Saturday, 10 December 2011

2011 Christmas Gift Guide and Chocolate Giveaway [CLOSED]

Green & Blacks Goodies

Christmas is something I've only begun to celebrate at home relatively recently - I'm technically a Buddhist and my family never went in for seasonal gifts.

Because of this, I have a tendency to buy presents whenever the whim takes me, so by the time December comes rolling round, I find I've already got a neat little stockpile of goods to hand out to my nearest and dearest.

So here's a selection of stuff from my stockpile that I think you will like too (and there's a giveaway at the bottom...)

Hotel Chocolat Rather Large Christmas Cracker

Hotel Chocolat Cracker

This was sent to me to review. It's big and well packaged, so home delivery is a safe option. Stuffed with 40 fine chocolates including truffles, pralines and Christmas Mess (sadly wrapped in dingy shades of brown paper), 12 gold paper crowns and some rubbish jokes, this would make a good Christmas party present.

Also, the explosion was so exciting that one of the chocolates flew under my sofa without me realising and so I got a bonus chocolate the next time I hoovered. Who can argue with bonus chocolate?
£38 from Hotel Chocolat online or instore.

Vom Fass Impabile Cream Liqueur Triple Set

Vom Fass Impabile Set

Being Rum Baba girl, the only booze I can really stomach is sweet sweet. I've bought this triple set of vanilla, chocolate and tiramisu liqueur before and it went down very nicely.

If you go to the concessions (eg in Selfridges), there's a wonderland of other spirits, oils and vinegars to try before you buy, and you can choose the bottle stopper. Around
£40 from Vom Fass online or instore.

Sparrow Serving Set

Sparrow Serving Set

I'm obsessed with birds at the moment - my clothes are covered in sparrow and dove prints - even flamingoes.

I really love the look of this utensil set - how gorgeous are they, perched on their branches? On special offer at
£27.99 at Find Me a Gift.
Last orders, standard delivery: 20 Dec, next day delivery: 22 Dec.

Babushka Carafe and Glass

Babushka Bedside Decanter

First came the adorable Matryoshka doll measuring cups - now they have picnic forks, egg timers, tupperware, cruet sets and this - the bedside decanter set.

I bought mine instore but you can order online too. £16.50 in Oliver Bonas
online or instore.

Hot-Headz Chilli Sauces

Hot Headz Chilli Sauces

I really, really want the gallon jug of Tabasco that you can get in Harvey Nichols at the moment, but chilli sauce generally gets me excited.

Hot-Headz have a vast range of sauces in stock ranging from the mild to the ludicrous and prices are very reasonable - £3.99 on average. They've sent me a few to try (not done so yet) but I'll be buying some more as stocking fillers and they have good-looking gift packs too.

Tete de Moine Cheese Set

I once went to Cellar Gascon and we were presented with a cheeseboard of various delights including a frilly, delicate one. I've since discovered that this cheese is called Tete De Moine, and the rosettes are achieved on a contraption called a girolle.

Hubbub can get the set delivered to you from La Fromagerie. £50 from Hubbub, certain London locations only.

Womersley Vinegars

Womersley Vinegars

Womersley Vinegars really are something special - the unusual flavours sing out eg Cherry, Blackberry, Strawberry and Mint.

My favourite are Golden Raspberry & Apache which is stunning in a salad, and Blackcurrant & Rosemary which makes a gorgeous Bramble cocktail.

They do jellies too - and all the packaging is beautiful - I love leaving the bottles out on display. Stockist list at Womersley Foods including Harrods.

Mr P Drip Lick Coffee Mug


How could you not adore this mug? I snapped up two - there's another in the same range which has a pink lipstick mark on it, but this one is my favourite.

I got them for £8 each instore at Urban Outfitters or you can get them for £5.99 at Find Me A Gift.

Larousse Gastronomique

Larousse Gastronomique

Seminal, authoritative, beautiful, and only £20 on the Book People.

Indoor Stovetop Smoker

Mini Smoker

I've just bought the mini indoor Camerons smoker which chef Mat Follas famously used when he won MasterChef in 2009.

It's simple to use (I saw it in service at the Wild Garlic) and works a treat. Woodchips included - £39.49 at Cream Supplies.

Duff Beer

Duff Beer

For the Homer in your life. A TV tie-in that is also quite cool. 24 cans for £24.99 from Firebox.

Camera Lens Mug

Camera Lens Mug

I don't even have an SLR but I can recognise how brilliant this is. The camera "lenscap" acts as a cover or as a coaster. £12.99 at I Want One of Those.



Tea liqueur. Luxurious bottles, enticing flavours. I want the Citrus, or the White Tea and Peach. From £24.99 at Firebox.

Gastronaut Kits

Gastronaut Tookit

If you're familiar with Stefan Gates, the Gastronaut, you'll know he has a few foodie tricks up his sleeve.

These kits (on special offer from only £3.95) will help you replicate the madness. Signed copies of his books are also available at the Gastronaut Shop.

Yummy Dough

Yummy Dough

I was the classic Tartrazine Kid, so I wasn't allowed to play with plasticine, so instead I'd spend ages making freaky sculptures out of real dough.

This is the same - but better, since you can actually bake your creations and eat them afterwards. £7.95 from Prezzybox.

Food Pod

Food Pod

I got this in Lakeland purely because it looks like the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and therefore makes me laugh. Apparently it functions well too - designed to save time when boiling, blanching or steaming foods.

Lakeland don't seem to stock it online anymore, but you can get it for £12.95 from Amazon.

Crispy Doughnut Maker

Doughnut Maker

Robert Dyas stocks all sorts of gadgets including this doughnut maker which is on special offer. It comes with a syringe to inject your doughnuts with jam etc, but I'm thinking savoury and will be using it to make takoyaki.
£19.99 at Robert Dyas online or instore.

Whisky Stones

Whisky Stones

Whisky connoisseurs would probably say you shouldn't drink it cold anyway, but I know a few people who like it on the rocks.

These make it literal - milled soapstone cubes which you freeze and use instead of ice so you don't end up diluting your drink. £12.50 from Whisky Galore for a pack of 9.

Herb Scissors

Herb Scissors

I like to snip foliage onto my meals - fresh herbs are essential in Burmese and other Asian cuisines. And my potato salad isn't right unless it's sprinkled with chives.

These scissors make the job easier - and you could also use them to shred paper. £13.50 from Cox and Cox.

Green & Blacks Selections

Green&Blacks Tasting Collection

Green & Blacks have brought out a range of gift boxes available online or in supermarkets such as the set pictured right at the top, as well as a new flavour Burnt Toffee which I have yet to try.

Their Organic Tasting Collection box contains 24 Miniature Bars - White Chocolate, Creamy Milk, Milk Chocolate, Butterscotch, Almond, Raisin & Hazelnut, Cherry, Ginger, Hazelnut & Currant, Hazelnut, Dark 70%, Dark 85%, plus Tasting Notes.


I'm giving away the Green & Blacks Tasting Collection box mentioned above - just leave a comment with your contact details by midnight Tuesday 13th December if you'd like to enter the random draw. UK readers only, sorry.

EDITED TO ADD: The winner is the Fastest Indian aka @ireenaribena! Thank you everyone for entering. And yes, Vom Fass is a ridiculous name but quite fun to shout.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Lakeland Giveaway - Christmas Cakes and Cookies [CLOSED]


When I was at college, one of the most exciting things to happen to me apart from bumping into Craig Charles was the opening of a Lakeland store.

Because Lakeland really is the closest thing to a real-life Innovations catalogue, and you know how much I loved those. Of course, like an Innovations catalogue, 50% of the stuff is brilliant, inspired and useful, and 50% is utter bobbins.

Bobbins, however, is in the eye of the beholder and whilst it's hard to dispute that this has no earthly point, I'm sure some of you will adore the gadgets which make me squint and say, "Really? I mean, really?".

Take these two items. Literally take them from me.

Because the lovely folk at Lakeland have sent me stuff that implies they think I like baking and I don't. I really don't.


Kransekake Cake Pan Set (rrp £9.99)

A kransekake is a traditional Norwegian dessert made of stacking concentric rings of marzipan cake that's eaten at weddings, Christmas, or New Year's Eve. Many, many layers of cake. Many.

I did toy with the idea of making the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr for a Lord of the Rings extended Blu-Ray marathon, but then realised that this would never, ever happen. The tower, not the marathon.


Christmas Tree Trinket Cookie Cutters (rrp £9.99)

I went through a phase of really wanting some stained-glass window biscuits (with the coloured bit made of jam or melted boiled sweets), but despite this yen, such was my laziness that I just kept hoping one of my colleagues who claimed to "love baking" would make some for me. She never did and we don't work together any more. These things aren't connected though.

Anyway, I now have the means to make them myself with these cute cookie cutters. I could even thread a ribbon through the biscuits and turn them into Christmas tree decorations. Am I going to? Am I hell.



The Cookie Cutters and the Cake Pans count as separate prizes.

If you would like to win either, please leave a comment saying which one you want and your contact details ie your email address or twitter name.

Closing date is midnight on Monday 28th November - the winners will be picked at random. UK readers only - sorry!

EDITED TO ADD: The winners are Miss Whiplash (kransekake pan) and @cj56 (cookie cutters)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Tonkatsu Recipe (Japanese Schnitzel) and Home-Made Panko

Tonkatsu close-up

A lot of people think Japanese food is just raw fish. Whilst sashimi is one of my favourite things to eat, this notion couldn't be further from the truth.

My husband's favourite food from Japan is tonkatsu. A pork cutlet which has been dredged in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs before being deep-fried till it's crisp and golden yet still juicy and without a whisper of grease.

Like tempura, Japan's more famous fried food, tonkatsu actually came from Portuguese traders in the 19th century, and was originally considered to be yoshoku - or Western food - but it has now been firmly adopted as washoku - Japanese cuisine.

Tonkatsu is made with boneless pork loin steaks or chops (with a ribbon of fat if possible), though I sometimes go left-field and use pork loin slices cut for shabu-shabu which makes for a daintier dish.

With a tussock of thinly-shredded cabbage, a dab of yellow mustard, a drizzle of fruity tonkatsu sauce, some pickles and some hot sesame rice, a meal of fresh-fried tonkatsu is irresistible.

Tonkatsu meal


Serves 2

  • 2 pork loin chops or steaks (~200g each)
  • 1 egg
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Plain flour
  • Flavourless oil for deep-frying
  • Quarter of a white or tenderheart cabbage
  • Yellow mustard
  • Tonkatsu sauce
  • Black or white sesame seeds
  • Rice to serve
  1. Shred the cabbage as finely as possible and then soak in cold water.
  2. Wrap the steaks in clingfilm and bash them with a rolling pin, but you're not trying to tenderise - just thin them out a bit.
  3. Lay out one plate of flour, one plate of breadcrumbs and a bowl of beaten egg.
  4. Season one steak generously with salt and pepper. Then dredge it in flour, dip it in the beaten egg, then flour again, then egg again. Lastly coat the steak evenly in the panko breadcrumbs and place on some greaseproof paper. Prepare the other steak in the same way.
  5. Drain the shredded cabbage and put to one side to dry.
  6. Heat three inches of oil in a deep frying pan or wok - check if it's ready by throwing a couple of panko crumbs in and if it goes brown, it's ready.
  7. Place one steak in the oil gently and, turning a couple of times, fry until it goes golden brown - this should take about 6 minutes. Drain on a wire rack or paper towels while you cook the other.
  8. Then serve the tonkatsu immediately with the shredded cabbage, pickles, mustard, tonkatsu sauce for drizzling and rice sprinkled with sesame and salt (gomashio).
Tonkatsu Sando

A tonkatsu sandwich (or sando) is a thing of beauty.

Simply place the fried tonkatsu in between two thick slices of buttered white bread with the shredded cabbage, plenty of tonkatsu sauce, a squeeze of mustard and a squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise.

Or go get one from Tsuru Sushi.

Tonkatsu in Kyoto

Home-made Panko Breadcrumbs

If you can get panko breadcrumbs, perfect, but if not, you can make your own as follows:
  1. Shred four slices of stale white bread in a blender so the crumbs are larger, flaky and more ragged than normal breadcrumbs,
  2. Spread the crumbs across a baking tray and bake at 150 C till dry but not brown - then leave to cool.
  3. Use for tonkatsu or store in a sealed sandwich bag - will keep a few weeks.
Home-Made Tonkatsu Sauce

Tonkatsu sauce is a fruity brown sauce similar to barbecue sauce which adds an essential tangy dimension to the dish.

The brand that everyone uses is Bulldog and you can get this from the Japan Centre and certain other Asian stores, but here's my recipe for home-made tonkatsu sauce.
  • 6 tbsp ketchup
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate syrup or apple sauce (optional)
Mix all the ingredients and dilute with enough cold water to get a consistency like thin maple syrup.

Tonkatsu meal tilted

Monday, 14 November 2011

Roast Pig Cheeks / Char Siu Pig Cheeks

Roast Pig Cheeks 1

A friend of mine who runs my favourite pub* recently told someone that I had some brilliant stir-fry recipes right here on my blog.

I was forced to admit that there weren't any (save Burmese Pork and Beans), partly because I figured most of you lovely readers would know how to make them, but mainly because most of my recipes burble around in my brain and only occasionally make it on-line.

This is one of the recipes that I've been meaning to share for ever, but then I get distracted by a moth or a giant panda.

Pig cheeks. Vaguely fashionable, still cheap as chips, available at canny butchers, Waitrose and Morrisons.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that pig cheeks, like ox cheeks, need to be slow-cooked to be tender and delicious. And though I have been known to braise or stew them, god knows I wasn't blessed with a lot of patience, and so I experimented with cooking them in various ways (even one of those stir-fry jobs) before discovering that they're staggeringly good roasted - and it takes barely any time at all.

Roast Pig Cheeks 2

  • 4 large or 6 small pig cheeks
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Glug of Worcestershire sauce
  • Glass of white wine or cider
Marinade the pig cheeks in the rest of the ingredients except the wine or cider for at least an hour - preferably overnight. Preheat oven to 180 C.

Place pig cheeks on a grill rack with a tray underneath and pour any excess marinade all over. Chuck the glass of booze and a glass of water in the tray, and then place the lot in the top of the oven.

After 15 minutes, check the pig cheeks - they should be starting to go brown and even singe a little, but that’s what you want to see. Turn them over and turn the oven up to 200 C.

10 minutes more and the cheeks should be perfectly tender and roasted with a deep glaze. Cover the cheeks with some foil and leave to rest.

Add some water to the saucy roasted bits left in the tray and reduce into a gravy for the cheeks.

Slice up the cheeks and serve with the reduced sauce, taters, a bit of pickle and some wilted spinach or broccoli.

Roast Pig Cheeks 3

(it's a 2 for 1)
  • 4 large or 6 small pig cheeks
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin, sherry vinegar or rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (optional)
  • Glass of sake, sherry or rice wine

Same cooking instructions as above, but serve with rice, couscous or bulghur wheat and some greens flash-fried with minced garlic and ginger.

I love my Chroma knife, I do

*The Ship in Wandsworth

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Morphy Richards One Cup Review


So you may remember that Morphy Richards asked me to be one of their Home of the Houseproud reviewers. The way it works is they ask me if I'm interested in the gadget of the month and I say yea or nay depending on caprice.

Most recently, they offered to send me the One Cup. Now, I have the brain of a guttersnipe and clearly spend too much time on the internet, so of course I accepted this offer with glee.

In fact, I was this close to getting my sister-in-law to pose with me and the machine, purely so I could post a photo with an appropriate caption, but then I thought that might be going too far for a family-friendly site.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, that's a good thing.


In direct contrast to the beast they sent me last time, the Morphy Richards One Cup is relatively petite and rather curvaceous.

Its concept is simple - it heats and dispenses one cup of water for you in about 30 seconds - so a bit like the long-lost Tefal Quick Cup which I nearly bought before I saw the decidedly mixed reviews.

From the colourful Accents range, the One Cup comes in two parts - the machine proper, and a drip tray which for some unearthly reason doesn't actually slot into the main part. This bugs me.

So you get your mug of water (I don't have a cup), and you chuck it into the reservoir at the top. If you're cack-handed like me, you chuck half the water over the machine and then freak out about short-circuits.


Then you put your teabag etc in the same mug, place it on the stupid drip tray and you press the button.

30 seconds later, after a noise like the one they used to make in the Brook Bond Red Mountain ads, a steaming jet of water fills your mug and your hot beverage is ready. And that's it.


Does it work? Yes, it does.

But to be honest, I can only think of six reasons why you'd want to buy this:
  1. you work in an office where people don't want to make tea for their colleagues;
  2. you're the little old lady who lived opposite my parents and who only ate biscuits;
  3. you have weak wrists;
  4. you lack patience;
  5. you're amused by gimmicks;
  6. you like pretty gadgets.
Because otherwise a kettle is better. A KETTLE IS BETTER.

Sorry Morphy Richards, but it's true.

Talking of kettles, since then I’ve been sent a gorgeous red toaster and and kettle, also from their Accents range.

I have little to say about them except just staring at them makes me happy - oh and they work exactly as they should, so I recommend them both completely in terms of both form and function.


The Accents Pyramid Kettle and Accents 4 Slice Toaster are currently on special offer on Amazon for £39.99 each, and also come in other desirable hues.


Anyway, here's a competition of sorts - my One Cup obviously isn't new any more, and it's too heavy for me to post, so if you know me in real life and would like the One Cup, leave a comment telling me why you want it and the best answer by this Friday 11 November will get it delivered to them in person. Oh yes.

Or the One Cup is £34.99 if you don't know me and want one for yourself (
you can get it in black for the arbitrary price of £29.74).


@LoveYourMorphy on Twitter

It's Ross Kemp! With hair!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Rodizio Rico, Fulham


I used to have this recurring dream that I was at the most glorious buffet. I knew it was a dream as the food looked more beautiful, more luscious, more tempting than anything you could possibly imagine. I'd pile my plate high, and return to my seat, and just as I was about to dig in, I'd abruptly wake up.

I don't think this means anything more profound than the fact that I am a pathetically greedy person. But the only thing I can think of that would be better than a buffet (apart from this one) is an all-you-can-eat that comes to me.


And what an all-you-can-eat - men with meat - wielding huge whacking swords of the stuff (and we're back to the psycho-analysis).

Rodizio-style churrascarias are a real dream; at these Brazilian steakhouses, an endless procession of butch, barbecued meat is brought straight to your table by the dashing passadores and carved onto your plate until you admit defeat.


Rodizio Rico is such an establishment - unlimited 'prime cuts' and a buffet of side dishes costs £23.50, which is great value, especially if you're a glutton like me.


So, I find myself living this dream one balmy summer night.

Before the meaty onslaught, our hungry band visit the buffet to find some authentically stodgy Brazilian dishes like farofa, coxinha, pão de queijo, and bolinho de arroz (rice balls), but also random salads, slightly crummy lasagne and that buffet staple of boiled eggs.


There's even banana frita, deep-fried banana in a crunchy bread coating which is just ... odd (I feel like I've come to the end of a Chinese meal). I'm most enamoured of the dish full of stellar pork scratchings, which I return to on more than one occasion.


With full plates, we sit down on the terrace outside with our cocktails and the meat begins to arrive. Skewer upon skewer of beef, pork and lamb (including some luscious Picanha ie top sirloin) melt in our mouths, having been seared beautifully on a charcoal grill beforehand.

They also produce a mildly disturbing joint of beef oozing with cheese - I don't know why this throws me, as I'll happily eat this combo in a burger.


As well as skewers, the passadores bring us great platters of ribs, steak, lamb chops, chicken wings, and my best beloved chicken hearts - all of them excellent. It's so much fun being waited on like this, and it's tempting to keep going all night.

However, mindful that I''m not wearing elasticated trousers, eventually I find some restraint, and I stop the meatwave by turning round my handy "stop/go" sign to red (to be honest, by that point, I think I've lost the power of speech).


I waddle my way home before desserts arrive to catch the last train - we're in Fulham which is a bit out of the way for me, but there are branches in Islington (where the buffet is "even better" I'm assured), Westbourne Grove and the O2.

I've vowed to visit again the next time the meat-cravings hit. I expect that will be quite soon.

I dined as a guest of Rodizio Rico.

Rodizio Rico
11 Jerdan Place
Fulham Broadway
London SW6 1BE

Rodizio Rico on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

City Caphe, Bank

City Caphe - Banh Mi Close-up

I've just been in Japan for a fortnight and I really didn't want to leave.

But when I was on the plane back to Blighty, I decided to count my blessings, one of which is a little Vietnamese cafe near my office called City Caphe.

City Caphe - Decorations

Open only at lunchtimes, I've got through many a long morning at my desk by day-dreaming about City Caphe's food.

The day-dreaming continues as I wait in their queue which stretches out the door - it's a dratted constant, but it's worth standing there, even in the rain.

City Caphe - Books for browsing

Sometimes I press my nose against the window, Charlie Bucket-like, to stare at the gorgeous steaming dishes that others are already enjoying.

The queue continues to wind inside, but rather charmingly, they have a selection of books for the hungry punters to pass the time.

City Caphe - Summer Rolls

I'm not a bread person, but even I adore City Caphe's banh mi, and their summer rolls are the best I've had (apart from my own) - packed with prawns and herbs, though there's a tofu version for the vegetarians.

They have tubs of fabulously zingy papaya and mango salad which cost about £3 - I always pick one up from the shelves as I wait to be served.

City Caphe - Banh Mi Counter

Their pho is wonderful too - delicious broth which is somehow delicate yet punchy at the same time.

My only quibble is I want more greenery, more bumf to scatter on top - you get a little plastic bag containing a lime wedge, some chilli rings and a a few choice leaves, but this isn't enough to satisfy my lust for foliage.

City Caphe - Lunch!

By far my favourite dish is their bun bo hue - a vibrant, spicy, meaty beef and pork lemongrass broth with fat, round rice noodles.

I invariably order this, with extra napkins as I almost always manage to splatter myself.

City Caphe - Bun Bo Hue again

However, it was City Caphe's first birthday recently, and they celebrated by having a week of specials - one of which comfortably toppled bun bo hue as my beloved.

Pleasingly, it was a dish which I asked them to make as I'd never had it before (the lovely lady in charge is Julie Vu and she's on twitter as @CityCaphe and asked for suggestions) - bun rieu cua - crab noodle heaven.

If I wish very hard, they might make it again, but alas it won't become a regular item on their menu (I am wishing very hard right now).

City Caphe - Bun Rieu Noodles

I've been comforted and excited though to find out that City Caphe have decided to do a couple of special one-off nights to show off their repertoire.

A collaboration with L'Amant Dining, the people behind Banh Mi 11, on Thursday 3rd and Saturday 5th November, they will be feeding some lucky people a frankly fantastic-sounding menu.

I've booked to go on the 3rd - hopefully I'll see some of you there.

City Caphe - Table

City Caphe
17 Ironmonger Lane
Open weekdays 11.30am to 4.00pm

Book their 3rd and 5th November supperclub here

City Càphê on Urbanspoon