Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Nobu Berkeley ST

"...heaven on earth and sex on a plate." - Kate Winslet

John and I were incredibly fortunate to be invited by Rob and Phil for dinner at Nobu Berkeley ST.  Nobu Berkeley ST is located in the heart of Mayfair. The highly rated Nobu Berkeley ST is now one of London's most fashionable restaurants and has also been the venue for some of the capitals most high profile parties.In January 2006 after only five months, Nobu Berkeley St received a Michelin star, following in the footsteps of Nobu London.
We were welcomed at the entrance as we arrived and our coats were removed. Amazed by the stylish, yet relaxed lounge bar and continued to the top floor, where our seats were pulled out.  As we sat down, 4 servers surrounded us and shouted an unknown phrase. Im guessing it was "welcome" in Japanese, but I can be wrong! 

Of course I studied the menu before we went and knew exactly what I wanted to taste. Rob and Phil arrived and we started off with a fruity Chenin Blanc from France. We decided to order something from every section on the menu and shared it between the four of us. I am not being dramatic when I say, this was definitely the most exhilarating dining experience I have ever encountered. We were in Japan's Food Heaven.
Nobu Matsushisa and executive chef Mark Edwards have created a menu, which includes the Nobu classic dishes, but with many new items, some of which are cooked in a Japanese wood-burning oven.  At one side of the restaurant there is a 12 seater sushi bar and on the opposite side is the Hibachi table, available for parties of twelve people. 

We started off with smoked salmon and Halibut sashimi followed by a spicy tuna sashimi salad
Salmon and avocado inside out sushi cut rolls, spicy yellow tail rolls and crispy Pork Belly with spicy Miso, and then for Chef Nobu's signature dish, the Black Cod Den Miso. It was everything and more than what I expected. It was truly as Kate Winslet described it to be: "...heaven on earth and sex on a plate."

Baby spinach and grilled shrimp salad
 Traditional Nobu Style
 Beef Toban
Black Cod Den Miso 

For dessert I had thChocolate Bento Box served with Green Tea Ice Cream, which was a chocolate fondant, and John had the Nobu Chocolate Tart Served with Sake Kasu Ice Cream & Hot Chocolate Sauce - it was beautiful. A deconstructed chocolate tart made up of a round chocolate ball served on a bed of crumbs which melts as the server pours the piping hot chocolate sauce over the ball, only to find a majestic chocolate ganache surprise inside. Both the Green tea and Sake ice cream were delicious. Finished the meal off with dessert wine and an espresso. It was so delicious I did not want it to end.

Here is the recipe for the Black Cod with Miso, contributed by Chef Nobu...

This sweet and silky fish dish, which has been cloned at restaurants all over the country, is fairly simple to make, though it's somewhat time-consuming: Chef Nobu recommends marinating the black cod in a good deal of the sake-miso marinade for 2 to 3 days.

Black Cod with Miso
3 Tbs mirin
3 Tbs sake
1/2 cup white miso paste
1/3 cup sugar
6 x 180 g skinless black cod fillets
Vegetable oil, for grilling
Pickled ginger, for serving

In a small saucepan, bring the mirin and sake to a boil. Whisk in the miso until dissolved. Add the sugar and cook over moderate heat, whisking, just until dissolved. Transfer the marinade to a large baking dish and let cool. Add the fish and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Heat a grill pan and oil it. Scrape the marinade off the fish. Add the fish and cook over a high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Flip the fish onto a heavy rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, until flaky. Transfer to plates and serve with pickled ginger.

It is worth it, believe me...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Hummingbird Bakery

Early January, John found a beautiful apartment (very much a of a clean white beach look) in Southfileds (next to Wimbledon).We packed our bags and moved closer to the city - It is quite the mission moving when you only have access to public transport.We had to make two trips from Woking to Southfields.  I had a week left in the UK so I was trying to get to all the places I hadn't been to before and Notting Hill was first on my list. 
Sitting on the tube, the lady next to me (with a strong South African accent) asked me for directions. She wanted to know where Portobello Road is. I had no idea, but I was going there too! We started chatting about Cape Town and traveling. Both of us got off at Notting Hill Gate and ventured towards the Portobello Road Market. 

Portobello Market in West London is one of the most famous street markets in the world. It is a popular destination for Londoners and tourists alike.  It goes straight through the heart of Notting Hill, the trendy area of London made famous by the film. I was in search of the blue door of the travel bookshop.  As I found the famous "Notting Hill" sign, an old man whispered from behind, "That is not the real door!" "It isn't?", I asked. So he told me the whole story of how much it is worth and that it is actually just around the corner from us. I thanked him and as I was heading towards the renowned door, I stumbled across something more beautiful than blue...a little pink and brown bakery called The Hummingbird Bakery.

In my somewhat vindictive, must-taste-all driven quest to taste any cupcake I come upon, almost every experience has been reaffirming of the fact that I can bake a moist cake.  In most high street bakeries the cake isn't usually worth eating, much less often is it impressive.  But the cupcake I bought at the The Hummingbird Bakery in Portobello Market on a whim was hands down the best cupcake I've ever purchased.  I had the Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. The cake was wonderfully textured with great flavour.  The frosting had the perfect balance between sweet and acidic, and over all it was a fabulous cake.

I left the bakery feeling very happy. I loved it so much I took John there on the weekend. This time the Bakery was humming and we were queueing outside. We shared a chocolate brownie with a creamy chocolaty frosting, which was also delicious.

I do recommend you pop in for a flat white and a quick sugar fix.

Everyone seems to enjoy Red Velvet Cupcakes covered with lovely swirls of Cream Cheese Frosting. While a year round favorite, their red and white color scheme make them particularly well suited for Christmas or Valentines Day.

Red Velvet Cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups castor sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp liquid red food colouring
1/2 tsp white distilled vinegar
1/2 tsp bicarb

Cream Cheese Frosting:
227g cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
60g icing sugar, sifted
160 ml double cream
A squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 175 C and line 12 muffin tins with paper cupcake linersIn a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Whisk the buttermilk with the red food coloring. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow the mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter.

Working quickly, divide the batter evenly among the 12  muffin cups and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 18 -23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack before frosting. Either spread the frosting with a knife or offset spatula, or use a large 1M Wilton open star decorating tip to pipe the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:  Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and icing sugar and beat until smooth. Using the whisk attachment, gradually add the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is thick enough to pipe. Add the lemon juice and more sugar or cream as needed to get the right consistency.  I decorated the cup cakes with blossoms which I made from Fondant icing!

Happy Baking!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Snow Man!!!

It finally snowed in the new year. I was so excited, I sprinted out the back door and fell flat on my but! I was down on the ground for 5 minutes and got back up and posed for photos! It was so painful but I didn't care, I was so excited! 

The next morning John and I made our snow man! So much fun! We of course had a snow fight.

Pennies for eyes, a strawberry for his nose and he was lucky enough to get a beanie and a scarf

View from our new apartment in Wimbledon

There is something so whimsical about snow that it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. 
It makes me so happy. 

We had the most amazing Baileys Hot Chocolate in Cardiff, so here is my version of the most delicious comfort drink!

Baileys Hot Chocolate (for the cold snowy days)
Serves 6


3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups cream 
1/4 cup cocoa powder
115 g milk chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup Baileys

In a large bowl, mix together cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add milk and cream. Bring to a simmer, stirring every few minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the milk to the cocoa and sugar, mixing thoroughly to create a paste. Once it is a paste,  add it to the milk and turn the heat down to low. Whisk continuously until smooth (do not let it boil), then whisk in chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Remove from the heat and add the Baileys. Top with mini marshmallows.


We decided to skip the London Hype during New Years and took the train to Wales. When in doubt always go to the capital city, so Cardiff it was.

It only took us two hours and we had arrived.  I love traveling by train, especially in the UK, because the country side is so beautiful with the rolling green hills and reminds me so of home. A proper Welsh pub is the first place we went to when we arrived. Neither John or I could distinguish wether the locals were speaking very bad English or Welsh. It is such a funny language. Sounded like German crossed with Russian crossed with Irish - if that makes any sense!

 It was very cold and wet when we arrived so the comfort of a warm pub was in order!

Dinner at GBK

Castell Caerdydd
Cardiff Castle is one of Wales' leading heritage attractions and a site of international significance. During 2000 years of history, the Castle has been a Roman Garrison, a Norman stronghold and in Victorian times was transformed into a gothic fairytale fantasy.

We started the tour with a Firing Line exhibition and film presentation. We then got our audio guide to explore the Castle grounds which lasts approximately 60 minutes. Standing on top of the Castle's open air roof, you look out on the rest of the Castle and city skyline and the views are simply breathtaking. It started to rain heavily so we opted for  a warm coffee at the café.

 Welsh National War Memorial

Enough site-seeing for one day! It was time to hit the pubs! All the pubs had great buy one-get one free cocktail specials! I think we literally tried all the cocktails on the menu and then did some more pub crawling!

Wales Millennium Centre

 New Year's Eve
The weather was so wet and cold that we ended up seeking for shelter in pubs and restaurants quite regularly. Fortunately the rain stopped and we went strolling through the streets. There were carousels and market stalls everywhere. John even won a little Tigger for me!

This was a traditional Welsh dance (similar to our "Voortrekkers") which they were performing for live television. We had to cheer them on.

We grabbed a beer at the Heineken stall and bounced to the live bands that were performing. Our countdown to the new year was in Welsh and English! I know we were missing out on London's amazing fire work display, but being just the two of us in a foreign country, was truly something special!

Happy New Year!!!

A Day trip to Brighton Beach


After the chilly Christmas, we missed the sun and sea and decided to go to Brighton for the day! Forget about the umbrella and bikinis and rather put on a scarf and gloves because this is not your typical Camps Bay beach, and you are definitely not going to go for a dip in the sea in December! 
Brighton is on the South coast of Great Britain.  It is very popular during the Summer as the seafront has bars, restaurants, nightclubs and amusement arcades, principally between the piers. Being less than an hour from London by train has made the city a popular destination, especially with big party groups.

Brighton Pier has all the latest video games, thrill rides and retail shops, even a South African Biltong Hut. The Pier has three bars, over thirty food kiosks, traditional seaside stalls, two amusement arcades, a world famous fish & chip restaurant, and even its own radio station. 

The famous fish and chip restaurant, Palm court, was recently referred to as the "Spiritual Home" of fish and chips by Heston Blumenthal.  You can enjoy large portions of fabulous fish and chips, cooked to perfection, in the newly refurbished restaurant or you can take it out and eat while you walk along the pier - just watch out for those seagulls! 

"The Spiritual Home of Fish and Chips" - Heston Blumenthal

We had a lovely lunch on the pier. This was truly the best Fish and chips I have ever eaten and I can't imagine eating anything else at Brighton.  

Here is my recipe for deep-fried fish, which I made a lot on Stormbringer (the boss loved it)...

Deep-fried haddock in beer batter


oil, for deep frying

4 haddock fillets, about 180g each, pinboned and skinned
4 Tbsp seasoned flour

For the batter:

115g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
250-300ml pale ale 
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sift the plain flour, baking powder ans salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add half the ale. Gradually stir in the flour so the batter remains smooth. As it thickens, blend in more until the batter is the consistency of single cream, and season. Heat the oil to 180C in a large pan or deep-fat fryer. Dust the fish with the seasoned flour. Lower the fish in the batter and coat completely. Swish the fish through the oil to allow the batter to start to set, then release the fish. Fry for 7-10 minutes or until the batter is golden brown. Drain the fish on kitchen towel and season with maldon salt. Serve with chips and lemon mayo.

bon appétit!!!


Xavier's first Christmas!!!

Being in London, we had such a great build-up to Christmas Day. Experiencing all the festivity such as Winter Wonderland, shopping at Harrods, eating mince pies and drinking cinnamon Cafe late's all contributed to the beautiful day of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. This year we celebrated with John's family and what a great day it was. Unfortunately it still wasn't snowing, but a cold Christmas we definitely had, thus using the outside table as a fridge to keep the beers chilled!
John had food poisoning the day before Christmas eve, but he fortunately recovered quickly and could enjoy all the delicious food James prepared for us!

Christmas Eve

Finished all the last minute shopping and wrapping! Just love this time of the holiday!

Christmas day!

I woke up so excited and couldn't wait to go down to the Christmas tree. Forget about the coffee, Hayley and James popped the champers and we started the day off very merrily! Merry Christmas everyone! Little Xavier got the most gifts and most were bigger than him! It was so special to share these magical moments with our little monkey!

I made a few canape's, just to line the stomach because that first glass of bubbly already went to my head! We had Smoked salmon on blinis, chicken satays with a sweet chili jam and tomato and basil phyllo tartlets.

James was in charge of the Christmas lunch. He made a delicious leg of lamb, Christmas Gammon (his mother's secret recipe), oven roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts with crispy bacon, braised red cabbage and of course a delicious gravy. A proper English sunday roast!
 Jackie and Jennifer

 For dessert (which we had much later, because we were so stuffed from the lunch) I made Christmas Cup cakes and chocolate brownies with fresh berries and chocolate ganache. 

Christmas Ham is a must.  Even if you don't eat it, it still makes a wonderful centre piece! The satisfaction you get when you bite into that golden brown, perfectly scored skin is priceless. I adore it with a home-made apple and sage sauce. Here is my version of a quick and easy glaze.

My Christmas Ham Glaze

100ml brown sugar
7 ml ginger
5 ml mustard
10 ml smooth apricot jam

Mix together and rub over the scored ham. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 200 C until slightly brown and crispy!!!