Tuesday, 17 January 2012

lunch and conversation at rosalind's kitchen

rosalind's kitchen from the outside
we are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavours and furniture polish is made from real lemons. 

alfred e. newman 

on starting with the quote above, i am saying what strikes me most about rosalind’s kitchen. one of the most important happenings of the last few years is a renewed emphasis on ‘real’ food. food that rosalind’s kitchen describes as ‘simple food made with great ingredients’. i was pleased to be invited to rosalind’s kitchen to have a chat with charlotte and rosalind herself. this inspiring little takeaway, which is attached to the cookery school on little portland street, has become a favourite because it is one of the many little places that are springing up around london to give us ‘real’ food. next time you are around oxford circus walk away from the many prêt-a-manger’s, eats’, itsu’s and paul’s and get yourself a brown box from rosalind’s kitchen. your body will thank me for recommending it to you. 

i had not lunched at rosalind’s kitchen prior to today partly because it was not close to work and partly because i am very partial to their breakfast. i love the bircher muesli here made from oats plumped by being soaked in apple juice and mixed with yoghurt and grated apples. there is no sugar added, fruit being the element of sweetness along with all-natural compote. the compote changes with the seasons and i am told that a new winter compote is on its way made with earthy figs, apricots and prunes brightened with citrus zest and sweetened with apples and pears. i loved the pear compote that is slightly jam-like with a concentrated sweetness. the granola is also naturally sweetened with honey and dried fruits like figs and tart cranberries, textured with nuts and oats baked till crisp. it is not hard for me to believe that there is no sugar added because the cookery school and by extension rosalind’s kitchen are dedicated to sourcing the best produce. food is only as good as the ingredients it is made with and at rosalind’s kitchen this shows. they have good reason to be proud of their credentials in supporting local organic produce and doing their share for the environment by using sustainable materials.

a selection of salads
lunch today was a square brown box of vibrant colours and fresh flavours. i chose the vegetarian nut burgers accompanied by several of the salads. i know that rosalind disapproves of this method but i wanted to be able to try several different things to sample and write. the nut burgers are usually served on a bed of lettuce with herb-flecked tabbouleh and hummus. instead i had a medley of salads – florets of broccoli roasted just enough so that they were easy to bite with julienned red chilli to brighten both the colour and the flavour. the crunchy fresh market salad was as it reads. the firm and crunchy texture was from tart apples, celery and carrots along with cucumbers and some herbs. the bean salad, which was varied shades of green, was heavily flecked with herbs was lovely as well. i love baked butternut as it elevates the sweetness of the vegetable and a sheen of oil never hurts as it adds a little richness. the nut burgers are of course nutty but have a smooth flavour. i cannot think of another place that does takeaway nut burgers, especially such tasty ones. 

brown box lunch - nut burgers with an assortment of salads
rosalind is graceful with a mop of lively curly grey hair. originally from south africa, rosalind and her family came to england to escape the oppressive apartheid years. like any parent, she and her husband had wanted the best for their children. although they returned to south africa in the eighties when rosalind had a brief stint at teaching cooking classes from her house, life in south africa was far from ideal so the family returned to england and this has been home ever since. rosalind speaks of her work with much love and enthusiasm and her stories are peppered with stories from her life as a mother, wife, daughter and a citizen. cooking is not merely a career but a passion. she tells me that she has been cooking since as far back as she can remember having come from a family where the women were avid cooks. the cookery school, which celebrates its ninth year this year, is the expression of the realisation that rosalind wanted to spend her life doing something that she loved. for many years, her career yo-yoed between food and education with the latter being the bread and butter necessity and the former being something that she did when she had the luxury of choice. rosalind’s kitchen is the most recent addition and came about because of the need to extend the administrative capacity of the cookery school. it is a small space, which has been maximised by its simplicity. white walls, a large mirror and glass windows give the space more expanse than it has. early in the morning white bowls hold the bircher muesli, compote and jewel bright fruit salad. in the afternoon salads, fish goujons, chicken and a chorizo-studded tortilla replace the breakfast, the white bowls accentuating the colours of the salads. cupcakes (better describes as cakes-in-cups) rest in little towers under old-fashioned glass domes a top glass cake stands. a stylised wallpaper like mural in flamingo pink decorates one wall.

rosalind's kitchen wall mural
the cookery school has a simple premise. it is meant to teach people the basic techniques that any good cook should have as part of their repertoire. it is an approach that i wholly agree with because as a person who comes from a food loving family, i learnt the basic techniques from my mother. without these i would not have had the confidence to cook. the food in rosalind’s kitchen is cooked at the cookery school in the belief that people want to eat simple everyday foods that taste good. this is the kind of lunch and breakfast that will fill you up and is the best alternative to a homemade brown bag lunch, which as most of us know is the resolution most of us make but rarely manage to keep. 

after eating a nut burger and all those greens and beans i would encourage you to tuck into the orange curd cupcakes (after all one has to reward oneself after the five-a-day). these delicious little cupcakes are actually cakes masquerading as cupcakes with a heart of a thick set orange curd and a thin splash of icing. and to wake your senses have a coffee. rosalind’s kitchen uses has bean, a full-bodied sumatran coffee. it has an intensely nutty flavour with a slightly sweet note and a dark aroma.

passionfruit cakes-in-cups
the menu at rosalind’s kitchen is seasonal and changes regularly. daily updates are available here and on twitter @rosalindsw1. rosalind also writes a tumblr on her food thoughts here. the cookery school runs a range of classes including a recently added one with valrhona chocolate in march. there is a lovely video on rosalind's kitchen website in rosalind's voice about the food so do have a look at it. 

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