How to make Chocolate Marzipan Truffles

Recipes

Marzipan has always been something I’ve associated to travel. I have two distinct memories: one related to when I had my first Mozart Chocolate truffle which I remain devout to (and bought swats of in Vienna); and another associated with Brussels, because it’s not uncommon to come across marzipan chocolate cigars.

Whilst my experience has been somewhat limited, I’m still a huge fan of the sweet, almond paste. And you couldn’t have imagined my excitement when I discovered how easy it is to make.

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Makes: 24

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 300g ground almonds
  • 50 ml maple syrup
  • 40 ml amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon zest form an unwaxed lemon
  • 175 g dark chocolate
  • topping such as crushed, almond flakes, lemon zest, melted white chocolate (optional)

***M E T H O D***

  1. Mix the ground almond with the lemon zest in a bowl.
  2. Mix amaretto and maple syrup in a separate bowl.
  3. On a clean surface, empty the ground almond mixture onto the surface and create a well. Slowly add the liquid to the almond mixture and begin to knead. Once all the liquid has been combined with the almond mixture, knead until compact. Wrap in a piece of cling film and chill in the fridge.
  4. Break chocolate into small pieces and melt it gently over a bowl of boiling water (bain marie). Make sure the water does not touch the bowl with chocolate.
  5. Take the marzipan out of the fridge. Pinch small pieces of marzipan and roll them into equal size balls. They should weigh around 15g each before dipped into the chocolate.
  6. Dip the marzipan balls in melted chocolate and place them on a drying rack for the chocolate to dry. Place in the fridge if you want to speed up the drying process.
  7. Add the toppings before the chocolate dries. If you are adding melted chocolate, wait for the dark chocolate to set first.

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How to make Austrian mountain food: Gröstl

Recipes

In my previous post, I talked about Fischer’s Café and Konditorei, on Marylebone High Street, where we had the Austrian Gröstl for brunch.

It inspired me to make it at home, not least because it seemed like the perfect dish to keep you warm and satisfied for a good part of the day. It also turns out to be really simple. And who doesn’t like a simple recipe?

Reading up on Gröstl, I’ve learnt that it’s typical to Tirol, a province known for its skiing, hiking and Alpine traditions. Gröstl’s popularity soared as a mountain dish, to be shared with fellow mountaineers. Being a simple dish, its origins are far from noble; instead, it is affiliated with the convenience of finishing off yesterday’s beef brisket and boiled potato leftovers. But who cares!

If you don’t happen to chance on brisket or boiled potatoes in the fridge, fear not. My recipe doesn’t include brisket. You can simply use lardons or if you’re intent on having some beef in there and have little time to prepare, use sliced salt beef. If you can’t find that, use minced beef.

Also, you can boil the potatoes on the day. I made the mistake of not crisping the potatoes enough as you can see from my images, so I have adapted the recipe to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you! One word of advice: spread the potatoes out evenly, making sure that they are touching the base of the pan and are in contact with rendered lardon fat.

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Serves: 2

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 500g waxy potatoes, peeled
  • a lug of oil
  • 100g smoked bacon lardon
  • 1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
  • 150g sliced salt beef (or minced beef)
  • 1 heaped tbsp caraway
  • 1½ tsp hot, sweet paprika (or simply add chilli to sweet paprika)
  • 2 eggs
  • Handful of parsley to garnish

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***M E T H O D***

  1. Peel the potatoes and sliced these into halves. Add the potatoes to a pot with cold, salted water and cook for 10-15 minutes until cooked but firm.  Remove the cooked potatoes and leave to cool or run under cold water.
  2. Whilst the potatoes cool, chop the onion.
  3. Heat a large, deep pan, with a lug of oil and add the lardons and onions until the bacon is golden and the onions translucent. The lardons will begin to render fat which will coat the potatoes and will give them a nice crispy outer layer.
  4. Add the potatoes and spread out evenly, making sure that the potatoes are touching the base of the pan and are in contact with fat. Once the potatoes begin to brown, shuffle them around to ensure that all sides of the potatoes have been crisped.
  5. Add the salt beef to the mix together with the seeds. If the mixture is looking dry, add a drizzled of oil. If you are using minced beef, make sure it is cooked through. Season with sea salt and pepper.
  6. Whilst the potato mix cooks, fry two eggs which will be placed on top of the gröstl.
  7. Garnish with parsley (I used curly leaf parsley).

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Fischer’s Café and Konditorei

Mentions

On one of the many days spent in Marylebone High Street, we decided to pop by Fischer’s Café and Konditorei.

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What makes Fischer’s interesting is that it serves typical Austrian food — an common occurrence in central London; and it’s designed to evoke 20th century Austria. You’ll notice they’ve done this well when, as soon as you’ve set foot in Fischer’s territory, it feels like a whole new era.

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You’ll quickly find yourself in a dim lit environment, with dark cherry wood, gold embellishments and dated paintings. You’ll notice two in particular: one which adorns the bar and another which dominates the main dining area, accompanied by Fischer’s very own branded clock.

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Open all day, serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, waiters clad in a black and white uniform, dash from one table to other with plates of schnitzels, sausages and strudels.

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The last time I had schnitzel was a while ago, when I visited Austria. I had a ballot ticket for the prestigious New Year’s concert performed by the Viennese Philharmonic opera, in the grandeur of the Musikverein. In the winter cold, which bit like hell, we sought refuge in Austrian comfort food and relished the Austrian cakes and creamed coffees at our every turn.

When in Vienna, the one thing you can’t avoid is Weiner Schnitzel, Austria’s national dish – a pan fried dish (in lard) made from pounded veal (otherwise known as escalope), covered in breadcrumbs, served with lemon. You’d expect an Austrian restaurant to have nailed the national pride, so we decided to put our faith in Fischer’s and ordered the Weiner Schnitzel served with jus parisienne. As a side, we went for the Austrian Potato Salad, consisting of boiled potatoes with a mustard dressing, garnished with parsley. Both were very good, the Schnitzel cooked to perfection and the potato salad fresh yet creamy.

DSC_0898DSC_0902And whilst we were at it, we recognised that we could do with a second helping of potatoes!  Serving Gröstls und Röstis for brunch, we had a good feeling about the former, so we went for the classic bacon gröstl with a fried egg. Turns out this seemingly unpretenious dish had all the ingredients for contentment — it was a crunchy, savoury, egg-topped delight —  so much so that, it’s inspired me to cook it, one frosty morning. Watch this space for more on how to make the perfect bacon gröstl.  

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Marylebone High Street

Places

London. One of those places that you’ll never keep up with. Or could you?

With new restaurants and shops popping up in every nook and cranny, London may forever seem in motion. But there are a few neighbourhoods which retain their charm. It is this yin-yang sense of familiarity and flux, this sense of recognising the characteristics of specific London areas and how they metamorphose, that allows me to recognise and appreciate how spoilt for choice Londoners are.

One day, I might wake up feeling like I need to don my favourite Keds and hit the bars in Shoreditch or I could wake up wanting to flaunt my little black dress in the fashionable district of Kensington. Sometimes, I just want to wake up to Marylebone High Street – a place that occupies that sweet spot between trendiness and class.

Marylebone is an area that boasts of being sought after by residents as an attractive residential location, and by tourists for it’s landmarks – Madame Tussauds’ waxwork museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It’s central, a stone’s throw away from the regal Regent’s park, Mayfair and Fitzrovia. Teeming with Georgian houses, it prizes a Georgian mansion that houses the Wallace Collection of art and period furnishings, which typify the area’s elegant architecture. It dumbs down its commercial vibes, as it leaves most of that to Bond Street, which it borders. And it’s also got its own flair, with its modish Marylebone High Street. I’ve left a few suggestions below for those keen to explore.

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Plan ahead and visit with an empty stomach. Head to The Providores and Tapa Room, a Kiwi establishment that took London by the storm following the birth of its Turkish Eggs. I’ve also had a wonderful time at Fischer’s, a Viennese restaurant, evoking 20th-century dining, which I will be reviewing in my next blog post.

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For a cheeky one, try The Marylebone known for its quirky cocktails, a polite crowd and a retro popcorn machine with popcorn you can help yourself to. What’s not to like? For a cheeky second, you’ll want to do this in secret, so head to the prohibition-style basement bar Purl. Think leather sofas, dim-lit lamps, vintage accessories and a menu consisting of cocktails that come with mini-portioned nibbles purposely paired with your drink of choice.

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After you’ve wined and dined, I would suggest two non-food related places  (WHAT?!) to pit-stop by, on Marleybone High Street. Although you’d best be sober because these places are sure to induce some serious spending.

First, for some mindfulness, head to Daunt Books – a brilliant bookshop established at the beginning of the 20th c. housed in a spectacular Edwardian building with oak galleries and skylights. Specialising in travel, Daunt Books arranges its sections geographically, with guides, phrase books, travel writing, history and fiction grouped by their relevant country. Check out their website for news on talks and it’s annual festival held in March.

DSC_0965DSC_0963DSC_0961 For obsessive browsing, visit the Conran Shop – a shop that covers everything from furniture to lifestyle and wonderful gift ideas. It is delightfully bright and colourful, cluttered with all things intriguing.

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When you’re done with Marylebone High Street don’t miss out on Lamb Conduit Street, which is just as lovely.

DSC_0931I, as are many others, am ineptly in love with La Fromagerie which, as you may have guessed from the name, are especially known for their farmhouse cheese, hosted in their delectable Cheese Room. As if cheese wasn’t enough, they also sell fresh produce, baked goods and dry store ingredients.

Their Cheese Room is an experience in itself. As you enter the carefully controlled climate, you’ll be unsure where to feast your eyes – every sort of cheese you can think of is available, with eager staff ready at your beck and call, to tell you cheesy tales of wonder.

DSC_0948DSC_0947DSC_0946They also have a cafe at the back so that you can take a break from browsing and start your marathon of indulgement. I mean, you owe it to yourself, right?

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Hopefully if all went well, you’ll be leaving Marleybone considerably poorer, with a few precious books from Daunt, a colourful thing or two from The Conran Shop and a wheel of cheese. No, make that five.

Dulce de Leche delights (Alfajores)

Recipes

During my trip to South America, I commonly found biscuit treats called Alfajores. Alfajores is made of two crumbly biscuits sandwiched together by Dulce de Leche. Dulce de leche is a thick sweet paste with the colour and flavour similar to caramel. It is found in every grocery store in South America but can also easily be made at home. It is essentially milk and sugar or what we know as condensed milk. The quick way of making dulce de leche is to simmer a closed can of condensed milk fully submerged in water (with the water being 1-2 inches higher than the can) for two to three hours. The longer you leave it the thicker and darker it gets.

DSC_0154-2The special thing about alfajores is that the dough includes corn flour. This is important because it’s what gives the biscuits a silky, crumbly texture. You can also dress your Alfajores as you like: you could cover them in chocolate or you could roll the biscuits in desiccated coconut – or both. If the biscuits are not covered in chocolate, only the dulce de leche in between the biscuits will collect the desiccated coconut.

I decided to have a go at making the dough myself because store-bought shortcrust pastry doesn’t quite cut it. Again, the trick is to use corn flour, which you can mix with plain flour.

Quantity: 12 sandwich biscuits

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 1 hour 45

*I N G R E D I E N T S*

  • 130g cornstarch
  • 100g all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 225g butter
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp cognac
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 115g dulce de leche, at room temperature
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

*M E T H O D*

  1. Place the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and combine; set aside.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is light in colour and fluffy, about 3 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer, be prepared to work your muscles.
  3. Add the egg yolks, brandy, and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets, about 30 seconds.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a smooth disk, and wrap it tightly. Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together). Stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter, rerolling the dough as necessary until all of it is gone.
  7. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet and at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the biscuits are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 to 14 minutes. (The biscuits will remain pale on top.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Flip half of the biscuits upside down and gently spread about 2 teaspoons of the dulce de leche on each. Place a second biscuit on top and gently press to create a sandwich. Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.

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The Great Steak post (and more food)

Places

You may have already heard from my Instagram that I’ve been to South America and had a wonderful time. If not, here it goes again. I HAD A WONDERFUL TIME.

Now, as you can tell from the title of this post, it sounds like its going to be pretty much about one thing – steak.

Yes.

And No.

I WILL be showing you mouth-watering evidence of how Argentina and Uruguay have nailed the Parilla (or grill on an open fire). But I will also tease you with other sumptuous bites.

So, steak. Let’s begin.

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As a foodie, I was never particularly excited about steak. We never really ate much red meat at home. As I was planning for Argentina and I was looking for suggestions on what to eat, I nearly jumped off my seat when I saw how many ice cream parlours were selling dulce de leche flavoured ice cream.

I did, however, book one steak place for the 1st night we were to be in Buenos Aires. And I’m so glad I did. Parilla don Julio is noted to be one of the long-standing steakhouses; serving premium cuts of meat cooked over a traditional parilla, it really does offer a great introduction to the Argentinian steak. They do great sides too and have an excellent wine list, stocking plenty of Malbec from Mendoza (the wine country in Argentina). The setting is formal so expect great service. If you do decide to visit, do book well in advance, as there is a queue every night and it could last well over an hour.

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If you want to experience parilla in less of a formal setting, I would suggest heading to a market, like the Feria de Mataderos in Buenos Aires. This market is a bit of a journey (an hour by bus, to be precise) from the city centre, but it’s worth the trek in order to escape the tourist crowds and get to see the gaucho horseback-riding competition and folklore dancing. Not to mention the various food stalls.

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You’re also going to want to pass by the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo, Uruguay for some proper asado (or barbeque). Not unlike Argentina, you will find the word asado commonly used. This is were it gets confusing: asado itself means two things: a cut referring to short ribs and more significantly a range of barbecue techniques and the social event of having or attending a barbecue. You will find many locals having asado on the street of Argentina and Uruguay. It is at precisely that point, you will begin to kick yourself for not mingling enough with the locals.

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Giving steaks a break, another typical meaty dishy is the lovely choripan. It took me a stupid 5 minutes to realise that the word choripan was a combination of the two words chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread).

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So yes, it’s a hot dog – Argentinian style! They grill those juicy pork sausages, place them in bread, and drizzle them with chimichurri.

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At the Feria de Mataderos, I also found a stall preparing fried empanadas and they were simply wonderful (the empanadas and the empanada makers). These pastries were of two different types: one filled with beef and potato and the other with ham and cheese.

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And this is my sweet sister, who almost devoured the empanada before she allowed me a shot. Thankfully, I was quick enough.

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I also tried seafood empanadas and I only found these at the San Telmo Market, in Buenos Aires. This is another place you definitely have to visit for its various bric-a-brac shops, antiques and food stalls.

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And don’t forget to grab yourselves some wonderful dulce de leche ice cream, which comes in various varieties. For those who don’t know, dulce de leche is a staple in Argentina. With an appearance and flavour similar to caramel, you’ll find it in practically everything sweet, but mostly ice-cream, churros and alfajores –  a soft, crumbly cookie popular in South America.

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Maltese Christmas Log

Recipes
I have many fond memories of Christmas thanks to my loved ones. I always find myself thanking my lucky stars for the wonderful people that surround me.
The Maltese Christmas log symbolises the start of Christmas celebrations as I remember I wasn’t allowed to eat any until my mum decided it was near enough to Christmas. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve broken the rules a few times and have made my own Maltese Christmas Log earlier than I should have. I’m talking beginning of December so I don’t think my mum would be too disappointed in me.
The beauty of the Maltese Christmas Log is that it takes very little time to make. It doesn’t require any baking but you would need to let it set in fridge overnight. You can also get creative with the filling. I omitted on having too much dried fruit and added chestnuts instead. You can either buy the chestnuts fresh and cook them or you can buy them prepared as I did.
It’s deliciously nutty, fruity, with a hint of booze (which is optional). I would choose this over Christmas pudding or mince pies any day.
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INGREDIENTS
  • 800 grams condensed milk
  • 2 packets tea biscuits
  • 200 grams mixed nuts. I used chopped hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts
  • 200 grams chopped glaced cherries
  • 100 grams chopped dates
  • 100 grams of cooked chestnuts (you can buy these already prepared)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur of choice (I prefer bourbon or whiskey)
  • ½ bar chocolate grated
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • One packet of cooking milk or dark chocolate to cover the Christmas logs
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Finely crush one packet of biscuits in a food processor.
  2. With the other packet of biscuits just roughly crush by emptying the biscuits in a plastic bag using a rolling pin to break them apart.
  3. In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together except for the condensed milk and the packet of cooking chocolate which will be used to cover the logs.
  4. Now pour over the condensed milk and using your hands mix with all the other ingredients.
  5. Now divide the mixture into 5 parts and form each into a round cylindrical log shapes.
  6. Cover in cling film and place into the refrigerator overnight or at least twelve hours.
  7. Remove from the refrigerator and cover with melted chocolate. Decorate as you wish or leave as is.
  8. Wait until the chocolate has set and then serve by cutting into slices.

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Vegan Jackfruit Burritos

Recipes

One lunch break, I came across a Vegan Burger joint at KERB Kings Cross. There was a stall serving jackfruit burgers and I had absolutely no idea what jackfruit was.

I decided not to ponder for a second longer, so I ordered it. And I was pleasantly surprised as it wasn’t very different in flavour and texture to meat.

After this discovery, I set off to find myself some jackfruit. And once I sourced it, it sat in my cupboard for months. Until I had the bright idea of making jackfruit burritos.

As jackfruit is a fleshy fruit and very mild in flavour so you can dress it as you want. Most commonly, it is used as a replacement for pulled pork due to its texture and ability to shred. You can buy the fruit fresh although they are hard to come by. Most buy jackfruit in cans and that’s what I did.

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Serves:4

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 1 can of jackfruit
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1/2 cup rice (I used brown)
  • Guacamole (click for recipe)
  • 4 tortillas (I used corn tortillas)
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 ground cumin
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 1 cup stock

***M E T H O D***

  1. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan and add the chopped onion until golden.
  2. in the meantime, put the jackfruit in a bowl and season with cayenne pepper, paprika and chilli powder.
  3. Add the 70g of rice to the pan and cook until golden.  Sprinkle rice with salt and cumin powder.
  4. Add half a cup stock to the rice and cook until fully absorbed. This should take around 20 minutes
  5. Whilst the rice is cooking, prepare the guacamole.
  6. Once the rice is done, add to the pan, the can of black beans, the seasoned jackfruit and the corn. Mix and season with salt and pepper for 10 minutes
  7. Put another pan on the hob, one large enough to fit in your tortilla wrap. Heat the wraps on the pan, one by one.
  8. Cut four rectangular pieces of foil and place each tortilla on top. Layer one side of each tortilla with guacamole and top with the jackfruit filling. Be careful not to overfill the tortilla as you won’t be able to close it.
  9. Carefully wrap both ends of the tortillas to close the filling from coming out and fold the finished tortillas in foil.

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Guacamole

Recipes

Guacamole brings me lots of fun memories. I came across it first when I did my university exchange in Canada. I was studying Anthropology at St. Thomas University in Fredricton, New Brunswick. I was taking a class on the ethnographic and ethnological study of the culture of Mexico and Central America. On the last day of our class, our lecturer brought a thermos filled with home made Mexican hot chocolate made by his wife, together with the basic ingredients to make guacamole. It was a lovely way to end the semester, where we collectively shared hot cocoa and prepared the most delicious guacamole.

This is how it’s done.

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Time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime, squeezed
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño or Serrano pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 tomato, finely diced
  • 1onion, finely diced
  • 1 handful of coriander, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • tortilla chips to serve

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***M E T H O D***

  1. Remove the flesh of the avocados with a spoon. Remove the stone and discard.
  2. Prepare the squeezed lime. Reserve some to trickle over the avocados to prevent them from oxygenating.
  3. Mash the avocados with the back of a fork.
  4. Chop the onion, coriander, chilli and tomatoes and add to the avocado.
  5. Add these ingredients to the avocado and incorporate evenly.
  6. Add salt to taste.

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Killer Tomato

Mentions

I was craving some Mexican whilst visiting Notting Hill and happened to stumble upon Killer Tomato on Portobello Road.

Killer Tomato‘s unique name is also characterised by its mystical graffiti walls and dark interiors. It’s menu consists of Mexican fare with a twist. In other words, don’t expect traditional tacos or burritos, but well thought-out fusion.

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The menu contains what you’d expect from a Mexican restaurant, in that it has burritos, tacos, tortilla chips and the lot. However, these will be filled with meat options such as Korean sticky fried chicken or vegetarian options such as tempura aubergine, raisin jam and courgette. Not quite what you expected right?

After plenty of deliberation, we opted for a starter – the brisket croquettes with sriracha mayo. They were tasty and meaty, with a crunchy crust, albeit a little greasy. The sriracha mayo complimented the croquettes well and wasn’t too spicy.

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We then had two house tacos, which were absolutely delicious. We decided to be daring by going for the crumbed anchovy, bacon and Mexican Caesar dressing, and it was the best by far. I wouldn’t have imagined the flavours complementing each other so well. It was just a mouthwatering ordeal and would have had second helpings for sure!

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We also ordered the peppered squid and citrus salsa taco, which was well cooked and well seasoned, and tasted great with the corn taco.

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Last in line, was the fried chicken thigh burrito, which wasn’t too different to a regular wrap although this was packed with fried chicken, cabbage and a sauce of your choice. You can go mild or very spicy! Tasty and filling, with a good balance of crunchiness and melt-in-the-mouth chicken.

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Killer Tomato also does bottomless tacos and drinks, including their margaritas. Something I’ll be considering next time I’m very, VERY, hungry.

They don’t take reservations and don’t accept cash so make sure you’ve got your credit card (or phone) on you.

Check out their branches in Shepherd’s Bush and Notting Hill!

A day Spent In-and-Around Portobello Road

Places

Notting Hill became known to a lot of us due to its appearance in films such as Notting Hill and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. which gave great visibility to its antique market and rows of colourful houses.  It is now also famous for its carnival.

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***P O R T O B E L L O   R O A D***

Portobello Market took its name from Porto Bello Farm which was built in the area known as Golborne Road. The farm was named after the town of Porto Bello in Panama, captured by the British from the Spanish in 1739.

Up until the 1940s, Portobello Road market was like many other London markets and mainly sold food and other essential items. However, in the 1940s, the market expanded to antiques, with Saturday being the main trading day. In recent history, the market has expanded to include all sorts of stalls – from beauty products past their stock date, to bric-à-brac, vintage clothes and food.

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The number of stalls can be nauseating to navigate, but many of these stalls also sell the same stock. My recommendation to you is that you prioritise those stalls of interest to you.

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Today, I would only face the throngs of people if I know there is something specific I need to get from the market, such as a vintage camera or vinyl records.

Here is some useful information on how the five sections of the market are spread across Notting Hill.

  • Secondhand goods – Golborne Road to Westway
  • Clothing/fashion – Westway area
  • Household essentials – Westway to Talbot Road
  • Fruit, veg and other food – Talbot Road to Elgin Crescent
  • Antiques – Elgin Crescent to Chepstow Villas

If you’re not one for crowds, I would recommend passing by during the week or on Sunday when the market is not in full swing. Avoiding the crowds is not the only advantage if you pass by during the week, as you will also be able to pop by Books for Cooks. Just off Portobello Road, Books for Cooks is a bookshop that also provides a 3-course menu for less than a tenner, as part of their test kitchen. On Tuesday’s they test vegetarian recipes, Wednesday to Thursday meat recipes and Friday, fish. Their advice is to arrive at the kitchen by 12pm sharp, as it gets booked up pretty fast.

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If you head there in the evening, it is nowhere near as crowded, yet alive with passerby visiting trending bars. Two of my favourite bars are Portobello Star known for its London-made Portobello Gin.

DSC_0290And Trailer Happiness – an underground cocktail bar with surfer vibes. If you’re up for a movie, do visit the Electric Cinema which, whilst pricey, is an experience you’ll only understand once you sink into those plush armchairs, after you’ve ordered yourself a hot dog from the retro, American-themed bar. Just don’t get too comfy as you’ll easily snooze before you know it.

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Notting Hill has become rather affluent, something you will begin to sense as you wander about the side streets off Portobello Road. You will find plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops and bars. Check out Biscuiteers Boutiques & Icing Cafés, for their lovely biscuits – a perfect gift or treat.

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The Spice Shop has a pretty impressive collection of single and mixed spices.

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Although Portobello Road is it’s most famous, I would recommend you detour to two other nearby destinations worth exploring – Golbourne Road and Westbourne Grove.

*** G O U L B O U R N E    R O A D***

Goulbourne Road is definitely worth visiting. It is nowhere near as crowded as Portobello Road although there are a few stalls out on the street. It appears to be one of the many London areas that is experiencing gentrification. If you head there via Westbourne Park station, you will catch a glimpse of the historical landmark – Trellick Tower. I recommend breakfast at Lisboa Patisserie, a famous local Portuguese bakery. I would highly recommend their most popular pastry, Pastéis de Nata, which they have many varieties of.

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Just opposite you will find the Lisboa Delicatessen selling local produce. If you enter the back of the shop, you will notice a room dedicated to salted cod.

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You will say many Portuguese cafes and shops along the way but Scandinavian outlets are also sprouting too. We had breakfast at Snaps and Rye – a Norwegian restaurant tempting customers with smørrebrød and warm plates. They also sell liquorice chocolate balls, with the Christmas edition out now.

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***W E S T B O U R N E    G R O V E***

Westbourne Grove is ideal if you ready to fork out the sums of money on designer labels and high street brands. It has the feel of Kensington although perhaps a little more down to earth. As you keep walking, you will notice that there are fewer shops and more restaurants. In other words, this is not only a fashionista’s paradise but a foodie’s too.

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***N O T T I N G   H I L L    C A R N I V A L***

Notting Hill Carnival is a good amount of fun. The spectacles are great, the crowds less so but it is something you would expect. Plenty of opportunities to join in the fun as you move along the parades, but planning is recommended. You will notice that people offer their toilets for the measly sum of £1, although public toilets are available. Consider both.

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Little Tiramisu Cakes

Recipes

When we are invited to friends for lunch and we need to prepare a dish that is quick, easy and a crowdpleaser, we usually resort to the classic tiramisu.

However, I wanted to do things differently this time. Instead of serving up tiramisu from a dish, I decide to have an attempt at tiramisu cakes, which can be served individually. I have small cooking rings at home and thought these would do the trick.

The main steps are as simple as making the classic tiramisu. We first made a biscuit base, which is as simple as crushing Digestives and mixing these with melted butter. We then prepared the tiramisu cream which requires the most effort but can be easily carried out. Making the coffee-soaked biscuits is fun (as long as you don’t soak the biscuits long enough for them to soften and break. This is why its best to have the espresso coffee cool down. Once put together, the result is perfect, semi-freddo tiramisu cakes, which we dusted with cocoa powder, crushed hazelnuts and cranberries.

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Serves: 4

Time: 1hr, plus overnight resting time

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 8 Digestive biscuits
  • 50g salted butter
  • 2 eggs (cold)
  • 250g mascarpone (cold)
  • 50g sugar
  • 100g Lady Fingers (Savoiardi) biscuits
  • 4 espresso cups of coffee (cold)
  • Cocoa powder to dust
  • Handful of toasted hazelnuts, crushed
  • (Optional) Coffee Liquor (e.g. Tia Maria)

***M E T H O D***

  1. Place the eggs and the mascarpone cheese in the fridge for some time, as they need to be cold.
  2. Prepare the espresso and allow it to cool down.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the cheesecake base. Crush the biscuits and mix with melted butter. Once well combined, place the biscuit crumble into the ring moulds, pressing the base down with your fingers to ensure it is tightly packed and level. Once done, place the moulds in the fridge to set.
  4. Take 2 large bowls and begin to separate the egg yolks from the eggs white. It’s important to not have any yolk in the bowl with egg whites. Put the bowl with the egg whites in the fridge.
  5. With the help of a whisk (or a fork), being to gradually add half of the sugar to the egg yolks. Keep whisking until the mixture is well combined and airy.
  6. Now take the mascarpone from the fridge and add it in the same bowl, mixing gradually until you achieve a uniform, creamy texture.
  7. Take the bowl with the egg whites from the fridge, and with the help of a clean whisk (no residue of eggs yolk) mount the egg white until the become firm. Slowly add the rest of the sugar during this process.
  8. Next you need to mix the egg white to the rest of the mixture. Take a spoonful of the stiffened egg white and fold it into the cream.
  9. Here you can add 2 tablespoons of coffee liqueur of your choice (eg Tia Maria), but make sure that the resulting cream is not too liquid.
  10. Take the moulds with the cheesecake-base from the fridge.
  11. Break the Lady Fingers (Savoiardi) biscuits in 2-3cm pieces, so that they are centred in the middle. This will prevent them from peaking out of the cream.
  12. Take the moulds with the cheesecake base from the fridge. Fill them up with a little bit of cream, then soak the biacuits in coffee for a second or two and add them in the middle of the mould. Add more cream until until the biscuits are completely covered.
  13. Refrigerate over night to allow the cream to set.
  14. Check whether the cream has set by gently sliding the cake out of the mould. If the cream is too soft, place in the freezer for a short while.
  15. Take out just before serving. If the cake does not budge from the mould, run cold water over the mould until you can gently push the cake out.
  16. Place the cake on a serving plate and use a sieve to dust cocoa powder on top and add some crushed almonds and berries. I used cranberries but any berries will work.

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