Monday, 27 July 2009

More Gingers, Vicar?: Sea Bass with Aubergine Caviar

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The idea behind this vibrant main course was to prepare something which was not too heavy and would leave plenty of room for dessert. There's nothing worse than a 3 course meal where you get to the end of the main and have no room for pudding - where's the fun in that?!

Our Nom Nom Nom 2009 main course of Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Aubergine Caviar was based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe we'd both seen in a magazine a couple of years ago. The ingredients and vivid colours just shout "summer"!


4 fillets of line caught sea bass

Aubergine Caviar:

2 large aubergines
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves
good olive oil
salt & pepper
2 tomatoes (skinned and deseeded)
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp pepper sauce
fresh basil leaves

Pepper Sauce:

1 red pepper
1 yellow or orange pepper
2 shallots
2 garlic cloves
olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
200ml vegetable stock


Start by preparing the aubergines. Slice the aubergines in half lengthways and place them into a roasting tin, cut side up. Score some holes in the aubergine flesh and stuff with slices of garlic and rosemary. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season. Roast in the oven for at least 45 (until golden brown and cooked) at 180C.

To make the pepper sauce, saute the peppers, shallots, garlic and herbs in about 100ml olive oil for 10 minutes or until softened. De glaze the pan by pouring in the white wine vinegar and letting it evaporate which will only take a minute at most. Add the stock and simmer for about 10 minutes until the stock has reduced.

Remove the cloves of garlic from the pepper sauce and liquidise the sauce until smooth. To get a really smooth sauce, pass it through a sieve.

Next you will need to finish the aubergine caviar. Remove the garlic and rosemary from the aubergines and scrape the flesh out with a spoon. Chop the flesh and add to a bowl with the chopped tomato flesh, balsamic vinegar, pepper sauce and basil. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Wash the sea bass fillets and score the skin diagonally. Season both sides. Heat a pan and then drizzle a little olive oil on the sea bass skin. Add each fillet to the pan skin side down and hold each one down with your fingers or the back of a fish slice for about 30 seconds. Cook for around 2 - 3 minutes on each side and then stand to one side.

Whilst you are cooking the fish you may want to reheat the aubergine caviar and the pepper sauce.

To serve, place a couple of large spoonfuls of the caviar in the centre of each plate, place the fillets of sea bass on top of the caviar and drizzle the pepper sauce around the plate. We served this with buttered spinach, but you could use your favourite seasonal vegetable.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Food for Sharing

Our Big Lunch went off with a bang! What a fantastic day. Even before we'd all sat down to eat together at our long mish mash of tables up the middle of our street we felt like it had all been worthwhile. I caught up with neighbours who I wave to most days and met others who I had honestly never seen before despite them living only 10 doors away. Everyone brought the most amazing homemade and homegrown food - lettuces, tomatoes and courgettes from peoples' gardens, Sri Lankan pastries, huge bowls of colourful salads, sundried tomato bread, tarts and quiches, soups, cinnamon whirls (why oh why did I not get my hands on one of them...?!)... We had magic tricks, a clown on stilts, middle class dub from the back of a morris minor courtesy of Sly and Reggie, giant jenga and a lot of talking. And the rain stayed away!

I wanted to make food to share and also to test out my brownies ahead of my turn on the UKFBA stall at the Covent Garden Real Food Market on 30th July 2009! So I decided to make some vegetarian salads which would go with anything and Delia's Tomato & Goat's Cheese Tart which is not only the simplest tart you can make it is also super, super tasty.

Delia's Tomato & Goat's Cheese Tart


1 pack all butter puff pastry (you can make your own, but are there really enough hours in the day?!)
750g tomatoes (thinly sliced)
150g soft goat's cheese
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
fresh thyme
olive oil
salt & pepper

If you have the ready rolled pastry then just unroll it onto a lightly oiled baking tray. Otherwise, roll out your pastry into a rectangle measuring approximately 15"x12". With a sharp knife, mark a line about 1/2" from the edge of the pastry all the way around without cutting right through the pastry. This allows the pastry to rise at the edge.

Mix the goat's cheese, garlic, seasoning and a good handful of chopped thyme leaves. Spread onto the pastry base. Layer the tomato slices in lines on top of the cheese mixture, overlapping as you go. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and lay some thyme on top.

Bake in a medium oven (approx 170 - 180 C) for around 50 minutes to an hour, until the pastry is cooked and the tomatoes are starting to crisp at the edges.

Allow to cool slightly, then cut into slices and share with family, friends or neighbours!

For the salads I chose a Tabbouleh, which is light and fresh and goes really well with most things, including the Tomato Tart, and a potato salad. Potato salads tend to be the sort of thing most people like - a crowd pleaser. This particular recipe is one that I have made for years ever since reading Delia's recipe for Anya Potato Salad in her Vegetarian Collection. It's a good solid vegetarian cookbook - not my favourite, but one that covers so much day to day food and food for entertaining that it spends most of its time in my kitchen rather than on the bookshelf.



200g bulgar wheat
1 small red onion
large bunch of flat leaf parsley
750g - 1kg tomatoes
1 lemon
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 clove garlic (optional)


Cook the bulgar wheat and leave to cool. I do this by putting the bulgar in a small pan, covering with cold water, bringing it to the boil with the lid on and then I turn the heat off and let the steam do the rest.

Make the dressing in the bottom of a big serving bowl by whisking the juice of 1 lemon (this isn't set in stone - use less or more depending on your own taste), salt, pepper and crushed garlic clove together, then whisk in the olive oil. I always find those little 'wonder whisks' are perfect for making dressings as they help the ingredients emulsify which is what you want from a good dressing.

Finely chop the red onion and add it to the dressing.

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces - around 1cm square and pop them in a sieve over a bowl to drain off any excess juice. You can put them in juice and all but I find that it sometimes makes the salad too soggy. Slice the parsley as thinly as possible starting at the leafy top and going all the way down to the stalks. Slicing the parsley this way is something I learnt a few months ago and really makes a difference to the taste.

Mix all the ingredients together with the dressing and red onion and it's ready to serve. It keeps well for a day or so which means you can make it in advance if you need to.

Anya Potato Salad


2kg Anya potatoes
5 or 6 shallots (finely chopped)
1 dessertspoon Dijon mustard
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
4 or 5 dessertspoons olive oil
salt & pepper


Cook the potatoes in salted water, drain and put to one side.

Make the dressing by mixing the salt, pepper and mustard together in the bottom of a big serving bowl. Add the balsamic and white wine vinegars and mix with a wonder whisk (or a fork if you don't have one). Then add the olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Put the shallots in the dressing.

Once the potatoes have cooled slightly (but are still warm) add them to the dressing and mix. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve either warm or cold. Again this can be made in advance, but the chives are best if you sprinkle them over at the last minute.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

More Gingers, Vicar?: Summer Gazpacho

There's little more summery than beautiful ripe tomatoes like these from The Tomato Stall on Marylebone Farmers' Market. These beauties were sweet and packed with flavour - just perfect for our Gazpacho starter for the Nom Nom Nom 2009 final.

Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato soup which originated in the southern region of Andalucía. It is a perfect refreshing summer dish, especially on a hot sunny day. I can picture myself now sat outside in the garden, the sunshine beaming down, a glass of chilled fino in my hand and a small bowl of vibrant, fresh gazpacho in front of me... (if only the summer would come back to London!).

I'd tried gazpacho in the past and never been particularly enamored with it. That was, until I spent 2 weeks in Andalucía earlier this year. If you have the best, fresh, ripe ingredients it is simply delicious. And what's more, it couldn't be simpler to make.

What better way to kick off our seasonal summer menu for the Nom final?!

Summer Gazpacho


1kg tomatoes
1/2 cucumber (we used a lovely organic spiky one on the day
1 sweet red pepper
1 yellow or orange pepper
1/2 red onion
1/2 red chilli (or more if you prefer your gazpacho to pack a punch
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp good quality sherry vinegar
100ml good fruity olive oil
1 tsp muscavado sugar (you may need more or less depending on how sweet your tomatoes are
worcestershire sauce (to taste)
salt & pepper


Roughly chop the tomatoes, peppers (seeds and stalk removed), cucumber, red onion, garlic, red chilli, olive oil, sugar and vinegar. Put it all in a blender and blend until it's as smooth as it will go. Put a seive over a bowl and seive the soup mixture to remove all the skin and pips - you will probably need to push it through with a spoon.

You should be left with a smooth soup which you can season to taste with salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, more sugar (if needed), etc.

Pop it in the fridge to chill until you are ready to serve.

If you like the sound of this recipe please vote for us in the Viewers' Choice Awards. It's really simply - you just need to go to this page on the Nom Nom Nom 2009 website and vote for More Gingers, Vicar?

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The Big Lunch

In less than 24 hours we'll be hanging the bunting, setting up tables, bring the food out of our kitchens and sitting down to lunch with our neighbours. It's been a fair few weeks in the planning. 3 mail shots, 1 gathering (and quite a lot of Pimms...), 1 meeting with the Council, countless emails and here we are!

The guys at the Eden Project came up with a great idea to encourage people right across Britain to get to know their neighbours - The Big Lunch! The idea is that the people of Britain to stop what they're doing and sit down to lunch together on Sunday 19th July 2009 for no other reason than to join together in one great big street party. So that's what I'll be doing tomorrow. Between now and then I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for decent weather...

If the idea behind it all is for me to get to know my neighbours then I'm pretty much on track. When I first contacted everyone on our street to find out whether they fancied joining in the fun I probably knew a dozen or so people on our street. Now I can pretty much name check everyone. In London that's no mean feat. Many people don't even know their immediate next door neighbour.

One of my neighbours, Joy, will celebrate her 50th year living on our street this year! Apart from short spells in Islington and Bristol, Joy has lived in this area all of her life and remembers well the street parties to celebrate VE Day in 1945. How amazing is that? Here we are in 2009, 64 years later, getting together for another street party and I can't wait to hear from Joy whether she thinks it matches up!

Steve Bridger who writes the Big Lunchers Blog wrote about Joy's story yesterday and you can read it here.

But for me it's not just about meeting everyone. It's also about the food! I absolutely adore cooking for other people. There's nothing better than spending time and effort making something, however simple, that people enjoy eating. So, for my contribution tomorrow, I'll be making Anya Potato Salad, Tabbouleh, a Tomato & Goat's Cheese Tart, Brownies and Shortbread. I'd better get cooking...

What I Ate: Roasted Beetroot & Puy Lentil Salad

I'm always hungry when I get home from pilates. It's such hard work! But I'm not great at organising myself to make lunch when I get home on a Saturday, especially if Andrew isn't around. For some reason Saturday lunch always ends up being a grab and run affair squeezed in between pilates and shopping and washing and doing all those things I didn't have chance to do during the week. Which is wrong seeing as that means that one of my two 'this is my time' lunches is always a non-event. That's not the way it should be surely?

Today I guess I was fortunate to find good leftovers in the fridge which I could craft into a tasty lunchtime salad. Roasted beetroot left over from making Lebanese beetroot salad on Thursday evening, some cooked puy lentils (the rest of which went into a puy lentil tabbouleh with grilled halloumi earlier in the week) and flat leaf parsley which was beginning to wilt.


2 roasted beetroot (peeled)
1 spring onion
3 tbsp cooked puy lentils
a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 dessert spoon sherry vinegar
2 dessert spoons olive oil
salt & pepper


Make the dressing by mixing the mustard with some salt and pepper in a bowl, add the vinegar and combine, then whisk in the olive oil. Finely slice the spring onion and add to the dressing with the lentils, sliced beetroot and parsley.

If you haven't got roasted beetroot lying around in the fridge then you can roast them by washing, wrapping in a foil parcel and popping them in a medium oven for an hour or so (preferably whilst you've got the oven on for something else!).

A super simple, earthy salad. It would work so well with some goat's cheese or goat's curd but alas the goat's cheese in my fridge is destined for a tomato tart for tomorrow's Big Lunch street party!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Nom Nom Nom 2009: Coming a close second...

I think it was the Summer Berry Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake that did it. Clinched us that coveted runners up spot that is. Crisp, butter shortbread. Smooth, citrusy cream. Uber fresh English strawberries and raspberries, bang in season. Tom Aikens said it was great. Great. A Michelin starred chef thought our dessert was great! How cool is that?

I'd like to say that I arrived at the Cookery School on Little Portland Street relaxed and in plenty of time for the finals of Nom Nom Nom 2009 - 'the Masterchef of Bloggers'. But I would be lying. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I have absolutely no sense of direction. Spin me round 3 times on the spot in my own house and my parents used to say I'd be lost. My Nom team mate - Chris Dreyfus of More Tea, Vicar? - assured me it was simple. Come out of Oxford Circus tube, head up Regent's Street and turn right. But the map on my blackberry said something else. So I followed it. I found the street alright (eventually) but how does 15b not come anywhere between 1 and 30? Well on this street it doesn't. I was about to call home for Andrew to laugh at me and guide me in when I spied the distinctive purple sign. It was only 9.30am on a Sunday morning. How am I supposed to do anything at that ungodly hour?

Nom Nom Nom is a fun competition for bloggers, writers, photographers and food enthusiasts. It’s a cooking contest that takes places over one day and sees eight teams of two shop for ingredients and cook a three-course meal that is then judged by a panel of experts.

I shall admit to being more than a little excited. I've never cooked under pressure before and I usually cook alone (the obvious exceptions being when I cook with my Mum or with Not Aunty Lisa). Yet here I was about to embark on cooking an unfamiliar menu with someone I've only known (if you can call meeting face to face about 3 times 'known') for a few weeks.

After a much needed breakfast of the most delicious freshly baked cheese scones, first stop was Marylebone High Street and the Marylebone Farmers' Market for ingredients. What a choice! But with only £40 to spend on quality produce at central London prices we had to spend wisely.

The brief was to cook a 3 course meal for 4 people that was simple, sexy, sustainable and seasonal. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, one course had to be a cold course - no cooking allowed. What better time to cook with seasonal ingredients in England than in the summer?! Tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, peas, broad beans, strawberries, raspberries, everything berries....

After hours of planning, deliberation, recipe testing, consultation and ingredient sourcing (or perhaps over a couple of email exchanges and a drunken night in my kitchen), Chris and I devised our Sensational Simple Sexy Sustainable Seasonal Summer Menu!

Starter Gazpacho with Goat's Cheese Crème fraîche

The recipe is here.

Main Course Pan Fried Sea Bass with Aubergine Caviar

The recipe is here.

Dessert Summer Berry Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake

(recipes to follow soon...)

If our escapades in my kitchen during our trial run were anything to go by it should have all gone horribly wrong... Chris tried to flood my kitchen with gazpacho and, having got the quantities mixed up in the shortbread, I ended up making enough biscuits to feed most of my colleagues the following Monday. But it was remarkably calm. In fact the whole kitchen was calm. Eight pairs of amateur cooks beavering away, stopping only to have a quick chat or take photos for our blogs, and all managing to plate up just in the nick of time before the cries of "Stop Cooking". OK, so maybe there were a couple of moments when panic nearly set in, like when the judges came down to watch and talk to us whilst we cooked. Talking intelligently to and putting the final touches to our dishes at the same time was no mean feat!

You know what? It's exhausting work. Added to all that adrenaline, it wasn't until we all sat down together to share the leftover food that we realised how tired (and if we really admitted it to ourselves, nervous) we all were. The judges seemed to take forever as we waited with bated breath...

I think Chris was quietly confident, but I was totally bowled over when we were announced as the Runners Up!!! And proud of us both! The judges are all experts in their fields and they liked our food. You can read all about it here.

Having tempted your tastebuds with all of this talk of food, there is one little thing we'd love you to do for us and that's vote for More Gingers, Vicar? - VOTE HERE!

There is a serious side to all of this and that's to raise money for Action Against Hunger, an international humanitarian organisation, working in 43 of the world’s poorest countries. Its vocation is to save lives, especially those of malnourished children and to work with vulnerable populations to preserve and restore their livelihoods with dignity. There are some fantastic prizes to be won in the Nom Nom Nom raffle in aid of Action Against Hunger. Please spare £5 or more to support this worthwhile cause.

Did I mention that Tom Aikens loved our dessert?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

What I Ate: Summer Pasta

A few people have asked me recently why I don't blog more about what meals I make on a day to day basis. This is something I chatted to Kerri of Dinner Diary fame about at a fantastic Italian wine tasting event organised by Dan of Bibendum recently. You see, Kerri and Stephen's blog is slightly different to many of the other food blogs out there in that they write about almost everything they eat. Not just the highlights and the meals out, but pretty much everything (including tennis shaped pasta in honour of Wimbledon...) 365 days a year.

For me though, the truth is that (1) I didn't think anyone would be interested in my 'thrown together' week night dinners, (2) Monday to Thursday food for me is generally healthy vegetarian sustenance rather than fancy things to write home about and (3) I simply don't have enough hours in the day.

But they're all just excuses, so here goes!

Whilst sorting through some of my photos yesterday I came across this one of a pasta dish which I make in various different guises once the fresh spring vegetables begin to make an appearance each year and heavy pasta sauces no longer seem quite right. It's super simple and really tasty. You can make it with any Spring or Summer vegetables you have lurking in the fridge (or freezer). The photos are from one I made during the short (but oh so sublime) English asparagus season in June this year, but you could add any bright, fresh, seasonal vegetables (peas, green beans, broad beans...).

This first one is for some very good friends of mine who have asked me (several times...) for inspiration for weeknight meat-free meals. They're not veggie, oh no, they love their meat, but they're looking to eat less of it sometimes and eat more vegetables on a daily basis.


Pasta (wholemeal if you're feeling particularly virtuous)
Selection of seasonal vegetables (here I used courgettes, frozen broad beans and asparagus)
Small tomatoes (halved)
Black olives (pitted and halved)
Spring onions (finely sliced)
Olive oil
Feta (cubed)
Salt & Pepper


Pop a pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta and add the pasta once it has come to the boil. Slice your vegetables and steam until al dente (courgette slices, broad beans, etc only take a couple of minutes).

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the spring onions and garlic and saute gently for about a minute. Add the steamed vegetables, tomatoes, olives, cooked pasta and a couple of table spoons of the pasta water. Season with a little salt (remember the olives and feta will be quite salty) and black pepper. Add the feta and serve immediately.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Wine Tasting Jolly Olly Style!

You know it's not going to be a stuffy wine tasting when the session starts with high fives all round. But who could expect anything else from the inimitable Olly Smith?! He's loud, vivacious, colourful and (as I came to learn) a genuinely top bloke.

I'm a big fan of Olly's no nonsense, open style. He talks about wine in everyday language that people understand. He makes wine tasting accessible for everyone, not just the wine buffs. Which is good for me. I know what I like but rarely push the boundaries to see what else is out there that might take my fancy.

So it was that, on one of the hottest days of the year, I found myself in a giant dome (or Obi Wan Kenobi's living room as Olly would have it), slowly roasting, at Tapas Fantasticas 2009 - a free festival celebrating Spanish tapas and Rioja wine which ran over two fun-filled days in Brick Lane Yard, London.

The first slot of the day can't be an easy one. It was 12 noon and I'd only just managed a slice of toast for breakfast. I certainly hadn't quite got into the swing of the whole event. But the high fives set the tone just nicely. A bit of frivolity is a great way to kick start a Saturday in the sunshine.

We kicked off with the Marques de Caceres Viura 2008. A great drinkable wine. Fresh, zingy and appley. In Olly's words "yum-tastic". Great with paella or just on it's own on a hot summer's afternoon poured over a load of strawberries and ice.

Next up was the Campo Viejo Rosado 2008. This is a super modern rose. It's pale in colour and smells of roses and summer fruits. The blurb is right when it says that it would be perfect with summer salads, but I'd probably go for it as an aperitif on a balmy summer's evening.

Elena Adell, the winemaker for Campo Viejo, calls herself a homemaker-winemaker and declares a love crocheting and designing small items of clothing. How random is that?!

For the reds we stepped up a price bracket or two. Olly declared of the Baron de Ley Finca Monasterio 2006 which is 80% tempranillo - "I rather like this one!". It's a rich wine which has been aged in French oak for 18 months. I'm not sure £14.99 for a wine which Olly thinks tastes of cola cubes will be one I'll be buying regularly, although the 7 Vinas Rioja Reserva 2004 from the same vineyard was pretty special.

The Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are more savoury and the CVNE Imperial Reserva 2001 was definitely drier on the tongue but the wine lighter in body. Apparently that means it's like spiderman's costume - light but strong.... The 10% graciano grape gives the acidity.

By the time we reached our final wine we were running way behind schedule. It was time to sup up our glass fulls and any spares knocking around, finishing with the Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva 2001. At £36 this can only be described in my books as a 'Christmas Wine' - something you get to push the boat out for and drink but once a year! It's quite a leathery wine, but one that's also sweet and spicy. This one wasn't for me and certainly not at that price.

Most of the wines we tasted are 'ready to go' wines. They have already been aged and, unlike the more classical wines of Bordeaux for example, they don't need ageing (or in some cases are best not kept for long) - a great thing if you're useless at keeping your mitts of the wine on the rack at home.

All that on one slice of toast...I headed straight for the tapas (and another glass of rose...)!

Friday, 3 July 2009

A Tweeter's Tale

On a sunny Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago I found myself heading along the towpath from Camden Lock in the direction of Regent's Park in search of the good ship Finale - the Guardian's Word of Mouth Taste of London festival fringe (or #tastefringe in twitter speak) HQ for the weekend. Armed with a Guardian press pass, my camera and an empty tummy (I even skipped breakfast for the occasion), the plan was to descend on Taste of London to eat and drink the day away, all the while reporting 'on the hoof' to anyone who cared to read my 'tweets'.

For those of you uninitiated into the world of twitter, it's a social networking and mini-blogging service through which people keep in touch by giving updates (or tweets) of 140 characters or less. It's highly addictive.

So I set forth, along with my comrades, to Regent's Park to fulfill my mission of eating. Lots. Completely altruistic on my behalf! I did it all for the lovely people at the Guardian of course...

Bearing in mind I ate for about 5 hours pretty much non-stop, I would bore you to tears if I repeated it here. So instead, here's a potted version of my day as a journalist. You can read more about my escapades gate-crashing the chef's kitchens in my piece for the Guardian's Word of Mouth here.

First stop was Launceston Place with it's 'taste of the seaside'. The potted devilled brown shrimp and crab which was served in a seashell on a bed of pebbles was one of my favourite dishes of the day. The rest had a lot to live up to! It was rich and unctuous - the small serving was just perfect. They are really passionate about presentation and the emotions you feel not just from eating but from the whole experience.

Dessert came in the form of the rhubarb ice cream which you may have seen on the great British Menu when Tristan Welch's suped-up Mr Whippy machine was causing him some serious grief. I nipped behind the counter to see take a closer look at it in action. Apparently (or so I am told) it's not like a normal Mr Whippy machine, oh no, this is a super duper ice cream machine. I'm not quite sure why, but it did churn out a perfect rhubarb ice cream whilst I snapped away - perfectly tangy rhubarb which went zing on my tongue. The real deal comes with custard ice cream and crumble topping too, but according to gastrogeek who had one, it was a touch on the too-creamy-not-so-amazing side.

There were a couple of things, looking back on the day, which were a touch out of the ordinary. The first was the order in which I ate. A normal meal will go something along the lines of savoury, savoury, sweet. Depending on where you are from, there could be post-sweet savoury in the form of cheese, or not. It was therefore a tad unusual to switch between sweet and savoury depending on what was served next. It is entirely possible that this had a bearing on which dishes I liked more than others - can you really pick up the subtlety of crab after eating rhubarb ice cream?

The second, although unusual certainly in Western society, was actually rather natural and humbling. From the outset, I shared dishes with my fellow tweeters (the chocolate sensation at L'Atelier de Joel Robouchon springs to mind) but it wasn't until later in the afternoon, sat around a big table in front of L'Anima with gastrogeek, moreteavicar, Tim Hayward and Francesco Mazzei, that I realised that fuelled with our desire to taste the food, we were not only digging in and sharing the food, we were also sharing our cutlery. And why not?

As well as being packed full of great restaurants, there were also producers, some of whom were ever so friendly and (more importantly) ginger. We received a little tweet from Paul A. Young offering free chocolates to bloggers and tweeters so we headed off on a little jaunt over to Paul's feast for the chocolate lovers' eyes stand for a chocolate tasting. Oh boy! I had never even heard about Paul's chocolates before, let alone tasted them. I did the polite thing though, I held back from the smash and grab on the free samples and snooped around taking a few photos of my eating companions for the day (gastrogeek and moreteavicar), chatting to Paul about his chocolates and about his lovely gingerness. Then, when the temptation overwhelmed me I went straight in for the kill with a pecan praline... Nothing I can say will do this (or, by the sight of moreteavicar weak at the knees as he bit into his salted caramel) justice so you'll have to go and buy some to see for yourselves.

Paul suggested Bryn Williams at Oddette's, which serves good British food, might be a good next stop. Well, what he said was, go and speak to Bryn, mention me and he'll give you some grub. Sure enough, a friendly Bryn (looking more than a little worse for wear, water in hand and clearly suffering from the excesses of the previous day!) doled out plate after plate of his fine simple food. As gastrogeek snuck away to a corner to devour her lamb (which she professed to being pretty amazing) I tucked into a plate of simple fresh crab. A good helping of both brown and white crab meat. Was that my third crab dish of the day? The menus seemed to be rather crab-centric.

One of my favourite desserts of the day came in the form of Bryn's simple lemon posset with strawberries and basil was great, proper summer stuff. It's just cream, sugar and lemon juice, simplicity itself and made by a friendly, approachable, great chef. So good it was gone before I'd taken a photo!

It was about then that I did a spot of kitchen-crashing again to take a peek at what was going on behind the scenes at Theo Randall's place. Theo was all smiles, but didn't have time to stop and chat, so I squeezed myself into a little gap alongside the 'pass' and chatted to him as he kept his beady eye on a couple of dozen scallops with chillis and datterini tomatoes and two pans of pasta on the hob. No mean feat in the sweltering heat in there. What a lovely man!

Theo is passionate about his ingredients - had I not been busy snapping away as he cooked and chatted I'm sure I could have written a short thesis on the origins, flavours and uniqueness of the datterini tomato. His kitchen style was calm and collected. There was a sense of ease in everything he did and, maybe I caught them at a good time (if mid-lunchtime rush can ever be a good time), but it was simple methodical clockwork in there. None of the shouting and swearing that TV programmes would have us believe is the norm. It was whilst I was chatting to Suse (the editor of the Guardian's Word of Mouth) over a glass of red back at the good ship Finale and recounting the best bits of day that this experience transformed itself into my piece for the Word of Mouth.

The scallops were pretty damn fine!

One place I was keen to try after Michele Caggiane at Galvin at Windows recommended it to me as one of his favourite two Italian restaurants in London, was L'Anima. Who could miss Francesco Mazzei bounding around and chatting to customers in front of the L'Anima stand? His energy and enthusiasm was contagious and soon we were seated, prosecco poured and the dishes began to arrive. We'd hardly started eating and Tim Hayward was raving about how good the food was.

My particular favourite was the Frisella with tomato and mozzarella. This wasn't any run of the mill tomato and mozzarella salad... It was probably the finest mozzarella I have ever tasted, milky, soft, melt in your mouth, piled with tomatoes, onions and basil on top of Puglian ring shaped bread. It sounds simple and it is. Good, honest, hearty food. The sort of food I'd be eating every day if I had such wonderful ingredients.

Two other fantastic puds which are worth a mention are the strawberry and hibiscus bellini with a warm strawberry and vanilla doughnut from The Ledbury and the raspberries with fromage frais mousse and verbena granite from Pied-a-Terre. Both were light and summery but had a twist that set them apart - the hibiscus in the bellini and the verbena granite. Genius.

Finally, when we thought we could eat no more, moreteavicar whisked us off to Viennese bakery Demel’s for sacher torte. By this point I really had no room left whatsoever, but after watching them carefully prepare the next batch - coating the sponge in apricot, mixing the chocolate, pouring the molten chocolate over the sponge - I had to have a taste at least!

I meandered back to #tastefringe HQ sated, exhausted and pondering on the life of a tweeting reporter.

You can see the rest of my photos from the day here.