Wednesday, 22 September 2021

SPICY PASTA ALLA VODKA WITH BURRATA



Midway through a weekend of full on London Fashion week life, which is far less glamorous and much more stressful and draining than it sounds if you are working production side, I was very exhausted and also very desperately in need of a home-cooked, comforting dinner with a kick.

Indeed the minute I came across this recipe for spicy pasta alla vodka I knew I had found what was going to hit the spot!! The vodka of course, gets cooked off and looses the alcohol content yet in its remaining flavour somehow really elevates the tomato and coconut milk sauce into something quite spectacular, not exactly sure how but I am here for it.

It was also a dinner simple enough to make in an almost zombie like state but tasted pretty damn amazing and better than any stodgy takeaway would have made me feel, plus if you had an even rougher day than I was having you will also end up with some leftover vodka!

A pasta supper that is far from boring and will pick you up after even the longest of days, I promise!

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup basil pesto (bought because I DEFINITELY didn't have time for that)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 450g tagliatelle
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil roughly chopped
  • 1 burrata ball
METHOD
  • Heat a large frying pan over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. 
  • When the oil shimmers, add the shallot, garlic, and oregano. 
  • Cook until the shallots begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. 
  • Reduce the heat to low, add the tomato puree and chilli flakes, cook 4-5 minutes, until thickened. 
  • Stir in the vodka, cook another 2 minutes. 
  • Stir in the pesto and cream. 
  • Season with salt. 
  • Keep warm over low heat. 
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  • Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. 
  • Just before draining, remove 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water. 
  • Drain.
  • To the vodka sauce, add the pasta, 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and the butter, tossing until the butter has melted. 
  • Add the parmesan and basil. 
  • If needed, thin the sauce with additional pasta cooking water.
  • Divide the pasta among plates and top with basil and torn burrata.
  • Enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

CREAMY TOMATO, PRAWN & SALMON CURRY


Another case of total food for the soul in a bowl (and who doesn't need that after the miserable rainy day we had yesterday)!

This easy one pot dinner combines lots of veg, a wonderfully fragrant broth, fresh seafood and plenty of spices to make a super healthy yet satisfying dinner that doesn't need any rice on the side to make it filling thanks to the addition of sweet potato.

A new favourite.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 large red onions, finely sliced
  • 4cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 long red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 8 large vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 16 fresh leaves 
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 200g long sprouting broccoli, end snapped off
  • 2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 limey
  • 150g baby spinach leaves
  • 250g raw king prawns
  • 2 salmon fillets, skinned and cut into chunks

METHOD
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan over a low heat. 
  • Add the onion, season and cook for 10 minutes until softened.
  • Whizz the ginger, garlic and chilli in a small blender until finely chopped. 
  • Add to the onion with the ground spices. 
  • Fry for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and curry leaves, bring to the boil and simmer for 6-7 minutes. 
  • Pour in the coconut milk and lime juice, then bubble over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the sweet potato and broccoli and boil for 5-6 mins or until the sweet potato chunks have cooked through , then add in the mushrooms and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the spinach to the rest of the sauce. 
  • Simmer for 2-3 minutes until wilted, stirring constantly. 
  • Add the prawns and salmon and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the prawns are pink. 
  • AND SERVE!

Thursday, 9 September 2021

MY IDIOT PROOF (AND ALWAYS DELICIOUS) ROAST VEG WITH TAHINI SAUCE & POMEGRANATE


This is not so much a recipe but rather my go to dinner when I feel hungover, run down or just generally in need of a super nutritious, healthy and delicious dinner!

Even better you literally only need a tray, a bowl and a bit of chopping to make it in order to end up with a plate FULL of vitamins that is FAR from boring or tasteless! 

Heck the 4 ingredient tahini, lemon & honey dressing and pomegranate seed topping make these roasted vegetables pretty fancy with minimal cooking involved!

Tailor the veg you roast to your taste - I go for a mix of everything I like but it also depends what mood I am in and what is in season, there is no"wrong" veg to add to the tray,  and allow plenty of time for the veg and oven to do their thing! There is literally nothing worse than barely cooked or soggy veg, a little bit of a char is indeed encouraged!

I eat this several times a month and NEVER get bored of it. So simple, so good and literally food for the soul.


INGREDIENTS

THE VEG!

Really this is where you do you, these are just my favourites. If you include sweet potato and squash I would recommend whacking them in the microwave for 4 minutes so they precook a little and won't end up raw when the other veg is lovely and roasted

  • Red onions, quartered
  • Sweet potato, diced
  • Butternut squash, diced
  • Aspargus
  • Cooked beetroot, quartered
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Sprouting Broccoli
  • Carrots (kept whole)
THE TOPPING
  • Pomegranate seeds
THE SAUCE
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1 medium lemon, juiced 
  • 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • Salt
  • Lukewarm water (to thin)

METHOD
  • Pre-heat your oven to 200c.
  • Place your prepped veg on a baking tray and toss everything in olive oil.
  • Season with salt.
  • Roast for a good 45-50mins (check once in a while and give the veg a toss so it cooks evenly).
  • Meanwhile prepare the tahini sauce.
  • To a medium mixing bowl, add tahini, lemon juice, and maple syrup and season with salt.
  • Whisk to combine. 
  • Slowly add water until creamy and pourable. 
  • The mixture may seize up and thicken at first, but continue adding water a little at a time and whisking until creamy and smooth.
  • Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lemon juice for acidity, salt for saltiness, or maple syrup for sweetness.
  • When the veg is lovely and roasted top with the pomegranate seeds and drizzle over the tahini sauce
  • ENOY!

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

OTTOLENGHI'S PASTA WITH PRAWNS, TOMATO & MARINATED FETA


This super flavourful pasta is literally THE perfect dinner for this September heatwave PLUS it's quick and easy enough to rustle up for an impressive week night supper! 

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g feta, broken into 1–2cm pieces
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes4 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 350g orzo or another small, thin pasta shape (I used this one from Waitrose)
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 strips finely shaved orange skin
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 400g raw shell-off prawns
  • 30g basil leaves, roughly shredded
  • Salt and black pepper

METHOD
  • In a medium bowl, mix the feta with ¼ teaspoon of the chilli flakes, 2 teaspoons of the fennel seeds and 1 tablespoon of the oil. 
  • Set aside while you cook the pasta
  • Place a large sauté pan, for which you have a lid, on a medium high heat. 
  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil, orzo, ⅛ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. 
  • Fry for 3–4 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, then remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Return the pan to the same heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, ¼ teaspoon of chilli flakes and 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds, the garlic and the orange skin. 
  • Fry for 1 minute, until the garlic starts to lightly brown, then add the tomatoes, stock, 200ml of water, ¾ teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. 
  • Cook for 2–3 minutes, or until boiling, then stir in the fried pasta. 
  • Cover, then lower the heat to medium low and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout so the pasta is cooked. 
  • Remove the lid and cook for a further 1–2 minutes, until the consistency is like a risotto. 
  • Stir in the prawns for 2–3 minutes until they are pink and cooked. 
  • Stir in the basil and serve at once, with the marinated feta sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

SWEET & SAVOURY CRISPY SWEDISH WAFFLES


My wonderful friend Maria came around last Friday and suggested not only bringing her absolutely adorable (and leash trained) cat Miso but also her waffle maker! 

Now, I LOVE committing to a dinner theme so was totally on board with rustling up some crispy Swedish waffles for dinner -  a savoury main, followed by, of course, a sweet waffle dish as dessert! 

Swedish waffles are eggless which makes them a lot crispier, thinner and lighter than your Belgian waffle and also a lot more versatile when it comes to toppings, we used the same batter for both savoury and sweet versions and it worked a treat!

Of course you can totally go for any topping you fancy. I cooked up a super quick seasonal cherry sauce because I adore fresh cherries and the warm sauce went so well with cold freshly whipped and vanilla flavoured cream. 

For your savoury topppings again the world is your oyster. We went very Scandi with gravadlax, a dill and lemon mascarpone cream and fish roe but you could also do a fab veggie version with pan fried mushrooms and truffle creme fraiche!

What made this dinner even better was that the end result was not only tasty but that the process of making it was pretty fun too! 

So invest in a waffle maker or find a fabulous friend like Maria who will bring one along for the most perfect Friday night supper!

These waffles are best if make them as you need them, otherwise they lose their lovely crispiness. And don't stack them – simply make and serve straight away. If you absolutely need to wait, place them in a single layer on a wire-rack (at your own crispness-losing risk).

WAFFLES

INGREDIENTS
  • 100 g butter melted
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar (optional and you can get it my go to for Scandi ingredients The Scandinavian Kitchen
  • 250 ml whole milk
  • 250 ml water

METHOD
  • Turn on the waffle iron to heat up.
  • Mix all the ingredients together to a smooth batter.
  • Brush the waffle iron with a little bit of butter then add a ladle full of batter. 
  • Leave to cook until golden brown and crispy, remove and serve immediately.


TOPPINGS…...

SAVOURY!


DILL & LEMON MASCARPONE

INGREDIENTS
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt
METHOD
  • Mix the mascarpone, dill, 1 tsp. lemon zest, and 2 tsp. lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice or zest to taste.
  • Chill until your waffles are ready.


SWEET!


EASY CHERRY SAUCE

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 cups fresh pitted cherries 
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp cornflour
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
METHOD
  • In a medium saucepan (off the heat), add the water.
  • Whisk in 1 Tbsp cornflour, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp sugar.
  • Place over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture starts to thicken.
  • Add cherries and cook stirring occasionally until sauce is at a light boil (about 6-10 minutes). 
  • The sauce should be thickened and uniformly bubbling, not just at the edges, then remove from heat.
  • Cool to room temperature and reheat when tour waffles are ready.

VANILLA WHIPPED CREAM

INGREDIENTS
  • 240ml double cream
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla paste or essence
  • 2 tsp icing sugar

METHOD
  • Whisk the cream and vanilla in a chilled bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer just until they hold a loose peak.
  • Sift the sugar over the cream and continue to beat just until it holds a soft peak. 
  • Take care not to over beat the cream or it will look curdy. 
  • Serve, or refrigerate covered for up to 4 hours.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

MY 15 MINUTE CREAMY PRAWN & TOMATO PASTA!


Sometimes I will quite spontaneously research a recipe to fulfil a particular craving that will suddenly hit me. One slightly hungover Saturday I could not stop thinking about a creamy, yummy prawn pasta but also was in no mood to make a mess in the kitchen or spend hours prepping.

Thank god then that I stumbled across this super easy yet very delicious recipe which you'll have plated up and ready to eat in less than 15 minutes! 

Using two pots max and with a tiny bit of chopping and a hint of stirring, you will end up with a wonderful bowl of pasta, literally MADE to be eaten on the sofa, in pjs, binge watching a new tv show of your choice. Not a very rock n roll Saturday night but hey, one we all need once in a while!

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS
  • 300g raw king prawns
  • 450g tagliatelle
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 medium-sized whitw onion, sliced
  • 1 medium-sized tomato diced
  • 1/2 cup passata
  • 1 cup double cream
  • 2 tbsp mozzarella, grated
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

METHOD
  • Season the prawns with salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Set aside. 
  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, add pasta and cook about 1 minute less than the recommended time. Drain and set aside. 
  • Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. 
  • Add garlic and chilli flakes and cook until fragrant. 
  • Add prawns, onion, and tomato and cook, stirring occasionally until the prawns turn pink in colour.
  • Add tomato sauce and double cream and bring to a boil. 
  • Season with salt and stir in the pasta and cheese. 
  • Combine everything together and garnish with parsley. 
  • Enjoy!

Monday, 23 August 2021

MISO SALMON BURGERS


I am not usually a big burger person. For one I don't eat meat and I also really don't dig the dry, tasteless, heavy in the stomach and generally just really unexciting things which the vegetarian burger option tends to be - you know those bean / chickpea / some other kind of pulse patties that you have to literally drown in ketchup and mayo to make them edible. 

Quite surprisingly too, you don't really tend to get many fish burger options (not counting the unidentifiable fish that is is in a fillet o' fish burger from McDonalds) which I find rather strange as this Asian twist on a burger, made with the most fragrant and juicy salmon patty with miso was rather OUTSTANDING! 

Indeed it had the perfect texture, perfect flavours and was total a dream when combined with a brioche bun, siracha mayo and a super delicious, spicy and quick to make cucumber pickle.

 The final burger was definitely restaurant worthy, both in terms of looks and taste and a real revelation for any pescatarian out there! One to add to my regular recipe repertoire for sure and great for impressing a crowd!

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 skinless, boneless fresh salmon fillet
  • 50g Panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 brioche buns (I loved these glossy ones from Hovis)
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp white miso
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 lime (zest and juice)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 Tsp sugar
  • Knob of ginger
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • Olive oil
TO SERVE
  • Fries - normal or sweet potato, whatever you prefer!

METHOD
  • Roughly chop the salmon fillets. 
  • Put half into a food processor and blitz to a paste. 
  • Add the miso, ginger, lime zest, the rest of the salmon and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. 
  • Pulse very briefly until roughly combined. 
  • You want some nice chunky bits of salmon in with the paste rather than it all turned into mush. 
  • Tip the mix into a bowl and stir through the panko breadcrumbs. 
  • Shape into 2 burgers and chill whilst you make the smacked cucumbers.
  • Get a rolling pin or something heavy and hit the cucumber until it has collapsed and starts to break. 
  • Cut into random diagonal pieces. 
  • Place in a bowl and stir in the salt. 
  • Leave to sit for 10 minutes to draw out some of the water from the cucumber.
  • Now time to make the cucumber dressing. 
  • Grab a bowl, then crush in the garlic cloves and mix with 1 tbsp of Sriracha sauce, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp of soy sauce, sugar and lime juice.
  • Mix the remaining Sriracha sauce with the mayonnaise.
  • Pour a drizzle of oil into a non-stick frying pan. Fry the salmon burgers for 3 minutes on each side.
  • Assembly time!
  • Drain the water off the cucumbers and mix with the dressing. 
  • Cut the buns in half, (toast in the frying pan if you like), spread each bun with the sriracha mayo. 
  • Top each with a salmon burger and pile on the smacked cucumber slaw. 
  • Drizzle over the dressing. 
  • Serve with fries!

Thursday, 19 August 2021

SUMMER VEGETABLE CURRY WITH CRISPY CHICKPEAS


Sometimes you just a whole load of veg and this wonderful vegan curry is packed with just that in the most delicious of ways! 

Pair seasonal veg like fresh corn and courgettes (though chuck in any veg you've got lurking in the fridge) with a super tasty broth, which features an unusual addition of tahini alongside your more classic curry spices and coconut milk, crispy chickpeas and crunchy slices of cucumber as finishing touch, and you end up with a bowl of goodness, food that is healthy, filling but not lacking in flavour in any way! 

It's a one pot dinner that still easily impresses guests and perfect for any summer day!

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup + 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • Salt
  • 2 courgettes, sliced
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 150g tenderstem broccoli
  • 2 ears sweet corn, kernels removed from the cob
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons yellow powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • juice and zest from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped

TO SERVE
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced
  • Rice 

METHOD

  • Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. 
  • When the oil shimmers, add the chickpeas and season with salt. 
  • Cook, stirring occasionally until the chickpeas begin to crisp, about 5 minutes. 
  • Carefully remove 1/2 cup of chickpeas and reserve for topping, only if desired. 
  • 2.To the remaining chickpeas, add the courgettes, broccoli, mushrooms, corn, shallot, garlic, and ginger. 
  • Season with salt. 
  • Cook the veggies another 5-10 minutes or until they just begin to soften.
  • Stir in the curry powder and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  • Add the coconut milk, 1/3-1/2 cup water, and the tahini. 
  • Stir to combine, bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, cook 5-10 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. 
  • If the sauce thickens too much, add additional water to thin. 
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, and cilantro.
  • To serve, divide the rice among bowls and spoon the curry overtop. Top with the reserved chickpeas, sesame seeds and sliced cucumbers. 
  • Enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

SABIH (ISRAELI INSPIRED OPEN AUBERGINE SANDWICH) WITH SPICED CHICKPEAS


I have been wanting to make this vibrant looking Middle Eastern / Jewish / Israeli iconic mash up dish / kinda sandwich / kinda salad that is often served for breakfast for quite sometime, not only because it looked all kinds of wow but also because it features just about all my favourite ingredients: chargrilled aubergine slices, spicy chickpeas, hummus, tahini, lots of veg, the most amazing spicy mango pickle (I know, who knew) and a ton of other tasty elements that make it quite the event when plated up!

Yes, it takes a little time to prep, after all there are quite a few sauces and toppings that need to be prepped but OMG it is sooo worth it. 

This was hands down one of the nicest, most fragrant yet healthy dishes I have rustled up this year and a total crowd pleaser, in fact if you leave out the egg on top it is also fully vegan! 

I found the Amba (mango pickle) at the trusted Turkish supermarket behind my house and it really did add a very unusual, spicy note to the final dish so if you can try and seek it out in a speciality store please do and if you are even more ambitious there are plenty of relatively straightforward looking recipes for homemade versions online too! 

All failing your sabih will still taste amazing without and luckily nowadays all other ingredients are widely available including tahini which you can find in just about any normal supermarket now!

I cannot wait to make this dish again and what better way to brighten up a very grey summer day than with a little bit of sunshine, feel good food -  we can all do with that right now.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

FRIED AUBERGINE
  • Olive oil
  • 2 small aubergines 
  • 2 tsp fine salt

SPICY CHICKPEAS
  • 1 tin cooked chickpeas, drained well
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp chilli powder, adjust to taste
  • Salt, to taste

ZHOUG (spicy herb condiment)
  • 35 g / 1 cup packed fresh coriander leaves
  • 20 g / ½ cup packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1-2 hot green chillies
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • A pinch of sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water

TAHINI SAUCE
  • 4 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ large garlic clove, grated
  • 1 tsp honey (or maple syrup if vegan)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

ISRAELI SALAD
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium spring onion, sliced
  • A few stalks of parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice, to taste

REMAINING INGREDIENTS
  • Savoury mango pickle (also known as Amba)
  • 2 big fluffy pitta breads
  • classic hummus (I used my favourite brand Sabra)
  • Two boiled eggs, sliced in half - I built mine for 6 minutes and 30 seconds for a perfect waxy consistency (leave out for a Vegan version) 


METHOD

FRIED AUBERGINE
  • Cut aubergines into 2.5 cm slices. 
  • Sprinkle with salt on both sides and set aside for 30 minutes for any excess moisture and bitterness to go.
  • After 30 minutes, wipe the salt off with a piece of kitchen towel. 
  • Blot the slices on the kitchen towel until completely dry.
  • Heat up a medium non-stick pan with 1 tbsp of oil. 
  • Once the oil gets medium-hot, place the aubergine slices on the pan (be careful not to overcrowd the pan) and fry them gently until they are browned (about 3-4 min), then flip them to the other side and continue in the same manner. 
  • Once you are done with the first batch, continue with the remaining batches adding oil as needed.

SPICY CHICKPEAS
  • Make sure your chickpeas are completely drained.
  • Mix all the spices together with a few pinches of salt in a small bowl.
  • Heat up a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium-high heat. 
  • Pour olive oil on the hot pan and wait a few seconds for the oil to heat up.
  • Chuck the drained chickpeas into the hot oil and roast the chickpeas for a few minutes, until lightly browned here and there. 
  • Make sure you stir them often.
  • Stir the spice mix in and coat the chickpeas in it. 
  • Take the pan off the heat and allow the spices to finish off roasting in the residual heat (ground spices can burn really easily and become bitter). 
  • Check the seasoning and set aside.

TAHINI SAUCE
  • Place the tahini in a small bowl. 
  • Add enough warm (not hot) water to achieve a creamy and almost pourable consistency sauce – the amount of water depends on the type of your tahini. 
  • Mix the two together vigorously.
  • Season with garlic, maple syrup, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  • Set aside.

ZHOUG
  • Place coriander, parsley and deseeded chilli in a food processor along with a clove of garlic and all of the spices.
  • Process, drizzling in some olive oil (about 4 tbsp), water and lemon juice. 
  • Take care not to overprocess as this sauce is meant to be a bit on the chunky side.
  • Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

ISRAELI SALAD
  • Core tomatoes, discard the seeds and chop the fleshy part into a small dice.
  • Place diced tomatoes and cucumber into a small bowl, mix in sliced spring onions and chopped parsley. Dress with a squeeze of lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

ASSEMBLY
  • Top warmed-up pitas with hummus, halved eggs,  fried aubergine, spicy chickpeas, Israeli salad and condiments (tahini sauce, zhoug and mango pickle) and ENJOY!



Friday, 13 August 2021

2 DAYS IN DÜSSELDORF - REUNITED AT LAST!


It only took 10 months, a cancelled Christmas (thanks Boris), a missed 60th birthday (my mum's) and quite honestly a lot of pretty mentally challenging days for me to finally make it back to Düsseldorf and be re-united with my mum.

If you have read my blog for a while you will know that I don't exactly have a big family (dead dad, only child, one cousin - you get the idea) so not seeing my one woman family unit because of this god damn pandemic was incredibly, incredibly hard - harder than I could have imagined.

Pre the big C it was so easy to pop over for a long weekend to my home city and spent some quality time with her, a 50 minute flight into Europe about as much as effort as getting on a train to Leeds, a freedom of movement and travel which was quite literally obliterated as the entire Europe pretty much closed it's doors to the UK (once again, thanks Boris!).

I remember when two days before Christmas every single flight between Germany and the UK got cancelled, and, faced with a Christmas alone, I was pretty uncertain when I would see my mum the next time.

Indeed that sense of uncertainty remained firmly in place for most of 2021. Whenever I thought there may be a chance to visit, there suddenly was another hoop to jump through: 10 day quarantines either side, a need to be fully vaccinated, ever changing test requirements - it felt that like everything was working against me seeing my mum (and trust me I became more than a little bit obsessed with checking the news and latest travel developments every day and every hour).

I had always hoped that by August there would be chance to make it finally over to see my mum, not that it was easy in the end! If you want freedoms, the chance to travel and are not a total idiot GET VACCINATED!!! I refreshed the NHS website every day until it was the turn of 29 years to get the jab and then managed with a little clever research to cut the time between my jabs from 12 weeks to 21 days which meant that by the time August came around, 14 days have to pass after your second jab for it to become "valid", I was officially fully vaccinated with certificate which opened up travel and made the trip finally a realistic possibility.

Of course there were still some tests to book, forms to fill out (more on that below) and actual planes to book, and honestly until I was sat on the plane I was still fearing some freak mutant strain suddenly breaking out in the UK, I mean we've done well with the "Kent" and Delta variant in the past, BUT it all worked out in the end and it never felt better to be back in Germany and with my mum. 

I so dearly appreciated every Düsseldorf favourite I had missed and finally got to re-vist, treasured staying at hotels after being confined to my own four walls for so long and most importantly valued my mum more than ever. After all we have been through there just wasn't time for petty arguments, instead only time for making amazing memories to make up for the last year and a half of cancelled trips and teary calls.

I really truly hope this will be the longest gap in terms of my visits but I will never take for granted the freedom to travel freely and to call two countries my home. 

It also made me realise you don't always need to fly 12 hours to an exotic location for a real holiday, going to a place so close to my heart that I had missed so dearly did much more for my mental health than any beach in a place far, far away would have done. 

Yes, travel has become a lot more complicated, stressful and expensive but don't wait to see your loved ones abroad, go now while you can - if I have learnt one thing from living with Corona it is that it is not predictable and we are still some time off from fully mastering and managing it. 

HOW I GOT THERE IN TIMES OF CORONA: 

  • Get vaccinated. Being double vaccinated will allow quarantine free travel into most European countries and will also enable you to not quarantine once you are back in the UK.
  • Get proof of being vaccinated - this means downloading the NHS app (not the track and trace app) on which you can download a PDF proof of vaccination with QR code which you will be required to show at check in. 
  • Get your fit to fly test done (if your final destination requires you to). Germany required a proof of a negative lateral flow test with an official certificate which means your at home tests WON'T do the trick. There are a few places like QURED that will send you the test to do at home which you have to take via a zoom call so it can be verified as being done correctly. On this occasion I did a walk-in test instead with DocTAP which was a little more expensive (£49 for a rapid antigen) but meant no worrying about lost mail / not getting the results / certificates on time before the flight - something to bear in mind especially during holiday season. FYI there are a few dodgy companies out there when it comes to testing so if the offer seems to good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true!
  • Make sure you do a test BEFORE you board your plane back to the UK or you will not be allowed back into the country. A rapid antigen will do the trick (taken within 48 hours of departure) and most European airports have testing facilities on site! I simply showed up 3 hours rather than 2 hours before my flight, did the test (€29 euros for a lateral flow test), grabbed a coffee and had my negative test certificate within half an hour. It is however worth researching this a little ahead of time just in case your airport does not have the facilities, you don't want to end up a few hours before take off with no way of doing a test!
  • Also make sure to purchase the right test package in advance for when you get to the UK. If you are full vaxxed you will only need a day 2 test, if you are not vaccinated or only had your first vaccination you will need a day 2+8 bundle - THERE IS NO WAY AROUND PURCHASING THESE as you need to enter a unique code which you receive after purchase that needs to be entered into your passenger locator form. No code = no completed form and without that NO entry in to the Uk. I used Randox who had a super cheap day 2 test for £49 which I ordered the day before my flight, in time to take it on day 2 of being back in London.
  • Save yourself the stress at the airport and if possible fill out the UK passenger locator form once you have checked yourself in online as it can take a little time and you don't want to be making mistakes as this form is what will get you back into the country!
  • With all these forms and certificates to consider I emailed myself a little schedule with everything attached which came in really handy as I had everything in one place!
  • LASTLY! These requirements are very country specific and are constantly reviewed and changed (sometimes with less than 24 hours notice) so if you want to be sure about the most current and up to date rules for the country you are travelling to check their government or embassy website.

WHERE I STAYED 

MOTEL ONE

If you are after a cheap yet stylish and clean hotel in a super central location in Düsseldorf, Motel One is a total winner! Literally a minutes walk away from the main station and 10 minutes walk from Düsseldorf's city centre it may be no boutique hotel but rooms a modern, clean, bright and a total bargain at €69 a night! I am not a massive hotel breakfast fan anyway so love the idea that you aren't forced to having it included in the price and overall was very impressed by friendly and efficient service plus the hotel bed was INCREDIBLY comfortable and had me sleeping like an absolute baby after a day of travel!


THE FRITZ

The Fritz is a decent small boutique hotel option near Düsseldorf's version of Bond Street. My room could have been a little bigger and brighter but I did like the thoughtful interior design touches and it felt like a treat to stay here for one night! 



WHERE I ATE

THE KITCHEN FOR CREATIVE SMALL PLATES

As much as I am a creature of habit when it comes to my culinary choices whilst in town, I am also always keen to find out what the new hot place to eat at is (especially when I have not been there in a while) and THE KITCHEN came highly recommend by my stylish and always in the know friend Marcel and it did not disappoint! Creative small plates, fantastic flavours, great wine and attentive service. It's not cheap but worth every penny and a real treat!


FISCHHAUS OBST @ CARLSPLATZ MARKET

Carlsplatz is a wonderful spot for a little snack or afternoon drink as this daily covered market ,with ample outside space if weather allows, has just about every fresh food on offer ones heart could desire, from classic German meaty dishes like the currywurst, to a plethora of bakeries and of course this little gem of a stand that sells plenty of fresh fish and seafood and some great food eat right there! 

I went for a sort of battered fish on a bread roll, served with the most wonderful remoulade, while my mum went for a generously stuffed smoked salmon roll, accompanied by a glass of ice cold white wine which you can have on the side for scandalously affordable €2.50 a glass. The fish was first class, the wine just what we needed and perched on one of their outside benches it was the perfect spot to people watch on a sunny Saturday afternoon!


BRASSERIE HÜLSMANN BECAUSE IT NEVER FAILS TO IMPRESS

No visit to Düsseldorf is complete for me without a dinner at Brasserie Hülsmann, a proper local culinary institution that is always packed with locals and never fails to wow with its food! It's a 10/10 every time I go -  atmosphere, menu, staff - you cannot go wrong here and I will be returning for many years to come.


WHERE I DRANK

EN DE CANON FOR GREAT GERMAN WINE

One of my favourite places to go for a drink, this wine bar by the Rhine promenade serves a fine selection of German wines. The food served is great and staff even greater plus being a little tucked away from the main "tourist strip" you won't be surrounded by obnoxious day trippers and are always likely to secure one of their lovely outside tables.


BAR CHERIE FOR AFTER DINNER DRINKS

Tucked away on a side street of the bustling old town, Cherie is a quirky little bar with plenty of outside space which is perfect for after dinner drinks and cocktails and offers a great starting point for some bar hopping afterwards. 


THE RHINE PROMENADE

If the weather is good, there is nothing better than grabbing a bottle of cremant and heading to Düsseldorf's lovely Rhine Promenade. If you are lucky enough to find an empty to bench watch the world go by and relax! It doesn't get much better for me.


WHERE I SWEATED IT ALL OUT

THE BEST SPINNING @ BECYCLE

I adore this state of the art spinning studio which I have never failed to make a stop at since it opened a few years ago. It's founder Jennifer isn't only one of the most welcoming people you will ever meet but she has also managed to built an incredible studio space that offers some of the best spinning classes I have ever enjoyed, and I have been to just about any hyped spinning class there is! They have not had the easiest time with Covid but she still hosted me in the most warming way as I arrived and then preceded to have one of her world class instructors truly kick my ass at 9:30am on a Saturday morning after quite a few wines the night before!