Dates for the diary

London’s Best Scotch Egg
The Ship, Wandsworth
20 September

Write it in your diary now: 20 September—it’s the hottest award ceremony in Britain: London’s Best Scotch Egg.
Hosted at The Ship from 7:30 onwards, restauranters, pub owners, home cooks and scotch egg enthusiasts will be pitting their eggs against each other to be judged on smell, taste, texture and appearance. It’s not too late to enter—the deadline’s 15 September though, so get practicing.
www.theship.co.uk

A Taste of Tuscany
Harrods’ Wine Shop
20 September

The odds are that it’s going to be cold and windy in London on 20 September, so transport yourself to an Italian summer with ‘A Taste of Tuscany’ wine tasting at The Wine Shop in Harrods. A specially-selected range of 30 wines will be poured for the evening, and served with matched canapés. The event is £35 per person, from 7-9pm.
www.harrods.com

Cook and Taste Cookbook workshop with Rosie
24 September
Books For Cooks, Blenheim Crescent

There can’t be many better ways to spend a Saturday than joining the lovely Rosie Hogg as she works her way through new cookbook releases in this beautiful and iconic Notting Hill shop.
The workshop starts at 11am and runs through to 1pm when everyone sits down for lunch together. For just £20 it’s a steal, so make sure you book in advance: info@booksforcooks.com; 020 7221 1992.

Polpetto takes bookings
26 September onwards

The gamble’s over. Polpetto is taking bookings. Since its opening almost exactly one year ago, its been in constant demand, meaning that its mainly been stoic queuers, those with odd mealtimes or power-wielding food critics who’ve bagged a table. Not any more though—so if anyone fancies taking me out for supper then give them a bell and make a reservation.
www.polpetto.co.uk

Liza and Judy: Diva dinners at The Underground Restaurant
2 minutes from Kilburn tube
1 October

If you’re in the mood to dress for dinner, then don your ruby shoes, bowler hat and sequins for a Judy Garland and Liza Minelli night hosted by the legendary pop-up restauranter Kerstin Rodgers aka.Ms Marmite Lover

Rodgers is notoriously hot on the right atmosphere, and that’s no exception for her 1 October event which requires ‘gamine neediness mixed with ‘Let’s put the show on here’ trouper spirit’. If you reckon you can serve that up, then BOOK A SEAT. It’s £40 for 5 courses, and is sure to be one memorable evening.

(look out for Frida Kahlo night and Barbara Striesand nights to come…)
www.supperclubfangroup.ning.com

The London Restaurant Festival
3-17 October

The London Restaurant Festival takes place from 3-17 October. Lots of the events are a little on the pricy side: Michelin Star Chefs cooking for you in a London Eye bubble (£15,000) or the ‘Gourmet Odyssey’ food trip on a routemaster bus (£150).

There are a few mid-range events too, for those who want to enjoy good food in unusual places without taking out a bank loan: Fortnum and Mason Culinary Carnival (£53 for 3-course dinner and cheese), Films, champagne and food in three of London’s 5* hotels (£55) and a Tapas Tour round London’s finest tapas bars (£50). www.londonrestaurantfestival.com


London Cocktail Week

7-16 October

Quick! Sign up for your free wristband which entitles you to £4 signature cocktails in hundreds of the city’s best bars during London Cocktail Week 7-16 October. If (like me) you’ve got a list of bars you’ve been wanting to visit, but can’t quite afford the £10 drink once inside, then this is your chance to snoop about without breaking the bank.

There are free buses to take you round the bars, and a great website so you can plan a slick itinerary: I’m starting with a Prime Minister in Worship Street Whistling Shop, a Dog’s Nose in Jub Jub, then a Kammerling’s Townnhouse Tonic in The Zetter Townhouse
www.diffordsguide.com

The Experimental Food Society
Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane
21-22 October

The Experimental Food Society is hitting Brick Lane 21-22 October by taking over Truman Brewery with their array of extraordinary eats. Look out for the dodo-shaped cake, the edible clothes and (most bizarrely) the camel ice cream—yes, that’s camel not caramel…
www.experimentalfoodsociety.com

My HERB HEROES entry – PLEASE VOTE FOR ME

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME BY CLICKING HERE

Over bank holiday weekend I went to visit my parents, armed with a culinary project. I was determined to become a Herb Hero. On first reading, this mightn’t sound quite as cool as Wonder Woman or Superman. But, the lucky Herb Hero, wins £2,500 and get to meet the true hero that is John Torode…so game’s on.

Anyway, to become a Herb Hero, I need to cook up a 4 minute film of me making a dish with at least two fresh herbs in it. This has proved tricky—not because of the herby, cooking part, but because I’m a moron with camcorders.

I have a horrible feeling that I might fall at the first hurdle by being too incompetent to mash together the footage and upload my film by 6 May. (If anyone reading this has ANY advice, please get in touch).

I took some photos of what I made though (I’m considerably better with cameras than camcorders) so, I thought I’d share with you, dear readers, my Herb Heroes dish.

I decided to make the herbs the hero of the dish (!) rather than shrouding their flavours with lots of meat or sauce. So, I went for a herb tabbouleh which has clean and fresh flavours that really showcase everything that my mint and marjoram and chives had to offer. I served it with homemade falafel (though shop bought falafel is excellent too) and a mint and yoghurt dip.

STEP1 – THE TABBOULEH
Ingredients (a good-sized, side salad for 4 people)

125g couscous
150 ml boiling water
1 Handful of sultanas
2 big handfuls of fresh marjoram
1 big handful of fresh mint
About 20 chive strands
2 spring onions
Zest and juice of one lemon
One large handful of toasted, skinned and then ground hazelnuts
One yellow pepper (roasted, skinned and copped)
5 large chestnut mushrooms

Before I launch into the recipe, I want to quickly stress that you can add or take away pretty much any ingredient from this tabbouleh (though do keep in the couscous!) As you can see, many of the ingredients are measured out in handfuls, because it’s such a loose guideline of a recipe. Roasted courgette, grated carrots and pecan nuts are just a few examples of other things that would go superbly.

Finally, some eating advice: although I served this with falafel and dip, this is a lovely salad on its own. It’s also a great accompaniment to barbeque buffets because it’s jam-packed full of interesting flavours.Recently I’ve recently eaten it with lamb sausages & rocket, and with coronation chicken & roasted vegetables.

Method
Put the couscous in the bottom of the big bowl that you’ll end up serving it in (I think that a glass bowl is quite nice, because there end up being so many interesting colours and textures in the salad).

Pour 150ml of boiling water over the couscous, and stir it with a fork to make sure that its all been exposed to the water. Put a plate on top the bowl, and leave it so all the hot water gets absorbed, and the trapped steam keeps everything nice and moist.

Next, put the sultanas in a small bowl, and tip some boiling water over them so that they’re all nice and plump and juicy by the time you add them to the tabbouleh. At this point, it’s also a good idea to pop your pepper in the oven to start it roasting.

Gather your herbs together, then pick off the leaves and put them in a mug. Use a pair of scissors to snip them all up – it’s not nice coming across whole leaves in the salad.

If you’re grinding the hazelnuts yourself (as I was) then pop them in the oven for 4 minutes (switch on a timer, because nuts and seeds are one of those things I always seem to forget in the oven!) Peel off their skins, and then grind them into a dust. This is a really good dish for a vegetarian, so it’s good to pop in lots of nuts as a source of protein.

Cut and fry the mushrooms, slice the spring onions and snip the chives. Then zest and juice the lemon, and drain the excess water from the sultanas if they’re looking suitably plump at this point.

By this time, your pepper might be roasted – you’ll know if it’s ready because the skin will blister and peel off easily. Skin the pepper, then slice it into very small chunks.

Now you’ve done all the hard work – it’s just the easy bit of putting everything together. Add everything to the couscous, stir thoroughly and season.

STEP2 – FALAFEL

Ingredients
250 g chick peas
2 heaped teaspoons of Harissa paste
2 heaped teaspoons of ground cumin
2 heaped teaspoons of coriander (finely snipped up)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
2 tablespoons of plain flour

Whizz your chickpeas in a magimix. While you’re doing that, measure out all the other ingredients, then add to the chickpea mixture and whiz thoroughly.


Mould into nice round balls – they should be bigger than a blackberry but smaller than a golf ball…think along the size of a large strawberry.

Heat up a reasonable amount of oil in a frying pan, and fry them for about 7 minutes until they’re warm throughout, and nicely browned on the outside.

STEP3 – MINT YOGHURT

Ingredients
1 lemon
1 large handful of mint
100g Greek or plain yoghurt

Snip up the mint, squeeze the lemon, and combine with the yogurt to make a fresh, light dip.

Now all that’s left to do is plate up – a generous scoop of the tabbouleh with five falafel balls and a dollop of dip.
Fresh, herby deliciousness!

IF YOU THINK THIS LOOKS LIKE A WINNING RECIPE, PLEASE VOTE FOR ME BY CLICKING HERE