28 Sep 2015

The Exhibit, Balham, London - Reviewed

Entrance to The Exhibit, Balham
Entrance to the bar and restaurant
The London reporter skips the rugby and tackles tapas style dishes instead at The Exhibit in Balham, SW London. Has anyone else noticed that rugby fever is in the air? It’s a brilliant excuse to meet friends for beer if you ever needed one, but if it all gets too much, just put your head down in the sand like an ostrich until it’s all over.

Exterior View The Exhibit, Balham

So on Thursday night, myself a dining companion headed to the Exhibit a well known restaurant and bar complex in Balham. You can’t miss it when you pull up at the train platform - it’s like a big black box with sporadic white dot matrix style writing spelling out the bar name.

We had a really warm welcome and headed to the restaurant upstairs above the main bar. It’s fairly light and airy with modern art on the walls by various artists.

Artwork in the downstairs of The Exhibit, Balham
Inside the downstairs bar
Now, the crowd weren’t just there for the dining experience. With three floors including a cinema, private bars, balcony and a huge undercover beer garden with heating, table service and rugby menu, this was definitely one of the more mixed-use spaces I’ve visited.

This is what we ate:
Pan-fried padron peppers with cured Iberian ham on grilled bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil.
There was definitely too much garlic for my dining companion, so don’t say that you haven’t been warned, but overall it was very tasty.

Photographing Iberian Ham on Grilled Bread
The London Reporter photographing the Iberian ham on grilled bread
Next up was the roast pumpkin and hazelnut salad and a wild mushroom and truffled potato puree. I thought the pumpkin salad was good but could have benefited from more herbs. Meanwhile the wild mushroom, and what I think was crispy onion, juxtaposed well with the smooth and creamy bed of mash (which I could have eaten on its own).

The waiter then brought out 4 mini chilli pork tacos served on a long plate. The pork was in a smokey sauce and as nice as they sounded, they just didn’t quite hit the spot. Part of me thinks pulled-pork would have been amazing and would work so much better here.

At this point we had been told that the chef had been on his travels so it was easy to see where the Mexican inspired flavours had come from, although not always the combinations!

Collage of an evening at The Exhibit, Balham
A snapshot of the evening
Fried chicken was up next with toasted pineapple, chopped cashew nuts and gooseberry ketchup. It was certainly a unique combination but I wasn’t sure exactly where the inspiration for this dish was coming from.

The real star of the dinner was this: braised ox cheek nestling on a thick creamy gooey macaroni cheese dish. This was without doubt THE signature dish. The braised ox cheek was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the mac’ was just plain moreish. You’d come back for this one alone and not necessarily to share.

For pud, we shared the almond tart with clotted cream. Again, this was a real crowd pleaser and disappeared in moments.

What else did we do...
We enjoyed seeing the lovely bar area downstairs. It was dimly lit and featured a giant fish tank - apparently quite popular with Balham’s yummy mummies and their children by day.

We then had something quite special to finish. A killer Porn Star Martini cocktail using their own vanilla infused vodka - OH GAWD that will take some serious beating.

Address: 12 Balham Station Road, London SW12 9SG

Disclaimer: We were guests of The Exhibit. All thoughts are our own.

27 Sep 2015

WÜSTHOF Coloured Paring Knives - Review

3pc Wustof Coloured Paring Knives Set

I like having a selection of kitchen knives to use and these paring knives not only look great they are excellent value too. I've been testing the 3 piece paring set which comes in orange and black.

The serrated edge made easy work slicing the orange, I used the straight blade for slicing strawberries and the small shaped paring/turning knife for removing peel from the apple. The knives are multi-taskers and can be used to cut, slice and shape a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Using Wustof Knives for slicing a variety of fruits

WÜSTHOF have been producing innovative knives in Germany for over 200 years for chefs and the domestic market.
The stainless steel blades are super sharp so please take care with storage.
The handles are ergonomically designed and very comfortable in the hand.
Dishwasher safe.
Price £15.95
Available through independent stockists - to find your local one please visit the Haus website.

Disclaimer: We were sent the product for review purposes, all thoughts are our own.

25 Sep 2015

Stellar Bamboo Chopping Board with Knife Honer Review

Chopping Board with honer

Here's a great idea from Stellar a 2 in 1 chopping board which is made from bamboo with it's very own knife sharpener/honer. This useful gadget makes knife sharpening quick, easy and convenient.

Using the honer on the Stellar chopping board

There are feet on the base to ensure you can chop or slice safely without fear of the board moving.

The under neath of the Stellar Cookware Bamboo Chopping Board

The board is light but solid and measures approximately 30x22x2cm.
Ideal for slicing and dicing small amounts of fruit or vegetables.
Hand wash only.
Gift Boxed with a typical price of £19.99.
Product Code: SK107
Available from Stellar Cookware, online and high street retailers.

Disclaimer: We were sent the product for review, all thoughts are our own.


20 Sep 2015

Fougasse Recipe

Fougasse

I've overdosed on holidays this year and have just come back from a lovely motoring holiday taking in the Lake District and Scotland where I came across some amazing independent bakery shops.

Now back home and refreshed I rolled up my sleeves and made Fougasse which is crisp on the outside, light within and is lovely for tearing up and eating with a bowl of soup. I've also been making tiger/giraffe bread recently but the crust can be a bit stubborn to achieve the perfect look and as yet mine still isn't blog worthy.

This is my first attempt at shaping a Fougasse and I found a pizza cutter really useful for cutting the slits of the leaves. My shaped bread isn't perfect but nevertheless it was fun to make and tastes great. I love the way the fan in my oven has moved the flour and semolina around the tray and created it's own unique pattern.

I'd definitely recommend using a stand mixer for this because it's an extremely wet mixture, I know many bakers like to make bread by hand and this one will keep you occupied for ages!

As much as I love my breadmaker this mixture won't form a successful dough because this is a very wet mixture.

Makes: 4 large or 6 small

500g strong white flour
350ml warm water
1 sachet easy blend yeast
10g salt
Fine semolina for shaping and dusting

1. Tip the flour into the bowl of a mixer. Add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other side. Using the dough hook and on a slow speed, gradually add the water to form a soft wet dough.  Knead in a stand mixer for 10 minutes.
2. Oil a large bowl and place the dough into the bowl, cover with a shower cap and leave to rise for an hour until double in size.
3. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
4. Place the risen dough gently onto a lightly floured board and cut the dough into six.
5. Dust a large tray with semolina and flour. Take one of the pieces of dough, place onto the tray and dust with semolina and flour. Shape gently into a leaf shape. Using a pizza cutter make a series of cuts to form a leaf design. Stretch out the holes to help prevent them closing up whilst baking.
6. Leave to rise for 20 minutes covered with a tea towel.
7. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until crisp and golden.
8. The remaining pieces of dough can be wrapped individually in clingfilm and frozen.  Defrost in the fridge, shape and bake as above.


4 Sep 2015

Orange Drizzle Cake with Caramelised Zest

Iced Orange Drizzle Cake with Caramelised Zest
Iced Orange Drizzle Cake
I love mini cakes, it saves ploughing through a large cake and I like that one cake can be drizzled with icing and eaten on the day it's made, the others I place into the freezer. These days the cakeometer dictates that I can no longer eat as many slices of cake all on one day as I did in my teenage years.

Interestingly the majority of cakes improve whilst they're in the freezer because it gives them a chance to take in moisture, so if you ever make a cake and it seems on the dry side either leave it in a container (not airtight) for a few days, or pop it in the freezer.

Orange Drizzle Mini Loaf Cake Topped with Caramelised Zest
The cakes can be successfully frozen at this stage
Makes: 4 Mini Loaf Cakes 15cm x 8cm approx - I bought my loaf tins from Lakeland.

For the cake:
100g caster sugar
115g softened butter
115g self raising flour
2 large eggs beaten
2 tbsp sour cream

For the caramelised orange zest:
100g caster sugar
rind of 1 orange removed with a citrus zester
Juice of 1 orange

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Line the mini loaf tins with baking parchment.
3. Tip 100g caster sugar into a small saucepan, add the orange juice and rind of the orange which has been removed using a citrus zester.  Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then simmer rapidly for a minute, being careful that the liquid doesn't evaporate.  Leave on one side whilst you make the cakes.
4. For the cake. Add the butter and caster sugar to a large bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually to the batter whilst continuously beating. Fold the flour and sour cream into the batter.
5. Dollop the mixture equally between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through. A wooden cocktail stick inserted into the cake should come out clean when they are baked.
6. Remove the tins from the oven, poke the cakes all over with a skewer, pour over the syrup and zest.
7. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins, remove and leave as they are (they can be frozen at this stage) or drizzle icing over.

3 Sep 2015

Old El Paso New Mexican Restaurante Range Taco Kit Event

Old El Paso Restaurante kit

The London Reporter sips on Margarita's and gets a taste of Mexican cuisine.

We recently had a great night out with Mexican food brand Old El Paso. They've just launched a new 'Restaurante' range using tacos, and to celebrate we were invited to a cookery demo by Celebrity Masterchef Winner 2015 Kimberly Wyatt.

So what's the deal? You are probably already familiar with their popular fajita kits but now you can make some tasty tacos at home and most importantly have a bit of fun with it all as well.

Mexican food is very sociable and this is a great way to get the kids involved in quick, tasty cooking and makes for a super quick supper.

These ready made packs already have the tacos and dry flavourings inside so you'll just need to get the fresh foods in which is really only about three ingredients: fish, chicken, steak, pork or veggies and perhaps a couple of other fresh ingredients such as fresh chilli, parsley, sour cream etc (all clearly stated on the pack).

Steak and vegetables for tacos

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and the speed you can bash the tacos out (ideal after work on a late night). If you make fish strips for example.........

Fish tacos

.........they only need to be in hot oil for a couple of minutes and then they are ready to be wrapped up in a taco which takes seconds to heat up on a hot pan.

heating up tacos

Now it's up to you to get creative with your other fillings and toppings. Go easy on the tequila now and let us know how you get on.

Disclaimer: We were guests of Old El Paso. All thoughts are our own.