Saturday, 6 August 2011

And so the goodbye to my 30's begins...

I know, I've been in denial that in just under 2 weeks I'll be 40. It just can't be, that's just so old isn't it? I know everyone says it's how you feel inside that counts, but what if you only feel 25? I just can't get my head round the fact that I'm now not supposed to be a with it, in the know, fashionable young thing, I'm meant to be sensible, responsible grown up and boring. I decided that I wouldn't have a party, I mean what's there to celebrate? That you're now officially middle aged and past it? So my husband and I decided we'd take ourselves to Brazil for 3 weeks at the end of September instead of having a big celebration. We both could do with the break to be honest, we've never had a chilled out beach holiday where we do nothing for 2 weeks! Even our honeymoon was spent trekking round Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam! So we'll have 5 days in Salvador de Bahia and then 2 weeks at a friend's beach house up the coast in Patacho.

But my gorgeous friend H, just wouldn't let it go, insisting she host a rather wonderful lunch party today for our closest friends. It was a lovely afternoon filled with champagne, incredible food, a great cake bought for me by my Mother (just like she did when I was a teenager) and just a bunch of wonderful friends. Made me realise how lucky I am to have such amazing and kind friends! And actually what struck me most was that although we're all getting older essentially we haven't changed a bit since our university days, still the same conversations, still the same dancing, still the same jokes, still the same amount of drinking...maybe they are right that we are only as young as we feel?

Friday, 5 August 2011

Friday cooking...

When it's this hot one doesn't really feel like spending hours slaving over a hot stove, when it's this hot and with no aircon one doesn't feel like working either,, so today I signed off at 4pm to sit in the garden with some of my favourite reading material Olive Magazine and the Good Food Magazine, whilst Matilda entertained herself in her sandpit.

Whilst flicking through I came across a delicious looking recipe for Butternut Squash and Halloumi Frittata, both of which I had in. A perfect Summer supper. So out with the humous and cucumber dinner I had envisaged for Matilda and I and in with the frittata! The husband is out at Somerset House watching movies tonight.

I love frittatas, they're easy, quick and always delicious. This really did only take 10 minutes of preparation time especially with my brand new Pampered Chef Knife, which made very light work of chopping up the squash. I also do Pampered Chef parties on occasion, as a bit of a hobby as I adore cooking, cookery books and am slightly obsessed with any kind of cooking equipment.

So all you do is chop up 500g of butternut squash into cubes, cut one pack of halloumi into thin slices then heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the halloumi until it's lovely and golden, remove the halloumi put some more oil in and chuck in the butternut squash and fry until soft. Add  a handful of mint, I've got tons of it growing in the garden, it's a bit of menace as it takes over the place but it does make such a difference to certain foods, it's a real Summer herb for me, reminds me of my family's home in Portugal. Influenced by it's Moorish heritage Portuguese cooking is full of coriander and mint, so having it in the garden reminds me of my Mum's cooking. She wouldn't dream of making a salad without either of those herbs. Anyway on with the recipe!

Pour a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over the squash and let it all bubble for a couple of minutes then lie the halloumi over it and pour over the 6 beaten eggs. No need to add salt as the halloumi is salty enough. Let the mixture cook on the stove for about 5 mins so the base is set, then put under a hot grill to finish cooking until it's a golden colour and crispy. Serve it warm or cold with a crunchy green salad, I added yellow peppers, cucumber and beetroot with a balsamic dressing to enhance the balsamic in the frittata.

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Yum - I'm off to have dinner now! Happy Cooking!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The best comfort food is...

Fish and chips! So with this rather drizzly, grey weather the husband and I decided to treat ourselves to that British classic, known across the world, fish and chips! Since our local chippie closed its doors we've been hard pushed to find a decent one, so we decided to try the relative newcomer Kerbisher & Malt near Brook Green.

This dish that dates from around 1858, became a staple working class meal because of the escalation of fish trawlers and the development of the railways making transportation to areas not near the sea all the more easy. The first fish and chip shop was opened in London's East End in 1860 by the Eastern European Joseph Malin, he now has a blue plaque in Bow commemorating his contribution to the British cuisine. With over 11,000 fish and chip shops in the UK today, it's hard to imagine a world without a chippie, somewhere you can always get a bite to eat after a late night out or before a football match, one of the best hangover cures I know.

We'd both read some great reviews and with an owner/chef that trained at the Oxo Tower and Racine it was a no brainer, not quite a local but close enough in the car. So off I went down the dreaded Fulham Palace Road, round the Hammersmith roundabout to the delightful enclave of Brook Green.

The fist thing I noticed was the distinct lack of greasy oily smell when I walked in, instead the aroma of tartare sauce permeated the air, quite a change. Neither of us particularly like greasy battered fish so we went for a Fishcake burger and Calamari with chips which we shared. The restaurant itself is small, bright and fresh with a lovely clean interior walls decked out in white brick tiles with great black and white photos.

I was greeted by a warm friendly waitress obviously picked for her gorgeous looks and her charming manner. The food was handed over in environmentally friendly boxes rather than the standard paper bags, so it seems that every detail is taken care of here including a warning to eat your food as fast as possible so it remains crispy. So I drove home like a lunatic breaking every speed limit! I always do as I am told!

It was gorgeous, restaurant food at chippie prices. The lightly fried Calamari was perfectly seasoned on a bed of fresh salad, the fish cake was quite substantial and extremely tasty. The twice cooked chips were definitely homemade, with no trace of cheap dirty oil or sogginess. This is high quality, well sourced food, that is handmade, nothing is frozen just like I want my food to be. I also like the fact you can also have your fish grilled, we'll definitely be trying that next time alongside the fennel and dill salad accompanied by those heavenly chips.

If you're a local get yourself down there now and even if you're not, it's worth making the trip. And if you're wondering about the name Kerbisher its the name of an old Norfolk fishing boat and obviously Malt is the vinegar!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

It's at times like this....

I miss working in an air conditioned office. I've really struggled to keep focus today, I sat here wearing practically nothing and I was still sweltering! Desperately tried to find the fan which we keep in our cavernous garage, where everything but the kitchen sink appears except what you're actually looking for. We keep setting aside a Saturday to tidy, declutter and sell off on Ebay, but somehow we can never face it. It would mean that we'd be forced to part with some of our possessions that others may consider - hell we consider - junk, but are part of our history.

Unfortunately, both my husband and I are clutterers or as someone put it the other day we're squirrellers. Sounds so much better I think, almost glamorises the fact that our home is filled to the rafters with books, cd's, dvd's, magazines, paperwork, hats that I haven't worn since uni, and now, since Matilda started walking toys are left everywhere. The more I pick up the more I find hidden in corners, behind sofas, inside the cabinet we had built so she couldn't reach the bluray player/sky box and other technical equipment, which she's now made into her store cupboard. If I can't find one of her shoes that is the place to look, otherwise it's in her kitchen cupboard next to the dried lentils tins of tomatoes, coconut milk.

When I first moved here it seemed really quite big with its unusually large kitchen and garden with a garage, now it feels like I'm living in a studio. The husband and I keep talking about moving out towards Saffron Walden way in the next couple of years as the issue of school catchment areas takes over our lives. I'm a Fulham girl born and bred and have lived here all my life apart from my stint at Uni and a year in Paris, so I'll be sad to go but it's sensible - more for your buck and all that. We're rapidly outgrowing our lovely little home so this time next year I think it'll be time to say au revoir to the big smoke and follow in the steps of many others before us and move just a little further out of Central London. It'll be time for another chapter in our lives to commence, an exciting one at that. A bigger house, a bigger garden, a better quality of life for our daughter and for us.

However, all my frustrations today (lack of space, clutter, mess and heat)  disappeared  after the wonderful surprise from the husband when he got home.Here's a little peak for you!

 It's not often that he buys me flowers so it makes it all the more special and thoughtful when he does. Flowers are definitely the way to a girl's heart! 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

This is the one where I have a rant!

No Junk Mail means No Junk Mail, right? Not to the dexterous builders/pizza/Indian curry house leaflet delivery people. I've had the above sign up for months now as I got fed up of coming home and not being able to push open my front door for all the free newspapers, leaflets and magazines. Has it deterred them? Not in the slightest. Perhaps its because I now work from home hearing the gate go incessantly that the complete lack of regard for my privacy and right to not have 20 different pizza companies to chose from, really irritates me. I'm constantly picking up junk mail from the doormat and sometimes they can't even be bothered to put them through the letterbox simply chucking them on the doorstep. Though, I must say Matilda finds it highly amusing to pick these leaflets up then instead of putting them straight into the recycling bag proceeds to shred them herself. I get a little gratification from that.

So the war against the leaflet distributor has begun, I caught two today. Luckily I was sitting in my front room/office making calls for our lovely client Kitty Dolittle when I heard them come up the path, so I ran out the front made them both come back and get their leaflets whilst pointing out the sign! One was very apologetic and the other couldn't care less.

Leafleting may work for some but I, as you can gather, find it annoying, what makes these random companies think I will choose their Gardening firm that I have no knowledge of, over the gentleman that's been pruning my trees for the last 15 years. Case in point, my neighbour last Autumn decided to call such a company to prune her ancient Bay tree, clearly cowboys who knew nothing about pruning sympathetically have now practically killed it.

We at roomtobreathe also have leaflets to hand out, but we only give them to people who are interested. Much of our business has come from word of mouth and personal recommendation, which I positively encourage. We always meet potential for a free lengthy initial meeting, we offer up references, so they can get to know us and our ethos before they make their decision.I certainly wouldn't want to bother anyone that definitely didn't want to be bothered. That's the great thing about social media such as Blogs, Facebook or Twitter, if you're suddenly not interested you can hide or unfollow and hopefully you won't be hounded, you can't do that with corporate litter, short of sealing your letterbox!

So my war continues against the hordes of publicity I get through the letterbox, as my husband said how would they feel if we called their phone numbers and didn't put the phone down making all their lines engaged? Happy? I don't think so.

Monday, 1 August 2011

A very British weekend continues...

Sunday we took ourselves down to Parsons Green in Fulham, for the Cloudy Bay Pop up shack with food by Petersham Nurseries' Syke Gyngell. I'm a huge fan of her 'A Year In My Kitchen' so we couldn't resist walking down the road to sample some of her food. It was beautifully set up with deckchairs, blue and white striped wind breakers, tables and chairs with pretty vases filled with country flowers on each table. We had great fun sitting in the wooden rowing boats they also provided, Matilda found it quite hard to keep her balance bless her and so did her parents after a couple of glasses of wine!

A jolly three piece brass band entertained the punters with great success.

The food, slow cooked Veal stew and a ham and lemon risotto, was just divine, perfectly cooked and just the right consistency for the risotto. It just a shame the portions were so tiny, hardly filling the sides. Each dish was paired up with a perfectly matching glass of wine that enhanced the food impeccably.

Veal Stew


All in all it was a lovely lunch, great to be eating such light and summery food outdoors again. You can always get yourself down to the award winning Petersham Nurseries if you didn't make it down to Parsons Green at the weekend or indeed if you want to indulge your fantasies at home, get hold of 'A Year In My Kitchen'. It's an inspiring book worth having on your shelf that's for sure!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A very English Picnic...

After a particularly difficult week for my husband and I, we decided to take our little family up the M40 to find a quintessential picnic spot by a river or lake with no one around. And that is exactly what we found, in the words of local Poet John Dryden:

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own

We shared a beautiful location with only one other family and hundreds of sheep. Being typical Londoners we left home with half the equipment we needed, including our picnic blanket so we spent some considerable time kicking away the sheep poops so we could sit on the grass!

It was the most perfect sunny day to eat my homemade Quiche Lorraine and potato salad followed by juicy cherries and strawberries, all washed down with Elderflower juice. Matilda loved it, running after the sheep and trying to climb down in to the lake (not so funny for us). We ran around, played games, ate food and talked.

The afternoon was rounded off by a visit to Canons Ashby, a beautiful Elizabethan Manor House, the home of said Poet John Dryden,  now a National Trust property, for tea and yummy Carrot cake in their marvelous courtyard garden. This was followed by a walk round the most beautiful Victorian Gardens filled with people playing Croquet and various other very English games.

It was a perfect family day with no computers or tv's or washing or tidying to distract us, it was just about us.