Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Vegan Watermelon Sorbet and an Easy Watermelon Cocktail


I had a real ‘I carried a watermelon’ moment on holiday. My husband and I were staying in a small village in Gozo (an island off Malta) and had walked to the local grocery shop to buy food for the week, having been told the shop would deliver. Forget Tesco two-hour delivery slots: we purchased our groceries, told to pack it into an empty cardboard box and leave it in the corner, and they would bring it to us in about half an hour.
 
Almost an hour later there was no sign so I left my husband in our rooms and went over to the reception of our apartment complex - and found the delivery driver there asking directions. I hopped in his car and we drove over to our building, where he proceeded to unload the car. I asked if I could carry anything, which is how I ended up ringing the bell on our apartment door, and my husband opened it to find me standing there holding a giant round fruit and uttering the immortal line from Dirty Dancing: “I carried a watermelon!”.
 
Watermelon is delicious when the weather is hot; you can freeze it in cubes or munch on a whole slice. There are loads of recipes you can make with watermelon as well.

Watermelon cocktail
 
While I was in Gozo I made an impromptu watermelon cocktail given I had very few tools and ingredients; cut a few chunks of watermelon and discard the seeds and muddle in the bottom of a tumbler until the watermelon has broken down a bit (you could also put it in a blender if you wanted a smoother drink).
 
Add a splash of rose wine (or more than a splash, if you like) and top up with lemonade. If possible, enjoy beside the swimming pool as I did!
 
Watermelon Sorbet
 
We had a barbecue last weekend despite the weather, as it had been organised several weeks in advance and there wasn’t a suitable date we could postpone to. It was rainy and not particularly warm so most people were indoors – luckily we have a gas barbecue with a lid so we could still cook outside!
 
I made a couple of desserts in advance, including the chocolate ice cream from a KitchenAid recipe I made once before (but leaving out the chocolate chips this time), which is delicious. I needed a vegan dessert as well and decided to make a very simple watermelon sorbet. Simply dice some watermelon and remove the black seeds and put in a blender with some sugar syrup (which you can buy in a bottle or make yourself). Spoon into a plastic container and freeze overnight or longer. You will need to take the sorbet out of the freezer for an hour or so before you want to serve, as it will be rock solid; after an hour at room temperature you can scoop it into bowls and enjoy.
 
 
I was so busy at the barbecue I forgot to take a better photo!
This month’s Food ‘n’ Flix challenge is hosted by Chef Sarah Elizabeth who has chosen the film Dirty Dancing. I loved this film as a teenager and there’s something very timeless about it even though it’s 30 years old (I can’t believe that!). The idea of the challenge is to share a recipe inspired by the film and having had my own ‘I carried a watermelon’ moment, that was the inspiration I chose.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 30

We had a barbecue at the weekend which was fun despite the weather - the rain put some people off though and we had about half the number of guests we expected, so we have a lot of leftover food! I need to eat healthily though it's tempting to try to use up all the leftover food as well, so I'm going to allow myself one 'treat' meal then get back on the healthy eating bandwagon - especially as I'm away for a bit at the weekend visiting my sister and her partner and my baby niece.

Monday
Breakfast  porridge
Lunch chicken salad
Dinner hotdogs and leftover potato salad

Tuesday
Breakfast yogurt
Lunch jacket potato with tuna
Dinner chicken pasta carbonara in the slow cooker

Wednesday
Breakfast yogurt
Lunch chicken salad
Dinner not sure as I will be home a bit late - going shopping after work for some bits for my niece

Thursday
Breakfast yogurt
Lunch chicken salad
Dinner pie and mash

Friday
Breakfast porridge
Lunch tuna sandwich
Dinner at my sister's

Saturday
Breakfast at my sister's
Lunch at my sister's
Dinner back late so will decide what to eat based on when I get home

Sunday
Breakfast TBA - might have a lie in for the first time in weeks!
Lunch bacon sandwich for him, mackerel in mustard sauce on toast for me
Dinner roast chicken

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Charlotte Tilbury, Blow Ltd and the Delaney, Aldwych, London

For my birthday this year I had a day of pampering. I'd gotten a voucher for a makeup session at Charlotte Tilbury in Covent Garden for Christmas which I had booked to do on my birthday which was a Saturday at the end of April.
 

It didn't get off to the best start as I realised in the morning I'd had no email confirmation, as I'd booked over the phone, so I rang just to double check all was ok - only to find they had no record of my booking! Naturally I wasn't thrilled but luckily the manager said they could fit me in anyway at the time I had booked for (since I had booked a blow dry elsewhere afterwards).

I had a two hour session and was shown looks for daytime and evening, perched awkwardly on a high stool in front of a huge mirror with lights around the edge, feeling slightly crammed in next to the other women (most of whom had brought a friend or their mum) seated around me. I think I expected the session to be more of a makeup tutorial and there was a degree of finding colours and looks that suited me but I'm not sure I took a lot in about how it was being applied which was a bit of a shame.

I didn't realise as well that their two hour session is quite unusual and most people have an hour. It was described on the website as a 'makeup wardrobe' to find colours and a look that suits, but when I had the conversation with the manager about how they had lost my booking, she said they didn't offer the makeup wardrobe session any more and it shouldn't have been on the website (though it was) and that the person taking my booking shouldn't have done so in the first place! They did honour the booking and give me the session I had booked and paid for but I could tell that after about an hour and a half the girl doing my makeup was really struggling for something to do and it was a bit like 'shall we add an extra bit of highlighter'... still she did her best and did a good job and I was happy  with the rest (though I'd advise anyone else to just book the one hour session) - and ended up buying several products to take home. The manager even slipped an extra product into my bag to make up for the confusion over my booking.


Then it was on to Blow Ltd, a blow-dry bar in nearby St Martin's Courtyard. They don't do hair cuts but will style your hair in a selection of styles, and also do hair and makeup. There was only one other person in there having her hair done at the time who turned out to be one of the other stylists - they were quiet so were practising on each other! I was surprised they weren't busier for 5pm on a Saturday afternoon but I'd never heard of this place before until I was googling where to get a blow dry. They did a great blow dry and the girl was happy to adapt the style to my hair type and talked to me about what I wanted rather than just have me point to one of the eight options pictured on the wall. I'd definitely go back and get another blow dry if funds allowed - though I'm not normally the type of person to get glammed up to go out on a Saturday night!

I met my husband outside and his reaction to both the hair and makeup was 'wow'. He'd come in to London to meet me to take me for a birthday dinner. My criteria for choosing a restaurant was 1) somewhere I hadn't been before 2) somewhere near Covent Garden 3) somewhere worthy of a birthday dinner 4) somewhere with a menu that would suit both me and my fussy-eater husband.

I found the Delaunay online and couldn't believe I'd never heard of it before. It's run by the same people as the Wolseley, a high-end restaurant my husband and I went to for my birthday a couple of years ago. It stands on the corner of Aldwych and Drury Lane and is apparently popular for pre-and post-theatre dining, which explains why it was really busy when we arrived then emptied out dramatically just before 7.30!

The other reason I was surprised I hadn't heard of this place is because I love German food, having twice lived in Germany. The Delaunay describes itself as a European cafe - it has a cafe section and the main restaurant - but from looking at the menu the food seems to be German or Austrian-inspir ed. There's a fair bit of seafood including crab and oysters, sardines and scallops, and 'normal' things like a burger but the fact that the eggs section is called Eier and the daily specials Tagesteller is a bit of a giveaway. They have Wiener Schnitzel and chickens schnitzel , a whole section of German sausages and a dessert selection that is decidedly Germanic, from Black Forest Gateau to Sachertorte to apple strudel.



I was in heaven. My husband had their chicken schnitzel which he'd eaten in Austria and really enjoyed, and I picked a mixture of two types of sausage - a Frankfurter and a Berber Wurstel, which was a pork and garlic sausage, stuffed with Emmental cheese down the middle, and wrapped in bacon. It came with a small portion of potatoes and sauerkraut (I love sauerkraut and don't think I've ever had it in a restaurant in the UK before) - but as I didn't know it came with those, I'd ordered a side of spƤtzle, which is like a kind of pasta that you typically get in southern Germany and Austria.

 
 
The cheese was actually a bit much with the richness of the sausage and if I had this again I'd stick to a plain sausage, but otherwise it was really good. For dessert I had a piece of strudel which came with an edible biscuit plaque where the restaurant had written a happy birthday message - I must have mentioned my birthday when I booked, which I thought was a nice touch. So if you are yearning for a little bit of Germany and Austria in London, or just want to try something a bit different, I strongly recommend the Delaunay.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 29

Back at work after two weeks holiday (though I was only actually on holiday in Malta for a week). In some ways I'm looking forward to going back to a routine and healthy eating though there are actually several things happening this week that might alter that a bit!

Monday
Breakfast: porridge and fruit juice.
Lunch chicken salad
Dinner quick chicken cacciatore - make 1 extra portion and freeze. At least that was the plan, I discovered at 7.30pm I didn't have any tinned tomatoes or passata so used a jar of pasta sauce instead and basically we are having spaghetti with a chicken breast for dinner. Damn.

Tuesday
Breakfast out at a work event
Lunch out at a work event
Dinner out at a work event

Wednesday
Breakfast yogurt and Scotch pancakes
Lunch chicken and mango salad
Dinner out with friends

Thursday
Breakfast yogurt and Scotch pancakes
Lunch chicken and mango salad
Dinner going shopping after work for our bbq so something quick and easy

Friday
Breakfast wholemeal toasted bagel with peanut butter
Lunch chicken and mango salad
Dinner pasta with tuna and tomato sauce was the original plan but after a bit of a disaster on Monday I think I'd better do something else. I think salmon with new potatoes would be nice.

Saturday
Breakfast yogurt and muesli
Lunch baked potato and cottage cheese
Dinner hosting a BBQ

Sunday
Breakfast with the friends who are staying over, one of whom is vegan: I found a recipe for vegan French toast which looks nice
Lunch the above may end up being brunch; otherwise something like salmon pate on ryvita. My husband can have a bacon sandwich
Dinner probably leftover barbecue food!

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Boozy Brownies

 
These chocolate brownies are definitely not suitable for children! They're great for an adults-only party or barbecue, though I made them as a gift for a friend who had been through a tough time lately. He seemed pretty pleased with them when I described what was in the brownies!

The recipe comes from Bake in Black - Music-Inspired Baking by Eve and David O'Sullivan which I reviewed when it came out. I hadn't made anything from this book in a while so when I decided to bake something for my friend, had a flick through until I came to a recipe I could make fairly quickly and easily and that I could package up to give to him. Chocolate brownies it was!

The recipe is actually called Whiskey in the Bar- all the recipes in the book are inspired by music and this one is apparently Thin Lizzy. They are raisin and whiskey brownies with an Irish cream liqueur glaze - they came out gooey even though I extended the cooking time, and they taste amazing!
 

Makes 12
150g raisins
4 tbsp. Irish whiskey - though I didn't have any and used Jack Daniels
250g milk chocolate
200g butter
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
60g plain flour
60g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

for the glaze:
50ml Irish cream liqueur
75g milk chocolate

Soak the raisins in the whiskey for at least half an hour.

When you are ready to begin baking, preheat the oven to 180C and grease a 20x20cm square cake tin.

Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or a bain-marie. Meanwhile in a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar and beat in the eggs. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix gently so it is all combined.

Add the raisins and the whiskey and fold in the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Pour into the baking tin and level the top; bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes [mine took more like 45, after I checked it a couple of times] until still squidgy but not raw in the middle when you test with a skewer. The skewer should emerge a bit sticky but not with raw brownie mixture on it.



Allow the brownies to cool in the tin. Make the drizzle when the brownies have cooled; heat the cream liqueur in a pan or a bowl in the microwave until just bubbling. Add the broken up chocolate and stir until smooth. Spread over the top of the brownies; the glaze will harden and you can then cut the brownies into squares.


I love Baileys but didn't have any and drinks like this don't actually keep that long - so if you have a bottle on the go that's great but I would advise against opening a new bottle for this recipe if you then aren't going to drink the rest (not on your own obviously!). Instead I found something really handy in Lidl a few months ago - a box of cream liqueur pots, like the milk you get in hotel rooms; you can open one or two as you want them and the rest will keep. Great if you just want the occasional drink or want to use in a recipe (or pour over ice cream perhaps?).

 
I'm sharing these with We Should Cocoa over at Tin and Thyme  and Treat Petite hosted by Kat the Baking Explorer.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Restaurant review: Absurd Bird, Spitalfields, London

Well don't you know about the bird? Well everybody knows the bird is the word!

Unless you were a fan of a pop group called The Trashmen in 1963 if this phrase rings any bells it's more likely to be because of Family Guy (Seth Macfarlane is a genius,  fact). I had the song firmly in my head when I had lunch with a friend at Absurd Bird in Spitalfields recently. The food is inspired by the Deep South, London food vans and 'a huge dose of fun and irony'. As well as free-range chicken they boast secret-recipe sauces, irresistible sides and 'insanely good' desserts baked in-house.

There were so many things I wanted to try from the menu it was a tough decision, from the mac and cheese with smoked chicken and bacon to the grilled chicken itself; I went for the BBQ pulled smoked chicken sandwich which came with pulled chicken, BBQ sauce, crispy onions and a potato bun. To be honest the bun didn't taste much different from a normal bread roll by the time all the other flavours were competing for attention in my mouth! The onions were deep fried, a bit like sections of onion rings, which I didn't really like as I could taste the batter more than the onion, but otherwise the burger was really good - and really messy!


There's a lunchtime menu on weekdays featuring six dishes at £6 (plus an extra £2 for fries) which my friend chose from; his fried chicken burger was a lot cheaper than the £10.80 mine cost and he kept casting envious glances in my direction.

We were too stuffed to contemplate dessert and were just about coming to the end of our lunch break anyway. This is definitely one of the hidden gems of Spitalfields - not in the main covered market area but not far away, along a street filled with eclectic shops but with an unpreposessing entrance that I'd missed despite having walked past it several times. But it's well worth seeking out - as the bird is the word.





Friday, July 14, 2017

Shop For Shoes and Nobody Gets Hurt Birthday Card

My mum has such tiny feet she finds it very hard to buy shoes, having to resort to the children's section which is fine if you want black 'school shoes' but if you want a pair of summer sandals, it can be hard to find ones without flowers, butterflies or sparkles! On occasion I've trawled every shoe shop in town with my mum looking for a particular type of shoe, so when I saw this stamp in a set from Born to Shop by Do Crafts I knew it would make the perfect birthday card for her.

 
It's the top left stamp in this pack with a picture of a lady holding several bags and shoe boxes, and the words 'let me shop for shoes, and nobody gets hurt'. It made me laugh and hopefully my mum did too!
 
I had some backing paper I'd printed out from a craft site years ago with pink shoes and the words 'happy birthday' throughout; I covered half a square card blank and also one corner, and edged both off with a border. I coloured in the stamp with Promarkers pens.
 

And as for my mum? When I got married last year I found her the perfect pair of shoes to go with her outfit from John Lewis' Rainbow Club range - they were ivory which went with the colours in her dress but best of all, the shoes can be taken back to John Lewis and dyed in another colour which will give her the perfect new pair of heels for any occasion.

I'm entering this in the Naughty or Nice card making challenge where the theme is 'if the shoe fits'.