Monday, 12 October 2015


Whether you live in Manchester, are visiting for a weekend, or simply just passing through, you NEED to head to Sanskruti.

All credit to my Sister-in-Law on this one who was looking for a restaurant to take a vegetarian friend and happened to stumble across this hidden gem. The menu is entirely vegetarian with a hefty amount of vegan options too - my attempt at going vegan would've maybe lasted longer than 3 days had I known about this place! Now, before you all turn your nose up at this for the lack of meat, I can solemnly say that my own Dad claimed he could become veggie after going here; something I don't think anyone thought he'd ever say (name and contact details available on request for those who don't believe me). 

"Sanskruti" literally translates to mean Tradition or Culture. It is obvious why they have called the restaurant this when you see the menu - if you're expecting to see Kormas or Tikka Masalas then you can jog on up the road to the curry house. Sanskruti serve up authentic and traditional dishes, reminiscent of the Indian sub-continent. The menu is HUGE. Check out their website here to see the full load but carry on reading to see a snapshot of dishes I've provided (I'm nice like that). First up, starters:

Aubergine and paneer with a few pomegranate seeds thrown in.
Added bonus is that it's gluten free. For those who don't know, paneer is a cheese which can be cooked without melting. Think of halloumi and you're on the right sort of track!

Mushrooms sauteed in an indo-chinese mix of garlic and ginger with mixed vegetables.

Tandoori Paneer Tikka. Has the tikki flavour that most are familiar with but with the not so common combination of paneer. Worth a try.

Masala Dosa. This is a traditional South Indian dish consisting of a fermented crepe made from rice batter and lentils, with a potato based filling. This one came with a mango chutney and an amazing coconut cream condiment.

Next up, mains and sides:

Mushroom Palak. This was a flavoursome combination of mushroom and spinach cooked in a mildly spicy "green gravy". Nothing too overpowering here so was a general crowd pleaser.

Kaju Khoya. This is a cashew-based dish consisting of stir fried cashews (obviously) in a creamy cashew and khoya based sauce. Khoya is basically evaporated milk solids - hence the richness. It wasn't too dissimilar from a Korma sauce although without the coconut.

Bhindi Masala. An okra based dish which packs a punch. Eat with caution. Or just have a cold beer at the ready!

Sev Tameta Nu Shaak. A tomato based dish cooked with cumin and ginger, topped with sev (vermicelli to you and me). I wasn't a massive fan of this as I'm not overly keen on tomato as a main ingredient but I seemed to be the only one with this opinion! A mild dish so no red faces to worry about.

Ringan Tameta. Aubergine and tomatoes cooked in gujarati spices. This was full of flavour considering aubergines can be quite bland.

On top of all the above, we also had a side of dahl, a HUGE hanging naan bread, two desserts and five pints of Cobra. The grand total? £95. Yep... a three-course meal with sides and drinks for 5 people for under twenty quid each. Fan-bloody-tastic. Now, don't get me wrong. I absolutely love London and don't plan on leaving our beloved capital anytime soon. But I don't even want to think what the cost of this meal would've been had it been based here! Sanskruti is authentic, unpretentious and all about the food. An absolute must.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Ben's Canteen

Ben's Canteen has been on my to-do list for a while now. For months, it's name has been popping up randomly whether it's my Twitter feed showing a constant barrage of people going there or colleagues at work mentioning it. When my best friend demanded that we go, who was I to refuse? 

Now, although the name makes it sound like a truckers stop, it is anything but. With locations in Earlsfield and Battersea, they appear to cater only for us South-West Londoners but I recommend people stepping away from their postcodes in order to try it out. 

We decided to try the Earlsfield one situated on a corner of the never ending Garratt Lane. Inside is quirky yet classy, with stripped wooden floors, long cushioned benches, a ton of mirrors and some pretty cool wall features. It has an intimate feel to it, without being at all suffocating or cramped - perfect for date night (kind of needing Tinder to pull through right now...).

Food wise, there's something for everyone. Steaks, salads, fish, pasta... "nothing out of the ordinary" you'd think, right? Wrong. The nachos come with a pestle and mortar to smash up your own guacamole, the fish & chips manages to be guilt free and just wait until you see the doughnuts for dessert. There is also an extensive drinks menu and they always have offers on such as 2-4-1 Tuesdays, a free espresso martini, bottomless booze brunches... awaiting payday really isn't necessary at Ben's Canteen.

Here's a little snippet of what you can expect:

Cajun Prawn & Baby Gem Lettuce Sliders. These are served on a mountain of guacamole and sour cream to give the whole thing a Mexican feel. Use a knife and fork or pick them up, wrap them up, and do your best not to get it all down you. Guess which option I went for?

Spring Shoot Super Food Salad with Chicken. It's nice to find a salad that can actually fill you up. This plate is piled high with quinoa, beans, lentils, asparagus, broccoli and chicken. You could choose to have it with smoked salmon instead or just plain. Either way, it'll always come topped off with some nice edible flowers which is all that matters really.

'Healthier' Fish & Chips. I could not fault this. I tried. But I couldn't. The hake was cooked perfectly and the polenta made a great alternative to your standard potato chips. With a side of avocado and tomato, this felt like an indulgent meal but had the added bonus of not actually being one.

Doctor's DIY Doughnuts. These are the sole reason my friend wanted to come here so it would've been criminal for her not to have them. Served up are a bowl of mini doughnuts and 3 syringes of gooey deliciousness for you to inject into the doughnuts at your hearts content. The custard one was definitely a winner between us but you could also play around with chocolate sauce and strawberry jam. If you're having a family meal and want the kids to shut up, just order these. It'll keep them occupied for a while at least!

If you're not convinced by the above then go to Ben's Canteen and try it for yourself. The service here is not to be sniffed at and if nothing else, you'll just want to stay and chat to the staff here. We had a young waitress who answered a gazillion questions and was incredibly helpful, and the waiter who took our orders definitely adds to the character of the place. I will absolutely be making this a regular spot, especially as my friend organised her entire birthday night here before we even left the place. In fact I might work my way through the menu by the end of the year. Game. On. 


Sunday, 16 August 2015


Tea is quite possibly the answer to every mind-boggler, good or bad. Graduated from uni? Great! Stick the kettle on. Someone died? Oh dear...I'll make us a brew. It's one of the simple pleasures we have all come to rely on. 

Over the past few years, the clever people at Teapigs have been working on creating more and more tea blends. Some traditional - earl grey, everyday brew; some a little more unusual - chocolate and mint, rhubarb and ginger. The range is so extensive there's bound to be one that even the non-tea drinker (do they exist?) would like. Not only have Teapigs got creative with their blends, they've also been coming up with different ways to serve them. Iced teas, teashakes and cocktail teas(!!!) are all easy to make either by using the ideas suggested on the Teapigs website (see here), or by coming up with your own.

I tried out a few of their tea blends and had a little experiment with a couple of them for myself.

The biggest difference I've noticed with Teapigs compared to other brands, is the intensity of the flavours. I don't usually like fruit teas because I always think they taste pretty wishy-washy, but the Super Fruit Teapigs tea is completely different. It actually tastes like fruit as opposed to sawdust. Kind of like a hot Ribena (without all the sugar!).

Likewise with the Lemon & Ginger and Mao Feng Green Tea. You get a much more authetic flavour without any of that gritty, metallic taste you often get with other brands. I tend to leave the tea bag in just to get some sort of flavour but that really isn't necessary with Teapigs. A couple of minutes brewing is all you need for a full-on flavour.

Now it gets fun. I decided to use the Darjeeling Earl Grey blend and the Rooibos Creme Caramel to come up with a few variations. As you can see, the results were pretty good. 

This ones for the kids (or big kids). All you need to do is pour 200ml boiling water onto the teabag and allow to steep for about 10 minutes. Pour into a blender along with 3 scoops of good quality vanilla ice cream and blitz. That's it! I topped mine with some caramel sauce and little fudge pieces. Not exactly a skinny dessert but we all need a treat now and again don't we?

This ones for the adults. Pour about 500ml onto two teabags and leave to steep for 4 minutes before topping with cold water and ice. Once ice cold, add a shot of gin (vodka would work too), add honey to taste and a slice of lemon. What you're left with the is a perfect, refreshing cocktail tea.

These a just a couple of examples of ways to jazz up your teabag. Both the ice cream and the cocktail teas could be used with almost any Teapig offering; just experiment with flavours and toppings!

Boiling the kettle just got interesting...


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Graze - Good To Go

Most people these days will be familiar with Graze by now, whether it's because they've tried their snack boxes themselves, or they've seen the numerous adverts in recent years.
For those who don't know, Graze started up as a revolutionary way to snack - by posting personalised snack boxes through your door with no minimum subscription  terms. With over 100 different snack varieties to choose from, the whole process is controlled via the website where customers can amend orders, pause deliveries, change delivery days, and generally just look forward to the sound of the postie delivering a lovely little box through your door. Until now. Yep - Graze have expanded in to retail which, if your letterbox is stupidly small like mine and won't allow the boxes through them, has come not a moment too soon!

The range available in store is considerably smaller than that available via the postage system, but the product types remain the same: flapjacks, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, pretzel dippers... you get the gist. Currently available in Sainsburys, Boots and WH Smiths Travel stores across the UK, the boxes range from just 99p up to £1.19. Bargain!

I was fortunate enough to be sent a few of their Good to Go boxes to try.

Buying in to the demand for high-protein snacks, this mix of edamame, spicy chickpeas and black pepper cashews is a perfect snack, especially post-workout!

The soy bites in this snack box provide the perfect salty accompaniment to the sticky sweet chilli dip. A great mid-morning snack

Remember Choc Dips?! This brings back memories of the Sunday morning trips to the sweet shop to purchase that old retro favourite. Kids will love the chocolate aspect whilst adults will love the taste of nostalgia.

I LOVE this one. With a mixture of fudge pieces, cookie pieces and salted nuts, this is the perfect combination of sweet and salt. Provides a great source of protein but also has a fair amount of sugar so don't get too carried away!

This one is great for lunch boxes to make a change from fresh fruit every now and then. Sugar content is high but all natural so no need to stress too much! Great mix of flavours between banana, blueberry, strawberry and cranberry

Both these flapjacks are great as a mid-afternoon pick me ups. However, enjoy them as an occasional treat due to the high sugar content.

Shown above is just snapshot of what's available in store. I think it's fair to say that there should be something here to please everyone, no matter what your lifestyle, age, gender etc. Whether you buy a single box as a quick grab n' go option, or you stock up to ensure you always have your favourite snack to hand, these boxes are an overall crowd pleaser. Enjoy!


Monday, 27 July 2015

Black Bean, Pistachio and Raspberry Brownies

On a Sunday afternoon, with a nagging hangover, I often find I need to do something to distract myself from feeling downright awful (I can't deal with hangovers in my old age!). This particular Sunday seemed a perfect opportunity to finally try out a recipe I discovered a while ago. I'm going to call it my own due to the tweaks made by adding pistachios and increasing the quantity of raspberries, but the use of black beans as a foundation for brownies is actually becoming more and more common. They get rid of the need for flour (great news for those with a gluten intolerance) but also makes what would usually be a guilty pleasure, a pretty healthy treat! Black beans are PACKED with fibre which is vital for healthy digestion. Not only this, but dietary fibre is brilliant for satiety so that one little brownie will go a long way. My old favourites - chia seeds and coconut oil - are also in these brownies meaning you get a good dose of protein and other essential nutrients.

You Will Need:
-4 tbsp chia seeds
-5 tbsp water
-170g maple syrup
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1.5 cans black beans, 
 drained and rinsed
-3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
-100g cocoa powder
-2 pinches sea salt
-1.5 punnets fresh raspberries
-1 handful pistachios, shelled

First off, preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper. Mix the chia seeds, water, maple syrup and vanilla in a bowl and set aside. 

Once you have drained and rinsed the black beans, place them in a food processor along with the coconut oil, cocoa and salt. Blend until just combined. Add the chia mixture to the black beans and pulse to incorporate. You should have a quite a liquidy mixture but it should still hold together and have a few lumps and bumps in it. It may look a bit questionable but just trust me on this!

Now you can remove the blade from the processor and gently fold in the raspberries. It may be easier to transfer the mixture to a bowl before doing this. Pour this mixture into the lined brownie tin. Bake for 30 minutes. The tops should be dry and the edges are pulling away. If you find that the middle is still too raw, cover the tin with foil to avoid the top burning but continue to bake for another 10 minutes, checking at regular intervals. Crush some pistachios over the top and press into the top whilst it is still warm. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before serving. 

These brownies are meant to be gooey so don't be too cautious and over-bake them. With no added sugar, the raspberries are what will supply the sweetness and the stickiness whilst the addition of pistachios provide a much needed crunch. Give them a go and see what you think!


Tuesday, 7 July 2015


For me, one of the more difficult aspects of healthy eating is when it comes to snacking, especially if you are on the go. Things like carrot sticks and dips are great but, as someone who already has to carry around heavy bags for work, I don't want to add to that! 

A friend of mine put me onto the idea of LifeBox. If you've not heard of it, think of a glorified Graze box. Graze deliver regular snack boxes to your door which you can personalise. LifeBox have the same concept but in a larger, more varied form. 

Originally set up by Jenny Sleath, she developed a love for healthy eating and an active lifestyle after her own long battle with being overweight and generally unhealthy. As a big believer in encouraging both exercise AND a good diet, she came up with the idea of LifeBox. With monthly alterations, you can select a one off box, or sign up to a monthly delivery. She offers a Mini Trial Box (containing bits and bobs from all the other boxes), a Womans Health Box, Mens Health Box, Junior Box for kids, Cleanse boxes and an Everyday box. I opted for the Everyday box as it seemed to be the most popular. As you can see, you get LOADS of goodies in one box. Here's just a few of them:

This is definitely better being made with milk as opposed to water as it isn't overly sweet. However, the coconut milk in this gives an extra twist on your standard hot chocolate

Matcha Green Tea is available in a lot of supermarkets now. Again, this isn't overly sweet but you can buy this in other flavours. Incredibly refreshing though with no sugar.

This Organic Banana Powder is a great nutrient burst to add to smoothies or dusting on desserts.

This chocolate is fan-frigging-tastic. No added sugar, no soya, no dairy and no wheat; this is the ultimate guilt free treat. Bursting with fruit inside, it's sweeter than your usual dark chocolate and sure to please the most avid chocoholic.

These crackers are packed with all natural ingredients and uses honey to sweeten, as opposed to refined sugar.

Within each box, you get a load of information about each item. What's really handy as well is little recipe cards that you can use. My box included a recipe for banana pankcakes using the Banana Powder, and a recipe to make almond butter popcorn. If you're already a foodie, or just curious about the new weird and wonderful ingredients that have been coming out in the past few years, then I think LifeBox would be great for you. I also think these boxes are great gift ideas; certainly a step away from your average box of chocolates! With boxes ranging from £15.00 up to £23.00, you may think these are't the cheapest thing in the world but all the items in the boxes are high-end products which retail at a high individual cost. Plus, the items last a LONG time. I received my box 3 weeks ago now and am still working my way through the products.

So, give it a go! You've got nothing to lose. And you may just find that you discover a love for new foods you never knew existed.



Out of the blue, an old uni friend and I recently got back in contact for a catch-up chat. We'd gone our separate ways 4 years ago so had a lot to talk about. Turns out the dark horse had only gone and set up his own business. Impressive stuff! I'd seen things posted about it on Facebook and Twitter but had no idea it was his own doing. After finding out more about the aptly named Pretty Smart Food Company, I was intrigued to sample some of the products for myself. 

With the philosophy "Pure, Mindful Eating", the Pretty Smart Food Company pride themselves on the fact that all their products are free from gluten, wheat, dairy, grains, GMO and soy. Not only this, they are totally organic, vegan and, as the name suggests, raw too. Now... I get it. On paper, this may make you want to run and get your hands on the nearest Mars bar but, having tried them myself, I would strongly encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. 

Introducing: Rawcha. These healthy little bars are based on the use of Japanese Matcha Green Tea, an ingredient with a ridiculous concentration of antioxidants in. Green tea is often attributed to it's ability to boost metabolism and increase energy so, if you like the sound of that but aren't a fan of drinking the green stuff, then you should definitely give Rawcha a try!

I was lucky enough to be sent a couple of samples: Cacao Bliss and Acai Goji. There is also a Citrus Zen flavour available. To avoid being totally biased, I gave them to a couple of all-too-willing friends in order to get their feedback as well.

First up, the Acai Goji flavour. As with all the Rawcha products, the ingredients label is a breath of fresh air. You may not have necessarily heard of some of the ingredients, but the point is that they are pure, unadulterated, unprocessed and natural - quite hard to come by these days! Both acai berries and goji berries have had a surge in popularity in the past few years, often being referred to as a new "superfood". Both are credited for their antioxidant properties and acai berries are commonly linked to weight-loss diets (I'll leave it up to you whether you buy into that or not...). Either way, with a zingy taste, they make this Rawcha bar almost citrusy in flavour and pleasing on the eye thanks to the vibrant colour of the goji berries. This bar is quite similar to the energy bars I made last year in that they are sticky due to being berry based (and having no cereal content) but are also deliciously sweet. The raisins and dates in this more than make up for having no added sugar. It was an even split in popularity between the two bars. Some liked this for the gooey texture and tangy taste. I, on the other hand.... all about the Cacao Bliss. For saying I'm not a huge chocolate fan, I was fully expecting to prefer the fruit based bar. But I fell in love with this one instantly. Again, the ingredients list is so easy to read, with no chemistry books required to figure out what everything is. As you can probably guess from the name, cacao is chocolate in it's rawest form. With practically no processing, cacao is high in antioxidants but also thought to be one of the highest sources of magnesium available to the human diet. Perhaps it is the lack of 
processing and therefore lack of sugar that appeals to me as you get the chocolatey flavour without the sickly sweetness. Lovers of dark chocolate will be a fan of this, I'm sure. With the addition of chia seeds, coconut oil and, of course, matcha green tea, this is one chocolate bar I can quite happily sink my teeth into. 

Currently based down in Brighton, the Pretty Smart Food Company have gained a lot of local recognition and can be found in 10 different stores across the area and even one in Hackney (see website for details). Not only this, but Rawcha bars were part of the May edition of LifeBox which I recently reviewed.

So keep your eye out for the Pretty Smart Food Company. I'm sensing big things for them. Just don't forget us little ones when you get to the top!


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Heddon Street Kitchen

There is a total abundance of great offers on at restaurants throughout London, with more and more established and well known restaurants getting in on the action. There's nothing wrong with a 2-4-1 deal at Pizza Express, but it's always good to branch away from the large chains at an affordable price.

Thanks to TimeOut, one of the biggest international review and offer websites, I came across an offer for none other than Gordon Ramsay's very own Heddon Street Kitchen on - surprise surprise - Heddon Street. The offer was a 3-course meal with a cocktail from a set menu for £26. Not bad, right? With a choice of three starters, three mains and three desserts, there should be something to please the majority of people. It's worth checking the menu on the website first though, just to make sure! 

As a midweek catch-up after work with one my nearest and dearest, it was great that we could make the most of the outside seating area which was already buzzing at 6pm thanks to the brilliant weather we've been having. Tucked down a side road off of Regent Street, Heddon Street Kitchen is in it's own little alcove which takes you away from the hustle and bustle. 
Having paid for the offer online in advance, the waitress knew to bring our inclusive cocktail almost straight away. It was prosecco based with a hint of grapefruit so perfect and refreshing for the summer evening!

Food-wise, I was more than happy with the limited options available. First up, English Asparagus, Parma Ham, Hollandaise and Parmesan. Simple ingredients, put together in a back-to-basics sort of way. There's no frills about this dish at all but, as long as you like the ingredients, it's an all-rounder! The hollandaise was a smooth and creamy consistency so it was clear it had been freshly made to order. I would say the large amount of parma ham compared to the small drizzle of sauce was the only down point as it made the dish quite salty. I'd have personally preferred the ratio the other way around!

Also to start was the Soft Shell Crab with Sesame Dressing and Coriander. Due to a strong aversion to coriander, we sent the poor waitress back and forth to the kitchen to see if this could be removed from the dish. She was more than happy to help and was able to serve it up coriander free, so bonus points on the service! Although the crab itself was flavoursome, it was definitely lacking in dressing. For saying the sesame was part of the name, it wasn't that obvious in the finished product. 

Mains next. I went for fish (obviously) and had the Wood Oven Roasted Trout with Watercress, Caper and Shallot Salad. The pros of this was that, for a warm day, it was nice and light. I don't have trout a lot, it's not a common occurrence on most menus weirdly. So I was looking forward to it. However, it was SO oily. I appreciate it has to be pan-fried to get the skin so nice and crispy, but it was as if all the excess oil had been poured on the plate as well. When the only accompaniment is some salad, the oil becomes very prominent. For such a simple dish, this could have been done a lot better. 

My dining buddy has always been a fan of meat. Having lived with the girl at one point, I can hands down say she makes the best slow-roasted pork belly EVER. So it was pretty obvious that she was going to go for the Roasted Hanger Steak with Spring Onion Mash and Peppercorn Sauce. Her eyes lit up with glee when it was placed in front of her. However, after chewing away on one piece for what felt like half an hour, she finally was able to tell me her jaw hurt and that was pretty much it! Again, a simple dish that could've been done so much better. The mash, on the other hand, was epic. So every cloud...

Finally, dessert. I went for the Pineapple Carpaccio, Passion Fruit and Coconut Sorbet. Light and refreshing, but after my tiny main meal, I could've probably done with something a bit more substantial. Fresh flavours, especially the coconut sorbet. Pretty much did what it said on the tin!

Also served up was a Vanilla Milkshake with Crushed Oreo Cookies. Not my cup of tea AT ALL but each to their own! Described to me as "Banging", I'm assuming it went down well. Somehow.

So as you can tell, the overall feel to the food here was a bit mixed. I think the menu itself is lovely, particularly the A La Carte Menu, but I was disappointed overall with what we got served up. Maybe it was our choices, maybe it was just an off day for them, but for a Gordon Ramsay establishment, I was definitely expecting more even it was a £26 offer! 

Having said all that, the setting was lovely and the service couldn't be faulted. I would happily go back for dinner there if there was a group of us as it's a chilled environment which is in an atmospheric setting but I won't be rushing to get my next booking in. Sorry Gordon!