Sarah Illenberger

Berlin based Sarah Illenberger's very cool work for SZ Magazin.

Via itsnicethat

Jamie Oliver flavoured sea salts

Check out the packaging for our favorite mockney chef's flavoured sea salt. Available in lemon zest, rosemary or chilli these packs are so irresistible. Not sure who designed / illustrated them but they deserve a big hug.

REVIEW: Foodilic Brighton

This was not a good experience today. To cut a long review short, I found glass in my salad and not just the one piece.

This place looks nice from the outside - they display their salads in the window and everything looks fresh and wholesome. The type of place I would like to eat from.

You can choose the number of salads you have and I was hungry so went for 4 salads to take away for £5.95. I chose lentils with beetroot, spinach with Parmesan, mixed roasted veg and sweet potatoes.

I think it was the spinach that came with the "glass garnish" so either this was a kitchen mishap which should have resulted in careful inspection or disposal of all food near it, not seeing the glass whilst carefully washing the leaves (or not as the case may be), or from a packet processed food ingredient which–as everything is supposedly made "fresh"–it should not have had. Make no mistake, this was a jagged piece of glass 4cm wide and looked like part of a jar or drinking glass base. It should have been spotted at some point during the food prep. I also crunched on a couple of small glass fragments so who knows how many I swallowed?

The salad itself looked colourful and appetising but the veg and potato were overcooked and everything was very oily and not in a good, nutty olive oil way but very slick and slimy. So I wouldn't have been going back from a food point of view anyway.

I hot footed it back and they tried to explain it away by saying they do not have plastic in their restaurant(!) and this that and the other. Well good for you Foodilic but this is a freaking piece of GLASS. Most worryingly, I didn't see them take the salad dishes where my lunch came from off display.

In my 'umble opinion any establishment that serves food should have safety and hygiene numero uno on their agenda. To not have this mentality shows a lack of respect for food and its customers and that takes the (out-of-date) biscuit.

The reply from Brighton council's senior environmental health officer included the sentence: "During my last visit to Foodilic, they had improved greatly and had systems in place to prevent contamination of their food." Make your own assumptions about that comment, but "they had improved greatly" made me shudder.

More ick than idillic.

The super-speedy health officer from the council has been down there and fedback. Turns out that the hard plastic part from the blender used to make the pesto for the salads had broken and become mixed up in the salad. No wonder they defensively said they didn't have plastic in the kitchen when I confronted them with the "glass". So they must have known all along that the accident had happened and chose to sacrifice the safety of their customers than make a loss on the ingredients. Big tut guys.

This was supposed to be a blog about celebrating food so here's looking forward to my next good meal!

Cupcake roundup

Cupcakes are so indulgent and so, so cute. I think the Sicilian citrus frosted, olive oil cupcake with a hint of rosemary is particularly special.

Clockwise from top left:
1. Orange selection - Crumbs and Doilies
2. Golden Vanilla with Raspberry Buttercream - Flickr
3. Sicilian Citrus - The Groovy baker
4. Cupcake Roses (Gorgeous!) - Flickr

The Big Fat Duck Cook Book

Heston Blumenthal, what goes on in that head of this food, art or science? I look at this fellas work with fascination and admiration. With our shelves heaving with celebrity chef cookbooks, I was wondering when someone was going to release something out of the ordinary and this my friends is it.

Part autobiography, philosophy and part cookbook, this breaks the rules on every count including the £100 price tag. This is not your mass-market stack them high and flog them cheap TV series accompaniment.

Whilst I don't have nitrogen on tap in my kitchen or the time (or inclination) in the week to create sardine on toast sorbet I would still love to own this, if just for the design alone (Designed by Praline).

Boots Original Beauty Formula

You can't fail to be charmed by Boots' new Original Beauty Formula range. The packaging takes cues from vintage cosmetic preparations as is refreshingly free from the typical grandiose pseudo-scientific beauty babble. Granny would approve.

Super Soups

I swear if I lived on my own, soup would become a daily staple. It's the ultimate fast food for when you come in late from work, it's cheap, versatile, ideal when you only have a few ingredients left and when you need warming up. Total comfort food - it's the first thing people reach for when they want to feel better and you can feel self-righteous when anyone starts preaching about getting your 5-a-day. I love soup. I really love it.

I don't think I'm the only one either. You could work your way around the world in soup. Gumbo, gazpacho, miso, borscht, callaloo, consommé, goulash, chowder, cullen skink and my beloved minestrone. Everyone loves it. I mean, the Jewish community are synonymous with their chicken soup.

Textured, clear, chunky or chilled and garnished with a thousand possibilities. Aside from a few basics like sautéing the vegetables before adding liquid and using a good stock (preferably home-made) or a quality bouillon on the fly, the world is your oyster.

The most interesting (and expensive!) soup I had was chilled broad bean affair with a zingy pea sorbet, dressed with pea shoots at The Tower restaurant in Edinburgh. This was my first ever cold soup and boy did it change my mind that a soup had to be a winter warmer. Its versatility can span the seasons.

The ones I make at home tend to be a bit more "rustic". My favorites at the moment are a smoked pork loin, borlotti bean and cabbage, spicy mixed vegetable minestrone or a Moroccan influenced root vegetable mix. But my number one has to be this easiest-ever broccoli soup. I started making this as it was a way to use up a broccoli that was beginning to go yellow. Now I don't bother waiting!

RECIPE: Simple Broccoli Soup

Whole broccoli, water and bullion or home-made stock, seasoning.

Sweat off a chopped onion in some olive oil and when soft add a whole broccoli, cut into individual florets and chop up the stalk - don't waste anything. Pour in enough boiling stock to almost cover the broccoli and add a good pinch of salt. Cook until the broccoli is tender. Strain more than half of the liquid into a jug and reserve. Using a stick blender or food processor, blitz the broccoli and remaining liquid. Add enough of the reserved liquid to get the correct consistency - neither thick nor thin. Return the soup to the hob and check seasoning.

I like to serve this soup with tiny cubes of spicy chorizo, dry fried to remove excess fat and to crisp up before draining on kitchen paper or with pan fried prosciutto crisps and parmesan shavings.

Super sweet food jewellery

How cute is all this tea and cake inspired jewellery?

Clockwise from top left:
1. Cherry biscuit stud earrings - PetitPlat
2. Dounut stud earrings - PetitPlat
3. Teacup pendant - Hannah Zakari
4. Strawberry cheesecake pendant - Meow Box


I hate, hate, hate washing up and being famous for using literally everything in the kitchen to just make sandwich I constantly have stacks of the stuff.

These T-towels from To Dry For make the task in hand a little more bearable with their snazzy graphic prints. Me like.

Rob Ryan

I stumbled across the work of Rob Ryan not too long ago as I was perusing around a gallery. I tell you, this chap can sure as heck wield a scalpel. His papercut artwork is so delicate and so beautiful in visuals and whimsical in words it can melt even my black, black heart.

I was having a conversation with a friend about purchasing one of these beauties but she said that it wouldn't be a good financial decision as paper degrades and his work has become so popular. It's a good point, but I DON'T CARE. I like them and in my book that's a good enough reason. The ugly things people must hang on their walls because they are a good investment. For many years as an art student I milled aloof around galleries, believing I saw something prolific in what typically was nothing, chuckling at the overheard philistine comments from people going "gor, my 5 year old could do that". Well you know what? Maybe they were right! Increasingly I am losing patience with obscure art. Yes, it is there to question, to provoke, to inspire. But its also there to display and thus - aesthetic is king. I say, if you like it - it's good art. If you can afford it, buy it - what the hey.

And going back to "modern" art as a good investment. Charles Saatchi bought Tracey Emin's unmade bed for £150,000. Great, now he must just look like a lazy, unkempt what-not if he has that displayed in his house. Let's just hope he briefed the housekeeper properly, eh.

RECIPE: Baked falafel

I went to pick up my favorite pack of falafel the other day and noticed that they had gone up to £2.49. Yowsers.

In the spirit of the credit crunch I decided to have a bash at these. I used to be one of those mugs who bought ready made hummus too until one of my friends beat me about the head and I realised how easy, quick AND CHEAP it is to make.

My first attempt at making falafel was such an overwhelming disaster. My oil was not hot enough to fry them in, thus they absorbed the oil, thus they were rank. I am not one for deep frying. I think there are many ways to cook things and deep frying is last on my list of methods, plus it makes you stink as well as being unhealthy.

So after a few tweaks and twists I settled on this one. Purists may suck in air at the thought of baking falafel but hey, it's my way of getting back at those who serve lasagna with salad on the side.

1 Can of chickpeas (drained well)
1 Small onion
2 Cloves of garlic
2 Tablespoons plain flour
Small handful of fresh parsley
1 Teaspoon coriander
1 Teaspoon cumin
A nip of cayenne powder
Half teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Using a food processor/chopper wizz all of the above ingedients except the olive oil. The chickpeas should look like very coarse breadcrumbs. If like my processor, it may be too small to do at once so do in batches. Ensure that all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly by emptying into a bowl and mixing with your hands. Taste for seasoning. Leave this mixture for at least 30 minute for the flavours to infuse.

Preheat the oven to about 200C

Prepare a baking dish or tray by drizzling the oil in. Using your hands, make walnut sized balls from the mixture and place in the preheated dish. The mixture should make about 9 balls.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden, turning half way through. Once cooled they should crunch up nicely on the outside - perfect for colleague-envy lunches with pitta, (home-made!) hummus and salad.

Next time I may use dried chickpeas (soaked overnight) and add a touch of lemon rind but for now I'm pretty happy with these.

The best thing is that this should cost you well under a pound to produce. Eat that credit crunch!

Tesco I hate you

Did you know that £1 in every £8 spent in GB is spent in Tesco? If there isn't a massive Tesco superstore down the road, there's a Tesco Express round the corner, sucking the life out of the high street. Scary.

You can buy your groceries, the cooker to cook them on, the pan to put them in, the plates to serve it on, the fork to eat it with, the table to eat it off. If you trip up and fall, carrying the dirty Tesco dishes to your Tesco dishwasher, you can be assured that any damage is probably covered under your Tesco home insurance. If you did fall you should probably have had your eyes checked at the Tesco opticians or maybe buy yourself a more sensible pair of shoes from Tesco's clothing range. You get my drift.

More seriously, Tesco's bully boy tactics are repeatedly reported locally and nationally. No council or supplier is safe in their playground it seems. I don't need to write about it here - Google it.

But none of this is my main reason for hating Tesco. It's much simpler that that. Tesco makes food into such a commodity - much like your socks and insurance. On the rare occasions I am unfortunate to find myself in one I feel so uninspired, a totally different experience to other supermarkets like Waitrose or Taj. Tesco screams stack 'em high and sell ' em cheap that no wonder you find yourself walking out with a stack of ready meals and fizzy pop.

With the power they have they could seriously use it to change the way this country thinks about food and cooking yet it does the least. Sainsbury's invites you to "try something new today", Waitrose champions "quality food, honestly priced", heck, even Morrisons gives you "More reasons to shop at Morrisons". Tesco's "every little helps" ads only focus on the price of the food or on offers - not on cooking, what's in season or what's good for you. They also have the worst recipe collection on their website of all the big supermarkets.

I doubt we'll see the back of the beast that is Tesco. I just wish they'd use their market strength to educate their consumers, be kinder to their suppliers and change that vile blue and red branding. Until then I shall be voting with my feet, I doubt it will make any difference to them but hey, "every little helps".

Tesco poster: teacakedesign

Fish & Stitches

How good are these little beauties? Perfect for your New Year resolution diet, these mouth watering plates of food have 0 calories!

Brighton based Kate Jenkins has set up Cardigan as a platform from which to create delightful collections like Comfort Food and Fish & Stitches.

And for your other vice you can pick up a pack of Woolboro knitted ciggies.

Castor & Pollux

Castor and Pollux rocks. It's a great little gallery under the arches on the Brighton seafront showing and selling art, design, books, jewellery and stationery niceness. I can never resist popping in when I'm passing.

I picked up these letterpress squirrel thank you cards made by Hello Lucky which I think are rather special. You can't get a better combo than squirrels and letterpress, no siree.

REVIEW: Food for Friends

Ok, so you need a vegan and gluten free restaurant in Brighton. Food For Friends has got to be a good bet, right?

Just coming from a brass monkeys walk along the beach, I needed something to warm me up. Reading down the menu... Ah, soup - perfect. "Combine chef's inspiration with seasonal influence and you get today’s soup sensation served with fresh bread". Wow! Inspirational, seasonal AND sensational? What could this be? Maybe a warming Moroccan-spiced lentil soup or is it a chunky bean and kale? Jerusalem artichokes are good right now, huh?

Drum roll please...TA DA: Leek and Potato. Leek and Potato? You what! Where be the chef's inspiration today? In the soup aisle of Tesco? Which is where this soup may as well have come from. The only thing I could taste in this slop was the heavy-handed salt.

My lovely vegan friends had the "Flash in the Pan" stir-fry which didn't really inspire and the first comments were that it was tasteless but got better when you got to the sheet of seaweed at the bottom. Yummy.

Food for friends is a bit of a Brighton institution, being there since 1981 and I've always remembered it as a laid back place for a wallet-friendly good bite to eat (even for us non-vegans). So what's with the change to low lighting, inflated prices and swanky wallpaper? The restaurant was busy but the atmosphere was stale as a dried up piece of tofu. And Jamiroquai as background music?

I have no idea what has happened to this restaurant but what I do know is that this is not the sort of food I would serve to my friends.

REVIEW: Nia Cafe

UPDATE: Nia Cafe has now closed and become Soup-urb. Review for historical purposes.

Nia Cafe is a nice, relaxed cafe/restaurant with stylishly lived-in, mis-matched furniture and a homely feel. So relaxed that a gang of friends and I ended up staying for a good four hours or so, cherry picking through the menu.

The one thing about Nia Cafe is that it gets it right where so many others get it wrong. Great decor, inviting atmosphere and a menu for all cravings. It's not a cafe but its not a restaurant. It's the happy medium between the two where you don't want to go somewhere snazzy but you don't want to smell of frying after visiting. You will find all day breakfasts ranging from the full-on to the decadent and the varied day-time menu has anything from wraps to risottos, sandwiches to venison stews. The specials boards tempt you with cakes, desserts and smoothies and there is also a separate evening menu which I can't say I mind coming back for.

At our table of nine, I don't think anyone had any complaints. I certainly didn't for my smoked haddock, poached egg and nicely sharp, dressed rocket salad. The cakes were looking good too, especially the moist, gooey brownies.

And another thing - they were busy. Very busy. Despite us rearranging half the cafe as more friends turned up, pinching chairs from here and there, and practically commandeering the room, the staff were really good to us. I also noticed reserved signs popping up on tables. For a cafe! Now that is a good sign...

UPDATE: Nia Cafe has now closed and become Soup-urb. Review for historical purposes.