Monthly Archives: June 2010

A visit to Brussels

I’ve been rather quiet over the last few days, which is down to a visit to see friends in Brussels. I didn’t really go to any of the tourist attractions unless they just happened to be on my way somewhere, as the entire visit revolved around food, drinks and socialising. This weekend of simple objectives proved to be the right call, it the weather was exceptionally hot. Clear blue skies and scorching!

Rather than trying separate posts for each thing, I’ve just put it all together. It reads little like a wandering stream of consciousness, but I hope it makes some sense!

As you can see, the more “traditional” side of Brussels. The plaque honours the birthplace of Audrey Hepburn, although most visitors miss this as it is located on a side street, away from the main attractions. There is also the spire of the town hall, a traditional Brussels building and the royal palace. I promise, all these were seen on the way from a brunch to meeting for drinks in the centre of town!

To balance these tourist highlights, a few shots capturing beer, cartoons, art noveau and more beer. I would have included frites, but it was just waaaaay too hot to even think about eating them at the weekend.

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Filed under Brussels, On Location

Les saveurs de l’été – Pimm’s and Lemonade

What do you drink on a hot day? Wine, beer or soft drinks are all fine, but there is one little British tradition that everyone loves, either secretly or very openly. It is also something that all my friends from outside the UK love to drink when they are here. I’m talking about Pimm’s, which is right up there as one of the best things about hot days in the sunshine.

Above, exhibit A, is a jug of the stuff we had last night, infused with lemon, orange, mint, cucumber, mint and mixed with lemonade. Fruity and summery, perfect over ice on a warm evening.

First, the history lesson. What is Pimm’s? Well, it started life as a tonic, based on gin and infused with various herbs and spices. This was served in an oyster bar run by Mr Pimm, with the spices intended to soften the hard edge of the gin. Before long, the house concoction was famous in its own right. So successful was this that Mr Pimm expended to six different drinks, based on gin, vodka, scotch, brandy, rye whiskey and rum. Today, only the gin and rum versions are produced, with the famous gin-based Pimm’s No. 1 Cup being the “Pimm’s” that we all know and love to cool us down on a hot day. For for information, see the website for Pimm’s here.

Everyone seems to have their own recipe, and you basically need to accept that every batch will be different – either subtly different, or wildly so. More mint or less lemon will affect the taste in quite an obvious way. However, you can get some pleasantly unexpected tastes. Last summer, I was staying in Luxembourg and we used mint from the garden. Unknown to us, it was some variety of rose-scented mint, which imparted a pleasant floral quality to the Pimm’s. Accept these things as happy accidents.

So, how do you make it? In my version, just take thin slices of cucumber, lemon and orange, add chopped ripe strawberries and some bruised mint leaves. Thin slices help the flavours come out into the drink, and the bruised leaves will impart a stronger mint flavour. Pour the neat Pimm’s over the fruit, leave to sit for at least 30 minutes if you can, then top up with sparkling lemonade and serve over lots of ice. I work with the classic measures of 1 part Pimm’s to 3 parts lemonade works well, but you can adjust to taste.

So pick up a bottle, and enjoy the sunshine!


Filed under Les saveurs de l’été, Sweet Things

Burnt Aubergine Salad

Oh aubergine! For so many years I sort of liked you, but could not find it in my heart to love you. You were fickle and so often sucked up too much oil, then sat there sadly in your intense oiliness. Yes, I was even a a little suspicious of those people who declared that they did love aubergines.

OK, perhaps a little dramatic, but it has taken me a while to get comfortable with cooking aubergines and to produce something delicious. I have had quite a few disasters over the years, coming to a head with what one dinner guest described as aubergine oil surprise (the surprise being just how much oil I had been able to use, but I was 21, a student and thought I was demonstrating the height of sophistication). What has probably come over to any regular readers by now is that I am always on the lookout for recipes that are tasty and dependable, and frankly, those that don’t involve too much effort if they are not for a special occasion.

Well, aubergine my love, I think I have found the recipe for you. This is one I saw at an Ottolenghi cookery demonstration recently, but in my normal way, I just took it as a rough guide and started making tweaks and improvising based on what I had in the cupboard. It is somewhere between a salad and a rich dip. The aubergines are burned over a gas flame, so they take on a charred, smokey quality. In doing this, I went for broke. Full flame, then stand back and mutter burn, baby, burn as the smoke rises and sparks fly off from charred aubergine skin. The fire alarm went off a couple of times, before I realised it would be smart to open all the windows. Also, don’t leave these things unattended in case you set fire to your kitchen. Can you imagine the shame? Well officer, I was charring aubergines on the hob in the quest for the perfect way to use them, and wouldn’t you believe it, they’re quite flammable…. Yes, a lot of drama, and all in the quest for flavour!

With the aubergines well and truly cremated, the magic comes with the rest of the ingredients – pomegranate molasses (thick, sweet, tart reduced pomegranate juice) adds kick, and a lot of tahini and a good glug of water combine the make a thick, creamy “sauce”. I know, it seems like a lot of water, but tahini plus water does the strangest thing, and actually thickens up. An extra spoon of tahini will also save a runny batch of hummus.

So how much do I love this? I think I will start to make this with all my aubergines from now on. I love it that much. Fellow diners agreed that this was fabulous. It is, by turns, rich, creamy, smoky, tangy, nutty and utterly delicious.

To serve 4:

• 2 large aubergines
• 140g tahini paste
• 120ml water
• 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 30g chopped parsley
• 1/4 cucumber
• 180g cherry tomatoes
• Olive oil to finish
• Salt and black pepper

To cook the aubergines: pierce the aubergine a few times. Turn on a gas cooker, place the aubergine on top, and allow to char. You will need to turn it a few times to ensure it is burnt all over, and watch them in case they start a fire! It is done when the flesh is tender (10-15 minutes). Allow to cool.

To prepare the salad: remove the burnt skin from the aubergines. If there is a lot of liquid, place in a sieve and allow to drain for 30 minutes.

Chop the flesh roughly (we still want some texture), and place in a large bowl with the tahini, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and some salt and pepper. Mix well, and add salt and pepper to taste. If it seems a little too liquid, add another spoonful of tahini and mix again.

Remove the seeds from the cucumber. Slice the cucumber finely and add to the salad. Halve the tomatoes, and add to the salad. Stir gently to distribute them in the mixture.

Serve in a wide bowl. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and scatter a few halved cherry tomatoes and some chopped parsley.

Worth making? This salad was sensational. I tried it at the cookery demonstration and was wowed by it (I stood there making mmmmmm noises, much like everyone else), and I was thrilled that I could reproduce this at home. It is a much more robust dish than typical aubergine dip, and makes a lovely addition to a summer lunch. The only tricky bit is charring the aubergines, which you could easily do ahead of time.


Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Mushroom Risotto

On last weekend’s Saturday Kitchen on the BBC, Heston Blumenthal made his “perfect risotto”. This involved different varieties of rice (aged, of course), with a home-made stock, acidulated butter blah blah blah. All well and good, but I usually want a dinner to be cooked in an hour, and I am an unashamed user of stock cubes and just of the one variety of rice, and I happen to think my risotto is pretty darn good.

In response to his quest for perfection, I made my mushroom risotto. For me, getting great results is just a matter of time, as the ingredients are pretty ordinary. Allow the onions to cook gently in butter and olive oil until translucent, fry the rice, then add the stock a little at a time.

I know there is a bit of disagreement as to whether the little-by-little approach to adding the stock really matters (Heston says no), but I find it is a useful way of controlling the liquid in the risotto. I like it to be creamy, with cooked but firm grains of rice, but not wet or soupy. If I am making just a mushroom risotto, then I like to use fungi that have a little more flavour, and usually go for brown chestnut mushrooms. This makes the resulting risotto a rich, warm purple-grey with flecks of brown. I know “grey” is not something that usually seems appealing in a food, but trust me, it works here. If you fancy something a little more decedent, then add one spoon of truffle-infused olive oil. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and you can see how a dish as simple as risotto is truly wonderful.

But did any of Heston’s magic rub off on me? While I find his programmes entertaining, I don’t see myself making many of his dishes. I might pick up a tip here or there, but no more than that. Which is exactly what happened. Rather than serve risotto in a heap, aim for an elegant appearance by placing said heap on a plate, then tapping the bottom with your hand. The risotto will settle down to an even layer. Imagine if you made saffron risotto like this? Serving up a giant disc of gold. Now that would be presentation to be proud of.

To serve 4:

• 250g arborio rice
• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 300g mushrooms, finely sliced (I used chestnut mushrooms for better flavour)
• 2 tablespoons cream
• 1 tablespoon truffle-infused olive oil (optional)

Warm the butter and olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry gently over a low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the wine, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Start to add the stock, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add more when the previous addition has almost evaporated.

With the last of the stock, add the mushrooms. Allow this to cook, again until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the Parmesan cheese, stir well, and remove form the heat. Stir in the cream and truffle oil, and allow to sit for two minutes with the pot covered.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

Worth making? Love mushrooms? You will love this. Warming, comforting, elegant and sophisticated. It also adapts easily for a starter or a main. So simple and easy, this is one of my favourite suppers!

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Les saveurs de l’été – Strawberry Sorbet

For many years, I have coveted an ice-cream machine. I could have settled for one of those things you stick in the freezer, then remove and churn manually or get a little clip-on motor. But no, I wanted the serious thing, one that has a built-in freezer and makes lots of noise. Then, last week, I finally got one. Agonisingly, I had a few things to do and had to wait three long days to try it out. I think part of the fun of a new gadget is getting it home and using it right away. Anyway, my to-do list cleared, I spent all of Sunday trying it out.

To start with, I made a champagne sorbet. Rather unusually, I had half a bottle in the fridge (I can assure you that “left-over champagne” is a rare occurrence in this house). The result was lovely. Smooth, light and quite boozy. In fact, I think I ate too much of it without thinking how much alcohol it contained.

Satisfied that the machine worked, I got a little more serious and made a proper fruit sorbet using fresh English strawberries. I looked for small, bright red fruit, as the little berries are sweeter and more flavoursome than the giant varieties that are all talk and no action. Indeed, with strawberries, the smaller, the better. Think about wild strawberries – tiny, a lot of work to pick, but they have an amazing flavour.

I made a sorbet as I actually prefer them to ice-cream. The flavour is fresher and lighter, and more suited to summer. Strawberry is, in my view, one of the classics and really does bring a little of the summer sun with it.

The recipe I used is really simple – make a sugar syrup, puree the strawberries, combine, chill in the fridge, then pop into ice-cream maker. After the machine did its thing (I left it in another room due to the noise), I got to try an utterly sublime result. The sorbet is silky-smooth, with little bursts of intense strawberry flavour. The flavour was fantastic and the colour was stunning – a vivid, natural pink colour.

It’s going to be a good summer. I just wonder how many frozen treats we can all take? We’ll find out.

To make just under 2 litres of sorbet:

• 720ml strawberry puree (around 800g of whole strawberries)
• 200g white sugar (or less, to taste)
• 120ml water
• juice of 1 lemon
• teaspoon of liquid glucose

Put the sugar, water, lemon juice and glucose into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then allow to cool.

In the meantime, rinse the strawberries. Remove the stalks and hulls (if necessary), then puree. You can strain if you want to remove the seeds, but I didn’t and the result was great. Combine the puree and the syrup, and allow to chill in the fridge.

Place the mixture into your ice-cream maker and process until frozen.

Worth making? Yes! This is one of the best sorbets I have ever had. The flavour is fresh, bright and intense. This is really worth trying, as it knocks a lot of commercial sorbets out of the water. I think I’ll be making this a lot over the summer months.


Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

Dillpotatis (Swedish Dill Potatoes)

Amidst all the world cup hysteria, a lot of people have overlooked Saturday’s royal wedding in Sweden. Crown Princess Victoria married her gym instructor – a modern fairytale. In honour of that, a Swedish-inspired dish today…

In the world of potato salads, there are those who like them to be creamy, those that like them sharp and acidic, and those that like them to be fresh and herby. I fall into the last category, as I like potato salad to be quite light, and something that lends itself to a summer picnic.

Why potatoes, why now? Because Jersey Royals are currently in British shops. These are early potatoes, which come only from the island of Jersey. They crop early, and have a rich, earthy taste – one of the flavours that signals summer is (almost) here. For those not in the UK, I am sorry to say that we benefit from virtually the entire crop, so you will have to keen an eye out for them next time you are visiting. For cooking, you can just scrape off the skin (I don’t bother), boil briefly, and they are delicious with a little butter and some chopped parsley. While they are a little more expensive than normal new potatoes, in my opinion, they are very much worth it.

However, this year I thought I would try something a little different with the little haul I picked up at the market, so I have made my take on the classic Swedish dillpotatis (literally “dill potatoes”). The Royal nature of these spuds also fits in with the Swedish wedding, so it’s clearly some sort of sign. For a potato salad, it is quite light, with just a little oil to allow the flavours of a few spices to come out and keep the dish moist. There is quite a lot of dill in here compared to others I have seen, but I think the freshness and aniseed flavours help keep the dish very “summery”. This is something that I came up with through trial and error based on what I ate in Sweden, and I think I have done quite well in producing something that showcases all of the ingredients. The tumeric works well with the spring onions, and its earthiness rounds out the flavour of the potatoes. It also makes the dish a vibrant neon yellow colour, which looks great and is all-natural.

For the potatoes:

• 500g potatoes (Jersey Royals or baby potatoes)
• 4 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• pinch of salt
• 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 25g dill, chopped (one generous handful of leaves, after you have removed the tough stalks)

If you feel the need, scrape the skins off the potatoes (don’t peel). It should come off quite easily if you use a table knife. Boil the potatoes until soft, then drain and allow to cool.

In a saucepan, heat the spring onions in one tablespoon of oil until soft. Add the salt, pepper and turmeric and cook for around 30 seconds. Add the spring onion mixture, the dill and 2 tablespoons of oil to the potatoes. Toss so that the potatoes are evenly coated. Chill before serving to allow the flavours and colour to develop.

Worth making? This makes a nice alternative to potatoes covered in mayonnaise. I particularly like the colour – the potatoes are golden, and the oil takes on a shocking neon colour which looks great on a white plate. You can also adapt it easily depending on what is in the cupboard – paprika, cumin, black onion seeds…

Final thought – congrats to the happy couple. They look great together and are clearly in love. A happy future together!


Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Tonka Bean Macarons

A couple of weekends ago, my friend Genevra gave me an unusual and welcome gift – a box of tonka beans (an intensely aromatic spice, with strong elements of marzipan and vanilla, with hints of cinnamon and raw tobacco – you can also read about her brave renovation of on old townhouse in Brussels here). I’ve used this spice before to make chestnut jam, but didn’t have any of these beans left, so I’m glad to have them back in the store cupboard as they are not so easy to find.

If anyone had ideas what to do with them, then I would love to hear your suggestions. Leave a comment or email to

In the meantime, I thought I would turn my hand to macarons flavoured with tonka bean. This time, I went all out. I had allowed the egg whites to age (I left them in a bowl in the fridge for a couple of days), and I used the “difficult” method to make the batter  (using hot sugar syrup to make a cooked meringue). All this effort seemed to work well, as I ended up with a batch of perfect macaron shells. Smooth, shiny and crack-free!!! All in all, I was very happy with the result.

To fill the macarons, I used two different ganaches – one using white chocolate, and one based on dark chocolate. I thought this would be a good way to see whether tonka works better with white chocolate (which would emphasis the tonka flavour) or dark chocolate (where it would be more a care of the tonka complementing the dark chocolate).

These macarons were sublime. The flavour was just right – the aroma was in the shells and the filling, and it was sufficiently strong to be noticable but without be overpowering. Over time, the strong almond/vanilla notes mellowed, allowing some of the spicier notes to come out. If you are making these, just be sure to store in the fridge, but allow them to come to room temperature for eating so that the flavour is at its best.

And which was better? I can’t choose – the white chocolate has a stronger tonka aroma, but the dark chocolate is as good but tastes quite different. In short, I encourage everyone that has tried them to have one of each. No-one seems to mind.

Now…I just have to sit back and wait for someone to send me a tonka bean challenge!

For the tonka bean macarons:

• 1 tonka bean
• 150g ground almonds
• 150g icing sugar
• 110g egg whites (4 egg whites – but weigh them to be sure)
• 165g white sugar (granulated or caster)
• 35ml water

Use a nutmeg grater to grind a tonka bean. Sieve the powder finely and discard any larger pieces.

Combine the icing sugar, ground almonds and ground tonka in a bowl and sieve well. Set aside.

Put 55g of egg whites in a bowl. Whisk very lightly (they should remain liquid).  Set aside.

Whisk the other 55g of egg whites until it reaches the firm peak stage.

Put the white sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat gently until it reaches the “soft ball” stage (118°C, or when you drop a little of the sugar into cold water, it forms a soft ball). I find this happens once all the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Once ready, pour in a thin stream into the whipped egg whites, beating continuously. This is best done using a Kitchen Aid or beater. Allow to cool to just above room temperature.

Add the remaining liquid egg whites to the almond mixture.

Add one-third of the meringue to the almond mixture and combine. Add another third, combine, then add the remainder of the meringue. With a light hand, mix well until you have a smooth, glossy batter.

Pipe the batter onto a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet. Leave to sit in the open for 20-30 minutes, then bake at 150°C for 15 minutes. Half-way through cooking, turn the baking sheet around.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet. Assemble the macarons with the filling of your choice.

For the chocolate ganache:

• 80g chocolate, finely chopped (dark or white)
• 60g double cream (if using dark chocolate) or 50g double cream (if using white chocolate)
• 1/2 tonka bean, finely ground
• 20g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Put the chocolate into a bowl.

In a saucepan, heat the cream with the tonka bean. Bring to the boil, allow to sit for a moment, then pour over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and there are no lumps.

Finally, add the butter, and stir until smooth.

Allow the mixture to cool, and place into the fridge until set. Use in a piping bag to fill the macarons.

Worth trying? Macarons are always popular. The question here is whether they are worth trying with tonka? I think so. This is an unusual, very aromatic spice and macarons are a great way of showcasing the flavour without it becoming overpowering. Everyone that tried these loved them and commented on the unusual flavour. I would happily give these another go in the future.


Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

Baked Sweet Potato with Feta and Spring Onion

I have always liked the idea of sweet potatoes (or yams). They taste great and have a brilliant orange colour when cooked, but so often they don’t taste quite right when you switch them for normal potatoes in dishes. This is probably because of their sweetness, which can seem odd in otherwise savoury foods.

A while back, I finally hit upon a way of cooking them which works brilliantly, is really simple and tastes delicious. I know this might not seem very exciting, but I think it is. Just peel them, rub in oil, cover in foil and then bake in a hot oven. That’s it! This makes the outside caramelise, while the inside stays soft and moist. It also means that you don’t have the skin afterwards. I am happy to eat potato skins normally, but I just don’t like them on sweet potatoes. No logic to that! The whole cooking-in-foil business is, in my view, necessary, as they can otherwise dry out and the skin can go a little tough.

The magic here comes with the topping – cook up a few spring onions in a pot, jazz it up with a little spice of your choice, then allow to cool and combine with some feta. Then top off with a a few uncooked spring onions and a little extra feta, plus whatever else you like (I used sumac powder and black onion seeds, as I happened to have these in the store cupboard, but feel free to go wild with what you have). The taste is sensational – the very salty cheese and the sweet/savoury flavour of the onions works well with the warm, sweet flesh of the potatoes and tastes sublime. The spices then dance around in the background, supporting the main show. Really tasty, for summer or winter, and very, very easy to make. Sure, they sit in the oven for a while, but you don’t need to spend more than five minutes in the kitchen.

To serve 2:

• 2 medium sweet potatoes
• 4 spring onions
• 150g feta cheese, crumbled
• olive oil
• pinch of salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
• 1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon black onion seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Prepare the potatoes – peel them and rub each lightly in olive oil. This will prevent discolouration, and improves the surface during cooking. Wrap each in foil, place in the oven, and cook for around 1 hour, until the potatoes are soft and you can easily insert a skewer. If you like extra crispness, once the potatoes are cooked, remove from the foil, place on a baking tray and put back in the oven for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the topping. Finely slice the spring onions diagonally. Add three-quarters of the chopped spring onions to a saucepan with a spoonful of olive oil, and cook until soft but not brown. Add salt, pepper and cumin (if using). Allow to cool, then add three-quarters of the feta. Mix well. However, if feeling lazy, don’t bother cooking the spring onions – just put all of them them in a bowl with oil, salt, pepper, cumin and all the feta. Mix, then use. Easy!

Split the cooked potatoes in two. Divide the topping across each half of the potato, then add some of the reserved feta and spring onions. Finish off with a sprinkling of sumac and black onion seeds (if using), and a final drizzle of olive oil.

Worth making? This is both easy and makes a sophisticated taken on the baked potato. I’ve successfully varied it with different spices, or by adding a little strong cheddar. Halloumi could also work. Just be sure to use a cheese that packs a punch, so that it simultaneously stands up to and complements the sweetness of the potatoes. Yum!


Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Beetroot with Yoghurt and Lemon Relish

Finally, I have made something savoury! This is a salad from Ottolenghi’s new cook book Plenty – a beetroot salad with a fresh lemon-tomato relish and served with a swirl of Greek yoghurt. I need a few new summer staples, and this recipe just called out for me to try it.

I really love beetroot. The colour is amazing and it always brightens up dishes (and actually makes a good natural food dye if you like things hot pink), and the flavour is delicious. At the moment, the market stalls are starting to see baby beetroot. These are wonderfully sweet, and I can happily cook them and eat them on their own. You also get two vegetables in one – the familiar root, and the leaves, which are bright green traced with pink.

My opinion is that beetroot combines wonderfully with yoghurt and dill, so for me this recipe is perfect. You start by preparing a tomato-based relish, which includes corriander, dill, roasted bell peppers and lemon, so it has lots of flavours. However, rather than mixing the sauce, beetroot and yoghurt and ending up with a Pepto-Bismol effect, just spoon the salad and the yoghurt into a serving dish and swirl slightly for a pretty raspberry-ripple effect. This looked amazing in the late evening sunshine – the colour of garnets, with flecks of red, green and yellow and flashes of creamy-white – and it was a big hit with my diners too.

For the recipe, see here. I found this quite easy to follow – I cooked the beetroot the evening before, so the next day I just had to make the tomato sauce and allow it to cool before combining everything.

However, I did make two improvisations – I didn’t have any preserved lemon, so I used the skin of a fresh lemon, which I cut into small pieces, and soaked in lemon juice and salt for half an hour. This tasted good, but I think if I were to make this again, I would just use the zest of 1/2 lemon in place of the preserved lemon, rather than chopped peel. Ah well, live and learn! Secondly, I added the herbs (parsley, corriander and dill) to the cold tomato sauce, so that they would not cook and thus would keep their freshness. And it worked!

Worth making? If you have the time or are organised to plan ahead, then this is a great dish to prepare, and it makes a lovely change from “normal” beetroot salads. Just make sure to get the relish right for your tastes. However, the time you need means that you can’t magic this up at short notice, which is worth knowing if you’ve got to pull together  dish in a hurry. But this one I will make again.


Filed under Recipe, Savoury

On Location: Frae (Islington, London)

Frozen yoghurt. These two simple words usually suggest one thing to me – the frozen “treat” for people on a diet and who seek to deny themselves the pleasures of life. They want ice-cream, but they are settling for a poor substitute. Very LA, some sort of “fun lite”.

I had this thought in my mind when, on a warm Friday afternoon, I passed Frae on Camden Passage in Islington. The store looks quite funky, all whites and lime greens, and is tucked between the cool boutiques and trendy antique stores. What the heck, let’s try it, I thought.

Frae offers plain (“naked”) or green tea flavours, and is vocal about their all-natural product (a good thing) and the fact they are low cal and 100% fat free (less appealing to me – you see why I’ve always through of this as a diet thing?). But the fun part is that you can then pimp your frozen yoghurt with a variety of toppings – fresh fruit, granola, cookies, brownies etc. There was even chopped-up mochi – the most innovative topping I’ve seen for a while by quite some way.

In the end, I played it safe and went for blueberries and blackberries. I got a bit tongue-tied, and my initial request was to blurt out the Scottish terms for each, blaeberries and brambles(*), my Scottish accent drawing a blank from the Aussie behind the counter. I found this all the more amusing given that Frae claims that its name comes from the old Scots word for “from”. Once we finally understood each other, I was able to wander off into the sunshine with my frozen yoghurt forming a lovely peak and studded with ripe fruit. I think I should point out that by the time I took the picture, I had tried it and it had melted a little, but it did originally look picture-perfect.

I have to say, this stuff was good. All my doubts vanished. The reason? Frae’s offering is obviously yoghurt and not a fake ice-cream. It still has a nice, sharp, acidic tang of natural yoghurt and tastes very fresh. I thought the combination with the fresh fruit was absolutely delicious, while also being quite light. I am a person that usually has fruit sorbets in the hot weather, and I can happily see myself eating this. It almost felt healthy, and I suspect it might actually have been good for me. Just a little bit.

Would I go back? Yes! I am definitely a frozen yoghurt convert. I want to try the green tea flavour (after my recently flirtation with making green tea truffles) and just eat more of the plain stuff topped with fruit. I see this as a new summer food – I’ll have it in addition to ice-cream, just don’t ask me to choose between them.

(*) I still instinctively think of fruits and vegetables by the names we called them in Scotland when I was a child, hence to me blackberries are brambles, and blueberries are blaeberries. And what my English friends call swede, I call turnip, and what they call turnip, I call white turnip. Food and culture, eh?

Frae, 27 Camden Passage, London N1 8EA. Tel: 020 7704 6538. Tube: Angel.

LondonEats locations map here.

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Filed under London, On Location