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NEWS: Something Extra Special at the More London Christmas Market

10 Dec

Christmas shoppers are in for a treat this week: Shepherds Markets and More London Riverside are hosting a special Christmas Market with food, fun and Yuletide magic. Here’s the full skinny from the Shepherds Markets team:

Shake out your tinsel and dust off your baubles; Christmas is finally upon us and we’ve got everything you need to make the festive season extra special! From December 11th to15th, you can head to More London Riverside where our More London Christmas Market will showcase the finest artisan food gifts and hand-crafted presents.

With 20 different stalls each day, we’re bringing you more of everything you love at Christmas: more food, more entertainment and more unique presents! If you want to surprise your family and friends with exclusive gifts they won’t find on the high street, the More London Christmas Market is your one-stop shop!

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Fancy something inspiring for the kids? Make their faces light up with a handmade toy none of their friends will have – just one of many items available from our talented craftsmen. Need something luxurious for mum? How about a heaven-scented body cream or a beautiful pashmina (to keep her warm and on-trend this winter)? Hoping to transform turkey leftovers into appetising dishes? Try the delicious organic chutneys and sauces available from our amazing food traders.

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We know that shopping for friends who seem to have everything can be a nightmare but why not invest in an original painting or print from one of our art traders’ stunning collections? Alternatively, pull together a bespoke gift set or hamper with the aromatic oils, vinegar, speciality teas, honey and preserves on sale – a present for all the family! There will also be a range of Christmas stockings and cards to buy, as well as traditional Christmas cakes and puddings, helping you to create the perfect celebration at home.

You can tuck into hot and cold dishes from around the world while you browse our food and craft stalls, or sip a cup of warming mulled wine with a crumbly mince pie or roasted chestnuts. Local carol singers will be on hand to perform all your festive favourites and even Santa has been persuaded to fly in for a visit!

Entry is free, so there’s nothing “Bah! Humbug!” about this Christmas, only the true spirit of the season: supporting London’s most talented food and craft start-ups to bring you the finest gifts for family and friends. We can’t wait to see you at the More London Christmas Market and look forward to helping you make loved ones feel extra special.

Visit the More London Christmas Market at More London, More London Riverside, London SE1 2DB, 11am – 6pm, from Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th December 2013.

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REVIEW: The Cake & Bake Show 2013

17 Sep

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Bruised shoulders, stubbed toes, sweaty foreheads, strained back muscles, full tummies and arms laden with bags – these were the side effects of attending The Cake & Bake Show in London’s Earl’s Court on Sunday (15th September).

To say that the event was mobbed would be like describing meringues as “white globs”; traversing certain ailses was akin to being caught up in the London riots (shin pads and helmets would have been exceedingly useful before venturing towards the cupcake stalls but, sadly, I left my riot gear at home).

The huge turnout – totalling over 30,000 visitors – reflected the growth of the Home Baking market and retail sales of baked goods in the UK. Recent figures confirm that 41% of Brits bake at least once a fortnight* and the nation consumes £23.5m** worth of cupcakes a year. The Home Baking sector is now worth a staggering £645m and the average consumer eats home-baked goods 4.6 times every fortnight*.

Flooding into the venue alongside all the other budding Mary Berrys, we exchanged a miserably grey weekend for a world of dizzying colour and creativity. From the neon glare of fushia pink cupcakes, pearly white icing and violet edible flowers to the warmth of glossy chocolate slabs, golden caramel fudge and red velvet whoopie pies, the London venue was a Dulux palette of sugar and confectionery. Willy Wonka would have sung in approval.

The Golden Tickets required for entry to this ganache-crafted world of imagination were available to buy, but the sugar Gods sweetened my fortunes with two free tickets. I entered a competition via Twitter, run by Stork in the week leading up to the event… and won!

Squealing as the shock sank in, I jumped up and down in elation and thanked my lucky [sugared] stars for such an amazing prize. Some people get babies… my Stork brings me Cake & Bake Show tickets. Methinks I definitely got the better deal.

One of the highlights of the event was the margarine brand’s spectacular “Cake Runway” where the models were all beautifully crafted cakes! ‘Plus Size’ got a whole new meaning as we looked at the curves of fat-tiered cakes sporting wonderfully intricate designs.

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The show was split into defined sections, including food retail areas, homeware and baking supplies, exhibition stands, masterclass theatres and demonstration stations. Many workshops with high-profile icons – such as baker, Eric Lanlard – had to be pre-booked, but the likes of Renshaw, Betty Crocker and Dr. Oetker ran several more informal events that attracted a spontaneous audience.

Goody bags were available to purchase upon arrival, priced at £5 each. Each branded cotton bag contained a wealth of money off vouchers, a Betty Crocker packet mix for Red Velvet Cupcakes, a bottle of Russian limeade called ‘Zeo’ and a fabulously glossy Christmas recipe book from sugar brand Billingtons.

Navigating the scrum of visitors was difficult, and at times unbearable, but the bruising was well worth it! Here are some of my favourite finds from the show:

MINCE PIES BY FLOUR POWER CITY BAKERY

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I have an obsession with mince pies and have spent many years on a mission to try every variety in London. These ones had perfectly short pastry and an old-fashioned, tangy filling – superb!

VEGAN CHILLI CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES BY SUGAR CREAM CAKES

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This vegan cupcake was a delightful surprise. A soft, chocolatey sponge was tasty and harmless – the heat was all in the icing! Delicious!

MUSCOVADO AND MOLASSES FUDGE BY BILLINGTONS

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The sugar brand had a wonderful hut at the event, showcasing their wares and a range of mind-blowing fudge varieties, especially made for the show to demonstrate how their individual products can be used at home.

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A fudge recipe was included in their Christmas-themed cookbook, included in the official Cake & Bake Show goody bag – which I shall definitely be making over the Yuletide period!

PAUL A. YOUNG CHOCOLATES & BROWNIES

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My favourite chocolatier once again had the best cocoa creations for sale – annihilating the competition in flavour, texture and presentation.

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Although I was none too impressed with his introduction of a Marmite Brownie – I hate the stuff! Nevertheless, I persuaded two doubtful shoppers to buy one of his Signature Brownies – one of the richest and delicious in the UK.

MERINGUES BY THE MERINGUE GIRLS

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Colourful, light, vibrant and inviting – I loved the girls’ stall at the show. With an array of flavours on offer, it was unsurprising to discover that their products were selling quickly!

OTHER AMAZING SIGHTS IN PICTURES:

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Sources:
*Kantar Worldpanel ^SymphonyIRI
**Companies & Markets (July 3rd, 2013)

Baker Street Quarter Food Market

11 Sep

The bustle of Baker Street gets an extra injection of excitement on the second Wednesday of every month – a thriving Food Market offering everything from sandwiches to truffle oil. 

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Located in the outdoor atrium of 55 Baker Street, the market features a variety of stands showcasing foods from across the globe. Attracting hungry diners happy to queue for a lunchtime treat, there’s plenty to choose from:

Sandwiches & Wraps

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Greek Cypriot outfit Petros Produce dished up Grilled Halloumi Wraps (£5), a popular choice from a menu which also included Smoked Ham. Watching the thickly sliced cheese grilling slowly over a hot plate, it was easy to see why queues had formed!

A fundraising meal-deal from The Radisson Blu Portman Hotel offered a homemade sandwich, a piece of fruit and a smoothie for £3.50 – with all money going to Variety, the children’s charity.

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Large, soft baps housed fillings of Chargrilled Vegetables & Hummus or Chicken Chilli Mayo & Rocket – both looked very tempting!

Curries

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An array of vibrant-looking curries from Fire & Spice Bar & Kitchen attracted quite a crowd. The Marble Arch based restaurant dished up meat and veggie options of its signature dishes: Chicken Chettinad infused with coconut; Vegetable Korma made with yogurt and saffron; Lemon Rice; and Poppadoms.

Baked Goods – Breads, Pastries, Tarts, Cakes & More

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Samples of Karaway Bakery‘s beautiful breads and pastries all tasted superb – particularly a Lithuanian Scalded Rye and a Pumpernickel loaf.

I brought home a bag of Pancake Biscuits, priced £1.20. The vanilla flavoured, bite-sized puffs have an airy texture and are exceedingly moreish!

For something sweeter, visit Galeta‘s stall. The bakers are well known for their chewy, giant cookies and an award-winning, decadent chocolate brownie (£2).

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Giving the latter strong competition is their Pastéis de Nata (Portugese Custard Tart): layers of light, flaky pastry containing a scrumptious egg custard. The tarts are priced at £1.50 each but it’s worth splurging £4 for four – restricting yourself to one could prove difficult! 

Hush Hush Chefs‘ filo pies and tarts also drew crowds. Crisp triangle pastries filled with Roasted Aubergine & Peppers and Mushroom & Cheese were huge, while open topped tarts, sliced into giant wedges, included Caramelised Onion & Parmesan and Roasted Vegetables & Goat’s Cheese.

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I opted for a slice of Spinach, Feta and Nut (£3.50) pictured above. The flavour and texture of the cheese seemed more akin to an unsalted Ricotta, but no-one else seemed to notice!

Truffle Oils & Sauces

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Newcomer Marche Food was a great find at the market! Their delectable White Truffle Oil with Courgette was incredible, as was a sample of the oil served separately, Tartufo Bianco (£8) . Selling products from Marche, Italy, a region renowned for its produce, the quality of the oils was exceptional, with a luxuriously rich flavour.

Deli Items

Flying the flag for charcuterie was Picco Salumi, an Islington based outfit famed for its cured meat products, made with the finest free range, British pork.

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I couldn’t resist buying three varieties of salami: Soppressata, made with garlic, chilli, oregano and hungarian paprika; Saucisson, spiced with ginger, garlic, ground white pepper, and whole black pepper corns; and Salt & Pepper with Mulled Wine – all delicious!

An enticing array of plump Olives, Nuts and Turkish Delight were also on offer from another vendor which I cannot name.

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Unfortunately, their branding still needs some work – the stall didn’t carry a sign with a company name – but their produce is great!

Confectionery

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Simply Handmade Chocolates had a glorious assortment of truffles (from 95p), fudge (from £3.50) and macarons (£5 per bag) to choose from. I particularly enjoyed a smooth and intense dark chocolate Raspberry Fondant Heart and a creamy and crunchy milk chocolate Manuka Honeycombe Cluster. I’ll definitely be returning for some fudge and macarons very soon!

Tea and Coffee Blends

Bellevue Teas had a wonderful stall, with a fabulous selection of blends and gift sets.

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Both bags and loose leaf varieties were available to purchase, from classic Peppermint and Camomile to Nilgiri Silver Tip and Sweet Orange Rooibos.

An unexpected, yet welcome, discovery came in the form of a smooth coffee that wasn’t actually made from coffee beans!

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Innocente‘s Caffè d’Orzo is a caffeine free alternative made from roasted barley and produced by a family-run business in Tuscany. Looking like espresso, it lacks the expected aroma yet tastes just like decaf – but without any of the nasty chemicals used in the manufacturing process! You can buy a cup for £1.

Exotic Fruits & Juices

Toucan Fruit had the most colourful stall, showcasing exotic produce also available from their London store.

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I found a good mix of familiar and unusual fruits, from Coconuts and Melon to Cacao Fruit and Colombian Pitahaya. I recommend picking up an Exotic Fruit Pot – a healthy lunch or dessert option that will only set you back £2.50.

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Toucan also offered freshly squeezed juices: the only cold beverage available to buy at the market – great for washing down a hearty sandwich or chocolate treat!

Baker Street Quarter Food Market, is held on the second Wednesday of every month, from midday to 4pm.

Italian ‘Music Paper’ Bread – Baked in Sardinia

13 Aug

A new sound has invaded the streets of London. If you hear the staccato rhythm of a persistant crunch within your vicinity, fear not – it’s just me devouring my Sardinian Music Paper Bread as I traverse the Capital.

Known to Italians as Carta Da Musica, which translates to “music sheet”, these exceedingly moreish discs are thinner than poppadoms and mottled in colour (food blooger Kat vs. Food likened them to “giraffe skin”).

Crisp enough for you to hear a snap with every bite (music: geddit?), they smell and taste of mild olive oil, with a cunning sprinkling of salt to make them as addictive as Pringles.

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On sale in M&S stores (£2.49 for 100g), the small, square box is tucked away in the retailers’ international food section
– alongside delicious-looking Italian chocolates, Spanish condiments and continental oils.

It’s easy to forget (or in my case, deliberately ignore) their purpose as a quirky addition to a bread basket, as opposed to a conveniently-sized, carry-around snack. I’m sure they would prove wonderful dipped in oil and balsamic vinegar, plunged into any kind of dip, or simply layered with soft cheese and tapenade.

Unfortunately, that would require enough restraint to carry them all the way home without delving into my shopping bag to consume them throughout my journey.

Delivering a cracking rhythm that wouldn’t be out of place in a Will.I.Am or Pharrell Williams track, I’ve turned into a chomping music-maker who should be credited with the creation of a fresh new sound: Bread Beats. Will it take off in clubland? Probably not. But I’ll be playing my ‘instrument’ in many a tube station throughout the summer; I get rather peckish during my long journey home.

Top 5 Things of The Week (July 29th – August 4th)

4 Aug

#1 Dessert at Spice Market

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A rather underwhelming meal at the Leicester Square eatery was uplifted by a magnificent dessert comprised of a coconut cream granita, mixed fruits and Asian syrups. The bubblegum-flavoured concoction was refreshing and light – perfect for summer.

#2 Jermyn Street Theatre

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I finally got to visit this compact theatre, housed in a basement in Jermyn Street, to see Rory Fellowes’ play A Victorian Eye. Intimate yet comfortable, I loved it’s layout and casual grace.

#3 Lemon Meringue Krispy Kreme Donut
Why did no-one tell me to break my habit of always buying the same two varieties of Krispy Kreme so that I could try this tangy, lemon curd-filled option? Topped with a generous swirl of toasted meringue, each donut looks like a little pillow – the perfect cushion for my stomach lining 😉

#4 Mature Halloumi Cheese
Most people are aware of the rubbery cheese sold in supermarkets but mature halloumi, allowed to age in brine, is far more brittle and dry in texture.

Salty and accented with a hint of mint, the best varieties are those made with 100% goat’s milk – but a small tub will set you back at least €50. Yes, Euros, not pounds sterling; you’ll be hard pushed to find a Greek retailer in the United Kingdom who sells them and the only option is a shipment from Cyprus. You see, most mature halloumi is saved to eat in the home as the flavour is often too strong or alien for European palettes.

It’s not for grilling or frying like the cow’s and sheep’s milk blends from across British supermarkets – these are purely for cheese lovers and are best served sliced with fresh bread and juicy ripe tomatoes.

#5 Mourning Bread
Made to mark the anniversary of losing a loved one, these bread loaves are made by Greek Cypriots to include cinnamon, sugar and ‘mastika’.

Cooked until almost molasses-brown yet springy on the inside, the bread is sliced and eaten with ‘Koliva’ – a sweet and savoury mix of wheat berries, blanched almonds, pomegranate, dried fruits and icing sugar (optional).

Homemade Greek Bread for Church Offerings

22 Jun

There are many things about my Cypriot culture to celebrate and partake in. One of the nicest customs is the baking of bread for offerings at church services. Depending on if you are making an ‘offering’ or mourning your dead, the type of bread made will be different. Here’s a look at a plain white round, stamped with traditional Christian Orthodox emblems. It’s lovely served warm with butter, halloumi and watermelon but tonight we had to make do without the melon. Ah well, you can’t have everything!

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