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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Food: Honest burgers - best burger in London?

I knew it wouldn't take long to return to Brixton Village.

Ever since I spotted Honest Burgers a couple of weeks ago, I've been dying to go.

cheese burger
Knowing that the queues were usually stupendously long, we trotted along early evening on Sunday. Many of the other eateries were closed in Brixton Village so we were a little concerned. No need to worry though, Honest Burgers was open and heaving. Happily, however, we got a seat immediately.

I chose a cheddar cheese burger while Martin plumped for 'Honest': a burger topped with cheese, bacon, picked cucumbers, onion relish. Honest Burgers keeps its menu tiny and therefore makes sure it executes each burger perfectly.

Both of our burgers were absolutely fabulous and much better than the ever popular Meat Liquor in my opinion. I've never known such a juicy patty of meat - patties can tend to be quite try. The toasted brioche bun, salad leaves and onion relish made the perfect accompaniments. I quite enjoyed the chips, but I think that they were a bit over powered by the rosemary (such a strong herb).

The 'Honest' Burger
What I really like about Honest burgers is how unpretentious it is; you crowd on to a trestle table with lots of other diners, eat and go. Also, for around £8 for BOTH burger and chips, how can you complain? A couple of friendly diners told us they lived around the corner and have been known to visit 4 times(!) in 1 week. They were enjoying the special: Brindisa chorizo and manchego cheese. It should be mentioned too that the beef comes from the Ginger Pig Butchers. Honest Burgers really uses the best ingredients.

I really enjoyed reading the Burgaffair blog where two guys attempt to eat their way round every burger they can find. They rate Honest burgers at number two on their list, so I'm desperate to try Elliot's Cafe which is at the top.

It was quite a decadent Sunday night as we also stopped at the Wishbone cocktail bar which specialises in sours. For £5 you can pick from the following:

I chose Aperol, egg white and ice, while Martin chose the smokiest tasting whisky ever, egg white and ice.

Aperol - left, Whisky - right

Martin's whisky sour

Apparently, Wishbone does amazing chicken so we'll obviously have to come back to try that.

A visit to Brixton Village wouldn't be complete without a stop at Chillbox Frozen Yoghurt. This time, we shared a macerated cherry, pistachio and honey natural frozen yoghurt. Soooo good.

Such a perfect evening...except for one thing. Whilst we were eating and drinking the heavens opened and boy did it chuck it down. As you can see I was very suitably attired. Martin found my shoe covers hilarious and took many pictures.

soooo very attractive
Where is the best burger you've ever tried?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Food: easy entertaining

We were having some friends over on Saturday night so I said I'd make a few snacks.

The thought of feeding quite a few people used to stress me out but now I keep things simple.

Martin and I had been to see Despicable Me 2 earlier in the day which was sadly really disappointing. Despicable Me is my favourite film so I was really gutted. I think part of the problem was that I was looking forward to seeing it so much that I'd watched every single available trailer far too many times and, as such, had already seen all the funny bits!

I didn't want to spend ages slaving over the cooker because that's when entertaining becomes boring and annoying. I therefore picked some easy to rustle up dishes:

- honey mustard sausages
- caramel and burnt marshmallow cupcakes
- garlic, mozzarella and sugar bread sticks
- tortilla chips and salsa
- quinoa salad

I started by making the Hummingbird bakery caramel cupcakes with a burnt marshmallow topping.

I use a special Ikea cupcake trays which make smaller, taller cakes. The tray costs £7. The recipe below makes 24 of these petite cupcakes.

80g butter, softened
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
240ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
150g dulce de leche

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whisk together until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
2. Combine in a separate bowl the eggs and milk.
3. Add half of the egg/milk mixture to breadcrumb mixture and combine. Scrape down the bowl and add the rest of the egg/milk. Stir.
4. Finally add the dulce de leche and combine.

5. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and risen.

To make the topping follow this Ottolenghi meringue recipe.

Just make sure that once your uncooked meringue is made that you then use this directly i.e. don't bake it in the oven. Don't worry about uncooked egg - the way the sugar is heated beforehand means that the egg white is fully cooked.

Then place the meringue into a large piping bag fitted with any type of nozzle you fancy - I used a simple star and piped Mr Whippy shaped cones on top of the cupcakes. I then used a blow torch to create the toasted effect.

I also rustled up this quick and easy salsa recipe and served it with sour cream and tortilla chips.

I made an old favourite of sausages with mustard and honey which couldn't be simpler to do.

I prefer to use chipolata sausages. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line an oven tray with foil and place the sausages on top. I used 24 sausages. Then, in a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of runny honey with 1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard. Brush this sticky mixture over the sausages and cook for 35 minutes in an oven - turning half way.

Your end result is beautifully sweet and knarled sausages.

I made some mozzarella and garlic sugar bread. I saw this recipe on the amazing Kitchen Treaty blog. When I saw this recipe originally, I was slightly concerned about the inclusion of sugar, but Karen certainly knows what she's talking about. It was so yummy!

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp freshly minced garlic
1 pack of ready made pizza dough (it comes in a large rectangle)
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
200g grated mozzarella.

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Place the pizza dough on an oven proof tray.
2. Combine the olive oil and garlic and brush over the top of the pizza dough.

3. Sprinkle the cheese and sugar over and bake for 15 minutes or until light golden and bubbly.

I finally rustled up a simple quinoa recipe based on this recipe.

Most of the prep was just assembling and letting the oven do all the work! If you've got lots of people to feed I definitely recommend popping some sausages in the oven and the garlic bread is amazing - you'll never want to buy it again.

We were hoping to have a few leftovers for lunch the next day but everything went, so at least that means everyone enjoyed it!

Do you have any favourite recipes for feeding lots of people? Do you spend all day in the kitchen beforehand or do you prefer to take shortcuts where possible? 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Beauty: free hair cuts

I love a good deal.

I am so not fussed about my hair. I have incredibly thick hair which, once cut, no one ever seems to notice, even if four inches have been cut off. This means that I don't spend very much on my hair cuts, nor do I get it cut very frequently. Sometimes, it's just a biannual occurrence. I'm also not fussed about always having the same hairdresser - I'll happily go to anyone! I always figure that even if I get a bad cut, my 'Harry Potter' hair will return to normal in no time.

The only hair disaster I can remember was last year before I attended a wedding. I asked for a fringe trim. They a) cut it straight (I have a side fringe) and b) cut 2 inches from the length. It's the only thing that can properly upset me re my hair!

awful fringe - far too short!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Food: pea and mint soup recipe

As promised, here's my recipe for pea and mint soup.

I love soup - it's such a great option for lunch. My best friend Caz and I would eat Covent Garden soup every day for lunch (Caz - carrot and coriander, Me - leek and potato) when we were at uni and only occasionally 'mixed it up' with filled pasta with a fried egg on top. Aw I miss uni days!

Anyhow, back to the soup...I absolutely love this recipe - it's my very favourite. I'm really particular with soups - I have a very clear idea of what I like. For example, I love plain chicken soup, but hate thai spiced chicken soup even though I love Thai curry. In general, spices in soups are a big no no for me - I won't eat spiced butternut squash soup. I also randomly really hate carrot and coriander. But I will eat mushroom soup even though I really dislike mushrooms. It's all very odd.

I particularly like fresh zingy soups, and pea and mint are a match made in heaven. I always make a huge amount of this so I can eat it for lunch on consecutive days.

Serves 2
600 ml vegetable stock (I use bouillon)
400g frozen peas
1 tablespoon low fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
vegetable oil
salt and pepper

1. Sweat the onion in a little vegetable oil in a large saucepan until soft and translucent.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper
3. Simmer for 7 minutes.
4. Blend using a hand blender, blender or food processor.

What's your favourite soup? Are you very particular about what you do and don't like?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Food: A vegetarian week

I don't eat an awful lot of meat, but I'm a bit of a sucker for really awful processed meat like sausages and bacon (they're just too tasty). So this week, I've been trying to eat far more vegetarian food. Veggie food tends to be healthy and pretty inexpensive so win win all round.

On Sunday, I followed one of Jamie's 15 minute meal's recipe and made a very healthy falafel and wholemeal wrap complete with homemade salsa. The falafel was practically dry fried which makes it far healthier than its deep fried alternative.

Falafel - makes 8
1 large tin of chickpeas
1 large tin of mixed bean
1 tsp all spice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp Harissa
1 tbsp plain flour
stalks of a bunch of fresh coriander (use the leaves to make a salsa; recipe below)
vegetable oil

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Shopping: Oxford Street Sales

So, this is my first ever beauty and fashion post!

My friend Sharenja and I haven't seen each other properly in ages. We thought we'd have a proper girly day and go shopping on Oxford Street. Usually, I can't face this at all, but being midweek, it felt far more manageable. I haven't had such a girly day for such a long time.

We started by going to House of Fraser which has an amazing sale on at the moment. Sharenja bought lots of dresses on sale for her graduation and starting her new job as a doctor (congratulations!)

She bought this black one which was reduced from £90 to £27

And also this this little red dress for a very reasonable £36:

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Failed attempts at being healthy

After the excesses of the past few days/weeks, I thought it was about time I dragged my diet back on track.

After stocking up on fresh fruit and vegetables, I decided to venture into the as yet unknown territories of green smoothies. From what I understand from reading other people's blogs, green smoothies are basically any smoothie with green vegetables incorporated into it - spinach seems to be the most popular. Now I'm not someone who will happily neck funky flavoured juices e.g. one's containing ginger, broccoli and kale. So I knew I couldn't leap into the deep end with my green smoothies. However, I've read quite a few times that for green smoothie virgins, it's best to try a standard combination of fruits and then add a handful of spinach leaves to get you started. This apparently results in a smoothie where you are unable to detect the flavour of the spinach.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Life: London living and being very greedy (again!)

amazing poem
I really love living in London, but there are certain things about it that I could definitely do without. 

Namely, the fact that everyone is generally so unfriendly and in such a rush all the time. I would sooner walk round in circles for hours hunting for somewhere than stop someone and ask. I think I must have a 'friendly' face though, because I get stopped and asked for directions at least twice a week without fail. I remember one particular time when there was this sweet old woman staring at everyone walking past her. She eventually stopped Martin and me and asked for help ordering a taxi. We were so happy to help her, but we couldn't help feeling sad at how long it had taken her to pluck up the courage to ask for help from someone.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Food: special dinner - steak and margarita ice cream

I've been busy sifting through my old cookbooks again (one of my favourite past times). I wanted to treat Martin to a really tasty dinner, so I plumped for Jamie's Korean sirloin steak and Nigella's margarita ice cream. I can't recommend Nigella's recipe enough. It's so simple and easy, owing to the fact there are only 5 ingredients. There's no need to make a custard (thank goodness, as I still haven't perfected that technique - I always seem to scramble it slightly or it doesn't thicken up enough).  Instead, you simply whisk the ingredients up together. The recipe is exceptionally unhealthy - the main bulk of it is double cream, but for rare treat occasions, it's perfect. Also owing to the way it's made you a) don't need an ice cream machine b) don't need to keep removing it from the freezer to break up the ice crystals as they simply do not form. I particularly love sharp dessers - lemon tart is one of my very favourite desserts; this ice cream is a cross between a sorbet and an ice cream and is absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Restaurant Review: The Beano - Guildford Institute

The Beano - Guildford Institute
Martin and I were going to a party in Guildford last Saturday night and we were super happy about it, because it meant one thing, another visit to Beano - Guildford's best kept secret.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Food: banana muffins and my first white loaf

banana muffins
I had some over ripe bananas I wanted to use up, so I decided to make some banana muffins as they make a great on the run snack or breakfast. After perusing lots of recipes I eventually plumped for this All recipes one as it had pretty much all 5 star reviews. They're really easy to make and are ready to eat within 35 minutes. The resultant muffins were moist, light and very moreish. Next time, I would add less sugar as they were slightly too sweet for my liking. The recipe below adjusts for that. It's important to use over ripe bananas as otherwise they won't mash properly and won't taste 'bananary' enough.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Sainsbury's mood boosting experiment

Yesterday, I took part in an experiment for Sainsbury's. Sainsbury's is carrying research out to try and identify which ordinary experiences are most likely to make everyday more special. The thought process being that they can then use their findings to help improve their by Sainsbury's range i.e. creating special products at every day prices.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Food: recent eats

praline meringue cupcakes
It's safe to say that it has been a very greedy week so far. I've tried to balance it slightly with gym visits and yoga, but not sure I've cancelled out all the food. I just thought I'd share some pics of what I've been munching on.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Food: Ottolenghi meringue recipe

praline topped Ottolenghi giant meringues
So today has not been a healthy day. I can't stop making meringues ever since I bought my stand mixer which I discussed here first. Today's attempt, was an Ottolenghi recipe which, if followed accurately, should create huge show stopping, fluffy cloud meringues. I chose to follow the rose water and pistachio recipe, but being typically me I didn't have any pistachios so I topped them with some praline I'd made instead:

Monday, 3 June 2013

Life: A Great Weekend

I had such a great weekend, especially where food was concerned. I went for dinner on Friday at the Wild Food Cafe in Neal's Yard with my friend Frankie. I met Frankie at a house party last year and then, due to lots of shared interests - food, yoga, Jonathan Creek(!) which all become apparent on Facebook, we decided to go for dinner. Stupidly, I forgot my phone so these photos are courtesy of Frankie (thank you).

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Review: Fluffy Puff Puffs - Gourmet Marshmallows

I was kindly sent some gourmet marshmallows last week by Fluffy Puff Puffs to review. I've eaten lots of marshmallows in my life - mostly Haribo ones which I used to spear on a skewer and toast on the gas hob when my grandma wasn't looking! I've tried gourmet marshmallows before - they came in a little edible sweetshop bag for dessert at a gastropub. I wasn't so impressed with them - they were overly sweet and sickly.

Fluffy Puff Puffs were a revelation. They're really natural and free of preservatives. There's a whole host of interesting flavours:

Fluffy Puff Puff Flavours
As you can see, I got sent raspberry, sugar and spice, lemon punch, lime punch, love currant and love currant and white chocolate. These marshmallows are great in that they actually taste of what they're supposed to. They taste expensive - like they're crammed with whatever their main ingredient is, whether it's fresh raspberries or currants. The lime and lemon punch were really zingy and had an almost sherbet quality. My particular favourite was love currant.

I think that Fluffy Puff Puffs would make a great petit four or alternative to cupcakes/macarons.