London via China
My food diary, culinary explorations and learnings along the way.

Cupcake Bouquet

The humble cupcake is great for many occasions but if the situation calls for something a bit more unique and special, try turning your batch of cupcakes into a bouquet for that wow factor.

DSCF4945

To make the cupcakes you can follow my recipe here or use one of your own, just remember to add food colouring to the frosting.

To assemble the bouquet you will need;

  • 12 cm Plant pot
  • 12cm Styrofoam ball
  • Toothpicks
  • Tissue paper
  • Sellotape 

Cupcake bouquette

To begin assembling the bouquet, tape tissue paper from the inside of the flower pot with excess corners showing over the pot. Then wrap the styrofoam ball in green tissue paper and tape to the pot making sure it is securely fixed.

Insert toothpicks into the styrofoam ball starting at the very top centre, then the cupcake through the toothpick. Work from top to bottom building up the bouquet one layer at a time. Once complete, use scrunched up green tissue paper in between the cupcakes to disguise the gaps. That’s it! A simple technique for a great effect :)

Cupcake bouquette

Bread Bun Swirls

Gripped by the return of Great British Bake Off, I’ve made bread inspired by this week’s theme! As I don’t usually make bread - opting for sweeter bakes instead, I’ve given myself a rather simple task of making bread buns all the while learning more about shaping the dough.

Bread

To make 8 bread buns

You will need:

  • 500g flour
  • 150ml milk
  • 150ml water
  • 20g fresh yeast
  • 50ml olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg

Method:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together water, sugar and yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl add the sifted flour, salt, milk and oil, then add in the yeast mixture and knead until you get a smooth elastic dough. Cover the bowl with a towel or cling film and let it rest for about an hour and a half until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. After the dough has risen divide into 8 equal parts. Roll out each portion to rectangles of 25cm x 15cm and and make cuts along the long edge about 2cm apart. Brush with oil.
  4. Starting from a short end, diagonally roll the dough until you have a long roll, then twist it into a twirl like a snail shell.
  5. Lay them on a parchment lined baking tray and rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Glaze the buns with a whisked egg and feel free to add some toppings. I used sesame seeds for some, and on the others I used rosemary and thyme.
  7. Bake in the oven at 200C for 15 minutes until golden.

Bread making Bread

I found bread making really enjoyable and quite a different experience to making cakes and biscuits as it was less precise and more hands on. Will definitely experiment with more varieties and flavours in the future.

Bread

Beagle - Weekend Brunch

Located under the beautiful brick railway archways of Hoxton station, Beagle is serving up some brilliant modern British cuisine.

Beagle

We came here last weekend and had what was to be honest quite an eclectic mix of food for brunch - sometimes you just have to give into cravings. Starting with some bread and salted butter accompanied by a couple of drinks from the irresistible cocktail menu, opting for the Bellini and Dutch bullet.

Beagle Restaurant

To eat we had the buttermilk pancakes served with fresh berries and clotted cream. They were light and fluffy with just enough sweetness in the batter which was balanced by the subtle tartness from the fruit and rounded off with the cream.

Beagle Restaurant

The Beagle signature breakfast packed bags of flavour. The bacon had been cured and smoked which gave it a wonderful aroma as well as taste, eggs perfectly fried sunny side up with runny yokes in the middle, but the star of the show was definitely the hash. Crispy potato chunks cooked through with sweet tomatoes, onion and herbs, if I can get my hands on the recipe for this I would be making it excessively.

Lastly, we also ordered a side of their duck fat cooked chips. Why? Because it just sounded great on the menu…and tasted so too. Wonderfully crispy on the outside and still soft and fluffy inside, served with a home made bloody-mary ketchup. If you ever find yourself in the trendy East end of London I certainly recommend popping in here for a lazy brunch.

Beagle Restaurant

Clutch - Fried Chicken

Fried chicken! The soul food of Southern America, who doesn’t love it?! Although you may have eaten quite a few, Clutch in East London is doing it with a twist of their own - focusing on the use of free range organic poultry, ethically sourced and fried in ground nut oil. Introducing the guilt free fried chicken.

clutch

The menu is very straight forward, there are three chicken dishes, a selection of ‘side pecks’ and sauces. We had a half bucket of the Happy Hens (fried leg, breast and thigh) in peppery buttermilk batter, sour and spicy chilli wings, twice fried fries, roasted corn with garlic and black pepper accompanied by two side sauces of Clutch’s chicken gravy and whipped feta as recommended by staff.

Clutch fried chicken

The chicken pieces were large and meaty, the batter on the fried chicken was flavourful but also quite thin and light. It was delicious to eat dipped into the peppery chicken gravy and could be mistaken for tasting for like roasted chicken than fried as it wasn’t greasy at all.

Clutch fried chicken

My favourite dish was the sour and spicy chilli wings, covered in a tangy spicy sauce with extra chillies on top which even for a self confessed spice fan I did not need. If you find the sauce too spicy for your taste the whipped feta was a perfect accompaniment to cool it down.

Clutch fried chicken

Both of the side dishes went down well, the gravy was such a highlight in the meal that we found ourselves also using it for the fries and even corn to dip into. The meal was relaxed and food served quickly, washed down with a quirky cocktails selection.

Franco Manca - Sourdough Pizza

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this pizza restaurant and  at the end of a hectic weekend I was very happy to relax and indulge in some good food. Franco Manca has several branches in London, I went to the one in Hackney located on the famous Broadway Market.

Franco Manca

On arrival we ordered some lemonades to combat the hot weather currently bathing London, it wasn’t too sour and served nicely chilled. The restaurant is quite open and diners can see the entire kitchen area located at the back with its famous oven. In their own words “The pizza is made from slow-rising sourdough (minimum 20 hours) and is baked in a wood burning ‘tufae’ brick oven made on site by specialised artisans from Naples.”

Franco Manca

We ordered a side salad with Franco’s pecorino, olives and mixed leaves which arrived quickly and eaten fast. The dressing and cheese gave the salad a hearty taste and made what was intended to be a side dish a great starter.

Franco Manca

The pizzas we had were Gloucester old spot ham (home cured), with mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushrooms - pictured above. And the ‘meat special’ which had Franco and Lloyd mozzarella, tomato, wild pig fennel salami, sweet green chilli and wild rocket. All pizzas served are of the same size and despite initial reservations about only having four slices of salami on the ‘meat feast’ we soon found out that the wild pig fennel certainly packed a punch in flavour! On the table are 2 bottles of olive oil, one infused in chilli and the other in garlic. These made fantastic accompaniments to the pizza and if you’re like me and isn’t always a fan of the pizza crust, I found myself using the oils as a dip to liven up the cornicione - crust pieces.

Franco Manca

Very good value for money with a refined selection of food on the menu, Franco Manca concentrates on what it does best and I shall definitely be returning for more pizzas.

Madeleines

Here goes my first attempt at making madeleines, a delicate French cake - which looks more like a biscuit, baked in its famous shell shaped tray with a génoise sponge.

I used a Michel Roux Jr recipe which was simple to follow and the madeleines turned out great! 

Madeleines

This recipe makes 12-16 madeleines.

Ingredients;

  • 2 free range eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 100g butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus extra for greasing

Method;

Preheat oven to 200°C/600°F/Gas mark 6. Brush the madeleine tray with melted butter then shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.

Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy. Lightly whisk in the remaining ingredients. Leave to stand for 20 minutes before carefully pouring into the prepared madeleine tray.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture has risen a little in the middle and is fully cooked through. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly before dusting with a little caster sugar. 

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea or coffee!

Madeleines

Champagne Afternoon Tea at Blenheim Palace

Built in the 18th century and steeped in history and tradition, Blenheim Palace located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire is famed for being the birth place and home of Winston Churchill as well as for it’s English Baroque style architecture.

Blenheim Palace

The palace sits at the centre of a large undulating park, its gardens as impressive as Blenheim - an idyllic place for a great British tradition that is Champagne Afternoon Tea.

Blenheim Palace

After a short walk around the impressive grounds we eagerly went to our tea booking.

Blenheim Palace

Sitting inside the Indian room I was treated to the Winston Churchill Premier Tea by a good friend of mine where we enjoyed a flute of Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV to start with, which I was told was the same champagne served at the Oscars this year! To eat we had;

  • Smoked salmon & cucumber blini 
  • Ham, cream cheese & chive, egg & cress sandwiches 
  • Blenheim scones with clotted cream and estate jam 
  • Churchill éclair 
  • Raspberry macaroon 
  • Rhubarb & custard 
  • Gateau opera 
  • Chocolate cake 

This was accompanied by a large selection of teas or coffee on request.

Blenheim Palace

From the delicately created patisseries to the beautifully hand painted walls this was truly a delightful experience. The windows from the India Room over look onto the impressive water terraces, the gardens and park are ideal for a walk in the summer sun and a great day out.

The Hand In Hand - Wimbledon Pub

Tennis fever has once again hit Wimbledon and if you’re staying or visiting the area there are some great pubs around to relax in the sun! My favourite is the Hand in hand, located a short walk away from the centre of Wimbledon village along the common but it could feel miles away with a much more tranquil setting.

DSCF2729..

The pub has a lot of character, from the white picket fencing at the front and the old prison door for an entrance to the brand new glass roof out in the courtyard, there’s no need to scurry inside when a little rain hits. And if it stays sunny there’s a great little green at the front of the pub to soak up the rays.

DSCF2712DSCF2692DSCF2720

Serving up tradition dishes such as their Pie and Mash and Fish and Chips there’s plenty on the menu to keep everyone happy…even if you have a dog with you as the pub manager’s wife regularly makes home made dog treats which are kept behind the bar and frequently enjoyed by the local canines.

DSCF2760

This really is a friendly local pub, so sit back and enjoy a nice glass of Pimms or one of the 7 kinds of ale served here!

Chilli Beef Tacos and Toast

Chilli Beef Tacos

These tacos are an adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s recipe made just that much spicier and a little more indulgent with the addition of steak meat.

Taco Making

To make chilli beef for 12 tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 onion - diced
  • 1 red pepper - diced
  • 1 green pepper - diced
  • 2 chillies - finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves - sliced
  • A pinch of paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 300g minced beef
  • 280g sirloin steak - sliced into 2cm pieces
  • 250ml - beef stock
  • 12 taco shells
  • Grated cheese and lettuce to serve

Method

Soften the onion and peppers in olive oil in a large pan over low heat. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and chillies and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add in the mince and steak and cook until browned, then add in the stock and simmer with lid on for 45 minutes until stock has reduced.

Taco garnish

To make the guacamole and salsa

  • Ingredients
  • 2 tomatoes - chopped
  • 2 limes
  • 2 spring onion - finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp coriander - roughly chopped
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche

Method

For the salsa, mix the tomatoes with the juice of one lime, spring onions and coriander. Season to taste. For the guacamole peel and remove the seed from the avocados, then mash with a fork. Squeeze in the juice of one lime, then mix in the crème fraîche and season to taste.

Heat the taco shells for 3-4 minutes in a preheated oven at 180°C until crisp. Fill with the meat, salsa and guacamole and serve with cheddar cheese on top and lettuce on the side.

Chilli Beef on toast

This chilli mix was so delicious we decided to try it on some toasted mixed seeds rye bread which we had left over. It worked amazingly well, much easier to eat with hands and would make a great starter or canapé dish!

The Three Crowns - Stoke Newington

It seems that countless number of pubs claim to do a good Sunday roast, especially in London. But The Three Crowns on Church Street in Stoke Newington is really worth a shout out.

The Three Crowns

I came here recently with a large group of 15 people. We tucked into sharing plates of bread and olives whist eagerly awaiting for the roasts to arrive.

The Three Crowns

On the roast menu were choices for chicken, beef and nut roast but I went for the pub’s signature dish - roast lamb shank. The waiter jokingly warned me of the large portion size and he wasn’t wrong! The lamb shank was much larger than the protein on the other roast dishes, it was served with roast potatoes, root vegetable mash, broccoli, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Even with a large group of us dining we all received our food at the same time after a short wait. The meat was tender and fell off the bone, each piece of garnish was cooked really well and when I requested for extra gravy the staff were more than happy to oblige at no extra cost.

The Three Crowns

I was full to the brim after the roast..so a break was definitely needed before tackling the cheese board! The Three Crowns has certainly served up one of the best pub roasts I’ve had, with a great selection of drinks and friendly staff I would definitely recommend this pub for a visit.

Square Meal