Sunday, 21 August 2016
I mean sure, there's no actual baking involved in these, but you know what I mean.
Life's been so busy of late that I haven't managed to get creative in the kitchen for a while, which is really rather sad.
My flatmate and I were going to go to a party today, but then we both decided we weren't feeling it (which may have something to do with the fact that we're still recovering from a big Friday night), and having the day to myself, with no plans, has been thoroughly enjoyable.
Hence, spontaneous baking. Well, refrigerating. But whatever.
And I think I'm in love with it.
It blends, chops, spiralises, washes lettuce, juices citrus fruits and so much more, and it's absolutely super easy to use, despite having so many functions. I'm very impressed.
The MK F-800 (sounds like a robot, don'tcha think?) ain't cheap, but boy is it an investment worth making if you can afford it. This baby is amazing.
In case you weren't sure, the main difference between a blender and a food processor is the fact that you need liquid in a blender, so it's great for smoothies, but doesn't work when trying to pulse dry ingredients like nuts, oats or cauliflower (you know you've wanted to).
Yeah, I'm pretty darn pleased with the result.
They're salty and sweet, moreish, rich, crunchy and squidgy - oh, so delightfully squidgy!
Chocolate + peanut butter = great.
Peanut butter + coconut = great.
So duhh, obviously coconut + peanut butter + chocolate = fan-bloody-tactic!
Full of good fats (although I know the jury's kinda out on coconut oil these days) and energising nuts. Plus they're naturally sweetened too. Yay!
Extra great is the fact that they're so easy and quick to make, with minimal washing up too.
Inspired by this recipe by Wholesome Patisserie.
125g medjool dates (I used 7)
2 level tbsp/12g (1/8 cup) raw cacao powder
100g (1 cup) ground almonds
25g (1/6 cup) coconut oil
25g (1/4 cup) dark chocolate (I used one packet of raw 72% Ombar buttons)
100g (3/8 cup) natural peanut butter (I use Meridian)
70g (1/6 cup) light agave syrup (I use Groovy Food Co)
a pinch of seasalt
50g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
A handful of cacao nibs
1 tbsp crunchy maple peanut butter (I use Pip & Nut)
1. Soak the dates in just boiled water for ten minutes and line a loaf pan with foil.
2. Drain the dates and pulse briefly in the food processor until broken down. Add the ground almonds and raw cacao powder and pulse until your mixture resembles this:
4. In a small saucepan over a low heat, gently melt the coconut oil and dark chocolate before removing from the heat and stirring in the peanut butter, agave syrup and pinch of salt.
6. Once set, remove from the fridge and drizzle over the crunchy maple peanut butter (you may have to briefly melt it in the microwave to make it runnier). Cut into squares and enjoy!
This post is sponsored by Panasonic as part of their #ExperienceFresh campaign.
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Despite never having been inside, I've always rather loved the Gherkin. I mean, c'mon. It's a gherkin. Which is hilarious.
So when I was invited to go up to the very very top of the London landmark for an evening of cocktails and food amongst the clouds, I was mad excited.
Searcys the Gherkin is the bar in the very top of the building, and this summer they've partnered with Tanqueray No. 10 gin to bring a touch of the South of France to London.
I know, evidently Londoners can't get enough of Provence at the mo (remember this rooftop dinner and this tasty one too?).
So, 180 metres up we climbed - and when I say climbed I mean stood in a lift - before emerging to a scene straight out of 1950s South of France.
Well, kinda. I wasn't actually there then so wouldn't know. And I mean, this was 2016 London. But I loved all the little touches at the Summer Sky Riviera - think striped sun loungers, palm trees and a market stall, all in a glamorous, chic and elegant way, natch.
I didn't think I could possibly fall in love with London any more, but the 360 degree views over the city that evening absolutely did it for me. I can't even.
And I also loved the fact that you could see up to the sky - it really felt like we were at the top of the world.
There are four different cocktails on offer at the Summer Sky Riviera, each inspired by a different city in the Côte d'Azur.
Lucy and I kicked things off with the Nice (Tanqueray No 10, aperol, orange blossom and bergamot) and the Saint Tropez (Tanqueray No 10, rose liqueur, sweet vermouth, rose water and grapefruit). I had the Saint Tropez, Lucy had the Nice, and I quote: "It's refreshing and light but strong... Perfect for a Friday evening up the Gherkin." As one does.
I always associate gin with being a British drink, but the flavours of these cocktails meant they definitely seemed more exotic and were perfect for the vibe. So tasty and refreshing.
Whilst not a formal restaurant, there are lots of different nibbly food bits on offer at Summer Sky Riviera. So, here's what we ate...
Charcuterie and pâté, complete with gherkins! Not going to lie, I thought eating a gherkin in the Gherkin was pretty damn cool. Probably got a bit too excited about it. Whilst I don't go mad for charcuterie, Lucy thought they were all fab.
What with the whole French theme and everything, there was of course cheese with chutney and crackers.
And then I had crudités, chilli olives and fougasse (basically olive bread I think) with four different dips: anchoïade (a classic Provençal anchovy dip), pesto, cervelle de canut (a garlicky herby fromage blanc affair) and tapenade.
I liked the variation of veggies in the crudités, but they were nothing super special. But then again, how special can crudités ever be? Dips-wise, the pesto and cervelle de canut were my faves, and I know it's so not French but I couldn't help thinking I wanted houmous. Because what are crudités sans houmous?
The fougasse was chewy but I really liked it. And OMG, there was so much bread in the whole spread tbh. I particularly liked the sourdough with the tastiest whipped butter.
We nibbled and chatted as the sun went down - when we'd arrived, London was bathed in that incredibly warm evening sunlight, and we watched the city turn into the twinkly wonderland I so love.
God, you have no idea how lucky I feel to live here. OK, well not actually right there. But you know, close enough.
And because I am a very dutiful blogger, I figured it was my responsibility to my readers to sample the other two cocktails on the menu. Just doing my job. Working real hard. Selfless, I know.
Lucy chose the Marseille, which was Tanqueray No 10, pastis, verveine and cucumber.
It looked super pretty, but we weren't expecting it to be a slushy, and with the paper straw, it wasn't actually the easiest to drink. Tasty though.
I went for the Vaucluse, a delicious mix of Tanqueray No 10 (what a surprise eh?), lavender cordial and vin d'occitan.
As a big lavender fan, I really enjoyed this one, but was originally brought the wrong one so had to wait quite a while to finally get it unfortunately. To be honest, I think they could've done with a few more staff members overall, especially on a busy Friday evening. The service was a tad slow.
But of course, we were in absolutely no rush. I just couldn't get enough of that view and Lucy and I were having a ball spotting new places in the city below and marvelling at where we were.
And d'you know what's amazing? The prices aren't obscene either. £11 for a cocktail is pretty standard for a nice London bar... On the ground. I thought there'd be a huge premium on everything given the incredible setting, but no.
I am soooooooo going again. It was fantastic. Loved it. Without a doubt one of the most awesome and special things I've done since moving to London.
Summer Sky Riviera is on till 2nd September, folks - go go go!
Lucy and I were guests at Searcys the Gherkin.
Saturday, 13 August 2016
Set in 300 acres (yes, really) of beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside, a stay at Stoke Park feels like you're in the middle of nowhere. Incredibly, however, it's just an hour's drive from central London. And luckily for me, my dear friend Jenny has a car, so making our way to Stoke Park last Saturday was a breeze.
It was beautiful.
The main Stoke Park building is the gorgeous Georgian mansion.
As soon as we stepped inside, we were wowed. The interior is plush, ornate, traditional and sumptuous. Every sofa seemed to invite you to curl up with a book, and I actually loved the fact that the fire was roaring despite it being an uncharacteristically hot day.
As well as the grand old Mansion, there's also the Pavilion, which is newer, but I'll tell you more about that when I show you the facilities.
We were lucky enough to to be staying in the Lancelot suite, and sweet it certainly was (sorry.)
Come on in...
The mini-bar was as well-stocked as one would expect in a five star hotel, but there were also lots of complimentary teas, coffees and water, which was all replenished when our bed was turned down that evening too. The service was faultless.
As an extra treat, Jenny and I were welcomed with a bottle of champagne, a lovely fruit bowl and a box of delectable chocolates. I mean, could it get any better?
If you're a golfer, you need to go to Stoke Park. But actually, golfer or not, you'll love exploring the grounds of the hotel.
I got very excited as we walked round that pond (you know, where they go boating in Bridget Jones), but the further we walked, the more beauty we found.
Through gardens, round fountains and past churches we ambled, enjoying the countryside vibes and the stark contrast to city life. It was literally lush.
Dinner at Humphry's
After refreshing ourselves in our suite, reenergising with cups of tea in our fluffy robes, and slipping into a couple of pretty dresses, Jenny and I were ready for the evening ahead.
What with it being such a summery evening, Jen and I decided to enjoy another glass of bubbles and some nibbles outside in the garden.
The restaurant is beautiful and the cuisine 'modern British', created by the wonderful chef Chris Wheeler, whom we had the pleasure of meeting. Given Humphry's has won 3 AA Rosettes, we were very excited about what the evening held.
Our glasses were filled (Sauv, natch), and after placing our starter and main order, we tucked into warm bread rolls from a selection, with butter of the perfect consistency.
First up, came our pre-starters (duhh):
On to our starters - Jen stuck with the fishy theme and got stuck into the scallops:
Oh my days, it was amazing. How can a simple risotto be that fantastic, you may be wondering? Well this one was. The consistency was the perfect balance between sticky and creamy, and it was just so damn flavoursome.
Main time! I stayed veggie with this incredibly dreamy caramelised fig and goat's cheese tart on a bed of green and yellow courgettes:
More fish for Jen, and because I'm not a fish fan I can't even remember what it was, soz, but I'm assured it was divine.
And of course, there was a pre-pud pud. Hello, little lemon posset:
And then came our actual puddings. Witness the chocolate box of dreams:
I mean srsly tho.
So yes, by this point we were pretty full, but that didn't stop us (well, me at least) demolishing the petits fours we were so kindly brought with our beautifully served tea.
Breakfast in the Orangery
I don't know about you, but I always find that the morning after a huge dinner, I'm EXTRA hungry. Which literally makes no sense.
However it did mean that I was jolly excited to hit up breakfast on the Sunday morning of our stay at Stoke Park.
Served in the beautiful bright Orangery, where guests sit in plush armchairs at tables covered in linen tablecloths
Oh, there was a hot menu from which one could order an array of cooked breakfasts, but Jen and I were more than happy with the buffet.
With so much on offer, I made myself a huge bowl of goodness (lots of nice healthy options, yay), before making the most of the pastries too.
A wonderful start to the day it was indeed.
OK, maybe not everything - we somehow didn't quite fit in a trip to the gym or a game of tennis ("don't put me down for cardio") - but, you know, it was sunny, and um, there just wasn't enough time.
And there are just so many inviting places to lounge...
Stoke Park has a gorgeous indoor pool, where we had a little dip - not gonna lie, it was more chatting in water than swimming - but even better, given the weather, was the new hot tub.
But even more of a treat was our visit to the spa...
Just like the rest of Stoke Park, the spa lounge was tastefully decorated, complete with giant fish tank to add to the overall feeling of zen.
There was fresh fruit, dried fruit, three little pots of herbal tea (the Stoke Park blend was our fave), and water on the table, to which we enjoyed helping ourselves, and various magazines dotted around the room.
And not only did we get to enjoy this lovely oasis of calm, Jen and I each had an hour long treatment, both choosing the lava relax massage.
Now I'd never had a hot stone massage let alone one with hot lava shells, but it was great. My fab masseuse really worked at all my knots (appaz I'm actually a very stressed person who carries a s*** load of tension in her back), leaving me slightly exhausted whilst also relaxed. I loved it.
And as spa guests, we had the privilege of using the spa changing room, complete with hair straighteners, facial cleansers and snazzy hair products.
Lunch at San Marco
Naturally, we spent the day in white robes and slippers, which was pleasingly acceptable attire for dining at San Marco, Stoke Park's relaxed Italian brasserie.
And all too soon the evening came round and it was time to head back to London. So I guess that concludes my Stoke Park post! Good thing I kept it brief, eh? If you've made it this far and are still reading, I salute you. But like srsly, I could wax lyrical about this place. YOU MUST GO! I'm desperate to go again already.
It was heaven.
Jenny and I were fortunate enough to be welcomed as guests to Stoke Park and some aspects of our stay were complimentary, but we treated ourselves to other parts.
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