Thursday, 21 May 2015


Last week I did a post about the 5:2 diet / the fast diet and some of my low calorie recipes. One thing I find very tough on my "2" days is not having any sweets or chocolate as I have to stick to foods that are really low in calories… salad, soup, fish and fruit. One of my lovely friend's Caroline recently sent me this recipe for banana ice-cream - basically if you freeze a banana and then whizz it in a blender it becomes ice-cream like - I thought this sounded too good to be true so I had to give it a go.

Ingredients for 1 person:

1 ripe banana

Cut it into coin sized pieces - you don't have to be accurate but try to keep them as even as possible.

Put the bananas in an air tight container like this Tupperware or a freezer bag.

Freeze the banana pieces for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight if you can.

Put the frozen banana pieces in a food processor and start to blend.

Keep blending and the banana will look crumbly or smashed. If necessary scrape down the food processor so it is all at the bottom by the blades.

Keep blending and the banana will become gooey, mushy, porridge-like and then suddenly the magic will happen!! It will become creamy and soft. Keep blending for another minute so completely lump free.

If you are saving it til later, put it back in an air tight container in the freezer and freeze until you are ready to eat. If you are an impatient piglet like myself, just pop it back in the freezer in a bowl for 15 minutes or so….you want it solid like traditional ice cream. Enjoy!

I had this on a 2 day and it definitely hit the spot when I was craving something sweet. My banana was about 80 calories. If you are not counting calories, you can add several mix-ins to make it even sweeter such as a spoonful of nutella, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, a handful of chocolate chips or a dollop of nutella, a tablespoon of cocoa powder or half a teaspoon of cinnamon or ginger….the list is endless! You would add these after the banana has become smooth and creamy and before you refreeze. 

This is no Ben & Jerry's but I have to say it was better than I thought - I will definitely be making it for my vegan sister when she next comes round….without nutella obviously!

Monday, 18 May 2015


I had some leftover sausage meat from when I cooked my Italian sausage roll pasta bake so had been hunting through my recipe file for a suitable recipe in which to use it up. I came across this one I had ripped from a magazine - I love the idea of meatballs but I always find cooking them a bit of a hassle - however I was prepared to give them a go. One thing I loved about this recipe was that I could prepare everything beforehand so that when it came to supper time, it didn't take long to cook….perfect for a Monday when Arabella's after school club finishes late and we are always in a rush.

Ingredients for 4 people:

500g pork mince (we actually used 250g mince and 250g sausage meat)
125g / 12 mozzarella balls
300g pasta (we used rigatoni as we had some left over but you could use linguine or spaghetti or whatever you prefer)
100g sun-blush tomatoes
Salt and pepper
150g fresh pesto
Olive oil

In a large bowl mix the pork with 2 tablespoons of pesto and season well.

Take a golf ball sized piece of mixture and flatten it.

Place a piece of mozzarella on top.

Then mould the pork mixture around the cheese and shape into a ball. This was a messy business!

Continue until you have used up all the meat and mozzarella - you should have 12 meatballs. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or longer if you can (I chilled them for 4 hours).

When you are ready to eat, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the packet instructions - mine took 13 minutes.

Heat a non stick frying pan and add a dollop of olive oil and fry the meatballs for 10-12 minutes, turning a couple of times. I overdid the olive oil and so there was a lot of "spit" - I even had to wear an apron!!

After draining the pasta, mix in the remaining pesto.

Then add the meatballs.

Finally stir in sun-blush tomatoes and serve immediately with some shavings of Parmesan.

Even though making and cooking the meatballs isn't the easiest process and I had said to myself I wouldn't do them again, I changed my mind when we were eating - they were very very good, I loved the mozzarella inside them and the combination of the pork and pesto. I had also believed this wouldn't be very good as there isn't really a proper sauce but once again I was mistaken. Arabella loved this as she adores pesto and Pascal really enjoyed it as he doesn't  like too much sauce. Alternatively you could mix it up and have the meatballs with a rich tomato sauce and they could be made with either beef, turkey or pork mince - the choice is yours but I will be sticking with this recipe and will definitely be cooking it again.

Sunday, 17 May 2015


I always feel like a tourist when I head over to the West End, especially on a Friday night when everyone is celebrating the start of the weekend - it feels like being on holiday! 

My lovely friend Ceri had invited me to a screening at the Ham Yard Hotel so we decided to eat nearby at Polpo, a Venetian restaurant serving small plates of simple food. I came here when it first opened in September 2009 and I had good memories!

There is so much on the menu to choose from - cicheti, pizzette, bread, meatballs, meat, fish, vegetables and salads….I would have liked to order the whole lot (no surprise there). We started with the arancini - little rice balls stuffed with cheese and coated in breadcrumbs. They were absolutely delicious but a little small!! I'd recommend ordering two portions.

We then had the octopus and fennel carpaccio which was amazing - I wasn't expecting to like it so much but it was hands down my favourite dish of the night, full of flavour and so fresh.

There are so many meatballs to choose from such as lamb and new season garlic or pork and fennel. We went for the classic beef and pork with a rich, chunky tomato sauce and a side of zucchini, Parmesan and basil - they complimented each other perfectly.

We had a "special" pizzette - a four cheese one. I was expecting more of a pizza covered in cheese, instead the base was very crispy and it was rather light. Still good but not as great as I was expecting, it was a little dry….however I remedied that by dipping it into the tomato sauce of the meatballs!

Finally we ordered the pork belly, radicchio and hazelnuts - this was very good - crispy crackling but soft, tender meat. 

I did have room for pudding and had been eyeing up the nutella pizzette and chocolate salami but we had to dash… time.

The bill was very reasonable, the food was overall fantastic and service was efficient and friendly. It is no wonder that there were queues out of the door by 7pm! However thankfully there are Polpo restaurants popping up all over the place - Smithfield, Notting Hill, Covent Garden and Chelsea - I expect these are just as popular and I will definitely be frequenting the Chelsea one again soon. I want to eat the above all over again plus there is so much on the menu left to try……the fritto misto, the chickpea, spinach and ricotta meatballs, the coppa, peperonata and goat's cheese bruschetta….yum!

41 Beak Street
Tel: 020 7734 4479

Square Meal
Polpo on Urbanspoon

Monday, 11 May 2015


The two restaurants Pascal and I have been to recently have played ear splitting music non stop and it made it impossible to hold a conversation or even hear yourself think - maybe I am just getting old, but I am really not keen on having supper in a nightclub. So when we walked into L'Etranger on Saturday night and it was peaceful and elegant with gorgeous chairs and soft lighting, Pascal and I thought we were in Heaven! 

L'Etranger opened in 2002 and the food is a combination of Japanese and French cuisine and the restaurant has won awards for their exceptional wine and champagne lists. Originally Pascal had thought the concept of Japanese French fare very unappealing, however we came here for my birthday a few years ago and he was immediately won over by the delicious dishes.

The menu is extremely varied so I was at a total loss on what to order - I was torn between the crispy squid or scallops but in the end went for the scallops as they are something I never cook at home. They were roasted and served with Parmesan puree and truffle foam.

These were delicious, the scallops were tender and perfectly cooked and the Parmesan puree tasty like cheesy mash. My only complaint was there wasn't enough truffle!

Pascal went for the terrine of foie gras with brioche and I had serious food envy as this was really good as it was rich but light at the same time.

For mains I went for fish as I have a tendency recently to overeat and then feel ill (such a piglet). I ordered the poached Scottish salmon with pea puree and teriyaki sauce and it was wonderful - such a good combination of flavours - I might even try to recreate this at home!

Pascal ordered the smoked Landes duck cooked 2 ways, pomegranate, asparagus & seared foie gras - according to him, this was unbelievable and even though I only had a tiny taste, I definitely agreed. The duck croquette was amazing and the foie gras literally melted in your mouth.

For sides we ordered truffled polenta sumo chips and roasted aubergine with ginger, chilli & cashew nuts - we didn't really need them but I am very pleased we ordered them!

We both decided to go for it and have pudding - Pascal had a great selection of cheese and I had a phenomenal chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream.

Wow - what a satisfying and special meal. A fantastic dining room and setting with fabulous food and wine. The service was very efficient and friendly however as the restaurant filled up, the service slowed down and if I wasn't such a piglet I would have cancelled our puddings as we had to wait so long but in the end they were worth the wait! 

If you have a special occasion or just want a fabulous meal out, this is your place….we will definitely be back again soon.

36 Gloucester Road,
Tel: 020 7584 1118

Square Meal
L'Etranger on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 10 May 2015


The sun was out today so Pascal, Arabella and I all voted to have a barbecue of burgers, sausages and pasta salad. Unfortunately it wasn't as sunny as we hoped - typical English weather - but at least it wasn't raining. 

This is a vegetable packed pasta salad that is really simple to make and it took about 25 minutes to prepare and cook.

Ingredients for 4 people:

150g pasta (any shape like penne, rigatoni, farfalle)
250g halloumi cheese, chopped into bite size pieces
150g pot of fresh pesto sauce
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red / orange pepper, chopped
120g frozen peas
165g sweetcorn
3 spring onions, sliced
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp lemon juice
70g black olives, pitted
1 tbsp olive oil

First of all cook the pasta in a pan of salted boiling water according to the packet's instructions (ours took 13 minutes).

For the final 3-4 minutes, add your frozen peas.

While this is cooking, fry the pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil for a couple of minutes so they soften and then put them in a large serving bowl.

Then fry the crushed garlic for a couple of minutes and add to the bowl with the pepper.

Continue to add the ingredients to the bowl. First the drained sweetcorn.

Then the spring onion and olives.

Once the pasta and peas are ready, rinse them under cold water and then add to the bowl.

Next add the sour cream, the lemon juice, pesto and season. Mix together well.

Just before you are about to eat, grill the halloumi for around 6 minutes (sorry I forgot to take a picture here, too busy fussing) and then cut into bits and add to the pasta salad. Finally serve and enjoy.

This is really good - colourful and delicious - by adding the sour cream it does not taste like your usual pesto pasta. There is such a variety of flavours that each mouthful tastes different. You could chop and change it, no surprise Arabella suggested using goat's cheese rather than halloumi and Pascal was temped to add some avocado. My attitude is "if it ain't broke, don't fix" and I can't wait to eat the tiny bit of leftovers tomorrow….unfortunately it was so good, not much remains!!