Christmas and what I ate

Merry Christmas all!!

This year marked the first year I have spent Christmas in the UK after my mum and sister moved back to the U.K. I didn’t really know what to expect considering I’ve spent the majority of my Christmases in the Middle East, boozy brunching on Christmas day in the sun. 

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However, I will say my first cold Christmas ended up being a super cosy few days that really does encapsulate the spirit of the festive period. We did nothing but eat good food, drink wine and sit by the warm fireplace as the tree twinkled, playing monopoly (we found it in the loft- it’s practically vintage) and watching TV. The sun even came out- which for England at this time of year is a rare occurrence.

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Our cheese board, Christmas Eve (eve)

Christmas Eve:

My mum, sister and I decided to have cheese to start (if you can’t tell already we LOVE cheese). Taking inspiration from Twisted Food on Facebook, we decided to recreate a camembert ‘snowflake’. Essentially, it is pastry that is assembled with bits of crispy bacon and cranberry sauce with a whole camembert in the middle, shaped into a snowflake, sprinkled with rosemary and cooked in the oven. THIS WAS DELICIOUS. Crispy salty bacon goes so well with the oozy camembert and sweet cranberry. We also decided to make some extra pastry sticks with the remaining pastry (had to be done). I am having a dinner party for New Year’s Eve as a sort of sophisticated pre-drinks, and I think I will have to whip this one out again– (there you go! for the people attending, a sample of what you can expect haha).

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For our main, we then went for salmon en-croute. I have always wanted to make it, and while my mum felt incredibly lazy, I was up for the task. Using spinach, shallots, parsley, lemon juice  – and zest – creme fraiche all cooked in butter, we created the tasty filling, which was placed on top of the salmon fillets and covered with a layer of pastry. We also served this with creamy mash potatoes, adding milk butter and creme fraiche – (calorie counters, you may want to leave this page). I’ve mentioned this already, but my sister Rebecca is not a fan of seafood so she made her own dinner, which was a juicy pork chop crusted with sage and served with apple and shallot butter – I must admit this made me slightly jealous. Nonetheless, the salmon was definitely the right choice and the sauce filled in the buttery pastry was super yummy! It didn’t even take that long so for all you salmon lovers out there, this one is for you.

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Christmas Day:

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional roast with all the trimmings, am I right? Surprisingly, I’ve never really had a traditional Christmas roast, as my mum is Italian and we’ve usually headed out in the past so I was definitely excited.   Taking inspiration from my friend Laura, we decided to pimp up our Brussel sprouts. Using bacon, shallots and balsamic vinegar, it turned a mundane dish (in my opinion) to a real contender and while I’ve never been a fan of plain ones, these were the shi*.dsc02193dsc02205We also had crispy potatoes (not as crispy as I would have liked sadly), roasted parsnips, carrots, potato rosti’s as well as a turkey with pork, onion and sage stuffing. This was all served with some flavourful gravy – concocted with juices from the meat to make it extra moreish. We had this with some bottles of prosecco and to finish it all off… a black forest cheesecake! We also realised how much we were into Monopoly and it turns out the more you drink, the more competitive you get. We got the turkey pretty exact, remaining juicy and tender, which meant all the sides were the perfect accompaniment. No matter how much we ate, it’s safe to say, we have a lot of leftovers. Which brings me to…

Boxing Day:

Today we decided to go for the classic boxing day dish: bubble & squeak!. Again, never really had the chance to use leftovers to make any boxing day dishes so this was fun. We took all our vegetables, diced them up and mixed them with an egg. Forming them into patties, we shallow fried them in olive oil and topped them with cranberry sauce, turkey slices, stuffing and a drizzle of gravy. Great use to get rid of leftovers and makes a filling meal. I don’t always enjoy eating the same thing twice so it was a nice way to recreate a Christmas roast.

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After feeling content with all my food and reminiscing about the last few days,  I am currently sitting on my sofa in a fluffy robe watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix.

Christmas time is bliss.

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. 

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. 

 

 

 

Thai Inspired Prawn Curry

As I left Broadway Market on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but stop at the local fishmonger, Fin and Flounder. Here we eyed up the vast array of beautiful fresh fish (Rebecca waited outside, hating the smell of seafood) and after much deliberation decided on getting 12 king prawns for dinner. Combined with my other Thai ingredients, I was adamant: we simply had to make a Thai dish.

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Inside Fin & Flounder

What we used: 

  • 12 sustainably sourced fresh king prawns
  • Brown rice (we used about 1/2 cup per serving)
  • Eight tablespoons of Coconut Milk
  • 250ml of Water
  • 80g of Mangetout
  • 4 Lime Leaves
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 cup Coriander
  • One Red Chili
  • One stalk of Lemongrass
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • Sesame Oil

What we did:

Firstly we created a spice paste, using the garlic, coriander, lemongrass, ginger and chilli, placing them into a  food processor. After blending for a few seconds, it should turn to a paste consistency. Set this aside.

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NOW: drink a glass of wine. Preferably white… the flavours will really extenuate the fish flavour.. joking I just like wine and needed an excuse. sip sip gulp gulp

Next, I decided to create a stock from the prawn shells. De-head and peel the prawns, making sure to take out the digestive tract. Fry these in a large pan with a splash of sesame oil with the freshly cracked black pepper and lime leaves. This does give prominence to the prawn’s distinct flavours (not joking this time). Cover the prawn shells with enough water and leave to simmer on a low heat for 25 minutes – the longer, the better.  If it appears to be reducing quickly, you can add some more water, and if you are in a rush, you can obviously decrease the time. When you are done, strain the stock through a sieve and keep warm.

While doing this, I would also suggest putting on the rice (this is because I never do this myself and then end up waiting for ages while the rest of my meal sits on my counter idly waiting…lesson learnt and duly noted).

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Fry baby fry disco inferno

Finally, in another saucepan, pour in a little olive oil, fry the paste until fragrant (around 2 minutes)  and add 250ml of the stock. Add the coconut milk, the prawns and the mangetout. Simmer for 3-4 minutes and season with salt. Place the rice in a bowl topped with the curry.

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The finished product

ENJOY and marvel at your food awesomeness. (I know I did)