Thursday, 30 September 2010

Lavender Cupcakes


Today's Daily cupcake offering- Lavender cupcakes.

Simple replace caster sugar in your average vanilla cupcake recipe with lavender sugar, and use lavender infused icing sugar instead of plain in your lavender frosting. Et voila! I used lavender sugar for the entire measure of sugar so they had a nice, distinct flavour.

To decorate, I frosted with the lavender buttercream icing and added a tiny hint of blue and red food colouring to the fondant to give it a slight purply colour, then topped with a lavender sprig.
If you don't like to use food colouring, you can also use a tiny drop of beetroot juice for a cute baby pink cupcake.

How to make Lavender Sugar:

Seperate the lavender flowers from their stem by running your fingers from tip to root, or picking off. Tip your sugar into a food processor and add the flowers, discarding the stem and blitz using the pulse button until well mixed. Tip through a sieve so the sugar is seperated from the flowers. Anything left in the sieve can be put into a muslin bag and left in with the sugar, which should be stored in a sealed container to infuse. You now have lavender sugar!
It's too easy.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Food Fact of the Day

It takes exactly the same amount of time to prepare three trays of lavender cupcakes as it does to listen to Arcade Fire's Funeral.

I discovered that by accident! Try it out...

Porridge of the Week # 18

Porridge of the Week #18

Porridge Lover's Banana and Peanut Butter

Whilst warming through the oats and milk, mash a banana. Set aside a few slices. Stir the mash into the porridge mix with a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter. You can also stir in a teaspoon of brown sugar if you prefer it a little sweeter- do this to taste.
Stir though and serve into a bowl. Top with the banana slices and some crushed peanuts.

Here's an anecdote. When a midwife mentioned to my Mama that she thought my brother was a bit on the small side it made her worry a little bit (being a first time mother, I assume). In a bid to bulk him up a bit, she started trying to hide peanut butter in his food (Don't ask me what gave her that idea!). One day she got a bit lazy, and he found it. He hasn't eaten peanut butter since. If you are also trying to fatten up your babbies, then you may want to try this porridge recipe...

I got this porridge from the Porridge Lover's blog, where there are tons of recipes I want to try. If one porridge a week isn't enough for you, check it out! There's plenty of recipes there as well as plenty of other porridge related posts.

This recipe may fall more into the 'flavour' category than the 'healthy' one, but if not healthy, it's actually pretty nutritious (as my Mama will attest, I'm sure). If you try get organic peanut butter then its high in protein and pretty guilt free. So enjoy.

You can also shave a bit of dark chocolate in (high in antioxidants people, so no need to panic...) and then its kind of like Snicker's porridge! Om nom nom. That's pretty much worthy of a post in itself!


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Lou Loves: Foxcroft and Ginger

Foxcroft and Ginger

I don't know what it is that makes this such a legend of a place for me. Or why I keep finding myself being drawn back there like an insatiable moth... Maybe it is the basement, with the leather horse and huge, comfy battered armchairs. Maybe it is the mismatched old fashioned bone china in which they serve their coffee, the wooden banister and exposed pipes or the incredible array of sandwiches and fritata... Maybe it is the fact that it is comfortably tucked away on Berwick Street in the heart of Soho... Most likely, it's all of the above.

I was first alerted to Foxcroft when researching for my Wardour Street post. A friend of mine worked in the area and heard that I was heading for Beatroot, across the road. He told me that he had recently switched allegiances and often got lunch at his new favourite cafe, and that it was the kind of place that I would love. It was called Foxcroft and Ginger. And so, Helena and I went to explore...

From the outside, it is easy to miss. Next door to an empty shop, it is dark and simple. When you step in it is small, with only a few upstairs seats. But it is an attractive little place- tiled walls, brickwork and wooden floors. The counter is laden with food, and it all looks home made and generous and gorgeous. A coffee break escalated into a lunch stop.

We went for the pumpkin fritata and a mammoth sandwich with (thick wedges of) goats cheese, fig, roast pepper, rocket, red onion in ciabatta bread. I like to think that LouLovesFood knows good food- and this was good. I go wild for anything with pumpkin in, and so the fritata was an obvious choice. It had an unusual but enjoyable texture; bubbly and soft like savoury blancmange.
The ciabatta was the best- our favourite- with a coating of oil, salt and herbs, as ciabatta should. It seemed to be made by someone who was slightly over excited by the task- filled with generous helpings of a massive variety of ingredients, resulting in an almost overwhelming depth and variety of flavour.
They were brought to us on wooden boards (cut in two so we could share= serious brownie points!) with super cute skinny knives and skinny forks. So full marks for presentation, too.
Every time I go in (and it has now been a few times...) I always eye up the hefty looking Toulouse sausage and onion jam ciabatta sandwiches- that might have to be on the agenda next time. Other food options include chorizo, honey roasted squash, basil and chilli mayo or halloumi and sweet potato salads. They have a brunch menu (my obsession with brunch is gathering momentum...) which boasts a selection of pastries, muesli, Eggs Benedict and English muffins with black pudding, scrambled egg and chives.

The ambiance is lovely; the staff are friendly and it is stylish whilst still being quiet and laid back. You can also pick up a loyalty card- I am steam rolling my way through mine.

Foxcroft and Ginger
3 Berwick Street, Soho, W14 ODR


Thursday, 23 September 2010

How to: make simple Salmon en croute


There are some flavours that were born to be together. Some of these flavours are surprising- strawberry and balsamic vinegar, chocolate and thyme... Others are elegant; monk fish and speck... Then there are the simple ones, and I sometimes believe these make for the best combinations.
Some of these flavours are salmon and prawns or cream cheese and sweet chili, and together they make one of my favourite meals.
(And it's very hard for me to pick my favourite meals...)

So the other night was a basic variety of filo salmon en croute. Its quick and very easy, and I'm sure you all know how to make it- But in case you need reminding...

Lay out a few layers of filo rectangles. Brush each layer with a bit of egg before putting the next one down. (Two or three is enough.) On top of the rectangle of filo, place an uncooked salmon fillet. Spread on a layer of cream cheese and then place a line of peeled prawns onto the fillet. Over this, drizzle with sweet chilli sauce and finally, top with spinach.
Crack some black pepper over and pull up the sides and edges of the filo and seal it like a parcel round the ingredients. Brush the edges with a big more egg to help bind, and then brush a bit over the top of the parcel.
Stick in the oven at about 180C and cook for fifteen minutes, till the filo is flaky and a bit golden.

Five ingredients that taste like they should always be together ...


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Porridge of the Week #17

Fig, Raspberry and Vanilla

Porridge of the Week #17

Category: Healthy/ Flavour

Soak the oats in sweetened soya milk, adding in a drop of vanilla essence. Tip in a handful of raspberries and stir in, crushing slightly. Cut or tear up a very ripe fig into wedges and also add into the oats. Warm through and pour into a bowl. Serve with a few extra raspberries and a sprinkling of dessicated coconut.

Its that simple! Really a very quick porridge... I think it counts as healthy- the raspberries are high in fibre and there's no added sugar. Make sure you make it now whilst figs are in season! The raspberries are sharp and the fig gives it a nice crunchy texture. A lovely, light and sweet breakfast that won't leave you feeling heavy.


Monday, 20 September 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!


'National Cupcake Week' may have drawn unwillingly to a sticky end- but fortunately it's always cupcake week in the house of LouLovesFood!
I spent the morning practising my butter-cream frosting (I think I can be bold enough to say I have that down...) and made a mismatched batch of cupcakes to experiment with all the new edible glitters and sparkly girly things I had ordered in that fell on my doorstep this morning (to my great excitement).
Expect plenty more cakes and bakes in the next few weeks..!

Chocolate-cherry brandy with chocolate cream. The best. The best thing ever.

The appropriately titled 'Little Louise' - Vanilla with a layer of strawberry jam!

Raspberry ripple with vanilla butter-cream frosting

Coconut cream muffin with sparkling coconut frosting
I love the topping on this- the mixture of desiccated coconut with shimmering white and baby pink...

... And last but not least, a simple vanilla cupcake!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

How to Make: Strawberry and Elderflower Granita

My dinner friends and I are mad on granitas. They're great as a lovely light dessert- or as a little non-filling palate cleanser before a more substantial pudding if, like us, you want to squeeze in as many different dishes as possible!
They're a really summery thing, so try fit a few in before the weather turns for good and we are undeniably in autumn!

Not strawberry granita, but granita nonetheless!

For the sorbet
250g strawberries
125g caster sugar
120ml water
juice of half a lemon

For the syrup
150g strawberries
75ml elderflower cordial
15 small mint leaves

To make the sorbet, put the sugar in a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. You can remove it from the heat as soon as the sugar has dissolved and set aside to cool.

Rinse and hull the strawberries then whiz them in a blender or food processor till smooth. Add the lemon juice, then stir the strawberry purée into the cold sugar syrup. Now either pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn till frozen, or pour into a freezer box and place in the freezer.

Leave for a good couple of hours then remove, and beat the freezing edges into the middle with a whisk. Refreeze for a further two hours then beat once more, again bringing in the ice crystals from the outside into the middle. Return to the freezer till firm.

Make the syrup by cutting the strawberries in half and putting them in a bowl with the elderflower cordial. Chop the mint leaves finely and stir them into the cordial and berries. Cover, refrigerate and leave for a good 30 minutes for the flavours to marry.

To serve, place scoops of the sorbet into small bowls, then spoon over the berries and their mint and elderflower syrup


Friday, 17 September 2010

My food crush: Outsider Tart

I know I'm always falling in love with food and food shops, I have truly fallen head over heels in love with my current big food crush, the Outsider Tart... Oh my.

Designed by David Lesniak, one half of 'the two David's' who own the little boutique bakery, it is a design nerds dream. Candy striped counter tops, £3,000 cake stands and wooden shelves. I particularly love the oversized jars filled with nuts.

The cakes, I can assure you, are irresisitable, and all American; a chocolate cherry cheesecake brownie that was both verbally, and literally, quite a mouthful. The two layered brownie with a cookie topping was novel and whatever the crumbly, nutty slice I ate was, it was, to use a tired old cliche- to die for. I hold no apologies!

As well as cakes, they also sell a range of savoury snacks and sandwiches- pulled pork rolls and pastries stuffed with sweet potato. There are also shelves of American deli produce, including Aunt Jemima syrup and Fluff marshmallow and cereals.

It's the kind of place that makes you want to quit your job, sell your house, relocate and make new friends, just so you can have the pleasure of a leisurely walk down for a Saturday morning coffee.
If my ineloquent gushing's (and frankly shoddy photography) haven't swayed you yet, check out their gorgeous website, where you can see a huge array of cupcakes and brownies, or 'keep up with the tarts' via their blog.

Outsider Tart
83 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 2EF
020 7 096 0619


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Food Fact of the Day

It's National Cupcake Week!

Several attempts have been made to create the World’s Largest Cupcake. The current holder of the record is for their 1224-lb., 2 million calorie creation baked on August 15, 2009.

I celebrated National Cupcake week doing a mass cupcake baking stint at the Angel Food Bakery. It's seriously got me in the mood- expect plenty of cupcake blogs to come ..!


Monday, 13 September 2010

Focus On: Wardour Street


Or, 'Lou (and Helena) loves food (and tattoos)'.

It seems its been a while since I did a 'Focus on...' !
The other day I went to meet a friend on Wardour Street. I had got off at the wrong tube stop and found myself having to walk down the length of what seemed to be the longest road in London. However, I did notice that it was absolutely rammed with cool shops and interesting looking eateries.
I’m a big, big fan of the Soho area and spend quite a lot of my time (and money) there so I thought I would return for a food research day- I took my dear friend Helena along to explore it with me.

We started at the end of the street on the junction of Old Compton Street. Opposite us was Byron at the Intrepid Fox. This is always a source of great amusement for me as I remember spending many evenings of my teen years back when it was a cramped and sweaty metal bar, and not a slick handburger joint- all stripped back brick walls and naked lights. At the end of the day, the warmth that glows through the windows is tempting and somewhat A Christmas Carol-esque. I squint in bemusement for a while before moving on down.
Right down this end of the road is Satsuma. Think Wagamama, but without a chain on every road. With similar Japanese canteen-layout, the dishes are large and tasty. But the highlight is the cold plum wine. It's sweet, delicious and very drinkable!

Next in line is Vitao, at number 74. Being a fan of balanced food and nutrition, I've always been interested in eating here. 'The first restaurant in the UK to create and provide genuinely healthy food and drink', Vitao serves vegan organic food with the emphasis on it's health and nutritional properties. Buffet style bowls line the back wall, piled with Chickpea Curry, Seaweed Lasagne and Fungus Stew.
Okay, it looks better than it tastes. I assume from the fact it is not only only bustling, but still open, it tastes pretty good too.

Another 'first' is London's first Hummus Bar, Hummus Bros. Something else I love the sound of! The glass fronted restaurant displays happy customers propped on stools scooping hummus in bowls with pieces of pitta. Hummus comes at about £5 with pitta bread and a basic selection of sides of mushroom, garlic, beef or chicken. There are also a few Middle Eastern salad options.
Also on the right side of the road is thai restaurant Busaba Eathai, which I have heard good mutterings about. The restaurant is large and wood panelled, from the tables to the walls. The attractive large lights are low hung and create a warm, inviting atmosphere, both ethnic and chic. Have you noticed how easily swayed I am by the aesthetic yet..?

Cross the road now for the left hand offerings of the street and you will soon reach Princi's, one of the highlights of Wardour Street.
There is no one I know who doesn't have good things to say about Princi's- and I would like to thank Stephen for recommending it to me, and Rodrigo for taking me there for my first little Italian Princi's cake. The Italian bakery is a unique food stop. Large and buzzing, it is dark and low lit, no matter what time of day you go. The walls are marble and again glass fronted, glittering below the numerous lights. On one wall, water trickles from taps into a trough, dappling light across the ceiling and walls. Everything glistens. Always busy, the rows of marble topped tables and benches are usually full and you will find yourself elbow to elbow, jostling with other diners. There are also a few free standing heavy duty granite posts for those who are happy to stand and eat (I am no such person.)
Helena and I rested are tired feet with an espresso and one of their little cakes. It was a nightmare picking one from the rows and rows of traditional Italian puddings, mostly pastry based and creamy. We went for the strawberry and custard style tart (I'm sure there is an Italian name for it that makes it sound less like a Co-op frozen desert...) that stood out in their glossy redness against the creamy chocolate dusted tirimisu and flaky pastry.
There is a great view of the open plan kitchen where the bakers slave over the gorgeous looking pizza slices and savoury pastires that are displayed alongside the sweets. The table is littered on either side of me with plates of gorgonzola and spinach cannelloni and salads. They also have a suprisingly reasonable selection of cocktails for £6.50.
Just up from Princi's is the Hummingbird Bakery. A second branch of the Notting Hill store, it sucks you in with its window display of glittering, pastel cupcakes. Inside are hundreds of cupcakes and giant, layered, cream covered red velvet cakes. Rumour has it, they're more style than substance, but it's worth dropping in just for an oggle, as thy do look utterly delectable, at least.

Further down the street is Pho, a gorgeous looking restaurant with beach hut faded white wood walls, serving a selection of Vitnamese streetfood, including lemongrass chicken noodles and hot and sour prawn soup. Next door is Imli, a suprisingly chic Indian tapas bar of similar vein. The menu is traditional but interesting- not just Kormas and Tikka Masalas here. Instead, try the stuffed paneer or amritsari- battered fish as well as more typical options of saag aloo and tarkar daal.

Newly opened is Octarian, another 'first'. The restaurant is an intruiging concept- the new fast food restaurant claims to create healthy meals that are good for the environment. Every item of the vegetarian menu is carefully sourced and prepared to create minimum impact on the environment.
If the zelous aims of the chain actually put you off, then try and put on a brave face. It's worth overlooking the carbon footrpint measure (alongside the calorie count) and orange uniforms for their reasonably priced soups. The wraps and flatbread all look grudgingly good, too. The best bit was the snacks- The spinach tart really is very yummy and well done and the battered butternut squash slices made me suddenly a lot more concerned about climate change... Though I still think the prices are a little steep!

Soho is far too abundant to fit into one post. Wardour Street alone is rich in unique restaurant's cafes and bars. But I can't resist adding a few of the highlights of the nearby streets. If you're in the area, take a little detour to St Anne's Court, tucked down a side road, halfway down Wardour Street. Here you will find Fernandez and Well's, a cafe stockd with lovely fresh looking foccacia and sandwiches in varying sizes. I hear they have "the best plum chutney ever tasted." Worth looking into!

Berwick Street is the home of one of my current favourite coffee shops (you will be hearing more of this soon), and it goes by the name of Foxcroft and Ginger. It's a great looking place, and exactly what you want from your favourite caffiene pit-stop (big battered sofas, plump carved chairs) as well as a few lovely extras (leather pummel horses and mismatched old China teacups). It's a great place to hide away and sink into the sofa, and if my coffee-quaffing New York accomplice approves, then it must be alright. And I haven't even got onto their sandwiches...

Opposite is Beatroot, another vegetarian cafe with a great selection of vegetable juices- ABC and Breeze are both fresh and yummy. ABC (£2, £3.50) made of apple, beetroot and carrot is a LouLovesFood recommendation.

If you're looking for for a way top all of that then drop into either of the Berwick/ Wardour Street tattoo studios after, like we did... (Pure Ink or Self Sacrifice- Soho has it all.) It's a good excuse for lunch before, and something sugary after! ^_~

Pure Ink, Berwick Street

... Have fun!


Porridge of the Week #16


Porridge of the Week #16

Alyona's Pear, chocolate and Bailey's

Category: Evening

Start by chopping a pear or two into chunks and add just enough water to cover. Tip in a spoonful of sugar and cinammon. Bring to the boil, then simmer. Leave to simmer until the pear breaks down when pressed with a spoon and the sugar water begins to thicken. When ready, cover with oats, and add milk and a drop of vanilla essence. Stir together as it warms through. When it reaches temperature, add some broken chunks of dark chocolate. Not too much, or it will obscure all other flavours- three should suffice. Add them one at a time and you can always add more if necassary. Stir enough for the chocolate to begin the melt and streak into the oats.
Spoon into a bowl and top with some dark chocolate shavings and then drizzle with a shot of Bailey's liquer.

I made this porridge the other day for Alyona- I dedicate it to her. I knew she follows my P.O.T.W feature and so I wanted to make sure it was something special. In the process I accidently created something very special indeed... As you can tell, this is much more of an evening porridge than a day one- but it's really impressive to roll out if you have guests. It's a great indulgent pudding if you want a warm, rich winter equivalent to icecream, if you're sat in with a film.
For a more dinner party version, try chilling the porridge mix so it begins to set slightly. Using an icecream scoop, scoop out one ball per person, arrange on a plate, and like before, top with a few chocolate shavings and a drizzle of Bailey's. It's weird. But it's kinda cool.


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Chez Nu- Food with Friends


LouLovesFood now has a sister blog!
The other night, my dinner party companion and I cooked our first regular dinner club for friends. We hope to do this on a regular basis, cooking different styles of dinner (from set courses to shared plates) following different themes (themes based on the seasons, such as Bonfire night and summer salads, to cuisines such as Thai, or Indian.)

Friday's supper was a small dinner party of shared salads and a pudding, accompanied by frosted grapes and lime, cucumber and elderflower granita. The desert was an Ottolenghi caramelised macadamia cheesecake and was the highlight of the evening.
There was an idividual start for each guest; figs with honey, parma ham, gorgonzola and walnuts.
Chez-Nu; Food with Friends is a photo blog documenting these occasions, to indulge my obsessive food photography. Please drop by from time to time to see what's going on in our kitchen and dining room...

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Hibiscus and Elderflower 'Organ' Jellies

I've been wanting to play with jelly for a while, and I've really wanted to involve the beautiful Hibiscus flower... So I had a go making elderflower and hibiscus jellies.

Reaching for words, 'success' isn't the first I would go for. After the freestanding jellies slid onto the plate looking like human hearts I tried them in champagne flutes, which was a lot prettier, but still somehow ended up looking like something off an operating table.

I created the blood trail through the jelly by dropping in a small amount of syrup just as it was beginning to fully set. The thickness of the jelly caused it to sink through and puddle like a red blood cell swimming in platelets. The red base layer is made with hibiscus syrup, left to set before topping with elderflower jelly.

My kitchen looks like Frankenstien's workshop right now.

If you get a perverse pleasure from creating edibl organs and biological matter, you can buy Hibiscus flowers in syrup from Lakeland.


Cox, Cookies and Cake


Cupcakes are grimly clinging to the top of the food trend league. Despite whoopie pies briefly threatening to topple them, they have resolutely held tight to the title and are still popping up all over the shop.

The name on everyone's sticky, crumb-specked lips right now is that of Cox, Cookies and Cake- the latest addition to London's ample cupcake scene.

When I think of cake shops, I instinctively envisage silver cupcake trees and tiny fondant roses with lavender icing, served on gold trimmed plates.
Expect no such thing from Cox, Cookies and Cake.

In a sudden move away from fashion and into food, 'Cox..' is the venture of shoe designer Patrick Cox and baker Eric Lanlard. Nestled between sex shops and strip clubs, Cox is situated right in the heart of Soho's gay district- and it doesn't look at all out of place.
At first glance, it could easily be mistaken for a Prowler; all black sequined walls and neon lights.
The cakes in the window are black, sparkly and bedecked with oozing red-eyed skulls, winking shamelessly from glowing toxic green constructions. Music thumps from inside, which resembles a cocktail bar more than a cake shop. (One of those cocktail bars that are a bit too dark, a bit too loud and a bit too sleazy... But a lot more fun.)

The cupcakes themselves are monstrous- tit cakes, beef cakes and cupcakes decorated with Dali-esque lips. Flavours include vanilla with blueberry compote and double chocolate stuffed with raspberry compote.
There is no ambiguity over the creative intention of Cox- the whole enterprise oozes sex and glamour. It is a perfect homage to the vibrant and unique neighbourhood. (this seems like the moment for a simile to drive home how well it fits in, but in this instance, I couldn't think of a single analogy that wasn't R rated...)

I have a suspicion that these cakes may be more style than substance- But it's worth trotting along just for an oggle. The staff are generally friendly, and usually happy to pose for a photo!


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Dinner- 08.09.2010

Healthy Vegetable Quesidillas

This is a very simple and light dinner. It's the kind of thing I like if I ate heavily during the day and just need something home-y and vegetable based. Essentially, it's a very basic take on Quesidillas.

Chop some courgette, red onion, red and yellow pepper and tomato into chunks. Grill or fry lightly so it remains slightly al dente, stirring in a bit of chopped and dried chilli, cumin seeds and cajun seasoning.. Or whatever works for you. You can keep it simple, stick to the Mexican spices, or even go a bit Indian. Rub a tortilla with extra spices then tip the veg onto the wrap, pile on a thin layer of spinach and then a small amount of grated cheddar- you don't need much of this or it gets a bit greasy and overpowers the vegetables. Layer with a second tortilla.

You can grill it in three ways-
1. Fry for a minute or so till it starts to brown, then flip. This is obviously the least healthy option... But it makes it very crispy.
2. Put under the grill for about a minute. This is my preferred option- it's quick, needs no oil and gets those lovable grill marks that you wouldn't with frying.
3. I have on occasion used my diddy single-girl sized George Forman. They just make me laugh really.

Et voila. The spinach wilts, the cheese melts, and dinner is served.


Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Make Us a Brew!


This Monday I trawled the Speciality and Fine Foods Fair in London looking for interesting, exciting, or just plain yummy new food stuffs. Imagine my confusion when I stumbled across Make Us A Brew...

Being a recent ex-student, it was hardly suprising that I was already familiar with the cartoons and DJ-ing of Mr Scruff (a fairly quintessential part of student life) and it didn't take me long to lock eyes on his ever so distinctive comic strips, emblazoned, peculiarly, across boxes of tea.

How, what, why, where, when..?!

Enter, Make Us a Brew. Sipping on the very lovely mint and chilli (Like tea, but warmer!) I heard the story of how the little company came about. It is a simple story, and condensced down, it goes like this-
Mr Scruff really likes tea.

Having always sold tea and tea paraphenalia at his gigs, it was only a matter of time before the idea of setting up his own tea making company was brewed. Make Us A Brew were keen to point out that their tea -which ranges from a rather classic English Breakfast to Look Lively! with lemongrass, yerba mate and mint- are all Fair Trade, All Organic and encased in chlorine-free, compostable tea bags. ("There was no other option...")

God, this sounds like a press release... This is not! But people who have a tea fetish will understand the excitement of discovering a new flavour, and those who have a tea and a chilli fetish will understand that my excitement was ten-fold.
I think it's already been established I'm a bit of a cheapskate, so I think anything that has me hurrying to the Health Food Store (Health Food Store= crazy mark ups) to stock up on their products can't be a bad thing.

Know a student? Know a student that likes music? Know a music loving student with a penchant for silly drawings? Yeah? Of course you do, we all do. That's Christmas sorted. Bam.


'London's Best Pizza' - Santa Maria Pizzeria


When Time Out named the humble Santa Maria 'Best Pizza Restaurant in London', I felt somewhat obliged to get down there, by any means possible, and try it for myself.

It's the kind of place where, on the kind of sunny day on which I visited, I sat in the small light filled room by the big french windows (in my red lipstick and Vivienne Westwood sweater) and it just felt like summer - and it just felt lovely. If there is even a scrap of sun before this summer breathes it's final feeble breath then you should really jump in your cars, tubes and buses and descend upon this place like a plague of pizza hungry locusts.

Santa Maria is a beautiful little place, a small labour of love created by Angelo and Pasquale who wanted to bring a taste of genuine Naples street food to Ealing. With no advance booking and a total of 16 indoor tables, this is not a place for a night out with a group of friends and is more suited for impromptu lunches and casual yet intimate dinners.

The decor is simple but perfect- white walls, wooden crate shelves and a quite enchanting photos, and all emblazoned with their Santa Maria logo designed by Italian graphic designer Salvatore Lillini. It is light, airy and well presented, somehow retaining the air of a local, 'best kept secret' - despite its recent acclaim.

The menu is small and classic, featuring a small selection of classic Neapolitan combinations (seven pizzas and a calzone to be precise) that would have Pizza Expresses mammoth menu blushing in shame. The ingredients are all flown in from Italy and the sources of their mozzarella, olive oil and Parmesan can all be found on their websites.

I've never been to Naples, but I have had Italian pizza, and this is it. The bases are super thin, the toppings are light but taste fresh, as if ten minutes ago, they were raw produce. Our pizza was a little heavy in mozzarella juice and tended to splash all over the plate, but to be honest though it may have made the base a little soggier, nothing was impaired and it made it a lot more fun to try and eat...
I haven't eaten at enough pizza restaurants in London to say if this is the best, but I can say it's good. I can also say my motivation to eat at many others has depleted somewhat.
LLF recommends splitting a pizza (Santa' Anna, with artichoke and black olives) and making room for their grilled mixed vegetables and a scoop of their gelato- I would go with the hazelnut gelato, with whole roasted hazelnuts stirred in.

Santa Maria Pizzeria, 15 St Mary's Road, W5 5RA
020 8579 1462