Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Arabella really made me chuckle the other day - we were practising her spellings and she got them all right so I praised her and told her what a clever little girl she was. Her reply was "Of course I am mummy, I eat a lot of fish!" 

Since as long as she can remember I have been telling her fish will make her clever and improve her memory...I think it is working!!

No surprise then that we were having fish again tonight, in typical fashion Pascal complained but I was looking forward to it as I have been eating the smokey bacon and two cheese pasta every meal since Sunday!

I chose a Sainsbury's recipe as it looks delicious and only takes about 35 minutes in total to prepare and cook as it's our busy Wednesday. I am looking forward to next term as Arabella and I have decided  that both ballet and gym after school is too much.

Ingredients for 4 people:

2 tbsp of olive oil
250g pack of smoked bacon lardons
1 onion, finely chopped
4 leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced
1/2 x 15g pack fresh thyme, leaves and picked (I hate picking at herbs)!
2 x 410g tins green lentils in water, drained
260g pack of skinless and boneless cod fillets, cut in half
Plain flour for dusting if you prefer to fry the fish rather than grill or oven cook
300ml vegetable stock
5 tbsp double cream
1/2 x 28g pack fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked, washed and chopped
A white baguette (optional)

There are a few different ways you can cook the fish, the recipe card suggests you dust each fillet in flour and then fry it. As I am always trying to be that little bit healthy I oven cooked mine after seasoning it and spraying it with olive oil. It probably doesn't have as much flavour as frying it but it saves on calories. I followed the advice on the packet which was to cook it in the oven for 15-17 minutes at 180C in some tin foil. 

Once the oven has preheated and the fish is in, start by heating a tablespoon of olive oil and frying the lardons for about 4-5 minutes until golden and then remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl, leaving all the oil in the pan (Sorry no photo)!

In this same pan fry the leeks and onion for about 8-10 minutes. Pascal wanted to add some more olive oil, I was too tight about it apparently, hence the colour of the pan! 

Next stir in the thyme and drained lentils.

If you would prefer to fry the fish, now is the time. You need to put some plain flour in a shallow dish and dust each cod fillet all over. Then heat a tablespoon of oil in a non stick frying pan and cook the cod for 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.

When you are cooking the fish if you choose to fry it, add the stock and double cream to the pan with the lentils and then stir in the cooked lardons. Bring to the boil and cook for about 3-4 minutes and then stir in most of the parsley.

Finally divide the lentil mixture between 4 bowls / plates and top with a piece of cod. Garnish with the remaining parsley and if you like, serve with crusty baguette (sadly for Pascal and Arabella I hadn't bought any)!

It is a good recipe, the lentil mixture tastes delicious with the bacon, leeks and thyme. We had plenty of it left over and I am thinking it will make a nice lunch for me tomorrow on it's own....maybe with some cheese rather than fish though! I was surprised that the recipe only suggests such a small amount of fish per person, you could definitely add more and I think the bread is a good idea as the meal is very "saucy". Pascal, Arabella and I ate all our plates and we enjoyed it, it wasn't our favourite favourite but I would still cook it to continue working on our brains and memory!!


The other day Pascal and I went over to the Christmas market at South Bank and to Covent Garden (both lovely and Christmassy) and I had all these plans to eat at either Mishkins ( or The Chop Shop ( as they have both been on my restaurant list for ages. 

Unfortunately Pascal's phone battery died and we had to come home & get his spare one (he had to be on call for work & although he had thought ahead and put the spare one in my handbag that morning, I had used a different bag)!! We couldn't be bothered to venture back out of Fulham to eat so decided to go to Tendido Cuatro on the New King's Road (we were going to Gola the following night so needed a change)! 

I love Spanish food and despite going to Spain every year of my life some of the best tapas I have every had are from this restaurant group. They have 3 restaurants on the Old Brompton road and then this one. I have to say we do go regularly - the food is fantastic and so is the service. They remember little details such as what is your favourite tipple and they always spoil us with the best tables in the restaurant and then a drink on the house at the end of the meal (they obviously know the way to my heart)!

Since we started going to this restaurant 4 years ago, we have always just had tapas however some friends Nick and Kirstie recently introduced us to their delicious paella and so now we have both!!

There is so much to choose from on the menu however Pascal and I, being creatures of habit, always have the same (Menu). We begin with an Anis Del Mono which is a Spanish version of Ricard / Pastis and I eat all the olives and Pascal is "allowed" about one (I am an olive piglet).

Then Pascal's favourite is always the ham and we have that with their incredible tomato bread. 

The tomato bread is so good that we have been known to finish the plate and order it again - there is olive oil, garlic, tomato and herbs and it tastes delicious, especially with the ham.

Next come the Serrano ham and bechamel croquettes with a tomato and thyme sauce. These are another of my favourites and while Pascal says he does not like bechamel, he still manages to eat a few!

These croquettes melt in your mouth!

The same friends also recently introduced us to the patatas bravas which I adore even though I don't really like potatoes and they are called spicy on the menu which I am also not keen on. They are misrepresented though as they are creamy, soft and flavoursome with no kick whatsoever!

You won't be surprised to hear that Pascal insists on having some proper meat on the table - such as the lamb chops. These come with pimentos de padron which I just adore. Pascal says the chops are brilliant - I tend not to have one as I am generally already starting to fill up from eating most of the olives and croquettes!

I prefer fish to meat so I always order the squid. You can have it fried or grilled, I prefer it grilled and it comes with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt - it is so fresh and delicious - the portion is just not big enough!

The last tapas we have is chorizo, this once again is described as spicy on the menu but really isn't. It tastes great but my only complaint is that they bring it to you at the end. I would like to eat it with either the patatas bravas or the croquettes - I am sure the restaurant could easily do this but I forget to ask!

I have to admit by this point we were fit to burst but as we ordered the paella we had to push on through!

The restaurant offers 6 different types of paella from the usual seafood paella to a cuttlefish ink one to a quail and chorizo paella. This was what we had and WOW! I would never think to order this before as quail is not my favourite but how narrow minded I sometimes am!! This paella is incredible.

It is obviously filled with quail, chorizo and rice but it is also packed with plenty of vegetables such as courgettes, mushrooms and peppers. We couldn't finish the paella, although we gave it a very good go. In hindsight we shouldn't have had all those tapas but our eyes are bigger than our tummies and everything is just too damn good! Plus as the paella takes about 25 minutes to prepare so you need something while you wait.

To drink we had a bottle of Muga which is a very good Rioja.

If you fancy some Spanish cuisine, I would really recommend Tendido Cuatro or the sister restaurants. The others are in South Kensington on the Old Brompton road and there is Tendido Cero which is tapas and a bar, Capote y Toros which is a ham and sherry bar and Cambio de Tercio which is a formal restaurant. They have also recently opened a gin and tonic bar called C.Tonic which I must try. 

All in all the food here is fantastic and the service excellent - my only complaint is that the loos are down a steep staircase and I worry I might fall down and break my neck! Plus it is a bit pricey but then it is cheaper than flying to Spain and better, especially on those rare days in London when the sun is out and you can sit either on the pavement or by the french windows and watch the world go by.

108-110 New King's Road
Tel: 020 7371 5147

Square Meal  
Tendido Cuatro on Urbanspoon

Monday, 25 November 2013


As it has been a couple of weeks since I cooked pasta, I promised Pascal we would cook some for Sunday lunch. He has been having serious withdrawal symptoms from his favourite food! I thought it was also a good opportunity to use up some of the mountain of cheese we have in the fridge. We also invited my lovely friend Ceri to join us.

One mistake we made was going shopping on an empty stomach!! Pascal bought enough food to feed the five thousand - I now have a mountain range of cheese in my fridge, mainly strong french cheeses that are already starting to smell slightly whiffy.

This is a recipe I ripped out from a Hello magazine - I always find they have some good ones. Pascal decided we should double the ingredients just in case we ran out of food - seriously unlikely seeing the recipe was already for 4-6 people and there were only 3 of us!! But for once I didn't argue...

Ingredients for 4-6 people:

300g of extra large pasta shells
Half a small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into small cubes (I cheated and bought ready cut and prepared ones)!
200g oak smoked premium back bacon rashers, cut in thirds
An onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
200g Taleggio cheese, roughly sliced
200g Gorgonzola cheese, roughly sliced (we actually used Stilton)
Salad and crusty bread to serve, optional

Preheat the oven to 180C / gas mark 4.

Cook the pasta together with the butternut squash in a large saucepan of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. The pasta we bought said it only took 5 minutes to cook but it took over double that! You want the pasta to be cooked but still have a slight bite and for the squash to be tender. Once cooked, drain.

While this is cooking fry the bacon, onion and garlic in a large frying pan until the bacon has cooked and the onion is softened. 

Add the tinned tomatoes and heat through.

Finally add the cooked pasta and squash to the saucepan and mix well, to help the mixture fill some of the shells. Next spoon the mixture into a large ovenproof dish and scatter over the Taleggio and Gorgonzola cheeses.

Cover loosely with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes and then eat up!

If you are serving this to six people you might like to add some salad or crusty bread, however if it is just four of you, you have more than enough food. As we did double the ingredients I think we have enough left over to feed us for the entire week!!

Luckily it is absolutely delicious and Arabella and I had it again for supper tonight and Pascal is already dreaming of having it again tomorrow. The butternut squash tastes very fresh, the bacon adds lots of flavour, the pasta shells are great to scoop up all the ingredients and it is cheesy cheesy - for once I didn't even need to add Parmesan which is a miracle. 

Ceri thankfully enjoyed it too - it was a successful meal - we then had a cheeseboard, chocolates and ended it with shots of Pascal's white liquor - Apricotine and Poire William to "digest" the huge amount we had eaten. I was in bed by 8.15pm and the drinks obviously worked as I felt right as rain in the morning and even made it to Bikram yoga although my balance was a bit off!!!

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Pascal is not happy with me at the moment as he thinks all I ever do is look at recipes and food related websites, write my blog or do Bikram yoga. He has given up the yoga already however I have fully embraced it. I have been 11 times in 20 days and I can notice the difference, I have dropped 5 lbs, I am sleeping better and I feel a lot better in myself - so much so that I have put my gym membership on hold and am concentrating on just the yoga. It has definitely helped decreased my food and alcohol intake....although I easily slip into my old ways at can't be all about "namaste and my body is a temple" etc.

Yesterday was such a beautiful day - cold and crisp yet the sun was shining. Pascal and I went for a lovely walk along the river and then it was home to cook lunch. I had planned to cook this meal Thursday night but Pascal was late home from the city so I went on strike!!

I have several versions of this recipe that I have ripped out of magazines - this one required the least ingredients. I will write it out as we cooked it, for two people. However Pascal and I being the complete piglets that we are, we could have easily had more. If you are cooking this for supper or if you are starving I would definitely increase the ingredients by at least half (or Pascal recommends doubling them)!

Ingredients for 2 people:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
250g lamb mince
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 wholemeal bread wraps
230g houmous
1/4 x 28g pack of mint, leaves picked
1/4 x 28g pack parsley, leaves picked
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C / gas mark 4  - this is for the bread wraps - if you have a microwave, you can easily do them in that. I used to only ever "cook" in a microwave but now no longer have one, I don't miss it, but at times like this it makes heating easier and quicker.

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the onion until translucent (about 3-4 minutes).

Add the lamb mince and cumin seeds (which I have to say smell amazing) and continue to fry until the mince is browned and is completely cooked. It can look like it's cooked after a couple of minutes but you do need to cook it for about 8 minutes.

Make sure the wraps are heated, then divide the houmous between the wraps and spoon over the lamb mince. Sprinkle with the mint and parsley, and drizzle with lemon juice....then voila!

Woweezers!! That was good - we folded them like a fajita to eat and demolished them in seconds. I always think fresh herbs are overrated but this is proof that they add so much flavour to dishes. I could not believe how much we liked this recipe, it is like a fresh, healthy, flavoursome kebab - we have been to Kebab Kid on the New Kings Road a couple of times but I would have this dish over them everyday of the week!!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


I am not the most economical supermarket shopper, I try to shop just once a week but I always end up having buy extras throughout the week and I never take advantage of the offers available as I work strictly to a list (I am slightly OCD)! However last week I did end up buying extra chicken thighs in the 3 meats for £10 deal and so I needed to find some way to cook them as my freezer is already pretty jam packed.

As I have mentioned before I love chicken thighs, they are so tender and delicious, and Fay Ripley has some great recipes for them. The only thing I don't like is you have to cut off so many nasties, that they take a while to prepare.

Anyway as it's our busy Wednesday afternoon with gym and ballet club for Arabella, I needed to cook something quick, easy and delicious. I decided on Fay's mozzarella and pesto stuffed chicken - I have cooked this several times before and it has always gone down a treat. I can't be too adventurous on a Wednesday as Arabella is always tired and I do not want any tantrums!!

One of the best things about this dish is that it can all be prepared beforehand.

Ingredients for 4 people:

8 chicken thighs, skinned and boned
8 tsp fresh pesto (I buy it rather than make it)
200g mozzarella cheese
100g fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp olive oil

8-16 cocktail sticks

If you are making these to cook straight away, start by preheating the oven to 200C / 180C / gas mark 6.

Then cut all the yukky bits off the chicken thighs - I hate this part! Once this is done, unroll a chicken thigh flat and then add a knob of mozzarella and a teaspoon of pesto in the middle.

Roll it up, secure it with a cocktail stick - or two sometimes in my case when I stuff the thighs too full!

Repeat this with all the chicken thighs and then lay them side by side in an ovenproof dish / baking tray with the joins tucked underneath. 

I have to say that it is a very untidy process as your hands are covered in the chicken, pesto and cheese! Sorry for the photos - they are very messy too!

Mix the breadcrumbs with the oil and scatter over the chicken thighs - I used my hands for this as well because otherwise the crumbs can stick together - sorry another messy job!! 

Here you can either put the chicken in the fridge and save it for later or place the dish in the oven and cook for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Fay suggests serving this with crispy potatoes and roasted vegetables - we served it with salad for Pascal and I and carrots for Arabella.

It was yum!! We all loved it - Arabella enjoyed it so much, that she ended up eating half of mine as well and we pretty much all ate in silence and unison! We cooked this recipe of 8 chicken thighs for just the three of us (piglets) as we didn't do much on the side so you can adjust the recipe depending on what you are having as an accompaniment. 

This is very kid and adult friendly - I have cooked it for Arabella and a friend on a playdate once and it went down well. I am always nervous about cooking for her little friends in case they are fussy and so often end up offering the usual pizza, pesto pasta or fish fingers - not particularly nutritious or healthy so I would recommend this as an alternative as pretty much all kids like chicken, pesto and cheese and as do most adults!! The only downfall is the presentation is not great, certainly not restaurant standard so it is probably not dinner party food although it definitely tastes it.

Monday, 18 November 2013


How was your weekend? Mine was very nice - Arabella bought Barnaby Bear home from school so we took him for an adventure in Covent Garden on Friday night to see all the Christmas decorations and lights and also go to our favourite "restaurant" Shake Shack!! 

Now it's Monday and I was tempted to go back to Covent Garden again to show Pascal how Christmassy it is - the huge Christmas tree and reindeer, the model Lego London snow globe, the window displays, the lights....but I knew if we went we would have several g&ts, a huge supper and lots of wine!! I am trying to do bikram everyday this week and it doesn't mix well with a hangover. 

So instead we cooked something yummy at home - Pork Stroganoff with Leeks and Mustard. Now I would recommend you cook this with rice on the side, we didn't and I did not miss it, but Pascal certainly did!!

Ingredients for 2 people;

25g unsalted butter (I used salted as that is what we had and it did not make a difference)
2 tsp olive oil
4/5 leeks, thinly sliced 
350g pork tenderloin, cut into thin strips (I couldn't find tenderloin in the supermarket so bought escalopes)
150ml dry white wine
300ml half fat creme fraiche
3 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp English mustard
5 tsp chopped fresh tarragon 

In a large frying pan, heat the butter and the oil, and then fry the leeks until just softened, this takes about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon so you leave the oil. Add the pork to the hot pan and cook for 6-7 minutes until lightly browned (we had to add a little more oil). As I mentioned before we used escalopes and they took less time to cook, about 4 minutes.

Next add the wine and allow to reduce slightly by simmering for 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, open the tub of creme fraiche and stir in both the mustards. Add this mixture to the pork, stir, and then return the leeks to the pan and mix together.

Cook for 2-3 minutes until the cream has thickened slightly, the pork is cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced with a fork.

Finally stir in the tarragon and season with freshly ground black pepper and then serve.

This is one of my favourite recipes - it is perfect for a winter's day. Really warming and everything really goes together, plus it feels naughty but then really isn't too bad calorie wise (about 700 calls). I am not the biggest vegetable fan (don't tell my daughter!) - I much prefer salad or fruit but then the leeks are absolutely delicious here especially with the pork and mustard. As I said earlier Pascal thinks this recipe could do with some rice - I am sure the rice would be fabulous with it as it would soak up the sauce, but I think it tastes just as good without it too. 

It is another great mid week recipe as it literally takes about 20 minutes in total to cook and is very easy. You could also exchange the leeks for mushrooms if you like - I might include them both next time I do rice for Pascal!

Thursday, 14 November 2013


We were meant to be going to Gola tonight for another truffle fest with friends but it has been postponed until next weekend. We ummed and ahhhed about going to our local Spanish restaurant but then decided to be good, save money and cook at home. I had cut out this recipe from a magazine last year as I love steak with a twist - such as a peppercorn sauce, a blue cheese crust or steak Diane - however as Pascal likes his steak plain and blue we had never cooked it before . Luckily he was in a very good mood today and happy to try something new!

We'd had a really busy day buying Christmas presents at Bicester village - that place is Heaven on earth - and by the time we got home we were exhausted so we wanted something quick and easy. This was definitely quick although not the easiest!!

Ingredients for 2 people:

130g finely grated Parmesan
cracked black pepper & salt
4 x 100g thin beef minute steaks
vegetable oil for frying
25g butter (optional)
8 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced 
1 tbsp lemon zest
600g baby spinach leaves

Surprise surprise - start by preheating the oven! Just at a low temperature, about 120 C, this is to keep the steaks warm while cooking the spinach.

Combine the Parmesan and pepper and place in a flat shallow dish. Then press both sides of the steak firmly into the Parmesan mixture. This is the part I found difficult, no matter how much I pressed the steak into the cheese, it didn't really "stick". In hindsight maybe I should have put a bit of oil on the steaks first or mixed a raw egg with the Parmesan? If anyone has any ideas it would be greatly appreciated?!

Anyway I resolved the issue by just pouring the cheese on top of the steaks!

Heat a splash of vegetable oil in a large non stick frying pan over a high heat and then cook the steaks for about 30 seconds each side. 

Place on a plate / dish and put in the oven to keep warm.

In the same frying pan add some butter if you need/want it and cook the garlic and lemon zest until the garlic is golden, we didn't add butter as I was trying to save on calories but I am sure it would make the spinach taste even more delicious. Then add the spinach and some more salt and pepper and cook until the spinach is wilted. I didn't read the recipe properly (doh) and put the spinach in at the same time as the garlic so the garlic didn't have time to cook - a minor error but not the end of the world - (I had been trying to do Arabella's spelling at the same time and wasn't concentrating)!

The spinach literally takes a couple of minutes and then serve it with the steaks and enjoy!

You could obviously add fries or saute potatoes as well but we were being carb-free (I am off to Shake Shack tomorrow where I intend to eat my body weight in cheese covered fries)!

The steaks were good - they are thin and lean and the strong taste of the Parmesan really adds flavour and it goes very well with the garlic spinach which I have to say is one of my favourite sides. Plus it is filling, we really did not miss having some kind of potato with it.

It was not the most stress-free recipe (there were a few cross words while cooking) as it is all so quick and is also messy when the Parmesan doesn't stick to the steak, but it is a very fast favour-packed dinner and it is something different. I would not recommend cooking it for a large group of people as you would have to cook the steaks in batches but I think it is perfect for just the two of you or even if it is just for one - way more exciting than beans on toast and probably takes the same amount of time!!!