Don’t ask me how it transpired, but yesterday the first chapter of my Masters dissertation ended up looking an awful lot like a 4lb lavender, blueberry and white chocolate bundt cake. There’s not even a special occasion like a birthday to justify it, I just really didn’t want to write the first chapter of my dissertation. This is a problem because I might fail my Masters but also I recently read Everything I Know about Love by Dolly Alderton (because all of my friends were reading it because they’re all Exeter graduates with an alcohol problem and desperately in need of therapy, too). Anyway I started taking Dolly’s advice for twenty-somethings as gospel (because she’s paid for a lot of therapy, and reading a book by a twenty-something who’s had a lot of therapy is kind of equivalent to paying for a lot of therapy, right?) and she said not to eat sugar because “it ruins your insides and your outsides”. I’m a whore for sugar, in all of its forms, but especially in the shape of bundt cake. Anyway, I can’t stop eating sugar because I have this theory that I’ll apply for The Great British Bake Off in 2019 and then I’ll make Noel Fielding try my bundt cake and then he’ll fall madly in love with me and we’ll run away to some Scandinavian country together and once we start going grey we’ll share our dark hair dye and it’ll be wonderful. (Just to clarify, I don’t fancy him, I just want to be in the remake of The Mighty Boosh). So you see, I have to practice making bundt cakes.
The thing with bundt cakes is that they’re distinctive because of their ring shape, but their spiralling patterns make it an absolute bitch to get out of the mould. The key is in the prepping of the tin, and ensuring the batter isn’t too thin, else it will be too moist and soft to get out. So follow my advice and it’ll (probably) come out like this:
If you’re an person with an unsophisticated palate who despises using “perfume” things as ingredients (like rose or orange blossom or lavender) then you can leave the lavender out. It works just the same. Just taste less posh.
Lavender, blueberry and white chocolate bundt cake (serves 12; vegetarian)
300g melted butter (Stork) plus extra for greasing that bastard tin
3 tsp dried lavender
150g white chocolate
325g caster sugar
350g self-raising flour, sifted
3 large eggs
150g icing sugar
A dash of purple food colouring
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Grease the bundt tin. Using the bain marie method on the hob, melt the butter, 50g of the white chocolate and 2tsp dried lavender. This really helps to release that “perfume” flavour.
Once melted, leave to sit for 5 minutes before mixing in the caster sugar. Combine the eggs. Add the flour steadily, using an electric whisk on a slow setting to combine. Lastly, stir in 200g of the blueberries, leaving the remainder for decoration.
Pour the mixture into the tin, and bake for 60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, before removing onto a board to leave to cool completely.
Once cool, make the lilac icing and smoother on top. It doesn’t have to be neat. Melt the remaining white chocolate, and drizzle over the icing. Sprinkle over a tsp of dried lavender and pop on the blueberries.
I had always wanted to experience afternoon tea in London, but was always put off by the stuffiness event. At the Ritz, for example, the dress code is put under ‘terms and conditions’; as a “client responsibility” guests are not permitted to wear jeans for afternoon tea. Apparently cake tastes better when you’re in a tux. This is just not true. Cake is best in loose clothes. Preferably in bed, with Orange is the New Black in the background. So when I realised I was going for afternoon tea for my 21st birthday, and that the dress code was ‘smart casual,’ my mum sewed up the holes in my ripped jeans and we pretended to be posh for the day.
What differentiates Rosewood from its competition in the capital is that the cakes are treated as individual artworks. Rosewood’s executive pastry chef, Mark Perkins, has curated a selection of art-inspired cakes to accompany finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and loose tea. His creations are inspired by five of the most globally iconic artists currently exhibited in London including Yayoi Kusuma, Alexander Calder, Banksy, Damien Hurst and Mark Rothko. This novel idea works well on so many levels, because by using the artists’ work as a basis of inspiration, the cake itself becomes an artwork, but in edible form. Rosewood have nailed it – I can’t imagine another theme that would work as effectively embodied in pastry. Politicians, countries, famous figures etc. could all get a little controversial, and cake should never offend. Art afternoon tea seems to have struck gold, because it is about adapting the style into a new miniature version, one that can be recognised, adored and consumed by art fanatics. I’m going to rank and review the cakes, comparing them to their original masterpieces.
Renowned for her psychedelic colours, patterns and repetition, Japanese artist Kusuma has taken over the international art world one polka dot at a time. For this cake, Perkins drew inspiration from her installation ‘All the Eternal Love I have for Pumpkins’. Rather than merely copying a pumpkin from the work, the cake shows the chef’s original take. I have ranked it the highest because of how visually striking it is, and to me it just screams ‘Kusuma’. Moreover, it tasted as quirky as it looked. It was made from milk chocolate mousse, passionfruit cremeux with chocolate set on chocolate biscuit. Perkins thought that her predilection for yellow and black was best translated into passionfruit and chocolate.
‘All the Eternal Love I have for Pumpkins’
All the eternal love I have for cake…
2. ALEXANDER CALDER
This was a structural masterpiece. Fitting for the American sculptor who invented the mobile, the moving sculpture made with suspended shapes that move in response to touch or the air, typically found above a baby’s cot. Disguised as a modernist mobile, this cake was surprisingly incredibly heavy because the inside was densely packed with pistachio bavarois, cherry jelly, pistachio sponge “sprayed” with red chocolate. As I have a predilection for pistachios, this my favourite flavour-wise. I was also astonished by the interior engineering work, as I cut through every cake in half to share, this one did not collapse. The exterior embellishments were a little fragile however, made only coloured chocolate, they fell off when I picked the cake up.
The nation’s favourite and a worldwide phenomenon, it would be a difficult task to create a cake that was not identifiable to this mainstream street artist. I think this let down the overall challenge to create something with an innovative spin on an existing artist. It was almost inevitable that the cake would be a brick or building with one of Banky’s iconic stencils on. They had chosen Banky’s 2002 piece ‘Balloon Girl’, which was originally a mural on an East London, but was removed and sold for £500,000 in 2014. Depicting a young girl letting go of a heart-shaped balloon (only that the opaque red icing was not not heart-shaped) the impressive element of this cake was its unusually brick-like texture. It was the richest of the five, and incredibly indulgent. A chocolate cube filled with vanilla cream choux, chocolate creme resting on a salted caramel liquid, I imagine this would take a few miles to burn off. Too much sugar compacted into a 2inch x 2inch box for my liking.
4. DAMIEN HIRST
When I think of Hirst I think of sharks or cows preserved in tanks and diamond encrusted skulls. Far less so, I think of his inoffensive and boring dot work. Truth be told, I dislike Hirst. His public response to the retaliation of his unimaginative artwork is pretty tongue and cheek; when people say “anyone could do that” he barks back “but you didn’t, did you?” And he’s made an obscene amount from doing what we could not be bothered to do. It took some time for me to recognise that the cake was based on Hirst’s art, and like his career itself, the cake’s design was a bit boring. The redemptive factor was that it tasted really pleasant, and it offsets the heftiness of the Banksy cake. A white chocolate tart made from cassis jelly, yuzu curd and decorated with dots, it was delightful but didn’t have the shock factor I was expecting – I would have preferred a replica of ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ (aka the shark in a tank). That would have been fun.
5. MARK ROTHKO
This was the artist I knew least about. He was a famous abstract expressionist, but all I knew was that he had a thing about painting bold block colours on canvas. I imagine that his was the easiest to translate into cake form, because his work is the least adventurous. The most inventive creative decision would therefore have to be the flavour combination, and this was subtle, light and delicate. This was made from layered coconut sponge, raspberry, coconut mouse and decorated with thin pink and red raspberry chocolate. I thought this was not the one to rave about – it’s structure was not experimental, nor was its embellishments.
I also couldn’t help but notice that this had been done before by many amateur home bakers…
Located in central London, High Holborn, Rosewood Hotel is anything but an eyesore. Admittedly, while trying to act collected, and not break anything in the process, I did take three trips to the ladies bathroom over the space of two hours to take Snapchats…
Laid table with tea and sandwiches
The cake art pieces were just one feature of the overall sophisticated experience. The tea, sandwiches, and scones were additionally exquisite. I did not have a big enough stomach capacity to eat it all, and our wonderful waiters kept offering us top ups of our favourites. They were so hospitable, and elaborated on the artists’ stories behind each individual cake. I ended up taking home the scones and a spare Banksy cake. Word of warning: come on a very empty stomach, and wear loose smart casual clothing. This is the first season of art afternoon tea at Rosewood, if you would like to experience these specific varieties for yourself, you must come soon, as new replacement designs are due to replace them. Standard afternoon tea per person is £50 and can be booked online here.
Thoughts about which artists I’d like to see in art form at the Rosewood in future: Louise Bourgeois, Tracy Emin, Max Ernst…
Upon entering Truffles Pizzeria, the air was pungent with the luxurious smell and quality of truffle oil – as one of my favourite cooking ingredients, this was a good indication of what was to come.
Opened as a pizzeria only a year ago, amongst the dainty throng of local independents on Magdalen Road, business seems to be prosperous. Even on a Wednesday evening, tables were occupied or reserved; popular with local families, companionless individuals perhaps in need of a restful meal and some quality time to themselves, young 30-something couples and people popping in for a hump-day takeaway order. All students tend to migrate towards The Old Firehouse when pizza is fancied, but I recommend this restaurant for a more relaxed, intimate atmosphere, and for a greater selection of elaborate toppings.
Truffles Pizzeria is sadly lacking in a website and an accessible menu online, so I couldn’t do my favourite, unspontaneous habit and peruse the menu and decide what I was going to have beforehand. But its TripAdvisor profile, rating it #24 in the whole of Exeter, and at a stable 5 stars from over 100 happy customers, reassured my qualms concerning the menu. I can vouch that the pizza menu is extensive, for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, featuring experimental toppings like blue cheese, honey and walnut (without a tomato base) to the classic pepperoni. Pizzas are priced at approximately £11.50 each.
Typically I’d go for the most experimental, i.e. the blue cheese, honey and walnut combo, but I’ve seem to be recreating these same flavours again and again for my own recipes (like my pear and stilton flatbreads) because blue cheese and walnut are the recipe for a perfect marriage. On this occasion my reviewee date and I went for ‘The Autumn’, to enjoy the current seasonal flavours, and ‘The Vegetarian’. ‘The Autumn’ is apt for those with luxurious and expensive tastebuds as it was laden with mushrooms, pine nuts and truffle oil. The flavourful ‘Vegetarian’ option featured tender artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, green and black olives and caramelised onion. Both were a real treat, but ‘The Autumn’ was particularly distinct in flavour due to the drizzling of truffle oil and the abundance of toasted pine nuts.
The owner Chris is cheerful and welcoming, and the way he runs the restaurant truly reminds me of No 1 Polsloe’s style, as it has a lovely, personal touch which comes with independent businesses. For example, Chris recently invited in local primary school children to propose their own perfect pizzas, and the winning design made its way onto the menu. The walls are decorated with exceptional prints and drawings by local secondary school students, too.
I apologise that my photos aren’t up to my usual standard as the restaurant was romantically lit by candlelit, so the pictures do not do the pizzas justice. I would encourage you to try out Truffles whilst you have the chance before entering graduate life; it’s a perfect location for a cosy date. Alternatively, you can experience the pizza in the comfort of your own home with Deliveroo…
paneer is a fresh, unsalted white cheese – it requires no ageing so it can be made in no time at home. It’s a staple vegetarian Indian ingredient which holds its form well and is flavoured beautifully with turmeric and garam masala.
Saag paneervegetarian & gluten free; serves 4
For the paneer:
1.5 litres whole milk
1 lemon, juiced
For the saag:
1 medium sized brown onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
5cm of fresh ginger
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
2 vine tomatoes
2 heaped tbsp coconut cream
Salt and pepper
In preparation for the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin cloth over a bowl.
In a heavy based saucepan, bring the whole milk to the boil and then leave to simmer on a low heat.
Stir the simmering milk continuously with a wooden spoon while dropping in the lemon juice in a tablespoon at a time. Continue stirring until the curds and whey separate.
Take off the heat and carefully pour into the sieve, so that the curds gather in the muslin. Gently rinse under cold running water. Squeeze the curd bundle to remove any excess moisture.
Place the bundle back in the sieve, over the bowl, and place a 1kg weight on the cheese. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
Once firmed, cut the cheese into 2cm chunks. Fry on a medium heat in chilli infused oil (if to hand) for 5 minutes. Add more oil if necessary, and ensure that the cheese retains its shape by only stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan and leave on kitchen roll whilst you cook the saag.
In the same pan, add the chopped onion with cumin seeds and cook on a low to medium heat until softened. Stir in the crushed garlic, peeled and chopped ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Then add finely chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 8 minutes.
Lower the heat, add the coconut cream and the spinach and cover with a lid to wilt the spinach. Add a splash of water if needed. Once a creamy consistency, serve immediately.
No 1 Polsloe café – the clue is in the title and the address – they’re No 1 at delivering high quality food, No 1 for aesthetic, No 1 for value.
They faced me with a challenge: to get through three of their vegetarian breakfasts, one strawberry ice cream milkshake, a flat white and a cappuccino. Suffice to say, I was waddling to my 12pm lecture after.
I had been to this café back in 2014, but since it changed hands in August 2015, the aesthetic and vibe of the dainty space has gone from strength to strength. Decorated in makeshift cacti botanical bowls, fairy lights, plant wall hangings, and giant flowers floating from the ceiling; all I’m thinking about whilst waiting for my breakfast is how I wish I had the creative juices of the café’s trendy yet modest owner, Becky.
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The space also boasts connections with Devonshire artists. Illustrative artist Elise who runs Skelliton illustration, has currently got a table of gorgeously designed goods up for sale there. The menus are designed by artist George Goodwin, who goes by the title ‘Omg I drawed it’ – and I’m looking at his art on the walls thinking Omg I WISH I drew that. But fear not, George’s drawings are available to purchase so you can bring home a little bit of that No 1 Polsloe aesthetic.
After feeling a little jealous of all these creative types, the food arrives, and the pressure is on to do all this beautiful food justice through my little iPhone camera.
Becky’s team have given me a platter featuring: their special smashed avocado and poached eggs on thick-sliced bread, with lime, chilli, and dill; a vegetarian, avocado aficionado version of eggs royale; and, buttermilk pancakes with honey, banana and Greek yoghurt.
Smashed avo & pouched eggs with lime, dill & chilli
Vegetarian eggs royale
The combination of lime, chilli, and dill with avocado tastes sensational. The hollandaise sauce poured over the eggs, avocado slices and warm muffins is absolutely perfect. I used the pancakes, accompanied by the strawberry ice cream milkshake, as my desert to the breakfast trio – they have clearly mastered their pancake batter recipe. After sampling all of these, I cannot help but think I would be over the moon to receive this in a highflying hotel. Yet, a brunch here will only set you back £6 at the most.
It’s all the thoughtful finishing touches which makes this eatery so great. Everyone is considered – from the meat-eaters, to the vegans, to the gluten-free customers. I truly appreciate seeing a restaurant also fully supportive of local businesses, such as using Exe Coffee Roasters to supply its beans, and KB Eats’ spectacular cakes to stock the counter.
No.1 Polsloe does not stop at brunch – it’s open for lunch and into the evening for pizza and cocktails. It’s now available to be hired out for private parties too.
pretzels, bagels, bratwurst, currywurst…and erm, more currywurst
To make my flight €100 cheaper, I stopped off in Berlin for a few days before heading back to London. I found that Berlin had few concrete, fundamental dishes and ingredients that sets it aside from the rest of Europe. The capital certainly has the rest of Germany’s predilection for meat, particularly sausages. But, I was disappointed I couldn’t try the dish most ranted and raved about – that is bratwurst sausage with curry toppings, or ‘currywurst’ – because of dietary requirements. There’s even a museum dedicated to the phenomenon that is ‘currywurst’.
I fell in love with the city; it lives to reflect and learn from its controversial past, with the effect that it now exists as a liberal and lively hub. In the process, it has accumulated a vast array of multicultural cuisines. I ate in authentic Turkish, Italian and Asian restaurants (and many modern vegan eateries that are dispersed throughout the city).
The German bakeries are the city’s redemption. Think pretzels galore. Here’s a ‘streuseltaler’ – a fine yeast dough pastry with a refined butter crumble. It’s essentially an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.
In East Side Berlin, there was a substantial selection of vegan eateries, to match the cool and hip ambience of this side of the city. Just past the East Side gallery, I came across a building hosting Veganz (a supermarket), Goodies (a vegan café dedicated to great coffee), The Bowl (a clean eating restaurant for the best, beautiful bowls of goodness), and a vegan shoe shop.
The Bowl boasts a 100% plant-based kitchen, producing gluten and sugar free bowls for a little over €10. I tried went for the ‘California’ bowl from the menu; this was lemon quinoa, deep fried sweet potato sticks, sesame tamari leaf spinach, raw apple carrot salad, avocado slices, tomato coriander salsa and teriyaki hibiscus sauce. (But I also pinched a spoonful of the ‘Buddha’ bowl too from my travel buddy). The ingredients are simple, but the sauces and dressings bring the ingredients to life.
This restaurant refreshed me from a 3 hour urban art walking tour of the East Side gallery and beyond. And it has given me inspiration for new healthy, filling and vegan recipes.
Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons makes 1 gift; vegan
feeling inspired by the ultra-fancy chocolatiers ‘Rausch Schokoladenhausin’ the heart of Berlin. This is a simple, yet beautiful gift to give to someone special. The rosemary is freshly picked – no need for cooking
100g fine dark chocolate
1 tsp cocoa powder (if needed)
1 long sprig of rosemary, trimmed
On a sheet of baking parchment, use a circular stencil to draw the outline of 9 circles, evenly spaced apart.
Break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt over
a pot of boiling water.
If the cocoa percentage is low, stir in some cocoa powder for extra richness.
Leave for 1 minute to cool slightly. Using a desert spoon, fill the circles with chocolate. Place trimmed rosemary sprigs in the middle before they begin to set.
Set in the fridge for at least an hour. Snap off the baking parchment and gift in a small cardboard box, with ribbon.
making use of the carob powder and syrup I brought home from Cyprus, I thought I’d try combining some awesome Cypriot flavours into this indulgent dessert. These ingredients are easily found in all well-stocked Turkish food shops.
2 large free range eggs, whites and yolks separated
60g caster sugar
200ml double cream
2 figs, peel removed
1 heaped tsp carob powder
1 tsp carob syrup
Whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until stiff peaks are formed.
Slowly whisk in the caster sugar, continuing until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
Whisk the cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed – be sure to not whisk too much otherwise it’ll curdle.
Fold in the cream, egg yolks, the inside flesh of 2 figs, carob powder and syrup into the mixture until well combined.
Pour into a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Serve with more fresh fig, and carob syrup, according to taste.