Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Sun Inn, Barnes.

The unseaonally sunny weather took me to The Sun Inn at Barnes for Sunday lunch with friends today. Usually I would save this treat up for a summery June or July day, but it seemed to fit the bill. It boasts a gorgeous setting just opposite the duck pond on Barnes Common. If you are lucky enough to bag a table outside (we were), you gaze upon ducks, Canada geese and splendid Weeping Willows whilst feasting on lunch. Very pleasing. You almost forget you are in London, such is the villagey feel of the place. A lovely flower stall occupies a spot in the car park - I managed to pick up some fabulous peonies, but that is rather by the by.

You wouldn't think you could go wrong in such a setting, but sadly, on this occasion, the food was really not up to scratch. The chef was trying a little hard, it seemed to me. This is a pub. Albeit one that attracts a well-heeled clientele. What we wanted was a really good burger. Perhaps some beer-battered cod and seriously moreish chips. A proper flavoursome steak. Some good ingredients cooked simply. Good, honest pub grub. Nothing on the menu really tempted. It was all a bit... fussy. To be fair, the roast new-season lamb looked good. But it was a bit hot for that. My Serrano ham wrapped pigeon breast with walnuts and beetroot looked impressive....


...but didn't quite hit the mark. It was a touch dry, although the combination of flavours was good. Chicken liver pate turned out to be more like Brussels pate. The recipients didn't seem overly impressed. A chicken breast with Camembert was 'fairly good' but didn't seem to cause a great deal of excitement. A mixed salad came with a slightly strange dressing of oil and herbs - it would have been improved with some acidic bite. The star of the show (I'm almost ashamed to admit) was undoubtedly a shared bowl of potato wedges with sweet chilli mayo. If only we'd had the tasty Aberdeen Angus burger to accompany them!
To be fair to The Sun Inn, I have eaten here on several occasions and had much better food. I think it was perhaps an off day. And I have to say that I was favourably surprised by the bill. Also, the wine list is extremely comprehensive with a good selection of wines by the glass. I enjoyed the Spy Valley Riesling from New Zealand as a bright, tangy aperitif.
And the atmosphere was spot on for a lazy summery Sunday lunch (as was the company). I will certainly return, but hope that the menu reverts to a few more traditional favourites!

The Sun Inn, 7 Church Road, Barnes, SW13 9HE

020 9976 5256

Possibly the best chocolate recipe ever...

I am pretty keen on chocolate, it has to be said. And I like chocolate puddings in almost all their guises from the lightest, frothiest of mousses to the densest, darkest torte. This recipe though, smacks of perfection. It has a wickedly dense, velvety interior and a contrasting crisp brownie-like top. One mouthful and I was in heaven. The best thing about this recipe? It takes virtually no time to make and you make it a day in advance - perfect for the busy cook...
hello hello
Green and Blacks Chocolate Mousse Cake
Use a 20-23 cm (8 or 9 inch) cake tin with removable base.
300g Green and Blacks dark chocolate*
275g Caster Sugar
165g Butter
Pinch of Sea Salt
5 Large Free-Range Eggs
Icing Sugar
1 Tablespoon Ground Almonds (plus extra for dusting)
1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
2. Butter cake tin and dust with some ground almonds.
3. Melt the first 4 ingredients in a bowl placed above a pan of simmering water.
4. Whisk the eggs with the ground almonds and then fold into the chocolate mixture, off the heat.
5. Pour into cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove sides from tin and allow to cool on its base.
6. The cake can be eaten on the same day, or, for a denser, fudgier texture, place in fridge overnight and eat the next day, dusted with the icing sugar.
*I used Maya Gold chocolate for this. It has a subtle hint of orange and spices which I felt 'lifted' the flavour of the cake and added another element. I also use this chocolate for brownies.
NOTES - The cake will rise in the oven a little, but sink right down when you take it out (as per the picture).
This is seriously rich - even I could only manage a fairly thin slice.
I served it with a choice of creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.
Take a look at the Green and Blacks website for more recipes and information on their organic, fairtrade chocolate.
Matching chocolate with wine is challenging (it definitely warrants an entry to itself). But I love a challenge, so that is fortunate. The 'problem' lies in the fact that chocolate has this wonderful melting quality which totally coats the mouth - few wines can make it through the barrier! Fortified wines work best. And they have to be seriously sweet (at least as sweet as the dessert in question).
We enjoyed a Pedro Ximenez sherry with this. Almost black with a treacle-like intensity (and consistency), it is as deeply wicked as the pudding with its glorious figgy, dark muscovado sugar flavour. It is also divine poured over good vanilla ice cream.
I recommend -
Fernando de Castilla Antique Pedro Ximenez - £17.50 (The Wine Society)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

In the beginning, there was food...

I have to confess, that having spent some time creating this blog, I am now at a slight loss as to what I should write in my first 'posting'. I'm new to this...

Should I dive straight in and tell you about the divine chocolate mousse cake I served to some lucky friends last night, perhaps adding a photo of it oozing gently on the plate adorned with a few raspberries? Or perhaps tell you about the great coriander-laden swordfish I ate at La Porte des Indes on Wednesday? Or maybe give some sort of gripping introductory spiel about why I have started this blog? Hard to say really...

I'll return to the chocolate and the swordfish later. First, an introduction. This blog is an outlet for my food-related ramblings. I think about food pretty much all of the time. Right now, I'm wondering what I might have for supper. I'm mentally checking out the fridge -spinach, some fresh pasta, a convenient jar of sun-blush tomatoes, a tub of mascarpone. That could work...

I digress...

I plan to talk about what I'm eating and cooking, share recipes that I love, try and take a few arty photos of my most presentable creations. I'll review restaurants I visit, along with foodie shops and markets. I'll share interesting foodie facts. I'll probably rant a little. You'll have to indulge me. I like to rant. But it will be food-related ranting. About people who cut out carbohydrates probably.

As for wine, well, that is my other passion. I happen to work with wine all day long. I organise wine tastings and events. Not a bad job for a foodie really. So, I'll talk a fair bit about wine too. What I've been drinking, what I've enjoyed, what I've been drinking it with. I'm interested in food and wine matching so I may give a few hints and tips along the way.

I'd love you to join in - I'd welcome your comments and suggestions. Don't hold back. I'll indulge your rants too!

I am not, by the way, some sort of domestic goddess who bakes fresh bread at the drop of the hat, makes her own pasta on a regular basis or whips up a souffle in the blink of an eyelid. I love to cook but I'm not entirely against a tub of ready-made pasta sauce for those evenings when I get home late or can't be bothered. I'll make bread, yes, but it will be at the weekend, there will be flour all over the kitchen and I might well miss out a key ingredient (hopefully not the yeast).

In short, I love making, eating and talking about food. I am no expert, no culinary genius. Just... a bit of a foodie.