Posts tagged Food Blog
Posts tagged Food Blog
Just a quick post about an amazing cafe on Northcote Road in Clapham Junction, Brew, because you all deserve to know it exists.
Good brunch cafes are few and far between over here, especially right in the heart of London. It’s strange, because if the long line of people waiting for tables outside Brew Cafe is anything to go by, it’s clear they’re well-sought after.
When we turned up at 11am on a Sunday and joined the queue of 10+ people standing outside Brew and waiting for a table, we expected to be there a while. And we were willing to wait. A friend had recommended (or raved about) this cafe a while back and I’d been determined to try it.
But we weren’t waiting long - within 20 minutes we were seated by a fantastic waiter who’d kept us to date with table availability and dealt amicably with a few angry customers who were unhappy about having to wait in a line (#gosomewhereelse).
Now, before we go any further I should mention that my tick list for a good cafe is not short. Some may say my expectations are high, but I call them valid. I expect free range eggs and meat, organic ingredients if possible but very high quality at the least, and as locally-sourced as you can possibly get (hint: look for cafes and restaurants whose menus change seasonally). I look for well-thought out menus that chefs can deliver in a reasonable time, even when a cafe is at full capacity. I expect eggs to be perfectly cooked (#ifyoucan’tcookeggsdon’townacafe), innovative but simple flavour combinations, good service and of course great coffee. One thing I will not miss about London is the screaming jugs of frothed milk that are pocked with air bubbles and are roughly splashed into a cup in badly-made-cappuccino fashion (#learnhowtomakeaflatwhite).
More often than not, I leave cafes disappointed.
Brew was not one of them.
Both Si and I ordered pan fried field mushrooms with aged balsamic & pesto with a side of poached eggs. They were absolutely flawless. The eggs were perfectly poached and the mushrooms were rich and creamy.
Our dining partners both ordered the turkish pide melt with ham, gruyere, vine tomato, poached eggs and pesto - for which I was meet with wide-eyes and enthusiastic nods when I asked how they were.
We each had smoothies to go with our mains and they fell nothing short of what you’d expect in a good, freshly-made smoothie. Although, if I’m honest with you, I was much more tempted by their range of milkshakes - Oreo, Malteser, Crunchie… (#notbeforebreakfast my mother always said).
The coffee was fantastically made and equally well presented and it left me wired enough to know I’d had a decent hit of caffeine.
The service was good, and intentionally fast to keep up with the demand for tables, which meant we didn’t wait long for drinks or food. However, I couldn’t help but feel we were expected to eat and leave as quickly as possible. If I’d had another 15-20 minutes for my food to settle I perhaps would have ordered a second coffee and one of their delicious sounding treats - we were drooling over their peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. I can’t blame them for being popular, but perhaps they should consider opening a second cafe - a shorter waiting time and a more relaxed atmosphere would definitely tempt me back more often.
The bill came to around £60 for four people: 4 breakfasts, 4 coffees and 3 smoothies.
Overall a fantastic brunch experience, and I highly recommended a visit to Brew.
I look back at previous blog posts and think “man, I talk about the weather a lot”, and then I vow not to do it in the next one.
But I always end up back there again. Like, right now.
I blame England. It’s all everyone talks about over here (it’s even a key feature in Olympic opening ceremonies!).
But I think the reason why we reference it so much here is because it’s such an enigma.
For example, we set out for beautiful beach-side Cornwall for August Bank Holiday weekend in summer (I bet you’ve got a really nice summer holiday picture in your head right now), and we end up with rain (…and that picture’s gone). ALL weekend rain. And wind. And cold.
But it’s okay, because it gave us an excuse to make it another food-oriented holiday, with plenty of time spent in pubs and cafes. My favourite. Definitely worth a mention is the Yacht Inn in Penzance for its incredibly fresh seafood and Rhubarb’s Cafe in St Ives for pretty much everything on their menu, but especially the portobello mushrooms stuffed with feta and sundried tomatoes.
A group of us went down together and stayed at a friend’s house in Penzance, and as per usual I arrived armed with treats. I went a step further this time and created my own original cupcake flavour.
How it came about is that I have a bit of a fascination with salted caramel at the moment (mostly in the form of macaroons) and because I had some uneaten pears sitting in the fruit basket. From there I adapted Hummingbird Bakery’s red velvet cake to make a vanilla velvet cake and voila: Honeyed Pear Velvet Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting.
The recipe is all yours.
They take a bit of fiddling round but I can assure you, they’re well worth the effort.
Makes around 16 cupcakes.
Vanilla Velvet Cupcakes:
- 120g unsalted butter, softened
-300g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 320g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 240ml buttermilk
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the Honeyed Pears:
- 3 pears
- 20g unsalted butter
- 60g runny honey
- 40g caster sugar
Salted Caramel Frosting:
(If you’re not keen on “salted caramel”, opt for plain old caramel by using unsalted butter and cutting out the added salt).
- 125g white caster sugar
- 80ml double cream
-1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 160g salted butter, softened
- 200g icing sugar
Make the honeyed pears first. Peel and core the fruit and cut into small, bite sized pieces. Place the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and melt over a low heat. Add the pears and cook until the fruit is soft and golden, and it has soaked up all of the syrup. Cool completely - you can put them in the fridge while you make your cupcake batter.
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Sift the flour and salt together in another bowl. Add 1/3 of the flour/salt and 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix thoroughly. Repeat 2 more times. In another bowl, stir the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda together to cause its reaction. Once settled add it to the cake butter, mixing well. Lastly, gently fold in your honeyed pears.
Spoon the batter into cupcake cases - filling them 2/3rds of the way to the top. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes.
Make the frosting. Heat the caster sugar and four tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and cook the caramel for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the cream. Allow to cool completely.
Cream the butter and icing sugar together for at least 5 minutes, then beat in the caramel. When combined pipe or spread the icing over the cup cakes. I used a palette knife for mine.
Summer decided to visit London this weekend. Finally!
We’d already bought tickets to the Battersea Park Foodies Festival so we had our fingers crossed that, at the very least, it would not rain.
The weather gods pulled through and gave us 30 degree weather and clear skies. A perfect day for an outdoor food festival, so off we went, equipped with sunblock, sunglasses and rumbling stomachs.
Now, don’t you hate it when you go to these kinds of events and cave at the first sight of something delicious as soon as you walk in? Only thinking afterwards that perhaps you should have had a better look around at what was on offer?
Well, this time I did the exact opposite. Despite being tempted by food stalls as soon as I walked in, I decided to check out all the stalls before eating so I could make a fully informed decision.
2 hours, 20 tasters, a salted caramel cupcake, raspberry apple and mint juice, a few of Si’s garlic mussels and a fruit sorbet later, I still hadn’t had lunch. And I no longer had room for it.
But I had a whole lot of delicious things to take home with me, so I was happy.
My haul included a mature cheddar and chilli pork pie by the Posh Pork Pie Company, some vanilla and caramel fudge by the Fudge Kitchen and a delicious raspberry and mustard salad dressing by Cotswold Gold.
I couldn’t wait to try the dressing and it was a perfect coincidence that I still had some veg leftover from Thursday’s Riverford delivery. So on Sunday night we whipped up a summery salad for dinner.
For those of you who don’t know, Riverford is an all organic farm that delivers fresh, local fruit and veg to your door. It’s 20% cheaper than supermarket produce, and that’s without taking into account the free delivery.
I’m obsessed with them. Their produce is restaurant quality and tastes like it’s been picked fresh from the garden on the same day it’s delivered.
I usually order one of their vegetable boxes and a fruit bag. Both come with a few varieties of seasonal vegetables and recipes to give you ideas on what to do with them.
And the reason I love Riverford so much is because we can start with this:
And turn it into this:
An absolutely fresh, organic salad topped with Cotswold Gold’s Raspberry and Mustard Drizzle.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy x
(preferably from Riverford Farm, or at least high quality organic ingredients)
- 1 large kumara
- New potatoes
- A bunch of beetroot
- A bag of mixed salad leaves
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 avocado, in bite size chunks
- Garlic Aioli
- Cotswold Gold Raspberry and Mustard Drizzle
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Scrub dirt from beetroot, potatoes and kumara and chop into bite-sized chunks.
You’ll need two roasting trays - one for the beetroot and another for the potatoes/kumara. Lay the veg out on each tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and dried mixed herbs (if you have them). Toss gently to cover.
Roast at 180 for one hour or more - until cooked.
In the meantime, prepare the salad ingredients as advised above and toss together in a large bowl with the Raspberry and Mustard Drizzle.
When the vegetables are roasted, toss plenty of garlic aioli through the potatoes and kumara only. The heat of the vegetables will soak up the sauce quite quickly and you’ll get a soft, rich garlic flavour.
Add the vegetables to the green salad while still warm and serve immediately. Serve with some warm bread rolls.
It was perhaps unwise on my part to make a dinner reservation for The Honours for our very first night in Edinburgh. It tainted the remainder of the trip, because nothing else could possibly compare.
It was certainly one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had.
I usually choose to dine at places with a low-key ambience and I rarely opt for anything in the realm of fine dining, but The Honours offers the best of both worlds.
Opened only last year by Michelin chef Martin Wishart, his aim was to provide “just the right balance of ambience, design and style”. And it does. They’ve skipped the pretentious white tablecloths in favour of clean wooden tables in this beautiful and relaxed French brasserie style restaurant. The menu, a collaboration between Wishart and The Honours head chef Paul Tamburrini is a mix of traditional French cuisine with the flavours of the Scottish market and you’ll be tempted by dishes such as Confit Duck Leg with Orange and Lemon Sole Veronique with Sauteed Spinach.
The highly professional service we received from our waitress, and most memorably the restaurant manager Steven Spear, was immaculate. The staff treated us no differently than if we’d walked in jingling a Mercedes Benz key chain and holding a Chanel handbag. And call me old fashioned, but that’s just how customer service should be.
The restaurant was fully booked, but there were no issues when we asked to be relocated to a window table. Both our wine and water glasses did not fall below the halfway line all night. We were given sound advice on the different dishes and the expert knowledge and recommendations swayed us on our main choices, and gratefully so. And finally, when we asked for directions to the cocktail bar we had planned to visit after dinner we were given accurate directions in both verbal and written form, and a recommendation for another bar that Spear thought we might like.
We weren’t overly hungry, so for starters we shared Potato Gnocchi which came smothered in a brown butter and sage sauce and topped with grated parmesan. We picked a hint of orange in the sauce, which gave the deliciously rich sauce a lovely sweetness.
For the mains I had the Sauteed Fillets of John Dory with leeks and mussels in a sauternes sauce. I’m fussy when it comes to fish - if it’s less than fresh then I won’t like it, and if it’s even slightly overcooked then I won’t like it either. This was neither of those. Both the John Dory and the mussels were so fresh and so perfectly cooked that they melted in my mouth. Our waitress suggested we get a side of fries, for dipping in the leftover curry sauce and I’m glad we did - not a drop of its creamy goodness deserved to be wasted.
Simon chose the Rabbit à la Moutarde after originally being drawn to a steak. Their steaks, I am told, are from the award-winning supplier Donald Russell. This is what we stock our own home freezer with so I can vouch for the quality. But the rabbit was just a good a choice. The intense flavours of the creamy mustard sauce worked well with the tender meat and thick cut sauteed potatoes.
I had an inkling for a refreshing but sweet white wine to compliment my seafood main and Si wasn’t bothered. We considered the £29 German bottle of Riesling but in the end we settled on the Pinot Gris from Argentina which was just £16 for the bottle and which promised “bright citrus and green apple flavours”.
For dessert we shared the very decadent Honours Sundae with toffee and caramel icecream, pecan mousse, crunchy honeycomb, and rich caramelised banana hiding beneath it all.
The bill came to just £70 total. Yes, we shared the starter and dessert but with the mains averaging mid-teens dining at The Honours is an absolute steal. I recommend booking well in advance, especially during the Fringe Festival month, as this place is very popular.
The Honours is named after the Scottish Crown Jewels (the crown, sceptre and sword which are housed in the Edinburgh Castle and is well worth a visit on its own to read about the jewels’ incredible history), and rightly so. It was simply nothing less than you’d expect from a top restaurant in a global city - it is an asset to Edinburgh.
Many of you food blog readers (I’m one myself) must often wonder why there are so many positive reviews of “great” and “fantastic”, even “the best ever” restaurants out there.
Surely not all restaurants are all of the above?
In truth, they’re not. But, I love food and I generally don’t part with my money in exchange for terrible food. I do my research first, I read other blogs and I look up restaurant ratings before I bother to invest time, effort and money into a night that revolves around eating their food.
Through both careful planning, and sometimes luck, I’ve managed to choose wisely so far and have never had to post a negative restaurant experience on here before.
Don’t get me wrong… I do eat at chains like Pizza Express and ASK Italian (don’t shoot, I surrender!) when in a large group/on a budget/in an area that I’m unfamiliar with, I just don’t bother reviewing them. We all know what they’re like - it’s like Starbucks; you search for them in a time of need, when you’re looking for consistency and familiarity and trying your very hardest to avoid salmonella.
I should get to the point of this blog post already, and the point is that I ate at a really, really terrible restaurant recently.
It’s called Mythopolis and it’s on 227 City Road in Islington. I really wish I’d taken photos of the food, to really drum the message home, but I hadn’t taken my camera with me (because I hadn’t planned to review it).
Si and I had both planned to be out and about in London this week at expos and work meetings and what not and decided we’d skip the hassle of dinner making for one of the nights. We’d found a Groupon deal (strike one) for a meze of Greek dishes plus a glass of wine each for £12 and figured we’d just do it, without bothering to do our research (strike two) or even look up their menu (strike three - okay so maybe we SORT OF deserved it).
The presentation of the food was poor, the service was poor and the quality of the food was even worse.
We were not asked once throughout the meal how it was, or if we would like anything else. I’d been waiting for their (their being our multiple waitresses throughout the night) attention so I could ask for some water (no, they never offered us any throughout the entire meal) and so I could order another glass of wine (lost profit for them).
I couldn’t figure out who worked there and who was a customer, as they were all dressed in slippers and hoodies, were changing their clothes behind the back counter, were sitting at the tables eating food and rolling cigarettes, and disappearing outside the front of restaurant to smoke and talk.
The meat was extremely dry - I took two bites of a pork shish kebab and didn’t bother eating the rest. Other dishes were not quite right and had very strange flavours - especially the mushrooms which were drenched in a cold, unthickened “cream sauce”.
But, worst of all was the long, curly, black hair in my Greek salad - which already looked vile enough as everything was swimming in a pool of grated feta juices and olive oil.
After we finished eating (actually, it was more like looking at the plates on our table, bravely tasting a few of them, and deciding they were best made for the bin) I had to ask them to take our plates away - after a long period of us sitting there with dirty plates covering our table.
It was interesting to read online that someone else with a Groupon voucher received dessert, because we did not get any. It was also interesting that the “12 meze” count included the three dips that came with the pita breads. That can really only be classified as one dish, and definitely not four.
We couldn’t have got out of there quicker and I will definitely never go back. If you’re considering going there, please reconsider. It was a miserable 2 hours of my time that I will never get back.
Okay rant over, phew! :)
Much love xx
- 3x 250g bags of gummy lollies (snakes, bears, cola bottles, etc. I used Haribo Star Mix)
- 1 litre of vodka
Put all lollies into a large bowl with one third of the vodka. Leave it in the fridge for two nights. Take it out of the fridge and give it a good stir to separate any that have stuck together. Add another third of the vodka and leave it in the fridge for two more nights. Take it out of the fridge and stir. Repeat one more time with the remaining third of the vodka.
At the end of the six days the gummy lollies should have soaked up the vodka completely.
Perfect for house parties - especially hen or stag nights.
As some of my regular readers have pointed out… I’ve been a bit slack on the blog front recently. Yes, I’ll admit it, I have.
Work has been busy lately, but that’s really only half the excuse. If I’m truthful, it’s because the weather got nice. Really nice. Like 29°C nice. Apparently the UK has been hotter than Spain over the past week (seriously, when does that EVER happen?!). So I dusted off last summer’s shorts from the bottom of my wardrobe and have been basking in this glorious warmth.
And it’s not just me either, half of London bared their pasty white legs along with me and we all crammed together in the city’s sparse parks, armed with sunscreen, cider and icecream. I think we’re all a little scared that this is the best weather we’ll get all year (touch wood) and we’ve gone all out in trying to embrace it - apparently Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and all the other large supermarket chains, sold out of icecream and BBQ food over the weekend.
So, in keeping with this summer theme and preparing you for any future empty supermarket aisle dilemmas, here’s my best homemade summer salad recipe. It’s my own creation, based on some of my favourite salad ingredients, and it’s that delicious I could eat it every day.
- 1 red capsican (or 1/2 red and 1/2 a yellow capsican), thinly sliced
- 2/3 of a 400g tin of whole corn kernels, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup of red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 cup of iceberg lettuce (use the crispy middle leaves, rather than the outer leaves), thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, julienned or thinly sliced (preferably not grated as the consistency is too wet)
Throw all the ingredients in a large bowl and add the mayonnaise (start with 2 tablespoons of mayo and then gradually add more if needed, until all the ingredients are just nicely covered). Mix well and serve alongside any main meal.
I find it goes nicely with a piece of steak or some marinated chicken. I often have it with Dijon Roast Chicken (you can find that recipe here) and a few roast potatoes. Enjoy xx
I try to eat as little processed food as possible and regularly buy organic produce and/or make my own when I have the time. We don’t keep muesli bars in our house, don’t eat any processed sugary breakfast cereals and don’t buy unhealthy snack foods like potato chips (although, I’ll admit that biscuits are my kryptonite).
If we’re hungry between meals we often eat fruit, mixed nuts or a piece of toasted Vogels with sliced tomato or organic peanut butter. But I’m always on the look out for healthy snack recipes that branch out from the norm and these homemade muesli bars tick all the right boxes.
They’ll take you ten minutes to whip up and they’re much healthier and cheaper than the processed supermarket bars that are full of chemicals and preservatives.
These are crammed full of fruit and nuts so they’re full of protein, low GI, low fat and energy boosting and you can tick off a couple of your 5+ a day. They’re also sweet, so they’re perfect for those mid-morning or mid-afternoon sugar cravings.
It’s such a simple recipe and it’s suitable for everyone - you can add and remove whatever you like to create your own flavours. I went with coconut and cranberry this time, but next time I might try raisins and a few drops of vanilla essence. Other options are chocolate chips, coffee beans, orange zest, dried apricot, dried banana, pumpkin seeds… the possibilities are endless!
- 2 cups of raw nuts (I used almonds, brazil nuts and walnuts)
- 2 cups of pitted dates (or you could try using prunes)
- 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds (optional)
- 1 cup of whatever you desire (I went with cranberries and also added a large handful of shredded coconut)
Process nuts in a food processor or blender until they are finely chopped. Add dates and process again until the dates are finely chopped and the mixture starts to stick together. Next stir in the sunflower seeds if you’re using them and add your desired ingredients (cranberries and coconuts in my case). Line a small baking dish with baking paper and press mixture evenly into the dish. Refrigerate for one hour and then slice into bars. Store in a container in the fridge.
For the first time in my 24 years on this earth I didn’t get an Easter egg from Mum. But, all has been forgiven… because I got these instead!!
You see, since we’ve been living in the UK Whittaker’s has brought out not just one, but two, new flavours of chocolate:
1. Peanut Butter
2. Berry and Biscuit
But because we’re on the other side of the world I haven’t been able to whip into my nearest NZ supermarket to grab some (okay so I probably would’ve been lining up outside on the day they were released) but have still had to read all of my friends’ Facebook comments and statuses on just how good they really are. For a chocolate lover, this kind of torture is the equivalent to ripping my toenails out one by one.
Luckily, my Mum’s a fellow chocolate lover (addiction, obsession… whatever you want to call it is fine by me), and she fully understood the urgency of the situation. She sent over a block of each and they arrived today. We’ve already ripped into them and all I have to say is that their delicious little lives will be very short-lived in this household.
One of my favourite easy dinner recipes. They’re creamy and flavoursome while still being reasonably healthy. And they’re perfect for lunch the next day too!
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1 cup shredded roast chicken
- 1 can black eye beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 green onions, finely sliced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- Handful of fresh coriander, chopped (optional)
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 minced garlic (stuff out of the jar is fine)
- 2 cups grated cheddar or mozerella
- Jalapenos (optional)
- Sour cream
- 6 flour tortillas/burritos
- Oil, for grilling
Mix rice together with chili powder, cumin and garlic. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese, jalapenos, salsa and sour cream. Sprinkle cheese over tortillas, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges, then arrange chicken and rice mixture down the center of each tortilla. Dot the top with sour cream, salsa and jalapenos. Fold edges over so they overlap in the middle, leaving the ends open.
Fry wraps one at a time in a large pan, with oil, over medium heat (not too hot or they will burn). They’ll need about 2-3 minutes each side. Serve on their own or with a crispy fresh salad.