Archive for the 'Stories' Category

New beginnings

It’s been a busy week for this little blog- but there are a few exciting things in the pipeline. First, on Friday I got together with a friend who happens to be an excellent amateur photographer (a friend with benefits). We spent six hours snapping recipes, he teaching me how to take better pictures whilst I trying to stay focused and listen was thrilled to finally get to style food for my blog with someone else to worry about the lighting. So, over the next few weeks there will be some great snaps on the site, some for new recipes and others replacing the old as I update the recipe as well. Old favourites are best.

Don and I have also been embarking on an exciting new project- soon there will be recipe videos on the site! It’s been very much a trial and error experience for both of us but we spent the weekend putting together a couple of videos that will correspond with recipes on the blog. It was a very DIY affair- our ironing board and a stool served as our tripod and IMovie was our editing suite. Like I said, these are DIY videos but I’m really excited to start showing them.

And finally, London Foodie in New York has a brand new look. I’ve updated pages/content/searching categories and basically tried to make it more user friendly. I would love some feedback on what you think of the new site so please leave a comment below!

There’s a great week of recipes to follow-  happy Monday!

Resolutions- to be or not to be?

January has this habit of making me feel blue. The big festivities and general air of jolliness that Christmas brings abruptly wither and die as I discard the last scraps of dust-gathering tissue paper and bite the head off the last chocolate Santa. And then with all the clean-up over, a food coma subsiding and a liver on the road to recovery I’m faced with perhaps the biggest outlet for partying of the year- New Years.

New Years has a lousy habit of making me feel inadequate-and what I don’t understand is why I feel like I’m the only one who objects to the notion of forced enthusiasm? I understand the well meant wishes of Happy New Year, champagne is always an appropriate beverage and any given day I love to wear crazy hats and set off party poppers- but being forced to do it? And how can one evening require us all to get so drunk that we kiss a stranger and stay up into the wee hours only to go on extreme weight loss programs, crowd the gyms and resolve to be better individuals the next day? Oh, if only bitterness was a smell that translated through cyber space. Perhaps this needs further explanation.

My revulsion begins in the days leading up to New Years Eve. Everyone seems to think resolutions should be made a public matter rather than a private one, which you can quietly tuck under the bed until next year as soon as you’ve had enough of it.  And there are always undoubtedly those few smug friends who have never had a love-handle poke over the top of their skinny jeans in the first place and are too self-righteous for resolutions. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the people like me. Those of us, who have been making the same resolutions for the past five years and are reluctant to discuss them having foreseen the stamp of failure looming around February first.  Only that five-years-running list gets longer rather than shorter as each year comes by. Take last year in instance, my additional resolution was to make more of an effort in my appearance and come December, look what happened.

I imagine a certain colleague of mine would refer to this as typical Type-A syndrome behaviour. Type-A personalities being those loathsome overachievers of this world, never satisfied with their seemingly small successes and couldn’t possibly find use in practices such as: closing their eyes and counting to ten in times of stress.  I mean, who really does that anyway?! If I find out who I acquired this Type-A syndrome from I’ll be sure lend a catastrophic blow to the persons head.

Failed resolutions aside, January is also my birth month and this brings melancholy in of it’s own right.  Somewhere around my twenty-third birthday I found myself screaming at the clock to stop and dreading the thought of becoming an adult, hangovers and sleep deprivation. In two weeks I will turn twenty-six and instead of taking pleasure in (the ever decreasing number of) people saying: but you’re still a baby– for me twenty-six is closer to thirty and that scares me more than vampires, critters with more than four legs, and food poisoning.

Which leaves me with a decision to make: do I 1/ scrap all existing resolutions and start anew 2/ make no resolutions whatsoever screw the skinny jeans and idea of perfection all together or 3/ resolve to accept myself and the fact that I really only like celery sticks when their slathered in peanut butter or pimento cheese. I’m resolving to make peace with the month of January and all the reasons why it’s not such a bad month. January is the birth month of my blog (now two years old) and the month that four years ago I decided to give the geeky balding guy in glasses who kept appearing in my apartment a chance (and never looked back).  In two weeks I will be going to my first wedding dress fitting (need I say more- eek!) and catching up with old friends in London.  In three weeks I will be running my first marathon, something that I’ve wanted to do for ten years but never had the nerve, or knee strength for and at the end of the month I will spend a weekend galavanting with my sister (who I have just about forgiven for not coming home for the holidays this year.) Oh, and in between all that, I’m embarking on a one hundered push-up challenge with Don (and let me assure you, I will win) and of course I will be cooking and eating, blogging, wedding planning, making more time for friends and family and getting back into those skinny jeans (some things never change).  A new year has never looked so positive. Let the good times roll.

Dinner party disasters

“So this is where the magic happens.”
Published in The New Yorker January 26, 2004

With a kitchen finally intact (if not completely without problems) I’ve taken it upon myself to do some serious catching up on two years past of a miserable lack of entertaining. The Ikea table, which I insisted on purchasing a year ago because it seats twelve people has remained mostly un-sat at. The last time I pulled both sides of the table leaves was in April- when I was filling in my tax return. Never have I gone so long without friends, food and wine around the table.

That said, it appears that throwing dinner parties, is much like learning a foreign language- if you fail to study for two years then you find yourself a bit in out of your own depth. The lessons you thought you had retained come back to haunt you- or kick you in the ass; as they say over here. For me, my lesson unlearned is trying out something new on the twelve eagerly anticipating and slightly tipsy guinea pigs sat at your dining table. Trying something new, or worse without a recipe, when you have people for dinner is like ordering off a menu in French, without your translations book. Fifty percent of the time you’ll hit a winner and the other fifty you wont. But either way you’ll spend much of the night knocking back wine with the Jaws theme tune on repeat in your head.  Nervous anticipation at what will emerge from the kitchen is not ideal when you have twelve other diners at the table.

Last weekend, Don was out for the night so I used this as an excuse to have eight girls over for dinner and a  gossip. I thought I was keeping things simple by making a vegetarian lasagna. I roasted squash, steamed and drained spinach, roasted thin slices aubergine and courgette, made a fresh cherry tomato sauce, caramelised onions, slow roasted tomatoes with thyme and had I not run out of time I would have made my own pasta. All the elements were delicious and the lasagna- cooked in an enormous dish came out of the oven deliciously bubbling over the sides with layers of beautiful colours and to me it was utterly disappointing.  It wasn’t hot enough in the middle and the individual goodness of each ingredient was overpowered by its neighbour. Plates were cleaned but my only relief was knowing that my desserts were going to be perfect- banoffee pie (an old school favourite) and chocolate nemesis from the River Cafe Cookbook- you can never go wrong with a flourless chocolate cake.

In lieu of that here are my tips for avoiding dinner party disasters:

1/ Cook what you know. If this isn’t an option then don’t panic, just keep your wine glass topped up.

2/ Use good quality in-season ingredients and let them speak for themselves. Alternatively, outsource- just not to Betty Crocker.

3/ Keep things simple- the best dinner party dishes are the one’s that don’t need lots of dashes to the kitchen- a sweaty brow and stained apron may get you the compliments you’re after but you won’t feel good.  If you like being sweaty in an apron then good for you.

4/ Delegate your guests to bring the starter and/or dessert. It’s one or two less things that you will have to worry about but will ultimately be remembered for; so choose your guests strategically.

5/ Start the evening with sparkling wine or champagne- I think this is a great way to create the atmosphere of decadence even if you’re only serving shepherds pie.

6/ Have nibbles out- that way if you find yourself with an undercooked turkey in the oven you have time to tear your hair out in the kitchen without your guests passing out of hunger. Alternatively, If you really screwed up, avoid the nibbles, let people get drunk and they’ll never know

7/ People like to hover in the kitchen, so rather than shooing them out try putting them to work.

8/ Forward planning- don’t try to serve three courses that need the oven or stove. Have at least one that can be assembled in advance.

9/ Cook in a nice dress and heels with a gin & tonic to hand and at least you’ll feel like Nigella.

The Sign of Good BBQ

There is a common misconception that all food stylists tamper and play with food so that it’s no longer fit for human consumption.

Au Contraire.

Welcome to the UK

Welcome to the UK, please enjoy our 30 minute sky tour circling London.

Welcome to Heathrow airport, please enjoy the 20 minute tour of Terminal 3 and feel grateful that you didn’t land in terminal 5.

Welcome to Terminal 3, the escalator is broken but lugging your bag up the stairs will be a good warm-up for the 3.6 miles you still have to walk to get to immigration.

Welcome to Heathrow immigration, now that we are so friendly with Europe you can enjoy bonding with your European counterparts in the half-hour queue. If you are from outside the EU carry on through!

Welcome to the London Underground, when traveling, please purchase an Oyster card to avoid imminent bankruptcy and be thankful that you still have money in sterling.

Welcome to the Piccadilly line, please ignore the 10 minute unexplained pause in the middle of the tunnel- this is a perfect opportunity for you to put your makeup on.

Welcome to London Liverpool Street station, going somewhere? Who needs their life savings anyway?

Welcome to Ipswich, actually you’re probably not welcome around these parts, so get out quick

Welcome to Levington, Suffolk- take big cleansing breaths on a long march through the couuntryside in your wellies and then dunk digestive biscuits into the finest-made cup of PG-tips in the world and realise that you really do miss home after all.

Give up your seat or you might not get dinner

If your life’s calling keeps you stationed in a kitchen then chances are that you work long hours starting or ending in the wee early hours of the morning. The only time that you’ll sit down is when you get home and launch yourself onto the nearest chair/sofa/bed and demand a foot rub from the nearest breathing being. Burns and finger nicks may be the most distinguishable hazards of the trade but they’re most likely on the lower end of your long-winded list of daily maladies. Rather, it’s your swollen feet, aching back, calf pains and your ever-expanding collection of spider veins that your spouses/flatmates are most accustomed to hearing about. Sure, there are shoes and rubber mats that can to help ease some of your afflictions but these seem to lose their effect after eight hours of standing- and eight hours constitutes a half day for most kitchen queens. There is a reason why all cooks have vodka in the freezer.

And thus is why I’m appealing to all non-standing professionals, who spend most of their sedentary days sat crunched over a computer screen to have a look around on your commute home for bleary-eyed cooks hankering for a pew.  Flour prints on a backside, a lingering aroma of garlic and onions,  particles of food in the hair, particles of food on their face, a burn mark on the wrist or plasters on a finger are all visual signs that the person eying-up the same seat as you- deserves it more than you. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that as well as the standard handicapped and elderly seats- their ought to be designated chefs seats on the subway with a placard reading “give up this seat or you might not get dinner”. Just something to consider.

20 Reasons British food ain’t half bad

1. Marmite (not just yeast extract on toast)

2. Heinz baked beans (canned food has never tasted this good)

3. Birds custard mix (foolproof and fail safe. There’s no other way to eat crumble)

4. Atora vegetable suet (you can’t make a steamed pudding without it)

5. Anchor butter (toast, crumpets, scones you name it, it goes with it)

6. Cotswold Legbar eggs (beautiful tinted blue shells and a yolk so yellow it’s orange)

7. Jamie Oliver (bringing sexy back to cooking)

8. Green & Blacks Chocolate (take a seat Hershey’s, you never stood a chance)

9. The Metric System (grams are more accurate than ounces. period.)

10. Bubble and Squeak (the only way to use up Sundays leftovers)

11. Sunday Pub Lunch (booze, roasties and football- what better ways are there to spend Sundays?)

12. Back bacon (more meat, less fat- isn’t that what we all want?)

13. McVities Hobnobs (perhaps the greatest biscuit of all time)

14. Porridge (oats, milk and water = cheap, healthy and satisfying breakfast)

15. Hula hoops (what other crisp can you nibble off of your fingers?)

16. Sausages (hands down better than any American Weener)

17. Jam Doughnuts (firstly, the spelling is better and secondly the jam)

18. PG-tips tea (voted Englands best tea served with milk, I travel with bags of the stuff)

19. Waitrose (the finest supermarket shopping experience you will ever have)

20. Maldon Sea Salt (crispy flakes of salt that melt in your mouth)

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