SHOPPING: Moleskine Recipe Journal

Loving this Moleskine Recipe Journal £15.99. It has a subtle, gorgeous embossed cover with both predefined and personalisable sections and a set of stickers (stickers!).

Super little stocking filler for the classy foodie in your life (Mr Graphic Foodie: that is a HINT). Also available as part of the Moleskiene Passions collection is a Wine Journal.

OFFER: Free bottle of Gigondas, when booking your place at L'Eglise's South East France wine tasting dinner

L'Eglise is Brighton's (well Hove actually) well loved French restaurant.

Rather excitingly, they have started to run a monthly wine tasting dinner, each focusing on a different region of France. The next one is on 30th November 7.15pm and will concentrate on the South East region of France, with 5 regional courses and a wine to match each (see menu below). This costs £70 per person and you will be guided through by wine expert Andy Wiseman.

Really sweetly, they are offering Graphic Foodie readers a free bottle of Gigondas, Domaine St Damien to take home with them on the night for each reservation for this dinner. Just make sure you book through me at

TUESDAY 30TH OF NOVEMBER 2010 £70 per person
5 courses from South East France with wine to complement each dish
Rimauresq Blanc, Cru Classe Cotes de Provence
Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Chante Cigale
Bandol Rose, Lafran Veyrolles
Gigondas, Domaine St Damien
Muscat de Frontignan

On another subject L'Eglise have also started stocking 50 or so wines covering all regions of France (and a few non French wines too), many of them available as a 75ml taster, 175ml glass or a 500ml carafe which is handy if you want to try a few. Well worth popping in I say.
196 Church Rd
Hove, East Sussex BN3 2DJ

DESIGN: A Matter of Taste by Fulvio Bonavia

Awesome food styling by Fulvio Bonavia marrying the unusually paired subject of food and fashion. That cheese necklace looks like a mighty fine idea for a mid meeting munch.

Images from via

REVIEW: Cloud 9, Brighton

So Brighton has gone from having zero decent gelaterias or ice cream parlours to having three. Hurrah I say, hurrah! Brighton's most recent ice cream parlour, Cloud 9, with its shocking pink facade opened up just 5 months ago. I love hearing why people decide to open up foodie businesses as they are so often born of passion and Cloud 9 is no exception, owner Paul is a former football coach and youth development worker but was so inspired by the ice cream parlours in America that he ditched that and settled on Brighton to open up his own venture.

All of the ice cream and sorbets at Cloud 9 are made on site using local produce where possible. Milk is currently supplied by Westons, which I think is in Devon but it will be great to see our own Sussex milk, cream and eggs on the menu which should be in place by the beginning of December. Juices and gorgeous sparkly cupcakes are also produced on site which is handy as Paul's partner is from a baking background.

Focusing on the ice cream, there are a couple of kooky flavours in there like Blue Cheese which has a subtle but definite flavour and a lovely salt nip at the end but otherwise most of them are family friendly favours and American influenced styles. I really enjoyed my cup of Perfect Peanut Butter but there will be something for everyone here.

Flavours are quite light and mellow and the fat content is just 8% - the minimum to be officially classed as ice cream by trading standards. Premium American brands can reach 20% or so and I tend to find them quite sickly. I think Cloud 9's 8% is bang on for creaminess whilst still remaining light.

Inside they have 4 small tables that were all surprisingly full on a damp Thursday lunchtime but I guess offering waffles, coffee and cakes as well as ice cream will help bring people in year round. I would say that this place is more down to earth and child friendly rather than sophisticated gelateria in style with the striped walls and candy colours channelling Willy Wonka.

Cloud9 also offer ice cream making classes and parties which have seen more groups of adults and businesses attending than children!

Open late most evenings and later on Fridays and Saturdays which is handy for post dinner dessert. Heavenly.

15 Brighton Place
The Laines
Brighton Bn1 1HJ

REVIEW: Cafe Koba, Brighton

A lot of Brightonians will know Koba as a small private members cocktail bar oddly above Oddbins and next to Waitrose on Western Road. I used to go there yonks ago and it was voted one of the UK's top bars by The Independent. Now, having purchased the Oddbins space below, Koba has transformed and expanded into Cafe Koba with a bar area at the front, two dining/drinking areas, two private hire rooms above and an outside terrace. It's proving a hit with the Hove yummy mummies in the day as somewhere to offload their Waitrose shopping and pampered children to have a cup (or glass) of something, with the lights dimming in the evening for dining and drinking.

Although you can still order the food served in the day, there is a separate evening menu. On it you'll find a good mix of robust food with some really bolshy flavours and huggy hearty dishes; Gnocchi with Cavolo Nero, "Woolly" Lamb burger, Beef, Prune and Guinness Stew and a slow roasted "Happy" Pig Belly with Flagelot Beans.

I chose the Parsnip Fritters with Piquillo Aioli and Leaves (£4.50) to start which arrived prettily presented on a nice olive wood board. The fritters, despite looking the part, were very soft and rather greasy. The mushy texture was helped a little by the crisp bread but overall the delicate, sweet flavour of the parsnip was lost.

Mr GF's starter was the Figs wrapped in Serrano Ham stuffed with Goats Cheese (£4.95) which was pleasant however cooking Serrano or Parma ham can sometimes give it an odd, pungent taste which in this case, transferred to the fig. Still the idea of the crisp ham with the soft fig and gooey melted cheese inside worked well, Mr GF enjoyed it and that's what matters.

Better by a long shot were the mains. My Pot Roast Rooster with Cider, Apple and Dry Cure Bacon (£11) was absolutely fantastic, the buttery chicken so flavoursone and tender. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this was the best chicken dish I've had out for quite some time. The accompanying Boulangere potatoes were divine, crisp and chewy and soaking up all of that beautiful, tart cider sauce. However, a crying shame was the spinach which was grittier than an Irvine Welsh novel. I had actually found a tiny snail in my starter's salad which I wasn't going to mention here as these little mistakes happen, but gritty spinach is plain lazy washing and easily avoided. As the rest of the dish was so good, it got pushed aside and ignored. Tsk tsk.

Never one to resist a lamb shank on the menu, Mr GF went for the Braised Moroccan Baba Lamb Shank with an Apricot and Tomato Sauce (£12) which was well cooked and tender. The sweet, acidic kicked sauce was lovely and greed would have demanded more of it. Slivers of preserved lemon slices and a dollop of harissa were served separately for those wanting to zing this dish up to their own tastes which I thought was a nice touch.

Desserts were limited but the displayed cakes at the entrance looked great and the Carrot Cake we shared was a gorgeous example.

As the space is mixed with diners and drinkers (and predominantly drinkers on our visit) it did feel a little awkward and uncomfortable dining, not being helped by a particularly rowdy group of swearing men next to us. Mixed drinking and eating spaces rarely work and this is a prime example of why it's not a good idea. Also, the music with its heavy bass is ideal for a bar environment but not so good for an evening meal.

I'm really not sure how to sum up Koba Cafe. It has ba(r) and cafe in the name. And from what I can gather, it's a former cocktail bar which is a cafe in the day, a deli in the summer and in the evening, a bar, restaurant (serving modern gastropub food) and sometimes live music venue with additional private room hire for parties. They seemingly have a lot of fingers in a lot of pies but it maybe worth their while concentrating on just the one pie for a while to establish some sort of identity. As it stands it isn't quite working and on talking to a few people about it, are currently just confusing potential customers.

It must be said that the staff are lovely and the food, with a few small nips and tucks, has the potential to be excellent. If it was me I'd run with this as a start, opening as a cafe in the day and in the evening keeping the two larger areas for dining and the smaller, stylish area at the front for sipping their good cocktails and general drinking. Simples.

I was invited as a guest of Cafe Koba.

Cafe Koba
135 Western Road
Brighton BN1 2LA

REVIEW: Gelupo gelato, London

I have to admit, one thing that attracts me to Gelupo is the branding. Gets me hook, line and sinker every time. So I was practically in tears when they told me they were out of their heat embossed branded wafers!

No matter because I was consoled by some pretty good gelato. I liked the changing variety of flavours and that the gelato was not on show as you would commonly see for tourist-fodder, piled high and decorated with quarters of pineapple, plastic popes and lord knows what else.

The granitas were particularly good. The blood orange and the burnt almond really stood out, their grown-up flavours packing a punch.

I decided to go for a two flavour in a cup (always a cup) and chose Fig Leaf and the Pear, Cinnamon and Ricotta gelato. Both were beautifully creamy yet very delicate, almost too delicate. I adore the dense, earthy flavour of sheep ricotta so would have liked more of this and I couldn't really detect the cinnamon. The fig leaf gelato was also quite, er, modest but had a fresh, clean taste.

Those looking for a richer tasting gelato should opt for the Chocolate and Grand Marnier or Fresh Mint Stracciatella. Sorbets are on offer as well as gelato filled cannoli, gelato cakes and sorbet filled fruit.

You can also pick up a few goodies, some sauces made at their restaurant Bocca di Lupo, a little fresh ricotta, cantucci, my favourite brand of balsamic vinegar (Saporoso), and a good stock of books, one obviously being Geometry of Pasta, written by BDL co-owner Jacob Kenedy.

Best thing is that Gelupo is open until 1am on Thursdays - Saturdays for those late night cravings.

7 Archer Street
London, W1D 7AU

BOOK REVIEW: Jamie's 30 minute meals. Can it be done?

It seems you either love or hate Jamie Oliver. I personally bloody love him. Why? Well for one (and for me it is a big one) his literature uses the best typography in the culinary world. Look. At. It.

Design aside, there are of course many other more relevant reasons as well, another being his infectious passion for food and family which makes me fuzzy inside and more importantly inspires people who wouldn't normally cook, get off the freaking sofa and into the kitchen. Which is a good thing in my book. Er, his book.

Jamie's 30 Minute Meals–which accompanies his television series–is a quick cookbook but not, as they typically are, a budget or particularly fat/calorie friendly one. But it is foodie friendly. How about Cauliflower Macaroni with Chicory Salad and Insane Dressing followed by Lovely Stewed Fruit or the one I was drooling at the telly the most - Piri Piri Chicken, Dressed Potatoes, Rocket Salad and quick Portuguese Custard Tarts? All this in 30 minutes? Woo-hoo!

I'm a meal planning geek and he is right; planning the week's meals saves time and money. And coming in a 7pm, I really can only afford 30 minutes, maybe 45 minutes tops for cooking, but I always cook a proper meal. When rushed, I can get out a pretty good poached salmon dish out in 15 minutes and spaghetti puttanesca is always tasty in 12.

Design-wise, this book remains on-brand with the Jamie empire; lots of hands on and motion shots, colourful, saturated and energetic photography. I do love the feel of a Jamie book, he really does invest in considered design and it shows.

The recipe schedule list is good - helping you to multi-task and jump from one recipe part to another. Little video icons are dotted round the book for tricky parts or things that need visual explanation.

As most of the recipes are for 4-6 people, I'm not sure how useful it is for my 2 person household but I guess this book is aimed at the average family unit. Friends are always on hand for feeding round ours so we grabbed two extra mouths to test things out. Food always tastes better with more people around the table anyway!

But the crucial question, and a big question when you set yourself up with a book title like that is DOES IT WORK? Can I get one of these meals down in 30 minutes and still have a little on-the-spot jive and arm wave that he seems to fit in too? The recipes were tested last week on The Guardian's blog with poor results, although I thought reviewed rather unfairly just for the sake of a few comedy quips. So how did my household sensibly fare with the recipes?

For the sake of fairness, I though it shouldn't just be me to test this book out so Mr. Graphic Foodie (a decent cook) took on the Chicken Pie with French Style Peas, Sweet Carrot Smash followed by Berries, Shortbread and Chantilly Cream
Actual time taken: 49 minutes
Things to consider in the time: I have not taken into account the time taken for cutting the fruit for the dessert as Jamie uses berries but being out of season this ingredient would have cost a shocking £8 and so instead we used cheaper seasonal plums, nectarines, pomegranates and oranges which needed preparing. He was also half entertaining our guests too which may have slowed things down a bit.
Result: Rather delicious, homely, comfort food. A proper pie will always take time to prepare but this stripped down version didn't suffer too much from it. Our guests loved the casual cream, shortbread and fruit dessert and the meal overall was given the taste thumbs up.
Mr Graphic Foodie comments: He thought that it was easy to lose your place in the recipe as you were jumping around between items, and read the carrot recipe a bit wrong. He also commented that this recipe could probably be completed closer to 30 minutes with more practice and needed reading through a few times before you started.

The next day I (quite a competent cook *cough*) took on Beef Hash with Jacket Potatoes, Goddess Salad and Lovely Butter Beans and Bacon
Actual time taken:
36 minutes
Things to consider in the time: Although I almost cracked the 30 minutes (I HATE losing), this was not in any way a pleasant pace of cooking. I have cooked a 5 course dinner party for 10 people with more of a steady heartbeat. If I returned from work and cooked with this anxiety, I'd be in the cuckoo house by the end of the week.
Result: Tasty. The butter bean accompaniment was lovely, packed with flavours and the different textures of the whole meal really well considered. This was a happy, fulfilling and delicious family meal and went down well with everyone too.
Comments: Preparation, preparation, preparation. I had all my kitchen and dishwasher doors open so I could keep my workstation clear(ish).

Also the telly program made me drool at the Portuguese tarts so I gave them a go as an extra (not included in the times above). These were really delicious but I did struggle to create the caramel in such a short time and caramel is not something you should be doing with other things on your mind.

So really what I really think of this book is that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. The recipes in here are gorgeous and prove you can put out a fantastic and exciting complete dinner mid-week that isn't just a plate of pasta or a bowl of soup. However, don't be too rigid with getting it finished in 30 minutes, because you probably won't or if you do you'll be a bit of a wreck. As competent cooks, Mr GF and I almost achieved the time, but those people who Jamie is really targeting, those who may not cook all the time or be very confident, will find this pace too fast.

I'm going to be using this book a lot to pep up my mid-week meals (an relaxed weekend ones too) but I'm not going to be hell bent on producing the recipe in the suggested time scales. I'd say you could create these recipes in 45 minutes to an hour which is time well spent for the results. But I guess that makes a pretty crap title for a recipe book.

I received this (signed-woo!) copy for review.