2016 was a funny year, with the first half pretty much entirely spent writing and photographing recipes like crazy (more on that soon), and with the rest bouncing around between London, Canterbury and parts of France. Work (as it was for practically everyone who works in politics or current affairs) was utterly mental, so at home cooking for myself and my family was my place of sanity. 2017 is going to be an absolutely massive year for me both personally and professionally with so many big changes, so I wanted to take a moment to look back on the year that has past before we ring in the New Year at some of my favourite blog bits of 2016.
Friday, 30 December 2016
Thursday, 29 December 2016
For my final recipe for 2016, with New Years Eve coming up I decided the arrival of these simply stunning champagne coupes from The White Company (sadly they don't sell them anymore, but I'd 100% recommend getting some to enjoy at home, there are some great options here) would be the perfect excuse to share my personal recipe for the ultimate classic (and one of my wintertime favourites): the Classic Champagne Cocktail. All you need is some Cognac (or brandy if that is more your style), Angostura Bitters (even Tesco sell them these days), sugar and ice cold bubbles (preferably champagne, but I'm not going to stop you if you want to use Prosecco (you know it is just carbonated wine, right?), Cava or English sparkling wine instead!)
Wednesday, 28 December 2016
January to November are the months where we eat other peoples canapés, and December is the month when we actually go the the effort of making our own. My mother and I are hosting a massive New Years Eve party this year (I am so excited for the fireworks!) and we've put a lot of thought and planning into the party spread. Just some of the treats we'll be putting out are my Mummy's famous Classic Cheese Straws, my Easy DIY Gin & Dill Cured Salmon on a couple of bilinis, and these Honey & Worcestershire Cocktail Sauces, inspired by something my boss had me put together in his kitchen ahead of a drinks party he was hosting last year.
Monday, 26 December 2016
2016 has been the first year I have managed to keep a New Years Resolution (aside from an ill-advised Dry January one year) from January to December. I've always been ambivalent towards the concept of New Years Resolutions, never really seeing much point in them. However, last year I looked around me and saw my rapidly expanding cookbook collection, that I really did not cook from enough, and decided to challange myself to do something that would not only help me get to know my collection in a way other than reading them cover to cover, but that I also hoped would make me a better cook: throught 2016, I have cooked one brand new recipe (that I had not tried before, essentially) from a cook book every single week, without fail.
Thursday, 22 December 2016
In case you did not know, I do take reader requests, so if you're stuck for a festive Christmas Eve dessert, I'm sharing my go-to recipe for a classic chocolate yule log today, as a couple of you have asked me this year how I make mine. It is really easy to do (though it includes a bit more kitchen equipment and a few more bowls than my recipes usually go for), looks really impressive, and is usually a hit all round. It's adapted from my Christmas bible, Nigella Lawson's Feast, because her swiss roll sponge can't be improved on, but I've gone for a lighter, creamier filling, a little less chocolate in the frosting (I know, trust me!) and the obvious adult addition of brandy (but you can equally leave it out if you don't want to give it to young children, too.)
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
A little break from all things festive, before the year ends I wanted to share a few (mostly food related) snapshots from my weeks break at the French house. Mostly it was just good to get away. We spent our days reading on the upstairs sofa, watching movies in front of the fire, eating local oysters, and drinking bottles of fizz and Clementine 75 cocktails. It was also great to get out for a few walks in the quiet, frosty forest, and to visit a few of my favourite restaurants. We also stocked up on so many festive treats to bring back with us.
Monday, 19 December 2016
I've probably told this story before, but since I moved back from California every year our family has had a traditional Christmas breakfast: buttermilk waffles, slightly crispy streaky bacon, lashings of maple syrup, and copious amounts of Bucks Fizz (what you call a Mimosa if you're British!) Every year I try to tweak our breakfast to make it the best it can be. Last year, I finally nailed our waffles, and this year, I've decided we can do a little better than simply mixing a bottle of Innocent orange juice and a bottle of champagne: meet my fresh clementine twist on the classic French 75, made with a little less gin and a little more fruit juice and fizz, designed to be a little lighter especially to kick off the festivities on Christmas morning.
Friday, 16 December 2016
Even as the festive period was starting to get into the swing of things I was feeling a little blue, so I decided that high season for Cancale oysters (and other assorted local Brittany shellfish) provided the perfect excuse to take off for a week in the Brittany countryside in the stone barn my parents and I have been converting for the past decade near the coast. We watched lots of films, I read lots of books (my favourites? The Lady and the Poet if you're into late Elizabethan historical romance, and The Edible Atlas if you want to be taken on a rather mouthwatering and informative culinary tour around the world), and of course ate a lot of oysters accompanied by the requisite Christmas fizz. Oh, and I perfected my recipe for a creamy, white wine and mustard spiked mushroom sauce which we spooned over grilled veal chops in the evenings.
1. A bottle of Clairette de Die and local Cancale oysters in front of a Christmas movie on holiday in Brittany. Our favourite afternoon films from the trip? The Imitation Game (so moving) and The Rewrite (yet another Hugh Grant rom-com I did not know I needed!) | 2. Picking out a massive Christmas tree (we went for one bigger than this in the end!) Oh, and the scarf I'm wearing in this picture is basically the warmest, cosiest thing ever (and is not too expensive either). They have loads of different colours, too! | 3. Christmas lights in Canterbury. | 4. Enjoying an early Christmas present from my parents: a Brittany Blue lobster, langoustine and Cancale oyster Fruits de Mer platter in Cancale. | 5. Canterbury Cathedral at Christmas. | 6. Walking through Combourg's Monday market on the way to lunch: December is all about so many different types of cabbage (some as big as my head!), squashes, and enough leeks to feed an army.
Thursday, 15 December 2016
"Please pass the brussels sprouts" is something you'll never hear in our Christmas household. My mother loves them, but for years and years my Dad and I thought they were the root of all Christmas evil (and he still does). However, over the past year or so I have discovered how wonderful a brussels sprout can be when it is shredded and tossed in salads, seasonal slaws, or added to soups and stews. This year? I've gone down the sauté route with fresh thyme (the herb that happened to be in my fridge when I made these and worked beautifully), sweet nuggets of roasted chestnut, salty chunks of fried pancetta, a sprinkling of toasted caraway seeds, and a good few glugs of Worcestershire Sauce to brighten things up a bit.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016
Growing up, my Dad occasionally made a Christmas ham. I remember it sometimes being on the plate with the leftover turkey and stuffing when his family came over for Boxing Day, but a Christmas ham did not start to become a 'thing' in our house until the year I sat down and read Nigella Lawson's Feast cover to cover (yes, Nigella is my guru for all recipes Christmas!) In the week before Christmas ever since I've made her Ham in Cherry Coke with its beautiful cherry, paprika and clove glaze, but this year I found a great shortcut which will make your life a little easier if your a first time ham maker (process on paper can look a little intimidating!)
Monday, 12 December 2016
I love finding exciting new restaurants with unique, out there cuisines, so sometimes I neglect places that everyone loves, that does good, traditional dishes. For example, before I settled in for a very late lunch the other week at the branch of Hawksmoor in Knightsbridge, I could not remember the last time I had a meal at a proper steakhouse. The team at Bookatable again invited me along to try one of their Star Deals (the last one I reviewed was at Hutong up the Shard), so I decided a good steak at Hawksmoor would be just the ticket.
Friday, 9 December 2016
Before Tuesday, I had not had a really, really great burger in ages. Before catching an evening performance of This House at the Garrick Theatre (if you're at all into post-1945 modern British political theatre (it was my dissertation topic, actually) or current affairs, try to get tickets because it was a fantastic performance) - with a detour to see the twinkly Christmas lights at the Rosewood opposite - we headed down into the basement on High Holborn to a little know, hidden burger pop up you need to check out this Christmas: Haché x Holborn.
Thursday, 8 December 2016
I was listening to Nigella Lawson's Christmas podcast about preparing for people unexpectedly stopping by who need feeding over the festive period, and about taking the stress out of festive cooking the other day. It reminded me of my favourite, make-ahead dessert that can be made in many number of incarnations, and just stashed in the freezer: the ice cream terrine (or, a tub of ice cream mashed up with the things you'd usually use as toppings, before being smooshed into a loaf tin, and re-frozen ready for slicing!)
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
So now we've done the Christmas gift guides, and I've shown you all the beautiful Christmas windows in Canterbury where I was helping judge their annual competition again this year, it is time for Christmas food. I've got lots of new recipes to share with you over the next few weeks, but I thought I would run through some of my festive recipes from the past few years, to help you plan your seasonal menus over the festive period!
Monday, 5 December 2016
On Saturday I was honoured to be asked to help judge the Canterbury Christmas Windows again this year (you can see all of the windows we judged last year here), so I spent the afternoon with a cup of hot peppermint tea and a clipboard checking out the simply beautiful displays shopkeepers have put together all over the city for Christmas. There were so many fantastic entries, and there would be about 100 photos in this post if I showed them all to you, so to help you get into the festive spirit I thought I'd share a few of my favourites!
Friday, 2 December 2016
Happy December everyone! 'Tis the season for steaming cups of mulled wine in cozy London pubs (already ticked that one off of my list this week!), advent calendars, twinkly lights and The White Company's 'Winter' scented candle. My diary is already packed with festive fun (and I still need to pencil in time to go and pick out the Christmas tree, and to go and see Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them!), and I already have a massive list of seasonal eats I can't wait to get into the kitchen to create. If you're looking for some seasonal inspiration, you can find all of my festive blog posts here, and you can find my festive Pinterest board here.
1. Deathly cold, but beautifully clear and sunny days walking around London. | 2. Brunching during my lunch break on Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict at Hope & Lane in Walmer. | 3. Beautiful climbing Autumn foliage, everywhere. | 4. Egg Pots and Skinny Bunny Smoothies at The Skinny Kitchen in Canterbury. | 5. Neon lights at night on Canterbury High Street. | 6. Monday night supper at the Pork & Co. cafe, again in Canterbury!