Recipe: One-Pan Cauliflower Salad for my #YearofVeganLunchboxes Challenge [AD – gifted]

One of the main things I’ve learnt so far on my #YearofVeganLunches challenge is that I need to get some decent variety of base carb in. Sure I could eat orzo most weeks, but it’s not the most nutritious of choices. Quinoa is great, but my digestive system doesn’t seem to want it to often. Couscous is just plain boring to have more often than monthly. Right now I have a bit of a thing for bulgur wheat – and this recipe shows it off wonderfully.

 photo Cauliflower Salad_zpsjybqtm09.jpg photo Cauliflower Salad  5_zpsewzuyajs.jpgAnd to be honest the star of the show really is the cauliflower anyway. Roasted to perfection so it’s tender, slightly charred and almost nutty, and basted in plenty of ginger, garlic and za’tar to make it sing. You may think you hate cauliflower but this recipe may make you think again. The best thing, though, is that it’s just so EASY. A few minutes of chopping and then it happily sits in the oven all in one dish, before being drenched in lemon juice. It’s wonderful warm (and if you’re not vegan I highly recommend sprinkling with a spot of feta in that case) but just as good cold with some almonds for additional crunch. Next time I’m going to whip up a quick tahini dressing to serve on the side I think, but it was delicious just as written too. And super easy too…

 photo Cauliflower Salad  12_zpslfxfwnzx.jpg photo Cauliflower Salad  15_zpstcqpk9jx.jpg photo Cauliflower Salad  11_zps2jyj7zdj.jpg photo Cauliflower Salad  13_zpsmqcfntjw.jpgAll-in-one-tin recipes are my thing right now, whether it’s for lunch prep or dinners. I have every single one of Rukmini Iyer’s Roasting Tin books and her latest release, The Quick Roasting Tin, is my favourite. In it is a Thyme & Sesame Cauliflower Tabbouleh which inspired this recipe – but to be honest I can see myself cooking my way through the book. And to make it even easier, Harts of Stur sent me over some of the Pyrex Cook & Go storage range. These make meal prep SO easy, I’m already tempted to order more. We have a couple of the small and medium boxes and they are SO useful. I can cook a batch of a one-pan meal, let it cool then pop the lid on and whack it in the fridge. The smaller ones I’ll then just take to work the next day. For a recipe like this the medium sized box we have is a little too small for the full recipe, so we split the amounts in half and roasted each separately. This worked quite well as we had half for dinner with feta, and then was able to stir the watercress and radishes through the cooled lunch serving before storing overnight. Having said that one of the large boxes is definitely going on my wishlist!

Recipe (serves 4 generously, adapted from The Quick Roasting Tin)

  • 150g bulgur wheat
  • 300-350ml of vegetable stock (suitable for vegans if necessary)
  • 1 large red onion, finely sliced
  • 3cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tbsp za’tar, plus an addtional tsp to sprinkle at the end
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large cauliflower – leaves roughly chopped, and florets separately (and chopped into small pieces)
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Around 8 radishes, sliced thinly
  • 1 bag of watercress, roughly chopped
  • a few handfuls of baby spinach
  • a handful of blanched almonds
  • Feta to serve (optional)

Tip the bulgur wheat into the roasting tin and pour over the stock. Scatter over the onion and cauliflower leaves. In a bowl, rub the olive oil, ginger, garlic and za’tar over the cauliflower florets, then scatter into the roasting tin. Pop the tin into the oven and roast at 200C for 20-30 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and the bulgur wheat is cooked – start with only 300ml of stock and add a little more mid-way through cooking if needed. Remove from the oven and stir through the lemon zest and juice, watercress and radishes. Serve scattered with almonds, extra za’tar and feta (if using).

If using for a lunch, allow the roasted mix to cool before stirring through the extras, I recommend adding a little extra olive oil too. I imagine this would also be amazing scattered with some pomegranate seeds too!
 photo Cauliflower Salad  7_zps01vjclvz.jpg

 What is your go-to lunchbox?

Eating Out: The London Afternoon Tea Guide

Regular readers will know that I just love an afternoon tea – I love it for the chance it gives to sit down and have a really good catch up. The chance to eat lots of little bits. The chance to really enjoy different speciality teas. In order to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week (running from 12-18th August 2019) I’ve put together a little guide of London afternoon teas I’ve enjoyed so far.

 photo Afternoon Tea Guide_zpsmhqyybfm.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 1_zpslgodecrs.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 16_zpsh6izs6ka.jpgThe Boozy One

And my favourite (so far)! Now rebranded as Lyanness, the bar at Sea Containers hotel on the Southbank serves up an afternoon tea based around cocktails. When we visited the quantity of alcohol was perfect matched with the delicious food, and it was just a glorious few hours. This would make an absolutely perfect hen do spot, and it’s definitely somewhere I’d revisit for afternoon tea. In fact I’m thinking of going for my birthday later in the year!

The Vegan One

I’ve not yet done a full review (not gifted), but back in June I treated my sister to afternoon tea at a vegan-only patisserie and cafe – Cafe Forty One at La Suite West in Kensington. Whilst the patisserie side disappointed us slightly, the sandwiches and scones really were excellent. We loved the non-alcoholic fizz too! If you want a fully vegan option in Instagrammable surroundings this is definitely one to go for…

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 10_zps5ug1lwgz.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 17_zpsbahrzabr.jpgThe Bargain One [gifted]

Until I was invited to review I wasn’t aware Whittard had a tea bar in Covent Garden, let alone served afternoon tea at a rather bargain price – yes the full afternoon tea is £30pp but you can get the Grocer’s Set (£45 and easily serves two) or opt for scones and sandwiches or scones and cakes for £15-£17. Not bad at all, and it really is an oasis of calm in that area of London! We definitely enjoyed our Grocer’s Tea, the sausage rolls were absolutely delicious!

 photo Hide Afternoon Tea  16_zpsonulolps.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  1_zpsq4osl1gr.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  2_zpsyq7i48jo.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  3_zpsoq1fpufw.jpgThe Michelin-Starred One

Oh, I did love the afternoon tea at Hide Ground! Not only did I get to stare at that iconic staircase but it really was an indulgent and high-class experience. Some really specialty teas were available (this place kick-started my Milk Oolong obsession) and the food was just so delicious. Definitely the best savourites I’ve ever enjoyed with an afternoon tea, the coddled egg was wonderful, the cheese puff sublime and the sandwiches spot on. We even got candyfloss!

The Ones Outside of London

I’ve also been lucky enough to sample a couple of afternoon teas outside of London – because why not! The atmosphere at Beckworth Emporium (Northants) might not be that relaxing as the venue is now super-popular, but I’ve never had a bad experience there. We enjoyed the Chocolate Afternoon Tea at Whittlebury Hall (also Northants), although a mix-up meant we never got the choc-chip scones I was so looking forward to. Just off the M1 is Catthorpe Manor, which is where I had one of my hen-dos – at £15pp this was a bargain and a really beautiful spot. And of course there’s the classic Tiny Tim’s in Canterbury. I’m not the hugest fan of this place to be honest, I don’t find the scones to be well made at all and it’s overpriced for the quality, but it is a must-do Canterbury experience!

And that’s my quick little round-up. I’m hoping to squeeze in another afternoon tea before the end of the month, and I’m sure I’ll keep sampling what London has to offer. Now the only question is…

Where do you recommend for Afternoon Tea?

Recipe: Popcorn Rocky Road [AD – gifted]

If I had to choose a favourite TV snack it would be popcorn. Bite-sized, not *too* messy and all too easy to eat a big bowlful whilst watching something trashy, to me it’s the perfect ingredient for a girls night-in with Mean Girls, a solo evening with some Disney classics, or a date-night binge-watching our current favourite (right now it’s Blown Away on Netflix – a little like Bake Off, but with Glass Blowing). And of course it’s absolutely obligatory to purchase an extra-large box when you go to the cinema, right?! Given my love for popcorn you can imagine my response when Popcorn Shed got in touch and offered to send me some goodies to use in a recipe.

 photo Popcorn Rocky Road_zpsibsgkcwv.jpgMade to a secret family recipe (and dear me, I’d love that recipe!) their popcorn comes in sharing boxes or snack bags which are perfectly portioned for lunchboxes or to control calories if, like me, you struggle to stop eating the stuff. It’s all natural ingredients and the variety of flavours is pretty good – there’s some cheesy savoury ones (I’m not a huge fan of these personally, but I’m a sweet popcorn gal anyway) and loaddssss of chocolately and nutty ones. My personal favourite is the Berry-licious – dark chocolate and raspberry is SUCH a good combo.

 photo Popcorn Rocky Road 4_zpsxuzcxqcg.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 9_zpspwsok4tu.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 15_zpsnsrrfjx7.jpgMuch as I wanted to just eat the stuff, I did manage to come up with a “recipe.” And recipe is in inverted commas because this is SO easy I struggle to think of it as a recipe at all. It’s quite a dangerous recipe as it takes no time at all and, after some tortuorous chilling, you have an amazing snack – it’s perfect for work bake sales or taking along to an event. I actually made one for a Youth Group social and it went down *extremely* well. I’m now adored by members as they loved it so much! Easy to make and a crowd pleaser, what’s not to love?!

I prefer a chunkier rocky road, more crumbly with biscuits and other treats but if you prefer a firmer, more chocolately one I’d suggest upping the quantities of chocolate and butter.

 photo Popcorn Rocky Road 8_zpswnlfdbmq.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 12_zpsnirsq5sl.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 14_zps7udxawbm.jpgRecipe – makes 16 generous squares

  • 200g Rich Tea biscuits
  • 150g butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g mini marshmallows (be sure to find vegetarian ones if needed)
  • 100g popcorn

Place 200g digestive biscuits in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin until broken up. You want some dust and some larger pieces, but nothing more than bite-sized.

In a large saucepan melt the butter, dark chocolate and golden syrup over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until there are no lumps of chocolate or butter visible, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once cool add the biscuits, marshmallows and popcorn and stir until everything is covered.

Tip the mixture into a 18cm square baking tin (greased and lined), and spread it out to the corners whilst pushing it down. Chill for at least 2 hours then cut in 16 squares.

 photo Popcorn Rocky Road 16_zpsembuc1iu.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 13_zpsatjbsbgo.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 11_zpsknby80oe.jpgThis recipe is so easily adaptable too. Use dairy-free margarine and chocolate (I always use accidentally vegan Bournville anyway), and buy Freedom Mallows and you’ve got a vegan rocky road (without the Popcorn Shed popcorn, as unfortunately that contains dairy). And of course you can adapt to whatever you have… next time I’m going to use the Butterly Nuts flavour and add a little bit of peanut butter to the chocolate when melting – I think this salty-sweet combination will work wonderfully with some pretzels added for extra crunch!

*I was gifted some Popcorn Shed products to come up with a recipe for my blog. There was no payment for this post and all opinions are my own, as always.

Are you are sweet or salted popcorn person?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #62

Happy Monday! I’ve been absent from posting for a few weeks – a few techy issues with this space (hosting recommendations anyone?!) and life just got crazy busy, but yet again I’m hoping to be back for good. Since I last posted I’ve had some *amazing* news too which has distracted me slightly…

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  1. I qualified! Yes, right at the beginning of July I got the results for the final exam I took in April and I passed. I’ve essentially been working towards this goal since I decided on my career path at the age of 14 and it isn’t easy. A mathematical degree plus 15 professional exams – tick!
  2. A cheeky cookbook purchase. I couldn’t resist The Quick Roasting Tin and already it’s well worth it. The Courgette Orzo is a winner, and we’ve also loved the Cauliflower Tabbouleh.
  3. Making more Rosemary Focaccia. It’s just so good!
  4. A solo shopping trip. I treated myself to a couple of dresses, some new gym clothes and (because I’m oh so grown up) a coolbag for picnics. The few hours by myself wandering around the shops was bliss!
  5. Purchasing my first Charlotte Tilbury lipstick. Glowing Jen from the Hot Lips 2 collection is the perfect match to the limited MAC lipstick I lost a few months ago. I’m now guarding it with my life…
  6. Eating seasonally. August is probably my favourite month for this as I just love it. You only have to look at the Waitrose magazine for inspo – all the beetroot recipes are on my list to make!
  7. Picking blackberries on Wimbledon Common. They are quite early this year but still super tasty.
  8. Trying on *that* Zara dress and really loving it. I didn’t buy it as I see about 5 a day around London but I kinda regret it, especially now I’m seeing people dye it. I’m imagining it would look great in a mustard yellow or bottle green…
  9. A very rare takeaway treat – we got a big boneless KFC bucket to share and it was gooood. I’m in love with their gravy, and I have to say I think the move to slightly chunkier chips was a good one.
  10. Typing this blog post whilst eating a packet of Oreos. I love them!

What’s made you happy recently?

Review: Afternoon Tea at the Whittard Tea Bar, Covent Garden [invited]

Afternoon Tea is one of my all-time favourite treats. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours with a friend; catching up on all the gossip over plenty of yummy treats. I try to have one at least once a year with my best girlies, and it’s also something I like to treat my mum to. It’s the perfect present for a loved one– a lovely experience for them, some quality time and I get cake too!

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea_zpsi1jthwpj.jpgWith that in mind what better way was there to celebrate National Best Friends Day (8th June) that with afternoon tea?! Whittard of Chelsea kindly offered me and my best friend an afternoon tea experience at their Tea Bar in Covent Garden and so this was an extra special trip, as I was introducing my bestest friend to his first ever afternoon tea experience. Yep, I’m not entirely sure how my husband has known me for so long and never been for afternoon tea before!

Located in busy Covent Garden, I’d never even thought to visit the Tea Bar before – Covent Garden is an area I truly try to avoid as a Londoner as it’s just too busy and crowded for me! However this little spot really is a calming oasis. Hidden away downstairs in the piazza it was quiet, there wasn’t a queue for tables and it’s definitely somewhere to bear in mind if you need a spot to escape the crowds.

We had the choice between the Whittard Tea (a sweeter option priced at £30 per person, with sandwiches, scones and plenty of cakes each) or the Grocer’s Tea. As we both try and avoid eating *too* much sugar we went for the Grocer’s priced at £45 per set, which generously fed the two of us. The lack of scones also meant we avoided the age-old British argument of cream then jam versus jam then cream!

 

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The next choice was to select a tea. The menu has over 100 difference choices and so took a while to read through the menu! I’d say there was something for everyone, with green, fruit and plenty of black options too. I opted for the Black Tea with Rose, which I found very refreshing. The Whisky Tea my husband went for was also delicious, tasting almost milky. One thing we did note and appreciate was being told the right length of time to brew our tea and, crucially, being given somewhere to place the filter when brewing had finished. Nothing worse than a stewed cuppa!

We were also treated to big glasses of chilled Pimms spiked with black tea – it was oh so refreshing on a very hot afternoon, and I loved the added taste of the tea.

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 1_zpsbwyfuk38.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 5_zpsl353ulil.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 10_zps5ug1lwgz.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 17_zpsbahrzabr.jpgOur tiered display of treats soon arrived and we got stuck into the savoury pastries first, as these were served warm. The Grocer’s Tea comes with a choice of sausage rolls and a tart, as well as the usual finger sandwiches. It’s topped with four small sweet treats too, so it’s not all savoury!

The two sausage rolls we had were both delicious, and I’d struggle to pick a favourite. The Beef, Carrot & Horseradish was so much lighter than any other meaty sausage roll I’ve tried, but full of flavour. The Chicken & Mushroom was intensely savoury yet the mushrooms weren’t over-powering – evidently as my mushroom-hating bestie wasn’t complaining!

The tart certainly looked delicious, but as it came topped with tomatoes I left sampling this one to W. It’s a shame this wasn’t offered to be swapped out for another sausage roll given I’d mentioned my allergy, but I’m sure had I specifically asked it would have been…

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 21_zps4nztr2dp.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 20_zps3ur280yn.jpgSandwiches were a tad disappointing. The fillings were generous and delicious, but I felt the bread was a touch on the dry side, particularly the white bread. However it was a very hot day, which won’t have helped! Our favourites were the Coronation Chicken (after I’d picked out the sultanas!) and Salmon with Lemon Cream cheese. I definitely appreciated the crusts being removed too!

After a short pause it was time to share the cakes! I loved the little selection we were given, as everything was varied in taste and texture. The only slightly below-par one was the shortbread with cream, as it was a little soggy and bland. The others were pretty good though! I particularly loved the Passionfruit Tart, and the Brownie with Caramel and Pear was also delicious.

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 27_zpstojqs1yq.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 12_zpssuxuw1us.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 26_zps6rttb3gq.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 25_zpsmftvjyte.jpgAfter we’d finished we were given plenty of time to sit, chat and finish up our pots of tea. It’s this part of the afternoon tea experience I love the most; when you’re too full and enjoying each other’s company too much to move.

Eventually we heaved ourselves up and explored the other part of the Tea Bar – the shop! We were kindly offered the chance to each pick the other a gift, however my husband offered to combine the amounts so I could pick up the glass teapot I’d admired on our way in (he knows me so well!). We complimented that by choosing some loose leaf tea after much sniffing and comparing. I’m definitely looking forward to a cup of Milk Oolong and a cheeky slice of cake on a weekend afternoon…

*Whittard kindly invited us to join them in their Tea Bar for Afternoon Tea, and gifted us some items from their store. No money was paid as part of this collaboration and, as always, all opinions are my own!

Are you a fan of Afternoon Tea? How do you like to catch up with your friends?

Recipe: Seasonal Green Vegetable Tart

A few weeks ago a colleague in the office stopped me and asked why I always make my own lunch. This turned into a conversation about how we (as in my husband and I) cook from scratch 99.5% of the time we eat at home, and rarely eat out midweek. Said colleague eats a home cooked meal maybe once a week.

 photo Green Vegetable Tart_zpsewzsyk9m.jpgAnd this made me sad – because for me there is so much joy in both cooking and eating.

In a similar vein, I had a week at work before our holiday where I was just super busy. Working late, but also several evening events. It meant that I didn’t eat at home for 6 nights in a row, and it definitely had a poor impact on my mental health. I was grumpy, I wasn’t sleeping, and I wasn’t finding the time to switch off. I was also spotty, headachey and with a bad stomach due to too much pub food.

Basically, cooking from scratch is 100% necessary for me to function both mentally and physically.

 photo Green Vegetable Tart  5_zpspwcqv2m1.jpg photo Green Vegetable Tart  3_zps62bxym19.jpg photo Green Vegetable Tart  2_zps98xufsu4.jpgAnd this recipe actually really sums that up – making it made me so happy! Taking some beautifully fresh veggies and fancy-ish cheese, then a fairly quick throw together and let then oven take care of it. The result is comforting, but also so full of veg. It feels light, particularly when eating with the herb salsa, but it’s more than filling enough to have without anything else. A definite favourite, making the most of some of this season’s finest British produce.

Inspired by a Waitrose recipe, the finished version of mine was a tad messy but just as delicious!

Recipe (serves 2 for dinner with a side salad)

  • ½ pack puff pastry (we used half of a 320g pack, ready rolled)
  • 1 tbsp milk, for brushing
  • 150g Swiss chard, stalks and leaves separated
  • 75g taleggio cheese, rind removed, sliced
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 150g asparagus, woody ends removed
  • For the salsa: ½ small pack parsley, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp grated parmesan

Unroll the pastry, lay on a baking tray and, using a sharp knife, score a border about 1cm in from the edge, taking care not to cut all the way through. Prick the central area with a fork and glaze the border with the milk. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes whilst you prep the veg.

Boil the chard stalks for 1 minute, then add the leaves before draining immediately and rinsing in cold water. Dry on a piece of kitchen towel to ensure excess water is removed. Once the pastry is ready, layer the chard, taleggio, frozen peas and asparagus over the centre. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp water, brush a little more milk around the edges, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tart is crisp and golden.

To make the salsa, finely chop the parsley leaves and crush the garlic clove. Mix with the olive oil and grated parmesan. Serve the tart drizzled with the salsa, and alongside a simple side salad for some extra greens. It also goes perfectly with a glass of chilled white!
 photo Green Vegetable Tart  4_zpsgqcslpik.jpg

What makes you love cooking?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #61

Woohoo, officially halfway through 2019! June went by in the blink of an eye (and probably a good thing considering the weather for most of it!) and we’re into July. Less than six months until Christmas (yes I went there…) and our main holiday of the year already over. But what a holiday it was, I’m tempted to rename this post Happy Monday: The Scotland Edition…

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  1. Our holiday. It deserves both a point of it’s own and several other points; it was wonderful. We started with a few days in Edinburgh (my all-time favourite place) and then did a mini roadtrip up the East Coast and then back down through the Carigorns. I absolutely loved it and am itching to explore more of Scotland. Maybe next year…
  2. Scottish seafood. Seriously amazing. One night in Edinburgh I declared I’d had the best bowl of mussels ever, only to take that back a few nights later. We had mussels by the bucketful, lobster, clams, langoustines and so much fish. Just gorgeous and so fresh. Oh, and also the best fish’n’chips ever too.
  3. Communal dining. We ended up doing two communal/family dining experiences during our holiday and both were lovely. It was great to talk to other diners about anything and everything – do you know of anything similar in London?
  4. Ticking off a bucket list item. One of the above communal dining nights was at Ballintaggart Farm, somewhere I’d wanted to visit since reading about it in a foodie magazine last summer. It was beautiful – absolutely faultless food, wonderful service and stunning scenery. So yep, ticked it off the bucket list, but now I absolutely have to stay there.
  5. Scottish strawberries. Some of the best I’ve ever tasted.
  6. Cheese and wine night. On one of the evenings we decided to cosy up in the little studio we’d booked with some local produce and a good bottle of Malbec. Turns out Scotland does cheese rather well, and venison salami is just as delicious as it sounds.
  7. Speaking of cheese, on one night my husband ordered a cheeseboard and couldn’t finish it. So I got dessert (a black lime tart FYI) and cheese. Best. Night. Ever.
  8. A curious dish of Sea Trout with Brie Risotto. Not a combination I’d have thought to put together (and one I was scared to order, but my other choice was tomato-ed) but it was absolutely delicious. Just the right amount of cheese to add richness without overwhelming the fish.
  9. Seeing a polar bear (or four!). As they’re W’s favourite animal we took a day to head to the Highland Wildlife Park, and I unexpectedly really enjoyed it. I thought the enclosures were some of the biggest and well thought out of zoos/parks I’d visited, the animals certainly seemed well cared for and the keepers were passionate and clearly loved ‘their’ animals. Seeing one cry as a litter of Artic Fox pups left their den for the first time showed that! I also may or may not have teared up at the sight of a pack of wolves…
  10. Not eating a bad meal *at all* during our trip. A combination of good luck and meticulous planning.
  11. Finally tracking down my dream dress. I’ve been looking for a linen, pinafore-style, button down midi in black for months and picked one up in the Urban Outfitters sale. It looks dreadful online so I’d not ordered it as an option, but promptly spent the saving (and some more) on a skirt as well.
  12. A vegan afternoon tea at Café Forty One. Part of a day out with my little sister before she starts full time work (how did THAT happen, still feels like she’s in primary school?!) – it was delicious, especially the savouries, and we followed up with Science Museum Lates.
  13. A green bowl of goodness. After over-indulging on holiday this was much needed – quinoa in a coriander-mint-spinach dressing with roasted broccoli, more spinach, avo, seeds, chilli and a little feta. Yum!
  14. An extra week off in London. Not as enjoyable as I had planned (came back from Scotland with a fun-spoiling stomach bug) but I managed a few days out, including a much awaited trip to Lina Stores. Good pasta, I tell you that!
  15. Afternoon tea with my best friend. We were invited to Whittard’s Tea Bar in Covent Garden to celebrate National Best Friend’s Day and it was the perfect day-date. More to come very soon!
  16. Gorgeous weather. Need I say more?!
  17. Actually, we also managed to have good weather in Scotland, which was a surprise. Despite carrying out raincoats *everywhere* we only got rained on once for around 20 minutes, and instead got a little sunburned.
  18. Barbeque with friends. Good company, delicious food and a few board games…
  19. Feeling inspired on Instagram for the first time in a while. Check out my feed and let me know what you think!
  20. Iced Chocolate. I’m sat in a coffee in Shoreditch (get me!) writing this with an iced chocolate and it’s wonderful.

Do you have any holiday plans for the summer? Hope you’re making the most of the lovely weather!

Review: A Great Value Tasting Menu @ Copper & Ink, Blackheath (SE London)

With some very good restaurants a short walk from our flat in Putney (including Home SW15, Bistro Vadouvan and Putney Pies) it’s rare we venture into Central London in search of a date night meal, let alone take a journey all the way out East (and into Zone 3 no less – falling outside our Z1-2 travelcard zone it’s got to be good if I’m paying extra to get there). But given I’ve followed Copper & Ink on Instagram since they announced their intent to open, my husband was a huge fan of owner and chef Tony on 2015’s Masterchef and their menu prices are nothing short of a bargain compared to standard fare in London – we booked in.

 photo Copper and Ink Review 7_zpsyqe3m9lv.jpgStylish and modern, the restaurant is okay but felt a little bare and soul-less when I arrived – although this was much improved when the lights were dimmed down slightly, much to the detriment of my photos. We ordered some wine for me, a Bramble cocktail for him and very quickly decided that the five-course tasting menu at £40 per head would have to be done. And we’d have to add a cheese course for good measure (this was charged at £8 for the two of us).

 

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Perfect. I do enjoy a tasting menu as it (1) removes the need for me to make choices and (2) means I get to try more from the menu. Both bonuses here as the standard menu had so many things I wanted to eat. Though actually if they could have just bought me a loaf of their bread and a much bigger bowl of the chicken fat butter I’d have gone home happy. Fat, but happy.

Actually, the bread and butter also brings my biggest complaint of the night. Why oh why, for a table of two, were we given three slices of bread?! This also reappeared with 5 biscuits on the cheese course – equal numbers please! Total minor niggle really, but if that’s the only thing I can complain about then it was clearly a good meal!

 photo Copper and Ink Review 2_zps2kdcinfq.jpgFirst course was a salt-baked onion with roasted peppers and a balsamic gel. It looked and sounded super simple but was surprisingly complex. The onion was soft with just a little bite to stop it falling apart, and it’s flavours super concentrated. The peppers were sweet and sharp without being over-powering, and I thought it was an excellent start to the meal. It was so nice to kick-off with something light and vegetable-focussed!

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The second course was my favourite – I could have eaten it over and over! Crab salad with gin cured trout, radishes and lemon caviar. The crab was an absolute delight, so fresh tasting and a really good amount of it. The trout was pure perfection, soft and succulent, and the lemon caviar added a beautiful burst of sharpness. Ours also came with some crab toille which introduced some much needed texture. I would go as far as saying that crab is one of my all-time favourite things to eat, so this was perfection.

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The third course was the ‘main’ of guinea fowl, with a pan-fried breast, a bon-bon made from the leg meat, morel, asparagus and mashed potato. Tony himself served us this dish, informing us that the mash was made with equal parts butter and mash. The flavours in this dish were insane, and the mash unsurprisingly some of the best I’ve ever eaten (I have a leaderboard of restaurants who do really good mash, and the top three are now Copper & Ink, Home SW15 and Pollen Street Social, no particular order). The ‘jus’ was definitely more of a gravy, and all the better for it – thick, glossy and full of flavour. The bon-bon was packed full of meat without being dry. I thought the breast was just a touch over cooked and the portion size maybe a tad small, but possibly only because it was so delicious. I was sad to finish it!

We were then firmly on pudding route – two desserts to go, and then our additional cheese board. I personally do feel that the cheese board was necessary as the portions are on the smaller side, but equally for the price it was still a bargain.

 photo Copper and Ink Review 6_zpszmvwwpym.jpgFirst dessert was classic flavours, with the modern deconstructed trend. I’m not usually a fan of deconstructed desserts, but I think it works for mille feuille as the pastry stays much crisper. The cherry sorbet was a complete celebration of the fruit, the almond creme patisserie was indulgent. I loved this dish and thought it hugely clever!

 

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We finished with a doughnut – but not just any doughnut! It was served with a mango puree/sauce (it was quite light and almost mousse like) a mango and chilli salsa (fruit, heat and sweet all perfectly balanced) and a coconut sorbet which bought the whole dish together. The doughnut perhaps wasn’t fried to order as it had a touch of heaviness about it, but it was delicious – fresh and naughty all at the same time.

The cheese selection of the night was a good one – a delicious gouda, one of the best blues I’ve ever eaten (a really good Stickleton), some goat’s cheese (a little ‘cavey’ for me) and a softer one which I also really enjoyed. Served with grapes, oatcakes (why the odd number?!) and quince paste it was again a small portion, but finish the meal off perfectly. We accompanied this with port (him) and a final glass of malbec (me) – the Copper & Ink wine list is nothing short of wonderful, with so many wines available by the (well-priced) glass.

Some delicious petit-four to finish, and we left more than a little disappointed that we live on the opposite side of London. It’s definitely a spot I’ll remember for a good-value treat meal in future!

Have you tried a new restaurant recently?

Recipe: Tomato-Free Chicken Tikka Masala (made with Nomato Sauce)

One of the things I *really* miss being allergic to tomatoes is a good Indian takeaway. This was a (rare) treat at home growing up, and I do associate the smell and sensation of “I have eaten far too much” with a lot of happy childhood memories. The poppadoms and chutney, the sharing of various curries and sides, the debate about whether garlic or plain naan is best (garlic, always!). I’ve found a good few tomato-free pizza options recently (if you’re in SW London I highly recommend Battersea Pi for eating in, and Dynamo for takeaway) but Indian is definitely one I avoid.

 photo Chicken Tikka Masala_zpsdmddfvcm.jpg photo Tomato Free Chicken Tikka Masala 5_zps30x382jz.jpgAnd so I’ve developed my own recipes. Many are based on coconut milk (this Keralan style curry with chickpeas and pineapple is a favourite) but this one uses my nomato sauce and is more aligned with the takeaway curries I remember. It’s absolutely filled with flavour and is just that little bit heavy and greasy – which is perfect for a cheeky curry night. However if you do want to keep it slightly lighter and healthier omitting the cream is an easy way to do this.

It is, however, a fairly ingredient heavy recipe. I’ve tried a few different recipes, but this is the one that works best. Using just curry powder doesn’t quite cut it and won’t give you that curry house kind-of experience. This is the real deal. It’s not a recipe which needs hours in the kitchen though there is some marinating time. It’s fairly hands off and the sauce could be made ahead and reheated last minute – so I reckon it would be perfect for entertaining too. Add some sides, pile everything in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves. My idea of a perfect night in!

 photo Tomato Free Chicken Tikka Masala 3_zps1agzry4e.jpg photo Tomato Free Chicken Tikka Masala 4_zpsfhaoxmvb.jpgRecipe (serves 2 with some extra sauce to freeze, easily scaled up)

    • 2 small/1 large chicken breast, cut into large pieces
    • 100ml natural yoghurt
    • Juice 1 lemon
    • Spices for the marinade – 2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds, ½ tsp hot chilli powder, ½ tsp hot paprika, generous pinch of ground turmeric, 3 garlic cloves (crushed), 3cm piece fresh ginger (finely chopped)
    • 1 onion
    • Spices for the sauce – 2 tsp garam masala, ½ tsp ground fenugreek, 1 whole star anise, ½ tsp ground turmeric, 3cm piece fresh ginger (finely chopped), 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
    • 25g ground almonds
    • Around 200g of nomato sauce (or a can of chopped tomatoes, omit the chicken stock if so)
    • 100ml chicken stock, hot
    • 50ml single cream

First up, get the chicken marinating. Add the cumin and coriander seeds to a pestle and mortar and grind until crushed, then simply mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and marinade spices together, then add the chicken and ensure it is all coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours – we’d usually do this in the morning and then cook at around 7pm.

For the sauce, heat a little oil (or ghee if you have any), add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened and starting to brown. Add the sauce spices and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Stir in the nomato sauce (or a tin of chopped tomatoes) and stock, then simmer for ten or so minutes before fishing out the star anise. Whizz the sauce with a stick blender until smooth, then return the pan to the heat and turn it to low. Stir in the ground almonds, and continue to cook whilst stirring often until you have a thick sauce. This can be made ahead – it freezes really well too.

When ready to eat, heat the grill to high. Thread the chicken pieces onto metal skewers and grill for 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through and lightly charred. Return the sauce to the heat, stir in the cream and heat through. Serve the chicken and sauce alongside some rice, naan and whatever other sides you’d like. I can never resist onion bharjis…
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Are you a curry fan? What’s your go-to Indian takeaway order?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #60

June already – we’re nearly halfway through 2019 and I have to say it’s sped by for me! I’ve been crazyyyy busy with studying (up until April anyway) and then work that I feel like I’ve barely had time to stop and breathe. I’m hoping things are slightly less hectic over summer as quite frankly I could do with a break…

These last two weeks have been fairly uneventful. We *finally* emptied and fully defrosted the freezer so my priority has been filling it back up again (something about having a freezer full of healthy homemade meals makes me so happy) and there’s been some much needed catch ups with family and friends.

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    1. Solo pizza night. I finally picked up Sainsbury’s current tomato-free offering – a Fig, Prosciutto and Gorgonzola combination which was super cheesy. I enjoyed half of it with a large salad, then the rest worked wonderfully cold in lunchboxes (not vegan, but beating food waste!) the next day.
    2. Fresh mango. I can’t stomach mango juice or mango flavoured things (it was the last thing I drank before coming down with a very bad stomach bug last summer) but fresh mango I’m currently loving! I really love it in salads right now, so fresh and tasty…
    3. Raspberry Gin. We picked some up that’s made in Northamptonshire and it is delicious. Definitely going to be my summer drink of choice!
    4. Some good #yearofveganlunches salads. I’ve been adding a harissa-lemon dressing to cooked lentils and serving with roasted figs and coconut, or some roasted beetroot. So good.
    5. Finding a reduced packet of Mini Eggs. I definitely didn’t eat enough of them at Easter…
    6. Picking up some of the country’s best (in my opinion) pies AND my favourite local sausages from a butchers in Canterbury. That place is probably the thing I miss most from uni, apart from my friends of course!
    7. Amazon Prime. Because when a board game you’ve wanted for a while price-drops by 80% I want to get my hands on it asap.
    8. Getting dates in the diary for lots of dinners with friends. There’s going to be a lot of cooking in the next few months!
    9. Seeing one of my plants grow lots of new leaves. Makes up the the slow death of the aloe vera plant…
    10. A really good sandwich – milano salami, garlic mayonnaise and roasted fennel in baguette. The perfect Saturday lunch!

What’s made you smile recently?