Summer in April!!

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The past week was just glorious with blue skies, 25+C degrees and SUNSHINE! It’s sadly over now but it was wonderful as long as it lasted.

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On Tuesday it was my turn to host the book group and I thought a summery lemon pasta (I will post the recipe soon) would be appropriate. It went down a treat together with a simple leafy salad and wild garlic bread. Marie-Louise brought a bottle of lovely champagne as well, so it was a rather festive Tuesday!

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The next day was sunny and hot, so after work I took the river boat down the Thames and had the first glass of rosé of the season, overlooking the river.

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On Friday a group of us had a lovely girlie evening at Gordon’s Wine Bar (where Laura expertly managed to get us a table as soon as we arrived!) with rosé, cheese and lots of chatting. So lovely!

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The rest of the weekend was fairly quiet with lie-ins, pizza and champagne on Saturday night and a lovely pub lunch in the sunshine on Sunday.

 

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Seville: lunch at the city’s oldest tapas bar

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My first day in Seville had an early start; I was had checked in at my hotel mid-morning, so after a little rest I set out exploring the city. It was sunny but not that warm, so I walked around taking in some of the sights on my way to lunch. And what better place to start, than from the beginning, with the city’s oldest tapas bar. It’s been around since 1670 and had as much charm as I had hoped.

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It’s quite dark inside El Rinconcillo, especially compared to the sunshine outside, and packed with people trying to order at the bar or grab a table along the sides. Everyone’s talking, eating and having a good time.

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I placed myself strategically behind two people at the bar that looked they were about to leave, and took their spot when they did. Then I ordered a glass of white wine while I studied the menu (the English version as I don’t speak Spanish). I started with some lomo (cured tenderloin from the acorn-fed Pata Negra pigs) and Spanish cheese. And bread, which you receive immediately. And my favourite; Jamón croquetas.

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I also made sure to look around and see what other people ordered. The locals always order the best dishes, and here I could see that the favourites were fried battered cod that looked absolutely delicious, but as I hadn’t fully recovered from my illness earlier in the week I avoided fried food as much as I could. But another very popular dish caught my attention: the espinacas y garbanzos (spinach and chickpeas).  The spinach was wilted and soft and tasted amazing with a hint of picante. Yum!

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When it was time to pay the tab was scribbled down with chalk straight on the bar counter so it was a quick process to settle the bill. And they accept cards, which is great.

While enjoying my lunch and soaking up the atmosphere I also made friends with my bar neighbours on each side and chatted to them about the food and the city. What I loved most about this place was the ambience and that it feels very authentic even though tourists come here too. It feels like a real Seville institution and is a MUST on your itinerary if you’re visiting. You will not be disappointed.

El Rinconcillo, Calle Gerona, 40, 41003 Sevilla, Spain 

All the food; both home cooking and eating out!

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Last week was rather full on, but in the best possible way! Monday I mainly prepped for the day after when I had my friends Gaby and Ro over for dinner after work. For once I wasn’t rushed and it was such a nice feeling. We started with nibbles; obviously Jamon Iberico and saucisson from Spain, nice olives and my homemade dill hummus with pitta chips.

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Then I served trout fillets with dilly new potatoes and a lovely sauce for fish and finished the dinner off with dulce de leche pannacotta. Gaby also brought a selection of canelés from Babelle that were amazing!

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My childhood friend Therése arrived from Sweden on Thursday evening and we had dinner together at mine while chatting away. I made a selection of tapas including the Jamon Iberico and saucisson, Nocellara olives (our favourite!), Manchego and Ossau Iraty cheese, padron peppers, calamari and my asparagus with wild garlic mayonnaise.

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On Friday we met after work and had a speedy but delicious dinner at Barrafina Drury Lane before going to the theatre around the corner to see 42nd Street.

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Saturday was lovely and sunny, so we put our sunglasses on and went shopping in Chelsea where we also had lunch. A pit stop at home to change and we were off to dinner. We had amazing sushi that I will tell you all about later and finished the evening with champagne at Kettner’s Townhouse.

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Therése’s last full day here we went back to an old favourite for lunch; La Fromagerie in Marylebone. The food, the cheese and the ambience is just a winning combination.

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In the evening I made us a nice chicken salad and we had ice cream and chocolate chip cookies for pudding. It was such a lovely weekend and I’m so grateful my friends make the effort to visit me while living abroad!

 

 

Recipe: baked feta with tomatoes

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I love feta. That salty tangy cheese is just heaven for me. But it wasn’t until recently I discovered how nice it is baked. Silly really, since I have baked plenty of camembert and brie in my day.

The feta doesn’t become as runny as those two types of cheeses though, but as it gets warm it becomes creamer and is simply delicious like this; baked with a splash of olive oil, some dried (or fresh) oregano and chilli flakes and some juicy cherry tomatoes.

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It works as a light supper, lunch or as a starter. Or why not serve it with olives, charcuterie and a salad?! And bread. You definitely need bread with this. I had flatbread but tortilla chips, pitta or a crusty baguette will work just as well.

Baked feta with cherry tomatoes, oregano and chilli flakes, serves 2

Inspiration from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.

1 feta

200 g cherry tomatoes, cut in half

olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp chilli flakes

black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the feta in a small oven-proof dish. Add the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, chilli flakes and black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, until warm and soft. Serve with flatbread or tortilla chips.

Recipe: Queso fundido!

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Mexican cheese dip. With chorizo and peppers. Melting, bubbly and comforting. I simply cannot think of a better way to start a mid-week cold January supper with some of my closest friends. It was like a warming cheesy hug, telling us if we persevered we would get through the month. Et voila!, it’s February!

We also had prosecco, tacos and lots of fun, which helped.

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But back to the dip. It’s very easy to make and so satisfying to eat. But have plenty of napkins to hand as it is a little messy. Also, be patient and wait for the dip to be completely melted when you serve it. I would suggest putting it in the oven 30 minutes or so before the guests are due to arrive. You can always cover it with tin foil and lower the temperature to keep it hot and bubbling.

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The chorizo and peppers add a lot of flavour to the otherwise unexciting grated mozzarella (I was a little worried it wouldn’t be cheesy enough but it was). But I can’t help but thinking it could be made even better with the addition of jalapenos next time. Stay tuned…

Queso fundido, serves 4

75 g cooking chorizo, finely chopped

1/2 pepper, finely chopped

500 g grated mozzarella

oil for frying

a pinch of cayenne or other chilli powder

To serve: tortilla chips

Fry the chorizo in oil until crispy. Set aside and fry the pepper in the chorizo oil. Drain on kitchen roll. 

In an oven-proof dish, put a layer of cheese, then scatter chorizo and peppers on top and repeat the process until all ingredients are used up. Sprinkle with cayenne and put in a 200C oven until melted and bubbly (approx 40 mins). Serve immediately with tortilla chips.  

Eataly, our saviour

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Our last day in Italy wasn’t fun at all food wise. It started fine with a nice breakfast at the hotel in Ravenna and we had a good drive back to Bologna as well, but then it went downhill from there. Sob.

We really wanted to have lunch at Casa Minghetti (the cute bar and restaurant where we had a pre-dinner drink on the Saturday), but they were closed. So we then walked to a restaurant Caroline got recommended by a friend, that according to Google was open, only to find another closed door. Most places were open the other holiday days, but for some reason everything was closed on Easter Monday.

So we walked back to the centre of town to find only a handful of restaurants open for business, serving the same amount of people as the other days when everything was open which of course resulted in full restaurants and massive queues. By this point we were both hangry and about to cry. So we had to decide between a shorter queue for a lighter meal (it seemes less popular) or longer queue for proper cooked food. In desperation we chose the former and went to Eataly (they have a restaurant in New York too, that you may have heard of) as they had lots of tables and a fairly short queue. We weren’t really in the mood for cheese and charkuterie, but as we sat down with it in front of us it was heaven. The mortadella was actually the best one I had during the whole trip!

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The charkuteries from left to right (top pic): mortadella, serrano, pancetta and salami and the cheese from left to right (above pic) were: a nice hard cheese I don’t know the name of, mozzarella, parmesan and dolcelatte.

After lunch our plan was to buy food we wanted to take home with us. We had eyed up courgette flowers at every greengrocer since our first day here but as they wilt quickly we wanted to buy them fresh on our last day. That back-fired as most the food shops were closed as well. What was going on?! In the end I managed to find parmesan, ricotta, salsiccia, erborinato cheese and asparagus to take home, but it was a real mission. Still quite happy with our efforts we drove to the airport only to find out that our flight was two hours delayed. No probs, we read magazines and enjoyed a glass of wine in the lounge. But there was no food, so after consulting an online map of the airport we thought we’d have dinner at one of the two restaurants after security.

Again, things back-fired. There was only one restaurant and one cafeteria after security but the restaurant was closed and the café didn’t really sell anything edible apart from two scary looking sandwiches, ice cream and snacks so we had another glass of wine and some parmesan snacks for dinner. Now, it’s almost funny how we could have such a bad food day in Italy of all places. But in the moment it wasn’t funny at all. I’ve never been so happy to come back to Heathrow and see an open M&S late at night!

The rest of our trip was absolutely fab, and luckily both Caroline and I react the same way to not getting fed, so at least we were in it together.

Eataly, Via Degli Orefici 19, 40126 Bologna, Italy

Pre-dinner nibbles in Bologna

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On the Saturday in Bologna we went all out before dinner and had pre-dinner drinks and nibbles at three different places. There were so many things we wanted to eat and places to try and not enough time, so this was a good solution.

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We started with this little (yes, it was intended for one person but we shared it) charkuterie and cheese platter at Zerocinquantino Vino e Panino, and a glass of wine each. I love the fact that when you order ‘a glass of white wine’, the waiters ask if you want still or sparkling, as if it were water. I do like my sparkling wines though, and later this same evening Caroline introduced me to another Italian sparkling wine, besides prosecco;  franciacorta, with smaller bubbles. So nice!

On the platter we had mortadella, salami, serrano, a type of fresh cheese which I later identified as dolcelatte in a deli shop, a nice hard cheese and an amazing blue cheese called erborinato. Remember to try it when you’re in Italy! We also got to try the local tigelli bread which was nice but extremely filling.

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Next we stopped at a fishmongers on the same street, which sold fish and seafood ready to eat, like tartars, oysters, red prawns etc. And wine. But we just had some seafood. We both love the raw red prawns so had a plate of those each. They’re so sweet and juicy and absolutely delicious raw!

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We also tried a oyster each, I can’t remember what type or where it was from but it was really nice. The fresh shellfish was a great palate cleanser before our actual dinner though; we actually felt less full after the prawns than when we came into the shop.

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We had time for another quick stop before dinner so when we walked past  Casa Minghetti with it’s popular outside seating we decided to go inside for a glass of wine. Even though the restaurant (inside and outside) was full to the brim with people the staff welcomed us in and gave us some space at the bar counter. The atmosphere here was great – really friendly with a mixture of different types of people, good music and friendly staff.

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The wine was nice, and the cocktails they made looked great too. We also got three different types of snacks with our drink. It’s another thing I like about Italy, you always get snacks with your drink.

Zerocinquantino Vino e Panino, Via Pescherie vecchie 3/e, Bologna

Fiskaffären kan jag tyvärr inte hitta namnet på, men den ligger på Via Pescherie Vechie, snett tvärsöver gatan från Zerocinquantino, mot Via Drapperie till. 

Casa Minghetti, Piazza Minghetti, 1A, 40124 Bologna, Italy