Saturday, 10 October 2015


For the second year in a row, I could not resist checking out the La Pâtisserie des Rêves Picnic which was held at Portman Square. A pink-themed picnic with plenty of cakes and sweet treats to go round - how could one possibly resist...
 The weather was thankfully much better than last year, with a bit of sunshine breaking through the clouds, and the atmosphere was rather lively with families all geared up with their picnic baskets, lounging around on their blankets.
There were a lot of French families with kids, but that didn't stop the both of us getting into the spirit of things - way past the 'back to school' phase of our lives, but clearly still very much young at heart.
I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of the lovely Sheepa, a baking queen in the kitchen, who also whipped up an amazing cake for the bake-off competition. 
Let's see if you can spot her masterpiece in the photos below...

This would probably be my first picnic of the year, but despite our last minute efforts I think our little picnic array looked pretty decent, if not quite ambitious for the two of us to share...
But then again, one can never have too much food at a picnic.

 The excitement was building around the table where the bake-off entries were displayed, and we both went over to 'check out the competition' before the judging commenced at 4pm. 
Cupcakes, tarts, loaf cakes, rainbow cakes...looks like the mums have been busy baking in the kitchen prior to the event!
The much sought-after top prize was a year's supply of cakes from La Pâtisserie des Rêves, and the winning cake would also be recreated by Chef Philippe Conticini which will be offered in their London boutiques for Mother's Day 2016.

The bake-off was judged by Thierry Teyssier, co-founder of La Pâtisserie des Rêves - eating cake has never been so intense judging by the look on their faces...

And in case you haven't guessed already, this was Sheepa's beautiful creation - a three-tiered cake filled with fresh mint and raspberry cream, and finished off at the top with fondant and fresh raspberries. One of those cakes that looks to pretty to eat...that I end up eating anyway (!) - this is why I always 'immortalize' my food in photos.

After all the suspense and anticipation, the results were finally announced - the winning entry was a passion fruit and coconut tart which was actually quite tasty.

We had a really enjoyable afternoon, and even though you didn't win, your cake is still a winner in my eyes, Sheepa! 

And we also got to walk home with the extra cakes (and balloons!)
This is definitely me 'in my element'...

And yes, they actually survived the walk through Oxford Street and tube journey home - like a crazy pink lady on a mission to get home and stuff myself with more cake.

 Looking forward to next year's event already - bring on the cakes and sunshine.

The Cheekster, signing out x

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Just over a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being invited to a special meal with Love Food Hate Waste and Great British Bake Off 2014 champion Nancy Birtwhistle, at Borough Market's Cookhouse. This event was part of the Use Your Loaf campaign, showing how people at home can get the most out of their bread.

Every day 24 million slices of bread go to waste from UK homes, which is equivalent to 1.3 million loaves of bread every single day (!), and 18% of the population have been found to throw away bread without even opening it. 

The event was all about showcasing what the Love Food Hate Waste campaign can do to help individuals across the UK, helping to make sure that everyone has all the information that they need, including tips, hints and recipes in order to make sure that no bread would need to go to waste.

The lovely Nancy Birtwhistle had prepared for us a three course meal for us to enjoy - not a bad start to a Monday morning. Each course contained bread as an ingredient, showing how bread can be used in other recipes besides for the average morning toast or lunchtime sandwiches.

The first course was her take on a Niçoise Salad. The classic Niçoise Salad is usually presented with black olives, but as a way to overcome her grandchildren's dislike of them, Nancy instead incorporated the black olives within croutons. The crispy croutons were quite moreish and I hungrily tipped a few more onto my plate as extra portions of it was passed around the table.
Click here for Nancy's simple yet impressive starter recipe.

The main course was as Nancy called it, her 'money-saving' Moussaka - the reason behind the name is that it contains meat and lentils in equal portions. And instead of the conventional topping, she substituted this with bread. When I think of moussaka, I always imagine it to be quite a rich and heavy dish, but this was an exceptionally light and clearly a much healthier option. This dish can also be made into a fully vegetarian dish by excluding the meat and doubling up on lentils.
For Nancy's Thrifty Moussaka recipe, click here.

Dessert was a Summer Pudding, a quintessentially British dessert made with bread, but Nancy had made hers in a form of a terrine which was then sliced and topped with more berries and some cream. Pleasing to the eye as well as the tastebuds.

At the end of the meal, Nancy finally revealed her little 'secret' to us - that the bread that she had incorporated into the dishes was actually stale bread. 
Most people have the assumption that stale bread means that it has 'gone off' or had gone mouldy, but in fact stale bread is a pretty versatile ingredient as demonstrated in some of the recipes.

I very rarely purchase bread for my home (for fear of the 'Bread Monster' in me that would consume it all in one go!), but for those of you that do, click here for some tips on how to make the most of your bakery products.

And here's a little clip from the #UseYourLoaf campaign, where you will probably spot a few familiar faces...

So, think before you chuck that piece/loaf of bread into the bin - it could be the start of a deliciously creative recipe.

The Cheekster, signing out x

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


The majority of you would already be familiar with Chipotle Mexican Grill, the restaurant chain which hails from the US and opened its first restaurant outside North America, at Charing Cross Road, back in 2010. Since then, they have continued to slowly grow in London, having opened its seventh restaurant in London, and its first in The City, in July 2015.

The blogger evening was held at the Baker Street branch, which we were told is one of the busiest branches. Making my way down the stairs, I was greeted with a much welcomed cold Margarita. I was starting to feel quite hungry then, so thankfully we were served tortilla chips to nibble on, served in brown paper bags with a selection of salsa dips: fresh tomato, roasted chilli-corn, tomatillo-green chilli, and tomatillo-red chilli.

We were shown a short clip of 'The Chipotle Story', where Chipotle Founder, Chairman and Co-CEO, Steve Ells, discusses Chipotle's early years:

The lovely assistant manager, Ariana, then gave us a little 'tour' of the kitchen and walk-in fridge where they kept all their ingredients, whilst enthusiastically explaining to us about their daily routines and processes.

As a big fan of avocado, I was looking forward to the demonstration session on how they make their legendary guacamole. The avocados were lined up on a tray and swiftly scooped into a large stainless steel bowl, before being smashed with an enormous guacamole masher which they specially shipped across from the US for their UK branches.

Red onions, jalapenos, fresh coriander and citrus were then mixed in, and voila, we have a huge bowl of their deliciously addictive guacamole! Guacamole sure tastes so much better when it is freshly made. This was also actually half the size of a single batch that they make everyday - I can't quite remember how many batches are prepared daily, but it definitely involved A LOT of avocados!
You can check out Chipotle's 'Process Not Processed' clips via this link.

Despite the common misconception about fast-food chain restaurants, Chipotle, which operates more than 1,800 restaurants in the USA, has been instrumental in establishing a new kind of thinking about fast food - 'Food with Integrity', which is highlighted in the following Youtube video which won Best TV Campaign in the World at the Cannes Lions Festival 2012.

And of course we were all treated to a hearty meal from the counter. 
The menu is focused on burritos, tacos, burrito bowls and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in a distinctive atmosphere. I went for the bowl with a mix of chicken, cilantro-lime brown rice, black beans, and topped with fresh tomato salsa, sour cream, romaine lettuce and cheese.

The food is quick, simple and sure fills you up - it's no wonder that Chipotle is so popular and continues to expand in London.
This was my very first taste of Chipotle, and it definitely won't be my last - thank you for having us, and I'm very much looking forward to using my Reverse Loyalty Card!

The Cheekster, signing out x 

Chipotle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 26 September 2015


In conjunction with National Cupcake Week, I was excited to be invited for the Zomato Meetup (#ZoMeeto!) at Sponge and Cream in Brixton, where the lovely Paulina very graciously welcomed us into her wondrous little kitchen - where all the magic happens!

 We had a bit of a Q&A session with Paulina, previously head baker at Hummingbird Bakery, who explained a bit about her story and how she started up her business.

After much drooling over the scrumptious looking cakes on display, it was finally time to get a taste of them.
All the flavours looked so good that it took me a while before I managed to come to a decision. I settled for the rich German Chocolate Coconut with Praline...or something along those lines - and it sure tasted good! As with most blogger events, we always like to share our food, and thankfully each of us had chosen different flavours. 
The Butternut Squash Dream was one of a kind indeed, made with butternut squash, apples, raisins, and frosted with strawberry marshmallow frosting - and some of you may also be glad to know that it is gluten and wheat free. Another favourite was the (gluten/wheat free) Lembluca cake which was a rich lemon and blueberry cake frosted with lemon frosting, and of course the classic Carrot cake.

Everyone knows the drill when it comes to blogger events, so here are a couple of 'behind-the-scenes' shots...

Photo credits to the lovely Sheepa

Photo credits to the lovely Sheepa

Paulina then demonstrated one of her new recipes, a three-tiered Coconut and Lemon Curd Cake. She had baked the layers and prepared the frosting ready beforehand and we got to observe her whilst she assembled them together. 
To make sure that the top is level, a thin layer was cut off. I gasped as this cut off bit was disposed off (!) - I would have gladly eaten up the leftover bits, but then again I suppose there is only so much cake that one can consume (!)

A thick rim of coconut frosting was then piped around the edges of the cake, forming a wall of frosting. This was followed by the pouring of a large portion of lemon curd in the middle of the cake, and the steps repeated for the second layer.

The top and last layer of the cake was leveled and placed top downwards on the other two layers. The whole cake was then covered with the remaining frosting and finally sprinkled with lots of desiccated coconut.

Add a few slices of fresh lemon disks as decoration, and here you have this stunning looking Coconut and Lemon Curd Cake!
Paulina kindly provided us with the recipe for this dream of a cake, which looks simple enough to follow, but I might just be cheeky and try and suggest to one of my baking friends to give it a go in their kitchen...I have better faith in the pros when it comes to baking.

Next, Paulina talked us through our Halloween-themed cupcake decorating session, as we were just about a month away from the much awaited yearly celebration! She had prepared three different designs for us to replicate. I have never handled or used fondant before, but it was sort of like play-dough so it felt easy enough to play around with - I think that I am generally quite good with my hands...

Okay, so my cupcake decorations didn't quite turn out as well as I was hoping for...and I also decided to go a bit 'freestyle'! Notice my groovy ghost with the multi-coloured spots (picked at fondant bit leftover on the table...) and my cat sitting next to the pumpkin (or rather a standing one but whose legs seemed to have collapsed...). It turned out to be slightly demonic looking I must say - not that I have ever been that fond of cats anyway...

After a pleasant evening of cakes and cupcake decorating, we each got to take home our three 'works of art' - that's breakfast sorted.

Photo credits to the lovely Sheepa

Thank you once again to the Zomato team and Paulina for organizing the event. 
Paulina is also looking to host workshops in a larger space in October, so if this sort of thing tickles your fancy, then keep a lookout for more details and get yourself booked in.

The Cheekster, signing out x

Sponge & Cream Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato