Friday Reading

It's Friday! Hope you're all looking forward to the weekend and whether you're running about here there and everywhere, or taking a chilled one at home - I hope it's a good one.

Here's this week's roundup from the internet. I tried with all my might not to include any Madonna GIFs. I actually saw it first hand, as my attention was waning from watching the Brits all evening and I howled with laughter. I laughed so hard and loudly that I woke up Shay and he was angry. I had the giggles for the rest of the evening which didn't help, but I knew in the morning he'd understand why. And since then he's been sending me articles and GIFs of the incident - so everything has come full circle really.

Anyway, on with the links:

 - THIS buzz feed page on celebs with a selfie stick at the Brits
 - An interesting read on perceptions and projections of eating disorders in the media
 - Heather's boredom
 - Kellie's blog update - I love Kellie's blog and reading about her plans to go travelling so soon is so exciting
 - Loriley's dedication to giving up sugar (!!!) for Lent - very admirable
 - Not an article or blog post but a review for some headphones, I was browsing amazon for some headphones to run with and came across this review... I don't even know how I really feel about it, it's bizarre but it did make me chuckle

The internet is a weird and wonderful place.

What's For Lunch Today? Shoryu-Go | Soho

It's quite safe to say, people go crazy for ramen right?! Soupy, noodley goodness with loads of flavour, what's not to like?

Shoryu is a Japanese restaurant group in central London, with a couple of locations around the piccadilly/soho area serving up a whole menu's worth of ramen, steamed buns, sashimi and a range of sakes and rice wines. When it comes to Japanese food, they've pretty much got you covered.

I first tried Shoryu in their Carnaby restaurant for dinner only a few weeks ago, but considering they have a take away branch close to my work, I knew I had to go along and check if their 'to go' offering is as good as their sit-down restaurants provide.

Verdict? I preferred the restaurant grub, but that's NOT to say I didn't enjoy Shoryu-Go. So what are it's redeeming features? Well for starters, the same food is cheaper than at their restaurants. Instead of being £11 their Ganso Tonkotsu, Shoryu's signature ramen - is only £7.60 and I'd say the portion size is only slightly smaller - arguably a much more manageable portion for a lunch or lighter dinner.

At their Carnaby restaurant I did have the Ganso Tonkotsu, and it was delicious and I was so full afterwards - in fact I couldn't even finish it. I decided to go for the Tori Kara-Age Men at Shoryu-Go, which is served with rice noodles as a gluten-free option. I wanted to try it out after seeing Loriley try it. Food envy or what?! It was lovely, although the first thing I noticed was not as much care is taken for presentation, for example my nitamago (egg) was buried under the broth and noodles instead of boastingly floating at the top. I also swerved the 'fish cakes' because I'm a wuss when it comes to unrecognisable food - particularly fish. I passed them on to my sister who enjoyed the fishcakes thoroughly and exclaimed they were pretty much exactly like crab sticks. So at least someone got to enjoy it.

I really really enjoyed the rice noodles, which inevitably didn't make me bloat afterwards but still kept me full. I'd love to know if supplementing rice noodles in their other ramen bowls is an option, and is probably something I'll go back to find out about.

So really other than presentation and a slightly smaller portion size, which I can totally understand, there's not much difference in the take out option, which is a huge plus in my eyes! I'll definitely be going back to try more of their menu including their extremely tasty looking steamed buns and maybe even after work with a cheeky Japanese beer to boot! 

If you're a fan of ramen, and fancy something quick and easy in Soho, I'd recommend a visit to Shoryu-Go, but if you have a bit more time to spare, definitely try and get to one of their restaurants, you won't be disappointed.

Red Velvet Cake

Baking a successful red velvet cake has been, quite honestly, a real struggle for me. From bad recipes to even worse food colourings and embarrassingly bad tasting results - it's been quite the journey. But this weekend I finally won the war over this cake, with a lot of thanks to Nigella.

In theory I know this isn't really much different to any other cake, but I've finally discovered the secret, or not as the case may be to making this cake an actual cake, and not just some reddy-brown flat cake biscuit which has been my problem before.

It's all in the type of food colouring you use. Obvious, I know but there's a lot of bad ones out there, mainly the ones you get from the supermarket - Dr. Oetker I'm looking at you. For this cake I used the Poppy Red Sugarflair Gel - purchased from ebay, where else?! And the difference is marked.

I used this recipe, and instead of making two 10 inch sandwiches as suggested, I opted for three 7 inch layers, because I don't have 10 inch cake tins and I prefer smaller & taller cakes. I turned the heat on the oven down to 150c (for fan ovens) and baked for 20-25 mins.

I'm super pleased with not only how this cake came out (and especially how it tastes) but that I've finally, successfully managed to make a red velvet cake! Now, what do I need to conquer next...?

Have you ever had trouble with a particular recipe?

Friday Reading

Like most weeks, I've read A LOT of good articles, blog posts and whatever else this week on the interwebs so I'm going to try and make this more of a regular thing.

That was short and sweet, let's get into it:

- Ruby Tandoh's article on her relationship with food - a compelling read, probably one of the best articles I've read in ages
- This inspiring piece I read yesterday about saying a big F U to normal conventions to see the world
- This Buzzfeed list that is still making me laugh now at the thought of it
- Emily's seriously amazing salmon wonton noodle soup
- These ingenious spray painted jars
- And just all of Callie's posts about her 5 week trip to SE Asia over Christmas & New Year

And someone super talented who I'm finding I double tap on every single one of her photos, the lovely Nicola Richman and her instagram - just do it, it makes sense

I hope you enjoy some of those links, if you've got any articles you've read this week that you'd love to share, please paste in a comment and I'll check it out for sure!

Otherwise hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!!

This Last Week #8

I know I probably definitely say this every time I come to write one of these posts, but it really actually has been a while. And this time we can start off on a good note, as opposed to last time. I'm still not sure if I'm ready to divulge what that was all about yet, or ever really but rest assured everything is ok now.

It's been a busy few weeks, going places, meeting up with friends, getting creative and actually making a really amazing decision that is going to be amazing when it happens. I hate being so cryptic but I really cannot explain anything about said 'huge decision' yet but trust me, it's a goodie.

And just a quick note, see those flowers there, they lasted three and a half weeks. Shay bought them for me on the random - he's a keeper - and they've been sitting proudly in our living room for ages. Like, seriously ages, I couldn't believe it. It's made me think about buying flowers for the flat more often, coz like they're nice to look and and stuff.

A couple of weeks back I met up with the lovely Loriley and we went for ramen. After admitting I'd never had ramen before, we arranged to go to Shoryu to 'pop my ramen cherry' - trust me this was not my choice of words but lo and behold whoever the genius behind Shoryu's twitter account is (although it did definitely make me laugh). What can I say? I'm in love. I was fully in a ramen coma on the bus home afterwards, barely able to function because I was so full but I can't wait to try more and go to more places.

Oh and as you can probably imagine, I'm struggling to find a place to put all the many jars of marmalade that is now sitting in the kitchen, driving Shay round the bend. 

I've had the wind knocked out of my sails for the last week after coming down with what I can only describe as a general illness. It's definitely not the worst cold I've ever had - oh no, that was last year's, this time last year in fact - but it truly has knocked me for six. I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the lemsip tunnel and coughing a lot less, so hopefully I'll be back to normal in the next few days.

It's important that I get better pronto because this week I signed up for my first ever 10k race!!! I feel like whenever I talk about fitness I should be saying 'literally, who am I?' because how I have been for the last, well, six months now is so far removed from how I was before, but having a positive and proactive outlook on health and fitness is starting to kind of feel like normality. I'm really excited to get back on it, back to Barry's and back on running home to train. My run home from work is about 5.3 miles which I believe equates to about 8.5km... so I'm not too far off the distance. There's a route home I can take which will take me neatly up to the 10km mark so I'll be able to get lots of practice in - I'm aiming to achieve a finish time of between 50-55 mins which would really be amazing. I probably won't keep you updated on my progress, because it'll be like a difference of 30 seconds each run... not exactly enthralling content but I'll definitely let you know how I do on 21st June!

In terms of sewing, I'm hoping to finish off some ongoing projects this weekend so I can get cracking on using the amazing geometric patterned satin fabric I bought from ebay. I've got a loose top in mind for it but definitely need to finish everything else off first. I hope to have a lovely dress to show you next week as I've got Saturday day-time all to myself whilst Shay gallivants off to band practice. I plan on catching up on the Great British Sewing Bee, whilst sewing. Just don't tell me I don't know how to live ok?

And just as a side note on TV this week... omg Eastenders. This is what we've all been waiting for! I'll be seriously annoyed if it is actually Abi Branning though, it would just be too farfetched. I've even threatened TWICE to stop watching if it ends up being Abi Branning who killed Lucy Beale. Like I just can't handle it.

Finally, as you will see (or not as the case may be) there are a total of zero photos on my instagram of pancakes. None. Nadda. Zero. Zilch. Because do you know what? When I got home from work, I couldn't really be bothered to make them. So instead I'll be doing belated pancakes on Saturday and Sunday to make up for it, that way I can take my time and not rush them. I'll be making buttermilk pancakes because I do actually have buttermilk in the fridge, in preparation for making red velvet cupcakes.

What have you guys been up to recently? Dare I ask if any of you are as hooked on Eastenders as I am? Or have you given anything up for Lent?

Hawksmoor | Spitalfields

They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, and I guess that extends especially to the Hawksmoor, the current king of steak houses in London. But when you have an almost 2 year old voucher, given to you by your team at a previous job, it definitely feels free.

Let's just slide over the fact it took me almost 2 years to visit Hawksmoor - even with a £50 voucher burning a hole in my pocket. Shameful, I know. But I have an excuse, when the voucher was first placed in my unknowing hands, we looked at the menu quite shocked at how much we'd have to spend to have a decent meal there. We contemplated the cheaper set menu lunch option and also just saving a bit of money up to enable us to go all out for a blow-out dinner, no expense spared. Neither ended up happening, but when I realised a few weeks ago that Hawksmoor did roast dinners for £19.50 on Sundays - well our minds were made up.

We booked just a few days before for a 1:30pm sitting and when we got there to no surprise at all the restaurant was full. A mix of people from young families to groups of friends and celebration lunches - the Hawksmoor is clearly a place for anyone. And it was nice to see that even though it's more of an upmarket steak house, the staff are still casual and welcoming, which made us feel right at home.

We got stuck in straight away and ordered a bottle of red and our roasts; we were informed that the beef comes pink as standard which we were super glad to hear.

After a short wait, and some ogling of other people's roast dinners, our plates arrived filled to the brim with goodies. There was honestly not one thing I didn't like on the plate. The generous serving of beef is accompanied by a huge crispy yorkshire pud, roast potatoes (roasted in duck fat, oh yes), sprouts with their leaves, carrots, a whole roasted bulb of garlic and some lovely roasted(?!) onion that was beautifully caramely. Not a word, I know, but that's the only way I can think to describe.

The roast at the Hawksmoor was worth every single penny (of the voucher), and considering it's hard to find a good beef roast in London for less than about £14, not accounting for all the terrible ones above that price - I'd say this roast is actually bang on the money. Just for comparison, the beef roast at our local that has just reopened with a new kitchen is £15.95... and just to reiterate, it's a pub.

I was suitably full after lunch but still very seriously considered dessert. Chocolate tart? You are mine next time. The waiter was extremely gracious when we turned down dessert in favour of finishing our wine and not wanting to over do it, but he still brought out three of their dark chocolate salted caramel 'rolos' for us to try. HUGE thumbs up for that.

Overall our experience at the Hawksmoor was excellent, there's no wonder everyone raves about it. I'd love to go back for the full dinner experience, but that will definitely require a bit of saving of money on our part. However if your pockets aren't as full as you might like just yet in life, the roast dinner option is an excellent compromise for a slightly more indulgent Sunday lunch.

L-O-V-E, I'll See You Later!

20 points to whoever can guess what song that lyric is from, no googling. 

Despite what you're about to see here, we don't celebrate St. Valentines Day. This will be our sixth V-day spent together, but I don't think the romance levels will beat last year's chicken shish kebab and bottle of Malbec, it's just not something either of us are interested in - but each to their own and that.

HOWEVER, you didn't think it would stop me doing something creative in the kitchen, did you? Good heavens no. I love a theme and a bandwagon just as much as the next girl so here we are. In order to use up the remains of the salted caramel that has been patiently waiting in our fridge, I decided to get myself a chocolate mould for pennies on ebay and get busy.

I had surplus amounts of cooking chocolate from Christmas, so didn't actually really spend anything on ingredients apart from some decent red food colouring by Sugar Flair, which I'd been meaning to get anyway - red velvet cake I WILL defeat you.

The chocolate mould I bought has 15 heart shapes so I've made 30 chocolates, minus a few for quality control obviously. The pinky/reddy and white hearts are white chocolate with a salted caramel pocket inside and the others are milk chocolate with a dark chocolate and salted caramel ganache - which melts so beautifully in the mouth, even if I say so myself.

I kinda just made it all up as I went along, which I'm really pleased with because I personally think they look and taste absolutely fab. I also bought some edible glitter paint brushes that you twist at the end and the glitter paint comes out of the brush - also from ebay - for decoration in the little holes that the mould creates. Purely for aesthetics. And I also bought some tin foil squares - you guessed it, from ebay - in a bronze colour to avoid being over-the-top Valentinesy, says the girl who just made heart shaped chocolates.

I think the foil wrapping really makes them look special and I'm already thinking of doing the same for other events in the year and for personalised presents. I very much take Valentines day as a day to say I love you to ALL the people I love, not just my lovely boy, and these would be a great way of doing that. Except they're now sat in a bowl on the coffee table in the lounge, just waiting to be unwrapped :) 

Anyway let me know what you think and if you've created any Valentines inspired treats, or if you're doing anything lovely with friends, family or a loved one over the weekend!

Afternoon Tea at the Lancaster London Hotel

It's been a good few weeks on the eating out front... let me tell you! 

Last week, myself and Shay popped along to the Lancaster London hotel to try out their new afternoon tea menu. The hotel is by Lancaster Gate tube station, on the central line but more amazingly opposite Hyde Park, so is in a really fab location. The hotel itself is lovely on the inside and has a beautifully classy decor and upon asking the staff the direction of the Lounge Bar where afternoon tea is taken, we were greeted with friendly smiles and a helping hand; which is always nice for us simple folk that can sometimes feel slightly intimidated in such a lovely place.

From the moment we stepped into the Lounge Bar, we were greeted by welcoming staff who let us choose wherever we wanted to sit, amongst the many tables, we picked one with an especially comfy looking sofa to sit at. By the time we'd taken off our coats and got comfy, we were both handed a glass of champagne - something I could certainly get used to. And then after a short while of perusing the tea menu, we decided to go for the Chai, which actually complemented the champagne beautifully. The Chai was aromatic and spicy and when adding a lump of sugar, became the best way to warm up from being out in the cold.

The staff gave us a timer and brewing card to let us know after how long each tea is brewed - a nice touch I think.

Then came the sandwiches. Oh the sandwiches - my favourite part of any afternoon tea. We were informed by our lovely waiter that the hotel was celebrating apple week, so included on our plate of savoury treats was a small apple and walnut tart - a gorgeously crunchy and fresh way to start the tea. He also informed us that the salmon in the smoked salmon sandwiches is actually smoked on site!! Something both Shay and I were shocked and in awe over, the Lancaster obviously cares a lot about the quality of food they present to their customers. We then indulged in our egg & cress and cucumber sandwiches which were both delightful - we actually had to attempt to slow down because we were literally wolfing them. Then the last of the savouries, a mini Yorkshire pudding with a small rolled slice of roast beef and a slick of horseradish - just divine.

After another cheeky round of sandwiches - what? We were hungry - our waiter brought out the scones. Again to coincide with 'apple week' we were served an orange and apple marmalade alongside our strawberry jam and clotted cream, which I found to be a refreshing and innovative change. The scones are baked fresh, literally when you ask your waiter for them, the scones will be at your table ten minutes later, fresh from the oven, how cool is that?! We paired our scones with a pot of Earl Grey, something a bit smoother than the Chai but more interesting than the English Breakfast option.

It was at this point that the chef came out to take a picture with me - promoting his apple and orange marmalade! We had such a giggle with all the staff, they're all completely approachable, down to earth and absolutely made us feel at ease the whole time we were there.

Shortly after a tactical break, we were getting pretty full by this point - we got cracking on the sweets which included a mini tarte au citron, raspberry macaron with passionfruit sauce in the middle, a mini chocolate tart (I think) and a mini tiramisu. Not wanting to leave anything, I tried my best to finish each bite but ended up leaving half my macaron. Just. So. Full.

The afternoon tea at the Lancaster London Hotel starts at £30 per person, and increases if you add champagne to your tea. When I got back into the office the next day one of my colleagues asked whether it was worth £30 or not... and I actually have to say I think it is. It's definitely a more relaxed vibe than what you'll find at say Claridge's or The Dorchester (places that both Shay and I have been for afternoon tea) but the food is spot on and the service is impeccable.

If you're looking for a slightly cheaper but still upmarket afternoon tea in London, I'd recommend the Lancaster London for a relaxed yet exciting experience that won't let you down.

Have you had a traditional afternoon tea? If so, where's your favourite place to have it?

And now I've got an offer for anyone who might be interested; If you book in at the Lancaster London for either Afternoon Tea, Dinner at Nipa Thai or lunch/dinner at the Island Grill you can receive a free glass of fizz by quoting the word 'Luxe' either when booking or upon arrival - pretty neat eh?

I was invited by Luxe PR to try out the afternoon tea at the Lancaster London Hotel but as you can probably guess, all views are absolutely my own.

February | Monthly Picks

In an attempt to reinvent the old 'payday wishlists' without pressuring myself into actually buying loads of unnecessary stuff, here are my monthly picks for February!

My favourite item of the bunch is DEFINITELY the Nike trainers at the bottom. Running home from work twice a week is a habit I've been enjoying for a few months now and eventually I'll want to get myself some sturdy - but also beautiful - trainers to make the run in. How amazing are they?

Women's Oversized Shirt - BDG @ Urban Outfitters
Tan Leather Flats - New Look
Silicone Liner Brush - Real Techniques
Elisalex Dress Pattern - By Hand London
Keep It Classy Color Drama Lipstick - Maybelline
Air Max - Nike

Soupe du Jour | Soho

Last week I was kindly invited along to visit Soupe du Jour in Soho to try out their offerings. Soup can be a fairly boring subject, and isn't always the most interesting of meals to have, but despite what this blog shows you, most of the time I have soup for lunch. Honestly. In fact, I don't even really need to answer the question of 'what are you having for lunch today?' anymore, as it's going to be soup almost every day. Sounds boring doesn't it? 

But boring Soupe du Jour ain't. 

They're based on Lexington St in the heart of Soho and have just opened a new location on Houndsditch, near Liverpool St Station for all you city workers. They offer delicious, and I really mean d e l i c i o u s fresh soups, that on a day like today (and especially on the day I went last week when it was horribly cold) offer you the warmest of hugs.

I met with the store manager Suse and she was keen to tell me everything about the business, from how they get the inspiration for their specials that are newly concocted every two weeks (some recipes are even old family recipes provided by the staff and suggestions from customers), to the friendly and familiar atmosphere they've created in their store, knowing their customers by name, their favourite soup orders and even taking constructive feedback for their new michelin star trained chef.

There is a lot of passion at Soupe du Jour - they're extremely proud of the all-British produce that goes into their soups and even more-so of the authentic German bread that accompanies each soup order for free - as well as a gluten-free bread option that is sourced from a bakery in Brixton. In fact the team at Soupe du Jour have done a great job of creating a menu that is pretty much entirely dairy and gluten free, which is only a good thing.

I was able to try a full portion on the day and I chose the chilli soup; a soupy chilli con carne with beans and sweetcorn it was divine and absolutely filling - in fact I didn't even think about food for the rest of the day until dinner time, I was so full. I added some of their fresh chilli paste to my soup to add a bit of spice, a completely optional addition in case you're not too fond of the heat. Suse also gave me some tester pots of the red cabbage soup which was in fact their 'soupe du jour' that day and their classic tomato with a small dollop of parmesan cream on top. In all honesty all three soups were incredible and although I love cabbage (big up the Polish roots), the tomato pipped them all to the post, and I'm going to head back this week to get a full portion of it.

 What I really love about Soupe du Jour is the fact you can customise your soup with a  range of different toppings like chorizo and even chunks of frankfurter - oh yes you read correctly; which totally adds another dimension to these gorgeously flavoursome soups. AND in case you needed any more convincing, you can get money off your next soup if you bring back the pot to be recycled AND they have a loyalty card. I think they've possibly thought of everything?!

If you get a chance to pop in, Soupe du Jour is highly recommended, especially if you're looking for a quick and easy lunch that won't tug too much on your purse strings.

You can find Soupe du Jour at their Soho branch, 34 Lexington St, W1F 0LH, and at their City branch, 38 Houndsditch, EC3A 7RT.


Seville Orange Marmalade

Did you know that oranges are in season at this time of year? Seems a bit backwards (especially considering the weather in the UK right now) that these amazing citrus fruits are at their prime in the coldest part of the year... but I guess that's the way of the world, isn't it?

Every year, or at least for the last few years my lovely mum has made Seville orange marmalade in January - orange season. She always makes the most wonderfully thick and bitter marmalade that not living at home and having access to it all the time has become a bit of a void in my life. Saying that, I don't actually eat toast that often but I do love marmalade, always have and always will. 

But the shop-bought stuff just doesn't really cut the mustard when you've had homemade, and I can't go home every time I want my marmalade fix (starting to sound like an obsession, it's not, I just really like it) so this year I decided to make my own.

I used this recipe from the BBC Good Food website, and to be honest, it couldn't have been easier. It was time consuming, yes, but in the first part where you let the whole oranges simmer for two hours I was able to potter around doing other things... making these in fact. Sunday was a very creative day.

Plus another upside to making your own is that I know E X A C T L Y what is in the jar, just four simple ingredients, water, juice of two lemons, oranges and sugar - albeit a monstrous amount of it.

I'm really pleased with how the marmalade turned out, and for a first try of an orange marmalade, I don't think I did too badly. It's got a good consistency, not too runny and definitely not too thick. The only thing I'd change is the amount of orange peel... more please. Lots more. But that's my own fault as I was lazy and couldn't be bothered to chop the rest of the peel; only about half of it went in. Still, you live and you learn eh?

It's now safe to say I probably have enough marmalade to last me until next January, but I am NOT complaining.

Have you ever tried making marmalade?

FACT: I nearly set off the fire alarm in our flat by toasting bread on the griddle pan. Still, it looks good.