Cashew & Pomegranate Pancakes

HAPPY PANCAKE DAY! Truly one of the most noble days of the year. I remember finding out that Shrove Tuesday was called ‘Mardi Gras’ in French, which translates to ‘FAT TUESDAY’, and feeling like that was the most glorious name for a day ever. So with that in mind, here’s my fairly healthy pancake recipe. In honour of Fat Tuesday, this dish features good fats, like the cashew nuts!

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I added a scoop of cashew butter into my pancake mix as well as for a topping, because I wasn’t particularly sold on the two ingredient egg/banana pancakes everyone’s been raving about. I mean, they’re perfectly fine – but fine in a ‘wow, these are two ingredients, they actually taste alright for a healthy pancake’. I don’t want something that just tastes ‘ok for a healthy alternative’. Nope, these are delicious in their own right. The cashew butter fluffs everything up, and there’s no need for syrups when you’ve got pomegranate.

I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did!

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Pancakes
1 ripe banana
1 egg, room temp
1/2 tbsp cashew butter
Coconut oil

Topping
Pomegranate
Mixed berries
1 tsp cashew butter
Spoonful Greek yogurt (optional)
Sprinkle coconut palm sugar, if desired

Method

(Serves one)

1. Mash the banana together with the cashew butter, and whisk in the egg

2. Heat the coconut oil, spoon three dollops of mixture in and cook for a couple of minutes on either side, until golden brown

3, Add toppings as desired. EASY!

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When Mac Met Cheese at The Endurance

Hello! A massive lack of posts lately, but let’s go straight back in with a food review. Since working in Soho, I find myself making quite a lot of ‘what to eat in Soho for lunch’ inquiries into Google. The problem is, there’s almost too much choice, and I’m attempting to avoid chains and explore somewhere different most days. I’m planning on writing posts based around my lunchtime escapades, in the hope that it might help out someone else similarly stuck for where to eat! Anyway, mission statement dispensed with, let’s go to the food:

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When Mac Met Cheese: The Concept

Virtually underneath our office is a rather glum pub aptly named The Endurance. It’s nearly empty and appears to play host to a variety of pop-up ventures, including When Mac Met Cheese. When I saw the posters, I nearly passed out with excitement. Mac and cheese is one of the most truly perfect foods in existence, and a dining experience solely devoted to it sounded wonderful. I’m a big fan of the new wave of restaurants offering just one choice of food in a couple of incarnations (Honest Burgers, Burger & Lobster, Bubbledogs). I read up on previous reviews of WMMC as a food stand, and set my hopes to: ludicrously high.

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The Food

Three options for the pasta, optional extras (bacon lardons, chicken, rocket, tomato, broccoli); a side of coleslaw; deep fried Oreos. Absolute simplicity, which made me think that the food was duty bound to be excellent. I mean, if you’re only serving one thing, you’ve got to do it right, haven’t you? I opted for one option with a ghastly name: the ‘cheesy green afro’. Because, you know, who DOESN’T love thinking about a hairstyle with a hygiene problem while eating? Anyway, with stilton, mozzarella and broccoli, it ticked quite a few boxes.

On first mouthful, I was happy. Rich, extremely cheesy and supremely comforting, this was like the Richard Madeley of foodstuffs. It came to us in cardboard boxes, and let’s just say that mac and cheese is never going to win any beauty contests, so visually it wasn’t much. I started flagging at around the halfway point. It was lukewarm on arrival and cooling rapidly, and each mouthful tasted exactly the same. My companions struggled  – this, from one of the boys: ‘I think I’m going to go to Leon after this to get a wrap’.

The primary issue for me was how I felt afterwards. A truly great eating experience leaves you full but happy. I’m not just referring to restaurants – just down the road from The Endurance are Freebird Burritos and Jerusalem Felafels, both of which leave me full and happy, whereas WMMC left me feeling like more sluggish than a slug that had just taken part in a marathon slug battle and had also found out its’ slug wife had left it. That’s how sluggish I felt. The general table consensus was indeed: ‘I feel full. Not the good kind of full’.

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The Atmosphere

Curious. We were served by a waitress AND someone who appeared to be from The Endurance itself. Things rapidly descended into a Fawlty Towers-esque situation with one waitress coming from the right, another from the left, asking us the same questions. The person serving us from The Endurance came across as slightly brisk, telling us she had ‘nothing to do with the pop up’, she was ‘just helping out’. Taking orders was a bit of a faff: ‘they get it all mixed up in the kitchen’. Mm.

I’m going to touch on decor here too, for a minute. A stripped out ghost pub; tables clung to the walls like kids at their first school disco. Stuffed animal heads on the walls and wallpaper that reminded you of those strange country hotels where you feel slightly uneasy but can’t really put your finger on it. And dark, it was so dark. Dimness doesn’t equal atmosphere, lighting concept designers.

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Overall

Some street foods translate perfectly from pavement to plate. After all, you never expect street food to be that hot or that pretty but it still kicks ass (kinda like Mickey Rourke). But when you’re served that same lukewarm, messy dish with plastic cutlery in an actual  restaurant, it’s a different matter. Come on, would it kill you to give us some proper cutlery? Even wooden cutlery would do. Anything. A rough hewn tool from wire and rocks. Just not plastic.

For me, this entire experience demonstrated the sticky problems with pop ups. What exactly constitutes a pop up? What service do we expect? Should the food come in takeaway boxes or should it be properly plated up? To give it the benefit of the doubt, I think I’d have been a lot happier with this if I’d been eating it while wandering around Camden Market, which is where it usually stands. But as it is, I’m confused, I’m underwhelmed, and I still feel full. And not the good kind of full.

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Recipe: pears poached in red wine

Because you’ve been very good, I’m going to give you one of my favourite easy dessert recipes. I mean, you could do this blindfolded (don’t). It’s ridiculously easy, but hugely satisfying, and a completely fuss-free option for finishing off a supper with friends. While it’s perhaps a little Autumnal, so is the weather. Cool, richly flavoured pear, hot spiced sugar syrup, and the chill of a vanilla-flecked ice cream make this a real crowd-pleaser.

This particular recipe is for 4 people, but it’s easy to adapt the quantities accordingly.

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Pears poached in red wine

4 firm pears, peeled and with stalks in tact
500ml red wine
1 vanilla pod, split
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
125g caster sugar
2 tbsp honey
Peel and juice of 1 orange

1. Put all of the ingredients apart from the pears into a saucepan and head until the sugar dissolves.

2. Slice the bottoms off the pears to make sure they stand upright, and place in the saucepan. If you like it, then you should put a lid on it. For 25-30 minutes to be precise, allowing it to simmer.

3. Turn the heat off and let the pears sit in the liquid for at least two hours to fully infuse them with the liquid.

4. When you’re ready to serve, simply plate up the pears, then bring the remaining syrup to a boil. Pour it over the pears and serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you’re going commercial, it HAS to be Green & Black’s, which is the very best store bought vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had.

Happy cooking! Coming up soon, a veggie bangers and mash recipe, burger chat, and Ben Ainslie’s boat.

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Burgers

Can I be presumptuous enough to give you a little advice, dear reader? Good. Thanks. It’s this: never look up restaurant menus when you’re feeling hungry. Wednesday lunchtime, I found myself browsing restaurants for my trip to Oxford next week, and gawking open-mouthed at the menus.

I’m often inclined towards Thai or Japanese when I eat out, mainly because I can’t replicate it that easily at home, but recently I’ve been enjoying a bit of a ‘hearty’ food revival, as you can see from this post. I was interested to learn that a Byron burger bar had popped up in Oxford, and started perusing that menu and also that of bangers and mash based restaurant The Big Bang. I hear it’s a real sausage fest in there.

Both had something in common – a menu based around just one dish. I’ve never visited a Byron but have been meaning to for ages, and couldn’t wait to see what they had as a veggie option. I eagerly scrolled down to find….a portobello mushroom. Listen, mates. That’s not a burger. I was hugely disappointed, especially as The Big Bang menu featured proper veggie sausages such as basil and vine tomato, stilton and walnut, or wild mushroom and garlic. I was so keen to try the whole Byron experience, complete with two types of fries, banana splits to follow, and macaroni cheese listed as a SIDE order, but….a mushroom just isn’t going to cut it.

So with a bad craving for burgers that I knew Byron wouldn’t be able to satisfy, I decided to create my own veggie burger experience, with homemade buns, crispy courgette fries, and a classic iceberg wedge salad. I decided also to add a portobello mushroom as I had some nice ones through with my Riverfood delivery box, but as an accompaniment to the proper burger, not INSTEAD of it!

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Proper veggie burger 

For this, I  fancied a slightly Mexican taste so went in with lime, kidney beans, cheese, Tabasco and cumin. You can easily adapt any spices or leave out the lime if you don’t fancy it.

1 400g can kidney beans
1 small red onion, finely chopped
75g cheddar, grated
75g breadcrumbs (I actually used half breadcrumbs, half crackers for a more savoury taste)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 dash mushroom ketchup (makes it super savoury, omit if you don’t have it)
2 shakes Tabasco
Juice of one lime
Pinch cumin

Pinch dried coriander
Flour for dusting
Oil for frying
Optional: use a beaten egg if the mixture isn’t binding

1. Drain and rinse kidney beans, then mash them with a special mashy implement (technical term), or failing that, with a fork
2. Add everything else. Mix together, don’t be afraid to get your hands into it
3. Flour your hands and shape the burgers into 4-6 patties
4. Fry in hot oil for 5 minutes on each side

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Burger bun

250ml warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
130g plain white flour
260g bread flour
1 tbsp honey (or sugar if you prefer)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp yeast

1. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and make a well
2. Add warm water, oil and honey, and mix together
3. Knead until pliable then divide into eight
4. Roll to shape into balls, and place on baking parchment
5. Leave to rise for at least an hour
6. Heat oven at 180 degrees C, and bake rolls for 15-18 minutes before cooling on wire rack

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Courgette fries

I’m a total novice at courgette fries so I’m in no way qualified to give you my own version, so go here for a far superior recipe. I served mine with tzatziki.

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Stacking it

Your options are pretty much limitless with this, but I went for avocado to offset the Mexican flavours of the burger, chilli jam, a grilled portobello mushroom, sliced tomato and melted cheese, with shredded iceberg lettuce on the side.

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