Making chocolate at Chocoholly, Brighton



Although I'm not one of those girls that goes crazy for chocolate (give me a loaf of bread), there is something about the craft of creating the stuff that I just adore. The glossiness of melted chocolate, the smell and going into premium chocolate shops with the foiled packaging and sumptuous displays is always a tactile, palpitation-inducing joy.



I think my visit to Chocoholly in Hove was the first chocolate workshop I've attended and was really good fun as well as informative. Chocolate isn't something I normally play around with much at home so just knowing a few of the basics of handling the stuff is always useful.



We were taken through the whole process from bean to bar. The bean varieties, the roasting, conching (grinding), tempering and moulding. There was just enough to keep it interesting throughout the demonstration, and then we were able to fill our own moulds and flavour them. We tasted both the roasted chocolate beans and cocoa nibs; a totally different taste experience without the usual sweetners of milk and sugar. And actually, chocolate in its raw state has an amazing amount of nutritional benefits and the intense cocoa hit means you would consume far less. So there you go, raw chocolate isn't just for the yogurt weavers amongst us.


We each produced four bars that we could flavour ourselves. Needless to say, I was pretty chuffed with my bars! 


The quality of Cocoholly products is exceptional. Being produced from fine raw products in such small quantities, the chocolates are a real treat. I love the Pollock inspired art bars, but there are plain and flavoured solid bars and truffles available too. It's a good place to pick up Vegan friendly products too. We sampled A LOT and everything was rich and decadent, a far cry from commerical chocolate.





Chocoholly offer a number of different workshops for adults, children and groups. There is also a course for those wanting to hone in their chocolate skills or looking to go into the industry.

To book classes or to buy the products visit: www.chocoholly.com, 27 Western Rd, Hove BN3 1AF.



I was a guest of Chocoholly.

What are you FOR Brighton? My favourite spots for dining/film/shopping/art/tours


I’m Brighton born and bred and can’t imagine living anywhere else. We have such a diverse community, which in turn gives us an abundance of different experiences to enjoy. There are plenty of things for the visitor and a trip to Brighton Pier or the fabulous Royal Pavilion should be on everyone’s to-do, but once you’ve ticked them off, there is far more left to discover off the beaten track. Being FOR something is an attitude that can change the world. I am FOR Brighton so I’m proud to share my hometown discoveries with you.

Although incredibly laid back, Brighton never sits still. There is always something going on, a festival taking place or somewhere new to explore in every nook and cranny. It’s an impossible beast to keep on top of, which always keeps it interesting no matter how long you have lived here. And apparently it’s the happiest place in the country, and it shows!

Dine with a Brightonian in their home
The launch of website Tabl.com has been a brilliant tool in bringing the pop-up dining experience to a wider audience. The site lists both domestic cooks offering set menus in their (quite often incredible) homes to some of our local chefs going to town creatively without the style confines of their restaurant day jobs. Prices vary from just £20 up toward some very exclusive events and it’s a fantastic way to meet people whilst trying something new to eat. You are almost guaranteed a really fun night too.

Tabl
www.tabl.com



Sample the most exquisite cakes this side of the Channel
Brighton is so lucky to have the talented Julien Plumart adopt us as his new home. Creating the most deliriously delicious and jewel-like fine patisserie, you could almost mistake his stylish shop for a jewellery boutique. From the rainbow rows of freshly made macaroon, to flakiest pastries and glossy cakes, you’ll have a really hard time choosing.

Julien Plumart Salon Du The
27-29 Duke St, Brighton, BN1 1AG
http://www.julienplumart.com



Join the Street Food revolution
Street Diner is a bi-weekly street food market, with plenty of interesting, quality fast food from different cultures. The menu changes weekly and there are guest pitches from visiting stalls. Some of my favourites are fresh Indian food from Ahimsa and Venezuelan arepas from Toston Tolon. Street Diner has even proved to be the springboard for some stallholders to open their own restaurants as well. A real asset to the city and guarantees you never have a boring lunch again.

Street Diner
Fridays on Queens Road BN1 1YD and Wednesdays at Hove Town Hall BN3 4AH from 11am to 3pm
https://www.facebook.com/streetdinerbrighton



Most inventive food in the city
64 Degrees has completely shaken up the local restaurant scene with their unusual small plates of creative food. From their tiny, but very cool restaurant, you can even bag a stool on the pass where you can catch the theatre of your dishes being created by the talented chefs. Booking is essential as this is one of the few local restaurants to have gained national attention. And make sure you try the house egg, cooked at 64 degrees, obviously.

64 Degrees
53 Meeting House Ln, Brighton BN1 1HB
http://64degrees.co.uk/



The best fish restaurant in Brighton
Brighton historically was surprisingly lacking in really good fish restaurants but the Little Fish Market has rectified that problem. Chef Duncan Ray creates the most impeccable dishes in his small restaurant, like the Sea bass with Fennel and Grapefruit or Monkfish with Pork Belly and Carrot and Star Anise Puree. His desserts are as good as the fish courses too. Remember to book early as during some weekend sittings you may need around 6 weeks’ notice.

Little Fish Market
10 Upper Market Street, Hove BN3 1AS
http://www.thelittlefishmarket.co.uk



A bar away from the masses
If you want to beat the mainstream crowds then head to my favourite bar which is within Plateau’s restaurant. Their cocktail menu has some historic gems with a prohibition era feel using quality spirits and mixers. And if you get peckish, then you can grab something from their menu of fine small plate French food. Beats a packet of Ready Salted.
Plateau
1 Bartholomews, Brighton BN1 1HG
www.plateaubrighton.co.uk



Catch a film in the oldest cinema in Britain
Catch a movie at what is apparently the oldest cinema in continuous use in Britain. Opened in 1910, the Duke of York’s Picture House near Preston Circus is cinema as it should be. Drink fine wines and sit back in sofas while you watch cult and independent films and special screenings, some in fancy dress!
Duke of York’s Picture House
Preston Rd, Brighton, BN1 4NA
http://www.picturehouses.co.uk/cinema/Duke_Of_Yorks/



Buy some original art
Ignore the tourist tat and kiss-me-quick hats. Bring home some original art or prints from my favourite gallery and shop, Castor & Pollux. The modern gallery is situated just to the right of Brighton Pier, under the arches in the artist’s quarter. They also have a good selection of contemporary art and design books as well as handmade jewellery and gifts.

Castor & Pollux
164-166 King's Road Arches, Lower Promenade, Brighton BN1 1NB,
https://www.castorandpollux.co.uk/



The heart of Brighton is in the North Laine
Here you will find a jumble of boutiques, galleries, cafes and independent shops that are uniquely Brighton. Once you have shopped, grab a bite to eat or a coffee and people watch to your heart’s content. And Brighton people are worth watching! Also take a stroll along Kensington Street where the backs of buildings have been covered from top to bottom in vibrant, skilled graffiti.



Take a tour with a difference
Brighton is known for the unusual and there are some really quirky tours available which will make you see the city in an entirely different light. After dark, try one of the truly terrifying ghost tours available. There is also a saying; “only in Brighton” and a tour of that name will give you local insights and facts that even the truest of Brightonians may not even know about.

http://ghostwalkbrighton.co.uk/
http://www.onlyinbrighton.co.uk/



Get involved using #WhatAreYouFOR online, and check out more information on smart here: http://bit.ly/1uIdqhK.

Image: Sunset in Brighton image by Joao Paolo is licensed under CC by 2.0.

RECIPE: Macsween Moroccan Spiced Vegetarian Haggis Pie

This was another product given to me by Macsween Haggis to experiment with. The Moroccan Spiced Vegetarian Haggis is unlike any other product I would normally buy, and it's absolutely delicious. For a real change for vegetarians, or something new for carnivores, this is really worth a purchase.

There aren't any strange processed vegetarian substitutes in here, the meatiness comes from the lentils
and oats. The "haggis" is simply packed with vegetables, seeds and dried prunes, apricots and Moroccan spices.


I made a hearty meal from it in the form of a mash topped pie. You could also use regular haggis as well. As the Moroccan flavours really packs a flavour punch, I though it best to keep the rest of the pie nice and simple. Adding onion and carrots to the mix brings in additional texture, which I always think is needed in a mash topped pie.


Serves 2

Ingredients
A pack of Macsween Moroccan Spiced Vegetarian Haggis (227g)
Olive oil
Half an onion, finely chopped
One carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
400g Potatoes, peeled
Milk
Butter
Salt

Method
Boil the potatoes until tender.

Meanwhile, cook the haggis as per the packet instructions. I simmered mine on the hob for 25 minutes.

In a frying pan, gently fry the onion and carrot until tender in olive oil. Once the haggis is cooked, remove the casing and clips and add to the carrots and onion, cooking for a few minutes more.

Drain the cooked potatoes, allow to steam dry for a few seconds and mash or better, rice them until smooth. Add a splash of milk, a knob of butter and season with salt. Mix thoroughly until smooth.

Put the grill onto a high heat.

In a pie or Pyrex dish, add the haggis filling, then top with mashed potatoes. I like to make an uneven surface on the mash so it crisps better. You can use a fork or for a pretty effect, use a spoon to press a scallop design in the top.

Serve the pie with steamed or boiled vegetables and your favourite gravy recipe.

BOOK REVIEW: Wisdom for Home Preservers, Robin Ripley



There are two types of people. Those that pickle and preserve and those that don't. My family fall heavily in the former camp. The garages under the house in Italy are neatly packed, ceiling high with jars of preserved vegetables and fruits like my favourite, zolle, the pickled tops of the garlic plant. Utterly delicious. They also bottle a year's worth of tomato sauce and until recently, the ceilings were adorned with curing meats like salami and ageing cheeses. It is a haven.

I recently returned from a trip to Italy and high on the fumes of vinegar I am as keen as ever to bring that preserving tradition to my own home. Although I don't have the garden to grow enough produce for year round food, I'll be starting off with easy things like pickled Giardiniere and then go on to mushrooms in oil and maybe some aubergines. But it all takes skill and knowing exactly how to handle and treat the produce to avoid spoiling.


So it was fate that on my return the Wisdom for Home Preservers by Robin Ripley should fall on my door mat. Not only does it have one of the nicest illustrated covers I have seen in a while, it contains 500 tips for pickling, bottling, curing and smoking your own food. Whilst it doesn't contain any recipes, it does list all of the things a seasoned preserver of food would have learned over the years, something that will help you hone those skills.


Things like how to prepare your equipment, how to string chillies for drying, customising brines, root cellering and storing food. A whole host of information in different areas.


This may not be the most useful book for those starting out and needing a step by step guide to preserving food but a good one for dipping in and out of, to increase your knowledge and skill once you get going.

Wisdom for Home Preservers by Robin Ripley is published by Apple Press and costs £12.99.



I was sent this copy for review.

REVIEW: Flour Pot Bakery, Brighton



Brighton has had such a ressurgance of quality baked goods that would make Atkins roll over in his grave. Carbaholics like me are positively rejoicing though!

Flour Pot Bakery has been supplying local stores and restaurants with their breads for a while but they now have their own café and bread shop in the North Laine. And a beautiful store it is too. The interior is everything a contemporary bakery should be, with gorgeous industrial copper lighting, cool marble worktops and a unique point of sale unit for the breads. It's predominantly black and white and just the right side of the artisan hipster design trend.



There are just a few seats inside and personally I would have reduced the imposing bar to accommodate more tables, especially in the winter months where their outside seating will be impractical. But for now, it's a good place to perch for morning pastries or a quick lunch although the narrow pavement is entertaining when the delivery lorries pass.

They also don't seem to have a complete website which in this day and age (and the fact they have such a solid brand and beautiful fit out) is nothing short of insanity. Even a single page with opening times and address would do them good, for flapjacks sake. Their Facebook page is better if you can be bothered to navigate through posts to find opening times; 8am until 7pm (9am - 6pm on Sundays, you're welcome.

But hey, if you manage to negotiate the opening times and grab a prized seat then it's well worth a visit. From the small selection of daily treats, I tasted quite possibly the lightest polenta cake on the planet. I thought the one I make was pretty darn good but this was, as it pains me to say, better. Laden with finely ground almonds and drenched in citrus sugar syrup, it was topped with the most beautiful emerald pistachios. You can wash down your cakes and pastries with (obligatory for Brighton) Small Batch coffee.






For lunch there could be more of an offering of sandwiches with just a couple to choose from, but they obviously use their own bread and rolls which is a bonus. The flatbreads didn't really appeal as there is something very off-putting about dried melted cheese. The chunky sausage rolls looked impressive and my dining partner liked his lamb Moroccan inspired version although I didn't get a chance to try it.



I also swung by a week or so later after work to pick up a couple of their loaves; a classic ciabatta and a rustic. Although service was shaky, the bread was decent. The ciabatta had that slightly plastic texture to the dough you'd expect and was fully aerated. The crust was absolutely delicious too. I gifted the rustic to my parents and they said it was excellent, and they are even fussier about real bread than I am. At around £1.80-£3.00 depending on the size of loaf, it isn't too bad a cost to pay for the real deal.



I'm really pleased that Flour Pot Bakery has taken the leap to their own cafe and shop, although the service could do with sharpening up, on three visits there was some sort of niggle or issue but their product is great, which is the main thing.

Flour Pot Bakery
40 Sydney Street
Brighton
BN1 4EP

EVENT: An evening at The Hearth with Dan Lepard, Lewes


"Vibe" is not the sort of word I'd often use but The Hearth in Lewes oozes great ones. Maybe it's the well worn environment of a cozy former bus station or because everyone is essentially dining around fire (their own-built wood oven) and the warmth is both literal and symbolic. I don't know, but I love it, especially that smoky smell of the place.

And you may very well know my feelings about the pizza at The Hearth, I don't think there is anyone producing pizza like it in Brighton area and it's worth the schlep out to Lewes to get a decent one there. But they also do special events and workshops that often go beyond the breads they are well known for. Clearly, a pizza oven is not just for cooking pizza!

The dinner I attended this week followed a day of workshops with renound baker Dan Lepard, who some may know from Australian Bake Off or his impressive CV, baking for acclaimed restaurants. Sadly I had to work so missed out but managed to hot foot it up in the evening.



We started things with something I haven't had in a long time. The retro Italian classic Bagna Cauda. Meaning "hot bath", it is essentially a thick, warm dip of oil, anchovies, garlic, lemon and butter. As I dipped the warm pieces of freshly baked Schiacciata bread (like a flat focaccia) and, what is more commonly served with bagna cauda, crudites, it was a real taste of Italy. I can't believe I haven't made this dish, it's far more interesting than most dips with that intense savoury taste of anchovies, sofened by butter and oil. Try it if you can.



The main course, was one of the best pork dishes I've had and as for the crackling! The taste of meat that has been slow-cooked in a wood-fired oven is unlike anything you can recreate at home. Smoke and flame help add such a deep flavour to it. The Hearth should really consider doing a Sunday roast in if this was anything to go by. Simply served with intense gravy and roast vegetables in stock, they were all that was needed as side-kicks to that meat.



Dan made a typical Italian style apple cake to finish with and I also got my first taste of The Hearth's gelato, peppered with raisins soaked in Amaretto. They'll be serving that in the restaurant as well as out the front in their kiosk.

It was a perfect end to a perfect meal and I was very happy to have experienced the evening.



Everyone had a great time. The atmosphere is always welcoming and informal at The Hearth and the passion from the people behind it is immeasurable. I met Kate from Great British Bake off and some other lovely local food people too. Even food writer Andy Lynes was spotted wielding the peel by in the kitchen!

Try and catch one of their upcoming events at http://www.thehearth.co/events-and-news, there is even talk that Kate may even be co-hosting an event there soon. And if you haven't gone for one of their pizzas yet, then please, please go soon. It would make this little Italian lady very happy if you do.

http://www.thehearth.co/
Eastgate
Lewes, BN7 2LP

REVIEW: Busby & Wilds, Kemptown Brighton



Busby & Wilds has settled in nicely into their little corner of East Brighton/Kemptown. Admittedly, house prices have rocketed and we now have places like this and Marmalade in place of rundown plumbing shops and "fear for your life" pubs. It's a fantastic and diverse place to live really and even if you don't live in the direct area, both of these places are truly visit worthy.



The exterior of Busby & Wilds is inviting and it's safe to say I am also a big fan of the interior. I'm slowly turning my own home into shades of grey (not fifty) so really feel at home in the stripped back, calm, earthy and stylish rooms. They are about a hundred thousand percent better than the ugly duckling that was previously there as The Swan, whose electro purple and pink walls made it unbearable in the day and like some ghastly retro fish tank in the evening. I gave that a very wide berth.

This is now, obviously, far more suitable for all day use than The Swan but still special enough to drop in for a smart dinner in the evening. You will also find probably the best pub garden in the area, which is a decent size and nicely maintained.



And thankfully, the attention to detail makes its way onto the menu too. I suppose you could call it "elevated pub food"; rabbit & bacon rillettes, pork belly croquettes, pan fried gnocchi, mussels with Aspalls cider and the obligatory burger of course. There are interesting touches for the side salads and dressings that go beyond the norm.



With the onset of this cold weather the slow braised BBQ beef brisket seemed like a mighty fine idea. The hearty portion of meat was well cooked, fragmenting at the fork and the thin BBQ liquor was tasty. Sadly the polenta chips were off (I love them) so just had standard ones along with a freshly made crunchy apple & beetroot slaw. A really comforting dish, hugely enjoyable and not bad at all for £13.95.


Mr GF chose the fish & chips and enjoyed them. I thought the frying oil could have been a little hotter. Luckily the batter wasn't too oily, but just a few minutes would have made the fry perfect. It came served classically with mushy peas and tartar sauce, again well priced at £10.95.


We love a sticky toffee pudding so shared one. I like the simplicity of the one here, just a dollop of ice cream and a really gooey but light sponge. Nothing reinvented or clever, just very good.

Staff are friendly and a real asset here. Produce is well sourced and there is a great drinks list, with particularly well selected (I'm trying not to say "craft") beers. The place is also really family friendly too, not surprising as this is a family run operation.

If you are in the area, drop in for lunch or dinner and there is also a very nice Sunday roast menu too.

www.busbyandwilds.co.uk
9 Rock St
Brighton
BN2 1NF

TRIVIA: Busby & Wilds is named after the architects who were involved in the Regency Kemp Town development nearby as well as some other key Brighton architecture.