Saturday, 6 December 2014

Almond Angel Cupcakes

Keeping in the spirit of Christmas, here's the second instalment of Seasonal baking from me! These almond angel cupcakes are so sweet to look at, you almost don't want to eat them. But then, what would  be the point of all that hard work?! Be warned though. As lovely as they are, the butter icing is incredibly rich. There's no way of making these without using LOTS of butter icing as you need to build up the angel. If you have children, definitely keep these on a ration! In fact, scrap that. Ration them anyway. I felt like I needed to sit down and breathe slowly for a while after eating one of these. But hey, it's Christmas, so crack on...

You Will Need:
-150g butter, softened
-150g caster sugar
-1 orange, grated zest only
-3 eggs, beaten
-100g self-raising flour, sifted
-50g ground almond powder
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the angels:
-300g marzipan
-24 silver balls
-12 jelly sugared sweets 
-1 tbsp. icing sugar

For the frosting:
-200g butter, at room temp.
-250g icing sugar
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Cream together the butter and sugar with the orange zest until light, fluffy and pale. Gradually mix in the beaten egg, alternating with the flour and ground almonds to avoid the mixture from curdling. Stir through the vanilla extract.

Place 12 paper cupcake cases in a muffin tin and divide the mixture equally between them. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and springy to the touch at which point you can remove them from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Whilst the cakes cool, begin to prep the angels. Shape a third of the marzipan into 12 balls and press two silver balls into each one as eyes. Shape the remaining marzipan into 24 wings. I find this easier to do by using a sharp knife to trace an outline of a heart into the marzipan and then dividing in the middle so that you get two equal wing shapes. For the hands and halo, I used diamond shaped jelly sweets. To make the hands, cut the diamonds in half (these will stick into the side of the icing eventually). The halo can simply be made by using a small amount of icing sugar and water to act as a glue to stick a jelly diamond to the top of the marzipan ball. 

To make the butter icing, beat the butter with a spoon in a mixing bowl until smooth before sifting in the icing sugar, stirring regularly. Add the vanilla extract and orange juice. Once the cupcakes are completely cool, use a piping bag to pipe the the icing on them, starting from the outside of the cake and working into the centre to create tall peaks. The icing is easier to do this with if you leave it to solidify a bit in the fridge beforehand for about 10 minutes. Place a head on the top of each, push the hands into the sides and the wings into the backs. You have now created your own perfect little angels! These can be stored in airtight containers for 24 hours but, if you can't wait, they are best eaten straight away anyway!


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fruity Christmas Biscotti

Right, before you read any further, if you're anti-Christmas or think mid-November is too soon to talk about it then bugger off. I LOVE Christmas. Don't get me wrong, Summer days, BBQs, al fresco daytime drinking are also great but it doesn't beat the atmosphere of the lead up to December 25th. To get in the festive spirit, I decided to do some Christmas baking last weekend. Usually for this blog, I try to do recipes which are suited to certain dietary requirements or that are a little unusual, but it's Christmas and I decided to make whatever the hell I wanted with gay abandon. The fact that it also meant two hungover and/or hungry men in the house had something yummy to munch on definitely means I deserve pride of place on top of the Christmas tree. 

FYI: no real reason for the picture above, apart from the fact it is just TOO DAMN CUTE! Anyway, first up, Fruity Christmas Biscotti. This is such a good all rounder. Easy to make, it can be eaten for your own personal pleasure with a nice hot beverage, or you could choose to give it to family and friends as a stocking filler. As long as you don't burn the stuff, the fact you've made a gift for someone should definitely earn you some present-points for next year. 

You Will Need:
-350g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
-2 tsp. baking powder
-2 tsp. mixed spice
-250g golden caster sugar
-3 eggs beaten
-coarsely grated zest of 1 orange
-85g raisins
-85g dried cherries
-50g blanched almonds
-50g shelled pistachios

Before you begin, heat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas mark 4 and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Put the flour, baking powder, spice and sugar in a large bowl and mix together. Stir in the beaten eggs and zest until the mixture starts to form clumps. At this point, use your hands to bring the rest of the dough together to the point where you can pretty much wipe the bowl clean. Add the fruit and nuts and continue using your hands to mix until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Use some flour to spread lightly across a clean surface and turn the dough out onto it. Divide into 4 equal sections and use your hands to roll each section into roughly a 30cm long sausage shape . 

Place two sausages on each tray, spread far apart and bake for 25-30mins until the dough has risen and is firm to touch. There should be no colour to the dough at this point. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Prepare the oven for phase two of the baking by turning it down to 140C/120 fan/gas mark 1.

When cool enough, use a bread knife to cut into diagonal slices which are 1-2cm thick. Lay the slices flat on the baking trays and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 15 minutes or until dry and golden. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month! However, if the smell of the baking biscotti is too hard to resist, then prepare to dig in.


Thursday, 6 November 2014


If you're looking for something with a touch of class and romanticism, but still affordable, then look no further than Kettner's. I'm due to make my fourth visit here next week and I have no doubt that it'll be as amazing as the previous three; both in style, delicious food and just for it's overall atmosphere.

Kettner's prides itself on its history. Originally opened in 1867, it has survived two world wars and has had such historical figures as Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie and Bing Crosby walk through the doors, as well a fair few royal faces! What I love so much about Kettner's is you can make it what you want. You could dress up to your hearts content for a super swanky evening, or simply put on your comfy hangover clothes and no one would bat an eyelid. It's impossible to get bored here too as they cover all areas. They have a range of afternoon teas on offer (including a free-flowing prosecco one...eeeer HELLO!), brunches, pre/post-theatre and, best of all, a Gin, Fizz & Jazz night every Tuesday featuring live blues singers and £6 gin cocktails. If I can't have free gin then £6 gin cocktails is surely the next best thing?! 

Anyway, this particular visit was on a Wednesday so I'll focus more on the food than the gin (booo). But even so, it's not disappointing! When you're having a midweek dinner accompanied by a man on a grand piano, there's not too much to complain about really is there...

So onto the food. With a regularly changing menu, it's always easy to try something different. Knowing that this was going to be a 3-course affair, I went for the lighter option of fresh buffalo mozzarella with red peppers and an black olive tapenade. The tapenade is what sold this to me, and it didn't disappoint. Mozzarella can quite often be bland in flavour but the saltiness from the olive emphasised everything else.

Also on offer was chicken liver parfait with homemade piccalilli and crispy sourdough. The presentation of this made the, lets face it, "pate and toast" really stand out. 

Next up, the mains. As you probably have guessed by now, I'm an absolute lover of all things from the sea. So I was more than happy with this pan-fried pollock with Jerusalem artichoke puree and sauteed wild mushroom. Although it was a nice dish overall, the pollock was slightly overcooked due to how big the fillet was. I'd preferred to have had a smaller amount that didn't need to be cooked for as long.

My regular partner in crime also went for a fish based dish: pan-fried fillet of stone bass with squid ink tagliolini, prawns and mussels. I have to admit, I had major food envy over this. I definitely lost out!

Finally, dessert. As per, it was a pointless case of overindulgence here but these things have to be done! I was having a bit of a rough week at this point (get the violins out) and there was only one think that could make it better....sticky toffee pudding. Simple! The addition of peanut ice cream gave a slight twist to a British classic. Absolute blood perfection.

So overall, another successful visit to Kettner's! This is such an easy place to enjoy, no matter what the occasion. I'll be back... (booking already in for next Tuesday. Keen).


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Myung Ga

I'm a sucker for a gimmick. And although this Korean restaurant isn't being deliberately gimmicky, the idea of having your food cooked on hot-plates installed in to your table is something I had to try! I actually went here for the first time on a work night out and knew I had to experience it again. Based on Kingly Street in London, Myung Ga is slap bang in the middle of alleyways and back streets which run between Oxford Street, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. 

When inside, it doesn't try to be anything it's not. It's not sleek or modern in any way but it still draws the crowds in consistently. As I said, the main feature of this is the fact that food is cooked on your own hot-plates. We had our waitress do it for us but I was aware of other tables doing it themselves (maybe they're regulars and could be trusted not to burn the place down?!). 

The drinks menu is lacking unless you're really into Sake of any kind (which I can safely say I'm not). Only the house wine is sold by the glass which, lets be honest, is always going to taste like vinegar. Put it this way: don't come here for the booze. 
The food menu on the other hand is totally different from what I might normally stumble across. Again, it doesn't try to be glamorous. It is simple, traditional Korean food which features a wide range of meat, seafood and pancake-style dishes. 

We decided to order a bunch of stuff to come together so that we could mix and match. However, we ended up with a selection of cold vegetable dishes as a "starter" which kind of defeated the point but they were nice all the same. These assorted vegetable dishes included the traditional kimchee (pickled cabbage), marinated cucumber, radish and beansprout. On their own, they don't consist of much but they are awesome when added to the main attraction (more on that later!)

We also got some of the panfried dumplings stuffed with beef and vegetables and some of the panfried courgette. Both were nice although you could've had the same items anywhere else.  

Now to the hot-plate. You get to choose from a selection of meat cuts or seafood (or both), which have been prepared and marinaded differently depending on what you order. For example, you could have beef ribs marinated in soy, onions and garlic sauce, or even sliced ox tongue marinated in lemon juice. Being a seafood lover, we went for the assorted seafood BBQ which included prawn, squid, scallops and mussels. Whatever you decide, it gets prepared in front of you and served with large lettuce leaves which you use as your "wrap". 

Now comes the bit to get creative! Using the lettuce leaves, you can construct your own little beaut of a wrap using the sauces they automatically provide, vegetables and whatever your protein you opted for. Think of it as REALLY low-carb burger. Having said that, we ordered a side of rice so you can easily bulk it out a bit with that. 

And there you have it! Each bite can be filled with pride at knowing you (kind of) made it yourself. You get plenty of stuff to put together about 4 wraps each but, if not enough, just order more!

Overall, I would 100% recommend this place, even if just for the fact it's something a little bit different. The only downside though is that, due to ordering all items separately, the cost can very quickly add up. We were definitely left wondering how we'd spent so much money considering we didn't really eat that much. So yeh...have a calculator to hand!


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Coconut Garlic Kale Chips

Being a bit of a foodie, I like to not only try new foods when I'm eating out but also experiment with more "unusual" ingredients when trialing recipes at home. Although it's nothing new, coconut oil is still a far cry from being classed as a kitchen cupboard staple item. Possibly to do with the higher cost; possibly to do with people not knowing how they can use it. Unlike most cooking oils, coconut oil comes in a solid form so obviously requires heating gently before use. What may put people off is that it is officially classed as being a saturated fat. However, the fatty acids in coconut oil are medium-chain triglycerides which are metabolised differently by the liver and used as a quick source of energy. Those that aren't used for energy are turned into ketone bodies which have a hugely positive effect on brain health, including therapeutic effects on diseases like Alzheimer's. Put it this could never compare the saturated fats in coconut oil to those in a lump of cheese or a fatty steak!

Anyway, whilst I'm sure you all found that highly interesting, I should move on to the actual recipe. These Coconut Garlic Kale Chips are so easy to prepare and ridiculously addictive. However, I won't lie. It took two attempts for me to get these right... a few seconds too long in the oven means something nicely crisp and green turns into a charred, burnt mess!

You will need:
-1 large bunch kale
-40g unsweetened coconut flakes
-2 tbsp. coconut oil
-1 garlic clove, crushed
-120ml coconut milk
-sea salt

Preheat your oven to 170C/ 150 fan/ gas mark 4 and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. Wash the kale and cut out any large stems. Tear into about 2 inch pieces (really no need to be accurate at this point!) and dry as thoroughly as possible. Combine the coconut oil, garlic and coconut milk in a small bowl and microwave for approx. 45 seconds until the oil has completed melted. 

Pour the melted mixture over the kale and mix thoroughly to get each piece of kale coated in oil. It's easiest to use your hands when doing this. 

Spread out the kale on the baking sheets, making sure it is just a single layer. For once large bunch of kale, you'll probably need 2 - 3 baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping the kale half-way through. Easy!


Wednesday, 24 September 2014


So it was time for another (girl) date night and, after a few ridonkulous weeks at work, I was seriously lagging. The thought of a late night train back from central London was not appealing so we had to get our thinking caps on. Where can we go that was local that wouldn't make us feel like we'd forfeited a good night out of sheer laziness. I'll tell you where....HARRISON'S! Being a Balham dweller, this is literally on my doorstep therefore perfect for a nice midweek dinner out before rolling back home straight into bed in 5 minutes flat. I'd heard a lot about Harrison's so it seemed a good a time as any to give it a try. 

Located on Bedford Hill, Harrison's almost completely glass exterior makes it easy to spot, especially at night when it's all lit up. The inside was spacious and modern, albeit almost in a clinical way. However, this was quickly overlooked when we realised they had a huuuuuge list of cocktails, all of which were £5 all evening Sunday through to Wednesday. I've lived in London long enough now to know when I've come across a bargain! The cocktails seemed like a good place to start along with some nibbles.

We opted for the Raspassion Martini and the Vanilla Apple Martini, along with some mini chorizo and padron peppers (both firm favourites!). Probably not the greatest combination in the world but someones gotta do it...

The chorizo had an amazing kick to it and, unlike most chorizo, wasn't overly fatty which I personally prefer. The padron peppers were equally as good and were chargrilled enough to give it an extra element of flavour without just giving you the feeling of eating a lump of coal. For saying Harrison's is a typically British menu, their tapas was definitely something worth trying!

Starters were up next. After bickering over who would have what, we decided to go dutch and have the best of both worlds. The calamari was pretty good although I can't say it was the best I've ever had. It could have done with a lot more seasoning and perhaps less oil as it quickly became quite soggy.

This little baby on the other hand, was amazing! Meet Cornish Crab on Toast with Samphire and Brown Crab Mayonnaise. Pretty pricey for a starter (£13.50) but was worth every penny. When the rest of the Harrison's menu is so reasonable priced, I figured there must be a reason why this one was higher. It was so flavoursome and was plenty to share between the two of us. Would 100% recommend!

There was one main course which stood out to both of us. Pan Fried Sea Bream, Roast Courgettes & Chilli with Harrisa Aioli. It doesn't matter if you have no idea what half that means. Just give it a go and you'll be so glad you did. The sea bream was cooked absolutely perfectly with a crispy skin which wasn't oily. Because of the courgette base as opposed to the standard carby base, it was relatively light as well. Harrisa tends to be quite spicy, and this was no exception. However, it wasn't blended in to anything so you could easily push it to one side if it wasn't your cup of tea. I LOVED this.

Once again, our eyes had been bigger than our stomachs and we were struggling by now. Neither of us fancied sharing a desert, let alone having a whole one to ourselves. However, for a sweet fix, Harrison's do these great little "Brookies". They're basically almost like mini chocolate chip muffins but really gooey at the same time. These would be perfect with coffee but, not thinking about the hangover, we decided to get ours with another (large) glass of red. Were the Brookies needed? Absolutely not. But just as a small sweet fix, they were perfect. 

If you're ever in the area, I would honestly say that Harrison's is worth giving a go. The food was lovely and the atmosphere is good no matter what the occasions. However, next time I may order less food and just work my way through the £5 cocktail menu... has to be done. 


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Vanilla Chia Breakfast Pudding

Any foodie will have become well aware of chia in recent months, apart from those living under a rock. It has burst into the health-food scene as one of the most nutritionally dense foods around. So what exactly is it? These tiny little "superfood" seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, as well as being rich in fibre. Originating in Mexico, these seeds are far from new. Evidence has shown that they were a staple food for the Aztecs who, needless to say, probably didn't have to pay a whopping price tag like we do nowadays! Yep... unfortunately, as with most emerging health-foods, they don't come that cheaply but, if you have a look around, an offer is always found somewhere. 

Health wise, chia seeds have been shown to lower cholesterol, aid digestion (thanks to the healthy dose of fibre), and stabilise blood sugar. Studies are currently going on to see whether chia can act as a natural treatment for type-2 diabetes which could be life changing for an ever increasing number of people. How? Nothings been proven yet but it is thought that, due to chia seeds slowing down the rate of digestion, they help to prevent major blood sugar peaks and troughs. 

Anyway! Enough of the science talk. This breakfast pudding contains an absolute minefield of goodness to start your day. The texture may put some people off (think cold semolina?!) but I promise you'll be won over (possibly). The recipe below gives two large servings but you can easily adapt it if necessary.

You will need:

-450ml almond milk
-80g chia seeds
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-2 tbsp. honey (raw if possible)
-fruit and/or nuts of your choice for topping

Combine almond milk, chia seeds, vanilla and honey in a bowl. Mix well until combined and the mixture starts to thicken (chia is incredibly gelatinous so gentle stirring for about 5 minutes will achieve this). Store covered in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight if possible. If the pudding becomes to thick, add a little water before serving.

All that's left to do is to top it! I used peaches, plums and blueberries, but any fruit would do.

This is sooo easy to make. Worth a try just for the fact that it's something a little different!


Sunday, 31 August 2014


So this is a tale of two halves. I was sooooo looking forward to our night out at Gilgamesh; it had been in the diary for 6 weeks and was something we'd set aside cash for as we knew it was going to be extravagant. However, I can't help but feel it was one massive let down (more on that later). But, to give credit where credit is due, the food and setting were both amazing. So let's focus on that first...

As we approached the entrance of Gilgamesh, we were instantly in awe. The building itself is situated slap bang in the middle of Camden Lock and is hard to miss due to it's single doorway opening onto an escalator and the carved wooden exterior which is a theme throughout the building. It's hard to miss and, if you've ever been to Camden, it's probably somewhere you've walked past before without actually realising what it was. 

Once at the top of the escalator, we found ourselves in a foyer waiting for our booking to be found. Through the door we could see the bustling, lively, atmospheric and beautifully wooden carvings of the main restaurant. However, to our disappointment, we were led through the bar area and sat in what can only be described as an overflow section (brace yourselves...I'm leading up to a massive rant).

Once seated, we began to browse the menu. Gilgamesh runs a pan-Asian theme throughout the menu with the sushi being the key feature. Yes, it was pricey. But I kind of expect that when it comes to good quality sushi. I'm not sure I'd trust "bargain bin" raw fish to be honest!

We decided to have a selection of starters to share. Sashimi was an obvious choice for us as we both experience weird non-pregnancy cravings for the stuff from time to time, but I can't see squid on any menu without wanting it so that was quickly ordered too! As you can see, the presentation was amazing. Served on a bamboo mat over dry-ice, it definitely had the wow factor. This selection here (salmon, tuna, yellowtail and seabass) was £17.50 which, having compared this with other sushi brand sashimi, is actually pretty reasonable.

Scallop sashimi was added as afterthought as I'd heard it being raved about but was yet to try it myself. It was nice...but think I'd stick to cooked scallops in future!

This was the crispy squid with garlic chips and chilli, presented to look as if it is a portion of chips. I LOVED this! The chilli and garlic made a very normal dish into something a little bit different. 

Time for the mains. My lovely lady friend (don't get any ideas) opted for the Beef Bulgogi with Chive Mash. £22.50 for this which, for a very good quality piece of meat, didn't seem too bad. Can't say it was my cup of tea but she seemed to enjoy it!

I went for the Hoba Miso Chilean Sea bass. I'd spotted this as soon as I opened the menu. However, at £32.00 for this piece of fish on it's own, I thought it was a total rip off! I accept that sea bass is naturally quite expensive but I thought this was ridiculous. To be honest, it was pretty average flavour-wise and could've done with being served to me a few degrees hotter. Definitely a poor judgement call by me on this occasion...

To finish, we shared a dark chocolate pudding with a centre of lemon curd and pistachio ice-cream. It was nice but very sickly.  I'm not a massive chocolate lover at the best of times but this really was a bit much. The ice-cream was lovely though and was a welcome refreshing relief after everything we'd just eaten.

I can't fault Gilgamesh for the setting or the food (apart from the misjudged sea bass!). It was luxurious and lavish, which is what we had been expecting. However, when it comes to the overall service, I don't even know where to begin with how rubbish it was.

I suppose an obvious place to start is 6 weeks ago when I made the inital booking. Having seen on their website that they do a set menu for £55, I decided to call Gilgamesh to see if we had to pre-book that menu option or if we could just choose it on the night. I was told that we could choose that option on the night and, subsequently, decided I may as well make my booking over the phone there and then which the lady on the phone took all the details for.

Fast forward to 6 weeks later, standing at the bottom of that infamous escalator, waiting for the lady with the clipboard to find our booking. Nothing. "Are you sure you booked for Gilgamesh?" she asks. Eeeeerm yes I am absolutely sure. After 10 minutes of faffing about, we get taken to the foyer where we go through the same routine of being asked when/where/how/who/what made our booking. At this point I was asked to show them my confirmation email of which I had none. I explained that my booking was verbally confirmed to me over the phone and I had no idea I was even meant to expect a confirmation email. FINALLY we get told we can have a table but it won't be in the main restaurant area. We get led to the bar area which has nice tables in the window so we think it's going to be OK, until we get told that, despite being asked to choose a table, we actually can't sit anywhere near there so we end up in the above mentioned overflow area. Gutted much??

Issues continue when we open the menu to see no sign of the set-menu. When asking the waitress, we are told the set-menu does not exist. To this, I get their website up on my phone and show her the "non-existent" menu. She disappears off and reappears telling us it is not available on Saturday or Sunday nights. At this point I am fuming. I explain to her I originally called the restaurant in the first place to discuss this menu option and was told it was all doable. Regardless, we realise it is not specifically her fault so basically have to sit down and shut up. Because of this, our bill ended up being £100 MORE than what we had prepared for due to ordering from the a la carte menu. I'm all for having the occasional pricey dinner but, quite frankly, that was taking the piss. 

We tried to make the most of it and did have a nice evening but it was massively tainted by the cock-ups which were made from the start. To top it off, I sent an email of complaint to them the following day (something which I genuinely have never done before) and didn't get any sort of acknowledgement from them until over a week later. Now, I could be wrong here but, in all the restaurants/companies I've worked for, any complaints should be acknowledged within 24 hours, even if it's just to say that they are getting around to looking into the issue. From looking at recent reviews, it seems we are not alone on thinking their customer service leaves alot to be desired...

As I said at the start, I really did want to love Gilgamesh and I hate having to write a bad review. But it'll take a lot for me to hand over (a lot of) my hard-earned cash to them again.