Friday, 29 July 2011

Another visit to Jamie's Italian

Yet again my husband was away for my birthday and yet again my sister filled the void. My number 2 son had found out that if you own a Blue Badge you can park at Westfield from Monday-Friday for free. This was news to me but then I hadn't gone into the deeper recesses of the Westfield website. The parking charges are about the only thing I don't like about the shopping centre. We had to park in an area I didn't really know (and I wasn't sure we'd ever find that car again) and on departure surrender the parking ticket plus the Blue Badge for intricate inspection. I am pleased to say I passed the test. But I digress. Entering the shopping centre from an unfamiliar escalator I was delighted to see a great array of Boris bikes and the great man himself giving press interviews. I didn't listen in (although I took a couple of pictures) but I imagine they must be extending the zones in which these bikes can be used. My friend Daniel, a keen cyclist, reckons they are great bikes to ride. I have my doubts as they look so clunky. But hey, what do I know? (Other than I'd be far too scared of the London traffic to even consider riding one).

And so to Jamie's. And it was another wonderful meal. From previous experience I have learned that I cannot manage 3 of Jamie's filling courses so we began with some nibbles. I ordered Mushroom fritti which was absolutely splendid, large mushrooms cut into chips with the exact same garlicky/parsley combination  that Jamie's funky chips have. And wondrous alioli. Delish!

Anne chose the rather more worthy (although deep-fried) Ravioli nachos, a nice idea but there wasn't enough of the spicy sauce to hide the blandness of the pasta.

Now, in my short experience of dining at Jamie's, I have always found it worth having a good look at the day's Specials.

I went for the plaice, Anne chose the previously happy chicken. The plaice was absolutely superb, probably the best piece of fish I've eaten this year. The sauce was just fab. Anne liked her chicken but the next day lunching with me she said that actually it was a bit too salty and she preferred the chicken recipe I had just cooked for her. We shared a tub of funky chips. It would have been rude not to.

The puddings were a triumph.

I am so glad I had the Tuscan Eat & Mess. It was fabulous. Tangy, slightly sharp but creamy and sweet all at the same time. Really, really good.  Anne selected her usual Tiramisu because she is addicted to it.

We shared a bottle of Merlot although as Anne was driving  I had the lion's share.  The bill came to just under £60.  I must also mention the very charming waitress who told us that Jamie does pop in from time to time but that as he is opening another 7 branches he is quite a busy man. But we knew that! Busier than Boris I suspect.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Jamie's Mustard Chicken with Dauphinoise potatoes

The OH has hotfooted it out of here for a week which means that in real terms I can eat exactly what I want. The problem is that my cooking mojo seems to have gone off to Derbyshire with him! I have been trying to make this chicken dish for the last week but things, mainly school-related, keep getting in the way.

Having made it before, I can report that it is easy, tasty but definitely an Olympic event trying to complete it in 30 minutes. (And I didn't do the greens or the affogato). But hey, Jamie is a youngish man and I am an old granny . . . !

I didn't tweak the recipe at all and this time it wasn't quite as mustardy as I would have liked. One of my offspring thought it was a bit bland. Well there you go, last time I made it I nearly had my head blown off.

Jamie's way of cooking chicken breasts is easy, fuss-free and thorough. I like it! Am not really sure though that if you had even sized chicken breasts you would need to chop them into bite-sized pieces. Mine were very lopsided (much like my own) and it was a necessity.

It did all look a bit insipid once chopped up as you can see. I think next time I would stir in more wholegrain mustard than he suggests as well as coating the breasts a little more thoroughly.

The Dauphinoise was a bit bland too. My fault. I couldn't be bothered to start it off in a pan and shoved the whole lot in the oven. It definitely needed more time and it needed more salt. I could have forgotten to put salt in for all I know.

So. Have made the recipe for the dreaded "second time" which, in my experience, is usually a bit doomed. But I think it will become a staple in this house because everybody enjoyed it so much first-time round.

Off to Jamie's Italian for my Official Birthday lunch tomorrow. Can't wait!

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Once again I find there has been a long gap since my last effort. The pressures at work have been unspeakably vile, I have been sleeping atrociously and seem to be functioning on a half empty brain.  Unlike some writers, probably most, I don't feel like writing when I am unhappy. And I don't much feel like cooking either. Add to that mix the fact that food costs have risen in a quite dramatic way and so I can't experiment as freely as I would like.

But yesterday Philippa had a barbecue for her friends to celebrate her 25th birthday which is tomorrow. This is an expensive time in the Lark household. My birthday follows Phil's - July 25th, then it's Taylor's on the 28th and Josh's on the 30th. But I digress.

I offered to do the puddings which, by request, were the usual suspects. And I said I would make a couple of salads because I have been itching to try Diana Henry's Hotslaw since reading the recipe in the Daily Telegraph some weeks back. Let me tell you this. It is sensational. I was bombarded with requests for the recipe and the guests were baying for more.

The one criticism came from my chilli-loving son-in-law who said it wasn't hot enough, so next time I will up the chillies and tabasco sauce.