Taste of London 2015: Glorious Gluttony in Regent’s Park!

I absolutely love going to Taste of London – the first time I went was in 2010 as part of my hen party (which also included afternoon tea at The Ritz, karaoke and Louboutin shopping at Harrods!) and it was such a ball I’ve been dying to go back for ages! This year the stars aligned and I managed to visit the June festival for the Friday morning sessions.

If you love food and you love the London restaurant scene, you should definitely make sure you pay the event a visit! Here’s my guide to the best the event has to offer…

Taste of London 1

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The Royal Wedding Nosh

So, I bet you’re wondering what I actually served for MY Royal wedding watching party, right? Considering what a fuss I made about it, anyway. Well, you’re in luck – here’s my write up!
Whole table 6

So here’s the overview of the mammoth table of buffet food – we had about 20 people in all, so we didn’t want anyone to go home hungry! We nearly ran out of sandwiches, but other than that, we beat the stomachs and ended up eating leftovers for a couple of days…
Whole table 5

As you can see, the sandwiches were cut correctly into finger shapes (mwah hah hah) ala The Ritz – corner shapes are fine, but crustless finger sandwiches are the only option for a posh spread.
Whole table 2

We had a variety of sandwiches – smoked salmon and cream cheese, Belgian ham and dijon mustard with salad and baby tomatoes, caramelised onion chutney and cheese, egg mayonnaise, and of course, cucumber (boring). I love a good sandwich!
Mackerel pate 1

We also made Jamie Oliver’s mackerel pate from his British Picnic menu from 30 Minute Meals. People went nuts for this, but I really wasn’t keen. I thought I’d love it, but it sort of made me squeamish!
Heston trifle side

We also bagged Heston’s special royal trifle from Waitrose. It was incredibly pricey, and wasn’t a real trifle. All in all, it was a bit of a miss for me – vastly overshadowed by a family classic called Rennie’s Pudding, which I’ll talk about in a minute.
Heston trifle close

Heston’s trifle was really pretty though! Caramelised nuts, freeze dried strawberries, rose petals – lovely! Only trouble is, because it was topped with meringue, sitting on cream, it was pretty much destroyed as soon as you tried to take a spoonful.

Anyway, here’s the star pudding – in my humble opinion:
Rennie's pudding top

I don’t know where this pudding came from, but we’ve always had it in our family and it’s blimming delicious – and so simple! It’s just fresh fruit, covered with cream, and then topped with sugar caramel.
Rennie's pudding side

It is seriously gorgeous! Very easy, too.
Gin and tonic jelly side

I also made a gin and tonic jelly from the delicious Nigella Lawson – how English can you get, right? I’d never made jelly before, although I have made panna cotta, so it was an interesting experience. But it uses a remarkable amount of gelatine – more leaves than they even sell in one pack from the supermarket I shop at. Wowza. Maybe because it contains A QUARTER OF A LITRE OF GIN? That’s right! That’s a lot, I think. This jelly also made me realise I actually do like gin and tonic as well. But I’ll always be a Pimm’s girl at heart…
Gin and tonic jelly top down

It looks very innocent, but you should not attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery after eating this jelly…

Now onto the cake.
Victoria sponge side

Sitting proudly on top of the most expensive cake stand I have ever, and hopefully will ever, buy in my life is a Victoria sponge – a real classic. It was spruced up with some chantilly cream and blueberries and strawberries, just to give it patriotic colours. To be honest, we could have done without it, because it’s sort of, shall we say, restrained, compared to some of the outrageous puddings on offer, but I HAD to use my cake stand. This sucker cost me about £50! I’ve had my eye on one ever since I saw it on a blog somewhere – I think it was Bakerella’s, maybe. But I recently suffered a tragic loss in my life after every single damn cake stand I owned fell off the top of the fridge and smashed. I was gutted. The whole collection, gone at once. So I had to replace them, and this cake stand will hopefully last longer. I spent the whole day before the party, and the day of, shrieking at people ‘DON’T BREAK THE CAKE STAND. DO NOT TOUCH IT. IT WAS VERY EXPENSIVE’. It didn’t really create the atmosphere of relaxed, casual and classy hosting that I wanted to project, but you know, it’s still in one piece, so it was worth it.
Top of Victoria sponge

I also dusted icing sugar over the top in the shape of a doily, because, you know, it’s ENGLISH. Somehow.
Cake stand 2

This was also a new purchase just for this party (I know, ridiculous – I am still literally paying this off) – a cute cake stand from Cake Stand Heaven. You may remember me drooling over these before – LOVE them! I bought this one in green to match my nan’s china, which I inherited from her last year. Unfortunately, I also had to shout at people about this too, as you are expressly NOT supposed to pick it up using the handle on the top, as it can smash the china plates – it’s not a weight bearing handle. So of course, anytime anyone wanted to move this baby around, they used the handle on the top. Tsk.
Cake stand with flowers

My mum added these beautiful flowers to the cup right before we ate – a really nice touch! She’s also responsible for the pretty flower display on the table, she did an awesome job!

So, that was our buffet! Do you guys have any memories, photos or blog posts to share to do with your Royal Wedding party?

Chicken in Milk

Anyway, this recipe is a bit of a weird one – a whole chicken baked in milk with lemon zest, garlic and sage… Courtesy of Jamie Oliver (again) from Happy Days with the Naked Chef. I’m starting to think that Mr. Oliver is the king of the whole chicken – I thought it was Nigella that was always roasting a bird…

Here’s the costing.

Tesco Organic chicken : £7.27
Half pack of butter (!) : 47p
Bunch sage : 68p
Half a cinnamon stick: from cupboard
2 lemons (unwaxed): 62p
One bulb garlic : 30p
1 pint milk : 45p

Grand total : £9.79.

Week Six : Organic chicken

There’s the chook – another organic one. Mr. Oliver – do you have shares in an organic chicken farm…? I never can tell the difference. Will I be lynched for saying that? It seems like a foodie crime.

Week Six : Ingredients
This recipe makes me weep – look at that giant block of butter at the back there. Guess what you do with that beauty? Use it for frying and then…. throw it away. Oh no, I don’t think so! I used some of it to cook some pink fir apple potatoes, and very nice they were too. Throw it away, psh.

Right, so the first thing you need to do is turn these:

 Week Six : Lemons

into this…

 Week Six : Lemon zest

Looking at the picture for Jamie’s version of this, his lemon zest is more like lemon peel. I did try to do it like that, but my knives defeated me.

 Week Six : Aromatics

So these are the flavourings of your chicken in milk. Cinnamon, garlic and lemon zest – and of course, your sage.

Get your butter, melt it in a pan, and then brown the chicken off. There’s a lot of butter and the chicken is very big and delicate, so it’s slightly easier said than done to move the chicken around in the pan without breaking its skin. I ended up using two wooden spoons like a pair of forceps.

 Week Six : Browned chicken

Did it in the end though – and doesn’t it look delicious? DO NOT EAT, though – this is slightly underdone…

Chuck away the butter (sob sob) and then return the chicken to the pan with the half a cinnamon stick, the sage, the zest of two lemons, the 10 cloves of unskinned garlic and the milk.

 Week Six : Chicken in milk

Looks appetising, but kinda weird.

Now, you roast and baste, roast and baste. Roast and baste for an hour and a half, which is the standard cooking time for roasting a 1.5kg bird (see, I’ve learnt something!). If you’ve diligently basted and roasted, this is what you end up with:

 Week Six : Chicken in Milk

Looks pretty exotic, I think! The idea is that the lemon zest slightly curdles the milk and you end up with a split lemony milk sauce which you eat along with the chicken, some mashed potatoes and some wilted greens. We ate ours with roasted pink fir apple potatoes and some spinach.

The milk sauce didn’t split that much. It was very unusual, to say the least – pretty much what you would expect when you infuse garlic, lemon and sage in milk. The cinnamon didn’t show up so much – I blame it on the fact that cinnamon sticks really vary in how long they are. Is that a foodie joke: how long is a cinnamon stick?

 Week Six : Chicken in Milk side on

The scores:

M gave it 7.5. He said it was ‘all right’. This is his standard answer to things when he doesn’t know what I want him to say.

I gave it 7. It was nice, very unusual, but I can’t see the point of doing it other than it was exotic and weird. Maybe the lemon didn’t really work so well for me, because the sauce was just a little odd. Nice, but the kind of thing you’re not totally sure about and stop eating halfway through. Maybe a bit rich…

On the other hand, it did provide me with a pint of curdy lemony milk and chicken stock which I used in a potato soup, and some creamy chicken flesh that went really nicely in a risotto…

Feel Good Chicken Broth

I’m always one for jumping into things immediately, both feet first. So, after making spreadsheets about chicken prices in supermarkets at one o’clock in the morning and devising a list of chicken recipes I wanted to try out, I decided to make my first chicken recipe on Monday evening.

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather for a good few days now, so I decided to make Jamie Oliver’s Feel Good Chicken Broth from Jamie’s Dinners. At first this was partly because I thought it would be one of the cheaper recipes, because it’s basically chicken, boiled with carrots, celery, bacon and rosemary. And it would have been, except Jamie expressly lists an organic, free range chicken in the ingredients. Damn.

I decided to add another rule to my list since yesterday, but I’m perfectly willing for this to be optional, money permitting. The idea is that if the recipe expressly calls for a certain kind of chicken – corn-fed, organic, whatever – I’ll hunt that out. That way, I can judge the recipe fairly. After flicking through Jamie’s Dinners, it seems as though Jamie is a chicken snob of the highest order – who would have guessed, right? – as every recipe calls for an organic, free range chook. Free range I get, but organic? Organic chickens are significantly higher in price (I know, I did the spread sheet at one o’clock in the morning) than any other kind of chicken, and I have to be honest, I don’t know whether that makes any difference to the chicken or the taste. So my cheap mid-week dinner (all right, start of week dinner) turned out to be really pricey.

Week One: SO Chicken

So here’s the costing:

Sainsbury’s SO Organic Chicken, 1.5kg : £9.16
Two carrots : 10p
Basics celery : 55p
Two rashers smoked bacon : 76p
Three sprigs of rosemary : free, from garden

Total cost : £10.57

Ah, would have been so cheap if I’d been able to get an abused chicken. Oh well. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to try something like this, to see how good good ingredients can really be if they’re cooked simply.

So, I popped into Sainsbury’s and picked everything up before borrowing my dad’s Nikon D50 to take photos. Only, I’d left it a little too late in the evening, and with the light rapidly fading I was forced to take the final photos today.

Week One: Feel Good Chicken Broth, The Beginning

As far as ease of method goes, this is a pretty simple recipe. You simply simmer the chicken with two roughly chopped carrots, two sticks of celery and 1 rasher of smoked bacon (I used two, because I felt like a dip asking for one rasher at the butcher’s counter) for one hour and five minutes, then add three sprigs of rosemary in for another ten minutes, ensuring you skim the white residue off the top every now and then.

Week One: Feel Good Chicken Broth - Broth boiling

So I was very good and followed the recipe exactly, until I got to the end and wound up with lots of vaguely chickeny flavoured water. So I strained it like Jamie said, but instead of serving as it was with salt, I put it back in the pan and simmered it until it tasted stronger.

I ended up finishing this task after 11pm. Good job I’d already eaten a baguette stuffed with pancetta that was going to go off the next day, slathered with French mayonnaise and my favourite mustard ever. With litres of chicken stock and a whole poached chicken sitting in my fridge, it’s a good job Jamie posted this about how to use up left over chicken. Another addition I made at this late stage was to sit the chicken in some of the stock in the fridge, to keep it tender and moist. In theory, anyway…

So, today, I got the chicken and stock out and did a test run for tonight to see what the soup would taste like, and to take some pictures before I had to give the camera back.

Week One: Feel Good Chicken Broth - Chook and Saffy

As you can see, Saffy was a fan of chicken au natural. I found it to be rather tough. Maybe I overboiled it, or maybe as this is a recipe for chicken soup and not poached chicken, the point is that the stock is flavourful and not that the flesh is tender.

After all my boiling down, I ended up with about 1.2 litres of chicken stock, which didn’t quite set to jelly. After I’d removed all the chicken and flavourings yesterday, including the rosemary, the taste of rosemary was there, but very faint. Today, it was barely there at all. I guess reducing the stock damaged the taste of the rosemary, so maybe it should only be added ten minutes before you intend to stop cooking if you’re going to reduce it like I did. So, in order to bring the taste of rosemary back, I added a rosemary garnish, just like the photo in the book.

Week One: Feel Good Chicken Broth - Broth before stock

The end soup is rather greasy, thanks to all the fat given off by the chicken in the cooking process. I had to add a tonne of salt, but when I did, the chicken stock was really delicious and flavourful. The meat, as I said, was slightly tough. I didn’t cook it again after yesterday, just put the cold pieces in and covered with hot stock, so it can’t be down to cooking it twice. Ah, well.

Week One: Feel Good Chicken Broth

All in all, a tasty, simple chicken soup. But that’s all – chicken soup. You can’t really get around that this is a simple dish – I would love someone to cook this for me when I’m sick. But whether it was worth a tenner, I’m not so sure.

I’d imagine we’ll use all of the stock in our soup tonight, along with maybe a quarter of the chicken. That gives me quite a lot of left over chicken meat to use in meals for the rest of the week, so it’s actually not a bad dish, economy wise. Thank God for that. (But of course, it would be cheaper again if you didn’t buy an organic chicken…)

So, the scores.

M gave it 6, saying that the rosemary garnish really packed in some extra flavour. But, it’s soup. Very nice soup, but soup.

I gave it 6.5, for pretty much the same reasons. It does feel really luxurious to be able to make soup with a whole chicken just to get some tasty stock, and I’m glad I did it. But there’s no way this is going to be the highlight of the challenge. I hope! I’d make it again, but I don’t know if it’s worth making it with an organic chicken.