I’ve been a loyal customer of OliveOlive for several years now, regularly stocking up on their excellent halloumi and extra virgin olive oil from Cyprus. I have the added foodie bonus that this Cambridgeshire based company is local to me so my orders are delivered by owners Pam and Rob Marsden – a nice opportunity for a little chat. I often see them at markets and foodie events too.
Their first press, unfiltered olive oil comes from Pam’s family farm in Cyprus. It’s produced in a coastal village using handpicked local olives and cold pressed within 24 hours. It really is of superior quality, including their olive oils fused with basil, chilli, garlic, lemon or oregano. Their Cyprus Village halloumi is handmade the traditional way by their friends in Cyprus, the Stefani family. It’s way better than the supermarket stuff. These personal connections are the best kind of quality control.
Our cooking often features their products so I was excited to learn that Pam and Rob wrote their own recipe book – The OliveOlive Mediterranean Cookbook, published by Meze Publishing. I was looking forward to checking out all the recipes so I was delighted when Pam and Rob gave me a complimentary copy.
The cookbook features 45 recipes contributed by Pam, her family, their friends, customers and chefs who use OliveOlive’s products in their restaurants. There is page after page of mouth-watering photography of the dishes but I also liked the personal photos… the family farm, Pam’s relatives (mum, dad, aunt and uncle) in Cyprus as well as Pam and Rob on the farm and in their kitchen.
The circumstances that brought Tel Aviv chef Maoz Alonim to Cambridge may not be food related but it was inevitable that he would eventually open a restaurant and contribute to our flourishing foodie scene. Alonim is one of Israel’s most famous chefs renowned the world over for founding Basta in 2007, a small restaurant and wine bar in proximity to Carmel Market. With produce straight from the market’s stallholders only a few steps away, the menu changes daily (sometimes twice a day) and consists of main headings with handwritten dish updates. This is Alonim’s concept… a creative menu led by fresh, seasonal ingredients paired with an impressive wine list. And this is precisely what he has brought to The Kingston Arms, located just off Cambridge’s vibrant and diverse Mill Road.
Always one to defy expectations, Alonim defines The Kingston Arms as Kitchen, Hummus and Wine. He has even gone so far as having the serving presentation designed for their hummus and pita, a clever combo of zisha (Yixing clay) bowls with a round cork cover that doubles as a board for the pita. More on the amazing hummus later!
This independent pub is a real food and wine lovers’ gem. The interior is warm and inviting, with tables by the windows and back door as well as bar seating for perhaps a more wine or beer focused experience. There is a large walled garden with heaters that is pretty much rain proof, a definite advantage for a business that opened during the pandemic. The staff are so friendly and welcoming and there are knowledgeable sommeliers for their well curated wine list.
I was delighted to get a sneak peek of The Wine Rooms ahead of their official opening on 8 June. Located at 57 Hills Road near Station Road, this place is an exciting new addition to Cambridge’s independent food and drink scene. The focus is on wines paired with a modern, seasonal menu with New Zealand-born Cambridge chef Liz Young at the helm.
The Cambridge based owner of The Wine Rooms is an experienced vintner and wine management and cellarage provider so the wines naturally take centre stage. It’s more of a wine bar and shop for high end wines than a restaurant but that in no way diminishes the food offering. The changing menus, featuring an All Day Bar Menu of Small Things and Sweet Things and an Evening Menu of more substantial dishes, are designed to complement the carefully curated wines by the glass.
The wall of wine bottles on wooden shelves (some only accessible by ladder), the combination of table and counter seating, the specials boards next to the small window into the kitchen, the bar at the back complete with brass pendant lights and antiqued mirror… they all set the scene for fine wine and good food in an unpretentious atmosphere with friendly, knowledgeable service.
For over two years now, Amélie’s father-son duo Régis and Alex Crépy have been regaling customers in their Cambridge restaurant with Flam-kuche, their take on the 14th century Alsace dish known as Flammekueche (a super thin flatbread with crème fraîche and fresh toppings, baked in a very hot oven until the edges are crisp and the top is golden). I wrote about Amélie here, soon after the exciting launch of the restaurant in 2018.
Lockdown meant Régis and Alex had to adapt Amélie to these challenging times so they created the DIY Flam-kuche Flatpack for local delivery. It soon garnered praise as a quick and easy home kit that’s several notches above fast food. And now they have launched their UK-wide delivery service for more people to enjoy preparing and eating this tasty meal in their own kitchen.
In the Amélie Store, there are 7 flavours of build-your-own Flam-kuche Flatpacks: Authentic, Goat Cheese & Beetroot, Margherita, Mozzarella & Pepperoni & Olives, Mushroom & Mozzarella, Parma Ham, and Pulled Pork Shoulder – each with 4 rectangular bases, 5 toppings and the choice of their signature crème fraîche or deep red tomato sauce. Other options in the store are beef short rib, cheese fondue, homemade hummus, homemade pesto and packs of 4, 8 or 12 dough bases (for adding your own toppings or baking separately to use in dips).
I chose to receive the Authentic Flatpack and it came in a cheerful yellow and white rectangular box with dark blue lettering for the restaurant’s name, phone number and website. The brand colours and font took me back to Amélie’s stationary Citroen H van in The Grafton. The box was sealed and cleverly identified with the label “Authentique and on fleek!” and once open, I was greeted by “Bon Appétit!” printed on the side. A good start, non?
Two-Pan Chicken with Red Potatoes and Feta is a great ‘bung-it-in-the-oven’ recipe. Apart from some prep work chopping the vegetables and chicken breast (separate boards, of course), there’s very little effort involved as the dish spends most of the time in the oven.
My recipe uses only two pans – a large frying pan and a deep roasting tin or casserole dish. The chicken is browned in the frying pan while the potatoes and onions are undergoing their first bake in the roasting tin.
Red potatoes are another timesaver. They don’t need to be peeled as their skin is thin. In fact, they’re best left skin-on in order to retain all their nutrients and flavour. They just need a good wash and dry, making sure any eyelets (little sprouts) are removed.
The bake is finished off with the creamy, subtle tang of feta cheese, which only needs a few minutes under the grill / broiler to melt and brown nicely.
Who doesn’t love fajitas? They’re quick and easy to make, full of flavour and fun to assemble. My recipe features chicken, straying from the Tex-Mex / Mexican origins of grilling skirt steak, although the chicken in this recipe can be easily replaced with beef.
My recipe keeps the ingredients simple and doesn’t use loads of different spices. The fajitas are still tasty and the additional toppings are optional.
All the ingredients are fried in the same pan. When everything is cooked, we bring the frying pan to the table, place it on a heat resistant mat and use tongs to assemble our own fajitas.
I am still baking during lockdown and I’m enjoying making my tried and true recipe for orange rosemary drizzle cake. I’ve been testing similar recipes over the past few years and I’ve adapted them into one recipe I am very happy with. My Orange Rosemary Drizzle Loaf is my go-to recipe when I need a good dessert or am contributing to a charity bake sale (hopefully those days will come back soon).
I am avoiding supermarkets as much as possible. Fab local shop Meadows in Newnham has been a godsend, delivering fruit, vegetables, butter, milk, cheese, pasta, sauces, freshly baked goods, tea, chocolate and more, including some of the products in this recipe. The Washington variety oranges from Italy (supplied by La Sovrana), Cacklebean eggs from the Cotswolds and rosemary infused olive oil imported from Fattoria di Tullio in Abruzzo by Cambridgeshire’s Cucina di William really elevated this cake to new heights.
Those who have made my previous recipe for carrot muffins will know that I prefer using olive oil rather than butter as the bakes are lighter in texture. Rosemary and oranges make a great flavour combo, with the subtle hint of rosemary complementing the citrus.
Using an olive oil already infused with rosemary is a good shortcut but just olive oil works too, with the option to add finely chopped dried rosemary to the batter (or leave out the herb altogether if you’re not a fan).
These are unprecedented times. Yes, we are in lockdown due to COVID-19 but also unprecedented because I am baking. A lot. I hardly ever bake! It’s a comforting activity that’s keeping me sane all the while ensuring no produce goes to waste. Over the past several weeks, I made 4 loaves of banana bread and 2 batches of carrot muffins. Whoa.
Time is on my side so I’ve been perfecting my recipe for carrot muffins. I used less sugar the second time around and I was really pleased with the result. The natural sweetness of the carrots and little kick of cinnamon meant I could cut way down on the sugar (I went from 200g to 140g).
There’s olive oil rather than butter in the carrot muffins, making them lighter in texture. The recipe doesn’t use a lot of flour, which is difficult to find at the moment. So a little goes a long way. This recipe also uses up any carrots languishing in the fridge.
La Raza is a long standing, family run, independent business with an enviable location on Rose Crescent in the heart of Cambridge. This popular basement bar and restaurant has been feeding, watering and entertaining their customers since 2003. It is primarily known as a venue for events, live music, DJ nights and cocktails but also serves Mediterranean inspired cuisine. I admit I only thought of events and cocktails when it came to La Raza, having danced away there with The Early Night Club as well as attending their well organised Cambridge Cocktail Weekend in 2017 (I blogged about it here). I was invited to check out their food offering and came away suitably impressed.
Their superb tapas menu offers a variety of sharing dishes: meat, charcuteria, salads, seafood, vegetarian and croquetas. There is also a choice of four different types of paella, suitable for two to share, as the main course for heartier appetites. Sides & nibbles, desserts and a sharing plate round out the menu. The food complements their fantastic selection of cocktails – they really do make some of the best in town. I particularly liked their “What’s Your Flavour” chart, divided into four categories (smart, refreshing, rich, casual), to help choose a cocktail of my preference.
A lovingly refurbished pub with rooms surrounded by a 1,000-acre historic deer park in North Norfolk, The Gunton Arms hit the mark on all counts: stunning location, stylish accommodation, cosy pub, great staff, fantastic food & drink and impressive art collection. It was the perfect getaway, only two hours from Cambridge.
Paulo and I visited The Gunton Arms with our friends Peter and Jenni, who had dined at the restaurant and were keen to repeat the experience in our company, as well as stay on the estate.
The location was a little difficult to find but it added to the cachet of a unique hideaway. We spotted the neon sign to reception where we registered our arrival.
We were directed to the car park and once inside the remarkable inn, staff welcomed us and showed us to the residents’ lounge, the coffee/tea making facilities and our rooms.