Archive | October, 2010

Lantana – the best brunch in London?

24 Oct

The Greedy Diva recommended Lantana when we met up shortly after I had visited her hometown of Melbourne. I told her how impressed I was with the breakfasts, brunches and cafe culture in Australia and how frustrating it is to come back to London and not have great food like that widely available. Put it this way, there isn’t a Starbucks on every corner over there.

I was in Australia for a month and in that time visited Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Most of the places that I ate served delicious food and I didn’t have a bad meal (apart from the Vietnamese that some of you may have read about). I was excited by the fact that most places, even little convenience stores sold what appeared to be delicious, delectable homemade banana bread and (I am told) great coffee.

Two places that really stood out for me were Fringe in St Kilda, Melbourne and The Food Pharmacy in Dunsborough. Above is French toast with fruit compote and creme fraiche at Fringe.

Being a food lover and not being able to find decent fresh and delicious food so easily made coming back to London almost depressing.

I came back with a mission, which of course I’m not going to fulfil (yet anyway). I want to bring good homely fresh food to the UK – I want people to realise that buying an 80p cookie from a ‘fresh’ bakery in a Tesco Metro is not the best option. I want more independent coffee shops to serve homemade cakes, fresh salads and sandwiches, not that tasteless cardboard rubbish you get in the supermarket.

I don’t want to go into a Starbucks and buy an overpriced tasteless muffin. I want to walk into newsagents and be able to buy blueberry teacake that is not 4 days old or stuffed full of trans fats. I want to own my own cafe – but that is a dream and may well be achieved in time. It has spurred me on to bake more and bring my own tasty treats to work with me so I’m not tempted by average baked goods.

Don’t get me wrong, London has a fantastic food offering but I do feel that the focus is more on restaurants and not good cafes. The amount of times that I have gone into Central London wanting to go and sit in a coffee shop at 10pm and not a pub are countless. The closest thing that we have to the cafe culture in Melbourne is Old Compton Street and Soho – that is why it is one of my favourite areas in London.

I also do love a good old lazy weekend brunch. So, Lantana was the name and a fantastic Auzzie style brunch is their game. Seeing that they are open for brunch from 9am – 3pm, we took a trip down today. We arrived to a long queue out of the door and literally not a single English accent was in earshot. I knew I was in for a treat.

This was my second time at Lantana for weekend brunch, the first time I opted for toasted banana bread with date and pecan butter.

My boyfriend opted for the Spanish style baked eggs with chorizo sausage, mushrooms, spinach and spicy tomato sauce.

Today, having noticed they had changed the menu, I went for the French toast with chai poached pears and caramel ricotta.

My boyfriend had the sweetcorn fritters with roast tomatoes, rocket, chilli jam and crème fraiche.

We had a side of their spicy baked beans with feta cheese, which was delicious.

A lot of our cooking at home is similar to food on the menu – we eat a lot of poached eggs, have copied their baked beans side, we’ll cook sweetcorn fritters for brunch every so often and chorizo often makes its way into our dishes. One thing that we don’t have often is French toast or banana bread because my boyfriend is so against fruit, it’s scary. So I treat myself when I go to Lantana, knowing full well that it’s going to satisfy me completely. And that’s just what it did. We were in there for an hour and a half. When we walked out, I felt completely and utterly relaxed and as happy as Larry, whoever he is!

I even tried the silky smooth flat white that my boyfriend ordered… and I liked it!


Lantana without a doubt serves the best brunch I’ve eaten since Australia. I hope more cafe owners take note and start to take a leaf out of Lantana’s magical book.

13 Charlotte Place
Fitzrovia LondonW1T 1SN
+44 (0) 20 7637 3347

Lantana on Urbanspoon

Duck Egg Lemon Curd Cake

22 Oct

Why have I never used duck eggs in my baking before?! I tried Clarence Court duck eggs in a lemon curd cake over the weekend and I have to say, I’m converted!

A sponge baked with duck eggs is lighter, fluffier and richer than a cake baked with chicken eggs. The duck egg yolk has more fat than a chicken egg (which makes the cake richer) and it’s white has more protein (meaning fluffier when whipped).

I decided to bake a simple lemon sponge and I filled it with lemon curd. The result? Try it for yourself!


200g self raising flour
200g golden caster sugar
200g unsalted butter
4 duck eggs (I substituted one duck egg for one chicken egg)
zest of one lemon
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk

1. Pre heat oven to 180degrees c
2. Cream butter and sugar together
3. Sift in the flour and add all of the other ingredients. Whisk together until the batter is smooth and creamy
4. Spoon into a cake tin and bake for 40 minutes – or until skewer comes out clean


Sunday Upmarket Ethiopian lunch

17 Oct

I wish that the UK had a better street food offering.

I have heard rumours of great street food in countries such as Brazil and Canada and even though I haven’t been lucky enough to visit those places, I truly believe that their offering is better than ours.

How many times have you succumb to the dirty ‘illegal’ hot dog smell that wafts your way after leaving a club at 2am? Similarly, how many times have you had no choice but to purchase a dodgy cardboard burger when at an event? One of the most ridiculous I’ve ever seen is a burger van in the B&Q car park at the weekends. What?!? Surely there could be something tastier to cater for these DIYers food needs?

The best street food I have experienced has been the Mexican trucks that frequent the pavements in New York. I was in my element when, after a few cans of ‘Pabst Blue Ribbon’ at Union Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I was able to drift out to the terrace and purchase a big juicy, delicious taco, topped with a wedge of fresh lime and a sprinkle of coriander (or cilantro as they call it).

Despite our rather lacklustre offering, it is great to see a range of cuisines available under one roof at Sunday Upmarket on Brick Lane. Each Sunday, a number of food stalls sell their very own homemade traditional dishes from their home country. I will travel all the way from Wembley to Liverpool Street to taste the Ethiopian delights available at one stall in particular.


A couple of years ago I might have opted for a chicken curry with rice and a dumpling. That was until I was introduced to the ‘three sauce’ Ethiopian wrap. I still haven’t deciphered what the sauces are but they take a injera, a traditional Ethiopian pancake, smother it in the three sauces and wrap it up. It’s served with salad and a couple of dollops of the sauces on offer. I’m told the green one is very hot! It turns out it’s not too bad – I could still taste my food, which was a good sign.


At £5, I’d say it’s one or the best value dishes on offer at the Market but there are an array of cuisines on offer including Japanese, Mexican and Chinese. Not to mention the cakes – check out Kooky Bakes for a sweet treat to end your lunch on a high note!

Sunday Upmarket
The Old Truman Brewery
91 Brick Ln, London E1 6QL
020 7770 6028


11 Oct

Saturday wasn’t the best day. I had been out to the Rizla boat party on Friday evening and not made it to bed until gone 3am. I awoke at 9am, trudged to the supermarket to buy a few missing ingredients for my chocolate, pecan and caramel brownies for the Great Brownie Bake Off, organised by Louise from The Chocolate Consultancy at Look Mum No Hands. I never made it… my brownies burnt so I retreated to the sofa for a nap.

At about 4pm, my stomach started rumbling and as there was no food worth cooking in the house, I decided that I would head into Soho to satisfy my hangover. Polpetto sprung to mind at first but I decided against that as I didn’t want my first visit ruled by my need for stodge.

So, Koya it was. Don’t get me wrong when I say that this is the perfect hangover food – because it is perfect all of the time. This was my second time dining at Koya and my second time ordering cold udon noodles with a hot broth. Last time I visited, I had pork and miso paste broth and this time I opted for chicken. You can rarely beat udon noodles, they’re uber tasty and ridiculously satisfying.


Koya is talk of the town at the moment and quite rightly so. The concept of cold noodles at first put me off… then I realised that I was being very narrow minded, shouted at myself and placed the order. How glad was I?!? VERY.

I also ordered a side of ‘fish and chips’, boyfriends’ choice of course. The dish came and I was delighted to see little pieces of cod tempura and lotus root chips in front of me. The cod was extremely tender and the ‘chips’ made for a perfect crunchy addition.


I was tempted by one of the specials, mackerel sashimi, but I don’t think my stomach could have handled a full meal and two sides. Let’s hope it’s on the menu another time when I return, which I will, very often!

All this talk of food is making my stomach rumble so I’m off to make dinner! I wish udon noodles were waiting to be cooked but I’ll just have to make do with linguine carbonara!

49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SQ
020 7434 4463

Koya on Urbanspoon

Beef and spinach curry with spring onion cakes

10 Oct

My new thing is cookbooks. I’m a 23 year old girl and I’d rather sit at home reading a good cookbook and cook a delicious meal than go out clubbing. Am I old before me years?!

I don’t care – I’ve had my fair share of ‘fun’ over the years and now I just love devouring a delectable book page by page, picking out recipes that I want to recreate.

Kitchen Garden Companion

So I was a VERY happy bunny when Stephanie Alexander’s ‘Kitchen Garden Companion’ landed on my doormat. I do have a garden, although it doesn’t get much sunlight. In fact, it pretty much doesn’t get ANY sunlight due to the massive (albeit beautiful) trees surrounding. The best I have is a (sort of) ‘roof terrace’. What I really mean when I say ‘roof terrace’ is a flat gravelled roof that we occasionally use for sunbathing in the summer.

We are just in the process of refurbing an old bedroom and making it into a kitchen and the ‘roof terrace’ is accessible through that kitchen widow. So next summer I plan to do some good potting. Until then I will continue to buy my veg from my local supermarket.

The book lists a large number of fruit and vegetables in alphabetical order and there are detailed instructions on how to get the best out of them when growing. Each veg also comes with at least one recipe.

Last weekend, while my boyfriend was engrossed in the Ryder Cup, I plonked myself down next to him on the sofa and read every single page bookmarking every recipe that I wanted to try.

So when the decision of what to cook came around, we opened the book to a random bookmarked page. ‘Tony Tan’s Beef and Spinach Curry’ looked out at us and that was that. Now, what to go with it? The next random choice was rather fitting, ‘Spring Onion Cakes’.

The photography in the book makes you want to engross yourself in it for hours – it’s sharp, bright and beautiful, i’ve never seen so many handsom vegetables!

The Spring Onion fish cakes were pretty fiddly and they took a long time to prepare. There was a lot of short bursts and then leaving for 30 mins, not long enough to do much so they require your presence in the kitchen for a good 2 hours. Nonetheless they were extremely tasty and had a lovely crunch.

The curry recipe started off by telling me to stick the onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor. Having never done this before with onion, I was slightly surprised to see the bright purple paste. It did match my purple cooking pot though!

These are fantastic lazy Sunday recipes and you’ll have enough for left overs for lunch the next day.


Tony Tan’s Beef and Spinach Curry


50g tamarind pulp (I used tamarind paste)
60ml boiling water
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 x 6cm long piece ginger, roughly chopped
80ml peanut oil
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods, lightly bruised
1 1/2 tbsp ground corriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1.5kg beef oyster blade, cut into 3cm pieces
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
500ml water
1 tsp salt
250g spinach, washed
basmati rice and spring onion cakes to serve


1. Make tamarind water using tamarind and the boiling water. Process onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor to form a paste.
2. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C
3. Heat peanut oil in a 4 litre enamelled cast-iron casserole over a medium heat and fry onion paste, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom pods for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
4. Stir in corriander, cumin, chilli and tamarind water and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add meat and stir, turning to coat with spice mixture. Tip in tomato, tomato paste, water and salt. Stir again.
6. Cover and bring to simmering point over medium heat, then transfer to oven and cook for 3 hours. At the end of this time the meat will be tender.
7. Leave to stand, and skim off and discard any exess oil that has risen to the surface.
8. Meanwhile, fold each spinach leaf along stem-line with rough side uppermost, then pull stem up and along the leaf. The stem end and central stem will come away leaving two pieces of leaf. Wash leaves well.
9. Ten minutes before serving, place curry over low heat to reheat, then drop in spinach leaves, season to taste with salt and serve with basmati rice and spring onion cakes


Spring Onion Cakes


125g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
20g lard
100ml water
1 tsp sesame oil, plus extra for brushing
peanut oil, for shallow frying
Spring onion filling

1tsp salted black beans
1cm long piece of ginger
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped


1. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
2. Melt lard in the water in a small saucepan over medium heat, then tip into flour.
3. Mix with a wooden spoon until flour is incorporated. As soon as you can touch the dough, knead it for 1 minute or until smooth, then return it to the bowl and cover with a damp muslin cloth or tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes.
4. To make the spring onion filling, put black beans into a small bowl and crush with the back of a teaspoon
5. Finely chop black beans on a chopping board with ginger.
6. Return to bowl and stir in spring onion, then set aside.
7. Take the ball of dough and roll it into a fat sausage shape, then cut the roll into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into small ball and dust with extra flour.
8. Roll each ball into a thin 12cm round with a rolling pin. Repeat with the remaining balls.
9. Brush each round very lightly with sesame oil.
10. Scatter filling over dough rounds, dividing it evenly. Using your fingers, roll each circle up like a fat cigar to enclose filling. Slightly flatten each ‘cigar’ and then roll it into a snail shape. Pinch ends firmly.
11. Lay rolled ‘snails’ on a baking tray and cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes.
12. Lightly dust ‘snails’ with flour. Flatten each one gently with your hand and roll out to a thin 10cm round with a rolling pin. Leave for 30 mintues.
13. Preheat oven to 100 degrees C and put a paper towel-lined ovenproof plate inside to warm.
14. Pour oil into a medium sized non stick frying pan or wok to a depth of 1cm in the centre and heat over a high heat. Add sesame oil.
15. When hot, put as many pancakes as will fit in a single layer. They should bubble and blister after about 1 minute.
16. Turn to cook other side, then drain on paper-towel lined plate in oven. Serve warm.

Kitchen Garden Companion
Quadrille, £30

Peter’s Yard, Edinburgh

7 Oct

I have a real craving for cinnamon at the moment, much to the amusement of my workmates and it has reminded me of a breakfast that I had when I was in Edinburgh a couple of weekends ago.

One of my workmates lived in Edinburgh during her uni years and sent a few recommendations before we embarked on our 3 day trip. One of those suggestions was Peter’s Yard. So naturally, we decided to head there for breakfast. It ended up being a pretty late one and we didn’t want to eat too much as we had a hefty lunch planned at Petit Paris. We opted for a delicious Cinnamon bun and a lovely pot of tea to go with it.


My friends ordered a flat white and cappuccino, which looked too delightful not to capture on film!



The cafe itself was buzzing and full with very, very cool looking couples, yummy mummies and university students. The high ceilings made it feel very light, airy and modern (very Scandinavian). The food looked fresh, the salads tempting. There was also a table holding freshly baked breads, cookies and pastries.

The first things that I saw when I walked in were the infamous Peter’s Yard Crisp Breads. I bought a packet a while back and immediately fell in love. They are just delicious and perfect with homemade chilli jam, my boyfriend style.

I really would love to have stayed for lunch but we had shopping and a scrummy French meal to attend to. I would be eternally grateful if they were to open a cafe in London!

27 Simpson Loan
0131-228 58 76
Peter's Yard on Urbanspoon

An evening of Canadian inspired food

3 Oct

Three months ago I cooked Pancakes with Blueberries and Maple Syrup for breakfast. I wrote a post and the day after I was contacted by Nim from the Canadian Tourism Commission inviting me to an event that she was planning at L’Atelier des Chefs where food bloggers and writers could cook a few dishes using Canadian ingredients or inspired ingredients. This line of the email particularly got me ‘maybe you haven’t really thought before about Canadian foods or the culinary scene in this vast country so hopefully it would be an opportunity to find out more.’

She was right, I certainly had never thought about what constitutes as Candian cuisine – except obviously for maple syrup and I really did want to find out more. I wasn’t sure what to expect, partly because I had never been to L’Atelier des Chefs and party because I had no idea what foods we’d be cooking… although I was pretty sure that pancakes and maple syrup would be involved.

The evening started with a range of freshly prepared cocktails including an Ice Wine Martini, Blueberry Cocktail with Nova Scotian Sparkling Wine and Sparkling Ice Wine. It was a Tuesday evening and I had just come back from a somewhat heavy holiday in Edinburgh so I settled with the fresh apple juice that was on offer.

The evening commenced with a speech from Nim, who introduced us to the large team that were there to make us all feel welcome and teach us along the way. We were then asked to go and stand around one of the cooking tables in the kitchen. We would watch the chef teach us how to make a dish, taste it and then move around to the next table. I looked at the menu that we were provided with on entry and gasped – it was massive.

First up – Scallops Three Ways. I watched the first chef cook pan fried Scallops served with a Hemp Seed Oil and Sauce Verge, delicious. When pan frying Scallops, just make sure that you get the pan really hot and season the scallops with salt before you place them in the pan, cook on one side and then flip over to finish. The Hemp Seed Oil makes for a healthier alternative to butter as it is lower in cholesterol.


We also tasted Scallops glazed with Birch Syrup and served with Crispy Lardons. This was by far the richest Scallop dish – very tasty but I couldn’t eat too much of it. Scallops with Liquorice Maple Syrup were also delicious but I couldn’t really taste the Liquorice.

We had a whopping 5 dishes to taste for our main courses. First up were the skewers of Atlantic Salmon poached in a fragrant broth and served with a salad of Fiddlehead Ferns with Maple Syrup Mustard dressing. My ears pricked up when I heard ‘Fiddlehead Ferns’ and I wondered what on earth they were. I soon saw that they were strange looking vegetables – they had been shipped over from Canada especially for the event. Crunchy in texture and earthy in taste, they are not too dissimilar to asparagus. They were something special and I wish I could buy them here in London.


I don’t know how I’ve failed to realise how easy Salmon is to poach before. Simply place it in a pan of boiling water for 3-5 minutes, until the salmon becomes a pale colour.



Next up was homemade Sushi. I laid out my Nori and spread a thin and even layer of Sushi Rice on top, careful not to go over the line at the top of the Nori. I then laid my Arctic Char in the middle and used the mat to carefully roll it up. I was pretty pleased with mine, especially since I had tried this before at home and failed – the trick is not to fill it up too much.


I moved around the tables to my next dish, thin strips of Duck cooked on a plancha and served with a Pumpkin Puree, Wild Rice and a Chocolate Drizzle. The chef at this table took pride in arranging the Chocolate Drizzle perfectly on the plate and when summoning me to arrange my own, looked ever so slightly smug – I grabbed the bottle, held the nozzle to the plate and squeezed, moving the bottle down and side to side in a fast movement. The chef looked almost annoyed that I had been able to do it and I chuckled. The Wild Rice was utterly fantastic, crunchy and nutty. Duck is one of my favourite foods so this was a top contender for my favourite dish of the evening.


Still to go, I had two dishes, fillet of Cod en papilote with British Columbia Morel Mushroom sauce and creamy mashed Potatoes plus a serving of roasted striploin of grass fed Bison served with braised Savoy Cabbage and a Blueberry Coulis. Both delicious, the creamy sauce of the Cod along with the fresh Morels tasted very rich and I wasn’t able to finish the dish – but this was probably due to the fact that I was filling up, and fast. I had never tried Bison before but gobbled it up in almost one mouthful. I like to think that I’m not a massive meat eater anymore but deep down I can’t get enough.

With the main courses over, we retreated back to the table for a quick chat and break before the puddings commenced. I glanced at my menu quickly to see what delights were in store for me and was utterly elated at what I saw. I have a massive sweet tooth and pudding is probably my preferred part of a meal.
First up I watched the chef whip egg yolks into a frenzy. He was making Chocolate Soufflés. Apparently Chocolate Soufflés are the hardest kind to make (I wouldn’t know because I have never tried to make one myself) and you must make sure that the melted chocolate goes through the egg white at the last minute because it is very heavy. When it is ready to be added, separate a small bit of egg white from the rest and fold all of the chocolate into the mixure. Then fold this into the rest of the egg white. Butter and sugar all of the ramekins but ensure that the sugar is wiped from around the edge, otherwise the soufflé will lean to the side. I watched the potting of the delectable spongy chocolate and egg whites and then moved on while they were placed in the oven.


I also tried Buckwheat Pancakes with Loganberry Syrup, Blueberry filled Perogies and Flambéed Caramelised Apples with an Ice Cider emulsion.
Ice Wine and Ice Cider are two drinks that I am not familiar with but funnily enough, without actually realising at the time, I had just thoroughly enjoyed a glass of Ice Wine with my dessert at The Kitchin in Edinburgh. The concept of Ice Wine and Ice Cider is simple – the grapes and apples are frozen and then pressed, which locks in the sugar, making them incredibly sweet.


When Nim was talking at the beginning before the cooking commenced, she explained that the recipes were not specifically Canadian recipes, but Canadian inspired and using Canadian ingredients. She mentioned that many products that we eat probably originated from Canada – the flour that makes bread and pasta, seafood and, of course, Ocean Spray cranberry juice.

They attempted to ship over some caviar – twice! It got stuck at Stanstead Airport customs both times. I thought this was a funny story and it really shows just how much effort went into making this a superb event, which it was. We were encouraged to choose our own Canadian cookery book before we left. There was a wide range of books and they wanted us to choose something that we would be interested in reading (and cooking from!)
Full both of delicious food and knowledge of Canadian food, I journeyed home, hoping that I would be able to plan my trip to Canada soon.


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