Bristol’s budding bakeries

If you’ve not tried it yet, put Pinkman’s Bakery, on Park Street, on your gastronomic map of Bristol. One of a clutch of artisan bakeries to open in the city over the past few years, this attractively designed spot not only makes lovely breads and cakes, but also serves meals from breakfast through to dinner seven days a week. The array of sourdough breads is impressive, from a Country cob mixing wholemeal, spelt and white flours with a rye starter to a super Seeded sourdough and a Walnut boule. Wood-fired sourdough pizzas are also a speciality, but the absolute stars of the show for me are the sourdoughnuts whose fillings vary daily depending on what’s available at the market. Because they’re made from sourdough you can kid yourself they’re doing you good. A welcome addition to an area not generally known for its high gastronomy.

The Ivy opens in Bristol

Covent Garden’s iconic showbiz haunt, The Ivy, has extended its tendrils to Bristol’s Clifton Village. The all-day food is similar to the comfort classics you’ll find at HQ, including its famous Shepherd’s Pie, but with some nice additions such as the Raw Market Salad and the Dairy free coconut panna cotta, pictured here. The afternoon tea, which promises to be popular, ranges from a standard cream, jam and scone affair to a Champagne blowout.

But what you really come for is the setting. The Ivy Clifton Brasserie is housed in the magnificent high-ceilinged Georgian edifice that since 1922 was a branch of the Nat West bank. It happens to be my bank actually, although when I was in there I’m afraid fears of being overdrawn  probably overshadowed any appreciation of its architectural merits. The old bank manager’s office in the back is now a super little private dining room, and some of the bank’s wooden till structures have been preserved in the bar area. Bizarrely, when I went to try out the brasserie, the woman on the table next to mine had worked there for 20 years!

The Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, which masterminded the building’s transformation, has put in beautiful blue and mustard floor tiles, with banquettes to match, and hung the ceilings with glamorous chandeliers. What I love most about the new Ivy offshoot, though, it its stunning collection of old prints and artwork, depicting Bristol’s industrial heritage – a reason in themselves to visit.

Food images by Clare Hargreaaves

Ivy Clifton Brasserie - PWF - 0071 P1700867P1700902P1700937

Epicure Experience

If you’ve wondered what lies within that vast building on the M4 that’s often rudely likened to Colditz, now you have the perfect excuse to drop in to find out.

This is Celtic Manor Hotel, and since February, Richard Davies has been heading up the kitchen at a new restaurant inside this edifice called Epicure Experience.  Some of you will remember Richard as the Michelin-starred head chef at The Manor House at Castle Combe, near Bath – or as the chef who cooked an Endangered Foods Feast in Bristol for Feast with a Chef two years ago.

Richard, who is originally from Bridgend, trained at the Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsay in London and has three times represented Wales on the BBC’s Great British Menu. I tried Richard’s tasting menu (5 courses for £55) which was absolutely outstanding. Kicking off with Foie Gras with apple and walnut, and a fish course of Turbot with Cepe, celeriac and pancetta, the main course was Lamb (Welsh of course) with onion and baby leek, pictured below.  The meal finished with a variation on Richard’s winning Great British Menu pud of ‘Strawberries and Cream’ which he served at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013, also pictured.

If you are Bristol based, it’s easy to pop over for lunch or dinner. Do go.

Celtic Manor Resort Chef Richard Davies

Gin-cured sea trout with apple and fennel

As you know we’re lucky enough to have had 2-Michelin-starred Nathan Outlaw cooking us a Cornish Seafood Feast in Bristol, celebrating the publication of his new book, Everyday Seafood (Quadrille). Here’s a recipe from the book to whet your appetite. It’s based around sea trout, a migratory fish whose arrival in spring is greeted by foodies with as much excitement as the first asparagus. Says Nathan: “Wild sea trout is, for me, a delicacy. I actually prefer it to salmon and find that it responds particularly well to curing.” Being a gin fan, I like the fact the trout is cured in gin too. “Using strong alcohol in the cure helps to achieve a pronounced flavour and the combination of gin, apple and fennel works well,” says Nathan. Picture by David Loftus.  

Gin-cured sea trout with apple and fennel

Serves 6 as a starter

1 very fresh side of wild sea trout, skinned and pin- boned

For the cure

250g sea salt

250g caster sugar

2 tbsp juniper berries, crushed 

150ml gin

For the salad and dressing

200ml olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced

4 juniper berries, finely chopped

100ml cider vinegar

30ml gin

2 fennel bulbs, tough outer layer removed

3 eating apples, such as Braeburn

3 tsp finely sliced tarragon

For the cure, put the salt, sugar and crushed juniper berries into a food processor and blitz for 3 minutes.

Lay the sea trout on a tray and sprinkle evenly with the cure mixture. Turn the fish over in the cure a few times to ensure it is coated all over. Drizzle the gin evenly over the fish, then wrap the whole tray in cling film and place in the fridge to cure for 4 hours.

When the time is up, unwrap the fish and wash off the cure with cold water, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Wrap the fish tightly in fresh cling film and place back in the fridge for an hour to firm up. (At this stage you can freeze the fish for up to a month).

To make the dressing, put the olive oil, shallots and chopped juniper berries in a small pan over a medium heat until the oil just begins to bubble. Take the pan off the heat and add the cider vinegar and gin.

Slice the fennel on a mandoline as thinly as possible and place it in a bowl. Peel, core and grate the apples, then add to the fennel with the tarragon. Toss to combine and dress the salad with half of the dressing, keeping the rest to finish the dish.

Using a sharp knife and a clean board, slice the trout as thinly as possible. Lay it out on large individual plates and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Star of wonder – sweet woodruff

woodruffSweet woodruff is, along with tonka bean, yuzu and salty liquorice syrup, one of my 2015 gastronomic discoveries. It has a truly magical flavour that’s usually likened to vanilla, though it also has hints of lemon and spice too. Infuse a panna cotta or ice cream with it, or pop a sprig into the pan when you stew apples or pears. Chris Harrod, Michelin-starred chef-patron of The Whitebrook restaurant-with-rooms in the Wye Valley, uses it in a white chocolate ganache to fill his green tea macaroons (pictured here) that he serves as petits fours. Wow! In the old days, and still on the Continent, it’s used to flavour wines and other drinks. Once you’ve tried it, you won’t look back.

So where do you find woodruff? It’s actually remarkably common. In fact, come spring, it’s pretty much everywhere. (I actually found some growing in a wood in Herefordshire on Boxing Day!) I love its star shape, and tiny white flowers. If using in food, you need to dry it to concentrate the flavour. Just leave it in the kitchen for a day or two and it will be perfectly dry.

woodruff macaroonsI mentioned tonka bean above and interestingly, the chemical substance in tonka that gives it its unique flavour is the same as that in woodruff. The substance is called coumarin. In huge quantities, it’s toxic. But you’d probably have to eat the equivalent of a bail of woodruff for it to do you any harm.

Game for game

I’m not into shooting birds, but I think I probably look forward to the game season with as much anticipation as those who are. I just love game birds’ rich flavours and dark lean flesh, as well as knowing they’ve eaten a wild and varied diet. If you ever need someone to introduce you to the joys of game, Tim Maddams, who used to work at River Cottage and has just written a book about game, is your man. I was lucky enough to join him in cooking this lovely dish of Pigeon with blackberries and chanterelles at Vale House Kitchen cookery school, near Bath. Easy to make (see recipe below), delicious to eat.

I couldn’t resist making game the centrepiece of a feast. So on 30 January the talented Will Holland, chef at Coast in Pembrokeshire, will be cooking a Game’s Up! Feast in Bristol. Will used to be head chef at the Michelin-starred La Becasse, in Ludlow, so knows his game. (Becasse is French for woodcock.) I can assure you we’ll be making the most of the final weekend of the shooting season.

Pigeon with blackberries and chanterelles

Serves 2

Rapeseed oil, for cooking

4 plump pigeon breasts (easily removed, see pp.150–3)

2 good handfuls of chanterelles, trimmed and brushed clean of grit

A knob of butter

A good handful of blackberries

A couple of handfuls of salad leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat and add a little rapeseed oil. Season the pigeon breasts with salt and pepper and add them to the hot pan. Give them a minute or two, until they start to form a nice caramelised layer on the base. Now turn them over and add the chanterelles and butter at the same time. After about another 2 minutes, once the pigeon breasts are firm but not overcooked, remove them to a warm plate and set aside in a warm spot to rest.

Finish cooking the chanterelles for another minute or two, then lift them out and put them with the pigeon.

Turn off the heat and pop the blackberries into the pan to warm and release a little juice. Add any resting juices from the pigeon and mushrooms to the berries.

Divide the salad leaves between a couple of plates. Slice the pigeon breasts and arrange on the leaves, then scatter over the mushrooms. Spoon on the blackberries and sprinkle over the juices from the pan. Drizzle with a little more rapeseed oil if you think it needs it and serve with some fresh crusty bread.

From: River Cottage Handbook No15: Game, by Tim Maddams, published by Bloomsbury. Recipe image: Gavin Kingcome

Pigeon with blackberries and chanterelles © Gavin Kingcome game book cover

Dinner’s in the vegbox

Recipe books are all well and good (I confess to owning hundreds and cherish them as I would children) but who has time to read them, let alone shop for all the required ingredients, after a long day at work? Riverford has come up with a brilliant solution: recipe boxes. Each box contains the step-by-step recipes and weighed out ingredients for three organic evening meals. So all you have to do is put them together – the fun part – safe in the knowledge that the ingredients are impeccably sourced from Riverford’s organic farms. It’s not just veg, there’s meat too.  Recently Riverford has been offering celebrity chef recipe boxes so I tried one by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, of whom I’m a massive fan.  The recipes were from his Light and Easy cookbook, so didn’t take a minute to prepare. The Spiced beef with bashed beans recipe was a winner. If you fancy having a bash at recipe boxes, there’s info on the Riverford website.

Guy Watson and Hugh cooking.

An appetite for spices

TEST TUBES OF SPICES – At first glance, the ceiling of Ametsa, inside London’s Halkin hotel, looks like the swanky decor you might find in any London restaurant. Look closer, though, and it’s actually made up of over seven thousand test tubes, each filled with the spices that are used in the restaurant. The cuisine here is Basque, so expect to find spices such as mustard, white pepper, paprika and turmeric. It’s no ordinary Basque cooking though, for its owner, Elena Arzak, is chef-owner of the eponymous restaurant in Spain’s San Sebastian that has no fewer than three Michelin stars. Ametsa is its London ‘branch’ if you like, and since being set up in March 2013 earned its own Michelin star in just six months. I was lucky enough recently to interview Elena and to join in a six-course dinner at Ametsa that was cooked by her and Ametsa’s executive head chef Sergi Sanz.

Two of the highlights were this stunning Squid Abstract – modern gastronomic art at its finest – and Moon Rocks, one of Elena’s sig dishes that mimics the surface of the moon. The moon dust is mostly sesame, while the rocks are filled chocolates and the craters are filled with wine jelly. I’m up for this sort of space travel any time!

Ametsa Interior Moon Rocks Squid

Becoming a bullet babe

We all make New Year’s resolutions but here’s one I might actually keep. It’s to get this neat little gadget to make me healthy smoothies each morning and keep me away from the coffee pot. And the reason I think I will actually keep this resolution: there’s barely any washing up. I’ve tried juicing in the past, and loved the results, but the prospect of scraping out all the pulp then scrubbing numerous bits of kit sadly means the juicer rarely comes out of the cupboard. I don’t mind preparing fruit and veg to sling into it, but the washing up is one task too many.

Having heard all the hype I decided to bite the Nutribullet. I got mine from Lakeland, where it retails for £99.99. The Nutribullet is not actually a juicer but a very powerful liquidiser. So it’s better for fruit, nuts and seeds than for veg, although thin vegetable leaves like spinach work well. Equipped with an impressive 600W motor it does its work in an amazing 10 seconds. I love the fact that you drink out of the machine, as the transparent cover turns into a mug. You can screw a lid on it and take it with you to work, and sip away throughout the day.

I’m currently experimenting with different recipes, but one trick I’ve learned is to include avocados, coconut oil and oil-rich nuts and seeds in smoothies so as to actually fill yourself up  – the supermodels and celebrities know this one. Otherwise, after half an hour of drinking your healthy smoothie you’re reaching for the breadbin. A nice recipe to try is this one by Emma Whitnall, a wonderful nutritionist whom I met on Results with Lucy detox retreat. (Don’t worry if you don’t have, or can’t get hold of, the pea protein and maca powder). You can find more recipes, and info about Emma, on her Facebook page

1 banana
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup frozen berries
200ml almond milk
1 tbs ground flaxseed
2 tsp maca powder
1 scoop Pea Protein Plus (optional)
1 handful kale
Top up with water for desired consistency

I’m a Nutribullet nut now. Or should it be a Bullet babe? Let me know YOUR favourite recipes!



Plenty More

Yotam has done it again. Despite the hype, this really is his best book – at least to judge from the handful of recipes that I’ve tried so far. I loved his wild mushroomy twist on the majedra that featured in his Jerusalem book, and the coriander pesto to go with oven roasted butternut squash is a real winner. I used it in my recent article in The Independent on coriander (which you can see at the bottom of the home page) to show that pesto doesn’t have to be just from basil. The only snag with making Ottolenghi recipes is getting hold of the ingredients, so the folks at Ottolenghi have put together a Plenty More Hamper which has it all. At £100 it’s not cheap, but if you can afford it will save a hell of a lot of trouble traipsing around delis and supermarkets searching for stuff. It also makes a great Christmas present – the hamper includes a signed copy of the book as well. Buy it in the Ottolenghi online shop

Plenty More