A relaxed dinner with friends

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Last weekend I had two late nights in a row and as I am not twenty anymore (sob) I coudn’t do the same this weekend. Instead I hibernated at home on the Saturday and invited my party happy friends from the weekend before over for a relaxed dinner. It’s obviously a different experience to doing shots at 2am but very emjoyable.

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We started with a few nibbles; padrón peppers, sweet green olives (that I managed to find in Sainsbury’s actually) and serrano rolls with lemon crème. Some nice bread would have worked well with this, and a grassy olive oil to dip it in, but we avoided gluten this evening and even though there are great products out there, glutenfree bread just isn’t as nice as a proper sourdough.

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We then had a real classic in my kitchen; lavender chicken with lemon, thyme and garlic served with roasted new potatoes and steamed green beans and broccoli tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette with some honey in. The jus is simply the juices from the chicken reduced and thickened with a knob of butter. Delicious!

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To finish we had a take on Gino with bananas, strawberries and perfectly ripe mango. I usually don’t buy fruit and veg so very out of season but couldn’t resist the strawberries and they were actually not that bad, but I prefer local produce in season. Hurry up summer!

Dinner at Mele e Pere, Soho (revisited)

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Mele e Pere in the midst of vibrant Soho (we saw two people getting arrested just after dinner) is a real gem. It’s very relaxed, usually crowded and they have prosecco on tap!

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I had dinner with my ex-flatmate Nick here a few weeks ago and since we were both starving after a hard day at he office we started with a few things to share and then moved on to a pasta dish each. To share we had a bread basket (with lovely focaccia), sweet green olives, calamari with smoky mayo and a parmigiana with pesto and rocket. All very tasty!

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Nick had a large portion of their beef ragù to finish and it was very proper. I’m sure it had been cooked for several hours.

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I chose probably the richest pasta dish in the universe but it was utterly amazing. Fluffy pillows of gnocchi with a very buttery sauce and shavings of black truffle. So lush!

Mele e Pere, 46 Brewer St, London W1F 9TF

Creamy new potato salad with dill and Dijon

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As much as I love a challenge in the kitchen sometimes I like to keep it simple. Very simple.

This classic Scandinavian potato salad is great with fish or barbecued meats (but substitute the dill with parsley and go easy on the lemon to combine with meat) and gives me hope that spring (and summer) is just around the corner.

Creamy new potato salad with dill and Dijon, serves 1

200 g new potatoes

3 tbsp creme fraiche

2 tbsp mayonnaise (Hellman’s is fine)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 lemon, the juice

1 tbsp finely chopped dill

salt, white pepper

Boil the potatoes and drain. Leave to cool slightly (or have already cold cooked potatoes at the ready from the day before, although lukewarm works well). Dice the potatoes. Mix creme fraiche, mayo, lemon juice and dill in a bowl and add the potato. Season to taste.

Serve with a few slices cold smoked salmon and a lemon wedge. 

A new breakfast favourite: egg mayonnaise with pancetta on toast

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Pret A Manger sells a small baguette with egg mayonnaise and bacon that I sometimes have for breakfast and that’s of course where I found the inspiration for this lovely breakfast. The crispy toast (with salted butter), smooth egg mayonnaise with plenty of flavour and savoury pancetta is such a great breakfast I’ve already had it two mornings in a row for breakfast.

NB. I prefer runny eggs in general but that doesn’t work in egg mayonnaise, therefore I boil them for seven and a half minutes so the yolks are set but still very yellow and creamy. If you prefer your eggs hardboiled please boil them for longer. Also, I prefer white pepper to black in subtle (non-Italian or meat) dishes, but again, it’s up to you to decide what you prefer. 

Egg mayonnaise, serves 3

4 medium eggs

50 ml mayonnaise (Hellman’s or homemade)

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

salt and white pepper

Bring water to the boil in the saucepan and place the eggs in the pan. Boil for seven and a half minutes. Drain and cover the eggs with very cold water. Drain once the eggs are cool and place in fridge for an hour to cool some more (makes it easier to peel them). 

Peel the eggs and chop with a sharp knife. Mix mayonnaise with mustard and add the chopped eggs. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Keep refrigerated. 

Egg mayonnaise on toast with pancetta, per serving

1 thick slice white toast

a knob of butter for the toast

2 tbsp egg mayonnaise (as above)

2 slices pancetta, fried in the oven, 15 minutes in 200C

Toast the bread and butter it. Spread the egg salad on to the bread, top with the crispy pancetta. Serve immediately. 

Lunch at The Delaunay, Holborn

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Last Saturday Sinead and I played ‘ladies who lunches’ and went to The Delaunay for lunch after the Isabella Blow exhibition at Somerset House. The Delaunay is part of the same company that runs The Wolseley as well as Brasserie Zédel and Colbert (of which I’ve been to all the others).

Just like the other restaurants in this group The Delaunay has a grand art deco interior and a very classic European menu offering borstj, pierogi, wurts and Schnitzel as well as French classics.

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I had the steak tartare (which I adore if it’s made properly) and this was a very nice version. Perfect balance of flavour, good quality meat and a quail egg yolk on top.  I chose the smaller size because even though I love steak tartare I can’t eat a lot of it. The smaller portion came with sourdough toast but I ordered some frites so make it more substantial.

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Sinead loves chicken and had the spatchcocked poussin with salsa verde and a green salad. She enjoyed it but wasn’t as pleased as I was with my steak tartare.

We both liked The Delaunay but prefer The Wolseley. The Wolseley just feels grander with its lighter interior while The Delaunay is darker with its wood panelling. I also found the service a little lacking here. But with that said, it is still a great restaurant and a good alternative to the real thing if you find yourself in Holborn.

The Delaunay, 55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB

Mushrooms, courgette and feta in pitta bread

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The most satisfying way for me to cook is to look in the quite empty fridge and forage a few ingredients and turn them into a delicious meal. It is definitely a challenge but this is usually when I come up with some really good dishes I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

I really despise food waste and am trying my best not to throw produce away so that’s the main purpose of fridge foraging but I like the fact that I can turn this into something really delicious too.

This dish came about when I had some sad looking mushrooms lying about in the fridge together with some spring onions and an opened packet of feta. Together with some courgette, aleppo pepper and garlic in a toasted pitta it turned out to be a great dish. Lots of umami and tang from the feta combined with a bit of heat. A perfect weekday supper.

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Mushrooms, courgette, spring onions and feta in pitta, serves 1

about 8 chestnut mushrooms, washed and sliced

1/2 medium courgette, thinly sliced

4 spring onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/2-1 tsp aleppo pepper or similar (a pinch of cayenne pepper works well)

2-3 tbsp crumbled feta

oil for frying

salt, black pepper

toasted pitta to serve

Heat up the oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan and let them brown then add the spring onions and courgettes and fry for another five minutes. Add garlic and aleppo pepper, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add the cumbled feta. Serve with toasted pitta. 

Cakes for the office

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Chocolate fudge cake with peanut butter frosting and salted peanuts

Last week I finally managed to have time for an evening of baking for the office. As the archives here on the blog are quite full already, I decided to stick to some tried and tested recipes that never fail to impress!

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Mary Berry’s white chocolate cheesecake is always a winner
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Swedish drömmar (crumbly vanilla cookies) went down a treat 

Dinner at Little Social, Mayfair

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One Saturday night in the beginning of the month I met up with a bunch of girl friends for dinner. First we went to Mr. Fogg’s (although I recommend you book first, which we didn’t , but they were kind enough to let us in anyway) and then on for dinner at Little Social, also in Mayfair.

This is another restaurant in the very large Jason Atherton empire just across the road from his first London restaurant Pollen Street Social.

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Two of my friends had the cod brandade to start and although it was very well executed!

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I had the crab mayonnaise with bitter leaves and toast which was very fresh and lovely.

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The other two girls had the seasonal truffle risotto with a heap of shaved truffle. I must admit I had food envy but I don’t think I would have managed two courses if this was one of them. I got to taste it though and it was the creamiest risotto I’ve ever had without being too rich. It seems impossible but it was simply divine.

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For mains, Gaby had the seabass BLT with fried portobello mushroom, tomato, lardon and lettuce wedge. I’m not sure the concept worked as such but the fish and mushroom were very nice.

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Rowena had the lamb shank with potato purée and vegetables. Pretty as a picture and very nice.

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Laura had the ox cheeks with potato purée and bone marrow ad I might have had a another case of food envy. Delicious!

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Bronwen and I both had the bavette with salad and frites. I had the bearnaise sauce and Bronwen the peppercorn sauce. Both very good and the steak was delicious! Bavette (or flat iron or onglet) is definitely one of my favourite cuts.

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The restaurant serves well sourced, well cooked and uncomplicated food that I like a lot. But don’t be fooled, although good ingredients comes a long way you still need skill to know how to best enhance it. Some dishes were better than others but everything was well cooked.

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The service is great here too; when we arrived we were seated at a table next to the door and after only a short while our waitress asked to move further into the room because she was worried we were cold in our sleeveless dresses. We were but we didn’t think of demanding another table so it was very sweet of her to offer.

Little Social, 5 Pollen Street, London W1S 1NE

Corn fritters with yoghurt dip

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I ♥ fritters. They work as a snack, lunch or light supper and you can use whatever is lying about in the fridge. This particular recipe is from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery School; a new edition to my cookbook shelf.

More fritters recipes:

Leek fritters

Broccoli parmesan fritters

Black salsify and feta fritters ( a favourite!)

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Corn fritters, serves 3-4

Adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course.

100 g plain flour

1/2 tsk baking powder

1 egg, beaten

4 tbsp milk

olive oil

2 spring onions, chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped coriander

250 g tinned corn, drained and dried on kitchen towel

salt and pepper

Yoghurt dip:

250 g natural yoghurt

1/2 – 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1/2 lime, the juice

3 tbsp chopped coriander

Start by combining all the ingredients for the dip and set aside. 

Next mix flour and baking powder in a bowl, add salt and pepper. Make a well in the middle and add the milk and beaten egg. Incorporate the flour with the egg and milk until all combined. Add 1 tbsp oil and more milk if the batter is too thick. Add spring onions, chilli, coriander and corn. Combine.

Heat up a frying pan on medium heat and add a glug of olive oil. Place tablespoon sized dollops of batter in the pan and fry a few fritters at the time, for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Serve with the yoghurt dip and maybe a wedge of lime. 

Sushi lunch at Chisou, Mayfair

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When my friend Carina was in town I got the task to find a good sushi restaurant, that was open for lunch on Sundays, served good vegetarian food (not veggie sushi) and located in central London. Not super easy, especially when one in the group is Japanese, but my apparently my research skills are up to scratch because we ended up at Chisou Mayfair and we were all very pleased with our lunch.

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Elena chose a sashimi lunch special served with a salad, rice and fruit for afters and Hetal, who’s vegetarian, had a delicious teriyaki tofu with rice.

Carina and I both love sushi and every time she comes to London to visit we try a new place. We decided to start with three maki rolls and loved them all. The salmon avocado was pretty standard but very good and the shrimp tempura delicious but the spicy tuna toll was a-ma-zing. The tuna was such good quality it just melted in the mouth.

Since the sushi was so good we decided on ordering an extra roll and had the spider roll with soft shell crab – also amazing. 

The interior at Chisou is not typical Mayfair but neither are the prices and the short walk from Regent Street together with the excellent food makes this a perfect lunch place when out and about in central London.

Chisou Mayfair, 4 Princes Street, London W1B 2LE