Monday, 30 December 2013

Retrospective: Looking Back On 2013

This year marked the progression from lifestyle to food blog, and I think it is one of the best possible things that could have happened. While I sometimes do miss putting together a good outfit post, my real passion is food; working on recipes for you all and photographing them, and discovering new restaurants to share with you all too. Food is what I'm passionate about, and I've been enjoying writing this blog so much more since the transition. This year also marked a massive change for me, in that I moved back from my apartment on the West Side of LA where I had been attending classes at UCLA, and back to London for my final year.

I woke up on the first day of 2013 in my apartment on Los Angeles' Westside. I get asked all the time if I miss Los Angeles and I really, really do. I miss my life in Los Angeles every single day, and while I really wanted to come home at the end, and if someone said I could go back to live tomorrow I'd choose to stay doing my London-Countryside-France flip flop here, I can't wait to go back to visit. I lived in LA for 10 months and I fell in love with it. I miss Saturday mornings on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, weekend walks along the ocean front, shopping in West Hollywood, and to constant sunshine. And there are so many more restaurants in Los Angeles I have not had a chance to eat in yet! 





In June I finished up my Spring Quarter finals at UCLA and it was time for my last few weeks in the city I'd absolutely fallen head over heels with. My best friend Kathryn flew out to enjoy my last 10 days with me, and while writing this post is making me miss Los Angeles so incredibly much, I was glad to finally be heading back to England.

1. Getting back into the swing of my favourite 'Places To Eat In London' column at Drift Bar at the bottom of the Heron Tower. | 2. Sharing one of my families favourite barbecue recipes, Honey Mustard Chicken Skewers. | 3. Throwing together a quick Caprese Salad and sharing some photos from my French home in Brittany. | 4. Kicking off my 'Cocktail Hour' column with Lemon Lavender Vodka Lemonade. | 5. Rachel Phipps got nominated for the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2013 in the 'Best Food Blog' category. Congratulations to my reader Sophie who won the category, and to one of my newer blogger friends I met over the Summer Bailee, a California native who was the runner up. | 6. Learning to make pasta at The Underground Cookery School.

July was the month where I got to know all of my favourite places that I call 'home' all over again. Obviously, this meant being back on the farm in Kent for the Summer to barbecue and start off my cocktail column, both of which meant (much to her upset that it would no longer stay tidy!) reacquainting myself with my Mother's kitchen! After a week or two at home I also got to go back to the French house for the first time in over a year, where I realised how much I had really missed it, and while I did not yet have my flat there and I was still staying with friends or day tripping off of the train, I got to reintroduce myself to London, my favourite playground. 




December 2013

I hope everyone has a great New Years Eve tomorrow night, and I hope that the New Year will bring you everything you could ever wish for. I'll be cooking New Years Day we're hosting my Dad's family for lunch, and I'm so excited about the menu that is planned (and which I have a dish in that I'm planning on sharing with you over the next week or so). Also, just a reminder, if you enter the discount code LETITSNOW at the checkout, you can get 25% off of all blog sidebar advertising until midnight tomorrow night.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Cocktail Hour: Italian 75

I hope everyone had a fantastic day yesterday, and that you're having a nice lazy day today, full of food, enjoying presents and filling up on leftovers. There is nothing I like better at this time of year than leftover turkey, stuffing and homemade cranberry sauce sandwiches. While this 'dead' week between Christmas and New Year is usually a time to veg out, relax and enjoy spending time with your friends and family (and in my case, write another 5,000 words worth of essays!) we do still need to start thinking about New Year celebrations. This year I'm planning a quiet New Year Eve at home, but on New Years Day my Mother and I are cooking for my Dad's side of the family, and I've had an awful lot of fun planning the menu.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Festive Dessert Idea: French 3 Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

One of my Dad's favourite desserts is a homemade chocolate mousse. Because of this it turned into something of a treat pudding in our house, so it became one of my favourites too. I know my Mother has her own recipe which I've made a few times before, but I came across my recipe for a typical, simple, three ingredient traditional French chocolate mousse in a book my Grandfather gave me last Christmas: Sweet Paris by Michael Paul. It is such a beautiful book with stunning photos of all things sweet around Paris, the stories behind all of the various desserts and their histories, and some rather good recipes I've been working through, too. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Update: Home In Kent & Cooking For Christmas

Late last Friday after going out for late afternoon drinks I headed back to the station and home for Christmas. Obviously it was Friday 13th, so while I left my companion at 7pm somewhere near St. James' Park I did not make it back to my parents house until about 11:30pm, so many delayed trains! Anyway, so the past week I know I've been a little quiet, but I have not really been thinking about the blog too much. I adore writing it and could not think of a life without it, but it has been nice to spend time getting ready for the festive period with my family, especially as I essentially skipped Christmas and New Years last year when I was in Los Angeles. 
So, I thought I'd just post a few snapshots of what I've been getting up to at home. Aside from all of this, I've also been watching an awful lot of food television. Predictable, right? My loves have included Paul & Mary's Great British Bake Off Christmas Masterclass (I love the way she seems to Mother him!) and Tom Kerridge Cooks Christmas; who needs that Honey Roast Pork Side in their life?! Also recorded I'm excited to see Nigel Slater's biscuit programme, and Giles Coren and Alexander Armstrong exploring their favourite Christmas drinks. 
I've become obsessed with Nigella Lawson's amazing book Feast recently, and yesterday afternoon from it I attempted her famous Cherry Coke Ham. It was the first time I have ever made a ham before, and I am so proud of how it turned out. It tastes fabulous, and I think her glaze made with cherry jam and smokey paprika is simply inspired. So excited for upcoming ham sandwiches. I'm going to be making her festive trifle from it twice this year (tomorrow night for dessert and alongside my Super Simple 3-Step Chocolate Brownies for dessert on New Years Day), so I'll try and post pictures of that too. 
My Mummy is famous among family and friends for how brilliant she is at beautifully wrapping presents and gifts. I just love sitting watching her put together her beautiful creations. When she was a teenager she used to sit in the back room of her Mother's gift shop on Christmas Eve wrapping up so many bottles of Chanel No.5 for hapless husbands who'd left their Christmas shopping until the last minute.
All I can say is that this is my new favourite candle, its orange, cinnamon and clove scent is basically Christmas.
I arrived back in Kent to a big box from the lovely team at Sainsbury's with a few ingredients for some upcoming posts I have planned in the New Year, and their entire new Taste The Difference chocolate range. I'm currently munching on a lovely dark caramel number, but my favourite by far which I think is perfect for the festive season is this Swiss Milk filled with a Marc De Champagne filling. I'm particularly partial to a good champagne truffle, and this is a slab of it. Utter perfection, and I think the bar went down between my Mother and I far, far too quickly! A festive treat for anyone who is partial to this sort of thing.
Finally, Mummy and I spent a hilarious afternoon decorating our Christmas tree. Most of the amusement was from the fact that it is twice our height; she is even more vertically challenged than I am! Aside from this Instagram of one of our blown glass decorations (most of out decorations are little toys, golden birds or blown glass bells), most of the pictures I took earlier did not come out how I'd like, but our tree has been in the same place for years, and has looked the same every year for even longer, so these pictures I took on Christmas Eve in 2011 should give you a good idea of what it looks like

I hope you are all having a fantastic time in the build up to the holidays, and I'd love to hear about some of your own Christmas traditions, favourite recipes, festive foodie TV shows you've been enjoying and how you like to decorate your tree in the comments section if you have a few moments to spare from the merrymaking! 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Voting Soon Closes To Choose Aero's Next New Flavour

Aero Flavours
From top to bottom we have Lemon (I must say that I am really not a fan), Strawberry (which I love, and not just because I am #teamStrawberry), Cappuccino (I'm not a coffee fan, but it is rather good), and White Chocolate (which I also adore). Remember to go and vote here, and you can vote for up to 4 times a day.

In other but still related news, I'm hoping to put together a recipe with these samples (plus the other goodies the Aero team sent me) that can also work with any flavour of Aero chocolate. I love working with already popular sweets and chocolates to create something new, do you remember my Salted Caramel Double Chocolate Chip Rolo Cookies by any chance?

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

Monday, 16 December 2013

Places To Eat In London: Breakfast at Dishoom, Shoreditch

I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be reviewing what has become 'the' Bombay eatery in East London (and now also Covent Garden), Dishoom, twice. I've known about it forever, and while when it first opened I had no intention of going (I did not like Indian food, remember. You can read more about this here.) until when Evie pulled the menu up on my phone while we were sitting in the back of the 720 bus to West Hollywood did she persuade me to go once I got back to London. It was going to be the place where I really 'tried' and decided if I liked Indian food or not, but then I started cooking it for myself last month. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Weekly Love: Week 119

Things have been pretty much the same for me the past few weeks, in that I've been as insanely busy as usual! I've been juggling classes with working in Westminster and writing this blog, but I've been loving every minute of it. I've also somehow managed to just about finish my Christmas shopping, which is a bit of a shock to me, to be honest. I'm just glad that I did not end up in Selfridges at 5:30pm on a weekday as I had feared I would! 
Weekly Love 131213 1. One snapshot of breakfast at Dishoom two weekends in a row. The Sausage Naan Wraps are to die for, and I'd also recommend the Bloody Mary's and the fruit salad. | 2. Helping out at Number 10 for work, and more importantly getting to meet Larry the cat (who is always curled up asleep) and Lola the simply adorable newcomer, the Osborne's new dog. | 3. Learning to cook traditional Japanese food with KLM to celebrate their new flight routes to Japan. (picture via Tips For Travellers) | 4. On Monday night I was lucky enough to go see Rick Stein Live at the Palladium, I'd done a giveaway for the tickets and they offered me a pair too. It was avery unique show of conversation with Brian Turner, and cooking food from around the world and his travels alongside his son Jack, who is also a brilliant chef. I'm now officially excited for his next TV show, and I now also want his India book, I think that is the only one we don't already own as a family. | 5. A massive thank you to the team at Selfridges for helping my flat smell lovely by way of my new candle obsession, Diptque's Patchoili. | 6. One of the most beautiful (no filter) sunsets I've seen over Canary Wharf from my flat window, which have been happening so much this week.

As some of you may have already seen from my Instagram feed, there is a very good reason to go out and buy either BBC Good Food or Delicious magazine this month. Super awesome baker Richard Bertinet and I have teamed up for Lurpak's new Slow Churned Butter for a little feature that includes a mini interview with each of us (the interviews in each magazine are pretty similar, but do have some differences) and some of Richard's amazing recipes which I can confirm from on set tastings, are absolutely insane. 
DSC_1202 A few weeks ago Pizza Express asked me if I wanted to go and try a few of their new vegetarian dishes on their menu, so over the weekend I went back to Kent to shoot my Mother's Mince Pie recipe I met my parents off the train and we went for a lazy meal at Pizza Express in Canterbury before heading home. I was really excited because while I do love meat, I equally adore veggie dishes, but I found I could not eat any of them because they all contained cheese made with cows milk (or beetroot which I dislike). Luckily my parents could be relied upon to rise to the challenge, so while I munched my way through a sausage pizza above you can see my Father's starter of a mushroom bruschetta. He absolutely loved it, but was a bit confused by the name as it was served on pizza dough. 
This is my Mothers Caprina Rossa Romana Pizza, topped with rocket, beetroot, goat's cheese, red onion, mozzarella, tomato and pesto. She said it was pleasantly surprising; the goat's cheese was not too strong; it was more like a feta that complimented the beetroots which had a great flavour. She thought it was a really great flavour combo, and made a nice, crisp, change from a margarita. 

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I'm just tying up a few loose ends in the city before I head home to Kent for Christmas and all things festive. Up first I think the Christmas tree needs sorting! 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: For The Globetrotter

For the third and final instalment of my Holiday Gift Guides this year I'm focusing on gifts for The Globetrotter; the person in your life who either is presently bitten by the travel bug, or for people who always have to be hopping on and off planes or into different climates or locations because of work. You can view the three other editions of my gift guides by clicking through: The Total Foodie, The Total Bookworm and The Londoner
Emma Bridgewater Wellington Boots: £38, Bamford Grey Cashmere Travel Socks: £65, Frends Ella Gold Tone Earphones: £85 / $100, Smythson Green Travel Wallet: £395 / $600, Diptique Philosykos Roll On Perfume Oil: £32 / $55, Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat: £25 / $40, J.Crew Red Leather Luggage Label: £30 / $30, J.Crew Striped Ceramic Travel Coffee Cup: £29.50 / $16.50

More from the Diptyque (so glad I've finally learnt to spell that without having to Google it!) Christmas Press Day the other week. When we left we were all treated to a few goodies, including this Philosykos fig perfume oil roll on. I was unsure at first, but now I've fallen head over heels with the rich, earthy and extremely long lasting scent. The elegant roll on has its own protective slip so you can just throw it into your weekend bag, and as well as being a great scent on its own, as it is not much of a blend I've also found it makes a great base for most of the spray on scents I keep in my everyday collection. 

Both ways on my flights to and from Los Angeles I wore flip flops, and while I was really comfortable I wish that I'd had the extra cosy of a good pair of plane socks to snuggle up in while I slept, and these Bamford numbers may be an investment, but I think they would be perfect. Also, when it comes to finding your stuff on the baggage carousel at the end, brightly coloured luggage labels will make your life so much easier, I promise! It is bad enough finding a trolley... 

Finally, perfect for anyone set to visit London any time soon (!), Wellington Boots, or as they are referred to across the pond, Rain Boots. British ceramics brand Emma Bridgewater now make them (they also now make toiletries, apparently, as I discovered in the M&S beauty hall this morning), so pick up a pair as soon as you arrive to keep your feet dry and stylish. 

I hope you have all enjoyed my gift guide series this year, and my picks for your friends and family have been helpful. All I have left to do, pretty much except for one Selfridges trip I know I need to make, is stocking fillers for my parents, but I'm trying to pick those up before I get my groceries each week, early in the morning when the shops are quiet! 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Places To Eat In London: Christmas Lunch Menu at Bill's, Holborn

I have realised recently that because I am both indecisive when looking at menus for the first time, and because I am a creature of habit set menus are my friend as they make ordering my breakfast, lunch or dinner so much easier! So, when the lovely team at Bill's, somewhere I have actually been trying to eat for a while, but has always been full (I've only just started booking tables in places I know will be busy), wanted to know if I wanted to come along and sample their current Christmas menu I jumped at the chance. And obviously, I had to drag one of my regular restaurant partners in crime Sherin along with me, too! 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Places To Eat In London: Rabot 1745, Borough Market

Usually I don't get excited about new restaurants. Yes, I get excited that there will be somewhere great and new to eat, but I don't have that thing about rushing out to try somewhere as soon as it opens. I'm perfectly happy to wait around until it is convenient for me, or the big primary rush is over before I try somewhere. However, when I heard that Hotel Chocolat, one of my favourite companies was opening an outpost of their St. Lucia Estate restaurant Rabot 1745 in one of my favourite places in London, Borough Market, I got very excited.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Borough Market Challenge #3: Spiced Potato & Squash Soup

This third instalment of my 'Borough Market Challenge' was supposed to highlight an ingredient I'm obsessed with putting in everything at the moment, Butternut Squash, and while here I think I've created a pretty delicious soup, I'm rather disappointed by it. It is spicy, full of flavour and has a wonderfully smooth and velvety texture. The problem is, that while it would not quite taste right without the inclusion of the squash, you can't really taste it distinctly there, either. Yes, I seriously underestimated the potato.
DSC_1329 DSC_1331
However, I digress. This soup is the perfect Autumn Winter warmer, and makes one massive bowl for one, if you are very hungry (it is rather filling) or two small lunch sized bowls for two, or for a starter if your main is going to be a little bit lighter. Both my potato, and my squash which I love because it is a pigmy, like me (I'm only little!) and perfect for the likes of just me to enjoy rather than a supermarket sized larger one, from Chegwarth Farm, by the entrance of the market you'd come into if you were emerging from London Bridge Underground. While some of my spices are old store cupboard finds that I picked up at the supermarket, I now buy all my spices from one of my favourite spice designations, Spice Market opposite Chegwarth. 
DSC_1156 DSC_1321
While most people for seasoning grab the salt and pepper, I have used my favourite Breton Fleur de Sel to season this soup, but in place of the pepper I have used fresh lemon juice. Since discovering last month that I do indeed like Indian food I've been experimenting a lot. Stay tuned at some stage for my go to curry recipe, a hybrid of a few traditional recipes I'm trying and a base recipe my friend Amy sent me. Anyway, so when I made the Indian Spiced Potatoes from Mr. Todiwala's Bombay I realised that lemon juice makes a fantastic seasoning, and as the spices used in this soup are almost identical to those on the potatoes, I decided that using fresh lemon would also be the way forward here, with absolutely fantastic results. 
I was playing around here topping the soup with cumin seeds straight from the tub to cut corners, but I found that you don't get that same crunch and fantastic flavour as when you toast them first. Therefore, when you are toasting them at the start to go in the soup, add a couple of extra pinches then fish them out again to set aside for the garnish, before adding the oil and vegetables. 

  • 1 Large Potato
  • 1 Small Butternut Squash
  • 300ml (10.5 oz) Chicken Stock (you can make your own here
  • 1 tsp + Extra Cumin Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • Large Pinch Dried Chilli (Red Pepper) Flakes
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Lemon Juice

Peel the potato and the squash and chop them into small pieces. Heat a large saucepan and dry fry the cumin seeds and the chilli flakes for a few minutes until they are aromatic and jumping around in the pan a bit. Set aside some of the cumin seeds for your garnish. Add the oil, the vegetable cubes and the tumeric, and gently fry for about 5 minutes to allow the squash and the potato to soften slightly. It does not really matter, but you'll get a quicker cooking time if you use a softer potato variety. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Allow to cook away like this for 20 minutes until the potato and squash pieces are cooked through. Blend until smooth with a stick blender, and return the pan to the heat to heat through. Season to taste with fresh lemon juice and sea salt, then garnish on top with the set aside cumin seeds and a squeeze of fresh lemon. 

You've probably noticed that I'm pretty obsessed with Winter soups, I have at least two more I want to share with you before the season is out, but for now I want to leave you with three perfectly seasonal soup links from my archives: Pea & Mozzarella Soup, A Basic Chicken Soup and A Warming Carrot Soup. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Christmas Kitchen for Selfridges: Leftover Christmas Pudding, Brandy Buttercream & Bitter Marmalade Parfait

The one issue I took with department stores in America is that they did not have food halls. When it is quiet, the Selfridges Food Hall is one of my favourite places in London, and they stock some of my favourite treats and lunches for when I am on the go. So, when Selfridges got in touch with me to see if I wanted to try one of their Christmas hampers this year, which the challenge of putting together my own Christmas treat with some of the items in the hamper, I jumped at the chance. Not only would collaborating with my favourite department store be fun, but I thought it might be nice to put together something everyone can make with Christmas excess or leftovers. Hands up who gets a little sick of Christmas pudding after a few days?

Monday, 2 December 2013

Christmas Kitchen: Mummy's Mince Pies

Now, for the first recipe from my Christmas Kitchen this year, I want to share a family recipe with you that is not really mine. Last year I had lots of requests for a Mince Pie recipe, but I have a secret to share. While I will still munch on one or two, I'm not really the worlds biggest Mince Pie fan. I can take them or leave them, and I actually feel the same about Christmas Pudding too. So, when I was down at the farm a few weekends ago I asked my Mother if she'd make a batch of her special Mince Pies early so I could blog the recipe.