Marley Spoon

Marley Spoon have a simple mission… to encourage more people to cook at home. They do this by delivering each week boxes of market-fresh ingredients and tasty recipes to your door. It is a concept which is becoming more popular in the UK, and this is not the first company of this kind that I have reviewed.

So let me take you through the process with Marley Spoon. To order your box of food and recipes you simply visit the website, the ordering takes only a minute or two. I found the website very easy to use and loved the vibrant design which whet my appetite just looking at the photos and ideas online!

Meals are all priced at £9 per person, with a range of meat, fish and vegetarian options – so there is something for everyone. The recipes are stylish and unusual, and I was surprised to find many had a great number of ingredients, despite the simple preparation. This ensures the creations are inspiring in taste but easy to create.

Boxes are delivered on Wednesdays and Fridays, impressively packaged to guarantee the ingredients are kept in the best condition before use. The meat and dairy products are wrapped in insulating wool so remain stone cold until they reach the fridge. Despite this clever packaging unfortunately one of my plastic containers (containing truffle oil) leaked, leaving a powerful scent on some of the other ingredients.

I chose to cook Yoghurt-marinated lamb chops with roast aubergine and charred broccolini plus Ricotta balls with pesto and truffle oil. I liked that both recipes include flavours I love but use methods I haven’t been brave enough to try myself before. The attractive recipe guides offer a clear explanation of how to prepare and cook the food. Four of us took just 45 minutes to create the whole meal and found the experience fun and educational.

The pasta dish was a delicious Mediterranean inspired concoction. I found the pesto very easy to make and successful in taste. The ricotta and lentil balls seemed like a wonderfully inventive idea, but frustratingly they collapsed rather in the pan. The marinated lamb chops provided an insight into the aromas and flavours of Morocco, sweet and spicy, a great recipe from renowned chef Ben Tish. Though be warned, chops don’t have much meat, so you may need to make a side dish to accompany them.

If you are having a special dinner party but need some inspiration I highly recommend Marley Spoon. The recipes are thoughtful and innovative and the ordering process is stress-free and quick. At £9 a portion though, it is quite an expensive DIY option.

Check out the Marley Spoon recipes here, and start cooking today!

Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons Cookery School, Oxfordshire

I rarely take time off work midweek, but a cooking class at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons was an invitation I could not refuse. Raymond Blanc is quintessentially French and yet he is one of the UK’s most respected chefs.

Raymond Blanc moved to England as a young self-taught chef, and has resided here ever since, cementing his name with Le Manoir, the two Michelin star eatery which every foodie hopes to visit. When his honest and inspiring TV programme ‘The Hungry Frenchman’ came onto our screens, his lovable personality captured the hearts of the nation.

With so many kitchen secrets to share, he opened a cookery school in 1998, and it fast became the top place in the country to learn to cook in a fun and informed way. The Raymond Blanc Cooking School is led my Mark Peregrine, a protégé of Raymond’s. Mark teaches many of the classes here which include Bread Making, Sauces, Patisserie and Desserts, Spring Dinner Party among others. One of the most popular courses is the Blanc Vite which is based on recipes from Raymond’s book of the same name and provides you with the skills and techniques to create fast and simple, seasonal dishes. I was lucky enough to experience the very special Hungry Frenchman course, inspired by the TV programme and taught by Raymond’s right hand man, Adam Johnson.

After a leisurely 45 minute train journey from Marylebone station, I jumped in a taxi and sped through the countryside towards my foodie destination. In the early morning dewy sunshine the luxury yet rustic hotel looked even better than on the website… I strolled around the verdant gardens working up an appetite for my day of eating, sorry, cooking.

The group of eight eager chefs gathered in a cosy sitting room and enjoyed coffee, fresh juice and homemade biscuits, waiting nervously for our first instructions of the day. Brief introductions were made and we were kitted out with suitable clothing before following our leader Adam through to the cookery school, which is in a separate building opposite the hotel. I was amazed by the loveliness of the teaching room, decorated in a homely style and yet filled with state of the art equipment and gadgets.

We were buddied up and shown our stations, the kitchen was immaculately organised down to the tiniest detail. Our cookbook for the day was lengthy and challenging including big flavours and useful techniques, a daunting but exciting prospect. I was happy to see classic dishes like French Onion Soup on the menu, something I have always loved to eat but never known how to attempt in my own kitchen.

Adam was kind but funny, as he taught us the recipes, he added culinary anecdotes and tips to help deepen our knowledge and broaden our skills. We started with a wonderful succulent lamb shoulder, and saw how to use the bones to make a rich gravy. Adam mentioned that this method can be used with any meat, solving all Sunday roast dilemmas. Though I don’t eat fish it was interesting to see how to perfectly fry a fillet of salmon: skin side up for the majority of the time, and flipped over for the final moments, to ensure a crisp edge but thorough cooking throughout.

Some basics were covered: how to poach an egg and make a salad dressing. We also got the chance to have a go at a few more advanced kitchen skills… including a complex Comte cheese soufflé and the art of shelling a scallop. There was no shortage of sweet treats. Each class member made a brilliantly easy but luxurious Reverse Chocolate crumble, using just a few ingredients to produce an impressive dinner party dessert.

The day was varied and inspiring, and seemed to pass by in a flash. We moved between the central station, avidly watching Adam, to our own cooking stations, where each pair prepared the recipes as instructed with immense concentration, some more competitively than others. At Le Manoir you are surrounded by delicious flavours and ingredients wherever you look, and the cookery school is at the centre of this culinary activity. Throughout the day we tasted all the food, as well as enjoying a feast at lunchtime with carefully chosen wine and regular tea breaks with scrumptious home-baked (of course) French biscuits.

Oxfordshire is an idyllic place to be and with the scent of Raymond’s culinary delights wafting through the air, I could have stayed forever. Except, for me, there was a restaurant waiting to be reviewed in London, so I had to dash off. Proudly carrying my homemade torte and new saucepan, I sadly waved goodbye to Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons promising a return visit very soon.

More information and book a class at the Cookery School here.

Hot on the Highstreet Week 216

I love cookbooks, even if they are most commonly used as eye candy on my coffee table. Here are a few of my current favourites, all available to buy on Amazon.

The Art of Eating Well is a revolutionary cookbook that will help anyone who wishes to feel better, lose weight or have more energy. London-based sisters Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley teach their principles of life-long healthy eating with exciting and inventive recipes that are so delicious you forget the purpose is good health and nourishment. Buy here.

Stevie Parle burst onto the London scene in 2009 with the launch of a new restaurant, Dock Kitchen, whose food AA Gill described as ‘faultless’, earning him the Observer Food Monthly Young Chef of the Year award 2010. The opposite of the usual ‘chefy’ restaurant fare, Stevie serves an eclectic mix of dishes that in their countries of origin would all be described as home cooking. Ranging from Mexico to Morocco, from Catalonia to Kerala, taking in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, here are simple, wholesome and perfectly balanced recipes for dishes that will warm the heart in winter and cool the palate in summer. Buy here.

‘Winner of two “Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2014: ” Best in the World, Historical Recipes and Best” “Local Cuisine, For Italy’Food and glass: a combination offering an authentically Venetian experience. Venetian cooking is fundamentally a simple cuisine because of the basic ingredients and methods of preparation and the time required for cooking is short, but it is also complex, giving rise to striking and unusual combinations. This gastronomic tradition is the product of a highly distinctive territory, one in which water and land closely exist. There are fish and shellfish from the lagoon and the nearby Adriatic, vegetables and fruit from the islands in the estuary, and meat and game from the mainland and spices from the distant Orient. Buy here.

The king of beautiful pub food has collected all of his best ideas into this proper cookbook, ready to warm the world on a grey day and restore the nation’s good mood. Tom Kerridge’s idea of food heaven isn’t fussy gastronomy; it’s proper ‘man food’ with Michelin star magic, including breakfasts that keep you smiling for the whole day, indulgent long lunches, teatime temptations, seasonal snacks and heart-warming suppers. In this cookbook Tom proves that everyone can make proper pub food, and the only place he wants to see a foam is on the head of a pint of beer! Over 100 recipes reveal his secrets for making real food truly amazing, including perfected dishes from his childhood and special treats he serves at his own one-of-a-kind pub. These recipes are simply the best version you’ll ever have of the dishes everyone loves the most. Buy here.

More than 100 recipes make up this stunning yet eminently approachable collection of suppers from Jason Atherton: perfect meals to share with friends and family. It is not only a showcase of Jason’s favourite things to cook, both savoury and sweet, but also a celebration of the flavours and techniques that have inspired him from all around the world. Every dish bears the hallmark of excellence on which he has built his reputation as one of the world’s truly great and most innovative chefs. Beautiful, inspiring photography by John Carey completes this collection of stunningly good suppers. Buy here.