Category Archives: Food and Drink

Food and Drink

secret marmite menu bills restaurant

Bill’s secret Marmite menu

Years ago we had family friends who lived in Brighton. Every now and then we’d head down to see them, stopping at this little independent restaurant called Bill’s for brunch on the way.

Today Bill’s is a nationwide chain, with branches up and down the country looking just like the original. Amazingly the quality of the food and drink hasn’t changed either.

As a huge Marmite fan I was very excited to be invited to try a secret Marmite menu they were offering at the end of January.

marmite menu bills restaurant

Choosing what to eat didn’t take long. For £12 you got a fancy cheese on toast and a Bloody Mary (or for £10 you got the toast and a Virgin Mary).

marmite bloody mary

The Marmite Bloody Mary was good. Really good. Bill’s have always done a decent Bloody Mary but the mix of Chivas Regal whisky, Harvey’s Bristol Cream and a Marmite reduction gave it an extra special hit.

You needed a large appetite to get through the cheese on toast.

marmite cheese on toast

Two slices of crunchy sourdough swimming in melted cheese and Marmite. And topped with two perfectly runny poached eggs.

bill's poached egg

We got a side of broccoli because we’re healthy like that.

broccoli bills restaurant

And I gotta say that it’s the best broccoli I’ve ever had in a restaurant. It pretty much deserves it’s own garlicky, crunchy and flavoursome review.

When the bill came we were presented with two cute little Marmite samples to take home with us. I’ll be saving mine for a pimped up Bloody Mary.

mini marmite sachet

It’s the perfect brunch but we ate this for dinner because we like to do crazy things like eat breakfast for dinner sometimes.

Essentially a Bill’s brunch is the perfect meal whatever time of day, whether you’re a Marmite fan or not. And what other national chain can you think of that could serve perfectly cooked poached eggs every. single. time. you visit?

Our meal was complimentary but as always all views are my own.

​A newbie’s guide to drinking whisky 

whisky and bourbon

My colleague recently asked everyone in the office what their favourite spirit was. I surprised myself by answering ‘whisky’ instead of ‘gin’.

To be honest it’s still a close call (rum is also rapidly climbing up the list) but there’s something about whisky that has me hooked.

I think the first drink I ever ordered for myself at a bar was a JD and Coke at Madame Jojo’s. I ordered it because I thought I looked cool but I didn’t really like it. A couple of months later and my university housemate cracked open a bottle of Jack, which led to me infamously saying ‘it gets nicer the more you drink’ six shots in.

Needless to say I stopped drinking alcohol I didn’t like shortly after, which meant I didn’t touch a drop of whisky until five years later.

It wasn’t until my Dad created a bourbon signature cocktail for a party he was throwing that I ventured back to the stuff. If you’re new to liquid sunshine, here are a few worth trying…

Jim Beam
Bourbon is sweeter and generally more palatable than whisky. I use it in 90% of my bourbon cocktail recipes as it’s reasonable, sweet and even non-whisky drinkers tend to enjoy it.

Woodford Reserve
There are some bourbon cocktails where Jim Beam just won’t do. A good Old Fashioned or Manhattan is made predominantly from bourbon and you need something better than Jim Beam if you’re practically drinking bourbon neat. I like to use Woodford Reserve in my take on an Old Fashioned recipe (and not just because the brand ambassador put my recipe behind the bar at one of my favourite London hotel bars #humblebrag).

Nikka from the Barrel
I’m a sucker for good design and found myself drawn to a bottle of Nikka from the Barrel a few years ago. It’s quite the transition to jump from bourbon to whisky but I found this Japanese whiskey palatable and really started to enjoy it after I’d had it a few times.

Nikka Coffey Grain
The kind folks over at 31Dover sent me a bottle of Nikka coffey grain to try and it’s unlike any other whisky I’ve ever had. It has the same smoothness that I’ve come to expect from the standard Nikka, but you can really taste the coffee. It’s lovely neat as it has a sweet and mellow taste.

Do you drink whisky? I’d love to know your favourite.

31Dover stock a huge range of spirits and wines at the best prices. Best of all they do next day delivery, perfect for us car-free Londoners who don’t fancy schlepping bottles of booze back from Tesco on the day of a party.

Roasted cauliflower and broad bean salad with pomegranate

​In the words of Bart Simpson, “you don’t win friends with salad! You don’t win friends with salad! You don’t win friends with salad!”

Surely I’m not the only person who sings that song whenever anyone asks if I’d like salad?!

It’s not that I don’t like salad. It’s just that I don’t like boring salad. I mean a bag of iceberg lettuce, a week-old tomato and a bit of cucumber hardly captures the imagination. 

There are some salads I love, and generally they’re the ones with plenty of flavour and a variety of textures. This roasted cauliflower and broad bean salad with pomegranate ticks both the flavour and texture boxes.

This recipe is courtesy of the Savage Salads cookbook, a real source of inspiration that proves salads aren’t just for summer. Davide and Kristina believe that ‘salads should taste amazing, look beautiful and leave you full’, a statement I heartily support. 

I adapted their salad slightly as I didn’t have any bread in the house, so it’s perfect for anyone who follows a gluten-free diet.

Roasted cauliflower and broad bean salad recipe

Ingredients 

  • Tin of butter beans
  • One cauliflower 
  • Olive oil
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • One pomegranate
  • Fresh parsley  (although dried parsley will do if you’re desperate)
  • Salt and black pepper

    Method

    • Cut the cauliflower into florets, drizzle with oil and roast for 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool.
    • Empty your tin of beans into a saucepan and heat gently for five minutes, stirring frequently.
    • Rinse beans under cold running water.
    • Mix the cooled butter beans with the cooled cauliflower and pomegranate seeds.
    • Dress with olive oil, grated lemon zest and lemon juice.
    • Season with salt and pepper and then add the chopped parsley. 

    Enjoy!

    Reinventing the Gin and Tonic

    Growing up we never celebrated Christmas. On the day we got together as a family but we never bought gifts for each other and we certainly never ate turkey. 

    This all changed when I was 18 years old. Christmas mania kicked in within weeks of starting University, and I started to hear all these wonderful stories about Christmas stockings and festive rituals.

    My parents were more on board than I could have imagined and I woke up on Christmas Day to my first ever stocking. We had scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast, prepped the veg and got ourselves dressed and ready for the day.

    Whilst we waited for the rest of our family to arrive my mum made me a gin and tonic, and the rest as they say is history. If it’s 1pm on Christmas Day you’ll find me with a gin and tonic in my hand. Always served in the same glass. And always with a slice of lemon.

    So when I heard Bombay Sapphire were reinventing the gin and tonic, I questioned what needed reinventing. It’s a classic drink, easy to make and even easier to drink – so why mess with it?

    Throughout the year I’m a fussy gin and tonic drinker. Different gins warrant different garnishes. I’m a tonic snob. Please don’t give me a single measure of gin in a huge glass.

    But then I remembered Christmas Day. My G&T is made with whatever gin is in the cupboard, topped up with supermarket tonic and always served with a slice of lemon. And it’s always the best G&T I’ve had all year.

    So yeah, I’m open to a bit of reinvention. And by a bit, I mean a lot. Which is just as well because I recently tried six insane gin and tonics that explored what can happen when you throw a bit of imagination in when you mix two simple ingredients together.

    Bombay Sapphire tasked six mixologists from some of my favourite London bars to reinterpret the ultimate gin and tonic. The results were innovative, slightly crazy and absolutely delicious.

    A new Gin and Tonic

    Nature’s Yield
    George Simmons from Heddon Street Kitchen

    Yes that is a Bonsai Tree with hanging tonic droplets. And yes that is exactly what you’ll receive at your table when you order one at the bar. Seriously.

    Whoops Daisy
    Andy Mill from Cocktail Trading Company

    Gin and Tonic is a cocktail steeped in history, and Andy’s cocktail focuses on the journey it’s take over the last 20 years. And yes, once again this is exactly how your drink will be served.

    Nettle Beer Collins
    Marcis Dzelzainis from Sager & Wilde

    Alcohol historically cured all manor of ailments (hot toddy anyone?) and Marcis’ concoction focuses on the health benefits of tonic back in the 1920s.

    Gateway to Bombay
    Dean Shurry from Chiltern Firehouse

    Shurry’s drink gives a nod towards India, the birthplace of the gin and tonic.

    G & Ice-T
    Dav Eames from Gilbert Scott

    This is the only thing I want to drink right now in this bizzare London heat. I mean how good does thyme and elderflower tonic snow sound?

    Ariana’s Garden
    Constanca Cordeiro from Peg & Patriot 

    After an insane day at work can you think of anything better than popping over to Peg & Patriot, ordering one of these, slipping a pair of headphones on and escaping into nature? This is a cocktail inspired by the garden that comes with its own soundtrack so you can really escape for a little while.

    You have six months to try all these delicious cocktails. On your marks, get set…

    P.S. some photos from inside the Bombay Sapphire Distillery coming soon!

    Strawberry and mint champagne cocktail recipe

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    We’ve spoken before about champagne cocktails. You know I’m not a fan. I mean, why waste perfectly good champagne in a mix?

    But with all rules there’s always an exception. And the exception to never using champagne in a cocktail is when it’s a day or two old and there’s just a tad left. I’m a thrifty one with a love of repurposing and I can assure you this is one tasty way to avoid champagne waste.

    Today I’m sharing a strawberry and mint champagne cocktail recipe. It’s fresh, summery and just a bit sweet. Full credit goes to my friend May who casually shared this simple concoction with me over lunch a few weeks ago.

    Strawberry and mint champagne cocktail recipe

    Ingredients

    Leftover champagne
    Lots of strawberries
    Fresh mint leaves

    Directions

    Wash the strawberries. Use a mini sieve to squeeze the strawberry juice through to a jar.

    Put two teaspoons of strawberry juice into each champagne glass with a sprig of mint. Top with chilled champagne and garnish with a strawberry.

    No champagne on hand? Feel free to swap champagne for sparkling wine or Cava.

    Halloumi and quinoa salad recipe

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    What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror? Halloumi!

    You’re welcome.

    Now I don’t know about you but I’m obsessed with Halloumi, and all my friends are too. Nobody cares what drinks are served at a party these days just as long as fat, salty slabs of Halloumi appear on the menu.

    Living in a predominantly veggie household Halloumi is our go to treat to pimp up tried and tested dishes. No paneer? Try Halloumi with daal instead. Salad leaves not doing it for you tonight? Brighten it up with a couple of slices. Bored of parmesan on your pasta? My friend swears by grated Halloumi as a topping.

    One of the simplest dishes you can make is a Halloumi salad. I like my salads to be substantial (like this shredded chicken and avocado number) and by pairing Halloumi with quinoa you’ve got yourself a filling meal. Pimp it up with some toasted pine nuts if you’re really out to impress.

    Halloumi and quinoa salad recipe

    Ingredients
    Halloumi
    Quinoa
    Cucumber
    Salad leaves
    Pine nuts

    Method
    Cook the quinoa as instructed on the packet and leave to cool.

    Dice the cucumber and set aside. Slightly toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan whilst the quinoa is cooling.

    Once cool, mix the quinoa with a large handful of salad leaves (I like a mix of spinach, rocket and kale) and the cucumber.

    Slice the Halloumi and fry in a splash of oil over a medium heat, turning when golden marks appear.

    Place the Halloumi on top of the salad and finish by sprinkling the toasted pine nuts on top.

    The Duke pub in Wanstead

    Last year we moved to Wanstead, a lovely little area in East London that has a wonderful village-like feel.

    It was a new area for me – I’d visited Wanstead just three times before moving in. I fell in love with it instantly though and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

    I love Wanstead for lots of reasons, namely the numerous parks and open spaces on my doorstep, the excellent transport links into London and the independent shops and restaurants in the area.

    Well, I love and hate Wanstead for that last one! It’s fair to say that my waistline has expanded since moving to town… but it’s so important to support local independent businesses, even if your waistline does suffer :p

    There are several great pubs in Wanstead but my favourite is undoubtedly The Duke. It’s a short stroll from the high street and is a welcoming haven that dishes up excellent seasonal food.

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    I’d been to the Duke a few times before I was asked if I fancied reviewing it. I’d been for Saturday brunch (perfect poached eggs and avocado on toast), Sunday lunch (roast beef with all the trimmings, washed down with half a bottle of a seriously tasty and reasonable red) and also just to work my way through their gin and tonic menu on a Sunday night whilst listening to some cracking live music.

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    Last week though we headed down to our local to try dinner for the first time, and what a treat it was.

    I started the evening with their recommended Aperitif, an Apple Drop. It tasted exactly like it sounded which was great, and was made from Martini Bianco, fresh apple juice & ginger ale.

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    To start I had burnt leeks with a poached duck egg, chestnut mushrooms and truffle sauce.

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    Really delicious and not too filling, unlike Alex’s hot smoked salmon salad with new potatoes and wild garlic pesto, which whilst also delicious would have filled me up!

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    The burnt leeks dish managed to be delicate whilst also packing a punch in terms of flavour. The poached egg was perfectly runny, the truffle sauce wasn’t overwhelming and it all came together to make a really interesting leek based dish.

    For mains I decided that since it was British pie week it would be rude not to order the Beef & Guinness pie. The meat was tender and tasty and the pastry was crisp – a pretty perfect pie basically!

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    Naturally I also stole a few bites of Alex’s ricotta gnudi with roasted celeriac, buttercream sauce and parmesan. It’s a decadent, rich dish that I couldn’t manage on my own but would happily share.

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    Rather full for a Wednesday night we decided to share something sweet for dessert. The apple and thyme pie with thyme custard had just a hint of thyme which was rather pleasant. The pie itself was perfect, stuffed with apples that were the right side of tart.

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    The Duke is one of my favourite places to visit and I’ll be back very soon. Wanstead really isn’t that far out folks, so the next time you’re looking for a friendly pub that serves excellent food it’s well worth a visit.

    The Duke
    79 Nightingale Lane
    Wanstead
    London E11 2EY

    Roasted tomato quinoa salad with hummus recipe

    roasted tomato quinoa salad with hummus recipe
    I’ve been on a bit of a health kick recently (I bought a NutriBullet and it’s not gathering dust in the corner) and then I came down with a cold. You’re meant to feed a cold, but all mine wanted was carbs, chocolate and crisps.

    Chocolate and crisps had been banished from the flat, so that just left the carbs. Thankfully laziness kicked in so I didn’t have to test my self restraint; I remembered there was a batch of quinoa in the fridge already cooked and ready to eat.

    Quinoa mixed with chopped cucumber and rocket isn’t the most desirable of lunches so I decided to take it up a notch with the other ingredients I had on hand. I had some leftover tomatoes lying around that needed using up so I shoved them in the oven on a low temperature to slowly cook.

    Once the tomatoes looked nice and roasted I emptied a tin of chickpeas into the NutriBullet along with a spoonful each of tahini and olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, a little water and a couple of garlic cloves.

    30 seconds later I dished up the quinoa and tomatoes and dolloped a generous spoonful of hummus on top, adding a sprinkle of sunflower seeds on top for good measure. A nutritious, nourishing lunch that even kept those chocolate cravings at bay.

    Roasted tomato quinoa salad recipe

    Ingredients

    • Quinoa
    • Tomatoes
    • Cucumber
    • Rocket
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Hummus

    Method

    Quarter your tomatoes and place in the oven for 30 minutes on a low heat. Cook quinoa according to packet instructions (instructions vary). Once quinoa is cooked and has cooled add to mixing bowl along with the tomatoes, chopped cucumber and rocket and mix well.

    Serve with a dollop of homemade hummus on top and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

    Hummus recipe

    Ingredients

    • Tin of chickpeas
    • Lemon
    • Garlic
    • Tahini
    • Olive oil
    • Water

    Method

    Rinse the chickpeas in cold water and place in NutriBullet. Add the garlic, tahini (if you don’t have tahini use more oil), olive oil, lemon and a couple of tablespoons of water. Blend. Check hummus and add more olive oil or water to adapt the texture to your taste.

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    NutriBullet recipes

     
    Yesterday I bought a NutriBullet. Today I feel like I’m coming down with something. I think I caved in at just the right time!

    I’d resisted buying a NutriBullet for a while. I don’t like to have a million different gadgets when one would do, but it came down to either a NutriBullet or a blender and I went with the NutriBullet. Mostly because it looks so easy to use and even easier to clean. 

    And it is so easy to clean! Easy enough to use daily and not be an issue when I’m running short on time in the morning or just don’t want to spend ten minutes cleaning separate parts after a long day at work. 

    I used it three times yesterday. Firstly to mill oats into oat flour to make banana, oat and cacao nib cookies. Secondly to make a tahini, garlic and lemon sauce to dress tomatoes. Thirdly to make a green juice with kale, banana and dates.

    It’s day two now and I need my enthusiasm for the smoothie to prosper and grow, so please hit me up with your favourite smoothie recipes…

    Image: Unsplash

    Nordic Bakery Cookbook

    nordic bakery cookbook

    Earlier this summer I was invited to breakfast at the Nordic Bakery near Baker Street. The Nordic Bakery in Golden Square has long been one of my favourite places to relax in London so it was nice to visit another of their locations.

    I had the pleasure of meeting some lovely bloggers on the day as well as Miisa Mink. Miisa co-owns Nordic Bakery, wrote the Nordic Bakery Cookbook and does a ton of other interesting stuff too. I have a feeling that if you want to learn how to use your time effectively to make it count Miisa is the person you need to speak to!

    When I spoke to her over breakfast that day at Nordic Bakery it was just before my birthday and I must have let that little detail slip. Lo and behold, a signed copy of the Nordic Bakery
    Cookbook made its way to me to celebrate and I’ve been celebrating with it ever since.

    My favourite cake recipes so far are the Banana Cake and the Orange and Poppy Seed Cake. They’ve turned out perfectly each time which so rarely happens and the flavours are outstanding. Nothing is showy or overbearing, everything is just perfectly balanced and a delight to eat. I’m yet to try my hand and the bread recipes but I’m confident that if I follow the directions they’ll be a success.

    You don’t have to watch The Bridge or be obsessed with white floorboards to enjoy Nordic food. If you’re yet to try any Scandinavian food please dip your toes in the water with a trip to Nordic Bakery. I heartily recommend (and am quietly salivating over) the herring and egg sandwich followed by a hefty cinnamon bun, all washed down with a strong flat white. You can visit with friends, but if I’m honest, the Nordic Bakery is most enjoyable when you just need that hour alone.