Monday, June 18, 2018

London's Borough Market + Plan Zheroes Charity

London's oldest and most famous food market, Borough Market is a food lovers paradise with a mouthwatering range of fresh food stalls under its Dickensian wrought-iron roof. Known in its heyday as London's Larder, the market has been a part of London's food culture since the 13th-century and has existed at its current location since 1755 — there was even a market here in Southwark at the time of the Roman conquest in the 5th century. Located on Borough High Street on the southern end of London Bridge, the Market draws over 70 organic farmers, world class bakers, artisan producers, and gourmet food importers from all over the world, in addition to celebrated local favourites, Neal's Yard Dairy, Monmouth Coffee, Mrs King's Melton Mowbray Pork Pies plus a great selection of restaurants such as Elliot's, Roast, Padella and the original Wright Brothers. 

With traditional British produce sitting alongside regional specialities from around the world, its riot of colourful produce and mouthwatering aromas from a warren of food stalls from Indian and Ethiopian to Thai or Caribbean soul food, wandering through the sights and smells of Borough Market is always a highlight of every trip to London. It's also a highlight in the lives of some people who are less fortunate. Last year, Borough Market traders, in partnership with the Plan Zheroes charity and Better Bankside bikes, who supply cargo bikes to deliver the food to charities, rescued over 29 tonnes of perfectly good food that would otherwise have been thrown in the bin — providing an impressive 58,000 meals to 33 charities working with the homeless, the elderly and people with mental health issues across London. What an inspiration.

Picture perfect figs from 'Turnips' run by Fred and Caroline Foster at Borough Market

Gorgeous artichokes

Crazy Romanesco Cauliflower 

Curly Radicchio Tardivo

Plump white English asparagus

Turnips baskets of mixed mushrooms 

Pink Oyster Mushrooms!

Fresh Sea Urchin

Natural Oak Smoked Whitby Kippers, the perfect partner with scrambled eggs on a Sunday morning

With some of the best coffee in London, Monmouth Coffee is always bustling

There is no better place to buy cheese in London than at Neal’s Yard in Borough Market

London's foremost cheese store, I started coming to Neal's Yard when we first moved to London in 1979 and still make a beeline for it when we go to Borough Market

Striking up a wonderful conversation with the manager, he gave us tasting samples 
of about ten cheeses, all of which were absolutely outstanding

Walking into Neal's Yard is always inspirational, with the most spectacular cheeses on display and all at their peak - it's hard not to take one of everything

Quince pastes are an ideal partner with some cheeses

Sophie, co-owner and stall manager of Olivier's Bakery at Borough Market

Cheese and Olive Sticks from 'Bread Ahead Bakery' in Borough Market, works with the amazing charity planZheroes which helps get their leftover bread to the people in London who need it

100% Vegan 'Big V Facon Cheeseburger' with house tomato relish, house burger sauce, 
pickles red onion, vegan cheddar and house maple facon

Gujarati Rasoi's Onion Bhaji

'The French Comté' selling fine French cheese and charcuterie

Little tastes of Comté Marcel Petit cheese 

Hand Gathered Shetland Mussels Marinière for modules on-the-go

Bomba Seafood Paella just starting to be prepared

Every Wednesday and Saturday, volunteers from charity Plan Zheroes arrive at Borough Market to collect surplus food from traders so that it can be turned into meals and given for those who need it

Coronation Cauliflower
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Jenny Chandler, Borough Market

2 small cauliflowers, broken into florets
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 bay leaf
1/2 glass red wine
1 tbsp apricot jam
1 slice lemon
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
2-3 tbsp double cream
Leaves from a small sprig of mint
1/2 cucumber, diced 
3 oz toasted almonds 

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the cauliflower in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the cauliflower for 25-30 minutes, turning the florets over half way through the cooking. Once browned, and charred in places, remove the florets from the oven and leave to cool.

Meanwhile fry the onion in the remaining oil in a small pan. After about 15 minutes when the onion is soft and translucent you can throw in the curry powder and fry until you are enveloped in wonderful spicy smells. Add the tomato pureé, water, bayleaf, red wine, apricot jam and lemon, simmer for about 5 minutes then strain through a sieve and leave to cool.

Stir the cold curry sauce mixture into the mayonnaise and cream. Taste and season well. Toss about 1/2 the florets in the mayonnaise leaving others to sprinkle over the top. Sprinkle over the mint leaves and cucumber to serve. Throw over the almonds if using.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Draycott on Cadogan Gardens: A World Apart

Nestled within three beautifully restored Edwardian homes in the exclusive enclave of Chelsea and Knightsbridge, The Draycott epitomises the grandeur of old-world luxurious living. Hidden away on a leafy road in one of London’s most sought after neighbourhoods and just around the corner from Sloane Square, The Draycott Hotel is our favourite place to stay when we're in London. Steeped in Edwardian splendour, each room is private, discreet and theatrically themed, with many of the suites having their own cosy fireplace and gorgeous views of the tranquil private interior garden to which Daycott guests have exclusive access. Personal touches such as complimentary tea and homemade biscuits at 4pm, champagne at 6pm, hot chocolate before bedtime and a squishy teddy bear nestled on each bed, further add to the hotels old world charm. In fact, staying at the Draycott feels less like a hotel, but more like being a privileged guest in an elegant country home. Welcoming, sophisticated and luxuriously furnished, The Draycott is a timeless classic in a world of modern anonymity. Blessed with an enviable location, The Draycott is also just a short walk to Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Peter Jones, the fashionable King's Road, and some of London's best restaurants, making it one of London’s very best kept secrets. 

Afternoon Tea in the Draycott Formal Living Room

Complimentary glass of champagne each evening

The lobby and french glass doors to the sunny Living Room which looks over the private gardens

Deluxe Garden View Suite

The Draycott Teddy

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Catalan Sant Jordi Day: Roses, Books & Romance

A national Catalan holiday, Sant Jordi's Day is Barcelona's most romantic day of the year. Across the region, it's celebrated as a day of love and literature, and for one magical day on April 23, the streets of Barcelona are filled with book sellers and flower stands selling roses. The Catalan equivalent to Valentine's Day, men traditionally give a rose to their lover while women buy a book for their partner. The festival has evolved from a mixture of traditions, the most popular being the tale of Saint George slaying a dragon. According to legend he saved a princess by killing a dragon with his spear while riding on a white horse. The dragon's blood caused a rosebush to grow and he offered one of its roses to the princess as a symbol of his true and sincere love. Over the years the tradition developed into sweethearts exchanging gifts: men give women roses as a symbol of their love, or to declare it for the first time, and women give men books, from which the phrase “a rose for love and a book forever” was born — however most women in Barcelona now receive books from their partners as well as roses.

Strolling through the Ribera and Gothic quarters before wandering along La Rambla, we revelled in the festive atmosphere before walking over to Hotel España for a special Sant Jordi Day lunch at Fonda España, one of Barcelona's most beautiful dining rooms with traditional cuisine directed by star chef Martín Berasategui, one of the great chefs of the culinary world with an amazing eight Michelin stars. An architectural jewell of the 19th-century with high ceilings, modernist decor and beautiful mosaics created by renowned Catalan architect Domènech i Montaner, the special six-course lunch was held in the historic Sala de las Sirenas, named after the extraordinary wall mural by Ramón Casas. Starting with a glass of cava, the menu celebrated the highlights of Mediterranean Catalan cuisine, showcasing the abundant produce from both the land and the sea: Salmon Tartare with salmon roe and cucumber mousse, Gilthead Bream with Bean Salad and saosada with pickled fricandó, and Cod Confit with grilled Calçot Scallion Broth and Seafood Béarnaise Sauce to Galician Roast Beef Sirloin with vegetable pil-pil and truffles. For dessert: The Rose of Barcelona with Strawberry Cream, Rose Water, Yogurt and Beetroot — a sweet tribute to culinary love.

Flowers and books being sold on La Rambla in Barcelona 

On a lovely sunny day, the city was full of people strolling around and enjoying Sant Jordi Day

The streets were filled with book stalls decorated in the colours of the Catalan flag

Sant Jordi Day has evolved into a celebration of Catalan identity, with many stalls selling Catalan flags, t-shirts and other branded merchandise

Bakeries throughout the city are filled with an unusual treat: bread striped with the bright yellow 
and red of the Catalan flag, the famous pa de Sant Jordi

Roses are sold with a sheaf of wheat which represents fertility, and red roses are symbols of passion

La Rambla was bustling on the warm and sunny Sant Jordi Day 

There was an obvious but discrete police presence on La Rambla during Sant Jordi Day 
given the tragic terrorist attack last year

A  little jewel of Catalonian Modernism, Hotel España opened in 1859 and was later refurbished by the celebrated Modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, in the early 20th Century

The Sala de las Sirenas with floor to ceiling mural attributed to Ramón Casas
with mermaids, fish, and other marine life on a background of waves

Arrangement of dried flowers

Painter and illustrator Ramón Casas mermaid on Fonda Espana wall mural  

Below the paintings, a lattice of wide wooden strips are inset with glazed ceramic shields of the ancient kingdoms such as this one representing Aragon

Glass of Cava to celebrate Saint George's Day

Aubergine Paté with parmesan and arugula pesto garnished with arugula and paprika

Salmon Tartare with salmon roe and cucumber mousse with curry

Serving select wines from the cellars of Fonda Espana, a white Verdejo and red Torres Mas Rabel were the wines being poured for the special Sant Jordi menu

Torres Verdeo Verdejo 2016

Fresh baked warm bread

Gilthead Bream with Bean Salad and saosada with pickled fricandó

Cod Confit with grilled Calçot Scallion Broth and Seafood Béarnaise Sauce

One of our servers arriving with a Torres Mas Rabel which is the one of the 
most popular wines from Catalunya

With seductive aromas and soft tannins, the wine is perfect with the next course of roast sirloin

Torres Mas Rabel 2016

Roast Beef Sirloin with vegetable pil-pil and truffles 

The Rose of Barcelona: Strawberry Cream, Rose Water, Yogurt and Beetroot

Fonda España chef Germán Espinosa and Spanish superstar chef Martín Berasategui 
who holds 8 michelin stars

Sugared Jelly Rose gift from the chef Espinosa in honour of Sant Jordi Day