Pomegranate Martini

Pomegranate has to be my favourite fruit – its taste, its versatility, its looks and cultural significance; everything about pomegranate lures and delights me. Perhaps this has something to do with my mom craving pomegranate juice and drinking litres of it when she was in the last stages of her pregnancy, perhaps it’s connected to my love of Persian and Caucasian food, but give me anything containing pomegranates in any shape and form, and I will be ecstatic. This is why I instantly felt in love with the sound of Sumayya Usmani’s cocktail for our recent collaboration on a Pakistani edition of KinoVino – a pomegranate martini with Himalayan pink salt! Yes please! 

Makes one
(but obviously one is not enough so make sure to have at least 3)

50gr of vodka (we used Smirnoff) 
25gr of concentrated pomegranate cordial 
1 tbsp of pomegranate molasses 
2 tbsp of pomegranate seeds 
4 leaves of mint (plus 1 for decor)
a splash soda water
ice
a twist of Himalayan pink salt 

In a cocktail glass mush together the pomegranate cordial with pomegranate molasses and seeds, as well as mint leaves. 
Top with vodka, add a splash of soda water, some ice cubes. Give it a good stir. 
Add a twist of the salt and decorate with a few pomegranate seeds and a leaf of mint before serving! 

An Audrey-inspired seasonal meal

Nothing can beat a delicious meal. Whatever your tastes, good food can hardly be surpassed by any other human pleasures. However, I always believe (almost compulsively), that the right setting in which this food is consumed is equally important. Even when I have the most delicious plate in front of me, I simply can’t enjoy it if the table is not set in the right way or there is something in the surroundings that just does not ‘work’ with the meal. In addition to that, I love a meal that tells a story. The words ‘curate’ and ‘experience’ have been recently overused and have become a trendy cliché of sorts. Yet, I really do think that an element of curation (a carefully thought-out and sustained theme or idea) always elevates the meal and gives it this little extra, which might not be strikingly visible to others, but makes a whole lot of difference to the dinner host (me).

Having been indulging my obsession with finding and creating the ‘perfect’ setting for a dinner through the KinoVino gatherings, I wanted to take this pursuit further by starting a series of master classes on how to style a dinner party. It is always so rewarding and comforting to meet a kindred spirit who takes the colour and texture of the napkins, and the height of the candles as seriously as I do. I have found one in interior stylist, Hannah Bullivant, who co-hosted three KinoVino workshops with me. Her collection of props is my dream come true and any object that she pulls out from her old wooden crate (a piece of art in itself) that she uses to carry the props makes me want to jump up and down with joy (I do restrain myself though). As well as having found Hannah, I was equally lucky with having found the space for these events, as creating the perfect dinner table in a room that does not have the right vibe would be simply useless.

Green Lens Studios is a small venue/photographic studio, former stables just off Green Lanes, that has hosted some of the most memorable private and public events in my experience. Its owner, Yev Kazannik, has injected a lot of his own vibrant personality into the studio, making it a unique, cozy and characterful space, as versatile as your imagination allows it to be. Over the years, we held some film screenings, gigs, exhibitions, private dinners and discos, and now the new series of workshops. Giving off a vibe that’s evocative of a quirky loft and a rustic canal boat, the space has an amazing woodwork and is frequently flooded with most beautiful natural light; in addition, Yev’s amazing collection of vintage cameras and his own skills as a professional photographer, just make you want to take pictures as often as you blink, and not surprisingly most of them turn out pretty good. So it really was a no brainer when it came to the choice of venue for these workshops.

The last of these was thematically connected to the most recent KinoVino gathering with Eleonora Galasso, dedicated to food and film from Rome. Having served an Italian feast and delighted our guests with the screening of Roman Holiday, starring the inimitable Audrey Hepburn, I wanted to carry this mood over into our master class. As well as taking inspiration from the ancient city, both Hannah and I wanted to reflect the change of season in the theme for this event. We have both spent some time browsing Pinterest but the best inspiration came from simply looking outside the window or taking a stroll in the park. The colour scheme was pretty clear – earthy, rich, natural browns, dark yellows, deep reds and a bit of golden touches. By a great coincidence this colour scheme was prevalent in Eleonora’s cookbook too. Hannah created some truly delicate arrangements with pressed leaves, some spray painted copper and golden others natural, as well as some twigs and branches. When it came to food, there I was trying to tie in all those themes and moods (Rome, autumn and Audrey) into one or two dishes. Challenging myself to a bit of an invention test with the ingredients that were left behind the main KinoVino dinner (no waste!) and taking a brief flip through my treasured book ‘Audrey at Home’, I decided that an Alpine rosti with a chard, spinach and feta topping would perfectly marry all these concepts – it’s seasonal, thematically and gastronomically tied to both Audrey and the KinoVino meal, plus the colours of the dish would work so well with the colours and textures of our dinner table.

So when we gathered around the table there was a perfect sense of harmony, joy and playfulness (perhaps perceptible to just me but hopefully to all of us) in having created, dare I say, an experience of a meal, where each element was as important as another, and had a specific part to play. Would the meal itself have tasted any worse if instead of the rough grey linen napkin we had some disposable ones in different colours? I genuinely think it would have. So here’s to being slightly compulsive and approaching each meal with care and imagination, striving to create an ultimate harmony between the food, the setting and yourself.

 

An Audrey-inspired seasonal meal: an Alpine rosti with a chard, spinach and feta topping.

Serves 6

 For the rosti
2 large potatoes
6 small or 4 large sweet potatoes
2 eggs
a few springs of thyme
a tsp of fennel seeds
salt/pepper
olive oil

 Grate the potatoes into a bowl and strain the liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the olive oil, and mix well. Lightly grease a non-stick oven-friendly frying pan with some olive oil and place on the hob. Once heated tip the mixture into the pan and distribute it evenly forming one thick ‘crumpet’. Fry on medium heat until the bottom starts to crisp up (aprox 5 minutes) then place in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 30 minutes.

 While the rosti is in the oven prepare the topping.

 1 large onion
1 red pepper

500 gr of chard
500 gr of spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of chili flakes
juice of ¼ lemon
sea salt / pepper
olive oil

 

Cut the onion into feathers and fry until softens in some olive oil, salt and chili flakes. Cut the pepper into long strips and add to the pot together with the onions. As the peppers begin to soften add thinly sliced garlic, and roughly chopped chard and spinach, add more salt to taste, lower the heat and let it cook for 5-10 minutes. Once the spinach and chard have wilted take off the heat, add the lemon juice and stir thought.

When the rosti is ready (it should be crispy and golden, with a slight charring effect in places) flip it out of the pan onto a wooden board and top with the spinach/chard mixture and crumble a generous amount of feta on top. Add a last sprinkle of pepper before serving.

We played some David Gray to accompany the meal. Not particularly Italian or Audrey-esque, but felt rightly autumnal and appropriately nostalgic.

A KinoVino trip to Venice

Co-hosting a dinner is such an amazing way to get to know a new side of your cooking partner as well as to learn something new about yourself. The most recent experience at KinoVinoVenice was definitely an excellent example of this. Cooking with my Venetian friend, Susanna Cappellaro, I have experienced first hand the importance of family tradition and of sticking to the authentic recipes when cooking. Italians really do take their food very seriously and no deviation from the recipes is permitted. Being a more of a free-styler when it comes to recipes I constantly attempted to add something of my own to each dish. This has also taught me the need to appreciate the simplicity and honesty of each ingredient and understand that simple is not necessarily flavourless and boring. I would have never thought that string beans slow cooked with a bit of salt, onion and tomato could be so surprisingly rich in flavour. Of course, it is all about the ingredients that are used, and this is something that is of paramount importance in authentic Venetian cooking, and something I would like to carry over into my day-to-day practice.

I have to admit this particular menu was the most challenging so far, paradoxically, precisely because it was so simple. I have never cooked any of the dishes before and these recipes came directly from Susanna’s mother, so no pressure there to perform well. In order to perfect each dish, we had to do not one but two recipe testing sessions; having friends come over to taste the fruits of our labour and wash it down with a lot of Venetian red wine and prosecco made the experience all the more delightful and rewarding.
Although my knowledge of Italian food does go beyond pizza and pasta, these recipes were completely new to me, and through them I feel I have discovered something original about Venetian food culture. And if this is not the best outcome of forging a new partnership in the kitchen, then I don’t know what is!
Partners in KinoVino crime
Bacalla montecato
A quintessential Venetian creation made from salt cod and milk. Again the preparation is simple, but does require a lot of planning ahead. Get a good quality salt cod fillet from a local fishmonger and soak the fish for at least 24 hours, changing the water frequently. Once the cod has been soaked long enough (in my case it was 48 hours), place it in a pot and simmer in whole milk until cooked. Discard the skin and bones (be as careful as possible to remove them all) and place the fillets into a food processor. Pulse for a few moments to break up the flesh and then slowly add the olive oil while mixing continuously. Add some of the milk until the mixture reaches a light fluffy consistency but is not completely smooth. Use a whisk in the final stage to add more lightness and air to the pate.
I have sinned by adding some onion, garlic, pepper corns and bay leaf to the milk when simmering the cod. Venetians, forgive me, but it did taste wonderful!
I have sinned by adding some onion, garlic, pepper corns and bay leaf to the milk when simmering the cod. Venetians, forgive me, but it did taste wonderful!
Pasta e fagioli
A beautiful soup made of borlotti beans and pasta or pearl barley as in our case.
Soak the beans for 24 hours before cooking. When ready to boil gather all the components for a delicious stock:
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Pepper corns
  • Salt

Boil together until the beans are cooked and have soaked up all the goodness of the veggies. Once ready, remove all the vegetables and herbs, and strain the stock.Place the cooked beans back into the pot (but keep some aside) and add some of the stock. Using a blender mash them up into a puré and keep adding the stock until a think soup consistency is achieved. Add the rest of the beans as well as the barely and bring to boil until the parley is cooked. Taste for seasoning and garnish with lots of fresh parsley and excellent olive oil.

 

 

Recipe testing

A beautiful Spring lunch

 

KinoVino was born after years and years of hosting dinner parties for friends and family. When I knew I was almost ready to take that transitional step, I organised a pre-KinoVino private recipe testing session with my nearest and dearest girlfriends. Here’s what happened.

As this was a beautiful Spring Sunday, I wanted to reflect the mood not only in the food but also in the setting. I went for light rustic style that seemed so fitting for a spring Sunday. Tea towels make perfect place-mats and napkins. I never use napkin rings, but just arrange them directly on a plate, often wrapping the cutlery in them. As I completely forgot to get the name tags, I had to do a bit of last-minute improvisation. Who knew that parchment paper can do such a great job! And of course, a stalk of rosemary adds this elegant finish to the look. I really can’t get enough of this amazing herb, not only it tastes and smells amazing, it is so good-looking and photogenic. Tangerines, oranges or apples also play a seminal role in setting the mood for the table. They add a lovely touch of colour and the best thing is that you can eat them at any point during your meal.

 

The good-old rosemary played an important role in our drinks too. I can’t recommend this cocktail enough:

Pomegranate and elderflower cordial (the amount depends on how intense you like the flavour)

Prosecco (or sparkling mineral water for a soft version)

Pomegranate seeds

Rosemary leaves (can put as many or as little as you like)

Mix it all around and ENJOY!

This cocktail can be enjoyed while you are making the star of the show – the Vegan Nut Roast. So here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

60 gr raw walnuts

60 gr raw pine nuts

60 gr raw almonds

100 gr raw brazil nuts

1/2 white onion

1 garlic clove

1 tomato

20 gr fresh parsley

a handful of button mushrooms

3 tsp of vegan butter or coconut cooking butter (odourless)

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp chili

1/4 ground coriander

1/4 all-spice

1 tbsp of brown rice vinegar

pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Method

Put all ingredients in a processor and blend them together well.

Line a bread tin with parchment paper and pour the mixture.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and roast for 30-40 minutes.

For decoration chop a portobello and place the slices on top just a few minutes before taking the roast out of the over. Once you have tried this spicy and rich dish, you will never go back to your traditional roast.

To accompany the loaf, I made some roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes as well as roasted root veggies.

What a perfect Sunday it was and it made me perfectly confident for launch the first KinoVino session!