Sake & Spice

I’m always up for mashups. Food, music, whatever, but it has to be done well.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
So I was extremely intrigued when the team at Moti Mahal invited me down for their Sake & Spice event.

Moti Mahal was founded more than forty years ago in Delhi. Their London branch is located right near Covent Garden, and they specialise in Indian dishes that emphasize traditional techniques – mostly street-style tandoori dishes.

I’m always up for Indian food, but when I found out that every course would be paired with a different sake, I knew this was an event I couldn’t miss.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
Despite being Japanese, I know barely anything about sake – luckily, the clever folks at Moti Mahal had a couple of tips and facts to share.

Sake is brewed like a beer, with four ingredients – rice, koji, yeast and water. There is usually no vintage – sake is designed to be drunk within 1 or 2 years of bottling, and should be drunk like a wine. My favourite fact about sake is how it tends to enhance the flavour of food, unlike other forms of alcohol – and we really put that theory to the test at Moti Mahal!

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event

Our first course was the Chukander Ka salad – a roasted beetroot and peanut salad that was served with stuffed peppers, minted potatoes and green peas.

This was served with my favourite sake of the evening – a Kimura Fukukomachi Junmai Daiginjo, a premium sake that had a slightly fruity taste to it.

Our next course was the Barra Peshwari – my favourite dish of the evening. These delicious lamb chops were served with caraway seed, Kashmiri chillies, mooli raita and avocado chutney, and were paired with a Kimura Fukukomachi Daiginjo sake. This sake was also a premium sake, and had a lovely light and subtly fruity flavour – not overly harsh, as I find some sake varieties can be.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
Next up was a Murgabi, served with Teetar and a side of stir-fried okra. Murgabi is a pheasant dish that has been stir fried with Malabar spices – this was so exquisite, especially with the sweet and spicy pickled partridge. The partridge Teetar was like nothing I’d never tried before, but the flavours were really wonderful. This was served with a Akita Shurui Seizoh Takashimizu Honjozo – this sake seemed more familiar to me than the others: I must admit, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did the first two.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
The next dish was the Lahori Macchi Pulao – baby red mullet cooked with basmati rice, curry leaf and pounded spice and served with raita. This was paired with the Gozenshu 9 ‘Mountain Stream’ Junmai Nama Bodaimoto.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
The dessert was a pineapple carpaccio served with plum and port wine sorbet – definitely underwhelming, although the umeshu (plum wine) it was paired with was absolutely divine. I might need to get a bottle of Ume No Yado Aragoshi Umeshu when I’m back in Japan next month!

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventUmeshu, Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
Overall, the experience was absolutely incredible. Barry, the Beverage Manager, is so knowledgable about the topic – it was great to get some tips (as well as try some of the gin he makes himself!) It was unlike any other pairing I’ve tried in the past, and the combination of Indian flavours with Japanese sake was an unusual one – but one I’d definitely try again.

Even if you can’t try one of their Sake & Spice events, Moti Mahal is worth popping into for the food, which is really delicious. I’d definitely recommend the lamb chops – it’s definitely worth popping into (and avoid the chains in Covent Garden)!

Have you ever tried a fusion alcohol pairing? How did it go? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Moti Mahal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jukai, NYC

A little over a month ago, I headed home for a week long, unbelievably overdue trip to my hometown of New York. It was such a fleeting visit that I spent most of my time meeting up with friends for drinks at old haunts, spending time with my family and stocking up on essentials in Sephora – nothing particularly blog-worthy in my opinion, with the exception of the tasting menu at Jukai, located in basement-level in midtown Manhattan.

Jukai, NYCJukai NYC - Oysters

For the quality of the fare, the tasting menu at Jukai is an absolute bargain at $55 per head. As expected, the menu varies depending on season, as well as the catch of the day, but the oysters – served with ponzu, spring onion, and lime – as well as the homemade tofu (in the assorted starters), the Chef’s choice sashimi (which included an amazingly fresh yellowtail and maguro tuna) were outstanding, and seem to be a semi-regular fixture on the menu. In terms of the quality of the sushi, I haven’t found anywhere in London that compares to the quality of the fish found in New York – it’s definitely worth keeping in mind for your next visit.

Jukai NYC - OystersJukai NYC tasting menu

The fillet steak was perfectly cooked to my liking (the rarer side of medium rare) – although the only drawback from the meal was the bland and unmemorable broiled fish, which escapes notice almost entirely.

Jukai NYC - SteakJukai NYC Tasting Menu - uni and ikura

As a rule, I tend to be all about the starters and the mains – I don’t have a sweet tooth, and could quite happily do without. But I’m so glad I went against my usual nature at Jukai – the white sesame blancmange and black tea pannacotta have easily become one of my favourite desserts of all time, although the white sesame blancmange has the edge over the latter, as it has the nuttiness of sesame but with all the creaminess and texture of a traditional blancmange – a true culinary feat.

Jukai NYC, SashimiJukai NYC, Sashimi

With the meal, we had a sparkling rosé from Long Island. I’m ashamed to admit that when it was recommended to me by my waiter, I grimaced – I am not the biggest rosé fan, and I know absolutely nothing about Long Island wines. It was, in fact, really pleasant, and a great accompaniment to the meal – I stand corrected! It’s worth keeping an open mind at Jukai – the gambles certainly paid off for me.

It’s worth booking a table in advance, especially for the tasting menu, as this cosy little basement venue gets quite packed – but in terms of ambience (very modern Japanese), quality of food and value for money you would be hard placed to find better.

Jukai, NYC

Jukai is located on 53rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue, Manhattan, New York.

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Gluten-free Kinako White Chocolate Cookies

My mother is an excellent cook. I mostly got my love of cooking and food from her, especially when it comes to Japanese cuisine. I was lucky enough to grow up in New York, where there is an abundance of Japanese supermarkets, making sourcing ingredients like dashi (stock), tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and nori (dried seaweed) really simple. When I went to Manchester for university, I found myself really stuck in terms of finding the basics I was so used to at home. Luckily, there are a few more options in London, like the Japan Centre in Piccadilly Circus or Atariya. They both have great selections, but they’re either completely rammed (Piccadilly is always horrendously crowded due to all the tourists) or quite far out (the end of the Northern line, for both Atariya locations), and getting home can be a massive hassle when you bulk buy rice and other basics, like I do.

Kinako White Chocolate Gluten Free CookiesSo I was completely thrilled when I was contacted by the lovely team from the Japan Food Hall, a Japanese online supermarket based in the UK. They have a great selection of products – everything from Japanese candies and snacks to sauces and mixes for dishes like sushi or hotpot. The website is clear, easy to use, and has great customer service (they even sent along a few snacks and treats with my first order!) It’s perfect for getting all the essentials, without the expense of lugging it all across town.

Kinako White Chocolate Gluten Free Cookies

One of the first items in my order was a bag of kinako, or roasted soybean flour. I love kinako, which is usually eaten with a little bit of brown sugar with roasted mochi, a Japanese rice cake. Kinako flour is gluten free, and has a rich, nutty flavour, which makes it great for incorporating it into Western-style desserts in new and interesting ways. I really like topping vanilla ice cream with it, or having it with some Greek yoghurt, honey and blueberries. For this recipe, I combined some of that nuttiness with some rich white chocolate, in a gluten-free and egg-free biscuit recipe that goes perfectly with a steaming cup of matcha tea.

Gluten-free Kinako White Chocolate Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Kinako flour is gluten free, and has a rich, nutty flavour, which makes it great for incorporating it into Western-style desserts in new and interesting ways. I really like topping vanilla ice cream with it, or having it with some Greek yoghurt, honey and blueberries. For this recipe, I combined some of that nuttiness with some rich white chocolate, in a gluten-free and egg-free biscuit recipe that goes perfectly with a steaming cup of matcha tea.
Recipe type: Cookies
Cuisine: Japanese Fusion
Serves: 12
  • 80g Kinako (roasted soybean) flour
  • 200g Crushed white chocolate
  • 200g Gluten-free flour
  • 125g Butter
  • 50ml Maple Syrup
  • 200ml Agave Syrup
  • Maldon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Matcha tea powder and hot water (optional, to serve)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix the flours until fully incorporated.
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, fold the remaining ingredients with the exception of the chocolate.
  4. Stir in the remaining chocolate pieces with a spatula until evenly distributed.
  5. Using a baking tray lined with parchment paper, spoon out the dough.
  6. Leave space between each biscuit as these will spread!
  7. Top each biscuit with a pinch of sea salt, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.
  8. These are crumbly when hot, so take care when placing these on a cooling rack.
  9. Let them cool – they should be quite chewy, with a creamy flavour.
  10. Serve with some matcha or Darjeeling tea.
Kinako White Chocolate Gluten Free CookiesKinako White Chocolate Gluten Free CookiesI absolutely love using traditional Japanese ingredients and using them to take a new spin on the classic British afternoon tea. For summer, I’ve been thinking of matcha cheesecakes, cucumber maki rolls instead of cucumber sandwiches and roasted hoji-cha tea – with some sparkling fruit sake, of course!

Kinako White Chocolate Gluten Free Cookies

Japan Food Hall have a great selection sure to get your creative juices flowing – and until May 31st you can get free UK delivery when you use the code ErinFreeDelivery3105. Japan Food Hall deliver throughout Europe, so if you’re outside the British Isles you can use the code to get £6 off your total order. To find their site, simply click on the link below, or find links to their social media site at the end of this post!

Let me know what you end up getting – I’d love to hear your ideas!


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This post was in collaboration with the Japan Food Hall – all opinions are fully my own, and I wouldn’t blog it if I didn’t love the service! What recipes and ingredients will you try? Comment below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

How to Make the Perfect Steak

For the second of my courses at Leiths, I learned an invaluable life skill – how to make the perfect steak.


I’ve always loved steak – ever since I was a little girl. When I would go back to Japan in the summers, my grandfather would always prepare a steak to which I would compare all other steaks to for the rest of my life – Kobe beef with the most delicious sauce. I used to get homesick for that sauce, but he always kept the recipe close, and when he passed away I thought that the recipe was lost forever.

Steak slicesSteak

I’ve been cooking steaks more since my course, where I picked up some great tips and knife skills – I can now confidently say that I can whip up a pretty damn good steak. I now know the perfect amount of time to fry my steaks for (a minute and a half each side for medium rare), the right oil (one with a high smoke point, like sunflower, never olive oil) and how to cut an onion like an absolute pro.


The men outnumbered the women in the class – mostly those who’d been given the class as a gift for Christmas. The class was a lot of fun – we practiced our new techniques on a few steaks, and tried our hand at making a few different sauces, including peppercorn, bearnaise and chimichurri. For a dish with relatively few ingredients, there are quite a few moving parts (like how to know when the oil is hot enough!) and my steak cooking skills have most definitely improved as a result. We also got to try different types of steak – fillet, rump, sirloin (my personal favourite!), rib eye, bavette, kangaroo, venison and buffalo. It was a serious contender for the happiest afternoon I’ve ever had.

Steak Plate

With all my experimenting, I think I’ve cracked the family sauce, too – so here’s my recipe for the perfect Japanese wafu steak.

The Perfect Wafu-Style Steak
This is the sauce my grandfather used to make me when I would return to Japan in the summers. With all my experimenting, I think I’ve cracked the family sauce– so here’s my recipe for the perfect Japanese wafu steak.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Japanese
Serves: 2 Steaks
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons of soy or tamari sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of sake
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  1. Drain off the excess fat from the frying pan used for the steaks, and discard.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in the pan on a medium heat, gently scraping the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the slivers of sliced garlic to the pan, and once browned, take them off of the heat.
  4. Place the garlic pieces on some kitchen paper, and add the sake and mirin.
  5. Stir constantly until the alcohol in the sake has been cooked off, before adding the soy sauce.
  6. Once the soy sauce has been added, turn off the heat but keep the pan on the hob and stir.
  7. Sprinkle the garlic pieces over the meat, and ladle the sauce over.
  8. Serve the steak cubed, with a side of sesame seed coated spinach, plain rice and miso soup.
I loved my courses at Leiths, and will definitely be looking into doing some more in the future!

5 Stars (5 / 5)

Have you done any courses at Leiths? What was your experience? Be sure to comment below, and be sure to follow me onTwitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Kurobuta, Marble Arch

I’d wanted to go to Kurobuta for a while – it’s been one of those places I constantly get as a recommendation, as in “oh, you’re Japanese? Have you been to Kurobuta?”

I booked a table for two ahead of time on the Zomato app. They were fully booked from 7pm, but we managed to get a 6.45 table at the Marble Arch branch. Curiously, it didn’t really fill up until about 7.30, so not sure what that was all about, but by the time we left the place was pretty packed so it’d be best to book to avoid disappointment.

Kurobuta, Marble Arch

I ordered what is now my new favourite cocktail on the recommendation of my enthusiastic waiter, the Green Bastard. (The cocktail, that is, not the server). It had all of my favourite things in a glass – Hendrick’s gin, midori, cucumber and lime – tart, refreshing and perfectly amazuppai – the Japanese word to describe something that’s both sweet and sour (but in the best way possible).

Kurobuta attempts a Western twist on the classic Japanese izakaya, and the theme is consistent throughout – from the atmosphere and decor to the dishes and menu itself.

In traditional izakaya style, Kurobuta offers a wide selection of small, tapas style plates, ideal to eat family-style – my favourite way of eating anything. Ordering at Kurobuta presented more of a challenge than usual, as everything is so appetising – and the combinations so unusual.

After much debate (the waiter had to come and go a few times) we settled on six dishes between the two of us, as well as a few bottles of Asahi black for the mister. Couldn’t get much more out of him on the subject beyond “it’s beer”, but the Asahi black is a dark lager beer – if you’re a fan of Guinness then this is worth tasting.

Kurobuta Pork Scratchings

The first dishes to arrive where the porky scratchings with yuzu kosho dip. Pork scratchings isn’t something I’d ever end up buying in a shop, or attempt at home, but every time it’s on the menu I inevitably end up ordering it (with no regrets). Duck and Waffle do great ones in my opinion (okay, okay, they’re pigs ears if you’re being picky about it), but the Kurobuta ones are in a league of their own. The light crispness is reminiscent of tempura batter, but the way it melts pleasingly on the tongue, along with the distinctively porky aftertaste confirms that it is not. If I come back as a pig in my next life, then this is the fate I would hope for – to end up as these porky scratchings. Served with a yuzu kosho dip, these aren’t overly sickly either, and felt relatively guilt-free – though make no mistake, these most definitely are not!

Kurobuta Jersualem Artichoke Chopsticks

The porky scratchings were shortly followed by Jerusalem artichoke chopsticks, served with a truffle ponzu dip. I don’t know how they managed to squeeze so many of my favourite things into one dish, and once it arrived I was even more delighted to find that the artichokes had been shaped into attractive chopstick shapes and deep-fried. These were beautiful, although I must admit I much preferred the yuzu kosho dip from the porky scratchings, and found myself dipping these into that sauce instead.

Kurobuta Miso-glazed hot wings

The next dishes followed in quick succession: yellowtail sashimi with kizami wasabi salsa and yuzu soy, miso grilled hot wings, wagyu beef sliders and a spicy tuna maki rolled in tempura crunchies. The yellowtail was seasoned nicely, although the slivers of sashimi weren’t particularly generous, nor was it the best quality yellowtail I’ve ever had, but was artfully presented and pleasantly piquant.

Spicy Tuna Maki Kurobuta

The flavours and texture of the spicy tuna maki was really pleasing, although I couldn’t help but wish the spicy sauce (sriracha, I’m assuming) was integrated within the roll instead of spread liberally on top. That being said, I really enjoy this fusion trend of coating the outside of the maki in tempura batter – I love the flavour and texture combination of the buttery batter next to the cool flesh.

Kurobuta Miso-glazed hot wings

The wagyu beef sliders and the miso grilled hot wings were clearly the more masculine choices, and while tasty I couldn’t say I’d order them again. The wings were the perfect balance of smoky and spicy, while the miso glaze gave the dish a bit more depth – but it wasn’t anything particularly spectacular.

Kurobuta Wagyu Beef Sliders

The Wagyu beef sliders had been the source of much excitement all week. The mister was unbelievably excited about what the menu promised as a steamed bun, served with crunchy onion, pickled cucumber and umami mayo. What arrived fell far short of spectacular, and if we go again we’d spend the £20 on some of the more Japanese offerings instead.

For dessert, we both went for the yuzu and coconut mochi ice cream, which is always a winner.

Kurobuta Mochi Ice Cream

Kurobuta was a fun dining experience. In my opinion, the Western twist on Japanese dishes outdid the Japanese twists on Western classics, but I would definitely go again with close friends and family.

Including a side of rice and drinks, Kurobuta set us back £120 including service.

Kurobuta is located at 17-20 Kendal Street, Marble Arch, London W2 2AW, with another branch in Chelsea.

3.75 Stars (3.75 / 5)

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