Wednesday, 26 August 2020

A PERFECT SUMMER WEEKEND IN DüSSELDORF (IN TIMES OF COVID 19)

I love my annual summer trip to my home city of Dusseldorf in Germany and though said trip was, well very different, than last year’s in times of Corona this August, it was still an absolutely delightful weekend, full of wonderful experiences. 


Indeed, the Germans have nailed the ‘new normal’ - from hotels, to restaurants to work out classes, everywhere I went providing a save and clean experience which managed to retain the joy all these things usually offer, even if they now included a little more distance and discipline.


WHERE TO STAY: ME AND ALL HOTELS 

Me And All Hotels has always been, hands down, my favourite hotel in Dusseldorf, in my eyes nailing its  affordable yet boutique accommodation concept and Corona hasn’t changed that. 

Rooms are, as always, meticulously clean, with a few tweaks for the new age that we live in. Indeed the remote comes wrapped in plastic and disinfected, for your use only, and the hotel breakfast buffet, a highlight of any hotel stay for me, has been kept alive here by cleverly offering single serving juice bottles, indiviudal cutlery sets to take by the entrance and of course compulsory mask wearing once you leave your table. 

Yes, at Me And All Hotels they do tick all the boxes in terms of Covid 19 safety but they have also managed to keep that hotel magic alive, that magic for which you stay at a hotel at in the first place, a little escape from reality and the flats we have been confined to for so long that we can all do with right now. 


WHERE TO SWEAT IT OUT: BECYCLE 


I am not going to lie, living in London I am very spoiled when it comes to the sheer choice of boutique fitness classes available to me - Barry’s and 1Rebel for running and Psycle, Soulcycle and Boom Cycle for some kick ass spinning. That is not quite how the situation has been in Dusseldorf, where I have always been annoyed in the past by the complete lack of good workout classes available.

Hallelujah then for BECYLE, located literally opposite Me And All Hotel in the centre of Dusseldorf, a new super state-of-the-art spinning, barre, hiit and reformer pilates boutique studio which has finally revolutionised how Dusseldorf locals can work out.

The whole space and spinning studio in particular is stunning and the staff lovely, with classes taught in English which makes this a destination for any visitor to the city! 

My 45 minute spinning class was pretty hard and sweat inducing (of course with all the precautions taken, every second bike empty etc.) but fuelled by a great instructor and banging soundtrack and the locals here are very lucky to finally have such fab workout concept and boutique studio in Dusseldorf, I will be back for sure! 


WHERE TO EAT:

Essentially all Dusseldorf eateries are back open for business, with most utilising outside space during the summer months for al fresco dining, but even when we did sit inside (there were one or two torrential downpours during my weekend there) tables were kept consistently far enough apart, waiters wore masks and we had to leave our contact details wherever we went which meant eating out felt safe and enjoyable, precautions not taking over the enjoyment of eating out!


THE FAVOURITE: MüNSTERMANN KONTOR 

Münstermann Kontor is without a doubt my favourite restaurant in Dusseldorf, always impressing with its seasonally changing menu that rightly holds a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Their menu is still vast but they have opened up the restaurant front and added lots of outside tables which makes the previously always heaving dining space actually a lot more pleasant! A must visit. 


THE NEW DISCOVERY: CAFE DE BRETAGNE 


Cafe De Bretagne, a quintessentially French bistro, is all kinds of fabulous - affordable seafood platters, gorgeous bread, great wine and wonderful staff, plastic dividers used inside that you barely notice and in no way take away the charm of the wonderful new discovery!


BEST SPOTS FOR DRINKS:


EN DE CANON 

En De Canon, a great new wine bar right by the Rhine, serves a fantastic selection of German and Swiss wines and has a wonderfully spacious outdoor terrace, away from the crowds of the old town, that is ideal for people watching. A new favourite.


CHéRIE 


Chérie pre corona was a crowded hipster bar that me and mum always loved going to for an after dinner drink. It hasn’t lost it’s buzz but now has tables spilling onto a cobbled old town side streets which adds a touch of Paris bistro charm to this place and has made me love it even more!

Monday, 24 August 2020

THE MOST LUXURIOUS SEAFOOD GNOCCHI


This dish is proper indulgence on a plate. 

Fresh white crab meat, juicy king prawns and plump potato gnocchi in a creamy white wine sauce, finished off with a good helping of parmesan, all topped offwith a sprinkle of parsley. 

Yes, it tastes as good as it sounds and surprisingly takes less than half an hour to prep and plate up. A perfect Friday night dinner party dish that will leave everyone wowed without stressing you out in the making and leaving your kitchen in a state of chaos. 

A must try for any seafood lovers and a new favourite of mine, sure to be added to the regular repertoire! 

FYI: I got my crab from a fab proper East-end fishmonger on Essex Road, Steve Hatt, but Waitrose also does a good white crab, not cheap at £5.99 per 100g pot, but hey a fillet steak would cost a hell of a lot more and here the crab really elevates the dish to the next level!

Serves 3

INGREDIENTS

  • 600g gnocchi
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1½ c. white wine
  • 1¾ c. heavy cream
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 c. Parmesan 
  • 250g king prawns, cooked
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 300g white crab meat
  • parsley for garnish

METHOD
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. 
  • Once the water is boiling, add the Gnocchi to the pot and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes. 
  • Once all the gnocchi has floated to the top of the pot, remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and turn to a large bowl and cover with a paper towel.
  • To make the sauce, melt the tablespoons of butter on medium heat in a deep and large shallow pan. 
  • Once the butter has melted, add the chopped shallot and cook for 3-5 minutes until the shallots become translucent. 
  • Add the minced garlic and cook the garlic for about 2 minutes until it becomes fragrant.
  • Add 1 cup of white wine to the garlic and shallots and allow to simmer until reduced by half. 
  • Add the other half of the wine and simmer for 2 minutes and add the heavy cream. 
  • Allow the cream to simmer for 3-5 minutes. 
  • Add the parmesan, squeeze in the half a lemon, and stir. 
  • Turn the sauce down to simmer while occasionally stirring so the milk and cheese don't stick.
  • In the shallow pan with the sauce, add the gnocchi, crab meat, and cooked shrimp and simmer together for 5-7 minutes. 
  • Serve and garnish with parsley.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

A GUIDE TO MARGATE


What a strange summer it has been. Far flung holidays have of course been out of the question and many planned European getaways were cancelled at the last minute due to the rather unpredictable (and in my eyes pointless) quarantine rules imposed at the drop of a hat by our government.

This did however result in a soaring rise in the popularity of the good old British seaside town, with thousands flocking to UK beaches as temperatures sky rocketed, with the aim to get even the smallest hint of a summer holiday and I myself couldn’t help but want to escape London’s heat and mundanity that working from home inevitably evokes even if it was just for the day.

I am of course a big fan of Kent seaside town Deal, still hidden from the masses, and recently returned there with my friend Leah for a day out at their pebbly beach, enjoying their wonderful array of culinary options (find my full Deal guide here) but I wanted more and Margate, a now rather hipster friendly seaside town also in Kent, had been on my list of places to visit for a while.

So, on a Friday a few weeks ago, actually as it turned THE hottest day of the year, I had taken the day off work and decided to go on a solo trip to Margate.

Sounds a little sad but actually it turned out to be the best day - I could do what I want, eat wherever I wanted to and ended up befriended locals and fellow day tripper so never felt lonely or bored.

Margate for sure is a little more buzzy than Deal and there were some rather loud and trashy characters that made for hilarious people watching as the day went by and their alcohol levels rose, but Margate’s sandy beach was wonderful, the quick journey time (under an hour and thirty from Kings Cross) a dream and their culinary options on parr with what you can find in London.

I urge to use the last few hot summer weekends this year to get yourself down to Margate, you won’t regret it and with a few of my below trips you won’t struggle to find some wonderful places to walk, eat and drink!


GETTING THERE: A off peak return is under £30 and you will get you there in about 1 hour and 27 minutes from Kings Cross - don’t be a dick and wear your mask on the train though!

FYI: Once you arrive, it is a short walk into town from Margate’s main train station and everything is pretty much in walking distance from there. There is a huge Morrison’s a 7-minute walk from the beach for all your picnic needs - though be warned they do not have a chilled booze aisle!


EATING & DRINKING

FOR FANCY BEACH SIDE DRINKS: LITTLE SWIFT



There are some pretty trashy pubs lining the sea front that will serve you up a decent pint but if you are after a bit more of a sophisticated tipple Little Swift will tick all the boxes!

There are Aperol spritz’s to take away, a fine selection of rosé’s and even better a fantastic selection of my new obsession (and that of just about everyone in East London), orange wine. Service is friendly and altogether Little Swift is the perfect spot to run to in-between beach dips for drink top ups.


FOR FANTASTIC ITALIAN FOOD AND GREAT SERVICE: BOTTEGA CARUSO



After plenty of sun, some fancy fizz and crisps, I was in the need of a good lunch and my colleague Abi, who had more or less made my Deal seaside adventure with her amazing tips, had sang Bottega Caruso’s praises, so much so that I simply HAD to go!

And this proper Italian deli / restaurant was definitely worthy of her kind words. The menu is concise but confident and my burrata bruschetta was bursting with fresh flavours from the tomatoes, fragrant pesto, burrata and lightly toasted ciabatta, turning into something quite special - the sort of less is more confident Italian cooking that shines without having to try too hard.

Service was also outstanding with my waitress, having been stranded in the UK by Corona, not able to return to her previous job as tourist guide in Italy, being a total star and leaving me with a list of things to do and see before she sent me off one Aperol spritz and bruschetta happier.

Whether you go like me for lunch, for dinner or just for a quick nibble and drink, Bottega Caruso is truly a piece of dolce vita in the heart of Margate’s cobbled lanes - full of wonderful food, drinks and staff, leaving you altogether with a big smile on your face!


FOR BEACH SIDE DINNER THAT GOES BEYOND FISH & CHIPS: BUOY & OYSTER


Now really, I should have had some traditional fish & chips or fresh seafood at Angelina’s, a bistro by the seaside which came highly recommend by my wonderful waitress at Bottega Caruso and my friend Olli who had been there the week before, but being by myself and it also being the hottest day of the year I wanted to keep things chilled and was after a takeaway of some sorts to eat straight on the beach instead.

Ahead of the trip I did some research and came across the Buoy & Oyster, a well-regarded fish restaurant, putting modern twists on classics at their sea front restaurant. Due to Covid they also started to do takeaway, offering some inventive seafood dishes like amazing sounding chilli garlic prawn loaded fries, build your own seafood platters, fresh lobster & crayfish rolls or what I eventually settled for - their utterly outstanding locally caught crab loaded fries with yuzu mayo and dill, a main course size portion, generously topped with crab, which was a total bargain £8, and was ordered online and ready to be picked up from their contact less collection point in under 30 minutes.

Indeed, I was a little sad, for the only time that day to be honest, to be day tripping alone, the menu sounding so good that I want to go back to Margate if only to try more of their outstanding offering. Not your average fried seafood to have by the beach and i am ALL for it.



FOR ROOFTOP DRINKS TO TAKE IN THE SURROUNDINGS: BARLETTA MARGATE


Another insider tip from the best waitress Margate has to offer was Barletta, a slightly hidden rooftop bar, accessed just off the sea front, near the main train station, that had a real air of east London rooftop, yes, we are talking vintage vibes and DJs playing their tunes, but instead of London fields here you get a proper panoramic birds eye view of Margate’s coastline and the busy beach as the sun sets. 

A perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink and a place to get away from the crowds a little to take in Margate from a new perspective.


AND LASTLY: TAKE A WALK TO THE WHITE CLIFFS


Make sure you take an hour or so walk towards the chalk cliffs along the Viking coastal tray and towards some way less busy stretches of the beach. No route needed just stroll for however long your legs will take you (and knowing you will have enough energy to make the same distance back).

Thursday, 13 August 2020

KIMCHI CHEESE TOASTIES WITH NORI CHIPS & WASABI MAYO

Talk about modern fusion! Here quintessentially Asian ingredients - Korean staple kimchi and Japanese sushi essentials nori, sesame seeds and wasabi, meet the Western comfort food classics that are the cheese toastie and your all round pleasing oven chips. Sounds weird to you? Well once you try these combos you will wonder how you have lived without them thus far! 

I mean, I already knew that kimchi and cheese make for an irresistible duo (I still dream of that wonderful kimchi mac n cheese I made in the depths of lockdown) but WOW add kimchi to your classic grilled cheese, if you are American, or cheese toastie, if you are a Brit, and the end result is quite next level. 

Spicy and crunchy kimchi is married with a gooey and cheesy mix of cheddar and Gruyere, all sandwiched between wonderfully thick slices of crusty sourdough (go for quality here, I love Gail's or the Dusty Knuckle Bakery), which on the outside has been spread with an indulgent garlic sesame butter, turning golden when the finished sarnie hits the pan for a final sear. 

Without a doubt one of the best sandwiches of my life and so impressive tasting and looking that you can easily dish this up for a dinner, though of course this is also the perfect kind of hangover cure, an 'eating on the sofa, watching Netflix' kinda dish that will always hit the spot. 

Now the fries, again to the Western diner they may sound weird but after having had some nori sprinkled fries at Rapsa @ 100 Hoxton during my first dinner out post lockdown (more on that experience to follow) I simply HAD to try and recreate them at home! 

Why? Well the shredded nori sheets, pounded down with chilli flakes, sesame seeds, sugar and salt is just about the perfect salty and complex seasoning for a tray of golden brown oven fries and makes them so so moorish, even better when you have wasabi mayo to dunk them into, which rival truffle mayo when it comes to my favourite kind of fry or chip condiments. 

Overall this is the perfect Asian fusion main course that is easy to make but all kinds of satisfying, full of flavour and a little surprising for your dinners, after all they are not likely to have ever had this kind of chips and sandwich combo before!


KIMCHI CHEESE TOASTIES

Makes 2 toasties

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tablespoons Gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
  • 4 slices thick cut sourdough bread
  • 1 cup kimchi (if you want to go all out why not try my homemade kimchi recipe)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup gruyere, grated
  • fresh chives, for serving

METHOD

  • In a small bowl, mix together the butter, sesame seeds, and garlic.
  • Spread the outside of each slice of bread with sesame garlic butter. 
  • On the inside of half of the slices of bread spread with Gochujang, then evenly layer the cheeses, kimchi, and basil. 
  • Add the top piece of bread, buttered side facing up.
  • Fry in a pan, one at a time, until golden on each side, about 3-5 minutes per side. 
  • Serve topped with chives.


SESAME NORI CHIPS WITH WASABI MAYO

INGREDIENTS 

  • 2 nori sheets (dried seaweed)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 700g oven chips
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Japanese)
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi

METHOD

  • Cook your chips according to package instruction, leaving at least 35-40 minutes so that they brown nicely
  • Cut your seasoned seaweed into matchsticks.
  • Add matchsticks to a bowl then add the sesame seeds, chilli flakes, sugar and salt.
  • Using a rolling pin, pound everything together, ready to be sprinkled over the chips.
  • Mix your mayo with the wasabi and add more wasabi, depending how hot you like it.
  • Once your chips are out of the oven top with the nori mix and serve with the wasabi mayo!

Monday, 10 August 2020

LINGUINE WITH CHICKPEAS, BROCCOLI, KALE & RICOTTA

Pasta and chickpeas may sound like an odd combo but works an absolute treat here. 

Think of it as the perfect summer supper dish, full of greens, tangy yet creamy ricotta, which comes speckled with lemon zest, and a bit of oomph from a good helping of chilli flakes, all finished off with the crispy chickpeas that add another texture and complex flavour to the finished dish. 

So easy to make, a treat on the plate and just about manageable to rustle up during this heatwave!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 450g linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 200g Long stem broccoli
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 240g ricotta, preferable room temperature
  • Flaky sea salt to taste

METHOD

  • Heat your oven to 220 celsius
  • In a large bowl, toss the broccoli, chickpeas, garlic, red-pepper flakes and 1/3 cup oil until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper. 
  • Spread out evenly on a baking tray.
  • Add the kale to the same bowl, and toss to coat in any residual oil.
  • Drizzle with more oil as needed and toss to coat evenly.
  • Spread out in an even layer on the second baking tray
  • Working with 1 baking tray at a time add the broccoli and chickpeas to the oven, tossing halfway through cooking, until the chickpeas are toasty and the broccoli is tender and charred, 7 to 10 minutes.
  • Do the same with the kale until just charred and crisp, about 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.
  • Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and drain the pasta.
  • Zest the lemon, halve it, then cut 1 half into 4 wedges.
  • Squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the roasted vegetables and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Return the pasta to the pot.
  • Add the 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, the ricotta, butter and lemon zest and toss until well combined.
  • Add the roasted vegetables and toss, adding more pasta water as needed.
  • Season with flaky sea salt and pepper and enjoy!

Monday, 3 August 2020

BALSAMIC MARINATED STRAWBERRY PASTA SALAD WITH BURRATA



Pasta salads are usually that grim, mayo laden picnic dish that no one really touches until the al fresco wine hits and any carb will do.

That is certainly not the case with this wonderfully fragrant pasta salad that combines the sweetness of the strawberries with the tanginess of balsamic vinegar, black pepper, dijon mustard and honey, finished off with the irresistibly creaminess of some freshly torn burrata mixed through.

The addition of spinach, wilted by the cooked pasta, crunchy cucumber and freshly torn basil, makes this pasta salad pretty much summer in a bowl, rustled up incredibly quickly and not only looking like a real treat but tasting as good, at room temperature, once you have reached your chosen picnic patch!

Trust me, this concoction will make you re-think pasta salads and and will be a great centre piece for any summer outdoor dining occasion!

Serves 3-4

INGREDIENTS
  • 500g strawberries, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper plus more for topping
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 500g farfalle pasta
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 150g baby spinach
  • 1 seedless cucumber thinly sliced
  • 2 balls of burrata, roughly torn
  • Bunch of basil, roughly torn

METHOD
  • Place the strawberries in a large bowl and pour the balsamic vinegar over top. 
  • Sprinkle on the black pepper and toss the strawberries well. 
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the directions.
  • While the pasta is boiling, pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar into a smaller bowl from the big bowl of strawberries. 
  • Whisk in the honey, dijon mustard, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. 
  • Stream in the olive oil while whisking until the dressing is combined.
  • Place the fresh spinach on top of the strawberries in the bowl. 
  • As soon as the pasta is finished, drain it and place it on top of the spinach. 
  • Drizzle on a few tablespoons of the dressing so the pasta doesn't stick together. 
  • Let the pasta sit, untossed, on top of the spinach so it wilts - about 5 minutes.
  • Toss the pasta with the spinach and the strawberries until it is combined. 
  • Add in the cucumber, burrata and basil.
  • Sprinkle on some extra black pepper and toss with more dressing.
  • ENJOY!
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