Food: Honest burgers – best burger in London?

I knew it wouldn’t take long to return to Brixton Village.

Ever since I spotted Honest Burgers a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been dying to go.

cheese burger

Knowing that the queues were usually stupendously long, we trotted along early evening on Sunday. Many of the other eateries were closed in Brixton Village so we were a little concerned. No need to worry though, Honest Burgers was open and heaving. Happily, however, we got a seat immediately.

I chose a cheddar cheese burger while Martin plumped for ‘Honest’: a burger topped with cheese, bacon, picked cucumbers, onion relish. Honest Burgers keeps its menu tiny and therefore makes sure it executes each burger perfectly.

Both of our burgers were absolutely fabulous and much better than the ever popular Meat Liquor in my opinion. I’ve never known such a juicy patty of meat – patties can tend to be quite try. The toasted brioche bun, salad leaves and onion relish made the perfect accompaniments. I quite enjoyed the chips, but I think that they were a bit over powered by the rosemary (such a strong herb).

The ‘Honest’ Burger

What I really like about Honest burgers is how unpretentious it is; you crowd on to a trestle table with lots of other diners, eat and go. Also, for around £8 for BOTH burger and chips, how can you complain? A couple of friendly diners told us they lived around the corner and have been known to visit 4 times(!) in 1 week. They were enjoying the special: Brindisa chorizo and manchego cheese. It should be mentioned too that the beef comes from the Ginger Pig Butchers. Honest Burgers really uses the best ingredients.

I really enjoyed reading the Burgaffair blog where two guys attempt to eat their way round every burger they can find. They rate Honest burgers at number two on their list, so I’m desperate to try Elliot’s Cafe which is at the top.

It was quite a decadent Sunday night as we also stopped at the Wishbone cocktail bar which specialises in sours. For £5 you can pick from the following:

I chose Aperol, egg white and ice, while Martin chose the smokiest tasting whisky ever, egg white and ice.

Aperol – left, Whisky – right

Martin’s whisky sour

Apparently, Wishbone does amazing chicken so we’ll obviously have to come back to try that.

A visit to Brixton Village wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Chillbox Frozen Yoghurt. This time, we shared a macerated cherry, pistachio and honey natural frozen yoghurt. Soooo good.

Such a perfect evening…except for one thing. Whilst we were eating and drinking the heavens opened and boy did it chuck it down. As you can see I was very suitably attired. Martin found my shoe covers hilarious and took many pictures.

soooo very attractive

Where is the best burger you’ve ever tried?


Food: easy entertaining

We were having some friends over on Saturday night so I said I’d make a few snacks.

The thought of feeding quite a few people used to stress me out but now I keep things simple.

Martin and I had been to see Despicable Me 2 earlier in the day which was sadly really disappointing. Despicable Me is my favourite film so I was really gutted. I think part of the problem was that I was looking forward to seeing it so much that I’d watched every single available trailer far too many times and, as such, had already seen all the funny bits!

I didn’t want to spend ages slaving over the cooker because that’s when entertaining becomes boring and annoying. I therefore picked some easy to rustle up dishes:

– honey mustard sausages
– caramel and burnt marshmallow cupcakes
– garlic, mozzarella and sugar bread sticks
– tortilla chips and salsa
– quinoa salad

I started by making the Hummingbird bakery caramel cupcakes with a burnt marshmallow topping.

I use a special Ikea cupcake trays which make smaller, taller cakes. The tray costs £7. The recipe below makes 24 of these petite cupcakes.

80g butter, softened
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
240ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
150g dulce de leche

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whisk together until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
2. Combine in a separate bowl the eggs and milk.
3. Add half of the egg/milk mixture to breadcrumb mixture and combine. Scrape down the bowl and add the rest of the egg/milk. Stir.
4. Finally add the dulce de leche and combine.

5. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and risen.

To make the topping follow this Ottolenghi meringue recipe.

Just make sure that once your uncooked meringue is made that you then use this directly i.e. don’t bake it in the oven. Don’t worry about uncooked egg – the way the sugar is heated beforehand means that the egg white is fully cooked.

Then place the meringue into a large piping bag fitted with any type of nozzle you fancy – I used a simple star and piped Mr Whippy shaped cones on top of the cupcakes. I then used a blow torch to create the toasted effect.

I also rustled up this quick and easy salsa recipe and served it with sour cream and tortilla chips.

I made an old favourite of sausages with mustard and honey which couldn’t be simpler to do.

I prefer to use chipolata sausages. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line an oven tray with foil and place the sausages on top. I used 24 sausages. Then, in a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of runny honey with 1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard. Brush this sticky mixture over the sausages and cook for 35 minutes in an oven – turning half way.

Your end result is beautifully sweet and knarled sausages.

I made some mozzarella and garlic sugar bread. I saw this recipe on the amazing Kitchen Treaty blog. When I saw this recipe originally, I was slightly concerned about the inclusion of sugar, but Karen certainly knows what she’s talking about. It was so yummy!

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp freshly minced garlic
1 pack of ready made pizza dough (it comes in a large rectangle)
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
200g grated mozzarella.

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Place the pizza dough on an oven proof tray.
2. Combine the olive oil and garlic and brush over the top of the pizza dough.

3. Sprinkle the cheese and sugar over and bake for 15 minutes or until light golden and bubbly.

I finally rustled up a simple quinoa recipe based on this recipe.

Most of the prep was just assembling and letting the oven do all the work! If you’ve got lots of people to feed I definitely recommend popping some sausages in the oven and the garlic bread is amazing – you’ll never want to buy it again.

We were hoping to have a few leftovers for lunch the next day but everything went, so at least that means everyone enjoyed it!

Do you have any favourite recipes for feeding lots of people? Do you spend all day in the kitchen beforehand or do you prefer to take shortcuts where possible? 

Beauty: free hair cuts

I love a good deal.

I am so not fussed about my hair. I have incredibly thick hair which, once cut, no one ever seems to notice, even if four inches have been cut off. This means that I don’t spend very much on my hair cuts, nor do I get it cut very frequently. Sometimes, it’s just a biannual occurrence. I’m also not fussed about always having the same hairdresser – I’ll happily go to anyone! I always figure that even if I get a bad cut, my ‘Harry Potter’ hair will return to normal in no time.

The only hair disaster I can remember was last year before I attended a wedding. I asked for a fringe trim. They a) cut it straight (I have a side fringe) and b) cut 2 inches from the length. It’s the only thing that can properly upset me re my hair!

awful fringe – far too short!
Anyhow, fringes aside, I was more than happy to go to Hob salon and get my hair cut for free in their training academy. There really aren’t any catches: the lady who cut my hair was fully qualified (she was doing a last couple of practise cuts before she was let loose in the salon.) Also, the hairdressers are fully supervised by expert teachers who don’t let them make a single snip until they’ve confirmed what they’re planning to do every step of the way. The only ‘catch’ is that don’t expect to be in and out within an hour – my cut took 3 hours. They also do colour for £15. Vidal Sassoon’s training academy runs a similar scheme, but they charge £12 for a cut. I had my hair cut here a few months ago and was very pleased with the cut too. Although, to be honest I preferred Hob as they really gave me a personal experience.
hair – before

I was so pleased with my cut – it’s the best cut I’ve ever had. My consultation was amazing. They spent at least 10 minutes examining every last bit of my hair to ensure that I got the best cut. Their discoveries/recommendations were:

a) I have a tricky, flat crown. This means that if I’m not careful – I get a ‘bald’ patch when I tie my hair up – something which I am acutely aware of. They combatted this by shifting my parting so it started off as a side parting and then tapered to the middle of the back of my head.
b) My hair is very thick – they decided to keep it long and narrow to stop it looking too heavy
c) I have a high hair line – a fringe is therefore essential
d) I have high cheek bones – framing around this part of my face is therefore important to show them off.
e) My hair is very low maintenance – I don’t brush or blow dry it.

hair – after

They really got to grips with my hair and it certainly wasn’t just another cut. They tried pinning my hair at different lengths to make sure that the long length I currently had was the best option.

After my hair wash, the cut began. The expert teacher would pop over every 10 minutes or so to make sure the cut was going according to plan. This also dispelled any nerves I might have had.

In terms of a blow dry, I was asked what I’d like by the hairdresser. The teacher then came over and said ‘hold on, how do you know she even wants one?’. He said ‘I look at what she’s wearing(!), and what she’s told me about her hair care previously, and I don’t think it’s really her thing.’ I then admitted that I usually wash my hair as soon as I get home because I hate how heavy it feels with all the hair products and I’m also keen to see what it will look like in my every day life. He laughed and said ‘Right, let’s just diffuse it dry and leave it to settle naturally.’

In the end, I received a hair cut that was totally ‘me’. I was so pleased.

back of hair – after

Since I was in Camden, Martin met me there after work and we popped to Chin Chin Labs. Chin Chin Labs possibly serves the best ice cream in London.

They use liquid nitrogen to make the ice cream from scratch and it serves to freeze the ice cream instantaneously resulting in the smoothest possible ice cream. The science behind it, is that the shorter the time the ice cream takes to freeze, the smaller the ice crystals and the smoother the end ice cream will be.

For £3.95 you get your chosen flavour with one topping/sauce.

I chose peanut butter popcorn flavoured ice cream topped with fresh raspberry coulis.

Martin chose valrhona chocolate ice cream with raspberry coulis also.

On the way back to the tube, we popped into Holland Barratt and bought some nut butters:

Where do you get your hair cut? Are you particular about using the same hair dressers again and again? What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?

PS I needed an eye test which I didn’t want to pay for! So I used this voucher at Optical Express (valid until June 30th). Apparently my astigmatism is worse but my eye sight is slightly better -5.50 (I’m still practically blind!)

Food: pea and mint soup recipe

As promised, here’s my recipe for pea and mint soup.

I love soup – it’s such a great option for lunch. My best friend Caz and I would eat Covent Garden soup every day for lunch (Caz – carrot and coriander, Me – leek and potato) when we were at uni and only occasionally ‘mixed it up’ with filled pasta with a fried egg on top. Aw I miss uni days!

Anyhow, back to the soup…I absolutely love this recipe – it’s my very favourite. I’m really particular with soups – I have a very clear idea of what I like. For example, I love plain chicken soup, but hate thai spiced chicken soup even though I love Thai curry. In general, spices in soups are a big no no for me – I won’t eat spiced butternut squash soup. I also randomly really hate carrot and coriander. But I will eat mushroom soup even though I really dislike mushrooms. It’s all very odd.

I particularly like fresh zingy soups, and pea and mint are a match made in heaven. I always make a huge amount of this so I can eat it for lunch on consecutive days.

Serves 2
600 ml vegetable stock (I use bouillon)
400g frozen peas
1 tablespoon low fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
vegetable oil
salt and pepper

1. Sweat the onion in a little vegetable oil in a large saucepan until soft and translucent.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper
3. Simmer for 7 minutes.
4. Blend using a hand blender, blender or food processor.

What’s your favourite soup? Are you very particular about what you do and don’t like?

Food: A vegetarian week

I don’t eat an awful lot of meat, but I’m a bit of a sucker for really awful processed meat like sausages and bacon (they’re just too tasty). So this week, I’ve been trying to eat far more vegetarian food. Veggie food tends to be healthy and pretty inexpensive so win win all round.

On Sunday, I followed one of Jamie’s 15 minute meal’s recipe and made a very healthy falafel and wholemeal wrap complete with homemade salsa. The falafel was practically dry fried which makes it far healthier than its deep fried alternative.

Falafel – makes 8
1 large tin of chickpeas
1 large tin of mixed bean
1 tsp all spice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp Harissa
1 tbsp plain flour
stalks of a bunch of fresh coriander (use the leaves to make a salsa; recipe below)
vegetable oil

1. Whizz the ingredients up together in food processor and then use wet hands to shape the falafels into mini burger shapes.
2. Fry for 3 minutes each side in a frying pin coated with a little oil (I like to add a tiny amount of oil to the pan and then use a silicon pastry brush to cover the pan with a very light coating. This is a far better alternative to synthetic spray oils)

Homemade salsa is so easy to whip up and tastes so much better than its shop bought counterpart.

Simple salsa
3 tomatoes
1/2 red onion
2 tbsp fresh coriander
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 fresh chili

All you have to do is chop up all the ingredients finely. I use my Magimix to speed the process along.

To make your falafel wraps, heat some large wholewheat flour tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds, add some freshly chopped red pepper, salad leaves, cottage cheese, salsa and falafel. Yummy!

On Tuesday, Martin treated me and cooked dinner. He made a cauliflower stew made with fresh tomatoes using a recipe he found in my Wild Food Cafe cookbook and served it with brown rice.

On Wedneday, I made a spicy mango red lentil bake (I’ll add this recipe soon when I have time).

Yesterday, we ate another of Jamie’s 15 minute meals recipe: Camembert filled filo pastry with a homemade cranberry sauce accompanied with baby spinach leaves. His book really is very good and most of his recipes are pretty healthy and calorie controlled. It’s currently £12 on Amazon.

This morning, I couldn’t resist knocking up a banana milkshake:

1 small banana (previously chopped and placed in the freezer for at least 5 hours. This negates the need for ice and results in a thicker, silkier milkshake)
100ml skimmed milk
1 tsp agave syrup

1. Blend all the above ingredients in either a blender or food processor. Serve immediately.

So yes, lots of veggie food this week! Do you eat a lot of vegetarian food? What are your favourite recipes?

Shopping: Oxford Street Sales

So, this is my first ever beauty and fashion post!

My friend Sharenja and I haven’t seen each other properly in ages. We thought we’d have a proper girly day and go shopping on Oxford Street. Usually, I can’t face this at all, but being midweek, it felt far more manageable. I haven’t had such a girly day for such a long time.

We started by going to House of Fraser which has an amazing sale on at the moment. Sharenja bought lots of dresses on sale for her graduation and starting her new job as a doctor (congratulations!)

She bought this black one which was reduced from £90 to £27

And also this this little red dress for a very reasonable £36:

I’ve definitely got my eye on this dress, currently reduced from £38 to £20; I’m a sucker for white dresses at the moment!

I’m starting a new job in September, so I will definitely return to try and pick up some bargains.

Sharenja was very keen to buy some foundation. She’s from Sri Lanka and finds it impossible to get the right colour for her skin. More often than not, the right shades just don’t exist or she finds that the makeup artist doesn’t really know how to match it up properly. To try and combat it, we went to the No 7 counter at Boots and did the colour match technology. It basically involves a little scanner which is held close to your face and then detects your skin colour. Sharenja’s skin was ‘mocha’ apparently. However, when applied, the mocha foundation was a little too dark. Sharenja asked for a shade lighter, but it was far too light. Why are there so few shades to pick from for Asian skin? The increments between the two shades are far too big!

my gorgeous friend Sharenja

I couldn’t resist having a go, so my skin was matched and I came out as ‘deep ivory’. To be fair it was a pretty good match, but I’m so pleased with my medium Garnier BB cream (concealer, foundation, sun protection = very happy and lazy Hazel), that I didn’t purchase any. It’s also pretty cheap; currently it’s on offer for £6.99 at Boots. I love how light the coverage is too, it doesn’t feel like I’m caked in makeup – proven by the fact that you can still my huge number of freckles through it.

I was wearing my new dress from Asos, but was having a major wardrobe malfunction (why do you never realise this in the house where you can do something about it rather than on the tube when you realising you’re exposing yourself to everyone on there??) so I bought some tit tape from Boots for £4.90 (why is it so flippin’ expensive?). It does do the job perfectly, although boy is it painful to rip off your skin afterwards!

Following our unsuccessful attempt to find foundation in Boots, we wandered across to the Selfridges’ Mac counter, which was far more fruitful. After having her makeup done by Fabio, Sharenja bought some powder, concealer, lipstick and blusher.

lovely makeup
so many foundations

In the meantime, I went across to the Nars counter to ask for advice about wearing lipstick. I’ve never ever worn lipstick. Quite frankly, it’s always looked appalling on me. I was convinced it was because of the shape of my lips (ridiculous I know), but now I realise it’s because I only suit matt shades, where previouly I’ve tried glossy lipsticks. I ended up splashing out and buying the heatwave lipstick which is a bright orange red and makes a huge statement. I really hope I pluck up the courage to wear it lots, but first of all I have to work out how to avoid getting it all over my teeth!

After our morning of trawling round the shops we were more than ready for our lunch and used my tastecard to get 2 for 1 at Zizzi. We always share our meals as it’s far more interesting that way. We ate pasta with red pesto, creme fraiche and spring onions and a humungous pizza primavera topped with mushrooms, olives, artichokes, red pepper and aubergine (I don’t like mushrooms and peppers so I picked those off).

We fully intended to continue shopping into the afternoon but we were so knackered (shopping always does that to me!) that we ended up heading our separate ways.

In the evening, Martin and I went to the theatre to see the Cripple of Inishmaan. We very rarely go to the theatre as it’s so expensive and I’m not usually a massive fan of musicals and plays, or even the cinema in general. I think my attention span is too short. However, Martin’s boss kindly gave us the tickets and I’m so glad he did. The Cripple was so good. I was particularly impressed with Daniel Radcliffe’s portrayal of Cripple Billy. I’ve never thought much of him as an actor, but his Irish accent seemed pretty spot on. The Cripple is a black comedy – like a cross between Father Ted and Angela’s Ashes (such a good book!).

As this is a beauty post, I also wanted to quickly mention my latest shampoo: Platinum Strength Tresemme. I’m so impressed with it so far; my hair has never been so soft before! It’s currently three for £10 at Asda.

Have you been to the theatre lately? What did you see? What sort of foundation do you wear? Do you find it easy to get the right shade?

PS I noticed in my emails this morning, that the Body Shop is giving away free lip balms, if you download this voucher from today through to Sunday. No need to purchase anything!

Failed attempts at being healthy

After the excesses of the past few days/weeks, I thought it was about time I dragged my diet back on track.

After stocking up on fresh fruit and vegetables, I decided to venture into the as yet unknown territories of green smoothies. From what I understand from reading other people’s blogs, green smoothies are basically any smoothie with green vegetables incorporated into it – spinach seems to be the most popular. Now I’m not someone who will happily neck funky flavoured juices e.g. one’s containing ginger, broccoli and kale. So I knew I couldn’t leap into the deep end with my green smoothies. However, I’ve read quite a few times that for green smoothie virgins, it’s best to try a standard combination of fruits and then add a handful of spinach leaves to get you started. This apparently results in a smoothie where you are unable to detect the flavour of the spinach.

Therefore, I happily added 1 banana, a big splash of milk, a few ice cubes and handful of spinach to my blender. Hmmmm. I definitely did it wrong. Because my resultant smoothie was most definitely NOT green coloured. More icky yellow, with green specks. I tasted it and contrary to many people’s opinions, I definitely could taste the spinach.

I got a bit reckless at this point, and ended up throwing a tablespoon of coca powder and agave syrup into the mix. I think I thought that I could magically transform my smoothie into a chocolate milkshake delight. Well, that obviously didn’t work either. And, I’d lost all my health benefits. Also, my smoothie which was supposed to fill a single glass had alarmingly transformed into a monstrous huge bowlful – overflowing the blender and every thing else that got in its way. I tried really hard to eat/drink it, but it was impossible. So it’s definitely back to the drawing board where green smoothies are concerned.

my monster smoothie

After the failure of the green smoothie, I decided to try out this recipe from my I’d pinned to my Pinterest healthy eating board: a blueberry oat microwave mug cake. The vague amounts specified in the recipe were too vague for me and my oaty blueberry cake was stodgy and not sweet enough. What a bad food day! Martin, however, said he quite liked it and would make it again for breakfast. I would recommend it too as it’s full of filling oats, vitamins from blueberries, protein from the egg and much needed sugar for energy. I’ve amended the recipe slightly:

blueberry oat cake

3 tbsp porridge oats
1 dessert spoon brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon (to taste)
handful of blueberries
1 egg
3 tbsp milk

Simply mix together the ingredients, add to a mug and microwave for 2 minutes.

Today, will be a better food day. Although I’m planning on making brioche, so the diet not so much.

As I haven’t really got a properly decent recipe to share today, I thought I’d share my current favourite playlist.

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke, T.I.
Another Love – Tom Odell
Get Lucky – Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams
Hold On (feat. Sampha) – Sbtrkt
Waiting All Night (feat. Ella Eyre) – Rudimental
Sacrilege – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Reverse Sky Diving – Hot Natured
Let her go – Passenger
La La La – Naughty Boy, Sam Smith
Attracting Flies – AlunaGeorge
Can’t Hold Us- Macklemore, Ryan Lewis

I’m also loving the National’s latest album: Trouble Will Find Me. It needs a few listens, but it’s really great. Can’t wait to go see them at Ally Pally in the autumn.

PS The third series of the Killing is on Netflix. Couldn’t be happier!

Have you attempted green smoothies? Do you have a recipe you think would make a good starting point? Have you seen the Killing?