Monday, 20 April 2015

Piñata Cake

Pinata Cake. So much fun! Not so much that you have to whack the cake with a stick, but when you slice it, out fall loads of sweeties! This worked really well for a little afternoon tea party, celebrating some birthdays. Some of the kids, I knew, weren't really cake eaters, so I thought this would be the perfect compromise - cake AND sweets...

Pinata Cake - before
 It didn't take long and was simpler to make than it looks. I used Annie Bell's Classic Tearoom Chocolate Victoria Sponge and was helped in the technique by I Should Be Mopping the Floor (which, to be fair, I should have done afterwards!). 
Pinata Cake - after
The kids' faces were so funny, full of surprise and ultimately delight! Well worth the effort.

Pinata Cake

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Fiery Goan Curry by The Spice Tailor

It is my privilege to be a member of the Guiding Panel for the Spice Tailor, which simply means that, once in a while, they'll send me a sample of one of their products. Yay! Nothing better on a night when all you want to do is eat, drink and relax. Now I'm a huge advocate of cooking from scratch, and Indian food is one of my favourites for making when I've got time and guests to impress. I usually scoff at people who say they've cooked a curry and then reveal they've just used a packet sauce or a jar. But the Spice Tailor is different. Yes, it's convenient, yes, it's out of a packet (or three), and yes, it's far too quick to be believable. But yet, it works. It's something I would serve to friends. And I'm not just saying that because it was free.

It comes with a little package of whole spices, I'm guessing there was a chilli, cardamom, curry leaves, black peppercorns, and cloves. First of all, these are fried for 30 seconds. Next, you chuck in your meat - I used chicken breast chunks. Browned for a few minutes, then I threw in some peppers and courgettes, followed by the base sauce. This, I trust, was made up of onions, and probably garlic, ginger, chillies, maybe vinegar, and some spices, with perhaps some tomato paste. A couple of minutes of simmering and then the main sauce is added - a mixture of tomatoes and more spices I reckon. Who knows? But the smell as you add the base sauce is wonderful and makes you feel as though you've made something special already. The packets are so easy to rip open (no scissors necessary) and add in, and it's so quick to finish off, with a sprinkle of fresh coriander and a shop-bought naan bread grilled for a few minutes with some honey and desiccated coconut.
A palate-warming taste explosion, indeed. With a name like 'Fiery' I would have expected it to be hotter, but that's probably just me and my chilli-addiction. I expect you could add more as you wish! I will definitely stock up on some Spice Tailor sauces - 'distinctive and intense' - and have them on hand for those evenings when you really need an authentic tasting, home-cooked curry. In literally 15 minutes. All you need to add is the meat and/or vegetables. Result!
Fiery Goan Curry

Friday, 10 April 2015

Marvel Avengers 10th Birthday Cake

 My boy is turning 10 this week. I say it every year, but really? How can it be?
His latest craze is Marvel and the Avengers et al., so it only took a bit of Pinning, and some Googling to come up with this montage of current characters. I won't pretend to know who they are (apart from Hulk and Spiderman of course), but there was a long list of 'em.
As ever, Nigella came through for the chocolate cake, and I was helped by a three-year-old to make the buttercream (inside) (thank you Rosie!) and by my own two for the name and the positioning.
Happy 10th Birthday, Joey. Love you. X
Marvel Avengers Cake
Happy 10th Birthday.

X-men/Wolverine, Hulk Smash, Joey POW!, Captain America's shield and the Avenger's, Ironman Mask, and Thor's Hammer.

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason

It was one of those rare days 'off', when we dropped the kids at school, watched the eclipse (or not, thank you, clouds) over a hot chocolate, then wandered into Piccadilly for an early lunch and a browse around the shops. We popped into Fortnum & Mason, as you do, to admire (and sample ) the amazing Easter chocolate displays, managing - just - to resist the amazing beehive one for £250...

F&M isn't exactly the local corner shop, so it was amusing to wander round, watching tourists and actual rich people shop. The staff were super - I guess you can't really tell by looking at someone how rich they actually are, so we sampled and haggled with the best of them, without ever feeling obliged. Without actually buying anything...

On the first floor was The Parlour Restaurant. With a little voucher from Zomato (thanks, guys) we were able to splash out on a cream tea and an ice cream. They serve a whole range of different teas. At £5.95 a pot. Yikes! But hey, with a cream tea, you can have a delicious spinach and gruyere tart, two scones with cream and jam and a little teeny ice cream. Though small, everything tasted delicious, and was served warm and fresh. After, we had an Original Dusty Road Sundae - Coffee & Chocolate Ice Creams, drizzled with Butterscotch Sauce & topped with Whipped Cream & Chocolate Flakes, accompanied with Coffee Macarons. Now that was lush. I don't eat a lot of dessert, but if you were a fan of such, this would be £12 well spent. The macaron, in particular, was exquisite, and you can't go wrong with butterscotch sauce. At 11.30am...

Pick of the Parlour Cream Tea
Original Rocky Road Sundae
Flat white with Mini Sundae
Spinach and Gruyere Tart

A quiet, peaceful yet slightly formal atmosphere, with super-polite staff. An array of tempting confectionery, not least the selection of pastel-coloured ice creams. The decor was trademark F&M green, playful yet genteel. This would be a great place to meet for an indulgent coffee meeting, impressive yet welcoming. 'A truly decadent ice cream experience, the Parlour offers both much-loved classics and innovative new flavours, many found nowhere else in the world. Add artisan coffee, hot chocolate, open sandwiches and perhaps a glass of wine.' Fortnum and Mason is, after all, the grocer to the Queen.

The Parlour Restaurant
Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly
020 3095 5832

Square Meal The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Mojito Cupcakes

Infused with Bacardi, mint and lime. Zesty and sweet.
 Happy Birthday my friend.

Mojito Cupcakes

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bibigo Soho - Restaurant Review

Korean cuisine is new for me. It's been so trendy lately with the Kimchi burgers, Korean barbecues and Bulgogi mentioned everywhere, it was time to try it. I was expecting it to be good, and worth the wait. And it was. Apart from the Kimchi itself, which didn't particularly float my boat - it is after all, cold fermented vegetables...

Soho is inundated with restaurants from every cuisine imaginable, so it took some review-reading to settle on Bibigo. Quite a modern, sleek dining room, with wooden tables, bricked walls, and an open kitchen. Staff were lovely, although the door at the entrance is a bit of a push, and the hostess just watched as I struggled. Never mind... It sounded like good value for money, so just in case - highly unlikely, I know - it didn't appeal, then at least I wouldn't have spent too much. The set menu is £13, a three course menu with a good choice of typically Korean dishes.


Red Chicken
Jjim Mandoo
Korean Chopped Salad

I started with salad. Now, I'm not much of a rabbit-food fan, to be fair, but I was most taken with this freshly chopped salad, strewn with bits of crunchy spring roll pastry and a sesame-imbibed oriental dressing. If all salads were like this, I would indeed be a large rabbit! My friend and I chose a starter each, and shared, as everyone knows this is the only way to get to eat everything. Red chicken was my favourite, a sticky, sweet glazed chicken, deep-fried and served with pieces of perfectly cooked okra (i.e. not slimey!). Jjim Mandoo was a potato and vegetable filled gyoza-like dumpling served with a spicy soy dressing. Soy far, soy good!


Bossam served with kimchi
Tofu Bibimbap
On the advice of our (non-Korean) waiter, I chose Bossam, a succulent slow-cooked pork belly, served with a selection of Kimchi and a peanut sauce. Loved the pork. Tender, yet mellow, allowing the peanut sauce to enhance the subtlety of the roasted meat. I also ordered the tofu Bibimbap for us, a typical Korean dish of rice with a mix of vegetables and Kohot sauce, sweet and only slightly hot. This was good too, seemed like a staple dish, easy to make, easy to eat. An additional side of Kimchi, just to make sure I knew what all the fuss is about. Ah, the Kimchi at last. Those little cold fermented vegetables... There must have been four versions of it on our table, and to be fair, each was different. They didn't all just taste like pickle. They were quite fresh and with added flavour, and I expect the fermentation process was yet to begin. But yes, as an accompaniment, costing only £1 extra, worth a shot.


Eton mess

Nothing particularly Korean about this dessert. But the guy on the next table had one, and we just ogled at it, so it was a Must Have. Gorgeous little disks of meringues in a strawberry flavoured cream (and ice-cream) with mixed berries.

We drank a very palatable bottle of Vinho Verde, the perfect choice I felt, specially after my recent Portuguese wine tasting session made me quite the expert...

58-59 Great Marlborough Street
020 7042 5225

Meal for two with wine ~£80

Bibigo on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Gaylord Indian Restaurant - New Menu Launch (ZomatoMeetUp#1)

Gaylord Restaurant on Mortimer Street, just off Regent Street North, has been open since 1966, and is considered one of London's most elegant Indian restaurants, as well as the oldest. Leading up to their 50th anniversary next year, they have just launched a new menu with which they want to take you on 'a culinary journey to North India spiced with spendour', delivering exceptional Indian food combining complex flavours and spices.

Having recently joined the Zomato restaurant review site, it was my absolute pleasure to go along to the launch evening to celebrate my first ever #ZomatoMeetUp. Meeting a bunch of like-minded food bloggers and prolific reviewers whilst gorging on a seemingly never-ending feast of specially prepared Indian food - what better way to spend a Wednesday evening?! Beginning with a Saffron Gin cocktail, and finishing with several vats of wine, we munched, chomped, nibbled and photographed our way through an amazing menu.

To begin, an array of canapés. Beautifully presented, beautifully cooked. Some familiar, such as various chicken tikkas, some innovative, like the hash-brown-esque Aloo Tokri Chat. Edible flowers too!


Mint and Chilli Dips
Golgappa Shot
Mini Bhelpuri Cone
Aloo Tokri Chhat
Murg Malai Tikka
Zaffrani Chicken Tikka

The starters seemed to go on forever, and indeed were it not for a short break in the proceedings it would not have been possible to carry on eating. My favourite was the Tandoori Tiger Prawn, possibly the largest (and most luscious) prawn I have ever eaten. The tacos were served in a novelty car, reminiscent I'm sure of something from the Maharaja's garage. A little random serving cold tacos amongst this Indian banquet, but it was a talking point. The scallops were tender and subtly spiced and the crab cakes served on a sugar cane. Edible sugarcane too!


Tandoori Tiger Prawn
Baby Idll
Murg Gilafi Seekh
Crab Cakes Dakshini
Andhra Scallops
With so much food, we did have to choose between two set main courses. Despite this, we still managed to sample almost everything. Nothing was too spicy, all dishes were aromatic and absolutely delicious. A lamb chop? Not just a lamb chop, a chargrilled lamb chop with ginger infusion and pomegranate seeds. The butter chicken is world-renowned and must be sampled. And the staples such as dal and peshwari chickpea are unmissable. With saffron rice, an assortment of breads, and an aubergine masala, surely there's no room for any more?

SET #1

Prawn Coconut Curry
Gaylord Butter Chicken
Chana Peshawari
Lamb Chop Anardana
Dal Bukhara
Ah, but of course. Dessert. I rarely eat dessert in Indian restaurants, but now I think I may have been missing out. A traditional gulab jamun was flambéed with spiced dark rum. A flaked carrot pudding, nutty and hot, and a cardamom-infused Indian soft cheesecake. You think you have no room left? You have.


Ras Malai
Gajar Halwa
Gulab Jamun with spiced Dark Rum

As if they weren't generous enough, we were each presented with a voucher as we rolled out onto the street, for a Royal Thali Feast lunch. So I certainly will be back in the very very near future. 

Thanks to Zomato for the invitation and to the wonderful staff at Gaylord Restaurant for a wonderful evening. 

Gaylord Restaurant
79-81 Mortimer Street
020 7580 3615

Square Meal Gaylord Indian on Urbanspoon