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Exclusive SGT Summer Menu at Brula

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The Single Gourmet Traveller has teamed up once again with Lawrence Hartley to bring a wonderful exclusive menu over the summer to the blog’s followers. This was a great success last year and a lot of people took advantage of the offer to enjoy a meal at one of SW London’s best French restaurants. In fact, some people had such a good meal they went back another one or two times! Brula is where you can experience the delights of a typical Parisian brasserie – great French food and a warm and welcoming ambience – only a short distance from central London. The restaurant has won many accolades and awards over recent years and if you haven’t yet tried it, go now! And if you’re already a fan, then you’ll love this menu:

SGT Summer Menu at Brula

 3 courses, including a welcome cocktail: £19.50

Welcome cocktail

Campari Spritz  or  Hedgerow Fizz

*

Starter

Chilled yoghurt & cucumber soup

Imam bayildi

Chicken liver parfait

*

Main Course

Poached salmon with celeriac remoulade

Norfolk chicken breast with summer vegetables

Courgette tart

*

Dessert

Espresso crème brulée

Petit pot au chocolat, chopped nuts

Lemon posset

*

A discretionary optional gratuity of 12.5% will be added to your bill

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The menu costs £19.50 per person and includes 3 courses plus one welcome cocktail each. A discretionary gratuity of 12.5% will be added to your bill and any extras, including bottled water, wine, etc., will also be charged accordingly. There may be slight seasonal changes to the menu.

The menu is available exclusively to email followers of The Single Gourmet and Traveller blog. If you’re not yet a follower, all you have to do is click on the Follow Blog by Email at the top of the right-hand margin and fill in your details. If you’re a follower already, then I will have your details. Once you’re an official follower, to book a table first send an email to: singlegourmettraveller@gmail.com asking for the special code that you will need to quote when booking, then ring Brula on 020 8892 0602 to book your table. Please allow up to 24 hours to receive an answer. Hopefully I should get back to you much sooner but don’t be disappointed by waiting until the last minute to get your code. You can take the offer up as many times as you like across the period it’s running, which is all of August and September 2014 and is available for lunch or dinner 7 days a week. Bon appetit!

Now We Are Three: Orecchiette, Broccoli & Tomato

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It’s a week of birthdays: my sleek little Bella cat was 7 on the Wednesday, my brother Adam’s birthday followed on Thursday; my friend Rona’s birthday was yesterday and Annie’s is tomorrow. Meanwhile in the midst of all these celebrations the blog reached the grand blogging age of 3 yesterday. A proper celebration, maybe cooking something really special, had to be put on hold. I’ve had a busy two days helping Jonathan and Lyndsey move. Plans for cooking a meal on Thursday turned into a Tangawizi takeaway, but since Tangawizi is my favourite local Indian restaurant that was a kind of celebration. However, the move complete – at least stage one as Jonathan and Lyndsey will be staying with me for 4 weeks until they move into their new house – I finally got into the kitchen last night and cooked. OK so maybe it wasn’t a truly special meal for a birthday celebration, but it was quick, easy and wonderfully delicious. And in many ways it represented perfectly the kind of cooking I like best: a few simple ingredients of excellent quality bursting with flavour and a delight on the tastebuds.

When I wrote my first post 3 years ago – The Single Gourmet Traveller & Greek Aubergine Salad – it was all a bit of fun and I had no idea what would come of it. Now, it has branched out much further than being a blog about cooking for one and eating out or holidaying alone – although I sometimes still do that. It’s encouraged me to be much more adventurous in my cooking, try more new restaurants than I used to and extend my knowledge with more research into what I cook and where I travel to. I’ve met some wonderful people through the blog and have had a lot of support from some lovely people, most particularly Tim Healy at A Cena and Lawrence Hartley at Brula (and both now co-owners of the brilliant Joe Allen in Covent Garden!), not to mention my great friend Annie who has been my best supporter for trying out new restaurants, and Jonathan and Lyndsey for being my most frequent and willing guinea pigs when it comes to trying out new recipes! The blog has enjoyed 154,635 views in its 3-year history and has enriched my life so much, I find it slightly hard to think it’s only been three years.

Orecchiette, Broccoli & Tomato

It was quite late by the time the last box was unpacked yesterday evening; the day had been hot and humid turning into a slightly thundery night with flash showers of rain. It seemed best to stay put. My cupboard always has a pack of orecchiette (my favourite make being Carluccio’s); I always have tomatoes because frankly I can’t live without them; and there were a couple of nice heads of broccoli in the fridge, left over from Jonathan and Lyndsey’s Able & Cole organic vegetable delivery a couple of days ago. I have cooked a similar recipe for the blog before – a classic Puglian dish – but this time, followed a Gino d’Acampo idea and added tomato too.

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First of all I prepared the sauce: I put about 4 tablespoons olive oil in a pan with 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, a finely chopped small red chilli and 4 anchovies. Cook fairly gently so you don’t burn the garlic and make it bitter. Crush the anchovies as they heat through so they melt into the oil.

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When the anchovies are completely melted and the sauce coming together, add about 6 small tomatoes, quartered, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. Cook until the tomatoes start to break apart and mash them down a little.

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Now turn off until the pasta and broccoli are ready. Put the pasta into a big pan of boiling, salted water. You need about 100g per person. Orecchiette take about 15 minutes to cook; cook on a good fast boil in plenty of water so that the pasta doesn’t stick together. Meanwhile, cut a head of broccoli into florets and if they’re big, cut in half so they are quite small, bite-sized pieces that will cook quickly.

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About 3 minutes before you expect the pasta to be ready, add the broccoli. It’s definitely nicer al dente: cooked through but still with a bite and its bright green colour. As the broccoli cooks, heat the sauce through again so it’s hot. Drain the pasta and broccoli when ready, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Add to the hot sauce and stir it all together well. Add just a little of the cooking water to loosen a bit, if you like.

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Now serve with some Parmesan or Pecorino (more traditionally served with the dish). I prefer to put the cheese on the table with a grater so people can grate over exactly how much they want.

It was a lovely supper: orecchiette had a wonderful texture, the anchovies had given depth to the sauce and the chilli a nice fiery touch. It was definitely the kind of dish I love best in its simplicity but with great ingredients. A big thank you to all my regular readers and followers who make the writing worthwhile and I hope you’ll stay with me into the blog’s fourth year.

Three Citrus & Gin Sorbet

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I promised the friendly people at Richmond Towers Communications – a leading PR company in the food and drink world – that I’d come up with a recipe or two with the Beefeater 24 they sent me after the Chivas Brothers’ cocktail and canapé evening at Hixters last month. Having got my act rolling with Jonathan’s G&T on Friday, I continued the ‘cooling off’ theme by making some citrus and gin sorbet yesterday. With the hot and humid weather we’re experiencing at the moment, I thought this would be another great way to cool off in the evening – and get a nice little touch of gin with it too!

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Beefeater 24 comes in a gorgeous bottle. The patterned glass with its bright red base is very art nouveau and is apparently inspired by an early 20th century flask found in the James Burrough Company archive. James Burrough was the founder of the Beefeater distillery in the late 19th century. The ’24’ gin is one of Beefeater’s special gins infused with 12 exotic botanicals for 24 hours prior to distillation. These include rare Japanese sencha tea, Chinese green tea, Seville orange peel, grapefruit peel and lemon peel, as well as – of course – juniper. I thought I’d like to pick up some of these flavours in the sorbet and decided to make it a three citrus base – grapefruit, orange and lemon. I bought a gorgeous red grapefruit.

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Sourcing Seville oranges at this time of year is impossible (they’re in season for a short time around January) but I thought the organic Valencian oranges I found in Waitrose would make a great alternative. I used an unwaxed lemon as I was going to use the peel. First of all I made a sugar syrup base for the sorbet by combining 400ml water with 170g sugar in a pan. I used a vegetable peeler to add the zest of 1 pink or red grapefruit, 1 orange and 1 lemon.  Then you need to gently bring it to the boil, stirring all the while, and then letting it bubble fairly rigorously for about 5 minutes to form a light syrup. Turn the heat off and leave to cool.

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Once it’s cool enough for you to be able to comfortably hold the warm pan on the palm of your hand (take care checking!) add 1 leaf of gelatine and immerse in the syrup. Leave for a little while then stir until the gelatine is absorbed into the syrup. This addition of a little gelatine helps with the texture and keeping of the sorbet. When it’s cool, strain it into a jug to remove the peel. Meanwhile, juice the grapefruit, lemon and orange that you used for the peel, plus one extra orange. This should give you about 300ml of juice.

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When the syrup is completely cold combine it with the juice. Now pour in 35ml Beefeater 24 gin.

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Gin, of course, doesn’t freeze so you have to be a little careful about measurements but this seemed to work OK for me: a good gin flavour but the sorbet held shape. It won’t freeze hard though. Transfer the mixture to an ice-cream maker.

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Churn for about 20 minutes or until you have a good, creamy sorbet. Now put the sorbet into a freezer container and freeze until needed.

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Of course, I couldn’t resist trying some immediately; neither could Jonathan who happened to be around.

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It was wonderful: so gloriously cooling and fresh but with that lovely background flavour of gin combining with the three citruses. I loved the combination of the three citruses too: the sweet orange, the tangy lemon and the bitter-sweet red grapefruit. What a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer’s day – though strictly for adults, of course, with the gin addition!

Jonathan’s Elderflower & Cucumber G&T

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What do you do to cool down when it’s the hottest day of the day of the year and the humidity levels are rising into the 80s (which according to my Google search puts humidity at ‘unbearable'; I don’t think we needed to be told)? Around 6.00pm Jonathan rang; what were my plans for the evening? Lyndsey was out, could he come round? When he arrived – Zeph, their Yorkshire terrier in tow – bearing a gift of a bottle of Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic Water, I knew he wasn’t there just for my Friday night bolognese. He’d remembered the bottle of Beefeater 24 that Richmond Towers Communications had sent me after the Chivas Brothers cocktail and canapé pairing event at Hixters last month.

I have a strange relationship with G&Ts. I never order them in a bar, I never make them, but if someone offers me one then I really enjoy it. And last night, a long cooling drink seemed like a perfect plan. But I had to leave the making of the G&T in expert hands while I stayed with food preparation.

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Two tall glass were found, cucumber brought from the fridge, the ice tray removed from the freezer. The slices of cucumber went in over the ice, followed by the gin – 35ml each. Then the elderflower tonic water was slowly poured in.

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Jonathan had been telling me for a while that he’d been using the Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic Water for an extra bright, fresh taste and it made a great G&T; the cucumber adds another dimension of freshness. How much tonic water to ice, this novice G&T maker asked. We worked out he’d used about 125ml in each glass, so roughly 1:3 but he said many people would prefer less tonic – or even more. It’s all a matter of taste. And he tasted it and checked.

I meanwhile had been cooking … as I do. I’d thrown – almost literally – two peppers into a hot oven just after he rang. Fifteen minutes later, or when I could see they were browning, I removed them, put them in a freezer bag for a couple of minutes, then removed. The skins slid off easily. I slit open, removed seeds and lay on a plate. I added some of Waitrose’s wonderful burrata; drizzled over extra virgin olive oil, scattered over torn basil. I also dashed down the road and came back with a still warm ciabatta from Ruben’s Bakehouse. Portions of bolognese ragu were warming on the hob for the main course.

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We left the food waiting and went to sit in the garden. It was time to relax, slow down; cool down.

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The G&T, long, exotic (Beefeater 24 contains 12 exotic botanicals) seemed the perfect drink for an almost tropical night. It’s definitely a drink for slowing down and cooling down on a Friday night when there’s no hurry, but just taking time to talk and reflect on a good ending to the week.

A Carluccio Christmas

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Yes, it is a little early … and it did feel a bit weird setting off to a Christmas party just 24 hours after arriving back from hot and sunny Spain, but in the world of big food business, Christmas necessarily has to start even earlier than at Harrods. The lovely people at Roche Communications sent me an invitation to the Carluccio’s Christmas Press Review and Party and being such a fan of Carluccio’s, I couldn’t resist … even though it’s so hot outside the government are sending out heat warnings. Carluccio’s had tried to put us in a winter mood by spreading fake snow outside.

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Strangely, people were talking about it and saying it seemed to actually have the effect of cooling us down. We were partying at the Carluccio’s in St Christopher’s Place just off Oxford Street and behind Selfridges. I turned up late afternoon after a busy and slightly hectic day and even though it wasn’t much after 4pm decided that it definitely wasn’t too early for prosecco and gratefully accepted a glass – even though there was a non-alcoholic alternative on offer. One of the first things that caught my eye was an enormous panettone.

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Panettone is the star in any Italian Christmas and my family always has one for breakfast on Christmas morning. Last Christmas I did buy one from Carluccio’s in Richmond (my local branch) and very good it was too. Inside the cafe there was lots of lovely food to try: gorgeous hot dishes like lasagne, seafood pasta, stuffed peppers and melanzane parmigiana and some of their excellent focaccia with cherry tomatoes on top.

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There was a wonderful indulgence of sweet treats too: gorgeous little babas soaked in limoncello, panforte and fiche al rhum – chopped Calabrian figs, candied peel and walnuts fed with rum and covered in dark chocolate.

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There were tempting displays of Christmas gifts from the edible to a gift set of coffee cups with a pack of ground coffee; from large hampers to small stocking sized gifts, i.e. something to suit every pocket and any occasion. I often go to Carluccio’s for foodie gifts for friends and family – not to mention the odd foodie gift for myself!

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I buy a lot of my pasta from Carluccio’s – I especially like their orecchiette and trofie. I was therefore intrigued to see a special Christmas pasta – Pasta di Natale – flavoured with spinach and beetroot.

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I’ll definitely have to go back for some of this! There were lots of other great gifts and even chocolate filled crackers and advent calendars; lovely tins of biscotti.

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When it comes to Christmas you’ll find plenty to please any food-loving – especially Italian food-loving – friends and family. But why wait until Christmas? If you haven’t taken a good look in your local Carluccio’s Caffe yet, stop by, because they have some wonderful and very tempting things. Meanwhile, I came home bearing an early Christmas gift of a jar of those wonderful limoncello soaked babas – now who is going to come and share with me?

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Spain: Morning in Altea & Journey Home

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Yesterday morning Linda kindly asked me what I’d like to do on my last day. I didn’t want to venture too far and it was decided to go to Altea (where we’d gone for the paella on Sunday) and find a cafe near the beach for coffee. Even though we were quite early by Spanish standards there was a long queue of traffic heading into the town when we got close; a symptom of the time of year and it now being high season. We were lucky to find a parking spot quite easily though and then cut down a narrow road on foot to the beach with the idea we’d walk along for a bit then have a coffee. However, almost immediately we found a cafe-delicatessen of interest – Paladar. They were only just opening but a very friendly waitress – who we discovered later came from Estonia – encouraged us to look inside and promised she made very good coffee. It was very smart inside with a lovely view out to the sea.

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There was a great view from our outdoor seats too!

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They sold wine and all the kind of things you’d expect in a good delicatessen. We could also see they sometimes made paella.

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There was an appealing list of tapas, salads and other things to eat which made us think another time it would be a great place for lunch. Meanwhile, it was only coffee time. We ordered our coffees and sat outside. When the friendly waitress came with the coffees she also brought us a little slice of their homemade lime cheesecake to share. It was delicious.

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Altea is quite an upmarket coastal town which has long been a popular destination for artists. In fact a friend and favourite artist who now lives in Cornwall, Alan Furneaux, has prints and paintings of Altea and other Spanish towns on his website (see www.alanfurneaux.com). We looked round a few arty shops and walked through a square full of wonderful and very old olive trees.

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Back home we had a quiet afternoon. Linda cooked a gorgeous supper for my last evening and we opened a bottle of Cordorniu Anna cava, which is one of the nicest cavas and much cheaper there than in London supermarkets!

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It was a beautiful evening. It had been one of the hottest days since my arrival and was still hot as the sun set and darkness fell.

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This morning we were up early. I watched the light of the sun come up across the wonderful view from the naya.

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Then it was time for the journey to Alicante airport – about an hour away. Linda like the great friend she is gave me a lift all the way. Once through security I had time for a last taste of Spain in a bar – Canas y Tapas – with a typical Spanish breakfast of coffee, tostada and fresh orange juice.

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Note:. The lovely Mimi at Chef Mimi Blog alerted me yesterday to the fact that she was unable to leave a comment on my last post. When I checked I found Comments turned off for all the Spanish holiday (I thought it had been a bit quiet!) There was obviously a hiccup with the WordPress Mobile App I use on my iPad when away. I’ve sorted it out now and opened Comments on all the posts but many apologies to anyone who had wanted to say something. Your comments are always welcomed and I love to hear from readers!

Spain: Tapas & Cuban Music

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After a nice, lazy, gentle day – on my part! – things livened up for the evening with a drive down to Moraira on the coast for a supper of tapas in a chiringuito and some live music. Chiringuitos are traditional beach bars and this one was perched on the edge of a cliff with wonderful views as the evening sun went down leaving a faint tint of pink colouring the sky.

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Linda warned me it was all very simple – the cafe, only there for the high summer season and closed most of the year, is a simple shack. The food likewise would be simple and far from gourmet but the setting was lovely and live music would be fun.

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The music was due to begin at 9.30 so we arrived at 9.00 and managed to get drinks and a selection of tapas ordered before the cafe filled up. A timbale of aubergine, peppers and onions was particularly tasty; the aubergine has a nice smokey flavour.

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We had bread and alioli, chips with chilli sauce, tortilla and a plate of Spanish ham and cheese.

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The red wine was served very chilled, which was perfect in the warm air. It’s quite common for red wine to be served cold in hot countries or even in the Loire in France and with the right grape and wine, I like it.

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We were surrounded by many nationalities – Spanish of course, Germans and Dutch – and our waitress was from Bolivia. When the two Cuban musicians started playing I was momentarily transported to fabulous Havana – one of the most exciting places I’ve been to. George, the musician amongst us, was impressed by their skills. The music was great.

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There were some inevitable well known tracks from the infamous Buena Vista album but plenty of other popular Latin numbers. As the evening wore on they encouraged people to get up and dance and played some salsa music. It was all great fun; a party atmosphere and a really good evening. It was getting on for midnight when we left. Luckily for Linda and George, this is a regular event on Saturdays and Mondays in the summer; sometimes the music is jazz. If I lived here I’d be down to the little chiringuito every week!

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