Category: The Drinks Cabinet

Eating Out: Ladies Love Beer at Neighbourhood

We all do different things to unwind. I can’t fathom going for a run to clear your head, or playing first person shooting games for hours. But one of my old post-work rituals was befitting of someone about 40 years older than me and the opposite gender – a nice quiet pub, a pint of ale, and a book. Shoes off and feet up on the sofa like I lived there, it was a sanctuary away from work stress and, crucially, out of the tiny flat I lived in. It’s also where I became “a beer drinker”.

There’s this idea, somehow, that women don’t drink beer, that all we really want is a white wine or maybe a G&T. But, although an adolescence that featured only Fosters or Boddingtons should have put me off, I can attest firmly to the fact that we quite like a pint, too.

Neighbourhood3So of course, when an email landed in my inbox about the Ladies Love Beer night at Neighbourhood, near Stratford, I was quick to confirm that I’d be there with bells on.

I went into the event a little sceptical – purely because my taste is quite specifically the darker, richer end of the spectrum. I’m not into “hoppy”, or “citrus”, and I’m certainly against lagers, which to me often taste more like they should be in the back room of a doctor’s surgery in a sample pot. So I headed off to Very East London, and I was pleasantly surprised. Read More

Lemon, lime, and gin loaf


-l-l. Lemon and lime loaf would have been a much more pleasing name for this easy-peasy cake, but we can’t miss out the gin drizzle. Really, even lemon, lime, and gin loaf isn’t its proper name – since I dreamt it up on a rogue afternoon off work, what I’ve called it in my head is Victorian malady cake, with scurvy and mother’s ruin in mind. And it’ll certainly have you saying, “Please, I want some more.”

maladyIt’s possible I’ve binge-watched too much Dickensian.

In a distinctly non-austerity move, this cake calls for real butter. Almost a whole block of it! I was pro-margarine before, mostly due to its significantly lower price, but you really can’t beat butter* for the flavour it gives, not to mention that oh-so-tempting yellow colour.

The gin, meanwhile, isn’t a boff-you-in-the-face taste, but more of a back-of-the-mouth hint. Just enough to subtly evoke summer days. If you want the gin flavour to feature more? Increase it in the drizzle by a tablespoon or two.

This cake is an easy flash-forward to sunny afternoons, a creation you can whip up without any real elbow grease at all. A beat, a mix, a fold, and a drizzle, and you’re done.

Let’s go. Read More

Caramel spiced rum hot chocolate

Move over, all other variations, for I have found the most warming, accidentally-boozy, rich hot chocolate out there. Even if you make it with low-calorie drinking chocolate, we’re talking thick, dark, and creamy. This is serious business. Meet caramel spiced rum hot chocolate.

Caramel spiced rum hot chocolate // The Dinner Bell

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Fruity fizz mocktail


e’ve all been there – the end of summer is nearing and your calendar features more barbecues than it does weekdays beginning with S as us Brits clamber to get the last of the rays before they disappear for another six months. Caught up in the traditions, the Pimms is flowing and beers are chilling, and it’s fruit juice only for the designated drivers and non-drinkers. But skipping out on the alcohol doesn’t have to mean making do with warm lemonade hastily dug out from the back of a cupboard. Read More

Banana, mango & coconut smoothie

I think it’s about time we got some healthy living up in here. I’ve loved the recent parade of cakes and pastries, but it’s hard not to feel guilty when you realise that your Instagram feed looks remarkably like a bakery’s shop window.

You may have noticed already, but I’m all about trying to pack as many of my five-a-day into one glass as possible. I’m a bit of a fussy eater – my allegiance lies with Pink Lady apples and no other – but blitzed up with honey and yoghurt, fruit doesn’t have to feel like a chore. It can even feel kind of like dessert.

In all honesty, this isn’t really a recipe, more of a flavour combination suggestion. You know when you get a mango that maybe is a lower grade than is ideal for just eating? Sometimes, when the flesh of a mango is fibrous or doesn’t quite have the right sweetness, you just need to throw it into a smoothie and be damned with any other plans.

Serves 2


1 banana, peeled and cut into chunks
150g fat-free yoghurt
1 small mango, peeled and cut into chunks
1tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tbsp honey
2tbsp cold water


Using a blender or immersion blender, combine the banana and yoghurt until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend, and serve cold.
Sprinkle crushed up speculoos/Lotus biscuits on the top to be extra fancy.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup

A few weeks ago, something I’ve  been waiting for for years finally happened, much to the delight of not only me, but a lot of the UK – the pumpkin spice latte finally showed up in our green and pleasant land.

syrup-for-web-2The autumn pumpkin phenomenon is maybe not one that sits comfortably in the UK. We don’t really do pumpkins. We don’t eat them – they show up in supermarkets for a couple of weeks a year, ready for us to carve them and fawn over them as if we’re celebrating Halloween just like true Americans. An American Guardian writer even warned us off the orange spheres of autumn.

So of course, despite my excitement, I was also a little cynical. 

It was warming. It was spicy. It was like a disco on your tongue. The next day, I wanted another one, but I know first hand that even a mild Starbucks addiction ain’t good for the old bank balance.

So instead of buying it…I made it. My inner cheapskate is leaping with joy.

Although it’s not so easy to get hold of in the UK, Libby’s canned pumpkin is available – recently, selected House of Fraser stores stocked a range of American foods. You can also order it online from a variety of sources, listed here. When you compare it to how much you’d pay for even just one grande, it seems a lot more reasonable!

Recipe slightly adapted from Cook like a Champion.

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons pumpkin purée


1) Combine water and sugar in a medium size pan, at a medium temperature, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Drop in the cinnamon sticks, and the remaining ingredients, whisk, and leave to simmer on a low heat for 5-10 minutes.

2) Take off the heat and allow to cool. When lukewarm, strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a hankerchief (clean please!). The fabric might need a little squeeze at the end to make sure all that delicious syrup comes through!

3) Store in an airtight bottle – I got this sloe gin bottle from Lakeland for £3.99 – and use about 2 tbsp in your morning latte! Enjoy.