Visiting ‘the Making of Harry Potter’

M planned a surprise day out today as he knows I love surprises. Unfortunately, I’m the world’s most annoying girlfriend and never actually end up getting surprised as I spend the whole time guessing every last possibility beforehand. I’m ever worse with christmas presents. No surprises therefore when I guessed we were off to the ‘Making of Harry Potter’ at the Warner Bros studio in Watford.

As a huge Harry Potter fan, I’ve been dying to go ever since it opened. There’s no point writing much – the photos negate any need for that. I’ll only add that it was truly magical seeing all the film sets in real life – I couldn’t believe how small some of them were. The beds in the boys’ dormitory were diddy!

The tour itself only took a couple of hours. Tickets were £29 each. It was really good and magical, but I’m not sure I’d be rushing back to go again – it’s effectively just a Harry Potter museum. I’m not sure what else I was expecting!

We bought some Butterbeer which I hated – it was like cream soda with spicy coke, bleurgh. M enjoyed it hugely.


Franco Manca

I realise I’m very late with this post about Franco Manca, seeing as the whole world and his wife have already eaten there, but I finally got to eat there last night.

I’ve lurked hopefully outside three of his restaurants: Northcote road, Brixton Village and Balham to no avail. The queue outside has always been far too long for someone who’s at worst seriously impatient. However, when my friend Julia suggested going on a Monday night I leapt at the chance to see what the fuss was about.

Thankfully, Franco Manca was well worth the hype. The restaurant is small and crowded – think sharing tables and practically sitting on top of your neighbour. Happily, we managed to get a table for two.

The menu is minimal and authentic. The pizzas have little to no tomato on them. I chose gloucester old spot ham, ricotta, red onion and mozzarella. It was absolutely delicious and the ingredients were such high quality. The real star, however, was the sourdough base with the most intense flavour that only a dough that has been proved for a really long time can obtain.

We washed it down with some organic wine.

And the best thing about Franco Manca? The bill. My pizza and large glass of wine came to just ten pounds.

Beautiful food + cheap price = the ingredients for huge success. Why don’t more restaurants cotton on to this fact?

Which is your favourite pizza restaurant? 

PS I visited Richmond at the weekend and couldn’t resist adding these photos.


Restaurant Review: Zumbura

So last night’s dinner was amazing.

Egg curry, daal and numana

Initially, we couldn’t decide where to get food from. It had got to Friday night and, as usual, we’d been super disorganised and not booked anywhere during the week. All the decent places are always booked up by the time you get to Friday so we were resigned to the idea of Gourmet Burger Kitchen (which is perfectly fine, but now how I visualised completing my first half term at school).

Happily, that didn’t happen. We popped into a brand new restaurant around the corner from where we live called Zumbura on the off chance they had a spare table. They didn’t but they asked if we minded sitting at the bar to eat. We didn’t mind at all so we crammed ourselves in between two couples.

The restaurant
The bar where we sat and our amazing waiter!

Wow what a meal. Zumbura specialises in making tapas style Indian dishes all exceptionally well priced. We were hungry and just about ordered everything. All the dishes were  amazing, but the egg curry and lamb on the bone curry were exceptional.

Delicious lamb curry. The meat fell right off the bone

I love meals like this where you get to try lots of different flavours. A big plate of pasta is my nemesis because I get so bored half way through eating it. There were no such concerns at Zumbura, my taste buds were left tantalised after every mouthful.

Aloo tikia
Our salad

We couldn’t resist some after dinner cocktails in the form of ‘scorched nuts’ a concoction of Frangelico (hazelnut liquor), Amaretto and lemon (our personal favourite) and a second star anise flavoured hot cocktail.

The amazing scorched nuts cocktail
The cardamom creation in all its creamy goodness
My non-alcoholic pink jewel mocktail

Although I was stuffed, I couldn’t help ordering dessert in the form of mango sorbet, pistachio and cardamom ice cream. The mango and cardamom were sublime, but boy was the pistachio out of the world. To quote M: ‘it tasted more of pistachio than an actual pistachio.’

Pistachio and cardamom ice cream
Mango sorbet

The ambiance and decor of Zumbura are equally amazing, but a special mention must go to the waiting and bar staff. So friendly and knowledgeable – their recommendations for both food and drink couldn’t be faulted.

Zumbura is a real find in Clapham. We ate during it’s ‘soft opening’ where they’re supposed to be ironing out any little problems, but what faults? We couldn’t spot a single one. You should get down there fast, before the secret’s out and it’s impossible to get a table at.

Aubergine cannellini bean bake

I think I’ve mentioned before in previous posts that aubergine is somewhat my nemesis. I never seem able to cook it properly – the skin always ends up really tough while the soft middle goes stringy. Luckily those days are finally over as BBC Good Food has the perfect way of cooking it. 
This recipe for baked aubergine in a tomato and cannellini sauce is a perfect weekday dinner and exceptionally healthy – low in calories and high protein from the cannellini beans. 
To make enough to feed 2, you will need
2 aubergines
1 tin of cannellini beans, drained
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp tomato puree 
1 tsp sugar
extra virgin olive oil
1. Start by preheating the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
2. Cut the aubergine in half length ways (keeping the stalk intact) and slash the flesh.

3. Place in a snug oven proof dish and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft.
4. In the meantime, fry off the onion and garlic in a little olive oil over a low heat for approximately 5 minutes.
5. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, mixed herbs and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Half fill the tomato can with water and add this too. Finally, add the cannellini beans. 
6. Cook over a medium heat for around ten minutes or until the sauce has nicely thickened.

7. Remove the aubergine from the oven dish, pour in the sauce and replace the aubergine. 
8. Grate some parmesan over the top and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until the parmesan is nice and bubbly.
9. Serve with a crisp green salad.
What’s your favourite way of cooking aubergine? 

Saturday shopping

Yesterday ended up being really successful. My stupid body clock meant that I (again) woke up early, but it did at least mean that I managed to get into a spinning class at 9:15am.

Once that was done and dusted, I ate one of my breakfast muffins (recipe to follow soon – these really are the best) and M and I went to Oxford Street (something which I’ve been meaning to do for what feels like weeks, but haven’t managed to squeeze in).

I quickly found a sturdy pair of winter boots that I’ve been hunting for for ages in Russell and Bromley and picked up some discount sportswear in Sports Direct. Our Nespresso capsules had been getting alarmingly low so we stocked up in the Regent Street store before sampling the new chocolate coffee blend.

After that we had a well earned lemon tart sitting outside at Brasserie Zedel. This felt super continental and luxurious – whoever heard of sitting outside in October?! Long may this Indian summer last!

We then ambled down to Green Park. I’m so glad we did. We ended up wandering into Carpo (a new Spanish dried fruit, coffee and chocolate bar – seriously cool and worth a visit). We purchased some almond chocolate.

After this, we called into Minamoto Kitchoan (a Japanese sweet cakes shop). It was so beautiful and tranquil – I felt like I’d been transported to Japan. I bought a delicious glutinous rice, red bean paste and sweet chestnut cake. The texture takes a bit of getting used to, but it was absolutely delicious.

I couldn’t resist visiting Burlington Arcade (I can’t wait for the Christmas lights to go up in there, it’s so very christmassy) and ogling the Lauderee macarons which are supposed to be the best macarons in London. I can’t comment on that because after Brasserie Zedel and my Japanese cake, I was well and truly stuffed, but I’m sure I’ll get round to sampling them one day.

It was such an unexpectedly good day, which we rounded off with dinner at Claude’s Kitchen in Parsons Green, somewhere I’d definitely recommend. I couldn’t take any pictures unfortunately because it was lit pretty much exclusively by candlelight and it would have been ultra disturbing to the other diners if I’d used my flash.

What are the best Maracrons you’ve ever tried? What did you do this weekend?  

Sunday lunch

As I mentioned in my last post, on Sunday M and I went to my friend Carmela’s for lunch. I met Carmela while I was working on a TV shoot just over a year ago and since then we’ve made a real effort to keep in touch. She was keen for us to visit her in Hackney, an area of London I don’t know well at all.

Last Sunday we drove there as we thought it would save time. City Mapper (best London transport app ever by the way) seemed to think it would take an hour and 10 minutes to get there. Unfortunately for us the traffic was terrible, so we didn’t save any time whatsoever!

Carmela has the nicest flat mates ever. We thought we were just popping over for lunch, but how wrong we were. There was a veritable feast awaiting us! Carmela is half Italian and one her flatmates, Nacho, is Spanish so there was an amazing mix of food on offer.

We started with antipasti – a huge selection of cold meat, salmon, salad and my personal favourite; goats cheese, fig and quince jelly on crackers.

This was followed by baked scallops and then Carmela whipped up tomato pasta with pork ribs.

Just when I felt I couldn’t move an inch, fruit and yoghurt were brought out.

A note on the alcohol – unbelievable. Boring I know, but I’ve never had a properly random drunken Sunday afternoon. After the heady mixture of red wine, white wine, Aperol, various pale ales, homemade mead(!) and the best dessert wine I’ve ever had, I can safely say I was well and truly tiddly by the time we left 5 hours later.

Dinner was completed with fresh Italian coffee and Toblerone Nacho had brought back from Switzerland (coffee and chocolate are two things that really make a dinner party amazing in my opinion).

It was such a great day spent with the most wonderfully generous people.

Healthy snacking: spicy chickpea crisps

On Saturday, I randomly decided to soak a load of dried chickpeas. A day later they were well and truly swollen but I was left with the minor dilemma of what to do with them. I didn’t want to make a standard hummus (as delicious as that would have been, plus I didn’t have any tahini). Instead, I trawled the Internet and stumbled across this recipe. 

In the comments below the recipe it seemed that some people had struggled with getting their chick peas nice and crisp. I decided to follow someone’s recommendation of double baking them. The result? Beautifully crisp and tasty. The perfect snack, particularly as chickpeas are chock full of protein and low in fat. I stupidly ate a whole load of them on Sunday in the car on the way to my friend Carmela’s for lunch and arrived feeling far too full for the huge spread on offer. I must write a post on that lunch soon; it was incredible. Happily I managed to eat everything on offer despite the chickpea binge en-route! 

Anyway back to the chickpeas. Personally, I prefer to use dried chickpeas that I’ve soaked as I think they result in a better crunch.
You will need:
200g dried chickpeas (soak in a large bowl of water over night, drain, rinse with clean water and dry completely)
2 tsp extra Virgin olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Maldon sea salt
  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cover your chickpeas in the other ingredients and mix thoroughly to ensure they have an even coating. Place on an oven proof tray covered in baking parchment.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Bake for a further 20 minutes until crisp.

What’s your favourite crisps substitute or healthy snack? 

PS Yay for posting on a school night – things are looking up!