The Food of Love

The Food of Love


All it’s all about shared indulgence come February 14 for Jonny Nicholson of The Bell At Sax’, Saxmundham

Perhaps every day should be Valentine’s Day, not just one day when we celebrate Cupid and his proverbial arrow, but I guess the heartfelt expressions and good intentions on the big day make us appreciate our loved ones even more all year round.

Snuggling up in front of the fire, sharing a tender morsel or two, toasting marshmallows or breaking out the Ferrero Rochers… Ahhh, it must be that Valentine’s time of year!

There is perhaps nothing more special than treating your sweetheart to a home-cooked meal on the probably most romantic days in the calendar. But you want to be cuddling on the sofa with your other half, not tied to the apron strings, sweating over a hot stove this February 14. Of course you can always head out for a meal to a lovely restaurant or if staying in, then keep it simple and rustle up a few grazing dishes. I love sofa food, things you can share and finger food.

I tend to avoid a main course, it’s not that kind of big blow-out meal, but if you do want to do the whole romantic table for two at home, then some lovely pink-roasted meat keeps the red romance theme, perhaps a lovely piece of venison, lovely Suffolk lamb cutlets or tender fillet steak, all would be delicious, perfect with creamy potato gratin, sweet-sour red cabbage and green beans.

Pudding is the perfect food of love, most of us have a sweet tooth, chocolate and soft fruits are always a romantic combo to fit the occasion. Layered desserts in a glass look the part and are not too heavy and perfectly portion-controlled. We are well-known at the Bell At Sax’ and The Sail Loft for our knickerbocker glory and sundae desserts so do try my ultimate romantic version this Valentine’s Day.

Happy wooing! Jonny

Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor, The Bell At Sax’


VALENTINE’S NIGHT Wednesday 14 February – if you want the whole romantic occasion, head to The Sail Loft’s sister restaurant, The Bell At Sax’ where their Valentine’s Supper has Bellini cocktail on arrival and Jonny’s special four course dinner menu for £34.95 per person, booking essential. W: 01728 602331

Alternatively in Southwold, we’re doing things quieter at The Sail Loft with just our regular dinner menu on offer – we’re bound to be busy, so reserve a table.


The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar-restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients – find us by Southwold’s dunes near the campsite and lifeboat station. Book for our daily specials: Monday Madness – two courses for £10; Curry-tastic Tuesday; Wednesday Burger Bonanza; Friday Steak Night
W:   T: 01502 725713



Or ‘Black Forest trifle’ in a glass… You will probably have more than you need so make up leftovers, of course you may be piggies and want one each, sharing is optional!

Feel free to cheat if you are short of time, you’ll find ready-made chocolate mousse and whipped cream is fine by itself of course.

For the cherries, ideally you want to seek out a jar of kirsch-marinated black cherries (in cherry liqueur), ask for griottines in your local deli. You could opt for plain tinned black cherries or a cherry compote, and failing that, just more of the cherry conserve.  nb Raw egg in the mousse is not recommended for vulnerable people.



50ml double cream

75g dark chocolate (70+% cocoa), grated

1 very fresh, organic egg

25g caster sugar

Bring the cream to the boil and pour over the chocolate in a medium glass bowl. After a few minutes, beat until combined. Allow to cool until just warm to touch. In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg and sugar until creamy and doubled in volume. Fold the chocolate cream into the egg mixture until well-mixed. Chill whilst you make the cream.



3 tbsp mascarpone

3 tbsp single cream

Zest of half a lemon, finely-grated

Drizzle of vanilla extract

Icing sugar

Combine the first four ingredients with a whisk until well-mixed and then add icing sugar to taste a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing well in between, to give the right flavour and a thickish texture like softly-whipped cream.



dark chocolate brownies, cubed

black cherry conserve

marinated cherries, drained

dark chocolate for grating

Build your trifle in the glass(es), first a base of mousse, then cubes of brownie, a covering of conserve, a layer of the mascarpone, more mousse, whole cherries or compote, a final swirl of cream and then grated chocolate to finish. Not forgetting a cherry on the top. Enjoy!



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I love all manner of berries, whatever the size or colour and of course currants, plums and cherries too, they are the sweet epitome of summer sunshine on the plate.

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Sunny Suppers

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Just like most of the nation on your typical summer afternoon, I love firing up the barbecue and sharing smoke signals with the neighbours. That whole al fresco vibe is so appealing, relaxing with a glass or two of something chilled, chatting, sunbathing and leisurely char-grilling steaks and seafood when the mood takes you, as a lazy afternoon becomes late evening, that is a blissful time with friends and family.

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Nothing quiche like it

Nothing quiche like it   

Late summer lunches need to flex to the weather and be versatile hot or cold dishes for Jonny Nicholson, Chef-Proprietor of The Bell At Sax’

Tarts, frittata, tortilla, quiches, a hearty wedge of something savoury and egg-based makes a lovely light bite, especially at lunchtime. They fill you up without weighing your afternoon down and go well with simple dressed green leaves on the side. Or accompanied with something more constructed like a warm salade niçoise with green beans, new potatoes and anchovies.

And quiche is queen of them all - a real treat, particularly if still just warm from the oven. Supermarkets have a lot to answer for, the pappy, claggy, dry excuses they call quiche lorraine and the like would scar most kids for life away from ever trying a home-made one. But if you take time to bake your own and can convince the family to try it, you are all in for a treat.

Here are a few of my favourite quiche fillings:

Smoked haddock, curried onions and basmati rice– the classic curried Indian kedgeree brunch in a pastry case

Courgette, pea and green pesto – a herby mouthful, finished with mascarpone and more basil leaves

Spicy sausage, red chilli marmalade and roasted peppers – a zingy choice if you like spicy and hot

Lamb meatball, charred aubergine, mint and feta – bring a Mediterranean feel with a Middle Eastern edge

Smoked bacon, leek, wholegrain mustard and blue cheese – a variation on the traditional quiche lorraine flavours

Butternut squash, fennel, chickpea and ricotta – a hearty late summer vegetable treat, lovely topped with red onion marmalade

This month’s recipe is a modern quiche classic and one that really works well whatever the weather; enjoy it al fresco or inside, still hot from the oven if it’s wet and windy or at room temperature if it’s beaming down on one of those balmy Indian summer days we often enjoy in September or even October (a polite cook’s plea to never serve quiche from the refrigerator, give it at least 30 minutes to warm up before serving).

Feel free to have fun with the recipe, mixing it up with whatever you fancy or have at hand, just add your own little spin on it. Alternatives which work well would be things like watercress or rocket instead of the spinach, courgettes or fennel to replace the peppers, cheeses like feta, mascarpone or ricotta for the goats’ cheese. Just be mindful to how long substitutes take to soften, if they are chunky or firmer, then soften them on the hob or in the oven first.

I like replacing the simple onions with red onion marmalade, red chilli jam or a tasty chutney. Piccalilli might be a step too far, just depends how gastronautically experimental you’re feeling?!



Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor, The Bell At Sax’


The Bell At Sax’, High Street, Saxmundham, IP17 1AF.  A laid-back restaurant-with-rooms with good food, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients.  W:   T: 01728 602331.  


A great lunch deal with The Bell At Sax’ - free dessert and coffee!  Book a table and order two courses per guest of a starter and a main course from our a la carte menu, and we’ll offer you complimentary dessert and coffee on us, completely free!  Available Tuesdays – Saturdays 12 noon – 2pm during September 2016 by arrangement.

 Goats’ cheese and red pepper quiche (serves 6+).

Ingredients:  Deep pastry case, blind-baked, 23cm wide approx, in the tin; Good olive oil; 1 red onion, peeled and sliced; 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced; 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced; 1 red chilli, finely shredded (optional); Handful baby spinach leaves; Handful of preserved sunblush tomatoes; 200g goats’ cheese, broken into pieces;  3 eggs; 175ml double cream; 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika; Sea salt and black pepper.

Method: Pre-heat the oven to 190C.  Heat a glug of oil in a hot frying pan over a medium heat and add the onion and peppers. Stir occasionally until softened, add in the garlic (and chilli if using) and cook for a few more minutes. Take off the heat and when cooled, transfer with a slotted spoon into the pastry case. Spread out and top with the goats cheese, spinach and tomatoes evenly.  Beat the eggs with the cream, seasoning and paprika. Pour onto the pastry case to just below the rim and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the quiche is golden and set in the centre. Allow to cool until warm before eating.