Tuesday, August 30, 2016

That Gorgeous Gap Top For AW16

Gap Paisley Ruffle Blouse in Navy Print - £24.95
I recently walked into my local Gap and fell in love with a top that's just rolled out for AW16. A gorgeous print in navy blue with little pops of mustard yellow, an interesting shape and a flowy silhouette... It might as well have had my name on it. At only £24.95, it's a bargain and I can already pretty much guess it's going to be one of my favorites as we approach a new season. Have you found any amazing new pieces worth sharing for Fall? I'd love to hear about what you're snapping up on your shopping trips, so feel free to leave a comment below and fill me in on your fab finds!

 Top: Gap / Cardigan: Gap (old) / Jeans: Gap (old) / Sunglasses: Maui Jim (similar here)
Ring: Accessorize / Watch: Timex / Clutch: Aurora London / Boots: Jigsaw (old)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Penne in Creamy Tomato & Vodka Sauce

Liquida Frying Pan (c/o TVS)
This is one of my all time favorite pasta dishes. I remember the first time I had it when I was at University of Miami and I went out with some friends for dinner. Someone ordered it and I thought it sounded so odd, but then when I had a taste I was instantly hooked and went back to the same restaurant the following week to have it myself. In all fairness, I don't think the version I had then was the best, but I remember how it tasted so new and different to me. I also remember that it was really pink and since I've started making various incarnations of this dish, I've never once had it turn out pink, but always a rich sort of orangey red color. I've made version after version of this pasta, but I've finally nailed down all the components for my favorite rendition of this Italian classic. What's better is that it's so easy to make, doesn't take very long and can be whipped up with ingredients you may very well already have in your kitchen or can at least get quite easily.

Corelle Swept Dinner Plate (c/o World Kitchen)
Some versions use onions, but I find that shallots are really the way to go. The taste isn't all that different, but they cook faster and to me, there's no better smell than shallots cooking in butter! Also, while some would insist on using prosciutto which is totally delicious as well, I find that it's more convenient to use regular ham and in fact, I typically use a pack of not-too-thickly sliced, but sturdy honey ham that I would normally use for sandwiches as I find the texture is a nice contrast to the pasta and the creamy sauce. You do, of course want the best quality ham you can find as it will make all the difference. Finally, I like to use passata, but you can of course use a tin of chopped tomatoes in their juices for a chunkier sauce. I'm not a big fan of chunky, so I tend to stick with the passata, but to each their own.

In terms of equipment, you'll need a large pot for the pasta and a large frying pan for the sauce. I took this opportunity to use the Liquida Frying Pan by TVS which is just as great to use as it is pretty to look at! It helps that it's big enough to fit all the pasta in and looks gorgeous, so I simply take this dish from stovetop to tabletop and the presentation is lovely. 

For serving, I prefer a red sauce pasta dish either in a pasta bowl of some description or on a beautiful white plate with a designed rim that's also either white or metallic - I don't like colors on plates to interfere with the vibrance of some foods, particularly with a red sauce. That said, it can be beautiful if the pasta is nicely framed when serving, especially if you're entertaining guests. For this recipe, I used the Corelle Swept Dinner Plate which is inexpensive, beautiful and has a bit of an indentation in the center that helps as a guide for portion size. 

300g of penne pasta
50g butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
500g passata
100g sliced honey ham, chopped
100ml vodka
200ml double cream
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & black pepper to taste
Drop of olive oil for the pasta water

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and a drop of olive oil and cook the pasta until soft, but slightly al dente. Strain the pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta cooking liquid on the side and set it aside in the pot with the lid on to keep it warm until you've finished the sauce.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the chopped shallot and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 to 7 minutes or until soft. Then add the dried herbs and the garlic and cook stirring for another minute or two until the garlic is soft as well, taking care not to burn the mixture.

3. Add the passata and chopped ham and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4. Add the vodka and simmer for another 5 minutes.

5. Add the cream and 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese, stir and let it simmer away until the sauce gets a little thicker, continuing to stir occasionally. This should take another 5 minutes or so.

6. Reduce the heat to low and add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to make sure every piece is completely coated with the sauce. Salt to taste, keeping in mind that the Parmesan cheese will be quite salty. If the sauce is a little too dry or thick, add a some of the pasta cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time until you are able to coat every piece of pasta. Finish with a good grinding of fresh black pepper and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese to serve.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Quick & Easy White Chocolate Croissants With Salted Caramel Dipping Sauce

Monsoon Kyoto Turquoise Salad Plate / Monsoon Kyoto Set of 3 Dipping Bowls
Monsoon Kyoto Large Oval PlatterMonsoon Kyoto Blue Round Placemats x 4
(all c/o Monsoon Home Collection by Denby)
The idea for this recipe came from two different sources really... Firstly, I love chocolate croissants, but my husband isn't such a fan of chocolate, so he'll never eat them with me. He does however eat white chocolate, so a lightbulb went off in my head one day when I realized that I couldn't recall ever seeing a white chocolate croissant. I'm not saying they don't exist... I'm simply saying they're not common enough for me to have ever seen them either online or in a bakery. With this in mind, I set out to make a quick & easy cheater's version, quite frankly because I don't have the patience or the skills to make real croissants from scratch. 

The idea for the dipping sauce had a much different inspiration. Quite frankly, I got some new dipping bowls from the Monsoon by Denby Kyoto Collection and I couldn't wait to use them. Infused with painterly patterns in soft watercolours that complement the fine cream china, these asian-inspired dishes are just beautiful and there are pieces to suit any style of dining, whether formal or informal. I personally love this pattern for tea or brunch... It's so soft and feminine, perfect for entertaining the girls or adding a pop of gorgeous pastel colours to the table! When trying to find a sauce as an excuse to put these pieces to use, I reasoned that the sweetness of white chocolate, the buttery pastry and the salty caramel would work nicely together. I was right... This is a breakfast worthy of Christmas morning in my opinion. It's so sinfully delicious and decadent!

While my intention for this recipe was originally for a breakfast or brunch treat along the lines of cinnamon rolls or pancakes, I wouldn't be offended if I were served this as a dessert. It's rich, satisfying and warm. Pair it with a hot cup of coffee and it's heaven. I would even consider this as a little Autumn evening treat, perhaps after Bonfire Night Fireworks or on Halloween. It doesn't hurt that it takes almost no time and very little effort to make. You can have this on the table quite quickly and of course the dipping sauce is totally optional. The croissants are quite lovely on their own. If you do opt to make the sauce, it's lovely on the side for dipping, but it works drizzled over the croissants as well.


For the croissants...
1 Jus-Rol Puff Pastry Sheet (or 320g prepared puff pastry rolled out into a flat rectangle)
100g white chocolate bar (I like the Lindt Lindor White Bar)
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the sauce...
50g unsalted butter
50g dark brown sugar
100ml double cream
50ml milk
Sea salt flakes to taste

1. Preheat the oven 200° C and prepare a baking sheet by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Unroll the pastry on top of a cutting board, leaving it on its white paper lining. Cut the pastry in half lengthwise using a sharp knife and then do the same across the width. Slice the pastry again from corner to corner until you have 8 triangles. 

3. Chop the white chocolate bar into 8 pieces, keeping them as even as possible. If the pieces are too big, you might what to then chop each piece in half so they're easier to work with when you stuff the pastry.

4. Peel off a piece of pastry and place a piece of white chocolate at the fat end of the doughy triangle. Tuck in the sides and then roll until you have a sort of crescent roll shape and place it with the triangular tip on top on the baking sheet. Repeat this until you have 8 rolls, spaced out evenly on your baking sheet.

5. Brush each roll with the beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown. 

6. While the pastries are baking, you can get on with making the sauce. In a medium saucepan or frying pan, melt the butter and dark brown sugar, stirring together gently with a wire whisk until you have a dark syrup, getting out as many of the lumps as possible.

7. While still stirring, gradually pour in the double cream and continue to stir gently with the wire whisk until it's all combined. Do the same process with the milk. 

8. Let the sauce bubble on the heat for about a minute, being careful not to burn and add a pinch of salt, stirring one last time. Remove from the heat to a dipping bowl or pouring jug and sprinkle with another pinch of sea salt flakes.

9. Serve both the croissants and the sauce warm.

For more information on the Monsoon Home Collection by Denby and the Kyoto pieces pictured above or to buy, visit Denby.co.uk