Saturday, 4 July 2015

Harissa Chicken with Rice and Lemon Zest - Recipe

 Today was Hot. This, my friends, is even hotter. I love it. It's a Moroccan/Middle Eastern style dish that is simple to prepare and tastes amazing. And doesn't take too long, which is great on a hot day when you haven't had a chance (or the motivation) to go to the shops. Store cupboard ingredients, and some chicken that's about to go off. The flavours are immense, and exotic, and different to typical Asian dishes (which I still love, don't get me wrong, folks!). I found a recipe in delicious. magazine that looked sort of like things I had in, so I de-healthified it and ate far too much, with plenty of white wine.

As ever, my photography skills leave a lot to be desired, but you know what, I was hungry...

Harissa Chicken with rice and lemon. Not Spiced Chicken with Quinoa and Lemon Zest.


4-5 chicken thighs
olive oil
1 tbsp harissa spice mix (Quay Ingredients brand - a powder rather than a paste) 
1 tsp chilli flakes
3 fresh chillies, chopped
1 red onion, sliced
Handful asparagus tips
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Pinch salt
200 g rice
1 red/green pepper, chopped finely
Handful raisins
Zest 1/2 lemon
Handful fresh coriander, chopped
Juice 1 lemon


Heat the oven to 180 C. Place the chicken in a oven proof bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Season, and sprinkle over the harissa spice mix, chilli flakes, and fresh chilli, mix, and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice. One cup of rice, two cups of water. Cover. Bring to the boil then turn off the heat and allow it to cook without removing the lid.

Sauté the onions in oil, over a medium heat, until soft. About half way, add in the asparagus. When the onions are soft, add the cinnamon, cumin, garlic and salt and fry for 2-3 mins. Add the cooked rice and chopped peppers, and mix together. Take off the heat.

Stir in the raisins, lemon zest, coriander and lemon juice.

Place the rice mixture on a dish, and top with the cooked chicken. Drizzle over the cooking juices, and sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Eat and enjoy...
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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Chocolate Masterclass with Godiva

It's Wimbledon! Even for a non-sports fan like me, getting swept along with all the kerfuffle of tennis is inevitable at this time of year. Nice to see Federer as part of the furniture and pin our hopes on Andy doing it again. For the ladies, I'm watching Caroline Wozniacki this year. Simply cos I met her at a recent Chocolate Masterclass at Harrods, and she seemed like a nice girl!

Fabric Magazine sent me along to join in with Godiva's chief chocolatier Jean Apostolou showcasing some new chocolates available only for a limited time - Wimbledon! They are named for Caroline, and taste like strawberries and cream on the inside. Caroline is the new ambassador for Godiva Chocolates. Lucky lucky girl.

Caroline, by Godiva
Caroline Wozniacki
Photo courtesy of LuxxPR
But back to why I was there. To make sweet things. Chef Jean had prepared some biscuit bases, and we were given strawberry mousse (50% white chocolate, 50% butter, flavoured with fresh strawberries to taste. Blended and left overnight. Whipped up to the correct consistency just before use). This was piped inside the biscuits, and then they were dipped in tempered chocolate and allowed to stand until dry. While standing, Chef Jean showed us how to pipe pretty little flowers on top with a small flower nozzle and more mousse. Then sprinkles to decorate. Simple.
But I expect the preparation took all morning!

My efforts at creating strawberry mousse filled treats
The longer biscuits were also dipped in chocolate, and then allowed to dry on transfer sheets, so that golden lettering adhered to the chocolate. Looked very professional. The lettering is made from cocoa butter and coloured with natural colourings, in this case turmeric. I may have placed them the wrong way though...

An altogether enjoyable afternoon, sipping Champagne, and munching on these chocolate-dipped strawberries - Godiva's signature summer treat. Yum.

Thanks to Fabric Magazine and Godiva Chocolates. Good Luck at Wimbledon, Caroline.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Rose Cupcakes - Recipe

Quite often I rustle up some cupcakes, vaguely following a simple recipe and then decorate them so they are pretty. And then just post the picture. For these Rose Cupcakes, I had quite a few compliments from friends who tasted them at the kids' Summer School Fete, so I thought, why not share the recipe? Simple things are sometimes best. That's not to say they will please everyone of course - I know of a three-year-old who liked the look of them, but not the taste, sadly! Ah well. (Sorry Rosie!)

Rose Cupcakes


Makes 12


For the cupcakes:

140 g butter
140 g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp rosewater (depending on taste)
2 large eggs
200 g self-raising flour, sifted

For the icing (this makes way more than you need - in fact one batch made enough for 24 cupcakes):

225 g butter
1 tbsp double cream (or milk)
350 g icing sugar
1 tsp rosewater
Rose pink food colouring, as you wish

For decoration:

Pink sprinkles
Edible rose petals


Line a muffin/cupcake tin with paper cases.

Place all the ingredients for the cupcakes in your mixer one at a time and beat until soft and fluffy.

Using an ice-cream scoop (or a spoon is fine!), fill the cupcake cases two-thirds full.

Bake at 190 C for about 15 minutes, then check they are done with a skewer, it should come out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool.

For the icing, beat together all the ingredients, for about 10 minutes until very smooth - adding just enough pink colouring a little at a time to get the colour you want. 

Using a large star nozzle, pipe the roses - start at the centre and work out (you can easily find a tutorial online - it's really easy I promise!).

Then decorate as you wish with sprinkles and/or rose petals.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Ask for Janice, Farringdon - Restaurant Review

I have found my favourite cocktail. It's taken years of research and much trial and error but here it is:

Hey Ladies. 
It's 'Breakfast tea infused Beefeater Gin, Creme de Figue, lemon, fig jam, egg white, Prosecco top, and a sherbet rim.'
It's beautiful. It's delicious. It's sweet. It's got everything I love - Prosecco, gin, lemon and some sweeeet sherbet. Mission accomplished.

Hey Ladies; 3 Minute Rule.

At Ask For Janice in Farringdon, there is a new Spring menu and a whole host of newly created cockatils, mostly featuring one or more of their 40+ gins. I tried both the Hey Ladies and the 3 Minute Rule. I had to try them again...

The restaurant on street level looks out onto Smithfield Market, and is only a few minute's walk from the Barbican (the tube station and the actual Barbican). It opened only last year, and I don't know who Janice is, nor did I ask for her, but she has created a fantastic menu featuring locally sourced seasonal ingredients, some even foraged in Hackney. I had some crispy fried wild garlic flower - delicious. Like some kind of tempura batter, but seeming healthy as it's totally natural and wild inside. With those amazing cocktails, they are beautifully complementary.
Crisp Pork Crackling with sloe cider jelly; Wild Garlic Flower Fritters; Cod Cheeks with braised Fennel; Asparagus salad with Somerset ricotta and hazelnuts.
Another starter/nibble worth the visit is the pork crackling. Crisp, really crisp, served with a sticky cider jelly. The perfect snack to whet your appetite for the rest of the menu, which is all billed as British, with a modern creative twist. All seasonal, all locally sourced. All delicious.
There was asparagus salad with Somerset ricotta and hazelnuts, cod cheeks with braised wild fennel and lemon - again very more-ish, and marinated flank steak with Young Buck blue cheese. So tender and so tempting.

For dessert Ask For Janice has taken the traditional British dessert Poor Knights of Windsor and turned it into the Farrindgon version - a brandy-soaked walnut bread and butter pudding, with caramelized peaches, served with custard. Not too sweet and not too stodgy, the perfect end to a meal.

Poor Knights of Farrindgon

The basement bar at Ask For Janice is a laid back, trendy area where you can choose from a gin list, a wine list, and a cocktail list. You can even hire it out for private events. Did I mention the Hey Ladies? Go and try it. It's wonderful.

50-52 Long Lane

020 7600 2255

Read my review on behalf of Love Food Love Drink magazine here.

Ask For Janice on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Made in Brasil Boteco, Camden - Restaurant Review

Wednesday evening. Hump day. It's time to head on down to Camden Town and chill in the Brazilian vibe of Made in Brasil Boteco. One of Camden's latest openings, a sister to the Made in Brasil beach shack style Brazilian restaurant on Inverness St, this favela-style cachacaria is perfect for an authentic taste of Rio.

Caipirinhas - classic and lychee. Mazzaropi and Floripa Martini
The cocktail list is awesome. Brazil's national spirit Cachaca, is mixed with sugar and muddled with fresh lime over ice to make a classic Caipirinha. There are many version of this classic on offer, including lychee, passionfruit, and a chilli raspberry caipirinha. The cocktail list doesn't just restrict itself to caipirinhas, but many other delicious and refreshing beverages including a Floripa Martini, and the Mazzaropi, both Brazilian, as well as all your usual cocktails from around the world.

Frango a passarinho, Camarao na morango, Beringela 'a parmegiana', Acarajé, Bolinho de arroz.
The petiscos were amazing. Already a Spanish tapas fan, now I find that the Portuguese or Brazilian version is every bit as good. If not better. (I didn't say that - Tapas, I still love you.) From the traditional street food dishes such as bolinhos (dumplings) and coxinha (chicken pastries) to creamed pumpkin prawns (served in the pumpkin skin) and the genius pasta-less aubergine lasagna, a few seemingly small dishes were more than enough for two of us. The problem being, we need to go back to try the rest!  

Cheesecake de maracuja, Pudim de leite

Desserts. A must. Even for non-dessert fans. The passionfruit cheesecake is really, really, REALLY superb. A Brazilian créme caramel also made the cut, all food beautifully washed down with a bottle of Vinho Verde. The wine list isn't long, I have to say, but with a Carnival (geddit?) of more than palatable cocktails, you won't even notice.

Brazilian music, eclectic decor and most helpful friendly staff, next time you're in Camden, go and taste the Caipirinhas.

48 Chalk Farm Road

020 7267 4868

Dinner for two with wine (AND cocktails!) ~£75

Read my review on behalf of Love Food Love Drink magazine here.

Made in Brasil Boteco on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Monday, 20 April 2015

Piñata Cake

Pinata Cake. So much fun! Not so much that you have to whack the cake with a stick, but when you slice it, out fall loads of sweeties! This worked really well for a little afternoon tea party, celebrating some birthdays. Some of the kids, I knew, weren't really cake eaters, so I thought this would be the perfect compromise - cake AND sweets...

Pinata Cake - before
 It didn't take long and was simpler to make than it looks. I used Annie Bell's Classic Tearoom Chocolate Victoria Sponge and was helped in the technique by I Should Be Mopping the Floor (which, to be fair, I should have done afterwards!). 
Pinata Cake - after
The kids' faces were so funny, full of surprise and ultimately delight! Well worth the effort.

Pinata Cake

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Fiery Goan Curry by The Spice Tailor

It is my privilege to be a member of the Guiding Panel for the Spice Tailor, which simply means that, once in a while, they'll send me a sample of one of their products. Yay! Nothing better on a night when all you want to do is eat, drink and relax. Now I'm a huge advocate of cooking from scratch, and Indian food is one of my favourites for making when I've got time and guests to impress. I usually scoff at people who say they've cooked a curry and then reveal they've just used a packet sauce or a jar. But the Spice Tailor is different. Yes, it's convenient, yes, it's out of a packet (or three), and yes, it's far too quick to be believable. But yet, it works. It's something I would serve to friends. And I'm not just saying that because it was free.

It comes with a little package of whole spices, I'm guessing there was a chilli, cardamom, curry leaves, black peppercorns, and cloves. First of all, these are fried for 30 seconds. Next, you chuck in your meat - I used chicken breast chunks. Browned for a few minutes, then I threw in some peppers and courgettes, followed by the base sauce. This, I trust, was made up of onions, and probably garlic, ginger, chillies, maybe vinegar, and some spices, with perhaps some tomato paste. A couple of minutes of simmering and then the main sauce is added - a mixture of tomatoes and more spices I reckon. Who knows? But the smell as you add the base sauce is wonderful and makes you feel as though you've made something special already. The packets are so easy to rip open (no scissors necessary) and add in, and it's so quick to finish off, with a sprinkle of fresh coriander and a shop-bought naan bread grilled for a few minutes with some honey and desiccated coconut.
A palate-warming taste explosion, indeed. With a name like 'Fiery' I would have expected it to be hotter, but that's probably just me and my chilli-addiction. I expect you could add more as you wish! I will definitely stock up on some Spice Tailor sauces - 'distinctive and intense' - and have them on hand for those evenings when you really need an authentic tasting, home-cooked curry. In literally 15 minutes. All you need to add is the meat and/or vegetables. Result!
Fiery Goan Curry