Mystery Food Mosaic



Does any one know anything about this gorgeous foodie mosaic that seems to have appeared overnight in Brighton on Station Street/Trafalgar Street junction? It doesn't seem to have been positioned in a particularly foodie-centric area but it's fantastic! A tumbled bottle of wine, a nice plate of charcuterie, a prawn or two and some juicy pomegranates. I'm tempted to picnic on it.









RECIPE: Lettuce and Avocado soup



Yes really. I know this sounds like something Gwyneth Paltrow would be peddling but trust me, this soup, unusual as it seems, is rather good. Light and virtuous, the avocados are only added at the end when the soup is blended, adding flavour and creaminess, without bitterness.

The soup can be reheated, just very, very gently, but do not freeze.

Serves 6

1tbs Olive oil
1 Onion, chopped
3 Celery stalks, chopped
1 Large potato, peeled and chopped
500g (about 6) Little gem lettuce, washed and shredded
1 Litre of vegetable stock
3 Large ripe avocados
Seasoning
200ml Créme Fraiche
Half a lemon

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, celery and potato, softening for 5 minutes without colouring. Add the shredded lettuce and the stock, bring to the boil then cook for 10 minutes.

Take off the heat, scoop the flesh of the avocados into the saucepan and blend until smooth. Taste and season accordingly. Reheat gently if needed.

Squeeze the juice of the lemon into the Créme Fraiche, mixing thoroughly. Serve up the soup, swirling in the lemon Créme Fraiche.

Meeting the Godfather of Italian food, Antonio Carluccio



It's not everyday you get to meet one of you food heros. Antonio Carluccio represents a lot of how I feel about Italian food in attitude and passion. I guess that's why they call him the Godfather of Italian food. After meeting him, I now also know him as the charmer of Italian food! The warmth that radiates from your television screen when he is on the box, is evident in his character. Such a gracious, approachable and friendly man, I was lucky to have the opportunity of a quiet 10 minute chat with him before his slot on the Brighton Food Festival Live Food Show where he cheerfully taught us about mushroom varieties (part of a nationwide Carluccio Mushroom Festival) and how to cook the perfect mushroom risotto, throwing in the story of his love of foraging from childhood and a few obligatory Berlusconi jokes into the mix. It was an absolute piacere.

I loved Two Greedy Italians, which showed the passionate relationship between Italian people and their food. Do you think the UK will ever have the same relationship?

It takes time. You can't jump generations. Italians have always eaten food together, with the mother still taking care of the food and the family. Children pick up their attitude of food from their family and their education of the palette is developed at a very young age. Good food is necessary for health and also your mentality. It's an attitude.

What is the future of Italian food? Recent reports state that child obesity in Italy is on the increase and attitudes are changing.
This is a trend from all over the world I'm afraid. Even in Italy, people are shopping in the supermarket, for the easy and the ready made, although the quality of food in the supermarkets there is still generally better. But computers and lack of exercise also (is contributing to obesity).

I've never lived in Italy but being raised in an Italian family environment, my head my be English but my heart (and definitely my stomach!) are certainly Italian. You left Italy when you were just 21, where do you call home?
Spiritually Italy, but really the whole world. I love people and to communicate in different languages. I speak 5 different languages.

What do you think of the popularity of restaurants such as Polpo and Polpetto, based on Venetian bacari, do you think they are helping to spread the knowledge of regional Italian food?
(Shrugs) It's an attempt to copy tapas. Antipasto is liked and so varied in Italy so why not? You get to taste everything without getting full on pasta, ravioli.

My family are from Abruzzo, are there any foods from that region you particularly enjoy?
Arrosticini!

I'm making pasta and fagioli for dinner tonight. Any tips?
Go to a deli and get a piece of fat. Not the yellow fat, but the white, from the prosciutto to give it flavour. Soaking dried beans is better but takes a long time and it's important that they must be very well cooked, otherwise you get hard bits. Tinned beans are fine to use, like borlotti or cannellini. Squash half of them to thicken the broth. To finish, sprinkle over a little peperoncino and olive oil, or a little chilli oil.



Carluccio then went on to cook his classic mushroom risotto for us and show us how to prepare them and a few different varieties, some of which I have never seen before like the Hedgehog or Blewitt as well as tips for foraging (twist mushrooms rather than pull them, preserving the mushroom roots (mycelium) and to take someone who knows mushroom varieties otherwise it could be your last meal!). He used a LOT of butter to fry his onions in before adding the rice (carnaroli - "the Ferrari of rice") and briefly "toasting" it in the pan. The different mushroom varieties were cut directly on top of the rice and allowed to sautée a little before a ladle of chicken stock (strengthened with a cube of Star Porcini stock cube) was added, left to absorbed before another was added. Salt, yet another generous knob of butter and a handful of Parmesan was all that was added at the end. And that was it, reminding us that the reason Italian food is so loved, is that with minimal effort, you can create something really nice.



Far creamier (and wetter) than my version, with a lot more butter (but better for it), I learned that a good risotto should never pile up, the consistency should be all'onda (like a wave).

I was also very happy to hear that there will be more Two Greedy Italians coming our way soon. Carluccio is currently on a tour celebrating his beloved mushrooms. From the 10th September until the 10th October, Carluccio restaurants will be showcasing mushroom dishes using different varieties of mushroom, the shops will sell a selection of mushroom and truffle goods and mushroom markets will be taking place around the country. He is also launching a nationwide mushroom competition which will be judged by the man himself and offered on Carluccio's special board. Winners will also have the chance to cook with Antonio in his London kitchen.

To enter the competition visit www.facebook.com/carluccioscaffe or for more details of the mushroom markets visit www.carluccios.com

Top image of me and Carluccio © Julia Claxton Photography

Cooking with Cava plus Cookbook and Cava Giveaway



It was a very glamorous weekend in the Graphic Foodie kitchen. Out with my typical rustic peasant Italian cooking and in with some decadence for a change!

I used to be hell bent on creating punishing menus for any get-together at my house, because I'm a bit of a show-off to be honest, but not spending any time with your guests as you were locked, sweating in the kitchen, along with frazzled nerves and weary legs from all-day cooking got a bit boring after a while. Freixenet sent me a few bottles from their range, along with some recipes for easy, yet indulgent cava-based dishes to try out and I was pleasanly surprised. I'll certainly be making the cava-poached salmon dish a go again, perfect for a dinner party starter or a luxurious lunch with the girls. You really did get the benefit of the cava in the taste of the dish and was perfect washed down with a glass or two more of bubbly.

Ps. There's a giveaway for some Freixenet cava, an entertaining cookbook and recipe cards at the bottom of the post - good luck!

Freixenet Poached Salmon Salad with New Potatoes & Broad Beans
This recipe, by Jo Pratt, was super easy and completely prepare-ahead for stress free entertaining.

Serves 6
  • 6 x skinless salmon fillets
  • Butter for greasing
  • 250ml Freixenet Cordon Negro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Small bunch of dill
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 450g fresh podded broad beans (I used peas as couldn't get hold of any broad beans)
  • 100ml mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 500g cooked new potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • Small bag of pea shoots or watercress sprigs
  • Lemon wedges to garnish
  1. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper.
  2. Smear a little butter on the base of a large frying pan, and sit in the salmon. Slowly pour in the Freixenet and add the bay leaf, half of the dill and the shallots. Bring to a simmer, spoon some Freixenet over the salmon then cover with a lid. Poach for about 8-10 minutes until the salmon is cooked through.
  3. Remove the salmon from the pan and boil the poaching liquid until it reduces in quantity by roughly one half. Leave both the salmon and poaching liquid to cool.
  4. Cook the broad beans in boiling salted water for just a few minutes, then drain and rinse under the cold tap to cool. If you have the time it is well worth removing the greyish skin from the broad beans, revealing the bright green bean inside.
  5. To make a dressing, mix together the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard then add enough of the cooled poaching liquid to make a loose dressing, with the consistency of pouring cream. Chop the remaining dill, season with salt and pepper and mix.
  6. The broad beans, potatoes and spring onions can now be mixed with the dressing. Add the pea shoots or watercress and then flake in the salmon. Gently mix together. Serve on a plate

To polish off the Salmon and the Cava, I then made some particularly potent Freixenet, Elderflower & Strawberry Jellies. The recipe for these, as well as some others by Jo Pratt can be found at www.facebook.com/freixenet.

Cookbook and Cava Giveaway

The competition has now closed. Congratulations to Jennifer McDermott who was picked using a random name selector. She wins the copy of Jo Pratt's In the Mood for Entertaining, some recipe cards and a bottle of Freixenet bubbly. Enjoy x



Details
  • Competition closes at GMT midday Friday 30th September 2011.
  • A winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • The winner will be notified by email or twitter after the competition closes on Friday 30th September 2011.
  • The prize is one In The Mood For Entertaining cookbook, Freixenent recipe cards, plus one bottle of Freixenet cava. The winner can specify any address they would like it sent to within mainland UK.
  • No part of a prize is exchangeable for cash or any other prize.
  • You must be over 18 years of age.
  • The judges’ decision will be final, and no correspondence will be entered into.

A month of revisits

This month I have seemingly done a round of revisits to some of my favourite restaurants and cafés. I often go to these but then don't re-review them as sometimes I just want to eat a flipping meal and not have to blog about it, although I can assure you my reviews still stand. Although I like I like the Russian roulette experience of trying new places, sometimes you want to go to an old faithful, somewhere you know you will get a good feed if you're out and abut in Brighton (launch theme music from Cheers).



The Chilli Pickle
You know I love this restaurant. Having had time to bed into its new location in a more foot-fall friendly road and increased in size, it still retains all of its magic, quality and affordability. With a larger premises, they have been able to expand their tandoori dishes and the huge mixed meat platter as well as the whole tandoori sea bass are worth going for alone. The Oxtail Madras is also back on the menu - one of Mr. GF's favourite dishes. Still have a great selection of beers, still have fantastic staff, this is such a great asset to the Brighton dining scene. [Previous review here and here.]

Sam's of Brighton (Kemptown)
Another one of my favourites, Sam's can be relied upon for simple yet robust, quality cooking. Their lack of faff is a real plus point as well as their smart bistro style interior. Plus it's round the corner from my house! Using lots of fantastic produce, the meat dishes in particular are always good. On this visit I had a really succulent pig's cheek starter (which was on the specials) and a delicious and surprisingly hearty Salt Marsh lamb salad. I also tried a really nice Sicilian wine from Mandra Rossa which was new to me. [Previous review]



Love Poppy's underground restaurant
I attended a really pleasant event here courtesy of Casillero Del Diablo wines. Fab wines aside, Poppy delivered another stonking, beautifully presented meal. Her slow cooked pork was droolingly good. And you know what it's like at underground restaurants with strangers where everyone is being polite? Yeah, well, forks were spearing leftover meat here, there and everywhere! Mr GF, usually such a charming man, made sure he nabbed the bone of the platter for the last tasty morsels! Dessert was the prettiest of the month too.



You won't get her attention to detail in any restaurant in town. Get down to here if you can, upcoming events here. More info available at www.lovepoppy.co.uk.

Boho Gelato
Whenever I have a troop of visitors, I march them down to Boho for an education in gelato. Now my visitors DEMAND we factor in a visit here! Offering a different experience every day as the flavours change constantly, I loved my lemon and poppy seed and mint choice this time. The best bit about going with a load of people is you get to share (if they let you!) so got to try the Gin and Tonic, Cherry and White Chocolate and Honeycomb flavours (although you can always ask the server nicely for a little taste). [Previous review]

Cocoa Patisserie
I'll almost forgive them for always running out of my favourite Cocoa product, the briochette unless I go in super early, because the second choice will always be first class anyway like their flaky croissant, tartlets, macarons and beautiful mousse cakes. Since discovering this gem, I refuse to eat pastries from anywhere else in the city. A piece of Paris right in the heart of Brighton. Bliss. [Previous review]

Pho
I popped in for a solo lunch because I wanted a really good feed and a steaming hot bowl of their Pho is always going to fill you up! I tend to go for the meatballs and brisket, shoving loads of the  supplied coriander, chilli and beansprouts in. It is a heavy lunch but instead of making me sleepy, always makes me feel strong and virtuous - perfect to fuel an afternoon back at the studio designing! Nice and casual, I always enjoy my visits here. [Previous review]

Cote
Another chain yes, but another quick post-work meal on the fly. I do think from reading reviews we have a particularly good branch here, I think the interior is the nicest in the old music library and I've yet to have a dud meal off the full menu (the cheap early dining menu can be a bit hit and miss). [Previous review]

DESIGN: Cool Chile Company

I adore this branding work by Bless for the Cool Chile Co. who are suppliers of Mexican dried chillies and corn products to the UK market. After using a clip art snake graphic  (gah!!) for over a decade, they, quite rightly, craved a unique brand they could call their own.




Bless took inspiration from Aztec shapes and colours synonymous with Mexico to create a brand identity. And along with the website, I think this is really gorgeous packaging and something I would want in my kitchen.

A perfect example of elevating a good food product higher with thoughtful, beautiful design. Swoon.

www.coolchile.co.uk

Old packaging:























Images via Bless Design apart from old packaging from Borough Market site)

SHOPPING: Prints by Anek



Gorgeous prints from Croatian Etsy seller Anek. Particularly like the "La cucina piccola fa la casa grande" - so very, very true! I want all of them!





via oh joy images from Anek