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Wednesday, 30 July 2014


Near where I live in Kent, the lavender fields are well and truly out. These delicate purple flowers really are the smell of summer, adorning local gardens and fields...and now in my baking! I've had lavender shortbread a number of times but never made it myself. My grandma's shortbread is somewhat famous among family circles so I've never wanted to challenge her as the shortbread queen. However, I thought that adding a bit of lavender to a shortbread mix could make an aromatic change to the normal buttery biscuits. I was also a bit of a cheat and picked up some Barts dried lavender rather than running to the local lavender farm shop (yup there is one!) But wherever you get your lavender from, this is an easy-to-bake treat you should love! Preheat an oven to around 180 on fan. Firstly grind up a small handful of dried lavender in a pestle and mortar. Add this to 300g of sifted white flour, 80g of caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Then rub together the flour mix with 250g of cubed unsalted butter to form a crumb like mixture. Mix in 1 egg yolk alongside a teaspoon of vanilla extract and softly combine. Roll the dough onto a floured surface and cut into shapes, circles, whatever you feel at about 1cm thickness (the thinner will need less cooking time). Bake for 10-12 mins, making sure they are turning a lovely golden colour; if they start to crisp at the edges and darken-take them out! Cool for a while and transfer to a wire rack, ready to be enjoyed with a cool glass of lemonade!

Friday, 25 July 2014


So pre-Croatia, my family went to Chapter One in Orpington, Kent to celebrate my gorgeous mum's birthday. I'd been to Chapter One about 5 years ago when I was turning sweet 16 and all I can remember is that it was the first time I tried foie gras and felt questionable about it.  Anyway along with a bottle of wine, we treated ourself to the luxurious sounding Tasting Menu, a full 7 courses of decadence. The first course was a simple spring pea veloute; thick and strong with flavour. We were then treated to what may have been my favourite course of the night; treacle cured salmon served with charred spring onions and an aromatic coriander, ginger and sesame dressing. The salmon was sweet and tender and perfectly complemented the bitterness of the spring onions. My mum's favourite course was next; a girolle mushroom and chive risotto. The earthy flavours were served with creamy crème fraiche and parmesan and the whole thing was surprisingly light. I would have to add that so far, none of the dishes had felt overwhelming and my appetite was still strong after 3 courses (albeit they were very small tasters)! Next up is what I would call the main star of the night; the pressed belly of pork. A well cooked square of pork which was served alongside a succulent, juicy braised pork cheek, savoy cabbage, smoked potato and apple puree with a stick of crunchy crackling. We were then treated to a palette cleanser of raspberry sorbet and foam- MY FAVOURITE FRUIT. This was refreshing and prepared us for the pure food-porn dessert. Peanut and chocolate tart with salted caramel and banana sorbet- topped with little pieces of fudge. How could anyone resist? This was an amazing finish to the night and at this point (followed by a selection of chocolate and caramel truffles) I was ready to be carried home. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014


Eating across Croatia feels like eating in at least 3 different countries. The culinary influences range from Austrian and Hungarian to Turkish and Middle Eastern with a spattering of Italian inspired Mediterranean cooking and a smidge of complete originality. Starting in Zagreb, the city truly exhibited international flavours from around the world; my first dish was a splendid Schnitzel after all. Most popular was Italian cooking; with the love of risotto and gnocchi especially in most restaurants. Gnocchi here was fried with leeks and doused in cream or mixed with squid ink to make the silky 'black gnocchi' served with salmon sauce, sampled in the Croatian footballer's owned 'Boban' restaurant. Cevapi is the national dish, a Balkan, eastern European slash Turkish kebab style dish. Described to us by our hostel receptionist as 'meat fingers', the minced lamb sausages were served with onion salad and the popular ajvar salsa and had a very bold, meaty flavour. Moving down the coast we entered Split, which had a number of cute and authentic bistros. At Villa Spiza, we sat on crowded bar stools and watched as our chefs hastily cooked fresh prawn and courgette pasta for hungry locals. Here I tried pale green stuffed peppers with a rich tomato sauce washed down with a glass of local red wine. The food was unpretentious and welcoming; with fresh calamari and octopus salad were also popular choices on the chalkboard menu. Heading to Hvar, seafood became more pertinent on the menu's. 

Dalmatian lobster was served in every way possible at a hefty price to yacht-hopping partygoers; think served alongside a saffron sauce, cooked up in a salad or with a goats cheese gratin. We sat outdoors in a local restaurant, slightly tipsy from strong frozen cocktails at Hula Hula. I had tuna with a pea pesto and a gorgeous potato salad, my flatmate gorged on what she described as 'buttery', 'garlicky' sea bass and our Australian traveller tucked into freshly fried squid. This was all followed by a shot of free grappa! Croatia's Adriatic coastline is well known for it's rocky shores and stunning beaches but the quality of seafood should also shine; mussels and shrimp were on almost every menu, usually served in a simple garlic butter sauce or 'Dalmatian' style. Our last stop was Kings Landing aka Dubrovnik, here the city's dish was the 'black risotto' or the cuttlefish risotto mixed in ink, herbs and white wine. Nearer the Bosnian border, Turkish food became more influential with syrupy servings of Baklava and thick Turkish coffee.  At Dubravka, overlooking the Red Keep...I mean the fortress, we enjoyed more sweet Croatian wine with sea trout and almonds. 360 is the most prestigious restaurant in Dubrovnik with stunning views of the harbour. I was dying to go and sample the famed 'The Garden' dish; a curious mix of raw Adriatic langoustines, Istrian truffles, lemongrass biscuit and Szechuan button flowers aka the 'electric flower'. However, I ran out of cash and instead had an Italian feast at Wanda, run by a friendly local who treated me to free prosecco and complained about Angela Merkel stopping his Istrian cheese from getting into the city.

FUN FACT: Pag cheese recently won an award at the 'world cheese awards'. Pag is an island (one of thousands in Croatia y'know) off the coast. The cheese is made from the sheep who nibble at the sea salt-encrusted herbs and flowers on the island. Apparently this provides a very aromatic flavour according to Igor our Plitvice Lakes tour guide. The cheese is then wrapped in oil and left to age. Very popular this Pag cheese is.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


Last Monday, a friend and I sprinted through the rain to get to Grain Store; a vegetable-friendly restaurant located just behind Kings Cross Station in Granary Square. The place is relatively new and is headed by chef Bruno Loubet, who I had the brief pleasure of seeing at a Taste of London talk! The menu is full of unusual combinations and Mediterranean touches; miso aubergine, wasabi soil, mustard apricots to name a few. The atmosphere of the place is really relaxed and seems to attract everyone from local art students to family's and hungry workers; bare brick walls and an open plan table setting gives the place an unpretentious feel. So onto the food. I ordered the vanilla butter hake with steamed seaweed sushi, braised pak choi and black garlic. The hake was delicious; buttery and perfectly cooked, the touch of vanilla really complemented the fish. The pak choi was crunchy and fresh and the seaweed sushi really matched the rest of the dish. I was initially confused when I ordered the dish and the waiter explained that they painted black garlic onto the plate. I assumed it was a miscommunication but when the dish arrived I saw that in fact, yes, black garlicky brushstrokes had been painted onto the base of the plate. My friend ordered the veggie cauliflower cous cous, spelt salad with vegetable merguez, yoghurt and pistachio dressing. Again, when the waiter spoke of a 'sausage' we were confused, however it turns out that a vegetable merguez is a vegetable sausage- something I had never heard of before. The dish was colourful, exciting and unusual, decorated with rose petals and chunks of pistachio. Both dishes were in fact very pretty; it's safe to assume Grain Store takes pride in the appearance of it's dishes.

For dessert we both ordered the experimental coconut and kaffir lime flavoured green tapioca with sweet potatoes and banana wafers. Sadly I was a bit disappointed with this and I'm not sure that sweet potatoes are a well balanced accompaniment to green tapioca. The banana wafer was also a bit disappointing; I wish it had a bit more flavour! Overall Grain Store was a very different restaurant experience and unfortunately not all of the elements worked. If I were to go again I would probably pass on the dessert and order the yummy sounding spiced lentil cake for a starter instead. OH. We cheekily ordered a side pot of banana ketchup. Easily the best thing on the menu; spicy, mustardy, much better than normal ketchup I can tell you.