Bruschetta

the original garlic bread

Charred slices of toasted Tuscan bread rubbed with garlic & drizzled in oil

When I was fifteen I had a Saturday job in the local chemist. Situated on a sleepy suburban high street it was pretty easy work, and allowed me to spend the whole day with one of my best friends from school who worked the same shift as me. It also happened to be opposite a well-known recording studio, meaning that our otherwise fairly mundane days were often punctuated by the excitement of seeing a celebrity come in to buy cotton buds, shampoo or other more intriguing (read embarrassing) items. Continue reading

Tiramisu with Vin Santo

tiramisu with vin santo

Rich, creamy & laced with chocolate & vin santo: the ultimate Italian pudding

If you’ve never eaten a seriously good tiramisu, you’ve not really lived.

Unfortunately if you’ve eaten a seriously bad one, you’re not alone.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its reputation for being delicious, Italian food is something that continually suffers from major misrepresentation around the world. But rather than focusing on flabby pizza or pre-shaved parmesan – don’t get me started on savoury, I could rant all day – I’m turning my attention today to all things sweet (surprise, surprise). Continue reading

Ciabatta Bread

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Crusty ciabatta loaves fresh from the oven

When was the last time you licked the plate clean?

In a previous post on sticky toffee cupcakes, I talked about dishes that look ‘too good to eat’. Today it’s the turn of another favourite food expression. While ‘finger licking good’ is a phrase that is sadly slightly tainted (for me anyway) by its association with greasy fast food and a certain white bearded colonel, the idea that something can be so delicious that it makes you want to lick the plate (as well as your fingers) clean is not. It’s appealing and enduring. And something that we all do. Continue reading

Spaghetti alla norma & a dose of Sicilian sunshine

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Cefalu bathed in Sicilian sunshine

Italy holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been visiting my parents house in Tuscany every summer since before I can remember, and have grown up loving the rich, rustic flavours of the region; hearty ribollita, simple sauces over thick, hand-rolled pici, earthy cavolo nero, beautiful Chianina beef and the ubiquitous cannellini bean (the Tuscans are sometimes referred to by other Italians as mangiafagoili, or ‘bean eaters’). However, while the Tuscan mountains are a place I’ll return to time and again, I also love the seaside, and this summer I was excited to visit Sicily with a group of girlfriends for the very first time. Continue reading

Uliassi, Senigallia – possibly my favourite restaurant in the world

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Beautiful beachside simplicity – a table at Uliassi

Do you have an all-time favourite restaurant? One that consistently delivers incredible food and unbeatable atmosphere, where the staff are charming and the service next to none? How long have you been going there . . . five, ten, maybe even twenty years? Has it evolved with the times and are you still delighted and surprised by each mouthful?

I’m not normally one for definitive favourites, for top tens and number ones, but this review carries a lot of weight for me. It’s been a long time in the making. In fact, it was twenty years ago this summer that my seven year old self first trundled along the Italian seafront towards this restaurant, a much littler loaf than I am now, grumbling at my parents that I was tired and hungry, that I wanted to stop for pizza, and why did we have to walk so far when we didn’t really know where we were heading? Continue reading

The River Café, Hammersmith: Sublime or ridiculous?

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Like it or not, we live in a consumer culture. Whether it’s Prada or Primark, foie gras or filet-o-fish, we’re a society that knows the meaning of money and (with some exceptions) we like to spend it. Some more than others. What exactly is it that makes people fork out for a designer dress, an eye-wateringly expensive hair cut,  a £100+ bottle of wine? Is it an assurance of quality that we often seem to accept as going hand-in-hand with a high price tag, the status and sense of self-importance that comes with flashing one’s flexible friend, or are these products actually better, more rare, made from finer products and with more love, care and attention?

Any review of The River Café is going to mention price, so I’m not going to pussy-foot around it. Renowned for its incredible approach to food and fabulous ingredients, this Michelin starred restaurant is also much maligned for its extremely expensive menu. Jay Rayner has described it as peasant food at plutocrat prices, and there seems to be a great divide in the foodie world as to whether it falls into the category of the sublime or the ridiculous. Or as A.A. Gill puts it in his full marks review for The Times, ‘Depending on the delicacy of your own social digestion, the River Caff either fills you with syrupy feelings of excitement, warmth and nameless intellectual superiority, or it makes you want to join a nihilist terror cell’. . . Continue reading

Salt Yard Tapas

tapas_londonSharing food is great. I’m not talking about the kind of ‘sharing’ when someone leans over and pinches the crispiest looking chip on your plate, or when an eagle-eyed, weight-watching girlfriend suggests her loved one goes halves on dessert. Absolutely not. I’m talking sharing in a specific context i.e. the joys of tapas-style dining.

No longer confined to the Spanish cuisine which inspired it, tapas-style eating is perfect for big groups. It allows you the opportunity to be both adventurous and gluttonous, ordering numerous little dishes to compare, contrast and comment on without having to commit to one main meal. If you’ve ever sat in front of a menu racked with indecision (followed shortly by food envy when your companion’s meal arrives), then this is the perfect format for you.

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Dreaming of Da Polpo: Incredible pizza & meatballs

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Anchovy, black olive & caper pizza

For the last week or so the blogosphere has been alight with talk of Da Polpo, the new venture in Russell Norman’s ever-expanding restaurant empire. The fourth to open in half as many years, it builds on the menus of Polpo and Polpetto, adding an expanded list of pizzette alongside incredible sounding variations on an italian classic, the meatball. Not surprisingly for the brainchild of one if the first restaurateurs to truly harness the power of social media, Da Polpo has been a highly trending topic on Twitter as bloggers race to get their bums on the seats and reviews on their sites.

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Pork & fennel meatballs

Having read a number of reviews over the last couple of days, I was left feeling three things. Number one? Hungry. Not surprising given the mouth-watering menu, great photos and gorgeous descriptions provided by some of my fellow bloggers (for some stomach-grumble inducing snaps take a look at reviews from Eatlikeagirl, Crumpeats, Londoneater or The Skinny Bib). Two? Jealous. I’m off to Barcelona next weekend and trying to save pennies for some serious tapas-fuelled budget-blowing, so trying new restaurants isn’t really on the agenda for the next few days. Three? Itching to get in the kitchen.

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Crab & chilli linguine

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Crab & chilli linguine

Another Easter Bank holiday has flown by in a haze of sunshine, family and food. I’ve eaten homemade hot cross buns (toasted on my Granny’s AGA with wedges of salty butter), yellow-yolked Burford Browns, new season British asparagus drizzled with fruity olive oil, my Mum’s incredible homemade quiche, a beautiful free range roast cockerel from Seldom Seen Farm with knobbly pink fir apple potatoes, rich truffle torte . . . and of course the obligatory half ton of chocolate in its various egg-shaped disguises.

Combined with the sudden heatwave, this Easter feasting has left me craving something light and bright to eat. I need fresh flavours that deliver a punch of chilli, a kick of garlic and a palate cleansing wake-up call that will rouse my tastebuds from their chocolate-induced stupor.

Crab is one of my all-time favourite ingredients. I like the intensely fishy hit of brown meat in small doses, but it’s the white meat that brings a real smile to my face. Sweet, delicately flavoured and packed with protein, these melt-in-the-mouth flaky nuggets are best left to speak for themselves, paired with a select few delicate additions. This crab linguine is just that – light, bright and bursting with flavour; the perfect combination of sweetness and spice to take you into Spring.

And, if you find yourself reaching for the stash of chocolate eggs afterwards, you’re only human.

spicy_linguine_with_crab

Garlic, chilli & olive oil – hard to beat

Crab linguine
Serves 2

175g linguine (I tend to use dried, although this dish is also delicious with fresh egg-rich pasta)
A good fruity olive oil
2 small red chillis, chopped (I use the seeds, but if you’re sensitive to spice you can scrape these out)
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
100g white crab meat (if I can’t get a fresh crab, I like the Seafood & Eat It range, see note below)
Salt & pepper
A handful of parsely, coarsely chopped
Half a lemon

Method:

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the pasta with a pinch of salt and cook according to packet instructions. In the meantime, pour a generous lug of olive oil into a frying pan and add your crushed garlic and chilli. Fry for a minute or so to release the flavours, then add the white crab meat and remove from the heat. Drain the pasta and add to the crab mixture. Return to the heat and toss quickly to distribute the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper then add the chopped parsely at the last minute and divide between two plates. Squeeze lemon over the pasta and serve.

white_crabSeafood & Eat It is a family company based in Cornwall, set up by brothers Richard and Neville. Their mission is to bring the fresh taste of Great British crab to food lovers across the UK. Endorsed by the likes of Angela Hartnett, it’s a great local company to support, and if beautiful fresh crabs aren’t available to you locally, this is a seriously good alternative.