Favourite Forks: Sri-Lankan Paradise and Festive Reflections

11 January, 2014

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Sweetly stuffed calzone at Pizza Pilgrims

Mincemeat Calzone from the Imaginative Pizza Pilgrims

Young pizza entrepreneurs James and Thom Elliot from Pizza Pilgrims aren’t ones to shy away from a challenge. So when asked to take part in the Mince Pie Project, a campaign involving the best chefs in the country raising money for Kids Company and Food Cycle, the duo came up with their own, very Pizza Pilgrims-esque answer.

Banishing the classic pastry-based mince pie, James and Thom incased the mincemeat, along with Mascarpone cheese, in a fresh Italian calzone. The result: an innovative festive treat. Though their mincemeat calzone is no longer available, if interested in the sweet stuff I recommend their pizza ring filled with extra virgin olive oil, Nutella, ricotta and sea salt.

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Sampling the famous Kappacasein cheese toastie at Borough Market

The Best Toasted Sandwich in London

Despite touring the most glamorous restaurants in the UK in 2005, celebrity American food writer Ruth Reichl reported an unexpected favourite in the form of this gooey classic she called ‘the platonic ideal of grilled cheese.’ In a cosy corner of Borough Market, the cheese masters at Kappacasein have been making their immensely delicious toasted cheese sandwich for 10 years – a recipe that owner Bill Oglethorpe came up with, and that has remained basically unchanged.

Filled with melted Montgomery cheddar, leeks, onions, shallots and a touch of garlic sandwiched between Poilâne sourdough, the ingredients are deceptively simple but the taste, I assure you, is anything but.

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A Sri-Lankan side dish at The Sun House

Sri Lanka and The Sun House

I like to escape cold London for a little while every Christmas, and this year we revisited Sri Lanka and stayed in Galle, off of the south coast.

Once the 19th-century home of a Scottish spice merchant, staying in Geoffrey Dobbs’s stunning boutique hotel The Sun House was an exceptional experience reminiscent of a forgotten way of life. Very low key, impeccably styled and with exceptional food and charming service, the vibe and menus reminded me of Petersham Nurseries: full of quirkiness and the promise of escape.

We mostly ate at the hotel, where warm-water fish (snapper, tuna, maitai, prawns) and vegetables take prominence. The Sun House have a fantastic respect for local produce and grow a lot in their own garden, which appear each evening in its curry selections, where the individual beetroot, cashew and garlic curries were a favourite.

We were also lucky enough to meet Carl Clarke of Disco Bistro and enjoy an evening of his culinary creations at the hotel. Using all local produce but with a real London feel, we tucked into chicken crackling with pineapple bacon jam, shrimp crackers and Galle crab with pickled apple and mahi-mahi ceviche with passion fruit, pickled ginger and chilli, among many other dishes.

Another memorable meal took place in a local restaurant called Mama’s Café in Dutch Fort. We visited on New Year’s Eve while the restaurant experienced a power cut, which meant we enjoyed a selection of okra, spinach, potato, cashew and fish curries in total darkness on their colonial verandah – the only light created by candles. Then we rang in 2014 with barefoot celebrations and fireworks on Wijaya beach, and on the way back stopped for local vegetable rotis at a roadside café, accompanied by a spicy and sour sambal with Maldivian dried fish. I left with a sadness at leaving the sun, cuisine and company, but with inspiration in abundance for the year ahead.