On The Menu: Choux farci; Crosta & Mollica's pizza bases; California Rancher BBQ kits; Maria Elia
This week I've been eating... Choux farci
Chabrot Bistrot d'Amis is a small pretty restaurant full of tall, pretty staff. The boys are pretty; the girls are pretty. And the food is pretty, too. It is a bacchanalia of prettiness. But unlike the egregious Bulgari Hotel's Il Ristorante across the way – average meal price, about £300 – you don't need to be a merchant banker or a waify blonde for the staff to smile at you. It's very friendly and has the most marvellous bread.
Its accent is southern France, the name being a play on the rustic tradition of "Faire Chabrot", adding wine to your near-finished soup. I had the choux farci, an Auvergne dish and the house special. Immensely satisfying, it's composed of veal, chestnuts, foie gras and ceps stuffed inside a cabbage. Put together, they sing – the cabbage a perfectly-textured foil to the richness of the veal. Beautiful dish, lovely place.
The best sandwiches seldom come in a cardboard house. You want them made in front of you, and wrapped only in paper, not kept in a cooler. That's my thinking – or was. Then Waitrose's new chorizo, potato and chargrilled vegetable egg pancake came into my life. And it was glorious. Part of the supermarket's "New World Food" line for its Good to Go range, it is light and lovely, the eggy pancake falling away to nothing, leaving the spiky chorizo and creamy potatoes. It has an almost perfect filling-to-wrap ratio. £3, waitrose.com
The world of home-cooked pizzas has come on unfathomably in the last decade or so. But one of the finest additions may have arrived in Crosta & Mollica's pizza Neapolitan pizza bases, which are about as close to the real thing as you can get without a proper oven. I used some to create five "Olympic Rings" of pizza fun (above) for the Games' closing ceremony. (Blue pizza toppings – not easy to come by, by the way). The bases come pre-sauced, but I found making and adding my own gave them a little bit more moisture. Tasty stuff. £3.75, crostamollica.com
The new California Rancher BBQ kits are pricey, but my goodness do they make for a cracking burger. Not only burgers either, smoky wings, steaks and ribs, too. The kits come from the guys behind Grillstock festival and contain natural spices – no chemicals – and sauce. Since launching in 2010, the packs have garnered manifold praise, including from Great Taste – I add to that my own humble burger-based recommendation. £ 2.50, california-rancher.com
Maria Elia, formerly of Joe's in Kensington and latterly of the TV, is one of my favourite chefs. Her book 'The Modern Vegetarian' has recently been updated and is out in paperback this month – its elegant Mediterranean recipes are enough to have the most ardent carnivore consider a life of veg. £11.99, kylebooks.com
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