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

I’d say that summer is officially over, but it saddens me to declare that meteorological partypooper. Rain has really stopped play lately, but it does mean we retreat inside for a bit of what the Danes would call ‘hygge’ and start spending lots of time in the kitchen (pronounced hoo-ga, well kind-of, perhaps you need a hint of a Scandinavian accent too!). Denmark is up there as one of the world’s happiest countries apparently, but I don’t think Suffolk is far behind personally… There isn’t a direct translation of ‘hygge’ in English, this super-sensory soul-satisfying word is a feeling, an inner glow and a comforting sense of place and satisfaction. At this time of year as that autumnal cool envelops us, it is great to be out foraging, wrapped-up warm, seeking out some treasured fungi or hedgerow fruits, or wandering around your local farmers’ market, snaffling up some goodies from an artisan grower or producer.

Of course, October is the real start to the game season when feathered and furred wild food comes a-plenty to my kitchen door and features heavily on our warming seasonal menus. Nothing is quite ‘hyggeligt’ as a good curry cosied-up in front of the fire with your loved one and family on a cold, damp evening.

So for your enjoyment and more than a little ‘hygge’ for your supper, how about combining local, fresh game and curry, perfect for an early autumn treat!?

Enjoy, Jonny

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.
W:   T: 01502 725713

Phone to book for our daily specials: Monday Madness – two courses for £10; Curry-tastic Tuesday; Wednesday Burger Bonanza; Thursday Live Music; Friday Steak Night

Pheasant Tikka Masala

Now you can make your own paste for your take on Britain’s favourite curry, it is far from difficult but if time is pressing, just find a good quality ready-made one from a decent supermarket or deli. To be honest, if you aren’t going to toast and grind your own whole spices, a jar can actually have fresher flavours and more zing. That old ground cumin lingering in the larder with an expiry date of a few years-back is really not going to taste of much more than bitter dust by now. Googling online is a good source for a recipe to make your own whole spice tikka masala paste, type in ‘jamie oliver easy curry pastes’ for one of the simplest.

This sweet nutty curry cries out for golden pulao rice or a simple flatbread. If you like more vegetables alongside, a potato dish like sag aloo or aloo gobi with spinach or cauliflower works very well.

(serves 4)

Local rapeseed oil

1 large red onion

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 inch piece of root ginger, peeled and grated

1 (optional) red chilli, deseeded and finely-chopped

Small bunch fresh coriander, split into stems and leaves

2 heaped tbsp good tikka masala paste

4 pheasant breasts, skinned and cut into chunks

2 handfuls ripe baby tomatoes or 1 tin

150ml coconut milk

1 tbsp caster sugar

Flaked almonds (optional)

In a hot lidded sauté pan, heat up a good drizzle of oil, then add the onions and start to stir-fry over a medium heat. As the onions soften and tinge golden on the edges after a few minutes, add the garlic, ginger, chilli (if using) and chopped coriander stalks. Continue frying until starting the onion mixtures start to dry and brown for another few minutes. Add in the tikka paste and the pheasant, turn up the heat to medium-hot and fry to get some good colour on the meat, whilst stirring for around 10 minutes.


Season well, add the tomatoes, breaking them with your fingers as they drop into the pan. Pour in the coconut milk and the sugar, stir and bring to a simmer. Turn down to low, cover and cook for about 15 – 20 minutes until the meat is tender. Serve in hot bowls with shredded coriander leaf and almonds (if using) sprinkled on top.