While Jason Lowe and I are cooking, setting up and photographing my recipes for this column, we often get chatting about the restaurant industry and all the new projects and potential sites that we've come across during the past week.
Jason has always been passionate about good food and he has also always been interested in being involved in a restaurant venture of some sort. So when he mentioned that he and Lori de Mori – his wife and the co-author of their fantastic Tuscan recipe book, Beaneaters & Bread Soup – were going to open their own café on London's Regent's Canal, I thought that it was a fantastic idea.
The food is really simple and delicious homemade fare using great quality ingredients and focusing mainly on breakfast and lunch dishes – often with a distinctive Italian accent. Oysters are served on a Sunday, daily hot dishes are chalked up on the board, along with big chunky sandwiches and damn good coffee and homemade drinks.
The Towpath is already gaining a loyal local following. Restaurants come and go for various reasons, but I reckon this one could set the standard for casual waterside eating and drinking. Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite.
Towpath Café, 42 De Beauvoir Crescent, London N1 (closed Mondays)
Lemon rice tea cakes
90g Arborio rice
A pinch of fine sea salt
100g vanilla sugar
60g unsalted butter
The grated zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs (at room temperature), separated
1tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp dark rum
Icing sugar for dusting
Line 15 medium-sized muffin moulds with cupcake papers.
Bring the milk to the boil, stir in the arborio rice and salt, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the sugar and butter and continue simmering until the rice is cooked. The rice should just be coated in the thickened milk mixture; if it's drying out during cooking then add a little more milk. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and leave to cool for about an hour, stirring occasionally as it's cooling.
Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5.
Stir the grated lemon zest, the egg yolks, lemon juice and rum into the rice. In a very clean bowl whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until stiff, then gently fold them into the rice mixture. Spoon the mixture into the lined muffin tins to the top.
Bake the tea cakes in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until golden (you can test if they are done by inserting a skewer in the centre and if it comes out clean, they're ready).
Transfer the cakes to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then either leave the cakes in the paper or remove them and dust with icing sugar before serving.
Makes about 4 x 1 litre bottles
4.5 litres of water
250g fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
500g granulated sugar
A handful of raisins
15g instant dried yeast
In a large saucepan bring the water to the boil, add the ginger and sugar, remove from the heat and leave to cool until just lukewarm. Add the raisins and stir in the yeast, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 2 days.
Strain the liquid and transfer to sterilised bottles with tight-fitting lids. Refrigerate for 2 days before serving.
Serve with a squeeze and a wedge of lime.
Chicken and vegetable broth with tarragon sauce
For the stock
1 medium-sized free-range or organic chicken
1-1.5ltrs chicken stock
A handful of tarragon
10 black peppercorns
A handful of parsley stalks
A head of garlic, halved
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 leek, halved lengthways, roughly chopped and washed
1 bulb of fennel
2 bay leaves
2 heads of fennel, trimmed and cut into 6 or 8 wedges through the root
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the angle
1 leek, sliced on the angle
4 sticks of celery heart, sliced on the angle
24 Charlotte or waxy new potatoes, peeled
For the sauce
tbsp chopped tarragon
tbsp chopped mint
1tbsp chopped parsley
tbsp Dijon mustard
Olive oil to mix
Put the chicken in a large saucepan with the cold chicken stock and the rest of the ingredients for the stock. Bring to the boil, season and simmer for 20-25 minutes then turn off the heat, cover with a lid; leave to cool. Once the chicken is cool, remove the skin and remove all the meat from the legs and breasts and cut into good-sized chunks. Skim any fat from the broth and strain into another saucepan. Simmer the broth until it has reduced and has a good flavour; season again if necessary, then add the second lot of vegetables and potatoes; simmer until tender. To make the sauce, mix the chopped herbs with the mustard, then stir in enough olive oil to form a thin sauce. Add the chicken to the soup, serve and spoon the sauce on top.
Grilled cheese sandwich
2 slices of sourdough bread
100g Montgomery Cheddar, grated
1 spring onion, finely sliced
Heat a ribbed griddle pan over a medium flame. Mix the grated cheese and onion together, butter the bread and fill with the cheese mixture. Grill on both sides until the bread is golden and the cheese has melted. Jason and Lori serve it at the Towpath with a spoonful of quince jelly.Reuse content