December 23, 2014

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in the  slightly overcast town of Tours in France for a night before heading on down south to the Auvergne for Christmas. 

We arrived late afternoon and ventured out in search of some Vin Chaud and a little culture. 

We stumbled across a fantastic Christmas market celebrating its last day before Christmas itself...

We warmed up with some piping hot mulled wine.

Once we had exhausted every stall of the market and the warmth of the Vin Chaud was most certainly wearing off we stumbled across a beautiful Museum with a fantastic impressionist exhibition. 

After a good boost of culture, that evening we found a fantastic local restaurant and had the Plat du Jour. 

Once finished we walked through the seasonally lit streets to our hotel. We resisted this tempting Chocolaterie, serving piping hot chocolate to those who wanted some respite from the chill. 

We headed to bed excited to see the famous food market in the morning, Les Halles - a foodie paradise so I had been told!

December 17, 2014

This fudge recipe is really easy and once packed into a box or bag and tied with festive ribbon it makes the perfect edible gift for those chocolate addicts out there. 

To make a good sized batch of this sticky chocolate fudge you will need…

400g Dark chocolate
397g Can of condensed milk
1 oz Butter
3 ½ oz Icing Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Essence
A dash of rum for an extra kick.
Cocoa Powder for rolling the finished fudge

Start by breaking up your chocolate into small chunks, you can either do this by hand or with a knife.

Place this in a saucepan over a medium heat with the condensed milk, butter and vanilla essence.

Stir until glossy and smooth. 

Next Beat in the icing sugar and rum.

Pour into an 8in square tin, lined with baking parchment. Smooth out the top with a knife.

Leave to chill for about an hour until set.

Cut into bitesize squares and roll in the cocoa powder.

Pack into a festive box with sparkly ribbon and decorate with holly to give a perfect homemade Christmas gift. 

Great for those last minute christmas hampers! 

December 15, 2014

For a few months when I was younger, I worked in a little local cafe, each morning delicious cakes, pastries and other goodies were delivered from the kitchens and I would set up the displays of the fresh patisseries ready to tempt customers that day. 

The piles of Linzer biscuits I put out everyday always sold out by lunchtime and seemed the most popular over all other cakes or treats. 

The Linzer biscuit is a glorified jammy dodger, sticky jam sandwiched between spiced cookie dough, the top layer with a cutout to show off the sticky jam inside. 

This time of year the dough has cinnamon in too to add some christmas spice, I also added some allspice for an extra kick. 

To make 15-18 Linzer Biscuits you will need...

130g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter 
250g ground almonds 
2 cups of plain flour 
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp allspice
Raspberry Jam (of course if you have time you can make up a jam yourself, bought stuff is just as good for these)

Start by creaming together your sugar and butter in a bowl until combined. 

Next add the flour, ground almonds and spices to your mixture. Mix until a dough has formed. 

Place in the fridge for half an hour to an hour to firm up your dough. 

Next role out your dough. This can be frustrating as you have a dough that is very fragile and delicate. So take care when rolling it out.

It may split apart, but the beauty of this dough is that you can just push it back together, it is very different to pastry dough, no where near as pliable.

Using your shapes, cut out 36 biscuits. Leave 18 whole and cut holes in the other 18 with a smaller cutter.

Again take care with this process.

Bake for 8 - 10 minutes or until golden. These biscuits do not need long, so don't forget about them as they can turn in a moment.

Next get your jam...

...and place dollops on your whole biscuit bases.

Next place your biscuit lids on top.

These look really pretty once they have all been made up, particularly festive with the red raspberry jam oozing out.

Dust liberally with icing sugar...

The great thing about these biscuits is that the jam still gleams through after the showering of icing sugar as the jam just absorbs it.

These can really crumble if not handled with care!! 


December 11, 2014

Last night a great friend and I ventured over to the Chiltern Firehouse for our 'Christmas Party'. 

We knew it was going to be a decadent affair so decided that we needed a good reason to justify going to the restaurant (and hotel) of the moment. 

The restaurant is on Chiltern Street, in Marylebone. 

To get to the restaurant you walk through a courtyard, glistening with fairy lights twisted around trees and through the ivy, climbing and covering intimate seating below. 

We booked our table a while ago and went for the early seating of 6:30pm. 

However, this didn't seem to matter as when we arrived the bar and restaurant was already heaving, with lights and decorations festooned everywhere. 

We were taken to our table, and promptly ordered two glasses of wine and a couple of tasters to get us going...

The Corn Bread - it tasted absolutely delicious and came with the fluffiest truffled maple butter. Perfection. 

As we tucked in...

...we started to peruse the menu...

As we decided on the Steak Tartare with a couple of sides, keeping us open to the option of pudding, our second taster, Crab Doughnuts, arrived.

They were mouth-watering, crispy and filled with succulent crab meat.

Really a must. It's no surprise that they are one of the most talked about creations of the head chef Nuno Mendes.

Next came our mini mains. We both went for the steak tartare which was fabulous, creamy, tasty and served with all manner of mini veg and sauce sides to spice it up. 

It comes with crisp bread and the famous Firehouse Hot Sauce, which is pretty hot! (I wouldn't suggest slathering it over everything if you are not a fan of spice or heat...)

We chose two sides, french fries and creamed spinach. 

Not a bad spread for a midweek Christmas party for two!

We chatted and demolished our Tartare over the next hour. Finally whilst rubbing our bellies and feeling surprisingly full, the delectable dessert menu arrived.

I finally settled on the Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Butter Pie, wanting to feel seasonal and Christmassy.

It was wonderfully light, and the cream fluffy and sweet.

We couldn't leave Chiltern without a visit to the most photographed toilet in London. After promptly snapping the infamous secret door (it, as the sign would suggest, leads to a hidden smoking area), we  then mooched on out back through the courtyard and home.

It truly was a great meal, and met all of its high expectations.

We are already planning to go back for lunch when we can sit out and enjoy the beautiful courtyard, though perhaps when the weather warms up...!

December 02, 2014

Having only recently moved to London full time I love discovering fun and unusual things to do.  London is such a fantastic city and has so much to offer, markets during the day, food halls and  galleries in the afternoon and restaurants, bars and events into the night.

Last Friday I decided to pop over to the Natural History Museum. On the last Friday of every month they open late, offer food drink and an evening viewing of the current exhibits and a wander through the galleries.

This after dark experience sounded too good to miss.

To be able able to wander the museum after closing hours and be able to grab a bite to eat if you feel a little peckish sounded like a fantastic idea and one that I had to try.

We arrived just after seven. The famous museum was lit up and looked a little like Hogwarts.

Fairy lights glistened in the surrounding trees as we joined the other visitors for this late night spectacular.

The whole place had such a different feel at night. 

The open space was warm with the smell of mulled wine and mince pies. 

The ceiling glistened... and gilded paintings sparkled down from overhead. 

We tucked into mince pies and wine at the bottom of the steps, we weren't the only ones to have heard about these late nights and the place was starting to fill up with loads of other people with the same idea.

After demolishing our mince pies in record time we wandered off to the surrounding  gallery spaces that were open. 

ooogled at the giant fossils...

and cooed at the size of these baby birds.

This evening is really fantastic, great for a date night or just to bring friends for a slightly different evening out.

Entry is free which is fantastic, you have to pay for food and wine but everything is very reasonable in price and is really worth it.

How often will you be munching mince pies surrounded by dinosaurs?!!

Details of the next late nights can be found here... 
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