Stockholm travel diary: A city of food & culture

I couldn’t go abroad and not document my foodie adventures. Of course for this here blog, but also because I genuinely love food/lifestyle photography. It’s a great way to savour memories and it’s an instant conversation starter, too. There’s something more exciting about eating out on holiday that differs from here in London and the UK generally; the curiosity of not knowing what you’ll find and I suppose the freedom to chose whatever you want, whenever you want without any preconceptions. The choice to plan and dress up for a special dinner, or have an impromtu pit stop as you explore. It’s also things like the hospitality and service, the menu, social surrounding and the satisfaction (hopefully) of giving that new discovery a thumbs up afterwards.

Over the course of our four days in Stockholm, we actually tried quite a few different cuisines. From traditional Swedish/European breakfast food, to authentic Italian lunches and flavour-packed Indian dinners. Amongst all of that, we discovered bakeries, fruit and veg markets, quaint coffee and dessert cafes and some of the best pistachio ice-cream I’ve ever indulged in. I’d done my research before heading out, so there were a few places I just had to tick off my to-do list. Here’s a few of my favourite spots across the city that’ll take you from dusk til dawn.

Broms – Karlaplan

Chokladkoppen – Gamla Stan (Old Town)

Hötorget (Haymarket Square) – Norrmalm

Vapiano – Sturegatan, Östermalm

Fabrique – Drottninggatan

Advertisement

Honey-glazed carrot & roasted red onion salad

Admittedly, I’ve had a few weeks off from blogging. It’s been a busy old month, in every sense, but a good one at that. It’s always nice to catch up with old friends, venture out of the insanity of London, try new things and spend time setting Summer goals. And, along with the improving weather comes renewed energy and inspiration for this here blog.

Since the Bank Holiday festivities are in full swing and it’s the last day of National Vegetarian Week 2015, I figured a summery salad dish would be fitting for impromptu BBQ’s and friendly gatherings. We all love a bit of al fresco dining and this dish is perfect sharing food as an accompaniment to other side dishes and mains. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll devour this alone with some crusty bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar! I find this is best eaten whilst the roasted veggies are still warm and fragrant as a contrast to the cold spinach leaves and crumbly feta cheese. You could also add toasted pumpkin seeds or roasted cherry tomatoes for a slightly different variation on this salad.

Serves 2 – 4 | Prep: 10 mins  Cooking: 30-35 mins

For the roasted veg:

  • 4 medium carrots
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 tbsp good quality runny honey
  • 1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs (e.g thyme, rosemary, basil)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 80g baby spinach leaves
  • 50g crumbly feta cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil

Step one: Pre-heat your oven at 175 degrees. Peel, half and then quarter the carrots. You should get 8 even sized pieces from each carrot. In a similar way, half and quarter the onion so you have small wedge shapes.

Step two: Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add the veg and coat evenly in olive oil, seasoning, cumin and mixed herbs. Bake for approx 25 mins.

Step three: At this stage, drizzle the honey over the veg and return to the oven for a final 10 mins. You want a deep brown caramelised colour on the carrots and onions. Take them out of the oven and set aside whilst you assemble the salad ingredients.

Step four: On a large serving plate or mixing bowl, add the spinach leaves, crumbled feta and warm veg (plus any sweet honey juices!). Dress the salad with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh lemon juice before serving.

*This will keep for two days in the fridge, but is best eaten on the same day it’s made.

 

Soy and ginger pak choi, broccoli & portobello mushroom

I’m a huge fan of Asian dishes (Thai and Chinese) especially because of their speed, versatility & vibrant flavours. I’ll whip up a stir fry when I want quick, clean, no fuss and honest food. There’s no endless dirty pots and pans to contend with either. I came up with this delicious recipe that happens to be vegan, too. It’s light & full of green goodness!

Along with the mushroom, broccoli & pak choi base (you can find this in larger supermarkets or a local fruit & veg market), I add courgettes and spinach along with a delicious mix of fiery red chilli, garlic, lime and muscovado sugar to balance out the hot, sour and salty flavours. There’s a few other additions but this really is a simple and satisfying meal alone or as a side dish. Grab your wok and you’re ready to go!

Serves 2-4 | Prep: 5 mins Cooking: 8-10 mins

For the stir fry:

  • 1 bulb pak choi
  • 10 – 12 small broccoli florets
  • 2 large portobello  mushrooms
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 handful baby spinach
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of scotch bonnet red chilli
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 lime
  • Ground nut or vegetable oil
  • Sea salt & black pepper

Step one: On a medium heat, warm up a wok with enough oil to cover the base.

Step two: Wash and prep your vegetables. Cut the courgette into half-moon shapes, slice the onion and mushrooms, separate the broccoli florets and pak choi leaves, thinly slice the garlic, ginger and chilli.

Step three: The wok should now be hot. Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli for one minute before adding the remaining veg. Keep the pan moving constantly for 5 mins to spread the heat and cook them evenly.

Step four: Season with salt and pepper, then add the thyme, soy sauce, a squeeze of lime, sugar, sweet chilli sauce and spinach leaves. Add a splash of water if needed to create a little steam. Cook for another two minutes before turning off the heat. Best served hot, with steamed basmati rice, noodles or as an accompanying side dish.

Understanding flavour combinations: herbs & spices

Spring is upon on us and I’m so excited to be cooking lighter, flavourful meals full of fresh ingredients, herbs and spices that can be easily thrown together. I’ve always loved buying little and often when it comes to fresh food and now the sun is out, I haven’t hesitated to visit my local markets in search of the good stuff. London is bursting with choice when it comes to fruit and veg markets. There is something very satisfying about picking and choosing from the many stalls at a leisurely pace, chatting with the vendors and generally coming away with several bargains for your money! My recent trip inspired this updated post on understanding flavour combinations.

If you’re not much of a cook, flavour combinations will seem like an alien concept. When you go out to restaurants or cook at home, you just eat and know what tastes good or bad together, right? From classic duos like lemon and thyme or garlic and ginger, to sweet things like strawberries and chocolate or apple and cinnamon, they’re all combinations that we eat often because somehow, they just work.

But why?

Often, sweet foods and spices work well with more savoury, salty or sour foods – sharp contrasts that will enhance the overall flavour and bring out the undertones. There’s a reason why everyone is going crazy over salted caramel! Salt is one of those fundamental ingredients that do just that. One of my favourite combinations is a soft tangy cheese like goats or feta, with a sweet and spicy chutney like carrot or mango. It’s something I will always order on a menu!

I’ve found it can take a lot of trial and error to find out what compliments each other when cooking at home, as there are so many variations you can try that will elevate your meal to another level. Another fail-safe of mine? Honey or agave syrup. I use these in savoury meals a lot, usually in sauces or veg based dishes. You can combine with crushed garlic for fragrance, dark soy sauce for saltiness, fresh or dried chilli for heat and olive oil to make a tasty sauce or marinade.

The foodie and traveler that I am, discovering new countries, cultures, foods and amazing flavour combinations is what I enjoy the most so I eat out a lot, and I incorporate those ideas into my everyday meals and weekly shops too. Indian, Moroccan and Mexican cuisines are some of my favourites. Having Caribbean heritage also means I’ve always eaten well spiced and delicious food, so it’s what I know best.

Spices:

My spice cupboard is bursting, literally. Partly because I dislike bland food but also because I like to try new things. There will always be the staples though – I’ll let you in on my essentials.

  • Paprika – you can get hot, sweet or smokey varieties. I like smokey personally with it’s deep red/burnt orange colour and deeper flavour.
  • Fresh chilli – for added warmth but not necessarily overbearing heat. A little goes a long way, especially the dried flakes. Generally the smaller the chilli the hotter it is (except the round shaped scotch bonnet which is the hottest variety).
  • Whole cumin seeds – a classic aromatic Indian spice, usually toasted in a dry pan to release the oils before use. Works well with meat, potatoes and carrots especially.
  • Curry powder – hot or mild varieties. I use this to flavour veg and curries. Traditional in Caribbean and Indian cooking.
  • Turmeric – a subtle flavour with natural medicinal qualities. I use this to add colour and warmth to various dishes.
  • Fresh ginger – juicy, pungent and spicy it’s also part of the turmeric family. I use this in fresh teas and Asian inspired dishes mainly.
  • Garam Masala – a fragrant Indian ground spice made up of cinnamon, cloves, coriander, black pepper and cumin.
  • Whole nutmeg – ah, perfume worthy. I prefer the whole nut over ground varieties because the smell lasts longer. Used primarily in puddings, white sauce, cakes and other sweet bakes.

Herbs and misc:

  • Dried bay leaf – a pungent, strong and bitter sweet spice that I use in soups, stews and porridge. Works very well with nutmeg.
  • Thyme – fresh or dried. A fragrant but strong spice that I use in soups, sauces and stews. Works well with meat, chicken and roasted root veg.
  • Garlic – neither a herb or spice, but an essential. And always the fresh stuff!
  • Lemon and lime – I use the zest and juice to add a fresh lift to otherwise heavy dishes like curries and sauces, as well as in salad dressings, teas and plain water.

There are plenty of other fresh and dried ingredients I use for added flavour which you’ll see throughout the blog, but these are the foundations and a pretty good start for anybody just beginning to explore spices and herbs. Hopefully you can try some of these ideas out if you haven’t discovered them already, and if you have then keep going!

Prague travel diary: angelo Hotel

In-between those long Summer holidays, an overseas city break is always well received, especially at this time of year when things are just starting to warm up in the UK with lighter evenings pushing through, but not quite enough to leave those Winter coats indoors! A few days away does me the world of good to both inspire and recharge my batteries, so travelling is one element of my lifestyle I wouldn’t change for anything.

One place on my bucket list was Prague, so my partner and I took a cheeky trip to the capital of the Czech Republic for a late anniversary treat at the weekend, and we certainly enjoyed this chocolate box city. Although it’s still the Spring season there, it’s slightly warmer than London and we enjoyed some beautiful March sunshine and dreamy sunsets for two days. If you’re anything like me and love a good photo opportunity, then you’ll soon fall in love too  – everything is just so incredibly picturesque!

So, this is the first of two travel diary type entries about our weekend. This post will focus on our location and choice of accommodation.

We stayed at the incredibly sleek and eccentric four star angelo Hotel, Prague 5. It was perfectly situated in Andel, a neighbourhood within the entertainment district and close the metro line B with a convenient 5-10 minute journey into (central) Prague 1. There are three metro lines: A, B and C, so not too confusing to get around, which was a huge plus. Oh, and a 24 hour travel ticket for the bus, tram and metro was next to nothing!

The hotel had a vibrant aesthetic, colour-blocking red and yellow with monochrome here and there. The interior was clean-cut with immaculate tiled and dark wooden flooring, panelled floor-length glass walls, a secluded courtyard, and comfortable sofas throughout the reception. Check in was so efficient and we even had a free welcome drink from the jazz bar – another tick from me.

The best part for me was the theme of music and art throughout the hotel – black and white framed images, montages and prints of famous afro-american soul and rock n’ roll musicians/artists/bands from the 60s era, as well as vintage photographs of the city. It was certainly unique.

We stayed in an executive room, which had it’s own 6th floor location. Very classy. The room was like everything else, faultless. The running theme of colour blocking and monochrome was evident with a textured black feature wall that I was lusting over. Underfloor bathroom heating, black out blinds and a bed big enough for four were just some highlights. You can read all about our expeditions in Prague in part two of my travel diary on Sunday.

We ate out in the evenings to make the most of our time, so moving onto breakfast on our second morning. If you like a buffet style spread then this place ticks every box. I’m a vegetarian and had no issues – from offering soya milk, to having gluten free pastries and cakes, tofu and vegetables for ‘made to order’ stir fries, fresh eggs and all the fruits, cheeses and breads you could imagine – I’d say I was spoilt for choice.

I’d definitely recommend angelo Hotel, whether it’s a business trip or a leisurely break for a few days, you won’t want to leave in a hurry. It was the little touches like chilled music playing in the reception, speedy wifi, comfy bathrobes and slippers, and no rush to leave after check out that made it extra special.

Salted caramel sauce

So I mentioned on Wednesday that I’d be sharing my recipe for the salted caramel sauce featured in my last post (cue the salivating tongue). Chocolate and caramel just seem like the obvious marriage for me. I’m not sure about elsewhere, but in the UK (especially London), this was the craze that seemed to come unannounced and became the foodie obsession. Everything from cakes, brownies and pies, to ice cream, doughnuts and milkshakes have had the salted caramel ‘makeover’ and I’ll admit, I’m in with the crowd.

It’s no easy task when it comes to working and cooking with sugar at high temperatures – it can easily go wrong but don’t let that put you off. This method doesn’t use a thermometer as I don’t think it’s necessary (just watch the pan continually!) It’s a simple four-ingredient recipe: brown sugar, salted butter, sea salt and single cream. It’s heavenly.

I recommend this with (pretty much everything) and if you don’t use the whole batch up in one day which is likely, it’ll last a week in the fridge. It’ll get thicker when it cools into a fudge-like texture, perfect for drizzling over ice cream, pancakes or on my favourite dark chocolate and hazelnut brownies.

For the sauce:

  • 3 tbsp softened salted butter
  • 140ml double cream
  • 160g soft dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp good quality flaked sea salt

Makes one small jar full (as pictured) Cooking: 15 mins

Step one: Melt the sugar on a low heat for five minutes until it has dissolved and starts to become caramelised. At this stage, add the butter.

Step two: The butter will begin to bubble in the pan – just keep the pan moving for a minute and stir to avoid burning.

Step three: Slowly pour in the cream and continue to stir. Turn up the heat to a medium heat, add the salt and stir for a few more minutes as the sauce thickens and becomes glossy. Allow to cool.

Dark chocolate & roasted hazelnut brownies

Who can resist a warm, squishy brownie? Throw in some added extras like crunchy hazelnuts and salted caramel sauce into the mix and they’re a surefire winner for me. This is a simple recipe but with this it’s all about timing – too long in the oven and you’ll miss the beauty of a soft centered brownie. It’s a serious deal.

As usual, only a good quality 70% dark chocolate will do for this recipe (best for cooking with), and some bitter cocoa powder too for an all round richer taste. I also roast the hazelnuts for a few minutes beforehand to really enhance the nutty flavour of the brownies – simple touches make all the difference and they’re seriously good!

Check back in on Sunday and I’ll share my recipe for this delicious salted caramel sauce. It’s rich, buttery and savoury sweet. It also lasts a week in the fridge, so I guess it’s completely fine that I indulge in this everyday for the next week.

Completely.

For the brownies:

  • 200g 70% dark chocolate
  • 75g bitter cocoa power
  • 175g softened salted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g whole blanched hazelnuts
  • 150g soft dark muscovado sugar
  • 160g self raising flour
  • 1 vanilla pod (extract will do)

Makes 10 brownies | Prep: 15 mins, Cooking: 40 mins

Step one: Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a medium baking dish with greaseproof paper. On a baking tray put all of the nuts and dry roast for 5 mins until browned.

Step two: Meanwhile, in a heat proof dish place the broken chocolate pieces and butter and simmer over a bain-marie for 10 mins until melted through. The water shouldn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, just steam.

Step three: Once cooled slightly, add the eggs one by one, the vanilla seeds and sugar then combine well.

Step four: The dry ingredients are next. Sift the flour, add the cocoa powder and the cooled nuts. Mix together well and pour into the dish evenly.

Step five: Bake for approx 40 mins, keeping an eye not to overcook it. The top should be crackling and dark, but the centre should be fudgey when a knife runs through it. Allow to cool slightly and cut into 10 large squares.

Quinoa superfood salad

So I’ve been taking time out recipe planning, testing and playing with my new toy – my Canon 700D dslr. I have no words to share my excitement, I’m definitely loving it. As a recent vegetarian convert (it was a long time coming because I rarely ate meat and is one of the best decisions I’ve made), there’s definitely more of a need for me to prioritise my diet even more and get as much nutrients and goodness from non meat sources so for me, Quinoa was the obvious choice to start implementing. It’s a complete protein and lends itself to being gluten-free and easy to digest, so it’s a great alternative to standard brown rice or wholewheat pasta. Good carbs, hello!

Quinoa is one of those grains I’ve been meaning to cook with for a long time so coming up with this recipe was quite a fun task. I love vegetables (no, really) so I’ve thrown in a super delicious mix of superfoods to bulk this salad out so its nutrient rich and substantial for a main meal or light lunch. I even have this warm; just be sure to put the avocado and goats cheese on after you’ve heated it up! If you need a pick-me-up come mid week, definitely try this one! Your body will thank you later.

For the salad:

  • 150g dry quinoa – black and red varieties also work well
  • Half a butternut squash, de-seeded
  • 1 small red onion
  • 10-12 small broccoli florets
  • 1 small Romano pepper
  • Handful of mange tout
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lemon
  • Crumbled goats cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 50g of almonds
  • 1 red birdseye chilli
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Olive oil and vegetable oil
  • Salt and black pepper

Serves 3-4 | Prep: 5 mins, Cooking: 25 mins

Step one: Simmer 150g of quinoa on a medium heat for 15 mins. Two parts salted water to one part grain.

Step two: Heat up the vegetable oil in a wok or large deep pan then chop the butternut squash into small cubes, skin on. Fry them first for 5 mins til browned and softened.

Step three: Chop the remaining veg into even small pieces; red onion, red pepper, chilli and broccoli florets. Leave the mange tout whole. Crush the garlic cloves too. All veg prepped!

Step four: Add the garlic and chilli to the pan, along with the seasoning and soy sauce. Then add the vegetables and a splash of water and cook rapidly for 5 mins.

Step five: The quinoa will have soaked up all the water and be fluffy but still with defined texture. Pour into the pan and stir til well mixed. Add the whole almonds and drizzle everything with olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Turn off the heat.

Step six: Peel, de-stone and chop the avocado into small chunks and crumble the goats cheese over the salad to serve.


 

Blueberry, lemon & coconut loaf cake

I’ll admit. I have holiday blues, big time. I’ve had a few weeks off from blogging and life in general with an amazing couple of weeks spent in Jamaica with the family. New Years saw me return to my home town of Birmingham to spend it in good tradition with my best girlfriends (which involved a lot of excited conversations, good food, relentless dancing and minimal sleep) and finally, quality time with my extended family. It was a much anticipated and relaxed Christmas and New Years for me, but now my working life in London is back in full swing. And so is Not Without Cake. I have missed my kitchen!

While I was away enjoying home comforts, I did the age old thing of trying to set myself some realistic resolutions for 2015, many of which were around the whole staying organised, using my (very sophisticated) diary type of thing and continuing to travel the globe. I also said I wanted to get over my dislike of certain foods. I’m all for trying new things in a bid to stay healthy and cultured, but there some things I’ve never enjoyed. This recipe involves blueberries; one of the dreaded fruits I disliked. I researched a few recipes for a light blueberry based cake because I wanted to try something for the blog and with a few adaptations, I made this loaf cake. I have to say, I have done a 360 degree turn around and will definitely make this again.

With the lightest of textures, it’s jam packed with fresh blueberries, coconut and lemon zest which is a dreamy combo. I also added soya yogurt for extra lightness to cut the rich fruitiness and it produced the most wonderful bake. If you don’t like blueberries on their own, try this recipe and you might just be converted too.

Serves 8 | Prep: 10 minutes | Cooking: 40 minutes

For the cake:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 150g softened butter
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g fresh blueberries
  • 50g sweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1 whole lemon
  • 1 cup soya yogurt or plain Greek yogurt

Step one:  Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Greese and line a 20 cm loaf tin with baking paper.

Step two: In a mixer or bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until combined. Melt the butter for 60 seconds in the microwave or on the hob until there are no lumps. Add this to the eggs and sugar.

Step three: Gradually add the flour and baking powder to the batter until completely smooth.

Step four: Add the washed blueberries whole, along with the coconut and zest of one lemon. The juice is optional but I omit the juice because the yogurt will cut the sweetness.

Step five: Lastly, spoon in the yogurt and combine evenly, without crushing the blueberries. The batter should be smooth and thick enough to cover the back of the spoon.

Step six: Bake for approx 40 minutes or until the top is browned and a knife runs clean from the cake. Leave to cool for 15-20 minutes before eating.

Come with me: BBC Good Food Show

 

Photo credit: Shara J

Picture credit: Shara J

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going to the much anticipated BBC Good Food Show, held annually in my home city of Birmingham. The four day Winter edition at the NEC was as expected, full of festive food and drink, and an energetic buzz as people shuffled around the arena in the Christmas spirit. Anyone looking for gift ideas would have been spoiled for choice this year. On Saturday, a few of my fab friends and bloggers got rather special treatment at the event with access to the press room, personalised press passes, seriously good refreshments and free reign to take as many snaps as we wanted throughout the event – safe to say we had a fun filled day taste testing, filming, chatting with exhibitors and enjoying the live demos by celebrity chefs. It was something different but definitely worth doing, and as Not Without Cake is new off off the ground, it was a great networking experience for me. I’m certainly excited to be involved with more events like these.

With over 400 exhibitors, the venue was full of amazing fresh and locally sourced food and drink, homeware and techy gadgets for the kitchen from brands including Braun, Kenwood and Hotpoint. Everything from homemade beers, cheese and bread, to festive hampers, decadent chocolates and confectionery filled several stands. There was no shortage of hot food either; Moroccan mezzes, Spanish Paella and good old British burgers were on offer in the food courts. The thing I love most about these kinds of events is the variety – smells, colours and flavours. You certainly come away with new food knowledge as well as that empty purse!

Over at the Colgate hub, we enjoyed some amazing mixed berry ice cream after sampling their new Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste. It reminded me of a science experiment at school with puffs of smoke and men dressed in white. Another highlight was Heathers Harvest, offering award winning jams, pickles and preserves handmade in Shropshire. I’m a huge fan of homemade preserves so their sweet and spicy carrot chutney was a clear winner for me. And the packaging, ohhh.

Colgate Hub

Heather’s Harvest

We also enjoyed Praana’s range of delicious spiced herbal and fruit teas, Sponge Cakes (try them and thank me later), artisan cakes from Tarte and Berry and not forgetting Joe and Steph’s Gourmet Popcorn. Amongst all of these independent brands and big electrical names, well known favourites including Knorr, Ocado, Lurpak Cook’s Range and Costco Wholesale also featured at the event. Oh and just when we thought things couldn’t get any more delicious, we stumbled upon Merangz produced by The Little Round Cake Company – seriously impressive free range egg meringues traditionally made in Shropshire – giant Swiss pistachio, passion fruit bites and hazel nut praline nests amongst so many other flavours. Need I say anymore? Food heaven.

Did I mention the best part? I met acclaimed TV chef and Belling brand ambassador that is Brian Turner. Talk about star struck! That’s certainly one to tick off the bucket list. Until next year, then.

Merangz

The Cheshire Cheese Company

Shara, TC and Jade

Shara, TC and Jade

Delicious macaroons!

Farrington's

Farrington’s Mellow Yellow