Passo London, a one week pop-up and the impeccable pizza of Nancy Silverton…

Nancy Silverton. Californian, chef, baker, restaurateur, author and, oh yeah, casual pizza legend.

I have a teeny, tiny, giant, supersized girl crush on this funky, talented, smart, warm woman which began with her ‘Chef’s Table’ episode on Netflix and was firmly assured after lunch last Friday at her one-week pop-up in Passo, one of London’s loveliest Italian restaurants just off the Old St roundabout.

Beautifully shaded in a palette of nudes that Bobbi Brown herself would be proud to out her name to, this is a vast dining room but one that feels delightfully intimate thanks to the cosy bar, the varied table sizes, the honeyed caramel décor accents and the warm daylight that streams in through floor to ceiling windows at the back. Staff are friendly & welcoming, happy to chat and eager to ensure your time there is a good one plus there’s a buzz through the space that was apparent as both a gentle murmuring at the start of service and then a fully obvious delivery of all-out good times once every table was full.

Silverton, dough master & all round exceptional culinary talent, was visible during our lunch on the last day of a residency that saw 900+ covers make their way through the restaurant in a week and her touch was apparent in every dish that emerged from the open plan kitchen.

*Sidenote, whilst waiting for my friend to arrive, I may or may not have texted that I could ‘see Nancy on the pass’, thereby forever cementing my place as a total geek on the food landscape in which I live…judge me not dear reader, you too dwell there or you wouldn’t be reading this.

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Surrender your lunch to the colours and flavours of the Med…

Weekend lunches. They’re the best because they’re generally tastier, usually a little more involved & often more exciting than the midweek, midday meals that sometimes sustain rather than delight…agree?

I knew you would, you’re such a well-read, edibly curious & always adventurous crowd and so with that in mind, let’s talk tapenade. Named after the Provencal word for ‘capers’ but with the first records of it being eaten emerging from Italy, this spread of the Med is traditionally made with a mixture of finely chopped olives, capers & olive oil. Whilst the components of a tapenade have been adapted over the years, two things remain constant – made right, this soft paste is always packed full of savoury flavour and made for you, it’s a total cheat’s dream for speedy meals. Read More

Pasta aglio e olio; the simplest & most delicious chef’s pasta…

Have you ever noticed how gorgeous movie food looks? How glossy the sauces are, how plump the sausages, how vibrant the salads, how drippy the burgers, how beautiful the patisserie, basically how much it makes you want to eat despite the fact you’re not even vaguely hungry? Ok, well, I’m not sure I ever have that feeling because OH MY GOD, I’M ALWAYS HUNGRY…

…uh, apologies. Not sure where that came from but it’s probably got something to do with the fact that a) I am genuinely always snuffling around for the next thing to eat and b) I had the most amazing, wickedly good & suspiciously simple pasta dish recently and it’s this that we’re going to chat about today.

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Hands up who’s seen the film ‘Chef’? Oh good, that’s most of you…except you back there. Yeah, you in the red sweater…you’ve not seen ‘Chef’? Like, seriously not seen it? Ok well the minute you’ve finished reading this article – woah, woah, woah, WHEN you’ve finished it I said, not now, sit back down please – as I was saying, the minute you finish reading this article, go watch it, inhale it, devour it then come back here and we’ll get cooking.

It’s such a fantastic film, I can’t even tell you how much I adore it and the food they cook in it. Every time I watch it, I’m reminded not only of how much I love ingredients and dishes and menus and prepping and cooking but also of how really great food brings people together in ways nothing else can.

Cooking is an act of love, of support and of generosity and of nourishment. I want to feed you, your stomach and your heart, I want to welcome you to my table, to make you feel good and I want to see in your eyes that exact moment when you taste something and wonder how or why you’ve never had it before but you know you want it, you want a lot of it and you want it now and forever more.

If you want to make something for someone that makes them feel that way, this is the recipe to do it with – Pasta Aglio e Olio or ‘chef’s pasta’ as it’s known in our house, simply translated as ‘pasta with garlic and oil’. Created especially for the film by superstar chef and food-truck founder Roy Choi, it’s temptation on a plate. Seriously, if you’ve ever had a Korean taco that changed your life, you should probably send a quiet thank-you to the man whose modern way of thinking about food is totally influencing what we eat and how.

(For more information about the recipe or the other dishes from the film, head to chefthemovie.com)

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INGREDIENTS (for 2 people)

  • 225 grams of spaghetti (fresh or dried is fine, just follow cooking times on packet; I like to use wholewheat)
  • 120 ml of olive oil
  • 4 decent sized garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 110 grams flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 110 grams fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • rock salt & fresh black pepper

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METHOD

  • Put a large pan of salted water on to boil then add the spaghetti and cook according to the instructions; dried pasta will usually take around 10-12 minutes to leave it a little al dente (‘with bite’) and not soggy.
  • Heat your olive oil in another pan over a low to medium heat; you don’t want your oil too hot or your garlic will burn and be inedible and you will be very sad and hungry.
  • Add all of your sliced garlic and stir frequently until it turns golden brown.
  • Add your red pepper flakes and a generous pinch of rock salt and fresh black pepper; turn the heat down very low now while you finish your pasta.
  • Drain your spaghetti but do not rinse; you want the remnants of pasta water to ‘grab hold’ of the oil when you combine the two.
  • Add your drained spaghetti directly to the pan with the garlic & red pepper oil and gently mix everything together until each strand is coated with oil.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, add your parsley and most of your Parmesan and toss everything together well.
  • Check your seasoning and add more salt & pepper if necessary.
  • Squeeze your lemon over everything to taste
  • Serve with the last of the Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

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I like to serve this with fresh crusty bread to mop up all of that gorgeous garlicky oil but you feel free to go ahead and lick the plate clean if needs be, you’ll find no judgement from me. A goldfish bowl sized glass of red wine also goes down a treat alongside it.

This is one of those dishes that looks as though it takes a hell of a lot more time & effort than it actually does. The reality is it’s simple and the beauty is you’ll get to sincerely enjoy & appreciate a few quality ingredients in one bowl.

The garlic is crazy sweet and pungent, the red pepper flakes add the tiniest dab of heat and the lemon cuts through the richness of the oil. All of that spooned onto twirls of soft pasta…swooning right now. Trust me when I say this is the dish to make when you wanna impress but doubt your own skills…it’s a glorious golden swirl of Italy guaranteed to seduce all who come before it.

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