Almost one week has passed since my visit to London. As I am sure I have already mentioned in previous posts (here and here) London for me is synonymous of friendships. Nothing better of a vibrant metropolis filled with friendly faces and great food to ease the mind from a life of routine boredom.
This time around though the friendly call was accompanied by a call to action. It was the Food Bloggers Connect weekend and I was asked by the organizer Bethany to present few talks on food science.
The few weeks immediately preceding the conference were dedicated to get a clean layout for each of the talks. As time passed by, performance stress increased (as every perfectionists, I am never satisfied with my own work).
The day I was scheduled to leave for London approached faster than expected, especially when you start skipping days of the week in your head. But let me step back a little bit; it was a nice sunny day, it was a Friday and I was scheduled to leave on the following Tuesday. I decided to give myself a day off before a weekend of cooking (I had to cater the birthday party of a friend). I was on my way to my usual cafe when a rapid succession of sms and short calls with friends made me realize that it was actually Saturday! After a few head smacking and curses to my inner-self, I had to rush and get the things ready for the party the next day; goodbye relaxed day!
Anyhow, I made it into London all in one piece to find my dear friend Asha waiting for me at St Pancras International. The train ride to our favorite Food-Bloggers B&B (aka Sarka's house) took roughly 1 hour, enough time to catch up and enjoy our second meeting in more than 4 years of friendship. Unfortunately she had to go back to New York the next day, instead of spending the week together as originally planned, but we did make the most of the time we had together (namely drinking much of the house collection of rums and talking about photography and art while the rest of the household was busy organizing FBC).
Considering when in what state we all made it into bed that night, I was thankful that the next day was simply dedicated to more friends and touristic activities with my dear Giugiu of Juls Kitchen.
By sheer luck, Asha had planned to meet Jeanne of Cooksister for lunch and being her one of my dearest Londoner friends, I jumped onto the wagon and self-invited myself to their lunch-date. Unfortunately, at the last minute, Asha realised that if she wanted to catch her plane she couldn't join us for lunch. After a few misap with the phone lines, I managed to catch Jeanne at the restaurant: Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen.
From the start, the restaurant felt vibrant and inviting.
Set in a building of new construction, the restaurant develops onto two floors featuring really high ceilings giving the rooms that airy spaciousness typical of industrial buildings. The metal pipes running all around us, now for the air conditioning, now as a post-modern light fixture, stressed this industrial feeling while the white-tiled wall of the upstairs room made it clear that we were into an establishment dealing with food (perhaps a new chapter of Les Halles food-market in Paris).
The furniture chosen to set the spaces were something to look at and envy, especially for food or lifestyle photographers. An assorted collection of chairs and armchairs dating back to the '70s (or even earlier), ensured a comfortable sitting as well as a reason to browse the room trying to inventory all the different specimens around us.
And if this wasn't enough to keep your eyes busy, while you waited for your orders, the collection of table-lamps perched here and there on the masonry divisions surely kept us busy for a while.
The food is simple, straightforward and bold in flavors.
Me and Jeanne opted for two appetizers and a main course to share: the warm beetroot tart served with goat milk curd, pine-nuts, bitter greens and a drizzle of honey; the potted beef with corny-mustard, homemade piccalilli and buckwheat crackers and the braised lamb neck served with gremolada sauce and polenta fries.
The appetizers were simple and unfussy, a perfect start to a meal. The sweet and earthy beetroot with the richness of the goat milk curds paired beautifully with the meaty textures and sharpness of the potted beef dish.
The lamb neck was tender and juicy, with just a hint of the barnyard aromas characteristic of lamb. The definite use of tomato paste in the finishing sauce made it a perfect companion to the zesty gremolada sauce. The chosen side of polenta fries put the dish firmly in the tradition of Northern Italy with enough playfulness to make it an unpretentious luncheon choice.
We couldn't skip on dessert naturally, especially when cheesecake was on the menu. The vanilla cheesecake tower was served with crunchy oats, raspberry sorbet and fresh raspberries.
More than a traditional cheesecake, Chef Ramsay's interpretation reminded me more of the decadent panna cottas I had tasted around the Turin areas; its richness and vanilly-sweetness being perfectly balanced by a raspberry flavour bomb in form of frozen sorbet.
The crunchy oats were a nice alternative to the classical crumb crust despite their tendency to get stuck in between our teeth.
A very caring and warm service coupled with a flavor packed and simple lunch made the experience memorable and ground for a sure repeat.
Now back to us, it is the beginning of October and as for every month, this means Secret Recipe Club time! This month I got assigned Barbara's blog "Barbara Bakes".
Roaming through Barbara´s blog is always a pleasure. She has an extensive collection of baked goods and very straight to the point posts. At first I expected an all-sweet blog but Barbara actually has some rather inviting savory dishes (often of Italian inspirations) like this Frittata or these Cannelloni di Magro. Being just back from London I couldn't skip on her Buttermilk Biscuits to which I gave a little Lebanese twist in honor of my dear friend Bethany.
Zahtar Buttermilk biscuits
Ingredients (make 6 5x5cm/2x2" squares):
- 1 cup/100g all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon zahtar spice mix
- 3 tablespoons grated frozen butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon milk
Preheat your oven to 250°C/475°F.
In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients with a whisk until well combined. Dump the grated frozen butter into the flour mix and rub it in until it all resembles bread crumbs with little pieces of butter here and there.
Add the olive oil and and almost all the buttermilk to the flour mix and gently work it into a dough. If the dough looks too dry, add more butermilk.
Transfer the dough onto the counter and gently knead it a few times to compact it and spread well the olive oil.
Form a plank roughly 2cm/3/4" high and cut your scones either using a knife or a cookie cutter. Transfer the biscuits to a no-stick baking tray, gently brush the top of each biscuit with some of the milk and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.
Move the biscuit to a cooling rack to stop the cooking process and enjoy while still warm!