SW11 – Battersea – Sambrook’s – Challenge the brewer!

Armed with a bottle of red wine and a box of chocolates, I intrepidly set out last week to a good friend of mine’s birthday. But don’t worry – I arrived – and have since come home (doesn’t always happen).

What I am trying to convey to you is that I was armed with wine! Yes – that’s right – not my usual aperitif of choice which would normally be a six-pack of deliciously chilled Red Stripe. Knowing full well that this was to be a sophisticated birthday party (the kind with Kettle Chips), chardonnay (no, OK my friend definitely has better taste than that) and respectable chatter, I think I was appropriately bottled up. I don’t think my six pack would have gone down too well (my other one might have).

NB. The kind of parties I normally go to, usually involve me imposing martial law on the music system at the end of the night (as the Scouser and others will testify), and playing something that I’ve been listening to on loop that week.

But hey! Slow down. Enough. Where was I? Beer. Yes, I like beer. But recently, and thanks to my inaugural attendance at the Battersea Beer Festival, I have become a fan of ale (there may be hope for my burgeoning sophistication yet). I blogged about my experience on the Lavender Hill community site too. What has peaked my interest, and ultimately this post, is that Sambrook’s – makers of one of my favourite ales, Wandle, and coincidently Battersea’s very own brewery – have started brewing a new spring ale to add to their collection.

A proper pale ale, needs a proper name, and, at this moment in time it doesn’t have one! If you have ever fancied challenging a brewer to a drinking competition then I think you’re absolutely mental, but if you want to Challenge the Brewer to rename this latest addition to the Sambrook’s family, then I urge you to get involved. You can submit your entry in one of four ways:

Email: paleale@sambrooksbrewery.co.uk
Text message: Start a text with Ale then a space, then your name for the ale to 07786 205 227
Tweet them: @sambrookale
Facebook: Sambrook’s Brewery

You’ve got until midnight on April 6th. The astute ones among you will realise that is tomorrow night. So, get your thinking caps on. Get those juices flowing with something to assist the creative process and don’t forget to send in your entries. Duncan Sambrook himself and his wonderful minions will be judging entries. For more information see their blog.

So it is Thursday night, I have limited work to do tomorrow. Who would like to join me and ease into the bank holiday weekend with one of these?

Sambrook's Ale

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My Food Week in pictures – A farewell lunch, Brixton style

When you’ve been friends with someone for so long, regardless of how diligent you both are at keeping in contact, you’re always going to feel a little tug on those strings which are, apparently, attached to a frosty cardiac muscle in the centre of your thoracic cavity (my scenario anyway).

My friend leaves Wednesday, having been so close to me in south London, for the Wild West – Portland, Oregon. Having a terrible geographical knowledge of US States (c’mon, they’d never be able to point out where Brixton is on a map) I couldn’t tell you if it is actually the Wild West – you know – with cowboys and all. They still have them, right?

The second farewell I bid this week was another westward escape. This time to Wales; land of bara brith, laverbread, and Welsh cakes (posted a sneaky link to Debs’ site. Hers are, quite frankly, the dog’s proverbials).

Because I need great content for my blog, and, because I love my friend (notice the ordering of that sentence) I invited some of my closest mates for lunch (dinner – nudge to the northerners). All I need is a film crew and I’m basically your next Naked Chef (I throw roughly chopped food into the pan from great heights too y’know).

Pukka.

A farewell dinner which would not be forgotten had to include some of Brixton’s finest produce. Seemed only fair since I had directed the party all the way up Brixton Hill. My cooking of late is naturally following the nature of the weather; increasingly inspired by spring. Elderflower and apple spritzers started us off, with some of my favourite olives on the side – nocerella. If you’ve never had them before and are a fan of olives in all forms, please try them. Bright green (like giant peas) and unusually round (like giant peas), they are a lot less salty than your average green olive, have a fleshy texture and nutty flavour.

I served up two whole sea bass between five of us, stuffing it with mint, basil, parsley, and lemon slices. I really don’t understand people who don’t like to see the animal they’re about to eat whole. I demand to know what I’m eating, which is why I always ask my fishmonger to just clean and gut the fish. Plus, the bones and head keep all the divine juices inside, retaining the fish’s moisture. Dust the skin with a reasonable layer of sea salt and I can promise that you will be fighting for leftover pieces of skin from the plates of the fusspots.

Sea bass from Brixton Village

Offering the carbohydrates for the meal was a large portion of kisir (I may have made too much) – a Middle Eastern dish made principally with bulgur wheat, parsley, and tomato paste. I used a recipe I spotted about three years ago in the Guardian by one of my favourite columnists and chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi. I needed to add more chilli from the original recipe, and I preferred my bulgar wheat a little softer, so I added more water. It’s a beautiful traffic light platter when all is done and dusted, but I can tell you finding pomegranate molasses when your bastion of hope (Brixton Wholefoods) have run out of stock, can be a little unnerving an hour before your guests arrive. Luckily A&C Co Delicatessen saved my bacon, and my kisir, incidentally.

Ottolenghi's Kisir

Ottolenghi's Kisir

And the rest of the week…well just a quick one about a fabulous and entertaining cheese and wine evening at Entrée restaurant, on Battersea Rise. The event was hosted by their new restaurant manager, Chloe Gounder-Forbes. She’s a bit of a cheesy star having been on the judging panel of the British Cheese Awards – she knows her stuff.

Cheese Board at Entree