Friday, 30 November 2012

Bread Making

Just a very quick post on BREAD!
I love the smell of fresh bread baking and have always wanted a bread maker - so was excited that I finally had a few pounds put away to buy one. There's plenty of different ones to go for - all with different selling points so I won't go into that!
But below are a couple of recent efforts - getting used to the machine now...
However, I planned pretty badly and have started a Paleo diet, so the bread maker is fast becoming my hubby's favourite toy instead...
A classic white loaf

Sun dried tomato loaf

Monday, 26 November 2012

Silken Hotel Diagnol - A review [TRAVEL]

There are plenty of hotels to stay at in Barcelona and as a visitor you are really spoilt for choice. Normally I'd have gone for a boutique type hotel or as I have done before, a self catering apartment.

However, we were attending a wedding and the groom had advised all guests to stay at the Hotel Silken Diagnol.

And it was a great recommendation. Located near the Glories underground stop and only around 7 minutes by tube to Las Ramblas, it was a pretty central location. It was also within walking distance of the beach down a road crammed with bars and restaurants.

The hotel itself is next to the Torre Agbar, the Barcelona equivalent of the gherkin, which lights up at night in a myriad of colour. The hotel is modern in design with low lit lighting throughout.

The corridors to the rooms are incredibly dark with only modest lighting.

The room we had however, felt light and bright. From the Bang & Olufsen TV and phone through to the see through bathroom and the shutters on the windows, everything felt modern, clean and well thought out.
The other great thing about this hotel was the room terrace with small swimming pool (too small to be used - but it looked nice) along with a bar. The perfect place to end the night before heading back to your room.

All in all, a pretty fantastic hotel for a weekend break or work visit. Perfect for couples...maybe not so much for families.

Credit: Pictures taken from Hotel Silken website

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Dinnr - an easy, impressive meal at home

I love being able to head home to a lovely home cooked dinner when it's something more exciting than spaghetti, stir fry or curry, which are my staple recipes. But by the time we've got back from work it's usually heading on for gone 8pm and hunger means creative cooking takes a back seat.  Which is why I love the idea of Dinnr!
Dinnr is a company which gives you everything you need for a perfect meal in. Go onto their website and simply choose a meal that you fancy. I went for A Crusted Rack of Lamb with Roast vegetables and Bulgar wheat which looked absolutely delicious and a little bit fancy.
They then deliver your ingredients pack to your desk/or home with every little thing you need to create the meal and an easy colour/picture led step by step guide to recreating. I love the fact that the meat was from Waitrose (well, i would seeing as I work for them!) and that they popped a candle into the bag so you could 'add a little romantic atmosphere'.
They also sent over a playlist - so they'd even picked out the tunes for a perfect evening.
The delivery bag with contents - great quality items for only £20

The recipe was pretty straightforward to make and was delicious. The best thing was, I would never have thought of making something like this on a weekday due to time in the evening, but actually it showed me it doesn't take that much longer to create something you'll really enjoy.
Here's my final dish:
And here's what it should look like:
Not bad....not bad....
This is a genius idea for someone wanting to cook for a date at home but who works late and won't make it to the shops, someone who just wants some inspiration or perhaps just as a treat.
I was sent this as a review kit, but i'll certainly be buying again in the future.
I fancy the look of the thanksgiving feast for £60 for 4 - looks good
Note: I was making this one handed as had hurt my right that's why it looks messier than usual (or that's my excuse)

Friday, 5 October 2012

Heston's Dinner

I seem to be the last person in London to have made it along to Heston's Dinner - but finally the other Friday we made it down to The Mandarin Oriental to see what all the hype over the last couple of years has been about.

I opted for the cucumber and lobster soup while Sean went for the meat fruit. Both were great, but the meat fruit was the clear winner - as it was bound to be. Smooth pate topped in a tangerine/orangey flavoured topping to create a tangerine for your pate.  Lovely stuff.

Main course was a bit of a gamble. I went for the special of the day which was an offal pie of sorts. It included kidneys, tongue and the usual bits and pieces usually discarded, all covered in deliciously buttery puff pastry. It was really tasty and I enjoyed it all except that a couple of the kidneys weren't prepared correctlyand included the gristle inside (which should have been removed). Sean went for another special - a rib steak. Deliciously melt in the mouth, he loved it.

Heston BlumenthalWe decided to forgoe any of the traditional puddings and hop right into the Liquid Nitrogen ice cream.  If you eat one thing at Heston's Dinner - this should be it.  The waitress comes to the table with a kenwood looking machine stuck onto a trolley (doesn't look impressive to be honest) but it is fantastic fun.  Dry ice is added to a custard to create instant ice cream which is served in a pastry cone and then you are given various topping options. We both went for apple popping candy.

Absolutely delicious and who doesn't look a bit of amateur dramatics at the table. We had people in the restaurant thanking us for ordering it, so they could watch.  A great little trick to get you leaving on a high.

The best thing about the entire experience was the service. We were made to feel important, welcome and were given a fantastically warm greeting. They were particularly helpful when it came to my nut allergy and made the whole evening really delightful.

A fabulous experience.  One day to be repeated!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

Sharps Connoisseur range

Being a PR myself I am ashamed to say it has taken me far too long to post this up, having received the samples to try. Sorry Sharp's - but it's finally up!
Until very recently I always thought I hated beer but at a recent tasting presentation by Thornbridge Brewery I was shown that's not true at all - it all depends on the type of beer I've been tasting!
So I was interested to try the new range by Sharp's - the Connoisseur's choice range of premium beers.  All designed to work well with food!
Now, I didn't get to try them all as i'm afraid I came home to discover my husband had tucked into them as i'd left them in the fridge unguarded! He,however, loved them, and I managed to taste some of the Single Brew.
It has a fresh, herbal lemon aroma (according to the website) and i'd have to agree. It was very light and clean in flavour. Fantastic with a piece of fish or a salad.
Definitely worth a try - buy online from

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


I'd booked our trip to Shrimpy's months in advance and just couldn't wait to go.

We'd tried to add extra people to the booking to take 2 friends and my sister and brother in law - but they told me they didn't have the room to add them to our booking. Never mind, i thought, this is going to be a fantastic meal and we can make it a romantic one. The only booking I could get on the friday night was at 6.30pm - an early dinner, but I was prepared to put up with that as I really wanted to visit. Oh the disappointment. We arrived at 6.30pm to a completely empty restaurant, which remained only half full till we left - so no idea why they couldn't add a couple of people to our booking. But anyway, we were sure the food would make up for it.

We started with Chicarron and guacamole (£4.50) and these were pretty good. Nicely fried, crispy and the guacomole was delicious....until I found what was the hairiest pork scratching i've ever seen - it almost put me off my dinner!

We also had a serving of the most delicious parmesan and paprika straws (£3.50)  - definitely recommend these. Melt in the mouth amazing.
In actual fact, what happened with Shrimpy's is as the meal moved on, the food got worse.... 
For our starters we had salt cod croquettes and calamari - again, pretty delicious.

But when the main meal arrived it was a complete disappointment - the soft shell crab burger was horrible. You couldn't taste any crab, just batter which was soft and oozing oil. Two bites and I was done - it was almost inedible. The Octopus was slightly better but just not right. Chewy and tasteless
But the chips were good....

Shrimpy's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Foodie pen pals #2

There is nothing better than receiving a parcel in the post, which is why i'm loving being a member of foodiepenpals.  Every month i receive a fab foodie package from another blogger/tweeter and in return I send one out to another lucky soul.

This month I received a fantastic parcel courtesy of Nina at

Unfortunately I ate the jelly babies before I even photographed the package! My husband grabbed the Oddities and tucked in straight away too.

We made the Parmesan and sundried tomato bread last weekend and it was delicious.  Really easy to make and turned out fantastically. We ate it topped with Olive Tapenade which was really fantastic.

I've not had a chance to try the jam yet - but love jam, so that's all good.  Perfect for a Victoria sponge!

Can't wait till next month!

P.S I really need to work on my photography skills. I'm hoping i'll pick up some tips at the food blogger connect event in September


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Low calorie baking experiments

So, i'm trying to lose weight at the moment but have a big baking addiction, which really isn't helping. So this weekend I experimented with a few low calorie recipes....which weren't a huge success.

Experiment 1: The sugar free chocolate bundt cake
As you can see from the picture below, I tried a chunk of this...but that was it.  I replaced the sugar in the recipe with a Stevia powder.

Not recommended. Horrible bitter taste, cake didn't rise properly and left a funny after taste in my mouth

Think i need to spend some more time experimenting with these sugar replacements in baking to make sure the quantities i'm using are correct.

Experiment 2: Rosemary Conley Chocolate brownie recipe
This was a recipe i'd pulled from a magazine a while ago and decided now was the time to try it. This one wasn't such a failure - it looked like chocolate brownie and when kept in the fridge for a few hours it tasted like a brownie. It just had an unusual sticky consistency. You'd definitely have figured it was low calorie. (sorry for really bad picture - it actually looked pretty good in real life)

I don't think i'll be trying either of these again unfortunately.
So, please help me find some more alternative low calorie recipes!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Spor-tea at The Dorchester

You know those gorgeous looking little cakes you see in french patisseries and occasionally stumble across here in the UK? I've always wanted to try some.

They look amazing, but with a nut allergy they also look like danger. So i've always avoided...until my trip to The Dorchester for their Spor-tea themed afternoon tea the other week.

The amazing people behind the scenes made me a nut free afternoon tea and literally for the first time in my life I was able to try those amazing little cakes i'd always assumed would be out of my reach. 

I can honestly say that this was the best afternoon tea i've ever had.

It began with the glass of Laurent Perrier (always a good start to any meal in my opinion) and was followed by a selection of lovely sandwiches in speciality breads eg Chicken in basil bread.

We then moved on to a fruit salad in a cone for me and for everyone else not allergic to nuts, an amazing olympic torch pastry!

Then came my little slice of heaven....or a plate of them. Raspberry and chocolate, passionfruit and more. The flavours were fantastic! All the little pastries had an olympic theme.

                                           My plate of deliciousness

               Everyone else's plate of delicious sporty themed cakes

If you get a chance, go to The Dorchester for literally the best afternoon tea EVER.

It was all finished off with a drink at the bar which came in a fab teapot and my glass was a china teacup with a tall stem. Fantastic way to end the day. Dorchester hotel Afternoon Tea on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

My Foodie Penpals package

This month I was more excited than normal when the postman made his way to our house, as this was the first month i'd signed up for the foodiepenpals monthly parcel.

A great idea, you send a parcel of foodie finds to someone and receive one from another.

This month NoshwithNikki was my foodie penpal and she sent me some amazing goodies.

The parcel included:

The brownie was interesting - very strong flavouring and a slightly odd texture made for an interesting eat.  The Bath Pig Chorizo snack bags are already a favourite and were quickly wolfed down.

I'm a big chilli fan, so am looking forward to using the Wiltshire Chilli Farm Chipotle Chilli salt and the peppersmith mints are a fab ending to a meal.

A great parcel. I just wish i'd remembered to take a snap of the one I sent my penpal!

If you want to join the foodiepenpals team, you can register here:

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Le Grand 8

A few weeks ago I decided to take a Eurostar trip to Paris with my friend, Rhi.  We decided a girly weekend of much food and drink was in order. My highlight of the trip was definitely the restaurant we fell upon one evening.

We actually ended up stumbling into the most fantastic restaurant near Sacre Coeur. With amazing views across the city, friendly staff and the most amazing food, we felt right at home.

As the restaurant, Le grand 8 was really busy, we were seated with a couple on a table for 4 and this turned out to be the best thing. The couple were incredibly friendly and let us taste their wines, chatted to us and generally made us feel at home.

It turned out that the restaurant was renowned (and is in the UK too) but we didn't know it. Known for it's food and it's wide variety of natural wines, people travel far and wide to go there.

I started the meal with a dandelion, lardon and egg salad. Bitter tasting but the egg took the bitterness away the lardons complimented them perfectly. My friend opted for the Foie gras.

For my main meal I chose an octopus risotto and really wish I'd taken a photo! I was served a good portion of deliciously creamy risotto which was then accompanied with a tentacle of octopus. An absolutely amazing, melt in the mouth dish.

Our friendly neighbours let us try some of their wine too - no idea what it was but it was called L'Insolent and was deliciously fresh and fruity.
What made this restaurant so fantastic is not just the friendly atmosphere that you don't always get to experience in Paris, but also the amazing seasonality of the food. The menu was presented to us on a blackboard.

Fantastic value at just 15Euros for a two course meal and a fantastic and affordable selection of wine, this was the best meal i've had in a very long time. Superb!

I'm not the only one who thinks this place is fantastic. Since visiting i've seen this blog, where the blogger, Wendy also thinks this is an amazing place to visit:

Visit the restaurant's website for more info:

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Jamie's Italian - St Albans

I'm pretty lucky really. I work in Soho and live in St Albans which means i'm surrounded by good independent restaurants to pop into.  But every now and then I also enjoy a trip to one of the bigger chains such as Pizza Express or even Pizza hut on occasion (I know, I know, but when you are a child of the 80s, it was the best we had on offer!)

So, I was looking forward to trying out Jamie's Italian, now it has finally reached St Albans.  It was our 2nd wedding anniversary and we decided to save a bit of money and just pop out somewhere local.

We started the meal with a chacuterie platter between the two of us, which was pleasant enough, but ended up costing a ridiculous amount as you are charged per person and not allowed to share!

My other half had the fritto misto as a main, which was presented fantastically. See the image below and had a good mixture of fried fish.  However, it was a little bit 'too much' and would have been nicer if it had come with some salad or something to break up the 'friedness'!

I chose the squid ink spaghetti with scallops. (See image below) Again, presented really well but was incredibly disappointing. The Spaghetti was chewy and plastic like and the scallops were watery and unpleasant.

All in all, really not a wonderful experience i'm afraid to say, which is a shame. Although maybe we just chose the wrong dishes?

I don't think we'll be going back again to be honest, when there are plenty of other fantastic restaurants in the area and it isn't cheap.

Friday, 6 July 2012

My 'Ideal'o summer reads

My cookbook collection is getting a bit out of hand. With over 60 different books all piled up in my kitchen, you'd think i'd stop...but i can't.  There's nothing more therapeutic than having a flick through and gaining a bit of inspiration for the next meal.

So when Idealo suggested that i'd be interested in joining their Idealo Summer reads event this year, I wasn't going to be choosing anything but cookbooks obviously.

So with the £25 limit I was very kindly given at Amazon, I picked out the following to start flicking through and pulling some recipes out over the next few months.

Joy the baker cookbook £7.99

Fantastic book for those of us, like me, who have a sweet tooth. I've been following her blog for a while and had my eye on this book.  Some great inspiration for baking here. I'll let you know how some of the recipes turn out.

Lunch in Paris - A delicious love story with recipes £5.66

Something a little bit different. Part love story, part recipes. Looks like a goodie!

Good Food - Easy Baking Recipes £3.64

Classic, easy to bake recipes

Skinny Meals in Heels £8.99

Great recipes of real food for those watching their weight. It's all about proper food done in a healthy way.

Thanks very much to Idealo for the Amazon gift voucher to buy the above. Here's the link you asked me to add: which will lead you to some frying pans.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

'Healthy' Oat bran muffins

Looking for a 'healthy' alternative to my usual baking treats, I stumbled across Nic Nutrition's recipe for Oat Bran muffins and whipped up a batch at the weekend.

Great as a snack with only 100 calories and with a low GI, it means they keep you fuller for longer. Sometimes baking can be healthy :-)

If you want to try out the recipe, follow this link:

Nic has some great healthy recipe ideas on her blog. Definitely worth a look!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Cookie Girl

Have you heard of Cookie Girl A regular supplier of cupcakes and sweet snacks to the stars, she's a pretty well known figure around the Kensal Rise way - back when i was living there, we used to receive a free magazine where she would have a column every publication.

So when an opportunity arose to spend 2 hours learning to improve my cupcake decorating piping skills for a mere £20 each via Time Out vouchers I jumped at the chance.

Held in the upstairs area of Idlewild (where we incidently had our dinner - sausages, squid, chips and other munchies - highly recommended), around 20 of us gathered round tight tables, sharing decorations and passing around coloured icing.

We learnt 4 techniques and took away a decent 8 cupcakes to share with friends and family (or to scoff on the way home).  Some of them were incredibly basic, and I was a little disappointed not to have learnt more detailed decorating technique (but then again, we had booked onto the 2 hour slot) and i'm sure some of the other classes were more detailed.

My friend and I had a fantastic time and the recipe for the icing was amazing, and i've been using it since on all my cupcakes.

I would definitely recommend a team bonding/friend outing/hen do event with cookie girl.

Book it!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Nice and spicy

I'm always up for a bit of a challenge, so was excited to receive an email from Sheba at the Absolute Indian Cookery School in Hertfordshire, announcing the new spice boutique where customers can buy authentic Indian spices direct

I've always wanted to be a dab hand at cooking Indian food. I never get to visit any Indian restaurants due to my nut allergy, so have to content myself with Anjum Anand's cookbook for whipping up recipes. As much as i'd like to think i'm okay in the kitchen, Indian cookery has me a bit stumped.

However, Sheba sent me some great recipe cards to have a go at and a few ingredients.  The recipe cards look easy enough to follow, so i'll be giving it a go shortly and will post the results.  And if not, I might end up going to one of Sheba's classes at the Absolute Indian Cookery School, to get a helping hand!

So, watch this space!