Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Washoku Masterclass with Valentine Warner

Washoku literally means 'food of Japan', covering all traditional Japanese cuisine, from sushi, sashimi to teppenyaki and yakitori. The focus is on fresh, seasonal ingredients (sometimes raw), sometimes rare but mostly accessible even in our western supermarkets. It's most definitely a user-friendly cuisine, using cross-over ingredients from our own gardens (well, the fresh vegetable aisle) and the freshest fish or meat you can get hold of. Fish in Japan holds a god-like status, so only the freshest and the best will do. Washoku by trained Japanese chefs is created with consideration for the environment, a simplicity which retains the nature of each component, and beautifully presented on a plate to celebrate it's natural beauty.

On a Washoku masterclass with TV cook, food writer, and now, Hepell Gin distiller, Valentine Warner, hosted by Panasonic in their test kitchen, we learnt just how simple it can be, and oh my, how delicious. Mr Warner spent some of his childhood in Japan (his dad was the British Ambassador there in the '70s) and returned many times to visit sake breweries and develop his own skills as a chef. Japanese chefs are super clean, sleek and graceful and their knife-skills are notoriously fast and meticulous.

Valentine demonstrated three recipes, using three kitchen gadgets by Panasonic, which we got to taste and then recreate. Firstly, Crab Chawan Mushi, or savoury fish custard, steamed in a cup. Sorry, did you say savoury fish custard? Well, yes... it did sound odd, but tasted absolutely wonderful - like a good quiche but without the pastry. Gently beaten eggs, with dashi slowly poured in, then sake and Kikkoman soy sauce. This is then poured over the crab in it's dish, and topped with shiitake mushrooms. With some cling film over the top, the bowl is then steamed (in Panasonic's Steam Combination Microwave, obviously) for about 15 minutes until there is a slight wobble. Then scattered with spring onions, toasted black sesame seeds and Furikake seaweed seasoning. See? Simple!


While the Chawan Mushi was steaming, we moved onto Mackerel Tataki. Mackerel is bang in season at the moment, and it's one of my favourite fish. Growing up in South West Kerry fresh mackerel was literally just off the boat in the summer months and little did I appreciate that luxury then. I loved it, just grilled. That's all. Fresh mackerel should be stiff, with a dark green back and iridescent shine.

For this recipe, Valentine used the Panasonic Slow Juicer to remove all the pith and juice from a lemon. The fresh fish was then chopped very thinly into small cubes, and gently mixed with toasted sesame seeds, ginger, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, Kikkoman soy sauce and reduced mirin. The tataki was then presented in a bowl and garnished with spring onion and thinly sliced nori. This recipe can also be made with fresh salmon or fresh sustainable tuna. A few of us had a go at making this and although it wasn't quite as aesthetic, it still tasted utterly sublime.

 Lastly, but obviously my favourite, a Summer Umeshi Cocktail. Deliciously refreshing, this drink is the perfect accompaniment to Japanese food. The sweet plum wine can be sourced in any Asian supermarket, and I've used it before as a dessert wine for a Thai meal. Really easy to make with aid of a Panasonic Blender to whizz up some ice cubes. See below for the recipe.



·       125ml Umeshu sweet plum wine 

·       1/2 tsp yuzu (Japanese orange) juice Available in Waitrose 

·       Ice cubes 

·       Soda water

·       Fresh mint



-          Whizz up some ice cubes in the Panasonic Blender

-          In a highball glass fill halfway up with crushed ice

-          Pour in half a teaspoon of yuzu juice 

-          Pour over the Umeshu plum wine and top to the rim with soda water 

-          Garnish with a big sprig of fresh mint pushed well down into the glass 

-          Push in a straw 

Of course, all recipes are just a guide. Some of Valentine Warner's tips for cooking include using the best and freshest ingredients, and then experimenting and especially tasting your food - this is key to cooking Washoku for a healthy and balanced meal. Buy daily and fresh, instead of stock piling fresh ingredients. And don't keep opened sesame oil or soy sauce for more than a few months as they will lose their flavour.

Huge thanks to the Panasonic team for hosting the masterclass, and to Popcorn PR for the invitation and the photos.
Product Info:

Panasonic Slow Juicer MJ-L500 | RRP £199.99 | Available to buy now.

Panasonic Steam Combination Microwave NN-CS894 | RRP £499.99 | Available to buy now.

Panasonic Food Blender MX-ZX1800 | RRP £399.99 | Available to buy from August 2016.


Saturday, 16 July 2016

10th Birthday Cake

My little girl's birthday cake this year was designed by Mimi herself. She chose a design based on the leopard skin cake I made a couple of years ago for my friend, square and diamond in shape, with pearls around the edges and a big bow on top.
At the bottom a Victoria sponge, filled with vanilla buttercream, and on top a chocolate sponge filled with the same plus melted chocolate. Both layers crumb coated in vanilla buttercream with a giant pink bow and love hearts dotted around, silver writing and moulded pearls around the edges. Pretty simple, and very effective.
Happy birthday my darling. Love you. xx 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Barraka, Mediterranean Street Food, Liverpool Street - Review

Barraka is a newly opened Mediterranean takeaway nestled in Artillery Lane, between Liverpool Street Station and Spitalfields Market. Ideal for a quick lunch away from your desk, or to grab something before you head to the pub after, Barraka serve food fast and fresh. The staff are friendly and full of enthusiasm. If you are a first-time customer you will get a cheer and the gong will be banged in your honour. They believe in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere - get this right and all else will follow.

From the menu you can choose a baguette, a Laffa wrap or a salad. Then fill with a choice of Mediterranean chicken, Chicken Schnitzel, Halloumi, Steak, or Chorizo. Sauce options are Baraka sauce, Tahini, chimichurri or chilli. Believe me they are big portions! And they really are fresh and tasty. My chorizo wrap was a range of flavours from the soft sensual pork chorizo to the subtle heat of the chilli sauce. The Mediterranean chicken was steeped in the secret sauce, and it was sumptuous.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Chicken Schnitzel baguette

Wander down Artillery Lane and you may be lucky enough to be offered a taster outside. Judging from where I was sitting (at the window) the fast-moving queue, the number of passers-by tempted in, and the banter between the staff and the regular customers, shows Barraka is a 'blessing'.

In July you can get a 25% discount on the food at Barraka by voting for your favourite dish below. Go along for your very own gong! 

What gets your taste buds going? Vote for your favourite dish to reveal your perk from Barraka. Valid in July 2016 only

7 Artillery Lane, E1 7LP
Open: Mon-Fri 11am-9pm
Photos blatantly lifted from their website. Dead phone...

Friday, 1 July 2016

Tang London - Review

The best thing about living in London is that there is always something new, something unusual or something hidden away that can delight you and inspire you. Tang London is one of those. A newly opened noodle bar on Great Russell Street (just off Tottenham Court Road). The entrance is tucked away between the flashier VQ restaurant and the YMCA. Or, if like me, you can't read the street names for scaffolding, through the entrance of the St Giles's Hotel.


Head Chef Chen Ng, who was born in Singapore, and has worked her way through South East Asia, is the creative mind behind Tang. Commissioned by the patron of the hotel, she has recreated a noodle joint reminiscent of the traditional 'fast food' stall found all over the busy cities of SE Asia, and given it her own branding. High wooden benches, Chinese newsprint on the walls, framed images of food-related scenes from the sub-continent, colourful noodle bowls on shelves and as a focal point, an open kitchen where Chen herself cooks each dish to order.

The menu is concise, but covers everything. If you are familiar with ramen, then Chen's Tang Bowls are a lighter, less creamy version - bowls of comfort, incorporating specialist Chinese herbs and spices. For gluten-free and dairy-free diners, the two starters are coated in rice flour/cornflour batter and deep fried. Vegetarians too are catered for. Black bean tofu. Ever heard of it? Regular tofu, meh... this stuff is awesome. The texture is like fluffy clouds. Served with a white miso sauce, this dish alone is enough reason to visit. The other starter is chicken marinaded in soy milk (again, a shout-out for the lactose intolerant) and served with a homemade chilli sauce, or a lemon tofu dip.

Fried Chicken with hot sauce
Black bean tofu with white miso sauce

The Tang Bowls are then served in beautiful noodle bowls (try not to knock them off the shelf in your excitement!). A choice of prawn, chicken, mushroom or rice again caters for all tastes, and you can make any dish gluten-free by choosing glass or rice noodles, though wheat noodles are also on offer. Each protein comes with its own broth and an array of Asian vegetables and a 6 minute egg.

Chicken Tang with rice noodles

Prawn Tang with glass noodles

Lunch times are particularly busy and Tang is well suited to theatre goers in a hurry, with takeaway available too. Craft beers and house wine are carefully selected to complement the food. If you stumble upon this new hidden gem, do let me know in the comments below what you think.

And if you fancy a little something afterwards, perhaps a cocktail or four in Hudson's bar in the hotel next door... or maybe that's just me!

111 Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3NQ
Starters £4.50-5, Tang Bowls £10-12, Bottle of wine £22.
Open Tue-Sun 12-10pm
 Professional Images courtesy of Crisp Media.

Square Meal

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Old Bull and Bush Pub, North Hampstead - Review

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than strolling around a sunny Hampstead Heath followed by a sumptuous late pub lunch? Or, in our case, a morning frantically finishing homework, followed by an overheated car stalling on Hampstead Way and a sumptuous late pub lunch?
I was invited to try out the new spring/summer menu at the Old Bull and Bush, between Golders Hill Park and the Hampstead Heath extension - not far from the famed Spaniards Inn where it is notoriously difficult to get a table on the weekend.

The Old Bull and Bush is a modernized traditional British pub, with cosy corners, comfy armchairs, and when it's not so sunny, an open fire. The décor both in the bar and in the dining room has been recently refurbished to give a modern airy feel with calming greys and high ceilings, and beautiful tall windows, particularly prominent in the dining room with enormous bay window seating areas. Outside seating at the front offers canopies and comfort to tempt those wishing to prolong the sunny outdoor feeling.


Dining Room

On a Sunday, the menu offers a variety of Roasts, including a nut roast, with the most enormous Yorkshire puddings! Ample portions, with mini versions available for the kids (though the Yorkies are just as big). However we were here to try out the new menu so...

We arrived soon after 3pm, and it was still busy post-lunch. By the time we left it was nice and calm again, so the later the lunch, the better. A crisp and refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio was essential to start proceedings. To start, I chose Deep-Fried Somerset Brie in panko breadcrumbs with apricot and cumin chutney. Creamy cheese with a crispy edge and the sweetness of the chutney worked well. Himself had the pan-fried Tiger Prawns with sweet chilli and ginger sauce. Messy, but full of zing and flavour. The kids' meals were served, on request, at the same time as our starters. The brioche burger was a good size, served with skinny fries (lettuce and tomato removed immediately!). Some of these were swapped in the interest of fairness with the carrot sticks served with the chicken breast strips with warm tortilla. The chicken itself was a little dry and crusty, and the lemon yogurt unfortunately was immediately refused - kids, eh?
Pan-fried Tiger Prawns; Deep-fried Somerset Brie
9oz 28-day-aged Rib-eye Steak with Peppercorn Sauce; Duck Leg confit and Waffle
Duck and Waffle; Glazed Lemon Tart; Chocolate Brownie with vanilla ice cream

Duck and Waffle is so famous now (in the food world anyway) I couldn't resist ordering OB&B's version. A sweet, yes, sweet, crispy waffle topped with greens, honey-roasted pineapple rings, and a confit leg of duck. The meat was tender and meltingly delicious, though most of it was scoffed by a small person across the table. Delicious sweet potato fries garnished with Parmesan finished the dish and although it was unusually sweet for a main, I really enjoyed it. Did I mention the sweetness? Himself went into summer holiday mode and ordered steak with peppercorn sauce. He polished it off after begrudgingly offering me a small piece to taste, so I take it it was fairly tasty!

It suddenly went quiet when dessert arrived. Chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, and two scoops of caramel ice cream. Mmmm. We grown-ups shared a glazed lemon tart, served with a raspberry coulis, whipped cream and edible flowers. Beautiful. And also, delicious.

Glazed Lemon Tart
OB&B also serve a range of fruity cocktails, from only £6.50, an extensive wine list (including magnums of specially selected wine and fizz), craft beers, refreshing ciders and premium gins with limited edition twists.

Gin&Tonic Twists

Classic G&T

I would recommend booking a table if visiting on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It would be pure luck to grab a table after just strolling in off the Heath. Service was efficient though, so if you didn't mind a few drinks at the bar first...

North End Way
Mon-Sat 11am-11pm
Sun 12pm-10pm

Food Served Mon-Sat 12-10pm, Sun 12pm-9pm

Dinner for four (2 adults, 2 children) incl. drinks: ~£100

Thanks to Mitchells&Butler PR for images.

The Old Bull & Bush Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal

Friday, 17 June 2016

Taste of London 2016

Taste of London runs in Regent's Park from June 15-19th. I popped along on Thursday 16th with Karen from StemAndGinger for a pop at some of the best food and drink our fabulous city has to offer. Whilst waiting at the tube station I spotted a few well-known faces like Valentine Warner and Michael Portillo (that renowned foodie!?) heading to the Purple Garden, and inside a wealth of talented chefs, restaurateurs and food loving fans.

The park is laid out with purple carpet and all the stalls and staff are colour co-ordinated! It's certainly not just-another-food-festival. Daily changing menus from a stellar list of London's top restaurants, our finest bars serving artisan beverages, and masterclasses from world class chefs are all here to tickle your taste buds and tempt all tastes. Here are my best bits:


I love this place. I've visited their King's Cross restaurant as well as their Bankside launch and even took at sherry flight at Bar Pepito. Fantastic authentic tapas with each drink, superb wines, and on site Iberico ham charcuterie carving.


The Cinnamon Club

A mango shrikhand (that's Sanskrit for 'curd') with summer berries and cardamom meringue from this renowned Indian restaurant. Beautifully presented dishes with fantastic flavours.

The Cinnamon Club

Duck and Waffle

We all long to frequent the D&W on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. I've yet to have the pleasure, but bumping into Dan Doherty himself it's only a matter of time - he's a thoroughly down to earth guy and made us feel super special.

Dan Doherty - thankfully not dressed as a mackerel today
AEG Taste Theatre and School of Wok

We certainly couldn't pass by these guys without saying hello. Chef Nev gave an inspiring and informative masterclass where we got to cook up (and then eat!) spiced roasted quail, steamed scallops and lettuce cups with prawns. Chef Jeremy walked amongst the wokkers, luckily for me (too much oil!) giving tips and guidance. Awesome goody bag too!

Sipsmith Gin

Charming boys tempted us in to sample a crystal clear and crisp gin with tonic - a classic, as well as a gorgeous sloe gin with lemon tonic. Quirky and cool, proper artisan gin, copper-distilled from right here in London.

Sipsmith Gin


With restaurants in Aldwych and Canary Wharf, Roka is an award winning Japanese restaurant. Melt in your mouth barbecued pork make you want to sushi-fy all your barbecues from now on...


Chase Distillery

Based in Hereford, this family-run distillery offer field to bottle award winning vodka. We can totally recommend the rhubarb with ginger concoction...

Chase Distillery

Avant-Garde Theatre

Whilst sipping our rhubarb vodka cocktail we watched Monica Galetti sporting her new peroxide crop, whip up some sort of apricot parfait, making it look super easy, whilst explaining her tattoos (Samoan traditions) and her busy busy schedule.

Monica Galetti

Mr Fogg's Safari Camp

A lavish colonial pop-up serving Gin&Tonic and wonderfully refreshing cocktails with hilarious names. The light and airy tent houses eclectic décor, vintage paraphernalia and staff dressed in proper colonial khaki with obligatory safari hats. We sure had a Frikan Good Time here!

Mr Fogg's Safari Camp


No better time to bring out the Pimms teapot!

Anyone for Pimms?

Meringue Girls

These girls are everywhere! Always beautifully presented, always delicious. Our coconut and raspberry brownie was the perfect sweet finish to the day.

Meringue Girls
Overall a great day - rain or shine, wellies or sandals, Taste is a great day out. If nothing else, check out the loos - the cleanest, nicest-smelling portaloos I've ever seen, with vintage wallpaper and scented hand cream. As with any restaurant, if the loos are good, then the restaurant must be too.

Taste Of London continues this weekend - June 15-19.

Can't wait for next year!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Pennethorne's Cocktail Bar at Somerset House - Review

I seem to be going cocktail-crazy lately. From New York SATC tours and Soho basement bars to homemade attempts, it's been fun experimenting. Now, I believe I have found my newest favourite cocktail bar here in London town: Pennethorne's at Somerset House. Not only are the cocktails absolutely delicious, but they also serve tapas dishes, and you can enjoy it all on an alfresco terrace. The cobbled courtyard is nestled in the grounds of the new West Wing of Somerset House, between the Strand and Waterloo Bridge. With the Thames just over your shoulder, this little Victorian haven is one for Londoners in the know.

The terrace at Pennethorne's
Photo courtesy of Crisp Media

I was invited along to sample the new Spring menu and the eponymous cocktails. A beautiful Thursday evening in London, the iconic Somerset House set the scene for this elegant bar in the West Wing. Named for the architect whose Victorian designs can be found all over our city, Pennethorne's interior has high ceilings, inky dark walls, arched windows and décor inspired by Pennethorne's Grand Tour of Europe. Outside on the cobbled courtyard, the bustling West End not a stone's throw away, the secluded setting has a cosy Victorian vibe where you can enjoy alfresco cocktails away from the usual tourist trails and the river breeze.

Greeted by Mercedes, a name in keeping with the opulence of the bar, we walked through several champagne-swilling parties to our leather and velvet banquette. Mercedes, and the bar manager, Jo, treated us like VIPs all evening, recommending cocktail after cocktail and presenting us with a tapas-style feast representing their artisan menu inspired by Pennethorne's travels to Spain, Italy and France. Not usually a huge fan of olives or mushrooms, I'm now converted. The gordal olives were soft and flavourful while the mushroom toast had recently been taken off the menu, but so many regulars demanded it back it's now featured again. And it's easy to see why, all the food is simply cooked with seasonal ingredients and presented beautifully, tasting delicious.
Ham and cheese croquettes melt in the mouth, while the soft centred eggs are complemented beautifully by Spanish bacon. The frittata, though slim, is packed with flavour and more than filling.
One of the cheeses has a red wine skin. Need I say anymore?

Cheese platter, Meat platter with chutney, eggs with Iberico ham, bruschetta, mushroom toast, ham and cheese croquettes, frittata, and gordal olives - just some of the delicious menu on offer at Pennethorne's for Spring.
Bacon and Egg, Pennethorne's style
Photo courtesy of Crisp Media

The real reason we were here, of course, was for the cocktails. There were many post-work people supping champagne, there was a couple enjoying a wine flight and there was craft beer on tap. But we were here for some classic elegant drinks. First up was the Somerset and The Royale. Vanilla Galliano, Lemon, Passoa, Passionfruit and Pineapple served in a coupe glass and garnished with an edible flower was the Somerset - sweet, fruity and slightly fizzy. The Royale was a twist on the classic, with Martini Bianco, Peach Vodka, Strawberry Liqueur, Chocolate Bitters and Prosecco, again with an edible flower to give it a real sophistication. Both delicious.
The ever-attentive Mercedes took the liberty of bringing us the second round, this time The Herbalist and Lavender Fields. The Herbalist was fruity but with a kick of cracked black pepper and garnished with fresh coriander - made with in-house infused coriander gin and strawberry liqueur. Lavender Fields was fresh and fizzy, with Bombay Sapphire gin, green tea, fresh apple juice, ginger syrup, and lavender bitters. On top, of course, a purple flower.

Somerset, The Royale; The Herbalist, Lavender Fields;
The Herbalist, Lavender Fields; The Strand, El Patron

The Somerset
Photo courtesy of Crisp Media
For dessert, Pennethorne's just serve cocktails. My kind of dessert! Instead of calorific stodgy sweet pudding, we were treated to two more cocktails, as recommended by Mercedes, and once we tasted them, we could see why they were the perfect end to a meal, and no better substitute for dessert. El Patron was made with Coffee Patron, coconut rum, Amaretto, pineapple and chocolate bitters. All the elements you need in a dessert, creamy and sweet, looking like a cute Guinness in a martini glass, tasting like chocolate pudding in liquid form. The final cocktail, The Strand, finished the evening off perfectly, a blend of whiskey, cassis, homemade honey syrup, walnut bitters and ginger ale. A nightcap before heading back out to a bustling Thursday evening in Covent Garden.

Without a doubt I will be returning to Pennethorne's, both for the food and for the cocktails. The exclusivity of the bar and the Victorian vibe of the courtyard in the sunshine makes it one of those hidden gems that we who live in London love to about, but can't keep it a secret.

Huge thanks to Mercedes and the rest of the staff for having us.

Pennethorne’s, The New Wing, Somerset House, London WC2R 1LA

Monday to Friday, 8am to late, Saturday 10am to late (closed Sundays)
Food served from 5.30pm

Cocktails £8.50-11
Tapas Dishes £5-7
Meat or Cheese Platters £12.50

Read my review for Fabric Magazine here.

Pennethorne's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal