The dalek-Rowan’s new smoke machine

Webber Smokey Mountain-Rowan’s new toy!

So our first choice of meat was a chicken and probably not the best choice.  The meat was smokey yes, but geez the skin although looking crisp was rubbery and quite unpalatable.
Today’s choice of meat was a rolled rump which we cut in half and the half weighed a kilo.  We chose a dry rub which was garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried lime powder, smoked paprika and Australian bush spices.

It was cooked at 125degrees C for 1 hr 20 minutes until internal temp was 55C for medium rare and was beautifully pink in the middle.

looking forward to smoking fish and lamb.


This modern Italian restaurant has been in Putney for a few years now and several times talked about trying it and finally did last night.  Very nice atmosphere and incredibly friendly staff.  Food and drink appeared very quickly.  After ordering, as a compliment we were offered bread and a small bowl of extra virgin olive oil to dip the bread in.  The focaccia was fluffy and light but I found the oil bitter.

We ordered truffle arancini and salad of raw artichoke and asparagus with pecorino.  The risotto rice balls with just a hint of truffle were divine.  Never having eaten raw artichoke before we were very impressed with the taste -light and summery with a sharpness of lemon juice and the pecorino cheese to lift it.

I chose the rack of lamb which was served with wild chickory -lamb was a tad undercooked for me but tasted nice and I was not a fan of the chickory.  Rowan’s nettle gnocchi with crab sauce was excellent-not that you could taste much of the nettles but the colour of the gnocchi was quite vibrant and the sauce was full of flavour.

Turbot with sorrel

A bit of an ugly fish but Rowan calls it the king of fishes… is his favourite and I like it too as the flesh is sweet and succulent.  Not a cheap fish but is worth it once in awhile.  It weighed 1.3kg and cost £24.00 and it is best roasted whole.   Not only did we get fresh seafood at Leeds market but we found Jersey Royal potatoes which has a particularly sweet buttery flavour and fresh peas still in their pods.  The following recipe is Rick Stein’s and although it says it it for 4 people I do not think it is enough so feel free to increase the vegetables etc.

These are sorrel leaves which Rowan foraged – they have a slightly sour taste raw, but make a lovely slightly sharp sauce. If you cannot buy them then use lemon juice.

Roast turbot with a sorrel sauce

1 whole turbot (about 1.5kg/3lb 5oz)
90g/3¼oz unsalted butter

60g/2¼oz carrot, sliced

60g/2¼oz leek, sliced

30ml/1fl oz dry white wine

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

2 egg yolks

60g/2¼oz onions, chopped

30ml/1fl oz white wine vinegar

30ml/1fl oz dry white wine

120ml/4fl oz fish stock

240g/8½oz butter

60g/2¼oz sorrel

2 or 3 spinach leaves


Preheat the oven to 220C/200 Fan/Gas 7

Gut, scale and remove the fins from the whole turbot. Rinse and pat dry on a piece of kitchen paper.

Melt 60g/2¼oz of the butter in a small saucepan and gently cook the vegetables for about 4 minutes, adding the white wine halfway through. Season with the salt and pepper and leave to cool a little. Stuff the cavity of the fish with most of the vegetables, leaving some to rest the turbot on when you roast it.

Butter the turbot with the remaining 30g/1oz of butter. Season well with salt and pepper and place the whole fish in a roasting tin with some of the vegetables underneath. Cook in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes. Test whether the fish is cooked by cutting down on to the backbone at the thickest part and checking that the flesh has turned white right through.

For the sauce, put the chopped onions, vinegar, white wine and fish stock in a small pan, and boil until all but a couple of spoonfuls have evaporated. Add the butter, then the sorrel and spinach and cook for a minute soften. Put the egg yolks into a blender. With the blender running, pour the contents of the pan through the small hole in the lid. Season and pour the mixture through a sieve into a warm sauce boat.

When the turbot is cooked, fillet the fish, serve with the vegetables the fish was cooked with and the sorrel sauce.

Innovative Cooking

Native is a very small restaurant and reservations are essential.  Adam welcomed us and showed us to our table downstairs-seating for about 20.  We were early so had their undivided attention.  We had a glass of prosecco and made our choices from the menu.

For starters Rowan chose the wild hare ragu on buttered salsify and pickled walnuts and I chose the torched Dorset mackerel, salt baked beets, rhubarb and hay cream.

Really great flavours.  The hay cream tasted a bit like tartare/horseradish but was very light and the red blobs a sweetened rhubarb sauce.  The mackerel was juicy and was lifted to anothet level by the thinly sliced pickled onions and how pretty does the dish look with the edible leaves and flowers?

To follow we both had the South Downs venison, english turnips, pine salt, smoked potato and bone marrow crumb.


The venison was so juicy and tender I wished there was more. I did not think I would like the pairing of the wafer thin turnips but it worked well however, I really could not taste any smokiness on the potatoes.  The bone marrow crumb topped off the dish beautifully.

We were so excited by the first two courses we had to have dessert-well the first two courses were pretty small-so lots of space for dessert.

This is the rhubarb and rosemary compote, meadowsweet cream and coriander honeycombe.  I am not a great lover of rhubarb but this was delicious and I could taste the coriander in the homeycomb which was pretty unusual.


Served on a slab of wood – foraging gone too far?  This is a chocolate and  melliot delice – not sure what this all translates to but a delice is a chocolate layered dessert with a cookie like base – the base was nice the buttermilk granita very tasty but again not much taste of miso in the caramel.

As you know from past blogs Rowan loves foraging and this kind of food really appeals to him but I have to say I too was very intrigued by all the different wild ingredients used to create such interesting and exceptionally great dishes.

Berber and Q grill house

Rowan follows Jay Rayner -restaurant critic – avidily, so when Berber and Q was giving a glowing recommendation we hotfooted it down to London and found the restaurant which is in a recondtioned railway arch in Hackney.  It is a Mediterrean grill house so slow cooking, smoking and barbequing techniques are used.

We had the roast cauliflower with its dressing of cumin and pomegranate seeds – nice but a tad overcooked and the garlicky smoked eggplant which was very good. 

The beef rib which was very tender and came away from the bone easily was brushed liberally with a sweet date syrup. The lamb shwarma unfortunately, was dry and tasteless and the chicken wings spicy but nowehere plump or juicy.

Atmosphere was buzzing and noisy as three large parties were booked in.  Staff friendly and chefs visible as it is an open kitchen.  We love our barbeque and grills and left the restaurant feeling disappointed as did not feel the food lived up to the expectation.

Crab and Mango Salsa

The weather is warming up here in the UK so the right time to have lighter meals.

We have a weekly market in Ripon and quite often will buy prepared crab meat sold either in tubs with only white meat or brown.  We like both but I think in salads or with avocado white is better, brown is good on toast and together they are great in risottos or sauce for pasta. 

I had a mango which was just ripening and thought I would try it with the white crab meat and amazed at how light and refreshing it was. Here is how to make it for 2 big servings:

1 mango diced

Handful of coriander, finely chopped

juice of half a lime

1/2 a green chilli, finely diced

4 ozs of white crab meat

salt and pepper

Toss the mango with the coriander, lime juice, chilli and salt and pepper if required.

Add a splash of lime juice and pepper to the crab.  Toss lightly.

To create the tian, use a metal ring and first layer should be the mango, then some crab, another layer of mango and a little crab to add to the top.  My leaf decoration is a sprig of Thai basil which was very fragrant with the mango but use a sprig of coriander if you do not have basil.  


Venison delight

One Sunday Brunch (tv show on channel 4) Mac & Wild brought in some of the venison dishes they serve in their restaurant for the hosts and guests to try.  Rowan honed in on the haggis pops and asked me to try and make some at home which turned out exceptionally well. He then said he wanted to go to the restaurant-we did last night as we were in London.

We started with the haggis pops which were not as crispy and tasty as mine but I guess it could be the type or brand of haggis you use!! However,  very envious of the runny yolk of the scotch egg (note to self-persevere!!!) although egg was crispy the venison meat itself was a tad bland.  My main was the venison burger in a brioche bun and Rowan chose a venison steak and chips….both cooked to our liking and excellent and our vegetable dish was purple sprouting brocolli with butter and hazelnuts. We had a bottle of Zinfandel which complimented the dishes really well.

For dessert the millionaire’s shortbread with a rich and indulgent chocolate mousse and honey comb appealed to us and Rowan had a wee dram with his.

We loved chatting with Fiona and wish her the best in her next venture.