Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Spanish Figs, with Serrano Ham and Blue Cheese

Just a very quick one. As I think I might have mentioned (!!) I spent an idyllic few weeks in Spain in August for my sister’s wedding followed by a much needed holiday. My parents have a house in the Sierra de Gredos region which is a beautiful and remote part of Spain just  a couple of hours from Madrid. This is the sort of place you come to get away from the stresses of the city and just chill. The land used to be a proper working farm and we still have a lovely little veg patch, lots of cherry trees and figs. The cherries over, we were pretty happy to just have our fill of the figs that were bursting from the trees when we were needing an energy boost after all that sun bathing!

A totally inspired  idea was that of figs, Serrano ham and blue cheese which we had for lunch one day with a big salad that was made from just picked lettuce, onions and tomatoes.

Figs, stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in Serrano ham
-          As many ripe figs as you think you’ll eat (2 per person is good for a starter)
-          A lump of blue cheese, something quite soft and crumbly is good
-          Thinly sliced Serrano ham, a slice per fig
-          Runny honey for drizzling
-          Pepper to season

It’s really not necessary to be prescriptive with this, but  here are some general steps to follow:

1.       Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
2.       Evenly place the fig flat side down on a baking tray and split them open with a cross.
3.       Once you’ve opened up the figs, stuff them with as much or little blue cheese as you like, but be careful not to overfill them as they can get quite messy.
4.       Wrap each fig with a slice of Serrano ham and place on the tray and season. The cheese and ham are pretty salty so pepper should be fine.
5.       Once all the figs are done, drizzle with a little honey and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the ham is starting to crisp slightly and the cheese is melted.
6.       Eat quickly, when warm!

Now that Autumn is really in full swing, this is a nice way to bring back the taste of summer...

If you (like me) think that being in a stunning house in the middle of breathtaking scenery is a proper holiday then you can check out my parent house here, which is available for rentals: www.lahaciendadegredos.com

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Autumn Days

How is it here already??? It’s bloody September and soon it’ll be October (see they taught me well at school), and I’m trying to come terms with the fact that our poor excuse for a British summer is over for another year.
So there I was mooning after the sunshine and sat on a Eurostar with no wifi and I decided to take a little look through some old photos of last autumn. Photos that made me realise there are actually some good things about autumn as well. Please see below:
1.       Wrapping up warm
After the summer sun has finally vanished, there’s something quite satisfying about having to get back into your thermals. Last November Ben borrowed his dad’s incredible AC Ace and took me to Tom Kerridge’s 2 Michelin starred pub, the Hand and Flower in Marlow. A beautiful day, incredible meal and a very good reason to dig out the woollies. 

2.       Beautiful light
I’m not much of a photographer but I can’t help but notice that the light in autumn is just beautiful. Long walks around London are one of my favourite pastimes and I think that these snaps epitomize a sunny autumn day in West London.
3.       Food
Big, hearty meals are suddenly all you ever feel like eating. Stews, casseroles, cooked breakfasts all start creeping back into my diet. Ben and I usually like to try and take a day off in November just to chill out in London, get some early Christmas shopping done and eat, eat, eat. Last year this started with a hangover and a big hearty breakfast....
So, three things to be happy about for now. Plus there’s one other thing that is kinda making me think that the frost and pants weather is worth it; as of Monday, October 1st, I will be officially training to be a chef. Amazing. I’ve been saving every penny I can for the past year to get myself in a position where I’m able to do this and, fingers crossed, it’s all just about to pay off!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Summer Update

Boy oh boy! It has been one hell of a summer and I have been none stop busy and completely unable to think straight, let alone get around to paying attention to my poor, lonely blog. Why so busy? WELL, I bought my first flat, I celebrated a birthday in the South of France, I joined the photo shoot for my mates’ new album cover, I danced the nights away at latitude festival, I planned and partied at my sister’s hen, I helped my lovely friends with the launch of their online boutique, my sister got married, I made the cake (!),   I joined in the London Olympic party spirit with gusto, I got to see blur (twice) and my sister got married again at our house in Spain...See what I mean?!

It’s been amazing but a bit of whirlwind, so here is a brief update in pictures:

First off, the flat. After months of waiting, my sister and I finally completed on the flat of our dreams in Brixton. It’s a stunner and we are the happiest little ladies in the whole of South West London. Yes, it still needs a lot of attention and new furniture  but it has such beautiful light and space and, after years of renting, we finally have a home to call our own. Hoorah!

My good buddy Alyshia took a few of us to her hotel in Cap Ferrat in the South of France to celebrate her birthday. Wow! The generosity her family showed us was beyond anything we could’ve expected and I don’t think any of us will be forgetting their yacht in a hurry...
I just happened to grow up with a few of the lovely and talented guys from Mumford & Sons so, when they needed a few pals to help them take pictures for their new album cover, I was delighted to help. The day ended in a food fight and I was digging food out of my bra for hours after, but oh what fun. I’m so tiny and blurred, I thought I’d give you a helping hand in spotting me...


LATITUDE. My friend Neil was running the hilarious comedy shed for Monster Comedy and we used it as a base for the whole weekend. When we weren’t laughing our heads off, we were watching some cracking music. It was also pretty cool to run into Brittany from the Alabama Shakes whilst treating myself to a late night noodle feast.

I planned a pretty awesome hen party for my sister Mary with a few of her wonderful friends and a couple of other sisters. A blast from start to finish with a suitably whopping great hangover the next day
My gorgeous friends Rachel and Lucy launched an online accessories boutique and, oh wow, it is really something special. They asked me to a bit of modelling (in the loosest sense of the word)  and I was lucky enough to get a preview of all their wonderfully cool and quirky stock. LOVE indeed. Looky looky at the beauties on my feet, hands, neck...check it out!  www.fromlondonwithlove.com

My bootiful sister Mary got married to the wonderful Nick from our house in Wimbledon. All five of us sisters were back together as my biggest one Katie came back from Hong Kong for the big day. It was so special and the happiest of days

Aaaand, I made the cake...

 The Olympics came to London and I totally surprised myself at how much I loved it. I didn’t have any tickets but that didn’t stop me!

My sisters and I all had tickets to see the incredible blur at the end of the Olympics, but, GET THIS, my clever friend Mei managed to also wangle two tickets to a last minute blur gig at the 100 Club on Oxford Street. That’s a capacity of 350 people. As you can imagine it was incredible, yes we nearly died and I may have broken a few ribs but to see blur with 350 people one week and 80,000 the next.
SO close!
And then so far...
My sister always wanted to get married at our house in Spain but, for admin reasons, this wasn’t really possible so she ended up having a second beautiful ceremony in the mountains followed by a big ol’ fiesta. I cried like a baby, I danced like a loca lady and I scoffed tapas and paella to my heart’s content.

And finally I got the time to relax for a week by the pool with some of my very bestest friends at my parents Spanish abode. Mmmmm loverly!

So what now? Well exciting times are up ahead as well, but that’s a story for another day .


Monday, 28 May 2012

Stowells Light Wine

I’m the youngest of five sisters who went to an all girls’ school so I think I’m quite good at understanding what women want! SO, when I saw a new low calorie wine was available, I thought it was my selfless duty to try it out and see how it tasted...

What with this being a sort of experiment as to whether the low calorie stuff will ever be a realistic replacement to the kind we all know and love, I thought it would be best to recruit an impartial panel of judges.

The Panel

The Wine


The Scores

6/10: Georgia - "The wine was definitely drinkable (it tasted of cranberries!) but a little sweet to have a lot of it. I think if I were to vary it with some normal rosé or white then it would be an excellent guilt-free treat. "

5/10: Jennie - "I'm pretty undecided. I like the idea of it and would probably drink it again, but I don't think I care enough about the calories to pass up on a good wine for this..."
9/10: Melissa - "It doesn't taste 100% the same as normal wine, but it's still very drinkable. For so few calories it definitely appeals over normal wine!"
9/10: Hellie - "Fruity and elegant, the perfect Sunday night tipple."
8/10: Kirstie - "It was really quite tasty, much more so than I imagined - and great as I am really into running so still being able to enjoy wine is a real plus...Deliiiicious"
7/10: Jess - "Nice fruity flavour, suitable for a summer’s afternoon due to the low alcohol content. Slightly on the sweet side for my tastes."
3/10: Millie - "It tastes like adult Ribena. Not the wine for me!"
And me...
7/10 - I like the idea more than I love the wine itself. As well as the calories, the alcohol content is lower so it is kind of perfect for a summer afternoon in the sunshine. Put it like this...I'm not going to pass up a great bottle of wine for Stowells Light version but I definitely think I would buy it again. I would recommend trying it because those who liked it, really liked it! It's love/hate, but if you're a lover, think of all those calories you could be saving, eh?!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Sunny Lunch in Kensal Rise

I hate to be one of those people who only talks about the weather, but I can’t help looking out of my window at the intense hail storm and dreaming back to two days ago when I was helping my sister and her fiancé with a spot of gardening and having lunch out in the sunshine. Having had horrible, grey and rainy skies for weeks, we spent the whole weekend moseying around outside and just enjoying life for a bit.

It might have been a little premature of us (being that it was pretty chilly when the clouds came out), but we just couldn’t resist eating outside, having a delicious lunch with lots of treats from l’Angolo deli in Kensal Rise. If you’re ever in the College Road area, you must go in and get some of their humous. My sister’s vegetarian fiancé swears it’s the best he’s had...


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

When Lucy met Graham Coxon

A couple of weeks ago a very exciting thing happened to me. Yup, the title of the post probably gave it away...I got to meet one of my all time heroes, Graham Coxon!

This was literally the highlight of my year so far so please excuse my ‘I think I’m going to explode with happiness’ face in this picture. I think we can see that I was just a little more excited by the whole situation than Graham.

I had a million questions to ask him, but when it came down to it, I was just way too nervous and there was a whole room of people listening  to me talk which made me feel like a right wally. Bar all the obvious questions about the music, I was really hoping I could grill him about some foody things and maybe even get a good restaurant recommendation out of him.
Well this wasn’t to be (because I bottled it) but I thought you fellow Coxon / food fans may like to know what this wonderful rockstar has in his dressing room:

Mini chocolate bars (Maltesers, Milky Ways...)
A big fruit selection
Bread/ toast
Yup, that’s it. At least that’s all I could see without snooping too obviously. If only I’d known, I could have won him over with some delicious, homemade treats. What a wasted opportunity...

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Valentine Warner at Pizza Express: a pizza masterclass

On Tuesday evening food bloggers from around London assembled in the downstairs private room at Pizza Express, Holborn. We had been invited to sample Valentine Warner’s two new pizzas for the chain and have the man himself show us how to make them. Well, I didn’t have to be asked twice! I have a huge soft spot for Pizza Express because it’s always a reliable, reasonably priced, good feed (and they quite often have some sort of deal going). I was there like a shot.

So it turns out that Valentine is no stranger to Pizza Express, having worked as a waiter for them several years ago, but how things have now changed! Having offered to produce a new pizza for their menu, Pizza Express granted him creative control over two guest pizzas, the Puttanesca and the Fennel  and Salami, which he developed with their chefs. The former was Valentine’s take on the pasta sauce and a nod to the fact that in Italy pizzas don’t always need to be covered in cheese, the latter, an indulgence in his long standing love of fennel.

First up, the Fennel and Salami. The pizza features the basic passata and mozzarella with fennel salami from Trealy Farm, along with a generous sprinkling of fennel seeds and a restrained helping of chilli flakes. Once cooked, the pizza is topped with rocket and sliced fresh fennel which have been tossed in a lemon dressing. His passion for the ingredients and his enthusiasm for the pizza he had created was apparent and it really came across in the flavours. I LOVE fennel anyway so this was always going to be a winner with me, but the addition of the fennel and rocket  salad with lemon oil made it taste incredibly light and fresh. This pizza isn’t going to be for you if you’re not into fennel, (they even had Trealy Farm create a more intensely flavoured fennel salami specifically for Pizza Express as it was felt the flavour needed to be stronger), but I would urge you try it next time you’re there if you fancy something new because that pizza is gooood!

Next was the Puttanesca, which Valentine himself describes as being a “grown up” pizza. Based on the pasta sauce of the same name, it packs a real punch with salty anchovies, capers, green and black olives, along with the fresh red chillies, lemon oil, lemon zest and garlic oil and finished with fresh oregano after it’s been cooked. These flavours are comparatively mellow in a pasta dish, but generously piled on a pizza it’s pretty intense. Intense in a good way, but I’m not sure I could make my way through a whole one. For me it’s a sharer pizza or the kind of pizza that you would want to get if you were having “one for the table”; essentially what happens when one pizza per person is just not enough!

Valentine’s right, the lack of cheese on the Puttanesca and the strength of the flavours, do make it more of a grown up pizza but it’s still good and worth him taking the risk of being scoffed at by a few purist italians who find the idea of turning a pasta dish into a pizza a bit of a joke. In a way it’s obvious that it would work because those classic flavours blend so well together and even though they’re strong, they aren’t battling with each other.  Valentine insisted on a higher quality of olives than usually found in Pizza Express to be used on this pizza and it makes a difference. For both the Puttanesca and the fennel and Salami, the attention to details and the impact of flavours makes them both worthy of taking a place on the trusty old Pizza Express menu.

It helps that Valentine Warner is friendly and incredibly likeable but the proof of the pizza is in the eating and I definitely think these are going to be big hits for Pizza Express. Me, I have a date with a Fennel and Salami pizza lined up for next week...

My partners in crime  for the night were The London Pizza Bloggers and if you are ever looking for a great pizza in London I would highly recommend them; essentially just a couple of greedy pizza lovers who are making it their mission to sniff out the best pizza joints in London. www.thelondonpizzablog.com