London’s African Caribbean Fusion Spot: Deluxe Manna Review.

A restaurant that I have been dying to try is an African and Caribbean fusion specialist called Deluxe Manna in North London.

The establishment was recommended to me by a friend who lives in the area and who often posts enviable plates displaying mouth-watering platters.

Read on to see how the experience and food turned out.

My first step was to call the restaurant to see if I could get a booking and was told that I would be fine to walk in…

What a huge mistake. We arrived around 8 o clock, to an extremely busy restaurant with a range of parties from birthdays and families; to post club goers and couples.

We were told the wait would be around 40 minutes but this was around an hour and fifteen minutes in reality. Normally, I would never wait this long but I was determined to review the restaurant and perhaps it was worth the wait?

Despite the restaurant spanning across two separate rooms, the layout prevents customers from actually utilising or waiting by the bar without looking like misplaced furniture. It’s an incredible shame and waste of what could be a great bar space. I would have been happy to wait an hour if I could have sipped cocktails on a bar stool.

Following the painful wait, we ran into yet another inconvenience. A handwritten ‘cash-only payments ‘ sign. This is a pet hate of mine because I never carry large amounts of cash as a personal preference. The closest cash point was about a 5 minute walk. Not too awful but with very limited parking that felt like an adrenaline induced game, that 5 minute cash point run made my blood pressure rise and I literally had to reverse my car like a getaway driver to steal a space from someone. (Sorry sweetheart but it’s every woman for herself.)

The menu had an incredible range of choice, both in drink and food. There were several starters such as prawns, samosas and wings followed by mains that ranged from west-Indian dishes like curry goat and oxtail to classic West African dishes like jollof.

On recommendation, we ordered the Manna Platter that came with a range of meats and sides. We also had beef skewers to start and a Wray and nephews mixer to wash it all down.

I wasn’t very impressed with the beef skewers which were not flavourful enough for me at all. They were also a little on the chewy side.

Our platter came out very quickly and was a sight for eyes. The menu stated that we had a choice of three sides but we were told it actually came with all sides. This was not the case and should I visit again, I would specific exactly which sides I want.

The platter came with smoked lamb, ribs, wings, jollof rice, salad, plantain and cassava at a very frugal £26.

The jollof was the star of the show for me. It was incredibly flavourful with the right level of spice. The wings and ribs were also really tasty and well seasoned. I had never had smoked lamb prior to this visit and I wasn’t disappointed. The smoky flavour was very distinct and complimented the meat well.

The two elements that really let me down were the cassava and the plantain. The plantain was cut far too thick and was under ripe. A few slices were well done on the outside but ice cold and uncooked in the middle. The cassava didn’t make sense with the meal at all as it requires heavy sauce to be eaten. We practically left this untouched. I would have much preferred a double portion of jollof instead.

The meal also really needed to be wetter with some sort of meat based sauce.

This was definitely a weird visit for me. Despite some clear areas in need of improvement, some of the elements of the dishes were strong enough that I would possibly consider returning. This was very hit and miss. The meal came to £40 for two which included my alcoholic drink, the platter and the starters. A very decently priced meal indeed.

I would like to re-visit at a quieter time for a better experience. I would also order differently. Looking around the restaurant, it seemed like there were some clear favourites which makes me wonder if a different order would make me feel differently. I noticed everyone tried their signature pineapple cream cocktail.

That being said, uncooked food is not acceptable for any restaurant and I don’t say this lightly. I am always disappointed when I give negative reviews to black owned restaurants but I feel the honest feedback is necessary for us to excel besides my ethos of honesty for my readers.

I would love for Deluxe Manna to reconsider the layout of their restaurant and utilise the bar as a bar and not a payment till.

I would also love for them to implement a booking system to give a better customer experience as well as accurate menu descriptions and communication from waiters/waitresses.

I’m not in any rush to return to the restaurant but wouldn’t rule it out. Deluxe Manna has built up a good customer base as evidenced by their busy restaurant which was bustling well into the deep of the night. Perhaps if I’m in the area again, I’ll grab some as a takeaway option.

You can find them here: http://www.DeluxeManna.com

Delicious & Easy Pepper Steak Recipe.

Pepper steak is one of the most delicious, yet lesser known signature dishes to come out the Caribbean. West Indian cuisine tends to favour red meat in their dishes, from oxtail to curry goat.

I adore this dish because of how easy it is to make and how well it keeps for meal prep. I actually find it tastes even better the day after as the flavour truly permeates the steak. It’s also one of the quickest dishes to make which suits the working person.

I hadn’t planned to do a recipe post for this. I had only planned to do a tutorial but on my soon to be released YouTube channel (subscribe so you are the first to see my first video once it goes up!), but I was asked so many times, it was only right.

I’ll also be showing a live tutorial of this recipe with some luxurious additions at What’s New Pop Up: Food, on the 11th February which you do not want to miss. Use my code FOODDOLL10 to receive 10% off the final release tickets here:

Ingredients:

  • Steak- pre cut strips or any tender cut such as sirloin, flank etc. 900g
  • 2-3 Bell Peppers- various colours sliced
  • Scotch Bonnet- ½ chopped, de-seeded
  • Soy Sauce- 2 tablespoon
  • Olive Oil- to coat pan
  • Garlic- 1 crushed
  • Crushed black peppercorns- enough to coat
  • Pimento- 5
  • Everyday or oxtail seasoning- 1 tablespoon
  • Black pepper- ½ teaspoon
  • Thyme- 3 fresh sprigs or one teaspoon
  • Stock cube- 1 beef flavoured
  • Honey- 1 tablespoon
  • Onion- 1 small sliced thinly
  • Scallion- 1 diced

Method.

1.    First combine the sliced steak with half of the garlic, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the seasoning, black pepper, pimento and half of the thyme. Rub this in thoroughly.

2.    Place your crushed pepper corns and a little salt on some cling film and coat the slices in the dry coating and leave to marinade for at least 20 minutes.

3.    Heat some olive oil and brown your steak by rotating the pieces periodically. You’ll need to fry it on all sides to lock the flavour in.

4.    Add the remaining chopped onions, scallion, thyme and garlic, followed by the bell peppers about 1 minute after (bell peppers sprout water so will prevent the onions from caramelising properly if put in at the same time)

5.    Add the remaining soy sauce and honey, then combine thoroughly.

6.     Add about half a cup of water, the scotch bonnet, the stock cube and then cover and cook down until the sauce is thick and the meat is tender.

7.    Serve over white rice or a healthier option such as quinoa. You can also leave this to rest then portion this off into containers for meal prep.

The Food Doll.

Healthy Jamaican Protein Banana Fritters.

The smell of banana fritters being fried in the morning by my mother, is a really nostalgic moment for me.

I adore banana fritters and how easy they are to make. They can be prepared the night before and quickly cooked in the morning.

The only problem, (if there ever could be one with them) is that they can be full of sugar and heavy flour and that’s not conducive to our New Years clean eating promise, is it?

In general, I have found some difficult balancing the amazing dishes of my west-Indian culture with my current fitness goals and hope to adapt my most loved dishes without compromising flavour.

On my journey towards fitness and clean eating, the original recipe would need to remain a treat but for other days, I have experimented and developed this recipe.

Read on to see the ingredients and method.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Alpro coconut and almond milk
  • 1/2 cup Oats (gluten free or normal)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Skinny syrup 0 calorie 0 sugar vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon Sweet freedom natural fruit syrup
  • A pinch of Salt
  • 2 Over ripened bananas
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder.
  • Protein powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or all spice (optional)

Method.

1. Mash the ripened bananas in a bowl.

2. Beat the eggs and add to the bowl.

3. Add the remaining ingredients until the consistency is thick enough that it drops slowly of a spoon. (It should be much thicker than that of pancake batter and thick enough that it doesn’t spread much when placed into a pan)

4. In a non stick frying pan, spray done low calorie olive oil spray and fry on a low-medium heat. (You have to be patient with these, try not to move them until they are ready to turn and be very steady with your hand as they are less firm than a normal fritter during the cooking stage)

Enjoy these on their own, or with some chopped fruit and a spoonful of healthy cashew or peanut butter.

The Food Doll.

Caribbean Vegan Curry Recipe.

I think it’s very easy to hear the word vegan and assume that the dishes may be bland or flavourless.

In the Caribbean, we have a particular type of cuisine called Ital food. Derived from the word vitality, it focuses on natural vegan foods that are bursting with flavour.

One of my favourite vegan dishes to make is a Caribbean Vegan Curry packed with delicious vegetables such as chickpeas, potatoes and tomatoes. This is also a great dish for meal prep as it can be eaten with a range of sides. Not to mention, super easy!

I usually have this with fried plantain, white rice and naan bread. Read below for the full method and ingredient list.

Ingredient List.

  • Chickpeas (1 can)
  • Chopped tomatoes (1 can or fresh equivalent)
  • Scotch bonnet tops (or two tablespoons of scotch bonnet hot sauce)
  • Jamaican sweet pumpkin (optional)
  • One large potato
  • 1 spring onion
  • Half an onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 lime
  • Spinach (half a packet)
  • Hot curry powder or mild curry powder
  • Jamaican curry power
  • All purpose seasoning
  • Thyme
  • Black pepper
  • Soy sauce

Method.

  • Sweat your diced onion and chopped garlic in a frying pan in a tablespoon of oil on a low heat.
  • Add your cubes potatoes and fry until translucent.
  • Add your spring onion and chopped tomatoes. Turn this onto a high heat until the mixture bubbles then turn down to a low heat.
  • Add the curry powders, all purpose, black pepper, thyme, soy sauce and whole scotch bonnet. Bring this to a high heat also for a few minutes then turn down to low and remove the scotch bonnets.
  • Add your chickpeas and cook for a further 10-15 minutes on a low heat.
  • Add your spinach and squeeze half a lime through the curry.
  • Serve with rice, fried plantain and naan bread.

Let me know how you got on with this recipe by sending me pictures on twitter @thefooddoll or tagging #thefooddoll on Instagram.

The Food Doll.

Meal Prep Series- Jerk BBQ Chicken Breast and Rice Peas.

As part of my meal prep and healthy eating series, I am putting together some quick, easy and healthy recipes intended to save time and money.
I work in the city and often work 7 days in a row. It is essential for me to cook lunch in advance to save money and dinner in advance as I don’t always have the time to do this when I get home from a long day.
One of my favourite recipes, is a quick adapted version of classic Jerk chicken and rice and peas. This can altered if you prefer BBQ or sweet chilli chicken by simply changing the sauce base.


Ingredient List:

Chicken:

Chicken breast fillets

Chicken seasoning (dunns river)

Black pepper.

Jerk BBQ sauce (or BBQ or Sweet Chilli).
Rice:

1/5th Scotch bonnet pepper.

2 cups of washed basmati rice.

1/2 tin of red kidney beans with water.

1/2 diced onion.

1 spring onion.

Thyme.

1 Tablespoon of creamed coconut.

A knob of butter or low fat margarine.

Dunns river every day seasoning.

Salt.

Method.

The Chicken.

Ideally, I always try to season any meat a minimum of two hours in advance or overnight however life doesn’t always allow this. 

To get the best flavour out of a short seasoning time, I score my chicken breast diagonally about 3/4 of the way through the fillet. This allows the seasoning and sauce to penetrate the meat whilst cooking and creates wells of flavour when cooked.


I kept the seasoning simple. Using a sheet of foil; add your pepper, chicken seasoning mix, jerk BBQ marinade (or swap with BBQ or sweet chilli if you wish!) add the dry seasonings first then follow this with the sauce.
Bring the foil around the chicken breast to meet in the middle and roll it downwards to seal. Finally, fold the sides upwards to create a pocket. This will allow tender cooking of your chicken breast in the sauce and it’s own juice.

Pop this into the oven at 180 degrees to cook for about 20 minutes.

Leave the rest for a few minutes before opening the foil pocket. (beware of escaping steam). The gravy can be poured straight from the pocket onto the rice.


You can alternate the sauces to create variety. Why not try a smoky barbecue sauce, a sweet chilli base or some garlic paste mixed with lemon juice?

The Rice.

The rice and peas is much simpler than meets the eye. For a traditional dinner, I would use a different recipe with additional ingredients and steps. 

For meal prep, wash two cups of rice with lukewarm water.


Put this into a pot and fill with the 1 1/2 parts water. I used 3 cups of water to my two cups of rice.


They key is to over season the water to hold the flavour. Add all the rice ingredients to the pot except the kidney beans which will be added later.


Bring the rice to the boil on a medium to high heat. Once brought to the boil, stir once cover and turn down to the lowest heat.
After five minutes, add half of the tin of kidney beans and pour in half of the kidney bean water. 

Steam until the rice is fluffy and box into containers for lunch or dinner. 

You can freeze the containers to eat or store in the fridge for a maximum of three days.

Enjoy! 

The Food Doll.

Authentic Jamaican Curry Goat. 

Besides jerk chicken, this is hands down the most popular dish to come out of the Caribbean and for good reason. Being raised in Jamaica has blessed me with some of my country’s most delicious dishes as taught to me by the women of my family.


I decided to share one of my most precious dishes: Curry Goat/Curry Mutton as I know this dish can be tricky for some. Especially because Caribbean cooking rarely use measurements, instead relying on our eye and experience. Nevertheless, here is my recipe for succulent flavourful Jamaican Curry Goat.

Ingredients: 3-4lbs of goat or mutton meat cubes. salt 1.5 teaspoon, pepper 1.5 teaspoon, curry powder 6 teaspoons, pimento seeds (15), thyme (2 teaspoons), scotch bonnet (1, chopped), butter (1 tablespoon), onion (1, chopped), scallions (two sprigs, chopped) water (to cover), carrots (1-2 diced) and potatoes (1-2 diced).
Step one: mix together all the ingredients except the carrots, potatoes and butter. Leave to season overnight or at least 2 hours in the fridge.


Step Two: Add the butter in a Dutch pot or deep pot. Brown your meat on a high heat for a few minutes to seal the juices in by turning periodically.

Step three: Add enough water cover your meat and bring it to the boil.

Step four: Turn the heat down to very low and slow cook for about 2-3 hours. At 45 minutes before end of cooking, add potatoes & carrots. 

Step five: Boil some white rice or rice and peas, fry some plantain and serve with coleslaw.

Tip: The longer this dish sits before serving is generally the better it tastes. I often cook this in the morning or afternoon, then reheat it on the stove whilst preparing the rice. By this time, the meat has truly soaked up the flavour of the sauce and becomes uniquely tasty.

Enjoy!

The Food Doll ❤