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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Showstopping risotto!

A cookery demo appearance at The Suffolk Show for Jonathan Nicholson, chef-owner of The Sail Loft in Southwold calls for a lovely spring risotto of mussels and greens

One distinct highlight of the county’s calendar, if not its premier occasion to best appreciate the delights we call home, is of course The Suffolk Show, a two day-extravaganza in late May, dedicated to farming, food and Suffolk life in all its glory.
I’m thrilled to have been invited to return again to the Cookery Theatre this year to put on a demonstration of lovely local ingredients and my alleged cooking skills. I do enjoy this kind of thing, showcasing what I love but being stuck on the hotplate and at the stove most of the time, I don’t often get to talk to an audience at work and don’t often get to hear all those lovely compliments about our food first-hand. So I relish the time on stage, I admit you do have to be a bit of a show-off for this type of thing but above all. It’s all about encouraging food-lovers to cook and eat Suffolk’s best fresh, seasonal ingredients and support our hard-working farmers and local producers.
In late spring. It’s green shoots springing up everywhere, and in restaurants, those prime tender new season veggies are firmly at the top of the menu, full of flavour, texture and colour on the plate. It is also still a good time to eat wonderful local mussels, raked in the river Deben estuary. So how about a lovely creamy risotto, combining all of this great Suffolk produce…
In terms of the best greens for this primavera risotto (Italian for spring), I have gone with fresh peas, green beans and asparagus but feel free to mix it up with whatever lovely produce your local greengrocer or supermarket is stocking.

And it would be great to see you at the Suffolk Show at the end of May, go to for all the details so come and say ‘hello’!

Enjoy, Jonny


The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar-restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients – find us near the campsite and lifeboat station.
W:   T: 01502 725713

Primavera Risotto with River Deben Mussels

100ml Aspall dry cyder

I small onion, peeled and shredded

4 big handfuls Deben mussels, cleaned and closed

1 litre approx. of good stock, chicken or vegetable, home-made is well worth the effort

1 long shallot, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

Sea salt and black peppermill

250g risotto rice such as arborio

50ml Aspall dry cyder (or Noilly Prat)

1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into three diagonally and blanched

150g peas, fresh (or defrosted)

150g green beans, trimmed and blanched

Parmesan shavings and shredded flat-leaf parsley for garnish

First open your mussels by bringing the cyder to a good simmer with the onion. On full heat, add in the mussels and cover. Shake every minute and continue cooking until they are all bar a few opened-up. Strain through a sieve over another pan to keep the juices. Set mussels to one side somewhere warm. Bring the stock to a simmer. In a deep sauté pan over a low-medium heat, cook the shallot and garlic with a melted knob of butter until soft but without colouring, stirring occasionally.  Season lightly at this stage. Turn up to medium, add in the rice and fry whilst stirring until it starts to dry out and ‘crackle’. Pour in the cyder (or vermouth) and mussel juices, stirring until fully absorbed. Note the time, turn the heat down to low-medium and add a ladleful of stock. Keep stirring regularly and once absorbed, stir in another ladleful, repeating as it gets absorbed, whilst starting the vegetables. After 10 minutes, turn the stock pan to high and add in the vegetables to heat through by returning them to a simmer and then remove by draining with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Back to the risotto, cook whilst stirring every 30 seconds and adding stock, until most has been used up and after a total of 15 – 20 minutes from the start, check to see how al dente the rice is and then adjust the seasoning. Keep cooking until the rice is tender but not ‘squidgy’ (ie not rice pudding). Shell the mussels when you have time and to serve, mix the veggies and the mussel meats through the risotto. Dish up on warm plates, scattered with parsley and parmesan.