Social media. It’s an invention that has been a blessing and a curse to me in equal measures. My expertise in the field became the foundation of my adult career, indeed my job as social media and creative strategist didn’t exist a decade ago, and my blog, which I have for years promoted through various social media platforms, has given me so many great opportunities and given me the chance to show what I am all about to an international audience that I can’t deny how important being connected and constantly “social” is in my life and how at time I have caught myself scrolling down my feed even when there a lot more interesting things like the company of a good friend to be enjoyed.
That however isn’t my main issue with social media. No it is the simple fact that it has actively led to me feeling a lot more anxious than I should be given that I have pretty good life with a job I love, friends that I can count on and good health.
Indeed being of a rather nervous disposition anyway I have often agonised for hours why a pic wasn’t getting as many likes as it should in my eyes (especially after spending even more time debating which filter to apply and which final image to pick), wondered why certain bloggers had gained hundreds of thousands of followers since I started and I was hovering at the 5k mark for years (though I do believe in quality not quantity) and on a more every day level caught myself questioning whether I have done something wrong or have been a bad friend when I saw friends posting insta stories galore but was yet to receive a reply to a WhatsApp sent days earlier to them.
The worst thing about all this worrying?! It achieves absolutely nothing and is a complete waste of time and energy. It’s kept me up at night more times than I’d liked to admit, based on some kind of FOMO whether it’s about where I am with my career or friendships and sometimes boils down to the simple desire to be validated, accepted and loved. The problem of course is that true happiness and being validated by others doesn’t come from someone pressing “like” on some picture that in no way reflects reality, it comes from within and from the people that really care about you, that don’t exist through a screen but open a bottle of wine with you when you’ve had a terrible day at work.
Ignorance is bliss and I feel our generation has sadly lost this privilege. I for one don’t need to always see the things that I am “missing out” on. 2018 will be the year when I don’t eagerly wait for a reply the minute I see a double blue tick on WhatsApp and worry what I have done wrong when I don’t get one, or count the likes on every post as if my life depended on it.
Of course I will still post on social media because I love wearing my outfits, eating delicious food, travelling and documenting it all with my snazzy iPhone X, and of course I still work in the industry and i have to hope it stays around to keep me employed but social media and our digital world should be about connecting with people and sharing ideas not, as I have felt a lot last year, about making us more lonely and anxious than ever before.
HOME COOKED DISH OF THE YEAR: CREAMY CURRY PRAWN PASTA
Following a trip to Rome this summer I became somewhat obsessed with perfecting my pasta sauce making skills at home (I have not gone quite as far as making my own pasta but hey a goal for 2018). This recipe may not be the most authentic with it’s addition of curry spice but the end result is one of the most comforting, fragrant and luxurious dishes I have ever cooked and has been an instant crowd pleaser, with me even going as far as preparing it as the main course for my family’s Christmas dinner. For all you veggies and none fish eaters simply replace the prawns with some courgettes or mushroom, chucked in with the onions to sauté and enjoy! Trust me this one will surprise you and you will cook it time and time again. It only takes 30 minutes to make but will instantly make you the hostess with the mostest!
Creamy curry prawn pasta:
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon mild curry spice
1 tablespoon flour
¼ litre vegetable broth
250g double cream
250g raw prawns
1 bag of spinach
Heat the butter in a pan and fry the diced onion until translucent.
Add the curry powder and flour and cook for another 3-4 minutes on a medium heat.
Add the vegetable broth and double cream and increase the heat to high and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Meanwhile boil your pasta.
Add your raw prawns and make sure to cook them through to a nice pink colour. Season well.
Bring down the heat and add the spinach until it’s wilted.
Drain your pasta and add to the sauce, making sure everything is mixed together properly.
Enjoy with a chilled glass of white wine!
NEW FOOD OBSESSION: POKE BOWLS
I mean what is not to love here - poke bowls come with amazing sushi inspired raw fish toppings, tropical flavours (they do after all originate from Haiwaii) and allow you to customise to your heart’s content. They are indeed like the pimped up salad full of sunshine flavours that you have always dreamt of and have become my to go to hangover cure in 2017! Island Poke and Ahi Poke are my favourite spots in London as they let you customise your bowl, whether you fancy salad or rice as base or go for tuna or salmon, and for around a tenner you can run wild and get a pretty decent sized, filling and most importantly incredibly tasty bowl! If you haven’t had one yet I highly recommend that you loose you poke bowl virginity in 2018!
Helsinki might not strike you as the most obvious place to find amazing pizza in and yes, I of course also had some stellar pizza while in Rome, but on balance Via Tribunali’s expertly made Neapolitan sourdough pizzas with simple yet high quality seasonal toppings came out on top of the many, many pizzas I ate my way through this year. Of course half of Helsinki knows this by now and waiting times generally exceed an hour but here it is totally worth it. If you find yourself visiting Finland’s capital in 2018 make the trip here, it’s as close to pizza perfection as you are going to get without making the trip to its birth place in Naples!
You will have heard of Padella this year, it quickly gaining a reputation for serving the best pasta in London at incredibly good prices, and in a way I wanted to hate it with all the hype that has surrounded it since opening. Not that it is easy to even sit down and eat at Padella, it being near impossible to get a table unless you go at a ridiculous time, which meant I ended up going for a VERY early dinnerat 3pm on a Sunday. Once i did sit down to eat however I couldn’t help but adore the place. It reminded me of my favourite hole in the wall restaurants in Rome with its few simple pasta dishes on the menu and emphasis on letting the ingredients used here shine (the burrata is a must order). Dishes are cheap, made for sharing and full of that dolce vita feeling that inevitably leave you and your fellow diners with big smiles on your faces. This is simple Italian fare cooked to perfection. Not poncy but showcasing a real love of flavours as if a real Italian nonna was at work. London needed a place like Padella and if you queue for one place in 2018 make it this one.
I’ve been lucky enough to go to Amsterdam twice this year and have fallen in love with this canal city more and more with every visit. As I discovered it is not only beautiful to look at and filled with super friendly locals but also has a vibrant eating out scene and it was hard for me to pick just one local foodie highlight. One place really stood out though: Little Collins, bang in the middle of De Pijp, Amsterdam’s answer to East London, making some of the most imaginative, fresh and tasty brunch fare I have had in years, blowing its London competitors out of the water. My French toast with plum compote, rosemary and halloumi was a sheer flavour explosion and everything on their menu sounded so uttlery brilliant that it took more than a bit of deliberation to pick just one dish. The vibe inside is very New York East Village and the staff from all over the world, reiterating the modern, fresh and experimental vibe of the place. A must visit for any brunch fiend and a place I wish was a little closer to and not a plane ride away from my home!
G Wie Goulash offered me without a doubt the most warming and unforgettable dining experience of the year. Stumbling across it by accident as I was planning where to eat during a long weekend in Berlin this summer, this little spot not only serves the best goulash in town but it’s owner Levi will make you feel like you have been invited to an evening of food and drinks in his house, chatting to you about everything and nothing while he single handily makes the dishes from scratch in the tiny open kitchen right by your table. Indeed this place only has about four small tables and the whole place feels like you’ve been transported into a Berlin home of the 20’s, with the most wonderful host you could wish for. Dishes are seasonal, the goulash, whether you go for the meat or veggie version, an absolute delight and you won’t want to leave when the evening draws to the close. A one of a kind gem I was very happy to discover.
What can I say other than that Da Enzo, located in Rome’s cool Trastevere neighbourhood and family run for many decades, served me the best pasta of my entire life. Not only that but we had equally fantastic seasonal starters including their out of this world artichoke and washed it all down with the finest house wine, a mere 9 euros a carafe. Everything was just perfect here and what was even better we got to skip the queue of eagerly waiting diners that this place draws in everyday as we had booked ahead. Rome is full of fantastic food but this place is hard to beat. It offers to me what Italian food and life is all about and I won’t even try to recommend you a single item on the menu because, if you can, just order everything.
For £22 you not only get a taste of one of London’s best Japanese fusion restaurants but also get to try three utterly brilliant courses PLUS a glass of house wine. Go early (before6pm) or late (after10pm) and not only avoid the crowds that usually flock to this Soho hotspot but get a real taste of the amazing flavours they come up with here and to finish things off snap one of the most instagrammed desserts in London, their french toast with matcha soft serve, which I can vouch for not only looks fantastic but tastes amazing too!
Here is to 2018 with many more foodie highlights to come!
For me finding an outstanding place to eat isn’t about the Michelin stars it holds or if there is a celebrity chef in the kitchen. No, for me it is much more about a restaurant offering something unique, showing a real passion for food and most importantly somewhere that leaves a big fat smile on my face after I’ve eaten there.
Well I can safely say that Persepolis managed to do all of the above in the most bonkers and wonderful of ways, making it one of the most unique, warming and unforgettable dining experiences I have had in a long time.
Of course Persepolis isn’t a new kid on the block, indeed Sally Butcher has been cooking up her Persian and Levantine inspired cuisine with a Peckham twist for a good decade or so now, but I had never quite made it there although through word of mouth it had been on my to try list for quite some time. A good thing then that I was encouraged to leave my east London bubble for the day to play host to my wonderful friend Emmi from Helsinki and made it my goal to show her a few new spots rather than take her to one of my tried and tested favourites.
After a day of playing (none cliché) tourists in London which included us seeing the fantastic Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican, having a stroll around West London and buying some ridiculously overpriced but beautiful sweet treats from Fortnum & Mason, we headed south for our 6:30pm reservation (because HOORAH they take bookings here). With a little bit of time to kill before we also stopped by Bar Story, another south of the river spot on my to try list that I had been to lazy to make it to, which not only has a rather fantastic happy hour (2 cocktails for £8!!!) but a seriously cool Brooklyn-esque vibe and is somewhere I definitely want to revisit for an extended weekend cocktail session.
With our dinner reservations quickly approaching on this occasion however we quickly finished of our perfectly made amaretto sours and headed towards Persepolis. Have I mentioned the other major bonus of this place yet? No? Well it also happens to be BYOB which for an eternally broke millennial like me (must be all the smashed avo and flat whites) it is basically like winning the lottery especially when you can easily spend over 20 quid for a bottle of house wine in London. Bearing this in mind and classy as I am we headed to the Iceland on the way and picked up a bottle of fizzy rose (though as I later found out to my dismay there is also a Lidl right next door to Persepolis which would haven been even cheaper and better in its booze selection but a girl can’t know everything) and were more than intrigued what this place was going to be like.
I am not going to lie Emmi was left a little perplexed when I pointed out Persepolis in the distance. Why? Well it looks like your run of the mill slightly shabby Middle Eastern corner shop that you’ll end up going to at 12 am at night when everything else is shut to pick up drunk snacks or fags - not exactly a place where you envision your Friday night dinner. Which makes this place so utterly utterly brilliant and bonkers in my eyes. It’s a proper corner shop and deli with a lot of
decorations (even more so with added Christmas ones) and a few tables crammed at the back for diners. Sally literally cooks up the dishes next to you as if you are right in her kitchen and as you walk to the toilet you pass a few random men in the back playing cards. It might not be be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you love fine dining, but for me this was food and dining out is all about - a unique,
Warming and completely immersive experience that quickly made us forget we were next to a Lidl in Peckham and saw Emmi’s initial doubts disappear in minutes.
Service was equally charming and off beat with our waitress sporting a pair of blinking Christmas light earrings and recommending us to go for their sharing menu. With every served here vegetarian and most things vegan we were more than happy to go with her recommendation and leave the food selection served up to us up to Sally herself! And what a right decision it was! Course after course of deliciousness followed, leaving us absolutely stuffed for a mere £17.5 each!
Purist May Say the food here isn’t 100% authentic but for me that is no issue, what you get to taste is Sally’s wonderful interpretation of Persian food and damn she does it well. First things first we were served a fragrant soup with yogurt and bread before a massive mezze style platter arrived, featuring falafel, savoury pastries, hummus and all sorts of veg arrived, served with more amazingly fluffy bread. Next up another highlight of the meal (of course there were many) - honey and sesame glazed halloumi which without a doubt was one of the best halloumi dishes I have ever had, struggling to share the portion on this occasion. This was followed by a sort of main or savoury finale of a fragrant and warming vegetable hot pot served with rice and salad. Though it sounds like a lot of food everything was perfectly portioned and so fresh and wholesome that we thankfully had enough space left for dessert! And what a dessert it was, a huge plate filled with all kinds of middle eastern sweet treats- from baklava to Turkish delight to a beautiful vegan ice cream drizzled with pomegranate. It definitely finished us off with us struggling to fit any more in our tummies but wanting to at least try a bite of everything, indeed a real taste revelation as neither of us were familiar with many of the sweet offerings on the plate.
What can I say about Persepolis? It provided me and Emmi with an unforgettable evening filled with amazing food and I already can’t wait to show this utter, utter London gem to more of my friends. It’s not always about the newest place in town, this place has stood the test of town and better stick around for a few more decades to come.