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Sour Cream Bread

February 7, 2011

sour cream bread This bread is always a hit whenever I make it. The added sour cream gives it a delicate taste that keeps a lot of people guessing what that extra ingredient may be.

It’s so versatile that I serve it with anything, and is even better in the following days toasted.

You will need:
250g sour cream
1 tsp powdered yeast
550g flour (of your choice)
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp honey
100ml cold water
150ml boiling water
seeds for covering the loaf

  In a large bowl, mix the cream with 100ml cold water and 150ml boiling. Add the yeast and honey, and stir around until the honey dissolves.

  Mix in the flour, and knead until the dough starts to get a silky texture. Knead it into a ball, cover with a tea towel and let it sit for 10 minutes.

  Knead again, and roll over the seeds to cover the loaf. Place into a 2lb oiled bread tin, covering once more for a minimum of 10 minutes (the longer you leave it to rise in the tin, the lighter the bread will be).

  Dust the top with flour, and bake at 200C for around 45-60 minutes (depending on your oven quality).

  For extra flavouring, try adding your favourite herb or spice to the dough whilst kneading. I’ve always found fresh rosemary works really well.


A Tour of The Dorchester

October 25, 2010

The penthouse balcony view

The penthouse balcony view

It’s a rare occasion for one of London’s top 5 star deluxe hotels to throw open its doors for public tours. As part of the London Open House Weekend, The Dorchester took part in allowing a small group of people around the back and front of house rooms.

London Open House weekend is an annual event, with over 700 buildings in London opening their doors to visitors for tours and talks over a weekend. It promotes the appreciation of architecture, with some buildings usually not open to the public. The buildings involved include the BT Tower and the London Underground HQ Building.

Pavillion Suite

The tour of The Dorchester started with coffee, pastries, and of course champagne in the Park Suite which is one of its many conference rooms.

It was then onto our next stop of the day – the Penthouse Suite on the 8th floor. With its own private balcony including a view of more than 180 degree of the London rooftops, this suite is the place to be for weddings and banquets.

This leads through to the Pavillion Suite, designed by the theatre designer Oliver Messel whose miniture stage designs are displayed on the walls.

Harlequin bathroom

The famous Harlequin suite was next, where Elizabeth Taylor was staying when she received word of her multi-million pound deal to star in Cleopatra. And it still has the original pink marble bathroom that was installed for her. There are great views over the terrace to Hyde Park, where you can also spot Battersea Power Station in the distance.

florist todo

A winding stroll down the staircase to the florist was next, where Paul described how he prepares the individual flowers required for each room. He insists they are all fresh, and very real.

His department does all the flowers apart from select arrangements in the promenade, ballroom and other select locations.

We then met Henry Brosi, the executive chef, who gave us a tour around the kitchens. This included the Krug Room, which is the chef’s table developed with Krug for private dining.

cake preperation

We were shown through the various kitchens where they prepare the sandwiches, patisseries, etc.


As it was a Sunday, and the restaurant was closed, the tour group was then led through the 3 Michelin-starred kitchen of Alain Ducasse (which was a rare treat).


Alain Ducasse Kitchen

There are a total of 18 chefs in the kitchen who work a 5 day week – having Sunday and Monday off. So it is not a very common schedule to have in British kitchens.


We were then led to the front of house, where we were shown the gorgeous modern layout and decor.

spot the ladybugs

A quick tour of the birdcage room was next, which is used as an anti-room for the ballroom. The notable thing about this room is the birdcage located on the ceiling in the middle of the room. Painted vines on the ceiling dominate, and if you look closely to one of the leaves there you see two ladybugs with doc martins in a suggestible position.



A look at the ballroom was next. You can do almost anything with this room to make your event stand out. People can be suspended from the ceiling, a car can be driven into the room due to the design of a wall which can open up. And if you see here, it has even been turfed for an awards ceremony.



Promenade Bar

And then the tour had to end sometime with a glass of well-earned champagne in The Bar. If you ever find yourself here, I highly recommend a glass of The Dorchester 75 – a champagne cocktail created for the 75th anniversary of The Dorchester.



The Bar Bar

There were many other rooms that we went through that would really over-extend the length of this blog post. If you would like to have a look at the gallery, please go to my Flickr account here.

Franco Manca in Chiswick – A Dining Experience

September 12, 2010

The pizza from Franco Manca’s Brixton establishment has been getting rave reviews ever since it opened, with it’s 20 hour sour dough base being described as better than the Napolese can make themselves. Extending the same formula to their Chiswick eatery has been getting mixed reviews, so I decided to check it out myself.

The location of the restaurant is not as well positioned as many eateries along the high road of Chiswick. It is slightly out the way, a few doors up from High Road Brasserie. Myself and a friend went on a Saturday night and the restaurant was not full at all which was not a great sign.

We’re shown to a table of two which is uncomfortably positioned far too close to the next table, with pairs positioned so they take up the same amount of space as a table for four. This meant that the next table was not more than a two-inch gap away. This of course made room for personal space limited and any thought of personal conversation not an option. We thankfully lead the waitress to an empty corner.

turpentine 2008 served in water tumbler glass

Sitting down to the paper menu already being on the table, I was hoping to get some sort of introduction and instruction on how the menu works having not been there previously. Unfortuantely the waitress turned away quite quickly and we were left to look amongst ourselves. I had just put my head down to read the menu when the waitress came back and asked for our order. A puzzled look was given back when we said that we did need a few minutes, and ordered some drinks. My friend started by ordering a lemonade and a beer, and before I could order mine she quickly walked away. I gave her the benefit of the doubt as she must have assumed one of those drinks was mine. By then I could tell that we were just a distraction to her night.

The ordered drinks came in a timely fashion without glasses, with the lemonade at room temperature. The disappearing act was done once more before we could ask for glasses and ice, so we ended up getting the glasses off the table next to us and putting up with warm lemonade.

When I finally got the opportunity to order wine, I chose the mid-priced San Vito white. When delivered, the already-opened bottle of wine was plonked on the table with two very warm water glasses that I correctly assumed were going to act as the wine glasses for the night. Firstly, I do not think that you can ever have an authentic experience drinking wine out of tumblers so give me a proper wine glass any day. Secondly, having been stung in the past by the cheaper bottle of wine being placed in the more expensive bottle of wine trick before, I am immediately suspicious of any bottle that’s not opened at the table. A tasting was also not offered, and a request for a wine cooler was just another disruption to the waitress’ night.

I pour myself a glass, take two sips and think OK – this may be better when it breathes a bit. I leave this for a moment whilst I order my pizza, and try to take a few more sips. This doesn’t improve things, so I decide to order some soda water to water down the taste. I call over the waitress and ask for some soda water. “Still or sparkling” she says, in which I reply “no, sorry – soda water, not normal water”. “Yes, still or sparkling” she asks once more. I could tell I wasn’t going to get anywhere with this, so I gave up on my original plan and reply back with “fine, sparkling water then”. She does the quick turnaround once more and a few moments later a bottle of sparkling water was placed on the table with no glasses, and no sight of the deliverer. So another field trip was taken for us to steal the bounty of another empty table’s glasses.

I fill about a third of my wine glass with the sparkling water to try to disguise the awful turpentine-esque taste, although unfortunately this does not do the trick and I place the wine glass and wine bottle on the table next to me. After some explanation to the manager when I get his attention, the wine is then swapped with another not-opened-at-the-table bottle, with the same turpentine-esque results. I leave the wine as it is now giving me a headache after not even 4 sips. This cannot be good – a hangover already starting to happen.

baked Gloucester old spot sausage served on a burnt serving dish

The starter arrives – a shared baked Gloucester old spot sausage with tomato. It is served in a dish which has burnt debris on the outside, making the dish taste burnt as well. I eat half a bite before giving up. My friend says that it was quite nice, and finishes the dish so at least one of us enjoyed it.

number 4 salt pizza

The pizza is next to arrive, which looks lovely so I hope that this is where things finally pick up and where I think the restaurant’s strengths lay. I ordered the number 4, which was the tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies and mozzarella pizza. Unfortunately this was like eating a salt pizza, so I’m quite disappointed that even this is not good. There seemed no ingredient (apart from the pizza base itself) which cancelled out the salt of the capers and anchovies. It also tasted like there was an extra layer of salt sprinkled on the pizza for extra measure. I thought that there was a burnt taste throughout as well, although I could see no evidence. Although the underside of my companion’s pizza was quite charred, which made most of it inedible.

We quickly ask for the bill to get this experience over with. We explain to the manager, who is now aware of our non-wine drinking non-pizza eating troubles, and he takes the burnt pizza and wine off the bill. This was far more than we were expecting, as we were quite prepared to pay for everything and cut our losses. So at least there was some glimmer of above-average service for the night.

So that was my experience of Franco Manca. I was thinking it through, and really wanted it to be put down to the fact that they may of just been having an off night. But the problems seemed more ingrained than that. My dining parter summed it up quite well by saying it was as though everybody working there was on their first night.


Lamington-top Baked Cheesecake

August 15, 2010

lamington-top cheesecake
   I really wanted to give the baked cheesecake a bit of a twist, and also had in mind to bake a batch of lamingtons. So why not merge the two….

For the cheesecake

9 digestive biscuits
60g butter, melted
200g cream cheese
500g marscapone cheese
2 tbsp plain flour
175g castor sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract
2 eggs and 1 yolk

For the lamington topping

10g butter
250g icing sugar
100g dark chocolate
60ml milk
200g desiccated coconut

To make the cheesecake:

Heat the oven to 180C. Crush the biscuits, and mix with the butter. Press the biscuit mixture into a 20cm springform tin and bake for 5 minutes, then cool.
Beat the cream cheese and marscapone with the flour, castor sugar, vanilla, eggs, and egg yolk until light and fluffy. Pour into the tin and bake for 40 minutes until slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave in the tin to cool.

To make the lamington top:

Place the icing sugar, dark chocolate, butter and milk into a bowl and place over simmering water. Stir constantly until melted and well combined.

When the cheesecake is still in its tin and cooled down, pour the icing mixture over the top and spread over to cover with a knife. Sprinkle on the coconut and place in the fridge to set.

Caught the eye

August 4, 2010

Here are a few articles things that have caught my eye….

A man’s best friend?

“Dog chews off owner’s foot, owner finds diabetes in its place” – Not a long lost episode of Lassie, but a story of one man, his dog, and his inability to see a doctor about a funky foot.
chew on this…

Cats, Marijuana, And The Best News Freeze Frame Ever

From the Huffington Post, one of those great news screenshots.
meow for more….

Careful about the picture you use on your articles

Where the picture didn’t compliment the article, or have anything to do with it.
see it here…

People of Wal-Mart

There is a place where style forgot, or took on a whole new meaning and direction. Whatever route it took here’s a peak into that world
super stylin’…

Björk’s ReacTable

Imagine what the synth pioneers in the 80’s could have done with this.
electric dreams…

“When donkeys fly!”

Many ass jokes can be made here….many….
fly my pretty…

Dim Sum With Algela Malik

July 15, 2010

Angela Malik

  I love eating dim sum, and certainly don’t eat it enough. I very rarely eat at an establishment which serves it, and I’ve thought about making it at home. So I knew that heading off to Algela Malik’s cookery school for a night of dim sum making would be a learning experience.

  The Angela Malik Deli, where the cookery school is held, is located in Acton across the road from Acton Central overground station. Half of her establishment is dedicated to retail where you can find everything from her own pesto, to crackers and cakes. The back half is where the kitchen and cookery school is located, and where myself and fellow foodies were there to try out Angela’s Dim Sum at Home class.

  I was placed with 2 other people and asked to prepare and cook 2 recipes – steamed spiced pork and water chestnut sui mai dumplings and stuffed gyoza dumplings.

  The first recipe of steamed spiced pork and water chestnut siu mai dumplings tasted as great as it sounds, and so very easy to make. You basically combine all the ingredients such as the pork, soy sauce, onions etc. into a bowl and mix together. Then you do the trickiest bit of wrapping the filling up in the wonton wrapper. This can be done a multitude of ways, therefore (lucky for me) very hard to get wrong.

  They only take a few minutes to steam, and like all dim sum recipes best eaten straight away.

Stuffed gyoza dumplings

  The second recipe – stuffed gyoza dumplings, involved a hot frying pan with oil, so I was a bit more hesitant about making this. The process of making the dumplings was the same as the steamed spiced pork dumplings, although this time we used a chicken-based filling with mushrooms, ginger and garlic.

  The filling was placed in a gyoza skin, and folded over to cover all the filling. Once the wok was hot enough, we placed the dumplings in the hot wok and waited for the side to brown then flipped them to brown another side. Once the browning of the second side was done, a tricky step (for me) was to quickly pour in 1 cup of water into the wok, cover it and allow the dumplings to steam. This should take only a few minutes, and the trick was to not let it get too cool.This cooking should only take a few minutes before they’re ready to be dipped into a gyoza dipping sauce and eaten asap.

  So it would take me a few more attempts I think to get confident enough in making dim sum, but thanks to Angela and her team I’ve certainly been shown the right way to go.

  More information on these recipes and her cookery school is found on Angela’s website. Or, you can pop into The Angela Malik Deli at 6 Churchfield Road, Acton, London W3 6EG.


June 9, 2010

As part of my Eurovision celebrations, I decided to cook something that was traditionally Latvian. This wasn’t a random country I picked out of a hat – my father’s actually from that country, so it was he who I first consulted about what to cook. He suggested cooking things such as pork cabbage rolls (to be served with schnapps), sauerkraut (to be served with schnapps), rollmops (to be served with schnapps), and what I eventually cooked – piragi (to be served with schnapps).

I asked what the deal was with all the schnapps, and the only answer he could come up with was it was traditional to serve everything with schnapps. Fine by me.

Piragi essentially are bacon rolls. They can be served hot or cold, and can be eaten as a canape or a light lunch.


For the dough:
500g white flour
250ml milk
150ml warm water
2tbl yeast
75g butter
25g sugar
pinch salt
1 egg
For the filling:
350g streaky bacon
50g white onion (around 1 large onion)
black pepper


You start by first making the dough, as this needs time to rise (I usually make mine the night before, but you can also do a quicker version on the day).

Mix the yeast with the warm water, and a bit of sugar to give it a kick-start. Let this sit for 15 minutes, until it develops a foam.

Sift the flour to aerate, and which will assist the yeast. Add the beaten egg to the flour mixture, then add the milk and the yeast mixture. Mix well, and knead for 10 or so minutes (adding more flour if necessary). Leave the dough in a bowl covered with a tea towel, until it has doubled in size (or overnight as I usually do).

For the filling:

Dice the onion and bacon. Saute in a non-stick pan until the bacon is cooked. Add some pepper.

Divide the dough into roughly 35g pieces. Roll into a ball, then roll out flat into a half-moon shape. Take roughly a tablespoon of filling, place in the centre of the rolled out dough, and press together the edges.

Just out of the oven - eat straight off baking tray, or serve on plate

Place on a non-stick baking tray and brush with a beaten egg. Leave for around half an hour to rise, then cook in a pre-heated oven of around 200 degrees for around 20 minutes (or until the piragi are brown) and cool on a wire rack until serving.

Serve with schnapps.