Honey and Walnut Loaf

I love loaf cakes because you can just mix them up and throw them in the loaf tin. They are fairly straight forward to make and this one requires no icing, so it is minimum effort for maximum taste!

Ingredients

  • 190g butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar or golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 30g greek yoghurt (plain yoghurt is also fine)
  • 3tbsp runny honey
  • 70g chopped walnuts

Method

  1. Grease your loaf tin and line it with baking powder
  2. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beat
  5. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well
  6. Add the yoghurt and mix together
  7. Add the honey and walnuts and mix it all together
  8. Pour the cake mix into your loaf tin and bake for about one hour
  9. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

How quick and easy was that?

BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend

We were fortunate enough to have received tickets to BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend on the Saturday of this past weekend. The atmosphere was alive and typical of a good British festival. We were also impressed by the general atmosphere in and around Hackney itself, not to mention the huge plethora of different restaurants we saw on the way there sporting everything from Nigerian to Lebanese cuisine.

Not to be too distracted by the likes of Nicki Minaj, Jay Z and the rest of them on show, we could not help but scope out the arena for some tasty foodie goodness!

I opted for some Steak and Halloumi – Greek Style! There was all sorts of nasty burgers and chips about the place, so this place stood out as something alternative to the greasy regulars. I was not jus me that had the idea as this place had the longest queue of any other vendor in the area by far!

For a handsome £5.50, a ciabatta bread was laden with Steak and Halloumi, topped off with some shallots and smothered in a yogurt and mint dressing. The whole thing was deeply refreshing and just what any weary festival goer might need as a pick-me-up.

Nina went for an even more exotic choice of… Ostrich BBQ. Yes, a huge great chunk of BBQ’d Ostrich, slap in the middle of a bun.

What an interesting flavour this was. We have long wanted to try the ones in Borough Market, but have never really got around to it. With a tick in the Ostrich box of weird foods to try, we can safely say that it is both tasty and fulfilling. To compare it to something, think steak and chicken hybrid.

Lemon Tart

I love fruity deserts, particularly lemon ones. This lemon tart, or as you may prefer to call it, tarte au citron, is the perfect end to any heavy meal. I loosely follow baking genius, Mary Berry’s recipe.

Ingredients for pastry

  • 175g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1tsp orange or apple juice

Ingredients for lemon filling

  • 5 eggs
  • 125ml double cream
  • 225g caster sugar
  • Juice and zest of 4 lemons
  • Tbsp lemon curd (optional)
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. To make the food processor either rub the flour, butter and icing sugar until it looks like breadcrumbs or use a food processor, then add the yolk and juice (you can use water instead of juice)
  2.  Knead your pastry and leave it to chill for 15 minutes in the fridge in clingfilm or foil
  3. Grease your tart tray and roll the pastry out, dust the surface with flour
  4. Put your pastry into the dish, cover with greaseproof paper and put baking beads on top, blind bake at 180 degrees 15-20 minutes
  5. Once the pastry has cooled, remove the baking beads and greaseproof paper and begin making your filling. If you are feeling lazy you can buy Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry
  6. For the filling, whisk the eggs, add the sugar, then the lemon zest and juice, add the double cream and lemon curd if you are using it. Mix and add to your pastry, it may seem runny, but it will set
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 170 degrees, the tart should like firm but with a slight wobble in the middle
  8. Allow to cool, then refrigerate. Add an icing sugar dusting before serving

Enjoy! I served mine with lemon cream and raspberries.

The Garden House

The Garden House is a delicious and reasonably priced restaurant café in the historical city of Rochester near to where we live in Kent. I had lunched here before with a friend and we were both very impressed, so when in Rochester again and looking for a lunch time treat, I knew where to go.

The inside is very cosy, with around 6 tables in total. It can be hard to get in but we were very lucky. The shelves in the restaurant are filled with delicious Italian produce for sale, sources and pastas we had seen in small delis in Rome.

The menu is quite vast for a cafe and features open sandwiches, paninis, soups and salads, there is something for everyone. The Garden House also has a fantastic and reasonably priced set menu, 2 courses for £8.95, this is what we decided to go for.

I started with a delicious vine ripened tomato and basil soup, it was simply fantastic and much better than my own tomato soup.

Toby went for homemade hummus and olives, the home made hummus was fantastic.

On to the mains, I went for cold poached salmon with salad and potatoes and a delicious honey mustard dressing. The salad was spectacular. Sometimes I feel that Salads leave me disappointed and wanting more, but this was SO satisfying. The salmon portion was very generous too.

Toby went for a buffalo mozzarella salad with a pesto dressing. Again, the portion sizes were great and the mozzarella was so fresh and unlike any we have tasted in this country before.

We washed this down with a glass of pinot grigio, perfect. I would highly recommend The Garden Cafe and a visit to Rochester, the city (it has a Cathedral!) has a great deal of history to offer.

Butterbean and Beetroot Hummus with Pita Chips

We much prefer a starter to a desert (though frequently have all three courses). This is a quick, easy and impressive starter if served in individual ramekins, a tasty lunch or a buffet/mezze style starter.  Hummus is everywhere at the moment, on restaurant and bar menus, we put a spin on it with butter beans rather than chick peas as the main ingredient.

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of Butterbans
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Beetroot
  • Garlic oil
  • Fresh chives
  • Granary pita breads
  • Garlic oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Drain the butterbeans, but leave a little excess liquid in the can
  2. Empty into a food processor
  3. Add two cloves of garlic and start the food processor
  4. After about thirty seconds, start adding the garlic oil until the mixture becomes thick and smooth
  5. Add the chives so that there is a smattering of green in your mix
  6. Keep whizzing until the mix is smooth and not too watery – just like the consistency of hummus!
  7. Chop the beetroot into small chunks and then fold into the mix. Fold gently – do not stir madly as you do not want the Beetroot to completely mix with  the butterbeans
  8. Decanter into a serving bowl or ramekins and then straight to the table, or to keep in the fridge for a day or two
  1. Cut the pita chips into little squares / triangles / whatever shapes you want, but make sure you separate the two sides. You should also remove any pappy soft clumps that might be in the middle.
  2. Arrange these on a baking tray evenly and cover (or spray) with your oil and then season to taste. Salt and pepper work a treat, but you might want to be a bit more adventurous. Bake at 170°C until chip-like (about 15 – 20 minutes)

This is a great cheap and easy starter that is bound to impress with its festive colours, rich textures and soft flavours.

Little Brown Jug

Whiting and Hammond are a delightful chain of delicious pubs expanding throughout the Kent area. We have eaten at The Chaser in Shipbourne, The Cricketers in Meopham and now the Little Brown Jug in Tunbridge Wells.

The Little Brown Jug has a fantastic warm and welcoming atmosphere, like stepping into someone’s front room. They boast a wide range of beers and ciders on tap and an extensive wine collection.

I decided to go for the Carrot and Coriander soup, I was once told that if a restaurant cannot get  a soup right then it is probably best not to eat anything else, this soup was delicious!

Toby had a mezze platter of homemade hummus, tzatziki and olive mayonaise with homemade pita, another tasty choice.

I decided to go for a vegetable casserole with dumplings for my main, it felt like a winter treat which was great given the wet and windy conditions when we were there.

Toby had a pork and vegetable pie, it was quite fantastic but apparently Mrs Manning’s pies at the Fighting Cocks just wins the battle here.

The food is reasonably priced and the service is fantastic. They also have little huts to hire outside in the garden which would be amazing if the weather was hot and sunny.

Generally, a great foodie pub!

The Dirty Habit

We were in the area of Leeds Castle for a meeting, and of course searched around for somewhere to grab some lunch. We had heard of The Dirty Habit on the grapevine and have frequented some other locations of the Elite Pubs group with great admiration for the atmosphere, food and picturesque locations of these foodie pubs.

Inside is as cliché British pub as you could hope to find, there are bits of dead animals on the wall and the whole ambiance draws you into the fantastic atmosphere that would be welcoming to any hungry foodie, whether it was a bright sunny June day or a freezing, dreary and generally horrible… June day.

I was torn between the Burger and the Steak Sandwich, but my Love for brie got the better of me and I went for the Steak, Somerset brie, caramelised onions Sandwich. It changed my life. The picture says everything I ever could about how damn delicious this thing was!

Nina went for the less interesting Fish finger sandwich with tartar sauce. This was nothing compared to the steak in my humble opinion, but a fine mid-day feast none the less.

Both sandwiches were served on a delightful wooden serving board with sumptuous chips and a side salad.

We also opted for a Pea, broad bean & pea shoot salad to accompany the tasty tasty lunch. This was a refreshing and contrasting accompaniment to the heavy sandwiches.

As per usual, I went for a Black Coffee afterwards to round off, but the coffee gets a mention here because of the home made Madeline that came with it. This is a shocker as the biscuits that normally come with Coffee are the lowest of the low, but this was a very pleasant surprise!

If you are in the area of The Dirty Habit, you must give it a go! Reviews pending on the other of the Elite Pubs, but rest assured, they are all top quality foodie dwellings.

Swan, Chapel Down

Swan is a fantastic chain of three English restaurants. They are situated in West Malling, The Globe theatre near London Bridge and at the Chapel Down Vineyard. We set out to try Swan at Chapel Down winery.

The restaurant looks fantastic and is very inviting, if you are fortunate to have sun when you visit, there is a gorgeous rooftop eating area.

Being in a restaurant at the Chapel Down vineyard and winery, we of course went for a bottle of their staple, Flint Dry. This delicious wine was used at the wedding of Will and Kate and usually retails at around £8 a bottle, we therefore felt that the price of £17.50 a bottle was a little steep given the location. Swan, do however source as much produce as possible from within a 25 mile radius which is something we really appreciate.

When we were seated, we were presented with a complimentary bread board with a delicious olive bread and tapenade. We decided to go for the fantastically priced ‘Garden Menu’ which was £14.95 for two courses and £16.95 for three courses.

I went for a chicken salad to start, the dressing was delicious and I was really impressed with the portion size.

Toby went for a steaming hot bowl of fish soup, again a great portion for a fixed price set menu. Notes of saffron aplenty!

On to the mains, I went for pork and it was amazing.

Toby went for a Barnsley chop, he was not disappointed.

We also could not resist trying the three times cooked chips, Heston would be proud. However, giant and crispy bad boys were satisfying but did not quite live up to the hype for me.

Feeling full, we shared a desert – ‘Strawberry and Elderflower plate’. I was not really too sure what to expect, when it arrived it was essentially a glorified deconstructed eton mess with meringue, fruit, strawberry moose and elderflower jelly. Delicious and light following our starter and main.

We would 100% recommend to Swan to anyone wanting a delicious and classy feeling meal. If you do happen to go to the Swan at Chapel Down, be sure to try all of their delicious English wines and book a tour of the spectacular vineyard!

Ebly

So it is one of those unfortunate evenings when you do not have the time or energy to put together a culinary masterpiece, what do you do?

A recommendation is to give Ebly a go. This tasty stuff can easily fill out a meal of quick and easy food such as some roasted vegetables and meats.

We had it with some home made curry and simple veg. It is a brilliant alternative to rice and couscous and is perhaps even better when cold!

Ebly is fairly hard to come by and only a few Waitrose stores stock it, but if you ever see it around, get yourself a box and perhaps this will become a staple of your kitchen cupboards too!

Tomato Soup

So if like us you are feeling a bit distressed that the weather has taken a turn for the worse, then perhaps some tomato soup could warm you up. Tomato soup holds memories for me of being of school sick as a teenager, now I love how quick, easy and nutritious a bowl of homemade tomato soup is…

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 jar of passata or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh basil
  • 350ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Chop and fry your onion in olive oil until soft and slightly brown, add chopped garlic
  2. Add your chopped carrot and celery and fry all together until soft, add water if it gets too dry
  3. Once this is softened, add your passata or chopped tomatoes, season with salt and pepper
  4. Add vegetable stock and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, add some fresh basil
  5.  Whizz the soup and it is ready to eat, if it seems a little too thick, add some more water
  6. Season with salt and pepper, sometimes I even ass a little pesto. Ideally serve with homemade bread!