Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Restaurant Review - The Old Vine, Wadhurst

Restaurant name: The Old Vine Inn

Location: Wadhurst, East Sussex

Description: Pretty country pub established in 1515 with a nice restaurant and garden and rooms if you want to stay overnight.

Reason for visit: My boyfriend took me llama trekking as a treat - we went to Bluecaps Llama and spent an hour walking through the woods with two very friendly llamas in tow. We went here for lunch afterwards as it was nearby and had been recommended by the owner of Bluecaps.

Me and my llama

I ate: seafood platter, that was designed for sharing as a (large) starter, but I had it to myself as a main course. It came with crusty bread and butter, mackerel pate, prawn and crayfish cocktail, smoked salmon and prawns in filo pastry, anchovies, capers and salad. I think it cost £15.

My companion ate: ham, egg and chips.

The food was: Mine was a really nice change from what I would normally order as a main course. I know it was designed for sharing but I thought there was too much smoked salmon and I would have liked a little more bread - you can see four pieces in the photo but they were tiny. The crayfish cocktail was served in shot glasses which was a nice touch; the prawns wrapped in filo were very nice but I would have liked something to dip them in. I tried a little of the anchovies but didn't really like them. My boyfriend enjoyed his main course but said it was so filling he would have been happy with just egg and chips without the ham.

The service/atmosphere was: Very good, the bar staff were friendly and when I asked if we could sit outside - having noticed they had a few tables out front near the road, though people were smoking - they showed us to a pretty garden out the back.

ham, egg and chips

Price range/value for money: Good value as portions were large and the food was very good quality.

Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely if you are in the area or fancy a drive in the country. I also recommend Bluecaps Llamas!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meal Planning 2013 - Week 39

I've been on holiday for eight days so was really pleased to weigh in at Slimming World when I came back and find I'd lost a pound! It must be all the walking.... I also didn't have particularly big meals while I was in Cambodia, and I was so busy sightseeing in Singapore - and so hot, that I drank lots but never really felt hungry, that one day I skipped both breakfast and dinner, and only had lunch! But it was a good lunch, in the famous Raffles Hotel... I'll have to write a review soon!

Anyway I'm trying to catch up on everything now I'm back and am still in the middle of unpacking but thought I had better work out what I'm going to eat over the coming week (and do some food shopping!).


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch Tuna roll

Dinner Out at choir rehearsal so I will take leftover pizza from my weekend treat - the amount I ate the weekend I got back, I will probably have put back on the pound that I lost!


Breakfast cereal

Lunch out on a teambuilding day with work colleagues

Dinner toad in the hole


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch sandwich

Dinner salmon and veg for me, chicken kiev or similar for the OH (he doesn't eat fish)


Breakfast cereal

Lunch baked potato

Dinner out at a colleague's leaving do


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch sandwich

Dinner Minute steaks marinated with Nando's hot sauce


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch bacon sandwich

Dinner formal dinner at Christ's College, Cambridge - it's my 15 year university reunion!


Breakfast in college canteen

Lunch possibly a sandwich on the train, not sure what time I will be back

Dinner chicken/pork schnitzel

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pink Princess Doll Cake

I love this cake - it's so girly! Yes, this is indeed a cake - or rather, the bottom half of the doll is cake. Her dress is made of fondant and her skirt is a chocolate cake - a delicious vegan recipe. In this post I'll also explain how to use a Garrett frill cutter, a piece of equipment I bought when I took a cake decorating class last year, and also review a brilliant new product I found at Ikea.

So how did this cake come about? Well, my friend Ros - who some of you know as The More Than Occasional Baker - decided she wanted a pink princess theme for her birthday party in September. We might be in our 30s but that's no reason not to embrace our inner child... or our inner princess! I was very honoured when she asked me to make her a birthday cake, as Ros is such an amazing baker herself. As soon as she told me the theme I thought of this cake - I'd seen pictures of them before but never made or eaten one. You basically take a doll, like Barbie or Bratz, bake a dome-shaped cake, and stick the doll in the middle and decorate the cake to look like her dress!

Ros also told me that one of her friends was vegan so asked if I could make a vegan cake. That was no problem - one of my closest friends is vegan so I've tried a few recipes and found this amazing vegan chocolate cake, it tastes nicer than almost any chocolate cake I've ever had!

My first challenge however was to find a doll. I didn't want to buy a brand-new Barbie as they're not cheap, and I don't know any children I could borrow one from, so luckily found some dolls in my local charity shop. Yes, I did wash it thoroughly!

I made the batter for the chocolate cake - as it is vegan, it doesn't use eggs or butter, but instead uses oil which makes it deliciously moist. You also use a cup of hot water in the mixture, which makes it a pretty runny batter, but it bakes really well. See here for the recipe.

I decided to bake the cake in a Pyrex ovenproof dish so it would be the right shape. I sprayed the bowl with Cake Release Spray and it did come out very smoothly.

Ready to go in the oven. I found it took a lot longer to cook than expected, I guess because the cake is so deep in the middle. I tested it a few times with a cake tester and put it back in the oven until I was happy it was cooked through.

I turned out the cake and allowed it to cool. I didn't think it was going to be big enough however, so I whipped up another batch of the same mixture, and cooked it in a small-ish (I think 7 inch) round cake tin.

The dome cake fit perfectly on the top of the round cake. If the round cake had been too big, I would have trimmed around the sides.

You can make vegan buttercream very easily, by using vegan 'margarine' such as Vitalite or Pure. Mix with icing sugar and cocoa powder.

I spread a thick layer of buttercream on the base cake and sat the dome cake on top.

I made a small circular hole with my cake corer (which is designed to make holes in cupcakes to fill them). It made a perfectly-sized round hole, though it didn't go very deep so I used a spoon to extend the hole downwards. I wrapped my Bratz doll in clingfilm from the waist down (after having thoroughly washed her, of course) and placed her in the cake. The perfect fit!

Now onto a product I bought only the day before which I was very pleased with. My boyfriend and I went to Ikea to buy a bookcase - as an aside, he has just moved in and saw how my cookery books were taking over the kitchen, as I have so many - and rather than suggesting I get rid of some, he went out to buy me a new bookcase for the living room to put them in. Readers, he's a keeper. Of course, he did manage to buy the wrong bookcase so we have to go back - which is not necessarily a bad thing! I've only been to Ikea a few times and when I do, I really enjoy browsing around their 'marketplace' area. I've picked up some nice cake tins and cookie cutters from there in the past, and this time found a rolled-up silicon baking mat and plastic knife for £9. I'm sure I remember seeing something similar at last year's Cake International for £40!

I always have a problem when rolling out fondant, as I don't have enough space on my kitchen worktop - they are not that wide and also my cookery books were lined up against the wall (not for much longer!). My dining room table has grooves as it has extendable sections, so I'm limited with what I can roll out on there too, and if I use a chopping board then I'm also limited. This mat is huge - 62cm x 45cm - and has patterns on both sides you could use as a template if you were piping or cutting something.

I coloured some fondant pink and rolled it out.

The mat is really thin and lightweight so it was very easy to pick it up, turn over so the fondant was covering the cake, then peel the mat off the back - so I covered my cake in one swift movement. I'm really pleased with this mat and can see myself using it a lot!

I took some of the same fondant and made a bodice for the doll. The fact that it was separate to the cake meant I could actually take the doll out and fit the cake in a standard cake carrier with the doll separate, then reassemble when I arrived at my friend's house.

I tried to fold the fondant in a few places so it looked like pleats on her dress, though I'm not sure I would bother with this next time.

I wanted to decorate her dress with some frills, and I have a Garrett frill cutter I bought for a cake decorating course (but then we never actually had time to use it). I had to look up on the internet how to use it, so I thought I would give instructions here. Mine was from PME and came with a wheel and three centre pieces of different sizes, which give different widths of frill. You clip the centre piece into the wheel. I've rolled out my icing - I used a mixture of flower paste and fondant so it would be stiffer than just fondant - and got the wheel ready here.

You just use the wheel to press down as you would a cookie cutter. You don't need the inner circle, just the outer one of what you cut out.

Take the outer piece and make a cut so you open the circle out. You then need a balling tool and ideally a foam pad; you need to gently rub each 'spoke' on the wheel until it curves upwards.

Then fasten onto the cake with edible glue. I did two layers all the way around.

I am going to hide the joins later

I used a butterfly plunger cutter and some fondant that I had coloured a slightly darker pink to make some nice shapes.

I attached these with edible glue at the places where the frills joined.

I also put a butterfly at the top of the doll's bodice and used the frill cutter with the darker fondant to go around her waist.

Here's the finished cake - a bit silly and very pink, but I think little girls - and not so little girls - would love this!

I am sending this to We Should Cocoa as the theme this month is 'chocolate showstoppers' and I think this cake is definitely a showstopper! The challenge is hosted by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Restaurant Review - Bill's, Wimbledon

Restaurant name Bill's

Location Wimbledon

Description Restaurant that seems to be a jack of all trades - it does breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, the menu ranges from burgers to fish pie to mezze. Really popular with locals.

Reason for visit The hen night of my boyfriend's cousin

I ate Piri piri chicken followed by lemon meringue pie cheesecake

My companions ate The burger was a popular choice and so was the halloumi burger with the vegetarians

Lemon meringue cheesecake

The food was The others really liked their food; some of them had been here many times and I got the impression it was one of their favourite restaurants in the area. My piri piri chicken was very dry though and would have been nicer served with some kind of sauce. The dessert more than made up for it; a lemon cheesecake with meringue topping, served in a glass. Worth coming for that alone!

The service/atmosphere was Good, it was busy as we were there on a Saturday night and we were a fairly big group but we had plenty of space and attentive service

Price range/value for money Quite good from what I recall

Would I recommend it I wasn't especially impressed and wouldn't go out of my way to eat here again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Meal Planning 2013- week 38

Monday & Tuesday - in Singapore/ travelling home


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch Will probably have to buy something at work

Dinner Salmon, veg and hollandaise sauce. My boyfriend is still pet sitting for his mum but hopefully he will come over for dinner, and I'll do him sausage and mash


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch sandwich

Dinner TFI Friday's style Mexican chicken


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch sandwich

Dinner chicken fajitas or enchiladas


Breakfast cereal

Lunch Packed lunch - at choir rehearsal

Dinner Will probably go to see my boyfriend's mum in the evening and might get a takeaway with her


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch homemade bread with soup

Dinner spaghetti bolognese

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Restaurant Review - Byron

Restaurant name: Byron

Location: Old Brompton Road, London

Description: Gourmet burger chain

Reason for visit: Dinner before going to the nearby Science Museum Lates one evening after work

I ate: One of their specials - I can't remember the name but it consisted of two 3oz burgers with double cheese, onions, burger sauce and in a potato bun, with fries. I also had a coke float - coke with a scoop of ice cream, which really takes me back to my childhood.

My companion ate: 6oz hamburger with American cheese and fries

The food was: Really tasty. I found my burger very filling and couldn't finish it; I thought that was because it was a double burger so was surprised when the waitress said it was two 3oz patties and their standard burger is one 6oz patty so exactly the same amount of meat! The potato bread bun tasted quite similar to normal bread but did start to fall apart while I was eating it.

The atmosphere/service was: Good, it's a nice casual chain and always a pleasure to visit

Price range/value for money: Good - a classic burger is £6.95 and a cheeseburger is £7.95. Fries are £2.95.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I've been here several times, they do a really good burger, there aren't too many choices or strange flavours on the menu so it's easy to choose and good for a quick meal before a show or when you haven't got a lot of time but want to sit down somewhere nice.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kare Kare Recipe

Kare Kare
Estimated cooking time: 2 hours

Kare Kare Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo of beef (round or sirloin cut) cut into cubes, beef tripe or oxtail (cut 2 inch long) or a combination of all three (beef, tripe and oxtail)

  • 3 cups of peanut butter

  • 1/4 cup grounded toasted rice

  • 1/2 cup cooked bagoong alamang (anchovies)

  • 2 pieces onions, diced

  • 2 heads of garlic, minced

  • 4 tablespoons atsuete oil

  • 4 pieces eggplant, sliced 1 inch thick

  • 1 bundle Pechay (Bok choy) cut into 2 pieces

  • 1 bundle of sitaw (string beans) cut to 2" long

  • 1 banana bud, cut similar to eggplant slices, blanch in boiling water

  • 1/2 cup oil

  • 8 cups of water

  • Salt to taste

Kare Kare Cooking Instructions:

In a stock pot, boil beef, tripe and oxtails in water for an hour or until cooked. Strain and keep the stock.

In a big pan or wok, heat oil and atsuete oil.

Sauté garlic, onions until golden brown, then add the stock, toasted rice, beef, oxtail and peanut butter. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Salt to taste.

Add the eggplant, string beans, pechay and banana bud. Cook the vegetables for a few minutes - Do not overcook the vegetables.

Serve with bagoong on the side and hot plain rice.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sweet and Sour Pork Recipe

Sweet and Sour Pork
Estimated cooking time: 45 minutes

Sweet & Sour Pork Ingredients:

  • 1/2 kilo pork loin, sliced into pieces

  • 1 small can pineapple chunks

  • 1 large onion, quartered

  • 1 red & 1 green bell peppers, sliced into strips

  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce

  • 3 tablespoons of peanut oil

  • 4 tablespoons of cornstarch

  • 3 tablespoons of ketchup

  • 1 tablespoon of sugar

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • 3 cloves of minced garlic

Sweet and Sour Pork Cooking Instructions:

In a pot, boil pork in 2 cups of water with 1/2 teaspoon of salt until tender, then drain (keep the pork stock for later).

Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and soy sauce then coat the pork with the cornstarch mixture.

Fry the pork in a skillet until golden brown, set aside.

Dissolve the remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch on 1/2 cup of pork stock - set aside.

Sauté garlic and onions on oil, then add the bell peppers, pineapple chunks (including the syrup), ketchup, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the dissolved cornstarch. Stir until sauce thickens.

Pour over fried pork then serve with rice.

Cat and Mouse Birthday Card

I'm not sure I like this card all that much but I thought I would share it anyway - maybe someone has a suggestion for how it could be improved. I used a little wooden cat and mouse, which are three-dimensional but flat on one side so you can stick them onto the card, and some cardboard button stickers. I also have a small cat hole punch which I used to punch cat shapes along the bottom of the card. I mounted the cat and mouse on a piece of spotty blue backing paper and added a 'happy birthday' outline. The only problem is that the size of the cat and mouse means this card isn't a standard price to post and counts as a 'large letter'!

Sinigang na Hipon (Shrimps Sinigang) Recipe

Sinigang na Hipon
Sinigang is a Philippine dish famous for the variety of ingredients. Sinigang often incorporates fish, pork, chicken, shrimp, or beef. This time we'll use Shrimp for our recipe. Sinigang's characteristic taste is attributed to the ingredient that gives its sour taste and most commonly use ingredient is Tamarind or Sampalok for its sour taste.

- 1 Kilo Shrimp
- 1/4 kilo of Tamarind/Sampalok
- 1 Onion, diced
- 3 Tomatoes, quartered sliced
- 2 pieces Radish regular size, sliced
- 1 bundle of Sitaw
- 1 bundle Kangkong, cut into 2" long
- 3 pieces long green chilli
- Salt or Patis to taste
- Water

Cooking procedure:
1. Boil Tamarind in water to soften. Mash and extract all juices and set aside.
2. In a casserole, boil water and Tamarind juice, onions, tomatoes and Radish.
3. Lower fire then add in Shrimps, Kangkong, Sitaw and green long chilli. Simmer it for 5 minutes.
4. Season with salt or patis.
5. Serve it hot on a pot or palayok.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pakbet or Pinakbet Recipe

Estimated cooking time: 35 minutes

Pakbet Ingredients:

  • 1/4 kilo pork with fat, cut into small pieces

  • 2 Amapalya (bitter melons) sliced to bite size pieces

  • 2 eggplants, sliced to bite size pieces

  • 5 pieces of okra, cut in two

  • 1 head garlic, minced

  • 2 onions, diced

  • 5 tomatoes, sliced

  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, crushed and sliced

  • 4 tablespoons bagoong isda or bagoong alamang

  • 3 tablespoons of oil

  • 1 1/2 cup water

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pakbet Cooking Instructions:

In a cooking pan, heat oil and fry the pork until brown, remove the pork from the pan and set aside.

On the same pan, saute garlic, onion, ginger and tomatoes.

In a casserole, boil water and add bagoong.

Add the pork in the casserole and mix in the sautéed garlic, onion, ginger and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add in all the vegetables and cook until the vegetables are done, careful not to overcook.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot with plain rice.

Meal Planning 2013- Week 37

I wanted to post something today so I don't skip a week in numerical terms - this is week 37 and I will just get confused if I leave it out! But there is no meal plan this week as I'm on holiday in Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia. See you next week!

Sizzling Pork Chop

Sizzling Pork Chop Bacolod Style
One day when I was in one of the mall here in Bacolod, I have the chance to drop by in its food court thinking on what to eat. I’m not sure why that thought came into my mind then I realized that I’m craving for Sizzling Pork Chop.

Sizzling Pork Chop tastes good and is easy to prepare. The sizzling effect makes this dish more appealing. Aside from the pork chop, mixed vegetables, yellow rice, and gravy are necessary to complete this dish. For the vegetables, I used the fresh frozen mixed vegetables. I placed it in the microwave oven for 2 minutes to cook a little. I was able to come-up with great tasting yellow rice by combining steamed rice with margarine, garlic powder, salt, and a little paprika.

I want to write more about this dish but I can’t resist its inviting aroma. I better start eating while the plate is still hot. Happy cooking!

Try this Sizzling Pork Chop recipe and let me know what you think.


  • 1 piece (8 oz) pork loin chop

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 3/4 cup mixed vegetables, cooked

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 1 cup yellow rice

Cooking procedure:

  1. Rub salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder on the pork tenderloin chop. Let it stay for at least 30 minutes.

  2. Make the gravy by melting 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan. When the butter melts, gradually add the flour and whisk until the color turns light brown. Pour-in the beef broth and stir. Add salt and pepper according to taste. Continue cooking until the texture becomes thick. Set aside.

  3. Heat a skillet of frying pan then put-in 2 tablespoons of butter and let melt.

  4. Pan-fry the pork loin chop in medium heat until the color of each side turns light brown (approximately 7 to 8 minutes per side). Set aside.

  5. Heat a sizzling plate or fajita plate then put-in 1 tablespoon butter.

  6. Distribute the butter around the plate then arrange rice, mixed vegetables, and pork loin chop.

  7. Pour gravy over the pork loin chop then turn-off heat.

  8. Serve. Share and enjoy!
Watch the Video on how to cook Sizzling Pork Chop here:

    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    Chicken Potato Salad with Garlic

    Chicken Potato Salad with Garlic

    What gives this dish a wonderful twist is the addition of garlic. For extra flavor, the peeled potatoes are cooked in chicken broth. This salad is best eaten after it has stayed at least overnight in the refrigerator.

    • 8 cups potatoes, peeled, cut into cubes and cooked in salted chicken broth

    • 2 chicken breasts, boiled in salted water and cubed

    • 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

    • 2 cups mayonnaise

    • 2 tablespoons white onions, finely chopped

    • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

    • 1 tablespoon calamansi juice

    • 4 tablespoon salt

    • 2 teaspoons white sugar

    • 2/3 teaspoon white pepper

    • lettuce leaves

    • parsley

    • 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced



    1. In a bowl, mix together the potatoes, chicken and eggs.

    2. Cool before adding the other ingredients.

    3. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.

    4. Add to potato mixture and blend well.

    5. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.

    6. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves. Garnish with parsley and hard-boiled sliced eggs.

    Restaurant Review - The Landor, Clapham

    Restaurant name: The Landor

    Location: Clapham, London

    Description: Gastropub with its own theatre upstairs. It has a nice outdoor area partly under cover with leather sofas and wooden tables.

    Reason for visit: Watching a play based on a novel by Sophie Kinsella at the Landor theatre and meeting Sophie at a book signing- so the obvious choice was to eat here as well.

    I ate: Lamb burger topped with halloumi, £9.95

    My companion ate: "Pasta of the day" - I forget what the actual dish was.

    The food was: Really tasty - though it's worth pointing out that four of the seven items on the main course menu are burgers (the other items are steak, fish and chips and pasta or risotto of the day). I think there was a specials menu as well but there's not a huge amount of choice. That's not actually a bad thing as what this pub does serve, it does really well.

    The atmosphere/service was: Very friendly, a nice relaxed pub and service was fast - we told them when we arrived that we only had an hour before the show and that was no problem.

    Price range/value for money: Pretty good

    Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely if you are going to the Landor Theatre (which I also recommend) - and even if you're not, it's a nice pub and the food is good.

    Crispy Pata Negrense Style Recipe

    Crispy Pata
    Preparation & drying: 4 hours to 1 day

    Estimated cooking time: 20 minutes

    Crispy Pata Ingredients:

    • 1 Pata (front or hind leg of a pig including the knuckles)

    • 1 bottle of soda (7Up or sprite)

    • 1 tablespoon of salt

    • 2 tablespoons patis (fish sauce)

    • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda

    • 1 tablespoon of monosodium glutamate (MSG)

    • 4 tablespoons of flour

    • Enough oil for deep frying

    • Enough water for boiling

    Crispy Pata Cooking Instructions:

    Clean the pork pata by removing all hairs and by scraping the skin with a knife. Wash thoroughly.

    Make four to five inch cuts on the sides of the pata.

    On a deep stock pot, place the pata in water with soda and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Then add the baking soda and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.

    Remove the pata from the pot and hang and allow to drip dry for 24 hours. An alternative to this is to thoroughly drain the pork pata and refrigerate for a few hours.

    After the above process, rub patis on the pata and sprinkle flour liberally.

    In a deep frying pot, heat cooking oil and deep fry the pork pata until golden brown.

    Crispy Pata Dip Sauce:

    Mix 3/4 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 head of diced onion and 1 hot pepper. Salt and pepper to taste.