Tuesday, 12 December 2017

MACELLAIO RC, SOUTH KENSINGTON

Last weekend I had a massage at home (from Urban Massage). It was my first one in a long time and it was utterly amazing. I love beauty treatments but I rarely have them anymore as my life has been overrun by a very demanding toddler. The same goes for eating out, my daughter Olympia is not keen on sitting in her push chair or a high chair, so that makes going to restaurants quite a tricky experience. I remembered from when my other daughter Arabella was young, that Italian restaurants are always great with kids, so a couple of weekends ago we tried out Macellaio RC on the Old Brompton Road.

Macellaio RC is basically a butchers with a restaurant - you can even choose which steak from the counter that you want to eat. Plus it is not just an ordinary steak - it comes from the Fassona breed in the "special mountain valleys"  north of Genoa. Every cut of meat is hung for the exact right amount of time and precise care is taken to ensure the meat tastes incredible.

We were short of time due to Olympia's attention span and so we quickly perused the menu. It is quite simple - there are a selection of small bites, starters, charcuterie and cheese, offal, mains and grill or pasta. 

We started with lardo bruschetta with honey and walnuts and stracciatella served with rocket.



Both were unbelievably mouthwatering and utterly delicious. The stracciatella was incredibly creamy and I think the best I have ever tasted. I adored the lardo but it was a little too much for me, however Pascal demolished the very generous portion.

For mains, I ordered the rump steak served with sweet gorgonzola and walnuts and I can honestly say I have never had a steak quite like this in London. I loved the way it was was sliced and cooked perfectly rare. Pascal ordered rump steak with Tuscan extra virgin olive oil and salt. His was cooked blue and was also faultless.



We had fries and spinach as sides which were great although the steaks were definitely the stars of the show.



Unfortunately there wasn't time for pudding, Olympia had half terrorised and half charmed the restaurant and it was time to go home after an incredible meal.

There are four Macellaio RC restaurants on London, this one in South Ken, another in Battersea, one in Clerkenwell and another in Bankside. The menus are very similar in all of them and each offer a butchery and bakery masterclass. 

I will definitely be adding this restaurant to my favourites list.....perfect for all carnivores.

Macellaio RC

84 Old Brompton Road,
London
SW7 3LQ
Tel: 020 7589 5834

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

PENNE PASTA BAKE WITH PEAS, PANCETTA & RICOTTA

I am rarely cooking new recipes nowadays. It is impossible to cook when my toddler Olympia is awake as she constantly wants to be carried or is hanging onto my legs. Plus it is the last thing I want to do when she is having a nap. As a result, I have just been rehashing old recipes and cooking lots of baby recipes which thankfully my elder daughter Arabella is a huge fan of too, such as salmon and broccoli pasta in a cheese sauce, or jacket potatoes with a filling. 

Anyway I decided it was time to up my game, stop being lazy and cook a family dish that we can all eat and I can then freeze the leftovers - I started with a mac and cheese, then a cottage pie and on Sunday I cooked this recipe from Waitrose website.

Ingredients for 6 people:

500g dried pasta (I used penne)
Around 200g pancetta
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (I left this out)
500g ripe vine tomatoes, roughly chopped
110g frozen peas
250g tub of ricotta cheese
50g Parmesan, grated
25g fresh basil leaves, torn
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 200C / gas mark 6.

Prepare and cut all the ingredients.

Dry fry the pancetta in a frying pan for around 5 minutes until golden and crispy. Then remove with a slotted spoon and place to one side.




Using the same pan, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until it begins to soften and then stir in the chilli (if using) and tomatoes for around ten minutes until it starts to form a sauce. Then mix in the pancetta.






Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet's instructions - mine took ten minutes until al dente. For the last 4 minutes, add the peas and then drain.


Finally mix all the ingredients together and pour into a baking dish.




Spoon the ricotta evenly over the top, then scatter with Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top layer of pasta is golden and crusty. To serve sprinkle with basil and drizzle with olive oil.




This was really good, I loved the combination of flavours and the fact it was cheesy but not overpowering. Olympia, my 15 month old, adored it and I think it's so important that she sees us eating the same thing as her. Not surprising my husband enjoyed it so much, he ate for 2....resulting in not much left to freeze for Olympia for next week!!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

BEEF & AUBERGINE FATTEH

My baby Olympia is very different to my first child Arabella. I know I am probably looking back with rose tinted glasses but I know for sure we never needed cupboard locks and stair gates etc. It is not the same with Olympia however.....I know she is going to be one of those children who will draw on the walls!!! Anyway our kitchen is now equipped with cupboard locks and even though they were initially super annoying, they are very beneficial health wise for us adults. It is such a hassle to open the cupboards, we have stopped eating so many biscuits and chocolate......extremely helpful for my husband!!

This recipe is from the Sunday Times magazine and it took about 50 minutes.

Ingredients for 4-6 people:

For the base:
4 (approx 250g) pitta breads, split open and cut into nacho-sized triangles (we actually used mini pittas)

For the topping:
500g Greek yoghurt
5 tbsp / 75g tahini, at room temperature
1-2 lemons, to give 3 tbsp of juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

For the aubergine-beef layer:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 aubergine (250g-300g), cut into small cubes
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp Aleppo pepper or paprika, plus more for sprinkling
500g minced beef

To sprinkle over:
125g pomegranate seeds
50g pine nuts, toasted
1 tbsp finely shredded mint leaves


The recipe says to preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan. Split open and cut the pittas into triangles and then spread them out onto a large baking sheet and toast for 10-15 minutes, or until they are crisp. I actually skipped this part and popped my pittas into a toaster and cut them after. Do whatever is easiest for you! Put them on a large plate and set aside.


Beat the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and 1 tsp sea salt flakes together in a heatproof bowl that will later sit over a saucepan. I actually used a large china bowl that was easy to mix in and then transferred it to a smaller bowl after. It is really important the tahini is at room temperature, otherwise it is very hard to mix.



Warm the oil in a wide, shallow, heavy-based saucepan and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, over a medium to low heat for 5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to low and carry on cooking, stirring every so often, until a soft pale colour. This will take another 4 minutes or so. I obviously didn't read the recipe properly, I used a frying pan and I think my heat was too high and so they were cooked through by about 5 minutes. We then had to move onto the next stage so they didn't burn!


Turn up the heat to medium and add the aubergine cubes and stir well to mix in with the onions. Cook for around 7-10 minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn't catch.



Stir in the cumin, coriander, Aleppo pepper / paprika and season with salt. Increase the heat to high and then add the mince. Use a fork to break it up a little in the pan, until it has lost its red colour. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 10 minutes until the meat is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Taste to see if you need anymore salt and then take off the heat while you return to the tahini-yoghurt sauce.

Meanwhile dry fry the pine nuts in a frying pan for a few minutes....keep your eye on them as they burn quickly!





Pour some freshly boiled water into a fresh pan, to around 3cm depth and put over a low heat. Ideally you want to sit the bowl with the tahini-yoghurt sauce on top, making sure it doesn't touch the water. My bowl didn't do this so I just plonked it in the water! Beat well until the yoghurt is slightly above room temperature and resembles a lightly whipped cream. My husband did this manually however I think it would have been easier to use an electric whisk.



Top the pitta triangles with the aubergine-beef mixture, followed by the tahini-yoghurt sauce. Sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper / paprika to give a light dusting. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and finally strew with the finely shredded mint leaves. Eat with your fingers, nacho-style or keep your fingers clean and use a knife and fork.




Just before we served this Pascal said to me - I don't like yoghurt! However he changed his mind once he started tucking in. It was really delicious, such great flavours and I love the way the pomegranate seeds literally pop in your mouth. It was quite messy though and we absolutely needed some cutlery. 

I would definitely do this again - I love Middle Eastern food but normally it needs an abundance of spices whereas this was quite straightforward. I will admit when I cook this next, I will make it even more simple and just use hummus rather than the tahini-yogurt sauce. A perfect quick supper or even dinner party starter. 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

AFTERNOON TEA AT THE PALM COURT AT THE LANGHAM, WEST END

It was my birthday last week and we wanted to celebrate as a family and go somewhere special - (I definitely wanted something a little more exciting than Pizza Express)! We decided to go to the Palm Court at the Langham, we had gone for afternoon tea there at Easter and I remembered there was a pianist playing which drowned out Olympia's moaning!! 

Pascal and I had the Wedgewood afternoon tea and my daughter Arabella had the children's afternoon tea with Hamley's which includes a cuddly teddy bear.

I love afternoon tea and what I love most about the Langham is the free flowing sandwiches - they are amazing and we definitely wanted more than one plate. The sandwiches were classic English cucumber, cream cheese and chives; Burford Brown egg, marinated artichoke on rosemary bread; beef pastrami, sauce "Albert", watercress on caramelised onion bread; Scottish smoked salmon, Sarawak pepper and preserved lemon cream; and finally classic "prawn cocktail", iceberg and tomato powder on a potato bun. 

I have to say they were all divine. The pastrami one was definitely my favourite although I was also obsessed by the egg and artichoke - what an original fantastic combination.


Arabella had the jigsaw sandwiches which were also delicious. They were more child friendly flavours - hummus and red pepper, cheese, jam and I can't remember the last one. She adored them and also our cucumber and cream cheese which she kept stealing. Thankfully there was no limit on the amount of sandwiches you can have so Pascal and I had two plates and Arabella a couple of extra. Even the baby Olympia tried some too!


Next up were the scones which are Pascal's favourite part of afternoon tea and these did not disappoint. They were freshly baked - some plain and others with sultanas and then served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Not surprisingly we had two plates of these as well!


Arabella's cakes were adorable. They consisted of Pedro Pig, a strawberry ganache with vanilla sable. Billy Bee was a mango and passion fruit jelly with chocolate sable whereas Lily the Ladybird was a vanilla sponge with raspberry whipped ganache. Finally Cecil the Sheep, was a crunchy choux with Langham cremeux. 


Arabella isn't the biggest fan of cakes but she did enjoy the Pedro Pig and Billy Bee. She kindly gave me Cecil the sheep which was scrumptious and Olympia gobbled up Lily the Ladybird.

Despite the fact I was already fit to burst, it was then time for my cakes. They were described as an exquisite selection and they really were. They included a Paris Brest (Crunchy Choux pastry, lightened Pecan, caramelised pecans), Babalicious (Blackcurrant and star anise soaked baba, Jivara whipped ganache, crunchy pearls), Decidedly Madeleine (Madeleine sponge, passion fruit jelly wrapped in a coat of dark chocolate), Spherically Challenged (Creamy coconut, liquid raspberry and Manjari mousse) and One in a Million (Caramelised Puff Pastry, vanilla infused mascarpone).



I am salivating as I write this....wow these cakes were outstanding. The Paris Brest was my favourite - I love these - I need to eat more of them!! Between you and me, I ate all my cakes and Pascal's, I couldn't stop.....but it was my birthday!!

Then the waitress surprised me with a birthday cake....


What a fantastic tea - amazing service, huge amounts of delicious food and beautiful piano music. Together it made a very special birthday and I would really recommend it.

The Palm Court at the Langham

1C Portland Place,
London
W1B 1JA
Tel: 020 7636 1000
Email: book@palm-court.co.uk

Monday, 18 September 2017

FAY'S SAUCY SICILIAN MEATBALLS

It has been quite a shaky weekend after the terror attack on Friday. I have always been quite blasé in the past and never expected anything like this to happen in the little bubble of London where we live. I was at my daughter's school attending a PTA meeting when we heard the news of an explosion just down the road. The school and police were amazing and we were in lockdown within minutes. I felt completely safe and looked after however as time has passed, reality has sunk in, and our family have realised what a scary world we live in. 

Anyway I have been trying to explain to my 9 year old Arabella that we can't let the baddies win and instead we need to make the most of each moment and practise an "attitude of gratitude". Therefore it was a weekend of indulgence......Diner Style Chilli on Friday night, afternoon tea at the Langham on Saturday and then these meatballs on the Sunday (plus lots of donuts, ice cream and sweets in between)! This recipe is from Fay Ripley's first book, it took about an hour and ten minutes to make and is baby friendly.

Ingredients for 4 people:

For the meatballs:
60g fresh breadcrumbs
500g lean minced beef
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated (plus more for serving)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 medium eggs, beaten
Plain or spelt flour for coating
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
Olive oil
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
250ml low salt vegetable stock
2 tbsp red split lentils

To serve:
400g pasta or mashed potato or fresh baguette



Put the breadcrumbs, mince, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, Parmesan and nutmeg in a big bowl. Beat the eggs and then mix them in. Using a spoon and your hands, form into balls (about two bites in size) - mine were far too big but I don't think it mattered. Roll in flour and put in the fridge until needed.





Meanwhile make the sauce. In a large pan, fry the onion, celery and carrot over a high heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Next add the chopped tomatoes, puree, stock and lentils and gently simmer for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, preheat the oven to 180 C (fan) / 200 C / gas mark 6.





Whilst the sauce is cooking, fry the meatballs in a splash of olive oil, turning until brown on all sides. Keep them moving by shaking the pan so they don't stick. In an ovenproof dish / pan, mix the tomato sauce with the meatballs and then pop into the oven for 25 minutes. Ideally you want to put a lid on the dish / pan but I didn't have one - I don't think it mattered but keep your eye on the food as you don't want it to burn. Don't forget to cook your side if you are having one - we did pasta and it took 10 minutes in salted boiling water.








Once the pasta and meatballs are ready, serve them with a sprinkling of cheese or even a topping of sour cream. Not surprisingly I went for the cheese!




These were really good - not your usual Italian meatballs as you can clearly taste the lemon and thyme which goes wonderfully together. We all really enjoyed them especially Olympia - she actually preferred the meatballs to the pasta which I was most pleased about as I often worry she does not eat enough red meat. I loved the fact the sauce is packed with vegetables too. Another successful recipe from Fay. We froze the leftovers for Olympia although I was thinking I might have them myself with some garlic bread - a perfect autumnal supper.