Clarence Court Eggs and the Heston Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding

What could be better than having Mark Hix expound personally on why he recommends Clarence Court eggs at a select tasting in the private dining room at Hix Soho? Better than doing a blind comparison of three egg brands via steaming plates of creamy scrambled and perfectly presented boiled eggs? Better than the eggselent* three course eggy menu that was served up to us afterwards?
The answer is “Taking home 2 doz eggs in an Orla Kiely goodie bag”. BRING IT ON.

Mark Hix talked to us about why he’s a Clarence Court Ambassador (partly the vivid yellow colour of the egg yolks – as he said, you eat with your eyes too), chattered about the modern art (all of the art in the restaurant was specially commissioned) and we had Tonnix wine to drink (a collaboration between him and Mitch Tonks, conceived over a lunch at their mutual Portuguese wine merchant, label designed by their mate Tracey Emin) and tried different a trio of egg dishes.  I loved the posset which surprised me – usually not a fan of that type of dessert.

I’m already a fan of Clarence Court’s Burford Browns, and as it happened we’d just shopped so I was looking at a fridge containing 36 eggs. It’s not that big a fridge. First off, a luxurious Saturday breakfast of boiled duck egg and sourdough toast. (if only we’d had truffles too we could have tried to recreate our favourite Tristan Welch starter at Launceston Place) After 5:40 mins precisely as mandated by Delia, they were little pools of yolky sunshine and my only complaint was I hadn’t been offered two of them. The chef pointed out that they’re bigger than chicken eggs. I  tried to nick some of his and had to make do with purloining toast.

I’d contemplated making quail scotch eggs but on an evening when I knew I had to use up 500g of mince, the boyf had an inspired idea: thanks to his flicking through Nigella’s “Kitchen“, we ended up with Meatloaf.

Rather than the chicken eggs which she naturally suggests, I used one duck egg to bind it all admirably and nestled 10 hardboiled quail eggs into the centre of the meat. It works a treat as every slice has a reasonable allocation of egg throughout.

Finally I decided to attempt my grandmother’s custard to finish the eggs – I reckoned it would be the perfect accompaniment to something else in the fridge – the Heston from Waitrose Hidden Orange Pudding. I’d been thrilled when Waitrose sent me one and then hesitated to open it. My Dad *loves* Christmas pudding and I knew I’d be very popular if I brought it home.
Like “home”, home.
To Ireland, for Christmas. That was a month away at that stage.
Boo. Then Helen kindly said she had lots left over in her fridge and gave me some, and I get to be awarded the “Best Daughter” prize. Win!!

I have to admit, I really liked the pud. Mainly because it smelled just like the one my Mum makes, so it was going to be a winner, though Mum’s pud has certainly never strayed anywhere near an orange, and it’s honestly nothing like a Sussex Pond Pudding (one of my colleagues pointed out that that was where the inspiration probably came from) but I like the whole nuts and the sweetness – it was rather less stodgy than Christmas pud can regrettably be.  Famously, it sold out and there wouldn’t be any more on offer as they take too long to mature.  That makes feel almost churlish saying how well it went with proper egg custard, made with one of the last Burford Browns.

Ingredients

  • 1 Burford Brown egg yolk, at room temperature.
  • 10 g sugar
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod or vanilla essence to taste

Method

  1. Mix the milk and sugar in a saucepan
  2. Put the vanilla seeds or essence into the mixture to infuse and then bring it slowly to the boil
  3. Beat the egg yolk
  4. Slowly pour the hot mixture over the egg yolk , beating constantly so the yolk doesn’t curdle
  5. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly while heating gently until it coats the back of the spoon.

Now it’s on to a dry January, and a vast stacked of Post-It’d book marks.  Lots of new recipes to try this year.

Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

It was all in the name of clearing the pantry, I swear it. Also in response to a plantive request to resurrect baking, which has been sadly lacking in this household of late. This is an adaptation of an adaptation of an Elinor Klivan’s recipe.

Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Indulgent and very intensely chocolately. I used higher cocoa-solids chocolate to balance out the fat in the peanut butter. They’re crumbly on the outside and a little fudgy in the middle.  Get a very large glass of milk ready.

Ingredients

  • 125g high cocoa chocolate (Green & Black’s 85%*)
  • 4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter (I used Skippy)
  • 150g flour
  • 30g cocoa
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 125g soft unsalted butter
  • 70g soft brown sugar
  • 40g unrefined caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, cold from fridge
  • 100g 70% chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Set the oven to Gas Mark 3 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, and then stir in the peanut butter once cooled.
  3. Sieve the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into a big bowl.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar and then add the chocolate peanut butter mix.
  5. Beat in the vanilla and egg and the dried ingredients until everything is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate.
  6. Divide into 12 portions (an ice-scoop is useful here)
  7. Cook for 18 minutes, cool on the tray.

One thing that would improve these even more would be throwing in a handful of chopped jumbo salted peanuts. Next time.

*Disclaimer – you can use any high cocoa chocolate, I do work for Green & Black’s and I’m lucky to have quite the supply in the house at the moment.

London Supper Clubs: Trail Of Our Bread and the Awesome Birthday Cake

I’ve been known of late to use and abuse the word ‘awesome’, though once I would have shunned it. But ‘awesome’ is the only word to describe the fantastic ‘surprise course’ at Trail of Our Bread on Saturday. A work of sugarcraft art – but how did it taste?

We’ve been to this supperclub before to review, then were gutted to miss out on the Ocean Commotion evening.

We saw some familiar faces when we arrived and I’ll bet they’ll write more complete accounts of what we ate – it was my night-before birthday celebration so I was glad to have any photos come out at all.  We started with chestnut and chorizo soup, laden with caramelised onions. I could have eaten bucketloads (classy, me).   Seconds were offered but previous supperclub experience finally came to bear and I (uncharacteristically) restrained myself, ostensibly in order to enjoy each and every course. Realistically, so that I wouldn’t need to be rolled out.

:: Fideo* pasta with garlic butter ::

:: Rabbit with petit pois, lettuce, cider and spiced glazed chicory ::

:: Rhubarb Fool with ginger shorbread ::

The main course was (Easter) bunny which again was something I’ve never cooked – or eaten for that matter. I was treated to two saddles, though I was assured that the meat on the bone was just as flavoursome. Thanks to a surprisingly good bottle of Chapel Down and a decent Cabernet Sauvignon that we were making our way through, I’m a touch cloudy about the exact order in which the next courses arrived.

There was the wibbly but tasty experimental citrus jelly, the set and ludicrously moreish Absinthe jelly, and then Jim, our host, made an announcement.

For the duration of the evening, a surprise had been hidden in plain view, right beside me.  Jim knew that it was my birthday and he suggested making a cake – which Anna baked and decorated from scratch (she asked the boyfriend “What does she like?” “Meringues.” “Sod that, I’m not making a meringue”).  It was a layered sponge with buttercream, jam and fondant.  The sugarcrafted poppy was fab, and the touch of genius was using crushed Oreos for the soil.  You paused before taking a mouthful, it was so fantastically realistic.

You never know quite what you’ll get at a supper club.  This time around we had lots of new things to try (for me, rabbit and absinthe included) and shared our table with a great bunch of girls and the odd wildcard. Group photos aren’t the norm but we had those too.  The set dressing – including Alice in Wonderland style TOOB goodiebags – was imaginative and sparked conversation, including whether we really should ‘Drink Me’ or not, when faced with little cork-stoppered bottles filled with what might have been absinthe or Fairy Liquid (vodka with colouring).

Thank you so much to Jim and Anna for making it such a fun night, and especially for the awesome flower pot – and yes, it did taste as good as it looked!  That’s definitely out of the ordinary for novelty cakes – and hell, anyone who knows me know how fussy I am about baked goods.  Anyone need a bespoke cake for an event?  I recommend you contact and try to cajole her.

*I think that’s what the pasta was… and more photos are here

Hawksmoor Breakfast

Is the bottomless coffee on the menu yet?

We went along to the soft launch of Hawksmoor’s brunch a couple of weeks ago.  The menu’s initial launch was eagerly greeted around here because it affords the 9-5/M-F crowd the opportunity to try the much lauded burger, supposedly one of the best in London.

We went for the shared breakfast that day instead.  What arrived was the mountain of carniverous delights that you see above.  Bacon chop. Ginger Pig special recipe Sausages. Black Pudding. Fried Eggs. Field Mushrooms. Tomatoes. Short Rib Bubble and Squeak. Marrow. Dripping Toast. Some green stuff as a token and Onion Marrow gravy on the side.

:: Marmalade Martini, Bottomless Bloody Mary #10 mix, rehydration OJ ::

I was feeling slightly delicate after a late night and so the marrow might have been a step too far. Curiously I’d just been reading Julie Powell‘s description of her cooking Julia Child’s Bifteck Saute Bercy where she describes marrow sauce as ‘rich, meaty intense, in a nearly too-much way…it tasted like really good sex’ (her italics)  For me it was a step too far that particular morning, or probably would have worked in a sauce.  However overall the meat was perfectly cooked and the Trotter Baked Beans – homemade beans with pulled pork were soft and slightly piquant – fabulous. Next visit, I’d happily have those on dripping toast alone. I coveted the Staub Cocotte horribly too.

:: Trotter Baked Beans ::

:: Shaky Pete behind the bar ::

The bar has quite the Manhattan feel but it’s resolutely British in attitude- as they have pointed out, the word brunch originated here.   We  gave them feedback as requested: interesting to see that the Full English is now available as a single portion and not just for two. Will clarified that you can request the eggs in that dish to be cooked any way you’d like, and we put in our plea for bottomless coffee too.  Tea is more their priority.  I loved how their drinks menu focusses on gin rather than vodka, a refreshing change and the Marmalade Martini was eye-openingly sharp but welcome in the context of such a hearty meal.

Stars *****

The staff are super-sweet and delightfully proud and invested in the restaurant.  I think the way to do the Hawksmoor brunch is at the start of a big weekend, to set yourself right up, probably with a group. And possibly just go for the big one: the Hawksmoor burger for breakfast.

Hawksmoor, 157 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ

020 7247 7392

East London Saturday

It was a stolen day today – our plans for museum visiting and tea with friends were foiled by unforseen work commitments. Not ours. So we were left with an entirely free agenda. Naturally we decided to fill it with food.

First up, a wander through Victoria Park in blazing sunshine, coupled with cold noses from near zero temperatures.  Then veering off through not-so picturesque industrial estates and along darkened underpasses: all to find the Counter Cafe.  When you see the Ca_lton tower, you’re there.

It’s a brunch menu, served throughout the day.  Two super-smooth lattes to start with, complete with the obligatory antipodean feathered milk tattoo. We chose the Big Breakfast and the French Toast and berries with a side of bacon.  Salty and sweet rules my world.  The Big Breakfast includes skinny sausages, fat slices of lean bacon, sunshine yellow fried eggs on wholewheat toast.  Along with crispy homemade potato cakes, homemade butter beans in tomato sauce and superb tomato relish (available in jars to take away).  The French toast – thick square slabs of golden goodness and fried bananas, scattered with sharp berries and flaked toasted almonds and the obligatory miniature jug of maple syrup for pouring.

The crowd is mixed – Guardian-reading couples, friends gossiping over coffee, walkers fresh from the Capital Ring tucking into substantial breakfasts. They consciously try to use organic ingredients where possible.  Interestingly, less families than the often overrun Pavilion in Victoria Park, another local favourite. I’d quite like to potter down to the Counter Cafe on a working day and settle into the old cinema seats by the window, use the wifi and write in the sunshine.

Fliers on the table directed us down to Stour Space, for their monthly Craft Fair.  It’s an artists’ collective and studio space – super friendly people and a nice collection of designer makers.  So many pretty things – sadly so many makers without websites. Grr. (How?? In this day and age? Mutter mutter </rant>).  The fair is on the last Saturday of every month – certainly worth a look.

Following the canal all the way, we wandered to Broadway Market. We’d been promised Hummingbird today as an afternoon sweet treat – but plans for town went out the window. So we came in search of Violet cupcakes. I have to say, I was slightly perturbed when we got home to discover that they were scattered with flecks of ‘dust or something’. I suppose we’d bought them at the end of the day.  Dammit. They still tasted good – better than good. Some of the best I’ve had.

Passionfruit and Blood Orange.  Wonderful once tucked up at home with tea again. Shortly we’re off to another local Supper Club – And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Our Bread. It’s the Evil Menu. Should we be scared?

Weekend breakfast: buttermilk pancakes

Buttermilk is one of those things you get in every Irish supermarket but I usually find it difficult to track down here – that’s to say, my local supermarket doesn’t have it.  Odd, as  approximately a tenth of their floor space is given over to Home Baking, bless whoever their buyer is.  When I do find it, there are two recipes I want to make, and this is one of them: buttermilk pancakes.

I use Scott Jenson‘s recipe, though scaled back as below for two people – you’ll still be stuffed – and to use a single standard container of buttermilk.

The Wets
285ml buttermilk
1 egg
40g melted butter
1.5 Teaspoons Vanilla

The Drys
100g white flour
30g sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp  salt

I think it’s probably the vanilla that lifts these, but leaving the batter for five minutes to allow the bicarbonate to react also makes a difference.  You mix the wets, mix the drys, mix them together without overbeating, then cook a quarter cup at a time on a medium heat.  Get your pan ready and prepare to sacrifice the first pancake – my mother always says it’s ‘one for the pan’.


When crater-like bubbles start to appear, it’s time to add your toppings and flip, particularly for fruit like blueberries, sliced bananas or chopped strawberries. We experimented with chocolate chunks (squares of 80% Green & Blacks, because that was all that was lurking in the cupboard, butchered with a mezza luna) but it was a little too sickly even for me. Adding a small amount of flour-dusted milk chocolate chips shortly after you first pour the batter and it’s lightly set would probably work, allowing the chips to sink into the middle of the pancake and not just make a sticky mess when you turn it.

Plain ones work brilliantly with thin crispy rashers of smoked bacon, and maple syrup. A bottle of Prosecco, and nothing to do for the rest of the day is also recommended.  Best weekend breakfast ever.

Wahaca – Burrito testing

Wahaca Canary Wharf

Back in October, at an event organised by TikiChris for Qype, we spent a very enjoyable evening at the Wahaca site in Westfield, tasting their winter menu and being persuaded of the delights of reposado and añejo tequilas.  Tommi and Mark were keen that we gave them honest feedback that evening and impressively, we subsequently found out that they implemented suggestions the next day. I guess it’s true to say that drink talks: we may have been more vocal than they might have expected on one particular topic. The burrito. Or Cabbagegate as the redtops would probably dub it.

Wahaca’s strength is cooking authentic street food. The only dish I wasn’t wild about that night was the Vera cruz fish – Because European influence is strong in that region and though by itself it’s a delicious and healthy option from the menu, I wanted Mexican that night. Not European and certainly not Tex-Mex.

Wahaca Burrito Testing

That’s the problem with burritos. As Tommi explained this weekend at their newest branch in Canary Wharf (my Londonist review here), in Mexico a burrito is a dense parcel of meat, rice and beans that’s designed to be taken out to the fields: robust enough to survive the journey and fuel a day’s labours. What most of us know and love as a burrito is more of a Californian creation – lashings of cheese, guacamole and piquant sauces. From March, Wahaca will be offering burritos in their new takeaway service and they’re determined to get them right from the outset.  They’re staying as true to their ‘real Mexican’ ethos as possible while making them suitable for takeout and perfecting the flavours and combinations.

One of the biggest issues that the menu tasters had back in October was the presence of that one particular ingredient. I’m not necessarily a massive fan of cabbage at the best of times and it overpowered the vegetable burrito. Um, yes, it may have been me who mentioned the word ‘Sauerkraut’ and the burrito aficionados weren’t having any of it. Apparently one of the immediate changes to the Wahaca menu was a noticable reduction in the pickling vinegar.

Favourites on Sunday included chargrilled steak and slow cooked pork – surprisingly, with a complete absence of cabbage, or at least that’s what it tasted like.   The vegetable burrito oozes juicy mushrooms – I’m just too much of a carnivore to ever order it voluntarily.  Tommi isn’t threatening anyone with that knife, rather she was listening intently to the verdict on the custom burritos that she created.  Oddly enough, the clear winner for us did feature cabbage.  Hell, what do we know?

Stars: *****

Keep an eye on their blog for details of when they’ll launch.  It’s going to be good.  Tasty, filling reasonably priced fresh food. Can’t go wrong, really.