Archive | November, 2011

Home made spaghetti recipe

30 Nov

I love my KitchenAid. Not only does it whip up the best tasting cakes, it also helps me in my quest to making the best fresh spaghetti, thanks to the pasta attachment.

Last night I decided, for the second time, to try my hand at making fresh pasta. The first time hadn’t quite gone to plan and I ended up with slightly thicker tagliatelle than I wanted. Combined with too short a cooking time, it was a bit claggy and not overly pleasant.

The inspiration for this dish came from one of my favourite food magazines, Donna Hay. I first discovered the magazine on my travels around Australia and was disgruntled when I came home, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to find it over here. I was wrong. Selfridges sells it, albeit at a premium price. But it is imported from Australia and it’s totally worth every penny.

I love fresh, simple pasta so decided only to use my handy little tins of Nudo Extra Virgin basil oil, Nudo Extra Virgin Sicilian lemon oil, a lump of goats cheese and a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. This dish is heaven. The pasta is easy to make and about ten times more satisfying than that cardboard you get from the supermarket.

Ingredients

400g 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
4 eggs (I used Clarence Court as the yolks make the dough a lovely orange colour)
Nob of bugger
Nudo Extra Virgin Basil oil
Nudo Extra Virgin Sicilian Lemon oil
Fresh ground pepper and sea salt
Goats cheese

Method

1. Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the edds and use a fork to lightly whisk, bringing the flour into the centre until the dough begins to come together and all the flour has been combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Wrap in cling film and set aside for 30 minutes to rest.

2. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Set the pasta machine to position 1 and pass dough portion through the machine. Repeat 5-6 times, folding the dough onto itself each time and adding extra flour if necessary.

3. Set the pasta machine to position 2 and pass the dough through once. Repeat on each setting until you reach position 5. Lay the sheets of pasta on trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Repeat with remaining pasta portions.

4. Add the pasta cutting rollers to the machine and pass the pasta sheets through, one at a time. You can either cook the pasta straight away or hang it for 30-60 minutes. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes or until al dente.

5. Stir through a good drizzle of both olive oils and a handful of goat’s cheese. Add a fresh grinding of black pepper and a pinch of sea salt and enjoy!

Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Café revamp

29 Nov

When I think of Harvey Nichols, the line ‘Harvey Nicks darrrling’ immediately pops into my head and stays there on repeat until something else grabs my attention. Thanks Jennifer Saunders. Ab Fab was always on in my house when I was growing up. I loved it. I would have been so proud had I known at the time that I would one day be following in Edina’s footsteps and working in PR darrrrrling. But I can safely say that I don’t quite live the Ab Fab lifestyle, honestly…

Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Café has just undergone its first refurb in twenty years. EDGE Architecture + Design has designed the interior and created distinctive features such as a new horseshoe shaped Espresso Bar and an open plan kitchen. Executive Chef Jonas Karlsson and his team have created a range of new dishes, many using new and seasonal produce from The Foodmarket and I was invited to test it out last week. I arrived early and sipped a jasmine tea (£2.95) whilst I waited for my friend. Upon arrival, all flummoxed, he asked why I had ordered jasmine tea. I think I may have panic ordered as it’s not something I’d normally go for. And I didn’t really enjoy it. I found it a little watery and after peeking inside the pot to see why, I saw a lone tea bag floating around. It perhaps could have benefitted from two bags to create a stronger taste, considering the pot was large enough for over two cups.

We perused the menu and after I forbid him to order a Full English, because it’s too boring, we settled on Fried Eggs with Chorizo and Eggs Benedict with brioche. Having been out for breakfast every day so far that week (and this was Thursday), I was hoping for a moderate portion.

IMG_8151

But first we ordered a couple of juices. I opted for the Green Juice (£5), a mixture of cucumber, apple, celery and lemon as it sounded healthy, just what I needed after a hectic week. Also, another friend had tweeted an image of her super green juice the day before, which also contained cucumber and celery and I thought I’d try it as I’ve never been big on vegetable juices and was on the verge of being persuaded that they’re a good idea. My friend went for the Glamour juice (£5), which turned out to be a beautiful orange carrot and apple juice with a huge ginger kick – perfect for waking you up in the morning. I didn’t enjoy mine quite as much – but I think that’s because of my personal taste. I adore cucumber to eat but drinking it is a different story.

IMG_8154

The breakfasts arrived shortly after and I was happy to see that my wish for a moderate portion had come true with the Fried Eggs and Chorizo (£7.95). Baked chorizo and tomato is one of my favourite combinations but add eggs and a thick slice of toast and I’m in heaven. The Eggs Benedict (£9.75) was also delicious, although I think I prefer the dish with English muffins. That’s not to say that the brioche wasn’t a good addition, because it was.

IMG_8156

The café serves Illy coffee and my latte was smooth, creamy and topped with a nice bit of latte art. I’m always impressed by latte art, I think it shows that the barista has paid attention to my creamy cup of goodness and has lovingly prepared the pretty image, rather than just spilling the milk out of the jug into the cup willy nilly.

After breakfast, my friend decided that he wanted pudding. Interesting. So he ordered a bowl of yoghurt and honey, which wasn’t actually on the menu. It cleanses your palate apparently. The waiter obliged and soon after placed the bowl down on the table. I tasted it and was impressed – very soothing and I have to say it did clean my palate.

I’d like to go back in the summer and sit outside on the terrace, which overlooks Knightsbridge, although it’s not overly large so I imagine it’s hard to snag a table. The new Fifth Floor Café definitely gets a thumbs up from me – the environment is pleasant and calming and you have the bonus of being able to browse the fantastic produce of The Foodmarket on your way out. If you visit I bet you end up buying something. I just bet.

Breakfast served Monday – Saturday 8am – 12 noon.

Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Café
109 – 125 Knightsbridge
London
SW1X 7RJ
Tel: 020 7235 5000

Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Restaurant, Cafe & Bar on Urbanspoon

Hong Kong foodie adventures

26 Nov

When I was standing in the cloakroom queue of a Chelsea club last week, a small Greek man in front turned around and started talking to me. He asked if I was hungry to which I replied that I had just eaten some delicious food in the private room upstairs. He looked at me as if to say ‘yea, whatever’. I proceeded to tell him that food is my life, my passion, my obsession. I work in food, I write a food blog and when I’m not working or blogging, I’m probably cooking, baking or enjoying a nice meal at one of my favourite restaurants. He was impressed and totally surprised. I doubt many girls he talks to in clubs like that express their undying love for food. He proceeded to ask if I wanted to join him and his friends for dinner. Of course I didn’t, so I reminded him that I had just eaten. I grabbed my coat and spent my journey home thinking about my recent trip to Hong Kong.

The city, I was told before my five day excursion, is a food lovers paradise. Every person that I spoke to before I left told me that I would love it and gave me some fantastic recommendations of places to go. Among those was Lizzie from Hollowlegs, a fellow London food blogger and Rach Through The Looking Glass who I used to go to school with many moons ago and who has lived in Hong Kong for the last three years.

As I was on a press trip, the majority of my time was thoroughly planned and days before my departure, I was presented with an itinerary. At a quick glance, I saw that we would be incredibly busy and there seemed to be a LOT of eating to do. Below you’ll find details of what I ate at the restaurants that we were taken to by the Hong Kong tourism board, accompanied by images that I sometimes struggled to take as a lot of the restaurants were dimly lit.

We had a late night dinner at Merhaba on the first evening. I didn’t event attempt to take pictures as it was so dark that I could barely see my fork on the table. An ‘authentic’ Morroccan restaurant, Merhaba sits at the top of a hill on Knutsford Terrace, a very popular night life area in Hong. As we enjoyed bottles of the local Chinese beer, Tsingtao, we were treated to a belly dance from a petite Chinese woman as we ordered a range of dishes for the table to share. First up, slices of pitta bread served with what looked like hummus at first glance but turned out to be more like babaganoush. This was followed by an apple and celery salad and a dish of crab meat smothered in a creamy mayonnaise like sauce. Not quite what I’d expect in a middle eastern restaurant back home. The most authentic dish of grilled meats arrived and I devoured a large chunk of it, delicious. Next to arrive were two pasta dishes – one with tomato sauce and vegetables and one with creamy seafood. Again, not authentic but tasty nonetheless.

IMG_7683

The next day after our wet market tour (more of that in another post), we were treated to lunch at 1 Michelin starred Yan Toh Heen at the Harbour’s edge in the InterContinental hotel. After winning a Michelin star in 2010, the restaurant is regarded as one of the worlds finest Chinese restaurants. We joined up with a German press group for lunch and enjoyed the view over Victoria Harbour. Having ‘set myself up for the day’ with a huge breakfast at the hotel breakfast buffet that morning, I wasn’t overly hungry so when I opened the menu my eyes widened in shock. No less than eleven dishes were listed on the menu and we were going to eat them ALL!

IMG_7687

IMG_7688

The dim sum to start was some of the best I’ve ever had. We were served traditional and innovative dishes such as steamed scallop and conpoy dumpling with asparagus and gold foil, steamed assorted mushrooms and string beans dimpling and golden prawn and turnip in puff pasty. The pastry light and melt in mouth, the dumpling soft and juicy.

IMG_7693

The golden stuffed crab shell with crab meat arrived next. A big cloud of steam escaped as soon as I dug my fork into the crispy layer of the deep fried shell, to reveal a mountain of rich tender white meat.

IMG_7695

Next up was Peking duck. The group marveled at the whole crispy, shiny duck that was brought out to the table. I didn’t realise until then (probably because I’m not well versed in Canotonese cuisine) but Peking duck wraps consist of the skin of the duck and not the actual meat. I wasn’t sure it would be tasty on first glance but oh it was. The crispy, sweet and flavoursome skin was an absolute delight. Despite not eating the meat in the wrap, it was used for another dish later on the menu, the wok fried minced duck served in lettuce wraps, which was one of my favourites.

Also on the menu was braised garoupa fillet with ginger, spring onion and bean paste, followed by wagyu beef with green peppers, mushrooms and garlic.

IMG_7702

IMG_7705

IMG_7704

The dessert was a real showstopper. Each one of us was presented with a bowl of cold mango soup, which arrived at the table ferociously steaming. The bowl had been placed on top of a small tray filled with dry ice and water, which created a Heston Blumenthal like cascade of smoke. It was just what we needed to take the edge off all of the savoury food that we had devoured during our lunch.

IMG_7710

More food was to come later at Sakesan, where we were treated to a food and sake tasting.

We were also due to dine at Cecconis in Soho that evening but none of us could face it. After drinks at the Armani bar in Central (and yet more canapes!!!), we decided to head straight out into the night, rather than letting food take over any more space in our stomachs. I am disappointed that we didn’t get to experience Cecconi’s, particularly because Italian is one of my favourite cuisines but I wouldn’t swap the impromptu (and very boozy) evening that we had instead for the world.

The next day we all felt a bit shaky but we soldiered on and spent a few hours in Sai Kung in the New Territories – followed by a seafood lunch at Cheun Kee. Well, I say WE went for a seafood lunch but I was feeling very out of sorts so only managed a bowl of boiled rice. I blame my illness on the water, it definitely had NOTHING to do with what I was drinking the night before in Lang Kwai Fong. Definitely. So I missed out on that and I am sad because there was the most delicious looking fish – fresh prawns, lobster in a creamy sauce, you name it, the group had it. And what was even more satisfying was that all of it was caught fresh that morning – upon arrival we could see all of the different varieties of fish to choose from sitting in big tanks outside the restaurant. I wish I could be transported back there now to enjoy the food.

That evening we went to what was probably my favourite restaurant of the trip. Situated on the 28th floor, Hutong is a part of the Aqua group and we arrived just in time for the light show that literally lights up the harbour every evening at 8pm. Green lasers flowed out across the sky and we watched in wonder before enjoying a set menu.

Three dishes arrived on a long plate for starter – scallops tossed with pomelo segments, green asparagus coated with white sesame and vegetarian spring rolls with mushrooms, served with scallions (spring onion). Our plate was placed down in front of us and we were told to eat from right to left – starting with the scallops. I thoroughly enjoyed all three starters, particularly the scallops with pomello, which resembles grapefruit but is drier and less juicy.

For main we nibbled on crispy de-boned lamb ribs, ‘Ma La’ chilli prawns fried with Sichwan dried chilli & Chinese celery, boneless Mandarin fish tossed with crispy yellow bean & chilli and spicy minced pork with string beans and dried petite shrimp. The amount of chillies in the prawn dish was incredible – one of our group made the mistake of eating one whole. Slowly his face turned red, then came the tears, then the uncontrollable coughing and nervous laughter. Everyone else cleverly dodged their chillies after that.

After our dessert of crispy apple roll with lychee sorbet, we jumped up and headed back to Soho for a quick night cap. When we left, we took a better look at the tree that stands in the entrance of the restaurant. Cards were left for customers to write a wish and hang it off a branch. Most of us quickly wrote one before leaving – strangely one of our group had his wish come true pretty much as soon as he arrived back into the country. Weird.

Another fantastic meal that I loved was at a Vietnamese restaurant called Nha Trang in Harbour City, Kowloon. I feasted on the best bowl of pho I’ve ever tasted and gorged on fresh Vietnamese spring rolls. This was probably one of the cheapest meals of the trip. My beef pho cost a mere HK$39 (around £3!!).

I look back at my photos now and realise just how much we ate on the trip. I couldn’t have asked for better hosts or companions – we ate like kings, never stopped laughing and generally had a fantastic time.

Restaurant details:

Merhaba
G/F, 12 Knutsford Terrace
Tsim Sha Tsui
Kowloon
Tel: 2367 2263

Yan Toh Heen
18 Salisbury Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong
Tel: 2721 1211

Cheun Kee
G/F, 53 Hoi Pong Street
Sai Kung
Tel: 2791 1195

Shop No 2
2/F Wu Chung House
213 Queen’s Road East
Wanchai
Hong Kong
Tel: 2891 1177

Hutong
28/F, One Peking Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 3428 8342

Brixton Market

25 Nov

I still feel privileged to live in London, even after six years. But some weekends I find myself tearing my hair out thinking ‘what to do?!’ I often get the feeling that I’ve done it all and there’s literally nothing new to do. Of course I’m wrong – I should probably pay more attention to Time Out.

Last weekend though, I decided to head south to Brixton to have a look around the market and grab a bite to eat. The first obstacle was the tube – I forgot to check about the consistent weekend ‘upgrade’ works that are going on until the Olympics next year. It took a while to get there but a couple of tube changes and a replacement bus later, I arrived.

I have been to Brixton a couple of times before and not really liked it. Both visits were in the evening and I hadn’t exactly felt very safe on my walk down the backstreets towards Brixton Academy – don’t ask why I decided to walk down the backstreets. But after hearing so much about the regeneration of the market and reading about all of the cafes and restaurants popping up, I decided it was time for another visit, this time during the day.

Walking down a little alleyway towards the market, I passed shops selling Jamaican artifacts, plenty of odd looking fruit and vegetables and a hairdressers where the staff were shaking their booty along to the loud Afrobeats whilst working on the customers corn rows. Everything at Brixton market is colourful, happy and vibrant. And it is changing. Nestled in between the traditional units are a plethora of new cafes and restaurants, serving fantastic food at amazing prices. My first stop was Federation Coffee where I ordered a flat white and drank it whilst watching a sit in customer draw his surroundings. During my visit I clocked a few artists, carefully constructing images focusing on the cool crowd that now frequent the market on weekends.

After walking around various restaurants, I decided that pizza would be a great option to soak up the remainders of alcohol that I had the night before. I don’t know why I even considered going anywhere other than Franco Manca, one of my favourite pizzerias in London. Having never been to the Brixton ‘branch’ before, I went and queued for twenty minutes before being seated at a cosy table inside, with the huge gleaming white pizza oven in sight. We shared two pizzas – mozzarella, anchovy, capers and olives and chorizo and mozzarella. Both were perfect – the sourdough base soft, chewy and just the right amount of charcoal smothered over the base. London needs more pizza establishments like this. And at around £6 per pizza, it doesn’t even nearly break the bank.

For pudding, we wandered back through the market to Lab G, where I ordered a hazelnut and chocolate gelato. They had run out of their signature salted caramel flavour, which I was disappointed about but the hazelnut and chocolate was exquisite. I felt a bit silly walking down the street in mid November eating a cone of gelato and my hands didn’t thank me for it but it was the perfect way to end my foodie little tour.

Brixton market is a diverse hub of shops, restaurants and cafes and is run by a mix of creatives and old local residents. The website says it all – ‘Meat!, Nail art, Fresh fish (lots of this around!), DIY, Wigs (lots of these too) and a whole lot more. It’s a brilliant place to go to get away from the most popular and sometimes too touristy London weekend markets. I’ll hopefully be back there sooner rather than later – perhaps I’ll take a trip next time I want to buy a wig whilst chewing on jerk chicken and dancing to Aftrobeat.

The market arcades are open:

Monday – Wednesday from 8am – 6pm
Thursday – Saturday from 8am – 10pm
Sundays from 10am – 5pm

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon

Meat Liquor

24 Nov

You probably don’t need to read another blog post about this place, but I’m going to write it anyway. Don’t worry; I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Meat liquor, yes yes, I know you’ve heard that this is the most amazing burger in the world right now. I think that’s a pretty bold statement but let me tell you, they’re certainly good.

Situated just off Oxford Street behind Debenhams, Meat Liquor is the new permanent fixture from meataholic Yianni Papoutsis and serves an array of fantastic, you guessed it, burgers. Also on the scraggy menu is a range of weird and wonderful cocktails, most served in jam jars. The Full English Martini (£7.50) caught our eye – billed as Bombay Original stirred with homemade vermouth and served egg and bacon. The martini was smooth and almost too easy to drink, while the hard boiled quail egg and bacon bits that arrived in a separate shooter glass acted as a perfect appetiser.

The Louisiana Jam (£7) was a syrupy sweet concoction of Southern Comfort swizzled with apricot jam, fresh lemon juice and fresh mint and could win the prize for my favourite cocktail ever. The St Lawrence (£7.50) was a refreshing and light mix of Woodford Reserve shaken with maple syrup, fresh lemon juice and a dash of bitters with an orange twist.

I kept my order simple and went for the Dead Hippie (£7.50), which is the standard burger on the menu (don’t know where it gets it title from though) – it contained two patties, sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions. Gabrielle went for the Mushroom Swiss (£7.50), which contained two patties, swiss, cheese, shrooms etc… (menus description!) I immediately had food envy, not only was hers bigger but it had a huge amount of luscious looking mushrooms and cheese!!! All of our food came on one tray, lined with red and white paper and the side of fries were similar to those at McDonalds (sorry) – salty, thin, crispy, oily, DELICIOUS!

Sides such as x3 mac n cheese, onion rings and slaw didn’t go unnoticed but we chose not to order them for fear of not being able to move out of our chairs afterwards. And we probably wouldn’t have been able to, considering the portion size of the fries. No, I’m not complaining!

Meat Liquor takes inspiration from American diners and it’s totally clear as soon as you walk through the door. Dimly lit with hints of red light, graffiti on the walls, mismatched furniture, too cool for school waiting staff carrying ten trays at once, whilst dodging the oodles of happy punters. It is laid back, fun, informal and cool.

The only downside is the queue. As winter draws in, I’m not sure I’ll be totally happy with queuing an hour to get a table but if I do (which I probably will), I’m sure it will be well worth the wait.

Meat Liquor
72 Welbeck Street
London
W1G 0BA

Meat Liquor on Urbanspoon

Lemon olive oil cake recipe

22 Nov

Olive oil cake. What’s all that about then? Well, let me tell you.

I first came across cake baked with olive oil at Towpath in Dalston last year. Towpath, if you are wondering, is a delightful little café on the canal in Dalston, run by writer Lori De Mori and photographer Jason Lowe.

I wasn’t brave enough at the time to try it, despite reading that it was very delicious. But ever since that day I have been contemplating baking a cake with olive oil, rather than butter. I’ve baked with vegetable oil before and been impressed with the results, but it was only when I was in touch with the lovely team at Nudo that I finally bit the bullet.

I was sent a tin of Nudo Extra Virgin olive oil with lemons to try, which I decided I would use to bake a lemon loaf cake. Good choice. I found this recipe on Completely Delicious and substituted the lemons and extra virgin olive oil for my nifty little tin of Nudo.

The whipped egg whites made the cake unbelievably light, while the olive oil kept in the moisture and gave it a fantastic lemon flavour. I wouldn’t have been able to tell that there was no lemon zest involved if I had bought a slice from a café.

I didn’t bother with lemon icing as I don’t like icing but instead I dusted it with icing sugar. A lemon drizzle would have been nice but it’s definitely not needed. Maybe next time.

This cake is definitely best served with a cup of tea. Try it!

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Makes 1 loaf cake

Ingredients

180ml Nudo Extra Virgin olive oil with lemons
150g plain flour
5 egg yolks
4 egg whites
170g golden caster sugar
Icing sugar to dust

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Greast a loaf pan with olive oil and line with parchment paper.

1. Beat the egg yolks and 110g sugar together at a high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the speed and slowly add the olive oil. Add the flour and fold in gently with a wooden spoon or spatula
2. In a separate bowl (or transfer the batter to another bowl and wash the bowl if using a stand mixer), add the egg whites and beat on a high speed until thick and foamy. Slowly add the remaining 60g of sugar and beat to soft peaks.
3. Fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean
4. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy!

Riverford Organic veg box

21 Nov

Thank you to Riverford Organic Farm for sending me a medium veg box last week, in perfect time for my dinner party.

The box contained the following veggies:

Orla potatoes, carrots, red onions, cauliflower, butterhead lettuce, brussel sprouts, sweet potato, January king cabbage, vine tomatoes and red and yellow peppers.

We were able to feast on nearly all of it at the dinner party but we reserved the tomatoes and lettuce for our sandwiches with the left over beef the next day.

I love the concept of the veg box – fresh produce picked from the field and delivered straight to your door. No faffing at the supermarket, no unnecessary travelling, just simple, honest veg. And delicious at that.

Read my previous post on Riverford Organic Farm to hear more about why I love veg boxes.

A medium Riverford Organic Farm veg box costs £15.45 – see here for the wide array of boxes available to order online.

Kaffeine

20 Nov

Stepping off Oxford Street into Fitzrovia is like stepping off a packed tube train in rush hour – you immediately feel relieved. Far less busy, with virtually no lingering tourists, Fitzrovia is fast turning into a foodies paradise. It is also home to one of my favourite London cafes, Kaffeine.

Yet another Australian / New Zealand owned London café, Kaffeine means business when it comes to the coffee and food that they serve. Freshly baked cakes, pastries, homemade granola, muffins for breakfast and a range of salads and sandwiches for lunch provide an excellent choice and the coffee is lovingly prepared and sourced from Square Mile. They use top quality equipment to get the best out of the beans – a Synesso Cyncra espresso machine and (for the more geeky coffee lovers out there) a Robus E 110v doserless grinder. They even pay attention to the size of the coffee cups in order to get the best possible taste out of the coffee. Each cup comes with a double shot as standard (that would explain my energy rush after two flat whites) and they only use organic milk.

The interior is simple, yet calming. Wooden slatted tables and benches, good music and a large amount of staff to cope with busy periods. I went for breakfast with my dad earlier in the week and we both shared a ciabatta roll with omelette, pancetta, rocket and tomato salsa (£4.50) and a croissant with gruyere cheese and plum tomatos (£3.50) – both were toasted and perfect for a cold morning. The croissant was rich, buttery and cheesy (naughty).

We had a couple of flat whites (£2.40 each) and skipped off into the day, full and totally satisfied.

Kaffeine
66 Great Titchfield Street
London
W1W 7QJ
0207 580 6755

Kaffeine on Urbanspoon

InterContinental Hong Kong

18 Nov

I sometimes struggle with the word luxury. One person’s interpretation of the word can can be totally different to another. So when I was told that my trip to Hong Kong would be to experience the city in total luxury, I was sceptical. That is, until I arrived at The InterContinental – the chosen hotel for our four night stay.

As soon as we stepped off the bus that delivered us to the hotel from the airport, we were greeted by bell boys dressed head to toe in crisp white suits who whisked our cases away and disappeared off into the distance. Normally I would have been frightened but I have watched Home Alone enough times to know that bell boys deliver your luggage to your room so you don’t have to lug it there yourself.

‘Miss Kemp, would you like to follow me please’. I looked to my right and saw a hostess, who was on hand to personally show me to my room. I followed her through the reception area to the lift. We stopped off on the tenth floor and I was shown to my room. As soon as the door opened, what was to become a very familiar scent flew up my nostrils and embedded itself in my memory. The whole hotel must have been sprayed with the same floral scent that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Seconds after the door closed, there was a knock. It was the bell boy with my case. Feeling bad that I hadn’t yet changed my currency, I thanked him as he smiled and skipped back out of the door.

85 Superior Harbourview Room

Once alone, I turned around and had a chance to marvel at the view from the window, which spanned from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. A perfect skyline stood in front of me as I looked out over Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island.

IMG_7875

The InterContinental was built over the harbour’s edge in Kowloon and follows the principals of Feng Shui. Chinese legend states that the nine dragons of Kowloon come from the mountains each day to take their morning bath and drink from Victoria Harbour. The large water fountain that welcomes customers at the front of the hotel represents the Pearl of the Orient, which draws the nine dragons from the nearby mountains. As dragons can travel through glass (obviously!), the Feng Shui master chose a large glass fronted entrance so that they can easily glide through the building and back out the other side to bathe and drink from the water. But first the dragons must stop off at the reception desk to drop off some of their wealth before proceeding through the lobby’s expansive windows.

Around two thirds of the rooms at The InterContinental have the fantastic view overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island, while the remaining rooms overlook the pool area. I planned to go to the pool on my first morning but thought better when my alarm went off early, knowing what a busy day we had in store. I made it down the next day and didn’t realise just how luxurious it would be. As soon as I walked through the door, I was greeted and asked for my room number and after lying down on a perfectly white cotton towel lined sunbed, the pool attendant walked over and greeted me by name before placing a tray down next to me, which contained a mini fan, flannel and a small bottle of water mist. I soaked up my beautiful and serene surroundings for a while before making use of the infinity spa pools, overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong island.

photo-7

My bedroom had an incredible amount of features and discreet services that only the really observant would see during our stay. A pillow menu, a complimentary tea card with a wide selection, the biggest bed I have ever seen (wider than it was long!), a large sunken bath, Elemis toiletries, a desk, a 24 hour butler service a 37-inch LCD TV, docking system, mini bar, plate of fruit (changed daily) and what was to possibly become the biggest topic of conversation on the whole trip. Shortly after my host left me after check in, I spotted a model rickshaw, which was surrounded by Asian inspired cakes and biscuits. Having seen fake food many times before, particularly in Japanese restaurants in Soho, I assumed that the contents of the plate were there just for show. I prodded a couple of the cakes and although they felt soft, I decided to stay away. Big mistake. Another of our group revealed when we all met at reception that evening that she had been ‘picking at the rickshaw’ and had enjoyed EATING IT!!! By the time I got around to looking back at the plate, it had been changed. Each day when I arrived back at the hotel, I opened my door in anticipation of what culturally relevant edible masterpiece was waiting for me on the side board. Each day the edible display was lovingly created by the in house pastry chef. I thoroughly enjoyed devouring my tram the next day, which was surrounded by crisp and gooey macaroons and the dragon that I had on the last day took the long trip back to the UK with me. I had to break it up but it arrived safely!

IMG_7840

IMG_7773

Other hotel features include a fully equipped fitness center, which is open 24 hours daily, a spa, eleven harbour view function rooms, the largest ballroom in Hong Kong, a business centre, not to mention the in house restaurants.

The InterContinental boasts a range of restaurants including NOBU, Spoon by Alain Ducasse, Yan Toh Heen, The Steak House and Harbourside. Each day we sat down to breakfast in the Harbourside restaurant and were able to choose from the biggest buffet I have ever laid my eyes on. I am told that buffets are popular here and it seems the bigger, the better. I didn’t go a day without having at least two courses for breakfast – choosing waffles, pancakes, fresh fruit, a fry up, Dim Sum, smoothies, pizza (!!!) and fresh juices. All this whilst looking out over the sunny harbour. What heaven.

IMG_7868

IMG_7867

On our last evening in Hong Kong, we were treated to one of the ‘Nine Dragon Cocktails’ in the Lobby Lounge. Created by international cocktail chef Ben Davidson from Australia, the cocktails signify each of the nine dragons and are aptly named. All flavours are balanced, which is reflective of the Chinese aspiration of balancing yin and yang. I opted for the Emperor Dragon – martell vdop, grand marnier, fresh mandarin juice, passion fruit and perrier Jouët grand brut (HK$215, around £17). Each cocktail was presented on a light up coaster, which represented the glowing lights as you look out to Victoria Harbour at night time.

06 Lobby Lounge -  Night

IMG_7842

During my four night stay at The Inter-Continental, I felt utterly calm, comfortable, happy, relaxed and dare I say it, healthy. Now, during my visit to Hong Kong, I cannot say that I was healthy – I probably ate and drank far too much but the serenity of the hotel got hold of me. Was it the talk of the Feng Shui, the constant attractive smells, the politeness of everyone that approached me, the efficient mannor in which business was conducted? It might have even been something in the water, I’ll never know. What I do know is that I will forevermore look back fondly at my time at The Inter-Continental.

Food For Think was a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board at The InterContinental, Hong Kong

Rates
Plazaview Rooms from HK$2790 (around £240)
Harbourview Rooms from HK$3390 (around £270)
All rooms will be subject to a 10% service charge

InterContinental Hong Kong
18 Salisbury Road
Kowloon
Hong Kong
(852) 27211211

Ottolenghi caramel and macadamia cheesecake recipe

17 Nov

A few years ago I found myself exploring an area of London that I had never been before. It was a far cry from the areas that I had been spending so much of my time during university. As I was casually meandering down Upper Street in Islington, I stopped dead in my tracks when I caught glimpse of the biggest meringues I had ever seen out of the corner of my eye. Now, even though I don’t really care much for meringues, what was beyond the mountain of giant white rock like meringues flecked with luscious red raspberry was utterly appealing. I stepped inside, amongst the hustle and bustle and gawped at the array of freshly baked cakes that lay in front of me for a good ten minutes before I decided on which one I wanted to take away with me. I’m not very good at making decisions at the best of times so present me with a huge range of delicious looking cakes and we have a problem.

Stood on a cake stand was a baked cheesecake with a muddle of caramelized macadamia nuts on top. It was the most rustic looking cake out of the bunch – the rest had been so perfectly created and each one stood in uniform like a bunch of neat soldiers on parade. I took it away in a box and shortly after the first bite declared it the best cake I had ever eaten. The café in question is, of course, Ottolenghi in Islington. Co owner and chef Yotam Ottolenghi is, in my eyes, a genius. After going on and on to my friend about the cake, she took note and bought me his first cookbook for my birthday a couple of years ago. The first thing I did was flick through the back pages to see if the cheesecake recipe was featured. And it was. I was so happy. But despite having the book for so long, I had never attempted baking it, until last weekend when I had friends around for a dinner party. It was the perfect opportunity.

You need a lot of time and patience with this cake as there are a few different stages. I would recommend setting a few hours aside at the weekend. I couldn’t believe how well it turned out, particularly as I’ve had a couple of caramel disasters in my time. Another bonus is that it keeps in the fridge for three days afterwards (if you can make it last that long). I urge you to bake this cake. The lucky people who get to eat it will love you forever.

Caramel and macadamia cheesecake

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

For the cheesecake
400g good quality ricotta cheese, at room temperature
(if it seems too watery, hang it in muslin overnight to drain)
200g good quality cream cheese, at room temperature
120g caster sugar
2/3 vanilla pod
4 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
60ml soured cream
Icing sugar for dusting

For the base
160g dry biscuits
(I used HobNobs, but you can use any digestive biscuits)
40g unsalted butter, melted

For the nut topping
150g macadamia nuts
90g caster sugar

For the caramel sauce
65g unsalted butter
160g caster sugar
100ml whipping (or double) cream

Method

Preheat the oven to 140ºC/Gas Mark 1. Lightly grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.

To make the base, whiz the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor (or put them in a plastic bag and bash with a mallet or rolling pin). Mix with the melted butter to a wet, sandy consistency. Transfer to the lined tin and flatten with the back of a tablespoon to create a level base.

To make the cake batter, put the sugar and cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Slit the vanilla pod lengthways in half and, using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Whisk by hand, or more easily with an electric mixer, until smooth. Gradually add the eggs and soured cream, whisking until smooth. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and place in the oven. Bake for about 60 minutes, until set; a skewer inserted in the centre should come out with a slightly wet crumb attached. Leave to cool at room temperature, then remove the side of the tin. Transfer the cake to a cake board or plate – but you can serve from the tin base if that proves tricky. Now chill the cake for at least a couple of hours.

To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 140ºC/Gas Mark 1 for about 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the sugar in a saucepan with a very thick base (it is important that the layer of sugar is not more than 3mm high in the pan, so choose a large one). Heat the sugar gently until it turns into a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir it at any stage. Don’t worry if some small bits of sugar don’t totally dissolve. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife. It’s nice to leave some of the nuts just halved or even whole.

To make the sauce, put the butter and sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat with a wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, dark caramel. The butter and sugar will look as if they have split. Don’t worry; just keep on stirring. Once the desired colour is reached, carefully add the cream while stirring vigourously. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To finish the cake, dust the edges and sides with plenty of icing sugar. Spoon the sauce in the centre, allowing it to spill over a little. Scatter lots of caramelised nuts on top. The cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,033 other followers

%d bloggers like this: