Apple and Oat Pancakes with Sambazon Acai Compote

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Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes 6 medium sized pancakes

I was gifted a packet of Sambazon’s acai compote and asked to prepare some delicious pancakes with it.  Sambazon have found that traditional syrup is full of a lot of sugar, so they’ve added some superfood punch to a fruity compote to use as a pancake topping.  The acai bowl has recently become insta-famous worldwide, and their packets can be used to recreate them yourselves at home too. If you’re wondering where their interesting name comes from, Sambazon takes its name from its core goal: Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon. It aims for and represents a positive future of global food consumption that makes a positive impact on local communities and protects the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest.

The pancakes are oat and apple pancakes, full of the same warming flavours of an apple pie. I found these went well with the fruity flavours of the compote.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Sambazon Original Superfruit Pack
  • handful of fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 45g oats
  • 1 apple
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 egg

Method:

  1. To make your pancakes, put the cinnamon, coconut oil, oats, sliced apple, honey and egg into a food processor and blitz for around 1 minute, until a sort of paste forms.
  2. Spoon on to a frying pan on a medium heat in round circles and cook for about 1-2 minutes and flip and repeat.
  3. To make your berry mixture, in a sauce pan, add blueberries/blackberries and Sambazon Original Superfruit and cook down on medium heat, stirring often until you have a thick syrup.
  4. Spoon on to the pancakes and enjoy!

ZeeZain

Overall: 6/10
Location: South Kensington

My Thoughts:

I was invited to try out the newly refurbished ZeeZain, a casual and modern Indian restaurant in South Kensington.  As you walk in, you’re greeted by an elegant decor.  The restaurant was busy, which is unsurprising given it’s location right by the museums, in a tourist hot spot, but it’s definitely not a tourist trap restaurant.  A window seat is perfect for people watching. It is a family run business with a long history in the area that is owned by Akhtar Miah and is named after his two sons – Zee and Zain.

The menu is wide ranging, there’s something on there for most people (curries, kebabs, vegetarian food). Compared to the other modern-Indian spots that keep popping up in London, the food is much more traditional – think classic curries, and mixed grills. For an Indian restaurant, the food isn’t overly spicy. Considering you’re in the heart of South Kensington, on one of the most touristy streets in the city, the prices are really reasonable, especially for the large portions.  It’s a great place for sharing a meal, family style.

To start, I was given a mixed grill starter with samosas and lamb and chicken kebabs. All were simple, yet tasty.  I then tried a few curries – the lamb curry and the fish bhunna.  I’m not a massive fan of tomato-ey curries (I generally as a rule never cook with tomatoes in my own curries!) so wasn’t a huge fan of these, the ingredients are definitely high quality, but I think they needed more flavour to counteract the overpowering tomato taste.  The highlight of the meal for me, was the garlic naan, they were light and fluffy and perfect for dipping into curries.

The service was good, the staff were friendly and attentive and we got to know them well throughout the meal, which is always nice.  We ended up sitting next to an American couple and got chatting to them, they actually thought the service was a bit slow, I suppose this comes down to cultural differences, the service in restaurants in America is always exceptional!

In my opinion, ZeeZain has all the foundations for a great restaurant – the location, decor, menu and vibe, the food just needs a bit of improvement in terms of flavour. It has the potential to be a great addition to the usual touristy restaurants in the area.

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Website: www.zeezain.co.uk
Address: 38 Thurloe Pl, Kensington, London SW2 7HP

Tahini & Turmeric Granola Bars

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The Groovy Food Company have developed a new coconut oil, infused with turmeric, which seems to currently be the nation’s favourite spice! This combination makes their coconut oil perfect for adding to curries, stir fries or even granola bars, as I tried myself.  I was sent a jar of their coconut oil and asked to try out a recipe their team have developed for these tahini and turmeric granola bars.  Tahini and turmeric are both ingredients that have traditionally been used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, but is gradually becoming more and more popular in the UK.  I must admit, that when I initially read the recipe, I was slightly apprehensive, as these are not ingredients that I’ve commonly used to prepare granola bars! However, the end product was great, you are left with a granola bar full of warming spices, that is not overly sweet.

The Groovy Food Company also have a whole collection of other great recipes on their website using their products.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes approximately 30 granola bars

Ingredients:

  • 400g rolled oats
  • 100ml agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons The Groovy Food Company Organic Virgin Coconut Oil infused with turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 100g pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread oats evenly on a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine agave nectar, tahini and turmeric infused coconut oil in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, coriander, salt and black pepper and mix well. Add dates and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Combine toasted oats, pistachios and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add agave and tahini mixture and mix well to ensure the oats are well coated.
  4. Grease the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish and line well with parchment paper. Transfer oat mixture to the lined dish and flatten using your hands (compressing the mixture helps the bars hold together better).
  5. Bake for 25 mins and leave to cool for 15 before transferring out to a wire rack. Allow a further 10 minutes before cutting.

 

Asian Style Pork

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I was recently invited to the Taste of London Festival to sample a 4 course menu developed using Lee Kum Kee’s new sauce range. My favourite dish of the night was easily the sticky BBQ pork dish, and the best bit is, you can buy their sauces and whip up this tasty meal at home.  Compared to the other supermarket brands, Lee Kum Kee’s sauces taste more authentic, and are still reasonably priced. For example, their Premium Oyster Sauce (used in this recipe) is sold at most supermarkets (it’s £2.75 at Tesco).

I’ve adjusted this recipe slightly from the original, as I’ve found this method to be a bit more user friendly when you’re pressed for time, and you still get the same great flavours.  Don’t eat pork? I’ve also tried substituting the pork for salmon or chicken and it works really well too.  The recipe below uses a barbecue, but feel free to pan fry or grill your pork instead. I’ve tried all methods and they all work well.

Prep and cook time required: 20 minutes (plus marinade time)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

500g thinly sliced pork belly
2 tablespoons soy sauce
thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Char Siu Sauce 
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce

Method:

  1. Marinade your pork. Place your pork belly into a bowl and coat in the soy sauce and the ginger. Leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. To cook, light your barbecue.  If you are using charcoal, make sure it is fully lit and all the flames have died down, as you want your barbecue to be as hot as possible.
  3. Put the pork slices on to the grill and cook for 2 minutes before turning.  Repeat this process for approximately another 4-6 minutes, or until almost cooked.
  4. At this point you want to add your Char Siu and Oyster Sauce to the pork and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until charred on both sides. Serve with any remaining glaze.

Zzetta

Overall: 8/10
Location: Canning Town

My Thoughts:

I was invited to try out Zzetta last week, a brand new pizza spot in Canning Town. When I arrived, it was the busiest spot on the high street, and I could smell their wood-fired pizzas as I approached, so we were off to a good start.

The staff were super friendly and welcoming, and knowledgeable about the menu and restaurant. This is really important to me, I like to know what the most popular dishes are, and if there are any particularly great ones to look out for.  Our waiter explained that the name ‘Zzetta’ came from the Italian word ‘pizzetta’ which means mini pizza. The idea behind the restaurant was initially to have a menu consisting of mini pizzas, served tapas style.  Personally, this would be perfect for me as I love trying out several dishes at once, but market research suggested London wasn’t quite ready for this!! So they went with normal sized pizzas.

Their menu features a range of pizzas, for vegetarians and meat and fish lovers. I particularly liked how innovative the toppings were. For example, I tried the smoked salmon and ricotta pizza, which was a very unusual pizza combination but tasted light and fresh.  Also featured on the menu was a yellowfin tuna topping, something I’d never seen before! They source their ingredients locally from Billingsgate, Smithfield and Covent Garden markets, and you can definitely taste the quality in their dishes.

For the vegetarian option, I tried the porcini mushroom pizza. Our waiter explained that they had gone with porcini mushrooms due to their meaty texture. As a mushroom lover, this was right up my street. The pizzas on the whole are generally affordable, in line with London prices, but the freshness and quality of ingredients give them an edge over competitors.  The pizzas also have a nice smokiness to them.

Their drinks menu is small but they have a bit of everything – wines, beers, soft drinks and hot drinks. They don’t serve traditional soft drinks, but rather have a selection of ‘bio’ sodas (the cola, lemonade) as well as juices.  These soft drinks are the healthier alternatives, with less caffeine, to their main branded counterparts.  The lemonade tasted very fresh in comparison to the usual brands on offer, but as a firm Diet Coke lover myself, I would have loved for that to be on the menu!

I like that they have intertwined with the local community, purchasing their ingredients from local markets, and having placards hanging from the ceiling with quotes of former local residents and workers at Rathborne market.  I’d definitely recommend to anyone living in East London for sure (and it’s worth the journey even if you’re not local!)

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Website: www.zzetta.co.uk
Address: 110 BARKING RD, RATHBONE MARKET, LONDON E16 1EN

 

Aussie Tukka & Truckstop Today

Location: They move regularly! Visit www.truckstoptoday.com to keep track (and check out a huge range of food trucks in the UK)
Price: £6 – 8

My Thoughts:

I was invited to try out Aussie Tukka’s lunch menu by CK, the founder of Truck Stop Today –  the UK’s first online library of food trucks. It’s definitely worth checking out their website if you are a street food lover! There are loads of trucks serving a huge range of cuisines dotted around the country, a lot of them outside office blocks.  The schedule changes regularly and is updated on their website. I had lunch with CK at Aussie Tukka’s truck not too far from my own office, and heard all about his journey building Truck Stop Today, born out of his love of (street) food having worked at toptable.com for 9 years and from loving Americana and loving his regular New York visits in the states – pretty much the home of Food Trucks!

Aussie Tukka serve a range of barbecued meat, fish and veggie options, in true Aussie style. On the day I visited, halloumi was on the menu and was served with a rainbow slaw and salad leaves which can either be rolled up in a big wrap or served as a salad in a box.  The highlight for me was a drizzle of their handmade red pepper sauce, which is made with fresh roasted red pepper, garlic and creme fraiche – you can really taste the freshness!  They also added a dollop of home made chilli sauce from the Peckham Sauce Co., which again, tasted super fresh.  It was perfect for a light and healthy summers lunch.  Their menu ranges in price between around £6 – 8 per dish, in line with London prices, but the wraps are quite substantial and should keep you going throughout the afternoon. Overall, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go if you’re a BBQ lover like me!

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Cooking with Comté

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I was recently invited to a cooking class at L’atelier des chefs on comté cheese.  The class began with some wine and a little introduction to comté and it’s production methods. Comté is a French cheese originating in a fairly remote region in the mountains of Eastern France where there are over 2500 family farms dedicated to producing the raw milk that is used to create comté.  The cows used for producing the milk are only fed with natural feed and their milk has to be processed within 24 hours so it’s extremely fresh.  It is then taken to one of the 150 small village cheese dairies in France that specialise in producing comté, where it is looked after for at least 4 months, and is regularly turned, salted and rubbed in a cheese wheel with brine solution.

It’s a hard cheese that’s from a similar family to gruyère cheese and has over 83 natural flavours that can be detected when tasting it, making it a very versatile cheese that can be added to loads of dishes.

We then had the opportunity to taste three different ages of comté.  In general, the darker the cheese is, the older it probably is, and the older it is, the saltier it is.  Our cheese tasting was followed by a demonstration by chef Laura Pope, of two dishes that she has developed using comté.  First we had the freekeh salad with charred pears, rocket and comté and for the main she made bubble and squeak with melted comté and a fried egg (the recipes can be found below).  We then split off into groups and had a go at making (and eating!) the dishes ourselves.

Freekeh salad with Comté, charred pears & cinnamon, rocket & toasted pecans

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Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes
Serves 4

The freekeh salad was honestly one of the best salads I’ve ever tried! There are so many flavours and textures involved, the freekeh itself has a delicious smoky, earthy flavour, the pecans offer a crunch, the pears a sweet twinge and the lemon a citrusy element.

Freekeh originates in the middle east and is green durum wheat that has been roasted, rubbed and then cracked.  You can buy dried freekeh and prep it yourselves, but we actually cheated slightly and used ready made freekeh by Merchant Gourmet to save time.  It was really delicious and I’d probably buy it again in future because it cuts down prep time but still has a great flavour!  Laura mentioned that we could substitute the freekeh for bulgur wheat or quinoa if required.

Ingredients:

  • 250g freekeh (either ready made or cooked according to the packet instructions if cracked)
  • 2 to 4 just ripe pears (depending on size – you want about 400g in total)
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 50g rocket leaves
  • 100g pecan nuts (without shells)
  • Zest of ½ lemon and juice of 1 lemon
  • 45ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g 12-14 month aged Comté, cubed

Method:

  1. Toast the pecans: heat oven to 160℃ fan / 180℃ normal and lay the pecans out on a baking sheet, then toast for about 10 minutes, until they give off a rich aroma – but do not let them burn. Let them cool, remove a handful to leave whole and then roughly chop the rest.
  2. Add the freekeh to your salad bowl.
  3. If the skin of the pears is rough and thick, peel them – if not, you can leave it on. Cut them into eighths and cut out the cores. Toss the pears in the oil, cinnamon and a little salt and black pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat for a few minutes and then char each side of the pears so that they have griddle lines and are warm all the way through – you don’t want to overcook them or they will fall apart. Chop half the pears into cubes and leave the rest for later.
  4. Mix the lemon zest, juice and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Mix this through the freekeh and mix in the rocket leaves, the chopped pecan nuts, the cubed pears and most of the Comté. Lay the pear slices on top and scatter over the remaining Comté and pecans.

Bubble & squeak with melted Comté and fried egg

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Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes (depending on whether you have leftover mashed potato)
Serves 4

Bubble and squeak is a great way to use up leftover potato and vegetables.  It’s also warming and comforting so is the perfect meal for winter (or most of the year if you live in the UK!!) We added cavolo nero and comté which tasted delicious melted! We topped the dish with a fried egg.

Ingredients:

  • 400g cavolo nero
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, for frying
  • 900g cooked mashed potato
  • 8 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 200g 18 to 24 month aged Comté, coarsely grated
  • 4 eggs

Method:

  1. Cut out the central rib of each leaf of cavolo nero and discard, then cut the leaves into wide strips. Melt 30g of the butter in a saucepan and add the cavolo nero, a splash of water and season with salt and black pepper. Turn heat up high and stir the cavolo nero to coat it in the butter, water and seasoning, then turn the heat down to medium, cover the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, until it is wilted, giving the pan a shake every now and then. Drain off any excess liquid.
  2. Heat the remaining 30g butter and about ½ tablespoon oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, then tip in the potato and spring onion and fry. As it cooks, you want it to brown and char slightly – make sure to spread it out over the base of the pan and keep breaking it up and scraping the bottom of the pan so that the lovely, crunchy brown bits are mixed in.
  3. Mix in the cavolo nero and then the Comté and turn the heat down to medium. When the Comté starts to melt, stop turning the mixture over – just press it down every now to flatten the surface and cook over a low heat until it is golden brown on the bottom.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil and fry the eggs over a medium heat so that the whites are set but the yolks are still runny – season each egg with a little salt and black pepper as they are cooking. Place the four fried eggs on top of the bubble & squeak and serve in the frying pan for everyone to help themselves.

I was sent home with a slice of the comté cheese wheel and have been adding it to salads, pastas and several other dishes, it’s such a versatile cheese and I’m glad I discovered it!  If you want to get your hands on some comté, it is sold in several cheesemongers and supermarkets in the UK (such as Waitrose). See their website for more details at www.comtecheese.co.uk