Archive for June, 2011

VOC

Twitter really is a marvellous thing. My visit to VOC was off the back of a tweet by fellow food lover @chocoralie. Without Twitter I’d have not been able to get a table reservation sorted at lunchtime today for a party of 15 the same evening.

It’s right next to the huge Spanish bar called Camino which i notice also had a Time Out Critic’s Choice. By comparison, VOC is much smaller but by heck it’s cosy. The corked bottles of infusing cordials and spirits adorn aged looking woodwork and old armchairs are betrayed by softly lit oil burners. They really are trying to do things the old fashioned way check out the blocks of ice. I was too busy planning my next drinks to tell if they were just for show.

They do a small range of the Greenwich Meantime brewery, the porters and ales of which are included in some of their punches. My friends hit these, but I had to have a hit of their Bergamot Grog. Unlike most cocktails I’ve had where I only notice the main flavours, this mix of Pampero Especial barrel-aged rum was delicately flavoured with earl grey tea, fresh galangal & hints of tobacco leaf. A drink that gave my taste buds something to think about. It seemed like quite a short drink, although it was my first drink of the night so it could just be my quaffing.

Veux Carre was next up, suggested by the mixologist, reminded me of an Old Fashioned, a drink I tried after Don Draper seemed to drink them in every Mad Men episode. This was more pleasing still, Hennessy VS with Old Overholt Rye, sweet vermouth and Benedictine all stirred over ice and garnished with orange oil. I’ll be making one as soon as I restock the home bar.

I got chatting with the barmen, whilst he was mixing up my final drink, the Porter Cup. I was curious to know what was in the hammered copper gin pot (if that’s what it was), which sat above two burning tea lights. He seemed only too pleased to show me, and that’s what I love, people that are enthusiastic about what they do, if you’ve been to Gelupo you’ll know what I mean. hopping onto a small step he ladled a taster of Dogs Nose into a glass tankard. Dog’s Nose is a warm punch of Tanqueray Rangpur gently warmed with fresh horseradish, pressed apple, Meantime porter, fresh citrus, spices and sweetened with vanilla sugar and honey. Now the mention of horseradish made me a little nervous, I expected to be hit over the head with the burn but it came in like a pleasant after thought. It’s a delicious drink, and surprised my friends who all wrinkled their noses at the thought of it. I could imagine sinking plenty of them on a cool damp night. I can’t wait to take Mrs Fly to this spot.

We parted company, and hungrily at 22:20 I darted for the tube bound for Embankment and a food venue being raved about by the London food blogosphere. Sadly at 22:50 the metal trailer of Pitt Cue Co was locked up tighter than my chocolate stash at home. the smoky smell of BBQ was the only hint of what I have to come back for.

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Lavender & honey ice cream

There’s flowers everywhere in our garden at the moment, the bright magenta rose flowers can be seen from the alley and hints at what’s inside.

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The roses inside are hang their heavy heads, and I remember Morfudd Richards had a recipe for Rose Petal & Lemon Verbena ice cream and it seems a shame to waste the roses. Unfortunately, what the roses have in colour they don’t make up for in smell. So that idea is on hold until I can find some nice smelling roses. I browsed the neighbour’s roses along the street, but with all the rain its hard to find any smells at all.

A small pot of lavender is in bloom, giving enough flowers for an alternative ice cream and one that hopefully will remain long enough for a flower ice cream sundae.

350ml milk
6 heads lavender flowers
5 egg yolks
100g sugar
1 tbsp honey
300ml double cream

Bring the milk to the boil and drop in the lavender flower heads. Simmer very gently for two minutes, then remove from the heat and leave for 30 minutes to infuse.

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and honey until pale and creamy. Strain the milk into the egg mix, stirring well, then heat this custard gently, stirring all the time, until it has thickened slightly. Cool the custard completely, then stir in the cream. Freeze the custard using an ice cream machine.

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Asparagus & Lemon Carbonara

I was curled up under a blanket on the sofa at the beginning of the week, watching 2 fat Italians tromp and chomp their way on a religious pilgrimage. Mrs Fly used up the last of the asparagus from the farmer’s market and we had a go at this recipe which we found in the Waitrose Summer Harvest magazine. It was pretty good, although I reckon a traditional carbonara with some bacon and asparagus would be superb. At the time it was just what I needed.

Serves 2
200g spaghetti
230g asparagus, woody bits snapped off
1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped or crushed
1 large egg, yolk only
100g half fat creme fraiche
1 lemon, zest and juice of 1/2
Handful of Parmesan cheese

Boil the spaghetti per the instructions.
Cut the asparagus into 5 cm lengths. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the aspargus and fry for 3-4 minutes. Toss in the garlic and turn off the heat. Beat the egg yolk, creme fraiche, lemon zest, 1 tbsp juice and the parmesan together, then season.

Save a cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta. Return to the pan, add the creamy sauce and asparagus, then stir. Add a little pasta water if the sauce seems dry. Serve topped with parmesan and black pepper.

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Rhubarb & Vanilla Jam

Prompted by an old chum on Facebook to get this done, do happy jam making Ed.

Rhubarb jam will always be synonymous with my Irish grandmother’s clove scented rhubarb jam smeared onto homemade soda bread. It was pretty much the first thing I ate after walking through the door and hitting my head on the low lintel.

I feel happy enough with this jam to know that I’ll be making it every year, using my own with a bit of gardener’s luck. The Timperley Early is still very small.

The recipe comes from the Waitrose Summer Harvest supplement which was entirely vegetarian too and it makes about 5 jars.

1.2 kg rhubarb, cut into 3 cm chunks
2 vanilla pods, split
1kg jam sugar (I used golden caster sugar with no ill effects)
1 orange, juice only

In a large stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan, layer the rhubarb and vanilla with the sugar. Or if you’re like me, bung it all in and stir it around. Pour the orange juice over the top, cover and leave overnight.

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Put a couple of saucers into the freezer. You’ll see that loads of juice will have leached from the rhubarb. Fish the vanilla pods out of the pan, scrape the seeds and stir them into and the pods back into the rhubarb, with 120ml water. Gently warm, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.

Boil for 10 minutes until the bubbles look large and a sugar thermometer reaches 105C. Alternatively, check the jam has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of jam onto a chilled saucer. Freeze for 30 seconds; it’s ready when a skin forms that wrinkles when prodded. If not, bubble the jam for a few more minutes and check again.

{This bit didn’t work for me so well. I use a jam thermometer, but thought it would be interesting to see how this saucer trick worked. To start with, the jam was too runny, so I licked the jam off my finger and put the saucer back. A few minutes later the saucer wasn’t quite as cold, but I thought it was still worth ago, but it still didn’t wrinkle. So I got to eat more jam.}

Skim any scum off the surface, let it cool for 10 minutes, then pour into warm, sterilised jars. Seal, and use within 6 months. Once open store in the fridge and use within 4 weeks. Which shouldn’t be hard.

As always, I’d highly recommend using your nose for this, even though using a thermometer I caught the jam just as the sugar was catching at the edges of the pan. It had pretty much hit 105C and I’m not fussy over whether I have set jam or not.

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To test, I buttered a slice of bread, spread the remains of the pan jam thickly over and chopped it into dainty triangles. It made a perfect food photo. It’s not here because the lure of the jam was too great. I considered setting up another photo, but this story’s good and a fake would be contrived. Although I would get another slice of bread and jam….

A sick note

Dear readers,
Please excuse foodfly from blogging last week as he had a horrible cold and exams.

Yours sincerely
foodfly’s mum

PS. He has plenty of homework to do including:
A review of Scarpetta in Teddington
Asparagus and lemon carbonara
A broth-all: Kneidl soup or asparagus stalk broth with leftovers and dumplings
Rhubarb and vanilla jam
Mrs Fly’s veggy bolognese
Mrs Fly’s veggy rogan josh
Lavender & Honey ice cream