Saturday, 13 December 2014

New beginnings...and a book

Dairy-Free Delicious 

There's been radio silence around these parts for far too long. Sorry about that. My fingers haven't fallen off, rendering me unable to type - rather I've been busy moving out of London, writing lots of stuff for The Guardian...and penning a cookbook!

It's called Dairy-Free Delicious, it's out in March 2015 from Quadrille Publishing and it contains 120 recipes for food lovers who can't do dairy. Since discovering I was lactose intolerant a few years ago (followed by a period of denial where I still tried to nibble cheese and felt the consequences), I've had to change the way I approach cooking and eating out. Hence the book.

My life has changed in so many ways since I started this blog. I'm no longer single and gadding about to Hackney supper clubs and supping flat whites constantly (though that's to do with the lactose-intolerance rather than becoming a smug-married). I have loved this little online space so much, the experiences it has given me, and everyone of you who came, read and left lovely comments. I may return to it at some point in the future but for now it's farewell to Pinch of Salt and...

...hello to

I'd love it if you headed over to my new website full of recipes, product reviews, travel and eating out inspiration. It's aimed at food lovers who can't do dairy, but I hope there's lots there for cheese-munchers to enjoy, too.

Thanks for reading,

Katy x

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Postcard from Jerez part one: The Feria

The Spanish know how to party. In every city, town or whitewashed village with three inhabitants there'll be an annual fiesta or feria (fair). The Feria de Jerez is one of the most spectacular of all.

For one week each May, the Andalusian sherry-town throws off its cares and puts on its finery for the Feria. The dusty Parque Gonzalez Hontoria in central Jerez is transformed into a small city of bars and restaurants called casetas. These structures may be temporary, but they are built with care - wooden structures that look like saloon bars from the wild west. The park is lined with temporary streets housing 250 of these casetas, while the main thoroughfares are filled by horse-drawn carts transporting giggling locals and burnt tourists. In some ways, it's come a long way since medieval times, when the feria was an annual meet up for horse traders, who enjoyed (what else?) a sherry or three after trading.

The feria may boast 250-odd bars, yet tradition remains. I took the pictures above on Ladies' Day, when local women put on their flamenco dresses. I'm told that girls spend up to 800 euros having their dresses custom-made, and Ladies' Day is the big reveal. From the technicolour finery on display (polka dots, stripes and patterns in every shade imaginable), and the joyful atmosphere - the clack of castanets is ever present, and clusters of friends dance Sevillanas - you'd never guess that Jerez is suffering Spain's economic woes more than most, with some of the worst unemployment figures in the country. Reality is on hold during Feria.

As dusk falls, locals stand at the bar drinking rebujitos - Fino sherry and Sprite over ice. They are deceptively potent, and the Spanish can hold their drink far better than I can, so I try valiantly to sip, and play the long game. The Feria celebrations go on into the small hours so you need fuel. This isn't the place to find gourmet tapas, but dirty ballast like the serranito - a white bun filled with pork fillet, Serrano ham and a blistered fried green pepper - I eat at Caseta Juan Carlos. At night we repair to Tio Pepe's caseta, one of the grandest and one of only two to be housed in a permanent, wrought-iron structure. Here we sip chilled Tio Pepe (a dry and clean Fino), and later fishbowl-sized gin and tonics with cinnamon (it is at this point in the retelling that my recollection goes a little fuzzy). A live band is playing both flamenco and Pharell's Happy - the crowd know every word, and twist and twirl in their blazers and flamenco frocks. It is 4am and everyone at the Feria is clapping along because they know 'what happiness means to you'. And tomorrow night, they'll do it all over again.

Pinch of Salt was a guest of Tio Pepe

Monday, 7 April 2014

Postcard from...Seville

Plazas filled with orange trees, late-night bars with generous gin-pouring policies and impromptu flamenco shows, and tapas joints with hams dangling from the ceiling: Seville was everything I hoped it would be.

We only had two nights in this sultry Spanish city, and food was obviously priority uno, so I booked a Sevilla Tapas tour with local expert Shawn Hennessey. Shawn is a Canadian ex-pat who has lived in Seville for 20 years - she knows every hidden restaurant in Seville's twisty back streets, every tourist-trap to avoid and every bar owner (and their families). It was raining on the night of our tour, so we scuttled under umbrellas along the cobbled alleys of Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter) and into timeless bars like Las Teresas (owners of the magnificent Iberico hams pictured above). I highly recommend taking one of her tours if it's your first visit to the city.

For a full account of the most delicious things to eat in Seville, check out my round-up for Sainsbury's magazine here.

Follow Shawn on Twitter: @sevillatapas

Monday, 27 January 2014

Postcard from...Camber Sands

There is a tradition in my home town. As soon as the mercury tops 20°C, half the parish grabs their beach bags, digs out the bucket and spade...and heads to Camber Sands. This exercise is repeated in many towns and villages around Kent and Sussex, as Camber is the south east's best and sandiest beach. If a heatwave hits during the school holidays, Camber's five miles are wall-to-wall windbreakers and toasting flesh.

But the best time to visit Camber Sands is out of season. On a cold, dry day the open stretch of pale sand, rustling dunes and watery sky give the beach a romantic and bleak quality which attracts fashion shoots and film directors (George Clooney filmed The Monuments Men here). What Camber has long needed is a hotel which does justice to these surroundings (and I don't mean Pontins). It now has one: The Gallivant.

The Gallivant is a little slice of the Hamptons in Sussex. Converted from a former motel (which adds to the American feel), it's now an exercise in tasteful whites, greys and creams. I stayed in one of the new deck rooms, which is floor-to-ceiling white: the wooden floors, the bathroom, the marshmallow-soft pillows and duvet. There's fun touches too, like the freshly-baked cookies in the bedside drawer (crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle just as they should be).

It's also worth a trip to The Gallivant just for the food. I've eaten here at the Beach Bistro a few times now, and never been disappointed. New head chef Ben Fisher worked at The French Laundry, and puts as much care into his mugs of hot chocolate as he does into dishes like Romney Marsh lamb with aubergine-truffled French beans (above), which was exceedingly delicious paired with a 2011 Pinot Noir from nearby Chapel Down vineyard, and a smoky, tender pigeon breast. The seafood is superlative too - in the summer I ate a crispy red mullet on top of a broth of baby vegetables, and this weekend ravioli crammed with fresh crab. Most of the seafood is sourced from nearby Rye.

Best of all is the Recovery Station. Every hotel should have one: a DIY Bloody Mary station with Stoli vodka and all the fixin's, Berocca and a jar of Alka Seltzer. Team it with a cooked breakfast and a trundle along the beach and even the worst hangover seems bearable.

The Gallivant Hotel, New Lydd Road, Camber, East Sussex TN31 7RB.

Pinch of Salt was a guest of The Gallivant.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Postcard from...Siena

Siena is the perfect Italian city. Bear with me on this. No, it doesn't have Rome's ancient treasures and grand boulevards, Florence's glut of galleries or Venice's maze of waterways. What is does have is an almost eerily well-preserved medieval centre (it blessedly escaped bombing in the second world war) which somehow, despite the number of tourists shuffling around its piazzas, still manages to function as a modern, youthful city but with less of the problems affecting Italy's largest metropolises (crime, traffic, the usual).

Siena is built across three Tuscan hilltops, and surrounded by several miles of ramparts. There's a lot of wandering going on in Siena. Teenagers in box-fresh high tops circling the Piazza del Campo at dusk for la passeggiata, university students lugging bags of books to their favourite coffee shop and rich Tuscans drifting between boutiques.

Once we'd explored the fabulous Duomo, Siena's 13th Century baroque cathedral, which borders on kitsch thanks to its black and white humbug stripes and utterly OTT entrance (you have to see it at dusk when the sunset is reflected in the glass and the gold turns a soft rose colour), we joined the ranks of the wanderers, too. And so passed an indolent few days of espressos and apple cake at pavement cafes, the richest wild boar ragu at Le Logge (formerly a pharmacy), bottles of Chianti and tubs of late-night dark chocolate sorbet. We ate our sorbets huddled on the steep brick slopes of the Pizza del Campo, watching the flirting teenagers, fur-clad dog walkers and boisterous groups of work colleagues at outdoor tables. The coach parties had gone for the day and Siena was fully returned to itself. As I said, perfect.
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Friday, 4 October 2013

Postcard from Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

New York...I miss you. It's over a year since J and I packed up our London life and headed across the Atlantic for an amazing fall adventure of eating, drinking and working (plus battling a certain Hurricane named Sandy) in NYC. While I was there, Sainsbury's Magazine asked if I'd write an account of our adventures, and I'm really excited to finally be able to tell you all about it. The story is in the November 2013 issue, out now.

We spent a manic, fun weekend running around Brooklyn and Manhattan with brilliant photographer Kelsey Foster. We shot in the West Village, Upper West Side, Midtown, and our adopted neighbourhood of Boerum Hill. To coincide with the feature, I thought I'd share some photos from Boerum Hill, and adjoining Cobble Hill. The two neighbourhoods, dubbed 'grown-up Brooklyn' by Hannah in Girls, are both just south of downtown Brooklyn and are lined with clapperboard walk-ups and restored brownstones with burning gas lamps out front.

Once seriously scruffy, the area is now full of hip cafes, atmospheric bars and great restaurants like seasonal American spot Battersby (its kale salad is insanely good) , and cult Thai joint Pok Pok NY. I wrote about some of my favourite places in the area in the Sainsbury's piece, including the charming Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain (pictured above). Do check out the article and let me know what you think!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

New series: Postcard from...Brighton

In recent months I've been lucky enough to experience some great places both far (Vietnam, Singapore, Kenya) and near (the glorious Kent and Sussex countryside near our new home). Postcard from... is a new series of personal travel highlights (with lots of food thrown in, of course), and cafe recommendations. Hope you like it!

First up is Brighton. J and I took a day-break from wedding planning back in May to head down to the coast. We were there for the start of the Brighton Festival, a month-long celebration of art, culture, and - it transpired - the occasional busker in a frock coat playing a kazoo and frightening the locals.

Unfortunately it was bucketing with rain, so we spent much of the day darting between cafes in inadequate flip flops. Luckily, Brighton is crammed with quality coffee shops - from the boho charms of Tic Toc, to the futuristic lab feel of the excellent Small Batch. When I wasn't puddle-dodging, or turning my umbrella back the right way, I did manage to enjoy a few indoor arty highlights, including the Peter Blake Art Bus, a double decker full of Blake's pop-art creations, and a church hall which had been transformed with a strangely beautiful rainbow of mens' shirts. Next year I'll plan a visit properly to take in some of the big theatre, literature and comedy events. Oh, and take a change of footwear.

Cafe of the Trip: Tic Toc Cafe

Tic Toc Cafe resembles a colourful Amsterdam Coffee House without the special cigarettes. The yellow walls with patchwork panels, multicoloured giant letters, robots, and pink plastic bunnies on the counter all create a cosy, fun and not-too-precious feel. Grab a seat in the window to watch shoppers and beach-goers passing by. A silky soya cappucino and a huge sourdough sarnie stuffed with avocado will set you up for an afternoon of exploring the Lanes, lazing on the beach, or driving the Dodgems on the Pier.

Tic Toc, 53 Meeting House Lane, The Lanes, Brighton BN1 1HB

With thanks to festival sponsors Alpro.

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