On The Menu: Steak pie at the Pheasant Inn; SeeWoo's Chilli Oil; Morena bakery; Navarino olives; Element 29 vodka
This week I've been eating... Steak pie
You may be thinking: "But it's not really the weather for pies, what with the sun and all." To which I would reply: it depends on the pie. When good pastry comes together with a decent filling and a hot oven, it's a dish for all seasons.
At the Pheasant Inn in bucolic Higher Burwardsley, Cheshire, it has them down to an art.
My visit on Saturday was my third time there, in the dining room that looks out over the flat countryside to Welsh hills, and my third pastry-encrusted dinner.
This time it was steak (last time, chicken). With a prod of the fork the pastry gives way, collapsing into a shallow bay of gravy with its bobbing icebergs of steak.
The gravy is thick and rich but doesn't overwork the steak. The meat, cooked slow, flakes at the sight of a fork. They are happy in each other's arms. And I am exceedingly happy at the Pheasant Inn. thepheasantinn.co.uk
If there is one seasoning I wouldn't want to live without, it's chilli flakes. They're the most flexible of friends. You can use them for everything from perking up pizza to creating tongue-tickling marinades. I love them. However, a close second is SeeWoo's Chilli Oil. It comes in shrimp, scallop, anchovy, vegetarian and a very fine Szechuan flavour, which is the best of the bunch.
It's made by roasting and then simmering chilli, fish and spices. It can be used for all your spicy needs, whether that be for stir-fries, for adding zing to pasta or for dipping dim sum. £1.80, seewoo.com
Sweet and flour
Dulce de leche cookies, alfajores with hazelnut, caramelised apple crumble tart and passion fruit cheesecake – these are words I like. They are also things on sale at the newly-opened Morena bakery on Cheshire Street in east London. If cookies and cakes are not your thing, it also does a range of Paraguayan savouries (the birth place of the owner). So there is chipa, the bread made with tapioca starch and oodles of cheese, sopa paraguaya, mini cornbread loaves filled with beef and goats' cheese, and more empanadas than you could shake a fork at. morenabakery.co.uk
Last weekend I found happiness in a jar of olives. Not the ordinary sort in brine or oil. These are prepared by Navarino and are quite sweet. They use a traditional Messinian recipe which calls for whole Kalamon olives to be stuffed with almonds and then boiled in a syrup composed of wine, orange juice, honey, herbs and spices. The result is sensational – sweet but not cloying. Place on a small mound of Greek yoghurt and you're in heaven £6, navarinoicons.com
Producing a new glass spirit bottle produces, on average, 630g of CO2. It's a startling figure. So props to Element 29, the vodka maker, which now operates a bottle-refill system. Just take your empty Element bottle into Selfridges on Oxford Street and they'll fill it right up again.element29vodka.com
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