Restaurant Review: HipChips, Soho

Old Compton Street in Soho seems to host a good handful of restaurants that I *really* want to visit, and HipChips was no exception. I’d heard about it a while back (okayyyy, I’d heard that you could dip potato crisps into peanut butter…) and it had really piqued my interest. Of course this meant when I was offered the chance to review I just could say no!

They use the “best heritage varieties of potatoes, serving them up delicately fried alongside mind-blowing dips.” You can choose sweet or savoury (or a mix – though as they would be served together I’m not overly convinced this is the way to go) with the sweet being sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Then choose your dips and, well, get dipping.

We went for a Large Sweet box, which comes with 6 dips. The crisps themselves certainly looked good, with various different colours. The cinnamon sugar combo was also extremely moreish – despite some of the crisps being more than a little soft.

The dips were also a mixed bag – out of Peanut Butter & Jam, S’mores, Passionfruit, Chocolate & Salted Caramel, Cheesecake and Blackberry & Liquorice there was two clear favourites, and only another two we really ate. I’d skip the Chocolate & Salted Caramel, as the warm caramel split the cold chocolate dip and just made a not particularly pleasant texture. The Cheesecake was also disappointing, bland and too ‘cheesy.’ Not great. Better was the S’mores, though the menu description of ‘gooey marshmallow’ is overselling it when it’s simply chocolate with mini-marshmallows on top. Blowtorch ’em please!

Blackberry & Liquorice was good when eaten with a spoon, not so much on a chip. However the Passionfruit and Peanut Butter with Jam were both winners. Passionfruit was sharp and fruity. Peanut Butter had the perfect salty-sweet kick and the punchy jam just made it better. I’d have been happy with several pots of both!

The savoury dips sounded good, but I felt a bit limited with the tomato-free options and, having devoured a satay chicken at Leon, was in the mood for something sweet. Even so, as I ate I found myself wishing I wasn’t in the (very modern and just a little quirky) restaurant, but rather at home, in my PJs, watching a film. And that’s what sums up my review of HipChips. The food was okay, some bits we ate were great, but as an eat-in concept I’m not 100% sure it works. If only I was in their delivery range!

*I was gifted a voucher for HipChips in exchange for an honest review – and as always all opinions are my own (or my fiances!) 

Would you go sweet or savoury with your chips’n’dips?

Recipe: Blackberry & Apple Crumble

Confession time: I’ve never been a fan of cooked fruit. Actually, I’m not really a huge fan of fruit in general, much preferring to get my five-a-day from vegetables. Despite my mum regularly making crumbles throughout my childhood, it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve accepted anything other than a bowl of custard (yep, on it’s own). This year I was actively looking forward to Autumn and the hedges brimming with blackberries just waiting to be picked.

Now, this recipe is perhaps a bit more faff than a standard crumble recipe. I used to just chop the fruit, throw it into a dish with a spot of sugar (and perhaps a dash of slow gin). Rub together butter, sugar and flour, heap on top of the fruit mixture and bake. Simple, took about five minutes and the results were good. This, however, takes it one step further. The fruit is stewed beforehand, lightly so it doesn’t turn to mush, but enough so that all the flavours come together that little bit more. The topping is pre-baked, so there’s whilst there’s a bit of comforting stodge, it’s not leaning towards the glue-y raw flour end that I was always coasting before. It’s still super-easy, it still is pretty quick to put together. It’s our go-to Sunday evening treat right now. Served with a generous helping of fridge-cold cream, eaten wrapped in a blanket in front of a film. You can’t get more hygge than that!

Recipe – serves 2

  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 90g unsalted butter at fridge temperature, cut into pieces
  • 300g cooking apple (usually one large Braeburn), peeled and cored
  • 30g brown sugar
  • a large handful of blackberries
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • cream, to serve

Tip the flour, caster sugar and ginger into a large bowl. Add 60g of the butter, then rub into the flour until the mix resembles. Sprinkle the mixture in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes at roughly 200C, or until lightly golden and smelling gorgeous.

Meanwhile prep the fruit. Pop the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for 3 mins until the mixture turns to a light caramel. Chop the apples into roughly 2cm dice, then add to the caramel and cook for 3 minutes. Add the blackberries and cinnamon, and cook for a couple more minutes. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and leave to stand.

When ready to serve, spoon the fruit into an ovenproof dish, top with the crumble mix, then bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. Serve with cream (or vanilla ice cream!).

And now here’s a disclaimer – I actually put W on crumble-duty the vast majority of the time. It’s just so much yummier when someone has cooked it for you – and he makes far less of a mess (hence why I finally managed to photograph these!).

Are you a fan of fruit crumbles? What’s your favourite fruit combo?

Lifestyle: A Foodie Bucket List (Home-Cooking Version)

It’s a running joke between myself and my better half that we have an ever-expanding list of things we want to cook, places we want to eat. It grows far, far faster than we can tick items off! Here’s just a snippet of our ‘home-cooking’ section of the list…

  • Experiment more with Jewish recipes. I’ve been thumbing through Fress* a lot recently and pretty much every dish sounds delicious.
  • Buy a proper pudding basin. Although I’ve wanted one for a while, it was the recent GBBO epsiode that reignited the passion. Steamed sponges, suet puddings filled with steak and kidney. Traditional cooking at it’s best!
  • Make a lasagne completely from scratch. Obviously we use my Ultimate No-Tomato Bolognese, and W’s awesome cheese sauce recipes, but I really want to combine them with homemade pasta. In fact, just make more homemade pasta!
  • Oh, and a decent completely white lasagne I want to make too. This Jamie Oliver recipe looks insanely rich and comforting!
  • Replicate a decent barbecue sauce sans tomato. It’s the one thing I miss – messy, sticky, saucy ribs!
  • Cook up this Lentil Stew. It looks perfect for a winter lunchbox to reheat at work!
  • Play around more with our Pressure Cooker. I was gifted one last Autumn and whilst we made a couple of dishes in it (it was great for Beef Cheeks!) it’s sat largely unused for a while. Any recipe recommendations?
  • Make our own Faggots. I know a lot of people are squeamish about these, but I LOVE them. I grew up eating local versions but they’ve become harder and harder to find (I’ve not seen them in any butchers in London). We have a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid so this Winter I’m definitely setting aside an afternoon for making my perfect comfort food.
  • Host a supper club. I’d love to host some fundraising supper parties, in support of Alzheimer’s UK in memory of my maternal granddad. Now we have a dining table I really need to get the ball rolling!
  • Make a proper pie. We make pies quite a lot with the leftovers from our Sunday roast, but really it’s a cheat – topping a stew mix with a sheet of pastry. I’d love to try making a proper pie with pastry all the way round.
  • Cook more curries from scratch. We’ve got a few simple recipes (read: throw various spices in with onion, garlic and ginger, add yoghurt/coconut milk) but I’d love to try something a tad more authentic. I’ve had this for Massaman and this Vindaloo recipe bookmarked for what feels like forever!
  • Bake these. Because Peanut Butter is life.

What’s on your ‘to cook’ list?

Recipe: Asian Quinoa Salad

Healthy and exciting lunchboxes. It’s one of the things I really struggle with; finding things to eat at work that are filling, nourishing, cheap, last a couple of days in the fridge and are genuinely yummy. I don’t particularly enjoy sandwiches (all too often they are soggy and squashed after a few hours in my bag) and I *refuse* to spend £6+ on eating out every day, no matter how good my Instagram feed would look.

 photo Asian Quinoa Salad_zpsq1lyns43.jpgThere’s nothing worse than a disappointing lunch, and I guarantee than a poor midday meal with leave me in a grump alllllll afternoon. A box full of this, however, is pretty sure to put a smile on my face. It’s basically a more colourful and substantial version of my Asian Satay Salad, which makes it perfect for the cooler weather. The quinoa bulks it out without making me feel heavy, bloated and ready for a nap, whilst the red cabbage just looks so pretty. Raw sugarsnap peas are a revelation for me too – soooo much tastier than cooked.

This is super-easy to adapt too. Toss through leftover roast chicken, serve as part of a picnic. I quite like cooked and cooled soy beans stirred through too, and I imagine a fresh pepper would make an awesome addition (I’d be wary about adding it if you’re picking at this throughout the week, I find the pepper-y taste can transfer a bit). No spring onions? Use a normal onion (pop it into a sieve and pour over boiling water to take away the harsh raw-onion taste). No red cabbage? Just slice up whatever cabbage you have – it just won’t look as colourful. And of course you could switch out quinoa for whichever grain you fancy. I’m also planning on trying a version made with noodles sometime soon!

 photo Asian Quinoa Salad5_zpskz4hqj3p.jpg photo Asian Quinoa Salad3_zpsnczfccrz.jpgRecipe (makes 5-6 servings, baked on a Cookie & Kate recipe)

  • Quinoa, I followed the measurement on the packet to make 4 portions
  • ½ purple cabbage
  • 3 carrots
  • ½ packet sugar snap peas
  • 1 small packet of coriander
  • 4-5 spring onions
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli (deseeded if you don’t fancy it too hot)
  • 3 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 limes (zest and juice)
  • 1 small handful of nuts, to serve

Cook the quinoa, following the packet instructions, and leave it to cool. I like to fluff it up with a fork a few times whilst cooling. Meanwhile prep the salad – finely slice the red cabbage, spiralise (or slice) the carrots, slice the sugarsnap peas lengthways, slice the spring onions and roughly chop the coriander. Pop into a large Tupperware box and mix through the cooled quinoa.

Then make the dressing: finely chop the ginger and chilli. Mix together with the soy, honey and sesame oil, then slowly add the soy and fish sauce until smooth. Add in the lime zest and juice, mix well and pop into a jar. I’d advise not refrigerating (just keep in a cool place) as otherwise the peanut butter makes it a bit solid!

In the morning, pop a portion of the quinoa/veg mix into your lunchbox and stir through a few spoonfuls of the dressing. I’d keep it out of the fridge until lunchtime, no-one wants fridge-cold quinoa… When just about to eat top with a handful of nuts, if you like.

 photo Asian Quinoa Salad4_zpsgijjuqz7.jpg photo Asian Quinoa Salad7_zpsiyerfhuz.jpgWhilst I don’t typically count calories (an obsessive personality means I tend to become focussed on continually reducing my intake), eating a big portion of this makes me feel healthy. I feel satisfied without being full, nourished without feeling deprived. And an added bonus? It can be eaten one-handed at my desk on really busy days. I can see myself eating a lot of this salad!

What’s your favourite take-to-work lunch?

Review: French & Spice Fusion at Bistro Vadouvan, Putney

I could start and end this review right here: this was the best meal, without doubt, that I have ever eaten in London.

A bold claim for sure, particularly as I’ve been lucky enough to eat in some damn good restaurants. But nearly three months on and this meal is still sticking out in my memory, and for all the good reasons. Friendly and attentive, but far from annoying, staff. Gorgeous plates, cutlery and decor. Cosy blankets for the outside tables (it’s just a shame Caluccio’s nabbed the best spot by the river!). All topped off with some of the most inventive and well-cooked dishes I’ve tried.

We started with cocktails – all strong, all delicous, all very well made – before moving onto wine. No complaints about the drinks, although really the stars here are the food. Bistro Vadouvan combines classical French cuisine with Middle Eastern and Asian flavours, creating original dishes that are both pretty on a plate and rather tasty. With views of the Thames, and stunning sunsets over Putney Bridge, it’s a lovely location and I’m rather pleased it’s within walking distance!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 4_zpsmpcrejwv.jpgI kicked off with the Prawn, Crab and Cucumber Salad. At £12 this was perhaps the one dish I felt was a little over-priced, but equally they were more than generous with the crab. It was fresh, light and summery, with the most delightful Mint, Yuzu and Orange dressing. The sharp flavours of the mint and orange tempered the sweetness of the seafood perfectly. It was also clearly made to order, as the cucumber had yet to impart it’s wateriness that comes from sitting around. The red chilli dotted throughout was fiery and I could have perhaps done without it, though due to the large slices I could delicately remove it.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 2_zpscsuvc8lb.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 3_zpsd2ttjh7x.jpgW ordered the Asparagus, Sprouting Beans, Avocado and Kohlrabi Salad, something which I was tempted by (but knew I’d get to try if he ordered!). Not being the biggest lover of avo as it is, I was slightly put off by the description of the “Fermented Sour Plum Dressing” but it really worked. All of the ingredients were at their peak-freshness, with the avocado lending a creaminess to the dish. Nuts added crunch, and the whole thing tasted light, healthy and absolutely delicious. I loved my seafood-based salad, but this came a close second.

The Spiced Bouillabaisse was also enjoyed, the classic French dish livened up with Middle-Eastern flavours.

Onto the mains, and this is where the stars of the show really were. Though I could only fault the starters if I was being really picky (see chill point about), I could sit here for hours and genuinely not be able to complain about my dish. I mean, it says a lot about the menu when we broke our biggest ‘couple rule’ and couldn’t resist ordered the same thing – Sea bass with Celeriac, Cauliflower & Raz el Hanout. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe at the time of our visit this was served with cod rather than bass – I imagine both work equally well!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 11_zpsvvqdjbzh.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 12_zpsxoryaoep.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 14_zpstph7j6hg.jpgHaving eaten some really excellent fish dishes this year (the unusual Cod & Pineapple at Skosh, and an elegant Crab Lasagne at Galvin La Chapelle), this remains the one I’d happily eat again, and again, and again. The chunky piece of fish was cooked to absolute perfection – flaking into moist chunks with the merest press of a fork. It sat on a bed of Celeriac Hummus, which was creamy, moreish and had a depth of flavour all of it’s own, without detracting from the main dish. Give me a bowl of this and some of the flatbread I saw floating around the restaurant and I’d be a happy girl!  The dish was then topped with a generous serving of Spiced Cauliflower. Flawlessly cooked (soft and tender without a hint of the mushiness cauliflower is prone to) and just so fully of flavour. Again, give me a bowl of cauliflower and I’d probably be quite happy! Drizzled with a lemony-parsley dressing which pulled the whole dish together, I was genuinely sad when I’d finished my plate.

Also on our table was the Glazed Salmon, Carrot & Harissa Yoghurt, and a special involving Lamb Belly. Both seemed to go down extremely well – and next on my list to try is the delicious-looking Poussin Marinated In Sage, Maple Syrup, Garlic & Yoghurt.

In fact, the only negative I have is that the side dishes don’t seem to be particularly well-matched to the mains. Chips and cous-cous are all very good, but perhaps not the most imaginative. That said, on our visit they had a ‘slaw’ on offer which we tentatively ordered to share. Finely sliced cabbage tossed in a spiced-yoghurt and lemon dressing, it was actually far more delicious than the dubious description on the menu and went perfectly with both fish dishes.

A slight running theme is possible here, as like the sides the desserts just didn’t seem overly appealing. However we’d heard good things so ordered a few to share.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 18_zps0138jjek.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 15_zpsnjp2ch4d.jpgThe Exotic Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Creameux was my top pick, and this is coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of cheesecake. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered it in a restaurant before! This was light and almost mousse-like – certainly not the heavy and artery-clogging dish I was expected. Flavours of mango and passion-fruit were strong without being sickly, the plate was garnished with coulis, curd and crispy meringues and the cheesecake topped with an almost gelato-textured sorbet.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 19_zpsk3kpb1ri.jpgW loved the Luxurious Chocolate and Bitter Orange, although I found it a tad heavy and cloying (and certainly wouldn’t have been able to finish it!).  Flavours were reminiscent of a jaffa cake, with the textures smooth. One for chocolate lovers, and only if you’ve got a big appetite.

Even before we’d paid our bill, we were talking about other dishes on the menu we’d like to try on a return visit. Unfortunately with moving, holidays, exams and other annoying things we haven’t yet made it, but watch this space!
And now I’ll end with another picture of the fish dish. Because it was THAT good!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 8_zpsit8mhatr.jpg

Where was your ‘best meal’ eaten?

Food: Design Your Own “YouGurt” with Onken (AD)

Yogurt is a pretty staple breakfast in our house – W likes it with fresh fruit, and if I’ve not made overnight oats (recipe here) then I’ll take a jar of yogurt and granola to eat at my desk. I tend to favour a plainer variety sweetened with a spot of honey, W is a bit more adventurous and will pick up all sort of fruity concoctions. But recently I’ve tried something very adventurous, and here’s why…

 photo Onken Yougurt16_zpshcn1crwq.jpg photo Onken Yougurt8_zpsl5dlfvol.jpgThis month Onken is inviting the public to customise their very own flavour of yogurt – or YouGurt if you like a good pun! By combining three flavours, ranging from the downright delicious to the downright bizarre. You could go tropical with a combo of coconut, mango and pineapple, add in some veggies with carrot (told you some of them were bizarre!), or even do something with one of my favourite English fruits, rhubarb. Altogether there are 220 flavour combinations – and yes, the maths geek in me did check that on a calculator.

 photo Onken Yougurt12_zps4vftbney.jpgI went for two slightly safer flavours, adding in a twist with my third. Mango, Coconut and Chilli YouGurt was certainly different! The sweetness of the mango and subtle creamy coconut-tiness paired really well, with the sweet heat of chilli peppers coming through the end. Admittedly not quite the breakfast yogurt I was hoping for, but we’re churning it in our ice-cream maker tonight for a bit of fro-yo.

Now, here’s the exciting bit…

 photo Onken Yougurt10_zpsrrgckmux.jpg photo Onken Yougurt18_zpsacuqvq1b.jpgYou can get involved too! Every day this September the Onken YouGurt Factory will be open for business and accessible via their Facebook page, where 50 pots can be won each and every day. All you do is pick your three flavours and watch the unique pot be created via a personalised video, complete with your name and illustration of your flavour combo. And you might just get to taste it too. At the end of the video you’ll see whether you’re a winner. And if so, your YouGurt will turn up on your doorstep the very next day. And if not, the videos are pretty cool anyway…

You’ve got these flavours to choose from: rhubarb, pumpkin, mint, chilli, cherry, strawberry, agave, pineapple, coconut, mango, peach and carrot. I was seriously tempted by a combo of rhubarb, cherry and mint – doesn’t that sound dreamy…?!

 photo Onken Yougurt17_zpskc3it9zv.jpg*This post has been sponsored by Onken, all opinions are (as always) my own!

Are you a yogurt fan? What flavour combination would you choose?

 

Review: Duck & Waffle

I’d wanted to visit Duck & Waffle for aggessss. I poured over the Instagram photos, quizzed friends who had been – hell it even made it on my London Bucket List (which I really must make more of an effort to tick off!). Luckily someone listened to my whining and Santa surprised me with a voucher in my stocking last Christmas, though despite this it was still July before we headed up to the 40-something floor in the heart of the City.

 photo Duck amp Waffle_zpss9el8ejg.jpg

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

It was pretty difficult to book in for a weekend breakfast. I checked most days for a good month before I found a date that didn’t clash with pre-made plans, exams or deadlines, and still booked a couple of months in advance. Turns out my planning was excellent – it ended up being the day after W handed in his dissertation, and two days after I found out I’d passed April’s exam (the relief is still there!). So we celebrated with a two course brunch, though passing on the alcohol as numerous bubbles had been consumed in the days previous!

Tea ordered (though still the permanent confusion when presented with two pots and no indication of which was the Earl Grey and which was ‘normal’), it didn’t take us long to decide on our ‘mains’ – we both went for the Duck & Waffle. Neither of us could resist trying the signature dish, although we were tempted by the Full English (him) and the Duck Egg en Cocotte (me).

 photo Duck and Waffle 7_zps9rzbxr0o.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 6_zpswy6s4smt.jpgA toasted waffle, topped with a succulent confit duck leg, capped with an oozing duck egg and a side pot of mustard maple syrup, the Duck & Waffle is a combination of flavours and textures that really just have to be tried. Whilst my waffle was pretty perfect (slightly sweet, soft but with a slightly toasted crunch) I’ve hear reviews of stales ones, particularly those who go later in the day. The duck leg was super-crispy on the outer, with soft fall-apart flesh within. I spent ten or so minutes wishing it was acceptable to pick up and knaw on a bone in public, I didn’t want to waste a single bit of meat. The duck egg was again perfectly cooked with a *just* set white and gooey yolk. The mustard maple syrup was verging on too sweet for me with everything else, I’d possibly want more mustard coming through, but I did enjoy it drizzled on lightly. Plus I got the converted drizzle shot…

 photo Duck and Waffle 12_zpsaxwakdde.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 15_zpsrmox7p17.jpgOur ‘pudding’ was to share a sweet waffle, and it did take flipping a coin to decide which! We went for the Caramelised Banana, which came with homemade hazelnut & chocolate spread, vanilla ice cream and peanut crunch. We loved it – the bananas were warm and gooey, encrusted in a thick brulee sugar topping. The ice-cream was super-cream, the chocolate spread rich. Our only criticism was there was not nearly enough of the peanut crunch.

Oh, and we had to spend the rest of the day lying down in a food coma…

All in all, it was pretty damn good. Pricey, but worth it for a special occasion. The views were gorgeous, the interiors rather Instagrammable and the iconic Duck & Waffle dish was delicious. That said, the menu at Duck & Waffle Local looks a little bit more adventurous (that duck burger!) so I know where I’ll be heading next…

 photo Duck and Waffle 3_zpsc8iyqx9i.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 18_zpsai0yghsw.jpg*Note that this is not a sponsored review – my parents kindly got us a gift voucher for last Christmas, and we paid the difference ourselves.

Have you ever been to Duck & Waffle? What did you think?

Recipe: Summery Orange & Red Onion Salad

Sweet and savoury combos are something I have always been suspicious of until fairly recently. I’d go as far as sweet chilli sauce, but apple butter on my Pork & Co cob was one step too far. That’s pretty much all changed now (though you can keep your apple butter to yourself!). Be it watermelon and feta, pear and blue cheese, or even the slightly-intimidating cod and pineapple combo at Skosh (full review) I’m on board these days.

 photo Watercress Orange Salad_zpsp6u3ozgt.jpgThis is one of the combos I really, really enjoyed. It’s not even a recipe, more a preparation and assembly of ingredients, but it’s so much more than the sum of it’s parts. Red onions, chilli, watercress, orange – it all comes together to form a really delicious salad that I just couldn’t get enough of.

This made the perfect side to our grilled whole mackerel. We’re trying to get more oily dish into our diets, however salmon is a tad pricey to add into our menu every week. Mackerel on the other hand is a total bargain – two whole ones from Waitrose is under £2, with an extra 20% off on a Friday for cardholders (totally recommend getting one, if purely for the free monthly magazine). If you’re squeamish (*ahem* like W!) then just get the guy/gal at the fish counter to chop the head of for you, and obviously gut it – because no-ones got time or inclination to play with fish innards *shudders*. Simply whack under the grill, flip after around 8-10 minutes and you’ve got great fish. Whilst we did press some spices onto it here, it’s not a fish that absorbs flavour easily so next time I’d just squeeze with lemon/orange and season well.

 photo Orange Chilli Watercress Salad 3_zps9k6cbn3l.jpg photo Orange Chilli Watercress Salad 6_zpssjnte96m.jpgSalad ‘Recipe’ – made enough for two (this one won’t keep well so make right before serving!)

  • 1 bag of watercress (I also like a mix of watercress and spinach)
  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 red chill
  • 1 large-ish red onion

Segment the oranges (we followed this guide – it’s messy!), finely dice the chilli and finely slice the red onion. Toss the onion with the watercress, then scatter with the chilli and top with the orange. Serve with fish, though I imagine it would be great with some grilled chicken too.
 photo Orange Chilli Watercress Salad 5_zpshqbuvcp0.jpg

Are you a fan of sweet/savoury combos? What’s your favourite fish dish?

Food: Recent Eats #2

I thought it had been absolutely ageesssss since I wrote one of these posts. Nope. Turns out it’s not even been two months – I’ve just eaten SO MUCH good food recently I can’t wait to share it. From some amazing meals out to some products I’ve been sent to try – and of course some home-cooked meals it really has been foodie heaven for a couple of weeks.
 photo Recent Eats 4_zpsrdd2iv4u.jpg

Coffee*

Lyon’s recently sent me some of their instant coffee bags, and they’re a revelation. Decent coffee with a good, smooth taste and just so easy to make. Okay, so I still prefer a flat white with some pretty patterns in the foam, but a good and cheap(er) alternative!

Kale, Red Onion & Feta Frittata

This has been one of my go-to lunches recently. Healthy and filling, it travels well in a lunch-box and is super easy to make. Plus it’s just so, so delicious. Far more than a sum of it’s slightly boring parts, I reckon it would also make a fabulous quiche filling…
 photo Recent Eats 2_zpsfcihnaxj.jpg

Bistro Vadouvan, Putney

Let’s start with the highlight – and what a highlight it is. This French-Indian restaurant opened a short (<5 minute) stroll from our current flata month or so ago, and we finally visited at the weekend. A little pricey, particularly my starter, but absolutely delicious. One of the best meals I’ve had in London, and rivaling our meal at Skosh back in April. We’ll definitely be back – I’ll post a full review soon but it’s highly worth a trip out to Putney just to eat here.

Rocksalt, Market Harborough

A family meal to celebrate the end of my sister’s exams (how is she doing the first year of A-Levels already?!), we slipped out of our Italian-chain comfort zone and headed to Rocksalt. Specialising in fish, we’re not entirely sure why we’ve missed it before but we’ll definitely be heading back. My Haddock Scotch Egg (with spiced cauliflower puree) was divine – the only complaint was the seafood risotto with my main was over-cheesy. A rare complaint from me! Whilst I’m not planning a full review, there will be some Instagram shots posted soon.
 photo Cronuts_zpsx907ye30.jpg

Dominque Ansel’s Cronuts

Other than missing one month, I’ve been really enjoying my ‘New Year’s Resolution’ of trying every month’s Cronut flavour. I particularly enjoyed May – Blush Peach and Elderflower was a gorgeous combo. Just a shame that their cafe appears to have had a bit of a drainage problem every time I visited. Periodic wafts of smell aren’t exactly what I want when I’ve spent a not inconsiderable amount on some cake…

Homemade Chicken Satay

One of my favourite meals, I’d been meaning to try making my own Satay chicken for ages. Turns out its super-easy, amazingly tasty and I wish I’d done it sooner. As soon as I’ve managed to make it look half-pretty I’ll get my recipe live!
 photo Recent Eats 3_zpsmc0yc7nh.jpg

Meze Lunches

One of the things I LOVE in the hot weather is pick-y lunches. Bits and pieces I can nibble on, nothing too heavy (though I obviously end up eating much more than I would normally). My study-day lunches have been looking a little bit like the above – some kind of salad, hummous, carrot sticks, flatbread. Some cold meat if I’ve got it, some cheese. Basically anything I can get my hands on.

Tandoori Chicken, Mango & Lentil Salad

One of Jamie Oliver’s recipes (they always work so well), and we managed it in 20 minutes – so not bad for a fifteen minute meal! Spiced and flavourful lentils, a mixture of spinach and shaved carrot and cucumber, grilled tandoori chicken thighs and a gorgeous turmeric-mango-yoghurt dressing. Just delicious. I’m playing around with some of the flavours and a lunchbox-friendly version will be on the blog soon!

La Chapelle, Spitalfields

I’ve added another Michelin Star to my list, and this French classic was a goodie. The signature starter of Crab Lasagne was utter perfection – silky, buttery and just so, so good. My tea-smoked fillet of beef was a little overdone for my liking but it’s bone marrow, mash and onion puree accompainments were gorgeous. The dessert was back to faultless, with a super-light strawberry souffle and basil ice-cream. If only the service had lived up to the food (I found the head waiter to be a little rude with his allergy comments).
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Vienna Cheesecake*

The Polish Bakery recently sent over some goodies for us to try. Whilst I’ve really enjoyed their Chia Seed bread (the Rye & Prune is scaring me slightly – I’ve no idea how to serve it or what to have it with!), for me it was their Vienna Cheesecake which stole the show. Soft sponge, a light filling, a spot of jam and a thin layer of chocolate. It was addictively good.

And of course there was my Cinnamon Buns too (some of the best things I’ve ever baked!) It’s a wonder I’ve not put on more weight that I have done over the last couple of months – from now on in I’m on a strict regime of healthy eating. No more Vienna Cheesecake for this gal!

What ‘good eats’ have you enjoyed recently?

Recipe: Blue Cheese & Pear Salad

Hands up who is fed up of the weather we’ve been having lately? Humid, very wet days alternating with very sunny days. Coupled with my office air-con being set to Arctic mode (I genuinely took a scarf in last week!) it’s left me confused about what to wear and, more importantly, what to eat.

 photo Blue Cheese Pear Salad_zpsjeu2m2q4.jpgTypically in warmer weather I crave lighter food. Salads, zingy flavours. Less of the carb heavy meals I love in winter. But the grey skies together with coming home dripping wet (because BBC Weather told me I didn’t need an umbrella) have got me craving comfort food. I’ve been turning to warm salads recently – the perfect combination of comforting and lightness – and this one is one of my favourites.

The pear provides a subtle freshness to the dish that, as long as it’s no over-ripe, just avoids being too sweet. The toasted walnuts give crunch. Fresh peppery leaves (I like a combo of spinach, rocket and watercress but most generic bags of salad work well). A punchy balsamic dressing. And lots and lots of blue cheese. We went for dolcelatte – it’s both strong and creamy which just the right amount of smelliness for me. AKA it tastes good and strong, but doesn’t make my fridge stink to high heaven. I also have a major love for slightly softer cheese in my salads. All the ingredients come together to make a big bowlful that’s heavy, light and fresh, but with enough cheese to be comforting. If I’m being naughty I love this served with some really good bread, lightly toasted, and a glass of chilled white wine.

Oh, and it you’re not a veggie, I highly recommend a rasher of bacon, finely chopped, and fried until really crispy. Blue cheese and bacon is another of my favourite combos…

 photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 9_zpstlok4l3x.jpg photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 11_zps6aakhlb7.jpgIngredients (Enough for 1)

  • For the dressing – olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard
  • 1 large pear – I found blush pears to work best
  • A knob of butter – goat’s butter* works really well
  • A bowl of salad leaves
  • A good handful of crumbled blue cheese
  • Another good handful of walnuts

Pop the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile throw the leaves in a bowl and season with a little black pepper. Mix up the dressing – add the ingredients to a small jar and beat. Taste and adjust as you go to make it to your liking. I’m a massive balsamic fan but W’s not so keen so I’ve deliberately not given any qualities. The only thing I will say is you really do only want a tiny, tiny bit of mustard. And don’t use English mustard here, I speak from experience when I say it really doesn’t go well!

Slice the pear (no need to peel). Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the pear. Fry for 30 seconds before adding the dressing and warming through – you want the pears to be in the pan for no longer than around 90 seconds or they will go too soft. Add the pears to the salad bowl, and scatter over the walnuts and cheese. Enjoy!

 photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 12_zpsqnuup0kq.jpgAlthough I haven’t tried it, I’m also told that this works just as well with cold sliced pears as part of a lunch box. One I’ll be giving a go very soon…

What’s your favourite salad recipe?