Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken, fennel and tomato ragout

Hurrah!  January is such a miserable month, I am glad it is almost over.  The snow was fun for the weekend we could enjoy it but come Monday it just became a pain, put lots of disruptions in to work calendars and everywhere just looked filthy.  Also my grass is shot to bits, I cannot wait for spring.  But, we need to get through February first.  So, I have started looking at SS purchases to cheer myself up, even though there isn't much about just yet (although you cant buy a pair of boots in M&S FFS!  What is that all about?) so I will be back with a lust list very soon.

In the meantime I have been sourcing more winter warming dishes for the small people and I and I stumbled upon this delightful recipe from Good Food - to be honest if the fennel that I bought had been properly tasty fennel (as in Italian fennel) then I think it would have been too overpowering for Z & T but as it was it was very mild (Sainsburys, pah!) and they loved it!  It was also ridiculously quick and easy, I served with basmati rice.

Chicken, Fennel and Tomato Ragout

1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken , cut into chunks
  • 1 garlic clove , chopped
  • 200g new potatoes , cut into chunks (I omitted and therefore reduced cooking time to around 12 mins)                                           
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml chicken or vegetable stock                                                                                              
  • 3 roasted red peppers in brine, from a jar or deli counter, chopped ( I actually used my frozen pre chopped fresh peppers instead)

  • Method
    1. Trim the green tops off the fennel and reserve. Halve, then quarter the fennel, cut out the core, then cut lengthways into slices. Heat the oil in a pan, add the chicken, then fry quickly until lightly coloured. Add the fennel and garlic, then stir briefly until the fennel is glistening.
    2. Tip in the potatoes, tomatoes, stock and a little seasoning, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20 mins until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the peppers and heat through. Roughly chop the reserved fennel fronds, then sprinkle over the ragout. Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the juices.

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Lunch @ Marcus Wareing

    Last Friday, after a previous postponement, I was lucky enough to spend the day with my lovely friend Saf at the wonderful Berkeley Hotel as guests of Marcus Wareing.  What an amazing day we had.  After a somewhat shaky start (me vomiting, dropping Teya off late at school, blocking myself out of my bank card for forgetting the pin...) we arrived in to London at 11.45am and made our way black cab stylee to Knightsbridge.  The first thing you notice about The Berkeley is its understated elegance, as we drew up the old town house looked immaculate and the doormen were a delight.  Once inside however the glamour just exudes, not too overdone but such an impact - the foyer was dressed in the most beautiful amaryllis and everything was stunning. 

    We started with a glass of fizz and a 'berry berry' for Saf before heading in to the incredible dining room and taking our place at the best table in the restaurant!  It was so beautiful, relaxed yet polished and my perfect mix of contempory and art deco style.  We were presented with the extraordinary wine list (Petrus for £21,000 anyone?!) and superb menus and very swiftly made our choices.  Lunch menu can be found here.  Our waiting staff and the Somelier were all lovely, so much fun and perfectly attentive without being intrusive in the slightest.  I swear that we didn't stop laughing all day, we were treated like princesses, and were the last ones to leave at 5.30pm. 

    So, the food, well everything was absolute perfection and we were treated to two separate courses that the rest of the dining room weren't given, it really was A list treatment.  We also struck up a wonderful rapport with the gorgeously fun and amazingly hospitable restaurant manager, Darren McHugh, and we were honoured to be invited for a kitchen tour half way through our meal - such a treat, it was immaculate, as you would expect, and so organised!  The staff were all so kind and accommodating and didn't seem fazed by our insistent questions and giggling!  No one even flinched at the 'impressive rack' comments.  Children!  We were also blown away at the lengths that everyone went to to ensure that Saf's veggioe dishes were every bit as impressive as the meat and seafood ones, no mean feat but they pulled it off spectacularly.

     Saf and I in the kitchens


    Amuse bouche - Truffle and celeriac soup with apple foam


    Pre starter - herb & truffle pappadelle

    Starter - Pumpkin ravioli with seafood bisque
    (reisling, just seen)

    Post starter - celeriac apple and truffle creme

    Main - Oxtail - this was spectacular!

    Saf's Main, stuffed Gnocci with broccoil, a truly amazing veggie dish, so much care and attention to detail here;

    Pudding - I didn't actually enjoy pudding but only because I don't really like sweets and to be honest I had eaten so much that I couldn't fit anything more in.  Plus it was bananary and I cannot abide banana, stupid (slightly tipsy!) choice.

    Aside from the Veuve Cliquot and the Moet that I had I also was given a Riesling, that was OK and then the most incredible Shiraz that I have ever tasted.  I had 3 glasses of it!  Me with the wine list >>>

     I can honestly say that we had the most wonderful time and even met Tim Mitchell, a lovely guy whom I have been following on twitter, he works there and is a friend of the lovely Jamie Flemming who looked after us so impeccably at Le Manoir last year.  I take my hats off to everyone in hospitality, they really work so very hard, and ensure that every minute detail is perfection.  It really is a privilege to go to these places and yes, it isn't cheap if you drink as much good wine and champagne as I do, but the lunch menu starts at £30 a head, amazing value for money.  It is a complete experience and I cannot wait to go back!

    I almost forgot to say that we were also presented with Marcus' cookbook at the end of our day, a huge treat, and fab parting gift to accompany our petits fours.

    Lastly what I wore,

    Walker biker jacket - All saints
    LBD - H&M
    Black opaques - Wolford
    Leopard print pumps - Primark
    Oversized tan shopper - Zara

    Monday, January 07, 2013

    The Obligatory January Detox

    Oh that time again when I think ARGHHHHH, the holidays are over, the weather is lousy and the house is restored to its normal self - so all I see is stuff, everywhere!  So, today was day 1 of operation detox, I have sorted through my clothes, and made a massive pile to recycle, and I have made a start on my little boy's things too.  As well as wardrobe detox it is time for me to detox, I have allowed my wine consumption to creep right up over the past month and for that reason I am back on the wagon! I am ashamed to admit that I didn't have one alcohol free day in December, not one.  That is not good. I would just like to add that I wasn't getting drunk on a daily basis (!) and in fact only had 3 hangovers the whole of the festive season, but even small celebratory glasses of fizz, wine at lunch when catching up with friends etc, all take their toll.  Happily I didn't over eat over the holidays and with all the dog walking that we did I got lots of exercise, so wine aside I am feeling pretty healthy, but I need to cut out the wine cals and give my poor liver chance to regenerate, so that's it for me, well at least until Thursday - baby steps and all that.  To be fair it is my little lady's 9th birthday on Thurs and I have to toast that with a glass of fizz.

    The pile so far..

    In direct correlation to the wardrobe detox is my resolution to wear more of the things in my wardrobe.  I have loads of lovely things that I just don't wear very often and I really should.  I also need to get out of my 'uniform' of skinnies, longline top, ankle boots, oversized scarf and biker/ blazer.  Yesterday I went off piste and wore a mini skirt SHOCK HORROR and I loved it but felt a little as though I was teetering on the edge of mutton territory.. let me know what you think! Looking forward to getting re acquainted with more items from the depths of the closet.

    Black L/S Top - Zara
    Black leather bomber - Oasis
    Huge woollen scarf - Zara
    Cream woollen skirt - Formes
    Plaited shopper - Zara
    Opaques - M&S
    Leopard print pumps - Primark

    Friday, January 04, 2013

    Welcome to 2013!

    Well I am sure I am not the only one happy to say ciao to 2012 (olympics/jubilee/celebratory champers aside) I have said it before but I will say again that I try to never blog about the doom, who wants to read the depressing stuff? So I like to focus on the positive and the good, I am definitely a glass almost full person, despite adversity, and I really wish more people were. I know some would be hugely nauseating though, so there is a balance, but I despise negativity, especially from those who have everything to be happy about.

    Anyway! Happy 2013 all. Hope the Xmas break treated you well. Mine was a non stop riot of cooking, wine, family, laughter, cleaning, pine needles, Labrador hair, pine needles, wine, rain, ponies, wine, pine needles, cooking.. You get the picture! Loved it though and really loved having the family over from Oz, Heather & Lawrence are just delightful, it was a pleasure to spend time getting to know them and Christmas Day all together, and traditionally English, was fantastic. We now have started making plans to do Xmas down under in 2014, how exciting is that?! We do have a lot to overcome & save up for before then though.

    It is a new year though and in celebratory style I've finally succumbed and purchased my long lusted after All Saints Walker leather jacket. Feel a little sick and excited about receiving it but I do hope it's perfect or it will be going back, it's too much to spend on something that isn't. I have high hopes for it taking me through to summer, and talking of summer I have also bought these beauties, half price from Brandalley

    Sam Endleman Gigis

    That's it for me shopping wise now, doesn't mean I can't compile many a lust list, but no purchasing - in fact I really really need a good wardrobe clear out so will have to embark on that very soon.

    Oh and for a tasty & healthy start to new year eating do try this recipe, easily customised and yum Super fab chicken soup