Wednesday, 19 October 2016


When we go to our favourite restaurant Gola, Arabella and I always order their Cacio e Pepe dish. Since Olympia was born we haven't been able to go out for dinner as regularly as we used to so last Friday night I decided to try and cook this pasta. The recipe comes from Olive magazine and it looked pretty quick and easy, you also end up with a side of garlic oil for salads or pastas.

Ingredients for 2 people:

200ml sunflower oil (I used olive as that is what we had in the cupboard)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
80g butter
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp of oregano (I used dried but you could use fresh and chopped)
50g Parmesan, finely grated
250g spaghetti

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta and cook according to the packet's instructions. Ours took ten minutes.

Meanwhile pour the oil into a frying pan and add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic changes to a golden colour. As soon as this happens, strain it through a metal sieve into a heatproof bowl. I didn't read the metal part and managed to kill our sieve!!

Anyway shake off any excess oil from the garlic and then spread it on kitchen roll to cool down and set the oil to one side.

At the same time, in a frying pan add the butter, black pepper, oregano and a splash of cooking water and cook on a low to medium heat until all melted.

When the pasta is ready, drain and then put it back in the pan with the butter mixture. Add the Parmesan, but don't stir it. You want it to sit and melt from the heat of the pan otherwise it can turn into cheesy balls (although that sounds good to me too)! I didn't have the patience to wait for it all to be melted but I did 75% of it.

Add the golden garlic and season to taste - we added a little salt. Mix all together.

Finally serve immediately with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan.

I am afraid to say that for me this wasn't as good as Gola's cacio e pepe but I think that is because their sauce is a lot creamier. Pascal, on the other hand, preferred it as he doesn't particularly like cream. The whole recipe was very quick and easy and I love that it barely used any ingredients. I think you could also add a few chillis if you wanted to spice it up a bit. I like that we now have some leftover garlic oil too - I remember when I was a child, I used to visit a restaurant in Lanzarote that did a salad with just lettuce, lardons and garlic oil - so I am going to be trying that this week!

Thursday, 13 October 2016


My life has changed dramatically since having a baby....going out to eat is no longer a regular occurrence. However my husband and I decided to hire a babysitter and go on a date on Saturday night, although I was so exhausted a box of chocolates on the sofa was a much more appealing option. Anyway once I had dressed up and thrown some jewellery and make up on (another novelty nowadays) I was ready to go.

I had booked the Pig's Ear, a gastro pub in Chelsea apparently owned by Frank Lampard and his dad and an old haunt of Prince William. This pub has been around for years and is a popular local.

When we arrived I was expecting to be sitting in the upstairs dining room but instead we were shown to the dining area in the corner of the pub - it was already pretty busy and was noisy from the pub but it had a cosy atmosphere. We ordered some delicious olives whilst we perused the menu and Pascal was immediately impressed by the wine served by the glass.

Obviously I had checked out the menu beforehand and had already decided we were going to have the Pig's Ear sharing platter with potted ham hock, duck rillette, Palma ham, sausage roll, pork pie, chicken liver parfait, mini scotch egg, pickle and apple sauce. This sounded amazing and it tasted amazing - it was a good size portion and every mouthful was memorable. We polished the whole lot off without a morsel to spare. We both agreed the duck was our favourite. Other starters included halloumi with cauliflower couscous, pomegranate and pine nuts or scallop ceviche with a salad of moulie and avocado but we could not be swayed!

For mains I was torn between the burger or the mussels and in the end went for the mussels which were cooked in cider and bacon cream and served with fries. Pascal could not decide between the venison cooked with roasted marrow, black cabbage and red currant jus or the slow roast pork belly with crackling, butternut squash, Savoy cabbage and a red wine sauce - in the end he chose the pork.

Both of us were incredibly impressed by our mains - they were phenomenal - I reckon the mussels were the best I have ever eaten which is saying something as I have eaten a lot in my lifetime! Pascal adored his pork with crispy crackling, a perfect meal for a cold, blustery evening. 

I was tempted by the sticky toffee pudding for dessert but my jeans were already feeling tight so I thought best save that for another day (next time I might come in elasticated trousers)!

I can't believe I had not been to the Pig's Ear for around 15 years - the food was so good I want to go back already. The menu is small and it was not the quiet dining room I was expecting but the pub exceeded my expectations in many other ways. I would go back for the sharing platter alone. A perfect gastro pub, I can see why it has the royal approval!!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


I started the 5:2 diet again yesterday after 11 months off it - I have a stone of baby weight left to lose and it is not going to come off unless I actually try very hard. The 5:2 diet worked really well for me previously so I am hoping it will have the same effect although I couldn't be less motivated. 

Before my 500 calorie day, I obviously needed a good "send off", so for my last meal Pascal and I cooked a creamy mushroom and pancetta risotto. This is from a recipe card from Waitrose from September 2004.....definitely time to cook it!! It took about an hour in total to cook as you have to soak the mushrooms for 20 minutes and I tweaked the recipe slightly - i.e. I added more cheese and pancetta.

Ingredients for 6 people:

45g dried porcini mushrooms
160g pancetta (we used lardons)
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
500g carnaroli risotto rice
150ml red wine (I just used stock)
1.5 litres hot vegetable or chicken stock
20g fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
100g Parmesan, grated (plus extra for serving)

Soak the mushrooms in 300ml of warm, previously boiled water for 20 minutes and then strain through a sieve, reserving the liquid. Our mushrooms were already chopped, but if yours aren't, cut them into small pieces.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the oil and then stir in the onion, garlic and pancetta and cook for around 4 minutes until the pancetta is golden.

Add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes and then add the rice and cook for another couple of minutes.

Pour in the wine (or stock) and cook until the liquid is absorbed and then stir in the mushroom liquid and again cook until this is absorbed.

Finally season with black pepper and then add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender but firm to the bite. This is the time consuming part!

Stir in the Parmesan and parsley.

Serve and enjoy!

Risotto is one of my favourite foods and this certainly did not disappoint - I love the combination of the mushrooms and pancetta and me being me sprinkled some extra Parmesan on top. A great dish - you could also "jazz it up" by adding a drizzle of truffle oil at the end (I forgot to do this and I deeply regret it)!

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Monday, 3 October 2016


All we have eaten for the past couple of months is pasta.....Arabella and Pascal have been in Heaven but I getting seriously bored! This Sunday I decided to cook this Italian Baked Meatball dish - you could have it with pasta or rice but we had ours with garlic bread. I will admit I completely cheated in this recipe - you are meant to make your own meatballs but I bought some. My time is limited with a 2 month old baby so I need to cut corners when I can! 

This recipe can be prepared beforehand and frozen. It takes a while (1 hour 45 minutes) but it wasn't complicated.

Ingredients for 4 people:

1 onion, diced
Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 bay leaves
400g chopped tomatoes
600ml of passata
2 tbsp tomato puree 
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar as that is what I had in the cupboard)
500g beef meatballs
250g grated mozzarella
100g mascarpone
100g grated cheddar cheese

To serve:
Garlic bread (or pasta or rice)

Gently fry the diced onions in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan until softened (around 5 minutes). Then add the garlic and increase the heat for a couple of minutes.

Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, passata, puree, brown sugar and red wine vinegar to the frying pan. Let it bubble for 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Then season to taste.

At the same time fry the meatballs in a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan according to the packet's instructions. Ours took about 12 minutes and we had to stir them regularly so they did not burn and cooked evenly.

Cool all the ingredients to room temperature. (We actually missed out this part as we were starving and didn't want to wait)!

10 minutes before you are ready to cook preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 C / gas mark 4. 

When everything has cooled combine the meatballs and tomato sauce in a big baking dish.

Mix together 200g of mozzarella with 100g of mascarpone and a little salt and then blob over the tomato and meatball mixture. Scatter the remaining mozzarella and the grated cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and cook for a remainder 30-45 minutes until the meatballs are piping hot and cooked through and the cheesy top is golden and bubbling. Around 15-20 minutes before the end, add your garlic bread or start thinking about preparing your pasta or rice.

Finally when it is ready, leave to stand for 5 minutes and then serve and enjoy.

I think we had our oven a little too hot and as I never left ours to cool before cooking, it ended up slightly burnt!! Whoops! Thankfully it didn't alter the taste and I thought this was absolutely delicious - cheesy, tomatoey and meaty - a great combination. We all adored scooping it up with the garlic bread. Both Pascal and Arabella felt it had a little too much tomato sauce but I wasn't complaining.

This is is great hearty dish - perfect for dinner parties and family meals as it can be prepared before and frozen if necessary. I cannot wait for my leftovers today!

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