29 June 2015

Foraged Wild Garlic Pesto Pasta

You're on a romantic walk in the woods, you lean in for a kiss and then you smell it. Garlic. But it's not on your lover's breath, it's everywhere!

Back in May I went on holiday with Dan and my parents to the Lake District, it was a great week to relax, get some much needed fresh air and switch off the work phone. I'm a great believer in the work-play divide, however, my boyfriend needs a little more persuasion so heading to the Lake District was the perfect place to force him to stop working by having zero phone signal. I haven't even got round to sorting through the photos from our holiday yet, something my mum is quick to remind me of every week.

 Despite it raining every single day (there's a reason why there are lakes), we did lots of cross country walks, visited National Trust sites and explored the lakes edge. And everywhere we went the smell of garlic followed us, at first I thought it was just us, we're quite big garlic fans, but no wild garlic was growing everywhere. It's the Northern grass replacement! My mum and I had recently bought some at a food festival back home so decided to have a go at foraging a couple of leaves to cook up in our self-catered cottage.


Wild garlic grows in copious amounts from March to May, but in fact I spotted some the other day down South (the location is strictly confidential) even though we're coming to the end of the season. Word of warning, do not pick and eat plants you are not 100% sure are edible. There is a very similar looking plant called Lilly of the Valley, which is very pretty but highly poisonous, if you're not sure it is wild garlic don't pick it. Wild garlic has clusters of white flowers at the top of the stem, as opposed to Lilly of the Valley's flowers which drop down from the stem at varying points, and always gives a strong smell of garlic in the vicinity. Alternatively buy it from your local food market when it's in season, I know there are growers down in Kent but there names escape me.
A simple delicious way to use wild garlic is in pesto form. It's a real easy way to cook it up, and it's garlic taste really compliments the pesto. You can also eat the leaves, stems and flowers in salads, or wilt the leaves like spinach. I used parmesan in this recipe but you could swap it for a hard, mild sheep's cheese that's vegetarian. Tesco stock a vegetarian Manchego cheese in their finest range, which would be a good option. As I've said we're big garlic fans in our house, so I added an extra garlic clove, if you're not a huge fan, leave it out and the leaves will do their garlicky magic. 
This pesto is great served simply with a bit of spaghetti, but you could also use it as an alternative to tomato puree on a tart/pizza or mix with a big of yogurt and use it to adorn wraps, dip wedges in or to make very special mashed potato! 

Wild Garlic Pesto Pasta
(serves 4)
6 large wild garlic leaves (equivalent of two large handfuls)
Wild garlic flowers
1 garlic clove
A small handful of basil or other soft herb
2 small handful of pine nuts
1 small handful of mixed pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
1 large handful of grated parmesan or other hard cheese, plus a little extra for topping
1 lemon
Olive oil
350g spaghetti
Salt and pepper
Step 1. Put a saucepan of water on to boil with a bit of salt and oil to stop the pasta sticking, cook the pasta so it's al dente, so for about 10 minutes, but just keep checking it after 5 minutes. In a food processor, blend together the wild garlic leaves, basil, the peeled garlic clove and 5 tbsps olive oil.
Step 2. Then add 1 small handful of the pine nuts and blend till creamy smooth. Tip the pesto into a bowl and add the parmesan and juice of 1 lemon, stir it all in, then season with salt and pepper to taste. You might want to add a little more oil, we're aiming for a consistency which holds together but only just!
Step 3. Drain your pasta. While that's going on, toast the remaining pine nuts, and the pumpkin and sunflower seeds together in a dry pan with a little salt (I like to use green salt, as described in 'my' recipe for rice salad, which is really Ottolenghi's recipe!). When the nuts and seeds are golden brown set them aside. Pour the pasta back into the pan and toss with the wild garlic pesto till it's all evenly coated. Transfer to bowls and serve with the toasted nuts and seeds, remaining cheese and wild garlic flowers sprinkled on top.
Step 4. Eat the equivalent of the amount of pasta for four people yourself, with an accompanying bottle of wine.  

If anyone else has any recommendations of what food can be foraged that's in season now, please drop me a comment below. I recently learnt, via instagram, that you can eat ferns. Has anyone tried eating ferns?! I'm guessing it's a specific type rather than the whole species! 

27 June 2015

Made some picnic food, met some bloggers #LDNBloggersPicnic

Cast your minds back to the May Bank Holiday.

'There was a bank holiday? When?' 

In May.

'Oh right, that was ages ago. I can't even remember what I did.'

You went to the London Bloggers Picnic, ate too much food and drank too much prosecco.

No, but I can see why you're confused, because it tends to be a weekly occurence that I go out with some blogger friends and drink way too much. 

'Tell me about it Stud.'

So effectively that was my May Bank Holiday. It's no secret that SophieFrankie and I are close, some may say too close if you're read a couple of Frankie's blog posts about us, I'm looking at this post Frankie. So when Frankie said Aftab, this super sweet guy who blogs over at Fresh & Fearless, was hosting a London Bloggers Picnic and asked whether we were going. Picnic food, the promise of cheesecakes and everyone bringing a bottle of something something was enough to get our stomachs on board and we asked Frankie to appeal to Aftab and get us on the invite list.

Invite down. We were now on to the task of having to bring some food. As Sophie and I blog about a lot of recipes we didn't want to be shamed by other foodie bloggers if we turned up with shop bought stuff, so we set our sights on cooking a couple of easy favourites. Curly Whirly Brownies for Sophie and Meringue Kisses for me. The night before the picnic I panicked and thought what if everybody brings cake and there's no savoury food so I also threw together (more or less) Ottolenghi's Rice Salad from Plenty More. I love Ottolenghi's Plenty book series, which focuses entirely on vegetables, it's full of inspirational recipes for a meat free week.

Anyway there was no reason for me to panic because there was so much food at the picnic. All types, not just cake, albeit there was a lot of cake. Lots was shop bought, some particular pretty cupcakes from Peggy Porschen and cheesecakes from Moreish Cheesecake, but there were some homemade ones to. There were brownies, waffles stuffed with strawberries and the most gorgeous caramel cupcakes from SheepaSheepa also made some amazing gougères, cheesy puffs to those non Swiss readers. I have to admit, mostly because I've been shamed by other bloggers (ahem..Frankie!), that I may have stolen the gougères and eaten half the box before passing it on to anyone else. They were just too good! In fact, now I'm confessing I also positioned myself next to Alexandra purely because she'd bought an entire cheese board, nothing to do with the fact she works at Zomato, something which probably wasn't obvious at first but was by the time I'd eaten all the cheese.

As always there was a fair amount of alcohol going round, lots of prosecco and champagne, as well as a ginger beer cocktail bloody mary enthusiast Mary Lou produced made from Brontë Liqueur, the new posh Pimms consisting of blackberries and sloes. It was a good job there was so much food lying around otherwise we could have been some very drunk bloggers! In the spirit of honesty, there was already one drunk blogger and of course that was me. Which is why I'm posting this a month after the London Bloggers Picnic, in the hope that everyone will have forgiven me for any awkward conversations I might have struck up...

Moving along, it was an awesome day and a great way to meet some new bloggers I hadn't met before. Plus we all got some freebies, cheesecake, jams and tea from Bonne Maman, and I got a stonkingly good zomato voucher for Clockjack Chicken, think great chicken and sides! If anyone's hosting a picnic, go check out the links to the recipes in this post, I particularly recommend Sophie's brownies or Sheepa's gougères (don't share the gougères). I have included my recipes below for any interested parties. Now on to my next picnic!

Seriously Pink Meringue Kisses
(makes 50 kisses)

6 large egg whites
300g caster sugar
Pink gel food colouring

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 100°C. In a glass bowl, use an electric whisk to whisk the egg whites on a high setting till they form stiff peaks. Then add a spoonful of sugar at a time till it's all mixed in, then continue to whisk the mixture for 10 minutes or until when you rub a bit of mixture between your fingers it's silky and smooth, and not grainy. 

Step 2. Turn a disposable piping bag inside out and place it over a glass bottle so you can paint 5 vertical stripes of gel food colouring onto the bag. Then turn the piping bag back inside out, so the stripes are on the inside, and fill with meringue mixture. Cut the tip off and pipe little stripey meringue peaks onto a lined tray.

Step 3. Bake the meringues in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour with the door slightly ajar. To keep the door open, stick a wooden spoon between the oven door and the oven. This should hopefully make for crack free, dry but chewy meringues. When cool, you can lift them off the baking tray and they should come out with intact bottoms!

Ottolenghi's Rice Salad (more or less)
(enough for a small army, serves 10)

150g thai black rice
220g brown rice
100g quinoa
olive oil
60g almonds
60g pine nuts
60g pumpkin seeds
1 large onions
a bunch of parsley (as much as you want!)
100g rocket
80g cranberries
2 lemon, juice and zest
2 garlic cloves
Green salt (salt blended with dried rosemary, thyme and sage)
Salt and pepper

Step 1. In a bowl, marinate the cranberries with the juice of one lemon and set aside. Cook the rice and quinoa according to their instructions, black and brown rice usually take about 30 minutes and quinoa takes 15 minutes. Cook the black rice in a separate pan to the other rices, unless you want vibrant purple rice like me which everyone thinks has beetroot in. 

Step 2. Finely slice the onion and fry till crispy in a little olive oil and then set aside on some paper towels to soak up the excess. Once the rice is cooked, leave it to cool and place it all in a bowl with three tbsps olive oil, the chopped parsley, and the remaining lemon juice and zest. Grate in the garlic cloves, add the cranberries and rocket, season the rice to taste and give it all a big stir. 

Step 3. In a hot pan toast the nuts and seeds, seasoning them with some green salt. Once toasted you can either add the seeds and nuts, and crispy onions to the rice now if you plan to serve it straight away or store it in a separate tupperware container to get out when you arrive at your picnic (otherwise they'll be soggy seeds and no one wants that). 

Step 4. Meet friends, get out picnic food, drink too much and have lots of fun!

I hope everyone has a cracking weekend, let me know what you are up to. I'm heading to a picnic now, no lies, and taking some shortbread that I made for an upcoming guest post on Elle Blogs with me, look forward to that! If anyone has any picnic recipes, please drop a comment below so I can check them out!

24 June 2015

If you go down to the tube today...

"If you go down to the tube today
You're sure of a big surprise
If you go down to the tube today
You better go in a VELOCIRAPTOR!"
                                                Felicity aged 24

"I can't believe people are still taking selfies with these dinosaurs.
It's so passé"
                                                                                                          Random girls that walked past judging me

It happened. I finally got to see Jurassic Park 4, aka Jurassic World, aka the film of my decade (as previously discussed here, while Dan and I hunted for dinosaur footprints) and dare I say century? I can totally say that, because JP came out in 1993, and that century is long gone. I'm not going to spoil anything but you know if you've seen JP 1, 2 and 3, you already know that the dinosaurs get out and Jeff Goldblum's chaos theory comes up trumps. I'd been holding out to see Jurassic World at the IMAX, but unfortunately we just couldn't get tickets so Dan surprised me, really surprised me, by telling me he'd booked seats at our local cinema, twenty minutes before the performance began at 10.30am. It was the quickest clothes change in my life.

Anyway I was blown away by Jurassic World, I'm not ashamed to say I had a tear in my eye when the park doors opened. This wasn't just the film my generation had been waiting for, I have been following the development of Jurassic World intently for the last 14 years. What Steven Spielberg was saying at Comic Con, the script that was released about velociraptors being merged with humans, I've followed, analysed and interpreted it all. 

Despite all this, when Dan told me I had to go to London Waterloo station to see their Jurassic Park adverts in the commuters entrance to the underground (he works in out of home advertising and gets stupidly excited about billboards), I was like...go to London see a billboard? Why would I do that. And to be fair, I didn't do that, I went to go see Frankie, Sophie and Gianni at Brooklyn Bowl, but when I got off the train I was so excited. 

It helps that Waterloo station has a glass ceiling so when you look up and see all these Jurassic World banners you're (at least I'm) instantly thinking 'woahhh I've just entered the Jurassic World pyramid'. It's so cool, everything's glossy and branded, and it's made so super excited to see the film again but also put life into the idea that Jurassic World could happen. Something I've been dreaming of since I first saw JP, I mean I know everything could go wrong and we could all die but wouldn't it be amazing just for a second to see a real life dinosaur before it ate you?

Of course I went down and saw my old friends, the commuter stairs, where they've wallpapered the corridor with dinosaurs, speakers are playing the sounds of apatosaurus' calling out to one another and, the best part, on the digital boards there are signs telling you not to feed the dinosaurs. Unfortunately I only saw this sign after I'd smeared peanut butter jelly sandwiches all over the velociraptor mouths. The three-year-old child in me that watched Jurassic Park in the cinema in the Falklands six times and then told everyone in the cinema when the T-rex was going to eat the guy in the waterfall was out of control. By this stage, I was running round the station care free, I could have face planted, and then I saw it...

The Box.

A normal looking box with InGen printed on the side was planted in London Waterloo before the film was released, but once it had premiered the raptors broke loose! I should say this is when the judgey girls walked passed, and it made me think for half a second that I'm really sad. And then it made me think I don't care, as Dan came and met me after dinner with the ladies. We snapped some photos of us running away from the raptors, then suddenly I realised we were other dinosaur selfie lovers so we ran fleeing for our lives from the passé to the train home.

And that's how I wrote a whole post about #JurassicWaterloo.

If you've judged me and found me wanting, why not unfollow me on bloglovin here. Alternatively let's dino-talk (like pillow talk but less sexy more thrilling), my fave is probably the velociraptor although it's quite mainstream. Did anyone else love Jurassic World as much as me?

22 June 2015

Eating like Queens at The Good Life Eatery

With the exception of avoiding certain foods for medical reasons, I'm looking at you caffeine, I don't think I've ever gone on a 'diet'. Sure I went vegetarian for February, but this was more about wanting to expand my repertoire of vegetarian meals to find easy veggie dishes which I could cook during the week. And actually make some dishes from the mountain of recipe books that live in our flat. So when I looked up the menu for The Good Life Eatery, a restaurant in Sloane Square and now Marylebone in London(!) which focuses on creating simple, clean and delicious dishes, juices, smoothies and you-name-it-they-make-it, I was shocked to find out I'm a 'clean eater'. FYI I'm a bit obsessive with looking through the menus of restaurants before I go (it's basically food porn).

I know you wouldn't think it but I'd unknowingly been partaking in a diet. You wouldn't think it because of the last post I wrote about the most delicious éclairs I've had in my life, the time I ate all the onion rings and the fact that on Thursday Sophie, Frankie, Gianni (Yay! Blogger Friends!) and I ate enough fried chicken for the whole of London in one night, but it's true.

After pointing out all these 'bad' foods I've had, you could be right to think 'there's no way she's a clean eater, I've seen clean and you girl are certainly not it' (in my head this is said in gospel). But then you'd be wrong my friend, clean eating is eating a healthy balanced diet avoiding processed foods. And of all those naughty foods I had, none of them were processed and this is what The Good Life Eatery prides itself on, unprocessed, clean, healthy food with a few treats thrown in. I can see you're coming round, but now you're thinking 'éclairs, onion rings and fried chicken doesn't sound like a very balanced diet'. This is true, except haven't you heard I'm a vegetarian saint during the week, with the exception of the fried chicken; God bless its giblets.

Still reeling from my diet discovery, I grabbed my friends, Alex and Janet, and under the disguise of visiting the Saatchi Gallery and, mostly, the food market in Duke of York Square outside it (which is definitely worth a trip to Chelsea for!) we headed to The Good Life Eatery for a seasonal brunch.  

We squeezed into The Good Life Eatery, were pushed up against the door and waited in line to get to the counter to order. This is my only negative about The Good Life Eatery, there is no order-at-your-table service. I know it's happening more and more in London but it's something I really don't like, especially in restaurants and busy cafes. I'm not asking for silver service, but I don't want to queue for a table and then have to queue for a second time to order, and then again if I want anything else. It's just annoying and breeds hangry diners when you have to queue for 15 minutes each time. We went on a horrible day, when it was pouring with rain, but if it hadn't been I probably would have suggested we order, grab our food and get out sharpish. And there is only one thing worse than queuing, it's queue jumpers. Something my friend Alex did not take very well when a guy jumped in front of and knocked into her simultaneously.

Anyway we didn't go for a rainy picnic but decided  to slug it out in the dreaded queuing system. Eventually we ordered and shortly three delicious drinks came our way. Alex went for the Pink Panther, a superfood smoothie of raspberries, strawberries, avocado, vanilla, oats and lots of other goodies, topped with goji berries. While Janet and I decided we were latte ladies, Janet had the chai and I opted for caffeine-free rooibos.

I generally avoid caffeine, I get the worst headaches because of it. The only time I'll go for it is when I'm out for coffee with friends and there's no caffeine-free options, then I might opt for a good ol' breakfast tea, or a latte or mocha if I want something creamy. So to find somewhere that not only had rooibos but also had rooibos lattes, I felt very lucky that day. I'm not a huge smoothie fan, but Alex loved hers and it was super fruity when I sipped a bit. Some people have criticised the amount you pay for smoothies, but when I think of all the ingredients that go into them I don't think £6 is unreasonable.  

After a bit of a gossip, our food arrived and we got down to the serious business of eating. Alex went for the Skinny Benedict which basically replaces the hollandaise sauce with yogurt saffron sauce, something I eat a lot of at home thrown over everything. Wedges, grilled veg, wraps, you name it and it's been tangoed or, according to the correct terminology, saffroned. This was a great dish to kick start the day with whole grain toast with sunflower seeds, avocado, eggs and pesto-coated cherry tomatoes, I had serious food envy.

Janet on the other hand went for the Sunset Club. A large sandwich packed out with chicken, lettuce, tomato, eggs, bacon and ranch dressing, the whole works between two slices of whole grain toast! Janet didn't speak till she was finished so I'm guessing it was pretty good.

I on the other hand, wanted to see how they did my ultimate favourite superfood salad, which I regularly make at home. It's very unlike me to order something I can do at home, you know if you can do it yourself why bother, but it was wet and I was in great need of comfort food. This salad was spot on, with bulgur wheat, rocket, roast butternut squash and onions, crowned with feta and pomegranate seeds and generously slathered with saffron yogurt. It was a superfood, super cool, butt kicking into shape salad in a mighty portion. I had to tag Alex in half way through to help me finish it and by the end we were viciously scrapping over who got the last pieces of feta and butternut squash.

One thing I love about The Good Life Eatery is how seasonal their menu is and they change it so regularly. Unfortunately that means my salad has come and gone, but Alex and Janet's meals are firm favourites on the menu! The Good Life Eatery also get their food from as local suppliers as possible, which means less food miles and faster food, a plus for the planet, community and you! I think if you can save the planet, help our society and be healthy just by eating here The Good Life Eatery's got a pretty good thing going on.

If anyone has any vegetarian or vegan(!) restaurant/café/stall recommendations, please drop me a comment as I'm always on the hunt for a new favourite. Let me know what you think about the queue and order system that's coming into London, it's not exactly new, pubs have done it for ages but in tiny cafes are we pro or anti this movement?

20 June 2015

Maître Choux, Fantastical Éclairs & 'Fine' Street Art

Like most other Londoners, I love London. It's surprising I know, being a Londoner and all, or at least an ex-Londoner that still lives close enough to Central London to call myself one. Why do I denounce my county and pretend to be a Londoner? Three reasons really. One, London is such a vibrant city with different types of people, architecture and things to do (even the obscurest hobby has a home here). Being a girl who grew up in small communities (I won't go into my many homes, but the Falkland Islands for one) it's a big change but one I love. Two, there's always something going on and a lot of it is free. And three, the trends.

You might be thinking, 'Trends? You've never struck me as a fashion/beauty/gorgeous blogger.' And you'd be 100% right, I'm talking about food trends guys. The lobster roll, bao, the American diner, they've all come and some have stayed. For me, trying out those new trends is one of my favourite things to do. I don't hesitate to call up my friends and say, hey guys do you fancy going to this obscure, new-but-going-to-be-super-trendy place I've found, and most of the time they indulge me. Even though on one or two occasions I've let them down...

Really that's what happened when I first bought Janet and her boyfriend to Maître Choux. Maître Choux is a shop that exclusively sells éclairs, chouxs and chouquettes. But these aren't any old filled choux goodies, these are fantastical éclairs filled by the Mad Choux Scientist with blueberry and violet, lemon meringue, and tiramisu. Not only that but they're open till 8pm Monday-Friday and 7pm on weekends. That's right it's open seven days a week. How amazing is that! I'm so impressed with this new wave of late night bakeries that are going around, mostly because I can satisfy my sweet tooth any time I want...well till 8pm.
 Back to Janet, we'd walked all the way (it's really not that far) from Leicester Square to Maître Choux in Kensington to try these éclairs one Saturday. Knowing they'd be open till late, we got there at around 4pm and you know what happened? Zero éclairs. That's what happens when you rock up late on their opening week. We were devastated, luckily the owner quickly made us feel better by feeding us chouquettes, but it was a horrible experience that I never plan to relive again. So the next time I went, I planned to get there early. Real early.

Dan and I met Louie, my partner in crime if the crime is overeating, at 10am for éclairs and breakfast. This is early for me and the men moaned to no end because I refused to go for breakfast until we'd gone to Maître Choux. I was on a mission and was not going to be disappointed like last time (Janet, I'm so sorry for taunting you with these photos we'll go soon!). Despite their moaning, when they saw the shop they got very excited together, honestly I feel like a third wheel when we go out as a group, there's a lot of bro love.

The éclairs at Maître Choux were worth holding out on breakfast for and definitely worth a second trip after the disastrous first attempt. If you're looking for an enormous cream filled, chocolate coated log, Maître Choux is not for you. These are dainty adult éclairs with creative crème patisserie flavours that are wonderful and not too sweet. As always it was hard to narrow it down, but we decided on a box of four éclairs; velvety pistachio, sharp raspberry, a very elegant looking salted butter caramel, and a mellow blueberry and violet. I loved all of them, but my favourite had to be the pistachio because the filling was so creamy and delicious, and the flavour really shone through. Dan ate almost all of the salted butter caramel éclair, saying it was the best pastry he'd had in his life, and Louie shoved a Tahitian Vanilla éclair with pecans down his gob before he'd even paid. He's that kind of competitive eater. 

If you're wondering why we were umming and ahhing, trying to pick which ones to have, it's because these are some of the most expensive pastries you'll find in London. Maître Choux's éclairs are priced around £5 each, making a box of four, you guessed it, £20. Would I pay this much everyday? Hell no, but if you're eating these éclairs everyday you're ruining the magic of them. Then and there we labelled them Birthday éclairs, which quickly changed to special occasion éclairs and I'm sure will change again to it's Friday éclairs!

And anyway, I need to go back soon just to try the filled chouxs, with their pretty little chocolate discs and interesting fillings they're next on my patisserie adventure.

 Éclairs purchased and brunch demolished, we went to go and enjoy them down by the lake in Hyde Park. There were a lot of swans and geese after our treats, but I fought them off bare handed, taunting them with outstretched half eaten éclairs. I love Hyde Park, it was one of my first dates with Dan almost seven years ago. But apart from the odd music festival I haven't been there that often in the last couple of years so it was nice to stroll around. 

We lost Louie for a while as he tried to find the Norwegian War Memorial to no avail, so Dan and I made our way to the best pub in Mayfair to watch the French Open final. Despite being part Swiss, I was routing for Djokovic, something Dan did not take well. However, having spoken to my Grandma afterwards I know I made the right choice, there's only one Swiss tennis player for our family and he knows who he is. Swiss  F.

Bro love seemed to dissipate before the penultimate set when Louie also defected to the Djokovic camp. There were some heated words, but a couple of beers righted all. Though whether Dan will ever trust Louie's loyalty again remains to be seen. 

London was looking very pretty that Sunday, and whether it was this or because I was giddy from too much crème pat or the fact that there was art for sale piled up all the way to Green Park station I was feeling very laid back, very Parisian and moochy as we admired all the oil paintings on our walk from the pub.

I also stopped to snap this photo of a building which I have never noticed before, although I don't know how its escaped me when it's basically a giant bush. How gorgeous is all that foliage against the glass, I want councils to implement this nationwide on all tower blocks. I'm just saying, add a couple of buddleias and we could save the bees. And we all know once the bees go, humans go, or at least honey. Until there's a genetically modified honey.  

Overall a pretty perfect Sunday in the capital. 

If anyone has got any recommendations for places that do one thing really well drop me a comment below. Personally I think it's about time someone makes a posh strudel shop, but what do you guys want? Have a fab weekend!