Borough Market, London UK

Last last Saturday, I went to Borough Market (London's oldest and one of the best food markets in the world!) with my parents (my sister opted out....!). I meant to put up this post a while ago, but it took me much too long to sift through my photos... We left after a light breakfast (I regret eating anything at all!) and took the tube to London Bridge. We walked into Borough market at 10:30 am and it was already packed. We had no idea what we were in for. 
Note: this post is definitely more pictures than words, but I think they speak for themselves.
Another note: this post is dedicated to a dear friend who once told me she would consider getting married in Borough market - a true sign of a foodie and one of the many reasons why we're friends!

We walked into Borough Market and were first greeted by an amazing fresh produce stall. The fruits and veggies were bursting with color and we were tempted to pick up so many things, but limited ourselves to some strawberries, bell peppers and spinach. There's only so much food we can eat, keeping in mind that we were leaving London for a few weeks on Friday (I am in Mumbai now!).

Just look at those colors. And the brussel sprouts below... On that note, I've only eaten brussel sprouts twice - the first time I absolutely hated them, the second time they were part of my Cambridge Christmas dinner, and they were alright. At the moment, I'm pretty indifferent. I'm mentioning this because I know that there are definitely some strong views on brussel sprouts. It's funny how much discussion can take place over a tiny cabbage-looking vegetable.

Brussel sprouts galore.
We kept meandering our way through the market. My mom almost picked up some truffle oil to drizzle on pasta but resisted. We tried some delicious fresh buffalo mozzarella but didn't think we would use it, so resisted once again. Coincidentally, we ended up making a caprese salad last week and regretting not buying the mozzarella. The next half hour was filled with gawking over the various foods on over and sneaking ever sample we could possibly get our hands on. 

However, once we reached the section with the bakeries, we just had to pick up something. There was everything - literally - on offer: feta spinach stuffed croissants, foccacia, ginger tea cake, spelt loaves, bread butter pudding, apple cinnamon almond tarts... I could keep going on. We planned to make some tomato soup the next morning so picked up the foccacia to accompany that. The bread butter pudding was too tempting so my mom and I decided that would be breakfast one morning - who doesn't like cake for breakfast? My dad decided the spelt and seed tin loaf was something different from the regular breads you get, so convinced my mom it was a good idea to buy it (which it was!).
Brownie tower. Need I say more?
I'm going to stop explaining our every move right about now and just give you some other highlights. We were attracted to a fresh pasta counter giving out free samples and absolutely fell in love with the fresh ricotta spinach ravioli... Yes, we did buy some and ended up eating it for dinner that night topped with a tomato cream sauce I made.
Oyster bar WITH champagne in classy flutes!
#selfie with the sweetest and coolest parents in the universe!

Moving on to the main things we ate AT the market itself. On the left are pictures of a stall selling hot food cooked in huge pans. The dishes included a Thai green curry, a Vietnamese fish stew, another Caribbean curry and "Bomba Paella". The people manning the stall kept filling spoons of the different dishes and offering them to passers-by. We succumbed to the delicious, fresh, piping hot and hearty paella. We bought one box to share between the three of us.

Next stop: Kappacasein. Type in "best grilled cheese in the world" and I can assure you that Kappacasein will come up several times on the first page. It's THAT good. The Montgomery cheddar cheese is distinct, tangy and just oh-so-good. This stall is not optional during a visit to Borough market. It's a must. The grilled cheese is two slices of delicious crusty Poilane sourdough bread stuffed with piles of the cheese and as a twist, a few chopped leeks, onions and garlic are added. They are all grilled right there - the cheese inside is melty and gooey and the bits that spill out form a lovely crust. To. Die. For. Kappacasein also does a delicious raclette with a spin off of the original. A generous helping of melted Ogleshield cheese on a pile of new potatoes, baby gherkins and pickled onions.
That cheese.....Mmmmm.

Wait for it - all this is coming from someone who is not a cheese fan whatsoever. In fact, I usually don't like cheese unless it's on pizza. Parmesan and buffalo mozzarella are exceptions!

My parents and I bought two grilled cheeses between us. We all ate half and took the last remaining half home for my sister.

One last thing to note - be prepared to wait for at least 30 mins for either of the two items... Emphasis on the at least.

It's worth it. For grilled cheese!
View of The Shard while waiting in
line for Kappacasein grilled cheese!
Close up of that outstanding grilled cheese.

My favorite people enjoying their grilled cheese!

It was around 2 pm at this point. We finished our route with the dessert section. Stalls filled with cakes, candies, meringues, cupcakes, pies, tarts, chocolate, ice cream... and everything of the sort. 

I had wanted to eat banoffee pie (an English dessert pie made from bananascream and toffee from dulce de leche, either on a pastry base or one made from crumbled biscuits and butter) for the past two years but was waiting for the right one. The one I bought at Borough market was that one. As my first slice of banoffee pie (shame, I know!) it was too good to be true. I don't thing I'll have another for a long time, because I assure you, I'll be disappointed. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture.
Obligatory picture of cupcakes.
Borough market is a must for any foodies (or not) visiting London. Whether you go for the food or the atmosphere, you won't regret it!


There's No Such Thing as Too Much Cake: Chocolate Oreo Overload Cake

Cake sees no limit.

And neither does being fit. So bake your cake and eat it too, as long as you workout! Don't make it ever feel like a chore: just do what you love - swim, run, go to the gym, dance your heart out, play tennis, ice skate. There's no excuse!

That was my quick motivation for the day, but it's back to the cake. As I mentioned in my last post, it was my sister's fifteenth birthday last Wednesday and we went to the Ritz Carlton to celebrate. This also means that we only officially cut the cake I baked on Saturday (don't worry, she got a scrumptious mini cake at the Ritz too! what's a birthday without cake?).

This is my standard, no-fail, rich, absolutely fantastic standard chocolate cake recipe. It's slightly adapted from the one you'll find on almost any other site all over the internet. This specific cake is actually baked with oreo chunks in the batter. It's filled with a silky vanilla cookies and cream buttercream and wrapped in a fluffy thin layer of chocolate frosting. The edges are lined with oreo cookie chunks.

I made half the traditional recipe this time as my mom had just made her famous tiramisu (recipe here) and I didn't want to overdo the dessert lying around in our house. Remember, balance is key!

I'm so glad my sister loved the cake (not to mention we all did as well!). The oreos were such a great addition. I do have to bring up one quirk, however. I am head over heels obsessed with any oreo dessert or cookies and cream ice cream, but the cookies themselves... I'm not the hugest fan. Grabbing a couple of oreos and dunking them in milk doesn't really appeal to me whatsoever. But give me an oreo ice cream sundae, especially one from Island Creamery (see here) and I won't be able to resist it!

For the cake:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup strong black coffee
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oreo cookies, broken into chunks

For the oreo buttercream:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
8-9 tbsp whole milk
6 oreo cookies, broken into chunks

For the chocolate frosting:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup double cream, whipped
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 oreo cookies for final decoration

For the cake:
Heat the oven to 175 C. Line a rectangular pan with baking paper and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Add the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla. Lightly beat until ingredients are well mixed.
Stir in the oreo chunks.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the oreo buttercream:
Whip the butter until creamy and white-ish. Beat in the sugar and vanilla extract. Add the milk tablespoon by tablespoon until the buttercream has reached desired consistency.

For the chocolate frosting:
Whip the butter until creamy and white-ish. Beat in the icing sugar and cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, whip the cream. Fold the whipped cream into the butter, sugar, cocoa mixture. Add the milk tablespoon by tablespoon until the frosting reaches desired consistency. 

To assemble:
Split the cake in half and slice the two halves into two layers each yielding a total of four pieces (I refrigerated the cake first to make it easier to get a clean cut. Get out a serving dish and line the edges with squares of parchment paper to ensure a clean plate after frosting (presentation matters!). Place the first layer on the plate and smother it in the oreo butter cream. Lay the next layer on top and repeat thrice. The layer of oreo buttercream on top of the last layer should be very thin. Cover the whole cake in the chocolate frosting. Take the last few chunks of oreo cookies and decorate the edges of the cake [or decorate in whatever way your heart desires! sprinkles, silver balls, chocolate shavings, berries - anything works!]. Place in the fridge until serving. It most definitely tastest best served at room temperature (in my opinion) but it's absolutely mind-blowingly delicious at any temperature and at any point of day. 


Burger & Lobster, London UK

When I found out that we were moving to London, millions of things were running through my mind, one of which was: what/where are the best places to eat? I searched all over the internet - several listed were fancy, expensive Michelin starred restaurants, another I came across was London's most famous afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton, but one that made it onto many lists was Burger & Lobster.

I'm going to deviate from Burger & Lobster for just a second and give a quick mention to the Ritz afternoon tea, which I went to on Wednesday to celebrate my sister's fifteenth birthday. Just a heads up: if you're planning to go, you need to make reservations several weeks - if not months - in advance! I loved getting dressed up and walking into the classy hotel. We were seated on a lovely corner table and the area was gorgeously decorated with christmas decorations. Because tis' the season, we were treated to a christmas afternoon tea (minced pies, christmas cake and champagne included!) and live carol singers. Everything from the finger sandwiches to the scones to the pastries was very delicately crafted to perfection. The scones were only brought out when we wanted them so they were warm, and oh my gosh, that strawberry jam was absolutely divine. There are 15+ varieties of tea and you are allowed to sample as many as you wish. Same goes for the food - you can get more of anything your heart desires. When I walked out of the hotel, I was pretty sure I wouldn't eat anything for the next few days or maybe even weeks. But, unsurprisingly, that changed the moment I woke up the next morning!

Oops. I guess that wasn't as long as I had expected...

The next day, I ended up going for lunch to Burger & Lobster with my mom (Mayfair branch). It was 12:30 pm on a weekday and jam packed. The waiter told us we had a 45 minute wait ahead of us, but we were most willing.

We waited by the bar and watched trays and trays of food go by. I was definitely getting hungry by this point. Luckily, we got a table soon enough. Burger & Lobster has only three items on it's "menu" (if it can even be called that seeing as we didn't even get a menu - just drinks). Burger. Lobster. Lobster Roll. All three served with a side salad and french fries. Both my mom and I went for the lobster roll: a grilled garlic bread brioche most generously stuffed with large chunks of fresh lobster in a light coating of mayo and topped with a garnish. Even the fries were perfection - the right thickness, crispiness and saltiness.
All in all, I had the most wonderful lunch with my mom. It's been so nice catching up. I didn't realize how much I had missed our dates. Good food with even better company and some stunning blue skies and sunshine definitely made for a great day.

P.S. Yes, the fact that I've been eating lots and lots of indulgent and yummy food is true BUT I have also been going to the gym every morning, so if it seems like I'm running low on the fitness, I promise I'm not! 

P.P.S. If you love food, embrace it.

P.P.P.S. But don't forget to stay balanced in all aspects of life!


Chocolate Chunk Almond Coconut Cookies

Remember when I told you not to throw away that delicious and healthy pulp leftover from making this almond milk? And remember I said you could throw it into almost any baked good? I hope you're nodding to yourself right now...

Well, that's exactly what I did! The almond-date pulp lends a very subtle flavor to these already scrumptious cookies! Take one look at that picture and tell me if they look like they're made from good-for-you ingredients. Your eyes have deceived you, because they are! These cookies were meant to be something I threw together because I was in the mood to bake as well as use up the almond pulp, but they far exceeded my expectations. I'll definitely be making them again... Not to mention my entire house smelled of coconut-y, chocolate-y, cookie-y goodness as these were baking.

They are ever-so-slightly crispy on the outside, pillow-y soft and chewy on the inside and generous studded with melting chocolate chunks. One bite brings out so many textures and tastes that each one is just a flavor explosion. I can't forget the little bits of shredded coconut either - they're almost as good as the chocolate chunks (and that's say A LOT coming from an extreme chocoholic like myself!). The coconut oil (no butter!) adds healthy fats and a delicious tropical aroma to these cookies.

This is a one-bowl, quick recipe that requires almost no effort. The dough can (and ideally, should) be made beforehand and chilled, which also means you can make a large batch at once and freeze half for future baking!

I made my cookies bite sized, but as always, feel free to make them as large (or small) as suits your fancy!

1 egg
1/2 cup coconut oil, out of which 1/4 cup melted
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup whole rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup of almond pulp (from the almond milk) - if you don't have this, just add an equal amount of flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
pinch of salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the egg, coconut oil, sugar, almond extract, cinnamon and salt. Then add the coconut, oats, flour, baking soda, and mix them together with a large spoon. Carefully fold in the chocolate chunks and make sure they are all coated with some cookie mixture. Refrigerate the dough for two hours or freeze for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 185 C.

Using your hands, roll the dough into balls of desired size, making sure each ball has enough chocolate chunks. The dough will be slightly crumbly, yet oily, but don't fret because it comes together as soon as you start forming the balls. Place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper, keeping a safe distance between cookie balls. Gently press down on the balls to flatten them slightly. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the outside of the cookies looks slightly crispy and golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let them cool.

Serve with a tall glass of cold milk (maybe even almond milk!). Let me assure you, one is definitely not enough!



Homemade Almond Milk

I've always been enthusiastic about trying dairy milk alternatives...Not because I have anything against dairy, but simply because the wide range of other milks can be as (or even more) delicious! I've sampled soya milk, hazelnut milk, goats milk (I can't stand it!), almond milk and oat milk. My favorites are definitely soya and almond milk, which is why my mom and I have started making them both at home. From scratch. So that we know every ingredient that goes into it and have pure creamy goodness!

Unfortunately, this now means that I'm a bit spoiled and can't handle store-bought, but ooh well... That's life!
Today I'll share my recipe (more like directions) on how to make some amazing almond milk. It almost tastes like a milkshake. It's so unbelievably creamy, sweet and simple that you'll wonder why you've never made it before! The flavor of the almonds shines through the the dates add that slight hint of sweetness and enhance the almond-y flavor.

Almond milk has so many great benefits including: high in vitamins and minerals, no saturated fats, no cholesterol, low in calories, contains flavonoids... and last but not least, did I mention delicious?

4 cups of almond milk
1 cup of raw almonds, soaked overnight
10 dates, pitted and soaked overnight
4 cups water (not the soaking water)

Drain the almonds and dates. Peel the skin off of half of the almonds. Add the three ingredients to a blender and blend on high power (do this in batches if your blender can't handle it all at once). Keep blending until all of the almonds and dates have been pureed and mixed well into the liquid. Strain the milk using a cheesecloth. Don't throw out the delicious pulp - spread it on toast, dry it in the oven to make almond meal or mix it into your next recipe (as I did!). Be patient to ensure that you get all the goodness out... make sure to squeeze the last drop of liquid out! Pour the almond milk into a pitcher, jug, glasses or whatever you feel works best. Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. It will get a bit funky after this, so don't leave it for too long (although I doubt it'll last nearly that long!). The milk will naturally separate upon sitting, so don't be alarmed and do stir before every use. Double or triple the proportions to make your desired amount of almond milk.

In my opinion, this must must must be served chilled.. Enjoy in the morning, afternoon, blended into smoothies, anytime really. It's healthy and yummy - what more could you possibly want? 


Serpentine Restaurant and Bar - Hyde Park, London (and Winter Wonderland 2013 & Hummingbird Bakery!)

Yesterday was quite possibly one of the best days ever. Yes. EVER. I came home on Saturday night, had a wonderful home-cooked meal (I've missed these too much at Cambridge!) followed by a Christmas fruit cake my parents bought during a weekend excursion to Cotswold. Next morning (Sunday - the best day!), I woke up to a breakfast of french toast with an assortment of toppings and fruit (almond butter, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, banana and kiwi!). Moments after scarfing down the most delicious breakfast I've had in a long time, we took the bus to Hyde Park Corner. It was time for winter wonderland (located in Hyde Park, London)! We went ice skating (my first time outdoors), went on several rides and thoroughly enjoyed the festive fun atmosphere! Photos from the winter wonderland:

After all this excitement, our stomachs were calling - it was definitely time for lunch! We exited the wonderland and found ourselves directly at one of my favorite cafes - Serpentine in Hyde Park! The views are stunning, the ambiance is chilled out, and the food is fresh, wholesome and outright delicious! It was such a gorgeous day: the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the park was filled with life.

^The alignment of those three photos was my attempt at being "artsy"...

---------More photos!----------
And now it's time to get back to the food! Pictured below in order are a fish fingers sandwich with a side of crazy delicious fries, a falafel wrap and a prosciutto rocket pizza. Below the three dishes are photos of the bakery section of Serpentine, which is always filled with an array of treats ranging from muffins, to cakes, to slices, to my favorite - the bakewell tart! That said, we skipped dessert at Serpentine yesterday and instead, walked to Hummingbird Bakery located in South Kensington. My mom, sister and I all went for our favorite cupcake from Hummingbird - the black bottom cupcake: rich, dense chocolate cake topped with chocolate chip studded cheesecake and all of that topped with a delicious, not to mention sweet, cream cheese frosting. Indulgent, decadent, heaven in a cupcake.