Category Archives: England

Eating with the Princess: The Draper’s Arms

I am not entirely sure why, but I do love The Draper’s Arms. This local pub in a  leafy, residential part of Islington, is welcoming, noisy and vibrant. And the food is always great too. We dined early, as I had a train to catch. We shared the salt beef with picked onions on a toasted loaf. I then had duck with peas and pancetta, the Princess had lamb pie and we shared some wilted, buttered greens.

IMG_7234

_DSC3319_DSC3320_DSC3323

There was no room for dessert. But next time. Their menu changes often, which makes return visits compulsory.

The Draper’s Arms

44 Barnsbury Street

N1 1ER

Eating with the Princess: Chelsea & Kensington

This is a second installment in this series.

The Princess graduated last month with an MA and so the whole family descended on London to celebrate. On the Friday, post graduation ceremony (which I sadly missed, being en route from Denmark), we ate at The Ivy Brasserie in Kensington. The restaurant was packed and busy but we sat in a private corner at the back. The highlight was the dessert – a strawberry sundae with warm strawberry compote, ice cream, meringues and a shortbread. IMG_6949

The next morning the mothership and I wandered around Chelsea – we stumbled across a tiny farmer’s market in Pimlico and then went into William Curley, mainly for coffee (which in all honesty was not fantastic) and a milk chocolate raspberry entremet.

Then we wandered to Daylesford Organic and had an entertaining time examining all their produce. I loved the food garden they’re growing outside!

We met the princess at Duke of York Square market where it is possible to eat your way around the world whilst in the heart of London. We bought charcuterie, bread and cheese and canelés! I was super excited about these and they were delicious. Then we ate lunch at Polpo. We sat at the bar – everyone was queuing to sit outside but us Southern folk were far too cold to do such silly things. We drank the wine of the week and ordered various plates to share – arancini, asparagus pizette and ‘nduja bruschetta followed by risotto, duck and walnut salad and meatballs.

IMG_7046

Photo 02-05-2016, 17 22 28

It was a super lovely way to spend a Saturday – wandering aimlessly between food places, snacking, looking, buying food for later.

Food for Thought Lectures, The School of Artisan Food

This past weekend I journeyed to the rural areas of Nottinghamshire, to the rather lovely Welbeck Estate, to attend the School of Artisan Food ‘Food for Thought’ lectures. It was a truly fantastic weekend of scholarship, writing and thinking about food.

IMG_7092

The whole two days seemed to hang together very loosely – there was no wider theme that really connected the speakers and so we journeyed from the horrors of the food industry to the tiny Cookhouse, to the Grand Tour. It was all fantastic, capturing my enthusiasm for food talk and writing once again. We were also superbly well fed!

Joanna Blythman started us off, talking about what the food industry doesn’t tell us. Her new book, Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets explores this in more detail. She spoke in (rather horrifying) detail about how ‘natural flavourings’ like ‘rosemary extract’ aren’t really related to the rosemary plant at all. If you’re even slightly skeptical about how the food industry works, read her book. On Sunday, in an unexpectedly related talk, James Whetlor talked about his business Cabrito Goat Meat. James and his partner started Cabrito in Devon, as a solution to using the billy kids that otherwise form a waste product from the goat milk industry. The idea was to supply goat meat for people to eat. As their business has grown, they have looked to expand into supermarkets and James spoke with frank honesty about the difficulty of doing this as a small producer. He talked about how the food industry and the supermarkets work to shape choice, by limiting what they will and will not buy from suppliers. It was totally gripping and engaging.

IMG_7093

Bee Wilson spoke about how we learn to eat, the possibilities for teaching our palate’s to like various foods, including vegetables, and how (ideally) the best way to teach children to eat is to allow them to choose from a range of foods (without getting anxious about their nutritional intake). Her new book, First Bite, discusses this in more detail. I spoke to her afterwards because it struck me as an interesting tension that manifests in schools where, because of the unknown (by parents of what children at at school and by teachers/dining hall supervisors of what children eat at home), children lose this ability to choose. In schools, children are encouraged to eat all the food they are given, to ensure they are not hungry. There is little opportunity for the kind of agency Wilson talked about around the school dining table.

One of the reasons I signed up to the talks was to hear Jeanette Orrey speak. Jeanette is the ‘original’ dinner lady, the one who is largely credited for telling Jamie Oliver about the state of school food, and who has worked tirelessly to change school food in the last 16-odd years. She provided some interesting statistics, particularly on the growing problem of hunger in schools, and she urged the audience not to think that school food had been ‘fixed’. Orrey argued that there are still head teachers who do not think school food should be their problem, that there is still tension between the DfE and the DoH about who is responsible for food in schools, and there is an ever growing issue around summer hunger too. She also talked about the tension that exists between what policymakers envision, and what schools can do at the grassroots level (which is what my thesis was all about).

IMG_7104

I loved hearing from the chefs too. Over the weekend, we heard from Olia Hercules on fermentation (her rather exquisite book is only £5.99 on Amazon at the moment); Jeremy Lee on the evolution of British food and this new culture developing around feasting and sharing; and Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich from Honey & Co. I was interested in the way Sarit and Itamar talked about writing their cookbooks, about how channeling the personal is so important, how their cookbooks are about food they want to eat and cook, and how you can read their cookbooks like any other book.

IMG_7096

The food garden at the School of Artisan Food

I particularly loved listening to Anna Hedworth talk about starting Cook House, up in Newcastle (how much do you love her logo?!) and her work putting on events for the National Trust in the Farne Islands (working in foreign kitchens, some without running water). Her pictures were exquisite and made me desperately want to run some supper clubs like we used to do in Johannesburg.

IMG_7106

Food at lunch on Sunday

The weekend ended with two history talks – one on The Grand Tour by Andrew Graham-Dixon and the other by historian Ivan Day. Ivan’s talk was particularly interesting. He talked about food as art as largesse. My understanding of his talk was that in the event of wealthier people having large events, with large displays of food (often created as works of art), the food was later given to those less well-off to have and eat. So architectural displays of food were later dissembled by the poor. This is food as art but also food as art as largesse… Ivan had a fascinating collection of photographs of tables laid with plenty. These tables were then picked at by the wealthy before being given to poor people. In other places, who scenes were constructed from food (as part of a wider celebration of a birth or a marriage of the landed gentry), and then people could destroy them and claim the food. At food festivals in Europe, people were given roasted meats for free as part of the wider celebration. An interesting idea of redistribution of wealth I think.

All in all, I had a fantastic weekend, talking and thinking about food. I’m hoping, now that I have been there, to return to The School of Artisan Food for another course. And I will definitely be back next year for this lecture series!

x

 

 

 

The Kitchen Garden at Chatsworth

I visited Chatsworth this last weekend. It’s an estate in Derbyshire that belongs to the Duke of Devonshire.

 

The house is massive but the grounds are even more impressive. There’s a wood which we walked up into the day before visiting the house. The top of the hills have amazing views out over the countryside.

 

There are sheep at every turn and a few cattle and a herd of deer. The formal gardens are spectacular with fountains and roses and rock formations.

 
My favourite part was the kitchen garden. They were growing all kinds of wonderful produce – apples, pears, strawberries, lettuces, maize, raspberries. It’s an inspirational garden if you’re looking to grow your own and a lovely place just to visit. We also visited the farmyard which, I’ll admit, is mainly for kids, but it was fun to wander around and see all the different animals.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Melton Mowbray Country Fair (or Reasons to love England)

This past Sunday I visited the Melton Mowbray country fair. It was one of the most amusing and entertaining things I’ve done for a while. My friend H and I have been talking about going to Melton Mowbray for pork pies for ages and ages and this fair finally pushed us into action. It was a dull, grey, wet Sunday but despite that people were out in force.

There were local food producers, including pork pies (bought for Sunday supper) but also lots of local farm produce (meat), cheese, jams, strawberries and ice-cream. We opted for a hog roast roll complete with stuffing and crackling. It was superbly good topped with a little apple compote.

There was a re-enactment group who were re-enacting some battle from the first African War. I was amused by the examples of food on display.

We wandered around gazing at the various animals on display (birds of prey, cows, sheep, alpacas, chickens and ducks), were amused by the beekeepers, plant sales people and cake bake-off but the highlight of the day was the dog show!

Everyone seemed to have a dog of some kind with them, ranging from a super tiny Chihuahua to a wolf hound the size of a small horse.

We sat on a hay bale, eating strawberry and cream ice-cream and watched the waggiest tail, best in condition, best rescue and top dog awards. It was super. I’m going to have to plan to go again next year.

Kiddies baking triumphs

A Knight…
Making pork pies
Cupcakes for the bake-off

Fitzbillies, Cambridge

I’ve been wanting to visit Fitzbillies ever since I read the story of it’s saving in The Guardian.

On Monday I finally got the chance.

I was in Cambridge visiting family and made a specific stop to pick up some of their legendary Chelsea buns (plus a Florentine) on the way out of town. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay and sit down because it was warm and inviting inside with plenty of other things on the menu I’d like to try. Next time.

I ate the Florentine on the cold, wind swept train platform. It’s crisp, sticky, almond goodness made the wait bearable. When I finally got home I opened the brown package and slipped the bun onto a plate.

I then tore it apart with my fingers, savoring every sticky bite. It was a perfect Chelsea bun – sticky, sweet, perfumed with cinnamon, and loaded with raisins – and the perfect end to a long day.

Fitzbillies
52 Trumpington St
Cambridge CB21RG