Restaurant Review: Cinnamon Kitchen

M and I first visited Cinnamon Kitchen a year ago where I experienced some of the best pork ribs I’ve ever had.

Seeing that Bookatable had a special deal on, we thought it was about time we returned for another visit. The offer was £25 and included three courses (plus 2 side dishes), a cocktail, coffee and petit fours. Pretty good value, I thought.

The offer was also really appealing in that it allowed you to eat any time on Saturday night. Most set menus are such good value because they only allow dining at awkward times or days – either really early or late or not Friday and Saturday night. Because Cinnamon Kitchen is in the city, Bishopsgate, it meant that off peak dining was actually a Saturday and therefore available for booking. Perfect for the two of us.

Cinnamon Kitchen is an Indian restaurant and I was pleased to see that the set menu was highly varied.

We kicked things off with our berry fizz cocktail.

M ordered a dosa to start – a kind of Indian pancake.

I went for lentil dumplings. The texture was a little odd but I loved the crisp spinach.

We shared our mains of Kerala beef curry and lotus fruit korma.

The beef was beautifully tender but the sauce was just spicy with no other flavour.

The lotus curry was also pretty hot, fine for us as we’re both fans of hot food, but again it didn’t taste of too much. The accompanying paratha was also a little too oily for my liking.

These were accompanied by aubergine crush and black lentils.

The meal was saved for me by my dessert – a creamy Thaandai mousse with granita. Beautifully contrasting textures and flavours, this was real winner.

M was a little underwhelmed by his kulfi.

My favourite part was probably the coffee and petit fours – the macaroons were proper coconut ones and were utterly delicious.

All in all, the whole experience was little disappointing. Zumbura is superior in every regard. And, although I know the menu was very well priced, it’s still important that you properly enjoy your meal, regardless of whether you’re dining on a special offer.

Maybe we just got Cinnamon Kitchen on a bad day as I loved it the first time we visited.

I know I probably haven’t sold you on Cinnamon Kitchen based on this review, but if you’re at all interested, you can find the offer we used here. It’s available until the 24th June 2014.

PS Apologies for the terrible photography. I stupidly forgot to bring the camera so phone pics had to do.


Buckwheat Eggs Benedict

I’ve been meaning to make savoury buckwheat pancakes for what feels like forever. Unfortunately the supermarkets had other plans and I couldn’t find buckwheat flour anywhere.

Inevitably, I ended up in Wholefoods, and seeing that this packet of buckwheat pancake mix was on offer, I couldn’t resist snapping one up.

Buckwheat is an excellent flour to use for people with food intolerance. This is because it’s wheat, gluten, dairy, yeast, soy and egg free, as well as being suitable for vegans. While many people believe that buckwheat is a cereal grain, it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. In terms of texture, buckwheat is pretty dense and heavy. You certainly feel pretty full after a pancake or two!

The mix itself was very easy to use. I only wanted enough pancakes for M and myself, so I used half the packet which was more than enough.

I simply had to add 2 small eggs and some milk (you can use almond, or soya) and my beautiful thick, silky batter was made.

Onto the savoury topping. I absolutely love Eggs Benedict on an English muffin but it certainly doesn’t love me or my waist line. I think this probably has something to do with the Hollandaise sauce requiring an entire pack of butter. Instead I decided to use elements of it to make a delicious version with pancakes. To this end, Buckwheat Eggs Benedict was born. This recipe is perfect for a luxurious yet light weekday meal or a delicious start to the weekend.

To serve 2 very greedy people you’ll need:

8 small buckwheat pancakes – made using this pancake mix or follow a recipe similar to this one.
2 eggs
300ml skimmed milk
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp of plain flour
1 handful of grated extra mature cheddar
A couple of slices of good quality ham
vegetable or coconut oil for frying

1. Start by making the pancakes. Follow the instructions on the side of the packet and leave them on the side. You can always reheat them in the microwave alter if necessary.

pancakes are ready to turn when bubbles appear

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease 2 ramekins with a little oil – either vegetable or coconut. Crack an egg into each ramekin.

Place in the oven and cook until the white is almost fully cooked but so that there is still a border of uncooked white around the yolk. Now turn off the oven and turn on the grill to medium.

3. Meanwhile make an extremely simple cheese sauce by combining the flour, butter and milk in a saucepan over a medium heat. Keep stirring rapidly for a couple of minutes until you have a deliciously smooth sauce. I promise this a fool proof way of ensuring that there are none of those dreaded lumps. Sprinkle in the cheese and stir to combine.
4. Remove the ramekins from the oven and top with the cheese sauce. Grate a little extra cheese on top.

5. Place the ramekins under the grill and allow to bubble away for four minutes until beautifully golden and bubbly. The yolk will still be runny and the white nicely set.

6. Warm up your pancakes, stack them on a plate, and turn out your baked eggs onto the top. Top with the slices of ham.

Please excuse the horrendous photos – I promise these taste amazing!

Ribs and Romance

M and I recently celebrated our four year anniversary. This, more than anything, is a perfect reason to eat out. And we all know that I don’t need an excuse to do that! Usually, if I haven’t eaten out by the time Wednesday comes around, I’ve started suffering withdrawal symptoms and broken out in a cold sweat.

Ok that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not too far off the truth…

For once we decided to celebrate a special occasion by staying in, cooking up a storm, and sharing a bottle of prosecco.

Deciding on a menu was tricky. I spent ages perusing the internet and my cookbooks. I just couldn’t choose a type of cuisine. In the end, instead of picking one cuisine and sticking to it for all three courses, we went for our favourites, ending up in an incredibly mismatched but delicious meal.

First up was a tasty salad starter  – crumbled bacon, stilton, praline, caramelised peaches and leaves.

We followed this with pork ribs. I haven’t had a lot of experience with ribs, but after trying them at Cinnamon Kitchen knew that it was something I had to recreate at home. My first attempt was hopeless – I followed a BBC Good Food recipe and for once Good Food let me down. The pork ribs were bland, unsticky and definitely not falling off the bone.

This time I used this recipe for inspiration. And the result? Barky, uber sticky, meat falling off the bone tender ribs. In essence they were perfect.

The recipe calls for plain pork ribs, but Morrison’s was unobliging so we ended up with Chinese five spice ones. They tasted so good that I’ve decided to include them in my ‘recipe’ below. This isn’t really a recipe, as everything’s far too pre-made for that, it’s more of a method for making the best ribs imaginable. Please ignore how odd the ingredients sound together – I promise the pork ribs can take anything you throw at them. M thought I was crazy but even he admitted that they tasted better with the Reggae Reggae! If in doubt, buy plain ribs and follow the recipe I’ve linked above.

Serves 2
1 rack of chinese 5 spice marinade pork ribs
1 Levi Roots Reggae Reggae sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
2. Wrap the ribs in a sheet of foil, shiny side facing out. Make sure the meaty side of the ribs is facing down
3. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 2.5 hours or until the meat is starting to shrink away from the ends of the bone. Remove from the oven.
4. Heat your grill nice and hot.
5. Cut your ribs into serving sized portion of around 3 ribs.
6. Brush the BBQ sauce over.
7. Place ribs under the grill and grill for a couple of minutes until the sauce is all bubbly.
8. Turn over the ribs and repeat steps 6 & 7 on the other side.

We served our ribs with loaded potato skins using Nigella’s recipe.

Our dessert was my current favourite – Illes Flottante – Floating Islands. Beautifully poached meringue served on top of chilled custard with praline. I said our meal was random!

I know the photo of my floating island looks horrendous, but please believe me, it was delicious.

As with all good meals, we finished off with cheese, biscuits and port. I was glad that we had the opportunity to wheel out a fig and almond cake we’d bought in Barcelona.

I’m so glad we stayed in and cooked for our anniversary. I know it’s a lot of effort and washing up but the great thing is that you really do get to eat exactly what you fancy, however odd it is.

Here’s to another amazing year, M.

Disclaimer: This photo is Google+’s work, not mine!

Poor Food – Good Food

My friend Carmela is half Italian; her family come from Naples.

And although England is full of Italian chains – Pizza Express, Zizzi, Strada…. to name a few, Carmela says she’s never come across any specific Southern Italian restaurants.

The south of Italy is well known for being poorer than its Northern counterpart and is famous for making delicious food with simple, rustic ingredients. When Carmela found out about Paesan in Faringdon specialising in cucina povera ‘poor food’, she was dying to go. I’m obviously not one to miss out on a dining opportunity so I jumped at the chance.

The first thing to mention about Paesan is that it’s very cool – lots of exposed brickwork and light bulbs.

The second thing is how reasonably priced the menu is. I was absolutely starving by the time I arrived late (due to the stupid tube breaking down in the middle of the tunnel at Borough) so I went crazy ordering numerous ‘small’ plates and a main of orecchiette.

 My huge order kicked off with olives

This was then followed by focaccia…

Aubergine caponata with burrata…

Goat’s cheese salad…


unpictured arancini and Orecchiette…

Carmela had calves liver with polenta

As you can see from the pics, there’s nothing small about the plates at Paesan. Expecting a steep bill at the end I was amazed to see that mine and M’s contribution including drinks and coffee was £27 each. Amazing.

Huge portions + great prices = 4 very happy customers.

A Restaurant worth waiting for…Mildred’s, Soho

There’s lots of reasons why I like my friend Frankie, our shared love of yoga and JC (Jonathan Creek) to name a few, but it’s her expert knowledge of London restaurants that really puts her high on my friend list.
When we met up a few Saturday’s ago, she suggested Mildred’s, pre warning me that it might be bit busy. That was a bit of an understatement. It was literally bursting at the seams. I really hate queuing for ages, so we decided to abandon Mildred’s for rose lychee Martinis at Ping Pong instead.
However, my curiosity had been stirred and I always knew that I would one day return to Mildred’s to see what all the fuss was about.
Fast forward to yesterday, where by some good fortune,  I ended up going on a year 8 matinee trip to Wicked at the West End. As much as I love teaching my year 11s, this was definitely an excellent alternative.

After Wicked, I declined a trip back to school on the coach and took the opportunity to meet M in central for some food. It’s ridiculous how long it takes to fill three coaches with 150 year 8s but I eventually left and, after looking at my watch,  realised it was 6pm. In other words, the perfect time to try my luck again at Mildred’s.
Expecting it to be empty, I was amazed to find it practically full! However, they soon accommodated us on a cosy table for 2 sandwiched between everyone else.
Keen to see what all the fuss was about we quickly ordered.
Our starters of maple syrup fig salad:
and artichoke crostini
Followed by M’s insane mushroom ale pie (I don’t even like mushrooms but this was epic) 
and my risotto cake. This was basically mozzarella and sun dried tomato arancini served with wilted spinach and an intensely creamy mustard sauce.  
Needless to say the food was amazing. People who say they don’t like vegetarian food categorically cannot say that unless they’ve tried Mildred’s. Mildred’s could convert the staunchest meat eater. Personally, as someone who eats meat, I still love eating vegetarian and vegan food which I find to be generally much fresher, healthier, and beautifully colourful.
We finished with raspberry yoghurt ice cream which, of course, was delicious. Priced at around £9 per main, we also found Mildred’s good value, although it’s not the kind of place you spend hours chatting away. It’s far too loud and busy for that.
I seriously can’t wait for a return visit to sample all the other dishes. It was impossible to pick from the menu and you can just tell that all the dishes are expertly thought-out and executed – there are no dud menu fillers at Midred’s. If you go, make sure you pick off peak times; it was rammed when we left around 7pm. 

Diet? What Diet?! 2 Ingredient Banana Pancakes

I just have to share these insane pancakes. They’re the healthiest, tastiest pancakes around and best of all they’re made from just two ingredients.

‘What’s the catch?’ I hear you say. Please believe me, there are none.

Whip up a batch of these and you’ll have one of the best breakfasts around with none of the guilt.

These pancakes made from just banana and egg and therefore they’re protein rich, full of vitamins, and low in fat and calories.

Yes, you can add a few optional extras like a hefty pinch of cinnamon, and some baking powder to make them fluffier, but in all honesty, you don’t need it. They’ll taste great without.

To serve 1 hungry person you’ll need:

1 large very ripe banana
2 eggs
+ optional extras: 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon powder

1. Whip up the eggs in one bowl – just for a minute – don’t go mad!
2. In a separate bowl, mash up the bananas. Again just a little – you still want to be left with some lumps.
3. Combine the two and add the cinnamon and baking powder if using.
4. Place a non-stick large frying pan on a medium heat. Add a tiny bit of vegetable or coconut oil and use a silicon brush to coat your pan in the tiniest smidgen of oil (saving yet more calories)
5. I prefer to make two large pancakes, so I split the mix into two, but feel free to make your pancakes small.

6. Cook for a couple of minutes and then flip the pancake and cook on the other side for a further 2 minutes.
7. Serve them up and eat them immediately, you won’t need telling twice. I served mine with the healthy natural sweetener, Agave syrup, and the less healthy fried pancetta (although still better for you than regular bacon). Yum yum yum.

Escape to the Country: The South Downs

Although I love living in London, one thing I struggle with is the lack of countryside (inevitable when you live in a big city).

We’re lucky in that there are a huge number of parks to visit: Richmond, Hyde, Green and Battersea to name a few; but sometimes I yearn to be out in the countryside stomping through a muddy lane with no one but the birds (and M!) to keep me company. I love walking in the Lake District and Cornwall, but clearly they’re far too far away for a day’s walking.

My need for a proper walk therefore took me to Google as I’m hopelessly clueless when it comes to the surrounding geography of London. After a quick examination of Google maps I found that the South Downs is a National Park and is just over 1 hour’s drive away.

We knew the weather today was meant to be amazing, so we decided to ditch London in favour of a long walk in the country. After some more googling we found instructions for a 5 mile walk starting at Fernhurst, which is close to Guildford. If you haven’t got a car, you can easily get a train from central London to Haslemere where lots of walks start. The ramblers website has lots of useful information.

We got instructions for our walk from which I can’t recommend highly enough. The instrutctions were so easy to follow – we didn’t go wrong once and it took us on a route with amazing scenery. The other thing worth mentioning is that you could easily turn this route into a pub walk as Fernhurst has a quintiessentially english pub called the Red Lion, where there are pub benches over looking the village green.

Unsurprisingly due to recent weather, the start of the walk was exceptionally muddy. We definitely needed our walking boots. I got a bit fed up of the never ending mud and took myself off piste. Probably not the best idea as I got totally stuck!

The lesser-spotted Hazel in her natural habitat

We climbed up Black Down which is one of the highest points of the South Downs.

I was pretty tired after that so I took advantage of a conveniently fallen tree to have a rest…

The walk also took me past some of my future houses (I wish!)

More pics of our walk…

After 3 hours of walking, we ended up back at the start and went for lunch at the Red Lion.
It was literally heaven sitting outside in March eating steak and kidney pudding. Happy, happy Hazel.

So yes, any time you’re wanting to escape London, try the South Downs – it feels like you’re a million miles away.