Hakkasan Chinese New Year Menu: Doha

I’m officially back in London!

My holiday to the Middle East felt like it went by so quick and I am definitely missing the sun. After all, it ain’t London if it ain’t gloomy most of the time!

On my trip, I got to catch up with family, popped over to Dubai to see my wonderful friends and took the opportunity to relax and forget about the stresses of reality back home (aka the never ending job hunt that currently dominates my life). Of course, while I was there I also got to eat at some amazing places and consume mouthwatering dishes (and lots of wine and alcohol too, wahoo!). We went to some great fine dining places in Doha, including Nobu, (check out my previous post for a full round up of that), as well as Hakkasan.

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If you don’t know what Hakkasan is then WHO ARE YOU? hehe just kidding. It is a Michelin starred restaurant that serves contemporary Cantonese dishes. When we went, we were in for a special treat as Hakkasan had launched a  limited edition menu, cocktail and dessert for Chinese New Year. Naturally, I knew I had to try it! Each Hakkasan location in different countries had unique dishes to their Chinese New Year menus, which meant that even when you dined at one of their restaurants, it really was something distinctive to your location, making it a truly unique experience. In Doha, the set menu was priced at QAR448 per person, which is roughly 98.88 pounds (yeah, I had to mention that, Hakkasan is definitely many things but a cheap option is not one of them). As there were four of us, two of us shared the set menu, while the other two got some classic favourites off the a La Carte menu... (all for the food blog right? Sort of… it’s mainly because I always want to make the most of any dining situation and if you know me, you know I get extremely food jealous).

This year was the year of the rooster and the signature cocktail, ‘waltzing colins’ (pisco, sake, mandarin, lemon, grenadine, cucumber and sparkling wine) all had cute rooster broaches attached to the glasses. The cocktail was tasty, although a little bit too sweet to drink loads in a row – (NOT that I am complaining, I was actually a bit hungover from my crazy few days in Dubai- oops)

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For the Doha set menu, we began with the Fortune Tale Salad, with Roasted Chicken and Mooli. This was mixed in front of us as we were all asked to make a wish in the spirit of Chinese New Year for prosperity and good fortune. This was a tasty, light starter and I especially loved the crunch element to it. However, I will say it was a bit one dimensional in terms of flavour. Next, we were served a Hakka steamed dim sum platter. These included Scallop Shumai, Hai gau, Smoked Wagyu Beef and Seabass Dumplings. THESE WERE DELICIOUS. If I had to pick between the salad or dim sum, it’s obvious that dim sum wins EVERY time.Hakkasan is known for its impeccable quality and I couldn’t agree more. My favourite would have to be the Wagyu Beef, they were so soft and tender. Although, each and everyone one was distinctive in flavour and mouth watering!

If that wasn’t enough to entice you from the a la Carte menu, we had the Crispy Duck Salad with Pomelo, Pine Nut and Shallot, as well as Jasmine Tea smoked Wagyu beef ribs. The Duck Salad at Hakkasan is so moreish and the beef ribs melted in our mouths!

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Next, we were served two tasty mains as well as three side dishes. For the expensive price, the amount of food and its quality was worth it. It is the type of place which would always ensure you truly enjoy a special occasion. The mains were steamed Dover Sole with Pumpkin, Shitake Mushrooms in a Soy Fish sauce and Wok -Fried Tiger Prawns with lemongrass and chilli.

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Out of the two, the Dover Sole was more complex in flavours and not to mention- cooked to perfection! I loved all the accompaniments that went with the fish, especially because I would have never paired pumpkin, mushroom and fish together. The prawns were succulent so I don’t have any complaints, only that they were a bit less original if ya’ know what I mean. This was all served with yummy fried rice with salted egg, braised Chinese vegetables and braised abalone.

For desserts, we were served a clever and theatrical dish- probably my favourite in terms of unique plates. Called the ‘Golden Feather’, it was shaped like an egg. The shell  was caramelised white chocolate, the outside ‘whites’ were ginger pannacotta and the centre was a mandarin core.

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It had just the right amount of sweetness and the mandarin added a tart finish. Deciding two desserts are always better than one, we also went for one dessert of the a  La Carte menu.

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The Lemon tart was served with lemon, meringue, crumble and mascarpone ice cream. Considering they were both citrus based desserts, I do have to say I preferred the a La Carte dessert. Maybe this is because I love the combination of creamy mascarpone and lemon. Who knows. Either way, both were luscious.

To round off a wonderful evening, we were asked to write our New Year’s wishes on a piece of bespoke papers, which were then hung all over the famous Hakkasan lattice cages. A perfect end to a perfect evening. Hakkasan always provides exceptional flavours and the New Year’s Menu was a chance to try something new and different. Always a win in my books!

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East London Food Girl Abroad: Nobu, Doha

 I’m back bitches! But seriously, It’s good to be back in the Middle East after not visiting for a year! 

For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Bahrain, a small island connected to Saudi Arabia by bridge. My dad currently lives in Doha and will be moving to Oman so I wanted to try to see everyone before the big move. For the next week and a bit I am visiting friends and family. Naturally I thought it would be a good idea to blog and document all the good food we’ll be eating. I mean, this is a food blog after all!

Last night, I had the pleasure of dining at Nobu in Doha (the biggest one in the world apparently… look that shit up, it’s a real fact). My dad and Amel like to go quite a bit so it did feel slightly cool when the head chef casually came and sat with us at our table. Elegantly drawn out over three floors, facing the sea, I knew we were in for a real treat. Apologies for the low resolution images, Nobu is one of those dimly lit restaurants and I felt bad shining my light and disturbing the ambiance (haha sorry not sorry).

Whenever I’ve been to Nobu, we always tend to go for the same order. Spicy Edamame to start, the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna as well as Spicy Salmon (A MUST) and the Mini Tacos (ALSO A MUST).

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My favourite tacos are the Wagyu Beef with Spicy Ponzu, but the King Crab with Tomato Salsa and the Salmon with Spicy Miso are also incredibly delicious too. In addition (and in commemoration of Rebecca’s absence) we also got Wagyu Beef Tataki. If you’ve never had wagyu beef (which to be fair, a lot of us haven’t) it literally melts in your mouth. It is luxurious for a reason because it is probably the softest piece of beef you’ll ever have. However, I was a little disappointed with the beef this time round, it was super chewy and did not do the usual dish any justice. Usually it is thinly sliced and requires little effort to eat. However,  we did speak to the chef after and he said they were having a problem with their usual supplier… so I suppose I can forgive ya.

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We also then got the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño. So good! Especially if you’re a seafood lover but find yourself sticking to salmon all the time. I love the combo of coriander, the spiciness of the  Jalapeño all pieced together with some delicious fish. I also had to go for some Rock Shrimp Tempura with Spicy Sauce because… who doesn’t love deep-fried prawns. I realise I sound like an absolute fat ass by now… oops. Oh well. We all are at heart.

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For our mains, we went for two off menu items. One was a Whole Lobster, prepared ‘new way’, boiled and served with saffron and mushrooms. We also had the Razor Clams, which were also prepared in the ‘new way’ lightly sauteed in olive oil and sesame, topped with ginger and sesame, also served with lightly sauteed mushrooms. I had never tried razor clams before and I think trying them for the first time at Nobu was probably the best decision ever. They were tender and full of flavour! The lobster was also soft and rich, making every bite as tasty as the last.

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Finally, the chef picked our deserts (actually a winner in my books because I am always so indecisive and tend to stick to the things I know). He went for a creamy cheesecake with raspberry sorbet and another off menu item. It was AMAZING. The off menu item consisted of chili infused bananas, layered on top of a brownie and served with green tea, vanilla bean and chocolate ice cream. A true comfort food option. If I were to usually order a desert, I’d always go for chocolate instead of fruit, but this dessert cleverly combined all the elements into one!

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Nobu is definitely a pricy option, we all know that, but it also ensures you will eat yummy and satisfied food every time. A win in my books and a must try if you haven’t been and if you want to treat yourself for a special occasion. There are rumours that a Nobu in Shoreditch will be opening later this year. If this is true, that’s my excuse to try it. After all, East London is the best place to live.

 

Burns Night at Boisdale of Mayfair

On Thursday, I had the chance to attend the Burns Night at the brand new Boisdale of Mayfair, which has launched just in time for the Scottish celebration. The event offered an exclusive preview of the traditional Burns Night Dinner, a five-course set menu served at all four Boisdale sites throughout January. Asking if I could bring a plus one, I decided to bring Mark along with me. 

boisdale-231116_mayfair_520Upon arrival, we all mingled by the bar as we sipped on old-fashioned cocktails.  They were tasty! Strong, but with the right amount of sweetness that made me keep going back for more. Once we were given enough time to relax and warm up from the cold outside, we were all seated. The dinner started off with a welcoming speech from the owner of Boisdale, who explained the delicacies of Scottish cuisine and what inspired him to put the menu together. Together, we all clinked our glasses and begun our feast.

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To start, we had an assortment of fresh seafood to share, including fresh langoustines, rock oysters, Shetland mussels and Atlantic prawns, as well as luscious smoked salmon. Making sure I didn’t get to full on a first course, I tried to pace myself. Mark and I tried everything except the oysters, as we are still sceptical about them- (I know what you’re thinking, everybody loves oysters… I’m still undecided). Each of our courses was also served with a specially selected wine pairing and with the seafood, we inevitably sipped on crisp white.

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Feeling slightly tipsy at this point, having had little for lunch, I anticipated our second course. It was a mini roasted Blackface Haggis, served with creamy mashed potatoes and swede all served with a noggin of whisky. The owner suggested that we pour our whisky over to really accentuate the flavours and because it is traditionally what happens when one eats it. Now, having heard of what Haggis was made of, I was worried that I would perhaps not like its taste or texture. However, I was pleasantly surprised! It was flavourful, tender and really yum!. I am a haggis virgin no more, and I’ll definitely be eating one again. This was paired with a full bodied red and the more  I ate, the more I also drank- tipsy Sofia and Mark coming out to play! 

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However, Mine and Mark’s favourite dish of the evening was definitely the Aberdeenshire dry-aged fillet steak, served with green peppercorn & whisky sauce, greens and bone marrow potatoes. The sauce was rich, and the steak melted in our mouths, being the perfect medium. It was succulent and tender. I also loved the crispy, yet creamy potatoes. I’d even say it was the best steak I’ve had in a while. This dish was also paired with more red. (Mark… pss I think I’m drunk) While we dined, a talented man played melodious tunes with his bagpipes. What could be more Scottish than that?

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By this point, I was incredibly stuffed and knew we had two courses still to go. Of course being greedy and tipsy made me prevail and carry on eating. After all, I am the type of person who gets jealous or sincerely regrets not trying everything and anything offered to me. Oops. 

To finish, we had a tipsy scotch tart served with clotted cream and cheese served with chutney. Although I am not a fan of raisins, which were in the tart, it was still moreish nonetheless! It was filled with spiced nuts, encrusted in pastry and the clotted cream really helped to cut through all the richness. 

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Overall, we had a lovely evening in good company eating good food and drinking great wine. If the Burns set menu at Boisdale is meant to evoke and preserve the precise feelings that people get when they sit down and share a meal together then it does just that! The food was delicious, the choices on the menu varied and the atmosphere cheerful and comforting.

If you’re looking for a traditional Scottish evening to share with friends and family, I’d recommend it.

 

 

Taste of London: The Festive Edition

This Thursday, my friend Louisa and I finally got to go to Taste of London. We have always wanted to go ever since we have both been based in London but have never been organised enough to get tickets. This time we told ourselves, we would definitely book them in advance (and so we did!). We went for the standard ticket option which was only £15 pounds, and I have to say that when you actively choose to make the most of all the events going on it is a great deal.

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Louisa is (like many of my other friends) a foodie like me, so we were both excited and keen to try all the food, take part in the events and get some festive drinks going. From the get go I tried and was quickly swayed to buy some mulled whisky (it is delicious), and we tactically went round trying samples of different cheeses, drinks and food itemsLouisa somehow managed to get a bottle of prosecco for £12 which really got the party going and was an absolute bargain. In hindsight, it was most definitely an error of judgement on the part of the seller. When we went back, we quickly realised the man was not supposed to be selling bottles, gritting his teeth as he awkwardly whispered the managing director was stood behind us and he was about to be lectured. Nevertheless, a personal shout out to the man for getting me tipsy!

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The first thing we wanted to do was watch one of the taste theatres which were free of charge. This is where we got the chance to watch famous chefs cook. We sat down sipped at our prosecco and watched Abdul Yaseen, The Chef behind Darbaar, a new Indian restaurant on the scene. Based on an Indian Christmas, he made an aromatic vindaloo curry with an abundance of fragrant spices. The smell radiated around the room, and while we were not allowed to try it (CRY), his restaurant colleague made a minty spiced cocktail to tantalise our taste buds (that is such a cliche saying isn’t it- but it works). It is safe to say I will be visiting the restaurant in the week as it has left me permanently craving a comforting curry.

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Next, we obviously had to go round and try some of the festive food that the restaurants had to offer. We tactically scoured the menus and decided on our must try items. (i told you- foodies, everything has to be planned).

We went for:

Wagyu Beef with a Bulgogi sauce and mushrooms from Chi Kitchen, a Contemporary pan-Asian restaurant. £10 – (definitely not real wagyu but it was mouthwatering nonetheless)DSC01533.jpg

BBQ pork belly in steamed buns with spicy peanut soy From Kurobuta £6dsc01540

  • Truffle Mac n’ Cheese from Tom’s Kitchen ( Never looks good in photos, so I left this one out – I love truffle though so this was a winner if not a bit too small for £5
  • and finally for dessert a tasty Oreo cookie from blondie’s kitchen accompanied with almond milk for accustomary cookie dunking! – There was the option to have malted milk, but Louisa and I don’t particularly like the taste of it) £5dsc01613

However, I think we would both agree that our favourite part of the night was the live cooking class which were also free of charge and operated on a first come first serve basis. Having got drunker as time went by- we stumbled upon this by pure chance and as the eager beans we are- we made sure to line up 15 minutes before in case anyone dropped out. Our tactic was as follows: people are drinking- drunk people are forgetful- may not show up – we take their place. It turns out, this actually worked.

We managed to get into Jeremy Pang’s School of Wok. We got to make a variety of dishes in half an hour. 

dsc01571dsc01582These included a warming festive chai tea with spices and condensed milk, a steamed cod fillet with sha cha & sweet soy and festive fried rice (cranberries/pancetta/ Brussel sprouts).

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SO GOOD. The staff also kindly went round serving Crispy 5 Spice Crackling which made a perfect accompaniment. It was super fun (and I understand this may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but we loved it) to cook along with the chef and do it all together as a group. We learnt a couple of wok skills, and for our level of tipsiness our food came out pretty amazing.

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London’s New Wok Master (ignore all the mess)


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Drunk and Satisfied

 

Overall, Taste of London was a great event and because it was the festive edition it really got me into the spirit of Christmas. One of my favourite things about this time of year is all the events that go on around London, and this was no exception. I loved the food, but I also loved the vibes and all the things there was to do in the space of one evening.

Safe to say, ill be back next year.

 

Sunday Brunch at Smokey Tails

If you can’t already tell I am a sucker for breakfast dishes and so on the weekend it is only natural I take advantage of brunch- let’s face it, we all should. It’s that unique part of the day where you’re not quite sure if you’re still eating breakfast but it is still acceptable at lunch, and dishes usually range from the traditional to the wacky and wonderful.

Today, Mark and I were craving something different. My rule with brunch is I try and look for dishes that I couldn’t easily make at home or that I wouldn’t think of ever making myself. We decided to walk to Hoxton as I wanted to try out Smokey Tails. Nestled in Hoxton Square, it is a bar that also serves food which they coin as ‘Midwest Modern’ and inspired by home styled BBQ flavours. Upon arrival, we were eager to try out the menu, and since I had had no other food this morning, I was particularly hungry.

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Didn’t know Mark was taking this obviously…

We spent about a good 15 minutes debating our choices as per usual. I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating that when Mark and I go for brunch, we have a pact where we share our dishes. This is so if Mark’s dish is somehow better than mine (which sometimes can happen) I won’t have to deal with his subtle laughs and sniggers of triumph. This also requires great thinking and deliberation in case we’re then left with a bad choice and sour taste in our mouths as we sit there moping in regret.- We take our food seriously. 

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Laughing at my jokes cause, I’m so funny

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I decided to go for the fried chicken on a crispy French toast brioche with maple syrup and bacon ( I’m aware I always seem to write about fried chicken and waffles, but we couldn’t resist after hearing about its crunchy base, and we do usually have waffles – The French toast is on some next level).

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Mark, on the other hand, went for the pulled pork benedict with poached eggs and HP hollandaise. I will say that in our excitement to eat I forgot to take a mental note of prices, but each dish was around £8-10.

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I’m definitely going to say that this was a winning place if you’re looking for a brunch that does things a little different. For one, the flavour combinations were delicious! It’s that sort of food where you feel guilty because it’s so indulgent, but you just don’t care enough to stop or give it a second thought. I will say that it was good sharing both as the BBQ pulled pork was both tangy and salty which went well with the runny egg and thick hollandaise. I also liked that they switched up a classic with the HP and pork. In terms of the fried chicken and french toast, that was another winner for me– although I must say we did end up asking for extra maple syrup.. oops

Overall, Smokey Tails- you are officially another brunch win on my list and as I sit here and write this I’m still feeling stuffed but most certainly satisfied. 

Festive Menu at Ma Plucker

Once again, (this is beginning to sound like deja vu- big up Katrina) my fellow foodie and friend invited me along to the Ma Plucker Festive Menu Debut.

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Ma Plucker’s ethos is all things chicken- including fried and rotisserie, as well as yummy guilty pleasure sides like fried halloumi bites. However, we didn’t try the standard menu – we were there to taste the ‘afternoon festive tea’ – done in the spirit of celebrating the festive season of Christmas!

For £18.50 you are given a glass of prosecco or boozy cranberry iced tea on arrival and then unlimited regular cranberry iced tea after- as well as three savoury and three sweet dishes. Katrina and I arrived super early (both hungry and eager to eat some chicken!) and patiently waiting for some delicious goods to come out the kitchen. You know when you’re early to a party, and you sit there chatting but in your mind you’re kind of like…. okay I’m hungry now – that was us.

The Menu consists of three brioche bun sandwiches and three desserts all laid out bare on a platter for you to sink your teeth into.

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The savoury options were:

  • Mini coronation pulled chicken bun 

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  • Mini rotisserie chicken bun with bbq sauce

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  • Sylvia’s festive bap (she’s the Ma plucker mascot- no lie and this had cranberry sauce slathered all over)

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Overall, I have to say that while the sandwiches were tasty- they weren’t necessarily my favourite. I think despite the cranberry, most of the sandwiches resonated with summer flavours for me. Don’t get me wrong – it was yummy and in terms of the theme, it does stick to what afternoon tea would usually serve, but I was secretly hoping for more warming dishes like some crispy fried chicken. I was actually left more curious for the main menu main dishes and will definitely have to go back to try them.

Then, onto my favourite part– the lowdown of the Sweet Treats:

  • Mini mince pies (unfortunately i am not a huge fan of mince pies in general- oops guilty)
  • Salted caramel doughnuts

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  • Ma’s Scoffle (waffle cream and strawberry jam)

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I LOVED THE DOUGHNUTS. I’ve put that in capitals to express how much I loved them. I think I  ate about three because Katrina kindly offered me one of hers (thanks, gal!). They were soft and melted in the mouth. I also really enjoyed the take on a classic scone, and the waffle jam cream combination is especially moorish!

The team also kindly came about offering some of the mini versions of their fried mac and cheese. Again, I love mac and cheese and anything fried, so these really hit the spot and left me craving more.

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Overall, I would say I enjoyed my time at Ma Plucker, and I loved the concept of a chicken shop serving hearty dishes. However, if I had to pick, I would probably go for the main menu which seems to give you a lot of choices to craft the perfect chicken concoction to your own liking and ensures that you can go back multiple times and never have the same dish! 

Winner winner chicken dinner. (pun intended).

Thanksgiving Cooking Event

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be invited along with my good friend Katrina to another one of her press events. As she knows I am a huge foodie (and an inspiring blogger), she thought the event would be perfect for me.

Hosted by French’s American Mustard, the evening entailed a Thanksgiving feast, incorporating French’s products into the meal and getting the chance to be hands on and cook. In fact, we got to prepare two Thanksgiving traditional dishes all together with Mississipi-born chef Brad MacDonald by our side, whose specialities lie in Southern State cooking. Southern state cuisine is definitely becoming a new favourite of mine, and as Katrina’s family also originate from the South, it felt particularly special that we got to cook and learn some new recipes together. While I am not American, I am slowly starting to be convinced that it is one of the best holidays as the food is always so tasty!

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Set at Food at 52 cookery school near Old Street, the location was cute, quaint and cosy– the perfect place you’d imagine a Thanksgiving meal to be. I felt like I was in somebody’s home with the glorious smell of slow cooked turkey and ham swirling around as soon as we entered. With wine continuously flowing (and probably impairing my ability to do the basic cooking) we all started off making the first dish: potato salad.

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Salad prep

With all our ingredients kindly laid out in front of us, various people around the table took on different tasks. Some chopped the potatoes, others the squash, the chestnuts and the dressing. Consisting of mayo, vinegar olive oil, chives parsley and of course mustard, the dressing was delicious! I’m not sure if it was because I had had little to eat that day or I was also feeling the effects of my red wine, but I kept getting the urge to lick my spoon for more. Garnished with French’s crispy onions and pumpkin seeds everything came together to create the perfect moreish dish.

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There’s a domestic goddess in all of us

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Our combined efforts in action

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The finished product!

Next, after sitting back, chatting and guzzling some more red wine (oops guilty), we all shared the pleasant task of making a Green Bean Casserole. Brad told us that this particular dish was a real reminder of home and it certainly did not disappoint. While I have never thought of having green beans this way, it will certainly be a new preferred method of mine.

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Note to self: Don’t get tipsy and try and pour beans into boiling water

Combining green beans and sauteed mushrooms, every element was merged by the creamy and flavourful bechamel sauce, whisked through with sour cream, mustard and plenty of crispy onions… I may have poured in the whole box at this point, but I have no regrets.

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Testing out the Bechamel (we approved)

Katrina and I both said we really enjoyed the chance to cook with others in a relaxed and comforting setting- it made the event feel like a special homely occasion. But, that was not even the best part of the evening. While we had contributed in making a few of the side dishes, Brad, his wife and the French’s team had also spent the day preparing the other excellent dishes which were on the menu for the evening. These included:

  • Roast Turkey with Tangy Mustard Stuffing
  • Ginger Beer Mustard Glazed Ham (YUM)
  • Mustard Braised Greens with Almonds
  • & Cornbread (Brad’s Speciality)

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The Stuffing Up Close and Personal

I am not even joking – when all the food was laid out in front of us, including the dishes we had helped make a wave of excitement rushed over me as we were finally able to put an image to the mystical smells and taste it all. Everyone rushed to take pictures of the marvellous spread in front of us (including me!).

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You know it’s going to be a good meal when you photograph each other with the food

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As we sat down to eat, each and every dish was tantalising good. For starters, I loved the cornbread; its sweetness went particularly well with the other salty and tangy flavours on the plate. Also, I had never really had a tangy mustard sauce with turkey– in England, it’s all about the gravy- but French’s recipe? Well, it has officially convinced me. I wish I could have had more and more of that stuffing and I was tempted to go up for seconds. However, my eyes always deceive my stomach, and I wanted to have room for dessert (which is always my favourite part of ANY meal). By this point Katrina and I already felt super satisfied and sleepy, joking about how we would have to roll all the way home. (In the end.. it seems people agreed because a lot were ordering ubers– stuck firmly in a food coma and overcome by sheer delight).

I had kept some room for dessert for a reason. The evening ended with cute miniature pumpkin and pecan pies (topped with bourbon whipped cream). That was all I could pretty much still fit at this point- although I did obviously have to try both). Both were incredibly scrumptious and baked to perfection. dsc01212_fotor

Overall I had a great time and felt incredibly stuffed and content. Thanksgiving has also made me realise that nearly any fruit or vegetable can be transformed into a dessert– so that’s another bonus in my eyes. Upon leaving, we were given some of the French’s products we had used and recipes of the dishes, which I hope to replicate and bring to Thanksgiving at Katrina’s house.

That’s the exciting part, this won’t even be my last Thanksgiving meal of the year. 

(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?