Friday, 29 November 2013

Weekly Love: Week 118

Time for another update on what foodie television I'm obsessed with at the moment. I'm a girl from the countryside, and while I don't know as much about farming and growing your own food as I think I should, I do know where my food comes from and how it is produced. This is because I have wonderful parents and I read a lot about food and food sustainability, so I know that most people, especially those who live in cities are less informed about where what they find on their plate originated, because they've simply never had a chance to learn. This is why this week I'm cheerleading the new Wednesday night on the BBC: Nigel and Adam's Farm Kitchen where they go behind the scenes and produce food from farm to plate. The first episode is a brilliant way to learn about the origins and different cuts of your beef, and Nigel's freeze lasagnes made me wish that I had something bigger than an ice box in my flat! You can catch up on the first two episodes on iPlayer.
1. The beautiful Christmas lights on South Molton Street. This photo is currently my iPhone lock screen. | 2. Dinner at The Diner. I've discovered my new favourite: California Burger, hold the cheese and add pulled pork. Messy, but still divine! | 3. The Fortnum's Christmas Tree in the middle of St Pancras International. | 4. Christmas at Liberty's. | 5. Lychee, Passionfruit and Chilli Mango Martini's to celebrate my best friend Kathryn's 21st. | 6. Breading pieces of a plaice I filleted myself. I had it over a bed of charred and salted kale.

DSC_2068 If you are after more of my recipes, last week over on the London edition of Refinery 29, one of my all time favourite websites they have put together a feature on 4 Easy Lunches To Upgrade Your Lunch Hour to which I have contributed a popular recipe in my family that my Mother has been making for years and I sometimes do for myself in my student flat (it is a favourite of ours at the French house): Roasted Red Peppers with Tomatoes & Anchovies.
WeeklyLove291113[2] 7. It is not Christmas in London until you've seen the Selfridges Christmas lights. | 8. A Friday night glass of red wine in front of the fire at the farm. | 9. Finishing up the reading for my Modernism and Democracy class on a Sunday night with a mug of homemade ginger tea. It was kind of relevant that I was using my Nineteen Eighty-Four mug, as I was studying Totalitarianism! | 10. Pondering the best course of action in planting new raspberry canes on the farm on a Saturday morning. | 11. A fantastic long and lazy lunch at Mishkin's in Covent Garden. Simply amazing Jewish comfort food at its best; I'd recommend the Tuesday special of Turkey Schnitzel and the slaw. Sorry there won't be a blog post about it, because my photos came out really badly. | 12. Curling up to read a cookbook all day on probably my first proper day off since June!

I have a thing about my flavoured teas, so when one of my favourite tea brands Tea Pigs (my first sip of their Superfruits blend changed my tea drinking life) got in touch with me to see if I wanted to try their new Spiced Winter Red Tea blend obviously I jumped at the chance. Aside from being pretty (I love how their biodegradable tea domes look in the mug!), it smells just like Christmas with orange, cloves and cinnamon, and is delicate and warming. I particularly enjoyed a steaming mug of it last weekend after coming in from planting raspberry canes ready for next Summer's harvest. You get 15 tea bags in a box for £4.49 or you can get a sample pack of two teabags for £1.19 in the Tea Pigs shop. They have actually recently launched their online Christmas shop, if you are still looking for some Christmas gifts of stocking fillers for tea lovers. As a little bonus, Tea Pigs are also offering 20% off everything in store except for their Mix & Match Kits and Cheeky Deals with the promo code XMAS13.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? My parents are coming up to London to see me for the first time ever outside of helping me move in and out of flats (my Mother dislikes the city, my Father loathes it) and we're going to check out the beginnings of festive food at Borough Market before enjoying lunch at Hotel Chocolat's new Rabot 1754 which is the London branch of their restaurant on their St. Lucia cocoa estate. I think it pretty much has to be the London restaurant opening I have been most excited about since, well, ever. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: For The Londoner

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers. I feel that because I spent a year living in America I can properly embrace and understand this holiday, in spite of being British. And not because it is a holiday almost exclusively focused on food. Not at all! (I keep telling myself this!) I even made a Sweet Potato Pie this year and everything. As Thanksgiving is a holiday where people say what they are thankful for, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you, my amazing readers from America, my home of London and the rest of the world for reading, sticking with me and supporting me. I'd be nowhere without all of you, and words cannot sum up how grateful I am for every single one of you, every single day.
The Londoner
Westfield Gift Card: £ / $, Kate Spade Earrings: £51.86 / $68, Kate Spade Striped Umbrella: £23.53 / $38, Joules Hare Keyring: £6.95, Hotel Chocolat Alternative Mince Pie: £1.95 / $4, Rubis Chocolate Wine: £13, UGG Earmuff Headphones: £80 / $85, Diptyque Pine Cone Candle: £45 / $68

For the third edition of my Holiday Gift Guide this year, as ever, I'm focusing on The Londoner. I love London to bits, and there are so many things about the city that make it unique. However, while I have put this guide together with London in mind, after spending last Christmas in Los Angeles, another of the worlds big metropolitan cities I've tried to make this guide have a few more things in it which will suit anyone from any city. If you are still looking for gift ideas remember to check out my guide for The Total Foodie and for The Total Bookworm, and stay tuned for my guide's final instalment, for gifts for The Globetrotter.

I've always loved Kate Spade, but since falling in love with their adorable stores in Los Angeles, then finding several more had popped up around London in my absence, they've quickly become a firm favourite of mine for anything colourful, pretty or sparkly! I think their jewellery would make the ultimate gift. 

I first encountered Rubis Chocolate Wine at the Harvey Nichols Christmas Press Day back over the Summer, and out of all (and by all I mean an awful lot!) of amazing gins and vodkas I tried that afternoon, funnily enough the one thing that stood out for me was this wine. I know chocolate wine sounds odd, but hear me out. This Spanish red is blended with chocolate in England, and is fortified. Then presented in this beautiful bottle it makes for the perfect after dinner drink. I know this because the guys at Rubis were kind enough to send me a bottle, and it has become a firm favourite of mine. Something a little sophisticated for the holidays. 

Yet another Press Day find, Diptyque's Pine Christmas Candle. I actually included their Christmas Pine Tree candle in one of my guides last year, as I was pretty obsessed with it. I was going to give it a pass this year, choosing to focus on my new festive candle obsession, 'Winter' by The White Company, but after I smelt how subtly different, and awesome this years offering is one evening a few weeks ago at their Brook Street store I just knew I had to fit it in again this year. For me one of the big smells of Christmas is the tree, so this would be perfect for those of you in the city who can't get a real one as easy as us country folk. Also this year they have some great pine scented tree decorations, perfect for making your fake tree seem real

Thanks to the guys at Xperience Days I recently spent a Saturday morning at the Open Kitchen in Hoxton attending a Knife Skills and Fish class. It was rather different from most of the cooking classes I've attended before, which have been relaxed evening affairs. This was early morning and very professional and serious, and we learnt how to use and care for different types of chef knifes, chop our vegetables to a professional standard, joint and debone a chicken, and fillet and debone different types of fish. While I'd already done the vegetables and chicken before, I learnt a lot about sharpening knives (I'm no longer scared to do it without slicing my fingers off) and the skills I've learnt with the fish are invaluable; I know know what to do when presented with a whole fish of almost any variety. I did find it was a lot like school and I did feel rather down when I realised how useless I still am at the whole chicken affair, but as I said it was really useful. For people who like their cooking to be casual or don't have much confidence in the kitchen I suggest you take a browse through some of Xperince Day's easier food experiences (they are not just London based, they have experiences across Britain and America; I was originally contacted by the team to review something in Los Angeles but I never quite got around to it), but if you're looking for a gift for someone who is serious about their cooking and sharpening up their skills, this class would be perfect. It runs on Saturday mornings, lasts for about two hours, comes in at £59 per person, and you get to take your chicken and your fish home with you. I got about three meals out of my spoils. 

How is your Christmas shopping going? As I type, I'm currently finishing off some homemade foodie Christmas gifts for friends and family the first time I've made my own this year, and it has been so much fun! If you don't feel up to putting together something homemade though, IFB have got a great round up of other peoples gift guides you really must check out.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: For The Total Bookworm

For the second instalment of my Holiday Gift Guides, I'm exploring the other side of my personality that is not a food lover; I'm a total bookworm and I'm sure that all of you have at least one friend who is too so this is a little collection of things I think they might enjoy! There is so much on this particular list that I actually own or I have tried and loved, so this list more than usual comes with my seal of approval, not just from having seen awesome things online. You can click through to see my Holiday Gift Guide for The Total Foodie, and remember to keep checking back over the next few weeks for my guides of what to buy the Londoners and Globetrotters in your life! 
Hotel Chocolat Signature Christmas Collection: £25 / $50, Alphabet Drinks Coasters: £12, Boden Cosy Slipper Boots: £39 / $58, Lush Cinders Bath Bombs: £2.45/each / $4.95/each, Alphabet Bags Tote Bag: £13 / $22.60, Hotel Chocolat Cocoa & Peppermint Teabags: £8.50, The White Company Winter Scented Candle: £20

Nothing beats curling up with a good book, and I for one can't wait until the end of my degree when all of my reading can simply be for pleasure. Even when I'm reading for uni, however, I still find that a few little indulgences make the experience that little bit nicer. Any book worm will tell you tea, chocolate and a scented candle is the way to go, so these are my favourite for this season. I was really excited to find Hotel Chocolat were making tea at their Christmas event, so I could not help but include their Cocoa & Peppermint tea bags I'm hoping I'll be getting for Christmas this year, too! To rest the tea cup on, I think these coasters from The Literary Gift Company are fantastic. As you've probably already noticed I'm just that little bit in love with the Hotel Chocolat Signature Christmas Collection chocolate selection the Hotel Chocolat team were kind enough to treat me to, so I am speaking from a good point of authority when I tell you that it will be a very well received gift. While I must admit that I have not lit this The White Company 'Winter' scented candle yet, I just know it is going to be fantastic. I treated myself to it a few weeks ago as I am usually a big White Company candle fan, and every time I went into one of their stores (a financially dangerous occupation in itself!) I was obsessed by sniffing this candle. The cinnamon, clove and orange scent basically sings Mulled Wine and Christmas in general, and I now keep on opening it and sniffing in its box, counting down to December when I'll allow myself to light it. 

Finally the Boden slipper boots. All I can say is that I treated myself to them at the beginning of Autumn to wear around the house, and it is like having your feet enclosed in a massive hug. Though, they do come up a size too big, so order a size smaller than whoever you are buying for and keep the returns information! 

Since where at the bottom of my last gift guide I admitted I had not at all started Christmas shopping, I'm proud to say that I'm actually almost finished, which is strange for me. I managed to do all of my family gifts when I was out Christmas shopping in Canterbury with my Mummy or later that evening online last time I was home, and now for my parents I just have the other 50% of each of their presents to do - I'm half way through those! I also managed to talk my Mother into Emma Bridgewater wrapping paper with penguins, reindeers and polar bears on in Fenwick, so I call that a win! How are all of you getting on with your Christmas shopping? If you need any more ideas I have not included here, IFB have put together a roundup of other peoples guides which is really worth checking out.

Monday, 25 November 2013

How To Make Your Own Christmas Wreath: Seasonal Hints & Tips In Collaboration With The Zita Elze Flower School

When I was little I used to get all excited about making handmade things for Christmas. I used to go through all the books and magazines, and get oh so excited about making lists and lists of things to make. I never quite got them all done, but something I did always manage to make is a Christmas Wreath for the front door. Fast forward to adulthood. We how have beautiful handmade wreathes we purchased to go on the front and office door every year, so I honestly could not see much scope in making a DIY post. That was until I met the wonderful Zita Elze, the florist behind her eponymous flower school at The White Company's Christmas Press Day in July, and we decided to team up to put something together for you all.
Xmas green wreath1
Zita was the one who inspired my Floral Topped Cupcakes I made this Summer for my collaboration with Whittards of Chelsea, and this is part of the reason I was really excited to get her involved in this post. I am a firm believer in using what is around you (this ties into my love of seasonal ingredients and buying and using local, though it might not be obvious from my recipes as I've hopped around from London to France to Kent to Los Angeles a fair bit over the past few years!) so I think everyones special unique Christmas wreath, if possible should be made with what you have to hand. If you are a Londoner, I suggest looking for something a bit more evergreen like holly branches, ivy etc. at markets would be a good starting point (try Columbia Road). Also if you can find things like tiny pine cones inexpensively, or you have a friend who can bring them for you from the countryside one thing I loved doing as a child to make decorations for the Christmas tree was to either spray paint them silver or gold, or dip just the tips of them in PVA glue then a very fine silver glitter so they look slightly frosted. These can be attached to wire using a glue gun then woven into your wreath on a base of either oasis from a florist, or just anything round you have to hand if you are not looking to feed some water into it over the festive season, and you just want your wreath to last a few days, perhaps if you are having friends over for festive celebrations.
As for if, like me you live in the countryside or are lucky enough to have a blooming garden I thought I'd ask Zita for her tips as to what to choose to build your wreath; I knew she'd be more imaginative that my standard ivy and holly I always used to go for!

For your own special Christmas and Winter decorations, start by taking a wander around your garden to pick lots of different foliages. Long trails of ivy, bundles of Scotch pine, eucalyptus and blue spruce are all fantastic. Feathery or fluffy, dainty or spiky, look for many different textures, colours and tones so you have a rich palate to work with.  Condition the foliage in fresh, clean water with a drop of bleach. You can spray paint some leaves silver or gold. A metal or oasis ring provides a firm base for a wreath, and a warm welcome to guests arriving at your front door. A few other ideas for using the things you have gathered around your home are to weave a wired garland attaching little bunches of foliages, pine cones and apples onto a rope or beautiful ribbon to adorn the mantelpiece. In the dining room, a festive table decoration with designer candles on an oasis base embellished with foliages, corms, cones and seasonal decorations evokes the enchantment of Christmas.  My personal favourite is a topiary tree or simple bay tree decorated with ribbon in a terracotta pot, filled with medium sized apples and crab apples. 

Christmas present wise, the Zita Elze Flower School is at Kew, and they do lots of classes starting from the very beginner to advanced florists. Like flowers, the classes are seasonal too. You can see their full course listing and get booking and pricing information on their website. They have some great seasonal and festive classes coming up too, which might be nice if you have a free day to go and learn something new.

Do you make your own Christmas wreath, or any of your own decorations each year? Or, are you like me, usually full of good intentions for the festive season, and the only thing you seem to manage to actually achieve is the same festive baking and Christmas dinner recipes to last year? I spent yesterday, one of my first 'days off' in months, reading Nigella Lawson's Feast and I've made a list of festive dishes I want to try this year. Problem is, the only ones I can be sure I'll actually make are her Maple-Glazed Parsnips and homemade cranberry sauce; both are integral parts of Christmas Dinner for me, and I don't yet have a perfect go to recipe for either. 

Friday, 22 November 2013

Borough Market Challenge #2 + An Evening With Pan Fried Chilli Rosemary Pheasant Breast with Charred Kale

Last week for me was all about game. We've already touched on rabbit, so now I want to move onto Pheasant, whose season has just begun. On Tuesday night I was invited by the crew into the Fifteen training kitchen for a pheasant masterclass with Fifteen Cornwall Head Chef Andy Appleton, Fifteen London Head Chef Jon Rotheram and the amazing Gennaro Contaldo who makes me almost want to forget French cooking and totally focus on Italian food for the core of my inspiration. So, you can imagine that come Friday morning when I was wondering around Borough Market ready to shoot my second Borough Market Challenge column and I spied some new season pheasant breasts at Furness Poultry & Game I was suddenly totally inspired. Lucky for those of you who don't like Middle Eastern food really, because Yotam Ottolenghi was filming in the market on Friday morning, so if I'd seen him before I saw the pheasant, there is no doubt in my mind that is where my recipe inspiration would have come from! 
DSC_1415 DSC_1197
Can I just say that thanks to the amazing pheasant dish Andy made, I now really, really want to go to Cornwall so I can eat at Fifteen Cornwall (though, I still need to get further than cocktails at the bar at Fifteen London, to be honest!) However, just the way things worked out with the produce I loved in the market, I'm going to be focusing on some of the magic that was happening last week with Gennaro and Jon. 
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I know pheasant seems a bit scary to some people, but really, it is just another bird. Just like duck, just like chicken but with its own unique flavour. Some people tell me it is too gamey for their tastes, but it all depends on how long the bird has been hung for after it was shot. The less of a game taste you want, the sooner you want to cook it after death. If you want to know the age of your meat, ask your butcher, market vendor or farm shop person. The way we're cooking this pheasant breast here is really basic and simple, and I honestly think anyone could do it. Gennaro said you'd never find it on a fancy restaurant menu, because it is just too easy. It is a traditional Italian dish, and he served it up with an amazing potato dish baked with tomatoes, onion and oregano I'm hoping to snag the recipe for, because I was too busy watching him cook to take notes! 
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Essentially, we are flavouring the pheasant with chilli and rosemary, as well as a bit of salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Here I just want to give a shout out to Elsey & Bent in the far corner of the market who always have the most amazing displays, and whose chillis I really love. Pro tip from Gennaro Contaldo, if you want to check how strong a chilli is? Snap it and sniff! I find these chillis are great as you can do a lot with them, without the seeds they can be mild, but with they give such a brilliant kick.
Leave the skin on your pheasant breast (I took mine off here to see if you could make the dish a bit healthier without compromising flavour. You can't.) and bash it out on a board with your fist until it is flattered. Season with salt and pepper and lay a whole red chilli, with or without seeds sliced lengthways across the breast with a rosemary sprig. Fold over and flatten out again. Gennaro did not fold it over, but I find that unless you're used to fan frying like this, it helps your flavours stay in without them falling out of the breast. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan until very hot (you want to seal the meat as quickly as possible so you don't loose moisture). In my kitchen at the moment I have a big bottle of rosemary infused oil; this was perfect.
Seal both sides of the breast until browned. A trick Gennaro taught us was to keep the breast flat and to help it cook is to place something heavy on top. I used a mug, but traditionally it is done with an oiled brick to stop it sticking. Turn the breast over when brown, and when it is browned on both sides and it has cooked through set it aside, covered in tin foil on a warm plate to rest with any juices from the pan poured on top. 
Now, our side dish courtesy of Jon Rotheram, who served his kale up as part of an amazing dish of pheasant and smokey pork sausages with game chips, something that has been served up at Fifteen London. I'd never cooked kale before, or really eaten it. Like quinoa, it was something I shot myself in the foot with when I first came across it in Los Angeles by making fun of my roommate for cooking masses of it as a health food, and as a result making it that I'd have to eat my words to make it myself. I'm pretty stubborn sometimes! 
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Tear or chop a large handful of kale into large pieces and toss into the pan with a generous helping of sea salt. As ever, my poison of choice is Breton Fleur de Sel I pick up in Brittany. Lower the heat to just below medium and toss the kale pieces occasionally until they are slightly crispy and charred around the edges. It does not matter if you make too much kale, as it is fantastic and like crispy seaweed cold. I'm now a little obsessed. Enjoy, and thanks to Jamie's team for an amazing evening. If you want more photos and detailed bits about what we all learnt, Fiona's post from the evening is so much better than mine, and if you are curious about what Andy cooked, and Rachel has posted the recipe for his incredible Squash & Chestnut Caponata. And finally, I think the photography in Annie's blog post has outdone absolutely all of us

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Fan Favourite: What Aero Flavour Do You Want To See Next?

Today I want to talk to you about an excited project I have just got involved with for one of my favourite chocolate brands, Aero. I think something might be happening that might, potentially, knock Mint Aero off its pedestal as my favourite Aero flavour. Aero are going to be launching a new, permanent flavour in their range, and they want all of you to vote which one you want to see on the shelves. When I first got the email about this I was very, very excited, and not just because collaborations with Aero mean doing something totally mental. Readers who were with me over the Summer might remember the big green space hopper?
Aero Flavours
1 | 2 | 3 | 4

So, as you can probably tell from my handy graphic that there are going to be four flavours to choose from: Strawberry, Cappuccino, Lemon and White Chocolate. Much to my Mothers disappointment who would much rather I was pushing for coffee, I'm going to be Aero's online ambassador for Strawberry during the campaign. How totally awesome would a Strawberry Aero bar be? And then hopefully down the line Strawberry Aero Bubbles anyone? Voting is now open on their Facebook Page, so vote Strawberry! You can vote once a day, but as many times as you want.  
Aero Logo
As the Strawberry ambassador you can expect a few updates from me here on the blog and on social media about how the campaign is going, my thoughts on the chocolate and some Aero related recipes I've already started mentally concocting. I should be getting some samples of the chocolate through soon, so that will probably be what you can look forward to next, in a recipe post. On a side note for my American readers wondering what the hell Aero tastes like, it is awesome and you really ought to find your nearest store that sells British candy (though we call this a chocolate bar) and try the amazing original chocolate flavour. If you live in Los Angeles I've done the leg work for you; you can sometimes get Aero as well as some other wonderful British and European sweet treats at Mr. Marcel at The Original Farmers Market by The Grove, and without fail you can always find Aero at Rocket Fizz, and amazing candy store that has treats from all over the world on Broxton Avenue in Westwood Village, my old neighbourhood.

What flavour will you be voting for. (Strawberry, say Strawberry!)

This is a sponsored post. To read my policy on sponsored posts, please click here.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Places To Eat In London: Bond & Brook's Festive High Tea, Mayfair

In America, locations are given by intersection names. Meeting a friend somewhere non specific, eg. not at your destination, asking your cab to drop you in the middle of a neighbourhood? You use intersections. If you want to tell someone where something is in the middle of a very, very long road (for example Santa Monica Boulevard stretches from Ocean Avenue along the waterfront right up to where it meets Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood) you give the nearest intersection. So, on my way out of afternoon tea at Bond & Brook in Mayfair, the delightful little restaurant within Fenwick on Bond Street, it made me smile to discover where the restaurants name came from on seeing the street sign for the crossover past Vogue House we took to reach Regents Street, and therefore J.Crew. Fenwick Bond Street is on the corner of Bond and Brook. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Innocent x Lily Cole: Win A Months Supply of Innocent Smoothie [Now Closed, Thank You For Entering!]

So some of my older readers who've been with me a while might remember that the last time I was in the country for Winter I got involved with Innocent Smoothie's 'Big Knit' campaign by designing my own miniature hat. As I missed out on all the action last year, being in Los Angeles and everything (Innocent? I am over the moon that I can now also buy you in France, but where were you when I needed you on the West Coast, Pressed Juice availability be damned!) I thought it was time for a little update on this years leg of the campaign.
This year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Big Knit, Innocent have teamed up with Lily Cole to design a full sized wooly hat (which I need in my life, by the way even if I have the one I designed. One of my friends won my original giveaway of it, and she was kind enough to trade it back with me in return for smoothie!), with all the proceeds going to Age UK. Just like so many of the mini hats you can find on smoothie bottles, these big hats are also knitted with love by British grannies using 100% British wool. You can buy them online here. For every bottle of smoothie you pick up adorned by a baby hat, 25p will go to Age UK.
By way of celebrating this collaboration, the wonderful team up at Innocent HQ is offering a months supply of free smoothie to one of my UK based readers. All you have to do is leave a comment with your favourite Innocent Smoothie flavour on this post to be in with a chance of winning before midnight on Wednesday (the 20th!) Fyi, mine is the classic Strawberry & Banana, though I am also partial to the Kiwi, Apple & Lime flavour, and I really hope they bring back Lemon, Honey & Ginger for Christmas. I do usually only keep their Orange Juice with Bits in my fridge for every day consumption, however. Good luck, and form my London readers, remember that my giveaway to see Rick Stein live for one night only at the London Palladium ends on the 21st.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Weekly Love: Week 117

You've got it all in this edition of Weekly Love: London, Kent and France. A lot has happened over the past two weeks. France was a lovely break, and I got to cook things for my own, non blog or work projects for a change which was lovely, as well as being able to just relax and spend time with my family. I've spent hours talking about food in England and America over delicious Rabbit Ragu and Cronuts (see the end of this post) at one of my new favourite London haunts Whyte & Brown, I've watched some incredible chefs I've respected for a long time cook up close, written many, many essays and made my debut (and while it went really well, probably my only) appearance at my university debate society proposing the motion. 
1. Tea break from Christmas shopping in Canterbury with my Mummy at Carluccio's. Alongside our lovely cups of Peppermint Tea we shared a Plum Tart and a simply mouthwatering Lemon Tart. | 2. A heart shaped apple growing on the tree outside The Miller at Pilgrims Nook Holiday Cottages. | 3. The best thing about this time of year in French supermarkets? The Christmas chocolates! | 4. Daddy daughter cooking session in the French kitchen. We're making my favourite of my Dad's recipes, Hot King Prawns In Garlic Butter. | 5. After our shopping trip there was also a Mummy daughter baking session where we made traditionally orange flavoured and glazed French Madeleines, the first time making them for either of us. I'm rather proud of how they looked, and tasted in the end to be honest! The recipe came from my favourite book of the moment, Sweet Paris by Michael Paul which couples stunning photography, brilliant recipes for patisserie classics and some fantastic history of practically every sweet you can indulge in in the City of Lights. | 6. Testing a recipe for a French twist on a classic bread and butter pudding with leftover croissants, inspired by something I saw in Waitrose Magazine in the French kitchen. I think I still want to make a few more tweaks before sharing the recipe, though!

7.  My laptop charger blew up so I had to go to the Apple store for a new one. My closest Apple store is Westfield so obviously the day turned into a shopping trip. This wonderful little Topshop number came home with me, and no doubt it will be doing the Christmas drinks party circuit with me soon enough! | 8. Stocking up in the French supermarket. | 9. The rising sun catching the beautifully coloured Autumn leaves out of my bedroom window in Kent. | 10. The team at Hotel Chocolat were kind enough to treat me to their beautifully boxed Christmas collection. Simply divine! | 11. Lunch on the go at St. Pancras. Whenever you're passing through the Moroccan Spiced Couscous Salad by Ginger's Kitchen from Sourced Market is a very, very good call. | 12. Fantastic cocktails at Fifteen (seriously, the barmen there have skills) with the team and some of my fellow foodies after a simply wonderful evening in the Fifteen teaching kitchen. Stay tuned next week for some ideas of what to do with pheasant from Fifteen's head chef Jon Rotheram, Fifteen Cornwall's head chef Andy Appleton and the amazing Gennaro Contaldo, who needs no introduction really!

A little extra for this weeks Weekly Love, as I mentioned the other day I was back at one of my new favourite London spots Whyte & Brown. I was lunching with their Creative Director Fiona to sample their new Autumn menu, chatting about things to come and some of the foodie things I discovered in Los Angeles. I want to thank Fiona for a fantastic lunch, and I thought this might be a good place to share a few snapshots from my meal here with you, a few little recommendations if you will, if you're planning on heading over there (you really should) over the next few weeks as a welcome rest from Christmas shopping on Regents Street. 
This was the Chicken & Rabbit Ragu. It was delicious, and I apologise for the slightly out of focus photo, but I was distracted by a) the food, and b) talking. Anyone who knows me or has ever even eaten a meal with me once can tell you that I talk way too much, and this is amped up whenever I'm talking about something I'm passionate about, essentially politics, or in this case food. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the dish well balanced. I think this would make a great Winter warmer lunch or dinner, and a great entry dish into the world of rabbit. Personally, I love all game meat but I know when some people might be more inclined to try something like pheasant or partridge as as birds, they have a similar resemblance to things like chicken we eat all the time, rabbit, when done well is delicious. Go on, test the waters.
For dessert after I exactly spied it on the menu we shared Whyte & Browns Cronut. Now, I've never had a Cronut before, because the concept of a doughnut made with croissant dough and covered with sickly icing did not really sound like my idea of fun. Luckily, Fiona felt the same way I did, so when Whyte & Brown's Cronut was developed it was made small, light, topped with spiced and served warm, alongside a good dollop of vanilla ice cream. The end result makes the perfect pastry to round of any meal, or just to enjoy with a cup of tea or a coffee in passing. I think I need to eat another of these sometime soon. 

What have you been doing this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I'm off on another girl date for a special festive afternoon tea with Sherin tomorrow (more about that on Monday), after a morning knife skills and fish preparation masterclass I'm attending - the perfect Saturday plan! Shame my Sunday is pretty much one big essay writing fest. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Win A Pair Of Tickets To See Rick Stein Live, For One Night Only at The London Palladium, Monday 9th December [Now Closed]

You're going to be seeing quite a few giveaways here on the blog over the next few weeks, but this one especially is one that for you all, in good conscience I could not pass up. For one night only on December 9th at The London Palladium Rick Stein, who is a bit of a food legend in my Mothers kitchen so who I have therefore practically grown up with in there through his books and fascinating television shows, will be cooking and telling stories from his travels, hosted by Brian Turner. It seems like the perfect evening if, like me you are not just interested in the food on your plate, but the story behind it and where it was inspired by.
Rick Stein at Blanco
The team working on the event have been kind enough to offer me a pair of tickets in premium seats to giveaway to you guys. To win, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post before November 21st, but can I ask that you only enter to make it all fair if you know you'll be able to be in London on the evening of the 9th. I'm personally hoping to go, too. As I said, Rick Stein is something of a legend at home. The biggest cornerstone of our families cooking is French, and while we have so many traditional books on the subject, regional books, his recipes from his French Odyssey are so vibrant yet simple, really letting the flavours shine through I can just name off the top of my head so many family favourites that have come from there. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Underground Cookery School: How To Make A Soufflé

You may remember that over the Summer I spent a wonderful evening learning how to make pasta, prepare an artichoke and joint a guinea fowl at The Underground Cookery School. On Tuesday night I was back at Underground, again making pasta (this time for pumpkin ravioli), learning how to bone a pheasant, but more importantly, being taught how to make the perfect soufflé. Believe it or not, this overly feared French culinary masterpiece is actually rather simple as long as you learn to get all the separate steps right. 
So, while the basic technique is applicable for all different types of soufflé, here is how to make the simply light, delicious and divine pear soufflé we made and enjoyed earlier in the week. 
The most important step to making the perfect soufflé is to prep your ramekin properly. Melt a little bit of butter and brush the inside of each ramekin, making sure you don't use too much butter, but there is not a single dry bit. Also paint over the top of the rims of the ramekin; everywhere it is not prepped properly, your soufflé won't rise. But if you use too much butter too much sugar will stick and might burn.
Add a spoonful of caster sugar to the inside of the buttered ramekin and shake it around so every scrap of buttered surface is coated, tapping out the excess. Make sure you don't scratch this sugar butter layer, as any part where it is not present will be where the soufflé does not rise. If you are making a savoury soufflé you can do this with flour, and maybe add in a little bit of cayenne pepper for some extra spice and interest?
Now to make your soufflé. First, the flavour. Essentially you are making a roasted fruit puree, you can spice it if you wish, then adding it to a rue (which for those of you not in the know is a mixture of flour and butter). It is honestly all very, very simple. To make two soufflés juice two pairs. I do this by whizzing pears cored and peeled up as small as I can get them in the food processor and pressing them through a very thin sieve. Stir in 25g caster sugar with the juice in a small pan over a medium heat (simmering, not boiling) until it has all dissolved. Add a tiny bit of water to 1/2 tsp cornflour to make a paste then stir this paste into the pear juice mixture. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon. Leave the mixture to simmer until a lot of the liquid has evaporated away and you are left with something that sort of has the consistency of wallpaper paste. Set aside to cool.
Now, onto the egg whites that will give your soufflé its lift. Separate two eggs and in an electric mixer or with a hand whisk whisk them until they form glossy ribbons. Be careful not to over whisk. To achieve this effect you will need to slowly and gradually add 25g more caster sugar to the eggs, along with a few drops of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt. You now need to add about half of the egg whites two generous tablespoons of the pear paste and fold in, being sure to do this very gently not to knock any of the air out by using a cutting motion down the middle of the bowl while gently folding the beaten egg whites over in the pear paste (as I used to do and was told off for!) Add the rest of the egg whites and fold in too. Doing them in two batches like this helps prevent air being lost - this is a soufflé after all!
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees. Carefully fill your ramekins until just under the rim, about the amount shown in the photo above. And again, be sure not to scratch your butter and sugar layer. Level the top of each soufflé out with a clean finger and, you've guessed it, be careful not to scratch the butter sugar layer! Bake for 8 minutes until risen and golden. Dust with icing sugar and serve straight away before they fall.
I hope some of you try your hand at making your own soufflés at home, because it is really not as difficult or scary as you think they might be to make, and the sheer satisfaction when you take it out the oven with what you have created can not be beaten, in my opinion. I'd love to hear how you all get on, or if you've already tried your had at a soufflé before.

Monday, 11 November 2013

French Photo Diary #7: Autumn In Brittany

A week off of university meant for me heading down to the French house for the last time this year. While I did have some lovely meals out (a few foodie snapshots in a minute) and did a lot of cooking at home, the week for me was really a chance to catch up and regroup. Or, write essays, curl up in front of the fire with all the the university reading I'll have to do before Christmas (the perks of an English Literature degree!) and for study breaks, going for long, crisp Autumn walks through the country lanes and the forest by the house. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: For The Total Foodie

It is that time of year again for my holiday gift guides. This year I will be running through my four usual guides: For The Total Foodie, For The Londoner, For The Globetrotter and For The Total Bookworm over the next few weeks. I've had such fun running around London, Westfield Stratford, Fenwick in Canterbury and browsing online to put these guides together for this year, and I hope you find them helpful while shopping for friends! I know it seems a little early to be thinking about Christmas gifts, but now Bonfire Night is over and we're actually only just a little over a month until Christmas, I know I've started worrying about Christmas gifts!
One by Florence Knight Cookbook: £26, Hotel Chocolat Classic Prosecco: £18, Nigella Lawson Blue Measuring Cups: £25, Hotel Chocolat Mulled Wine Pouches: £5 / $10, Emma Bridgewater Great Britain Counties Map Apron: £12.50 / $21.95, Bordallo Pinheiro Melon Bowls: £14.95 / £24.50, Ottolenghi Christmas Cake: £12, Hotel Chocolat Christmas Mess Chocolates: £3.75 / $8, Ottolenghi Sumac: £2.80

I can tell you from personal experience that a cookbook is the very best Christmas present for foodies. As well as cooking from them, we enjoy reading them in front of the television, in bed, and even sometimes in the bath! Two books have really stood out for me this year, both of which are relatively recent and would make fantastic gifts.  The first of which I have not listed here but I have already waxed lyrical about, is James Morton's Brilliant Bread (£10). I reviewed it a few months ago, and I think it is the ultimate book for people who love baking bread, as well as the perfect gift for anyone wanting to learn to make their own as the book progresses in difficulty from the beginning. The second book that I have been loving this year and I have pictured here is One by Florence Knight, the head chef at Polpetto. It is a wonderful collection of Italian and British recipes, and it really has something for everyone. The recipes are really unique too, and its beautiful typeface makes it the perfect dish. So far I have made the Panzanella Salad and the Calves Liver in Red Wine Vinegar and both were absolute revelations.

While as you all know I'm a massive advocate for all things homemade, a few of my favourite artisan food suppliers have some great products this Christmas I can't overlook when it comes to gifts. They must have had it for ages and I was just being unobservant, but I has pleasantly surprised that Ottolenghi's now has an online store. With Christmas cake. It is only 'Coming Soon' at the moment, but for an early gift for someone you know does not have the time or knowhow to make their own cake, I think it would make a perfect and thoughtful gift. As well as the UK, it also ships to the USA, Canada and Europe. Also from the Ottolenghi shop as more of a stocking filler is a jar of Sumac. I know you can buy it elsewhere, but Yotam Otolenghi's books is really where Sumac became a 'thing' in the UK, and I have found it is such a versatile flavour, both cooked into recipes, and on a Sunday morning at brunch after a night out in Covent Garden the night before, a sprinkling on yogurt and eggs is simply divine and not to be overlooked. Mulled Wine is nice to make yourself from scratch, but a few years ago my Mother dropped a tin of Mulled Wine Spice Pouches into my Dad's stocking (we put them together for each other) and I've found they are great if you don't have a full spice cupboard to hand (like we don't in France) or you don't have a whole army to serve up to. When I saw Hotel Chocolat's new pouches, complete with cocoa nibs inside at their Christmas press event last month, I knew they'd make the perfect stocking filler. It was also at that event I drunk maybe a little bit too much of their fantastic house Prosecco. It may not have had any chocolate in it, but I still fell in love enough with it there to be recommending it to you here.

On the kitchen utensils and accessories track, I know I am a big cheerleader for weighing everything in baking rather than using American baking cups, I got used to cups when I was living in America and I found that they do make life easier when you are making drinks and savouries. I have an awful lot from Nigella Lawson's kitchen range; I own her cake stand and at home we have her glass cake dome, and her kitchen spoons and enamel kitchen utensils are also beautiful and versatile. I need to replace my cups, so I'm actually thinking about these beautiful blue numbers for myself! On another note, I think you can all agree with me that this pair of melon bowls I found are just simply awesome, and this Emma Bridgewater apron (I did not realise she no longer just sold china) is a really unique gift, and a change from the Cath Kidston aprons I usually recommend.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I have ideas for about 1/2 of each of my parents gifts and a few stocking fillers, but for practically everyone else I still have to buy for I'm still totally at sea. Hopefully I'll be able to pick some things up and get ahead of the game on the first big Christmas Shopping trip I'm taking with my Mother into Canterbury tomorrow. It may be smaller and have less of a selection, but it is so much easier Christmas shopping at home than in the massive crowds of London and its department stores! If you still need some more ideas, IFB have got a great round up of other peoples gift guides, if you want to take a peek!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendar Giveaway + Christmas Collection [Now Closed, Thanks Everyone For Entering!]

A couple of weeks ago I spent a wonderful evening at Hotel Chocolat's Roast + Conch cafe in Covent Garden sampling their amazing Christmas collection, chatting to their new Creative Director for the bright and colourful turn the Hotel Chocolat packaging has taken this season, and discussing cocoa harvests on the Rabot Hotel Chocolat estate in St. Lucia and flavour in the American market for luxury food goods with Angus Thirlwell, co founder of Hotel Chocolat. I've been a Hotel Chocolat fan since forever, so it was great to get to know a little about the brand. They've got their first full fine dining restaurant in the UK Rabot 1745 opening at Borough Market next week, and I've already got my table booked for the end of the month so look out for my review. I'm going with my parents for a pre Christmas jaunt around Borough Market, so we should have lots of different dishes to sample and for me to photograph. I've been menu stalking and I'm already excited. 
Advent Calender

The team at Hotel Chocolat have been kind enough to give me one of their amazing milk chocolat advent calendars to give away to one of you guys, and below I thought I'd share with you some of my picks from their Christmas collection this year to give as gifts or to treat yourself after the evenings tasting (and enjoying some of the things they were kind enough to send me home with!) If you want to be in with a chance of getting your hands on the calendar (UK readers only, sorry!) leave a comment on this blog post with your favourite Hotel Chocolat product before November 14th so I'll have plenty of time to get it in the post to you. 
Christmas Selection

With all the pretty flavours and how incredible the whole thing looks, and the beautifully illustrated boxes they have really pushed the boat out this year on their Christmas selection boxes. Also, I've tasted all of these chocolates, and I can tell you that they are all amazing and there is something for everyone. I've linked up above to all the different sizes they do to suit whoever your buying for and whatever your budgets is. 
Christmas Truffles 
6 Christmas Mess Truffles: £3.75, 6 Pistachio Praline Crunches: £3.75, 6 Chambord Royale Champagne Truffles: £3.75

You can get some of the special Christmas chocolates for this year from the selection boxes in packs of six for you to enjoy yourself, or to have as stocking fillers. If you buy three or more of these selection boxes in store or online, the boxes will be reduced to £3.20 each. My all time favourite for this year, surprising for me because it has absolutely no booze in is the Christmas Mess. It has wonderful layers and the most incredible tangy cranberry puree. The Pistachio Praline Crunches are really unique and have a hint of rose flavour to them, and the champagne truffles are fantastically fruity. I love a good champagne truffle. 
Triple Layered Coffee Buche: £9

I'm not a coffee person, so when they gave me this Triple Layered Coffee Buche to take home with me I knew it would be the perfect little 'just because' gift to take home for my Mummy that weekend. Well, her feedback is that it is really rich, indulgent and fantastic. She has been having a slice as an after dinner treat every day for about a week. She really, really has been enjoying it, so it is basically the perfect small gift for coffee lovers. 

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I've started thinking about it, but I have not had the chance to buy anything yet. I honestly have no idea what I am getting anyone at the moment; I really need to get my thinking cap on! 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Video: Autumn Vegetable Fritters

Because it was quite a while ago now, pre dating this blog and I don't really have much of a wish to share my teenage fluffy hair and Jenny Humphry eyeliner with the world, most of you probably won't know that I have a background in television. This background in television meant, that when the team at Voucher Code's blog Most Wanted got in touch with me to see if I wanted to come into the studio to film a recipe for an affordable Autumn favourite, I automatically got very, very excited to get back to working with a film crew again. 

I've actually been wanting to film a series of cooking videos for Youtube for quite some time, but unfortunately I don't have anyone to film them or the space to shoot them in, so I want to take a moment to thank everyone at Voucher Codes, but especially Fleur and the amazing crew for the day for inviting me along to cook for them. The above video is for a seasonal riff on my signature vegetable fritters. You can find the full recipe for these over on the Most Wanted blog, as well as an Indian Spiced Summer version in this blog post.

I hope you enjoy them, and I can't wait to hear what you think, about your favourite #affordableautumnfood, and what you think of the video of course! If I can find somewhere to film and someone to film with, would it be worth my trying to make more of them? 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Cookbook Review & Giveaway: Mr Todiwala's Bombay (Why I May Not Hate Indian Food) + Indian Spiced Potatoes

I do not like Indian food. Or, at least I thought I didn't. Curries at school always smelt hideous so I never even got close enough to trying them, and the smell coming out of most Indian takeaways just turned my stomach. I went to an Indian restaurant once, with my friends family on New Years Eve. My two memories from that meal are that I did not touch much of the food except for papadums and mango chutney, because I knew I did not like Indian food, and that the waiter tried to serve my friends big sister Pimm's straight without a mixer. Now, my friends will be sitting reading this slightly confused. "Rachel, how can you hate Indian food, when I've seen you eat entire plates of vegetable samosas?" and my regular readers will be pointing towards one of my favourite and most popular recipes on this blog, my Indian Spiced Leftover Vegetable Fritters
Spiced Potatoes

Friday, 1 November 2013

Weekly Love: Week 116

By the time you read this I'll already be in France. I've taken reading week as a chance to skip the country and head off to the country house, so while I have posts scheduled to go off while I'm away (look out for a fantastic Christmas themed food giveaway and a recipe from a fantastic new cookbook that is released next week), look forward to another instalment of my French Food Photo Diaries when I return this time next week. I hope you have a wonderful week wherever in the world you are at the moment and enjoy the weekend!
Weekly Love 011113[1]
1. An absolutely divine Toblerone Cupcake from The Primrose Bakery in Primrose Hill. It had a piece of mini Toblerone baked inside and the most divine honey chocolate frosting. | 2. An incredible Confit of Duck sandwich for lunch at Borough Market. | 3. The calm before the storm, Sunday morning at Pilgrims Nook. | 4. Enjoying a White Company 'White Christmas' (don't judge!) votive candle with one of the one glass bottles of wine Sainsbury's were kind enough to send me. I think it is a great idea if you are cooking for yourself, like I often am, as it means you are not tempted to keep on pouring if you have to open a whole bottle for just yourself. This French Merlot was rather lovely. | 5. I spent another evening doing some Autumn cooking back at The Underground Cookery School. Look out for a soufflé tutorial I shot there, coming soon! | 6. I've been spending afternoons doing research for my dissertation in The Globe Theatre Archive Library, and it has been the most amazing experience.

Weekly LOve 011113[2]
7. Lazy Sunday afternoons wondering through Regents Park. | 8. London, you are beautiful during crisp Autumn sunsets. After finishing at The Globe I've been grabbing a hot cup of peppermint tea from Starbucks and wandering down Southbank. | 9. Seasonal vegetables at Borough Market. | 10. Speaking of Borough Market, if you see me in the afternoons wandering around London Bridge with a coffee cup in hand, it probably is not coffee or peppermint tea. One of the best things about Borough Market in Autumn are hot, steaming cups of mulled wine! | 11. The team at Liberte were kind enough to send me a selection of their new strawberry, honey and lemon yogurts to try; I'm already a massive fan of their blueberry ones. My Mummy, who is usually a lemon yogurt fan enjoyed hers, and I am rather partial to the strawberry ones. If you see them in the supermarket, they make a great breakfast food or afternoon snack. | 12. Taking in London's famous architecture while heading to Southbank.

What have you been doing this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I'm looking forward this weekend, and week I'm on holiday being able to curl up in front of the wood fire with a glass of wine and a bar of French chocolate while I do my university reading, gorge myself on the local seafood and just relax a bit in the middle of nowhere.