Tag Archives: artisan

RECOMMENDED: Pasta & Sauces by Seriously Italian

24 Oct

One of the best lunches I’ve had in recent months was not in a Michelin-starred restaurant or within the welcoming decor of a much-lauded new café, it was devoured outdoors, quayside at St Katharine’s Dock.

This wonderful meal took the form of three flavoursome pasta dishes from Seriously Italian‘s market stall. A regular fixture at The Good Food Market at Marble Quay (close to The Tower of London), the stall is run by a married couple from Italy and offers a selection of mouth-watering lunch dishes.

Cooked on site, each carefully prepared dish features the couple’s handmade, award-winning, fresh pasta and homemade sauces (also available to buy should you wish to recreate similar meals at home).

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Giovanni cooks parpadelle in green pesto

It was a pleasure to meet one half of the Seriously Italian duo, Giovanni, during my visit to The Good Food Market last Friday. His passion for cooking was evident and his approach towards his produce was inspiring: Seriously Italian is the only UK outlet producing pasta made from 100% British durum wheat. Even the gnocchi is made with British potatoes!

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The Seriously Italian stall at The Good Food Market

Being artisan chefs, the provenance of their ingredients is key, sourcing the finest quality stoneground flour, organic certified produce and fresh vegetables to create not only hot dishes, but also packets of ready-to-cook pasta and jars of accompanying sauces.

The stall offers three hot dishes each week, and I was lucky enough to sample all three available options during my visit, beginning with a combination of two types of plump, Organic Gnocchi – beetroot, and a spinach and ricotta.

Tossed in a richly flavoured vegetarian red pesto, which looked deceptively like meat ragu, the gnocchi were perfectly cooked, with soft, fluffy centres melting against a mild heat of chilli in the sauce.

Organic Parpadelle with Courgettes, Speck and Homemade Green Pesto was bolder and equally enjoyable. The vibrant sauce looked fresh and inviting and just one bite confirmed its superior quality. Fragrant with basil, the flavour was nicely balanced by bites of salty ham and al dente pasta.

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Organic Gnocchi and Parpadelle

Whilst my first two pasta dishes were outstanding, it has to be said that Seriously Italian‘s Lasagne – made with pumpkin, sage and almonds – was nothing short of INCREDIBLE.

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Lasagne by Seriously Italian

The creaminess of the bechamel was worthy of a standing ovation for perfection, even without the addition of delicious sage-spiced pumpkin and fresh pasta.

Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of my box of assorted pastas – I was too busy shovelling enthusiastic forkfuls into my mouth! Whilst I chewed and sighed with pleasure (it was a bit When Harry Met Sally but I really couldn’t help myself), I wasn’t surprised to learn from Giovanni that Seriously Italian‘s pasta was honoured with a Great Taste Award earlier this year. Well deserved, believe me!

Unable to wait an entire seven days until The Good Food Market‘s return to Marble Quay the following week, Giovanni kindly gave me a jar of his homemade Pistachio Pesto to continue my Italian adventure at home – an outstanding concoction which transformed an otherwise bland bowl of Sainsbury’s penne into a gourmet meal.

Overall verdict? Seriously Italian could easily be renamed ‘Seriously Good’! It’s a five star lunch in a five star location – a beautiful marina, brought to life with authentic Italian food, hospitality and warmth.

Visit Seriously Italian at The Good Food Market, every Friday from 11.30am (Marble Quay, St Katharine’s Dock, London, E1W 1UH)

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RECOMMENDED: Secret Garden Confectionery

16 Oct

It’s National Chocolate Week and, in the spirit of showing support, I have been indulging in every kind of chocolate, stuffing my face without restraint. Trying to pick a favourite variety or bar was proving difficult, until a visit to the Tuesday food market in Thomas More Square, close to historic landmark and tourist attraction, The Tower of London.

I came home with a bag of Rocky Road chocolates by Secret Garden Confectionery – blocks of creamy, milk chocolate, studded with soft marshmallow and crunchy, puffed cereal. I was hooked after one bite. Challenged not to devour the entire bag in one sitting, I had to force myself to remember that I’d actually purchased the chocs to share with my two nieces, aged 5 and 7.

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I gave them half a block each, and remembered my manners long enough to reluctantly offer the bag to their grandparents. The problems started when they all began pestering me for more, declaring the moreish treats to be “delicious” and “yummy”. Secret Garden‘s Rocky Road is far too good to share, but denying them further access to such unbelievably tasty chocolate would have been exceptionally cruel. Fearing I’d be reported for some kind of human rights or domestic abuse, I had no choice but to succumb to their requests. Note to self: hide the next bag I buy at the back of the cupboard and tell no-one.

Secret Garden Confectinery is a regular at food festivals and Shepherds Markets’ sites across the Capital, where lovely co-founder and self-taught chocolatier, Belinda, braves the elements to showcase and sell a mouthwatering display of truffles, lollies, tablets and blocks.The seductive smell of cocoa, vanilla and spices draws you towards the stall just as much as the decadent vision of melt-in-the-mouth milk, white and dark chocolates.

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Made using ethically-sourced products, each beautiful treat is handmade – including the toffee and honeycomb centres – at Belinda’s base in Hertfordshire. The butter and cream used within each chocolate batch (produced in small quantities to ensure freshness), is also produced locally.

Despite such high-quality ingredients and an emphasis on fair trade, Secret Garden’s product range is reasonably priced – items start at a mere £2.50: a steal for artisan chocolate! With additional special offers available for multi-buys, it’s worth stocking up if you’re planning to put together some gorgeous food hampers for family and friends this Christmas.

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The smooth and tangy Milk Chocolate Orange Truffles are particularly addictive and the different flavoured tablet bars – crammed with fruits, spices or nuts – are sinfully sublime. There’s a luscious white chocolate Cranberry, Lemon & Macadamia; a heady Crystallised Ginger set in milk chocolate; a delectable Lime & Coconut white chocolate; a milk chocolate studded with tangy Sour Cherry, Orange and Hazelnut; and a superb Toffee Apple bar, also made with milk chocolate.

While Secret Garden‘s Rocky Road is the pathway to chocolate heaven, I also love the Chocolate Honeycomb blocks and large Chocolate Lollies – flavoursome, indulgent and rewarding; you can almost feel your brain cells doing Olympic somersaults in response to the Conga your tastebuds inevitability start dancing upon first bite. Nothing makes the body celebrate quite like the taste and feel of velvety, silken chocolate … a guaranteed high without the low of a hangover or withdrawal.

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Confirming my thoughts is the word of two discerning little girls. Having sampled Secret Garden‘s Rocky Road bites, some of the glorious tablet bars and the milk and white Chocolate Lollies, my nieces have given the range their official seal of approval: “Yummy”. Truth from the mouths of babes … you really can’t argue with that.

To find out where you can purchase Secret Garden Confectionery visit here.

Please follow @SGConfectionery on Twitter for details of their upcoming presence at Shepherds Markets locations across London.

REVIEW: Foodies Festival At Hampton Court

2 Jun

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Hungry Londoners and discerning foodies from across the South East will converge on Clapham Common this weekend (June 7th, 8th & 9th) for a mouth-watering extravaganza, showcasing the best in street food, artisan bakers, pop up restaurants and international specialities. Aptly called ‘Foodies Festival’, this culinary celebration is the king of open air feasts, featuring live entertainment, celebrity-hosted workshops, exclusive masterclasses and even a mobile spa!

I was lucky enough to win two tickets to attend the Hampton Court event during the final Bank Holiday weekend in May. It was the ultimate opportunity to spend a blissful Monday basking in the sun whilst eating good food, sipping on cocktails and humming happily to great music.

The first thing to captivate me was the incredible aroma – simmering sauces and Asian spices competed with the unmistakeable smell of grilled sausages and barbecued meats. I marvelled at the discovery of exotic, new fruits, revelled in new flavour combinations (which I mentally noted to try at home) and sampled international street food that transported my imagination – and tastebuds – to faraway lands. Clusters of friends lounged on the grass, drinking Raspberry Mojitos, Bloody Marys (from Blood Shot bar) and refreshing Ginger Beer (the newly launched Grouse Ginger), as live singers belted out Beyonce and Stevie Wonder classics. Stumbling toddlers licked greedily at melting Purbeck Ice Cream while amused parents tucked into slow-cooked, pulled pork sandwiches (from Jamie’s Italian), Thai noodles (from The Noodle Bar) and generously filled Empanadas (by Chango). Strangers began talking to one another at stall fronts, sharing mutual appreciation for tasty, free samples. It was a visual and sensory feast laced with an atmosphere of discovery, excitement and deep contentment.

The range of available food was genuinely spectacular – although I was slightly disappointed by the absence of any notable lamb dishes. Being of Greek origin, an abundance of marinated or spit-roasted lamb is as essential as water. That said, there were plenty of incredible alternatives, including hearty vegan and vegetarian options.

Steak lovers made a bee-line for the Gaucho BBQ stand where the magnificent sight of huge hunks of meat, cooking to a slow char over hot coals, awaited. Burger fans headed towards the award-winning Street Kitchen for a cheese-topped ‘Buffalo Bill’ or a Crispy Chicken variation with Caesar Sauce. Of course, no outdoor food feast would be complete without the humble hog and foodies queued patiently for Roast Hog’s signature roll; ciabatta filled with succulent pork, homemade apple sauce and crackling. The Bath Pig delighted visitors with their quirky tapas ‘lollipop’; a skewer of creamy mozzarella and spicy chorizo balls – fun AND flavoursome! Not forgetting the British tradition of serving bangers, The Great British Sausage Co. had an array of different varieties to satisfy every appetite – all succulent, juicy and perfectly spiced.

Sugar highs were available everywhere, with my favourites being Fudge Kitchen (I’m a long time fan!), The Hummingbird Bakery’s vanilla cupcake (red velvet is so overrated) and The Brownie Bar’s signature creation (the clue is in the name!).

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Demonstrations, lectures and workshops were provided for anyone looking to hone their cooking skills or food knowledge – including a Drinks Theatre, Cake & Bake Theatre, Chocolate Theatre and a very endearing Children’s Cookery Theatre.

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After forcing my way through an underwhelming Jerk Chicken Wrap from one of the Caribbean stall holders (freezing cold, despite just coming off the coals), I had set my tongue on fire enough to justify the need for an oversized ice-cream cone. Topped with gigantic, creamy scoops of raspberry ripple and rich chocolate, it was pure gluttony – my freebie intake at the Festival had already been epic! I managed to sample no less than caramel rum; flavoured vodkas; single malt whiskey; ginger beer; white wine; red wine; soft and hard cheeses; breads; crackers; olives; infused oils; bruschetta; fudge; chocolate; flavoured popcorn; tea; condiments; tapenades; organic honey; jams; sauces; cakes; macarons; vegan loaves; sausages; ham (you must try Jorge’s Deli); and barbecued meats. From an international perspective, my tastebuds toured across most of the United Kingdom, much of The Americas, through to the West Indies, on to Spain, Greece, France and Italy, some stop-overs in Eastern Europe and final pit-stops in Africa and Asia. It took Phileas Fogg 80 days but I safely travelled the globe in a single day.

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Weary from my travels, and with a satisfyingly full belly, I surrendered myself to the heavenly scented Spa Bus, courtesy of Elemis, for a glorious back massage (£15 for 15 minutes).

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Relaxed and happy, I finally headed home – armed with a sack of food and a freshly pressed lemonade, from The Fresh Lemonade Company, to hydrate me during the long train journey home. So good was my experience, I’ll be returning to Foodies Festival for the Clapham Common leg, because I’d be a fool to miss repeating such an enjoyable experience!

Taking place in eight U.K. locations throughout the summer, Clapham is one of five remaining chances to experience the Festival before its conclusion at the end of August:

London Clapham Common (June 7, 8 & 9)
Bristol Harbourside (July 12, 13 & 14)
Edinburgh Inverleith Park (August 9, 10 & 11)
FEAST Battersea Park (August 16, 17 & 18)
Oxford South Parks (August 24, 25 & 26).

Tickets are available to purchase from the Foodies Festival website or, alternatively, can be bought on the day.

REVIEW: One New Change’s Weekly Food Market Spices Up The City of London

2 Jun

Yesterday marked the launch of a brand new, weekly food market in the City of London’s classy and inviting shopping mall, One New Change. Introduced by chef, food writer and style icon Gizzi Erskine (pictured), the arrival of the market reflects Londoners’ growing demands for fresh or locally sourced produce, exciting new flavours and homemade delicacies. 

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There was something to suit all palettes and hunger pangs – from crumbly, handmade cheeses to mouthwatering cakes, biscuits and breads. With the enticement of free samples and cheerful conversation from an eclectic mix of sellers – all set against a backdrop of popular fashion retail outlets just a short walk away from St. Paul’s Cathedral – this new market offers the perfect pit-stop during a Saturday trip into London.

I’ve compiled a list of recommended items to buy from the market but, in all honesty, every stall has something so tantalisingly delicious, you’ll have a hard time deciding what you want to take home. My sweet tooth naturally veers towards confectionery and cakes – as indicated by my recommendations below – but there’s an abundance of savoury options to enjoy so I’ll be making a second trip down to the market within the next few weeks to buy a wider range of yummy goodies!

1. Handmade doughnuts by Cakehole (£1 each / 5 for £4 / 10 for £8)

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These lusciously light buns are available with a filling of jam, vanilla creme or chocolate custard. Lip-lickingly tasty without being too sickly, I came home wishing I could have purchased the whole stall. Family and friends all agreed that the vanilla doughnut I brought home was heavenly – but had left them all wanting more!

2. Bresaola by Picco (£4 per pack)

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This tangy, melt-in-the mouth beef – cured with rosemary, thyme and juniper berries before being thinly sliced – would be perfect in a sandwich, eaten on its own or enjoyed as part of a summer picnic, served with fresh bread, mozarella, rocket and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Utterly wonderful and an absolute must for any charcuterie board!

3. 70% Chocolate Brownies by Galeta (£2 each)

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Deliciously decadent, moist and satisfyingly gooey in the centre, this award-winning brownie is one of the best in the UK. You’ll savour every bite. Guaranteed.

4. Indian Spiced Shortbread & Mini Madeleines by Pistachio Rose (ask for prices)

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Aromatic, fragrant, light and seriously sensuous, Pistachio Rose successfully combine bold flavour combinations into elegant, delicately balanced, biscuits and cakes. They both excite the senses and satisfy curiosity. Outstanding.

5. Chocolates by Secret Garden (Bag of Truffles £4 / prices for bars and slabs vary)

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This small start-up, from North London, only uses ethically sourced ingredients. Their white chocolate, vanilla truffle melted in my mouth to deliver a luxurious burst of flavour, whilst a strawberry and balsamic alternative delivered an intoxicatingly sweet and sharp explosion, quickly followed by the sinful richness of intense, dark chocolate. Superb.

6. Chocolate Cake by Arapina (ask for prices)

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My mother has been making moreish cakes without any butter or preservatives for as long as I can remember. Thus, when I found out that Arapina also makes her signature chocolate cake without using any butter or unhealthy additives, I had phenomenally high expectations. A free sample of her creation thankfully dispelled all my fears. Packed with flavour, it was gratifyingly moist, rich, melt-in-the-mouth and not too sweet – everything I expect from a good chocolate cake. Thank you, Arapina!

7. ‘Biskies’ by Cutter & Squidge (ask for prices)

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Everyone who tried a free sample was quick to comment on the excellent flavour combinations of Cutter & Squidge’s rainbow display of ‘Biskies’ (such as milk choc with peanut and salted caramel; green tea with white choc and raspberry; or raspberry with lychee and rose). Looking a bit like a Macaron-Whoopie Pie hybrid, these are a moist and moreish cross between crisp biscuits and chewy cookies – hence the name ‘Biskies’! Addictive, original and a must-add to your bucket list of things to eat before you die!

8. 100% Raw Local Honey by Local Honey Man (ask for prices)

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Produced using beehives located, amongst other places, in Hackney and Essex, jovial Londoner Curtis (a.k.a the Local Honey Man) boasts an array of delicious varieties to satisfy even the pickiest honey connoisseur. Check out the White Rape Seed and Lucerne options but, whatever your preference, Curtis has the perfect jar of honey to sweeten your day!

9. Mexican Cheese by Gringa Dairy (£5 / 250g)

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This delicious Mexican cheese is made in Peckham and reminded me of fresh, salted ‘Anari’ found in villages across Southern Cyprus (which, if you’re unfamiliar with, is a bit similar to Italian Ricotta). Light, tasty and bursting with flavour, I might add it to my dinner party cheese board and have some fun asking my guests to guess where it’s from!

10. Chocolates by Chocololo (ask for prices)

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Delectable chocolates inspired by Provence, these are everything you’d expect… luxurious, smooth, pretty and sophisticated. They are slightly less rich and intense in comparison to some of the other chocolates and chocolate flavoured goods available at the market – which makes it far less sickly to devour more of them. Result!

11. Curry Bread by The Thornbury Deli (ask for prices)

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Light and airy with a perfect crust, the Thornbury Deli’s wonderful loaves are made even better with imaginative spices and other ingredients. Try the Curry bread or the Cheddar Cheese, Tomato and Red Onion loaf – both are divine!

One New Change Food Market, every Saturday from 10am

Gizzi Erskine Launches New Weekly Food Market

1 Jun

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Gizzi Erskine is one of the most exciting cooks and food writers of our time. Combining an infectious passion for food with a signature vintage style, Gizzi isn’t afraid to break from the crowd and tell it like is whenever it comes to anything edible. Thus, when I heard she’d be in the City of London to give a talk at the launch of a new weekly food market at One New Change (adjacent to historic landmark St. Paul’s Cathedral), I threw on the first thing I could find in my cupboard and hot-footed it down to the location.

Once there, I found an array of artisan food producers, selling the most aromatic and melt-in-the-mouth delights. My eyes feasted on handmade doughnuts by Cakehole, spicy Japanese-seasoned nuts from Kinomi, Indian spiced biscuits by Pistashio Rose, gooey chocolate brownies and tarts by Galeta, beautiful Mexican cheeses from Gringa Dairy, moreish Macarons by Cutter & Squidge, mouthwatering bresaola and Hungarian spiced salumi from Picco, arrays of honey from Londoner Curtis, a.k.a the charming Local Honey Man, oils from Morocco courtesy of Arganic and so much more!

My stomach rumbled appreciatively for the entire afternoon!  I stumbled upon so many delectable goodies, I actually need to list my favourites in a separate blog so that this post doesn’t turn into a dissertation!

Of course, I can’t leave you without sharing anything from London’s newest and most delicious weekly food market… so here’s a video of Gizzi Erskine’s afternoon speech. Sharing her heart-warming appreciation for both farmers and food markets and the important contribution they make to local communities and the food industry in general – indeed, many food buyers from supermarket and high-end retailers trawl the markets for luxury or unique products – Gizzi also discussed her brand new weight loss cookbook that can help shed extra pounds without compromising on taste or regular treats. It definitely made me feel A LOT less guilty about tucking into a handmade vanilla custard doughnut, chocolate brownie and flaky, spinach and feta croissant at the market…