Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Pond Pudding

I saw the pond pudding made by Sophie Grigson on Raymond Blanc's program a few weeks ago and since then I've been wanting to make my own. I'm not used to making desserts so rarely do but this one intrigued me because of its simplicity and cleverness. It is essentially the same as a steak and kidney pudding but instead of meat and offal it has a load of brown sugar, butter and some lemons inside it. The idea is that while it slowly steams for several hours the butter and sugar turn into a caramel which candies the lemon and the flavour and fragrance of the lemon infuse and flavour the pudding.

To make the pudding you need to have a decent sized pudding bowl and a pot big enough to fit the bowl in with the lid on. You also need to have some suet, self raising flour, milk, a load of butter, a load of light brown sugar and one large or two small unwaxed lemons. Some foil and string are also needed to tie the thing together.

I started by making some simple suet pastry by mixing 120g suet, 250g self raising flour and some milk. I used vegetarian suet as a vegetarian would eat some but the proper chefs say you should use beef suet. Once ready the pastry lined the pudding bowl which I had already greased with butter. I also made a disc of pastry for the lid which goes on later.

To make the filling I loosly mixed 200g of light brown sugar with 250g of butter. To give you an understanding of how good the pudding is for you 250g of butter is one whole packet of butter from the supermarket. The butter and sugar went into the pudding bowl. Two small lemons were pricked all over and then put on top of the butter and sugar.

The pastry lid then went on top.

The most difficult part for me was tying the foil onto the bowl. You have to put a lid of foil on top and tie it securley so no water gets into the pudding while cooking. I didn't have any string so had to go out to the local hardware shop to get some after failing to get a tight enough seal with ribbon or picture wire. I am rubbish at tying knots so got someone else to do the tying for me. I also got them to make a handle for me which is important so you can lift the pudding out of the water later without burning yourself.

When the pudding was all sealed and tied up it was lowered into a large pan of boiling water which was filled to half way. A lid was put onto the pan. The pudding was then cooked for four hours. You need to check occasionally that the water level stays the same and top up if nessesary. It should be kept at a gentle boil for the duration of cooking.

After the four hours was up I lifted to pudding out of the water, removed the string and foil and turned the pudding out onto a plate. As you can see from the photos the reason it's called Pond Pudding is because of the pond of juices that seep out of the bottom of the pudding.

The pudding was cut up and served with a little bit of double cream which is needed to dampen the sweetness. I made sure everyone got a bit of lemon which had candied on the outside and was surprisingly eatable.

The pudding was proper stodgy. I believe it was puddings made from suet pastry that the term stodge was invented for. The flavour the lemon gives to this dish cuts through a lot of the sweet stodgyness to make the consumption of such a rich sickly sweet dessert extremely enjoyable. It's not as sharp and citrusy as I imagined it would be as a lot of the flavour comes from the rind of the lemon rather that the flesh so the sauce is bit like a lemon marmalade.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Mason and Taylor

I never got around to eating at Green and Reds before it unexpectedly closed down. Its empty premises at the Shoreditch end of Bethnal Green Road opposite the top of Brick Lane has now been filled by an interesting new place which I visited today called Mason and Taylor. It's apparently run by the people behind The Duke of Wellington which is a nice pub off Balls Pond Road.

Mason and Taylor is a craft beer bar which serves british food. The bar is in part of the same new build urban regeneration block as the Rich Mix cinema which of could seemed a bit Pizza Express but they've done well to give it a industrial brewery chic look by using a lot of concrete and a few old school chairs.

I've got to say the beer menu is the best I've seen in this country. Unlike other places which stock a vareity of dishwater flavoured stale ales or are obsessed with Belgium clones Mason and Taylor have a menu of different styles and flavours of beer on draft and in bottles from the UK, Europe and the US. They also stock well sourced ciders, sprits etc etc. I went for a pint of Camden brewery porter (they had two porters on tap!) and Mathilde went for a Brooklyn lager which was also draught and I would go as far as saying it's arguably the best pint of lager you can get in London at the moment. American lager actually tastes of something and in Brooklyn Lager you can taste the fragrant hops and the caramel of the malt.

As they serve so many different beers if you do want to try a load without getting wasted Mason and Taylor serve 1/3 pint glasses in nifty little wooden triangles.

The food in Mason and Taylor is British dishes which are in fashion now but they serve them in a meze or dimsum way. All the meals on the menu are small little plates which your suggested to order three or four of to get a proper meal. The dishes are £3 if from the starter/side bit or around £6 if from the mains bit which is actually not too bad compared to multiple small dish chains like Ping Pong and Wahacca. I went for the woodpigeon breast and some new potatoes. Mathilde went for the oysters and the smoked salmon on toast. We were only having small meals as I had a pond pudding slowly steaming at home.

My pigeon dish did look funnily like some kind of miniaturized meal with a tiny but perfectly cooked breast and two tablespoons of mash, one celeriac and one mustard. It was very good, surprisingly so for the price. Mathilde's oysters and salmon also looked pretty good although I didn't taste any. My new potatoes oddly enough weren't a miniature portion like the rest of the dishes but I'm not going to complain about getting too much food.

One thing about the place which did bug me is that it doesn't feel as if it's found it's identity. The service was great and you get proper table service however a lot of customers were just going to the bar and ordering like a normal pub. While we were eating a large group of men came in and stood by the bar and because of it's proximity were also drifting around the diners while chatting. It seems some customers think the place is a pub and some think it's a restaurant. It may be able to be both but Mason and Taylor need to sort out their table arrangement or something as it a bit confusing. I will however say the music played over the system was actually quite good, non offensive but still interesting. So many placed in Shoreditch completely get this aspect wrong.


I've been back to Mason and Taylor and it's got worse. The quality of the food has fallen. The small plates on the menu don't really complement each other so it's very difficult to have a decent meal. I was given a measly, tiny and quite poor tasting toad in the hole with a giant bowl of jerusalem artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes should never be served in this quantity as they are now doing somersaults in my guts.

The service system has now gone completely mental. No one in the place knows if they are having table service or if they should go to the bar. Most customers after waiting for any kind of acknowledgement from the staff end up going up to the bar to order drinks. The people that do want food as no staff approach and ask just grab a menu from the side themselves and then are surprised when a waiter appears within 5 minutes asking for an order.

Mason and Taylor here's some advice: You need to clarify what you are. If you are going to have table service you must table serve everyone. As soon as anyone comes into the premises all it takes is a member of staff to ask if they are eating or only want drinks. They then seat them appropriately, give them the relevant menus and go back to take the order etc, etc. It's the initial greeting and seating on the customers entry which is important. this is where you set the parameters for the customer to exist in while they are in your premises. At the moment it's a chaotic free for all. Please if you change this let me know I'll return. I want to like your bar so please sort it out?

Monday, 21 March 2011

Been Watching

The food based programme I am most enjoying at the moment is Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets. Raymond is absolutely bonkers which is a good contrast against the haute cuisine style of food he makes. He spends most of the programme shouting "Adam!" repeatedly to his poor sous chef and playing silly games like a drunk uncle.I had a go at the moules marinières which were made on the seafood episode but a lot of the other things are quite difficult to make at home. For example it's quite good to see how to make cured duck ham but I doubt I'll ever find room in my fridge to hang the duck breast for 12 days.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Well what better or more pompous food stuff could I start the relaunch of this blog with other than truffles?

I was bought a bottle of truffle oil by some of my friends this Christmas and I have been enjoying a splash of this interesting new flavour on scrambled eggs and risotto. Recently while mentioning the truffle oil to another friend, Jake, it turned out coincidentally that Jake had just returned from living in the south of France with a number of black truffles he needed to use before they went off. Just yesterday I was treated to a lunch at Jake's house which incorporated both truffles and truffle oil.

This is the truffle we ate, it is a melanosporum truffle also known as a black diamond. These are supposed to be the best truffles available which grow around the roots of oak trees around southern France and Italy. Jake obtained this truffle by going to the truffle market in Richerenches. Jake's family have a farm in the Rhone-Alps region so luckily he can speak French and has he has lived locally for the last year he has some knowledge of truffle market etiquette . Apparently the overpriced posh stalls are to be avoided and shady deals round back alleys will get you the best truffle for your money.

Now the flavour of truffle is very interesting, complex and quite hard to describe. Truffles are fungi so are closely related to mushrooms. I would say that one part of the taste of truffles is similar to the dark earthy flavour you get in mushrooms but much deeper yet also cleaner. I also think they taste a bit like the way petrol smells but without any of the toxicity. They are musty but in a good way.

I also discovered after eating fresh truffle for the first time that there is a lot of difference between eating the truffle and using truffle infused olive oil. Truffle oil actually has much more of a heady musty truffle flavour than the actual truffles.

Jake prepared two courses for lunch the first was a celeriac salad with a dressing made from truffle oil. In this dish the dark oily must of the truffle oil worked well with the clean fresh flavoured celeriac.

The second dish was a cod and potato hash with a huge amount of fresh black truffle grated on top. even though we ere eating much more truffle in this dish the flavour was far more delicate than the oil. Using truffle oil it is possible to completely over power the dish using the actual truffles however you get a much more subtle delicate flavour which adds a different dimension of taste. In a way truffle adds interest to flavours. The meals which benifit the most from the addition of truffles are omelettes, creamy pasta, creamy potato and light risotto dishes. A grating of truffle to these kind of foods enhances and completes them. Truffles in a way are the contained essence of dark heady, oily roast meats and stews.

As a surprise at the end of the meal Jake pulled out a bottle of truffle aperitif which is one of the souvenoirs you can pick up at french truffle markets. It actually tasted quite good. It had the flavour of truffle mixed with a sweet white dessert wine. Quite odd to get you flavour head round though. It did go well with the excellent pavlova which Sarah made to finish the lunch. The pavlova was a great light finish to the truffle experience.