The Secret Garden

Now I think it’s fair to say from previous posts I am a fan of the lovely chef Jimmy Garcia and his wonderful food. His new summer pop up launched a couple of weeks ago and I was lucky enough to snag a table on opening night (hectic days has caused a delay to this being posted!). Called the Secret Garden, it leads your imagination to think of all things summer, and even though it was raining the night we went, I do believe the restaurant exudes summer!

The Secret Garden

Buzzing the bell to get in you make your way up stairs through the vines, candles are lit and you are on an outside terrace. As you make your way inside and are greeted by the front of house you are not quite sure what to expect as the diners are behind a set of double doors. Walking in you are greeted by quite a dark room, lit with candles, the floor covered in grass ( the fake kind, don’t worry ladies no mud to be had in this garden), vines and flowers hanging from the ceiling and there in the middle in all its grandeur a beautiful wooden tree. Its like the kind of garden everyone wants, low maintenance, no bugs or mud and it has a bar in it!

The centre of attention, the grand tree of the Secret Garden

The centre of attention, the grand tree of the Secret Garden

Sitting at a table by the bar, long grass created a bit of a divider from the bar area which was a nice touch, we had a view of the whole place. It was busy, and tables continued to empty and fill throughout the evening even though we didn’t sit until 9pm proving the popularity of this pop up chef.

Now the menu has changed a bit since we first went, the indoor BBQs have unfortunately gone and the menu is now a standard Starter, Main and Dessert using the dishes that made up the small plates element of the original menu. Do not let this put you off because we had the small plates (which are now bigger plates) and they were great. The menu like with Jimmy’s other pop ups are seasonal, using as much local produce from small producers as possible and of course his dad’s Spanish chorizo. The meat on the menu is varied using a range of game and fish such as pigeon, rabbit, Guinea fowl and sea bass, which adds a varied depth to the menu and when paired with ‘garden’ inspired foods you have delicious plates.

‘Run Rabbit’ Wild Rabbit Loin, Pickled Baby Veg, Rabbit Veloute, Rabbit Pop Corn

‘Run Rabbit’ Wild Rabbit Loin, Pickled Baby Veg, Rabbit Veloute, Rabbit Pop Corn

'Porky Beans' Belly, Smoked Eel Beignet, Fava and Bacon Beans, Carrot Puree

‘Porky Beans’ Belly, Smoked Eel Beignet, Fava and Bacon Beans, Carrot Puree

Papa G’s Chorizo, Guineafowl ballotine, Chorizo and Parmesan risotto, skin shard, cherry tomatoes and Spinach

Papa G’s Chorizo, Guineafowl ballotine, Chorizo and Parmesan risotto, skin shard, cherry tomatoes and Spinach

Seared Sea Bass, Deep Fried Oyster, Radish, Squid Ink Aioli, Chardonnay Foam

Seared Sea Bass, Deep Fried Oyster, Radish,
Squid Ink Aioli, Chardonnay Foam

As always presentation is faultless. The plates are delicate and beautiful even though some are carrying these hearty and robust meats on them. My favourites were the ‘Run Rabbit’ rabbit ballotine and the Chorizo and Guinea fowl, both hearty, delicate and busting with flavour.

If you have room for dessert then go for it. The Edible Garden is lovely and chocolate heaven while the Ice Cream Factory allows you to fill your face with sugary goodness and throw caution to the wind for any future dental visits!

This is definitely a must try so if you can get yourself a reservation do, as this is great food in a cleverly put together theme.

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Jimmy’s Underground Pop Up Restaurant

Jimmy’s passion and excitement for his food is infectious as he explains the evenings menu. The food is locally sourced as much as possible and carefully considered. From the rabbit that was shot by his friend to the chorizo from his grandmothers village in Spain, it all gives such a personal touch that I think is sometimes forgotten in many restaurants today.

The pop up is located beneath Dvine wines in Clapham North, which is a great place to grab a bottle of wine. There was the choice of matching wines to each course for £15 but we decided to just grab bubbles.

Down the stairs you are whisked away to Jimmy’s Underground pop up. There are two tables of 8 and one of 10. If your party doesn’t fill a table then it all gets a bit communal so get to know your neighbours it makes for a much more fun evening.

In the intimate setting you are never far from the food!

In the intimate setting you are never far from the food!

The food itself was delicious, everything was brilliantly cooked, full of flavour and beautifully presented. The evening started with a trio of canapés, two were presented on slate and the chicken lollipops in a jar – very fun! For starter and main you get a choice, I went for the Duck and Orange Salad, which was a mince duck ball breaded and fried ( a touch of foie gras in the middle) with duck skin and fresh orange. It was light and fresh and just the right amount to get you salivating.

Duck and Orange Salad

Duck and Orange Salad

In between starter and main comes the surprise course, this was one of my favourite things, rabbit ragu! This rabbit ragu however had a Spanish twist with chorizo in it. It was lovely ( not sure it was as good as mine – sorry!) and I liked the idea of adding chorizo, something I will try next time I make my ragu. The main course was what we were all waiting for – Old Gloucester Pork and Apples- pork loin, crispy bacon and pork belly served with apple puree and fondant potatoes. Pork belly is one of my favourite things and when served with two other types of pork – divine!

Wild Rabbit Ragu

Wild Rabbit Ragu

Gloucester Old Spot Pork and Apples

Gloucester Old Spot Pork and Apples

Now desert…… what can I say it was like a girls dream desert! Chocolate brownie, nutella ice-cream, shortbread and raspberry coulis – yum!! The brownie was delicious and I am determined to get the recipe, it was rich, dense and not too sickly, perfect!!

Desert!! Nutella Ice Cream and Chocolate Brownie!

Desert!! Nutella Ice Cream and Chocolate Brownie!

Overall this was a fabulous introduction to Jimmy’s cooking skills, especially as I had heard so much about them from his girlfriend! We all enjoyed the evening immensely and all said we would go back. This of course isn’t Jimmy’s only venture, he has a pop up in Brixton on a Tuesday and also does catering for weddings – he is one busy chap! Next on the list is heading over to his Tuesday night in Brixton, and I really should squeeze in a night at his Burger and Bordeaux before he disappears to France for the winter.

I would recommend a trip to Jimmy’s Underground Pop up to everyone, as it is great, fresh food with little fuss and if you live in SW London then its just around the corner!

Wild Rabbit Ragu

So as my frugal living continues, and yes I am still on track, I stuck to my budget last week and planned my meals, even sticking to it when nights out were planned and fuzzy heads ensued the next day. Its been quite a reminiscent week, mostly because I attended a party for my old company Exodus – they have been operating group tours for 40 years – crazy!! I worked there for nearly seven and I thought that was pretty epic, I cannot imagine where I will possibly be in 40 years, hopefully still turning out amazing cakes and feeling less guilty  about eating that last bit of cake frosting in the bowl….. mmm frosting! Yep that happened this week as well – frosting eating!

A fabulous party celebrating 40 years of a great company

A fabulous party celebrating 40 years of a great company

In an attempt not to go out and buy cake I made some from all the random bits in my baking cupboard- yes frugal planning!

In an attempt not to go out and buy cake I made some from all the random bits in my baking cupboard yes frugal planning!

But as my frugal living continues I need to keep planning ahead and thinking about whats in the fridge and what amazing meals I can make from it. For me this frugal month and planning is all about finding the best ingredients for the best price and making them into dishes that are full of flavour and if possible make multiple portions! With this in mind,  I set out to explore a local farmers market that is held in a local school. The market has been going on for years but some how I have never been there – shocking I know. I am always on the look out for new produce and somehow I have just had blinkers on and never visited, but alas I have finally ventured to the Chestnut Grove Farmers Market in Balham.

This is a great little farmers market, held in the car park of a local school it has a good selection of stalls, from bread, to meat and vegetables. There was also a couple of cake stands – always important, because who doesn’t love a piece of cake post shopping! There is always the worry with Farmers Markets that they are just full of ‘artisanal’ products with a big price tag, but I was wonderfully surprised to see that the Chestnut Grove Farmers market was full of great local producers and their products at great prices.

So as I filled my bag with fresh salad leaves and vegetables from Wild Country Organics, and picked a yummy piece of cake from Cakehole, I wondered past a stall selling meat, and guess what caught my eye, wild rabbit! I have been oddly obsessed with rabbit for a few weeks now, I don’t know why but I have felt the need to make a rich delicious Rabbit Ragu. My rabbit came from Grove Farm.   The wild rabbit was £7 or two for £10, a bargain!! As a first time rabbit buyer I decided to stick with just the one… however next time, I am getting the two!

Of course buying a whole rabbit does pose a small question of – how does one joint a rabbit? This called for one thing, a facetime chat to my dad the chef!  So after a somewhat comedy jointing lesson via the phone I had a rabbit ready to go in the pot. It’s definitely a life lesson learnt, but I feel a better person for it. Next time I get trapped in the woods and need to survive, as long as someone presents me with an already dead and skinned rabbit, I am good to go!!

Wild Rabbit Ragu

1 Rabbit Jointed

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 white onions, finely chopped

160g pancetta, cubed or chopped finely

4 gloves of garlic, crushed

1 tbsp tomato puree

300ml chicken stock

400ml chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1tsp oregano

1tsp thyme

salt and pepper

1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy based pot. Add the rabbit pieces to the pot and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Rabbit filtered

One jointed rabbit

One jointed rabbit

Brown the rabbit and then put aside

Brown the rabbit and then put aside

2. Add the pancetta and fry for a couple of minutes until cooked and starting to brown. Then add the celery, carrots, onions and garlic and cook over a medium heat or 10mins until soft. Add the tomato puree and stir it through the vegetables. Continue to cook for a further 2-3mins.

Getting my veggies ready

Getting my veggies ready

Sweating the veggies down

Sweating the veggies down

3. Return the rabbit to the pot and add the stock, chopped tomatoes, herbs and stir. Bring the pot to the boil and then add the lid and turn it down to a very low simmer for 1.5hrs, stirring occasionally. Taste half way through and season.

When ready add the rabbit back to the pot

When ready add the rabbit back to the pot

then add the stock.....

then add the stock…..

4. After the 1.5hrs remove the rabbit and strip the meat from the bones. Add the meat back into the pot and stir through, season to taste. ( You can discard of the bones!). Continue to simmer the ragu for a further 30mins.

.... and simmer on a very low heat, strip the meat from the bones of the rabbit and return to the pot!

…. and simmer on a very low heat, strip the meat from the bones of the rabbit and return to the pot!

5. Serve the Ragu with fresh pappardelle pasta and a touch of parmesan.

Server the ragu with pasta and top with some parmesan - delicious!

Server the ragu with pappardelle pasta ( or what ever is in the cupboard)  and top with some parmesan – delicious!

This makes a good sizeable amount, so you will get 5-6 portions, so its perfect for freezing! This is a great dish, rabbit is a lean meat, its full of flavour and it makes a massive amount, so perfect for planning ahead and filling the freezer. Its not always possible to get rabbits so when you see them get them as next time they may not be around!

Enjoy!