Smokehouse : North London Sunday Lunch


I called this blog Every Meal Matters because I really do think that. I want every meal to be delicious and satisfying and as I’m lucky enough to live in a first world country and have a good job, I really don’t think there is any reason why it can’t be. I realise that this can make me a pain in the ass and I’ve seen my friends and family rolling their eyes as I’ve refused to put up with a Ginsters pasty on a long journey or to be excited by the 2 meals for £8 deal at the local pub but I just can’t help it. I love food, I love eating and I don’t want to waste a single opportunity.

To show that I’m not an entirely odious being in this respect, I should point out that I do occasionally “take one for the team” without comment or complaint and I have been known to politely munch my way through some unspeakable pub meal, fresh from the freezer or a ready meal, which I’m convinced is 99% horse meat, in order to make others happy. It’s just that I’d really rather not.

Sunday lunch in an excellent example. A good roast can be one of the most nutritious and satisfying meals but this just makes it all the more disappointing when you have a bad one. It’s just so easy to find a bad one. Frozen Yorkshire puddings, soggy veg and poor quality or overcooked meat are often the culprits. Then there’s the gravy – the magic that brings everything together – bad gravy or not enough gravy can ruin a perfectly fine Sunday lunch in a single blow.

There really is no excuse. It’s not about skill. All you need is good quality, fresh ingredients cooked with a little care and attention and served in generous quantities. Simples. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting a cheap and cheerful lunch, if you don’t want to spend more than £5 then don’t go out for Sunday lunch – you can guarantee it is going to be dreadful.

As a result of the number of terrible roast dinners I’ve eaten in my time, I tend to rely more heavily on reviews and recommendations for Sunday lunch than I do for other meals out. Having recently had a fabulous one I felt it was my duty to spread the word. If it’s Sunday lunch you are looking for, Smokehouse in Islington might just be the answer.


I must say, I really feel in love with the place. For a start, it’s a great venue. Striking just the right balance between cosy, relaxed pub stylee and modern day cool, I loved the decor and the space. There is a slightly more formal restaurant section at one side where you can book tables and then a bustling bar area, which is first come, first served. Take your pick, depending on what mood you’re in.

The staff were also great – relaxed, attentive and chatty – although I did get the impression that they’d had a better (and much later) night than me the night before!

The second thing to win me over was the drinks list. As a pregnant non drinker, I was delighted with the extensive selection of non alcoholic beverages and even though it wasn’t on the list they made me a fantastic virgin mary. The real selling point was the beer selection though. They have a huge range of varied and interesting beers spanning from pale ales and IPA’s to smoked beer and even an espresso stout from a micro brewery in Malton, North Yorkshire (where I happen to have grown up).

In fact, I was so excited by the extensive beer selection that I accidentally texted a man who was fixing my bathroom insisting we immediately get a date in the diary for him and his husband to come down to London so we could all go back and they could try the beers. He doesn’t have a husband and politely replied “thanks for the invitation but I think you sent it to the wrong person!!!!!” Whoops.


The last big tick was for the main event, the food. I had high expectations as the chef, Neil Rankin, was responsible for the delicious food at Pitt Cue Co once upon a time and he did not let me down.

It was great. The starters all looked so fab, we couldn’t resist. Mr E went for spicy ttebokki & Cornish mussels, which sounded right down his street – once we had ascertained from the waiter what ttebokki actually was of course! Turns out it’s a Korean snack food made from soft rice cake, fish cake and sweet red chilli sauce. He loves broth, he loves asian food and he loves mussels so it really was a no brainer.

I broke all the pregnant woman rules and had a runny egg. I know, horrifying isn’t it?! Just look at it though. You can’t present a woman who hasn’t had a runny egg for 6 months with burnt leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, parmesan & duck egg on a menu and expect her to resist. Plus, in my defence, the NHS website reliably informs me that runny eggs don’t actually cause any risk to the unborn human I’m currently subletting my body to, it’s just that I might get salmonella which would be more unpleasant than usual as you can’t take the antibiotics usually prescribed to sort it out. Turn’s out it was worth the risk – I very nearly licked my plate clean it was so delicious and there was not a stomach cramp in sight.


Spicy Ttebokki & Cornish Mussels


Burnt Leeks, Jerusalem Artichoke, Parmesan & Duck Egg

Next were the all important roasts. Pork for me and beef for Mr E (I’m not a total rebel – I do adhere to the no rare meat rule).

Now this is how to do a roast dinner. Good quality meat, a good selection of veg, crispy roast potatoes, fluffy Yorkshire puddings. My single and only complaint would be the amount of gravy, which was delicious by the way, but I asked for more and was given a nice big jug straight away so no harm done.


Roasted Highland Beef


Roasted Pork Rib Eye & Smoked Shoulder

Finally, the puddings. We really didn’t need one but we were having a lovely time and they all sounded so good. …

An excellent decision. We went half and half and both hit the spot. The double D tart is based on a double decker. Packed with chocolate, nougat, rice crispies and nuts and served with pistachio ice cream, it was a winner. As was the cheesecake. Light, creamy and perfect with the lemon sorbet, we gobbled it down in no time at all.


Double D Tart


White Chocolate Cheesecake

In short, I loved the Smokehouse and I will most definitely be back (with or without the local plumber) – 9/10.

Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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The Scran & Scallie : Gastro Heaven in Edinburgh


My second fabulous meal during a recent jaunt to Edinburgh was a world away from the sophisticated and refined Ondine. We were looking for somewhere for a relaxed Sunday lunch and as soon as our friends mentioned that Tom Kitchin had opened a gastro pub in Stockbridge we were sold.

Back in 2009 my husband (then boyfriend – who I was secretly hoping would propose during that trip, he didn’t!) and I had one of the best meals we have ever eaten at The Kitchin and have been talking about going back ever since. The problem is that there are always so many new places to try and we are always so short on time that it seems naughty to go back to an old favourite when you could be discovering something new. This, therefore, seemed the perfect compromise. I could finally satisfy my hankering for fish and chips, having resisted the day before, and we could be confident that this would be a cut above the usual pub lunch if Mr Kitchin had anything to do with it.

Other than the rather comical menu and website, which follows the “Scran and Scallie” theme and has lots of Scottish sayings such as “Sit ye doon yer welcome!”, “Yer starters” and “Nae meat, Nae fish”, I do not have a single criticism of the Scran and Scallie.

The first good sign was that I could happily have eaten anything on the menu. It all looked fantastic and as waiters walked past me with plates of food I must have changed my mind about five times, wanting everything that I saw.

The venue was also gorgeous, exactly what you want from a gastro pub. It had a cosy feel but was spacious and had lots of quirky decor – there was even a play room for kids in the corner, not that I’ll be needing that quite yet!


In the end I stuck with my initial instinct and went for the fish and chips, served with chunky tartare sauce and of course plenty of vinegar and ketchup. Sometimes nothing else will do and this hit the spot perfectly. Delicious flakes of cod covered in light, crispy batter and plenty of big fat chips. A huge piece of fish and not a hint of grease, I was one happy customer.

In fact we all ended up choosing a dish that we’d decided we fancied before actually looking at the menu. Mr E went for a fish pie, Lisa had the steak pie and Jamie joined me for fish and chips.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words, how could you not want to dive right in?!



We were pretty stuffed after all that but the pudding options looked so good that we couldn’t resist. An apple crumble bursting with sticky fruit was the perfect warming dish for a windy day. I think the idea was to choose custard or ice cream but why choose when you can have both? The waiter didn’t seem to think it was a strange request and happily brought us an extra jug of custard.


And finally a magnificent chocolate brownie. Served with stout ice-cream and a chocolate caramel pouring sauce, it lasted for about 90 seconds with everyone diving in for more!



The Scran and Scallie provides everything you could wish for from a pub lunch. If I lived in Edinburgh I’d be there all the time – if only they’d open one in London! Pretty please.

1 Comely Bank Road, Stockbridge,
Edinburgh EH4 1DT
Telephone: 0131 332 6281



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Ondine Restaurant Edinburgh: Sustainable and Magnificent

I’m a huge fan of Edinburgh. It’s a such beautiful city, with loads to offer and it delivers two of my favourite pastimes in abundance; theatre and dining. I absolutely love going to the Fringe Festival in August to see an array of weird and wonderful shows and there are fabulous pubs and restaurants aplenty to keep even the most fussy of food critics happy for a week.

Perhaps this should go without saying, it is the capital of Scotland after all, but compare it to somewhere like Leeds with a population of around 50% more people and you soon realise that the residents of Edinburgh are very lucky indeed.

Apart from the weather that is. I honestly think I would move there if it wasn’t so blummin cold! 

On my latest (rather windy) trip to Edinburgh I had two fantastic meals and found a delightful little coffee shop as well. The first was at Ondine, a seafood and shellfish restaurant just off the Royal Mile, which prides itself on being passionate about the sourcing, seasonality and sustainability of its ingredients.


The fabulous oyster display as you walk in gives you a good idea of what you are in for, no less than four options to choose from, this is a place that takes its food seriously.

The menu is mainly aimed at those of a seafood persuasion but there are a few non fishy items on the menu; a chicken and foie gras terrine, a whipped goats cheese and beetroot salad and Orkney fillet of beef. But however tempting these might sound, I can’t imagine any fish eater opting for them when there is so much else on offer.

We sampled preposterously light tempura squid, generously dunked in a delicious sour, salty vietnamese sauce. Razor clams with rich, spicy chorizo. Fresh, thickly sliced oak smoked salmon with classic horseradish, red onion and caper accompaniments. Each dish was simple but perfectly executed. A classic act one, satisfying but leaving us eager in anticipation for what was to come.





Mains included a generous fish stew finished off with a dash of pastis, which my husband referred to as “mental”, an affectionate term only ever used once before, to describe Glynn Purnell’s Masala Spiced Monkfish.

I was so tempted to have the fish and chips but I felt like I might be missing out so instead I went for grilled lemon sole with lashings of parsley, garlic and caper butter and a side of broccoli with hollandaise, it was faultless.

The moules marinière and the diver-caught scallops with spicy pork sausage also got a resounding thumbs up.





To finish, our deserts of treacle tart with clotted cream and an orange and almond cake with ice-cream were great, light but decadent and very precise – which I’d say sums up the food at Ondine pretty well.



If you love fish, a trip to Edinburgh would not be complete without a visit to Ondine. Generally I much prefer meat but I’d have happily gone back here for a second helping the next day!

The service was fabulous, the chef was both charming and talented and a great time was had by all. 9/10

If you’re on a budget I would recommend trying the lunch or pre-theatre menu. At £25 for 3 courses it won’t break the bank and I very much doubt you would feel short changed with 3 choices for each course.

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Cafe Murano : You Can’t Fault the Food


Although I haven’t been blogging over the last few months, I’ve still been doing a pretty good job of eating (something which came as a relief as I’d heard that some ladies go right off their food during pregnancy). I had some fab meals in Edinburgh last weekend, which I will shortly tell you about but before racing ahead, I wanted to go back over my photos to see what stood out as my best meals of late 2013/early 2014. Surprisingly, the first one to jump out was Cafe Murano.

Given my lack of twitter use at the time, I almost completely missed the opening of Angela Hartnett’s latest Italian in mid November. I missed the soft launch all together but when I did hear that it was opening I managed to snap up a table for lunch on opening day.

To be honest, I think going on opening day was a mistake.

Cafe Murano was billed as the baby sister of the wonderful Michelin-starred Murano, offering rustic dishes in a relaxed cafe setting at affordable prices. Relaxed, rustic, affordable – what’s not to love?! I adore Murano but it’s both pricey and formal, which is often not what I’m looking for, so this place sounded perfect.

The food was delicious and faultless, which is the main thing and the reason it is getting a write up on here but unfortunatley the rest left a lot to be desired.  The service was patchy, there was limited atmosphere as the restaurant didn’t get more than half full and I was surprised to notice that when people did start to arrive, the average age was about 60 (not that I’m ageist – I’m just used to more of a mix). I certainly didn’t feel the “relaxed cafe vibe” and at £18 for a main course, it may be less than Michelin star prices but I think they are playing a bit fast and loose with the word affordable.

At the time, despite the wonderful food, all of this put me off going back in a hurry. However, I’ve seen countless glowing reviews since then, none of which mention these problems, so I’m putting it down to opening day niggles and will be back to sample that delicious food. Just don’t be fooled by the name, this really isn’t an affordable cafe, white tablecloths or not, it’s an upmarket Italian suitable for any special occasion. 


We had an excellent start with some springy, light focaccia, dipped in fruity extra virgin olive oil and rich truffle laced arancini balls.

The highlights from the rest of the meal were the octopus, chickpea and pesto soup, which my husband wolfed down with a very large smile on his face and the vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce) that my mother in law insisted we all try because it was so delicious. Then came the pasta, there really is nothing better than fresh pasta when it is made this well. Wild boar fettuccine. Wow!










Even with the lack of atmosphere and the shaky service, Cafe Murano could not possibly score less than 8/10. The food is just too good. Plus, if you are looking for something more along the lines of an affordable cafe, they now have a set lunch and pre theatre deal – 3 courses for £22 – which might just tick that box.


Cafe Murano on Urbanspoon

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You can’t beat a bit of focaccia


Did you miss me? Did you even notice I was gone??

For the first time since I started this blog, more than a month has gone past without any posts. In fact, it is very nearly three months! This is very tardy of me, I know, but I promise I have a good excuse …. I’m having a baby!

I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say that until very recently I was so shattered from all the crazy hormones that the thought of even turning my computer on in the evening was too much effort, let alone engaging my brain to write something.

Thankfully I have now reached the promised land (aka the second trimester); a place where you return to the normal, fully functioning person you used to be, albeit with a much larger belly! Suddenly the thought of writing seems appealing rather than impossible, so here I am, back on the blog and I thought I would ease us all back in with something nice and simple – focaccia.

We had friends round for dinner last Sunday and in the morning I decided that it would be nice to bake some bread. Focaccia tends to be my go-to bread in this situation because it is interesting and tasty but also incredibly simple to make and you only need an hour and a half to make it in. As a person who does everything at the last minute, this is a definite plus!

It really is worth the effort if you do have the time. There is nothing more comforting than homemade bread at the start of a meal and it is much cheaper to make it at home than to buy it from a bakery or market stall, not to mention more satisfying.


The recipe I use is from my Le Manoir bread course and it makes two loaves.

You need:

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 springs of finely chopped rosemary
  • 7g easy bake yeast (or 15g fresh*)
  • 280ml cold water
  • 100ml olive oil

I usually make this by hand, which is good fun as the mixture seems very wet at first (you have to add the olive oil in two halves for this reason) and then suddenly it all comes together. However, on this occasion I decided to try out the dough hook function on my Kitchen Aid and it turned out really well.

If you are going for the dough hook method, put all of the dry ingredients in the bowl with the water and half the oil, then turn it to the slowest setting for 5 minutes, adding the second half of the oil when the dough has started to come together. After 5 minutes, turn up the speed to medium fast and leave for another 3 – 4 minutes. To test when it is ready, take a small amount of dough in your hands and gently stretch it between your fingers. When you can stretch it to a fine layer without it breaking this means it is ready for proving.

If you want to make the bread by hand, put all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the water and half the oil, then gradually mix with your fingertips. Once the dough comes together, take it out of the bowl and knead for 2 – 3 minutes. Then add the remaining oil (it will be very wet but don’t worry) and knead for another 5 – 8 minutes. Again you can test when it is ready with the stretching method.

To prove the dough, just pop some clingfilm over the bowl and leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes divide the dough into two and squidge it into two baking tins that are at least 1.5 inches deep. I use 7.5 inch round ones but you could use any shape or make one big loaf if you prefer. Press the dough down with your fingertips, then cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 30 – 40 minutes until it has doubled in size.


Once the dough has doubled in size, remove the cling film, press back down with your finger tips, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and some more rosemary if you have some spare.

Then place into a pre heated oven at 270ºC for 10 – 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Turn out of the tins and allow to cool on a wire rack.


There you have it; slice it up and impress your guests or scoff it all yourself depending on how you’re feeling. Personally I love focaccia dipped in good quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar or filled as a sandwich with mozzarella and roasted vegetables. The bonus of making two loaves is that you can have one for your guests and one for sandwiches in the week.

*if you are using fresh yeast you will need to mix this with the water before adding it to the bowl.

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Extra Special Frangipane Mince Pies

A couple of weeks ago my lovely friend Gazala presented me with a jar of homemade mincemeat, for no good reason whatsoever. Who wouldn’t want a friend like that?! She’d used a Mary Berry recipe, with butter rather than suet and a few luxury ingredients such as cranberries and almonds. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Opulent, homemade mincemeat like this deserved to be made into some extra special mince pies. I was flicking through my cookbooks when I spotted just the thing in Richard Bertinet’s Pastry book. What could be more perfect than frangipane mince pies? Something different but undoubtedly delicious.

I could not have been more delighted with the results. Having made some dreadful mince pies last year, I was a little nervous but these were awesome. In fact, those who sampled them all agreed they were the best mince pies they’d eaten all year!


To make these from scratch there is quite a lot to do but it’s worth it. If you are pushed for time you could always cheat with the mincemeat or the pastry. Alternatively, you can make each stage on a separate day, the mincemeat can be stored for months and the pastry is best if left to rest in the fridge overnight.

Stage 1 – mincemeat

To make 4 large jars you will need:

  • 175g currants
  • 175g raisins
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g dried cranberries
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 125g butter, cut into cubes
  • 50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
  • 225g light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 200ml brandy

Just mix all of the ingredients together, except the bandy, in a large pan and heat gently for 10 minutes so that the butter melts and combines. Then allow to cool and add the brandy.

Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars and store in a cool place for up to 6 months.

Stage 2 – pastry

To make 36 mince pies you will need:

  • 350g flour
  • 125g butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 2 eggs plus 1 yolk
  • pinch of salt

First rub your cold butter into the flour until you have shards of butter the size of your little fingernail. When you get to this stage, mix the sugar in evenly then tip in the eggs and combine with a spoon or plastic scraper. Once it has started to come together turn out onto the work surface and fold the dough on top of itself, then turn and repeat. Keep doing this until it feels homogeneous like plasticine. Then wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and rest for at least an hour but preferably overnight.

Stage 3 – the frangipane

For one batch you will need:

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 50g flour
  • 2tbsp rum

Use a mixer to beat the butter until very soft, then add the sugar and ground almonds whilst the mixer is running. Next mix in the flour and then the eggs. When this is all combined add the rum. Easy!

Transfer to a piping bag and pop in the fridge for 15 minutes to set a little.

Stage 4 – the mince pies

When you are ready to make the mince pies, lightly grease three 12-hole tins and roll out the pastry until it is 2-3mm thick. Using a round cutter, just larger than the holes in the tin, cut out circles of pastry and line the tin.


Half fill each pastry case with mincemeat and pipe about a heaped teaspoon of frangipane on top of each one. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.


The best thing about these is that you can make them in advance and freeze them. When you are ready to eat them defrost and pop them in the oven at 170’C/Gas mark 3 for 6-7 minutes to crisp up the pastry.

With a couple of these in the freezer there’s really is no excuse for failing to offer your guests a warm mince pie when they visit at Christmas!

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Nigel Slater’s Ginger Cake : A Very Versatile Bake


I’m a relatively imprecise cook, both in terms of planning and execution. It’s not intentional and from time to time I can be very meticulous but on the whole, I cook or bake when the fancy takes me and I make things up a little bit as I go along.

Often I will find myself sitting at home and suddenly deciding I want to bake, NOW. This is me all over. Impatient, impulsive and almost always hungry. I have no interest in going out to buy ingredients because that will just slow things down, so I search for recipes that I may be able to loosely follow with ingredients I already have in the house.

Admittedly, my cupboards are fairly well stocked with this in mind. I usually have the dry ingredients I need, it’s the fresh ones that let me down. Usually eggs, occasionally butter. There is not much you can bake without dairy – although I have managed to come up with a few ideas. Rocky road anyone?

When the urge recently took me I stumbled across a Nigel Slater recipe for ginger cake and was delighted to establish that I had all of the ingredients! It turned out to be an absolute corker of a recipe, although my impatience meant that all of my fruit sunk to the bottom of the cake but I will rectify that next time.

The real bonus of this cake is that you are actually making two entirely different treats. First off you have a light, warm sponge pudding to serve fresh out of the oven with cream.  Perfect when you are cooking a big Sunday Lunch for friends or family. Then, wrap the leftovers in tin foil and a couple of days later it will turn into a dense, sticky, rich ginger cake – the perfect afternoon treat.

I really can’t recommend this recipe enough!


Here is the recipe, taken from the guardian website. It serves 8 – 10 people.

250g self-raising flour
2 level tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
200g golden syrup
2 tbsp syrup from the ginger jar
125g butter
3 lumps of stem ginger in syrup (about 55g)
2 heaped tbsp sultanas
125g dark muscavado sugar
2 large eggs
240ml milk

You will need a square cake tin measuring approximately 20-22cm, lined on the bottom with baking or greaseproof paper.

Set the oven at 180°C/gas mark 3. Sieve the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and the salt. Put the golden and ginger syrups and the butter into a small saucepan, and warm over a low heat. Dice the ginger finely then add it to the pan with the sultanas and sugar. Let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, giving it the occasional stir to stop the fruit sticking to the bottom.

Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and beat gently to break up the egg and mix it into the milk. Remove the butter and sugar mixture from the heat and pour into the flour, stirring smoothly and firmly with a large metal spoon. Mix in the milk and eggs. The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour.

Scoop the mixture into the non-stick or lined cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean. Unless you are serving it warm, leave the cake in its tin to cool, then tip out on to a sheet of greaseproof paper. Wrap it up again in foil and leave to mature for a day or two before eating.

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