Saturday, 28 April 2018

Lisbon Spring 2018

Lisbon street

This is less of a post than a quick 'give this a go' list.  Just back from Lisbon and with so many people telling me they are about to visit, and asking where to go, this up to date list might be useful - and I don't have to keep repeating myself.  I've also included some websites containing other people's recommendations on the Portuguese capital in case my Lisbon isn't quite your Lisbon. First, here are my tips.

Cockle, spinach, coriander and fried bread
at Restaurante Prado, Lisbon

FOOD and DRINK

Prado Restaurante, Travessa das Pedras Negras 2 (just off Rua da Madalena)
I'm starting with the best.  After 11 years working with Nuno Mendes, including as head chef at Taberna do Mercado in London, chef Antonio Galapito, and his fantastic staff are showing just how good modern Portuguese cooking can be.  A commitment to using the best Portuguese ingredients, and a "if it's not in season, it's not on the table" mind-set, is a great start.  Expect sound skills and flair from the kitchen and flavour, texture and thoughtfulness on the plate.  Definitely order the bread.  Don't order everything you want to eat at once.  Wines are all organic, biodynamic and natural.  Lighting is terrible (a table next to us resorted to phone torches to read the menu).

Cervejaria Ramiro, Avenida Almirante Reis 1. Still the place to eat seafood in Lisbon.  Everyone will tell you to go here, and you should.  Beautifully fresh and reasonably priced.  Favourite things: a copper pot of clams or razor clams in a broth with lots of garlic and coriander.  Mid-afternoon proved a good time to avoid the queues on this visit.

Restaurante Grelha Dom Feijão, Largo Machado de Assis 7D (Metro: Roma)
Neighbourhood restaurant serving really good grilled fish with boiled potatoes (a Portuguese staple).  The owner buys his fish from the best stall (Horacio e Terese's) at nearby Mercado de Alvalade Norte.  There is an outside terrace but get there for 12.00 to get a table outside.

Sol e Pesca, rue Nova do Carvalho 44 (Cais do Sodre area)
Very, very simple.  Tinned fish, basket of bread, glass of beer or Vinho Verde and you are done.  Has charm (have the Pinhais Petingas Picantes sardines or tuna from Acores).

Razor clams
at Cervejaria Ramiro, Lisbon

Manteigaria Fabrica de Pasteis de Nata, Rua do Loreto 2
A small and narrow space close to Baixa-Chiado Metro.  There is a small bar at the back where you can see the pastries being made.  My favourite place for a Pastel de Nata.  Pity about the coffee.  There is also a stall in the Time Out Market (see below).

Kiosk Cafes are regaining their popularity in Lisbon.  Here is a rundown of Quiosques.  Try Quiosque Lisboa, Praca Principe Real and nearby Quiosque de S. Pedro at the Miradouro on Rua Da Pedro V d'Alcantara which has a fine panoramic view taking in Castelo de S. Jorge in Alfama.

Time Out Market/Mercado do Ribeira at Cais do Sodre is useful to know about.  Lots of food stalls and open until midnight.

For ice cream, I like Gelateria Nannarella at Rua Nova da Piedade 54A off the lovely, quiet Praca des Flores. Made by Italians.  Natural ingredients.  It's a tiny shop and you are likely to have to queue but it's worth it.

For coffee, I like Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Rua Nova da Piedade 10 (+ 2 other locations) cphcoffeelab.pt

Ginjinha hole-in-the-wall Gin Bars around Rossio Station - a shot, with or without sour cherries, for about 1 Euro.

Everybody recommends Taberna das Flores on Rua das Flores.  I'm including it for that reason rather than recommending it.  I loved it for lunch some years back but was disappointed with the dinner on this visit - and I queued and queued for the experience!

If you do find yourself on Rua das Flores and want to cool down, drink coffee/tea and eat chocolate cake, your are in a good place, look for Landau Chocolate cafe at No 70.

Japanese Kano Naizan Namban Screen detail
at Museu Nacional Di Arte Antiga, Lisbon

MUSEUMS/GALLERIES/SIGHTS

Museu Nacional Di Arte Antiga, Rua das Janelas Verdes.
12th-19th century paintings, sculpture, silver, gold, jewellery and decorative arts from Portugal and its former colonies.  A whole room full of Zurbaran (the saints), Saint Jerome by Albrecht Durer
National treasures like The Panels of Saint Vincent by Nuno Conclaves and the Belem Monstrance.  Also the Fantastic Japanese Kano Naizan Namban Screens which date from around 1600.

Museu Azulejo, Rua da Madre de Deus 4
If you aren't interested in tiles before you go to Lisbon you soon will be.  Housed in a former convent, the museum covers the history and evolution of the art of the ceramic tile since the 1500's.

Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, Av. de Berna 45A
Huge international art collection.  Modernist architecture.  Beautiful garden.

Jardim Botanico, Principe Real, Lisbon

Universidade de Lisboa Jardim Botanico, Rua da Escola Politecnica 58
This is the botanical garden in central Lisbon - the Principe Real area.  There is another in Belem. This one is very un-manicured and all the better for it.  Atmospheric and the perfect place to cool off.

Bairro de Alfama
The best area to wander in when you don't mind getting lost in its winding streets.  A great view from the Mirador Santo Estêvão.  You may want to queue for entry to the Castelo Sao Jorge.

In Belem - Take Tram 15:
Monasteiros Geronimos Praça do Império, Belem.  Spectacular Cloisters and Church (Vasco da Gama is buried here).
Torre de Belem Avenida de Brasilia, Belem
Monument to the Discoveries Avenida de Brasilia, Belem
Antigua Confeiteria de Belem Rua de Belem 84
Right next door to Monasteries Geronimos for Pasteis de Nata but it's way too touristy now - you might be lucky and hit a quiet moment.  The tiling in the back rooms is worth a look.

In Cascais (train from Cais do Sodre station takes 40 minutes)
Museu Paula Rego Avenida da República 300, Cascais
Re-opens on 8 May with Paula Rego: Folktales and fairytales exhibition.  Great architecture.  

Carapau
at Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon

MARKETS/SHOPPING

Mercado da Ribeira, Avenida 24 de Julho (06.00-14.00).  These days very touristy, drawn by Time Out Market, with its dozens of prepared food stalls, occupying most of the building.  I'm not convinced this is helping the market traders, though some say the Time Out stalls buy fresh produce from them .
Mercado de Alvalade Norte, Av. Rio de Janeiro, near the junction of Av. de Roma and Av. da Igreja (Metro Avalade)
A real fresh food market - good for fish and fruit/vegetables.
Prado Mercearia, Rua das Pedras Negras 35
Linked to Restaurante Prado (see above), this is a lovely little deli/grocery near the restaurante selling Portuguese produce.  There is one small table and you can get a coffee and a little something.

MUSIC

Hot Clube de Portugal, Praca da Alegria 48
I love this jazz club.  Only 10 Euros to get in, reasonably-priced drinks, very friendly.  Strong Portuguese bias in the musicians.

Igreja, Lisbon

I wish I was coming with you!

OTHER LINKS:
Steve King's piece on Lisbon for Conde Nast Traveller describes the appeal of Lisbon really well, I think.
Nuno Mendes's Best Restaurant and Bars recommendations in Conde Nast Traveller.
You might also find the site Culinary Backstreets on Lisbon helpful.

Older postings of mine on Lisbon:
Lisbon highlights June 2017
Lisbon Autumn 2015



Friday, 30 March 2018

Fortitude Bakehouse

Sticky Bun
at Fortitude Bakehouse

The aroma of melting cheese and warm Bara Brith is wafting from the open door of Fortitude Bakehouse on a soggy spring morning.  It's a beguiling fusion of savoury and sweet on the nose. Spiced-up dried fruit and the right cheese have a harmonious relationship - Eccles Cake and Lancashire; Christmas fruitcake and Wensleydale; Malt Loaf and, well, take your pick but I'd go for tangy Cheshire.  I've come across a Christmas Cake flavoured cheese, but best not to go there!  At Fortitude today it's, maybe, fortuitous timing that sees me walking through the door to find Eccles Cakes on the counter, just-out-of-the-oven Bara Brith cooling in its loaf tin and Cheese & Leek Batons reaching peak aroma point in the oven.  Symphonic scents.

Fortitude Bakehouse is the new venture of Jorge Fernandez, founder of Fernandez & Wells and Dee Retalli, founder of Patisserie Organic and until recently Operations Manager for Fernandez & Wells.
Slow ferment Sourdough craft-baking, sweet and savoury, and single-farm coffee is their usp but there are gluten-free and vegan bakes too.  Wholesale and take-away is their focus but a strip of the small bakehouse is given over to those who can't wait to tuck-in and there is bench outside too.  A Victoria Arduino coffee machine expresses the single-farm coffee and there is stone-rolled tea from the excellent Postcard Teas.

Fortitude Bakehouse

As far as the waistline goes, it's a dangerous place to linger.  All the preparation and all the results are in full view, and smell.  There's a constantly changing parade of bakes - Dee Retalli clearly has quite a repertoire to place before us - but a slice of that Bara Brith is a good starting point.  Lightly spiced, good dried fruit and a great, satisfyingly chewy (in the best way) texture thanks to the sourdough ferment.  The Sticky Buns are irresistible and the muffins are what you always hope they will be but seldom are.  I've ordered enough bad ones to last a lifetime but my faith is restored by Dee's Carrot and Almond Muffin, not to mention the Bilberry version.  And don't miss the Boiled Orange & Almond  Cake - moist, sharp, sweet, bitter and fragrant.  Or the Bostock, which until now has always failed to hit the spot for me.

Bostock
at Fortitude Bakehouse

Early-morning means a bowl of yogurt with granola (nut-free and delicious) with honey;  you may find a Berber omelette stuffed into a Breakfast Batbout (Moroccan Pitta bread).  There's an unmistakable Moorish influence in the Bakehouse.  By mid-day expect to see a soup on offer, a seasonal salad like a bowl of grains, herbs and roast vegetables, and a Ryebread Tartine.  Bread, right now, is not too much in the frame, - though rye, soda bread and flatbreads make an appearance.  There's a customer appetite for it.  Can they resist?

Carrot and almond muffin
at Fortitude Bakehouse

There are plans for baking classes and workshops and I, for one, can't wait.

You'll find Fortitude Bakehouse right behind Russell Square Tube Station.  The Bloomsbury Mews setting is just right - nicely tucked away and not too prettified.  The old 'Horse Hospital', now an arts venue, occupies the corner site right next door and is the signpost that you need to look for.  Or follow your nose to those harmonious scents of dried fruit, spice and cheese.

Fortitude Bakehouse
35 Colonnade
Bloomsbury
London WC1N

Friday, 9 February 2018

Sabor Restaurant, London

Pan Tomate, Cecina
at Sabor, London

I had to return quickly to Sabor to make sure that first visit hadn't just been a nice dream.  It so easily could have been given that the restaurant has been 11 months in the making and its opening so eagerly awaited.  On my visit last week, their first day open (something I almost never do), everyone involved was on their toes and ready to perform, though there was a palpable and endearing nervousness to the lunch service.  Food and service were spot-on. After a second visit, slipping into that seat at the kitchen counter already felt cosily familiar.

Undoubtedly the way I feel about Sabor is due partly to the fact Nieves Barrágan Mohacho is in charge in the kitchen and that José Etura is orchestrating front of house.  Until March 2017 both were mainstays of the much-loved Barrafina Group of tapas bars where Nieves earned a Michelin Star.  I noticed a few other staff have migrated a little further west to Sabor.  Barrafina are great at what they do but after 10 years, it's good to see Nieves able to give free-rein to her Basque roots at Sabor, and to see José spreading his talent for great service.

At time of writing the first-come-first-served ground floor restaurant, which wraps in an L-shape around the kitchen, is open.  Groups of up to 4 can be accommodated and the small bar alongside, is also open.  The cooking ranges from Andalucia through Galicia to Castile.  The upstairs, bookable, Asador space is to follow at the beginning of March.  Here the wood-fired oven (the Asador) will be roasting Suckling Pig and two enormous copper pans will be the cooking Octopus for traditional dishes the Castilian and Galician ways.

Arroz con Salmonete
at Sabor, London
Sabor translates into English as flavour and it's this that Nieves does so well.  There's a daily menu which changes slightly according to seasonal variations plus a specials board.  Pan Tomate Cecina was a slice of toasted bread topped with the juiciest tomato, expertly imbued with flavour despite the time of year, and topped with wafer-thin slices of jamon.  You have to have it.  And, of course the Tortilla.  We tried two, one with Jamon and Artichokes and, on the next visit a Salt Cod version - both wonderful.  Piquillo Croquetas, Zamorano were crisp as could be and mildly spicy with a buttery nuttiness from the Zamora province sheep's milk cheese.  The Arroz con Salmonete (Red Mullet) dish pictured above was, sadly, someone else's order. Top of my list to try next time.  We opted for the special of John Dory, which came with its fillets diced, tossed in flour and pimento then deep fried.  The deep frying of the head and skeleton, on which the fillets were then re-arranged was appreciated for the opportunity to fish-out the cheeks.  A tasty plate but, for me, the presentation didn't show the fish to its best advantage.  Our portion of Presa Iberica 5 Jotas, Mojo Verde, was served with slivers of crisply-fried parsnip and was a juicy chunk of just pink pork on a bed of the traditional zesty coriander-based sauce.  The Rabo de Toro (oxtail) was yielding and sticky from the richness of the sauce, the creamy potato side which came with it was expertly cut by a few slices of raw onion.  Sublime.

Rabo de Toro
at Sabor, London

The list of puddings is short but considered.  Seasonal rhubarb came in the form of Rhubarb and Mascarpone Tartaleta which made a very pretty plate - not yet tried.  Goat's cheese ice cream with Liquorice Sauce is an interesting combination.  Based on having tried the beautifully balanced Honey and Saffron Ice Cream, I look forward to trying it.  Cuajada de Turron, Oloroso Cream seems to be destined to be a fixture on the menu as it is so good.


Honey & Saffron ice cream
at Sabor, London

As far as wine is concerned, so far the Páramos de Nicasia from Rueda and the Pasion de Bobal have been excellent choices.  The list looks well worth exploring and Sabor Bar offers Spanish Vermouths, gins, sherries, txakolis, wines and beers to drink along with slices of Jamón Ibérico 5 Jotas, Ox tongue Carpaccio and little plates of Camarones fritos & fried egg.

If this is a dream, don't wake me up.

The Asador Kitchen brigade
Sabor, London

Sabor Restaurant
35-37 Heddon Street
London W1B 4BR





Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Bar Gresca, Barcelona

Fried Gamba
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

A few years ago I was taken to a very swanky restaurant in Barcelona.  As someone who tends to follow their nose when it comes to food, I was puzzled by the lack of cooking smells.  The plating was precise.  Tweezers had most certainly been employed.  The food was cool, very cool, and not in a good way.  The service was positively frosty.  It was the most sterile restaurant I have ever encountered.  I had to see the kitchen.  Taking a slow walk to the back of the room, ostensibly seeking the loo, the scene through the small glass panel in the kitchen door - there for the benefit of staff, not diners - was revealing.  Lengths of stainless steel tables, drawers, cupboards and fridges, some open anonymous containers, a few white-aproned chefs plating-up delicate morsels of food with forensic intensity.  This was more like a laboratory than a kitchen, a place where food was stripped of personality and presented as something denatured.  I like a well-plated dish and these were undeniably pretty but, to me, the whole experience was unappealing.

Fresh Anchovies marinated with sesame and lemon
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

The next day, after sniffing-out possibilites, we walked into Gresca.  Owner/Chef Rafa Peña 
worked at Ferran Adrià's El Bulli and Martin Berasategui's Lasarte so the modern techniques were there, but so too were great Catalan ingredients being sympathetically handled.  Gresca made a much more positive impression on me.  I wrote about it here.  It was, and still is, a modern restaurant with a great love for Catalan ingredients.  It's a great place to go for a Catalan tasting menu.

Being in Barcelona last week we intended to return to Gresca but were lured into the place right next door, because what was there was Bar Gresca.  The original Gresca restaurant was slim and constrained.  Taking a lease on the premises next door has allowed for a loosening of corsets.  The two premises, now joined into a U shape has allowed for one large, well equipped kitchen to serve both restaurant and bar.  And, joy of joys, some of the bar seating is almost in the kitchen.  We went twice.  The first time, seated close enough to the kitchen to see every dish come out.  On the second visit we could almost shake a pan for them.  My kind of eating.  We'd also been told they kept good natural Catalan wines.  My kind of drinking.

Bikini of Lomo Iberia & Comte Cheese
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

So, what was coming out of said kitchen?  Sea snails with mustard; Grilled beef liver with kimchi; Lacquered aubergine with herbs; Pork sandwich, creme fraiche and pickled vegetables; Cuttlefish with tomato; Lacquered mackerel; Pizza of burrata and black truffle; Veal cheeks with wine; Grilled Veal Nose; and a dish of Green peas with black truffle.  Desserts were on the classic side with Pear tarte tatin and Pavlova with figs.  This is small-plates dining and prices range from Euros 4 for a plate of Pan con Tomate to Euros 18 for Baby Cuttlefish with tomato.  For seasonal specials, like truffle dishes, expect to pay Euros 20-27 for a plate.

Berberechos with vegetable vinaigrette
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

I'll spare you the full list but we ate Berberechos with vegetable vinaigrette - the freshest of cockles served in their half-shell on a bed of salt were sweet, citrusy morsels bathed in their liquor; plump fresh anchovies had been marinated in sesame oil and lemon;  Leeks in 'Salpicon' came as sliced roundels blanched, topped with spoonfuls of herby lactic cheese and strewn with sharp, piquant, pickled Guindilla peppers; Bikini of lomo iberico and Comte cheese - the thinnest slices of fried bread enclosing the filling to make the most addictive of sandwiches; Fried gamba were so sweet and crunchy that they begged to be eaten whole in their delicate shells; Surf-n-turf is rarely my thing but a dish of Meatballs with cuttlefish was outstandingly good - and refreshingly the least instagrammable plate of brown food I've seen for some time.  For me, Desserts weren't the best thing here, but of the four on offer last week, I'd very happily order again the French toast served with a scoop of chocolate ice cream.

Meatballs with cuttlefish
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

We drank very good, modestly-priced natural Spanish wines by the glass recommended by Sommelier Sergi, and were very happy to find a bottle of Lluerna from Pinedes' Els Vinyerons, a label we recently discovered in London via importer Aubert & Mascoli.

French toast
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

Bar Gresca is top of my list for the next visit to Barcelona.  The Gresca website is undergoing change - it's clearly not a priority for them - but here's a link to a recent review which echoes pretty well how we felt about Bar Gresca Bar Gresca visit by Food Barcelona, though I can't share Food Barcelona's longing for craft beer to join the drinks list!

My one criticism would be that the lighting was a challenge to my limited photographic skills but Gresca has lighting for cooking, not for styling.  And if you don't sit within a pan-shake of the kitchen, take a walk-by.  This is what a proper kitchen looks, and smells, like.

Gresca & Bar Gresca  
Calle Provença, 230
08036 (Eixample) Barcelona
Metro: Diagonal (Exit: Provenca)
Tel: (+34) 93 451 6193

Friday, 8 December 2017

Five Books for Food Lovers 2017


Five books for Food Lovers 2017

I bought so few food-related books in 2016 that I talked more about those trusted indispensables than the new in that round-up.  This year, I faired rather better on the new books front.  Here are the five I particularly want to recommend this year.  As usual, there's an older book in there.  And another was, strictly speaking, published in 2016.  The list could have been longer but I've got to draw the line somewhere.  There's a book to move my bread-making skills on from what has become my safe place; one to bring an antidote to that Sunday night gloom; there is a book that is spicing up my cooking; one to feed my mind with some serious talk about food production, culinary history and much more; and a book stuffed with recipes you really want to make again and again from a writer who moved Simon Hopkinson to say of her prose "Describing how to boil potatoes would inspire me...".   Here they are, in no particular order:


Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome
by Rachel Roddy

Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome 
by Rachel Roddy

Rachel Roddy's second book, Two Kitchens - Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome is a closely linked follow-up to her award winning Five Quarters - Recipes and notes from a kitchen in Rome and, again, you get so much more than just recipes.  This time we join her in both Rome and Gela, the little town which guide books advise you to drive straight past.  To Rachel it is "... full of disrepair and despair but quietly beautiful and intriguing if you give it time ...".  It is Gela that blew away any romantic ideas about Sicily for the author - the utopian Mediterranean holiday island is a far cry from real life in the south east corner of the island.  Poverty, dilapidation and bad agricultural practices are a fact of life that are not glossed over in the book.  Yet the way of life in Gela has captivated her.  ... Read more ...


The Sunday Night Book: 52 Short Recipes to Make the Weekend Feel Longer
by Rosie Sykes

The Sunday Night Book: 52 Short Recipes to Make the Weekend Feel Longer 
by Rosie Sykes

I used to dread those last few sepulchral hours of the weekend, particularly in winter when it can feel like all traces of colour have leeched into the sodden earth.  That Sunday night feeling when the prospect of a whole week of school hit like a freight train.  How much more bearable those last few hours would have been if we had embraced the opportunity to cook together in the way chef Rosie Sykes's family did.  Based on the kind of food they liked to cook and eat, The Sunday Night Book is the antidote to that Sunday night curtains-drawn glumness.  But whatever the day of the week, it's uplifting cooking to banish the blues.  There are failsafe recipes for comforting dishes on toast; one-pot dishes that you deliberately make too much of just so you have leftovers for later in the week; a bowl of pasta, of course; something eggy; light salads for when the weekend has been too good; ideas for leftovers; and, at the end of the book, "if all else fails" there's a chapter on Cocktails and a little bite to eat.  ... Read more ...

Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese
by Bronwen & Francis Percival

Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese
by Bronwen & Francis Percival

I confess as a cheese appreciator I had been looking forward to this book, but Reinventing the Wheel is not just for cheese lovers.  It's a book for anyone who cares about the food they eat and the welfare of those who produce it.  It tackles the wisdom of mega-dairies and industrialisation and the tension between modernity and tradition.  Across 12 chapters, Bronwen and Francis Percival examine the culinary history, terroir, microbiology, sociology and politics of cheesemaking.  ... Read more ...


Fresh India: 130 Quick, Easy and Delicious Vegetarian Recipes for Every Day
by Meera Sodha

Fresh India: 130 Quick, Easy and Delicious Vegetarian Recipes for Every Day
by Meera Sodha
My bookshelves are light on Indian food books.  I love Indian food and relish it when someone who really knows what they are doing cooks it for me.  However, I've always been unconvinced that I can get the spicing right.  I think I do a reasonable Lamb Rogan Josh. This, I feel sure, would qualify as one of those dishes "swimming in brown sauce" which is far removed from the "fresh, vibrant and seasonal" Gujarati ones in this book.  I have a more than acceptable Chicken Biryani in my repertoire, thanks to the cook and food writer Sri Owen (yes, I know Sri Owen is Indonesian but she knows her way around a number of cuisines).  It comes with a long list of spices and yogurt for saucing and made me appreciate how subtle Indian spicing can be.  But it's the incredible range of vegetarian dishes which have come out of India that I most enjoy, and most want to be able to cook. My copy of Madhur Jaffrey's, admittedly weighty, World Vegetarian can only give me a glimpse of India.

Finally, I've found a book that is giving me the confidence to cook Indian vegetarian food myself. Fresh India by Meera Sodha is a follow-up to her well received first book Made in India.  ..... Read more ...


Tartine Book No. 3
by Chad Robertson

Tartine Book No 3
by Chad Robertson

My food books list back in 2014 included a recommendation for Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson.  He probably needs no introduction but the book is all about the use of natural leaven (levain or sourdough), which French bakers used for bread, croissants and brioche until the 1930's when commercial yeast became available.  After years of believing I could never produce a decent loaf in a domestic kitchen, I put my faith in Chad, and a 'Dutch Oven', and have never looked back. Tartine Book No. 3, published in 2013, was a welcome present this year to move my bread-making skills on from what has become my comfort zone.  Because there is much to be discovered beyond Country Whites, Wholewheats and Ryes.  A whole world of ancient, sprouted and double-fermented grains, porridge breads, crispbreads and pastries awaits.  I'm just getting started with Tartine Book No. 3 so you can take this book recommendation with a pinch of salt, but it's a recommendation built on the strength of my 'oven spring'.

If you are into bread making, or thinking about it, you might like this piece I wrote when I was getting started - The Sweet and the Sour  

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Fresh India by Meera Sodha

Fresh India
by Meera Sodha

My bookshelves are light on Indian food books.  I love Indian food and relish it when someone who really knows what they are doing cooks it for me.  However, I've always been unconvinced that I can get the spicing right.  I think I do a reasonable Lamb Rogan Josh. This, I feel sure, would qualify as one of those dishes "swimming in brown sauce" which is far removed from the "fresh, vibrant and seasonal" Gujarati ones in this book.  I have a more than acceptable Chicken Biryani in my repertoire, thanks to the cook and food writer Sri Owen (yes, I know Sri Owen is Indonesian but she knows her way around a number of cuisines).  It comes with a long list of spices and yogurt for saucing and made me appreciate how subtle Indian spicing can be.  But it's the incredible range of vegetarian dishes which have come out of India that I most enjoy, and most want to be able to cook. My copy of Madhur Jaffrey's, admittedly weighty, World Vegetarian can only give me a glimpse of India.

Finally, I've found a book that is giving me the confidence to cook Indian vegetarian food myself. Fresh India by Meera Sodha is a follow-up to her well received first book Made in India.  It is informed by her family's Gujarati background, which is still a strong influence even though she grew up in a farming village in Lincolnshire.  Ready access to fresh, locally-grown seasonal vegetables and the Gujarati way of "creative, fresh and always vegetables first" when cooking chimes with my own way of thinking and cooking - goodness knows I have access to enough vegetables.  In line with the Gujarati cuisine ethos, born out of necessity, of using what is fresh and grows nearby meant a life in rural England offered up potatoes, leeks, corn, chard, cauliflower and more greens.  These ingredients are what Meera Sodha's mother turned to for her "vegetable-first" way of cooking and many take a starring role in Fresh India.

I'm not a vegetarian, but like so many others now, meat plays a small roll in my, and my family's, diet.  There's an emphasis on seasonality, a desire to "honour the seasons" which I am personally committed to - irritatingly so to some, I suspect.  I am lucky enough to be able to grow vegetables on my allotment and, when you grow, you can never have enough recipes for vegetables.  There's even a roundup of recipes here "for allotment gluts".  The recipes are also presented as "quick" and "easy". So, on flipping through the pages in the bookshop, Fresh India appealed to me on so many levels.

There are 'Starters + Snacks' based around irresistible Indian street food dishes expertly prepared by the 'one-man' stallholder - like New Potato and Chickpea Chaat, and Beetroot Pachadi.  There are really simple dishes: Smashed Jerusalem Artichokes with butter, pepper and garlic, perfumed with cumin, ginger and coriander stems and Gujarati Corn on the Cob Curry with peanuts for taste and texture.  I subscribe entirely to the writer's view that when you want to eat simply, "not much beats a tangle of soft buttery cabbage with sweet caramelised onions and crisp potatoes ..".  Savoy Cabbage, Black Kale + Potato Subji with a suggestion to serve with a fiery pickle and hot chapattis, dal or rice in the chapter 'Gloriously Green' is right up my street.  There's a chapter on Salads, despite the fact 'Kachumbar' (generally chopped cucumber, tomatoes, green chilli and lime) until recently was almost the only Indian idea of salad.  Here the writer uses her imagination for what Indian salads could be with appetising ideas like Fennel + Apple Chaat with caramelised almonds or a Hot Green Bean, Cashew + Coconut Salad.

Maharajah's Rice
cooked from Fresh India by Meerha Sodha

Eggs + Cheese (mostly in the form of paneer) are major sources of protein and here we are offered Akoori - the Parsi take on scrambled eggs; a Mumbai classic, Eggs Kejriwal - which brings to my mind a kind of Welsh Rarebit topped with a fried egg; and Sticky Mango Paneer Skewers.  Of course there are chapters on Pulses and Rice with recipes like Pumpkin, Black-Eyed Bean + Coconut Curry; sweet and creamy Bengali Coconut Dal; a Daybreak Kedgeree (kitchari) which I very much want to make; and a Maharajah's Rice which I have made - beautifully, subtly spiced, pretty as a picture and delicious.

There are recipes for all those moreish Indian breads - Roti, Paratha, Naan, and Dosa - and guidance for what each is best with; and a lovely sounding recipe for breakfast Banana and Cardamom Buns.  In a section on Pickles, Chutneys + Raitas, Mysore Lemon Pickle sits happily with Rhubarb + Ginger Chutney.  Puddings that particularly appeal are Pan-fried Pineapple with Cardamom Ice Cream and Salted Jaggery Kulfi with Bananas.

At the moment, I'm working through the book one dish at a time, excited at the prospect that one day soon I will manage to produce the bread, pickles, chutneys and raitas that I'd like to accompany them.

I love that Fresh India carries none of the usual blurb from others.  For me, this is a confidently written book that stands on its own merit.

Fresh India by Meerha Sodha
Publisher: Fig Tree London



Monday, 4 December 2017

Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese

Reinventing the Wheel
by Bronwen and Francis Percival

I confess as a cheese appreciator I had been looking forward to this book, but Reinventing the Wheel is not just for cheese lovers.  It's a book for anyone who cares about the food they eat and the welfare of those who produce it.  It tackles the wisdom of mega-dairies and industrialisation and the tension between modernity and tradition.  Across 12 chapters, Bronwen and Francis Percival examine the culinary history, terroir, microbiology, sociology and politics of cheesemaking.

We journey through 2,000 years of cheesemaking starting with the "feral", "primal" Salers cheese production on a farm in France's Auvergne region and the effect of the arrival of American factory cheese on British cheese production at the end of the 19th century.  There are stories from dairy farmers forced towards consolidation, volume and efficiency for survival; Cheesemakers weighed down by legislation and bureaucracy, and other who have already fought the system and won with the help of microbiologists.  We take in Microbes and Risks along the way.

Reinventing the Wheel examines what has been lost as cheese production has 'progressed' in tandem with intensive farming and industrialisation.  It's a tale of much loss but with reason for optimism for the future if we are prepared to learn from, rather than reject, the methods of the past. Bronwen and Francis Percival's book is a paean to artisanal cheeses.  Cheeses that once all had a sense of place thanks to the healthy microbial communities specific to their geographic location, animal husbandry and production practices that contribute to their flavour and to their safety.  This book reveals the truth about our current dairy industry and how science is revealing the positives of microbial activity.  It's a beacon of light for those farmers and cheesemakers who want to seize on scientific facts to fight back against industrial homogeneity and rescue traditional cheesemaking.

Reinventing the Wheel is a learned, fact-filled call to arms to scientists, health officials and legislators to work alongside dairy farmers and cheesemakers to enable them to produce cheese which is not only full of character but full of healthy bacteria. To work with good microbes that have a positive effect on our immune system rather than wiping out the good along with the bad.

The book is aimed at the consumer too as, the Percivals believe, a lack of understanding of the cheesemaking process threatens the integrity of cheese.  Labelling for instance is often misleading as "The label on the cheese is not there to help".  In a world where "the word 'Artisan' can be, and is, used to describe just about anything short of a Dairylea cheese slice" the consumer needs to inform herself.  We need a book like this which makes us think more deeply about our food, makes us demand real food.

Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes and the fight for Real Cheese
by Bronwen and Francis Percival
Bloomsbury Publishing



Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Syllabub & boozy cherries

Syllabub with eau-de-vie cherries

Winter's chill is not something we want to think of when market stalls are piled high with the sweetest English strawberries, peas in their pods and sharp, grassy gooseberries.  When the English cherry harvest joins the party, around the third week in June, the cold months seem a long way off. But if you are a preserver, you always have a thought for those little jars and bottles you can squirrel away at the back of a cupboard.  The bitter orange marmalades and quince jellies, glowing like stained glass when you hold them up to the light; perfumed apricot jams and black as night damson; slabs of fruit 'cheese' and sharp fruit vinegars.  The cherry harvest is short and sweet. Within 6-8 weeks the harvest has moved from white Napoleon to deep-dark Regina and the time has come to decide how best to preserve some fruits to bring out in the depths of winter.

Cherry jam is good but there is only so much jam a family can eat.  Cherries in eau-de-vie is better. Not only do you have delicious, boozy cherries to eat but there's cherry liqueur in time for Christmas too.  You can use kirsch or vodka instead of eau-d-vie, or even brandy, if you like. General guidance for the method comes from Jane Grigson.  Fill a jar almost to the top with washed and dried cherries, pricking each fruit 2 or 3 times.  Pour in enough caster sugar to come about a third of the way up the jar then fill to cover the fruit with eau-de-vie.  Close the jar and give it a shake.  Leave in a cool dark place for at least 3 months (I've done so for more than a year), shaking it from time to time to fully dissolve the sugar.

I don't ever remember eating cherries as a child growing up in northern England.  I've learned they grow best in Southern and Central England which would account for it.  My early experience of them was limited to those jars of ruby red maraschino cherries which made an appearance at Christmas time, always brought out by the Auntie who liked a cocktail.  The one who was the most fun.

With a history going back to at least the 17th century, originally syllabub was a frothy drink made by milking directly from the cow into a bowl of wine, cider or ale which caused the milk to curdle.  As you can imagine, it was intended to be consumed on the spot.  Syllabub progressed to a firmer textured cream by whipping in sharp fruit syrups or wine.  This dish was more stable than the original, so, it was possible to keep it for a day or two.  Hannah Glasse  in her book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, first published in 1747, describes a recipe for 'Everlasting Syllabub' which calls for  "Rehnish wine, half a pint of sack and two large Seville oranges" to join the milk.   She also stipulates the addition of calf's foot jelly.  The sturdiness of the finished dish can only be imagined.

The recipe for syllabub below is the one I always turn to since it was recommended to me years ago. I'm sure I was told it was a Katie Stewart recipe from when she wrote food columns for newspapers.  I vary the wine/liqueur depending on what I am pairing the syllabub with - sometimes I reach for white wine or sherry or, maybe, elderflower cordial instead.  This time I wanted something to match the almond quality of the cherries which comes from steeping them with their stones intact, so, Amaretto seemed right.  The toasted almonds, which provide a necessary crunch, could be replaced by an almond biscuit.

The dish is light enough to make a Christmas meal dessert and you can prepare it in advance.  I know if you want to replicate this recipe right now you'll need to buy some cherries in eau-de-vie. But next year, when the cherry season arrives, you won't!

Syllabub with eau-de-vie cherries and almonds

Syllabub with eau-de-vie Cherries
(Serves 6)

Around sweet 40 cherries (drained from the eau-de-vie)
250ml (10 fl oz) double cream
100g (4 oz) caster sugar
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
25g (1 oz) toasted almonds

Cut the cherries in half and lift out the stones.  Place all but 6 pitted cherries in the serving glasses/dishes.
Whisk the cream, sugar, lemon rind and juice and the liqueur together to the consistency of mayonnaise (should happen very quickly) and divide between the 6 glasses/dishes.

Place in the fridge for at least two hours, but it will keep refrigerated for up to 24 hours.  Top with the toasted almonds before serving.



Monday, 13 November 2017

The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

I used to dread those last few sepulchral hours of the weekend, particularly in winter when it can feel like all traces of colour have leeched into the sodden earth.  That Sunday night feeling when the prospect of a whole week of school hit like a freight train.  How much more bearable those last few hours would have been if we had embraced the opportunity to cook together in the way chef Rosie Sykes's family did.  Based on the kind of food they liked to cook and eat, The Sunday Night Book is the antidote to that Sunday night curtains-drawn glumness.  But whatever the day of the week, it's uplifting cooking to banish the blues.  There are failsafe recipes for comforting dishes on toast; one-pot dishes that you deliberately make too much of just so you have leftovers for later in the week; a bowl of pasta, of course; something eggy; light salads for when the weekend has been too good; ideas for leftovers; and, at the end of the book, "if all else fails" there's a chapter on Cocktails and a little bite to eat.

Rosie Sykes has worked in the kitchens of some of the greats in British food, including Joyce Molyneux, Shaun Hill, Alistair Little and Margot Henderson.  I've eaten her food in a number of restaurants over the years and I know it pays to 'follow the chef'.  Her menus make your heart sing and the food she prepares is invariably delicious, soothing and heartwarming.  The recipes in this book are quick to prepare.  Many make use of fresh ingredients but a good number reach for store cupboard staples. The chances are high of finding a recipe that is easy and satisfying despite the fact you haven't been able to shop, and we all need a book like that.

Caerphilly with leeks and mustard
from The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

I've cooked Caerphilly with leeks and mustard, a less cheesy take on Welsh rarebit.  The 'can we have this again soon please' request came on first bite.  Bacon and egg pie was a real flashback to childhood.  Easy to make and so easy to eat.  Next time I want to wrap it in newspaper and take it on a picnic.  A Spanish recipe for Eggs in a pestle and mortar came next for the promise that I will be "amazed that something so seemingly unconventional can taste so utterly delicious"  It did and I was.  There is nothing in the ingredients lists of these recipes that doesn't need to be there.  In my experience, this is a rare thing in the current crop of cookery books.

Bacon and egg pie
from The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

Among the recipes I've place-marked are Fregola with bacon and peas, and if it tastes half as good as Patricia Niven's photograph suggests I'll be a very happy diner; Bouillabaisse of peas and beans, inspired by the French classic fish soup; Coddled eggs Ivanhoe for the delight of egg married with smoked haddock; and the Quick cheese straws to remind me of the start of a sublime meal at Joyce Molyneux's Carved Angel restaurant - yes I still remember it, and that River Dart Salmon in a butter sauce in particular.

Beginnings of Eggs in a pestle and mortar
from The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

The final chapter, on 'Pick-me-ups and pop-it-in-in-ones' makes a high-spirited ending.  Original and imaginative Cocktail recipes are from the inimitable Gimlet Bar.  Born out of of a performance work at the Slade School of Fine Art, this movable cocktail bar-for-hire makes in my view, the best cocktails in London so it's no small thing to have some of their recipes here.  Rosie's knowledge ensures each glass is paired perfectly with an edible treat.    A Light-emitting diode - a variant on a whiskey sour?  Try a plate of Squash and truffle brandade; feeling like a citrusy, bitter Reichenbach Falls?  You'll be wanting a few Shallot, parmesan and olive toasts.

It may seem odd to mention the size of the book but I love the fact it is hand size - A5.  It feels good and it's the perfect size for popping in your bag for those weekends away when you are going to have access to a kitchen.  And the beautiful block-print cover by Alexis Snell with restrained little stamps - a tin of anchovies here, a dog-in-a-basket (Rosie's beloved Florence) there - punctuating each chapter makes it look good too.  I'm a bit of a fan of Patricia Niven and here her photography is crisp and bright, true and unfussy, just the way I like it.

This is unpretentious cooking at its best and it's one of those rare books I bought two copies of - I've only ever done that with Simon Hopkinson and Rachel Roddy's books before now.  And I know exactly where the second one is going.  Yes, those "How to ..." books are invaluable but this is the perfect book for anyone leaving home who needs a heartwarming book that makes them actually want to spend some time in the kitchen.

The Sunday Night Book: 52 short recipes to make the weekend feel longer by Rosie Sykes
Published by: Quadrille

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Turin Time


Time for Dinner in Turin

I live in a city of around 8 million people and, yet, when I need to breathe some distant air I'm far more likely to choose another city than that beach holiday or country house hotel break.  Venice, Florence, Paris, yes please.  I like the hustle and bustle of cities, but I like a sense of lives being lived too.  Some places can be just too set in aspic and a bit of grit in the oyster is not a bad thing.  So, to Turin - an industrial city with a baroque heart.

Alpine view, Turin

I was there in 2004 when Turin was preparing to host the 2006 Winter Olympics.  The spectacularly beautiful Alpine range filling the skyline to the north was at odds with our evening taxi drive from the airport.  The City was grimy, noisy and confusing thanks to the construction of stadia and a new Metro system which was part of the Olympic package.  Next day we discovered the almost 10 miles of baroque colonnades and over 40 museums offered an escape from the cacophony.  And then there was the food.  Piedmont, of which Turin is the capital, is after all where 'Slow Food' was born and we were there primarily for the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto.

Open door in Turin

On returning to Turin this Autumn that Metro proved invaluable and there were signs that more tourists  - though, thankfully, not too many on our visit - were now enjoying those collonaded walks, museums and cafe's.  Turin's Olympian effort has paid off in terms of attracting visitors.  But there are also signs that not everyone has benefited.  Homelessness is more visible and there is a legacy of crumbling Olympic structures with migrants and refugees occupying the former athletes' village, not altogether comfortably.

Piazza Reale, Turin

For 300 years Turin was the capital of Savoy and became the first capital of a unified Italy in 1861.  But a mere 3 years later the seat of power was relocated to Florence then centrally located Rome.  Turin turned to industrialisation and the automotive industry became vitally important.  There were many companies but it's Fiat we associate with Turin thanks to the construction of its Lingotto car factory opened in 1923.  These days Fiat is less important to Turin's economy. The hugely successful Fiat 500, in its new guise, is manufactured not in Italy but in Mexico and Poland, though their luxury brand Maserati is locally made.  The Lingotto 'Centre' is now in commercial use.

With 8 Royal Palaces amongst those 40+ museums, colonnaded streets, tree-lined avenues, elegant architecture and good food, Turin is no longer just an industrial city but a centre for culture and tourism too.  So, what to see and do?

Walk the Colonnades and tree-lined avenues; the City is built on a grid system, so you're unlikely to get lost.  A walk up the Via Roma from Metro Porta Nuova is a grand central start taking in four of the main Piazzas and the ritziest of shops.

Pasta e Ceci
at Caffe Platti, Turin

There are so many cafes and bars in Turin that frequent stops are inevitable for coffee (this is the home of Lavazza) a Bicerin, the local chocolate/coffee/cream indulgence, or an aperitivo.  The grandest and most recommended of the old guard are Caffe Torino and Caffe San Carlo where the price of a coffee is low despite the splendour of the rooms and the locations.  Historic Caffe al Bicerin at Piazza della Consolata 5 is considered the best place to order a Bicerin.  Piedmont grows very fine hazelnuts, many of which go into the hazelnut and chocolate spread called Gianduja and into filled Giandujotto chocolates.  The chocolate making industry goes back hundreds of years in Turin and bean-to-bar maker Guido Gobino is considered one of the best here.  If your taste runs more to Nutella, you may be interested to know Turin is its home.

Papardelle Funghi
at Caffe Platti, Turin

We had fond memories of the belle époque Caffe Platti at Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle II, 72 and were so happy to find it again.  I read that it had closed in 2015 but if this is so then the new owners have done a fine job of making it feel like it never went away.  Plates of Paccheri Rigati Pasta with chickpeas (Pasta e Ceci) scented with rosemary was wonderful, and local Porcini came in the form of Papardelle Funghi.  We noticed restaurant Sotto la Mole (at the foot of the Mole Antonelliana) was still going strong.  The memory of a plate of truffled cheese agnolotti still lingers in my mind but we were a little early for the white truffle season and we ran out of time to visit this time round.

If it's Michelin stars you're looking for, head for Del Cambio where Matteo Baronetto is serving up one star food overlooking unified Italy's first Parliament building in Piazza Carignano.  Expect glittering chandeliers, red velvet, crisp linen and baroque mirrors along with traditional Piemontese dishes.  The restaurant has been feeding the great and the good since 1757 - from Cavour, Casanova, Balzac, Nietzsche and Verdi to Maria Callas, Audrey Hepburn and the Agnelli (Fiat) family, of course.

Veal braised in Ruchè wine
at Consorzio

For a much more recent addition to Turin dining, book Consorzio at Via Monte di Pieta, 23.  It describes itself as "Well-rooted in the Piemonte area with an eye on faraway regions ..".  The sourcing of ingredients here is exemplary, the handling deft and the service without fuss.  The Steak tartare Piemontese style was served starkly as a disk of raw beef with salt, pepper and good olive oil; Agnolotti Gobbo pasta was stuffed with three different kinds of meat with enough fattiness to make them luscious, rich little morsels; Veal braised in Ruchè wine, a Piemontese red wine, was deep and succulent; and then came the best Panna Cotta ever, so light on gelatin that it barely held, yet every one emerging from the kitchen wobbled to its table intact.  Wines are mostly Natural and a bottle of Barbera d'Asti Trenchiro Terra del Noche sated well our increased liking for the Barbera grape.  Consorzio is one of those rare places where you feel there is a real meeting of minds and appetites in the kitchen and out front.

Banco Vini e Alimenti, Turin

We also liked Consorzio's bar, Banco Vini e Alimenti a short walk away.  With a narrow frontage at via dei Merchant 13/f, it's easy to miss.  It is quietly friendly, keeps a great range of natural wines and serves up simple dishes like farinata fritta and Alice fritte and larger ones like roasted hake with crispy prosciutto or spaghettoni all vongole.  It's small and can get busy but there's a deli counter at the back which means you can pick up some slices of mortadella, a piece of cheese and a bottle of wine to take out.

Porcini Seller at Mercato Porta Palazzo, Turin

Shop the Markets.  There are 42 open-air markets in Turin.  Mercato Porta Palazzo at Piazza della Repubblica is the biggest and is open Monday-Saturday.  There are scores of stalls surrounded by buildings housing fish, meat and cheese halls, but the north-eastern corner was where we found the 'farmers market' - where the best stuff was.  But it was the outdoor market in Piazza Madama Christina we fell for, where there were the most signs stating "nostrano (ours/home grown) and where we watched one smallholder clean and place his haul of porcini like each was a precious gem.  What we saw on the market stalls was reflected in the restaurant dishes - seasonality is alive and well in Turin.



We stopped for coffee, several times, at Orso Laboratorio at Via Berthollet 30g.  And, joyfully, right next door - through a connecting door in fact - we found Mara dei Boschi Laboratorio del Gelato which is very good indeed.  The memory of the Nocciola and, also, the Fichi gelato will stay with me for some time.

For taking in those Alpine views you couldn't head higher than the Mole Antonelliana on Via Montebello.  This unmissable building, standing at more than 167 metres, was originally conceived as a synagogue until the architect's desire to go upwards went too far and the money ran out.  It's now home to the Museo Nazionale de Cinema.

Rooftop Test Track at Lingotto Centre, Turin

It's nowhere near as tall, but the view from the Lingotto Centre on Via Nizza (Metro: Lingotto) would be my choice.  The old factory was redesigned in the 1980's by Renzo Piano and now includes an hotel, conference centre, theatre, and shopping mall.  I love the industrial architecture but it's the rooftop test track that is the draw, along with the 360 degree view complete with that Alpine horizon to the north.  As everyone will tell you, scenes from the original 1969 The Italian Job were filmed here.  If you stay in either of the hotels in the Lingotto building you can ask for a key to access the rooftop but, as part of your entrance charge, you can also gain access when visiting the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli - Canaletto, Canova and Matisse are represented in the gallery's permanent collection. For real petrolheads, the Museo dell' Automobile is nearby.


Natura Morta (1957) by Giorgio Morandi
at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna (GAM)

There must be a museum to suit everyone in Turin but I would head for the Museo d'Arte Orientale (MAO), and the Museo Egizio which has one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in the world.  Also, the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea at Castello di Rivoli - out of town but there is a free shuttle bus.  I have to admit to being a bit underwhelmed by Galleria d'Arte Moderna (GAM) but they do have some admirable Morandi works.  I wish I had visited the Museo della Frutta!

Cheese 2017 in Bra

Our visit was timed to coincide with the International Cheese festival which is held bi-annually in the lovely small town of Bra, around 50km south-east of Turin.  So, along with what seemed like half of Turin, we took the train to this highly regarded Slow Food event which this year, bravely, was all about raw milk.  Neals Yard Dairy explain the importance of this event best.

Apart from tasting and learning more about cheese, it's a chance to get up close to the Slow Food movement whose HQ is in Bra.  Here the association plans and promotes their worldwide projects. Their philosophy "envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet".

Roast Goose Leg
at Boccon di Vino, Bra

In the HQ's courtyard sits the cooperative Osteria Boccon di Vino (Via Mendicita, 14) where we lunched very happily on plates of pasta: Tajarin with shavings of black truffle, Agnolotti del plin al burro e rosmarino; Melting roast goose leg and slow-cooked veal in red wine; and, inevitably, Panna Cotta to finish.  Oh, and more delicious local Barbera wine.  Despite having to queue, this was a lovely relaxing place to lunch with great staff and very good food.

For coffee we took the recommendation to visit Bottega delle Delizie at Via Polenzo, 6, Bra. Specialising in sourcing and serving up northern European style roasts, this is not coffee in Italy as I know it and it's all the better for that.  The coffee we drank had been roasted locally but they also had guest coffees from Five Elephants and Paolo told us they were expecting some Nomad Coffee from Barcelona soon.  Really good coffee served with genuine charm and enthusiasm.  I loved this place.

So, what is Turin Time - or Piemontese Time?  For me it has to be autumn, when the hazelnuts have been harvested, the grape harvest is well under way, the porcini are in the kitchen and there's the promise of truffles arriving.

Border Crossing
Italy-France

If you have the time, going to Turin by train is the scenic option!