Health(ier) Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep time required: 15 minutes
Makes 15 medium sized cookies

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I broke my foot 7 weeks ago and was put on a strict ‘no-gym’ regime for a minimum of 3-4 months.  This means no running, cycling, swimming and even no walking initially. As someone who usually hits the gym 4-5 times a week, I’m ashamed to say that the first thought that crossed my mind when I was diagnosed was ‘what will this do to my waistline!!!’.   I initially tried to cut out chocolates and biscuits, but found it required a lot of willpower when you’re sat at home, resting your foot and doing mostly nothing all day.  All I really wanted to do was reach for the nearest hob nobs packet!

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with ‘healthy’ baking, so I could have some treats and feel less guilty.  My healthy carrot cake was my first stint at this, but if you prefer something more chocolatey I’d recommend these double chocolate chip cookies.  I can’t say that they are 100% free from refined sugar, as they do contain a teeny bit of dark chocolate, but they are healthIER than their sugar filled alternatives.  They’re great as an afternoon treat or snack for work.

Ingredients:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 85g dark chocolate chips (50g melted and 35g keep aside for mixing in whole)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees/gas mark 4.
  2.  In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla essence and coconut oil and honey and beat until incorporated.
  3. Melt 50g of your chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a boiling saucepan of water.  Stir into your mixing bowl.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together until combined.
  5. Cover a baking tray with baking parchment.
  6. Scoop tablespoon sized portions of the batter into balls and place on the baking tray.
  7. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.

 

Venerdi

Overall: 8/10
Location: Homerton

Venerdi (meaning Friday in Italian!) is a bright and airy Italian restaurant situated on Hackney’s bustling Chatsworth Road. It’s such a lovely place to sit and have lunch, with large French Windows and a waft of wood fired pizzas and garlic hitting you as you enter the room. The restaurant has recently undergone a renovation, and now has a relaxed, yet elegant vibe.

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To start we were served warm bread with an olive oil, balsamic vinegar and rosemary dip and a side of olives, which all tasted super fresh. This was followed by the calamari which was another top starter, and was served with a home-made sweet chilli sauce. What really stood out at this stage was the freshness of the ingredients, which made every dish particularly delectable.

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The menu is well priced, with pizzas starting at £9 they also serve fresh pasta and INCREDIBLE desserts! The chocolate fondant was one of the best I’ve ever had, it was crisp and crumbly on the outside with a warm melted centre.

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The starters and the desserts really stood out for me, the pizza main and salmon in lemon butter were also delicious but nothing can beat that chocolate fondant! Everything was well-presented and I cannot fault the food, which tastes super authentic. Even their coffee rivals some I’ve tried in Italy! I’d also recommend sampling one of their cocktails, the mojito was a favourite at our table!

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The staff are super friendly and welcoming, making my overall experience at Venerdi super positive. In the summer, this will be a particularly lovely place to visit, with heaps of natural daylight and also outdoor seating.  This place is a must visit if you’re ever in the Hackney area!

Website: http://www.venerdi.co.uk

Address: 9 Chatsworth Rd, London E5 0LH

Pivaz 

Overall: 9/10

Good for: brunch, casual dining with friends 


Pivaz is an all-day Turkish eatery on the vibrant Chatsworth Road in Hackney. I’d never actually ventured out to that side of London before, but I will definitely go back, there’s so many cute cafes and eateries round there, Pivaz being one of them.


The food is a modern and British take on Turkish food, with dishes such as burgers and English breakfast plates with a Turkish twist featuring on the menu. 


They have a great cocktail list, I had the elderflower fizz which was a mix of prosecco with subtle hints of elderflower. 


To start I had the calamari and for the main I went with the veggie burger which was MASSIVE! And stacked with halloumi, portobello mushrooms, red pepper, aubergine and hummus, and served alongside sweet potato wedges which were seasoned to perfection. 


But the star dish of the day was definitely the prawns. They were served in a white sauce alongside some rice, which is undoubtedly the best rice I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t even realise it was possible for rice to taste that good! According to our waiter, it was cooked in a Turkish butter, which made it so delectable. 


Another highlight was their home made chilli sauce, it was super fresh and is testament to the kitchen’s high quality ingredients.


For dessert we had the sticky toffee pudding – it was just as amazing as it looks in the picture below!


The interior is cosy and relaxed, I LOVED the decor featuring patterned top tables and teacups hanging from the ceiling. The staff were kind and welcoming and overall it was a great experience, definitely worth travelling across London for! 


Pivaz currently have 2 branches, one in Hackney and one in Epping, with a third branch in Brentwood opening soon!

Address: 35 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LP 

Website: http://www.pivaz.co.uk 

Palatino

Overall: 4/10

The open kitchen, Palatino, London


Palatino is a new, Roman inspired eatery by Stevie Parle in the heart of Clerkenwell. I visited during their soft launch last week with high hopes, after all, Parle has an excellent reputation in the industry. However, the food was slightly disappointing and not up there with the best Italian finds in London. There are SO many amazing Italian’s around at the moment, Cicchetti and Padella, to name a few. So the competition is fierce.

The Pear and Radicchio salad


The flavours in every dish sounded exotic and revolutionary on paper (fried sage for example, could this revived traditional Italian dish be the new zucchini fry?) but in practice, most didn’t really work. The deep fried sage mostly tasted like deep fried batter, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think it’ll be replacing the zucchini fry any time soon. The polenta and fried gnocchi also had a strange aftertaste. 

Deep fried sage


The quality of the ingredients cannot be denied, for example the pasta is made fresh and tastes like it. The cacio e Pepe was the highlight. Plus the dishes are elegantly presented, but there’s a case of style over substance here.

Cacio e Pepe


Another highlight was the faro, beans, chard and porcini soup. This an example of the kitchen’s experimentation done right. It was basically a thick warming lentil soup with hints of mushroom, perfect for what was definitely one of coldest days of the year when I visited.

Faro, beans, chard and porcini soup


On the plus side, the interior itself has a lovely elegant vibe, encompassing Parle’s belief that dining out should not be solely based on the food itself, and the room design and attitude of the staff are equally important. The open kitchen makes the place appear warm and welcoming (and also makes you a little bit hungry!) The restaurant has everything in place to be successful – extremely friendly and welcoming staff, a great atmosphere and decor, and a team of talented chefs serving high quality ingredients, but they haven’t quite nailed their flavour combinations. Hopefully this will improve after their soft launch!

Deep fried gnocchi

Address: 71 Central Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 3AG
Website: http://palatino.london 

Dominique Ansel 

Verdict: 9/10

Location: Belgravia

Price: £4-10 per item 


Last month I was one of the hundreds that queued up for the Dominique Ansel London opening in Belgravia. In case you hadn’t heard, Ansel is the inventor of the world famous and trademarked Cronut (a hybrid of the donut and the croissant). The flagship store in Manhattan opened in 2013 and the Belgravia branch is the first to open in London. Rumour has it, some eager cronut-lovers had set up camp outside at 5am (probably for the best, by the time I got there at 7pm all cronuts had sold out! Sob sob). This was despite customers being limited to purchasing a maximum of 2 butterscotch and cacao nib cronuts each!

So instead I tried another one of Ansel’s signature bakes, the cookie shot. As the name suggests, this is a warm cookie in the shape of a shot glass, coated in its interior with melted chocolate, and filled with milk. It was great! 


What’s particularity commendable is Ansel’s customised approach. The company have never repeated a cronut flavour in the last 3 years as the flavours are changed every month and there’s even a different dough for summer and winter. The menu at their new London branch has also been tailored to British tastes. For example, the typically British Welsh rarebit croissant. There’s even talk of an afternoon tea opening soon! 


The interior is modern yet elegant and has a courtyard lit with fairy lights and a retractable roof. The team really excel in quality and freshness, which is achieved by a 24 hour operational kitchen. Although the items are not cheap (the cookie shot was £4.85 to eat in), the taste and quality is reflected in this price, everything is made from scratch. It’s definitely a must try! 

Restaurant details:

Address: 17-21 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RP
Website:  www.dominiqueansellondon.com 

Padella

“PASTA HEAVEN!”

Verdict: 8/10
Location: London Bridge/ Borough Market
Price: £20 for two courses and a drink

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After my trips to Venice and Rome earlier this year I’ve become a massive fan of Italian pasta bars – small and crowded with a minimalist interior, but serving simple, fresh pasta with a limited choice of maybe 5 sauces, all cooked to perfection! So I was super excited to hear that a pasta bar of similar concept was opening in London.

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Padella is great, it’s a tiny restaurant with a relaxed yet elegant vibe. The menu is small, with maybe 6 starters, 8 mains and 2 desserts. The pasta and all ingredients are really fresh – if you’re lucky you might even get seated at the bar stools overlooking the open plan kitchen so you can watch the chefs at work.

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The plates are small, so perfect for sharing or trying multiple dishes. And VERY reasonably priced. A glass of prosecco at £4 is almost unheard of in London!

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I tried the pici with marjoram and golden garlic, and the taglierni with slow cooked tomato sauce. The first was particularly delectable, featuring a very cheesy and garlicky sauce.

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This was followed by the chocolate tart, which had a soft and crumbly biscuit base. We weren’t too sure about the cream on the side, but the tart itself was delicious all the same.

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The staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, which changes regularly. However, like most high-demand and small restaurants these days, they have a no reservation policy so it’s best to arrive early to avoid the queues!

This place is about as close as I’ll get to my favourite pasta bars in Italy for now, so I’ll definitely be back!

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Restaurant Details:

Address: 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ

Website: http://www.padella.co

Hoppers

Verdict: 9/10
Location: Soho
Price: £20-25 including drinks

I’d recently seen Hoppers listed on Time Out’s top 100 London restaurants of 2016, and it is definitely deserved of that title! The restaurant is great, and brings an under utilised cuisine to the heart of soho. Hoppers features Sri Lankan and South Indian inspired dishes.


My first introduction to South Indian cuisine was at my best friend, Priya’s, wedding in Chennai. Our meals were served on banana leaves (which as a bonus means no washing up!!), the rotis were divine, and the curries were so delicious! Yet so simple. Definitely up there with some of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. It was such a special weekend… Made even better by the amazing food!

Banana leaf dinners at Priya’s wedding

with the beaut bride!

Sri Lankan food is pretty similar in flavour and style – full of creamy coconut curries. Deeelish.

So once I was back in London I was obviously keen to visit Hoppers, the latest venture of the Sethi siblings, who are also responsible for Gymkhana and Bubbledogs. It did not disappoint.

The Hoppers are made from a batter of fermented rice and coconut milk. In simpler terms, they are basically bowl shaped savoury crepes. They are served on a thali (lined with a banana leaf, even!) with several fresh chutneys and complemented with a Kari (curry).


The cashew curry is creamy and coconuty, and the bone marrow oozing with flavour. These were my two favourite dishes of the menu, though everything I tried was delicious! The menu is simple and limited, but all dishes feature carefully paired flavours, which work really well together. It’s a true example of quality over quantity!

Bone Marrow kari

It’s also hugely good value for money. A filling meal would not set you back more than £20/£25, including drinks – something that’s largely unheard of in soho.


The interior is colourful, featuring glossy wood, a rattan ceiling and vintage Sri Lankan posters dotted around the walls, reminiscent of Tamil roadside shacks.

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The only downside… You will most definitely have to queue. The restaurant is tiny, with perhaps a maximum of 50 covers. And no reservations. I’m talking 3 hour waits here. I’ve even arrived at 6pm and been told that they are taking no more names on the waiting list for the evening. It’s just THAT good!

Restaurant details:

Address: 49 Frith St, London W1D 4SG

Website: www.hopperslondon.com 

Email: info@hopperslondon.com