Late-Night Chocolate Pecan Cookies

The witching hour is upon us, and tonight I've got a short and sweet post on some chocolatey, nutty biscuits that proved a giant hit among my family (and Alex!) last week.

Anything that remotely resembles chocolate is likely to disappear very quickly in my home. The kitchen worktops are a particular danger zone. Make the mistake of putting a piece of much-anticipated chocolate down for a minute, be that a cube of Green and Black's or a salted caramel from Melt, and it'll be swallowed up forever. Usually by my father. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Chocolate biscuits are a particular favourite in the family. With these in mind, the mother and I fired up the oven a few nights ago. Following this BBC GoodFood recipe, we stuffed pecans and chunks of chocolate into mounds of sweet dough to make these truly delicious cookies. 

In the reviews for the recipe some people have complained that the dough spreads quite a bit during baking. If you want them to spread less during the cooking process, chill your dough for half an hour or so, but personally I like mine like this! They're crispy yet chewy, just the way I like them, and ridiculously easy. They take about half an hour tops to put together and bake - that's homemade cookies in your mouth in 30 minutes! And best of all, all you need to really buy is dark chocolate and a bag of pecans, as chances are you'll have the rest of the ingredients in your kitchen already.

Delicious with a cup of tea, or, even better, a glass of ice-cold almond milk.

Optimistically we put the cookies that weren't eaten straight out of the oven into a kilner jar. They lasted less than a day...Oh Dad.

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69 Colebrooke Row

I had a day of interviews last week that left me feeling like my nerves had been frayed to the point that I actually needed a drink. This doesn't happen very often (the interviews, the wracking of the nerves or the wanting a drink!) so when Alex suggested unwinding with a cocktail, I immediately knew I wanted to go to 69 Colebrooke Row. It's been on my list for a while, and better yet, it's just a stone's throw away from A's workplace in Islington.

It wasn't yet six, so the sun was still stubbornly high in the sky as I made my way down Upper Street for our rendezvous. Ah well, it's always cocktail hour somewhere. I spotted this foxy little knocker on my stroll...I do love a vulpine detail. (Apologies in advance that all my photos in this post are taken on my phone - gotta sacrifice clear Canon photos for spontaneity sometimes.)

The bar itself, also known as The Bar With No Name, has a wonderful speakeasy vibe about it. The ceiling is festooned with industrial looking lamps (swoon), there's shiny Prohibition-style red booths and tiles on the floor, and the place is staffed by charming men in crisp white jackets who look like they belong in the late '20s. There's also a great projection of a silhouetted couple on the wall that made me feel that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers might come tap-dancing down the stairs at any minute. A very classy way to announce the location of the loos to everyone. There's even a piano in the corner reserved for jazz performances, which Alex obviously clocked the minute he stepped in. It wasn't in use when we arrived - well, not in the traditional sense anyway. It was being used as a table for cocktails. Now that's a genius way to economise on space.

If you're planning to visit 69 with a group, make sure you reserve in advance. I didn't know about this and was assured that we could have a table anyway, but we still sidled up to the bar: my favourite place to sit so I can watch the bartenders work. I had a spell attending mixology classes while at university, but never made anything quite as complex as the drinks on this menu, all of which looked amazing. It's got me eyeing up the Colebrooke Row masterclasses, especially this Halloween-themed one...

As we dithered, the bartender kindly brought us two Prairie Oysters on the house - an incredible mix of horseradish vodka, oloroso sherry, shallots, pepper sauce, celery salt, a tomato yolk and 'micro herbs'. Whatever those might be. A truly original take on the Bloody Mary, and just the pick-up I needed. Served in a little oyster shell-shaped dish, we raised it to our lips and downed it in one, like eating a real oyster - and to my delight, the tomato yolk burst straight away. So much fun to drink!

Alex then ordered a Fig Leaf Collins - a heady mix of gin, fig leaf syrup, soda water and lemon juice. Here's the look on his face when he took his first sip. I've never tried fig leaf syrup but thought it made a lovely addition to a classic - it was very green and earthy tasting, with the hint of fig in the aftertaste you'd expect.

I was a bit less adventurous and chose a crowd-pleaser: a Rhubarb Gimlet. Good old mother's ruin mixed with rhubarb cordial. Simple and delicious. Don't ever regret playing it safe.

I'm pretty lightweight where it comes to drinking, but I was in such a rotten mood (poor A, having to put up with me!) that I decided I needed just a little bit more in the way of Dutch courage. We ordered another cocktail to share. 

The Spitfire. A devilish concoction of cognac, white wine and peach liqueur, made tangy with lemon juice and given a hint of sweetness with some sugar. This one slipped down a little too easily...

Another reason I loved the interior decoration at this place: the very wise advice on the walls.

The pain of the day dulled somewhat, replaced by the excitement of finding a new bar to frequent, we paid the bill and stepped out into the sunlight (so wrong). To new discoveries and adventures! 

Disclaimer: I don't advocate cocktails as a panacea for every bad day. But when they taste as good as these ones...

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Broadway Market

One humid Saturday in the not too distant past, I ventured east to explore Broadway Market, a charming street of stalls sandwiched between London Fields and Regent's Canal. 

My first port of call was a fishmonger's, where I perused the stacks of freshly caught fish for that week's meals. The fishmonger wrapped up wonderfully salty sea samphire, a glistening skate and some bronzed smoked mackerel in paper packages for us to take home.

I wish all fishmongers looked like this. With industrial pendant lamps reminiscent of fishermans' traps and white subway tiles, I was taking notes on interior design in this place!

Jess joined me for brunch so we could catch up before she embarks on her trip around the world (honestly so jealous...!) Typically rubbish at making decisions, we deliberated over everything from mushroom risotto to scotch eggs with beautifully soft yolks.

Finally I decided on one of the signature offerings from Bánh Mí 11. If you've not tried it yet, banh mí is a delicious Franco-Vietnamese staple in which beautifully marinaded barbecued pork is stuffed into a fantastically chewy baguette, alongside other flavours like coriander, lemongrass and chilli. I could scarf down another one right now.

Jess chose a spicy salad with yoghurt. I think. Feel free to correct me, J...That's what I get for stuffing my face with Vietnamese food and not paying attention to what you were eating! 

We picked up juices from Chegworth Valley and traipsed around the rest of the market.

I discovered Artwords, a wonderful arts bookshop. It's filled to the rafters with quirky arts publications including graphic novels, heavy luxury exhibition catalogues, and even a couple of guides on how to start your own blog, which Jess picked up! Lots of books on the birthday and Christmas wishlist now...

There's a taste of the past at Broadway too, with J. Cooke, one of the last remaining jellied eel shops in London. Eels were once a traditional dish in the East End but have died out in popularity somewhat.

I'm a fan of eel when it's thinly sliced and placed on top of sushi, but jellied and cut thickly? I might have to try it again before passing judgement...

Next we spent some time lusting after dinky little macarons and wisps of lingerie. 

We popped into William Cheshire, a jewellery shop on Broadway Market, and had the chance to chat to William himself about how he came to design jewellery. It transpired that he used to work in furniture and stage design and then moved over to jewellery design from there - isn't that a fascinating career trajectory? He now exclusively works with jewellery and commissions, but I did notice a nod to his career in theatre in his shop with a pair of antique theatre seats, complete with seat numbers and plush velvet, tucked away in the corner. A very cool touch. I only wish I'd remembered to take some pictures in his shop!

We marvelled at the street art on one of the roads off the market.

And generally took in the weird and the wonderful in the area. Pretty little tarts dusted with icing sugar that I longed to recreate. Vintage clothes for sale in a launderette. An ethnographic museum tucked away next to a newsagent. Trainers dangling in the breeze from an electricity cable. Industrial reflections in the canal. Most mysteriously, a dead bird lying peacefully on an abandoned blanket on the pavement. 

It's sights like this that make London such a wonderful city to live in. Every day is filled with such interesting sights and new discoveries. And off I go again on one of my odes to my hometown...

If you're wondering what to do with your Saturday morning, look no further. Broadway Market is an absolute gem, and only a fifteen minute walk from Haggerston Overground along the canal. I'll be spending more of my Saturdays in this area for sure, lusting after the houses overlooking the canal and the park! And picking up a banh mí...or two.

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Touching Base #2

Lately, I've been a bit rubbish at sitting down, uploading my pictures and thinking of ideas for posts. As we've segued from summer into autumn my job hunt has become increasingly panicky, with interviews to prepare for and applications to write every day, so I've been pretty boring and housebound as a result. When I haven't been trawling the Internet for vacancies, things have been a bit happier. Here's what I've been up to this week. 

Warming my friends' new house - well, flat - at the weekend. It was so lovely to see friends from uni, meet new people and get a little bit silly on champagne that I'd been saving for such an occasion. 

Retiring my summer dresses, sandals and shorts! They're all packed away in a recess of my wardrobe until next May. Hello thick knitted jumpers and ankle boots - I've missed you.

Clicking on Miho's Lake Como posts on her blog, Wander to Wonder. I've been looking forward to every instalment of Miho's holiday, which has been transporting me to dreamy Italian shores dotted with incredible pizza, gelato fantasies and the most beautiful mountains. For more food and travel loveliness, follow the beautiful Miho on her blog, Twitter and Instagram.

Wandering through London Fields' beautiful field of wildflowers to reach Broadway Market (my next post!)

Making endless starter for my mum's sourdough loaves, and baking a couple of my own. The trick to a good rise seems to be to put the dough in a sealable container, like a Dutch oven - we've been using a deep Le Creuset casserole dish. 

Reading Howard Jacobson's Jshortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. While I couldn't put it down, I also felt that I didn't 100% understand the plot. In other book news, I'm super excited for Sophie Kinsella's next Shopaholic installment, out next Thursday. I was going to put it on my Christmas wishlist, but I'm not sure I can wait...

Craving Malaysian food and trying out C&R in Westbourne Grove. They had a good iced Milo, but sadly their nasi lemak wasn't up to scratch, and my dining guest reported that the asam laksa wasn't so hot either. Any Malaysians who know of a good place to get a fix in London, please let me know - I'm longing for pulut hitam, cendol, kuih...

Staying up late with Alex, feasting on sushi and chicken katsu curry from Hana, a fantastic Japanese takeaway near my house, and catching up on GBBO. Seriously heaven.

Listening to Alt-J's new album, This Is All Yours. It's streaming free on Spotify prior to its release next Monday - yay!

Drinking cups and cups of my favourite green tea, Yamamotoyama Premium. You can get it at most Asian supermarkets and it's quality stuff, turning the water a vibrant green rather than the more disappointing supermarket brands that produce a brownish, bitter tea. 

Watching movies that make me rethink what's important in life: Totoro (for about the fifth time), one of the best animated films ever, prioritising childhood innocence and imagination, and Richard Attenborough's incredible Gandhi. 

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Shoryu Ramen

So. This may not come as a huge surprise given that I am of Asian stock. But here goes anyway: I am a COMPLETE noodles fiend. One of my first childhood memories involves learning to use chopsticks. (I know, stereotype alert). I have fond memories of big bowls of soupy silver needle noodles (lo shi fun) and plates piled high with flat rice noodles (char kway teow and hor fun) in Malaysia, my mum making fried vermicelli (mee hoon goreng) for us at home in London, and sitting in train stations gobbling down tempura-studded udon and soba in Japan. Meanwhile, I basically subsisted on ramen for the duration of my university years. I have a particular knee-melting weakness for Japanese bone broth ramen, and over the past year and half I've made many a slurpy pilgrimage to the wonderful Bone Daddies in Soho.

A has been extremely busy these past few months, but I finally dragged him away from Sibelius one evening, meeting him after work at Soho Theatre and hightailing it to Shoryu Ramen's Soho branch just around the corner from Piccadilly Circus tube station. Because noodle dates are the best dates. Basically, anything involving noodles is the best anything. If someone would be kind enough to open a dinosaur-themed restaurant that served kick-ass noodles, I'd pretty much be set for life.

But I digress. Shoryu don't take bookings (story of my life in Soho...) but since it was fairly late at night, we were shown straight to a table by a bandanna-festooned waitress.

Although we didn't order a lot, I was pleased by the fare at Shoryu. We kicked things off with a beautifully presented cucumber salad. I'd expected a small bowl of haphazardly thrown together cucumber and sesame seeds, but what we received was a row of upright jewel-like slices, sesame seeds and chilli flakes scattered over the top. Beautiful - and spicy.

We sipped tea poured from sweet little pots while we waited for our mains. Freshly cut lemongrass for me, green for him. Lemongrass tea always puts me in a super chilled mood - it reminds me of the East because I always order it when I go to the wonderful spas on holiday there.

I was most looking forward to trying the eponymous ramen, especially the tonkotsu (pork bone broth). I went for the Kotteri tonkotsu - extra rich, thick broth - and it was delicious. Beautifully seasoned slices of barbecue pork on top were unsettlingly cold to start with, but this was quickly forgotten as they warmed up in the hot soup. Seaweed and soft-boiled egg were a real treat, bringing some much-needed texture to the dish.

Alexander, spice maestro extraordinaire, chose the Karaka Tantan tonkotsu - spicy fried minced pork in white miso with extra garlic and chilli oil. His report was that it was spiced at just the right level (which probably means it was verging on the extra spicy for those of us who don't eat chilli with everything...)

I found that I was missing the corn and miso butter that features in my favourite Bone Daddies ramen, but Shoryu does seem more authentic and I loved my experience there. I would absolutely go back, especially given that they have three branches around central London. Hooray for noodles storming the London scene; I'll never be far from a fix now. I'm keen to explore this more, so if you've been to a particularly wonderful noodle place, please let this addict know so she can try it for herself!

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