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    Tuesday, 28 November 2017

    GET BAKING AT TASTE OF LONDON WITH AEG

    I think I could be in the minority here but...I feel SO Christmassy already this year! It’s not even December yet but Heart Extra Christmas is already on the radio, my present shopping is well underway - and if my house wasn't currently a building site I would 100% have my tree up by now. 

    And I suppose the fact that AEG had me cooking up festive recipes at Taste of London last week could also have something to do with it....
    I'm sure you guys are already familiar with Taste of London - it's the HUGE food festival which is held in Regent's Park every year. 

    It usually takes place right at the height of summer but for the last few years, they've also held a winter edition over at the Tobacco Dock and it’s the PERFECT way to get yourself into the festive spirit. 
    They deck the whole place out with Christmas trees and twinkly fairy lights, have live bands serenade you with Christmas songs - all while you're surrounded by incredible smells and delicious food  (sounds perfect right?)

    As with all the Taste of London festivals, it's a great chance to explore some of the best food London has to offer. Not only can you taste dishes from some of Londons' best restaurants like Chai Wu....
    and Les 110 de Taillevent......
    but you can also discover artisan products from smaller but equally passionate producers. There's everything from home-brewed teas and slabs of meat through to luxury chocolate and home-made bakes - perfect for sampling as you make your way from stand to stand. 
    The other great thing about Taste of London is how interactive it all is. There's SO many great foodie talks and demos through the course of the weekend and this year, AEG was hosting a series of baking events with GBBO favourite Richard Burr and Gluts and Gluttony founder Kathy Slack - which I was lucky enough to be a part of. 

    The sessions gave us the chance to prepare some delicious festive dishes - all whilst getting hands-on with all the appliances in the AEG mastery range - which was fab, as funnily enough, Tom and I have just bought all new AEG appliances for the cottage!
    There were stand mixers for preparing pastry, steam ovens so we could create the perfect bake and fabulous induction hobs and pans for preparing a delicious Christmas chutney. 

    I LOVED this chutney so much, I've already made up a batch at home and I'm planning to make another ahead of Christmas Day itself so I wanted to share the recipe with you. 

    First off we used the AEG stick mixer (which I have fallen in LOVE with) to finely dice a red onion. I'm not being over-dramatic but this thing is incredible - it literally chopped the onion in all of about 2 seconds and I've never been so excited! 

    This then goes into a saucepan to be softened down over a low heat. 
    Next you add 130g of cranberries, 100g of caster sugar, a good pinch of salt and cayenne pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar...
    plus the zest and juice of half an orange for good measure. 
    Give it a stir for about 10 minutes until the sugar melts down...

    then crank up the heat and let it all simmer down until your cranberries burst open....
    Slowly but surely it'll start to thicken into the most incredible, tangy chutney which is perfect to serve alongside warm, flaky puff pasty sausage rolls. You really don't get much more Christmassy than that!
    A massive thank you to AEG for inviting me along...I can safely say an AEG Stick Mixer is at the TOP of my Christmas list! Oh and if you're keen to get in on the Taste of London action...there's only 197 days until Taste of London 2018!

    * This post was sponsored by AEG

    Tuesday, 14 November 2017

    A MEAT FEAST AT MACELLAIO RC

    If you've followed me for a while, you'll probably have established that I'm a big meat eater by now (see here, here and here for 'the proof'). You'll know how much I love fried chicken and a bloody good burger - but do you know what my real Achilles heel is? Steak. 

    You just can't beat a perfectly cooked piece of steak, can you? Perfectly seared on the outside and lovely and rare inside (...I think I'm drooling). I'm always on the hunt for my next fix so when I started seeing huge slabs of steak on silver platters plastered across my Instagram feed - I HAD to find out where they were from! 

    Well, a quick Instagram stalk and a google search later, it was revealed - I had to get myself to Macellaio RC. 
    Macellaio RC is one hell of a restaurant - I mean the name literally translates into 'butcher' so already what's not to love? 

    There are four scattered across London and the concept is built around celebrating great Italian ingredients with each branch putting its own individual spin on its meaty menu. 
    The Bankside branch (where we headed) has its very own in-house bakery where they make freshly baked focaccia and pissa breads every day. 

    The 'pissa' (and no, that's not a typo) is allowed to rise for up to 90 hours which helps it pack in the most incredible flavour and texture - but the cheesey focaccia breads are my absolute fav. Stuffed to the brim with delicious strachinno cheese - its light and creamy and perfect washed down with a glass of red wine. 
    What I really love about this place though is the DRAMA! They have an in-house butcher who sits, quite literally on a stage, expertly cutting chunks of meat for the hungry diners. Then for added theatre, your steak knife is thrown down at your place setting minutes before your meat arrives on a GIANT silver platter...
    A quick 1, 2, 3 with the cloche lid and you're presented with a huge slab of perfectly medium rare steak. Seared to perfection on the outside and pink and tender within... 
    There's no fancy sauces or butters - just perfectly seasoned steak, swimming in its own meaty juices.
    For sides, you can't go wrong with a portion of wilted spinach...
    Or some deliciously crisp, fluffy chips! Simple but so, so delicious.

    Now I have to admit, I wasn't overly keen on the dessert to begin with - Basil Panna cotta (savoury puddings don't really do it for me)...
    After a couple of mouthfuls though - once you sort of adjust to the savoury taste - it's quite refreshing and super light (and probably the best way to end your carnivorous feast).
    Dessert aside - I really enjoyed Macellaio RC. Is it the best steak I've had in London? Not quite.... BUT it is pretty bloody good and really reasonably priced too. Oh and highly Instagrammable. Definitely well worth a visit!

    Macellaio RC
    229 Union Street Arch 24, Old Union Yard Arches London SE1 0LR

    * We were invited to review Macelleao RC
    Macellaio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Saturday, 4 November 2017

    COCKTAILS ON BANKSIDE AT HIXTER

    Turn off the alarm, stick James Martin on the telly and stay in bed 'till 11am - because today is Saturday! We have officially made it to the weekend - which means it's time for cocktails, right? Good, because I've got an EPIC cocktail class to share with you. 

    Just a stone's throw from Borough Market, you'll find Bankside - one of London's rising foodie hotspots. It's thriving with new restaurants, bars and cafes making it the perfect destination for Saturday night drinks. 

     In what used to be an old metal factory, Mark Hix has created Hixter, home to a super cool basement bar with exposed brick and metal which serves up some of the most incredible cocktails.

    The lovely team at Bankside bravely invited Tom and I down recently so we could get behind the bar and recreate some of Mark’s renowned cocktails under the watchful eye of the talented Hixter team.  
    To get those creative juices flowing, we were poured a Hix Fix - a delicious blend of English sparkling wine and Somerset Morello cherry liquor before we got down to the real business of cocktail making. 
    Now I know what you're thinking - you've all seen and probably been to cocktail classes before - so what makes this one any different? The fact that the bar-tenders go into in-depth detail about not just the drinks, but the history of alcohol. 

    This is a whistle-stop tour through everything there is to know about the art of cocktail making. You're treated to pearls of wisdom from the passionate team (who clearly LOVE what they do)...from where the name 'cocktail' originated (way back in the prohibition days) through to the weird and wonderful stories behind how some of your favourite drinks came about (more on that later!). Over the course of 90 minutes (which FLYS BY) you'll learn how to make three delicious cocktails. The Hix Fix which you have when you come in, an Espresso Martini and Mark's playful take on the Moscow Mule - the Dorset Donkey! 

    The Moscow Mule is one of my favourite cocktails - do you remember I created a caramel version? I'm a sucker for anything with Ginger Ale! 

    Mark's version is made by muddling Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka with sage, adding Morello cherry Liqueur, a splash of citrus and honey then topping with ginger ale. The Black Cow Vodka is incredibly smooth (because it's made from real milk no less) and creates the most incredibly silky finish!
    Now with all that alcohol knocking about, you'll need something substantial to soak it up - and luckily you're in the right place. 

    Mark Hix is best known for his take on great British cooking. He believes in really championing the provenance of where his ingredients come from and supporting home-grown farmers and producers. This really sings through in his cocktail menu which heroes English sparkling rather than Champagne and Somerset Cider Brandy rather than Cognac - and even more so in his food menu. 

    On the bar Snax menu you're treated to giant Yorkshire puddings served with whipped chicken liver pate, huge salt and vinegar onion rings and super light, aerated chicken scratchings.
    Oh and my absolute favourite - buttermilk fried chicken lollipops which comes served with a super spicy scotch bonnet dip *drool*....
    The cocktail sessions are super hands on too so pay attention because you're expected to get behind the bar and put your skills to the test.

    You'll learn how to find your way around a 'jigger' - who knew there's FOUR different measures on one of those things?!
    And you'll learn the methods behind some of your favourite cocktails so you can re-create them at home. The whole atmosphere is super relaxed and the bar team are on hand to help you when you get stuck (like I did every other ingredient)....The beauty of cocktail making is that there is SO much you can do. Just have fun, experiment with different flavours, give it all a good shake.... 
    and et voila! You'll be a cocktail connoisseur in no time!
    Before I leave you though - I wanted to share one of my favourite stories from the night. All about the origin of everyone's favourite cocktail, the Espresso Martini.

    Now I actually knew this story beforehand but I couldn't help but share it with you. So the story goes, a supermodel (rumoured to be Kate Moss) walked into Soho Brasserie and asked the bar-tender to serve her a drink that would "wake me up and fuck me up" and voila...the espresso martini was born! How fab is that?!
    If you fancy giving the masterclass a try, you can book in Monday to Saturday from 12 – 8pm. For £45 pp, you get the three cocktails above and delicious bar snacks to share! It's best to book in groups so it's well worth rounding up your friends if you fancy something different on your night out.  

    Or if you just fancy popping in for a drink, they don't take reservations but they open early and stay open until late!

    Mark's Bar at Hixter Bankside 
    16 Great Guildford St, London SE1 0HS

    *We were invited to review Hixter

    Hixter Bankside Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato