Tuesday, 23 August 2016

CREATING YOUR DREAM KITCHEN SPACE

When I'm not at work, I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen. Whether I'm cooking, eating or making cups of tea.

It's my favourite room in the house and the one I obsessively scour Pinterest for decorating ideas

I bought my flat (almost) four years ago and the kitchen was one of the first rooms I decorated. We ripped the whole kitchen out and transformed my living room into an open plan kitchen/lounge, making my former kitchen into a bedroom.

Fast forward four years and while I still love my little cooking space, there's so many things I would love to re-do so I thought I would put together a post on what my dream kitchen would look like and some advice which I learnt from decorating the first time around.
For me, and lots of others judging by Instagram & Pinterest, the overall feel of the kitchen has to be light, white and airy, with just a few pops of colour.

When I moved in, I was really into black and grey, which is the look I've currently got in my flat but I adore my mum's kitchen (pictured above). Having lots of natural light and white surfaces makes such a difference when you're preparing food, especially if it's going to be photographed for the blog!

THE CENTRAL ISLAND
This has to be the feature of every dream kitchen. My kitchen has a lovely middle island which houses my induction hob, fridge and freezer and also doubles for a breakfast bar.

You don't need masses of spaces to have an island, as long as you have a good level of clearance between the wall and the units you should be okay. Bare in mind that the sink and oven will likely need to stay on a fixed wall and then you can plan which features can go on the island accordingly.

THE UNITS
I scoured loads of websites before deciding on which units to chose for my kitchen. PlumbTiles and Howdens are great places to try, with the latter being the place where I eventually found my kitchen.

Aesthetics are obviously a key factor in your decision but make sure your thinking about storage - it's pointless having a pretty kitchen if it's going to cluttered by pots and pans which you can't fit in the cupboards!
THE SINK
If I could change one thing in my kitchen it would be the kitchen sink.  I have a round basin which I went for to save on space but it can actually be a little tricky when coming to do the washing up! If I re-decorated, I would definitely opt for a larger basin, along with a hot water tap - so you don't need a kettle!

WORKTOPS
The big trend at the moment seems to be for marble worktops, which while an Instagram dream, aren't good for a working kitchen! Marble is soft so gets scratched very easily and as it's porous can also suffer from staining from things like red wine or strawberries! I much prefer granite surfaces which have a just a little sparkle. 

THE LITTLE EXTRAS
I've got a long list of  that I would fit my dream kitchen out with. A wine chiller, KitchenAid and a pantry are currently topping the list but simply having artificial flowers and little trinkets make all the difference in injecting some personality into your work-space. 
So there you have it, my guide to creating the perfect kitchen space. I'd love to hear how you've decorated your kitchens or what your dream kitchen looks like in the comments below!

* This post contains sponsored links 
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Thursday, 18 August 2016

HAWAIIAN SALMON POKE BOWL

You might remember a couple of weeks ago, I went to a masterclass with Robert Welch

You might also remember how I was raving on about how brilliant their knives are? Well the team kindly gave me a set to try out at home and I've fallen in love.

I wanted to create a recipe for you guys which showcases the skills of these super-sharp blades, so I thought what better recipe than one which literally translates as 'to slice': Poke.
Poke (pronounced Poh-keh) is a Hawaiian dish which has become increasingly popular here in the UK since the arrival of restaurants like Ahi Poke and Eat Poke.

It's a little like sushi and a little like a salad and it's so delicious. It's made by marinating raw chopped fish which you place on top of fresh rice and then build up with various toppings to suit your tastes.

I adore salmon so I've used thick chunks and paired it with creamy avocado, coriander, lime and radish to add a pop of colour and crunch.
The recipe requires lots of fine slicing and chopping so you'll need a good sharp knife which is where these Robert Welch knives really come into their own. 

The one I've found myself using most is the light-weight and ergonomically designed Signature Cooks knife. The blade is super-sharp which makes slicing through all the ingredients an absolute dream (and take half the time)! Believe me, once you've used a good set of knives, you'll understand the importance of investing!  

What you'll need (for one person)
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
A good pinch of chilli flakes
1 fillet of sushi grade salmon 
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 red onion
1-2 radishes (finely sliced)
1/2 avocado
1/2 lime
1/2 packet of basmati rice (I use microwaveable rice)
Coriander
What you'll need to do
1. Mix the soy, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and chilli flakes in a bowl and set to the side
2. Cut the salmon into cubes. Larger cubes are better for those who enjoy the taste of fish but if you're not keen, keep them smaller.
3. Finely slice the red onion and add with the salmon and garlic to the dressing and allow to marinate for 5 minutes.
4. Cook the rice as per the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, spoon into your serving bowl.
5. Arrange your marinated salmon, radish, lime and coriander on top of the rice
6. Peel and finely slice your avocado and arrange into a flower shape and add to the bowl
7. Spoon the remaining dressing over the salad and enjoy!

To celebrate one million sales, Robert Welch are running a competition in which you could have the chance to win the very same knife block which I received above.

The Signature Compact Knife Block comes complete with four Signature knives and a pair of scissors. Simply visit the competition page and fill in your details to win. Good luck! 

* This post was sponsored by Robert Welch
This post was shared on Honest Mum & A Mummy Too
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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

THE HINDS HEAD, BRAY

About 40 minutes outside of London and just a stone's throw from Windsor, you'll find the picturesque village of Bray.
Filled with 16th century Tudor houses and gardens of blossoming flowers, it's a perfect picture of rural Britain.
But nestled away amongst the sleepy cottages of the quaint old village lies some of the UK's best restaurants including the three Michelin starred The Waterside Inn and Heston infamous Fat Duck.
I was here to try the Hind's Head, Heston's Michelin starred pub, as part of my never ending birthday celebrations with my mum. 
The restaurant itself oozes character and charm. Housed within the original 15th century pub which has played host to Royals and States Men alike, the restaurant stays to its traditional roots with an informal setting, kitted out with dark oak beams, heavy red curtains and open fires.
Baskets of warm bread are delivered to your table as you take a look through the menu. It's a real mix of classic British dishes with a sprinkling of Heston's imagination to give each dishes a unique twist for which he's become so well known.My mum started with the goats curd salad (£8.75) topped with baby beetroot, cider poached pear and pumpkin seeds which helped to balance the flavours and give a lovely bite against the creamy cheese. While I went for the delicate tea-smoked salmon which came served on a thick slice of soda bread and topped with home-made sour cream butter and lightly pickled cucumber (£9.95).
Next came the main courses with comfort the order of the day. Heston is well known for crafting dishes which give a nod to cooking styles from years ago, as seen with the incredibly presented chicken, ham and leek pie (£19.95) came complete with pie bird in the centre to help the contents steam.
The pie was packed full of thick chunks of poached chicken, salty ham and a wonderfully thick sauce all encased in light but crispy pastry.
Inspired by my recent visit to Outlaw's, I chose to stick with fish and opted for the the whole filleted plaice (£22.50) which was just incredible. Perfectly cooked alongside girolles and shrimps, the flaky white fish was served in a light citrus sauce and once again cucumber which gave a real unexpected but delicious flavour.
Bowls of buttery carrots, jersey royals and greens helped to complete the dishes but there's also french fries and an interestingly named spinach salad with Lord of the Hundreds cheese, on offer - as I said this comfort food at its finest. Undeterred by the amount of food we'd already eaten, we had to take a look over the dessert menu and I promise you it's worth it. 

The strawberry tart was one of the prettiest desserts I've ever ordered and tasted just like summer served alongside a spoonful of elderflower sorbet...
The cheesecake (£8.95) though was the real star of the show. A wonderfully presented orb of thick cheesecake on a biscuit base with a raspberry filling which erupted as you cut your fork through the centre. Any dessert which comes served with a golden raspberry is always a winner for me.
We just about had room for coffees and truffles before heading out back out in to Bray high street to walk off our dinner...
The Hinds Head truly is a brilliant experience. It's Michelin quality food which is served in a really relaxed, informal setting which I personally love. I've always wanted to try the Fat Duck but the idea of parting with £250 per head is just ludicrous - especially when you know you have a lunch of this standard at half the cost!

The Hinds Head
High Street, Bray
SL6 2AB
The Hinds Head Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, 8 August 2016

THE REAL GREEK RECIPE BOOK + GIVEAWAY

Greek food for me is all about simple cooking. 

From fresh Greek salads, grilled chicken and halloumi through to more traditional dishes like lamb kleftiko. It's food that I love eating when I'm out but never think to cook at home.

Well that was until I was sent a copy of the Real Greek cookbook and now I'm all set to re-create some of my favourite dishes.
The book has been put together by Tonia Buxton and the popular restaurant, the Real Greek, to give a comprehensive guide on how to create their restaurant standard dishes for yourself at home.

It showcases dishes from all over Greece, making use of some of the country's finest ingredients including their infamous olive oil, and caters to all meal occasions from tapas through to full on feasts.
Stand-out dishes for me include the baked lamb kofta and also the grilled aubergine rings which is served with a tangy tomato and garlic sauce. 

As I said before, it's all about taking quality fresh ingredients and cooking them in simple but delicious ways.
It's a great book and a brilliant way to introduce Greek cooking into your repertoire at home. You can buy copies from stockists including WH Smith and Amazon, as well as from the Real Greek restaurant. 

To get your hands on a copy of your own, simply enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below - good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
* I was sent a copy for review
This post has been shared on The Prize Finder, SuperLucky,
Loquax & U, Me and the Kids & UK Competitions and Prize Draws
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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

STEAKS FOR A TENNER AT FLAT IRON

I've written about this restaurant before - but the picture quality was terrible - so I thought I'd do another post and when you've got steaks at this value, who could blame me!

I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with the premise of Flat Iron. Steak for a tenner. Yep, all that steak for ten English pounds. 
What started off as a summer pop-up has evolved into a four restaurant empire, with permanent spots across Soho, Shoreditch and Covent Garden.

The key to its success is offering their Flat Iron steaks for just £10. The Flat Iron or butlers steak as some people call it, is an inexpensive but incredibly tender cut found in the shoulder of the cow.

You might be sceptical of a piece of meat at this price but I promise it's good. 
You even get popcorn to nibble on while you wait for your meal to cook!
The steaks are cooked to perfection: chargrilled on the outside and fleshy and pink on the inside.

Your tenner will get you a steak and house salad then it's up to you to chose from the side dishes.

I recommend the chips, creamed spinach and béarnaise sauce!
Oh and the icing on the cake: you get free ice cream on your way out (rolled in Mast Brothers chocolate no less)
You can't book (like most places!) but the Covent Garden branch is pretty big so you shouldn't have to wait for long. It's definitely worth the wait though so get yourself down there!

Flat Iron
9 Denmark Street, Covent Garden
 WC2H 8LS

Flat Iron Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, 1 August 2016

OUTLAW'S AT THE CAPITAL

For three years I worked in South Kensington and for well over three years, I wanted to dine at Nathan Outlaw's restaurant. 

It's only now that I no longer work around the corner that I finally put right to this wrong and visited the gorgeous Capital hotel, home to Nathan's Michelin starred restaurant: Outlaw's. 
Located just behind Harrods, almost parallel to the insanely busy Brompton Road, you'll find the Capital. It's a prestigious but family run hotel, where the owners do everything from producing the wines to the honey - but the food is left in the very capable hands of Nathan Outlaw and head chef Tom Brown.  
The dining room is fairly traditional for a hotel restaurant and a lot more formal than the setting of Outlaw's other restaurants back in Cornwall, but very in-keeping with the clientele of the local area. 

Did you know Nathan now has four restaurants in the UK, three in Cornwall, this one in London and a soon to open fifth restaurant launching shortly in Dubai! 
I was served drinks through-out the evening from the incredibly charming bar-man Cesar who put together some fabulous non-alcoholic cocktails for me (picked the wrong night to drive right?) but also created some tubes of cocktail ingredients so we could top up our own glasses depending on our preferred tastes
Menu wise, everything is very simple. The restaurant aims to serve the best seafood in London and it does so by not over-complicating things (no bells & whistles here).

The menu typically has four options per course, making your decision slightly easier but doubling your chances of food envy. 

You can rest assured it's all delicious though. The bread is even made by Nathan's father (there's a running joke that there's always an Outlaw in the kitchen) and is incredibly light, making it hard to resist eating the whole basket by yourself. 
You do need to go easy though because you'll want to save room for what's coming up...

Perfectly grilled octopus with finely sliced grapes, to add sweetness, and bread sauce...
and a smoked cod roe dip, all of which were served as an appetiser pre-starter!
Next was the Lobster Risotto, one of Nathan Outlaw's signature dishes. I was impressed by the generous meaty chunks of lobster and really intrigued by the use of orange within the creamy risotto. A really unexpected flavour combination but one I have to say, really worked. 
For mains we had the choice between two very different dishes. One with very simple presentation and the other which was all about big bold flavour. 

The sea bass was the simplier of the two. Served with just Oyster and leeks accompanying the fish with an olive oil & lime hollandaise, putting a real focus on the fish.
My choice though was the more decadent, John Dory which was served with courgettes and rich Port Isaac sauce. This was perhaps, a little too rich for me, though the fish was cooked perfectly

I love ordering fish in restaurants as it's something I rarely cook for myself and it's a great way of trying fish, the way that it's supposed to be cooked.
We were treated to a pre-dessert dessert (as if I had room) which was served in the form of strawberry sorbet, fresh strawberries and shortbread, with verjus jelly. Incredibly fresh and a lovely way to cleanse the palate after the rich, heavy flavours from the previous course. 
The real highlight for me was the incredible Lemon Pavlova. I adore lemon desserts, way more than chocolate, so this was the perfect pudding for me. Delicately crispy meringue, topped with a thick lemon sauce, almond flakes and a yogurt sorbet. The perfect way to end a brilliant evening.
The Capital Hotel itself is gorgeous but I was so impressed by the food at Outlaw's. Fresh, simple and high-quality ingredients, all prepared wonderfully on-site by the obviously passionate team. 

Being from West London, I have no doubts that I'll be heading over to Knightsbridge for another visit soon (especially as I heard some very exciting news about an Oyster masterclass!)



Outlaw's at The Capital
22-24 Basil St, London SW3 1AT

* I was invited to review
All opinions are my own

Outlaw's at The Capital Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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