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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Eggs-cellent fast food

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Easter eggs aren’t all chocolate for Jonny Nicholson of The Bell At Sax’ in Saxmundham

12 000 000 000 is a big number, isn’t it, a really big number, in fact a really really ginormous number as my kids would say? 12 billion is the number of eggs, give or take a few dozen, we consume each year in the UK alone. That’s a whole lot of egg boxes to stack in the shopping trolley and buttered soldiers that need to be cut, as each one of us tucks into something like 190 eggs per person annually.

I love eggs, like most of the population it seems, and probably like you, I don’t think of the humble egg as a proper meal or even a favourite ingredient, but they are so integral to the British diet. I guess it’s because they are always with something else, meat, fish, cheese, veggies - the egg is never the star but always the supporting actor, yet well worthy of a culinary Oscar. And health-wise, the now widely-accepted approval of eggs as a great source of nutrients means that we can crack them open to our hearts’, and stomachs’, content within reason and enjoy them as part of a varied healthy diet.

Keeping it simple is easy with eggs and they are such a quick treat, either as a speedy brunch, who can resist a boiled egg or two with the aforementioned soldiers, I love to spread my toast fingers with marmite or stilton for a bit of a twist or indulge by cooking bacon-wrapped asparagus spears or a spicy glazed rarebit to dip . There is an art to getting the perfect boiled eggs with the white set but yolk still runny, for room temperature large hens’ eggs, I find giving them 5 – 6 minutes into a pan of rolling boiling water is best.

And for the ultimate scrambled eggs, I like to whisk up my whole eggs with a dash of cream, lots of freshly-ground black pepper and a little sea salt, then add a small knob of butter to a cold deep frying pan over a low-medium heat, when it is just melted, pour in the eggs, allowing to set on the edges, before slowly moving around with a soft patula constantly until the liquid mixture is almost all set. Slide off the heat and allow to cook through until the same creamy texture throughout.

An omelette is prepared much the same but leave out the cream and don’t stir it, rather waiting until it is properly set at the bottom, then scattering in grated cheese or other cooked fillings onto one half and then folding over the other, before putting it under a hot grill to set the top (ensuring it is an ovenproof pan of course!).

On a not-too-dissimilar theme,  here is a lovely recipe for frittata, an Italian thick omelette, smart enough for unexpected guests, when you need to rustle up something tasty and swift from your larder and fridge. This really is a flexible friend in the kitchen, using up whatever leftovers you have from the weekend or whatever else is lingering without a use. Things like smokey bacon, herby sausages, smoked salmon or haddock, most cheeses, any cooked vegetables, the remains of the Sunday joint, the world is your proverbial oyster for frittata (though I wouldn’t waste the king of shellfish on this recipe…).

So here is the perfect eggy staple for when your nearest and dearest spring themselves on you with little warning - grab a nice loaf, knock up a simple dressed salad and 30 minutes tops in the kitchen, you will do them and yourself proud on the plate!

Get cracking! Jonny

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 starter and main course from our a la carte menu, and we’ll offer you complimentary dessert and coffee on us, completely free!  Available from 1 – 30 April 2016  Tuesdays – Saturdays 12 noon – 2.30pm



First prepare all your fillings and keep warm once cooked. I’ve gone with some local Suffolk smoked bacon, spicy sausage, red peppers and garlic mushrooms, bulked up with baby potatoes plus some herbs for flavour.

Serves 4

100g local chorizo-style sausage in 1cm chunks, fried

100g thick cut Suffolk pancetta bacon, thinly sliced, fried

1 red onion, peeled, halved and sliced, fried with thyme

Large handful chestnut or wild mushrooms, fried with butter and garlic

250g baby potatoes, cooked and cut into chunks

125g roasted red pepper (drained from a jar) in thin strips

6 large free range eggs

Sea salt and black pepper mill

100ml thick cream

Handful of grated firm cheese (I like local aged Shipcord)

Small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely shredded

Heat your oven to 190c. Once the fillings are all hot and cooked, put a large, deep frying pan (ensuring it is non-stick and ovenproof) on to a medium heat, with a drizzle of oil. Crack the eggs into a large wide glass bowl, whisk together with seasoning to taste plus the cream, cheese and parsley. Finally fold in the hot fillings.

Add the mixture carefully to the heated pan. Next transfer the pan to the hot oven for approx. 15 minutes, checking the egg is fully set throughout before serving.