I love a festival and if the festival’s topic is about food, then that usually means great food and plenty of it. Nigel Howarth -Michelin starred head chef at Northcote Manor- has taken this food festival business a step further. For 10 years now Northcote Manor has played host to the annual food and wine festival, Obsession, which features dinners cooked by a good handful of some of the best chefs around the world.
The bit I like about all this is that Nigel has collaborated with the chefs taken part in this 10 year old foodie festival to retrieve the top secret recipes, and bound them together in a beautifully formed, wonderfully illustrated cookbook to be a secret no more.
The (slight) drawback of living in the South is that it’s not so easy for me to pop to Lancashire to go to this popular (swiftly booked out) festival at the Northcote. However drawing on London’s strengths, the capital is perfect for playing host to large events such as book signings, so I jumped at the opportunity to celebrate the launch of the new Obsession cookbook in the presence of Nigel Haworth and other celebrity chefs held at Hix Restaurant in Selfridges, Oxford street. Based on recipes from the cookbook, a four course meal was prepared by the Michelin starred chefs themselves, with the chance for diners to get their cookbooks signed by the chefs at the end of their meal, or during if they wished.
I couldn’t help feeling mildly smug as we sat, relaxed at our table in the sleek balcony restaurant above Selfridges shop floor, overlooking the remaining shoppers at Selfridges scurry around beneath us laden down with their big yellow bags.
There was a little wait for anyone to notice us as gradually myself and my dinner partner Keeley Haworth (Nigel’s Daughter) jealously watched every other diner receive their aperitifs and nibbles. However sooner or later the luscious Hix crispy pork crackling with smooth apple sauce, and skinny crisps of parsnips made their way to our table. Phew almost going hungry.
Thoughts of any potential hunger issues were soon ironed out when plonked on our romantically small round able was a massive plate of bones.
A little bit more special than it sounds ‘Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad’ was the hands on starter, concocted by the lover of offal and neglected cuts of meat: Fergus Henderson, from St John’s in Smithfield. Currently on the menu at St John’s, this starter was perfectly balanced after scooping out the juicy marrow from the tubes of roasted bones and smearing on the slightly charred grilled bread, along with the tangy caper, shallot and onion parsley salad.
Created by the man himself, Nigel Haworth, the next course was ‘Treacle Salmon with Scallop and Pickled Ginger’. Cured at the Northcote by locally sourced treacle, this delicately flavoured salmon complimented the aromatic asian flavours of ginger, coriander and dark soy. Light and fresh, crunchy with smooth, this dish gave a pleasant kiss of flavours and textures after the rough and tumble of the previous course.
Chris and Jeff Galvin of 4 highly acclaimed restaurants around London were given the pleasure of the main meal, though the delight that this dish was the pleasure was to the diner’s honour. The ‘Assiette of Lamb with Boulanger potatoes and braised fennel’, a dish similar to that featured in the degustation menu at their Michelin starred Galvin at windows, was something truly special. A plate of superbly cooked cuts of lamb including deep fried sweetbread beignet served with melt in the mouth Boulanger potatoes with a thin layer of succulent braised lamb breast running through it, and a caramelised braised fennel, delicious.
Following the swift departure of our empty plates, we were given A light entertaining introduction to the desert course by the TV chef Brian Turner, who talked about taking us to his northern routes with his home favourite Rice Pudding. A good choice of deserts for the winter months to come, this desert was creamy, smooth with wonderfully chewy grains of rice, finished off with a good serving of luscious juicy large blackberries.
In true gooey cheese style I like to post recipes of (or inspired from) the dishes I taste throughout my culinary adventures in London, fortunately this time round there’s not only 4 recipes but a whole book full of them available to buy. But if you don’t have the cookbook, hopefully I can be granted permission to post the recipes from the dishes above as a snippet from the ‘obbsession’ cookbook…. Watch this space!