Monday, 20 June 2016

Two Suppers with Marley Spoon

I’ve never been one for meal delivery services – aside from the odd takeaway of course! I’ve found the idea of having my food measured out, pre-prepared and delivered in a big box a little strange. I’m unsure why, but, there we go. When I was approached to give Marley Spoon a go I was unsure, to say the least – what if I loved having my dinner most-of-the-way pre-pared for me and going forward I couldn’t face the Lidl hell now I know the alternative.
While it’s safe to say I absolutely loved my experience with Marley Spoon, I won’t be missing out on my weekly Lidl trek anytime soon. This month Marley Spoon have collaborated with Olia Hercules, The Observer’s Rising Star of 2015 and author of the celebrated cookbook, Mamushka. Combining her Ukrainian heritage with Cypriot, Italian, Moldovan, Laos and Caucasian influences, to name a few, Olia has created a selection of exciting dishes for Marley Spoon that have featured on both the Two-Person and Family menus. All recipes are delivered with the seasonal ingredients, in exact quantities, to cook at home. I was kindly invited to test out the Spiced Aubergine Mujaddara with Shallot Garnish & Yoghurt and Marley Spoon’s very own Flat Bread Pizzas with Tender Stem Broccoli and Radicchio salad. 
My lovely box arrived on Friday last week to my office at around 10am – just when they said it would arrive so that’s impressive! The meals were portioned into separate brown bags with the loveliest designs across the paper. To say I was a little obsessed with the packaging is a massive understatement. It’s the element of delivery services that many people ignore – why does it matter what box your supper comes in – but Marley Spoon’s packaging made me feel very happy. Alongside the brown paper bags was a sheep’s wool lined cooling bag with the dairy elements in and two recipe cards with beautifully shot images and clear instructions.
We opted for the Flat Bread Pizzas on Friday night – a healthier choice for that naughty end of week treat. The ingredients included Middle Eastern flat breads, tender stem broccoli, pine nuts, mozzarella, and basil, plus spices and dressings for the radicchio salad. The instructions were wonderfully clear and took us through step-by-step. We created the tomato sauce, then prepped the veggies, then cooked the pizza and prepared the salad. Everything was ready in 40 minutes and we were tucking into a delicious, healthy meal which took minimal effort. 
Olia's dish of Spiced Aubergine Mujaddara with Shallot Garnish & Yoghurt was a touch more complex but again the instructions were really well put.The ingredients bag included aubergines, shallots, lentils, yoghurt and dill plus an array of Middle Eastern spices which brought a tonne of flavour to each mouthful. We began by cooking the rice and lentils in a traditional way with the spices being fried off first, moving onto the garam masala aubergine rounds and the sticky sweet onion garnish. The finished dish looked as pretty as the pictures provided (which was a surprise because my presentation skills are, well, rubbish) and tasted incredible!
Will I be ordering from Marley Spoon again? Perhaps - I think it's a great option for special occasions but for my daily life it's a touch too expensive. Portions start from £4.35 per person and can be ordered online here.

Thank you to Marley Spoon for providing the boxes for this review. All opinions are my own and not been influenced in any way by the provision of the boxes.


Friday, 17 June 2016

REVIEW: Salaam Namaste, Bloomsbury

Today we revisit one of my favourite Indian restaurants in London'; Salaam Namaste in Bloomsbury. I was invited to re-try their iconic menu which is dotted with beautiful Goan dishes and plenty of surprising vegetarian options. I visited with two meat eaters, so this review is packed with dishes for every diner!
The service overall was very friendly and approachable. We were kindly allowed to sit outside and enjoy the late evening sunshine. We began our meal with a few glasses of prosecco to celebrate some exciting news.The prosecco with fresh strawberries was fresh and very sweet, which went down a treat against the food.

We were treated to complimentary spinach, potato and date patties with two different sauces. These were a lovely amuse bouche and featured plenty of the flavours we would later experience with our main dishes. It is always such a nice touch when the kitchen decide to give you something they believe to be one of the best bits – we probably wouldn’t have ordered these as well as our own starters but it was a welcome addition!


We also enjoyed a plate of poppadoms in two flavours with a mix of sauces including spicy tomato, cooling mint and mango chutney. Delicious!
Overall food was very good. I enjoyed a starter dish of potato fig and spinach cakes with a fresh sprialized salad. The texture of the cakes was lovely and soft which I enjoyed with the sweet mango chutney. My guest's prawn starter was really tender and juicy. The spicy sauce worked well against the prawns and the texture was just excellent.
My main course of paneer dumplings with spinach in a rich tomato gravy was absolutely delicious. The rich tomato gravy was exactly that - and super sweet in flavour. The dumplings were lovely and soft which worked perfectly with the tomato sauce. I ate this dish with plenty of pilau rice and garlic naan bread. I highly recommend this dish for vegetarians and non-veggies alike.

My second guest tucked into a dish of tandoori mushrooms. These were the highlight of her entire meal and were perfectly sized for a starter. 
My guest's Green Goan Curry could have been much spicier - the menu states it is hot but unfortunately the finished product is quite mild. There was plenty of chicken within the sauce which worked well against the spiced vegetables.
I really loved the two naan breads that we opted for. The garlic naan was super garlicky, soft and buttery. The date and ginger naans were very sweet and an interesting contrast flavour against the spicier curries. Finally, the black lentils, which is one of my favourite Indian dishes, were so soft and very wet - I know that sounds weird but this is when they are at their best! 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

REVIEW: Benito's Hat, Goodge Street

Throughout May, Benito’s Hat are celebrating all things Mexican with their #MakeMayMexican campaign. During May the Mexican restaurant group are hosting a series of events, including quiz nights, culinary masterclasses, weekly giveaways and a special tamale menu, which will be hosted in all of their 6 sites. Well it would be rude not to get involved wouldn't it!


Despite my already killer hangover we were greeted at Benito's Hat in Goodge Street with that Mexican speciality: tequila. I would love to say I downed mine but to be honest I sipped it, cried a bit then drank my beer instead. Alex smashed his down, complete with special salt and lime, claiming the title of best hungover tequila drinker for the day. Many congrats to him.

More importantly we tucked into some delicious grub which incidentally probably did more for my hangover that the aforementioned alcohol. We kicked proceedings off with some gorgeous gauc and chips. Handmade in each store the guacamole is your classic mix of avocado, lime, red onion and tomato. Although the chilli could have been more pronounced it was definitely very tasty and we ordered a second round to polish off the tortilla chips.

Our very kind waitress took over the ordering process and brought us a tamale platter - something I have never heard of before. A tamale is a traditional Mexican dish made from a form of dough steamed in corn husks with a variety of flavours added to it. My tamale was packed with peppers, sweetcorn and salsa verde with melted Monterey Jack cheese whilst Alex;s featured slow-simmered pork and guajillo salsa with more cheese. Both had a smooth, soft textured with a kick of herb or chilli flavour to brighten up proceedings. I wasn't completely enamoured by the masa but it was still an interesting thing to enjoy. 
Alongside the tamales was a STUNNING dish of black beans with feta. We later learned that this dish is seasoned with dried avocado leaves which bring a distinct aniseed note to the plate. We were really taken with this little bowl of yumminess and have tried to recreate it at home using the dried avo leaves. We also enjoyed a vibrant and colourful slaw with pomegranate and chipotle. The chipotle was quite overpowering and strong which made it difficult to eat at times, but still tasted really delicious. The fresh salsa of tomatoes, raw onion and coriander finished the platter which gave plenty of fresh veggie goodness.  

Overall I really, really loved my visit to Benito's Hat. Alex and I have already planned to go back as soon as uni has finished for a celebratory meal. The location, the food and the overall vibe of the Goodge Street location made us feel like we were on a very happy holiday. I cannot wait to share more experiences with you but for now I give Benito's Hat a very happy final review. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

REVIEW: Brunch at The Jam Tree, Chelsea

Today we revisit one of my favourite brunch spots in south London: The Jam Tree in Chelsea. Having previously visited the Clapham location I was really excited to try out the Chelsea location which did not disappoint. 
When: Saturday afternoon, from 12 noon
What we ate:
  • 1 cowboy breakfast
  • 1 central American breakfast
  • Sweet potato fries
  • two soya cappuccinos
  • one flat white
  • one orange juice
  • one organic apple juice
Highlights
  • The overall service was fantastic but as things got busier naturally the service slowed down.
  • The coffee was fresh and awakening. Similarly, I don't usually opt for a juice alongside coffee but both were lovely and fresh.
  • Both breakfasts were well portioned - not too much and not too little.
  • Both breakfasts were surprising and things we had not experienced for breakfast before which was really exciting.
  • My black beans were packed with flavour and worked perfectly with the avocado.
  • The scrambled eggs were lovely and creamy which worked nicely with the spicy black beans.
  • Alex's meat filled dish was packed with plenty of different flavours and textures. The two meats had two different BBQ sauces - one spicy one sweet - which was a nice addition and brought added flavour to the dish. 
  • The BBQ baked beans were sweet and sticky and the little bits of bacon brought added meatiness - like the dish needed it!
  • The eggs were cooked well with the yolk providing more sauce.
  • The sweet potato fries were absolutely DELICIOUS. Super crispy, super sweet and with a sprinkling of rosemary at the end. Wonderful. 

Lowlights
  • With both dishes we felt that the tortilla could have been crisp to provide more texture, which was really needed in my veggie dish.
  • The two dairy elements on my Central American breakfast of curd cheese and sour cream were a bit overwhelming and I would have like something a bit different.
  • The bacon in Alex's dish could have been much crisper. The hashbrown was also only fried on one side which was a little disappointing. 

 Overall I really enjoyed visiting The Jam Tree in Chelsea. Sitting in the garden sunshine was wonderful and the exciting breakfasts were really unexpected. I would have liked a little more textured in my breakfast, but the high ratio of avocado to everything else was an absolute winner!

This meal was kindly paid for by The Jam Tree. All opinions are my own. 


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

REVIEW: Indigo Nutrition Super Powders and Raw Chocolates

Indigo Herbs is on a mission to help people on their journey to a healthy lifestyle with affordable products packed full of the healthiest ingredients. From organic raw chocolate kits to maca powder, herbal tea blends, barley grass powder and more. Established in 2004 in Glastonbury, Indigo Herbs are a one-stop shop to a healthy lifestyle.
This weekend I treated myself to some raw chocolates. The kit comprises of 100% pure raw chocolate ingredients, including raw cacao powder, raw cacao butter, raw agave nectar and pure raw vanilla powder to produce nutritious and delicious raw chocolate. Raw cacao is a great source of magnesium, which helps to strengthen bones and improve circulation, and iron, which helps to oxygenate the blood and reduce fatigue. These chocolates would make the perfect 3pm snack and pick you up for the rest of the day. 

I chose to make both raw chocolate bars and an even healthier treat: orange segments dipped in raw chocolate. You could use this raw chocolate set to make chocolate drizzles, chocolate bars, raw chocolate desserts and more! What chocolate treat would you make with this raw chocolate set?

Method

  • Melt the cacao butter in a bain-marie over a simmering saucepan of water. Once fully melted, add in the vanilla powder and stir until fully combined. 
  • Tip in the raw cacao powder and stir until fully incorporated. The mixture will become a rich brown liquid which looks absolutely divine! At this stage you could skip any sweetener and enjoy a 100% pure dark chocolate, otherwise tip in the whole bottle of agave syrup. This takes about 100 stirs to fully incorporate into the mixture. 



  • Next, decide what treats you want to make! I tipped 3/4 of the mixture into a low set mould to create a giant chocolate bar.
  • I used the rest of the chocolate mixture to create dipped orange segments - almost like a healthy Terry's Chocolate Orange! Cut the orange into segments, making sure to remove the entire peel. 
  • Dip these segments into the chocolate mixture then place on a cold plate. Pop into the freezer to set overnight.

The next morning transfer your orange segments into the fridge and enjoy! I had these as a late morning snack with a coffee. I had so much energy for the rest of the day and the flavour is absolutely delicious. 

Let me know if you make these gorgeous chocolates or if you have tried Indigo Herbs yourself.  

Monday, 18 April 2016

RECIPE: Thai Taste Vegan Curry with Fluffy Brown Rice

Thai Taste, who produce a delicious range of sauces, pastes and meal kits made in Thailand by Thai chefs, invited me to take part in their April recipe challenge! As well as using the best quality, natural and authentic ingredients, Thai Taste sauce sets are really convenient and allow you to cook restaurant-quality food within 30 minutes at home. Can't complain at that! 
It's Thai New Year this weekend so to celebrate I have created a classic green thai curry but with a twist. This vegan delight is packed with nutritious vegetables and drench in a gorgeous green curry sauce. I wanted to create a dish that was authentic to Thai flavours while being health orientated, packed full of veggies and ultimately delicious. Here are some of the health benefits of my Vegan Green Curry:
  • Coconut milk: this dairy free milk alternative is rammed with healthy fats and gives a creamy consistency to the dish
  • Fresh coriander: Packed with vitamin C, vitamin K and protein - wooh! Coriander also contains a small amounts of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, niacin and carotene.
  • Fresh lime: Limes help to improve digestion in the same way as fresh lemon.
  • Carrots: Help you to see in the dark... sort of! The vitamin A and C are helpful for this function while the fibre helps to improve digestion. 
  • Sweet potatoes: Every vegan foodie's favourite vegetable! Sweet potatoes are classified as fibre, not a carbohydrate like white potatoes, and have plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B6. 

Ingredients
  • Thai Taste Green Curry Kit
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 lime
  • a handful of chopped coriander
  • 1 cup of brown rice, cooked according to packet instructions 

Method
Finely chop the red onion. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to a large saucepan or Dutch oven and fry the onion gently for 5 minutes.
Chop the carrots and sweet potatoes into 2cm cubes then add these to the pan. Fry for 3-4 minutes.
Add in the Green Thai Curry paste and a tablespoon of coconut milk. Fry off for 5 minutes to release the gorgeous fragrance.
Add in the rest of the coconut milk and a splash of water.
Allow this to simmer for 10-15 minutes, ensuring the sweet potato is cooked all the way through. 
Add 1/2 the juice of a lime and the sachet of herbs from your Thai Taste kit then simmer for another few minutes.

  • Serve a ladle of curry per person with plenty of brown rice.
  • Finish the bowl with more fresh lime and chopped fresh coriander

I also added two handfuls of peas to the curry just before the end of cooking for added greens. You could switch in the root vegetables for your favourite veggies, ensuring they are always cooked through. 
Let me know if you make this recipe at home and check out the Thai Taste range here

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