Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter Warmer - Beef Broth With Brandy


A couple of years ago I went on a ski trip to St. Moritz, Switzerland. As it turned out, I enjoyed the snow and the gorgeous food more than the skiing - not surprising really. One particular dish I had really stuck with me. We went to a lovely restaurant for dinner one evening called The Alpenrose in Sils-Maria, a lovely little village in the Engadin Valley. For a starter I ordered a soup - I forget what they called it, but I had the opportunity to ask the chef about it and basically it was a beef broth with brandy. It was the most comforting, delicious thing I've ever tasted and it really stuck with me. So I've set out to recreate it and though it wasn't exactly as I remember it, it was delicious. It's also insanely easy to put together and though not really right for a full meal, it's the perfect snack or starter during the colder months.

For this I used stock cubes - I'm sure the chef wouldn't approve, but the thought of trying to make beef broth from scratch on top of a dinner seems daunting. I found that this worked just fine, though if you were so inclined, it would probably be better with beef stock made from scratch. Either way, this is the perfect thing to enjoy on a cold day by the fire, especially if it's snowing… Snow always makes soup taste better, doesn't it?

Ingredients
Approximately 1 cup of beef broth per person (Homemade, stock cube or store bought will work.)
20ml brandy per person

Method
1. Heat the broth until it's piping hot, boiling even, but don't reduce it too much.

2. Serve in a heated bowl with 20ml (about 1/2 of a shot glass) of brandy on the side to pour in as desired.

That's it… Simple as that, but incredibly delicious. It's funny how the simplest things stick with you sometimes and whenever I eat this, I'm instantly transported to the Engadin Valley, one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Enjoy and stay warm!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stocking Stuffers for Foodies


For some reason, I usually look forward to my stocking a little bit more than the other presents… I guess I just like little gifts because there's such a variety of amusement that can come from a well-stuffed stocking. This year I'm hoping to get a few foodie goodies in my sock and I'd be more than happy with any of the above!

What are you hoping to find in your stocking this year?

Saving Face With Rodan + Fields Enhancements Micro-Dermabrasion Paste


I have the weirdest skin… It's sensitive in one respect in that I often get breakouts from products, but not at all sensitive in the way that it needs serious sand blaster levels of exfoliation on a regular basis. I blame the weather here in the UK because when I lived in a tropical climate, I had completely opposite skin traits. 

I had the opportunity to try out the Rodan + Fields Enhancement Micro-Dermabrasion Paste and it's been working wonders on my skin. Let me first say, this product doesn't mess around… It means business! It's not recommended for sensitive skin, however I've had no problems using it at all.

The knack to the Enhancements Micro-Dermabrasion Paste is in the application. It's recommended to apply the paste directly to dry skin and massage in circular motions for 60 seconds followed by rinsing with water. For a gentler approach, the product can be applied to damp skin. I've tried the product both ways and found different results. Applying the product to dry skin meant I had to scrub very gently to avoid irritation and I had very smooth results, however when I applied it to damp skin I was able to scrub a bit more rigorously and got even smoother results. I prefer applying the micro-dermabrasion paste to damp skin and I'm very pleased with fresh, smooth skin that lasts for days afterwards. I like to follow up with a serum and moisturizer to keep my skin from getting too dry.

I definitely recommend Rodan + Fields Enhancements Micro-Dermabrasion Paste for anyone who has regularly dry, flaky skin and wants a smooth, glowing complexion. This product is saving my face this winter!

Rodan + Fields Enhancements Micro-Dermabrasion Paste retails for $78 and is available online via Rodan + Fields.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ski Jumpers to Celebrate 150 Years of Winter Tourism


For those of you not living in the UK, you may or may not be aware that here in Britain sweaters are referred to as jumpers so therefore I couldn't resist a Ski Jumpers post - it was just a little too perfect. I'm totally loving all the ski motifs I'm seeing on knitwear this year… It's a little kitschy, a little festive and perhaps a bit tacky, but life is too short to be safe with one's knitwear all the time. Being the 150th Anniversary of Winter Tourism in the place where ski holidays were born St. Moritz, these ski jumpers are all too appropriate for celebrating the idyllic & snowy cold-weather vacations!


As the story goes, a hotelier in the Engadin Valley in 1864 invited a group of summer guests at his hotel from England to make a bet with him in hopes of increasing his business through the off-season. He told his UK visitors that Engadin was much nicer in winter than England with it's damp, rainy cold and that they should visit to experience it first-hand. The hotelier offered to pay for their travel if they weren't satisfied to make the bet interesting. The Englishmen took the bate and visited, enjoying their stay and becoming the first winter tourists in the Alps and therefore basically inventing the ski season as we know it today. I always find that story so charming and I bet those Englishmen would like these jumpers celebrating what they helped to create! 

heidi klein St. Christopher Wrap Bracelet


Known as the perfect destination for holiday style, heidi klein embraced St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers for this gorgeous new bracelet. While I'd feel chic wearing this bracelet with sundresses on the beach, I'm also loving it for everyday wear and I recently sported it while decorating my Christmas tree. It's a lovely alternative to my usual arm candy and it's long enough to wear as a necklace should one dare to be versatile. The beautiful gold St. Christopher's medal is accompanied by a tiny heidi klein charm, both presented on a gorgeous 100% rayon wrap. 


Available in 6 lovely colors, the St. Christopher Wrap Bracelet is just £16, making it the perfect gift or stocking stuffer for the jet setters on your Christmas shopping list! Which colour would you choose?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Cosmo


I was actually trying to create a recipe for a cranberry martini, but what I ended up with was something that tasted ever so slightly more Christmasy than a Cosmo… I don't know about you, but I often find that Rosemary smells like Christmas trees. So, here you have it - the Christmas Cosmo - cheers!

Ingredients

40 ml Tanqueray
40 ml Cointreau
80 ml cranberry juice
Rosemary


Method

Chill a martini glass by filling it with ice and water while you work on the cocktail. Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker over ice and shake. Empty the chilled martini glass and strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish with a sprig of Rosemary. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Beanie Babe

1. Topshop / 2. Radley / 3. Eugenia Kim
4. Missoni / 5. Lanvin

These aren't your grandma's beanies… They're chic, warm and perfect for making the best of the hat hair you're sure to have this time of year! If you're like me, you can never have too many beanie options and they're always welcome underneath the Christmas tree. These are my picks for the best winter hats this season in a range of price points. Which one is your favorite?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Worcestershire Lamb Meatballs With Peas & Corn


I never liked lamb much until I started cooking it myself and I discovered that unfortunately, there's a lot of bad lamb out there… Some restaurants just don't do it justice. One of my new favorite discoveries is minced lamb. It's not as expensive as other cuts of lamb and it offers a sort of versatility, not to mention incredible flavor for things like sauces and meatballs.

Lamb goes beautifully with Worcestershire Sauce and frankly, I LOVE a bit of Lea & Perrins. I suspect most people will either love this recipe or totally hate it. There's quite a lot of Worcestershire Sauce in this recipe, so if you're not a fan, you might like to move on to the next post. If you're also a fan, then enjoy!

Ingredients
500g minced lamb
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon dried mint
5 tablespoons semolina
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup frozen petit pois or peas cooked to packet instructions
1 cup frozen corn cooked to packet instructions
2 cups white rice cooked to packet instructions
1 tablespoon butter
Worcestershire Sauce

Method

  1. Warm the 2 tablespoons garlic oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the shallots. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or so until they start to soften up.
  2. In a bowl, combine the lamb and the hot oil & shallots with a wooden spoon so you don't burn your hands. This should cool down the oil so you don't scramble the egg later.
  3. Add all of the spices, salt, egg and semolina to the meat. Mix everything together until combined. Cover with cling film and put in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes or so.
  4. Cover a baking sheet with cling film and remove the meat mixture from the refrigerator.
  5. Roll the meatballs very small, about 1/2 the size of a golf ball and place them on the cling film covered baking sheet. 
  6. When the meatballs are all prepared, heat the vegetable oil in the non-stick frying pan you used to cook the chopped shallot. You want the oil to be about 1/2 an inch high in the pan.
  7. Fry the meatballs in batches for about 2 minutes per side or until browned on the outside and fully cooked all the way through. As they're done, rest them on paper towels to drain some of the oil.
  8. Before serving, warm up the corn and peas with the tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce.
  9. To serve, prepare a bed of white rice on a plate or in a bowl. Layer the vegetables on top of the rice and the meatballs on top of the vegetables. Give a final generous drizzle of Worcestershire Sauce over the whole dish.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cushion Cool


I recently stumbled across Avalo Home and I found myself quite taken with their range of cushions. At just £45 each, Avalo does adorably current cushion designs at a fraction of the price of similar styles available by other homeware designers. I don't know about you, but I generally think twice about spending too much on something that's likely to have coffee spilled on it before the investment has time to be worth it… Just being practical.

With a mix of classic and quirky designs, Avalo Home also makes children's cushions and floor cushions for both children and adults. The cushions above are my favorites and I'm pretty partial to the Elephant Migration pattern, but all of them are fabulous. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Risotto With Nettles: A Memoir With Food by Anna Del Conte


Anna Del Conte is a name that comes up from time to time if you're a foodie, like to read about food or consider yourself a fan of one of her biggest champions, Nigella Lawson. If you've never heard of her before, you're in for a treat. She's pretty amazing!

Anna Del Conte was born and raised in Italy. She started life in a well-to-do Milanese family, yet as with many in her generation, ended up in quite different circumstances during and after WWII. Finding herself in a much different Italy after the war, she decided to get a fresh start here in England, where she still lives. In fact, for much of her life, Anna Del Conte lived in Barnes, just a stone's throw away from where I live now.

This may not all sound so exciting, but what's missing from the above description is Del Conte's contribution to British culture - she was incredibly influential in bringing good Italian food to the UK. It's hard to imagine a Western country without Italian food and restaurants, but sure enough they weren't always the norm here. Not only did Anna Del Conte write her own cookery books, but she wrote for Sainsbury's Magazine, developed recipes for other companies and did food demonstrations.

Risotto With Nettles is different to any memoir or autobiography I've ever read, primarily because it pairs memories with recipes, involving all the senses should you wish to cook as you read. Anna Del Conte's memories are charming and intriguing, from her childhood Christmases to life during the war with Mussolini in power and living as an Italian expat in London. Reading this book is like listening to your granny tell stories… It wraps you up, draws you in and this case, it quite literally feeds you.

This isn't really a spoiler, but my favorite part of the book comes towards the end when Del Conte shares several stories of her culinary mishaps, reminding us that even the best cooks sometimes make epic mistakes. That said, I'm amazed by Anna's memories of creating delicious, rewarding, enjoyable meals during the leanest times of her life with ingredients being few and far between. It's inspirational how she and her family didn't only make do, but savored even when times were tough.

Like some of my other kitchen heroes, Anna Del Conte didn't start out as a food professional. She always cooked and always ate, but her foray into cookbook writing could be described I suppose as an accident. She was also a wife, a mother and for years had a completely different career. Del Conte reminds us that if we're lucky enough to live a long time, there's no end to what we can accomplish if we put our minds to it.

I highly recommend Risotto With Nettles. It's heart-warming, informative, interesting and full of deliciously tempting Italian food recipes. If you're looking for a great read to enjoy during your holiday time off, this is it… Cook and read. Read and cook. Don't cook the recipes at all if you don't want to - just put your feed up and enjoy reading about the fascinating life of one of Britain's most treasured foodies.