Recent recipe round-up

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If this Easter weekend has taught me anything, it’s that I need to stop bookmarking recipes ‘to make later’ and start actually cooking – ‘later’ has a habit of never arriving. Faced with a metaphorically bulging digital recipe binder, and an Instagram feed full of inspiring photography, I decided it was time to take action. Oh and I’ve been on a bit of a health kick recently, too, so have been trying to find some way to balance that out with my raging sweet tooth… Here’s a quick round-up of what I’ve made over the last couple of weeks (from some of my favourite blogs). Most are fairly healthy (free from gluten, dairy, eggs and refined sugar) – but no less delicious! Click through for the recipes.

Sweet potato brownies (Deliciously Ella)

Sweet potato brownies

Gluten-, dairy-, egg-  and refined-sugar free – and just seven ingredients. I’ve kept them in the freezer and get one out whenever I need a chocolate hit! They’re not quite on a par with ooey-gooey butter-sugar-egg alternative but they’re pretty close.

Chocolate chip cookie dough bites (The Kitchn)

Raw chocolate chip cookie dough bites

These are amazing. Seriously. And addictive. Probably not the thing you want to eat three of in one fell swoop (ahem) but a darn sight better for you than eating raw cookie dough! Best accompanied with a large glass of…

Cashew milk (Well and Good NYC)Cashew milk

Thick, creamy, and ready in five. What more could you want? Apart from maybe a slice of this…

Cinnamon swirl cheesecake (Chocolate covered Katie)

Cheesecake

(Note the work-in-progress shot above… My finished cheesecake did not look quite as pretty as Katie’s!)

Mm cheesecake… It’s up there in my top-three puds (along with sticky toffee pudding and crumble). But I’ve wondered if it’d be possible to get all the creaminess without all the cream cheese… The answer is yes! The wonder of cashews… This has been living in the freezer too, which I think actually improves it – the filling was a bit soft when I made it, so I’d recommend just taking it out of the freezer 10 minutes before serving, ideally with a mountain of fresh berries.

Gluten-free banana bread (Everygirl)

Banana bread

I debated whether or not to post this… It was my least successful bake from my day in the kitchen – it’s probably quite high in protein, but the 4 eggs were just a bit excessive for me, and it needed a bit more sugar for my liking (athough that said, I did swap the chocolate chips for coconut flakes, in homage to my favourite loaf bake ever, Bill Granger’s coconut bread). Best eaten warm, with dollops of quark and a big drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

Carrot cake bites (Sakara Life)

Carrot cake bites

These look very pretty. And keep well in the freezer. And are certainly healthy. But they definitely veer more towards the carrot, less towards the cake side of the equation. Not bad, they just taste a bit healthy to me! So to combat these little balls of goodness, I broke out the grilled cheese.

(Not-so-healthy) ‘Salted caramel’ halloumi and apple (I Quit Sugar)

Salted caramel halloumi

Well, a girl has to eat.

Doughnuts: The Winner

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Well, it’s been a tough few months. I’ve consumed deep-fried doughballs, inhaled huge quantities of sugar and had several messy moments. But with no further ado, let me announce what I – and many others – believe to be The Best Doughnut in London.

The winner is… St John Bakery doughnuts

Talkhouse CoffeeIt will come as no surprise that St John Bakery doughnuts have pipped all other doughnuts to the post. In my review of The Jam, the doughnuts achieved a near-perfect 9/10, losing out on full marks just because of the need to wake early and drag yourself to Maltby Street market before they sell out.

Well, I have good news, doughnut-eating friends. Good news that has upgraded this doughnut to a perfect 10/10.

If you’re ever Notting Hill way, you can now get a St John doughnut, decent coffee and comfy seat from which to watch the world go by all at once. Yes, Talkhouse Coffee, purveyors of Workshop and Square Mile espresso, salt beef brioche buns and plum and almond friands, also sell London’s best doughnuts.

Talkhouse Coffeeshop

Found just by the Westway, at the top of Portobello Road, the relatively new scandi-chic coffee shop is the perfect place to pop in for some respite from the market. Or for afternoon tea. Or elevenses. Or heck, why not breakfast? These doughnuts are good enough to eat at any time of day.

Price: £2 for original or jam, £2.20 for custard
Dough: 
Super-light and fluffy, chewy exterior
Filling: 
Jam or Talkhouse’s own custard (for the sake of research, I tried the custard, which was more like chantilly cream… I’d stick to jam.)
Coating:
Icing sugar
Rating: 
10/10

So there you have it, London’s Best Doughnut and where to find it. Now go forth and drink (coffee), eat (doughnuts) and be merry!

Coffee and doughnuts

Doughnuts: The Inspiration

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The Inspiration

Polish Deli After more than a year of doughnut-eating, I finally made it into the establishment that inspired this hunt for London’s best doughnuts. It was on a routine cycle to work that I spotted the sign for ‘Polish doughnuts’ (or pączki) hanging outside Polsmak and pondered how they were different from our English stalwarts.

Mammoth doughnut

Well, it turns out the main difference is in the filling, size and, in this case, the shape. They were still deep-fried, sugar-coated and dangerously tasty, but this was the only doughnut I tried that came in a mammoth square (small sandwich size) and probably tasted the least sweet out of all of them, with its ever-so-slightly sweetened soft cheese filling. Still, it went down very well with a cup of tea!

Pączki doughnut

Price: 95p
Dough:
Unsweetened, like a soft and dense bread roll
Filling: 
This was a pączek z serum or cheese doughnut, so the filling was a soft Polish cheese, a bit like a cross between ricotta and cream cheese. Slightly sweetened but not overpoweringly so. 
Coating: 
Simple icing sugar glaze (the only really sweet part)
Rating: 
8/10 – extra marks for being such good value for money: you could easily share one between two.

Incidentally, you know how shrove Tuesday comes under many guises – Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, Carnival…? Well the Poles have Pączki day. That’s right – DOUGHNUT DAY. An old Polish proverb says that if you don’t eat a pączek on that day, you’ll have bad luck all year. As much as I love pancakes, I think we’re missing a trick here… But the best news is, they celebrate it on the Thursday before Lent begins – so we can celebrate both!

Coming up tomorrow… Doughnuts: The Winner!

Doughnuts: The Mini

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You Doughnut!

Today’s post goes small – this is part of a week-long series on London’s best doughnuts

You Doughnut MenuRelative newcomers You Doughnut! are normally only found at KERB but I stumbled across them at Feast in the Fields so thought I’d give them a go. The miniature doughnuts do kind of cheat by having the filling on the outside, but they do offer some customisation… After being rolled in sugar (unnecessary) and drenched in a ridiculously sweet (but amazing) caramel sauce, you can pick and choose your toppings, froyo-style. On offer were pecans, pistachios, sprinkles, marshmallows… For just a little bit more sugar.

Price: £2 for two, £3.50 for 5
Dough: 
Doughy, soft exterior
Filling: 
None, but doused liberally in either warm salted caramel or dark chocolate sauce, then sprinkled in toppings
Coating: 
Cinnamon or vanilla sugar
Rating: 
7.5/10 – pre-rolled and transferred from a tupperware box into the fryer, these felt the most homemade of the lot. It gives me hope that I could make doughnuts at home, but I think I’d skip the extra sugar and toppings and just go for a double serving of caramel sauce!

Mini but deadly

Doughnuts: The Jam

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Four down, three to go… This is part four of a week-long series on London’s best doughnuts.

St John Bakery

The King of the Doughnuts
The reputation of St John’s doughnuts are unparalleled so I couldn’t do a taste test of London’s doughnuts without going to visit The King. Be warned though, that doughnuts this good do not go unnoticed. On a sunny Saturday earlier this year, their Maltby Street Market archway had sold out by 1:30pm.

Maltby StreetPrice: £2
Dough: Chewy outside, inside the dough was akin to a bread roll – slowly risen dough and not too sweet
Filling: a lot (around 1/3 of whole doughnut) of VERY good raspberry jam
Coating: Liberally coated with a lot of granulated sugar, making it impossible to eat without coating yourself in sugar (or at least, that’s my excuse)
Rating: 9/10 (one point docked for having to get there early!)

As an aside, I also stumbled across these at the market (Bea’s of Bloomsbury and Starbucks take note…) For this taste test though, I felt duffins ventured too far into cake category and therefore were disqualified.

Duffins

Doughnuts: The Ring

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Halfway through a week-long series on London’s best doughnuts, I call in at Electric Donuts…

Electric Cinema Donuts

Electric Cinema

Ring doughnutsThe Electric Cinema has happily reopened on Notting Hill after being gutted by a fire earlier in the year. In the shiny new foyer is Electric Donuts, selling… freshly-baked doughnutts. Given that they say they ‘serve hot donuts and coffee from 8am every day’ (and their brave – or as some subs might say, infuriating – decision to drop the ‘ugh’ from their name) it’s likely they’re hoping Notting Hillers will adopt the American coffee ‘n’ doughnut breakfast tradition. Only time will tell if it takes off.

Price: £1.50 each
Dough: Light and fluffy
Filling: None
Coating: cinnamon sugar (although other flavours include a berry trifle with a crumbly topping and maple bourbon that sounds pretty damn good)
Rating: 7/10 – good texture but what’s a do(ugh)nut without a filling?

Blink and you’ll miss ’em: The Jam

Doughnuts: The Hybrid

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In part two of a week-long series on London’s best doughnuts, I visit another churros stall…

Brazilian Churros

Brazilian Churros
15 minutes after my run-in with The Foreigner, I come across another churros stall, but with filled churros. Now, some would argue this means they’re no longer churros, but to show my commitment to the project, I couldn’t not try one…

Piping the dough

Price: £3.50 each
Dough: Chewy
Filling: Dulce du leche (piped in after the churros are fished out of the deep-fryer… healthy!)
Coating: Cinnamon sugar
Rating: 6/10 – dulce du leche and deep-fried dough make an excellent combination, but £3.50 for one was overpriced.

Filthy

(Five minutes later, I walked past another churros stall… But even all the will in the world couldn’t get me past that sick, grease-filled feeling that was slowly accumulating in the pit of stomach. Doughnuts – particularly churros – are probably best eaten in moderation!)

Coming up next: The Ring

Doughnuts: The Results

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Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.

Once of the most disconcerting marketing ploys that emerged in the weeks leading up to the birth of Prince George a few months ago was Krispy Kreme’s decision to launch a new doughnut – Bite & Reveal – in honour of the forthcoming newborn. Who knew whether the centre (/baby) would be pink or blue? The only way to tell (slightly unnervingly) was to bite and see… Allusions to Kate being like a doughnut aside, (and that biting her might reveal the sex of her baby), it did jog my memory of a pending post that I’ve been planning for months.

Yes, this time last year I set off on a selfless mission to hunt down some of London’s best doughnuts. Since then, doughnuts have been enjoying somewhat of a renaissance (and don’t even talk to me about the cronut). So, this week, buckle up and prepare yourself for a series of posts – the Who’s Who of the doughnut world (according to me, at least).

With no further ado, let me introduce the first doughnut in the round-up.

The Foreigner

Churros Healthy...I started my quest with churros from Churros Garcia. Resembling crinkly cut chips, the dough is piped straight out in front of you into the sizzling dark oil. Now, I know all doughnuts are deep fried, but there’s something about seeing it in front of you that brings home just how nutritionally devoid they actually are. Still, the end result was very moreish. And of course, the little pot of melted chocolate didn’t go amiss either.

Price: £4 for 5
Dough: Chewy and crisp
Filling: None
Coating: Cinammon sugar, then dipped in melted chocolate.
Rating: 6.5/10great while hot, but when cooled and soggy with oil, they have about as much appeal as cold chips…

Next stop: The Hybrid.

Chance meetings

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The streets of London

I just experienced something unusual. Sat at home, tucking into a plate of Lucas Hollweg’s brilliant couscous salad with orange and dates (my go-to ‘bring a salad’ recipe, leftover from a BBQ last night), I spotted something out the window.

To most, it’d seem completely insignificant, but I felt like I was privy to a unique moment that, in all other circumstances, would have gone unnoticed.

Two people, cycling down the street, in opposite directions. One slightly older man, dressed in a tracksuit and with a mop of curly black hair, on a Boris bike, one twenty-something girl in shorts and flip-flops on an old clapped out bicycle. I don’t know who rang first, but as they passed, right outside my window, one of them trilled their bell. Almost instantaneously, the other trilled back, and then both erupted in laughter.

Within seconds, they had gone their separate ways – him perhaps back to his family, she maybe onto the pub to meet up with friends – probably never to see each other again.

An insignificant moment, likely to be forgotten by each of them within the hour – and if I hadn’t have been sitting here at that exact moment,  no-one else would have been witness to it. But it got me thinking – how many other moments are there like that in our day-to-day lives? How many other opportunities like that do we pass up – opportunities to connect with not just the people we choose to have in our lives but those we pass day by day, whether we like it or not?

London can feel like a lonely place, at times. Which, considering it is home to an estimated 8.5 million people, is pretty ironic. Perhaps part of the reason why coffeeshop culture has become so alluring – particularly in the capital – is the sense of community it instills. It’s like all the best bits of a party – the background hum of chatter, the warmth and buzz, the potential for new interactions and friendships – without any of the actual inaneness of idle chit chat. OK so we’re all still pretty firmly behind our barriers – if someone struck up conversation with you from the next table, it’d still be pretty out-there – but there’s almost a sense of community, which I think most of us long for.

One of the projects I’m working on at the moment is Imago Dei. London is a breeding ground for creativity: there are hundreds of social enterprise start-ups working at making this city a better place. And there are almost as many food and craft markets – particularly in East London. Imago Dei seeks to bring the two together.

On 20th July, we’ll be hosting a market in the heart of Spitalfields. There’ll be food, drink and unique products on offer – and no end of opportunities for getting to know our neighbours a little bit better. If you’re around, pop down and say hello. You never know, I might just bring my bike.

A tart for all seasons

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Spinach & pine nut tarts and Rhubarb tarts

Spinach & pine nut tarts and Rhubarb tarts

December has arrived. And with it, a decidedly cold snap. What better time to spend all day in the kitchen, with various pots and pans bubbling on the stove and the windows steaming up?

These tarts can be adapted to whatever you have in the fridge. I happened to have spinach, spring greens and rhubarb that needed eating (the need to test recipes several months in advance means we’re often left with out-of-season produce) but they would work just as well with leeks and kale or apples and raisins. They’re so quick and easy to make, and are a great standby starter or dessert.

Crispy filo tarts
Makes 12
Ready in 30 minutes
Tarts

4 sheets Feuilles de filo pastry
25g butter, melted

FOR THE VEGGIE TARTS
300g mixed greens (I used 200g spinach, 100g spring greens)
175g cream cheese (I used extra light Philly, so full-fat should work too)
50g pine nuts, toasted
¼ nutmeg, grated

FOR THE RHUBARB TARTS
400g rhubarb, roughly chopped
2 tbsp honey (I used Sarah’s warming honey with cinnamon)

1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Wilt the greens in a large frying pan set over a medium heat – add a tbsp or two of water if they’re starting to catch. When wilted right down, take off the heat and stir in the cream cheese, pine nuts and nutmeg. Season well.

2. Meanwhile, simmer the rhubarb and honey together in a medium saucepan until the rhubarb is soft but still holding its shape (about 5 minutes) You may need to add a tbsp or two of water to get it going.

3. Lay the four sheets of filo out onto a large chopping board and cut into 9 pieces. Stack the rectangles up to keep them from drying out. Take a 12-hole muffin tin and fill each one with a filo rectangle, letting the excess pastry stick up around the edges. Brush each with melted butter, and lay another rectangle on top at a slightly different angle. Repeat until each muffin hole is lined with three layers of filo pastry.

4. Fill 6 of the tarts with the spinach/veggie mix and the other six with the honeyed rhubarb. (I had a bit of spinach mix leftover, so I made 7 veggie tarts and 5 rhubarb but the quantities above should do 6 of each, with a little leftover). Bake for 10–15 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the pastry isn’t getting too crisp.

5. To serve, crumble a little goat’s cheese on top of the spinach tarts and drizzle with balsamic. Serve the rhubarb tarts with a few spoonfuls of double cream.

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