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This weekend's cooking was inspired by our fly fishing trip to a secluded lake in Bedfordshire. Our efforts meant we brought home six gorgeous trout; i gave one to our neighbour Josie, stuck a few in the freezer to be smoked for paté when I have time, and we shared the chubbiest one for dinner. Our new friends Louise & Jenny gave us a mountain of courgettes from their allotment, with the flowers still intact- what a treat! I stuffed the flowers with ricotta, dipped them in the lightest of batter and fried them. For the courgettes themselves, I hand grated them and sauteed in olive oil with a few cloves of fresh purple garlic. Just before serving, I tossed in a handful of freshly grated Parmesan and some torn basil leaves, and put a few lemon wedges on the side to be squirted at leisure. Dessert was my current fave- a wine tumbler (that sort you get in France!) layered with probiotic yogurt made in the Trough of Bowland, tart-sweet Scottish raspberries and soft, crumbled Milanese amaretti biscuits.

Now we're into Monday, and despite rushing back from the radio show it doesn't give me much cooking time in the evening. I made one of my standby classics- North African Quinoa Paella. This may sound like a culture clash gone too far, but I can assure you it is the best of Morocco, South America and Spain in one dish! Normally a dish like this would be made with rice or couscous; but being a healthy eater and always looking for low glycemic index options, it's easy to replace the expected refined wheat couscous or white rice with quinoa, a high protein grain from South America. I heat up some olive oil in my big stick-proof wok, and sautee red peppers, garlic, spring onions, ground turmeric, ground coriander and a big dash of cayenne (i like spice!) Then add cubed tofu, a cup of green peas, and two big handfuls of prawns. Let it sizzle, and when it's nice & hot, combine with about 3 cups of the quinoa you will have already cooked. Salt & pepper it, and put your creation on a lovely serving platter (here I have used my vintage Fiesta Ware- did you know Andy Warhol would eat from nothing else?!) A dash of roughly chopped parsley and some lemon what are you waiting for? Dig in!
Out celebrating the Strawberry Blonde's fabulous new job, so it seemed only fitting we should eat at the restaurant where we had our Civil Partnership lunch- Great Queen Street. That was a four and a half hour affair with so many courses I lost count...our midweek supper on Wednesday was slightly more restrained. I should mention our dear friend Tom Norrington-Davies is the chef-patron. I love Tom's approach to food- impeccably sourced ingredients, highly skilled and honest cooking, an unfussy approach to dining, and staff who are as enthused about the place as you will be once you've eaten there. We started with two glasses of prossecco with a dash of fresh strawberry puree. Then the SB went on to a boiled egg in jelly- a glistening beef consomme set in a small wine tumbler, the sort you get in France. I had a punchy fish soup with croutons & rouille, followed by goats curd & ratatouille. The SB had grey mullet nicely chargrilled with crispy bits of skin. Then a glorious cheese plate with homemade oatcakes...all washed down with a gorgeous bottle of Toques et Clochers Chardonnay de Limoux Haute Vallée. Just
Anyone who knows me well knows our "house" fizz, white, and rosé comes from buffs should definitely check out the region, a hidden gem in France's couronne de vin. Look out for these domaines: Sieur d'Arques, Anne de Joyeuse, St Hilaire, and Antech.
I've had a real foodie fortnight! Firstly, to Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons to celebrate 25 years of La Manoir and its genius mastermind, Chef Raymond Blanc. It just so happened to be Bastille Day, too, and we were treated to accordion players and pierrots as we arrived. The canapés were, well, just about the most extraordinary amuse-bouches ever encountered. Scallop carpaccio rolled in a thin sheet of soy jelly, and delicate bites of seared tuna covered in wasabi jelly with just a few sesame seeds sprinkled atop...could life get better? It did. We had a charming piano concert on the lawn, and speeches from the French Ambassador and Monsieur Blanc. Then to lunch... Tartare of scottish langoustine with flavours of Japan was followed by a salad of heirloom tomatoes and Kalamata olive with a cool sicilian tomato essence sorbet. But my favourite was the confit of wild River Severn salmon with elderflower, yuzu cream and garden radish. Not only was it pretty on the plate, it was delicate on the tastebuds, and local produce too. Flash forward to dessert, and my tiny peach (the little Chinese kind) was poached in white wine and citrus fruits and came with a sliver of gold leaf on top, gilding its curves. Sexy! I took photos but am having uploading trouble at the moment- will post pics ASAP.

I have also been to Boca di Lupo TWICE in the past fortnight. I never thought i'd find an Italian restaurant that makes Eggplant (Aubergine) Parmigiana as good as my mother. Boca di Lupo is the only one! Why do I love it here? Because the staff are so lovely and after only two visits I am treated like a regular. And the food- well, my chargrilled squid was so fresh it was still quivering, its charred tentacled perched on its milky body...deelish! The strawberry blonde's gnocchi was pillowy soft, in a spicy sausage ragu. You can order small plates to share, big plates to share...or keep all to yourself. It is also refreshing to go to an Italian restaurant where the list of desserts is as long as the mains, and not a sorbet stuffed frozen lemon in sight. Try the burnt almond granita topped with a scoop of dark chocolate sorbet- with a glass of Amaretto.

And finally to our local Italian for a late Sunday night supper. Il Bordello on Wapping High Street in London is the kind of restaurant you *wish* was just round the corner from your house/flat/crib. Old style waiters in dickie bow ties, freshly prepared great quality food, enormous pizzas cooked in a woodfire oven, decent house wine and a buzzy atmosphere. There is always a wait for a table, pretty much every time of day or night. But it's worth it- and not just if it happens to be in your neighborhood.