REVIEW: Sam's of Brighton

Sam's of Brighton is a lively bistro tucked away in the Kemp Town quarter of Brighton. With five visiting (and hungry) friends in tow, we really couldn't be bothered to head into town centre. Saying that, Kemp Town is increasingly becoming a bit of a foodie hot-spot with Blanch House, Drakes and the announcement of The Ginger Dog, another gastro-pub from the group that own The Ginger Pig. Good news for me as it's my neck of the woods!

Anyway, having recently gone to Seven Dials restaurant and been a bit well, bored by the whole meal, I wasn't expecting too much from Sam's as they are owned by the same family and the menu reads similarly. But even before you put a napkin on your lap you know you are in for a different experience at Sam's. For one the interior is far nicer, cosier and buzzier. The staff are chirpier. Customers are smiling.

Let's get straight into the food as franky, it knocked my socks off. I chose both my main and pudding from the specials board and all but one of us also opted for the Slow braised Shoulder of South Downs Lamb with Boulangere Potatoes, Salamanca Lentils and Salsa Verde (£13.00). This plate of food worked so, so perfectly. Succulent, sweet lamb with the comforting lentils and then the zing of the salsa verde. One bite in and our table chiored a uniform mmmmmm tune, culling our preceeding animated chatter to a slience as we all privately concentrated on how jolly marvelous this plate of food was.

Mr. GF's likes to be different and ordered the Rib-Eye Steak with Proper Chips, Peppercorn Sauce & Red Wine Jus (£17.95). He was in very dangerous food envy ground as we were all tucking into our prefect lamb dish, but his was also very delicious and quite a treat for the eyes too. His comment was that it was the best steak he had eaten in ages, cooked to perfection, and the chips were indeed "proper".

For dessert I went with a twist on an old school classic with a Blood Orange Rice Pudding (£5.50). I really loved this. Creamy and perfectly cooked rice with the welcome shock of blood orange made a typically frumpy dessert very elegant indeed.

The staff were friendly and really nice to our pregnant friend's demands for bottomless glasses of milk!

I like how Sam's champions local Sussex produce, and you could certainly taste the quality in the ingredients. It's been a while since I've experienced such a faultless and enjoyable dinner out. Sam's ticks all the boxes; local, friendly, affordable, unpretentious yet refined. I'll be back.

Sam's of Brighton

1 Paston Place
Brighton, BN2 1HA


I'm a saddo. I am. I really like planning my meals for the week mainly as I live for my stomach and like to look forward to dinners, but also because this way I also save an incredible amount of time and money. Both of which I'm frequently short of. I also get a ridiculous amount of OCD pleasure chalking up the menu on my kitchen board.

I've never really thought about popping up a record of them on the blog but when friends come round, it is always noticed and commented on. Well, mainly nasty comments about my mental state but there we go.

Last week was actually a pretty good eating week.

Minestrone usually is the user-upper meal of choice and this time had a nice slab of leftover smoked pork loin thrown in. This is my base recipe, but to this one I threw in a handful of small tube pasta. The chicken liver salad is a new thing for me, but will be making a comeback as it was lush. The salad dressing was made by adding red wine vinegar to the frying pan used to cook the livers. On the occasions that I let Mr. Graphic Foodie in my the kitchen I'm often rewarded greatly, this Thursday he made his legendary ratatouille. Friday's lemon cod served with wilted spinach, lemon and chickpea is a particular favourite, a life without chickpeas is not worth living in my book.

The weekend was spent eating at friends and family, hence the space!

So here we have it. A new Graphic Foodie blog series. I'll always do a week in arrears as changes happen. If there is anything particularly spectacular, I'll post a recipe. Right. Off to chalk up next week!

BOOK REVIEW: Meals in Heels, Do-ahead Dishes for the Dinner Party Diva by Jennifer Joyce

I quite fancy myself as the hostess with the mostess. I like to have a calm, organised affair at my dinner parties, swarvely greeting guests at the door with a casual glass of wine in hand. Little do they realise that on occasion, I have experienced a total meltdown 20 minutes prior to their arrival. Flour in my hair, every dish and fork I own dirty and piled high in the sink, with me gibbering in the corner, suffering the consequence of my overly ambitious menu which I will later shrug off with a dismissive hand wave as merely a "little something I threw together earlier."

But I want to be the calm illustrated girl in the Meals in Heels cookbook so I decided to cook from it for a full on dinner party chez moi. Make no mistake, this is an unashamedly feminine, frivolous and fabulous book that on the surface could be dismissed as a fluffy and forgettable, but in practice is a useful and very well put together book indeed. Still, not exactly one for the alpha male cooks out there.

This is a very different style of cookbook to those I have been looking at and reviewing lately. For one there is no glossy food photography, just illustrations. A big no-no for me but you know what? The descriptions are so well written and food relatively simple so I didn't feel they were really needed. Photography, for once, would have actually taken something away from the lovely design of the book, the idea being a sort of modern 1950's entertaining style. Actually, when you think about it, photography and cookbooks is a relatively new thing. I mean, Mrs Beeton managed ok without it didn't she?

Each recipe comes with make ahead and presentation tips as well as ideas of what to serve with it to create a full dinner party menu. The book is written by Jennifer Joyce, a food stylist as well as a writer, so I found her styling tips a nice, helpful touch. At the front there are some suggested menus for specific seasons and occasions plus some practical advice on hosting a dinner party.

As well as the usual starters, mains and sweets there are also sections on canapés, a section specifically for make-ahead stews and roasts, barbecue, sides and basics (pickles and sauces). Many food styles are covered here; Mediterranean, French, Asian, Indian and some good old British classics too. The only thing missing that it would be quite difficult to accommodate vegans with the recipes (but then it's always difficult to accommodate vegans).

The design is truly lovely. Gorgeous illustrations and really sweet attention to detail, the designers out there can really appreciate what a b*tch of a print job this must have been with a 4mm border on each page so bravo to the production team.

I thought I would thoroughly test the book by cooking not one, but five recipes for a dinner party. I never do canapés but I thought some pre-drinks and a little light eating would be a great way to kick things off. For these I chose Bacon-wrapped Dates stuffed with Parmesan along with Artichoke, Pine Nut and Parmesan Crostini. Both of which were simple to prepare in advance and were quite retro-looking which I liked. They were utterly delicious, especially the Bacon-wrapped Medjool dates which had a hell of a lot going on with sweetness, savoury, softness and stickiness. Yum. A great start.

I was expecting a vegetarian guest who couldn't make it at the eleventh hour, so I turned their Lemon Gnocchi Sorrentina into a starter for everyone. Ricotta gnocchi can go totally wrong quite easily but the quantities in the recipe gave firm but fluffy, lemon flavoured gnocchi that I really enjoyed. Far lighter than my usual potato gnocchi and ones that I will be making again for certain. These I made on the morning and the sauce took 10 minutes to make just before serving.

For mains I chose a Greek Lamb Stifado, containing sweet baby onions and 2 hour cooked lamb in a seriously tasty tomato sauce flavoured with cinnamon and cloves. The sauce also had a good quantity of red wine vinegar and a little sugar which gave a great savoury/sweet contrast. This was a real hit with my guests. I served it as suggested with buttered green beans and lots of mopping bread. I made the stew in the morning and simply reheated it, leaving only the beans to cook.

For dessert we went back to Italy with my first attempt at a pannacotta. This one was a vanilla flavoured pannacotta with citrus and honey. I must say, this was one of the easiest desserts I have ever made. Preparing it the night before and letting it set overnight left me with just an orange to segment and honey to drizzle before serving. One friend said it was better than any she had eaten out in restaurants. Well, that is good enough for me!

I really enjoyed cooking from this book and not once did I feel even remotely stressed preparing anything. I still spent a few hours cooking and preparing everything but once everyone arrived, most of my time was spent enjoying myself at the table instead of stuck in the kitchen so this book does deliver what it promises. And yes, I wore my favourite heels!

Meals in Heels, Do-ahead Dishes for the Dinner Party Diva by Jennifer Joyce is published by Murdoch Books and costs £12.99.

Many thanks to Murdoch Books for this review copy.

Ps. It looks like I have kankles in the top pic but I can assure you I do not. That's cleared that.

DESIGN: E Pellicci art print by Jo Peel

I absolutely adore this screen print by Jo Peel. E Pellicci in Bethnal Green is a classic Italian Café that serves everything up with a huge side order of personality. I'm a passionate advocate for independent cafés, particularly the Formica clad, retro havens that only seem to exist in London now. I cried many a tear when the wonderful New Piccadilly shut its doors for the last time after 40 odd years of service. I have to admit I still visit the boarded up site when I'm up in London like a grave!

Luckily, E. Pellicci (above) has been grade II listed by English Heritage so it should stick around with its beautiful 1946 interior (some of it is earlier) for us to enjoy for many years to come.

As for the others, a super, but dying list can be found here. Support them and keep them alive, the plastic identikit coffee chains really don't need you custom.

Screen print by Jo Peel available here, £55.00

Images from Jo Peel and Classic Cafes

RECIPE: My Mum's incredible Red Pasta Sauce with Pork

There's pasta sauce and there's pasta sauce. There are a million variations and everyone has their own way of making even a basic tomato sauce. But this is the best. Fact. I have no qualms stating that as this is my Mum's recipe and if there ever was an expert in Italian cooking, it's her. Years of making pasta, kneading bread and stirring huge vats of polenta have given her arm muscles that make grown men weep.

Cooking meat in the sauce gives an incredible richness and depth of flavour that will be impossible to achieve without. The meat itself becomes incredibly tender, saturated with the rich tomato sauce. The meat falls off the ribs and just showing a fork to the pork loin will collapse it into succulent bite size pieces. Also, a few clever techniques with the tomatoes gives the sauce a fantastic texture to grip onto the pasta.

If you want to be properly Italian about it, only the sauce should be served with the pasta and the meat eaten as a second course with some nice crusty bread and peasant greens. A 2-4-1 recipe if you like!

Thanks Mum.

Serves 4

Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic glove, finely chopped
1 red chilli
400g pork ribs, separated
200g pork loin, cut into 2cm slices and bashed lightly with a meat mallet or side of a large flat knife
400g tin of whole plum tomatoes (best quality and they must be whole)
3 heaped tbs of tomato concentrate
1.5 heaped tbs chicken bouillon
3 fresh bay leaves
Generous pinch of finely chopped fresh sage or flat leaf parsley

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the chopped onion, garlic and chilli (if it is a big one I cut it into two pieces) and gently fry until the onion becomes translucent. Add the separated ribs and the pork loin slices and brown all over. Put the lid on the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the plum tomatoes and juice from the tin into a shallow bowl. Cut the top end off the tomatoes then mash them thoroughly with a fork. Set aside.

Place the tomato concentrate and chicken bouillon into the empty tomato can, fill to the top with boiling water and stir. Pour this into the pan with the meat. Add a bit more water to cover the meat, add the bay leaves and sage and cook for 10 minutes, bringing it to a rolling boil.

Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to cook on a rolling boil until the sauce is thick (around 40 minutes), remembering to stir every now and then.