Bread Heaven

What a week it has been!  Wednesday was both the start of my new job and the Band of Bakers Christmas party.  Forgive me for not providing the usual photo round-up of the bakes, but I was embroiled in far too much chaos to remember to dig out my iPhone.  Luckily, the lovely Harley managed to get quite a few snaps which you can see on her blog Running, Cakes and London: A Beginner’s Blog.

One of the most exciting things that happened in 2013 was our appearance on Paul Hollywood’s Bread.  Naomi, Jon and I were lucky enough to get the chance to bake with the Silver Fox himself before he joined a big group of our bakers for an event celebrating enriched breads.  A couple of weeks later we were invited to Paul’s studio kitchen to try a range of enriched breads that he had made during the episode, including a very special brioche couronne filled with parma ham, mozzarella and basil.

Naomi, Jon and I making lardy cakes with the Master Baker

Naomi, Jon and I making lardy cakes with the Master Baker

The couronne was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten, so I decided to recreate it for our Christmas party.  Honestly, if you only have time to make one loaf of bread over the festive season, make this. Your family will love you for it.  The recipe can be found on the BBC Food website here.

The inside of the pre-rolled brioche: parma ham, mozzarella and basil

The inside of the pre-rolled brioche: parma ham, mozzarella and basil

The finished article (photo by Harley Beecroft)


Some Favourite Christmas Recipes

With only one month to go until Christmas, the subject of festive food is a hot one.  Regardless of your feelings on how soon we should start preparing, it is definitely time to start planning the Christmas lunch, making the edible gifts and booking the Ocado order (I never before realised how quickly the pre-Christmas slots get booked up!)  I have a timeline for the next month which includes everything from making the chilli-chocolate truffles that Ollie loves so much to ordering the beef that we will be devouring on Christmas day.  For the past few years, I have been on a mission to find the perfect Christmas recipes – the ones that never fail, are easy to prepare and taste delicious.  Here are a few that I would like to share with you:

The Christmas Pudding

In my family it is only the women (my mum, my aunt, my grandma and myself) that like a Christmas pudding, so I always make a chocolate dessert for the men.  For me, there is only one Christmas pudding recipe that I intend to make for the rest of my life and that is Dan Lepard’s Simple Christmas Pudding from Short and Sweet – it contains the perfect mixture of fruit, spices, treacle and nuts, along with a generous slosh of ale (never a bad thing!)  It tastes just like the old fashioned Christmas puddings my Nan used to bring to the table when we were children.  It can be made up to a month before Christmas day, but I always make it roughly two weeks before.  The recipe claims to serve six to eight but, with my greedy lot, it just about goes around four.  Serve with clotted cream or extra-thick double cream.

A Simple Christmas Pudding from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet

A Simple Christmas Pudding from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet

A Simple Christmas Pudding can be found on page 434 of Short and Sweet, available to order from Amazon here.

The Nibbles

When we spend time with Ollie’s family over Christmas, there is always the Annual Thomas Family Monopoly Championships that takes place after the meal we have together on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.  Forget any images of brothers playing happily together by the light of the Christmas tree, this is a fiercely fought battle in which no dirty tactics are off limits.  It is also traditional that cocktails and Ollie’s Dad’s famous cheeseboard accompany this game, which is often played long into the night.  Last year, I added a jar of candied nuts into the mix to provide that much-needed sugar boost for those of us still in the game.  These are a mixture of nuts – I used walnuts, pecans, almonds and cashews – coated in a crunch of sugar, smoked paprika and cinnamon.  They take no time at all to make and are perfect with a gin and tonic.

Sugar and Spiced Candied Nuts from the Smitten Kitchen Blog

Sugar and Spiced Candied Nuts from the Smitten Kitchen Blog

The Recipe for Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts can be found on the Smitten Kitchen blog here.

The Mince Pies

Another shout for Short and Sweet.  I usually try out different mince pies each year to keep things interesting – this year is going to be something a little more experimental, and I’m not sure yet whether it will work.  If it does not, Dan Lepard’s Extra Rich Mince Pies are the ultimate go-to recipe.  These are possibly the most luxurious mince pies I have ever made – the pastry contains cream cheese and butter and egg and ground almonds. Drooling yet?  They are also deep, deep fill, so one of them is like a small meal.  You can fill them with any mincemeat you like, but of course I like to use the Dark Rich Mincemeat recipe from the same book (page 345) – two batches of this will usually last me the entire festive season.  Last year, I added some marshmallow fluff for the ultimate in filth food – not recommended unless you have a very, very sweet tooth!

Extra Rich Mince Pies (with added Marshmallow Fluff) from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet

Extra Rich Mince Pies (with added Marshmallow Fluff) from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet

Extra Rich Mince Pies can be found on page 385, and Dark Rich Mincemeat on page 345, of Short and Sweet (ordering details above).

The Chutney

This is another one I like to mix up each year.  This year I am working on a recipe for a spiced red onion marmalade, which I am hoping will be delicious with the enormous amount of cheese I am planning to buy and consume.  Last year, I went to Brockley Market and bought as many plums as I could fit in my bike basket – with them I made a deliciously spiced plum chutney, which was a welcome accompaniment to the table of cold cuts and cheeses.

The recipe for Spiced Plum Chutney can be found on the BBC Good Food website here.

The Edible Gifts

Ricciarelli are traditionally given as Christmas gifts in Italy – they are beautiful, delicate little almond biscuits and very easy to make.  The best version I have ever seen were made by my friend and fellow Band of Bakers member Juliet for our feature in delicious. magazine last year.  I am planning to whip up a few batches of these to add to some Christmas hampers.  The best way to present them is stacked delicately in tall glass jars tied with a festive ribbon.

The recipe for Juliet’s Ricciarelli can be found on the delicious. website here.

Guess Who’s Coming to (Christmas) Dinner

I have a suspicion that people fear vegetarians at Christmas almost as much as they fear forgetting a present or running out of booze.  Traditional Christmas food in the UK generally focuses around two very non-veggie ingredients: meat and suet, and people find they are often at a loss as to what to what to feed a vegetarian for Christmas dinner.  I’ve heard so many horror stories from vegetarian friends – one was given a plate of vegetables and potatoes with vegetable stock poured over the top (the gravy was made with meat juices), another was given two Quorn sausages in place of the meat and no gravy, and I have been told of people who have been served pasta with stir-in sauce without anything at all from the traditional roast.  I was a pescatarian for twelve years and was never particularly enamoured with the anaemic meat-substitute products, so would often be given salmon or a nut roast, which wasn’t at all bad.  I have often wondered, though, why so many people find it difficult to make inspiring food for vegetarians at Christmas.

One of the most common worries about having vegetarians to Christmas dinner is that cooking for them is yet another thing to do in the never-ending list of tasks in the run up to Christmas. When faced with present-wrapping, endless entertaining and precision timing of the Christmas dinner itself, it is always tempting to pick up a nut roast from the freezer section and douse it in vegetarian instant gravy.  The best vegetarian Christmas dinners are the ones where everybody, or the majority of diners, are vegetarians – I went to a vegetarian pre-Christmas dinner once and the range of meat-free dishes, including a rather delicious aubergine and red pepper strudel, was amazing.  The vegetarian main course is a great addition to any Christmas table as it can be enjoyed by all.  Meat-eaters are unlikely to want to try a slice of a Quorn roast, but they may be tempted by something a little more enticing.

Cooking the filling for the mushroom, chestnut and spinach Wellington

Cooking the filling for the mushroom, chestnut and spinach Wellington

My Christmas vegetarian dish is based around two very hearty ingredients – mushrooms and chestnuts – which create a substantial, and almost meaty, texture and flavour.  This is a mushroom, chestnut and spinach Wellington – a combination of those three ingredients with red wine, breadcrumbs and cream wrapped in puff pastry.  It is very easy to make; the filling is combined in one frying pan and, if you use shop-bought puff pastry, the entire Wellington can be prepared, assembled and cooked in little over an hour.  For extra convenience, this can be made and assembled the day before and then put in the oven half an hour before needed.

Mushroom, Chestnut and Spinach Wellington

Mushroom, Chestnut and Spinach Wellington

The filling is everything a Christmas dinner should be: festive, rich and with a big kick of umami flavour.  The contrasting textures of the crunchy chestnuts, meaty mushrooms and slightly crunchy spinach prevent it being too same-y and bland and the puff pastry gives it enough substance to make it a filling meal.  A slice of this with a sharp vegetarian gravy would make for a very happy vegetarian indeed.

Mushroom, Chestnut and Spinach Wellington

  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms
  • Olive oil
  • 3 large onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 250g Portobello mushrooms, halved and sliced
  • 200g cooked and peeled chestnuts (I used Merchant Gourmet)
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 85ml red wine
  • 3 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Puff pastry, either home-made or one packet of shop-bought

Put the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour over 250ml boiling water.  Leave to soak for 20 minutes before draining the mushrooms, squeezing out any excess liquid, and reserving the water.

Blanch the spinach in boiling water until wilted, then refresh in cold water.  Drain and squeeze as much of the liquid out of the spinach as possible.  Roughly chop and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for about ten minutes on a medium-low heat until the onions are translucent – do not let them brown.  Add the mushrooms, including the drained porcini, to the frying pan and cook until the mushrooms are soft and caramelised.  Add more olive oil here if necessary.

Halve or quarter the larger chestnuts, add to the pan with the chopped spinach and cook for a further couple of minutes.  Add the red wine and 85ml of the reserved porcini soaking liquid along with the tarragon, salt and pepper and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.  Stir in the cream and the breadcrumbs and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring until all of the ingredients are combined.  Allow the mixture to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200ºc / 400ºf / gas 6.  Roll out the puff pastry to a large rectangle – the pastry should be about the thickness of a two-pence piece.  Arrange the cooled filling in a rectangular mound along the length of the pastry, leaving enough pastry either side to wrap around the filling.  Slice the edges into strips and ‘plait’ across the top of the pastry, sealing the edges until all of the filling is sealed in.  Place on a well-oiled baking sheet, brush with egg wash and bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the pastry is browned – use a thermometer to check the filling is cooked through.  Serve in slices with festive vegetables and vegetarian gravy.

Serves eight.

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

I have been trying to blog about this for a couple of days but, typically of the past week, life has gotten in the way. Yesterday was my last day in my job so as well as tying up loose ends and handing over unfinished work, I was taken off to The Mitre in Holland Park and bought many G&Ts by my colleagues. I lost count of how many I had but, needless to say, this morning I had the kind of hangover that only a couple of strong painkillers and a Mike & Ollie lamb shoulder wrap could cure.

Prior to the carnage, Thursday was my final turn on the office baking rota. The baking rota has been a long-standing tradition in my office – each Thursday, different colleagues bring in home-baked goodies for the team. This is looked forward to and enormously well-received. In fact, I have never baked for more excitable recipients than my (now former) team.

As it was my last turn on the rota, I took in a few things: the sausage rolls with apricots and caramelised onions, the classic old rhubarb and ginger cake and a batch of coffee and walnut cupcakes. I had initially intended only to make the first two, however on finding I had all of the ingredients in the house, and two cupcake boxes taking up valuable space in the cupboard, I decided to add these to the list.

Coffee and walnut is one of those retro favourites, loved by tearooms everywhere. I have made countless coffee cakes over the years – it is my Dad’s favourite, so I make one for his birthday every year, although he hates walnuts, so I always leave them out. I also love Dan Lepard’s recipe for Double Espresso and Brazil Nut Cake  and James Martin’s Coffee and Cardamom Cake. Whatever your preferred variationof this old classic, the golden rule is not to skimp on the coffee. I like a strong coffee flavour so will make a strong espresso with the coffee machine or use powdered instant espresso, a recent discovery. A good coffee and walnut recipe is a great addition to any baking repertoire, and can easily be converted to cupcakes.

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

For the cakes:

  • 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 40ml espresso
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g walnuts, finely chopped

For the icing:

  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 30ml espresso
  • Walnuts, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 175ºc / 350ºf / gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cupcake cases.

In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture begins to look curdled at this point, beat in a tablespoon of the flour until it comes together. Beat in the espresso.

Fold in the flour and baking powder until just combined. Gently fold in the walnuts.

Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minute until risen and golden. A skewer inserted into the centre of a cake should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the butter in the bowl of a freestanding mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the icing sugar and beat until a smooth icing is formed.  Add the coffee and beat until fully mixed.  Pipe on to the top of the cooled cupcakes and top with some walnut pieces.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Burger League: Patty & Bun

A Feast at Patty & Bun

A Feast at Patty & Bun

The Restaurant:  Patty & Bun, 54 James Street, London W1U 1EU

The Hungry Ones:

Left to Right: Gemma (The Boozy Rouge), Katie (Burgerista)

Left to Right: Gemma (The Boozy Rouge), Katie (Burgerista)

Gemma and Katie ordered:  Smokey Robinson burgers (beef patty, cheese, tomato, caramelised onion, bacon, ketchup, smoky P&B mayo, brioche), coleslaw, chips with rosemary salt, red stripe beer and sauvignon blanc.

The Scores:

Patty and Bun opened their first restaurant in Marylebone a year ago and has already become the stuff of London burger legends.  Despite having had their burgers from stands at various street food events, I had yet to visit the restaurant.  I had two failed attempts earlier in the year when the queue was so enormous that my hunger forced me to go elsewhere.  Such is the popularity of these burgers that queueing is always a major concern, hence why we planned our visit for 6pm on a Tuesday – and walked right in.  It has everything you would expect from a central london no-reservations burger bar: stripped down decor, communal tables, food eaten from paper, buckets of cutlery etc. etc.  It had a really pleasant atmosphere and my only real bugbear was the wine served in a tumbler. I know this is the cool thing to do these days, but sometimes I just yearn for a proper wine glass.  Anyway, I can easily overlook this due to the  magnificent quality of the food.  The burger had all of my favourite things: slightly sweet brioche, crispy bacon and a seasoned patty cooked medium rare.  It had a pile of soft caramelised onions and some good tangy cheese, but I just would have wanted my smokey robinson to have a touch more smoke – just a few notches up on the chipotle, perhaps.  The chips were among the best I have had in London recently and the slaw perfectly creamy.  This restaurant has had a lot of hype and it is all to be believed, thoroughly excellent burgers and, at £34 for two burgers, two sides and two alcoholic drinks, a total bargain.

A note on the photography:  I was only able to take a picture of our newly-arrived order before my iPhone died.  I wish I had better photographs of the burgers as they looked quite spectacular.  If you’d rather not take my word for it, go to the Patty & Bun website for the ultimate burger gallery.

Patty & Bun on Urbanspoon

About Burger League

Tagliatelle with Courgettes, Chilli and Parmesan

Tagliatelle with Courgettes, Chilli and Parmesan

Tagliatelle with Courgettes, Chilli and Parmesan

I am having one of those weeks where I simply don’t know where to start.  It is my last week in my job and the mountain of work I have to get through before Friday is occupying ninety per cent of my thoughts.  So much so that over the past few days I missed a friend’s birthday, nearly put hand soap on my toothbrush twice and forgot to place my supermarket order, missing my usual 6am Monday morning slot.  Finding my handbag in the fridge would not be a huge surprise right now.

With Ocado unable to deliver for another 36 hours, last night’s dinner was a ‘what-can-I-make-from-what-I-have-in-the-fridge’ affair – an exercise that both tests your creativity and gives you a cavalier attitude to sell by dates.  Luckily, I had half a bag of courgettes, not quite ready for the bin, some chillies, some basil and half a tub of creme fraiche left over from Ollie’s moules mariniere.  I also had two eggs and a bag of type ’00’ flour. Voila pasta.

Making your own pasta is time consuming, however if you have shop-bought pasta, this dish will take ten minutes at the very most.  A lot of people have been using vegetables, such as courgettes cut into ribbons or spaghetti squash, in place of pasta lately, so you could up the quantities of the sauce and have it without the pasta but, being a glutton in the midst of winter, I prefer it with a steaming tangle of fresh tagliatelle.  The quantities of the recipe are tailored for my own taste, but I add an extra half a chilli when making the sauce for Ollie as he prefers spicier food.  Feel free to add any other ends of veg you have kicking around the veg drawer too.

Tagliatelle with Courgettes, Chilli and Parmesan

  • Enough pasta for two (see guide to making your own here)
  • Olive oil
  • Four large courgettes
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Juice of one large lemon
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
  • 3 tsp creme fraiche
  • Handful finely grated parmesan
  • Five or six large basil leaves, roughly chopped

Cook the pasta in salted water. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the garlic for a couple of minutes on a low heat without letting it brown.  Slice the courgettes into ribbons using a potato peeler and add to the pan.  Increase the heat to medium and cook for five to seven minutes, tossing occasionally.  Using kitchen tongs, remove the courgette ribbons from the pan and set aside.

Add the lemon juice and chilli to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the creme fraiche and cook for a further minute until bubbling.  Return the courgette ribbons to the pan, along with the grated parmesan and chopped basil, and toss the mixture together.  Heat through and serve on top of the pasta.

Serves two.

Pasta: a Quick Guide to Making Your Own

Although pasta has become one of the main staples of our diet, very few of us actually make our own.  I am lucky enough to live in an area that has some fantastic Italian delis within a short drive of my flat – Italo in Vauxhall and Gennaro in Lewisham are my local favourites – both sell great fresh and dried pasta, so why bother making it?  The truth is that making pasta is a bit of a faff.  For one thing, you need equipment; I know many blogs will tell you that you can make fresh pasta with nothing more than a bowl, wooden spoon, rolling pin and knife but, let’s face it, this is a huge effort.  I will argue that, unless you are very well practiced, you will need a food processor and a pasta rolling machine.  In addition to this, you have to allow chilling time and drying time, which turns making a batch of tagliatelle into a whole-evening activity.  And you need to buy specialist flour that it expensive.  It almost isn’t worth it.

Only it is.  Making your own pasta is like making your own bread: the freshness alone gives it the edge over anything you can buy.  There is only a couple of hours between measuring out the flour and eating the finished pasta, so you can actually taste the richness of the egg yolk and the slight graininess of the semolina.  There is none of the sticky, starchy coating that you often find on shop-bought pasta, and it cooks evenly and in a couple of minutes.  I have been making my own pasta since receiving a pasta rolling machine for Christmas a few years ago – if you want to start making your own pasta, I would definitely recommend investing in one.  I have a KitchenCraft model that you can pick up in most department stores for around £25.  You can also buy an attachment for your KitchenAid, although these are considerably more expensive.  You push the dough through a thin slot using a crank, almost like you would use a mangle.  Gradually reducing the width of the slot both thins out the pasta and stretches it, creating a beautifully translucent yellow sheet.  My pasta rolling machine has a number of cutter attachments for making spaghetti and tagliatelle, or you can make ravioli by adding pockets of pre-cooked filling along a sheet, topping it with another sheet and cutting out shapes with a pasta wheel or cookie cutter.

Fresh Pasta

  • 150g type ’00’ flour
  • 2 tbsp semolina
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp water (if needed)

Put the flour, semolina and egg yolks into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  When you pinch the mixture, it should come together as a dough.  If it feels too dry, add the water a splash at a time until it reaches the right consistency.  It should not come together in the way that pastry does when made in the food processor, but should be moist enough to squeeze the mixture together into a very firm dough.  Knead the dough for a couple of seconds, then wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for one hour.

Divide the dough into two halves and set one aside.  Take the other half of the dough and, using your fingers or a rolling pin, flatten the dough until it it about half an inch thick.  With the roller on the widest setting, roll through the pasta, guiding it with your hand on the way in.  Fold the pasta in half width-ways and put through the roller, then fold in half lengthways and put through the roller.  Repeat this process two or three times until you have a smooth rectangle.  Turn the next setting, narrowing the rollers, and roll the pasta through three times, guiding it with your hand.  Repeat this process on five further settings until you have a thin sheet – do not use the last two settings as they tend to make the pasta a little too thin.  To make it easier to roll, I often join together the ends of the sheet at around the third setting and roll through the pasta on a loop.  Carefully remove the pasta sheet from the pan and cut as you wish.

Makes enough tagliatelle or ravioli to serve two, or six medium-sized lasagne sheets.

Slow Cooker Beef in Stout

Slow Cooker Beef in Stout

Slow Cooker Beef in Stout

A lesson learned yesterday: it is really, really difficult to make stew look appetising in photos.  In general, my food photography skills are never going to leave the professionals, or in fact anybody, quaking in their boots, but this was particularly difficult.  No photo, especially not one taken by me on my humble little iPhone, could communicate how good this dish was:  the smell of beef and beer wafting through my kitchen, the tenderness of the meat and onions after being slow cooked for seven hours or the surprisingly delicious addition of mushrooms towards the end of the cooking.  You’re just going to have to trust me.

A few years ago, my Nan bought me a slow cooker “for making stews and things”.  At the time I was a vegetarian, so used it for little more than a bit of bonus kitchen storage – cookie cutters and things – but when I started eating meat again that I saw the potential in using it.  Despite the number of blogs that claim that you can use a slow cooker for almost every meal, it pays to be selective about what you use it for.  For example, I found slow cooker porridge to be a complete waste of time – yes, you can leave it on overnight but more often than not it tastes awful and has the consistency of glue.  Plus, it takes very little time to make porridge in a saucepan.  On the other hand, slow cooked stews, especially those containing the cheaper cuts of meat, are simply wonderful.

The recipes I tend to use are meant to be cooked on the hob or in the oven, and I have simply adapted them for the slow cooker.  Anything that recommends cooking for up to three hours can be left in the slow cooker for a good six to seven hours, provided that there is enough water so it does not dry out.  This particular recipe of beef in stout is adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Meat Book and has quickly become one of my favourite winter warmers.  These quantities make enough stew to feed about 8-10 people – perfect if you have a large group coming back from a long, crisp walk.  You can halve the quantities to make a smaller, family-sized version or top with some rough-puff dripping pastry for an indulgent pie.  Either way, buttery mashed potato is a must.

Slow Cooker Beef in Stout

  • 50g salted butter
  • Olive oil
  • 200g smoked lardons
  • 500g small shallots, peeled
  • 50g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1.5kg diced beef – skirt, chuck or stewing steak
  • 1 litre stout
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 250g small button mushrooms
  • 250g large flat mushrooms, sliced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Turn the slow cooker on to high and leave to warm up.  In a large frying pan, melt the butter with a little olive oil and fry the lardons until they start to brown.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the lardons from the frying pan, leaving the fat, and place in the slow cooker.  Add the shallots to the frying pan and fry in the fat until browned all over, remove using a slotted spoon and place in the slow cooker.

Toss the beef in the seasoned flour, shake off any excess and add to the frying pan.  Brown the meat, in batches if necessary, then place in the slow cooker.  Deglaze the pan with a little of the stout and scrape the meat and flour residue from the bottom of the pan into the slow cooker.  Return the pan to the heat and pour in the remaining stout.  Add the bay leaves and thyme stalks and gently bring to the boil.  Allow the stout to simmer for a couple of minutes and then pour it into the slow cooker.  Leave to cook in the slow cooker on high for two hours, before reducing the setting to low.

At this point, you can cook it for anywhere from three to six hours on low, checking occasionally that the liquid has not dried out.  The mushrooms should be added for the final hour of cooking.  Fry them in a pan until they have browned slightly, then add them to the slow cooker with their juices.  When the stew has finished cooking, stir in the parsley and serve.

Burger League: Tongue ‘n’ Cheek

The Heartbreaker Burger

The Food Stand:  Tongue ‘n’ Cheek, Brockley Market (Saturdays Only)

The Hungry Ones:

Left to right: Gemma (The Boozy Rouge), Ollie (Burger King)

Left to right: Gemma (The Boozy Rouge), Ollie (Burger King)

Gemma and Ollie ordered:  The Heartbreaker Burger (beef and ox heart patty, cheddar, lettuce, dill pickles, ketchup and mustard)

The Scores:

Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 19.03.48

Tongue 'n' Cheek at Brockley Market

Tongue ‘n’ Cheek at Brockley Market

Brockley Market has been a Saturday morning habit for me since it opened about two years ago.  I have made it my mission to try all of the street food stands from Mike & Ollie, who have been there more or less since the market started, to Rainbo, who I discovered there only a few weeks ago, to Spit & Roast, very, very often.  A visit to Tongue ‘n’ Cheek this weekend was a first for me, and it was about time.  The stall always looks a little quieter than the others, I’m guessing because people are iffy about offal, but those who have been sing its praises very highly. Apparently the Philly Cheese Steak (£8 and bloody enormous) is the best in London.  The Heartbreaker Burger is a mix of beef and ox heart, not for the squeamish, but a great alternative to the generic beef patties found across town.  It had a delicious moist texture and a subtle offaly hum.  The bread was decent, the cheese was good quality and the pickles sharp, however I couldn’t help but think it was missing something in the toppings – perhaps an extra slick of sauce to bring it all together.  For £5.50 this is an excellent value burger, especially considering the high quality of meat that goes into it.  A must for the burger lover who thinks they’ve seen it all.

About Burger League