Jamie Oliver’s Trattoria Richmond

The daily rags have been gloating lately over the apparent demise of some of Jamie Oliver’s Italian outfits. Word is that they are lacking a bit of the old folding stuff and the reaper is beckoning.  The Cooktwit in times of panic is occasionally secreted to pastures elsewhere, leaving the North West to fend for itself. One such episode left the Cooktwit schlepping round the southern, luvvie and rugby enclave Richmond Upon Thames. As his want he needed to satiate in unfamiliar territory. After some rather pleasant examples of standard pub grub he plumbed into the strangely named ‘Trattoria Richmond’. A bit confusing really but there’s plenty of branding around to let you know Jamie Oliver has got his paws in the till.

Vintage font and cistern!
Vintage font and cistern!

Given I had spent most of the day inspecting old school furniture, I had a wry smile as most of the furniture in here looked like the stuff I was advising others to throw out!! Still, the surroundings were pleasant enough, although the chair I selected at my table for three was a bit saggy and low due to its previous forty years of use! The whole affair screams vintage, right from the menu font to the gents water cistern!

Focaccia, squid, truffle pasta, berry frangipan
Focaccia, squid, truffle pasta, berry frangipan

The food worked out well enough. I ordered a large glass of deep red ‘Montipulciano’, some tap water and some focaccia with olive oil and balsamic (£3.00). I secretly hoped the bread would be warm but it was cold. Still it was tasty enough and helped stave off a raving hunger.  Next up was some deep fried squid with lemon and garlic mayo. It came on a paddle and some chintzy napkin. The rings were a bit small and so the taste of batter pervaded rather more than it should, but it was crunchy, hot and not bad for £3.50. My main dish was Truffle Tagliotelli. I’ve never had truffle so I was really looking forward to this. It didn’t disappoint. Some of the blurb boasts that they make their own dough and pasta. If that was true it really worked, the pasta strips were perfectly cooked and tasted superb, arguably the best pasta I’ve had in a long time (including my own!!). The truffle sauce was lovely and ‘mushroomy’ and thankfully I had saved some bread to mop up.  A berry, frangipani tart with clotted cream finished along with a black, Italian coffee.


All in all a top bit of Italian scran, all for £28. I was in quite early around 5.30 on a Thursday eve. There wasn’t many in at the time and so it was a bit quiet, but by the time I came to pay, a good ninety minutes later, the long narrow place was buzzing and operating at three quarter pace. Service was efficient and friendly, so let’s hope these Jamie’s gaffs get a pick up and keep going, I’d go again.

Trattoria, 12-13 King Street,  Richmond,  TW9 1ND Jamieoliver.com 0207 096 3930



Reds True BBQ – Albert Square Manchester

Its February the 13th, the day before Valentines. The pressures on to woo the flame and make sure the Cooktwit can still show a girl a good time. So with a three hour ‘prog rock’ gig booked at the Apollo (Dream Theater for those in the know!) the question was where do I take the love of ones life for the pre gig tucker?
As luck would have it some Yorkshire folk ‘fromt tuther side et penines’ have turned up and gutted the old ‘Live Bait’ gaff. I happen to work next door and so it was the work of a moment to convince some poor waif at the door that I was worth keeping a small table in readiness for a cheeky couplet at six.
Industrial and neon
Industrial and neon
I won’t lie, the flame is more of a fine dining sort of lass. ‘Reds True Barbecue’ is not fine dining. In fact as the name suggests, the scran turns up in tins on plastic trays, (though not burnt on the outside and raw in the middle). This is a true American style diner, with burgers, steak, pork, ribs and appropriate sides the order of the day. It’s mighty fine stuff though.
In fairness the transition from a fish restaurant to meat heaven has been accomplished with rich, humorous, funky aplomb. The decor is a combination of industrial scrap, neon flash, park benching and (I kid you not) plastic school chairs. Combined with an x rated megawatt music system it generates an atmosphere unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Still as a fifty something I can’t deny getting mildly squiffy when Bad Company’s ‘Shooting Star’ crashed through the speakers mid way through a ‘jelapeno popper’.
With regards to the subsistence, things got off to a great start with a pint of ‘Shipyard Californian Pale Ale’. A welcome surprise. Our table was one of the last left and was holed up in a corner on one of the upper decks in a dark corner, as a consequence my lack of reading glasses made digesting the mad cap menu somewhat tiresome. I nipped outside on the street where a couple of large floodlit versions are displayed. Moments later I had chosen.
The food, some library pictures as mine were too dark!
The food, some library pictures as mine were too dark!
We both went for ‘BBQ plates’, I the North Carolina pulled pork, the flame had half a chicken. Each came with either two ‘humble’ sides or one ‘divine’ side. I had a divine tin of sweet potato fries, whilst the loved one across the bench had a rather humble, but pleasant potato salad and a side salad. My pulled pork came with homemade slaw, some pork scratchings and a small ‘tublet’ of apple sauce. Mine wasn’t very hot but it was tasty, and the crunchy texture provided by the folded in scratchings gave it a nice touch. I had the pleasure of stripping the flames chicken carcass (for research purposes) and can concur that the chicken was cooked well and tasted great in its sticky, barbecued coat. Both dishes were enhanced by the introduction of one or all of the sauces that are thoughtfully provided on each table. The hottest one in particular added a welcome zing. I’d step down a couple unless you are a big chilli fan!
I added a desert to the mix. It’s only a small menu, the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake was tempting but I wolfed a ‘Reds banana pudding’ instead. This came in a huge oval tin, layered at the base with sponge, the bananas then swam in vanilla custard, topped with grilled meringue. It was sweet and I loved it. The flame was less impressed and finished with a black coffee in a glass!
Bloggers welcome! A floodlit menu!
Bloggers welcome! A floodlit menu!
It all came to £37 for the two of us. If I’m honest I probably didn’t chose very well but have to say the burgers looked incredible and I’ll definitely be back with a gang to try one. It’s a great place to meet friends and take the kids to. The atmosphere is tremendous, the service from Sian our waitress, was enthusiastic, very friendly and efficient. Hopefully it will do well and continue to make great use of this grand old space. It’s another great reason to head over to the famous Albert Square.
Reds True BBQ
22 Lloyd Street
Albert Square
M2 5WA
0161 820 9140

Braised Ox Cheeks – A Winter Stew

I’m not going to lie to you, a raw ox cheek does not scream eat me. When Nicola (my local butcher from Red Bank Farm) heaved an immense globule of fatty, car tyre from its display lair, I was tempted to suggest she lever it back into place. I’ve had pigs cheeks before, they were dainty ‘ovalettes’ of tender, meaty goodness, a stark contract to the wad of flesh that an ox chews it’s cud against. However, a strange curiosity made me keep up with the scheme and so a Sunday tea of ‘braised ox cheek’ was born.

The ox cheek before and after the marinating
The ox cheek before and after the marinating
A recipe was found courtesy of James Ramsden, foodie writer. I skirt through his method with my added pics and words. Hopefully they merely embellish an already glorious wordage. As many meat lovers may already know, fatty when slow cooked for a long time becomes spectacularly gelatinous, and (in James’s words) extraordinarily handsome. I do urge you to do this. The results are extraordinary. Ox cheek is wonderfully flavoursome, perfect for a winters eve. About 15 minutes prep is all that’s needed. The oven does the rest.

It can be done a day or two ahead if you like – the flavour will only improve – I served with greens and mustard mashed potato.

Browning, adding the veg and then shredding after the oven
Browning, adding the veg and then shredding after the oven
Braised Ox Cheeks
Serves 4-6




For the marinade


2 ox cheeks, 1.5-2kg
Half a bottle of red wine
A bay leaf
A few peppercorns
A garlic clove, squished
A dried red chilli


For the braise


50g butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
300ml beef or chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper




Put the ox cheeks in a bowl with the other marinade ingredients and add a good pinch of salt. Leave for as long as you can – ideally in the fridge for a few days, (I left mine in the garage overnight!), but an hour is better than nothing


Preheat the oven to 160C. Remove cheeks from marinade and pat thoroughly dry. Heat a drop of oil (if using olive don’t use your best) in a frying pan over a strong flame and brown the cheeks thoroughly, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Transfer to a large saucepan. I ended up using my beloved ‘Le Crueset’ roasting tin.


Lower the heat in the frying pan. Add the butter and melt, then add the vegetables and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Soften for a few minutes then add to the pan with the ox cheeks.


Tip the marinade into the frying pan along with the stock and bring to a simmer, scraping any sticky bits off the pan. Tip this into the saucepan, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook for 3-4 hours until tender.
Remove the cheeks from the braising liquor and rest in a bowl. Put the saucepan over a generous heat, add the tomato puree, and simmer to reduce by about a half.

Meanwhile shred the cheeks with a couple of forks. Return to the pan and stir through the reduced broth. Keep warm until ready to serve, or cool and refrigerate until whenever. I promise it will be spectacular!

The final result, rich and uncious
The final result, rich and uncious
Recipe by James Ramsden  @jteramsden http://www.greatbritishchefs.com


Ox cheeks by Red Bank Farm http://www.farmshopnorthwest.co.uk
Red Bank Farm Shop, Winwick Road,
Newton Le Willows, Warrington, WA12 8DU
Tel: 07824 369174

Seville Orange Maramalade by Nigel Slater

January and February herald many things, despair, desolation, cold, misery, darkness, bankruptcy, mumps, typhoid…..no I made some of that up, but generally it takes a bit to get the old fire stoked and get the year motoring up to speed. What it really means to some is Seville Oranges and that then means marmalade. Real, shiny, bitter, sweet, tangy, sumptuous, sticky marmalade.
I’ve never been a particular fan until one Christmas, The Flame floated a weighty tomb by Nigel Slater into my grubby mits. Entitled the 4th Kitchen Diaries it charts what grub is in and when throughout the year. February 4th the dashing, young, TV cook slots in some soupy words along with a recipe for ‘Seville Orange Marmalade’. A hip, arty shot enhances the already rampant taste buds. I’m hooked, within days an armful of the Spanish fruits are on the slab being dissecting and boiled. I supply below pics, ingredients and a method (roughly supplanted from Nigel’s sketch).


The ingredients are simplicity itself – Seville Oranges 1.3kg (about 15), Lemons 2 off and Golden granulated sugar 2.6kg. You’ll also need 2.5 litres of water.
In total this little lot set me back about £7.50, the sugar really costing the most. It tipped up about 10 jars of the golden juice. You will need to put away a few hours of your life. It is time you will never get back so you must enjoy it!! It is worth it though, trust me.
The prep in pictures!
The prep in pictures!
1) First up is to remove the peel and pith from the oranges and lemons. Nigel prescribes a cracking way here. Take a very sharp knife and score four lines down each fruit from top to bottom, as if you were cutting it into quarters. Let the knife cut through the peel without going into the fruit. The peel is then easy to remove by hand.
2) Cut the peel into fine shreds (or to a size you want them if you like a chunkier texture) and put them into a large bowl. This is good training for your knife skills!
3) Squeeze all the juice from the oranges and lemons into the bowl, but catching the pips and keeping them to one side. I found my ‘Joseph Joseph’ hand juicer balanced over a sieve, over the bowl, made this fairly fiddly task go by with minimum fuss. (I’m afraid the kitchen diaries took a bit of a dousing with squeezed orange at this point!). Chop the pulp up and put that in with the juice.
4) Add the 2.5 litres of cold water, pouring it into the bowl with the shredded peel. Tie the reserved orange and lemon pips in a muslin bag and push into the peel and juice. Set aside in a cold place and leave overnight.
The pips, the sugar, the boil and rest.
The pips, the sugar, the boil and rest.
5) The next day, tip the juice and shredded peel into a large stainless steel or enamelled pan (or a preserving pan for those lucky enough to have one) and push the muslin bag down under the juice. Bring to the boil then lower the heat so that the liquid continues to simmer merrily. It is ready when the peel is totally soft and translucent. This can take anything from 40 minutes to a good hour-and-a-half, depending purely on how thick you have cut your peel. (I left mine a good hour and a half to be sure, and the peel was then soft and the pith translucent).
6) Once the fruit is ready, lift out the muslin bag and leave it in a bowl until it is cool enough to handle. Start adding the sugar to the peel and juice then turn up the heat, bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil.
7) Squeeze every last bit of juice from the reserved muslin bag into the pan. Skim off any froth that rises to the surface. (If you don’t your preserve will be cloudy.) Leave at a fast boil for 15 minutes. Remove a tablespoon of the preserve, put it on a plate, and pop it into the fridge for a few minutes. If a thick skin forms on the surface of the refrigerated marmalade, then it is ready and you can switch the pan off. If the tester is still liquid, then let the marmalade boil for longer. Test every 10 to 15 minutes. Some mixtures can take up to 50 minutes to reach setting consistency.
8) Mine did work after 15 minutes. After turning the heat off I got my assortment of jars soaking in water with sterilising tablets. I then ladled the hot, burnt orange juice into the sterilised pots and sealed immediately.
The final result
The final result
Suffice to say I now have a veritable phalanx of sweet, bitter preserve to lash on to the bun, the toast, the crumpet and last but not least the cinnamon bagel. Enjoy.


Thanks to Nigel Slater and the 4th Edition of the Kitchen Diaries. Well worth a purchase from all good book shops and inter web portals.
Catch Nigel on twitter @NigelSlater where he provides a cordial and helpful repartee in 140 characters!