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Archive for the ‘London Life’ Category

What is it with online fashion websites that everything always seems to be on sales… We are bombarded with email alerts with attractive straplines such as ‘Up to 65%’, ‘70%’, ‘80%’ discounts, ‘Designer Sales’, etc. on a daily basis.

How are we supposed to resist? Even in a recession – especially in a recession – spending £50 on an item that is worth £160 appears like a real bargain.

Now, the question is, would you have bought a £50 shirt/top in the first place?

The answer is obviously – ‘no’.

Although with Fashion Week just round the corner and invitations to fashion parties pouring, one does feel much more vulnerable in that season…

So yes, the skimpy little silk shorts on the picture above now belong to me – although the legs and bum aren’t, I have to admit. And I am sadly really excited by this purchase, I can’t wait to try it on – I have recently bought a dark green silky shirt that would complete the outfit perfectly!

Watch this space…

 

 

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This is just an amazing recipe. Half made-up, half-copied, it was just the perfect result.

Great for dinner parties or dinner a-deux, this gratin is cheap, easy and quick to do – and looks lovely on the table.

Serves 4 – preparation 30min, oven 25min

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 400g minced meat
  • 2 small onions (or 1 big)
  • 1 spoon of creme fraiche
  • grated parmesan
  • rosemary
  • cinq-épices
  • salt and pepper

Peal the butternut squash and cook or steam it until soft – 10/15 min in a steam-cooker. In the meantime, slightly fry the onions in a little bit of olive oil in a large fry-pan. When soft (but not brown), add in the meat. Cook thoroughly and add in the rosemary, cinq-épices, salt and pepper.

When the butternut squash is cooked, mash it together with a large spoon of creme-fraiche. Add in salt and pepper.

In a gratin dish, pour half the butternut squash, add the meat and onion preparation on top and cover with the second half of butternut squash. Pour 30 grammes of grated Parmesan on top for the gratin effect.

Place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 25 minutes.

Serve very hot with a side salad of lettuce.

Enjoy!

This was tried and tested and unanimously approved…

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Everyone has heard of ‘seasonal cooking’ and how important it is if we want to save the planet? Like everybody else I embraced the trend and tried to cook around the vegetables I could find in my local Tesco or Co-op…

This went well for a few months until I somewhat had a revelation. Whilst shopping for leeks at my local grocery a few weeks ago, I was told by a rather apologetic grocer that because leeks were out of season they were going to cost me a wholesome £3.50.

My answer was along the line of ‘whaaaaaat but I need leeks..!’ – or something similar.

As soon as I was home, I looked it up and… the grocer was right! Not that surprising when one thinks about it long enough. Leeks are winter vegetables – I didn’t have the faintest idea.

A whole new culinary world full of delicious experiments was opening in front of my eye!

Here is a (very useful) calendar of seasonal fruits and vegetables:

JANUARY

Fruits: apple, date, lemon, mandarin, orange, pear, tangerine

Vegetables: brussels sprout, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chestnut, kale, Jerusalem artichoke, leek, parsnip, potato, swede, sweet potato, turnip

Herbs: Garlic, ginger

FEBRUARY

Fruits: Apple, date, lemon, mandarin, orange, pear, tangerine

Vegetables: Brussels sprout, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chestnut, kale, Jerusalem artichoke, leek, parsnip, potato, purple sprouting broccoli , swede, sweet potato, turnip

Herbs: Garlic, ginger

MARCH

Fruits: Apple, date, lemon, mandarin, orange, pear, tangerine

Vegetables: Cauliflower, leek, parsnip, potato, purple sprouting broccoli, sweet potato

Herbs: Chives, parsley

APRIL

Fruits: Apricot, avocado, mango, pineapple,

Vegetables: Cauliflower, carrots, celeriac, purple sprouting broccoli , lettuce greens, new potatoes, peas, spinach, spring greens, sorrel

Herbs: Chives, parsley, watercress

MAY

Fruits: Apricot, avocado, gooseberry, mango, pineapple, strawberry

Vegetables: Asparagus, carrots, fennel, new potatoes, peas, radish, spinach, spring greens, sorrel

Herbs: Chives, dill, mustard greens, sage, thyme, watercress

JUNE

Fruits: Apricot, avocado, gooseberry, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon

Vegetables: Asparagus, aubergine (eggplant), beetroot, beans, Chinese cabbage, courgette (zucchini), cucumber, globe artichoke, new potatoes, peas, radish, silverbeet, spinach, spring greens, sorrel, tomato

Herbs: Basil, chives, dill, garlic chives, mustard greens, sage, thyme, watercress

JULY

Fruits: apricot, blackcurrant, blueberry, cherry, gooseberry, peach, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon

Vegetables: Asparagus, aubergine (eggplant), beetroot, beans, broad bean, Chinese cabbage, courgette (zucchini), cucumber, globe artichoke, new potatoes, peas, radish, silverbeet, spinach, spring greens, sorrel, tomato

Herbs: Basil, chives, dill, garlic, garlic chives, mustard greens, sage, thyme, watercress

AUGUST

Fruits: apricot, blackcurrant, blueberry, cherry, fig, gooseberry, peach, raspberry, red currant, strawberry, watermelon

Vegetables: Aubergine (eggplant), beetroot, beans, broad bean, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, courgette (zucchini), cucumber, globe artichoke, new potatoes, peas, radish, silverbeet, spinach, spring greens, sorrel, sweet corn, tomato

Mushrooms: chanterelle, black trumpet, cep, girolle, bolete, horn of plenty

Herbs: Basil, chives, garlic, garlic chives, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, watercress

SEPTEMBER

Fruits: Apricot, blackberry, damson, fig, gooseberry, peach, peach, pear, plum, raspberry, red currant, strawberry

Vegetables: Aubergine (eggplant), beetroot, beans, broad bean, broccoli, celeriac, celery, courgette (zucchini), cucumber, kale, leek, new potatoes, parsnip, peas, radish, silverbeet, spinach, sorrel, sweet corn, tomato

Mushrooms: Chanterelle, black trumpet, cep, girolle, bolete, horn of plenty

Herbs: Basil, chives, garlic, garlic chives, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, watercress

OCTOBER

Fruits: Apple, cranberry, fig, pear, plum, quince

Vegetables: Aubergine (eggplant), beetroot, beans, broad bean, broccoli, celeriac, celery, chestnut, courgette (zucchini), cucumber, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, leek, new potatoes, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, sorrel, sweet corn

Herbs: Garlic, rosemary

NOVEMBER

Fruits: Apple, clementine, cranberry, date, fig, pear, quince

Vegetables: Beetroot, Brussels sprouts, celeriac, celery, chestnut, globe artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, leek, parsnip, peas, potato, pumpkin, swede, sweet potato, Swiss chard, turnip

Herbs: Garlic, ginger

DECEMBER

Fruits: Apple, clementine, cranberry, date, lemon, mandarin, orange, pear, quince, tangerine, rhubarb

Vegetables: Brussels sprout, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chestnut, kale, Jerusalem artichoke, leek, parsnip, potato, shallots, swede, sweet potato, turnip

Herbs: Garlic, ginger

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What is more classical than a chocolate mousse for dessert? The following recipe gives an original spin on an old-favourite.

The harmonious mix of salt and dark chocolate is a perfect way to tease guests’ taste buds at the end of a friendly dinner in. And it reminds me of my after-school snacks of thick slices of bread spreaded with salted butter and dark chocolate pieces. Hmmmm…

Drizzling extra virgin olive oil on top of the dessert contributes to give the recipe its unique twist, with the added health and nutrition benefits of olive oil.

The use of a sweet-flavoured olive oil, from the Catalan region for example, will emphasize the gentle contrast between salt and chocolate.

Serves 8 – Preparation time 25min, resting time 12hours.

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ litre milk
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1 vanilla stick
  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Very thin slices of toasted white bread
  • Maldon salt

Sauce:

  • 100g raspberries
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 drop lemon juice

Boil the milk with the vanilla stick. Mix together the yolks and sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan and add the boiled milk little by little. Place over heat. Simmer until obtaining a light custard sauce texture. When the custard is ready, add the pieces of chocolate to the saucepan and simmer to melt the chocolate into the custard sauce.

Leave it to set for 12 hours in the fridge.

 Sauce:

Crush the raspberries with sugar and lemon juice and strain (or not, depending on your taste) the sauce.

Shape the dessert with two dessert spoons into a round ball and place two quenelles on a plate. The term quenelle is used to describe the decorative shape of the portions – a neat, three-sided oval (a bit like a mini rugby ball!) formed by smoothing the mixture between two dessert spoons. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle lightly the top of each quenelle with Maldon salt. Crown the quenelles with a comb of toasted bread and drip raspberry sauce all around.

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Among other things, what depress me most during winter is the cold, and the dark, and the wind. I don’t like snow anymore. I am disgusted by snow. How can it be that I never noticed before how cold and wet snow is? I mean so wet!

Oh, I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who’s thinking that. What on earth is going on? I mean, last year, the cold only really settled about now, didn’t it? And this year, it’s been real cold for what, like the last three months? And from where we stand we could be in for another… 2 months?

Argh…

So not only winter affects your mind, you go all depressed, moping around like a wet mop, but it really does nothing for your sex drive – what is left to us in those months of recession, I’m asking you. Lately, getting dressed to go to bed is taking me almost as much as long as getting dressed up in the morning.

A perfect symmetry!

Track-suit bottom (but cotton-made), socks (special bed socks), t-shirt – the anti sex! And then you slip under the sheets and it’s even colder! It’s so cold that the mere thought of removing one piece of garment is just intolerable.

What’s a girl to do, I wonder?

Well, there we go, my tactics to beat the Winter Blues:

  • First, you shall make a list of ll the things you’ve been wanting to do and see and prioritise – say, take your New Year’s resolutions.
  • And then do it! Even things as stupid as booking your next doctor / dentist appointment which you have postponed endlessly works. Takes 5 minutes (five) – but it makes you feel like you’ve achieved something.
  • Go to the hairdresser. Why? Because you will always feel better after being pampered and looked after (even for a wash and a blow-dry) for 30min.
  • Get your favourite boots fixed!
  • Go shopping. Even online shopping makes wonders on a gal’s spirits.
  • Plan your next weekend away / your next holiday / your next outing to the cinema, an exhibition, etc. It gives you things to look forward to.
  • Go out and meet new people: sign-up for a book club, a wine club, whatever turns you on!
  • Have a square/a piece of chocolate every day.

I can’t find anything else at the very moment. But those do work. I’m just back from the hairdresser 🙂 I’m still cold (where are my gloves?) but, I’m writing my blog again!

If you have any other suggestions or tricks you use to lift your mood, that’s why the comments are for, please feel free to add whatever advice you find is working.

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Here is a nice recipe I came accross. 🙂

Creamy tomato soup is a classic, but this easy recipe will tantalise everyone’s taste buds. Ripe tomatoes are essential to whip up the tastiest soup, and are found easily at local markets.

To enrich the consommé and give it its silky, creamy texture, whisking in extra virgin olive oil at the end will also give complexity to the flavour.

The use of a sweet-flavoured olive oil, from the Aragon region of Spain for example, will balance the potential acidity of the tomatoes. Fresh basil leaves placed on the edge of the bowl will add an aesthetic touch to the dish.

Serves 8 – cooking and preparation time: 30 minutes

 Ingredients:

  •   1 ½ kg tomatoes – washed and cut into pieces
  •  1 potato – washed, peeled and cut into pieces
  •  2 leeks – washed and cut into pieces
  •  2 tbsp rice
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • salt

 To finish:

  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Wash the tomatoes, leeks and potatoes and cut them into small cubes.  

Place the vegetables into a large pan with the olive oil, sugar, salt, and the rice.

Cover the ingredients with water, bring to the boil and cover with a lid.  Leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables have softened. 

 Allow to cool slightly and blend to a smooth consistency.  Strain to get rid of any remaining lumps. All tomato skins and seeds should be removed so all what remains is a smooth, creamy consommé.

 Re-heat to regain its colour, check the seasoning and add the olive oil.

 Serve hot in consommé cups or bowls.

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l'uomo

Fitness.

Hmm. Fitness.

Somebody I won’t name convinced me to sign up to fitness classes. To be honest, I didn’t resist too much as I will be reaching 26 (too soon) and intend very much to keep smoking, boozing and eating as much as I was before without gaining any weight and while building myself a Goddess’ body.

Everybody has its dreams…

But those are not regular fitness classes, oh no! I’m talking Military Fitness!!

Yep.

British Military Fitness. Help..! I went to the first class on Wednesday evening. Today I still feel like I’ve been beaten up by a whole team of rugbymen.

The concept is fairly simple though: a military / ex-military instructor screaming orders and encouragements at about twenty people wearing blue numbers (blue because that’s the easiest level, the “unfit” level), sweating, running, rolling in the mud, doing press-ups, sit-ups, and loads of other very rude words I haven’t a clue what they mean.

Oh yeah, first thing first, half of the time I hadn’t a clue of what they were screaming at me. To my ear it sounded like barking. And to make matter worse, it was tough. Oh God it was so, so hard. I thought I was going to throw up, to die from a cardiac arrest, to fall on the ground and never get up again. But in the end I kept going apart from the occasional stitch and cramp, and you know what kept me running/jumping/rolling/crawling?

No. Not BF’s encouragements and advice…

Hatred. Pure HATRED. If I could have caught one of the two instructors (very, very unlikely to happen though), the thought of all the horrible things I could do to him/them made me go through the whole session. A good point, they know how to get the maximum out of somebody although I doubt my reaction is the standard one – I hope it is not anyway.

Results are there. I feel fitter! Well, at the very minute, I feel totally knackered, in pain, and even breathing is sore… but it was the first class. It can only get better from now!

Seriously now. It’s good. Even fun (yep!). And definitely worth a try. The classes take place outside, in our case at the Clapham Common, and it does make a nice change from stuffy gyms.

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