Uni brings Nikkei Cuisine to Victoria

The largest Japanese settlement outside of Japan is in Peru and the unique fusion cuisine that is Japanese Peruvian is called Nikkei.Fiona invited me to accompany this time to discover Nikkei , she is an award-winning freelance writer and marketing consultant who currently writes about travel and London lifestyle for a number of publications and runs her own London lifestyle blog called London Unattached.

So it was a bright summer Monday afternoon that I trooped in Uni (the Japanese word for the sea urchin, a Japanese delicacy) restaurant and sushi bar designed by Andrew Martin, in Belgravia minutes away from the travel hub that is Victoria station.

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I was shown to a cosy table downstairs.

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For starters I got some steamed edamame with a spicy chilli and garlic sauce (£4.50) and some refreshing green tea served in a typical cast iron heavy pot which I would love to have as part of my growing food prop collection which now occupies every corner or of our tiny rental flat much to the chagrin of my hubby – I guess the last straw was trying to pass off a very heavy cast iron pot as a ‘place to keep his usb drives and wire hehehee

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I had happily managed to forget my phone at home and therefore Fiona tried in vain to inform me of her delayed train. Blissfully unaware of this I sipped my tea and munched my edamame all the time trying to ignore some stuffy banker type folks on the table next to me talking shop – how boring…

So when Fiona arrived she managed to move us to a bigger table away from the ‘big boy talk’ as she aptly called it and onto a table where I could dump my bags and lay my camera lens and other paraphernalia – I do not travel light …

To make life easier we chose to have bento boxes for our mains and mine came with the udon noodle and fish cake soup while Fiona had a light Miso soup. I was feeling ravenous by the time the soup arrived and devoured it in a flash! (£24.5 per bento box – comes with soups, salad, sushi, & maki, main dish, side, rice and dessert)

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Nabe Udon  - Noodle and Fishcake Soup with Prawn Tempura.

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Beautifully light Miso Soup

My Bento box had Kaiso Wakame  - seaweed salad ,prawn and carrot tempura, main of duck tataki – seared duck breast finely sliced and dressed with mirin and soy, fried rice and sashimi selection. The duck tataki was deliciously morish, I also loved the seaweed salad and the sticky fried rice with the sashimi was very filling.

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Fionas bento box came with steamed rice and anticucho sauce  black cod and was very appetising , to read in her own words read her review of our lunch at Uni here.

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We washed down our Bento lunch boxes with some chilled sake.

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The very polite manager came and urged us to experiment with some of the Nikkei range from the menu and we were served two stunning dishes.

Tiraditos of Yellowtail with kizami wasabi,Yuzu and fresh mint presented in a creative and stunning display, it was delightfully fresh, sharp in taste with a delicate balance of colour and flavour. (£15.5)

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Wildly beautiful looking salmon tartare tacos with cucumber,tomato,masago and creamy miso were crunchy and melt in your mouth creamy all at one once exploding with a light flavour in every bite – delicious! (£6)

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Stuffed to the gills now I had to walk around click a few pictures and allow for some space to be created in my tummy to fit in some dessert ;)

To my amusement the very attentive young lady on the staff showed us how the colourful lamp shade were made from bottle of campari that could be detached and well glugged , given it was a hot summer afternoon I think it was a great idea that Fiona ordered us some Pisco Sour shots instead ;).Never having tasted these before I downed them in one go much to my own peril, the sake already in my system the shot gave me quite the buzz!

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Thankfully my cooling Matcha Gelato worked wonders and cooled me down several degrees -phew!

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Fiona managed to stay light with desserts too with a selection of fresh fruit.

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The creation of former Nobu chef Rolando Ongcoy, the menu at UNI offers a good selection of grilled meats ,fish, sushi,sashimi, selection of tempura and maki. The Peruvian influence is prevalent throughout UNI’s menu, ceviche and tiraditos peruano included.

The bar area upstairs also has plenty of seating on high stools and around the bar, perfect for knocking down Peruvian fav’s like the pisco sours or coconut-based Chilli Mojito.

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Victoria being a very office space kind of area is lucky to have Uni in its midst now, with bite sized healthier meal options ,seven- dish bento boxes for short lunch hours are on offer at a price of course. So the big banker boys and girls can have their financial pow-wow meets in the fancy cubicles or basement vaults if you please which can seat about 10 – 12 people, and if the huge ice buckets with bottles of chilled Moet and the power talk we overheard from the table next to us are anything to go by then Uni is already a haunt for these suited and well heeled office folks!

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  • Website:Uni
  • Opening Times: is open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday inclusive

*With  thanks to Uni for the invitation. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review . All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Uni on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Dinner at The Brasserie , Tower Guoman – a review

On the day of the Mens Singles Final when Djokovic won  the match against Roger Federer ,I had an invite to go dine with a few fellow bloggers at The Brasserie at the Tower Guoman. I must admit the match was so engaging that I was glued to the tv and only in the game that I was just to nervous to watch so I dragged myself out and kept pestering a dear friend of mine in whatsapp till she gave me updates of almost every move on the court …. I was hoping that Djokovic would win and also hoping that the match would end before I hopped onto the tube and lost network… Lets just say that all invisible divine forces were with Djokovic ( and me )that day coupled with his awesome performance, just as I was about to get into the tube… there it was..,… message I was hoping to see on whatsapp…. ‘He won’… which led to a very comical impromptu gig on the staircase by me watched by bemused passers by…heck a good win deserves a dance ..at least ! Bonus points to all those who also watched this match to oogle at Boris Becker …teehee

After that I needed a refreshing drink and just as I was settling in the beautiful area  just outside the Guoman, an open air bar  and siping my cocktail gazing up the Tower Bridge was perfect. Chilled Prosecco, Cocktails and Mocktails flowed while we chatted up with the manager who also had dinner with us later .Meeting my friends after Food Blogger Connect was fun and camera lens choices, food photography ,the Wimbledon final results and the stunning view dominated our conversation. Before long the rain decided to play spoil sport and we were ushered inside to our huge table at The Brasserie.

I took the seat the far end of the end but the view from any where inside is just as brilliant , it’s the first time I was so close to the Tower Bridge and you can be guaranteed you will have the best seats in town at The Brasserie with superb views of Butlers wharf thrown in.

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The table was neatly laid out with our special menu for the evening there and fresh bread , warm and just out of the oven with 3 different dips arrived.

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Our rustic bread selection with truffle oil and olive oil.

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To go with our Rustic Bread selection we had the smoked paprika dip – the bright orange one and my fav of the 3, one with chives in the middle and a plain one which I found a tad too salty.

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I choose to have the Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart to start off my meal with – it sounded very appetising – Tomato olive salsa,balsamic reduction,pine nut,sekura cress – hummm yes please.

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The thin crisp  pastry base was not one bit soggy or eggy, the grilled Manchego cheese ( a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the manchega breed) tasted great in combination with summery veggies like asparagus and grilled peppers and the salsa was very good ,I loved the taste of the olives and hints of fennel, the cress made the whole dish so fresh not just to look at but to taste too.

The Head chef Kamaldeep Singh (left) and his colleague decided to take us through the process of how the new menu was created , the origin of ingredients and basically make us hungry for more!

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Madeleine seated next to me choose the other option as her first course :Peppercorn Cured Beef Carpaccio – Manchego cheese , home cured tomatoes,charred artichokes,mizuna and micro cress. I was avoiding red meat that so was very happy to photograph her dish and ask how it tasted but equally satisfied with my light tart.

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The carpaccio was hammered thin and artichokes placed over – it looked great, to find out in her Madeleine’s own words what she thought of her dish go check out  her review here.Very happy with my first course, I expected the second course to deliver and impress me a bit more. Must say my Pan-Fried Fillet of Sea Bass served with diver scallop,caper crushed potatoes,mixed bean salsa and ‘sauce vierge’  did not fail to do so. It looked amazing and I had to photograph it from various angles – we food bloggers!

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But  this was simply delicious and worthy of praise for more reasons than one – made using farmed sea bass responsibly sourced scallops, a lighter than most sauces that usually accompany a fish main the scallop sat one a delicious pea puree and cream base.

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The mixed bean salsa tasted great with the morish caper crushed potato, the cress balancing off the dish in a subtle way.Nayna my vegetarian food blogger friend chose to have the Spinach and Ricotta Raviolli made with heirloom tomato salsa and served with freshly made basil cream sauce , to read her views go onto her blog here.Our first wine of the evening accompanied the first course , Vidal sauvignon blanc from New Zealand , aromas of gooseberry, passionfruit and guava lead into a palate that exudes tropical and passion fruit flavours.

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After that very satisfying sea food dish ,we moved onto the next course , I stayed away from red meat again and the Garden pea,mint and pecorino cheese risotto was fabulous for me , I love my rice and many a times I really need some to complete my meal and make it me feel full, maybe a psychological thing but coming from the coastal side of western India ,fish curry and rice is our most staple everyday far.One of the staff members asked me where I was from and when I said Mumbai, pat came the next question which I was sort of expecting – was the sea bass as good as the Pomfret, well no! For me pomfret is the king of  all fishes on this planet – but its a matter of what taste one has grown up with and our method of cooking is also so very different. But yes Sea Bass , Salmon and Basa are my favorite buys,best eaten fresh on the day of purchase ,hate frozen fish,tastes muddy and weird in curries especially.

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The  pecorino cheese added a subtle tangy taste to this very morish and filling risotto, its easy to get this dish so wrong because often the seemingly easier to make dishes are the toughest to produce to perfection . I am a great fan of the risotto that my elder sister hubby makes , he is a trained chef but now a very busy and senior marketing head honcho so it’s very rarely that we meet and even more rarely that I get to eat the risotto he makes. Ah sweet nostalgic family moments, only truly good food can bring on such an attack for me.. :)

By now the light had really faded and my risotto photo and all that follow look terrible!

I must admit Madeleine was very kind and allowed me to have a taste of burnt celeriac which I loved with some of the calvados sauce I scooped it off her plate with from her Confit of Gloucestershire Pork Belly. She enjoyed  my cheesy risotto too.

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The 14 hour low heat cooked pork belly looked so very appetising, the burnt celeriac adding to the earthiness of this dish,the cinnamon compliments the pork  and the savoy cabbage and compressed apple give it a tart almost tangy twist on the side. This was washed down with several glasses of a full bodied Chilean Merlot – Errazuriz , almost opulent with notes of berry and cassis fruit.

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It’s at this point that I slipped into blissful food coma and saw this beautiful rainbow emerge right in front of my eyes… the photo does no justice to the what we actually saw…

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That is us at the table - L- R - Bintu who blogs at Recipes from a pantry, Nicki who blogs at Baking Beardy,seated opposite her is Fiona who writes an award-winning blog - London Unattached,Nayna – who blogs at  Simply Sensational Food her other blog is Citrus ,Spice and all things Nice, and the lovely Madeline who blogs at Kitchen Journeys and documents heart healthy recipes at From the Healthy Heart.

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Was too full by now and the dessert platter served with a large shot of margarita in shot glass lined by sugar , managed to cut the sweet taste that was bound to settle on the palate after cheesecake ,a panna cotta that failed to impress because I was expecting the usual wobble and a refreshing pista flavoured ice cream  - my fav from the selection.

As we strolled out for an impromptu photo session and gazed happily at the beautiful Tower Bridge,I couldn’t help but wonder that though the exterior of  the Tower Guoman leaves one wanting the view of two world Heritage Sites – Tower Bridge and the Tower of London certainly makes up for it!A massive refurbishment project is on the cards too.A few more plus points include a convenient location within easy reach of the financial district, Canary Wharf, the Excel Centre, London City Airport, historic Greenwich, the West End and Westfield Shopping Centre. Also the newly launched menu at The Brasserie definitely warrants a visit. The menu is bold and one where the chefs have really gone the extra mile to hope that if they try ambitiously to achieve the Zero Mile Ingredient mark and grow their own herbs fresh on the terrace garden which is to come alive very soon!

The staff was very polite, genuinely attentive and ensured we had a great evening.

*With  thanks to The Tower Guoman for the invitation. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review . All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

The Brasserie at the Tower Hotel on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Yum Chaa – Fitzrovia – Review

Absolutely bored and craving a afternoon out ,a close friend and me decided to check out Yum chaa sometime early february. As soon as we walked my eyes fell on this beautiful and welcoming armchair – its the kind of chair that you can sink into and loose yourself in!

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Lucky for us it was in a quite little corner where we could pour our hearts out to each other!

The counter had a beautiful  display and she decided to have the Chilli Chilli Hot Chocolate. I was having a very difficult time trying to decide which tea to have from the amazing range available of Black and Red teas.

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I finally settled for a red tea and a little something to bite into….in the quite pauses between our excited chatter I gazed into my tea cup…wishing I could tell what the future has to hold simply by gazing at how the bright red tea sediments lay there… if only …

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Loved their quirky note asking for ‘Valentines Day Funds’ now who can refuse a tip when coaxed like that? (espp when it will be used to buy an Adele album!)

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The quirky christmas tree kept the corner with the shelves a bit festive and the white washed walls seemed to have a sublimia soothing effect. The general atmosphere of the place is the sort where you can settle into a huge armchair , armed with a tea of your choice and spend hours sipping it alone or not. Its the kind of place you would take a good book to and settle in with a warm pot of tea, allow the tea to percolate and loose yourself in the pages of your fav storyteller.

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We lost track of time and almost over two hours later when Yum Chaa got really  busy we decided to let someone else take over our cushy chairs…reluctantly almost, promising ourselves that we would be back soon , very soon…

The shabby chic,relaxed atmosphere , mis-matched furniture, white washed walls and their amazing range of teas on offer will stay with you long after you walk out of the place and of course their catchy crazy name Yum Chaa is something you won’t forget easily!

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Disclaimer: I’ve written this review of my own accord and was this visit was paid for by me. I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated monetarily for this post.Like all my previous posts about events and reviews, ALL opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

 

21, The Print Room,Covent Garden – a review

On the corner of Covent Garden Piazza , housed in a beautiful Georgian heritage site is a 3 story delightful place -21 – a rustic Italian restaurant, The Print Room – a cocktail bar with 2 balconies overlooking the piazza and all the live entertainment it has to offer and the terrace located on the Piazza – a great way to enjoy the outdoors, drink in the hustle bustle, gaze at St.Pauls – all this under the shelter of huge umbrellas and heating for chilly evenings.

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When I first heard of 21 the Print Room at Covent Garden I imagined it to be this tiny little place with a rustic feel , when we walked into 21 I felt I was walking into a huge cave with tunnels well-lit and the aroma of melted cheese wafting around .The historic cellar vaults converted in a fab Italian restaurant have a cosy warm feel .They also  proudly claims to serve the best pizza and pasta in Covent Garden - We were soon about to find out….

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

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Hubby and me walked into the place on a very ,very warm summer evening and were seated at table perfect for a romantic date but we food bloggers need light for clicking away ,so once we were moved to a new table and happily settled into a comparatively well-lit corner of our choice ,we couldn’t wait to order some drinks and cool down a few degrees. Just as I thought I would melt with the heat these beauties came to our rescue - a Mango Bellini (£7.50)for me and a  Verde Flower(£5) Sine Peccato,for the huster – it means a cocktail without sin.

The Mango Bellini – a Prosecco based cocktail was crisp,fresh,fruity ,summery while hubsters Verde Flower – a combo of cucumber,apple juice and elderflower with a dash of bitter lemon was fresh and light with lots of ice – so refreshing!

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Accompanied by Wild Boar Tortelloni (£7.25) – Pancetta ,green beans ,sage cream  and Black pepper Calamari with saffron aioli (£7.25) as starters.The batter for the calamari was a bit bulky making them a bit chewy, the tortellini  was very good, could easily have eaten some more!

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21 - Calamari starter

Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

I was told that the A la Carte menu is  fresh, Italian-inspired and prepared with the best quality local ingredients – well now, I love the sound of that ! We ordered the Cornish Crab Linguine (£14.25) and the Figaro (£14.95) – a Milano Salami,Parma Ham & Pepperoni Pizza for the main course but honestly if you’re doing starters then this one pizza between two people is more than enough!

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The Figaro is absolutely mind-blowing delicious with the 3 meat sitting there with black olives and cherry tomatoes – begging to be eaten! The goats cheese was nothing like I’d ever tasted before – so soft and creamy and not one bit salty. Abandon your fork and knife for this one folks, eat with your hands…lick the gooey gorgeous roasted garlic olive oil mixed with the melted mozzarella , as it drips off the sides while you devour this magnificent feast. The linguine was ignored by us for the first few minutes while we silently ate our pizza.I felt like Julia Roberts in the movie Eat,Pray ,Love telling her friend to drop the guilt and just eat their cheese laden gorgeous looking pizza when they go to Naples ,errmmm only I was sharing my Pizza with my hubster ;)

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The linguine was good though paling in comparison to this star pizza staring at us. The crab meat was mixed well into the pasta and it was have been fun to eat this pasta slowly after squeezing  lime generously over it , sipping a fine glasses  red which goes with the fresh seafood taste and the chillies in the pasta.I ordered a glass of Red- the Nero D’Avola 2011 (£5.65 a glass , £21 a bottle) with my linguine.Hubster had a glass of Prosecco Brut (£6.80) to go with the mains.

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Needless to say the mere mention of dessert and we would have exploded so we skipped dessert. Eager to walk and help digest the generous dinner now sitting firmly inside our tummies we took a tour of the print room upstairs which is a print shop turned cocktail bar, with a lovely balcony overlooking the piazza.We then walked out into the piazza past the Terrace ,to be greeted by fresh, crisp evening London air.

The Terrace at 21

Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

So lets see, 21 delivered on their promise of serving the best Pizza in Covent Garden , the wine selection and mocktails on offer are impressive and  I loved my Mango Bellini.Food and Wine taken care of .Ambience – the feeling of sitting huddled in a cosy cubby hole dating back to Georgian Times is something else, the view from the Print room is amazing , so I’d say this is a perfect place for romantic dates in the cubby hole of 21 or out on the terrace – better for warm summer evenings, great venue for hen and stag parties and a really cool place to hang out for drinks with your friends, they seem to have got it all covered huh?

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

The photo below is of the most posh cubby hole in 21 comes with a fish tank for company ;)

The best cubby hole in 21

Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

It was a beautiful clear night and the piazza was just so beautiful , a spattering of tourists seated in quiet corners near St.Pauls , the bars still overflowing with beer drinkers spilling out onto the piazza and of course the theatregoers walking to their cars or trying to get a cab.

The last time we were at Covent Garden with some friends they showed us this fab walking route to Waterloo station along the Waterloo bridge, it IS  a great walk along the various many theatres ,pubs and brightly lit restaurants of Covent Garden and  onto the bridge with stunning views of the London Eye on one side and the beautiful st.pauls cathedral on the other. And down the subway and you are inside Waterloo station, cool or what?!

It was an exceptionally windy evening as well and all of a sudden I wish I had my jacket on me, we stopped to take a few photos and this ones my fav:

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Rushing to take cover in the warm subway , we made it to the station in under 15 minutes , this walking route now my fav way to get to Covent Garden from Waterloo station and totally avoid the claustrophobic tubes and the slow buses crawling through the omnipresent traffic on  the narrow roads  of Central London…..( there … now that’s a sure shot sign that I have become am a Londoner now….when one begins to crib about the crowded tubes and moan about the traffic …and look of alternate walking routes.. I think the novelty of being a newbie to this city is finally wearing off… in every way… but then the magic has settled in and just like I will always , always love Mumbai no matter what ,similarly London has sunk into my being in a way that can never be reversed… safe to say…am deeply in love… with all that London has to offer – even the tubes … oh yes!)

*With thanks to 21 and The Print Room for the invite.All views expressed here are my own. I was not required to write a positive review. No monetary compensation was provided for this post.

 

 

21 Covent Garden on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Blossom Hills new Sun Kissed Red and White wines – a great way to enjoy fruity wines in the Summer!

Hope all you folks are making the most of the sunny climate! Bbq’s ,picnics and loads of great days out with the family! Am sure most of you have enjoyed drinking Blossom Hills wines , I certainly have and am now a great fan of the fruitier newly launched summer ready wines called the new Blossom Hill Sun Kissed Red and White wines.

When I was invited to a blogger launch party I walked into a pretty room all done up like a fab picnic in the park , a faux green grass carpet included !

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One sip of the chilled fruity red wine and I was sold! It makes drinking red wine for those just starting out especially so much easier because these wines are much lighter ,sweeter and taste great with all the usual summer party essential and will go well with barbecued meats and grilled veggies as well. I also think because the red is so light on the system it makes it way easier if you enjoy say one glass of red every evening while catching up say Midsomer Murders on the telly …my way of unwinding after a long day!Traditional Rose wines enthusiasts in particular will enjoy this new red.

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A mixture of ripe summer fruits and strawberry flavours envelope your palate making the red wine a light and easy drink.

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This table with nibbles was so much fun and I loved the jelly a lot :)

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Moving onto the white which I loved too, I am quite the white wine fan and this light white with luscious juicy fruits and peachy notes was so good ,it almost made me want to plonk onto the fake grass on one of those lovely picnic blankets and grab one of the books and enjoy the rest of the afternoon just sipping chilled wine and reading!

But more hard work lay ahead ;) , a pamper session by Illustrated Nails where I got a complimentary manicure in a dark chocolate nail colour, we even got 2 lovely white and red nail colours in our goody bags :)

These red and white summer wines are best enjoyed chilled , a great way to enjoy the long summer evenings.What I like most about lighter fruitier wines is that they are great to serve and gift to those that drink only occasionally and regular wine enthusiasts alike.Because they are not as heavy as traditional wines they are just perfect for  the hot summer weather , in fact I’d say they are the new summer picnic basket essential!

Blossom Hills Sun-Kissed Red and White wines are available nationwide in ASDA,Morrisons and Sainsburys.

*Many thanks to Blossom Hill wines for the invite .

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Le Bouchon -French Wine Bar,Blackheath – a Review

On a perfectly beautiful sunny summer evening I made by way to Blackheath for a bloggers evening at a French Wine Bar. A first for both going to Blackheath and a French wine bar that claimed to be halfway between a pub and a restaurant.

I think I walked past the bar once before I finally understood my google map. There is something very welcoming about the simple wooden interiors and large paintings that made want to just dump my bag and get started with a chilled glass of wine. First up we were served a Champagne Rose’ and hors d’oeuvre of  regular stuff like sun dried tomatoes – not in oil as I expected  but these were nice and tangy, very dry on their own though, sweet mini peppers stuffed with cheese and served with Tapenade.

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Le Bouchon has ample seating indoors and out on street , it is tastefully done and perfect for a n evening out with friends or with family to have that one glass or carafe of wine ,gaze at the beautiful surroundings and drink in the ambience.Also good to grab a high stool, drink a glass of red with a date.

The sunshine and a comfy table visible outside from the beautiful big windows were too hard to resist so we moved outside to soak up some sun, there was a light breeze …just perfect to get started on wine! Well with the 120 wines on offer with a distinct French touch , I was all set to order my white wine ,I wanted a light and slightly sweet one so on Jean-Philippe’s recommendation I got a German white called Gewürztraminer – an aromatic white which goes well with cheese and fatty gamey meat and tastes like lychees ,floral and with tiny bubbles in the glass. I loved it! I could have done with some bread but thankfully didn’t have any just then as the charcuterie and cheese was yet to arrive. It was fun deciding what cheese to choose with the charcuterie.

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I choose Comte  - a 24 month old mature cheese with a nutty flavour & hard but creamy texture, Secret – a cheese I’ve never had before – its made from unpasteurised cows milk with fruity and nutty notes and last one I gave into a desire for some blue cheese with Forme d’ Ambert – a creamy and very light blue cheese – prefect to slather onto the accompanying bread .Before our beautiful cheese and charcuterie boards reached our table, little did I expect such large portions , it was more than enough and served as very satisfying main course.

I was seated with some very friendly bloggers and conversation flowed as smoothly as the wine.

That is a picture of my delicious cheese and charcuterie served with red grapes,pickles and dried apricots – perfect with the platter.

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L-R Starting Top left clockwise :Comte Saucisson a traditional tasty pork sausage with Comte’ ,Walnut Saucisson – pork sausage nutty and dry but very delicious and a pepper Saucisson 100% pork sausage aged in black pepper.

I finished my cheese off with some Spanish Red – Rioja –  intense on spices and oak ,fruity with a hint of liquorice.

Travelling into Blackheath by train and walking up the high street is like getting out-of-town into a nearby modern village.Le Bouchon is Blackheaths answer to an independent ,one-off wine bar with a good selection of wine and cheese , in contrast to the many chains that otherwise easily take over majority of the high street. It’s the kind of place you could back to many times over and even make your fav haunt if you are a local – easy.

*With  thanks to Jean-Philippe for the invite.No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review .All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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Smoked Spanish Peppers and Zingy Mushrooms in a creamy sauce

My love for using smoked sweet red peppers is taking over my recipes for now , I made these zingy mushrooms for a friend who popped in for brunch about 2 months ago but I have been very lazy and this recipe is finally seeing daylight. I guess the electric atmosphere of the yellow jersey clad stadium full of Brazil fans and the super tight match going on with Camroon is giving me a much needed rush of happy hormones ,add to that the frenzy of the Wimbledon matches , the air in Wimbledon is heavy with anticipation, huge posters , fluorescent tennis ball props in all windows , the traditional colours of the Wimbledon ribbons and balloons galore, the bus service from the station to the venue with hyperexcited people , everything is screaming tennis here!

Lamuyo Peppers are great for roasting as they are bigger and sweeter than their cousins the hot variety. They are juicy and crunchy and go well with garlic,basil,oregano,taste fab with cheese , think stuffed peppers grilled , just perfect for summer !

The recipe was given to me by P aunty , shes a fab cook as I have mentioned in my past posts too and her recipes are innovative, delicious and easy to make, I love pestering her to keep sending me more recipes everytime we talk ;) .So I decided to amp up this recipe with some madness my style and use up the handsome red pepper staring at me from my fridge ;)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large pack Chestnut Mushrooms sliced
  • 1 large red Lamuyo sweet pepper
  • 8 cloves Garlic- bash and chop fine
  • 1/2 red onionchopped very fine
  • 2 chillies- (more or less acc to your taste) – chop fine
  • 3 heaped tbs flavoured soft cheese, I love using the herby Philadelphia
  • 2 tbsp  Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Parsley- a handful -chopped finely

Method:

  • Roast the pepper on gas flame till the skin chars and begins to peel off, I use tongs to hold it by the stem so it can char even at the top.
  • While the pepper cools just enough to allow you to peel and reveal the smoked juicy flesh, you can use the time to wash and slice the chestnut mushrooms
  • While taking off the charred skin off the smoked pepper remember to place a dish below as it will release lots of juice which we don’t want to loose as it is one powerhouse of smoky peppery sweet flavour!
  • Heat oil in a sauce pan and saute the garlic till it turns brown and the familiar aroma of fabulous garlic begins to waft and assault your nostrils.
  • Then add the very finely chopped red onion and cook on a low flame stirring regularly till the onion is thoroughly crispy and reduces in quantity, do not let it burn.
  • Then toss in the mushrooms and the chopped smoked pepper and cook for about 2 minutes on a low flame ,stirring and making sure it does not stick to the pan or overcook
  • Then add the soft cheese ,sea salt and finely chopped parsley,mix well and cook with lid for about 1 to 1 1/2 minute.
  • Serve with garlic bread smothered in butter – eat guilt free;)

What I love about this dish , its creamy , its a bit sweet a bit more zingy and has an underlying deep smoked flavour that is robust without being overpowering ,I’d say its a new comfort food for me , what with all the moorish soft cheese in there!1-IMG_6699 (Copy)

Samsung Food Show Case Refrigerator Launch – a Tall,Sleek and smart Fridge!

I always thought that Central London would have cramped accommodation but that notion was blown to bits when I took a house tour the very modern but charming - Violin Factory –  Conversion of a crumbling old ruin that the old violin factory was  into a fully equipped, functional house ,ney a luxurious loft-style home!Also the venue for the UK launch of Samsung’s latest innovation a 28.5 cu ft shiny ,smart refrigerator with multi functional space organising and energy-saving design.

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The V.P of Consumer Electronics for Samsung UK & Ireland Robert King took us through the features and utility of the Samsung Food Show case Refrigerator.

What better way to showcase such snazzy features than by calling in a professional declutterer to the celebrities – Vicky Silverthorn(Yes! That sounds like an awesome profession to be in right?!) . Vicki took us through simple but brilliant ideas on how to organise space in the kitchen and optimise utilisation of all available space inside the Samsung Food Show case Refrigerator.

Vicky Silverthorn for the Samsung Food Case Fridge Launch

While we bloggers sat down to enjoy Champagne , the efficient team of chefs led by Michelin Starred Chef Mikael Jonsson of Club Des Chefs served us canapes ,followed by Tapas style mains including Pork Belly.

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FoodScape Photographer Carl Warner who’s foodscapes are all works of art , created a foodscape inspired by the Samsung Food Show case Refrigerator. And why not I say the Innovative Organization with Easy Access to On-The-Go Items is good enough to inspire art.

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Why the name Food Show Case ? Well, the most intriguing part of the design for me was the Inner and Outer cases ,its like a opening a huge pop up book! The space available in this refrigerator can be sensibly utilised and actually customised to easily organize your food by type or family member.The exterior showcase gives you instant access to drinks and condiments – Perfect for frequently used items, while the Inner Case lets you store large, fresh food items.Think little people who love opening the refrigerator door just to gaze inside or cool themselves on hot summer afternoons ;) not to mention the menfolk who love admiring the beer stacked inside – wonder why :) . No surprise then that this Samsung refrigerator not only meets ENERGY STAR® requirements, it exceeds them!

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L-R :Robert King – V.P – Consumer Electronics Samsung,Vicki – the decluttering guru,Carl Warner - FoodScape Photographer

Metal Cooling locks in cold and seals in freshness while the sleek and smart stainless steel paneling helps maintain consistent temperature throughout the refrigerator and it does good things to the external appearance of this beauty.Don’t we all want things to be as simple as pressing a few buttons and set things in place , well the external Ice Blue Digital Display does just that !! It allows you to easily control settings at the touch of a button. The freezer design is again pretty smart Thats not all ,the Automatic In-Door Ice Maker can produce up to 4.2lbs of ice per day and stores up to 5.5lbs of ice! You can get crushed ice too!Woohoo bring on the parties ,barbies in summer, kiddie birthdays with icy cold drinks and the cocktail and cheese nights for us adults!

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High-Efficiency LED Lighting emits less heat and is more energy-efficient than conventional lighting. The sleek design saves more space than traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Need more convincing ? It comes with a vacation function – smart for when your away for long periods it saves energy and there’s always something to come back to when your back late with a hungry family in tow. As far as I can think of Samsung has thought of everything one could wish for! This fridge gets top marks and is on my want list ,I would love to have one in my kitchen – cough cough anyone at Samsung listening? ;) Space, utility, common sense, energy saving,child safe lock function,vacation mode ,adjustable shelves,a smart double door to ensure easy access to things that one needs the most – the Food Show case has it all, combined with its sleek ,modern good looks it will fit well into any kitchen – modern or rustic alike!

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I manged to find time to chat up Vicki and she gave me some fab wardrobe organisation tips especially for the n number of black trousers I possess! After which we were taken on a tour of The Violin Factory, I couldn’t help but think of how fab this conversion home is for a fashion model photo shoot, wat with one of the main bedrooms that is equipped with a concealed jacuzzi and the fabulous skylights. There is a fab nook at the very top – a desk where your creative juices would absolutely flow unabated! Sigh… think dream house!

With all the trapping of fab evening - delicious food , interesting conversation, a superb product and a brilliant venue , the folks at Samsung know how to throw a party! Now all I need is a complimentary Samsung Food Show Case  fridge for my kitchen;)

*With thanks to Samsung for the invite 

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5 ideas for fun days out near London this Summer!

The Great British Summer is here and the weather is brilliant, sunny and perfect for days out in the park , at the beach or out exploring with the family on a weekend. There are many brilliant places that you can go to on a budget even if you don’t drive and have a really fun day out in the sun with the family.

Last year my 5 favourite day out spots were places where we did one day trips using public transport and carried a few essentials, there is always scope to go in groups and stay overnight in one of the quaint English Bed and Breakfast places – O.D on the morning Full English for breakfast  and generally have a blast .

So here’s my list of my Top 5 picks for best places to spend a day out in the Great British Summer 2014, not too far from London,easy on the pocket,family friendly options and easily approachable by public transport!  Let me know what you think :

Pebbled Shores of Brighton

This is trip down memory lane for me now, seems like yesterday though. my very first spring in the U.K and on a fine morning we set out for Brighton. Sun,fish and chips and noisy seagulls yes , sandy beach – no!But there is nothing a comfy deck chair can’t solve.

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We hopped onto a 45 minute coastal cruise  aboard the Rossana.Most enchanting view on the cruise was of the skeletal structure or what’s left of the West Pier.Something very fascinating and mysterious about this relic.

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Walked past the Brighton Marina to admire the many beautiful yachts.Many bars and restaurants along the quayside we choose a rather cosy looking one and had a leisurely drink watching the yachts bobbing around on the water the bright late evening sunlight bouncing off yatch decks.

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We stumbled upon the extraordinary palace  the Royal Pavilion  built for the Prince Regent, later King George IV.This royal ‘pleasure palace’ is remarkable for its exotic chinoiserie style . It was revered by fashionable Regency society and is still a distinctive landmark for vibrant Brighton & Hove today.

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Fishing,Sailing or taking a journey on the oldest electric train from the smallest station I’ve seen yet – Marina Station , there’s loads of fun activities to do with the family on a day out. Just after we hopped off our bus to the station and  on an impulse we took another bus into beautiful  the coastal village of Saltdean. Whatever you do ,don’t go away from Brighton without seeing Saltdean if only you do it on a plus bus journey like we did,especially since there is a road called Marine Drive at Saltdean , reminded me of Bombay it did.

Day out for 2 at  Brighton will cost you approximately under £65 if you had to really budget yourself.

  • Train Tickets :£20 if booked in advance via The Train Line
  • Plus Bus:£3.30 adult ie.£6.60
  • Boat Ride:£8.50 adult
  • Fish and Chips:Approx £5 each at The Regency Restaurant
  • Sundry (Ice Cream,Water,using public loo’s): £15

Soft sandy beach at West Wittering

To me a beach always meant soft white -brown sands and warm waters to splash around in , well that was until I visited a pebbled beach of course. So after Brighton , I was aching to go to a beach where I could just spread a blanket ,lie down and snooze off with the sound of waves in the distant background- ermm yes yes that sounds lazy , but heck thats me! Just walking along the soft sandy beach of West Wittering in West Sussex is very calming and watching kids screaming as they run into the bearably cold water, dogs digging busily into the sand and people generally soaking up the sun and hoping to tan evenly ;)

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West Wittering Beach is one of these 4000 beaches and marinas in 48 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean that has cleared the strict criteria dealing with Water Quality, Environmental Education and Information, Environmental Management, and Safety and Other Services and is therefore a BLUE FLAG BEACH. So not only is this beach a highly picturesque place of natural beauty,wildlife and birds  to enjoy but very safe too.

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With beautiful views of the Chichester Harbour and the South Down its a great place for adventure sports like windsurfing or kitesurfing.

After a long stroll along the beach and having clicked a few pictures especially the beautiful and colourful cabins at the back where we spotted a huge family gathering having fun around a tempting BBQ and lots of chilled beer – perfect! Ice cream at the beach is customary and after we got ourselves some at the beach cafe – braving a long queue we decided to just sit down n enjoy the sights and sounds. To find a quieter spot we walked past the area full of families and hyper excited kids and went to the area where pets are allowed, relatively fewer people and a spot just perfect to lay down a picnic blanket ! Before we knew it we were dozing and I think I dreamt I was part of Tintin’s adventures in Sussex- oh , well don’t you remember he snowy and he headed there in ‘The Black Island‘ .I have been a huge fan of Tintin ever since I first read Herge’s adorable imaginary whodunits as a kid ! I have spent endless summer holidays snuggled up in bed in the afternoon reading Tintin with my cousins or seated in a corner of my local library – such pageturners I tell ya!

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  • How To get there:Train,Road,Bus,Cycle
  • Toilets Available: Yes
  • Food and Drink:Beach Cafe
  • Parking:Minimal charges ranging from £1 to £8 apply depending on what time of the year you visit.

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Trekking Near Box Hill

Have climbed the Snowdon last year with hubster it might seem that trekking up Box Hill is nothing but heck its a good climb with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.Salomons Memorial (viewpoint) offers views upto 26 miles away including   Chanctonbury Ring and Devil’s Dyke, Sussex,also towards  Gatwick airport and the South Downs.

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If you are a trigger happy camera aficionado then this place offers huge scope for taking some great shots. If your a history buff then check out the Box Hill fort built in 1896 ,similar to 12 forts in the south east of England.There’s also an upside down grave where Major Peter Labellière was buried upside down in the belief that the world was ‘topsy turvy’.

Another interesting tidbit about Box Hill is that it was home to the inventor of the television!John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, lived at Swiss Cottage on Box Hill from 1929 until 1932. He carried out his initial experiments by sending a TV signal from the top of the hill to the valley below,he also conducted experiments using his Noctovisor an infra-red viewing device.

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You do do one of the many walks around Box Hill, there is even a trail suitable for toddlers where you can be sure to fire their imagination and get plenty of exercise and fresh air ,who knows they might just discover some interesting flowers,birds or creepy crawlies! There is also a Butterfly trail but the most amazing walk is the superb stepping stones walk which we did.Its something out of a picture pop up book and there is great scope for me time as you walk past the River Mole on a 2 mile circular walk which will take you under 2 hours. Lined by Apple and Cherry trees the stepping stones dating back to 1841 were destroyed in WWII and reinstated in 1946.

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This is Broadwood’s Folly – built in 1815 for the piano maker Thomas Broadwood.

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Due to its historic importance and stunning natural beauty Box Hill is a site protected by the National Trust.Once is not enough, Box hill is the kind of place that draws you in and you want to go back for more. One lazy sundays when I don’t feel like walking too much we do a mini picnic tea with a thermos, a blanket and our imagination for company – the views are strangely relaxing and I suspect its the clean mountain air and the exercise that is relaxing.

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Walk and relax at Richmond Park

The biggest enclosed space in London ,Richmond Park is largest of London’s eight Royal Parks.It is a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation in south-west London. It is also where I saw first set eyes on freely roaming deer – something I shall never forget. We were dozing (again!) on our picnic blanket in a nice little woody nook in the park and I had dozed off over a book when hubster urgently jabbing his fingers into my rib – ouch in an attempt to draw my attention to a curious bystander – a huge Red stag! Its massive antler had us awestruck and a bit worried at once. It just gave us a stare and then settled down on a patch of grass munching on something -Phew! Wide awake now, we packed our things as quietly as possible and went for a stroll ….

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With over 650 red and fallow deer roaming freely one must always bear in mind that though they are immensely beautiful they are wild and we must respect their space.

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Caves at Reigate in the historic town of Surrey

Thinking of a fab day out with the family under £15? This is the place to go.Ammunition storage during WWI and air raid shelters during WWII these caves have seen it all.Local folklore has it that the barons held a secret meeting at the Barons’ cave on their way to Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta.

These are actually old sand mines which include the Baron’s Cave in the Castle Grounds and the Tunnel Road caves in the Western Caverns.The castle which is now long gone is only a  mound overlooking Reigate town centre and is composed of soft sandstone and has been mined over several centuries.Many excavations of the castle still remain.For as low as £ 2 per adult and £1.50 per child you can tour the caves with an experienced guide who will share details about the history of the caves. Disabled persons can be accompanied by upto 2 carers who go free of charge.

Visit the official website of the The Wealden Cave & Mine Society , a charitable organisation  here.Read more on the Reigate History website here.

Barons’ Cave. Castle Grounds, Reigate, Surrey

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 Image credit :Howard Walden from The Wealden Cave & Mine Society website

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Image credit  Nick Catford from The Wealden Cave & Mine Society website

If you want a more relaxed day out why not consider a trip to Denbies Vineyard? Read my post about my day trip here.

 

 

 

 

Smoky and Spicy Lamb Burgers

Come Summer and I am one happy bunny,more so because I really miss the omnipresent sunshine from back home in Mumbai city! But the one thing I love the most about the British Summer is the amazing BBQ’s we have ! Last years most fun barbie was at our friends place , we OD’ed  on grilled seafood and Pimms – hoping to have a repeat of that this year !

Some friends have a BBQ planned for later this month but I couldn’t wait so got myself some lamb mince and decided to use some fresh mushrooms and add my own twist to the burgers with a bright red smoked sweet red pepper! My trusty old griddle pan at hand , I turned my tiny urban open plan kitchen into a tiny BBQ party venue!

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Perfect time to use up some of the wonderful La Chinata smoked paprika powder.

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Ingredients:

  • 500 gm Lamb Mince
  • 1 bunch of spring onion
  • 1 big sweet red pepper
  • 250 gm button mushrooms
  • 150 gm cherry tomatoes
  • 3  tsp sweet paprika powder La Chinata
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  •  4 tsp coriander powder
  • a large sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chilli oil
  • Salt to taste

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Method:

  • Flame roast the sweet red pepper on a gas flame, if you’re doing a BBQ ,first rub some oil and garlic paste onto it.
  • After it has been roasted and cooled down a bit,peel off the skin and chop fine
  • Chop the mushrooms to tiny bite sized pieces
  • Finely chop the spring onions and cherry tomatoes
  • Wash the lamb mince under a running tap by placing it inside a sieve.
  •  Mix the chopped smoked sweet red pepper, mushrooms,spring onions ,cherry tomatoes,rosemary,chilli flakes,sweet smoked paprika powder from La Chinata and coriander powder,paprika and salt.

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  • Knead all the ingredients into the mixture.
  • Make mini burger patties by taking palm sized portions of this mixture and ty and pat them into roughly round shape.
  • On a griddle pan add some chilli oil and place a few burgers on it. Cook them for a few minutes on one side and them flip and repeat.
  • Serve the cooked lamb burgers inside wholegrain soft burger buns generously lined with butter , a thick slice of cheese, pickles,crunchy salad leaves and doused with ketchup. Or if you’d rather not then eat them plain – I did , served with some grilled button mushrooms and tender shoots of asparagus on which I slathered generous amounts of smoked paprika sweet chilli powder mixed with some oil and garlic paste – pure heaven!

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The sweet smoked paprika powder gives the lamb burgers a definite sweet hot flavour and the others spices combine well with the vegetables.Its also a great way to get fussy eaters to eat veggies hidden in layers of delicious meat and spices. I would have loved to add some boiled green peas too, they would add more bulk and taste too.

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*With thanks to La Chinata for sending samples  for review.No monetary compensation was provided for this post.All views expressed are my own.