Centre stage vegetables with A Bit on the Side’s Ed Smith…

Described as a class full of inspiring side dishes, this demonstration at Divertimenti from Rocket & Squash’s Ed Smith was a welcome breath of fresh, light, flavourful, vegetarian air. Three hours, seven dishes and a lot of chat resulted in a slew of new ideas for both dressing up the supporting acts on your plate and also turning them into dishes worthy enough of being crowned the main event. Familiar, accessible & non-threatening ingredients like cauliflower, carrots & new potatoes sat comfortably alongside arguable wild-cards like seaweed, carrot tops & green tomatoes.

Ed, a former lawyer-turned-blogger-turned-writer-turned-chef, was friendly, easy going and totally at home juggling multiple pans; it felt less like we were in a Brompton Road basement kitchen and more sat round his table at home, dog underfoot & vino in hand. FYI I have no idea if Ed has a dog but he seemed like a nice guy and we all know – cat lovers look away now – that the best people in life have dogs.

The first dish of the night was one that could easily pass as a centrepiece statement rather than being relegated to the ‘sides’ bench. Chunky cauliflower florets were roasted in a mixture of rapeseed oil and cumin salt before being tumbled onto a platter with crispy roasted chickpeas, blanched spring greens and dollops of lemony, sumac sprinkled tahini. The blend of so-hip-they-hurt Middle Eastern flavours paired beautifully with the textures & colours of this minimum-fuss, maximum-flavour dish.IMG_7080Next, two gorgeously simple ways to dress up the kitchen knockout that is the Jersey Royal. One of our loveliest & most seasonal vegetables, usually Elvis-approved amounts of butter and a twist of black pepper are enough to elevate this humble little spud but here, Ed showed us the savoury moreishness of dulse seaweed melted into butter and a traditional-with-a-twist pesto made with ferny carrot top fronds. Vibrant yet delicate and eye-wideningly delicious, these brought the idea of how a Jersey Royal should be served into the modern age of cooking.IMG_7082

IMG_7081A traditional American wedge salad usually arrives drowning in blue cheese dressing and creaking under a mountain of bacon bits; Ed’s lighter & more summery version came with a dill-heavy buttermilk dressing that was joyfully fragrant and worth making double of because life’s too short for skimpy amounts of dressing, translucent radish slices and umami-packed soy seeds & popped quinoa. It may sound like a lot of elements but each took only moments to prepare, making the overall end result well worth the effort.IMG_7089Grilled green tiger tomatoes were sprinkled with white pepper and chilli leaving them fresh, juicy & sharp… IMG_7084…a fennel & tarragon salad delivered a beautifully clean, subtle aniseed tang and carrots were given a new lease of life, one that was silky with brown butter, full of chopped hazelnuts & fresh parsley and pan-to-plate ready in minutes.IMG_7085Great tips such as ‘cauliflower always needs a good 45 minutes to roast properly not the 20 minutes designated by cookbooks on a space-page budget’ and a desire to use the entirety of each vegetable & avoid excess waste were two of the nicest qualities of the evening, along with the fact that everything made could be used on so many more blank canvasses than those we saw painted tonight. Nothing was overly complicated, everything was delicious and it was inspiring, in our increasingly plant based culinary landscape, to see vegetables take their moment in the spotlight.

 

Korean food done quickly, done well & done deliciously at Mee Market…

Mee Market is one of London’s newest and shiniest hidden gems in both the fast-casual lunching landscape and the delicious Korean food scene. Opened earlier this year and tucked away behind ‘Les Miserables’ on Shaftesbury Avenue, it’s the sort of place you bookmark for a return visit while you’re still finishing the rice bowl in front of you.

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It isn’t big, although there’s room to sit & dine in downstairs, but it is gorgeously unpretentious with beautifully clean lines of white marble counters, wooden crates of rainbow produce and shelves of Korean groceries & homeware that will make you want to fill one of the linen tote bags with things you’ve never heard of before to take away. Mee Market can also lay claim to some of the sweetest & loveliest staff in the capital; smiley, a tiny bit shy and a little bit giggly, they are absolutely delightful and happy to both explain what things are and to offer quietly honest opinions.

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Freshly made to order rice & noodle bowls & boxes are generously sized so go hungry and in need of spicy flavours & layered textures. Prices run from £6.90 – £8.90 for the bowls and sides start at £3 and whilst you could definitely share, I’d suggest getting two different things and rotating halfway through because really, isn’t that the whole point of having a dining with a friend?

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We did just that with the Mee Bowl and the BBQ Bowl, both with spicy chicken. There are plenty of different gorgeously flavoured component parts to choose when assembling your dish; everything from egg to bean sprouts and kimchi to edamame is fresh, colourful & delicious and with different sauces, proteins & rice and noodles to select from, I guarantee anyone will be able to piece together a lunch they’ll love.

Korean food is big right now but while a lot of places start and focus on fried chicken and beef bulgogi, both of which totally have their place in life and my belly, Mee Market offers something a little bit lighter, fresher and crisper and if you love the complex flavours & spices of Korea, you’ll find yourself one very happy person eating here.

Farm Girl and the latte that won my coffee haters’ heart…

Farm Girl aka the place that made me like coffee. I’m not still quite yet the sort of person who downs triple shots of espresso until I’m as buzzed up as Donald Trump at the thought of a golden arches drive-through but I am now the sort of gal who enjoys a Liquid Gold Latte, made with cinnamon, turmeric & astragalus…

Originally opened in Notting Hill a few years ago when the rush for Aussie goodness in the form of London brunching really took off, Farm Girl delivers on trend ingredients, served beautifully and with a reasonable price-tag. Never take these 3 things lightly in a city where you’d be correct for thinking upon entering that the choice between paying your gas bill or feeding your avo-toast habit will now be an ever permanent question of your life. Read More