Truth compels us to assert our conviction of the superior wholesomeness of bread made in our own homes - Eliza Acton

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Monday 29th August


Do you know the canelé? They are a regional speciality of Bordeaux - little squishy cakes soaked in rum and caramelised on the outside. As I understand it, Bordeaux was the important port for French trade with the Caribbean: hence the invention of a cake stuffed with rum, sugar, and vanilla. They have a distinctive shape, a sort of twelve-petalled cylinder. The first time I encountered them was as a petit four at a rather lovely restaurant just outside Bordeaux, where I might have made the mistake of passing them over for the more immediately appealing chocolate or fresh-fruit goodies had I not been in the company of locals... Since then I've been hooked. They are moist and delicious, with actually quite a subtle eggy-vanilla flavour, like a wonderful home made custard. I do in fact have a recipe for canelés, carefully and generously handwritten in that very distinctive French handwriting. So all I need is the moulds - you can buy (in France or online, rather than down your local Woolies) beautiful individual copper ones or sheets of practical silicon ones. When my boat comes in... Meanwhile I have at least found a supplier of the finished product, a french lady on an unnamed stall at Borough Market. I wanted four (well, they're only little), she had five left - what can I say? I left with five. Mine, all mine! If you see them, I advise you to snap them up, too.

Monday 22nd August

Today, Matthew, I am going to be: Rachael Ray. Who she? Well, Sam at Becks and Posh explains it better than I could. Inter alia, (i.e. when not posing in her underwear doing slightly obscene things to a spoon) Rachael Ray presents a travel/food programme on American television in which she visits a city and eats as well as possible whilst spending no more than $40 a day. That's about £22. Sam's challenge - under the Dine and Dish meme - was for us to match this feat in our own area. Well, London is notoriously expensive, the dollar is weak, and there are approximately three days a year when it would be feasible - warm enough and dry enough - to follow Sam's money-saving tip and eat a sandwich in the park. Oh, and as I may have mentioned, my local area is not well-endowed with gastro-temples. But the harder the challenge got, the more interesting it looked, so here we are: Rachael Does East London For Less Than Twenty-Two Nicker.

To eat well in England, said Somerset Maugham, eat breakfast three times a day. That may not quite be necessary these days. But it is true that the new English cuisine (perhaps bizarrely, since the best of it depends on immigrant cuisines substantially vegetarian in origin) is heavily meat-based. Each of the places we visited had adequate vegetarian options, but for a Londoner, it really wouldn't seem strange to have bacon for breakfast, sausages for lunch and kebabs for dinner. Ready?

Breakfast: Café Olympic, Stratford Broadway E15

What better way to start the day than a traditional English breakfast? London is covered in authentically greasy caffs where you can buy a huge plate of fried food and a mug of builders' tea (very strong and very sweet) for less than the loose change you find down the back of the sofa when you wake up. Such breakfasts cover all the major food groups; fill you up at least until elevenses; and cure all hangovers. In honour of Stratford's new Olympian status, we visited Café Olympic and feasted on the Olympic Special Breakfast: your choice of four items from eggs (fried or scrambled), baked beans, sausage, black pudding, bacon, mushrooms, or tomatoes, plus tea and toast, for £3.80. The caff was warm, light and clean, the service friendly, and the food generous, unpretentious and satisfying. Don't come here for the finest organic gourmet fare fresh from the farmyard, nor for buck's fizz and strawberries; but if you're visiting London and need a hearty breakfast before heading up to the West End, you should experience this at least once. The toast's hot, and the coffee isn't instant.

Cost: £3.80

Lunch: S and M Café, Brushfield Street E1

sausages and mash

Spitalfields is a very jolly area to stroll around, just at the City end of East London. Lovely market, little trendy shops - and a good number of places to pick up some lunch. If it's sunny enough to walk and eat at the same time, you'll have dozens of choices, but if the weather's more typical, I recommend The S and M Café on Brushfield Street. No sniggering at the back there - that's S and M as in Sausage and Mash. In order to conduct a thorough test (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) we went for the full bangers and mash, though there are cheaper/lighter options if you prefer.

Two 'London traditional' sausages, bubble and squeak mash (that's with cabbage) and a rich onion gravy came to £5.75. Mushy peas on the side, or 'gourmet' sausages (choices included organic, chicken and pepper or pork and feta) would have been a pound or so extra. The sausages are perfectly cooked, meaty and slightly spiced. Don't forget a good dollop of the dijon mustard 'with chablis' which sits on every table (the only hint, before the menu arrives, that this isn't your everyday greasy spoon - otherwise the brown sauce bottles, wipe-clean gingham table cloths and framed Picture Post covers on the walls are straight from central casting). A bottle of Victorian lemonade was a bit steep at £2.80, but seemed the perfect accompaniment. We rolled out of the door with no thought for pudding - but my sweet tooth couldn't resist the charming delicatessen next door, which from outside is the image of a real old-fashioned sweet shop. We handed over our pocket money for a bag of white mice to nibble as we window-shopped - and to complete the time-warp sensation.

Cost: £9.05, Running total: £12.85

Dinner: New Tayyab, Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel


A short tube ride east, this place is a bit of a legend. The large Pakistani and Bangladeshi community around Whitechapel/Brick Lane make it the best place in the UK (outside Birmingham, perhaps) to eat South Asian food. Even so, Tayyab stands out for its authenticity - miles away from the standard English 'curry' - and rock-bottom prices. At peak times you may have to queue, but it shouldn't be for long; and if the sight and smell of other diners' food has made your stomach rumble you can start tucking in as soon as you get your table - poppadoms (a mix of plain and peppery/cumin), relishes and onion salad are provided automatically and instantly.


You can't do better, here, than to share several small dishes - £2-3 each - between you. Some meat, some fish, some dhal and a couple of naan breads to scoop it up with. Masala fish was particularly good, but then so were the juicy, coriander-scented lamb kebabs, and the earthy baby aubergine and yellow lentil dhal, with heat provided by one lethal-looking whole chilli. The tandoori naans are puffy and soft, with ghee spooned over them, and encourage you to wipe every dish clean. The lack of a licence couldn't bother us less - it's lovely to have waiting staff who aren't motivated by making you thirstier so you'll order more beer, and besides, the mango lassis are superb.

After that, I defy you to eat another crumb. Stroll on home to your East End manor bang on budget (everyone knows 5p coins are far too small to bother with!)

Cost: £9.10, Final total: £21.95

Sunday 21st August

fig cake

Oh my, what an indulgence. This little slice of cake was £3.95 from the Grocer on Elgin - an extremely chic food boutique in Notting Hill. They sell what can only be described as ready meals - but restaurant-style food in the most gorgeous packaging, so the too-posh-to-stir brigade needn't even hide them before the guests arrive. I couldn't resist this, which reminded me of the fig and walnut cake I love to buy in Spain. Only this one isn't rustic by any stretch of the imagination... figs, apricots and prunes, layered oh so carefully with almonds, walnuts and the greenest pistachios for maximum visual impact. Not a case of style over substance, though; very moreish (not at that price I won't, though). Fab with a sneaky glasslet of something sticky, though I'd bet a chunk of manchego would have been a good match, too.

Tuesday 16th August


Stratford's ok. I'm buying a small slice of house there, I must see something in it. That something, however, is not Nice Establishments In Which To Meet Friends For Sunday Lunch. Bless its cotton running socks, it has a Cafe Olympic, but for a good old fashioned recently renovated gastropub with a wine list and carefully mismatched furniture, it's not your place. For that we scurry back to the ancestral hunting ground better known as N1. The Barnsbury, on Liverpool Road, is a good solid example of just such a pub. Wooden floors, lovely chandeliers made of suspended wine glasses, those old chairs rescued from churches (with the space on the back for your hymnbook). Not too busy on a high summer weekend (slightly surprising as they'd insisted on our coming for a first or second sitting). A salad of pickled orange was the most intriguing starter, with a good mix of sweet orange, sour dressing and hot chilli. My main stood out from the Sunday lunch classics, too: grilled red mullet (rapidly becoming a favourite) with red pepper and a wonderfully saffrony aioli. The dessert list was a lot less interesting - neither classic Brit puds nor any spark of originality - but they were well executed. The cheesecake was particularly good, but crème brulée and apple tart had their supporters. Considering it's not just around the corner, it isn't great enough to become a regular haunt - but if it's local for you, it'd make a lovely one.

Monday 15th August


It isn't nice, I know, to draw pedantic attention to the minor foibles of other people's English. But this is just cute. Or perhaps filthy - 'Love Well'?!. Either way we made a rather finger-licking supper from this juicy little charantais melon, pairing it with serrano ham; fresh goat's curd cheese from Neal's Yard; and garlic bread and muhummara - the latter two inspired by Meg at Though Small, It Is Tasty. As ever, I couldn't quite obey instructions - well, Meg admitted to adapting Paula Wolfert's recipe, so I did the same to suit my collection of ingredients. Here's my version - but you must visit Meg for the garlic bread, because it's very good indeed.


Three roasted peppers from a jar
2 tbs chickpeas from a tin
2tbs walnut oil
2tbs pomegranate molasses
1tsp ground cumin
1/2tsp crumbled dried chilli

Blitz all ingredients together til smooth.

Monday 8th August

All those things I've been cheerfully pretending I can do? My bluff got called. Speak French? Drive? Cook? Go on then. All at once. In France. For twenty four people. Terrified? Yes. Can't wait? Exactly. So I apologise if between now and then it all gets a bit repetitive around here: I'm handling it by organising it, i.e. reading everything I can find about the food of South-West France; whittling it down to a dozen multipliable meals; and practice, practice, practice. Over the weekend we particularly enjoyed making clafoutis. Once the cherries were stoned (and that's tedious, but hardly hard) it was a walk in the park. The batter was sweet, dense and eggy at the bottom, lighter and crisp where it oozed up around the fruit. It would be very easy to vary it to the available fruit, and it's all the nicer for sitting for a bit after cooking.

Cherry clafoutis

500g cherries
Splash of brandy
100g caster sugar, plus four tbs
100g plain flour
3 whole eggs and one yolk
300ml milk
75g butter

Stone the cherries, sprinkle them with a little sugar and brandy. Butter a shallow dish and sprinkle the rest of the extra sugar over it, shaking well to coat the sides as well as the bottom. Whisk together the eggs, flour and sugar; add the milk and mix well. Melt the butter, skim off any froth, and add to the batter. Leave to stand for half an hour - meanwhile heat the oven to 180. Scatter the cherries over the bottom of the dish and pour the batter over them. Bake for 35 minutes until golden and puffy.

Saturday 6th August


Brown paper packages tied up with string are, surveys show, among almost everybody's favourite things. Let the package contain carefully created or selected foodie treats, as per Euro Blogging By Post, hosted by Andrew of Spittoon, and my cup runneth over. I really enjoyed putting together my parcel for Dagmar of A Cat in the Kitchen and was delighted to see it had arrived safely in Sweden. (Was that the furthest, Andrew?) But nothing could compare to getting my hands on my very own parcel, lovingly prepared by brand-new blogger Zabeena of A Lot on my Plate. As I snipped the string I was saying to myself, "now what shall I have for lunch?" Little did I guess the answer was about to present itself... A pretty little pot of home-made apple and mint chutney (from home-grown apples, no less! A real treat for a city girl like me), delicious Lightwood Chaser cheese from an artisan cheesemaker in Worcestershire and hearty sourdough rye bread to connect the two. The chutney is fruity, spicy and deliciously minty, and the cheese creamy yet full-flavoured. It made an excellent lunch - so many thanks to Zabeena, welcome, and good luck with the blog. And roll on the next EBBP...

Tuesday 2nd August


I want to share with you what the late, great Alan Davidson says about cheeks:

"The cheeks of animals, for example of the pig, because they usually yeild rich, savoury juices, are a good choice to include in stews, pies and sausages. However, because cheek muscles are exercised constantly, the meat tends to be tough and may need long cooking. Cod cheeks, on the other hand, are tender morsels, perhaps because cod are not eating all the time and do not exercise their cheeks in making noises."

So in the Basque region hake cheeks are a particular delicacy. And so, of course, I felt compelled to order them. What are they like? Um... interesting. Tender? I suppose so. Each one is a teeny piece of meat with a blob of gelatinous stuff attached. Not quite like oysters and not quite like snails (though as with snails, the large amount of garlic and parsley in which they had been cooked helped considerably). Let me just say that I am glad to have had the experience (especially the mime performed by the waiter trying to ensure that I knew what I had ordered - he didn't actually say 'not for tourists', but the thought was there - as it was the highlight of a rather snooty and overpriced meal). But I won't feel any urgent need to repeat it.