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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 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.

If you are lucky and have a fruit cage on your veg patch or on the allotment, then you are probably overwhelmed with soft fruit by now, being the height of summer. I guess you’ll have dusted off the preserving pan to get jam-making and filled up the deep freeze, ready for the depth of winter.

So I thought I would just give you a few of my ideas to use up any glut of berries you’ve picked, been given or perhaps bartered for with neighbours.

There are my favourite berry classics, Eton Mess – that sweet confection of crushed meringues, strawberry sauce, dairy vanilla ice and whipped cream; Summer Pudding – bread pudding filled with berry compote, particularly good if you melt gelatine into the juices, it then slices beautifully too when set; Knickerbocker Glory – who doesn’t love an ice cream sundae and Berry Custard Tart – a flaky, buttery pastry case, filled with thick crème pâtissière and topped with apricot jam-glazed berries.

Three more modern offerings for you: Balsamic Peppered Strawberries – this sounds weird but trust me, generously sprinkle halved hulled strawberries with good balsamic vinegar, lots of freshly-ground black pepper and a thick dusting of caster sugar, close with a tight lid and every few hours, turn them upside down and gently shake, leave for 24 hours and you will have the most intense strawberry compote you can imagine; Raspberry Chocolate Nemesis – google a recipe but essentially it’s the richest choccy truffle cake you could imagine, very similar to a festive roulade, no flour, just eggs, chocolate, sugar and butter, it eats fabulously with crushed raspberries and vanilla mascarpone on the side; last of all, the celebrity favourite of Iced Berries and Hot White Chocolate Sauce  - made famous at London’s Ivy, just soften frozen berries slightly for a few minutes and top with a warm white chocolate sauce of equal volumes of white chocolate chunks and double cream, simply melted together, heavenly!

And a simple berry dessert recipe to finish, it eats best just warm so it’s ideal when entertaining outside as you can make it ahead before you light the barbecue, in the knowledge that ‘afters’ is all sorted.

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

Phone to book for our daily specials: Curry-tastic Tuesday; Wednesday Burger Bonanza; Thursday Live Music

Berry Clafoutis

This spongy batter pudding is best made with pitted cherries, stoned apricots or whole blueberries but any mixture of berries whatever the glut to hand will work well. (serves 6)

Unsalted butter

Caster sugar

500g berries or stoned fruit        

125ml double cream

125ml whole milk

Vanilla extract

4 eggs

175g caster sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

Handful of flaked almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Grease a wide gratin dish with butter and add the fruit with a generous scattering of sugar before tossing around. Put into the oven to heat up whilst you make the batter.

Heat up the cream, milk and vanilla until it is blood temperature and set aside. Whisk up the eggs and sugar before slowly beating in the flour. Whisk in the cooled cream mixture. Pour over the fruit in the heated gratin dish, scatter with almonds and bake for 30 minutes or until the sponge is soft but set-through and lightly-golden. Allow to cool for at least half an hour before serving with cold, pouring cream.