Good Bye Sweet Summer

The leaves are falling but the trees aren’t yet bare. The sun’s shining but it’s not as warm as it was and the nights are drawing in.

Autumn is upon us, and I for one am excited.

It’s time to snuggle up and get cosy and what could be cosier than gathering round the kitchen table with your nearest and dearest to enjoy a long, lazy Sunday lunch?

Good food and good wine normally make for great conversation and plenty of laughs.

So put on your pinny, get in that kitchen, dust off those roasting pans and let’s get cooking.
yorkshire
The secret to a great Sunday lunch is to keep it simple.

To start, maybe a seasonal salad?
The bitter crimson leaves of radicchio mix beautifully with sweet, ripe black figs, salty feta cheese and pomegranate seeds. They produce both a riot of colours and flavours.

Then comes the main event..the roast.

The king of roasts being British roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and creamed horseradish.

What’s your favourite?

Roast pork, apple sauce and salty, crackling or roast chicken with stuffing and creamy bread sauce?

Whatever you choose just pile on those crisp, roasted potatoes, some root veggies roasted with a little honey and plenty of fresh herbs and of course some delicious greens. Pour on that rich gravy and enjoy.

To finish it has to be a fruit crumble and October just cries out for sweet English apples and tart blackberries accompanied by a large jug of custard or maybe just a dollop of sinful, Cornish clotted cream.

bloody-mary1
red-wine

Start with some spicy Bloody Marys and then crack open the wine.

The rest, as they say, will take care of itself!

Birthday Girl!

On September 30th 1993 I laid up the tables and opened the doors at Ffiona’s.

A giant leap of faith.

Over the years I’ve made so many friends and enjoyed many great nights and some very early mornings!

I’ve served thousands upon thousands of people, had way too much fun and sometimes way too much booze on a few occasions! ???????

I’ve worked with many talented people and one or two not so talented people!
I could write a book but nobody would believe it.

I’ve had my moments … good and bad, but I’m still here. So is my amazing chef Jose da Silva (22 years of service) and my wonderful sister.

So roll on our quarter century in 2018.
Thank you – all of you, for your support, belief, friendship and love… for simply being part of it all.

Here’s to Friday 30th September 2016 – we will be raising a glass or two to the last 23yrs and of course … looking to the future.ffionas

Thanksgiving – my favourite holiday

Those of you who know me will know that Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. In fact I’ve adopted it and like most converts I’m not just crazy about it…I’m a fanatic!!

Now I know that as a Brit I have no business telling anyone how it’s done. I have no history of special family traditions. I’ve never eaten a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows nor have I tried cornbread dressing and I have no crazy Aunty Pat’s pumpkin pie recipe with the unbelievably buttery crust…in fact I don’t have any secret family recipes at all.
However I’ve made my own traditions and now I even make my own cornbread with cheese and jalapeños and my sweet potato meringue pie is legendary.

My very first Thanksgiving started as thank you from a very grateful Brit to all my American friends, customers and neighbours who lived in their thousands in Kensington and Notting Hill. Who, when I opened Ffiona’s, poured in through the doors and supported me, they insisted I turned the tables and then they tipped me 20%……. just because that’s what they do!!

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So from our first thanksgiving 23yrs ago when during that wonderful evening I had a sort of out of body experience (probably due to too much bourbon) and suddenly as I looked around at everyone relaxed and happy, eating and drinking, the penny dropped and I “felt it”. I was overcome with thankfulness and decided to charge no one, so I gave everything away free. Thanksgiving will always be my way of saying thank you and that I’ve never forgotten your collective kindness to me or the fact that you get me!

That one dinner sitting has developed it into four sittings, two for lunch, and 2 two for dinner plus a takeaway service too.
However, in the real spirit of Thanksgiving we still offer the first sitting free of charge for some of our locals and charities. Everyone fights to work that shift, it’s really great fun. Last year we had one lady arrive alone, by bus, she had just turned 100 years old on the previous day. She enjoyed a cocktail and lunch, her two highlights being the spicy cornbread and the sweet potato meringue pie. So you see you’re never too old to become a convert!

Click HERE to see our 2016 Thanksgiving Menu.

Beautiful Fruit

At Ffiona’s we only use the best ingredients we can get our hands on, our main prerequisites are that they are fresh and organic. That doesn’t always mean they have to be local. However, just because some ingredients come from further afield it doesn’t mean we need to compromise on quality, nor does it mean that it cannot be good for the environment.

Buying fruit that is out of season in the UK from abroad can often, for good reason, be considered a bit extravagant and bad for the environment – this is not always the case.

South Africa is a beautiful and diverse country and with it’s Mediterranean climate it produces some of the best fruit in World, in abundance. Apples, oranges, stone fruit and more are all grown in South Africa during the off season in the UK. With fruit being picked, packed, shipped (not flown) and landed in the UK with weeks, we are able to enjoy this bountiful crop at it’s best.

Now with a new initiative called Beautiful Fruit – rural, farming communities in South Africa are being transformed by the export market. Profits made by the fruit growers are ploughed directly back into their farm and local communities. Providing funding for heath centres and schools. Heres a few stats that show how buying fruit from South Africa is so important for their communities.

  • One hectare of fruit planted creates approximately one full-time producing job.
  • As a whole, the South African fruit industry provides almost half a million jobs.
  • Every South African fruit worker supports, on average, a family of four.

Beautiful Fruit support a number of different capmpaigs, including Help a South African Schools which collects and distributes used books for schools in rural South Africa.

16-pop

For more information about the wonderful South African fruit that we use during the UK winter and how this thriving industry is helping communities follow the links below.

Beautiful Fruit
Help a South African School

Traditional British Trifle

Nothing says Christmas more than a trifle. It has been gracing our tables for more than 400 years, exciting and delighting generations of British families.

Custard, whipped cream, sherry soaked sponge and raspberries. Each luscious layer more delicious and decadent than the last, all combined together in a beautiful cut glass dish (this really is the time to get out Granny’s crystal).

Every family creates its own masterpiece. Variations include: fruit jelly, bananas or omit the booze if young children will be eating it. Whatever you do it will be a showstopper and in my house, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a big, blousey trifle.

The following is my recipe. I always use shop bought sponge fingers (ladies’ fingers) – homemade plain sponge is great but I find it can go soggy.

Cover the bottom of the dish with the sponge and liberally sprinkle with dry sherry (I like to use sweet sherry or Madeira wine) you need to do this until the sponges are thoroughly soaked with the booze.

Next spread raspberry jam over the sponges. I use a jam that is only fruit and sugar no additives, Bonne Maman is a favourite.

Then I make the custard. You can use ready made if you really have to but when it comes to custard homemade is far and away superior and it’s not difficult to master.

For the custard

425ml
4 large egg yolks
25g caster sugar
1 level dessert spoon of cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Place the cream in a pan over a gentle heat and heat it to just below simmering point, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

While the cream is heating, use a balloon whisk to whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour mixture and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a cloth underneath to steady it. Then, whisking the egg mixture all the time with one hand, gradually pour the hot cream into the bowl.

When it’s all in, immediately return the whole lot back to the saucepan using a rubber spatula. Now back it goes on to the same gentle heat as you continue whisking until the custard is thick and smooth, which will happen as soon as it reaches simmering point.

If you do overheat it and it looks grainy, don’t worry, just transfer it to a jug or bowl and continue to whisk until it becomes smooth again.pour into a bowl and cover with clingfilm until it is cool.

To assemble

Scatter fresh raspberries all over the sponges, pressing them down slightly so that all the juices are absorbed. Frozen or fresh raspberries will do.

Then pour the cooled custard over the fruit to form a thick layer.

Whip 275/300ml of fresh double cream (I always whisk a little caster sugar or icing sugar into my cream to sweeten it). Then dollop it over the custard and smooth the surface off or make swirls or do whatever you feel like.

The final flourish I will leave to you and your imagination however, my trifle has to have glacé cherries and a liberal sprinkling of tiny, silver balls (edible cake decorations) otherwise it just wouldn’t be Christmas!!

ps. Keep well away from the family cat – one Christmas ours was found knee deep in the trifle licking the cream off as fast as he could!

Christmas Activities in Kensingotn

Christmas is special wherever you are, a chance to spend time with family and loved ones. But, there’s only so much sitting round, eating great food and watching Christmas movies you can do; so, we’ve put together a few suggestion for activities that will get you out and about and help you celbrate the festive season in style.

The Royal Albert Hall Christmas Festival

The Royal Albert Hall Christmas Festival

Website

A victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace

A Victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace

Website

Kensington Mums Family Christmas Fair

Kensington Mums Family Christmas Fair

Website

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Website

Strawberry Fields Forever

Let me take you down, cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
– John Lennon

We all love the more relaxed state of mind summer brings, and for us strawberries epitomise summertime here in Britain.

Strawberry season is well upon us, and having had the sunniest weather for over 90 years 2015 is truly a bumper crop. Wimbledon spectators ate their way through a staggering 28,000 kilos this year and with good reason. Not only are they fragrant and tasty but they are good for you too.

The strawberry plant, along with its good friend the raspberry plant, is a member of the rose family; and in Ancient Greece the strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love. It is actually not a berry in the true sense as strawberries carry their pips on the outside of their flesh rather than on the inside.

Strawberries have high nutritional value. Eight strawberries contain more Vitamin C then an orange; 100g of strawberries will serve you for just 50 calories and 0g of fat. They can whiten your teeth. Strawberries are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers – they are full of vitamin C, B6, fibre, folic acid, potassium and amino acids.

Strawberries also contain high levels of nitrate. This has been proven to increase blood and oxygen level flow to the muscles. It is believed that people who load up on strawberries prior to exercising have far greater endurance and burn more calories.

Not bad for a little red berry.

Health properties aside I like my strawberries with meringues and whipped cream and so my recipe this month is Eton Mess. This is traditionally served at the annual cricket match between Eton College and Harrow public schools. Legend has it that the hampers containing the meringues and strawberries for the cricket tea were dropped, the meringues were smashed and the strawberries crushed. What to do? Mix it all up and serve with a smile, after all, this is England old chap!

‘Fragaria’ is the name of the genus collectively known as strawberries, and most strawberries were cultivated from Fragaria brought from Chile and France in the 18th century.

Strawberries are extremely versatile. They are freezable, especially if you are planning on blitzing them into a smoothie or simmering them to make a coulis afterwards. Strawberry sauce on pancakes, waffles or ice cream goes down a treat at any time of year.

Make a jug of lemonade look pretty by adding halved strawberries and slices of lemon to it. Serve them on porridge, or with meringues, in trifle or made into jam. Strawberries have a lot to answer for, and it just wouldn’t be summer without them!

Strawberry Fields

If we’ve tickled your fancy there are a few places pretty close to home on the outskirts of London, where you can still Pick Your Own. Gather up your children, grab a basket, and head to:

parksidefarm2

Parkside Farm

Enfield,
Middlesex,
EN2 8LA
Website

stanhillfarm1

Stanhill Farm

Wilmington,
Dartford,
Kent
DA2 7HD
Website

Hewittsfarm1

Hewitts Farm

Orpington,
Kent
BR6 9BX
Website

strawberry-sauce

Recipe for Strawberry Compote Sauce

  • 500g Ripe strawberries, hulled
  • 4 tbsp Caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Cut the strawberries in half and put in a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the strawberries for 5 minutes or until dark red and syrupy. Strain if you wish. Cool. The compote can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Cooking the Books

I am often asked which are my favourite cookery books. The truth is I am addicted to them, I have more than three hundred at the last count.

One of best places to explore and sniff out the best is at Books For Cooks, if you are a cook book junkie it is here that you will find your fix.

books-for-cooks

Books for Cooks

4 Blenheim Crescent,
London
W11 1NN.

Website

However, here are a few of my all time favourites… but there are more, so many more!

beyond_nose_to_tail

Beyond Nose To Tail

by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly.

cooking_in_ten_minutes

Cooking In Ten Minutes

by Edouard De Pomiane.

the_kitchen_diaries

The Kitchen Diaries

by Nigel Slater.

english_food

English Food

by Jane Grigson.

roast_chicken_and_other_stories

Roast Chicken and Other Stories

by Simon Hopkinson.

alice_b_toklas

The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

by Alice B. Toklas

omlette_glass_of_wine

An Omelette and a Glass of Wine

by Elizabeth David.

fog_city_diner

Fog City Diner Cookbook

by Cindy Pawlcyn.

GLUTEN FREE DIET (GFD)

This dish is suitable or can be adapted to be suitable for those who are on a Gluten Free Diet.

As part of our Inclusive NOT Exclusive initiative we have introduced many new dishes and tweaked some of our long standing favourite dishes so that they can be enjoyed by those with specific dieatary requirements.

DAIRY FREE / LACTOSE FREE DIET

This dish is suitable or can be adapted to be suitable for those who are on a Dairy Free or Lactose Free Diet.

As part of our Inclusive NOT Exclusive initiative we have introduced many new dishes and tweaked some of our long standing favourite dishes so that they can be enjoyed by those with specific dieatary requirements.

VEGAN/RAW DIET

This dish is suitable or can be adapted to be suitable for those who are on a Vegan or a Raw diet.

As part of our Inclusive NOT Exclusive initiative we have introduced many new dishes and tweaked some of our long standing favourite dishes so that they can be enjoyed by those with specific dieatary requirements.

THE PALEO DIET

This dish is suitable or can be adapted to be suitable for those who are on The Paleo Diet.

As part of our Inclusive NOT Exclusive initiative we have introduced many new dishes and tweaked some of our long standing favourite dishes so that they can be enjoyed by those with specific dieatary requirements.

Celebrate Thanksgiving at Ffiona’s.

Lunch and dinner on Thursday November 28th 2024
Bookings from 12pm to 8.30pm (last sitting)
£75 per person.