E17 Cook Book Club

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Ever since I heard about Thane Prince’s Cook Book Club in Islington, I thought it was a great idea. Being a bit shy I had put off attending, and also I wasn’t sure about taking food to complete strangers for their critique – I had a vision of something between Come Dine With Me meets Bake Off! Thankfully, I had a great evening and will go again.

The concept for the Cook Book Club is simple: it’s a foodie social evening, each person brings some food to share and contributes to cover the cost of the venue. The themes or cook books change – I attended the ‘Wild’ night and took a rabbit pate while other others took foraged fruit jam, bread and potted shrimps.

Recently I raised the idea of having an E17 Cook Book Club in Walthamstow so here we are. The launch of the E17 Cook Book Club will be on Wednesday 19 November, 8-10pm at Bygga Bo Cafe (18 Chingford Road, E17 4PJ). Everyone with an interest in food or passion for cook books is welcome. Please for this first one, bring along a favourite dish to share and maybe a bottle, if you wish. There will will be a £5 contribution to cover the venue hire.

We can discuss and agree the themes for future gatherings – maybe choose a cook book which we all work through together, or themes like Mexican, Tapas or Bread. The plan is to meet every 6 weeks and for it to be … well… fun!

See you on Wednesday

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North Gran Canaria restaurants – a different flavour

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Artisan ice cream in Arehucas

Eating-out in northern Gran Canaria is different in many ways to the south of the island. The southern resorts with their beautiful beaches, shopping centres, hotels, holiday villages, marinas, bars & restaurants are tourist-focussed. Although we found some authentic Canarian food, the restaurants are mainly geared towards the holidaymakers wanting pizza and pasta after a long day on the beach. But the green and leafy north, with its banana and coffee plantations, the capital city of Las Palmas and quieter beaches is where the Canarians live; it’s more local and more multi-cultural. So it makes sense that eating-out would be different too.

Cafes & bakeries: It took us a few days to get into the swing of Las Palmas. The Canarians don’t really go in for breakfast, then about 11am everyone floods out of the offices into the nearest cafe or bakery for jamon bocadillos, tostas, tuna empanadas, croissants and a vast array of cakes and tartas with their cafe con leche. At the weekend this becomes a late brunch as friends and families gather at the local coffee shop.  These shops are cheap, seem to be constantly baking on-site and have a wide range of fresh bread too. Some serve alcohol, they also have fresh juices and smoothies and gourmet tea selections, along with every possible coffee option. They often have free WiFi and leave you in peace to enjoy it. We frequently found ourselves in Xokolat (Leon y Castillo, 225) and the Panaria chain.

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Coffee & cakes at Panaria

Late lunches: In typical Spanish-style, lunch is a 2 or 3 o’clock affair and we often opted for the traditional ‘Menu del Dia’. This 3 course set menu is good value for money in Gran Canaria at only 8-11 Euros. It often includes soup and salad starters, 2 or 3 local Canarian / Spanish meat or fish mains, a dessert or coffee plus a drink – wine, beer etc to wash it down. It gave us a chance to try dishes we might not have ordered – sometimes a  limited menu you can’t read forces you out of your food comfort zone. We tried beef with prawn sauce – which was better than it sounds, chicken slow-cooked in beer, and saltcod fried with loads of potatoes, onions and garlic. Occasionally we decided to treat ourselves to a paella or rice dish, these are always made to order for a minimum of two. We really loved the soupy rice – Arroz Caldoso we ate sitting on the terrace at La Marea (Av. Alcalde José Ramírez Bethencourt), full of langostines, clams and local fish.

It’s all about sharing: Evening eating in the north is a whole different ball game to the south, restaurants open from 8pm and even that’s seen as too early for dinner. To bridge the gap, pinchos and tapas are nibbled.

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Tacos de Pescado with Mojo Verde

When we arrived in Las Palmas we went off to the Mercado del Puerto to immerse ourselves in the Saturday night tapas culture. The old market hall is a hive of drinking and eating, street food is served from small kiosks including pinchos – mini kebab sticks, montaditos – little sandwich towers and plates of seafood. We loved the Tacos de Pescado served with green Mojo Verde sauce at Piscos y Buches in the market hall.

Sharing dominates in the evening – as each dish is brought out, whether it’s steak and chips, a platter of seafood or boards of cheese and ham, everyone dives in and then they order some more. We shared Chocos Fritos at the recommended seaside Restaurante Terraza El Puertillo a 15 minute bus ride outside of Las Palmas.

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Chocos Fritos – fried octopus chunks

We shared in even the most fashionable restaurants, where in London you’d feel embarrassed and obliged to stick to your own plate. In Las Palmas it’s an eat, drink and move on to the next place culture. At the popular but pricey tapas restaurant in Triana, Kano 31 (Calle Cano, 31) we ordered Huevo Escalfado – a poached egg with potato puree, truffle, and mushroom sauce. We weren’t expecting this extravagent looking martini-glass wonder to appear – I thought it was someone’s tiramisu!

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The poached egg disguised as a martini!

We stumbled across La Dispensa (Calle Diderot, 8) when looking for another restaurant nearby. It’s an old shop, the long marble shop counter has been converted into a bar with all the old shop fittings retained and filled with wine bottles. The music plays loudly and it’s full of locals.  We shared an enormous half racion of fresh grilled tuna with potatoes & padron peppers, and then we ordered another 1/2 portion of fried pork with chips.

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Vegetable powered clock at La Dispensa!

Mix of cultures & flavours: The cuisine of Gran Canaria combines traditional Spanish recipes with African and Latin-American influences. Aji, Limon y Canela (Sagasta, 68) is a Peruvian ‘cevicheria’ on the Las Canteras beachfront, specialising in citrus-marinated fish and seafood. We tried the Causa Rellena, a tower of cold, seasoned mashed potato stuffed with prawns, egg and avocado. Las Canteras beach promenade is also the place to sample the amazing milk-free, tropical fruit ice creams including guava, passion fruit and mango.

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Peruvian starter – Causa Rellena

An unusual but traditional Canarian product is gofio made from toasted maize, barely or wheat ground to a fine flour. It is commonly used to thicken soups and sauces or make milk-based desserts. Gofio is cooked in saffron-infused fish stock to make a thick, hot, polenta-type dish called Gofio Escaldado which is served in most seafood restaurants. It’s a nutritious, filling but calorific starter, again shared by everyone at the table.

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Fishy Gofio Escaldado

Hipster places: Finally – the north is just more stylish. It has the hipster places and as Londoners we were missing that in the south. After getting a bit bored of the standard lunchtime offerings we wanted something a bit different. On the seafront at Las Canteras we went to La Bikina Cantina (Paseo de las Canteras, 63). We shared a fresh fig and tomato salad, a delicious seabass ceviche with avocado and soft chicken taco wraps, then a warm chocolate brownie with green tea ice cream, all for only 23 Euros.

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Simple fresh, local figs and tomatoes in a basil vinaigrette

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Mexican inspired chicken tacos with guacamole for 5 Euros

Our coffee shop of choice that we returned to over an over again was El Apartamento (Av. Mesa y Lopez, 1). This arty cafe bar is the perfect place for a coffee & cake break while out shopping, but it’s open all day from breakfast to cocktails. The relaxed atmosphere attracts everyone – old ladies, young hipsters, locals and tourists.

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Cool hangout for coffee or cocktails

Inspired by the food, culture and scenery of Gran Canaria, a trip to the neighbouring Canarian islands is on the menu. Bring on that winter sunshine.

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Our favourite restaurants in Gran Canaria – the south of the island

DSCN6956With 350 days of sunshine a year, an average temperature of 28 C, budget flights from the UK and plenty of self catering accommodation – Gran Canaria ticked all the boxes for our late October holiday. It is one of the 8 islands making up the Canaries, located in the Atlantic Ocean 210 km from the West Coast of Africa. It has a unique micro-climate with mountains and an inactive volcano in the centre, miles of beaches and a Sahara-style desert in the arid south, and banana, mango and papaya plantations in the north of the island.

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Canarian Rancho soup – with chickpeas, goat meat and sweetcorn

It sounded idyllic; but then our pre-holiday research revealed that the south of Gran Canaria is known only for the all-day English Breakfast, burgers and pizzas, Irish pubs and German bratwurst. We found this to be true in part – but if you look hard enough you can find pizzas and pasta homemade by Italians using fresh, local produce, and Canarian locals serving traditional Spanish island cuisine, plus Maspalomas is home to many Scandinavians who know how to run a good coffee shop.

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Turron (nougat) cake

On arrival we went on the hunt for authentic Canarian food. Armed with a map and only a very vague idea of where we should head, we set off in the midday sun – what do they say about mad dogs and the English?! Several arguments later, with our only bottle of water running out, we found the sought after restaurant in the residential area of San Fernando Los Jose’s La Tapita (Calle Placido Domingo 5, Playa del Ingles).  This is the street for authentic local tapas and it became a regular haunt for us. Every visit we kicked off with a selection of tapas from the bar. They only serve a limited menu of 3 starters and 3 mains which change daily. We got a real taste for the the fresh octopus salad, the stuffed mussels and bacalao (cod) with tomato sauce and boiled Canarian potatoes. However the succulent veal T-bone steak was a real show stopper, cooked to perfection. About 20 Euro p/p and with food at this quality and price the queues are out of the door.

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Montaditos and tapas on the bar at Los Jose’s

There’s a strong Italian presence amongst the island’s restaurants. The Tripadvisor current number one place to eat in Maspalomas is just a few doors down from Los Jose’s. Bravo Cocina (Calle Placido Domingo 10) is a small place with only about six outdoor tables so you need to book ahead. A massive slab of fresh tuna was presented to our table on arrival which enticed us into ordering the tuna tartare – a very generous portion served on a puff pastry basket with capers, watercress, melon and confusingly dragon fruit – lovely, but a bit too much. The baked Tomino goats cheese wrapped in bacon and rosemary was simpler. We chose two pasta dishes – boar and venison, again both were large portions. Lovely food but go hungry!

Strangely, in Gran Canaria there seems to be a real love of  shopping centres – they are everywhere from the small to the gigantic, indoor and outdoor, all offering entertainment, supermarkets, shopping, bars and restaurants. There isn’t much at San Agustin except for the beautiful beach and the rather dilapidated, pink concrete Centro Comercial. Having wandered around for a while we stopped when we found a small relaxed Italian cafe/restaurant Pizzissima (Centro Comercial San Agustin, Calle de las Dalias 51). On the board outside were the magical words ‘homemade black pasta with seafood’ – that’s me sold!

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Homemade black pasta with garlic and fresh clams at Pizzissima

The more fine dining Piccola Italia (Centro Commercial San Agustin, 2a Planta Loc, 156 Pasillo Interno) was another restaurant that we loved, especially as they serve gluten-free bread, pasta, pizza, desserts and beer – oh, and more rare tuna.

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Fresh tuna at Piccola Italia

We also found a dairy-free ice cream at a new Italian ice cream shop, Cacoa in San Agustin. Gran Canaria caters for special dietary requirements and the supermarkets have a large range of free-from products.

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Homemade ice cream at Cacao

Being foodies we wanted to make sure that we had tried all the gems before we headed to the north of the island. A quick Google search flagged up a place nearby called A. Gaudi by Patrick Hartl (Calle Cuba 3, El Tablero) which gets rave reviews on Tripadvisor. This was an experience in many ways – the food was well executed but the service, decor and ambiance is eccentric and at times left us in fits of giggles. We went for the 4 course set menu which for 29 Euros pp was a bargain and included grilled green asparagus, potato soup served with mushroom croissant, and melt in the mouth beef and pork with carrot puree and black pasta. Highlight was the dessert, a fantastic hot chocolate & passionfruit fondant with carmelised kumquat and a smiley-face lollypop! On a serious note the cooking was probably Michelin quality – go for the food.

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Tender beef and pork main course at A.Gaudi – not sure about the black pasta

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Amazing dessert – smiley lollypop!

Back to Canarian food; so in a car park down the back of Arguineguin fishing port we found the Cofradia Pescadores de Arguineguin (Muelle Pesquero de Arguineguin) which is the Cooperation of Fishermans’ restaurant. We went early as it gets busy on a Sunday lunch with Canarian families and Spanish tourists – how many people other than locals would order a whole fried octopus and spend lunch chopping it to pieces! Our choices seemed tame in comparison, we had soup packed with seafood and chunks of fish, pan-fried John Dory and the local fresh fish, Choka.

After a week in Gran Canaria, we’ve found that the tourist resorts in the south of the island have much more to offer than we expected. Off now to the north to explore what’s on their menu.

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Rather fresh tuna!

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Puerto de Mogan

 

 

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The Culpeper – Spitalfields E1

IMG00574-20140928-1159Next to the magnificent Toynbee Hall, on a busy corner of Petticoat Lane and Commercial Street, The Culpeper is a recent refurbishment of an old East End Spitalfields boozer. It’s now a brasserie style gastropub with stripped back oak doors, large industrial windows, reclaimed lighting, retro furniture, a long turquoise leather couch, and a zinc-topped central bar with ceramic beer taps – oh, and a rooftop veggie garden!

IMG00575-20140928-1200The chef Sandy Jarvis, previously at Terroirs has created a menu that’s a mix of traditional British and French, using seasonal ingredients.

IMG00576-20140928-1228We tried out the Sunday lunch this weekend after a shopping trip through Petticoat Lane market. Starting out with the complimentary sourdough and homemade anchovy butter, followed by a whole globe artichoke with a fantastic warmed crab butter to dunk the leaves in.

IMG00577-20140928-1231They only offer one Sunday roast  – this week it was chicken served with red cabbage, Yorkshire pudding, roasties, a rich, fruity gravy and bread sauce (which I really can’t see the point of). The meat is from The Ginger Pig butchers – so, well looked-after animals and flavoursome meat, but I thought the portion was slight for £16 and would have been better value with some extra vegetables. There was one other meat dish and a veggie alternative.

IMG00578-20140928-1257The other foodie opted for the salt beef Pot au Feu (£14). We were expecting a rich meat stew having never had this dish before, but it turns out this classic French family favourite included 3 generous, thick slices of brisket with turnip, potatoes and spinach boiled in a light broth.  It was served with a little pot of cornichon and fresh horseradish relish.

IMG00579-20140928-1258This is a lovely place for dinner, after work drinks, weekend brunch or Sunday lunch (you need to be early or make a reservation). It has a relaxed ambiance and efficient, friendly staff. There’s a couple of real ales on tap, a wide choice of bottled, local-sourced craft beers, and a long wine list but the soft drinks choices are a bit limited. The total lunch bill with drinks and service for 2 was about £50 – reasonable for the inventive cooking and the quality ingredients in this tourist-heavy area of the East End.

The Culpeper
40 Commercial Street
E1 6LP
020 72475371

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Windfall Green Tomato Chutney

DSCN6686Our lovely neighbour dropped off a whole shoebox of green tomatoes, meaning only one thing – windfall chutney! For years my mum has made green tomato chutney in a bid to use up the last fruit on the vines from my dad’s greenhouse. This year he’s also grown an abundance of over-sized ridge cucumbers too – so we’d got a load of these. And there was the red grapes dying in the fridge…

DSCN6693…also not forgetting the big bag of chillies from the market for a bargain £1, a sack of onions from the Turkish supermarket for £1.09 plus apples from our neighbours tree. So we decided all this could be transformed into a spicy, fruity chutney –  just a few jars to see us through the winter.

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First thing to do is prepare your jars and lids – make sure they’re spotlessly clean by washing in hot, soapy water. Then pour boiling water into the jars and let them sit for a few minutes before pouring the water out and letting them dry. Alternatively put them on a hot dishwasher cycle.

This recipe will make about 4 jars. It is an economical and flexible recipe – the amounts  are approximate and the veggies/fruits are easily variable.

You need:

  • 1.5kg green tomatoes
  • 4 large apples
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 3 large onions
  • 100g sultanas or grapes
  • 25og brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 chilli peppers (de-seeded)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 600ml vinegar

Method:

Core and chop the apples and put them into a large pan. Add the roughly chopped cucumbers (de-seeded), tomatoes, onions and chillies (de-seeded).

Next add the sultanas, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger and vinegar.

DSCN6695Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour, giving it a stir occasionally to stop it sticking. Then spoon into the jars and seal.

This chutney is best left for a month and will keep for up to a year. As well as being a vital part of a tasty ploughman’s salad or a mighty cheese sandwich, chutney also makes a great fruity addition to a winter veggie stew or in a meat or lentil curry.

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Coffee & cakes in E17

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Swedish Midsummer strawberry cake @ Bygga Bo

We have our old-favourite coffee shops, the new ones that we just love and those that we just occasionally pop into for a quick takeaway coffee before jumping on the tube. So after lots of difficult reseach & tasting, we have put together our list of the coffee shops in E17 that we think are well worth a visit! Oh and we’re stating upfront before our inbox falls over with protests, this list is just OUR opinion – go out and try them for yourselves.

Hoe Street in Walthamstow is like running the ‘cake’ gauntlet. It takes strong willpower every morning to make it to the station without emerging from one of the many coffee shops with a latte and cake. Scrap that. Let’s be real, we have to walk the back-route otherwise we would be in Oasis or L’Hirondelle until lunchtime, quietly munching through their delicious cakes – a particular favourite is the almond eclairs oozing with custard!

Have fun working through this list:

  • 56 St James  – The first Hackney-style hipster cafe in the Stow – a blackboard wall and graffiti art. Serving flat whites and espressos using Nude Coffee, toasted sandwiches and salads (56 St James’ Street, E17 7PE)
  • Aura Rosa Cakes at Mother’s Ruin Gin Factory  – Delicious flamboyant cakes and patisseries served up alongside small-batch fruit gin liquers and cocktails – what more is there to say! (Unit 18, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, E17 9HQ)
  • Bygga Bo – Swedish cakes and open sandwiches, including the popular cinnamon buns. Excellent coffee, teas and juices and a sunny garden and art space at the back. Lots of tempting home ware & clothes shopping too (8 Chingford Road, E17 4PJ)
  • Cafe Bonito - Daily changing Mediterranean menu. Homemade cakes and churros (doughnuts) washed down with thick, dark, sweet Spanish hot chocolate – like a rich chocolate soup!  (162 Wood Street, E17 3HX)
  • Deja Vu – Bulgarian cafe with a hidden back garden full of sofas for the smokers. Serve lovely lattes and toasties. Good place for people-watching as they wander up and down the market in the summer (75a High Street, E17 7DB)
  • Golden Rustic Deli - Romanian deli shop, bakery and small cafe. Strudel, rum cakes, bread and pretzels all freshly baked at the glass fronted bakery on site. They also serve daily specials and soups (228 Hoe Street, E17 3AY)
  • Le Delice – An old favourite. Big cappuccinos, 3 x daily specials and North African tagines, fresh juices, ice creams and highly recommended pizzas. Bonus of free WiFi. Beautiful special occasion cakes made to order (114 Hoe Street, E17 4QR)
  • L’ Hirondelle – Long-standing, unpretentious local hangout making great coffee from an iconic Italian Elektra coffee machine. Enticing homemade pastries and cakes at reasonable prices – our favourites are the macaroons and almond eclairs. Watch the short-film of behind the scenes with Milo the Baker  (160 Hoe Street, E17 4QH)
  • Niyazi Usta - The new Turkish bakery (actually it’s a baklavaci) with a tempting array of savoury pastries including gozleme (stuffed pancakes) and of course amazing baklava – the walnut and pistachio ones are totally yum! (254 Hoe Street, E17 3AX)
  • Oasis  – Great coffee and homemade pastries and cakes. Roadside garden terrace for people watching or air-conditioned interior including an internet cafe. One of the cheapest places in the Stow – only £1.3o for a latte (152 Hoe Street, E17 4QR)
  • Tierra Madre – Alessandro serves up Italian coffees and the best almond croissants ‘to go’ from his animal-sculpture covered coffee kiosk at Walthamstow Central tube station (Selbourne Walk)
  • Windmill  – Madeiran /Portuguese cafe & tapas restaurant serving Pastel de Nata custard tarts and good coffee, a little Iberian holiday escape (18 High Street, E17 7LD)
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    56 St James’

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    Flat White @ 56

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    Fresh Danish pastry and lattes @ Oasis

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Chocolate & Guinness cake @ Aura Rosa at the Mothers Ruin Gin Factory

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Old Italian copper coffee machine @ L’Hirondelle (always reminds me of a Dalek!)

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Spinach gozleme and baklava @ Niyazi Usta

 

 

 

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It’s raining cakes!

DSCN6630We arrived home one evening this week soaked to the skin – squelching sandals and soggy T-shirts and jeans. What happened to the summer sunshine?

So – time to bake a comforting ‘cheer-me-up’ cake. A quick raid of the fridge and cupboards identified some likely / possible cake ingredients – carrots, blueberries, dates, yogurt – but there were no eggs in the house?!

And here was the dilemma – get soaked again running to the shop to buy eggs or risk an egg-free cake disaster. One glance at the rain bucketing it down made the decision easy – egg-free cake it is. After a bit of an internet search and a few tweaks of our own this recipe, once triple tested, was declared a success. It’s light, delicious and feels quite virtuous, being wheat and butter-free too. We also experimented with adding poppy seeds which worked well. It seems to last a few days (well it would if one of the foodies didn’t keep scoffing it) and is great with a coffee or served up with warming custard or cooling ice-cream – depending on the summer weather!

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Yogurt & blueberry cake (egg-free)

You need:

250g Spelt (or plain) flour
1.5 tsp Baking powder
0.5 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
60ml Olive oil
pinch Salt
60ml Milk
125g Yogurt
150g Sugar (plus more for the topping)
1 Vanilla pod
1 tbsp Lemon juice
190g Fresh blueberries (or any other berries)
zest 1 Lemon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease with olive oil or line with silicon / baking paper a large loaf tin.

Put 3 tablespoons of the flour in a small bowl and add the blueberries, wrapping each one in flour will stop them all settling at the bottom of the cake when it’s baking.

In large bowl sieve the remaining flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in the lemon zest and set it aside.

Whisk the oil and sugar together, then add the yogurt and milk and briefly whisk again. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla essence.

Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and fold together until everything is well mixed. Now add the blueberries and any remaining flour and stir together.

Spoon the batter into the tin and bake at 180 C for around 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and let the cake cool.

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The Ferry Boat Inn – Tottenham Hale, N17

20140524_161340Like lots of Walthamstowers, one of the foodies was caught out on Friday night by the tube disruption and was forced to do the long walk home across the reservoirs from Tottenham Hale. But this reminded us that we’ve been meaning to post for ages about The Ferry Boat Inn.

The old inn has been trading for over 250 years at the crossing of the River Lea, and after a recent major refurbishment the place looks great. Tottenham isn’t exactly famous for its drinking establishments, so with its winter log fires, stone-flagged floors, oak beams and large garden for a summer’s evening overlooking the reservoir, this is like escaping to a local country pub (even if it’s the chain version).

The drinks include some interesting craft and real ales, wines from about £3.50 a glass, and a wide range of soft drinks. The food is reasonably priced with an emphasis on pub classics of steaks, sausage & mash, burgers and scampi & chips. There’s a Spice Night special on Wednesdays when curry and a drink will only set you back £7.75.

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We opted for the classic 7oz beef burger in a brioche bun with tomato & jalapeno relish and an upgrade to sweet potato chips for £8.85 served up on a wooden board. It was simple, happy pub grub – nothing more or less. But the unexpected winning meal was from the ‘under 500 calories’ range.  This was a plate loaded with the Superfood Salad – shredded beetroot, edamame beans,  cucumber, tomato, mixed leaves, coriander, spring onion, radish and pomegranate served up with a tasty 8oz chargrilled rump steak. Not bad for only 490 calories! (£10.45).

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We keep saying we’ll go back for the all day Sunday Roast – with a tasty sounding 35-day aged rib eye of beef for £10.95 or pork or turkey and all the trimmings for £9.95. We’ll let you know how we get on.

Ferry Boat Inn
Ferry Lane
London
N17 9NG

Tel: 0208 8084980

 

 

 

 

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Bygga Bo – Scandinavian cafe

DSCN6491We love Bygga Bo (meaning ‘to make a nest’) – how did we live without it? We waited months for it to open, and when it did we were there! It’s in an old hairdresser’s shop just near The Bell. The décor is a comfortable mix of modern and vintage, complete with original mirrors, brass panelled ceiling and even the old hair perming heaters converted into lights.

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Malin and Eva serve good coffee in pretty cups and our Saturday morning indulgences include sourdough toast with jam & butter, their popular cinnamon buns and the quinoa porridge topped with fresh pomegranate.

Bygga Bo 2There’s a good range of Swedish teas and bottled juices, but I’m a fan of their fresh smoothies!

DSCN6529But there’s more to this place than breakfast; just pop in for a cinnamon bun and a coffee and be prepared to fall in love with a pair of Swedish clogs, the Skandi designer homeware, cute kids clothes, Fjallraven bags or the beautiful toiletries…

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DSCN6494There’s also one-off events – art exhibitions, live music afternoons … We really enjoyed welcoming in the Midsummer with homemade schnapps and tongue-twisting Swedish drinking songs! Marinated herrings, potato salad and meatballs, and fresh strawberry cake also added to the traditional evening.

DSCN6567If you thought this place couldn’t be more bang on trend, The East London Cheese company has kicked off a weekly Saturday residence in the garden. We highly recommend the Drunken Burt – a stunning washed Cheshire, the buffalo milk Pendragon, and the Fosseway Fleece ewe’s milk cheese from Somerset.

DSCN6569And if you find yourself still lingering there at lunchtime … try the open sandwiches – meatball with beetroot; smoked salmon & horseradish, and exciting toasties – butternut squash & blue cheese; ham, cheese & mustard or cheese, tomato & basil butter. There are also specials … the quinoa, butternut squash, pomegranate & feta salad is lovely.

Bygga Bo 1So when you’ve done your shopping, bought your cheese and had a lovely breakfast or lunch in the decked garden … a cheeky pint is only a couple of doors away at The Bell – what a great start to the weekend!

Bygga Bo
8 Chingford Road
E17 4PJ
Open: 9am -5pm, daily
twitter.com/byggabo

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Sodo – Sourdough pizza cafe

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Fancy an amazing pizza this weekend? Get yourself to Sodo in Clapton or in the George & Vulture pub in Hoxton (they have a branch in Honor Oak Park – but that’s south of the river!).

We went to the Clapton ‘pizza cafe’ on a Saturday night earlier this year and it was packed – you’ll need to reserve a table. It’s only a small place, squeezing in about 25 people at an array of high tables, small tables and counters. The service is lovely and so is the home-made ginger beer! They also offer wine from Borough Wines and local Hackney beers from Beavertown, the Kernel and the London Fields Brewery.

So a few weeks ago we tried the Hoxton version. This is housed within the George and Vulture – a big Victorian boozer on the edge of Shoreditch.  They offer a good range of real ales on the pumps and a wine list from £15.

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The menu is short and very reasonably priced especially considering the authentic Italian or locally sourced ingredients that they’re using. In Clapton, but unfortunately not available in Hoxton, the sides include a bowl of mixed Nocellara, Queen Green & Botija olives for £3.50 and a green salad from local Growing Communities farmers market (£4).

SoDo 6At both places they have a sliced meat plate from local curers Picco Salumi with sourdough and pickled cucumber slices for £6, and our favourite indulgence – the heavenly (but sinful) cream-filled, fresh mozzarella Burratina with olive oil and basil (£5).

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But what about the pizza? Well, on a light and crispy sourdough base they have some great veggie options including the Sunny Goat – goats cheese, sun dried tomato & rocket, and the Lorena – mozzarella, butternut squash, rosemary, feta & pine nuts for only £8.

For a couple of quid more there’s the meaty versions, such as the Dirty Boy – topped with caramelised onions, mushrooms & smoked pancetta, or the Cured Meat – salami Napoli, salami Calabrese, Parma ham & chilli. In Hoxton there was also a fishy Jon Bon Chovy – anchovy, olives, capers, & chilli.

Plus there are weekly specials; we had a fiery London Sexy with ‘Nduja’ – a spicy, spreadable pork and roasted pepper Calabrian salami. As a gluten-free alternative in Hoxton they also offer the pizza toppings baked a butter bean stew. 

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the pizza as it was so good!

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For dessert there was a choice of the Italian classics of Tiramisu or espresso coffee & ice cream Affogato for only £4.

Sodo Clapton
126 Upper Clapton Road
E5 9JY
020 8806 5626

Sodo Hoxton
The George & Vulture
N1 6BU
020 7253 3988

Sodo Pizza Café on Urbanspoon

 

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