Try Antonio’s line

I’VE JUST spent a busy weekend in London doing foodie things — dinner on Friday night at Chez Bruce on Bellevue Road (phone 020 8672 0114), a one-star Michelin restaurant in Wandsworth in the premises where Marco Pierre White started his career almost 20 years ago.

The restaurant serves French and Italian regional dishes with a twist, and a sublime cheeseboard with several Irish favourites in mint condition. Chef-owner Bruce Poole, with big ambitions, is already making waves on the London food scene.

Friday morning I was in the UK Food Channel studios at the crack of dawn to do a piece with Jenni Barnett and Simon Rimmer on their Good Food Live Show.

This cable food channel is going from strength to strength, with over a million people tuning in every week. It's a kind of magazine programme with several guests, a gardening segment with Toby Buckland and snippets of foodie gossip and plenty of fun and banter. There is also a wine segment with Susie Atkins.

Fellow guests were Roger McGough, an aged hippy like myself who writes hilarious poems on a myriad topics this time it was food. He gave me a signed copy of his new book, Good Enough to Eat, published by Penguin.

Paul Grout brought in an entire lamb carcass to show people how to identify the various meat cuts and what to look out for when buying lamb.

The other guest chef was Antonio Carluccio, the cuddly Italian who has done so much over the past decade or more to introduce the British to Italian food, and the thrill of collecting wild mushrooms. He and his wife, Priscilla, own and run the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden.

He'd been specially asked to cook two simple dishes without his favourite ingredient wild mushrooms. The pizzaiola sauce, which is so quick, easy and delicious, complements lamb or chicken, and the cabbage soup is just the thing for a winter supper.

Antonio is a hard act to follow. I demonstrated the Portuguese pork, bean and chorizo stew and a boozy walnut tart, which both Antonio and the crew fell upon and polished off completely after the programme.

The Food Programme is aired seven days a week on Sky TV so it's possible to catch it over here.

Later that day, I did a demonstration at Divertimenti in Marylebone High Street (phone 020 7935 0689). The shop, full of temptations for budding cooks and chefs has recently expanded and now includes a café and demonstration area at the rear worth a visit; lots of great pressie ideas for foodie friends.

Dinner was at Nahm (phone 020 7333 1234) David Thompson's new restaurant on Halkin Street in Belgravia. The dining room is sumptuous and sophisticated in a simple Asian style, but, sadly, the flavour of the food didn't come near what I tasted in his original restaurants in Sydney. He is a brilliant chef, but so often reproducing food in a different country with different ingredients can be an insurmountable challenge.

Another discovery this weekend was a restaurant called Racine in Brompton Road (phone 020 7584 44 77) French bourgeoise dishes, perfectly executed, including the best andouille and tripe I've eaten in a long time. Finally, one more place to add to your list, a food shop Flaneur in Farringdon Road (phone 020 7404 4422) the owners are late of Villandry. We had a delicious supper gutsy French regional so comforting on a chilly November evening.

The culmination of the weekend was the Spirit of Christmas House, Garden and Food Fair at Olympia in London. It runs over a four-day period and it feels like half the population of London decide to do their Christmas shopping there.

Lyn Hall, who ran the Celebrity Kitchen, invited me to participate, so I cooked some festive puddings at great speed to an enthusiastic response.

My mother, Elizabeth O'Connell's Plum Pudding and Mrs Hanrahan's Sauce got a particularly warm welcome, which reminds me to make my own plum pudding. Meanwhile, why not try out some of these recipes?

Antonio Carluccio's Zuppa Di Tutti I Cavoli (Mixed Cabbage Soup)

2kg (4½ lb) mixed cabbages (Savoy, white, red, Brussels sprouts)

6 tablesp. olive oil

400g (14oz) fresh luganiga sausage, cut into 3cm (1¼ in) chunks

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 carrots, cut into small cubes

1.5l (2¾ pts) chicken or vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

Clean all the cabbages and cut into wide strips; the sprouts can be cut in half. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, and brown the sausage first, for about 10 minutes, then soften the onion and the garlic.

Add the carrots and let them sweat for a few more minutes. Add the stock and the cabbage and cook on a moderate heat until it is all cooked about 25 minutes. Adjust as required with salt and pepper.

Antonio Carluccio's Lamb with Pizzaiola Sauce

Leg of lamb, roasted

4 tablesp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 x 425g (15oz) can peeled plum tomatoes, chopped

2 pinches of dried oregano or 1-2 teasp. fresh annual marjoram

1 tablesp. salted capers, rinsed

3 anchovy fillets

salt and pepper

To make the sauce: Add garlic to the olive oil in the pan, reduce the heat a little and, before the garlic starts to brown, add the tomatoes, oregano, capers and anchovies. Season to taste.

Stir and cook for five minutes. Serve with slices of lamb.

I'm delighted to report that as a result of the seminar held in the Nano Nagle Centre in September on The Food We Buy, which I mentioned in this column some weeks ago, the first Blackwater Valley Food Market will be held today from 11am to 2pm, at the Nano Nagle Centre, Ballygriffin, on the N72 between Fermoy and Mallow in Co Cork an opportunity to purchase good local produce direct from the producer. Phone 022-26177 for further details.

The Irish Seedsaver Association will hold an Apple Sales Day tomorrow from 10am to 4pm at their site in Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare buy some trees as Christmas presents and help preserve these trees for the future in Irish gardens. Phone 061-921866 for details.

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up