Tuesday, 12 August 2014

BAR BOULUD, KNIGHTSBRIDGE

My daughter has been with the ex husband for nearly two weeks and I am missing her desperately - this weekend I was pretty moody at times because of this. Thankfully Pascal knows exactly how to cheer me up….through my tummy. We decided to go to Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. We have been a few times before and I absolutely love it although Pascal has always been very negative about the food and the price - but he was willing to give it another go. 

We arrived slightly early so had a drink at the bar - a g&t for me (obviously) and a Ricard for Pascal which was served beautifully (even better than they do in France).




Normally when the sun is out we are desperate to sit outside with some rose but today being inside with air conditioning was a blessing.

We were shown to our table and despite our intentions to only have one starter to share and then a main each, once we opened the menu, we knew we couldn't be "good"! (Good food is better than a good bikini body)!

The menu is my idea of Heaven - french but with burgers. Daniel Boulud is famous for his super expensive burger that he sells in his New York restaurant…something I definitely need to try one day!! I literally wanted everything on the menu - starters range from charcuterie platters, pates, sausages, salads, snails….we went for 3 starters to share. I chose the pate grand-pere which I had had before - coarse pate, foie gras, pork and truffle. Even though it had been two years, it was still as amazing as I remembered. I didn't even eat the toast with it, it was enough on it's own….I actually wished I wasn't sharing!


Pascal chose the boudin blanc sausage with truffled mash potato and apple. I haven't had boudin blanc before and I didn't want to know exactly what was in it - it tasted delicious and the truffle mash was sublime - I could have eaten a mountain of it.


Lyon in France is famous for it's food and restaurants and so Pascal said we also had to have the sausage Lyonnais in brioche with pistachio & truffle. It wouldn't have been my choice but I am pleased with Pascal's decision as it was amazing - it put the humble pork pie to shame!


Wow - a fantastic start to a meal! Choosing a main was difficult as I adore the mussels they do here and their croque monsieur but we decided to share a couple of burgers. We went for a Frenchie which was a beef patty with confit pork belly, rocket, dijon, tomato compote and a morbid cheese peppered bun. Plus a Piggie (it had my name all over it) which was a beef patty with barbecue pulled pork, green chilli mayonnaise, bibb lettuce, red cabbage slaw and a cheddar bun. We ordered some fries and were tempted by more truffle mash but I didn't want to explode.




Both burgers were great - really juicy, soft buns and plenty of filling. The pulled pork was outstanding. The true test of the fact it was a good burger was that I didn't notice the lack of cheese until the very end. Pascal thought the piggie had a bit of a kick to it but I was so obsessed by the red cabbage slaw I didn't notice. The fries were fab but we barely touched them as we were stuffed.

A great lunch and thankfully Pascal agreed….yes it is expensive (especially the wine) but the food is great and the service impeccable. In fact I have already organised my birthday lunch there for 2015!!


Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge
London
SW1X 7LA
Tel: 020 72013899

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Monday, 11 August 2014

BLISTERED PEPPERS WITH TOMATOES, MOZZARELLA & PESTO

Yesterday we cooked Pot Roast Chicken with Leeks & Winter Salsa Verde and like always I wanted to do a veg with it not carbs….I need to get into a bikini in a few days and the thought is terrifying….although not scary enough to actually diet! 

I decided to do these peppers as I love a stuffed pepper and I thought my Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers might be too much. These peppers can also be cooked on a barbecue which is perfect for summer but as it was pouring with rain, we did them in the oven.

Ingredients for 2 people:

2 large red or orange peppers
Olive oil
8 baby plum or pomodorini tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
A ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks
4 tbsp fresh pesto


Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas mark 6.

Cut the peppers in half length ways and remove the seeds. It is much better to keep the stalks in the peppers but Pascal cut ours out - doh. 


Add the peppers to a dish and rub them all over with olive oil, garlic and seasoning.


If you are cooking inside put your extractor fan on as it will get smokey! Heat a frying pan until very hot. Put the halved peppers, cut edges side down, in the pan and sear them until they are blackened along the edges.


Then whip them out and put them back in the dish with the tomatoes and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Alternatively you can grill them on a barbecue.


After 10 minutes arrange the tomatoes in the peppers, along with some ripped chunks of mozzarella. Season and then put back in the oven (or on the barbecue) until the mozzarella has started to melt (around 5 minutes).



Put a dollop of pesto in each pepper and serve.


These were absolutely delicious, so fresh and tasty. They make a great side but also would be delectable on their own with some good bread to mop everything up. 

POT ROAST CHICKEN WITH LEEKS & WINTER SALSA VERDE

Even though we are in the middle of August, yesterday morning I thought it was deep dark winter…..how bad was all that rain! So Pascal and I decided to have a pyjama day and cook a roast and not leave the house. I have never cooked roast chicken before, to be honest I much prefer lamb or pork, but thought I should try something different. 

Ingredients for 4 people:

2 tbsp olive oil
100g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
1 whole chicken, approx 1.6kg (ours was 1.7kg)
3 sprigs of thyme (I added some dried thyme as well)
2 large leeks, trimmed and very thickly sliced
2 celery sticks, trimmed and very thickly sliced
200ml white wine
200ml chicken stock (I used vegetable as I didn't have chicken)

Winter Salsa Verde:

3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
A garlic clove, chopped
A handful of celery leaves
A large handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
2.5 tbsp red wine vinegar (we used sherry vinegar as I didn't have red wine vinegar)
2 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp sage, finely chopped (I used dry)
120ml extra virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas mark 6.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large casserole dish with a lid - you need to be able to fit the chicken in this dish. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown. (Don't over cook as they will continue browning when you add the chicken).


Push the bacon to the edges of the pan and then add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown all over. Turn it breast side up to finish. 



Then add the thyme, leeks and celery to the pan along with the wine and chicken stock.


Pop the lid on and roast in the oven for 1.5 hours.

To make the salsa verde, prepare all the ingredients and then blitz together in a food processor. Season to taste.





When the chicken is ready, do check it is cooked through - no one wants food poisoning. We thought ours wasn't but actually it was perfect. I just think we could have browned it a little more.


Finally serve the chicken vegetables and pan juices with spoonfuls of salsa verde.




We served the chicken with stuffed peppers (recipe to follow) which were delicious, although it would also go perfectly with some mash. As I mentioned before roast chicken is not my top choice but this was incredible and I adored the salsa verde….we have so much parsley left over I will be making the sauce again this week with some white fish or even chicken again! A perfect very easy lunch.




Saturday, 2 August 2014

THE CRABTREE, HAMMERSMITH

The good news is Pascal is back from France but the bad news is Arabella is now with her father for 14 days and I am missing her already and it is only day 1…..anyway exercise is always good for the mind so today I have done a 40 minute run and a 45 minute cycle. Plus I managed not to fall off the bike this time….phew!!

Obviously Pascal and I had to reward ourselves with lunch so we decided to try The Crabtree which is on the Thames Walk between Putney and Hammersmith bridges. I regularly run past here and admire the huge garden but what I didn't realise is it also has a more secluded area right on the edge - gorgeous! (Sorry for the bad quality picture but it's off the internet as I didn't take one).



The menu has a variety a sharing platters, starters such as mozzarella and tomato salad or garlic prawns and then mains such as crab linguine or pub classics like fish and chips and ham, egg and chips. There is also a barbecue menu which I will definitely be trying next time!!

Pascal and I decided to share the Spanish charcuterie platter, the baked Camembert, a rocket and Parmesan salad and a chicken liver parfait. We also had a bottle of rose which wasn't the best but still enjoyable!

Like always we could barely fit all the food on the table. The baked Camembert was topped with garlic and rosemary and came with crispy new potatoes and cornichons.



This is what dreams are made of!! Melted Camembert with garlic on lightly oiled crostini - amazing - both Pascal adored this and could have easily eaten one each!

The chicken liver parfait was also delicious and the bread so soft.




We also enjoyed the charcuterie platter of salami, chorizo, pork, caper berries and little white onions although neither of us appreciated the sardines…which unfortunately also made some of the meats fishy!!


The rocket and Parmesan salad was delicious - lots of Parmesan and we also had some bread and olive oil which was incredibly soft and fresh.





Even though there was a great selection of puddings such as chocolate brownie, sticky toffee pudding and a cheese platter, we were too full.

It was a delicious meal though and a beautiful setting plus friendly efficient service - I think this is definitely going to become our new summer local. It also has a large area inside, a private dining area and a second outside area with big tables for groups.

The Crabtree
Rainville Road,
London
W6 9HA
Tel: 020 7385 3929
Email: info@thecrabtreew6.co.uk

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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

TOM'S KITCHEN, CHELSEA

Arabella and I went to meet our gorgeous friend Ceri for lunch the other day near her office - I booked Tom's Kitchen as I had been there early June and had a fantastic (if expensive) meal. Ceri was a little unsure of my choice as she reminded me of our first trip to Tom's Kitchen when it first opened 8 years ago and we were charged £18 for a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese….!!

Anyway I was keen to go and I promised Ceri that it had improved and was a great lunch spot especially with a little one and it served natural, organic fresh ingredients - so we met there yesterday. Unfortunately I was oh so wrong…!

The menu is great - plenty of choice such as burrata, sharing charcuterie platters, burgers or more fancy meals like summer minestrone of rabbit. Plus there is a kid's menu along with a great activity pack which entertained Arabella non stop.

Ceri and I were both trying to be healthy so we ordered the super summer salad of quinoa, feta, mint, peas and broad beans for £10.75. Due to the description I was expecting a robust quinoa salad with the added bits…..wow I could not have been more wrong….


It was lettuce with about 10 grains of quinoa which were very sweet tasting….not a good addition to the salad. The rest of the salad was tasty but the portion was absolutely tiny….definitely not worth the cost in the slightest or at all filling. Maybe it was poor ordering on our part but I did not imagine it to be like this. A pret-a-manger salad is way superior and more satisfying.

Arabella on the other hand ordered mini cheeseburgers which were absolutely delicious. There was serious food envy from Ceri and I!


The service was very attentive and friendly but one thing I have to mention is the terrible loos - I think even McDonald's has superior facilities. Just one loo for each sex and the stench of stale urine was revolting - maybe Tom Aiken's needs to stop opening new branches and redo the ones he has….it was so off putting. The last time I went it was the same but I thought it was a one off….obviously not. This was enough to make me never want to go to the restaurant again. It makes you think about the cleanliness of the rest of the restaurant...

It is very rare when I don't enjoy a meal, but I have to say this place was a real let down. Thankfully there are so many great places in the same area like Bumpkin or The Builder's Arms that I won't have to go again. What shocks me the most is I was considering having my wedding lunch here….thank goodness not…

Tom's Kitchen

27 Cale Street,
London
SW3 3QP
Tel: 020 7349 0202

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Monday, 28 July 2014

SUMMER ROAST CHICKEN & MEDITERRANEAN VEGETABLES

This week I have been very keen to cook fish burgers however both Arabella and Pascal have turned their noses up so I think that will be a recipe for just me another time! 

Instead I cooked a chicken recipe from Lorraine which I thought looked absolutely delicious and really easy, although I did make a few alterations. One other positive about it is that you can make the chicken beforehand and then keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

Ingredients for 2 people:

2 skinless chicken breasts
25g sun-blush tomatoes, chopped
25g green olives, chopped
50g cream cheese (I used light)
Small handful of basil, chopped
4 slices of parma ham
2 peppers, cut into large chunks
1 red onion, cut into chunks,
100g baby courgette, cut into chunks (we left this out)
6 cherry tomatoes
1 bulb of garlic, halved horizontally
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar


Preheat the oven to 200 C / gas mark 6.

Slice the olives, tomatoes and basil.


Mix with the cream cheese and season.


Lay the parma ham - two per chicken breast and then using a sharp knife, make a pocket in the chicken breast horizontally. You need to make sure you don't cut all the way through (which I obviously did on my first one - doh)!


Stuff the pocket with the cream cheese mixture.


Then wrap with the parma ham.


Cut off a square / rectangle of foil and wrap the chicken in the foil twisting the ends so it resembles a cracker.


Chop the veg and put into a roasting tray. Mix with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season.


Make space for the chicken wraps.


Put it in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through.


Slice the chicken and serve with the veg - bon appetit!



I really enjoyed it - really tasty and full of flavours and the vegetables had a real crunch to them which was divine. I loved the addition of the garlic as well. Arabella prefers Fay's Roll Up Chicken which I also adore however this makes a great alternative. I will definitely be doing this again, healthy but delicious….a real treat.