Sunday 31 January 2016

Restaurant Review: The City, City Airport, London

London City airport is a funny place. I just read that it only carries 1.5% of all UK airport passengers – the Green party wants to close it down and build housing on the site.
But you can get from my office to the airport in about half an hour on a good day – making it ultra-convenient for the busy business exec. In fact, opponents to the Greens’ plan speak of the importance of good flight links into London to the UK economy.
The proximity to central London means the airport is restricted to running only certain types of planes; there also isn’t that much space. That’s both a good thing – if you are in a hurry, you don’t have to cross a massive terminal – but also means that there are a lot of people in a very small space, and at peak times it does feel quite overcrowded.
I flew from City to Edinburgh late last year and was going after work so I’d be there for an early start the next day; as I knew I wouldn’t be given anything to eat on the plane, and I arrived at the airport quite early for my flight (not realising how quick the journey time would be) I decided to have dinner at the airport. After security, your only choices are coffee shops: Caffe Nero, Espressamente Illy, Panopolis; packet sandwiches from Boots, or two restaurants: Rhubarb and the City Bar. Rhubarb looked quite upmarket – the airport website says it has “something for everyone: from a quick power breakfast before a fashion show in Paris, to a gourmet dinner at the start of a business tour to Switzerland.” I don’t know how many people fall into those two categories – perhaps at City airport it’s more than you might think – but I decided I would be more at home at the City Bar.
The seats were about as crammed in as the rest of the airport - I was seated at a long bar facing out into the centre of the departure lounge and luckily the seat next to me was empty so I had room for my bags and to eat without bumping elbows. Service was quick which is important when you have a plane to catch!
I wasn't expecting much from the food, thinking it would probably be pretty basic with a high price attached, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I had a salmon, prawn and spinach lasagne, which at £14.95 wasn't cheap but it was delicious - I would definitely eat here again.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Apple and Cheese Potato Cakes

I've been trying to use my Spiralizer once a week as my wedding is now only just over four and a half months away (!) but as I started following this week I'd forgotten I also needed to factor in a spiralized meal - I also forgot to include my Meat Free Monday!

If you have any Spiralizer recipes please add them to the linky below - I will do a roundup of the recipes that were sent in this month further down.

So as it's Spiralizer Saturday I found a recipe from Inspiralized to have for my lunch today. They are quite similar to something I ate a lot in Germany when I lived there nearly 20 years ago - potato cakes or Kartoffelpuffer. I had a go at making these and blogging about it a couple of years ago. That was pre-Spiralizer so the potato was grated; it works very well with a Spiralizer. This recipe has the addition of apple and cheese, which is quite nice.

To make two large potato cakes:

Spiralize one large potato and fry the noodles in a pan for about ten minutes until softened.

Spiralize an apple and grate 75g cheese. In a large bowl, beat one egg, add the apple, cheese and a large pinch of salt. Add the spiralized potatoes to the bowl and mix well.

Shape into two balls, press down in the frying pan and fry for 5 minutes on each side. I served these with a couple of rashers of streaky bacon.

I'm now going to open the #SpiralizerSaturday for a month rather than doing it weekly, for the best spiralizer recipes - send in your ideas for things to make with a spiralizer!

Here's a roundup of the Spiralizer recipes I have made and other people have shared with me during January:

Orange chicken with spiralized sweet potato

Lemon and courgette spaghetti, from Searching for Spice

Lemon and Courgette Spaghetti

Leftover sausage ragu with spiralized butternut squash

Sticky Chinese pork with spiralized carrots

Prawn Mooli Stir-Fry

Apple and cheese potato cakes (see recipe above)

Friday 29 January 2016

Roasted Cauliflower Steak with Stilton

Inspired by the meal I had at the Coin Laundry and making a real effort to do Meat Free Mondays (and make them a bit more interesting than just pasta and pesto) I decided to make my own roasted cauliflower steak. It was very straightforward so I’m not going to bother writing a whole recipe, but if this is a dish that you’ve never come across before then you might find it a nice change.
Take a cauliflower and slice through the middle to cut in half. If you want you can try slicing it into three to make flatter ‘steaks’, but my cauliflower was quite small and I didn’t think this was going to work.
Line a roasting pan with foil, and either rub the cauliflower with olive oil or spray with Fry Light if you are being really healthy. You can add any herbs and spices you like – sumac (commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, available in supermarkets) works really well with cauliflower, as does coriander and cumin. A light sprinkling of salt also helps bring out the flavour.
Roast in a preheated oven at 175C for about 25-30 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and browned.
To serve, I simply crumbled up some stilton cheese and sprinkled it over the top. This is a good way of using up leftover cheese from Christmas on a healthier dish!

I served it with quinoa – serving it with another vegetable on the side seemed odd but it needed something. I’d also recommend trying couscous, especially if you go with a more Middle Eastern seasoning.
I'm sending this to Extra Veg, hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy. 
I'm also sending this to Meat Free Mondays, hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes.


Thursday 28 January 2016

Beer Can Chicken with Jim Beam Honey Ginger Ale

This recipe is also known as Drunken Chicken; either way it looks fairly undignified for the poor chook!
It's also more of a concept than a recipe - a way to cook roast chicken that makes it really moist and tender and gives it a hint of flavour from the drink - though don't worry, you don't end up with a chicken that tastes of beer! I used a can of ginger ale rather than beer - which had Jim Beam honey in it - giving a lovely gingery, slightly sweet flavour. In fact while I haven't tried it with beer (as per the recipe I found) I think this way is a lot better!
Your chicken will take the same amount of time as normal to roast so check the packet - usually about 20 mins per 500g plus an extra 20 mins but don't take my word for that. Preheat the oven and make sure there aren't any giblets inside the chicken cavity.
Open your beer can or ginger ale can and drink or pour out a little so the can is about 3/4 full. Rather unceremoniously up-end the chicken so the beer can stands up inside the cavity with your chicken upright on top!
Roast until the juices run clear. The steam from the liquid in the can will almost steam the chicken from the inside while it roasts on the outside (I'd advise you throw away what's left in the can - I know some people make gravy from meat juices but in this case the can will have what's dripped from directly inside the chicken... not fat that comes from roasting the skin).
I had to take the middle shelf out of my oven so it would fit. It does look quite funny, doesn't it?
Carefully remove the can from the chicken and carve the chicken as normal to serve - a bit unconventional I admit, but delicious!

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Sizzix Big Shot Die Cutter and Tattered Lace Birthday Card

I got the Sizzix Big Shot Plus machine for Christmas – which I imagine a good proportion of you have never heard of. It’s a die cutting machine – still none the wiser?

OK, I like to do papercrafts, in particular card making (when I can find the time which isn’t often). As well as using items like stickers, ribbons and so on, you can cut out your own shapes or buy ready made pieces of card – known as die cuts.
For a while now I’ve been buying packs of die cuts on Ebay, generally sold by people who have die cutting machines. I thought it would be nice to be able to cut out my own dies – it will only become more cost efficient when I’ve done an awful lot but I couldn’t particularly think of anything else I wanted for Christmas so it seemed a good a gift as any!

The way the machines work is quite straight forward – you put in the metal die (like a template) and some card and it cuts out the shape for you. You can get two types of machines – manual and electronic. The manual ones require you to turn a handle to move the die and card through the machine but it’s not difficult. The electronic ones do it at a push of a button, but they generally cost more and it didn’t seem worth the extra outlay. You can get machines which connect to your computer and allow you to design your own shapes then cut them out, which sounds pretty cool, but the last time I did what was known as computer-aided design (CAD) was in year 9 at school and I’m not actually that artistic so again I didn’t think this was worth the extra money.
The machine I got for Christmas was the Sizzix Big Shot; Hobbycraft were selling it with a free starter pack including some of the basic kit you need that doesn’t always come with the machine (like adapters and cutting pads) but also some dies so I could get started right away. My fiancé also bought me a few of the Tattered Lace dies which I think are absolutely beautiful – they are quite expensive but very intricate patterns and designs that look great on cards.

To begin I just practised using all the dies, cutting out various shapes from different coloured card. I found the ‘pokey tool’ (it’s actual name) very helpful with the Tattered Lace dies in particular – there are such tiny pieces that don’t always come off in one go when you peel the card away from the die, and you need to poke them through.

I realised that I needed to send a birthday card to a friend and didn’t have anything so used some of the die cuts I’d just made, without spending too much time thinking about design, but the quality of the die cuts means even that looks good (though I intend to spend more time next time thinking about the design!).

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Restaurant Review: The Easton, Clerkenwell, London

Every year, my friend Jules organises a big Christmas pub lunch – this year was the 7th in a row and while we once started as predominantly single people drinking all day (and evening), now people come with their husbands and wives and children in tow. It can’t be easy to find a venue that can fit a table for 20 – with people dropping in throughout the day as well – and every year I’m impressed at how well Jules has done, even down to the fact that she puts Christmas crackers on the tables.
Last year we went to the Easton, in London’s Clerkenwell. The pub is about a ten minute walk from Farringdon and just around the corner from Exmouth Market but it’s very tucked away down a side street – at the end of a row of houses and even as I was walking down the street I wasn’t sure I was in the right place until I spotted the sign at the end!

The Easton describes itself as ‘an independently owned gastropub’ where ‘our menu evolves with the seasons’, using locally sourced products where available.

We went on a Sunday in December so of course there was roast turkey on the menu. To start I ordered the ham croquettes but a few minutes later the waitress came over and told me they had just served the last ones, so I had salt cod croquettes instead, which were nice but not particularly fishy, perhaps because the taste was overpowered by the garlic aioli. For the main course I had turkey and all the trimmings; there were several thick slices of turkey, some really nice stuffing, cranberry sauce, very good roast potatoes (I’m quite particular about roast potatoes, they are the best bit!), gravy and veg – carrots and Brussel sprouts. It was a really good meal and it was interesting to see the pub was full of large groups having Christmas dinners – sometimes we have been to pubs that have struggled to make space for such a large group but in this case the tables had been arranged with this in mind. We had plenty of room even for babies buggies!

Unfortunately I seem to have deleted the photos from my phone already as I keep running out of space!
I would never have stumbled across this pub despite its central London location but I really liked it, so if you’re looking for somewhere for a large group I would recommend the Easton – and well done again to Jules for organising such a great event again and again – I hope we can do it again next year, though we might need a bigger table as there will be at least two more babies in tow!

Monday 25 January 2016

Meal Planning Monday - week 5

I've gotten fed up with struggling to lose weight and am increasingly busy with working, commuting, trying to run the house and now wedding planning as well, so I've signed up to a new diet website called Diet Plan. It gives you a daily menu of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, but unlike some other weekly diet plans, there is the option to switch out meals if you don't like them for alternatives. I decided that since I barely have time to do anything - last weekend planning meals for 2 weeks plus doing the online grocery shop took me 3 hours - then following a ready made plan might be easier! I will sometimes switch out meals if I have leftovers or ingredients to use up, as this plan sometimes asks me to buy fresh ingredients then only use half of them which isn't good, but other than that I will do my best to stick to it.

Breakfasts every day will depend on time - either porridge or yogurt or poached eggs.

Lunch – cheese salad sandwich on brown bread with fruit
Dinner – poached trout with dill sauce and watercress: though I forgot to buy trout and the supermarket was out of watercress, so instead I switched and made tomorrow night's dinner. Weirdly with dinner I am also allowed a slice of wholemeal toast and a Mullerlight
Snacks- apple nutrigrain, quarter of a fresh pineapple
Lunch: tortilla wrap with red pepper, reduced fat houmous, lots of watercress, piece of fruit
Dinner: turkey with tarragon and new potatoes and broccoli. Though I had been planning to make pistachio chicken with pomegranate sauce from this recipe and have pomegranate to use up. Ended up making Thursday night's dinner as I didn't want chicken two nights in a row.
Snacks – fruit, packet of snack-a-jacks
Lunch- tuna sandwich on wholemeal bread, piece of fruit
Dinner – griddled chicken with pineapple and lime salsa, brown rice, mixed salad, fruit - though I am at a cake decorating class this evening so I will try to prepare the dinner on Tuesday night and have it for my lunch, ie switch these meals around
Snacks- Walkers baked crisps and fruit
Lunch – smoked salmon sandwich and apple
Dinner- foil baked sea bass with tomato, coriander and coconut, brown rice. Update: switched for the pistachio chicken from Tuesday.
Snacks- yogurt and fruit
Lunch- chicken sandwich on brown bread, fruit
Dinner – BBQ pork medallions with new potatoes and salad
Snack – 2 crumpets with low fat spread
Breakfast – poached egg on wholemeal toast
Lunch- apple potato cheese bun from Inspiralized p119 with eggs; eggs and bacon for him with hash browns
Dinner – beef burger in bun with vegetable skewer and salad
Snack – 1 ryvita with soft cheese, fruit

Breakfast – poached egg on wholemeal toast
Lunch: jacket potato
Dinner: Sicilian pork with new potatoes and veg

Sunday 24 January 2016

Arbroath Toasties

In honour of Burns Night on January 25 I decided to make a Scottish recipe and came across this one for Arbroath toasties. Arbroath is a place in Scotland that is known for its smoked haddock and this recipe is basically haddock and cheese on toast. It's easy to make, a good source of omega 3 and tastes really good.

I used a recipe from a website called Rampant Scotland. I simply heated the fish in a pan of milk, added flour to thicken it and then added cheese and egg yolk. I'm not entirely sure why the recipe calls for the egg white to be whisked separately but I did that as well, and spread the mixture on toast and put it under the grill.

Eat and enjoy!

I'm sending this to the Food Year Linkup, hosted by Charlottes Lively Kitchen.

Food Year Linkup January 2016

Saturday 23 January 2016

Spiralizer Saturday: Prawn Mooli Stir-Fry

This week my spiralized meal was based on a recipe from the Inspiralized cookery book by Ali Maffucci, which is a brilliant book (and website) if you are just getting started with a spiralizer. It was called Prawn Daikon Pho, a daikon being a type of radish, sometimes known as a winter radish or an Oriental radish. I'd never heard of it, let alone seen one in the supermarket, but I did remember seeing something called a mooli that was also from the radish family. From internet research I've decided that daikon and mooli are either the same thing or at least closely related!

If you have any spiralizer recipes you want to share, please add them to the linky at the bottom of this post!

I don't really like radishes as I find them too peppery so was a bit dubious about whether I would like mooli (and let's just say I'm not exactly known for liking new vegetables) - but I loved it! That may have had something to do with the sauce in this stir-fry but I am keen to try the mooli again (I used half of it in this recipe) in something else.

The Inspiralized recipe also includes jalapeno peppers but I don't like spicy food; I also left out the spring onions, onion, and whole coriander leaves - and instead added fresh dill which I had from another recipe. Ali's recipe is also a Pho which is more of a soup - I find eating those very messy so made it a much drier stir-fry. It tasted really good and was very healthy - I was having a bad day thinking about how much weight I need to lose so this made me feel a bit better!


Serves 2
300ml vegetable stock
2 tsp Thai fish sauce
3 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger, or 1/2 tsp ginger puree from a tube
approx. 160g cooked and peeled large prawns
half a mooli or daikon radish, peeled and spiralized
1 large carrot, peeled and spiralized
handful of small broccoli florets
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

Heat the stock, fish sauce, lime juice, coriander and ginger in a large wok and add the spiralized mool, carrot and the broccoli. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, then add the prawns and heat through. To serve, sprinkle with the chopped dill and a dash of lime juice if desired.

Friday 22 January 2016

Flourish Wellness Mince Pies Review

January is a time when a lot of people make resolutions to lose weight, or eat better, or just be more healthy in general.

It's not just about dieting though - it's about living a more healthy lifestyle. Dr. Caroline Puschendorf of Flourish Wellness ( also practises mindfulness - appreciating being in the 'now' - and has found this to have a positive effect on wellbeing.

I came across Flourish Wellness as Dr Puschendorf lives in the same village as a good friend of mine, and she shared a box of mince pies with me that Dr P had made. They were gluten free, egg free, dairy free and soy free using a recipe she has developed herself; she sold them to friends and at farmers' markets and now intends to make other gluten free and dairy free bakes and chocolates; you can get in touch via her site if you are interested.

I asked my fiancé for his opinion on the mince pies as he is more of a connoisseur than me! He said they were quite nice - and was surprised to hear they were dairy free - but said they were too small so the ratio of pastry to filling wasn't quite right. So there you go Dr P - bigger is better!

She pointed out to me though that this is the traditional size and shape - deep fill mince pies are a more modern invention - and added: "I took a lot of orders from people who didn't have any dietary requirements at all, but just thought they were delicious."

Caroline is qualified in nutrition, psychology and behaviour and has been through some challenging times in the last few years, leaving her very well placed to give advice on well being and how to devise a strategy to achieve your goal, supporting clients via email, Facebook or Skype between sessions. Which sounds like just the sort of thing you need if you are no good at sticking to resolutions!

Thursday 21 January 2016

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Goo Goo Cake

When I was on holiday in Nashville in September – which is a brilliant place to visit, especially if you’re a fan of the Nashville TV series like I am – I came across something called a Goo Goo Cluster. These are candy bars – though they are actually round – made of chocolate, caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat. But what’s more, they are of great historical significance – the Goo Goo was invented in 1912 and was the first time more than one element had been combined in a candy bar.
They were created in Nashville and the city is proud of the association – there’s a dedicated Goo Goo shop in the town centre, and when I bought the celebration package at the Grand Ole Opry for my future mother-in-law, the bag contained a Goo Goo Cluster.
So when I saw the letter this month for Alphabakes (the blog challenge I co-host with Ros) was G, I thought Goo Goo Clusters would be fun to make. And then I saw a recipe for a Goo Goo Cluster Cake…
No comments please about January health kicks or pre-wedding diets as this is a very indulgent cake! So that’s why I made it for someone else…. I’ve mentioned before that I spend one day a month working on a project at an agency of very cool people. I spend the day in their offices and it almost always turns into a late night, so I feel the least I can do is take them some cake (and it seems to be greatly appreciated!).
I found a recipe for Goo Goo Clusters – or something resembling them, as it doesn’t really have nougat – here.
They were really easy to make – melt the chocolate with the condensed milk (I used Carnation), mix in the peanuts and marshmallows and pour into a pan (I lined a pan with greaseproof paper rather than buttering it) and set in the fridge.

I tried a little bit straight from the fridge and I have to say these are delicious!
Then I went to the Goo Goo website for this recipe for a Peanut Butter Goo Goo Chocolate PB Cake – though that name is a bit of a mouthful and I didn’t realise I actually needed to have made peanut butter Goo Goo Clusters, rather than chocolate – so instead I’m calling this a Chocolate and Peanut Butter Goo Goo Cake.
You can follow the recipe directly from the website; apparently this cake is available in the Nashville shop’s dessert bar. I want to go back there now!
I converted the measurements to grams but otherwise followed the recipe:
I melted the chocolate and butter, added the sugar and salt and heated until the sugar had dissolved.
Whisked in the eggs and then the cocoa powder.

Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes then cool. The cake did sink slightly but I wasn’t surprised as you may have noticed this is actually a flourless cake.
Meanwhile I made the peanut butter layer by beating together the peanut butter, sugar, milk, oil, egg yolks, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl and then fold in.
Bake for 25 minutes.

For the chocolate filling and glaze, melt the chocolate and butter, then remove from the heat and add milk, honey and vanilla.

I decided this was a bit thin and added some icing sugar to it as well.

Pour about a third of the mixture onto the chocolate cake, and gently top with the peanut butter cake. Pour the rest of the glaze on the top and allow to run down the sides. Sprinkle with chopped Goo Goo Clusters.


This cake was delicious, really decadent, and very popular in the office!

I'm sending this to Alphabakes, the blog challenge I co-host with Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker, as the letter she has chosen this month is G.