A glorious spring full of green things, sakura-flavoured treats in a nod to the Japanese celebration of cherry blossom, and a general relief that the gloom of winter is over. We have been very much focussing on our new outlet at Netil Market which has involved painting, primping, stocking and re-stocking and a whole lot of sharpening and polishing. In between times, we have found time to get our hands on some delicious food and truffle-hunt out new delectable foodie pleasures. This month, we have been...
1) GRATING bottarga. Our new desert island ingredient. An appropriate moniker as it would be something that you could perhaps recreate if stranded on a desert island. Salted, cured fish roe that comes in a woody block that can be grated on, it turns out, pretty much anything. If you are a fan of a slightly fish umami hit, you need this in your life. The biggest hit has been to grate it over spaghetti for an almost unbeatable, almost instant supper. We've also slung some on top of mussels and clams, and straight on to hot buttered toast. It might be a little pricey but a little goes a long way, and it might look like grated red leicester but the taste is far from it (no beef with red leicester but you wouldn't want it on either mussels or spaghetti).
2) STOCKING UP on all things garden related. It turns out if you like food, you are 80% more likely to like gardening and growing things you can eat (*totally made up statistic). Well, we have been stumbling across some really beautiful vintage gardening equipment - think secateurs, herb snippers and pruning knives. We are also well aware that the Japanese also have this area of the tool market totally nailed. The research is underway to expand our offering in this area. Watch this space.
3) RECIPE CRUSHING - Saunders loves to cook. Symonds loves to cook. But sometimes even deciding what to have is far too much effort and the well of inspiration runs dry. This is when it really pays to have a couple of staple recipes up our sleeves that can be whipped out on even a weekly basis, require relatively few ingredients (or rely on a staple of store cupboard basics), and are very forgiving if ruthlessly customised. We have a new one of these hero dishes on rotation: Anna Jones' chickpea and courgette thing (found via Esther Coren). The grated courgettes are inspired and, with the chickpeas, gives the thing real heft and makes it appropriate sustenance for even the most salad-phobic. Make double quantities, if not triple, and try not to get horribly cross when SOMEONE has secretly eaten the leftovers straight out the pan and it never even made it to the fridge. Do not be put off by the slightly charred gloomy photo.
4) ADMIRING the detail you get in vintage cutlery. Bone handles? Engraved wheat sheaves or contrasting inlays? Slightly ritzy detailing around the neck? Yes please. This look might have hardened minimalists cringing but, as a decorative flourish (and boy, do we love a decorative flourish) it has its place. Plus, as everyone turned away from the cutlery canteen in favour of Mellor-minimalism (or the Ikea version thereof), beautiful pieces are out there. We have cherry picked a few for the Netil Market store.
5) REVISITING last summer's obsession with tinned fish. A conversation with a real live Portuguese person suggested that they are even better with black eyed beans rather than chickpeas. Winner.
6) WATCHING Matty Matheson. 11pm (who are we kidding? probably nearer 10PM these days), tucked up in bed. Synchronised staring at iPhones. Saunders is watching something and sniggering in a Beavis and Butthead kinda way. Turns out its Matty Matheson. I'm haven't partaken and am not 100% sure that when I do I'll get it not being from Canadia, heavily tattooed with a thing for chicken wings. But if you want to take a look, the lasagna one is apparently a good place to start.