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La Noisette

19 Feb

When being enchanted by the glorious taste of a La Noisette cake, I felt as though someone had let me past the velvet rope and in on a secret that right now only few are privy to.

The beautiful and talented Barbara Werber has honed an old family recipe and made these undeniably perfect hazelnut creations. All cakes are gluten-free and for some reason when you magically demolish one of these in less than a few seconds, you just don’t feel that guilty. They taste as though you’re eating something healthy, but with all the mouth-watering stealth of indulgence.

I tried the Orange Drizzle which was heavenly. The consistency and flavour, so delicate and fresh I forgot there was anyone else in the room. I also had the fortune of trying the Classic Hazelnut and that is one of those rare cakes that you just never forget.

download download-1The presentation is meticulous and cakes are packaged with an acute attention to detail, very classically. Both a collection of small cakes or simply a large one would make a wonderful gift.

If you’re near one of La Noisette‘s stockists then trust me you need to get one of these. They are exceptional.

Rate: 5

La Noisette is currently stocked at:

Finch Cafe – 384 Mentmore Terrrace, London, E8 3PH
Tel: 07944 371 211

Street Coffee- Brick Lane157 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB
Tel: 02077 292 667

Milk Bar- Flat White3 Bateman Street, Soho, London, W1D 4AG
Tel: 02072 874 796

http://www.la-noisette.co.uk/

Follow on Twitter @lanoisette_

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Glazed & Confused

31 Jan

You hear a bit of buzz, you like doughnuts; that sugary, doughy treat that brings a warm fuzzy feeling…add the word ‘gourmet’ and right there they’ve got a following. Is that all it takes? Hold up a minute and let’s just focus. Whilst promotion and publicity are important, sure, the product itself needs to be perfected, from consistency, to presentation, to taste. It is paramount to receiving repeat customers and generating good publicity, because it was enjoyed.

I tried Glazed & Confused doughnuts willingly, by buying a big box and sharing them with my colleagues. The next day I got a call from Glazed & Confused and they offered me a selection box, so I could try some more. I also shared these with my office. It’s interesting, as when I normally do my reviews, it’s just from my perspective and it was enlightening to treat this more as a taste test/focus group on what people’s expectations were and what their reaction was to each and every one of these doughnuts.

Let me begin…

Mint Chocolate – This should not have been allowed past anyone’s lips. This is an atrocity to the doughnut family and should be avoided at all costs. The dough (for all of the doughnuts) is too thick. It resonates cheap, supermarket doughnuts, but has an off-putting consistency that makes going in for a reluctant second bite more of an arduous task, but with the hope that it couldn’t really have been that bad the first time round. The consistency of the glaze is like a solid crust, therefore when you bite into it, it inevitably falls to the ground, with this particular doughnut you won’t mind this in the slightest, because the taste of the glaze is quite positively foul. There was one person in the office that managed to swallow it, everyone else spat it out. It was not a sweet mint, peppermint or a sugary glaze à la After Eight, it can only be likened to neat mint sauce that is only appropriate with a lamb roast. The reaction of most when I asked if they would buy this doughnut was ‘Maybe to play a joke on someone.’ Enough said.

doughnut 3Sticky Toffee Pudding – This was the best of all 15 I tried. The consistency of the glaze on top was correct, it was gooey and moulded itself to the doughnut. The filling was the same consistency as the inside of a fig roll. It was definitely the most appealing in terms of flavour and texture, but I still had to largely ignore the actual base of it which was the doughnut itself.

doughnutBlackberry Eton Mess – On paper this sounds fantastic, in reality it was an epic fail. The cream was over whipped, so was very stodgy. There were very large, whole blackberries inside, which didn’t compliment the doughnut, as it became too bulky. The meringue was nowhere to be seen, as if you crumble meringue over whipped cream, unless eaten almost straight away, the meringue will disintegrate into the cream, because that’s what happens when it comes into contact with something wet. Therefore, when you put all this together and fill a doughnut with it (actually just cut in half and present like a sandwich, pictured in the above photo, bottom right), it just becomes an over mulchy, sickening mess. It should be filled with sweet vanilla cream, glazed with blackberry and sprinkled with hardened meringue pieces on top. That would have a) looked more appealing and b) tasted way better.

Chilli Chocolate – A direct quote from my colleague ‘It’s not so much that it’s spicy, it’s like someone’s thrown up in my mouth.’ This is a chocolate doughnut that tastes like a bland, bready cake with a chilli topping using one of my favourite retailer’s sauces; ‘Christ On A Bike’ by The Rib Man. Rib Man, you are the God of pulled pork and ribs and I love your food, but this is not a good partnership. A hint of chilli was all it needed, but when you have a sauce that is used primarily to be accompanied by meat, you can’t be pouring it all over. Mix only a third of a teaspoon to make a glaze and make this into an interesting, different doughnut and make the chocolate taste richer. To be so bold as to smother it in the sauce with nothing to offset it with is just plain wrong. It was pure comedy watching people bite into this, as it was beyond the realms of rancidness. Do not buy this.

doughnut 2Double Chocolate – This was a little bit better than most of the others as the chocolate filling was in the correct quantity and also tasted somewhat pleasing. Unfortunately the doughnut itself prevented this from becoming anything better than just mediocre.

doughnut 4I’m all for a winning idea and a formula that works, but attention to detail is key here. The quantities of fillings in most of the doughnuts are not right for starters. No one wants a mouthful of cream with no doughnut, it’s like having a burger with your ketchup, as opposed to the other way round. Equally you don’t want too little, like with the Peanut Butter and Jam Doughnut. The glaze has to not only look appealing, but equally be the correct consistency. The essence of the whole shebang is the dough itself. It needs to be light, air-filled, with a fluffy, freshly fried feel to it, take note from You Doughnut whose doughnuts are exquisite. For elegance and a ‘gourmet’ feel I would have gone for powdered sugar as opposed to a granulated/caster as it looks more appealing and creates a better texture.

At £2 a pop these are just not on a par with the sweet elite of London. Go back to the drawing board, rethink and execute this with an acute attention to detail, making sure that at the end of the day this tastes good, as right now it’s got a long way to go.

Rateless

Glazed & Confused

Various stockists in London, to find out more follow them @GlazedLondon

Lemon Drizzle Cake – Recipe

14 Oct

I have slightly adapted this recipe from its original form, I had looked at a few and then combined them to make mine.

I really hope you enjoy it as whilst the flavours are familiar, it is a different set of ingredients than a traditional lemon drizzle cake and is gluten free.

This will make a proper cake, with about 10-12 slices.

Ingredients:

  • 200g unsalted butter (chopped)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 100g cornmeal/polenta (finely ground)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 large lemons (zest & juice)
  • 125g icing sugar

And here are the instructions on how to make it:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • Grease your cake tin with butter and a little flour to dust, I have used the cake tin that has a hole in the middle, but you can use a normal springform one if you like.
  • With a mixer/electric whisk mix together the butter and caster sugar.
  • In a separate bowl mix the almonds, cornmeal/polenta and baking powder.
  • Pour a little of the almond mix into the butter mix, then crack an egg in and whisk. Repeat until all the eggs and the mix are incorporated into the mixture.
  • Add in the lemon zest and whisk one last time.

mixing

  • Spoon the mix into the cake tin and spread so it’s all level.
  • Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
  • Once cooked pull the cake out, leaving it in its tin and set aside until it has cooled slightly.
  • To make the drizzle, which can be done whilst the cake is baking, pop the icing sugar into a small pan and squeeze the juice from the lemons in.
  • Stir on a low heat until all the icing sugar has dissolved.
  • With a toothpick/wooden skewer make holes in the cake all over the top of it, as gently as you can.
  • Pour the warm lemon mix over the cake and leave it to sink in.
  • glazingLeave it for a while, minimum of half an hour, and then take the cake out of the tin.

cake

  • The cake should be oozing with lemon and have a nice stickiness to it. ENJOY!

slice

 

Recipe – Chocolate Merlot Brownies

10 Oct

I wanted to do something a little different for this recipe. I’ve been focusing a little more on health, savoury and vegetarian options lately, so I wanted something a little decadent and full of indulgence!

I’ve just been introduced to Barefoot Wine and wanted to look at how I could incorporate wine into recipes. It always adds a rich underlying taste to dishes and this one is definitely no exception.

barefootMakes 6 large brownies (or 12 small ones)

Ingredients

For the Brownies:

  • 100g Dark Chocolate (broken into chunks)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
  • 1/4 cup Barefoot Merlot
  • 2 free range eggs (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Glaze:

  • 2 tbsps Barefoot Merlot
  • 55g Dark Chocolate
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

And here is how to make it:

  • First thing’s first. Pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees celsius.
  • Pop a saucepan on the stove with a few inches of water and wait until it is simmering, place a bowl on top with the butter and chocolate added and let them melt until the mix all becomes smooth.
  • melt mixAdd the Barefoot Merlot and blend together with a small whisk or fork until it is all fully incorporated and then remove the bowl from the heat. Keep the pan with the water on the stove as you’ll need it later (you can turn the heat off for now though)

wine pour

  • Add in the eggs, one at a time and whisk into the mix after each egg.

whisk

  • Add the sugar and the vanilla extract and whisk it into the mixture.
  • sugar:vanillaAdd the flour, cocoa powder & salt and again whisk until the mix is all smooth.
  • cocoa:floursaltPour your batter into your tray. I chose to line my lasagne dish with foil as it was the perfect size. You want the brownies to be about an inch thick, so depending on what bakeware you have, choose whatever you think is right.
  • pour mixPlace your mix into the pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  • ovenWhile the brownies are baking, you’ll need to make your glaze. Same set up as before with the saucepan simmering and bowl on top. Melt the chocolate & butter together, pour in the wine and blend together and set it aside.
  • After 25 minutes in the oven, the brownies should be perfect, take them out and leave it to cool. The centre of mine looked as if it had risen quite a bit, but this flattens as it cools.
  • bakedOnce the brownie has fully cooled, drizzle the glaze over the top and spread it evenly.
  • glazeI then left my brownies overnight in the fridge and this morning I cut the first piece (is brownie so wrong for breakfast?) to my excitement.
  • The proof is in the pudding. It turned out wonderfully! That perfect gooey, rich inside with a delicate crust all around. The subtle hint of the Merlot comes through delicately and the chocolate is heavenly.

browniebrownie 2And there you have it. A simple to make dessert that’s rich and delicious. Sit back, relax, enjoy the brownie and as the bottle is already open, why not pour yourself a glass?

For a full list of where Barefoot Wine is stocked, follow the link below

http://barefootwine.co.uk/locate-our-wine

The Cronut

9 Oct

It had to be done. A few months ago when this phenomenon hit the big time, I made a deal with myself (the best kind of deal, it’s always win win) that if I was going to try one of these bad boys (if?!) then it had to be The Cronut. The original, real one.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always believed if you were going to get something like memorabilia, then shouldn’t it be from the actual place? I remember the fashion in England when I was about 17, everyone started to wear New York Yankees baseball caps, from Topshop. Errrrm, no. I waited and waited until I got to go to NY and bought mine from an official New York Yankees shop selling the real deal.
‘Oh but some people aren’t able to go and get it from the real place,’ people might say.
‘Then I’m afraid you can’t have it,’ is what I say. You can’t have everything, otherwise everything would be everywhere and nowhere would be new or different. Oh I’ll just buy my boomerang souvenir from Australia in pound land.
Don’t get me started on Victoria Secret opening up over here…

I digress. Back to The Cronut. An irresistible hybrid of a classic doughnut and a croissant. The creator of this wildly imaginative design is Dominique Ansel. He owns a bakery in Soho in Manhattan, The Dominique Ansel Bakery.
Many have copied this, the world over, calling it The Dosant. Try as they may to have their own success with the copycat creation, Dominique comes out on top. Every morning the bakery makes around 300 Cronuts at $5 a piece. Customers begin to line up at around 5am and wait until the bakery opens at 8am. Everyday. Once they’re gone, they’re gone and tomorrow is a new day.

Aky went to New York a couple of weeks ago and what did I ask him to bring back for me? You guessed it. He got there early and queued for a notable period of time (don’t feel bad, he got one for himself too) and made it in when they were still in stock.

The flavour changes on a monthly basis, September was Fig Mascarpone, October is Apple Creme Fraiche. The Cronut has the outer crust of a freshly crisp, sugar covered doughnut, the layers and layers of pastry inside are like a croissant and reaching beyond what I had imagined, it was injected with jam and cream, sweet fig jam and mascarpone. It also has a hole in the middle and was topped with a sugar glaze and a slice of caramelised fig. The cream was so light, just enough to douse the pastry.

CronutsThis is how the bakery themselves describe the creation:

‘Taking 2 months and more than 10 recipes, Chef Dominique Ansel’s creation is not to be mistaken as simply croissant dough that has been fried. Made with a laminated dough which has been likened to a croissant (but uses a proprietary recipe), the Cronut is first proofed and then fried in grape seed oil at a specific temperature. Once cooked, each Cronutis flavored in three ways: 1. rolled in sugar; 2. filled with cream; and 3. topped with glaze. Cronuts are made fresh daily, and completely done in-house. The entire process takes up to 3 days.’

The moment Aky had dropped his bags at home he popped into see me at work and in all its glory, there it was. A Dominique Ansel Bakery Box with a lone Cronut inside.

As I took the first bite, I realised it was new tastes entering my sphere, I love it when this happens. It made me wish I had been there the first time they made one of these, what the look on their faces said when they took their first bite. Perhaps a good old Del Boy line, ‘We’re going to be millionaires.’

It was absolutely heavenly. An incredibly delicious treat that encompasses all the great traits of already mind-blowing sweet creations. It’s soft and buttery, the thin layer of sugar it’s wrapped in will lightly dust your mouth, but you won’t care because you’ll need to make sure no jam is lost to your jeans.

photo credit: Aky Bukhari

photo credit: Aky Bukhari

I don’t mind so much about trying the replicas now I’ve tasted the original. I now know what it should taste like and can compare it to the real deal. I’m incredibly lucky to have tried one.

Rate: 5

Dominique Ansel Bakery

189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson) New York, NY 10012

Tel:(212)219 2773

http://dominiqueansel.com/
Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon

Dinner

9 Sep

dinner sign
What a special day this was. My incredible boyfriend surprised me on my birthday by taking me to Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner. It was truly incredible and I was in food heaven.

We were seated by the window overlooking the most glorious view of Hyde Park, with the sun beaming in the early evening.

To drink, I chose the limited edition ‘Kiss’ cocktail created by make-up extraordinaire Laura Mercier. Like sweet nectar, I savoured each and every sip because it was so heavenly. Baileys, strawberry and pomegranate blended together and served in a martini glass.

kissFor the starters I chose the Meat Fruit – mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread. This truly is a brilliantly innovative creation. The pâté is shaped and sealed with an orange gel like substance (but surprisingly ungelatinous) and made to look like a mandarin. I imagine this is an ode to The Mandarin Oriental where Dinner resides. Served with warm toast, this is one of those dishes that you have to try before you die. I practically wept after tasting the first mouthful as it was so delicious. I secretly licked my knife too. I clearly couldn’t let a single morsel go to waste. It is smooth and light and the taste is less iron-y than most pâté. It has to be eaten to truly experience the delight. In a word – heavenly.

pateAky chose the lobster & cucumber soup to start with. The salad was fresh as can be and flavored beautifully. The only thing I wasn’t quite as keen on with this dish was the cucumber soup that was poured over the salad, when they placed it down. I felt it affected the lobster taste too much, as opposed to simply complementing it. But come on…who am I to criticize Heston?

lobsterAky totally came up trumps on the main course. He ordered the winner, aka The Fillet Steak. Served with fries and mushroom ketchup. The steak was deliciously cooked. The knife slid through it like butter. Exceptionally seasoned and it cannot be faulted.

steak 1

steak 2The mushroom ketchup was amazing. It’s not often you experience a new taste altogether. It had the tang of normal ketchup, you could sense there was vinegar of some sort, but the mushroom emitted a softer taste, that married well with the sharpness of the vinegar.

mushroom ketchupI ordered the roasted sea bass and a side of mashed potatoes. The sea bass was rich and flaked easily. A beautifully cooked fish and the cockle ketchup was great, a sharp taste and interestingly tobiko style texture. The mashed potatoes were heavenly. They must have been blended for hours, as lumps were a distant memory to this bowl of goodness. I can only imagine how much butter was used.

mashBy this stage I was overwhelmingly full and had to ask the waiter for a short break before dessert. We had preordered this at the start of the meal. The one and only Tipsy Cake. Our waiter expressed that he always felt he must mention the tipsy cake to customers, as if they didn’t order it, in his opinion, their experience was incomplete. He was right. It was incredible.

tipsy cake

A buttery brioche cake with a crisp crust, baked in a thick metal pot, bursting to come out and alongside it, spit roasted pineapple. I’m not sure of exactly what had been incorporated into the brioche. I’m pretty sure there was cream, butter and a dash of alcohol, maybe rum or brandy. It was gooey, warm and tasted like magic. The pineapple was soft and light with an ever so slight smokey taste and had been doused in some kind of delicious marinade.

brioche

pineappleI was in awe of the flavours used throughout the meal. It really is exceptional to encounter new tastes and textures and be so appreciative of them. I am inspired by Heston’s creations and the delicate way he takes something ages old and turns it into something new. Truly a master of his craft.

Just when I thought my culinary affair with Heston was drawing to a close, the light singing of Happy Birthday started to grow in volume as the waiters placed down yet another creation. Birthday cake. Adorned with my name on the plate wishing me a Happy Birthday, I knew that this experience was unforgettably perfect.

A chocolate cake filled with popping candy and a lemon gel with a crispy base. Rich, indulgent and incredibly clever.

cake close up

birthday cakeThank you to my one and only Aky for understanding my love of food, for letting me eat whatever I want and for being so thoughtful and generous.

I can definitely tick this off my bucket list.

Winner Winner Heston’s Dinner.

Rate: 5

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

020 7201 3833

http://www.dinnerbyheston.com/

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon
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Panino Giusto

26 Apr

panino-giusto-20120509-115714

I had the good fortune to attend the launch party of the new Panino Giusto restaurant in The Royal Exchange Building. I knew to expect Italian food, but it wasn’t until I arrived that my ignorance surpassed and I was told that ‘panino’ is the singular term for ‘panini,’ which means all this time we’ve been saying it wrong…and actually asking for multiple panino. As I’ve said previously, when I reviewed the delectable Il Bambino; the British don’t understand panini, there is an instant stigma attached and you can thank the Caffe Neros and Costas for that. Rock solid bread that scrapes the roof of your mouth with a very resistable, processed slice of ham, some rubber posing as cheese and perhaps an off cut of an under ripe tomato, so that the food standards agency can classify it as a recognised savoury food.

I am for the revolution of changing this stigma as Panino Giusto has the most refreshing, beautifully formed and delicately prepared food I’ve had in England for a long, long time. We started off with a crisp prosecco, not too sweet and the perfect aperitif. The panini I had were the ‘Garibaldino,’ (Bresaola, Mozzarella, seasonal tomato, rocket, extra-virgin olive oil, black pepper) the accompaniments of oil and rocket and the incredibly sweet to perfection tomatoes were spot on. The meat sliced so utterly thin, it quite literally melts in your mouth and the bread, (oh the bread!) a slight crunch and effortless in it’s lightness, it had me craving the next dish. The following delight arrived, this time the ‘Tartufo’ (Parma Ham, Brie, seasonal tomato, rocket, Alba truffle oil). The Parma ham was stronger and saltier than the previous, in no way chewy, which is refreshing for Parma. The kicker with this one; the truffle oil. I mean real truffle oil. That garlicky influence overwhelmed my taste buds and when I thought it couldn’t get much better, the wine served with it (and I am not a wine drinker, but…when in Rome (or Naples for today)) was a sweet, thick, luxurious nectar; Infernot, Fattoria Cabanon, Lombardy, 2007/9.

Next came Mortadella with pistachio nuts, produced by the Veroni Brothers, which was was light and a nice contrast to the other hams as the nuttiness really blended well with the meat. Less salty than the others, but just as good. At this point I was bowled over by the bursts of new flavours, I had been dulled by the ‘same same’ nature of The British High Street restaurants. Then came the winner of the night. The chef, Alessandro Borghese announced it was his favourite. From Naples, with his own Sky 1 TV show and about to be a judge on the upcoming Junior Masterchef, ever the charming and lyrically sounding, I trusted his word. He was not wrong. Ridiculously thin slivers of Fassona roast beef from Piedmont lightly cooked around the edges and pink in the middle with an ambrosial lemon oil and cracked black pepper, roasted with rosemary and sage. The careful cooking process is evident and without a doubt, I have never tasted anything like it. I took a slice, then another, then another, as a joke Alessandro placed a whole plate of slices upon the table and it was polished of by me and my two fellow diners almost instantly. I’ve never had better.

roast beef

Slapping myself on the wrists for toying with the greedy notion that there might possibly be a sweet treat to follow, I was actually right! My mouth began to salivate when I heard music to my ears…’Tiramisu’…my ever faithful friend. It’s hard to go wrong with this and with the aforementioned savoury delights, this couldn’t have possibly been a disappointment. I already have a firm favourite when it comes to Tiramisu, at my darling place in NY, and when I tasted this one it was so different, it was hard to compare – but one thing’s for sure, they are definitely on a par. This was so light, the cream was like air. The incredibly professional and charming waitress said there was a trick and that was that the eggs and the mascarpone must be whisked together for no less than 7 minutes. Along with the mystical, air like quality, the taste was not too bold, it was subtle and easy to have more. It didn’t make you bloat or feel guilty, it was too elegant for that. It didn’t need to be apologetic and you didn’t feel sorry.

Tiramisu

The last surprise of the night was a very rich espresso twinned with a little gift box, Il Giustino. Inside was a miniature chocolate coated ice cream in a cone. You are supposed to dip and swirl the ice cream inside the espresso where it will ever so slightly melt the chocolate, making this whole experience complete.

Ice cream

The restaurant itself is sleek and modern and with no traffic nearby, its peaceful and wonderful. They have a takeaway menu and I suggest you get some panini (yes, multiple) as this is not to be missed!

Rate: 5

Panino Giusto

1-3 Royal Exchange Building, Bank, London, EC3V 3LR

Panino Giusto on Urbanspoon
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