New Year’s Eve Dinner Party

Happy 2017 to you all!!

Hopefully, by now everyone has recovered from the nasty first hangovers of the new year. I know I was suffering bad yesterday, but thankfully, I was in the company of friends, and we recovered by chilling out in front of my TV indulging in our carb cravings.

This year was the first year I’ve officially spent in London, and I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, our night was enjoyable, fun and everything went so smoothly! I am yet to experience the hecticness of London during New Year’s (thank god). To celebrate, I decided to properly christen my new apartment with a dinner party for sophisticated pre drinks!

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Let me tell you, if you are embarking on this, be sure to do your prep the night before. This seems so obvious in hindsight but my friend Katrina came over, we got really into Harry Potter on TV and wine probably didn’t help my cause. Actually, I can’t even blame it on that because I still had the whole day. Anyways, while it was certainly stressful cooking four dishes in 6 hours and also making sure the flat was clean, and I was dressed, all in all, it turned out successful, and I had a wonderful time – I hope all the girls did too!. Also, shout out to my sis for helping me with it all and Louisa on the gravy.

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I decided to go for a black and gold theme, sparkles at the plenty and champagne to get us all started! I found a garland and props in HomeSense near my mum lives and felt like they were the perfect accompaniment! Also, nothing would be complete without my bar cart stocked with alcohol as everyone bought something for us to indulge in, from prosecco, to wine to more champagne. (I know the picture looks empty, but I can assure you there was booze at the plenty!)

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The dishes I made were: Roast Chicken and white wine chicken gravy (wish there was more of this!) THIS CHICKEN was fantastic. Sorry to toot my own horn and all but it was so succulent. I used a flavoured butter full of thyme rosemary and porcini mushrooms, as well as lemon zest and garlic! To make it even juicier, I rubbed the butter both under the skin and on top and stuffed the chicken with lemon wedges and some of the fresh herbs. The juices from the chicken created a perfect gravy that only needed a little wine and a stock pot. The chicken was also cooked with flavourful carrots and onions topped with some bay leaves. Thanks Becky for being the carving queen.

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Crispy roast potatoes: I love roasted potatoes, and I love when they are nice and crispy- nothing is more disappointing then soft spuds after all! I par boiled the potatoes and used butter. Next, when they had been cooking for an hour, i used a potato masher to squash them out a bit and added sage. This made them extra fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside!

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Baked Camembert and bread: (my own you’ll be pleased to know): Super easy to make now I have a kitchen aid. Left the bread to prove for two hours and it was all ready to go. This was a fun little dish which is perfect for dinner parties! Rebecca put chilli’s rosemary and garlic in the cheese.

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Last but not least whoopie pies for dessert! I think I went a bit too ambitious at this point and found myself struggling for time, however, I wanted to use my Kitchen Aid as well as make something I never had before. They had caramel and banana inside and the little sugar in the batter meaning that the flavours were just right and it wasn’t too sweet. Unfortunately, i was way too full by the end of my meal to enjoy these properly.

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IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH FOR AN AVERAGE PERSON, my lovely friends also bought oreo brownies, Dorito mac and cheese, soy and garlic broccolini and sausage rolls. It was a feast we had all been eagerly anticipating the whole day.

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I am a sucker for food, and now I’ve come to realise I am also a sucker for dinner parties! ( Maybe just not the cleaning part- My flat is still raining gold glitter even after a good clean). It was a such a nice way to kick start the celebrations, as well as all, have a nice meal and drinks together- socialising before shit got real wild. We played drinking games, indulged in all the good food and all had a good laugh together. Bec also bought over some limoncello, and we all had a nice gulp of that before we left. Heading to Queen of Hoxton, the bus took 20 minutes, we were met with no line, and everyone got their twerk on the dancefloor.

Here’s to the start of a great year!

Peace out bitches xoxo

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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.

 

 

 

 

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

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  • 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.