A Visit to Benares

As a post Christmas treat I booked a table at Benares- Atul Kochhar’s michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair. What a treat!!!

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The restaurant is really gorgeous- the decor beautiful, service impeccable and the food truly delicious. I would definitely say this was one of the best meals I have ever had.

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For starters I had soft shelled crab with white crabmeat and coronation slaw. I had never had this kind of crab before (maybe a little squeamish?!?) but it was crisp, full of flavour, and utterly lovely. Colin had a little chicken tikka pie- fragrant and spicy, with a tomatoey sauce on the side.image

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My main course was superb! Prawns, squid and razor clams with tomatoes, spices and baby leeks. Colin’s looked and smelled amazing- duck with a 3 bean vindaloo and spicy matchstick potatoes.

And, wow, dessert was a showstopper….

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My dessert was a pear and quince millefeuille, crisp and fragrant with the quince. Colins was a yulelog, but I have never seen a yulelog like that before!!!

With a great bottle of Portuguese wine to wash it all down I can honestly say this was a thoroughly lovely experience. And after a very tiring few weeks this was definitely what the doctor ordered.

Now, what to make for New Year???

A Lovely Day Off: 13th Nov 2014

Today I have hd a lovely day off in London with a great friend. A proper catch up- and there was a lot to catch up on- and some real yumminess.

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After a catch up coffee at St Pancras we headed to The Grain Store, behind Kings Cross. The Grain Store is Bruno Loubet’s restaurant and I loved it. It was really funny in the morning as Colin had looked at the menu and was very pleased he was not my lunch companion!!! But the menu was amazing and it took us ages to decide what to have.

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For starters we had:
Me- celeriac and hay mouse tart with truffle
L- wild mushroom croquettes
Both gorgeous, mine was light, delicate and delicious, whereas the mini croquettes were so full of flavour and presented so attractively.
For main we had:
Me- squid au poivre with pumpkin puree and confit garlic
L- butternut squash ravioli with mustard apricots

I also had a drink of quince Bellini which I am now going to dedicate the winter to perfecting! So yum.

A mini shopping trip followed which resulted in a couple of lovely purchases from my favourite shop Anthropologie. No Christmas party dress though……

When I got home I found a hungry husband……. so I whipped up a little aubergine, red pepper and chickpea curry which was also massively yummy. Yippeeeeeee for happy tums!

More Weekend 1/2nd November 2014

Well what a yummy food weekend we have had!
Last night we went to Skylon for dinner.

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Skylon is in the Southbank Centre and we chose it because we were going to listen to Mahler’s 2nd afterwards. It had mixed reviews online- not because of the food but because of slow service- but we could not have had better service on the night.
The photos have not come out well (I was probably a bit too shy…) but this is what we had:
Colin: wild mushroom soup with mushroom brioche, followed by halibut with celeriac puree and red wine jus
Jo: scallops on cauliflower puree with hazelnuts, followed by a truffle macaroni cheese with a spinach salad
Massively lovely, gorgeous wine and an unbelievably gorgeous setting.
And the symphony was really great I am please to say!!!

Today we had my in-laws (The P’s!) over for lunch. We broke the news of our attempt at a non-meat life, which went down well I’m pleased to day. For lunch I made a squash, sweet potato and yellow pepper soup with some lovely cheeses- comte, cheddar and stichelton.

After a hot bath and a little snooze dinner was calling…… and what a lovely dinner it has been!

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This is a kind of fish stew, based on a Rick Stein recipe. The broth was lovely and spicy with heat from Harissa. The fish was really delicate, and the spring onion makes a great contrast texture wise. Here’s the recipe:

Red Mullet Stew

1 onion, sliced
1 stick celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
pinch saffron strands
1 tbsp Harissa spices (or a Harissa paste)
1l water
250g small waxy potatoes, cut into 2 or 4 depending on the size
2 red mullet fillets, cut in half
6 spring onions, cut on the diagonal
couple of sprigs of parsley

– sauté the onion, celery and carrot with some salt in olive oil for 5mins.
– add the tomatoes, puree, water, saffron and Harissa, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 mins.
– pass the sauce through a sieve to remove all the bits and pieces.
put the sieved sauce back into the pan and add the potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, but still have a little bite in them.
– season the mullet and massage a little olive oil into them. Fry in a non stick pan until crispy on the skin side (about 5 mins) and a little on the flesh side (2 mins).
– serve in a bowl: put a couple of spoons of potatoes and sauce into the bowl. Add the fish fillets and top with spring onions and parsley.

It was really tasty and Colin declared we could have it again!!! However… if I were to make it again I would add some white wine or a little sherry to the veg at the beginning when making the stock. Then I would add the tomatoes. It would add another dimension, and some welcome acidity I believe. But certainly lovely, and a good way to end a lovely anniversary weekend xxx

My New Home!

Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve written a post here- although I can assure you ALOT of very yummy food has been consumed since October…….
But, in the meantime, we have moved into a lovely house! I have now got a wonderful kitchen, room for all my cookery books, and a sunny garden to enjoy.

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And such a sunny day today has called for a very sunny lunch: griddled chicken salad with mandarins, cashews and sesame, very nice indeed.

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Enjoy the sunshine!

Last week of BST: 21/25th October 2013

I am writing this on my day off on Sunday as I watch the leaves blowing crazily off the trees outside my living room window. We have put the clocks back this morning and there is a definite Autumnal feel in the air. I love this time of year: I love the colours, I love Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas madness, being all wrapped up warm. We are waiting for the Great Storm Jude to arrive so the remaining leaves on the trees are not likely to be there for much longer!

In terms of foodie yumminess it has been a mixed week. It started with a chilli made by Colin which was…. not good… but not Colin’s fault. I had bought a new chilli mix which made the chilli really gloopy, like it had a load of flour into thicken the sauce. We don’t really like thickened sauces as we prefer a more natural tasting sauce and we simply have more veggies to soak up the juices, and this definitely spoilt what would have been a good chilli I am certain.

Wednesday saw better food as I made a pie!

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…you can just about make out the C&J on the top!

I had intended to make a shepherds pie but forgot to buy some more potatoes for the mash topping. Remembering that I had a piece of puff pastry in the freezer I adjusted the plan and made a shepherds pie filling with a puff pastry top. The only change I really made was that the veggies in the pie- parsnip, carrots, suede- were chopped alot more chunkily than I normally make them, and I cooked the mixture down until nice and thick before covering it with it’s pastry lid. Lovely on a dark evening.

Thursday was my day off and I fancied something a little decadent so I popped into M&S and bought some coquilles St Jacques for my lunch- I felt a little naughty tucking into this for my mid week lunch with a cheeky glass of Italian white.

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For dinner I will call this ‘like a moussaka’.

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Not a pretty picture but a lovely dinner! The gratin dish is a layered concoction with Greek overtones:

  • Layer of thinly sliced new potatoes
  • Layer of spicy lamb ragu
  • Layer of griddled courgettes
  • Layer of spicy lamb ragu
  • Layer of griddled aubergines
  • Layer of fresh tomatoes

I grated over some parmesan with 5 mins cooking time in the oven left. You will see that the cheese is only on part of the bake- despite Colin becoming alot more adventurous he can still not abide melted (yummy) cheese!

Being my day off I indulged myself in the afternoon with a browse through my cook books. I came across a recipe in my favourite book- Food of the Sun, Alastair Little- that I had not tried before. Here’s my version.

Libyan Fish Tagine

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1 celery stalk, chopped

2 onions, sliced into half moons

4 medium potatoes, chopped into chunks

2 red chilli, chopped

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric

2 pieces of white fish, we used cod

2 tins cherry tomatoes

  • Fry the potato chunks in some olive oil until crispy.
  • In a separate pan fry the onions until softened. Add the chilli and the spices and season, before adding the tomatoes and simmering until reduced and thick.
  • In a tagine or a  deep baking dish add the potatoes and place the fish on top. Cover with the tomato sauce, pop on the top and bake in the oven for about 30/45 mins.
  • Eat with some flatbreads, potatoes, rice, couscous, or even pasta!

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Really yummy- and no surprise from the best cookbook ever.

 

 

Weekend 19/20th October 2013

We had not managed to get a day off together since we were in Italy so we had been looking forward to this weekend off together for what seems like ages!!! With grey and miserable weather forecasted I filled the car with food and wine on my journey back from work on Friday night so we could lock the door and not venture out if we didn’t fancy it.

There was another reason to stay in on Saturday- Newcastle playing Liverpool on the TV- so a TV lunch was called for…

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup (homemade) with Rosemary and Potato Bread (shop bought!).

This soup was really lovely, warming and homely, and easy to make on a lazy Saturday morning. I chopped the squash and sweet potato and popped it on a baking sheet with some seasoning and some za’taar. After drizzling over some olive oil I popped it into the oven or about an hour on a low heat to soften and roast the veggies, letting the spices in the za’taar mingle.  I then slid the veggies into the food processor, adding a little water to loosen the mixture, and blitzed. The soup was then ready for reheating in a large saucepan, with a little veggie stock added to get it to the consistency I like.

The bread was from Gail’s bakery which you can buy in bigger Waitrose branches and was a lovely change from the usual. The whole lunch was alto better than the football result….

For dinner I really fancied some chicken, and in particular some Middle Eastern inspired chicken. So….

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This lovely free range chicken was marinated for an hour in Aleppo pepper flakes, sumac, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s sat on some red onion to make a lovely gravy. Roasted in the oven for about an hour, it had crispy skin, juicy flesh, and lemony, spicy juices to pour over- a kind of jus!

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We always love our veggies and Tonight’s were inspired by my Ottolengui cookbooks.

Firstly a chargrilled broccoli little number: broccoli was boiled briefly until softened but still crisp. I then heated a little olive oil in a griddle plan, added a little garlic and chilli flakes before adding the broccoli and charring. 1 min before serving I tossed in a handful of Marcona salted almonds which added an amazing contrast on textures, and seasoned it perfectly.

Secondly I made a gorgeous carrot salad. I chopped the carrot and boiled until almost done. I then left them to cook to a warm room temperature. To these lovely little orange coins I added some chopped salad onions, 2 small preserved lemons chopped up, some olive oil, a little squeeze of lemon juice and 1tsp ras al hanout. All tossed together ready for the chicken.

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…and of course some roasties for Colin!

We woke up on Sunday to find a blue sky so made the most of it by walking along the river to Richmond for lunch. Coming towards us were runners taking part in some 15k run- we were full of admiration as we made our way to the pub!?! It is always at the time of walking along the river that I am reminded how much I love to live where we do, how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of the country.

For lunch it was a proper Sunday lunch: pork for me and beef for Colin, lovely gravy, well prepared veg, and crispy crackling for me. The venue was The Duke (@TheDukePub2) in Richmond. It was the first Sunday lunch we have had here and it was lovely. We have been here before and found the food to be very tasty. The only gripe I would have would be the number of small children there- the noise level at times was high!

Space was found for dinner and a little spaghetti was made.

What a lovely weekend. Let’s hope it’s not so long until we can have a weekend off again!

 

 

Week 14-18th October 2013

This week has definitely felt autumnal- dark on the way to work, dark on the way back, and gorgeously coloured leaves on the trees. It’s definitely my favourite time of year, when you can hunker down warm and happy at home, and fill our tums with warming foods.

We started the week with some enormous burgers I bought from Whole Foods. 1 was not enough but 2 would have been too much!!! Colin had some chips (from the freezer I’m afraid…) and a zingy tomato and red onion salad with a lemon dressing for me.

On Wednesday we had a Chilli Marrakesh, which we have had before but not for some time. In fact it took me a while to track the recipe down as I couldn’t remember where I had found it in the first place. I am so pleased I did manage to track it down as it is really delicious- all the things you love about a chilli, but with a Moroccan twist, lovely. Here’s a pic and a recipe for it too.

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Chilli Marrakesh

1tbsp olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1tsp cumin seeds

400g mince- you can use either beef or lamb, whatever takes your fancy

1tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, grated

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1/2 tbsp paprika

1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp harissa paste

1 red pepper, chopped

1 tin chickpeas

300ml beef stock

  • Add the oil to a large sauté pan and fry the onions with the cumin seeds for 5 mins.
  • Add the mince, ginger and garlic and cook until the mince is no longer pink.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, spices and harissa and stir. Add the peppers, chickpeas and stock and cook for 45mins until thick but still juicy.

And that’s it- quick and easy, filling and tasty, and a good alternative to a normal chilli.

One of the meals that make us happy is stuffed peppers as it brings back some lovely memories of when I first moved to London and Colin would travel down from Manchester on a Friday evening. Tonight I stuffed an enormous green pepper with a spicy beef mince mixture, and served it with a cooked down tomato sauce and some fried potatoes (to keep Colin happy!).

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We finished the week with a fish curry made with salmon- a triumph as I got back from work late and wasn’t in a cooking mood, but somehow it turned out to be one of the nicest fish curries I’ve ever made!

We are both really looking forward to the weekend as it is the first tome off together we have had since our holiday, which seems like months ago! Yippee!!!

 

Monday 14th October 2013- after a long break…

Well, it’s been quite some time since I updated my blog- not since my hols!  It’s amazing how quickly you fall out of the habit, and this is the same for my gym attendance too……

However, some lovely food has been consumed in the French Thomas kitchen throughout the latter part of September and beginning of October. There was even a veggie week, some of the best roasties as well as the usual favs, and plenty of red wine!

But back in the routine we are and we start with yesterdays lunch:

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Inspired by the new Nigel Slater book, Eat, I was drawn to all of his older titles and remembered a gorgeous onion and cheese tart. Tonight’s version saw me slice 2 red onions and cook them down in a little olive oil for 15mins or so until thoroughly softened. After adding some fresh thyme I popped the mixture on top of the puff pastry, crumbling over some strong blue cheese, and baking in the oven for 15 mins. With loads of salad leaves dressed with a sharp lemon dressing, this was a gorgeous and tasty lunch for Jo.

Dinner was a coq au vin: lovely with crispy, crunchy roast potatoes.

Tonight I am home alone. Colin is stocktaking- 2nd one this year due to changing jobs (massively bad luck!!!), so I am waiting for the call to see if my chauffeur service is required.

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These juicy prawns became my delicious dinner. After sautéing a little garlic and chilli in olive oil, I added the prawns until they were cooked through. Then I added a splash of marsala, cooking down before adding tomatoes, then reducing for 10mins until all melded together. Mixed in with some spaghetti this was a lovely dinner for a Jo on her own.

Over the last couple of weeks a great thing happened- Whole Foods opened in Richmond! I have visited twice in one week which may sound excessive, but the place is filled with such yummy delights that it could prove addictive. In particular the macaroons are adorable, and the mini lemon meringue tarts are cute and delicious. My bank balance may suffer….

And also for a laugh here’s me white water rafting….. my body is still aching!

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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…

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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.

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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 fiancée 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 purée 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.

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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 Café 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.

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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…….

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