Sunday, 13 November 2011


The London Foodie's been, and raved about it on his blog.  We recommended it to an East London hipster, who went and loved it. 

So we book Ferdie's Food Lab with anticipation and a touch of anxiety.  Ferdie's Food Lab is a cutting-edge supper club set up by one of the pioneers of the movement: inventive cooking, powerful flavours, unexpected combinations of ingredients, tastes and textures.  Then a tweet for help from Simon (Ferdie):

"my KITCHEN staff bailed on me! if U can help from any time possible till 23.30"

Twitter evidently comes to the rescue and the supper club survives. I am sure the menu is compromised, but nonetheless, there are some inspired moments, especially the sweet potato tortilla and the cheesecake; everyone loves the Black Olive Ganache and Salted Lemon Fudge with Limoncello petit fours.  The main dish is a meaty, caramelized slab of pork belly, infused with pear preserve. But without accompaniments (the pureed gourd seems to have decamped with the kitchen staff) it seems a bit naked on the plate, and we are not alone afterwards in scouring Commercial Street for a top-up of quick, hot carbs (sadly, Codfellas, the chippy opposite, has just shut).
A kitchen crisis in a restaurant tends to mean a disappointing evening, but a supper club is different.  Everyone is up for a good time: passing under the fairy lights, we have entered a magical world; we are all sharing in a special, secret event, one that sets us apart from the ordinary crowd.  Our new best friends are from Uruguay, Finland, Brooklyn NY and Australia, a very international crew. The Brooklynites break open a fantastic bottle of four grains bourbon which caps an already very liquid evening.

We will return.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


In almost every culture, pomegranate seeds represent fertility and good fortune; it is common in parts of the eastern Mediterranean to give pomegranates as good luck tokens to families moving into a new home. The Greek myth to explain the changing seasons turns on the five pomegranate seeds eaten by Persephone which commit her to spending six months in the underworld (when winter comes to the world as Demeter, her mother and goddess of fertility, mourns her absence) and six months back on earth (when the green leaves return as Demeter celebrates). It is easy to see why Persephone was tempted by the seeds: bite into their crunchy texture and little bombs of sharp flavour explode in your mouth.
 Although pomegranates originated in Iran and Azerbaijan, they have now spread across the world, popular for their flowers and fruitTheir sweet-sour taste is also highly prized by cooks; here is a recipe, appropriately from Azerbaijan and adapted from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen, that depends on their sweet acidity. The spices, nuts and juice combine to create a rich, thick, highly flavoured sauce, just right for the start of winter.

1            large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
750g      stewing lamb, cubed
1/4 tsp   turmeric
1/4 tsp   saffron threads, crushed
1/2 tsp   cinnamon
1 tsp      ground fennel seeds
1/2 litre  pomegranate juice
3 tbs      pomegranate molasses
2 tbs      tomato paste
6           soft prunes, pureed
100g      ground walnuts
1/2 litre  chicken stock
2 tsp      honey
250g      chestnuts (baked in the oven or ready cooked in a tin)
100g      dried apricots (soaked for a couple of hours if they are hard and dry)
2 tsp      turkish pepper flakes
              salt and pepper
              fresh mint and pomegranate seeds to garnish.
Serves 4.
Saute the onions and garlic over medium heat in a large, heavy pan until golden.
Increase the heat and brown the lamb cubes, stirring all the times.
Stir in turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, fennel seeds and stir for a few minutes.
Add the pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, pureed prunes, ground walnuts and stock. Bring up to the boil and then cover and simmer over a low heat for 90 minutes.  If sauce gets too thick, add more pomegranate juice to loosen it.
Add honey, chestnuts, apricots, pepper flakes and salt; simmer for another 10 - 15 minutes. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Garnish with plenty of fresh mint and pomegranate seeds and serve with steamed rice.

The mint and pomegranate seeds add colour and flavour to the dish.