Monday, 30 January 2017

Food: Gousto - Vegetarian World Flavours

One of my new year's resolutions is to cook more and try to enjoy it but in the midst of a Kon Marie clear-out I found an almost full cupboard of out of date ingredients. That bottle of orange essence for the one time I made truffles, almost-full containers of spices for recipes which only required a half teaspoon of turmeric or ground ginger. I'm never going to be a regular cook as my routine is far too sporadic but when Gousto got in touch it felt like the perfect opportunity to flex my cooking muscles.

Gousto vegetarian

Gousto delivers just the amount of ingredients required for each recipe and the site is really clear as to timings and nutritional information for each recipe. If like me, you are lacking in the kitchen department (this is my kitchen) then you can work out from the ingredients what equipment you need if (like me) you don't have a proper oven. The recipes do require a store cupboard ingredients like oil, salt and pepper.

Gousto vegetarian

I'm vegetarian and below are the choices for the week I ordered, six to choose from but once I'd discounted the pasta dish (possibly not great value for money) and the hallomi sandwich (definitely requires an oven) I opted for the freekeh, feta and roast grape salad as this is the type of dish I'd definitely order in a restaurant and the Keralan coconut egg curry as something new to try (and very likely a test of my skill level).

Gousto vegetarian

Two recipes for two people costs £27.49 so  £6.87 per meal.  I found the portion sizes to be very generous and as a girl who lives solo I could definitely make each recipe stretch to three meals rather than two. Compared to eating out or getting Deliveroo or a takeaway it's definitely much better value for money and also much healthier as all the ingredients are fresh and there are no mystery nasties. You can check out the nutritional information for each recipe when making your choices, some of the recipes are quite indulgent but there is a "low calorie" tab to make choosing easier (calorie-counting child of the 90s here).

Gousto vegetarian

The recipes were very clear with illustrated steps. I am not a confident cook so I found that each recipe did take me longer than the stated time (45 rather than 30 minutes) but this was due to my slow chopping of ingredients and looking for a piece of foil (found in my manicure box from when I used to get gel nails). The cooking timings were absolutely spot on and its clear the the recipes are well tested and properly thought through rather than hastily put together. If you are a more regular cook and have basic kitchen and store cupboard items then you'll be fine! The pictures showing the steps and finished products are really helpful, so many cook books don't seem to even have pictures of the finished dish.

Gousto vegetarian

I loved both of the dishes I created and, yes, they did taste better for making them myself. The dreaded washing up was minimal and I picked up some tips for future cooking attempts (oven roasted grapes are amazing in a salad and this is the first time I've boiled perfect eggs). Waste is minimal due to only being sent the exact qualities of food for each recipe and the packaging can either be recycled (the cold items come in a sheep's wool insulator which is fully compostable - duly given to Daddy Lipstick) and the ice packs and small plastic containers are re-useable.

Gousto vegetarian

If you want to try Gousto and get your first box free than enter my code FRESH3 on Gousto's website. This week's menu looks so good!

*My Gousto box was provided free of charge but all opinions (and cooking) are my own.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

(East) London: Visiting The Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory

Chocoholics Anonymous.

For my mother's birthday, we paid a visit to Mast London for a factory tour. My mother is a self-confessed chocolate lover and as I much prefer to give experiences rather than "things" this was the perfect present. I don't mind chocolate either.

The Mast Brothers hail from the Hipster Capital of Brooklyn, NY and started off on a very small scale making high quality chocolate in their apartment. Locating their London HQ in Shoreditch makes complete sense, the minimalist store putting the focus on the bright packaging and an open factory showing the chocolate being made.

Mast make all their chocolate from scratch in their Redchurch Street factory. The chocolate arrives as cocoa beans in huge sacks and leaves in beautifully hand-wrapped bars. I've never thought much about how chocolate is made beyond "cocoa beans in, delicious chocolate out" but the tour enlightened us to all aspects of the chocolate-making process and, most importantly, gave us a chance to taste the chocolate.

Our tour was a small group and our guide was great - the tour felt very personalised as we all got a chance to ask questions about the process and see what the factory was producing on the day of our visit. In true chocolate factory style there was a huge barrel of slowly tempering chocolate to admire (and a plastic spoonful of the warm chocolate to taste). The differences between making a high quality chocolate and a "vending machine" type bar are huge - the taste of the end product is totally different, very intense and a few squares really are enough.

Mast uses cocoa beans from Peru, Tanzania, Brazil and Madagascar as each bean brings a slightly different falvour. A local East London twist comes from using teas from Good and Proper and juniper from The Spice Shop to flavour the bars, as well as coffee from an East London roastery making the flavourings unique to each location. Memorable tastes were the sweet but delicate black treacle, a sea salt dark chocolate and a rather strange, almost savoury goat's milk chocolate.

Not wanting to divulge all of the secrets we learnt (although the brothers need not fear, I will not be making chocolate in my apartment with a hairdryer anytime soon) but the most interesting take-away fact for me was that no liquid can be added during the chocolate making process or the mixture spoils. The advert for a well known chocolate producer pouring in a "glass of milk"? It's actually the far less visually pleasing powdered milk...

Mast Brothers, Redchurch Street, E2 7DJ
Book a tour here


Monday, 23 January 2017

(East) London: Moring Gloryville

morning gloryville east london

I always say that I'm a morning person and a late night person but it's just the bit in between I struggle with. If a very early start or a very late night doesn't scare you off then I can thoroughly recommend Morning Gloryville as the best way to start your day, as well as feeling like a certifiable "East London Experience".

morning gloryville east london

Held in Hackney's Oval Space, Morning Gloryville fills the 6.30am - 10.30am slot which otherwise might be spent sleeping, bemoaning another day at the grindstone or at the gym doing the same class you've done every Wednesday morning for the past three years. With the promise of being able to rave our way into the day, Eliza and I headed to the last Morning Gloryville of 2016 and - no blogger hyperbole required here - enjoyed every single minute.

It's basically a sober rave, with the lights on, in a former gas works off of Hackney Road. There is no booze but plenty of (surprisingly good) coffee, smoothies and raw energy balls to fuel your morning (take some cash - I naively assumed they were included in the ticket price because 9 years in London hasn't been enough for me clearly). There's also a glitter station, face painting, massages, yoga, free hugs and sparkly unicorns to make sure that it's a pretty surreal start to your day.

morning gloryville east london

Unlike a usual club night, everyone is happy and friendly and the vibe felt far more like the Green Fields at Glastonbury than like my usual London after dark experiences (I don't think I've been dancing in London for at least three years because other people tend to make it a pretty bleugh experience). While not a workout as such, after three hours of dancing we were pretty exhausted and I'd already done my 10,000 steps without even noticing the effort.

morning gloryville east london

Morning Gloryville attracts Londoner's of all ages, it's super positive, fun and non-judgemental. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in - from leisurewear to a unicorn costume but I'd definitely recommend flats, dancing is actually enjoyable when you're feet don't feel like they're about to detach from your body and inflict murderous revenge.

morning gloryville east london

Oh, and be prepared to be finding glitter everywhere for days to come.

Morning Gloryville tickert available here - the first Gloryville of 2017 is on 1st February.
morning gloryville east london


Monday, 16 January 2017

Life: Odds and Ends

Things that don't fit anywhere else but that I want to write about anyway. Instagram themes be dammed.

Over Christmas I attempted some cooking (this is not a usual activity for me) and the obvious choice was to make this sleeping rice bear with an egg blanket. The lack of expensive unpronounceable ingredients and the way the video made it look so easy was as appealing as the super cute end result. In reality, it was a little harder because no one told me you should wet your hands before handling sticky rice but lesson learned (not sure what sort of future sticky rice encounter I am envisaging though).

sleeping rice bear
Before being covered with the egg blanket.
sleeping rice bear
The final result. Tasted good but don't expect me to make this for you if I invite you round for dinner.
After eight years of hoarding Mac make-up I finally got round to doing a back-to-Mac (disapointed that it's not "bac-to-Mac" really) and was rewarded with a new Russian Red lipstick. I'm trying to hoard less and did have second thoughts about giving up the Cyber lipstick which I bought in Macy's on my first trip to NYC in 2008 but these thoughts are the top of the slippery slope ending with a future appearance on "Extreme Hoarders".

The old make-up has gone to a better place.
Empties! I used to love doing these blog posts but this isn't really a make-up blog anymore and I worry (seriously) that a full-on make-up post would sit right with the rest of my ~content~. I am slowly getting through my product collection. As I turn 30 this year I'm going to spend some dollar on new skincare to preserve my youth for as long as possible. Otherwise I'll commission a painting and hide it in my parents' attic, it may be cheaper.

Special mentions to the Korean "cheese" cleanser and the black sheet mask.

For a brief moment while writing this I felt like I was back in the 2009/10 glory days of blogging. Now off to worry about my Instagram "grid" and worry about why I am worrying about it when I probably have something important I've forgotten to do.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Fashion: (Optimistically Early) Spring Wishlist

So it's not quite spring yet but a new year and a new set of Filofax inserts to fill with plans has me wanting new clothes. I'm very much bored of the jewel tones, sequins and black I've worn since November but it's somehow much, much colder than when I felt enthusiastic about wearing winter clothes. My current shopping might be restricted to window only after giving my tiny apartment a very thorough Kon Marie-ing and resolving (not for the first time) to think very hard before adding any more material objects to a small space and to my conscience but this small edit might just make it into my newly-organised closet:

Denim smock dress - ASOS; "Don't Look Back" dress - ASOS; Grey fluted sleeve jumper - Miss Selfridge; Blue striped fluted sleeve shirt - M&S Limited Edition; Pink fluted sleeve jumper - M&S; Tie front top - Miss Selfridge
Simple smock dresses to wear anywhere, anytime - with tights and boots now and bare-legged later. The "don't look back" embroidery has surely been designed for Instagrammers and their "Instagram husbands" and I'm probably too old to be drawn to it but it's cute and it's message has never felt more needed. Now is all we have. 

Fluted sleeves inexplicably appeal to me despite knowing that combining them with short arms, an over-use of hand gestures while talking and occasional blips in eating in a ladylike manner is surely a recipe for disaster. I discovered some barely worn jeans lurking at the back of my wardrobe (they had the grace to keep themselves hidden away while I gained and then lost a few pounds) which I never really had tops to wear with so this tie-fronted one will do nicely.

Now, let's pretend that spring is around the corner and that coats and gloves will soon be banished to the back of the (meticulously organised) wardrobe. 


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Travel: A Week In Brighton

I've been visiting Brighton as long as I can remember - my maternal grandparents hailed from the coastal city originally and from childhood visits to elderly aunts to teenage day trips eating donuts on the pier I've become pretty familiar with Brighton but never for more than a day at a time. This Christmas rather than head back to Hertfordshire, my parents and I packed up our presents and spent a week with sea views, noticeably fresher air and surprisingly mild weather. I got to know more of a city I've always loved, discovered new parts of it and watching the sun melt into the sea at the end of every day made it feel like much more of a "holiday" than I could have hoped for. 

I planned on doing Hove Parkrun and taking my parents along for the ride but it was cancelled so we headed out for a slightly later run along Hove lawns, wearing Santa hats for good measure and stopping to photograph the super cute beach huts. We wandered through the town after our run with my constantly reassuring my mother that in Brighton people wearing running gear and Santa hats are not exciting enough to capture anyone's attention. I didn't take my parents with me to Bikram classes Yoga In The Lanes but it was a super welcoming studio to warm up and not let good habits slip between Christmas and New Year (they didn't take a break for Christmas and held a class on the day itself which is amazing).

Authorised and unauthorised art on the sea front. The West Pier is so strikingly tragic but it's been part of my memories of Brighton for as long as I can remember. Around 70 years ago my grandfather might have been spotted swimming between the West and Palace piers. Dipping my fingertips into the water was enough for me.

Brighton is amazing for vegan fare, and for food in general. My mother loves chocolate and it was her idea to head to Choccywoccydoodah for their famous hot chocolate (I wholeheartedly supported this plan having had no chocolate all December) - I had a vegan version with soy milk and dark chocolate buttons and it was intensely chocolatey and the perfect warmer upper after a walk through Kemptown and around The Lanes.

North Laine and Kemptown are musts for antiques, vintage and an off-beat vibe. It's so nice to see independent shops and cafes thriving amid a world which seems to get more and more generic and chainy. Snoopers Paradise (North Laine) and Brighton Flea Market (Kemptown) are both great for a rummage.

A family member gave us surprise tickets for the i360 on the seafront - it was the perfect gift and so much fun. We got the first "flight" of the day and the capsule was relatively empty. The "flight" takes around half an hour and the views from the top of the sea and the South Downs are amazing.

Sunrise, a Sunny Afternoon (we all loved seeing The Kinks musical after missing it in London), the golden hour. Hoping for a lot more "vitamin sea" in 2017.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Life: Hello, 2017

A little belated with this post but I spent so little time online over the festive period and could only start thinking ahead properly once the decorations had been put away and January started to feel like it was really here. And once I had re-watched Sherlock as I feel asleep watching it on New Year's Day.

My 2016 best 9 - 358 days left of 2017 to capture 
I'm not one for giving up things that I enjoy but I have got a little better at moderation. I no longer drink five cans of Diet Coke each day so "giving up" something that occasionally gives me joy (and wakefulness) seems like more effort than its worth. Weekdays are sometimes often dull and if a 4pm  Diet Coke or coffee run perks you up then it doesn't need to be deleted from your life.

Resolutions are also pointless if they don't stem from what you really want. You don't need to lose weight or go to the gym every day or quit sugar or become a vegan unless you actually want to. Last year I said I'd go on at least one date but I took no steps towards this happening because I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than meet a stranger and attempt to make conversation. Failing at a goal that you never really wanted to achieve feels pretty pointless because how mad at yourself can you be about something you didn't care about in the first place?

My 2017 aims stem mostly from my experiences in 2016 and should make my life more fun, less fretful and I'll still be able to join you for a gin, a coffee or something sugary:

1. Only keep things that are useful.

I recently cleared out six bin liners of rubbish and two bags for the charity shop from my tiny flat. Magazine clippings, cheap costume jewellery, outfits to fancy dress parties I'll never get an invite to. Souvenirs that I can't remember the origin of their purchase, clothes from a shop beginning with P and ending with -rimark. I found things I didn't even remember buying. Things that I think I "need" but already have. It all felt slightly embarrassing and chucking it all felt like throwing that money away for the second time.

2. Limit my consumption of news.

I spent most of 2016 reading the Guardian website and too much of my downtime with BBC News 24 playing in the background. Rolling news is somewhat of (an extremely dull) guilty pleasure of mine for what I think is its soothing repetitiveness but the constant barrage of news is probably making me feel more anxious than the sense of "being in the know" that I think it gives me. Don't shoot the messenger here but 2017 isn't going to be much more joyous news wise than 2016 was and we maybe all need to step back a little from the noise.

3. Plan meals and enjoy cooking.

I know, again. But the period around New Year where I drank Starbucks Doubleshots and ate hummus out of the container (while making two indecisive trips to Tesco Express each day to purchase said items) made me realise that I need to plan ahead with what I'll eat and maybe learn to cook myself simple meals. I'm 30 this year and my lack of domestic skills isn't cute and funny anymore. If I find a way of making cooking enjoyable then you'll be the first to know (making this every day isn't going to happen, mind).

4. Limit the dread.

I always say that January is the worst month but it deserves its twelfth of the year as much as any other month does. Let January live. And February while we're at it. As mentioned I turn 30 this year and I am half dreading it and half in denial. I can't say I "embrace" getting older because I love being young but there's nothing I can do about it so anything other than calm acceptance of the inevitable seems like a waste of energy. At least they'll be gin. Lots of gin.

Smaller goals include ~ learn how to lift weights at the gym ~ limit my eye rolls when people suggest I join Tinder ~ read more non-fiction ~ make it to 8 years of blogging in October ~ allow myself to "do nothing" occasionally ~ resist all urges to chop off my long-again hair ~ learn how to make a killer St Germain martini ~ remove all traces of "sorry" and "just" from my vocabulary ~ finish Infinite Jest on my Kindle

Do you make resolutions? 


Thursday, 5 January 2017

Food: Food For Friends, Brighton

Spending Christmas in Brighton meant that a vegetarian restaurant had to be on the menu. Food For Friends has been serving up a fully vegetarian menu since 1981 and uses seasonal produce from local producers while also catering for vegan and gluten free diets.

Brighton isn't lacking in veggie cafes but for a slightly less 'hippie' vibe and for impressing my omnivorous parents, I booked a table for our traditional Boxing Day meal out and we all loved the delicious food, attentive but not overbearing service and the adventurous cocktail list (and not a nut roast in sight!). We had the festive set menu at £28 for three courses - unlike regular set menus when there's one default veggie option it was actually quite hard to decide but a Black & Blue (Bombay Sapphire, dry vermouth, strawberry and balsamic vinegar) cocktail to sip while deliberating helped.

To start, I had the pumpkin agnolotti - I'm a huge fan of pumpkin flavours so this was delicious. I wouldn't usually opt for pasta in a restaurant but the small starter size portion was perfect.

The Jerusalem artichoke fritters with caramelized turnip gyoza (vegan) sounded like something I would enjoy and it didn't disappoint. Full of flavour and really filling, I think even my most carnivorous friends would have enjoyed this unique dish.

To finish, a spiced poached pear with chocolate Cointreau mousse with a flax and chia seed snap (vegan) - I wanted a light dessert after a hearty main and this was perfect, the chocolate mousse was so intensely chocolate-y and the spiced pear was wintery without having an overwhelmingly Christmassy flavour.

Food For Friends, 17 - 18 Prince Albert Street, Brighton
Directions and booking here


Monday, 2 January 2017

Life: December Round-Up

Guys....we made it. 2016 is over. It always feels strange looking back at December in January when the decorations are still up but we feel compelled to make a 180 shift from chocolate chips for breakfast to #cleaneating while waiting to spot the first Crème Egg on the shelves. At least there are some things we can be sure of as we take a tentative step into a brand new year.

The final twelfth of 2016 looked like this:

1, 3, 7, 9 - #REDCUPS. Part of me is actually quite sensible (really) but its nice to feel like an extra in an episode of Black Mirror, standing on the street in close proximity to your workplace  trying to get a good angle of a hot cup of coffee for social media likes.

2 - Abstract Impressionism at the Royal Academy (closes today).

4 - Ice skating at the Tower of London. 99% of me hates being outdoors in the cold but a yearly skate is essential (closes tomorrow).

5 - Morning Gloryville at Oval Space (full post coming soon).

6 - Lights of Soho - I always pop in when I'm nearby (good coffee too)

8 - Flay laying a giant biscuit, a gold ring and my glasses because this is what became of blogging in 2016.

1. Another coffee. I actually didn't subject my body to any of the Christmas coffees because part of growing up means that my tastebuds find them offensive.

2. Visiting Hip Chips in Soho - 2016 in restaurant form. Full post here.

3. Bruch at Granger & Co - always a delight to go somewhere where I struggle to pick a dish because they all sound so good.

4. Christmas jumper day wearing an H&M sweater.

5. An Anna Laurini work on Clerkenwell Road.

6. My Secret Santa gifts from Elodie. The yellow-covered book is extremely dirty, read at your peril (I'm not that easily shocked I am not exaggerating).

7. Signing up for a month's unlimited hot yoga at Fierce Grace was the best December decision. Much needed warmth and my favourite yoga studio in London.

8. Carnaby Street decorated for Christmas.

9. Tea and cake at The Delaunay - whatever pop-ups open in 2017, this and it's sister restaurant The Wolsely will always be favourites for their tip-top service, old school charm and (discreet) celebrity spotting opportunities.

P.S. Don't talk to me about Sherlock as I may have done a "2014" yesterday and slept for the middle hour of the episode.

© Lillian Zahra | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig