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    Wednesday, 8 August 2018

    HOW TO GET YOUR 'DATING MOJO' BACK IN A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP

    When you're in a long-term relationship, it's quite easy to get stuck in a bit of a 'dating rut'. Tom and I are edging towards our FOUR-year anniversary – can you believe - and we are definitely guilty of it!

    Back when it all started, when we were doing long-distance between London and Liverpool, we used to do date days nearly every weekend. We might go out for a nice dinner. Or have a picnic in the park. Or head to the beach for a leisurely stroll. But fast forward to now, when we live together, we barely ever make time to actually go out on proper ‘dates’. Well, to help get ourselves out of this funk, we’ve devised a little plan. We’ve created a date jar.
    Yep. An actual jar which sits on our dining room table and contains around 30 or so post-it notes with date ideas on. Every time we have a weekend where we have no real plans, we take it in turns to pick from the jar and go do whatever it says!
    It’s meant we actually dedicate time to doing something fun together - rather than staying in and just watching Netflix all afternoon. So I thought I'd round up some of the things we’ve ticked off…and things you could add to your own!

    GO SEE A WEST-END SHOW
    I think I take for granted the fact that we have the West-End sitting right on our doorstep. There’s so many incredible shows which you can go see and you don’t have to book months in advance either. Sites like FromTheBoxOffice have some really great deals on shows, often with super short notice, meaning you can get dressed up, go see some incredible theatre and not break the bank!
    PLAY TOP GOLF 
    Top Golf is one of my absolute favourite date places – and not just because I always beat Tom when we go! If you’ve not been before, it’s essentially a driving range with various targets dotted around the course which you have to aim for. You get different points for each you hit and the score is kept a little like bowling!. You can order food and drink to your lanes, listen to the incredible sound-track which plays in the background and indulge in a little healthy couple’s rivalry!

    TRY A COCKTAIL MAKING CLASS OR WINE TASTING
    When is cocktail making ever a bad idea? You can have a few drinks together, feel like a total wally throwing your shaker around - and come home with a few new tricks up your sleeve! If you're feeling a little more fancy - why not try wine tasting? It's the perfect ice-breaker if you're a new couple and it's always great to find wines you enjoy together so you can buy a bottle to enjoy together at home!
    CLIMB THE MONUMENT
    Now this one is a bit of a niche idea but bear with me! So...did you know you can actually climb the Monument over by Bank Station? It takes a LOT of legwork but I promise the view at the top is well worth the pay-off! It only cost £4 to go up and you get a little certificate to take home afterwards to prove you made the 311 step journey to the top!

    You obviously aren't as high up as other viewing platforms in the city (because cranes weren't around back when this baby was made) but you are OUTSIDE so you can feel the wind in your hair, making the experience so much more 'real'. Be warned though, the steps are super tight and there's only one way up and down so expect to squeeze past people on your trip to the top. If you're not good with heights, I'd maybe sit this one out....
    HIT ONE OF LONDON'S STREET FOOD VENUES
    Any date involving food is a winner for me. There are SO many food festivals, pop-ups and markets at the moment – it would be rude not to include some of them on this list. Borough Market is the obvious one for daytime browsing but there’s loads of smaller local foodie markets dotted around London.

    I also love the pop-up venues like Dinerama & Pergola which have taken semi-permanent residencies across the Capital. Another great place I'm loving at the moment is the Prince at West Brompton Crossing. It combines four restaurants & two bars under one roof and is the perfect place to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon. Get yourselves a little table for two then just graze your way through all the dishes - my idea of a perfect date!
    Do you have any ways of getting yourself out of a dating funk? I'd love to hear your favourite London date venues!

    * I was gifted tickets by FromTheBoxOffice in exchange for this post 

    Monday, 30 July 2018

    SUPPERCLUBBING WITH WEFIFO AND YALLA YALLA

    You guys know how much I adore the cuisine from the Levantine region - I mean I bang on about it enough - and you also know how much I love Yalla Yalla. So when the opportunity arose to represent Love Pop-Ups London at their recent supperclub event - of course I jumped at the chance!

    The night was being run by WeFiFo - a clever supperclub concept which connects home cooks, supper club hosts and food skills event organisers with diners in their local community. Chef Tony Kitous (the founder of Comptoir Libanais no less) invited a select handful of guests to his table to share his passion and love for food - and I was lucky enough to be amongst them.

    Not only did we explore the deep and delicious history of Lebanese cooking but we also got a crash course in their rich wine heritage - did you know they were producing wine LONG before the French or Spanish?
    As Lebanese food is designed for sharing - it's perfect for supperclubs. You all take a seat at long communal benches, unsure who you'll be sat with, ready to eat the delicious dishes as they arrive at your table...

    There's delicious dips like Hommos Beiruty - a traditional hommos with a chilli and parsley twist and Koosa Bil Tahina - a rich, fried courgette and tahini dip...
    Then there's my favourite Baba bij Joz - a grilled aubergine and walnut dip topped with fresh pomegranate and mint...

    and the Muhhamara Hallabyah - made by blitzing roasted peppers into a creamy consistancy and adding mixed nuts for extra crunch.

    All served with delicious, warm flat-breads so you can scoop up every last bite...

    One of my favourite things about Lebanese food is the wide array of veggie-friendly dishes. The deep fried cauliflower was a surprising favourite - cooked down till it's nice and soft then topped with creamy tahini and freshly chopped chilli and spring onion.
    We also loved the Salatete Banadoura - a popular summer salad made using ripe, juicy tomatoes, drizzled with garlic, sumac, cider vinegar and lemon juice then topped with pomegranate seeds.
    And the Moussabaha - a really simple dish which piles freshly cooked chickpeas with creamy yogurt, cumin and tahini sauce.
    Cheese lovers will adore the Samboussek Halloumi - little pastry parcels stuffed with feta and halloumi cheese...slightly crisp on the outside while light and creamy within.
    And I absolutely loved the Salatete Batenjan bil Romane - a fried aubergine and pomegranate salad which was so good - I served it at my birthday BBQ the following week!
    The real show-stopper though was the Moussakhan - a huge Palestinian-style braised spiced chicken pie made using lots of fragrant spices and a thick Arabic bread crust. The flavour was unlike anything I've ever tried and the presentation - being served into huge portions at the table - added a real touch of theatre to our evening. 
    Pudding came in the form of a rose mouhalabia - a milk-based dessert served with a summer fruit compote which was perfectly light to round off a decadent and truly delicious meal!
    Just make sure you save a little room for a few cups of mint tea and tasty bites of baklava before heading off into the night...

    I had an incredible night with WeFiFo and Yalla Yalla and highly recommend getting tickets for his next event if you like Lebanese food. For £50, you'll get all the food mentioned above plus a glass of wine on arrival. I promise - it's well worth the dollar! If Lebanese isn't your thing (who even are you?!), you can find tons of incredible events over on the WeFiFo website - happy eating!

    Yalla Yalla
    12 Winsley Street, London W1W 8HQ


    * I represented Love Pop Ups London and was a guest of WeFiFo & Yalla Yalla
    Our meal was complimentary but opinions are honest

    Monday, 16 July 2018

    CADBURY IS LETTING YOU DESIGN ITS NEXT CADBURY DAIRY MILK BAR - THIS IS NOT A DRILL

    This summer has been a bit insane hasn't it?  I mean we've had a never ending heat-wave, we all thought football might actually have been coming home and if the stars align correctly, a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar designed by YOU could be hitting supermarket shelves!

    Yep. Those clever folk over at Cadbury are giving YOU the chance to make all your dreams come true by creating your very own Cadbury Dairy Milk bar to go on sale to the general public. Did you hear that? That is the sound of my childhood dreams coming true!
    So how does it all work? Simple. You head over to the Cadbury Inventor website where you can choose up to three ingredients to add to your bar (it's the magic number after all)...you give them all a good old virtual mix, put a name on your handsome creation and leave a little message detailing why your bar is a winner!

    The chocolate experts at Cadbury will then shortlist three potential winners who'll be invited down to Bournville (AKA chocolate heaven) to make their dream bar a reality! All three standard-sized bars will go on sale for a whole year before the public votes to crown the Ultimate winner! And that lucky bugger will also win a year's supply of their very own creation! Someone sign me up!
    So what would I create? Well, there are over 90,000 possible flavour combinations so you can REALLY let your imagination run wild! I mean I could take inspiration from my favourite cocktail the Espresso Martini and create a dreamy Vanilla, Hazelnut and Coffee number?

    Hmmm, decisions, decisions...I suppose I could upgrade my favourite Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar with Pistachios and Cranberries?

    But I think I'll settle for a combination of my absolute FAVOURITE flavours. Tangy passionfruit, creamy white chocolate drops and some rice crispies for added crunch! A classic combination of What Larsy Loves -  now if someone could hand me that year supply of chocolate, that would be grand...
    If you fancy seeing your name up in lights (or your bar on supermarket shelves), all you need to do is head to the Cadbury Inventor website to enter! You've only got until 31st July to enter so you better get moving! 

    * This post was sponsored by Cadbury

    Tuesday, 10 July 2018

    VENETIAN SMALL PLATES AT POLPO, FARRINGDON

    I'm going through a real 'late to the party' stage with my restaurant reviews at the moment. I mean it took me ages to discover Herman Ze German - and this next one has been on my 'to-go' list for so long, it's almost embarrassing!

    Plus, it only really got ticked off the list by accident. Tom and I met for a drink after work in Farringdon, decided to grab a bite to eat, looked across the street and there it was: Polpo!
    I'm sure you're fully aware of Polpo. It's been around since 2009 and is the brain-child of Russell Norman and Richard Beatty. They've now got five restaurants spread out across London and it receives rave reviews from customers due to its great value dishes and high quality food.

    The menu is designed tapas style with everything being served as soon as it's ready so you can tuck in as soon it arrives at your table...
    You have to order the meatballs. Huge, dense, meaty lumps of beef & pork swimming in tomato sauce & topped with parmesan cheese (£6.80).
    Then there's the wafer-thin Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil Pizzette (£6.50) and Nduja & Mozzarella Arancini balls (£4.20). All the Arancini are served in pairs so I'd recommend ordering the Pea, basil & robiola version too if there's a group of you. 
    We absolutely loved the grilled pork & sage skewers (£7.50). Super light with a smokey char and a delicious germolata dressing.
    Perfect served alongside a generous portion of roasted new potatoes with rosemary salt (£4.80)
    My favourite dish though? The sautéed Tiger Prawns (£9.20) - served in their shells with chilli, garlic and the most incredible seafood juices. 

    All you need to round off a perfect meal is a traditional Italian pud - in the form of the decadent Tiramisu (£5.30) or Rhubarb Panna Cotta (£6.50)! So simple but so delicious.
    How I've managed to avoid this restaurant for this long - I have NO idea. It's heading straight to the top of my recommendation list so if you're looking for great value, delicious sharing plates in London. I suggest you get yourself down there!

    Polpo
    3 Cowcross St, Clerkenwell
     EC1M 6DR

    Polpo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Saturday, 7 July 2018

    RECIPE: PAIN PERDU WITH BLACKBERRY COMPOTE

    God bless the weekend. Honestly, is there anything better than waking up on a Saturday morning with no alarm clock and no real plans for the day ahead?

    For me, weekend mornings call for leisurly breakfasts. Breakfast that you spend a little more time making. Breakfasts that are a little more adventurous than your mid-week porridge. Breakfast that are worth getting out of bed for. And my favourite breakfast for such occasion - pain perdu with blackberry compote of course?!
    Okay so pain perdu is just a posh name for french toast but like I said, it's the weekend, we can be a little fancy. You can have it with pretty much any topping but for me, it HAS to be warm blackberries.

    This recipe doesn't use any old Blackberries though - no. This recipe was created using Driscoll’s® Victoria Sweet Blackberries. They're grown throughout the UK by specially selected growers, meaning each berry is handpicked at the peak of ripeness to ensure the best flavour is captured in every single berry.

    They're also naturally sweeter than normal blackberries (which can be quite tart) so you don't need to use as much sugar when cooking with them! AND they're packed with antioxidants, Vitamins C, E and K, as well as fibre and protein! What more could you ask for?!
    What you'll need
    For the compote
    150g Driscoll’s® Victoria Sweet Blackberries
    100ml water
    30g Caster Sugar

    For the Pain Perdu
    4 slices of brioche (cut about an inch in thickness)
    2 Eggs
    50g Caster Sugar
    100ml Milk
    What you'll need to do
    1. Pour the caster sugar & water into a saucepan and cook gently over medium heat until the sugar becomes golden and starts to melt. Make sure you keep stirring so it doesn't stick! Once melted, add your blackberries and allow to simmer on a low-heat for 5 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, crack your eggs into a shallow dish and add your milk & remaining caster sugar before it all a good whisk.
    3. Once thoroughly stirred, dip each slice of brioche into the mix and fry in a lightly-greased pan until a lovely golden brown colour on each side.
    4. Plate up then spoon over the warm blackberry compote.
    5. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy! I can't think of a better way to start the weekend!
    Driscoll’s® Victoria Sweet Blackberries are available from May to October and can be found in the premium ranges of all major supermarkets, as well as in specialist health stores such as Wholefoods!

    * This post was sponsored by Driscoll's Blackberries
    For more great recipe inspiration, visit the Sweet Blackberries website

    Sunday, 1 July 2018

    WHY YOU NEED TO GET DOWN TO DELICATESSEN IN HAMPSTED ASAP

    Do you know the tell-tale sign of a good restaurant? When it's packed, on a mid-week evening, with local punters. That's how you know a restautant has created something truly special.

    It's almost like a community. Hoards of people coming through the door, being greeted by the waiters like they're old friends. And that's exactly the vibe I got when I visited Delicatessen in leafy Hampstead last week and exactly the reason why I know I'll be going back, time and again.

    The restaurant is run by Executive Chef Or Golan (who previously worked under the master that is Ottolenghi) where he serves up incredible modern Israeli cuisine...

    all washed down with glasses of deliciously crisp Israeli wine.

    It's a great restaurant for a date or special occasion so worth dressing up for!
    What I'm Wearing: Blazer, Bodysuit*, Jeans, Sandals, Handbag

    All the food is Kosher (obvs) and made for sharing. Be sure to arrive hungry as the portions are HUGE (even by my standards) and you won't want to miss a single dish!

    There's expertly sliced Beef carpaccio topped with truffles & artichoke salsa (£12)

    And a wafer thin seabass version, absolutely bejeweled with fresh herbs and nuts


    You have to try the slow cooked and pulled salt beef schnitzel (£12)...

    and the tanned aubergine (£9) which comes served to your table in a huge saucepan. It's got the softest, creamiest texture and tastes divine topped with tahini, figs & mixed nuts.

    The Yemenite Kubaneh (£6.50) is a traditional pull-apart, yeast based bread - served here with fried peppers, tahini & grated tomato, ready for dunking into its delicious accompanying sauce.

    Houmous fans are in luck as there's two on offer. The first is served with whole chickpeas (masabacha style) with tahini & harissa for a little kick...

    and the second is topped with confit lamb and crackling (£11) - a meat lover's dream.

    Both come served with warm, pillowy breads so you can scoop up every last bit. 
    We also tried the chicken pastilla - made with flaky golden pastry and dried fruits. It's sadly been taken off the menu now but there's still plenty of incredible dishes for you to try.

    It's not just mezze-style dishes at Delicatessen though. There's also the option for more robust main courses too. 

    I loved the Moroccan chicken meatballs (£25) which come served in a silver dish with fresh Jerusalem artichoke, chunky lemons and basmati rice.

    The chicken thigh shawarma is also fab (£26) and comes served piled high on a seared laffa bread with sumac onions.


    I'm not usually a huge duck fan but I really enjoyed the seared duck breast here. It's served with a celeriac puree and heritage carrots (£28) and is nothing like the fatty duck dishes I've tried before.

    Veggies are also well catered for with a menu packed with falafels, mushroom gnocchi and this incredible golden cauliflower dish topped with tahini & smoked chilli (£8).

    The real main event though is for the meat-eaters and it comes in the form a giant mixed grill. For £75, you're presented with a tray filled to the brim with chicken thighs, lamb chops, rib eye steak....

    ...meaty Kebabs...

    merguez sausages and rich, silky bone marrow - ready for digging out and spreading on bread. They say it's for two people but I'd say there's more than enough for at least four of you to fill your boots, making it well worth the price tag once divided between you.

    After all that, you'll be tempted to skip pudding - but don't! If there's a few of you - definitely go for the Delicatessen mixed desserts platter (£40). You get a portion of four desserts and plenty of spoons so you can all tuck in...

    There's decadent warm churros with sugar cinnamon and hot chocolate sauce...

    Traditional Malabi with passion fruit, rose petals coconut and nut brittle... 
    and my favorite - the deliciously light Basbousa cake made with polenta and served with tahini semifreddo, mint jelly and raspberry & lemon coulis. What an incredible way to round off an incredible evening! 
    All in all, an evening of incredible food, delicious wine and great service - what more you could you want from a restaurant?

    They’re open from 12pm-11pm Sunday to Thursday, close at 4pm on Fridays and shut on Saturday. Oh and if you live close enough – they all also offer Deliveroo! I suggest you get down there ASAP!

    Delicatessen
    46 Rosslyn Hill
    Hampstead, NW3 1NH 

     * I was invited to the press dinner