It takes a brave, some might say foolhardy, some might say insane, soul to start a business in the current financial climate, so we denizens of SE15 should stand as one and applaud the bravery/foolhardiness/insanity (delete as appropriate) of Huey, only begetter of the Bambuni delicatessen and coffee shop, which first opened its doors a year ago yesterday.
The refurbishment of the premises took months, and most of the work was carried out by Huey himself. It was a labour of love and you can tell by the finished space how much thought and care have gone into it; free wi-fi, well duh!, but also a power outlet at each table; great music, yes, but via a speaker system covering every area; a projector hung from the ceiling for film nights; plain white walls, polished wood and spot-lighting making it a delightful room to spend time in, over a flat white and a toasted sandwich.
Of course, none of that would matter a jot if even more thought hadn't been put into what is on offer. But there's some great stuff here:
The coffee served is from Volcano and is also available to buy in 250g bags (they'll happily grind the beans for you if you wish).
In addition to a fine selection of charcuterie and cheeses, Huey sells fantastic bacon and sausages from Nathan Mills.
Bread is from Brick House, Levain (formerly Born and Bread) and Boulangerie Jade.
Pork pies are from Bray's Cottage.
There are shelves full of dried pastas from Bartolini and De Cecco, jams, pickles, Spanish beans and pulses, goose fat, duck confits and cassoulets, Italian tomatoes from Mutti, teas from Pukka and much more.
There's a great selection of beers (Red Willow, The Kernel, Cropton's, Hard Knott and Buxton's) and wines. And, marvellous to behold, there are two barrels of wine (a white and a red - currently Italian) from which customers can refill their stoppered Bambuni bottles. A bottle costs £2.50 and the wine is £5.50 for 750ml.
A similar refill system operates for olive and rapeseed oils. The oils cost between £3-£5 for 500ml and the refill bottles £2 each.
Italian '00', strong bread, self-raising and spelt flours are available to buy by weight as is rice (paella, basmati, arborio), quinoa and oats.
Joy of joys, there's a freezer cabinet chock full of ice cream from The Ice Cream Union - including cornflake, hazelnut and lemon pie flavours.
There is always new stock from new suppliers being added - Huey has been stocking everything you need to make sushi (inlcuding mats) for a while now, but has just added a range of Mexican moles, re-fried beans, tortillas etc.
And it's well worth signing up to the newsletter to keep up to date with regular evening activities - supperclub pop-ups, film nights, sushi making, late evening bar nights etc.
With all of that available, let me ask you a question. If you live in the area and haven't been to Bambuni to, at the very least, check it out, why on Earth not?
Happy Birthday Bambuni!
And so once more unto Royal Hill in Greenwich, land of twin-sets, labradors and Money Box on the radio, for my monthly visit to The Cheeseboard. Or almost monthly: because I disappear sometimes, I'd fallen a month behind in this project (to choose a cheeseboard, with three cheeses each, always under £7.50, for every month of the year). So, in order to get back on track, I thought that on this visit we'd choose two. There was another reason: opting for three different wedges for under £7.50 meant that I couldn't afford to include those which are only sold whole. So I intended that one board would consist of just one splendiferous, fuck-me-that's-good cheese.
But, as it turned out, a whole Carboncino, the star of this month, costs £4.25. So with the addition of small slices from two other cheeses the total came to £7.54. And we're not going to quibble about going four pence over, are we? Especially as the other selection cost me only £6.06. Actually, because I've signed up to the Cheeseboard's newsletter, I got a discount of 15%, so the grand total for all six cheeses came to £11.56.
The tasting notes in each of these posts have, up until now, been written by Robbyn, the shop's manager. However, she seemed to think that it was perfectly O.K. to flit off to the good ol' U.S. of Stateside for a family gathering without first checking if I was due for a visit. Luckily, the damage any such flagrant and haughty disregard for customer satisfaction might have caused was more than offset by the help and advice proffered by her colleague Lucy. These are her notes:
If you think about it, breast of lamb should really be ticking all the boxes for the solitary skint foodie. It's cheap - cheaper (in Asda at least) even than our beloved pork belly; it's most often packaged as a 2-3 portion rolled and boneless joint, just right for a Sunday lunch plus leftovers; and it comes with the promise of sweet and tender meat.
But on the few occasions when I've been tempted to cook it, what I've found is that the box it most vehemently ticks, with a mahoosive, fuck-off, indelible marker pen, is the one marked 'Vast Amounts Of Unappetising Fat'.
Now fat can be a glorious thing, particularly when we're talking pork (see the previous post) and beef (although the government have been mysteriously silent on my proposal to provide free bread and dripping to all school children). But, in my opinion, a little lamb fat goes a long way.
Now, The Ginger Pig, butchers of distinction, have, with ineffable kindness, taken to gifting me an occasional package of 'mystery meat' - and this month's generous offering was two bone-in breasts of lamb. Time then, finally, to find a recipe or two which successfully dealt with the cut's unwanted adiposity.
Actually, before that, why is it called 'breast' of lamb anyway? As you can see from the diagram below (which I took from this page of the Ginger Pig's website without permission and with a cavalier disregard for the copyright laws, because that's how this samizdat, 'Fight The Power' gastro-rebel rolls, motherfuckers*), it's really the belly.
Native to central Italy, Guanciale is unsmoked, cured pig's jowl. This incredibly fatty cut is rubbed with salt and black pepper (sometimes peperoncino, sometimes herbs) and dried for three weeks or longer. Dense with collagens, it imparts a rich and silky texture to a sauce, along with an intensely primitive, funky porkiness. It is the essential ingredient in sugo all’Amatriciana.
The pasta most commonly associated with all’Amatriciana is bucatini, but that is the Roman way, along with the inclusion of garlic and onion. In the town of Amatrice (which fiercely claims the sauce for its own) it is more often made without alliums and served with spaghetti.
I’m equally happy using either pasta to be honest. As regards making the sauce, while I’ve previously sided with the Eternal City (even adding a splash of balsamic vinegar), I now consider myself an honorary Amatrician; because really this sauce is all about the guanciale - garlic and onions are simply unnecessary. Having said that, with so few ingredients involved you should also pay a premium for a good tin of tomatoes and a fine hunk of pecorino.
If you find it difficult to source guanciale locally, you can buy it online from Gastronomica, Natoora or Nifeislife.
Prior to a few weeks ago, around the time I posted this recipe for Greek frappé, I can't recall ever giving much of a toss about either iced coffee or iced tea. But since then I've arranged a meeting with a kind soul (@shedlikesfood) who has brought back some sachets of Nescafé Classic from her travels, bought a Vietnamese filter pot, checked with Melange on Bellenden Road to find out when their next delivery of Cà Phê VN coffee arrives (it's today), doubled my holdings in ice cube trays and re-arranged the contents of the fridge to accommodate jugs of cold-brewed coffee, cold tea and sugar syrup. A textbook example, I'm sure you'll agree, of gastro-bonkers OCD.
Probably, by now, every one but me is familiar with the cold brew method. If you're not, it simply involves steeping coarsely ground coffee in water (the ratio of 4½ parts water to 1 part coffee seems a commonly given guide) for about 12 hours. You then strain the resultant concentrate - once through a sieve and then again through a finer coffee filter - to leave behind any 'silt'; then chill. To use it, simply dilute with water or milk and sweeten to taste. (Not having a coffee filter to hand, I used a cut-out piece of J-Cloth for the second strain).
Aficionados of this method say it produces a smoother, less bitter brew - because there's no heat involved, the oils which are full of acidic compounds are not released into the water. The counter argument is that “…it uses too much coffee to be close to drinkable; it misses all the subtle brightness and nuance extracted when water of the proper temperature is used to dissolve the coffee oils that are so carefully developed in the craft roasting process, leaving a dull shadow of what might have been……oh, and the aroma is also dull to non-existent.” (From the website of Oren's Daily Roast, a New York chain of coffee houses.) I reckon it's just the ticket for cheaper blends containing a large amount of the harsher (and caffeine-packed) Robusta bean.
However, any argument, either for or against, might well be considered moot when what you're going to do with the end product is mix it with sweet and sticky condensed milk.
Which brings us to Vietnamese coffee. Here's a video on how to make it:
If you're using this method, and getting an X-rated shot of coffee, it makes sense to serve over crushed ice which will then dilute it. What I did though was make a cold brew to a ratio of around 5:1 and use some of it to make coffee ice cubes then mix both in a glass with the condensed milk. It was delicious. Give it a try.
And the iced tea? I made it by steeping four jasmine teabags and a small lump of ginger in a litre of boiling water for about 4-5 minutes and adding a tablespoon of lemon juice. Once it had cooled, I used some to make ice cubes. Then I filled a glass with the cubes, poured over the chilled tea and sweetened it with a little sugar syrup (heat equal amounts of sugar and water in a pan until the sugar has dissolved). That was delicious too. Shame that summer is over.
I was sorting through my kitchen cupboards on Saturday morning and came across a bottle of pomegrante molasses which I'd bought, originally, to use for a recipe that I'd never got around to making. In the adjacent cupboard was a jar of haricot beans, and seeing the two in quick succession made me think longingly of a deep bowl of gloriously rich baked beans. After a further check, I found I already had all the ingredients needed for the recipe below excepting the pork - I love it when that happens.
Of course pomegranate molasses isn't the same thing as molasses at all, but its tartness works really well in this marriage of sweet and sour.
It is not for me to use such terms as 'genius' to describe the inclusion of jerk barbecue sauce in this dish - that is what the comments section is for - but it combines with the triple smoked pork belly to give the beans a wonderfully gutsy bonfire night flavour.
Speaking of the pork belly, I found it in Harte's on Rye Lane, where they call it triple smoked gammon; but gammon, to me, means joints or steaks. This was definitely belly; if I was them I'd market it as 'Irish Pancetta'. It cost £5.99/kg.
You could, of course, use smoked bacon for this or even splash out on some actual pancetta (and for a really cheap dish, Asda sell what they term 'Smoked Bacon Cooking Pieces' for £1.48/kg), but none, I'll wager, will impart quite so much depth and complexity .
SHORTLISTED FOR FOOD BLOG OF THE YEAR 2014