Bare Food is born

I first heard about supper clubs and pop-ups emerging all over the London dining scene in 2009, which was unfortunate timing as I’d just moved from Brixton to take up the position of chef at a boutique hotel in deeply rural southwest France. I read with pangs of longing about chefs and their collaborators throwing together exciting plates of funky food in fabulous little venues all over town for one-off events… and I thought, as someone who has never felt the lure of my name hanging over the door of a permanent establishment: “That could be fun”.

 Bare Food outside Bare Food Duncan serving

Back in London, I discovered that supper clubs are still going strong and the pop-up scene is thriving, especially during the summer months. I toyed with the idea of using my garden flat as an entertaining space for a reeeeeally intimate little supper club every week or so, but I soon realised that a) It probably wouldn’t be a good move if I don’t want my landlord to evict me, b) If it rains, my guests would need to come inside and squeeze around a table that barely seats six and c) I don’t particularly like anyone else in my bathroom… let alone strangers. So I decided I needed to find a space to use in my new neighbourhood… and then practically fell through the doors of CCs cake shop on Londsdale Road, newly redecorated, two minutes walk from my flat – and about to relaunch as Nineteen: café, bakery, gift shop and venue for hire!

Bare Food Nineteen sign Bare Food table and shelves Bare Food chair

I usually work alone when I cook for clients, which can be a little lonely, and I knew that this was a project I wanted to do as a team. I already had my partner-in-crime: Monique, a fellow classically-trained chef with an equally strong passion for Mediterranean food, a simple, modern approach to cooking – and a no-nonsense approach to getting on with things. My kind of girl. Luckily her boundless enthusiasm was piqued by my idea and, along with the very gorgeous Claire, Rich and Jacob in place as our Front of House, a team was born…

Bare Food plating up canapés 2 Bare Food Claire Bare Food MoniqueBare Food family sitting outside 1 Bare Food griddled veg plattes

So, with a venue and a mission in place, we now needed a name… Last summer I had toyed with the idea of doing a pop-up restaurant at Treverra (a most idyllic spot, set in a gorgeous garden with stunning views across the Camel estuary, all washed down with lungfuls of Cornish sea air), which I wanted to call the “Bare Foot supper club” in honour of the house’s beautiful pale wood floors and no shoes policy. We liked the name, but it was no good for London, whose streets would probably offer up some serious cuts, a touch of gangrene and possibly a dose of tetanus if you wandered them without shoes. But that name brought us to Bare Food, which summed up our food ethos of choosing the freshest, tastiest produce and cooking it skilfully, yet simply, so that every single individual ingredient can shine through.

Bare Food smashed peas & broad beans Bare Food cucumber ginBare Food pork and salad Bare Food drinks prep Bare Food: Pop-Up Dining

So, with a close eye on what locally-sourced meat, fish, fruit and veg were in season, Monique and I created a menu that read like a love song to the ingredients, flavours and dishes we’d tasted and cooked at home and around the world. Recipes and ideas from friends and family were woven in, from Rich’s cucumber gin to Kari’s crispbreads, as meals we’d eaten on our travels were longingly recalled and recreated for our menu. We shopped at farmers’ markets around London and from a wonderful butcher and fishmonger nearby, and the end result was, we hoped, the perfect expression of British summer produce, cooked by two chefs inspired by the Mediterranean. The next day, although we felt “like we’d run a marathon and drunk 15 beers”, we were content. We’d produced a meal of which we were proud, our Front of House team had worked like a dream (and like troopers) and our guest had left smiling, happy and full.

Click here for more about Bare Food Pop-Up Dining and follow us on Instagram @barefooduk.

All photos in this blog post were kindly donated by Sophia Shorr-Kon.

Bare Food outside at night Bare Food main course on plate Bare Food cornmeal shortcakes with peaches 1

Battening down the hatches and bottling it

When I wrote my last blog, I knew we were teetering on the edge of summer, ready to topple head-first into autumn… but I had forgotten just how impressive Cornish sideways rain can be, thanks to gale-force winds straight off the Celtic Sea.  However, Cornish flora – just like the fauna (I include native Kernowyon in this) – is made of strong stuff and, despite spending storm-ravaged nights convinced the roof would blow off our little cowshed (that’s if it wasn’t crushed by a falling tree first), Treverra has survived the autumnal storms so far and is looking lovely (no small thanks to the team who keep it all going, with special creds this week going to the boys in rubber who spent two days in masks and wetsuits repairing the magic pool cover).

Treverra after a good ravishing by Katia

Men In Black come to the aid of the Treverra pool cover

Ironically, given the tempestuous weather, we’re experiencing a lovely little lull right now, a calm patch in between the busy summer and October’s half term holidays and shooting parties.  With the tourists mostly gone (except in Padstow – it seems it’s always busy in Padstow), the Cornish roads are emptier (and safer without Rock Mummies careering around in Chelsea tractors and their big-wig husbands taking road rage to new heights) and the beaches are tranquil.  But the hedgerows and trees… they are busting out all over the place with apples, damsons and autumn berries.  So, what’s a girl to do except buy 8 litres of gin and get stuck in?  Ahhh, damsons, you sexy little things – eye-wateringly sharp, yet with a wonderful depth of flavour and a velvety, delicously dark hue.  With Hurrican Katia rampaging outside, I turned about 4kg of damsons picked from the field next door into damson ketchup (a Mother Chef special recipe) and another 5kg into damson gin, its aromatic, boozy fug enveloping the house.

Damson ketchup – from the Mother Chef, aka Gill Fuglesang
8 lb damsons

8 oz currants

1 lb onions, chopped small
2 oz coarse salt

1 lb Demerara sugar

2 pints distilled white vinegar



Tie up the following in muslin
:
6-8 dried chillies

1 tblspn black peppercorns

1 tblspn mustard seeds

½ oz dried root ginger, crushed a bit first (I usually just use about 1 oz fresh grated)

½ oz allspice berries
2 whole garlic cloves
 


To save having to stone the damsons by hand, I just very gently heat them until the juice runs and they go soft enough to put on the rubber gloves and squeeze them through a colander, pushing the pulp and juice through into a large pan and trapping the stones, being careful to put all the pulp back in the pan.  Add currants, onions and the bag of spices.  Add 1 pint of the vinegar, bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 30 mins or until mixture is soft. 
 
Then remove the bag of spices, place contents of pan in a liquidiser and blend until perfectly smooth.  Rinse out the pan and return the purée and bag of spices to it, add the salt, sugar and remaining 1 pint of vinegar.  Bring to simmer and cook gently, uncovered, for 1½ – 2 hrs or until the ketchup has reduced to approximately 3½ pints.  (From experience I know that you should have it slightly thinner than you would like it when you bottle it as it thickens as the months/years go on – especially years!)  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and leave to cool for a few minutes before pouring into bottles.  The recipe tells you to then sterilise the bottles for 10 mins, I never have done and have never had a problem with ketchup going off so I wouldn’t bother if I were you (that’s my mother for you – cavalier as ever, and usually she gets away with it, but I’d advise you to wash and rinse the bottles thoroughly and put them in an oven at 90°C for 10 minutes to make sure they’re sterile before filling them).  Leave for at least 6 months before eating to allow the ketchup to mellow.

Autumn and damsons have definitely come to Treverra

Damson gin – getting eyed up from all sides, I just hope it makes it to next autumn

Damson ketchup – like being a paid assassin, it’s a messy job, but someone’s got to do it…

Sadly, due to damsons’ tannins, the gin and ketchup need to mature for a while before they are fit for consumption.  Luckily, there are a few other Treverra-made treats to sample in the meantime: apple & rosemary jelly, “44” (a Madagascan recipe where you steep an orange, 44 coffee beans, 44 teaspoons of sugar and a few vanilla pods in a litre of gin for about 44 days – if a measure of that doesn’t warm you up in winter, I can only suggest a second, third or even fourth attempt…) and raspberry vinegar.

Typically, this being Cornwall, my cosy, autumnal domestic bliss may be short-lived.  Apparently we are getting an Indian summer on Wednesday, bringing blazing sunshine and temperatures well into the 20s (for a couple of days, anyway).  Which is most excellent news – my damsons are dealt with, the garden’s looking lovely, the pool cover is fixed – bring on the Pimms and a bikini.

Follow me on Twitter @LauraLPope

Summertime, and the cooking is easy

In my family, the BBQ season has been known to start as early as March.  In fact, as long as there’s not actually snow or frost on the ground… GAME ON!  Even rain doesn’t stop play – just find a bit of shelter and it’s all good.  (Perfect example was many years ago at my dad’s birthday BBQ on 6th July – the rain started at 4pm and didn’t stop.  Undeterred, my Uncle Rob – Head BBQ Chef for the night – stationed the Webbers in an open-sided, roofed area behind the house and cooked his way through the steaks, seafood and chickens in order to feed the 70 guests.  The guests, for their part, felt sorry for him outside so kept the booze flowing in his direction.  3 hours and about 60 units of alcohol later, Rob emerged red-eyed from the smoke and a bit unsteady on his feet, to announce: “I’m nissed as a pewt.”  Bravo, sir.)

BBQs have always been a big favourite here at Treverra Farm and this summer has been no exception, but we entered a whole new league with the unleashing of the fire pit for some hardcore Argentinian asado action the other night.  The lovely Loftuses arrived with five organic, free-range chickens that had been spatchcocked and then were marinated in olive oil, lemon & rosemary.  A make-shift spit was created out of some metal stakes, the chickens were skewered and then suspended over the fire.  Watched by his team (fuelled by Dark ‘n’ Stormies and Provençal rosé), Charlie was a man on a mission, braving the searing heat to baste the chickens, rotating and adjusting them until they were cooked to succulent, smoky perfection.  Add a perfect Cornish summer’s evening, with some potatoes baking slowly in the embers and some salads from the garden, we couldn’t ask for more… the arrival of our neighbours in their helicopter overhead was simply the icing on the cake (thanks to Jo for the fantastic aerial shot).
Photo by Joanna Vestey

Dark ‘n’ Stormies
Half-fill a glass with ice cubes, then add a slug of good dark rum (Morgan’s Spiced is great here), top up with ginger beer (Old Jamaica has a nice kick to it) and squeeze in a couple of wedges of lime.  Most importantly, make sure the BBQ chef’s glass is topped up AT ALL TIMES.
But Cornwall is, without a doubt, one of the best places to get seafood that I’ve ever known and it’s at the heart of many dinners here.  I am very lucky to get my fish from Matthews Stevens & Son, based in Newlyn, who have supplied me for the past two summers with gorgeous, locally-landed fish. On Thursday evening, with 10 for dinner and the sunny days stretching on, I rode the Mediterranean vibe I was feeling and looked to Ottolenghi for inspiration.  One of my favourite chefs, his recipes really come into their own during the summer – fresh, light, delicious dishes that are perfect for relaxed, communal eating.  As I prepped the salads, the Big Swede got the BBQ going, throwing fresh herbs onto the coals for added aroma and then cooking three large grey mullets that I’d prepared:
Whole grey mullet for the BBQ
You can use other whole fish here, like rainbow trout, salmon, sea bass, etc – grey mullet just happened to be available and particularly good at the time.  Ask your fishmonger to scale and gut the whole fish, then stuff the belly with herbs (I used coriander and flat-leaf parsley), slices of lemon & lime – ginger and chillis are also good.  Sprinkle olive oil in the belly and season.  Cut a few slits in the skin and rub with olive oil, sea salt & black pepper, then wrap in foil.  Once the BBQ is ready, cook for about 10 minutes on each side until just cooked through, then you can lift the flesh off the bone onto a warmed platter, scatter with chopped herbs and serve with wedges of lemon.
Photo by David Loftus

Summer dinner for 10


To start:
  • Chargrilled nectarines & Prosciutto, with endive & baby chard leaves and a Balsamic, maple & rosewater dressing

Remove stones and slice nectarines vertically into 6 wedges, then toss in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Heat up griddle and char the slices to give them distinct grill-lines on all sides.  On a platter, lay out torn endive, the Prosciutto and the nectarine slices, then scatter over the baby chard leave and drizzle with dressing of olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, rosewater, salt & pepper.

Main course:
  • BBQ whole grey mullet with lemon, lime & herbs and a tarragon aïoli
  • Fillets of sea bream with a tahini, lemon & parsley sauce, scattered with pomegranate seeds
  • Camargue red rice & quinoa with orange & pistachios
  • Fennel & feta with pomegranate seeds & sumac
  • Cucumber & poppy seed salad
  • French beans & mangetout with hazelnuts & orange
  • Baby leaf green salad

And finally:

  • Blackberry tart with crème fraîche sorbet (blackberries picked from the field next door)
Blackberry tart (recipe adapted from the Cherry Tart recipe in Bill Granger’s book “Holiday”)
To make the pastry, melt and cool 125g unsalted butter, then mix in 90g caster sugar, followed by 175g plain flour and a pinch of salt to make a soft dough.  Press the mix into a greased, 24cm round, loose-bottomed tart tin, place onto a baking tray and cook at 180°C for 12-15 mins until the pastry is puffing up.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of ground almonds over the base, then leave to cool.
For the filling, whisk together 170ml cream, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 3 tablespoons of caster sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of plain flour and whisk until well mixed.  Arrange a couple of large handfuls of fresh blackberries (or cherries – stoned and halved – or other soft fruit that’s in season), slightly overlapping, over the pastry base and pour the cream filling evenly over the fruit.  Return the tart to the oven for a further 40-50 minutes until the filling is firm.  Leave to cool and serve with cream or ice cream.

Crème fraîche sorbet
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups crème fraîche, ¾ cup cane syrup (if you can find it – I mix half & half golden syrup with homemade sugar syrup), a good pinch of salt, ¼ cup lemon juice and ¼ cup sugar (I didn’t have quite enough crème fraîche this time, so I made up the quantity with a bit of vanilla yoghurt and it worked beautifully – I may be onto something…)  Chill the mix in the freezer for about 15 mins and then transfer to an ice-cream machine to chill and churn for about 30-45 mins (check your machine’s guidelines).  Keep in the freezer – this is best made the day before to give it time to firm up and then it’s best eaten within a few days of making.

True to form, I made more food than even 10 hungry mouths could eat, but the great thing about all the dishes above is that the leftovers make for no-effort lunches over the next couple of days, leaving you to enjoy the last hazy, lazy days of summer… isn’t that what it’s all about?
Daymer Bay
Follow on Twitter @LauraLPope

Plus ça change…

Our studio on Treverra Farm

I woke up to the sound of a small creature clamouring for attention outside my window, followed by a chorus of buzzing: flies. The inquisitive small child has now gone, but the cows are back in the field next door, which means they bring their little friends with them. Joy. Still, one look at my view of rolling green fields, perfect lawn, summer flowers and blue, endless sky is enough to soothe my fly-angst (not to mention a frenzied attack with a fly swat that killed about 10 of the buggers).

Near Lundy Bay

Sound familiar? There are indeed echoes of my time spent in the Tarn, my busy life working as a chef in a beautiful, tranquil corner of France with many creatures of all sizes to entertain and infuriate me. But Le Manoir de Raynaudes is long gone and I have moved onto new pastures (and cows, and flies…) My life is still nomadic, but I’m getting a sort of rhythm going, which feels like progress – I’ve found places I keep wanting to return to. And someone to return with: the Big Swede. Well, actually he’s a French-Swedish hybrid, but the name suits him and it’s stuck. We met in the Swiss Alps and are set to return there for our third winter together. For the summers, we live in Cornwall, with me working as a private chef and him mostly working on his surfing. Together, we look after the guests staying in a beautiful house and cottage in an idyllic site on the north Cornwall coast, set up away from the swarming crowds of tourists, with an uninterrupted view of fields and the estuary. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Treverra Farm House
Before I get lost in smug ramblings, I must remember the point of reigniting the blog: food. It turns out that my comments and photos on Twitter or Facebook about something I’ve just cooked are prompting responses along the lines of “Enough with the chat and give us the recipe, woman!!” When I post recipes, I’ll do my best to be accurate with the quantities and be clear in my methods, but feel free to ask me if something just doesn’t add up. First up: slow roast pork.
Although I’ve always been a fan of cured or smoked pork – Spanish jamón Iberico and chorizo, Prosciutto, Salami, etc – and it’s true that I view sausages as a sacred food group in their own right, I was never a fan of roast pork. Dry, uninspiring, bland… and I never got the point of crackling. But then I tasted slow-roast pork belly in Spain and things shifted – pork that was juicy, super-tender and almost caramelised. So I experimented over and over again, changing recipes, methods, timings, temperatures, suppliers – everything in the quest to recreate the mouth-watering dish I’d eaten all that time ago. Results varied and, despite a few moderate successes, I was far from satisfied. But then I received a golden piece of advice: forget perfect meat AND perfect crackling – you can’t get both at the same time. So I divided and conquered:
SLOW ROAST PORK
Slow roast pork, salads and roast potatoes & red onions

 

This recipe and method have worked for me with both pork belly and a shoulder of pork – the former is better for smaller numbers, whereas a whole shoulder of pork (bone in) is a great way to feed about 20 people. The paste recipe is adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Aromatic shoulder of pork ‘Donnie Brasco’ and the method is thanks to Jamie Oliver and his brilliant advice, which he based on much experience and many conversations with “meat geeks”…
For the paste to rub on the meat
In a pestle & mortar or a coffee grinder, pulverise:
2 star anise
2 tsp fennel seeds
4 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns

Add 1 tblspn of this powder (you can keep the rest in an airtight jar for future use) to the following (if you’ve got a stick blender with a mini chopper accessory, this is ideal – if not, you can grate the garlic and ginger and mash everything in the pestle & mortar):
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
5cm piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
2 tspns dried chilli flakes
2 tspns ground ginger
1 tblspn brown sugar
4 tblspns flaky salt
1 tblspn sunflower or groundnut oil
1 tblspn soy sauce

Meat

Pork belly (it’s tricky to give weight – best to ask your butcher based on how many of you there are and use your eyes to gauge how much you want to eat – and remember that the meat will shrink by about a quarter during cooking), OR
Whole shoulder of pork, which weighs between 5kg and 8kg

Cooking – bearing in mind cooking times, you will need to get things going up to a day in advance
Turn your oven to 110°C.
Take the skin off the meat, using a small, sharp knife, causing as little damage as possible to the meat, the skin and your fingers. Score the skin with a sharp knife (a stanley knife works best if you have one), chop into strips or squares and put it in the fridge.
Line a roasting tin big enough to hold the piece of meat with two layers of tin foil that are big enough to wrap around the whole piece. Put the meat in the roasting tin and rub the paste all over it, then wrap the meat up and seal up the foil around it.
Put the meat in the oven for about 6 hours for a piece of pork belly or up to 24 hours for a big, whole shoulder of pork. That’s very approximate, by the way – it should be wet at all times and you cook it under the meat is falling apart – check it a couple of times during cooking and turn it over once or twice.
When it’s finished cooking, remove the pork from the oven and turn it to 160°C, transfer the meat from the foil into a roasting tin and strain the juices into a saucepan. You can smother the meat in a jelly of some kind at this point (I used a homemade red- and white-currant jelly) and put it in the oven for about 20 mins (belly) to 45 mins (shoulder) to dry out a bit.
Heat the juices in the pan and reduce to a nice saucy consistency – add a teaspoon of jelly if you want to sweeten it a bit and a squeeze of lemon often doesn’t hurt if it needs a zesty kick.
Meanwhile, for the crackling, sprinkle salt on the skin and lay it in one layer in a roasting tin in a searingly hot oven (250°C-ish) for about 20-30 mins until it is crunchy, but don’t let it burn. Sprinkle with more salt if you fancy before serving.
To serve the meat, pull out any bones and discard them then, using two forks, tear the meat apart and put onto a warmed platter. Put the sauce in a jug to serve on the side.
What you serve it with depends on you and your guests – my favourite accompaniments have been sticky coconut rice, chargrilled broccoli with chilli & garlic and Jamie’s free-styled salad of finely diced carrots, cucumber, apple & coconut with tarragon & parsley and a dressing made by tempering oil with mustard seeds, ginger & cumin, finished off with a good squeeze of lemon – a bit off-the-wall on its own but AMAZING with the pork and coconut rice. Last night I was feeding 16 guests, some of whom had more conservative tastes, so I did balsamic-roasted new potatoes & red onions, a marinated green bean salad with a Dijon & shallot dressing, a crunchy salad of carrots, fennel, cucumber & courgette and a simple green leaf salad.
We ate leftovers at about 10.30pm last night and I am still rather full, so have managed no more than a cup of detox tea so far this morning (pathetic, really). The Big Swede, however, got up at 5.30am to go surfing (the buzz on the Twittersphere tells me it’s the best swell of the season so far, so there is method to his madness) so he will probably return soon, absolutely famished, and I can attempt to assuage his hunger with a sandwich of torn, slow-roast pork, some garden lettuce and a bit of English mustard and mayo. Ooh, is that my appetite I can feel returning?

Here comes summer


Summer has arrived – and so has a colony of wasps.  Big mistake.  Big.  Huge.  Cue Peter pulling out the big guns and spraying the little sods into oblivion…

With no guests in the hotel or for dinner tonight, today has turned into a pre-season blitz of the garden, courtyard and pool.  While Peter was exterminating insects, Orlando has been digging in the herb garden and – as I write – is in the courtyard, pulling the pansies out of the wooden tubs to replace them with white geraniums.

And me?  After a few hours experimenting in the kitchen with new ideas for starters, I have become the Manoir’s pool girl.  The water is still on the chilly side (make that near-glacial), but I cannot wait to get in, so have been putting the little robot pool cleaner to work (is it me, or does it look like it was made by Fisher Price?) and scrubbing the bottom and sides of the pool.  Who knew that many bugs could fit in one swimming pool?  Anyway, the plan tomorrow is to actually get in there myself to access those hard-to-reach corners.  So, please think of me, freezing in my bikini and goggles, scrubbing brush in hand as I make my way around the pool, beautifying it in anticipation of your visits…