Wednesday, 18 November 2015

J20 Midnight Editions - cocktails and Winter garden in Clapham

Late last week I was invited to the Phoenix Pub in Clapham, South London ( to see their beautiful Winter garden celebrating the launch of J2O’s new seasonal limited editions. 

The Winter garden is intended to be a mystical place for people to meet during the next few days to enjoy a drink and a chat whilst immersing themselves in the woodland atmosphere, complete with twinkling lights, two romantic swing seats, outdoor log seating with throws and wraps to keep the chill away. The garden will be around to enjoy up to 22 November 2015, so do go and check it out!

The two new J20 limited editions are called Midnight Amber and Midnight Forest. Devised to be perfect non-alcoholic drinks in their own right for people attending Christmas and New Year parties, they have also been designed as super mixers and cocktail bases for the party season.

Midnight Amber is a Winter-inspired blend of fruit juices with a spicy tone. Think mince pies with their edge of warming cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. The blend of orange, lemon and mandarin juice is fresh and light. Previous J20 juice blends have been thicker and gloopier than this, and the change is a refreshing new move.

Midnight Forest is an unspiced fruit drink with a quirky list of ingredients; orange, cherry and chocolate… like your favourite Christmas confectionery! The deep red colour is perfectly seasonal. If you are sceptical that the addition of chocolate would make the drink too cloying or rich, don’t worry. It is fairly light and the dominant flavour is that of the juices. It is well worth trying this festive season.

Leeds based expert mixologists The Hedonists were present to demonstrate how these two drinks could be used to make 2 cocktails perfect for Christmas parties, whether you are having one at home or are running the office Crimbo shindig.

My cocktail guru from the Hedonists was Aaron, a dapper mixologist with nearly 10 years experience of developing his own unique recipes, influenced by his love of drinks, experimentation and cooking. Aaron is sceptical of those who say they don’t like cocktails, observing that everyone has three classic cocktail ingredients which are to their tastes. For him, the challenge is to counter their preconceived notions and work to find the perfect balance for each drinker. Truly passionate about his craft, I don’t doubt he can achieve his mission for virtually every punter.

So, let’s look at the Hedonist recipes for the J20 Midnight Limited Edition juice drinks….

Midnight Martini

Usually the name “martini” means the style of the cocktail, often referring to the glass in which the drink is served. This cocktail is a Martini because it actually contains Martini; Martini Rosso, the famous fortified wine, given extra strength through the addition of grappa. As I've said already, Midnight Amber is a juice blend of orange, cherry and chocolate. The concept is that these two components combine to create a long drink, served in a tall glass which is simple, easy to make, and keeps your guests going for longer. Better for busy hosts, better for a party; you don’t want people getting too merry on straight martini cocktails made of vodka too quickly.

Red wine (the base of Martini Rosso) and orange are a good match, due to their earthy tones. Hence their happy marriage in Sangria. Martini Rosso has been selected for this cocktail as the spices and aromatics in it add some Christmassy Wintry flavours; liquorice, tobacco leaf, espresso, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg and clove are among the goodies added in the fortification process.

Aaron advised us to take a double shot (50ml) of the Martini Rosso, pour into a highball glass, and to top up with the Midnight Forest J20. He reminded us to ensure the J20 is shaken thoroughly before pouring as the high natural juice content means it settles in the bottle very readily. Shaking will recombine the constituents quickly and effectively. Serve with a slice of orange peel for colour and aroma.

Midnight Spritz

In recent years, Aperol Spritz has become a hugely popular Summer drink. Drunk in the sunshine whilst holidaying on the Mediterranean, it’s a favourite with us Brits. But can it be tweaked for the Winter months?

Absolutely, says Aaron who advocates serving this delight in a wine glass. Why? To flag up the fact it is a seasonal update of the Aperol Spritz, but also to enhance the nose of the orange and special burnt orange peel decoration.

To make the cocktail you will need to take a large wine glass, pour in a double shot (50ml) of Aperol, add ice to 2cm to the top of the glass, then either use a spoon or a muddling stick to slow the flow of the 150ml of Midnight Amber J20 poured on top, to allow for a layer to form. Top up to the top of the glass with Tonic Water.

Next comes the moment of pure theatre – take a piece of orange skin, squeeze gently to release the oils from the zest. Then light with a cigarette lighter and FLAMBE!

Each of the cocktails should be served with the rest of the J20 bottle, allowing guests or customers to top their drink up and make it last longer. Christmas parties should be fun for everyone, and we shouldn’t be rushing our drinks, particularly if we are having a work Christmas social. Drinking responsibly has been factored into the serving.

I hope you will enjoy these creative cocktail ideas in your festive celebrations.

The Phoenix
348 Clapham Rd, London, Clapham SW9 9AR

020 7622 2645

I would like to thank the Phoenix Pub in Clapham and The Hedonists for making me so welcome.

Snigdha has not received any financial incentive or payment for this post.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Honey Rum Spiced Hot Toddy with Holy Lama Tea Masala

I have recently been down with a cold. When it hit initially, I thought I could cope and get on with life as per normal. How wrong I was! Honestly, without getting too graphic (as I realise some of my readers are of a gentle disposition), I have had burning fever, swollen sinuses, a blocked nose requiring semtex to unblock, and a throat rougher than coarse grade sandpaper…  Not to mention the headaches!

My fever dreams have been truly disturbing. I woke up in great distress, hot and sweaty over the visions I have had… not prophetic, I hope!

Hot lemon preparations, decongestants and painkillers from the pharmacy have all been employed. And when it became clear that poor Him Indoors had suffered cross-infection, the seriousness of the situation became clear. He has never caught a cold from me in our entire relationship. He was FAR from happy. We realised that over –the-counter remedies help for a while, for sure. But sometimes you need to call the “big boys” in.

I recently found on the Tinned Tomatoes blog by Jac, a recipe for an authentic Scottish Hot Toddy. You will find it here:

I gave it a try, and will confess it is pretty damn good. However, neither of us are whisky fans. Sorry, dear nation of Scotland, we love you, but we are perhaps too soft, too southern to cope with your noble tipple. So I had to think of another way….

I took my inspiration from India and its tradition of spice. Indian Chai (or spiced tea) is typically flavoured with cardamom, clove and cinnamon.

I have been enjoying Holy Lama’s Tea Masala in my morning tea for some time now. It makes a brew with spicy Chai flavours by just adding a tiny drop to a cup. I wondered if it would help with dealing with colds and flu. Their Tea Masala drops have nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, pepper, clove and cinnamon extracts in an oil base. Ocado featured them as a finalist in their best supplier awards in 2014.

So here is my Honey Rum Spiced Hot Toddy recipe. I used Ron Miel which I bought in the Canary Islands. A dark rum laced with honey, it is smooth and perfect for a Winter warmer. You could use white or dark rum as you see fit.
Thank you to Jac for her original recipe and inspiration for this variation!

Honey Rum Spiced Hot Toddy with Holy Lama Tea Masala

Makes 1 mug


1 tablespoon runny honey
2-3 slices of 1” of ginger
1 slice of fresh lemon, preferably unwaxed
1 small stick of cinnamon
1 clove, which you insert into one of the slices of ginger
2 tablespoons of Ron Miel
1 very small drop of Holy Lama Tea Masala
Boiling water to top up from your kettle (or saucepan)


1. Put the honey in the mug. Top up with 2-4 centimetres of boiling water to help you dissolve the honey. Mix well.

2. Now add the ginger, and cinnamon. Stir to disperse the flavour oils and aromatics. 

3. Add the rum and drop of Tea masala.

4. Top up with boiling water.

5. Stir thoroughly, and allow to cool to a drinkable temperature.


Snigdha has received no incentive for posting this recipe.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Wor Tip Dumplings with pork and Chinese leaf by Ekachai

Ekachai is a small group of four restaurants, three in London (Wandsworth, Selfridges and Liverpool Street) and Birmingham, founded in 1999.

Ekachai was founded by two friends, Thomas Tjong and Sidney Tsang. They came to the UK in 1975. Thomas was born in Indonesia to Chinese parents, moving to Hong Kong to study as a young boy. Sidney was working in restaurants in Hong Kong before moving to the UK.

On arriving in the UK, they found that the food they loved was not available anywhere. They wanted the simple, tasty, cheap and fun street food rice and noodle dishes that they could get back home.

Sidney found he was craving beef hor fun, wide gloopy rice noodles cooked at intense heat in a wok, stir fried with beef, beansprouts, egg and vegetables. Thomas, having grown up in Indonesia had a hankering for nasi goring, cooked rice stir fried with prawns in a strong, spicy and pungent spice paste mix.

The friends therefore decided they’d have to open a restaurant to fill the gap, which sells pan-asian street food classics. They are not at all worried that British diners will be daunted by these dishes. British diners crave authentic food these days. They are well travelled; many have visited South East Asia where they have tasted and loved the food.

Oriental food has been popular in this country for a long time, but travel and exposure to new dishes is helping make people much more adventurous. Ekachai wants to offer some less well known dishes alongside South East Asian staples reaonably priced, which is hoped appeals to many people.

They told me “our philosophy is to be honest, authentic and affordable. We aim to make great tasting food, cooked to honest and traditional recipes that are great value for money to our customers.”

Dim Sum is a style of traditional Cantonese cuisine. Prepared as small bite-sized portions, dim sum is traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates and accompanied by tea.

This is a recipe for Ekachai’s popular Wor Tip Dumplings with pork and Chinese leaf. The dumpling pastry can be found in a Chinese/Oriental supermarket. Forming the dumplings needs a little practice, but they taste great even if your crimping isn’t up to scratch and they look a little misshapen!

Wor Tip Dumplings
with pork and Chinese leaf

Makes 18 dumplings


Wheat dumpling pastry sheets
About 1tbsp vegetable oil
75ml water
Flour for dusting
Soy sauce for dipping

For the filling:
110g minced pork
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 tsp rice wine
1 tbsp finely chopped spring onions 
½ tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
75g Chinese leaves (or spinach)

Mixing bowl
Two lightly floured trays
Non-stick large frying pan with a lid
Slotted spoon
Dipping bowl


Arrange the pastry sheets on a lightly floured tray.

Mix up all of the filling ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl. 

Place about two teaspoons of filling in the centre of each 'pancake’ and moisten the edges with water. Fold the dough in half and pinch together with your fingers. 

Pleat around the edge, pinching with your fingers to seal well. The dumpling should look like a small Cornish pasty with a flat base and rounded top. 

Transfer each finished dumpling to the floured tray.

To cook, heat a large lidded frying pan (preferably a non-stick pan) until it is very hot. Add the vegetable oil and place the dumplings flat-side down into the pan. 

Reduce the heat and cook for about two minutes until the dumplings are lightly browned. Add the water, cover the pan tightly and simmer gently for about 12 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Check the water half-way through and add more if necessary.

Uncover the pan and continue to cook for a further two minutes. 

To serve, remove the dumplings from the pan with a large slotted spoon. 

Dip in the soy sauce, using your chopsticks and enjoy!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

October 2015 Favourites List

Autumn term has been full of excitement and thrills so far. The leaves are turning brown and there is a chill in the air, but life is exciting and good. Heavier coats and jackets are keeping me protected from the changing, falling temperatures. An umbrella is essential kit to be carried about everywhere.
I’ve been meeting my students, teaching seminars and lectures, trying to help people reach their potential. My new students are settling into learning about how to use the law, what the court’s procedure is in both civil and criminal matters and how to be young professionals. They are finding the learning curve is steep, and the terrain unfamiliar. It isn’t easy for them, there are many balls they have to keep in the air.

I am also trying to juggle the different balls in my life; professional life as a lecturer, my food related interests of cooking and blogging, my social and home life, slow progress learning to play the guitar, heavy involvement with social media and my love of live music. It is exhilarating to be kept busy and on my toes. But it sure is fun!

My pictures are the highlights of the three day inaugural Rockaway Beach Festival I attended this month at Butlins, Bognor Regis. I had an absolute blast and you can see more of my photos from a brilliant weekend away in my posts on tumblr as listed below.


Easy and speedy dish with Indian inspiration from Dan, the Curry Guy:

Georgia's always on my m-m-m-m-m-m-mind! (Back In The USSR, The Beatles) A spiced kidney bean salad from Georgia:

Dried porcini and fresh mixed mushrooms make this rich mushroom soup. I could do with some of this...

An Iranian/Persian rice dish, "jewelled" with broad beans, walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

A new recipe for a speedy supper to make on the fly from the fab Kavita at Kavey Eats blog - Golden baked peri-peri chicken, yoghurt and rice cake:

Big party four bean chilli... For Halloween or Bonfire night shindigs:

Here are some great aubergine/eggplant/baigoon recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi: Imam bayildi, Roast aubergine with almond tarator and basil oil, H√ľnkar begendi.

Honey & Co Shakshuka recipe (traditional Middle Eastern tomato and egg breakfast dish):

Articles/Know How:

Burnt garlic can ruin a carefully prepared and cooked dish. Here's a way of avoiding it:

You say "poh-tay-to", I say "po-tah-toe"..... Let's call the whole thing off! Hilarious story of a bust-up over how to pronounce 'focaccia':

Jamie, you've done such solid work campaigning for good school meals and healthier eating. Please sort out the tipping policy in your restaurants.

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Pakoras with Premier Inn Purple Sauce. The classic Indian tea-time snack given a fresh twist.

Gig review - Neil and Liam Finn, 22nd September 2015, Shepherds Bush Empire: 

A foodie walk around London's historic St James' area. A trip around the world in 8 stops!

Restaurant review, Haywards of Epping. Modern European food with flair and innovation.

My review of Johnny Marr's headline set at the first Rockaway Beach Festival:

Emma Pollock, The Membranes, The Fall and Echo And The Bunnymen: Day 1 of Rockaway Beach Festival, Butlins, Bognor Regis.

Matinee, St Deluxe, Band of Holy Joy, Mioaw Mioaw, Ghostpoet, Nadine Shah, Johnny Marr: Day 2 of Rockaway Beach Festival, Butlins, Bognor Regis.

Shocking Pinks, Jonnie Common, Pinkshinyultrablast, Young Fathers, Lola Colt, Spiritualized. Day 3 of Rockaway Beach Festival, Butlins, Bognor Regis.


Music For Misfits (3 part documentary on the history of Indie Music), BBC

Indie Classics at the BBC

Britpop at the BBC


First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

Alt-J - This Is All Yours

Echo and the Bunnymen - Ballyhoo

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Friday, 16 October 2015

St James' London; A food and drink walking tour

I was recently invited by the St James' Estate in London to a foodie's walk around the area. St James' is the square area bounded by Pall Mall, Piccadilly, St James' Street and Lower Regent Street.

Apparently, since the Restoration (of the Monarchy) and the time of Charles II, St James' in London has been the place to live, go out, eat, drink and be merry. The royal court of William and Mary located themselves there, and with 4 theatres, the aristocracy and many "hangers on" milling about the place, it was a place to see and be seen.

Our food and drink tour of St James was designed to symbolise a trip around the world. Our starting point therefore HAD to be on the steps of The Reform Club on Pall Mall, where Phileas Fogg began and ended his epic journey "Around The World In 80 Days". 

Our trip would be "Around The World In Eight Stops". Our guide was to be Jonathan (Johnny) Ray, Wine Columnist and Commentator for The Spectator.


Bilbao Berria was our first stop, and on a wet and rainy Monday night, some Spanish sunshine was much appreciated! 

Once we had shaken off the raindrops, we were welcomed with a cool, refreshing glass of La Guita Manzanilla. Often considered as super-dry by many drinkers, this Manzanilla had a freshness which made it more quaffable. I was able to appreciate its inherent ability to encourage the appetite. Just as well, as we were shown how to slice a Cinco Jotas Iberico Jamon, the finest Iberico ham available, and treated to a generous amount to nibble with our sherry.

Founded initially in Barcelona by three friends, Bilbao Berria have two restaurants in Barcelona, and others in Bilbao and Formentera. The food is inspired by that of Northern Spain, namely the Basque region and Catalunya. However, these dishes are modern takes on those traditional recipes, being lighter, simpler and less rustic.


Next up was the futuristic Japanese fusion food of Inamo St James.

We sampled the house sake served chilled which was an Akashi-Tai Honjozo. It's a crisp, dry, fresh sake which is extremely light; much lighter than many other more familiar sakes. Somehow it tastes floral, even though it is only made of rice, high quality polished rice. We watch our sushi chef sear rolls of salmon maki sushi with a blowtorch, which is carefully sliced into rounds and served up with a small ball of searingly hot wasabi, pickled ginger and soy.

Inamo's Asian fusion food and technological approach make it a fun and approachable place for an evening's eating. However, from previous visits, I can vouch for their excellent quality food and friendly, helpful service, making it a super place for an evening out.


Paxton and Whitfield is where we stopped off to sample some cheeses and learned how to put together the perfect cheeseboard. Paxton's have origins going back to 1742, when Stephen Cullum opened a stall in Aldwych Market. His son, Sam, opened a shop in Jermyn Street, and the current name comes from the two partners he took on in the business. The shop supplies both the Queen and Prince Charles, their royal connections going back to Queen Victoria.

The cheeses we tried were a Finn, a British cheese made in Herefordshire on the banks of the Wye. When curating a cheese board, we were advised to select cheeses with different attributes; some soft, some hard, some oozy; some gentle, some strong, some blue. The secret is in the order you eat them; beginning with the most delicate first. The Finn was creamy and rich, young and fresh.

Next up was the French Comte, 26 month aged, from the Jura Mountains. This was a delectably nutty cheese with a little bit of natural "crunch". We learned that this crunch was common in aged cheeses and was caused by crystallisation of the calcium in the milk. If making a fondue, we were advised to use Gruyere as the base and only to add a small amount of a cheese like this, to avoid busting a dinner party budget!

Finally, in keeping with the idea that the strongest and most robustly flavoured cheeses should be sampled last, we tried the Barkham Blue. It is a British cheese, made in Wokingham from Channel Islands milk, and is an award winning cheese. This family made cheese was intense with blue-penicillin flavour. Great for lovers of blue cheese, but a tad too strong for me.


When it comes to traditional London restaurants, Wiltons is perhaps the "old faithful" you've never heard of....

George William Wilton started a seafood stall on Haymarket in 1742. It is unlikely that he imagined being so successful that the stall would become a restaurant, and that over 270 years later, it would still have his name! 

Sure, the premises have moved a few times, but there has been a Wiltons restaurant in St James since 1805. To put that in context, Napoleon had been Emperor of France for a year, and Jane Austen would publish her first novel 6 years later!

Specialising in seafood and fish, this is an excellent place to indulge in oysters with Champagne. The oysters are brought in from Mersea, Essex and the Wiltons house champagne is an superbly observed match.

In addition to the super-fresh oysters, we sampled an elegant platter of house smoked fish; smoked farmed salmon, smoked wild salmon and smoked eel. 

The smoking was light and subtle, allowing the full flavour and texture of the salmon to come through. When the quality of the fish is so high, it does not need to be overpowered. The smoked eel was a new experience for me, but its slightly nutty flavour and creamy finish made them something I will definitely order in the future. 


The food hall of Fortnum and Mason's is like a cathedral for foodies. If you've never been, you must, and if you've not been in a while, it is always worth re-visiting. Trading since 1707 and known for their luxury teas, preserves, hampers and other delights, it is famous the world over. But did you know that the Scotch Egg was invented there? It's a fascinating fact!

Our stop at Fortnums was with the purpose of sampling their preserves, drawing from the old and new. Obviously, it's a great place to do your Christmas shopping for the food and drink fans in your life, since we will soon be thinking about preparing for the festive season.

First up was a wee tipple. This is my "Bee's Knees" cocktail being brought to me. Orange blossom honey, gin, orange and lemon juice combined in a celebration of all things citrus. 

My platter here features; Venison parfait and thin toasts; butternut squash sage and pine nut on sourdough toastie and finally sausage roll crostini.  

The versatile and flavourful preserves were an excellent flavour counterpoint to these dishes, proving that Christmas canapes can be spruced up with a little imagination!


Top chef Angela Hartnett is known for Murano Restaurant, her luxurious Italian fine dining premises. However, Cafe Murano is like Murano's cool little brother or sister. It's a fun, informal place for chat, nibbles and wine. It's designed to be a drop in place to eat with a dining counter. 

The menu changes daily, according to the availability of good quality produce, bring freshly printed out freshly each day. Attention to detail is central; even the pasta is made from eggs from Italy. The menu on our visit was full of tasty "stuzzichini" (finger food!), and relatively reasonable prices (for such a central part of Central London). 

We were treated to some decadent truffle arancini (deep fried breaded risotto balls) with strong, superb truffle flavours, creamy rice and oozy cheese. Accompanied by a glass of prosecco, we felt transported to northern Italy!


Chutney Mary has long been a high end Indian restaurant of note. Since 1990 it had been located in Chelsea, but has decided to make the move to the West End. The new premises (which are on St James' Street) are beautiful; there's a sophisticated bar (The Pukka Bar) on entering the restaurant, the main restaurant space and a number of private dining rooms.

The Pukka Bar is a perfect place for pre-dinner cocktails. Their offerings are highly original, carefully blended and well worth trying, even if they seem unfamiliar. They exude a taste of the exotic; Saffron Martini, Watermelon Cosmopolitan, Rangpur Gimlet. My Watermelon Cosmopolitan was fruity, fresh and delightful.

The Lobster Chilli Fry was delicately spiced and perfectly cooked, the lobster retaining its texture. Overcooked and chewy lobster is an insult to the king of seafood! Standards here are high, so I expected nothing less. 

These cute little cube stacks are actually made from layers of chicken wing meat. Served with a rich tamarind sauce, they were lovely little nibbles which make a great sharing starter. 

Indian style "scrambled eggs" on toast. Relatively un-set, with some smooth liquid textures, the herby, spicy egg would be great for a Sunday morning breakfast!

The biryani was a salutary example of how a noble Indian dish is often dumbed down in your typical "curry house" restaurant. The biryani here had been cooked so the rice was fluffy; each grain remaining separate and individual, deeply aromatic, and spiced with delicacy. 


This restaurant opened in 2013 under the leadership of Joel Kissin as a tribute to the legendary chef X Marcel Boulestin, whose Covent Garden restaurant bore the Boulestin name from 1927 to 1994. 

Boulestin's ethos was simple French food with a nod to the great traditional dishes of France without the pretention or fuss, leading Elizabeth David to say of him: “His intelligence, sense of taste…his ease of style, un-scolding, un-pompous, un-sarcastic, ineffusive, [sic] and to so high a degree, inspiriting and creative.”

We were served with a complete miniaturised 4 course meal on a plate here at Boulestin; Canape of tomato, burrata and olive tapanade, Soupe de Poisson (fish soup) in a tea cup, Daube de boeuf (beef stew) with bone marrow and squash puree in a large china spoon and in the small expresso cup, a Sauternes Custard with Agean prunes and Armagnac.

Whilst the whole plate of food was very enjoyable, the stand out dish for me was the delectable Sauternes Custard. Sauternes is one of my very favourite dessert wines, but I like to drink the stuff. It seemed unimaginable to cook with it! But this rich custard takes the sweet tones and aroma of the wine and makes a classy and sophisticated flavour combination. It will be hard to go back to plain old vanilla now!

My world tour in 8 stops was an exhilarating experience of superb food. Travel is said to broaden the mind, and I can truly say I have discovered some foodie haunts I will be visiting time and again. So central, so easy to get to, St James is a great place to meet, eat and have fun!

Snigdha would like to thank the St James Estate and Crown Estate for inviting her on the food walk. Snigdha participated in the food walk as their guest.