Thanksgiving Feasting

Last Sunday, Katrina (who makes a regular appearance on this blog) invited me and some of our other friends around for a Thanksgiving feast.

Her family are American and so, naturally, have always celebrated the holiday and are used to the great abundance of tasty dishes traditionally available. I, on the other hand, had never really done anything for Thanksgiving before until I met Katrina, who had kindly invited me around to her house the year before. Making this my second official edition and knowing what to expect, I eagerly anticipated all the amazing food I was about to consume.

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Thinking tactically and arriving with an empty stomach (this backfired as I was literally starving), we all sipped some wine and helped ourselves to the array of delicious snacks and starters, including the amazing crab dip Katrina’s parents made. P.s Katrina and Mel if you’re reading this, can I have the recipe, please?

Knowing this was only the beginning, moments later (and much to my delight as you had probably guessed), the (massive) and succulent BBQ’ed turkey arrived on a platter. Then, a vast number of side dishes also started to appear- another shout out to Katrina and her family for the organisational skills needed to execute a Thanksgiving dinner of that calibre. I am pretty sure me and the others just stared in silence at it all coming out at this point and needed a moment to take it all in. Ellie and Andrea also arrived and made matters even better by bringing the greatest portion of mac and cheese and sweet potatoes known to mankind. Picking up my plate and pretending to contemplate letting others go first (sorry…but also not sorry), I quietly and quickly scurried to the front to fill up my plate.

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I had to try everything – (I mean obviously who wouldn’t?) and I took a small (ok, small ish) portion of each. These included:

  • BBQ’ed Turkey
  • Gammon
  • Dave’s Famous Stuffing (Katrina’s Dad for you guys)
  • Green Bean Casserole made by Katrina- you go, girl!
  • Previously mentioned Mac & Cheese with a Dorito Crumb- YUM
  • Mash Potatoes & Sweet Potato cubes

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Everything was fantastic as expected- I especially loved the mac & cheese and the stuffing, having to go back for seconds…and maybe thirds. If all this wasn’t enough already, Mel had also made delicious banoffee and pumpkin pies. The banoffee pie was probably one of the best I’ve tried as I tactically asked Mel what biscuits she used in the base. Writing this post now has made me crave it all over again… especially on a hangover like today.

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We spent the entire afternoon drinking wine, eating and chatting to one another. The definition of a perfect Sunday. It’s safe to say I was way too full that day to have any form of food for dinner as I was well and truly stuffed and satisfied.  

It’s official- I love Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 

Review of Jackson & Rye, Bank Branch

My lovely friend Katrina once again pulled it out the bag this week when she invited me along to review Jackon & Rye with her. It serves American style food in a relaxed atmosphere. Knowing we were planning to go all out; I had a small breakfast and lunch in anticipation. It also turns out that my internship requires working on daily food and lifestyle content, which really gets you feeling hungry. All this meant that by the time I sat down for our dinner reservation I was starving. Having arrived a bit early, I was recommended to try an old fashioned cocktail while I waited. I loved the way it was served in a mini bottle and ice bucket, but in hindsight, I’m not a fan of stiff drinks. I had to shamefully wait for the ice to melt until I could enjoy it BUT I did feel slightly cool, and the guy next to me obviously didn’t take me for an old fashioned kinda gal, so I guess that’s always a bonus.

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For food, we ordered a HUGE selection off of the menu, and we did have some waiters tease us that perhaps we had gone a little overboard. Nonetheless, we ate it all like champions and if anyone is looking for people to professionally eat and try as much food as they can at a restaurant- we are your girls. For our starters, we decided to try the:

  • Truffle & Polenta Hush Puppies
  • Corn Dogs
  • Salt & Pepper Squid
  • Crunchy Chorizo Prawns

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I think Katrina and I would both agree- the starters were some of our favourite dishes and a highlight of our meal. For one, I loved the gimmick of the mini corn dogs and the calamari was perfectly crispy and cooked perfectly. Sometimes I find it can run the risk of being overcooked or rubbery and I’m happy to report that was definetly was not the case. The Truffle and Polenta hush puppies were also incredibly moreish, and truffle is THE BEST thing to add to anything – in fact, my sister and I are going to a truffle-themed night on Tuesday. Some shameless self-promotion there. Finally, the prawns were coated in crisp batter and had a delicious mango chilli chutney dip that kept me going back for more.  

Onto mains- ( i told you, we went bigggggg!). We decided to go for the: buttermilk chicken, (one portion each you’ll be pleased to know) with Cajun fries and a wonderfully broad array of sides. We tried:

  • The baked mac and cheese,
  • The Tenderstem broccoli with gremolata 
  • A portion of the Gem lettuce wedges with ranch dressing, bacon crumb & blue cheese. 

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For anyone that knows me, I always enjoy a bit of fried chicken, so I feel like I’ve become a fried chicken expert. It was certainly crunchy, juicy and I loved the cajun inspired flavours, however, I have had better. I think that’s because I have usually gone to restaurants that only serve that on the menu and the great thing about Jackson and rye is the assortment of different options available. Furthermore, regarding the sides, the broccolini was nice and light, and I think we both decided we needed some greens amongst all the carbs. The gem lettuce salad was also tasty, and I enjoyed the contrast of the crunch of the bacon crumb and the smooth dressing, but it was ultimately not my favourite out of the side dishes. However, regarding the mac and cheese, who doesn’t love a good portion of melted oozing cheese?

Just when you thought we had finished our meal and called it a day, we naturally had to try the desserts. Katrina and I had been messaging in the day analysing the food options and deciding what we would go for. I’ve mentioned this already, but my friends are all foodies, so it was hilarious (and perfect) that we had some idea of what we wanted to try. We went for the pecan pie with caramel ice cream and a bourbon and maple syrup sauce, as well as the Peanut Butter Fudge S’mores. Both of these were amazing. Especially the smores dessert. I am a huge fan of peanut butter, and the marshmallow was charred to the perfect consistency, so it was still soft and gooey in the middle.

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Overall, I felt like I would never be able to eat again considering how full I was and I think its safe to say we had a great time. The staff were attentive; there’s a vast option of different dishes and drinks, and it’s the tasty sort of comfort food anyone would love. Next time, I would like to try a different main and perhaps even try more starters…

No judgement okay?

 

 

Anniversary dinner at Yauatcha, Soho

On Friday, Mark and I officially celebrated our four-year anniversary together. –(I know! I don’t think we can still quite believe it either, where has the time gone?). Naturally, we thought it best we celebrate by having a nice dinner together with some drinks. We decided to go to Yauatcha, Soho.

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Mark and I had already been here once before. Picture this: me and mark four years ago trying to be fancy as fu*k on my 19th birthday and realising we were desperately out of our depth. For one, we had little (if any) idea of what to order and we were also not yet used to London’s extortionate prices, still adjusting to our newly found university freedoms.  We both shared a gasp of shock and horror when we realised drinks were £11.50+ and allowed ourselves to only have one each.- No one on Instagram will know! Yet, I still want to applaud my former, younger self for taking the chance and finding the restaurant. Props to you girl. A foodie and you didn’t even know it.

This time round, we were well equipped, prepared and looking forward to taking full advantage of the food. Although we were thirty minutes late (my bad- I am never on time) we quickly sat down and tactically scoured the menu. Mark had the chai la la cocktail (Belvedere vodka, black grapes, oolong tea, apple juice and champagne) and I the Lemonberry Martini (Ketel One Citroen, raspberry, vanilla, lemon and cranberry juice). Mark loved his and mine similarly went down a treat because I was drinking them like they were water and kept on ordering more.

For food, we ordered a selection of dumplings, these included: the pork and prawn Shui mai (£5.90), the Striploin beef and enoki mushroom Cheung fun (£9.80) and the fried Roasted duck pumpkin puff with pine nut. (£5.80). My ultimate favourite was definitely the roasted duck pumpkin puff which was crispy and flavourful, although I have to say that I really enjoyed all three and because we chose each from a section on the menu, we had the perfect assortment of dim sum.

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Roasted Duck Dim Sum

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Prawn and Chicken Shui Mai

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For our mains, we decided to go for the Stir-fry rib eye beef in black bean sauce (£21.20) and the Kung pao chicken with cashew nut (£15.90). We did initially want to try the sweet and sour pork but were told that as it was quite heavy and a greasier option. I’m glad we were given that advice because my preferred out of the two was the chicken. However, the beef was also succulent and tender, and both dishes were perfected to a high-quality standard. We also decided to order an accompaniment of egg white fried rice with dried scallop and asparagus(£10.00). This side dish was more expensive than the other more simple egg fried rice option, but I am not usually a big fan of rice, and I found I particularly enjoyed the twist on a classic and had no problem topping up my plate with more. I would like to say that while it was fantastic Chinese food, the mains were not the highlight of our visit and next time I think I would like to try more of the dim sum instead. The dim sum list is extensive and from what we tried, each moreish and delectable in their own way.

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Stir-fry beef in black bean sauce

Mark always tries to avoid the dessert part but guess what it’s a celebratory dinner Mark, and I call the shots. (joking… sort of). For dessert, we had the Milk Chocolate, Jasmine and Honey. This was a silky milk chocolate and jasmine flavoured mousse with a caramelised honey pannacotta and popping candy. I spent a good fifteen minutes at this point asking myself if I was drunk or if I could ACTUALLY sense some popping candy. While Mark had absolutely no idea what I was talking about it turns out I was right- even when tipsy, go me. This dessert was delicate, creamy and decadent. I loved it.

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Overall, it’s safe to say we had a lovely evening over a yummy dinner set in the perfect ambience. We decided to continue the night back at mine with some red wine. Two glasses in and I… was ready for bed.

Happy four years to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taste of London: The Festive Edition

This Thursday, my friend Louisa and I finally got to go to Taste of London. We have always wanted to go ever since we have both been based in London but have never been organised enough to get tickets. This time we told ourselves, we would definitely book them in advance (and so we did!). We went for the standard ticket option which was only £15 pounds, and I have to say that when you actively choose to make the most of all the events going on it is a great deal.

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Louisa is (like many of my other friends) a foodie like me, so we were both excited and keen to try all the food, take part in the events and get some festive drinks going. From the get go I tried and was quickly swayed to buy some mulled whisky (it is delicious), and we tactically went round trying samples of different cheeses, drinks and food itemsLouisa somehow managed to get a bottle of prosecco for £12 which really got the party going and was an absolute bargain. In hindsight, it was most definitely an error of judgement on the part of the seller. When we went back, we quickly realised the man was not supposed to be selling bottles, gritting his teeth as he awkwardly whispered the managing director was stood behind us and he was about to be lectured. Nevertheless, a personal shout out to the man for getting me tipsy!

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The first thing we wanted to do was watch one of the taste theatres which were free of charge. This is where we got the chance to watch famous chefs cook. We sat down sipped at our prosecco and watched Abdul Yaseen, The Chef behind Darbaar, a new Indian restaurant on the scene. Based on an Indian Christmas, he made an aromatic vindaloo curry with an abundance of fragrant spices. The smell radiated around the room, and while we were not allowed to try it (CRY), his restaurant colleague made a minty spiced cocktail to tantalise our taste buds (that is such a cliche saying isn’t it- but it works). It is safe to say I will be visiting the restaurant in the week as it has left me permanently craving a comforting curry.

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Next, we obviously had to go round and try some of the festive food that the restaurants had to offer. We tactically scoured the menus and decided on our must try items. (i told you- foodies, everything has to be planned).

We went for:

Wagyu Beef with a Bulgogi sauce and mushrooms from Chi Kitchen, a Contemporary pan-Asian restaurant. £10 – (definitely not real wagyu but it was mouthwatering nonetheless)DSC01533.jpg

BBQ pork belly in steamed buns with spicy peanut soy From Kurobuta £6dsc01540

  • Truffle Mac n’ Cheese from Tom’s Kitchen ( Never looks good in photos, so I left this one out – I love truffle though so this was a winner if not a bit too small for £5
  • and finally for dessert a tasty Oreo cookie from blondie’s kitchen accompanied with almond milk for accustomary cookie dunking! – There was the option to have malted milk, but Louisa and I don’t particularly like the taste of it) £5dsc01613

However, I think we would both agree that our favourite part of the night was the live cooking class which were also free of charge and operated on a first come first serve basis. Having got drunker as time went by- we stumbled upon this by pure chance and as the eager beans we are- we made sure to line up 15 minutes before in case anyone dropped out. Our tactic was as follows: people are drinking- drunk people are forgetful- may not show up – we take their place. It turns out, this actually worked.

We managed to get into Jeremy Pang’s School of Wok. We got to make a variety of dishes in half an hour. 

dsc01571dsc01582These included a warming festive chai tea with spices and condensed milk, a steamed cod fillet with sha cha & sweet soy and festive fried rice (cranberries/pancetta/ Brussel sprouts).

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SO GOOD. The staff also kindly went round serving Crispy 5 Spice Crackling which made a perfect accompaniment. It was super fun (and I understand this may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but we loved it) to cook along with the chef and do it all together as a group. We learnt a couple of wok skills, and for our level of tipsiness our food came out pretty amazing.

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London’s New Wok Master (ignore all the mess)


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Drunk and Satisfied

 

Overall, Taste of London was a great event and because it was the festive edition it really got me into the spirit of Christmas. One of my favourite things about this time of year is all the events that go on around London, and this was no exception. I loved the food, but I also loved the vibes and all the things there was to do in the space of one evening.

Safe to say, ill be back next year.

 

Sunday Brunch at Smokey Tails

If you can’t already tell I am a sucker for breakfast dishes and so on the weekend it is only natural I take advantage of brunch- let’s face it, we all should. It’s that unique part of the day where you’re not quite sure if you’re still eating breakfast but it is still acceptable at lunch, and dishes usually range from the traditional to the wacky and wonderful.

Today, Mark and I were craving something different. My rule with brunch is I try and look for dishes that I couldn’t easily make at home or that I wouldn’t think of ever making myself. We decided to walk to Hoxton as I wanted to try out Smokey Tails. Nestled in Hoxton Square, it is a bar that also serves food which they coin as ‘Midwest Modern’ and inspired by home styled BBQ flavours. Upon arrival, we were eager to try out the menu, and since I had had no other food this morning, I was particularly hungry.

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Didn’t know Mark was taking this obviously…

We spent about a good 15 minutes debating our choices as per usual. I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating that when Mark and I go for brunch, we have a pact where we share our dishes. This is so if Mark’s dish is somehow better than mine (which sometimes can happen) I won’t have to deal with his subtle laughs and sniggers of triumph. This also requires great thinking and deliberation in case we’re then left with a bad choice and sour taste in our mouths as we sit there moping in regret.- We take our food seriously. 

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Laughing at my jokes cause, I’m so funny

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I decided to go for the fried chicken on a crispy French toast brioche with maple syrup and bacon ( I’m aware I always seem to write about fried chicken and waffles, but we couldn’t resist after hearing about its crunchy base, and we do usually have waffles – The French toast is on some next level).

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Mark, on the other hand, went for the pulled pork benedict with poached eggs and HP hollandaise. I will say that in our excitement to eat I forgot to take a mental note of prices, but each dish was around £8-10.

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I’m definitely going to say that this was a winning place if you’re looking for a brunch that does things a little different. For one, the flavour combinations were delicious! It’s that sort of food where you feel guilty because it’s so indulgent, but you just don’t care enough to stop or give it a second thought. I will say that it was good sharing both as the BBQ pulled pork was both tangy and salty which went well with the runny egg and thick hollandaise. I also liked that they switched up a classic with the HP and pork. In terms of the fried chicken and french toast, that was another winner for me– although I must say we did end up asking for extra maple syrup.. oops

Overall, Smokey Tails- you are officially another brunch win on my list and as I sit here and write this I’m still feeling stuffed but most certainly satisfied. 

Festive Menu at Ma Plucker

Once again, (this is beginning to sound like deja vu- big up Katrina) my fellow foodie and friend invited me along to the Ma Plucker Festive Menu Debut.

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Ma Plucker’s ethos is all things chicken- including fried and rotisserie, as well as yummy guilty pleasure sides like fried halloumi bites. However, we didn’t try the standard menu – we were there to taste the ‘afternoon festive tea’ – done in the spirit of celebrating the festive season of Christmas!

For £18.50 you are given a glass of prosecco or boozy cranberry iced tea on arrival and then unlimited regular cranberry iced tea after- as well as three savoury and three sweet dishes. Katrina and I arrived super early (both hungry and eager to eat some chicken!) and patiently waiting for some delicious goods to come out the kitchen. You know when you’re early to a party, and you sit there chatting but in your mind you’re kind of like…. okay I’m hungry now – that was us.

The Menu consists of three brioche bun sandwiches and three desserts all laid out bare on a platter for you to sink your teeth into.

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The savoury options were:

  • Mini coronation pulled chicken bun 

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  • Mini rotisserie chicken bun with bbq sauce

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  • Sylvia’s festive bap (she’s the Ma plucker mascot- no lie and this had cranberry sauce slathered all over)

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Overall, I have to say that while the sandwiches were tasty- they weren’t necessarily my favourite. I think despite the cranberry, most of the sandwiches resonated with summer flavours for me. Don’t get me wrong – it was yummy and in terms of the theme, it does stick to what afternoon tea would usually serve, but I was secretly hoping for more warming dishes like some crispy fried chicken. I was actually left more curious for the main menu main dishes and will definitely have to go back to try them.

Then, onto my favourite part– the lowdown of the Sweet Treats:

  • Mini mince pies (unfortunately i am not a huge fan of mince pies in general- oops guilty)
  • Salted caramel doughnuts

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  • Ma’s Scoffle (waffle cream and strawberry jam)

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I LOVED THE DOUGHNUTS. I’ve put that in capitals to express how much I loved them. I think I  ate about three because Katrina kindly offered me one of hers (thanks, gal!). They were soft and melted in the mouth. I also really enjoyed the take on a classic scone, and the waffle jam cream combination is especially moorish!

The team also kindly came about offering some of the mini versions of their fried mac and cheese. Again, I love mac and cheese and anything fried, so these really hit the spot and left me craving more.

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Overall, I would say I enjoyed my time at Ma Plucker, and I loved the concept of a chicken shop serving hearty dishes. However, if I had to pick, I would probably go for the main menu which seems to give you a lot of choices to craft the perfect chicken concoction to your own liking and ensures that you can go back multiple times and never have the same dish! 

Winner winner chicken dinner. (pun intended).

Breakfast Eggs Three Ways

As I was making my weekend breakfast today, it dawned on me… I REALLY love eggs. I mean while I certainly have (and will always have) a sweet tooth, I always seem to prefer savoury flavours in the morning. I think this stems from my summers in Italy. My grandma always used to get breakfast Nutella doughnuts as eating sweeter items is more common, and while that may sound amazing (and they are!), I think it may have scarred my breakfast options for life.

As eggs are an easy and quick thing to make in the mornings, I figured I’d share some of my most recent eggellent breakfasts. (see what I did there- I’m so punny)

1)Soft Boiled Egg with Cheesy Tomato Bread

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Recipe: (Serves 1)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice of sourdough bread- if possible avoid using toast as it’ll never taste AS good but if that’s all you have that’s fine!
  • 1 tomato
  • a sprinkle of oregano (fresh or freeze dried)
  • 2 slices of provolone cheese- *side note you can use any cheese that you have– I had cheese that my family had brought from Italy, but Cheddar/ Mozzarella/ Feta would work well (if using feta just crumble it on top)
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh thyme (freeze dried is fine)

Method:

  1. preheat your oven to the grill setting
  2. If you store eggs in the fridge, take them out while you boil the water – once boiling soft boil your eggs for 5 1/2 minutes (so they’re nice and runny!- you can obviously adjust this to your liking)
  3. toast a slice of wholemeal bread and gently rub the clove of garlic on it
  4. cut up the tomato and lay it on the bread
  5. add the cheese and the oregano,a pinch of salt and lots of pepper
  6. put the bread in the oven to let the cheesy goodness transform
  7. top with your egg and thyme and season to perfection! DONE.

2) Turkish Eggs – (i had heard about this and had never got to try it before, definitely worth it!)

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Recipe: (Serves 1)

  • 1/2 cup of natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • Small handful of fresh parsley (on this day I just used freeze dried but fresh always tastes better)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • pinch of turmeric
  • pinch of cayenne
  • Salt
  • 1 slice of sourdough bread
  • 1 egg

method:

  1. mash the garlic clove with the side of a knife and sprinkle in your salt so it creates a paste-like consistency
  2. Scoop the garlic paste into a bowl and stir in your natural yoghurt. Leave to one side
  3. In a small saucepan on a low-medium heat, melt the butter and add the spices- don’t let it burn! Keep this warm
  4. Toast your wholemeal bread
  5.  Next, my easy trick in poaching eggs: Boil your water and let it simmer. Get a small ceramic dish and line it with plenty of clingfilm. Crack your egg into the cling film pouch you’ve created and season with salt and pepper. Close the pouch to form a small pocket with the egg inside. Place that in the water – make sure it isn’t boiling at a rapid temperature as this may cause the clingfilm to stick to the egg. Leave for 4/5 minutes and unravel the clingfilm. It works and means foolproof poached eggs every time!
  6. Next, serve! Spoon the natural yoghurt on a plate- top with the spiced butter and place the egg on top.
  7. marvel at your greatness and dunk that bread in!

3) Fried Egg and Herby Mushroom Toast

dsc01056 Recipe(serves 1):

  • 200g chestnut mushrooms (any will do really)
  • olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • a small handful of fresh parsley and thyme (the dried options will work too)
  • a slice of sourdough bread
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • salt & pepper
  • truffle oil (optional!)

Method: 

  1. chop the mushrooms up and place in a medium pan on a medium heat with a dash of olive oil
  2. Pan fry the mushrooms until nice and golden- add the fresh parsley. Once done remove and set aside
  3. Toast the piece of bread and once done rub the garlic clove on it with a drizzle of some oil olive and fresh thyme- place the mushrooms on top
  4. Fry the egg in the same pan- adding a bit more oil if needed. I like my eggs runny as you have probably gathered!
  5.  Top with the egg- season to perfection and if you do have some truffle oil lying about drizzle this all on top as well- YUM

So it’s settled then. Eggs win as my ultimate breakfast favourite all day every day.

 

 

Thanksgiving Cooking Event

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be invited along with my good friend Katrina to another one of her press events. As she knows I am a huge foodie (and an inspiring blogger), she thought the event would be perfect for me.

Hosted by French’s American Mustard, the evening entailed a Thanksgiving feast, incorporating French’s products into the meal and getting the chance to be hands on and cook. In fact, we got to prepare two Thanksgiving traditional dishes all together with Mississipi-born chef Brad MacDonald by our side, whose specialities lie in Southern State cooking. Southern state cuisine is definitely becoming a new favourite of mine, and as Katrina’s family also originate from the South, it felt particularly special that we got to cook and learn some new recipes together. While I am not American, I am slowly starting to be convinced that it is one of the best holidays as the food is always so tasty!

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Set at Food at 52 cookery school near Old Street, the location was cute, quaint and cosy– the perfect place you’d imagine a Thanksgiving meal to be. I felt like I was in somebody’s home with the glorious smell of slow cooked turkey and ham swirling around as soon as we entered. With wine continuously flowing (and probably impairing my ability to do the basic cooking) we all started off making the first dish: potato salad.

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Salad prep

With all our ingredients kindly laid out in front of us, various people around the table took on different tasks. Some chopped the potatoes, others the squash, the chestnuts and the dressing. Consisting of mayo, vinegar olive oil, chives parsley and of course mustard, the dressing was delicious! I’m not sure if it was because I had had little to eat that day or I was also feeling the effects of my red wine, but I kept getting the urge to lick my spoon for more. Garnished with French’s crispy onions and pumpkin seeds everything came together to create the perfect moreish dish.

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There’s a domestic goddess in all of us

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Our combined efforts in action

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The finished product!

Next, after sitting back, chatting and guzzling some more red wine (oops guilty), we all shared the pleasant task of making a Green Bean Casserole. Brad told us that this particular dish was a real reminder of home and it certainly did not disappoint. While I have never thought of having green beans this way, it will certainly be a new preferred method of mine.

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Note to self: Don’t get tipsy and try and pour beans into boiling water

Combining green beans and sauteed mushrooms, every element was merged by the creamy and flavourful bechamel sauce, whisked through with sour cream, mustard and plenty of crispy onions… I may have poured in the whole box at this point, but I have no regrets.

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Testing out the Bechamel (we approved)

Katrina and I both said we really enjoyed the chance to cook with others in a relaxed and comforting setting- it made the event feel like a special homely occasion. But, that was not even the best part of the evening. While we had contributed in making a few of the side dishes, Brad, his wife and the French’s team had also spent the day preparing the other excellent dishes which were on the menu for the evening. These included:

  • Roast Turkey with Tangy Mustard Stuffing
  • Ginger Beer Mustard Glazed Ham (YUM)
  • Mustard Braised Greens with Almonds
  • & Cornbread (Brad’s Speciality)

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The Stuffing Up Close and Personal

I am not even joking – when all the food was laid out in front of us, including the dishes we had helped make a wave of excitement rushed over me as we were finally able to put an image to the mystical smells and taste it all. Everyone rushed to take pictures of the marvellous spread in front of us (including me!).

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You know it’s going to be a good meal when you photograph each other with the food

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As we sat down to eat, each and every dish was tantalising good. For starters, I loved the cornbread; its sweetness went particularly well with the other salty and tangy flavours on the plate. Also, I had never really had a tangy mustard sauce with turkey– in England, it’s all about the gravy- but French’s recipe? Well, it has officially convinced me. I wish I could have had more and more of that stuffing and I was tempted to go up for seconds. However, my eyes always deceive my stomach, and I wanted to have room for dessert (which is always my favourite part of ANY meal). By this point Katrina and I already felt super satisfied and sleepy, joking about how we would have to roll all the way home. (In the end.. it seems people agreed because a lot were ordering ubers– stuck firmly in a food coma and overcome by sheer delight).

I had kept some room for dessert for a reason. The evening ended with cute miniature pumpkin and pecan pies (topped with bourbon whipped cream). That was all I could pretty much still fit at this point- although I did obviously have to try both). Both were incredibly scrumptious and baked to perfection. dsc01212_fotor

Overall I had a great time and felt incredibly stuffed and content. Thanksgiving has also made me realise that nearly any fruit or vegetable can be transformed into a dessert– so that’s another bonus in my eyes. Upon leaving, we were given some of the French’s products we had used and recipes of the dishes, which I hope to replicate and bring to Thanksgiving at Katrina’s house.

That’s the exciting part, this won’t even be my last Thanksgiving meal of the year. 

(Boozy) Brunch at Dirty Bones

If you have me on snapchat, then you will know all too well that a group of my friends and I probably got way drunker than we should have on Saturday (and if you don’t thank God because I was an embarrassment).

This was because we had spent our lunch time (boozy) brunching at Dirty Bones on Carnaby Street. I always find it difficult to make any decision and restaurants are no exceptions. However, when you try to book a spontaneous brunch for six people in London, and everything expectedly comes back to those seven hated words: ” no bookings  within 2.5 hours of your request”, I randomly decided to check the Dirty Bones website and hastily clicked confirm after I finally found an opening.  I’d heard good things about the food and the Carnaby chain offers two hours of bottomless Prosecco for £19.00, so it was certainly a tempting choice and meant I was able to finally give it a try. After having THE worst morning from hell- ( i am always late, and this time, luck was most definitely not on my side) I arrived and promptly guzzled back as much prosecco as I could. Ah, much better. 

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We all ordered a selection of different dishes, and this meant our satisfaction also ranged from great to mediocre.  Focusing first on the positive, Mark, Kyal and I ordered the fried chicken and waffles with a fried egg (£10) (and maple syrup of course!). For me, this was a decadent (and winning) dish and I’m sure the guys would also agree. I have always loved the combination of crispy fried chicken, soft and bouncy waffles and the sweetness of the syrup all on top. I had never added an egg to the mix, but personally, I still loved eating it all the same. Paul, if you’re reading this, you picked a boring dish, and it didn’t quite make the cut onto the blog (jokes)- Paul was craving a chicken burger, which came accompanied with crunchy baby gem lettuce, chipotle aioli and the dirty bones sweet chilli sauce (£8.50). He also ordered this with a side of skinny fries with onion and garlic salt(£4), as did some of the others.

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My other friend Sava had the ‘McDaddy’ (£10) which was a juicy burger, topped with succulent pulled beef short rib, creamy mac & cheese and a dirty bones BBQ sauce to round it all off. He said he thoroughly enjoyed it and I believe him- after all, mac & cheese in a burger is always bound to be a win.

dsc00894_fotorNow,  moving on to our slightly less favourite dishes. For one, my friend Laura had ordered avocado on toast. If you’re a firm lover of avocado on toast and enjoy making it regularly for breakfast (or lunch/dinner/ a snack- whenever), then this dish may leave you a bit disappointed. Other than the mild tasting tomato chilli jam, it was bland and not worth the money (£8).

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Also, Louisa ordered the Bacon Toastie (£8), which should have actually been named the caramelised onion toastie as that is what dominated- I think the ratio of onion to bacon should have been bacon> onions but hey, each to their own right. Although I will say she did also have a side of mac and cheese which was scrumptious- it arrived bubbling hot and was topped with crispy parmesan crumbs, giving it a nice crunch against the smooth cheesy sauce.

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Despite my two minor complaints, (honesty is after all the best policy)- overall we had an awesome day. While food is everything, the prosecco also went down a treat. Regarding the drinks, the staff were excellent and attentive, regularly checking glasses to see if they needed topping up and doing so until the last minute (literally.. we made sure of it). We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and said we would return again. If you were searching for a boozy brunch, the Carnaby branch of Dirty Bones is totally worth italthough I would suggest avoiding the toastie options– but hey, that’s just my opinion.

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What happens after boozy brunch?  Typically, you want to continue drinking, so you’ ll end up in a bar at 3:30 pm in Soho, buying each other bottles of wine thinking you all have the finest self-control in the world. Then, next thing you know its 12 am in Leicester Square ,you’re trying to find food and your way home and eventually stop to buy chilli chicken wings with your boyfriend at Jamie’s Diner (by the way best decision ever) … nope? Okay, just me then.

 

 

Cooking with my Italian Grandma

Earlier in the week, my grandma from Italy arrived in the U.K. As some of you may (or may not) know, recently, my mum officially moved back here after living in the Middle East for fourteen years, a place where I spent most of my childhood.

I’m not sure how many of you will be familiar with Italian culture, but basically, everything in Italy revolves around food (and carbs!). Your lunch times are strictly classed within the order of antipasti (starter) primo (usually pasta), secondo (followed by meat/fish) and dolci (desserts.. I think this is where my rule of always finishing a meal with something sweet came from).  Seriously, it still takes me an effort to convince my grandma that I don’t particularly like having a three-course meal every day. Nonetheless, when my grandma arrived, she had naturally stocked up her suitcase and bought over an abundance of fresh Italian produce (Lucky me!). She had items like fresh buffalo mozzarella (you can buy these at Naples airport), ricotta, among other delicious things. Unsurprisingly, one of the things she enjoys most is cooking, usually waking up super early most mornings to start making fresh pasta dough and regularly yearning to cook us all something. While her old fashioned beliefs still startle me, (she tells me that it’s vital for a woman to cook for her man- I don’t think so sister!) it’s always nice when we can come together and make something tasty.

We decided to make both fresh ravioli and fusilli (another type of pasta pictured below and made by yours truly). The ancient trick to making the perfect fusilli? My grandma uses the inner rods from an umbrella (no lie).

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For the pasta dough itself, her recipe is as follows:

1 egg

250g of pasta flour “00.”

You simply mix the two ingredients together and add some water to help bind it all together. Leave it to rest for a bit before attempting to use.

As for the filling, (roasted butternut squash and ricotta), I decided to take inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s new recipe book- ‘Super Food Family Classics’. If you follow me on my food Instagram, then you will know I’ve recently been using the book and replicating dishes (to convince myself I am an actual chef). I roasted a butternut squash whole at 180c for an hour and then added the ricotta in for an additional 30 minutes. When the butternut squash had softened, I scooped out the flesh discarding the seeds and mixed both the ricotta and squash together with some salt, pepper and basil.

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As Italians, my mum obviously owns a pasta machine (i think almost every Italian does), which makes rolling the dough out easy, to spoon the mixture and fold the pasta sheet over. Of course, if you don’t have a machine (like myself in my kitchen) then you can use a rolling pill to still get a similar effect.

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Next, using a mould especially made for ravioli making (see, I told you- italians are dedicated to our food), my grandma pressed and discarded the surrounding dough. Once everything was done and enough had been made, I boiled water with some salt and cooked the pasta for about two minutes. For the cherry (tomato) on top of my fabulous food day, we also had fresh parmesan from Italy AND tomato sauce that my mum had made earlier. While it took time and effort, nothing quite beats a plate of fresh creamy pasta!

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In true Italian fashion, the day couldn’t be over without making desserts. We made Pasticelle, or Stelline di Natale- because they look like stars and they are made during Christmas in the south of Italy. However, my sister and I love them and have usually never got to go to Italy during the Christmas season, so my grandma is happy to make them 365 days of the year! It is essentially a sweet pastry that is fried and has a gooey chestnut, coffee and dark chocolate filling. They are also lightly dusted with icing sugar. My favourite time to eat them is when they are fresh out the fryer and the chocolate filling oozes from the inside.

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I think it’s safe to say that I was left pleasantly satisfied (along with incredibly full- which is what every Italian grandmother aims to accomplish) and if you ever get the chance to meet her, I’m sure you’d feel the same.