Monthly Archives: September 2013

Weekend 14/15th September 2013

All good things come to an end and poor Colin had to go back to work a day earlier than me, on Sunday. So we had our final day off lazing around the flat, looking at holiday pics and planning the next one!!!

Dinner was a lovely sea bass which has photographed terribly…


I am definitely going to focus on my camera skills…

However, the sea bass fillets were simply pan fried, well seasoned, and really juicy. They are sitting on top of a tomato relish based on a recipe from a Lorraine Pascal book. It’s a thick relish of tomatoes, onion, garlic, pimento stuffed green olives and pine nuts- cooked down until almost jammy, it is a great accompaniment to the fish. It would also work with some grilled halloumi, or a chargrilled piece of chicken. A good bottle of red to say goodbye to hols.

I drove Colin to work in Wimbledon on Sunday morning as the trains weren’t going to work. It also gave me the added opportunity to visit Bayley & Sage in Wimbledon Village- a really great little deli. I stocked up on their fruit, veg, pasta, cheese, and their particularly addictive chocolate and hazelnut cookies. It’s a good job that there are only 4 cookies in a pack or I could easily scoff one after the other!

For my final day I needed a lovely lunch.


I had a bag of mixed pasta shapes in the back of the cupboard so decided to use them up and create some space. I steamed some stem broccoli and tossed this with the pasta, some chilli flakes, some pine nuts, and some small pieces of St Agur blue cheese. Utterly delicious!!! I could eat this every day, yum.

I made a shepherd’s pie for dinner which was lovely (although I always eat too much of it and went to bed with an overly full tum…). It was obviously a family food decision as my little sis made a cottage pie for her fiancĂ©e and Dad tonight- just a shame we were not all together to share it! Saying that I have booked some flights and will be headed north in 3 weeks time to catch up with all family which will be lovely.

👀 👀 👀

Holiday Week 9-13th September 2013

Back home to a rainy, grey London and A BROKEN BOILER!!!! No hot water, and no heating so the flat feels a bit damp and sad. British Gas were called and took a couple of days to get here and fix it but I can not tell you how many times we said ‘it is much better in Italy!’.

To fill us and warm us on Monday night I made a Thai red curry with salmon. It was nice to have some fish as we didn’t eat alot of fish while we were away. And also something a bit spicy, as again we didn’t have anything like this on our hols.

On Tuesday I made the pork and fennel polpette from Polpo cookbook, with their beautiful tomato sauce recipe. Cooking fresh and tinned tomatoes slowly in olive oil with seasonings makes a truly memorable sauce- the only change to the recipe I made was that I didn’t purĂ©e the sauce at the end before serving. This was not for any culinary reason: simply that I didn’t want to make any more washing up while the hot water had gone!

We visited my in-laws for lunch on Wednesday so I got to show off my photos of the hols which made us all smile. Although full from lunch I had decided to make a dish from the new Tom Kerridge cookbook ‘Proper Pub Food’- a baked fish on a spicy sauce.


I had to have a little fiddle with the recipe to fit what I had in the fridge so here’s my version.

Pan Roasted Cod With Chickpeas and Chorizo

1 tin chickpeas

Pinch saffron

2 small fillets of cod

Olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 red chilli, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 small cooking chorizo, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tin chopped tomatoes

100ml chicken stock

250g fresh spinach, roughly chopped

  • Rub the fish with some salt and saffron and leave aside for half an hour.
  • Heat some olive oil in a Casserole dish. Add the garlic, chilli and onion and soften for 10mins.
  • Add the chorizo for 5mins, then add the bay, cinnamon, cumin and paprika and stir for 5mins.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°.
  • Add the chickpeas to the pan with the tomatoes and stock. Cook in the oven for 45mins until thick and lovely.
  • Stir the spinach into the sauce and place the fish ontop. Pop back into the oven for 15mins until the fish is cooked through.
  • Serve immediately.

The sauce was delicious, and a perfect accompaniment to the fish. The cinnamon added a real warmth to the sauce, complementing the paprika streaked tomatoey sauce perfectly. We enjoyed it alot and Colin said he’d eat it once a week! Praise indeed!💃💃💃

On Thursday we went out to West London and Le CafĂ© Anglais for lunch. I’ll write this up in the restaurant section with some pics. On the way back to Notting Hill station we popped into Tavola, Alastair Little’s Deli, and filled up on delicious delights. Alastair Little’s book Food of the Sun is my favourite cookery book ever, and he is an idol of mine, so being able to stock up on yummy delights made by the man himself is one of the reasons we continue to love in this part of the world.

Inspired by a real foodie day I decided to cook one of my old favourites for dinner: Tomato Curry.


This was originally a Nigel Slater recipe from Kitchen Diaries which I used to make week in week out but, for some reason, it had slipped from the repertoire! You simply make a thick curry sauce with garlic, ginger, onion, mustard seeds and cumin. In this sauce you poach fresh tomatoes- tonight I have used a mixture of heritage tomatoes to add some colours. Once cooked I sometimes add a tablespoon of thick Greek yogurt to the sauce, but tonight I didn’t feel like it and we scoffed the lot down with some olive oil flatbreads.  Delicious!

We ended the week eating the goodies from Tavola- some little tortellini with a romesco sauce for lunch, and a Poule au Pot for dinner.

All this has been eaten in denial- yes, it is true, we do have to go back to work, very soon…….

Our wonderful Tuscan holiday!


This is the gorgeous villa we had the pleasure of staying in for our summer holidays- and we could have very easily stayed here for week after week after week! A couple of km’s from Cortona in the south of Tuscany, this villa was up in the hills and surrounded by olive trees and sunshine. Utterly heavenly.

We arrived on Saturday to glorious sunshine and made our way straight to the villa- well almost straight there, a hairy wrong turning up a very ‘white’ road up the mountain made me begin to question my desire to be somewhere remote! However, the right road was found with help from a very nice Italian man (and was still scary but compared to the wrong road we were relieved), the villa was moved into and the fridge was full.


I absolutely noticed a big change in my cooking habits here. Because we were buying everything fresh and deciding what to cook on the day with very few ingredients, but all really tasty, cooking briefly and simply. Maybe it’s the quality of the ingredients, or the relaxed state we were in but everyday we ate plates of happiness- whether out in restaurants or at home at the villa.

We spent our first day lounging by the pool and enjoying a glass of wine- the first in a month!!! And well worth waiting for. The first dinner had to be a Florentine steak, grilled on the bbq and washed down with some good Tuscan red.

After a brilliant night sleep in utter darkness and quiet we got up, jumped in the car and drove down the hill and back up the next hill to Cortona. We climbed to the top of the town and admired the fabulous view. We watched a lovely elderly couple strolling arm on arm in the sunshine with their food for the day- may be a vision of the future for the Thomas’s!

A day by the pool with chilled Vernaccia and our piles of books beckoned, before I could summon up the energy to head to the kitchen.


I wrapped the thin chicken fillets with a sage leaf and some cured ham, then fried them in olive oil quickly, deglazing the pan with some white wine to create a tasty jus. For dessert I bought a berry tart from the shop in the afternoon which was utterly delicious, and gave me plenty time to relax in the beautiful sunset.

We woke up on Monday morning to blazing sunshine, and after negotiating the small dog and mini kittens on the road down the hill (very, very cute!) we drove off to Arezzo.  After walking the town and admiring an ancient church backing onto the Piazza Grande we headed to ‘La Lancia D’Oro’ for lunch under Vasari’s arches.


For me the local ‘pici’ pasta with a ragu of duck. For Colin a Bistecca de Manza, grilled maybe a little too rare, with waterfall beans! In fact he only ordered it to see what the beans were! And they turned out to be a little like a Cannellini bean, cooked in the delicious juices of the steak and finished with some wine. A lovely lunch on a beautiful square.

It would not be a holiday without some of Jo’s Famous Meatballs, so Monday night was meatball night!


Simply made meatballs with meat, a little onion and garlic and poached in a sauce of white wine and tomatoes, served with some olive oil roasted potatoes and some salad. Washed down with a Chianti, and big smiles all round.

Tuesday was a day of towers- a must day in Tuscany! Monteriggioni was our first stop for a walk around the ancient stone walls to view the countryside, followed by San Gimignano, which was very full of tourists, and very hot. We had salad at a café  with a picturesque view of the main squares with a San Gimignano white to feel at home!


We found some delicious Italian sausages for dinner- so well seasoned, and not too much fennel in there. I simply grilled them for dinner and served them with some salad and some lentils. The shops are filled with lentils and chickpeas and I simply cooked them and sautéed them with a little onion, garlic, carrot and rosemary with some of the olive oil from Ivana, the lady who owns the villa we are staying in. Simple, delicious and healthy to boot. We tried some Vino Nobile de Montepulciano in readiness for visiting the town tomorrow!

On Wednesday morning we jumped up and drove out to Montepulciano.


We walked the old town and had a coffee in CafĂ© Poliziano, with it’s grand cafĂ© feel and amazing views and then headed to Pienza for lunch at ‘LattĂ© di Luna’. Pici pasta for me with a spicy tomato and garlic sauce, and some spaghetti ragu for Colin. The restaurant was packed out so we had to sit inside, but it was worth it- all delicious with friendly service, and I would love to go back in the evening to test out the full menu.

I made some pizzas for dinner: one with some local salami, and one with some grilled veg. Red wine watching the sun go down and the lights across the valley in Cortona come on. Watching the stars in the really black sky. I believe this may be heaven.

On Thursday we drove to Assisi, mainly because it was close by and we felt we should see it, but it felt decidedly like a theme Park so we left early and had lunch by the pool- some pasta with wild boar sauce (shop bought but yummy!). The day was so hot I had to have a little lie down inside to cool down! How will we get used to being back home?

For dinner we bought more of the delicious sausages, this time making a chickpea salad as an accompaniment- simply tossed in olive oil, herbs and a little onion.


On Friday we headed to Siena.


What a beautiful day to sight see a beautiful city! We wandered for a while taking in all corners of the city, then headed to ‘La Logge’ for a delicious lunch.



My main course was amazing, and a little unusual as it was seafood in a very meaty area. Green pasta with a crayfish sauce- which tasted very special. It looked like the sauce was simply white wine, juices from the crayfish and maybe some garlic. However, it was also hot from chilli and pepper, which you couldn’t see on the plate but could taste in your mouth. Amazing. Colin had some ‘elephante’ pasta with a ragu which looked very tasty, and didn’t last long at all!

We are not often tempted by dessert at lunchtime but we couldn’t say no here. My dessert was a trio creation of hazelnut- a sponge that looked like a torn up bath sponge, hazelnut ice cream, hazelnut and chocolate sauce- sounded intriguing and tasted wonderful. For Colin there was a blueberry cheesecake which also did not last very long which is a good sign!

You might think that there would be no room for dinner, but no! A spatch-cock chicken with rosemary and garlic with a few roasted chips and salad made it’s way into our Tums…


When we woke up this morning we thanked our lucky stars that we decided to book for longer than a week- or we would have been packing our suitcases and heading home! Instead we headed to Perugia, the city we flew into a week ago. A great city, much more cosmopolitan than the other towns we’ve visited in Tuscany, mainly down to the University influences. It was also filled with very well dressed people heading to the town hall for weddings, a good job we put our best on!

Lunch was back at the villa by the pool- salamis, cheese, salad and lovely bread. Dinner was some tortellini and tomato sauce. We were thanking our lucky stars again as the weather forecast was not so great for today and it was actually roasting hot so we made the most of it by the pool. Spending so much time outside has been one of the real highlights of this holiday.

Sunday, and the final day of the holiday. The sky was a little overcast so we drove back to Cortona to do some last bits of shopping (ceramics, bags, wine!) and our final lunch at ‘La Grotta’.



Crostini to start, Grilled lamb for me and chicken for Colin. Happy jug of wine, followed by some vin santo and cantucci to finish. Heavenly.

For dinner a little bowl of pasta watching the sunset…


we are seriously considering booking the same villa for 2 weeks next September. There is nothing I would change about it- the location, the food, the wine, and above all the company- a happy Thomas holiday.








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