Monday, 31 December 2012

Turkey, pea and ham risotto

It's almost New Year, but you might still be wondering what to do with all the leftover turkey. Each year I make turkey and ham pies to freeze, but last night we used some of our leftovers in a risotto. I finely diced an onion and sweated it until translucent in some duck fat, then added the rice, stirring it for a while. Shredded turkey and ham came next with frozen peas and some fresh fennel (which had been used in a salad earlier in the week), gradually stirring in turkey stock. Once the rice had cooked and the consistency was creamy, I served the risotto with more fresh herbs and a slick of olive oil. It was delicious with our bottle of fresh, fragrant Guardiolo Falanghina from The Wine Society, although it would also be good with a fuller bodied, even oak-aged white – Burgundy would be a especially good. Happy New Year!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Caravan Kings Cross

Christmas is now days away and if I could head out for a big festive night out I'd head straight to Caravan in Kings Cross. (This might not be on the cards with a small child and a hefty to-list before hosting the big day for my family, but who knows...)

The original Caravan in Exmouth Market was impressive enough and I mentioned it on this blog a couple of years ago. But – and big but – Caravan Kings Cross is very good indeed. It helps that it is located by the Regent's Canal in the stylishly renovated Granary Building that also houses Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design. This big, buzzy industrial space feels awesome – and, to be honest, feels like the kind place that London has been waiting for for decades. (I'm a bit biased as I live nearby in Tufnell Park, so feel very excited about the redevelopment of this part of London and the proximity of Eurostar.)

Like the original branch, it is open all day for breakfast, brunch and dinner, offering notably good food and especially coffee (which they roast themselves). However, what I liked most was the drinks list. Creative cocktails include Martinis (pictured above) made with Sacred Gin (produced at home in Highgate by Ian Hart): 'Dirty' with basil and 'Clean' with cucumber (both £8). The seasonal Spiced Apple and Pear Daquiri sounded good (£6.50). Champagnes included Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs (£9.50 a glass, £50 a bottle) – a particular favourite and what we served at our wedding – and magnificent Jacquesson 734 (£50 a bottle). Prosecco is offered on tap for £4.50 a glass and there are a couple of beers from local Camden Brewery: Hells Lager and a Pale Ale brewed exclusively for Caravan. The list is fleshed out by many other tempting options, so tempting, in fact, that I paid the price the next morning.

Caravan will be closed between 24th December and Wednesday 2nd January, so try and get there this weekend if you want to treat yourself to a well-deserved festive drink (and some tasty food). Merry Christmas!

Square Meal

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Grown-up soft drinks

I'm always on the look out for decent, grown-up soft drinks, but they do seem to be hard to come by. Too often the fall-back option is fruit juice, often sweet and inappropriate for food, and sometimes mineral water can fit the bill. San Pellegrino and Badoit can work for me with their salty bite, but, nevertheless, they are just water, so lacking on the flavour front.

However, just recently I've rediscovered my love for Fentimans drinks. In 2012 they introduced tonic water to the range – which the company claims to be the world's first botanically brewed tonic water (kaffir lime leaf features in the herbal infusion). It's fresh with a subtle complexity and, amazingly, the Light Tonic Water is nothing like the usual confected, synthetic tasting slimline tonics. I am partial to tonic water as I explained here back in January when we eased off the booze for a while.

Fentimans also offers the rather beautiful Rose Lemonade – a delicate, petal pink coloured lemonade flavoured with ginger and rose oil. This is a fabulous drink – deliciously perfumed and refreshing on its own (and rather special as a mixer with gin).

Another recent discovery is Hot Ginger Beer from the Devon based organic producer Luscombe. This is spicy, dry and an ideal winter tipple. On their website, they suggest drinking it with 'barbecued chicken or pork or anything with a sweet glaze or marinade. Or spicy Caribbean-style grilled fish – served with tropical fruit like mango. It also pairs well with Chinese food, especially sweet and sour dishes and stir-fried crab'. I'm happy to believe them.

If you can't get your hands on these (try Waitrose and independent grocers and wine merchants – eg Earth Natural Foods in Kentish Town) a good party option is a Virgin Breeze that you can make up in jugs or punch bowls. Simply mix together two parts grapefruit juice and one part cranberry juice (or to taste) for a dry tasting and pretty looking drink. With plenty of ice, it's great for the morning after, too, but that's another story...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The GrEAT British

Just around the corner from Oxford Street in North Audley Street is a new British restaurant, The GrEAT British. I'm not sure about the word play of the name, but I do like the what they're trying to do. The menu offers classic British dishes made with well-sourced ingredients, for instance Mrs Kirkham's cheese, smoked salmon from Pinney's of Orford, British Label chicken, Longhorn beef and Loch Duart salmon. The drinks menu offers a potted selection of British ale, cider and wine and Fentiman's soft drinks. Some Luscombe Devon cider was delicious with my main dish of pork belly and my husband enjoyed his glass of Bolney Estate Pinot Noir from Sussex with his sausages and mash.

Apart from the dish of the day at £10, the prices are a bit steep (ten minutes walk away is Quo Vadis offering remarkable value), but I guess this is Mayfair. However, there is a big gap in the market for a decent British restaurant chain and, perhaps, that's what's in store for The GrEAT British.

The GreEAT British
14 North Audley Street
Tel 020 7741 2233

Square Meal