Pine Nuts and Honey

So many delicious flavours this week. On Wednesday, we went to Madeline’s, Susur Lee’s new place, where the menu is entirely composed of small dishes inspired by the Mediterranean. The only dish with any Asian pretensions is the slow-braised pork belly served over a mash of potato and celeriac and surrounded by currant chutney. The recipe for the pork comes from Madeline herself – Susur’s mother – who was not much of a cook, according to Susur, but knew from pork belly. It’s rich, unctuous, surprisingly lean, infused with sweet-salt darkness as if soy and molasses had stood as godparents at the pig’s christening. Oddly enough, the currant chutney gave me a Proustian moment – it tasted exactly like the chutney my father used to make.

Last night, we went for dinner at Mistura and ate rather too much. Not our fault. The food was excellent and chef-co-owner Massimo Capra sent out a special treat which will be going onto the new menu in a couple of weeks. They were massive shrimp – the kind they call carabinieri around Genoa or “Spanish shrimp” in the market here. Capra deep fries them so the legs and head can be munched and scrunched while the rich tail meat stays juicy. One of several desserts we tried produced ecstatic murmurs from my wife. It was a pine nut and honey tart, like a cross between a butter tart and a pecan pie that has shuffled off this mortal coil and turned into a pastry of mere energy, sweetness and light. A new favourite.

As for tomorrow: I have no idea what I’ll be eating! I leave for China in an hour – Szechuan, Xi’an and then Beijing to catch the last half of the Olympics. Three weeks of new tastes. What a lucky boy.

I’ve been meaning to write… I leave for China on Saturday and will be working with pen and paper during the three weeks I’m there, taking gastronomical notes, as meals occur.

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