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Lady Aga

A blog dedicated to recipes, cakes, baking, restaurants and booze. .... Yorkshire-born.... London-based ..... Labrador-Greed ..... Lady Aga also bakes custom-made-cakes for all kinds of celebratory events

Ice Cream Naked Cake

This cake’s personal philosophy?  Clothing optional. 

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A naked cake is quite simply a cake without any icing on the outside.  You can sandwich your sponge with buttercream but you gotta loose that outer coat.  Traditionally adorned with berries, these delectable creations are sky rocketing in popularity this year - even Poppy Delevingne had one at her London wedding.

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And if it’s good enough for Popdog, well then, goddamn, it’s good enough for Lady Aga!

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Except, with the temperature is in the late twenties, I’ve ditched my longtime lover, buttercream, and replaced him with ice cream.  It’s still a winning scenario.  And for those of you in doubt of the buttercream strip, I’ve added a brief covering of truffley chocolate ganache and some chocolate dipped strawbs.  Just for gratuitous calorific measure.

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Serves 12:

240g soft butter or margarine

240g caster sugar

5 medium eggs

240g self raising flour

1.25 litres ice cream (I used a mixture of chocolate brownie and plain ol’ vanilla)

200g chocolate

12 strawberries

25g butter

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees

Grease and line two 7” cake tins.  If you’re using shallow tins (and I was), line the sides with baking parchment so that the paper stands taller than the cake tin top edge by a good 2”/5cm)

Cream together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy

Gradually add your eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition to keep things airy

Once your eggs are all added to the mix, carefully fold in the flour

Divide the mixture between your two cake tins, smooth over and bake for around 25 minutes, or until well risen and when a skewer inserted comes out completely clean

Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack and peeling away the lining paper. 

Whilst the cakes are cooling, fill your kettle with water, bring to the boil and fill a small saucepan with the boiling water

Take a cereal-style bowl (or one that fits snugly on top of your pan) and tip your chocolate into said bowl.  Position the bowl of chocolate on top of the pan so that it’s well balanced.

Leave for a few minutes until melted and then stir to ensure all the chocolate is fully liquid. Leave for longer if needs be (if you’re making this in a cooler climate, you may need to re-boil the kettle, tip out the old water, refill and repeat)

Line a plate with tin foil or baking parchment.  Dip each of your strawberries into the chocolate, place on the foil lined plate, transfer to the fridge and leave to set.

Stir the butter into your chocolate and leave to melt, stir again to incorporate and set aside.

Return to your cakes - slice each in half horizontally so you have four cakes instead of two.

Beat your ice cream until softened and use this to sandwich and stack your four cakes together

Use a palette knife to scrape and smooth around the edge of the cake to ensure a neat finish (you might need to pop your cake back in the freezer for five minutes or so if the ice cream is melting too much).

Chill your cake in the freezer for ten minutes and then pour over the chocolate ganache.

Return to the freezer until ready to serve.

When it comes to serving, decorate the cake with your chocolate strawberries and slice using a sharp knife dipped in boiling water to get the cleanest cut.

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Chocolate and Salted Caramel Independence Day Cake

Ok, maybe a little bit tenuous seeing as there is zero evidence of the red, white and blue.  However, we do have stars, so let’s just keep with the theme.

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As well as stars,  we also have stripes - albeit forming the cake’s interior which is made up from six alternating layers of fudgy chocolate sponge and salted caramel buttercream.

Yep, salted caramel buttercream.  There is simply nothing better in this world.

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The chocolate cake is made according to the BBC’s recipe for Easy Chocolate Cake which does exactly what it says on the tin and delivers every time;  the salted caramel icing which sandwiches said cake together is just my (/Hummingbird’s) regular buttercream (most recently utilised here in my egg free sponge with strawberries and buttercream ) with a few tablespoons of salted caramel sauce whipped into the mix at the end.

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The exterior icing is rich and chocolatey - take your basic buttercream, add a few tablespoons of cocoa into the mix and towards the end beat in a scoop or two of cream cheese.  The stars are made from rolled sugarpaste icing, cut with three sizes of star cutter, sprayed with edible gold and silver spray paint (incidentally, this might happen to be the best perfume in town), and doused liberally with edible glitter.  Standard.

So there we have it - stars’n’stripes cake. 

Happy Independence Day!

Ottolenghi hummus

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I’d heard a rumour this was the Don Daddy of all hummus recipes and one that any self-respecting home cook should have in their repertoire.  The Puggle, needless to say, was a massive fan.

More tempting to me, however, was the fact that it’s also one of the simplest recipes listed in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook with an ingredient list mercifully short and easy to come by; because, let’s be honest, as beautiful and as alluring as Yotam’s recipes are, some are just plain intimidating when you look at the lengthy list of items involved in the making.  The only minor faf is the overnight soaking of the chickpeas but you could always substitute for 600g of the tinned version if you feel like taking a shortcut.

Anyway, here are all the ingredients you’ll need for this perfect Summer snacking number; the mega amount of tahini also renders it less carby than most hummus and so especially appealing during these light balmy months.

For a massive vat of hummus, you’ll need:

250g dried chickpeas

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

270g light tahini paste

4 tbsp lemon juice

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

100ml iced water (I poured mine into a jug and left in the freezer for around 20 minutes until needed)

Sea salt

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Rinse the chickpeas well and leave to soak overnight in plenty of water

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The following day, drain the chickpeas

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Tip into a large pan with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda.

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Turn up the heat and cook for around 3 minutes, or until things start to look a bit dehydrated.  Remember to keep stirring during this time

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Pour over 1.5 litres water, bring to the boil and simmer until soft but not completely collapsing (mine took 20 minutes but you could wait up to 40 minutes to reach this stage according to Ottolenghi); prepare for your kitchen to smell a bit farmyardy during this time

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Drain the chickpeas

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Transfer to your blender and blitz until you have a rough paste

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Tip your lemon juice and crushed garlic and tahini into the blender

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Continue to blend and when these are incorporated, slowly pour in the iced water. In total you should blitz for around five minutes or until super smooth and creamy.

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Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of half an hour before serving.

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Serve with crudites and crisps and many an aperatif

Bettys Ham and Leek Swiss Rosti Cakes

This recipe hails from Bettys - they of the awesome Northern tea rooms.  Those in the know will already be aware of their fat rascals and fondant fancies but Bettys are also pretty down on their savoury items.  I knew this already, being an owner of the official cookbook, and was reminded of that fact with the arrival of their catalogue which featured a card for this recipe.  The instructions to combine cheese and carbs with wild abandon (good old Swiss heritage), was too much to resist.  Be mine, rosti cakes.

Teamed here with a salad but, with the English Summer being what it is, these rosti cakes would be equally great and twice as comforting with a side of bubbling baked beans should the weather not be playing ball.

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Ingredients to serve 4:

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250g potatoes (Betty’s specify Wilja or Estima, but I went with bog standard King Edward and they turned out great)

25g butter

1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 leek, finely chopped

2 medium eggs

100g cooked ham, torn into pieces

1 tsp fresh horseradish, grated (I failed to track this down so used a generous teaspoon of Dijon mustard instead)

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

125g cheddar cheese, grated

25ml double cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

100g white breadcrumbs (polenta also works well in their place)

120ml vegetable oil

There is one minor ballache to this recipe: the potatoes- they need to be boiled until tender (10-15 mins), drained, cooled and then left to chill in the fridge overnight, once you’ve done this, however, you’re good to go…

Peel and coarsely grate your cooked and cooled potatoes and tip into a large bowl

Heat your butter in a small pan, add the onion and leek and fry until softened, tip into the potato bowl

Add the onion/ leek mix, one egg (keep the other back for dipping’n’coating’n’frying later on), the ham, horseradish, parsley, cheddar cheese and double cream.

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Mix well and season to taste

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Shape and mould your potato cakes

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Teamwork optional…

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Beat your second egg in a medium bowl.  Dip each potato cake into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs - rolling them about and patting on the crumbs so they adhere nicely.

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At this point you can refrigerate your rosti cakes in the fridge until needed, or turn on your hob and get frying.

Heat the oil in a non stick pan and fry for a few minutes on each side until bronzed and golden.

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Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

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Boozy fruit cake with rich chocolate ganache

Another week, another cake; can you handle it?  I think you’ve got it in you, come on guys, muster the strength, be brave.

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I know some people think that fruit cake ain’t all that (I’m looking at you, Blonde), and the reality is that a lot of the time it can be deeply underwhelming.  However, if you are of the opinion that there are few things in life that can’t be improved with the addition of booze and/ or chocolate, you’re totally going to dig this cake.  I mean, can we just take a closer look at the ganache for a minute…

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Living the dream

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… aaaaand, focus!  Did I mention this cake has been force-fed a combination of cherry and regular brandy over the course of three months?  Yep, this guy is pure gasoline in the best possible way.

Let’s just quickly talk about how this all came to be:  In last week’s post I regaled you with tales of the 37.5kg wedding cake commission.  Thing is, that cake was actually heavier (can you believe?) because there was another separate Christening cake made to accompany and be served at a later date.  Now, fruit cakes (the traditional flavour for said occasion) pack a punch in the lb-stakes and the 6” marzipan and fondant coated cake I sent the bride off with was around the 2.5 kg mark so we’re actually talking about 40kg of wedding cake.  Sacred blue!

I made a spare sample cake, just out of curiosity, since I’d never bothered to sozzle a cake before.  The Christening cake was made to Delia Smith’s classic Rich Fruit Cake recipe and I can’t think of any improvements that could be made - except maybe more glacee cherries.  Ideally, you make the cake a few months in advance (I went for three), wrap in greaseproof paper and every two weeks, spike with a needle and dribble with a tablespoon of brandy.  Keep feeding until you’re ready to serve/ loose patience.

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The ganache is made by slowly melting chocolate and butter, before beating in double cream and leaving to cool until you have a spreadable consistency that’s going to adhere to the cake and not slide right off.  From memory I used a 4:2:1 ratio of chocolate to butter to cream, so 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more), 100g butter and 50ml cream.  So long as the chocolate and butter are the key players in the mix, it’s going to set alright and you don’t need to be too scientific about it.

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If you haven’t got the inclination to wait three months for your boozy cake, you could always pierce and pour over brandy when it’s fresh from the oven.  Leave to cool, smooth over the ganache with a palette knife and away you go. 

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Serve with a glass of Madeira for added alcoholic opulence.

Red velvet ombre wedding cake with sugarcraft hydrangea petals

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In last week’s post I mentioned that a somewhat major wedding cake commission had kept me occupied throughout April and then pretty much put me off baking for the entirety of May. 

By way of explanation, here are some photos of the cake in question.  She weighed in at 37.5kg (including a spare 12” diameter tier that was sent to the kitchen for slicing) and took up a mere 50 hours of my life.  Phew.  A cake birth and a half and, like any proud parent, I wanted to share it with you. 

This week I’m also making a guest blogger appearance on my good friend Mills’ fab food blog, Clean Real Good Food.  As well as being a goldmine of nutritional information, www.crgf.co.uk is also the perfect antidote to the sugar fest that is this post.

Anyway, back to that cake: Each tier comprises three two inch high layers of red velvet, each fading from dark red to pale pink with a cocoa edge to keep the look and the taste from being too sickly sweet.  Sandwiched and coated with buttercream and covered in fondant icing.

The fondant icing was a definite learning curve - that stuff really takes no prisoners.  I also had to buy a 24 inch rolling pin for the task; at four inches shy of a baseball bat’s length, it was quite an intimidating object to work with.

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The hydrangea petals are fully edible and made from sugarpaste.  I was pretty relieved to have had a head start in the technique after my Jane Asher course in PME flowers at the end of last year, not least because it offered forewarning of just how long these guys take.  Although the edible colour dust application was weirdly therapeutic.

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I went for brighter hues so that the effect wouldn’t just fade into the background when the cake was in situ.  And what a setting - get a load of the table wreath (sadly not my handiwork)!image

As with all my red velvet cakes, I was totally faithful to Martha Stewart and stuck with her recipe.  I did an English measurement conversion a few years back for my first red velvet wedding cake but you can find the original here.

Definitely my proudest baking achievement to date - hope you approve.

Egg free sponge cake with strawberries and buttercream

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Apologies for the awol status, Lady Aga readers.  In vague defense, I have two excuses - one being a gigantic wedding cake, the baking of which nearly killed me.  The other will probably be the death of me in an entirely different way.  Death by cuteness.  It’s possible with a puggle pup.

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Yeah, so The Blonde and I got a dawg, he’s called Zissou and he’s a licker. 

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He’s also a bite-sized bundle of extreme naughtiness - three more words on this guy:  Trouble.  Never.  Sleeps.

Anyway, enough dog bothering, let’s take it back to the blog; thrillingly (or embarrassingly, depending on how you look at it), during this leave of absence, Square Meal appointed me Blogger of the Week; an announcement they made on Twitter last Monday.

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Pretty thrilled with that.  So to celebrate (and return to the point of this post)… I give you cake.

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I’ve got a cake commission on this week and one of the people said cake has to feed is egg intolerant.  As allergies go, this one has got to suck fairly bad.  However, the good news is that recipes for egg-free cakes aren’t that hard to come by, nor are they difficult to bake.  This one is based on a Hairy Bikers number from BBC Food and, despite the relatively heavy quantities of baking powder (which I feared might ruin the taste), it was declared an across-the-board hit when served at afternoon tea this Sunday.image

The resulting sponge cakes are quite thin, hence the bulking out and height-building with the strawberries in between.   Next time I might double the recipe but for now, this is what you’ve got.

I managed to eke this cake out to twelve servings but, if we’re being honest (/realistically greedy), 6-8 might have been a better bet.

For the cakes:

175g/ 6oz plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

70g/ 2.5oz margarine

60g/ 2.1 oz sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

150ml/ 1/4 pint milk

For the icing:

240g icing sugar

80g butter, softened

25ml milk

1 punnet strawberries (around 400g), sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line two 7” cake tins

Tip the flour and baking powder into a bowl (the Bikers said to sift, I rarely sift, do as you wish)

Cream together the butter, sugar and golden syrup until light and fluffy

Add a third of the flour and gently beat until well mixed, follow with a third of the milk and do the same.

Repeat until you have used up both milk and flour mix

Divide the cake batter between the two tins and bake for around 20 minutes or until risen and golden and when a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and turn out onto a cake rack to cool.  Whilst the cakes are cooling, make your icing

In either a free standing mixer or using an electric whisk, or, indeed, a bowl and wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease, beat together your icing sugar and butter until it comes together like fine crumbs.

Pour in the milk and turn up the speed on the mixer, beat for five minutes until light and fluffy.

Place one of the cakes onto a plate or cake stand.  Spread a third of the buttercream on top of the cake and scatter over half your strawberries.

Apply the second third of the buttercream to the other cake and place the buttercreamed side on top of the strawberry-topped cake (this will act as a brief barrier to prevent your cake getting soggy - but not for long so be sure to eat asap).

Spoon and spread the remaining third of the buttercream on top of the cake and top with the second half of your strawbs.

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Slice and serve.

Ok, just one more word on the pooch, this is how he watches me when I’m baking.  Get a load of that head tilt - too adorable, can’t take it!

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Fera at Claridges

Fera as in wild - like feral.  It’s Latin and it’s also the latest dining installation at Claridges hotel from Simon Rogan who hails from, most notably, L’Enclume up in Cumbria; a two Michelin star establishment with a heavy focus on foraging and locality.  I’ve never been, but I know people who have and they say it’s better than The Fat Duck.

Wild is perhaps not an attribute you would necessarily align with Claridges hotel; one of London’s chicest hospitality destinations - all elegant sophistication and not in the least bit untamed.  I might have felt a little vulnerable and prey-like having flung myself through the revolving doors into Claridges vast urban safari of Art Deco luxe and encountered a distinct lack of enthusiasm to show me to the dining room but, once you’ve located the red velvet curtains of Fera, it’s hospitality central.  The staff are so charming and pitch-perfect in their reception it’s almost comical.  It also helps that they all look, well, just so damned good!  I particularly loved the girl’s uniforms of colourblock navy and black long sleeved shift dresses; a look that The Blonde summed up as ‘futuristic air hostess’.

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The dining room really is pretty damned beathtaking - designed by Guy Oliver (who, we were informed, was eating at the next door table to us on our opening lunch visit).  It’s an oasis of smoke green, lush leather textures, opulent carpets, stained glass ceiling panels and an ornate hand painted wall. 

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Said wall also features a vast illuminated entrance kitchen pass (more voyeuristic diners can even enter for a kitchen tour) adding a bit of spotlit glamour for the stars of our show; the chefs.

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In the centre of the room you’ve got an imposing tree with spindly branches stretching up to the sun-like stained glass above.

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We started with one of the nameless cocktails (they’re listed by their ingredients and there’s pretty much something for every palette ranging from the bellini to the negroni to the sour) which we were told was most martini-like.  The bar has employed the services of The Moonshine Kid (he of Talented Mr Fox) who has worked closely with the kitchen to come up with one of the most original lists I’ve seen in a while.  In signature Moonshine style, you can expect all kinds of clever distillation tricks.  No Monster Munch martini here, instead tipples reference the fresh produce that Fera, most of which is shipped down from L’Enclume’s sustainable farm once a week.

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It was The Blonde’s birthday and we were in the celebrating mood so managed to massively up-sell ourselves into selecting the second most expensive menu available (the subtly incremental price point differences between each of the five lunch menus really speaks to your credit card like no other).  I was handed the priceless menu on arrival which was an interesting move…  so who know how much damage I inflicted on my wallet by volunteering to pick up the bill; ah, the perils of looking like a kept woman.

Anyway, here’s the lowdown on our ten courses, and then some…

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First up, pea wafer, fennel and flowers - flavours as bright and refreshing as the colour palette. The pea wafer being Michelin’s answer to the kale crisp.

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Stewed rabbit with lovage sounded like we were in for a casserole-esque dish but what arrived was a crunchy fritter with a sort of pork scratching-like exterior and creamy gamey centre; like the first course, a great play on alternate textures.

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The sommelier was very keen to have us on the orange wine - a wine made from the entire grape (like how they make rouge but with white grapes instead of red) and fermented in a clay jug for up to half a year.  However, with prices starting at £60 we went for a more affordable Morellino di Scansano instead.  Excellent hand-crafted stemware here, courtesy of Mark Thomas.

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Mackerel, caviar and seawater cream - a mooreish rich ceviche.

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This next course was not listed on the menu so came with a bit of fanfare - apparently Rogan considers bread and butter to be a course in its own right so here we have a mushroom broth (just out of shot), a warm hunk of soda-ish bread and bone marrow butter.  The broth was loaded with umami (think mushroom ketchup) and The Blonde lapped it up, despite his fear of the funghi.

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This next course… oh, my: Winslade, potato and duck heart.  The creamiest of mashed potato, infused with Winslade cheese (a Camembert-esque Tunworth; a product of the Neal’s Yard and Hamlshire Cheeses collaboration) and duck hearts.  Carby, comforting and bowl-scrapingly epic - in truth, the sound these dishes make when they are scraped is not a good one so you’ve really got to be dedicated to the cause to do so.  If chicken soup is Jewish penicillin, this dish could heal the world.

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Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream, scallop roe, acidic apple juice - best tartare I’ve ever eaten, hands down.

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Prawns from Gairloch, prime pork fat, borage and chicory.  They cure the lardo themselves at Fera and it is heaven in melting piggy form.

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Brill cooked in whey, flavoured with hogweed, Jerseys, blewit ‘shrooms and beach herbs.  Earthy flavours and brill so succulent it can only have been cooked sous vide and then given a final glaze in the frying pan.

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Middle white pork, caramelised leek, broad bean and mead reduction.

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The gravy was administered by a chef they call Goose - pork served by Goose.  Now that probably wouldn’t happen in the wild!

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We had been tipped off that the pork was THE dish - Rogan’s pairing of belly and loin obviously set my world alight but the prawn and lardo combo was the ultimate in my eyes.

Savoury courses now over, time for some sweetness.  Baked yoghurt, pear poached in perry, mint and Muscovado - a perfect palate cleanser and the best brandy snap money can buy

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Iced beech leaf, nitro sweet cheese, apple sorel - the specifics of this dish slightly evade me because, at this point, the joyous people of Fera brought us each a complimentary birthday cocktail; there is nothing, I repeat nothing, in this world I enjoy more than free delicious booze.  This was such an unexpected and thoughtful gesture - I’d mentioned in the online booking that the meal was a birthday celebration but the fact that it was remembered and recognised in this way underlines the attention to detail going on at Fera.  Plus, let’s face it, a piped birthday message or token sparkler isn’t going to add anything to these already too-beautiful dishes.

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Then arrived what appeared to be a tankard of chamomile milkshake.  The prospect of downing the shake after however-many courses was only slightly intimidating to this well-seasoned Yorkshire stomach.  However, upon presentation at the table, the vessel was deftly lifted and shifted to reveal our diddy chocolate malt beneath and the fact tankard was just an elaborately crafted shot glass on legs (two thirds of the glass is hollow)

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The staff kindly move the menu down its holder as you plough your way through each course so you can see just where you’re at in the tasting game- so, by now, you an see that we had completed Fera.

Not quite… petit fours including macarons with a smokey ganache filling, presented in a smoke filled box - whose wafts I failed to catch on camera, such was the delight and excitement at their arrival.

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In typical fashion, we were the last at our table and, in the interests of affording the staff a little privacy during their briefing we headed to the bar to hang out with the movers and shakers and money makers

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As per every other element of Fera, the small but perfectly formed adjoining bar is delightfully done; don’t expect endless shelves housing every alcohol under the sun - in view are just a few gins and vodkas with artfully displayed homemade bitters on the bar top.  All booze is London-local and small batch- we’re talking Sipsmiths, Dods, Jensen’s and, obviously, that old Moonshine Kid.

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A seriously class operation on all levels - unlike these two.

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Fera, I’m wild about you.

Fera at Claridges, Brook Street, London W1K 4HR

Square Meal

La Poule au Pot, Ebury Street, London

On the all too rare occasions that London is graced with a blue and cloudless sky, al fresco drinking and dining are on my immediate and essential agenda.  So, when the weather is looking comme ca…

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…may I suggest you pick up the phone to La Poule au Pot in Pimlico, muster up your finest franglais and book yourself a terrace table.  You could even, if you’re feeling energetic and visiting on a Saturday, arrive slightly earlier to peruse the farmer’s market that takes place every weekend just next door on Mozart Square.  I’ve never made it down time to witness said stalls, but the chat is that they’re goodies.

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Anyway, La Poule: the surroundings are charming, the food is generous, hearty, and Gallic, and, in all my visits, quality has been solid and dependable.  The Blonde does occasionally whine about one chewy steak in 2012, but other than that we are all good with the PoP.  It’s also reasonably easy to snag a table (I booked the day before and got a terrace seat, no problems).  Plus, it’s pretty decent value with three courses for just under £25.  The price point seems all that more attractive if you happen to mooch around the neighbouring antique and interiors shops of Pimlico Road; that £3k pineapple lamp in Soane, alas, is still a very long way from being affordable, and having a Daylesford Organic within eyeballing distance does help put ones plate into stark financial perspective.

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We’ve never bothered with the a la carte but prefer to hear the brusque french waiters reel off their unchanging Table D’hote menu (which you can find here, just in case you are in need of a heads-up before you visit). 

Although, if we’re honest, the main selling point of PoP is their house wine, which they serve in a magnum - it’s all hugely exciting.  Technically they’re meant to mark off how much you’ve drunk by the end of the meal and bill you accordingly but, never ones to do things by halves, we’ve always necked the lot and been charged for the full litre-and-a-half come kicking out time.  It’s just the rule entre nous.

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Good cutlery too.

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For starters, the onion tart is rich and cheesy with an eggy wobble and lightly caramelised crust, set in flakey pastry and served with a brief dressed salad. 

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Moules marinere with extra bread from the waiter’s basket (which they allow you to pick by hand - zey are French, but zey don’t use zee tongs, controversial, non?!

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My staple order - grilled calves liver done rare which comes unadulterated, save for some rosemary sprigs and a pot of mustard.

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Rich, steaming cassoulet - the ultimate marriage of pork and carbs.

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Speaking of carbs, there’s more - mashed AND boulangere.

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Plus some token actual genuine vegetables - petit pois braised with bacon and carrots in a creamy sauce.

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Laters, magnum.

In an unusual turn of events, on this outing we decided to forgo pudding.  But, having sampled all the options at some time or another over the past few years, rest assured that they are all good solid choices - we’re talking tarte tatin, chocolate mousse, creme brulee… all the classics and then some.

All that and a view.

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La Poule au Pot, 231 Ebury Street, London SW1W 8UT

Pimlico Road Farmer’s Market, Mozart/ Orange Square, SW1W 8UT Every Saturday 9am-1pm

Square Meal

Pot Luck Club, Cape Town, South Africa

Picture the scene: lazy Saturday lunchtime, penultimate day of official South African summer, blue skies, beautiful people, drool-worthy food stalls, long communal tables stretching the length of market tents, overlooked by hanging baskets of shrubbery with bottles of wine plonked along at various intervals.  Welcome to the Neighbourhood Market at the Biscuit Mill in Cape Town’s happening suburb of Woodstock…

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…grab yourself a beer or a cane sugar and rum cocktail and survey the scene; it’s essentially a slightly crowded but totally delicious version of heaven.

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I say ‘lazy’ with a degree of artistic license - The Blonde had been up since 5am doing his producer thang; I rocked up at the Tiger House location at a more socially acceptable hour, hung about for a while committing on-set faux pas such as eating from the actor’s sandwich platters before The Blonde took pity and drove us down to Woodstock for a market mooch and slap-up lunch at The Pot Luck Club.

Said restaurant is the sister of Test Kitchen; Cape Town’s hottest foodie property.  To secure a table there you need to book months in advance.  Us laisez faire individuals are more than happy with its sibling’s relaxed take on reservations (you should be good to go at PLC with a few weeks notice).

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You access Pot Luck Club via a glass lift at the corner of the market; it’s situated on the sixth floor so offers great visual opportunity to check out the hipsters below, plot your market route and get some take-your-breath-away views of the city.

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You know, as soon as the lift doors open, that you’re in for a good time; the open plan kitchen emits heavenly scents and the air is thick with that idiosyncratic restaurant l’eau d’anticipation and optimism of a beautiful meal to come.

It’s a good looking beast, The Pot Luck Club- panoramic views, parquet flooring, great crockery, fancy stemware and a price point that reads like a Pizza Express menu (gotta love that rand)

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You choose about 3-4 dishes per person and mark up your selection on the notepad provided.  Then just lay back and don’t think of mediocre dim sum at Ping Pong (who employ a similar ordering tactic) - or maybe do; it might heighten your senses for what is to come…

We went for nine dishes, just to be on the safe side of the wolf’s door, you know.

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The clever Luke Dale Roberts; Man of the kitchen and the hour has broken his menu down according to your palette.  Dishes arrive as and when, so your mouth is in a constant state of surprise and delight.

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First up, sour dough, sweet and smoky roasted garlic, tapenade and olives

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Steamed edamame with miso and toasted garlic salt

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Fresh fish tacos Pot Club style - miniature bites of fresh, zesty, crunchy, creamy awesomeness (Cape Town kills it when it comes to avos, aka avocados)

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Korean fried chicken with a caramelised spicy crust and pineapple miso slaw; although there is an entire section of the menu dedicated to ‘umami’, in truth a lot of the mooreish but light plates pay homage to this fifth sense to brilliant effect.

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5 spice roasted pork belly with whole cured roasted baby apple.  Served with a sort of air-dried crackling and topped with sweet halva, perfectly complementing this melting piggy.

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But the star of the show has to be the smoked beef fillet with black pepper and truffle cafe au lait.  Cooked sous vide and finished off in the pan for extra tenderness.  I’ll never be able to do verbal justice to this dish; it was quite simply unlike any other.  As soon as The Blonde put fork to mouth he was already summoning the waiter back to beg for another plate. But, alas, the kitchen had shut up shop on the savoury front.  I sort of want to weep recalling the tragedy of this incident.  My kingdom for that beef…

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Blood orange and gin sorbet, sake compressed watermelon and bitter jellies-  acidicly erasing all creamy luxurious memories of truffled beef in the best possible way.

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Nectarine and almond tart with malted popcorn ice cream - a sort of honeycomb popped corn praline crumbled on top; This pudding is responsible for one of the many moments I decided to move to Cape Town asap.

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Malted chocolate fondant with stem ginger icing.  Malt and chocolate - does it get any better?  Make it gooey and melty and you’ve just turned it up to eleven.  Bravo Pot Luck Club.

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Mint tea to finish, it was a mint tea but I just love that cup and saucer.  There was a shop underneath the restaurant selling similar stoneware, not sure that’s where it was from but aint it pretty?

And, of course, speaking of pretty, there’s THAT view.  I’ll have seconds, thirds and fifteenths of that guy, please.

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Pot Luck Club, Silo Top Floor, The Old Biscuit Mill, 373-375 Albert Road Woodstock, Cape Town

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