Thursday, 17 July 2014

Carnaby Street Eat Fest

Carnaby Street, Carnaby, London, W1
Picture courtesy Sister PR

Carnaby Street is this bustling street lying parallel to Regent Street, and one that is a must visit if you are in London. Its very close to Oxford circus tube station and getting there is really easy. Its got a whole lot of retails outlets and some really cool places to eat, plus bars and clubs as well and the first time i went there i was in awe of what lies behind some of London's main streets- the back alleys are the best way to explore the heart of London.

The Carnaby Street Eat is a free one day International Food Festival with 40 of the area's best restaurants, bars and cafe's taking part. From Hawaiian to Indian to Italian to Japanese there will be the chance to experience the sights, smells and flavours of over 15 international cuisines. Last week, a couple of us food bloggers were invited to a preview show of the Street Eat fest where we got a sneak peak at whats in store on the 20th of July. It was one fun evening where we restaurant hopped till about 11.30 in the night and i think i ate and drank so so much, i thought id be put off both for a really long time. That feeling lasted till 8am the next morning when i woke up with a grumbling stomach.
We started off the evening bonding over Prosecco and smoked salmon at The Wright Brothers. A restaurant that boasts about sourcing some of the best oysters, sustainable fish and finest seafood and bring them to you in the most delicious of ways. I will never forget this restaurant because it was the first time i ever had oysters. After the head chef gave us an introduction to oysters, May of Eat Cook Explore patiently told me how to go about eating it and, i, after much coaxing went ahead and tried it. I must say, it wasn't bad at all. I mean the shallot vinaigrette which i generously doused over the oyster made a lot of difference, but i am a convert and i shall definitely try them again. Head on over there to taste some of their tasty grub, and they'll even show you how to shuck the oysters.
Next stop was the funky Choccywoccydoodah which is like a cake haven. The interior is filled with trippy creations made with chocolate cakes and unique chocolate gifts. They took us to their secret tea room which is done up, like someone said, Alice in Wonderland theme. Very colourful with loads of mismatched furniture and accessories. If you want to enjoy a different sort of afternoon tea, you know where to head to. On the day they will be giving out free chocolate samples and Kiss FM DJ will be spinning the decks.
We then walked back to Shoryu in Kingly Court where we tasted some amazing Japanese yatai style street food. The dumplings and steamed bun with pork and beef were to die for. I would tell you to not miss them this Sunday. They would be serving their signature hirata buns and gyoza's. After downing a sake cocktail we moved over to Whyte & Brown where we got to enjoy some craft beers. I really enjoyed the Honey Beer and the dessert which was a fabulous Exotic Mess with tropical fruits like pineapple, bananas and passion fruit was what hit the spot for me. However, i must admit, that a few spoons down and the sweetness was getting to me. The beer helped and after a quick loo run we moved on to the next restaurant.
PicMonkey Collage
By this time we were filled to the gills, at least I was and we still had 3 more restaurants to hit. Off we went to Cha Cha Moon, a Chinese noodle bar where we again had cocktails, dumplings, steamed broccoli (which btw was simply out of this world) and Singapore noodles which most of us packed because we just couldnt eat. A few bloggers had already left by then and I was contemplating on whether to leave or not when Scarlett told me were off to Rum Kitchen to have some more drinks. Well, that did it for me and off i scampered with the rest of the gang to this Caribbean themed restaurant and cocktail bar. We all ordered the same cocktail Rumbustion which I couldn't for the first time ever, i couldn't finish a cocktail. This evening sure had some firsts for me :) Head on over there to sample delights including roast pumpkin and chickpea curry, saltfish fritter and jerk chicken wings.

Last and final stop was the American diner Stax where we sampled like a gazillion milkshakes all spiked with alcohol. My favourite was the cookies and cream shake which had oreos and whipped cream. I was so high on food by this time i just couldn't eat or drink any more. It was such a fun evening and a very different one from the usual and I enjoyed myself so so much. The fact that it was a small crowd made it even more fun and I went back home with a whole new set of blogger friends.
Picture courtesy Sister PR

Carnaby Street Eat is on the 20th of July from 11am to 6 pm and the weather is promising to be really good so I'm planning to head out there for lunch. There will be live cooking demo's, music and other fun activities- a perfect day out for the young and old alike.

With thanks to Sister PR for inviting me to the event. All opinions are my own and I wasn't paid to do the review.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

World Cup Best of Brazil Masterclass at Jenius Social

Is everyone going crazy with the World Cup scenario? I am so not a football fan, but somehow with everyone in good spirits about the game, especially when you are at a pub in the evenings, its kind of hard to not be part of the whole fun. The husband has been filling me in on that front and I can hear him shouting and screaming (to himself) in the middle of the night watching a game.

Even though the sport doesn't appeal to me much, Brazil does, and most importantly, the food aspect. So when Jenius Social invited me to their World Cup Best of Brazil Masterclass I couldn't say no. I'd been to Jenius Social once before and its this really nice social hub of sorts in North London. I walked in and knew immediately that it would make for THE perfect place to host our events (in case you are wondering what I'm talking about, there's something in the pipeline, stay tuned for the big reveal). Its cosy, its personal and omg the light coming in from those huge glass windows was kind of where i was sold. There is also a well-fitted and fully functional kitchen, which was to be our abode for the evening.
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We were about 6 to 8 of us and I for one had such a blast. The Chef, after introducing us to Brazilian food, dove straight into the cooking session. He first showed us how to prepare the various dishes and then sent us over to our work stations to start cooking a kick-ass Brazilian feast. Being a small group, we had hands on experience in every dish. Right from getting the ingredients ready, to cooking it to serving it was done by all of us, of course with the Chefs help. It was my first time with Brazilian food and I must say it was quite interesting. 
We made spicy Malagueta Prawn skewers, zingy lime and garlic chicken skewers alternated with chunky pineapple cubes, Cassava picanha, Bacalhau (Brazilian fishcakes) and my favourite the quinoa salad with mango and avocado which was so refreshing and summery. I am so going to try making this at home one of these days. Another favourite was the Empadinhas, small pastries filled with any filling of choice, cheese in this case, which were very similar to empanadas. After a busy 2 hours, we were ready to dig into all the food we prepared.
Took off our aprons and settled down at the table with a glorious glass of Caipirinha - yes Brazil's national cocktail- and some conversation, before digging into the food. Jenius Social did a fab job of organising the cook-along session celebrating Brazilian street food, and for a few of us it was a first time eating and cooking the food from that part of the world. We summed up the evening with a generous slice of the Nega Maluca, a Brazilain chocolate cake coated with a delicious layer of caramel, and went home with a wealth of information on Brazilian street food.

Jenius Social conducts regular food and drink master classes, supper clubs and cookery classes and they are also a great way to meet like minded people. Convenient location, great kitchen and a very helpful and friendly owner makes this the perfect place to hire for your event as well. I am thinking i should check out their coffee masterclass next.

With thanks to Jenius Social for inviting me to the masterclass

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Castello Tickler Cheddar and smoked paprika souffle

I love cheese. Like really love it. Throw cheese into anything and i will eat it without any issue. Not that I have a problem eating anything otherwise (if you see me you'll know what I'm talking about), but cheesy things are right up my alley. 

Castello Cheese has joined hands with cookery school L'atelier des Chefs to create a Cheese Cookery Class which will cover a series of classes showcasing a wide range of cheeses that Castello has to offer, and of course learning to cook with it. Food author and TV presenter Stefan Gates has also put together The Ultimate Cheeseboard, which, some of us bloggers had the privilege to try recently. Each class will focus on crafting the ultimate cheeseboard and to round it off, Matt Day has suggested complimentary drinks pairing to bring out the best from each cheese. The classes start on the 18th of July and run all through to October. Its a great way to enjoy some wine and cheese and while you are at it, learn some tips and tricks on creating fabulous dishes with it.
Off we went to L'atelier des Chef to get a preview of the class that was launching. We got to do some wine and drinks pairing and then went on to learn how to make a few dishes using the different varieties of cheese from Castello. There were nibbles and bubblies doing the rounds, a la Castello and a very interesting 'Super Taster' test conducted by Stefan Gates to see if we were a super taster. Apparently, I did have the signs of a super taster, but I actually wasn't one. Oh well! We all went home with blue tongues (as part of the test) and a goody bag filled with cheese and recipes. 

Of all the dishes we tried on the day, my favourite was the Tickler Cheddar and smoked paprika souffle which was simply mind boggling. I had to create it the very next and what do you know, thats exactly what i did. The recipe card had all the information required, and since the chef had given us tips and tricks on how to get the perfect souffle, I was pretty confident I wouldn't fail. The not failing bit was true and the souffle turned out to be fabulous, but the downside of a souffle is that it deflates very fast. So from a photography point of view it was a bit of a bummer. Well, you are just gonna have to take my word for it and believe me when i say it did puff up nicely.

Recipe halved from here (serves 3)
Butter- 25gms, unsalted
Breadcrumbs- 10 gms
Parmesan cheese- 10 gms, grated
Bay leaf- 1
Shallot- 1 small, finely chopped
Plain flour- 25 gms
Mustard- 1/2 tsp
Smoked paprika- 2 tsp
Eggs- 2, white and yolk separated
Cheddar cheese- 50 gms (I used Castello Tickler Cheddar)
Butter- 10 gms, unsalted
Salt- to taste
Preheat oven to 200C and butter the souffle moulds/ ramekins.
Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs and Parmesan on to the ramekins, shake around to coat well and tip out any excess.
Start with the white sauce by boiling the milk with onions and bay leaf to infuse. Drain and keep aside.
In another saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
Add the plain flour and make the roux, stirring continuously for about 2 minutes.
Stir in the mustard and salt then slowly pour in the milk, while continuously stirring.
Cook for a further few minutes, until you get a thick but smooth mix. 
Keep aside to cool for a couple of minutes and then whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. if the sauce is too hot, then you risk cooking the egg yolks, and you really don't want that.
Stir in the grated cheddar and smoked paprika.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. The chef made us do this using a wire whisk at the class, and so I decided to do the same at home. It is a bit of a chore, but it wasn't as difficult as i thought it would be. I think when the quantity is less, its much easier (mostly because I didn't have to unearth my hand blender, wash it, use it, then again clean it..too much work).
Add one spoonful of the egg white into the sauce and mix well.
Add the remaining in, and fold gently, making sure you don't deflate them.
Distribute the souffle mix into 3 ramekins and using a palette knife spread the top of the mix evenly. Then run your thumb or forefinger along the inside edge of the ramekin for the 'top hat' effect.
Place the ramekins on a baking tray and bake on the middle rack of your oven for about 15 minutes, or until the top is golden and the souffle has risen nicely.
Serve immediately.
Notes: I used a large ramekin, and that was a mistake. The smaller one would have been a better quantity for one, and also I didn't have enough to fill them, so i couldn't get the top hat effect
Use a good quality paprika, it makes a lot of difference
Double the recipe to feed 6
You can make the white sauce well ahead and just to the egg bit just before baking,

With thanks to Castello Cheese and L'atelier des Chefs for the event invite and classes.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Waitrose Cellar launch- a very wine-y evening

Photography by Brighton and London photographer Emma Gutteridge
                                                                                                      (Photography by Emma Gutteridge)

I am ridiculously late in posting this, but as they say, better late than never right?
Well, about a month back I was invited to the launch of the Waitrose Cellar, and the invite said- with a twist. They had me at wine and I rsvp-ed immediately. I then went back and reread the mail and it said the wine tasting would take place on a canal boat in Regents Canal. Now that was really exciting and i waited patiently for the day. Laura, who was part of the PR team did a fab job reminding us of things like not to wear heels if possible, and directions to the place etc.
Photography by Brighton and London photographer Emma Gutteridge
                                                                                                         (Photography by Emma Gutteridge)

The weather Gods seemed to like the idea of the whole wine tasting thing on a canal boat and so blessed us with some fabulous sunshine and warm weather in the middle of May, when it was technically still spring. We got together at the London Canal Museum and after a bit of catching up with fellow food bloggers (of course with some bubbly in hand), our wine experts for the evening Xenia and Stephane, took us through the journey of wines and how the Waitrose Cellar came into being. We were then segregated into two groups and asked to head on over to the two canal barges that were ready for us. Once we all got cosy inside the boats, Xenia, who was our group head, went on to explain the different ways to identify the personality of different wines, while opening bottle after bottle of delicious wines for us to taste.
The canal ride was really beautiful, and with wine as companion you'd never want it to end. We tasted quite a few wines, but I must say my favourite was the Cae de Lugny Sparkling Burgundy Blan de Blancs NV which just hit the spot the moment i took a sip. Its perfect for those summery afternoon parties and at GBP 13.99 its a steal. I'm a Chardonnay lover, and so it wasn't too difficult to please me with this anyway! I usually go for whites and Rose's over Summer and switch to the dry reds in colder months, and i'm really really getting used to the sparkling wines this year. I am not too familiar with pairing wine and food, but I'm definitely getting the hang of it. 
PicMonkey Collage
Once the canal ride was over, we were all ushered back into the museum to do a round of 'speed wine-ing.' the idea being, we'd by then have learnt a skill or two about wine's in general and a one on one session with a fellow wine enthusiast would help us pick a wine for them based on their character traits and tastes. This was indeed a fun session and we all managed to get whatever we can out of the other in that one minute span. I am yet to go through my entire case of wine that was picked out for me, but from the few opened, I've loved them all, with the Cantena Malbec, picked out for me by Fiona of London Unattached, being my absolute favourite. I am not a sweet wine person, but the Seriously peachy dessert wine from Waitrose, picked out for me by Katja of ifhipscouldlie, was also a pleasant surprise. I recently paired it with a chocolate and coffee panna cotta and it really, really matched well. The bitterness from the dark chocolate nicely complimented the peachy flavours of the wine. 
Urvashi (Botanical Baker) insisted I try out the Marquesa de la Crus Garnache Rose, and that's the first bottle I opened from my case. It was indeed delicious, not too sweet, and perfect paired with spicy food. We had it with some chicken curry and stir fried vegetables. I keep tweeting and instagramming the wines as and when I open them, so follow me on there to be up to date with my wine saga.

The Waitrose Cellar website gives in-depth information on all wines and they also have how to guides that help you learn a few things; and if that's not enough, the wine experts are available on @waitrosewine to answer all your wine queries and food matches.
Photography by Brighton and London photographer Emma Gutteridge
(Photography by Emma Gutteridge)

With thanks to Waitrose Cellar for inviting me to the event and for the case of wine. All views expressed are my own

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Lime and coconut crinkle cookies

Its been a while since I posted a cookie recipe on the blog. Well, that's because I rarely make cookies and other than biting into them fresh out of the oven, I kinda don't like them that much. Of course its a different story for Ro, who claims he buys Oreo cookies just because I don't make any at home.

So last week I was heading over to G's place for a fun afternoon dress-up session (more about that later) and I had to take something for her lil boy who is so so adorable. I was on a tight schedule and had to figure something that could be easily made, with available ingredients and of course tastes good. I scouted around my bookmarked recipes and found this recipe, and I strangely had a couple of limes lying around in the fridge.
I've developed this new found love for lime (well, I always liked it in a margarita), mostly after tasting the awesome lime filling my boss makes for the macarons. It's perhaps one of my fav fillings, closely followed by passion fruit. I was a bit sceptical about whether kids would like lime and coconut as a flavour, as its somehow very adult-y, but then I had to give it a shot to see if it was worth it. I for one, loved it. G told me she and her nanny loved it, but I didn't get around to asking if lil S liked it. I served the leftover few to my niece and nephew the next day and they loved it, so I'm thinking even kids may actually have a thing for that flavour.

To be honest its very lime-y and coconutty. If you don't like these two flavours that much, then don't even bother scrolling down. If you like the lime flavour, but the coconut not so much, then do as the original recipe calls for where you roll the dough in granulated sugar and not coconut. The 15gms of coconut in the cookie doesn't really bring out too much of its flavour. I wanted it to be coconutty and hence rolled it it coconut.

Recipe adapted from here (makes around 36 to 38 cookies)
Unsalted butter- 80 gms, at room temperature
Caster sugar- 100 gms
Egg- 1, small
Lime zest- from 1 lime
Lime juice- 2 tbsp
Dessicated coconut- 15 gms + enough to roll the cookies
Plain flour- 220 gms
Baking powder- 2 tsp
Icing sugar- to roll the cookies (around 2 tbsp)

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, till light and fluffy. I used a silicone spatula for this as my butter was of a nice easy-to-handle consistency. Use the paddle attachment of your stand mixer to make the creaming easier.
Into the mix add the egg, lime zest and juice and dessicated coconut.
Mix till you get a smooth mix. I switched to a wooden spoon to make this job easier. You can use the same spatula, or even a whisk if that's easier for you.
Sieve together the plain flour and baking powder and add it to the butter mix, bit by bit, mixing after each addition. Use a fork to do the mixing.
One the mixture has come together, cover with a cling film and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Into a large plate add the icing sugar on one side and the dessicated coconut on the other. 
Keep a cup with water ready by the side because you'd need to keep wetting your hands to roll the dough.
Make small balls with the dough, first roll it in the dessicated coconut, followed by a generous roll in the icing sugar and place on the baking tray about an inch apart.
Continue till you finish the entire dough.
Bake for about 10 minutes and 12 if its a bit on the bigger side but not longer.
Cool on wire racks and enjoy them immediately or store in air tight containers and use up in 2 to 3 days (if you can stay away from it that long) :)
Notes: The mix curdled quite a bit when i started mixing and of course I panicked but once you add the flour, it becomes alright
The original recipe used granulated sugar for the first coat, but i thought coconut was a better option. Feel free to replace it with granulated sugar.
The cookies are really lime-y, so reduce it to 1 tbsp if you don't want it too strong.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sponsored video: Glorious Nothing Days by Anchor

This is such an apt topic for me to talk about, because I am a big fan of 'glorious nothing days.' Much to the extent that I wonder if I should be celebrating the 'doing something days' rather than the other way round. Any-ways, the point is that, everyone, even my energised, enthusiastic, husband has days when he wants to do nothing.

For me, a day like that would start off with waking up late, then a leisurely breakfast of coffee and pastry from the next door bakery and then sitting down with my laptop to catch up on stuff. Lunch would either be at the pub in the village or a late one with friends in a restaurant we've been dying to check out. The sun would be out, the shorts would be worn and there would be loads of cocktails and beers doing the rounds. We'd finish off with dessert and if we are not too tired, catch a movie or head back home and retire on the couch with some green tea and conversation. A day spent just the way you like.

Anchor's campaign 'Glorious Nothing Days' tells you to do just that. Sunny days spent at the park reading a book, or baking that cake you'd bookmarked aeon's ago, or deciding to suddenly go on a long drive or just staying at home in your pj's. Whatever be your scene, if you manage to take a snapshot of your perfect day by selecting four images to set the scene then you'll be in with a chance of winning a set of exclusive personalised Anchor aprons.

Head on over to the Anchor website for full details and also watch this cute video of 3 families enjoying their perfect day.

This is a sponsored video for Anchor

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cooking with Lactofree- Broccoli & Cauliflower cheese bake

Around 2 weeks back I was invited to an exclusive Lactofree masterclass with Michelin starred chef, Tom Aikens. I had a crazy night the day before and waking up for a breakfast masterclass was a bit of a feat, and for a second (just a second) I wished I didn't have to go, but just snuggle in bed. I'm glad that thought didn't last long because I really did have a fab time. I reached just before the session started and so missed out on the lavish breakfast spread a la Lactofree. So with a cup of coffee in hand i joined the crew in the kitchen. Tom Aikens is quite a charming and patient chef. He talked about using Lactofree products in cooking and baking and how you get the delicious taste of real dairy, but without the lactose and since its made from cow's milk, you still get all its nutritional benefits too.

First up was Lacto(se)free raspberry, poppy seed and white chocolate muffins which Tom prepared right in front of us, and we even got to take home a few for tea. He then took us through a cooking demo of mushroom ragout on toast which we were then asked to recreate at our cooking stations. We went about creating our brunch dish with much enthusiasm and devoured into it with all the other bloggers. It was also the first time i cooked with and tasted sorrel leaves and chervil and it did make a whole lot of difference to the final dish. I'm sure i can use spinach and some other herb instead.
PicMonkey Collage
From the Lactofree samples in the goody bag, I ended up making a broc and cauliflower cheese bake and a chocolate-coffee panna cotta. My husband is lactose intolerant (self proclaimed) and he was happy he could have his coffee and tea with milk for a few days :)

Recipe adapted from here (serves 4 to 5)
Broccoli- cauliflower cheese bake
Broccoli florets- 3 cups
Cauliflower florets- 3 cups
Butter- 2 tbsp (I used Lactofree spreadable butter)
Plain flour- 1/4 cup
Spicy brown mustard- 1/2 tsp (optional)
Ground nutmeg- a generous pinch
Paprika- 1/2 tsp
Pepper- to taste
Salt- to taste
Milk- 2 cups (I used Lactofree semi-skimmed milk)
Cheese- 1 cup (I used Lactofree cheese) + enough to sprinkle on top
Boil the broccoli and cauliflower in enough water for about 3 to 5 minutes. Make sure you dont cook it completely. It should still be crispy.
Drain in a colander and transfer to a large baking dish (9x 13 inch is what i used)
In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a roux and add in the mustard, nutmeg, paprika, pepper and salt and continue to whisk till smooth.
Gradually add the milk and bring to a boil, while continuously whisking and making sure it doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan.
Once the milk mix had thickened a bit, stir in the cheese until it has melted.
Pour the mix over the vegetables and bake in an oven preheated at 200C for about 30 minutes.
Take the baking dish out of the oven, change the setting to broiler/grill, sprinkle some cheese on top and place under the broiler for another 7 to 8  minutes or until the cheese has melted.
Serve with garlic bread
Here is the panna cotta recipe i used. I used Lactofree cream and milk for this recipe.

Notes: I have tried this with a Mexican cheese blend and it was fabulous
Of course, you can add other vegetables like carrots, spinach, leek etc.
The paprika gives it a punch, but feel free to omit if you dont want it spicy.

With thanks to Lactofree for inviting me to the event and for the samples, and Tom Aikens for the fabulous masterclass.