DESIGN: Foodie design roundup

Last week was a bevvie of food related design on my regular blog reading list. I thought I'd share my favourites from them. Enjoy! (Images from the respective links)

Oh my giddy aunt. How amazing are these plates and mats by Grycja Erde? Shame they are just a concept. Via Happy Lady Eats, the brilliant new food blog by designer Oh Joy

I like tea. I like submarines. Never seen the two together but IT WORKS. Tea Sub designed by Ototo, available here. Via Cup Of Jo via Swiss Miss.

Cute alert! The possibilities are endless with these Message Cookie Cutters from Williams Sonoma. Via Something Old wedding blog.

These cloud salt and pepper shakers are pretty genius. Via the brilliant Swiss Miss

Thanks to @patipati for sending me a link that was definitely of interest to me last week. Helvetica cookie cutters from Beverly Hsu.

REVIEW: Sevendials Restaurant, Brighton

Sevendials is doing what it does well. Local and organic produce where possible and herbs picked from their own terrace garden. With seven years under its belt, this is a very successful restaurant in Brighton. In the summer they open the terrace and when the sun shines it is packed with people enjoying long, lazy lunches. After several failed attempts to get a table, I had been looking forward to eating here for ages.

In 2008 they opened a bistro in the Kempt
own quarter, Sam's of Brighton which has been tipped in the Harden’s UK Restaurant Guide 2010 as Best up-and-coming UK Restaurant (runner up). I've eaten here very well so had high expectations of Sevendials. Positioned just a few minutes up the hill from Brighton train station at a just-close-your-eyes-and-go-for-it roundabout called Seven Dials, hence the name, most visitors to Brighton heading straight to the centre may miss it which would be a shame.

With my bouche suitably amused with a teeny celeriac soup with truffle oil, I started with some seared South Coast Scallops, Cauliflower Purée, aged Balsamic and Parmesan Crisp £7.50. I loved the textures of this dish the most. The scallops were beautifully soft and the mellow sweetness of the purée and tang of the balsamic were perfectly pleasant with them but not a dish I will be rushing back for. The Parmesan crisp was missing, more on that later. Mr GF won the starters round with his choice of Pressed Chicken and Pork Terrine, Chutney and Toast. This was seriously chunky, meaty and perfectly seasoned. The spiced chutney was particularly excellent.

For mains I chose the Confit Duck Leg, Braised Puy Lentils, Savoy Cabbage and Pancetta £14.00. I was a bit let down with the presentation of this dish aft
er eating a much prettier version at The Chequers recently and I think the quality of the duck wasn't as good either. It was tasty although intensely salty (and I like my salt). As this was a much smaller leg, you didn't get those gorgeous, succulent pockets of meat as you would on a larger bird. The lentils and cabbage went quite well although I didn't "get" the silver skin onions in the cabbage. On the other side of the table was a very sophisticated looking plate of Rump of Sussex Lamb, Fondant Potato, French Beans, Roasted Shallots with a Red Wine Sauce, £15.00. This was a better dish overall, the meat cooked perfectly and sauce divine.

For desserts I ordered a Hot Chocolate Fondant with Mint Choc Ice Cream £6.00. This didn't come with the mint ice cream and frankly it pisses me off when you order something and it doesn't arrive as described. It wouldn't be a problem if it was simply explained upon ordering that it was unavailable or whatever. Despite this, I think the vanilla ice cream was a better choice and it was a really nice pud with a dreamy, gooey centre.

King of the stodge, Mr GF went straight for the Sticky Toffee Pudding, Vanilla Ice Cream and Toffee Sauce £5.50. Typically a sickly pudding, this one was sweet but you got through to the end of it with a smile on you face. Delicious.

Service was swift, efficient and friendly.

Despite a couple of gripes, I would recommend the Sevendials restaurant. It is one of the better restaurants in town but it isn't one that I would be gagging to go back to soon. There are a few others I would consider to be better food and value wise but I'll be confident in saying that you will not get a dreadful meal here, it just lacked that extra ingredient that makes a restaurant really special. Most people will leave happy as food is safe, solid and sound but unsurprising.

Out of the two, their sister restaurant Sam's of Brighton defiantly had the edge if I were to compare, but the more central location of Sevendials may be more convenient for people.

Sevendials Restaurant
1 Buckingham Place, Seven Dials, Brighton, BN1 3TD
Telephone 01273 885555

BOOK REVIEW: Game: A Cookbook by Trish Hilferty and Tom Norrington-Davis

The law regarding roadkill is not black and white in the UK. Common belief is that you are free to pick up road kill if you were not the one to hit it. But apparently is is the Highways Agency who actually "own" the road kill but don't (or can't) really enforce the rule. However, if you hit a "working" animal like a pig or sheep, you should report it to the police. All I know is that I see a lot of pheasants and rabbits sadly knocked over on the road looking very much intact, which would be an even worse shame if they went to waste.

This book contains excellent information on the game seasons and handy preparation notes if you were to bag your own game. Unfortunately hunting it is out of the question for me, not from a moral point of view (I think if you eat meat you should choose well reared and accept how it got to your plate) but because it costs a small fortune to do so. Plus I'm a terrible shot and I don't fancy running around busy A roads, so down to the butcher it was.

I chose to cook a Pheasant, Savoy Cabbage, Chestnuts and Bacon pot roast. This totally dispelled the notion that cooking game is difficult. This recipe was ridiculously easy, essentially throwing everything into one pot and forgetting it for one hour, resulting in a succulent, tasty pheasant and the most delicious stock-saturated veg and gravy. Admittedly not the prettiest of dishes but a very tasty one indeed. I loved this stock which included wine, brandy and tomato puree and the heavenly smell it created around the house.

Game: A Cookbook, is sectioned into 2 legs, 4 legs and no legs (trout, pike etc..). It also contains chapters on trimmings and accompaniments and information on storing and buying game and a few meal plans.

What particularly appealed to me was the Guinea Fowl Saltimbocca, Raised Partridge Pie, Bottled Rabbit and a recipe for dry curing wild boar. Some of this summer's cherries from my tree are now destined for a recipe for Picked Cherries if the seagulls don't eat them all.

I must say this book has really made me more game for cooking game. It looks quite serious (especially the picture of the authors - if looks could kill!) but the instructions are clear, the ingredients nothing out of the ordinary and the recipes achievable.

The mood of the book is spot on, the paper stock and the photography perfect. Yes, it does contain lots of pictures of dead things hanging by their feet but it all seems so quietly beautiful. There are gorgeous macro shots of the patterns and colours of the feathers and the food looks as warm, rich and inviting as an open log fire.

As with all Absolute Press cookbooks I've come across, the typography is simple, well considered and functional.

This is an excellent book for people wanting to get into cooking game or those wanting to learn how to butcher and prepare game at home.

Game: Cookbook is published by Absolute Press and costs £25.00

With thanks to Absolute Press for this review copy.

Future product ideas

How is this for an idea?

I ALWAYS burn toast, it's a joke that it is the only thing I just can't master to cook. That and meringues.

Inventbles is a fab show case of material inventions that can be purchased by companies to manufacture in their products. This toaster is just one potential use for heated glass. I'm sure if it went into production the design and functionality would be addressed (like getting the toast out safely.)

Another simple idea I like are labels that dissolve in water - hurrah! Great for people like me who reuse jars for homemade produce but find getting labels off a real bore.

If you love product design as much as I do, check out some other ideas here.

via Apartment Therapy

RECIPE: Pigs' Cheeks in Cider with Roast Apple Slices

I've developed a minor obsession for pigs' cheeks ever since trying them for the first time at the brilliant Ginger Pig gastro pub. A minor obsession that has turned somewhat extreme upon finding out you can get a nice bag of these for around £1.20, serving two people handsomely. Cooked slowly, these plump little morsels reward you with a succulent, melt-in-the-mouth meal.

They are really gaining popularity, probably for the new wave of interest in "forgotten cuts" as well as the cost. I found these ones in my local Waitrose but I have been back twice since to find they have sold out, so grab them when you see them.

Keeping the cheeks king in this dish, they were simply served up with roast apple slices (slice an apple, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and roast for 20 minutes), buttered mash and braised cabbage.

Serves 2

6 Pig Cheeks, trimmed of fat
1 small onion, finely sliced
1tbs olive oil
Knob of butter
400ml dry cider
3 Sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Sautée the sliced small onion in olive oil and butter until softened. Add the pigs' cheeks and brown. Add the cider, season and bring to the boil.

Transfer into an ovenproof dish and place in the preheated oven for 70 minutes, turning and basting with the cider regularly. After 70 minutes add 3 sage leaves and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven to rest for 10 minutes and serve with the reduced cider sauce.

REVIEW: The Chequers Inn, Maresfield

This really is the season for pubs. Roaring fires, hearty meals and festive guest ales. Makes it worth the bitter cold. Well, almost.

The Chequers Inn is a 35 minute drive (or less if you're Italian) from Brighton. Call me fickle but I wasn't inspired to visit looking at their circa 1995 website. No menu and a pretty generic food message coupled with amateur photography really does not float my boat. Which is a shame because this is a cracking pub with all the little nooks and crannys you could wish for. A lot of people would scoff at the idea a traditional pub needs a decent website, but as there are a number of good pubs serving food in the area, competition is rife and I would say it is vital.

Following a few blips, The Chequers has recently changed hands and is now run by an enthusiastic (and really, really, really talkative) new manager. Let's hope he sorts that website out. The pub also has a 100ft well in the middle of it which is worth a penny and a wish. The good news is that it does have iron bars across it so any post drinking accidents are avoided.

We were brought here by friends who recommended this pub based on the pork alone. A decent enough reason in my book. We were sad to see it missing from the menu on this occasion but apparently the new chef has had quite a lot of pressure from locals to put it back on.

As the starters didn't grab me, I went straight into the main event with the Confit of Duck, Mash and Braised Red Cabbage served with a Cranberry and Orange sauce. I can be a bit funny with duck but this was lovely, crispy skin and tender, melt in the mouth pockets of meat. I would have liked more of the sauce as there was plenty of duck and the mash was a little uninspired, but the quality of the meat made up for it.

Mr. GF ordered the roast beef and had no complaints at all. The meat was served very pink but he likes his cow served with the horns cut off and walked through a warm room anyway. For me an important part of a roast is really good veg and aside form the potatoes, they were on good form on this plate and plentiful. Mr. GF did think the roast potatoes had been hanging around for a while and suffered a little for it. The only real complaints with the mains generally was that the plates were cold, and therefore the food was lukewarm which was a real shame as you feel the need to hoover up you meal quickly before it goes completely cold.

I haven't had banoffee pie in years and had a real hankering for it. Banoffee pie is what it is, just a really good, unpretentious naughty pud. And this slice was massive, but I ate it all like a real trooper.

Mr. GF is a professional apple pie eater and was so happy with his choice that I only got to sample a measly little bite. When I asked him for a taste he actually looked at the huge piece he was just about to devour on his spoon and put it back on his plate to give me a smaller piece. Who said love was dead?

£12.50 for 2 courses and £15.50 for 3 courses which is really good value for money.

For more information on this nice pub and their nice food, visit their crap website at

The Chequers, High Street, Maresfield TN22 2EH
Telephone 01825 763 843

BOOK REVIEW: The Silver Spoon: Pasta

"Pasta, pasta, sempre pasta!" (pasta, pasta, always pasta) me and my dad would sing at the dinner table to the hard frown of my mum. But we didn't mean it, we could eat pasta every day!

The Silver Spoon: Pasta contains 350 recipes and the mongrel of pasta dishes, spaghetti Bolognese ain't one of them.

You think it may be quite difficult to come up with 350 recipes for pasta but when you consider the number of shapes available (hundreds? thousands?) and the variety of sauces, you could easily double that. This book defines pastas and the regions and traditions for each, which is an important part of understanding Italian cuisine.

I fell in love with the original Silver Spoon, which was first published in 1950. It is so authentic I would agree with its status as the bible of Italian cooking. My family typically cook many of the dishes that are listed in it on a daily basis and celebrations. Anyone with an interest of going beyond the familiar dishes you find down your local Italain should invest in the book, it really gets under the skin of regional Italian cooking. The greatest thing about it is that it importantly catalogues classic regional cooking for future generations. It's massive with 2,000 recipes but never feels overwhelming and is not a pretty coffee table cookbook, it's a workhorse.

This Pasta edition is an extension of this book. It has been designed in the same no nonsense manner, with just enough good quality photography and some lovely illustrations, but rests firmly on clarity, good indexing and strong structure. As always, multiple bookmarking ribbons are very handy because you are going to want to cook quite a few things in this book.

It has two sections; dried (short and long) and fresh pasta (cut and filled). The sub categories are then the shape of the pasta and the various appropriate sauces for each.

One thing this book does do is shows the versatility of pasta. There are recipes to slum it in front of the telly with a ten minute spaghetti with garlic and chilli or impress your dinner party friends with Tortelli from Lucca which are pasta rounds filled with steak, pork, mortadella and other delicious morsels.

The book is introduced with a bit of history, production and of course a few do it or be hit across the legs by mamma guidelines to adhere to in order to get the best out of your pasta. Also it states which sauces are suitable for which shapes which is essential.

Each shape is introduced with a little background history, its regional origins and how it has got its name. Usually pasta shapes are named after their appearance or have a reason for their creation, for example, spaghetti means "small strings", farfalle means "butterfly". Reginette is like a curly edged tagliatelle and was created in honor of Princess Mafalda of Savoy (1125-1158). The name translates as "little queens" as the pasta looks like it has little crowns on the edge.

Quite a lot of the recipes appealed to me but a few that really stood out were a Courgette and Almond Ravioli, a simple Spaghetti with Black Olives and Lemon and a very interesting Cocoa Taglierini (very thin tagiatelle) made with cocoa in the dough but served with marscapone, chilli and bay sauce.

But for review purposes, and when I made them it was Christmas and people seem to put brandy on everything, I chose to make the unusual sounding Brandy Flavoured Potato Tortelli. These originate from the Po Valley in northern Italy. The name derives from torta meaning 'tart'.

I normally use 100g of type 00 plain flour and 1 egg per person, but with big fillings the suggested 400g / 4 eggs for 6 people was spot on. The brandy was not too intense, instead enriching the potato and ricotta filling. I made enough to last two days but the whole batch was polished off in one sitting - so, so good! A simple sauce of melted butter and a little more Parmesan was all that was required.

The tortelli can be cut into squares or half moons but I was excited (yes really) about using my new circular pasta cutter that I found in my local Carluccio's for a mere £3.50.

Brandy Flavoured Potato Tortelli

Serves 6

400g plain flour (type 00)
4 eggs

700g potatoes
150g ricotta cheese
2 eggs
25g Parmesan cheese, grated
pinch nutmeg
5 tablespoons of brandy
salt an pepper

80g butter, melted
40g Parmesan cheese, grated

Make the pasta dough. Sift the flour into a mound on a work surface and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well and add a pinch of salt. Knead thoroughly, shape into a ball, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the filling. Boil the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water for 25 minutes. Drain, peel and put them into a bowl. Mash, then beat in the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, nutmeg and brandy with a wooden spoon and season with salt and pepper.

Roll out the pasta dough on a lightly floured surface into a thin sheet (I use a pasta machine which is much easier). Put small amounts of filling in even rows over one half of the pasta sheet. Fold over the other half of the sheet and press around the filling with your fingers to seal. Cut out the square tortelli and press the edges together firmly. For the half moons, I cut out my little rounds and placed the filling in the centre, lightly moistening the edges with water and folded over the edges, pressing firmly.

Cook the tortelli in plenty of salted boiling water (I always add a little splosh of olive oil when cooking fresh pasta) until it rises to the surface and is al dente. Drain and transfer to a warmed plates. Pour the melted butter over, sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.

Prep takes about 1 hour 15 minutes, plus 30 minutes resting and cooking time in total is 40 minutes. There are many recipes in this book that are around the 20 minutes to plate mark and most are under 30 minutes. The fresh pastas are the ones that take a bit of time and effort but still very doable.

As you may tell pasta is close to my heart (and my hips) and I adore The Silver Spoon: Pasta as much as the original Silver Spoon book. This is going to really get me to experiment with pasta and explore the regions further.

Absolutely essential.

The Silver Spoon: Pasta is published by Phaidon and costs £24.95

I received this copy for review purposes but would pay the above price in a heartbeat.

One year on

Graphic Foodie has just turned one!

It's a funny old thing this blogging malarkey. I started it as a silly little side line to keep a few of my recipes in one place rather than on paper scraps and napkin edges, whilst learning a bit about social media for my design job.

At first I was writing to a brick wall and often wondered why I was doing it, but slowly and surely comments came. People started to send me nice emails and would actually ask my advice. Some people challenged my opinions and those I appreciated the most (hello to all the animal rights activists out there!)

One year on and I have published 124 posts, have 919 people following me on Twitter, lighting rigged up in my kitchen and a head full of ideas. I sometimes eat my food a bit cold because I'm photographing it and my fella gets really annoyed with me. I sometimes introduce myself as Fran Graphic Foodie. My friends have stopped inviting me round for dinner. I get edgy if I'm away from blogging for a bit.

I've always lived to eat rather than eating to live, and it was always the case that if I wasn't eating or cooking food I was talking about it, but never did I think it would consume my life as much as it does in blog format. But despite a crazy house renovation, planning my wedding in Italy and a busy job, I somehow always make time for the blog.

But the best thing about starting a blog is discovering the food blogging community out there. Reading other peoples blogs, Twitter, Ning and other online resources have connected me to an enormous, passionate foodie community and a wealth of food knowledge. The foodie twitterati have on many occasion saved my bacon, lumpy sauces, pizza stone issues and taught me more than I ever needed to know about pigs trotters, retro cocktails and pies. Their enthusiasm is infectious and I think quite key into why people keep blogging. And it's been lovely to have met some of them in the real world.

I hope the next year sees the blog evolve a bit. I feel I'm starting to find my blogging feet and I can begin to focus on what this blog is exactly. But I think it should always be fun.

Mille grazie for reading and happy new year.

Fran x

Here are my favourite posts from the year:
Post made most helpful thanks to the Twitter food bloggers: Paris in 8 hours
Most fun recipe: Homemade sausages Antonio Carluccio style
Biggest change in opinion: Jamie Olivers' Recipease store
My most highly recommended Brighton restaurant find: The Chilli Pickle
Favorite cookbook of the year is a tie between The Eagle Cookbook and Antonio Carluccio's Simple Cooking
Worst cookbook of the year: Laura Santtini's (apparently) Easy Tasty Italian
Most interesting foodie event I attended: Heather Mills' cooking demonstration at the Brighton Food Festival