Taste Of London Festival 2014 (A late post – oops!)

I toyed with the idea of not writing this post because I have taken so long to bloody do it; but then I realised it’s my blog and no one probably cares that this post is a little late…

So here we go: Taste Of London Festival 2014.

This year, myself and my equally as food obsessed housemate decided to actually buy tickets to Taste Of London Festival rather than talking about it. And what a excellent decision that was!

We booked the afternoon Saturday session (5:30pm – 9:30pm) but unfortunately didn’t arrive until just before 6pm because I was being silly and hungover and kept forgetting stuff every time we left the house. Duh. When we eventually arrived we jumped straight into our Sushi Masterclass with Inamo that we had pre booked (at an extra £15 each)

TASTE FESTIVAL
The class was really great…we were given enough of the ingredients and didn’t have to share any tools. We learnt a lot, the biggest thing for me being is that I can’t make sushi very well. My hands are too just big. I would definitely recommend booking a masterclass of some sort when you are there though as it’s cool to be taught by the experts at a fraction of the price.

My Sushi
We spent the rest of our time wondering around the different stalls, taking full (and polite) advantage of the free samples, talking to stall owners, buying a few dishes with our crowns and generally soaking up(in?) the atmosphere.

FYI the TOL currency is crowns; 1 Crown = £1 and dishes range from 3-5 crowns, wine is 4-6 crowns and cocktails are 6-10 crowns.

We took a trip to the KAMM & SONS cocktail bar and indulged in some 7 crown cocktail. I can’t remember the name of the cocktail (promise this was my first drink) but I’m pretty sure it had gin in (which is my favourite) and it came with an amazing yellow and white stripped straw. Man I love a good straw. Oh and it tasted nice and summery and stuff.

KAMM & SONSIgnore the faulty ‘S’ above on the end of KAMM…

I had a Chicken Massaman curry and rice from Suda Thai  and it was pretty special; bursting with flavour and the chicken literally fell apart. It was a great sized portion for only 5 crowns. It’s was so amazing that I’m now working out when I can take a visit to the actual restaurant!

I also grabbed some Vension Puff’s from Yauatcha - I’ve been to the restaurant before and it’s incredible and you’ll be pleased to know their offerings at TOL did not disappoint! Unfortunately I was FAR TOO FULL from all the free samples that I didn’t enjoy the puffs as much as I should have, but I still picked at the sweet Vension inside and it was be.a.u.t.i.ful.

There was a whole range of demonstrations and talks throughout the session – we kept getting too distracted by all of the fun stalls and their staff to actually make it to a talk in time.

They are a bit cheeky in the fact you can only books of crowns in multiples of 10 and you can’t exchange any unused crowns for cash at the end.

My personal highlights: 
1. KAMM & SONS cocktail bar, the waiter was really great fun and didn’t mind humouring us.
2. The free samples of EVERYTHING…gin, wine, sauces, crisps, popcorn, macaroons, vegetables, cake, starters, mains, deserts, literally EVERYTHING.
3. Being with a fellow foodie who wanted to learn and indulge, just like me.
4. Taste Of Thailand – every stall had such flavoursome and interesting dishes with amazing enthusiastic staff.
5. The handbook full of every little detail you need to know, which is FREE!

Reasons I’ll go back next year:
1. It’s amazing to be around other people who love food as much as you – it makes you feel less bonkers.
2. The quality of every stand – there wasn’t one product that looked unappealing/rubbish.
3.. The layout it really great; easy to navigate around and not too big.
4. Ticket cost versus what you get out of the session (it’s great value for money)
5. I love food (is that a good enough excuse).

I would totally recommend taking a visit next year – we had a brilliant evening! Thanks Taste Of London Festival  :)

BAKING: Churros!

When living in Bondi Beach, Australia, I developed an unhealthy obsession with CHURROS. I’m not sure what kept taking me back to those little, sweet, doughy pieces of heaven but I couldn’t get enough. The other day when I was sat thinking about my amazing year in Australia and questioning why I spend 2 hours a day squashed on the Central Line, I decided to make some churros to cheer myself up. A quick google (shock) and I came across this easy BBC Good Food recipe. I should point out here that when I decided to make churros that evening, I had already come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t mess about making a chocolate sauce and would simply melt the large Cadburys Fruit & Nut bar I had hiding in my cupboard. I got to work making the relatively simple dough (from following the recipe) and all was going well until I realised I wasn’t strong enough to de-lump my dough but I left it to rest anyway and prepped my nozzle and piping bag. I never actually realised that a star nozzle and piping bag would be needed to make the churro shape but I guess it makes sense… **If you are making the chocolate sauce included in the recipe I’d recommend making it now**

 CHURRO11 After boiling up the sunflower oil and stuffing my piping bag with the rested dough (that was actually a difficult and messy task) I began the piping and cutting the churros. It’s useful to have an extra pair of hands for this part as you are dealing with VERY HOT oil and the cutting and pipping routine can be a little tricky, so it’s best to grab anyone thats around to help and avoid any oil related disasters. It was pretty smooth sailing for me once I had got the piping and cutting routine sorted. Straight after the churro came out I would leave it on some kitchen roll to de-oil and then I would transfer it to my pre made cinnamon sugar tray for some shaking around. CHURROS23 You can have fun with the size/shape of your churros which great and I’d say one batch is enough for 4 people to have a churro only meal (which is a lot of churros!). Unfortunately, on eating, it turned out about 60% of my churros were not cooked enough inside – I should have left them in the oil for longer and not worried about them being overdone. I’d say experiment a bit before committing to cooking time. No one likes uncooked dough. 

 The churros were actually incredible and the melted Cadburys went perfectly with those well behaved cooked ones – perfect t for any dinner party, BBQ, weekend treat, weekday treat, birthday party…actually they are perfect for any time. CHURROS

BAKING: A Choctastic Torte (Meg Rivers Home Baking)

So, on this journey of kitchen experiments I have apparently found myself on – I decided to bake a torte. I have never baked a torte and was unsure what it was supposed to look/taste like but it was the only thing in the cook book that I could successfully travel from Essex to London for a dinner party.

Taken from the beautiful and comforting Meg Rivers Home Baking cook book, this recipe is all about simplicity, chocolate and great taste (who wouldn’t want to bake something that tasted like Nutella?)

The ingredients were pretty straight forward…
100g whole, balanced hazelnuts
250g dark/bittersweet chocolate (I used Menier Dark Cooking Chocolate)
100g salted butter
6 eggs
1/2 cream of tartar
120g caster sugar

For the ganache topping…
200g dark/bittersweet chocolate (I used Menier Dark Cooking Chocolate)
125g salted butter
4 tablespoons of whole, blanched hazelnuts

23cm round cake tin (for the first time in my life I actually had the correct sized cake tin!)

Baking

Firstly, please be warned - DO NOT BUY UN-BLANCHED HAZELNUTS UNLESS YOU ENJOY PAINSTAKINGLY PEELING 200G OF HAZELNUTS ONE BY ONE I made this error and I began to hate the torte before I even started to bake. Don’t make the same mistake as me, hunt down those blanched hazelnuts.

It was a fairly simple recipe (which I can post on here if anyone needs?) and turned out to be a pleasure to bake. My mum has a troublesome oven but we powered on and I got a great consistency with the torte which I was pleased with, although, it did taste a little ‘torte’ and I’m not sure if the chocolate I used was too dark?

Ta Da!

Be warned, this is very chocolatey. It’s not Devil Cake level but you definitely need a 30min break after dinner before you can tackle a slice. The hazelnuts come through beautifully which does give a lovely mature edge to the torte – this would be a hit with the guys also!
The ganache recipe is also a great one, very simple and effective although mine did require some cooling just to get a good spreading consistency. I also recommended getting some double cream to serve with to take off the edge.

This torte got many thumbs up – a recommended recipe! (Again, happy to post step by step if someone wants :) )

The Chelsea Cafe, Bath

One time in Bath, pre dog walk, Mr A and I grabbed a coffee from The Chelsea Cafe, in Bath. It looked amazing inside and I was gutted we didn’t get a chance to sit down and investigate properly.

Luckily last week we had some time to sit down in the sun and take a further look.

From the outside it doesn’t look particularly amazing, just like a normal coffee shop really, but inside it has a effortless, trendy London feel where you can see that they really care about their coffee and fresh local producee – they have written a nice little piece about their suppliers here

Chelsea Cafe
We ordered two flat whites (of course) and some sandwhiches – I went for a tuna melt & Mr. A later regretted his boring chicken and mustard choice (not slating the sandwhich, it was indeed very nice just a bit boring). They also had a larger menu of brunch options but we failed to notice that before we ordered #fail

Sandwhich

The staff were really lovely and there was such a happy feel to the place, everyone in there just wanted to take some time and enjoy a coffee with a friend or family. We were lucky to blag a seat outside and had lovely views of Bath as the cafe is at the top of a REALLY BIG hill.

Chelsea Cafe
Here you can also see an amazing brownie and a gluten free flapjack which was SO tasty. Probably a little over indulgent but oh well.

The Chelsea Cafe was resonably priced – all of the above came to about £19, what I think you would expect from a independant coffee shop in a nice area.
You can check out the website HERE

CHELSEA CAFE: 8E CHELSEA ROAD, BATH, BA1 3DU

Patty & Bun – Liverpoool Street, London

WHERE: Patty & Bun, 22/23 Liverpool Street, London, EC2M 7PD
WHEN: 20/05/14
WHY: Long overdue catch-up with a travelling friend

I had the task of of taking an Aussie friend for dinner somewhere East, easy, fun and quick (as our evening was more about cheap wine & chatting then about the food)

I thought that the newly opened Patty & Bun in Liverpool Street would be a good shout as I hadn’t tried it yet – I have been James Street branch before and had an amazing time (would HIGHLY recommend)

The Liverpool Street P&B is more take-away focused; there are a small number of benches and high tables rather than tables, they don’t serve booze, the menu is slightly more condensed and the space is smaller. We were totally down with that though and didn’t actually have to wait long to nab a table! (Just under 10 mins I think…may have been because it was a Monday or even because people don’t like burger hype as much in Liverpool Street?! who knows..)

I went for the Smokey Robinson (naturally) and my co-diner chose the ARI GOLD Cheeseburger (I think he was a little scared of the unknown so went for the safe option).

I also chose the  Thunder Thighs as a I side which I instantly knew was a mistake. I had these before and vaguely remember disliking them for some reasons – unfortunately, to me, they taste like tea. Like actual PG tips tea and and I seriously hate tea. My co-diner was having a ball though and couldn’t get over the fact “the meat is just falling off the bone!” I do think they are good thighs – they are definitely saucy enough, but just not for me.

Collage1 final
Our burgers had arrived with the wings and we got stuck in – they came on nice little trays which I suppose is trendy and there emphasis the take-away focus.

The meat is so incredibly juicy, juicer then any other burger I have tried. So juicy I would actually advise making a small well with your wrapper to collect all of the said juice!
They get literally get everything right…the bun, the condiments (the burger sauce they use is DELICIOUS) how they cook the PATTY (all burgers come medium-rare unless specified I believe) and the caramelised onions that come in the Smokey Robinson are perfection.

I’d say this could be my favourite burger place in London, I just prefer the James Street (London) branch because you can sit down and make more of a meal out of it.

Juicy

Mid-range price for the burgers (£7.50-£8.50) and the meat sides are £5.50, slaw is £3 (stupid price for slaw) and chips are £2.50

My Aussie co-diner was actually in awe, he couldn’t believe how tasty a proper burger could be. He didn’t speak for a while why he processed what had just happened to him.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Check out the website here 

BAKING: Wonderful WHOOPIE pies!

After going to Southbank in London the other weekend and paying £3.25 for a average tasting, hard, marshmallow-less Whoopie pie; I wanted to give them a whirl and see a) how easy they are to make and b) if I could do it better myself. 

A quick google search led me to Simon Rimmer’s BBC Good Food recipe and I chose it because it was pretty straight forward and had simple ingreients. INGREDIENTS & METHOD AT THE BOTTOM

I got to work and made sure I took my time doing everything right (I feel like whoopie pies are a little like Macaroons in the sense they are extremely sensitive so I wanted to avoid any mishaps)

Step by step
The batter turned out ganache-like; thick, shiny and very chocolatey. I used a measuring (table) spoon to measure out the whoopies on the baking tray – this would have been SO much easier if I had used an ice-cream scoop so I could get them all the same size (so they match up) annoyingly I have found printable size guides for Macaroons (that go under baking the parchment) but not for Whoopie pies :( it was hard as I had literally no idea how big the halves needed to be.
Whoopie

Unfortunately there were a few important factors that were left out of Simon’s recipe which made the whole experiance a little tricky! These being…

1) An indication on how well baked the whoopie pies should be after the first half of cooking is complete before you add the ‘mellows and re-bake. I think mine were a little underdone
2) How long should whoopie pies be left after the first bake (before you put back in with mellows) I wan’t sure if they needed to be completely cooled or not – mine also ripped a fair bit as I took them off the tray
3) What the overall consistency of the whoopie pie should be when finished cooking. I think mine were ever so slightly under-baked. Although, this did make them deliciously chewy, a bit like brownies and they went down a TREAT
4) I think the timings are totally wrong, I know all ovens are different but they were literally raw after I had baked for 6-8 mins

They also came out a little cracked, which has confused me, so I need to investigate as to why this happened.

the end
I made some friends very happy with these; they were relatively easy to make and so incredibly tasty. A definite must try!
I will be making these again for sure and perfecting before (the sizing being the real hurdle for me) I move on to the many amazing different types of WHOOPIE pies you can bake.

INGREDIENTS & METHOD BELOW (link also to webiste above):

Ingredients

  • 125g/4½oz butter

  • 150g/5½oz chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, plus extra for melting (optional)

  • 225g/8oz sugar

  • 3 free-range eggs

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 250g/8¾oz flour

  • 30g/1¼oz cocoa powder

  • ½ tsp baking powder

  • 18 marshmallows

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. (Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water.)
  3. Whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla together in a separate bowl then fold in the chocolate mixture.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together, then fold into the chocolate and egg mixture.
  5. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray (the mixture should make 36 biscuits) and bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and set aside half of the biscuits on a cooling rack. Turn the remaining biscuits over and place a marshmallow on top of each. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until the marshmallows have softened.
  7. Remove from the oven and set aside on a cooling rack to cool slightly. Press the cooled biscuits on top.
  8. Optional: Melt 100g/3½oz extra chocolate and pour this over the cookies, then set aside to cool.

HONEST Burgers, London

WHERE: Honest Burgers, 4 Meard Street, London, W1F 0EF (Soho Branch)
WHEN: 12/05/14
WHY: Long overdue catch-up with a good friend

I shamefully have never been to Honest Burgers, so when my friend suggested we go, naturally I was “proper buzzing”.
It feels far more humble than Meat & Liquor (whose burgers I don’t actually rate) and the door lady was very friendly…she doesn’t make you queue – she had an ingenious system of taking your name AND TELLING YOU WHEN TO COME BACK! Who’d of thought aye, an actual system that means you don’t have to stand outside in the rain like a pillock and queue for 2 hours (I’m still digging at M&L here if you haven’t guessed)
We  asked to sit outside in the rain (under an umbrella thing obviously – were not that crazy) to avoid waiting at all!

Image
I love love loved the menu, so simple and small (I have previously mentioned my love of small menus) and it’s on a beautiful wooden board. 

I ordered the Cheese Burger (wasn’t feeling bacon at the time) and my dinner date went for the Honest Burger. Both burgers came with rosemary salted chips (amazing!) and we got some red slaw on the side.

Image
The burger was absolutely incredible….I asked for medium rare, and yes, some bits were still mooing, but it was so SO tasty. Just the right amount of condiments were on it, it wasn’t too rich and the brioche bun was to die for. Sometimes ‘trendy’ burgers can be overloaded with bits and bobs and tastes and flavours, but not this baby. The rosemary chips were great too but a little too much rosemary for me.
The waitress was lovely and we had an amazing waiter come over and take our cash, he loved telling us that he had eaten 3 mistake burgers already that day!

 The bill came to….wait for it…£20.50! For two burgers with chips and a side of slaw.

We thought it was a joke, it wasn’t.

To conclude, I had a really great time at Honest burgers and thats me being honest ;)

Here’s the website – click here to check it out