Meaty, Reviews

Temper, Soho – review 

 

As Christmas is nearly upon us and everyone is thinking about turkey, sprouts, pigs-in-blankets, and a whole host of other assorted festive requirements, allow me to distract you with some fire, smoke, and meat.
You know you want me to….

Temper is the brainchild of meat and BBQ maestro Neil Rankin and occupies a wonderfully smokey basement in London’s Soho (there is also now a branch in the city). Neil has worked for Barbecoa, Pitt Cue Co, and also opened the excellent Smokehouse in Islington – he is a man who knows his meat and, most importantly of all, knows how to cook it.

As you descend into the dining room from street level, your nostrils begin to tingle with the earthy smells of smoke and charcoal, a background hum of the outdoors that is hovering in the air and undercut with the soothing aroma of meat being cooked over coals. Once at the bottom of the stairs, a huge indoor fire pit is revealed, a clay oven at one end, various racks and grills at the other, and a counter that runs all the way round for diners to revel in the sight of meats (and fish) being lovingly, simply prepared and cooked before their eyes. It’s quite a statement and one which is sure to melt the heart of any BBQ fiend. For those who prefer a more traditional dining experience, tables away from the fire and smoke are also available, although I’m not sure why you’d want one!

The emphasis here is, obviously, on meat but don’t come expecting St Louis ribs or chicken wings – this is a different BBQ game. Starters come in the form of soft tacos – baked to order – and with a range of toppings like crab and pickled onion pork skin, prawns, or the wonderful Aged Cheeseburger; Small patties of beef, charred and juicy, with a slab of melted cheese served on piping hot, soft tacos are truly a thing of beauty and wonder and could, if ordered generously, satisfy as a main in their own right. A simple but delicious beef fat taco is worth a go as was, on one visit, the wonderful tuna and salsa offering which was clean, punchy, and utterly delicious. 

Mains are, for the most part, ordered by 100g portions and they suggest two or three to share for two people plus some sides. I’d normally skip sides to focus on more meat but do not, under any circumstances, skip these sides – beef fat roast potatoes covered in grilled, tangy Ogleshield cheese are truly sensational and a wonderful gluttonous treat. Likewise, the grilled corn with lamb fat bearnaise is a fabulous dish – some of the corn is popped to add an extra and exciting texture, the creamy, unctuous sauce cut perfectly with a dusting of mint. And of course, both of these sensational sides go perfectly with the hunk of smoked meats that come served on freshly griddled flat bread.

Beef fat potatoes with Ogleshield

Goat is rich, deeply flavoured and utterly moreish, demonstrating here why it is a meat we need to eat more of – totally delicious and increasingly available. If you think you don’t like goat or are too scared to try it, go to Temper and have some and all your worries will be over. Likewise if you’ve ever been slightly disappointed by dry, soulless BBQ beef then the charred, moist, and wonderful offering here will sooth any previous beef trauma. Also worth diving in to is the beef and marrow chilli which comes with fresh, spicy jalapeño and sings with delicate, fresh flavours of lime and coriander – a perfect example of what many restaurants only vaguely achieve. 

Beef and marrow chilli

To follow this fresh-faced feast, the warm baked cookie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is an absolute must and comes served in the pan it was baked in. Gooey, sweet, sticky, indulgence of the highest order and well worth saving some room for (although on both visits we ended up sharing one between us).
Wine is available by the glass or bottle with a very decent selection of grapes and prices – house wines start from about £26 – and there are various tempting cocktails and craft beers. It is worth noting that if you do sit by the counter, white wine will get warm quickly as the heat from the pit radiates towards you – be warned!

Service is professional, relaxed, and of the highest standard and it is a marvellous place to spend a couple of hours, especially on a cold winter’s day. Dinner for two including drinks and service is about £100 but if you skip starters it’ll come in at nearer to £80 – but with food of this quality this is fantastic value. There are few places where you can enjoy such fantastic food in such an exciting and unique environment and Temper ticks the boxes for being one of the finest meateries around. And is more than worth returning to for feasts of meat and fire.

You will come out smelling like you’ve been slowly smoked over coals but this is a very good thing…

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Meaty, Recipes

Roast rib of beef – recipe

DSC_2232-01.jpegA friend recently told me that she loved eating beef but she’d never cooked it. I asked her why and she really didn’t know – by all accounts she is an experienced and accomplished cook so this did seem rather odd. I showed her a picture of a rib of beef I’d cooked for my birthday and she asked how long I cooked it for, looking slightly surprised at the short cooking time and saying she wasn’t sure if she’d be brave enough to tackle something like roast beef as surely it was quite complicated.

There are lots of people who think a large roast is a complicated thing but really, it’s all down to planning and organisation and, more often than not, it’s all the accompanying dishes that cause the headaches. Unless you’ve got a fantastically complex meal in mind, roast meats (and beef in particular) are pretty easy to get right and a simple but delicious hunk of meat is always going to please.

Obviously if you are vegetarian or vegan you will massively disagree with me but there it is.

For me, the quality of meat is a defining factor and, put simply, the higher quality meat then the better the finished dish. I insist on free range, high welfare meat as not only to do I think this is morally the only choice, but there is no comparison when it comes to quality of flavour. Buy the best you can afford – it will be worth it, trust me.

As for timing, I always follow the blast-then-low method (which I learned from, the ever-dependable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) – where the oven is preheated to its highest setting and the meat gets a good 20mins or so to start the cooking process. The temperature is then reduced for the rest of the cooking time and the results are always spot on. You can adjust how long the lower temperature cooking is depending on how you like your meat cooked – I insist on rare for beef and lamb but I will give you times for medium too. Well-done is simply unacceptable in my opinion and doesn’t bear thinking about.

Also, the resting time is vital – if you try and carve meat straight from the oven you will not get the best results. Meat needs to relax after cooking, to let the juices sink back in – in short, to rest is best! Also if you’ve slightly under-done it, your roast will continue to cook slightly as it rests which can be a big help. I rest meat for a minimum of 30 minutes but longer is fine – just don’t cover the joint too tightly with foil or there is a risk the residual heat may overdo your carefully timed roast.

I always have beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, greens, gravy and hot horseradish sauce but you can have whatever you prefer. But if you are one of those strange people who has cauliflower cheese with a roast dinner I’d rather not know about it.

Weirdos.

This quantity will feed 6-8 depending on how greedy you are.

Ingredients

  • 1.8-2kg rib of beef (or any other roasting joint)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • An hour or so before cooking, get you meat out of the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature
  • Pre-heat your oven to its highest setting
  • Slosh a glue of olive oil over the meat, season generously with salt and pepper, and rub it all over, making sure the whole piece is covered with the oil and seasoning
  • Place your meat on a rack in a roasting tray (you can put sliced onions and veg to aid your gravy underneath if you like) and put it in the middle of your screaming hot oven
  • After 20-25 minutes, open the oven door to lower the temperature and reduce your oven to Gas Mark 3/160c then cook for 10 minutes per 500g for very rare, or 12-15 minutes per 500g for medium
  • Once the cooking time is up, remove from the oven and put the beef on a warm plate and cover loosely with foil (don’t wrap it tight or it’ll over-cook) for at least 30 minutes
  • Use the juices and whatever is in the tray to make gravy
  • Carve, eat, rejoice
  • Just don’t have cauliflower cheese with it….
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Bready, Recipes

Cider, Cheese and Onion Sharing Loaf – recipe

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A more-ish, irresistible loaf 

I love bread. I love making it, I love eating it. I also love cider. And cheese. And onions. So the next logical step was clearly to combine all three into a heady mix of cidery cheesey oniony bready joy. So I did. And what joy it is! Perfect for plonking in the middle of the table for lunch and letting everyone pile in and rip it to pieces. Or just scoffing yourself curled up on the sofa. Your choice really.

This is effectively like a savoury batch of Chelsea Buns – swirls of bread with the filling splurging out all over the place – and it’s pretty simple to do, if not a tad messy at times. The cider adds a wonderful flavour to the loaf and really compliments the cheese and onion filling wonderfully. If you like you can do the second prove in the fridge overnight to really let the bread develop a full flavour but it’s not essential. However if you do this, I’d advise proving the finished loaf on a sheet of non-stick baking parchment as it will stick fast otherwise…

Makes one loaf

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 300ml dry cider
  • 7g sachet dried fast-action yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 1 dessert spoon caster sugar 
  • 1 dessert spoon olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and finely sliced
  • 200g grated strong cheddar (you may not need all of it)
  • A few sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Olive oil (for frying)

Method

  • Place the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl and pour in the cider – it will fizz and foam as you mix it in – and add the dessert spoon of olive oil. Combine into a rough dough then turn out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will be sticky but don’t worry – it’s worth it.
  • Shape into a round and place in a well oiled bowl (coating the top of the dough with a bit more olive oil) and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm, draught-free place for an hour or so or until doubled in size.
  • While the dough is rising, place a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and add a lug of olive oil (and a knob of butter if you like). When the oil is hot, add your sliced onions and soften gently for a few minutes then add the chopped rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook on a low heat for a good 10-15 minutes to really soften and sweeten the onions – stirring often to prevent them catching. When they are done, remove and leave to cool.
  • Once your dough has risen, tip out onto a work surface and flatten into a large rectangle – about 35cm by 20cm but it doesn’t have to be precise. The dough should be thin enough to roll up with all the filling and it may help to tack the long edge closest to you on to the work surface to help get a tighter roll.
  • Spread the cooled onion mixture evenly over the dough followed by the grated cheese – make sure you keep some back for sprinkling over the top of the finished loaf – then roll the whole lot up tightly.
  • Cut into 12-16 slices (this will depend on how long your rectangle is) and arrange each slice on a well-floured baking tray (or use non-stick baking parchment), spacing each one a centimetre or so apart. You want them to prove and bake into each other so a bit of space is important. If you are worried about everything unravelling just give each segment a squeeze and tuck – it doesn’t matter if it looks untidy!
  • Cover with either a clean tea towel or some oiled cling film and leave to prove for about 30-45 minutes (or overnight in the fridge).
  • Pre-heat your oven to 190c/Gas Mark 5.
  • Once your loaf has proved, uncover and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top then pop in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until risen and golden brown. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before diving in and devouring.

NOTE : If you are proving overnight in the fridge, allow the bread to come back up to room temperature before baking

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Meaty, Recipes, Spicy

Spicy chicken and red pepper curry – recipe

This recipe is adapted from an amazing dish by the ever dependable Madhur Jaffrey – my parents only ever used her cookbooks when we were growing up and my Dad’s (signed) copy of Indian Cooking is coated in oil, spices, and memories.

I am always tempted just to turn to the same reliable recipes when I flick through this book – lamb with onions (do piaza), butter chicken (makkhani murghi), lamb with potatoes (aloo gosht) but I recently decided to go for something that I definitely hadn’t made before and I am so, so glad I did. This recipe is absolutely delicious and very simple to make – I always use chicken on the bone for this as it adds extra flavour but it would be equally delicious with chunks of lamb neck (cook it for a good couple of hours) or even just as sauce with some chunky white fish. If you are using boneless meat, reduce the cooking time accordingly. I have made a few tweaks to the version in the book and the results are, I think, pretty spectacular. The heat factor can be adapted to personal taste – I like mine fiery but not everyone does, simply reduce the amount of fresh chilli and cayenne if you want something milder…

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1kg skinless chicken pieces, bone in
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 2-3 red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 red chilli, chopped (with seeds if you like)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Water
  • Black pepper

Method

  • If using chicken legs, divide into thigh and drumsticks. Breasts should be cut in half and kept on the bone.
  • Put the onion, garlic, ginger, almonds, peppers, chilli, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and salt into a food processor and pulse until you have a thick, smooth paste.
  • Put the oil in a wide pan over a medium heat and, when hot, stir in the paste and fry for 10-12 minutes, stirring to stop it from colouring. Your kitchen will start to smell amazing.
  • Add the chicken, lemon juice, and pepper then add enough cold water to just cover the chicken. Stir and mix together then bring to the boil.
  • Cover and turn the heat to low and let the curry simmer for 45mins to an hour, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked and falling away from the bone. If you like, you can remove the pieces and shred the meat back into the sauce but I don’t bother. Adjust the seasoning as required.
  • Remove the lid and turn up the heat to reduce your sauce – you can have it as thick or as runny as you prefer – then serve immediately with steamed rice and flatbreads.

If you were doing this with fish, cook the sauce for about 45 minutes and reduce slightly before adding the fish – it will only take a few minutes to cook through.

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Ramblings..., Reviews

La Focaccia, Roma – Review

Via Della Pace, 11, 00186 Roma, Italy

Tucked up on a quiet street just away from the noise and bustle of Piazza Navona and directly outside the achingly beautiful church of Santa Maria della Pace is the wonderful haven of La Focaccia – home to serious wood-fired cooking and some of the best fritti in Rome. When we first discovered it in 2010, there was no sign outside and the only reason you’d realise it was a restaurant at all was due to the red gingham tablecloths that adorned a few al fresco dining spots. At the moment (well, when I returned in June 2016), the entire street is pretty much covered with hoarding due to building work and the team from La Focaccia have taken the opportunity to do a little fresco outside which features the restaurant name in bold letters, thus making locating this wonderful eatery all the easier.

If you eat inside, it’s a little like entering the vaults of a church (and given the location, you most likely are) but a church with old wine bottles, rusted signs for beer, and a random mix of old tattered posters on the wall. None of this is a bad thing – it is welcoming, comforting, and downright intriguing as you wend your way down slanted stone stairs to discover the expansive underground dining areas that spread underneath the streets. On our first two visits, the whole place was full of priests discussing whether they should pray for a friend before or after dinner, on my most recent trip, one whole side of the dining area was filled for a birthday party and we could hear the increasingly raucous and joyous celebrations out on the street where we were sitting. The bottom line is: Everyone loves La Focaccia.

In Rome it almost a legal requirement (indeed, it should be a legal requirement) to feast on as many types of fried food (the wonderful fritti) as is humanly possible and La Focaccia serve some of the best that I’ve had. You can get anything from stuffed courgette flowers, balls of creamy cheese that stretch across the table when torn apart, mushrooms, ham and cheese, and all are dipped in a light batter and deep fried until crisp and perfect. On their own fritti misti plate, strips of courgette are transformed into munchable, crunchable sticks of joy, a smoky piece of ham is sandwiched between cheese and fried until it is the most decadent of all savoury snacks, and a glorious suppli – the Roman equivalent to Sicily’s arancini – a ball of risotto rice, filled with ragu and cheese, coated in batter and thrown into the fryer to emerge crispy, oozy, and outrageous. Slices of aubergine, little potato croquettes are also crammed on to the plate. You can never have too much fritti. There are other starters available – the meat and cheese selection plate is certainly worth a mention – but I genuinely don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would choose them when such fried delights can be had. And a bargain – under €10 for that vast plate of delight and it fed two very greedy people very well indeed. And I did almost order more courgette flowers…

Their pizzas are truly majestic creations – thin bases with a rich tomato sauce and a good (but not overly long) selection of toppings. I can’t resist a Pizza Diavola with slices of spicy salami covered in melting cheese, finished with a drizzle of chilli oil and a scattering of basil and the ones served at La Focaccia are sensational. The bases are scorched to within an inch of their lives in the fierce wood-fired oven and come out crisp but still with enough satisfying chew to delight any pizza lover. The slices of salami are huge and only three or four are needed to nearly cover the already vast pizza base. When it comes to size, the same can be said of the decadent Calzone – a folded pizza stuffed with veggies or meaty treats that only just fits on the plate. Huge and over the top but so worth it. I have eaten pizza all over Italy and this place serves some of the very best. No joke.

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Pizza Diavola at La Focaccia

 

The pasta is also worth exploring – a Tuscan-inspired wild boar ragu was deeply meaty and rich with sizeable chunks of meat cooked to tender perfection in a simple but delicious tomato and wine sauce. A simple tomato ragu with huge cubes of mozarella accompanied with one of their crisp and delicious breads is also a winner.

Wine is available either by the jug or by the bottle and I urge you to opt for the della casa and get a good carafe of crisp local white or a cool, slightly chilled red. Chilled red wine is something that many people would baulk at but is also something that everyone should have – it is beginning to make more of a splash over here and is truly fantastic. Not all reds are suitable of course – a rich and earthy vintage would certainly not benefit from a spell in the chiller – but for light, fruity wines it is fantastic. And about €10 for a litre. Score.

The staff are multi-lingual and incredibly friendly and every time I return I rejoice – it’s a bit like coming home. I can’t envisage a trip to Rome without a dinner there and I think that just about sums it up – when in Rome, eat at La Focaccia!

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Ramblings..., Reviews

Atomic Burger – review

Sometimes you walk into a restaurant and immediately know that everything is going to be alright. There is something about the decor maybe, or the staff, or the smells, or the general vibe that instantly ticks all the boxes and makes you feel reassured that this place is everything that you have been looking for. It is very rare for somewhere to have this effect on the diner, sometimes it is the sheer unexpectedness or unappealing looks of a place that then serves killer food that make a particular restaurant somewhere special and worth seeking out, but I have to say that Atomic Burger had me smiling and happy from the moment I walked in and that feeling has remained with me pretty much ever since.

I first encountered this remarkable mini-chain (they have a branch in Bristol and a pizza place nearby) a couple of years ago when my wife was working in Oxford and I had come to stay with her for a couple of days. I spent my teenage years in the city and have many fond memories of its pubs and majestic medieval beauty, gigs, and parties, but I never really saw it as somewhere to eat out. To be fair, we didn’t really want to spend our precious pennies on food when there was beer to be had but Oxford never really felt like somewhere for exciting gastronomic adventures. I’d read about Atomic Burger in the Hardens food guide and, as I was aiming to visit the tiny cinema (The Ultimate Picture Palace) nearby, I thought I’d check it out. The Cowley road was always a bit of a rough affair when I was growing up but I’d played and seen many gigs in the pubs and venues that were scattered up and down it and was feeling nostalgic.

And surely the area must have been cleaned up a little bit since 1999.

When I walked in my jaw nearly hit the floor. I had never in my whole life seen anything like it. For anyone born and brought up in the 80’s, it was a dream come true. It was like a realisation of the toy section from the Argos catalogue in 1987. It was like the bedroom you wished you had when you were a kid. It was wonderful. Hanging from the ceiling and stuck to the walls were all the toys and actions figures that I pined after as a child – figures from Star Wars, Boglins, My Pet Monster, Thundercats – you name it, it’s probably on their wall. There was a huge TV screen playing cartoons at the back of the room, there was a warmth, a glow, a joy that radiated from the place. A relaxed and friendly waiter showed me to a table (I just about managed to stammer a ‘hello’ so completely bowled over was I by the decor) and I looked at the colourful and intriguing menu. Normally I would shy away from a burger place that has a vast selection of toppings – it’s often a way of hiding the fact that they don’t really do anything well – but there was something about the Atomic menu that felt different. Each burger has a film or pop culture name or theme – The Tony Montana, The Daisy Duke, The Jake n Elwood – and each is customisable to the point of, well, as far as you want to take it. What makes it even more interesting is the option of having any burger as either beef, chicken, or veggie, thus allowing for everyone to dive in and enjoy the fun (gluten free buns are available too). All the toppings are fantastic – the pulled pork, the crispy onions, the dressing, the hot sauces (although be warned that the Atomic Fallout Sauce is lethal), and everything is made with love and passion and that joy that permeates the building.

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Inside Atomic Burger in Oxford

On that first visit though, I went down a slightly different route and ordered a hot dog. Plain and simple. Each main comes with a free side and of these, the chilli-rubbed ‘sci-fries’ spoke to me, as did a starter of BBQ wings. And a beer. Obviously. My order was taken and I sat back and felt very happy indeed.

When the wings came I was, well, more than a bit surprised. I have eaten many a chicken wing starter in my time and was expecting maybe 4 or 5 wings to come my way. This particular portion consisted of closer to 12, covered in a rich and smoky BBQ sauce, and served with a suitably sized stack of napkins and a side of blue cheese sauce. Heaven. The wings themselves were expertly cooked and the sauce was thumpingly good. I think I inhaled the lot in about 5 minutes. The hot dog was vast – a proper frankfurter that was juicy, slightly smoky, 100% amazing, and also gone in seconds. The chilli-rubbed fries that rustled together enticingly in the bowl were a revelation – hot and deeply savoury, crispy outside with a perfectly cooked fluffy centre. And, like the rest, devoured at an alarming rate. The waiter came to ask how everything was but I’d already finished. I knew I’d found somewhere pretty special and was so excited by it that my wife and I went back the next day for lunch – I had a chicken Daisy Duke (bacon, American cheese, BBQ sauce) and she had a veggie Bandit (Cajun-rubbed pattie, huge onion ring, BBQ sauce, cheddar). They were totally awesome. The burgers were massive but not scarily so – and we staggered out happy and full, unable to manage one of their tempting milkshakes or ice cream desserts.

Since that first encounter I have eaten at the Oxford branch 4 or 5 times – the latest to their newer premises a few doors down from the original and we got the train from London especially to eat there – and the Bristol branch once. Every time I have been filled with joy, nostalgia, and fantastic food. The beef burgers are hefty, juicy, and fantastic. The wings continue to deliver on every level (a large portion is more than enough for two – trust me). The staff continue to be utterly brilliant. I’ve had some of the biggest onion rings known to man, a crunchy exterior with properly cooked onion hiding inside, as well as creamy and delicious slaw, and more of those addictive ‘sci-fries’. The plain fries are pretty epic too I should add. And every month there is a different special burger to tempt you with – The Wicker Man creation last year was truly epic. On my last visit I created my own – the Hans Gruber tribute (look it up if that film reference means nothing to you) which featured crisp dill pickles, BBQ sauce, Swiss cheese, tumbleweed onions, and a whole frankfurter crammed atop a mighty beef patty. It was truly amazing.

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The Wicker Man special – chipotle braised beef, Cajun-spiced onions, cheese 

And I should also add that, unlike every other burger chain or restaurant in the land, Atomic do not use a sweet, enriched brioche bun to contain their vast creations. A simple white roll is all they feel is necessary and I have to say it works completely. Some people may take umbrage with this. Some may wax lyrical about the qualities of an enriched dough that will help keep the whole thing together without dissolving into mush before the burger is finished. Some may say the richness of the bun works with the burger. Some perhaps can’t imagine why you wouldn’t use a brioche bun. Some say they thought the Sun and the Moon were the same thing. People say all sorts of things. I’ve had some delicious burgers – Honest Burger, The Joint, Pattie & Bun to name but three – many of whom opt for a brioche-style bun but I have to be honest and say that the only time I’ve noticed the difference was when I was served a burger in a brioche bun that had clearly been toasted hours earlier and was chewy and unpleasant.  Atomic’s traditional rolls more than stand up to the task (and are also pretty damned tasty) of holding an unruly burger in place and surely that is all that matters.

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The Hans Gruber tribute burger

If you’ve got room (and I have never quite managed it) there is a sweeping array of tempting things for dessert – milkshakes, ice cream, waffles – all of which sound fantastic. I saw a Vincent Vega shake (ice cream, bourbon, peanut butter, cream) go past me once and almost sighed at its sheer majesty. One day I’ll do it. One day…

Atomic Burger is a real destination and one well worth seeking out. There are whispers and rumours that they may expand beyond the current sites and if they do we should all rejoice. Their concept (not a word I usually associate with good restaurants) is unique and wonderful and the food more than lives up to the expectation set by the surroundings. There is even awesome Star Wars wallpaper in the toilets. Yes. There is. They are soon (early 2016) unveiling a new menu which I’m sure will be every bit as exciting and epic as the current one and I can’t wait to go back and try it. There is nothing else out there like Atomic and that is worth celebrating and cherishing. If you like burgers, you will love Atomic. It’s that simple.

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Check out their website: www.atomicburger.co.uk

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Ramblings..., Recipes, Reviews, Soupy

Hugh’s Ribollita – recipe and review

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Ribollita – the perfect winter supper

I was tempted to call this post ‘Possibly the best soup ever’ simply because it gives me so much joy every time I eat it. One of the many wonderful things about this recipe is that, unlike many so-called ‘meal’ soups, this really does fill you up in a truly satisfying way. No jokes – it really does. It is also perfect for cold nights and for when you need to make a change from seasonal excesses.

The first time I encountered a ribollita (Italian for ‘re-boiled’) was in an early episode of the ‘River Cottage’ series in which the ever dependable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall created a version that he dubbed ‘Half-the-garden Soup’. It certainly did contain a fair heft of veg and I was slightly disappointed not to find a recipe for it in the original (and excellent) ‘River Cottage Cookbook’. The version that eventually appeared in the (also excellent) ‘River Cottage: Veg Everyday’ cookbook was splendid and tasty but for some reason didn’t quite fulfil the warming, wholesome temptation that the original TV series seemed to offer. No matter, there were many other ‘hefty’ soups in the book and I was soon distracted and not musing too much on the lack of ribollita in my life.

However, the thought of a filling, simple, delicious vegetable soup that delivered a bit more punch than usual kept coming back to me. So I turned to the internet to see if any variations existed and lo and behold, Hugh himself provided the answer! One of his weekly columns for The Guardian was based around tinned ingredients and, much to my delight, the first recipe he offered was for a ribollita. Joy! And so, on a cold autumn night, I gave it a go and the results were, well, more than stupendous.

Seriously – this soup is something else.

So excited was I by the success of the ribollita that I made it again the following week.

And again a few days later.

And I made it for dinner last night.

And we’ve got more for dinner tonight.

Huzzah!

I’ve tried to work out what makes this recipe superior to the version in the book and the only thing I can really spot is the addition of wine. Wine generally makes things better in my book and you’d have thought that perhaps 100ml wouldn’t make much difference but believe me, it is the difference! The other elements that really help this soup pack a serious punch are the slow cooking of the onions (15 minutes) and then the simmer of the whole soup (about an hour). This may seem like a bit of a faff time-wise but I implore you to be patient and go with it – I’ve tried doing a faster version and it just doesn’t satisfy.

You could use the time to drink more wine for example.

The only I’ve changed from the original recipe it the amount of olive oil used to soften the veg – I find that 2tbsp is more than enough – but use however much or little as you please. Again, the oil is a key part of the flavour so don’t leave it out entirely as you will miss it. The soup does taste better when left overnight but you might need to add more stock as the liquid does tend to get absorbed by the veg.

The recipe states it will serve six to eight people however, we are greedy and find really we only get four big portions from this quantity!

SOUP!!!!

Ingredients

  • 2tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 leek trimmed and finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 100ml red wine
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes 
  • 400g tin cannellini beans (or whichever you prefer)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 small sprig rosemary and 2-3 small thyme sprigs, tied together
  • 200g kale, cavolo nero, or Savoy cabbage, tough stalks removed, leaves shredded
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices slightly stale white bread
  • 1 garlic clove, halved

Method

In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil and sauté the onions over a medium-low heat. Cook them for a good 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and glistening.

Add the carrots, celery and leek, and cook for a further five minutes, stirring and then add the garlic and stir for another minute.

Pour in the wine and simmer for a minute – this makes everything SO much better. Add the tomatoes, beans, stock, rosemary and thyme, season and simmer gently, partially covered, for about an hour.

Use this time to drink wine.

Add the greens and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove the herb bundle and season to taste.

Once the soup is done, rub the bread with garlic, brush with oil and toast until golden and delicious.

Put one slice in the base of each bowl, ladle over the soup, and shave over a healthy amount of parmesan. If you like, splash a bit more olive oil over the steamy pile of warming delight and tuck in.

You’re welcome.

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