Thursday, 21 August 2014

Where I've Eaten Lately

I'm trying to eat less burgers at the moment, so as a way to make me feel better about that, I'm ogling my instagrams (foodstagrams, if you will) and reminiscing about awesome burgers of the past. I like these posts, because I often want to share info about great places that I've eaten, but don't always have the time to write a full on blog post about it. So, like my last foodstagrams post, I'm going to share some of my favourite recent meals with them. Go! Seek them out! You will not be sorry.

Pudding Platter - The King's Arms, Berkhamsted
We went here back in May, but I haven't stopped thinking about this! We actually met some friends for a drink, but when we got there they were just finishing up lunch and considering pudding, and that got us considering pudding too. The pudding platter involves chocolate brownie, salted caramel ice cream, vanilla panna cotta and - oh yeah - those are nutella stuffed donuts. We shared it. I wish we hadn't. I wanted more of everything. And I still do. They're opening a branch of this gastropub in St Albans soon, so this platter will be dangerously close. I'm going to have to have it again... and soon.

Chateaubriand & Cocktails - Sophie's Steakhouse, Covent Garden
Matt took me here as a birthday treat, and boy, was it ever. Even though it's right next to Byron, I'd never noticed it before so it was a really nice surprise. When we walked in, we were given free salami and I got a free birthday cocktail (tip: wear birthday badges at all times). We shared a to-die-for chateaubriand steak, with sides of mac 'n' cheese and fries. Oh god, it was so good. Not the cheapest place in the world but somewhere I will definitely be going back to. I love, love, LOVE steak but it's often disappointing - overcooked, underseasoned steak is not my thing. This was perfect - I made a point of trying it without any sauce and the flavour was incredible.

Burger - The Horn, St Albans
Anyone who's spent any time in St Albans will probably know The Horn - it's a pretty decent little pub, known for live music, but was always somewhat on the grubby side. They've cleaned it up recently though, and invested a bit more in the menu. We won the quiz here a little while back, and were only given a week to use our bar tab so we popped back for dinner before the next quiz (which we came third in). I was really impressed by the food! The burger was yummy, with REAL cheese - not that crappy cheese sauce stuff - and the chips were to die for.

Pretty Much Everything - Wahaca, Islington
So there's this place? Called Wahaca? It's like, Mexican street food? But in small portions? So you can try lots? Ohhh, you've heard of it. Ha, I know most of you have - but if you haven't, or if you just haven't made it yet, go there! I love it so. I'm here for the taquitos, the steak and cheese tacos and the chorizo and cheese quesadillas. And the sweet potato wedges. And the margaritas. FLIPPING NOM.

Big Fat Greek - Relish, St Albans
I discovered Relish Burgers a couple of weeks ago by chance - it's next to the Alban Arena theatre, in a spot that's always been a little cafe. We tried it out the very next day, and I was really impressed. They have a really decent menu, with some unusual burger combos as well as the classics. There's a good selection of sides, and they do hard and soft milkshakes - the peanut butter one is amazing, but I'm going to need to try the boozy peanut butter and jelly one at some point.

Lamb Shank - The Greek, Hemel Hempstead
The staff in this restaurant are so lovely and the food is amazing. Huge portions, little prices! The meze isn't the best I've had, but the lamb shank was really, really good. Super tender, super flavourful and enormous. That red wine gravy and mash was epic.

Hot Dog (all the way) - Five Guys, Birmingham
I went to Five Guys in Virginia about 6 years ago, and really don't remember much about it except that they gave us free monkey nuts. Since then, it's hit the UK - and the monkey nuts have come too (they're symbolic of the fact that the fries are cooked in peanut oil). I tried out the branch in the Bullring with Sarah and Gem, and it was really good. The hot dog was very messy - I used about 40 napkins - but so very tasty, and I loved that it was fine to pile on the toppings. The cajun fries were also excellent, although your breath will be garlic central afterwards (just a word of warning).

The Cheese Room Experience - Vivat Bacchus, Farringdon
This was yet another birthday treat c/o Matt - the boy did good. Steak AND cheese? Yeah, he knows me pretty well. The Cheese Room is a refrigerated room with lots and lots and lots of cheese and the staff are happy to let you try as much of it as you want (and oh, we did). Once we'd sampled a few, we chose our favourite 5 and they turned them into an awesome cheeseboard for us, along with the perfect accompaniments - brie and blueberry jam? DAAAAAMN. I'm dying to go back (although I might not share the cheeseboard this time...)

The Meating Room Burger - The Meating Room, St Albans
This is a new burger place in St Albans, and unlike Relish, they have a super simple menu. I quite like this though - they're focusing on good, classic burgers and they're doing them damn well. Those are rosemary dusted chips and there's a salted caramel milkshake on the menu, yeah, you can see why I like it. The service was super fast and super friendly, but it's quite tucked away, so if you're in the area, pay them a visit.

Brazilian Fiesta Chicken Pizza - Domino's Event
I got invited to a party by Domino's a little while back to launch their Brazilian range. The World Cup may be over, but the pizzas are still there - and they were really good. JUST spicy enough and I loved the creamy drizzle and I'm really trying to convince myself that I still want something healthy for dinner and not Domino's because god this pizza was good.

What's the best thing you've eaten lately?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Candy Kingdom

It was my birthday a few weeks ago, and Matt organised a ridiculously awesome day out in London to celebrate. In a stroke of luck though, I was invited to a blogging event in the evening which I was allowed to bring him along to (he's doing quite well out of this whole blog thing lately) and I'm so glad we went. Spun Candy have partnered with Candy Crush to bring out a range of themed sweeties, and they invited a group of bloggers to make candy in their Covent Garden store.

They started off showing us how to dye sugar, shape it and mould it into sweeties and then they let us get a bit creative. We learned to make roses, candy canes (check out the monstrous one Matt made!) and lollipops, and it was really interesting to see how it gets done. There's only a small team in Spun of two people, but they make everything there themselves - pop in, if you ever want to see a demonstration!

You can see more information on Spun's collaboration with Candy Crush here.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Slow Cooked Honey & Garlic Chicken

Do you know anyone with a slow cooker? If you do, I’m sure you’re used to them singing its praises – oh, it’s changed their life! Oh, it’s just so easy! Oh, they don’t know how they got along without it!

I’m going to drop some knowledge now, so prepare yourselves accordingly – they’re right. They’re totally right. Slow cookers are AMAZING. I actually don’t have one, but Matt’s housemate does and we’ve kind of claimed it for our own (we’ll give it back, promise!). We first tried it out with pulled pork a couple of months ago – remember that awesome Dr Pepper and Jack Daniel’s recipe? I sure do *hungry face* We made the pulled pork a second time for a party, but decided to try and do a chicken recipe too for those people who don’t eat pork. And I am here to tell you it was an epic success. And also to tell you the recipe!

This was so easy. We based it on this recipe but tweaked it quite a lot – we substituted a few things, used a whole chicken instead of chicken pieces and upped the quantities. We’ve made it twice now and everyone raves about it. It’s sweet, spicy and actually pretty good for you – there’s not a drop of oil in this baby! It’s lovely on rice, but we usually just pop it in soft baps with a few lettuce leaves. It also makes loads - a good 10 portions!

Slow Cooked Honey & Garlic Chicken
1 whole chicken (we used a large one)
340g honey
150ml soy sauce
60ml hoisin sauce
50ml sweet chilli sauce
Half a bulb of garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 stock cube, dissolved in a pint of boiling water
2 tablespoons cornflour
Sliced spring onions, for garnish (optional)
Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

1. In a big bowl, add all your ingredients except for the cornflour and stir to combine

2. Put your chicken in your slow cooker then pour the ingredients over it

3. Cover the slow cooker and cook it on low for 8-10 hours (we left it overnight)

4. When it’s done, remove the chicken from the slow cooker. You may find that it falls apart upon removal – slow cooking makes the meat ridiculously tender. That’s fine though, just get the meat out piece by piece, and start removing the bones (you can set these aside for soup if you’re feeling creative, or just throw them away). I recommend using a slotted spoon for this bit.

5. Put the chicken in a shallow dish like a lasagne dish, and shred it into smaller pieces (you can check for bones while you do this)

6. Pour the remaining juices into a saucepan through a sieve. Meanwhile, in a small jug or bowl, add a few drops of water to your cornflour to make a paste and stir together. If it’s too thick, add more water, if it’s too runny, add more cornflour. When it’s roughly the consistency of PVA glue, add to your saucepan of chicken juices and stir.

7. Bring the saucepan to a boil and let it reduce slightly – only needs a couple of minutes at full boil before it’s done, and keep stirring in case it burns. If it still seems too runny, add more cornflour and water (mix the cornflour into the water first, or it’ll go lumpy).

8. Pour the sauce over the chicken, tossing with forks to combine. You can leave this to cool and reheat in the oven later, or serve immediately with sliced spring onions and sesame seeds. The sesame seeds don’t add an awful lot in terms of flavour and texture, but they look nice.

Yum, this was SO good. Next up in our slow cooker adventures has definitely got to be some lamb or beef. I want me some brisket!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Italian street food with the Moretti Movement

Lately, the direction of my blog has been much more food than fashion themed, and I'm pretty much okay with that. Especially when I get challenged to make epic ice cream sundaes, and invited to events like this one, which involve all the Italian street food I can eat. Oh, I'm so in.

For a few nights in August, Birra Moretti hosted the Birra Moretti Gran Tour in a factory in Shoreditch, where some of the best UK street food vendors including Pizza Pilgrims, Forza Win, and Cheeky Italian got together to bring us the best in Italian street food.

While we were there, we were able to sample eye-rollingly amazing food - I'm drooling just remembering it! We were greeted with arancini, then grabbed a couple of slices at Pizza Pilgrims (how awesome is their pizza oven in a van?), then joined the queue for the ravioli stand. That queue was justified - butternut squash ravioli in a buttery sauce, topped with crumbled amaretti biscuits? Oh lord. I haven't even mentioned the gelato, but I'll never forget that sour cherry and ricotta.

Sadly the tour has now finished, but I'll be crossing my fingers that it comes back - I'm going to need that ravioli in my life again! Luckily, in a few weeks I'm heading to Florence for a few days, and this has definitely made me even more enthusiastic for it!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Cocktail hour: Gin Blackberry Smash

I have a weird problem. I like gin, but not tonic. I’m sure some of you are laughing at that, and I get it – it kind of makes me look like an alcoholic! But it’s not like I order a G&T “without the T” – I’m honestly not quite THAT bad. But it’s kind of a sad little problem, as I always think G&Ts seem super chic and they look oh so refreshing – but no, not for me.

It’s okay though, because Aldi asked me if I wanted some of their awesome Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin to make cocktails with, and I said yes, because duh, free booze – but also because it meant I could make a G without the T, but with something more interesting instead! And I did. I must admit that for these drinks we actually really needed a better strainer and straws (I spent quite some time picking mint leaves out of my teeth) but they were still hella tasty.

I'm loving my fancy new cocktail equipment though (and all the ingredients I have stashed away) - so much so that I may have to start a will with Redress Law just so I can leave it to someone worthy – I don’t want any will disputes to occur after I'm gone as I'm sure people will fight over that awesome cocktail shaker! I'm sure there are a few other things I could leave to people, but I'm just so damn attached to cocktails...

Gin Blackberry Smash
- Punnet blackberries
- Punnet raspberries
- Gin
- Mint
- Sugar
- Water
- Lime, for garnish

1. Grab a cocktail shaker and throw in some raspberries and blackberries
2. Add a couple of shots of Aldi's Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin
3. Throw in some torn mint leaves
4. Muddle everything together to crush the berries and make the flavours mingle
5. Add some ice
6. Add some sugar syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
7. Shake!
8. Get your glasses ready and pour - through a strainer if you have one
9. Drink! I recommend straws, but if you don't have any, just go with it. Tasty fruity smoothie.

Disclaimer: Aldi provided me with the gin, cocktail equipment and some Aldi vouchers for mixers.