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Neil Rankin at John Salt preview photos

11 Jan

Nobody else in London cooks meat and fish using fire quite as well as Neil Rankin so we were excited to hear the news that he was taking over as resident head chef at John Salt. It’s not easy to follow in Ben Spalding‘s footsteps, but we have every confidence in Neil. We’ve been well acquainted with him in the last year or two both from visits to Pitt Cue and his occasional forays at Maltby Street Market, most recently the pop-up Cornish Bird collaboration with Little Bird Gin and Matt of Cornish Grill fame (who will continue to supply Neil). The steak was to die for.

Neil revealed an example menu earlier in the week, and food photographer Paul Winch-Furness was there to snap some food porn, embedded below. (Paul is everywhere! If you see a beautiful photo of a London restaurant or its food there’s probably a 50% chance it’s Paul’s, I swear…)

Almost 90% of the menu has had some degree of smoke or fire added to it. Even the cold dishes, the salads and a couple of the desserts. It’s my intention to use charcoal and smoke almost like a seasoning. Sometimes its very subtle but you’d notice it if it wasn’t there.

A few examples from the menu are:

  • Potted dishes including pork jowl, smoked brisket and shrimp all with sourdough
  • Salami cure crackling
  • Starters include – raw bass with apple and bergamot; raw beef, pear, sesame, oyster; oysters, lardo, bacon dashi; scallops with peanut and shrimp; crab and fennel on pork skin; scallops, popcorn, bay ice and frozen, cured and smoked loin; burnt leeks, shiitake, parmesan and truffle vinaigrette.
  • Mains include Half/whole coal baked crab with bisque butter, green chilli poussin and a whole megrim sole in bone sauce with capers. There will also be rare breed beef, all with bone marrow butter, including skirt steak, sirloin and a 1k rib eye for two.
  • Sides include frites with pulled pork, kimchi and cheese, chicken skin hash, cheese and brisket on dripping toast as well as pickles and salad.
  • And finally, for dessert there will be brown butter ice cream, salted caramel and peanut sundae; old-fashioned trifle with clementines and bacon panna cotta.
As for us, we’ll hopefully be visiting for a test night next week. Can’t wait!
  1. More gently filthy delights @JohnSaltN1 @FrontLineChef – Crab & Fennel on Pork Skin @ John Salt
  2. Raw bass, apple & bergamot @JohnSaltN1@FrontLineChef @ John Salt
  3. Coal baked crab & bisque butter @JohnSaltN1 @FrontLineChef @ John Salt
  4. Oysters, lardo, bacon dashi @JohnSaltN1 @FrontLineChef @ John Salt
  5. Scallops peanuts ponzu @JohnSaltN1 @FrontLineChef @ John Salt
  6. . @FrontLineChef getting busy with the @BigGreenEggUK @ John Salt

Truffle Poutine recipe

28 Feb

A ‘posh’ twist on Poutine, the classic Québécois fast-food dish, with the addition of Italian black winter truffle.

Truffle Poutine


  • 300ml good quality beef stock
  • 200ml good quality chicken stock
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp truffle oil
  • 8g fresh black truffle
  • 1kg French fries or chips
  • 200g cheese curds
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (aka cornstarch) mixed in a little cold water

Serves: 3-4
Calories: lots


First, catch your cheese curds.  Ideally you’ll want to smuggle them from Québec, like we did. They’re pretty hard to source in the UK, so you may need to make your own curd using rennet, raw milk and yoghurt. Do not substiute normal cheese for curd – that would be an a very poor approximation. Next, find yourself a truffle. We used Mister Truffle – they deliver truffles by the gram…

The quality of the gravy is important. If you can make your own from beef or veal bones, please do so. If you can’t, or you don’t have time, find some good quality ready-made stock. We prefer Marks & Spencer’s concentrate that comes in jars.  Finally, make some chips. We cheated to test this recipe out and used McCain oven chips. Not quite the real deal, but not too bad. French fries would have been more authentic.

Cook your fries, and meanwhile make the gravy by grating about 1/3rd of the truffle into the stock, adding the balsamic and the truffle oil, then bringing it to the boil. Add the cornflour in water to the stock and stir well to prevent lumps, until it’s smooth, thick and lustrous.

Plate up the fries and scatter pieces of the cheese curd on top.  Pour over the gravy, then shave the remaining truffle on top. The hot gravy should melt the curd, but if you want to help it along then 30 seconds in the microwave doesn’t hurt.

Molecular Gastronomy, Belgian-style

25 Mar

The Food Snob Blog has an excellent report on the Flanders Taste Foundation‘s annual event, where 17 self-styled Flemish Primitives – mostly Michelin starred regional chefs, 15 more guest-chefs, scientists, farmers and food experts gathered for one day. This year they focused on food technology.

Some highlights for me:

  • Cold pasteurisation using extreme pressure

    “By placing shellfish in vacuum-pouches with cold water, then exposing them to six-thousand bars of pressure – such as would be felt sixty-kilometres below sea level (in actuality, an impossible depth) – ‘cold pasteurisation’ was possible. Samples of mussels, clams and cockles were circulated as evidence. More surprising than anything else however was that these were a week old: fished seven-days ago and uncooked – yet still absolutely edible.”

  • A dessert made from deconstructed perfume – in this case, Eternity by Calvin Klein

    “Perfume has so many edible ingredients – flowers, herbs, spices, so the food connection is natural”

  • Using a Nespresso machine to make a beetroot cappuccino with Alpro soymilk, freeze-dried lard, peanut and shellfish(!)

The day finished with Dominique Persoone (The Chocolate Line) and James ‘Jocky’ Petrie (The Fat Duck) “ran the audience through several dramatic displays entailing levitating chocolate disco-balls, bubble machines and an ejaculating cake.”

Chestnut Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil Recipe

17 Jan

Mushroom display at Carluccio's mushroom market
Serves: 4


  • 300g of fresh chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 25g of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked then chopped
  • 100g pre-cooked and peeled chestnuts, thinly sliced
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 large onions, thinly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100ml of dry sherry
  • 100ml of brandy
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme
  • 1 tbps tomato purée
  • To finish
    • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
    • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
    • 1 tbsp truffle oil


Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pan or stock pot on a low heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the chestnuts and cook for another 2 minutes. Then turn the heat up slightly then add the mushrooms and fry for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the brandy and sherry and simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds. Mix the tomato puree in with the stock and the liqueur the porcini soaked in, then add it to the pan with the pinch of sugar and the vinegar. Turn down the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes. Finally, add the lemon juice and stir well.

Turn off the heat and allow it to cool a little before blending half the mixture, then returning it to the pan. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a bowl with the tarragon, parsley and a drizzle of the truffle oil on top.

Photography by Kake Pugh

Maya Gold Chocolate Orange Mousse Recipe

29 Nov

Most of the credit for this recipe must go to the wonderful Green & Blacks for their stunning Maya Gold chocolate, the key ingredient. The lack of cream and butter keeps the recipe really light, but a touch of richness is retained through the brandy and orange. For perfection, make sure you have your folding technique right!
Green & Blacks Maya Gold (photo by binaryape)

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 mins
Chilling time: 1 hour


  • 2 x 100g Green & Blacks Maya Gold organic chocolate
  • 6 medium organic eggs
  • 1 tbps brandy
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • zest of an orange
  • strips of orange peel


Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and add 150g of the chocolate, broken into chunks, with the tablespoon of brandy. Retain the remaining 50g, resisting the temptation to eat it.

Meanwhile separate the egg whites, keeping two of the egg yolks to one side. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric or a handwhisk until it forms soft peaks. Be careful not to overdo it or it will separate. 

Take the chocolate off the heat and stir in the orange zest and the cinnamon. Set it aside for a few minutes to cool a little, but whilst it’s still liquid, pour in the two egg yolks in and beat vigourously (or it will scramble). Add a third of the soft egg whites to the chocolate and stir in well.

Now, using your very best technique, fold the chocolate slowly and carefully into the egg whites until well combined but still full of air.

Pour the mixure into ramekins and put in the fridge to chill and set, which should take an hour or two. Now is a good time to lick the spoons and bowls clean 🙂

Once the mousse has set, grate the remaining chocolate over the top. Cut the orange peel into four thin strips and curl them tightly. Gently place on top of the mousse and serve immediately.