Kampot Pepper Popcorn

Kampot pepper is quite possibly my favourite spice. There’s something aromatic, and distinctly floral about these peppercorns, making it lighter and less likely to overwhelm than its European counterparts. Kampot pepper has a protected geographical indication status, meaning if it hasn’t been cultivated between the Damrei Mountains and the Cambodian Coastline, then it isn’t the real thing.

Kampot pepper is popular among French chefs, who brought the spice back with them during the Colonial period. These peppercorns are often sun dried – when fresh, these peppercorns are an essential part of dishes like beef lok lak. During my visit to the crab markets in Kep, I tasted this in its most exquisite form – to dip fresh crab into a divine citrus and peppercorn sauce made of salt, lime juice and ground pepper.

Kampot pepper, popcorn kernels, butter, lime

Unfortunately I don’t seem to have found a reliable provider of dirt cheap, succulent and mouthwateringly delicious crab in London, but I did bring back some pepper from my trip to Kampot. It’s not quite as easy to get your hands on the stuff in London, but I managed to find some on Souschef. At £7 per 100g it’s not quite as affordable as it is in Cambodia, but once ground, the peppercorns should last you a good long while.

The following recipe is barely a recipe – more like a seasoning of home popped popcorn. In terms of comfort food, or an ideal snack, you’d be hard pressed to find a better alternative. Making it yourself in a pot is not only cheaper, but you won’t get that greasy film that often emerges once its out of the microwave.

Popcorn kernels

For Kampot pepper popcorn, you will need:

Tablespoon of olive oil

25g popcorn kernels

5g finely ground Kampot pepper

Salt

Lime

Nib of butter (optional)

Popped corn

The first step couldn’t be simpler – all you need is a stove and a pan with a lid. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in the pan before adding the kernels. Be sure to use a lid or you will have hot corn flying everywhere! The heat should be quite high, and after a minute or so you should hear the familiar popping of the corn. Take the pan off of the heat as soon as you hear the popping die down – it should be done.

As tempting as it is, it’s vital to take the pan off of the heat as soon as its done – I’m always determined to get those last few kernels to pop, which burns the rest. Make peace with the fact that some kernels will never pop and move on to the next step – decanting the popcorn into a suitable bowl, preferably a lacquered coconut one.

Kampot Pepper Popcorn with Lime4

For butter fiends, I recommend adding a dollop while the corn is still hot, so it can begin to melt. I personally prefer it without – it feels cleaner this way, and I’m not the biggest fan of butter on popcorn.

Kampot Pepper Popcorn with Lime

Top the popped corn with the ground pepper, salt, lime zest and a squeeze of lime. The intense aroma and delicate yet complex flavours of the Kampot pepper makes this simple, gluten-free snack a little more unusual.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch

I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with Shoreditch. It’s home to so many hidden gems, but my patience is often worn thin by the abundance of the nauseatingly kitsch, and establishments that seem to be trying a little too hard (the new porridge cafe, anyone?)

So I was more than a little sceptical when I was invited down to Forge & Co, a new restaurant on Shoreditch High Street that markets itself as ‘a unique social establishment in the heart of Shoreditch’, with a ‘canteen’ and a ‘lounge’ focusing on the ‘artisan’ and ‘urbane’.

Forge & Co, ShoreditchNever one to judge an establishment by it’s neighbourhood (or, in fact, its website – the best places should focus on what goes on the plate), we went down on a Tuesday evening to see what all the fuss was about.

Forge & Co, ShoreditchWe were invited down, and had booked our table ahead of time. Forge & Co usually operates a membership policy that’s more than a little perplexing – it can be arranged on your first visit, and is free and available to all. Whether that’s just to create interest and buzz is unsure, but it’s worth popping down just in case the current policy changes to become more exclusive.

Forge & Co, ShoreditchWe arrived for 7pm, and there were plenty of tables available in the canteen section, though the bar/lounge area was beginning to fill up considerably. The clientele was varied – the usual artsy media types you tend to find around Shoreditch were laughing and drinking away, while on the next table a rather grumpy looking student on her fourth latte seemed increasingly agitated by the growing noise around her.

The atmosphere at Forge & Co is relaxed, and they seem to be getting it pretty spot on in terms of creating a social space for those to work, bring their laptops and plug in, while still being an open environment great for a light dinner or brunch.

Forge & Co, ShoreditchThe canteen area reminded me of a trendy, modern ski lodge – the copper and clean lines combined with rustic accents like the log piles and exposed brick created an atmosphere conducive to relaxation, a great way to unwind after a long day at the office.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch

I trusted our friendly and attentive waiter with the wine choice for the evening, and he chose well – I really enjoyed the Australian Malbec (The Listening Station, 2010).

So far, so good – we enjoyed the wine as we turned our attentions to the most important part of the evening – the menu.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Prawn and Avocado SaladForge & Co, Shoreditch: Prawn and Avocado Salad

The All-Day Menu at Forge & Co is short, sweet and simple, serving locally-sourced produce where possible. It’s an eclectic mix of usual British fare – steaks, rump of lamb, chicken, as well as several dishes where they’ve taken a more exotic or unusual twist on the classics, like their signature ox heart burger, or tandoori tofu salad.

Forge & Co would be a great place to go with a mixed group, as there’s something to please almost everyone – the safe, staple choices for those who are particular about food, while some of the more eccentric dishes are sure to please adventurous foodies.

For my starter, I went for the Dublin Bay prawns with caper butter. I absolutely adore capers, and I’ve never thought of having them with prawns – I usually throw them in with salads, or as part of a puttanesca sauce. My boyfriend went for the roasted beetroot, walnut and Ragstone goats cheese salad.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Prawn and Avocado Sal

I thoroughly enjoyed my starter, although not for the reasons I’d originally expected. As informed by my waiter as I ordered, the Dubliners arrived with heads and shells intact, beautifully arranged on sea of sauteed spinach, purple sprouting broccoli and delicately placed avocado slivers which were carefully fanned out on my plate.

Having been brought up by a Japanese mother, I’m most definitely not squeamish when it comes to my seafood, or any type of food for that matter – I’d happily look my food in the face before I eat it (which is probably something that would come up in a Psychopath Test).

The Dublin Bay prawns were somewhat stringy, and not big enough to make it worth fiddling around with the crab cracker for the amount of flesh I was able to retrieve using the utensils I had. This might be because I’ve been completely spoiled from my recent trip to the crab markets in Kep, and I couldn’t help but wish that they’d substituted the prawns for a larger variety.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Beetroot and Goats Cheese SaladForge & Co, Shoreditch: Beetroot and Goats Cheese SaladThe caper butter, however, was devastatingly good. The salty tartness of the caper butter, combined with the buttery texture of the avocado and the flavour of the garlic used to saute the greens completely saved the dish for me. I would eat the greens with the caper butter as a starter alone, it was that good – and completely made up for any disappointment I’d felt after grappling with the prawns.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Beetroot and Goats Cheese SaladThe roasted beetroot and goats cheese salad was visually stunning – the warm golden beetroot was served with toasted walnuts and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. The heat from the roasted beetroot warmed the goats cheese through, making this a perfect winter starter ideal for recreating at home.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Seared Tuna with Okra, Ponzu

For my main course I opted for one of the more unusual dishes on the menu – the seared tuna with charred rocket and okra, served with a ponzu sauce. Ponzu is one of my favourite condiments – a Japanese combination of soy sauce and citrus juice, such as lemon or yuzu which is perfect with meat, fish and tofu.

Still riding high on my New Years Resolution (to eat more vegetables), I ordered the main with a side of brussels sprouts with Camarthen lardons.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Oxheart BurgerThe tuna was seared perfectly for my tastes – rare enough in the middle to remind me of aburi (broiled) sashimi, which is one of my favourite ways to eat tuna. This dish also rekindled my love of okra, the almost nutty and sticky texture was excellent charred, particularly with the lemony ponzu.

The brussels sprouts were also delicious – I only wish these had been around during the dreaded Christmas dinners of my childhood. The combination of my main dish and side, however, was rather odd – although lovely on their own, I wouldn’t go for this bizarre combination again, and should’ve opted for the winter greens (or the chips, if I’m being honest).

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Oxheart Burger

Andrew went for the Forge Ox heart burger – as Forge & Co’s signature dish, he didn’t really have a choice in the matter. The Forge Ox heart burger patty consists of the spey side of beef and the ox heart, garnished with spinach, mature cheddar, streaky bacon aioli and chips. Optional extras included avocado, egg or bacon. Andrew got his with extra bacon, and the Forge Ox burger was served on a brioche bun topped with a tiny gherkin.

I sampled the patty, which was moist, and liberally seasoned – a little on the salty side, which I adore, but could divide opinion.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Chocolate Fondant and Ice Cream

For pudding, we were brought an adorable looking chocolate fondant. It tried making eyes at me, but I managed to resist its charms.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Chocolate Fondant

Once it was ripped into, the chocolate filling started bleeding everywhere, sparking off gleeful quotes of “it’s fucking molten” (apologies for the language, but we’ve only just managed to watch Chef.)

Due to its lack of platelets the fondant managed to make a mess of the table, which only served to revive Andrew’s one man crusade against food being served on slate slabs (which, to be fair, isn’t the wisest choice for a melty, runny, chocolatey dessert).

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Chocolate FondantForge & Co, Shoreditch: Cocktail BarForge & Co, Shoreditch: Clover Club Cocktail

After our delicious meal we made a beeline for the bar – an aesthetically pleasing and gorgeously lit set with copper accents. The Clover Club cocktail, a delicious blend of tart raspberry with Tanqueray, lemon and made foamy and almost creamy by the addition of egg white was the perfect ending to a pleasing sensory dining experience on so many levels – both visually and orally.

The Forge & Co exceeded all my expectations, and is a wonderful space for dining, working, socialising and relaxing in general. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, and will definitely be popping down with my laptop in the future. They also have the most beautiful bathroom sinks I’ve ever seen – not one for taking bathroom pictures, I had to make an exception in this case.

Forge & Co - Blue Sink

Forge&Co is located at 154-158 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6HU.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

Although I was invited to Forge & Co for a complimentary meal, all opinions are fully my own.

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Clockjack Chicken Dinner

2015-01-30 20.30.48Clockjack offers delicious comfort food in the heart of the West End for affordable prices. Home to the only vertical rotisserie in Europe, Clockjack serve simple chicken dishes and sides done well. 

ClockjackClockjack

A few weeks ago the lovely people at Zomato invited me down to Soho for some chicken at the Zomato Bloggers Meetup. Our venue for the evening was Clockjack, an independent, modern rotisserie restaurant on Denman Street in Soho.

Just off of Piccadilly Circus, Clockjack is really conveniently located for the theatre crowd. Part of Clockjack’s charm is the atmosphere – it’s relaxed and down-to-earth, offering a simple fare and a wide selection of craft beers.

As part of the Zomato Bloggers Meetup, we were quite a few – around 20 of us, and despite catering for such a large crowd Clockjack were really accommodating to my dietary needs.

I wasn’t able to sample the selection of lagers, but was given a few glasses of the house red, while the appetisers began to arrive.

Clockjack Humous, Pitta, Olives

The others tucked in to hummus, baba ghanoush and toasted pittas, while I sampled the former with a few olives. The homemade hummus (£2.25) and baba ghanoush (£2.50) were delicious, and the pitta bread really looked mouthwatering – fluffy, toasted and warm.

Clockjack Buttermilk Chicken

The next few dishes to arrive were the buttermilk chicken bites (£5.95) and the chilli and barbecue chicken wings (£5.95 for 5). We were all divided on which flavour we preferred, although I definitely preferred the chilli. The wings were served with America’s favourite sauce – Ranch, with a few sticks of celery.

Clockjack WingsFor the main event we split a whole chicken, which was practically standing at attention.

Clockjack ChickenClockjack ChickenClockjack ChickenClockjack is home to the only vertical rotisserie in Europe, an interesting tidbit from the manager of the restaurant. Like everything at Clockjack, the chicken is simply seasoned, marinated in brine for a few hours before cooking. The chicken was moist and delicious, with a crispy skin served with a simple gravy. I was a fan of the gravy, though some of the others prefer theirs thicker. I was given some gluten-free fries, with a side of coleslaw, Jim Beam sweetcorn and Southern style beans.Clockjack FriesClcokjack Chicken Coleslaw SidesUnfortunately I wasn’t able to partake in any of the desserts – a delicious-looking selection of brownies and cheesecakes, but not being a dessert-person anyway. But for starters and mains, Clockjack have you covered.

Clockjack Desserts

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, then you should venture elsewhere – but if you want delicious, simple, American-style comfort food in the heart of the theatre district then Clockjack is the place for you.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

Clockjack is located at 14 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HJ.

Although my meal was comp’d, all opinions are fully my own.

Click to add a blog post for Clockjack on Zomato

February Makeup Favourites

I’ve been running around doing so many food and lifestyle posts recently, and have really neglected the beauty side of my blog. So without further ado, here are just a few products that I’ve been loving this month!

Miss Dior

I’d left my bottle of dry shampoo back in Cambodia, so once I was back I picked up a bottle of CoLab Extreme Volume Dry Shampoo in Tokyo (of course). It feels a lot more luxe and grown-up than my usual Batiste, with notes of sandalwood, orchid and mandarin. I am loving the scent, and finds it gives my hair a lot of extra volume – I definitely prefer this to my usual.

Next product is something I picked up in duty free – a bottle of Miss Dior EDT. I love the scent of this – it’s fruity yet musky, with notes of patchouli and rose. It’s such a classic scent that I know will definitely be a staple for a long time.

I took advantage of a recent 2 for £10 deal on Rimmel products at Superdrug and picked up a bottle of Rimmel’s Lasting Finish Foundation in Soft Beige. It’s got good coverage, although the overall effect isn’t as nice as the Wake Me Up foundation, so I’m not sure whether I’ll be repurchasing this from Rimmel in the future.

Mascara, eyeliner, concealer

I’ve also been loving this tube of Rimmel Wake Me Up Concealer, which is great for running underneath my eyes on early mornings.

Another duty-free purchase is now a holy grail product for me – Lancome Hypnose mascara has definitely replaced Fiberwig as my new all-time favourite mascara. I love the effect, and it comes off easily with a bit of makeup remover without any harsh rubbing. At £22.50, it’s not exactly cheap, but when you wear contact lenses like I do you have to be particular about what you put near your eyes.

I also picked up a Rimmel Brow This Way brow gel, which is great for running through my brows before applying powder with a Zoeva angled brush.

2015-02-09 17.51.19

Another drugstore favourite is the Delice de Poudre from Bourjois – it smells a bit like chocolate (although not as much as my favourite bronzer from Toofaced!) It’s been great for contouring and giving a little bit of a sunkissed glow.

After much searching, I found a Maybelline Color Drama Pencil in Nude Perfection at my local Superdrug. I love the creamy formula and the nude colour, as I tend to shy away from bright lipsticks colours as I’m usually sporting heavy eyeliner.

And speaking of eyeliner, I’ve rediscovered my love of Urban Decay’s 24/7 liner, which I found at the back of one of my drawers – it’s so pigmented and long-lasting, and I have honestly found that no other pencil liner compares.

I’d run out of eyeliner when I was in Thailand in January, and picked one up at a convenience store. Mistine is a popular high street makeup brand in Thailand, and I picked up their Super Black Fixed Eyeliner, which is liquid. It’s been really great – goes on smoothly, and is long-lasting and not to mention cheap – but not sure I’ll be able to get my hands on these locally!

2015-02-09 17.51.31

Another Asian beauty product was actually gifted to me for Christmas, and comes from South Korea. It’s a customisable palette from Etude House, a popular Korean makeup brand who do a great range of skincare, face masks (which I have been completely addicted to) and makeup. This palette has been great – all the colours were chosen for me, and they are perfect: minimal fallout, perfectly pigmented in some beautiful shades.

Etude House EyeshadowEtude House Eyeshadow

The packaging seems made for me, too – I’m a massive fan of Etude House.

ETude House Eyeshadow PaletteEtude House

The third and final product is the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. My old Cosmopolitan Blend Perfection Sponge was looking very tatty, despite being washed frequently, and I was due for an upgrade.

I love using the sponge to apply foundation over a brush – I think when using a foundation brush, you need to allow yourself plenty of time to buff in order to avoid brush strokes on your face. But by simply wetting the sponge and buffing with some foundation takes about half the time, and leaves you with a lovely glowing effect on the skin.

Etude House Eyeshadow

Have you tried any of these products? What have you been loving this month?

Escape Land

I’ve become a sort of expert, it seems, in London-based escape-the-room games. After my first review, which was as part of a blogger event at HintHunt, I’ve been invited down to others – Escape Hunt London, and most recently Escape Land, in Bethnal Green.

Escapeland

The five of us headed down to Parmiter Street after work on Wednesday to take part in the Escape Land challenge. The venue is down a quiet side street, but once you’re there it’s fairly easy to spot thanks to the massive window display (pictured below):

Escapeland

We were invited down by the gamemaster himself, the lovely Sandor, who explained the concept of the game to those of us unfamiliar with the concept. The storyline at Escape Land features time travel, scientists, the Illuminati and a mystery that you have to solve in order to escape the room in time.

Despite having done similar games before, the team and I could honestly say that out of all the games in London, we had the best time at Escape Land. The challenges were a bit more inventive, and seemed to have a lot of thought put into them.

Unfortunately we didn’t quite manage to escape the room in time, but our host generously gave us a little more time until we figured it all out. I won’t reveal too much about the challenge, but it was a lot of fun – a real brainteaser, and a great bonding experience.

For those who want to try the challenge, but are a bit uneasy about the concept of being shut up in a room for an hour, I would choose Escape Land over the other venues. The room at Escape Land is a lot more spacious, and you won’t feel claustrophobic as I found the other venues were.

The wonderful host also made the experience enjoyable – his enthusiasm and passion for the game really shone through, and we had a lovely time.

Escapeland

Escape Land, the new escape game in London can be found at Seth Court, Unit 1, 23 Parmiter Street, London, E2 9EX.

Although we were invited to try this experience, all opinions are fully my own.

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)