Recipe: Potato scone

This is useful. It goes insanely well with goulash but would work with anything you’ve got that has gravy to soak up. Or, heck, just as an alternative to bubble-and-squeak.

Mash 200g potato nice and dry, then beat in 1 egg, 50ml olive oil and 100ml warm milk. Put 120g plain flour in a bowl with half tsp salt and 1 tsp bicarb of soda. Dump the potato goop in with the flour and mix it all together.

Now get a small cast iron pan hot on a medium-low heat. Get some butter and/or oil hot in the pan and then tip the mixture in, settle it down. Cook on a low heat for 4-5 mins, then free the edges and shift it out onto a plate so you can turn the pan upside-down, put it on top, and tip the thing over to cook the other side. About 4 mins on this side.

Then it goes in a 200C oven for about 7-8 minutes. You should get some bubbles and rise from the bicarb so you end up with a soft and fluffy scone.

Review: Pidgin, at home

Jerusalem artichoke soup

Jerusalem artichoke soup

They call it “Homing Pidgin” which is quite clever. The menu for Pidgin at home is also clever, full of delicious things that don’t take much prep but pack and impressive punch and make you feel like you’re dining pretty darn fine at your own dinner table.

Mini-starter was an excellent game sausage roll, 6 minutes in the oven, and served with a wild cherry mustard that I absolutely love to death. I want a jar of this stuff. Just soooo cherry. And mustard. The main starter was a j-choke soup, and a very fine one, with a caviar creme fraiche that worked very well; the occasional salty hit really amped the soup. Little round j-choke crisps on top were still perfectly crispy when served.

Sausage roll, cherry mustard

Sausage roll, cherry mustard

Main course was a very impressive lamb shank. And it was a wonderful piece of lamb too, absolutely tumbling off the bone but really packed with lamb-y flavour. Could have done with a bit more jus, but that’s picking hairs. The purple sprouting broccoli with a fermented chilli dressing was magic alongside. And the third element were little Chinese turnip cakes; good flavour but I think they probably wanted five more minutes in the oven if they were meant to have a crispy outside. Still, excellent, especially sprinkled with crumbs of Chinese sausage. That lamb though. The shanks were way too big, so the remains made for a lovely ragu the next day.

Pudding was a tasty deconstruction of key lime pie. Orange in the bottom, then a lovely gently lime-y cream, scattered with a crumble topping and meringue shards. It didn’t impress quite as much as what had come before, but was still an easy and satisfying end to a good meal.

Lamb shank!

Lamb shank!

Review: Nanban, at home

Goaty goat

Goaty goat

I love the menu at Nanban. It says something very true to my heart: that there is no “right and wrong” in cuisine, there is just stuff that works. And when stuff doesn’t work, it’s not usually because there’s something inherently wrong with the combination; it’s just been done poorly. So Nanban is quite clearly a Japanese noodle restaurant. Except with curried goat. And jackfruit. And basically all the Afro/Asian influences you might expect from a place that grew up in multi-cultural Brixton.

My ramen was “the leopard” with some fatty slices of pork, an excellent sesame broth with plenty of depth to the flavour, some maliciously fiery strips of bamboo shoot marinades in scotch bonnet chilli, and an absolutely brilliant tea egg. I’m not enough of an expert to recognise the actual tea, but the smokey flavour came through clear as day. Gotta acknowledge that the noodles were softer than I’d like, but that’t the kind of detail you can’t really hope for when a dish has been Deliveroo’d to your door.

Maureen went with the curried goat noodles. This was a dry dish. The goat was beautifully flavour-packed and rich, lots of goatiness and chilli heat. I feel it necessary to report that an entire main dish of this did actually become a bit overwhelming eventually, especially with no broth. But it was veryvery good indeed.

We had a couple of sides. The nasu dengaku (half an aubergine slow-roasted with a miso glaze) was perfectly good, though I’ll admit to having had better; they just want to be more generous with the sticky-sweet glaze I reckon. The jackfruit nuggets were delicious, dipped in the peppy mayo-based sauce they came with.

We’re going to be getting more takeaways from Nanban, for certain. And getting through the door as soon as they’re open for sit-in again (I’m keen to find out how they prefer their noodles to come out). Top drawer.

The Leopard

The Leopard

Review: The Canton Arms, Stockwell

Curried mussels on toast

Curried mussels on toast

We were very lucky to squeeze in a Sunday lunch before Tier 3 asserted itself across London. And we picked a good’un in the Canton Arms. It’s the stable-mate of some of our favourites; the Anchor & Hope in Waterloo, the Magdalen Arms in Oxford and the Stockwell Continental in… well, about four doors down from the Canton Arms, in Stockwell.

Interesting neighbourhood, lots of Portuguese, Brazilian and East African restaurants and cafes. The Canton Arms is just a big ol’ boozer that has been given a make-over, but not too much of one. It still feels like a pub, even though everyone is dining.

Arbroath smokie

Arbroath smokie

So Maureen starts with curried mussels on toast, and they are very good fat mussels in a very Japanese-style curry gravy. My starter of cauliflower soup with truffle butter is a good bowl of soup, albeit I think it wanted just a bit more body. The truffle butter is a great touch.

I have to pick the roast beef. Those are generously thick slices of full-flavoured Dexter beef, roasted just as deep pink as I’d like it, seared at the very edges. The roasties are good too, and otherwise we just have beans and watercress with it. What, no Yorkshire pud? Nope. For Maureen this is a travesty, for me it’s just how they’ve decided to do lunch and it’s a great dish of food. Even so I can imagine being in a minority here.

Roast beef

Roast beef

Maureen’s main is an Arbroath smokey with chive cream. It is very literally that, with a bowl of deliciously sweet new potatoes on the side. And to be honest, it’s just a lovely thing to eat. Could have used a wee drop more chive cream.

Rice pudding with a boozy prune at the bottom and crumble on top is a great post-lunch knockout blow. Mmmm. Meanwhile the buttermilk and fig ice cream is an excellent light alternative; the tangy buttermilk works very well with fresh figs.

It’s jolly useful to have The Canton Arms just 20 mins walk away. It should be £32 for three generous courses, and that feels right to me as you can be confident of great cooking and a menu that can’t fail to please.

Review: Proudfoot & Co, Winchester

Woodsman

Woodsman

I was always going to be drawn in by Proudfoot & Co, a “refreshment room” offering distinctly abnormal cafe beverages down a tiny sidestreet in Winchester. And I was not disappointed. I’m not sure there is anything else remotely like it in the country right now. I hope there will be.

First off, if you aren’t familiar with Winchester then you deserve a day-trip there. Or a weekend break, if you’re not based in the south. There’s a wonderful tangle of historical lanes and backways around its majestic cathedral, a growing selection of independent shops, cafes and restaurants worth your time, and ten minutes stroll along the River Itchen finds you in the bucolic Hampshire countryside. Bit muddy in December, but can’t have everything.

What they are doing at Proudfoot is dipping deep, deep down into the well of local foraged ingredients, British recipe history and experimental techniques of ferment and more. And they have very deliberately stayed non-alcoholic.

Native Roots "Coffee"

Native Roots “Coffee”

The very location speaks to the level of dedication. It would have been far more obvious to open a venture like this in London. But the Itchen valley and the chalk hills around Winchester are an absolute cornucopia for foraged rarities, compared with Hampstead Heath. So here they are.

The “Native Roots Coffee” includes all manner of native roots and spices, including sweet cicely, wood avens and burdock to namedrop a few oddities. It’s served through a Vietnamese drip onto a dollop of condensed milk and the result is nothing short of magnificent. The flavours are powerful, warm, earthy and woody. I’m in raptures. This is better than the best Indian masala chai.

The “Woodsman” is based on some truly magical five year barrel-aged maple syrup that is infused in the barrel with some of the same native roots. You stir it up with chicory milk and some elegant cold brew to make as fine a non-alcoholic cocktail as you’ll find.

These drinks’ll set you back £6 or so each, but this is not Starbucks nor even your local independent coffee shop. Immense care and effort has gone into using foraged ingredients and alchemical techniques to produce drinks that are utterly original and utterly delicious.

Hope they do well.