Briciole: Restoring my faith in Italian restaurants

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When it comes to the world’s favorite cuisines, Italy is up there. I mean, they did give us pizza and pasta so it’s not hard to figure out why Italian food is so popular. But with the popularity of Italian cooking there’s also been compromise, adaptation and copycatting – and not in an ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ way either. I think any Italian would run a mile if you tried to serve them up a gloopy plate of spaghetti carbonara or a pizza topped with canned pineapple and dry pieces of ham. For this reason I’ve become very mistrusting of Italian restaurants. That was until we stumbled into Briciole.

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Charlie Lakin’s Farewell Tour: Googies, Folkestone (July 17)

Hotel The Marquis of Alkham / Kent

Next week Googies will welcome into its kitchen a legend of the Kent culinary scene. Charlie Lakin has been doing fantastic things with Kent produce since he moved down to the southeast from Yorkshire to work at Dunkerley’s in Deal in 2007. From there he moved to The Marquis at Alkham where he’s really made a name for himself. Now he’s made the tough decision to leave The Marquis and Kent behind to pursue a more family oriented life in his wife’s native South Africa. Luckily for us, he is offering the people of Kent a few final chances to sample his handiwork at various venues around the southeast.

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Salt in Spring and Hotdogs by the Sea

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Many of you will have read my first post about Salt back in November of last year. The Canterbury restaurant has built a great reputation for itself and its philosophy of small plates and local, seasonal produce. With a ‘restaurants to try’ list that could circumnavigate the earth, we only managed to visit Salt a second time a couple weeks ago. As always, the food was fresh, interesting and delicious. We also caught word that Emma and Lee were looking into a new place in Whitstable. Saltdog opened yesterday and is cranking out gourmet hotdogs and beer on the Whitstable seafront. So now the lucky people of Kent have not one, but two ways to enjoy the creativity of this pair and the beauty of local Kentish produce. So what are you waiting for?  (more…)

6-hour Confit Shoulder of Lamb with Salsa Verde and Roasted Rosemary Beets

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Yes, this takes 6 hours. Yes, you will need arm extensions to read the ingredients list. Yes, there are a few steps involved. BUT, I promise this will be the best shoulder of lamb you have ever had. Confit sounds indulgent, and maybe it is a bit, but what it should really say to you is: low, slow, and meltingly tender. No matter what it is you’re confiting, it will be caressed for hours in a luxurious and moisturizing layer of, well, fat. But it will emerge with ignorable fattiness and with an incredible silkiness that can only come from this method of cooking.

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Meatless Monday: Clean out the fridge casserole

HDR Fridge

I know that the title of this post may not immediately drive you wild. In fact, the idea of sad, limp vegetables, mold and food just generally past its prime will be enough to put most people off. However, with all the waste there is in the world I think it’s important to make people aware of how transformative cooking can be for a bunch of sad old vegetables. (more…)

Meatless Monday: Hot and Sour Soup

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There are some recipes that we just naturally leave to the experts. You know, those dishes you order every time you go out for a certain type of cuisine, but you would never attempt to make at home? Hot and sour soup was one of those for me. I just always assumed it was full of exotic ingredients and made with time honored techniques, nothing I could even think about making in my own western kitchen. Boy, was I wrong!

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Fall in Love with Follies, Folkestone

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Sandgate Road in Folkestone has had a much needed boost with the opening of Follies, a new cafe/restaurant/awesome hangout. Filled with antique furniture and vintage knickknacks, all of which are for sale!, and with a great laidback vibe, I’m sure it won’t take long for Folkestonians to fall in love with this place. The building itself, which used to house a furniture shop, is a tardis with three floors of seating and what seems like an endless number of rooms. Despite the space, there is already a great community vibe and the array of seating options means you can bring a book and curl up on a sofa in a quiet corner, host a study group upstairs or enjoy a family breakfast in the window seat while you watch the world go by. (more…)

Smoked Mackerel Pâté

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Mackerel gets a bad rap. Mackerel, herring, sardines, they’re all cheap and bit on the fishy side even when fresh, so they’re not at the top of most people’s list. We’re all given the impression from celebrity chefs that mackerel is a less popular, more sustainable fish than, say, cod or sea bass and is therefore a better choice for the dinner table. The differences between mackerel and sea bass are pretty obvious, not least the price, but back in 2013 there was a scare when mackerel all of a sudden sunk into the danger zone. Just after all of us started getting on the band wagon, we were suddenly supposed to cut back on this oily, omega-3 filled fish and all its inherent goodness before we lose it forever. Now it’s confusingly listed as 2-4 on the sustainable scale depending on how and where it’s caught. Good grief.

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The Greedy Italians: Minestra Maritata (Spring Cabbage and Bacon Soup)

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The literal translation of Minestra Maritata is ‘Wedding Soup’. Gennaro Contaldo says it’s because of the way the meat and the vegetables marry so well together. I say that he can say what he likes, and often does!, but you could call this ‘Spit In My Eye Soup’ and it wouldn’t be any less delicious. This is a good example of cucina povera, which Contaldo and Carluccio were going on and on and on about in the two series of The Greedy Italians – and I can see why! It’s simple and cheap, but also healthy and completely fall-off-your-chair delicious.

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Meatless Monday: Vegetable Tempura with Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce

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Light and fresh, crispy and vibrant, vegetable tempura is the perfect supper for a week night or a special weekend treat accompanied by spring onion pancakes (I use this recipe) or teriyaki tofu. The key to crispy, light tempura batter is ice cold sparkling water and mixing the batter at the very last moment before frying.

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