REVIEW: The Foragers Pub, Hove

Gastropub. In some ways it's a bit of a dirty word. There are ones that try too hard, ones that have a confused identity, ones that replace much loved local boozers and ones that charge a fortune. There are however, ones that are a refreshing, shining beacon to the dining scene and, on paper, The Foragers is one of these stars. As the name suggests, all the meat and fish is from Sussex, orgainc or free-range. Vegatables and herbs are local, foraged or grown by the pub themselves. There is a fantastic range of ales and beers and a good wine list. Staff are friendly and they have a nice logo. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

Taking into account the above, I've been wanting to go to the Foragers for an age and with high expectations, an empty stomach and a gang of 7 friends, this was to be a Sunday lunch and a half. So it is with a bit of a heavy heart I write this post.

I chose the Roast Top Side of Beef with Horseradish (top image). The beef was nicely pink and a generous amount given. Not the most tender beef I've ever had but tasty with a well seasoned gravy. The main problem lay with the vegetables. I like my roast potatoes to have a crunch and these were school dinner soft along with soft parsnips, soft green cabbage and soft carrots. The red cabbage was nicely spiced but again, soft. Texturally and literally, a flop and a crying shame. Also, the arrival of a good Yorkshire puddings should normally result in a gasp of joy but these were a little wimpy although not too bad.

Mr Graphic Foodie has been banging on about wanting to try Romney Marsh lamb for a while so spotting this on the menu made it a dead cert for him. Again his complaint was the meat being gristly and the vegetables soft.

The only vegetarian option was this Wigmore Cheese, Cannellini Bean and Shallot Wellington (pescatarians had cod as an option too). I thought the size of this was a little mean and could have been bumped up with a few more veg.

My second choice was the Roast Pork Belly, but I have to admit I was a tad pleased not going for it in the end as I personally prefer it cooked a lot longer so more of the fat renders away leaving mainly succulent meat and irresistible crunchy crackling.

All roasts were £12 with exception to the Wigmore Wellington at £11.

But (and thank God for the but) the reasonably priced puds were great (all at around £5). My Walnut and Toffee Tart was a perfect Sunday naughty treat. The delicate, thin tart case held the gooey, sticky rich toffee sauce and crunchy nuts. The nut brittle hiding under the vanilla ice cream was a welcome extra tidbit. Absolutely lovely.

Another hit was this dainty and light grilled Panettone with honey creme fraiche and caramelised pear and apricots which worked together beautifully.

Also rather good was the lemon posset and the hot chocolate pudding with double cream.

General consensus across the table was that although not terrible, the mains were not particularly special, which I have to agree with. The particular disappointment for me was that with these beautiful, award winning local ingredients at their fingertips, the Forager shouldn't have to work too hard to create something spectacular yet remarkably managed to create something mediocre at best.
The Foragers
3 Stirling Place

EVENT: Brighton and Hove Spring Harvest Festival, 1-10 April 2011

Tickets are now on sale for the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink “Spring Harvest” Festival. As always, there is a strong focus on seasonal Sussex ales, wines and local food which will be celebrated over a course of events including gourmet bus tours, markets, beer and Champagne festivals and pudding clubs running from 1st–10th April.

Top event for me would have to be the Sussex Gourmet Tour, Saturday 2 April, 9.45am - 5.30pm, £40 in advance. Traveling around Sussex on a vintage Brighton bus, to numerous tastings at some of the finest local food producers across the county, including artisan cheeses, ales and wines? Yes please! Places are very limited.

Hotel Du Vin will be hosting this year's Champagne Festival on Sunday 3 April, noon - 8pm, £20 and, appropriately, Pub Du Vin will host the Beer Festival, Friday 1 & Saturday 2nd April £3-5 depending on session. I’ll be at both (hic).

Brighton & Hove’s first Restaurant Week will run from April 1st to 8th, with restaurants, cafés and gastropubs offering ‘prix fixe’ menus. The restaurants will be offering £10 lunch and £15 dinner menus; and cafés a £5 deal. Bargain. Terre á Terre, L'Eglise, Moshi Moshi and Pub Du Vin are confirmed and I've been meaning to try out Sabai Gastro Bar, The Old Bank and Agua Dulce, so this would be an ideal opportunity.

One of my Brighton favouries, Boho Gelato, is hosting the Great Brighton Ice Cream Competition and where children are invited to design an all-new ice cream flavour for this summer. The winner will be crowned at the Live Food Show and will get to see their ice cream made, as well as winning a giant tube of ice cream and cones to enjoy with their school mates. How cool is that! Even though I’m short enough to enter, I’m sadly too old. Entries to:

On the subject of sweet, I like the idea of The Pudding Club at Temptation Cafe. A main course will be followed with not one but SIX puddings. Friday 8 April, from 7.30pm, £25 in advance.

New Road will also be the home of the Big Sussex Market from 10am to 6pm on April 2nd where you can buy fab Sussex produce or hot food from some of Brighton’s restaurant stalls.

Finally, public voting for the Brighton & Hove Foodies will also start on the 1st, seeking the city’s best restaurant, food pub, café and food shop. Have your say at

Full details of all the events can be found at

Ladurée bag charm and other gifts

Unfortunately not available anymore but love this sweet Ladurée bag charm from Colette. Seen first at Nicolette Mason (one of my top 3 blogs at the mo) but better image of it below via Style and the City.

Also cute is the snow globe (€120!) and more affordable rubber stamps. Trés jolie.

Both images via Ladurée

RECIPE: Millionaires' Ravioli with Beef, Wine, Thyme and Fresh Black Winter Truffle (good with pig cheeks too)

One of my earliest food memories as a little (well even smaller) girl was being taken to a restaurant in Italy with the family and being presented with a plate of homemade tagliatelle with lashings of olive oil and topped with a generous shavings of fresh truffle. I remember initially not being very sure about the alien-like brain section pattern and the unusual fragrance, but with one taste and a table full of encouragement and arm waving from those already in the know, I realised that truffles were going to be one of my favourite foods.

But at 6 years old, you can't quite appreciate how expensive these beautiful "black diamonds" are. Lord only knows what my parents paid for that plate of pasta for me! But I do dip my toe in the pool of extravagace and indulge in a truffle every now and then, life really is too short.

So I knew that I was a very lucky girl indeed to win a fresh Black Winter Truffle in a competition. I got 20g (about £60) from Mister Truffle, a new venture selling fresh truffles by the gram which I think is a genius idea for affordable luxury as you don't have to buy the whole truffle, only ordering what you need. This black winter truffle was so wonderfully pungent, that on opening the delivery, it filled the air with its gorgeous aroma.

Dealing with truffles in recipes can be quite tricky. I think as the truffle is such a wonderful flavour it should shine through, so pair back on the other ingredients. Pasta for instance, is a perfect vehicle to show off the flavour which is why it is often served with it.

Saying that, it does work well with robust red meats; beef, venison, pheasant, rabbit, duck and even veal (but never lamb). My first choice for the ravioli filling would have been pigs cheeks and would have used this base recipe to prepare them, using wine instead of cider but couldn't get cheeks for love nor money this week. Instead I settled for a similar texture and bought a piece of brisket, cooking it slowly in stock then wine for a punchy partner to the truffle which worked a treat.

This makes about 20 large ravioli but depends on the size and shape.
Serves 2 people gluttonously (Mr Graphic Foodie, the truffle pig, happily ate 14 of them which was OUTRAGEOUS), 4 people sensibly and 6 people as a starter.

For the filling
Olive oil
Half an onion, chopped very finely
1 small carrot, peeled and diced finely
500g beef brisket, cubed
400ml vegetable or meat stock
2 garlic cloves
1 tbs tomato puree concentrate
2 large sprigs of thyme
200ml good red wine
15g of fresh black truffle (you could get away with 10g but if you're going to do it, do it I say)
Butter and Parmesan or better, Pecorino cheese

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, fry the onion and carrot gently in the olive oil until soft. Add the beef brisket and brown thoroughly. Add the stock, tomato concentrate, thyme and garlic cloves. Cover and simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more stock if the pan becomes dry.

The stock would have reduced by now so add the red wine and gently simmer for a further hour until reduced and thick.

Turn out onto a plate and allow to cool thoroughly. Once cooled, take half the mixture and blend until smooth. Break the remaining meat down a little with the back of a spoon. Add the blended mixture back to the meat and combine thoroughly.

For the pasta
200g Type '00'
2 eggs
pinch of salt

To make the pasta by hand. Sift the flour into a mound and make a little well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the well and add the pinch of salt. Using a fork, gradually combine the flour and the egg, working from the inside out. Once combined and manageable, knead the dough for a good 10 minutes. If the dough is too soft or sticky, add more flour and if too hard add a little water. It should be firm, elastic and smooth.

To make the pasta using a Kitchen Aid mixer. Sift the flour into the mixer bowl and add the other pasta ingredients. Using the beater attachment on speed 1 combine the ingredients. Switch to the dough hook and set on speed 2 for 5-8 minutes until the dough forms into a nice smooth and elastic texture. Add a little touch of water (not too much!) if needed.

After using either method, form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes whilst you make the filling.

Make the pasta. Remove the pasta from the fridge. Dust the worktop with flour. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and put each piece through a pasta machine, starting off with a wide setting and getting thinner and thinner, doing all 6 pieces on one setting before moving on to thinner settings, dusting the sheets with a little flour where needed. Go as thin as you dare/are comfortable managing. On my Imperia machine I go to the next to last thinnest setting for this shape.

I used a round ravioli cutter for this (bought at Carluccios) but you can use whatever shape you want or cut them by hand into square ravioli, sealing the edges with a fork.

Place a walnut sized amounts of the meat mixture along the pasta strips at suitable intervals for your cutter, brush the sides and in between with a little water using a pastry brush. Lay a second strip on top, starting at one end, guide the pasta around the mixture using the side of your hand expelling any air as you go. The pasta top should hug the mixture tightly. Cut the ravioli and rest on a lightly floured surface whilst you do the rest. Use the offcuts and put through the machine again for more strips. If you work quickly, it shouldn't dry out. I think it is now best to let these rest for 15 minutes to dry out a little, but you can cook straight away.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water with a slug of olive oil until they rise to the surface. Cook until al dente, testing the thickest part.

To make the sauce. Melt a generous amount of butter for the sauce in a small saucepan.

Drain and place on warmed plates, spooning over the butter sauce, shavings of the fresh truffle and Parmesan or Pecorino.