Cay Tre | Hoxton

Cay Tre was recommended to me earlier on in the year; I'd been meaning to go for ages and when my birthday meal came around, I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

Cay Tre offers up delicious Vietnamese street food in a restaurant setting with a couple of restaurants dotted around the capital - we opted for the Hoxton branch! The restaurant iteself is quite cosy to say the least, with a mixture of big groups and couples of people dining out, there was a great buzz in the restaurant and all the staff were well on hand to help with any queries about the best way to order and to provide more drinks when required!

Shay and I opted to go for a few sharing dishes and then a main to share with some rice bowls and although we came to a decision quite quickly over our icey cold beers, making the choice was not easy. I could eat pretty much everything on that menu. The waitress took our order and exclaimed that we would get a few dishes at a time to allow us to really enjoy everything without there being too much food in front of us, which I like.

First up was Chef Vinh's Beef Sticks which were like big chunks of minced beef - slightly difficult to eat with chopsticks - filled with flavour and a gorgeous dipping sauce. With the beef arrived our Kaichoy Greens, which are cooked in the wok with chilli and garlic - this was one of my favourite dishes. Simple yet so effectively fresh with a brilliant spicy kick to it. Admittedly the chilli did burn a little but I'm a-ok with that.

Then arrived the dish we were both looking forward to the most, the Chilli Salt & Pepper Softshell Crab. Ever since the supper club last year, we've been obsessed with soft shell crab and this one was absolutely to die for. So amazingly salty and crispy and completely tender on the inside. I know this sounds pretentious but it was a delight to eat.

After a little rest and a few more swigs of beer, we were ready for the main to share, we went for the Phu Quoc Pepper Squid and a small bowl of jasmine rice each. The dish was lovely and I'm glad we had it, but I don't think anything was going to live up to the soft-shell crab, but notable points were there was LOTS of squid... like loads and a nice amount of wokked veggies too.

We were in and out of Cay Tre within just under and hour and a half, so it's not the sort of place you can stick around and chat and although as mentioned there was a good buzz in the room, it was also slightly hectic, we were sat next to the tiny gangway with the waiters and waitresses coming through every minute or so. Not a major gripe just y'know, it happened.

But overall we were super impressed with Cay Tre, the food was amazing and for the price? Well the whole lot including a few beers and service came to about £50 - and my belly was truly content on that too. I can't wait to go back and try the Pho before we go away so I can compare it with the real deal in a few months time eep!

The Mac & Cheese Burger

Yes. I put macaroni cheese and burger patties in a sesame seed bun... together. I feel like apologising to universe but I guess I'm not really that sorry.

This burger comes with a story. Back in February, we (collective group of friends) went to Portsmouth for one of Hang Fire's last gigs. Myself, Shay and two friends ended up burning a lot of time in Portsmouth (the only ones who managed to get the coach on time), not *really* knowing where anything was. We ended up in Yates' for a quick bite and a pint - I'm actually ashamed to be admitting this on here, but it's a thing that happened and there's no going back now.

On Yates' *cough* menu, next to the microwave meals, you'll find the list of burgers... both me and Shay saw the mac and cheese burger and decided to give it a whirl. I don't know what we were expecting, because I knew any visions of a juicy patty in a brioche bun, with a homemade ketchup... blah blah blah was not going to happen. Ever. Instead we received a talcum powder bread bun with an incinerated patty with what can only be described as a cheesey goo. Still we both ate our burgers, it filled a hole.

Months later I'm still dreaming about fulfilling the potential of what could be a dangerously filthy and delicious burger - so here we are on the unofficial National Burger Day. 
I present The Mac & Cheese Burger.

This post is very picture heavy but I guess you have to understand the burger building process I went through to get to this point. I've outlined the inspiration for this monstrosity already, but Shay and I are also huge Five Guys fans (best burger around #justsayin) so when Shay found a blog post explaining how to do it, the challenge was set.

The verdict? Close but not close enough, but definitely an improvement on any other homemade burgers we've done before. And now I have a little dish of mac in the fridge just ready to be snacked on - I'm so winning at life. The recipe is at the end of the page, should you so wish to follow in my awful cheese-ridden footsteps. Enjoy!

This is a bit of a slog so bear with me.

The Mac & Cheese Burger

150g Macaroni Pasta
150g Chedder Cheese
1 small red onion
Dijon Mustard
1/2 quantities of this white sauce

250g Minced Beef - we bought a 500g pack and made four patties but I think you could definitely make smaller patties and have four with 250g
Seeded buns
Any other burger garnish you so wish, we went with:
Ketchup, Mayo & American Mustard
Beef Tomato
Iceberg Lettuce
Chestnut Mushrooms
White Onion
1 rasher of smoked bacon each

This is all about timing so making sure you have everything chopped and ready to throw in a pan is VITAL to ultimate burger goodness.

Put your pasta on to boil and start making your cheese sauce
I chopped my small red onion and fried in the melted butter, after a few minutes I added the flour to make the roux
Add the milk slowly, constantly stirring on a low heat, when it looks like it has thickened add the cheese until melted I also added a sprinkle of parmesan because I had it in the fridge already
Take the cheese sauce off the heat, drain your pasta, mix together and whack into the oven on about 200c (fan) for about 20 minutes
If you're having oven chips/fries now is a good time to put them in the oven

The patties are simple, you just need to divide into however many patties you're making and flatten them down in between squares of grease proof paper, ready for chucking in last minute

Now, start to fry off your onions and until they start to brown, and add in your sliced mushroom if you're going for that too until it's all cooked off - leave on a separate plate to rest

You can start assembling the colder ingredients of your burger now, making sure you add ample sauce to satisfy and layering up the lettuce, tomato, onions and mushrooms

Then when your mac and chips are done, take them out of the oven or move to a lower shelf - turn on your grill full whack and put the bacon under, keeping an eye so it doesn't burn

Now you can start frying off your patties, place them in a hot pan and cook for about 1:30 - 2mins on each side - if you need to turn your bacon over in the grill do it half way through cooking the patties

When your patties are done, take them off the pan and leave to rest on top of each other.

Assemble the rest of your burger and shove in your face.

Bake Off Bake Along | Week 3 - Bread

Bread week, beautiful bread week.

Before I crack on with my own post, continuing with the #bakeoffbakealong go check out Amanda's post to find out who we've picked for last weeks favourite bakes. As of last night, there are 127 posts on that hashtag on instagram! Amazing work guys, thank you so much for getting involved and umm, can you all stop being so amazing? It's making picking favourites *really* difficult!

As always link up details are at the bottom of the post and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's breads.

So onto my bake! I love baking bread, it's probably one of the most satisfying things to make, probably because most of the time it's a lot more laborious than other baked goods and harder to get right, but when you finally do, the results are so worth all the effort.

I decided to go with the signature this week, against much deliberation - I couldn't make my mind up over the technical challenge baguettes, which I still desperately want to do, or the quick bread signature. I ended up going with the signature because I've never made a soda bread before and was tempted by learning to make such a quick and easy  bread.

The flavour combination I decided one was Chorizo, Chilli & Olive soda bread, which are definitely up there in my favourite flavours/things to eat - anything Spanish or Italian, big bold flavours with a nice kick to them! Yep, that's me.

And after watching last week's episode, I knew I had to use '00' grade flour in my bread because it's my favourite flour to use and work with, so I did a 50/50 split between '00' and strong white flour. The recipe needs tinkering with so I'm not going to post it just yet but bear with me, I definitely will be posting.

The only downside to this bake was um... it didn't actually end up being baked? I undercooked it massively as I misjudged the cooking time - despite a rather convincing hollow sounding bottom. Although it was a disappointment in terms of the actual bake, the flavours are amazing so I've still got hope. So definitely no star baker for me this week, but I'm going to be trying this again within the next few days as I really want to get this up as a recipe. Keep your eyes peeled.

I think I might even still give those baguettes a go too, it's always good to add another string to the bow eh?

Bake Off Bake Along Week 1 roundup & Week 2 - Biscuits

Yippee, hooray, huzzah!

Don't you just love the Bake Off? I feel like everything in life is better when the Bake Off is on. And oh my gosh have Amanda and I been so overwhelmed and excited by everyone's contributions to the bake off so far. I'm bowled over by how talented everyone is, and it's only week two!

Before I get on and show you my second week bake, I have the pleasure of announcing our favourites from the first week, cake week. We've decided to pick a favourite from each category, as you know you can bake along with any of the challenges set in the program, so without further ado, here's our top three for the first round:

For the Madeira Cake we've gone with Saskia's of Girl In Brogues, beautiful Lemon & Poppy Seed Madeira Cake. Will you just LOOK at the rise on that cake, not to mention the crack... Top notch!

For the Walnut Cake technical challenge, Amanda and I were astounded with Hannah of A Bond Girl's Food Diary and her stunning cake. Not only are Hannah's photos beautiful but the cake itself looks like it should be in a patisserie shop window - bravo Hannah! 

And last but not least, the Black Forest Gateau, which was quite clearly not the blogger favourite this week. I personally didn't pick it because I just knew the shopping list would be huge (and I think I saw a few other exclaim this)... but we both fell head over heels for Vicky's of Eat More Cake, showstopper - because it really is! It looks so decadent, I bet it lasted less than a day in your house Vicky!

So those are our favourites from week one, even though the choice was genuinely so hard to make because you're all smashing it!

I'm absolutely loving flicking through the #bakeoffbakealong hash tag on instagram and seeing everyone tackling the challenges throughout the week. I guess at this point I should say we've confirmed a couple of prizes for the end of the link up, so keep an eye out, I'm sure we'll be announcing these very soon! Please continue to tweet us and include your bakes in the link up - this week's is at the bottom of this post :)

Now on with my own bake for week 2 - biscuits. I'll be honest, I was dreading this... quite a bit. Biscuits are in no way, shape or form my forte, and last year's attempt was quite frankly a total embarrassment! However, when I saw the option of biscotti for the signature as well as the technical, I was torn and excited over which one to tackle.

I decided to go with the biscotti because it's definitely going to be more useful in the future. And now that I've baked them, I cannot wait to try loads of different flavour combinations. I used this recipe as the base and decided to have my flavours as toasted almonds and apricot with... wait for it, a honey icing - POW right in the kisser!

My dough was a lot more wet than I imagined it would be, which in turn made it difficult to handle and subsequently ended up in a more flatter biscotti than I would have liked, but overall I love the flavours and the biscuits have an excellent 'snap' to them, so I'm pretty pleased all round with these. Dark chocolate and morello cherries next I think...!

See here my flat, post-first bake biscotti, prior to being cut.

Look at them they're like little mini soldiers, ready to go to Italian Coffee battle.

The Start Of Two Adventures

Today's post is quite sentimental, I've been umming and aahing for the last day or so on how to write this out but I'm just going to go for it, mainly because this blog is a space for me to be able to look back at this time in my life and remember everything that happened bit by bit, moment by moment.

Last Friday, on the 7th August 2015, it was mine and Shay's 6 year anniversary... and also the day he got down on one knee and asked to spend the rest of our lives together!

I said yes, obviously (in fact those were my exact words) amongst shock, pure elation and the feeling of being totally loved.

The last week has been an utter whirlwind of love and well-wishing from our friends and family and we couldn't be happier.

Although due to something I'm FINALLY able to share, we won't be planning a wedding anytime soon because - and this is where the second adventure comes in - in 10 weeks we are leaving the country to go and see the world.

If you're a regular here at This Particular, you may have seen a few times over the last few months I'd written that I've got big plans 'but not able to tell you anything yet', but now I absolutely can! These plans have been brewing since earlier on in the year, quite scarily even before I was made redundant, but everything has worked out perfectly and now I'm absolutely dumb struck with the fear (and excitement) of leaving for the unknown to go backpacking across SE Asia, Australia and well, wherever the wind takes us.

Being engaged whilst we head off on our travels has made the whole trip so extra special and I can't quite believe that this is actually my life?

And yes, I'm absolutely planning on blogging while I'm away - why on earth wouldn't I? I thought about creating a separate travel blog but if you don't mind lovely friends and readers I'm going to keep everything in one place! I've got so many ideas for pre-travel plan posts and hopefully doing some proper travel writing while I'm away which I'm super excited for.

So thank you for coming along this far with me, I'm so glad to have you here, and I can't wait to see what the future brings, especially for the next adventures in our lives.

Hope you all have a brilliant weekend x

Get To Know Food Bloggers | #fdbloggersGTK

Out of all the blogging communities, #fdbloggers is my absolute favourite - there is a genuine feeling about everyone willing each other on and complimenting each other on our creativity!

When Loriley tagged me in this new series, I couldn't wait to get involved and tell you all a bit more about my blogging process and a bit about me too!

The idea is that you're tagged by someone, answer the questions that I've answered below and then go along and tag three more lovely bloggers - simple yet effective! I hope you enjoy reading my answers... let's get to it!

Name: Ala


What was your reason for starting a blog? At the beginning of last year I started a new job that didn't require much creativity, I found I was lacking something so I decided to give starting a blog another go (having previously had a blog a few years before). Having This Particular has been so amazing creatively but now I've also made friends through it which is an extra bonus!

What’s the dish you’re most proud of? A lot of time and effort went into putting my own stamp on my chicken and mushroom pie recipe. I know it's like trying to reinvent the wheel but it honestly did taste so amazing and I was super proud of the fact I made the chicken and mushroom the night before to intensify the flavours then casually knocked up a rough puff when I got home from work!

What one kitchen utensil could you not live without? If we were talking appliances, then I'd definitely say my KitchenAid but that's not the question so, I have to say, my wooden spatula - useful in any situation.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What three ingredients do you take with you? Pasta, tomatoes and piccante chorizo, the makings of a simple pasta dish but delicious!

Who do you take inspiration from? I honestly take inspiration from all the amazing food blogs I read, there is so much creativity and talent in this little community. But I also love recreating dishes I've had when I'm eating out.

Your favourite social media platform? It's Twitter, without it I wouldn't know about any of you brilliant bloggers.

Biggest disaster in the kitchen? My biggest disaster that I've blogged about it without doubt the doughnuts from last years bake off! I tried them fried and baked and just couldn't do it - I WILL succeed in the end.

Favourite spot for coffee? I'm not a HUGE coffee drinker, and when I do have it, it's on the go. I love the Fly Coffee Bean at Denmark Hill station, but I also quite like the coffee from Knot which can also be found in stations... says a lot about me I guess ha!

Favourite food photo you’ve taken? I'll always have a soft spot for my rolo chocolate cake as it won me my kitchenaid - be still my beating heart but I also love the photos I took of my valentines heart chocolates! A proud moment for sure!

What would you say was your most successful blog post and why? My most viewed blog post is my rolo chocolate cake - you can see it on the sidebar there, and it hasn't been knocked off the top spot since it first went live. But in terms of engagement, it's got to be my most recent post for the start of this years GBBO bake along!

Now nominate three food bloggers you’d like to get to know more.

Catherine of Sprunting
Sophie of Sophie Loves Food
Lucy of Lucy Loves To Eat

Bake Off Bake Along | Week 1 - Cakes

It's here, it's here, we're finally back watching the Bake Off. As soon as that music started last week it literally made my heart so happy. And without knowing it, I was so engrossed in the first episode that I couldn't tweet during the show - which happened last year too!

So you probably already know, but this year I'm baking along with the show, but with Amanda and we're going to be picking our favourites of your bakes each week and at the end of the series - where there will be a prize! You can find Amanda's post here if you want to see what she's got up to this week. The link up is at the bottom if you'd like to see other's posts too!

Anyway lets get on with it shall we?

Cake week - arguably the easiest and the hardest, easy to do but easy to mess up as well.

Despite popular choice on the Twitter and Instagram #bakealongbakeoff I decided to go with the technical challenge, giving the madeira cake a swerve. I like big tall cakes, and I liked the idea of testing out my skills with caramel, and that boiled icing. I found the recipe here, and by the looks of it, it's the same one used on the show.

The cake itself is a standard sponge with gorgeous chunks of walnut in. The recipe calls for three layers made in three 8inch cake pans... I only have two so had to do a quick turn around when the first two sponges came out of the oven but that's nothing I've not had to deal with before.

Whilst the sponges were cooling, I set about making the caramel, which I've never done with just sugar and water before but I'm convinced it's impossible to burn this. The recipe explicitly says 'on a low heat', which I used and it took about 15 mins from start to finish to get the golden colour. The recipe also says to use a silicon mat to leave your walnuts to cool, which again I don't have so I used a bit of greaseproof paper which worked perfectly, and none of the walnuts stuck to!

Then once the final sponge was out of the oven, I set about making the buttercream for the layers - a very simple buttercream, so there's not much to say there - and the boiled white icing for the outside of the cake.

The pictures below make the cake look very anaemic, which I can totally admit to. I decided to let the icing set overnight before taking photos and that happened, however before the icing was really glossy and looked amazing. I don't think I did the icing completely correctly though, as I don't have a hand or electric whisk (I know, who even am I?) so had to kind of improvise a bit using the whisk attachment in the bowl above the pan of hot water. Ideally I'd like to try getting this right so I'm going to head out this week and buy a cheap handwhisk. Problem solved.

Overall I don't think I did too badly, all the elements are certainly there, the cake just looks every so slightly sad - especially as the sugar has run from the walnuts. The bake itself is totally brilliant though - light, fluffy with a lovely walnutty taste throughout.

How do you think I did for the first week of the bake along? You can link up with us using the link below or post your photos on the #bakeoffbakealong hashtag. Looking forward to seeing your bakes!

The Elisalex Dress

I have literally been bursting to write this blog post for the last few weeks.

As you may or may not know, whenever I'm not at work, baking or eating, I'm sewing. When I came across By Hand London last year I knew I was destined to make as many of their patterns as possible. Their branding as well as the actual patterns, and well just everything is completely different from the almost dated look of other pattern companies and certainly some of the clothing styles.

The Elisalex Dress has got to be one of the ultimates in party dresses, and when we received an invite for a friend's wedding a few months back I knew I had to be wearing this dress for it.

I had an exact idea of the fabric I wanted, a very summery look so a white background with a large floral print (if you check out #elisalex on instagram you'll know why) and blow me down, I eventually found the perfect fabric. I bought two metres of this stretch cotton (I think) from John Lewis... IN THE SALE. 

I can safely say, hands down this is easily the best thing I've ever made and that's totally down to not only the clear instructions, but also the sew-along blog posts on the BHL website. I'm so chuffed with how this dress has turned out and I received so many compliments - to which the best reply is and always will be 'Thanks... I made it' (insert side eye smirk emoji here).

And the second best bit that really this dress only cost me about £20.

And on another note, so weirdly I was talking to some old school friends of Shay's at the wedding on saturday, about the dress, and it turns out she's best friends with one of the BHL ladies.

As if the world wasn't small enough eh?

Some Summer Scenes

At the beginning of July we headed back to Berkshire for my mum's birthday. On the Saturday of the weekend we headed out for a dinner at one of the local restaurants through some woods, a field and then a dirt track, in true Berkshire countryside style.

It's easy to forget in some places that Berkshire is a largely rural county, especially as it lies on the M4 corridor and really is suburbia for London commuters. I took these photos on our walk and wanted to share them here to show how lovely my home county can be. There's not really else to this post, just an appreciation for home :)

Get Ready, Get Set | Bake Off Bake Along Details

Thank you for your interest in the Bake Off Bake Along hosted by yours truly and the lovely Amanda.

We are *so* excited to host this blogging series and we really hope you'll have fun taking part too. The idea was born out of a near obsessive love for the Great British Bake Off and both doing our own bake alongs last year. We thought we'd put our heads together and create something fun and creative for us all to take part in, with prizes at the end. Because, who doesn't love some healthy competition? And the opportunity to win some AMAZING goodies.

So what's the deal?
Each week we'll be following along with the show that is broadcast on Wednesdays. Both Amanda and I will be posting our bakes the following Tuesday with link up details and favourites from the previous week. You have from that point until the end of the following Monday to post your bake - so effectively you're baking a week behind to give yourself enough time. Make sure you're following both of us (links below) as we'll be alternating posting our favourites from week to week, with link up details!

We don't expect you to do three bakes each week though, don't worry, you can pick a bake from either the Signature Bake, the Technical Challenge or the Showstopper - the choice is yours! It's quite a commitment, but it's so worth the effort - last year I picked up so many new skills and tried out cakes I'd never even heard of before!

At the end of the show, we'll be posting a final roundup finale and declaring the winners of the competition, we'll let you know on Twitter (links below) when we are announcing the winners!

And what's up for grabs?
Amanda and I are still in the process of confirming the prizes with some amazing brands so we'll keep you posted as and when, but rest assured, we've got some great baking related goodies in the pipeline :)

Who can join in?
Whoever - the more the merrier! Please use the #bakeoffbakealong hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, we'll be checking it out all the time and please feel free to tag us, I'll leave our social links below!

The boring (but important bits)
We are in no way affiliated with the Great British Bake Off, we just love it, like... a lot. Any prizes or items that have been gifted to us for the competition will be clearly marked. Please make sure if you're under 18 that you have permission from your relevant adults to join in.

If you have any questions or need anything, please feel free to give either of us a shout, we'll be happy to help!