Swine and Cheese

A passion for Pigs and Food

Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

White Yoghurt Soup

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This summer we had a wonderful family holiday in Turkey staying at the delightful boutique hotel, Dionysos. The hotel was the brainchild of the owner Ahmet who 8 years ago set about creating a cluster of pretty stone cottages, the main hotel and stunning infinity pool overlooking a dramatic canyon which sweeps down towards the Kulumbuk bay. This was in fact our second visit, and as we never repeat holidays as a rule just goes to show how much we enjoyed ourselves. The staff were the best we’ve encountered, welcoming, charming, informed, always there when needed but never in your face – perfect. We really wanted to take them home with us and it was quite a wrench to leave again. In fact the staff hadn’t changed from last year to this, they are like one big extended family looking out for each other and this shows which again is exceptional in a tough business like theirs.

The other reason to visit the Dionysos is the amazing cooking. Ahmet’s daughter, Didem Senol trained as a chef in New York and then Istanbul before becoming the chef at the Dionysos. Her cooking is creative, exciting and uniformly delicious. She and her fantastic team scour local markets and use produce from the Dionysos farm further up the mountain. From the start Ahmet created an organic farm growing a lot of the vegetables, olives, fruit and herbs used in the hotel. More recently he invested a considerable amount of money in building an olive pressing unit to extract their own oil. Their extra virgin olive oil is a very high quality oil which they use in all their cooking. The oil is called Amos organic olive oil and is the oil extracted from the early harvesting of their olives around the farm and Dionysos estate. Amazingly they won a coveted award at the annual olive oil “Oscars” in Italy the first time they entered last year! Amos olive oil is now ranked in the top 100 extra virgin olive oils in the world. Not bad for a fairly new venture. Sadly they don’t produce enough to satisfy both the Dionysos requirements and commercial outlets so you can’t buy it except at the Dionysos. Fortunately this year Didem has put together a wonderful book containing a lot of her recipes which I highly recommend. Called Aegean Flavours it is a great way to sample her take on the best of Turkish ingredients in ways I would never have tried. However one recipe which isn’t in the book is the following recipe for White Yoghurt Soup which my husband adored and so I got Unda to tell me the recipe on our last night. Here it is with a few tweaks as I was slightly worse for wear when he dictated it to me after several Margharita’s!

White Yoghurt Soup

This amount will serve 10:

2 litres water

100g  easy cook rice

Mix the above ingredients and cook for 15 mins until the rice is cooked.

500g natural yoghurt

1 free range egg

125g plain flour

1 litre water

half lemon juiced

small handful of oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

handful chopped mint

small handful chopped tarragon or 1 tsp dried tarragon

handful chopped parsley

1 tablespoon salt

pepper

1 x 400g tin drained chickpeas

50g butter

Mix all together except the chickpeas and herbs and bring to a gentle simmer. Use a whisk to stir in the flour as it tends to clump. Add the butter and herbs followed by the chickpeas, continue simmering for a few minutes and serve.

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Written by Sarah

September 14th, 2010 at 9:03 am

The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye

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Neale and I have just returned from a wonderfully relaxing holiday in the most stunning cottage in Plockton. We went with my sister, cousin and their spouses for what turned out to be a week long walking, drinking and fishing competition! The girls won the fishing by the way. Plockton is really sweet and a great place to stay with three pubs, three restaurants, a fish & chip kiosk, several shops and a post office. The kiosk and post office shared the same opening hours, minimal ie. two(!) which were whenever we weren’t around it seemed. Our cottage was right on the waters edge with the most stunning views and even better had been done out beautifully, no shag pile carpet or musty smells anywhere, just the sort of place you wished you could live in full time. Strangely I did find myself agreeing with a visitor to Plockton on Callum’s seal and dolphin spotting trip (highly recommended – we saw both) who said how they really didn’t rate Plockton as a tourist destination for a day trip and neither would I. It was great as a base because it was so pretty and had all you needed but not much else for a day out.

Situated just up the road from the beautiful Eilean Donan castle of BBC logo fame, Plockton was just round the corner from the Kyle of Lochalsh from where you could drive over the bridge to Skye. My sister had pre-booked the Three Chimneys on Skye for a lunch thinking it was just up the road! Surprising considering she got an A for geography and did town planning but then that might explain a lot. We had all wanted to visit the restaurant having read various reviews over the years so off we set. An hour and a quarter later we arrived on an incredibly isolated peninsula with the most beautiful views, with seals sunbathing on the exposed rocks just off shore.

The restaurant has been run by the same family for about twenty years we were informed by the really lovely staff. They have always used local produce in season and the menu reflected this. The starters ranged from Asparagus and Ramson (wild garlic) soup to my starter of Charred Blade and Tongue of Lochalsh Beef with Tattie Scone, Celeriac Slaw, Pickled Walnuts and Onions – divine. My main course was the Bourride of West Coast Hake, Monkfish, Razor Clams and Squid with Crushed Jersey Royals, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Sorrel and Neale’s the Seafood Platter with Loch Dunvegan Prawns, Dressed Drumfearn Mussels, Seared Sconser King Scallops, Loch Harport Oysters, Potted Colbost Crab and Winkles with salads.

The puddings were equally delicious. I had the Hot Toddy Parfait with Rhubarb and Aniseed Brittle to finish. Cost for three courses was £35. My cousin in law, Tony, who lives and works in London didn’t feel the food was as clever as in the best London restaurants or the flavours as intense but I think he chose badly always going for the very rich, heavy dishes. For myself I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch. Would I recommend this place? You bet and only fourteen hours drive from London!

The blade of beef

The Hake

The awesome seafood platter

Hot Toddy parfait

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The Wolseley, London

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During our February half term trip to London, in another attempt to engulf our two teenage daughters with much needed culture away from facebooking, twittering etc…we arranged a few outings. Whilst there Neale and I obviously couldn’t resist the opportunity to try out what must be one of London’s best loved restaurants, The Wolseley on Piccadilly. The building itself was commissioned by Wolseley Motors in 1921 as a showroom for their cars, and amazingly only became a restaurant in 2003, although you would think the restaurant had been going for years.

On entering the Wolseley it was just as if we’d stepped onto the set of the first class restaurant on Titanic. Wonderful, opulent art deco furnishings in black and ivory in a vast dining room with soft, atmospheric lighting making all the silverware glint. We had gone at 5.30pm for a pre-theatre supper and the place was buzzing, every table full. The menu was a delight and quite eclectic with very traditional English rubbing shoulders with very traditional French and Jewish dishes. Luckily for us Laura and Lucy are adventurous eaters and will happily try anything which has always been such a relief. I remember Laura aged nine months shovelling anchovies, olives and garlic cloves down her neck at one Spanish restaurant in her clip-on chair with the waiters looking on amazed. Not bad for a gringo! Visiting children at our home either ate what was put in front of them or went hungry. I’m afraid I can’t be doing with fussy eaters; allergies – yes, perfectly understandable but over pampered kids and indulgent parents – NO! Anyway I digress.

My starter of quail’s eggs with Hollandaise was superb as was Laura’s and Neale’s steak tartare, and Lucy’s eggs Benedict. On to the exquisite grilled calf’s liver, moules with frites, Toulouse sausages and lentils (almost as good as my recipe!) and Wolseley hamburger. Fab – all of it. Before I get criticised we weren’t allowed to take photos in the restaurant so sadly I can’t show you how wonderful the food looked.

To cap an excellent day we saw the Warhorse at the New London theatre. Do go if you get the chance. We were told by the couple we stayed with that we would almost certainly cry. Having taken this on board I exercised diversion therapy when the heavy scene came at the end however Neale was obviously in the moment and had three of the cast sniggering at his highly visible (we were 2nd row), heaving sobbing! Hilarious. The puppetry was awesome so it was very easy to get right into the story and it was incredibly moving. The play was based on Michael Morpurgo’s book about a boy’s friendship with a horse. Mind blowing to think that 1,000,000 horses went to France during the First World War and only 60,000 made it back.

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Written by Sarah

February 22nd, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Gidleigh Park

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Sanders Cottage, Lettaford

Sanders Cottage, Lettaford

We went to Dartmoor last weekend to stay in a wonderful Landmark Trust cottage. In fact we had booked to stay in a Landmark cottage up in Scotland but sadly the housekeeper rang the day before we were due to go to say that it was inaccessible because of the snow. We normally plan our stays by researching the area and working out nice walks and pubs etc.. However with only 24 hours notice of our new destination we were unable to check out the area as much as we would have liked to. Having said that Neale was very excited to learn that our cottage was only a few miles away from Gidleigh Park, the two star Michelin restaurant and hotel run by Michael Caines. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss so as consolation for not making it to Scotland I decided to try and get a reservation. The lady I spoke to was absolutely lovely and when she heard about our cancelled stay in Scotland (hence the very last minute request for a table) she squeezed us in on the fully booked Saturday night.

Unfortunately our cottage had a useless open fire which kept spewing smoke into the main room every now and then. As it was our main form of heating with a few night storage heaters we persevered but ended up choking and smelling dreadful. Neale did make the comment that Landmark are a bit up their own ! when it comes to preserving these properties authentically. Certainly when it reached -10′C I couldn’t help but wish for some discreet central heating. At least we’d taken our dogs, Sydney and Otto, and our dog-cat Gus (who thinks he’s a dog) to use as body warmers. Nevertheless we managed to present ourselves at the hotel the next night in a reasonable state. To be met outside reception on a freezing night for the chap to park our car was the first nice touch. I thought the guy was going to tell us to park our muddy Nissan X-trail round the back out of view but he was friendly and charming without being sycophantic! The drawing room was lovely, welcoming and warm and I rather liked the fact they had three separate, cosy dining rooms which they filled up according to your reservation time so you weren’t left with a lot of empty tables around you at the start and end of your meal.

The food was fab. We had the usual flourish of yummy canapes to go with our aperitifs. My starter was pigeon salad with foie gras and hazelnuts which was exquisite but Neale’s starter of quail with truffled egg yolk and potato gnocchi produced such groans of ecstasy from him that he ended up doing a very realistic re-enactment of the famous scene from “When Harry met Sally”! My main course was beautifuly cooked but I realised I should have ordered something lighter. The lamb with boulangere potatoes and a red cabbage creation was unctious and rich with so many clever flavour explosions but I was very full by the end. Nevertheless the pudding of prune and Armagnac souffle was to die for, Mr Creosote eat your heart out.

The staff were all really friendly, informed and discreet. The sommelier was particularly good and a really interesting chap to talk to. His recommendation of a delicious Cote de Nuit was superb and the iced cider to go with Neale’s pudding was a revelation, delicious. It is made in Canada by using apples on the tree that have been frosted (iced) for three consecutive days, before picking, pressing and cold fermenting them. It is so rare to go anywhere in the UK where the service is just right. So often they can be supercilious, rude, too eager, intrusive, sycophantic, indifferent etc. but at Gidleigh Park they were all excellent. A wonderful, albeit expensive, experience but at least here you could see exactly where your money was going. Far too often we have had the misfortune of eating in various restaurants locally in Shropshire and the menu is predictable (too ambitious), the staff hopeless and the cooking poor and consequently the bill unpleasant. I don’t begrudge the Gidleigh bill one little bit but I might frame it!! If ever you get the opportunity to go DO.

Alternatively if your budget is tight there was a delightful pub nearby called the “Ring of Bells” at North Bovey which I would highly recommend. A lovely, welcoming bar, roaring log burners, nice staff and locals and a very nice evening meal. Don’t bother with the separate dining room (too cold) and Sunday lunch wasn’t so good (they had run out of roast anything) if a traditional roast is what you’re after, but all in all a great find. Apparently owned by Jennifer Saunders brother?!

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Written by Sarah

January 18th, 2010 at 1:24 pm

London visit

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My company Dukeshill supplies most of the well known food halls in London with our hams, sausages, bacon and steamed puddings so we go there quite often to visit the buyers and do demonstrations in store and just to generally check out the competition/current vogues/markets etc.. On a recent visit we were lucky enough to be doing York ham sampling during a charity event in Piccadilly in aid of cancer research. The evening was really fun with lots of celebrities, although Neale and I are useless when it comes to recognising them, and the customers were delightful. The store looked fabulous and in fact they had spent a small fortune supplying the delicious canapes and champagne which were in ample supply. The guest speaker was Ronnie Corbett, who being vertically challenged had to speak from the top of the staircase! Sadler Wells ballet performed as did some talent show person who again neither Neale or I had heard of but no doubt is making Simon Cowell even richer (one of the benefits of living in the sticks!). We eventually finished around 10pm so staggered off into Soho feeling ravenous and thirsty. Our first stop was Bourne & Hollingsworth, a small basement room/bar which is like entering “Aunty Doris’s” front parlour. Absolutely charming venue with a brilliant DJ, lively 20-30 something crowd and yummy cocktails. Neale managed to blag our way into the private party by telling the doorman that he was related to the Hollingsworth of Bourne & Hollingsworth, which incidentally he is. We finally ended up in a lovely Tapas bar called Barrafina only after Neale had been propositioned by a transvestite (he had been walking too fast so was several yards ahead of me – serves him right) in front of five bouncers who found it hilarious especially when Neale declared he was with me and the trannie remarked “are you sure?”. I’d forgotten how good tapas can be especially as a late night snack accompanied by light beer or cocktails.

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Written by Sarah

December 17th, 2009 at 5:39 pm