1 December 2014

Sarah Raven's Smoked Salmon Pate

One of the things I miss most whenever we move (and take forever to unpack) is my cookery books. I know my way round a kitchen and fridge so they are not considered essential enough to dig out with any immediacy. Then once I have found them I forget to use them for a bit and it takes a while to fall back in love with old favourites. Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook is definitely and old favourite and particularly useful as it's arranged by month.

One of the things I miss most when I'm pregnant is pate although I'm pretty lax about what I eat I try to keep pate fish-based and homemade for the 9 months... it's not that long and if you find the right recipe then its a doddle to make and more delicious than any shop bought variety. So when I looked at a very old list of things I wanted to try from the Garden Cookbook I fell upon the Smoked Salmon Pate with chervil recipe and, as suggested, used chives instead of chervil, which isn't in season.

This pate is a cinch to make (in the magimix) and incredibly delicious to eat. Straight to the top of my lists for easy starters, nibbles and fish pates. I made it for some friends who then requested the recipe... twice!

Smoked Salmon Pate with Chervil
Serves 8 (I successfully halved this)

170g smoked salmon (You can use trimmings. I used smoked trout)
510g cream cheese
300ml double cream
60g butter (she says unsalted I say salted)
Lemon juice to taste, plus slivers of lemon to serve
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh chervil, chives or dill
Black pepper
Warm toast, to serve

I made this in a magimix, made thin slices of toast in the oven and served it in a dish in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. If you wanted you could do individual ramekins which would maybe be better for 8.

1. Put the fish, cream cheese and double cream into a blender. Blitz briefly.

2. Add the butter, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, herbs and black pepper. Whizz until the mixture forms a paste consistency. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

3. Pack into a pate dish or ramekins and put in the fridge for an hour or two to set.

4. Serve with warm toast, slivers of lemon and butter if you are a total glutton like me. 


26 November 2014

NibNibs

When I was just at the most jaw-clenchingly awful moment of morning sickness I very kindly got sent a box of assorted NibNib products to try. I carried the box through to the kitchen and then studiously ignored it for a month. It wasn't just the box. For most of the first three months of this pregnancy I avoided the kitchen. There was an incident involving morning sickness, norovirus, absent husband and cooking for a 2 year old that put me off the whole concept of non-M&S sandwich food for at least 7 weeks.

Then as my appetite returned I wanted salty, delicious, mostly cheese-based nibbles and so I finally opened my box of NibNibs. My hopes weren't high as there is quite a lot of competition out there so I wasn't paying too much attention as I tore open the (really handy) packaging and started shoving the Exceptional Cheese Straws in. But they were really delicious - cheesy, the right consistency for a cheese straw and a really nice nibbley size. Not bad I thought.

The Cheddar and Spicy Chilli Staws were opened (and finished) a couple of nights later when my mother came to stay. I trust her taste buds as, like me, she finds most things under-salted. Not these, these she approved of whole-heartedly. We opened the Cheddar and Cheeky Onion Straws and were again really impressed. These are definitely my favourite - just the right amount of onion. Seriously, I have a very sensitive stomach at the moment and I was anxious about too much onion. These are incredibly delicious and slightly addictive.

The last on my to-try list were the Salt and Black Pepper Jumbo Peanuts (yes I know I shouldn't have peanuts when pregnant but I am ok?) and again, although these come in a really easy to store, easy to open, closable tub they didn't last very long. Perfectly seasoned and good-quality peanuts.

Without a doubt I would buy these again - they are fantastic nibbles and the aforementioned packaging makes them great to have in the cupboard for when you need them. You don't need to eat them all, they'll keep very nicely in their tubs, but you probably will eat them all. But don't worry if you do - all the ingredients are personally sourced by the NibNibs team and where possible, they are all British and all products are made in their bakery in North Yorkshire. Find your local stockist here or buy online and try them - the perfect go-to store cupboard treat for Christmas

2 October 2014

Ned's Eat-Your-Veg Tart

Ned is a typical almost-two-year-old. He loves something one day, won't countenance it the next, will eat kale and broccoli but rejects most other vegetables, won't look at fruit and is most happy with sausages and chips (as long as some 'chup' is present). It sort makes you lose your mind a little - not only the problem of 'are they getting enough fruit and vegetables?' but the sheer waste of food. Thank god for my dogs. But we went to hang out with my friend Laura and her twin boys and she had been to her friends house the week before who had produced this tart that had been eaten by all the children. Laura made it for our boys and again it all went in and it's been a huge hit in our house ever since.

I now make sure that I have pre-rolled, puff pastry that I've cut into one child sized portions in the freezer so I can just pull one or two out and make one of these tarts to feel I'm getting enough goodness into the boy. It was also incredibly useful on holiday in France. We could get puff pastry sheets and the vegetables there are fantastic so it was a sure fire baby friendly hit... in fact I ended up making it for the whole family for lunch one day, it was so in demand.

This is incredibly versatile - you can use what vegetables you have in the house and leave off anything you know your child will reject (Ned will not countenance a mushroom). I'm putting Ned's favourite options below but you use what you like. I would say that a pesto base and cheese topping are always winners but anything seems to go in between! 

I was reluctant to post this because it seems very obvious but it's very hard to get stuck in a rut when cooking for children and this has been a real savior for us. It would also be a great option for if you had a vegetarian child for lunch or supper, though obviously leave off the tuna/ham. You can add red peppers, tomatoes to make it sweet and appealing.

Ned's Eat Your Veg Tart

1 x pack pre-rolled puff pastry (I pack will do 2-4 two year olds but I pre-cut and  freeze squares big enough for one child. You can always defrost a couple if there are friends for supper)
Pesto
Courgette
Tuna/tinned salmon/ham
Sweetcorn
Cheddar Cheese

1. Lay the pastry (cut to the size you need) on a baking tray and spread a thin layer of pesto over the base leaving about a centimetre around the edge for the pastry to puff up.

2. Thinly slice the courgette and lay that over the top of the pesto.

3. Next add the tuna, salmon or ham that you want to use.

4. Sprinkle over the sweetcorn.

5. Grate over the cheese.

6. Cook for 15-20 mins. You want this to be golden and puffed around the edges and the cheese to be melted. If you don't cook for long enough the pastry will be all limp and unappealing.

14 September 2014

Spring Rhubarb Relish

We recently started getting a small Abel & Cole fruit and veg box delivered every week and although there are some things I've banned from the box one of the reasons I wanted to try out the delivery system was to widen my knowledge of how to actually use the fruit and veg that I'm not so keen on. This was put to the test a few weeks ago as I hovered next to the bin with the rhubarb that I hated, the baby I knew wouldn't touch and there was no point putting in a pudding for my away-with-work husband. There's got to be something I can do with this, I thought. And there was.

I like any excuse to get out my Preserves book and it didn't disappoint with my rhubarb problem. Really easy to make and Joe loves it this relish is perfect with cheeses, quiches and pork pies and makes a really nice change from more traditional chutneys.

Spring Rhubarb Relish

Makes about 4 x 340g jars

500g granulated sugar
100ml cider vinegar
1kg rhubarb (untrimmed weight)
125g raisins

For the spice bag:
50g fresh root ginger, bruised
2 cinnamon sticks, snapped in half
6 cloves

You will need a spice bag or 20cm square of muslin, a preserving pan and some jars.

1. First make the spice bag by tying up the bruised ginger , Cinnamon sticks and cloves in a 20cm square of muslin (or a pre-made spice bag).

2. Put the sugar, vinegar , 100ml water and the spice bag into a preserving pan. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and allow the spices to release their flavours into the syrup. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for about 20 minutes.

3. While it's infusing, trim and wipe the rhubarb stalks and chop into 2-2.5cm chunks.

4. Add the rhubarb and raisins to the spiced syrup. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is thick, but the rhubarb is still discernible as soft chunks.

5. Remove from the heat and pour into warm, sterlised jars and seal with vinegar proof lids.

Use within 12 months.

Rhubarb relish does not photograph well...


14 August 2014

Nigella Lawson's Italian Apple Pie

We've unpacked my cookery books! Finally after months of having to cook from memory I'm able to try out the huge list of recipes I've flagged for testing. One of the books I was really looking forward to getting my hands one was Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration and so when I decided to have my family for a summer supper in the garden I cooked two recipes from it. The first was a pasta dish which was perfectly nice but needed some tweaking (in my opinion). The other recipe was this Italian Apple Pie which I did at the last minute realising I'd forgotten about pudding and I had some apples that needed using up.

I was really focussed on the pasta and indeed so focussed that I was happily gossiping outside not realising that the alarm was going off to let me know the pie was reading - meaning it had a few charred patches. A disaster I thought, bin it immediately. However, I was persuaded to serve it and I am so glad it was saved from the bin. It was incredibly delicious and unusual and actually very light for what is basically a cake (the sponge was so good I'm going to use this method for other cakes) and great with double cream (and strawberries on the side) for a pudding or indeed with a cup of coffee as elevenses, It is incredibly easy to make and Ned loved it so much that he learnt to say 'cake'!

Italian Apple Pie

Serves 8

100g soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder 
pinch of salt
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
zest 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
75ml full fat milk, at room temperature
3 pink lady apples, or any crisp eating apples (approx 500g in total)

You will need to grease a 22/23cm springform cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6/400F.

1. Into a food processor put the flower, baking powder and a pinch of salt, 100g soft butter, caster sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla extract, and blitz until it forms a thick smooth batter. Then, with the motor still running, pour the milk gradually down the funnel to lighten the mixture.

2. To do this by hand, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then beat in the eggs, followed by the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, lemon zest, and milk until you have a batter with a soft dropping consistency.

3. Halve 1 of the apples, the peel, core and chop one half into approximately 1cm cubes, add these to the batter and either pulse to mix, or beat in. Pour your batter into the springform tin.

4. Quarter and core the remaining apples (including the unused half apple), leaving the skin on, then finely slice them and arrange in concentric circles (or how you can) on top of the cake batter.

5. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle this over the apples, then bake for 40-45 minutes, by which time the cake should be risen and golden. Piece with a metal skewer, should have only a few crumbs sticking to it when removed.

6. Leave to cool for 1 hour, before springing it out of the tine to cut and serve warm, or leave to cool completely once out of the tin

25 June 2014

How to switch a Bugaboo Bee pram from parent facing to outward facing and how to get your kid to sleep on a train

On my other blog I try to do a video every Friday. As it's a make-up and beauty blog I don't put the videos up here very often but one of my most popular videos is about my pram (typical) so I thought another one may be useful...


10 June 2014

Jamie Oliver's Incredibly Delicious Chicken Salad

As you may know my latest love is Jamie's 15-Minute Meals and anyone who's been coming to our house has been getting fed from it. I could do each recipe as I try them but as I've yet to try a dud this would be a bit of a one theme blog and I would be in trouble with the publishers. So I thought I would go for this one because so far it has been the one that Joe made the most excitable noises over and it's the one I thought he'd like least because it has 'salad' in the title and he's a boy.

It didn't take me 15 mins but not far off and it was really filling. We finished it between three of us but we're quite gluttonous - it would do four (as the recipe suggests) for lunch or if you had a pudding. I left out the lemons though because I hate them and THIS IS MY HOUSE JAMIE. And the cress. I just can't be doing with cress.

Incredibly Delicious Chicken Salad

Serves 4

for the salad:
1 head of broccoli
4 x 120g skinless chicken breasts
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
olive oil
1 mug (300g) Bulgar wheat
2 preserved lemons
1 bunch radishes
2 spring onions
½ a bunch fresh mint
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 punnet of cress

to serve:
4 tbsp fat-free natural yoghurt
2 tsp harissa
1 lemon

1. Fill up a medium pan with a lid, with boiling, salted water. Trim the end off the broccoli and cut the head to florets and add to the pan., cover and boil for 4 minutes.

2. On a large sheet of greaseproof paper, toss the chicken with the salt, pepper and ground coriander, then fold the paper over and bash with a rolling pin til it's about 1.5cm thick. Put into a large frying pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a high heat turning after 3 or 4 minutes until golden and cooked through.

3. With tongs, remove and drain the broccoli (leaving the water in the pan on the heat) and put on a hot griddle until nicely charred.

4. Cook the Bulgar wheat according to the instructions on the packet in the broccoli water with the preserved lemons if you are using them.

5. Halve or crush the radishes, trim and finely slice the spring onions and the top leafy half of the mint then toss it all in a bowl with the extra virgin olive oil and vinegar and season to taste.

6. Drain the Bulgar wheat and tip into a large serving bowl, then mash and mix in the preserved lemons and arrange the broccoli on top.

7. Toss the sunflower seeds in the chicken pan, then slice the chicken and add to the salad scattering over the seeds and snipping over the cress.

8. Serve dolloped with the yoghurt and drizzles of harissa and with lemon wedges on the side.

4 June 2014

Jamie's 15 Minute Meals

I don't usually do full book reviews on here. I think it's more useful to review individual recipes that I have tried that worked, however I love this book so much it's getting it's very own post. SO THERE.

I wasn't that keen on the Jamie's 30-Minute Meals: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast . Because there was often three parts to each meal there would usually only be one part that I liked the sound of and that seemed to defeat the point of the book for me. I bought it for Joe because he wanted it and it really is his sort of food and he really likes the whole timed aspect of it (never taken him less than 45mins but our kitchen is tiny and Jamie doesn't factor in having to actually wash up half way through) and it's really the only recipe book he cooks from. But while I was at a friends house waiting for her to change my godson's nappy I picked up Jamie's 15-Minute Meals and flicked through it and was incredibly surprised to find I wanted to cook 85% of the things in there. That's huge - I'm an incredibly picky eater.

I may be getting old (veering towards 31) but I recently decided that if I could have ten minutes to sit down with a celebrity-that's-not-Slash, Jamie Oliver would be in the running for that prestigious honour. Why? Because I think he is generally interested in people (and it's all about me obvs) and is actually a nice guy I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU SAY.

Anyway I bought Jamie's 15-Minute Meals and tonight I'm planning on cooking my second thing from it and I've only had it a couple of weeks This is unheard of. It just lives on the kitchen table tempting me to cook from it. If tonight's recipe goes well and I remember to take pictures then I will post it up here but for now here are some reasons why this book is awesome...

1. It has great compromise food. Quite often Joe will get home at 9pm and want to eat. I don't want to eat at 9pm but I'm too gluttonous to cook and watch him eat and not eat anything myself. It has a lot of lighter, salady things but with meat in that suit both of us and actually are great for this time of year when you want to cook something filling but not meat-and-two-veg.

2. It's completely different to his other books. New recipes, new types of ingredients, slightly new way of writing. It must be really hard to keep churning them out even if you do have new recipe ideas but it's a completely different book to Jamie's 30-Minute Meals: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast (and I mean that in a publishing way not in a literal stupid way...).

3. There are great ideas but it's not too wacky. I don't like lemon (but you know that), I don't like courgette or aubergine but I also don't want to be driving to a business park in Park Royal (no park, no evidence of royalty) to buy some suspicious smelling paste or a gadget to make edible cellophane (sorry Heston). If there's something I don't like (preserved lemons in tonight's recipe) I leave it out or substitute it and it doesn't really matter. You are not going to get halfway through a recipe (supposedly 7.5 minutes in) and discover you need something that is hard to find during daylight hours let alone 8.30pm. Don't get me wrong sometimes I want wacky. I do. But with an 18 month old, two dogs and a husband who thinks that playing football on a Tuesday until 9.30pm is fun I mostly want yummy and simple.

4. I LOVE JAMIE (sorry that slipped out).

5. I prefer his outfit on Jamie's 15-Minute Meals to Jamie's 30-Minute Meals: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast (this is a well rounded review isn't it). 

14 April 2014

Chicken Zorba

This recipe has been in my family for years. So long that I have it written in my first ever recipe book (when I was about 14) and we still eat it now. My favourite way to eat this is with warm flat tortillas, salad, strips of cucumber and tomatoes. A great thing to have prepped ahead of time (marinade the chicken anywhere from 30 mins to overnight) for a spring/summer lunch and it's what we had as our first lunch in the garden in our new flat.

Chicken Zorba

serves 4 (light lunch)

4 chicken breasts
1 tbsp vegetable oil
juice of 2 limes
1 level tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tumeric
handful of mint, chopped
pinch of salt
150g Greek yoghurt
170g houmous

1. Mix the lime juice, spices and salt together in a bowl or bag big enough to marinade the chicken.

2. Cut the chicken into thin strips, mix with the lime juice and spices and marinade for at least 30 minutes.

3. When you are ready to eat mix the yoghurt and homous together and put into a serving bowl.

4. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken for 8-10 minutes or until it is cooked through.

5. Sprinkle with mint and serve with the houmous/yoghurt mix, tortilla wraps, and salad.

7 April 2014

The Cottage - The Finished Bathroom

So it has been ages since I have written an update about the cottage and that's because all of a sudden it was finished and we had a one week slot when Joe was free to get everything moved back in and it's all been rather surreal. The finished cottage is absolutely beautiful and I can't believe I ever doubted our decision to extend the bathroom. What we have now is a gorgeous family bathroom that is actually fun to be in, with a huge bath and enough room for the little boys to have a full-on fun bathtime rather than squeezing in one at a time.

So here is what it was like before...

This is taken standing in the doorway
Taken from the same angle as the above photo

The whole bathroom from the new doorway

It is so light and airy now. I'm particularly pleased with the flooring which is Unnatural Flooring in Savannah which we also have in the downstairs bathroom. Incredibly easy to wipe clean/dry, warm and comfortable for bare feet or for babies to lie on and really smart looking and (supposedly) long wearing. I also love the long brick shaped tiles which make the bathroom look as big as possible.

2 April 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cake

As a rule I generally run away from anything free-from, vegetarian or remotely specialist. Not that I don't like these things when I have them I have just grown-up in an omnivorous house where I was (am still am) mocked as being the fussy eater. So although I've seen recipes for flourless chocolate cakes around I've never tried one until my bff Florence casually dropped a slice round when we were in packing hell. Usually I would have made my husband eat it as I'm trying to lose weight but I absent mindedly broke the nose off the slice and nibbled it and it was absolutely amazing.

Cake pretty much leaves me cold (less so since having a baby) and chocolate cake doesn't excite me very much either. It's too cooked for me - if I'm going to have chocolate I want truffles or Dairy Milk or mousse, something smooth, and flourless chocolate cake is just that. It's incredibly rich, easy to make and the perfect thing to make for a decadent pudding when you don't have a lot of time.

Florence gave me this recipe taken from her friend so I can't claim it - this makes two cakes. I used one for my lunch party and have frozen the other but if you really want you could stick these together with cream, raspberries or even chocolate icing but I think one at a time dusted with icing sugar and served with double cream is the perfect way to eat this.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Makes 2 cakes

200g dark chocolate (we use Bourneville), broken up
150g salted butter, roughly chopped into cubes
5 tbsp caster sugar
100g ground almonds
5 large eggs, separated

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. You will need two springform cake tins greased and lined.

1. Melt the chocolate and butter - ideally in a bowl over boiling water but in a microwave if not. When it's all melted together, remove from the heat stir in the ground almonds.

2. Beat the sugar and egg yolks until creamy and pale and stir into the chocolate mixture.

3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold into the cake mixture.

4. Pour into the prepared cake tins and cook for 20 minutes but check after 15. These are best slightly undercooked rather than over, as they continue to cook a little as they cool.

5. Leave to cool in their tins for 15mins then on a cooling rack. Depending on which recipe you read you can either serve this still warm, completely cooled or even left over night. It's delicious no matter what you do.


3 March 2014

Cadbury's Headgehog Cake

One of my stand-out memories from my childhood is my mother making a chocolate hedgehog cake. Not only was it delicious but I was convinced she was some sort of genius kitchen witch. It seemed only fitting that when Ned turned one he should have hedgehog cake and I persuaded my mum to not only make one but three (he had two birthday parties obvs) and they were just as delicious as I remembered and perfect for a birthday because you end up cutting small slices so it goes a very long way.

When it was my nephew's first birthday a few weeks later it was I was in charge of making the cake so my mum sent me the recipe and I learnt the witchcraft for myself. The recipe is actually from Cadbury's and familiar to mum's everywhere but for those of you still convinced there are other forces involved here it is in it's easiest to follow form.

I would like to point out that my mum uses raisins for eyes, I didn't have raisins so I used marshmallows as suggested in the recipe. As you can see below my hedgehog looks a little scary but possibly suitable for those children with glasses...

Cadbury's Harriet Hedgehog

Serves a childrens party of 20-25 people

The cake:
175g margarine
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder

Icing:
100g butter
175g icing sugar, sieved
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Decoration:
2 large packets of chocolate buttons
1 glace cherry
2 mini marshmallows, raisins or coffee beans

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. You will need an oven-proof basin, greased, that can hold 1.2litres/2 pints.

1. Cream the margarine and sugar together really well. Gradually beat in the eggs with a flour.

2. Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder together and fold in. Add a little milk to the mixture if it's too dry.

3. Turn into a prepared basin, smooth the top with a spatula and bake for about an hour. Test with a warm skewer to see if the cake is cooked in the center. Leave in the basin to cool and then turn it out.

4. Make the icing by beating the butter with the icing sugar. Dissolve the cocoa with a tiny amount of boiling water and mix into the butter icing.

5. Spread the flat top side of the cake with icing, then cut it in half down the middle and sandwich the two iced halves together.

6. Spread the icing all over the rest of the cake leaving a small amount to make the nose, lift onto a plate and use icing to form the snout at one end. Cut the chocolate buttons in half and arrange them as the hedgehog prickles. Make the face by dragging a fork along the icing, using the glace cherry as a nose and the raisins, marshmallows or coffee beans for eyes.

My chocolate hedgehog (pre-candles) with the 'glasses'

My mother's version for Ned

12 February 2014

Saganaki

I love feta cheese but I'm aware that not everyone shares my passion. My mother is one of these people yet it was she who suggested I try this recipe out on some friends who were coming to supper as she thought it looked like a delicious and unusual starter. Whilst babysitting for me one day a week she works her way through my cookery books copying recipes and making my tummy rumble by shouting out suggestions for what we should be eating even though she knows I'm on a diet.

So rather than going for my usual something-on-toast easy starter for supper the other night I decided to try out the suggested Saganaki from Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook and it was really tasty and, if you had a round table, probably quite fun to help yourself straight from the dish with warm flat bread.

Saganaki

for 6

600g (3 packs) feta cheese, broken into rough 2cm pieces
20 large or 30 small cherry tomatoes
20 capers
15 Kalamata olives, halved and stoned
2 tbsp olive oil 6 sprigs of thyme or marjoram

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. You can make this as individual parcels for cooking on an open fire - 100g feta, a few tomatoes, capers and olive pieces, herbs and oil on top, fold loosely and cook for 10-15mins but I did it in one big dish.

1. Crumble the cheese into a shallow, oven-proof dish, dot the tomatoes around sprinkle over the capers and olive pieces, drizzle with oil and sprinkle the thyme or marjoram over the top.

Saganaki - pre-oven


2. Bake in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and browning on top. Eat hot or warm. I served with mini pitta bread but think the flatter the bread the yummier probably.

3 February 2014

The Shed Restaurant

Every now and then it seems like nothing nice has happened to you for ages. Then it does. It doesn't have to be anything huge but you have to enjoy it while you can and it's impossible not to enjoy yourself at The Shed Restaurant in Notting Hill. Not only is the food delicious (we'll get to that later) but the atmosphere is fun, the layout unusual and the whole experience is pretty special - writing this over a week later and I'm still wishing I was there.

The restaurant is run by two brothers who grew up on a farm in Sussex, eating the produce of the farm and foraging. A third (youngest) brother remains in Sussex farming and supplies a lot of the food that you will eat there - these boys really care about where the food comes from and this care translates through to the menu and the cooking.

I was taken by my oldest friend who thought I needed a treat and we nearly couldn't go - the earliest table we could book (admittedly it was on the day) was 9.30 but she deemed it worth the wait and she was absolutely right. The food was so good that we overate and both had indigestion in the middle of the night but as I fell asleep propped upright on my pillows I thought it was worth every single Gaviscon.

The restaurant itself is pretty small - this isn't a problem, in fact it is one of the reasons it's so nice, but it does mean that, unless you are a smoker, it may be better to pop to the pub down the road for a drink if you are early. If you are a smoker there is a lovely little smoking area out at the front with tractor seats (comfy) to sit on and blankets and heating lights to keep you warm. I have given up but was with two smokers and we sat out there happily for an hour after supper pretty snug.

Now I'm not going to pretend to be a wine connoisseur. We had the Shed Red (the House wine) and it was lovely - lovely enough for two bottles to disappear without us noticing. The drinks list is impressive in itself and I have it on good authority that their Gin and Tonic's are the best in London.

Now to the food. I think the food was really special and they've been incredibly clever with the menu. There really is something for everyone and because it's basically English tapas you can order what you fancy and it doesn't matter if someone at your table orders something not quite to your taste and it doesn't matter because everything is incredibly reasonably priced so you can try a lot of different things - yes you can't resist ordering a lot but I don't know anywhere else where you pay £2 for a lovely basket of sourdough.

Instead of starters there are 'mouthfuls' - literally that but what mouthfuls and only £1.50. We had a Nutbourne pork scratching with apple sauce each and then I had Mushroom Marmite Confit Duck Yolk (unbelievably delicious - worth trying) and my friend had Endive, Goats Cheese and Pear Jam (which she deemed unexciting but it's her own fault I mean endive... honestly). Without doubt the best bit of pig fat I have ever eaten and I would probably request it as my last meal - the pork scratching was that good.

Next up was Chorizo, Laneh (a sort of cheese made from strained yoghurt) Crisp Bread and Kale which was quite spicy but not to much and what they had done to the Kale I do not know but if you are not a fan it would convert you. With it we had Pheasant Rillette and a bread basket - this looked like the oh-so-fashionable pulled pork that's everywhere at the moment very tasty and not too gamey
at all and strangely went very well mixing and matching with the chorizo.

Lamb Chips - strange sounding but sort of like large lamb croquets, again so well cooked. Pan Fried Goats Cheese with Hazelnuts, Honey and Thyme was our nod to the vegetarian - beautifully cooked goats cheese not overdosed with honey and thyme I think we could have eaten two of these. Beef Cigars with Mustard Mayo was my choice - almost like duck wraps but crunchy with perfectly cooked beef.

Apart from the incredibly relaxed, fun atmosphere the thing that really struck me about The Shed was the quality of the food. It would be very easy to have got carried away with the fantastic ideas on this menu and then in practise not be able to deliver the standard necessary for a restaurant. But every single thing we ate was delicious and so cleverly prepared and cooked properly. Nothing was over or under seasoned - you could taste the herbs and flavours as they were meant to be but they didn't overshadow whatever it was that they were with. It's clever cooking by people who have really thought about this menu.

As soon as I have the funds (or the excuse) I will be back there. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a restaurant so much! Shed on Urbanspoon

29 January 2014

Oven Roasted Kale - This Could Change Your Life

I'm very up-and-down about Kale. I sort of crave it's irony goodness but at the same time always find it a bit fluffy and chewy and sort of... kaley. But then I was told to oven roast it and I have actually been doing nothing but roasting myself kale and eating it like crisps ever since.

This is in fact basically how they make crispy 'seaweed' in Chinese restaurants (though probably using a more authentic vegetable) so if you like that then this is the recipe for you.

Am I the last person to know about this I wonder?

Oven Roasted Kale

Makes as much as you want.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

1. Wash the kale and tear it into the size you want.

2. Spread on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and then mix it round with your hands so you coat every bit of kale.

3. Cook in the preheated oven for 3 minutes. No more, no less.

That's it.

21 January 2014

Getting Smells Out of Shirts

OK so this is possibly a bit too much for some people but for those of you who have noticed a slight niff from the armpits of old shirts as you are ironing them help is at hand. Add a dash of clear or white vinegar to your wash (I keep some clear Sarsons Vinegar under the sink for household stuff - it's great for cleaning glass) and it magics the smell away. (Thanks Ma for this tip... )

7 January 2014

Anchovy and Goats Cheese Puffs

I make these alongside my chorizo and parmesan puffs they are great to assemble beforehand and chill or freeze.

Anchovy and Goats Cheese Puffs

Makes 16-20 squares

I jar of anchovies (approx 60g drained weight)
30g soft goats cheese
350g pre-rolled puff pastry
garlic oil
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. I use disposable foil baking trays to make these - if you are having a party it's easier to throw these away after use rather than add to the washing up.

1. Lay the pastry out in a rectangle and baste the outside edges with beaten egg.

2. Brush the rest of the pastry with garlic oil and draw a line down the middle of the pastry so it looks like an open book.

3. On one side of the pastry dot the anchovy and bits of goats cheese and grind some black pepper over the top.

4. Fold over the other half of the pastry over the top of the anchovy and goats cheese and press down the edges.

5. Brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg and then chill, freeze or cook in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until it's golden on top.

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