Recipe: Nomato Sauce & My Ultimate (Tomato-Free!) Bolognese

Since becoming allergic to tomatoes, one of the biggest things I’ve missed has been spaghetti bolognese and lasagne. I love pizza as much as the next person, but white pizzas are pretty damn good. Sure, I can’t eat regular curries any more but I’ve developed a love for tandoori chicken instead. But Bolognese? Try finding a tomato-free version and you’ll see what I mean!

 photo Nomato Sauce_zpsxouvsbyd.jpgBut then I used the excuse of W being away to get a bit creative in the kitchen (i.e. make a shit tonne of mess). I’d been eyeing up various ‘nomato’ and ‘nightshade-free’ red sauces for a few years, but I’d always been scared to make them. Actually, I tried once but it was overly carrot-y and not a success. This time I did a lot of research, then ignored everything, combined a few recipes and hoped for the best…

And it worked.

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 17_zpsblvxht2k.jpgMy God, is this red sauce a wonderful thing! Apparently it doesn’t taste exactly like tomatoes (I don’t remember) but it is pretty damn close. It’s amazingly versatile and works in all kinds of recipes – including on a pizza to make the best pepporoni one I’ve had in years (sure, I love white pizzas, but there’s something about a greasy pepporoni one that I hadn’t realised I was missing out on!).

The tomato-free Bolognese, though, is where this nomato sauce really shines. The Bolognese is rich, almost creamy. The meat is soft and tender, the sauce is silky. You would never guess it’s lacking what is supposedly a vital ingredient! Everyone has their own secrets to a good Bolognese. Katy adds HP Brown sauce, and both soy and Worcestershire sauces to hers. I have seen many people add chicken livers, something I’m determined to try the next time I get control of the shopping trolley.  And of course, there is Marcella Hazan’s recipe, often described as the Holy Grail of Bolognese. All I can say is that we love this recipe; full of flavour and just damn delicious. I’m now craving it as I type!

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 12_zpshvewulti.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 7_zpsmahrrmdy.jpgOh, and if you’re feeling more virtuous? I can highly recommend this Bolognese served over courgetti and boodles (softened in a little garlic olive oil for 2 mins). Just don’t skip the parmesan!

Ingredients (Nomato Sauce – generally makes 4 big portions and 1 smaller one)

  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 white onions (big-ish ones if possibly, if yours are smaller chuck another one in)
  • 5 sticks of celery
  • 6 carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3/4 of a vacuum pack of beetroot

I’m afraid there’s a lot of chopping here (though you could definitely use a food chopper to save time!).

Slice your peppers and pop in a baking dish. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the skin is blackened. Transfer to a bowl, over with sling-film and leave to cool before removing and discarding the skins.

Finely chop your onions, celery and carrots. Pop into a large pan with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, and saute over a low heat for a good twenty minutes. You want them to soften and sweeten, but not brown. Add the garlic and bay leaves and increase the heat; fry for two minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and let it bubble away, before adding the stock and the cooled roasted peppers. Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer for half an hour, or until the vegetables are soft. Top up with more water if necessary.

Slice the beetroot into smaller pieces, then add to the pan along with the soy sauce. Cook for around 10 more minutes, then leave to cool before pureeing until smooth. Portion up and freeze. I find this works amazingly well in my Bolognese recipe (below), but I’ve also used it in curries, tagines and to top a pizza. It’s a great way of adding extra vegetables in too!

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 16_zpsydavykal.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 10_zpsgnwpmn5p.jpgIngredients (Ultimate Bolognese, for two greedy people, or two normal people with leftovers for lunch)

  • 250g beef mince
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • 50ml full-fat milk
  • 1 portion of nomato sauce (around 3 ladelfuls)
  • 1/2 beef stock cube
  • Dried herbs – I usually go for a pinch each of basil, oregano and thyme

This isn’t a quick Monday-night dinner, I’ll admit. This is a lazy Saturday evening meal, or a Friday night treat. I’ll usually crack open a bottle of red and stand stirring, wine glass in hand. However, for a quicker version: omit the celery, carrot and milk, only simmer for as long as you have time for. It’s definitely worth trying the full recipe though…

Finely chop the vegetables. Pop a fry pan onto a medium head and add the mince (no added oil!) – fry until browned all over, then tip into a bowl. Add a little olive oil to the pan, then add the vegetables and fry until soft and the onion is slightly golden. Add the garlic and herbs, along with the mince. Fry for a few more minutes, then tip in the glass of wine. Allow to bubble away, turn the heat down, then add the milk. Cook, stirring, until the milk has almost evaporated away before adding the nomato sauce and the stock cube.

Turn the heat to the lowest setting and allow to simmer away for at least an hour, stirring every now and then, adding a touch of hot water if it’s starting to catch. The end result will be melt-in-the-mouth, super savoury and almost creamy. A proper bowl of comfort food served over spaghetti – and even better added to homemade cheesy bechamel in a lasagne!
 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 11_zpssjnaqek9.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 13_zpsvzk0wr7a.jpg

What’s your secret to a good Bolognese sauce?

Recipe: Homemade Focaccia, Two Ways (Rosemary & Seasalt and Red Onion & Feta)

When exam season rolls round, one of my favourite things to do is bake bread.

 photo Homemade Focaccia_zpsfflgjlps.jpgFirst up, there’s the procrastination aspect. Everyone loves a good way to get out of studying – and why not make something yummy in the process? But there’s other slightly more sensible reasons to. It forces me to take regular breaks. Almost like the pomodoro approach, I can concentrate for forty minutes whilst the dough rises, have a quick break whilst I knead it, then get back to work. But then best thing for me? Kneading really helps with with my RSI. So exams = lots of homemade bread in this house. And right now my ultimate favourite is focaccia.

 photo Homemade Focaccia30_zpsiydr3nif.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia31_zpspcxgppw8.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia34_zpstn8i4uwy.jpgIt’s super easy, doesn’t require too much shaping, can be eaten hot from the oven (priorities!) and it is damn delicious. I like it on it’s own, dipped into balsamic vinegar, made into a sandwich (sliced lengthways and filled with pesto and salami – it’s amazingly good), as part of a meze board or even dipped into soup. I can imagine it would with great with my tomato-free bolognese too!

As with most of my bread recipes, I’ve adapted this from James Morten’s Brilliant Bread. I just love his approach to baking bread, how simple his recipes are, and the amount of explanation he gives to the science behind it. By far the best bread book I’ve tried, though I’m still yet to be successful with sourdough!

 photo Homemade Focaccia8_zps7jd1br8n.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia7_zpsfiyjzawb.jpgIngredients

  • 500g bread flour
  • 7g salt
  • 7g yeast
  • 400g water (around the temperature of a warm bath, nothing too hot!)
  • 40g olive oil
  • Toppings – either sea salt, extra oil and half a packet of fresh rosemary, or use some of my red onion chutney and a sprinkling of feta).

Mix the water and olive oil together. Weight out the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Rub them together, then quickly add the water-oil mixture and stir to combine. James gives a health warning here, and I agree – the mixture is very wet (particularly compared to the bagel dough). Don’t add any extra flour. Instead, wet your hands slightly and give it a little knead. Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave to rise for an hour.

Drizzle one hand with a little olive oil, then use this to separate the dough from the bowl. Knead for a few minutes (I keep it in the bowl, saves me making too much mess!) – you want the dough to be able to support itself, and it should also feel a lot smoother when you are done. It doesn’t need to be perfect though! Re-cover and rest for another hour – or if you’re not studying, you could throw it in the fridge for 8-12 hours instead.

Add around a tablespoon of olive oil to a baking tray, and make sure the base is fully covered. Tip your dough into the tin and flatten it out – you want to try and fill the whole tray, so you might need to give it a quick knead first. Leave to prove for a final half hour (or again, throw in the fridge for 8-12 hours).

Once proved, make indentations in the dough by pressing all the way down to the tray. Sprinkle with your chosen toppings, drizzle over a little more olive oil, then bake at 220C for around 20 minutes, until golden and crisp on top. Try to let it cool a little before tucking in!
 photo Homemade Focaccia1_zps256af1n8.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia26_zpsptceqbc8.jpg

Do you make your own bread? What’s your favourite procrastination method?

Food: Getting Inventive with Veg ft. Roots Collective

One thing I’m definitely guility of is seeing vegetables as an after thought. Don’t get me wrong, we eat a decent amount (more often than not I get my 5-a-day in) but they are a side dish. An ‘essential’ mainly put there to get the good stuff and vitamins in. I can’t honestly say I always enjoy eating them!

 photo Roots Collective_zps5d2ribmy.jpgHowever when we moved in together, W and me set ourselves the challenge of being a bit more inventive with veggies. We eat vegetarian dinners once or twice a week, we try new things (hence my new loves for beetroot and butternut squash!). Recently though I’ve taken it one step further. Roots Collective challenged me to add even more veg into my diet whilst getting creative with their blends.

Now, let’s just get this off my chest. I didn’t think these worked as a juice. Too herby, too bitty (I have no issue with orange-bits in my OJ, but green stuck in my teeth was not attractive!). What I did love, however, was using them as an ingredient.

 photo Roots Collective Blends 4_zps5pasahbk.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 3_zpsqgrrd1ns.jpgThe beetroot juice (which was surprisingly the most palatable to drink) ended up being my absolute favourite out of the bunch. Whizzed up with chickpeas or butter beans, some garlic and a spot of seasoning, it made an extremely yummy and vibrant dip. It was such a gorgeous colour that really brightened up my lunchbox (and my study notes – as it turns out my Monday morning brain isn’t great at closing lunchboxes properly…). Excellent with carrot sticks, ever better with homemade pitta. I kind-of ignored Roots Collective’s recipe, instead leaving out the oil and replacing the tahini with a spot of peanut butter (don’t judge!).

Yep, note to self: post recipe for homemade pitta bread soon. Trust me when I say you’ll never look at shop bought ones in the same way again!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 1_zpszl3joift.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 2_zpsbjtutyzt.jpgThe cucumber-y one was another fave, partnering really well with salad. I did a couple of different types. A Mexican bean salad (black beans and onions sauteed wih chipotle paste, served with lots of lettuce, coriander, cheese and a few cheeky tortilla chips) – yummy, and the juice added the freshness I would usually get from soured cream. It also went really well as a dressing for couscous. Served with my homemade falafel this was the perfect lunchbox for a few days!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 15_zps40fy2qei.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 9_zpsnnfub2wq.jpgThe others I made into soup. Sure, they still need veg adding, but it was a super quick way to add extra flavour without faffing around. Just add the chopped veg to a small amount of water, simmer until soft, drain, add the juice and blend. My current thrifty tip is to make soup out of a broccoli stalk – it’s something that would otherwise get thrown away, but it’s perfectly edible and just makes good soup. Add some blue cheese and you’ve got a happy girl over here!

So, what are Roots Collective Blends? To be brutally honest, I’m still not quite sure! Not a juice. Not a smoothie. The entire bit of veg ends up in the bottle, cold-pressed without any added fruit juice to lock in all the vitamins. They can be drunk straight from the bottle (personally I don’t recommend it!), or eaten us with a spoon (I reckon they are too thin for this – but maybe I’m just a messy eater!). I think they come into their own when used as a sauce or a soup. Oh, and I’m definitely trying this risotto recipe sometime soon!

What’s your favourite veggie dish?

Review: Brunch at The Dynamo, Putney

One of the other main foodie loves in my life (beside burgers) is eggs. Fried, scrambled, baked, poached and of course the dippy egg. Served with toast, bubble and squeak, chips, or in a bacon sandwich, I just love eggs. As long as it has a runny yolk (I warn you now, never, ever serve me up a non-runny yolk. I will and have sent eggs back for such a crime) you can pretty much guarantee I’ll love it.

 photo Dynamo_zpsqc4v05mt.jpgI almost ruined eggs for me though. My pre-exam meal throughout my final-year exams was two slices of toast, two slices of ham and two poached eggs. Mushrooms if I had them to hand. Now I struggle to stomach the thought of poached eggs, and I haven’t eaten that particular combo since my last exam. In fact, I’ve had poached eggs a grand total of two times since – both whilst out for brunch.

Once was at Cambridge Street Kitchen with some blogging gals – nothing special, toast too crunchy and eggs only just the right side of ‘done’. Another 5 seconds and I’d have sent them back (though considering it took an hour for them to materialise, maybe not…).

Then there were these. The. Best. Eggs. Ever.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 9_zpsxfnekvaa.jpgI’m not even exaggerating. I mean, just look at that yolk.

Dynamo is a strange pizza-brunch-cylist workshop-cafe type place just around the corner from us. It’s dangerously close given it’s menu, though somehow we’ve only eaten there twice since moving in back in August (plus a cheeky Deliveroo order, because it was raining and I needed pizza). I’m not exactly sure what kind of concept and vibe they were aiming for, but it works. It’s the kind of industrial interior that looks good on your Instagram feed. The kind of menu that makes you go ‘oooh’ and have to ponder for a while. Smiley staff. And a bike workshop in the mornings if that takes your fancy… You can even take your dog, which I’m SO doing next time he comes to stay!

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 11_zpsgt6olcja.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 12_zps985di4b8.jpgThe pizzas (I know, this is a brunch review) are some of the best I’ve had. Pillowy, soft sourdough base which some really interesting toppings. There’s a good selection (three!) of white pizzas, including a totally irresistible Pancetta, Fennel & Pomegranate combo. Try it and thank me later.

And now to brunch.

Also a ‘different’ menu. No traditional Full English here. The ‘Full Dynamo’ features sweetcorn fritters, there’s blueberry pancakes with bacon, chorizo hash and all kinds of other egg-based delights.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 5_zps8vly6r1e.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 4_zpshr3uofj7.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 2_zpsd5sfii8i.jpgW had the Chilli Scrambled Eggs – “Scrambled Eggs, Nduja Toast, Feta and Zhoug.” Yep, we had to google Zhoug too (it’s a green chilli sauce). The scrambled eggs were some of the best we’d tried, which considering we have very different ideas about what scrambled eggs should be (I’m creamy and barely cooked, he’s firmly set but fluffy) is a pretty tall order to satisfy. The nduja and zhoug added just the right amount of spice, and the feta added a gorgeous fresh tang. Scrambled eggs, but not the nursery supper from your childhood. He certainly had a happy face after eating!

Then there was my order. Eggs Eddy, a spin on my favourite Eggs Benedict – “Poached Eggs, Black Pudding, Citrus Hollandaise and Seven Seeded Sourdough.” Guys, black pudding instead of ham is a revelation. I know not everyone is a fan of it, but I LOVE it and this worked so, so well. It was perfectly cooked (crispy outer, soft and melting inner), topped with perfectly cooked eggs. Gooey yolks, just set whites and no firm yolk in sight. And the colour. And flavour. So good. The citrus hollandaise was delicious, with the zing cutting through the rich meat so I didn’t feel (too much) like waddling out afterwards.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 6_zps7tztzscx.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 8_zpssa9hiopd.jpgThe only complaint (from both of us) was that we’d have loved an additional bit of toast, or a thicker slice. A little thing, and we could have easily ordered some had we not been off to devour birthday cake!

So yep, this is my local brunch spot. Safe to say I’m not planning on finding a new flat any time soon! I’d highly recommend a trip out to deepest SW15 if you’re looking for a new brunch spot…Now all I need to do is find out who supplies their eggs!

Where’s your favourite brunch spot?

Recipe: Toffee & Pecan Banana Loaf Cake

This is banana bread like you’ve never had before. Banana bread on steroids. Banana bread so deliciously sticky and gooey it nearly has to be eaten with a spoon, so much so it’s definitely more cake than bread.

 photo Toffee Banana Pecan Loaf_zpsrdfxtaqw.jpgIt’s also one of my favourite bakes of all time.

Inspired by this GoodFood recipe, it’s sweet, squidgy (love that word!) and crunchy all at once, it’s extremely easy and pretty quick to make. The only difficulty and time-consuming bit is chopping the toffees – and if you use fudge instead it’s a whole lot easier. I found the best way to chop actual toffees was to warm a knife over a pan of boiling water (I was doing mashed potato for dinner at the same time!), then chop under a tea-towel to stop toffee shattering everywhere. Then everything pretty much goes into one bowl, gets a quick mix, thrown into a loaf tin, scattered with nuts and toffee and baked. The result is a pretty good looking cake, even when your toffee does sink right to the bottom.

 photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf6_zpsflako6rz.jpg photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf12_zpspxjmyuni.jpgIngredients

  • 200g mashed ripe banana (around 2 bananas – I tend to buy bananas in bulk, ripen excessively then slice and freeze)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g butter
  • 100g/4oz toffee yogurt (I use MullerLight – just under a full pot, so the chef gets the leftovers!)
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 200g flour
  • 1&½ tsp baking powder
  • 75g pecan nuts
  • 150g chewy toffees

Roughly chop the pecans and toffees, then set aside. Mix together the bananas, eggs, butter, toffee yogurt and sugar, until well combined. Fold the flour and baking powder into the mixture, then fold in around three-quarters of the pecan nuts.
Spoon the mixture into a 900g loaf tin (greased and lined), before sprinkling on the remaining nuts and all of the toffees. Bake for around an hour at 150C until loaf risen and no longer soggy in the middle (just a skewer to test!). Cool in the tin- trust me, molten toffee is not a good thing to get on your fingers! Slice up when fully cool – and just blast in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up if serving with ice-cream.

 photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf15_zpsumfwa8hx.jpgI find this cake perfect for so many occasions. Stick in some candles and you’ve got one of my favourite birthday cakes. Slice up and it makes a sell-out charity bake. It’s delicious served warm with ice-cream, and I’ve had it (with and without yoghurt) for breakfast too – it’s “banana bread” after all!

Have you been baking lately?

Recipe: Beetroot Risotto

This isn’t the most attractive of dishes, I fully own up to that. It’s quite possibly the pink-est thing I have ever cooked, have ever eaten. W (quite rightly, though I wasn’t impressed at the time) claimed it looked at bit like brains.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 2_zpstpdq0qtl.jpgI spoke about my love for beetroot a few weeks ago (when I published my Beetroot, Black Pudding & Goat’s Cheese Salad recipe), but here we go again. For years I shied away from it, and when I did try it I thought it tasted of soil. Not particularly offensive, but not particularly pleasant either. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve actively enjoyed eating it, something I have our engagement meal to thank for. Now not only do I love it in it’s own right, it’s also absolutely essential for me in my No-mato sauces.

Now, I get that to the non-beetroot lover it’s not a great vegetable. It can be bitter yet sweet, and of course it’s quite an earthy taste to become acquired too. This is a recipe I would highly recommend to someone not to sure about it. Sure, the colour is off-putting, but the flavour is muted by the mascapone, the texture is that of a classic risotto – very creamy. It’s also pretty cheap to make, so it’s been a favourite of mine over winter!

Ingredients

  • 2 beets from a vac-pack (freeze the remaining ones – or chop and roast for scattering on the top)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 150g risotto rice
  • Small glass of white wine, optional
  • Around 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • Handful grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp mascapone – or a soft goat’s cheese is excellent (and my favourite!)

Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic, then fry in the olive oil or 5-7 minutes over a low heat. Turn the heat up, stir in the rice until well coated. Pour over the white wine, then allow to evaporate whilst stirring. Add the stock gradually, a ladleful at a stir, stirring often. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked (but still with a little bite). If you run out of stock, just use a little water.

Whizz the beetroot in a food processor to make a purée. Stir most of the Parmesan, the beetroot purée and the mascapone through the risotto. Season well, then leave to rest for 5 or so minutes. Served scatter with the remaining Parmesan. If you’ve roasted some beetroot, add it to the top or (as I did here) fry some cubes of black pudding to scatter over.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 4_zpsmsvmsk4s.jpgThe perfect dish to begin falling in love with beetroot!

Are you a beetroot fan? What’s your favourite type of risotto?

Review: Honest Burgers, Covent Garden

I subtly alluded a few weekends ago that I quite like a burger.

 photo Honest Burger_zpsgd83mpms.jpgScratch that, I pretty much shouted from the rooftops about my love for burgers. This year I’ve made it my mission to find my ultimate burger. I’ve got a meat grinder attachment for the KitchenAid to try and make my own. I have an ever-growing list of places to try (and please, please feel free to add your favourite burger to it!). I even, much as I am ashamed to admit it, day-dream about burgers. Please tell me I’m not the only one?!

When we moved to London Honest Burgers was top on my list of places to visit, but despite my office being literally on top of one, it took me until November to visit. Then I went again in December. And again since. It’s taken me until now to pen up a review, and I’m not entirely sure why. Because, quite simply, I could have summed it up with a simple Instagram post and a “Yum” #thumbsup.

 photo Honest Burger Review 1_zpsgeseavtn.jpg(Fun Fact: my flatlay of Honest burgers was my first Instagram photo to smash through 100 likes).

We visited after a few drinks, and before more drinks, with a small-ish group of friends one Saturday night. Despite going to the small Covent Garden branch, we maybe waited 20 minutes for a table (heading off for more drinks whilst we waiting for the all important phone call!) – definitely not the wait we were expecting!

Between us we probably ordered most of the menu. A couple of cheeseburgers, a couple of “plain Jane’s”, a couple of Tributes, a chicken, the special at the time (some with black sesame seeds and kimchi) and my “Honest” burger. Everything comes with chips (a nice surprise!), and we also grabbed a couple of buckets of onion rings to share.

 photo Honest Burger Review 5_zpsn4fklxkd.jpg photo Honest Burger Review 10_zps7nbor936.jpgI always think that if a restaurant names a burger after themselves, it’s got to be a bloody good burger. Byron made that mistake (it was a bit disapointing), but Honest really nailed it. For one, it didn’t contain tomatoes. At all. It’s rare I can enjoy a relish, or even not have to trust them to not put a sneaky tomato slice in, but this was pure tomato-free goodness. A thick meaty patty cooked just right (plenty of oozy pink, but nothing too slime-ily raw about it), seasoned well and actually tasting of beef. Lots of oozy cheese. A good spoonful of onion relish, but not too much it took over. Crisp but not tooth-shatteringly so bacon. A token bit of salad. Some gorgeous lightly picked cucumber – slightly sharp, still crunchy and adding a gorgeous refreshing element. All held together in one of the best brioche burger buns I’ve tried. Despite the juiciness of the patty it held together pretty damn well. I didn’t get it all down my front at least…

 photo Honest Burger Review 3_zps3wha0un7.jpgOther burgers got similar reviews. W had the kimchi special, which I didn’t try (I’m not a fan of kimchi or sauerkraut flavours at all) but it did look and smell good – and disappeared in super-quick time. The chicken burger also looked damn good, even if I never order them. And whilst the cheeseburger did look good, when you can add bacon and relish I’m just not too sure whether I’ll ever order one…

The chips were also a revelation. I’ve become used to disappointing chips, and nothing is worse than a limp fry – but these were stunning. Chunky, almost chip-shop style, but with lots of crispy bits. Drenched in a rosemary salt, they were incredibly moreish and I hoovered up the massive portion size. On my second visit I went after work in my tightest pencil skirt. Bad decision. I forced the chips down and then couldn’t sit down on the tube to get home.

 photo Honest Burger Review 7_zpscwpzqxr3.jpgIn fact, the only dud were the onion rings. And I was super disappointed. One, because I bloody love onion rings (number one place so far has been Burgers & Cocktails, followed rather closely by Ed’s Diner). Two, because I’m heard so many people raving about Honest’s onion rings. Sure, they were reasonably crispy, but the onions inside were watery, and the batter thick and almost doughy. A raw spice taste to them too – despite only two portions between 7 of us, they were the only thing we failed to polish off…

 photo Honest Burger Review 9_zpshsqynyy2.jpgOnion rings aside, Honest Burgers jumped straight to the top of my ‘favourite burger’ list. Excellent meat, good buns, supremely moreish chips. They’ve recently had a ‘Sunday Roast’ burger special with bacon gravy (!) and roast potatoes that I’m desperate to try, and I’m only gutted I didn’t manage to grab one of their Christmas specials. This year, this year.

Have you ever been to Honest Burgers? What did you think? Where’s your top burger in London?

 

Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Crisp Sandwich

Yep, I’ve gone completely mad. I’m writing a whole post on how to make a crisp sandwich. Officially insane.

Let me justify myself for a minute.

 photo Crisp Sandwich_zpsqlg5x3fo.jpgWay back in October I suddenly had a craving for a crisp sandwich (because carbs + carbs = happy Chloe). Yet every one I had was slightly disappointing. It genuinely took several attempts to make THE PERFECT crisp sandwich. And that is what I’m presenting to you here.

Soft, plastic-y white bread. Good flavoured, good quality crisps. A small amount of moisture. A bit of extra seasoning. A towel on your lap to catch the crumbs (there is no lady-like way to eat a crisp sandwich).

This is another study-day favourite, though one for where I’m either being really productive (and so don’t want to cook, or have left it too late and h-anger has set it). Or where I’m doing nothing and need to prevent myself baking up a storm. It’s filling, satisfying, a good combo of textures. It feels like a treat, yet takes (if you’re really slow) five minutes to make. Perfect.

 photo Crisp Sandwiches 4_zps9w8tlq4r.jpg photo Crisp Sandwiches 9_zpsqjn2rxyy.jpg(oh, the cake in the photos it’s my S’mores Brownie. So bad but so good!)

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of ‘plastic’ white bread. None of your fancy sourdough stuff. I favour Warburton’s Toastie here (no collaboration at all!)
  • 1 packet of crisps. Salt & Vinegar is my ultimate in a sandwich, though I do like the occasional Smoky Bacon. And it’s got to be Walkers. I’m a Leicester gal after all!
  • 1/2 teaspoon (if that – only a small amount) of mayonnaise (and mustard if using Smoky Bacon!)
  • Salt & Pepper

Empty half of your crisps into a bowl, and roughly crush. Spread one slide of bread very thinly with the mayo and mustard (if using). Don’t use butter. I find the crisp-butter combo too greasy. Top with the crushed crisps. Add a few whole crisps for good measure. Top with the second slice of bread (this will be dry – no spread!).

Serve with the rest of the crisps to add in as necessary, or crunch on separately. Devour. Crunch. Get a bit crumby. Enjoy.

 photo Crisp Sandwiches 7_zpsqnbcokdr.jpg photo Crisp Sandwiches 5_zpst54wadm5.jpgI find the Salt’n’Vinegar version works well with a cup of tea. And if you want to make that combination even better? Add a couple of grilled fish fingers. Seriously. Fish finger and salt’n’vinegar crisp sandwiches are my ultimate sandwich. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

Are you a crisp sandwich fan?

Food: The Year of the Burger

Forget Chinese New Year, and the year of the rooster – for me it’s all about the year of the burger.

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 1_zpscaakdr4r.jpgIt’s clear from both my Instagram and previous blog posts that I’m a massive lover of burgers (as well as runny eggs and pretty houses!). I’ve tried burgers than are pretty much steak in a brioche bun. I’ve tried “London’s Best Burger.” I’ve had McDonald’s and other fast food burgers. I’ve had fun toppings, plain Janes and pretty much everything in between. I’ve suffered allergic reactions (thanks Byron for just removing the tomato slice then handing the burger back!), felt too stuffed to move. I’ve eaten more than my fair shame of bad burgers, but equally I’ve eaten some bloody damn good ones!

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 5_zpsbhtsdznk.jpg photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 4_zpsjpvojda6.jpgProbably the most inventive place I’ve been for burger toppings is Burger & Cocktails in Brighton. The burgers themselves were thin patties cooked well-done, but quite flavourful and juicy – and they really let the toppings shine. I went for a mac’n’cheese and bacon combo (carbs on carbs, and adding bacon is never bad), whilst W enjoyed a spicy, oozy, cheesy number. Sides were also excellent, with the onion rings being the best I’ve ever had. And I don’t need to say more than this: alcoholic chocolate orange milkshake.

I’ve also enjoyed GBK, though I was gutted that the Camembert burger seems to have disappeared. Beef patty, Camembert, onions, bacon and shoestring fries allllll inside a bun was pretty much a party in my mouth. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the other burgers on the menu, though with my new found love of beetroot their signature is now high on my list to try!

 photo Honest Burger Review 1_zpsxg6a81ra.jpg photo Honest Burger Review 9_zpsno3bkbbe.jpgIn terms of the best burger patty, the winner so far has to be Honest burgers. My review is due to go live in a few weeks, but here’s a sneak peek: excellent meaty flavours, well cooked, an soft but robust brioche bun and the BEST chips. I also love that I can pretty much eat everything on the menu as there’s no tomato slices and no cheeky relish lurking. I’m also a big fan of the pickled cucumber…

Five Guys is also close to my heart, though I’m still unsure as to whether it’s worth the rather high price-tag. I do love it for a quick lunch, but at £12+ for a chip-burger-drink combo (I can’t resist the still peach fanta – and it’s double-cheese-and-bacon or go home!) it’s pricey. Unlimited free toppings helps though – my go-to is grilled onions, mustard, mushrooms and lettuce. Yum yum.

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 6_zpswsobxllt.jpgOf course, I can’t not mention Mac & Wild. It’s Veni-Moo was voted London’s best burger of 2016, so obviously I HAD to try it. I loved it, but I’m unsure if it’s worthy of it’s title. It was bloody good, with juicy patties, runny cheese, cream Bernaise, pickles, mustard, a decent bun, candied bacon. But it was just too big. It was impossible to eat as a burger, definitely a knife-and-fork job, and even then it had to be eaten element by element. Just not quite there for me, I’m gutted to say. Though I’ve since been back and gorged on venison Chateaubriand. Pricier, but worth it.

But this is the year I try new places, branch out. I have SO many burger places I want to try. Shake Shack has been on my list for what feels like years, and now new branches are popping up I can avoid the huge queues in Covent Garden. As a black pudding lover, Bleecker St is somewhere I NEED to visit asap. With Spitalfields being one of my favourite weekend haunts, I’m not too sure why I’ve not visited yet. Then there’s Patty & Bun, which again seems like somewhere I need to visit. There’s Smashburgers which has opened up in MK and Brighton, a new concept which I’d love to try. And of course, I’m also open to finding the best fried chicken burger too…

So now it’s over to you. Where is the best burger you’ve ever had? Where do you recommend? Don’t just limit it to London, I’m willing to travel for the perfect burger…

Recipe: Chocolate, Orange & Ginger Cookies

One of my favourite festive treats (who am I kidding, I love everything festive as long as it doesn’t contain dried fruit!) is a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. The combo of zingy orange and creamy chocolate is one I’ve loved for as long as I can remember, and these cookies captured that AND took it up a notch. Adding ginger and a touch of cinnamon gave a warmth and kick to each bite that really brought these cookies to another level.

 photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies_zpsqeg8azcp.jpgThis recipe came about way back at the beginning of December, when I attended an event put on by the Co-Op and Sorted Food to address the Cooking Gap. The ‘gap is basically young people showing a massive lack of cooking and food skills. Having lived in halls for a year of my university life, I totally get this – one of my housemates bought a BBQ chicken pizza from Asda, left on the kitchen side for a week, popped it in the fridge for another week, then cooked it. Didn’t smell great! I know I didn’t get much cooking skills from school (though they did teach me how to make a white sauce, so eternally grateful there!), and I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking with my mum either. For a completely self-taught 23 year old I would say my cooking skills are pretty good, but I know so many people who just don’t cook. At all. Fingers crossed the guys at Sorted manage to change that!

 photo 2016-12-06 19.27.23_zps7alwpdtd.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.26.39_zpsblmovsag.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.25.49_zpssocdhfwc.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.23.48_zpsnwyiofpt.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.09.05_zps3vpebhtj.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.07.50_zpsovidos5h.jpg photo 2016-12-06 19.01.35_zpstdfukjww.jpgIt was a pretty fab event too. I was super-jealous of their kitchen, got a little too tipsy with Tanya and had a delicious white pizza made for me, then drizzled with honey. Bit of an odd combo, but it totally worked!

Now to the cookies. Soft in the middle, crisp at the edges, sweet, spicy, filling and a good chocolatey hit. Pretty much the perfect cookie…

 photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies24_zpsdooclw9s.jpg photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies23_zpszebjbask.jpg photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies22_zpsml0ot5ok.jpgIngredients

  • 50g candied ginger
  • 50g dark chocolate chips
  • 1 orange (zested, plus half of the juice)
  • 60g butter
  • 90ml sunflower oil
  • 180g soft brown sugar
  • 50g honey
  • 1 egg
  • 0.5tsp baking powder
  • 0.5tsp ground cinnamon
  • 0.5tsp ground ginger
  • 120g plain flour
  • 240g porridge oats

 

Place a clean large mixing bowl on a set of scales and reset the scales to zero using the tare function.

Add the butter, oil, sugar, orange juice and honey to a bowl, then crack in the egg and beat together until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, baking powder, and ground spices to the mixture; beat evenly to combine. Add the flour and the oats, stir, then add in your candied ginger, chocolate and orange zest. Mix everything together well.

Spoon blobs of about a tablespoon of the mixture onto baking trays (line with greasepoof). Roll into a ball and flatten slightly, but leave plenty of space between them as I found they did spread slightly. I also found the mix realllyyyyy sticky, so keeping my fingers damp helped here! Bake for 12-15 minutes at 175C until they are golden around the edges, cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 photo Chocolate Orange Ginger Cookies25_zpsbxo1wmj1.jpgI’m not ashamed (well, maybe a little) to admit that I ate them for breakfast. Though they are perfect with an afternoon cuppa too. Or a post-dinner snack. Or just because…

What’s your favourite type of cookie? Do you think the cooking gap is important to address?