Tuesday

EATING IN SEVILLE

A couple of weeks ago the boy and I took ourselves off to Andalucia for a well earned break. In fact, I had won a weekend at a 5* hotel near Estepona back in Autumn last year, via Quintessentially Travel, so had booked another 7 days on top of that via AirBnb, firstly in Seville then on to Cadiz, before the weekend at the hotel. More on both the hotel and Cadiz in my next few posts, but here I want to tell you about Seville.

I spent a year living in Seville in 2004. I have wonderful memories of lots of good food, interesting tapas bars and great places to drink. Although structurally Seville hasn't changed too much (apart from the addition of trams and tubes!) pretty much everything else seems to have been replaced or upgraded. Yes, there were still a few places I knew and recognised, but the food scene in particular, seems to have taken off in a big way. Gone are many of the small, traditional tapas bars, having been replaced by fusion restaurants, sushi bars and all sorts I would've never expected to see in Seville. 

We set off, armed with various emails and blog links that recommended places to eat, and print offs from Lizzie's blog, Hollow Legs, including her really helpful spreadsheet she compiled from a Seville/Cadiz visit, ready to go. However, on arriving in Seville, I began to realise just how much has changed, even since Lizzie's visit 2 years ago. We hung on to all recommendations, and visited a few of them, but were thrilled to bump into an old acquantance of the boy's and mine, the very talented grafitti artist Seleka, who now runs the wonderful DeLimbo gallery in the centre of Seville, and had a whole load of recommendations of the newest and best places we should go to eat.


But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Day 1. We arrived tired after a very early start, and a late night the night before, hungry and in need of a long siesta. We ducked down to Plaza del Salvador and found a row of bars with tables outside, full of Spanish people drinking beers and eating tapas. We picked the busiest of said bars, and settled down for some prawns and beers, just what we needed pre-nap!


We headed back to the excellent AirBnb flat where we were staying and slept off lunch, only waking in time for dinner. Without too much idea where we were going for dinner, we wandered down to the river, walked along Calle Betis, pulled out Lizzie's spreadsheet and aimed for the nearest recommendation - La Primera del Puente, at the top of Calle Betis, a restaurant designed for beautiful sunny days, sitting and watching the boats go up and down the river. It was not this. Huddled in thick coats, the rain pettled down outside as we joined just one other group in the restaurant. It didn't really matter though, we were there for food, and the food was great. We shared chipirones (whole baby squid), chuletas de cordero (lamb chops) and espinacas (a cooked spinach dish with chickpeas).


All the food was served as massive portions (we were in the restaurant rather than the bar side, so it was only whole portions rather than tapas). I like La Primera del Puente, but it's not one of the new food places in Seville, and compared to the rest of the eateries we visited it did feel a little dated, and although the food was good, the standards only got better throughout our trip.

Day 2 and it was time for lunch at a place recommended by everyone - Bodeguita Romero, on Calle Harinas. I knew that we had to try the solomillio al whisky (pork fillet cooked in whisky) so we ordered that, which was heavenly; some jamon croquetas that were light and fluffy and really well ham flavoured inside, with a crispy coating outside - just perfect. Along with a few more tapas and a couple of beers our bill there came to less than 15 euros between us! (Excuse the photo, I was so excited about the food that I'd eaten half of it before remembering to get the camera out).


I haven't been back to Seville since I lived there 9 years ago so was worried that places I loved then might not be there anymore. This was true with certain places, but luckily, the BEST ice cream parlour I've ever been to is still there. Rayas is many, many years old (I can't find the exact date they established but it was decades ago) and is on Calle Imagen, near the new (and very strange) sculpture building on Plaza de la Encarnacion. They make all the ice creams and flavourings themselves, and offer a huge array of flavours, from all the regular fruit and nut flavours you'd expect, to more exotic sounding ice creams such as fig, meringue, pina colada, banana (declared the best banana ice cream ever by the boy) and nougat.


We settled in the park opposite to eat our 2 scoop and then we found Seleka, with all his ideas of where we should try for food, so things started getting a little more exciting!

We abandoned plans to visit Mariscos Emilio, Calle Gonzalo Segovia, an old favourite of mine from when I lived in Seville (definitely worth a visit though - go and try Bacalao Frito - it's essentially the best glorified fish finger you'll ever eat!) and headed instead to a new restaurant, right next to the Cathedral, called Ovejas Negras, on Calle Hernando Colon. It was recently opened by a chef who'd come from a hugely expensive restaurant that had tried and failed to stay open during Spain's economical difficulties. This isn't a bad thing though - it means that all the chefs working there ended up opening their own, much more affordable and original places. Ovejas Negras is one of these. We wandered in without a booking and they managed to squeeze us in. It has more of a cafe feeling to it than a formal restaurant and the walls were lined with tins of Campbells soup and Heinz baked beans! The menu was much more typically Andaluz though.

We had Galician octopus and tuna tartare, both of which were divine. Fresh and just exploding with flavour, the octopus was sweet with the jamon, and the tuna pierced by the salty capers, they were a real revelation of the new wave of food hitting Seville. Of course, we filled up on their wonderful patatas bravas as well, which were equally delicious.


   

Then a quick amble up to the EME Hotel for an extortionately expensive cocktail on the roof - which was lovely, but I think the point of the roof is the views, and by this point it was raining and dark, so we didn't really win that one! Although after many, many beers it was nice to have a cocktail.

Day 3 (I can't believe we'd eaten all that food in 48 hours!!) was more of Seleka's favourites, and also the boy's birthday. We celebrated with pizza for lunch (his favourite) at a really cool place called La Mia Tana, where each menu is unique, as they are all cut out from a huge piece of art that Seleka did for them last summer. The pizza's weren't bad either!


After another siesta, it was time for the birthday boy's meal. We wandered past Plaza de la Encarnacion, down Calle Regina, which is full of lovely independent shops and cafes, along to the Alameda, which has also changed a lot since I was there! It's a long strip of sandy grass, that's littered with bars, restaurants, cafes and drinking spots. Our destination though was Nikkei on Calle Calatrava, a Peruvian/Japanese fusion restaurant, also run by a friend of Seleka's. Luckily our table was booked for late, so we'd had time to digest lunch's pizza before arriving, and magically, were both actually quite hungry again!

We picked a bottle of nice, local white wine, and the eating began. We started with their salmon salad, which was perfect. Slithers of raw salmon, fresh leaves, crunchy croutons and two dressings - one was creamy and slightly sweet, the other cut through this with its sharper taste.


Next up we shared the tuna tataki - raw tuna, rolled in seaweed and then a very light batter and briefly fried so as to only crisp the batter without cooking the fish. I've never seen or tried anything similar and it was just so good!


On to ceviche for me, but sadly the tigers milk had a little chilli in it, so the boy wasn't able to eat much (he tried a little but even the tiny amount of chilli set him off) so without a seconds hesitation, the restaurant brought out his very own dish - sizzling prawns that crackled as hot oil was poured over them. Both dishes were spectacular - such intensely fresh flavours that packed a massive punch.



Finally, with very full bellies, we ordered the bill. But no, we weren't allowed it yet! They insisted on serving us pudding (to share) which was white chocolate hollows, that when cracked with the chef's special spoon emitted a puff of smoke - all too fast for me to capture on my camera!


We were eventually allowed our bill. And that's where we got the biggest surprise - I was expecting to pay £40+ a head for what we'd had (we had another drink before the bottle of wine) but were presented with this:


43 euros for all of that!!!! Just incredible. Please, if you go to Seville, go and check these guys out. I know it isn't traditional Spanish fare, but it is SO worth a visit! They had heard it was the boy's birthday so kindly also brought us a shot of Pisco sours to send us on our way, along with a little Happy Birthday from the chef.



It really was a perfect meal!

The next morning we jumped in a cab to go and collect our hire car, and drove the 100km down to Cadiz, with the sun finally coming out to greet us on the way. More on that part of our holiday in the next post.

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Sunday

WHO INSPIRES ME

I've been wanting to write this post for a while, I just wasn't sure when the right time was or quite how to write it. But now is the time to write a little something about a woman who inspired me, and still does. Of course, many people inspire me, from my family and friends, to those running the marathon today and raising so much money for good causes, to people who are successful in what they are doing. But this is a post about my Granny.

My beautiful maternal granny passed away unexpectedly at the end of last year. Just the day before, she had been with my parents and she was talking about my latest blog post to them. We had recently got her an iPad and she'd saved my blog on her favourites to read whenever I posted something new. And for that reason I kept writing my blog, I knew she was reading it and that inspired me to keep going, even when it may have felt like no one else was reading it!

My Granny always treated me like a princess. She encouraged and helped me do the things I wanted to do when I was growing up, and I although I never really got to cook for her (apart from helping my mum out when she came to eat at theirs) I do have funny and fond memories of food and her, and my Grandpa, who was a very keen and successful vegetable grower. I'll never forget the time my younger brother and I were having lunch with Granny - we were presented with various salads to help ourselves to, and then she put something on the table I'd never seen before. It was a clear moulded jelly with a curled pink thing inside. I nervously asked what it was, and Granny said "tongue" like it was as normal as saying bacon.... When Ned turned to me and stuck his tongue out I lost my appetite for that meal!! We also used to giggle about the slightly past their best tins of food in the back of the larder at Granny's house, always trying to find something even older! But really Granny was a good cook - she believed in cooking from scratch and using produce sourced locally and ethically, including cooking (a lot) with pheasant from their farm's shoot during the season. And I'll always remember the mulberry birthday cake made with mulberries from Granny and Grandpa's mulberry trees for one of my birthdays when I was younger. The day that my Granny died she had ripped out the recipes from that day's Times newspaper, and was cooking one of the chicken dishes when she sat down and never stood up again. I've managed to track down the recipes - they printed 6 chicken recipes that day, so we are not entirely sure which one it was she was cooking, but I think it was this one - John Torode's coq au vin, so I thought it would be nice to share it with you. I've made it too, and it's a really nice dish.

Serves 4

1 chicken, jointed
50g butter
12 small shallots
100g pancetta cubes
2 garlic cloves
40ml red wine
100g button mushrooms
Handful parsley
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Season the chicken pieces generously. Melt the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan (that has a lid). Add half the pancetta and half the shallots, and fry for a few minutes over a medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and fry until browned. When everything is browned add the garlic, fry for 1 minute then add the red wine. Bring to the boil, then cover with the lid and put in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.

After the chicken has been in for an hour, heat a knob of butter and add the rest of the shallots with a little water. Cook off the water, then add the remaining pancetta and all of the button mushrooms. Fry until golden, then add to the coq au vin.

Serve scattered with parsley, with mashed potato.

And lastly, I couldn't write this blog without including these wonderful photos I found of Granny recently - seems she's always been good with a knife!!

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Wednesday

MY NEXT POP UP - 26th APRIL

Another month, another pop up! I thought I should let you know about my next pop up restaurant, as there are still tickets available, but they do start to sell out around now.

I've got a bumper Spring menu, full of some of my favourite produce for my pop up on Saturday 26th April. The event is at our lovely house in West London, and starts at 7.30pm, and is kind of similar to a dinner party - a large table filled with guests, eating my four course menu, and having a great time. I've had guests from age 11 up to 60+ in the past, from all walks of life, and from all over the world. You can come with a group of friends, in a pair, or on your own, and it's bring your own booze, so you can bring a bottle or 2 of your favourite. I also serve either a welcome cocktail, pudding wine or port to go with the cheese, and there's homemade soft drinks for anyone who wants.

Every component of the food I serve is made from scratch, in my kitchen, with as much as possible being British, seasonal ingredients.

The menu for 26th April is:
 
Hand picked Dorset crab, homemade mayonnaise, remoulade, crusty white bread
 
Slow cooked shoulder of Spring lamb, savoy cabbage, Jersey royal new potatoes, with watercress and wild garlic salsa verde
 
Lemon posset with rhubarb compote and vanilla shortbread biscuits
 
Somerset cheeseboard, tomato chutney and herby salted crackers
 
Coffee/herbal tea served with sticky chocolate balls

If you'd like to come but can't eat or don't like something on the menu, that's fine - when you book there's a comments section where you can mention this. I don't think I've yet done a pop up where I haven't done at least 2 different main courses to cater for everyone's needs.

To find out what my previous guests have thought of the evenings you can see reviews of my last event here or a review written by another of my guests here.

Tickets for my pop up on 26th April are £30 each and can be bought via Grub Club.

And here's a couple of pics of the food my from the last event (although I always forget to take proper photos!)

Crusty white bread:


Beetroot vodka cured salmon for the starter:


Plating up the salmon starter, with uncooked rhubarb crumbles in the background for pud:


The table settings:


Bavette steak sizzling for main course:


Stem ginger and candied hazelnut ice cream, to go with the rhubarb and hazelnut crumble:


And date, coconut and peanut chocolate drying, to be served with coffee:


I hope you can make it along to one of my pop ups! If you have any questions about them, please ask :)
 
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Thursday

TETBURY / TROUBLE HOUSE

Although I live in London, I wasn't brought up here, and am a country girl at heart. So I jump at any opportunity for a weekend away, and we quite often head to either Tetbury in Gloucestershire or East Somerset to see parents. I kind of take it for granted how beautiful both of those areas are, but thought I would do a little blog post on each of the local towns, Tetbury and Castle Cary, in case you're ever looking for somewhere pretty and quaint to visit for a weekend away. Both towns are small, set down one main street, and are full of gorgeous little independent shops and businesses. So this post is about Tetbury, and an excellent local pub, and I will blog about Castle Cary in the not so distant future.

We last went to Tetbury a few weekends ago, when it was gloriously sunny, and felt like Spring had arrived. Fields were full of sheep with lambs, the sky was blue, and we wandered into town without even taking our coats.

Someone had put this sign in the pub window, which made me giggle as it was such a nice day!


Tetbury really is just picturesque:





The shops are full of nik-naks, bits and pieces that I could buy all day long - just imagine all the food styling that could be done with these pieces!






And the clothes shops are amazing too. They stock loads of different independent labels, and the selections, particularly in Qetty Bang Bang are divine:





All so pretty!!

Tetbury has its fair share of places to eat and drink as well, and I've blogged about The Priory a few years ago (and have been back many times since), but there's a new place to eat that has to be my favourite so far - The Trouble House, about a mile outside of Tetbury. I've actually eaten there before, and was pretty impressed then with their really good pub food, using local ingredients. However, the pub has recently changed hands, and luckily for everyone it seems to have got even better!!

Sadly, it's the same old story with my photos - it was very dark in there so really hard to get good shots! Roll on summer!! (At least with the clocks changing this weekend it'll be lighter and brighter in the evenings).

The Trouble House is on the A433 out of Tetbury, towards Cirencester. Rather than a traditional pub, Trouble House is more like a cafe during the daytime, serving homemade cakes and breads, and lunches that they have queues out the door for.

We were there for serious food though, supper! Trouble House is only open for supper on Fridays and Saturdays, and every table was full when we went, so make sure you book ahead if you want to go.

The menu is what I'd consider typical gastro pub food, but it was the quality of the food that really stood out. We started with starters, as you do - mine was confit salmon with braised baby gem, roasted pepper sauce and capers; the boy went for smoked duck salad; and his ma chose the beetroot and goats cheese salad, which was the only useable photo I took of the first course:

The food tasted fresh, with really well thought through flavours. Very impressed with starters it was on to mains. I couldn't resist the ribeye steak with chips and 'steak butter'. The meat was melt in the mouth, and the chips nice and crunchy on the outside and soft inside.

The boy chose (I think) the beef shin - bad blogger that I am, I can't remember if it was definitely shin, but I do remember it was slow cooked in local Uley Ale with little shallots punching through the rich, moreish sauce. The beef just fell apart, and I almost got food jealousy - which was retracted each time I had a bite of my steak!

I also can't remember what the boy's ma had to eat, oops, but I know that we all went home happy, and full of delicious food. Prices were reasonable and what I'd expect to pay for that quality of food, although we were treated by the boy's ma, so thank you Brenda :) The menu at Trouble House changes seasonally so I recommend you just go and check it out yourselves!

If you do fancy a trip to Tetbury, Brenda actually runs a lovely B&B just outside Tetbury. She can accommodate 4 people at a time, and full details are linked above should you need them (a few friends of mine have stayed with her, and have had the most wonderful time).


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Sunday

HOP VIETNAMESE

I've been eating out a lot more than normal recently, which I've been really loving (it's always nice to be cooked for!) Last Tuesday I was very kindly invited to go and check out a new pop up - HOP Vietnamese. The lovely Liv from Grub Club was due to go, but after not being able to rearrange a meeting that clashed she asked if I wanted to go along instead. Which I did!

This was HOP's second pop up, at House of Wolf, a cool cocktail bar set over several floors on Upper Street, near Highbury and Islington. We were greeted at the door and taken to the 1st floor, where a man resembling Ludo Lefebvre from The Taste was serving up delicious cocktails. Sadly, as it was a Tuesday evening and the middle of an already busy week for me, I had decided to not drink, so I stuck to the non-alcoholic versions, which were still really good - refreshing and tasty. I had a raspberry mint fizz, but could've had a chilli and lemongrass Collins or a coconut crush.

 


As I was in Liv's place I was lucky enough to be sitting on a table of really inspiring people who all work in the food business - Monique Borst, a food business development expert, and some of her clients - Detox Kitchen, who provide healthy, meal plans delivered straight to you; Dana, who set up and runs Arganic, selling the finest Argan Oil (who bizzarley I used to work with in a completely unrelated company a few years ago); and the lovely Nicola from Sous Chef, a website that sells amazing cookware, hard to find ingredients and cookbooks.

HOP Vietnamese is run by Paul Hopper who, after travelling round Vietnam, wanted to bring some of the flavours and ideas back here, to recreate for us, and anyone who wants to go to one his pop ups. I believe his plan is to set up a permanent residence for HOP, more details to follow I'm sure.

Seated and settled, it was time for food - after all, that's why we were there! Let the feast begin...

First was an 'amuse bouche' (the largest amuse bouche I've ever seen) of prawn skewered on a lemongrass stick, that we wrapped in lettuce and herbs and dipped in a chilli sauce. Fresh and light it was the perfect start to the meal.

This was swiftly followed by starter #1 - a papaya salad with marinated duck breast, which was my favourite dish of the evening. The salad was zingy and full of flavour, a little sweet, a little sour, crunchy and soft, with perfectly cooked pink duck on top. The textures and flavour combos just worked. 


Next up was starter #2 (!). Pork belly summer roll with hoisin and roasted peanut dip. A wonderful idea, that worked well. I love the lightness of summer rolls and the herbs contrasted perfectly with the fatty pork belly, and it was all brought together by the excellent dip. It had a really deep flavour to it, but didn't overpower any of the others.

On to the main course (whilst trying to tell myself I wasn't full yet!) The main was up there with the duck in terms of personal favourites. Chargrilled lemongrass beef with morning glory and fragrant rice. As I mentioned before I did find the portions to be a bit too big - I don't like to waste food but literally physically couldn't finish my main. I did eat all the meat and veg as it was so yummy, but had to leave a bit of the rice! The beef though was tender and succulent, and again, the flavours balanced perfectly with the slightly salted veggies. I loved the presentation of all the dishes as well.


I thought the table decoration, with branded place mats and postcards was a really nice touch, and Dana's colleague Valentine got all origami on us and made this!


Pudding was mango and coconut. I loved the flavours and they went really well as an end to the meal, but sadly I wasn't a massive fan of the texture of the pudding. But it must've been just me, as most people polished theirs off.



For details about when and where to find HOP next, check their Grub Club page here. It's a great evening out, and a chance to eat some really innovative Vietnamese food.

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