Restaurant review: My Neighbours the Dumplings, Clapton, east London


Connor first heard of this restaurant from the Off Menu podcast with Ed Gamble and James Acastor. We've been trying to build up a list of restaurants in London to try with the view to having a day out, just us two, once a month. First on our list was My Neighbours The Dumplings. We chose it because it's based in Clapton and we wanted to scout some wedding locations. It's all getting real now!

My Neighbours The Dumplings is a Chinese dumpling house and sake bar based in east London. They have a separate menu for lunch and for dinner, we opted to visit for lunch this time. We arrived about 12.30 and it was pretty empty but within 30 minutes it really started to fill up and created a buzzing atmosphere. Keen to try as much as we could, we decided to order every dumpling on the menu. Our best decision of the day!





Keep in mind the food doesn't arrive all at once so expect it to be staggered. So what did we order? Juicy lamb and coriander dumplings, fragrant wonton soup with pork and prawn, tasty veggie dumplings and steamed squid and cod dumplings. The lamb and coriander dumplings won the taste test hands down. I could have ordered three more portions! Although we could have eaten more, we left lunch feeling satisfied but not over stuffed which made a nice change! I would recommend ordering a couple more dishes if you're particularly hungry as four portions won't be enough.

My Neighbours The Dumplings was delicious and I'm so glad we finally got to tick it off the list. I thought the prices were a little high but this is hipster land! Service was pretty attentive and we didn't feel like we were being rushed. I don't think I would rush back especially to visit but if I found myself in Clapton again then I would definitely hit it up. I want to try the dinner menu as the crispy pork belly sounds absolutely delicious.



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Restaurant review: Palatino, Old Street, east London


A couple of weeks ago my favourite internet pals and I popped along to Palatino for Hannah's birthday. The reason she picked that place? The £25 deal for unlimited pasta for two hours on a Saturday. She didn't have to ask us twice to attend!

Within walking distance from the Barbican and not as close to Old Street station as it says on the website, the restaurant is in a rather obscure location in the city. It's not hard to find but it's not really surrounded by much so it feels like you have to to hunt it down. You can have the option of choosing to add unlimited prosecco for £14 per person for 90 minutes. We decided to give this a miss this time.




So what pasta can you choose from? Anything from the Primo section of the menu. This includes cacio e pepe, ravioli di zucca, bombolotti romanesco, anchovy and breadcrumbs, spaghetti alla vongole, veal rigatoni and a pasta of the day. They are more than willing to veganise any dish. My favourites included the carbonara which was the special and the delicious rigatoni. The portions looked small but in reality were great sizes for sharing. We all tucked in quite happily!




Service was a bit slow and they wasn't too forthcoming in offering you the chance to order more pasta dishes. It took quite a while before someone even took our drinks order. Luckily we were starting to get a bit full so we didn't mind the waiting. But I can imagine it will get annoying really  quick if you're still hungry. I loved the vibe of the restaurant, it had a great mix of people and lovely floor to ceiling windows, letting the winter sun in. I'm not sure I'd go back but I do think it's a great deal for £25 and I felt like I completely got my money's worth. There are just so many other different places to try in London!

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Five ways I'm trying to cut down on food waste


1. Freeze vegetables/fruit in portions
I have every intention of using up my vegetable box but things get in the way and it turns out I'm only home twice that week. As a result my vegetables are left languishing in the back of the fridge. I have now gotten into the habit once a week to look through my fridge and decide which veg is looking a bit sad. I make sure to chop them up and freeze them in useable bags to be used at a later date. I always bag them up in portions so I can use them in one go.  Root vegetables tend to go a bit watery but they last longer in the fridge so I don't tend to freeze these. I always freeze slices of lemons and limes as they work great for G&T's when you have guests over. Butter, milk and bread are always great to be frozen and I do this regularly.

2. Make stale bread into breadcrumbs
We tend to treat ourselves a nice loaf of bread for the weekend as our go-to breakfast is poached eggs on toast. But as we never eat bread during the week it starts to go mouldy. Now I either freeze it in slicers or I pop it in the food processor to make it into breadcrumbs. I freeze these and use them as toppings for various things such as gratins and cauliflower cheese. My New Years resolution next year is to start getting into making my own bread so I never have to buy a loaf from the supermarket again.

3. Freeze sauces in ice cube trays
We always have a jar of pesto or curry paste in the larder but it doesn't always get used up in time before it went off. In a household of two, unless you use it everyday you're never going to use up a whole jar within three days. So I started freezing it in ice cube trays as soon as I opened it. I find three cubes of each tends to be enough when I am using them for dinner. This also works well with fresh herbs - just make sure you add some water. If you freeze rosemary this makes a good gin garnish.


4. Don't follow best before dates
Before I moved out from home I was a stickler for best before dates. I would throw something away on the day it had printed because I didn't think it could be consumed anymore. Not only is this incredibly wasteful but also very expensive! Now I go by looks and smell. Most food have at least a couple more days left on them past the best-before-date. You just have to use your common sense. Most veg which looks a little sorry for itself perks up in a soup or roasted.

5. Batch cook for the week and freeze
If I know I'm going to have a busy week but got a full fridge, I make sure I cook up quite a few different meals to use up all the food when I have the time. Mostly on a Sunday afternoon. I either pop them in the fridge for lunches throughout the week or freeze them for dinner for the rest of the week.

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#52recipes: 22-26


Ottolenghi's Feta and oregano chips from Simple
For something so simple, these were absolutely delicious. They made a nice change from having my normal salt and pepper wedges. I loved the combination of the salt feta cheese on the crispy fries. They were down a treat at a lunch I hosted. You could eat a whole tray of these on their own- and some more!


Hoisin jackfruit tacos from @Todaywecooked
I am obsessed with this Instagram yet this is the first thing I've cooked. Despite having saved so among of her recipes. All vegetarian, the account specialises in easy-to-make, family-friendly recipes. Everything just looks so delicious! I picked up two cans of jackfruit from Aldi without having a clue what to make with them.


Alison Roman's vinegar roasted beetroot with spring onion and yogurt from Dining In
This was a bit of a faff and the beetroot didn't end up cooking in the time specified so I had to leave it in for two more hours. We ended up having it the day after because it wasn't ready by the time our roast chicken was. It was really tasty but I don't think I'll make it again due to how long it seemed to take. I have found some of the timings for Alison's vegetable side dishes to be a little off.


Alison Roman's chocolate chip cookies from Dining In
These cookies are internet famous and I know I had to try them for myself as soon as this book arrived. They remind me of more of a shortbread rather than a traditional American cookie. I loved the crunch from the sugar and the chunks of chocolate was absolutely delicious. I think these are the best cookies I've made and know I'll make these time and time again!


Diana Henry's roasted Harissa carrots with cannelloni beans and yogurt from Simple
Harissa is my new favourite paste and it was absolutely delicious on carrots. I'm really loving carrots at the minute. I was never a fan until I started getting my Abel & Cole box and now I'm obsessed. I usually just roast them in honey so this makes a nice change. Yogurt is a great shout to help cool them down if you get a bit too liberal with the Harissa.
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Why I've become a mid-week vegetarian - and how I'm finding it


I made the decision back in January to try and be a vegetarian at home Monday to Friday. Part of the reason was because I was becoming more conscious on what we are doing to the world but the biggest part if I'm honest was to try and save some money on our shopping bill. Connor and I love to travel and do things but we don't have an endless pot of money to do that. So I'm always looking at ways to keep our bills down so we have more money to have a social life. I chose to sacrifice food.

We've always shopped in Aldi ever since we moved out so our food bill is never really too high. But since we've been going veggie our food bill has gotten even lower. I do buy a Abel & Cole British veg box every fortnight which works out about £6.50 a week. Our weekly shop at Aldi usually comes in around £30 so we spend £36.50 on a non-meat weekly shop. That includes dinners and lunches because I always cook for four in the evening so we can have leftovers. Not too shabby!

I do like eating meat but I think I was just buying it out of habit. I grew up in a meat eating household  and eating meat was just the done thing.  At the weekend we sometimes treat ourselves to a nice piece of meat from the butchers but now we even go without it at the weekend too. I find eating a mostly vegetarian diet at home really pushes me in the kitchen. I'm on a mission to help my boyfriend forget about meat! I'm much more adventurous in my cooking as it's so easy to just serve meat with some veg every evening. My favourite cuisines are probably Indian and Persian which are quite vegetarian heavy anyway. We eat a hell of a lot of curries now!


I'm becoming more and more aware of what we're all doing to the environment and trying to make little changes to help cut down on my carbon footprint. I invested in some bamboo make ups remover pads, bamboo cotton wool buds, washable freezer bags and a bamboo toothbrush. Eating more vegetables and staying away from meat is yet another way I'm trying to do my bit. If all of us make even the littlest of changes then it all makes a difference.

A few weeks ago I ended up eating meat every single day for a week because we had a BBQ at our house and had some leftover meat. By the end of the seven days I felt awful, I was so sluggish, gelt a bit gross and my skin really flared up. It really shocked me how much of an impact it had on me. I couldn't wait to get back to eating a vegetarian diet again. At the moment I do tend to go for meat dishes when I go out for dinner but over the next few months I'm going to try and ween myself off that and only opt for vegetarian dishes. I'm finding if I do it slowly then it's a lot easier for me to make the change. I'm not sure I'll become a full time veggie any time soon but I'm definitely looking to keep up being 80% veggie forever!

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#52 recipes: 17-21


Otolenghi's harissa and confit garlic potatoes from Simple
I mentioned the roasted cauliflower dish I made for my blogger girls in the previous #52recipes instalment and the next three dishes are part of the same spread. Oh my gosh these are one of my favourite things in the whole book. I'm obsessed with Harissa at the moment. It seems to make everything taste so much better, giving it a fantastic spicy, garlicky kick. The potatoes could have been crispier which was my fault for being too impatient but were absolutely fine as they were!

Ottolenghi's two bean and two lime salad from Simple
I served this with roast chicken and the zesty lime really went well with the citrusy chicken. I made a boo boo and used freeze dried kaffir lime leaves which Ottolenghi said not to do. It was still tasty but I think it would be even more delicious with fresh. Ottolenghi just does side dishes so well and they're always my favourite recipes from his books. I seem to have misplaced so many of my pictures as couldn't find this one!


Ottolenghi's crushed courgettes from Simple
I love a courgette and especially loved them like this. It tasted very summery, so fresh and light. I think it was the mixture of mint, dill and thyme. The portion wasn't very big though for four people so I would double it to make sure everyone can enjoy it! Picture taken from Michelle's blog.


Rachel Allen's date and banana loaf from Home Baking
I'm always in the market for a new banana loaf recipe and the stars aligned when I had some brown bananas in my fruit bowl and half a packet of dates leftover in the larder. The dates help to give the cake a subtle caramelised flavour. A great upgrade on a banana cake recipe.


Diana Henry's greens on toast with chilli, feta, sunflower seeds and a poached egg from Simple
At the weekend I like to make more of an effort for breakfast rather than my normal every day cereal. We had some feta and kale left over in the fridge so this was the perfect brunch to use them up. While it was a little effort, it was well worth it. I loved the saltiness of the feta paired with the kale. Who knew kale on toast would be so delicious!
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#52recipes: 11-16


If you want to keep up with my recipe challenge on Instagram, check out my highlights where I've been posting everything I've been trying. I'd love to know what you've been cooking recently for some inspiration! You can see that from what I'm posting about, just how obsessed I am with Diana Henry's cookbook Simple. It is such an incredible book and I've loved everything I've made. It's definitely become my go-to book in the kitchen.


Diana Henry's chicken, cauliflower and parmesan bake from Simple
The first thing I cooked from Diana Henry's Simple was this traybake. For something so simple, it was unbelievably delicious. Definitely one for a weekday meal as it's nice and quick. You simply bung everything in a roasting dish then leave it alone in the oven to cook. I'm rarely make the same thing twice but this is good enough that I'm going to add it my monthly rotation!


Ottolenghi's honey, thyme and yogurt cheese cake from Simple
Loved the combination of thyme and honey but feel it needed a bit longer in the fridge to set. I'd recommend to leave it overnight if you make it. The hobnob biscuit base was a game changer and I'm going to use it in my future cheesecakes. So much nicer than the normal digestive biscuit.


Diana Henry's spiced Turkish chicken from Simple
Another Diana recipe that I LOVED. If I'm going to cook meat at home, chicken thighs are one of my favourite pieces to cook. They taste so flavoursome and are really the best part of the chicken in my opinion. The spice blend of this dish was so delicious. I served it with my signature salt and pepper wedges along with the salsa Diana recommends.


Gouda, spring onion and spinach quiche (loosely based on a Mary Berry recipe)
Quiche is one of my favourite ways to use up veg. It's the ideal summer dish in my opinion. I base it on a Mary Berry recipe which allows for lots of chopping and changing depending on what you have on hand. I had some gouda in the fridge and I think it might have become my favourite cheese to use in a quiche. It was fab! I suppose using basically a whole block helped...



Diana Henry's Huevos Roots from Simple
Gosh I'm still so obsessed with this book and can't wait until her next one comes out. This is a dish we've made quite a few times now when we don't want to go shopping. All you need is paprika, eggs and potatoes - three staples we always have in the house at any time. It's a dish that will work well for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A true all-rounder!

Ottolenghi's whole roasted cauliflower with green Tahini sauce from Simple
I did this dish when I hosted a Sunday roast for my blogger girls. Who knew a simple green tahini sauce could be so addictive! This was absolutely delicious and the whole cauliflower was a great showpiece for the middle of the table. It's one I'm going to keep on making for when I'm entertaining.
(Picture taken from Michelle's blog)
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Four ways to budget your weekly food shop


When you're looking to save money, one of the easiest ways to cut back is on your shopping list. But cutting back doesn't mean you have to cut back on the quality of food you eat. You just have to be savvy! I've become obsessed with trying to lower the price of my food shop each week. Anyone else play that game at the checkout where you try to guess the final total? No? Just us weirdos then! We do treat ourselves to an Abel & Cole box delivered every fortnight which works out around $6.60 each week on top of our food bill. When we buy meet every so often we try to make sure to go to the local butchers to ensure it's free range. We buy cheap cuts of meat like chicken thighs but often find they're the most flavoursome. Here are my four money-saving tips that I swear by when I'm scanning the aisles of Aldi each week...

1. Shop around
It's so convenient to go to one supermarket and get all your shopping completely done in one go. But the supermarkets you visit might not always be the cheapest. We've discovered that Aldi for the bulk of our shop, Home Bargains for cleaning/washing products and specialist cuisine shops for our spices, herbs and ingredients a little out of the ordinary works out to be the cheapest for us. It can be a bit of pain having to go to three different shops but I like to think of it as a little adventure!


2. Go veggie during the week
Since January we've been trying to make a conscious decision to become 'mid-week' vegetarians. Part of it was because I'm trying to do my bit to be more sustainable and the other was because we are trying to cut down on our weekly food bill. We average on around £30 for a veggie food shop compared to around £50 for a food shop including meat. We buy a lots of pulses in the form of tinned beans and lentils to help keep our protein up. Meat is kept for the odd day at the weekend where we'll go to the butchers or a treat if we have dinner out. I haven't really found myself missing it and I'm loving how much more adventurous its making me with my cooking. It's so easy to fall into the trap of always cooking meat and veg without giving it too much thought. I'm determined to create meals where meat isn't missed and think I'm succeeding 75% of the time.

3. Meal plan
The day before we do our shop I'll go through our larder, grab my cookbooks and meal plan for the upcoming week. I tend to choose dinners for four people so I can cook enough for us to have lunch the following day. I only do five days as we always have one day where we're both out and another where we're home alone - that night it is toast of some sort. My favourite comfort food! I don't always cook the meal on the day planned but it will be cooked sometime that week. I find this stops me panic buying and spending unnecessary money. I try to only buy produce that I will use that week to minimise food waste.


4. Stock your cupboard with tins
I love tins. In fact I can't rave about tinned food enough! It's amazing how versatile they are. And cheap! I always make sure I have tinned tomatoes, fish and different types of beans to ensure that even when the cupboards feel bare there is always something to be able to made into a meal. You can easily put off shopping for a few days if you have a well stocked cupboard.
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An honest opinion of a vegetable subscription service


I'd been interested in subscribing to a veg box since I moved it but it seemed a bit frivolous. But now after living in our house for two years, money isn't as tight as it once was so I took the plunge and signed up to see if they were really worth the money. I opted for Abel & Cole because I loved the idea of their British veg box priced at £12.50. I've been trying really hard this year to make more ethical food choices to try and help the environment. One of those is only eating vegetables that are season to help cut down on the transportation.

Consisting of six different varieties of vegetables, everything in the box is organic. It changes each week but you'll find you'll sometimes get a lot of the same things due to the fact the U.K is limited in what type of veg it can grown. That darn British weather! Sadly you can't ask for replacements like you can for the other boxes so if you don't like something that's included then that's tough. You'll find the contents of the box for the next two weeks on the website so you can decided whether you would like it delivered. In the particular week pictured we got free tofu included in the box and I added some wild garlic after being influenced on Instagram! Occasionally we will add other stuff, this week I added some bread and salted butter.


We decided to get it delivered fortnightly as £12.50 each week did seem a bit expensive and a waste of money. As there are only two of us in this house I've found this works out perfectly. I don't know if it's because its organic but it really does last a long time so we barely finish eating it before the next box gets delivered. I plan my meals around what we will receive in the box so it's so helpful to see the contents online in advance. The packaging is all recyclable, even the plastic. I love the fact you can leave the box outside, and all the other packaging if you wish, and they will collect it to reuse it again for another box.

So is it worth the money? In a short answer yes! I love having it delivered every week and the produce is always so delicious. In particular the tomatoes are incredible. They actually taste like tomatoes which is more than what you can say for the ones in the supermarket...  Having the box makes me much more adventurous with my cooking as I'm using ingredients I never would have thought to use. As we're making more of an effort to go veggie, it's making it a lot easier to get more of our daily allowance. It's so easy to bulk up dinners with potatoes but this is making sure I get my five a day. We are sometimes still buying a couple of veggies in our weekly shop but that's mostly if I'm cooking for other people than our household of two. I even don't mind that the veg is a little grubby when it arrives - Sophie a year ago would have hated this! - as this means that it really is organic. Nothing a little rinse under the tap can't sort! We've been enjoying the box for two months now and I can't imagine we'll be stopping anytime soon.
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#52 recipes: number 11-15


I feel like I'm on a roll now with my recipe challenge and really am enjoying it. I'm still not pushing myself too far out of my comfort zone but I am trying lots of different cuisines. I really want to try my hand at making different types of bread. I just need a weekend free - it's been pretty hectic of late!


Spiced cherry tomato pasta from Simple
If done well, you can't go wrong with a simple tomato pasta sauce. This was slow cooked which really helped to add to the flavours. It was really easy to do and was pure comfort food. It's one that is best to wait until British tomatoes are in season as they can sometimes taste a bit watery if not.  I'm not quite sure if this tomato sauce is 'the one' though. I'm still looking for my perfect recipe!


Mange tout and baby sweetcorn Laksa from Veggie Lean in 15
We ate a lot of laksa in Malaysia and this recipe really didn't do much for us at all. It was a really simplified recipe and I think perhaps Laksa is one that should be done right and authentically in order for it to taste amazing. There can be no shortcuts! It didn't really have much flavour and tasted quite bland. In fact I wasn't too impressed with this cookbook again and think it might be one for the charity shop.


Gorganzola, sage and walnut tagliatelle by Rachel Roddy
I'm a frequent reader of Rachel's column in the Guardian and this pasta dish is the first thing I've attempted from it. It definitely won't be the last. I used it with some spring onion tagliatelle that had been sitting in the larder from a spontaneous trip to the Aldi middle aisle. I adored the salty richness the gorgonzola added to the dish and the crunch of the walnuts. It's not a combination I would ever have thought up myself but it all worked so well together. I'd definitely try it again! But next time I'd add a bit more cheese.


Lemon and buttermilk pound cake by Diana Henry
This is the best lemon cake I've ever made. It was so moist and the lemon flavour was out of this world. Exactly how a lemon cake should be! It was really simple to make and just confirmed to me how much I love anything Diana Henry does. I think I'd happily just cook her recipes for the rest of my life.


Spiced apple cake from Simple
This smelt and tasted exactly like Christmas thanks to the cinnamon. I think this is the best Ottolenghi bake I've done so far and it' s such a crowd pleaser. Make sure you use a big cake tin as it rises a far bit. The first time it spilled all over the oven, This is a cake I can see myself making time and time again.
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Recipe: my favourite roast chicken recipe


I didn't grow up in a household where we religiously had a roast dinner every Sunday so I've always been a bit nonplus about the traditional British dinner. I always thought that roast chicken was a bit boring and not really my jam. But as I continue on my quest to become a whizz in the kitchen (very much a work in progress),  I've been trying out a few recipes and decided that I actually do really like it. It's a really simple dish to do when you have guests over and is always a crowd pleaser. I've been trying out a few different recipes and come up with a mix-matched recipe from Ottolenghi and Rukmini Iyer that I think is a corker.

Ingredients
1 large free range chicken
1/2 bunch of thyme
1 preserved lemon
1 unwaxed lemon
70g of unsalted butter
1 garlic bulb plus two cloves
200g potatoes
200g sweet potatoes
Generous sprinkle of sea salt (Maldons is my favourite)
Generous grind of black pepper
Rapeseed oil



1. Get the chicken out of the fridge and leave to rest on the side so it gets to room temperature.

2. Put the butter, preserved lemon, pepper, salt, three teaspoons of thyme leaves and two peeled garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse until all mixed together.

3. Chop the potatoes into slightly bigger than bite size pieces and place in a large roasting. Pour over some rapeseed oil.

4. Cut a garlic bulb in half and nestle the bottom half within the potatoes. Peel six strips of lemon peel and scatter over. Mix it all together in the oil with your hands.

4. Place the chicken in the large baking tray on top of the potatoes with the legs facing towards you. Gently peel the skin back and start rubbing the butter mixture. Make sure to rub it on top of the legs too. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.


5. Cut the unwaxed lemon in half and put in the chicken's bum along with a few springs of thyme and the rest of the garlic cloves from the bulb.

6. Put the chicken in the oven with the legs facing the back. Cook for around two hours. I usually start checking after 90 minutes as my oven cooks rather quick.

7. Once it's cooked take it out and leave it to rest for 10-15 before carving. Serve with all your favourite trimmings!

Let me know if you make it on Twitter, I'd love to see pictures!

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A Essex based lifestyle blogger who lives a champagne life on a lemonade purse!

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