Brooklyn is all about graffiti, peeling paint, iron grills and salvaged furnishings. Everyone seems to be 150% into food in that brilliant intense American way. Real estate is less expensive than in Manhattan so many creative young cooks and chefs can get started over there.
I’ve been a fan of Franny’s in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn for some time now. It’s always packed and noisy, a simple neighbourhood restaurant where the most irresistible pizza comes out of their brick wood oven topped with the freshest local and seasonal ingredients – one can’t book but while you wait you can sip a couple of their sophisticated cocktails to while the time deliciously away.
On this trip I concentrated on the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn which is choc-a-bloc with restaurants and food shops – I particularly wanted to see Marlow and Son and its sister shop and butchery down the road called Marlow and Daughter. This is one of the much hyped new retro butcher shops with a commitment to selling only sustainable grass-fed meats – all the meat is from heritage breeds and small-scale local farmers. Every scrap from the nose to the tail is used, the dry aged meat is respectfully displayed, and there’s not a scrap of sweet sour sauce in sight – just superb quality well-hung meat, homemade sausages and terrines.
At the back of the shop, two young men were deep in discussion about how to get the best use out of the carcass of Gloucester Old Spot pork they had on the butcher’s block in front of them. Butchers are the new food heroes in New York at present. There is a sudden surge in the number of young people trying to get into Butcher School and all the top chefs are making their own in-house charcuterie as well as pickles and preserves.
I also popped into Diner, a tiny restaurant right next door to Marlow and Son and with the same owner. People flock to this ‘boxcar diner’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner to eat New American seasonal food.
Up the road we found Saltie, one of the newest additions to the Brooklyn food scene owned by three women chefs, Caroline Fidadza, Rebecca Collerton, and Elizabeth Schula.
This is a tiny blue and white sandwich shop with a nautical theme. News has spread and people come all the way from Manhattan for their buckwheat olive bars – buttery salty buckwheat shortbread with chunks of Kalamata olives – a new take on a ship’s biscuit. The menu is small but well-chosen – just a few perfectly composed sandwiches on great bread and two or three cakes. I chose the ‘Captain’s Daughter’, a thick wedge of focaccia stuffed with sardines, pickled eggs, a tangle of coriander and rocket leaves with a few capers and radish julienne to perk it up, a perfect picnic for the plane with a slice of their olive oil and caraway seed cake.
For cheese lovers, Bedford cheese shop a few blocks away has a fantastic selection of cheese and really knowledgeable staff.
It goes on and on, Brooklyn Star is also close by. Here the food is Southern and also terrific.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg; eleven new restaurants have also opened in Williamsburg in the last few months, mostly small places but so happening. There’s great coffee, ice cream, fish, offal, vegetables, charcuterie and ethnic food. Locals keep hens.
Try to get over on your next trip to New York, it’s less than 30 minutes from midtown by cab and possibly even less time on the underground.
The top US chefs insist on grass-fed beef, dry-aged and freshly minced with at least 25% fat for succulence. Try to find Hereford, Aberdeen Angus or Pol Angus beef for extra flavour. The ‘haute burger’ has no internal seasoning – just the flavour of good quality beef. Instead of buying mincemeat, choose a cut of meat from your butcher and ask them to mince it for you.
Serves 4-6 depending on size
1 lb (450g) best quality freshly minced beef – flank, chump or shin would be perfect
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pork caul fat, optional
hamburger buns (see recipe)
Put the fresh mince into a chilled bowl, season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry off a tiny bit on the pan to check the seasoning, correct if necessary. Then shape into burgers, 4-6 depending on the size you require. Wrap each one loosely in pork caul fat if using. Cook to your taste on a medium-hot grill pan in a little oil, turning once.
Little tip: If the hamburgers are being cooked in batches make sure to wash and dry the pan between batches.
The Great American Hamburger is served in a bun with lettuce, sliced onions and tomato, gherkins, a dill pickle, mayonnaise and tomato sauce and of course lots of crispy chips (French fries).
Makes about 20 large buns
2½ lbs (1.1kg) strong white bakers flour
1½oz (35g) fresh yeast
2 level teaspoons salt
2½ level tablespoons sugar
500ml (18 fl ozs) tepid milk
200ml (7 fl ozs) organic yogurt
1 beaten egg
3½ ozs (100g) butter
1 free-range egg beaten with 3fl ozs (75ml) water
Cookie cutter (size 2 – 2½ inch/6cm)
Preheat a conventional oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8.
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the sugar. Rub in the butter. Dissolve the yeast in the tepid milk. Add the beaten egg to the yoghurt. Pour the milk, then the yoghurt into the flour; knead in the food mixer with the dough hook fitted for 5-6 minutes. Cover and leave to rise until the dough doubles in size – this takes about 1 hour. Knock back, divide the dough into 4 pieces, shape each into a roll and divide each into 6 pieces about 3ozs (75g) each.
Roll each piece in a ball, and then flatten with the heel of your hand.
Put 6 buns on a baking tray. Cover and allow to rise about 1½ hours (they don’t rise too much). Brush them gently with egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas 8, open quickly and spray the inside of the oven well with water, close the door then put tray in at once.
Spray with water twice more during baking – around oven, bottom, sides and over the buns. They will take about 10-15 minutes to cook.
Cool on wire tray.
I tasted a cookie similar to this at the little coffee shop beside the restaurant Locanda Verde in Manhattan.
Makes 22 – approx
1 lb (450g) butter
8ozs (225g) caster sugar
8ozs (225g) plain white flour
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1lb 4ozs (560g) organic porridge oats
Egg wash and granulated sugar
3 ozs (85g) butter
6 ozs (190g) icing sugar
Coffee essence – 2 teaspoon approx.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Sieve the flour and bread soda together and gradually add into the creamed mixture with the porridge oats.
Turn onto a board sprinkled with oatmeal and roll out to a thickness of 1/3 inch (1cm). Cut into 3” round biscuits with a sharp cutter. Glaze with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake in a preheated moderate oven at 180C/350F/gas 4 until pale and golden, about 20 – 25 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the coffee filling, cream the butter and add in the sieved icing sugar, beat until light and fluffy and then add the coffee essence.
Spread a little on each biscuit, sandwich the two together and enjoy.
This olive oil cake was all the rage in cafes and tea shops – I adored the Saltie version which included caraway seeds but omit them if you don’t love them as much as I do. I use Primo or Mani extra virgin olive oil. Also great for those who want a dairy-free cake.
Serves 8 – 10
165g (6oz) 1½ cups all-purpose white flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
3 large free-range organic eggs
225g (8oz) 1 cup sugar
175ml (6fl oz) ¾ cup plain full-fat yoghurt
3 lemons, the finely grated zest
175ml (6 fl oz) ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the dish
23cm (9 inch) springform tin
Pre-heat the oven at 170C/325F/ Mark 3. Lightly oil the base and sides of the tin.
Mix all the dry ingredients together including the caraway seeds in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Preferably in a food mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar on high speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale and voluminous.
Add the natural yoghurt and lemon zest, continue to whisk for a minute or two more.
Add the extra virgin olive oil all at once and reduce speed to low. Gradually fold the flour mixture into the mousse gently but thoroughly.
Pour the cake mixture into the oiled tin and put into the oven. Transfer to the centre of the preheated oven and cook until the cake is golden – about 40 minutes. A tester should come out clean when inserted into the centre. The edges will have shrunk away from the tin slightly.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
Serve with a coffee or with a blob of crème fraiche and some summer berries.
Pickled eggs are a living tradition still served in many country pubs. Originally, pickling would have been yet another way of preserving the eggs in times of glut, but the pickle added interest and flavour, so just because we have fridges now doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pickle eggs any more.
850ml (1½ pints) white wine vinegar
10g (½oz) fresh root ginger
7g (¼oz) white peppercorns
7g (¼oz) black peppercorns
1 tbsp turmeric (optional)
12 organic free range eggs, hard-boiled
Put the vinegar and spices, including turmeric if using, into a stainless-steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, sieve and leave to cool.
Peel the eggs, run under a cold tap to remove any traces of shell and put into a sterilised Kilner jar. Pour in the spiced vinegar. The eggs must be completely covered; otherwise they won’t keep. Seal the jar with the clip and keep for 3–4 weeks before using. These are great eaten in the traditional way with a beer, but I like them on a salad of organic leaves or watercress, mint, cherry tomatoes and batons of cucumber.
This is my version of the super sandwich I picked up at Saltie in Brooklyn.
A piece of focaccia approximately 4½ inches (11½ cm) square
Fresh rocket and coriander leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Pickled eggs (see recipe)
1 tsp tiny capers
4 radishes cut into julienne
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Split the focaccia in half horizontally. Put the base on a plate, drizzle the rocket and coriander leaves in extra virgin olive oil and pile on the bread base, arrange the sardines side by side on the leaves. Top with slices of pickled egg. Sprinkle capers and julienne of radish on top. Season with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top with rocket and the other slice of focaccia.
- Interior Living – 11 MacCurtain Street in Cork city – has a little pantry at the back of their shop that stocks Primo Olive oil. This award winning extra virgin olive oil is harvested by hand and extracted by the continuous cold cycle method from using only early green harvest Tonda Iblea olives that produce an intense, fresh tasting, totally delicious oil – 021 4505819 – firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Discover the truth behind unhealthy food addictions and learn how to break the cycle. David Kessler delves into the psychology and neuroscience of our junkfood cravings in his book The End of Overeating – Taking control of our Insatiable Appetite, published by Penguin. Available in the Ballymaloe Cookery School farm shop and in most good book shops.
- Shape up for summer with Lucy Hyland’s healthy cookery classes at Brennan’s in Cork city over two evenings – Thursday, May 20, and Thursday, May 27, 6:45pm to 9:30pm €95.00 for both classes – 0868179964 or email@example.com.