Tuesday, 19 December 2017

London: Leadenhall Market - History or Pizza or Both

I was recently invited to try out the Pizza Express in London's Leadenhall Market in the East End.  The event was a pizza making evening with a group of bloggers and we made great tasting individually personalised pizzas.  I was really happy with the final result of my pizza
and along with delicious and famous dough balls
for starters and a glass or two of chilled Prosecco had a really fun evening.

Pizza Express was first started in Soho in London's West End in 1965 on Wardour Street.  Founder Peter Boizot never realised how popular this endeavor would be and I am sure he never envisioned one of his restaurants being in the historic heart of the East End of London - Leadenhall Market.

From the outside the Pizza Express looks warm and cosy but doesn't look like there is a lot of dining space however downstairs they can seat 125-130 people (covers) in the recently renovated basement area. The space is spacious with lots of little areas that can be quite private if you wish. If the weather permits there is also seating for another 22 outside.
Parties are well catered for and there are sofas and booths to give a new cosier atmosphere.
The renovations were carried out with extreme simplicity and care.  The building is a Grade II listed building which means no structural alterations can be made and anything done must be done with utmost care. In many cases removing old lighting and repositioning it highlighted the beautiful brick arches.
The walls have photos and memorabilia from the days when Leadenhall Market was a poultry and meat market as the photo below shows rows of turkeys and chickens hanging up for sale.
On the ground floor there is a beautiful wrought iron spiral staircase which leads upstairs to a private meeting area perfect for a lunchtime business meeting!
The spiral staircase is quite narrow however due to the Grade II listing they cannot change it so they keep this space for the meeting room.
Looking down stairs from the open wrought iron railing the decorations are simple but inviting you to keep looking around.
I love to be a fly on the wall looking at fellow diners and wondering who they are, what their relationships are and why they are here the same time as myself!
Around every corner there is something to catch the eye, something to make you stop and spend a moment or two to enjoy.
Leadenhall Market has a lot of history - owned and managed by the City of London Corporation since 1411 and was an important market to many of the East End residents.  Although originally a Roman settlement it wasn't until 1411 that Dick Whittington (remember Puss in Boots!) acquired the lease of the building quickly leading it to become a major meat and fish market.

After parts of the market were destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 along with much of the city it was quickly re-built. In 1881 the stone structure buildings were replaced with wrought iron and glass and given the Grade II listed status it still holds today.

Today Leadenhall Market is a popular and modern retail centre - Pizza Express opened it's doors there in 2001.  Original features of the meat and poultry market can be seen outside the restaurant.  Samuel Pepys, who also frequented the market area said "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life." This is how I feel about London these days and I really appreciate the chance to discover these areas and facts around them.

I was invited to review the Pizza Express at Leadenhall Market. I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.  No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

My friend and fellow blogger Nayna from Simply F00D was with me at the event.  Read what she thought of it by clicking here!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

My Christmas Cranberry Relish

It's nearly Christmas and one of my favourite things to do that signals the festive season for me is to make my Cranberry Relish!  The colours of the cranberries, that vibrant red through to reddish black of those tiny little berries really signify it is almost Christmas Day.

I start by putting the cranberries into a large pan, grating the zest of two oranges and one lemon and also adding the juice.
I also add a chopped apple to give a bit of thickening and texture.  The liquid can be either water or orange juice.  I usually use orange juice adding just a small amount (eg. 150 ml) until the cranberries start to release some of their own juice. I can always add more orange juice if it seems to be getting a bit dry.

I finely chopped the apple so it would cook in approximately the same time as the cranberries.
Slowly heat up the cranberries, zest and juice until they start letting off their own juice.  You can then see if you need to add any more orange juice (or water) and then let them simmer until they have all popped and softened.
I put some in jars for giving away and some in little glass ramekins which can keep in the fridge until Christmas Day or can be frozen go  be served with a great roast chicken in the New Year.
The sign of a good cranberry relish - an empty preserving pan!
I was not required to write this post nor to write a positive recipe or review.  All opinions and photographs are my own. No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

My top tip is to double the recipe - as soon as friends and family know you have made some they will all be asking for a jar!

print recipe

Festive Christmas Cranberry Relish
My favourite recipe for cranberry relish that signifies the start of the Christmas period.
  • 900 gm fresh cranberries
  • 2 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 150 mil + orange juice/water
  • 2 apples Chopped apples
  • 6-10 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Place the cranberries in a large pan (a preserving pan works really well).2. Add the orange juice or water, orange and lemon zest and simmer until cranberries start to pop.3. Add the chopped apple to the pan and continue to cook until the apple starts to go mushy.4. When the apples have cooked down and the cranberries have softened and popped lightly press down with a potato masher to help the texture.5. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir.6. Cook on low heat for another 5 minutes and if dry add more orange juice or water.7. Taste and adjust the sugar to the required blend of tartness and sweetness.8. Put into clean, dry jars and seal with jam pot covers following instructions on the packets.9. Store in the fridge for 4-6 weeks or freezer if you want to keep it longer.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 1lb jars

Sunday, 10 December 2017

12 Essential Bottles For Your Hostess or Guests This Christmas

Do you have the annual dilemma of what to take to your hostess over the Christmas and New Year period. Or maybe you want to give the man of the house a lovely selection of wines to keep him out of the way while you cook the Christmas turkey!! (or possibly to keep yourself busy whilst he cooks the turkey!)

I have put together a little box of twelve wines, champagnes and other festive tipples for you to have a look at and if you are considering putting together your own box consider some of these.

Asda have an impressive range this holiday season - lets start with Champagne:-

Louvel Fontaine Champagne Brut - from the Champagne region in France and made from the Pinot Noir (70%), Chardonnay (20%) and Pinot Meunier (10%) grapes.  I really loved this very classic, very fresh champagne with a lingering taste of fresh apple and citrus.  The RRP is £18.00, a great price for this lovely bottle of fizz!
For the red wine lover I have put in Winetek Cosmic Shepherd Malbec from Chile - Very concentrated but smooth. I detected a slight smell of figs and the outdoors.  I liked the outside taste of which it had loads of. The grape varieties are Malbec (85%) and Syrah (15%) - RRP £5.00.
I really love a good Chablis from the Burgundy region of France made from 100% Chardonnay grapes.  It is refreshing and has a long and pleasant finish. The RRP is £10.48 and will be appearing on my table this year for sure.
To complete the selection from Asda I really liked the De Bortoli Botrytis Semillon from New South Wales in Australia. I wish sweet dessert wines were more popular because I really like that rich sweetness that adds an added dimension to your pudding or sweet course. This one is made from 100% Semillion grapes and has an RRP of £6.98 - a bargain for such a smooth wine.
Aldi also have an impressive range of wines, sparkling wines and other exciting offerings this Christmas. for example: 

Champagne Veuve Monsigny Brut NV from Elabore Philizot et fils, a traditional blend of Chardonnay, Piot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. This comes from the Champagne region of France and is a regular item on the Aldi Champagne list.
Both Mr R and I like a fully bodied red like this 'La Sogara' Amarone Della Valpolicella from Italy with a traditional cork stopper.  This 2014 red wine is made from 70% Corvina Verona, 10% Rondinella and 20% other grape varieties and has an RRP of £12.99 in store.
For the white they suggest the Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016 from the Limestone Coast in Australia.  This unoaked and dry and balanced refreshing white wine made of 100% Chardonnay grapes. This bottle has a screw cap which helps prevent spoilage due to the cork drying out. The RRP of this wine is £5.79
After dinner with the cheese course I would recommend Maynard's 10 Year Old Tawny Port. Much lighter than a Ruby Port. At 20% volume it is bottled in 2017 in the Douro region of Portugal and made from a blend of 30% Tinta Ruriz, 30% Touriga Franca, 20% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tinta Barroca.  This combination produces warm amber hughes with a smooth texture and the hint of raisin fruits on the tongue.
Morrisons offer a sweet sherry for my Christmas box. This lovely sweet liquid is made in Spain where the grapes are slowly dried in the sun to increase their sweetness.  It has an ABV of 17% and is perfect drizzled over ice cream for an indulgent holiday pudding!
Following on my sweet tooth train of thought is a chocolatey velvet wine from Rubis.  At 15% it is an indulgent blend of fortified red wine and premium chocolate making it akin to chocolate velvet a great after dinner drink when served at room temperature or equally lovely served straight over ice!
Another red worth mentioning is Passi Mento, Veneto - Indicazione Geografica Tipica 2015. This is an Italian wine from Verona in Northern Italy, a velvety red wine partially produced with grapes that have been slightly dried before fermentation
Mr R loves a drop or two of Spanish Rioja and Campo Viejo is on his list of favourites but rioja wines are known to be red. I was intrigued when I first saw a white rioja from Campo Viejo but it did not dissapoint.  I have grown rather fond of it and have pleasure in including it in this essential bottle list.  The wine is made from the white grapes of Viura and Tempranillo Blanco resulting in a crisp, citrusy wine perfect on it's own ( I like mine with a couple of ice cubes) or with the usual chicken, fish or vegetable dishes.
I hope you like my 12 essential bottles for your hostess or guests this Christmas.  Please leave a comment below what wines you will be taking with you this festive season.

I was sent a selection of wines included in this post as well as purchasing some myself.. I was not required to write a positive review and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.  No photos may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Mid Week Kitchen Slump? - Let's Cook!

Generally I am so busy and tired that I really don't have time to think what's for dinner today let alone tomorrow and I find that I spend less and less time with friends.  What better way to spend time with friends than cooking together, chatting, chopping and stirring.
One of the things I afforded myself on my recent visit to stay at my sister's house was time to think and reflect during the day while she was at work.

I started to think about communal meals - sharing time, stories and problems and making life a bit easier. I thought what about, maybe a Wednesday or Thursday, making a pot of stew or casserole or bolognaise etc together with some friends, each bring a container and take some home then the next day's supper is practically ready. More time to relax after work or listen too the kids reading - whatever you need.

What do you think? We set a theme, bring the main ingredients (I have the spices, flour - store cupboard essentials etc) but each person brings their main ingredients, meat, vegetables etc. Cook together and share out the final dish to take home for the next night's supper.
I live in St Albans in Hertfordshire and I appreciate that not everyone lives near enough to me to take part but if you are inspired you could get together with your friends and family and do the same!  If you write a blog we could also link to each other's posts.
Please leave your comments below - Do you like the idea? Would you take part either with me or locally to where you live? Please share this post on your social media too - it might just take off!!

All opinions and photos are my own. No photographs may be used in any form without my written permission. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Mid-morning Snack of Pierogi - Ren Behan

My friend Ren Behan proudly published her first cookbook at the beginning of September this year. I reviewed her book 'Wild Honey and Rye' on my blog on publication day and you can read that review by clicking here.

One morning I popped over for a coffee, chat and to get Ren to sign my copy of her beautiful new book.  Ren decided to make us a mid-morning snack of pierogi, little potato mixture filled dumplings (they can also have fruit fillings) using the recipe you can find in her book.
Flour and egg being mixed together for the pastry,
There is nothing quite like getting your hands in the mixture for the dough.
The mixture Ren was using was a mash potato base.
While the dough rested in the fridge we had a snack break of Ren's homemade bigos, a Polish hunters' stew based on sauerkraut and Polish sausage.  This is one of my favourite winter meals that I have made over the years using my own version of this traditional recipe.
It is a time consuming labour of love rolling the little circles of pastry and filling each one.
Keeping the dough covered with a damp cloth to prevent it drying out Ren soldiered on with the little pastry parcels.
Little half moons bulging with a delicious potato mixture ready to be boiled in lightly boiling water.
Gentle frying the parboiled crescents in butter and topping with fried and caramelised onions for serving.
I want to thank Ren for a lovely morning spent cooking, eating and catching up.  Hope we do it again soon.

If you want to try these and all the other traditional and modern Polish recipes you will find it available online.
I was not required to write this post.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.  No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written consent.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Chili Paste Chicken

Recently I was going to visit my sister in North Carolina leaving Mr R home to look after the dog and the house.  However he has a history of not cooking and just taking food out of the freezer.  I didn't want to waste so decided to make a chilli paste to use up some of the contents of my fresh spice bowl.
I put into the blender the two long red chillies and two green chillies that I had not been able to use. yet.  
To this I added lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, 3 plump garlic cloves, remaining half of a bunch of coriander and a cut up thumb size piece of fresh ginger.
Blitz them all together until it makes a paste.
I filled an ice cube container so that I could freeze the paste in small portions to use as and when  I need them.  The last bit I mixed with yogurt to smear all over the chicken that I was going to cook for Mr R.

The house smelled divine whilst it was cooking. Mr R wanted to cut into it immediately although I made him let the chicken rest!

About one hour later and the chicken is ready to eat.  I made a gravy with the juices in the pan and served with a side salad.  Mmm mmm it was good!
I created this recipe to feed Mr R.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own and may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.