Sunday, 21 December 2014

Scotch Tails - Borough Market

It's a beautiful thing a perfectly cooked Scotch, isn't it?

Scotch eggs seem to have become the most trendy food item recently, which is great because they're a British classic and I love them. Scotch Tails proves that the scotch egg has come a long way from those nasty, grey solid things you can buy in the refrigerated aisle at the supermarket. On the contrary, these scotch eggs are a work of art. The food photographer in me is a sucker for a runny egg shot, and the yolks of these eggs are just the most vibrant and glorious sunset orange. Anyone who read my previous blog post 'Good Eggs' will know just how passionately I feel about a proper free range quality egg over a cheap supermarket one. Scotch Tails use beautiful Burford Brown eggs, which just makes all the difference. Just have a look at their website:

They have all sorts of wonderful flavours, ranging from the pretty traditional Cumberland sausage meat, through to veggie varieties such as Sweet potato & Falafel or Marmite & Parmesan, and Chorizo or Sweet Chilli pork for the meat and heat lovers. I'm ashamed to say I have no idea which one I tried, because I was too greedy to even wait around to ask. It was one of the sausage meat ones though, and fairly traditional but totally delicious.

Although maybe a little dear at £6.90 for a scotch egg and fries, if you compare that to a meal in a restaurant it's not too extreme and won't exactly break the bank, so I'd say it's good for a little lunchtime treat every now and again. I think the guys behind Scotch Tails have got a fantastic thing going with this. It's such a simple concept, which makes it ideal street market food. It's quick and easy for them to prepare on the stall, and it's easy for the customer to eat. I'm looking forward to trying some more flavours!

Enjoying lunch sitting by beautiful Southwark Cathedral- doesn't it look like a fairytale castle?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Proper British Roasties

I'm such a potato fan. They have to be the most comforting and satisfying of foods to eat ever. Mashed, roast, fried, baked, new, dauphinoise....there is so much potential with the potato. My family roast potato recipe is pretty straightforward with no real tricks to be honest. It's been passed down by my Granny, who used to say that the variety of potato you use makes a huge difference. Her advice was to use Golden wonder potatoes, but I'm sure nowadays there are tons of other suitable roasting varieties too. Some people toss their roast potatoes in polenta which they says gives extra crunch. I've never really found that to be necessary to be honest, so I stick with this basic recipe:

1kg Golden Wonder (or other roasting variety) Potatoes
100g Goose

  1. Place a large roasting tin in the oven and heat to 200C. After about 10 mins, add the goose fat.
  2.  Peel the potatoes and cut into medium sized chunks.
  3. Boil the potatoes in salted water for around 10-15 mins, until the are starting to get soft.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander, and give them a good shake to roughen the edges (these fluffy edges are what makes your roast potatoes crispy). Allow them to drain really well, so that they are nice and dry.
  5. Add the potatoes to the roasting tin one by one with some tongs- they will probably spit and sizzle at you...but persist! Make sure they have plenty of space between each other as cramping them together will make them go soggy/effect their cooking.
  6. Roast the potatoes for 15 mins, then take them out of the oven and turn them over/give them a shake about. Roast for another 15 mins and turn them over again. Put them back in the oven for another 10-20 mins, until they become golden and crisp. Sprinkle with salt and serve straight away.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Beauty of the Pancake.

This evening I made pancakes and they were great. That's pretty much all I have to say on the matter, but I felt so passionately about my pancakes, that I decided to add a photo and a little writing to my blog- an 'Ode to the Pancake' if you like.

Pancakes are the cheapest of sweet treats to make, and so easy, with the ingredients usually to be found in any cook's store cupboard (flour, eggs, milk, butter, oil). I'm not going to tell you how to make a pancake, because the chances are if you're reading this you're a keen foodie/cook and have made hundreds of pancakes before, and if you're not, then just google a recipe (a pancakes a pancake to be honest). But what I will say is that the next time you find yourself wondering what dessert to make for a dinner party, go down the hot pancake route. They're not particularly glamorous and are pretty humble, but they are so more-ish and comforting, that they will always go down a storm with everyone. They are also the perfect pudding to follow a Sunday roast, as you can make it as light or heavy as you want through different toppings, and they are still fairly traditional.

I like my pancakes really thin and crispy, fried in butter and piping hot, served with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup (got to be maple...none of this golden syrup, it's too claggy). That combination of hot buttery pancake and cold ice cream is just what life is all about. Serious comfort food!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Super Easy Sweetcorn Fritters with Avocado Salsa

Sweetcorn fritters have been a passion of mine ever since I was little. My Granny (an amazing cook) used to make them and serve them with roast chicken and all the trimmings- not something many people would do now, but to me as a greedy little 7-year-old it was a fantastic combo, and I would demand they be a part of every Sunday roast (it was clear from an early age I was a true foodie..).

Whilst acting as assistant food stylist on a UKTV food shoot recently, we made Bill Granger's Sweetcorn fritters with avocado salsa. My goodness they were delicious, and they totally re-ignited my sweetcorn fritter passion. Everyone was falling over themselves to grab one once we had got the shot we needed- they really were the recipe of the day. Ever since I've been absolutely craving them. They are so more-ish, stodgy (in a good way), and totally satisfying, and the avocado salsa works a treat to cut through the heaviness of the fritter.You can find Bill Granger's recipe, along with the photograph from the shoot I was assisting on, here: 

My recipe below is a slight variant on Bill's, as he uses a food processor and I didn't see the need for this- lazy me didn't want to have to wash it up really! Instead I added a small tin of creamed corn, which you can buy from pretty much any big super market. You can make a whole batch of these as and when you're eating them, or you can make them in advance, store in the fridge and then just re-heat them in the oven till they're hot through (about 5-10 minutes). 

These make the perfect brunch, especially if you layer them up with some crispy bacon in between each layer, perhaps some halloumi too if you're going all out. I can't promise it's healthy but I can tell you it's delicious!

For the sweetcorn fritter

1 small tin of sweetcorn
1 small tin of creamed sweetcorn
1 small red onion, chopped
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
125 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Vegetable oil, for frying

For the avocado salsa

2 ripe medium avocado, stones removed, flesh diced
15 g coriander leaves
2 tbsp lime or lemon juice
2 tbsp finely chopped spring onions
tomato, quartered, seeded and finely sliced (optional)
Dash tabasco, optional

Preheat the oven to 120C/gas 1. 

1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the fritter until really well combined. Add some salt and pepper. If the mixture seems too thin, add a drop of milk, and if it seems too thick, add a touch more flour.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, drop 2 heaped tablespoons of mixture per sweetcorn cake into the pan and cook in batches of 3 for 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven while you are making the rest of the cakes. 

3. To make the avocado salsa put all the ingredients in a bowl, with a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir very gently to combine. Serve with the warm sweetcorn cakes.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Superfood Salad

This salad will make you feel on top of the world- it's THE thing to eat if you've let yourself go a bit recently (me, all the time...), as it's packed full of things that are good for you. Admittedly it's a bit of a faff, as it involves roasting the veggies and toasting seeds, but if you do this in one big batch at the start of the week, then you can just store all the ingredients in the fridge and that's all the hard work done- all you have to do is put it all together each day.

The real winner of this salad for me is the dressing- it's really zingy with all the citrus flavours, and really wakes you up- perfect for a grey old autumn day. I wanted to add avocado as well, but unfortunately mine wasn't ripe (first world problems hey?). The feta is optional, but I adore the combination of beetroot and feta. Halloumi would also work beautifully.


2 sweet potatoes
Handful of tender stem broccoli
Handful of pumpkin seeds
Smoked paprika
Olive oil
Coconut oil (optional)
Couple of bulbs fresh beetroot
Handful of fresh spinach
Lettuce (I used a few baby gem leaves)
Handful of pomegranate seeds
Avocado, sliced
Small block of feta (optional)

For the dressing:

Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp Dijion mustard
1 tbsp white wine or balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Olive oil

1. Peel and chop the sweet potato into chunks. Place on a baking tray, add a drizzle of olive oil or a teaspoon of coconut oil (this will give it a nice flavour). Season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle over a light dusting of smoked paprika powder. Roast at 200°C for approx. half an hour (giving it a shake around every 10 mins or so), until the sweet potato is soft and starting to caramelize. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

2. Put the pumpkin seeds in a baking tray, add a tiny bit of olive oil, and dust with some smoked paprika and salt. Roast for approx 20 mins, shaking every 5 mins. Keep an eye on these because they can catch and burn very quickly.

3. Wash the beetroot and cut into chunks. Add to a baking tray with some olive olive, salt and pepper and roast for about 20 mins. Then add a splash of water to the tray and cover with tinfoil. Continue to roast for another 20 mins or until the beetroot is soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

5. Whilst the veggies are all roasting, wash and blanch the tender stem broccoli for approximately 5 mins, or until it is cooked. Careful not to over cook it- you want it to retain a bit of crunch. Drain and leave to cool.

4. Once the beetroot is cooled, the skin of it will easily peel off- probably best to wear gloves for this as it can stain your hands purple.

5. For the dressing, mix all the ingredients together, season with salt and pepper and have a taste- alter the quantities according to how sharp you like it.

6. Add the spinach, lettuce, cooled sweet potato, broccoli, cooled beetroot, avocado and half the pomegranate seeds to a bowl, and pour over half the dressing (keep some back so that people can add more to their salad at the table) and toss it all together.

7. Once you've plated up, finish with the toasted pumpkin seeds and the rest of the pomegranate seeds scattered on the top, and the feta crumbled over if your using it.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Big Belgian Road Trip 2014

Great line up- Belgian beer!

I recently spent a great few days in Belgium, with some wonderful family and friends. We visited the city of Brussels, then drove down to Antwerp. where my lovely Godmother and her husband live. We spent the entire time eating and drinking our way around (why can't every day be like that?), having far too much fun, sampling some great local delicacies, including a lot of different beers...when in Rome! We've all returned with our waistbands a little tighter, but our spirits a little brighter, having thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves (perhaps a bit too much..) in Belgian culture.

Mopping up some of that beer with bar snacks at 'Monk' 

On our first night in Brussels, we were staying with some family friends, who made us the most delicious and comforting vat of beef in beer, with amazing Ghent mustard (seriously strong mustard from Ghent, Belgium) and cheese toasted croutons floating on the top- something I will definitely be recreating at home. It was so homely and delicious, not too fancy. and exactly what we needed after a fair old journey being cooped up on the Eurostar. Suffice it to say, I didn't take a picture of this, partly because I had left my camera in the van, and partly because there's a huge groan around the table these days whenever I start snapping away at the I toned it down on this occasion!

The next morning we set off into the centre of Brussels, and spent the day wandering the streets, stopping here and there for a beer or bar snack. Of course no visit to Belgium is complete without a cone of triple-fried chips, in my case smothered in both mayo and ketchup. The salty, crispy goodness of triple fried Belgian chips is just the trick to nurse a Belgian beer hangover.

Triple-fried....the start of a catastrophic weekend for the diet.....

Beers all round in the sunshine

One of the culinary highlights of the trip had to be our moules lunch in Antwerp. My Uncle Jeremy, who's also a huge foodie and knows Antwerp like the back of his hand, booked us a late lunch at 'Maritime' in the heart of Antwerp, where all of us enjoyed huge pots of steaming mussels, cooked with white wine and cream and garlic, served with frites and washed down with cold, crisp white wine. Heaven! It was the start of the mussel season, so obviously we had to make the most of it (it would be rude not to).

Best mussels in Antwerp

Fantastic Moules frites

Yet another memorable meal during our visit, was the 3 course extravaganza that we were treated to on arrival in Antwerp, cooked by my Uncle Jeremy. He'd made a Belgian feast for us, starting off with avocado stuffed with dressed brown shrimp served with a frozen gazpacho-filled tomato, followed by stuffed veal escalopes served with a kind of cheesy, mashed potato bake which I believe is called 'Stoemp'. The meal was rounded off with a light, refreshing orange sorbet, served in the orange, followed by some beautiful cheese and crackers. It was a real occasion, and it is one of the nicest thing in the world when someone goes to the effort of preparing such a special meal for you- it felt like Christmas!

What a night...

Lovely retro dessert 

Everything a cheese board should be.

Unfortunately, we had to head back to the UK at some point, and we did so with full stomachs, probably still a bit merry, and of course a van full of Belgian wine, cheese, ham and salami (we went totally overboard...absolutely no self control). All in all, it was a magical weekend, full of laughter, surrounded by the two best things in life- family and food. We've decided to make it an annual occurrence, so here's to next year!

The Gang with our moules- so many smiling red faces!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Baked duck eggs with asparagus, prosciutto and Gruyère

Having received some fresh duck eggs as a gift, I decided to bake them 'en cocotte' (in pots) for Sunday morning brunch. This is something I've never actually made before, but I tasted a similar recipe whilst interning at Good Food magazine, and they were so delicious I've been craving them ever since. So having got these beautiful eggs, I decided to now was the time to try it.

One great thing about baked eggs is you can make up the pots the night before, cover them and store in the fridge overnight, so all you have to do in the morning is roll out of bed, stick the oven on and pop them in. There are so many varieties of eggs en cocotte- you can add leeks, crème fraiche, mushrooms, smoked salmon- whatever you fancy. I decided to go with asparagus for a bit of freshness, prosciutto for some saltiness, and Gruyère for some gooey-ness!


Butter (for greasing the ramekins)
4 eggs (duck or hen)
4 slices of prosciutto ham
Small bunch of asparagus, washed
Fresh herbs (I used chives and parsley), washed and finely chopped.
Double cream
Small block Gruyère cheese
Good quality bread (I used sourdough) for serving.

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C

2. Boil or steam the asparagus for approx. 2 mins depending on the size of the asparagus. You want it to be very much al dente as it will continue cooking in the oven later on. Remove and drain, then roughly chop so it's a nice size to fit into your ramekins.

3. Butter 4 oven-proof ramekin dishes.

4. Cut the prosciutto into strips and add to your prepared ramekins.

5. Crack one egg into each ramekin.

6. Divide the asparagus equally between your ramekins, pushing it down to fit it all in (careful not to break the yolks).

7. Sprinkle some of your chopped herbs into eat pot, reserving some to sprinkle on before serving.

8. Grate a generous amount of gruyère onto each ramekin.

7. Season well with salt and pepper.

8. Place the pots in a baking tray, and pour in some lukewarm water, so that it comes up to about half way up the sides of your pots.

9. Place in the oven and cook for around 15 mins, for runny eggs. Bear in mind that they will keep cooking a bit when you take them out the oven, so to under-do them slightly is probably the way to go.

10. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper and the remainder of your fresh herbs, Place your pots on plates, and serve with some buttered sourdough soldiers!


After. Delicious baked duck eggs with asparagus, prosciutto and gruyère.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sunday Roast (on a Saturday...)

So we roasted a chicken last Saturday, and it looked so great that I had to take a few pictures. Chicken is such an underestimated meat in my opinion; people tend to think of it as a bit of a safe and boring option. To me, roast chicken with the trimmings and bread sauce (essential), is once of the best things in life, and the possibilities with the left overs are endless. Crispy, salty chicken skin, is without doubt, one of the best things going. My family will tell you I have a habit of literally eating all the skin (much to their annoyance)- it's my favourite part.

We added a halved lemon and a bunch of thyme into the cavity of our chicken, and scattered some around the outside too, poured on a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, rubbed it all in, and then just roasted it for around an hour and a half, letting it rest for a good 20/30 mins.  I would describe this recipe as a bit of a lazy boys roast, because there's no real faffing around with it, it's just really simple and fail-safe.We had ours with roasted veg and peas (we were being a bit lazy), and of course bread sauce and gravy. Yum!


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Crab, asparagus and pistachio salad with lemon and basil dressing

I made this lovely light salad for lunch on the bank holiday weekend just gone, and it was so delicious that I thought I'd add the recipe to my blog. I like using pistachios for this, as they are my favourite nut, and they give the salad a bit of crunch. You could swap them for other nuts or seeds if you prefer- toasted almonds would work well. This recipe is packed full of healthy things (asparagus, pistachios, crab) so it's good for you too! It would also make a nice starter for a meal too, as it's not too heavy.

Serves 4:

1 bunch of asparagus
7 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
6 basil leaves
1 finely chopped shallot or small onion
small bunch of parsley
bag of salad leaves (baby leaf will work, or pea shoots)
handful of pistachio nuts
1 pound crab meat (approx 2 crabs)
2 avocados, sliced.
salt and pepper

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. Fill a separate bowl with ice water. Blanch the asparagus for about 5 mins. Keep an eye on it, because it's easy to overcook- you want it to still have a bit of a bite to it. As soon as the asparagus it down scoop it out and plunge it straight into the prepared ice water. Once it's cooled, drain and put to one side in a bowl.

Blend the olive oil, lemon juice, basil, shallot and half the parsley in a blender if you have one. If not, you can chop the herbs and shallots as finely as possible and mix it all together- use a pestle and mortar if you have one to really mash it all together. Season it, and see how it tastes- you can alter the recipe to your own taste (e.g add more basil if you like).

Add the salad leaves, pistachios and the left over parsley to the asparagus. Add half of the dressing and toss together. Then add the crab (reserving the claws) and the sliced avocado. Pour over the remaining dressing, season well with salt and pepper, and toss together again. Serve in plates or bowls, and top each serving with a crab claw. I like to serve mine with some nice crusty warm bread and butter, and perhaps a bit of mayonnaise on the side too.

Ideally, enjoy outside, with a glass of chilled, crisp white wine!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Review of Copita, 26 D'Arblay Street, W1F 8EL

Star Rating: *** 

A reunion with school friends is always a great excuse to have a good meal and try out a new restaurant, and so on Thursday night, a group of us agreed to meet at Copita, a Spanish tapas bar in Soho. I'd heard some good things about this place, and looking at a few online reviews, all of which seemed to be really positive, I was excited to give it a try.

Copita only takes reservations for lunchtime, so we were unable to book for our evening meal. We got there for 6ish, and there was plenty of space, so we got a table and started to peruse the gin menu (yep, a whole menu of different gin and tonics) and soak in the atmos. Having recently returned from Madrid, I can say that Copita does have a very Spanish feel, with bar seating and Serrano hams hanging from the ceiling. It's got a nice, relaxed vibe, and that combined with an extensive gin menu, gave me a good first impression. We ordered some gins, and moved onto the main menu.

Extensive gin menu, all served in balloon glasses apparently (ours weren't)
Thumbs up for the g&t
The tapas menu, which apparently changes daily, was a fairly compact, consisting of your standard Spanish chorizo, hams, olives and bread, plus a few fancier things like anchovies with pork crackling, truffled goat's cheese with almonds and honey, and ajo blanco (white garlic soup) with beetroot. We ordered a good selection of different tapas and waited in anticipation.

The first of our dishes to arrive was the chorizo. It was the thinly sliced, cold chorizo, rather than the cooked, thicker chunks of chorizo that I was expecting. However, it was totally delicious, and infact this was my favourite dish of the night- great quality and perfect to pick at whilst having a drink. Slowly and steadily, small plate after small plate arrived and our table. The truffled goat's cheese with almonds and honey had a good strong flavour, and I liked the idea of it, but it was extremely rich. Too rich for me infact, and you get a fairly hefty portion of it, served with little crostinis. The mushroom croquettes (£1.05 each), were not seasoned enough and were pretty forgettable, as were the potato, mustard and cheese fritters which were also basically croquettes (£2 each, slightly bigger than the mushroom ones). Amongst the croquettes I've had, I didn't rate them. The lamb rump with piquillo pepper was good, but not outstanding. The red onion, duck egg yolk and paprika crisps was a pleasant surprise for me. I couldn't quite see how that would come together, but I liked it; it was moreish, and the duck yolk was lovely and creamy and perfect to dunk the crisps into.

Delicious chorizo

Super rich truffled goat's cheese with honey and almonds

Paprika crisps, red onion, duck egg yolk.

We decided against a pudding, and were just making our way through the rest of our wine, when one of the waitresses told us she needed the table in 10 or 15 minutes, could we finish up please. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't like to be told to hurry up, even if it is in busy Soho on a Thursday night. I understand that a restaurant needs to make its money, but I think it's kind of shooting yourself in the foot a bit, if your paying customers who have just spent a fairly large amount on food and drink in your restaurant, are made to feel rushed. I wasn't too impressed with that to be honest, especially when the bill worked out to be over £30 each, which for me is alot for a meal out. Anyway we aren't the sort to put up a fuss, so we just said yes of course, but didn't rush our wine too much....until 10 minutes later when we were told again to hurry up. After that it was just getting a bit stressful so we gulped our wine and left.

Would I go back?

I wouldn't go back for a meal. I'd go for a pre-dinner gin and tonic, and perhaps a plate of chorizo. But kind of grudgingly. Initially I really liked Copita. The vibe early on in the evening was laid backed, the gins here are fantastic (expensive, but nice for a treat), and it does feel like a little bit of Spain in the heart of London. However, I wasn't overwhelmed by the food, which I thought on the whole was a bit pretentious, and lacked the wow-factor. Maybe we ordered the wrong things, but it was a little bit of a disappointment for me, after hearing alot of hype around it. My advice would be to keep it simple- go with the hams, chorizos and cheeses.     

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Assisting on Jamie Magazine

I thought I'd post a few of the pictures from the shoot I assisted food stylist Katy Greenwood ( on, for Jamie Magazine. I had a great day assisting Katy, with food photographer Will Heap ( taking some lovely pictures of the delicious food. I learnt alot from chatting to Katy, and have since assisted her on other shoots since, which has been good experience.

It's alot of fun seeing all the beautiful props on the shoots, although it does make me slightly envious wishing I had such nice crockery! It's also great to try out new recipes, and assisting Katy and other food stylists is really developing my skills and knowledge of professional food styling. Best of all, you get to eat the food you've cooked after you've photographed them (no point in wasting it!), so I've been eating like a King, trying all sorts of new things. 

We went through about 7 or 8 recipes in one day. Katy wrote all these recipes herself aswell, so they were very easy to follow and tasted great. These aren't the best quality images of the magazine I'm afraid...but better than nothing! More photographs from my other shoots to follow:

Can't go wrong with ice cream and chocolate sauce!

Loved the colours on this one

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Fresh chilli and green garlic pasta with prawns

Homegrown green garlic, red chilli's and (unfortunately not homegrown) lemon for my easy pasta dish

This is a simple recipe that I knocked up on a weekday evening, as I had just harvested my first tiny red chilli's from my chilli plant (huge excitment). I also had some fresh baby green garlic (sort of like a garlic flavoured spring onion) from the garden that I wanted to use. I didn't follow a recipe, it was just a case of throwing in a bit of this and bit of that, but below is roughly what I did. You could add some creme fraiche too if you wanted to make a creamier sauce. Spinach might be nice also- it's a really versatile recipe- just throw in what you fancy or what you have knocking around in the fridge! It was a nice light and fresh pasta dish, and couldn't be simpler.

1 small red chilli, chopped finely
A bulb or two of fresh green garlic (normal garlic will do if you haven't got this) chopped finely
Good glug of olive oil (enough to lightly coat all the pasta)
Spaghetti or Linguini
1 zest of a lemon
Bunch of fresh parsley, chopped finely
250g prawns (or as many as you want)
Salt & pepper

Boil the pasta in salted water (the salt is essential- any cook will tell you). Add the chilli, garlic and olive oil to a pan, and heat over a medium heat for a minute. Add in the prawns and cook for a couple of minutes until hot right through. Add the cooked pasta when it's ready, and stir through, making sure it's completely coated in the oil. Add the lemon zest and fresh parsley and remove from the heat. Season to taste, and finish with a bit more fresh parsley and lemon zest on the top. Super simple supper!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Leytonstone Singburi experience

Leytonstone sunset

I've been going to the gym a bit recently (and hating it) in a bid to try and not get fat off my increasingly over indulgent diet. My thinking is that if I run for 20 minutes 3 times a week, I can pretty much eat what I want. I mean I'm pretty sure that's how these things work, although Curtis, my enormous personal trainer, seems to disagree...

With food constantly being at the forefront of my thoughts, Singburi Thai cafe on High Road Leytonstone has inevitably caught my eye as I've begrudgingly trekked back and forth to the gym. Always busy even on weeknights, I've been meaning to try it for quite a while now. So on Friday night, with the family visiting for the weekend, we decided to give it a go.

We arrived around 8:30pm with our bottles of wine (it's bring your own booze), but without a reservation. The place was packed. Joint owner Thelma (part of a Thai husband and wife team) looked busy and flustered, and the chance of us getting in was looking slim. However she managed to wriggle things around, and a table for four opened up for us. Lesson 1, it's best to book.

Once settled, we were given our menus and glasses. The menu is pretty much what you expect from a Thai restaurant- all your standard Thai green/red curries, pad thai, etc., plus a few wild cards. There's also a specials white board which changes daily, and included crab, sea bass and Chinese broccoli, amongst other unheard of Thai dishes. We cracked open our wine, ordered, and soaked in the atmosphere. I have to say, I love places like this. Bring your own booze is obviously a great start to a fun and relaxed evening, but the vibe of Singburi is so informal, you feel like you've just popped over to Thelma and Tony's for dinner. It's not trying to be anything it's not- decor is very down to earth, with a wall of fame consisting of photographs of previous diners, and newspaper clipping reviews pinned up. Everyone is just enjoying themselves, eating generous and colourful sharing dishes of Thai food. My Dad remarked that he felt like he was in Hong Kong- having never been I wouldn't know, but it's that kind of buzzing place.

Our starter arrived. Prawns wrapped in pastry, and satay chicken to share. You can't really go wrong with these, but even so, I'll tell you they were very tasty. The prawns were served with an authentic and fresh tasting sweet chili sauce (homemade I'm fairly sure), and the chicken satay marinade was pungent in a good way, with the lemongrass really coming through, and the chicken nice and char-grilled. Good dipping sauce too. So far so good.

Great spread

Onto the main. The beef massaman curry was a definite highlight for me. Big chunks of slow cooked, flaky beef and potatoes, in a gorgeous light peanut flavoured spiced sauce. We were able to specify our level of spice for the curries, and with a few not-so-adventurous members of our party not a fan of spice, we asked for all of them to be mild. This was probably the right decision in retrospect, as by the end of the meal we were still all perspiring ever so slightly.

Chicken Thai green curry was again great, with nice chunks of aubergine and chicken submerged in a fragrant broth. The prawn pad thai was another highlight for me, and though I'm no Thai food expert, it tasted to me like I think pad thai should taste- light noodles, lots of peanut, and nice crunchy beansprouts. The sea bass was a great centre piece for the table. It arrived looking magnificent, dressed in spring onion, coriander and chili. It was totally delicious, really light and fresh. I think they must have baked it, as it had really retained it's moisture, and had a light sesame juice surrounding it. The sea bass with rice and a Chinese broccoli would go down really well as a meal if you wanted something less heavy and more healthy (perhaps after my next gym workout..). Along with these dishes, we had 1 x coconut and 1 x plain rice.

Thai Green in the foreground, beef massaman at the back

Beautiful sea bass

Moreish Pad Thai

Maybe it's because I've just moved to Leytonstone and am determined to be enthusiastic about everything...however I reckon this place is a hidden gem. It's got bags of character, great authentic Thai food, and a lovely atmosphere, what more do you want? It's definitely worth the intrepid walk down slightly dodgy High road Leytonstone. Thelma and Tony are great characters, we really warmed to them. Don't go here if you want clinically produced, pretentious, fancy food...but if you want a damn good Thai meal, and to feel at home whilst eating it, then this is the place to be. Thank you Thelma and Tony- I hope to one day make it onto your wall of fame for loyal customers!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Summer Solstice picnic

This weekend I'd invited a few of my friends round for dinner, as it was a good friend of mine's birthday. However with the weather being so beautiful and it being the summer solstice, I thought it would be much more fun to head to the local park (Wanstead Park), embrace the weather, and have a picnic! So we packed it all up and headed out- what could be better than good food, good company and champagne out in the sun? I'd baked some salmon with lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and vine tomatoes, made a fresh pesto and pine nut pasta and tender stem broccoli salad, a green salad, and avocado salsa. To finish, a huge summer berry pavlova. It was so picturesque that I had to take a few photos....

The Great British Summer!
Getting better at styling whipped cream- I find it so easy to over whip it

Mary Berry eat your heart out.

Simple and fresh- lemon baked salmon, green salad, radishes, roasted vine tomatoes and lemon vinaigrette.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Visit to Madrid

I've just got back from a lovely long weekend in Madrid, visiting a friend of mine who's working out there for a few months. I thought I'd take advantage of having her as a tour guide and the free accommodation, so off I went. My visit coincided with the Real v Atletico Madrid football match, so the city was buzzing, and we passed the days meandering around and exploring. Of course I tried to experience and document as much food and drink as possible (and did a pretty good job, eating at minimum 6 times a day). The gin and tonics were huge and all came with complimentary little tapas (olives, crisps, nuts etc.)...what more do you want?

Fishbowl g&ts in Lavapies

Spider crabs- a delicacy in Madrid

Empanadilla- the Spanish equivalent of a pasty.

Madrid is full of great little tapas bars, coffee shops and food markets. From the big and overwhelming choice of tapas and cocktails at Mercado San Miguel (definitely worth a visit- you could easily pass away a whole afternoon eating and drinking your way around here), to lovely hidden bars such as Los Chuchis in Lavapiés, which we accidentally stumbled upon and felt obliged to have a Tinto de Verano (red wine cocktail) in. The only reason we didn't order the slow roasted pork that kept floating past our noses was because we were full after having accidentally ordered a whole tortilla each in the previous bar- delicious, but filling.

Seafood plates at Mercado San Miguel- choose from garlic prawns, scallops, mussels, oysters and razor clams cooked fresh.

Paella to share at San Miguel market.

Tapas selection- Galician octopus, salmon and dill, anchovy and red pepper, herring and mustard on Melba toast.

Sangria cocktail.

Fried calamari, whitebait and langoustine cones at San Miguel market.

Paella time.

We also stumbled upon Mercado de San Fernando, a fairly small indoor market full of an assortment of independent eateries- from traditional Spanish food through to Mexican and Japanese. I was also impressed to see that the small beer store here sold a huge selection of imported beers, some that I recognised as local breweries from nearby my family home in Suffolk. The atmosphere in the market was brilliant- it was a Sunday afternoon, and there was life music, people dancing, and everyone eating and drinking. A great place to while away an afternoon.

Spinach tortilla to the left, chorizo to the right. Serious comfort food.

It's not glamorous but it does taste good.

Los Chuchis in Lavapies- 2 x Tinto de Verano's por favor

Other places to mention are Café El Mar, again in Lavapiés; a bohemian, laid back little health food (don't worry it tastes good too) shop and cafe, with really tasty cakes, coffees and juices, with some sweet personal touches- my coffee came with a teaspoon full of dark chocolate chips to stir in/eat, and each of our cakes came with a single red heart sprinkle dotted in the corner (I know, I'm a ridiculous girl- so easy to please).We also went for a less glamorous, but still delicious, calamari sandwich and beer, which I can honestly say had no nutritional value whatsoever, but tasted pretty good and soaked up some of the sangria.

Late night churros.

A great place to visit to escape the hustle and bustle of the city was the botanical gardens. As you'd expect they were really tranquil, and a lovely place to chill for an afternoon once you are tired of walking. There was a great herb garden, and some beautiful vegetables, so I enjoyed wandering around them.

Beautiful botanical gardens

Herb garden at the botanical gardens

One thing I did learn from my trip, is how much Spanish people drink and eat. They don't seem to do big's more about constantly grazing throughout the day. I was totally on board with this concept and felt it important to immerse myself in the culture, so we pretty much ate and drank our way around the kind of long weekend! I had a lovely time in Madrid, and although ate and drank far too much and spent rather alot of money, it was worth it. Now back to reality...!