Scones

Scones are very British, and traditionally eaten with afternoon tea. Go anywhere for your high tea, scones will be served after your finger sandwiches, before the cakes. You will usually have a selections of ones without raisins, and ones with them. I personally tend to prefer the ones without. I’m a big fan of using buttermilk in baking, and I do use them for scones as well. Scones are traditionally served with some jam and clotted cream (I normally prefer whipped cream). There is a long standing debate about whether the jam goes on first, followed by the cream, or vice versa. One thing is for sure: they are indeed very easy to make, and you will be wondering why you never made them yourself in the past!

makes about 10-12

350g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter, cut into small pieces
180ml buttermilk
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clotted / whipped cream
jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F (fan).

2. Measure together the flour and sugar, and mix. Add the butter pieces. Rub together, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the buttermilk, and mix together into a dough.

3. Place the dough on a floured surface. I tend to cut the dough into half, to make it easier to handle the dough when making the scones. Shape it into a ball, and flatten with your hand. Finish flattening with a rollin pin, until about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick. Cut out the scones. I use a glass that is about the size I want the scones to be, about 5cm (2 inches) in diameter. Repeat with all the leftover dough, to use it all.

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4. Place on a non stick baking paper and baking tray, and bake for about 12 minutes. After the time has passed, you can check they are cooked through by piercing one with a metal pin. If nothing sticks to the pin, they are cooked.

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5. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut in half and fill with jam and cream.

Butternut squash tortellini

I don’t often cook full vegetarian meals (I should try to do it more), but at the end of the day, as long as the food delivers on flavour, it doesn’t really matter what it is. These vegetarian  tortellinis filled with butternut squash definitely do just that.

Serves 4
1 butternut squash
250g fine white wheat flour (00 grade is best)
2 large eggs
3 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 onion
50ml double cream
50ml pine nuts
1tbsp olive oil
salt
black pepper

1. Peel and cut the butternut squash into cubes. Place half in a pot with two cloves of garlic and the thyme sprigs. Cover with a lid, bring to boil and simmer until soft (around 20-30 minutes), drain the liquid in another pan, saving it for later.

2. Peel and chop the onion, and place in the same pot the squash was cooked in, together with the olive oil. Heat and fry the onion for a few minutes. Squeeze one clove of garlic in, and fry for another minute or so. Remove the thyme sprigs and whole garlic cloves from the cooked butternut squash pieces, and add the butternut squash to the pan. Stir together, and set aside to cool.

3. Bake the remaining half of the squash pieces in a preheated oven 180°C/355°F for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

4. Prepare the pasta.  Measure the pasta flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and pour the eggs in. Then, starting with a fork, break the eggs and little by little mix the eggs with the surrounding flour. Once the dough gets firmer, move onto kneading by hand.

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5. Once cooled, prepare the filling. Put the boiled squash pieces,  fried onion and garlic in a blender. Add half the cream and half the pine nuts, then blitz together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Cut the dough into four pieces. Repeat the next stages with all pieces. Roll the piece to a cigar shape, then flatten the piece with your hands, and roll through the pasta machine, on the widest setting. Fold the dough over in half, and roll through the same setting again. Then reduce the setting to the next, and roll through. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. I would say from 7 down to 2 should be fine.

7.  Cut your pasta. Brush half of the pasta round with egg, and add the filling (make sure it’s cooled). Fold the other half of the pasta over, and close with your fingers, pressing the pasta firmly together. Make sure you don’t leave air in.

8. Boil a large pan of water, with a generous amount of salt. Add the tortellini to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.

9. Bring the saved cooking water of the butternut squash to boil in a separate pot. Reduce to about half. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add 25ml double cream. Mix the oven roasted squash pieces into the sauce.

10. Serve the tortellini and the sauce together with the rest of the pine nuts sprinkled on top, and with some pea shoots and grated parmesan cheese.

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Restaurant review: Adam Handling Chelsea, London

My husband and I have been fans of Adam Handling ever since he was on Masterchef UK back in 2013 (he came second, however we always thought he should’ve won). He was back then, and still is, an exciting chef, someone whose career one wants to follow. He has quickly built an empire of restaurants and bars, and I suspect he’s only getting started. We were delighted when we learned he was opening a restaurant in Chelsea (or should I say Knightsbridge), simply called Adam Handling Chelsea. Adam has a great eye for detail, is experimental and creates great flavours, and even holds a few surprises up his sleeves.

For those who haven’t read my reviews before, my rating is from 1 to 5, however hardly any place has gotten the full marks from me. 1-2 would be somewhat disappointing, 3 would be good, and 4 very good. 5 would be exceptional, and is only reserved for the few, very best places.

We made our reservation few weeks in advance. Two days before our booking we were contacted by the restaurant that they now had a private event in the restaurant, however we could still have our lunch at the lounge area. This was at first somewhat disappointing, because we had really been looking forward to seeing the restaurant. It has to be said that the all of the staff were very professional in the way they dealt with the situation. We decided to still go ahead, as the food was still the restaurant food.

Because of the whole situation, we were being offered a 4-course menu complimentary. We had, however, been planning on the 7-course Tasting Menu since we made our reservation. The staff and the kitchen were kindly very flexible and accommodating to our wishes, and we were able to go for the Tasting Menu.

After our lunch, we were able to go and see the actual restaurant too, and look forward to eating there next time, it’s a lovely and beautiful space.

The bar and the restaurant both have a great feel to them. Smart and sophisticated, and at the same time they don’t feel pretentious, but relaxed and comfortable. The staff looking after the bar and the restaurant were great, and very welcoming.

First we were served sourdough bread and little doughnuts filled with béchamel sauce, topped with parmesan cheese and truffle. The doughnuts were soft and fluffy, and the taste was nice. The sourdough was nice and soft, and just as it should be, and as in all my reviews, there is always the butter test, which Adam Handling Chelsea passed with flying colours. The normal butter, as well as the chicken butter were both beautifully soft (there are not many things I hate more than hard butter that’s impossible to spread on fresh bread). I didn’t, however, get the chicken flavour from the chicken butter.

Next came the Amuse Bouche of foie gras mousse filled cigars (loved the flavour of this), and crab ‘tarts’. The foie gras mousse was subtle in flavour, however, wonderful. The crab flavour in the tarts was quite strong, and I didn’t taste much anything else.

First actual course was scallop ceviche with fermented tomato, kohlrabi and yarrow. It was very nice, the kohlrabi was wonderful. Personally I prefer cooked scallops, I find the raw ones somewhat bland in taste. Paired wine was creamy rather than sharp, and was nice, easy drinking wine.

Second course was butter-poached crab, carrots and sorrel. The carrots were prepared in two different ways. The pickled, grated carrots were quite overpowering, perhaps a little too sharp on the vinegar. Otherwise the dish was great. The crab meat itself was beautiful, soft and moist, and very subtle in flavour. The white sauce worked perfectly with the crab. Paired wine was easy drinking, and not as sweet as you would often think Riesling would be. It was creamy and buttery, but with some sharpness to it at the same time.

Third course was veal sweetbread, morels, peas and wild garlic. I loved this dish, it was the best one until that point. I find that with sweetbread you won’t always know whether it’ll be good or not. I’ve certainly had some that weren’t great in the past, and a couple of times when it has been cooked really well. I would say this was the best sweetbread I’ve had anywhere. The flavours as well as the texture of the sweetbread were great (yes, I’ve had sweetbread in the past where the texture was off putting). For me, this dish was one of the best of the whole meal. My husband felt this was a little bit too salty. I didn’t think so, and I’m usually the one who finds food more salty than him. All the flavours were perfect together. Paired wine was great: I’m a fan of oaked white wines, as they have more complex taste, like this had too. A wine we would go and buy for home.

Fourth course was John Dory, broccoli puree, cuttlefish, oscietra caviar and whey butter. The fish was cooked really well, and the flavour of the fish as well as the broccoli puree were really good,  however there was an overpowering bitter taste, which we thought might have been coming from the orange peel (finely grated), however not sure if that was the source. We both agreed this was our least favourite dish of the meal, and we probably wouldn’t order it if it was an option on the a la carte (it’s not). Paired wine was a more full bodied white wine, with a lot of character, another one we would definitely buy for home. The wine also had an interesting flavour development, getting a bit of a liquorice flavour.

Fifth course was Wagyu beef. I’ve had Wagyu beef before, however this was the best of them so far. The meat was served medium rare which was perfect, and the pieces of meat really showcased what the hype about Wagyu is all about. The meat was unbelievably tender and velvety, and melted in the mouth. This was my husband’s favourite. He originally had reservations because of the pickled cucumber (because of the too sharp pickled carrots with the crab dish), however the cucumber was fantastic. The flavour of the blue cheese and celeriac purée might be something to divide diners. I thought the pickled cucumber, the blue cheese and celeriac flavour together with the gorgeous beef all married together perfectly. Paired wine was fruity and full bodied on the nose, and the taste was dry and sharp with tannins. On the palate, the taste of the wine goes away quite quickly.

Sixth course was the first dessert of yeast parfait, earl grey ice cream, pickled granny smith, honey and star anise beignet. The dish was excellent, and all the flavours went together very well, however I didn’t get the star anise taste from the beignet. Paired wine was floral and sweet.

Seventh course, and the last of the desserts, was compressed cucumber, burnt basil and dill. These ingredients were joined with white chocolate ice-cream. The dish was wonderful. All the ingredients and flavours worked together really well, building a really tasty and fresh dessert. The dish was paired with a fresh, subtle flavoured sparkling wine.

Everything was followed by petit fours, all of them nice, but if you want to save the best till last then eat the little chocolate muffin last.

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I can see this restaurant becoming very popular.

Rating: ★★★★☆

My weight loss journey series: vol 6 – Doesn’t anyone notice I’ve lost a lot of weight?

So far I’ve lost 11kg (24lbs) since starting in September.

A while ago I was getting baffled by almost no one saying anything about the weight I’d lost. I started doubting whether it was actually showing.

Even though the scale was showing from -7kg (15lbs) to -10kg (22lbs) over a period of time, I thought the weight loss was noticeable, and clothes were fitting better, the dilemma I was facing was that no one was commenting on it.

I can understand that my husband wouldn’t really see it so well, as we see each other every day, but I thought it was strange no one else was mentioning it.

When I brought my weight loss up in conversations, then everyone always said they had noticed I had lost a lot of weight. I wasn’t sure whether they had or hadn’t, and were just trying to be polite when I mentioned it.

It wasn’t until I had a discussion with couple of separate people about it. They said they didn’t want to say anything, because ‘if you say to someone they’ve lost weight you’re saying they were fat’! Apparently it’s a no go area to say to a woman they have lost weight.

I would never have guessed this, nor would I understand anyone getting offended when they get told they’ve lost weight, am I alone thinking this way?

So, if no one is saying anything to you, don’t worry about it. Most likely they don’t want to say anything because they think they might offend you if they commented on it. Just keep going, and trust your own feelings.

Below are couple of example recipes of foods I’m eating a lot of. I tend to leave out potatoes and rice from my weekday meals, and save eating them to when I’m eating out, or cook a roast etc., special occasions. You should also be aware that avocado (which I have on the salmon recipe) has quite a lot of calories.

Simple steamed salmon

Easy oven grilled sea bass and vegetables

Lobster bisque

To make this food sing, you do want to make the effort. The shells of this crustacean are packed with flavour, so you must use them to your benefit. Lobster is an expensive ingredients, so this is perhaps something to make when you’re seriously trying to impress someone. This soup is very decadent and luxurious. Most of the meat will be used in the base of the soup, however you could save some of the meat to be eaten either on it’s own, or as pieces in the soup. It’s always satisfying to bite into a juicy piece of meat. I got my lobsters from the fishmongers already boiled. You can serve this as a main soup, or it works very well as a starter.

serves 6
2 fresh lobsters
1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
2 litres water
2 tbsp tomato paste
200ml brandy
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves
5 parsley stalks
25g butter
~~~~~
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp flour
150ml double cream
handful of dill, finely chopped
salt
black pepper

25g butter

1. Cut the shell on the belly side, to remove the meat. Pull the tail part of the shell separate from the head. Discard what’s inside the head, but keep all the shell of the lobster. Set all of the tail and claw meat aside.

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2. Place the butter and all other ingredients apart from the brandy and water into a large pan. Fry on medium to high heat, stirring, to ensure the shells are fried. Then, pour in the brandy, and let it bubble for a few minutes, then add the water. Simmer the stock for about an hour.

3. Melt the butter in another pan, and fry the shallots and garlic on a medium heat for couple of minutes, until the shallots are translucent. Add the flour, and stir together. Add the lemon juice, and start straining the stock from the shells. Keep stirring the mixture, to incorporate the liquid into the flour mixture. Little by little it will become thinner liquid.

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4. Once all the liquid had been used , place in a blender, together with the lobster meat, and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan, and add the cream and dill. Season to taste.

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Crêpes

Crêpes are a good, easy choice when you feel like you would like to treat yourself (or your family) to a sweet breakfast. All ingredients are part of most households’ basic cupboard, so this doesn’t require much pre-planning. And why not make a big enough batter to have some left over, to use for savoury galettes later?

makes 8 large crêpes
2 eggs
600 ml milk
250 ml basic wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
~ tbsp butter, melted, + extra for frying

1. Slightly whisk the eggs so that the yolks and the whites are combined together. Whisk in half of the milk. Then add the flour little by little, whisking in until all the flour has been added and the mixture is slightly thick batter. Mix rest of the milk into the batter, then add salt, sugar and melted butter, and whisk just to mix everything together.

2. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Give the batter a slight stir. For each crêpe, use a small piece of butter for frying. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and add a ladle (about 100ml) of batter into the pan. I have a large frying pan, and this amount works well. If your pan is smaller, less might be better.

4. The first crêpe tends to take slightly longer to fry, than the rest of them, but generally it will take around 3-4 minutes to cook the first side, and around one minute for the second side, depending on heat. I use medium heat, and fry the first side one setting higher than the second side. When cooking the first side, when the batter has become firm on top, and the crêpe has normally gotten holes in the batter, you can start checking the underside to see whether it’s browned enough. Once the underside is nice golden colour, flip the crêpe over and fry the other side until nice colour.

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5. Serve with your choice of topping and enjoy!

 

Ultimate roast beef

I’ve been on a quest to find that perfect way to cook roast beef, so that it’s very tender, pink and juicy. I’ve been combining tips and tricks from different recipes, and I believe I have now gotten to where I want to be. This is how I will from now on always cook my roast beef. It will take time to cook, however roasting it at such low temperatures should guarantee a perfect result every time. It will really help to use a meat thermometer.

1.6 kg beef roasting joint (I use rump)
2 litres of Pepsi or Coca Cola (I use Pepsi Max)
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1 tbsp coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Cover the beef with the cola, then cover with cling film and put in the fridge over night.

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2. Remove the beef from the cola, and dry with kitchen tissue. Mix the coarsely ground peppercorns, salt, oil and thyme leaves together, then massage the mixture onto the beef. Keep in the room temperature for few hours.

3. Preheat oven to 80°C / 176°F. Place the meat thermometer in a way that the tip is right at the centre of the meat. Put the beef in the oven, and roast until the inside temperature reaches 60°C / 140°F. For this size roasting joint it will take around 3.5 hours.

4. Remove from the oven, and wrap in few layers of foil and a cloth, then rest for 15 minutes, before carving.

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My weight loss journey series: vol 3 – The first hurdle

As I’m on a pretty low calorie diet, I knew that at some point by metabolism would shut down, so I was prepared for it when it happened. It’s a funny thing with our bodies. Those who do weights training at the gym for example, know that you need to change your exercise programme after a while, because the body has gotten used to the old programme. We have to break that routine to kick start things again. Now, this actually suits me very well. I like having the break weeks, where I can be on a normal diet and eat more, and things I don’t eat during my dieting weeks. Don’t get too discouraged when the weight loss stagnates. As my target per week is to lose 0.5kg (1.1lbs), and I lost more than double that within the first weeks, I tend to calculate where I should be at that stage, if I had lost only my target amount. Sometimes you lose more, sometimes less.

My metabolism shut down came after 5 weeks of dieting. For the next two weeks, I was off my strict diet. For breakfast I might’ve been having either the usual porridge, or perhaps some bread, omelette etc, more varied than during the diet. For lunch I still had my usual salad, and for dinner rice and potatoes were added. Here are a  couple of recipe ideas you could try: Squid and chorizo saladChicken paella

I think the key is firstly not to go completely crazy and overboard when you are on the break weeks, not counting calories, but still keep some sense to it. Secondly, the more difficult thing is to start the diet again after the couple-of-week-break. At this stage, you have now gotten comfortable with not counting calories, and the taste of your favourite foods. You really have to be disciplined to get back on the diet. I think this part is where some might fail and drop out.

People also tend to start slacking when they have achieved such a weight loss already, so it’s important that even if you’re feeling really great because of your achievements so far, there is still a way to go.

During your break week, do expect to gain some weight. My weight only went up by 0.7kg (1.5lbs) which I consider to be quite good. After going back on the diet, my weight went down to less than what it had been before the break within the first week.

Now, sometimes your weight may momentarily go up regardless of your efforts. This happened to me four weeks after being back on the diet after the break. I just kept at it, and the following week the weight came crashing down, far lower than it had ever been since starting originally. Firstly, view it over a couple of weeks. If still not budging, do another break to kick start the metabolism again, or a booster with some exercise.

I haven’t included much exercise to my weight loss yet. I’m at the moment using it as a booster if things get stuck. I might do a brisk 30-60 minute walk once or twice a week when required or a jog around the block (this hasn’t been many times). This seems to have helped a few times.

Regardless of the hurdles my weight still keeps going down. Just keep going and don’t give up.

Pan seared, oven roasted pheasant

Pheasant is smaller than chicken, however not as small as some other game birds are, so one should be enough for two people. It’s pretty simple to cook, and a portion of half the bird (breast and leg) will be about 300 kcal, which is around the same as a large chicken breast. Noticeably gamey flavour, so a nice change to the usual chicken.

1 whole pheasant
1 tbsp vegetable oil
100ml red wine (I used Pinot Noir)
50ml port wine
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 juniper berries
sea salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 355°F. Heat the oil in a ovenproof frying pan, and place the bird in the pan on it’s side, to fry the leg for 5 minutes. Turn to the other side, and repeat.

2. Turn the bird so that the breast side is facing down, and fry for another 3 minutes. Season withcouple of piches of sea salt, and some black pepper. Place in the preheated oven, and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the bird so that ast side is now up, season again and roast for another 15 minutes.

3. Take the pan out of the oven, and lift the bird out of the pan, on double layer of foil. Wrap the bird with the foil. I also tend to put a layer of kitchen towel around it while it’s resting, so that it doesn’t get cold whilst making the sauce.

4. Remove the fat from the pan. Add both of the wines, thyme sprigs and crushed juniper berries. I normally use fresh thyme, but as we recently came back home from abroad, and are going on another holiday very soon, I hadn’t bothered with buying fresh herbs. Bring to boil, and simmer until it’s reduced by about a third. Scrape the pan, to get all the flavours from the bird into the sauce. Strain through a sieve.

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My weight loss journey series: vol 1 – The introduction

In my weight loss journey series I’ll be writing about my progress with my attempt to lose a lot of weight. I will also still be posting my usual food posts, this is just an additional series. I will be sharing what is working for me, and if anyone else finds inspiration from how I’m doing it, I’m glad. The two pictures are about two and half months apart, and the weight difference is about 7kg / 15lbs.

Like probably for most, my weight over the years has quietly crept up. There have been a few attempts to get it down, but after a while I’ve found myself back to where I started from. I’m not exactly sure what has been my ‘wake-up’ call, but I feel I’m on a very good, successful path at the moment. It might have been because I bought clothes that were a size bigger than ever before, who knows. My initial target is to lose 30kg / 66lbs, with another 10kg / 22lbs depending on how I feel once at that stage. So far I’ve lost around 9kg / 19.8lbs in the last few months. I’m not looking for a quick fix, which has far greater danger of everything bouncing back really quickly too. I’m expecting it to take over a year to reach my target. My weekly target is 0.5 kg / 1.1lbs, which is a very healthy amount. During my diet weeks, I sometimes may lose a lot more, but during break weeks I won’t lose anything, still keeping the total weight loss to target.

Personally, I don’t like diets. I find various diet programmes too restricting to my lifestyle. I like cooking and eating nice food, and my husband and I also do a lot of fine dining as a hobby. Throw in occasional dinners with customers, and you’re in a hamster’s wheel that’s difficult to get out of.

This is why my past weight loss attempts focused on exercise rather than diet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those who would actually like to go and do some exercise, however due to busy and long working hours I’ve finally admitted to myself that this is not a sustainable option, and the reason I have failed in the past.

When I finally made my very determined decision to finally lose my extra weight, one of the first things I did was to actually cancel my gym membership! Having the membership, with very little time to go, has for a long time been ‘an excuse’ for not being able to lose weight.

Second step for me was some soul searching. I considered what I wanted to achieve, and my relationship to food. Once I’d had an honest look at myself, I was ready to start. I feel this is very important. At the beginning of my diet I was constantly feeling hungry, and had I not done the soul searching I think this could’ve been a first stumbling block that makes people quit. I accepted the fact I was hungry, with a realisation that it’s actually not going to kill me! I also couldn’t remember when the last time had been when I had properly been hungry. I’m first to put my hands up and admit that my eating habits have been luxurious and decadent, and it has been a very comfortable place to be in. Now, this is something I will never give up completely, and so far I’ve been able to lose weight and still eat nice things occasionally too.

I’ve completely created my own diet. I still go out to eat with my husband, or with work, and yet have still had a great start. This first post is an introduction to my journey, and as it’s already turning to be long enough, I won’t be adding samples of foods / recipes I eat on this particular post. I will, however, be including these in my future posts.

What works for me, might not work for someone else, or it could indeed be a great option, because it does give the freedom to occasionally forget that you’re on a diet. I count calories, and do a very strict 1000-1200 kcal on most days. I do restrict bread, potato, rice and pasta on most days, however if eating out, or I have lost so much weight in a week that I want to slow it down I might add some.