(Boozy) Brunch at Dirty Bones

If you have me on snapchat, then you will know all too well that a group of my friends and I probably got way drunker than we should have on Saturday (and if you don’t thank God because I was an embarrassment).

This was because we had spent our lunch time (boozy) brunching at Dirty Bones on Carnaby Street. I always find it difficult to make any decision and restaurants are no exceptions. However, when you try to book a spontaneous brunch for six people in London, and everything expectedly comes back to those seven hated words: ” no bookings  within 2.5 hours of your request”, I randomly decided to check the Dirty Bones website and hastily clicked confirm after I finally found an opening.  I’d heard good things about the food and the Carnaby chain offers two hours of bottomless Prosecco for £19.00, so it was certainly a tempting choice and meant I was able to finally give it a try. After having THE worst morning from hell- ( i am always late, and this time, luck was most definitely not on my side) I arrived and promptly guzzled back as much prosecco as I could. Ah, much better. 

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We all ordered a selection of different dishes, and this meant our satisfaction also ranged from great to mediocre.  Focusing first on the positive, Mark, Kyal and I ordered the fried chicken and waffles with a fried egg (£10) (and maple syrup of course!). For me, this was a decadent (and winning) dish and I’m sure the guys would also agree. I have always loved the combination of crispy fried chicken, soft and bouncy waffles and the sweetness of the syrup all on top. I had never added an egg to the mix, but personally, I still loved eating it all the same. Paul, if you’re reading this, you picked a boring dish, and it didn’t quite make the cut onto the blog (jokes)- Paul was craving a chicken burger, which came accompanied with crunchy baby gem lettuce, chipotle aioli and the dirty bones sweet chilli sauce (£8.50). He also ordered this with a side of skinny fries with onion and garlic salt(£4), as did some of the others.

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My other friend Sava had the ‘McDaddy’ (£10) which was a juicy burger, topped with succulent pulled beef short rib, creamy mac & cheese and a dirty bones BBQ sauce to round it all off. He said he thoroughly enjoyed it and I believe him- after all, mac & cheese in a burger is always bound to be a win.

dsc00894_fotorNow,  moving on to our slightly less favourite dishes. For one, my friend Laura had ordered avocado on toast. If you’re a firm lover of avocado on toast and enjoy making it regularly for breakfast (or lunch/dinner/ a snack- whenever), then this dish may leave you a bit disappointed. Other than the mild tasting tomato chilli jam, it was bland and not worth the money (£8).

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Also, Louisa ordered the Bacon Toastie (£8), which should have actually been named the caramelised onion toastie as that is what dominated- I think the ratio of onion to bacon should have been bacon> onions but hey, each to their own right. Although I will say she did also have a side of mac and cheese which was scrumptious- it arrived bubbling hot and was topped with crispy parmesan crumbs, giving it a nice crunch against the smooth cheesy sauce.

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Despite my two minor complaints, (honesty is after all the best policy)- overall we had an awesome day. While food is everything, the prosecco also went down a treat. Regarding the drinks, the staff were excellent and attentive, regularly checking glasses to see if they needed topping up and doing so until the last minute (literally.. we made sure of it). We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and said we would return again. If you were searching for a boozy brunch, the Carnaby branch of Dirty Bones is totally worth italthough I would suggest avoiding the toastie options– but hey, that’s just my opinion.

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What happens after boozy brunch?  Typically, you want to continue drinking, so you’ ll end up in a bar at 3:30 pm in Soho, buying each other bottles of wine thinking you all have the finest self-control in the world. Then, next thing you know its 12 am in Leicester Square ,you’re trying to find food and your way home and eventually stop to buy chilli chicken wings with your boyfriend at Jamie’s Diner (by the way best decision ever) … nope? Okay, just me then.

 

 

Cooking with my Italian Grandma

Earlier in the week, my grandma from Italy arrived in the U.K. As some of you may (or may not) know, recently, my mum officially moved back here after living in the Middle East for fourteen years, a place where I spent most of my childhood.

I’m not sure how many of you will be familiar with Italian culture, but basically, everything in Italy revolves around food (and carbs!). Your lunch times are strictly classed within the order of antipasti (starter) primo (usually pasta), secondo (followed by meat/fish) and dolci (desserts.. I think this is where my rule of always finishing a meal with something sweet came from).  Seriously, it still takes me an effort to convince my grandma that I don’t particularly like having a three-course meal every day. Nonetheless, when my grandma arrived, she had naturally stocked up her suitcase and bought over an abundance of fresh Italian produce (Lucky me!). She had items like fresh buffalo mozzarella (you can buy these at Naples airport), ricotta, among other delicious things. Unsurprisingly, one of the things she enjoys most is cooking, usually waking up super early most mornings to start making fresh pasta dough and regularly yearning to cook us all something. While her old fashioned beliefs still startle me, (she tells me that it’s vital for a woman to cook for her man- I don’t think so sister!) it’s always nice when we can come together and make something tasty.

We decided to make both fresh ravioli and fusilli (another type of pasta pictured below and made by yours truly). The ancient trick to making the perfect fusilli? My grandma uses the inner rods from an umbrella (no lie).

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For the pasta dough itself, her recipe is as follows:

1 egg

250g of pasta flour “00.”

You simply mix the two ingredients together and add some water to help bind it all together. Leave it to rest for a bit before attempting to use.

As for the filling, (roasted butternut squash and ricotta), I decided to take inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s new recipe book- ‘Super Food Family Classics’. If you follow me on my food Instagram, then you will know I’ve recently been using the book and replicating dishes (to convince myself I am an actual chef). I roasted a butternut squash whole at 180c for an hour and then added the ricotta in for an additional 30 minutes. When the butternut squash had softened, I scooped out the flesh discarding the seeds and mixed both the ricotta and squash together with some salt, pepper and basil.

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As Italians, my mum obviously owns a pasta machine (i think almost every Italian does), which makes rolling the dough out easy, to spoon the mixture and fold the pasta sheet over. Of course, if you don’t have a machine (like myself in my kitchen) then you can use a rolling pill to still get a similar effect.

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Next, using a mould especially made for ravioli making (see, I told you- italians are dedicated to our food), my grandma pressed and discarded the surrounding dough. Once everything was done and enough had been made, I boiled water with some salt and cooked the pasta for about two minutes. For the cherry (tomato) on top of my fabulous food day, we also had fresh parmesan from Italy AND tomato sauce that my mum had made earlier. While it took time and effort, nothing quite beats a plate of fresh creamy pasta!

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In true Italian fashion, the day couldn’t be over without making desserts. We made Pasticelle, or Stelline di Natale- because they look like stars and they are made during Christmas in the south of Italy. However, my sister and I love them and have usually never got to go to Italy during the Christmas season, so my grandma is happy to make them 365 days of the year! It is essentially a sweet pastry that is fried and has a gooey chestnut, coffee and dark chocolate filling. They are also lightly dusted with icing sugar. My favourite time to eat them is when they are fresh out the fryer and the chocolate filling oozes from the inside.

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I think it’s safe to say that I was left pleasantly satisfied (along with incredibly full- which is what every Italian grandmother aims to accomplish) and if you ever get the chance to meet her, I’m sure you’d feel the same. 

 

 

 

Afternoon tea at the Shard

For those of you who may not know, my dad lives abroad and so whenever he comes to visit London we always like to go out and eat food (and usually drink a lot of wine oops). It is our ritual in any country we are ever in together (especially the wine part).

Yesterday, to switch things up a bit, my family, my boyfriend and I decided to try out one of London’s afternoon teas. Ting, at the Shard, caught my eye as the menu offers a traditional ‘English’ selection, as well as an ‘Asian-inspired’ menu. I am always indecisive but paradoxically greedy, so I was happy to try out both (obviously). I was going to initially force my boyfriend Mark to get the other tier, but thankfully our waitress recommended we get 3 of each so everyone could have a try and naturally I was content with that. The views are certainly spectacular, and there was something unique about having tea in the tallest building in Europe (pulling out all the facts now).

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We opted to have champagne with our tea, (we’re not alcoholics I swear) but this, of course, was optional (but again highly recommended). It is on the pricier side of afternoon teas, (£62/70) with champagne, but it is definitely worth going for a special occasion. They also cater for allergies well; my dad is gluten intolerant, and, as long as you tell them in advance, they can prepare a selection of desserts, sandwiches and scones for you. They start off with an amuse bouche, which was green tea over dry ice and because we ordered from both the English and Asian menus, we also had these delicious sweet potato tarts.

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On the Asian menu, the savoury selection included items like: Fried Vegetable Gyoza (these were my favourite!!), Crab, Avocado, Cucumber and Tobiko sandwichs & Tuna, Wasabi Mayonnaise, Toasted Sesame Seed Sandwichs as well. This was a delicious selection and great if you love Asian cuisine -(not so good however if you are not a fan of seafood like my sister). At first, I did feel like I was betraying the traditional afternoon tea ritual, but the vegetable gyoza’s quickly convinced me.

The desserts were also tasty, but I never feel like Asian desserts are my cup of tea  (haha see what I did there). They had a matcha tea layer cake, a black sesame macaroon, a chestnut mont blanc with a vanilla meringue and a peanut mochi. Although I have to say, I did really enjoy the Matcha Cake and the Chocolate Choux with pink ginger and chocolate crumble.

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In hindsight, I think my favourite of the day overall was still the classic option. The savoury selection were sandwiches, and although there is nothing particularly unique to report on that front, I will say we all loved the roast Angus beef ones with celeriac and horseradish on tomato bread! (we kept on ordering more refills). The desserts were also delicious, and I have a massive sweet tooth so that was particularly satisfying. My personal favourite was the ‘Melba Diamond’ – which was champagne and peach jelly, vanilla brulée and a raspberry jam pipette which you got to squeeze in (love it).

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The other items were: a mini black forest moelleux, a coconut meringue with passion fruit gel (also tasty!), caramel mousse with diced apple jelly over a chestnut sponge as well as a ‘Parist Brest’ -which was a hazelnut praline in a choux bun. Both afternoon teas also included scones, clotted cream and jam– the Asian one choosing to offer both plain and matcha. (it tasted just like the plain to me, but it was still Moorish nonetheless). I have recently developed a love for tea (yes I know I’m meant to be English and love it) and my favourite of the day was the white apricot blend. 

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I think for the price, all the food you get is completely worth it- in fact, I ended up bringing some of the leftover cakes to my friend’s house. They were attentive in filling up any empty plates, and you can always ask for more specific items if you feel like you need another dessert or sandwich (guilty).

Plus, its an excuse to drink champagne in the day…why would you not?

 

 

 

 

Friends and Good Food

As I sit here and contemplate what I want to do with my adult life, I thought there was nothing better to do than to write a blog post to avoid making any concrete decisions (still being productive though right?)

In the past few days, I’ve had my friend Alessandra come and stay at my apartment (hotel sofs as she likes to call it ). She’s visiting London from Dubai and naturally we had to go out and catch up over some good food and drinks. Having shown her East London before, I wanted to take her somewhere different. I decided on a favourite of mine… Homeslice. The reason I even knew about it in the first place was because of my friend Laura, knowing both our love for pizza, got us tickets to a pizza festival for my birthday back in May (BEST BDAY GIFT EVER). We got to make our pizzas (just like the pros), and we basically begged our way around trying the slices off each stall as our ticket didn’t include the tasters. The aim of the festival was to vote the best pizza restaurant in London and each stall gave out their version of perfection in a slice. While we succeeded in trying a lot of them, our puppy-eyed pretty pleases did not go well with the homeslice lady (thanks, gal) but it was winning the votes by a mile and we knew we had to try it.

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The best pizzaiolo’s around

Fast forward to this week and me and Alessandra were on our way. We got a litre of red wine (went down a treat as per usual) and decided to get the 20″ inch half Mushroom, Ricotta, Pumpkin seed and Chili and half Chorizo, Corn and Coriander. I had tried the mushroom one before and I’m not sure why ( maybe it was the wine- jokes) but I particularly enjoyed it a lot more this time than the last. Maybe because it had more ricotta on the topping and I love cheese. The chorizo corn and coriander was great too although if anything a little bit more chorizo would have been even better! Regarding the pizza itself, it is just the right thickness so that it’s not too doughy and not so thin that the toppings fall off as soon as you try and pick it up. I love pizza, and it ranks as one of my favourites in London.

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Still looking glam

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up close n’ personal

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seriously look how happy I am

Also, we also finally tried out this bar opposite my apartment called Map Maison. If you have me on social media, you’ll know that I made that my caption on Instagram. BUT seriously I’ve lived here for two years now and I had never been! They had a 2 for one deal on cocktails in the week; a cute Lewis Carroll kinda vibe with menu’s inside classic books and the drinks are fascinating and complex. Aless had the rosemary martini… sounds weird but trust me when i say the taste was surprisingly fresh and unexpected. On the other hand, Laura and I had pisco sours. She has taught me the incredible ways of this drink- (more on that when we have our Peruvian dinner party.. yes you heard me correctly) and we both agreed they were perfect. If you’re ever in Haggerston check it out!dsc00200

Next time I think we’re going to try their afternoon tea with the optional glass of prosecco because let’s face it, as much as I love fancy tea, I like fancy booze better.

Thai Inspired Prawn Curry

As I left Broadway Market on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but stop at the local fishmonger, Fin and Flounder. Here we eyed up the vast array of beautiful fresh fish (Rebecca waited outside, hating the smell of seafood) and after much deliberation decided on getting 12 king prawns for dinner. Combined with my other Thai ingredients, I was adamant: we simply had to make a Thai dish.

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Inside Fin & Flounder

What we used: 

  • 12 sustainably sourced fresh king prawns
  • Brown rice (we used about 1/2 cup per serving)
  • Eight tablespoons of Coconut Milk
  • 250ml of Water
  • 80g of Mangetout
  • 4 Lime Leaves
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 cup Coriander
  • One Red Chili
  • One stalk of Lemongrass
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • Sesame Oil

What we did:

Firstly we created a spice paste, using the garlic, coriander, lemongrass, ginger and chilli, placing them into a  food processor. After blending for a few seconds, it should turn to a paste consistency. Set this aside.

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NOW: drink a glass of wine. Preferably white… the flavours will really extenuate the fish flavour.. joking I just like wine and needed an excuse. sip sip gulp gulp

Next, I decided to create a stock from the prawn shells. De-head and peel the prawns, making sure to take out the digestive tract. Fry these in a large pan with a splash of sesame oil with the freshly cracked black pepper and lime leaves. This does give prominence to the prawn’s distinct flavours (not joking this time). Cover the prawn shells with enough water and leave to simmer on a low heat for 25 minutes – the longer, the better.  If it appears to be reducing quickly, you can add some more water, and if you are in a rush, you can obviously decrease the time. When you are done, strain the stock through a sieve and keep warm.

While doing this, I would also suggest putting on the rice (this is because I never do this myself and then end up waiting for ages while the rest of my meal sits on my counter idly waiting…lesson learnt and duly noted).

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Fry baby fry disco inferno

Finally, in another saucepan, pour in a little olive oil, fry the paste until fragrant (around 2 minutes)  and add 250ml of the stock. Add the coconut milk, the prawns and the mangetout. Simmer for 3-4 minutes and season with salt. Place the rice in a bowl topped with the curry.

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The finished product

ENJOY and marvel at your food awesomeness. (I know I did)

 

 

Where it all began…

The perfect way to spend a Saturday morning:

Broadway market was one of the first food markets I found myself mesmerised by when I officially moved to East London. It is super local to me and sells everything from vintage clothing, fresh (and organic) fruit and veg, meats, seafood as well as different cuisines from around the world.

When I am not hungover (Like today -wahoo go me) I usually like to spend my afternoon going up and down all the rows of the market to make sure I know exactly what I’m in for. This is also so I don’t get jealous when someone else gets a better dish than me (this happens all the time… so I convince people that sharing is caring… haha suckers there’s always a method to my madness!)

Today my sister Rebecca, Mark and I decided to make our way over on this gloomy September’s day to brighten our spirits (and stomachs).

There was a whole stall dedicated to olives, and Rebecca chose the ones marinated in lemon, olive oil and tarragon, as well as a few items for her dinner. She’s recently moved to London to start uni and she luckily has been inspired by cooking a lot earlier than I ever was (better late than never right). Mark and I got some ingredients for our dinner: coriander, lemongrass, ginger, mangetout… any ideas on what cuisine we’re going for?

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East London food Girl: In my natural habitat

Then we proceeded to get some lunch. I had been eyeing up Deeney’s toasted sandwiches for a while now and after coming back from Mexico recently and eating my entire body weight in guac and tacos… toasted cheese was exactly what I wanted. IT WAS DELICIOUS. Made with a large abundance of cheese, mustard, caramelised onions and rocket, it all was squished under a hot flat-iron and melted to perfection. Rebecca decided to try out the fried chicken (I obviously tried some as well… I am starting a food blog so…) it was crispy. But not as crispy as we quite liked it. Mark got fresh crab tortelloni with a simple dressing of olive oil and parmesan cheese (wise choice as you could really taste and appreciate the filling this way). Below are some of our food pictures (an upgrade, you’ll be pleased to know from my first post)… many of you told me there’s only so much visualising you can do when there’s no proof of the goods- SO HERE YA GO!

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Butchies fried chicken and spicy guac

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Just the way uh’ uh’ I like it

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Hot iron in action at Deeney’s

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And the egg keeps runnin’ runnin’

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50 shades of olives

 

As Game of Thrones likes to remind us, WINTER IS COMING – however; if you love food as much as I do it is a great place to visit at all times of the year. I am currently feeling very food satisfied after that trip so make sure to pay it a visit, and if you have already been then, you know what I’m talkin’ abouuuuuut.

I’m already excited for our evening meal-tune into my next post to see what we made.

Toodles!