30 May 2012

Chicken and Greens Salad

My wonderful friend Joy has a reputation for leading me astray. 'I'll be back on the last tube... it's just kitchen supper' I say breezily to my husband as I leave. 'I got carried away' I say croakily as I return in a taxi we can't afford at 5am. So I think we were both a little concerned about what would happen to me if I turned up there pregnant. However, Joy has her own offspring, is trainer, councillor and all round healthy eater so I was in safe hands and she made this most fantastic salad for my supper that contained a billion things that I'm supposed to eat but don't get round to and gave me some for my lunch the next day.

She very kindly gave me the recipe as my cooking has been a bit lax recently... unless you count eating pepperami dipped in cream cheese cooking.

Joy's Chicken and Greens Salad

Serves 3-4

1 bag baby red potatoes
1 packet broccoli stems
1 packet dwarf green beans
1 packet wild rocket
1 packet of mini chicken breast fillets
2 good sized tomatoes, sliced
1 packet fresh basil
1 packet fresh chives
1 packet feta cheese
1 handful toasted pine nuts
1 fresh lemons
ground pepper
Worcestershire sauce

For the dressing:
olive oil
pinch of salt
ground pepper
juice of 1 lemon

1. Boil 2/3rds of the baby red potatoes, drain and let them cool.

2. Steam the broccoli and green beans until still slightly crunchy and then cut in half. Set aside to cool.

3. Stir-fry the chicken in olive oil until cooked through. In a dish squeezing over the juice of 1 lemon, a grind of pepper and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Toss together and leave to cool.

4. Cube the feta cheese.

5. Finely chop most of the basil and chives - how much you use is up to use. Most of each packet is good.

6. When the chicken is cool, chop roughly and add to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. 

7. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, add to the salad and let it sit for half an hour.


29 May 2012


This is not only heaven for fans of Chinese food but it is in the most unusual setting of nearly any restaurant I've been to I think. I am too lazy to bother going to East London very often but I will traipse out on the DLR to Royal Albert any day of the week and any time of day to go to Yi Ban.

At first you wonder why you've bothered. There's nothing else to see from the station except a big road and the canal. Then you notice London City Airport on the other side of the water and, as you wonder down the canal it becomes apparent that there is an interesting building looming that has its second floor window floor to ceiling. This is the mighty Yi-Ban where you can eat fantastically while watching planes take off and land just over the water. OK so I should have said it is a spectacular setting if you find watching planes exciting - I'm no plane spotter but I'm afraid of flying so watching them in action, whilst smugly stuffing my face on dry land flicks my switch.

Lunchtime is a primarily Dim-Sum menu with everything from the usual dumplings to chicken claws in black bean sauce and spicy jelly fish with duck tongue. I really recommend Barbecued roast pork buns. crystal prawn dumplings, seaweed king prawn rolls and their crispy seaweed is to die for. The service is charming, attentive and quick and the majority of the patrons are Asian - which I take to be a good sign. The worst Chinese food I've eaten came from a restaurant heaving with trendy white Londoners (heaving being the operative word - I got food poisoning).

In the evening the menu becomes more what you would expect from any Chinese restaurant but the food is again way beyond anything I've had before. Incredible crispy duck and pancakes, tasty salt and chili squid and again the seaweed were particular highlights. A wonderful array of vegetable dishes, garlic asparagus, pak choi, crispy tofu and Chinese mushrooms, are really worth trying even if you tend towards being a bit carnivorous. Crispy shredded beef and Cantonese roasted belly pork are my particular recommendations for main courses.

A real wow for a first date, not cheap (about £40 per head including drinks), but worth every penny. Yi-Ban on Urbanspoon

15 May 2012

Wild Garlic Pesto

My brother-in-law picked too much wild garlic so brought us some and I had no idea what to cook with it. Usually we use it with chicken but Joe was going away for a couple of days so I needed to make something that would last. Wild garlic pesto seemed the obvious option but having made it I wasn't sure. It was so garlicky that my taste buds were blown slightly and I love basil pesto so much this didn't seem to quite live up to it. But then I made my supper with it and it was tasty and amazing and now I'm really pleased to have it in my fridge for making things exciting when I can't be bothered to cook properly!

The recipe is taken from Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook and I'm going to put my pasta recipe below it, which looks really unexciting but was in fact incredibly yummy with this pesto. I'm not sure how long it will keep for but I'm assuming quite a while as long as you keep it sealed tightly and covered with olive oil.

Wild Garlic Pesto

For a large jar:

2 handfuls (about 100g) of wild garlic with leaves and flowers
200ml extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit more for sealing
50g pine nuts or walnuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and black pepper

1. Check there are no snails on your wild garlic. Blanch the wild garlic leaves in boiling water for about 10 seconds. Refresh in cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper.

2. Put the wild garlic, olive oil, pine nuts/walnuts, together with the garlic cloves, into a food processor and blend to a puree.

3. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the grated Parmesan and season carefully.

4. Put into a sterilised jar and pour a little extra olive oil over the top to seal, cover tightly.

Wild Garlic Pesto Pasta with Feta and Tomatoes

Serves 1

100g dried pasta, I use gigli
1/3 block of feta, cubed
2-3 vine ripened tomatoes
1 small tin of tuna in brine, drained
1 tbsp Wild Garlic Pesto
Salt and black pepper

1. Put the pasta on to cook in salted water.

2. Cube the feta, slice the tomatoes and drain the tuna.

3. When the pasta is cooked drain it and return it to the pan. Stir through the pesto and then the remaining ingredients.

4. Season with salt to taste and a lot of black pepper.

7 May 2012

Afternoon Tea - No. 1 Fortnum & Mason

I love Afternoon Tea... or High Tea as it used to be called and I just don't get enough of them. With a hungry husband to feed when he comes home I think he'd be pretty unimpressed if I said we were just having a light miso soup for supper as I'd had sandwiches, scones and cake at 4. My friend however not only loves afternoon tea but she has it quite often, and in all the best places (she won't go to the Ritz darling, or the Savoy 'not very good' she whispers). And she's a thin as a rake which just seems a little unfair! I haven't seen her for years so we wanted to meet somewhere, mid-afternoon for a non-coffee related catchup. She suggested Fortnums, I imagined a cup of builders and a slice of cake... how wrong I was.

Fortnum and Mason is a British institution selling tea for over 300 years. And to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee they have revamped and reopened the St James's restaurant now to be called the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room and it is just gorgeous. Light and airy, modern but with an incredibly charming old fashioned air - there is a pianist in black tie to accompany your tea - I could have stayed there for hours. I was incredibly embarrassed to have turned up in jeans, trainers and my husbands shirt (I haven't made it out to maternity shopping yet). I had meant to change after a meeting that actually overran and although, as my mother points out, you don't really have to get dressed up for anything nowadays I really felt that Afternoon Tea at Fortnum's deserves a bit of effort in the dress department.

Now, I have to mention that I found the price a little hard to swallow at first, £38 per person, and the service was a little on the slow side (but they were busy). However, I can't remember a time I was as full and the tea was particularly delicious and the setting beautiful and after all this is tea at Fortnum's. It's a treat - it wouldn't be the same if you could afford it everyday and it just means you have to block a couple of hours out to blissfully settle in to sipping, chatting and grazing, in this fantastic atmosphere that really makes the price worth every penny.

The first thing I noticed, and if fact I couldn't take my eyes off it throughout was the turquoise china. Beautiful and stylish and actually very modern - important I think considering how easy it would be to make it too try-hard old-fashioned. Incredibly polite service and no one asking you if everything was alright every two minutes - you feel like you have all the time in the world and no one minds you being there as long as you like.

You get to choose your tea blend, we had Jubilee tea which was delicious, and then a stand is brought with finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. A separate stand holds the jams and clotted cream and tea comes with hot water to top it up with. The selection of sandwiches was delicious - smoked salmon, egg and cress, pastrami with horseradish, coronation chicken and cucumber - and are replenished once you have finished if you want more. The scones, a selection of plain and fruit, are really light and quite small so you don't feel weighed down and the jams delicious - although I was a bit sad that the apricot didn't seem to have made it to our table the raspberry was addictive!

Finally the cakes, which are small and manageable, where wonderful and more like little deserts - chocolate mousse, lemon tart, raspberries, eclairs. If you have managed to eat all of this you can go an select more cakes from the main cake stand - we didn't get this far (I had seconds of the sandwiches) but I could see and incredible battenburg and a lethal looking chocolate cake.

This was the most fun, and the biggest treat, I've had in ages. I am desperate for an excuse to go back although now I know that I am friends with surely London's top Afternoon Tea connoisseur we've decided to do a Tea Tour of which this is only the first stop. I'm hoping it wins so we can return to it triumphantly. We arrived at 3 and I had to leave at 5 and I just wasn't ready to go...

1 May 2012

Butter London

From my blog Little Miss B...

Not only am I using pregnancy as an excuse to eat as much cheese as I like (specifically Cheshire cheese... oh my god I love Cheshire cheese) but it was also a great reason to make my husband by me some nail varnish that's actually good for me. Well not good for me but certainly not bad for me, and that is something Butter London specialises in.

I'm trying not to be too overly freaked out about what I can and can't do while pregnant. My mother ate everything and I turned out fine but, as I explained to her, the problem with knowing what you should and shouldn't be doing is that if something goes wrong you feel totally responsible. So imagine my dismay when I read that some chemicals, called phthalates which act as plasticisers, are used in some nail varnishes and can mimic oestrogen and have a 'feminising effect on boys while they are still developing in the uterus'.*

The levels of these phthalates in our bodies is rising but there is no scientific evidence that this is caused by nail varnish but they are used so widely, and manufacturers don't need to list them in the ingredients, that I thought making sure I'm using the 'healthiest' nail varnish I could find would be a good idea. Basically any excuse to try these lovely nail varnishes.

Butter London were the first company to sell non-toxic nail lacquer in the US and their 3 Free nail varnishes contain no Formaldehyde, Toluene, DBP or Parabens.At £12 for a colour and £15 for a top or base coat these lacquers are not cheap but the range of colours is exceptional, they are easy to apply, quick drying and long lasting. I always get comments when I'm wearing them.

Joe very kindly bought me two colours (Snog and Blowing Raspberries) back from America and I went online to buy base and top coats... then I accidentally bought two classics, Pillar Box Red and Come to Bed Red.  I always have red toes so I think £24 on red nail varnish is totally justified!

One thing to mention - it is not the most chip resistant nail varnish I have ever used... but then I'm pretty hard on my nails but this chips quicker than some others. But then nail varnish chips. This is not big news.

I'm now desperate to try their matte top coat, Rosie Lee, Knees Up, Henley Regatta and surely I've got to get Slapper for blue-crazy Miss F's birthday? xx

From l to r: Come to Bed Red, Base Coat, Pillar Box Red, Top Coat, Blowing Raspberries and Snog
* Expecting by Anna McGrail and Daphne Metland
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