Tag Archives: cheap

Raspberry and Almond Cake and Cherry Bakwell mini-cakes

29 Jul

Pop the kettle on…


It’s been forever since I shared a recipe with you and I hope you aren’t too miffed. My time was swallowed, almost in it’s entirety, by my wedding which took place in June.  The last months have been hectic. There were playlists to compile, bunting to sew, table names to cross-stitch, vows to practice, flowers to pick, dresses to squeeze into, booze to buy, invites to post..  and thank goodness it was all worth it. What a day – I’m still on cloud nine. Following a mini-moon on the Isle of Wight, where the food was local, sustainable and delicious by the way, we’re in the middle of few weeks wait until we head off, in August, for a mega-moon roadtrip in the USA. It’s going to be epic… and very tasty. I’ll let you know what I eat!

In the meantime, here are a couple of easy recipes for cake that goes nicely with a cup of tea. The best kind of cake, right? I baked them this weekend in between walking my Godmother’s dog Lucy along with my Mum, Godmother and new husband (still feels weird) in the beautiful countryside; and after a long walk in the hills and sunshine this cake will recharge your batteries.

Almond and Raspberry Cake (serves 8 – 10)

You will need:

* 140g ground almonds   * 140g unsalted butter, soft   * 140g caster sugar   * 140g self-raising flour   * 2 large eggs   *1tsp vanilla extract   *250g raspberries   *2 tbsp flaked almonds

Lovely Lucy

To make:

1. Heat the oven to 180Oc/ 160Oc fan/ gas mark 4 and line a deep 20cm cake tin.  In a food processor, by hand or by a hand-held whisk combine the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, vanilla extract and eggs until well-combined.

2. Spread half of the mix over the cake tin and smooth over the top.  Scatter the raspberries over the mixture and then dollop the remaining cake mixture on top and spread to cover the fruit. I used my fingertips to do this.

3. Scatter flaked almonds on top of the cake and then bake for about 50 minutes or until the cake is golden and doesn’t wibble if you shake the tin.  Cool and remove from the tin. Enjoy.


Cherry and Almond Mini-cakes (makes about12)

* 60g ground almonds   * 75g butter   * 75g sugar   * 75g self-raising flour   * splash of milk   * 2 large eggs   * a couple of handfuls of glace cherries   * small splash of vanilla extract   *12 flaked almonds (optional)

Dinky little cake.. so why stop at one?

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190OC/ 170oC fan and pop your paper cases on a tray.  Combine the flour, ground almonds, flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, milk and butter and whizz with an electric whisk, by hand or in a food processor.

2. Tip the finely chopped glace cherries into the mixture and give it a nice stir before dolloping the cake mixture evenly into the cake cases.

3. Pop in the oven for around 10-15 minutes until the cakes are golden, have risen and are springy but cooked through.  Leave to cool or heat whilst still warm with a cool glass of milk or a big mug of tea.



Review: Mooli’s

6 Jun

Divine Street Cuisine

50 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4SQ


0207 494 9075

Tonight at Mooli’s in between sipping on Mexican beers, knocking back lychee and guava mojitos and gossiping with my friends –  Sam, Daria and Josh – about tipping for expensive haircuts (a £50 tip? What is this madness? Only in Sloane Square!) and where to find the best burgers in New York… along with listening to some totally toe-tapping songs – Phoenix and Belle and Sebastian – and appreciating the ridiculously friendly and lovely service, there was the tasty, clean, fresh and ruddy gorgeous eats.  Mmm and double mmmmmm.

For a pound we scoffed our way through a bag of roasted pappadom bites which came with fresh, zingy chutney – crisp and spicy; really good.  Between us we tried a selection of the Mooli roti wraps – the keralan beef, coconut, salsa and yoghurt, the chicken, fenugreek, lentils, pickled turnip and yoghurt and the Punjabi goat, cumin potatoes and salsa.

Not just a wrap, ok?

The Mooli’s rotis were about a fiver a pop and, without daring to be sexist – not least because I like to think I could eat many a man under the table – were properly filling for both of us girls whilst the guys at our table needed sides; and were spicy and tender, with soft, taut flatbread and lovely salsa and smooth, creamy yoghurt.  Delivered to the table wrapped in foil, like a burrito, and served with a smile and on shiny bright trays this is just how fast food should be.

For pudding we licked and nibbled our way through mango and pistachio kulfis – lovely sticks of Indian ice cream – which were fantastic although a teeny bit too pricey at £2.50 a go.

The mojitos were powerful good.  Sweet and strong, fragrant and fuzzy.  It was very very easy to stay and watch the street scene unfold before us (we spotted an ex-cabinet Minister who used to share the gym with me when I worked in Parliament drinking by the door and I befriended a cat called Bob who belonged to a sweet homeless guy) and knock back a few jars.

The atmosphere was lovely and made me realise how lax I had been in not getting to Mooli’s before now.  The food tasted good, honest and true.  It made me wish I worked just a bit teenier closer to Soho so that I could indulge at least one lunchtime a week.  The service was also so ridiculously lovely and sweet that I wished more restaurants could be just a smidgeon as good as this.  It was a wonderful summer’s evening and I urge you, if you haven’t been to Mooli’s yet… go.


If your office is in Soho, go, for lunch, for a post-work date, whatever,  go.  If you are busy shopping one Saturday afternoon and fancy a pit-stop:  go.  When it comes to Mooli’s I would say – just go!


Review: Lahore Kebab House

26 Apr

Curry Overload

Lahore Kebab House

2 Umberston Street, Whitechapel, E1 1PY (just off Commercial Road)

T – 020 7488 2551

W – http://lahore-kebabhouse.com/

Meals served from Noon to Midnight, daily.

Yet again I found myself hankering after chilli and spice and all things nice in Whitechapel.  After my trips to Needoo Grill and Tayyabs I thought it only right and honourable that I stop by and fill up at Lahore Kebab House.

And so I dragged him-indoors and a couple of friends and our hollow bellies there last Thursday where we chatted and laughed so much that I very nearly did that naughty, awful thing of barely noticing what I was eating. Whoops.

Seekh Kebab

But luckily for me – and this frickin’ blog – there were enough big flavours to keep me aware, just, of what I was tucking so merrily into.  From the unassuming decor (think a big empty space over two floors, with lots of tellies showing cricket and plain and simple crockery) and perfunctory service (our waiter was a picture of insouciance) the Lahore Kebab House is no-frills and mercifully all about the food.

It’s a Bring-Your-Own policy which I wholeheartedly endorse, although I was too busy drinking pop and lassis and the prices are as friendly on the wallet as I had heard.  It would be hard to spend more than £20 here unless you were carbo-loading for a marathon or just very very greedy.

We ordered poppadoms and sunshiney fruity mango chutney (and I ask you is there a finer pleasure in life than chomping on a poppadom and ordering a meal which you are about to demolish?) before scoffing lamb chops – which were gorgeous but not, I’m afraid, quite as tender and smoky hot as those at Tayyabs – and a bunch of kebabs at a pound a stick. They were juicy and perfectly spiced.


We then selected a couple of chicken curries and a lamb curry – at this point I was probably distracted talking about weddings, Marioworld and boxing – so I am not entirely sure what we asked for or what I ate but I do recollect a super silky Daal Tarka and buttery chicken.  We ordered a range of Naans – plain, keema and Peshaweri – and scoffed until our trousers nearly split.  Again, the bread was soft, buttery and chewy, and smarter than at your average curryhouse, but if comparisons are to be made – and it feels inevitable that they will be – again I think Tayyabs edged it here too.

From the generous portions, the hot chilli flavours, to the rockbottom prices the Lahore Kebab House is pretty special.  I will almost certainly be back.

Review: Tayyabs

2 Apr

Oh. Ma. Hod.



83-89 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London, E1 1JU

020 7247 6400


As a birthday treat to moi I dragged Josh around the East End last Sunday – where we sloped down Columbia Road, a riot of colours and activity as the flower market was in full swing, snooped around Spitalfields market looking at Royal wedding tat, had a nose around Whitechapel Gallery,  before drinking rum in a pub which played Michael Jackson exclusively – it was sunny, and we had had an amazing Portuguese brunch.  Josh had bought me a sodastream for my birthday.  I had selected some gorgeous flowers. Things could not be topped, right? Wrong. We were yet to step into Tayyabs.

Mango Lassi

I had heard much about the place.  About the prices (super cheap), the queues (humongous), the lamb chops (to die for).  I had been to Needoos Grill and gobbled up the mouthwatering Punjabi kebabs and told that if I liked it then I *had* to go to Tayyabs.   We strolled along at around half three and walked in, without a queue, and were seated straight away.  Time Out and Qype reviews talk of lines that stretch down the road and take an hour of patience, so if you go one Friday or Saturday evening I suggest you wear comfortable shoes.

The dining hall was simple, large and chaotic.  Nearly every table was full and mostly with Asian families.  The din was lovely – laugher, gossip and coughing fits that erupted every time a spicy plate of food was bought out into the restaurant-  the air inside smoky and heavy with chilli.

We were still full of chorizo from brunch but ordered lamb chops, chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, keema nan and enough popadoms to get our bellies rumbling.  I ordered a mango lassi and goodness me, it was incredible.  Thick, sweet and smooth.  I never wanted it to end.

The spice is right

Service was snappy and the food was bought, sizzling and spluttering, to the table minutes after it was ordered.  The lamb chops were everything I had heard they would be.  Tender, smoky and popping with flavour.  We gnawed at the bones as if we were in the middle of a medieval banquet.  Sighing and catching our breath now and then.  The chicken was hot and I doused mine with mint yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice as the soft meat fell apart with each bite.  Then came the nan. Easily the best nan I have ever eaten – soft and chewy with the most fragrant, rich lamb mince sealed inside.  Slurping away on my lassi, as I felt my jeans tighten around my expanding waist, I realised that I was experiencing a perfect London meal – frantic but friendly, rustic and real.  Josh grinned over his sizzling meat fest and between greedy bites affirmed that this was good, good eating.

After we could eat no more, the plates vanished in seconds.  Annoyingly we had no room left for a dessert and I pledged to squeeze in a curry next time.  When the bill came to £20 for two, this just sweetened the deal.  The waiters were all efficient and friendly, the atmosphere so warm and happy.  I wish only that it hadn’t taken so long to go and cannot wait to return.


Review: Franco Manca

13 Mar

Get a pizza the action

Franco Manca

Unit 4, Market Row,

Electric Lane, Brixton,

London, SW9 8LD


020 7738 3021

I heart Brixton.  When I first moved to London I lived there for a while and would spend sticky summer Sundays watching movies in the Ritzy Cinema, jog around Brockwell park taking in the views of the city, scoff jerk chicken until my belly ached in Negril on the hill and enjoy sweaty gigs at the Academy.  I adored walking around the market, nipping into the bookmongers and little Asian supermarkets, and always I would see the eager queue for Franco Manca and think “one day, one day…”

Well yesterday was the day.  Josh and I braved the queue and yes it was long, very long – “mental” as the guy behind me labelled it before skulking off – but oh my, it was worth it.  I have read breathless reviews of Franco Manca, describing the pizzas as extraordinarily good and the best pizzas in Britain and everyone I have ever spoken to about it have just said “just go there.”  And so, having done so, I urge you to do the same.

Under the arches

The  pizzas are made from slow-rising sourdough, which takes at least 20 hours, before being baked in a brick oven – blasted with heat of more than 500 °C – so that it takes less than a minute to cook and the pizza’s dough is soft, chewy and ever-so slightly sour.  Wonderful and about a lightyear away from the stuffed crusts of Pizza Hut.  The menu has just six pizzas, a salad, a couple of wines, a beer and a few juices – all at very keen prices.  The pizzas range from £4.50 to £6.95 and have organically sourced toppings.  So far, so good.

Josh ordered the  tomato, cured chorizo and mozzarella pizza with an additional topping of Gorgonzola and I went for the mozzarella and wild broccoli with wootton organic pecorino cheese.  We sat and waited as staff raced around, the queue grew longer and market shoppers strolled by.  Franco Manca is spread across two halves of the covered market corridor, next to a barbers and a fishmongers, and the higgeldy-piggeldy tables and chairs, inside and out, provide an ambiance that is surprisingly cosy and relaxed considering the inherent frenzy of the setting.

The pizzas arrived in a few minutes and were served with a smile.  Wow.  They were unfussy but packed a mighty punch.  The dough was stretchy and had a lovely bite. Speckled and charred it looked absolutely beautiful and tasted just as good.  A quick grind of pepper and glug of chilli oil and I was set.  This was the good stuff.  I had a juicy big slice of Josh’s pizza and it too was exquisite.

Yes yes yes.

Josh – who had been a little cheesed off by the long queue and was already a bit grumpy that I was making him accompany me to a showing of a Japanese movie based on a Haruki Murakami novel which he was almost certain to find dull – and who has a longstanding commitment to Dominos pizzas, said that Franco Manca’s were good and that the dough was pretty special. This is a result, I promise you.

From the service, to the price (£20 for two with a glass of wine and juice), the quality to the flavour, Franco Manca does it for me.  And judging by the popularity of the place and the smiles on the diner’s faces, does it for others too.  Don’t wear shoes you can’t stand around in for a long time and take a friend who can keep you entertained.  Wear loose fitting clothes as the pizzas are big and you won’t want to stop until your plate sparkles.  Just go there.  This is a place to be happy, it’s La Dolce Vita.

Review: Chipotle

20 Jun

Burrito Madness

114-116 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JR

Telephone: 0207 636 8491

I’m trying really hard to save money at the moment. Josh and I are road-tripping around the States in a few months and let’s just say we’re going to need ‘nough dollar to realise our  unashamedly mega plans. So as well as succumbing to the instant-ready-filth that is Pot Noodles for dinner and a renewed vigor in making packed lunches, I have been looking for cheap ways to fill my belly. On that count, Chipotle is a very very good shout.

A ‘Mexican Grill’, and the first to open in London – there are nearly a 1,000 in the US of A – Chipotle serves a simple no-nonsense menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla) and salads. Chipolte in the States prides itself on being only national restaurant chain that is committed to serving food made with ingredients from sustainable sources, including naturally raised meat, and organic and local produce. Ace.

Get. In. Me.

So first things first. Do NOT choose a window-seat. I did and in between needing a bib (I confess my vest became oh-so slightly stained with steak-grease, oops) and noticing that my unlady-like burrito-devouring was attracting stares from tourists and Londoners alike, I think, in  retrospect, a badly-lit booth of shame would be the best place to scoff burritos. 

The burritos though. They are big. On offer was chicken, pork and I forget what else, but I opted for steak fajita – after some very kind and helpful guidance from a sweet lady who worked there – and loaded the tortilla with pinto beans, coriander-lime rice, sour cream, cheese, salad and roasted-tomato salsa. The serving-staff were also cool and friendly and quick. With a can of coke (at a round £1) the meal came to £7.95. Not bad for a filling, tasty and fun meal but perhaps not the kind of money I would be prepared to shill every day for lunch. Blimey. If I ate one of those bad-boys every day I would be wearing a muumuu before I knew it.

Tap to unwrap.

The burrito was decent and the meat tender and nicely spiced although perhaps lacking in oomph and that ‘shazam’ taste I love in Mexican cooking. The playlist was eclectic and odd and really fun and really the service – if more places in London, say the tube, were this friendly I would smile alot more. The downsides are few. It could do with being a bit cheaper and they could do with turning the flavour up another notch, say all the way to 11, but until I get to the States  – where I am sure I will go bananas for burritos – this will do nicely.