Nigel Slater’s Beef and Okra Soup for Stormzy

A recipe in the Guardian caught my eye recently and I made a note to myself to try making it in the New Year. Nigel Slater – who quite frankly is a culinary genius, came up with a dish ‘beef okra soup recipe for Stormzy’.  Now beef is a meat I rarely eat if I’m honest. Large slabs of any meat – particularly steak – don’t really float my boat, but if the meat is slow cooked and falling off the bone, with spices, then that is exciting. The recipe ingredients sung to me: ginger, garlic, plum tomatoes, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, okra, Scotch bonnet chillies. It sounded the perfect meal to make you feel alive and well in the cold bleak month of January. Don’t you agree?

 

It’s very straightforward but does take time, so if you have things to do in the house one morning then it is the perfect dish to cook. Nigel states that “the dish is even better if refrigerated overnight and reheated the following day”, so would be perfect for feeding a crowd as you can do all the preparations and cooking a day in advance. I’m too excited to dig in so shall be having it for my supper, I can hardly wait.

I’ve made a few changes to the recipe but you can find the original recipe here.

Nigel Slater’s Beef and Okra Soup for Stormzy

serves 6

1.6kg beef short ribs (get your butcher to cut the ribs into short lengths)

3 large onions, roughly chopped

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

60g ginger, skin removed sliced and then cut again into thin batons

1.6kg plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthways

3 tbsp beef dripping/oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

12 black peppercorns

6 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 scotch bonnet, seeds removed (unless you want it super hot) and finely diced (wear gloves)

3 bay leaves

1 litre hot beef stock

350g okra, sliced lengthways

salt and pepper

 

  1. Heat your oven to 220 degrees centigrade/gas mark 9 and place the ribs in a casserole pan in the oven for 20 mins.
  2. After 20 mins remove from the oven and add the dripping or oil and then add the garlic and onions and return to the oven for 15 minutes, lowering it to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.
  3. Remove from the oven again and this time stir in the ginger, spices, chillies, bay leaves and half of the halved tomatoes (reserve the rest for later).
  4. Return to the oven for 40 minutes and then remove from the oven and pour in the hot stock, cover and return to the oven for an hour.
  5. After the hour place the casserole pot onto the hob and add the okra and remaining tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, by which time the okra will have softened.
  6. Before serving cut the beef from the bones and place in a deep bowl and ladle in the broth and vegetables.


Happy New Year and Toor Dal with Fresh Coconut and White Poppy Seeds

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to my new (and old of course!) followers who have recently signed up to this blog.

January is a funny old month. The revelries from Christmas and the New Year are well and truly over and we all look forward to making a fresh start in the new year. With goals, aims, hopes and plans whirling away in our heads, it’s like shedding a skin and growing a new one. Veganuary has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, with increasing numbers introducing more vegan recipes into their diets and some even making the transition to become fully vegan. Whilst I have no plans to ‘do’ veganuary, I naturally eat a number of vegan meals throughout the year without even really thinking about it. Indian food is heavily focused on vegetables with the large majority in India having a vegetarian diet. On this blog I have a number of recipes which would work really well if you want to bring more vegetarian or vegan meals into your culinary repertoire. Here are just a few.

Upma (a savoury breakfast semolina eaten in India)

Dale Bora (a delicious street snack from Kolkata)

Indian sprout and carrot curry

Beetroot curry

Cauliflower with dried fenugreek/methi

Black pepper tofu

Aubergine, peanut and tomato curry

Indian corn on the cob

Butternut, lemongrass, coconut and spinach curry

For my first recipe for 2020 however I thought I would show you a new dal recipe, which just happens to be vegan. I have loads on my blog – just pop the word ‘dal’ in the search box on the right when you go to my blog. Dals all taste so different that I could make a different one each day of the week and they would be completely unique.

This one uses the toor dal, which is also known as ‘pigeon pea’. It looks similar to the chana dal, which is a split chickpea. You don’t need to soak it but it does take around 50 minutes to soften sufficiently if you are using the stove top. When it is gently boiling away you will need to remove, with a spoon, the scum that will form whilst cooking. You may also need to add more water if it looks to become too dry. I never measure out the water and instead go more from sight and add a little more here and there when required.

Excuse the rather dark muted photos of the dal – I cooked it in the afternoon and when I was ready to photograph the light had gone so had to use the lights from my kitchen which give it a pretty awful glow. Anyway you get the gist. I ate it along with a butternut squash curry I made and a cabbage curry mopped up with some homemade luchi – which are also known as poori. Most delicious and all coincidentally vegan.

 Toor Dal with Poppy Seeds and Fresh Coconut

250g toor dal, washed through a couple of times with cold water

900ml water

2 tbsp rapeseed/sunflower oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

30g grated fresh coconut (or desiccated)

a small handful of fresh coriander

100ml water

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tsp white poppy seeds

10 fresh curry leaves (you can freeze them – much better than dried which have lost their taste)

1 heaped tsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tomato, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 fresh lemon, juice only

salt to taste

  1. First rinse the toor dal and then place it in a pan and cover completely with water. Start by adding 900ml water and you can add more later once the water has soaked up. It will take around 50 minutes to soften. Scum will form on the top so just remove this with a spoon and discard. You know the dal has softened when you can easily pinch one toor dal between your thumb and forefinger. Continue to add a little more water if it has all been soaked up.
  2. Meanwhile in a frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil and gently fry the onion and the fresh coconut so that they begin to lightly bronze. Remove from the pan and then blitz in a blender with some fresh coriander and then leave to one side.
  3. Using the same pan add the rest of the oil and add the cumin, mustard and poppy seeds. They will begin to sizzle almost immediately. Be careful of the spluttering.
  4. Add the fresh curry leaves and the ginger-garlic paste – fresh or store bought. Move around the pan and then add the tomato and fresh chilli.
  5. Return the blitzed onion-coconut-fresh coriander to the pan and stir so that all the ingredients are nicely mixed together.
  6. Now add the turmeric, coriander, Kashmiri chilli powder, lemon juice and salt.
  7. Once the dal has softened turn the contents of the frying pan into the dal and mix together. Check the salt levels.
  8. Leave to simmer for a few more minutes, then you are ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 


Fennel and Preserved Lemon Soup

As those who have been following this blog for a while will know, I absolutely ADORE soups. I’m happy to eat them all year round for breakfast (yes, in Vietnam you eat pho – which is their version of a soup/broth – for breakfast), lunch or supper. I am always trying to think of new pairings that might work well and since I had some fennel in my fridge that needed to be eaten I thought I would use that as the star ingredient and built up a few other ingredients around them.

I always have preserved lemons in my fridge so I decided to use them along with a leek. My other go to ingredient, which completely elevates dishes and which I do go on about a lot on my instatories, is my garlic confit. Seriously it takes very little effort to make a batch, stores in the fridge for ages, and really adds huge flavour to a host of dishes. In fact, it would make a great Christmas gift for any foodie friends or family. It shows thought and I bet the receiver would love you forever (although I am sure they already do ;o) anyway I digress.

The other ingredients are vegetable stock – I literally just used a stock cube, water, pepper and salt. I decided to top each soup with a parmesan crips and some of the fennel fronds to add a bit of umami to the dish (coming from the parmesan). If you are on instagram go to my stories and you can watch me cooking the dish on my instastories.

I think this soup would be a good one over the Christmas season if you are cooking for large groups. We always have a starter at each meal when the whole family gets together, so I will be definitely adding this one to my repertoire over Christmas.

 

Fennel and Preserved Lemon Soup

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp garlic confit including around 5 garlic cloves from the confit

2 fennel, finely chopped (fronds removed and placed to one side)

1 leek, finely sliced

1-2 preserved lemons, finely chopped

1.2 litres water

1 vegetable stock cube

salt and pepper

 

Parmasan Crisps

will make 6

50g parmesan, finely grated

freshly ground black pepper

 

 

  1. Finely cut the fennel, removing the fronds and placing them to one side – you can use these later when serving the soup.
  2. Finely cut the leeks.
  3. Heat a large deep pan an add the garlic confit – oil and a few of the garlic cloves. This is what will really give the soup flavour and depth. Move around the pan and then add the fennel, leeks and a little salt and allow them to sweat and soften for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the preserved lemon. Add one to begin with, you can easily add one more later if you want it more lemony.
  5. Add the vegetable stock and boiling water and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  6. Using a hand blender, blend the soup so that it is completely smooth. You many need to add more water if you want it less thick in consistency. Taste test and then add a little more salt and freshly ground pepper. Also check on how lemony the soup is. If you would like it more so, add one more preserved lemon. It’s really down to personal preference so taste test and see what you think. Personally I like to add two.
  7. To make the parmesan crisps, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  8. Finely grate the parmesan and then place them in round piles and flatten to approx 2 inches in diameter on the greaseproof paper. Space them out as they will spread slightly. Add a little freshly ground black pepper on top.
  9. Heat in the oven for 6-8 minutes, so that they begin to lightly bronze, then remove and allow to cool.
  10. When serving the soup place a couple of ladles in each bowl and then add a parmesan crisp, some fennel fronds and sound freshly ground pepper.

Delicious. I hope you agree.

 


Indian Sprout and Carrot Curry – perfect for this time of year

This recipe I posted way back in 2012 (yes my blog has been running for that long!), but unless you scroll my recipe library you are unlikely to know it is even there. Quite frankly, it’s fab and will win over even the non-sprout lover amongst us. Seriously. Basically, by adding a touch of spice, it elevates the humble sprout. We are beginning to see them in the shops so I urge you to give this recipe a whirl when you are next mulling over what to cook. Give it to your family, flat mates, friends and don’t tell them what it is and I can bet you they will love it and ask for more. Mention the word ‘sprout’ however and then they may not even give the dish a chance.

My mother-in-law originally taught me this many years ago and now it’s a firm favourite in my Indian culinary repertoire.  If you cook it alongside a dal it makes a perfect vegan meal. I suggest my go to ‘Bengali Red Split Lentil Dal’ would be the perfect accompaniment. Both dishes can be prepared and cooked within 30 mins and  are very affordable, healthy and tasty. It’s a win win win.

Indian Sprout and Carrot Curry

Serves 4

325g sprouts, finely sliced

300g carrots, grated

1 green chilli, finely sliced (optional)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 level tsp turmeric

1 tsp nigella seeds (kalo jeera)

1 tsp salt

100ml water

1. Finely slice the sprouts, grate the carrots and, if using, finely chop the chilli. I tend to leave the seeds in, but to make it less spicy just remove the seeds.

2. Heat a pan with oil and add the nigella seeds. After 10 seconds add the chilli and turmeric and stir in together for a further 10 seconds.

3. Add the sprouts and carrots and stir well with the other ingredients. Continue to stir continuously on a medium heat so that the carrots and sprouts soften and do not burn. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the ingredients as you gently stir.

4. After a few minutes of stirring add 50ml of water and stir into the curry. You may find that you do not need to use the remaining 50ml of water if the sprouts and carrots are sufficiently softened. Add the salt to taste. Continue stirring for a further 5-7 minutes and the dish will be done.

Nigella seeds (above)


10 Minute Vegetable Noodle Broth

Earlier this week I popped the photo above onto my instagram feed. It was a last minute speedy photo, not really styled, but a quick snap before I dived in. I hadn’t given it much attention but thought I would pop it up on my feed. It was simply a quick broth that I had thrown together in 10 minutes one lunch time. I hadn’t made the broth from scratch by boiling up the bones/veg, it was a quick fix that hit the spot and fast.

It had such a positive response with a number of people asking me for the recipe that I thought I would pop it up on my blog so you can all see how quick and easy it is to prepare.

In fact I have popped up very similar recipes on my blog to this one over the last few years. Check out the following. All equally delicious and pretty simple to make as you will see.

 

Fragrant Lemongrass and Ginger Salmon Broth

Chiang Mai Noodle Broth

Miso Chilli Vegetable Noodle Broth

King Prawn Noodle Broth

 

So for the one I made earlier this week the magic ingredient is my garlic confit. Have you tried making it? I popped it up on a post in the summer and all I can say is that it is now my fridge staple.

If you haven’t made a batch then simple add olive oil and add 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped. Let me know how you get on if you make it and tag me #chilliandmint @chilliandmint on your instagram feeds. Happy lunch time eating all. Life’s too short to rely on sandwiches and salads every lunch.

10 Minute Vegetable Noodle Broth

serves 2

2 tbsp of garlic confit oil or regular olive oil if you have not made my recipe above

4 garlic confit cloves or 4 regular garlic cloves, chopped

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin removed and finely chopped into batons

3 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 red or green chilli, finely chopped, optional

1 heaped tbsp of white miso paste

1 pint boiling water

1 tbsp light soy sauce

8 broccoli florets, chopped in half

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

2 packets of udon noodles

2 eggs

10 cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

handful of fresh coriander

sprinkling of Japanese togarashi

 

  1. Gently lower the eggs into a pan of boiling water. If you want soft boiled eggs leave for 6 minutes max and if you want hard leave them for 8 minutes.
  2. In another pan, heat the garlic confit oil and garlic in a pan. If you have not made a batch of garlic confit – do seriously – you won’t look back after you have made one batch. Otherwise use olive oil and some fresh garlic roughly chopped. Move around the pan for a few minutes.
  3. Add almost all the  ginger batons, spring onions and chilli (if adding) followed by the miso paste and light soy sauce. Move around the pan for 20 seconds and then add the boiling water. I never actually measure out the water so add a pint and if you think it needs more, which it may well do add a little more.
  4. Add the udon noodles and broccoli and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, spinach and leave for 1 minute before turning off the heat. Taste test the broth and add more miso paste, soy sauce, boiling water to your liking.
  6. Remove the eggs from the pan and run under cold water whilst you remove the shell – you will find it easier to remove the shell this way. Cut them in half lengthways.
  7. Ladle the broth and noodles into deep bowls then add a good handful of fresh coriander, the remaining fresh ginger batons and place the eggs on top. Sprinkle some Japanese togarashi on top.

I often like to add a little Sriracha on top.

So easy and great for lunch or supper whether you are on your own or with company.

Slurping compulsory. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Indian Panch Phoron Damson Achaar

After chatting on instagram with my friend Harriet, aka ‘The Nutritional Bean’ about damsons and what to do them – damson wine or chutney was my go-to response, my mother independently called me moments later to ask if I wanted any. Seeing it as a sign, I said yes and she arrived later that day with said damsons, as well as a bounty of other fruits and veg from the garden. Juicy sweet yellow plums, pears and some runner beans and tomatoes. The damsons were so ripe that they were about to turn and go off, so I felt an Indian achaar (chutney) would be a good way to work with them quickly. Indian achaar is different from those made with vinegar, which allows them to keep for a month or two. An achaar is often made and eaten on the same day with dal, rice and/or curry. Whatever fruit or vegetable that needs eating you can make into an achaar. This is my mango  achaar recipe.  They are always deliciously tangy, spicy, sweet and sour and work so well with Indian and Sri Lankan food.

The magic ingredient, which I have spoken about many times over the last nine years of writing this blog, is the Bengali five spice known as ‘panch phoron’. It is often used in achaar in West Bengal. You can either make your own – by reading this post – or you can pick up panch phoron at any Asian grocers and I have even seen some of the large supermarkets stock it. When it comes to de-stoning the damson you can either do it the long way (which was my option) by cutting it half and then scoping out the stone or invest in a cherry and olive pitter, which will also fit damsons. It’s definitely on my Christmas wish list.

 

Like all chutneys it does involve adding a good measure of sugar to counterbalance the acidity. As you will only be eating one or two spoonfuls per person per sitting, it ends up balancing itself out, but be aware that it does seem quite a lot at first glance. Taste test as you go and if you find your damsons are not too acidic then you can add less sugar.

Whilst you can eat the chutney with Indian snacks, curries or dal, the achaar also works really well with cheese. It lasts in the fridge for 3-4 days. Have you had any damsons this year? If so how are you using them? I would love to know.

 

Indian Panch Phoron Damson Achaar

Makes a small bowl full

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 small dried red chillies

1 tsp panch phoron/Bengali five spice

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

655g (or thereabouts) damsons, stone removed

2 tbsp raisins, optional

1 tsp grated ginger

3-4 tbsp sugar (you can use caster or brown)

salt, to taste

 

  1. In a deep pan heat the oil and then add the 2 dried chillies. Allow them to begin to darken – it may make you cough a little – this is normal.
  2. Next add the panch phoron (fenugreek, nigella, fennel, black mustard, cumin seeds) and allow them to begin to splutter.
  3. Next add the turmeric quickly followed by the damsons. Give a good stir then add the fresh ginger and raisins.
  4. Add the sugar, a little at a time and taste as you go. Depending on the acidity of the damsons depends on how much you will require.
  5. Allow to bubble away on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add a little salt if required.
  6. Allow to cool and serve with Indian food or cheese, it works really well with both – just probably not together.

 


Brown Lentil, Smoked Sweet Paprika and Parsley Soup

Continuing on the theme of lasts weeks post I wanted to show you a recipe that incorporates garlic confit.

So who has made it yet? Be honest!

Basically garlic confit is great in soups, stews, broths and pastas. It adds warmth, flavour and many delicious notes to a dish.

You will wonder how on earth you survived without it until now.

The soup I wanted to show you I’ve made a few times since my discovery of garlic confit. It takes minutes to prepare and is addictively delicious. The brown lentils I use are the ones in glass jars, as I just think they taste a whole lot better. If you can only find the tinned ones then absolutely use those – it will still taste great.

I love soups whatever the weather but I know that it is not customary to eat hot soups in hot weather here in the UK. In India it is quite different and hot soups are eaten even in 35 degrees heat. This recipe does have autumnal tones and I think that it will appeal to a wide audience as the days get cooler – at least I hope so.

Brown Lentil, Smoked Sweet Paprika and Parsley Soup

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp oil from the garlic confit

8 confit garlic cloves

1 small white onion, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika

400g brown lentils

1 tbsp tomato puree

800ml of stock – vegetable or chicken

salt to taste

2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley chopped

juice of half a lemon

 

  1. In a large deep pan – I love to use my Le Creuset pot – add the garlic confit oil, along with 8 garlic confit cloves. Allow to heat up and then add onion and allow to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes and smoked sweet paprika to the onion and garlic confit.
  3. When the tomatoes have softened, add the brown lentils and the tomato puree followed by the stock.
  4. Allow to come to the boil and then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste and then add the fresh flat leaf parsley and lemon juice.
  5. Serve immediately with some crusty bread.

 


If there is one thing you do this summer ………make Garlic Confit

Not so long ago ‘garlic confit’ entered my world. I had kindly been given the wonderful cookbook ‘Gjelina – Cooking from Venice California’ from a good Californian friend who knows I love the restaurant. I spoke more about it here. Flicking through the pages I saw a number of confit recipes so opted to try the garlic confit first. Of course I had heard of garlic confit, but never really had it to hand in my fridge. It is has now become one of my favourite fridge essentials, along with my chipotle of course.

It is really straight forward to make and the flavours it transmits in a dish are PHENOMENAL. The garlic cloves are slow cooked, which gives them a deliciously unctuous taste and texture and the oil they sit in is liquid gold that equally transforms a recipe. It’s one of those things that you wished you had cooked years ago – hence my enthusiasm to urge you to make a batch yourselves.

 

 

The only vaguely time consuming part is peeling 8 heads of garlic but that’s where your other half/children/neighbours/friends popping over for coffee, come in handy.

Would love to hear if you actually make it so please leave a comment in the comments section below.

Next week I will show you a deliciously easy recipe that includes garlic confit.

Garlic Confit

Makes around 1kg

8 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

12 fresh thyme sprigs

3 bay leaves, bruised

500ml extra-virgin olive oil

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and place them in an oven proof dish.
  3. Add the bay leaves, fresh thyme and extra-virgin olive oil.
  4. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes so that they are lightly browned but still hold their shape.
  5. Allow to cool completely and then transfer to an airtight container.
  6. Place in the fridge and use when needed. They will last for up to 2 months, but I can assure you you will finish them way before the 2 months is up.

 


Roasted Fennel with Orange and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Friends from California came and stayed at the weekend and gave me the Gjelina cookbook, which I have been cooking from ever since. My goodness it is good. Having received it on Saturday I have since cooked 4 recipes:

garlic confit

roasted yams/butternut squash with honey, red pepper flakes and lime yoghurt

roasted cauliflower with garlic, parsley and vinegar

roasted fennel with orange and crushed red pepper flakes)

I plan to cook a 5th (grilled squash with mint-pomegranate pesto, which is on the front cover below) tonight, so I guess you could say I’m rather smitten with the book.

For those of you in the dark, Gjelina just so happens to be one of my favourite restaurants in LA. As it says in the book cover: “In Southern California, there’s no restaurant that better expresses the energy and cool excitement of Venice Beach than Gjelina” and I couldn’t agree more. It epitomises grain and vegetable centric, globally inspired cuisine, which suits me down to the ground. It has echo’s of Ottolenghi’s tomes – think za’atar and pomegranate molasses infused dishes – but the thing I automatically liked about it is that the recipes are those you actually want to cook and share with friends and family, also they are dead easy and if you don’t have an ingredient you can ad lib and make your own additions. The photos and props are also definitely the style that I love.

I have a large pot of garlic confit sitting in my fridge now, like the one above. I can’t wait to make their version of mushroom toast – I mean how divine does it look?. This would definitely appeal to my father who also has a deep fondness to mushrooms, like myself.

So last night I made the ‘roasted fennel with orange and crushed red pepper flakes’. I couldn’t find any blood oranges so I used a regular orange. I also played around with the measurements here and there to suit me. The final dish was delicious and is perfect with a roast chicken, fish or perhaps some other vegetable dishes. Great for summer gatherings. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

 

Roasted Fennel with Orange & Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 

2 fennel bulbs, cut into wedges and the stem into thin slices, reserve the fronds

1 large orange, peeled and cut into segments

60ml extra-virgin olive oil

flaked sea salt

80ml fresh orange juice

30ml masala wine (they use 60ml of white wine but I none to hand)

60ml of vegetable stock (I used my homemade poussin stock which is so flavoursome)

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

freshly ground black pepper

  1. Prepare the fennel bulbs and then in a large frying pan warm the olive oil. When it is hot add the fennel wedges so that the cut sides are against the bottom of the pan to get a good sear.
  2. Cook until the fennel is caramelised, which takes about 3 minutes. Turn over, using tongs, and caramelise the other side for a further 3 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and toss in the fennel stems and continue to cook for another 2 minutes so the stems are well-browned.
  4. Now add the orange juice, wine and stock and let reduce do that the sauce thickens and the fennel is seared and starting to softened – this should only take a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour onto a serving platter and garnish with the fennel fronds, orange segments.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Super easy and super delicious. I hope you agree.

 

 

 


Grand Blogger Dinner 2019 in the Stunning St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and Watermelon Granita Recipe

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

It’s not everyday that you get invited to the inaugural ‘Grand Blogger Dinner’ in London hosted by Alwin, CEO and co-founder of the creative agency @mrgoodiebag, which is based in the Netherlands in fact. The company has been hosting similar decadent dinners across other European cities and their most recent launch was in London at the stunning ‘Renaissance Hotel St Pancras’.

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

Forty food bloggers were invited to attend the sumptuous dinner that a select group of food brands had helped to inspire a different course. The proceedings started however with drinks and canapés, by what has to be one of the most incredible staircases in London.  I discovered the Spice Girls used it in their ‘Wannabe’ single. It is also the staircase that was part of the original Midland Grand Hotel, designed by George Gilbert Scott, which opened in 1873. Amusingly it was made extra wide  to allow ladies to pass each other with their wide bustle dresses. Can you imagine?

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

Peter’s Yard, a brand I was already familiar with, as I adore their sourdough crisp bread, inspired all the canapés.  The smoked salmon, sour cream, salmon caviar, edible flower and leek ash were particularly standout. These were accompanied with deliciously light and fresh sparkling wine by Familia Torres Wines.

Photographs by @annekejagerphotography

 

It gave us all the opportunity to get to know fellow invitees before Alwin, our host for the night, welcomed us and spoke about the various brands that we were going to come across over the course of the evening.

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

After our meet and greet we were then ushered into the most magnificent room that was to host the dinner itself.

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

Pretty spectacular hey? I loved the floral arrangements and then discovered they were fakes – but rather brilliant ones don’t you think? They were made by @casashops

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

The menu was included in a little booklet which outlined which brand was supporting the course.

  • trio of canapés with sourdough crisp bread by Peter’s Yard @petersyard
  • red shrimp crudo on orange and strawberry panzanella with aceto balsamic di modena’ by Ponti @pontiofficial
  • pearl barley ristotto, laverstoke burrata, fresh English peas, pea tendrils, lemon, ramson flowers @stpancrasren
  • watermelon granita with natural goats milk yogurt @sthelensfarm
  • galletto all’arrabbiata with delicious anchovy fillets in olive oil and peppers @delicius_official
  • authentic Italian artisan gelato @remeogelato

Quite a feast don’t you agree?

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

Each course was paired with a different wine and we were given a brief introduction to each one. Standouts for me were:

Purgatori 2014 Costers Del Segre

Vina Esmeralda 2018

The evening went by really quickly – always a sign of a good evening. It was great to get to know others who are equally passionate about food and were happy to photograph it at length without any ‘oh hurry up’ or sarcastic remarks from our other halves.

Above is me pictured with (from left to right)  @anders_kitchen @kokkiecooking @eathappyfeelgood @emmaeatsandexplores and @endofthefork Do check out there feeds and blogs – all so inspiring and creative.

After a quick round of photos we were handed the most incredible goodie bags – I’m surprised I managed to carry it all home – and said our farewells and thank yous before heading off into the night.

 

Back at home I decided to make the watermelon granita again for the family. It’s perfect when you have a super hot day and need cooling down. Here are my efforts:

It’s absolutely delicious and easy to make ahead of time. The only part you need to do last minute is the blitzing of the iced watermelon in the blender.

Check out the recipe below and give it a whirl this summer

Watermelon Granita with Natural Goats’ Milk Yogurt

recipe created by St Helen’s Farm for the Grand Blogger Dinner 2019

serves 8

1 small watermelon (approx 1.8kg)

60g stem ginger in syrup

2 limes

1/2 bunch of fresh mint (approx 15g)

8 tbsp St Helen’s Farm Natural Goats’ Milk Yogurt

 

  1. First prepare the watermelon by removing the rind and chopping into small chunks and removing the seeds.
  2. Roughly chop the ginger and place in a large sealable freezer bag with the watermelon chunks.
  3. Finely grate in the lime zest, juice and then freeze for at least 8 hours (I froze mine for a few days as I wanted to have it ready for a hot day)
  4. When ready to serve, pick and reserve the baby mint leaves then put the rest into the food processor along with the contents of the freezer bag. You may need to do this is batches so that it is properly blitzed.
  5. Serve 2 heaped tablespoons of the ‘pink snow’ granita per person with 1 tbsp of goats’ yogurt, a drizzle of ginger syrup from the jar and a few baby mint leaves.

 

I was kindly invited to this event. All views and opinions are my own.