July 7, 2012

Jamie’s Italian – St Albans

I’m pretty lucky really. I work in Soho and live in St Albans which means i’m surrounded by good independent restaurants to pop into.  But every now and then I also enjoy a trip to one of the bigger chains such as Pizza Express or even Pizza hut on occasion (I know, I know, but when you are a child of the 80s, it was the best we had on offer!)

So, I was looking forward to trying out Jamie’s Italian, now it has finally reached St Albans.  It was our 2nd wedding anniversary and we decided to save a bit of money and just pop out somewhere local.

We started the meal with a chacuterie platter between the two of us, which was pleasant enough, but ended up costing a ridiculous amount as you are charged per person and not allowed to share!

My other half had the fritto misto as a main, which was presented fantastically. See the image below and had a good mixture of fried fish.  However, it was a little bit ‘too much’ and would have been nicer if it had come with some salad or something to break up the ‘friedness’!

I chose the squid ink spaghetti with scallops. (See image below) Again, presented really well but was incredibly disappointing. The Spaghetti was chewy and plastic like and the scallops were watery and unpleasant.

All in all, really not a wonderful experience i’m afraid to say, which is a shame. Although maybe we just chose the wrong dishes?

I don’t think we’ll be going back again to be honest, when there are plenty of other fantastic restaurants in the area and it isn’t cheap.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/

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July 6, 2012

My ‘Ideal’o summer reads

My cookbook collection is getting a bit out of hand. With over 60 different books all piled up in my kitchen, you’d think i’d stop…but i can’t.  There’s nothing more therapeutic than having a flick through and gaining a bit of inspiration for the next meal.

So when Idealo suggested that i’d be interested in joining their Idealo Summer reads event this year, I wasn’t going to be choosing anything but cookbooks obviously.

So with the £25 limit I was very kindly given at Amazon, I picked out the following to start flicking through and pulling some recipes out over the next few months.

Joy the baker cookbook £7.99

Fantastic book for those of us, like me, who have a sweet tooth. I’ve been following her blog for a while and had my eye on this book.  Some great inspiration for baking here. I’ll let you know how some of the recipes turn out.

Lunch in Paris – A delicious love story with recipes £5.66

Something a little bit different. Part love story, part recipes. Looks like a goodie!

Good Food – Easy Baking Recipes £3.64

Classic, easy to bake recipes

Skinny Meals in Heels £8.99

Great recipes of real food for those watching their weight. It’s all about proper food done in a healthy way.

Thanks very much to Idealo for the Amazon gift voucher to buy the above. Here’s the link you asked me to add: http://www.idealo.co.uk/pcat/3935/cooking-dining.html which will lead you to some frying pans.

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June 27, 2012

‘Healthy’ Oat bran muffins

Looking for a ‘healthy’ alternative to my usual baking treats, I stumbled across Nic Nutrition’s recipe for Oat Bran muffins and whipped up a batch at the weekend.

Great as a snack with only 100 calories and with a low GI, it means they keep you fuller for longer. Sometimes baking can be healthy 🙂

If you want to try out the recipe, follow this link:

http://nicsnutrition.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/cholesterol-lowering-muffins.html

Nic has some great healthy recipe ideas on her blog. Definitely worth a look!

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June 11, 2012

Cookie Girl

Have you heard of Cookie Girl www.cookiegirl.co.uk? A regular supplier of cupcakes and sweet snacks to the stars, she’s a pretty well known figure around the Kensal Rise way – back when i was living there, we used to receive a free magazine where she would have a column every publication.

So when an opportunity arose to spend 2 hours learning to improve my cupcake decorating piping skills for a mere £20 each via Time Out vouchers I jumped at the chance.

Held in the upstairs area of Idlewild http://www.idlewildmaidavale.co.uk/ (where we incidently had our dinner – sausages, squid, chips and other munchies – highly recommended), around 20 of us gathered round tight tables, sharing decorations and passing around coloured icing.

We learnt 4 techniques and took away a decent 8 cupcakes to share with friends and family (or to scoff on the way home).  Some of them were incredibly basic, and I was a little disappointed not to have learnt more detailed decorating technique (but then again, we had booked onto the 2 hour slot) and i’m sure some of the other classes were more detailed.

My friend and I had a fantastic time and the recipe for the icing was amazing, and i’ve been using it since on all my cupcakes.

I would definitely recommend a team bonding/friend outing/hen do event with cookie girl.

Book it!

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February 16, 2012

Nice and spicy

I’m always up for a bit of a challenge, so was excited to receive an email from Sheba at the Absolute Indian Cookery School in Hertfordshire, announcing the new spice boutique where customers can buy authentic Indian spices direct online:www.absoluteindiancookeryclasses.com/spice-boutique

I’ve always wanted to be a dab hand at cooking Indian food. I never get to visit any Indian restaurants due to my nut allergy, so have to content myself with Anjum Anand’s cookbook for whipping up recipes. As much as i’d like to think i’m okay in the kitchen, Indian cookery has me a bit stumped.

However, Sheba sent me some great recipe cards to have a go at and a few ingredients.  The recipe cards look easy enough to follow, so i’ll be giving it a go shortly and will post the results.  And if not, I might end up going to one of Sheba’s classes at the Absolute Indian Cookery School, to get a helping hand!

So, watch this space!

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November 25, 2011

November nibbles

This month I’ve been trying to save money and cut back on eating out but I still managed to take the time (and expense!) to visit these places:

Vinopolis for a glass or 6 of wine and some food to soak it up
http://www.vinopolis.co.uk/

The Three Horse Shoes (St Albans) for a classic Sunday roast
http://www.vintageinn.co.uk/thethreehorseshoesstalbans/

Sketch for one cocktail which quickly turned into 5
http://www.sketch.uk.com/

The Gallery at The Westbury for a launch party
http://www.westburymayfair.com/?id=330&page=the

Dean Street Townhouse for lunch with two of my favourite bloggers
http://www.deanstreettownhouse.com/

Boulevard Brasserie to eat mussels and gossip
http://www.boulevardbrasserie.co.uk/

Scoop Gelato for a quick after dinner fix
www.scoopgelato.com

Cox and Cookies for a couple of boobs
http://www.coxcookiesandcake.com/

Wahaca for a little taste of mexico
http://www.wahaca.co.uk/

Winter Wonderland to enjoy a Bratwurst
http://www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/

So expect some reviews up soon! The worrying thing is, I thought i’d hardly eaten out at all this month – shocking isn’t it…

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November 25, 2011

My Kitchen Mess

Here’s a quick picture just to show how incredibly messy I am when I bake. Note the complete chaos and mess which is my kitchen!

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November 3, 2011

The Baking Bug

I’ve really got the baking bug at the moment and have pulled together a list of must make cakes etc.

Top of the list is a nice Lancashire Parkin cake which always reminds me of Bonfire night, when my mum would knock up a batch.

Then i’m going to try making a lemon tart (inspired by Mary Berry), a Sacher Torte (again inspired by the Great British Bake Off) and i’ve recently found an amazing recipe for cinnamon tear and share bread. 

So expect some baking updates over the next few weeks along with my usual restaurant ones!

All i need now is to invest in a Kitchen Aid mixer or Kenwood to help make my baking easier. It’s almost Christmas….so Father Christmas, if you are listening…I’ve been a good girl!

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October 31, 2011

Chocolate Cake time

Just thought i’d share my lovely chocolate cake picture.  I’ve made this cake a dozen or so times but this time, rather than covering with chocolate icing, I covered with vanilla icing and topped with raspberries.

I’m not going to giveaway my secret recipe for making the most chocolatey cake ever (let’s just say there is plenty of cadbury’s involved) but you can find a recipe for a good chocolate cake here:

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October 18, 2011

Les Deux Salons

I was really excited about finally visiting Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden, so jumped at the chance to take some clients there for dinner.

The team behind Arbutus have done a fantastic job to create a restaurant with a fantastic ambience and more importantly, a mouth watering menu.

They’ve certainly done a fantastic job with the decor – you’d never have guessed it used to be an All Bar One. It looks authentically French.

The food was a triumph. Delicately cooked steaks, the best seabass i’ve had in a long time and an amazing cheeseboard, that you could smell on arrival.

One of my guests was a veggie, which left them with the option of one main meal – macaroni. So definitely not worth a visit if you don’t eat meat!

Staff were stiff, unfriendly and hard to pin down. But a fantastic restaurant!

Definitely worth a visit if you get the chance.

www.lesdeuxsalons.co.uk
Les Deux Salons on Urbanspoon

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August 25, 2011

A guest blog – The Stafford London by Kempinski

I was invited to join the team at The Stafford London for a Gourmet Soiree but due to more boring commitments, I couldn’t make it – but my foodie friend, Nicole Wright, did.  So see below for her view on the event. Sounds like I missed a goodie:

Hidden away on a side street of the historic St. James’s district, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Piccadilly, this is not an easy hotel to find. This is all part of its charm however, as once you are greeted by the doorman and shown inside you feel like you have found a well-kept London secret.

I went along to the first in the series of their (free!) ‘Pub Talks’ entitled ‘Gourmet Soiree’,lead by Executive Chef of the hotel’s Lyttelton restaurant, Brendan Fyldes. I was escorted down to the superbly replete wine cellars dating back to the 17th century. If you ever need a special private dining space for the wine buff in your life then this would be the place to hold it.

Word has obviously not got out yet about these evening talks as less than 20 people took part. A likeable mix of PR girls, hotel residents and genuine Foodies. Once everyone had a glass in hand Brendan began preparing his first creation; sea bass with rosemary and lemon. He made gutting and scaling the 12lb fish look like something everyone could easily try in their own kitchen, pointing out the techniques for removing the head and scales and how once removed the head and bones can be used to create a fish stock (make sure to remove the fish eyes!). The prepared fish was then whisked away and came back 20 minutes later beautifully grilled and ready for us all to dig in to accompaniedby a simple and delicious dip of blended chick peas and olive oil.

Following on from this we were shown how to prepare foiegras with rose salt and andPedro Ximenez (Spanish sweet wine from the Andulsian region). This reappeared later for us to try in the form of an incredible foiegras burger. I would definitely have indulged in a second one if Brendan had not whisked me away to the kitchen to try his freshly prepared Eccles cakes. The Eccles cakes alone make it worthwhile coming for afternoon tea here.

Throughout the food preparation and tasting we were encouraged to try a variety of different beers picked to match the food as well as being shown the different effects that different shaped beer glasses can have on taste. The final cheery beer was served elegantly in a martini glass.

I left having learnt how to gut and scale a fish, eaten well, sampled beers I never would have tried myself, made new friends, and with a new destination in my address book. There are 4 more Pub Talk evenings scheduled throughout September and October looking at wine and cigar pairing, cocktail making, custom jewellery and portrait photography and I plan to be at all of them!

http://www.kempinski.com/en/london/Pages/Welcome.aspx

Brendan’s recipe of the week can be found on the Lyttelton’s website: http://www.thelyttelton.com/Recipe-of-the-Week/

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August 19, 2011

Venetian Style Tapas

I love Tapas.  I love the whole sharing, passing around ritual and love even more the fact that you get to try a bit of everything without really trying…which is why i’m excited to hear about the new Venetian Style Tapas at Zizzi. Launching in September (so just a couple of weeks to wait) the tapas dishes give us a taster of Italian Tapas. Originally from Venice, you can now try this across the country.
Dishes range from Polenta Croccante – crunchy nuggets of polenta – to Arancini, mini risotto balls with mozzarella, peas and a tomato chilli sauce.
I’ve never been that keen on Zizzi, as it’s always felt like a bit of a ‘poorer sister’ of pizza express…but I think these new dishes may well persuade me otherwise.
Don’t worry, i’ll let you know what i think when September comes around!

 

 

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