Cakes by Robin Review

Christmas Eve and I’m still not organised! Few extra presents to get, got to pack my bag before heading to see family. Not really in the Christmas spirit as I will still be at work come the 24th December. My festive spirit wasn’t really alive and well until this guy arrived…


Thank you to Cakes By Robin who was kind enough to send little Rudolf over. A super moist and lightly spiced fruit cake – I love it when you bite into a raisin or another dried fruit the bejewelled little thing burst in your mouth like caviar (but obviously deliciously sweet and not salty. Or fishy).  Decorations were immaculate and absolutely professional (as you’d imagine from a professional cake maker!). Can’t say I’m too much of an icing lover and this bad boy has a heavy cake to icing ratio.



You can see the way that it shines how moist it was! cakes-by-robin-review-4

cakes-by-robin-review-5Thank you so much to Cakes By Robin for allowing me to try this masterpiece of sugary goodness. If you’d like to find out about Robin’s cake making classes, buy vouchers for a keen amateur baker or custom order a cake of your own then you’d best pop over to her website!

All that leaves me to say is Merry Christmas. Stuff yourselves silly. And get drunk. That’s my plan, anyhow…


The Hangover Platter – Breakfast Delivery – South West London

Granted, it’s a first world dilemma but don’t you hate it when you wake up in the morning after a heavy night, there’s nothing in the house to eat, and your belly sounds like an angry bear? Topping it all off like a rotten cherry on top is also the fact that in order to get food you’re going to have to circumnavigate your local profit-distorting grocery store (with all the other morons who drank one too many gin and tonics the night before) in order to bring home the bacon.

PLUS none of your favourites on Just Eat have even starting firing up their deep fryers yet.

Who are you, quite literally, going to call? The Hangover Platter perhaps? These folks have come up with a new concept which frankly I wish I’d thought of. You order when you’re hungover, choosing from a mixed selection of savoury and sweet plates, they bring it to your door. The service operates between 9am and 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays, delivering (at the moment) in the following postcodes: SW2, SW4, SW9, SW11 1, SW12, SW16, SW17.

Why small plates? They say it’s because when you’re hungover you can never decide what to eat. To be fair this is true; when I have managed to haul my ass out of bed in order to buy food after an evening of inebriation, I tend to buy the shop. So what do they serve up…here’s what I got delivered to me!

Above is baked egg pot with supergreens and toasted parmesan crumbs. Really quite tasty and the egg was still runny. I think they’re working on their packaging still as it was lukewarm on arrival but very fresh and something that I could never be arsed to whip up at 11am on a Sunday morning!



Above, from left to right working clockwise, toasted granola with grated apple and yoghurt pot; fresh guacamole (which came with some granary bread) – seriously this was banging!; classic full English breakfast pot with a twist – this was a tad on the sweet side and needed toning down a bit; and the baked egg dish again.

I also tried the brownie (drowing in chocolate already!); fresh fruit salad and the Haribo (I don’t think they’re homemade but we’ll forgive them in this instance).

You know what, I love this idea, and the food was totally fresh and really reasonably priced. I know they still have a few things to iron out as they only launched at the end of October but it is off the ground, it will fly. Seriously, have a go when you’re hanging next Sunday. It’s almost worth getting drunk for.

The Hangover Platter delivers in the following postcodes:
W2, SW4, SW9, SW11 1, SW12, SW16, SW17.
Open: 9am-2pm on Saturdays & Sundays


SW9 – Loughborough Junction – Levi Roots’ Big Lunch

Having worked as a steward on The Big Lunch on Lavender Hill in Battersea a couple of years ago, I was delighted to see that the initiative is still alive and well. I’ve also been involved in a few community-based festivals and food events – see my post last week on The Fabulous Feast.

As a little warm up to the main event on June 2, Brixton-born celebrity chef Levi Roots hosted a special cooking demonstration from at the Marcus Lipton Centre near Loughborough Junction.

The Big Lunch, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the Eden Project, encourages people across the UK to have lunch with their neighbours once a year, for a few hours of community, friendship and fun.

Showcasing five recipes costing just £5 each, Levi demonstrated to residents from the Loughborough Junction community that holding a Big Lunch doesn’t require a lot of money or preparation.

Levi’s Jamaican cooking style helped to inspire the street party recipes, which were tried and tested by Big Lunchers from the area, who are planning to hold the event on Sunday 2 June.

Taken from his own collection, Levis’ recipe demonstration included haloumi 50/50 Kingsmill Wraps with melon and mint salsa, chill tomato toasts, hot cheesy potato skins, barbecued sweetcorn and flavoured butters and roasted treacle toffee bananas, all of which are easy to prepare and can be cooked on a grill or a barbecue.

I’m always a big advocate of community gatherings and initiatives, and although this isn’t the thing I usually post on my blog, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s good to see everyone getting involved in cooking and community.

Local Big Luncher Hazel Watson tucks in to Levi Roots' Roasted Treacle Toffee Bananas

Local Big Luncher Hazel Watson tucks in to Levi Roots’ Roasted Treacle Toffee Bananas

Levi Roots demonstrates his Five Recipes for a Fiver to local Loughborough Junction Big Lunchers

Levi Roots demonstrates his Five Recipes for a Fiver to local Loughborough Junction Big Lunchers

SW11 Battersea – St John’s Hill – The Fabulous Feast

The Fabulous Feast food festival on St John’s Hill served up a treat to Battersea locals and visitors on Saturday and I was lucky enough to be one of the stewards involved in the event.

Shops and eateries opened up their doors onto the pavement, while the St John’s Hill road was lined with specialist food producers, live cooking demonstrations and street food stalls.

One of the highlights of the day was The Great Battersea Bake Off. Competition was stiff and the judging drew a crowd of onlookers who were eager to know the result (and snap up the remnants of the entrants’ baking efforts!).

Laura Amos of The Dessert Deli judged the winner of the brownie competition to be Rachel James’ Valencian orange and almond entry. Savannah-Rose Williams, 11 of Putney, won the children’s fairy cake competition.

I do love this photo of the junior winner (who was lucky to get Laura’s signed book as a prize!)

(L-R) MP Jane Ellison, Savannah-Rose Williams (11), & Laura Amos of The Dessert Deli

(L-R) MP Jane Ellison, Savannah-Rose Williams (11), & Laura Amos of The Dessert Deli

Kaosarn’s Thai dishes, Dosa Deli’s vegetarian Indian snacks, carriBBurton’s Jamaican jerk chicken, and Simmons’ sweet and savoury crepes all turned up the heat in street food offerings.

Beers flowed freely from casks and kegs in the pubs – while the stall of Battersea micro-brewer Sambrook’s were the providers of real ale. The Bloody Marys of Ben’s Canteen and the Make your own Mojito station at Jackson’s bar added an alcoholic dash of zing to proceedings! Other learned activities included food and beer pairing by Powder Keg Diplomacy – who also ran an ice cream making session and the oyster and champagne bar at Fish Club was filled with happy customers all day long!

Experience Travel, who offer bespoke holidays in Asia, delighted visitors in their courtyard with complimentary Vietnamese snacks and Bia Hoi (fresh beer!). Nearby cafe and luxury deli, Urban Gourmet, showcased their fresh bread and pastries.

The success of the event was evident as the pavements were filled with the happy faces of traders, visiting stalls, residents of the Hill and the visitors – without whom the Fabulous Feast could not have been possible.

As a little aside – which is something I hope you’ll keep between you and me…I’ve just got a new job which involves event management (especially in the Borough of Wandsworth) – hence why I was a part of The Fabulous Feast.

Thought I’d share this photo with you to show you the rest of my team…exciting times!

My new colleagues!

My new colleagues!

SW11 Battersea – Sambrook’s Brewery New Pale Ale

It is no secret that I like beer. Craft beer and real ale if we’re being specific (which reminds me – did you see my post on the Battersea Beer Festival?). So when I hear of a new pale ale being let loose into the world, my ears prick up. Actually, my ears start dancing -practically – when I hear that it’s a pale ale brewed in the Borough of Wandsworth!


So Sambrook’s (whom I have oft written about) are a Battersea-based brewery. Last month saw the launch of their new keg pale ale which was rolled out to nine different stockists (there could be more now, I’m not sure. Ask them on Twitter) in London. I know it sold out pretty darn quick at one pub in Shoreditch though. I tried the first batch of this pale ale at their Brewery Bash event back in September but since then, they’ve tweaked the recipe…the suspense is killing me.

And here it is!

Drum roll…

As you’ve probably noticed, craft keg beer (oh so popular at the moment), save for a few exceptions, has primarily been the contingent of the Americans and Europeans. But Sambrook’s have decided they’d like to try their hand at it making it, in addition to their usual cask ale. And hey – I’d like to lend a hand at trying it.

They’ve merged a traditional English cask recipe with a German lagering technique called krausening. It’s matured in a pressurised vessel for three weeks, meaning that it develops its own carbonation, yet  it retains all the flavour you expect of an English cask ale. The result is a light, fresh beer – with none of the floury / fruity aromas you get with some pale ales (not that I mind those).

Say what? They’ve only gone and opened a shop in the brewery too – you can buy a number of different beers and ales hand selected by none other than Duncan Sambrook. He’s got quite a good taste in beer, don’t you think? 😉

Sambrook’s Brewery Shop

SW12 Clapham – Old School Thai curry pastes

So you’ll probably have guessed by now, either from this blog or my Twitter account, that I am middle class enough to have taken a Gap Year. I am not however, sufficiently upper class to have taken a Gap Yah. I’ll leave that for my pashmina-ed pals across the river in South Ken. But yes, yes…I’ve been to Thailand. I’ve bought a Chang vest from that chap on the Kao San Road. I got a PADI qualification in Ko Tao. I’ve drunk Thai whiskey out of small buckets with iridescent straws. Those days however, are over. I am wise enough now to know there is another way; if you stay in the comfort of your own home, then the buckets are much larger.

I didn’t have a spiritual awakening in Thailand; I was too busy eating for that to happen. Travelling to the Isaan region in the north east, completed the trip with respect to Thai cuisine. When Mekong catfish is barbecued, served with steaming sticky rice in a reed basket, with a side of som tam (a spicy salad comprised of unripe papaya) it is like eating what you’d dream of serving up to Daniel Craig if he were to attend your imaginary dinner party. Me and ‘Dan’ are pretty close* so I don’t have to imagine – I’m sure he told me once that he liked a good Laarb Gai.

Thai curry, be it green or red, is the most overdone thing in the book, right after pad Thai. I rarely make it because the sheer volume of ingredients make it a ridiculously expensive – cost per head – dish. Also I can guarantee you’ll always find, some weeks later, a lemon grass stick at the back of the fridge which is beyond redemption.

I was approached by a company called Old School Thai (presumably they had not heard about my lewd exploits in Pattaya – I jest, I jest!) who asked me to try a couple of their Thai curry pastes. They’re based around south west London, and, as as you know I’m always in the business of supporting good, local producers. Founder Brett Cowie claims his pastes will take you “on a trip back in time to Thailand when my grandma was still making curries herself”. That’s marketing speak if ever I heard it (in the day job I hear it a lot). But let’s get down to brass tacks; what we all want to know is, are they any good?

Well yes, they’re not bad. I like the idea of having something which is incredibly fresh at hand which negates those ‘bugger it’ moments when you realise you missed out ONE ingredient on your Tesco shop (you’d sworn you’d bought everything). I put together a prawn curry with the red curry paste. All the ingredients I added were some sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, prawns, coconut milk, chilli, Thai basil and palm sugar. Still seems like a substantial amount of ingredients – but then there’s about double that in the paste itself.

Old School Thai Red Curry Paste

Old School Thai Red Curry Paste

Some additional ingredients

What I missed from the sauce was the rich intenseness of flavour. The packets tell you to add more paste to increase the heat; I didn’t find this. Adding more paste made the sauce darker with more floaty bits of lemon grass and galangal (etc.). It was a nice,well-rounded taste – aromatic – but I sought more of the spikes in flavour that Thai food is so famous for; the peaks of the salty, sour, and sweet. I don’t wish to convey that the sauce was un-flavoursome – it just didn’t pack a punch. My taste buds need a royally good arse kicking and the backbone of the curry paste wasn’t going to be that bully – regardless of my extra additions of lime, chilli, fish sauce and palm sugar. Milder palates would disagree, I’m sure.

Old School Thai Red Curry Paste with king prawns and sugar snap peas

The recipe card ideas which come alongside are useful are informative. I especially liked the inclusion of Tod Mun Pla infused with the Gaeng Ghet paste – fishcakes in any shape or form are consumed in abundance at mine and the Welshman’s house. This is something that I know I’ll try with Old School Thai’s pastes in future (they’ve got a reasonably long shelf life).

What we’ve got then is the raw materials for a busy person to make a decent, Thai-inspired meal. I know other food bloggers read other food blogs, and maybe Old School Thai wouldn’t be the one for them: GOD DAMN IT –  they’ll make the sauce themselves, rogue or no rogue lemon grass stalk! Even if it is just to take Instagram snaps for every stage of the recipe.

Old School Thai curry pastes can be bought online on their website or at selected stockists priced around £3.90.

I was generously given the pastes by Old School Thai.

*we’re not sadly.

SW11 Battersea – Sambrook’s Ale – Brewery Bash

I’m sure you’ve made the joke in your head already. A party? In a brewery? With beer? Well, yes, we all made that joke yesterday. Even the Welshman did – and he’s not known for being the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Beer barrels – disappointingly not made of wood

Although I can feel the wind turning September ever more wintery, yesterday was a cracker of a day – sunshine with the need for a scarf. My favourite kind of weather. Hay bales and the smell of Ginger Pig sausages on the barbecue greeted the real ale fans (some of whom I have encountered before) who came to celebrate Sambrook’s successes, and four-year birthday celebrations.

Sambrooks Brewery Bash

Hay bales and a hoedown!

The usual favourites were on tap; Wandle, Junction, and Powerhouse Porter. Tokens could also be exchanged for the new (ish) Lavender Hill pale ale which was overly drinkable, infused with honey and had notes of orange blossom. Pumphouse Pale Ale was also a winner in my book (glass).

If I wasn’t in drinking an industrial estate in south London, I would have thought I was getting merry at a hoedown in Somerset. A live band on the back of a lorry played jigged up versions of pop tunes that made you want to squeal – yee haaw!

Thought I’d share some of the snaps with you.

A man proffering sausages

Legal tender at the brewery

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SW12 – Clapham South

This post doesn’t have a title as such. A postcode, yes, and an indicative address in south London but more than that? No. This is neither a restaurant review, an account of a colourful farmers’ market, nor a spotlight on an up and coming south London producer. So why just Clapham South?

Well, I’ve only gone and moved, haven’t I? Come March I will have lived in London three years, and in those three years I’ve hopped and skipped through five flats. You know the drill; every time we Londoners move we inevitably say “well I’m not doing that for at least another two years”.

Well that’s bullshit.

Something happens, good or bad, and we’ve got to up sticks and find another lone (cheap) corner of the Big Smoke. I had come to love Brixton a great deal since moving there in January – the sights, the sounds, the hobos and the hipsters. Times have however changed.

For one reason I find myself in a wonderful one-bedroom flat in Clapham South. The wonderful thing is that I get to live with who I want to live with, which those of you who have had the blessed experience of sharing with inordinate strangers will appreciate.

Now I have my own kitchen, my own pots and pans, a whole fridge – not just a shelf – and – look – space for this beaut!

Pretty awesome birthday present, huh?

Having your own kitchen definitely gives you back your cooking mojo.

“You know what, I think I’ll just whiz up some muffins seeing as though housemate x hasn’t gone and stole my blueberries.”

(She had a blueberry – verging on the side of fetish – addiction.)

Blueberry muffins

Or: “Bugger it. There’s feck all on telly. I think what this flat is missing is homemade bread.”

One would think I lived in a farmhouse or something…

There you go. Non-Instagramed too.

So that’s all there is to it. A new flat, a new location, a new kitchen. More cooking. Someone get me a pinny.

Better change my Twitter bio too; A Brixton dweller’s blog. Nodanymore!

If you’ve got any recommended haunts in the SW12 region, lettuce know. I’m already a fan of Balham Bowls Club; good beer.


Birthday treats

I think it was my ninth birthday which completely put me off having my own party. It was in South Cave Leisure Centre. The boys were on one side of the hall and the girls were on the other. No one was dancing except my dear old gran, who at 4’11, wasn’t much taller than some of my primary school contemporaries. At nine years old we didn’t have the benefit of Jagerbombs to set the mood; I  think I had hoped serving my guests with bowls filled with Haribo might have given this party the sucrose injection it required.

It didn’t.

Fast forward in a mirage whirlpool to the present day…

I still hate my birthday. I hate organising it. The stress. Who will come? Will they like the venue? Will my nibbles turn out the way the picture looks? Will I manage to make it past 9.30pm? My birthday feels like organising a piss up in a brewery; sounds simple, but in reality the brewery doesn’t let reprobates in and it closes after 4pm.

I won’t tell you how old I am, but in my 2*th year, this birthday was going to be different. And it was.

This post needs few words. Here’s how it began.

Heading from Brixton to St John’s Hill, birthday brunch was a delicious celebration of eggs royale at Ben’s Canteen. Ben’s hollandaise sauce is one of the best I’ve tasted in London. Its buttery creaminess, while rich, gets tempered with an equilibrium-restoring streak of lemon juice.

It was my birthday, in case you were wondering why a pint was warranted at such an early hour.

Eggs Royale at Ben’s Canteen

Well that’s the excuse I’m sticking to.

Cake and candles was also provided by Ben’s Canteen. I loved their scotch egg themed cake.

Alright, just a scotch egg then – with a candle.

But his is not just a scotch egg. This is a vegetarian scotch egg. I made a wish for you all to experience it at least once in your lifetime. Thank you Ben for making it special (and runny, and delicious)!

Scotch egg

Birthday egg action!

Despite an incredible amount of egg action, and a fun-filled day at the Olympics, no birthday is actually complete without actual cake.

A very nice friend made these for me. I made no wishes for you to try these in your lifetime. Because wanted to eat them all.

Colourful cakes

And then the birthday ended, and I was one year older.

True story.

Hywel fawr jet stream

There are lots of things which make me happy. Is it the smell of home made bread in an oven warmed kitchen? Is it playing an unnecessarily long-winded game of Uno with the kids? Or is it getting them involved in the kitchen with food colouring and a sponge mix, whiling away a few hours to make this?

Rainbow Cake

Rainbow Cake

Perhaps is it sitting out in the evening sunshine, with a barbecue on the go, and a cold beer in hand?

That one ranks pretty highly actually.

All of those things which make me happy happened this weekend. Yeah, although I sometimes like to give the Welshman a bashing in my blogs, a long weekend away in the Brecon Beacons is one of the few perks I get from going out with someone whose balance oft becomes a daily liability, and whose sense of humour can be childishly inane.

Having lived in Cardiff, I know that Welsh weather can be tremendously shit. I’ll take this weekend’s glorious sunshine as a small life win and I’ll lift up my chilled Peroni and bid adieu to the jet stream which has festered around us for weeks like a bad smell.

My trip to Mid South Wales has given me a bit of blog fodder; it has made me want to write about working hard and what you can achieve from scratch with drive and talent. I wanted to write this post because although I am effectively giving a plug to the Welshman’s ma,  she is also a mighty fine baker and cook who has worked astonishingly hard to get her business to where it is today. Regardless of my connection with her, she deserves the recognition in this small humble blogpost (trust me, if she wanted to promote herself she could – she’s got an audience of several thousand Twitter followers). In the beginning she just made bread and cakes for friends, and with word being spread as quickly as the jam that buttered them, she quickly gained a reputation for melt-in-the-mouth Welsh cakes, flapjacks, juicy pork-filled sausage rolls, in addition to so many other things. Then the business started expanding, and for a while she catered for a local society, stood outside Crickhowell Market every Saturday come rain or rain (remember this is Wales), and catered for well-attended local events.

Then came Welsh Cakes Online. It does what it says on the tin, but you’ll have never had a Welsh cake like hers before, I can guarantee.

Deb’s Kitchen opened in March. Initially she’d wanted it to be just that, a kitchen shop; a place where you could pick up a light bite to take away and have a browse at kitchen utensils and equipment made by local traders. A few enquiries for a fresh coffee with their sausage roll, and a a couple of patio chairs later, Deb’s Kitchen is fast becoming the honey pot cafe of Crickhowell.

Deb’s business started off from home; long hours spent quite literally over a hot stove, 4am starts, midnight finishes. It all started in her home kitchen. Despite all the hard work that has, and still does go on, I love coming here. There’s fresh eggs from the chickens and in the corner and you can guarantee there’s leftovers waiting to be picked at on the family-sized table. The shelves alternate between clear glass containers of sultanas, dried coconut, demerara sugar, and family photos. Pots and pans hang from the ceiling; everything has its own space and is tightly packed in – I dare you to remove something – it’s like kitchen Jenga that Debs has perfected.

Free range eggs

Free range eggs

Country kitchen (with the cricket playing in the background, naturally)

Whenever I leave Wales I get an irrepressible urge to cook more at home, be more experimental, and just generally make more of an effort. Working can quite quickly shake that sort of idealism out of you. However, I do appreciate the time spent in here to give me that kick up the backside every three months. And let’s not forget, when you see a view like this for the past four days, with a cold beer in one hand, there’s no finer way to recharge.

A view from the Breacon Beacons

A view from the Breacon Beacons