IT’S DIFFICULT to see any signs of a recession in London, every restaurant seems to be full, and many now have a ‘no-booking’ policy, so a convivial queue forms round the corner for a table in the hottest spots.
On a recent fleeting visit, I ate in a little place called Duck Soup in Dean Street in Soho. Little plates that can be shared or polished off greedily alone. I love this way of eating, it’s an opportunity to taste a wide variety of dishes from the menu. The cod’s roe with scallions and marjoram was simple and moreish and I also loved the roast onions with Labne and my interpretation is below.
We crossed the road to Quo Vadis and ordered an indecent number of mouth-watering desserts all in the way of research. I’m sort of over sticky toffee pudding, but I have to say Jeremy Lee’s version is the best I’ve tasted. The sauce was dark and treacly, I suspect lots of muscavado sugar, it came with brown bread ice-cream, shortbread with marmalade and lemon curd was also ridiculously good, as was a chocolate and coffee tart. The blood orange and Campari sorbet was so welcome after all that. I love both Jeremy and his food and if you are in London I suggest you try to get in, not easy because Quo Vadis has had so many great reviews, but it’ll be worth the wait. Pissarro on Corney Road in Chiswick is also getting rave reviews and I also had a delicious lunch at Rochelle Canteen in Arnold Circus, Shoreditch. Breast of lamb with anchoïade and mussels with monks beard or agretti were delicious; the latter is the hottest vegetable in London — I’m going to try to grow it this year because I can’t seem to source it over here.
Round the corner in Shoreditch is Leila’s Café and Grocery Shop which continues to be one of my favourite haunts — simple, real and so chic.
This time I went in search of Press Coffee Roasters in Redchurch Street in Shoreditch. Just like Brooklyn, Shoreditch and Hackney are all about galvanise and graffiti and recycled furniture, but there is so much happening. This little café roasts its own beans and has a short blackboard menu — sandwiches, a couple of cakes, date and pistachio biscuits and a few other good things.
The coffee is fantastically good, worth the search alone — a few doors down the road is a shop called Labor and Wait, which stocks all the classic kitchen equipment you thought had disappeared, plus traditional Guernsey jerseys, antique French flour sacks, enamel pie dishes.
Look out for Food Lovers Guide to London by Jenny Linford.
Campari and Blood Orange Sorbet
Serves 10 approx
1¼ pints (700 mls) of blood orange juice
2 fl oz (50ml) Campari
12 ozs (350g) caster sugar
1-2 blood oranges
Mix the orange juice and Campari with the sugar, and Campari stir to dissolve. Taste, add more sugar if necessary.
Make the sorbet in one of the following ways:
Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed.
Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezer or the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4 or 5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.
If you have a food processor, simply freeze the sorbet completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly-beaten egg white, whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed. Chill the serving plates or bowls.
To Serve: Segment the oranges for garnish. Scoop out the sorbet and serve in chilled bowls or plates. Garnish with blood orange segments and fresh mint leaves.
Shortbread with Lemon Curd and Seville Orange Marmalade
Makes 40 biscuits approx
This is my interpretation of Jeremy Lee’s delicious pudding.
8 ozs (225g) soft butter
4 ozs (110g) caster sugar
10 ozs (275g) self-raising flour
Grated rind of one lemon or orange
1 pot Seville orange marmalade
1 pot homemade lemon curd
4fl oz whipped cream
1 tbsp caster sugar or more to taste
First make the biscuits, cream the butter, add in the caster sugar, sifted flour and grated lemon or orange rind and mix just until it all comes together. Alternatively, place all four ingredients in the bowl of a food mixer and mix slowly until all the ingredients come together. At this stage the dough can either be used right away or put in the deep freeze or kept in the fridge for up to a week.
When required, bring up to room temperature and form into balls the size of a large walnut. Flatten them out onto a baking sheet using the back of a fork dipped in cold water. Allow plenty of room for expansion.
Bake in a preheated oven — 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 10 minutes approx. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Cool on a wire rack.
To assemble: Mix the mascarpone with the cream and a little sugar to taste. Put the biscuits on a dessert plate, top with a blob of mascarpone and a generous spoonful of Seville orange marmalade, sandwich with another biscuit. Top that with a blob of mascarpone then drizzle with homemade lemon curd and add another biscuit to complete the double decker. Repeat with the others. Jeremy doesn’t go in for lots of folderdolls, but you could garnish them with a few sprigs of sweet cicely if you like — either way it’s a delicious combination.
Roast Onions or Banana Shallots with Labne Cheese and Herbs
Serves 6 as a starter
8 onions or banana shallots
Labne (see recipe)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
Some thyme leaves and thyme flowers
Freshly cracked black pepper
Rocket or watercress leaves
6 slices of grilled bread
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Roast the unpeeled onions or shallots until soft. This can take anything from 30 to 45 minutes depending on size.
To serve, split each soft onion lengthwise and arrange two halves on each plate, skins still attached. Put a blob of Labne on top of each. Scatter with coarsely chopped herbs and thyme flowers. Serve with grilled bread.
Soft Yoghurt Cheese — Labne
This is so easy and wonderfully impressive, use whole-milk yoghurt to make a creamier cheese.
Line a strainer with a double thickness of cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yoghurt. Tie the four corners of the cheese cloth to make a loose bundle.
Suspend the bag of yoghurt over a bowl to allow it to drip for eight hours. Remove the cheesecloth. Refrigerate until needed in a covered plastic container. There are lots of ways, both sweet and savoury, to use Labne; it’s great with summer berries or a compote of fruit, or add some fresh herbs to make your very own homemade cheese.
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