Thursday, 6 April 2017

Sal's Kitchen has MOVED!

Blogger has been the home of Sal's Kitchen for five years, but it was time to move on to somewhere with a little more space. Our new home is at www.salskitchenblog.com (please come & visit!) and this blog will be deleted shortly. Questions/problems/want to say hello? Email me at hello@salskitchenblog.com.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Brilliant #BathIndieChat Supper Club

Remember the brilliant Twitter community I run for Bath’s amazing independent businesses? It’s called #bathindiechat and it’s all about supporting and promoting what makes Bath special. Last week, we got together at Barton St Wine Bar for our latest social, a supper club celebrating loads of brilliant local food producers.

The fabulous Beth (aka The Free Range Chef), one of my #bathindiechat regulars, was in the kitchen, and created a delicious three course menu with a staggering 80% of all ingredients used being sourced locally – how awesome is that? Brilliant local suppliers involved included Mayfield Organic, New MacDonalds Farm, Bath Farm Girls, Bath Harvest, The Oven, Pistachio Provenance and more.

The best houmous ever
We started out with herby millet falafel, cauliflower chermoula, fattoush salad, and 3 bean houmous with beetroot crisps and homemade pittas. Just writing about it now is making my mouth water because it was so delicious – it’s tough to pick a favourite, but the 3 bean houmous was incredible and I loved the chermoula too, which was full of flavour.

For our second course, the inspiration was a little more Italian – parmigiana, loaded with cheese and sprinkled with fresh watercress, crispy polenta, Jerusalem artichoke puree with watercress pesto, purple sprouting cooked with garlic and lemon, and rosemary sourdough focaccia. The parmigiana was an absolute stand-out for me, but the watercress pesto was also fab (especially with the focaccia dunked into it).

Our main course feasting boards in all their glory
With our belts creaking, we moved on to the dessert course. Our dessert feasting boards were piled high with rhubarb, hazelnut and blood orange cannoli, spiced chocolate torta caprese, pistachio and rosewater baklava, and the most incredible tiramisu, all sprinkled with edible spring flowers. It was almost too pretty to eat… but we managed somehow. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of a chocolate fiend, so the torta caprese (that’s a flourless chocolate cake made with ground almonds, FYI) got my attention straightaway, but the tiramisu was my favourite – the texture was perfect, properly melt-in-the-mouth, and the flavours were beautifully balanced between boozy and chocolatey. I was absolutely stuffed but somehow still managed to polish it all off.

Dessert: almost too pretty to eat
Throughout, we were plied with excellent wines by Geoff, the brains behind Barton St Wine Bar, and we had a brilliant time, with lots of excellent conversation, good food and good wine – to my mind, there’s nothing else you need for a really cracking night.

Are you feeling like you missed out? That’s because you did. But fear not, I’ve got plenty more socials planned and we will definitely be holding another of Beth’s brilliant supper clubs. To make sure you’re first in line next time, just follow @bathindiechat on Twitter and keep an eye out…

Friday, 10 March 2017

Review: Didi Cakes

Pretty irresistible 

I’d be the first to admit that I’m not usually a cupcake fan – so often, they look amazing, but it’s a case of style over substance, with the actual cake itself being dry or tasteless. I’m happy to report, however, that Didi Cakes in Bath have cracked it, creating absolutely stunning cupcakes which, incredibly, taste even better than they look.

One of my favourite things about Bath is that it’s always buzzing with somewhere new to discover. Lately, Didi Cakes has been popping up all over my Twitter feed, so on a beautiful spring day when I didn’t fancy spending the afternoon inside, I thought I’d go for a stroll down Walcot St and find it. Walcot St is always a lovely place for strolling, because it’s one of Bath’s bastions of independence – you won’t see any chains here, just interesting little boutiques, bars and artisan workshops. Down at the quieter end, away from the city centre, is this cheerful little bright blue bakery – and boy, is it worth finding.

More shop than café, the space is mainly taken up by a large, curving glass case full of mouth-watering treats, from beautiful occasion cakes on elegant stands, to delicate French patisserie, to a rainbow of pretty cupcakes in a huge range of flavours. Although the principal focus is takeaway, there is also a counter with twirly stools where you can perch and tuck into a cake, along with tea, coffee or hot chocolate, and you can also peek into the workspace behind and see where the magic happens – on the day I visited, cupcakes were being expertly topped with a perfect swirl of frosting and a drizzle of caramel.

Unable to make a decision, I sought advice from Alex, behind the counter (who helps run Didi Cakes along with her parents, Daniella & John, so it’s a proper, old-fashioned family business) and she recommended the peanut butter. It was utterly delectable – light, fluffy chocolate cake topped with the most amazing frosting made (I’m told) with a mixture of peanut butter and ganache, so it was gorgeously creamy. I knew immediately that I was going to have to buy some more cupcakes to take home, so after much deliberation I chose a red velvet cupcake decorated with the classic cream cheese icing, and a banoffee cupcake topped with caramel cream cheese icing, a drizzle of caramel sauce and a dried banana chip – both were very good but I think I’d ultimately recommend the banoffee, as I’m just not quite a convert to the red velvet craze. Luckily, at £2.50 each (or just £1, for the adorable mini cupcakes!) you can easily afford to try them all…

I was a little worried about getting the cupcakes home, but of course, these chaps have thought that through with some great little takeaway boxes that kept everything looking just as perfect as it was in the shop. They’ve got a wide menu of options when it comes to supplying everything from parties to corporate events, so if you really want to impress your guests (or butter up your employees) then visit their website here. Otherwise, feel free to use this glowing recommendation as an excuse to simply saunter down there and treat yourself to a cupcake – go on, you deserve it.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Cherry Amaretti



These delicate, chewy miniature cookies are always guaranteed to impress – but you’ll be surprised by how simple they are to make! With only four ingredients, you can whip up a batch really quickly for any occasion. Traditionally they’re made with almonds, and I had a flash of inspiration that Sugar & Crumbs’ Black Cherry Icing Sugar would go beautifully flavour-wise – I have to admit it was absolutely delicious. Of course, if you can’t get any, you could easily just use plain icing sugar, but I do love the combination of cherry and almond.

Note – this is not a sponsored post! I do work with Sugar & Crumbs, but I haven’t been paid or otherwise incentivised to write this post for my own blog, I just really love their product. Check out their full range of incredible flavoured icing sugars for all sorts of baking inspiration. 

Ingredients
1 egg white
95g ground almonds
75g Sugar & Crumbs Black Cherry Icing Sugar, plus extra to dust
1 tsp brandy

Makes 18

Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan), and then start by beating the egg white with an electric mixer until it’s thick, fluffy and forms stiff peaks.

Weigh out the ground almonds and Sugar & Crumbs Black Cherry Icing Sugar and mix together, then gently stir them through the beaten egg white. Finally, add the brandy and stir briefly again.

Line a baking tray with siliconized baking paper. Prepare a small plate with a good sprinkling of icing sugar, and then scoop out small blobs of the mixture (about the size of a grape) and gently roll them in the icing sugar – they’ll be pretty soft, but it should be do-able. Lay each one on the prepared baking tray, leaving at least an inch between.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 17 minutes, at which point the biscuits should be nicely puffed up but not taking on any colour. Allow them to cool on the tray, then dust with a little extra icing sugar and serve with coffee.

These amaretti will last quite well for about a week, but keep them in an airtight container to make sure they stay a little crispy on the outside.




Friday, 24 February 2017

Restaurant Review: Henry's



This little restaurant on Saville Row has only been open since last summer, but it’s already become one of my favourite recommendations, especially for a romantic dinner à deux. It’s elegant but understated, with lots of stylish details and a monochrome colour palette with touches of gold and copper. Of an evening, it’s softly candlelit and small enough to feel intimate without being cramped.

And what about the food? Well, I just love everything about the menu at Henry’s. It changes regularly, every six weeks or so, and is pleasingly restrained, with three or four options for each course. Regular readers will know I am always impressed by a short menu – I want the chef to tell me what to eat, not hedge his or her bets by cramming something in from every cuisine. As well as the regular chef’s menu, there’s also an entirely separate, entirely vegetarian menu (with vegan options available as well) and I think this is such a thoughtful detail. If you’re dining out and one of you is veggie while the other is not, it can be really hard to find somewhere that will really please both of you – and if one of you is a vegan, you might as well forget it most of the time. Henry’s not only caters for vegetarians and vegans but puts a huge amount of thought into doing so, avoiding all the usual clichés, whilst keeping even the most carnivorous diner happy too (on the evening we visited, lamb rump and loin of venison were both on the menu). That’s a serious achievement.

On this occasion, I started with a Crispy Quail’s Egg on Truffle Potato, which sounded like it was going to be fabulous and did not disappoint. I will be spending quite some time trying to recreate that incredible mashed potato myself, because it was absolutely swoonworthy, particularly when combined with velvety egg yolk. My dining companion chose a Mackerel Tartar with Horseradish Aioli, which was also delicious, and the texture of the tartar combined with crunchy fresh radish was lovely, although I do think it might have been nice with bread or toast of some kind.

Beetroot Tart and Goat Cheese Curd
For the main course, I ordered Salmon Fillet with Chickpea Sweetcorn – the salmon itself was beautifully cooked and delicious, and I really enjoyed the smoked salmon parfait that came with it, but thought the chickpeas and sweetcorn didn’t quite work as a combination. My dining companion made the better choice in this case, with a warm Beetroot Tart and Goat Cheese Curd – the flavours were exquisite and the dish looked absolutely gorgeous too.

Finally, for dessert, I opted for a Warm Chocolate Tart with Sichuan Custard, which was gloriously rich and dark rather than sweet, so ideal for the end of a meal, although it didn’t look quite as special as it tasted. My dining companion’s dessert was much more exciting in presentation, combining Peanut and Banana Parfait with Confit Lime and Caramel Sauce, and although it’s not the sort of dish I would normally order we both agreed it was delicious.

Chocolate Tart with Sichuan Custard - custard work my own!
Throughout, the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. We washed our meal down with a bottle of the house white, recommended by our waitress, which was lovely – 2015 Le Notaire Colombard, light, crisp and a little fruity. I came away still in love with Henry’s, and thoroughly impressed with the vegetarian offering, so rest assured that regardless of your dining requirements, you’ll enjoy a fantastic meal here. 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Sal's Kitchen tries... something new for 2017!

I’ve never been one to shrink away from a New Year’s Resolution – in fact, I find it a good excuse to think about what I want out of the year, set some goals and then go get ‘em. But my resolutions always take the form of doing something, rather than stopping something, because I reckon that’s a much more positive way to approach life.

This year, in January, as well as setting a few business resolutions (if you want to find out more about my blogging consultancy business, click here) I also decided that I was going to throw myself into trying a bunch of new activities and learning new skills, so the following three blog posts are about three different things I’ve had a go at so far. Have you started anything new for 2017? Write me a comment and tell me all about it!

Liqueur-Making at Combe Grove Hotel – set in a stunning location and led by one of the best mixologists in the city, during this course I learnt all about the history and mystery of liqueurs, and made my own pear, thyme & honey vodka. Highly recommended for cocktail fiends!

Lampshade-Making at Homefront Interiors – something I’ve never tried before but had a really great time doing. I came home with a gorgeous lampshade that I can’t stop admiring – perfect for interior-design aficionados who want to get a little creative.

Marmalade Make & Bake Day at Vale House Kitchen – a full day of getting cosy in the kitchen, creating the most incredible Seville orange marmalade and an armful of delicious marmalade-based bakes too. For anyone who wants to get to grips with traditional preserving skills – and marmalade fans, if you haven’t tried homemade yet, you are seriously missing out. 

Sal's Kitchen tries... Liqueur-Making, Combe Grove Hotel

This class was held in one of Combe
Grove's stunning private dining rooms
Keen-eyed readers will recognise the name of this hotel from my blog post about their fabulous tasting menu, in which each dish was accompanied by a cocktail from their marvellous mixologist, Shane Turner. I’m not really much of a cocktail person, but I have to say that these were really original and exciting, made with Shane’s own infused liqueurs and syrups, and with nary a tiny paper umbrella in sight.

With that in mind, when Combe Grove got in touch again to ask if I’d like to come to a liqueur-making workshop with their talented head barman, it didn’t take me very long to say yes. I arrived on the appointed day to find the same exquisite private dining room as before transformed into an incredible Bacchanalian feast of ingredients. Side tables overflowed with frilly bunches of fragrant herbs, piles of fat glossy strawberries, Spanish oranges wrapped in waxed paper, and golden-skinned pears.

Shane had raided the Combe Grove bar for a wide range of liqueurs (don’t worry, it was before cocktail hour) which he used to talk us through the history and practise of sweetened, flavoured spirits, from the mysterious, pale green chartreuse (made with over 130 plants to a recipe known only by two French monks, who aren’t allowed to travel together lest they perish and the secret perishes with them – true story) to Disaronno which, we learnt, is not a true amaretto (not that Disaronno claim it is) as it’s made with peach kernels instead of the traditional almonds. We sampled two different types of limoncello to compare the synthetic lemon flavouring to one infused with thick slices of lemon peel, full of fragrant oils – and agreed that the natural version, although a lot slower to make, was much deeper and more delicious.

My chosen ingredients

Then we came to the creative bit. Each of us was given a heavy glass jar and let loose amongst the bounty of ingredients to pick our flavours – I chose pears and a few sprigs of thyme, and elected to sweeten my infusion with honey, rather than sugar (a key characteristic of a liqueur is the amount of sugar added, a practice that started when sugar became widely available in the 13th century, and in a frenzy that would reduce a dentist to tears, we started adding it to everything). Finally, we topped it all up with plenty of Finlandia vodka and put the lids on tightly. Unfortunately, it takes 5 months for a proper infusion, so you’ll have to come back later to find out what it tastes like – but I had great fun on this course and would highly recommend it to any cocktail fiend. Make sure you allow time for a tipple or two in the bar afterwards.


£40 pp for a three hour course, includes your 40cl infused liqueur to take away. For more information, visit the Combe Grove Hotel website.

The finished liqueurs - ready to set down for five months...