A couple weekends ago, in beautiful sunshine, we headed up to Margate to check out a new restaurant/art gallery for my second Olive magazine review. Hantverk & Found is the brainchild of chef Kate de Syllas, formerly of Unpackaged, and is a tiny four-table café serving up the freshest of Kentish seafood and promoting local artists in the equally tiny basement art gallery.
Last weekend I had lunch in Tunbridge Wells at the recently refurbished Royal Wells Hotel. But this was not just any lunch, it was my first restaurant review for Olive magazine! The hotel has recently had a £2.4 million refurbishment undertaken by famous Kentish brewery Shepherd Neame and it’s looking pretty swanky.
I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical about this one. I mean caramel has it’s place, and I’m all for sweet and savory combinations – you’ll never see me turn down a chocolate-coated pretzel and, yes, I have been known to dip my french fries in my milkshake. But caramel on fish?
It looks like summer has finally arrived in England. Thank goodness. As I write I’m looking out the window at blue skies and sunshine; it would be a great day for a picnic. Thursday evening was forecast to be a good evening for a picnic, too. From 5pm onwards it was supposed to be glorious sunshine and a balmy 18ºC (64ºF) − yes, in England 64ºF is considered balmy. The pleasant forecast was very welcome for Thursday because we had tickets to an open air showing of Richard III at Dover Castle. It was a “Bring chairs and a picnic” kind of deal and we were really looking forward to enjoying a bit of evening sun and taking in some culture.
In the past month, I could probably count on one hand the number of nice days we’ve had here in the south east of England. Today was one of them, so naturally I decided to stand over a boiling pot of onions, fennel, peppers, tomatoes and stock to make fish stew. Brilliant.
Father’s Day afforded me the perfect opportunity to flick through some of my old Olive magazines on the hunt for an easy but tasty recipe to serve up to the in-laws. An impulse buy pork shoulder was still in the freezer from before I left for California, no doubt because my husband thought it was too much for one person. Had it been me, I would not have had any hang ups about cooking and eating the whole thing – obviously not in one sitting, probably. I found a recipe for slow-cooked pork shoulder with coleslaw and sweet potato fries. It sounded good and southern to me, which is not a cuisine my British in-laws have enjoyed very often, so I decided to go with it.
Some of our close friends had family visiting from Poland last week and, as ever, I looked at that as the opportunity for a dinner party. Dinner parties seem to have this stigma, this pretentious air about them which puts people off. In our house they are simply an excuse to have good friends over, drink lots of wine and, of course, for me to get in the kitchen and cook up a three course meal.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen some of the build up to this particular recipe challenge. I was raring to go. All week long I had been looking forward to Sunday, when I would have the time to make my very own steamed pork buns. The recipe in my Olive magazine looked easy enough – time consuming, but each step seemed quite accessible.
Everything started off wonderfully, I skinned the the pork belly (and made some lovely pork scratchings which I then munched throughout the afternoon), sliced it up and made the marinade. Then I went to munch my scratchings and watch a bit of TV before attempting the dough.