Valentines Date Night Recipe with Lucy Pea

Lucy Pea shares a delicious, quick and easy recipe, perfect for Valentines Day.

Valentine’s Day – always a controversial day with a bit of a Marmite vibe. Some people love it, some hate it. None the less, it’s a good excuse to get in the kitchen and cook something special for your loved one, housemate, best mate etc. So, here’s a really tasty, quick and easy recipe that everyone will love.So, who am I and why am I here - I’m Lucy, and I’m a self-confessed food lover. I’m literally obsessed. I’d spend every waking moment thinking about, talking about, cooking or eating food if I could. I officially work in advertising, but feeding people is what I SHOULD be doing.Follow me @LucyPea_Cooks and I’ll feed you virtually. DM me with a tempting enough proposal, and I’ll happily actually feed you.This Asian influenced marinated salmon dish is so easy, it’s my go-to when I want to recommend a stress-free recipe to friends. I’ve paired it with a colourful slaw salad, which is well worth the little bit of chopping required. You can easily put this together after work.The slaw champions seasonal ingredients that are readily available in the colder months of February, and the salmon is so easy you’ll (hopefully!) return to this again and again for a post-work feed!Top off your Valentine’s evening with my ready in no time pudding, satsuma segments dipped in chocolate and sprinkled in sea salt.

Asian influenced marinated salmon, with a colourful slaw salad

For the Salmon:

1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped (I cheat and use lemongrass paste)

½ thumb of ginger, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 bunch coriander

2 salmon fillets

1 tbsp runny honey

1 chilli, finely chopped

1 lime, zest a quarter

For the Slaw:

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 cabbage, grated

2 carrots, grated

½ pepper, finely sliced

¼ cucumber, peeled into ribbons

4 radishes, finely sliced

Method:

1.Mix the lemongrass, ginger, and garlic with the soy sauce and lime zest. Rub all over the salmon fillets.  Leave to marinate for an hour if you can, or 4 hours + if you’re really prepared.

2.Pre-heat your grill to 200C. Whilst the salmon is marinating, prep and chop all of the ingredients for the salad, mix all the vegetables together.

3.When you’re ready to cook the salmon, brush the ginger and garlic pieces to the side of the salmon (if they’re on the top, they’ll catch and burn on the grill). Brush the salmon with a little runny hunny and put under the grill.

4.Depending on how aggressive your grill is, after around five minutes your salmon should have a nice dark colour. If, like mine, your grill is a bit temperamental, keep half an eye on the salmon whilst it’s in there so it doesn’t blacken too much and start to burn. Once the salmon has browned on top, turn off the grill, close the door and leave the salmon in there for another five minutes.

5.Pour the marinade from the salmon into a bowl, add the juice of the lime and mix. Serve the salmon and salad, pour the marinade on top, and sprinkle over the chilli and chopped coriander.

If you’re particularly hungry, serve the main dish with cooked rice noodles or sweet potato mash.

If you really want a special evening, the best wine for this dish would be a dry Riesling or a Gewürztraminer, both which should hold their own against the richness of the salmon and the Asian flavours in the dish (I worked in wine before I worked in advertising. I like to pair food and wine…).

And for pudding...

If you want to make a simple pudding, why not make these chocolate-salted dipped satsumas too. They’re a tasty, winter-version of the chocolate dipped strawberry (save this for the summer when you can buy local, juicy-sweet strawberries). They are super simple and only take around half an hour to firm up in the fridge.

Salted chocolate dipped satsumas

250g dark chocolate

2 satsumas

Maldon sea salt

Method:

1.Peel the satsumas and take off the pith and separate out the segments.

2.Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie (aka in a heatproof bowl on top of a simmering saucepan of water).

3.Once the chocolate has melted, dip a half of each satsuma segment in the chocolate, put on a plate and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

4.Pop in the fridge and bring them out when you’re ready to eat them! These will also keep for a day or two in the fridge so they’re perfect if you want to make them ahead.

LucyPea Cooks

Talking with Nutritional Therapist Clemmie Macpherson

Clemmie Macpherson is in her final year studying Nutritional Therapy, below she shares some of her favourites with us, along with tips for beating the January blues and her amazing homemade Fish & Chips recipe.

What are you studying and what is your favourite class?

I am in my final year studying Nutritional Therapy at The Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. I love anything to do with digestive health! The Clinical Practice module is also a favourite. This module enables students to see clients in the training clinic at ION. It is the moment where everything you have learnt comes together and you are finally doing what you started the course for!

Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a Nutritional Therapist? 

As a child I suffered with the autoimmune gastrointestinal disease, ulcerative colitis, which resulted in the removal of my large intestine at the age of 11. I lived with a colostomy bag until the age of 18 when I was connected back together again. Throughout my illness I was never offered nutritional guidance and it was suggested that diet did not make any difference. It wasn’t until I was unwell again at the age of about 22 that I sought the advice of a Nutritional Therapist when I was experiencing more digestive problems, weight loss, hair loss and fatigue. The change I felt after following their guidance for only two weeks was extraordinary. This sparked my fascination with nutrition and the human body, and lead me to change my career from sports PR to Nutrition, so I could help people in the same way.

What is your next step?

I finish in July 2018 and plan to set up my own practice, mainly specialising in digestive health. I have lots of other exciting ideas too which I can’t wait to get started on!

What do you love most about it?

I love how powerful nutrition can be and how much it can change people’s lives, and I love helping people realise this through educating and empowering them.

Perfect day on a plate?

Enjoyment of food is something I place at the forefront of my practice and my own food choices. I won't force myself to eat something if I don’t like it just because it is considered ‘healthy’! However, I do make sure I pack in the fruit and vegetables, filling my plate with colour and variety at each meal, to help ensure I am getting all the nutrients I need for my body to function optimally.

Breakfast - Porridge made with coconut milk, cinnamon, berries, and nut butter.

Lunch – Frittata made with lots of roasted vegetables (peppers, sweet potatoes, courgettes etc), spinach, tomatoes, and a side salad with broccoli.

Supper – Salmon fillet with wilted spinach, carrot and parsnip puree, and new potatoes.

Tips for beating the January blues?

  1. If you set a new years resolution to be healthier, start slowly and set small SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals each week such as increasing your vegetable intake by 2 portions per day, or drinking 3 more glasses of water a day. This makes changes more manageable and hopefully more sustainable. Don’t restrict yourself, just focus on consuming more nutrient dense foods. Also be very wary of any company or person promoting a quick fix ‘detox’, quick weight loss plan, or very restrictive diet, they very rarely work long term and most are not ‘healthy’! Seek the help of a qualified nutrition professional to get proper advice before making any drastic changes.

2. If you don’t like the gym don’t force yourself to go! I am not suggesting you shouldn’t exercise, instead I want to encourage you to find some form of movement you love doing and you’ll be far more likely to stick it. This might be an exercise class, running, joining a sports team, dancing, or walking. Go for a walk in your local park or get off the bus/train a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way home. Although it's hard with the dark mornings and evenings find a way to incorporate exercise into your day as this helps with the release of endorphins to beat those January blues.

3. Make plans so you have something to look forward to. This doesn’t have to be a holiday or a big expenditure; make plans to see friends, but also make plans for yourself; try or learn something new, read books, take baths and have early nights….look after yourself and you’ll be able to make it through!

Where are you eating out?

I’m lucky to live in London where there are so many amazing restaurants, and I love trying new places. My favourite ones recently have been Curzon (Mexican) and Blanchette (French small plates). My favourite go-to's for weeknight catch ups with friends are Ethos, a vegetarian buffet restaurant, and Cote, the French chain restaurant, as they do a great gluten free menu.

Favourite chef?

Jamie Oliver is my favourite chef, I love his style and the way he has bought the importance of food particularly in schools to the attention of everyone.

Favourite cook book?

Amelia Freer’s cookbooks are my favourite. She is a real inspiration for me, I love her recipes which are full of nutritious ingredients, and I think she is a great ambassador for Nutritional Therapy.

What are you reading?

Much of my reading tends to be new research that has been published and nutrition books, but I try and make time to read something outside of that too! I have just finished Rain by Barney Campbell, and next is Don’t Lets go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. I have always loved reading about people and their stories.

What are you listening to?

Anything that comes up on my Spotify account! Usually someone like Ed Sheeran.

 What are you watching?

The Crown!

Dog or cat?

Dog…..pugs in particular!

Town or Country?

Both

Favourite place in London?

Holland Park

Favourite place in the world?

Nedd, on the North West coast of Scotland.

What are you eating?

I love experimenting with making healthier versions of everyone's favourite meals. Often just simple swaps, for example white pasta for wholemeal pasta, or additions, such as adding in another portion or two of vegetables, can help boost the nutrient and fibre content of a recipe.

Here is a recipe for a healthier alternative to a takeaway favourite, fish and chips! Enjoy and please tag me in the photo @clemmiemac if you make it, I love seeing everyone's creations!

Homemade Fish and Chips

Serves 2

2 medium potatoes (you can also use sweet potatoes)

2 boneless cod fillets

95g self-raising flour (for gluten free use GF plain flour and ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda)

1 egg

75ml chilled sparkling water

150g frozen peas

1 tbsp crème fraiche (for dairy free use coconut yogurt)

1 tsp finely chopped mint leaves

150g broccoli

4tbsp olive oil

½ a lemon

Salt and pepper to season

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas 7.

2. Cut the potatoes into thick chips approximately 1.4cm in width.

3. Parboil the potato chips for 5 minutes then transfer into a baking dish. Pour over 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper then toss the chips until coasted in the oil.

4. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Turn once or twice during this time to ensure even cooking.

5. Now prepare the fish. Crack the egg into a bowl and beat until the white and yolk are mixed. Place 20g of the flour into one bowl and set aside. Place the remaining 75g of flour into a separate bowl and season with salt and pepper (add bicarbonate of soda now if using GF flour). Gradually add the water to the flour stirring constantly to ensure no lumps form. Keep adding the water until the flour and water form a thick batter.

6. Dip the fish into the flour and coat, then dip into the beaten egg coating fully, then place into the batter and ensure fully covered in the mixture.

7. Place the remaining olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat. Add the batter coated fish and cook on one side for approximately 3-5 mins until the batter has turned light golden-brown then flip over and cook on the other side. Once cooked set aside on baking parchment and keep warm whilst you finish preparing the vegetables.

8. In a small pan boil some water and add the peas cooking for 3-5 mins until cooked. Steam the broccoli over the peas as they are cooking in a steaming pan or a metal colander with a lid.

9. Drain the peas and return them to the pan, add the crème fraiche (or coconut yoghurt) and mint, then mash until the peas split. Season with salt and pepper

10. Remove the chips from the oven and serve with the fish, peas and broccoli, with a slice of lemon on the side.

Clemmie Macpherson

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Roast Christmas Porchetta by Charlotte Holland

Charlotte Holland shares her delicious Roast Christmas Porchetta recipe with us, her blog Food by Charlotte is full of enticing and inspiring recipes.I first tried a dish similar to this a few years ago when some family friends came to stay for Christmas. The centrepiece of our glorious Christmas lunch was not the traditional turkey but a beautifully stuffed joint of pork that had been slowly roasted for hours. To this day I still think about how good the pork tasted, so taking inspiration from the original recipe I came up with my own version. Using high welfare, slowly raised and well-sourced cuts of pork, really makes the difference. It is succulent, juicy and oh so flavorsome.  I used pork belly, which lends itself well to the rich and herby stuffing and also gives an epic crackling. I love nothing more than hosting supper parties and thought this roast pork would make an excellent focal point for a Christmas themed one. As it is Christmas, I had to serve along side my favourite vegetable, the mighty brussel sprout.

Charlotte xx

Roast Christmas Porchetta with Fondant New Potatoes, Roast Carrots and Brussel Sprouts

For 8-10 people (makes cracking leftovers if fewer)

For the Porchetta and Stuffing:

2kg high welfare pork belly (I used two 1kg pieces)

70g soft prunes

1 bramley apple, peeled and diced quite small

100g fresh white breadcrumbs

one red onion finely chopped

thumb nail size of fresh ginger, grated

1 clove of garlic

bunch each of parsley, thyme, sage and rosemary

1 tsp fennel seeds

two eggs

25g melted butter

100ml cloudy apple juice

For the Potatoes:

1kg bag of Charlotte potatoes

500ml vegetable stock

2-3 garlic cloves

For the Veg:

350-400g baby carrots

4 parsnips

maple syrup

feta

fresh oregano

For the Sprouts:

bag of brussels

pancetta

lemon

On the day before you plan to cook your pork, make the stuffing. Simply put the diced prunes, apple, breadcrumbs, onion, ginger, garlic, and fennel seeds in a bowl and combine with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

In a food processor add the herbs (pick the leaves off the thyme and rosemary) and blitz until fine. Add to the bowl with the other ingredients, the eggs and melted butter, and really combine until mixed well.

Open up your pork belly so it is flat and add a thin layer of the stuffing all over the flesh side and roll up tightly. I asked my butcher for elastic bands suitable for the oven, but you could also use cooking string. Be sure that the string is knotted properly; you don’t want it bursting open mid cooking.

Place the pork in the roasting tin skin side up and leave in the fridge over night. Leave uncovered to ensure the pork skin really dries out – essential to get good crackling.

Pre heat the oven to 130°C.

Smother the pork skin with olive oil and sea salt.

Pour the apple juice into the roasting tin and put the pork in the oven for at least 3 hours.

For the last 20 minutes of cooking, put the heat up to 200°C and let the crackling do it's thing.

Remove and leave to rest for approx. 30 mins.

Whilst the pork is cooking, add the potatoes, garlic and stock to a roasting tin and put in the oven until most of the liquid has been absorbed. The potatoes should brown nicely on top.

Whilst the pork is resting, add the carrots and parsnips to a roasting tin and toss with the maple syrup, salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes until tender but starting to caramelise.

Once they are ready remove from oven and sprinkle with the feta and oregano.

Prep the brussels by halving and adding to a large frying pan. Sauté with some butter and water until they start to soften. Add the diced pancetta and let it crisp up.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice and season well.

To make the gravy, use the juices from the roasting tin and add a splash of white wine (or apple juice), water and a chicken stock pot. Let it simmer until it starts to reduce down.

By now the pork will have rested nicely and be ready to carve.

Words and photos by Charlotte Holland

Food by Charlotte

Talking with Bella Arkwright of Piccolo Plates

 7688108381734699008_n-1.jpgPiccolo Plates deliver nutritious, child friendly and homemade dishes straight to your door.  Bella Arkwright, who masterminds Piccolo Plates with Eleanor Sampson, shares some of her favourites with us.

What did you study and what was your favourite class?

I did my undergrad at St Andrews University in International Relations and then went on do to my postgraduate degree in Nutritional Therapy - two very different degrees! Within my nutritional degree I loved learning about Longevity; it was fascinating to study in depth the process of healthy ageing and the impact nutritional strategies can have on life span.

Tell us a little about your journey to setting up Piccolo Plates? 

Having decided that I was going to do a complete 360, and go back to studying two years after leaving university, I had to find a way to make ends meet. It was then that I started baby ­sitting for families around London, and I subsequently became (and still am) extremely close to them. Most of all, I loved cooking for the little ones.

Cooking for multitudes of kids, who have -­­ to put it mildly -­ differing concepts of taste, all whilst not burning down the kitchen, was a job in itself. And after work I could jump on my bike and head home, with the knowledge that I had made the children's parents lives just a little bit easier that day.  It wasn’t long until I put two and two together and combined my studies with the fact that I was cooking for loads of children every day.

I found myself taking a keen interest in what they were eating: were they getting enough Omega­3s? Enough protein? How was the food they were eating affecting their energy levels? Their health more generally? The list goes on and on, but I began to see that nutrition and eating the right things has been given a gross disservice in the context of children.

I also saw that the current easy meal options for children are full of preservatives, salt, and sugar, with some of the worst culprits being the ones that claim to be ‘healthy’. When I dug a little deeper, I was astonished at how bad some of it really was.

Eleanor my housemate was also keen to leave her job at Groupon and so together we decided to embark on a project to make feeding your children nutritious, homemade and veggie packed as well as being as easy as possible and Piccolo Plates was born!

What do you love most about running Piccolo Plates?

The variety, and the feedback from Mums and Dads. We have had such a positive response that what we are doing is actually making a difference and it makes the early starts and long hours completely worth it. I also quite like being my own boss!

Funniest thing that has happened so far?

 When I was greeted by Harry from McFly on a delivery, the look on my face had Els in hysterics for some reason... !

3 tips for cooking for children?

1. Don't over complicate.

2. Perseverance.

3. Wherever possible always try to sit down and eat with them from an early age. If they see you eating and enjoying your food then it is far more likely that they will too; I wish eating was still a family occasion!

Favourite food shop?

HG Walter, it is the best butcher in London.

Favourite place to eat out?

There is a small retaurant close to where I live called Tosa, I love it there. It's a Japanese restaurant without fuss but exceptionally good authentic food.

Favourite Cook? 

I recently met Diana Henry and loved her down to earth approach and love of food.

What are you drinking?

In the summer I am at my happiest having a glass of rosé outside ideally with some crisps (pringles!).

What are you listening / dancing too?

You mean apart from McFly!? (Joking!) I can listen to any Imagine Dragons album on repeat.

What are you reading?

I have just started the new Philip Pullman La Bella Sauvage, it's brilliant.

Town or countryside?

Thats a difficult one; I've lived in London all my life but my Mum lives in Wiltshire and I try and go down to the countryside at every possible weekend. If I had to choose though it would probably have to be Town.

Dog or cat?

Easy - dog. Cats aren't anywhere near needy enough for me.

Favourite place in London?

Walking along the stretch of river between Hammersmith and Barnes.

Favourite place in the world? 

Anywhere with my family to be honest! My mum has 7 brothers so there are a huge amount of cousins, aunts and uncles; any family get together is always brilliant.

If you could have 3 people to dinner dead or alive who would they be and what would you cook for them?

My granny who we used to call Gosh, who died 10 years ago, Barack Obama and Jane Garvey (Els and I religiously tune in for womens hour whilst cooking!). I would probably cook lots of marinated chicken thighs and serve it with some of Ottolenghi delicious salads. Eleanor collects cook books and our house is completely over run with them so I would probably change my mind and cook something completely different last minute!

Favourite Piccolo dish?

I am really enjoying the curry we have on our menu at the moment. Very shamefacedly I am not very good with spice so this mild butternut squash and chicken curry suits me (and the little ones very well!). Its also very easy to make so definitely give it a try!

Recipe for Gluten and Dairy free Chicken and Butternut Squash Curry

 

Serves 4 adults

6 chicken thighs, bite sized pieces

1 finely chopped onion

2 cloves of finely chopped garlic

1 thumb of grated fresh ginger

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp of turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tin of tomatoes

1 tin coconut milk

1/2 a butternut squash cubed

olive oil

fresh coriander for serve

basmati rice to serve

Add a lug of oil to your pan, on a medium heat gently brown your chicken thighs until golden all over, once golden remove from the pan and place on a plate.

Add more oil if needed and to the same pan add the finely chopped onions and soften gently for 6 minutes, stir in your garlic and ginger, garam masla, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric and cook on a low heat for a further two minutes.

Next add the tin of tomatoes and coconut milk and stir thoroughly. Add your butternut squash and bring the the boil, then reduce the heat and allow the pan to simmer gently for 15 minutes.

The sauce should have reduced and the butternut squash be soft. You want the coconut milk to reduce down to a lovely thick 'coating the back of your spoon' consistency. Add the golden chicken back into the sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes and until the chicken is completely cooked through. Add a splash of water to loosen if you think it needs it.

Season to taste, garnish with chopped coriander and serve alongside freshly cooked basmati rice.

www.piccoloplates.com

  

Chocolate Judging with Bean to Bar Britain

Now I have a very very sweet tooth, and I do like chocolate.  I sometimes think my specialised subject on Mastermind would be chocolate bars - from Cadbury's Boost to Nestle's Yorkie, Rococo's Violet Chocolate Bar to Bendick's Bittermints, Lindt's Dark Chilli Chocolate to Willie's Cacao Luscious Orange, I am a fan of chocolate in all shapes, sizes and flavours.And, as this week is Chocolate Week (it really is, look it up), it seemed an appropriate time to seek out some new sweet stuff.So off I trundled to the Bean to Bar Britain pop-up shop in Southwark which is open for just this week.I was particularly interested in this pop-up as it is dedicated to raising the profile of craft chocolate makers in the UK, so all the chocolate is made in Britain, with some very familiar names including Willie's Cacao, to others I had never heard of such as Dormouse chocolate.The pop-up shop is tucked away just off Marshalsea Road, and I was completely enchanted. Matthew Lindley has put the shop together himself, and prior to this week he has travelled all over the UK visiting chocolate makers, learning about their particular craft. For this week he is selling their chocolate in the shop and hosting chocolate themed events.I went along for the 'Just For Fun Judging' event in which we tried 12 anonymous squares of award winning chocolate from different makers, and rated them one by one on their appearance, aroma, texture, finish and most importantly flavour.It was great fun, and Matt is hugely knowledgeable, he explained all about tasting chocolate, and what you should be looking for whilst judging, and we all got into the swing of it.  I loved the anonymous element to it, with no pre-concieved judgements on a brand, we tried all sorts from bitter darks, to carmelly milk chocolate, to a delicious unroasted dark bar.  The only information he gave us was whether it was a milk or dark, if it was over 80%, if it was 'unroasted' and if it had had flavours specifically added to it, ie coffee or mint.We judged and with lots of discussion decided as a group whether each chocolate was worthy of a bronze, silver or gold award and at the end Matt gave us some surprising results - our palettes are perhaps not yet as finely tuned as the official chocolate judgers!  My favourite was the 85% Porcelana bar by Chocolate Tree, a really (I think!) smooth dark chocolate bar, which is made in Scotland.The shop is open for this weekend, so do pop along, you will learn lots! There are lots of chocolate bars to buy and they have hot chocolate on offer too, so there is something for everyone.Thank you very much for having me along Matt!Alice xxx

The pop-up is at 14 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1HL

@beantobarbritain

   

Pear Tree Cafe, Battersea Park

Tucked away in a corner of Battersea Park right next to the Boating Lake is a cafe I am so happy to have discovered.  The Pear Tree Cafe serves a delightful menu of beautiful dishes all made from simple, fresh and locally sourced produce.This wonderful cafe, with it's inviting art deco interior, is open for breakfast and lunch everyday, and dinner on Wednesdays, the menu changing with the seasons.Their food is absolutely delicious, but what I love most is the sense that this is a place full of regulars (and their dogs) having a quick cup of tea and home baked treat, and that is it also peppered with destination foodies seeking out the very best London has to offer.The Pear Tree Cafe works with independent brands both front and back of house, so you can enjoy a fresh juice from Press London, tuck into some Savoursmiths crisps, order a Jude's Black Coconut Ice Cream (or if you are vegan some Pana chocolate), and settle down in the evening with a glass of Chapel Down wine or Orchard Pig cider. AND you can eat delicious dishes prepared with Clarence Court eggs, Seven Seeded artisan bread, fish from Pinney's of Orford and fruit from Chegworth Valley.They are open all day and their Smashed Avocado with Watermelon Radish is a must for brunch. For the more adventurous (those who dare to branch out from avocado of the smashed variety), their Buttermilk Pancakes are quite delectable. And do try the coffee, it comes from Volcano Coffee Works, a local roastery in Brixton. Wednesday evenings are Live Jazz evenings, so come along and enjoy the music and ensure you try the Burrata with fresh figs, and a glass of AIX rosé.The Pear Tree Cafe is the mastermind of Annabel Partridge and Will Burrett, who met whilst working at Petersham Nurseries.After Petersham Nurseries, Annabel helped set up Spring at Somerset House with Head Chef Skye Gyngell. She has worked for over 30 kitchens and restaurants all over the world, including  Tartine Bakery & Cafe, in San Francisco, and time spent cooking in Italy.Her love and interest for creating beautiful dishes stems from cooking at home when she was growing up.  Dinner was at always 8pm sharp and there was a rota, with each member of the family taking their turn to cook dinner that evening.  And then at university she lived in a house with boys, and they would all take it in turn to cook, which became very competitive. Often the boys would arrive back home after weekend with some game, so the freezer was always full of useful ingredients.After university she spent some time in Australia and, on returning home, shunned a grad scheme in favour of a two week placement at Petersham Nurseries.  It wasn't all plain sailing, and there was a huge amount to be learned very fast, however she stuck it out and went on to work full time for Petersham.  Having always wanted to set up a restaurant of her own, she spent a year looking for a site and settled on the space in Battersea Park, opening in October 2016.The Pear Tree Cafe is really beautiful, Annabel drew the layout for the interior herself and decided on the colours, and I love that every detail has been thought of.  It is just as enjoyable sitting indoors in the conservatory, as it is sitting on the picnic benches nestled by the Boating Lake.  The cafe has a lovely friendly honest atmosphere, and you know that the food you will be eating will not only be delicious, it will also be fresh.  They buy British as much as possible, work with independent brands and follow the seasons, buying from local markets.They often host events at the cafe, recently Sri Lankan cuisine Weligama did a kitchen 'take-over', and DJ Mani played a number of nights over the summer.  I also love the support of other local businesses, JamJar flowers installed a stunning floral arrangement for the Chelsea Flower Show week.They are also happy to arrange private events (I think it would be an excellent place for a 30th birthday party 😘) drinks and dancing are encouraged.Annabel's favourite part is the pleasure of working with her team, and also creating new menus and dishes each month. She said that setting up her own business has been both exhausting and incredibly satisfying, and I have to say the results are really wonderful, I am big big fan.If you haven't yet been, you must pop down to this hidden gem, tucked away in the corner of Battersea Park for a smashed avocado, it really is a treat.Alice xxxThe Pear Tree Cafe      

For our first culinary post, Susannah Bray, 7 times Great British Bake Off applicant reject decides to undertake her own bake off, competing against herself.  Please read on for some truly scrumptious delights...

Chocolate Almond Caramel Bars

Get your health kick here

These biscuits are made up of entirely non antioxidant ingredients, the only thing they may cure is your diet.

Ingredients:

In the spirit of the non-Mary Berry Great British Bake Off I decided to ignore the theme of this weeks show ‘Bread’ and embark on my own baking marathon. The chosen category I decided on was Biscuits - soggy bottoms and all. The reasoning behind my chosen category came about because I found an open cook book on the table and decided to have a flick through.  I found a recipe describing the three essentials of baking - chocolate, almond and caramel. Bars and bread are pretty much the same thing anyway. To begin - after a quick scour of the fridge I realised that I did not have enough butter, and after questioning the mother oracle I was duly presented with a frozen block. Wondering to myself if you are able to freeze butter I checked the packet whereupon it firmly says 'DO NOT FREEZE, but, as we know supermarkets are always wrong so I happily preceded with hacking up some frozen butter. Note: It’s as hard as it looks. Dodging this wee hiccup I was directed one last set of instructions 'not to leave the kitchen in a mess'.

Being a good student I read the recipe the whole way through before baking:

After a quick read and with slight confusion about the mention of runners I was delighted to discover that this recipe is from the Aga Bible. For those who don’t possess an Aga but would like to truly complete their cookbook collection, it  may be purchased here.I may say this is a fantastic and simple recipe and here are my comments:

  1. For Aga newbies - there is no mention of greasing the shallow baking tray - I concluded Aga people probably know to do this, and decided to butter it up anyway.
  2. We have non leccy scales, so I used the medieval 1960s scales which can be roughly translated to 150g = 5oz, 60g = 3oz.
  3. For conventional bakers, i.e non Aga owners, biscuits should be cooked for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Who knew caster sugar could be unrefined, eh?

I can’t believe it’s not butter, yet:

How to take butter from frozen to melted:

Actual baking has begun:

For health reasons I would highly recommend using your fingers to press the mixture down. Truly make them yours, DNA and all:

Oven checking:

Chez caramel, saucy biccies:

A while for setting….

When they say finely chopped chocolate, they mean it:

Hack, another layer of chocolate never goes amiss, and I left them in the fridge over night:

And the finished pieces!

The closest the cooking got to an aga:

Presenting them to the judges was goose bumblingly nerve racking, but reviews from Mummy Berry said they were ‘devilishly good’ and ‘not very good for her waistband’. Potentially a little soggy bottomed, however this did not detract from the taste. Aesthetically some work may need to be done but this is baking people, not architecture. Mummy Berry did make a very good point - 'who was going to eat them all?' I have therefore accepted her challenge and shall be spending my afternoon preoccupied with this momentous task.

All in all an afternoon well spent.

Safety Notes

To avoid Ofcom getting involved I would advise when entering any cooling devices to wear the appropriate attire, perhaps a wooly hat. Next time Noel.

Make Up: The Shower

Fashion: Hat, Poppy London; Gloves, Topshop Sale

Photographer: Sarah ‘Everyones going to see that I have a dirty freezer’ Bray

Baking playlist: Things have Changed, Bob Dylan + Spotify Playlist - Drivetime Classiquuuueee

(NB Susannah is actually an excellent baker - her carrot cake is particularly good - she may bake on request, if the appropriate remuneration is offered (Amex not accepted).)

StrEATlife

Olivia 🙋

What's a self-professed food aficionado going to do on a bank holiday weekend? Go to the annual  'Foodies Festival' of course! Trekking to Alexandra Palace, I was excited for a day at the UK's biggest celebration of British-produced food & drink. With the sun blazing, artisan food & drink surrounding me, I began my munching adventure...A couple of hours in and multiple dishes stuffed down me later, I basked in the sun and took a well-deserved rest (after all walking around and trying dozens of samples requires severe concentration, strength & stamina - which I ran out of) and began to think about which brands stood out the most to me.Almost a week later (it really was a tough choice), here are my top 5 British brands from the day:

The Foraging Fox 

Since going to production in 2015, this 'Beetroot Ketchup' has a healthy and simple take on one the country's most loved condiments. Naturally sweet and bursting with vitamins minerals & antioxidants (30% less sugar than normal ketchup for any health conscious babes out there); honed over 3 years and has the founder's children stamp of approval - this versatile & flavoursome ketchup is a staple for anyone's food cupboard. For the more daring, try their new 'Hot Beetroot Ketchup' for a chili-infused experience!

 

Craft Academy

Launched by Greene King and passionate about 'unbottling potential' - this brewing team of 2 apprentices and 3 mentors have already made a name for themselves with their new range of beers. With catchy names, eye-popping packaging & delicious flavour, you can choose from 5 beers: Over Easy - 3.8% Session IPA, Big Bang– 5.6% IPA, Bitter Sweet - 6% Black IPA, Desert Ryeder - 4. 8 % Rye Beer and High & Dry - 5% Dry hopped larger ). FYI for any espresso martini lovers out there, the 'Bitter Sweet' is a must a try! I am very proud to say that my friend Nancy Nangle is one of the apprentices on this amazing adventure (and no I wasn't biased with this decision)!

 

Whipsmiths

Founded by former model, Brad Smith, the industrial design graduate has conjured up the world's first instant ice cream. Based in the UK and now expanded to Europe, this UK-based liquid nitrogen ice-cream is out of this world. With over 3,000 possible flavour combinations, the choice is endless...I recommend the 'Butter Moon' a mix of white chocolate and peanut butter - genuinely felt like I had died and gone to heaven! Available for private hire and large campaigns - I advise you to find an excuse to have them round, I know I will!

 

Cawston Press

Starting as a small brand - this soft drinks brand has grown into a multimillion pound business and quality stands at the core of its values. Artificial and concentrate free, these drinks all contain one key ingredient: pressed apples. Masters in blending, fruit & apples, the brand has now come out with a new range of 6 fizzy drinks: Rhubarb, Cloudy Apple, Cucumber & Mint, Ginger Beer, Gooseberry & Elderflower Lemonade. I tried all 6 and my firm favourite was the 'Rhubarb' - subtle, tart flavours make this delightfully refreshing for a hot summers day or, in my case being a teetotaller, a new drink to add to my list of appropriate drinking drinks - saving myself calories and a sugar hangover - a 100% WIN/WIN

 

Mademoiselle Macaron 

Rachel Hanretty started her business in 2013 in her kitchen. 4 years later and she has 7 employees, a cafe in Edinburgh, stocked in Harvey Nichols (available to order online from their website) and has even got her own branded merchandise. She certainly has come a long way in a short space of time! With a boast of different flavours starting from 'Salted Caramel' & 'Vanilla'; to more obscure flavours of 'Innis & Gunn' and 'Scottish Whammy' - there is a certainly a flavour for everyone. Perfect as gifts or for a girls night in, or even simply, just to treat yourself - go on, get some!

 Well Londoners I wish you all a happy Friday and a lovely weekend - make sure to try out the brands and more importantly, top up on some Vitamin D :)Ciao, Olivia xxx

Countryside Pursuits

Alice🙋🏽

This is not a post about tweed wearing, fire-arms bearing activities (although if you haven't yet bought a ticket to Miss Knight's Crawley & Horsham extravaganza in November - you know who you are - you better be quick smart, it's going to be a fantabulous evening 😘).I just wanted to write a little post about a few places and things I have discovered recently whilst in the countryside.  I like escaping London, I may have mentioned this a couple of times 😉.   It's always so nice to be in the fresh air and away from the constant rush of the city, and enjoying a slightly slower pace of life.  So below are some of my finds 🌳😃.

Alice xxx

Marourde Mead

In a small village in Kent, William Boscawen has been perfecting the recipe for his delicious mead. Using mostly local ingredients, hops and honey are from the farm, he has created three sparkling meads each with their own distinct flavour.  The mead is aptly named 'Marourde' as this is the historic name of the village of Mereworth where it is made.

I spent a delightful afternoon with William, we had a tour of his meadery and of course a tasting.  With no expectations at all, I really enjoyed this sweet yet satisfying drink, which is best served very chilled.  William is also growing vines, so watch this space for the next in great English sparkling wines..... and in the mean time check out Marourde's insta for all things mead.

Ravilious at The Towner Art Gallery

I am quite a bit fan of Eric Ravilious. I really like his woodcuts and many of them are currently on display at The Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne.  This is particularly fun as many of the places Ravilious depicted in his pictures are close by, nestling in the South Downs.  So not only can you see his artwork, you can also seek out the locations in which he painted.Off we went down to Eastbourne, and it was very exciting indeed, there is great selection of his original woodcuts and paintings -  I love his book illustrations - alongside many other works by his friends and fellow artists, Edward Bawden, Paul Nash and John Nash.  I highly recommend going to see this exhibition, we followed our visit with a blustery walk up onto Beachy Head, and I am excited to go back and explore more Ravilious countryside soon.

Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden

This beautiful garden, hidden away near Ockley in Surrey, has a wonderful display of contemporary sculpture.  It's rather fun to wander about, weaving in and out of the water features and catching the sunlight as it shines through the giant foliage.  We had a greatly enjoyable evening discovering all sorts of weird and wonderful works of art, they display over 200 pieces varying them throughout the summer, so there is lots to see!

And a few other English countryside happenings 😍

 

Mademoiselle Macaron

When you discover one of your university friends has started her own business, and that business is selling macarons in a wonderful assortment of flavours and colours, it is very important to visit her and find out more. (And perhaps eat a macaron or two, or three... 😍).And so off I went to visit Rachel Hanretty who started her business Mademoiselle Macaron four years ago.  In 2013, Rachel started making macarons in her kitchen, and three and a half years later she has seven employees and counting.  Her macarons are being sold in some of the top department stores in Scotland; Gleneagles and Harvey Nichols included, and her macaron cafe, nestled on a picturesque cobbled street in Edinburgh has just entered it's third year of business.  Her macarons are also much in demand for weddings, and you can buy them online, and even have a macaron 'subscription', a box of macarons delivered to you, or someone else each month.  I urge you to have a go at selecting macarons for purchase on her website, it's a highly satisfying process, made even more so in the knowledge of the deliciousness that is soon to arrive in the post.To top it all, this summer Mademoiselle Macaron is on tour with the Foodies Festival.  So no fear, if Edinburgh is a bit far out of your way, you will be able to sample these amazing macarons at a festival near you.It was super to catch up with Rachel, and also to talk to her about how she has got to where she is now.  We spoke about being 'under-employed', graduating with an excellent degree from St Andrews University (Rachel studied French and English), she found herself in a job that just wasn't doing this justice, and so she decided to take a leap and start her own business.Her love for Paris and all things Parisienne took her to the Alain Ducasse cookery school.  And with the art of macaron making perfected (orange was the very first flavour she ever made), she brought this intricate craft back to Scotland, and set up shop.  Four years into the business, and with ever increasing orders, she now has a couple of trained chefs making the macarons.Rachel very much sits at the helm and is constantly overseeing every aspect of her business.  Every single day, she says, she learns something new and it has been far from easy.  Although she has a number of very supportive mentors, when it comes down to it, the decisions are hers and hers alone.  However much planning you do there are always hidden costs, and little things that take up valuable time.  And taking on employees has been another whole chapter of business learning.The results, however, really have been absolutely amazing, and I am so impressed at where her business is after four years of dedicated work.  As we sat and spoke in her cafe on Grindlay Street, customers were constantly popping in to have a cup of tea and a couple of macarons.  And they are really delicious macarons.  I resisted munching my way through too many, but they are exactly as they should be, that tiny crunch and soft almost chewy texture, in super flavours (I really liked the chocolate and raspberry one).  She has thought of every small detail, all her packaging is made in the UK, and the cafe has it's own 'Mademoiselle Macaron' coffee, a special blend roasted for the shop.  She also runs macaron making classes, and takes all of these herself.Rachel's next steps, after the Foodies Festival tour this Summer, is to wholesale Mademoiselle Macaron in Ireland.  Bigger ideas and plans for the future include a recipe book, a shop in London, and a flagship store in Edinburgh (which will be in one of Edinburgh's fine townhouses), and she would love to open a shop in Paris.Her 2017 aim is to 'work smarter', but I have to say, I think she is doing an absolutely amazing job.  I think when running your own business it is important to constantly self evaluate.  But it is even more important to take a step back once in a while and really appreciate everything you have achieved.I am really looking forward to a visit to Mademoiselle Macaron at the Foodies Festival, and do pop into Mademoiselle Macaron on 22, Grindlay Street to experience this pocket of Parisienne charm in Edinburgh.Scroll down for a mini interview with Rachel.Alice xxxwww.mademoisellemacaron.co.uk@madmacaron    

Below are some questions I asked Rachel 😃

Who is your favourite chef ?I do love a bit of a bad ass girl chef who represents what I think is at the core of our Mademoiselle Macaron. So I have to say Cherish Finden is my favourite chef. I love how precise and cut throat she is on Bake Off Creme de la Creme. I think we are still waiting for an equal gender split in the chef world and for her to have gone in and won so many accolades for The Langham straight from her arrival takes not only talent but guts.
Favourite macaron flavour?One half of me says Salted Caramel. It won our Great Taste Award and it’s also the flavour that gets the most ‘ohhhhs’ when customers taste it. But our Scottish Whammy macaron which is essentially Irn Bru also makes me proud!Favourite artwork?When I lived in Paris it was an absolute must to visit all the museums on my doorstep. Nothing can beat Monet’s Waterlilies at Musée de l’Orangerie. It’s simply stunning.Favourite designer?When I was younger I would have said Chanel but now I’ve relaxed more into my offbeat preferences, I’d say Kate Spade. I love the quirkiness and bright exuberance of her designs, as well as the powerful affirmations on her stationery collections. I nearly bought a framed print of the quote:'She keeps caramels in her bag as an expression of goodwill. (Sometimes she eats them all herself.)'It seemed pretty accurate for me!What are you reading?Right now I am going through a lot of positive thinking/self help books to make sure I am on track to reach my dreams and don’t get side tracked when things get tough.So beside my bed there is The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, You Are A Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life by Jen Sincero and She Means Business by Carrie Green.Cliched but awesome.What are you listening too?M.I.A. I love walking to work with some strong female pop. Bad Girls is my favourite track.What are you drinking?I love craft beer and my all time favourite is Gamma Ray by Beavertown.Favourite place to eat out / have a drink?Checkpoint in Edinburgh is great as it can be anything you want it to be. It’s open for brunch, coffee, amazing dinner menu using different ingredients and ever changing cocktail menu. It has a very cool vibe with a shipping container in the middle of it!Favourite weekend place?I have no favourite weekend place apart from my flat which I moved into recently so I’m still very much in the excited DIY phase. My boyfriend and I are working on making a whole wall out of cork so we can design and look at our Vision Board every time we pass it in the hall. I’m all about reinforcing the good and keeping the eye on the prize.It’s a very old tenement flat so it has beautiful cornicing, gorgeous big windows and then we’ve come along and been a bit quirky with plonking a freestanding bath in the middle of the bedroom. (it wasn’t my idea!)Favourite place in Edinburgh & Scotland?I find any street in Edinburgh gives me happy feels. The architecture, independent shops and cobbled streets is amazing and spying the castle from a new angle is somehow, always magical.Ultimately, my favourite places are those that inspire me and bring out the energy for innovative and bold thinking. They are Brew Lab in Edinburgh and the lobby/social space at the Citizen M Hotel in Glasgow. Admittedly, both places are painfully hipster but it’s worth it to be surrounded by other people thinking outside their own boxes.Most inspiring country you have been too? Oh wow, that’s a tricky one as I have been really fortunate to visit many countries.I’d have to say though that it’s Melbourne in Australia. I have never seen such a range of cultures on show (from food alone). It’s a country that is a blend of many things and these guys know how to work hard and chill. I think they’ve got life balanced the right way round unlike the oppressed workaholics you find in Britain.What career would you be doing if weren't running Mademoiselle Macaron?I’d be hopefully working in a creative agency running marketing and ad campaigns for cool brands or being a journalist, though I see the industry changing so much I’m not sure I’d really want to be in it anymore.What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?My 18 year old self was pretty rocking and confident, my 27 year self is what needs work. So I’d probably tell the 18 year old not to ever, ever lose the unashamed honesty and self belief that will guide her through to success. Never forget to look at and celebrate accomplishments for the energy they bring to climb even higher. Also go to Paris as a singleton, long distance was not fun.

Brunch Time

It's Wednesday which means the weekend is fast approaching,  and it is definitely time to start planning some fun weekend activities 😃.

I am a great believer in brunch ☕️🍴on the weekend (this is partly because I like sleeping 💤 very much), but also because it is the perfect way to kick start a day that otherwise has the potential to be very lazy.  I like brunch food - the choice of savoury or sweet, healthy or indulgent, and being able to order two drinks at once and not look like a weirdo.

I am, however, quite fussy about my brunch, and I am afraid a greasy fry up doesn't really interest me, and have to admit I have succumbed and am a self-confessed smashed avocado, flat white bruncher through and through 😘.  What I really like, is an interesting menu with healthyish food that actually tastes nice (I am a secret healthy food lover), along with a proper coffee and a green tea.  I'm not too fussed about alcohol, it's nice to start the day with a clean start, although I did once go to a prosecco soaked brunch at Bunga Bunga which was the best fun ever, I urge you to go.

I would also say one of the MOST important things about brunching is being able to walk straight in and sit down at a table.  I DO NOT WANT TO QUEUE.   There are places I have eaten very good food, The Breakfast Club and Brew are two, but I have absolutely no wish to stand on the street for 45 mins (usually in the cold) whilst they chivvy someone else away from their breakfast to make a place for me.  Brunch is to be enjoyed and should be lengthy, if you want it to be, and relaxing, it is the weekend after all ☺️.

I also need to be able to either walk or cycle to brunch from home, having possibly indulged in a few too many cocktails the night before, so places I go, tend to not be too far from where I live (although I am doing a very dry January, and made it all the way to Notting Hill from the deep depths of Wandsworth on my bicycle in time for brunch last weekend, and I am perhaps feeling a little smug).

So here are a few of my local favourite brunching spots. 😃 ☕️🍴.

Alice xxx

Bean & Hop

424 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, SW18 4HN

brunch at Bean & HopI like Bean & Hop.  They are really friendly and their menu is interesting, and unexpected.  You can choose between porridge with spiced poached pears, an excellent bacon butty (I always have smashed avocado in mine) or Black Bean Fritters which sound a little on the scary healthy side but taste delicious.  They do really good coffee and always have a special smoothie, my favourite so far was a berry smoothie with chocolate brownies mixed in - superb 👌.

Birdhouse

123, St John's Hill, Battersea, SW11 1SZ

Coffee at BirdhouseFor me, Birdhouse is a quick brunch place.  This is THE best coffee, and they always ask if you want sugar, which I find weirdly endearing in the current 'sugar is evil' climate.  I usually have the banana bread which they will butter for you even if you are taking away, but they also have a varied savoury brunch menu, including bocaditos - Cuban sandwiches.

Cafe Tamra

63 Northcote Road, Battersea, SW11 1NP

Brunch at Cafe TamraCafe Tamra is brunch with a twist, they have Moroccan, Mediterranean and Greek inspired dishes, so you can have Shakshouka (Moroccan baked eggs) and they also do all the normals too - eggs how you like them or pancakes, so there is something for everyone.

Toast Rack

314 Trinity Road, Wandsworth, SW18 3RG

Brunch at Toast RackToast Rack has a very friendly vibe to it, and a very good, more traditional menu.  It's refreshingly not too trendy, being based in Wandsworth you more likely to encounter small children and small dogs than bearded philosophers.  I like it a lot.  They do an excellent selection of teas, and a good simple full english breakfast, or you could branch out and have kedgeree.

Flotsam and Jetsam

4 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth, SW17 7EQ

Brunch at Flotsam and JetsamIf you are a yummy mummy living in Wandsworth I suspect you have been to Flotsam at least once..  Flotsam has a lovely atmosphere, although this is the one place on my list I am afraid you may have queue for.  But once inside, they do a mean BLT Toasted Sandwich - bacon, lettuce, smashed avocado with ailoi, or you can feel really good about yourself and have the coco-mango bircher (in the photo) all sorts of healthy things looking pretty in coconut yoghurt.

Ground Coffee Society

79 Lower Richmond Road, Putney, SW15 1ET

Brunch at the Ground Coffee SocietyThis may be my current favourite.  If you go, you must have the blueberry pancakes with bacon, they are the best and come with creme fraiche too.  The fresh juices are terrific and so is the coffee (they first started with only coffee) and they have a fun outside seating area at the back, which is open to the air when it is sunny.

Catch Up

A photo run through of what I have been up to recently 😊Alice xxxIMG_6941IMG_6961IMG_6972IMG_6979IMG_7107IMG_7125IMG_7117IMG_7129IMG_7137IMG_7372IMG_7403IMG_7420IMG_7531IMG_7559IMG_7584IMG_7606IMG_7631IMG_7633IMG_7746IMG_7749IMG_7774IMG_7826IMG_9904IMG_8321IMG_8343IMG_8347IMG_8383IMG_8374IMG_8388IMG_8395IMG_8407IMG_8412IMG_8424IMG_8432IMG_8445IMG_8523

Jeff Koons Now

Today Emily, Ant and I went to have a look at the Jeff Koons Now 🐩 exhibition at the Newport Street Gallery 🎨.  I have never been to the Newport Street Gallery (or actually heard of - it is tucked away on a small street behind Vauxhall) and I really didn't know much about Jeff Koons 🐩so it was a bit of an adventure 👧👩👸.I cycled over 🚴 and found Emily and Ant at the Gallery, and after strict instructions not to take photos in Gallery 3 📷❌, and a stern warning, DO NOT TOUCH 😡 anything, off we went.When I think of Jeff Koon's  🐩 work, I think of the huge 'balloon' dogs 🐩🎈, in bright metallic colours 💙, which are just so fun.  There is something really playful about them, I love the child's party trick toy blown up to a massive scale 🐩.  There are sadly 😢 no dogs  in this exhibition - but there is a 'Balloon Monkey' 🐒🎈 which we enjoyed, it really is very very shiny 💙.  It is made out of mirror polished stainless steel with a transparent colour coating.  I really like this concept, the creation of a familiar object in a material that is so far from the original 🎈.Koons does this a lot, he plays and experiments with different materials often creating strange juxtapositions.  There is a bronze cast of a life jacket Snorkel Vest 🚣, and a giant lump of Play-Doh 🍧made from aluminium, the pieces of which are held together by their own weight.I really enjoyed the Jim Bean - J.B. Turner Train 🚂  - made from stainless steel, each part of the train has 75cl of whiskey 🍸 encased in it.  The reason stainless steel has been used is because this is the only metal that will preserve the alcohol 🍸 inside indefinitely.  In the same room are three basket balls 🏀🏀🏀  floating in a tank 🏄 in perfect equilibrium Three Balls 50/50 Tank.  Koons consulted Nobel laureate physicist, Richard P. Feynman, about how to keep the balls exactly half submerged in the distilled water, and they are filled with a carefully mixed suspension.And then there are the 'inflatables' 🚣, incredibly realistic inflatable toys that are actually made out of aluminium (I was completely fooled) but if you look closely, they are almost too perfect. NO TOUCHING - which is a shame, you really do have an urge to touch.Gallery 3 is very explicit 🙈 and it feels a little like he is laughing at the art world.  Although he says this series is all about 'the preservation of life, the continuation of life', these really very lurid images 🙊 feel a little out of place in the exhibition.  The other works are pushing the boundaries of 'readymades', experimenting with metal and suspensions to create works that are not quite what they seem.  But perhaps his 'Made in Heaven' 🌁 series are also an experiment - he has pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable as 'art', and has succeeded.I really enjoyed the exhibition - they give you a good booklet to go with it 📘 - and the more I learn about Koons 👴 the more intriguing I find him.We decided we needed a little bit of lunch 🍴 after and found ourselves in The Ragged Canteen which is a vegetarian cafe 🍆🍎🍍 just down the road in the Beaconsfield Gallery and the food was really really great - I had a chickpea omelette 🍳 with all sorts of vegetables and a ginger and beetroot brownie 🍰 to take home - and they make a good coffee ☕️.I would definitely go and have a look at this exhibition tucked away on Newport Street - and definitely stop off for a brownie after 😃.Alice xxxIMG_8452 IMG_8460IMG_8464IMG_8480IMG_8455IMG_8456IMG_8479IMG_8466IMG_8477

Andrew Edmunds

Quite a large part of me doesn't want to put Andrew Edmunds out to the world as it is such a wonderful place, and I fear a little of it's charm might be lost if everyone knows.  But I do very much want to tell you about it... 😊Andrew Edmunds is a restaurant and it was recommended to me by Mary, and I am so pleased I took her up on it.I rang up at the beginning of the week ☎️ and booked a table (you can book, hurrah!!) and we met in Soho on Wednesday, a bit early.  We passed the queue to Bao 🍔 (I do love you Bao) but I am so tired of queuing in the cold for a restaurant, being herded in and then herded out fairly promptly 😳.We arrived at Andrew Edmunds (you might easily miss it, it is very understated) and although we were 15 minutes early they were very happy to give us a table 😃.  So we sat in the window, and studied the handwritten menu 📝, and there was just no rush.  The waiter suggested we have an aperitif 🍷, so we did, and gave us a wine recommendation.  There is an extensive wine list 🍷🍷- some of it very very good I imagine, but my wine knowledge is not so good.  The pinot noir he suggested was really excellent.  We both had smoked eels 🐬 to start with and then rabbit 🐰and fish 🐠for main (separately) and then the chocolate pudding 🍮.  It was all very good - not too fancy, but tasty, and there was no feeling of being rushed.Most of the other clientele were quite a lot older than us 👴👵 - it definitely seems a well kept secret, one the trendy youth of Soho has not discovered.  It was a lovely evening and if you are looking for somewhere relaxing, with good food and wine I can't recommend it enough.Alice xxxIMG_4799IMG_4788IMG_4790IMG_4792IMG_4797

An Indulgent Afternoon

This year, I would like to tell you, I have been incredibly good.  I have done hardly any shopping 👗👠 whatsoever - and I have taken a step back (a number of painful times) and told myself I do not need the pair of shoes 👠/ dress 👗 / earrings 💕 / random thing 👑 I shall probably use once and then lose or break.This has been very good for me (there was a point in TK Maxx when I almost failed on a major scale 😳 - I just do just enjoy shopping very much).  I have however done a fair bit of window shopping (just to keep my eye in 😉) - and in a spare moment recently, wandered into Topshop 👗on Oxford Street.Now, I have to tell you, I have a large amount of love and joy for this shop 😍.  I'm not really sure that it should be labelled a shop - it's more like a shopping lovers fair ground 🎠.  Once inside it completely engulfs you - and there are just so many delights - clothes, shoes, jewellery 👗👠👙💄 - and you can get your nails painted 💅 and hair dip dyed 💇 if you wish.  And I get that thing, the thing when you are in serious browsing mode and you keep finding better and better items and you just know the one for you is there, and you just can't wait to find it, and the search in the meantime is very enjoyable 😃, it's a little like a HUGE dressing up box.So I went into Topshop 🎠.  And I was careful to stay on the ground floor with the accessories 👑, who knows what would have happened if I had delved downstairs into the clothing 👘, or even further to the shoes 👠in the basement.  But accessories were nice and safeish, and I headed over to the jewellery 💍section.Topshop has good jewellery 💍.  It does tend to be a little pricey (Zara is cheaper) but they display it so well.  I once worked for a shoe developer 👠👦 and once a week we would tour the highstreet to check out the competition AND we would go into Topshop to look at the jewellery as inspiration for potential shoe trims 💎👠.  So I've been here quite a lot, know it very well and it rarely fails to disappoint.I have to say the photos below are of a number of quite silly things - the plastic bangles 💚💗 made we want to dress up in lots of glitter 💎, sequins 💜and colourful things 💖and go to a festival 🎶 (Yes please Coachella 💓and hopefully one day Burning Man 🔥).  The shooting star earrings are great, I loved the cute strawberry necklace and there are so many pompoms. Just so many.And this time I cracked 💔.  I didn't buy the unicorn phone case 🐴 (it was a close call), but I did buy pompom earrings, a pompom hair tie 🔴⚪️🔵(which a number of people have pointed out looks a bit like Bumble's tail) it's possible my love of pompoms may be out of hand.. 😳😏😍😉 .  And I bought some slightly obnoxious see-yourself-in-them sunglasses from Toyshades 😎.So having got over excited and purchased some unpractical items, I then passed Laduree in Burlington Arcade and decided I would buy some macarons 🍈 for the house.  They are just so pretty, in all their pastel colours - and I chose rose 🌹, and salted caramel 🍮, the passion fruit and chocolate 🍊 🍫(this is my new favourite combo in macaron and in chocolate) and the Marie Antoinette 👸 one as it is such a pretty blue green colour.  I think the word divine is allowed to be applied to Laudree macarons - they colours are so pretty, they taste even better and it's such a delightful little shop.So it was a slightly indulgent day... perhaps I shall allow myself a trip downstairs at Topshop next time, just to have look....Alice xxxIMG_4473IMG_4474IMG_4475IMG_4476IMG_4477IMG_4480IMG_4481IMG_4487IMG_4484IMG_4483

The Little Yellow Door

Last week I went to The Little Yellow Door  🚪💛for their 'Wednesdays - Kitchen Supper and Cocktails.' 🍝🍹  I think I should get things straight first, as it is important.  This is NOT someones actual flat, and they are not cooking you supper - it's being labelled as a 'pop up bar, based on a fictional flatshare' and unfortunately none of it really works.  (I think I am about to write my first, not so nice post - I was really quite intrigued and excited to visit this place, and it was just quite a disappointment 😔)From the website lulling you into supposing you might get a homemade meal 🍝, whilst meeting other interesting people 👧👦👩 sitting around a kitchen table, to that fact that it looks like a poorly arranged squat inside 📻📚 , there was really nothing hugely appealing about The Little Yellow Door  - apart from the fact it is right next to Notting Hill tube station, and the door is yellow 💛(at least they got that bit right).You put your name on the guest list 📝, you arrive 🚅, a bouncer 🎩 lets you pass through, up the stairs you go 🚶and your in 💃.  It's  one room, with a bar at one end and the 'tree house' 🌳at the other - this is a sort of built in cubby hole and is fairly entertaining, for a while.  It's decorated as though someone has let loose their slightly arty 14 year old 👦🎨 -  not necessarily a bad thing - I enjoyed the tree with blossom painted across one wall 🌸🌳.  The 'kitchen supper and cocktail' for £15 was a 'house cocktail', some chicken wings 🐥 and a sort of chicken slider.  We were hungry and we ate 🍔and we drank 🍹, but trying to get another drink was an absolute nightmare.  Until later on in the evening there seemed to be one waitress, and the poor girl was having to squeeze herself in and out of all the people - as it was full, with no where near enough places to sit.There were fun touches, the menu was on the back of a CD case 💽 (we were very confused to start with) and some of the drinks came in jam jars 🍹 with the labels still on (kooky... or just lazy?) - even in our house we manage to take the label off before reusing the jam jar.But perhaps I am being a bit unfair 😏.I had a romantic vision of a supper club, sitting around a table being served some home cooked food amongst friends and strangers.  And I don't think I would have minded that it wasn't actually in someones flat, if this had been the case.And as a bar, it was a nice change - it had a fun 'living as a student vibe' 🎨🍷📚, with everything a bit makeshift and rough around the edges.  And maybe I'm just the wrong age - as a student it might just be a really cool venue, if your a bit older you can reminisce about when you were once young and drank wine straight from the bottle 🍷, and then go home and be thankful your living room doesn't look like that anymore (although you do, very very occasionally, still drink wine from the bottle, because you know, glasses are a faff to wash 🍷🍷).  And maybe I have just been to too many 'trying to be different bars', but I think maybe we all have now, and it's important to get it really really right, Pop Brixton for instance, has some super spaces.It just didn't work that well for me 😔 - there was no queue to get in, so that was nice, and it is very easy to get to and find.  But if you want to go to a bar that looks like someones living room go to Passing Clouds on Kingsland Road.  I don't know if it's still there, but if you find your way upstairs in this place, it is marvellous - they've done it properly, you could quite easily be in someones eclectic house (maybe you are, I had had a couple of drinks when I discovered this super space).I'm not saying don't go - if you want a weekday outing that's a bit different, it definitely is, but I'm not sure I would go there for the experience, drinks or food alone, and perhaps it needs to work a bit better on it's package as a whole 😃.Thank you for having me!Alice xxxIMG_4185IMG_4189IMG_4197