25.8.16

COOKING WITH COCONUT OIL

Coconut oil has been a buzz word in food and health for a while now. It's good for your hair, teeth, skin, digestion, blood, brain, weight.... Just about everything really! I've been using coconut oil in my cooking for the last couple of years, but am quite selective about when and how I use it. I know lots of people who use it instead of oil or butter in nearly every recipe they make and claim that it doesn't alter the taste of food, but I personally do find it tastes of coconut (!!) so pick and choose what I use it in. Cakes and sweets - mostly yes, a fry up - definitely not. However it is great to use in Asian inspired dishes, and anything with a bit of savoury spice. Lucy came over for dinner on Monday and I wanted to cook us something light and healthy that was still super tasty, so I made a miso and chilli broth and then added chicken to poach, and as many vegetables as I could fit in there, having been vaguely inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe.



Serves 2, with leftovers

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 finely chopped white onion
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 crushed garlic clove
2 tbsp hatcho miso paste
1 tsp sambal
2 tsp sriracha
Mixed rehydrated mushrooms (I got mine from France but you can use any dried mushrooms you like - morels, porcini, shiitake)
1 litre chicken stock (homemade if possible)
2 finely sliced skinless chicken breasts, or raw prawns would work well if you prefer
Half chopped savoy cabbage
Pack of finely sliced chestnut mushrooms
Pack of baby spinach
2 finely sliced spring onions
Pickles or kimchi to serve
Chilli oil to serve

Soak the dry mushrooms in boiling water for 15 minutes. 

Put the onion and coconut oil in a saucepan and fry over a medium heat for around five minutes, stirring to avoid the onion burning. Add the ginger, garlic, miso, sambal, sriracha, rehydrated mushrooms and their liquor and the chicken stock. Stir, cover and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes. Add the chicken, cabbage and mushrooms to the broth and cook for a further 3-5 minutes depending on how thin you've sliced your chicken.

Layer the bottom of each serving bowl with a handful of raw baby spinach leaves then spoon the broth, chicken and vegetables over the top. Finish with a sprinkling of spring onions, a drizzle of chilli oil and anything pickled you have to hand! Kimchi would be excellent, though I had pickled radishes in the fridge so used these. If you want to bulk it out then quinoa, wild rice or noodles would do the job, but it's delicious just as it is.
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24.8.16

VERMOUTH ON THE ROOF, HAM YARD

Ham Yard Hotel is nestled away in the middle of Soho and is one of my favourite places to pop in to and escape the hustle and bustle of the busy tourist filled streets surrounding it. Up until the end of last year their beautiful roof terrace was only open to hotel guests, but that all changed with their winter Sipsmith rooftop pop up, and their current Vermouth on the Roof pop up that's taking place til Sunday 4th September. 



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23.8.16

CLIPSTONE, GREAT PORTLAND ST

Restaurants open so regularly in London that it's hard to get to all the ones I want to try! However there was one that kept on popping up on Instagram accounts I follow, and having checked out the menu I was determined to get to Clipstone, little new sister restaurant of Portland, as soon as possible. Which was last Monday, when I headed there with Rhea to eat all the food! We totally over-ordered as usual, and whilst I really loved a lot of what we chose, if I go back I'll definitely order lighter dishes as I felt everything we had was very rich and heavy.

We started with fried leeks and sauce gribiche. I thought the leeks would be chopped and fried, rather than whole and battered, but the sauce gribiche was good and had a nice tang to it. This was was swiftly followed by one of my favourite dishes of the evening, though hardly a contender for the "light" dishes I referred to earlier - rillettes of rabbit, pork and foie gras were topped with mustard seeds and sat on top of buttery grilled bread. The rillettes were unctuous and very more-ish despite their richness. Perfectly seasoned and absolutely delicious.


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22.8.16

SIPSMITH GIN

I'm a big gin fan and particularly love brands with a good story behind them, so I've always been intrigued by London distilled Sipsmith gin, especially as their gin is made not far from the part of West London I've lived around for the past five years, and they've also provided gin for previous pop ups I've done, including one I did based solely around their gins and vodkas. If you're a fan of Sipsmith gin, or want to learn more about it there's a couple of events I've checked out recently that you can go to to learn more. 

The first is Sipsmith's Gin Palace Extravaganza, which I did with Georgie in June. We spent the evening with Sipsmith, first at their Chiswick distillery learning all things gin and brand, and then at the Princess Victoria (one of my favourite West London pubs) for a three course, Sipsmith inspired meal. At the distillery we were talked through the history of Sipsmith, who had a long battle to even begin making their sought after gin thanks to an ancient law brought in in 1751 that stipulated the legal minimum production of gin was 1800 litres in order to control the out of hand home brew production of the spirit that was then taking place in one out of four residential properties. This law never got changed until Sipsmith took on the government so they could start a 300 litre per year production. After two and a half years they finally got the law changed and were able to start their business making London dry gin (dry meaning that all botanicals have to be infused during the distillation process and not after). We sampled various gins at the distillery, including the original London Dry Gin, the VJOP (Very Junipery Overproof Gin - made with 75% more juniper and macerated for four times longer than the original gin, making it 57.4% abv and the perfect base for a Negroni), and the London Cup (a sippable punch infused with Earl Grey tea, borage, lemon verbena, Seville orange and other botanicals, and based on the cups/punches of old days). 

We learnt about the actual production of Sipsmith gin. A base of British wheat spirit from East Anglia arrives at the distillery, weighing in at a whopping 96% abv. Water is added to reduce this down to 60% abv to enable the distillation process, then botanicals including Macedonian juniper berries, Bulgarian coriander seed, French angelica root, Spanish liquorice root, Italian orris root, Spanish ground almond, Chinese cassia bark, Madagascan cinnamon, Sevillian orange peel and Spanish lemon peel are all added. This mixture is heated, steeped and then macerated for 12 hours, leaving oily streaks from the botanicals across the liquid's surface. After maceration the liquid is heated to the boiling point of alcohol, which is 78.3 degrees celsius. The spirit turns to vapour which rises up the still. Sipsmith's stills have swan like necks, creating as much copper surface area as possible for the vapour to hit. The copper absorbs the impurities and sulphites, and the cleansed droplets then falls back down into the still. The vapour finally ends up in liquid form in the condenser which is surrounded by cold water pipes, and gin is formed. Very good gin! 

With heads full of information and bellies only full of gin it was definitely time to head to the PV for food. As part of the Gin Palace Extravaganza (which costs £75 per person, and includes the tour, several drinks and a three course meal) Sipsmith arrange taxis from the distillery to the pub - which was a very welcome surprise on the very rainy night we were there!


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15.8.16

108 BRASSERIE, MARYLEBONE

Normally I don't review the same restaurant twice unless something drastic has happened, there's been a renovation or a big change. However, I'm bending that rule especially for 108 Brasserie because though nothing drastic has happened there's something I wanted to tell you about that I didn't really cover before. Every month at 108 Brasserie there's a "dish of the month" which is made with seasonal ingredients. I really like the idea, particularly in a hotel restaurant, as I imagine a lot of their diners are regular guests at the hotel, so it's nice to have a distinct, different dish each month, even though the menu does change seasonally anyway. I popped along to try out August's "dish of the month" and also have some inside info for you about September's dish. But let's start with August....

What I really like about 108 Brasserie is that despite being a 'hotel restaurant' it doesn't feel like one. It just feels like a classy, yet not too formal brasserie style restaurant. And it's in a great location in Marylebone. The restaurant is separate from the bar area so if you just want to pop in for a drink and a main course you don't have to sit in the main restaurant area. And I recommend you do pop in for a drink because their cocktails are wonderful. I've tried various drinks there before (and will be back to try out concoctions like Mexican Lane - tapatio tequila, mango juice, lemon juice, homemade chilli syrup and grapefruit bitters) but on my recent visit settled for a basil and cucumber gimlet, made with No 3 gin, fresh basil and cucumber juice. It's a short but very refreshing and clean tasting cocktail. It normally has a sugar syrup in it but I asked for it without, and they were happy to oblige. I accompanied my drink with a couple of oysters. Not the Colchester Natives that were advertised on the menu, but some plump and delicious rock oysters with an excellent red wine shallot vinegar.
 
 
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11.8.16

KANADA-YA, HAYMARKET

I'm a big fan of Japanese food. I love the diversity of it. So many people think of Japanese food and just think of sushi, but there's so much more too it, including one of my favourites - ramen. And one of my favourite places for ramen in London have just launched a second site, which is great news as it means less queuing! I've reviewed the original Kanada-ya, in Covent Garden, previously, where we had a ramen so good I can still remember all the tastes now. So I was pretty excited to visit their new site on Panton Street, just off Piccadilly.
 
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3.8.16

CAVIAR STURIA at THE BALCON

As much as I love reviewing restaurants, attending launch parties and being sent new products to test and taste, I think my favourite type of event is when I get to meet producers and creators. Hearing people speak so passionately about something they've dedicated their entire lives to is inspiring and exciting. So I jumped at the chance to spend an evening with the guys from Sturia, France's leading caviar producers, at The Balcon where I've eaten and reviewed previously.

Sturia was set up nearly 20 years ago to produce sturgeon and caviar near Bordeaux, in the Aquitaine region of South West France, where over 90% of France's 25 tonnes of caviar is produced annually. Sturia produces 12 tonnes of this. The eggs are taken from the best spawning fish, after which the producers have to wait 2-3 years to determine the fish's gender. Once the females are identified they are farmed in ponds for up to 8 years until they reach egg producing age. Amazingly, an egg producing female weighs a massive ten kilos, and yields around 1kg of which is eggs/caviar! That's a lot of eggs for a fish to be carrying! The caviar is harvested between September and March each year. The grains are then hand sieved, very carefully washed in water, mixed with salt and tinned in 1kg tins to mature naturally in special temperature controlled rooms - not dissimilar to wine cellars. The great thing about Sturia's (and France's) caviar production method is that it is all farmed. This might not sound preferable to wild caviar but due to over-fishing the sale of caviar from wild sturgeon has been banned for the last eight years.

The caviar produced by Sturia is matured for various amounts of time, resulting in different final products. Each different type of caviar works well with different types of food, which was demonstrated throughout the meal we had at The Balcon that had been specially designed to pair with the caviars.

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28.7.16

TALLI JOE, COVENT GARDEN

Talli Joe is a new ish restaurant doing Indian half plates and full drinks on the Covent Garden side of Shaftesbury Avenue. I headed there recently to join their PR company and some of my favourite bloggers to test run their menu and learn about the spicing that head chef uses to create the different tapas style dishes. It was such a fun and filling evening and we learnt about the three ways the chef spices dishes - as a dry rub, in poaching liquids or through frying. We sampled as many cocktails as possible from the menu divided into regions that inspire each drink. My favourite was the Holy Basil - made with whisky, basil leaves, grapefruit syrup, tea and prosecco - which was just the right side of bitter whilst being really refreshing.
 
We also ate as much from the food menu as was humanly possible! My absolute favourite being the truffle ghee kulcha - a naan stuffed with cottage cheese and brushed with a very generous portion of truffle ghee. Other stars of the menu were the Chicken 21, aptly named after the number of attempts it apparently took chef to develop this delicious dish. The Devilled Quail Egg, a scotch egg made with crabmeat, quail's egg and served with tadka mayo, was sublime, as was the Talli Macchi - grilled and spiced red mullet which comes with half an orange that's been soaked in Old Monk rum that you squeeze over the fish. In fact, out of all the many dishes we sampled there wasn't one that I disliked. It's great to have a reliable "tapas" style Indian in the middle of town, where you can get cracking cocktails and really good food at great prices. You can find more info on Talli Joe here.
 

 
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26.7.16

HANGER SW6, FULHAM

If you're a fan of good steak then there's a new place in Fulham that you need to get yourself to immediately. Hanger SW6 keeps it pretty simple - a handful of starters, a few mains that include their signature hanger steak and apparently three puddings, though we didn't need those after our feast. They also do cocktails and have a pretty decent wine list.

I popped along after being invited to check out this new steak destination and was very impressed with what I tried. After a horrific journey, no thanks to TFL (as always seems to be the case at moment) I settled down with a negroni to wait for my lovely dinner date. The negroni hit all the spots, as did everything we ordered. When he arrived we wasted no time in getting to grips with the menu. The entire choice of starters was: salt beef croquette with chimichurri, salt and vinegar squid with lemon aioli, charred piquillo pepper with crumbled feta and cherry tomato salsa (his choice), and scallop ceviche with ponzu dressing (my choice). Both our starters were light yet bursting with flavour due to the excellent quality of ingredients used, and the perfect portion size considering the mains to follow. I've seen photos of the other two starters which look delicious, yet heavier than our choices because of their deep fried cooking.
 
 
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21.7.16

TRESCO FOOD & POP UPS

My posting this year is a bit all over the place - I still have Japan posts to go live, and a post on my trip to Zante in Greece where I've got lots of lovely places and restaurants to tell you about is still saved in my drafts. And this post today is a bit late too!! In Spring earlier this year I was invited down to Tresco on the Isles of Scilly to do three nights of A Little Lusciousness pop up restaurants. I headed down mid-May with Becca to take over one of their restaurants. We had such a lovely few days there, up early and in bed late, cooking, going for long walks, swimming and checking out the other food offerings on the island. I wanted to let you know about what goes on down there, as there's loads of stuff to do, places to eat, and at the end of September we're heading back there to another two nights of pop ups on 30th September and 1st October.

First things first.... Tresco is one of five inhabited islands that make up the Isles of Scilly. They're off the end of Cornwall and you can fly there from various places including Exeter, Newquay and Land's End. We took the overnight sleeper train from Paddington to Penzance, in the hope of catching the first flight over to St Mary's (the main island) the next morning but our plans were scuppered by bad weather, so we hopped on the ferry that goes to islands instead. Finally arriving where we needed to be it was a bit of a mad dash to get everything ready in time for that evening's pop up and we couldn't have done it without the help of the amazing chefs who work at the Flying Boat Club. They'd prepped a load of the food for us carefully following my not so clear instructions, so that when we walked into the kitchen at 2pm on day 1 of pop ups it wasn't as bonkers as we'd thought it would be.

 
The first three nights were pop up nights so we got our heads down and got cooking. We did manage to get out of the kitchen for a couple of hours at lunchtime each day and enjoy this amazing views from the garden of the house we were staying in.


The menu for each night's pop up was the same - canapés of Tresco beef steak tartare on rye bread, sweetcorn and ricotta mini fritters and cucumber pickled mackerel on a beetroot crisp.

 

The starter was local Bryher crab with a brown crab mayo and island tomatoes.


Mains were pulled lamb with island vegetables in a veal and artichoke broth, served with herb drenched island new potatoes.


And pudding was Cornish strawberries in many forms, basil ice cream and shortbread. And platters of Cornish cheese.




Once we'd done all the pop ups we had two days to roam the island (it's tiny - one mile wide and two miles long, and there are no cars), and to eat in the three restaurants that are there.

 
 
 

The three options for eating out are: the pub - The New Inn, the restaurant on the other side of the island which has a wood fired oven - The Ruin, and the restaurant that we took over - The Flying Boat Club. Being in need of a drink post pop ups we started our eating-in-all-the-options mission with Sunday lunch at the The New Inn. We shared started of tuna sashimi, fried whitebait and potted Tresco partridge but it was the mains that really shone. Becca had beautifully fresh and perfectly cooked Bryher lobster, which was probably plucked from the sea that very morning, while I had the Tresco beef ribeye steak. With chips. And an ale!

 
 

After a mosey round the north end of the island where we saw a rare owl which had got lost and shouldn't have been on the Scillys, a quick powernap and a drink or three with some friends who were on Tresco, we headed to my favourite restaurant on the island, The Ruin, for dinner. The Ruin has a beautiful decked outside area that looks over the beach on to the bay, though we sat inside for feast number two of the day. For starters we shared Cornish crab arancini which were gooey and delicious and so fresh, and wood fired Cornish scallops with garlic butter and charred corn. Cooked to perfection and so flavoursome, I couldn't choose between the two to pick my favourite.

 

Mains were a wood fired speck, Portobello mushroom and truffle infused mascarpone pizza on a garlic butter base, which Becca declared was the best white pizza she'd ever eaten. And whole wood fired sea bream with wood roasted baby leeks and gremolata, which wasn't far off the best whole roasted fish I've ever eaten!




With very full and happy tummies we wandered home, sad that this was our last night on the island. On our last day I headed over to the Tresco Island Spa for the most relaxing and indulgent Ila energising and detoxifying body renewal scrub. I normally only really treat myself to getting my nails done, so to be scrubbed and rubbed and massaged for a full hour was absolute bliss and something I'm very much planning on doing after my pop ups when I'm there again later this year.

 
Feeling utterly refreshed it was time for our last meal on the island, at The Flying Boat Club. They've upgraded the menu since we were there, so you can't get what we ate now, but we really enjoyed our curry battered fish with mango raita and beef shin (?) on toast for starters. As we shared everything throughout the trip we didn't stop with our mains of local mackerel with beetroot puree and chargrilled chicken sandwich. We may or may not have shared a chocolate brownie to bid farewell to a wonderful few days on the most amazing island I know.

 
 
 
Tresco is the most stunning place I've been, with so many fun activities and a plethora of locally sourced, delicious food. For info on holidays there check their website, and if you fancy a weekend away, why not come down at the end of September for a bit of A Little Lusciousness on Tresco.... see you there?!


 
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21.7.16

GIN MARE

It's a well known fact that I'm a gin fan. And also a fan of a good party on a beautiful rooftop setting in West London. So put the two together on a Friday evening and I'm one happy little food blogger. A couple of Fridays ago we headed to Gin Mare's rooftop soireé at Searcey's in Knightsbridge. We were greeted with a gin cocktail on arrival and headed up to the rooftop which was teaming with gin drinkers. We settled into a corner, snacked on nibbles by Mark Hix as they were whisked past by the waitresses desperately trying to get to the other side of the roof before all their canapés got eaten - we sampled delicious oysters, octopus and cannellini bean shots, various croquettes and mini scallops in their shells. And lots of wonderful cocktails made with Gin Mare.
 
I hadn't come across Gin Mare before, though it's not new to the market, having been created in 2007. It is however a gin that really pushed the boundaries of what we think of as being gin. Normally gin is made with botanicals including juniper, citrus peels, spices and roots. Gin Mare is made with botanicals including rosemary, thyme, olive and basil which together are very unusual in gin making. This creates a savoury essence to the drink, which pairs perfectly with a good tonic, slither of lemon peel and sprig of rosemary. It also works really well in Aperol based cocktails due to the herbal qualities in the gin.
 
If you're a gin fan and haven't come across Gin Mare I really recommend getting hold of some. It's such an interesting addition to the gin brands I know and like, and is wonderful in summer cocktails.

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20.7.16

SKY GARDEN'S SUMMER SOUNDS

Sometimes I accept an invitation to something that I know will take me out of my comfort zone. I say yes to a concept, an idea or an event without thinking through much more of the detail, and then find myself in The London Dungeons (somewhere I'm not particularly keen on but end up having one of the best Monday nights I've had in a while), or on the gazillionth floor of a building when one of my biggest fears is heights. But on all these occasions I try not to be completely pathetic and to get on with it, and actually have a really good time.

The most recent of these events was Sky Garden's Summer Sounds which is a great evening of live music.... 155 metres up in the air!! Ignoring that little nugget of info, I met Georgie downstairs where we were whisked up in to the sky to the stunning Sky Garden for some rose wine, delicious snacks and excellent live music. Every Thursday and Friday from 6pm, and every Saturday from 9pm, until 30th September you can go up to the Sky Garden for free to enjoy a mix of live bands and DJs courtesy of acclaimed ALR Music. It's not only one of the best views in London (if that's your thing) but the music when we went was really, really good. If you want to make an evening of it then book an exclusive sofa area for £450 for up to 9 people, or you can get a larger area for groups of 10+ for a minimum spend of £50pp, which is not tricky to rack up once you've had a few drinks and some food each. I don't think there's anywhere as high up, with such stunning views as this that's offering such a great deal, so highly recommend you check it out!

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