Win Hotel Chocolat Goodies

I have a confession to make. I have never been into a Hotel Chocolat store before. I’ve never eaten chocolate made by them, and I’ve never even purchased gifts for anyone from there either. Yes, you heard me. Never.  I’m not really sure why, but it has now been brought to my attention that I’ve seriously been missing out!

I’ll be honest, when Hotel Chocolat asked me if I’d like to review some of their products, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When I realised I could try the products and offer one of my lovely readers the chance to win some as well, I thought it had to be worth the taste test. I know how much some of you love chocolate. I obviously had to check they had vegan products and luckily for us, it turns out they do* – and quite a lot of them at that. Bloomin’ marvellous.

As with everything these days, it took me quite some time to decide what I should opt for… It’s a tricky business choosing chocolate, don’t ya know! Here’s what I went for:

Gianduja Bombe Selector – Well, these were quite the surprise. Absolutely delicious. The thing I miss most about eating milk chocolate is the creamy texture. These certainly fill that gap without containing milk. They are smooth and creamy and have just the right balance of hazelnut for me – well, I say ‘are’, but they didn’t last long… More please!

Gianduja Bombe Selector

70% Dark Chocolate Batons. I love these! Again, these are so smooth and taste delicious. One should be enough to fill your craving, but I cannot tell a lie. I can often be found going back for another a little later. These would be ideal to take with you to a dinner party or why not just buy some for yourself. I know I will be doing just that. Alex isn’t overly keen on chocolate and I  did hear him utter the word ‘yum’ when he did a taste test for me. Enough said.

Hotel Chocolat

Hotel chocolat Calendar

I have chosen a Fruit & Nut Frenzy Giant 500g Slab and a Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar to give away to one of you lovely lot. I hate to say the C word, but we all know Christmas is looming and there is plenty to share out with this selection (if you do so choose). All you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

Win Hotel Chocolat Goodies

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • All Hotel Chocolat products are made in the same environment. There is a small chance these products could contain milk traces.

Hotel Chocolat use sustainable, ethically sourced cocoa beans in their products. What’s not to love?

Take a look at their Christmas store – So much chocolate goodness!

The Waiting Room – Vegan Grub in Deptford

I thought it was about time I got out of the house and blogged about something else, other than this rotten illness that has kindly been bestowed on me by the powers that be! So, last Saturday Alex and I decided to head out for a fun-filled day in Deptford. ‘Eh, what’s in Deptford?’, I hear you say… Well, I’ll have you know that it may not be everyone’s number one choice for a London day out, but we discovered a little gem of a place called ‘The Waiting Room‘ that will definitely have us going back for more!

On the day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I immediately adopted a vegan diet. I’d toyed with the idea a lot in the past, but decided that this was as good a time as any, so that was that. There wasn’t a last (meat) supper or anything – just a straight swap, and it wasn’t all that hard because I had a lot of other things on my mind. It certainly helped that Alex became a culinarily vegan whizz overnight. Nothing better than your own personal chef! I shall bake him cakes in return, don’t worry. Eating out, on the other hand, has become a whole lot trickier.

Anyway, we found ourselves at The Waiting Room because I was missing the foods that I used to eat and was in need of a little ‘junk food’, to get me back on track. The Waiting Room is a vegetarian cafe, which offers plenty of vegan options. Veganism has never been so easy! You just choose what you like from the menu and say ‘make it vegan’ and they’ll pretty much deal with the rest. Now, that’s my kind of place – no stress over whether or not you can eat something. Just let them take care of the finer details, sit back, relax and stuff your face full of lovely food.

It’s not just vegetarian and vegans that are catered for here. The Waiting Room also offers gluten free alternatives, and I hear they do pretty darned good coffee too. I had my eye on a few more cakes and treats, but we had already gone a little overboard… All for blog research purposes naturally! I noted that they also serve amazing-looking Brick Lane Bagels… Mmmm, bagels.

The staff are all pretty hip in this establishment (like myself, obvs), and even though there was a queue for the whole time we were there, they got on with things quickly and didn’t seem flustered in the slightest. Alex and I had obviously got far too used to inflated food prices in fancy carnivore restaurants, and were pretty surprised with the total bill. The food here does not cost you the earth… What’s not to love!

We kicked off with these bad boys – I went for a Caramel Milkshake and Alex had ‘Bloody Kevs Bloody Berry’! 

The Waiting Room

Looks aren’t everything… This Hot Dawg was pretty tasty.

Vegan Hot Dog

We did prefer the burger though…

Vegan Burger

Ermergerd! This Brownie was epic… I told you we ate a lot.

Vegan Brownie

The Waiting Room

More food please…

Vegan Cafe

The ones that got away… We’ll be back for you – don’t worry.

Goodies

As for the area, Deptford is slowly improving and small businesses, just like this place, are definitely helping, but these things do take time. Don’t let that stop you paying them a visit though, because you’ll be missing out on a real treat. After we ate, we took a stroll and spent some time (and a little money) on some artwork at the Cockpit Arms Open Studios, who had opened their doors to the public, as part London Craft Week. By the time we got home I was pretty worn out. Unfortunately, my current health status doesn’t seem to carry me as far as it used to, but I had such a great day it was worth being totally wiped out for!

Until next time x

 

The Lodge Pop-up Restaurant in Balham

Cheese, glorious cheese, you know I love it so! On Friday night, we went along to The Lodge pop-up restaurant in Balham, and boy am I glad we did. Ahead of our booking, I’d spent a good few days convincing Alex that the dodgy fondue he’d had years ago with his flatmates wouldn’t be a patch on what they are offering at Jimmy Garcia’s three-month residency in Balham.

I managed to get him to agree to share one with me, rather than go for the usual meat feast that he does so love, and I’m glad that he said yes because if you’re opting for fondue then you have to do so in pairs. It was definitely the right choice for the evening, even though I’m still suffering from a mild cheese coma as I type! Mmm, cheese.

The Lodge has been decked out to make you feel as though you are dining in the mountains – all warm and cozy, with decor to reflect Alpine scenes. They are open all day, from Tuesday through Sunday and serve fondue, HOT COCKTAILS(!) and a selection of  dishes including pigeon, venison and a delicious looking Huntsman Breakfast among other delights. Did I mention the hot cocktails? It’s worth the visit just for one of those alone.

The Lodge

For research purposes *cough* Alex and I tested out a few of the hot drinks and I have to say they were delicious. We probably should  just have had one, what with the amount of food on offer, but we braved a second like the gluttons that we are! My favourite was the Jersey Shore, consisting of rum, butterscotch sauce, golden syrup, giffard liquer and cardamom. Alex loved the Jamaican Hot Toddy made with Blackwells Rum, all spice, golden syrup, a twist of lemon, and a dash of water.

Hot Cocktails

The food took a little while to come, but we were in no hurry… Why rush when you’re relaxing in a comfy lodge with amazing company and great food to look forward to, eh?! We ordered fondue with charcuterie, mainly to keep me from eating too many of the potatoes and bread that came along with the cheese feast (allergies), but also because the meat looked too good to resist.

Fondu London

The Lodge, Balham

Cheese fondu

 

The Lodge Review

London Pop up restaurant

Everything was superb! The fondu was made of a blend of Coolea and Ogleshield Somerset provided by Neal’s Yard and the serving was far larger than we could manage, but we gave it our best shot, don’t you worry about that. Alex even found room for dessert – three scoops of ice cream served with a tray of toppings  waiting for you to pile as high as you so dare. Or maybe not, if you’ve taken the fondue one step top far!

Balham Pop Up

Jimmy's Ice Cream Factory

As fabulous as the food was at Jimmy’s pop-up restaurant, it was the relaxed atmosphere that I enjoyed the most – We didn’t feel rushed at all, the staff were friendly and the setting was just right. It was pretty busy, so if you can make it, make sure you call to book a spot soon. The Lodge has already been open a few weeks and I’m sure their three-month residency will fly by, over the festive season. I, for one, hope to get back for the breakfast menu sometime very soon.

 

To book a table email bookings@jimmyspopup.com
More details about this pop-up restaurant, head over to the website HERE.

La Petite Bouchée in Sydenham

There’s nothing better than finding new places to eat locally and on Friday night, we were lucky enough to have dined at La Petite Bouchée, somewhere not only very close to our house, but also a spot that serves very tasty food indeed!

La Petite Bouchée is definitely not your average dining spot. It’s a cosy pop-up 4 seat brasserie in a vintage 1970’s Citroën van. Yup, a van. Such a great idea! Our location for the night was Sydenham Wells Park and our lovely hosts were Anita and Caroline, who are two women who really seem to know their stuff. Not only do they serve up delicious grub, but they also write a successful food blog called Lover of Creating Flavours, as well as sell made to order pickles and preserves at Heaven Preserve Us. I’m certainly down for some Strawberry, Lime and Pimms jam sometime soon! Mmm, Pimms…

Anyway, back to the van… You can book a single table for four, but if you come as a threesome, dine alone or as a couple, you simply dine with other guests – A scary thought for some, but it really has been lovely meeting and getting to know new people every time we have been to supper clubs and the like. You tend to find that it’s all like-minded people who enjoy these new and slightly different experiences and they are always friendly.

We were at La Petite Bouchée for Moules Night, which I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about, never having actually eaten more than a few in one sitting. Thankfully, we were served 1kg of the finest mussels you can imagine, as well as frites, bread and of course, plenty of bubbles. Anita had driven all the way to Veasey & Sons fishmongers in Sussex to pick up the fresh shellfish in the morning and boy am I glad she made the trek… They were a-maz-ing, such great quality and I have to say, it was one of my favourite meals, in quite some time.

If mussels aren’t your thing, then there are plenty of other dining options (mainly French), over different days, such as Vacherin Fondue and Brunch. You can also make private bookings from December 1st and I hear there are lots more events coming soon, which I for one am very keen to partake in!

La Petite Bouchée really is something you should try and book, if you get the time.  Feel free to drop me a line if you’d like some company as well. I’m massively keen to return soon!

OK, so we totally failed with the pictures I’m afraid, so I nabbed these from their Facebook page, where there are plenty more. Another reason to book again, I guess!

La Petit Bouchee

Zoelee&Alex

We had a choice of four flavours and opted for Norandie and Thai, which we shared. My favourite was the Thai, which were divine.

Marinière (traditional butter, shallots, wine and parsley)
Normandie (butter, shallots, celery, cider and cream (optional)
Thai (butter, shallots, lemongrass, coriander, ginger, coconut milk, red chilli )
Seafood Bisque (stock made from shellfish and fish,tomato puree,wine, a splash of brandy and cream)

Moules

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Orange and White Chocolate Loaf Cake

No matter what I decide to bake, it always seems that I never have the appropriate sized baking tin! I’ve been meaning to buy a loaf tin for years and stupidly ordered one online that was far too small for me to even bother with… I mean loaf cakes should never be small now, should they?! When I saw this Orange and White Chocolate Loaf Cake, I was once again left with a tin conundrum, but went ahead and baked it in my brownie tin anyway. Such a rebel. I know it didn’t quite get the rise it should have, but my guess is that it still tasted just as amazing.

I’m usually quite partial to a bit a lot of dark chocolate baking, but Alex isn’t quite so keen on eating much of the rich dark chocolate goodness that I churn out, so there really is no point in me baking it… That is unless I want to increase in size tenfold! So, in a bid to bake more that he’ll like, I have recently  been trying out some white chocolate recipes – He definitely hasn’t had a problem with those and this Orange and White Chocolate Loaf (or not quite so loaf) Cake seemed to go down pretty well.

I’m trying to make an effort to actually make some of the magazine recipes that I tear out and pile high in the kitchen. They usually gather dust and then end up in the bin, years later, but this one was spotted in a recent Grazia magazine and is by Ruby Tandoh who appeared in The Great British Bake Off. There are also some tasty looking Dark Choclate Orange Bourbons, which I might just have to make for myself one day…

Enjoy!

 

Orange and White Chocolate Loaf Cake

Orange and White Chocolate Loaf Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:
150g butter, soft
150g caster sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of ½ lemon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
225g plain flour, plus a little extra
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
75ml milk
150g white chocolate chips, or block chopped into small chunks
For the syrup:
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
50g caster sugar
To decorate:
50-100g white chocolate
2lb (900g) loaf tin / or a brownie ti if you can't find one ;)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C/fan 150°C/gas mark 3-4. Grease and line the loaf tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (this takes some elbow grease or a food processor). Beat in the zests and gradually add the eggs. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder, then gently fold this into the butter and egg mixture. Stir in the milk.
  3. Make sure that the white chocolate is in quite small chunks – about 5mm cubes – if chopping it yourself. Toss the chocolate chunks/chips in a couple of tablespoons of extra flour to help ensure that they don’t sink straight to the bottom of the tin. Stir the chocolate into the batter.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin, smooth over, and bake for about 50mins. When ready, a knife inserted into the middle of the cake should come out with only a few crumbs sticking to it. If using a different shaped tin you may need to check the cake after 30 minutes.
  5. While the cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup by gently heating the orange and lemon juices in a saucepan, and then stirring in the sugar until dissolved. As soon as the cake is out of the oven, pierce all over with a small, sharp knife, cocktail stick or skewer, and spoon the syrup over – you may not need to use all of it, but do be generous. Leave the cake to cool in the tin then remove it.
  6. Heat the white chocolate for the drizzle in 10 second bursts in the microwave, or in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, stirring regularly. Drizzle over the top of the cake, using either a spoon or piping bag.