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I have some exciting travel plans to share….

Hola!

I have something super exciting to announce and share!

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I am flying to Mexico City (23 September) to attend the Latin America 50 Best Restaurants Awards Ceremony thanks to the Mexican Tourism Board, who have kindly invited me and are hosting me. I will be back in the UK next Friday 30th September.

The awards ceremony will announce the fourth annual list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 on Monday 26th September at Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral, which I absolutely can’t wait to attend and I stressed for weeks about finding a dress, which I have at last🙂

The countries participating are Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guyana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

You can follow the live countdown on Twitter, join in the action on Facebook and Instagram and watch the livestream from 8:45pm Mexico City time. The time difference is 6 hours (Mexico City is 6 hours behind).

In preparation for the trip, I have been reading up lots on Mexico City in this massive book, by Lonely Planet, which is really good! It is my first time visiting the capital and I will of course have various blog posts about the trip on my return.

 

This is the second time I will be visiting Mexico, the first time being to Cancun in 2011 for a beach holiday. The beaches are amazing by the way🙂

Here are some snaps from my previous trip to Cancun in 2011. You can read more about that trip here.

You can follow my trip on my Facebook page, Twitter @binnyjs and Instagram @binnys_kitchen (wifi dependent).

I have a fun and packed itinerary, organised by the Mexican Tourism Board, which includes dining at some of the restaurants on the top 50 list, which I am very excited about, sightseeing and even a tequila tasting!

My home for the week will be the Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel, and I will share some photos of the hotel too. If you have looked at my regularly stayed at hotel brands, you will know I am a die hard Starwood fan so am very happy about that.

This will be my first time travelling so far away (an 11 hour flight by myself) and staying alone so this is a major step for me going somewhere not knowing what to expect. I am very excited though and literally counting down!

Hope you enjoy all my updates and I look forward to sharing all my experiences in Mexico City with you.

Adiós!

Binny xx

PS: For anyone worrying, Mexico City has been declared Zika Free by the CDC, which was a major factor in me deciding to go🙂

 

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Basque inspired food, delicious wine and a spot of golf in North Greenwich

When an invitation came through for an evening of  “Golf and Gastronomy” from Douglas Blyde, who is an independent gastronomy consultant, there was no way I was going to turn it down. Although I am not a good golfer by any means I do enjoy it as I come from a very golf mad family.

I arrived at the Greenwich Peninsula golf driving range after some thorough instructions and I was proud of myself for not getting lost. If you know me you know I am not the best at directions at all so that was the first highlight of the evening amongst many!

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Inside the building was an American Golf store so you can purchase any golf related items if you wish, and opposite was Vinothec Compass, our beautiful venue for the evening.

img_8512Basically a wine lover’s heaven! The wall is lined with amazing bottles of wine and you can purchase one to drink there. I know I will be back to do this as there were so many unusual wines which I would love to try.

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As I was the first to arrive, armed with a glass of Cava Conde de Haro from Rioja Bodega, Muga, I was given a tour of the venue by Douglas. The view, of Canary Wharf, was so pretty but you can guess why it was not my preferred view😛 We watched in a daze as boats sail by the golf course and it all took a little getting used to but it was amazing. You could hear the sound of the golf balls being hit and it added to the venue’s quirkiness.

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Once all the other guests arrived, it was time for a spot of golf. We were given a mini lesson and then we had the chance to have a few shots each. The backdrop was beautiful and I will definitely be back here again as the driving range is stunning.

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Feeling peckish, we headed in back to the restaurant where we sat down to a beautiful Basque inspired meal put together by Head Chef, Idoia Guzman, and paired with different wines, chosen by Keith, one of the co-founders of the restaurant.

We started with a small plate of anchovy, stuffed chilli and olive which was paired with Itsas Mendi’s ‘7 Txacoli’.


Next, we were given a lovely warm shot glass filled with  Jerusalem artichoke, blended with rocket and almond pesto. Now this combination was always going to be a dream! Pairing it with wine, though, is a hard task, but Keith succeeded with an ‘illegal’ unfortified sherry-style from Sanlúcar – La Bota Vino Blanco ‘Florpower.’ This was so delicious and it certainly got everyone’s attention.


Then arrived a Basque black pudding served with a Padron pepper with shimmery salt crystals on top. This was so delicious, the texture was melt in your mouth, and just to die for. This was paired with Txacoli, poured sheerly, and also Basque, Sagardoa Sidra. By this point I was already a bit merry.



We shared then shared a salad which had the biggest tomatoes I have ever seen! This was served with onions, chives, olive oil, and accompanied with freshly baked flatbreads topped with  anchovy, olive and basil, and ricotta, pancetta and truffle. Both dishes quickly vanished and they were served with a modern style of Saperavi from Georgia.

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Our penultimate dish was a confit of cod fresh from Billingsgate market and served with a pepper and tomato ragu matched with a white Priorat, which went with it beautifully.


The final savoury dish was a Belted Galloway onglet served with a well decanted  Olifantsberg Syrah from South Africa’s Breede River Valley. This went so well with the rare beef and sweet potato gnocchi, which was superb and served unusually in a block shape.


We were treated to a spectacular dessert of poached white peaches with pistachio Anglaise with a touch of rosemary. The flavour combination was just wow and we enjoyed it with a  a Swiss sweet Sauvignon blanc by Favre John and Mike, which I need to get my hands on.

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Then came a tray laden with shot glasses of espresso cocktails garnished with fresh mint. The coffee used for this cocktail was from artisan roaster, Francis Bradshaw at Moon Roast (Hampshire). The base of the cocktail was not vodka, as per a traditional espresso martini,, but 49% Sonoma County Rye from pot stills, aged in American oak barrels. It was just amazing and I think everyone had a happy smile on their face after it.

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We had a fantastic and really fun evening and it is definitely a venue I will go back to. It is perfect for a day out as you can play some golf at the range, and then settle down to a fantastic meal and some excellent wine in the restaurant. That is certainly the plan for me!

For more information go to: http://www.vinotheccompass.com

Our evening was complimentary but all views and photos are my own.

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My classic Potato Curry

Here is the recipe for my classic potato curry. A dish which is perfect for lunch or dinner and for times when you want something simple but tasty and wholesome.

Ingredients:

  • 8 small potatoes,  washed and cut into small chunks. Keep the skin on.
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, pureed
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Handful freshly chopped coriander to garnish

 

Method:

  1. In a saucepan filled with salted water, boil the potatoes for 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a kadai or wok, heat 2 tablespoons oil.
  3. Add the cumin seeds and when they sizzle, add the chopped red onions.
  4. Let the onions cook on low-medium heat for around 12 minutes, stirring every now and then. The longer you cook the onions the better.
  5. Now add the garlic, ginger and chopped green chillies. Let this cook for around 2 minutes, stirring it in well, and now add the pureed tomatoes. I like using fresh tomatoes rather than canned tomatoes as I like the flavour.
  6. Now add all the spices, salt and the boiled potatoes and mix well.
  7. Place the lid on the pan and let this cook for around 5 minutes.
  8. Give it a good stir and add the chopped coriander.
  9. Voila your potato curry is ready! Serve with fresh naan or rotis.
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Dinner with James Martin on board Britannia, while sailing in the Mediterranean

You know when you have 0ne of those ‘pinch me, is this a dream?’ moments? 

This was one of them. We were stood in the Cookery Club, on board Britannia, a beautiful cruise ship, with views of the Mediterranean sea, while James Martin, yes THE James Martin, was hosting a dinner for us.

We sipped on Aperol fizz while he chatted to us as he was mixing, and preparing the first dish, and it was all so amazing and so surreal! Now James Martin needs absolutely no introduction and he is just charming, an amazing cook and I (along with everyone else) want him back on Saturday Kitchen.

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16 of us lucky diners sat down at a magnificent chefs table, and waited eagerly for what was to come! We hadn’t been told what was on the menu beforehand so it was all very exciting. He explained what he has chosen for the evening’s dishes and made a few jokes here and there. He is so funny and so interesting to listen to!

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First to arrive was Pan seared scallops with fried aubergine and miso caramel. This was utterly divine and even the lady sat next to me who didn’t like seafood absolutely adored this dish.

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Next up was homemade Kimchi with shrimps, lime, seaweed and fresh tuna loin. I snuck back into the kitchen area, where James as assembling all the dishes and it was such a pleasure to watch the dedication and attention to detail he had with every dish.

Now that Kimchi was everything! It was so delicious. Even I, not the biggest tuna fan in the world, was absolutely amazed at this dish, and wolfed it down savouring every single bite.

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2 savoury dishes aren’t enough when it is James Martin in charge of cooking, so we were treated to a third fabulous dish which was breast of Poulet de Bresse chicken with wild mushroom and truffle tortellini, asparagus spears and buttered spinach.

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Literally everything I love on a plate and executed perfectly! Judging by everyone’s plates around the table, the sentiments were shared.

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After watching the sunset, it was time for dessert, the part I had been waiting for after watching James Martin on TV making desserts all those years ago. Never would I have imagined he would be making desserts which I would be eating with him in the same room.

First was Vanilla and vodka pannacotta with raspberry sorbet, meringue shards and pistachio crumb. It was as amazing as it sounds! Like literally just wow!

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My favourite though was coffee with Monkey Bread, served with grade ‘A’ maple syrup and Snickers ice cream. Firstly the Monkey Bread – I had never tried this before but it was just out of this world. It was so yummy! If anyone has a recipe please send it to me.

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The snickers ice cream though. OH MY GOD! I could have eaten the entire tub! In fact I should have taken it to my cabin and dug into it while watching TV as even after the meal I was still dreaming about it.

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While everyone had coffees, James joined us at the table and told us stories about his life as a chef, time on Saturday Kitchen, his love for cars, his new TV series which he is currently filming in France, and his beloved dog. This is how close he was sitting to me! I know I sound like a crazy fan but I am🙂

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Everyone had a chance to speak to him informally and ask him questions and it was so lovely chatting to him and hearing all his stories and he was making everyone laugh.

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All I can say is he is very tall so if all else fails I know I have a solid career as his arm rest😛

It was the most wonderful evening, one I will never forget and will fondly have etched in my heart forever. A big thank you to Chef Nino and his team that evening (pictured below) and of course to the PR team at P&O Cruises for this fantastic opportunity.

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James Martin is regularly on board some of Britannia’s journeys where he hosts cookery classes and intimate dinners. If you are planning to cruise with P&O make sure you book these well in advance as they are extremely popular.

Our meal was complimentary but all my opinions and photos and gushing about James Martin are my own.

For more information on P&O cruises go to: http://www.pocruises.com/cruise-destinations/

For more information on James Martin go to: http://www.jamesmartinchef.co.uk

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An Afternoon Tea out at Sea

Imagine a sophisticated grand room, with a gold and white interior decor scheme – a perfect venue for the quintessential British tradition of Afternoon Tea. The tables are lined with gleaming  white tablecloths and topped with sparkling fancy cutlery, tea cups and champagne flutes. You sit down in anticipation of the cakes, scones and desserts about to come your way.

As you happen to take a peek outside the window of this fine dining restaurant, you suddenly see a charming view of the sea and you feel a slight gentle rocking, and suddenly you realise – you are having Afternoon Tea on board a ship! After my afternoon tea with Giraffes in Kenya, this comes in as the next most unusual but wonderful experience!

This experience was just incredible and what made it even more special was this particular Afternoon Tea is created by one of my favourite pâtissiers, and one who I regularly see on a certain hotel brand’s TV, the multiple award winning ‘Cake Boy’ – Eric Lanlard.

Having yet to make it to his cafe, I was so excited to find out this was available on board the ship and booked it in advance and excitedly awaited for the day.

The Afternoon Tea is available on sea days in the Epicurean Restaurant on board Britannia, the beautiful P&O Ship I stayed on, and is available at an amazing £15 per person, and £20 with a glass of fizz. That was such an amazing price for an incredible selection, especially when you compare it to central London Afternoon Tea prices.

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Of course I opted for a glass of fizz and it was so refreshing and I sat back marvelling at the selection on the three tiered stand in front of us.

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How incredible does this look? A few minutes later a waitress arrived with a perfume bottle and she said to close our eyes. She then spritzed an edible earl grey perfume to awaken our senses. It smelt incredible!

After a few moments in dreamland, I selected my tea, from the impressive choices available, and went for the Nutty Chocolate, which was rich Assam loose leaf tea with flavour tones of chocolate and hazelnut. Perfect tea for an indulgent afternoon!

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From the selection on our cake stand, for savouries we had Scottish Smoked Salmon and Dill  in a Lemon and Cracked Black Pepper Macarons, Roast Beef in a Brioche and Cheese Éclairs. My favourite was definitely the Cheese Éclair, which had Brie, Red Onion Marmalade and a rocket salad. It was so delicious.

For the sweet selection we had Exotic Pop Cakes with Cotton Candy, Dark Chocolate Tear Drops with Italian Amarena Cherries, Summer Berries and Meringues , Orange infused Almond Cakes with a hint of Lavender and scones, which had an added twist of lemon flavour, served with individual clotted creams and jams.

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My favourite was definitely the Summer Berries and Meringue, which had a Raspberry Mousse, Lychees pearls and fruit Coulis served in a cute mason jar. OMG it was so heavenly I am not even ashamed to say I had both the jars! Didn’t even share. It was also fun as you had to squeeze the coulis into the dessert using a little plastic tube.

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The variety within the selection of sweet and savouries was amazing and the value was just exceptional. I am now definitely going to make a trip to his cafe to try more of his desserts!

If you are travelling on board any of the P&O ships where this is available, I highly recommend it! It is very popular so do book it in advance. A selection of his desserts are also available in the Market Cafe. It was truly a fabulous experience and one I look back on very fondly.

If after seeing this mouthwatering selection you fancy trying to make some of his cakes and desserts yourself, you are in luck as  Eric has a cookbook out too!

For more information about P&O cruises go to:http://www.pocruises.com

For more information on Eric Lanlard go to: http://www.cake-boy.co.uk/eric-lanlard

 

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Cocktails at Victory Mansion in Stoke Newington 

Sometimes you find unexpected gems in unexpected places, and the Victory Mansion was one of those gems, found in Stoke Newington, an area of London I hadn’t ventured to before.

I arrived at the trendy bar Victory Mansion, named and inspired after Orwell 1984, and run by six friends, two of which are award winning mixologists. For an extra quirky addition to the theme, there is even a set of CCTV big brother style cameras at the entrance as part of the decor.

A group of bloggers and myself were there that evening to try out some of the cocktails and get a taster for the food, which was also fantastic and made by chef Sam Browne-Wilkinson, who began his career at Bentleys before moving to Ottolenghi where he developed his own style. The food is a definite must try!

The decor in the venue is stunning, and all done by hand by the six friends through blood, sweat, tears and hard work. All the different aspects have been sourced from around the country and every single part of the bar has been decorated by the friends themselves through long hours of dedication.

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We tried a selection of very quirky but delicious cocktails such as The Very Hungry Manzanilla made with rum, sage and mint agave, manzanilla, lime and soda and which comes topped with a little candy caterpillar, and the  The Great Quacksby, a vodka based cocktail, and which has homemade candy floss and little sugar ducks on the top. Dr Gonzo, in the middle below, has a variety of rums and I just love the glass!

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While we caught up with each other, we tried a few more cocktails. My favourite was definitely the The Great Quacksby, because Candy Floss! Chris and I even had a go making our own Candy Floss out of sweets which was so much fun.

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The final cocktail I tried was the Robinson Curacao (Calle 23 tequila, curacao, capsicum, lime, chilli bitters, mezcal spray, and Robinson’s ice cubes) which was delicious and had a little kick.

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The venue is stunning, spacious and a great place to catch up with friends over some seriously delicious cocktails and food. I will definitely be back to test out their Mojito making skills😉

For more information go to: http://www.victorymansion.co.uk

Victory Mansion: 18 Stoke Newington High St, London N16 7PL