Sunday, 26 July 2015

Tayyabs, Whitechapel - Restaurant Review

'The Lamb Chops,' he said. 'The best lamb chops ever.' Well, yes. They were... really, really, really good. I wouldn't usually go for Indian and order lamb chops. But at Tayyabs, you must. They're delicious. With some secret Indian ingredient, they are succulent and spicy and you just have to forget your Western manners and gnaw every bit of the meat off the bone.

Located on Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel, this traditional Punjabi restaurant is a destination restaurant. Off the beaten track from tourists, the place is packed with businessmen, city boys and, most importantly, lots of 'locals' - Asian families. The staff are brusque and efficient, they have no time to be friendly and chatty, too busy dealing with hundreds of customers. After only a few minutes of queuing, we were seated and had ordered, and everything arrived as it was ready. 

    A great range of starters. The absence of onion bhajis had me wondering how to compare and contrast with all my other favourite Indian restaurants, but this meant I got to try five different starters, and I could have kept eating them all night. Chicken Tikka, lamb chops (of course), paneer Tikka, Samosas and Pakoras. Some of the mains arrived before the paneer, but we didn't mind, we were hungry.  

Spicy pappadoms, chicken Tikka, lamb chops.
The main course selection was relatively limited, consisting of karahi dishes, different meat versions of this traditional Punjabi cooking method, so chicken, chicken keema, lamb (gosht), and Dhaal. But somehow they were all distinctive and all tasted delicious. A range of sides, vegetable dishes and sizzling dishes also caused much head-turning and 'mmmm, wish we'd ordered that too.' I loved the dishes they were served on, black shallow Balti-type dishes. Luckily for them, they didn't fit in my handbag... 

Main courses
 The food at Tayyabs is fresh and delicately spiced, and seems to be as authentic as any Indian food I've tried in London. You can tell it's a family run business, who care about the food, and are just focusing on getting their food out to their customers who are all clamouring to eat it. Bring your own alcohol (and openers!) if you wish, as Tayyabs serve only soft drinks and complimentary water by the bottle.

Fennel mixture, to aid digestion. And retain the flavour in your mouth for the rest of the evening.

Excuse my rubbish photos, I was far too eager to eat...

83-89 Fieldgate Street
London E1 1JU
Tel: 020 7247 9543 /020 7247 6400 /020 7247 8521 

Dinner for four, no alcohol: ~£65

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Friday, 24 July 2015

Disco Ball Birthday Cake

 My littlest one turned 9 last week. Every year I say it, and I'll say it again, where on earth does the time go? This year's party was a garden/pool/disco for 14 girls. I know, what was I thinking... practically teenagers, they are. Crikey, I'm not sure I'm ready for this!
Disco Ball Cake
But this cake was reasonably easy. I made a 9" Victoria sponge, filled with vanilla buttercream. No strawberry jam, as strawberries tend to flare up my daughter's eczema. This layer was covered in raspberry pink fondant (which you would think would have a similar effect, but not so far). The disco ball I made by making a giant cupcake Victoria sponge, slicing and carving into a vague spherical shape, and then covering initially in silver fondant. Then I cut out millions of squares of white fondant, and stuck them on, starting with the middle line, and working my way around. On top I put a star shape to fit the last bit. Then I painted all this with silver colouring (similar to my Porsche cake) and sprinkled over plenty of edible glitter. The 9, the little stars and the lettering were hand cut and painted similarly.

Happy Birthday Little One.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A Naked Wedding Cake

Thank you to Roya and Dan for giving me the honour of making their wedding cake.
A challenge for sure. The first wedding cake I've ever attempted. Without a doubt, if the bride had wanted a perfect smooth shiny symmetrical cake, it would have been a no from me. But Roya's vision was for a naked cake, piled with fresh fruit and filled with fresh cream. 'I could do that,' I said. 'Would you?' she said. 'oh... okay then!'

So here it is. Four layers of cake. A 12" chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, topped with pecan nuts and blueberries, a nod to the American groom. A 10" Victoria sponge filled with strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream, topped with strawberries and raspberries. A 7" lemon drizzle cake filled with lemon buttercream. On top, a heart-shaped Persian love cake filled with fresh saffron and rosewater cream, sprinkled with chopped pistachios and rose petals. The bride's family are Iranian.

A little bit of edible glitter, a few Persian cupcakes and rosemary strewn around, and a hand made topper by Suzie, and I think they liked it...

All photos by Ian Rolfe Photography.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Chinese Unchopped - A Class with Jeremy Pang

Back to the School of Wok! I love it. I've learned such a lot there, from Jeremy et al., and Chinese food has been revolutionised for me. Who knew it would be just a few core techniques, key ingredients and lots and lots of chopping...?

Head Chef Jeremy Pang is an up-and-coming TV chef, running an award winning Oriental Cookery School, and now, author of Chinese Unchopped, authentic Chinese recipes, broken down into simple techniques.

 To go with the new book (which Jez has signed for me!) the School are putting on classes with Jeremy where he takes us through the crab claw (keeping your fingers out of harm's way whilst chopping and slicing), the Wok Clock (placing all your ingredients in clockwise order in preparation for the stir fry part), and wok tossing (cooking the fresh ingredients in lightning quick time).

Essentially, Chinese cooking is 90% prep, 10 % cooking. With ingredients like soy sauce (light and dark), sesame oil, spring onions and the infamous Chinese Five Spice (that's star anise, cinnamon, clove, fennel seeds, and one other spice (or five), which could be anything from chilli, garlic, ginger to Sichuan pepper, or all of them!), authentic dishes can be cooked up with all the essentials, the cleaver, the wok, the slicing and dicing. Then the braising, the stir-frying, deep-frying and the roasting. Oh yes, those Peking ducks you see hanging in the window of Chinatown, double cooked - fried and roasted.

Chinese Unchopped: The Wok Clock
On the menu in this class are shiitake and Chinese chive dumplings, Sichuan braised aubergine, and black bean beef in beer. We begin by learning the secret of holding and handling a cleaver. Yes, a big choppy chopper Chinese cleaver you see in all the movies. I handled one of those. They are amazing. Sooooo sharp... Jez taught us how to hold the cleaver - relax those shoulders - and with the other hand, the crab claw, where the knuckles rest against the cleaver in such a way that you can never, ever, chop anything other than the ingredients!

Dumplings. An enigma? Now, with Jeremy's guidance, some dexterity and a really flavourful filling, deep fried gyozas are handmade. Some of the class showed more skill than others when it came to folding, but once cooked, those dumplings were delicious.

Cooking with the wok, we learned that the oil must be smoking hot, and to manoeuvre your ingredients so that you control the temperature. And you need to be quick. After all that prep, this is the crucial part. 
Shiitake Dumplings, Jeremy in action rolling dumpling pastry, using the Wok Clock, and Black Bean Beef with Beer.

Jez is an excellent teacher. He talks like he writes. He writes like he talks, From chatting to him and then following his guidance in the class, taking the Chinese Unchopped cookbook  home, it feels as though you have his handwritten instructions with which to make all your favourite Chinese dishes. And I can't wait to get stuck in.

All recipes are in the book Chinese Unchopped, and classes can be booked online at The School of Wok. Big thanks to the team at the School.

Hello to fellow foodies Rosie and Mylen

Read my article for Fabric Magazine, here.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Lemon Chicken with Soy Dressed Vegetables - Recipe

A super quick, super easy, super delicious supper you can whip up from next to nothing. It tastes delicious and feels extremely healthy, and with no carbs to speak of, you can file it under your list of virtuous meals.

Lemon Chicken with soy dressed veg
Serves 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
For the lemon chicken:
1 egg white
2 tsp cornflour
Pinch salt
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
Sunflower or rapeseed oil
For the sauce:
2 tsp cornflour
6 tbsp cold water
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice 1 lemon
1 tbsp soy sauce (I use Kikkoman, always!)
2 tsp sherry vinegar
2 tsp sugar
For the vegetables:
Broccoli, courgette, pepper, whatever you have, chopped
2 tbsp rice vinegar (or mirin)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sugar
Lightly beat the egg white with the cornflour and salt. Coat the chicken strips in this mixture and set aside.
Prepare the lemon sauce by blending the cornflour with the water to a smooth paste. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir well.
Heat the oil in a wok (or a large saucepan) over a moderate heat. Shallow fry the coated chicken strips for about 2 minutes until lightly browned. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper. You may need to do this in batches.
In a clean pan, pour in the sauce mixture and bring to a boil over a high heat, stirring constantly until glossy and thick. Add in the cooked chicken and stir fry for about 2 minutes until tender and evenly coated in the sauce.
Meanwhile, stir-fry the veg for about 5-6 minutes until cooked to your liking.
In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. Pour over the veg near the end of the cooking time and toss together.
Serve and enjoy...
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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.