Monthly Archives: September 2012

Brasserie Zedel

A few weeks ago on a dreary rainy Saturday afternoon the boy and I decided that we wanted to go out and try somewhere new for dinner. I was experiencing the tail-end of a flu that had gone on for longer that I would have liked and needed some hearty grub to make me feel better. French food was just the ticket and we had heard about Brasserie Zedel from a few friends so wanted to give it a test run.

Zedel is a big Parisian style brasserie right next to Piccadilly Circus. As well as the brasserie, the complex also has a bar, a cafe and a little cabaret/jazz venue. The whole thing is underground at it’s quite overwhelming in size, but this does have certain advantages, namely being able to rock up at 7pm on a Saturday night without a reservation.

I loved the decor of Brasserie Zedel, its quite grandiose and very very French. It reminded me a little bit of the Wolseley, but without the price tag. It’s a very big dining room but the partitions which make up the different sections stop it from feeling overwhelming.

The menu is your typical French brasserie faire, for starter I had a lardon and egg salad which was lovely and the boy had seafood food which was divine. Amazing prices are a running theme on this menu- but honestly I have to mention the soup in particular as it astounds me every time I remember- the soup was cheaper than a soup from Pret (that’s right, cheaper than Pret people!!)

The mains on offer are, again, quintessentially French. I had confit duck with a side of green beans which was everything you would hope it would be- so crispy on the outside and yummy and tender inside. The boy had Choucroute Alsacienne which basically was a platter of sausages, nice but not really my cup of tea.

And then the desserts, ooh la la the desserts… they come with a mini jug of DIY chocolate sauce- what’s not to love!?

The boy had an ice-cream sundae complete with wafer and chocolate cigarette. I had my favourite- Profiteroles which were really good. I don’t think they quite match the profiteroles at le relais de venise, but then those don’t come with a mini jug of chocolat chaud!

As you can see, I enjoyed every last mouthful.

All in all, I think Brasserie Zedel is quite a rarity. It’s not common in central London to find a restaurant where you can get a 3 course meal with wine for £30 a head. The food is good quality and beautifully cooked and the service is friendly. I will definitely be returning the next time I have a hankering for some French flavours. Enjoy x

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Mid Week Meal

A few years ago I went through a phase of doing ‘recipe of the week’ where I made a new years resolution to try at least one new recipe every week. My recipe of the week craze actually lasted longer than I thought it would and was relatively successful. But like most good things, it eventually came to an end as we came out of winter and I got busier/a little bit exhausted from the effort of it all.

Recently I felt I was in somewhat of a cooking rut so I started trawling through my recipe books to find something new to make for a mid week meal. I found a recipe for baked chicken wings and a lentil salad in Bills Open Kitchen which looked quite easy so I thought I’d give it a go. In my experience roasting/baking meat works best for me as all you have to do is bung it in the oven at the right temperature for the specified time and it should all be dandy. My occasional psycho chef ways mean that cooking meat on the hob is more of a gamble (last night’s recipe experiment, which I’m not even going to bother to write about as it was such a disaster, was a good illustration of this gamble not paying off).

Anyway, this is what you need for the chicken wings (which I can promise you are very easy and will definitely be a success!):

8 big (or more if they are smaller) chicken wings
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
125ml (1/2 cup) of lemon juice
90g (1/4 cup) of honey
3 crushed garlic cloves
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley

You start by preheating the oven to 200c. Chuck all the chicken wings into a baking dish cover them with the salt and bake for 30 mins. While the wings are baking you can make you sauce (and lentil salad and peaches, but more of that later).

To make the sauce for the chicken you just put the lemon juice, crushed garlic and honey into a little bowl and stir it until the honey has all dissolved. Once the chicken wings have cooked for the initial 30 mins, take them out of the oven and pour the sauce over. I flipped the wings around to make sure the sauce had coated them all over. Then put the dish back in the over and bake the wings for another 20 mins.

The chicken should be all golden and crispy when its done, don’t worry if it looks quite dark, its just the honey caramelising. Sprinkle with your parsley and then serve.

Whilst the chicken is baking you can prepare this super easy and healthy lentil salad to go with it. This is what you’ll need:

200g of ready to eat Puy lentils (I buy these in handy sachets in the supermarket)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 of a red onion finely sliced
1 Lebanese cucumber
100g of feta cheese
Handful of fresh mint
Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
Sea salt and pepper (to taste)

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a big bowl. Add the lentils in and coat with the dressing. Chop your cucumber with the seeds removed into 4 long strips lengthways and then dice. I usually wouldn’t be precious about this type of thing, but it really must be a lebanese cucumber, a normal one just isn’t the right taste for this salad. Add your cucumber, sliced red onion and crumbled feta into the bowl and stir through. Pop the salad into a serving bowl and top with the fresh mint and parsley. Easy!

Then for pudding I made roasted peaches, an idea I got after seeing it on the Londoner. Like the rest of this meal, this pudding is very quick to prepare and you can do it whilst the chicken is baking. All you do is cut in half your peaches (1 per person) and put them in a baking dish with a drizzle of honey and a knob of butter on top.

Then make a quick topping with:

125g of marscapone
75ml double cream
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Just whisk them all together to make a yummy rich vanilla cream to go on top. It’s enough for a generous 2 portions (or 3 normal portions)

Then while you’re eating your dinner you can put the peaches in the oven to bake at 180c for 20 mins, or longer if the peaches don’t quite look done.

When they’re all lovely and golden taken them out of the oven and just let them sit for a few mins whilst you toast a handful of flaked almonds to go on top. Then just pop your peaches, a dollop of the cream and a sprinkle of almond on a plate and your super easy pud is ready.

This entire meal took less than 1 hour to make which I thought was pretty good given all the different components and the fact that it was a totally new recipe for me. So if you need an easy but impressive mid week menu definitely give this a try. Enjoy x

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A morning at the Paralympics

Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend the morning watching an Athletics session at the Paralympics. After having a wonderful day at the Olympic Hockey a few weeks earlier at the Riverbank arena I was determined to get a chance to experience an event inside the stadium. I tried in vain every day in the run up to the Paralympics to get tickets and it got to the stage where it was clearly interfering with my work, as people I don’t really know in the office would ask me in the kitchen if I’d managed to get tickets yet. Luckily, just as I was developing a serious vendetta against the London2012 ticket website a very lovely friend saved the day and offered me tickets to an Athletics session that she wasn’t able to make.

Before going to the games my knowledge of Paralympic athletics was ashamedly limited to Oscar Pistorius, but I was super excited to get inside the stadium and learn more. But as it was the first morning session for the athletics meet and mainly heats my expectation for what the atmosphere would be like was not sky high. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, the stadium was packed at 9.30 on a Saturday morning and the atmosphere in the crowd was incredible!

Quite soon into the session we had witnessed the first GB gold medal which went to Richard Whitehead in the T42 200m final, a category of event for people who have impairment in a limb. I wish I had of known more about the classification system before I went to the games but I was able to understand the variations  in events as I watched and then did some proper research when I got home. Watching Richard Whitehead win was so exciting because at the start of the race he was coming last and then when he got onto the 100m straight he just blitzed so far ahead of everyone else- incredible!

We were lucky enough to see lots of different events, ranging from wheelchair racing, to discus, club throwing (which I had never seen before- kinda like shot put but they throw a wooden club that looks like a rounders bat), long jump and lots of track races. The track races I enjoyed watching the most were in the category where the athletics ran with a guide as they had a visual impairment. I thought it was fascinating to see how the athletes and the guides worked together throughout the race and appreciating the nuances of the event like the guide not being able to cross the finishing line first

 

The other memorable event was one of the heats for the mens 1500m where the athletes had impairments in their arms. An athlete from the tiny North East African nation of Djibouti (yep I’ve never heard of it either and I even have a geography degree) got lapped twice and finished 7 minutes after all the other athletes. But even  though he knew he didn’t have a chance of getting through to the final he just kept running around the track by himself while the entire stadium stood up and cheered him on. I’m aware that this sounds extremely cheesy, but it was a really special event to witness.

 

To say I enjoyed going to the Paralympics is an understatement- it was awesome! The Olympics makes made me quite emotional at the best of times so the Paralympics was on another level. I’m so glad I got to experience it and appreciate the skill and strength of the Paralympians, it’s something I won’t forget for a long time.

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Cinema under the Kensington stars

Earlier this summer my sister visited me in London and while she was here we decided to check out Kensington Palace. It had just been renovated and most importantly I had never been there, which is quite rare for a London tourist attraction!

The Palace was a great way to spend an afternoon in London. The new exhibitions are interactive and informative at the same time, and the experience far exceeds most other museums I’ve been to in London. The part I liked best was that they have games for little (and big) children in each room and one fab treasure hunt type game about different roles in the court that you follow the entire way through the exhibition. While we visited they had a special exhibition called ‘Victoria Revealed’ which detailed the life of Queen Victoria who grew up in the Palace. I learnt lots about Queen Victoria, mostly that she was a pretty fierce lady- she proposed to Prince Albert rather than the other way round, had 9 children and was queen for almost 64 years.

While we were visiting I noticed that later in the summer they were having outdoor cinema nights in the palace gardens showing royal themed films (naturally!). So I got together a group of girlfriends to go and watch The Young Victoria and continue educating myself about the life of my second favourite English Queen (anyone close to me knows how much of a Liz II fan I am).

The screen was set up in front of the Orangery in the palace gardens. It was an absolutely gorgeous setting and everyone had brought picnics to munch on while watching the film. I really enjoyed the fact that the film was set in the venue at which we were watching, it definitely added a cool dimension to the experience. The event was very well run, super friendly staff, free give aways when you arrive and you could even rent blankets and inflatable back cushions (they really had thought of everything).

I could lie and say it was a glorious night and we watched the film under a balmy starry sky. However being England, it obviously rained. Just for a little bit though, and at quite a crucial time in the film, so there was absolutely no chance of us calling it a day due to a few drops of rain. We just put up our umbrellas and eventually it passed!

The event was run by the Luna Cinema and they run lots of similar nights in beautiful venues all over the country. Check out their website for more details, but to give you a flavour it’s combos like Casablanca in Holland Park, The Artist in Kew Gardens and Shakespeare in Love at Hampton Court Palace.

I thought it made for a lovely London evening, so get a few friends together soon and take advantage of this late summer we’re enjoying to experience cinema under the stars, or you won’t get the chance until next summer! Enjoy x

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Carrot Cake

I’ve wanted to try to make carrot cake for a really long time, because I love it’s cinnamon-ey, nutty yumminess. But as ridiculous as this sounds, I had a preconception that carrot cake would be really difficult to make because it had…um, carrot, in it. It turns out it wasn’t hard at all, but carrot to me still just seems like such a weird thing to put in a cake. To make the whole endeavour even better I worked out after I’d made it, that compared to a normal cake carrot cake is actually quite healthy (in the loosest sense of the word) because it doesn’t have any butter in it and it involves really quite a lot of carrots- way more than you’d expect.

Anyway, as with most of my cooking escapades, I turned to my library of Bill Granger cookbooks and I found this easy recipe for Carrot Cake in Bill’s Basics. You start by greasing and lining a 24cm springform cake tin.

To make the cake you’ll need these ingredients:

200g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
200g grated carrot
250g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
250ml light-flavoured oil (I used sunflower, but vegetable or canola oil would also work)
100g sultanas or raisins
100g chopped walnuts
zest of 1 orange

To make the icing you’ll need these ingredients:

250g cream cheese
30g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 170c. You start the cake by sifting together your flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a big bowl. Grate your carrots and then mix the grated carrots through the flour mixture. Without a doubt the hardest and most annoying part of this recipe is grating the carrots, 200g was actually quite a few carrots and it took me ages, but I’m quite weak on the grating front, as well as very cautious after a bad run in with a parmesan grater a few weeks back.

In a different bowl whisk your eggs and sugar together. (Very) slowly whisk in your oil to this mixture, if you don’t do it slowly the mixture will split and all the oil will just sit on top of the sugar and eggs which is gross, so take your time.

Make a well in the carroty flour bowl and pour the wet mixture in, stir it until the mixture just comes together. Then fold through your sultanas, walnuts and orange zest.

Pour the mixture into your baking tin and bake at 170c for between 1 and 1 and a quarter hours. I haven’t put loads of pictures of the cooking process because as you can see the mixture looks a little unappealing, but I can assure you it completely transforms in the oven and looks delicious (and not at all like vom) when it comes out.

Once your cake is baked, which you can check with a skewer which should come out clean (or a knife, if like me you don’t own a skewer) let it cool in the tin for 5 mins. Then take it out of the tin to cool on a wire rack. Once the cake is cool make your icing.

The icing is so easy, just beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth and then add the icing sugar and beat until smooth.

Then slather your icing all over the top of your cake….


Until it looks shiny and lovely. Obviously add the amount of icing to your own taste. The quantities in this recipe make quite a bit of icing, which I like, but not everyone does. I’ve noticed that boys don’t really like that much icing.


Reward yourself for your (not so) strenuous baking efforts with a generous piece of cake to go with a cup of tea. Enjoy x

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