7 December 2010

Our Next Meeting

Unfortunately our November meeting was postponed and due to holidays and festivities we have decided not to hold a meeting in December.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 25 January 2011. Book of the month is The Moro Cookbook.

Come and celebrate our one year anniversary!

31 October 2010

I've Got a Little Fishy...

Tuesday night was fish night. With recipes this good why wait until Friday?

A slight breakdown in communication meant that we reviewed not one but two of Mitch Tonks' fish cookery books this month - Fish: the complete fish and seafood companion and Fresh: great simple seafood. There are worse mistakes to make!

The two books are brimming with delicious fish and seafood recipes which are a joy to cook and eat. The simplicity of the recipes, quite rightly, allow the fish to be the star of the show: we are instructed to either simply grill, fry, bake or poach the fish and serve it with a tasty accompaniment or treat it delicately
with herbs and spices.

On the menu at Supper club from Fresh were:
  • bream ceviche with coconut, chilli and lime
  • pan-fried haddock with creamed leeks and runner beans
The creamed leeks and runner beans are a staple in Angie's kitchen where she pairs it with lamb, chicken as well as fish.

On the menu from Fish were:
  • grilled bream with cumin, lemon and sea salt
  • grilled salmon with watercress, capers and mint 
  • spiced new potato salad
The spiced new potato salad accompanies a plain grilled salmon fillet in the book but it is such a fabulous, easy recipe which is bursting with flavour that I had to share it with our book club members. It will definitely be a regular on our dinner table and will work well with meat as well as fish.

Other highlights from the book are:
  • hake with green sauce and clams
  • bream cooked en papillote with garlic, chilli and rosemary
The recipes for both of these and others are on Mitch Tonks' website.

Fish and Fresh offer the reader more than just recipes - they are also reference guides, containing information on fishing, sustainability, alternative names, notes on taste, texture, territory and seasonality. Handy tips, tricks and photographs feature alongside the recipes - what to ask the fishmonger, how to make
life easy for yourself in the kitchen and what to look out for when buying fish.

If we were to have one slight criticism of the books it was that some of the recipes are not quite detailed enough especially when expressing quantities of ingredients - a small handful of herbs, for example, is difficult to gauge.

That said, these are books we'll be dipping into regularly - both are more than worthy of pride of place on the cookery book shelves in our homes.

24 October 2010

The Day we Did the Double and Met the Master

We travelled to Dartmouth on a bright and crisp autumn day. The reason for our visit, a meal at The Seahorse - a birthday present for my mother-in-law to be. Lunchtime was upon us as we boarded the higher ferry to cross the Dart so we headed into town to the only other place we’d heard about - RockFish!

A warm welcome awaited us along with the promise of very fresh fish (as the strapline goes, so fresh tomorrow’s is still in the sea) and golden chips. We were spoilt for choice with a long list of seasonal fish and seafood, batter and breadcrumb options and the usual side orders of chips, mushy peas and curry sauce.

Our meals were brought to the table in cardboard trays: breadcrumbed red gurnard and good old-fashioned scampi with tartare sauce, calamari with aioli and a crab sandwich on brown, accompanied by piles of chips and bowls of mushy peas. The fish was divine, the chips cooked to perfection and the mushy peas the best I've tasted!

We received a nice surprise as we were leaving. Mitch was in the restaurant, on his break from The Seahorse kitchen further down the Embankment. He came over to say hello and ask if everything had been ok for us. He struck me as a cook and business owner who genuinely cares about and takes an interest in his customers and staff and is always looking for ways to make improvements (though we would have been hard pushed to find fault!).

Parallels have been drawn between RockFish and Rick Stein’s fish and chip restaurant in Padstow but Mitch has got every detail of RockFish right and for me, there was no comparison. If lunch was this good, just how big a grin would we have at dinner?

A walk around town and the sea air stoked our appetites for the evening. We donned our best bib and tucker and headed back into town. As we stepped out of the taxi, the large, heavy wooden doors burst open, we entered the warmth of the intimate dining room of The Seahorse restaurant and were greeted with a beaming smile and a wave from the kitchen. Glasses of prosecco were sent our way with a message from Mitch: 'congratulations on doing the double!'.

We were astounded by the service we received, great service so often a rarity - the staff were friendly, attentive, extremely knowledgeable and obviously passionate about the restaurant. They talked us through the menu, brought out the fish from the kitchen for us to see before we made our decisions and knew just when to leave us be.

The large window dividing the kitchen from the dining room means that Mitch can keep a constant eye on proceedings. Messages from the kitchen and dining room were constantly being relayed to all the staff, including news of my mother-in-law to be’s birthday.

Mitch's approach to the food is simple - let the fish shine through. We chose starters of red Mediterranean prawns, grilled and dressed with olive oil, spaghetti with prawns and cardoon in a rich tomato sauce which had a deep shellfish back note, mussels from the nearby Elbury Cove which were packed with flavour and the zuppa di pesce - it came, was eaten and the dish refilled!

Following the stunning starters, expectations were high for our main courses and were exceeded: sea bream cooked en papillote with roast garlic, chilli and rosemary - strong flavours but delicately applied to the fish; John Dory which had been given an Italian treatment with a tomato, anchovy and olive sauce; skate traditionally served with black butter and capers, and fritto misto (a selection of crisp fried monkfish, John Dory, red mullet, prawns, whitebait, squid and chiperones) which overflowed from the plate!

Towards the end of service Mitch came out from the kitchen to talk with his guests – not in a pretentious way and expecting praise but to actually talk – though, yes he did sign books and menus, say ‘Happy Birthday’ to the birthday girl and have his picture taken with me too!

As a coincidence, Mitch Tonks’ Fish cook book is being reviewed at this month’s Cookery Book Supper Club. I had spent the previous couple of weeks reading, testing recipes and tweeting about the delicious dishes I had created. RockFish, having picked up my tweets, told me that Mitch was really interested in what we were doing so, of course, there was one obvious topic of conversation when he reached our table.

Unfortunately Mitch is unable to make it to book club on Tuesday but I did offer him an open invitation for whenever he is in Bristol!

There's no doubting that Mitch Tonks is at one with the fish he sources from Brixham fish market and knows how to make your day, evening, or even year!

12 October 2010

October's Book of the Month

As the name suggests Mitch Tonk's Fish: The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion is all about, well...fish. More than just a cook book, it's a complete reference guide to fishing methods, sustainability, seasonality, fish names and how to buy as well as prepare fish and seafood.

For many fish holds the fear factor, but Mitch Tonk's comprehensive and modern guide should help allay those fears. And for those who have already taken the bite, there are many tempting recipes.

If you need to stock up on fish in prepartion for book club or fancy sampling some of the fish from the book but want the night off from the kitchen, you can always head out to the Rockfish Grill and Seafood Market on Whiteladies Road!

21 July 2010

Summer Holiday

We are taking a break for the summer and will be back refreshed and refueled in September.

See you on 28 September for some Nigel Slater comfort food.

27 June 2010

Meeting Postponed

The meeting on Tuesday 29 June has been postponed.

We hope to be back in July with Nigel Slater's Real Food as the book of the month.

23 June 2010

September's Book of the Month: Real Food

When I think of Nigel Slater's Real Food, I think comfort. The recipes aren't 'chefy', they're not full of hard to source ingredients and they're not complicated - they let good ingredients speak for themselves in great home cooking. Real Food is about being selfish and taking pleasure in the simple things in life. It's food which is full of flavour, you can easily make and want to eat.

The book is based around his favourite ingredients - those in which he finds solace - potatoes, chicken, sausages, garlic, bread, cheese, ice cream and chocolate. Let's face it, who's not a fan of at least one of these?

Look forward to some food which gives you a hug from the inside on book club night.

12 May 2010

May's Book of the Month: Dough

This month's featured book is Dough by Richard Bertinet. I first met Richard at the Taste festival in Bath in 2008 and was immediately struck by his passion for baking. At the festival I really enjoyed mucking in with the bread demonstration and creating a fougasse, even though he thought it would be fun to rub wet dough up my arms!
I've made bread hundreds of times but his method of making a very soft dough that you work using a scooping and stretching technique is quite different to the process described in most books. If you feel that you need a little extra help there is a useful DVD with the book that goes through the main processes. I have successfully made many breads in the book and although it's a cliche to say it I do find breadmaking is enormously satisfying. If you think the bookclub meeting is just going to be sarnies all night you'd be so wrong!

30 April 2010

The Spice of Life

Wow, mention the word curry and cookery book fans come running from all corners! We had our biggest attendance on Tuesday night when we hosted our Atul Kochhar Simple Indian evening and it was certainly spicy!

To get the feast started, we had aloo tikki (North Indian pan-fried potato cakes) with a fresh coriander chutney and a grilled tomato chutney. The lamb with green chillies, a southern Indian curry with a kick, came next, accompanied by pulao rice, naan and a cauliflower and potato curry. What a treat for the tastebuds.

Simple Indian is an excellent book, the chutneys are a revelation and the dishes are exceptionally tasty. These are traditional Indian dishes packed with flavour, really quite healthy and we imagine authentic.

The introduction in the book explains the appeal of Indian food - the diversity of flavours, textures and colours as a result of the varied regions, religions and cultural influences on the subcontinent. Atul describes how to achieve flavour in different ways by using whole or ground spice, by roasting, frying or by using spice as a seasoning.

As the name of the book would suggest, the recipes on the whole are relatively simple to cook and the ingredient lists not too extensive. I have tried most of the dishes from the book with only one failure - the naan bread. Unfortunately, my failure was replicated on the night by Angie who also couldn't get the naan right. Perhaps Atul will reveal the secret of success at some point?!

If we were to be picky, we'd have to say that there just aren't enough photographs in the book. As well as inspiring you to get cooking, a photograph goes a long way in providing guidance when cooking a dish, especially when many of the dishes are new to people.

Tried, tested and recommended you cook tonight:
  • coconut fish curry
  • Deccan fish curry
  • tandoori salmon
  • spicy chicken with spinach
  • peppery chicken curry
  • home-style chicken curry
  • achari chicken
  • lamb biryani
  • Chettiar aubergine
  • cauliflower, carrots and peas
  • stir-fried spinach
  • mushrooms with coriander leaves
  • paratha

12 April 2010

April's Book of the Month: Simple Indian

Being a self-confessed curryholic and (dare I use the word?) fan of Atul Kochhar, Simple Indian seemed an obvious choice to appear in our book review list.

I first came across Atul Kochhar on the first series of Great British Menu where his mouthwatering and impressive dishes combined the use of Indian flavours and great British produce. He must be doing something right given that his restaurant, Benares, in London's Berkeley Square has earned him a Michelin Star!

I am feeling very well prepared for April's meeting with a list of his recipes already under my belt. It's going to be such a difficult month feeding on curry, curry and even more curry, but someone has to do it!

21 March 2010

March's Book of the Month: Made in Italy

Giorgio Locatelli's Made in Italy: Food and Stories is March's book of the month and was chosen by Angie. I asked her what inspires her so much about the book.

"I often ask people; 'if something terrible happened and you had to leave England, where would you most want to be a refugee?' For me the answer has always been Italy. Locatelli sums up the reason in the first paragraph of the book: "la convivialita", the pleasure of sharing a meal with others. When I was growing up, if people came to our home they would never leave without sharing some some food with us, so the Italian way of life is very close to my heart."

The book is presented in the style of the traditional Italian meal (antipasti, zuppa, risotto, pasta, pesce, carne i dolci) and as well as recipes, Locatelli shares with us some excellent information, anecdotes and stories about ingredients, how to treat them, Italian life, history, culture and its varied regions. Interwoven between the courses are delightful personal stories that give the reader a great insight and understanding of how food, love and life are one and the same for Italians.

20 March 2010

Ottolenghi- the visit!

Having explored the cook book I had to extend my research and see if my baking was up to scratch. I decided to head for the Knightsbridge branch, not the biggest, but very easy to get to with a car park close by and some other pretty amazing shops to hand, Rococo and Christian Louboutin, to name but two.

The window was so inviting with the signature puffball meringues piled high on quirky plates and oranges and chillis lining the window sill. Inside the various salads were sitting on their plinths and people were buzzing in and out, stocking up on patisserie, bread and all sorts of tasty treats. After a short wait for space at the small communal table lunch arrived on a vibrant pink plate. The salads did not disappoint full of interesting flavours, colours and textures that balanced beautifully. I chose a lightly spiced rice salad, a fresh and crunchy green bean salad and a soft and sweet butternut squash dish. In the cook book Yotam Ottolenghi explains how important it is to serve salads at room temperature so that the flavours can come into their own (it's chemistry!) and so all the freshly prepared salad dishes are served this way.
I couldn't leave without road testing the puds and can recommend both the cheesecake and the passionfruit meringue tart. The latter was a brilliant combination of mallowy soft meringue peaks balanced on a sharp passionfruit curd in a crisp pastry case.

Lunch got even better when Yotam walked in and I was able to whip out my cook book for him to sign. He was more than happy to chat as I explained about the cookery book club and the dishes I made for the last meeting.

2 March 2010

A feast for all your senses - and your stomach

There is no doubting that we were all bowled over by this month's book, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. The prose, the photography, the ingredients and the end results are sublime. The book really is a feast for all your senses and Nigel Slater's review on the cover of the book couldn't sum it up any better: 'This is simply wonderful cooking...modern, smart and thoughtful. I love it!'.

The Ottolenghi philosophy is one of food bringing pleasure, that you can keep it simple and still delicious and that food should be fun - to buy, to cook and to eat.

What is surprising about the book is the sheer number of delicious vegetarian recipes - side dishes and main courses. And before all you meat-eaters run for the hills, you should give them a go! The attention to tastes and textures is so well thought out that for one evening, at least, you won't miss the meat.

So, let's cut to the chase! What can we recommend you get in the kitchen and make tonight? Would it be wrong of us to say - everything?!

A shocking big hit was the cucumber and poppy seed salad. Genius! We'll never look at the dull cucumber in the same light again. Who would have thought that a cucumber could be so good?

The chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic, a recipe that is synonymous with the restaurant, makes an exciting side dish.

Hands up if the thought of cauliflower conjures up memories of school dinners? Ooo, the smell! May I introduce you to the addictive cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yoghurt? Eat hot, warm or cold, in a pita with houmous and some salad. Divine!

Oxtail stew with pumpkin and cinnamon. A real winter warmer - and boy did we need it on that cold night in February. A long, slow-cooked dish with hearty flavours, finished with a zing from the gremolata. It's one I'll be cooking again and again.

We served the stew with a mograbiah salad (in the book it accompanies the barbecued quail) but the lemony and herb spiced accompaniment worked really well with the stew. Mograbiah is a large variety of couscous common in the Arab world. It's also known as Giant or Israeli couscous. It's almost pasta-like in consistency, dense and chewy unlike normal couscous which has a more grainy texture.

As if that's not enough to tempt you, I'm going to appeal to your sweet tooth and your pudding stomach. Giant cinnamon and hazelnut meringues. They speak for themselves really. A trip to one of the restaurants or delis in London is well worth it just to see the piles of these in the window!

A quick run-down of our other tried and tested dishes:
  • Caramelised endive with Serrano ham
  • Portobello mushrooms with pearl barley and preserved lemon
  • Roast potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes with lemon and sage
  • Marinated turkey breast with cumin, coriander and white wine - try it also with chicken or lamb
  • Sardines stuffed with bulgar, currants and pistachios

And dishes we didn't get around to making but are at the top of our wish lists:

  • French beans and mangetout with hazelnut and orange
  • Marinated rack of lamb with coriander and honey
  • Turkey and sweetcorn meatballs with pepper sauce
  • Buttered prawns with tomato, olives and Arak
  • Brioche
  • Parmesan and poppy biscuits
  • Plum, marzipan and cinnamon muffins

The new book, Plenty, is out at the end of April. I'm looking forward to adding it to the book club list. If it's anything like Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, it won't be disappointing.



The plum, marzipan and cinnamon muffins have been spotted at the diner. How did they go down with the customers, Angie?

Another update

Recently tried the cherry and walnut bread at a friend's house - went perfectly with the creamy gorgonzola.

Also recommended is the coriander mayonnaise - slap it in a warm chicken sandwich on fresh white bread.

12 February 2010

February's Book of the Month: Ottolenghi

Mouthwatering, refreshing, heavenly, magical, exquisite... Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is our February Book of the Month.

Yotam Ottolenghi starts his introduction to the book with "If you don't like lemon or garlic...skip to the last page". Well, if you don't like lemon and garlic you're missing out on some divine recipes and if you do head straight for the last page, you'd be disappointed to have jumped past the plethora of meringues, cakes and other baked goodies. Angie, bake your heart out!

I have bought this book countless times as presents for other people, gorged myself in the Islington restaurant, been engrossed in Yotam's New Vegetarian column in the Guardian for some time and finally received the book myself for Christmas...I was a happy bunny!

The only problem now is deciding what to cook and bring with me to the meeting.

I hope you enjoy it as much as me!


27 January 2010

A Slice of American Pie

Cookery Book Supper Club - 26/01/10

We kicked off our cookery book supper club meetings with Jamie's America. There really is more to American food than burgers and super-sized portions!

Jamie's America is unlike any of his other books. It takes the reader on a road trip across America; learning about the people, the places, the ways of life, the heritage and that which brings them all together - the food.

The stories about his trip and the people he met along the way as well as the little snippets of background to the dishes, which have become his hallmark, are interesting and the photography inspiring.

If you watched the accompanying TV series, you'll be pleased to hear that the book contains all the recipes from the series and more.

One word of warning though - much of the food is not what you'd want to be cooking every night after work, but if you fancy splashing out at the weekend you won't be disappointed.

The food

Humbled by the respect the indigenous people have for the earth and the principles by which they live, Angie chose our main dish from the Navajo section of the book.

Epic Churro Lamb - tender leg of lamb simply roasted with a rub of garlic, juniper and spring onions. This was served with a warming salsa, white beans and tortillas. Simply delicious and perfect for a different take on your Sunday lunch.

We also tucked into a crisp side salad - a take on the Waldorf - and, for dessert, not just any lime and coconut cheesecake - topped with meringue no less!

Tried and tested

Other tried, tested and recommended dishes from the book:

  • Southern sausage stew - a hit with the Diner regulars
  • Best baked beans - Heinz have competition!
  • Green chilli - fresh, light and unusual - helped along with a teaspoon of cumin
  • Chocolate velvet cupcakes - it's chocolate - where can you go wrong?!
You may have missed the meeting but it's not too late to share your thoughts on the book and to recommend any dishes you've tried...

20 January 2010

January's Book of the Month: Jamie's America

For the first meeting I have selected Jamie's America, partly because being based in an iconic American Airstream van it seemed the perfect choice, but also as a recent bestseller I thought it would be likely that quite a few people had it.


18 January 2010

Cookery Book Supper Club

If you really enjoy cookery books and want to share that passion with others, why not join our book club? Each month we will discuss a different cookery book, sample some dishes, share successes and, if necessary, discuss disasters!

We meet on the last Tuesday of the month from 7.30 to 9.00 pm in the Diner at the Paintworks.

We'll provide the main dish and refreshments but why not bring along a taster (maybe a starter, a side dish or dessert) to share with us?

To help cover costs, we ask that you pay £5 if you bring a dish or £10 if you don't.

If you'd like to join us, email us at angiesdiner@googlemail.com

Look forward to seeing you!