Brunch on the bloc

The Social Bloc is about sharing the African experience with those in London through music, art, food and social events. ‘Brunch on the bloc’ is their signature event and it’s launching on Saturday, the 20th of May 2017 at Pill Box Kitchen, Bethnal Green.

We are launching our signature event ‘Brunch On The Bloc’ with  an experienced chef delivering tasty delicacies influenced by an African country, whilst you kick back and chill to our live band. The event ends with an after party where guests have the opportunity to meet new interesting people, enjoy the sounds of African music and just chill.

 


Taste

African inspired brunch, consisting of 3 courses of flavours & spices, from a chef who’s sole aim is to please.

Learn
‘Africa is not a country’ – Through food, music, art and more come and experience and learn about the different parts of Africa.

Play
Chilled vibes, courtesy of the live band and some eclectic music from DJ BAJ of the infamous Studio Magic, afro beats, afro juju, you name it.

There are still tickets to be bought on eventbrite.co.uk, do hurry up!

 

cranberry bread

As I sat and thought about how much banana bread I ate and baked for the past two years, I said ‘Fuck it! There’s no way I’m eating another slice!’. Well, unless it comes with London’s best flat white, at Prufrock Coffee. As I was walking my beautiful self through the shelves of a supermarket sometime around Christmas time (yes, the 17th of November is around Christmas time and this conversation ends here!), being all chirtmassy and shit, I thought of cranberries. I got them, got home and thought ‘Whatever you do, don’t end up blending them with vodka!’. That being said, I thought of bread. Unlike all my relationships, it actually worked out pretty good. You’ll need:

– 100g butter
20151122_101039_Richtone(HDR)– 250 grams of flour
– 100g brown sugar
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking
– a pinch of salt
– 2 eggs
– 250 ml of milk
– a handful of fresh cranberries
– 50 gr seeds: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds or anything else you might fancy.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and grease a loaf pan with butter.

In a large bowl mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; put it aside. In a smaller bowl mix the melted butter, the eggs and the milk. Pour it over the dry bowl (the one you put aside), add the cranberries and mix them well to incorporate all the dry stuff.
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Pour the mixture into that greased pan I was telling you about and sprinkle the seeds on top. I also put two spoons into the mixture, but you don’t have to agree. πŸ™‚ Basically, 60 minutes should be enough for the thing to bake. The toothpick test does not fail though, keep that in mind.

12241793_926851270745193_8839623627764451753_nWhen ready, give the bread 30 minutes to rest. We ate the whole thing with salted butter and dark cherry jam. And yes, it is nicer when you toast it, like any other bread.

‘Tis the season

*insert the 1862’s Christmas carol*

I can’t really explain how much I love Christmas and everything that comes with it; all that fuss, all the chaos, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, decorations, lights, carols, snow, John Lewis’ ads, seeing people I love, seeing people I don’t, spending time with people I’ve been missing, bumping into people I’d hoped I’ll never see again when I moved out of my hometown, eating, eating loads, drinking, watching Jack Frost, abusing all Spotify’s Christmas playlists, come home late and drunk, opening presents, beeing happy, getting sad, getting excited, the smell of mulled wine, cinnamon, cloves and oranges and so many more. Yup, I’m that friend that lets you know Christmas is 6 months due. Then 5. And so on. 

I’m also the friend who, while getting excited about Christmas on a late June afternoon, will start baking/cooking anything Christmassy.

Pie. Cherry Pie. Morello cherry pie. And fresh berries, because summer. And rum, cloves and cinnamon because ‘let them know it’s (almost) Christmas time!’.

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For the pie filling, heat the morello cherries (about 500g), 2 tbsp of brown sugar, 10-12 cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, and some rum (be generous!!!) in a pan over a low heat, stirring continuously, until it becomes jam…ish. You get the point. Set aside to cool. 

For the pastry you’ll need about 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting, 175g fridge-cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, 2 tbsp caster sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp cold water. Easy-freakin’-peasy! Pulse the flour, butter and sugar together in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Or use your hands, it’s how I do it. Mix together the beaten egg and water. Add the eggs and water to the bowl of the food processor a little at a time, until the mixture comes together as a dough. Or use your hands, as I was saying.

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Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface until it is few centimeters larger in diameter than the pie dish. Cut two or three long strips from the edges of the pastry. Gently lift the rolled pastry, using the rolling pin, and place it into the baking tray. Add the morello cherry thing, add some fresh berries. Bake the pie in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is golden-brown and the pie filling is bubbling. Merry Christmas!

Also, you could buy some pastry at the nearest shop and go for these pretty pies, also delicious. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and thank me later.

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Summer in a bowl

They say watermelon is a good fruit. You eat. You drink. You wash your face. Couldn’t agree more. Especially if you’re drinking it with vodka and/or eating it with cheese (*wink-wink*).

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One of my favourite childhood memories involves my mom or grandma struggling to carry home enormous watermelons, cut them in half then put them in the fridge for a couple of hours. I would circle that freakin’ fridge for hours, waiting for my sweet reward. I was always getting a huge slice; then, I would take off my shoes and ran outside barefoot to enjoy that wonderful treat without anyone complaning about the mess. Of course, I still had to take a shower everytime I got back inside.

20 years have passed and I still enjoy stuffin’ my face in a huge slice of cold watermelon wishing I was 7 again. That’s not going to happen; on top of that, I started eating my watermelon with cheese, therefore with a glass of red. I always go for the blue stilton, fresh mint and a bit of olive oil. Delish and summerish. You’re welcome! πŸ™‚

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whitstable, in oysters we trust!

You don’t have to survive an awful shitty week to pack some clothes and wine glasses and along with a lovely foodie friend – Andra (Mint and Rosemary) in my case – spend a delightful weekend at Whitstable, a seaside town on the north coast of Kent in south-east England, 5 miles north of Canterbury and 2 miles west of Herbe Bay, with a population of about 30,000.

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Whitstable’s main claim to fame is its oysters which remain an intrinsic part of this sea town’s character and are celebrated every July at the Oyster Festival (if you have a spare room for a couple of days that week, please get in touch). Oysters and other delicacies from the sea can be enjoyed at the local restaurants and pubs or taken home from the fresh fish market at the harbour.

We booked a room at The Marine and we fell in love with it the second we stepped inside. White, welcoming and stylish, with a lovely seaview (of course we went for the seaview) and delicious breakfast, it was the place I wish we didn’t have to leave at the end of the weekend. 

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Along the coast at Tankerton, grassy slopes dip to meet the sea throwing out an invitation to visitors and locals to walk along the prom and take in some bracing sea air.

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Our first pit stop was The Lobster Shack, right where the beach ends. Whitstable is one of a very few in the country that has a pub on the beach. I don’t remember going away for the weekend and sunbathe as much as we did while drinking champagne, eating oysters and instagramming the sh*t out of them. Perfect weather, England! Well done!

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Whitstable Oysters – The native or flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) is the oyster that made Whitstable famous. When the Romans arrived, the shores of Whitstable were abundant in these bivalves due to Whitstable’s favoured position on the Thames Estuary. There, the nutrient-rich waters that flow down the river when mixed with the saltwater of the North Sea in the shallow warm water of Whitstable provide the perfect growing environment for the microscopic algae which form the oysters’ diet. As their name suggests, these native oysters are indigenous to their shore with a reproduction cycle adapted to their waters. During their breeding season in the summer months the native oysters are unpalatable. They are only fished in the winter months (those months with an β€˜r’ in them) September to April. The more common rock oyster (Crassostrea gigas) was introduced from the Pacific specifically for farming as it is more resilient than the native oyster. Rock oysters are available all year round and it is these that are consumed in abundance at the Whitstable Oyster Festival every July. (http://whitstableoysterfestival.co.uk)

Pearson’s Arms was on our ‘where to eat’ list; sadly, we got there 10 minutes after the kitchen closed and we had to settle for Old Fashioned’s and red whine. Close to midnight we (of course) got hungry, popped into a small fish and chips shop and had the best fish and chips ever. Wrapped in paper. Amazing! I wish I could remember the name of that place…

Tourists can also be delighted by the town’s bohemian charm with independent craft and gift shops, galleries, delicatessens and fashion shops trading side by side with butchers and bakers. Whenever you need to recharge with a drink and food you will be spoilt for choice with a wonderful choice of cafes, restaurants and pubs. 

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Eventually, you’ll end up at the working harbour. Constructed in 1831, the harbour has an interesting history including diving, shipbuilding and fishing. So much more than a market, Whitstable Harbour Village is a unique seaside community of leading artists, artisans, food producers and local independent retailers, all trading from their own traditional fisherman’s huts on the quayside in Whitstable Harbour. 

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Another lovely place we got to discover was The Forge, a licensed seaside shack selling local beer, wine, hot drinks, freshly made doughnuts, ice cream, fish and chips and the world famous Whitstable oysters. Ideally situated right next to the huts it’s perfect for getting a drink or the kids something to eat, open year round though might be shut if the weather is really atrocious. 

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20160501_142729 Also, do try the doughnuts they sell at The Forge. They say they’re the best on the East Coast, you don’t want to miss that. πŸ™‚

I wiss I could tell you more about this lovely town, but we did actually spend all the time eating and/or drinking. Lovely, do trust me on this one! And some more random photoes if you fancy πŸ™‚

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Fun on toast

Or I fooled Elena into thinking she’s never going to find a better flatmate and cook than me even though I wasn’t in the mood for cooking. πŸ™‚

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First of all, buy bread, any bread you fancy; I went for baguette. Slice the bread, toast the bread, go wild with flavours. Or don’t. πŸ™‚ I emptied the frigde and managed to come up with the seven ones above:

1. crushed beans, fried artichoke, red onion – my second favourite of them. 

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2. wild garlic pesto (I’m guessing the basil one will also do), parmesan shavings, walnuts – nothing new about that.

3. crushed avocado, chilli flakes – flawless, we all know that.

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4. marinated beetroot, blue stilton, walnuts – not bad. not bad at all.

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5. blue stilton, fresh berries (raspberries and blackberries), fresh mint, olive oil – de-freakin’-licious!

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6. beef tomatoes, anchovies, fresh oregano – fresh, summerish, salty, good. 

7. sauteed shiitake, garlic, butter, thyme – divine! yup, that’s got to be the best of them. 

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So, what’s your favourite thing on toast? πŸ™‚

Watercress soup with poached eggs and almonds

Remember Elena, my forever-lovely-and-best-bagel-maker-in-the-whole-world and flatmate, the one that doesn’t eat meat and gives as many fucks about cooking as I do about spaceships? At some point last year I kind of forced her into watching MasterChef UK: The Professionals. She did try, I’ll give her that. She lost her interest (I mean, if she ever had it) pretty fast, but I got her back on track during a skills test, the one with Marcus Wareing preparing the perfect watercress soup.

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Basic stuff, I’ll say. Two more years of practice and she could nail it. πŸ™‚

Marcus’ original recipe included some light chicken stock. Since our house policies don’t really allow that, I soon found myself getting bored while working on a veggie stock. I went for water, salt, celery, onion, parsnip, but I’m pretty sure you could get wild. Or go for the chicken stock (*wink-wink*).   

So, find or buy a pan, add the stock, give it a little heat. Add a bit of cream for body. Slice two potatoes, as thin as you can. Why? Well, first of all, they’ll boil faster. Then, if they’re not boiled properly, when you’ll blend and sieve the soup it will not be as smooth as you’ll want it to be. Careful though, you don’t want to go mad with the potatoes, your star should be the watercress. When the potatoes are properly boiled add the watercress. You don’t want to cook the thing foverver, you want that lovely-watercress-green colour. 

Add some vinegar to another pan with some boiling water; you’ll use the boiling water to poach the eggs and the vinegar to keep them together. Again, basic stuff, I’m not teaching you how to poach an egg. Btw, Elena can!!! poach eggs. πŸ™‚

Drain the stock out. Blend the veggies first, Marcus says; you’ll need the puree first, then you’ll add the liquid, as much as you want, for the consistency you’ll fancy. Keep blending. Add a spoon of mustard and some butter. Stop blending. You now have a soup.

Take a bowl/plate/whatever. Put the poached egg in the middle. Add soup. Then almonds. Garnish. Eat!

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P.S.: Elena could easily eat two bowls at once. πŸ™‚

stuffed ricotta crepes

as seen on Ottolenghi’s Instagram account once. 

Ok, now that we are spending more and more time together, I might as well tell you more about me, apart from my loyalty for pork and pleasure for swearing. Let’s start with the fact that I have a thing for figs, the fresh ones. I love their sweet flavour and sweet aroma and I’m pretty sure I could eat tones and still not have enough. Add cheese and/or wine and I will be yours forever. Stuff them with cheese, alcohol, cover them in chocolate and you might be The One. 

‘But the title says stuffed ricotta crepes, why on Earth are you even talking about figs?’, you’ll ask. Well, yes. But the thing is, a well-trained monkey could stuff crepes with some cheese, I would’t waste time writing about this. What the title doesn’t say and probably most of you will not read because you are already looking for recipes on another blog is that these stuffed ricotta crepes are covered in the world’s most delicious sauce, mostly made out of champagne, orange juice, orange zest, caramelized figs – a thingy that was probably invented by the Gods a really long time ago – and sprinkled with crushed salted pistachios.

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 Now, about those crepes. A crΓͺpe or crepe is a type of very thin pancake, usually made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour (galettes). The word is of French origin, deriving from the Latin crispa, meaning “curled”. The common ingredients include flour, eggs, milk, butter, and a pinch of salt.

For the crepes you’ll need 100g plain flour – sifted, 2 eggs, 200ml milk, 50g butter, grated orange zest from one medium orange, 50g caster sugar, a pinch of salt. For the champagne sauce you’ll need about 125ml champagne (I mean, that’s how much I got left after I opened the bottle and quality checked it *wink-wink*), the juice and zest of an orange, 4-5 fresh figs, 1 tbsp brown sugar. And of course, some ricotta cheese to stuff them and a bit of vanilla extract to mix the cheese with. And some salted pistachios, if you fancy them. 

First, the crepes. Sift the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, start mixing. Gradually add milk, keep whisking. Melt the butter in a pan; add half of the quantity into the batter, use the other half for the actual frying of the crepes. I’ll assume you all know how to do that, so I’ll carry on with the sauce. 

Slice the figs and set a pan over a low-medium heat. Add the figs, sprinkle brown sugar and allow the sugar to melt slowly without stirring and continue to cook until it becomes a deep amber-coloured caramel. Remove from the heat, add the orange juice, orange zest and that glass of champagne, return the pan to low-medium heat and cook the thingy until it reduces to half. 

Quickly mix the ricotta cheese with a bit of vanilla extract, stuff the crepes, drown them in that heavenly sauce, sprinkle crushed salted pistachios on top, enjoy.

You’re welcome!

Wild garlic & almonds pesto, the return of the Garlic Princess

Sadly, the season for wild garlic leaves is short – they’re all gone by June – but they are one of the most abundant wild foods and come into their own when paired with other spring ingredients. Risottos, pasta, pestos, soups, salads – they all love these leaves. And so do I. I love wild garlic so much, my mum has to make sure she is sending me some from home every year. I know, I know, I could easily look for it at the farmers’ markets or place an order on Ocado, but boy, that thing we have in Romania is the real deal. 

Basically, the making-of this wild garlic pesto is no different from the classic basil one, with one exception; can anybody guess which? Exactly!, you DON’T need to add garlic. Very well. Also, you can replace pine nuts with almonds (I actually did that and I strongly recommend you try it) or walnuts. There we go.

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You’ll need a large bunch of wild garlic leaves, maldon salt, black pepper, 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 50g almonds!!! / walnuts / pine nuts, 50g of parmesan, finely grated and a bit of lemon juice if you fancy it Then, you’ll probably need a pestle and mortar; of course you can use a blender but take my word on this one: make yourself a favour and go buy a pestle and mortar (you’re welcome!). 

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Ok, this should be easy. Pestle and mortar. Wild garlic leaves, almonds (or whatever), salt, pepper. Try making a paste. Start adding olive oil, a bit of lemon juice, stir in that grated parmesan, keep mixing until creamy. Add a bit of water if yo want it more runny. Taste and season as you wish.

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Boil some pasta – I had linguine. Drain them, add the lovely pesto, mix. Add some more crushed almonds, some parmesan shavings, drizzle a bit of olive oil. Enjoy!

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You’re welcome! 

Pork chops, apples, caramelized onions

Oh, I’ve been thinking so much about this recipe lately, can’t believe it’s actually here. These lovely pork chops featured once one of the MasterChef Romania judges’ blog and I swear they were delicious; all the guests who got to taste them are still alive and well, they could confirm. I think… Anyway, pork chops!

In order to feed 4 people (or a really hungry boyfriend) you’ll need 4 pork chops, 4 apples, 2 onions, 200ml cream, 50g wholegrain mustard, 150ml chicken broth, fresh thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper. 

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About the chicken broth.
I really love the one you can make at home, I am not really a fan of the ones you can buy from the supermarket, but hey!, we’re all lazy in here. πŸ™‚ For this recipe I prepared mine home, using the wings, neck and breastbone of a chicken, an onion, one carrot, one parsnip, a small celery, salt, 1000ml of water. Put all of them together in pan and let them boil low for about an hour. 

Preheat the oven to 230Β°C then spend an hour or so looking for that only fucking pan you know you can also put in the oven. When you find it, pour yourself a glass of red wine. You deserve it! Back to the fucking pan. Pour a bit of oil, season the pork chops with salt and pepper, cook them for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden-brown… ish. Remove them from the pan. Cut the apples in 6 (wedges), take out the core; then cut the onions in quarters. Cook them in the same pan you already cooked the pork chops without fucking washing it! 5 minutes will do. Remove apples and onions from the pan.

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With that lovely chicken broth you made (or bought, because you’re lazy) clean the pan. You know what I mean. Boil for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cream and mustard together, then add to the pan. Boil with the soup for another 2 minutes, season, add a bit of fresh thyme.
Add the pork chops, top with apples and onions and put it in the oven for about 10 minutes. Let the thing rest for 10-15 minutes, enjoy!

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You’re welcome!

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