London gems

One of the things I love about London is how the most unassuming restaurants are always the most special. Soho is full of these amazing spots and are so appealing they always seem to fill out even on London’s ghostly Sunday evenings.

After a busy week the last thing as a chef you want to do is go home and cook yourself a dinner and as we don’t do a service on a Sunday evening it’s always the perfect time for a few after work drinks and food.

We initially tried Barrafina and were told we would have to wait an hour and 45 minutes for a table. This is a spot I would be willing to wait even longer for but as we all had work again tomorrow morning and were starved we decided it was best to venture on! Next door to Barafinna is the amazing Koya. I’ve heard so much about this place and have been keen to try it for a while and it definitely did not disappoint. Koya is a cafe style Japanese restaurant with communal seating around the bar/kitchen. We were told we would have to wait 15 minutes for a table which we were quite happy to do as it was a refreshing warmth from the wind outside. Our wait time was much shorter thankfully as the amazing smells were making me so hungry.

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The menu offers hot and cold udon soup dishes, some rice dishes and small sharing plates. They also have a ever changing specials menu which really is special. Tonight they had things like tempura of Alexander flower and whole tempura of Irish pollan. It really is simple and non fussy but so authentic. Prices are also really reasonable considering the stiff competition around on Frith and Dean street and China town only a few meters away.

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These simple places are so inspiring and I always love a restaurant that just works for no particular reason other than it being so obviously someones passion and creativity relayed through their food. Definitely one to try.

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Ps. This was really hard to type as I have a huge blister taking control of my finger from a burn in work so please excuse any typos 😉

Getting thrifty…

If you have left over jars at home after cooking give them a blast in the dishwasher and here’s a handy use for them once they’re clean:

If, like me, you don’t always leave enough time to have breakfast in the mornings before work fill a jar with some granola, fruit, nuts and yoghurt the night before. Leave in the fridge over night and it’s ready for you to grab and go in the morning.

Or fill with hummus and some veg sticks for a mid day snack in work!

There’s lots you can pop in the jar and throw in your bag for a snack throughout the working day!

But in the meantime, enjoy your weekend xx

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My kitchen essentials

Here is a list of 5 things that I find the most useful and almost essential when I’m cooking either at home or in the kitchen in work:

1) Sharp knives

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You don’t need to rush out and buy a full selection of expensive knives. Having just one good medium sized sharp knife will make all the difference. Having a sharp knife allows for clean cuts through meat and fish and makes it much more efficient for you to chop when prepping veg. It’s also much safer to chop with a sharp knife than toughing it out with a blunt knife

2) Spatula

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I find myself reaching for the spatula at all stages when cooking. These are vital in professional kitchens to avoid waste but also at home they allow you to get every last morsel out of a bowl. This also helps with the wash up 😉

3) Juicer

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This juicer is an amazing weapon in the kitchen. So quick and easy to use for juicing citrus fruits and leaves you with little washing up. I look for lemon juice for almost every recipe I use so this always comes in handy. I got this sturdy one on Sainsburys in London but have also seen them in TK Maxx.

4) Good Quality olive oil and balsamic

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I think it’s worth while spending a little bit of money on a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My favourite are Capezzana olive oil and Saporoso balsamic. These are great for finishing off dishes. A little Capezzana drizzled over grilled fish or Saporoso drizzled over roasted vegetables does so much.

5) Maldon sea salt

Pretty much every dish whether it be sweet or savoury requires salt at some stage. I think Maldon sea salt is definitely the best quality salt around. I use these  beautiful flaky salt crystals constantly.

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Lemon Bars

If like me you are a fan of lemon desserts then this recipe is definitely for you. Its another easy one which calls for ingredients that you will more than likely already have stored away. Would be a nice and impressive treat if friends are coming over for tea and chats. The sugar content is quite high as with most curds so maybe this will be one for when you feel like a you deserve a treat 😉

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What you need:

For the biscuit base; 2oz icing sugar

71/2 oz four

6oz butter

For the filling; 21/2 oz flour

16 oz sugar

280 ml lemon juice

zest of one lemon

6 whole eggs and one egg yolk

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Butter and line a 9 by 13 inch baking tin with parchment. Firstly make the shortbread base. Sift the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and combine. Add the butter which has been cut into cube size pieces. Using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour until a dough is formed. Press the dough into the baking tin insuring you have a nice even layer and all the base of the baking tin is covered. Cover with parchment and baking beans and bake in the oven until golden brown for around 30 mins. (Remove the baking beans for the last ten minutes of baking)

Meanwhile make the filling. sift the flour in a bowl and add the sugar. Add the lemon juice and zest and whisk together. In a jug whisk together the eggs and yolk with a pinch if salt. Slowly incorporate the egg into the flour mix whisking all the time. 

Once the shortbread base is golden brown in the oven pull out the oven tray and pour the filling into the hot tray and return to oven. Reduce the oven to 150 degrees and bake until there is no wobble when you shake the tin. This should take around 30-40 mins.

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Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares and dredging in icing sugar. As they are quite filling I like to cut them into smaller squares. These will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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Italiano basics…

This one is super basic but handy if you have left over courgette or looking for a dinner idea. Zucchini trifolati or courgette trifolati is a simple way of cooking courgette but allows for maximum flavour. Trifolati is great as an accompaniment to a dish but I find it’s a great base for a tomato pasta sauce and you get that real authentic Italian taste.

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What you need:

2 green courgette

1 clove garlic

1 tsp dried basil and oregano

olive oil

Make sure the oil is quite hot before you add the courgette. This allows for maximum colour. Once it begins to brown add the rest of the ingredients but reduce the heat making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat once the courgette has a give but still holds a good bite. 

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Now is your time to go wild with your trifolati. Serve it with some fish, use it as a base for a delicious tomato sauce to serve with pasta or allow it to cool and liven up a salad.

Enjoy, xxx