Over the past year I've reviewed over 60(!) restaurants on this little blog of mine, and have eaten at a whole load more. Some not so great, so they didn't make it on to here, and some were incredible but I didn't want to take my camera with me so they didn't get reviewed. They may well do in the future as a lot warrant a second or third visit! Then there are others I've eaten at abroad which haven't made it up here.

So in no particular order, here are my top 10. They're all (except 110) linked to the original review I wrote so you can read about each in more detail:

Kricket - maybe my favourite restaurant this year, Kricket is nestled away upstairs in Pop Brixton. There's eight small dishes on the Indian inspired menu. Order them all, and maybe two portions of the Keralan fried chicken with curry mayo.

Smokehouse - choose between the Chiswick branch or the Islington one for slow cooked, smoked meats served with Asian inspired sauces. Must try dishes are the tacos on the starter menu (they alternate between pork and goat) and the smoked lamb shoulder with sambal and raclette.

Hoppers - super affordable and really excellent Sri Lankan food in the heart of Soho. Get there early to get your name in the queue as there's no reservations.

Paradise Garage - Robin Gill, of Clapham's Dairy and Manor's new-ish venture in Bethnal Green lives up to the hype. Go with as many people as possible so you can order one of everything on the menu!

The Providores and Tapa Room - two restaurants in one on Marylebone High Street and both worth visiting. Small fusion sharing plates (and a killer brunch menu) at The Tapa Room and more formal dining upstairs at The Providores.

The Kitchen Table - Michelin starred tasting menu behind Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia. Book with a big group and spend a fascinating evening sitting round the kitchen area watching your 15 course meal be prepared.

Rex and Mariano - sadly this Soho restaurant has closed down now, but has been replaced by Zelman Meats, which I'm yet to try but is definitely on the list for 2016!

HKK - Michelin starred Chinese food near Liverpool Street. Splash out on the tasting menu to really experience what this place offers, or for a cheaper option there's a duck and champagne brunch on Saturday afternoons.

London Foodie supper club - Nikkei cuisine at its finest in Luiz's beautiful home in Islington.

Les 110 de Taillevent - not reviewed on here, but a fantastic French restaurant on Cavendish Square that does wonderful food and excellent paired wines by the glass.

And finally, my personal favourite recipe of the year from my blog is buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese sauce - so quick, easy and cheap to make, anyone you cook these for will love you a lot!!

Happy 2016!

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Unless you've been living under a rock or you don't read any restaurant reviews, then I'm sure by now you've heard of Hoppers, the new spot in Soho serving Sri Lankan food from the people behind Gymhkana, Trishna, Lyle's, Bubbledogs, The Kitchen Table and Bao. Hoppers has been highly reviewed by some of the biggest names in food, and with a no booking policy its popularity has gone through the roof. I've been a couple of times now, and by the second visit they'd installed an app queuing system whereby you can leave your phone number in the queue, pop to the nearest pub/bar and wait in the warm with a drink, until you get a text saying your table's ready, rather than huddled under the awning of the building opposite as we did on our first visit. Don't let the wait/queue put you off going though - you need to try this food. As you'll see on Thursday when I post my top 10 restaurants of 2015, it's made its way on to there, which is saying something with the amount of restaurants I've been to this year. And Hoppers is ridiculously cheap, particularly if you don't drink too much (both times I've been our drinks spend has far exceeded what we've spent on food....)

And talking of drinks, what better place to start. There's a slightly weird and wonderful cocktail menu at Hoppers, and to be honest, most of them include ingredients I prefer on my plate than in my glass (curry leaf, peppercorns, cashews) so on both visits I've gone for the Hoppers gin and tonic, made with lemongrass infused Sipsmith gin, Indian lemon, lemongrass and tonic, which is a zingy and refreshing drink and a great start to the meal. I had a sip of Emily's Colombo no.7 gin and tonic (gin, fresh curry leaves, cinnamon and cardamom tonic) but much preferred mine.

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Just a quick one from me today - here's a very easy "recipe" for your leftover turkey. This really jazzes up leftover cold meat and is also great with ham if that's what you prefer/have lots left of.

2 tsp lime juice
2 tsp honey or agave nectar
3-4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chilli flakes
Chopped coriander leaves
Chopped mint leaves
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 tbsp. sunflower seeds
1 red chilli, sliced very thinly
Leftover turkey or ham, sliced

Put the lime, honey, sesame oil, chilli flakes and herbs in a jam jar. Pop the lid on and give it a really good shake (if you want to make it in advance, don't add the herbs until just before serving). Pour the dressing over the turkey or ham slices, then top with pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds and slices of red chilli. Serve with a warm red rice, sunflower seed and chopped spring onion salad, or an Ottolenghi cous cous salad with pistachios and chilli.

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It's been quite a year. Cooking and writing wise, a lot of exciting things have happened this year, and even more are planned for next year (which I cannot wait to tell you about!!). Personally, it's been a bit of a tough year, so I'm looking forward to a fresh new year in 2016! I just wanted to take a moment though to thank a few people. A Little Lusciousness may appear to be a one man band, but it's far from that. There are so many people who've helped me out this year, who I couldn't do any of this without, so I want to say thank you to as many of them as I can remember!

Firstly, I want to thank Hana. Hana came to volunteer with me at a pop up in 2014 and she was so good that she's helped out at every possible event since. Not only does she give up many Saturday nights to come all the way West from Walthamstow to work for me at hot and hectic pop ups, she also volunteered at the pop up I did for Action Aid in Syria. Hana runs her own pop ups called Pickled Plates, and you can find out more about them here.

Thank you to Grub Club for supporting me all the way with my pop ups. For encouraging me, recommending me, even lending me their house for a pop up when I suddenly found myself venue-less. Thank you to my ex-boyfriend for letting me do pop ups in his house for the first half of this year (and all of last year too). Thank you to Storeys for giving us their venue for the Action Aid pop up, and to Urban Villa for letting me hold a pop up there on the hottest day this year! Thank you to Lorraine at Hummingbird Deli, and Angie at Angie's Little Food Shop for letting me use their venues more recently.

Thank you to my pop up helpers this year - Ian, Bronwen, Dru, Libby, Amina, Donna, Tracey, Stephanie, Emily, Michelle, Leanne, Tobi, Chitra (SO sorry if I've forgotten anyone....). And thank you to Hardeep Singh Kohli, who decided that our crazy idea to feed 60+ people on a rooftop within weeks of making that plan wasn't in fact that crazy, and without whom I could never have put on the event that we did to raise money for Action Aid in Syria.

A massive thank you to the wonderful photographers who worked with me this year. It's so hard for me to take anything resembling a proper photo at my pop ups, but Chelone, Rad, Phil and Karin have captured pictures of my food that make me a proud chef! 

 Photo by Chelone
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When an invite reads "Dirty Brunch - hangovers welcome" and is for the day after one of my pop ups, I don't have to think twice about accepting. So a couple of Sundays ago I headed into Kensington for a refuelling session courtesy of Dirty Bones and their new brunch menu. I arrived a bit late (midday on a Sunday post pop up was always going to be tricky) to be greeted with a table full of Bloody Mary ingredients and a very friendly barman who was about to show us how to make our own. This was a good start. I loved the use of pickle juice and hot sauce in the Dirty Mary, though have to say I was not sold on the crushed up sour cream pringles stuck to the rim of the glass. Unconvinced I wiped these off so I could enjoy my drink. Apparently I was missing out, but each to their own....

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Tuscany in November with Filippo Berio, to learn more about their brand and the wonderful olive oil they produce. It was absolutely fascinating to hear about where the olives come from to make their oil (for their regular oil it's a mixture of mainly Spain, Italy and Greece) and see the production process, as well as sampling the new olive oil from November's harvest. I'm very excited that I'm going to be using the Filippo Berio Gran Cru olive oils, which are a range of three extra virgin olive oils each made with olives from just one Italian region (Puglia, Sicily or Tuscany), at my pop ups next year. The difference between the classic extra virgin and virgin olive oils and the Gran Cru range is that the Gran Cru oils have a stronger flavour, with a more peppery, grassy taste, which I'll pair with specific dishes for some of my events.

To celebrate the new olive harvest and the 'Olio Novello', which is the first Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the November 2015 harvest, Filippo Berio hosted an intimate dinner at La Cucina Caldesi, which was a four course feast cooked by Valentine Warner. The oil had been flown in especially for the event from Lucca, where Filippo Berio are based in Italy, and Val had prepared all the dishes to complement the oil.

We started with heavenly bits of bread, topped with goat's curd and a salsa verde made from the Olio Novello, capers, shallots, parsley and garlic. I had to really restrain myself around these as they were so good - salty from the capers with the peppery oil, I ate way more than I should've before the meal even started!

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It's a funny thing going to a pop up restaurant run by someone else. You see everything in a different light than the rest of the guests as you know what goes on behind the scenes as well as at the table. I was invited to try out Cuisson's pop up recently which has been running at The Vaults in Waterloo for the past couple of months, where they do six pop ups a week. I've been to events at The Vaults before, and have been freezing cold but Cuisson takes place in a smaller room in the building, that I hadn't been to before, and it was really warm so no worries on the cold front! There's a bar downstairs where they serve specially designed cocktails to compliment the menu, as well as alcoholic teas, and wine. Once you've got your drinks you're taken upstairs to the dining area, where there are several large, shared tables.

Cuisson serve a regularly changing four course menu, and encourage you to help the chefs plate up - I kind of like this idea, though not massively keen on lots of people who don't know what they're doing touching the food (they do wear gloves... but still!) I definitely wasn't going to get involved in all that as I had a night off cooking and was there to eat.

We started with what turned out to be my favourite course - cabbage, chorizo, red pepper, lemon and hazelnuts. The cabbage was so tasty, having been seared and then roasted, retaining all its juiciness and flavour, and was perfectly complemented by the smoky chorizo and the crunch of nuts.

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I feel like I've eaten more Indian and Sri Lankan food in the second half of this year than I've ever eaten before. With multiple visits to one of my new favourites, Kricket, and a few recent visits to the newly opened Hoppers in Soho (review to follow soon), as well as attending the re-launch of The Cinnamon Club back in September and Bombay Brasserie in October, and hosting my very own Indian inspired pop up for Action Aid's work in Syria, it's fair to say there's been a lot of curry in my life! Then a few weeks ago I headed over to Liverpool Street to check out the newly opened Darbaar, which is headed up by Abdul Yaseen who's launched his first solo project after over 10 years at The Cinnamon Club. Darbaar is vast. It has over 200 covers, and takes inspiration from the banquets of the Indian Royal Courts. The restaurant area is grand with a cosy darkness in the evenings, and rows of tables lining the room plus an open kitchen area where you can sit at the bar and look straight in. I love the lights, which looks like big, gold tea flowers, and hang prominently down the middle of the room.

The food at Darbaar is designed to be shared and the menu is made up of small bites (including Keralan shrimp cocktail with coconut), appetisers (king scallops with red cabbage or nawabi chicken pasanda with rock moss, for example), wood fired nanza (paneer bhurji or chilli chicken, caramelised onion and cheddar), the royal pot (a seasonal and hearty preparation, inspired by the dishes which were the iconic sharing feasts of the Royal Court), sides (rice, naans and vegetables) and chef's specials (including baked leg of rabbit on the bone with Rajasthani chilli and corn sauce, and spice crusted sea bass with shrimp and coconut sambal - wow!). Dishes range from £4.50 for small bites to £20 for the more expensive mains choices, though you can also choose the fixed menu - the menu Daawat, which is what we went for and comes in at £35/person for a table of 4 people. You get three 'light' dishes, followed by three 'mains' with sides, and three puddings - all for sharing.

We started with 'hariyali' date and samosa chaat -

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In between the many, many restaurant visits, writing recipes for various brands and for my own cookbook, the cooking for pop ups and catering gigs, I've had a few more random adventures recently.

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A couple of months ago I wrote a post about what we can all do to help and support the people who've lost their homes and had to the flee their countries because of war where they lived. Sadly, every day more people become refugees, and though the media chooses to mostly ignore it, the problem is not going away. Some of these refugees have ended up in Calais, France, in a no man's land, where no government will help or take responsibility for them, and where they are about to experience a cold, long winter while living in makeshift camps. You can continue to donate clothing, shoes, food, tents and other supplies through various channels mentioned in the first post I wrote, but now you can also support in another way.

A collective of UK street food traders, StreetAid, will be heading to Calais in January 2016 to deliver direct aid to refugees in camps in Calais. They'll be providing hot nourishing food and essential building equipment to people in real need. Street food traders delivering aid in January include The Roadery, Rupert's Street, Streatza, The Bowler, Fleisch Mob, House of Dodo, and What The Dickens! This is the second trip to Calais for these superstars, having previously visited the camp in September, where their help was invaluable.

The guys at StreetAid who are arranging this trip are looking for our help in raising funds to buy food that they'll cook and distribute, and to purchase building provisions to help build more sturdy homes for the refugees, that will protect them from the harsh winter weather. So, please dig deep, and help StreetAid to help the people that need it the most. So often it can feel like there's nothing we can do to help, but by donating to this campaign you will be making a real difference. I've hyperlinked to the Just Giving page above, but just in case you can't see it, here's the full link to where you can donate - https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/StreetAid.

Thank you xx

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There are some events I get invited to that feel like a bit of an experiment. Then there are others which actually are an experiment - sitting with a jelly bean that tasted of vomit in my mouth, I realised that Stimulating the Senses with Tabl was definitely the latter. Replused, I wasn't too keen for the rest of what the evening had in store, but was assured by the team that this was the only horrible part of the night, and for the rest of it, we were in for a treat. Luckily, they were telling the truth.

Tabl are a new pop up event company, promoting food events with a twist - think comedy nights with dinner, or the one I went to - a night composed by Heston Blumenthal's food psychologist, which would stimulate, trick and play with all of our senses. We didn't have a menu, had no idea what we would be eating, and ate some of the courses without smelling, or with headphones on that were blaring out crazy music as our dessert was painted on to the dining tables.

We started with a bitter taste test - putting this paper strip on our tongue to identify those of us with more efficient taste buds. It wasn't a particularly pleasant taste, but one that was easily washed away with a glug of wine.

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I'm spoiling you with recipes this week! Today's is a Greek inspired recipe, using a variation on a classic middle Eastern ingredient. This is my version of a lamb kebab, where I've replaced chickpeas with red lentils for the hummus (Rennie's handy if lentils make you bloated!). It's a really easy recipe, and one you can double or triple up if you've got a larger group to feed. You can make the hummus and marinate the lamb in advance, then just finish it off when needed by cooking the lamb and plating up.

Red lentil hummus

100g red lentils, rinsed
1 tbsp. tahini
2 crushed cloves of garlic
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin powder
Extra virgin olive oil

Cook the red lentils in water for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat, drain and leave to cool. Once cool, add to the blender with the remaining ingredients and whizz up, adding a little water or more oil, until you reach the desired consistency.

Lamb pitta kebabs
Serves 2

300g lamb neck or leg meat, cut into 3cm cubes
1 tsp cumin powder
1 crushed garlic clove
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper

2 pitta breads
Half avocado, sliced
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 chilli, thinly sliced,
Parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp. crème fraiche
1 tbsp. hummus, as above

Marinate the lamb chunks in the cumin, garlic, chilli, oregano, olive and salt and pepper for 2-24 hours.

Preheat a large frying pan and when hot, add the lamb chunks and cook for a minute on each side. They should still be a little pink in the middle.

Put the pittas under the grill or in the toaster. When toasted, spread a layer of hummus, topped with crème fraiche, lamb chunks, slices of avocado, cherry tomatoes, chilli and parsley. Drizzle with a little olive oil and they're ready to serve. 

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Yesterday was all about cooking. It was so lovely to have a day recipe testing - both my own recipes and recipes from some wonderful books I've been sent to review - all of which would make excellent Christmas presents for the food and drink lovers in your lives.
The first book I looked at was one I didn't actually make a recipe from, as it's more of an info book than a recipe book, but is absolutely fascinating, and so informative. I spent a couple of hours totally immersed in it, before realising I needed to crack on with making recipes from the other books! TASTE - The Infographic Book of Food, by Laura Rowe is a must read. TASTE takes you through every type of food, with beautiful illustrations telling the story of each food/drink group. It covers food facts, recipe ideas, trends, history and much more. This really is a book you can get lost in for hours, and one I can't wait to read over and over again.
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Mac and Wild is a meat lover's dream restaurant, recently opened north of Oxford Street by street food heroes The Wild Game Company, who won "Street food of the year" at the YBFs and Best Signature Burger at the National Burger Awards 2015. They source their venison and beef, and in fact all their meat, from their own estate in Sutherland in north Scotland, and it's all butchered by founder Andy's family's butchering company.

Bron and I popped in to Mac and Wild to check out their seasonal, red meat and game heavy menu after our rum tasting with Angostura, and were very pleasantly surprised. As we both come from the West Country the rustic décor of the restaurant appealed to us immediately - there are butcher's hooks hanging from the ceiling, shotgun door handles and small tables (made out of a felled tree from Andy's parent's estate) snuggled together to eat on, all lit with candles. The menu is short and sweet - a few bites, three starters, double the number of mains and a couple of puddings.

We started with a couple of the nibbles - haggis pops with a whisky sauce, and battered fish with tartare sauce. The haggis pops were the winner, and I'd probably only order these again as two deep fried things was a bit too much deep frying to start with for me personally.

Starters were excellent. Mackerel, parsley emulsion, cucumber and cider celery. Perfectly cooked fish whose oiliness was cut through by the parsley, cucumber and apple flavours. Bron had the mushroom, brown butter and spring onion which I also loved, as did she - the mushroom flavour was so well balanced on the dish, and I really liked how they'd used big, thick slices of the almost meaty mushroom. Awful photos courtesy of candle light....

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Gin on Monday night, followed by rum the following Monday - my "no drinking Sunday to Wednesday" has gone out the window in the last few weeks, but for good reason...!
It started with an invite to taste gin brand The King of Soho at Italian restaurant Mele e Pere in Soho. The gin is named after Paul Raymond, who was the King of Soho - an entertainment and property tycoon from the 1950s who ruled and transformed Soho, opening venues, running clubs and theatres and keeping the creative and artistic spirit of the area alive. Raymond's son Howard decided to take the unique qualities of Soho and create a drinks brand that paid homage to his father. The King of Soho gin is an authentic London dry gin distilled in small batches in a distillery in the centre of London using traditional methods, and 12 botanicals, including grapefruit peel, sweet orange, juniper, coriander, angelica and cassia bark (the other six botanicals are a secret) that give it its citrusy, smooth flavour.
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Some restaurants aim to impress. They're big and beautiful and you pretty much know from when you step inside that you're going to have an excellent experience there. M, near Bank station, is one of these. To start with it's vast, split into two by a staircase that seems to float down the middle of the room. The tables are nicely spread apart and there's a bar with cosy seating at the top of the stairs. I was invited to come and try the food a couple of weeks ago, so took Moosh with me for a feast.

We ate in the grill area of the restaurant - there's two areas - the raw and the grill, though dishes cross over between the two. We started with a cocktail, obviously - a passion chilli martini that was almost better than the version they do at Shoreditch House, which is one of my favourite drinks.

Then we had some nibbles.... puffed beef, caviar and goat's cheese, and venison salami. All absolutely delicious and clearly cooked/made from scratch on site. A particular highlight was the salami which was rich, and flavoured with juniper and pepper.

For starters we shared tuna with jalapeno and pickled ginger, which was so simple, but the most beautiful fresh fish, and delicious with the thin slices of jalapeno.

We also had grilled octopus, fennel, smoked tomato and seaweed. It was so good, the octopus had such depth of flavour from the smokiness and went excellently with the tomato and fennel. I could've eaten a mains portion of this.  

The third dish we shared was the least exciting. To be honest, it was a little bland and one I wouldn't order again. It was salmon with caviar, capers and cucumber in the form of a soup, which really didn't taste of much to me.

But M isn't about starters. It's about steak. They have six steak options, from six countries - USA, Argentina, France, South Africa, Japan and Australia - and each's steak is their top quality beef. The meat isn't cheap, but I think it's worth it. We tried the USDA prime steak from Creekstone Farms in Kansas (£49 for 250g). It was soft, meaty and probably one of the best steaks I've tried, especially with the chips and bone marrow sauce. We also tried a nibble of the Kobe beef grade 10* / A5 from Japan and the Blackmore Wagyu Grade 9** from Australia, both of which are considerably more than the USDA prime steak, but also even more tasty. And I'm not sure how many restaurants you can get this in, so if you do want to try it, then M is the place to do so. The sides of spinach, and baby gem, capers and buttermilk were excellent. I adore capers with anything and they went so well with the buttery baby gem.

For once we also had pudding. Moosh went for banana split with hot chocolate sauce which she loved, and I had the berry platter of blueberry meringue, strawberry puree and basil sorbet, which though not very seasonal, was all sorts of sweety goodness!

M is a real treat restaurant - take a date there and I'm sure they'll be impressed! Not only is the food wonderful, but the service was top notch - our waitress Magda was a superstar. They're also opening a new site in Victoria imminently which I can't wait to check out.
 M Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Boozy brunches are one of my favourite things. In fact, I've got lots of favourite things, but boozy brunches are right up there with them. I think it's the feeling of indulging - both in eating much more and much richer food than I normally would for breakfast or lunch, and drinking before midday just feels like all kinds of naughty! Emily and I went to check out the new Ivy Café in Marylebone for a morning of mimosas, buttery pastries and decadent eggs and avocado.

The Ivy Café is the newest of the Ivy group (the original is in Covent Garden and a new Ivy Garden sprung up in Chelsea earlier this year), and is somewhat smaller than its predecessors. Tucked away on Marylebone Lane, it's cosy yet still retains that grandeur associated with the group's other offerings. The walls are covered in ornate mirrors, there's stunning tapestries stitched in around the mirrors and the floors are made up of beautiful coloured tiles.

However, we were there to check out brunch, starting with mimosas, followed shortly by a Red Snapper Bloody Mary, which was utterly delicious - made with gin and green tabasco.

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Goat's cheese is one of the most common "don't eat" ingredients people mention when they book my pop ups, even when it's not on the menu. It's a really divisive ingredient, which is sad as there are so many types of goat's cheese that I struggle to believe that those who say they don't like it have tried all the variants. The hard goat's cheeses are so mild and creamy, and nothing like the soft, pungent versions that are what I think turn people off this type of cheese. Personally, I eat almost everything (bar tripe and baked beans), and adore cheese, particularly goat's cheese. Not only is goat's cheese delicious and versatile but it's also better for you then cow's cheese is, as it's lower in fat and cholesterol, has more protein, higher amounts of vitamins A and B6, and it's easier for the body to digest, as although it has similar levels of lactose to cow's cheese, it has small fat particles, so is often eaten by those who can't eat cow's cheese.

I've come up with a couple of recipes using goat's cheese below, and if you want more inspiration on what to do with goat's cheese, and which type of goat's cheese is best for certain recipes, then you can get out a whole plethora of information on it here. My first idea isn't really a recipe that uses goat's cheese, but instead it's a delicious chutney which you can serve with goat's cheese and crackers. You can substitute the plums, apples and pears for whatever's in season - butternut squash would work well, as would rhubarb when that's back in season. In summer you could even make this with nectarines or peaches.


This will make quite a bit of chutney, but it will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to a month.

Slice 6 plums, 2 apples and 2 pears into small chunks. Add to a pan with 2 sliced shallots (I used purple shallots), a crushed cloves of garlic, some star anise, ginger powder, chilli flakes and about 150g golden caster sugar. Add 150ml white wine, red wine or cider vinegar (depending on the main fruit you're using) and let it bubble away on a medium heat, stirring occasionally to stop it catching at the bottom, until it's reduced down a chutney consistency. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and serve as part of your cheeseboard, or spread on bread before making a goat's cheese sandwich.

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Who doesn't love a bit of chocolate now and again? I'm personally only really a fan of dark chocolate, though will try others, especially if they're part of a luxurious dessert. But normally, the darker the better, and I've recently become a fan of raw chocolate, which is made by cold grinding beans, rather than roasting them, meaning they retain all of the goodness and antioxidants that are so prevalent in cacao beans. You can read all about how chocolate is actually made here in a previous post I wrote.

One brand I've become particularly fond of is Lovechock - a new-ish to market raw chocolate bar. It's 100% organic, sweetened with the dried nectar of coconut palm tree blossom (which is the most sustainable sugar available and is packed with nutrients and antioxidants), and is flavoured with superfoods, like nuts, goji berries and actual cacao nibs. It comes in various flavours including my favourites - almond and fig, pecan and maca, raw and nibs, and mulberry and vanilla.

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It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Japanese food - in fact, for a regular meal out, I'd probably choose Japanese over any other cuisine - I love the clean, fresh flavours and I like the prevalence of fish in the menus, as it makes for a satisfactory yet not overly heavy meal. So when a new Japanese restaurant opens in London I always try to get there to check it out. Wazen opened in Kings Cross in October and I went along to see what all the fuss was about - I'd read only good things about it from some of my favourite food writers in the few weeks it had been open.

The first surprise of the evening was the person to greet me when I arrived - the lovely Ken who used to work at Kanada-ya is now working at Wazen. Always smiling and so knowledgeable about food, Kanada-ya's loss is Wazen's gain. Wazen is in the old Prince Albert pub on Acton Street in Kings Cross, and due to still having the old pub exterior, with the sign still almost intact, I couldn't actually find the restaurant when I first got there. But when I did I was welcomed into the large dining room, full of wooden tables and stools and the old pub bar that's now serving as the restaurant's bar.

I was invited to review Wazen so we were given a tasting menu to try. Every dish was exquisite - beautifully presented and utterly delicious. Chelone, who's been working on photos for my book, came to review with me, hence the much better than normal photos in this post. He's an excellent food photographer, so drop him a line if you want any reasonably priced, top quality food pics done - I can't wait for you to see the photos he's taken for my book, though you'll have to wait a while longer for those!

First up, after a few edamame to snack on, was the agedashi tofu. What I love about tasting menus that the restaurant choose for you are the dishes that I'd never choose for myself. I would never pick tofu on a menu - I think of it as a bit bland and generally a waste of stomach space, but this was fantastic. Deep fried tofu wrapped in wonton skins, served in a mushroom based sauce that had such depth of flavour, with a dashi foam, which didn't really add anything to the dish. But it didn't need anything added. The mushroom sauce/soup was the kind of broth that felt like it had serious healing powers!

Second to the table was a dish I definitely would've chosen myself - salmon zuke - seared salmon with kimizu dressing, which was made from egg yolk and vinegar, a sort of Japanese mayonnaise - the tangy acidity of the dressing perfectly complemented the sweet salmon.

Having said that I like Japanese food for the fish led menus it was nice to try some meat dishes on Wazen's menu too. The first of two chicken dishes we tried rivals Kricket's KFC in terms of juicy fried chicken. The chicken kakinotane was sublime - chicken thigh coated in crumbled Japanese rice cracker, the chicken was so tasty and the deep fried cracker had a wonderful nuttiness to it.


The Wazen salad was a good dose of our five a day. I love beetroot anyway and this plate of roasted beetroot, golden beetroot, yuzu daikon, edamame, salmon roe, pomegranate, tonbruri kochia seeds (sometimes known as land caviar due to their texture and saltiness), shiso cress, cervil and chrysanthemum petals, with a yuzu dressing, was spot on. A refreshing vegetable interlude between the other plates.

Then we were on to sashimi. Beautifully cut pieces of tuna, salmon and butterfish were so, so fresh. We were given a lighter soy sauce to match the fish served on its own.

With our sashimi we had the isaribi sushi platter - three pieces of ngiri topped with the same fish as the sashimi platter, and the salmon and avocado roll. All perfectly made and a really good ratio of fish to rice. I don't like it when there's too much rice which then dominates the sushi pieces. The isaribi platter was served with a different soy sauce than that with the sashimi - it's the little touches like this that make Wazen a step above a lot of other Japanese restaurants in London.

Last but not least for savoury dishes was chicken namban. Pan fried baby chicken with a thick namban sauce and julienne vegetables. Again, the chicken was succulent and flavoursome, and the namban sauce was divine - it's a pickle type sauce that the chicken is marinated in, which is then reduced down to an unctuous, thick sauce for the dish. It was all topped with a Japanese style tartare sauce that kept it light and fresh.

Throughout the meal we had sake pairings to match each set of dishes - sohomare karakuchi (a 15% premium dry sake made with Yamadanishiki rice) for the first dishes, kawashin (15% with hints of chestnut and lychee water, with an almost salty taste) for the sushi and sashimi, and omachi (made with omachi rice, and again at 15% abv, it has a soft yet rich flavour) for the namban chicken. I really enjoyed the first two particularly, and could see why they'd been chosen to pair with the plates as they really complimented the food. It was great to sample sakes chosen by the restaurant as I'd have no idea where to even start when choosing sake with food.

Puddings were matcha tiramisu which really just tasted like a decadent tiramisu that had been dusted with matcha powder. I'm not a huge fan of puddings anyway, and by this stage was struggling to eat anymore after so much food, but I preferred the tiramisu to the other pudding which was a matcha chiffon cake - chiffon cake is a sponge made with oil rather than butter so is very light in texture, but it didn't really do it for me. My advice would be to fill up on the delicious starters and mains and maybe just skip dessert!

If you want excellent Japanese food in a relaxed environment, served by those with real knowledge of the food who are able to guide you through drinks to enjoy with each dish, then definitely check out Wazen. Full info, their address and menu can be found on their website. Dishes range from £3 for nibbles, to £17.50 for the black cod main, which is really reasonable compared to what other Japanese restaurants charge for their versions of that dish. I'm looking forward to trying the black cod, as well as the teriyaki cream soft shell crab and the spicy tuna roll next time I'm there.
 Wazen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Tommy Tucker had to sing for his supper, and a couple of weeks ago I had to cycle for mine. I went to an event hosted by MoneySuperMarket, where we powered the chef's hob by cycling for five and a half minutes - the same amount of time it takes to switch energy tariff on their website.

I'm getting ahead of myself though... We arrived at Jenius Social to be greeted with glasses of bubbly (the perfect pre-cycling refresher!) and some delicious canapés made by chef Pratap Chahal, a fellow Grub Club chef, who's cooked at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, Chez Bruce, Cinnamon Club and Galvin Bistrot, amongst others. Pratap also has his own range of food products, making sauces, chutneys and pickles that you can buy direct from his website, or from Selfridges or various delis in London and the UK. We nibbled on Goan spiced pulled pork on toast with smoked yoghurt and coriander; smoked salmon and South Indian spiced cream cheese rolls wrapped in beetroot jelly; and spiced mushroom, spinach and feta fritters.

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When the words Chinese food and Michelin star ping into my inbox it doesn't take me long to clear my diary and say yes to the invite, which is what happened when Emily invited me to join her and Square Meal at HKK in Liverpool Street to sample their tasting menu and drinks flight. At £88 per head for food, plus £40 for the matching drinks it's not cheap but then again, it is Michelin starred, you'll leave very full and quite drunk, you can book a table in advance, and it's top notch Chinese food - probably the best I've ever tried. So as a treat, I think it's definitely worth it.
The restaurant is large, with tables nicely spread out so you have plenty of room, though we were sitting in the private dining room around a table for 12 people that has a window straight in to the kitchen so you can see all the food being prepped. We started with a glass of bubbly, followed by a glass of cold sake to accompany our first course, which turned out to be my favourite. Duke of Berkshire pork belly mantou - a steamed bun that had been deep fried to give it a crunchy texture on the outside, while it retained its soft, cloud like texture inside, and was filled with a slice of rich, sticky pork belly. Next was chrusanthemum supreme seafood soup - a delicate flavour and gelatneous texture, I really liked this, though others didn't care too much for it. It is a gentle dish, with a subtle seafood flavour, and was paired with a warm version of the sake we'd tried with the pork bun.
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Sometimes there's nothing better than a juicy, melty, big burger for dinner (or lunch). You know the ones - messy to eat, dripping everywhere and a struggle to fit in your mouth?! I've tried a lot of spots in London to find the ultimate burger but I really think you can't beat making your own at home. With the right bun, top quality mince meat and a killer burger sauce made with a couple of secret ingredients, you can't go wrong. Here's my favourite burger recipe, though of course you can change the type of cheese or bun you want to use, and the salad and sauces but try this one first and let me know what you think.
Makes 2 big burgers
400g organic beef mince
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
4 slices bacon
2 thick slices blue cheese
2 tsp tomato ketchup
2 tsp chipotle and smoky bourbon tabasco sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp mayonnaise
Splash Worcestershire sauce
2 brioche buns
2 gherkins, thinly sliced
2 iceberg lettuce leaves
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
Split the mince into two, season with plenty of salt and pepper and roll each half into a ball. Press down to make a patty that's about 3cm high. Leave to one side while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Heat a non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. When hot add the bacon rashers (you don't need oil as the fat will release from the bacon while it's cooking). Cook til the bacon is crispy. Remove and leave to one side. Brush or wipe oil over the burgers and put the burgers in the hot pan. Lightly press down with a spatula then leave to cook for 3 minutes.
While the burgers are cooking make your burger sauce using all of the ketchup, chipotle and bourbon tabasco, mustard, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Mix all of the sauces together.
Flip the burgers over, lightly press down again, brush the tops of the burgers with some of the burger sauce, and cook for 2 minutes. Put the cheese on top of the burgers, then place a heatproof bowl over the burgers and cook for 1 more minute. The cheese should just be starting to melt. Turn the heat off and leave the burgers as they are while you assemble the buns.
Split the brioche burger buns, and add a dollop of burger sauce to the base bun half. Top with sliced gherkins and tomatoes. Add a burger to each base bun, top with bacon, lettuce, avocado, more burger sauce then finish with the top half of the bun.

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