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!



Read more

Pheasant Tikka Masala - Warm and Comforting

Pheasant Tikka Masala - Warm and Comforting

A chill in the air means central heating food for Jonny Nicholson, Chef-Proprietor of The Sail Loft

Read more

Sweet Summertime

Sweet Summertime

 Life is luscious for Jonny Nicholson, Chef-Proprietor of The Sail Loft when it’s berry season

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.

Read more

Sunny Suppers

Sunny Suppers

Cooking in a heatwave, Jonathan Nicholson, chef-owner of The Sail Loft in Southwold is drawn to simple, fast recipes.

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.

Read more

Good game



Ward off the winter chill with warming seasonal game meats says Jonny Nicholson from The Bell At Sax’

Last month I had my big kid hat on, talking about hearty family fare for outside around the bonfire or watching fireworks. But equally on 5 November and anytime over the winter, you might want something a little more grown-up as soul food, whether inside with friends in front of the woodburner or if burnt bangers don’t quite cut it in the garden on Guy Fawkes Night. For me celebration food has to be a big, bold, communal affair, full of flavour, and of course being a chef, with a little elegance or style about it too.

As autumn becomes winter, it is the welcome return of the game season. I am a huge fan of seasonal, natural ingredients from off my doorstep and nothing is more local and wild than game from the keeper up the road.

The great thing about game meats is there is one for every occasion, whatever your favourite meat recipe from a light chicken stir-fry to a robust beef casserole, there is a game alternative to fit the bill and it is often much cheaper on the pocket as well as just as delicious. Now a brace of pheasants or rabbits doesn’t have to be daunting. I do believe every chef should be able to prepare their own game as nature intended, whether still in feather or fur, it’s not entirely fun and can be a bit whiffy but it’s easy and you can be assured of the quality and freshness of what you are buying or bartering for. But the good news, however squeamish you are, is that every good independent butcher will happily sell you a plethora of oven-ready game so no excuses to get cooking some wonderful Suffolk game, well unless you’re vegetarian perhaps…

Whether you’re cosied up on the sofa or wrapped up warm al fresco, here is a real winter warmer to warm the cockles!

Enjoy… 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 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 November 2016 by arrangement.


Italian Game Stew

(serves 6+)

You can either simmer this as gently as possible on the hob for about 50 minutes until tender and falling off the bone or as suggested, put it in a low oven for a few hours.

I love to eat this with a mound of buttery herby wet polenta (cornmeal porridge) or some squidgy-soft focaccia bread to keep with the Italian theme and some simple buttered greens. If you are eating it at the table, add a final flourish with some delicious crunchy pangrattato breadcrumbs (by frying them with crushed garlic and butter, before folding in lots of finely-chopped lemon zest, shredded parsley and seasoning).

This is actually best made the day before (without the prunes or olives added) and reheated gently with them to serve.

1 handful prunes

Few tbsp brandy

Local rapeseed oil

1 carrot, onion, leek, celery stick, peeled and chopped

2-3kg assorted wild game in large chunks eg rabbit, pheasant, partridge, pigeon, muntjac venison

100g smoked streaky bacon, shredded

3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

2 big sprigs thyme

1 long sprig rosemary

2 – 3 fresh bay leaves

Good pinch juniper berries, flattened

Good pinch grated nutmeg

2 tins of plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

150ml good Chianti or other strong Italian red wine

300ml rich chicken or game stock

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp balsamic

1 handful black olives

First of all, soak the prunes in the brandy. Pre-heat the oven to 150c.

Next in a very hot deep frying pan with a glug of oil, quickly brown the root vegetables, the game meats and the bacon in turn.

Add these to a heavy large lidded hob-proof casserole dish, followed by the garlic, herbs, spices, tomatoes, gentle seasoning to taste, wine and stock and bring to a simmer, covered.

Bake for about 3 hours or until tender. Add in the prunes and olives and cook for a further 30 minutes. You want the meat to be just falling off the bone but not stringy.

To serve, carefully strain off the juices and stir the honey and balsamic into them, adjusting the seasoning before returning the gravy to the casserole to serve.