Chapter One, Locksbottom

Regular readers will know my love of all things roast. So when mine and the bf’s five year anniversary meal landed on a Sunday and the crucial question of ‘lunch or dinner?’ was posed, the only option for me was Sunday roast at Chapter One

This Michelin starred restaurant on the outskirts of Bromley in Kent, ran by chef Andrew McLeish, is one of the premier eateries outside of London. You’ll find super attentive staff, clean & crisp decor, and a lounge-bar – order the Cherry and Rhubarb Bellini – which is worth visiting on its own.

The food is super fresh, modern European, with ingredients sourced locally where possible. My starter of chilled pea espuma (no, I hadn’t heard of it either!) was a wonderful surprise, the richness of the egg against the salty pancetta and sweet peas was divine. And Andrew’s dessert of walnut coffee panacotta, which had a real deepness of flavour which you wouldn’t expect from such a light and creamy dish, combined with the ice-cold sweet and tart maple syrup sorbet was really special. As for our mains, I can’t even begin to describe the sheer quality of the beef – ‘melts in the mouth’ would be an understatement. I don’t think either of us has tried a roast beef or steak quite as good – that’s even after I wrote about “the best steak of my life” from alec’s in Essex. 

The wine list was not to be sniffed at either, with an extensive selection of grapes, prices, and bottle sizes (important when one of you is driving) we had a tough choice deciding what to go for, in the end the Cotes du Rhone won.

So next time you’re thinking of treating yourself to a special meal, don’t go for dinner in London, try lunch in Locksbottom.

Chilled pea espuma, warm poached hen's egg, pancetta & pea cress

I ordered: Chilled pea espuma, warm poached hen’s egg, pancetta & pea cress

Ham hock terrine, black pudding & apple puree

Andrew had: Ham hock terrine, black pudding & apple puree

Roast air hung sirloin of beef, roast potatoes, red cabbage, green beans & red win jus

Holly: Roast air hung sirloin of beef, roast potatoes, red cabbage, green beans & red wine jus

Josper grilled USDA rib eye steak, chips & bearnaise sauce

Andrew: Josper grilled USDA rib eye steak, chips & bearnaise sauce

Strawberry mille-feuille with wild strawberrysorbet

Holly: Strawberry mille-feuille with wild strawberry sorbet

Walnut coffee panacotta, blueberry gel & fresh blueberries, blueberry & maple syrup sorbet

Andrew: Walnut coffee panacotta, blueberry gel & fresh blueberries, blueberry & maple syrup sorbet

Lemon & Coconut Polenta Cupcakes

Now that I have my own house, my new favourite thing to do on a weekend is have the grandparents over for afternoon tea.

Today I made some delicious finger sandwiches (with homemade egg mayo), potato salad (well more like Lyonnaise potatoes, that’s the rule when there’s onions involved right?), and got some sausage rolls from our local bakery.

So after all this savoury goodness we needed something sharp and sweet to cut through the richness. And as I love using up cupboard essentials polenta cake seemed the perfect choice.

I took inspiration from Nigella’s legendary Lemon Polenta Cake, and substituted the ground almonds for desiccated coconut (another habit of mine, using and replacing any ingredients as long as it meets what I have in the cupboard!) and I was really pleased I did. Instead of the sometimes grainy texture of polenta cake mine was chewy and the coconut gave some extra sweetness to the lemon – which I felt it needed.

I also decided to make individual cupcakes, rather than a whole cake. This might of had something to do with wanting to use my new cake stand…

Prep time 15mins, baking time 20mins, makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

100g caster sugar

100g desiccated coconut

50g polenta

100g butter

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 eggs

Zest of two lemons

Juice of two lemons

125g icing sugar

Method

Grease cupcake tray and pre-heat the oven to 180c

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar with an electric hand-mixer ’til pale and fluffy

Mix the coconut, polenta and baking powder into the butter & sugar, then beat in the eggs

Stir in the lemon zest and spoon the mixture into the cupcake tray

Bake for 20-30mins, when cooked take out of the oven and set the tin aside to cool

Simmer the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan ’til bubbling, then prick the cupcakes all over and pour in the  syrup slowly to drench the cakes with this delicious sauce.

Serve with a big pot of tea and let the nanas dig in!

My perfect roast dinner

Christmas dinner.It’s the biggest culinary challenge of the year for most ‘home-cooks’ (the phrase being ladled out on The Taste), especially when it comes to these particular quandaries: “How many people will one turkey feed?”, “Do parsnips smothered in oil, still count towards your five-a-day?”, “Great Aunt what’s-her-name doesn’t eat meat, is it ok to just give her veg???”.  I chose to rid myself of these worries and indulge in a decadent dinner for two, and surprisingly it went incredibly well… ’til I realised I had ordered a pheasant, not my much-anticipated guinea fowl. Oops.

Christmas dinner: Roast pheasant with all the trimmings!

Despite my minor cock-up ordering the wrong bird (no offence meant Mr. Pheasant), I am really pleased with how my dinner went: my timings went perfectly to schedule, and there was enough room in the oven – with a little help from my new slow cooker, and I didn’t burn anything, or myself for once!

A whole Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for two people might seem like a lot of effort, but it is so worth it – especially as you will have lots of lovely leftovers to make some gorgeous thrifty meals with. (Recipes to follow, promise!)

So, what’s on the menu then?

Roast pheasant, served with Herbes de Provence  seasoned roast potatoes; braised red cabbage; mashed swede; honey & mustard glazed carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes; steamed broccoli and spring greens; and some cheating trimmings… pigs in blankets from Tesco and pork stuffing with caramelised chestnuts from M&S Food; all smothered in a rich gravy made from my veg stock and game drippings.

Pheasant and gravy

I splashed some olive oil into the slow cooker (the wide and shallow variety, rather than the pot shaped ones), while it was heating I topped and tailed all of my veg and added the ends to the slow cooker, as well as some roughly chopped white onions, and arranged in a bed for the pheasant to sit on. I allowed the veg to start to sizzle, then turned the heat down, and put the pheasant on top of the veggies and put the lid on, so the pheasant steams and stays lovely and juicy! I had basted the pheasant with butter and seasoned with salt and pepper, making sure to rub the butter in between the skin and meat, then popped a lemon quarter into the cavity. I cooked the pheasant in the slow cooker for one hour, then transferred it to the oven for 20mins to crisp up.

Once you have removed the pheasant to the oven, pour about 750ml chicken stock into the slow cooker and turn up the heat. Scrape any crispy bits off the bottoms of the pan and allow the stock to simmer for a couple of mins before slowly adding some instant gravy granules (I used chicken) to thicken. Once heated through carefully sieve the gravy to remove the veg. Yummy!

Roast potatoes

I parboiled my large peeled and chopped maris piper potatoes, then drained the excess water and shook the bowl up to make them fluffy. Then in a deep roasting tray, which I had lined with tin foil, I threw in the potatoes and drizzled with olive oil (it makes them SO much crispier than duck or goose fat does) and seasoned with salt and pepper, then sprinkled them with my little bag of magic: Herbes de Provence. This mix of herbs provides a subtle flowery perfume which goes deliciously with these crispy spuds! Whack the potatoes in the oven for an hour on a high heat ’til they reach that infamous golden brown.

Braised Red cabbage

I used Guy Fieri’s Braised Red Cabbage recipe from the Food Network website, as it was super quick and really easy. If I was to do it again (when not so rushed off my feet), I would cook the cabbage for longer, as this came out a little too al dente for my taste.

Swede

Plain old mashed swede is one of my favourite roast accompaniments, who wouldn’t want some sort of mash with their roast?! Simply peel and chop up the swede into 1cm chunks, then boil on the hob for about 20mins, or until soft, then mash with a knob of butter and salt & pepper. It’s just so tasty.

Honey & mustard glazed carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes

I love root veg sooooo much. This method keeps these three veggies sweet and juicy. Mix up a glaze of mustard, oil (rapeseed works well), honey, salt and pepper. I like to use grainy mustard for this, as it provides little bursts of flavour, but on this occasion I only had regular Dijon mustard in the cupboard, but it worked well too. Brush the mix lightly over the roughly chopped veg, don’t peel any of them (the skin helps the caramelisation), and throw in a couple of crushed garlic cloves for good measure. Put your tin foil lined tray with your veggies into the hot oven for an hour ’til soft.

Broccoli and spring greens

Simple steamed green veg adds a much needed savoury (and healthy) element to this indulgent dinner.

I hope you’ll give one of these recipes a go for your next Sunday roast, why wait ’til Christmas?! Comment below for any further advice, and I’ll pass on all my tips and tricks.

Happy roasting!

Beef Strogonoff with mangetout

This week my over-zealous mushroom lust had left me a fridge full of fungi, just crying out to be smothered in cream… so what to cook? BRING ON THE STROGONOFF! This was the first time I had tackled this classic dish, and I’m so glad I did. It’s easy, relatively cheap (as lot of the ingredients are cupboard staples), and most importantly, quick. Follow this simple recipe for a completely moreish post-work Winter dinner, you’ll be glad you made the effort, believe me.

Ingredients

1 pack of diced beef (about 400g)

1-2 tbsp of plain flour

1 large pinch of paprika

1 small pinch of chilli powder

1 large pinch of black pepper

1 small pinch of salt

10 medium-sized mushrooms (chestnut mushrooms are delish, but any will do really) roughly sliced

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Olive oil

5 tbsp armagnac (traditional brandy is fine)

1 beef stock cube, disolved with 300ml boiling water

Large handful of mangetout

200ml sour cream

1 large pinch of parsley (fresh is probably better, but I used dried)

Method

Fry the onions and garlic with a splash of oil in a large thick-bottomed pan (I love my cast iron Le Creuset) on a low heat, until golden, then throw in your sliced mushrooms, and cook for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms look silky (YUM). Remove the onions, garlic and mushrooms, including all the juices, to a bowl and set aside. 

Put the beef into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle over the flour, paprika, chilli, pepper and salt, mix well until the beef is completely coated and there is no remaining powder.

Add another glug of oil to your pan, turn to a medium heat, then drop in the flour-coated beef and brown off the meat. Don’t be scared when the flour starts to stick to the bottom of the pan – this will come off later with the alcohol!

Once the beef is cooked through, return the mushroom mixture to the pan and stir continuously for a minute or two. Pour in the armagnac, allow to simmer for a couple of minutes while still stirring, this should lift the sticky flour mixture off of the bottom of the pan. Then add your beef stock to the pan and simmer for ten minutes, stir frequently.

Add your mangetout to the pan, and continue to simmer and stir for five minutes. Then turn heat right down, pour in the sour cream and sprinkle with parsley, stir ’til thoroughly mixed.

Serve with rice and a rocket, watercress and spinach salad… and a bottle of champers. Oh, just me then?

Coq d’Argent, No.1 Poultry

The week before my 24th birthday, at the end of a shit, shit day, my lover whisked me away for a surprise night out to a place above the clouds of the big smoke…

1455088_10151832883028889_1328815727_n

The discreet lift in  No.1 Poultry didn’t do my boyfriend any favours when he did the big reveal, and I had NOT spotted the small sign for Coq d’Argent, and instead thought he was taking me to Whetherspoons… my powers of observation are always needing to be improved, I’ll admit.

Coq d’Argent was still a mystery to me. But I was eager to find out more. 

The lift sweeps you up the roof-top garden terrace (which would be magical in the Winter) that leads you into the warm, elegant French restaurant and lounge-bar over-looking the CityWe’re greeted at the door by the very attentive staff, who really made sure that we had a fabulous night.

As we settled into our candle-lit table by the window with the best view of Central London, our server brought over a bottle of ice-cold bubbly which Andrew had ordered for me. Bottoms-up is always a fantastic way to start a night.

Over Champagne and warm fresh bread we chatted about our weeks and tried to use our year 9 French to decipher the name of our venue. We arrived at Money Chicken. Or as I preferred, Secret Agent Coq (ok, I’ll admit that I just thought of that now). I’ve since been reliably informed that it is actually The Silver Cockerel. Clearly.

ANYWAY – getting to the food.

To begin…

Ox Cheek and Fois Gras pate with vegetables, at Coq d'Argent

Andrew ordered: Ox Cheek and Fois Gras with pickled vegetables

Mixed game with spaghetti celeriac in a honey and mustard dressing with red currant and port chutney, at Coq d'Argent

I had: Mixed game terrine with celeriac ‘”spaghetti'” in a honey and mustard dressing with red currant and port chutney.

Onto the mains…

Roast rump of beef with watercress aioli, at Coq d'Argent

Andrew: Roast rump of beef with watercress aioli. Sides: Crispy, chunky chips and rocket with Parmesan and a balsamic reduction.

Partridge, bubble&squeak, hand-cooked crisps, fois gras, at Coq d'Argent

Holly: Pan fried partridge breast, with partridge leg and fois gras white pudding, hand-cut potato chips (a.k.a homemade crisps), and bubble & squeak, with a juniper jus.

And for dessert…

creme brulee with madelines, at Coq d'Argent

Andrew: crème brûlée with lemon madeleines

caramelised pear tart, at coq d'argent

Holly: Caramelized pear tart, served with praline ice cream and crème fraîche… and a special message!

prailine ice cream

Our starters at Coq d’Argent were so tasty and wholesome, and ordering pate was a perfect excuse to try some more of the mouth-watering selection from the bread basket.

Andrew’s beef main was cooked to perfection and the fresh green flavours really elevated the rump from its usual heavy Sunday roast accompaniments.

My partridge was a revelation – it was the first time I had tried this game bird (HA!) and the first time I had been served poultry medium-rare – the meat was tender and so, so flavourful, it had a smoky note which complimented the juniper jus tremendously. I’m not sure that the crisps were wholly necessary, as the bubble and squeak was carb enough for me. They would have made a better pre-dinner snack, although I’ll admit that the crunch was a nice surprise with the softness of the rare meat.

These dishes were divine, but it was my dessert that I keep replaying in my head (total food porn). Normally I’m not much of a pudding person – half to do with the fact that I’m over stuffed mid-main, and also because I find dessert menus a little tired (no, I don’t want poncy deconstructed Eton Mess thank you, nor do I want a Harvester-style chocolate challenge) – but my caramelised pear tart was by far the best after-dinner treat I have ever had. I will go as far as saying that it was the best thing I have ever had in my mouth. FACT. The gooey caramel with the buttery pastry was just to-die-for. The praline ice cream and crème fraîche provided a nutty and slightly sour contrast to the rich pears, which I only discovered half way through devouring my tart, the combination was just genius.

Drinks and dinner  in the heart of London with my beau is truly the best way to spend an evening, let alone a birthday.

coqdargent.co.uk

Caravaggio, Leadenhall Market

We stumbled across Caravaggio by chance, when on a night out I decided it was time to try the infamous Mother Mash, just outside Leadenhall Market; when I saw that it was closed at half past six (!) – heartbroken doesn’t even cover it. That’s where Caravaggio came in, as my restaurant in edible armor, if you will. The beautiful, classic Italian restaurant, just next door to Mother Mash, provided an unexpected night of foodie decadent delights…

My roast venison with walnut mash more than made up for the night’s long-forgotten disappointing start. The meat was perfectly seasoned and succulent, the mash was super-smooth and rich in earthy flavour – a star accompaniment to English game.

Andrew’s steak was so good that he couldn’t wait to get started (hence his half-eaten photo!), and the thick cut chips were to die for.

Going back to the starters, these simple British ingredients created fantastic Italian flavour – light, fresh and oh so moreish. Much the same can be said for our desserts. The zesty Key Lime pie and my English raspberries with home-made shortbread biscuits and thick clotted cream provided the perfect finishing touch to a truly great meal.

Caravaggio will not be a back-up option next time.

Find out more about Caravaggio.

Café Des Amis, Covent Garden

Celebrating our anniversary is always an excuse for a decadent meal, and this time we decided to go French.

Café Des Amis is tucked away at the quiet end of Covent Garden, and boats a modern french menu of rich and luxuriant dishes. 

If you’re thinking of a meal there, make sure you spend the rest of the night enjoying the free entertainment in the square over a glass of wine.

cafedesamis.co.uk