Thursday, November 24, 2016

Jessica Koslow’s Carrot-Ginger Sesame Loaf

So A and I went to Squirl in LA in January, and really enjoyed the couple of things we ate there. I'm not sure I'd wait in a long line, but that might be due to my strong aversion to waiting for food. Anyway - spotted this cake and realised I had all the ingredients at home, aside from applesauce, so once that was obtained, we were ready to go! I used normal milk, but the original recipe said almond milk, making a vegan cake.

Jessica Koslow’s Carrot-Ginger (Black) Sesame Loaf
Adapted from Food52


1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil, plus more for the pan
250g all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
135g granulated sugar
145g packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large carrots (200g total), coarsely grated
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds, plus more as needed (I used natural sesame seeds)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush the inside surfaces of an 8½ by 4½–inch (21.5 by 11–cm) loaf pan with a little oil. Dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, almond milk, ginger, vanilla, and salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture, followed by the carrots, and finally the oil.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds. You want it to be completely covered in seeds. Bake until the middle of the loaf has puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
  5. Let cool completely in the pan before slicing. Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Quick chicken noodle soup

I like to make chicken stock after roasting chickens (thrifty and tasty!) but then end up with loads in the freezer that needs to be used. On one of my weekend cooking sprees, I decided to make a chicken noodle soup for the colder days, and to stave off the beginnings of any colds.

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from AllRecipes


15g butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
2L chicken stock
400g boneless skinless chicken thigh, chopped
125g noodles
3 medium carrots, sliced
salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.

2. Cook onion and celery in butter until just tender, 5 minutes.

3. Pour in chicken and vegetable stocks and stir in chicken, noodles, carrots, salt and pepper.

4. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Turmeric Cauliflower Curry

I am really loving cauliflower - especially roasted or in curries. It's really versatile and in curries, it soaks up all the flavors and just collapses into this amazing chunky texture. Here's a useful recipe that works well with frozen cauliflower as well.

Turmeric Cauliflower Curry
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves 8


800g cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
600g potatoes 
1 1/2 cups water
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup frozen green peas
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered, for garnish


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the cauliflower and potatoes: Cut the potatoes into 1 1/2-inch cubes. To prepare the cauliflower, use a chef's knife to cut a deep cross into the base of the cauliflower. Place your thumbs into the crevice and pull the head apart into 4 quarters Stand each quarter upright, and slice off and discard the core and outer leaves. Break or cut the cauliflower into bite-size florets.
  3. Cook the potatoes and cauliflower: Carefully transfer the potatoes into the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook for 10 minutes longer, or until the vegetables are tender. (Total cooking time is 14 to 15 minutes) Drain into a colander.
  4. Make the curry sauce: In a blender or food processor, combine the water, onion, chili flakes, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, and salt. Puree until smooth.
  5. Cook the curry sauce: Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked cauliflower and potatoes. Taste and add more salt and garam masala, if you like.
  6. Finish the dish: Stir the peas and tomatoes into the pot. Heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until hot. Just before serving, stir in the yogurt and reheat gently (do not let it boil, or the yogurt may curdle.)
  7. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Monday, November 07, 2016


6 Southwark St

This is not exactly a hidden gem - if anything it is a gem that far too many people know about. In summary: amazing pasta. Incredibly affordable prices. Go.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Tautog's Restaurant

205 23rd St
Virginia Beach, VA 23451

I took a too-short weekend trip to see some of my favorite women in the entire world. Virginia Beach ended up being the best location for everyone to get to (a bit awkward from London, but it was going to be hard for me no matter where they chose in the US). We enjoyed the free hotel breakfasts and snacked enough throughout the day to make lunch unnecessary, but the two dinners I was there for were great opportunities to eat some seafood and catch up on hanging out time. We went to Tautog's on the second night and I had the snow crab legs for dinner. Man, I have missed having enormous crab legs. They were fantastic, as was the cup of drawn melted butter to dip the sweet crab meat into. We also had raw oysters and oysters Rockefeller, so all in all, I was a satisfied customer by the end of the meal. The place was rammed full so make a reservation - or prepare to be disappointed!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Sichuan Restaurant

14 City Rd

After reading several rave reviews of a new Sichuan place around Moorgate, I made plans with P to give it a whirl. P is one of my favorite people to have a big Chinese feast with - he is just as adventurous as me, and we both love variety. Pictured above are frog legs, pork in a spicy broth, and "man and wife" offal slices. Sadly I forgot to take a picture of the dry fried green beans with minced pork. Everything was fantastic and there was a true numbing heat to some of the dishes that spoke of high quality Sichuan peppercorns. It was also a bargain for the quality of the cooking. Can't wait to go back and try a whole different range of dishes.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Smoky Fish on Mash

Looks fancy, tastes good.

Smoky Fish on Cheese & Spinach Mash
Serves 2


400g potatoes
2 spring onions
40g cheddar
2 medium eggs
2 garlic cloves
2 smoked fish fillets (haddock, saba, etc.)
150g spinach
1 tbs butter
1/4c milk
olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 200C/390F. Boil a kettle of water.

2. Cut potatoes into wedges (leave skin on). Peel and roughly chop garlic. Add potatoes and garlic to a pot of salted boiling water and boil for 15 minutes or until you can easily pierce potatoes with a fork. Boil another kettle of water.

3. Wash spinach in colander, then point boiling water all over it so it wilts. Rinse in cold water and squeeze excess water out. Chop spinach roughly. Boil another kettle of water.

4. Grate cheddar. Slice spring onions finely.

5. Place fish on baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, and season with pepper. Put tray in oven for 10 minutes or until fish is cooked.

6. Drain potatoes and mash with butter and milk. Add spinach, cheddar, and spring onions and season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Bring a pot of salted boiling water to a simmer over medium heat. Crack eggs into water and leave for 2 minutes. Transfer them with slotted spoon to kitchen towel.

8. Serve smoked fish over mash with poached egg on top.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Coconut tahini cookies with candied ginger

I have all these ingredients on hand that I buy because certain food people tell me they are wonderful (coconut oil, tahini, etc.) and then I put them on my shelves and stare at them and am totally unclear on how to incorporate them into the every day food I make.

Thankfully, I read enough food blogs to get inspiration every once in a while - and Molly's blog on Coconut tahini monster cookies (with chocolate chips instead of ginger) made me run to my cabinets and check yup, I had everything except for the chocolate chips and toppings. A quick substitute of candied ginger and here we were, ready with cookies as a gift to our old neighbors in their new house. These are cakey cookies - lovely and soft and chewy. Next time I think I could cut the sugar a bit as I really don't have a sweet tooth, but they're pretty awesome as is, too.

Coconut tahini cookies with candied ginger
Adapted from My name is yeh


1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 c melted virgin coconut oil, slightly cooled
1/2 c tahini
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tb vanilla extract
3/4 c candied ginger, chopped
1/2 c flaked unsweetened coconut (optional)
sprinkles, optional


Preheat the oven to 350ºf and line a baking sheet with parchment. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl.

In another bowl, combine coconut oil and tahini. Whisk in sugar until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then mix in extracts. Finally, stir the flour mixture into the tahini mixture along with candied ginger.

Scoop cookie dough onto lined baking sheets, leaving a few inches between them for the cookies to spread. Top the dough with coconut and sprinkles if using.

Bake until the bottoms are lightly browned and the coconut is toasty, begin checking for doneness at 15 minutes. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes, and then remove to a rack to cool completely, or eat them warm.

Thursday, August 04, 2016


13 Lamb's Conduit Passage
London WC1R 4RH

Once I read this review, I knew I had to find a lunch hour to pop by. It's only a 10 minute walk from where I work, but it's hidden down a little alley that I rarely walk through. Thankfully other people are good at discovering things for me. When I asked the lady behind the counter what she would recommend, she said she had tried both the chicken and lamb dishes that day and they were excellent, so I of course asked if I could have both, which was not a problem. I also said yes to all the extras on the side - including an incredible little sauce of fried, dried shrimps and chili and crunchy peanuts. It was all incredibly flavorful and on a sunny afternoon, the little tables outside are a lovely place to bask in the sunshine and have a fabulous, casual Malaysian meal.

Monday, August 01, 2016


39 Goldhawk Rd
Shepherds Bush
London W12 8QQ

I was in Shepherds Bush for a gig and since I'm so rarely in the area, I had a quick look at interesting places for a casual dinner beforehand. Ho-ja popped up and as soon as I saw that it was Taiwanese, I was sold (my dad's from Taiwan, I miss that food sometimes). I went with popcorn chicken, which came with a generous scoop of rice, along with beansprouts and broccoli. You also choose a sauce, and I asked for curry - which essentially turned my meal into the Taiwanese version of a katsu curry. It was an ideal solo meal, cost less than a tenner, and fulfilled some nostalgia for me, so thumbs up all around!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Southern California - Part 2 - Los Angeles

Hi readers (all 5 of you!)
Who wants to know about the rest of my trip to Southern California?
Ok, here goes.

More breweries, as we drove from San Diego to Los Angeles. First up, Alesmith. More flights of beer. I was designated driver so stuck to having a bit of whatever stout looked most interesting to me. A took full advantage of having a personal chauffeur. We kept exclaiming over how spacious breweries and tap rooms are in the US, compared to the squashed confines of railway arches in London. Plus, as we were doing a weekday brewery hop during a late morning / early afternoon drive, there were only a handful of other similarly geeky beer tourists around. Good if you want to spend your time tasting / discussing beer with the knowledgeable staff. Bad if you want atmosphere.

Ballast Point was next door. They are more established, which was obvious from the much more expensive décor and fully bustling restaurant and gift shop. I am appalled that I did not write much down but there were definitely some beers here that were right up my alley. Too bad I’ll never remember what they were.

As it was a Monday, another brewery close by wasn’t open (Green Flash) and we decided to skip Karl Strauss as we’d had a few of their beers in San Diego and two breweries in a morning seemed like a pretty decent achievement.

Back to what I care about – lunch options! Both Kotija Jr Taco Shop and Carnitas’ Snack Shack are in Del Mar, and why eat at one when you can eat at both? We started with a fish taco and taquitos at Kotija – again a pretty great example of what a bit of freshly grilled fish and shredded cabbage can be when done right, and the taquitos were full of greasy childhood nostalgia. Then we hit up Carnitas’ for their famed Triple Threat pork sandwich (our AirBnB host in San Diego raved about this). I’m glad we tried it, but it was just too over the top for me. Deep fried pork loin, pulled pork, and bacon smothered with aioli and relish – even having half of it made me feel a few years closer to a heart attack.

With some lunch, A was ready for another brewery so we went to Stone’s headquarters in Escondido. It was really difficult to find as there isn’t much signage out front and looks like a weird office building complex, but in the back there is a pretty incredible beer garden. While this is where they do most of the brewing for their mainstays, the location in San Diego has a lot more experimental beer, so if you were choosing to visit one, I’d recommend going to the San Diego location (which is also surrounded by a lot more stuff to do).

While Rip Current and Latitude 33 were also on our map, we were keen to get to LA before dark so we ended up skipping them. Leaves us some places to visit on the next trip…

Our first two nights in LA, we stayed with C in Pasadena. She took us to a great casual Italian place for hearty bowls of pasta and broccoli rabe which helped me cleanse after the crazy pork sandwich for lunch.

The next day was a downpour unlike anything I’ve ever seen in LA. This meant that A and I could only see things from the car – Griffiths Observatory was a bust, and we made a quick stop at Squirl for some avocado toast (fine) and bread pudding (way more than fine, I would eat this over and over again). Maybe the rain is the only reason why we managed to find a table and get served without a long queue. We then proceeded along Sunset Blvd heading west, going at a crawl and pointing at things through the blurry windows. 

Another stop at one of the many outposts of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, for, you guessed it, chicken and waffles – we really liked the fried chicken as it was juicy and crisp. I know it can be variable in quality but we hit a good one. We decided to hide out at the cinema and watch The Hateful 8 in 70mm, as the rain just never stopped, and afterwards drove around Hollywood and Beverley Hills, gawping at mansions, until it was time for our reservation at Pizzeria Mozza.

Pizzeria Mozza gets its own paragraph. I’ve heard endless raves about the pizza, the butterscotch budino, the warm atmosphere, both here and at its sister restaurant next door, Osteria Mozza. It lived up to it all – my friend K met us for dinner (C couldn’t make it, sadly) so between three of us we attempted to stuff ourselves silly. Arancini and bone marrow for starters (A’s first bone marrow!) and then two phenomenal pizzas (mixed mushrooms, and a Brussels sprout and pancetta special). A, whose top gripe about pizza is when the crust is too thin/soggy to hold up to toppings, pronounced these excellent and we had no trouble finishing it all. Then, because we couldn’t decide between the butterscotch budino and the caramel coppetta, we got both. A preferred the caramel, I preferred the butterscotch, K didn’t discriminate. It was perfect. I love it when places meet your high expectations.

The next day, the same downpour meant another curiously indoor day. The Broad Museum was my kind of place – small enough that you could see the whole thing in a couple of hours, big enough that the collection was interesting. Also your free tickets come with an audio guide that really helps you understand what you’re seeing – I am getting really into audio guides lately as they are transforming my experience of museums. After, we headed to Little Tokyo for lunch. I don’t have pictures or the name of the restaurant, but it was a pretty standard bento box experience and we’d go back, if we could ever find it again. For dessert, we hit up The Pie Hole, which was doing a special Yoda pie – green tea and salted caramel. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about pie. I think I like it? But then when I look at the picture I don’t crave it.

A and I stumbled across Joe’s Restaurant Office while we were on Abbot Kinney and took advantage of their happy hour margaritas. The bartender was outstanding (and outstandingly friendly) but sadly their website says they have closed after 24 years…

Then we met up with K again in her neighbourhood and went all out for dinner at Leona. There was some homemade cheese, another mushroom pizza, duck confit, beef shortrib, fries and roasted Brussels sprouts. Again, lots of exclamations of delight (and the two lovely bottles of red that K brought didn’t hurt!) I think we were too full for dessert (or I just didn’t take any pictures).

Finally, on our last day, LA showed off what it’s known for – sunshine and warmth, even in January. Thank goodness, because I think A was starting to think that I was a massive liar. With bright blue skies and T-shirt temps, we headed to the beach, first to Venice, where we shared a breakfast burrito at The Sidewalk Café. It was fine, but the view is the real draw. Then we visited the Getty and soaked up sunshine at the outdoor amphitheatre, and took the PCH up to Malibu. 

We capped off this drive with one of my favorite meals of the trip – fried clams and grilled fish at Malibu Seafood. Something about fresh seafood by the seaside in blazing sun just amplifies the blissfulness of each individual component. 

And the last thing we did before catching our flight was getting a quick Double Double at In N Out – can’t come to California without at least one stop there.

Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake in One Bowl

I love the UK method of doing most baking recipes by weight as you can just add ingredients straight into the bowl without dirtying loads of measuring cups and whatnot.

A requested a yogurt cake, he has fond memories of this one, but as soon as I saw the Barefoot Contessa had a recipe I had to try that one out.

So here we go:

Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake in One Bowl
Adapted from Food Network

Makes one loaf sized cake


210g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
245g plain whole-milk yogurt
225g sugar for cake, plus 1/3 cup sugar for syrup
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
75g vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze (optional):
1 cup confectioners' (or icing) sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350F / 180C. Grease a loaf tin. You can line with parchment paper if you like, but I use a silicone tin so never bother with that step.

Combine yogurt, 225g sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk well until smooth. Add flour, baking powder and salt and whisk well to combine until smooth. Fold in vegetable oil until combined.

Pour batter into loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup - combine 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice in a small pan (that was roughly 2 lemons worth of juice, which works well with the number needed for zesting). Heat and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

Let cake cool for about 10 minutes, but while it is still warm, poke some holes in the cake with a tester or skewer, pour the lemon syrup over the cake and let it soak in. Cool completely.

For the glaze, which is optional, combine icing sugar and lemon juice, then drizzle over the cake.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Southern California – Part 1 – San Diego

A and I were lucky enough to be able to plan a week in Southern California before coming back to London. We decided to split our time between San Diego and LA – I went to both quite a lot as a kid, but A hadn’t been to either, so we had plenty of exploring to do.

San Diego was exactly as expected – sunshine, dudes in baseball caps, and a booming craft beer scene. We stayed in North Park for the first two nights, which is full of breweries and hipsters and made us feel right at home. A few of the places we dropped in on, in roughly chronological order:

Mike Hess Brewing – you can get flights here (which come with a souvenir glass which is shaped like a beer can and labelled with one of their brews). A loved some of the IPAs he tried; I struggled a bit more as I’m a wimp when it comes to hops but did taste every stout/porter they had on and liked the seasonal pumpkin one the best. I’m such a sucker for seasonal pumpkin flavours, mainly because they’re not common in the UK so I go a little nuts on them when I’m back in the US.

City Tacos – we needed a quick snack after an evening of trying beers so picked up a mahi mahi taco and a carnitas taco. Both were decent but were topped with the same mango salsa, which A and I both found too sweet and fruity for our tastes.

Breakfast Republic – this place was rammed already at 10.30am on Saturday, but there’s free coffee for those waiting and it’s warm and sunny outside, so A and I get caffeinated and bask in the glow. When we finally secure a table, we know what we want – crab cake benedict and French toast with fresh strawberries. I think the anticipation that built up over the wait and seeing how eager other people were made our food a slight disappointment – nothing was wrong, but it wasn’t the kind of breakfast that you talk about for the rest of the day, either. My hash browns were distinctly undercooked. But lovely outdoor seating and a friendly waiter.

Barleymash – we stopped in here for an afternoon drink while walking around downtown. I had a hard root beer (why is this deliciousness missing in my life?!) and A had another IPA (surprise!). While drinking, we looked at the menu and got fixated on the range of mac&cheeses they do. So… we came back for dinner and split the version with confit duck and duck scratchings. Again – something that had been built up in my head for too long; the sweet hoisin-esque sauce ruined it a bit for me. I’m really glad we shared it, we saw another couple start with a giant pile of nacho fries, then order a separate mac&cheese each, which I’m pretty sure should kill you on the spot.

Cat Eye Club – we headed here after dinner to catch their Saturday night happy hour – they do an excellent mai tai for $5 until 8pm. We couldn’t stop drinking these. The balance between sweet, dry and bitters was absolutely perfect, and then the jazz band that came on added to the atmosphere. Sadly I discovered that three mai tais is my limit – but we headed home feeling like we’d stumbled on some magic place.

Urban Solace – our AirBnB host recommended the Sunday bluegrass brunch and I’m glad we went with it. The band was great – they play outdoors in a covered patio area. I had the beef cheek hash (YES!) and A had the full kitchen sink – sausage, bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy (YES AGAIN!)

At this point we moved on the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina for one night – I have no idea what this place is like in the high season, but it was quiet, luxurious and very well situated for our stay.

El Pescador Fish Market – stunning selection of fresh fish. We tried the fish tacos – because they forgot our order, they also brought us some clam chowder on the house. Clam chowder was good (but not as good as the San Francisco sourdough bread bowl one we had a few years ago) and the fish in the tacos was fresh, but sadly pretty bland. A hell of a lot of shredded cabbage.

Oscar’s Mexican Seafood – another attempt at a fish taco. This one was my favorite, and finally helped A understand why people go nuts for them. Grilled fish, avocado, crispy cheese, just enough cabbage for crunch. This is when I started to realize that fish tacos are not fast food – every place so far was making them to order, which is fantastic, but it does mean there is a bit of a wait.

Stone Brewing World – this is the touristy outpost but actually the more interesting of the two, since they do smaller batches of more creative beers here but they still have the full list from the main brewery too. It being January and Sunday, the place was pretty empty, but that just made it all the easier for me and A to get two flights of beer. They do food too, but my constant fish taco ingestion made that unnecessary.

Modern Times – my favorite interiors of all the breweries we visited (though many were pretty spectacular). One, they had a mural of Michael Jackson with his monkey, made out of post-it notes. Two, they had a wall made out of book covers. Three, there were some spectacular lights / chandeliers. And of course the beer was good too – their unusual addition is their own coffee, cold-brewed and available by the growler. When you’re brewery and a coffee producer, you obviously then make some beers with that coffee, and I really liked the one I tried.

Pizza Port Ocean Beach – A and I were both a little surprised by how casual this place is (and how many tv screens there were showing various sports) – they make their own beers and there are certainly some unusual options available. I think I had some version of a hefeweizen, I’m assuming A had another IPA, and then we ordered kale salad and a pizza. What surprised me most is that the kale salad was one of the most delicious things I’d eaten all day, and the pizza paled in comparison. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a pizza place, but go for the kale salad?

Hodad’s – couldn’t resist popping into this burger joint staffed by a bunch of surfer dudes who were the friendliest, most chilled out waitstaff you could ask for. There were definitely some strong weed scents floating out from the back, accompanied by drum solos on the grill played with spatulas, but they delivered a juicy burger and fries quickly and competently (and even pre-sliced it in half since they knew we were sharing).

Olive Café – our last meal in San Diego and we wanted a traditional American breakfast. This was perfect – pancakes, eggs, hash browns and bacon (it’s one dish but A and I split it and it ended up being just the right amount to fill us up for the morning). A quick walk on the beach and we were ready to hit some of the breweries between San Diego and LA.