Brick House has been keeping me busy, so have little time to blog, but just wanted to wish my American readers a very happy 4th of July. We still miss San Francisco and the States like crazy. Eat some ribs for us.
The last couple of weeks have gone by in a bit of a blur. In fact it was only yesterday afternoon that I realised that I hadn’t done a post for last week or the week before. So like it or not, you’re getting a 2 for 1 today.
After all the oven nightmares and testing, the past fortnight has been all about getting out there, meeting people, and peddling our wares, and it’s been great. We’ve been keeping it pretty focused and local, and it’s been really encouraging to meet so many cafe / deli / shop / restaurant owners who are passionate about not only great food, but also the area.
The bread we make isn’t for everyone, and the fact that we’re small means that it’s hard to compete on price with the bigger bakeries in the area, but we’ve picked up some great clients already, and am hoping this will grow over the coming weeks. So far we’re being stocked at Anderson & Co, a lovely cafe / deli on the Bellenden Road, the rather awesome Jack’s, current holders of East Dulwich’s best sausage roll, the newly refurbished Rye pub, Lordship Lane stalwarts Franklin’s Farm Shop, and the brand spanking new Cannon & Cannon ‘meatery’ in Brixton Village. We’re also in discussions with a few other people who we’d love to supply, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed and our powder dry.
Antipasto & Pasta is a gem. Known affectionately as ‘the half price Italian’ by the residents of Battersea because it halves it’s prices on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights, it’s probably the restaurant I’ve eaten in most often over the course of my life. After returning from the US, we decided not to live in SW11, and despite having lived there for years, I have to say I mostly don’t miss that part of London. In fact the only thing I really do miss is Antipasto & Pasta.
I think the reason I love this place so much is that it’s a real rarity. It’s the kind of good quality ‘mom and pop’ neighbourhood restaurant that you find in the States, but don’t really exist in this country. It’s brilliantly unfashionable, the menu hasn’t changed in the 15 or so years I’ve been eating here, and the food always tastes the same. And I mean that in the best kind of way.
It also has real atmosphere. Not the kind of atmosphere that you get at the latest ‘hot’ eatery where everyone’s frothing over the food and fawning over the genius of the chef, but the cozy, welcoming, buzz and chatter of people really enjoying themselves and their food.
Last week was a MUCH better week, thank f**k. For one thing I finally got to do some proper baking again, which I’ve not really done since I left E5, and secondly I got some pretty awesome news, on which more later.
It was a really important week for me as it enabled me to actually use the bakery and see if everything was in the right place and was working how I wanted it to. Oven issues aside, I was really please with how the week went, and the bakes got progressively better over time as I tweaked formulas and techniques, worked around the oven’s foibles, and jiggled around a few bits of furniture to get the place flowing better.
There’s still plenty to do, but I’m already feeling pretty comfortable, and am hoping that the more into it I get, the better the product will become. Of everything thus far, the Country White and Peckham Rye are coming out the best, both in terms of taste and look. The raisin and walnut and multigrain breads still need some tweaking, and I’m finding it really hard to get the pop and ears on the Peckham Rye rounds that I’ve been able to pull off to great effect in my Dutch oven at home. Saying that, from a purely functional point of view, I have a feeling that the Rye actually works better as a batard shape as it’s more practical for toast, sandwiches etc.
It’s been roasting in London for the last week or so, but as Brits, we all know that the blazing orb in the sky’s days are numbered. But while it is doing us the honour of hanging around, I’ve been trying to make the most of it. An when it is hot, I like to eat simple stuff that’s easy to make. I can’t be bothered to fanny around in a hot kitchen preparing fancy stuff, so this Alphonso Mango frozen yoghurt is right up my strasse.
The Alphonso Mango season is short and almost at an end, and if you’ve not tried them before, it really is worth making the effort and tracking some down. Almost incomparable to a regular mango, they are sweeter, richer, and intensely perfumed. Truly amazing. Over the season from April to May, the streets of Tooting are sponsored by that sweet, almost sickly smell. They’re not cheap though (a box of 6 will set you back around £9), but I probably only eat them a couple of times a year, so it’s no biggie.
I used to eat this simply as the Cristal Champagne of yoghurts, but having seen a similar recipe on Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, I thought I’d give it a freeze to see how it turned out. Very well is the answer. The mangoes are really sweet, so you don’t need to add any sugar, in fact the opposite. I add the juice of a lime to sharpen it up a bit and really bring out the mango’s flavour.
Not a great week last week. As I’m sure anyone who’s started a business will tell you, there are ups and downs. I’d not given it much thought, but they’re right. And whilst I’m conscious of the fact that I don’t want to moan, no one’s forcing me to open a bakery, this is a diary of sorts so I guess I should present the rough as well as the smooth.
Things started going awry when I was giving the oven a clean down. I noticed that two of the baking stones had smashed during transit. Not a huge issue, I’ve got a warranty so I contacted the seller and am being sent replacements. But then I started setting the clocks, checking the timers on each of the decks and found that three of them were running slow, two seriously so and the other enough to not be acceptable. I also had a suspicion that the decks weren’t getting up to the right temperature. I was beginning to get that sinking feeling.
The more observant amongst you will notice that it’s technically week 5, but we took last week off in Cornwall (very nice seeing as you’re asking) so it’s not on the clock. More importantly last week was a BIG one for Brick House, and some major pieces of the puzzle were slotted into place.
We got back from the West Country on Saturday night, and spent the bank holiday weekend tearing about the space like a Voltron style Kim, Aggie and Handy Andy. Deep cleaning, removing old pipe-work, painting, sawing, power hosing, de-greasing and paint stripping. I think I may have mentioned it on Twitter, but if god is looking for a new purgatory punishment, then I reckon removing paint from textured glass could be a solid contender. What. An. Effing. Shag. Anyway, by Monday evening our hands were shredded and we were shattered, but quietly pleased with ourselves.
Tuesday bought with it a HUGE delivery from Nisbets. Fair play to them, they were on time and everything I ordered turned up. Sinks, tea towels, aprons, tubs, scales, thermometers, a peel, tables, even a pair of rather medieval looking oven gloves, all piled up in the middle of the room like a successful run on a catering version of The Generation Game.