Riverfood

Events, Food Heroes

It’s summertime, so the blogosphere is humming with delicious holiday snaps – pictures of ripe fruits straight from the tree, local village cheeses or fragrant sweets from exotic markets…

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…for the most part I’ll be at home in London, not really known for its fresh produce…although I did rob a bit of elderflower from someone’s garden the other week, ooh and there’s a fig tree near the bus stop (might, also be in someone else’s garden).

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So, when I received an invitation to the launch event for Coopers Restaurant Consultants, on a boat, where all the food was going to be predominantly sourced from the Thames I was excited and dubious in equal proportions.

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We arrived at Festival pier on the Southbank to board the MV Royalty for the #riverfood event. It was a boiling hot but choppy day and the boat rocked enthusiastically from side to side. Once aboard, making our way towards the complementary cocktails I began to recall a sense of wobbly unease, like walking across one of those rope bridges at the adventure playground with your big brother jumping up and down on it at the opposite end.
As Richard and I carefully sipped grapefruit margaritas and watermelon Mojitos we were both unsure how we were going to cope with the seafood based menu should sea sickness fully take hold.

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To our surprise we set sail along the river and even more surprisingly this helped settle us and with wafts of London’s approximation of fresh air drifting in through the windows, we even started to feel hungry.

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Coopers had arranged for some really lovely waiting staff who shuffled along in precarious zigzags carrying huge platters of canap├ęs. The first were Hollowshore Oysters with shallot vinegar and Tabasco jelly followed by a seemingly endless supply of freshly shucked ones. Both were delicious.

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Next we were presented with some zingy Green Tomato Soup with Pickled Whelks served in small painted sake cups.

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Here’s the Estuary Smoked Kipper with Egg & Cress that came next…

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…and I had seconds of the Old father Thames Smoked Pike.

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We snuck out onto the deck to watch the chef in action, barbecuing some zander which was served with smoked bacon, white onions and bay.

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So as well as a pile of fantastic fresh riverfood, I ate my words. London has some wonderful fresh produce, so, fellow staycationers, if the MV Royalty #riverfood ship sets sail again soon get yourselves down to the Thames x

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Valentine’s Day by the River

Recipes

Doing something special and romantic for Valentine’s Day can be a tricky business. Going out for dinner is the obvious choice but restaurants get so busy on the 14th that it’s unlikely to be a very intimate experience. I remember taking telephone bookings when I worked in French Living. The set menus were always carefully developed by the chefs and the waiters would arrange the whole dining area into a sea of tables for two, but I never liked having to tell customers that; yes, they could have a table at 7.30pm but we would need that table back again by 9pm. It seemed so sad to cut their evening short, but the demand was so great there was nothing else to be done.

So, let’s say eating out is off the agenda, what about eating in? It’s cosy, it could be cheaper than a restaurant and the menu can be whatever your imagination and culinary skill will allow! If you do choose to stay in and can’t decide what to make I’ve written a three course Valentine’s Day menu for Great British Chefs so do have a butchers by clicking here.

But, if spending more than 20 minutes in the kitchen fills you with dread or there are simply too many distractions at home, like pets, kids or a half painted living room then there is a third option – Cooking without a Kitchen!

This Valentine’s Day (which for the purposes of my own publishing deadlines actually took place on Sunday the 3rd of February) was spent on the south bank of the River Thames, just round the corner from the Golden Hinde and Southwark Cathedral. We unpacked a small shopping bag of goodies and prepared the meal then and there. We didn’t have a table but the wall worked fine and the views over London were just as good as any fancy restaurant. There was no rush because no one needed the space before or after us and there were hardly any distractions, oh except one guy who tried to sell us pebbles he’d found in the river but that was quite funny.

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Mint Tea Couscous with Artichokes & Prosciutto

Ingredients

1 small bag of pea shoots

1 small bag of couscous

1 punnet or jar of chargrilled artichokes in olive oil (from the deli or similar)

4 slices of prosciutto

1 takeaway cup of peppermint tea (buy this from a coffee shop as near to your picnic spot as possible so it stays hot)

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Equipment

2 plastic, wooden or paper plates

1 plastic bowl

1 plastic measuring cup (can be any travel cup or mug really)

Mini salt and pepper shaker (optional but nice)

2 plastic spoons, or forks (or sporks!)

Method

1) Using the measuring cup put 1 cup of couscous into the plastic bowl. Measure out about 1 and a half cups of the hot mint tea and pour over the couscous. Cover the bowl with one of the plates and leave to sit for about 5-6 minutes to let the couscous absorb the tea.

2) Sip the rest of the mint tea while you wait.

3) When the couscous is ready, fluff it up by breaking up the clumps of grains with a fork and mix in some of the oil from the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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4) Pile the pea shoots onto each of the plates, then add the couscous. Top with the artichokes and the slices of proscuitto and serve to your loved one.

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Happy Valentine’s Day xxx

I’d love to hear your Valentine’s Day stories or recipes. Do get in touch via the comments box below, say hi on my Facebook page or get tweeting x