RECIPE: Pesce all' aqua pazza


Aqua Pazza means "crazy water" which makes this a really fun sounding recipe. Apparently the dish comes from southern Italian fishermen cooking their fish for lunch in the little they had; sea water and a few herbs, possibly a tomato or two. It was made famous around the Capri area in the 50s and 60s by visiting tourists wanting a taste of something authentic.

But regardless, it's a really gorgeous, light and fragrant dish for pretty much any white fish and really quick for a mid-week meal. You can use most Mediterranean herbs and flavours although I always like an acidic edge that either capers or olives bring.


Serves 2

Ingredients
2 Fillets of firm white fish (sea bass or bream is perfect) or a whole prepared fish
3 Tbs olive oil
A few sprigs of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 Garlic cloves, peeled
Half a celery stick, chopped
8-10 cherry tomatoes or two ripe chopped tomatoes
Small handful of capers or olives
A little fresh red chilli, sliced
Half a glass of water
Half a glass of white wine
To serve: Sliced lemon and good bread

Method
Preheat the oven to 200C

In an ovenproof dish which will fit the fish in a single level, pour in the olive oil then the fish. Arrange the remaining ingredients around the fish (if using a whole fish then stuff the cavity with some of the parsley too) and pour in the water and wine. The liquid should come to about halfway up the fish, and never cover the fish entirely. Season well.

Bake in the over for about 20 minutes until the fish is cooked, it may need a little longer if the fish is whole.

Serve with slices of good crusty bread and lemon slices.

EVENT: Slindon Pumpkin Festival, West Sussex


I absolutely loved my visit to Slindon pumpkin festival today, in the perfect Autumn weather. This is a very sweet festival that has been running since 1968 started by pumpkin grower extraordinaire, Ralph Upton. Now his son and a core team keep the event going, the centrepiece being a huge mural made up of different pumpkin varieties. 

There are over 50 varieties to buy, including perfect carving lanterns, tiny ornamental gourds and the gorgeous grey Crown Prince pumpkin that are the best for cooking with. 

We drove away with a car full of pumpkins so we'll be eating them well into 2015! 










The festival runs daily from September to November in Top Road Slindon, Arundel, Chichester, West Sussex BN18 0RP

REVIEW: Mezze menu at Food For Friends, Brighton

I've noticed that small plates, tapas and sharing platters are becoming increasingly popular offering in restaurants, particularly for lunch. Have we got a more communal attitude to food or are we greedier? Who knows, but I like the format. Sharing food with family and friends around the table is pretty much my number one hobby.

The latest Brighton restaurant to get on board with this trend is, quite fittingly, the vegetarian Food For Friends, a place who seemingly breeds decent chefs and keep quietly innovating; twisting and tweaking but keeping to their style of food with a heavy Asian twist.

Their new mezze sharing menu is 15 items long, with dahl, salads, dips and vegetarian dishes. You can share the recommended three plates between two as a starter or opt for three each as a meal in itself (£4.50 each or 3 for £12). I chose three dishes then let the restaurant dictate the rest, I like to fly by the seat of my pants.

Overall this pick n' mix style is a really ideal lunch choice. Presentation is their forté here so visually it scores a lot of points if you wanted to treat a friend or your darling mother (not my Italian mamma -she despises eating out). When the dishes are brought to the table they certainly get the wow factor.

I appreciated the super crisp coating of the arancini. Quite often in restaurants they are made ahead and get a bit soft. There was also a subtle, sweet coconut flavour to the rice which turned out to be the coconut milk used in the risotto base for the arancini. Clever and a good twist to a Southern Italian classic.


The favourite dish was probably the Beets, Potato and Parsnip Spiced Rosti. Crisp and super fine, the sweet, sticky tamarind and date sauce was a good partner to the earthy root vegetables. 

Dips were fabulous and a good filler with bread for a lunch style like this. All of them were delicious and different, prettily served in small glazed ceramic pots. There was a punchy pink peppercorn Baba Ganoush, a refreshing Pea and Mint Hummus and a Lemon Coriander Hummus.



The pickled ginger crisps made for a very, very unusual addition to the Fresh Fig and Smoked Ricotta Salad. The mellow Mediterranean flavours that typically work well together (although the ricotta was overly smoked for me) were too much of a contrast to sharp Asian twist on this. The sweetness of the honey dressing with the smoked ricotta was another strange combination too. Just a flavour too far here.


Much more balanced was the Orange, Radish and Red Onion Salad with a fennel seed and lemon dressing. This was very fresh flavoured and nicely melded so the sharpness of the red onion had time to soften and sweeten in the juices. 


You know my feelings on tofu, but I like to be challenged by food (and this was one of FFF's choice) so tried the Sweet tofu pocket, essentially a thin tofu wrap containing fine soba noodles with crunchy toasted pine nuts in a slightly creamy, sweet sauce. Yeah, it was a good one add to the overall selection for variety but I remain firmly in the Tofu Meh camp, as it only formed a small part of this dish. 

So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the lunch here and always good to try new foods and flavours. The space is somewhere I still really like. One of the lightest, brightest restaurant interiors that is the best seat in the house for all that people watching. 

As I've said before, FFF is a very nicely located restaurant, tastefully decorated. It's grown up with no gimmicks, something that in the landscape of trend dining I'm appreciating more and more. That, or I'm getting on a bit now.

Food For Friends
17-18 Prince Albert St
Brighton BN1 1HF

I was invited to review Food For Friends.

Making chocolate at Chocoholly, Brighton



Although I'm not one of those girls that goes crazy for chocolate (give me a loaf of bread), there is something about the craft of creating the stuff that I just adore. The glossiness of melted chocolate, the smell and going into premium chocolate shops with the foiled packaging and sumptuous displays is always a tactile, palpitation-inducing joy.



I think my visit to Chocoholly in Hove was the first chocolate workshop I've attended and was really good fun as well as informative. Chocolate isn't something I normally play around with much at home so just knowing a few of the basics of handling the stuff is always useful.



We were taken through the whole process from bean to bar. The bean varieties, the roasting, conching (grinding), tempering and moulding. There was just enough to keep it interesting throughout the demonstration, and then we were able to fill our own moulds and flavour them. We tasted both the roasted chocolate beans and cocoa nibs; a totally different taste experience without the usual sweetners of milk and sugar. And actually, chocolate in its raw state has an amazing amount of nutritional benefits and the intense cocoa hit means you would consume far less. So there you go, raw chocolate isn't just for the yogurt weavers amongst us.


We each produced four bars that we could flavour ourselves. Needless to say, I was pretty chuffed with my bars! 


The quality of Chocoholly products is exceptional. Being produced from fine raw products in such small quantities, the chocolates are a real treat. I love the Pollock inspired art bars, but there are plain and flavoured solid bars and truffles available too. It's a good place to pick up Vegan friendly products too. We sampled A LOT and everything was rich and decadent, a far cry from commerical chocolate.





Chocoholly offer a number of different workshops for adults, children and groups. There is also a course for those wanting to hone in their chocolate skills or looking to go into the industry.

To book classes or to buy the products visit: www.chocoholly.com, 27 Western Rd, Hove BN3 1AF.



I was a guest of Chocoholly.

What are you FOR Brighton? My favourite spots for dining/film/shopping/art/tours


I’m Brighton born and bred and can’t imagine living anywhere else. We have such a diverse community, which in turn gives us an abundance of different experiences to enjoy. There are plenty of things for the visitor and a trip to Brighton Pier or the fabulous Royal Pavilion should be on everyone’s to-do, but once you’ve ticked them off, there is far more left to discover off the beaten track. Being FOR something is an attitude that can change the world. I am FOR Brighton so I’m proud to share my hometown discoveries with you.

Although incredibly laid back, Brighton never sits still. There is always something going on, a festival taking place or somewhere new to explore in every nook and cranny. It’s an impossible beast to keep on top of, which always keeps it interesting no matter how long you have lived here. And apparently it’s the happiest place in the country, and it shows!

Dine with a Brightonian in their home
The launch of website Tabl.com has been a brilliant tool in bringing the pop-up dining experience to a wider audience. The site lists both domestic cooks offering set menus in their (quite often incredible) homes to some of our local chefs going to town creatively without the style confines of their restaurant day jobs. Prices vary from just £20 up toward some very exclusive events and it’s a fantastic way to meet people whilst trying something new to eat. You are almost guaranteed a really fun night too.

Tabl
www.tabl.com



Sample the most exquisite cakes this side of the Channel
Brighton is so lucky to have the talented Julien Plumart adopt us as his new home. Creating the most deliriously delicious and jewel-like fine patisserie, you could almost mistake his stylish shop for a jewellery boutique. From the rainbow rows of freshly made macaroon, to flakiest pastries and glossy cakes, you’ll have a really hard time choosing.

Julien Plumart Salon Du The
27-29 Duke St, Brighton, BN1 1AG
http://www.julienplumart.com



Join the Street Food revolution
Street Diner is a bi-weekly street food market, with plenty of interesting, quality fast food from different cultures. The menu changes weekly and there are guest pitches from visiting stalls. Some of my favourites are fresh Indian food from Ahimsa and Venezuelan arepas from Toston Tolon. Street Diner has even proved to be the springboard for some stallholders to open their own restaurants as well. A real asset to the city and guarantees you never have a boring lunch again.

Street Diner
Fridays on Queens Road BN1 1YD and Wednesdays at Hove Town Hall BN3 4AH from 11am to 3pm
https://www.facebook.com/streetdinerbrighton



Most inventive food in the city
64 Degrees has completely shaken up the local restaurant scene with their unusual small plates of creative food. From their tiny, but very cool restaurant, you can even bag a stool on the pass where you can catch the theatre of your dishes being created by the talented chefs. Booking is essential as this is one of the few local restaurants to have gained national attention. And make sure you try the house egg, cooked at 64 degrees, obviously.

64 Degrees
53 Meeting House Ln, Brighton BN1 1HB
http://64degrees.co.uk/



The best fish restaurant in Brighton
Brighton historically was surprisingly lacking in really good fish restaurants but the Little Fish Market has rectified that problem. Chef Duncan Ray creates the most impeccable dishes in his small restaurant, like the Sea bass with Fennel and Grapefruit or Monkfish with Pork Belly and Carrot and Star Anise Puree. His desserts are as good as the fish courses too. Remember to book early as during some weekend sittings you may need around 6 weeks’ notice.

Little Fish Market
10 Upper Market Street, Hove BN3 1AS
http://www.thelittlefishmarket.co.uk



A bar away from the masses
If you want to beat the mainstream crowds then head to my favourite bar which is within Plateau’s restaurant. Their cocktail menu has some historic gems with a prohibition era feel using quality spirits and mixers. And if you get peckish, then you can grab something from their menu of fine small plate French food. Beats a packet of Ready Salted.
Plateau
1 Bartholomews, Brighton BN1 1HG
www.plateaubrighton.co.uk



Catch a film in the oldest cinema in Britain
Catch a movie at what is apparently the oldest cinema in continuous use in Britain. Opened in 1910, the Duke of York’s Picture House near Preston Circus is cinema as it should be. Drink fine wines and sit back in sofas while you watch cult and independent films and special screenings, some in fancy dress!
Duke of York’s Picture House
Preston Rd, Brighton, BN1 4NA
http://www.picturehouses.co.uk/cinema/Duke_Of_Yorks/



Buy some original art
Ignore the tourist tat and kiss-me-quick hats. Bring home some original art or prints from my favourite gallery and shop, Castor & Pollux. The modern gallery is situated just to the right of Brighton Pier, under the arches in the artist’s quarter. They also have a good selection of contemporary art and design books as well as handmade jewellery and gifts.

Castor & Pollux
164-166 King's Road Arches, Lower Promenade, Brighton BN1 1NB,
https://www.castorandpollux.co.uk/



The heart of Brighton is in the North Laine
Here you will find a jumble of boutiques, galleries, cafes and independent shops that are uniquely Brighton. Once you have shopped, grab a bite to eat or a coffee and people watch to your heart’s content. And Brighton people are worth watching! Also take a stroll along Kensington Street where the backs of buildings have been covered from top to bottom in vibrant, skilled graffiti.



Take a tour with a difference
Brighton is known for the unusual and there are some really quirky tours available which will make you see the city in an entirely different light. After dark, try one of the truly terrifying ghost tours available. There is also a saying; “only in Brighton” and a tour of that name will give you local insights and facts that even the truest of Brightonians may not even know about.

http://ghostwalkbrighton.co.uk/
http://www.onlyinbrighton.co.uk/



Get involved using #WhatAreYouFOR online, and check out more information on smart here: http://bit.ly/1uIdqhK.

Image: Sunset in Brighton image by Joao Paolo is licensed under CC by 2.0.

RECIPE: Macsween Moroccan Spiced Vegetarian Haggis Pie

This was another product given to me by Macsween Haggis to experiment with. The Moroccan Spiced Vegetarian Haggis is unlike any other product I would normally buy, and it's absolutely delicious. For a real change for vegetarians, or something new for carnivores, this is really worth a purchase.

There aren't any strange processed vegetarian substitutes in here, the meatiness comes from the lentils
and oats. The "haggis" is simply packed with vegetables, seeds and dried prunes, apricots and Moroccan spices.


I made a hearty meal from it in the form of a mash topped pie. You could also use regular haggis as well. As the Moroccan flavours really packs a flavour punch, I though it best to keep the rest of the pie nice and simple. Adding onion and carrots to the mix brings in additional texture, which I always think is needed in a mash topped pie.


Serves 2

Ingredients
A pack of Macsween Moroccan Spiced Vegetarian Haggis (227g)
Olive oil
Half an onion, finely chopped
One carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
400g Potatoes, peeled
Milk
Butter
Salt

Method
Boil the potatoes until tender.

Meanwhile, cook the haggis as per the packet instructions. I simmered mine on the hob for 25 minutes.

In a frying pan, gently fry the onion and carrot until tender in olive oil. Once the haggis is cooked, remove the casing and clips and add to the carrots and onion, cooking for a few minutes more.

Drain the cooked potatoes, allow to steam dry for a few seconds and mash or better, rice them until smooth. Add a splash of milk, a knob of butter and season with salt. Mix thoroughly until smooth.

Put the grill onto a high heat.

In a pie or Pyrex dish, add the haggis filling, then top with mashed potatoes. I like to make an uneven surface on the mash so it crisps better. You can use a fork or for a pretty effect, use a spoon to press a scallop design in the top.

Serve the pie with steamed or boiled vegetables and your favourite gravy recipe.

BOOK REVIEW: Wisdom for Home Preservers, Robin Ripley



There are two types of people. Those that pickle and preserve and those that don't. My family fall heavily in the former camp. The garages under the house in Italy are neatly packed, ceiling high with jars of preserved vegetables and fruits like my favourite, zolle, the pickled tops of the garlic plant. Utterly delicious. They also bottle a year's worth of tomato sauce and until recently, the ceilings were adorned with curing meats like salami and ageing cheeses. It is a haven.

I recently returned from a trip to Italy and high on the fumes of vinegar I am as keen as ever to bring that preserving tradition to my own home. Although I don't have the garden to grow enough produce for year round food, I'll be starting off with easy things like pickled Giardiniere and then go on to mushrooms in oil and maybe some aubergines. But it all takes skill and knowing exactly how to handle and treat the produce to avoid spoiling.


So it was fate that on my return the Wisdom for Home Preservers by Robin Ripley should fall on my door mat. Not only does it have one of the nicest illustrated covers I have seen in a while, it contains 500 tips for pickling, bottling, curing and smoking your own food. Whilst it doesn't contain any recipes, it does list all of the things a seasoned preserver of food would have learned over the years, something that will help you hone those skills.


Things like how to prepare your equipment, how to string chillies for drying, customising brines, root cellering and storing food. A whole host of information in different areas.


This may not be the most useful book for those starting out and needing a step by step guide to preserving food but a good one for dipping in and out of, to increase your knowledge and skill once you get going.

Wisdom for Home Preservers by Robin Ripley is published by Apple Press and costs £12.99.



I was sent this copy for review.