Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2015 Playlist - High Summer

Because it wouldn't be summer without a playlist that makes you wan to roll down your windows and go for a drive… What songs do you listen to when you're car dancing on the highway?

Click here to listen to High Summer on Spotify, listen below or click on the track listing above.

Don't Mind if I do…

Draper James Southern Sayings Cocktail Napkins Set
Beautiful embroidered cocktail napkins with Southern sayings on them? Be still my beating heart… Don't mind if I do!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Paccheri Carbonara

While on holiday this summer in Italy, my husband had a dish that was basically Carbonara, but with artichokes and a tubular pasta called Paccheri instead of the usual spaghetti. I'm not a big fan of artichokes at all, but his dish was amazing. The color, the texture and the contrast of the al dente pasta with the crisp, chewy bacon and the creamy, almost satin sauce was just incredible. I had to try to recreate the dish and with some research and practice, I've come up with something that's quite similar. Just a few pieces of this pasta on a plate makes a lovely first course for a dinner party, however this is amazing as a main course for weeknight dinners and takes very little time or effort. The recipe feeds two very hungry people, but can easily stretch to four people with some bread, vegetables or salad on the side.

The pancetta we get here in London is quite salty and a bit different to what we had in Italy, so be careful not to over-salt this dish. Also, if you can't find Paccheri, another tubular pasta would work such as calamari shaped pasta which I see in stores all the time. Alternatively, you can order Paccheri online by clicking here. If that fails, I'd venture to say that penne or even farfalle (bow tie pasta) would work find too should you want to switch it up for the usual spaghetti, which will always work with Carbonara. 

300g Paccheri Pasta (or other tube shaped pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
150g pancetta, cubed
3 large eggs
100g parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons extra thick double cream or regular double cream
salt & freshly ground black pepper

1. Boil a large pot of salted water with a drop of olive oil in it and cook the pasta according to the package directions, checking on it 2 or 3 minutes before it's meant to finish. You want this pasta to be quite al dente.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over low to medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and shred in the garlic or mince and add to the pan. Cook gently for about 10 or 15 minutes over low to med-low heat until the pancetta begins to look bronze and slightly crispy.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and then beat in the cheese and cream before putting the bowl in the oven at 120°C with the door left ajar.

4. Before straining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta and then pour it all into the warm bowl with the egg mixture. Mix well to coat all of the pasta in the sauce and then add the pancetta and mix well again. Stir gently so you don't tear the pasta shapes. Gently stir in a tablespoon or two of the pasta water. Add more only if the mixture is too dry.

5. Salt & pepper to taste and serve immediately on warmed plates.

That Ring Though…

Sif Jakobs Corte Ceramic Black Ring
Sometimes a girl just wants a ring she can wear anytime, anywhere and with anything… This Sif Jakobs ring is just that. Nothing too flashy, just a chic piece that screams laid-back cool whether dressed up with a dress or worn with jeans and your favorite Converse.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Eating in Bologna

Lemon Gelato Cone (left) and Pompelmo Rosa or Pink Grapefruit Gelato Cup (right)

A visit to Bologna in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region can offer many things, but none of them is more exciting or fulfilling than the food. Traditional Bolognese fare is delicious so it's no surprise that one of the city's nicknames is "The Fat One." If I lived there, I'd definitely be a few pounds heavier... Though there are foods of all kinds to enjoy from salads to sandwiches and steaks to seafood, for me it's all about the pasta and charcuterie! I've never in my life had pasta that compares to the dishes I ate in Bologna… To quote Carly Simon, "Nobody does it better."

The first thing I sought out upon arrival was gelato and I ate it several times while I was there. I am pretty impressed with the interesting flavors on offer, particularly Pompelmo Rosa (Pink Grapefruit) though my husband's favorite was a Pistacio & Pesto flavored gelato.

Being close to both Parma and San Daniele, there is no shortage of delicious prosciutto in Bologna as well as salami, speck and other cured meats. These tasty treats are my favorite choice for a starter, often served next to warm Piadina, an Italian flatbread, a rosemary infused crispy flatbread that's similar to a cracker or with Crescentina, little deep-fried parcels of pastry that are out of this world!
Charcuterie Plater for two to share
Having only ever eaten charcuterie as an accompaniment to wine or a starter before a meal, I was surprised to find that these meats are well-used throughout the day in Italy. Cured meats are offered for breakfast, lunch and dinner and one of the best ways to enjoy them is in a sandwich or on a pizza… Either in a regular sized sandwich or the smaller panino piccolo, these meats aren't just for fancy dinners and cocktail parties in Bologna… They are as regular as oxygen and delicious no matter how they're enjoyed.

Mortadella is particularly well-known in Bologna and can be found at nearly every restaurant, deli and cafe. Though it seems rather exotic, it's actually just really good bologna (said Boloney) which is something I basically grew up eating in the South. Whether you're a fan of bologna as we know it in the US or not (it's not exactly haute cuisine) it's worth trying Mortadella if you're visiting Bologna… It has a distinct flavor and texture unlike anything I've ever tasted. I also love how it's thinly sliced, almost shaved really.

Gramigna with Sausage
Gramigna is a popular pasta shape in Bologna that is typically served with a sausage ragĂș. The pasta can be either all white or mixed with green, but I couldn't tell a difference in taste between the two. I had never had or seen this pasta shape before, but I tried it on my second night and fell in love with it - I ate this regularly throughout my time in Bologna, finding differences and similarities in how it was prepared in different restaurants. Some sauces were lighter, while others featured a bit of a creaminess… Each tasting was better than the last and I found that this dish might very well be my all-time favorite.

Gramigna with Sausage
Though I brought two bags of Gramigna home with me, I set out to find it as soon as I returned to London so that I can replenish my stock when needed, but I had no luck… It seems no one here has heard of this intriguing little pasta shape. That said, one should never underestimate the internet… I've found that I can get it online via Mediterranean Direct, so I'm delighted! 

Tagliatelle Carbonara
Tagliatelle is another pasta shape that is seen on nearly every menu in Balogna. A ribbon pasta similar to Fettucine, Tagliatelle is traditionally served with Bolognese sauce however it the photo above it's served with Carbonara sauce and equally delicious.

Farfalle Bolognese with Fresh Peas
Bolognese sauce in Bologna is probably not quite what you're used to… It's a little less wet and has less of a tomato flavor than most sauces I've had in the past. The way the Bolognese make their meat sauce allows the meat's flavor to come through and really shine. It's also traditional as we were told by several waiters to throw in any vegetables that may be in season, so many places were serving Bolognese with fresh peas while I was there.

Lasagna Bolognese
Traditionally, Bolognese sauce is served with Tagliatelle, though it's possible to find it with many other pasta shapes. It seems that Lasagna Bolognese is equally popular in the city as it's found on just about every menu in town… 

Stuffed Pastas
Tortellini in Brodo
Bologna is famous for tortellini, small pasta parcels typically filled with a mix of cured meats and cheese. Everywhere you turn, there's a beautifully stocked food store selling it by the scoop like pick-a-mix sweets. The traditional way to serve tortellini in Bologna is in Brodo or in broth. It sounded weird to me, but I had to try it and I'm glad I did… It's amazing!

Tortellini in Cream Sauce with Parma Ham
Alternatively, you can opt to have tortellini with a bolognese sauce or in a cream sauce, sometimes served with ham or cured meat stirred into the sauce.

Spinach & Ricotta Tortelloni with Sage Butter Sauce
Tortelloni is basically the same thing, but larger and in my opinion, best enjoyed with a soft filling such as spinach & ricotta. Traditionally in Bologna, tortelloni is served in a sage and butter sauce and it's the perfect light accompaniment to such a rich pasta.

Tortellacci with Pistachios, Pine Nuts & Basil
Tortellacci is even bigger and as you can see from the photo, so large that you may only need 3 pieces to make a meal. Again, the filling is softer and cheese based. This particular dish was stuffed with pistachios and ricotta and served in a pistachio pesto style sauce with pine nuts sprinkled about the plate. I personally love tortellacci most when it's quite al dente… If it's too soft, it loses some of its appeal.


It's hard to find a place where you'd drink better wine than Italy where it's abundant and you can get great value for money. Lambrusco is a wine that's native to the Emilia-Romagna region where Bologna rests and it's a new favorite of mine. A fizzy, red wine that is best enjoyed chilled, Lambrusco is perfect for hot summer days when you don't fancy white or sparkling white wines. Additionally, it's traditional to have an aperitivo in Italy and the drink of choice seems to be an Aperol Spritz which is orange in flavor and refreshing in the heat. After dinner, it's traditional to have a Limoncello as a digestivo, a sweet, chilled lemon flavored liquor and it's the perfect end to a delightful meal.

Overall, I couldn't have enjoyed the food in Bologna more! Affordable and delicious, I found that I could walk in anywhere and expect and delicious meal. Typically I paid about €60 average for a two-course meal for two people including a bottle of wine, so the value is outstanding. Of course it varies by restaurant and some are much more expensive, but if you are on a budget, it's not difficult to find a meal in Bologna that you can afford and the quality at every price is outstanding. I'll definitely be trying to recreate many of the dishes I tried there over the next year and look forward to going back to Bologna in the future to feed my face my soul. 

Green Never Looked So Good

Dower & Hall 18ct Gold Vermeil Large Faceted Double Green Onyx Drop Earrings
Nothing complements a little black dress better than a pair of gorgeous green earrings… Angelina Jolie did it on the red carpet a few years ago, but we could all be doing it in our day-to-day lives. Green also looks gorgeous against an all-white ensemble, khaki, darker shades of green or navy. These Dower & Hall beauties are on my wish list… Simply gorgeous!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lobster Love

Tucker Blair Lobster Needlepoint Hat
The perfect cap for days spent sailing, shielding your face from harmful rays during clambakes or just hiding a bad hair day… Who doesn't love lobsters? 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pink Julep Weekender - June 26, 2015

Summer is officially here and there's plenty to do this weekend… If you don't have any plans, these five fabulous things should keep you occupied on your time off!

1. Stock up on reading material, get the fabulous book you've always wanted for your coffee table or start your Christmas shopping early at the Taschen Store on Kings Road - they're having an epic sale and there are some amazing bargains!

2. Try an interesting new pasta shape. If you can't find anything interesting at your local grocery store, try visiting Lina Stores or Valentina (both in London) to check out their selections or order online from Mediterranean Direct.  My favorite is my Strozzapreti With Peas & Pancetta Cream Sauce and you can get the recipe by clicking here.

3. No time for the farmers market this week? No worries… Check out Farmdrop, an online farmers market that's all about fresh, wonderful food!

4. Channel your inner Matthew McConaughey and try paddle boarding. I've been seeing loads of paddlers on the river near my home in Putney, but there are places to try it all over London via Active360.

5. Check out the RAIL pop-up shop in Marylebone, a space where clothing and art come together. Three grads who met at Edinburgh University have been working on this concept over the past three years and this is their first pop up shop in London. The shop is open from 10am to 6pm until June 30th at 4 Clifford Street, W1. Don't miss it and to keep up with these clever artists, check out RAIL on Instagram!

images via: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5