EVENT: Brighton & Hove Food Festival, 7 - 16 September 2012

The Brighton & Hove food festivals get better and better. Now biannual, the Autumn Harvest is taking place from the 7th - 16th September. There's a great mixed bag of events, shows, workshops and pop-ups to try and cram in but below are my must-do picks. Quite a lot listed are free too! A full list can be seen on www.brightonfoodfestival.com

If booze and banter is your thing then Make Your Case is for you. Top wine merchants, growers and Brighton bars present their chosen wine whilst you sample and score it out of ten. I hear things get quite heated! Also Henry Butler is one of the hosts and worth going to hear him talk about wine - a wine bore he is not. Friday 7 September, Hotel du Vin, Brighton. £20 advance tickets which includes bar snacks and Sussex cheese to soak up some of the booze.

As always there is a huge Sussex Market which is a lot more than a few soggy vegan cupcakes. Over 80 stalls from our fantastic Sussex producers, growers and restaurants and even a wine bar serving up local wines. Saturday 8 & Sunday 9 September, 10am - 6pm, New Road, Jubilee Street and Jubilee Square, Free.

Really love the fact that this festival includes a separate Children's Food Festival. Prize those turkey twizzlers out of ther hands and show them what real food is about. Lots of workshops, cooking demos, tastings and creative bits and bobs. Saturday 8 - Sunday 9 September, 10am - 5pm, Free (although some events are ticketed for numbers).

The Vegan Maki Challenge is on again and is a really great night out. Lots of opinions to be debated over dinner! Wednesday 12 September, 7pm - 10pm, Moshi Moshi, £30. Here's my review from last year.

I've been hearing very good things about the Cantina Supper Club. If you still haven't tried a supper club then head here. Advance booking a must. Friday 14 September and Saturday 15 September, 7.30pm at a Hove location TBC.

The Live Food Show showcases cooking demonstrations from some of the city's best food talent. Hove Lawns on the Seafront, Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 September, 10am - 6pm, Free.

RECIPE: Homemade ricotta and classic ravioli filling

One thing I love to do back in Italy is to delve a spoon into a thick, creamy pile of the locally made sheep ricotta. The light, grainy texture and sweet creaminess as well as the dense farmyardy taste is wonderful. Nothing like the watery, bland and smooth pap you get in the plastic container in the supermarket. Nothing, not even close. I'm not even sure they should be calling it ricotta as it's likening a decent mature cheddar to something like a tube of Primula.

As there are quite a lot of Italian recipes that call for ricotta as an ingredient like ravioli, cakes or even Sicilian cannoli it's always a bit disappointing to use the store bought stuff. But little did I know that it is really (like really, really) easy to make a homemade "version"* of ricotta that is good for using in recipes, cheap as chips and quick. Nothing will be as good as the real deal, but this is a million times better than supermarket ricotta.

As with all simple recipes, quality of ingredient is king. For the milk only bother making this with full fat Jersey or other quality milk or if you can get hold of sheep milk then it will give you a more authentic flavour. You will also need a cooking thermometer and a square of cheesecloth or muslin, remembering to boil the cloth between uses (I use baby muslins that can be easily picked up for a couple of quid). You'll also need rennet which is an enzyme found in a sheep's stomach. Apparently you can get it in chemists but the pharmacists I encountered when I asked just looked at me like I was a loon. Vegetarian rennet is much easier to find in supermarkets, specialist food and health shops.

There are also recipes that you can substitute rennet with white vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, but this is a little closer to the real deal.

To produce around 150 - 200g of ricotta

1 Litre of quality milk (see above)
Vegetarian or animal rennet
Salt - a good pinch

Lay out a double layer of muslin inside a fine colander and place over a bowl.

Gently heat the milk to about 40°C. Take off the heat and add the salt and rennet (usually 10 drops or 2 scant teaspoons but check the packaging). Stir this through once and leave so stand undisturbed somewhere warm until the curds and whey separate. This can take a few minutes to an hour depending on your milk.

Put the pan back on the heat until it reaches 40°C again. Using a slotted spoon, gently lift the solid curds out into the muslin/cloth. Don't be tempted to squeeze or flatten the curds!

Let the solids drain and you can control the firmness of your resulting cheese, the longer you leave it, the firmer it gets. I leave mine about 30-40 minutes. Pop in a air-tight container and it's good in the fridge for 2-3 days.

You can now use the rictotta (or just slater on bread!) I made some simple filling for a mid-week raviloi.

Classic ravioli filling (enough for 2-3 people)

200g ricotta
1 egg, beaten
Zest of a lemon
20g Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino
Small handful of fresh parsley
Grated nutmeg to taste

Mix all of the above in a bowl until well combined and use to fill ravioli. My base pasta recipe for making by hand or with a stand mixer can be followed here. Use 200g of flour and 2 eggs for 2-3 people.

Serve with a light, fresh tomato sauce, which you can make by softening half an onion in olive oil. Add 3-4 fresh and fragrant tomatoes which have been chopped. Season well and cook until the tomatoes begin to disintegrate.

* I say "version" because ricotta (meaning recooked) is a cheese made with reheating the whey left over from other cheese production like mozzarella and this uses full milk.

REVIEW: Pronto In Tavola, Hove

I adore pizza, but have only ordered take away pizza a handful of times in my life, mainly due to the huge let down of sloppy bases with sloppier toppings. But with eating out somewhat of a luxury in the GF household at the moment and with so many people raving about Pronto In Tavola in Hove, I just had to give them a try.

Along with pizza, PIT also offer some classic Italian dishes like homemade gnocchi, pasta, stuffed aubergines, grilled sausages and my favourite sweet, Cannoli.

My greed radar really honed in on one of my top 5 snacks, Arancini (£2.50 each). They were nice but if I'm honest, and to severely blow my own trumpet, I prefer my own as these were quite soft and made with a tomato based risotto and I like mine white with a little more bite. Still, not bad at all.

Anyway, for the main show I must say that the bases blow Pizzaface, clear out of the water. Chewy, robust yet airy and with those tasty charcoal spots. Thin enough but not ridiculously so, they weren't pizza heaven but probably the best in town.

The base held up the Prosciutto e Funghi (£8) topping a treat which was of just the right amount, particularly on the cheese front.

The "special" (£10) however wasn't particularly special. On paper, meat and greens on pizza is my thing, typically prosciutto and rocket but in this case I was tempted by the sausage and an Italian green much like spinach. In reality the greens (rapini, I believe) were wet and there was way too much sausage which was quite dry, bland and chewy. The wetness of the greens and heaviness of the meat made everything on the pizza slop off. Shame. A little less and a little touch of spice and I would have been entering PIT on speed dial.

So, whilst I think the toppings at Pizzaface are better, and more interesting, the base maketh the pizza so I would have to opt for PIT, short of having the bases delivered to Pizzaface for topping. But that's just crazy talk.

On the subject of delivery, it was super fast. On a Friday evening at 8, they made it across town in less than half and hour.

Pronto In Tavola
43 Waterloo Street
Hove, East Sussex
01273 771881

REVIEW: Gelato Gusto, Brighton

Slightly behind our bigger brother London, gelaterias and fro-yo joints are popping up here there and everywhere in Brighton, which is not a bad thing at all! Sitting prominently on the corner of Gardner Street in the North Laines, the new-ish Gelato Gusto is pretty easy on the eye and has probably the nicest interior and branding of them all (helped by the fact the owner is a former graphic designer turned gelato maker).

The gelato here is decent and flavours seem to stick to the British taste. Mr Graphic Foodie loved his Apple Crumble flavour and I thought my Salted Caramel gelato was pretty good. For some reason I thought the gelato just lacked a bit of that Italian passion and service was a bit er, frosty and hap-hazard (some people offered a loyalty card, others not etc..) but it was a couple of days after opening when I visited.

Since then the place seems to be pretty popular and flavours seem to be getting more interesting with some great sounding sorbets like Lemon & Sage, Tomato & Basil with Black Pepper Croutons. I also like the sound of Chilli, Lime and Chocolate and Caramac (Caramac!) gelato.

Boho Gelato in Poole Valley certainly still has the edge for me in the product itself, but Gelato Gusto is in a great location and has the added bonus of a decent amount of seating in a gorgeous interior for those that like to linger. Anyway, my stomach sure has room for both.

Gelato Gusto 

2 Gardner Street

Well hi there, it has been some time...

Hello strangers! I'm back, well kind of. Motherhood is sure as heck hard graft and 6 month old baby Foodie is anything but an easygoing, snoozy baby - he's an absolute hell raiser! Still, he has a killer giggle and eats pasta like a seasoned Italian.

Although I don't quite have the time to write full reviews, I'm probably eating out more than usual (essentially being a lady-wot-lunches whilst on leave) so to keep up my local recommendations I'll be posting short but sweet reviews with less of the big intros and funny bits (yes, yes, my posts did have funny bits in).

I'm also getting back in the kitchen, albeit for quick meals for the time being but am proud to state that during this whole mad experience, not a single microwave meal has passed the threshold. No matter how tired or time poor this household gets we always make time to eat, even if it is spaghetti cacio e pepe for the third night running! So if I come up with anything worthwhile (usually some wizardry with two store cupboard ingredients as I haven't had time to do the food shop for a fortnight) I'll be sure to post it up.

It's good to be back and regaining some sort of normality. And if anyone has any tips on how to get a stubborn baby to sleep, do get in touch PLEASE!