The first time I went to Sticks n Sushi was a memorable one. I'd gone to Wimbledon to meet a girlfriend and her gorgeous new baby and we'd chosen to eat at Sticks n Sushi. The meal was great and everyone loved the food and cocktails, but it was the sticks part of the kitchen nearly catching fire and sending thick smoke through the restaurant that stuck in the memory!

Sticks n Sushi serves Japanese food and is one of the most successful restaurant groups in Denmark. They made their way to the UK in 2012 and added to their original site in Wimbledon by opening in Covent Garden in 2013. This year they've opened restaurants in Greenwich and Canary Wharf. I was invited to the Canary Wharf branch to check out the site and try some of the food, with the boy as my willing companion. We're both fans of Japanese food, and had a great time at Sticks n Sushi. Apart from the quality of the food and cooking one thing that really stands out for me is the sourcing of the fish and meat they serve - it's all responsibly sourced - they don't serve any fish on the endangered list and they ensure the fish they do serve is caught in the fairest way possible and not just hauled out of the ocean using indiscriminate, giant nets. The boy always grills waiting staff in restaurants on where they get their produce from and he was happy to hear how responsible Sticks n Sushi are.

With the knowledge that we could eat anything on the menu without endangering fish species we got stuck in with the ordering. We started with 2 delicious cocktails - a Rhuby Fizz for me, made from English rhubarb liquor, gin, bitters, citrus and soda; and a the Hotaru for the boy, a long drink of rum, passion fruit and apple. My drink was sharp and refreshing while the boy's was slightly sweeter - both were excellent.

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Fresh, foraged, seasonal food served alongside stunning cocktails - Ask For Janice is revelation. In an area of London that I more commonly associate with all-nighters at Fabric and dodgy burgers and milkshakes afterwards at the open 24/7 Tinseltown, I was delighted to find out more about this new to me restaurant serving an ever changing menu of seasonal produce with cocktails made from some of their 40+ gins.

Ask For Janice opened last August and is proving popular. Every table was full when I arrived at 6.30 on a Tuesday evening, which must be a good sign. Upstairs is a bright room with a large bar down one side and restaurant seating filling the rest of the space. Downstairs is the basement bar where you can also grab food and drinks, as well as hiring the whole room for private events.
We were there to sample a few new additions to the spring menu. The food menu centres on fresh, seasonal produce that’s cooked with a creative twist. I had to tear myself away from the bowl of deep fried wild garlic flowers which were unbelievably good – crunchy, light batter around the unmistakable allium flower, finished with a sprinkle of salt. I was literally hoovering these up all evening, and despite not being the healthiest thing to eat I justified it by the fact I was eating foraged herbs that had only had to travel from Hackney to Clerkenwell.

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Do you like chococate...? Silly question!? I'm pretty sure most people like chocolate, and if not all types, then they at least have a favourite type. I'm a dark chocolate person myself - I love the rich, slightly bitter flavour. And while I know what I like, I didn't actually know that much about how it's grown and where it comes from. So spending an evening at Bake with Maria was exactly what I needed to fill in the gaps.

The evening started with homemade bread, cheese and lemonade (a good start) before we settled down to learn more about chocolate.

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A few weeks ago I received a very special delivery - Rosie Birkett's new cookbook, A Lot on her Plate. Rosie is a food writer and stylist and has written for The Guardian, Olive Magazine, Grazia, The Sunday Times and loads more top publications, as well as her own blog, but this is her first solo book. And what a book it is. A Lot on her Plate is full of incredible recipes and beautiful images shot by Helen Cathcart. The book has chapters on breakfasts and brunches, starters, small plates, bigger plates and super suppers, feasts for friends, salads, desserts and drink, and essentials. The majority of the recipes are of course Rosie's but she's also included family recipes and a couple from some of my favourite restaurants, including Dishoom.

I've been reading through the book and wanted to pick out some star recipes to mention here but I had such a hard time narrowing it down - I honestly could've listed every single recipe. Favourites include a breakfast recipe of cod's roe and sweetcorn fritters with avocado and Sriracha (wow!); bavette carpaccio with crispy capers and mustard mayo; chipotle roast chicken; salted butterscotch popcorn cheesecake (it's a girl after my own hear who puts salted butterscotch in a cheesecake); and cumin brioche buns which I'll be making this weekend. Rosie is passionate about seasonal ingredients and buying good quality produce, and this shines through the book. One of my sweetest parts of the book is in the intro, where she recommends kitchen equipment, ranging from the necessary to the nice-to-have, all with wonderful illustrations.

I've already cooked 1 recipe from A Lot on her Plate, and want to share it with you here - a beautiful chicken, tarragon and mushroom cassoulet that the housemates and I devoured on a week night recently. Make this for you housemates and they'll love you forever!

Serves 4

1 large handful cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
25g butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 small shallots, finely chopped
Handful fresh tarragon
100g chanterelles
2 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced
50g chestnut or button mushrooms
Bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp white wine or tarragon vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
8 free range chicken thighs, skin on (I used a mixture of thighs and drumsticks)
150ml white wine
80g kamalata olives, stones removed
500-700ml chicken stock or water
400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the tomatoes in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 mins or until they're concentrated and aromatic.

While the tomatoes are roasting heat a heavy based frying pan and add the butter, garlic and half the shallots and cook for 2 minutes, until they start to soften. Add the tarragon, mushrooms, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Sauté for around 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tinged golden and start to release their moisture. Transfer to a bowl, stirring in the vinegar and chopped parsley, and remove the tomatoes from the oven.

Return the pan to the heat with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and fry until golden - turning once they are. Once all sides of the chicken are golden, transfer to a plate, add the remaining shallots to the pan and fry for around 4 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, making sure you scrape up the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken back in the pan, with the olives. Pour in the water or stock until it's covering the chicken and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30-35 minutes.

Add the roasted tomatoes to the chicken pan and stir, then add the cannellini beans. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and simmer for another 7-10 minutes. Garnish with tarragon leaves and serve with crusty bread and a nice green salad.

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There's nothing like a sunny day in London to make me want ice cream. Unfortunately it's not that sunny today, but at least we've been blessed with sunshine between the showers in the last few weeks. It was on one of these less sunny days that I popped into Central London to visit the Godiva chocolate shop on Regent St and try out their new soft ice cream parlour.

Godiva have always been a favourite chocolatier of mine - I adore their boxes of chocolates and they're the perfect treat for a special occasion. I was really excited to try their ice cream as I'm not normally a fan of chocolate ice cream - I like each of them separately but find the pairing together too sweet - however, this all changed when I tried the Godiva chocolate ice cream. It is rich and decadent but it tastes of real chocolate, not saccharine sickly sweetness.

The Godiva ice cream parlour allows you to add your own toppings to your ice cream of choice - dark chocolate or vanilla (we tried both, both were delicious). Toppings include milk, white or dark crispy pearls (like mini malteasers), chocolate syrup, chocolate flakes or bresilienne (a caramelised hazelnut crumb). You can choose between a cone or a cup (I always go for the cup - cones are too messy) and prices start at £4.50.
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Next weekend Syon Park in West London hosts it's first Foodies Festival! And I've got 3 pairs of tickets to giveaway - competition link is at the bottom of this post.

Foodies Festivals launched 10 years ago in Edinburgh and now has events in 10 different locations across the UK, which now included 3 days of food and drink goodness at Syon Park (which also happens to be a new discovery for me - and I love it - it's like a mini version of Kew or Richmond Park).

Foodies Festival will transform Syon Park into a foodie heaven on the 23rd, 24th and 25th May with celebrity chefs, tasting theatres and loads of different street food trucks and produce stalls.

Michelin-star chef Jesse Dunford Wood of PARLOUR joins TV chef Aldo Zilli, Matt Robinson of The Bluebird, Michael Weiss from Quaglinos, Steve Drakes of Drakes and Richard Kirkwood of The Wright Brothers in the Aga Rangemaster Chefs Theatre. The chefs will be demo-ing their favourite summer recipes, and offering tips and tricks for you to replicate their dishes at home. Masterchef winner Ping Coombes will also be there, as well as Dhruv Baker.

There's a New Wine and Champagne Theatre, where experts Neil Phillips and Charles Metcalfe will guide visitors through this season’s best British bubblies from the UK and around the world, while beer expert Melissa Cole hosts masterclasses in the New Craft Beer Theatre, matching foods with locally produced craft beers.

If sweets are more your thing, you can take a ‘How to Sniff Chocolate like a Rockstar’ or Chocolate Safari masterclass with chocolatiers in the Tasting Theatre, while local experts will be talking on Raw Food, Japanese Soul, Oyster Shucking and Bee Keeping. 

The Cake & Bake Theatre is an inspiration for passionate bakers with top local cake makers and bakeries sharing their tips for baking delicious summer cakes. Visitors can also enjoy 3D cake modelling, Chocolate Making and Sugar-Craft masterclasses and a complementing Chocolate, Cake and Bake Village selling bakes, jams, gadgets and baking essentials. 

Biscuit Butter, Snowdonia Cheese, Get Fruity, That Hungry Chef and Riverford Organics join the 200 exhibitors in the Artisan Producers Market, where visitors can meet the producers and sample award winning cheeses, wines, bakes and condiments to buy and take home to enjoy. 

Little foodies can also join the celebrations in the Childrens Cookery Theatre where they can explore their taste buds and learn basic cooking skills with Kiddy Cook. 

Tickets are on sale now at www.foodiesfestival.com or by calling 0844 995 1111 and are priced at £15 for the day, but why not enter the competition below first to see if you win! All children aged 12 and under go free to all Foodies Festivals when accompanied by an adult.

Foodies Festival is open from 11am - 7pm on Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday Monday - see you there!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I'm very excited to announce the date of my next pop up supper club, which will be taking place at our home in West London on Saturday 30th May. I absolutely love this time of year as the produce available is some of my favourite. Fresh spring greens, delicious lamb, and elderflower and rhubarb - which are 2 of my favourite pudding ingredients. I've also teamed up with Farmdrop for the event, who I'll be sourcing all my food from to create an almost 100% British menu (though tea and coffee are obviously not British products!)

However, the most important thing to me about my next pop up is what I'll be doing with all the proceeds - as I'm sure you're all aware Nepal suffered 2 horrific earthquakes which have killed thousands, displaced hundreds of thousands and affected the lives of millions. I helped out at an amazing Grub Club recently where 100 guests and many volunteers raised over £25,000 for two charities working to help the Nepalese get their lives back on track - Dolma Fund, founded to "alleviate poverty by investing in education, health and sustainable businesses in Nepal"; and Woman Kind Worldwide, whose work is best described here. Obviously there's no way we're going to be able raise the kind of money that was raised last week, but anything and everything I can donate will still go towards making a difference.

As normal, my pop up will be on the Saturday evening and I can host up to 20 guests. The menu is as follows but if you want to come and you see something on the menu that you can't eat or don't like then just mention this in the comments section when booking and I will make an alternate course for you. Tickets are priced at £35 and that includes a welcome cocktail, four courses and homemade sweets with tea and coffee.

Rhubarb and elderflower fizzy cocktail
Asparagus; sea trout; lemon mayo; hazelnuts; walnut bread
Lamb chump chop; belly fritter; baby gem; new potatoes, quails egg and caper salad; goats curd
Elderflower posset with rhubarb jam and honey shortbreads
British cheeseboard with salted biscuits and chutney
Homemade fudge and coffee or tea - tea is being provided by The Tea Makers, so expect some delicious brews to try after you've had your food!
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I'm lucky enough to eat out quite a lot. It's one of my favourite things to do and I love discovering new restaurants and discovering an area through where to eat there. This does mean that I watch what I eat when I'm not eating out though.... I have to! I try and avoid carbs altogether and eat fresh fruit and vegetables with some occasional protein. This is a go to recipe of mine during rhubarb season and one of the easiest recipes I've posted. There's no actual cooking involved, it takes about five minutes to make and is the perfect light, summer lunch. It's healthy, quite low in calories and full of good nutrients. You can bulk it out with a potato salad made with boiled new potatoes tossed in natural yoghurt but I like it just as it is.

Smoked mackerel, cucumber and pickled rhubarb

Serves 2
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp golden caster sugar
4 whole peppercorns
1 stick of rhubarb
1 cucumber
Half tsp table salt
2 fillets good quality smoked mackerel (get it from the fishmongers or deli if you can - it's still really good value)

Heat the vinegar, sugar and peppercorns in a small sauce pan or frying pan. Chop the ends off the rhubarb stalk and slice into thin matchsticks. Lay the rhubarb sticks on a plate and pour over the warm vinegar mixture. Leave to pickle while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Using a spiraliser or a julienne peeler create ribbons of cucumber. Lay the ribbons on a sheet of kitchen roll and sprinkle with a little table salt.

Give the cucumber a few minutes then shake them gently to get rid of the excess salt and moisture. Put the cucumber ribbons onto the plate, top with the rhubarb sticks and mackerel fillets. The sweet, oily fish is perfect with the pickled rhubarb and juicy cucumber.

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There's little more exciting than a new restaurant that also promises top notch cocktails in London - we already have so many wonderful places but I'm always interested in new restaurants too. So I popped down to the newly opened (they still had the door locked when I arrived!) Bull in a China Shop in Shoreditch a couple of weeks ago to check out their whisky cocktails and oriental influenced food menu. Bull in a China Shop is the second offering from brothers Stephen and Simon Chan who already own The Drunken Monkey dim sum bar further down Shoreditch High Street.

As excited as I was, I was also a little nervous - I'm not the biggest whisky fan. I don't dislike it, but I just don't drink it that often. When I have tried it I've always been pleasantly surprised so I'm always up for it, especially in cocktails made by real whisky lovers as they must know what they're doing! I started with the Apricot High Ball - a mix of Nikka whisky, apricot jam, apricot brandy and soda. As I sat enjoying my cocktail and waiting for my friends to arrive I chatted to Daniel who talked me through the whisky offering at Bull in a China Shop. The whiskies served in the bar have been sourced from Scotland and Japan and include such rare bottles that they are literally one of a kind - filled with whisky from now defunct distilleries that will never produce whisky again. Shots of these special whiskies, such as the Karuizawa 1981, retail at around £40 a pop. Expensive, but when you think that it is the last bottle of this whisky in the world then it all comes into perspective. Others are so rare that they're named by their cask number - Hanyu 2000, Cask #921 costs £25 a shot.

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There's nothing like doing a pop up restaurant for 18 people to make me want a luxury holiday. If I could, I'd jet out of the UK to tropical climes the minute I've finished the clearing up but sadly it doesn't happen like that! However, when I get the chance to get out of the house the next day and visit a new and exciting restaurant, serving lots of fresh fish, then that's got to be the next best thing. So after last weekend's pop up that's exactly what I did. Our friend Matt Burgess, who was head chef at Ealing Park Tavern has been snapped up by Ceviche in Soho where he's now running the kitchen. I know wherever Matt is the food's going to be top notch so we booked in for Sunday lunch and headed into Soho to eat all the fish.

Ceviche is small and welcoming, and bustling full of hungry diners. It's noisy, in a good way, and if you want a little more calm  you can sit at the bar/cooking station in the front of the restaurant, which is away from the hustle and bustle of the back area. We wanted hustle and bustle though so took our seats at a table just about large enough to hold all the food I ordered!

After a delicious and much needed pisco sour, we (I - boy is still allergic to chilli) started with drunk scallops - tiratido of thinly sliced king scallops, pisco, pomegranate, limo chilli, lime and coriander. Fresh and punchy, I loved the pop of the pomegranate seeds with the soft, fishy scallops and sour sauce.

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