Thank you to everyone that came to say “Hello” at Taste Of London in Regents Park last weekend. We had a great time despite the weather. The sometimes extreme conditions didn’t seem to put off the Great British public from participating ; umbrellas up, macs and boots on (we saw a few pairs of flip flops) and it seemed that nothing could curb the appetite for new flavors and fine wines. The star of our little show was the Ham Hock Terrine that we have collaborated with Bryn Williams Chef Patron of Odettes on for our summer picnic. The free range Suffolk hocks are slowly cooked on the stove top with spices then pulled by hand, we then add grated apple and parsley to lighten the dish up for the summer. Its potted in mini kilner jars and steam sealed – perfect for a summer picnic. My Pear Piccalilli also went down a treat and made a great “co-star”. There were also some well received “walk on” parts from the Battenberg Cake, Rhubarb canvas shopper bags (out sold all the others), Jam Drops and Regents Park Honey. Vestal Vodka Beetroot Cocktails perked us all up and we made sure our neighbour Michel Roux Jr got to approve one. All in all a very fine show.
For full details of our summer Picnic visit our website and download a menu
When the heavens opened yesterday morning at 7.30am just as we arrived at Regents Park with all our wonderful products to sell at Taste of London, I have to admit that I felt like turning round and heading back to our dry comfy office. However the Melrose and Morgan team had already set sail (almost literally) lead by Louisa and were on course for an 11 o’clock kick off. Fourteen thousand people were on their way to sample the delights of London’s finest chefs on a rather rainy Thursday. So with this in mind we set up shop, hung our bags on the wall, handed out some excellent Pear Picalili for people to try with Bryn William’s Ham Hock Terrine and asked James from Drinksmith to fix some Melrose and Morgan Beetroot, Honey (from Regents Park) and Vestal Vodka cocktails ; it was all very well received and was worth all the effort. So we have three more days of fun in the park to promote our summer picnics. The weather forecast is improving so, we would love to see you there. You could also have a chance of winning a Melrose and Morgan Picnic for you and 12 of your closest friends this summer, by entering our Prize Draw. For full details of the 4 day event, see the Taste of London website. (We are on stand E2 opposite Le Gavroche and Bocca du Lupo.)
Our second shop in Hampstead is one year old today. We had a little party with the staff last night (after a staff training session) and said a big “thank you” to all of them. It’s been a fantastic first year and we are very pleased with the shop. We got some things absolutely right and we have made a few mistakes, but we have really enjoyed the challenge of putting good food on your table. We have a built up a loyal customer base already in the village and we would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support. We are listening to you and there are plans afoot to install a small eating gallery so you can enjoy a coffee and a pastry “in house” and we have ordered proper tables and chairs for outside. We have lots of exciting recipes and delicious food to share over the summer now that the season is in full swing; wonderful full flavored tomatoes from the Isle of Wight that you will find in our new tomato soup recipe and bread salads this summer; the herbs and salads leaves from Secretts Farm in Surrey are unsurpassable; our Picnics are ready to go and the centre piece for them is the Ham Hock Terrine that we have made in collaboration with Bryn Williams at Odette’s Restaurant; and if you haven’t tried Jimmy’s Iced Coffee yet, then that’s a must for those long hot summer days.
Happy Birthday Hampstead !
No, this is not a title for a BBC costume drama, it’s a place in Lincolnshire that grows the best asparagus in the land, in our opinion. Abbey Park is owned by Ros and Nick Loweth who started their business with only one acre of land and grew asparagus as a hobby. That has rapidly expanded into a 30 acre site. They supply some of the finest restaurants and grocers in London including The Ivy and Fortnum and Masons, and both our shops.
Aspargus is at the peak of its season and it’s probably the most popular vegetable we sell throughout the year. The season started at the end of April (a week late, as it would normally start around St George’s Day on 23rd, if the conditions are right) and then goes on until the middle of June (mid summers day); so there’s just less than two months to enjoy this delicious treat.
There is a recipe for cooking asparagus in Apicius’ oldest surviving book of recipes dating back to third century AD. It was also cultivated by the ancient Greeks. Its is very labour intensive crop to grow and can take three years for a plant to mature thus demands a high price tag. We think it’s worth it as it hearlds the end of the “hungry gap” and the start of the spring harvest.
To cook, bring your largest pan filled with salted water to the boil and plunge your spears into it for 3 – 5 mins depending on their thickness. Remove from the boiling water and refresh under cold water for a few seconds to prevent any further cooking, drizzle the warm asparagus with your best extra virgin olive oil, toss in some finely chopped herbs (dill, tarragon and chervil) and serve with shavings of parmigiano reggiano, finish with some Cornish Sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Louisa , Mr James and I legged it down to Earls Court yesterday after work to sample some wares of UK based artisanal food suppliers at the Real Food Festival. It was the first day so the place was busy and buzzing with traders and public alike. There are some rules, the first is navigating your way around a food fare; always clockwise round the outside then zigzag through the middle – if not you end up in a right pickle ! The other rule is that if you engage in conversation with a producer expect to be tied up for a good ten minutes or more such is their knowledge and passion for what they are selling. We were there for three hours and one of the last to leave a little tipsy having sipped some elderberry liquor that William was pedaling. Delicious.
So, we loved Mons who supply excellent French / Swiss cheese to excellent food shops, the gin at Sipsmith, the Summer Pudding Jam from Tea Together, mix your own blend of English tea from Tregothan, toasted pumpkin oil from Serbia at Sun and Seed, spiced jellies from Ouse Valley and our dear friend William at Vestal Vodka who will be making a star appearance at our stand at this year’s Taste of London to mix some top quality cocktails with his Polish vodka. More details on that to follow in a few weeks.
Mr James recently discovered this collection of books that Penguin have published under the heading of The Great Food Series. The series aims to bring together a collection of 20 writers, some of them food specialists, from the last 400 years and provoke us with their thoughts on food, its importance, relevance and place in society. We were initially intrigued by the book covers themselves which have been artfully designed. The collection consists of such legendary writers such as Elizabeth David, Eliza Acton, Claudia Roden, Alice Walters and Alice B. Toklas. The books are in paper back and are no more than 150 pages long and are a mixture of recipes and journals. They make a perfect read for a lazy day in the park or to take on holiday this summer and with titles like Murder in the Kitchen, The Elegant Economist and A Delicious Cooking Revolution how can you resist ?
We are currently stocking six out of the twenty titles and are available in both our shops now at £6.99 .
Last month we asked Jane Rawson who was one of our former chefs at Gloucester Avenue, when we first opened, to come back into our kitchen and bake some Simnel cakes for Easter. With a hop skip and a jump she bounced back in and started to bake these wonderful cakes. I ran about to find ribbon and decorations, Mr James was in charge of packing and wrapping and hey presto we had ourselves a mini production line. Jane has an effortless style around baking and we are thrilled with the results.
Simnel cake is a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan, then toasted on top, and eaten during the Easter period. A layer of marzipan or almond paste is also baked into the middle of the cake. On the top of the cake, around the edge, are eleven marzipan balls to represent the true disciples of Jesus; Judas is omitted. Simnel cakes have been known since medieval times, and were originally a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off. The word simnel probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour with which the cakes were made.
They are in the shops now and retail at £9.95 for a small 600g cake or £19.95 for a 1.3 kilo large cake.
I have never been to Australia before but I understand that there is a brand of iced coffee there called Farmers Union that everybody drinks and even swoons over. My mate Jimmy Cregan visited there a few years back and got hooked and has been on a trail to create something similar here in the UK ever since. He has spent many months testing and perfecting his recipe to find the correct balance of his ethically sourced Honduran coffee, demerara sugar and West country English milk to create the perfect iced coffee. He heralds from the same part of Dorset as me and has teamed up with his lovely sister Susie to win over the Northern Hemisphere with this delicious drink. We have all had a little tipple at the shop and love it – especially when the sun is shining. It’s going to be a hit – we can feel it.
So it’s with great pleasure that we will be launching it this weekend 16th April between 10am and midday at our shop in Gloucester Avenue when we will be one of the first shops in London to sell it.
Jimmy’s Iced Coffee comes in 500ml for £2.50. Keep your eyes peeled for a SKINNY LOVE made with skimmed milk and a whole lot of love. “Keep your chin up” as it says on the side of the carton.
Our General Manager, Josh and our Hampstead Manager, Sarah have been busy listening to some customer feedback. It seems that some of you love to cook – almost as much as we do! So we have been hunting down some new ingredients to use as part of your store cupboard essentials . Our first new supplier to this aim is Steenbergs Organics from North Yorkshire. They are a husband and wife team supplying the very best award-winning Fairtrade spices and they are also committed to being environmentally friendly . We met Sophie and Alex Steenberg at a food fair a few years back, so we are very pleased to be working with them.
Spices have been the catalysts of some of the greatest adventures in human history, from Christopher Columbus to Vasco da Gama, as well as being the driving force for the British East India Company and the British Empire, whose merchants turned London into the greatest spice market in the world for 200 years. Vast fortunes were made and squandered, powerful rulers seduced, ailments cured, and nations discovered – all in the name of spice. Spices have always cast a spell on our imaginations. They flatter our senses: our sight with their vibrant colours, our smell with their enticing fragrances, and our taste with their distinct flavours.
So if you would like to spice up your Easter baking this month, take a look at the Vanilla pods from Madagascar or maybe try something more exotic with a heady Lebanese blend of Za’atar, that’s a perfect match with grilled chicken, pop in to the stores and have a look at our new spice collection. For a special gift try the organic mini spice rack for £19.95 for a starter set of 16 organic spices – a must for budding cooks.
We have worked with Sandrine May the owner of the Canterbury based chocolatiers Madame Oiseau since we opened Melrose and Morgan in 2004. Back then Sandrine’s little shop was based in a tiny village called Lydd next to the Romney Marshes in Kent. Before we opened Melrose and Morgan we drove down to meet her with our then head chef, Rose Sykes and her partner in our brand new kitchen, Sylvan Jamois. The shop was a tiny white-fronted cottage with blue windows that used to belong to a lady called Mrs Bird; which is where the name for her business came from; Sandrine is French so it was a simple translation for her to make. The shop was full to the brim with handmade chocolates that Sandrine produced from a small studio at the back of the shop – she then neatly piled her bounty up on the wooden counter out front. Sandrine was bursting with enthusiasm and took us on a mini tour and explained how she her produced her range of authentic award-winning praline’s, bars and truffles. It’s all about using the very best ingredients and delivering her chocolates fresh and full flavored within days of them being made. We were sold on the quality and also her unique and quirky style and have worked with Sandrine ever since.
She is now based in the heart of Canterbury and it’s from her busy shop that she will supply us with this years handmade polka dot Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. We have them in the shops now – but please be warned we often sell out before the Easter Holidays !