Shoreditch: Overrated or a gem?

I have been so out of touch lately its ridiculous. I had always intended to  post on a weekly basis but like everyone in London, I have a never ending to do list and it doesn’t make much room for blogging. Recently I read ‘The Happiness Project’ and It told me to make time for things I enjoy. So here I am.

I went for a nice day trip on one of the odd sunny days in london to Shoreditch Brick Lane. Whilst a Londoner, I never trek to the East as it’s just a bit of a mission from the western outskirts of Ealing Broadway. Feeling a much needed change of tempo I went to Brick Lane, home of hippies, grungies, trendsetters and cliched it people, the vibe is so different to the west thats populated by families, conservative businessman and greenery.

Walking through Brick Lane I couldn’t help but question whether Shoreditch was just too overrated for its own good. Overpriced nic-nacs, fake vintage (last time I checked M&S was not vintage clothing piece) and crowded walkways… but still it was definitely a pleasant change. I came solely for the food market that nestles within a walkway off the main stretch, The Old Truman Brewery.

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Verdict? It has character, but it tries to hard. Just like the people who populate it.

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Six Dinners Later… Nourishing Lives

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All images rights and owned by Six Dinners Later limited.

 I just had to write about Six Dinners Later… (www.sixdinnerslater.com) I have just started out working as their community manager and I am already so passionate about the brand I feel like so many more people could benefit from knowing about who it is and what it does!

For me its so close to home. I’ve spent years in cosmopoliton London as a child trying to find a circle of friends in school, but always found I was always an outsider. I wasn’t asian enough to spend time with the hard workers of the class, not careless enough about my future to be part of the more rebellious crowd. I felt there was no middle ground to position myself in, that I just felt lonely. I wanted to have friends and work hard, I wanted it all but I felt like there was no one like me. I moved to Turkey and I suffered further, with an identity crisis in which I wasn’t turkish enough to spend time with local turkish friends, my mixed race led me to feel like I didn’t belong. I still struggle to find my footing today, awkward meetups, jobs and situations to try and find just one more person to connect with.

Six Dinners Later resonated so well because it was built by Janey, who decided on the concept because she felt a missing piece too. Its all too common to feel alone in a crowd, especially in a city like London. Unfortunately traditional methods to deal with this problem just don’t exist anymore.

Six Dinners Later makes it possible to find people through their website, but then build a friendship offline, by being hosted or hosting dinners with others. Now this just calls to the foodie in me as well as the desire to find some true friendships. I don’t need to date, I have a partner, and I don’t want to go clubbing with strangers, this is the closest thing to pure organic friendship finding that I can see…

I truly recommend the experience. They are more than a business, they are people who really want to nourish peoples lives, feed peoples soul with food and good conversation. Check them out! www.sixdinnerslater.com

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Harley.

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Completely unrelated to food and travel, but I just couldn’t resist! Meet Harley, our 9 week old puggle puppy. That’s a pug x a beagle cross if your asking.

Got her a week ago, shes now the love of our life. She waddles about in our garden, affectionately follows us around and kisses us like no tomorrow. We have warmed to her so quickly and in her presence I love my partner so much more. The tv episode where a man parades a puppy for the women to come flocking, well that has more than an ounce of truth to it. My boyfriend wakes up in the morning to visit Harley in the sitting room saying “Morning gorgeous” and I just melt inside.

For all the friends who say It’s in preparation.. SLOW DOWN! 6 years together and no closer to baby talk. To be honest, there are days with Harley that make me reconsider the idea of a family. I love her to bits, but she can be a pain in my ass. For the people who think a puppy is easy it is like a baby, in fact, babies may be easier! Listen to the adverts that say a pet is not just for christmas, because you probably have not mentally prepared for the first stages of a puppy.

The sleepless nights, the huge amount of doggy poop, the training… It is amazing how quickly they learn and what a joy it is to see her develop. In a period of 1 week she went from only walking one step in fear to running up and down like its nothing, from fear of plastic bottles to playing with them, from not being able to be unattended to us leaving with not a peep of worry. But as confidence and curiousity builds so does naughtiness.. biting, clawing, running away, cheeky resilience to your commands..

This little bundle of joy is the best little nightmare we’ve ever had 🙂

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Tenerife, The life of the party.

Tenerife, a haven for the drunk and slutty, the holiday location for the brits who enjoy a foreign destination but with nothing foreign about it but the consistent sunshine, the go to piss up for lads and ladies on tour before they tie the knot. This location is not for people who want culture, tradition, native cuisine but it is good for brits who want a little sunshine and see chinese takeaway and chips as their ultimate daytime fix.

All this negativity aside it is a nice place, the hotels are cheap and the drinks a ridiculously cheap, the bars are just giving it away! If you like a good boozer it is for you. Honestly the foodie in me craved something a little more authentic, and sun a bit stronger but I can’t complain for £350 for a week all-inclusive! One can’t complain about the ongoing deal of 5 Euros for 2 drinks a shot and cava. Just wear blinkers on your eyes to keep yourself unaware of the trashy bar names (TRAMPS) and the pushy bar promo teams that hover on the main Las Americas Bar stretch. We stayed slap bang in the middle of the madness close to the strip so we absorbed ourselves in the culture. We ate and drank galor and I am embarrassed to say I succumed to one dreadfully drunk night on my first night there, no regrets.

We went on a girls on tour kinda holiday, so tenerife seemed appropriate and before arrival I had myself fully prepared on what sort of place tenerife was going to be, however some were not aware so were slightly shocked on arrival. I have to say the innate adventure and culture craving within us led us to try doing some very brit-hol things which we did enjoy. We went to the monkey park, where we petted monkeys, whale-watching which was amazing and on the last night found a lovely tapas on the seafront (after alot of searching!!!) that fulfilled our need for good spaniard food.

Was a lovely trip, but either I wish we had got more on board with the ‘Girls on tour’ spirit or alternatively chosen a location that was hotter and had more to do other than drink n eat. But relaxing holiday it was, and boy I needed it:)

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The Art of Manliness: Bleu cheese and Teriyaki Meatball Sandwich

This recipe is soooo good I had to share, Art of Manliness, a manly sandwich well done!

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The Bleu Cheese & Teriyaki Meatball by Ben

When I saw this entry I didn’t even have to think about whether this would make my cut. I knew it would. Meatballs, two kinds of cheeses, an English muffin. It combines all my favorite things! Can it live up to the hype I’ve created, though?

The Ingredients

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  • English muffin
  • Bleu cheese dressing
  • Swiss cheese
  • Teriyaki meatballs (couldn’t find pre-teriyaki-flavored ones as Ben recommended, so I bought meatballs and sauce and mixed them together)

THE BETTER WAY: Fresh homemade lamb mince meatballs marinaded in teriyaki marinade and sticky sauce and real blue cheese!

Step 1: Toast and Schmear the Muffin with Dressing

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Toast the English muffin and “give each side a thorough schmear” with the bleu cheese dressing.

Step 2: Get the Meatballs Ready

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I believe Ben used some leftover teriyaki meatballs for his creation, but I didn’t have that convenience. I mixed together some cooked (in the microwave) beef meatballs with a good helping of teriyaki sauce. Did the job just fine, if I don’t say so myself.

Step 3: Put Meatballs on Muffin

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Place meatballs onto the muffin. I made two sandwiches, mainly because I was hungry. Ben suggested 4-5 per sandwich, and that’s exactly what I did. He also suggested cutting them in half, but they were small and tender enough that I figured I would be alright.

Step 4: Add Swiss and Top 

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Add a slice of Swiss cheese to the top, let it melt for a few seconds, and then top with the other half of your muffin.

Step 5: Enjoy!

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Original Source: Art of Manliness Blogpost

WeFeast

This urban food festival is great for understanding and introducing East London’s shabby-chic dining. Unlike many other festivals it is not about frilly food, michelin chefs and expensive bites. It speaks wonders about East London’s atmosphere. Trendy, urban and the hub of innovation and creativity this area is representative of a younger generation, people who have driven trend on upmarket food via home-style comfort cooking.

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It hosts the most famous restaurants in the district who for one weekend, gather together to give you a taste of what they are about. Shabby-sheek but still expensive, going to many of these restaurants would cost quite abit to go to all. Its a great opportunity to nibble at a wide array of food.

Hosted in tabacco docks, what sounds rather quirky and underground is actually a very elegant location, High ceilings, it is like a better lit and more glamorous version of Covent Garden Market place. I was quitesurprised on the size and the architecture that greeted me on entrance. Much more sheek than shabby I must say. On first glance I thought the event would be more like a fair but actually there was huge sums of seating, candlelit dining, wine bar and live music making it surprisingly romantic.

I got stuck in. I went my my partners sister and good friend, and we all had out ‘must have’ bites list at the ready. I knew what I wanted to try and went for it. Big Apple Hot Dogs, Pizza Pilgrims, Dishoom and Spit and Roast.

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Festival Pros and Cons.

Pros: Amazing setting and location, everything we ate was delicious, good fun and nice change from what you would usually get up to on a weekend.

Cons: I love strong flavours and choice, and what better place for choice but at a food festival? The only issue was the range was much more limited than I expected. Hotdog, fried chicken, Man n Cheese, burgers, pizza… I was hoping for a lot more depth and options in terms of what to eat. I felt alot of it were different versions of the same products. It was all american diner food. I expected a bit more choice in the types of cuisine offered. In that sense it was disappointing.

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Pizza Pilgrims has taken by storm as pop-up restaurants, street food and fresh grub are at the moment food fashion. They drive their van around the streets of london sharing their love for true italian pizza. I ordered the spicy pizza, which ended up too spicy for me, but it was fresh and delicious! (£6)

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Dishoom, the asian take on a pulled pork bun, with a pomergranite coleslaw and bombay chips, with a Indian Chai. My favourite dish! (£5)

Big Apple Hot Dogs: The Big Dog (£6)

Spit & Roast buttermilk fried chicken burger sliders (£3.50) … mmmm.

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Easter Sunday: A Meal Fit for Christmas

So I have my first day off this week, It’s easter sunday so the perfect time to make a home cooked meal. With it being sunday, what better than a traditional british roast dinner. As I have the whole day to plan the meal I decide why just cook a main? so whipping up my ingredients in the cupboard I also set to make a chocolate fondant with cream and caramel.

So I make my menu for the day:

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I started with my Honey Roast Parsnips and Fillet of Beef as I didn’t have enough space in the oven to cook my potatoes, parsnips, chicken and beef all at once.

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Fillet of Beef

First I prepared the beef. I started by covering my fillet in vegetable oil before searing it on a high heat on all sides. When It had a nice golden colouring, I placed it on foil on a roasting tray and seasoned it with salt and pepper and placed it in a fan oven at 170 degrees for 35 minutes (medium cooked).

Honey Roasted Parsnips

My Honey roast parsnips take 20 minutes on the same temperature (170 degrees) so I am to place them with the beef in the oven. I have 15 minutes to peel, cut and prepare my parsnips for the oven, before popping them in with the beef. After peeling and cutting into wedges i place my 2 chopped parsnips in a fryng pan with oil, and cook until colour changes. I then add a tbsp of sugar and a drizzle of honey, coat and then place in a dish to go in the oven. Note: Make sure if there is too much honey and oil at the bottom, do not place it in the oven with so much or it may go gooey instead of crisping up like want it to.

After 35 minutes remove the beef fillet and and parsnips. If the parsnips have not crisped, keep them in the oven for slightly longer.

During the waiting period between placing the parsnips in the oven and removing the filet of beef, prepare the roast potatoes and the chicken.

Roast Potatoes

The potatoes are next to go in the oven and because me and my partner wanted loads, we made a casserole dish worth so will have to put the chicken in after the potatoes are done. Alternatively, you can make less potatoes and cook them with the chicken. I will share both ways.

I peeled and chopped the potatoes into quarters.

1. I put them in seperately. To fasten the potato cooking process I took my casserole dish placed the prepared potatoes in the dish and covered with boiling water. I boiled until slightly cooked, and then drained.

I then placed butter and veg oil in the casserole dish on high heat and put the potatoes in and stirred. I add extra knob or two of butter and placed in the over until crisp and golden

2. Alternatively do it an easier and more traditional way and chop (part boil optional) and then place it around the chicken in the roasting tray after the chicken is preped. Add a drizzle of oil, but the chicken oils will also assist the roasting process. They can cook at the same time and come out together.

I cooked the potatoes and cracked on with prepping the chicken in the meantime.

Roast Chicken

To prep the chicken, I rinsed the chicken and then patted it dry. I then seasoned with salt and pepper and added fresh thyme sprigs to taste. I also cut a whole cloister of garlic to place on the tray and stuffed the bottom with an onion and garlic. I then waited for the potatoes to be done (or you could place them around the chicken if your going with option 2 and put the potatoes to cook with the chicken). Then placing the chicken to roast for 75mins.

The trick to getting crispy chicken skin

I took http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/My-Favorite-Simple-Roast-Chicken-231348 hints. usually I baste the chicken with butter before roasting but usually my chicken is tasty and cooked but lacks the beautiful crispy texture and shine of the chicken skin. As thats the best part I changed the way I cook it by not pre basting the chicken, basting it with some butter and juices nearer the end instead.

It is also why i rinsed and patted dry the chicken before cooking. The article suggests that pre basting, or not drying before seasoning makes the chicken retain moisture in the skin, stopping it from crisping during the cooking process.

I did not cover the chicken with foil, and even having dried out the skin, the inside of the chicken was the most tender I have ever managed to cook it!

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Dessert: Chocolate Fondant

Whilst my food was cooking I also had time to work on dessert!

I love the texture of chocolate fondant as the center is hot melted goodness. So delicious! I used Guardians http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/feb/10/how-cook-perfect-chocolate-fondants how to cook the perfect fondant for my recipe.

Makes 2

60g unsalted butter, cut into dice, plus extra to grease
1 tbsp cocoa powder
60g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
60g caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour

I buttered the inside of 2 small ramekins and then put the cocoa in one and turn it to coat the inside, holding it over the second mould to catch any that escapes. Do the same with the other mould.

I then placed the butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water and stirred until melted. Allow to cool slightly.

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Then worked on the rest of the mixture. Vigorously whisking together the egg, yolk, sugar and a pinch of salt until pale and fluffy. Gently fold in the melted chocolate and butter, and then the flour. Spoon into the prepared moulds.

Once done, I placed the ramekins in the fridge, ready to put in the oven after we have eaten dinner.

Now all you have to do is wait for the chicken and potatoes to be done, boil mixed vegetable bag or what vegetables you like (we chose cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and asparagus). Reheat the fillet, in the oven, and the parsnips in the microwave and serve. Alternatively place food on plate and reheat each plate.

Stir some bisto gravy granules with hot water and pour over the top… food is served!!! What an indulgence for a perfect easter evening…

Put on to a hot baking tray and cook for 12 minutes (14 if from cold, 16 if frozen) until the tops are set and coming away from the sides of the moulds. Leave to rest for 30 seconds and then serve in the ramekins or turn out on to plates if you’re feeling confident – they’re great with clotted cream or plain ice cream.

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When I did mine my fondant didn’t set enough. I was supposed to fold in the flour but accidentally whisked it in instead, next time I will do that differently, and cook it for a tad longer!

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