Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A Borough Christmas

There is nowhere more festive in London than Borough Market at Christmas time. With its twinkling wreaths swaying high above shoppers and mistletoe hanging from the stalls, Christmas is well and truly in the air. I always think there’s a Dickensian charm about the market at this time of year, what with the sound of angelic carollers echoing and clouds of steam from vats of aromatic mulled wine wafting past your nose, a warm glow seems to emanate from the market. If that’s not enough to make you feel a hint of Christmas spirit, then I find that a glass or two of the wine soon will - accompanied by a freshly baked mince pie perhaps - essential for your shopping experience!

Christmas wreaths galore providing Christmas cheer for your front door

Now that’s a proper mince pie, from Bread Ahead

Warm your cockles with a mulled wine or cider, spiced with cinnamon, cloves and orange - just the thing to lift your mood and inspire good purchases…

You can get just about everything you need for a grand old Christmas Day at the market, even down to a beautifully bushy Christmas tree from Sharon at the Gated Garden (worry about the logistics of how you’re going to manoeuvre it home on the tube later) and thoroughly enjoy the festive experience of it all at the same time.

How about a Scottish Langoustine Cocktail to start with on the big day?

Gleaming Chestnuts - a great way to spruce up your sprouts

There is some wonderful produce around the market at the moment to inspire your Christmas cooking - from multi-coloured carrots and two-tone sprouts, through to free range, beautifully plump, turkeys and humongous hams, just waiting to be glazed. Personally, my number one Borough Market essential to take home at Christmas is a Mrs King’s Pork Pie. It’s a must on Boxing Day amongst my family and there would be an outcry if I returned home without at least two. The crumbly pastry and meaty filling is just the thing to combat your post-Christmas Day food needs; and all it requires is some good strong English mustard or sharp piccalilli to cut through the richness.

Mrs King’s pork pies - a Boxing Day essential

Multi-coloured carrots at Elsey and Bent to brighten up your Christmas Day veg display

Why have only one colour of sprout when you can have two?

So wrap up all warm and cosy in your multiple winter layers and turn Christmas shopping into an enjoyable experience. Be inspired by the array of produce at the market - it really makes Christmas easy when you can buy everything you could possibly need, right down to a beautifully made, glistening, fruit topped Christmas cake (no need to tell the guests it’s not homemade), all in one place.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Sunday Roast @ Pizza East, Shoreditch

For me a leisurely roast lunch is the absolute best way to while away a grey and cold winters Sunday, so I was very excited to be invited to try out the Sunday roast at Pizza East in Shoreditch. You wouldn't know it from the name, but as well as doing a cracking selection of antipasti and small plates along with pizzas (obviously), Pizza East also offers a Sunday Roast. So last Sunday I went along to try it, taking with me a plus one in the shape of my half-Mexican, Los Angeles born-and-bred friend Armando, who (shock horror) had never had a British Sunday roast lunch, so I was interested to see what he made of it too.

A bit of background for those who don't know Pizza East; it's a great place to pop in, have a nice meal from a menu that has something for everyone really, at good value, in a laid back atmosphere. Service is always prompt, and I've always found the staff to be really friendly, relaxed and not at all pretentious (as you can experience in other trendy East London joints).

We kicked off our experience with a couple of cocktails, a Picante de la Casa for Armando, which had a serious kick to it and was a highly addictive, zesty little number, made with limes, chilli and coriander. It certainly blew the cobwebs out! I opted for a Giallo, which was a well-balanced blend of crème de peche, passion fruit and basil. Once our tropical fruit-based cocktails had blown away any inch of winter blues, it was time to address the serious subject of food.

Picante de la Casa cocktail- highly addictive, with a good chilli kick

Pretty as a picture, my Giallo cocktail

Pizza East takes the difficult out of ordering for you on this one- there are 3 Sunday roast options; rib of beef, roast chicken & pork belly. All of these can be ordered for one or two people. So basically you pick your meat, and job done. I'm a roast beef and Yorkshire pud kind-of-gal pretty much every time, so my decision was easy, and my companion opted for the pork belly.

After a short wait, my plate arrived piled high with food, just the way a roast should be. I'm not going to say the presentation was a work of art, but to be honest with a Sunday roast, who wants perfect little precise portions? Not me, I say cram on as much as possible in this instance. The beef was a thick chunk of freshly carved rib, which was cooked beautifully, perfectly tender and flavoursome, with the fat being soft, buttery and delicious. The pork too was really well cooked, and had a good slab of crunchy crackling on it. Of course, it would make sense that the meat would be good, as I'm pretty sure it's roasted within their beautiful wood-fired pizza ovens. The veg was the real hero for me- roasted fennel added something a bit more interesting to the plate than usual roast accompaniments, the roasted carrots were sweet and still had a bit of bite to them, and the crunchy, fluffy roast potatoes were very good indeed. We also got a separate serving of steamed greens which added a nice freshness to my huge heart-attack-on-a-plate of a meal, and an extra jug of gravy each. I like to have my roast swimming in gravy so this was ideal.

Look at that lovely veg, such an important element to a roast.

My plate with half a cow on it.

After this HUGE plate of food each, we felt we really should sample the dessert, but were pretty full, so were considering something light and fresh perhaps, like a sorbet or fruit salad. So we opted for the salted caramel chocolate tart and the banana bread with caramel sauce and ice cream....I mean if you're going to do it, you may as well go all out. Again these were lovely, particularly the banana bread which was warm, comforting, stodgy goodness. Just what you need after eating all the carbs in the world..!

I always find that there's something very satisfying about a very precise slice of tart

Oh yes. Warm banana bread, cold ice cream, caramel sauce.

After this it was time to make a move, not least because I urgently needed to get home, get out of my jeans and into something with an elasticated waistband. I must say we had a lovely time, and I can confirm that Armando is a roast-convert now, so I think it was a good first impression for him of a British Sunday roast lunch. Thank you goes to the Pizza East staff for a great meal and top service. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Kimchi a la Vadasz Deli

Kimchi ingredients all lined up and ready for chop, chop, chopping! You can mix and match the root veg- I went for radish and orange and yellow carrots.

As part of the recent House of Ferment installation at Borough Market, I was commissioned to make and photograph Kimchi, a Korean fermented pickle, according to the Vadasz Deli recipe (http://vadaszdeli.co.uk/). Vadasz Deli is one of the newer traders at Borough Market, and sells a range of pickles and relishes. It's definitely worth a visit if your passing- my favourite is the fennel pickle, give it a try!

Kimchi, I discovered, is actually surprisingly simple to make- it involves a lot of chopping, mixing and fermenting, and that's about it. Below are the photographs I took of the process. I had a lot of fun with this one, and am looking forward to trying my creation (it's still fermenting), if a little terrified too....I'm pretty sure it's going to blow my head off, I was fairly generous with the Korean red pepper! For the full recipe, have a look here: http://boroughmarket.org.uk/traditional-kimchi  & here for more pictures, and step by step instructions http://blog.boroughmarket.org.uk/?p=10187

Crush the garlic, ginger and Korean red pepper in a pestle and mortar

Slice your root veggies nice 'n' fine. 

Salt the veggies- according to Nick Vadasz (brains behind Vadasz Deli) they should taste just a little too salty.

Mix it all up......

Leave to ferment.... (there's a knack to all this, see the full recipe here: http://boroughmarket.org.uk/traditional-kimchi )

It will look a tiny bit like some slightly terrifying science project at this stage...

I have no idea what I'm going to do with the final Kimchi product (it's just about ready to eat!), but I am planning on testing out a few recipes with it which I will post on here, so stay tuned for them. Or if you have any great kimchi-related recipes yourselves that you can share with me please comment below!

If you can't be bothered with the hassle of making your own kimchi, this stuff is the real deal. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Follow my day-to-day foodie findings via instagram :)

Pizza East Portobello- A light lunch.....

I was recently very excited to be invited to sample the new summer menu at Pizza East's brand spanking new restaurant in Portobello with a number of other fellow food bloggers. It's a hard life but someone has to do it...

We dined on the beautiful terrace, which I believe you can hire out for private dining (get in touch with them direct for queries: http://www.pizzaeast.com/portobello). It's the most magical little space, surrounded by trellis and flowering jasmine. I can't think of anywhere more lovely to share an informal lunch or dinner with friends.

We kicked off with cocktails galore- a cooling Eastern standard with Bombay Sapphire, cucumber and mint to start me off, followed by a zesty, refreshing, Aperol Twist.

Aperol Twist, don't mind if I do.

Then onto the food. We were presented with numerous little plates of antipasti, marinated olives & marcona almonds, a pretty little summery plate of seabass carpaccio with baby fennel and chilli which matched its appearance in taste, and a delightful plate of baby beets, with caprino fresco. This summery spread went some way in making me feel ever so slightly like I was no longer in grey old London, but on holiday somewhere in the med.

Good spread.

Can't go too far wrong with charcuterie, bread and pickles.

We also sampled a fresh and healthy tasting (in a good way) salad of smoked trout with mixed grains, pea shoots and mint, and an aubergine dish with tomato, oregano and pine nuts. I'm a sucker for anything aubergine, so this for me was a winner. If this is all sounding a little too healthy for your liking, we also had the garlic bread, which was a real show stopper, pimped out with masses of herby garlic butter, and the pork belly, which is definitely one for pork lovers, with some good crackling. On top of this were some rustic boards of charcuterie- wafer thin prosciutto, along with a creamy and luxurious burrata. All in all, things were looking up.

Good old aubergine, I'll never tire of it. Loved this dish.

One for the meat lovers- wood oven baked crispy pork belly.

When it came to ordering pizza (well we had to really) we went for a margarita (the sign of a good pizza restaurant is a good margarita- this one didn't disappoint), a veal meatball, prosciutto sage and cream pizza, a courgette, caprino, majoram & cream, and a salami, tomato and mozzarella to share, along with a mac & cheese. All pizzas were moreish, crisp and evenly baked, and well worth the dip in energy levels I suffered at work a few hours later, after this absolute carb-fest.

Courgette, caprino, majoram and cream pizza won me over.

Living the Italian dream on a dreary London day.

Mac 'n; cheese

By the time we had finished this little lot, we were well and truly stuffed, and as it was a Wednesday afternoon, work was sadly calling me, so I had to decline pudding and a glass of prosecco (for the first time ever perhaps) and roll my way back to work.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Pizza East, and would recommend it for anything from a light lunch, through to a great evening meal out (the cocktail list is a winner!). There's surely something for everyone at Pizza East- pizza fans, meat lovers and healthy eaters alike. I love it, because you know exactly what you're getting with it and it's not going to disappoint, or break the bank. It's down to earth, plus the staff were lovely and the ambiance of the Portobello branch is really cosy. I'm now looking forward to re-visiting in winter, as I reckon it'll be lovely with the wood fired pizza ovens built in at the back of the restaurant keeping you warm.

Thank you Pizza East for a great lunch. I'll be back soon!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Hurrah it's British strawberry season!

One of life's great pleasures- growing and picking your own strawberries (or any fruit and veg for that matter)!

The first British strawberry of the year is a treat indeed. Without a doubt these rosy beauties are the emblem of a British summer - a symbol of warmer days, sunshine and, of course, Wimbledon! A favourite amongst children and adults alike, summer simply isn’t summer without eating as many juicy, ripe strawberries as possible - whether chopped up in Pimms, strewn over a pavlova, popped into a glass of champagne, or simply slathered in cream and sugar, these glorious berries are ones not to be missed, particularly when in season.

Although originally bred in Brittany, France, it is my humble opinion that nothing beats a fresh English summer strawberry...apart from a whole punnet of them.  A bowl of strawberries and cream with a sprinkling of sugar makes an undoubtedly lovely and simple British summer pud. Or you could try your hand at jam making, which isn’t as scary as it sounds, makes the loveliest personalised handmade gift and means you can enjoy your strawberries well into winter.

And it's good news for health fanatics....strawberries are a fantastic source of vitamin C, fibre, folic acid and potassium. So enjoy them guilt-free (and just ignore the copious amounts of cream and sugar that you simply MUST have with your strawbs!) 

Vicky Sponge topped with strawberries- always a winner!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Lemon and honey roasted chicken thighs with asparagus quinoa and beetroot slaw

Having heard a lot about quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wah'), the new super-grain on the block, I decided it was about time to see what all the fuss was about and give it a go. Quinoa is a complete protein, which is great for those on a diet, as it fills you up in the same way rice or pasta would, but is far better for you. This is what sold me to be honest. I have to admit I'm a total carb-oholic. I love nothing more than a big bowl of pasta, or potato in any form. So to discover something that is good for you, and still gives you that same comforting 'full' feeling....that's pretty good.

A couple of key things I will tell you if your going to try quinoa. Firstly, make sure you wash it. It's a very bitter grain, and washing it thoroughly (like 3 or 4 times) helps remove this bitterness. Secondly, I think it needs to be paired with something. You wouldn't just eat a bowl of plain quinoa- it is a vehicle for flavour, but it is essential that you add flavour in the form of roasted veg, herbs, tomatoes, feta....whatever you fancy. My next quinoa adventure will be a quinoa tabouleh I think....

The below recipe is a lovely and simple mid-week dinner. It's also rather an attractive recipe, so would do perfectly for a casual dinner party with friends. Any leftovers also make a nice office lunch. I based this around a recipe from the BBC Good Food website, and added a couple of tweaks of my own. I added asparagus to the quinoa simply because I had some that needed eating, and I served my quinoa warm, whereas BBC recommend this as a cold salad (either would work). I also used fresh, multi-coloured beetroot, because I think if you can get it, it's much nicer! The honey in this creates a lovely sticky finish, as well as helping to balance out any bitterness left in the quinoa.


4 chicken thighs
3 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
2 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, cut into slices
2 tbsp runny, clear honey
250g quinoa
small bunch of asparagus

For the Beetroot Slaw:

2 beetroot, chopped finely into matchsticks
5 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 clove of garlic, crushed
small handful of dill, chopped finely

1. Heat oven to 200C. Place the chicken thighs, onions and carrots in a roasting tin. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with the olive oil and dot the lemon slices around the tray. Bake for 30 mins, then give everything a stir, drizzle with the honey and bake for another 15 mins until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

2. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa following pack instructions. Make sure you wash it thoroughly before cooking using a sieve, as this gets rid of any bitterness. 

3. Boil or steam the asparagus for 8-10 minutes till tender, then drain.

4. Mix the beetroot, yogurt, garlic, dill and some seasoning in a bowl. 

5. Drain any water left in the quinoa. Chop the asparagus into large chunks, and add to the quinoa. Add the roasted veg and 2 tbsp of the cooking juices and mix together.

6. Serve the chicken thighs and lemon slices on top of the quinoa, with a dollop of the beetroot yogurt on the side.

A sticky joy!

This beetroot slaw is just so fresh and delicious, it's lovely to have a big bowl of it in the fridge.

A good balanced meal.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Review of Restaurant La Forastera, on La Gomera

If you're in La Gomera, make sure you don't walk past this place.

I've just returned from a little sunshine holiday in La Gomera, the smallest of the Canary Islands. As you'd probably expect from such a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, the food on the whole was quite simple and rustic- nothing too fancy. We had a few dodgy meals (unidentified, mysterious cuts of meat, including a rather dubious pork chop that certainly was not a pork chop), and a few good ones too. Tapas style lunches were the way to eat out, with dishes like croquettes and Padron peppers being a speciality and always a hit.

However, I just had to dedicate a blog post to our best discovery, a restaurant called La Forastera, in the town of San Sebastian. We'd done a bit of research on trip advisor (classic tourists), and seen some really good reviews for this place, so we decided to go for lunch; and what a lovely lunch it was too!

We started off by ordering a bottle of white wine from La Gomera, which we enjoyed at one of the tables outside in the street, where we could people watch to our hearts content. The sun was out as we perused the menu, before shortly deciding on sharing one of each of the four tapas of the day, which included beef carpaccio, courgette and roquefort bake, bruschetta with prosciutto, and Galician octopus. We waited in anticipation, whilst discussing the merits of drinking at lunch time.... (it is rare for us to talk about anything other than food or drink as a family, worryingly so!)

After a short wait, our tapas arrived, each dish presented beautifully, garnished with delicious mixed seeds and balsamic dressing. The courgette and roquefort bake was surely a vegetarian's dream and a dieters nightmare; an almost fondue-like, cheesy, gooey delight- perfect for dunking a chunk of bread into. The Galician octopus was melt in the mouth, perfectly spiced and totally satisfying, served traditionally on sliced potatoes. The beef carpaccio was my personal favourite- I'm a sucker for rare beef. A little different from perhaps a standard beef carpaccio, this one had a lovely light mustard vinaigrette drizzled over the wafer thin beef, with lots of hidden surprises around the plate in the form of nuts and seeds, a red cabbage and beetroot slaw, topped with shavings of delicious local La Gomera cheese. The bruschetta was crunchy toasted garlic bread, topped with prosciutto...nothing not to like there really! Each of these dishes (pictured below) was 5 euros- you'd be lucky to get a bread basket or a few olives in London for that price! It really was good value.

Vegetarian dream- courgette and roquefort

Beautifully tender, spiced Galician octopus

Personal favourite- beef carpaccio presented beautifully

Prosciutto garlic bread- pure fatty indulgence!

After our tapas success we felt obliged to try more of the menu, so next up was the Quiche de la mama; a spinach, bacon and emmental quiche, flavoured with nutmeg, and a bacalao pastry which the menu informed us, was inspired by the owners trip to Lisbon. We shared these two dishes between us- both were delicious, though a bit heavier, so we were then ready to move on to our sweet course.

Quiche de la Mama

Bacalao (salt cod) pastry

We had a bit of a laugh about the menu as one of the deserts was translated rather ambiguously as 'chocolate coulant....cocoa purity'. Whilst not entirely sure what that meant, we were certain it sounded right up our street, so went ahead with ordering that and a Torta de Santiago (Santiago tart) with seasonal fruit. The Chocolate coulant, cocoa purity turned out to be a melting middle chocolate fondant, covered in chocolate sauce, which of course was heaven! The Santiago tart was a bit of a mystery to us- the base was a traditional almond-y cake, but it was topped with a mystery fruit (which we think was pear), glazed with a very light, fragrant, possibly herbal glaze.Whatever it was, we polished off the lot, and it was a lovely end to a lovely meal.

'Chocolate coulant...Cocoa purity' as described on the menu

Torta Santiago topped with seasonal fruit

The whole bill came to around 60 euros (for 4 people, with all that food and 2 bottles of wine), which was the best value meal of the year, let alone the holiday! The thing I really loved about this place, was how much it shone through that the chef (who is also the owner too I believe) cared about each plate. Every single dish we had was made fresh, and real attention to detail had been taken to make sure each plate looked beautiful. With the competition in the local area not being huge, I think it was really nice that there was really no need for them to be this good, and yet they still went that extra mile to create a really special meal for each and every diner, which was also incredible value.

If you can't already tell, we left as big 'La Forastera' fans- there's really nothing better than having a great meal, and at the end of it being so pleasantly surprised by the bill. This was by far the best meal of the holiday, and I recommend everyone who visits La Gomera to go and find this place and have a great value, quality lunch or dinner!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Easter Parade at Borough Market

The team at Borough market commissioned me to write a blog post on Easter & Spring time in the market, which of course was such a joy to do. See the original article on the Borough market blog here: http://blog.boroughmarket.org.uk/?p=9252 

What a warm welcome the Gated Garden provides at the entrance of the market

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris and Easter is just around the corner. Thank goodness we’ve seen the back of dreary old January and February and can now look forward to brighter weather and longer days; and what better way to celebrate the first glimpses of Spring (and being able to step out of your front door without ten layers and an umbrella in tow) than a leisurely stroll around Borough Market, which is just bursting with vibrant colours and incredible produce at the moment.

Spring time in the market

The vivid green of fresh spring shoots is just a treat for the eyes

‘tis the season for lots and lots of daffodils

Fragrant Cherry Blossom brightening up everyone’s day outside Southwark Cathedral

Spring is a time of freshness and colour and nowhere showcases that more than at Borough Market. From Spring flowers - the absolute emblem of the season - raising their cheery little heads, to glossy seasonal cabbages stacked high, right through to the much awaited new season Easter lamb which is beginning to pop up here and there, it’s enough to inspire anyone to get in the Easter spirit and start cooking.

A magnificent cabbage at Elsey and Bent

Stacks of candy coloured forced Rhubarb - impossible to miss

New potatoes and fresh peas - the perfect accompaniment to Easter lamb
UK home-grown purple sprouting broccoli at Ted’s Veg needs no more than a quick steam

The approaching radish season gives us two reasons to celebrate

Fresh veg at Turnips

It’s a shame that Easter doesn’t seem to generate anywhere near the same amount of excitement as Christmas does, especially as it’s a time when so many terrific ingredients from the UK are becoming available. But for me, Easter is still a great excuse for a party and the ideal opportunity to raise a glass of champagne and demolish some juicy roast lamb.

Lamb at the Ginger Pig- a meat-lover’s paradise

Luscious lamb chops at Cumbrian Meats

Of course Easter isn’t Easter without a fresh hot cross bun smothered in butter for brekkie. These buns are surrounded by many superstitions from Old English Folklore, each as mad as the next, including one that says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will keep until the following year (I wouldn’t risk it!). Another insists that if taken on a sea voyage, they protect against shipwreck……so do be sure to stock up if you’re planning to take to the sea anytime soon.

Hot cross buns over at the Flour Station - not quite ‘one a penny, two a penny’ these days sadly, but definitely worth the investment.

Of course every good Easter celebration is not complete without more than your fair share of chocolate. And let’s face it, we’ve all pretty much given up on any new year’s resolutions by this point, so it is the perfect time to enjoy a chocolate egg or two (or three or four…).

Mini eggs at Artisan du Chocolat - far too good to be hidden round the garden.

Egglets at Rabot’s 1745

So make the most of the Easter seasonal produce this year; have a wander around the market and see what you find. I’m sure you will be inspired to get cooking (and eating!).