Monday, 22 May 2017

The bluest of seas in Porto Cervo, Costa Smeralda, Sardinia

A couple of weeks ago, I didn't know much about Sardinia at all. I knew it was an Italian island but that was about it.

If you find yourself in a similar situation then I am here to tell you that YOU MUST GO THERE! GO THERE NOW! OR AT LEAST BOOK FLIGHTS NOW! Well, after you finish this post, preferably.

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days on the Costa Smeralda, which - my Italian friend informs me - is basically the fanciest part of the island.

So yes, my opinion of Sardinia may be slightly skewed, but I want to show you how pretty it was anyway.

Guys, Olbia airport is literally a two hour flight from London and then Porto Cervo - the first of two destinations on my trip - is just a half hour's drive. Pretty dreamy.

I want to mainly let the photos do the talking because a) it was all so beautiful that words do not do justice, and b) I'm hungry and want to go eat curry.  I know you understand.

Chums, I'm going to start by just showing you how mind-blowingly beautiful the sea is. 
 I mean.
 I just can't even.
 It's so incredibly bright but also super clear.

'Twas a wee bit windy though.
We were staying at Hotel Cervo, which is without a doubt in the best location: it's simultaneously the heart of the town and on the coast.

This was the huge bed in my room.
 Here you have the ginormous pool (not heated but I obvs went for it anyway).
 This was the incredible sunset we watched whilst sipping bellinis and spritzes at the terrace bar.
 And this is the view from breakfast.
Yup, really.

The town itself isn't huge but is absolutely beautiful - it looks really old, even though it isn't. Some sneaky design work, here in Porto Cervo.
Pretty much all the shops are designer, from which you can probably guess what Porto Cervo's regular visitors are like.
The main reason I was actually there was for the annual Food and Wine Festival, which brought together producers, industry experts and foodies from across Italy and the world.
It was fab! I ate some of the best burrata I have literally ever had in my life and we just walked round trying different wines - I kid you not, were this in the UK, it would without a doubt have turned into a rowdy piss-up. Bit classier than we Brits, are the Italians.

And we sure ate and drank plenty of other delicious things in Porto Cervo.
Whilst the above may not look super appetising, it was probably the tastiest thing I ate on the whole trip: chjusoni. It's a local speciality, is sort of like gnocchi, and was insanely delicious. 10/10 would eat again.
And this is another local delicacy: seada al miele. It was like a melty cheese encased in pastry and doused in honey. Sounds weird, was good.

After my stay in Porto Cervo, I didn't think the trip could get any better. But guys, it did. CLIFFHANGER: all will be revealed in the next post.
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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A day of makeup, food and theatre with Disney and Mac

Copyright Disney
Things I love: food, makeup, musicals.

That is not an exhaustive list, but those three are definitely up there, which is why I was absolutely buzzing when I was invited to spend a day with a group of lovely fellow bloggers enjoying all three.

The day kicked off on stage at the Prince Edward Theatre in central London. Many of the bloggers had travelled from other ends of the UK and set off at the crack of dawn to make it on time. I live six stops down the Victoria line and was still late (long story).

Anyway I was gutted to have missed the start of the day which saw all the bloggers attend a makeup masterclass on stage.
Disney
Using lots of lovely Mac products, we were shown both how to create the stage makeup for the stars of The Lion King and Aladdin, and also how to create wearable looks inspired by the shows.
Disney
After a spot of mingling over refreshments, we headed over to Polpo for a brunch of about a million courses. Not even exaggerating.

(OK, maybe slight exaggeration.)
The prosecco and bucks fizz was flowing and we got well and truly stuck in.
So much delicious Italian food! We were well and truly satisfied.

Next up, we shimmied on to the theatre - it was time for The Lion King
This was actually my third time seeing the show but as you may be able to tell from the photo above, I was no less excited.
Guys, believe the hype. It is literally incredible. The show is so cleverly done, the costumes and makeup are fantastic and the music - well, you all know the music.

I laughed, I cried, I sang along under my breath. And I felt very privileged to be there. 
We were sent home with a very very lovely goodie bag full of Mac products and what is now my new favourite mug. 

What a day of fun it had been! Thanks so much to Mac and Disney for inviting me along.
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Sunday, 7 May 2017

When I had a professional massage at home with Urban Massage

One of the best things about living in London - or any big city - is being able to get pretty much anything delivered to your door.

That said, this isn't actually something I do loads. Well, except for with food. Even though a few months ago at the end of a house party at 4am all we wanted was a delivery of chips and literally nowhere would oblige us and I'm not still pissed off about it AT ALL promise.

Anyway.

Last bank holiday Monday I had my first experience of having a professional treatment at home. You've seen the adverts on the tube - there are various companies selling everything from manicures to massages, but the premise is that the experts come to you.

But let me rewind a smidge.

On bank holiday Sunday, we were doing Girls' Night Out (AKA GNO) and I was thoroughly prepared to be a shell of my former self come Monday morning.

Have you ever been out out on a bank holiday Sunday? I find it's extra fun as it's such a novelty. But I digress.

Amazingly, I woke up on Monday morning feeling, well, absolutely fine. It's almost like I'm growing up or something. But I'd decided to book a visit from Urban Massage thinking it would be the perfect relaxing experience if I was feeling a bit delicate.

I was fine, but it was still gloriously relaxing.

Now I've never had a massage anywhere other than a spa before. You know how it is: relaxing Balinese-style music, stylish minimalist decor, a general zen-like vibe. It's perfect.

But I was sceptical as to whether the same sense of relaxation could be created in my open-plan kitchen/living/dining room, complete with bottle of orange squash, a frying pan on the drying rack and a giant metallic turquoise hula hoop hanging on the wall (don't ask).

Being in London and all, it was the only space in the flat big enough for a massage table. It was a good thing my flatmates were away for the weekend otherwise I'd have had to be like 'Um guys don't come into the living room for an hour because I am going to be naked cool thanks.'

Fortunately, Urban Massage therapists bring everything - all you have to provide is a couple of towels.

Right on time, my masseuse arrives. I feel a bit strange greeting her in loungewear that is barely better than PJs, but I figured it would be silly to change considering all I'm going to do is take my clothes off.

And yes, if you think about it, the concept is totally weird: you let a stranger into your house, remove all your clothes, then lie on a table while they rub oil on to your naked body. Best not to think about it like that.

I welcome my masseuse in and apologise profusely for all the stairs and the lingering curry smell (I'd spent the afternoon making one). I find myself wanting to apologise for the general state of my flat too but I imagine she's seen worse. In fact, I imagine the most interesting part of the job must be seeing so many different homes.


After the massage table is set up, I'm asked to perform a few simple movements so we can work out where my body is stiff and what I'd like her to work on.

I then choose one of three different oils (I went for lavender).

Next, she leaves the room and I get naked in my living room and just pray the neighbours over the road don't look out of their windows.

She comes back into the room and asks if I have any music. "Oh shit," I think to myself. I have no music. We cannot do this in silence, surely. Fortunately, she has music and simply plays it from her phone.

And then the massage commences. It was hard, but good - I hate a massage that feels about the same as someone lightly wafting a feather over your body.

Apparently I have a really tight neck, which I did not know.

At one point she asks me if I do sport. "I dabble," I say. She says she can tell I exercise. And I am well chuffed (even though she may say that to every client).

At the start of the massage I notice the birds singing outside. Halfway through, I hear the heavens open and as it chucks it down outside, it feels all the more relaxing to be inside having a massage. Through my own stupidity, my phone also buzzes a couple of times so do be sure to put yours on 'do not disturb' mode, pals.

And all too soon, it's over. I re-dress. My delightfully polite masseuse insists on washing up her water glass. She folds up the table and off she goes! And I am left feeling delightfully zen.

My body feels a bit like it's had a workout, but in the best way.

Whilst not as relaxing as being in an actual spa - I did find it harder to switch off - it somehow did feel extra luxurious having a spa treatment come directly to my door. When you think about it that way, it's pretty awesome.

My massage was compliments of Urban Massage but my blog post is completely honest, promise.
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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Coconut cumin veggie curry

One of the best things about making curries is that you can literally just improv.

I know and readily accept that the curries I make are not even remotely authentic, but I like them nonetheless. And I particularly love a veggie curry.

But when making a veggie curry, I find you need to make sure you have lots of different and exciting ingredients involved - well, as exciting as a vegetable can be - so different colours and textures etc.

This is my latest fave veggie curry. It's healthy, it's hearty, it's simple and it's just really bloody delicious tbh.

I realise that it would look a lot better had I sprinkled on some coriander, but anyone who knows me will know that coriander is my main nemesis in life (along with mint and parsley) so I'm afraid you're going to have to do with my pictures of yellow mush.

It tastes a lot better than it looks, trust me.
I don't like my curries super spicy, and this one is subtly sweet and mild but also far from bland. And of course, you can adjust the spice levels to your taste.

The reason I focussed on coconut and cumin was because the lovely gang over at Bounce challenged me to make a recipe inspired by their new range of V Life Bounce Balls.

Now being a fan of original Bounce Balls, I was keen to try out the new flavours and see what I could come up with in the kitchen. I think the almond kale ball is actually my favourite - it tastes like marzipan! - but the coconut cumin is definitely the one with the most savoury undertone.

So I decided to turn it into a curry! Sort of.

This is a really easy one-pot dish and you can serve it with whatever you like - I went for quinoa, which I cook in chicken stock and Marmite. Trust me, it's amazing.

Depending on your portion size, this recipe serves about four.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp tikka curry paste
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 can coconut milk
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas
2 handfuls kale
A sprinkle of seeds, cashews and coconut flakes, optional
Quinoa or rice to serve


Method

1. Gently fry the onion in the coconut oil in a large saucepan over a low heat for a few minutes  and once starting to soften, add the garlic. Sauté until cooked.

2. Add the cumin and curry paste and stir, followed by the squash and cauliflower, then the coconut milk and stock. Season with salt and pepper and stir well before adding the chickpeas and kale.

3. Bring to the boil then simmer for about half an hour or so until the veggies are cooked through and the sauce isn't too runny. Check the flavour is strong enough for you and add more cumin or curry paste if you like. In the meantime, cook your rice or quinoa.

4. Serve the curry with the rice or quinoa and top with a scattering of cashews, seeds and coconut flakes. Dig in!
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Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bottomless Bucks Fizz and brilliant brunch at Timmy Green, Victoria

Up until six months ago, I worked in Victoria. Now I've got a new job and am based in Kensington. But in the six months since I changed jobs, Victoria has suddenly blossomed in to a foodie hotspot. I mean, seriously?!

It's all down to the opening of the Nova building which has attracted a whole host of brilliant eateries. And as soon as I found out about Timmy Green I was desperate to pay them a visit. Plus I hadn't brunched in a whole two weeks so was craving my fix.

I've realised that brunch seems to have replaced afternoon tea in my life. I'm totally still down for three tiers of deliciousness, don't get me wrong, but - the millennial cliché that I am - I bloody love brunch.

And guys, Timmy Green has made it into my top three brunch spots in London I think. For reals.
I absolutely loved the vibe - floor-to-ceiling windows, two levels, plants on the ceiling, neon signs - it's bright, fun and chilled. There were fresh flowers on every table and even a very talented singer/guitar player when we visited. It was also packed.

Oh, and there's prosecco on tap so what more could you want really?
My dear friend Tasha and I decided we'd indulge and go for the bottomless brunch which entails two courses and two hours of Bucks Fizzes or prosecco (and you can switch between the two).
I was a big fan of the presentation of the Bucks Fizzes and they were freshly-made each time - whilst at some bottomless prosecco brunch spots you end up getting sloshed because the staff top up your glass before you've even drunk half, at Timmy Green it's a slightly classier affair.

They also have a cracking cocktail menu so I'm going to have to go back to make the most of that for sure.

For our first courses, we shared the banana bread and the granola.
Warm, squidgy, moist banana bread with light mascarpone cream, fresh berries and honey. It was huge, stodgy and oh-so-delicious.
Homemade maple granola, thick Greek yogurt, fresh berries, coconut flakes, honey, chia seeds, and flaked almonds. The granola was wonderfully crisp and there were chunky clusters too, which I loved. 

And to quote Tasha: "Cute plates." She was not wrong.

After a brief pause we were ready for our next courses - and let me tell you it was not an easy choice as the whole menu sounds amazing.
I ummed (my laptop just tried to correct that to bummed lol) and ahhed for a while but eventually settled on the broccoli and corn fritters. And chums, it was an excellent choice, if I do say so myself.

The fritters were fluffy and flavoursome, the avocado on top was the perfect ripeness, my egg was poached to perfection (just look at that yolk!) and I liked the courgette ribbon on the side too. I wasn't fussed about the chilli jam but that's just because I'm not a spicy gal.

I thoroughly recommend - unsurprisingly - getting a side of halloumi.
It was a rather inspired addition to the dish IMHO. Unfortunately our halloumi was actually forgotten but it didn't take long for the v friendly staff to bring it out.

As I reached three-quarters of the way through my meal, I was so full, but it was so delicious I just couldn't stop. I know there's no judgement here.

Tasha went for the avocado on charcoal bread served with homemade labneh, dukkah and spinach.
Weirdly enough, you can opt to add an egg to the dish (as you can see above), but Tasha didn't ask for one because she doesn't like eggs. So we weren't sure what happened there but hey - two eggs for Rachel!

I was really intrigued to try the charcoal bread as I'd never had it before. It was, well, rather like regular bread, but with a slightly smokier flavour. I liked it.

The trouble was - especially sans egg - the ratio of bread to toppings was a bit off, Tasha found.

But all the food was exceptionally delicious and the quality was brilliant. It's classic brunch food, with slightly creative twists. I may have just found my new fave brunch spot...

Tasha and I were guests at Timmy Green but all opinions are of course our own.
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