Recipe: Kale linguini with pistachio pesto

Who said pasta couldn’t be nourishing? There’s nothing like a big bowl of steaming, satisfying carby goodness when the temperatures plummet. Green pasta is nothing new – the italians have been knocking up spinach pasta for centuries, but this version uses kale instead and pistachios in a classic pesto mix to up the vibrancy of the green. Plus, if you’re a mega forward planner, just consider that pasta this shade of Elphaba emerald wouldn’t look out of place at next year’s Halloween table.

WARNING: mixing this handmade pasta will make you look like you’ve murdered The Jolly Green Giant barehanded, so make sure you don’t knead your pasta dough on any stainable surfaces, like wood, and wear an apron!

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Ingredients

for the pasta

240g 00 strong pasta flour (you may need a bit extra for sprinkling on the dough as the kale paste makes the mix very wet)
50g kale, blanched and blitzed into a smooth paste with pinch of salt and pepper
3 eggs

for the pesto

100g parmesan, finely grated
100g pistachio nuts
200ml olive oil
bunch of basil
1 garlic clove

Method

    • Start by rinsing the kale, removing any tough stalks and boiling for 5 minutes until tender in salted water. Blitz in a food processor with a tablespoon of the cooking liquor until smooth. Set aside to cool completely.
    • Pour the pasta flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and, using a fork, gently begin to mix into the flour working from the middle out. When you’ve formed a rough dough, pour on your cold kale paste and prepare to get messy!
    • Mix the dough thoroughly by hand, kneading until the kale paste is distributed evenly and you have a lovely green colour throughout and the dough feels elastic and forms a soft ball. You may need to add an extra sprinkle of flour if it’s too sticky.
    • Wrap the pasta ball in cling film and refrigerate while you make the pesto. You can leave it in the fridge for a few hours if you want to make ahead of time.
    • Add all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and blitz until combined – don’t blend too furiously as you want your pesto to retain a little bit of texture.
    • Set up your pasta machine and sprinkle the press with a liberal amount of flour. Set a plate with semolina scattered on it close by (this will stop the pasta from sticking together before you cook it).
    • Remove the pasta dough from the fridge and cut in half with a sharp knife. Halve again until you have four lumps of dough. Feed the first piece of dough through the pasta machine, starting on the widest setting. Always run the dough through the same setting twice, starting with the end that came out of the machine last. Repeat, adding more flour to ease the press until you’ve got to the finest setting on your machine and the dough is stretched smooth and thin.
    • When you’ve got your desired thin-ness of pasta, run the length through the linguini/tagliatelle setting to shred it into long noodles. Wrap these into loose spirals and place on the semolina-covered plate until you’re ready to cook.
    • Repeat with the three remaining dough pieces.
    • Set a large pan of water on to boil with a pinch of salt. When it’s bubbling, add your pasta and cook until just done- this should only take a matter of minutes as it’s so fresh. Always do a few tester noodles first to check timings!
    • Drain your cooked pasta, pop it back in the pan and gently stir through the pesto to coat. serve immediately with a dusting of parmesan and some crushed pistachios for crunch.

Created on request of fab, all-natural bath and beauty green gurus, Soaper Duper.

 

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il Tavolo: a Taste of Zurich

In late June, a Frenchman, an Italian, a Swiss hotel manager and an English girl wandered into a bar. It might sound like the beginning of a terrible joke, but this was actually the start of what I had expected to be a sedate trip to Zurich.

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Skipping forward and hour or so – after the cocktails and cigarettes downstairs (yes, if you can believe it, in Switzerland there are still places you can smoke inside); after the expats had taken to the neon-splashed dancefloor in a haze of Euro pop classics; and after an actual rocking horse had been deposited at our table, its fairground-bright paintjob gleaming demonically under the golden glow of the velvet lamps and a vast chandelier swaying gently from the wooden beams above – I realised that if I was expecting anything when the hotel’s dapper chauffeur swept me into the leather-scented confines of his sleek taxi and we pootled into the pristine streets of downtown Zurich, this wasn’t it.

But then again, Zurich, as I found, was full of surprises. Generally thought of as a financial hub and haute couture shopping haunt for bankers and fat-walleted tourists, it isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find a five-day food festival dedicated to showcasing the best of the best from the city’s finest chefs. However, that was exactly why I was there for the weekend: to visit the fourth annual il Tavolo food festival and to sample Zurich on a plate.

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Sandwiched between Italy, Germany and France, it’s hardly surprising that Switzerland has borrowed from its neighbours, not only when it comes to languages (walk down any street in Zurich and you’ll catch snatches of all four of the country’s native tongues: German, French, Italian and Romansch) but also in gastronomy, which has flashes of international flair that extend far beyond its cheese-heavy reputation for fondue, vacherin and raclette.

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And that’s exactly what il Tavolo is all about – establishing Zurich a premier foodie destination by showing off just how vibrant, varied and accomplished its food scene can be with six waist-expanding events stretched over five days that feature a collection of celebrity chefs, a 200-metre long banqueting table and an entire constellation of 5-star hotels. As I discovered after that ‘quiet drink’ on my first night, Zurich doesn’t do anything by halves.

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The starter

Before that foray into Zurich’s nightlife, I got a taste of what was to come at my hotel for the weekend, the Storchen, a 650-year-old hotel with so much old-school charm and traditional gravitas that it has its own boat station. Aside from one of the best breakfasts I’ve had – made even sweeter by the fact that you don’t even have to get dressed for it, you can simply pre-order from the vast menu and have your selection delivered to your room at the hour you specify – the Storchen’s head chef, Fredi Nussbaum, serves up some pretty impressive fare too. Which I discovered when he sent over a plate of perfectly-cooked sturgeon followed by a light as air confection of cherries, absinthe mousse and mint as I drank in the dusk-laden view of the inky-black Limmat river alongside the Frenchman (a vineyard owner), the Italian (a journalist) and the Storchen’s Swiss hotel manager and il Tavolo president, Jörg Arnold.

The main event

The real eating began at the il Mercato lunch and dinner on the festival’s final saturday – a beguiling combination of fine food and relaxed attitude housed in a huge warehouse that usually plays host to the city’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market.

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Under an air hanger canopy strung with paper lanterns in rainbow shades, the space had been transformed into a cavernous restaurant with one long table running through the centre, flanked on either side by a legion of cooking stations and stalls selling everything from fat dusty truffles and wheels of cheese to delicately-iced wedding cakes and tins overflowing with pearls of glistening, tar-black caviar.

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All that was left to do was peruse the rogue’s gallery of top chefs that loomed large and in charge from giant posters stationed next to each cooking section, pick a 5-star hotel and load your plate with one of the two taster-sized courses they were cooking to order. It was a foodie free-for-all, with no limit to the amount of times you could come back to each station for a top up, which was lucky, considering that it didn’t take me too long to fall for the butter-covered ravioli and milky pillows of balsamic-drizzled buffalo mozzarella from Da Angela’s Mike Thomi, or the spicy little portions of Miang Kam (bitter leaves filled with roasted coconut shavings, chilli, shallots, ginger, shrimp and a squeeze of lime) served up by Nikom Thooppanom from Himmapan Lodge.

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With a range of chefs and cooking styles on show, there’re bound to be some low points. Mine came in the form of a plate of bland couscous and chicken and a corn dish covered in soggy popcorn that had no place on a plate. Luckily though, the flipside to this is that it isn’t long before you stumble across another gem, like the exquisite little quenelle of vanilla mousse with a perfect sliver of tempered chocolate that Maurice Marro and Olivier Rais from Bar du Lac offered.

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After the long lunch stint, there was just enough time to head back into the city for a half-hearted and full-bellied attempt at catching some of Zurich’s most arresting sights – Chagall’s stained glass windows in Fraumünster church; James Joyce’s old handout at Platzspitz; the birthplace of Dadaism at Cabaret Voltaire cafe – before I was back on the tram for il Mercato, round two.

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In the evening, things got a little more, well, Swiss. And by that I mean flashy. It’s no secret that Zurich is known for a few things: financial institutions, banking giants and money, money, money. When night fell and the Pommery corks began to pop in earnest, I found myself sitting next to the fabulously glamorous editor of one of Switzerland’s biggest glossy magazines and across from the rather lovely former runner up to Miss France, Florence Jacquinot.

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The food had a dash more panache as well, with the same chefs returning with jazzed-up menus for the evening crowd such as elaborate little plates of glazed quail with rocket risotto from Frank Widmer at the Park Hyatt, yoghurt marinated duck liver with cherry from The Dolder Grand’s Patrick Hetz and smoked salmon, shrimp and herb-spiked wild rice from the Storchen’s Fredi Nussbaum.

I’d like to pretend that I maintained my dignity here with some sort of nod to moderation, but alas, I didn’t. Gripped by buffet-fever I moved haphazardly between the stations, weaving between the wandering live musicians, shiny-faced tourists and lipsticked locals chattering in high-speed German as they tottered past in towering heels, balancing tiny plates up my arms in an attempt to sample everything on offer. It was flavour carnage towards the end, but what a happy ending it was as I sloped back to the Storchen, full of at least one week’s meal quota.

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The last supper

One of the nicest things about il Tavolo is its final hurrah: a family-friendly brunch held on the Sunday morning, where there’s a distinct lack of glitz and a more laid-back approach to cooking. The head chefs take the morning off and instead of haute couture cuisine, the likes of steaming bowls of creamy porridge with ladlefuls of dark cherry compote, feathery little pancakes fried in butter and splashed with lemon juice and piquant little shots of carrot and ginger soup served with tiny pastries stuffed with salty fish paste take centre stage.

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The banqueting table itself had even been transformed into a neverending buffet with a pantry’s worth of jars filled with quinoa salad, bircher muesli and marinated feta studded with apricots (that may just have been the most delicious thing I tried all weekend). And that was just the side dish to the plates of muffins, cheese, sliced meat and piles of burnished rolls and loaves of every persuasion, from brioche to breadsticks, that decorated the table like a sort of beautiful edifice to gluttony.

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I’m not sure how I managed to heave myself back onto the tram and into the city, let alone how I managed to squeeze my body into the seat on the flight back after my three-day marathon of food, champagne and Swiss sunshine. The only thing I do know after my il Tavolo odyssey is that Zurich is setting itself up to be a real European foodie contender.

For more information on Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com or call our Switzerland Travel Centre on the International freephone 00800 100 200 30 or e-mail, for information info.uk@myswitzerland.com; for packages, trains and air tickets sales@stc.co.uk.

SWISS offers up to 110 weekly flights from London Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester to Zurich. Fares start from £63 one-way* and 115 return*, including all airport taxes, one piece hold luggage and free ski carriage. (*Please note this is a leading fare and is subject to change, availability and may not be available on all flights. Terms and conditions apply.) For reservations call 0845 6010956 or visit: http://www.swiss.com

Originally penned for Foodepedia, and can be found here.

Food for Thought: Ethos Review

It’s takes me about three minutes of arriving at Ethos before I realise that this veggie, vegan, pay by plate weight concept is truly genius. Three minutes, that is, of feverishly sprinting around a buffet table, ladling spoonfuls of rainbow coloured salads and mysteriously named, steaming morsels of vegan goodness onto said plate; frowning as I scrutinized a tiny sliver of white porcelain left still exposed as a vague sense of panic at missing something that could, theoretically, run out before I get to it set in.

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Ethos is a little place tucked away behind the shopping hordes of Oxford Circus and still feels like a little secret, despite its growing popularity and notoriety with London vegetarians. I dropped by on a Tuesday for lunch and was surprised, not only by the unusually warm greeting I received (I’ve been to places in Oxford Circus that have left me fearing for my physical well-being after facing the ferocity of serving staff) but also by the sheer range of delicious food on offer here, from hot and cold mains to a dessert cart and full drinks menu with everything from green smoothies and wine to ostensibly healthy cocktails like the Sweet Pea – a mix of muddled vodka, sugar snap peas and sugar syrup and fresh lime juice.

Mind you, everything looks good here, including the interior, which is all silver birch tree centerpieces, leather seating in shades of opulent blue and gold and onyx marble tables that gleam as brightly as the outrageously healthy looking people who visited to cram takeaway boxes or plates full of delicious looking good stuff.

Ethos has grown out of my passion for great, meat-free cuisine and out of my frustration at the lack of creative and exciting food options available on the high street. I want to share good, deliciously different food with everyone, in a friendly, open and inviting environment. Welcome to Ethos. — Jessica Kruger, Founder

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I’d been invited to try Ethos’ latest additions to their menu – a selection of dishes that had been timed perfectly with the obligatory January detox and incorporated the latest 2015 food buzzword: fermented. Fermented foods are meant to contain live cultures to aid digestion, just ask the Scandinavians, who have been eating fermented food since the dawn of civilisation and look pretty damn good for it.

With the aim of having a slightly healthier 2015 than the 2014 that preceded it, my dining partner – who has visited Ethos before and came home raving about it – and I were quick off the mark to delve into these new fermented, salty and pickled plates.

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Beet Kvass, a Russian concoction of sliced beetroot with salt, made a significant appearance on my plate. Beetroot is supposed to be packed with probiotics and enzymes that are meant to help purify the blood, boost energy and potentially improve liver function, but all I noticed was how these prettily pink, candy cane striped discs tasted refreshingly just of themselves.

Other standouts on offer included a deceptively simple salad of delicately wilted spinach, ripe mango, raspberries and meltingly soft avocado; a huge, freshly fried and golden brown halved scotch egg filled with a sort of aloo gobi spiced potato mix and a fat busting, ridiculously good for you tasting chickpea and green bean detox veg mix. Alongside exotic salads and grains there were also slightly more unusual veggie supplements like Seitin, a mock meat protein made from wheat gluten that was sliced into convincingly rib like pieces and smothered in bbq sauce – something that confused both my mouth and brain with its oddly meaty texture but distinctly un meaty flavour.

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The desserts were also a surprise. I’ve often spoken (ok, ranted) about how I detest what I describe as ‘substitute’ desserts, one that sacrifice taste in favour of cutting out fat and sugar and all the good things cakes and puds are meant to be packed with. The desserts here, while still retaining a semblance of their healthy label, were genuinely delicious. While I was tempted by the Coconut Yogurt with Forest Fruits i sucummbed to the siren call of a fat piece of moist, ginger spiked carrot cake smeared with a thick, pink icing that tasted of mashed strawberries and natural yoghurt and still had room to squeeze in a spoonful of my dining partner’s nicely tart, cloud like baked berry cheesecake.

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Paying by weight might not be the best idea if, like me, your eyes are often bigger than your stomach or if you suffer from buffet syndrome (the need to compulsively stack your plate with a an indecisively weird mixture of food). But all I know is that post weigh in at the till (which came in at a worrying £14.22 by the way, which was topped only by my dining partner’s stonking £18 spend – we’re blaming the heavy scotch egg), when I looked down at my piled high plate of fried halloumi, Israeli couscous salad and seared aubergine, I STILL found myself glancing longingly at the banks of bowls heaving with bejeweled salads, fermented root veg and asian curries, thinking maybe I can squeeze on just a little more…

The new fermented dishes are available at Ethos from 5th January 2015 and, as well as the Beet Kvass I tried, include the following:

Kim Chi – You’ll love ETHOS’s version of this fermented Korean side dish (made of Chinese cabbage, carrot, daikon, chilli, chopped tomatoes and salt). Rich in fibre and vitamins and low in calories, kim chi is leading the way as a virtuous feel good food.

South American Pickles with Herbs – Bursting with enzymes and nutrients, with a powerful punch, this delicious pickle dish (baby cucumbers, dill, fennel seeds, peppercorns and vinegar) has a healthy measure of probiotics and flavour to match.

Rustic Salsa – A zingy, fresh tomato salsa made with Jalapeños and Serranos chillies. Packed with probiotics, vitamins and (you guessed it) those good-for-you enzymes, this is one dish to pile on your plate at ETHOS this Spring.

Sauerkraut – Kick-start the New Year with a dose of ETHOS fermented cabbage. While it may not sound appealing, the traditional German dish has a powerful impact on brain health and has been known to help combat depression and anxiety.

48 Eastcastle Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 8DX http://ethosfoods.com

Written for Foodepedia.co.uk

Review: Paying Homage at Homage, Waldorf Hilton

The Waldorf Hilton London, Aldwych, London WC2B 4DD /  www.homageatthewaldorf.com

I don’t make it into the West End of London much these days, that is, unless someone lovely has splashed out on a couple of cut-price theatre tickets and wants to share the frustration of taking turns to peer around an inconveniently placed pillar with me; or an out-of-towner who doesn’t know London decides that meeting ‘somewhere on The Strand’ would be a good idea.

But everytime I do venture out West, I’m always struck – and not just by the surging crowds of tourists armed with telescopic camera lenses, golf umbrellas and fun-size Primark bags – but by just how bloody beautiful this corner of grand old London really is. So I was delighted to hear that one of the grandest old dames off The Strand in Aldwych had a new chef and wanted someone to eat their way through its new menu.

3. Homage Grand Salon

The Waldorf Hilton has been welcoming glitterati like Dame Judi Dench and Elizabeth Taylor through its doors since 1908, but their new chef in the hotel’s Homage Restaurant, Richard Prendergast has only been around since May of this year and he comes with an impressive CV, with stints at hotels like The InterContinental Park Lane and The Grosvenor under his culinary belt.

The setting is as you’d expect: a smiling doorman, a dimly-lit, plush interior that’s more Mad Men than Middle Eastern opulence and a relaxed atmosphere that practically propels you into the nearest sofa and puts a glass of wine in your hand.  Homage itself is a homage to the roaring 20s, all cream pillars, nut-brown parquet floors and chandeliers that dripped crystal from the double-height ceilings.

My dining partner S and I were barely seated before the meal had begun, with waiters as silent and discreet as well-oiled ninjas appeared with freshly-baked bread and chunks of chilled butter, water and wine and barely missing a beat before arriving with our starters. S opted for a perfectly pleasing but unremarkable goats cheese and fig salad while I had the Carpaccio made from 30 day hung Scottish beef and served with a wild rocket salad and aged Parmesan, which appeared on the plate like two ruby-centred meat doilies with seared, feathery edges and were delicious, if a little thicker and tougher towards their chubby centres.

S and I hadn’t seen each other for a while, so the very fact that the arrival of the main courses actually caused a prolonged concentrated conversation break as we dissected our food, polished silverware flashing, must surely be a testament to the quality of the food, well that and we were hungry – expect to find refined potions here, not plates that are full to bursting. S’s pork came soft and unctuous, glistening with a sort of prune jam that proved, in the end to be that touch too sweet while my little fillet of butter-soft trout came with a tasty if sparse buttery, creamy sauce and some delicious little shrimp and was strewn with summer veg and pillowy blobs of herb gnocchi.

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This was swiftly rounded off by Homage’s famous Amalfi lemon tart. Lipsmackingly zesty it was, but exceptional? I think I need to go back and have another slice to be utterly sure as I’m not sure the flavour lingered long enough to warrant the ‘acclaimed’ accolade it has garnered.

It’s hard to innovate a typically classic hotel menu, especially when your clientele generally come with inherently classical tastes. The menu is about presenting fresh, delicate food with clever seasonal inflections and the occasional foray into modernism. S’s desert, for example, was a curious cubist confection of pressed layers of celeriac and berry mousse enrobed in white chocolate that was about as daring as I would expect this perfectly-executed array of British and Euro favourites to get, which is impressive…even if it did still taste a little bit like a chocolate-covered vegetable.

For more information, booking and to see what’s currently on the menu at Homage at the Waldorf Hilton, check out their website.