if you’re not driving you might like to have a taster of their homemade membrillo vodka!Cheese Board

For Jed, however, it was a much more painful decision to make. Clearly the Ethicurean know how to make desserts and cakes. With the choice narrowed down to two, it took some recommendation from the waiter to arrive at a final decision of a bit of both! Their signature sticky toffee apple cake (people have threatened to kill them for the recipe) with rhubarb and elderflower cream was gone in minutes to a soundtrack of mmmms. I believe it was good!

Amazing ViewsThe place and staff are relaxed, they’re happy to talk to you about the gardens, the food and its provenance as well as make recommendations. You can even buy some of their produce (jams, apple juice, vegetables and plants) to take home with you.

The view from the dining room is impressive and on a day like today it’s the kind of place you just don’t want to leave.

No more excuses. No more holding back. When the mood takes me, I’ll be there in a flash!

Thank you to througheye for the photos.

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It probably wouldn’t surprise you to read that food played a big role in our wedding. The wedding breakfast was particularly important but the munching didn’t stop there.

The beauty of Folly Farm was that the venue was ours for the whole weekend. It meant we could arrive on the Friday to decorate and set the rooms up as we wanted then share dinner with close family and friends that evening around the big table in the Old Dairy.

That dinner consisted of Brazilian pork and black bean stew and a black bean chilli which, just weeks before the wedding, I’d spent a weekend making and then froze (thanks to Heidi for the loan of space in her chest freezer!) ready for my mum to re-heat once we’d finished decking out the rooms.

My mum also kindly made a selection of family-favourite desserts; chocolate mousse, pavlova and apple crumble. The chocolate mousse was clearly a big hit with my four year old goddaughter who had four helpings!

Banished from the kitchen on my wedding day, my presence made itself known at breakfast in the form of American pancakes, a weekend brunch favourite. The same weekend I was busy making stew and chilli, I also made a huge pile of pancakes for everyone. Served with maple syrup and raspberries, it was a great way to set us up for the day. I particularly enjoyed mine sat in bed with a cup of tea, chatting with friends!

We would have hated for anyone to go home hungry and/or not having had enough to drink so sausage sandwiches and cheese were in order late in the evening.

Ian at the Cheese Shed helped us construct our own ‘cheese cake’ of wonderful South West cheeses, decorated by our friend, Mel, who also did an amazing job with my bouquet.

From top to bottom:

Gevrik (goat’s cheese)

Eve (goat’s cheese)

Black-Eyed Susan (organic, Jersey cow’s milk cheese)

Miss Muffet (semi-soft, cow’s milk cheese)

Wild Garlic Yarg (cow’s milk cheese wrapped in wild garlic leaves)

Beenleigh Blue (blue ewe’s milk cheese)

Six Spires (unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese)

The sausages were lovingly cooked by our WOMAD friends, Gordon & Alex, as a wedding present! Bread rolls came from the independent artisan bakery, Mark’s Bread, on North Street and the sausages from our usual supplier, the brilliant Bristol Sausage Shop, in Bristol’s St Nick’s market.

Having road tested our shortlist of flavours with our fellow WOMAD-goers this summer, we decided on the three favourites: the Lucifer (a pork sausage with a chilli hit), black magic (pork and black pudding) and pork, red onion and ginger. There were also lovely veggie sausages from the Naked Kitchen.

The food didn’t stop there! We couldn’t ask people to help clear up on an empty stomach so laid on bacon sandwiches on the Sunday morning. Our friends know us so well – Emma, Ed and Hattie bought us amazing Chatsworth House cured bacon as our wedding present and made their own ketchup and brown sauce to go with it. A special thanks to my mum and dad, Phil and others who helped make sure everyone was fed and watered before getting on their way.

They also put together ‘party bags’ of leftover cake, cheese and biscuits, sausages and bread for people to take with them. I hate food going to waste so it gave me great pleasure to know that there were plenty of picnics had on the way home and friends’ children had the best packed lunches the following week!

The clearing up done, everyone on their way home and the hangovers setting in, we headed to the Michelin starred Pony & Trap for Sunday lunch. Melt in the mouth Gloucester Old Spot pork loin and tender rare-breed roast sirloin of beef with all the trimmings were a fitting end to an incredible and unforgettable wedding weekend.

After such an indulgent weekend, I have high hopes for married life – may we be lucky enough to continue to share and enjoy many years of love and fine food together.

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When Jed finally proposed whilst we were on holiday in Stockholm last year (he doesn’t like to rush into things but after 13 years decided I probably was the one!), my thoughts immediately turned not, as I imagine most girls would, to my dress, shoes or hair, but to food!

Good food and sharing a meal with family and friends is a big part of our life. If there was one thing that had to be just so, it was the food for our wedding breakfast. Not only did it need to be the right food, cooked well, but it also needed to be served in the right way, family-style.

For some time I knew that if we were to ever get married it wouldn’t be a traditional wedding breakfast that we’d be feasting on, it’d be curry. All I had to do was find a) somewhere which would allow us to bring in our own caterers and b) a caterer that would cook our food of choice to a high standard. Sounds simple enough!

Folly FarmWe found and secured the right venue soon enough. The Folly Farm Centre is set within a 250 acre nature reserve managed by the Avon Wildlife Trust. It’s a beautiful venue which is yours for a full weekend, with several function rooms at your disposal, views across to Chew Valley lake, grounds, orchards and woodland to wonder in, its own kitchen garden, a professional kitchen, a choice of caterers on tap or the ability to bring in your own and plenty of accommodation for you and your guests to stay in.

Finding a caterer wasn’t quite so easy! The frustration seemed endless: a complete lack of response or quick to respond initially and then you’d never hear from them again, inability to cater for so many people, far too expensive for our budget, only willing to cook set menus, only provide a buffet service, willing to provide the food but nothing else. The hurdles kept on appearing.

That was until I stumbled upon a relatively new catering company in Bristol called Whisk!. Mike was more than happy to take on my challenge. Looking back now, I feel sorry for Mike who, after saying yes he could help, was then bombarded with detail, suggestions and requests. But even that didn’t put him off! In fact, he came back with a bespoke menu which encompassed my wishes and which clearly showed that he’d thought about his client and the brief. The menu even included a dish from my favourite Indian chef, reminiscent of family meals as a child at our local Nepalese restaurant.

Next came the tasting session. I was filled with excitement at the prospect of Mike coming to our house (yes, he came to us!), cooking items of the meal in my kitchen, serving it to us for dinner and chatting through our ideas and comments. The food we tasted was stunning and there was no question at that point that we’d found the right caterer.

Fast forwarding through the to-ing and fro-ing over practicalities and the order of proceedings, the big day arrived. Keeping me out of the kitchen was always going to be a tall order, friends had even joked that they wouldn’t be surprised to have seen me in my frock getting stuck in! Thankfully I had the photographer on hand to capture the best bits for me and hair and make-up to focus on.

Following the ceremony, we gathered in the courtyard where our guests were treated to a selection of canapés with their Prosecco. Hopefully a hint at what was to follow. The vegetable samosas, spicy lamb skewers and onion bhajis didn’t hang around long – the chefs battled to keep up with the greedy hoards and so many of our guests commented that the bhajis were among the best they’ve eaten!

Poppadoms and home-made chutneys were on the tables as our guests sat down for the main event. Platters of Indian breads and large bowls of pilau rice, Kashmiri lamb curry (an Atul Kochhar recipe), achari paneer (achari being one of our favourite types of curry), tarka dhal (my father-in-law and I always fight over who’s going to finish the last bit) and saag bhaji were then brought to us for everyone to help themselves to.

We had toyed with various ideas for dessert but in the end, as my mother-in-law had spent so much time and done such a great job making the cakes, decided to serve them with coffee, tea and chai. A good decision as I don’t think they would have been enjoyed as much had we left it until later to serve them.

I’d been nervous in the preceding weeks about whether the food would be as good as it was when we did our tasting but I needn’t have worried. It was all delicious and there has hardly a scrap left!

Not only had Whisk! done us proud with our meal but they had also catered for a couple of guests with very special dietary requirements to the same high standard everyone else received. The catering staff were brilliant; very friendly, smiling, attentive and highly professional. Explaining what all the dishes were as they brought them to the tables was a lovely touch. Satiated and satisfied we left them to clear up so we could get on with the party!

There’s no doubting that choosing a ‘self-catering’ venue and our own caterer was extra work and a little stressful at times but it was more than worth it for the result which was everything we had wanted. Not only a day but also a meal to remember.

Thanks to Matthew Lincoln Photography for the photos.

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Of all the supper clubs and pop ups now present across Bristol, the Blue Door Supper Club seems to be both elusive and exclusive! Rave reviews from high profile guests among the food world since day one meant that it was difficult enough as it was to book a place, but the task became even harder once Sam followed his dreams and took on a job as a chef. 

After months and months of trying (and trying not to appear too desperate!) to get on the mailing list we received our invite to supper in May, only for the evening to be postponed a few days before. A bitter disappointment. We would just have to hang on a little longer and pray that we’d be free when the new date was proposed. That day came… 

Before we arrived, we had no idea what would be on the menu, only that there’d be a focus on tomatoes, beef, summer fruits and cheese.

As it turned out, we were treated to a breath-taking array of produce from Sam and Becky’s allotment, beef from the new Whiteladies Road butchers, Ruby and White, and even some nuts from the local park. Not unusual for them – we learned that this is a rare-breed of couple who don’t shop in supermarkets. The food they eat every day and serve at the supper club is either home grown, foraged or bought from local independent shops.

What of the food? It was wonderful and plentiful. We started with a selection of bread and a light and fragrant salad of heritage tomatoes (all the top London chefs have them on the menu right now!). The plate looked beautiful with slices of small, medium and large tomatoes in shades of green, red and yellow adorned with ewe’s curd, delicate borage flowers and thyme leaves. 

We ate first with our eyes again when presented with our main course of skirt, served very rare with anchovy butter and accompanied by purple potatoes, green beans and girolles. There was also a cracking looking vegetarian option of salt baked beetroot with Ragstone cheese, spelt and wild fennel.

Next came an intensely flavoured shot of blackcurrant water ice, which was so delicious I could have eaten a bucket full, and then a choice of strawberry and elderflower jelly or baked plums. It was baked plums all round on our table. Soft, tangy plums balanced with sweet shards of caramel, crunchy cobnuts and thick, almost ice-cream like clotted cream. The meal was rounded off with a great wedge of Gorwydd Caerphilly. Phwoar!     

Becky was at ease front of house, making us all feel at home in their dining room, and happy to talk throughout the evening about the dishes, the ingredients or the cooking, whilst Sam remained calm and looked relaxed and methodical in the kitchen, working in full view of us all. 

Given it was a Wednesday night, there were still plenty of corks popping and the room was filled with chatter and laughter. We shared a table with four other guests, all new to the supper club experience. I’m sure, like us, they’re now hooked – we parted company leaving them with a list of other supper clubs and pop ups to visit next! Great food, good company, fabulous hosts and a full belly. The perfect evening!

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We had our first foray into the St Anne’s area of Bristol last Saturday evening. It’s on our doorstep but to be honest there’s been no reason to visit until now, and why? Well, quite simply because to date there’s been no supper club!

One of the girls that made it possible!The Egg a Day supper club, run by Genevieve Taylor, food stylist and author of STEW!, and Jo Ingleby, of Demuth’s Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath, has now given us every reason to visit St Anne’s.

So why Egg a Day supper club? Montpelier Basement, Bishopston supper club, Southville supper club (now the Blue Door supper club): there’s a clue in the names as to how they came about but there’s an air of intrigue about the Egg a Day supper club if you haven’t been following Gen’s chronicles of life with chickens.

Desperate for a garden big enough to provide shelter and pecking space for a couple of chickens (and now supremely jealous of Gen’s idyllic and immaculate back garden complete with pond, peach tree bulging with ripe fruit and perfect vegetables), I’ve been following Gen’s blog since she started documenting the trials and tribulations of her girls and the lengths she has gone to incorporate the egg a day laid by each of the four chickens into her family meals.

The supper club was an obvious continuation of this challenge – would it be possible to prepare a menu based almost completely around this free-range, home-produced ingredient for a house full of hungry, food loving guests? After months of deliberation and days of preparation, Gen and Jo settled on a mostly Moorish themed menu, putting eggs to eggstraordinary use in each course.

Reading the menu, I was expecting a mezze style delivery. It’s exactly what we got but on a hugely generous scale. The girls and the garden had truly worked hard to provide for us, and Gen’s poor children neglected of their daily egg for the preceding weeks!

British weather being unpredictable as it is put pay to us eating the full meal al fresco as Gen had envisaged but we were able to enjoy the evening air as we met the other guests and the chickens, explored the garden, quaffed our wine and nibbled on the first course; platters of caraway, nigella and black sesame seed flatbread, mounds of labneh with garlic and sumac, bowls of beetroot and walnut pate with coriander, parsley and mint. Labneh with garlic & sumac

We were seated in the kitchen diner for the remainder of the meal but with the patio doors flung open to let the garden come to us. Gen and Jo bravely completed the food preparation and service under our watchful eyes and the unforgiving lenses of a couple of cameras.

Palestinian couscous with broad beans, peas, mint & lemonWe then received delight after delight; the last of the season’s asparagus with saffron aioli, tortilla with smoked paprika ketchup, tuna and egg empanadillas (Spanish-style pasties), mograbiah (giant couscous) salad with peas, broad beans and mint, warm carrot and courgette salad with cumin and garlic dressing , shakshuka and barbecued merguez and pork skewers.

After that little lot we retreated to the garden to stretch our legs, walk off some of the food and be mesmerised by the fire Gen’s husband had thoughtfully lit whilst Gen and Jo cleared the way for dessert. Dessert was a perfect pistachio meringue (crunchy crust, chewy inside and not too sweet) served with rosewater syrup strawberries and a sublime vanilla ice cream (simple really is best!).

Just when we thought we could eat no more and headed back out into the garden, we discovered pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) and fresh mint tea awaiting us for the finale of what had been a speggtacular evening.

Pasteis de nata

Plans are afoot to raid the chicken coop for another Egg a Day supper club in September. Keep an eye out on the Egg a Day blog and book yourself in for a warm welcome and incredibly generous helping of delicious food. Save a space for us though!

More photos of the Egg a Day supper club from througheye can be found here.

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Alexis and Kristjan know how to feed a crowd. Testament to that is the speed at which you now have to book your place for the Mi Casa pop up restaurant. Missing out on a place at the first of the Mi Casa pop up nights at the Big Chill bar, we managed to bag one at the second sitting on 2nd June. 

The small room upstairs at the Big Chill bar, with its beautifully ornate ceiling and tongue in cheek wall hangings, was a world away from the previous venue* at the Benjamin Perry Boathouse (not least because Alexis had a full kitchen to work in!).

A tight squeeze forced you to become familiar with your neighbours, lovely they were too, but on the day of a heat wave in Bristol, was a little too stifling and uncomfortable. On another day, the venue would certainly have been more charming.

Mi Casa is a communal dining experience. Diners sit in rows on long tables and food is served on boards and platters to share. It’s all about interaction – with the food and with your neighbours. It’s conversation, it’s discovery, it’s family-style dining on a large scale. Above all it’s ‘fine’ dining. Not in the sense of white tablecloths, waiters in tuxedos, small portions and hefty prices but fine in the sense of skilled and high quality.

A foraging trip for Kristjan and his son led to the loose theme of the menu and the Dirty Old Town artwork up for auction (sadly the artists had created the artwork at the previous session and we were unable to see them at work). ‘Where the wild things are’ served up wild fennel, elderflower and sea beet among the plethora of delightful dishes.

Just as at previous Mi Casa evenings we’ve attended, the memorable food kept on coming. One thing’s for certain, you’ll never go home hungry!

Herby wild fennel cakes with sauce vierge were followed by Somerset asparagus with slivers of Manchego and an amazing macarona almond and sherry vinegar puree before we received plates of sea trout delicately cured with elderflower.

We moved on to morcilla (Spanish black pudding) with perfectly cooked scallops, broad beans and sea beet before being treated to grilled quail, rose petals and pistachios (you needed your fingers for this one) served with lemon and mint Jersey Royals.

As if that wasn’t enough, the meal was rounded off with two desserts; English strawberries with mint sugar and a rich chocolate pudding which came with unusual accompaniments of olive oil, sea salt shortbread and peanut brittle.

Simply stunning. We can’t wait for the next event. If the rumours are true, it will prove to be their most adventurous and exciting yet. Can I book my place now?!

*The Mi Casa hosts are always on the look out for new and dramatic venues suitable for a communal dining experience – any ideas, please get in touch with them.

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