Spicy haddock-quinoa chowder


As sad as I am to say farewell to all those lovely summer salads (they just don’t taste quite the same when the weather turns), I’m equally happy to embrace some autumnal offerings – and in the Life and Chai household, that means soup!

This particular recipe has been a favourite for quite some time. It actually seems to cross the bridge between those last few warmish days of summer and the chillier bite of autumn. Its bright colour means it looks like sunshine in a bowl, while the heat of the chorizo and chilli add a warmth that will be most welcome in the months ahead. Continue reading

Review: Lunch at The Corner House, Kent

The Corner House restaurant in Minster

Matt Sworder swapped the steamy professional kitchens of London
to open up a restaurant in the very building where he was born

I sometimes suspect there are many restaurants who like to talk about local sourcing and sustainability, but few who really ‘live it’.

But it’s not a criticism I could level at young chef Matt Sworder, who’s not only passionate about his local food economy – he’s even gone as far as locally sourcing himself…. well, in a manner of speaking.

Having served time at several leading London restaurants, including a Gordon Ramsay one, he did briefly consider starting his own venture close to the capital. But instead, he headed home to Kent – to open a restaurant in the very building where he was born. You can’t really get more locally-sourced than that.

His terroir is the very pleasant village of Minster, close to Ramsgate on the east Kent coast, and The Corner House lies in a lovely spot just opposite the village’s walled abbey, which is home to a group of Benedictine nuns.

From the outside, the restaurant looks like a cute, olde English tea shop (in fact, it once was), festooned with flower baskets, which just beckons you to step in. Once inside you’ll find a pleasant mix of modern and traditional – Farrow and Ball-style dove grey paint finishes meet rustic red brick floors – and a menu that’s unpretentious, seasonal, and bursting with local produce. Continue reading

Roasted aubergine towers

These little roasted aubergine towers make an impressive vegetarian dinner party dish. You can assemble them ahead of time and just lightly warm in the oven before serving. I’ve constructed these towers using my trio of beetroot fillings that I posted last week. Not only do they add an interesting mix of flavours, but they also create a vibrant collection of colours.

Of course, making all the fillings beforehand will be time consuming, so you could just settle on one strong flavour and use that. Some kind of pesto might be the obvious choice.

I made this dish just a few weeks ago, and already I’m thinking it looks so colourful and summery – and almost a little out of place as we plunge headlong into the more muted colours of autumn. I guess some roasted pumpkin or butternut squash would add a nice touch for this season. Continue reading

Beetroot trio

A trio of beetroot spreads

Beetroot three ways: A spicy beetroot hummus (left), and beet green pesto (top right) and a beetroot tapenade (bottom right)

A pink one, a green one and a deep red one – three handy little beetroot-based spreads that can help brighten up your day, and your dishes.

I think I must be addicted to beetroot, and while I’m on the subject, many thanks to my ex-BBC colleague Paula Dear who recently posted a quick-to-make and tasty beetroot recipe to Life and Chai’s Facebook page. It went like this:

“Roast the beetroot whole, then peel and dice. Fry lots of finely chopped garlic for a few seconds, add the chopped beet and saute for a few minutes. Take off the heat and stir in a huge dollop of natural yogurt. Season, add fresh mint and/or parsley. Stir into hot pasta. Maybe add some toasted pine nuts too. Bingo.”

Thank you Paula. I tried it and it was delicious.

You should also check out Paula’s fabulous blog Seventeen by Six. She and husband Jeremy are currently long term trekkers by VW campervan around South America, having some amazing adventures. Find out what happened when she ate a cuy – otherwise known as a guinea pig – in Ecuador! Continue reading

Review: The Big Feastival 2013

The Big Feastival 2013

Clockwise from left: The music stage, gazpacho from a caravan, and the cheese tent by Alex

As we drove through the manicured villages of The Cotswolds on our way to Jamie Oliver and Alex James’s The Big Feastival – a two-day food and music extravaganza – it suddenly struck me that I didn’t really do big, crowded, noisy events.

I never ‘did Glastonbury’, not even once, and especially not at the height of the Mud Years which many of my friends lived through and pretended were a blast. I did do the Notting Hill Carnival, but only once. A near death-crush experience on a crowded pavement somewhere near Ladbroke Grove ensured I never returned, even though the Caribbean food was great. Millennium Eve celebrations in central London? Well, you can only do that once, but a similar near death-crush experience near Westminster Bridge, also ensured that I never really ventured into the city again on December 31st.

However, arriving at ex-Blur member Alex James’s expansive farm and country pile in Kingham, Oxfordshire, I needn’t have worried. With an expected 14,000 plus visitors over the course of the weekend, the spacious Feastival site seemed to have been organised with military precision. Continue reading