Wednesday, 22 June 2016

June 2016 Favourites List

The Summer Solstice has happened here in the UK, we hoped for much this Midsummer's Night, but received precious little magic and even less sunshine. The Great British Summer is late in arriving, and we wait with baited breath...

The Summer Solstice was a time for magic and mayhem, hence William Shakespeare's famous comedy involving two mortal couples and their trials and tribulations in love as the Fairy King and Queen play games at their expense. 2016 is the 400th year of the passing of the Bard of Avon, which has led to to we Brits to reflect.

You will note that of my favourite TV shows for the month I have chosen two comedies inspired by and featuring Will Shakespeare. Upstart Crow represents a return to sitcom writing form by Ben Elton, his best work since Blackadder II to Blackadder Goes Forth, with the dream combination of Peep Show's David Mitchell as the working class bard and Liza Tarbuck as his good missus Anne Hathaway (yes, really, that WAS her name). Why Upstart Crow? Because the learned, established arts community did not want to accept the son of a glove maker into their ranks. Cunk on Shakespeare, my other choice, is the intentionally hilarious mock-documentary as historian, intellectual and cultural commentator Philomena Cunk takes a "journey" into the world of Will. 

My pictures this month are not of Elizabethan printing presses, only because no self respecting museum was going to let me gawk around with my camera taking pictures. And unlike Philomena Cunk, I was unlikely to be allowed to handle Shakespeare's First Folio, white gloves or no gloves. 

So instead I've gone for some heritage technology from the 1940s to 1960s. The days when early plastics made cutting edge technologies affordable through mass production. It seems amazing these days when a mobile phone with telephone capabilities, a video camera combined with stills camera, a computer and the power to connect to the internet can fit in the palm of your hand that these were the beginnings of those technologies. But I think they're rather stylish and we should never forget how we got from there to here.  

And now I will leave you to dip into this month's lovely stuff which I've collected together for you.


Black pepper steak stir fry recipe by "Big Spud" (AKA Gary Fenn):

A creamy lamb shank and shoulder soup with dill, Greek "Easter" soup:

I only got converted to broccoli as an adult. It is high in vitamin C and calcium and obviously full of fibre. This pasta dish is quick and simple, full of lovely ingredients like Dolcelatte and walnuts!

Herby rice, Persian style, would be great with fish. Din Dins Kitchen on Grays Inn Road do a similar rice dish. 

Quick easy Indian street food snack, vegetarian friendly and full of fibre and protein.

 Pistachio and rocket pesto sounds pretty cool to me - looking forward to giving this a go very soon!

 An overnight marinaded roast chicken - one to start on Saturday for Sunday lunch!

A sly way of using those rock hard avocados you sometimes end up with - avo pickles!

 Recently I've been messing around with new twists on Shepherd's Pie. This carrot mash topped version by Nigel Slater looks excellent!

An alternative Tabbouleh recipe: one made from quinoa.

Fish is for Friday - how about this archive recipe from Kavita of Kavey Eats?
A squid "Pad Thai" style dish from Leon restaurants' new salads book:

Articles/Know How:

Three London restaurants make top 50, with six in the top 100. The Ledbury, Clove Club, Dinner, Hedone, Lyle's and St John make the list.

Useful guide to how long you can store certain produce: 

I am currently growing some Cyprus mint from off cuts of a bunch bought. I wonder how many of these really work - time to experiment! The food items you can regrow from scraps:

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

London Produce Show 2016, my observations of brilliant new fruit and veg products with an account of my experience of a special session for press and media. 

Small production, craft beer, super pizza, great fun menu. A fab place for evenings out in South East London!

My other writings:

Employment rights: An unseen iceberg in the Brexit debate:

Employment rights - the neglected issue or elephant in the room in the EU referendum discussion: 

The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths; 30 years on: (originally posted here:,  Graphic design and layout by Aly Stevenson and Ory Englander.)


Upstart Crow

Cunk on Shakespeare

The Night Manager


The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

The Beatles - Revolver

The Beatles - Rubber Soul

The Beatles - Beatles For Sale

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Monday, 13 June 2016

London Produce Show 2016

London's Grosvenor House Hotel was the host for this year's London Produce Show 2016, a place where both British and international fruit and vegetables were brought together in a celebration of food, drink, cooking in and eating out. 

I was invited by the organisers to check the show out and to attend their media masterclass of food issues and cooking. Feeling I had a real opportunity to see what's good, what's new andwhere the next big thing may be coming from, I couldn't resist. 

I began by watching a cooking demonstration by Chef Michael Dutnall MCA, who showed us how to cook an asparagus, scallop and broad bean risotto. 

This was no ordinary risotto, despite being cooked initially by the conventional method. 

What was unique was that it was topped with luxurious scallop roe and the scallops themselves were pan fried, rather than cooked in the risotto itself. This helps to maintain their texture and avoid overcooking, as well as give them a little toasted caramelisation. Decked with a parmesan crisp, the merest wafer thin cheesy crispy biscuit, the dish was a superb mix of flavours, textures and cooking techniques. 

Next up were Toast Ales. One key message of the show this year is the need for everyone to avoid food waste. A message I believe in strongly, having been brought up never to waste food. Very fitting given the problems of food distribution and starvation which exist in the world.

Toast Ales are a brilliant business who take all the wasted bread from supermarket sandwich operations, sandwich and lunch outlets and delis and use that raw material to brew a wonderful 5% amber pale ale. 

Brewed in London's Hackney, this beer addresses some of the awful waste created as a result of retailers' desire in providing perfectly square sandwiches. I bet you have, at home, made sandwiches which weren't totally square - curves, angles, dips. Did we complain? No! So why should 4 slices of bread be wasted AT EACH END of a loaf of bread (yes, that's 8 slices per loaf) to give us square sandwiches? This beer is an answer to a major conundrum. One slice of bread makes one bottle of ale.

Next was Love Beets new products showcasing the much maligned beetroot. I used to believe that I didn't like beetroot. Those jars of pickled beetroot, despite my intense taste for the sour, didn't appeal to me. I thought this was a dislike for the beetroot itself. I have since discovered that my distaste was for the spirit vinegar used for pickling. 

Love Beets make two Beetroot juice drinks, one plain and unadorned, the other flavoured with forest fruit red berries, providing a vegetable high in antioxidants. The plain beetroot juice is for those with very savoury tastes, and I enjoyed this drink a lot. The berry and cherry blend is sweeter and more mainstream in its appeal. Currently available in health shops, this is a very good product which should be more generally available. 

Another producer who caught my eye was Neame Lea Nursery from Spalding, Lincolnshire. This nursery intially specialised in flowers and bedding plants. However, their passion for plants has now crossed over into some wonderful culinary produce. 

The pea shoots "windowsill" pack is a product I hope to see available soon. Fantastically designed for the reality of urban foodies and their lives, the pack is compact, but packed with a good density of young pea plants, in a small tray which will fit on a kitchen windowsill. Easy to care for, to water and pick from, its a way of achieving a little bit of cheffy cooking at home!


Another of their products which I hope will be up and coming are their "microgreens". 

These sprouted seedlings bring out the intense flavour of an obvious aromatic such as basil, but also less expected plants; beet (beetroot) and radish. The combination with the more neutral, leafy sunflower seedlings is balanced and full of fibre and nutrients. A great base for salads. 

My next fascinating discovery was The Sweet Potato Spirit Company. They make a colourful range of handmade, small production distilled spirits and liqueurs from sweet potatoes in Evesham, Worcestershire. 

This selection of highly innovative booze will appeal to a very wide range of drinkers. The beautifully red raspberry liqueur is slightly sweet, and to my mind perfect for making Summer sunshine Kir style cocktails with sparkling wine. Think a Bellini, with a raspberry liqueur base. The Moonshine packs a punch, which will appeal to whisky drinkers. The Spiced Rum is strong, for dark rum lovers. The Orangecello is an orangey spin on Limoncello, sweet, citrus, lightly fruity. Great for Christmas celebrations, as we embrace more varied traditions for the Festive Season. Currently available online and for sale in Harrod's, this is a quality, single distilled product which is worth searching out. 

After exploring the show, I had the chance to attend an event for media and press. First up was Tristram Stuart of Feedback, whose mission is to cut food waste. Tristram obviously wanted us all as individuals to waste less food; it makes no financial sense for UK homes to throw away unused food. However, his message was more far reaching and radical. 

One of the major causes of food waste is not home consumers. It is, in fact, the large retailers who make demands for produce to confirm to certain standards and reject tons of perfectly good produce every day for non-compliance. One example he gave was two tons of parsnips which were thrown away because of their size and shape. Surely they could have been made into soup, I asked myself? Why bin the lot?

I agreed with his message and mission. Do we really need all of our French beans to be of a certain length so that they fit into a pre-moulded plastic tray? Why should Kenyan farmers lose revenue because the big supermarkets have an inflexible view of what is acceptable? 

Next was Oli Blanc. If any of you know anyone with small children, chances are you know how hard it is to get them to eat fruit and veg.

Oli wants to change that and intends to do so using the medium that children know and understand - a smartphone or tablet app! Henri Le Worm is his creation, a French food loving worm (which Oli admits is based on his father, Chef Raymond Blanc!) who just loves to make wonderful food using fresh fruits and vegetables. Using games, music and beautifully colourful visuals, Henri and his family and friends will entertain and educate children.

Voiced by the inimitable and wonderful Simon Pegg (I am a big fan of Spaced!), Henri Le Worm is a joyous creation, underpinned by careful research and sound methodology. 

This was followed by the final treat, a cooking masterclass and 3 course meal cooked by Dick Middelweerd of iconic double Michelin starred restaurant Treeswijkhoeve. 

Dick was passionate about Dutch produce, its variety and quality. His three course vegetarian meal sought to highlight the best products and cooking/preparation techniques which can be used to create amazing results. 

Sweet and sour snack tomatoes with creamy Ruurhoeve cheese, basil oil and striped aubergine compote

This modest photograph does not do this tangy and refreshing dish justice. The vinegar-reduction marinated tomatoes were a mix of fruity, sweet and sour whilst keeping their integrity. The creamy, emulsified cheese was indulgent, a great contrast to the tomato. The basil oil highly intense in herbal flavours. The baked aubergine compote was soft and yielding, bringing all the other elements of the dish together. 

Terrine of Westland Vegetables with roasted sweet Palermo pepper puree and juice of Salatrio root ball lettuce

This carefully layered terrine was made from roasted aubergine, roasted peppers, sliced courgette and peeled roasted tomatoes. Each vegetable is prepared and cooked separately, and then the terrine is built with layers of gelatine. The roasted sweet Palermo pepper cream is vibrant and flavourful, enhanced with paprika. The lettuce juice made from a pack of lettuces (three different types) sold with the roots attached for freshness, with cucumber and sushi vinegar is fresh, vibrant and full of chlorophyll flavours.

For the next dish, we had a few unexpected ingredients. The first were roasted yellow beetroots. Maybe you have seen these before, but they were new to me. Roasted low and slow for 6 hours, these beets were sweet and soft and a different planet from sour pickled beetroot which puts so many of us off this vegetable.

The other unexpected ingredient was "popcorn shoots". These were early shoots of sweetcorn plants, grown without much light, in the same way as beansprouts. The sweet and easy to eat shoots are great for salads.

BBQ Beets with pineberries, goat's cheese and red pearl barley

This gorgeous, colourful dish was put together from yellow, red and white roasted beetroots. At the top of the dish is an audacious beet meringue made from egg white and purple beetroot juice stuffed with goat's cheese cream (coloured and flavoured with pineberry and purple beetroot juice). Pearl barley cooked in beetroot juice and seasoned with lime, white balsamic vinegar and horseradish provides substance with intense flavour. Cute pale pineberries give sweetness and freshness to the cooked elements. A beautiful dish for the eyes and the tongue and a great expression of what Treeswijkhoeve are trying to achieve with innovative ingredients and cooking techniques. 

The London Produce Show was an eye opening look at what I hope will be some new trends and products to become more available in the months to come. Treeswijkhoeve are a restaurant I would love to visit one day.

Snigdha attended the London Produce Show 2016 as a guest of the organisers. I thank them for inviting me. Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for posting this review, which represents my honest impressions and opinion.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Zerodegrees microbrewery and restaurant Blackheath

I recently visited Zerodegrees Microbrewery and Restaurant in South East London's Blackheath. It is just a short bus ride from my home, but a world away from Sunny Catford. 

Blackheath has a well heeled villagey feel, whereas Catford is, by contrast, rough around the edges. South East Londoners often opt to go out in Central London, ignoring more local bars and eateries, so I was interested to discover somewhere local and new.

I arrived with my dining companion (my husband, the inimitable Him Indoors) on a pleasant, sunny Spring evening. We immediately noted that Zerodegrees has an outside seating area for 36 people. As we head towards Summer, we could imagine balmy evenings eating and drinking in... a very nice idea, indeed!

We decided to look around the brewery before having something to eat and drink, although we couldn't help but notice the huge, burning-hot wood fired oven at the back of the restaurant, doing a roaring trade in pizzas. Our curiosity was piqued. 

Adeo was my guide around the microbrewery which is bijou and small, but producing enough lager and ale, it will recommence external sales this Summer. We looked at the brewing process from start to end.

The grain (either barley or wheat, depending on the proposed end product) and hops are put into the initial boiling kettle with water, which is heated up to very high temperature to ensure there are no impurities. 

This is then transferred to the filtration tank, where, as the name suggests, the resulting mix is filtered. Twice. It is part of Zerodegrees hallmark that attention to detail and precision are very important. Next up is the fermentation process, where the yeast digests the carbohydrates in the grain to create alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Adeo told me that the most popular of Zerodegrees' brews, the Pilsner (lager), is brewed for 4 weeks. This is much longer than most commercially available lagers and the reason for its unique properties and flavours. Ales are typically brewed for longer.

The hops are sourced from all over the UK, chosen to help influence and shape the flavour profile of the end product. Local Kent hops often feature in their brews, taken from farms which are literally down the road.

The seasons are also a strong influence on the brews dreamed up by the brewmasters here. In the Summer, light fruits are a way of producing easy drinking beers which are perfect to enjoy in the sunshine. In the past, apricot, strawberry and raspberry lagers have been the Summer sunshine offerings. This year is no exception, where the fruit of choice is mango, one of my very favourites.

Once the fermentation is completed, the brews are moved to cooling tanks where they are stored in steel tanks, kept cool to keep the beer in perfect condition.

Having seen the brewery side of the operation, I was keen to try the fruits of the process.... bring on the beer!
  Just have a look at this rainbow of beer... all Zerodegrees' own production. 

What we have is (from left to right): Special Vienna, Pale Ale, Pilsner, Black lager with chocolate and coffee, Mango lager.

So what's the verdict? I will go through the beers from left to right....

Special Vienna: This 4.8% amber lager has an extremely light froth, with virtually no head. There are also few bubbles. The aim was to recreate light western European style lagers. I found this beer to be mellow and golden. A good start to my tour of Zerodegrees' home production range.

Pale Ale: this is Zerodegrees' number 2 best selling beer. I have often found ales too strong and too bitter for my palate... and I am of Indian descent and can eat bitter gourd! This orangey-amber ale has a light froth on top, no significant head, delicate and tiny free-flowing bubbles, and sophisticated bitter tones. Too many beers make me feel like I have fish hooks pulling the back corners of my mouth outwards with spite and force. This is measured and civilised.

Pilsner: this barley-made Pilsner is a lager with a difference. Whilst being a beer fermented for longer than most of comparible type, this remains a balanced and drinkable brew. Again, thankfully, no harsh pull at the back of my mouth, the lager is smooth with subtle strength. It has light bubbles and not too much gas, making it a highly food friendly beer. A maturity of flavour with a lovely finish. It is small wonder it is Zerodegrees' best seller, selling 2000 litres a week.

Wheat Ale: the ale had good, slight frothiness and a touch of cloudiness in the glass, giving an attractive appearance. The wheat grain gives the beer a bready aroma reminiscent of sourdough bread or champagne; it is a alluring and attractive smell. The flavour is somewhat more pronounced compared to the barley brewed Pilsner, but is still subtle and gentle. It brings out the yeasty and hearty comforting flavours, but with no harshness. I enjoyed the Pale Ale, but found this beer to be even better. Highly drinkable with good finish, this brew has opened my eyes to ale.

Black lager with coffee and chocolate: made with black malt for its rich, dark colour, this beer is complex and nuanced. I found the coffee flavour stronger than chocolate flavour, the coffee notes being highly discernible. I could smell the scent of chocolate, but its flavour was light and low down in the mix. This beer was original, innovative and individual. I enjoyed the flavours, and might conclude that a whole pint of it would not be my preference, but will be the delight of a seasoned lover of dark beers.

Mango lager: I was told by Adeo that each Summer's fruity blend is always a success. In previous years, the fruity Summer beer is the 3rd best selling. The current mango lager is a sweet, fruity light blend which is perfect for long, hot Summer days. Mango fruits can be overwhelmingly sweet, but that tendency has been overcome through judicious blending. The mango flavour is clearly discernible but not cloying, it can be a strong fruit which can overdominate. It is light in colour with a mere hint of cloudiness. It will be available all Summer for you to try for yourself!

After the brewery tour and beer tasting, it was time to sample the food!

First, we went for the Beer Battered Cajun king prawns (£6.50).

The spicy, hot batter had been made of the Zerodegrees Pilsner, making it bubbly, crispy and light. The prawns were big and meaty, and just cooked, which is how I like them. The dipping sauce was a reduction of soy, molasses or brown sugar with spices. The prawns were served up with a small green side salad dressed in a homely, authentic vinaigrette.

Next up was one of Zerodegrees' specialities - a kilo of blue mussels cooked in the style of your choosing... but which to choose?

We settled on the Piccata; mussels cooked in parsley, capers, anchovies and lemon (£14.95). A tangy, slightly sour mix, redolent of coastal Italy which ought to be as much of a classic as Mariniere, its French cousin. 

 We immediately realised we would be needing bread to soak up the juices! 

The plump mussels were juicy with no grit or sand to adulterate their soft texture. We enjoyed picking them out with one of the used shells, in a display of informal sharing eating which we hope the classy denizens of Blackheath did not judge us too harshly for!

Pizza is a serious business here, each made freshly and cooked in a wood fired oven. Having gawked at the massive oven on our arrival, we simply had to have a pizza. With 22 types on offer, we first had to decide which type. The bases are all ultra thin, think tortillas or Turkish Lahmacun. On top you can choose between four different sauces; white garlic sauce (for lovers of pizza bianco), pesto sauce, barbeque sauce and traditional tomato sauce.

We chose the roasted garlic chicken pizza (£10.95), roasted garlic chicken, red onion, parsley, white wine and garlic cream sauce. The super thin pizza base was fabulous, crispy on the edges, chewy in the middle with little touches of burnt wood smoke. The colour and bubbling of the crust indicating the pizza had received just the right amount of time in the incendiary heat of the wood oven. Our pizza was very generously topped with chunks of roasted garlicky and rosemary flavoured chicken, and luscious fior de latte mozzarella cheese. But what of the sauce? There was bright creaminess and a sweet garlic tang in the super creamy and indulgent sauce, flavoured with garlic and parsley. I loved this pizza, and was very impressed with the quality of all its elements.

Sadly, I found myself feeling stuffed after polishing off the lovely pizza. No desserts for me. This is a shame as there three types of sweet pizza - or should that be "Pudding Pizza"? Caramelised fig and mascarpone, Pecan pie with salted caramel, Chocolate and banana; all served with vanilla ice cream. You could have cheesecake, waffle, fudge cake or tiramisu, apple torte, banoffee pie or affogato if feeling pizza-ed out. I will have to give the desserts a go another time.

We had a great evening at Zerodegrees. They have worked very hard to produce great quality food and great quality beer. It is some achievement that they succeed with such style. 

Zerodegrees Blackheath
31/33 Montpelier Vale
Blackheath, London SE3 0TJ

020 88525619

Opening hours
Monday to Saturday 12pm-12am
Sunday 12pm-11pm

Snigdha and Him Indoors ate at Zerodegrees as their guests. Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for writing this review, which represents her genuine opinion.