Archives for posts with tag: Melrose and Morgan

I have been busy recipe testing.

slice of nut loaf

The team I work with at Melrose and Morgan are publishing their first book in October which is the most wonderful compendium of food. Good Food For Your Table is a guide to food, written in an easy colloquial readable style, designed with quirky snippets and fun facts, plus some simple suggestions for piecing together a dish and a handful of recipes as well. All in all, it is going to be the most fab Christmas pressie when it comes out so you all know what you are getting this year!

But for now, we are busy ensuring that the recipes translate from a professional kitchen and chef’s knowledge to the layman, hence my involvement.

When you read a recipe, you really don’t get just what has gone into writing it. Every gram is critical. Every comma. Every description. If you say cut lengthways will you cut it right? do we understand a finger of lemon peel? how to bring together a loaf of bread dough? how much is in a pinch? I could go on.

So under the watchful eye of Mr Melrose, I worked my way through the recipes, checking, perfecting, weighing and tasting my way through a small proportion of the repertoire. It is just one step in a long commitment to creating their book and putting themselves out there to be reviewed. I guess the well known chefs have a team of stylists, writers, home economists and so on to support with the process but for us, it is a matter of getting stuck in and working pretty damn hard.

My kitchen gets a good work out....

My kitchen gets a good work out….

One of the many lovely things about this process is sharing the experience with like minded food fanatics like me. Last week I cooked one evening with my nephew Asher and this week I spent quality time with Mr M. It was also a great excuse to give my relatively new kitchen a run for its money. And it stood up well. When you design a kitchen it is difficult to imagine whether or not it will facilitate an easy way of using it and I am pleased to report that most of my decisions were right. The best bit, given the heatwave we are currently experiencing, was having the bifold windows fully open bringing the kitchen into the garden to benefit from the small breezes from outside.

One of many ingredients boxes to be loaded into the car

One of many ingredients boxes to be loaded into the car

Our recipe test journey started in the professional kitchen weighing and measuring out the many varied ingredients that we needed. It’s quite a job in its own right but great when you have the quality of ingredients that these guys use on a day to day basis. We butchered the most wonderful Sutton Hoo chickens, benefitted from the best pastry the kitchen makes, a full and varied seeds & spice rack plus beautiful produce. It’s no wonder the Melrose and Morgan shop has a loyal following. Then we loaded up the boot, added in the cameras, computers, books etc. and drove back to me.

Spiced butters - I am convinced they are the way forward...

Spiced butters – I am convinced they are the way forward…

Tuesday morning we had a slice of my freshly baked rye loaf (yes – the Bread Ahead starter is doing a fab job at helping me create superb bread) with some of that Tayberry jam we made the other week and we were ready. Mr M was sous chef to me for the days which I took full advantage of. He weighed, chopped, zested and prepped so all I had to do was combine and cook. You have to wait for the book to see the recipes, but what I will say is that I am absolutely sure that they are going to double my usual repertoire, if not triple. It is so lovely to find recipes that work and result in tasty yummy food.

Over the days we were cooking, I encouraged friends to pop in and try. Everyone was suitably impressed taking home pots and tubs, foil wrapped gifts and jars of our creations. Some are still sitting in my fridge this weekend for me to enjoy and other random bits of chicken, stock etc. are in my freezer.

So thank you Mr and Mr M for trusting me with your recipes. I had so much fun and look forward to loads more if at all possible. The only downside was all the washing up – next time we need a potwash in the team!

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Christmas seems to have pounced upon us from a very warm mild place and suddenly I am desperately wrapping, ribboning and checking that I haven’t left anyone out.

I have been perusing the pages to see what food inspired gifts I have missed in my shopping this year and did my usual rounds of the department stores who are in their element at this time of year. You can really understand why they are destination shopping emporiums. Where Selfridges and Fortnums inspire, so Liberty was a difficult place to shop this year. But it is worth noting that there were deals to be had everywhere if you were prepared to wait. Note to self: hold out for the Selfridges 20% off day in 2014!

Daylesford

As for the independents, some continue to just do a wonderful job. Clearly my friends at Melrose and Morgan are a destination shop for treats galore with the most impressive bakery range of biscuits and cakes. I also thought that Daylesford managed their gift boxes very well this year. I know it’s not fashionable to say this, but I loved Carluccio’s as well, with their lovely panettone packaging and that grown up Terry’s chocolate orange: Clemente in Camicia.

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For something a bit more unusual, visit Brindisa, the new Maille shop in Piccadilly and here’s one from my Master of Wine expert friend: Hedonism Wines in Davies Street…amazing.

In no particular order, and in deference to the lovely army boy, here are a few top lists of my picks for this year:

Gadgets:

1. The soda stream: from £79.99. I got mine last year and love it simply for sparkling water, but I am sure you can do so much more. Try Lakeland for a good deal

Brindisa

2. Brindisa’s Iberico Bellota Pequeno Ham set £380. I know a friend of mine has bought this for her hubby and I am very jealous. How perfect. a whole bellota ham complete with stand, knife and a DVD to show you how to carve!

wonderbag

3. The Wonderbag £59.99. This eco friendly cooking utensil is the creation of South African Sarah Collins. It reminded me of the street food we had in Peru and I am sure it harks back to the way our third world ancestors cooked. Now the latest trendy green must have in the kitchen, it is the perfect present as we hit the winter season for wonderful slow cooked meals. And, for every one we buy, Ms Collins donates one to a family in need in Africa. What a lady! No wonder she was named one of Fortune’s most powerful women entrepreneurs 2013.

Treats:

stollen bites

1. Stollen Bites from Melrose and Morgan. Well frankly anything from here so why stop there. The biscuit range, cakes, puds, savoury biscuits…I could go one. All wrapped in their own elegant, inimitable style and ideal for Christmas gift giving.

2. Kenspeckle cinder toffee coal may have sold out now, but they are worth noting for the future.

Maille pots

3. Maille mustard pots which make the most wonderful gift. You can splash out in the Sauternes or Chablis & black truffle variety or keep it simple. Up to you.

4. Amelia Rope chocolate cubes. Created last year, but still so relevant with bite sized treats of all her award winning flavours.

5. Selfridges bombes: more chocolate but a cute design and great stocking filler.

Drink: 

Not normally my speciality but special mention goes to the following:

1. Chase vodka’s seasonal flavour which is Rhubarb this year

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2. Grays and Feather ‘drink me‘ mini bottles are a must have – so cute!

3. Taster boxes: both whisky and gin feature heavily this year at places like Masters of Malt, and Compass Box Whisky Company.

4. For something completely different, how about renting a row of St Emilion Grand Cru vines. This £159.97 experience from Vintage Wine Gifts includes wine, accessories and a personal tour of the vineyard.

Best Christmas product 2013

And the prize for just the best product I have seen this year goes to … Asda (!) for their Christmas tree crumpets.

Crumpets

I have just had the most wonderful weekend with my friends in their country cottage in the Gloucestershire.

It is at times like this that I really appreciate the country lifestyle, particularly when I share it with two people who are so into their food in the same way I am, except that they are proper professionals. Mr and Mr Melrose and Morgan do such a great job in their shops and I always love to hear about what they are working on and who they are connecting with as it is always spot on. They have such an understated style and yet do food so incredibly, properly and well.

Laverstoke Park Farm organic, biodynamic blackcurrants and gooseberries

Laverstoke Park Farm organic, biodynamic blackcurrants and gooseberries

Saturday breakfast set the tone with the most perfectly cooked boiled farm egg, yummy coffee and a warm raisin, apricot, bran muffin fresh from their shop. Sunday we paced ourselves with buffalo milk yogurt, blackcurrant compote made from Laverstoke Park Farm organic blackcurrants and Melrose and Morgan sour cherry granola which is just the best.

This cottage of theirs is perfect, set in the outskirts of Sapperton in rolling countryside with their own garden and in the catchment of some great pubs and markets. They have kept it simple and homely with mismatched crockery from the local antique shop plus lots of little touches to make it theirs, centred around the most beautiful big wooden kitchen table which is the heart of the whole place.

Some of our market produce

Some of our market produce on the wonderful wooden kitchen table

On Saturday we went to Stroud market which is apparently one of the biggest, most popular farmer’s markets in the country and winner of the best farmer’s market award from FARMA for the second year this year. It is so well supported locally and you can see why when you shop the stalls. We created our weekend menu as we wandered around picking and choosing our way to the best offerings. I brought some bits with me from the farm which added to the market fayre resulted in a larder full of goodies… the perfect thing for a trio who love to cook, cheered on by a glorious sunny day to create yummy things and potter around.

Dappled garden sunlight on our frittata lunch

Dappled garden sunlight on our frittata lunch

Throughout the day, we split our roles really well with Mr. M in the garden in charge of pruning, planting and bringing in all the best the garden had to offer such as fresh herbs, beans and leaves. Other Mr. M was most definitely head chef running a slick kitchen and creating lovely tasty treats. He knocked up this simple lunch frittata and quinoa, broad bean and feta salad plus a banana and chocolate cake baked in time for tea. I took on my favourite role of head chopper and prep chef under Mr. M’s tutelage which is always fun. There was no room for dinner so we popped to the local Butchers Arms pub and put the world to rights as we snacked our way through a couple of their well made starters.

Sunday was a bit of a fresh, rainy day but we pushed on with a proper country stroll to build up an appetite for the buffalo forerib I brought from the farm. The neighbourhood woodlands were like something out of the Lord of the Rings film with huge old trees, pretty moss encrusted stone walls and the odd deer lurching through the shrubbery. An hours stroll was just right and then we were fully ensconced in the kitchen creating the most perfect Sunday lunch.

Sunday lunch in style

Sunday lunch in style

Mr. M’s beets were boiled, roasted in balsamic vinegar and complemented with garden fresh fennel fronds, pan fried greens and a dash of great quality oil. We had a radish and bean salad plus a salmoriglio or Summer thyme sauce made fresh with garden herbs. Central to the table was that wonderful forerib cooked perfectly to 55 degrees by Mr. M and rested whilst his baby Yorkshire puddings puffed up to bursting in the hot oven. Accompanied by a bottle of English red wine from Kenton vineyard in Devon we had the most perfect celebration of everything we did over the weekend.

I feel like I have had the best holiday and guess I now need to get back to the real world. I can only hope that my impending move to the country will facilitate a similar lifestyle and then all will be good with the world.

Bageriet pic

Pastry perfection from Bageriet

I was pondering the sweet treat this week because a couple of friends had posted things that brought them to my attention.

Firstly was a tweet from the lovely Daniel Karlsson at Bageriet. I met Daniel when I was working with the beautiful boys of Melrose and Morgan and was lucky enough to try a variety of Daniel’s creations as he experimented his way through seasonal delicacies in his role as pastry chef. Daniel came through the ranks of classic pastry training in Sweden and then working at Ottolenghi before his Melrose and Morgan times and has now taken the leap and gone it alone creating Bageriet in Rose Street, Covent Garden. Going back to his traditional Swedish roots, Daniel is creating classics with a twist and was recently featured on Paul Hollywood’s show demonstrating his skills. There is no doubt Daniel has the touch of an angel and I hope people find his shop and share in his talent.

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On the same day I read Daniel’s tweet, I saw another post from a friend talking about the cronut craze that has taken New York by storm. Cronuts are the creation of Dominique Ansel who is also a wonderful pastry chef. He trained at the fabulous Fauchon in Paris and found fame during his 6 year tenure at Restaurant Daniel in New York. Having opened his own place in Spring Street, Ansel was shortlisted as a finalist for the James Beard award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2013. There is no doubt that this chef is a dab hand at pastry and yet despite his long list of credentials, it is through the cronut that he has found a whole new level of fame.

cronut2

This half doughnut half croissant delicacy looks like it would induce an instant heart attack on even the most unsuspecting, and yet since its inception in May, the street of New York have seen queues forming from the very early hours simply to secure one of these now famous $5 pastries. The madness has gone beyond rational behaviour. People are sleeping overnight in the shop doorway, and queuing from 6am, there is a 2 week pre-order list which is already full and their next slot for a large order is from 1 August. The world has gone cronut crazy!!

The queue just a couple of weeks ago!

The queue just a couple of weeks ago!

Ansel has had to trademark these treats and yet there are imitators popping up all over the place… the doissant from Washington, the frissant from Vancouver and the Donut Croissant from Dunkin Donuts in the Philippines to name but a few. And then there’s the black market which is said to trade the $5 pastry for up to $40 each!

What fascinates me is how a creation from some French pastry chef in Soho, New York can become a world wide craze, and I guess the answer lies in technology. On the very night that blog Grub Street first wrote about Ansel’s new product, they received 140,000 links and it all went exponential from there. There are something like 10,000 tweets a month about this little ol’ pastry, pictures of the queues go viral and if you search google there are over 3 million hits (compared to just over 1 million if you search the man Dominique himself). What exactly is it that captured the public imagination about this that others need to emulate?

Firstly I guess it is the creativity. It has to be something original. And the marriage of two already scrummy things into something even more delicious really is ingenious. Then there’s tapping into the social network at the right point to get it to go viral. The process of queuing like a mad man is part of it so that you can be one of the few who can claim to be in the cronut club and tell their story of how they finally came to try one of these treats. Finally, you need to be as lovely as Monsieur Ansel who seems genuinely chuffed by all the support and hasn’t changed a thing as a result of the publicity. The price is the same, the process is the same and he continues to develop his shop and his product with the hope that people will keep on coming… and I am sure they will.

Cronut Crazy