Food: My Kitchen Goals for 2018

As a food blogger I’m pretty much always in the kitchen or reading cookbooks. Thinking up new flavour combinations, easier ways to make classic dishes. Or I’ll be reading some of my favourite blogs, putting even more restaurants on my list… either way, food is a massive part of my life and there’s still so much more I have to try. Here’s just a few of the things I want to tick off in 2018!

Embarrassingly, some of these I’ve probably mentioned as goals before on this blog. However, as it’s a New Year, let’s wipe the slate clean and start again!

  • Improve my cake decorating skills. I shamefully tend to get W to ice any cakes that need it (case in point: my birthday cake last month). I’d love to be at the stage where I feel comfortable with a piping bag, although I’m not sure how likely it is that I’ll achieve such a goal this year!
  • Make our our pasta more often. It tastes SO much better than shop-bought.
  • Eat amazing food on our honeymoon. I don’t actually know where we’ll be flying off to, as W has booked the whole thing as a surprise, however I am pretty damn sure that there will be yummy food involved! Stay tuned in October and you’ll find out!
  • Make a “proper” pie from scratch. We quite often have a pie during the week, but the filling will be a quite casserole of leftovers, with a sheet of puff pastry baked on top. I’d love to make a pie from scratch, with pastry all the way round the perfect filling.
  • Learn more about Chinese and Asian cooking. In particular I’d love to give dumplings a go!
  • Tick off one or two more Michelin Starred restaurants. I managed to visit Pollen Street Social and Galvin La Chapelle in 2017, so I’d love to try a few more this year. Where would you recommend?
  • Make sure I eat a vegetarian dinner at least once a week. We’d like to make our meat purchasing more ethical, but to do that we need to eat less of it purely from a cost perspective!
  • Find a decent fruit and veg delivery system. Do you get a weekly food box? We’ve tried a couple and haven’t been overly impressed so would really appreciate some recommendations!
  • Actually manage to make and keep a sourdough starter alive. It’s alluded us several times in the past…

What do you want to achieve in the kitchen this year?

Recipe: Red Onion & Goat’s Cheese Quiche

Quiche was always something that intimidated me. It just seemed so complicated – baking pastry, prepping a filling, making a basic egg custard mix. A lot of work and, in all honest, I’d never enjoyed the shop-bought ones I’d tried so why bother?

Well, it would seem I’ve been missing out all this time!

When we decided a bit foolishly to cater most of our engagement party way back in Summer’16 we made two quiches (on the morning of the party). One was a Quiche Lorraine which was absolutely delicious and something I really need to make again ASAP. The other was this one. This is what started my love affair with goat’s cheese off, and what a way to begin an infatuation.

Crisp, buttery pastry (I’ll be posting a recipe soon, but you’ll be pleased to know it works just as well with ready-made, ready-rolled stuff – because sometimes life is just too short). Sweet red onions, caramelised with just a little bit of a bite. Punchy goat’s cheese. Soft and juuussssstttttt set egg filling, lightly infused with thyme and almost spicy with black pepper. Yep, it’s as delicious as it sounds.

And bonus. I discovered you don’t need to faff around making any type of custard for quiches. Game changer.

Recipe (makes 6 servings generous to eat alone with a side salad, more if serving with new potatoes or as part of a buffet – based on a Donal Skehan recipe)

  • 25g butter
  • 3 large red onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g soft curd goat’s cheese
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

If you’re making your own pastry (this recipe is a good basic one) then do this first, then place in the fridge. Roll out (or use shop-bought!) and use to line a 23cm tart tin – place back in the fridge whilst you wait for the over to reach 190C. Pop a baking tin (large enough to fit the tart tin) in the oven whilst it warms. Once up to temperature, line the pastry with greasproof, fill with baking beans, pop onto the hot tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and greaseproof (they will be insanely hot), turn the oven down to 180C and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the filling, heat the butter and a pinch of salt in your largest frying pan, add the red onions and the dried thyme and fry over a low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes until soft and caramelised. Season with plenty of black pepper, then allow to cool.

Whisk the eggs and cream together until just combined. Stir through around 25g of the goat’s cheese. Arrange the onions on the base of the pastry case, scatter over spoonfuls of the goats cheese (try and disperse this evenly, or you’ll be fighting over the cheesiest slice!) and season a little more. Gently pour the egg and cream mixture into the pastry case, sprinkle with the fresh thyme and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the filling is set. I sometimes like to be extra naughty and sprinkle a little grated parmesan over the top for the final five minutes, just to add an extra golden colour.

Allow to cool, then serve warm (not hot!) or cold. It’s wonderful on it’s own with a simple salad of leaves and raw beetroot, alongside new potatoes or simply as part of a picnic or buffet. Oh, it sits nicely in the fridge for 2-3 days so is perfect for a meat-free Monday dinner and a couple of lunches.

An indulgent recipe for sure, but what’s life without a bit of tasty, cheese goodness?!

Have you ever made your own quiche?

Life: Best Food of 2017

I can’t quite believe that it’s time to start rounding up 2017 – this year has just flown by. For personal reasons it hasn’t exactly been a great year, so this gal is excited for 2018. Not least because there’s a certain day in October when I get to done a rather pretty dress and sign perhaps the most important document of my life!

A few months ago I made the decision to move the focus of this blog away from ‘everything and anything’ to food. Because I’m all about food. For the first time in what feels like years, I’ve been really happy with the way my blog is moving forwards. I feel more excited to sit down and write posts, to take photos. Admittedly this is being shadowed by the need to move all my photos from photobucket at some point (cheers guys, that’s probably a month’s work right there) but I’m so excited to see what happens next.

And on that note, rather than doing lots of round-ups like 2016, this year there’s just one. The best food of 2017. Here goes.

I have visited Putney Pies twice in a fortnight, sooo yummy! 🙈

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January

I spent a lot of January cosied-up at home. With W away in the warmer climate of Chile I relied on a lot of comfort food and quick fixes – though I ate a lot of mushrooms and seafood too. Homecooking highlights were perfecting my homemade falafel (recipe here), and cooking up a delicious mac’n’cheese infused with whisky (with whisky glazed bacon crumb) to welcome my boy home. I’ll actually be posting that recipe ahead of Burn’s Night 2018 so keep your eyes peeled.

January was also the first month I visited Putney Pies – in fact it was so good I actually went two weekends on the trot!

Cake 😍 🍰 Saturday’s trip to Dominique Ansel was pretty much sugar-high perfection!

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February

February saw sugar-overload from a mummy-daughter trip to Dominque Ansel. The Frozen S’more is every bit as delicious as it sounds. I also managed to perfect my Tomato-free Bolognese, which I’ve since made many, many times.

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March

This month saw me eating a lot of beetroot – with my Beetroot Risotto becoming a firm favourite. With plenty of goat’s cheese I reckon it’s a way to encourage beetroot-haters to try this delicious vegetable! We also discovered Maltby Street Food Market this month…

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April

Ah, now April was a good food month! The start of it saw us head off to York, where we had so many delicious meals. There was lunch at Skosh, which is one of my top meals of all time. We had a cheese and wine night at Pairings, which is my idea of the perfect date night location. And of course, we had to stop by Betty’s – we didn’t something different to the usual afternoon tea which I’ve just realised I haven’t yet blogged about! Whoops! Following my exam this month we also had a celebratory meal at Pollen Street Social – whilst I didn’t blog about the visit, I can confirm that chicken-fat mash should totally be a thing…

Homecooking wise and a highlight was my oven-baked crumpets. Originally baked as part of a collaboration with St Helens Farm, these were absolutely delicious. I may have to make them again soon!

May

May saw us try and eat as many vegetarian dinners as possible, with some real highlights. I developed a delicious vegan bolognese recipe (although quite often we added plenty of parmesan), and this curry is now a firm favourite.

June

Now, June was a stressful month. We found out we needed to find a new flat – trust me, house hunting on the hottest weekend of the year was not fun! There was definitely some foodie highlights though – Kenwood sent me one of their kMix Stand Mixers* which was fun to play with, and I cooked one of my favourite salads yet.

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July

Another good food month! We kicked off July with a delicious meal at Bistro Vadouvan in Putney, eating one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had. We also celebrated my exam pass with a brunch at Duck & Waffle which was utterly amazing, I’m so glad I’ve ticked it off my list.

We then flew to Switzerland for a week of cheesy carby goodness, including a rather excessive rosti topped with 10 rashes of bacon, and a meringue that was larger than my head. I also tried flammkuchen for the first time, I’ve been craving one ever since!

August

August was a quiet month, with most of it taken up with gradually moving out and dealing with our ex-landlord (he wanted a new carpet to the tune of over £1000. Short story: he didn’t get one, or at least not from our deposit!).

This Fesenjan was honestly one of the best dishes I’ve ever cooked! Tender chicken in a Pomegranate & Walnut Sauce it’s comforting, rich and lightly spiced. Served with brown rice and fragrant roasted cauliflower it’s a hug in a bowl for an Autumn evening! What’s your favourite dish? #fesenjan #pomegranate #middleeastern #middleeasternfood #goodfood #whatimeating #thefeedfeed #onmytable #savorthejourney #foodstories #forkfeed #inmytummy #makeitdelicious #eatnowplaylater #yougottaeatthis #tastingtable #storyofmytable #heresmyfood #inspiremyinstagram #show_me_your_food #foodandflatlay #hungrygrls #lickyourphone #foodlikewoah #noleftovers #verytandc #happyselves #theartofslowliving #nestandflourish #fdbloggers

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September

This was another exam month, though someone we managed to tick two pizza places off of our list to try (Mother LDN and 400 Rabbits – review from the latter will be one of the first of 2018). We also spent the last weekend of the month in Suffolk, which was utterly wonderful – I never realised the county was so foodie! A particular highlight was the chocolate doughnut from Pump Street Bakery…

And on a cooking note, this month was when I cooked what is perhaps the best thing I’ve cooked all year – my Chicken Fesenjan. Perfect for a special occasion!

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October

October was the month where I enjoyed having some me time - no exams to worry about, no deteriorating family members at the back of my mind. I cooked lots this month - with the Caramelised Onion & Goat's Cheese Pasta being a particular favourite. I also came up with my favourite lunchbox salad ever - a combination of crunchy veg, quinoa and satay sauce. And of course, Autumn meant homemade fruit crumbles...

I had the pleasure of being invited to the Ginger Whisk Cooking School, where I learnt to temper chocolate and make peanut butter fudge (recipe here).  I was also privileged enough to take part in Wok for 1000, where we made over 1400 for people in need across the city, included a whopping 4000+ wontons.

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November

Ah, November! This was the month of my very early Christmas party (and with 2016's in February, there were less than 9 months between them!). It featured "Christmas Dinner on a Stick" which definitely wasn't one of my foodie highlights! However this month also kicked off the festive dining in a rather spectacular way. The #AEGTasteofXmas event featured perfectly cooked turkey and beef rib, deliciously crispy roasties and a rather nice apricot-spiked stuffing (but, to my horror, no pigs in blankets). We learnt how to make pastry for mince pies, and picked up lots of tips for cooking the big meal this year. Not that I'll be attempting that one quite yet...

We also managed to get to the Taste of London event - eating our way around we have some *really* good things, with the stand-out being a Roasted Peach Massaman Curry. Yum yum!

December

My birthday month! I kicked it off in style by spending a scary £65 in the butchers on meat for the weekend (yep, it made me feel faint too!). I cooked up braised Ox Cheeks for my family, a delicious Pork Stew for me and Will, and I got my traditional birthday steak night too. Yum!

My actual birthday day saw a couple of lovely meals out too. Breakfast was at Antipodea which I loved - such a cosy atmosphere and my pancakes were delicious. Lunch was a trip to tick Hai Cenato off my list. I embraced the carbs-on-carbs, eating a pizza topped with potato, egg yolk and the obligatory cheese. No regrets.

And of course, December also has more good food to come. The best bit! Christmas dinner, featuring the usual two-birds (goose plus turkey), pigs in blankets, two types of potatos (roasts plus mash), two types of stuffing (sage and onion, plus a sausage-y one), lots of veg, yorkies and lashings of gravy. I'm drooling already!

What are your best eats of 2017? Where do you recommend for next year?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #29

Another Monday, another “Happy Things” post – although those with a good memory will have noticed that I’ve missed one or two of these. Whoops!

I’ve had a busy few weeks at work, a lot of blog events to go to (and write about) and I’ve been trying to take it a little easier in the evenings I have been at home. Comfort food, catching up with Masterchef and reading a few good books. Oh, and attempting to fix insanely massive tech issues on this blog (it was to the point my hosting company suspended my account and everything disappeared) and trying to deal with Photobucket giving me 30 days to save thousands of photos… yep these happy things posts just slipped my mind! It’s a shame as there’s been many happy things lately…

    1. My birthday! Sure I’m another year old, another year closer to finding grey hairs (I’m convinced I’ve actually gone slightly grey so I’ve upped my dyeing game lately!). But it was a great weekend spent with some of my best friends and my lovely family.
    2. And of course, a lot of food was eaten on said birthday weekend! I managed to tick off two restaurants from my ‘to visit’ list, including a delicious brunch and an *amazing* double carb pizza. Full reviews coming in the new year!
    3. Amazing gifts. I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging at all, but some of the gifts I received this year were truly magical. From a plant pot (can tell I’m getting old!) that fits in perfectly with the rest of my flat decor to a gorgeous Olivia Burton watch. I know I’m not the easiest person to buy for as well!
    4. A pretty good one-to-one with my manager. I don’t share a huge amount about my professional life here, but it’s been quite a tough few weeks at work so to find out I’m actually not screwing things up was a major thing for me recently! Now just to start thinking a bit more positively…
    5. Snow! Some of my colleagues were visiting from India at the time and had rarely, if ever, seen snow so it was super-exciting. Though I find snow at any time exciting!
    6. Opening my M&S Beauty Advent Calendar. I was worried it was’t going to be worth the money but I’ve been really impressed so far.
    7. A New Look Haul. I ordered myself a couple of jumpers and several skirts to update my winter wardrobe and now feel so much happier. I should probably through some older stuff away to make room though…
    8. Buying some really good quality meat. Now, I’m all for living ethically but equally I don’t particularly have any desire to be a vegetarian. Sure it works for some people, but I find I do feel an awful lot better when I eat meat. With that in mind we’re trying to eat slightly less of it, but make sure it’s coming from a better source. It’s costing is a bit more (and my birthday steaks made me pale as we went to pay) but it tastes SO much better. Pork in particular is a total game changer. Now to try and find a better source for fruit and veg – any recommendations?!
    9. Wine, wine, wine. This winter I’ve discovered I really like red wine. There’s a Romanian one I’ve been absolutely loving, but my go-to is a malbec. All the wine please!
    10. Ox Cheeks Braised in Red Wine. Combining two of my big loves – red meat and red wine. It was utter heaven served with celeriac mash and bacon-fried greens. Yum yum!
    11. A realllllyyyy yummy lunch at Bill’s. It’s not somewhere I visit often, but the cod and lentil dish I had was light and tasty and really hit the spot. The Molten Chocolate Bombe I had for dessert wasn’t quite so light, but was just as delicious.
    12. Watching Aladdin at the threatre. It was such a good performance, and the set and effects are some of the best I’ve ever seen on stage. Highly recommended!

What’s made you happy lately? What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?

Life: Foodie Bucket List – The UK Version

So I’ve done the ‘home cooking’ bucket list, now it’s time for the UK version. Here’s a collection of the restaurants and places I most want to visit in the UK – by no means is it everything on my list, because that would be a VERY long blog post!

Instead this was just me sitting down for 5 minutes and listing down everything that first jumped into my head – because that’s probably the ones I want to do most, right?! Though realistically if I could just eat everything that would be wonderful…

  • Eat Lobster on the beach in North Berwick. This particular beach holds a special place in my heart, and I just know it would be a perfect meal.
  • Visit Sketch. If only to use the toilets!
  • Try the Hallomi Fries at KERB. My Instagram feed was full of them over the summer and they looked so damn tasty!
  • Eat at Wood Manchester. I actually met Simon (winner of 2015’s Masterchef) a few weeks back at an event run by Magnet kitchens. He was as lovely as he seemed on the show, and the dishes he cooked up were simply delicious – scallops and dahl, 18-hour pork belly, mackerel with goats curd and beetroot. I can only imagine what his restaurant’s food is like!
  • Head back to Pump Street Bakery for another doughnut. That’s how good it was!
  • Try some proper Ramen. Send me recommendations asap!
  • A foodie trip to Wales. I’ve been following Gourmet Gorro for a while and the restaurants he eats at make me jealous for two reasons. One, the food looks delicious. Two, the prices are insane compared to what I’m used to in London.
  • Try alllllll the burgers. Shake Shack, Bleecker Street and Patty & Bun are all vying for my next visit!
  • Eat pasta from a “bowl” of cheese. You can thank Rosie for that craving…
  • Tick off “London’s Most Instagrammable Desserts” – challenge accepted!
  • Visit Bao. It’s been on my list for so, so long and everything looks delicious!
  • Eat at The Fat Duck. Because it just sounds so amazing.
  • The new Copper & Ink (I’m anxiously awaiting their opening) also sounds right up my street. As does The Dairy in Clapham…

What foodie hotspots do you want to visit? What else should be on my list?

Recipe: My Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

This is not a recipe I share lightly. I’ve been making this recipe for yours, but have always kept it a closely guarded secret. You’ll understand when you make these, because they are far, far too good to share.

To me, the ultimate brownie is gooey. Not overly fudgey, but almost like a solid mousse. It needs a paper-thin crust on the top, slightly firmer sides, and a few chocolate chunks thrown in for good measure. It should be insanely chocolatey and rich, but not too sweet. It should absolutely NOT be crumbly and cakey.

And so this is my ultimate brownie. For a fudgier version, simply cook a little longer and keep in the fridge. For a cakier version, look elsewhere.

It’s insanely rich, to the point a square is a little too much, though cutting into 16 feels a little mean. It’s delicious served on it’s own, even better served with ice-cream. This particular batch were baked for a dinner party, and served with a tahini and honey ice-cream, sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Every bit as delicious as it sounds.

Trust me, if you’re a fan of a good brownie, make these. You won’t be disappointed.

Recipe (cuts into 9 or 16, depending on how generous you feel!)

  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 180g dark chocolate – I favour using Cadbury’s Bournville in brownies as it melts well, is a good price and I love the flavour
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder – I use raw cacoa powder, however if you use a normal cocoa powder I would recommend reducing the sugar by 10-15g.
  • 100g chocolate, chopped into chunks – we used more dark chocolate for these, but white chocolate works really well
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g golden caster sugar

Cream and line a 20cm square tin. Cut the butter into small cubes and tip into a medium bowl along with the dark chocolate. Melt slowly over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Once completely melted leave to cool to room temperature.

Break the eggs into a large bowl and add the sugar. Whisk together with an electric mixer (we used our KitchenAid) until they look thick and creamy, like a milk shake. The mix should be roughly doubled in volume. Slowly pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the eggy mix, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula until the mix is one colour – be careful not to knock too much air out of the egg mixture.

Sift over the flour and cocoa powder, and continue gently folding until you have a fudgy looking mix. Stir through the chocolate chunks, then add to the prepared tin. Bake at 160C for 25-30 minutes, or until just set (the middle of the mix should no longer wobble when you shake the tin) with a papery crust. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the tin, then lift out and cut. If you’re impatient, cutting whilst still warm will result in a gooey mess – still delicious, but not exactly presentable.

For me this is the perfect brownie – gooey and rich, in need of a spoon for be eaten. Add different types of chocolate chunks, stir in some walnuts – or even use as part of my S’more brownie recipe. You won’t be disappointed, except when you’ve finished the batch!

How do you like your chocolate brownies? What’s your go-to brownie recipe?

Life: A Food Lovers’ Christmas Gift Guide

At first I worried about what to include in this gift-guide – but in the end I’ve pretty much published my own wishlist (minus the odd MAC lipsticks and socks I’d included!). Some of these things I’ve since kindly received for my birthday (thank you to those generous friends and family!), some are still on my Christmas list, and some are waiting to be put on the wedding list next year (looking at you, Joseph Joseph!).

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For the Cheese Lover

It’s only in the last 18 months or so that I’ve gotten properly into cheese (before I’d stick to cheddar and the occasional sprinkling of parmesan), it’s safe to say I’m really looking forward to some festive cheeseboards this year! There’s also quite a few cheese-related gifts I’d love to see under the tree on Christmas day… this set from Oliver Bonas has been on my radar for a long time.

And of course, being a fan of Switzerland means melted cheese is just one of the food-related ways to be heart. These Tabletop Raclette Grills* are the perfect at-home date night companion.

For the Wine Lover

Clearly I’ve grown up recently, because I’ve gone from a ‘wine with special dinners’ type of gal to one that realllyyyy enjoys a good wine. I’m not a huge drinker, though, so we can often be round trying to fashion a bottle stopper to keep it fresh for the next day. This Kate Spade stopper would solve that problem! And, ya’no, sparkly.

For the Chocolate Lover

Now chocolate is something I’ve ALWAYS loved! I’m of the firm opinion that if you gift me some Dairy Milk, or a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, I’ll be a happy girl. However I also love more artisan chocolates. We picked up some delightful (and shockingly expensive) bars from Pump Street Bakery in Suffolk a few months ago, which we’re slowly savouring. I love visiting Cocoa Amore in Leicester for some of their delicious pralines.

But for a real chocolate lovely, I highly recommend attending some kind of cookery class or workshop. I spent a wonderful morning at Ginger Whisk Cooking School* with Lucy (you can see one of the recipes we worked on here) – the bulk of the day was spent learning how to temper chocolate, and experimenting with flavourings. I loved adding fruit and herbal teas to mine, and am working on a couple of flavour combos to share with you all soon.

For the Style-Conscious

Much as I love cooking and eating, I also want my kitchen and dining area to look pretty. Of course, it helps with the Instagram game too (you can come follow me here). There’s the ultimate in kitchen chic the Kitchen Aid, or slightly more budget-friendly Kenwood kMix* (though neither come cheap!). I would also be the first person to admit that I’m in love with dining sets right now – plates, bowls, cutlery. Whilst we’ve just invested in some new bits and pieces, I’m still totally lusting after this Habitat set.

On the more practical side, anything from Joseph Joseph gets my vote. I’d love one of their bins, but who can spent three figures on a bin?! Slightly more realistically, I’d love their compact cutlery drawer organiser – sad I know!

For the Adventurous

Again, I’m going to advocate a cookery class here – there’s nothing better for getting stuck in with a cuisine you’re not totally familiar with. I’d never cooked any Chinese food before I helped out at Wok for 1000, but I’ve definitely caught the bug. I’m hoping to attend School of Wok for a class or two in the New Year so watch this space!

For the Cookbook Lover

There was just so many cookbooks I wanted to add to my Christmas list this year – it was hard to whittle them down. I mean, I could have included them all but I kinda didn’t want to risk being in a situation of having 15 hardback books to bring home on the train!

Top of my list is definitely The Roasting Tin – I’ve heard such good things and the recipes sound incredible. I can also highly recommend Fress*. Not only is the book absolutely stunning, but the recipes are lovely to boot. The cover recipe (a roasted cauliflower salad) is unbelievably good. And of course, there’s the book that appears to have taken over Instagram this festive season – Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles. It’s as beautiful in real life as it appears in pictures. I’m also after Jamie’s new book (of course!) and as I’m looking into cooking more Asian Food I’ve featured Rosa’s Thai Cafe book high on my wishlist.

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For Those Who Are Difficult To Buy For

Got everything? Not quite sure what their taste is? Want a lasting gift? I love, love, LOVE subscriptions. Whether it’s cheese toasties through the post (I need to try this at some point), a wine delivery, or a foodie magazine I’m all for a gift that last a whole year long. We’re already subscribers to BBC GoodFood, but I’ve love to read more copies of Delicious Magazine as their Instagram account is SO inspiring. Sure, the recipes are pretty much always online, but flicking through a magazine of seasonal recipes is part of the fun of cooking for me!

And if all else fails – restaurant vouchers are always an appreciated present. My parents bought us a voucher to visit Duck & Waffle last Christmas (read my full review here) and it’s probably one of the most thoughtful presents I’ve ever received. In the past I’ve also bought a giftcard to visit Pollen Street Social, so it’s a great way to gift a treat meal out!

*Some items have been gifted, though all opinions are my own as always!

What’s on your wishlist this year?

Food: Christmas Cooking Tips & Ultimate Orange & Whisky Mince Pies

Now, I could apologise for the early mention of Christmas but I won’t. Because actually it’s not *that* early. Stir-up Sunday has been and come and IT’S DECEMBER TOMORROW. In just a few hours it’s acceptable to start decorating my lounge, wearing festive jumpers and humming Christmas carols. And so it’s time to start talking about the best bit of Christmas if you ask me. Whether it’s a roast turkey or goose. Traditional dinner or buffet. Whether you prefer the main event or the Boxing Day leftovers. A good Christmas Dinner is the bit I always look forward to, and the part that always makes me sad when it’s over. And lucky for me, I got to start the Christmassy eating early this year!

On a rather grey and wet Saturday we headed to The Cookery for #AEGTasteofXmas. Welcomed in with Prosecco (the best kind of welcome!), we watched some excellent demonstrations (though I still cant’ handle filo pastry to save my life!) and made mince pies (whilst dancing along to the Buble Christmas album!) before being treated to a rather large Christmas dinner.

Here’s just a few hints and tips I picked up to perfect your Christmassy cooking (although you can read a few more via the link!):

  • Buy cheap mincemeat and jazz it up with extras. Add extra festive spices, some orange zest, a good splash of booze. You can mix it up extra how you like it!
  • Always make pastry by an open window. If your room is too hot, keep popping the bowl in the fridge to stop the fat melting. Oh, and handle your pastry as little as possible. One re-roll is okay, any more and your pastry will suffer. You have been warned…
  • Make a simple and light starter. We whipped up a veggie wellington – roasted veggies wrapped in filo pastry. It took no time and was super-scrummy!
  • Test the temperature of our oven. It’s rare they will be exact to their dial, so an oven thermometer is essential for cooking. You’ll notice the difference once you start cooking meat at the correct temperate!
  • Always, always, always rest your meat before carving. A large turkey will stay warm covered in tin-foil for a good hour or so – meaning you can turn up the oven to crisp up your roasties/pigs in blankets/yorkshires.
  • Make extra brussel sprouts. They’re awesome in bubble’n’squeak the next day!

And now it’s time to share my favourite mince pie recipe. I confess I’m not a huge fan of these (dried fruit is just not my thing!), although these are just about acceptable in my eyes. Zesty with orange and a little boozy, if they’re served warm and with enough cream I can just about look over the dried fruit situation.

Recipe – makes around 12, easily doubled if you’re hosting a party!

  • 250g plain flour
  • 65g icing sugar
  • 190g cold butter
  • zest and juice 1 large orange
  • 2 tbsp whisky (or other festive spirit, I imagine brandy would work well!)
  • 250g mincemeat

Mix half of the orange zest and juice in to the mincemeat, along with the whisky, and leave to sit whilst you make the pastry.

Rub the flour, icing sugar and butter together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the remained orange juice and zest, and stir with a knife until the mixture begins to clump (add a spoon of cold water if there’s not quite enough juice). Tip onto a floured surface and knead very briefly until smooth before flattening into a disc, wrapping in cling-film and chilling in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Re-dust the work surface (top tip – use bread flour to dust surfaces as it’s finer), then roll out the pastry to approximately the thickness of a £1 coin. Use an 8cm cutter to cut out rounds, then press into a 12-hole non-stick bun tin (don’t grease the tin!). Re-roll the trimmings to the same thickness and stamp out the tops – as these have alcohol in I prefer to leave the tops slightly open so it’s not *too* boozy*. Spoon about 1 tbsp mincemeat into each base and press on the tops, then bake for 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Cool for a few mins, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

Are you a mince pie fan? Will you be baking festive treats this year?

Food: Overindulgence @ Taste of London

Taste of London. A place where some of London’s best restaurant’s come together under one roof. Somewhere where I can try several of the places on my list in one go – a small plate at each, making a decisive about how quickly I need to tick them off properly. Basically Taste of London is my dream way to spend a few hours.

There was everything there. Every type of food you could imagine. Chinese dumplings which smelt INSANELY good. Classic French. Cheese. Indian. Thai. Everything. I quickly instructed W that we would share everything so we could try more things – a plan I’d highly recommend. I’m only gutted that we arrived already feeling pretty stuffed from a festive cookery class with AEG (more to come on that one!).

We started by trying to have a wander and gauge what was about. Spoiler: we failed miserably. Going onto the site afterwards to try and write this post I realised just how many places I wanted to go to. Bubbledogs and Kricket both got missed which I’m pretty damn gutted about!

First to be ticked off was Bao, which has been on my list to try for what feels like forever. The Fried Chicken Bao
(soy milk marinated chicken, Sichuan mayo, kimchi, coriander) was everything I hoped for. A little on the small side for £6 perhaps, but full of flavour. The chicken was both crunchy and moist, and the sauce spicy and sweet. The Bao bun was also delicious and it’s pushed the place further up my list.

We then wandered off to find the dish that, for me, turned out to be the dish of the night. Farang’s Roasted Peach Massaman Curry (seasoned with peanuts, sweet basil and wild ginger) was utterly amazing. Sweet, salty, spicy and perfectly balanced. How they managed to keep the fruit so perfectly cooked is beyond me. Damn good and something I’ve been craving all week.

We took a quick break from the savoury options and headed over to Action Against Hunger’s Doughnut stall. We split two options. The Peter Gordon (pear and ginger compote stuffed doughnut
crunchy maple cornflakes, basil icing) was absolutely delicious whilst the Dan Doherty (coffee, Amaretto and almond) was a tad too sweet for my taste. Both good though, and better than quite a few doughnuts I’ve tried recently!

It was then time to hit The Cheese Bar. We picked up their Four Cheese Truffled Macaroni Cheese and it was…okay. If I’m honest I was disappointed – it lacked a real cheesy depth of flavour, and I didn’t really taste a huge amount of truffle either. It wasn’t bad, and maybe I’d have enjoyed it more had I not been totally and utterly stuffed. Their grilled cheese looked pretty epic though! This is definitely a place I want to visit to see what they can do…

Our final dish was one which confused me. Moro serve North African and Spanish dishes and the flavours in our pick were certainly good. Grilled quail with beetroot borani and pistachio sauce balanced on a fine line of freshness and richness. It was herby and vibrant, so colourful, but utterly filling. Our real complaint was that it was impossible to eat with plastic cutlery on a paper plate.

And with that we left. Clutching our bellies, it was a long tube journey home!

Unfortunately Taste of London was limited to one weekend, and one weekend only, but the good news? They’ll be back! From the 13-17th of June they’ll be in Regents Park and I’ll definitely be there – and starting with an empty belly this time…

*I received two tickets and some meal vouchers as part of an AEG event, however was under no obligation to write this post – I loved the evening and wanted to share all the delicious food!

Have you ever been to Taste of London? What did you think?

Lifestyle: Eating Out on a Budget

I love food. It goes without saying really, given that I run a food blog, but I live to eat. To me food isn’t just a fuel so I can get on with my life, it’s one of my genuine pleasures and I get so much out of a good bite to eat. Whether it’s a perfectly cooked steak, gorgeously runny egg, exotically spiced curry or even a comforting roast dinner, a good meal to me is the fastest way to my heart.

Prioritize Spending

This is generally how we “afford” most of our meals out and expensive cooking ingredients. Yes, we don’t see the problem in shelling out upwards of £100 on a meal for two (or more, especially now I’m out of university). However as a couple neither of us are into nights out, and nor have we ever been.

I personally would never dream of spending more than £10 on an evening of drinks, whilst I know friends, colleagues and family who wouldn’t think twice at spending £50, £100 or even more. And that’s absolutely fine. They enjoy a  night out. I see a tray of shots as a fancy dish I could be eating. It’s each to their own, and I put my eating out more highly than alcohol.

Eat Mid-Week

Quite a few restaurants will sneakily put their prices up Friday-Sunday – midweek meals are generally the cheapest. There will also often be special deals which are just too good to miss. Putney Pies does a deal on a Tuesday which makes it a lot more affordable!

Purchase Discounted Vouchers

As well as popping restaurant vouchers on your Christmas and birthday wishlist, you can also pick them up at a discounted price on Zeek*. Whilst the savings aren’t massive, you can easily save anything up to 10% by purchasing  restaurant vouchers using the app. It’s mainly chains on offer, though I do love Bella Italia’s courgette and chicken pasta!

If you know where you’re off to, getting a small amount of money off a voucher can make all the difference. You can generally treat it as a giftcard too, meaning it can be used alongside other discounts. Double win in my books!

Visit “Cheap” Restaurants

Cheap doesn’t have to be McDonalds, or a soggy fridge-cold sandwich from Tesco! Whether it’s tacos at Wahaca (the two of us can generally eat for around £25 including churros) or pizza at the Dynamo, there’s a lot of reallllyyyy good places to eat that won’t break the bank. A little time spent searching means we’ve got a bank of cheaper restaurants that we really want to try – have a looksie on Time Out for inspiration!

Utilise Lunch-time Offers

Dining in pricier restaurants is, for us, only usually possible at lunch times. Case in point is when we took a trip to Pollen Street Social earlier in the year. It’s a pricey restaurant (main courses start at around £35 and the portions aren’t *huge*), but with a three-course lunch offering at £37 it’s a lot more reasonable than it seems at first. We actually purchased a lunch voucher in advance, and so only paid for teas/coffee on the day – and we’re still treated to both appetizers and petit-four too. Definitely worth it if you want a real treat without completely blowing the budget!

Steer Clear of Alcohol

I love me a glass of wine as much as the next person – but it’s pricey. I’ve been to many a restaurant where the cheapest bottle isn’t far off our weekly food budget, so it’s quite rare that we’ll indulge. I’ll avoid soft drinks too – I’d far sooner spend an extra £10 on starters rather than a glass of lemonade! Tap water all the way here…

Keep An Eye Out for Soft Lauches

A soft launch is a chance for new restaurants to test their menu, kitchen and staff before they are officially open. Sure, the service might but a bit hit-and-miss but the food is usually delish and you can get a decent discount – up to 50% is normal. I’ve used hot-dinners.com in the past to see what’s popping up!

*I was gifted a small amount of Zeek credit in exchange for a post, although all opinions (and other tips) are my own!

What are your tips for eating out on a budget?