Coffee days

People are always always asking for recommendations of coffee shops and restaurants in Dublin – and I am like, I am an arts student, you think all I do is sit around and drink coffee?? Unreasonable. But to be honest, I have spent a considerable amount of time trying out the different places around, and I understand the pain of having to resort to a generic Starbucks or Costa just because you can’t haul yourself elsewhere (#firstworldproblems).

Anyway, here are my picks for coffee in close proximity to Trinity, and the city centre (the centre of the universe depending on who you ask…) – this is not my definitive list of great coffee shops in Dublin (this would most certainly include Brother Hubbards and 3FE) but where you can collapse between lectures, or grab a caffeine hit mid-shopping trip.

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For awesome coffee…

-Kaph

This is a relatively new find for me – I read a review online in the last few weeks and then when wandering around with Ali the other day, we serendipitously passed by. I had a delicious flat white, and Alison had a matcha latte. She assured me that it was delicious, but matcha is something I just don’t understand the appeal of. The place is really cool – there is an upstairs for sitting, but we stayed downstairs and perched in the deep window sill. They also have a good selection of paleo treats including raspberry financiers which I’ll most definitely be back to try.

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-Coffee Angel

I discovered Coffee Angel when I moved into our apartment in the Docklands because Coffee Angel has a stall every weekday by the Sean O Casey bridge from early morning till lunchtime. There is almost always a stream of people popping out from the giant offices in the IFSC to get their fix. The shop/cafe on Anne’s Street is small but nice, and the coffee is, as always, delish.

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For working hard/hardly working…

-Cup

Cup is ideally located in the it is a stone’s throw from Trinners, but I’ve found it is usually not crammed. The coffee is lovely, there are sandwiches and cakes also on offer, and it is quiet enough that you’d be left alone. I’ve had breakfast there a few times, and the deal with pastries, coffee and orange juice is quite reasonable, and a big treat.

-Lemon

This is an obvious choice – the crepes are lovely if horrendously over-priced compared to France, and the coffee is well above your standard Insomnia/Starbucks fare. There is also outdoor seating which is a huge novelty in Dublin, and the seating inside is all communal benches, so this is one place you wouldn’t mind sitting on your ownio for ages, as you aren’t taking up a whole table.DSC01451

Opening late…

-Accents

Accents is a brilliant business idea in that it opens until 11pm monday-saturday – I can’t think why there are not more places like this, as we often want to meet up for a coffee after college/work. I had walked past this place for ages, and never investigated as the outside doesn’t really do itself justice, but my sister advised me to give it a try, so I popped in and had a lovely skinny latte on the comfy coaches downstairs.

-Fixx Coffee House

Another fixture (lol) on Dawson Street, I discovered Fixx early in first year when we were searching for somewhere that our whole class (all 15) could go for coffee together. Fixx is big enough to join a few tables together and not annoy every single person in the café. Again the coffee is good, there is a large selection of cakes and pastries, and I’ve heard great things about the pancakes.DSC01435DSC01445

More cake please…

-Avoca 

This is a funny sort of addition on this list because I really really don’t like the coffee in Avoca. However, the cake is pretty great, and the cafe upstairs is just lovely. The portions are ginormous, and there is very little nicer in life than whiling away an hour with a huge piece of lemon cake or a scone and jam, with a pot of tea.

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-Lolly and Cooks 

This place is too cute – in the middle of the funky George’s Street Arcade (home to Om Diva and Yogism among others), it is a stall with some stools rather than a café, but with a fantastic selection of cupcakes and brownies (including lots of gluten-free options). The mall is always bustling, making it an interesting people-watching spot. A friend has highly recommended the sausage rolls – one to try if you can resist the temptation to lunch on cake!

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Piece of cake

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If you read the blog even somewhat regularly, you’ll know that I am a cake fan, but to be fair, who isn’t? Cake is something that is, as a general idea, uncontroversially good according to most sane people. Of course, don’t get me started on the different types – I personally loathe fruit cakes of all shapes and sizes, and I know lots of people who wouldn’t touch coffee cakes or marzipan or whatever.

But my point is that generally cake makes the world a much better place. And homemade cakes are so chic – not only has baking become a ‘cool’ activity again, but in general people who don’t bake are amazed at the magic mastery of people who do. Who wouldn’t want an adoring public? Bake a cake = have cake + people think you are the bomb = win-win.

When you’ve delicious fruit to make the most of before it disappears for the winter – the cake is unbeatable. This was a team effort between me and the grown up sister (hey Ruth) who is a much better baker than me (it was she who imposed the pattern for the fruit – I was in the just-scatter-it-randomly camp). It is fairly classic, but the vanilla, berries and just a hint of orange blossom in the sponge elevates this just slightly from your average Victoria Sponge. Simples.

Ingredients

175 g (6oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing 175 g (6oz) caster sugar

3 eggs

175 g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1/2 tsp Orange Blossom Water

1 tsp baking powder

1 tblsp milk

icing or caster sugar, for sprinkling two 18cm (7in) diameter sandwich tins

200 ml cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

Lots of raspberries and strawberries

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1.Preheat the oven to 180°C, butter the sides of each tin and line the base with a disc of baking parchment.

2. Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

3. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl for a few seconds until just mixed, then gradually (SLOWLY) add them to the butter mixture, beating all the time. Add the orange blossom water. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then add the milk and fold in gently to incorporate.

4. Divide the mixture between the two tins. Make a slight hollow in the centre of each cake so that when it rises it doesn’t peak too much in the centre, making it difficult to sandwich together with the other half.

5. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 18–25 minutes or until golden on top and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then loosen around the edges of each cake using a small, sharp knife and carefully remove from the tins before leaving on a wire rack to cool down completely.

6. Whip the cream until reasonably stiff, fold in the vanilla extract. Slice up the strawbs, spread one of the cakes with the cream and then layer on the fruit. You could do it in a pattern if yo’ fancy. Eat immediately, or at least within a day or two. Enjoy (and remember)..

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Greek-inspired lamb koftas with yoghurt and seeded flatbreads

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As the summer sadly draws to a close, I was flicking through some holiday snaps from our family jaunt to Corfu in June, and got all nostalgic. Of course this made me hungry, so what could I do but turn out some greek-style comfort food? I love love love everything about Corfu – a most misunderstood place, mainly because people associate it with trashy bars, package holidays and crowded beaches. To be fair, this would not be an inaccurate way to describe certain parts of the south of the island, but most of Corfu is just beautiful, unspoilt, surprisingly green with the famously azure seas to rival any other island. The food is also great – if you know where to look. This recipe here is a particularly loose interpretation of greek cuisine, but I feel it does what Corfiot cooking does best, bringing different styles and tastes, Mediterranean with Middle-eastern and of course, abundant portions and lots of fresh vegetables.

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Ingredients

400g lamb mince

4 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

3 tbsp oat bran

1 egg, beaten

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Handful coriander, finely chopped

Spices

-1/2 tsp sumac

-1/2 tsp smoked paprika

-1/2 tsp mustard seeds

-1/2 tsp carraway seeds

-1/4 tsp allspice

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put all the spices into a dry frying pan and toast for 1-2 minutes. Pop in a pestle and mortar and crush.

2. Sweat the onion and garlic in 1/2 tsp olive oil until translucent.

3. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Leave for 30 minutes, then shape into small patties (about the size of a table tennis ball) and flatten slightly. Place on a baking tray.

4. Cook in the hot oven for about 15 minutes.

Seeded flatbreads

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-200g plain white flour

-1 tsp salt

-1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

-150 ml warm water

-5-6 tbsp mixed seeds

1. Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil and warm water.

2. Make the mixture into a soft dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead for 5-7 minutes then return to the bowl.

3. Leave to rest for at least 20 minutes. Shape into a large oblong, and cut into 8 pieces. Roll each piece out as thinly as you can – use your hands to stretch it if needs be.

4. Heat a large frying pan (no oil), and cook the flatbreads one at a time, turning after about 1 minute. Dark spots on the bread will show you when to flip.

Yoghurt Dressing

-2 tbsp thick greek yoghurt

-1 tsp za’atar (or sumac)

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Breakfast of Champions

Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as 6 impossible things before breakfast!

Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland.

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Imagine how many impossible things one can believe before brunch? No, but seriously brunch has to be one of the best inventions ever – for some people, brunch means that instead of breakfast and lunch, they have one meal, but I think this is the wrong approach. For me, brunch means that you can not feel bad about just having an enormous milky coffee for breakfast (and a sneaky piece of chocolate while waiting for someone to make reservations – amiright?) and then indulge in a long lazy lunch-esque meal, that can be gloriously like dessert (think pancakes and maple syrup) or not, whatever takes your fancy.

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I am so glad the the whole brunch thing has caught on in Dublin. A few years ago, there was a paucity of places to choose from on a sunday morning, and not that much beyond your average fry up (which we do very well at home). I first saw the huge appeal of a brunch culture in New York when on holidays. The restaurants and cafés would be saturday-night-overflowing by 11 on a sunday, and the menus offering all manner of cuisines and styles.

I ate my first proper brunch in celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s Cafe Boulud. It was epic (in all senses of the word) given that we were presented with brunch starters, brunch main courses AS WELL as brunch desserts (my idea of heaven). Paris as well has a hugely strong brunch culture, and I indulged several times over the year I spent there, notably in Breakfast in America, and Les Enfants Perdues (in the hip Canal St. Martin area, which I’d highly recommend to everyone with a sunday morning to spare in Paris.)

Anyway, we were lucky enough to find ourselves looking for a place to eat on Sunday morning in Dublin last week. We decided to try the tiny Farmer Brown’s in Sandymount. After a respectable wait of about 30 minutes we were squeezed in. The room is too cool in a very pinterest-friendly mason jar lemonade stand sort of way. The coffee was really delish, and the menu offered enough choice to satisfy all our needs. I had a gorgeous steak sandwich with sweet potato fries and onion jam, Sarah the vast Farmer Burger, the pick of the day I’d say, Ruth the breakfast salad and Mother the special chicken and butternut squash salad.

The portions are enormous, despite our best attempts, no one quite cleaned their plates. I have it on good authority that the french toast with bacon and maple syrup is to die for, so I’ll have to return to try that one out.

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Farmer Browns, Bath Avenue, Ballsbridge.

https://www.facebook.com/farmerbrownsdublin

Coriander, Chilli and Lime Prawns on toast…

When eating at home, I don’t much like starters. Realistically, I’d just prefer to get straight to the main event (and eat more of it). I love the type of starters that are dig-in, share-around, help-yourself, but the kind that are more like “here is a little bowl of soup that you have to get through before you can gorge yourself on the potato gratin” – I can take it or leave it.

However, my Mum, my Grannie and most of their family (our most frequent guests) cannot abide the idea that a dinner would be served without a starter- that would just smack of too little effort (and god forbid that someone would go home hungry). So I’ve been indoctrinated into the idea that every meal that seeks to convey any sort of occasion must have a beginning, a middle and an end.

This actually is my ideal kind of starter, or indeed a perfect light lunch or supper. I love love love prawns, and roasted cherry tomatoes have become one of my new favourite things. What is more, this couldn’t be easier. I wouldn’t advise doing it as a starter for more than about 6 people unless you’ve extra help. The prawns need to be just barely cooked but piping hot (i.e. you snooze you lose). The marinade on the prawns is called Ras el Hanoot which translates in Arabic as the shopkeeper’s best, that is it is said to be a mix of the best that the merchant has to offer (or Tesco in this case). Enjoy.

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-Raw tiger prawns (aim for about 10 per person to be generous)

-1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed. plus 3-4 extra with skin left on.

-Olive Oil

-Thumb sized chilli, finely chopped

-Handful  of coriander, chopped

-Handful of basil (or parsley), chopped

- 1 tsp Ras el Hanoot (Moroccan spice mix)

-Rye Bread, toasted.

-1 packet cherry tomatoes.

-1 lime, juiced.

1. Place the raw prawns in a bowl with the chilli, garlic, herbs, lime juice, spices and a good slug of olive oil. Mix, season liberally with salt and pepper, cover with cling film, and place in the fridge. IMG_0211

2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the cherry tomatoes in a baking dish (I left mine on the vine for aesthetics). Drizzle with olive oil, a tiny slug of balsamic vinegar, lots of salt and pepper and a good amount of chopped basil or pesto. Scatter over the cloves of garlic and place in the hot oven for about 15 minutes. You are looking for the stage where the tomatoes seem to be bursting out of their skins but have maintained their shape.

3. Toast slices of rye bread. Heat up a frying pan with a tiny bit of oil (only if you think necessary – there is oil in the marinade and this should be fine). There will be a lot of excess liquid in the prawns – don’t put all that into the hot pan. Fish out (lol) the prawns and then add the herbs etc, leaving out as much of the liquid as possible.

4. Cook for literally a minute on each side – this is the beauty of using fresh raw prawns – you can see when they are cooked because they go from a translucent grey to a rosy pink in a matter of seconds. Remove from the heat.

5. Set up your plates. Tumble prawns onto the toasted rye bread, and drizzle over the herby pan juices. The bread will soak these up in the most yummy of ways. Place a bunch of the roasted tomatoes on the other side, and finish with a couple of coriander leaves. Delish.

The Brown Soda Bread and the Palace of Jams…

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Wandering around the Marais is my most favourite thing to do while in Paris, and never more so when I am on my own and have no plans (i.e. no-one judging the amount of free tasters I snag, and no-one who does not consider food and book – related shopping as the ideal day out). The beauty of the Marais is that it isn’t really clearly defined, and if you just keep wandering in different directions, you are sure to find some gems (or jams – cue terrible pun). This was the case with my discovery of La Chambre aux Confitures, on rue Vieille du Temple. I must have walked past this shop several times, but on this occasion I decided to have a peak. To my delight, besides the wall to wall displays of different jams, chutneys and spreads, there were tens of small pots filled with plastic spoons à notre disposition to sample all and every product that took our fancy.

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I could have come away with ten pots – the flavours were creative enough to be interesting but also not so wild that you would be worried about splashing out 6 euro for the whole pot. Bearing in mind the fact that I had to transport these in my luggage to Ireland, I settled on 2: a delicious pate à tartiner of milk chocolate and hazelnuts (naturally) and a divine framboise et fruit de la passion (raspberry and passion fruit) from the fruits rouges d’été range. The icing on top was the gorgeous packaging..DSC01328And having successfully transported these little jars back home, I needed no further excuse to get some bread in the oven. In our house, we make a lot of brown bread, but always the same type (loosely based on the Avoca recipe with treacle and lots of seeds). For me this is unbeatable, but in the spirit of change I decided to go wild and make a version of the Ballymaloe brown soda bread. It was too easy – literally an assembly job. Soda bread generally calls for buttermilk or sour milk, which I did not have, but I subbed in the juice of 1/2 a lemon and used normal low-fat milk. I also added 3 tbsp of oat bran and 1 tsp agave syrup for sweetness. I was delighted with the result, and will perhaps even be persuaded to branch out more often…

Ingredients

600g Wholemeal flour

600g White self-raising flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp bread soda

850ml buttermilk ( I used same plus juice of 1/2 lemon)

3tsp oat bran

1. Add all of the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl

2. Make a well in the centre, slowly pour in all of the liquid.

3. Stir gently until you have a loose dough. It should be soft, but not sticky.

4. Turn it out on to a floured board.

DSC013135. Gently form it into the shape of your desires. Lightly dust with extra oat bran.

6. Place on a lightly floured baking tray and place in the centre of a preheated oven (230C). After 15 minutes reduce the heat to 200C and cook for 25 minutes more. The bread should sound hollow when you tap on the bottom. If you think the bottom isn’t quite done, turn it upside-down and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes.

7. Cool on a wire rack, slice and slather with butter and jam. Delicious..DSC01350http://www.lachambreauxconfitures.com/blog/

Who can take the sunrise?

For me, one of London’s greatest selling points is the West End. The first time I spent a weekend in London with my parents (aged around 9 years old), we went to 3 musicals in 3 days. Safe to say I never had a chance. Generally, I just can’t get over the fact that these spectacles are going on every night across the city regardless of what else is going on in the world – it is just someone’s job to bare their sole on the stage in front of thousands (there is clearly a stifled artist within me…)

All of the above meant that when the train from Paris and the flight from Dublin, and the train from Hampstead led to the happy reunion of us three girls, our first priority was to head to the tkts booth in Leicester Square to see if we could scrounge some tickets for that evening’s show. When we saw the queue snaking back with over 50 people ahead of us, we were undeterred – die hard fans after all. And our patience paid off – within the hour we were on our way, smugly clutching back-of-the-stalls seats for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

We prepped with a long long stroll all over the city, starting notably in Covent Garden, where we of course popped into many of the numerous foodie treasure troves such as Ladurée (for macarons naturally), and Venchi, a recent discovery from my travels in Italy where they literally had taps of molten chocolate. Yep, you heard it here first – taps of molten chocolate..

7.00 and time to make our way to the theatre, my excitement was rising – I am a huge Roald Dahl fan, I don’t know how many times Sarah and I listened to the BFG and the Giraffe, the Pelly and Me as children, but seeing as I can still recite some of it, I’d say plenty. And of course, being a foodie, what better musical than his homage to all things cocoa?

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In the theatre early, we had no choice but to give in and buy a horrendously over-priced trans-fat laden Wonka Bar (delicious as it was, in a cheap easter egg sort of way). The show was fabulous, the children really stole the limelight – I don’t know how they have come to be so self-composed and talented at like 10 years old – it would give you a serious inferiority complex! But it was wonderful, the music, the set and the acting – highly recommended.

2. The Hummingbird Bakery, Notting Hill

https://hummingbirdbakery.com/

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In keeping with the saccharine theme, the following afternoon found us on a pilgrimage to a long-time favourite of mine – the Hummingbird Bakery. Many of you who bake will be familiar with the recipe books, particularly for the wacky and delicious cup cakes. There are several Hummingbirds all over London. We went to Notting Hill, where I’d actually never been before, and had a long and circuitous stroll around before locating the shop – 10 minutes before closing. Luckily, we got there in time to snaffle several cupcakes, and devoured them in a park nearby. Ideal.

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3. The Wallace Collection

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And finally, a last recommendation for a mid-shopping pit stop should you find yourself flagging around Oxford Street. The Wallace Collection is a beautiful townhouse in the middle of London home to an impressive collection of 18th century French art across its 22 opulent rooms. The collection is well worth a browse, but even more so the café (kindly recommended to me by Patrick) which sits in the vast conservatory-like inner atrium. Of course, the prices reflect your elegant surroundings, but if you factor in the pleasure derived from nosing around the house (free and open to the public) and whiling away an hour imagining yourself Marie Antoinette, it is really a bargain. I had a pot of black oolong tea and a coffee and walnut cake, while Patrick had pancakes and an apple and ginger smoothie.

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London calling

 

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life…”

Samuel Johnson

 A cliché perhaps, but nonetheless I think rings true, especially when it comes to food. Through I love Dublin’s burgeoning foodie scene (and look forward to exploiting it when I finally get back there), and of course Paris is in a league of its own in terms of gastronomy, London has something neither of these do, and that is the sheer variety of places to eat. Every street has restaurants of every imaginable cuisine (and quality!). It is much more of a mixed bag than Paris, and perhaps the fact that traditionally British cuisine has not been ‘all that’ means that (like New York) immigrant cultures have really flourished over the centuries. Anyway, all this is a long-winded way of introducing 2 fantastic places I ate over my month in London.

Wahaca

Wahaca, Covent Garden

http://www.wahaca.co.uk/

This one was on my list for a long time (the good kind of list..). The proprietress, Thomasina Miers was the winner of British Masterchef a few years ago, and is an all-around rockstar. She went off to Mexico on a gap year (ish) and fell in love with the food culture, came back and won Masterchef, then went to work with the equally cool Skye Gyngell in Petersham Nurseries, went back to Mexico for another while and then came back to London to open Wahaca. The name is the anglicised version of Oaxaca, the region in which she lived in Mexico. Now there are several Wahaca’s dotted all around the city, a testament to her success.

 So to Wahaca Covent Garden. We stumbled out of the heady chaos that was the bows of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (some of us more emotional than others Alison..) and made our way towards the restaurant. It is a fundamentally cool set-up, quirky decor, friendly staff and a constant turnover of tables.

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First off, we ordered cocktails (it being Saturday night), and to my chagrin the waiter informed me that they were out of passion fruit and so there could be no passion fruit margaritas. However, perhaps sensing my dismay he immediately said that he would make us his special, off-menu, watermelon version. Two of us went for that, the other for the Hibiscus Mojito. All were divine, really fresh with lots of lime and mint, and huge bricks of ice. We then set about deciding what to eat. Wahaca is my favourite type of place in that the menu actively encourages sharing, and thus means I greedily get to sample more of what is on offer. We got pulled pork pibil tacos, chicken taquitos, and a chorizo and potato quesadilla between us – each plate costing less than a fiver. We devoured everything in about 10 minutes – each dish as delicious as the others, mainly because with each mouthful you got a burst of flavour: fresh coriander, spicy salsa, soft corn bread and cool feta cheese and sour cream. Word to the wise, take seriously any indication on the menu that something is spicy – they mean it.

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As it was pushing 11.00 at this stage, our friendly waiter approached us and said if we wanted to order dessert could we please do so! How could we refuse? I made an executive decision that we just had to share a plate of churros for the night that was in it – for those who’ve not yet had the pleasure, these are spanish fried doughnut-type pastries, served with a liberal dusting of sugar and cinnamon, and accompanied by a pot of deeply dark molten chocolate for dipping. The perfect end to a super evening.

Churros

strong>Disclaimer: the whole night being so enjoyable, I repeated the experience with 2 different friends the following weekend (also post-theatre), and we were equally impressed. This time, I had sweet potato taquitos (delish) and steak tacos with grilled cheese. I also got to sample the famed passion fruit margarita, and I can confirm, it was worth the return trip.

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Gymkhana 

http://www.gymkhanalondon.com/

 During my internship, I was lucky enough to be treated to lunch in one of London’s up-and-coming Indian restaurants, Gymkhana. I was terribly excited given that one of my favourite meals of the last year was in Jaipur on George’s Street, probably Dublin’s best Indian. We went for lunch, and the restaurant had a 2 course deal for 25 pounds.

The restaurant itself was unusually dark, but charming, with a kind of colonial, cricket playing, tea-sipping style. The staff was very helpful in translating the menu for us curious hungry people, and recommending things that would suit people who weren’t so keen on spicy food.

For starters, I had duck dosa, a spectacular looking dish consisting of a crisp pastry cone perched atop a rich and spicy duck curry, with a pot of cucumber cream on the side. For mains, we were brought out trays laden down with rice, naan, the most wonderful creamed spinach with paneer and a cauldron of black lentils. I ordered a creamed coconut prawn curry, which still had a serious kick to it, and dug into all of the sides. There were 4 different types of naan, included 2 made with cornflour (seeded and plain), one with chili flakes and one with cardamom. This was ideal in that it gave me an excuse to sneak extra pieces under the guise of trying each.. 

We didn’t do dessert as some of the real lawyers had to get back to work, but to be honest I was so full at that stage that I’m not sure I’d have fit another morsel. This is definitely a place you’d go to for a treat – I had a glance at the dinner menu and the prices were not for the faint of heart (or light of purse..), but I felt like the lunch menu was very good value, and a really exciting meal. Apologies for the lack of photos – too busy chowing down :P

Rhubarb, Orange blossom and Vanilla crumble

Crumble is the ultimate in comfort food, and whereas usually it’s a dessert associated with Autumn and Winter, Rhubarb is best between May and September. Many people of an older vintage seem to have a weird aversion to rhubarb, a throwback from boarding school days or lumpy custards or something, but I’ve always loved everything about the pinky green stalks.

This crumble recipe is too easy to make – there really is nothing to it. The fruit is barely stewed with a vanilla pod and a few drops of orange blossom water. Orange blossom water has a divine light floral flavour, and acts to bring out the fruitiness of the rhubarb. Don’t over stew the fruit, you want to retain a bit of the texture when it is baked. If you were in the mood, toss in a handful of red berries (strawbs/raspberries) for a minute or so at the end of the stewing.

The crumble on the other hand is a real rough and ready job. Not for me the laborious rubbing in cubes of butter, this method is far simpler, and results in a delightful rubble-like mixture with irregular chunks and crystals of coarse caramelised sugar. I serve this with greek yoghurt or a good quality vanilla ice-cream.

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4-5 stalks of rhubarb, chopped.

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 vanilla pod

1 tsp orange blossom water

1 pink lady apple, grated.

6oz cream white flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

4oz dark brown sugar (muscavado)

6oz butter, melted

3oz chopped and roasted hazelnuts

Handful porridge oats

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the fruit in a heavy-based saucepan with the sugar, vanilla pod, orange-blossom and 1 tbsp of water. Put a lid on, place on a low heat and simmer until soft but not mushy. Add the grated apple, stir and remove from the heat.

2. Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix. Incorporate the melted butter using a fork so that little clumps form in the very rough crumble mixture.

3. Lay the fruit in an ovenproof dish and cover with the crumble topping. Sprinkle a tsp of coarse brown sugar on top.

4. Bake in the hot oven for 25 mins until piping hot and golden brown on top. Serve with greek yoghurt, clotted cream or vanilla ice-cream.

PS. I often make 2 batches and put one in the freezer. It can be shoved in the oven straight from frozen (just don’t use a dish that might crack!).

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Sugar Free Spiced Banana Bread

This recipe is a slightly adapted version of Rachel Allen’s recipe in Cake. It is virtuous enough for a breakfast on the go, but delicious for a coffee break. Agave syrup is used here in the place of sugar, with its lower GI value for slow release energy. You can buy it in bottles in most  supermarkets.

Baking 2 046

3 bananas, mashed.

75ml sunflower oil

125g plain flour

150g wholemeal flour

100ml agave syrup

60ml natural/greek yoghurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 handful walnut halves

 

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Place the eggs, oil, agave, vanilla and yoghurt in another bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the mashed bananas and whisk again.

3. Slowly combine the wet mixture with the dry, beating well between each addition. Pour into the loaf tin and place in the centre of the preheated oven.

4. Bake for 1 hour. If the top appears to be burning, cover with tinfoil during the cooking time. When the cake is done, a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake will come out clean.

5. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to stand for 10 mins, then remove from the tin and leave to cool fully on a wire rack.