I tasted the world’s most expensive kebab

It’s a miserable evening as I make my way through Canary Wharf’s docks in London, but the weather ain’t dampening this spirit – no sir.

As like Rocky before his final fight, I know this is going to be a defining moment and I’ve been salivating all afternoon in preparation…just like Rocky.
I’m heading down to Hazev’s a neighbourhood Turkish restaurant where I’m about to taste The Royal, the world’s most expensive kebab.

I’m greeted by Onder Sahan, owner, head chef and inspired kebab genius who has spent a total of £3,000 sourcing and assembling tonight’s feast for me, which priced at £925 he actually makes a loss on.

I’m also introduced to Hazev’s food scientist, Kalender Guvenc, (that is his legitimate title FYI) who tells me: “This is not the thing that you are eating after getting drunk and in the middle of the night filling your stomach with meaty stuff.

“We wanted to give the kebab the name it deserves by using the finest ingredients.”

Onder’s the kind of guy that wants to push the boundaries of tastiness as far as possible.

A friend introduced him to Japanese cuisine and he loved it, so he decided to use grade-9 listed Japanese Wagyu beef to make The Royal.

Italian food is his favourite so he thought it would be a cool idea to use some 25-year-old Modena balsamic vinegar in there, at £1.85-a-drop.

He’s a fan of mushrooms too, so he sources hand-picked French Morels to cook me up tonight’s meaty feast.

The dish is clearly pure extravagance but he knows that, and he wants people to understand that the kebab is something to be celebrated.

I watch him at work in the kitchen and there’s no denying the passion, craftsmanship, meat and dedication that goes into The Royal (read: mainly so much meat).

First he makes the most delicious parcel you’ve ever seen out of greaseproof paper, which he fills with lamb and goat, morel mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes and smoked garlic, and tosses on the open charcoal grill.

Then, he shapes the minced Wagyu beef, mixed with herbs and spices, around three long kebab swords and places them on the grill to sizzle.

I have to make a mental note not to impale myself on the swords because I do not trust myself in this scenario.

Luckily for me, Onder slides the kebabs off them as he plates up.
And you know what? It’s delicious.

As I sit in a profound food coma, Kalender tells me: “Of course we don’t think that people will come and buy this £925 kebab but people should know that this is a luxury food, instead of a five quid ‘refuel’.”

And I can kind of see the point the Hazev team are trying to make.

That night, my dreams were meat-filled.

I had the kind of disturbed sleep usually reserved for Christmas night, after consuming a dangerous amount of animal fat.

But what did I learn?

Well, that my taste for kebabs has suddenly got super fancy.

I also know that I probably haven’t eaten my last doner, but next time I do, I know I’ll be thinking of The Royal.

Countless human rights violations show why we should boycott Dubai

The Great British Summer is upon us and escaping the wash out is looking more and more appealing.

With London’s sky-rocketing house prices, stagnating wages and never-ending university debt, it’s no wonder generation-rent are looking for more than just a holiday.

The prospect of booming economies and faraway adventure have seen countless of my friends up sticks and head to sunnier climes.

Australia’s budding tech scene is quietly seducing Europe’s digital talent, with big budgets and a developing e-commerce market that has room for growth.

What’s more, if you are to believe the media hype, a deluge of Britain’s junior doctors are flocking to its shores to regain that work-life balance lacking under the NHS.

To the East, Singapore and Hong Kong have long tempted bright city talent as global financial hubs offering big payouts in more exotic climes.

And then there’s Dubai.

A jewel in the crown of the Arabian Gulf perhaps, but that’s not hard when you’re competing with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Don’t be fooled by its outwardly cosmopolitan image, the Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf it ain’t.

Pre-2008 recession, there were 120,000 Brits living in the UAE.

By 2012, there were 240,000, the largest western community in the country cashing in on the oil-rich economy and favourable exchange rates.

With less and less red-tape, businesses are increasingly capitalising on its connectivity and infrastructure, with job opportunities for expats on the rise.

But Dubai’s appalling human rights track record is notorious, and visitors who fall short of its hardline laws pay the price.

Dubai’s tourism industry has worked hard to position itself as the playground of the middle-east, but in reality it is no such thing.

Some of the most extreme forms of self-censorship are practised in the region, with reporters practising ‘polite’ journalism under the government’s restriction of press freedoms.

International press was up in arms over Saudi blogger Raif Badawi‘s flogging and subsequent imprisonment for ‘insulting Islam’ last year, but the same thing is happening as we speak in UAE.

According to Human Rights Watch, Emirati academic, Nasser bin Ghaith and UAE-based Jordanian journalist, Tayseer al-Najjar, are currently being detained without charge for comments made on social media criticising Egypt.

Women’s basic human rights are repeatedly criminalised as seen in the case of Marte Deborah Dalelv, the Norwegian woman imprisoned for 16 months after reporting a rape incident to police.

Homosexuality is not only taboo in Dubai – it’s still outlawed.

But legal jeopardy facing rape victims and LGBT citizens is a drop in the vast ocean that is Dubai’s dubious human rights record.

UAE’s new plans to position itself as a global manufacturing hub will do little to force them into improving conditions for their migrant workers who underpin Dubai’s ‘luxury’ economy.

So when will we start boycotting Dubai?

Activists have been calling for change for years yet human rights violations continue and visitors continue to arrive.

Holiday-makers and expats alike have a social responsibility to use their economic leverage to force change in the region.

It might offer tempting opportunities for work or play with sun, sea and sand but those in search of international adventure should look elsewhere.

Next time that job opportunity in Dubai pops up on Linkedin, think again.

Until Dubai cleans up its act, we should all think carefully about whether its tax-free shopping and glitzy skyscrapers are worth the trip.


20 things you’ll know if you survived the NCTJ

1. You quickly realised that good writing was going to be the least of your worries…
2.…And that everything you thought you knew about journalism was just wrong.
3. You’ll never use handwriting again thanks to an indoctrination in the teeline method.
4. …And if you want to read a book in your downtime, it’s an impossible task now that all you see are outlines.
5. You know what a slow news day looks like…
6. And you know how to FOI the shit out of public services…
7. …Which one in 100 times, scores a sweet lead.
8. You find ‘tight writing’ more gratifying than you should.
9. And hold pure disdain for introductions over 25 words.
10.You have a newfound respect for sub-editors because headlines are really hard.
11. But The Fear instilled in reporting lessons makes you check name spellings one thousand times.
12. You are shit hot at media law but still quite scared about defaming someone…
13. …Or being found in contempt of court in your first job.
14. But you know you’ll be revisiting those PA and EML textbooks before long…
15. …Because those NQJ exams will be just around the corner!
16. You know the rush of breaking news…
17. …And the glory of your first bylines.
18. You know that voxpops are your friends.
19. And even though it’s hard, it’s worth it…
20. …Because being a journalist’s the best gig in town.

See the accompanying gifs in all their glory here.

My experience of the menopause at 25

The menopause: the time of your life, said no-one ever.

I hadn’t planned on giving the menopause any thought until my 50s. But last month I was forced to, as into it I plunged, head-first, aged 25.

For a long time, I’ve suffered with endometriosis. It’s not life-threatening, for which I am grateful, but it’s no walk in the park either – Endometriosis is recognised as a major cause of infertility worldwide.

I was diagnosed in January 2015 after years of painful symptoms. Surgery swiftly followed to remove cysts and adhesions and I was told I had stage 4, the most advanced.

I was so grateful that it wasn’t all in my head that the diagnosis almost came as a relief. After more visits than I could count to the GP, finally someone recognised that the pain I was feeling was not normal.

I’ve come to understand this is a typical scenario for endometriosis sufferers. Women can expect to wait seven years on average before receiving a diagnosis.

The mild existential crises that followed the surgery I saw as somewhat inevitable. My fertility was being called into question – at 25 – when I really didn’t want to be thinking about babies. If that’s not worth an existential crisis, then I truly don’t know what is.

Within months, I was in for a second surgery and this time, more extreme treatment intervention was recommended. To keep the endometriosis at bay for as long as possible, my doctor induced the menopause.

I had the first of my monthly injections the day of the surgery. Within a week I was suffering from insomnia, for the most part caused by the hot flushes that feel like you’re being incinerated from the inside out.

The treatment coincided with me going back to university, so I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my classmates probably think of me as the girl with permanent upper lip sweat. Eurgh…

The mood swings feel like I’m losing my marbles. Disproportionate rage about stupid things will wash over me for a while, then leave as quickly as it’s come. Anxiety creeps up on you and tells you every ailment you have is cancer, and on top of that, vacillating between depressive and hyper-active is draining.

The experience has really opened my eyes to the realities of going through the menopause. So few people know what it’s truly like, apart from the women who have faced it.

Unlike me, those women will largely do so under the radar. You probably won’t notice a thing, but it’s given me a heightened appreciation for my mum, my aunties, my grandma and for all the women in my life.

It’s a massive change and it comes at an age where many women will be at the heights of their career with children still at home. To those women, you have my eternal admiration.

I think we all need to find a little compassion for those who are winging it. Those that aren’t necessarily talking about it but are going through what is a really weird time, navigating through a major reboot of their bodies and minds while still keeping their shit together.

Soon, this surreal experience will be over for me, but I won’t be quick to forget the menopause. More importantly, I’ll never forget the resilience women need to transverse The Change.

Rhubarb and Apple Compote

Rhubarb is one of my favourite fruits (it’s actually a vegetable) and lends its tartness extremely well to sweet, creamy accompaniments. This Rhubarb and Apple Compote is delicious with vanilla yoghurt and granola for breakfast, dolloped on porridge with a drizzle of honey, or gently heated and served with rich custard and a shortbread biscuit. This is a quick and simple recipe that lets the quality of the ingredients shine. It also uses honey instead of refined sugar. The key to preserving the bejewelled colour of the rhubarb is not to overcook it. This recipe can be adapted really easily. Throw in a vanilla pod for a more aromatic taste, or star anise and cinnamon for a more warming, wintery flavour. Orange and lemon zest also work well.

The below recipe fills a 750ml kilner jar and should keep well in the fridge for 2 weeks.


2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks

1/2 lemon squeezed over the apples once cut to preserve their colour

4 stems of rhubarb, washed and cut into 4cm chunks

250ml apple juice

3 tablespoons of honey (I used set honey but you can also use other varieties, just taste for sweetness)

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Simply combine all ingredients in a saucepan on a low/medium heat. Cover with a lid and simmer until the apples are soft and have started to break down, around 15 minutes. Be careful not to cook so long so that the rhubarb breaks down completely, you want to be able to identify the apple pieces from the silky ribbons of pink rhubarb. Allow to cool and then pour into an air-tight receptacle of your choosing. I find Kilner jars really practical for this use but make sure to sterilise them with boiling water or in the oven beforehand.

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Willkommenskultur after Cologne

On 31st December, gangs of men gathered in Cologne with the premeditated intention of sexually assaulting and stealing from women.

The news was hard to swallow. As many as 1,000 men were said to be involved, with upwards of 90 complaints deposed by female victims, and eye-witness accounts claiming the majority were of Arab or North-African origin.

The horror of the scene is hard to imagine. Especially for Germans who have been praised and criticised in equal measure for their Willkommenskultur.

This summer, Europe suffered its biggest migrant crisis in history, and Germany responded by opening its doors, with more than 1.1 million claiming asylum in the country in 2015 alone.

The German response was heavily praised by the European left as an example of progressive, humanitarian politics and as one of few to offer a compassionate solution to the crisis.

In the UK, there was appetite to increase the number of Syrians given refuge, with Amnesty International leading a high-profile #OpentoSyria campaign that gained much public traction but did little to change opinion in Whitehall.

Following the attacks, German mood shifted and the far right were quick to stoke the flames. On Monday, a rally held by the Xenophobic Pegida movement turned violent. Protesters hit back at Merkel for her ‘open-door’ policy, holding signs proclaiming ‘Rapefugees not welcome’ and shouting ‘Merkel out’. Cars were burned, buildings were vandalised and 211 arrests were made. And tensions are only escalating.

In response to the growing anti-migrant sentiment, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor has announced tougher punishments for those seeking asylum convicted of serious crimes, including deportation. And it’s not just Merkel’s own party the CDU who are pushing for tougher measures in response to the assaults.

Linke, the traditionally leftist party are also behind the measures which will require parliamentary approval before they are passed.

Politicians must now strike a finite balance between appeasing the growing anti-migrant and increasingly anti-Islam sentiment, whilst finding tangible solutions to ensure that an episode of this scale will never happen again.

Merkel is right to firm up internal policy but she must be careful not to victimise or discriminate against the 99.9% of refugees who had no part in the events.

The crisis meant that millions arrived in Germany before appropriate home affairs measures were put in place, so now is the time to review.

As Sahra Wagenknecht, the Linke co-leader, said this week, “Those who abuse the right of hospitality, lose the right to hospitality.”. Whilst the message is uncharacteristically conservative, she’s right. Germany should not rush to abandon their Willkommenskultur, instead they should ensure that correct legislation is there to protect them in the case of a small percentage of opportunists slipping through the cracks.

A group of Pakistani and Syrian refugees wrote to the Chancellor this week. They said, “We strive to uphold the dignity and honour of women…we respect the laws of our host country without question. We are happy to have been given protection in Germany”. Their views doubtless echo hundreds of thousands of other asylum seekers who have escaped unthinkable oppression and violence in their countries of origin.

The last notable influx of refugees to Germany was in the 90s, and they were, as a whole, left to their own devices. German immigration policy must evolve as a result of previous failings.

Germans will have to adapt to this New Society and Merkel’s tougher stance will be imperative for them to do so.

Harissa beetroot houmous

This houmous is vibrant, fresh and versatile enough to be used as a side dish with middle-Eastern flavours or as a traditional dip with carrots. I like to be heavy handed with the harissa but this recipe can be adapted to suit your tastes. Likewise for the beetroot. It adds an earthy sweetness to the flavour but can be omitted entirely or substituted for cooked carrot if you prefer.

Serves 4

2 raw golden or red beetroots (you can also use the vac-packed variety, I just had uncooked beetroot to hand)

1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

small bunch of coriander

3 teaspoons harissa paste (you can buy this in most supermarkets and delis, Waitrose also have a rose variety which could be interesting to try).

1 garlic clove

juice of half a lemon


olive oil

First, wash and trim the beetroot stalks and then boil until tender (roughly 30 mins). Rinse under cold water and once cool, remove their skin. Roughly cube the beetroot and add to your food processor. I use a Kenwood food processor but any blender/smoothie maker should do the job.

Throw in the chickpeas, coriander, harissa, garlic and lemon juice and blitz. The mixture will quickly become stiff so here’s when you need to start adding the oil. On a slow setting, gradually introduce the oil to the mix. You should be able to identify when your houmous gets to the right consistency as the blender will be turning more easily. If you like a chunkier houmous, blend for less time and vice versa, if you like your houmous to be silky smooth, make sure the mixture is well blended.


This recipe isn’t for the oil-shy. If you want to cut the oil content down you can absolutely make a low-fat version using natural yoghurt and water. Again, quantities will depend on the texture that you’d like to achieve. Mix the yoghurt with a small amount of water and start to add to the mix as it churns. You’ll be able to identify when you’ve added enough by the texture. You can also add a little oil for richness if you’d like.

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I like to finish this recipe with some freshly chopped coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt flakes. Then simply toast some pitta, prepare some carrots sticks and devour.