Zebra Riding Club at Birch Community

Birch Community was finally able to open its doors last week after lock-down delayed the venue’s final renovation works. Situated in Cheshunt, just 30 minutes drive from North London, this multi-disciplinary space is an artistic hang-out for creatives urbanites needing a quick escape from the city. It provides a place to sleep, work, eat and explore, all whilst being surrounded by 55 acres of nature.

Birch Community

I was delighted to be asked to be a founding member, and spent 24 hours last weekend living the Birch way of life. Admittedly the hotel is not 100% ready yet, some finishing is a little rough around the edges, and the design and focus suggests they are still fine-tuning the place’s identity and purpose. However, everyone seemed to be having a great time trying out pottery and glass-blowing classes, relaxing in the music rooms and best of all, feasting on the superior Birch food offering.

Birch Community

The food is all overseen by the brilliant Robin Gill, of The Dairy and Darby’s (amongst others) fame. I have been finding solace throughout the pandemic at his Brentford bakery outpost, Rye by the Water, so was delighted to find a bakery onsite at Birch. Here, guests are invited to take part in the sourdough shaping and pastry preparations. In the morning we tried all the pastries on offer: rich and buttery delights accompanied by Caravan coffee from the Birch coffee shop.

Zebra Riding Club

The undoubted highlight of our stay at Birch was the meal we relished at Zebra Riding Cafe, the main restaurant on site. This impressive dining room feels more grand and luxurious than the other rooms, and I predict many will travel simply to try this eatery, even if they aren’t staying at Birch.

Zebra Riding Club

The restaurant’s philosophy and ever-changing menu is led by nature and seasonality, and much of the ingredients will be grown on site at Birch. There is little choice, instead a versatile set feasting menu caters for all with a comforting selection of Robin’s delicious inventions.

We began our lunch with cocktails from the succinct but tempting selection. Of the two the Birch Old Fashioned was our favourite, a smooth strong drink with a hint of herby birch sap.

Zebra Riding ClubZebra Riding Club

Service was attentive but discreet throughout our meal and I was incredibly impressed with their careful attention to detail when it came to our complicated dietary requirements. Rest assured vegetarians and vegans will not miss out here.

The meal kicked off with an assortment of bite-sized snacks… I particularly adored the fresh courgette tart, which was light, zingy and summery.

Zebra Riding ClubZebra Riding Club

The next two dishes were ideal for butter addicts like me… Heritage grains with Kentish corn, and a fresh egg from Birch’s rescued hens, was warming and soothing with a lovely texture and umami flavour profile. We sat in silence as we slurped it up. Next we were treated to Heritage King Oyster mushrooms swimming in a hot rich buttery jus spiked with rosemary, dulse and pickled kombu.

Zebra Riding ClubZebra Riding Club

The main event was an ode to Swaledale lamb, accompanied by tropea grilled onions, wood oven Cornish mid potatoes and green salad. It was a suite of loveliness, but for me, it was the succulent, salty lamb ragu with garden sorrel that won over my heart, and stomach. The sticky, sweet quality of the meat made it impossible not to finish, despite it being very rich.

Zebra Riding Club

The meal finale came in the form of a palate-cleansing Blackberry ripple ice-cream with diced white peach and rosemary sablé biscuit. A yummy pairing of flavours and the perfect end to the meal.

Zebra Riding Club

After months of confined eating at home it was a real treat to experience The Zebra Riding Club, another triumph for Robin Gill and a highlight of the Birch experience.

More information about Zebra Riding Club and book here.

I was a guest of Birch, as one of their Founding Members.

My Favourite London Restaurant Deliveries

If you are missing London’s diverse and exciting restaurant scene, this round-up is for you. I’ve collated a list of my favourite restaurant deliveries, all tried and tested from home. There should be something here for everyone, from comforting Indian curries to special occasion afternoon teas.

Crispin

Comfort Food

Crispin – Crispin is one of my favourite brunch spots in East London, so I was delighted when I heard they were delivering a special dinner menu out. A colourful box arrived filled with ingredients and instructions to make an Italian themed meal… including Courgette & Burrata, Ravioli with wild garlic, and Panzanella salad.

Iberica – Order Iberica when you are missing summer holidays and fancy a Spanish tapas feast. Choose from Jamon Iberico, Paella, Croquetas and other Mediterranean delights.

12.51 – 12.51 is based in Islington and serves Chef James Cochran’s quirky fusion food. The restaurant has recently started their ‘Around the Cluck’ delivery service, feeding Londoners with their signature chicken burgers and delicious sides.

Folie

Folie – Soho’s glamorous French restaurant Folie is now delivering a selection of their menu favourites. Highlights included Chicken Croque-Monsieur, Aubergine Parmigiana and Tiramisu gelato.

Maison Patron – Classic, comforting French recipes delivered to your door. Maison Patron creates wonderful boxes of homemade food to be cooked at home, paired with Provencal wine.

Hankies – Indian food is one of the cuisines I have craved most in lockdown. Hankies was satisfying and indulgent, a feast of curries, rice and breads.

Davies and Brook

Occasion Meals

Davies and Brook – One of the most exciting restaurant openings of 2019 has recently starting a deliver and collection service. Daniel Humm’s London fine dining eatery is presenting a menu based around the irresistable CFC (Claridges Fried Chicken) with complementing side dishes.

Hakkasan – I was over the moon to discover that one of London’s best Chinese eateries was delivering across the capital. From their famous dim sum to their rice and noodle dishes, everything that comes out of the Hakkasan kitchen is a work of art and a treat for the senses. We sampled the exemplary Bamboo Menu which has a lovely collection of complementing dishes.

Kanishka – I have always loved Atul Kochhar’s food, since I first visited the two michelin-starred Benares. The famed Indian chef recently opened his new restaurant Kanishka, and they are delivering across the capital. It was without a doubt the best and most luxurious Indian takeaway I have ever tried and cannot recommend it highly enough for a special night in.

Yauatcha

Yauatcha – Dim Sum from Yauatcha is always a special treat, but eating it from the comfort of my own home felt extra exciting. Choose from a select menu of the restaurant’s most-loved dishes, including Char Sui Buns, Venison Puffs, and of course, the rainbow dim sums dumplings.

The Dorchester – This iconic London hotel kicked off their delivery and collection service a month ago with the launch of their Chelsea Flower Shower Afternoon Tea. Choose from the Traditional Afternoon Tea Hampers, Make It Yourself culinary creations from The Grill, Philip Hammond’s beautiful bouquets, and bespoke indulgence hampers from The Dorchester Spa.

Olive and Pickle

Snacks

Olive & Pickle – Founded by two mums, Lauren and Holly, Olive & Pickle offers the ultimate grazing boxes and vibrant platters delivered to your doorstep.

Cobble Lane Cured – An evening aperitif in has become a regular event in our household, often accompanied by a bowl of nuts or a plate of British charcuterie. Cobble Lane Cured is the place to go for all your cured meat needs, sending glorious boxes filled with specialist meats like n’duja, coppa and wild boar salami.

Le Joli Gateau

Treats

Le Joli Gateau – For sweet cravings Le Joli Gateau is a great option. This fun company sends out delicious cookies vacuum-packed and ready to be popped in the oven for a few minutes, before greedy consumption. Needless to say they didn’t last long in my household. Favourite flavours included Twix and Pistachio & White Chocolate.

Dominique Ansel – Founder of the iconic Cronut, you can now get your sugar fix from Dominique Ansel at home. Order cronuts (the flavour changes monthly) as well as savoury treats, fresh bread and handmade pasta.

Tayēr Cocktails from The Whisky Exchange – Unable to visit my favourite cocktail bars I’ve been substituted my weekend tipples with the Tayēr pre-made cocktails. Delicious and unique concoctions include the Vetiver Negroni and Cedarwood Old Fashioned.

Venimoo

DIY Kits

Babka and Pitta kits from Shuk – Shuk feeds hungry Borough Market visitors with Middle Eastern delights, and has now pivoted the business into a DIY delivery food service. A few weeks ago I tried the unbelievable tasty babka kits, and I hear the pitta kits are just round the corner. A great activity to do with kids.

Mac & Wild VeniMoo Burgers – There are some great burger kits out there as Londoners crave their favourite burger joints. I urge you to try the Venimoo kit, an indulgent box with 4 venison pattys and 4 beef pattys and everything else you need to make the iconic Mac & Wild burgers from home. Super yummy, and a nice twist on the classic burger.

Cook & Feast – South Londoners Giovanna & Marcus are the perfect pair, with their combined cooking and butchery skills. They have started making up ready to meal boxes with the finest cuts of meat and all the ingredients you need to make Giovanna’s favourite dinner recipes. For BBQs and weekend feasts you can also buy meat boxes, including Marcus’s brilliant handmade sausages.

Arabica

Arabica – I was sceptical about making falafels at home, but the Arabica kit made it easy and fun and the results were surprisingly tasty. If you don’t fancy making up your own dinner you can also order a selection of the classic Arabica meze dishes.

Lina Stores – Anyone else missing all of London’s homemade pasta eateries? My favourite turquoise venue has started offering delivery on some of their most loved fresh pastas, charcuterie & cheeses, and other specialist Italian deli items. Order a meal kit or choose your own menu from their tempting selection. I love the Pea and Mint Ravioli.

Lamezia – I’ve been making dough at home to get my pizza fix. But when I received the Lamezia pizza kit I realised how much easier and quicker the experience is when someone else has done the hard kneading work for you! I loved the n’duja pizza, easy to make, quick to cook and delicious to eat… another great one to do with the kids.

Lahpet

Lahpet – When I posted about the Lahpet recipe box on instagram I received an overwhelming response from followers keen to try it. This East London Burmese restaurant is offering pantry essentials (think shallot oil and chilli jam) alongside the kits to make your fragrant Burmese meal at home.

Angelina Dalston – Bringing fusion into your home with Angelina’s Italian-Japanese recipe and larder boxes. The Alimentari boxes offers a carefully curated array of ingredients alongside instructions to make some of the most popular Angelina dishes. Each box is designed to feed 2 people for 5-7 meals.

Padella – London’s most popular pasta restaurant Padella has just launched their pasta kit boxes. Costing just £15 for a generous meal for 2, you can choose from a range of their classic pasta dishes and make it at home in under 5 minutes. I can recommend the Beef Shin Ragu, although must admit, I’m most excited about the possible appearance of their inimitable Pici e Cacio.

Cocktail Porter – If you are looking for a gift to send to a friend who is celebrating a birthday in lock down the Cocktail Porter is perfect. The stylish kits contain everything you need to make hand-crafted cocktails at home. Choose from favourites like Seville Orange Negroni and Elderflower Spritz.

I will continue to add to this list as I discover more brilliant London restaurant deliveries.

Making Pesto at home with Parmigiano Reggiano

At the moment, during lock down, my daily happiness depends on what I find in the fridge! Parmigiano Reggiano is the one luxury staple we are always stocked up on … this special Italian hard cheese can really make or break the simplest meals … whether it’s as a last-minute accompaniment to spaghetti or a yummy topping for cheese on toast.

Parmigiano Reggiano

A few years ago, I visited Parmigiano Reggiano’s area of origin in Northern Italy, where it is exclusively produced in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna to the left of the river Reno, and Mantua to the right of the river Po. As a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, Parmigiano Reggiano is a healthy choice, as it is all-natural, made with only 3 ingredients, and every wheel of cheese is individually quality checked before it can be sold. Made with cow’s milk and usually aged for 12 – 36 months, it is a granular cheese with a salty umami taste that can add flavour to an array of dishes.

Parmigiano Reggiano

Pesto is one of my favourite recipes with Parmigiano Reggiano. For me, it brings back strong memories of sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen in Provence, collecting pine kernels from the nearby forest and using an old pestle and mortal to make delicious fresh pesto. We’d sometimes take a day trip over the border into Italy, to visit their vibrant markets and buy huge chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Parmigiano Reggiano

At the moment it’s not as easy as usual to get all the ingredients you need, and pine nuts are often not available in local shops, so I’ve come up with three pesto recipes to help you make the most of your store cupboard ingredients, all showcasing Parmigiano Reggiano.

Parmigiana Reggiano

Classic Pesto

100g basil, leaves picked

75g toasted pine nuts

100g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

100ml olive oil

Parmigiana Reggiano

Parsley & Hazelnut

80g flat leaf parsley, leaves picked

100g toasted hazelnut

100g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

zest and juice of 1 lemon

100ml olive oil

Parmigiana Reggiano

Sun-dried Tomato & Walnut

150g sun-dried tomatoes in oil (weight incl. oil)

100g walnuts

100g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1 clove of garlic

Additional olive oil if needed, but mostly use the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes

Parmigiano Reggiano

Method

Put all ingredients into the food processor, apart from olive oil and whizz up into a paste. Once mixed gradually add the olive oil while the mixer is still on. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Alternatively you can use a pestle and mortar to break down the ingredients and create a paste, starting with the dry ingredients and finishing with the oil.

Parmigiana Reggiano

Pesto can be used in so many recipes, as a pasta sauce, a salad dressing or a smart canapé spread. I like to make a big batch, and freeze portions in an ice-tray for later use.

You can buy Parmigiano Reggiano from all major supermarkets in the UK. Follow them on instagram @Parmigianoreggianouk and on Twitter @Parmesanuk.

This is a collaboration with Parmigiano Reggiano, visit their website here for more information.