Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Cake Club - Persian 'Love' Cupcakes

 This month's theme was 'Love' as it was just after Valentine's Day.

The winning cake was a classic Victoria sponge with fresh cream and topped with strawberries in the shape of a heart. Simple yet most effective. And delicious.

We also had Peach Melba cupcakes topped with raspberries, a lemon drizzle sprinkled with sugared heart shapes, and Sailor Jerry brownies cut into heart shapes.

Me, I wanted to experiment. This Persian Love Cake recipe for two was perfect. I love the story behind it: a Persian woman falls in love with a prince, and baked him a cake to make him fall in love with her. Truly, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach! 

The flavours in this cake are quite different from your typical cake. The aftertaste of the cardamom was quite surprising, but in an 'ooh that actually works' way. The subtly of the rose water in the cake, the chopped pistachios and the saffron in the cream made it feel really Asian, as is the case, since it is a typical Iranian combination. All that was missing was the rose petals.

Obviously there were more than two people so I multiplied the quantities. I thought piping a rose with the cream would make it ever so romantic...

Next month - Easter. Eggscellent. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Marco Pierre White Steak and Alehouse - Restaurant Review

I KNEW Marco himself wouldn't be presiding over matters at his steakhouse. I knew that. But maybe he should. For a meal costing as much as this did, it was somewhat disappointing. It wasn't terrible by any means, but it wasn't top-notch. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I don't often get the opportunity to frequent so-called High End restaurants, preferring local, or previously visited establishments where the food is the hero. Eating out is a treat, still, for me. And paying top dollar means it has got to be amazing. For something like a steak, I can cook it at home, yes, but I don't often. So this should have been one of the best steaks ever. What with it being a steakhouse, and all...

I had read several reviews before my reservation and was surprised. A restaurant bearing the name of the first 'celebrity' chef, a man who returned his Michelin stars in order that he could stop living the lie that meant he could 'charge high prices and not be behind the stove'.  I have much admiration for Marco for this reason and also because I met him at an event a few years back, (Mumsnet, turkey, anyone?) and he was charming and as genuine as could be. And this is why I still wanted to eat here. (I may have slight CWS*.)

 *Celebrity Worship Syndrome

The staff were great, so polite, with no over-selling. I did feel slightly bad at choosing the (second) cheapest option for everything but really, that shouldn't matter. They didn't seem to mind. They did subtly re-fill our wine very frequently so it was mostly finished by the time the steak arrived. 
The setting was comfortably spaced, again quite classic and traditional, with a 'high-end' feel . A bit of an '80s feel to it, perhaps? (Not that I remember any restaurants in the '80s...) Round tables for two gave it an intimate feel, and the lighting was low and romantic.

Disappointing starters, both cold. Admittedly I didn't think confit of duck was what it was. I was expecting a roasted duck leg marinated in lots of wine. Mmm. Potted confit of duck, I now know, is the flaked meat from the duck covered in a layer of lard. Not really my thing. I'm sure it's not that but that's what it tasted like. Prawn cocktail is the traditional starter that I've never seen the point of but Himself chose it purely for the nostalgic element. It just felt as though it had been sitting in the fridge all day. As did the confit.

Prawn Cocktail
Potted Confit of Duck

Steak was the obvious choice for main course. There were other options, such as confit duck but luckily I didn't make that mistake again! I couldn't justify paying £35 for a fillet or a ribeye - I like my meat, but not that much, so I was content with the sirloin. I would have expected it to be the best steak I've ever had. It wasn't. (That, my friends, was at a restaurant right next to where I grew up in Co. Kerry called The Thatch). For a medium rare, it was a tad chewy. It did have a good charry edge and not too much bone, which I liked. Served with a knob of Cafe de Paris butter.
Sirloin Steak with Cafe de Paris butter
Himself went for the rump with peppercorn sauce. Again a classic. His was also medium rare, yet chewy. The sauce was silky smooth but needed a bit more 'pepper-fire' in his opinion. Good portion size. Ooh the triple cooked chips were delicious! And the seasonal vegetables, surprisingly the simple things worked very well.
Rump Steak with Peppercorn Sauce
Overall I wouldn't really rate this steakhouse as 'The Best'. I think it's a slight tourist trap, enticing reasonably well off clientele, in a great location in the City, and with Marco's name. Without his name it could be rated as just another chain steakhouse. Which would burn a hole in your pocket.

I should point out, for transparency, that I had an £80 voucher from Zomato. Unlikely I would have been able to afford to eat here otherwise!

Also, please excuse the photography. I was a little furtive with my flash in this instance...

East India House
109-117 Middlesex Street
City of London
E1 7JF
020 3095 4733

Dinner for two with wine: (at least) ~£120

Marco Pierre White Steak & Alehouse on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Sweet and Spicy Bacon-wrapped Chicken - Recipe

It's quick. It's easy. It's Dee-licious.

At the end of a long Tuesday (following on from a very long Monday), with a teeny fridge packed to the gills with opened packs of this and that after the weekend, it seemed a good idea to use up as much as I could and free some space (to be filled rapidly by more beer).

Bacon-wrapped chicken

8-10 mini chicken fillets (or 2-3 breasts sliced lengthways)
4-5 bacon slices, cut in half lengthways
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ginger powder (freshly chopped is better obviously)
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper
Olive or rapeseed oil
1 tbsp brown demerera sugar


Sprinkle the chicken with the spices, drizzle over the soy sauce, season and toss in the oil.
Wrap the bacon slices around each mini fillet in a twirly fashion.
Roll in the sugar (or just sprinkle over if it gets messy).

Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is nice and crispy.

Serve with (in this instance) roasted new potatoes tossed in olive oil, garam masala, cumin seeds, and salt and pepper. They should take about the same time if cut in half. Oh, and throw in some asparagus for the last five minutes if you need a veggie fix.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Moving Kitchen

It's been a bit quiet of late on here. My dear readers, all 14 of you, I feel I have abandoned you. It has not been quiet in RL though! We have just moved house. And I haven't cooked or baked in ages. Takeaway kebabs... toast... frozen pizza... fish 'n' chips... yet to find an Indian...

The trouble with moving is... I miss my kitchen. I feel as though I have downgraded. From my beautiful fully functional kitchen to a sort of studenty one.

But we will fill it with old pieces. And I will learn how long an electric hob takes...

And soon, as soon as I can, I'll unpack those cake tins. Watch this space.

My much-loved new kitchen in the old house

Super-duper induction hob and double oven 

Old kitchen in new house :(


We just bought this baby through eBay. A retro Ducal sideboard, with a granite work-top. Now to fill it with spices and baking tins... Better already!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Baileys Birthday Cupcakes

Birthday Girl Loves Baileys!
We wanted to bring a special cake to our friend's 40th, and we knew she was a Baileys fan, so why not incorporate chocolate and booze, as suggested by her husband? Why not indeed. While I baked them, my designer friend at Funktional Kitchens came up with the simple but effective decoration. Which of course was suitably embarrassing... 

This great recipe is from Sarah @MaisonCupcake. The quantities in her recipe were perfect and made about 30 cupcakes, about 6 of which were used for essential taste testing purposes! Hic...

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Siam Central, Fitzrovia - Restaurant Review

Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, just a few minute's walk from Tottenham Court Road, and Goodge Street, is one of London's secret gems. Mostly known only to folk who live, work or study locally and a haunt of celebs, should a tourist stumble upon this wonderful street, they would indeed have struck gold. Lined with many restaurants and caf├ęs, as well as numerous characterful period buildings, it oozes charm and atmosphere with a wealth of choice for eating, drinking, and being cool.

We aimed for Siam Central for dinner, on recommendation of my good friend who has eaten there many times and wanted me to try EVERYthing. Happy to oblige, we started with the Siam Combo, a selection of traditional Thai starters, all of which were deliciously authentic - do ask for an extra dipping bowl though, so you can double-dip to your heart's content. The menu also features a 'tapas' menu, so if you wish you can choose starters all evening... hmm, tempting!

Siam Combo
Whilst we didn't quite order everything on the menu (could have...), we chose a dish from each section, each with a different meat. The star of the meal was the Massaman Lamb curry, a warming, rich curry with potatoes - yes you can take the girl out of Ireland but she still loves her spuds - with succulent pieces of lamb and a fragrant spicy sauce. Pad Thai, that benchmark for every Thai meal, was delicious and the butterfly prawns cooked to perfection. The pineapple rice was served in, what else?, half a pineapple, and was flavoursome and spicy with the sweetness of the pineapple chunks coming through. On the side, a chilli and aubergine stir fry which had sweet basil and soy beans with slithers of pork added an extra kick. And just in case that wasn't enough, we had some roti with a light chilli-infused curry sauce. Every mouthful of every dish was delicious. Ok, I'm biased as Thai is one of my very favourite cuisines, but still. Can't fault the food here. 

Thai Food

No booking required, though we waited about five minutes to be seated. Then we got the window seat which would be perfect if you were celeb-spotting. Which we weren't. The staff were polite although the two main men could have cracked a smile - Thailand is, after all, the land of Smiles, and rightly so. If I could eat Thai food every day, I sure would smile more.

As we ventured out into the night (with enough leftover food for several days' lunch) we stumbled upon a basement cocktail bar called Bourne and Hollingsworth, definitely worth a visit for The Gatsby. Appropriately named.

Charlotte Street, I will be back.

Siam Central
14 Charlotte St
020 7436 7460

Meal for two with wine ~£70

Siam Central on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Friday, 9 January 2015

Cake Club - Fondant Fancies

This month's Cake Club theme was 'Retro'. Inspired by GBBO, I thought I'd give Fondant Fancies a try. I used this recipe from Woman&Home, but instead of yucky marzipan and apricot jam in the middle I used some chocolate ganache. Much better in my opinion! The icing didn't quite run down the sides as they should, giving my fancies a slightly rustic look. Ah well. The daisies were made using a mould.

Retro Fondant Fancies.

The winning bake was a delicious (warm) pineapple upside down cake. We also had a cool version of the same, and a coffee and walnut sponge. Ah, the memories...
The Winner: Warm Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Waiting for my bakers to arrive

Next month's theme is Valentines... promises to be 'love'ly!

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