Friday, 26 February 2016

Size Does Matter with Bananas (Banana Ginger Loaf)

While bribery is very much to be frowned on, I have found that working in financial services, cake can go a long way.  Yes, teams powered by sugar are more productive and having checked on the Financial Conduct Authorities website, I look like being a ‘cake pusher’ hasn't been regulated out of existence.

That said, I personally hate fiddly recipes and don’t like sweet things but my suggestion of making a nice lasagne was turned down so I headed into the kitchen, committed to keeping my cool.  I chose to make a Banana Ginger loaf as not only did it look good and I had most of the ingredients but the recipe looked simple as it only had 4 steps.  It also came from a book that my Nan gave me and having worked on the radars on the Orkney isles in the war, I suspect she was rather a low-faff cook too.

Excited by the simplicity, I decided to make double the batter so I could spread the love (i.e. sugary bribery) far and wide!

Banana Ginger Loaf [makes one large loaf]

300g plain flour
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed allspice
2 ½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
200g soft butter
200g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
6 medium well ripened bananas (mashed)
120ml milk
2tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp chopped crystalised ginger

You start by sifting the flour, ginger, mixed allspice, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  This provides your upper arms with an excellent work out and the ability to cover all surfaces in your kitchen with a light dusting of ‘snow’.

Then add butter, brown sugar and eggs to the ingredients and beat thoroughly until well blended.  Sadly, this is when it started to go off track as I soon realise that a) there was a heck of a lot of batter in the bowl b) my bowl is a lot smaller than I remembered.  After all these years, I can admit that size does apparently matter.

Grabbing a cider (for inspiration) and my biggest pot, I began the ‘exciting’ task of slopping one gloopy mess into another dish.  My ladylike credentials buggered off at this point and I confess the loaf was not only made with love but certain levels of profanity.

Covered in flour and cross, I then added the bananas, milk and syrup to the mixture before adding the finely chopped ginger.  Pouring the mixture on myself and my kitchen I wrestled it into two greased loaf tins (10 x 28 cm) and muffin tin sheet.  There is a lot of mixture which really does keep on giving.

Put into oven at 160 C or 325 F for about 45 to 60 minutes – turning the temperature lower if the top gets too brown.  Remove from the oven and turn out once it has cooked slightly.  Avoid burning yourself – as I did – and present proudly to colleagues as ‘just a little something’ that I whisked up over the weekend in one of my minor domestic goddess moments.

Would I recommend that other low-faff bakers try it?  Definitely, if I hadn’t had size issues, it probably would have been far easier and for a relatively simple recipe it delivered a very moreish spicy banana ginger punch that even I liked

L x

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

Yakamoz - Turkish with warm feeling

Parties stress me out – I’m worried that no one will turn up; I am terrified I might poison someone and what happens if I run out of wine!  So, my heart goes out to anyone who starts their own restaurant as they must have all of those fears and more.  Especially, if you can obviously see that not only do they take huge pride in their business but that it is a little slow getting off the ground.

Having walked past Yakamoz (St James Street End of the High Street – 18 High Street, E17 7LB) several times, seen the delicious food and watched the staff anxiously waiting for customers, I really wanted to try it.  One of my best friends is moving to Manchester so when she wanted a catch-up which encompassed our friendship, I decided a pretty random night out would pretty much cover all that we have done together.

So, on a quiet Monday night, we bundled into the restaurant (after a bottle of bubbles) desperately in need of warmth and nice Turkish food.  The charming manager explained that there was a slight hold up with the licence but BYO was fine so we indulged in a bottle of ‘Sauvignon Blanc a la Lidl’.

Finally unwrapping ourselves, we looked around the restaurant which was decked out in what can only be described as rustic chic – traditional Turkish grill set up at the front, exposed brick walls and pristine white table clothes.  This suggests they may eventually do take-away's which would delight the sloth in me no end.

Turning my attention to the menu, I was very pleased to see such a variety of tasty Turkish dishes but between putting the world to rights and sipping our wine, it took so long to decide, that we just went for the hot meze platter, bread and insalata russa.

Fate had shined on us and when the meze arrived, it had all the hall marks of a glorious Turkish feast.  Red glistening Turkish sausage, crisp calamari, borek, falafel and meat balls surrounded a moreish dip which wasn’t hummus but was very very good.

The insalata russa was about the best I had ever had – just the right amount of mayonnaise to ingredients which were slightly crisp.

Having munched through this spread while putting the world to rights, we decided to share lamb ribs and another portion of insalata russa.  Okay, we were pigs but very happy ones.  The perfectly cooked lamb ribs came with two types of rice and a portion of mixed Mediterranean salad complete with baby pickled chillies (which was big enough to provide lunch the next day).

Speaking to the manager as we enjoyed our feast, we learnt that not only are the dishes prepared fresh and the chef is excellent (something that I can only agree with) but they offer a selection of fish.   We also learnt – although he didn’t say it – that Yakamoz is a restaurant which takes quiet pride in its service, food and place within the community – a place which leaves you with a lovely warm feeling.

And so our trip to Turkish finished and as we waddled off into the night, having paid well under £40 for the feast, we realised that it rather summed up our friendship.  Moments of sheer randomness which turn out successfully in the end – occasionally scaring bystanders.

Will I go back to Yakamoz?  Most definitely, in fact, you will have a hard time stopping me!

Don’t forget to follow me of twitter @littleofwhatyou

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

Jim Beam Honey Mushroom Sauce

Baby its cold outside but it’s warm in here!  Well, at least until the heating bill hits critical and I wrap myself (and naturally my feline masters) in thermals.  So what to have for supper in a sensible time frame?

As a South African I love steak so that was a no brainer but I decided to pep it up by making a sauce.  However, sadly being gluten-intolerant, the gloriousness of a roux-based creation was to be avoided and I looked into my fridge in a vain hope that the pantry fairy had visited.

No such luck but I did find mushrooms and sour cream!   And so children, this is how Jim Beam Honey Mushroom Sauce was born:

Take one pack of button mushrooms (cleaned and sliced), one good sized onion (chopped) and a garlic clove (minced)

Add a little oil to a frying pan and heat before adding the ingredients

Sauté until soft and turning the head down add about 150ml to 200ml of sour cream (this is around half of a standard pot so you can add more if you need more liquid)

Add one tot of Jim Beam Honey Bourbon, salt and pepper to taste before letting the sauce gradually reduce.

Serve with a steak cooked to your liking and veggies (green beans for me)

The sauce comes out with a nice hint of earth from the mushrooms, slight sourness from the cream and a hint of sweetness from the Bourbon – all of these can be exaggerated or reduced depending on your tastes.

This will create enough sauce of two servings (or one greedy person who has chips to dip).



Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @littleofwhatyou

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Best 'Dirty' Chinese in Cape Town

Visiting family in Cape Town, you are offered an abundance of glorious food – fresh fish, fruit and vegetables not to mention delicious local wine.  But occasionally on holiday, you just want dirty food!  No, not an English breakfast in 40 degree heat but that retro naughty food that brings with it echoes of all the fun you have had before when eating it – along with a shiver of guilt as you imagine just how bad it was for you.  So when we asked mother what she fancied for dinner and she suggested Chinese, I jumped at the chance.     

Now this posed a problem as Cape Town while being the most awesome place in the known universe (eer, I might be a little biased) does not do Chinese well!   You can find rocking Vietnamese and really rather good if westernised sushi but good old fashioned Chinese or Japanese food is almost impossible to find. 

Secondly, Mom doesn’t want high end authentic Chinese, she wanted ‘dirty’ Chinese – you know the cuisine which is roughly labelled Cantonese where they cheerfully serve sweet and sour sauce as well as chop suey without complaint.

After a bit of research (thanks Aunty Google), we settled on Tai Ping in Newlands!  Arriving at about 8 o clock, we buzzed to be let in and entered the 90s.   Woks on the walls, the faint smell of soy sauce in the air and wipe clean menus with red linen table clothes – inside I was doing the dance of happiness and dirty dirty joy.

The menu was excellent – covering all the important bases including springrolls, chop suey, sweet and sour pork, noodles and hot & sour soup.  A touch of South Africa (curried kingklip and apricot lamb spring rolls) vied with dim sum and a couple of surprisingly adventurous more traditionally Chinese dishes (Ma Po Tofu and Ants Climbing a tree) to create a well-rounded dining experience

The wine list isn’t extensive but they do allow you to bring your own wine and charge a relatively reasonable R28 per bottle.  Still, we didn’t know this so found a perfectly well priced and reasonable bottle of Sauvignon Blanc

We ordered spring rolls, pork buns followed by Ma Po Tofu, Shanghai Steak and Crispy Shredded Beef with rice.   The dishes arrived as they were cooked and the owner – committed to being both the cook and the host – nipped out to check all the tables were happy which took us further back in time to an era when being recognised as a regular meant something.  

The food was excellent – the spring rolls crispy without being greasy and the tofu, steak and beef shining examples of Cantonese food done well.  Admittedly, the pork buns were not quite fluffy or sweet enough for me but then again, I am a Dim Sum fiend who will fight a friend for a well-cooked turnip cake.

We finished the meal with bowties (which apparently are really called butterfly cookies according to one of the blogs I like called Burnt Out Baker).  These are essentially deep fried pastry drenched in sugar syrup which are an essential end to a South African Chinese meal – naturally served with Jasmin tea.

Waddling into the night, we agreed that we would be returning.  It isn’t Nobu, it isn’t posh – but sometimes all you want is food that tastes good because it is just excellent but also because you remember it from your childhood.  

Thursday, 12 November 2015

New Street Grill

I’m not a girly girl – explosions of pink concern me and high pitched squeaking with hand clapping generally sends me running for the hills (or alcohol).  I work in finance FFS so while I like to dress nicely, Elle Woods approach to fashion would raise a few eyebrows and not really help with the ‘being taken seriously’ part of my role.   One benefit of people realising this is that they are happy meeting me for lunch in restaurants that they may consider a little too masculine for other.

And I say – bring it on – or rather I was as I met people for lunch at New Street Grill – owned by the D&D London Group – this restaurant exudes masculinity with a hint of English gentleman’s club from its comfy leather booths to service.  While the menu focuses on steak, there are other options and I am confident that – as a woman - if pink is not the predominate focus of your wardrobe, you will find lots of menu options and feel comfortable cosseted as I did.

The wine list is extensive (and the sommelier is patience personified) so it is worth having a good look before you choose.  South African (naturally) Chenin Blanc was our choice followed by a rather nice Shiraz.

Trying to be good, I ordered oysters while my companions went for the gravlax.  Personally, I thought I won as not only are they served in the majestic old style but they were fresh, briny and brought the essence of the sea to Liverpool Street.  However, this did spark a debate as apparently the gravlax was perfectly balanced and just the right size for a starter.

For main course, I went with Dry Aged Hereford Rib Eye (as did the other guest) and a pepper sauce with triple cooked chips which my other companions chose Suffolk lamb, hand raised pie, black cabbage, parsnips.  Ordering the steak was a joy – having been patronised and annoyed last time I was at the Hawksmoor – yes, I could have it medium-rare and no, the waiter didn’t feel the need to explain the concept of size orders.

Then it arrived and I almost had to hand back my ‘not a girly girl card’ as I did want to squeak and clap my hands.  Perfectly cooked, tender with a real depth of taste!  Those cows from Hereford are definitely four counties ahead of those awful creations some –loosely named – gastro-pubs serve up.

The lamb was very tasty but as there appeared to be parsnips (food of the devil or carrots with a bad home life, I can’t decide) so I steered clear of enquiring more.  Thoroughly full, we looked longingly at the desert menu which included chocolate fondant, rice pudding and apple crumble and declined in favour of coffee to stave of the food coma.   

Is the New Street Grill good?  No, it is exceptional – not cheap by any means but definitely worth every penny – now off to find someone who fancies taking me there for lunch.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @littleofwhatyou

New Street Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A South Westerly Lemon Drizzle

I don’t like cake!  There, I’ve said it!  In a world obsessed with the Great British Bake Off, I am probably due to get lynched but I just don’t like fussy cooking.  Yes, some people are bakers and others enjoy making savoury food which works even if you put in 110g rather than 100g.

I fall into the latter camp but working with men, I occasionally have to bite the bullet and bake.  Yes, in my world the application of a little sugar seems to get the wheels turning faster and my computer running far smoother than before.

So a request for a Lemon Drizzle Cake was put in and although - as a South African – this isn’t a cake I am particularly familiar with and reminds me rather strongly of weather condition [a south westerly lemon drizzle is due to hit Scotland sometime on Sunday], I started looking for a recipe.

Yes, Lemon Drizzle for Idiots was my requirement and I found this recipe on Nigella Lawson website. It isn’t actually one from the domestic goddess but rather a post by Welsh Girl
on their community pages.

4 oz [or 113g] of softened butter [plus a little extra to grease your tin]
6 oz [or 170g] of self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
6 oz [or 170g} of superfine sugar [castor]
2 large eggs [or three medium eggs]
6 tablespoons [or 106ml] of milk
Rind of 1 large lemon [unwaxed]

For the icing:
Juice of 1 large lemon
4 oz [or 113g] of superfine sugar [castor]

You need to start by preheating your oven to 180 degrees C [or gas mark 4] so I felt confident with this step as I marched towards the valley of the shadow of cake doom.

Then, you need to grease your tin [9” x 8”].  I have a small kitchen and if I bought the different types of tin suggested each time I cooked, I would not fit into it so I fell back on my favourite stand-by [a square disposable foil tin].  So far so good, I thought as I gamely rubbed margarine onto the tin.

They suggest using baking parchment instead of greasing the tin but to be honest, it all seemed a bit of a faff [definitely points off for effort at this point on a Monday night after a long day at work].

Then you are supposed to dump all the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl before beating for 2 to 3 minutes.  And so the pain began!  The original recipe only used ounces so I kept having to refer to the internet to figure out how much I needed to put in. 

I also got enthusiastic so kept having to spoon ingredients back into the packaged, I now looked like an angry blond wine swigging snowman – not a domestic goddess in sight.

BTW – there is such a thing as an Australian tablespoon so I did have an internal debate whether there may be a Welsh equivalent [perhaps the love spoon] but I was a little past caring as I stood in a pile of flour watched by a bemused cat.

Finally, everything was in the bowl and I started mixing!  Lumps and more lumps!  More wine came out at this point as I realised that my butter was too cold and I couldn’t quite get it to mix in.

Giving up, I spooned it into my greased tin and popped it in the oven [for between 30 and 40 minutes] – retiring to the sofa to recover while muttering about cake. 

Getting over the trauma, I juiced two medium lemons and mixed in the sugar.  Aaargh, the fudging oven was too hot [190 to 200 C] so turning this down, I left the cake for 30 minutes until it was golden and firm.

One minor burn later [and more cat judgement], I poured the lemon juice mixture over the hot cake and left it to fester [probably not the right term but I was rather cranky].  

Next day, I dropped it off with our IT department to their surprise and delight! While this might have been my first lemon drizzle cake and to be honest it wasn't much to look at, it apparently tasted great and they were merrily humming around high on lemon and sugar!

Not a bad recipe for a good result but as I rather value my fragile grip on mental health, I doubt I will ever enter the Great British Bake Off.


L x

P.S. – Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @littleofwhatyou 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Don't choose a fast-food restaurant for a slow-food catch up!

Eating out is one of life’s great joys but occasionally, I find myself in a restaurant which I just don’t feel comfortable in.  Either, I’m not cool enough or too old or perhaps want more from a dining experience but DF Mexico in the Old Truman Brewery just didn’t float my boat.

And it was a huge shame as the food is excellent!  But let me explain, I arrived with one of my best girlfriends bent on putting the world to rights over a bottle of wine into an industrial space with a hint of Mexico.  A bit bright and shiny but I had had a day when I needed to escape from harsh light [which weirdly didn't help the photos] so it wasn’t their fault.

With thanks to

We were seated within 2 minutes and then the dreaded question came – ‘Have you eaten here before?’  Personally, I find that this never bodes well [unless it is at the temple of Nandos] but we both shook our heads and enquired what we needed to do.  It was 8:30 and I would have done the chicken dance if they promised to feed me.

We were instructed to look at the menus, remember our table number, trot to the bar over there [wave of the hand], order and pick up our drinks before awaiting our food.  Okay!  A bit complex after a long day but we both decided to put our big girl pants on and deal.

The very well-priced menu ranges from Mexican standards such as tacos to burritos to tortas to grills and salads – o glory be, something I can eat and enjoy!  The wine list has red, white or pink as an option plus a selection of Mexican drinks, beers and margaritas.  

Getting up to order, I found the counter bare of humanity and faced using the automatic touch screen system.  The fear set in!  Had I tapped something too hard?  What did they mean do you want to make the Burrito Mexican?  I can be a bit of a techno-phobe but I do prefer ordering from a real live person rather than fighting with a machine.

Order placed, the nice man behind the bar asked me if I needed help and then handed me a bottle of well-priced white Pino Grigo which was actually really rather nice.  We had gone with Guacamole and Tortilla [blue and white] chips to start and it didn’t disappoint – although a little salsa might have been nice.

The veggie burrito [Roasted vegetables. Habanero and pumpkin seed mayo] arrived shortly after and my friend said it was really good.  In fact, she was delighted with the vegetarian offerings and did have a moment of menu paralysis as she contemplated numerous choices.

My steak arrived [I wasn’t asked how I wanted it done but it was nicely medium rare] with chilli fries and a pot of Chipotle hibiscus salsa.  The salsa was a revelation and I WANTED MORE as the portion was a little small for my portion of chips.

Having set the world to rights [and potentially blocked a table for a bit], we wandered off into the night, full of glorious food and annoyed that we had chosen a fast-food restaurant for a slow-food catch up.  Don’t get me wrong, if I needed a quick meal, I would go again but it probably isn’t the place to solve the worlds problems.

L xx

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @littleofwhatyou

DF / Mexico Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato