Robin Gill’s Garden Courgette with Smoked Buffalo Milk Curd and Roof-Top Honey

On a recent visit to London I got to Palomar in Rupert Street in the heart of Theatreland.  I’ve been wanting to go for ages but could never get a table. 

Any new finds in London? It’s a regular question from readers and friends. 

How lucky are we to live close to what may well be the most exciting food capital in the world, cosmopolitan and totally multi ethnic, it’s certainly up there with the best. 

Whether you feel like classic French or Ethiopian, Turkish or Sicilian, Basque, Lebanese, Tunisian, Moroccan, Burmese, Vietnamese, Thai, Uzbekistani, Russian, Roman, Scandinavian, Romanian, Texas, BBQ or great modern British — it’s all there.

On a recent visit I got to Palomar in Rupert Street in the heart of Theatreland. 

I’ve been wanting to go for ages but could never get a table. 

Robin Gill’s Garden Courgette with Smoked Buffalo Milk Curd and Roof-Top Honey

This time I just chipped up and scored a seat at the zinc counter with a brilliant view of the cocktail bar and the open kitchen.

Palomar serves the food of modern day Jerusalem, the menu is influenced by the rich cultures of southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant but it’s not just the food that excites.

The atmosphere is joyous and exhilarating. 

The chefs are really having fun and seem to be enjoying themselves hugely as they cook to the beat of the funky playlist. 

It’s loud, bustling and audacious and the enthusiasm is utterly infectious.

There are lots of small plates of irresistible food to choose from. 

Even though the portions are small, there’s a limit to what one can eat and there are many more tempting dishes to choose from.

I loved the Kubaneh — soft tender Yemeni bread served in a tin with tahini and a tomato, cumin and chilli dip. 

Fattoush salad was made with challah croutons, tomato, cucumber, red onion, za’atar, sumac and brazil nuts on a bed of creamy labneh. 

The chefs use a Josper grill and plancha for many of their dishes.

Don’t miss the polenta Jerusalem style with mushroom ragu, parmesan and truffle oil. 

Shakshurkit, turned out to be a deconstructed kebab with super tasting mincemeat, yoghurt, tahini, several toppings and Yaeli’s pitta and I also fitted in roast octopus with chickpea msabacha and cherry tomato confit.

More unbearable choices for dessert included Malabi – rose scented milk pudding with fresh raspberry sauce, coconut meringue batons and kataifi.

The Dairy in Clapham was also on my wish list for some time. 

Here Irish chef, Robin Gill has covered the roof of the old Victorian Dairy with a plastic crate garden that produces fresh herbs, vegetables and edible flowers for the kitchen. 

Gill’s wife Sarah looks after the front of the house. 

Robin worked with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons in Oxford and also did a stint at Noma. 

He was head chef at Almeida in Islington and Sauterelle in the city.

Again, many small plates of deliciousness from the Gardens, Sea and Land. 

We lunched outside overlooking Clapham Common and tasted over a dozen delicious little bites, starting with those gorgeous plump Nocellara del belice green olives, house cured meats and crusty sourdough bread. 

There was Cornish crab with potato crisps and wakame, bone marrow agnolotti, peas, girolles, and summer truffle, charred mackerel with wild garlic dashi, pickled cucumber and oyster leaves. 

Lady Hamilton’s Pollock, marsh samphire and brandade was also memorable. And there was much much more.

Another two of my favourite London restaurants, Duck Soup in Soho and Raw Duck in Hackney have recently published a cookbook of their simple eminently do-able recipes.

Some of the lively fresh tasting dishes don’t even need to be cooked… a triumph of good ingredients judiciously combined. 

It’s called The Wisdom of Simple Cooking - Ducksoup Cookbook by Clare Lattin and Tom Hill. Here’s a taste...

Robin Gill’s Garden Courgette with Smoked Buffalo Milk Curd and Roof-Top Honey

Robin Gill’s Garden Courgette with Smoked Buffalo Milk Curd and Roof-Top Honey

Serves 4

  • 4 courgettes with flowers
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 20g aged Parmesan
  • 10g extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 10g toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 5 Nocellara Del Belice olives
  • 4 tbsp of good quality honey
  • Smoked buffalo curd
  • 500ml buffalo milk
  • 25g double cream
  • 10g buttermilk
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2g vegetable rennet
  • A handful of dried hay

Method

The first step is to make the curd. 

First, place all ingredients apart from the hay and rennet into a container. 

Next toast the hay in a heated oven at 180C/gas mark 4, until it is an amber colour all over and has started to smoke. 

Carefully remove the smoking hay from the oven and pour the mixed milk mix over the smoking hay and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. 

Next strain the mix through a fine mix into a clean pot and add the rennet.

Best place it over a low heat and bring the mix up to 36oC. (The mix should be just warm on the finger tip.) 

Transfer the mix into a suitable sized container and refrigerate for two hours.

Courgette and basil purée

Take two of the courgettes, cut into quarters and then slice across into thin fine pieces. 

Pick half a bunch of basil and reserve the best leaves for garnish later. 

Take a medium-sized pan and add a good drizzle of olive oil, add the garlic and follow quickly with the sliced courgette. 

Stir and add a spoon of water and place a lid over the pan to help create steam. 

After two minutes add the basil and finally the grated Parmesan, place the mix into a blender and blend until smooth. 

Put the mix in a bowl over iced water to cool quickly to keep the bright green colour.

Assembly

Slice the remaining courgettes thinly lengthways, place in a bowl with the flowers torn into quarters. 

Season with salt, black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil to taste. 

Spoon the courgette purée generously around each plate, scatter the courgettes and flowers alternatively around each plate. 

Add a couple of olive pieces, a couple of spoons of the smoked curd, and finish with fresh basil and a good spoon of your favourite honey.

Cucumber, Pomegranate, Tomato and Za’atar Fattoush with Labneh and Tahini

Robin Gill’s Garden Courgette with Smoked Buffalo Milk Curd and Roof-Top Honey

Can be served as a starter or main course. 

A delicious combination, but toss gently, otherwise the feta will break up, and the end result will look far from appetising. 

I sprinkle blue cornflower petals over this salad in season, red, yellow and orange nasturtium flowers are also lovely.

This recipe is not carved in stone, add a few fresh radishes and purslane. 

Many countries have a version of this salad, an ingenious way to use up stale bread — tortilla salad in Mexico, panzanella in Tuscany.

Serves 4

  • 1 pitta bread, split in half — 100gm approx. or 2 slices of challah
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 little gem lettuce
  • 1 small or half large cucumber, split lengthwise and cut at an angle – 140gm
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, 150gm different varieties
  • Half red onion, sliced
  • 150gm feta or bocconini
  • 2 tbsp chopped annual marjoram
  • 2 tbsp flat parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • Pomegranate seeds, 4 tbsp (about half)

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Good pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Labneh

METHOD

Heat the oven to 180C gas mark 4

Brush the rounds of pitta or challah with extra virgin olive oil and toast until slightly golden, 10-12 minutes, break into bite-sized bits, 5mm to 7mm - not too small.

Wash and dry the little gem leaves and slice into long strips. 

Split the cucumber lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and cut across the grain at an angle. 

Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized shapes, wedges, chunks, slices, dice. 

Crumble the feta into largish pieces.

To serve

Choose a wide bowl, put the pitta, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and sliced red onion into the bowl, sprinkle with the marjoram, parsley and za’atar.

Whisk the dressing and pour over, toss gently, add a few cubes of feta. 

Taste and correct seasoning.

Spoon a generous tablespoon of soft labneh onto each shallow plate, top with a helping of fattoush. 

Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and remaining cubes of feta.

Alternatively serve on a large platter family style

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Crab Fettucine Tomato and Bush Basil

Serves 2

  • 150gm datterini, cherry or plum tomatoes on the vine
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin oil plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 80gm brown crab meat
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 160gm fresh fettucine
  • 80gm white crab meat
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Few bush basil sprigs (or regular basil torn)
  • Slat

METHOD

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Heat a frying pan until smoking, then add the tomatoes, drop of olive oil and pinch of salt.

Give the pan a little shake here and there and fry for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes start to blister and burn slightly.

Once amply blistered, pour onto the plate and set aside.

Gently heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Meanwhile thinly slice the garlic using mandolin slicer — using the guard — and add to the pan (or if you prefer you can slice the garlic by hand but as thinly as possible).

As soon as the garlic starts to turn golden, add the tomatoes and all the juice. Give them a quick stir and then add the brown crab meat and chilli flakes.

Stir together and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes.

While this is cooking add the fresh pasta to the pan of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes (if using dried pasta, check the instruction on the packet). 

Drain the pasta, keeping a couple of tablespoons of pasta water, and add to the tomatoes and crab pasta with a little pasta water.

Season with salt, you don’t need pepper because of the chilli flakes. 

Add the white crab meat and use tongs to mound the pasta up towards you so that you thoroughly coat the pasta with the sauce. 

Squeeze in the lemon juice and divide between two plates.

To serve, sprinkle over the basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil.

Ducksoup Cookbook Clare Lattin and Tom Hill

TOP TIPS

Taste of West Cork Food Festival runs September 9-18 and brings a unique mix of food markets, demonstrations, competitions, dinners, brunches and banquets, food-tastings, talks, exhibitions and children’s events. Don’t miss Foraging at Glebe Gardens, Carmel Somers’ demonstration and much more.

Date for the Diary: Feast in the East Midleton Food and Drinks Festival, September 2-11 — lots of exciting events planned. Details to follow on the web at midletonfoodfestival.ie

Don’t miss the Ballymaloe Garden Festival on September 3 and 4 on the grounds of Ballymaloe House. Learn about growing a wildlife garden, how to attract bees and butterflies, growing organic fruit and vegetables, and garden design.

There’s lots of trees, rare plants, perennials for sale, as well as fringe events and stalls in the Ballymaloe Walled Garden and Grain Store.

See www.gardenfestival.ballymaloe.ie for further information.


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