Sunday, 17 April 2011


I guess this post should really be titled "MummyLark loses her fear of leaf gelatine" for, in truth that's what it's all about.

In my young mother days I was just as scared of the granule variety having had several disasters - a particularly memorable one being when I turned out a jelly which turned to liquid and escaped over the edge of the worktop onto the then dog. However once I decided that less heat and patient stirring was the answer I became Queen of the packet variety. But I have shied away from the leaf stuff, partly because it looked difficult and well partly because it looked a tad unlikely.

No more. I adore pannacotta and it is so trendy that I would be losing my culinary nerve if I didn't experiment. I followed this recipe for Vanilla Pannacotta from Simon Rimmer whose work I have always found accurate, reliable and tasty.

The only problem I encountered was that I had 3 packets of leaf gelatine in the cupboard all purporting to set different amounts of liquid. I chose the one that was endorsed by Saint Delia, using 4 sheets (they were small) rather than Simon's 2. And Tesco Express only had blackberries so they replaced the suggested raspberries.

The result was a perfect wobbly set.  I didn't feel it was sweet enough - I shall add more sugar next time. And there will be lots of next times.

Why was I so worried? I shall have to try Choux pastry next, my other phobia.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Lunch at Bocca di Lupo

It is the school Easter holidays and therefore time for a treat. My chum Liz will be retiring as a Deputy Headteacher at Christmas so we need to get her into the swing of lots of culture and lots of good food. And so it was that yesterday we headed off to the National Gallery to see an exhibition of work by the Flemish artist Jan Gossaert. Suitably edified we then walked to Archer Street in Soho where I had booked lunch at Bocca di Lupo. This was my second visit. The first had impressed me with the food but it had been crowded and we had dined at the bar, not good for an aged lady with back problems. On my recommendation Liz had taken a GP friend there last October and was smitten. This time I was smitten too! The restaurant had phoned to confirm the booking the previous day and I had explained that we were going to the National Gallery first and would be with them by 2. In fact the exhibition was small and had not taken as long as predicted so we arrived an hour early expecting to be turned away. But no. The greetings girl remembered me, asked how the gallery was and said that of course we could have our table now. As we were shown in I recognised Jay Rayner sitting opposite. Mr Rayner is a very good and knowledgeable food writer come restaurant reviewer so this was auspicious. Liz and I shared the smaller plates throughout other than dessert. Our starters were Shaved radish, celeriac and pecorino salad with truffle oil and pomegranate, and Lamb prosciutto with broad beans and, also pecorino. Having had some disgusting air-dried lamb at Borough Market once I was wary of the prosciutto but it was amazing. Really tasty and just the right texture. The pecorino worked so well with it too. I think I was a bit underwhelmed by peeling my own broad beans but maybe that's just me. We drank a lovely chilled Pinot Bianco. I'd had the radish and celeriac salad on my previous visit and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it. Liz is not a massive bread eater but she was scraping up every last drop of the dressing - naturally with the onion focaccia that came with our pre-lunch G&T's.

Our mains were both absolutely terrific but the prize (just) went to the Fried soft-shell crab with blood orange and Lamb's lettuce. So heavenly that we nearly ordered another plate. However the second dish of Scallops with wild garlic was also brilliantly put together and, with our side dish of (more) broad beans, rocket, lemon and mint was both filling and satisfying. (At this point Liz informed me that Jay Rayner was also eating the radish/celeriac salad and the crab).

Liz finished with a 4 sorbet ice cream which she pronounced "wonderful except for the bergamot". I went for the very fattening Rum baba with strawberries and cream which was drop-dead gorgeous.

It truly was a memorable lunch and I will back. The bill which included service was £101. Not cheap but this is London and we were on a splurge.

Fantastic. Our next venture is in the Summer holidays to The Waterside Inn in Bray. If we can book it.