Monkfish and Beet Tartare at the Blaggers' Banquet

Blaggers Banquet I clambered into the whites rolled out the knifes and pushed on to get the starter done. In collaboration with the Scandelicious Signe we decided that I would make monkfish and beet tartare and for this we managed to scoop the best monk tails available on this island.

Paul Trudgeon from Fish for Thought, based in Cornwall, heroically drove all the way London on a Sunday to make sure we had the freshest possible produce to give the banquet diners. He arrived at 2 pm with more than 4 kilos of gleaming fish. The recipe I was using (based heavily on this one) recommended that the fish marinades for 8 hours before the fish is sliced and diced; time I didn’t have. Having prepped the tomato, walnut oil and, sherry vinegar marinade in the morning I had no choice but to dice the fish and combine the two and leave it for as long a possible before plating.

I decided to ‘autumn-up’ the dish with the addition of a beetroot disk under the tartare stack and dress the plate with a zingier concasse than the recipe suggests, capers lemon juice helped here. This dish isn’t a molecular masterpice but the flavours are quite subtle and can’t be messed with too much, the freshest of fish is essential. It would have been improved had the fish been marinated whole overnight as the tails would have taken on more flavour and a drier mix would have produced a dish slicker in appearance.

A massive thank you to Fish for Thought who not only made the ten hour round trip to deliver the star ingredient for my starter but they also donated a £50 voucher for the auction. The night was a great success, lots of money was made for Action Against Aunger and it was a huge honour to be able to cook for fifty discerning paying guests. Hats of to everyone who helped out front and in the kitchen, but especially Signe and Niamh! more images of the BB available here

All Photographs by Mark N - -

more images of the BB available here

The Coach & Horses (pub grub proper)

The word gastropub no longer guarantees that the boozer in question will have a strong line of good beers, a relaxing environment in which to enjoy the delicious and fairly priced food. This is place that should cost less than the white tablecloth crew but a more than the ‘fry the lot’ standardised brewery pub.

More and more we see the so-called ‘gastro’ charging full-on restaurant prices coupled with a lacklustre booze list in an environment that is neither pub nor dining room. Pimping the menu seems like a good answer to a pub in a bad economic situation. Rebrand yourself as a gastro pub, crank up the food prices with an identikit menu, put jugs of Bloody Mary on the bar on a Sunday and hope the more affluent buggy brigade fill you to the rafters every weekend. But is it a pub? Is it a restaurant with ale on tap and a pubby vibe? What is going on? Sadly there are so many schizophrenic restopubs out there the outlook is often bleak.

I went to a restopub last week where the ‘business development manager’ had pompously told me that:

‘[he] came in got rid of all the old shit, changed the menu completely retrained the staff, redesigned the kitchen and just concentrated on simple, well sourced ingredients served with out messing them about’ and was ‘just trying to keep things honest’.

After I had puked my bland lamb cutlets all over his natty brown brogues, I remembered that I had actually been in there a year before and it seemed what he was telling me was the opposite of what had happened. It had been a charming local boozer that made lovely food that cost between ten and fourteen quid a main not the £16 plus; provenance justified ‘well hung’ hunk of meat served on a piece of reclaimed driftwood nor the Brakes Bro’s out the freezer into the fryer fayre.

One proper gastro pub that is getting it totally right is the Coach and Horses in Farringdon. The lack of gloss and pretence at the Coach and Horses makes it seem like boozer that has remained unchanged for years, certainly before the dawn of the gastropub. This place really gets a bulls eye every time; its cosy but big enough to be private and you feel like it’s a pub with really good food, this is definitely a gastropub.

Genial owner Giles explains that ‘he wants food to be fun, not sculpture on a plate, nothing silly, just fun’. Every few week they get in half a pig, butcher it, brine it, smoke it, hang it, press it, and slice it into something that you can really relish. Scotch eggs, that have been dubbed the best in London, sit along side pints of prawns, duck hearts, charcuterie platters (all home cured), perfectly cooked whole quails, and interesting cheeses intended to be mixed and matched. Ranging between £2-6 a plate you can get a bite for under a tenner or you can have a proper slap-up for more.

This is a proper pub with proper pints and wicked food that had been made great by care and attention and I’m going back… a lot!

The Coach & Horses
26-28 Ray Street

The Blaggers’ Banquet 2009

So the Blaggers' Banquet this Sunday promises to be something quite special. In aid of Action Against Hunger an aggressive posse of seasoned blaggers have got their hustling on and managed to get hold of a mountain of tasty ingredients for the dinner, that will take place this Sunday 15th at Hawksmoor in the city.

We will be using prime ingredients ranging from buffalo steaks, wagyu beef, iberico jamon, organic fruit and veg, top grade chocolates, stunning biodynamic wine and loads of beer. The dinner will be gargantuan in scale, and with a tonne of booze it will be a great night. There will also be some really heavy goodie bags to take home, so many organisations, food producers, farms and publishers had given so much to the event. Another exciting part of the proceedings will be the auction, there are so many great things to get hold of such as a Kitchen aids, dinner at some of London best restaurants, unique opportunities to meet the greatest chefs in their kitchens, signed cookery books, wine, spirits and lots of other edible treats.

Ticket are on sale via this link, be sure not to miss out. It’s all for charity and you will not be disappointed with what we have to offer! Don’t be shy show us your pie…..