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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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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Hungover Monday: A hearty Chinese Hotpot, The Ultimate Comfort Food.

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I know I have called it hungover Monday, but to be clear, this is not a new weekly special, I have no intention of being hungover every Monday. Yesterday was a heavy night as it was my works staff party, belated for the Christmas but fun anyway. Many glasses of wine (bottles) and a few lemoncello’s later we were well and truly wrecked. I awoke to that deadly heavy headed feeling you get after far too much wine. What does the hungover mind crave? Comfort food. Now many find themselves drawn to burgers, pizza or a fry up but I have a very different hangover cure/ craving. A Chinese Hotpot.

When living in China I had many a hotpot. In fact I believe I have mentioned it in my blog previously because its so good it has to be mentioned twice. I eat it with a hangover but regularly the Chinese eat it drunk. Its a social occasion as the hotpot bowl is shared amongst as many as 8 people alongside a chilled beer. The hotpot restaurants are like a Seven Eleven, they are open 24 hours for your catering needs. After clubs when we had munchies we headed straight for the hotpot joint, got ourselves private room and munched out.

20130115-013956.jpgThe Chinese Hotpot is nothing like a British One, its not a casserole its like a big boiling broth for sipping and dipping. Eating is not just a meal, its an experience. Its entertainment as you spend time popping food in with chopsticks, mixing a variety of herbs and spices in your personal bowl for dipping fun, boiling your food and removing it. If you like playing with food this is for you, it is cheese fondue to the oriental diner. I find its the only time when I spend time eating. Usually I eat so fast that I barely breath through mouthfuls, the work during the eating process of popping in, waiting to cook, removing, dipping then eating slows the process ensuring a far healthy pace.

Nothing beats a hotpot on a cold winters day. Funny enough today was both snowing, and I had alcohol in my system, so this was quite possibly the most perfect moment to have it.

Me and my boyfriend started on our preparations for the meal. One half of the hotpot 20130115-014018.jpgwill me hot and numb broth, the other a simple chicken broth.

HOW TO MAKE IT

(1) we cut and washed our choice of vegetables. Washing all our greens and leaving mushrooms unwashed to reduce goopiness. My favourite vegetables to use are a selection of mushrooms (Oyster & Enoki are the best!), Chinese Cabbage, Pak Choi, and Chinese Greens.

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(2) We then prepped the broth. The broth is a mixture between our own ingredients and a pre made hotpot mixture that we purchased from Loon Fung Oriental Wholesaler. The own ingredients were:

the frying of peppercorns, anise, spicy bean paste, chilli flakes, dried chilli’s, and dried oriental mushrooms mixed with a premade spicy hot pot broth package. Sichuan Chilli and bean paste go well too. The other side of the broth is less spicy and is made with: The chicken broth was also with premade package, spring onion, Goji Berries (optional), coriander, garlic, and Chicken Stock.

(3) Leaving it to boil and infuse, we pull out all our additional material such as the cutlery (chopsticks, small dipping bowls, hotpot spoons) and our extra dipping sauces such as Chilli Oil, Bean Paste, Soya Sauce, Coriander, and chopped Garlic.20130115-014030.jpg

When it is hot, and left to stew for abit, food is served. For meat thin slices of meat such as beef and lamb are recommended. We get hotpot lamb from the Loon Fung which is extremely thin making it easy to cook and infuse the flavour in the meat. Alternatively, thin sliced meat would do the trick. Other optional add ons are Noodles, and at the end of the meal, cracking an egg in the broth is yummy. The egg retains shape in the natural chilli oils and is yummy! Its delicious, fun, and you definitely receive at minimum of one of your five a day.

20130115-014039.jpg20130115-014056.jpg                                                                              The hotpot paired with my Chinese Flowering Tea made this feast a perfect beginning to the week.

I had been saving my flowering tea that I bought in Shanghai for a year for the perfect occasion, and this was definitely perfect. Hangover gone.

 

A Michelin Star for top notch service alone – Benares, London

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I went here for my birthday. After sampling some of Atul Kotchars cuisine at Taste Of London food festival we were completely won over and didn’t hesitate in giving this restaurant a try.

Location

Nestled on a square in the heart of Mayfair, this restaurant is in luxurious territory and owns this.

On entrance it is large, elegant and modern with perfectly dimmed lighting. The ambience was perfectly romantic and warm though the high air con made this statement far from literal. Girls, bring your shawls to place over your gorgeous dresses “.

Service

We arrived at 6.30pm which was relatively early so the restaurant was not too busy. We were 30 minutes late but were not received with a bad attitude and were kindly seated immediately.

The service was delightful throughout and was by far the best I have ever seen. Quick service, quick food delivery and very friendly attentive staff. When I finished my last sip of water it was no more than 5 seconds before it was recognised and refilled.

The staff were on their toes to ensure it was perfection. Even when needing directions for the toilet I was walked to door in the form of a waiter relay in which one passed me on to the next member of staff until I reached the door to the bathroom successfully.

Food

The Food was just as good as the service- and well exceeded expectation. portions were adequate with a good selection of sides if the meal does not suffice. I ordered the Chicken Tikka Pie with Berry Compote and the Black chicken. The pie was different to what I expected as I had seen this same thing on the taster menu at the festival and was given a tikka pie come shepherds pie mix, whereas this one was more a tart. Nonetheless spectacular flavours.

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The main was my favourite as the chicken leg had a great deal of meat, juicy and tender, with aromatic coriander marinade. I was not a fan of the yoghurt pastry given on the side but was happy without.

I also helped myself to my partners lamb which was also lovely. We had a side portion of naan, potatoes and chick pea though I had wished I had ordered less as I was rather bloated by the end!

Price

The food (2 starters, 2 mains, 3 sides & a birthday desert) paired with a crisp bottle of champagne made this meal well worth its bill, which was a hefty £200 pounds. Whilst pricey it was worth the price tag. I was also given a lovely Happy Birthday desert by the chef, an unexpected end to the evening.

A memorable experience- try it you won’t be disappointed.

http://www.benaresrestaurant.com/  

12a Berkeley Square HouseBerkeley Square, MayfairLondonW1J 6BS

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday and Bank Holidays12.00 to 14.30 and 17.30 to 23.00SundaysClosed

Reservations 020 7629 8886

 

 

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