3 Feb 2008

Halal to Hedonism

I SPENT FRIDAY in the company of a Venetian Contessa...
Enrica Rocca, a formidable, fiery expert forager runs a day-long cookery school from her home in Notting Hill. The enviably equipped conservatory kitchen classroom is furnished with blurred, yet very bright Vietnamese nudes.
The aim, via wheeled wicker basket shopping trips to either Borough or Portobello: to replace marketing for market, in the process slicing straight to the most interesting, tastiest ingredients purveyed by distinct, responsive, likeable personalities. These include the overlooked and for me undiscovered.
We met, Caffè Macchiatos in hand, at the bravely priced, aesthetically sterile Kensington Whole Foods store (where lettuce are moistened by timed mists). There we talked about the advantages of unpasteurised cheeses, baguettes baked by the hour, the world’s best ham, the importance of properly ageing meats and the arithmetic behind the structure of the Romanesco cauliflower.
Around midday, salivating, and fully sensorily aware, we boarded a bus to Portobello, pausing to purchase a modern yet uncompromising Priorat Zeta '04 at Jeroboams before venturing to an initially intimidating Halal butcher. Within, we tripe-gazed, bought veal neck whole and a tray of chicken hearts before stopping by one of the cheapest roadside fish stalls with near flappingly fresh fare including a toothy, spiky eel...
Enrica's bruschetta, charred, scraped then soaked in olive oil and topped with split cherry tomatoes and basil fragments beat many wan restaurant offerings. A fan of skate wings bought for £1.60 were breaded, bronzed and sprinkled with capers. They partnered well with an '06 Falanghina from Terredora which possessed the minerality of sun-baked, wind whisked, pulverised volcanic rocks. The tasty morsels of Halal chicken hearts urgently sautéed in garlic evoked a cross between calamari and kidney in texture. The veal neck, which I carefully scraped off the bone, contributed a braised casserole and a well sealed meat loaf, both stuffed with sage. Already de-boned pork neck, pink, proved the most succulent dish.
Being in the company of an assertive expert whose enthusiasm is still contagious is fantastically stimulating.
*
My colleague, Leigh observed that when members of the wine trade clink glasses, what follows is not a hearty glug, but a protracted period of sniffing!
*
Click HERE for my latest liquified words for the Southwark News - 'A Tax on Good Taste?'