Month: March 2016

Braised beef cheeks with pear and bitter chocolate sauce

I know you’re probably thinking, what the hell? It does sound bizarre! But Tim saw Michel Roux Jr. cooking this up on a TV programme the other day and really fancied giving it a go. I’m all for unusual food and trying out new things, so we bought all the ingredients and cooked it over the Easter weekend! Ingredients For the white bean purée 85g/3oz dried white beans 2 bay leaves sprig of rosemary sea salt small knob of butter 200ml/7fl oz double cream, heated to a boil For the beef cheeks 2 pears 2 tbsp lemon juice 2 beef cheeks, trimmed and cut into 4 equal-sized pieces sea salt oil, for frying 1 onion, sliced 1 garlic clove, sliced 125ml/4fl oz port 1 orange, juice and zest 1 litre/2 pints beef stock 1 tbsp cracked black pepper 16 button onions, peeled 50g/1¾oz butter 60g/2¼oz chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, broken into squares Method For the purée, soak the beans in water overnight then drain well. Place the beans in a pan of fresh water and …

Dinner at Orlando’s, St Lucia 

When we were researching restaurants in Soufrière ahead of our stay there in January, we read and heard great things about Orlando’s, located in the main town close to the beach. Generally when I find somewhere I want to go to, I tend not to look into it much further, as I still want there to be an element of surprise. So we jumped in a taxi from our hotel and headed for dinner at Orlando’s, to celebrate Tim’s 30th birthday, not knowing quite what to expect, yet expecting good things! Orlando’s restaurant is owned by British born and internationally trained chef, Orlando Sachell, and serves ‘Ti Manje‘,which means small plate of food in the local Kwéyòl language. Orlando uses only the freshest local fish, meat and produce to create his masterpieces. We were seated in a beautiful little courtyard, adorned with local sculptures, paintings and décor. We ordered the set menu,  which consisted of: Pumpkin soup Cocoa ribs with red onion and papaya jam Kingfish and curry risotto with ginger fruit salsa Jerk pork and …

Icing Easter ‘Biskies’ at Cutter & Squidge, Soho

Last week I discovered the ‘biskie’.  You run the risk of sounding like a toddler trying to pronounce ‘biscuit’ when saying it, but this is actually a delicious hybrid of biscuit, cake and cookie, filled  with light buttercream! It’s the brainchild of sisters Annabel and Emily Lui who started out selling them at Partidge’s food market in 2013 under the name ‘Cutter and Squidge’, and after successful commissions for Selfridges and Harrods, ending up taking full time residence at a shop/cafe in the heart of Soho. I was invited to a biskie masterclass at Cutter and Squidge, and for some reason I thought we would actually be baking biskies, but in fact we we trying (yum!) and icing them (fun!). It makes sense – I can’t imagine they’re going to be giving up their recipe for someone to copy and time soon. Because they’re really good! I was led downstairs to the very cute ‘secret garden,’ filled with vines, hanging fruits and flowers, designed by Callum Lumsden. We started off trying some ‘mini’ biskies’ in a …

Moroccan Lamb with Chorizo & Chickpeas

This is something I threw together rather spontaneously the other night. We had some lamb shanks in the fridge and I wanted to try something a little different, aside from the usual roast with veggies, mint etc. This is a rich and meaty dish, that brings out the flavours of the lamb while giving it a nice, spicy kick! And it’s very easy to do, all in one pot on the hob! Ingredients 2 lamb shanks 150g diced chorizo 2 onions, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 400g tin of chickpeas (drained) 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes 10 chopped, dried apricots 1 tbsp ras el hanout 1 tbsp crushed chillies 100ml beef stock 2 tbsps plain white flour salt and pepper olive oil Method Coat the lamb shanks in the flour. Heat some olive oil in a deep casserole pan on a medium heat and add the lamb shanks for a few minutes until they’re nicely browned. Remove the lamb shanks and set aside. Add a little more olive oil and cook …

Dinner at Bird of Smithfield, Clerkenwell

I’d come across Bird of Smithfield online a while ago, and had been meaning to pay it a visit, but I don’t tend to find myself in the Clerkenwell area very much any more, since we moved from East to South London. Bur I recently got the chance to try it out with Ceri, and was really looking forward to it. Bird of Smithfield is set in a contemporary 5 floor Georgian town house, right opposite Smithfield Market. Now I’m going to say right now that my photos from the evening weren’t great – the restaurant was very dimly lit, and as this was a particularly ‘nice’ place, I didn’t want to ruin the evening for other diners by getting a second light out to try and get better shots. So I’m going to include a mixture of some of my photos and some taken from the website, to show the place off in the best light possible. But trust me, each plate of food was beautifully presented! While we were there, it was evening …

Easter Cupcakes with Lavolio & Bake With Maria

One of my favourite companies I’ve come across since starting this blog is ‘Bake With Maria’, a wonderful baking school based in North West London. You may have read my posts about their chocolate event and baking with rye class. And recently, they introduced me to another lovely company called Lavolio, a boutique confectionery company. Their products are handmade by Artisans with real fruit, nuts and spices, and they’re 100% vegetarian and gluten-free. Each sweet can take up to five days to make. You can watch a video about the production process here: Lavolio Artisan Production from lavolioboutiqueconfectionery on Vimeo. Lavolio were kind enough to send me some of their Nutty Easter Eggs. Inside each white egg is one of three chocolate flavours – Extra Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut Gianduia Chocolate, and White Amaretto Chocolate. And Bake With Maria provided a cupcake recipe to put them to good use (probably a good thing, otherwise I could easily have eaten the whole box!) Ingredients: • 125g self raising flour (you can use gluten free flour here) • 125g …

1st Anniversary Lunch at Native, Covent Garden

At the end of last month, Tim and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. It was on a Sunday, so we wanted to go for a nice lunch, somewhere fairly chilled but with great food and something a little different. I’d been seeing some gorgeous photos of a new restaurant called Native in Covent Garden, and so we thought we’d give it a try! We really didn’t know what to expect as the website doesn’t give much away. As we arrived, there only seemed to be a few tables in the restaurant, but we were led downstairs ‘underground’ to more seating. We were a bit alarmed to find we were the only people down there, but it soon filled up and the little space was buzzing. Native is very rustic in design – it focuses on wild food and game – so the décor is very similar. Clean white walls with touches of flowers and wood dotted around, with handmade wooden tables and chairs. The chef and co-owner Ivan was trained at River Cottage, which …

Dinner at VOC Grill, King’s Cross

I seem to be making a habit of getting lost in London at the moment (mostly thanks, or perhaps no thanks to Citymapper!) – the latest navigation fail was trying to find VOC Grill in King’s Cross. I was meeting my buddy Charlotte who I first met a year ago when she was doing the PR for Barber’s cheese. People who like cheese are always good people 😉 I eventually found the bar and restaurant – it was tucked away in a courtyard next to Camino, unfortunately not very well signposted, unless I was just being silly. But then Charlotte encountered the exact same issue, so maybe it’s not just me! The website for VOC Grill really intrigued me – it describes itself as having a homely, speakeasy-style feel, and the cocktails just looked insanely good!  It was a Thursday night (and surprisingly dry!) so it was packed outside with people having post work drinks. On arrival it was smaller than I was expecting, but that’s often a good thing, especially if the aim is to be a …

Tree to Bar Experience, St Lucia 

One of the many reasons I was excited about our stay at Boucan hotel in St Lucia was the ‘Tree to Bar’ experience. I’ve always appreciated good chocolate (I mean, who doesn’t?!) and learned a bit about the chocolate making process when I attended a class at Bake with Maria earlier last year. So to be able to get to experience it in the flesh in St Lucia was incredible! As I mentioned in my first post about Boucan, the hotel is owned by Hotel Chocolat and is located on the historic Rabot Estate. As you walk around the grounds, you’re constantly surrounded by cocoa trees, adorned with pretty red, yellow and purple pods, which will soon be made into chocolate. We were given a tour by our expert guide Merle who was incredibly knowledgeable, walking us through the whole process from planting the trees and their maintenance on the estate, through to sorting the beans and making the choccie! We were shown how to carefully pick the pods from the trees, making sure the …

Pretty Food and Cocktail Making at Rum & Sugar

Last month I got possibly the most lost in London that I’ve ever been. You know the kind of lost where you actually get a bit panicky, because you literally can’t work out where to go? It happened in Canary Wharf, which is in fact the usual location of my ‘getting lost escapades’ in the capital. Why is that place so damn confusing? I was trying to get over the river to West India Quay from Canary Wharf station, but because the bridge was closed, this was near impossible. I eventually found a solution, which I will share with you later. The reason for this tirade as part of the blog post? Even though I got lost for a good half an hour, it was worth it in the long run! I was invited to dinner at Rum & Sugar, a bar and restaurant which boasts a collection of over 150 rums! We got quite into our rum when we were on holiday in St Lucia earlier in the year. We even brought a really …