International restaurant culture

Japanese joy on a plateNothing gets a food lover’s mouth watering quicker than the prospect of an international restaurant tour. Let’s take a virtual trip around some places where food is served up in different ways. Every corner of the world has its own take on how food should taste, be prepared and served and whether it’s the formal traditions of French cuisine, or the casual grab-it-while-you-can street food of the East, everybody sees it differently. A country’s cuisine is an expression of its cultural heritage and crucial part of their identity – so let’s see who is on today’s menu.

Japanese joy on a plate

The country that introduced the world to sushi has a rich restaurant culture. In cities such as Tokyo, you can grab plated food from conveyor belts that circulate the restaurant, choosing whatever looks tasty as it passes by. Alternatively, sample grand Japanese cuisine, prepared and served with high drama by chefs that really become stars of the show. Japanese cuisine is centred on rice, with fermented foods such as miso, natto, soy and plenty of fish. An emphasis on tradition and ritual is important and dining is viewed as a social and communicative event. Interiors in Japanese restaurants are usually dimly lit with low tables and seating positioned for optimum interaction. Rice paper screens, lacquered surfaces, wood, and natural materials are commonly used in Japanese restaurant design.

Italian idyll

Justly proud of their culinary heritage, the Italians take immense pleasure in what’s on their plate. Pizza, pasta, ice cream and many other mouthwatering creations originate from Italy, making it a popular destination for foodies. The Mediterranean diet is globally famous for its flavour and health-giving properties, and traditionally meal times are celebratory and family oriented. At weekends, dining tables in trattorias and bistros are packed with hungry diners enjoying the traditional look of gingham tablecloths, bread baskets, jugs of olive oil and blocks of Parmesan – to share and enjoy a feast just like Mama used to make…

Moroccan magic

Dining in a Moroccan restaurant is all about comfort and relaxation. The furnishings will be richly coloured and luxurious. Cushioned benches, tapestry covered walls, ornate wooden carved screens and exquisite jewelled tiles and brass lamps give interiors a welcoming and hospitable edge. Traditional Riad courtyard buildings make popular and atmospheric restaurant settings. Order spicy tagines, couscous, seafood and sweet Moroccan pastries washed down with mint tea.

Thai taste sensation

In Thai taste hotspots such as Bangkok, the choice of food on the streets is vast. Vendors sell exotic meals cooked to order right in front of you, either from a stall, converted tuk-tuk or window onto the street. Choose from noodles, sate, omelettes, bean curd, meat balls and much more, all boasting that bold blend of sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavours for which Thai food is famous. For dining at a more relaxed pace in comfortable surroundings, there are many traditional Thai restaurants. Generally, interiors feature lots of dark wood, bamboo, colonial styling, spiritual iconography and carved and gilded screens that evoke a real sense of opulence and calm.

Great food requires a complimentary setting and whether you choose to dine out on sushi, pizza, tagine or noodles, make sure the surroundings match up to the mouthwatering menu.



How to Build a Better Hamper

People love food gifts. We all know that the ultimate food gift is a hamper. I always remember my mum opening Christmas hampers as a child and watching her face as she delved into them to see what treasures they held. Build a hamper for someone and you are giving them moments of joy when they open it up. Here are some tips to help you make that perfect hamper.

What Are You Putting it in?

There are all sorts of hampers. You can be as basic or as special as you like, it doesn’t matter. The person you are giving it to will still love you for it. Before you can even start thinking about what to put in it you will need to decide what you are going to use to contain your goodies. Is it a themed hamper? How big is it going to be? Is it going to contain just one type of food? Think about what you need to fit into the container.   For inspiration, look at places like Maille Cooking Gifts. Understand the size and weight of the contents and you will know how sturdy the container needs to be. Lots of people think of wicker baskets and rattan containers when they think of hampers but it doesn’t have to be. Cardboard boxes wrapped in pretty paper or material works just as well.


Think About the Contents:

You can spend a lot of time building hampers. There are so many variations that you can come up with its awesome! Think about the person that you are making it for. Do they have something that they have a special weakness for? Cater to that and make them feel special. They will remember you fondly for it. Always try and find out if someone has an allergy that you should be aware of before you go putting a hamper together. You can theme hampers and make them interesting. There are so many options, Italian, Mexican, sweet-tooth mixes, fruit hampers, and Christmas hampers. Think about what would make the recipient happy.

Add a Bit of Flair:

You do not need to be amazingly artistic or creative to make a hamper look amazing. You will find that it is the little touches which make all of the difference. Get something like coloured cellophane. It is easy to use and when tied with a ribbon looks amazing. It also means that the person you are giving it to gets teased by all of the goodness inside. If you want it to look really professional you can even use your hair-dryer to shrink wrap it. The tighter you get the wrapping the more firmly the contents will be held inside.

The nice thing about making hampers is that you can experiment. There is no right or wrong way of doing it and all of your efforts are sure to produce a winner.


Image courtesy of phasinphoto/

Exciting Ways of Cooking with Eggs

eggsUnless you happen to be allergic to them, eggs should be a staple part of your diet. Even if you don’t like eating them for the sake of eating eggs, the chances are that every day you will eat something that contains egg or one of the parts of an egg. Eggs are an essential ingredient in many recipes, both sweet and savoury. As well as forming part of some delicious foods, they are also extremely good for you.

Cooking with Eggs

Eggs are one of the most versatile foods you will find. As well as the fact that they can be eaten as a food in their own right, they can also be used as a key ingredient in some great recipes. If you prefer to keep it simple, then try your eggs boiled with toast soldiers or scrambled on an English muffin with some smoked salmon if you are feeling indulgent. Another great thing to do with eggs is to make an omelette. This can be made with whole eggs or just the whites if you are trying to be very healthy. Fillings could include ham, mushrooms, cheese and tomato. Alternatively, a frittata is similar to an omelette but also includes potatoes for a more filling option.

Eggs are a key ingredient in many sweet dishes, from simple desserts such as cakes and muffins to more complex ones such as meringues. Desserts such as Pavlova, which uses meringues, and soufflés require the white of the egg to be separated from the yolk, while savoury sauces such as hollandaise and mayonnaise, as well as dessert accompaniments such as ice cream and custard, need you to use the yolk rather than the white.

Although it is now possible to buy eggs from a huge variety of birds, including ducks, geese and quails, the most commonly used eggs in cooking are still the ones from hens. As we become more conscious about how and where our food comes from, it is possible to buy eggs that have come from free-range hens, hens kept in barns and ones that have been reared in an organic way. If you are cooking something that only requires you to use the white of the egg, then rather than buying whole eggs it is now possible to buy liquid egg whites such as those available from

Eggs Are Good for You

Eggs contain all of the essential amino acids that are required for a healthy balanced diet and the BBC confirms that they provide a great source of protein. Although egg yolk is traditionally seen as less healthy, it does still contain some vitamins. The egg white, however, contains more vitamins and minerals as well as having less fat and cholesterol. Egg whites as part of exercise and diet disciplines are a very useful foodstuff.

Hopefully, this has inspired you to get in the kitchen and start cooking, whether you are making something as simple as cakes or more complex dishes such as soufflés and meringues. Eggs should be an integral part of any healthy diet and lifestyle.

Image attributed to / antpkr


Furniture to Enhance the Dining Experience

Furniture is a key element of any restaurant’s decor. While providing good food, polite service, and a welcoming atmosphere are all essential to any establishment’s success, the furniture plays a significant role in the overall dining experience.

Each restaurant has its own style: one place may favour chic modern pieces, while another may prefer a more rustic choice. When choosing the furniture, it needs to be the perfect fit for the restaurant’s overall décor and character: as long as it’s comfortable, clean and well-arranged, customers are much more likely to enjoy their experience with you.

Take a look at our selection of amazing restaurant furniture below:



The furniture here is a combination of style and sophistication, with wooden seats, couches and a luxurious corner table complementing the warm, ambient tones created by the lighting. For the diner, this creates a relaxed and comfortable environment in which to enjoy their meal.



This establishment provides a cosy, intimate dining experience, with simple tables and chairs ideal for the space. The wooden tables and chairs blend with the subtle tones created by the wall-lighting and the enclosed dining area.



Unlike the previous two restaurants, this features a brighter, more colourful aesthetic, favouring bold reds. Thanks to the deceptively simple design, diners will be comfortable in a relaxed, modern environment.



This restaurant features a modern, sleek aesthetic which makes the most of the space available. The use of transparent surfaces and bold colours creates a bright, vibrant tone, perfect for diners to relax in. While the tables and chairs complement each other (with their reflective surfaces and soft curves), the couches are more unusual, but each piece combines beautifully overall.



The furniture in this restaurant is simple but stylish, featuring a basic wooden design which complements the earthy browns and greys in the décor. Again, this is part of an intimate environment, allowing diners to sit comfortably whilst they eat, maximising the space available. Whilst this might not be ideal for every establishment, this restaurant has picked the right furniture for their style.

Sakina Murdock writes regularly about interior style and fashionable additions for home and business, and contributes to a variety of websites including




Recipe – Broccoli and Cauliflower Mac’N’Cheese

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Serves: 4 to 6 people

Broccoli and cauliflower mac’n’cheese is considered as a winter-warming comfort food. It is a great side dish, but is also equally good by itself.



Macaroni – 250 grams

Cauliflower split into florets – 1

Broccoli split into florets – 1

Cold milk – 700 milliliters

Butter – 50 grams (keep some extra quantity for greasing purposes)

Plain flour – 50 grams

Wholegrain mustard – 1 teaspoon

A pinch of nutmeg

Grated cheddar cheese – 200 grams


Fill a cooking pot that is large enough to contain the cooked pasta, cauliflower, broccoli with water and bring it to boil on a stove at high heat. Add macaroni and continue cooking for 12 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets into the pot 5 minutes prior to the pasta getting completely cooked. Add the cauliflower florets two minutes later. Cook for about 3 more minutes and then drain the water. Keep the pot aside.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/180 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 6. Grease an ovenproof baking dish of size 25 cm (L) × 25 cm (W) × 5 cm (D). Pour the milk into a saucepan and keep it on the stove at medium heat. Whisk after adding flour and butter until the mixture attains a steady simmer. Continue to cook till the sauce becomes thick.

Now, add three-quarters of the cheese, a pinch of nutmeg and the wholegrain mustard. Season using ground black pepper and salt. Mix thoroughly until the cheese melts. The cheese sauce can now be poured over the macaroni, broccoli and cauliflower. Mix thoroughly.

Transfer the contents from the pot on to the baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese that is left and keep it in the oven for about 25 minutes or till the top turns to golden color and the sauce bubbles up the sides. The baking dish can now be removed from the oven and allowed to cool down a little before serving.

Recipe – Chicken Curry

Here is a recipe for an easy-to-make chicken curry that is flavored with cardamom, mace, turmeric and coriander seeds. It is one of the ways in which you can use up the leftover chicken roast. Preparation and cooking times are 20 minutes and 40 minutes, respectively. It serves four people.



Mace – 3 blades

Green cardamom – 9

Black cardamom – 6

Coriander seeds – 1 teaspoon

Vegetable oil – 4 tablespoons

2 onions finely sliced

Bay leaves – 3

Cloves – 10

Chilli powder – half a teaspoon

Ground turmeric – half a teaspoon

4 Finely chopped galic cloves

3 cm fresh ginger piece grated

Chopped canned tomatoes – 800 grams

Double cream – 50 milliliters

Cooked chicken cut into bite-sized pieces – 500 grams

Coriander leaves freshly chopped – One handful


Toast the mace, coriander seeds and cardamom pods gently in a large frying pan over medium to low heat for about one minute so to get their flavors and aromas released. Transfer the spices into a mortar and using the pestle pound to break them.

Pour the oil into the frying pan and keep the stove at medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they become soft but not brown. Now add the bay leaves, toasted spices, cloves, turmeric, chilli powder, garlic as well as ginger and cook for 5 minutes. Stir only occasionally.

Add the canned tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium to low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove the frying pan from the stove and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan into a food processor. Whiz until it becomes smooth.

Put the sauce on to the frying pan and add the cream and the chicken pieces. Bring the mix to a gentle simmer and maintain the heat for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top of the curry and serve with naan bread or basmati rice.

Recipe – Chicken Tikka Masala

This tasty Indian dish is a favorite among diners as it uses cream and garlic in plenty.

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4 to 6 people



Chicken Tikka

Boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs) cut into pieces of size 2.5 cm – 675 grams

Lemon juice – 3 tablespoons

Peeled and grated ginger root – 1 tablespoon

Cloves of garlic crushed or finely grated – 2

Ground cumin – 1 teaspoon

Paprika – 1 teaspoon

Chilli powder – Three-fourth of a teaspoon

Whipping cream – 6 tablespoons

Garam masala – half of a teaspoon

Sunflower oil – 3 tablespoons

For Masala

Sunflower oil – 4 tablespoons

Finely sliced onions – 140 grams

Peeled, finely grated root ginger – 1 tablespoon

Crushed garlic cloves – 5 to 6

Ground coriander – 1 tablespoon

Turmeric – half a teaspoon

Chilli powder – Three-fourth of a teaspoon

Paprika – 2 teaspoon

Yogurt – 4 tablespoons

Peeled and finely chopped medium sized tomatoes – 2

Chicken stock – 350 milliliters

Garam masala – Quarter teaspoon

Coriander leaves – 4 tablespoons


In a bowl, take the chicken pieces and rub them with the lemon juice and one-and-a-quarter teaspoon of salt. Poke pieces of chicken lightly with the knife tip and again rub in the seasoning. Allow it to marinate for about 20 minutes.

Add ginger, garlic, paprika, cumin, chilli powder, garam masala and whipping cream. Mix the ingredients well and refrigerate for about 6 to 8 hours in a closed vessel. You can leave it in the refrigerator for a longer period also.

To prepare the masala, pour the sunflower oil on to a large, non-stick pan with lid. Put the pan on the stove, setting a medium to high heat. Add onions when the oil becomes hot and stir till they become brown in color. This takes about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and continue frying for a minute.

Now add turmeric, coriander, paprika and chilli powder and stir for 10 seconds. Add one tablespoon of yogurt and continue stirring till it gets absorbed. Pour the remaining yogurt, one tablespoon at a time.

Fry the tomatoes form about 3 to 4 minutes or till they become pulpy. Add a quarter teaspoon of salt and the stock and bring it to a simmer. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes at low heat till the sauce turns thick.

Add coriander leaves, garam masala and salt to taste. Preheat the grill at its highest setting. Thread the chicken pieces onto 2 to 4 skewers (preferably, flat ones that look like swords). Apply 3 tablespoons of oil and place the skewers on a shallow baking tray in such as way that the chicken pieces do not have any contact with the tray. Place the tray at a distance of about 13 cm from the heat source. Grill each side for about 6 minutes.

Once the chicken skewers get cooked, heat the sauce once again and fold in the chicken. Immediately serve the dish.

Recipe – Chocolate Cupcakes

You can make these delicious chocolate cupcakes in about an hour. It takes about 20 minutes to prepare, 25 minutes to cook and 15 minutes to cool them before serving. You get about 12 chocolate cupcakes with the quantities of ingredients mentioned in this recipe. The impressive chocolate cupcakes are simple to make and everyone in the family will definitely enjoy them.



Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon

Milk – 220 milliliters

Plain flour – 220 grams

Cocoa powder – 60 grams

Bicarbonate of soda – 1 teaspoon

Butter – 110 grams at room temperature

Caster sugar – 250 grams

Instant coffee – 1 teaspoon dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot water

Eggs – 2 large

Dark chocolate chips – 120 grams

For the Icing

Dark chocolate – 260 grams

Salt – 1 teaspoon

Caster sugar – 3 tablespoon

Soured cream – 300 milliliters

For decoration – Chocolate curls or cigarillos


Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius or 160 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 4. On a 12-hole cupcake tin, place paper cupcake holders. Preferably, use gold cases as they help to create an impressive appearance.


Mix lemon juice and milk and keep it aside. Then sift the cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and flour together and mix them in a large bowl. In another bowl, whip butter with half the quantity of sugar till it becomes light and fluffy.

Beat eggs and dissolved coffee together and add the mixture along with the remaining sugar into the batter. At a time take one-third of the flour mixture and one-third of soured milk and beat them together, alternating the flour mixture and soured milk so as to get an evenly mixed cake batter.

Transfer the cake batter into the paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes till they become firm and springy when touched. Make sure that the skewer remains clean when inserted at the center of the cupcake. Leave the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool down.

For making the icing, take a heatproof bowl and melt the chocolate over a pan containing simmering water. After it melts, whisk it with salt, soured cream and sugar. Once the mixture thickens up to icing consistency, allow it to cool for 15 minutes. You can now decorate each cupcake with the icing and a single chocolate shard.

Recipe – Chocolate Mousse Cake

All you need to prepare this delicious chocolate mousse cake are dark chocolate, butter, eggs, and a little bit of sugar.  The preparation time required is just 15 minutes and the cooking time is approximately 30 minutes. With the quantities mentioned in this recipe, it will be sufficient to serve as many as 8 people.

chocolate mousse cake

Chocolate Mousse Cake – Ingredients

Dark Chocolate: 300 grams; either broken into pieces or alternatively you can use dark chocolate drops

Butter: a healthy portion of 150 grams

Eggs: 5

Caster Sugar: 50 grams

Cocoa Powder: for dusting

Chocolate Mousse Cake – Preparation

The first step in preparing the chocolate mousse cake is preheating the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/160 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 4. Then line a spring-from or loose-bottomed cake tin’s base (approximately 20 centimeters diameter) with a baking parchment disc and grease its sides using butter.

Now, melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl that by keeping it in a saucepan containing simmering water. After the butter and chocolate melt, take them away from the heat and leave them aside.

The next step is to mix the sugar and eggs together in a separate bowl by making use of either an electric mixer or a handheld electric beater. You need to whisk the mixture for at least 7 to 10 minutes or till the mixture forms a pale, light mousse.

Now, fold the chocolate and butter mixture into the eggs and sugar mixture till they are thoroughly mixed.  Then pour the mixture into the greased tin. Bake the mixture for about 20 to 22 minutes or till the cake becomes almost set.

Allow the chocolate Mousse Cake to cool down completely inside the tin itself. After the cake has cooled down completely, remove it, dust it with cocoa powder, slice it into pieces and serve.