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    Wednesday, 30 December 2015

    CITY OF LONDON GIN MASTERCLASS - THE BREWERS INN

    When I was at uni, I tried my hardest to be a gin drinker. I always thought I was so fancy ordering a G&T when I was out. But sadly I quickly learnt why they call this stuff 'Mother's Ruin'.

    Gin makes me a cryer. It also makes me very ill. But through my stupidity, I'm still determined to be a gin drinker. To aid my quest, my step-dad spotted a gin masterclass taking place in Wandsworth so he bought me and my mum tickets so we could learn a thing or two.

    The evening took place at a pub called the Brewers Inn and was run by the City of London distillery. 
    On arrival, our host Alfie fixed us a G&T with grapefruit and let us tuck into a platter of nibbles including some gorgeous mini yorkies with roast beef and proper pub grub style sausage rolls before divulging all the secrets of gin.

    It turns out gin has a bit of a fruity history and Alfie tooks us right back to the beginning to air out all it's dirty laundry. 
    The story starts all the way back in 1689 with King William of Orange dropping the tax on spirit production. This allowed the gin business to start booming and gave birth to the famous gin craze.

    Did you know that to be called gin - the bottle spirit has to be at least 37.5% making it some potent stuff...back in those days it was lethal. You might heard abut Navy strength gin? Navy strength gin has to be 57% and that's that's the strength that would enable gunpowder to still light if it was spilt on. Those drunken sailors are even to thank for two popular cocktails - the gimlet; a mix of gin and lime which was created to ward of scurvy and the famous gin & tonic to help against malaria...
    Back on land people were going MAD for gin. To the extent that they were drinking just under half a pint of gin every day and quite literally going blind drunk. London was disease ridden and overcrowded so people used gin as their portal away from reality. People were fighting, staggering and slurring all over town - mothers were even selling their kids for a drink.

    It got to the point that the Government had to intervene so they passed the Gin Act in 1751 licensing the trade and forcing distillers to only sell from registered properties. That with several bad harvests pushing the price of grain up and making gin too expensive for Londoners to buy saw the Gin Craze all but dead by 1757.
    My favourite story about those gin-crazed days was about the black market Old Tom Gin. Old Tom was a special gin recipe from back in the early days. So the story goes, if you came across a plaque of a black cat (the old Tom), you could buy a shot of Old Tom by knocking & putting your coins into a slot beneath the cat's paw. The barman would then pour out a shot down a tube which would flow straight into your mouth and on you would go with your day...
    Once the fascinating history of gin had been shared, we got down to the tasting. We were trying the modern versions of gin, thank god so no chance of going blind. Much like wine, gin has its own distinct aromas and tastes and there's a very specific way to taste it. Oddly enough, one of the best ways to smell gin is on the palm of your hands.

    You place your hand on the top of the glass, tip upside down, wipe your hands together to get the excess off then cup them together and have a good old sniff. Once you've got the smells, you do the tasting. Adding a little water reduces the alcohol content so you can taste the botanicals better and you simply let it rest on your tongue before swirling around your mouth... 
    Now was time to get hands on with the actual cocktail making. Each table got to make their own cocktail, my group learning to master the 'Gin Negroni'. 
    You take 3 equal measures (25ml) of campari, martini rosso and gin and pour over ice and stir. Simple and so bloody delicious.
    I had such a great evening at our gin masterclass and while I probably will never be able to be a hardened gin drinker, I can definitely appreciate a glass or two. City of London offer tours of their distillery and a masterclass/tasting for just £25. I highly recommend you go - Alfie was a brilliant host and you'll hear plenty more sordid details about gin while your there...

    The Brewers Inn
    147 East Hill, London SW18 2QB
    The Brewers Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Monday, 28 December 2015

    LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE, HAVE YE ANY NUTS?

    10 points to you if you got the reference in the title - I like you, we'd get on. If you didn't, you can watch it here in pretty awful quality (oh the joy of YouTube) https://goo.gl/W6gTNf

    Anyway it's been a while since I had a recipe over here on the blog so this week I decided to get my bake on and make a lemon drizzle cake.

    Lemon drizzle is my favourite cake - maybe second to my mum's coffee and walnut - so I I decided to double the layers and make this more like a classic Vicky sponge but with a lemon buttercream filling and a classic lemon drizzle icing. And those little red things - freeze dried raspberries. We already know how well berries and lemons go together....
    What you'll need:
    For the drizzle:
    Juice of 2 lemons
    75g caster sugar

    For the sponge
    200g softened butter
    200g caster sugar
    200g self-raising flour
    3 large eggs
    Zest of two large lemons

    For the filling
    100g softened butter
    125g castor sugar
    Juice and zest of 1 large lemon

    What you’ll need to do:
    1. Preheat your oven to 180c and lightly grease two 20cm baking tins
    2. Pour all your ingredients for the sponge mix into a large mixing bowl and get mixing! I use a hand mixer (god-send) so this only takes about 2-3 minutes until you have a nice smooth batter – if you’re using a normal whisk, I feel sorry for you.
    3. Now it’s time to evenly split the batter between your two baking tins and place into the middle of your oven for about 20-25 minutes, until it’s a nice golden brown colour and slightly risen.
    4. Once the cake is cooked through, bring it out and pop it onto a wire tray to cool down.
    5. While you’re waiting for your cakes to chill, get started on your filling. Cream together your butter and sugar then gradually mix in your lemon juice till it’s a nice, shiny paste. Spread this over your two cake halves (once they’ve cooled down!) and sandwich them together.
    6. For your drizzle topping, simply mix together until it’s a nice thick paste and drizzle on top of your cake
    Slice of this with a cup of tea and you've got yourself a pretty delicious afternoon treat - or breakfast, I don't judge.

    If you have a killer cake recipe to share - link me below!

    Friday, 25 December 2015

    THANKFUL FRIDAY #6

    IT'S FRIDAY! IT'S CHRISTMAS! AND It's a Christmas edition of my thankful Friday post! So without any further ado, here's what made my week!

    1. ITS CHRISTMAS...DUH!
    This has been pre-scheduled so while you're reading this I'm probably sat in my Christmas PJs eating everything in sight and drinking ALL the Baileys. I hope you're all doing something similar and got all the pressies which you were hoping for!  How amazing is my parents tree!!
    2. CHINESE FEAST
    Tuesday night Chinese takeaway from the 'chippy' near Tom's house in Liverpool was EPIC. I'm not a big fan of chinese takeaway but the crispy chilli beef from here was all the right kinds of sticky and spicy!

    3. VIRGIN FIRST CLASS
    I managed to buy a first class ticket for my trip up to Liverpool this week for less than I would pay for standard class. Winner. And for the first time ever, the wi-fi worked seamlessly for my whole journey!

    4. BACK TO LIVERPOOL 
    As I mentioned I've been in Liverpool this week with Tom sorting out the last of our shopping. The whole week has been pretty chilled which you'll see in number 8.

    5THE HUNGER GAMES
    Tom & I went to see the new Hunger Games film earlier this week. I've not actually seen any of the other films (he has) but I've read the books so I knew what was going on. Not sure I loved it really...films never live up to the books but the scene with the parachute bombs wasn't really emotional enough for me - it all happened too quick! 

    6. HOME COOKING AT THE PADDOCK
    This week has involved a lot of eating out but one of my favourite meals was at the Paddock up near Wigan. They have a lovely little farm shop where I bought some lovely home-made stocking fillers and

    7. MY ADDISON LEE DRIVER
    This one is a sort of a cautionary tale. I managed to lose my Mulberry handbag earlier this week which had my Olympus Pen, a £100 voucher, all my make-up, my LV make up bag AND my purse with all my cards inside. Devastated doesn't come close. As a last ditch attempt at finding it, I called the Addison Lee driver that picked me up and he had it! I don't think I've ever been so relieved in my life.

    Moral of the story: Don't drink too much over Christmas. And always pre-book your cab! Had I just hailed down a taxi, I probably would never have seen my precious things again! 

    8. ALL THE SLEEP
    I'm now one week into two weeks off work which has been lovely! I've mainly used my time off to sleep in late and do life admin stuff that I never get a chance to do! I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine in the new year but for now I'm enjoying all this free time while I can!

    9. HOLIDAY PLANNING
    Tom and I are off to Berlin on Sunday and have been busy planning what we're going to do while we're there! I'm excited for Christmas markets (obvs) and we've also booked the TV tower and DDR museum but plan to take in as much of the city's history as possible while we're there!

    10. CHRISTMAS EVE DRINKS
    Christmas eve evening was spent with my parents in our local pub in Beaconsfield. I remember when Christmas Eve used to be a wild drunken affair with my friends but I actually LOVE waking up hangover free on Christmas day!

    Wednesday, 23 December 2015

    BLOGGERS EATING BURGERS AT BRIOCHE

    It's beginning to feel A LOT like Christmas. We're only a few days out now but I wanted to tell you about the first Christmassy thing which I did this year! 

    The very lovely Pippa emailed me to say she was organising something which involved burgers, Christmas and some other bloggers and was I keen...now you don't have to ask me twice when it comes to burgers do you?
    Our little Christmas soiree was to be held at Brioche. You may heard of it before - I hadn't - but it's a little pop-up nestled away in Covent Garden. Run by Callum Leach (who's worked in kitchens with the likes of Marco Pierre White and Scott Hunnel) Brioche is all about good local produce served in a quirky and intimate surrounding.
    Pippa did some FAB negotiating with the restaurant who allowed us to have the Christmas set menu for £17.50 a head, instead of the regular £21. Sometimes when I hear the word 'set menu' I think - oh god..i'm going to struggle to find something I like here but this wasn't the case here, no no...
    We kicked things off with a round of cocktails - I wasn't a big fan of mine but the beer I ordered was lovely. The set menu here basically meant choosing ANY burger off the menu +2 toppings and they would provide plentiful sides and they really don't mess around..
    My neighbour Laura went for the beef burger with bacon and oozing cheese...  
    but for me there was only one choice..buttermilk fried chicken with bacon and blue cheese. It was incredible, I'm a sucker for a bit of blue cheese and melted over the crunchy chicken it was just insane.
    Side orders was where Brioche certainly didn't disappoint. There were shed loads, they were all covered in cheese and they just kept coming! These hash-brown bacon cheese beauties were probably my favourite of night...
    We also tucked into piles of cheesey fries, parmesan drenched spinach and crunchy winter coleslaw...
    So much beautiful cheesey goodness..
     Dessert was included in our set menu so I couldn't turn away the sticky toffee pudding when it was placed down in front of me. Perfectly cooked and served with piping hot toffee sauce and generous dollop of vanilla ice cream...
    A perfect way to finish off a brilliant meal!
    Big thank you to the lovely Pippa for organising our Christmas meet-up, I really enjoyed meeting all the girls (you can find their links here) and I'm looking forward to seeing these lovely ladies again soon! I highly recommend you check out Brioche while they are still in town too - I've heard they are due to pack up shop and move shortly...so be quick!

    Brioche
    15 Exeter Street, London, WC2E 7DT

    Brioche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Monday, 21 December 2015

    BLACKLOCK, SOHO

    Another London restaurant post, another series of poorly lit photographs. This place is so good though that I have to share it with you so we will happily let them off...

    Blacklock is a chop house right in the heart of Soho and believe me when I say it should be next on your to-go list (unless you're a veggie, then...soz). You enter through a door-way on Great Windmill Street and head downstairs to the basement...
    It's dark and it's moody..and it also used to be a brothel. All signs of the knocking shop have since been removed and they've done it out in exposed brick, wooden boards and industrial metals which created a relaxed, energetic vibe set off perfectly by the 80's soundtrack which blasts out of the speakers.
    There's no reservations (unless your in a group of 6+) so it's a case of turning up and waiting. We were lucky and got seated straight-away but if it's a busy night you can leave your name and head to the bar, or go down the road and they'll call you back. None of this silly, queuing down the road nonsense which London restaurants are fond of....
    The menu is nice and brief which I like. I like restaurants which find their strength and just do it well. Chops is what Blacklock does well with a short but tasty menu of 'skinny' chops. Our waitress advised that the best way to try the menu was to go 'all in' (£20pp) which was essentially a platter of chops of the day along with some crisp breads to start and a side dish.

    Now I'll start off by saying I'm sorry about the picture quality from here on wards...it was dark, there's a wierd orange tinge and I'm sorry but we're all just going to have to deal wit..okay? I did the best with what I could!
    The starter comes in the form of the 'pre chop bites'. Three crispbreads heaped with three different toppings each increasing with flavour. You start with the dripping ham, then work your way to the stilton & pickle and on to the egg & anchovy. I liked the cheese best but the egg and anchovy was surprisingly tasty.
    The main event, of course, was the chops. We started with the beef fillet, then worked our way through pork loin, pork belly, lamb cutlet and T-bone. All the ribs are cooked on the right side of rare with plenty of crispy flavour on the outside. 

    I'm a hands-on kind of eater so I had no shame picking up my chops and knawing my way to get to the bits of meat hidden by the bones. The lamb and beef were my favourites - for the first time ever I wasn't mad on the pork belly but it was still definitely very tasty. 
    Side dishes were also good. We ordered the barbecued baby gem which had a nice smokey char to it but the chips stole the show. Triple cooked in beef dripping with just the right amount of salt - up there with the best best portions in London (and I've had Heston's).

    It's definitely worth giving a shout-out to the flatbreads which the chops are served on too. Soaking up all the meaty juices, these beauties are incredible and the probably the most non-diet friendly item on the menu, but worth every last calorie.
    On Alexandra's recommendation we went for pudding. They only do one. It's that good, they have full confidence in it. White chocolate cheesecake - served with rhubarb stewed in vanilla infused juices.

    It's easily one of the best cheesecakes in London. Buttery, crumbly biscuit base with a THICK filling - and the best bit is that it comes served home-style so you can chose how much you're served.
    If you're looking for some no-nonsense eats in Soho, I highly recommend Blacklock...even if just for pudding alone!

    24 Great Windmill St, London W1D 7LG

    Blacklock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Saturday, 19 December 2015

    THANKFUL FRIDAY #5

    So I need to start by apologising that I didn't get this post up yesterday. Life has been so busy lately so here's a snippet of some of the things I've been up to....just a day late!

    1. FDBLOGGERS SECRET SANTA
    Some delicious home-made shortbread arrived from my lovely secret santa this week! I also saw a tweet from my Secret Santa recipient saying that they loved their present which has made me very happy indeed! Such a good idea Loriley...thanks for organising it!
    2. ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
    If you read last week's post, you'll know I was sort of getting into American Horror Story. Abort mission. I am not about that show. It freaked me out too much so now I've started on Orange is the New Black and I am flying through the second season. You'll notice I'm pretty late to the party with all these series.

    3. LAST DAY AT WORK/CHRISTMAS PARTY
    So after 3 years, I left my job on Thursday. Not exactly one for my 'happy things' list as I was pretty sad to say goodbye but my leaving do happened to fall on our Christmas party which was an awesome way to say goodbye! We had it at Skandilicious- a nordic themed pop-up which I highly recommend you check out if you can! They also got  me a Hakkasan voucher for my leaving present - result!

    4. SECRET SANTA WITH THE GIRLS
    I've had the same group of friends since I was in primary school. We don't get to see each other too much any more (life, jobs, boyfriends, commitments) but we always do a dinner & presents at Christmas. Aren't they a beautiful bunch....
    5. WE HAVE A WINNER
    I ran a giveaway this week where you could get your hands on a copy of the SOLD OUT Manchester Cookbook! A winner has been picked and I can reveal the very lovely Josie Brownlee has a copy winging it's way over to her so congrats and enjoy!

    6. I HIT 20!
    I finally hit a DA score of 20 in the latest Moz update! I've been lurking around the 15 mark for AGES and decided to raise my game a little in the last few months so it's really nice to see it pay-off!

    7. SUNDAY ROASTS
    Last Sunday Tom and I went for a roast dinner with my parents and my nan. There's a really cute little pub in Wooburn Common called the Chequers Inn which does the best roasts...I'll be posting about it on here very soon!
    8.  BEST CHEESECAKE IN LONDON?
    Date night last Saturday was at Blacklock - post to follow next week so you can read all about it - but I have to let you know that the cheesecake there is INCREDIBLE. Thick white chocolate cheesecake, buttery biscuit and rhubarb....*Homer Simpson Drool*

    9. 1D CARPOOL KARAOKE
    One thing which probably hasn't come across much on my blog is how much I love One Direction. I'm at that wierd level of superfan where I have a cardboard cut-out of Niall on my desk..Anyway I'm super sad that they're going on a break BUT this episode of carpool karaoke has made me realise how brilliant they are!
    10. MEETING MY NEW TEAM
    So yesterday, I went to meet my new work team at their Christmas conference at the super-trendy Hospital Club in Covent Garden. I was a mix of all kinds of nervous and excited but they were all really lovely and I'm feeling a lot more confident about my first day in the New Year....so wish me luck!

    Wednesday, 16 December 2015

    ISTANBUL, TURKISH RESTAURANT - RUISLIP

    Whenever people ask me my favourite restaurant, they always expect me to say some fancy place up in the centre of London but if I'm being honest, I'd have to say my local Turkish ranks pretty high.

    I know most of you won't be travelling out to Zone 6 to try this for yourself but I couldn't NOT share this with you. The food is delicious, brilliant quality and the portions are SO generous.

    When you first arrive, you're greeted with a complimentary round of olives, pittas and salad. I rave about the red cabbage in the salad and it takes a lot to get me excited about salad.

    The best thing about Istanbul is the portion sizes. They do a special for £17 per person which contains an array of mixed mezze starters along with a huge plate of grilled meats.
    You get fresh pitta breads to dip into hummus, taramasalata (the pink one which is whipped cod roe) and cacik - a cucumber yoghurt very similar to the greek tzatziki. There's also a bowl of shakshuka (thinly sliced aubergine and potato in a tomato sauce) and the a platter of interesting delicacies....
    Stuffed mushrooms, halloumi cheese, borek (pastry filled with feta cheese) and Sucuk, spicy garlic grilled sausage. I love halloumi so it's always a winner for me but the pastries are also delicious and not something I would normally order.
    Try your hardest not to fill up here though as the main event is the grilled meat platter....
    A giant plate filled with grilled chicken wings, chicken and lamb shish kebabs, lamb adana kebab, lamb chops, lamb ribs, lamb doner and chicken doner served on a bed of rice, flatbreads and grilled peppers and tomatoes. 

    It's a meat heaven. The portion below is for two people. TWO. I've only ONCE managed to get through the whole lot and that's when I was with my human dust-bin boyfriend Tom. I've tried to take it on with my step-dad and with my step-brother and failed on both occasions so there is plenty there for the finest eaters among us!
    I also highly recommend the chicken shish with yoghurt (£8). Lean chunks of grilled chicken, served on flatbreads and covered in a spicy tomato sauce and fresh yoghurt. It's packed full of flavour and fills you up without being too over-indulgent. 
    I would say if you're ever in Zone 6 to head over there for dinner but truth is - this place is packed no matter what day it is so you'll probably need to book! I've been turned away on a Wednesday evening before which just goes to show how popular it is!

    89 Victoria Rd, Ruislip HA4 9BH
    Istanbul Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato