This tart is delicious and tastes even better a couple of days after you’ve made it, so it’s a perfect make-ahead dessert. The filing is a simple brownie-like cake and the crust is a favorite cheesecake base of mine, made even tastier with the addition of crushed pecans.
Chocolate tart with pecan crust
8″ or 9″ round pie serves 6 to 8
for the crust
250g pack of digestive biscuits (about 18)
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
Line an 8″ or 9″ spring-form pan with parchment paper then heat the oven to 350F (180C). Pulse biscuits, nuts and sugar in a food processor until they are crumbs, or in an ziplock bag by giving them a good bash with rolling pin, mix them with the melted butter and press the mixture, while warm, into the bottom of the lined pan.
for the filling
9 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup castor or superfine sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons plain flour
pinch of salt
Melt the butter and chocolate together; once it’s smooth add half the sugar, the egg yokes and the flour.
Whisk the egg whites and a pinch of salt until you’ve got soft peaks, then slowly whilst still whipping add the rest of the sugar until the whites are smooth and glossy and form peaks that can hold their shape, you can do this by hand but you will get a sore arm, it’s much easier with an electric whisk. Use a spatula to fold the whites into the chocolate mixture about a 1/3 at a time; don’t over mix just go until there isn’t any white showing.
Pour/scrape the mixture onto the crust, place the pan on a baking sheet as sometimes the butter in the crust can leak slightly, and cook for about 35-minutes or until the centre is slightly firm, but not over cooked.
It will sink down and get a nice crackly look while it cools, and as I said earlier it really is best to give it a day or two before you eat it (I know that’s not an easy ask!) - Melani
I mean honestly… I leave Brixton to its own devices for three short years and the transformation is astounding.
Thanks to one of life’s surprising detours, I found myself back in one of my old London haunts for the first time in a while, and what I discovered made me feel compelled to write about and share some of my finds.
The plan was to spend a morning capturing images and chatting to a few of the stallholders, but with the sunlight filtering through on the brightest of days I was drawn in. The more I talked and listened, the more I became infected by their enthusiasm. The planned few hours gave way to a couple of days, and a quick blog evolved into a somewhat feature length-post.
is the new incarnation of Granville Arcade, a once a ‘grand’ 1930’s indoor market that formed part of the sprawling labyrinth of Brixton Market. Escape out of the arcade, sidestepping Electric Avenue, and you’ll find yourself in Market Row
, another covered avenue that retains a slightly more authentic, eclectic, mix of the long-established stalls (Caribbean fruit and vegetables, fishmongers, butchers, wig shops & hair salons) dotted amongst the new vendors of vintage clothing stores, delis and restaurants.
One of the first in the new mix of pop-up and permanent vendors was Anne Fairbrother, a Brixton resident of 20-years. Anne stands behind the counter of her Cornercopia Kitchen & Larder and reminisces about the cold November night just over three-years ago, when, after receiving word via various social networking channels, around 300 people gathered under the roof of the arcade. ‘It was a mess, a mass of empty units, some for 10-years or more, plastered with graffiti, but yet the level of excitement and energy was palpable. It was a moment of pure social innovation with an abundance of living ideas and enthusiasm for the potential laid out before us.’
At the time there was clear criteria for applications, they had to be environmentally and economically sustainable, sociable and with a clear link to the market itself e.g. ways to benefit the wider community with traders of 45-years plus who were struggling for survival. Proposals to Space Makers
(a community regeneration agency) came flooding in and within weeks applicants were given the green light to move in, those successful being offered a rent free unit for the first three months to help kick-start trading.‘We became a kind of micro-market economy – exchanging and swapping produce and goods, especially in the early days when we were all trying to establish ourselves. It was an exciting period with artists and community groups; it was constantly changing with each new story or workshop bringing a new audience into the space.’
These days they even have their own currency, the Brixton Pound (£B)
, to encourage more money to circulate locally. Each note plays host to the face of a Brixton icon voted on by the people of Brixton; from historians, scientists, and politicians to artists and musicians like David Bowie. Bowie lived with his family in Brixton in the late 40′s, early 50’s.
And so you have it. Two ageing market halls, in one of South London’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, transformed into culinary melting-pots, that in 2011 even won the accolade of Time Out Magazine’s Best Eating and Drinking destination. And below (prepare to scroll please) are just a few of my highlights.
Cornercopia Kitchen & Larder
65 Brixton Village
Cornercopia Kitchen & Larder
has been described as ‘a tiny neighbourhood restaurant and new kind of cornershop’. On starting out they literally had one or two tables nestled in the store where they would serve up meals to a select few. It’s not so tiny anymore – now spread over three units with an ever growing fan-base. When they describe their food as seasonal and ultra-local they truly mean it, with honey from Herne Hill, Damson Jam from the fruits of Brockwell park, and award-winning English white wines, ciders and beers from a micro brewery in SE1.
They have established what Anne refers to as ‘digital foraging’, they tweet (@brixcornercopia) to encourage members of the community to forage for specific items like nettles, crab apples, elderberries and edible flowers such as wild garlic. These are then exchanged for produce, or in some cases a meal. ‘The only problem being, sometimes, people just don’t quite understand the quantities involved to make a nettle pesto, or a reasonable quantity of nettle soup for example – it literally necessitates a sackful of nettles!’
They have also been working with Invisible Food
in Lambeth who organise walks around the borough to find wild foods and teach people how to make things with them. Most recently a group of young people foraged, produced, branded and launched a nettle & ginger beer which was then sold, at a profit to them, in the Cornercopia larder – genius idea.Federation Coffee
77-78 Brixton Village
Along the way from Cornercopia sits another of the original success stories. Federation Coffee
, co-owned by New Zealanders Nick Coates and George Wallace. Federation started out life in early 2010 with a unit half the size of their current, apparently with little other than a bar and one state-of-the-art coffee machine. They are now roasting their very own coffee in their very own Brixton Roastery, whilst serving-up delectable coffee and Anzac biscuits to what is an undoubtedly more contented morning crowd.
87 Brixton Village
Around the next corner you will find Heritage Deli, one of the newest Village ventures. Daniel Fiteni, Australian born of Maltese descent opened his savoury pastry deli just 6-weeks ago to serve up ‘ballsy’ unusual flavours of Maltese specialities like the Pastizzi and the Qassatat all made completely from scratch on site. If you get the chance I would highly recommend trying the rabbit & pea stew Qassatat – deliciously deep flavours with just a hint of spice in a light, baked short-crust style pastry.
12 Brixton Village
Set up by two cooks who apparently met in Brighton whilst dining at Riddle & Finns
; ‘our’ famous Oyster bar & Seafood restaurant in the Lanes – you can already be reassured they share good taste. Honest Burgers
is a small, humble establishment with incredibly friendly staff and most importantly great food. Following Phillip’s recommendation I ordered the original ‘Honest Burger’ a wondrous stack of beef, red onion relish, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce in a toasted glazed bun, with a side of homemade rosemary salted fries and a literal jar of fresh lemonade (very cutely presented with a striped straw). I was far from disappointed. The beetroot and apple coleslaw is also absolutely worth a shout out!
The meat for Honest, and a few of the other ventures I spoke to locally, is supplied by Ginger Pig
whose ‘non-mission statement’ is so Yorkshire (county of my birth) it made me smile. I quote: ‘we simply raise the best animals, in the happiest of circumstances, on the finest stretch of Yorkshire Moors we could find’
. Ooh the Yorkshire Moors – it’s true, you too would be pretty happy to roam there… anyway, I digress, it was a wonderful burger!
French & Grace
opened it’s doors in October 2011. Ellie Grace and Rosie French are close friends who started out co-authoring a food blog and hosting secret supper clubs in Ellie’s flat overlooking Electric Avenue. SaladClub
has grown over the years into a private dining, location catering and secret suppers venture, and now they have their very own venue in Brixton Village. I met with Ellie (pictured looking just a little angelic), who since moving to Brixton several years ago, says she has rarely stepped foot in a supermarket, but then, with such a vast and well stocked range of fresh market produce literally on your doorstep, who would need to?! She describes the French & Grace menu as colourful and eclectic street food; it includes mezze, wraps and daily specials of dishes like Ham hock, mustard and Kale casserole with sourdough toast (I need to go back & try this!).
They are obviously very talented ladies with a clear passion for food, an Observer Food Monthly award-winning blog and an upcoming cookbook to boot – I shall be following with interest.
18 Brixton Village
Oh to the Beijing dumplings on the corner! Ning Ma of Mama Lan describes her food as home cooking from her Beijing family upbringing and not what people would generally expect Chinese food to be. Mama Lan is, in its name, dedicated to Ning’s mother who taught her how to cook and handed down techniques from past generations. It’s worth mentioning Mama Lan is still to be found inventing and working her magic with Ning behind the scenes in the new Brixton kitchen. It’s somehow quite hypnotic to watch the dumplings being prepared… filled, folded, pinched and lined up at speed.
I plan to go back with a bottle of wine under my arm (it’s BYO or mocktails at the moment) and work my way through the ever changing menu of dumplings starting with the newly announced Woodear mushroom, chinese leaf and carrot option, whilst remembering not to make any mention of Dim Sum – refer to Ning’s very honest and humorous blog if you have a moment.
67-68 Brixton Village
I only had the chance to meet Paola fleetingly, the bustle of lunch had just died down and before the hungry hoards were due to descend again for dinner she was busily prepping. Casa Sibilla is a delicatessen and restaurant serving and selling authentic Italian produce. Paola, a graduate of the School of High Italian Culinary Art, opened her new venture in the Village 18-months ago to serve up her family recipes of Southern Italian food – she grew up ‘in’ and was undoubtedly inspired by her parent’s restaurant in Puglia. And as if that’s not enough to keep her busy she’s also offering cooking lessons in several languages.
So far I have only had chance to sample one of their sweet delicacies; a lemon crème Sfogliatelle (a Neapolitan speciality) which Paola insisted I take home with me – it was met post-dinner with a smile and much appreciative sighing.
11a Market Row
Meet Bridget Hugo (pictured below), founder of Wild Caper
, café and producer of fresh organic produce and artisan foods. I get the impression Bridget is one incredibly busy, highly motivated lady. Co-founder of the acclaimed Franco Manca
pizzeria (also in Market Row) and the new Shoreditch-based Bukowski Grill
. Bridget very generously takes the time to chat and encourages me to sample a few of the many delights created and served up at Wild Caper, even as she’s on her way out the door for an afternoon in the company of Gordon Ramsay. I’m literally still savouring a large teaspoonful of lemon curd (her Grandmother’s recipe) as she approaches with the next offering.
The deli serves up freshly made salads, sandwiches and pastries and has a wonderful range of bread – you have to try the slow-rising sourdough, baked across the way in Franco Manca’s wood burning pizza ovens for a minimum of 20-hours! I took some home and lavished it with buffalo mozzarella, avocado, beef tomatoes, basil and olive oil – soo good.
Last but by no means least I take a step into the familiar culinary territory of Spain and the Basque country. Since leaving my Barcelona life behind me, a little over a year ago, I often find myself craving tapas and have spent a fair amount of time seeking out the best of places in London and Brighton for said moments.
As I walk into Seven (what used to be an old luggage shop – take note the clever use of suitcases for shelving behind the bar) it feels good… Plates of Pintxos line the bar following the traditional Basque way of helping yourself and counting up the cocktail sticks when you’ve had your fill – I love this way of eating, but it can be costly, especially if like me you find it hard to stop when openly presented with such an array of colourful, freshly stacked foodie delights.
I was greeted by the friendly face of Glen (pictured above). Liam and Jonny, the owners, were upstairs with renovations to the overhead art gallery and bar area well underway; the art installations here evolve every few months.
From their Tapas menu I can so far recommend the Bravas, Escalivada, the Russian roulette of Pimientos de Padrón (I always manage to pick the hotties), Chorizo and of course the Jamón Ibérico carved daily by a well-trained hand. They had a master carver come in from Madrid to train them in the art – I even have a 13-minute recording of Glen talking with a passion about the Jamón as he’s expertly taking fine slice after slice from the leg… and moving gently around the hip bone. Ibérico is known as the king of Spanish hams, cured for a minimum of three years and fed on a free-range diet of nutty sweet acorns and it tastes amazing!
Seven also offer traditional Spanish desserts such as Tarte de Santiago (one of my all time favourites) and Cinnamon Churros to dunk in hot chocolate should you so wish. And with their now late licence you can wash it all down with a £5 cocktail of your choice, an Old Fashioned, Ginger Beer & Basil Mojito or perhaps a Vanilla Julep for those fast approaching English summer nights (ahem).[In Brighton I am regularly to be found seated in Solera D Tapa (Cala and Arrobas) practicing a little Spanish and feasting on Manchego and Jamón Iberico with a bottle of Tinto Joven on the side.]
How to finish this? I have no idea. I went back to get a solo missing burger shot last Saturday (the perfectionist in me just wasn’t happy with the first) and found myself discovering more new places and wanting to take yet more photos… Bellantoni’s Artisan Pasta & Kitchen
, The Breadroom
(Imran’s authentic Pakistani street food), and the list goes on.
As I said at the start (which now feels like a pretty long time ago) it’s an addictive place, full of characters, life and atmosphere behind a very unassuming facade, and I was greeted with such warmth and generosity – it’s a place you just can’t help but want to spend time - Lorna.
(And did I already mention the cake stall outside Sweet Tooth? With Red Velvet cake that may just send you spiraling into the highest of sugar highs, but oh in the moment it’s just a moist chunk of divineness!)
Since Lorna’s unforgettable French experience last autumn taking part in a residential food styling & photography workshop
hosted by Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille
I have been on the lookout for something for myself. So recently when flipping through Sweet Paul magazine I spotted that Sweet Paul
would be hosting a workshop in downtown Manhattan, just a short hop on the subway, I was thrilled as I’ve been a fan of his work for a while now. The workshop was held at the TriBeCa shooting kitchen
, which is a chefs kitchen and daylight studio specifically designed and equipped for food shoots.
Before the class began we helped ourselves to breakfast, the addition of a fantastic sauerkraut in the usual NY line up of bagels, lox and cream cheese not going unnoticed… as it turned out the chef cooking for the workshop that day was the pickling and canning expert Michaela Hayes, from Crock and Jar. I have to admit to a slight fear of canning and pickling, although I’ve always wanted to give it a try, so now I know that Michaela runs a workshop of her own I’ll be on the lookout for her posting new workshop dates!
As you can see from the photos, Sweet Paul took us through all aspects of setting up a story for the magazine. We watched the cooking preparation, prop selection, setting up of the shot, the photographing, how Paul chooses his final images, and all along the way we were given tricks, tips and suggestions for improving our images.
It turned out my subway ride was by far the shortest journey of any of the people attending. On the way up in the elevator I met two lovely food stylists both from Florida, followed closely by Melissa from My Sweet Remedy (who also co-authors a food blog with her sister), who had made the trip from Montreal, and Denise who works with Occasions Caterers in from Washington DC. One of the great things about these workshops has to be getting to meet all the other attendees who have a shared passion, everyone was incredibly friendly and it was so interesting to hear about their backgrounds. Three of the other attendees were also food bloggers, two both just starting out (too new to have sites), and the third was Gina Homolka of Skinny Taste whose blog featuring healthy low-fat, family friendly recipes is very popular and has been around since 2008. Rounding off the group were business partners, Susan Gibbs from Juniper Moon Farm (which is such a cool site and has a LambCam so you can watch the sheep!!) and Jeannie Martini, who are in the process of launching an online magazine of their very own.
I can’t say enough about how much you can learn just from watching really talented people do what they do. Paul made selecting his props and setting up his shots look so effortless whilst talking us through every detail. I was so impressed by his creativity and his generosity in sharing his wealth of experience with us. The same can definitely be said of Colin Cooke, our photographer for the day, just watching him go through the process whilst bombarding him with a ton of questions really helped me to understand his workflow. His assistant also gave me some great Lightroom tips – so thank you to both of them. I left the workshop fully inspired, having learnt many new things, and I’m also now anticipating what is likely to be an expensive trip to B&H – my local photographic superstore!!
So that about wraps things up for this post other than to say a final thank you to all the people I met on Saturday. I hope to bump into some of you again one day soon and wish you the best of luck for all your future projects. For those Green Figs and Ham readers who are now grinding their teeth and exclaiming “but where are the recipes” (you know who you are!) cooking will resume soon, I promise! - Melani
So the Holidays are officially over and 2012 is here, Happy New Year to you all and thank you for your continued support and kind comments!
Lorna and I did plenty of cooking while she was here which was so much fun, it was lovely to have the time together to try out some new things we’d discovered or been working on. It’s also a great time of year, not just for cooking, but for carrying on family traditions surrounding cooking. When we were growing up our Dad always served Christmas dinner at lunch time (of course) and then in the evening we’d have a cold buffet with roasted ham, shrimp, cheeses, pickles and leftovers from dinner like chicken and roast potatoes, it was always hard to decide which meal I enjoyed more. This year Lorna and I followed his tradition and made this recipe for the evening buffet. I usually reserve making this until I have a larger crowd coming over as I hate to have any wasted, but on Boxing Day I saw Lorna sneaking some leftovers into a salad which turned out to be delicious, so you could also make it for a smaller group and plan for a great lunch the next day.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I love Frank Stitts cookbook Southern Table. I have many many cookbooks, and although they are beautiful to look at (very important to me) and seem to have great recipes, it’s often the case that nothing in them really catches my eye when I’m flipping through for dinner ideas. Frank’s book is different, I often find just what I’m looking for and more besides, so it’s no surprise that a while ago whilst trying to figure out something new to do as a party hors d’oeuvre I came across this recipe…
serves 8 to 12 as an hors d’oeuvre
to cook the shrimp
1 onion quartered
1 celery stalk cut in chunks
1 lemon sliced
4 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon of kosher or sea salt
1.5 pounds of medium shrimp peeled
Put 8 cups of water in a large pot, add the onion, celery, lemon and parsley, bring it to the boil and then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes. Next add the salt and the shrimp and once the water returns to the very beginning of a simmer remove the pan from the heat, the water should not boil as it will make the shrimp tough – just look out for that first tiny bubble and then it’s done. Drain the shrimp but do NOT rinse as you’ll lose a lot of the flavor. Allow them to cool completely before pickling them.
to pickle the shrimp
1 medium onion, quartered and very thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves very thinly sliced
2 lemons thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
7 bay leaves
2 whole hot dried chili peppers
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1.5 pounds of cooked shrimp from above (completely cooled)
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and coat the shrimp throughly. Pack everything into a large glass jar (has to be glass and ideally sterilised), cover it tightly and put in the fridge overnight to allow all the flavors to develop. You can keep it in the fridge for about 3 days, but no longer than that. Once you’re ready for them tip them into a serving dish (do this about 10 minutes before they need to be out so the olive oil has chance to melt) and dive in! – Melani
One of the best things about this time of year for me is that I get to cook for more people than just Jon and I. My kids aren’t really up for trying too many new things so it’s a pleasure to have Lorna and Mum here, and to have Jon’s family over for dinner so much. Last night, Lorna and I cooked dinner for the first night of Chanukah, and as we have a big dinner to cook on Sunday, we wanted to make something easy, but still impressive. Jon’s parents had already tried this rub on a prime rib roast at a previous dinner party at our place and both loved it, so I thought this time we’d try it on steaks. The rubbed steaks were served with Lorna’s Potato and Swiss Chard Dauphinoise
, and followed by a Chocolate Tart with a pecan biscuit crust (recipe coming soon!), it was the perfect weeknight dinner party.
If you’ve ever been to Eataly, Mario Batali’s Italian grocery store on 5th Avenue here in New York, there’s a good chance you’ll have noticed their rotisserie prime rib in the back corner of the store, it always smells so good and I was keen to try and come up with a rub that would make steaks or a roast taste as good as that smell. That’s where the idea for this came from. I had to experiment with amounts, but I’m really very happy with the outcome.
Porcini Salt Rub
Makes 1/2 cup, enough for 4 large steaks
1/2 oz of dried porcini mushrooms
1.5 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon of black truffle salt (optional)
Pulse the dried porcini’s and the brown sugar in a spice grinder or food processor, pour what you have into a container, add the salt, put the lid on and give it a good shake. It’s now ready to use just sprinkle it liberally on your meat – Melani (& Lorna)