16 December 2013

Chorizo and Parmesan Puffs

Every year we have a Christmas drinks party and every year I try to make enough canapes to sink a ship. This year I had my hands fuller than usual so I wanted to do as many things as possible ahead of time and these are incredibly easy to assemble and can sit in a disposable foil tray in the fridge until you are ready to cook them - I also do an anchovy and goats cheese version.

Chorizo and Parmesan Puffs

Makes 16-20 squares

350g pre-rolled puff pastry sheets
6 tbsp grated Parmesan
20 slices chorizo
1 egg, beaten
garlic oil

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. I use disposable foil trays for this so I can throw them out when they are cooked and because they are easy to stack in the fridge.

1. Lay the pastry out in a rectangle (or roll it out into a rectangle if you haven't got the pre-rolled stuff). Brush with beaten egg all around the outside edges.

2. Brush the middle of the pastry rectangle with garlic oil and gently draw a line down the centre of the pastry top to bottom so it looks like an open book.

3. Layer half of the chorizo along one half of the pasty and sprinkle with half the Parmesan. Then do a second layer with the remaining chorizo and sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan.

4. Fold the empty half of the pasty over the top of the chorizo and Parmesan layers (like you are closing a book) and press down the edges.

5. Brush the top with beaten egg - you can either chill or freeze it now - or cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

6. Slice into small bite-sized squares and serve.

9 December 2013

The Cottage - November 2013

One room that has been causing us head and heartache is the downstairs loo. Although I hate the expression, The Cottage was my late mother-in-laws 'baby' and the downstairs loo is completely wallpapered by her in pictures and postcards. Like this...

The first thing all friends and relatives have said to us is 'you're not going to change the downstairs loo are you?' To which we immediately responded 'No'. But the further we got with the building work the more we realised that not only would it look very outdated when the rest of the house was finished but there was a damp problem.

I jokingly suggested I take all the (super-glued) pictures down and put them back... and was taken up on that offer. Yikes. Thankfully my mother-in-laws goddaughter works in film continuity and offered to help. So we spent a very cold but therapeutic Sunday in November doing what we could to preserve as many pictures as possible. We've mapped out where everything was and removed what we could and I'm actually quite looking forward to patching the holes with pictures and postcards myself. This is how we left it...

The rest of the cottage is looking fantastic - the floorboards are beautiful and we're almost ready to start doing the stuff that involves me making a decision - like the kitchen and the bathroom but here's where we are in photos...

The dining room and kitchen

Sitting room through to extension/study

The sitting room from the extension

The new bathroom

As you can see from the last photo we decided to make the bathroom bigger (you can see the previous posts about the bathroom here).

And just in case you wonder why we are doing this Joe climbed up on the scaffolding and took some pictures of our view from the house and then from the seawall back to the cottage (which you can see as its the one with the scaffolding).

At the end of the garden is the seawall... then technically the sea. But this is Norfolk so it's a marsh


2 December 2013

Give a Christmas Gift from John Lewis

I'm an old softy about Christmas, even more so since I've had my son, and I'm hugely aware that while I'm sitting fatly on my sofa with my family in the warm on Christmas Day there will be a lot of people not having such a nice time.

So I was really pleased to see that you can buy presents for children in refuges via John Lewis - I know things are pretty tight money-wise for a lot of people at the moment but I figured that my son wouldn't miss one or two presents that would make another less fortunate child happy. DO IT - it's simple.

  • Go to johnlewis.com/giftlist.com
  • Click on 'Buy a Gift'
  • Type in list number 564013
  • Buy a gift - they start at £5 so it's really not going to break the bank and will make a big different to someones Christmas.  

25 November 2013

The Cottage - October 2013

As soon as I stepped out of the car I realised that from now on I'm going to have to label these posts with their date. It's all moving so fast and so dramatically that you need a timescale to be keeping up with everything.

We'd been on holiday, we'd had work, we have a baby so it took a while but I eventually managed to get up to Norfolk to meet with the builders and to see the progress. And my god what progress - I stepped out of the car and saw this...

Please note lack of roof! I'm now reliably informed (by the builders) that the roof was off for only a couple of days but it was pretty shocking to arrive and see (even though I knew it would be happening at some point).

The builders have not only been moving at a fast pace but their work is AMAZING (they are not reading this) and they pretend not to mind that I can't make a decision about anything.

So... they've gutted the place (as instructed). There is no roof, no plaster in the whole of the upstairs, all the lintels have had to be replaced and we've discovered that the extension is basically not attached to the rest of the house (thanks previous-builders-that-husband-won't-let-me-name). Decision on bathroom layout still to be made but had a great meeting about the kitchen and think we have something decided that will make it a lot more usable but I need to go away and think about it all (obviously).

The back...
The dining room into the hall

The main bedroom with new lintel
View from the third bedroom

Middle bedroom

The kitchen...

To see a layout to help get an idea of where these pictures are then see here for the floorplans.

22 November 2013

Doing New York

When you tell people you are going to New York you get so inundated with suggestions that it's hard to know what you can actually achieve in the time that you've got, especially when there are three of you to make decisions and a 1 year old to consider. I think we did pretty well at deciding what to see and we all loved the city to much I hope we'll return so I wasn't too anxious about missing those bits we didn't make it to.

I would like to say that we found New York to be really baby friendly. Even the places we were told were not baby friendly that we accidentally poled up at, were really lovely and accommodating and mostly had high chairs. I've done a whole separate post on where and what we ate while we were there - I'm still struggling to shift the New York weight.

Manhattan Sky Line from the Circle Line Boat
One thing that was consistently recommended to us and was I think, all of our favourite part of the holiday was the Circle Line Tour which is a trip around the island on Manhattan. Due to the tides we weren't able to go the whole way around Manhattan but the tour guide (David) was so fantastic it really didn't matter at all - we more than got our monies worth. Informative, funny and absolutely stunning this tour not only gets you really involved with the history of New York but helps you get a real grip of the geography. I may live in London but I was really intimidated by the idea of New York and yet it is so manageable and easy to understand once you get to know the layout and this tour really makes you feel like you've seen most parts of a city that would take a long time to see every part of - you could spend a good three months in the Metropolitan Museum of Art alone. If you do one touristy thing while you are in New York let it be the Circle
Line Tour. I hope you get David as your guide.

My lovely friend from school, Vanessa who has lived in New York for the past five years, took us on a walking tour of Midtown, Times Square, Greenwich Village and China Town. We were exhausted and our feet hurt and thought she was a turbo New Yorker - til we saw her two days later when she said every time we weren't looking she wept for her feet (a slight exaggeration I'm sure) and had to wear flip flops into work the next day her blisters were so bad. If you don't have someone to do it for you I really think a walking tour of the city is a great idea - I think you'd be hard pressed to see a lot of areas without a constructed tour by someone who knows what they're doing. What we didn't cover with the walking tour was Central Park which we did a couple of days later although we could only manage a couple of hours (due to our sore feet... thanks Vanessa). Central Park is just beautiful - and without sounding cliched and cheesy it was everything I wanted it to be. Huge swathes of green with skyscrapers in the background. I could spend a lot of time there.

Central Park from the top of the Rockefeller Centre
Probably the most 'touristy' thing we did was go to the top of the Rockefeller Centre - Top of the Rock. Apparently better than the Empire State building the view is phenomenal but there is a big queue to get up to the top and a HUGE queue to get down to the bottom again so be prepared. Central Park, so huge when you are in it, looks like a piece of patchwork. Had I not had a 1 year old I would have spent hours up there (not queueing to get down).

We had a couple of false starts with the shopping. I had a few specific things that I wanted, and failed, to get which I think really set us on the wrong path. Once we got advice (again from the wonderful Vanessa)  we were on a roll - I really recommend Ann Taylor, Loft and White House, Black Market. Joe got some lovely shirts from Loehmann's and if you are in the area it's definitely worth checking it out for discount designer clothes.

We, of course, went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (huge and a lovely cafe for lunch) and my Mumma (and Ned) went to the Museum of Modern Art (she said better to spend more time in the Met) and we all went to the Frick Collection which is just down the road from the Met and definitely worth a visit. There are so many famous pictures and artists in there it's pretty incredible and surprisingly few people have heard of it.

I fell in love with this city. It's intense and expensive but mesmerising and addictive. There is so much to do and see and yet I feel that, for a huge city it is quite an easy place to be. We stayed at the Marriott East and could not have been better placed or looked after - I'd really recommend staying in Midtown if you can as you really are able to get everywhere relatively easily and check out where I recommend eating here.

18 November 2013

The Cottage - Everything Out

My god having said I would be updating you on how our cottage in Norfolk is going I haven't... But I am now and I'm splitting it into two posts rather than one HUGE one.

The whole idea of doing the cottage up was quite difficult to manage. It was Joe's dad's cottage and he was very unwell and not keen on changing anything... at all. Still we made plans and agreed that work could go ahead from the beginning of September 2013. Then sadly on 4th August 2013 Joe's father died which not only stopped us in our tracks but made money issues very murky in terms of probate and our plans for the cottage get a whole lot bigger. When we initially made plans it was to do what was necessary, freshen everything up and yet keep it as close as possible to what it had been so it wasn't too strange for my father-in-law. Now that he has gone we are able to completely re-do everything and ensure that we can bring the cottage up to rental standard.

We were so shell shocked that we only managed to pack half the cottage up before we had to leave it all to movers to do the rest for us. It was very strange - we were there for the funeral, then went away for two weeks and the next time we saw it, it was... well you'll see in the next post what it was like but when we left we hadn't made any decisions. Now, we are decisions a-go-go...
Dining room and kitchen in the process of being emptied

Sitting room
Sitting room into the office extension

12 November 2013

Leftover Cheese Sandwich Pudding

The title of this sounds a bit gross I know and I have to say when my mum first suggested it I thought she had gone nuts but it was totally yummy and has now made me believe that any form of leftover can be made into something delicious. Which is true to a certain extent. I made cheese, ham and cucumber sandwiches for Ned's first birthday party (along with lots of other things) and there were some leftover which I was determined not to throw out. I ate the ham for lunch but really they would have been lovely in this but I was hungry. So there.

This is a hard recipe to write up as the amounts depend on how many sandwiches you have. It would also work well with lots of other kinds of sandwiches - ham, tomato... probably not cucumber... so don't feel restricted by the fact that this recipe is mainly cheese. You can also add whatever you like - my husband doesn't think something is cooking if it doesn't involve an onion. Garlic would be nice too but this is the basics - do with it as you will.

Leftover Cheese Sandwich Pudding

Leftover cheese sandwiches (I had about 20 which were quarter squares on a mix of white and brown bread)
2 eggs
¼ to ½ pint of milk
Cheese (preferably something tasty and melty - cheddar, red Leicester etc)
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 and butter an ovenproof dish that will suit the amount of sandwiches you have - you want at least two layers of sandwiches in the bottom and enough room for this to rise a bit.

1. Layer the leftover sandwiches in the bottom of your buttered dish and squish them in a bit.

2. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the milk. Beat a bit more and season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour the egg/milk mix over the sandwiches and leave to stand for half an hour or so.

4. Grate cheese over the top (I even splodged on some cream cheese that I wanted to use up) and cook for about half and hour or until the cheese is starting to go golden and it has puffed up a bit.

5. Serve with a salad and some chutney. It was delicious.

Leftover Cheese Sandwich Pudding


12 October 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

My sister-in-law came to supper last week. I had chicken thighs that needed using and I've only every seen her eat soup - so soup it was. You probably don't need a recipe for this but sometimes I find a recipe a reassuring starting point so here's my incredibly easy recipe for chicken noodle soup - adapt at will.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 4

1 litre good chicken stock
450ml stock cube stock
6 chicken thigh fillets roasted (or leftover roast chicken equivalent), torn into pieces
Oyster or shitake mushrooms
Straight-to-wok Udon noodles
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
star anise
3 baby pak choi, torn into strips and washed

1. Pour the good chicken stock into a large saucepan and gently heat through for about 15 minutes adding the star anise, ginger, soy sauce and sugar.

2. While the stock is heating up, tea the mushrooms into strips, melt some butter in a small frying pan and gently fry the mushroom until golden. Then remove from the heat and put to one side.

3. When the stock is hot add the strips of  chicken, mushroom and pak choi and the noodles.

4. Add stock cube stock to taste (I ususally use most of it) and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

5. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with coriander.

There are sugarsnap peas in this soup.... I wouldn't bother next time


18 September 2013

Pickled Cucumber Salad

In my family there's really nothing (well nearly nothing) we like more than a lunch of 'deli foods'. This does not require a trip to an actual deli, though that is a bonus, but should include some of the following: cheeses, salami, smoked salmon, pate, bread, tomatoes, pickles and chutney. Birthdays are often a good excuse for a deli foods lunch and my mothers birthday last Friday was no exception. However, even though this is the easiest, (though not necessarily the cheapest) option for whoever is hosting the lunch, in this instance me, I always like to have something homemade. More than a salad but not necessarily something as extravagant as Heston Blumenthal's Quiche Lorraine. I was incredibly short on time, thanks to an earlier incident with a much-hated aubergine, and thought now was finally time to try out the Pickled Cucumber Salad recipe I'd written down six years ago and have failed to make ever since. Goes very well with fish.

I know some people are iffy on pickles but I LOVE THEM. So deal with it.

Pickled Cucumbers

Serves 4-6 as part of a picnic

2 medium cucumbers
2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
3 tbsp finely chopped parlsey

1. Peel the cucumbers and cut into thin slices.

2. Place the slices, with a sprinkling of salt between layers, between two plates with a weight on top (I used a couple of cans) and leave to stand for about an hour.

3. Pour off the juice that has formed and put the slices in a salad bowl.

4. Mix the dressing of vinegar, sugar, pepper and parsley.

5. Pour the dressing over the cucumber and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

16 September 2013

Hampton Sun SPF 70 for Kids

Slightly scary photo - still working out my new camera!
We have just been on a much needed holiday in France and, as Ned has inherited my fair skin,  I was really worried that he would get sunburn and so spent some time hunting around for suitable sun creams for children under 12 months. There's a lot to choose from and I took a couple with me but my favourite was definitely Hampton Sun's SPF 70 for Kids. It's not cheap at £33 (but you really can't put a price on your child's health) and the ease of the spray on application and the lovely smell made that rather steep price tag totally worthwhile.  In fact it was so easy to apply he was positively giggly about having it put on which made a nice change from the angry shrieking that usually ensues and it was so much quicker.

I reapplied this at least every 80 minutes when he was outside and we used it on nephew sometimes as well - there was still some left over and no evidence that he'd been in the sun at all (not a nappy tan line in sight). Highly recommended - I'm going to buy a bottle of this at the start of every summer.

12 August 2013

Giveaway Winner - Burts Bees Starter Kit

Finally a winner has been chosen by the completely unbiased Ned... thank you so much for your patience. Katie Skeoch please email me your details and I will send this out asap. Thanks to everyone for entering. I'll try to do another giveaway soon. Thanks to www.biggreensmile.com for the prize.


10 August 2013

There will now be a slight pause...

I'm so sorry, very rude to stop mid-giveaway but I'm afraid my father-in-law died on 4th August so I am just helping arrange the funeral and generally doing family stuff. Once I have a moment the delightful Ned will pick the winner of the Burts Bees giveaway out of a hat and normal service shall resume xx

22 July 2013

Giveaway - Burts Bees Baby Starter Kit

Biggreensmile.com have kindly given me a Burts Bees Baby Bee Getting Started Kit to giveaway. If you would like to win it then leave me a comment and I will chose the winner next week.


16 July 2013

Soy Dressing

Another amazingly easy dressing that is fantastic with noodles and salad to liven up leftovers. Stolen from a pork recipe in Donna Hay's The Instant Cook it is one of my go-to supper cheats now that summer is finally here and it's too hot to do anything that requires heat!

Soy Dressing

¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp soft brown sugar

Whisk together and pour over your salad.... told you it was easy.

5 July 2013

New York Baby!

So, a very good friend of Joe's is getting married in Washington D.C. in October and we've decided that we are going to go to New York for a weeks holiday beforehand. Not only will we be taking Mr Ned, one week before his first birthday, but we're also taking my Mumma. I cannot wait but where to stay what must we see? I need your help - suggestions please.

3 July 2013

The Cottage - Bathroom decisions

The first major decision we have to make about the cottage is the bathroom. Although there is a loo and sink downstairs there is only one actual bathroom and it's not very big. We definitely want to put a shower over the bath but apart from that there's not a lot we can do with such a small space. Eventually we may make the downstairs loo a shower room but for now our builder however has come up with a rather clever idea to extend the upstairs bathroom. It seems to be the most sensible option for giving the bathroom more space but would mean losing a bit of the character of the cottage which I'm reluctant to do.

So I need your help. I've put pictures and a diagram of the current layout below and after that is a diagram of the proposed layout. What do you think - should we change it? If you need more in depth floor plans you can see them here). I will post pictures up asap.

Current layout of the bathroom - the blanket box is in a small corridor and has hooks over the top for jackets.
Proposed new layout - incorporate the corridor area and put a sink where the blanket box is

28 June 2013

The Cottage - Floorplans

I thought it would be helpful to put up the floorplans of the cottage should you feel inclined to follow this thread. Having spent a rather wine fueled evening last time we were there making Joe take every measurement in the house and making our own diagrams, the builders then sent us ones that they'd made...

Ground floor - kitchen at the top with aga in the middle, downstairs loo, stairs, drawing room and office

Kitchen with Aga in the middle

First floor - from top - third bedroom, second bedroom, bathroom and master bedroom

7 June 2013

It's that time of year again...

And although the weather is terrible and we're thinking about moving I have seen fit to go and spend money on plants for the garden that I really like and will therefore be sad about leaving or insist on digging up.

Every year since we moved here four years ago I have removed shrubs I've not been keen on, cut things back and weeded. Removed trees, pruned roses, threaded jasmine and clematis and weeded. Except last year, last year I quite quickly got too pregnant to weed and then it looked like I had decided to have some sort of wildflower paddock instead of a garden which was fine but instead of wildflowers they were 5ft weeds. It became apparent that having removed things I then spent a lot of time weeding three particular patches, watching the weeds grow again, weeding etc and could never decide what to plant there. It became this massive decision. What if I planted the wrong thing?

I had to admit that I know what I like but I know nothing of the textures, height differences and colours needed to make a really spectacular garden. Knowing what you like is good - I like peonies in all colours, shapes and sizes and we have a majestic tree peony that flowers at this time every year to fill me with inspiration. I love oriental poppies, lilac, camellias and of course roses. But what of the shrubs that are oh so necessary for texture and variety and for something evergreen during the long winter months.

Luckily for me I have two people close by to help me when I'm struck with indecision and who's knowledge if far greater than mine. My lovely neighbour who's garden is like a haven of colour and calm not only puts up with my constant questions but actually comes to help me in the garden sometimes (most shamingly she had to do some weeding last year when bending over for me was not an option). And my mother, who's garden is my favourite place to be, has similar taste to me, knows what I mean when I try to describe something to her that I think I'd quite like (she had to dissuade me from having cow parsley in the church when i got married 'sad little brown things by the time people arrive darling') but she's not afraid to give me a good kick up the backside when she thinks I'm dithering. And dithering I was.

Having lovingly weeded these bald patches for four years I could not decide what was worthy enough to go in them. Something needed to be done so my mother went with me to the garden center and I got a few things to get me started. Two hellebore's, a foxglove I was too dithery to buy last year, some flax, lobelia and a hebe that I didn't need but fell in love with.

I got back to London and nothing would actually go where I had originally intended but they are in and they've worked and I love it. I think often with gardening although you need to plan and think ahead you also need to go with what you love, a little at a time and build from there. Anyway everything is in and I love it... as usual the pictures don't do it justice
Clematis - planted three years ago, first flower

Peony, Hebe and Hydrangea

Hellebore, clematis, geranium, vinca


4 June 2013

Lemon and Lime Cream Tart

Another recipe that I copied from my mother's copy of The Naked Chef. There wasn't a picture (I don't think) and I was expecting something more like the cold, set lemon tarts I usually make. But it's not, it's cooked and browned on top and completely different. Like the Simple Chocolate Tart I bought the sweet shortcrust pastry base to see if it worked better for this - it went really well with the chocolate tart base - and it was fine but I think if I had more time I probably would hand-make the pastry for this. I'll put a recipe up for this asap. I served this with raspberries but it would work just as well with strawberries.

It was incredibly easy to make and, because I was using the shop-bought base, I had leftover filling which I froze and is apparently spectacular as a sort of ice cream. I didn't get to try any, my husband ate it all. I did use the lime zest as decoration so I zested them, squeezed them into a measuring jug and topped it up with lime juice from a bottle. The 4 limes makes about 100ml.

Lemon and Lime Cream Tart

1 sweet shortcrust pastry tart shell, baked blind.
340g caster sugar
8 large free range eggs
350ml double cream
200ml lime juice
100ml lemon juice
zest of 4 limes (optional)

Egg wash the tart base and pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4

1. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. When they are well mixed slowly stir in the cream and juices.

2. Put the tart shell onto a baking tray and pour in the filling.

3. Bake for around 40-45 minutes until the filling is set but still semi-wobbly in the middle.

4. Put on a cooling rack and after about an hour the filling will have firmed up.

5. Dust with a little icing sugar (I forgot), sprinkle with the lime zest and serve with raspberries or strawberries.


16 May 2013

Simple Chocolate Tart

I occasionally bite off more than I can chew but I'm becoming so grown-up now that I can now usually resist the urge to try to make three courses, look after the baby, tidy the house and do some writing all in the same day. For lunch yesterday this new regime manifested itself in the form of a shop-bought sweet shortcrust pastry tart base.

I never buy pastry unless it's puff, because I think it's a waste of money. It's not hard to make it and it's incredibly smug-making when you do and it goes really well but lunch with five adults, two toddlers, two babies and three dogs it seemed that maybe lovingly making a tart base was a bit too much. I didn't want to buy a pre-made pudding so I thought just the base was a good compromise. The filling was from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver which I've never cooked from before but I'd written a couple of recipes down ages ago and anything with the word simple in the title was going to ideal for yesterdays lunch.

I'm not that fussed about puddings but this was really delicious and actually the shop-bought base was perfect because it was drier than home made which went really well with the rich chocolate filling. I have quite a lot of chocolate left-over but I'm going to whip up some cream, stir it in and make some sort of chocolate mousse... I'll let you know how that goes.

Simple Chocolate Tart

1 sweet shortcrust pastry tart shell baked blind
315ml double cream
2 level tbsp caster sugar
the smallest pinch of salt
115g butter, softened
455g best-quality cooking chocolate (half milk half dark works well), broken up
100ml milk
cocoa powder for dusting

1. Place the double cream, sugar and salt into a pan and bring to the boil. As soon as the mixture has boiled remove from the heat add the butter and chocolate and stir until completely melted.

2. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, stirring in the milk until smooth and shiny.

3. Scrape into the pastry shell, shake gently to even it out and allow to cool for 1-2 hours until it is at room tempterature.

4. Dust with cocoa powder.


11 May 2013

E & O

This time last year I was just out the other side of morning sickness but still in the stage where I was awake for five minutes at a time and only then to eat. So for our anniversary we got sushi delivered I had a glass of champagne, felt drunk and nodded off in front of the tele. As Joe said last night he was 'quite dissatisfied as you insisted we watched things saved on the Sky box, not even a movie'. I was perfectly happy but maybe it wasn't the most romantic of anniversaries... I've always loathed the number three anyway.

This year though was four and everybody likes four. I got peonies, my mum babysat and we resisted the urge to go to the trusty gastro pub round the corner and instead went to E & O on Ladbroke Grove - a restaurant I have wanted to go to for the last couple of years due to a colleagues constant ravings and the fact he never ever goes anywhere else.

Now it did have a bit of a head start in that I have barely been out to dinner with my husband in the last year let alone to a properly nice restaurant and I was amazed by the beautiful people having actual fun and drinking cocktails and looking glamerous so the food could have been a bit below par and I probably wouldn't have minded. But the food was absolutely fantastic - the best I can remember having anywhere.

The menu is a mix of dim sum, sashimi, tempura and things from the grill, the portion sizes are just right and everything we had was cooked to perfection and clearly well sourced. I know I'm not an expert but I eat a lot of sushi and I can tell when sashimi is good or not and this was absolutely spot on fresh and delicious.

We had prawn and chive dumplings, chili salt squid and crispy pork belly with black vinegar to start with. The dumplings were the least exciting but still delicious and perfectly cooked, the squid was absolutely perfect, served in a little wrap of newspaper just enough so you felt you got enough but not too much to spoil your appetite for everything else - this and the pork belly were my favourites. The pork was melt-in-the-mouth cooked with beautifully crispy fat and the black vinegar an ideal match.

Next up was the mixed sashimi - incredibly fresh and simple salmon, tuna and mackerel and wild pink shrimp tempura.

I had to stop there - my nil-by-mouth diet has successfully shrunk my stomach and I couldn't fit anything else in but Joe persevered with sesame and soy po choi and chili chicken with pickled cucumber also delicious apparently.

If I had anything to complain about (I always like to find something) the service was slightly slow but ever so slightly and very polite, no one asked me how my food was when I'd had one mouthful and was mid-conversation (I hate that) and the place was heaving so I really can't blame them for being a little on the slow side. All those people can't be wrong - this place is amazing and well worth going to. It's not cheap (the pink shrimp tempura was £18.50) but for a special occasion or if you don't need to worry about such things, it is worth every penny.

 E&O on Urbanspoon

8 May 2013

Healthy Salmon Burgers

Another recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine. Was very easy to make and yummy served with a green salad. Perfect for when you need to eat later than usual as it's really light - do make sure you add enough salt otherwise these won't taste as good as they should. I halved the amount to make enough for two.

Healthy Salmon Burgers

Serves 4

4 Salmon fillets
1 tbsp Thai green or red curry paste
4cm (1½) fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
Fresh coriander, small handful
1 tsp vegetable oil

I used my magimix for this, as instructed by the recipe but you could probably do it all by hand if you don't have one.

1. Put half the salmon in a food processor and whizz until completely smooth.

2. Add the remaining fish, curry paste, ginger, lime and coriander, season and whizz until combined but still retaining some texture.

3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Form the salmon mixture into four equal patties and fry for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through, turning once.

4. Serve with salad, sweet chili dipping sauce and lime wedges.


3 May 2013

The Cottage

My family like things to look nice, my sister is the messiest member and she's an artist, so you see even she wants things to look nice. This means we hoover, we clean, we um and ahh about interior decoration, we sleep for weeks with curtain fabric swatches pinned to the old curtains to see how we feel about them, we update paintwork and maintain exterior walls, upgrade boilers and bleed radiators. My husbands family, who I adore, seem to exist more on the idea that they'll be dead long before anything drastic happens so why bother. This is not to say that their houses don't look wonderful, they really do, but I'm not sure that there's much room for property maintenance in their rather academic brains and they are the base-camp for shabby chic.
Rather scary damp patch over the stairs

My father-in-laws bolt-hole in North Norfolk is the worst hit by this lassez faire approach to home owning. When I first met my husband, nearly a decade ago, it looked rather aged and worn and there were a few cracks. Nothing was done and now ceilings are falling in, carpets are removing themselves and one end of the house is threatening to fall off altogether. Being from a family who likes everything clean and working and I suppose, being a girl, I have been making noises about 'doing the place up' for some time. My husband agrees with me in person, then speaks to his father and they both agree that really I'm just looking for another outlet from which to spend money. Up until now I have been all but patted on the head and told to run along.
The bathroom... my nemesis

That is until the ceiling started to fall in an a rather scary looking drip appeared over the stairs... right where the pipes from the bath run. The bathroom is my bete noir. I hate it. It hates me. It's ill flushing loo, the carpet that shows evidence that this is a mans house and runkles up to shut me in whenever it feels like it. I have had designs on this bathroom for sometime. For my 30th I would like a few quiet minutes with it and a sledgehammer. I may get my wish. These rather scary new developments mean then men in my house have had no choice but to call in the builders and I have persuaded them that there is no point doing things by half. This cottage would be fantastic for renting out some day and doing it up to rental standard is the most sensible thing. This means not only structural maintenance including fixing the roof, but new kitchen, new bathroom, new flooring and completely new paintwork.
Where the ceiling's started to go... over my bed obvs

I have put myself forward as project manager and, because of the beauty of the cottage and it's location, the size of the job, and the wonderful outcome of all this work that I am hoping for, I thought I would blog it occasionally. I've been round taking my before photographs and doing measurements of most of the rooms so I can do costings and have references from London (the fact that all floors need redoing and all rooms repainting make it not ideal for staying long with a baby... that and radiators not working). I hope it's interesting - I'll try to only blog the interesting bits - and that the transformation is successful. Right now, waiting for quotes, it all seems quite daunting, especially as it's not my house. But the only thing to do is jump in feet first so here I go...

24 April 2013

Pram Video

OK so usually when I film videos for my YouTube channel they are make-up related. After spending nearly an hour trying to work out how to attach the John Lewis universal footmuff to my pram I decided to record a video on it because it is so easy and yet seems impossible at the time. So here it is...


17 April 2013

Oeufs en Cocotte or Baked Eggs

Years ago we went to a Le Creuset sale. I dragged Joe along promising him that basically we'd be saving money in the long run and we would only buy sensible things. All this was true except at the end there were these really sweet tiny little Le Creuset round casserole dishes in four colours and well I just snuck them into the trolley and persuaded Joe at the check out that they would be incredibly useful for single portions of things. To be honest it was a massive lie - I like small things and the colours were so pretty that I just wanted them to take up valuable space in my kitchen. Which they do.

They are, however, the perfect thing for Oeufs en Cocotte which is one of my favourite things to make when I either have too many eggs or leftover double cream that needs eating. It isn't slimming but a little goes a long way as it's quite rich (I can't usually finish two of these) there is something incredibley soothing about being able to eat something in the evening that involves toasted soldiers... which this really should.

This makes enough for two fatties or four people though I really like this as a late night quick comfort supper which usually means there's just you... you can add all sorts of things but I never bother as this is great as it is. There are loads of recipes for this all over the place - this is how I do it.

Oeufs en Cocotte

Serves 2-4

200mls double cream
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
4 large eggs
salt and pepper

I make this in my Le Creuset mini casseroles but they would be fine in ramekins too. Whatever you are using you will need four of them and they need to be buttered. You will need a roasting tin or something in which to make a bain marie - the water will need to go about ¾ of the way up the sides of your ramekins. Once buttered put the dishes in the tin ready to pour the water in. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

1. Warm the cream in a pan then add the salt, pepper and cheese.

2. Pour the cream into the prepared ramekin.

3. Crack an egg into each ramekin on top of the cream.

4. Place the roasting tin into the oven and then pour in enough hot water to come ¾ of the way up the ramekins.

5. Bake in the oven for about 10 mins or until the eggs are set.

6. Add a pit of salt and pepper and serve with toasted soldiers.


9 April 2013


I never have a problem deciding what sort of food is appropriate. Except for Saturday lunch. For some reason Saturday lunch really throws me off and, unless its suitable weather for a rare roast beef salad with lots of bread and cheeses, I never have any idea what to cook. I asked my family for inspiration and tartiflette came up as an option served with salads and bread and something nice for pud. Then a neighbour came round offering us half a Reblouchon, she'd bought some in a 3 for 2 offer and was going to be away before they'd have a chance to eat it all. So that sealed the deal. Tartiflette it would be, even though, I was slightly scared of it.

I was wrong to be scared of it - it's incredibly easy to do and is happy to be made up and then just sit about a bit waiting to be cooked. And it tastes divine and is perfect for Saturday lunch or indeed week day supper. There are lots of recipes hanging around so this is mine!

Serves 4-6

1.5kg potatoes (I like Vivaldi for this)
1 Reblouchon
1 clove garlic
400-500g bacon lardons
300ml creme fraiche
salt and pepper

I use a fairly small but deep rectangular roasting dish for this. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

1. Butter your dish and rub it with garlic. I tend to smash the garlic a bit to get the skin off so I then leave bits of smashed garlic in the bottom of the dish.

2. Boil a pan of water, add a good pinch of salt and then cook the peeled potatoes until they are just done. Drain them and leave them to cool.

3. Fry the lardons for 2-3 minutes and put to one side.

4. Slice the cooled potatoes into slices (about 1 cm thick) and put one layer of them, using about

half the potatoes in the bottom of the dish.

5. On top of the potatoes sprinkle the lardons and then cover with creme fraiche.

6. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, not too much salt as the lardons will be quite salty.

7. Add the rest of the potatoes as a top layer an then slice the Reblouchon in half and lay on the top skin side downwards.

Tartiflette pre-cooking
8. Cook in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is sort of gooey and golden... and looks done.

Just remembered to get a photo as it was being served

5 April 2013

Give and Makeup

I am one of those people that finds it hard to through useful things away. I'm not a hoarder but I can see how such a problem can get started. I'm signed up to Glossybox - a fantastic service where you get a box of goodies delivered every month - and the boxes are so pretty and useful that I cannot bring myself to chuck them out. As you can imagine, one a month means that quite a few have now been stacked up in my office, occasionally I use one to send someone something fragile or a make-up product I don't want to get squeezed in the post.

Then I came across Give and Makeup on twitter and suddenly I not only have the perfect use for  my old Glossyboxes but it is a great way to get rid of all those make-up and beauty products you don't use. I get sent quite a few things to test out, often all within the same range and there will be things I know I'm just never going to use, lipsticks and nail varnishes in the wrong colour, the majority of perfume samples I get from Glossybox and they just lie around unloved, taking up valuable space. I'm also terrible at going out and splurging on makeup in Boots and Superdrug and then getting home and finding I've already got something or I've bought it in completely the wrong colour - some end up in my kit, some just go to the back of my personal make-up box. My initial trawl through revealed two boxes worth of products. Now I'm just going to keep an old box in my office for anything that I don't want.

Initially you may wonder why make-up and beauty products are needed for charity - I mean, they are a bit of a luxury surely, but all the products donated go directly to Refuge and Women's Aid who help victims of domestic violence. Thousands of women and children have had to run from their homes to protect their lives and they have to leave everything behind. Give and Makeup need everything from everyday essentials - shampoo, condition, toothpaste, deodorant, to skincare - cleaners and moisturisers and the added extras - makeup, makeup brushes, perfume, nail varnish and even clothes and baby products. Rather than listing things on eBay why not make a box up and send it in? These amazing charities need your help and Give and Makeup is a fantastic way to do it.

20 March 2013

Somen Noodles, Prawn and Cucumber Salad

My sister is very good at buying cookery books as presents and one little gem she got for Joe is A Little Taste of Japan. My close family are obsessed with Japanese food, my mother having spent some time living there when she was tiny, and one of the things Joe has done for me over the past ten years is hand rolled sushi for me. Knowing this my sister bought him A Little Taste of Japan to broaden our at-home Japanese cooking horizons, so on Saturday night I was treated to sushi, sashimi and Somen Noodles, Prawn and Cucumber Salad.

Well I would have been if you could get all the ingredients in a mad dash at Waitrose in Shepherds Bush... which you can't. So we were missing a few things but this salad was delicious anyway and perfectly fine without them, or with the substitutions we made. Probably another great all-round dressing to liven up a normal salad with prawn or beef and we will definitely be having this again but next time I will venture to Thai Smile to see if I can get the things we were missing.

Somen Noodle, Prawn and Cucumber Salad

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 fatties

2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers
1 tbsp dried wakame pieces*
200g dried somen noodles
12 cooked king prawns, peeled. deveined and cut in half lengthways
3 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
shichimi togarashi (seven spice mix) to serve, optional*

½ tsp dashi granules*
125ml Japanese rice vinegar
60ml mirin
1 tsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tsp lightly grated fresh ginger
pinch of sugar
½ tsp sesame oil

* things we didn't have

We also couldn't find somen noodles so we used thin egg noodles which were yummy.

1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, then slice the flesh very thinly on a slight diagonal. Put the slices of cucumber in a colader, sprinkle with salt and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing and squeezing out as much  water as you can. Chill.

2. Meanwhile soak the wakame in cold water for 5 minutes, or until rehydrated and glossy but not mushy. Drain well and chill... or skip this step if you too can't find Wakame.

3. To make the dressing mix the dashi granules with 1 tbsp hot water until dissolved. Add the rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, grated ginger, sugar and sesame oil and stir to combine. Chill.

4. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then reduce and simmer. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes or until tender (or follow the instructions on the packet). Quickly drain and rincse under cold running water until completely cool.

5. Combine the cucumber, wakami, noodles, prawns and half the spring onion in a bowl. Pour on the dressing and toss well. Serve immediately garnished with the remaining spring onions and the shichimi togarashi.

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