Restaurant Review: A Double Brunch at Home SW15 (Putney) ft. The BEST Brunch Dish I’ve Ever Eaten

Home SW15 is our local ‘go-to’ – it’s where we head for a few drinks, dinner (when we have the pennies) and now brunch. Admittedly it’s taken us over a year to go for brunch but after repeated poor service at The Dynamo even the eggs couldn’t quite let me forget the unwelcoming vibe. Home SW15 is the complete opposite.

 photo Home SW15_zpsafygi6v0.jpgAs the name suggests, it’s like going home. Someone will always rush to greet you at the door. They’ll ask about your day if you’re dining in the evening, enquire about your plans at brunch. It’s friendly, it’s relaxed and it just feels comfortable. It’s not only the service that I love about this place though, the food is pretty damn good. We’ve had a couple of dinners there (my first review is here – bad photos!) but we also managed to squeeze in two brunches in the space of about three weeks recently.

 photo Brunch at Home SW15 1_zps6exrjxri.jpg photo Brunch at Home SW15 4_zpspscqghmf.jpgThe first was a treat from my dad in exchange for sleeping on our floor after his Christmas party. It was on this occasion that I ordered the best brunch dish I’ve ever had. I know that sounds a bit click-baity but quite honestly I could and would order this again and again, despite the high-ish price-tag. At £16.50 the Crab Cakes are pushing the purse strings, but oh my are they worth it! Two fair-sized crab cakes, packed full of crab with it’s instantly reconnisable sweetness. Two perfectly poached eggs. The most glorious hollandaise. Some crunchy chilli and spring onions for even more flavour and some texture. Yum. Yum. YUM.

 photo Brunch at Home SW15 7_zpsucgfhrls.jpgThe boys both ordered the Shakshauka. Obviously this isn’t something I can steal a mouthful of, but it smelt delicious and they seemed happy. The portion was also exceptionally generous, with plenty of toast for dipping. Nothing worse than not getting enough toast to soak up runny egg or sauce!

The second was for W’s birthday and, in true Home style, we were greated with on-the-house minosas (the freshly squeeze orange juice was divine) and even a hand-written birthday card from the team. It’s those kind of details that really do make it our favourite local.

 photo Brunch at Home SW15 11_zpshxk9inlo.jpg photo Brunch at Home SW15 14_zpsydhfndqm.jpg photo Brunch at Home SW15 13_zpso0qrwbv0.jpgOn this occasion I ordered the Eggs Benedict. It’s one of my favourite brunch dishes and generally I would always order it if I saw it on a menu – and this came with a bit of twist. Instead of using bacon or a slice of ham, the muffins are piled high with shredded ham hock before being generously drizzled in hollandaise and topped with poached eggs. Now I’ve had the ham hock as a main course for dinner at Home before, so I knew it was tasty. But I really wasn’t expecting quite so much of it for breakfast. It was absolutely delicious and I’m not sure a standard Benny will do it for me again! The only complaint I do have is that my eggs were quite lukewarm as opposed to hot, I have a feeling they made have stood for a few minutes.

 photo Brunch at Home SW15 9_zpsdtiggly0.jpgW also ordered well, with the French Toast, Banana, Maple Syrup and Bacon. I can’t quite get over the banana-bacon combo, but the piece of French Toast I stole was the best I’ve eaten outside of the US. Gooey and soft in the right places, crisp in others, wonderfully sweet but still light. I was quite tempted to order another plate of these after I’d finished my dish!

So yep, Home SW15 is a solid brunch spot, and one I’d whole heartedly recommend. Even if you’re not local it’s well worth the trip just for the crab cake dish alone… Uou also have to go for ‘bar snacks’ if you can. Their Cauliflower Cheese Croquettes are deep-fried balls of dreams. I’m not sure there is a limit to what I would do to get my hands on a plate of these…

Where’s your go-to brunch choice? Do you stick to one place or do you like to explore?

Food: Making Entertaining More Sustainable

I’m a feeder. It is well-known that I love food, but it becomes even more obvious when I’m feeding friends and family. I’d hate for anyone to leave my house hungry and we’ve been known to feed dinner guests so well they’ve forgone breakfast the next day. I do, however, want to do this in the most sustainable way possible. Not buying food for the sake of it and keeping waste to a minimum. I thought I’d pen up a little post on how I keep dinner parties sustainable without letting anyone go hungry!

 photo Sustainable Feasting 1_zpsijs4ciie.jpg photo Bonfire Night Feast 2_zps9envtjdt.jpgCook Seasonally

This is my main tip for any kind of sustainable cooking. You can be as green as you like, but if you’re shipping in foreign strawberries during the winter it’s never going to be good. Stick to in-season ingredients and everything will be tastier, fresher and quite possibly cheaper too!

Bulk Out Meat

Again, this is something I recommend you do anyway for both budget reasons and to up those veggies. A really good example is the starter I enjoyed at a Bonfire Night Feast with Leisure Living (cooked up by Dan Doherty and attended by Ruby of GBBO, I was fan-girling all night!). Rather than serving up each person with a piece of pricey fish, it was instead broken up and served as a spiced chowder with plenty of vegetables. It was SO tasty (I’ve since cooked it at home), super filling and used much less fish than other recipes. You can see more of Leisure Living’s sustainable cooking tips here.

 photo Bonfire Night Feast 5_zpslkc6tdft.jpg“Make Your Own” Courses

This is perfect for a more informal dinner party – just pile everything in the middle and let guests help themselves to what they want. It means nothing goes to waste, as if they don’t like it they aren’t forced to take it. Think build-your-own tacos, create your own ice-cream sundaes or even pizza making. I only wish I’d seen the make your own candied apple idea before our autumnal wedding!

Buy Local

Always, always always! If you’re lucky enough to live close enough to buy your meat directly from the farm, do it! It will have a much lower carbon footprint, and you’ll be supporting your local economy to boot. But it’s not just meat that you can buy local. Instead of getting a nice smelly French brie from Sainsburys, pop into your local cheese shop and get a British equivalent – we go to Hamish Johnston and their Waterloo is far nicer than most brie I’ve tried! You’re also likely to get much better-for-the-environment packaging by shopping local. Just think about milk – plastic bottles in the shops vs glass if you get it delivered. That’s certainly on my to-do list for 2019…

 photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 7_zpsbmbingda.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 6_zpst3axdh4c.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 4_zpssuvdkils.jpg photo Sloe Gin Venison Ragu 24_zpsjijf0zys.jpgChoose an Easily Freezeable/Reheatable Dish

Another tip to reduce waste is to cook something that, even if there’s loads left, won’t be thrown away. A giant stew, a bubbling dish of mac’n’cheese all work well. I recently worked with B&M to create a Sloe Gin Braised Venison Ragu which is perfect for this. It is something slightly different and tastes a bit special (the juniper really compliments the gaminess of the meat). Wonderful over pasta, mash or a cheesy polenta, not only can you make it ahead but it also freezes beautifully which means some rather gourmet after dinner meals!

 photo Bonfire Night Feast 7_zpsvlcvhhr8.jpg photo Bonfire Night Feast 15_zpsuygmzwim.jpgNo Single-Use Plastics

I get it, it’s SO tempting to use plastic cutlery or plates to cut down on the washing up! But it’s also obviously not the best choice for the environment, so best to pop on the rubber gloves and get scrubbing. I’m also looking to take this one step further in 2019 and pick up some nice linen napkins to cut down on waste even more. And, y’know, they’ll make my table look more Instagrammable…

*This post includes a few links, but it isn’t an ad and none are affiliate. No payment was made for the mention of any of these companies or events and, as always, all opinions are my own. 

Do you have any tips for cooking more sustainably?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #50

Welcome to the first ‘happy Monday’ of 2019. I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about the future of this little online space and I want to *try* to make it a little less rigid and reduce the self-piled-on pressure it can give me. I used to post recipes on a Thursday, Cooking From on a Saturday, other posts on a Tuesday. It was pretty useful for planning, but it also meant I stressed about getting a post live.

Well, no more. I’m hoping to just post about the food I love as and when, no real posting pattern. We’ll see how that goes anyway! The one thing I do want to keep regular is this little series, as it puts me in such a good mood to type away on a Sunday evening remembering all the good bits about the previous weeks. And so with no further ado, what’s made me smile lately…

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    1. New Year’s Eve. We had a fairly relaxed night at ours, with my sister and some close friends. We cooked a rather tasty meal (Pan Fried Pork Fillet, Slow-Cooked Pork Cheek, Boulangerie Potatoes and Greens, followed by a White Russian Roulade and then plenty of cheese and biscuits) and played board games. I couldn’t think of anything worse than a night out on NYE so this was perfect for me!
    2. Vegan lunchboxes. You’ll see from Thursday’s post that I’ve set myself the challenge of vegan lunchboxes for the year. My first was a thick Mushroom and Lentil Soup, but I also made a rather tasty Daal from The Green Roasting Tin last week.
    3. On a related note, realising my beloved falafel are vegan.
    4. ASDA’s Rhubarb & Custard Tea. It’s my new go-to tea (that’s not Yorkshire Breakfast!). Sweet and fruity without being overly sickly or artificial.
    5. The never ending tin of chocolates from Christmas. We bought a tin of Quality Street (actually we got a personalised tin because hey married life, and chose the contents to be green triangles, orange creams and strawberry creams) – but we keep adding other Christmas chocolate to it, so it doesn’t seem to be going down despite my best efforts!
    6. A Hazelnut Bundt Cake with Nutella glaze. This was W’s birthday cake of 2019 and it was so bloody good!
    7. Garlic Bread. I’m actually ill with yet another flu virus but one of the few things I’ve wanted to eat has been garlic bread. I regretted it as it was not good for my sore throat but it did taste damn good!
    8. Realising one of my fav ‘fancier’ dresses I bought for the honeymoon can be dressed down a little with a jumper underneath. Whoop!
    9. Cauliflower Cheese Croquettes from Home SW15. Worth the trip to Putney just for a plate for five…
    10. How sweet my husband is looking after me when I’m ill. He picked me up from the tube station (as I was 100% not steady on my feet having pushed through a day at work), got me comfortable, went on several trips to the shop to find food I fancied and meds I needed and was generally a star.

How has 2019 been treating you so far?

Recipe: Vegan Lentil & Mushroom ‘Stoup’

What makes the difference between a stew or casserole and a soup? I like to think it’s a fine line, and this ‘stoup’ kinda sits in the middle. You can add more stock or some vegan milk to thin it down for a soup, or blend it up more and reduce it for a stew-type dish. Whichever you choose, it’s absolutely delicious and I think one of my favourite winter lunches.

 photo Mushroom Lentil Soup_zpslbz1od61.jpgIt’s creamy, it’s comforting, real soul food. It’s garlick-y and slighty herby. There’s a kick of black pepper and a slight tang from a splash of vinegar. It’s not vinegar-y as such, but it helps to add a little bit of complexity that makes this really feel like a meal, and not just something you’ve thrown together. Add some toast or a bit of sourdough bread and this is a real hug in a bowl.

It’s also vegan! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’ve set myself a challenge in 2019 to make as many of my lunchboxes as possible vegan. I’m not constraining myself too much by this, and if I’ve got meat or dairy that needs using then it will be thrown in, but I’d like to keep the majority of them vegan. And frankly, if they all taste as good as this it will be an easy job. If you’re not vegan, however, additions which could work well would be bacon (always), or simmer with a parmesan rind to add some extra flavour.

 photo Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Soup 10_zpsethbwgep.jpgIngredients (makes 4 lunch-time servings)

  • 150g dried Puy lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 pack of mushrooms mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup vegan-friendly stock
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened plant-based milk—I used Oat milk

First up, cook your lentils. I tend to add boiling water and bring to a rolling boil, before reducing the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add plenty of salt, cook for another five minutes and then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pan and cook the shallots until slightly softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot, turn up the heat and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, and continue to try for 1 minute before adding the vinegar. Stir until evaporated, then add the drained lentils, vegetable stock and  milk to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil, before using a stick blender to whizz to your desired consistency. Add more milk or stock if you want a soup, or reheat and simmer until thick and stew-like. Check for seasoning, adding plenty of black pepper.

Serve hot with toast or bread. I also like to stir through some spinach – for lunchboxes I add a cube or two of frozen spinach in the morning before I leave the house.

 photo Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Soup 8_zpsdzcibo5b.jpgFor something so quick the result is so flavourful and cosy – it does taste as though it’s been simmering away for hours. It also makes my flat smell super good, so I’m down with that…

Do you have any lunchbox friendly vegan recipes?

Food: Kitchen Goals for the New Year

The fact that we’re now in 2019 has escaped me somewhat – I feel like I’m still stuck in November, the festive period whizzed by and I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it’s the start of a brand new year. It’s meant I’ve been a little slow in thinking about what I want to achieve as we go through 2019, but over the last couple of evenings I’ve put together a few aims and goals. Some are more lifestyle themed (the knitting will happen one day!), but the majority are foodie focussed…

 photo Kitchen Essentials_zpslhepukqi.jpg1. Cook at least one new recipe per week.

This was one of our resolutions as a couple in 2018, and quite possibly is the only resolution I’ve ever actually kept all year. Okay, there were weeks we didn’t do this (purely because we were either ill or on honeymoon) but otherwise we did, and many weeks we made multiple new recipes. It was one of the best things we’ve done, we ate so much more variety, found some *amazing* recipes and discovered ingredients which we now love (preserved lemons, tahini and sesame oil…).

2. Get use out of all of our kitchen equipment.

Given we live in a one-bed flat we have a ridiculous amount of cooking equipment. Some of it gets virtually constant use (if we make dinner without any of our Le Creuset it’s very unusual!), others rarely see the light of day (the pressure cooker for instance) and some are still in their packaging (hi bamboo steamer!). I’d like to use everything we have at least once this year, preferably more. Bao buns are definitely on my list to try making in the steamer…

 

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3. Bake more ‘challenging’ bakes.

We both love baking, but we’re both equally gulity of either sticking to the same recipes (hey cookies or brownies with added extras to ‘make a change). The things we do stick to are absolutely delicious, but I really want to challenge myself in the kitchen this year and bake things that are a little more complicated. We got a couple of exciting tins and moulds for both our wedding and respective birthdays/Christmasses so watch this space! I actually kicked this off this weekend with a Hazelnut Nutella Bundt for W’s birthday…

4. Produce less kitchen waste.

Whilst I think we are pretty good at not making *loads* of waste, we could definitely do more. I’m a little too fond of freezer bags (I find it much easier to cram the freezer full that if we use washable boxes) and cling-film is definitely something I’d like to remove from our cupboards this year.

 

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5. Eat more ‘Nose to Tail’ when consuming meat or fish.

Or vegetables for that matter! Admittedly full Nose-to-Tail eating is slightly tricky in a non-commercial kitchen, but when I cook meat I really want to make sure I use every single scrap. Whether it’s spooning off beef fat to make dripping, making stock from the chicken carcass or thinking up ever more inventive ways to use up leftovers, I’m all for it. And the same principle applies to veg too – those onion tops, carrot peelings and celery leaves? Freeze them and use them in your next batch of stock. Potato peelings? Follow Katy’s lead and make crisps!

Related to this point, I also want to cook and eat more offal this year. I have always enjoyed the ‘ickier’ parts of meat and a trip to St John at the weekend really brought that home. I absolutely love faggots for example, but just can’t find them in London – so it looks like I’ll have to give making my own a try!

6. Make use of our more unloved cookbooks.

We have a LOT of cookbooks – like a whole bookcase full. For the most part we are really good at using them, we’ll always flick through one or two when planning our weekly menus but there are some that barely ever get used. I’d like to change that this year and, if I’m still not convinced by the book, donate it to charity. I’ve started a list on my phone of all the recipes I want to try. Let’s just say it’s going to take a lot longer than 2019 to get through it…

7. Eat seasonally.

Eating by the seasons is so important to me, more so than any other kind of eating ‘trend.’ It’s all very well and good cutting down meat “for the environment” but if you’re eating strawberries all the year round and avos every day your carbon footprint is gonna be high. I’m not saying my way of eating is the best (far from it) but I think there’s so much to gain from eating seasonally. Ingredients will be fresher and tastier, your food bill will likely be cheaper too. Plus it makes it so much easier to plan meals!

8. Pack vegan/vegetarian lunchboxes.

I’m not about to go vegetarian or start doing Veganuary as, for me, it’s not particularly achieveable as I just enjoy cooking and eating all food too much. I do, however, want to cut down on the amount of meat I eat and lunches seem the easiest and best way to do this. I take a lunchbox to work 99% of the time so want to make these vegan or vegetarian as often as possible. I’ve started off last week with a comforting Mushroom & Lentil Soup which I’ve really enjoyed! This week I’ve got a Bean Chilli for a few days, then I’m planning on doing an oven-baked Daal for the second half of the week. I’d like to work on the vegan recipes the most, so please send inspiration espeicially if you’re taking part in Veganuary.

9. Grow my own herbs.

I’ve worked out we spend over 10% of our weekly food budget on fresh herbs – and that’s just insane. It’s a pretty significant amount of money and also a huge amount of plastic (I’ve noticed ASDA do stock open bunches of herbs so if you’ve got one local there’s an easy way of reducing waste). I received an indoor garden for my birthday last month and I’m excited to get growing! Even if I can just have a ready supply of coriander I’d be happy…

10. Wash up more.

We have definitely gotten far, far too reliant on using our dishwasher over the last few months, so we’re taking it back to basics and washing up (shock horror!) by hand most nights. I’ve actually really enjoyed taking the time after dinner to clear up, it’s a good time to really catch up on our days.

There’s obviously some non-kitchen goals I’d love to achieve. Knitting is STILL on the list, as is getting into some form of regular exercise. I’d also love to raise money for charities close to my heart over the year, and also encourage young people into STEM based jobs. Oh, and the small thing of qualifying as an actuary too…

What would you like to achieve in 2019?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #49

It’s the last day of the year, but it’s also time for my Happy Monday post. I did debate doing a special “year in review” type post but unfortunately ran out of time to put it together – and so it’s the bog-standard usual format, albeit with some added Christmas sparkle! I will however be putting together a Year in Review thingy on my Instagram stories, so keep an eye on that if you’re interested!

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First up though, what’s made me happy lately…

  1. Making it through Christmas (and also 6 whole months!) without either me or W ending up on A&E. Given last Christmas Day I took him in, then both of us were in within 10 days of each other in the summer it’s a bit of a relief!
  2. Pecan & Maple Snowball Cookies. I made them as gifts for my team at work and they are 100% my favourite bake of the year. Recipe will be up as soon as the photos are edited…
  3. Picking up two jumpers I’d lusted after in the Fat Face sale for less than half price.
  4. Making White Russian’s at home. It’s one of my favourite drinks and it’s dangerously easy…
  5. New fluffy socks. So warm, so cosy!
  6. Making prints of our wedding photos as Christmas gifts for our parents. It gave me all the feels, and I can’t wait to choose some to display in our own home.
  7. Lighting my Cocoa & Cashmere scented candle from Yorkshire Soap Company. It’s the most glorious fragrance!
  8. Big blanket scarves. I unwrapped one on Christmas night from my parents, and treated myself to another in the sales.
  9. My beautiful new chowder mugs, all the way from a tiny potter in New England – because my husband is all kinds of awesome. I’m planning to do a whole post about them soon but short story is I saw them, didn’t get them, moaned about it for weeks then unwrapped them on Christmas day.
  10. Cuddles with my pups. Our old terrier behaves like a puppy again when there’s presents to unwrap which is so lovely to watch!

I could go on and on about how lovely Christmas was, it might sound boring but a quiet few days with my nearest and dearest was exactly what the doctor ordered! I’m now prepping for a NYE celebration of good food and board games, so the good times are only going to continue!

How was your Christmas break?

Food: What To Bake This Festive Season

It’s Christmas Eve Eve baaaabbbeee! I’m now feeling all sorts of festive and I’m SO excited for Christmas. Not only is it our first as a married couple, I’m also really excited (although a little apprehensive not being at home) to spend the day with my in-laws for the first time. We’ll also not forget my Christmas last year was rather odd, with Christmas night spend in A&E and then quarantining myself away from everyone for a few days (spraying Dettol at anyone who dared come near me) – though I succeeded in avoiding the winter vomiting bug everyone else had! Anyway, it’s Christmas, I’m excited, and here’s why.

 photo Festive Baking_zpswfswoozq.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 5_zpsafdd0i4x.jpgFood.

I’m all about that festive food.

 

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Turkey, goose, pigs in blankets. Two types of potato (mash and roast). The obligatory sprout. Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Toblerone. Quality Street (strawberry cremes for the win!). Alllll the cheese. Then the leftovers. Bubble and squeak, cold cuts, turkey curry. And that’s before we get onto dinner parties for the New Year parties.

All of that is good, but my absolute favourite thing is festive baking. Not only are the results delicious, but I find it really brings people together. Whether it’s me and my husband having a flour fight, the taste of my grandma’s jam tarts (she always made them for the mince pie haters) or children decorating baked tree decorations, festive baking is just so heart warming. With that in mind I’m sharing some of my favourite festive bakes. Whether they’re tried and tested by me, family favourites or just ones I’m desperate to make having seen them in the blogging world, they’re all things I’d suggest spending a cosy afternoon making. Pop on your most festive socks and jumpers, turn up the Christmas playlist and get in the kitchen!

Chocolate Orange Brownies

Brownies are probably my favourite bake to eat, and adding orange (and a pinch of festive spice) is the perfect way to inject a Christmassy feel. I usually stick to my Ultimate Brownie recipe, adding in all sorts of extras. This year I’ve poached orange slices in a sugar syrup, chopped most of it up finely and stirred it through the mixture, and used the remainder to top the brownies. Switch out the usual chocolate chunks for some chopped Terry’s and you’ve got the perfect chocolatey treat for this time of year!

 

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Mince Pies

Ok, disclaimer right here. I’m not a Mince Pie fan. I hate dried fruit so the idea of them is just a bit bleugh, but I will accept they are a staple part of Christmas for so many, and I do love the smell of them baking! My tip for these is to buy ready-made mincemeat and then pimp it up. Add extra orange (always) and some alcohol (whisky is our go-to, but the more traditional brandy is an obvious choice). Serve warm with cream and you may even convince me to take a bite…

 

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Edible Gifts

One of my favourite things to do the week before Christmas is bake some little treats that I can bag up, decorate with pretty ribbon and give out to my friends and colleagues. It’s something I really love to do, as it shows my appreciation for them without breaking the bank.

This year I’ve been super busy at the office (think still being at your desk way into the night on the Friday before Christmas, plus I’m working Christmas Eve too!), and so I turned to some super-quick yet super tasty recipes which I knew would be crowd pleasers. Super-Easy Peanut Butter Fudge – see my recipe here – is one of my favourite recipes. It’s so perfect to package up into little homemade gifts, hardly takes any time, just a while in the fridge to set, and is the perfect combination of sweet and addictive peanut butter. I’ve also been making snowball cookies (chocolate recipe here) though this year I’ve given them a twist by removing the chocolate and making with a combination of maple and pecans.

Gingerbread House

Making a Gingerbread House brings back so many memories for me. On our first Christmas as a couple (an unbelievable 8 years ago now) W and I decided to make one. I can’t say it went particularly well, from memory we snapped one of the roof pieces so ended up with a flat topped ‘shed’ – and then we decided to ice our initials on…

And yep. The Gingerbread Toilet was born.

 photo Gingerbread Toilet_zps2ojbaecy.jpg

Isn’t she a beauty?!

 photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 4_zpsxob82420.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 2_zps1ys0yiz5.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 1_zps7pd4cu3s.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 7_zpsapnachso.jpg photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 6_zps4b146sin.jpgFortunately when I was invited along to a Gingerbread House Bake Off with NEFF and Currys PC World things went slightly better! When an evening kicks off with mulled wine and cheese you know it’s going to be a good one, and this was one of my favourite December experiences of 2018. Divided into teams and provided with gingerbread dough, icing ingredients and a whole kitchen of shiny equipment (including those ovens with the slide-and-hide door from a certain tent…) we were tasked with producing a fully decorated gingerbread house and a few trays of canapes in just a few hours.

We got the dough in the oven in record time, prepped up some canapes (Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Dill bruschetta was a winner for me!) and *just* about managed to get more of the sweet decorations on our creation than in our tummies. A lot of giggles and some groans (the team next to us unfortunately suffered a catastrophic collapse) we presented our houses to the judges. Unfortunately we didn’t quite win, but it didn’t really matter – we made a great looking house, and most importantly had an amazing time. I met some bloggers who I’d been following for years (hey Victoria) and some of the loveliest new-to-me bloggers too (Sophia and Corinne in particular).

And that’s what Christmas baking is, for me, all about. It doesn’t matter if it’s stunningly presented, even to the point of being a collapsed gingerbread house. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. It’s all about getting together as friends, as family, as couples and enjoying time together in the kitchen baking up something filled with care and love.
 photo Gingerbread House BakeOff 8_zps7vvbzaaz.jpg

*I was invited to attend the Gingerbread Bake Off event, but this post isn’t sponsored – and of course all opinions are my own!

Have you ever tried to make a gingerbread house? What’s your go-to festive bake?

I’d also like to take this as an opportunity to thank you, my readers, for continuing to support me over 2018. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Cooking From: Midwinter Suppers from The Christmas Chronicles

This book is so much more than just a cookbook. Not only is it ones of the most Instagrammable books I own, it’s also one of the loveliest to cosy up and read at this time of year. Nigel has such a wonderful way of writing, so personal that this feels more like a diary than a collection of recipes. Indeed it’s full of so many of his own memories of the festive period, interspersed with recipes covering the main event of turkey and goose, to how to use leftovers and all manner of other delicious things. And it’s not just the usual Christmassy fare either, the book takes the reader from the beginning of November all the way to the end of February. And somehow each recipe seems absolutely perfect for this time of year.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 11_zpsdzfefrii.jpgNigel is able, in both his cookery programmes and books, to completely relax me. It’s his voice, but also his wordings and the way he simply puts sentences (and ingredients) together. And his recipes are just the same – simple, uncomplicated and all the ones I’ve tried have been delicious. This book is all about cosy winter food, which sums up both recipes we’ve cooked.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 14_zpsmvwb833m.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 15_zps56obvc7p.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 16_zpslfvfgbhr.jpgThe Black Pudding and Baked Apples with Celeriac and Mustard Mash might be a bit of an unusual combination, but it’s one of the best things I’ve eaten in the past few weeks. It’s warm and comforting, and genuinely feels like a big hug on a plate. Just a few ingredients, a bit of time (but not too much) and you’ve got a delicious plate of food – and this also makes the whole flat smell amazing from the baked apples.

Then there’s the Pork Chop with Cheesy Spinach Polenta. We’d never tried cooking with Polenta until last week, but I’m fairly sure it could become a new obsession. Super creamy, a little cheesy, instensely savoury and perfectly matched with the tender yet slightly caramelised pork chop. Another dish which made us feel enveloped in a satisified happy foodie fog.

As a last minute edit, we also ate the polenta with onions and cheese (Camembert will do – favourite line in the whole book) yesterday evening. Rib-stickingly heavy with cheese and oh so glorious.

But there’s so many other recipes I’d love to try! The Roast Goose with Lemon Potato Stuffing is high on my list, and the Oxtail with Butter Beans and Sherry sounds amazing.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 10_zpsqywase2j.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 13_zpskswejamu.jpgSo much more than a cookbook, this is currently living on my bedside table. I can see it becoming almost a tradition to pull it out and cook from it each festive season…

What’s your favourite festive recipe?

Recipe: Blood Orange Noodle Salad (perfect for Leftover Turkey!)

One of our resolutions for 2018 was to cook at least one new recipe a week. And it may just be the first resolution that I’ve not only managed to keep for longer than a few months, but that I’ve managed to keep all year. I’m beyond proud that we’ve done this, in some weeks cooking more than 4 new recipes. We’ve added things to our repertoire, we’ve tried things I wouldn’t have usually gone near.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad_zps5ee5catj.jpgAnd one of the first new recipes we’ve tried, and one of my favourites, was this Blood Orange Salad. Originally a Sainsbury’s recipe made with duck, I think it would work wonderfully well as a way to jazz up leftover Turkey meat (particularly thigh meat).

The sauce is zingy and hot with chilli, sharp from the rice vinegar (an ingredient I wish I’d given in and bought sooner, it adds so much more life to noodle dressings). The blood orange gives it the most amazing seasonal flavour, still fresh and zesty but not as harsh as lime. Cucumber adds freshness, there’s plenty of crunch from the veggies, and the double-herb hit of mint and coriander just pulled it all together. The slow-roasted duck leg is both meltingly soft meat and really crunchy skin, which contrasts well with the juicy blood orange – if you’re using leftover turkey I’d recommend throwing some of the skin in the pan and frying on a really high heat to get the same effect.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 5_zps6aic4lif.jpg photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 7_zpszwpvhphh.jpgRecipe (serves 2)

  • 1 duck leg, or around 300g leftover turkey meat
  • 2 nests of dried rice noodles
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 1⁄2 cucumber
  • 2 spring onions
  • 4 radishes
  • 100g sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 a Chinese Leaf, core removed
  • 1 pack mint, leaves only
  • 1 pack coriander, leaves only
  • 2 blood oranges (one whole, the other juiced for the dressing, below)
  • 30g peanuts, roughly chopped
  • For the dressing – 2 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 red chilli, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp light brown sugar, juice of 1 blood orange, 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce, 3 tbsp rice vinegar

If making with the duck, pop the duck leg on a baking tray and season them generously with salt and black pepper, rubbing it into the skin. Roast the duck for 11⁄2 hours at 180C, until the skin is crisp and the flesh soft and tender. Once ready slice the meat and skin into rough chunks, discarding any bone. If making with leftover turkey meat, heat a little sesame oil in a wok and fry the turkey over a high heat until heated through. Do this just before serving.

For the dressing, toast the sesame seeds in a small pan for about a minute, giving them a stir now and then. Tip them into a jug, add all the other dressing ingredients (with the chilli and garlic finely chopped) and stir together.

Cook the rice noodles following pack instructions, then drain and rinse in cold water, shaking off the excess. Tip into a large bowl. Slice the carrot and cucumber into matchsticks, trim the spring onions and slice them into shreds of a similar length. Trim and slice the radishes. Slice the sugar snaps lengthways. Shred the Chinese leaf, mint and coriander. Add all these ingredients to the bowl with the noodles as you prepare them.

Slice the whole orange into rounds and halve the rounds, removing obvious pips, skin and pith. Add the oranges (and any juice) to the bowl with the salad ingredients; gently toss together. Add the rest of the dressing to the noodles and toss using tongs. Layer the salad, meat and noodles onto large plates; sprinkle with the peanuts and serve.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 3_zps8gaf5blq.jpg photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 1_zpsd9op4uks.jpgThis would be very much welcome as a Christmas leftover dinner – perhaps not on Boxing Day (I’m still alllll about cold cuts, bubble and squeak and cheese) but on the days that follow it would perk even the scroggiest of people up. And of course it feels nice and healthy, so kicks off all the good intentions for the New Year…given the sucess of cooking new recipes this year, I know one resolution that I’ll be carrying through into 2019!

Have you ever kept any resolutions? How do you use up turkey leftovers?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #48

Happy December! How it’s the last month of the year I honestly do not know – I thought time flew by before the wedding, but here we are having been married for over two months! Our tree is up, the Buble CD is out and my festive PJs are firmly in rotation. I’ve not quite broken out the Christmas jumper just yet, but it’s coming…

 photo Happy Things 2_zpstx894dal.png

  1. Celebrating my birthday exactly how I wanted it. I saw family a few days before (and got a much needed haircut), then headed off to Tortworth Court for a relaxing weekend. I’d actually won a minimoon in a Love My Dress competition a while back, and so we cashed it in for my birthday treat. Divine.
  2. I also got to explore the Cotswolds, which has been on my list for ages. So beautiful.
  3. To top it all off, our mini-moon package included a spa day. We floundered about the pool, had a lovely massage and cosied in our room for most of Saturday.
  4. A new phone! After 3 years a rapidly deteriorating battery and a Black Friday deal coincided, so I treated myself to a Huawei P20. I’ve been so impressed with the brand previously I never considered looking elsewhere, and I have to say I’m impressed. Completely not sponsored by the way!
  5. Feeling like I have a whole new wardrobe. I bought *loads* of bits ahead of our honeymoon and kept it all new and fresh until then, so now I’m able to wear it all. I’ve loved combining more summery dresses with jumpers – this dress in particular goes so well with a black polo neck!
  6. Finally trying out the Brunch menu at Home SW15. It’s our fav spot in Putney (I’ve reviewed them for dinner a while back – have a read here) but we’ve never made it to breakfast. We finally did last weekend and oh my! So gutted it took us this long. I had the BEST brunch dish (crab cakes, poached eggs and hollandaise) that’ I’ve ever had in London.
  7. Whisky Smoked Brie. I don’t need to say anything else!
  8. Our Christmas tree makes me so happy – it’s coppery and rose gold and just so pretty. I’d love to decorate more of our flat with garlands and wreaths but we just don’t have the pennies this year, so I’ve gone all out with the tree instead.
  9. Making Gingerbread houses with Neff. I went to an event last Tuesday where we did a bit of a Bake Off between groups of bloggers. Whilst my team didn’t quite win, we did have an absolutely amazing time and our house didn’t collapse. A fab event, and I got to try the Bake Off ovens which are so fun (and would be insanely practical in a tiny kitchen).
  10. A surprisingly good pub meal in Northamptonshire for my birthday. I do find since loving in London I’ve become a little bit of a food snob, but this was genuinely lovely. I had some perfectly cooked sea bass, followed by a wonderful chocolate bomb dessert. Yum!

How is your December going? Have you cracked out the festive jumper yet?