Sunday, 23 July 2017

Simple butternut squash curry...

Two words always guaranteed to put a smile on my face are ‘curry night’ and that is exactly what I was in the mood for earlier this week. I did not want to go to a restaurant and I also did not want to succumb to the idea of ordering a take away (tempting though that seemed!)
So, what is a girl to do when in the mood for a speedy and healthy curry, but to rustle one up herself? This recipe was quickly thrown together and it turned out to be very tasty and satisfying, so I thought that I would share. 

Couple of tablespoons olive oil 
One tin of reduced fat coconut milk
One red onion, diced
One butternut squash, peeled and diced 
One tin of chopped tomatoes 
One jar of Pataks tikka masala spice paste 
Couple of tablespoons tomato purée to thicken, if desired 
Red chillies, de-seeded and cut (to serve)

Firstly, dice the red onion and on a separate chopping board peel and dice the butternut squash (I like to dice the butternut squash in to quite generous chunks) then heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion until softened then add the butternut squash to the pan and fry until it is lightly browned. Next, add half a jar of the spice paste to the pan and stir well, coating all of the onion and butternut squash. Fry the spice coated vegetables for a few minutes and then add 20ml water, the tin of coconut milk and the chopped tomatoes, stirring well. Turn up the heat, so that the curry is bubbling and then stir, then turn down the heat to simmer. Cover the pan and allow the curry to simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure the butternut squash chunks have softened before serving. Top with slices of de-seeded red chilli if desired (adds a fiery kick so I recommend this only if you like spicy food!) and serve with boiled basmati rice, vegetable samosas and mango chutney or your preferred curry accompaniments!

There you have it an easy, breezy curry which is perfect for a simple supper on any night of the week. If you prefer a milder curry, swap the tikka masala spice paste for a korma version. This was so full of flavour and best of all fairly healthy too. You could also try adding garden peas, sweet potatoes or carrots - a wide variety of vegetables would work well for this curry. 

Do you like curry and will you be giving this recipe a try? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Friday, 14 July 2017

Why doing things alone is important...

Time alone is such a luxury these days, the modern world functions at such a dizzyingly fast pace and our minds are bombarded with an overload of information from morning until night. I think that doing things alone is so important, not only to switch off from the world but also in order to get to know ourselves better. I think it is vital to spend time in your own company, yet for so many of us this something which we do not always prioritise. As a writer, I probably spend too much time on my own but I still relish the confidence I have now to walk in to a restaurant or a bar alone, something which only a few years ago I would have found too daunting to even contemplate. Dining alone is now a regular occurrence for me due to my work as a food writer, but I still remember the first time I went to review a restaurant on my own and how alien it felt to sit there and eat a meal without a companion.

I am not sure why being alone or being a loner has such a negative connotation, in my opinion spending time alone is how we get to know ourselves as people and I have become increasingly independent as the years go by, choosing to spend my free time only with people who I feel enrich my life in some way. Time is precious, so why waste it after all. When I was younger, I worried about whether people liked me or whether they understood me. In other words, I was a walking mass of insecurity still very much in the duckling phase while patiently waiting to become a swan. Now, I don’t waste time obsessing over whether people like or understand me, life is frankly too short. There is a reason for the expression to ‘spend time’, after all time is a precious resource so we should choose to spend it wisely. It is funny how we grow and evolve as people as we get older and I have much more confidence now than I did in my 20’s. I love going out to eat on my own, in fact as I write this I am sitting in one of my favourite places to dine solo, Brasco Lounge in Liverpool which is a lovely spot for brunch, lunch or dinner. The quirky cool interior includes details of brightly coloured furniture, a mix of vintage and industrial style light fixtures, polished wooden floors and walls lined with an eclectic mixture of art and mirrors. I collect my thoughts and find inspiration for the working day when I go out for breakfast on my own, it is that time of day when the hours ahead stretch out like a blank canvas full of promise and possibility. Although it sounds like a cliché, anything really is possible and I never thought I would be sitting here having just been on two work trips to Prague and Kenya, trips which have changed me forever because I had such incredible experiences.

Anyway, suffice to say I have really enjoyed my breakfast date with myself today and now I am full of delicious fuel for the day ahead. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and this is without doubt one of those places which gets it right every time. I had the veggie breakfast at Brasco Lounge, homemade veggie sausages, hash browns, baked beans, spinach, wood roasted pepper, fried egg and toast. The breakfast usually comes with slow-roasted tomato and sautéed mushrooms too, but I left those out.

The portion size was generous and everything was perfectly cooked and well-presented. The good food, reasonable prices and friendly service keep me coming back here for more. Full marks too, for a place which has a vegetarian full English style breakfast on the menu, something I love to see.

There is a great range of brunch options, sandwiches, salads, burgers, tapas and main courses on the menu as well as a children’s menu and I highly recommend paying it a visit when you are in Liverpool.

Brasco Lounge 
27a Mann Island Buildings, 
Liverpool Waterfront
L3 1BP

What do you all think, do you like doing things alone and do you like dining out alone? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post. 

Until next time,



Sunday, 9 July 2017

Speedy caramelised onion and halloumi tart

I don’t know about you, but by the time the weekend rolls around, the last thing I feel like doing is spending hours in the kitchen, so I love recipes which allow you to make a tasty supper with minimal fuss and effort. This week I want to share with you a recipe which is ideal for the summer months, my speedy caramelised onion and halloumi tart which is adapted from a recipe my Mum has made for years. 
Pastry is something I love eating but this recipe makes life easier by relying on pre-made pastry, which is found in the chilled section at most supermarkets. Don’t get me wrong, when time allows I love making my own pastry, but for sheer speed and reliability this recipe looks and tastes amazing. 

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp demerara sugar
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp tomato passata 
2 tbsp tomato purée
375g (12 1/2 oz) puff pastry
225g (about 8oz) halloumi cheese, sliced 
5-6 tbsp good quality mature cheddar, grated 
sprinkle of dried Italian herbs

In a non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and sprinkle the demerara sugar and Balsamic vinegar over the top. Allow the onions to cook until softened and browned, stirring frequently, then remove from heat and set aside. Do not fry the onions until crispy, as you are aiming to retain a soft texture. Roll out the pastry on to an oven tray, so that you have a rectangular pastry base for the tart. In a bowl, mix the tomato passata and purée together. Spread the tomato base mix over the pastry, leaving a 5cm border around the edges. Next, spread the caramelised onions on top. Sprinkle the cheddar, halloumi and herbs on top of the onions and add some dried Italian herbs to season. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C, fan 180°C and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is browned at the edges and the halloumi cheese looks golden. Use the below pictures as a guide for when the savoury tart is ready. 

This makes the most effortless evening meal and I love to serve it with a simple side salad and a good bottle of chilled white wine. The Mediterranean flavours work so well together and they are sure to bring sunshine to the plate at any time of the year. This could also be served as an extra dish at barbecues or sliced up to share at a drinks party. It can be served cold too, simply allow to cool after baking and store in the fridge. 

The sweetness and tang of the caramelised onions adds to the enjoyment of this savoury tart and you can also add a range of your preferred toppings to give the recipe your own twist; try switching halloumi for mozzarella or smoked cheddar and add cooked meats or tuna, sundried tomatoes or olives...the list really is endless if you feel like creating a different version of this or if you want to adapt it to suit the preferences of your dinner guests. 

If you like spicy food, try adding a pinch of chilli powder or chilli flakes to the tomato base sauce, or drizzle the tart with a fiery chilli oil when it is ready.

So, there you have it. An easy, tasty dish which has the wow factor without taking too much time to prepare, I just can't resist this and the only trouble is I find that my guests always want seconds when I serve this at dinner parties. 

The beauty of the savoury tart is that it makes a striking dish on its own, so you don't need to go to the trouble of making complicated side dishes, the flavours speak for themselves so a simple salad, new potatoes or a dish of cous cous make this in to a substantial meal. Just keep the chilled drinks flowing and you have a summer party dish to remember here! 

Do you have any recipes which you always rely on for an easy meal and would you like to try making this savoury tart? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Monday, 3 July 2017

Summer showcase at Australasia...

You may be wondering where I have been; it has been a couple of weeks since I have updated the blog and the reason is I have just been away in Kenya for a week on a work trip. I had an amazing time and I will never forget exploring such a beautiful country. I got back last Tuesday and on Wednesday I had the perfect excuse to dress up and go out, when I was invited to the Australasia summer showcase in Manchester. 

Australasia is a stylish bar and restaurant inspired by modern Australian influences combined with flavours from the Pacific Rim and we sipped cocktails and enjoyed delicious tasters from the new menu as a DJ played a mix of tunes on the terrace. 

Even though the weather outside was rainy, the showcase made sure that summer vibes were flowing as we chatted and soaked up the atmosphere. 

After a while we moved from the terrace to the bar area, where we sampled a range of summer cocktails, such as The Rattlesnake which had a tropical flavour. 

So that is a short but sweet update from me, I hope you are all having a lovely summer so far, have you been to any summer parties lately? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Go Outdoors Camping Cookbook...

The recent sunshine is the perfect reason to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, so it is perhaps good timing for me to share with you that I recently had a recipe published in the latest Go Outdoors Camping Cookbook (volume 2).

You can download the e-book of the Go Outdoors 2017 cookbook here:

I am so pleased to be a part of the cookbook, which contains some delicious recipes which are ideal for camping. The recipe I shared is simple to make and these fluffy banana pancakes with honey drenched berries make a tasty brunch or dessert. A big stack of these pancakes is a real treat on a camping trip, and they do not require much preparation. 

If you visit the Go Outdoors website, you will also find last year's cookbook, which is filled with tempting camping recipes. In my opinion food always tastes better when eaten outdoors and the latest recipe book is full of meal inspiration for your summer camping trips.

Do you have any travel plans this summer? So far I have a work trip to Kenya planned, in fact I fly out today which is very exciting. I love going camping too and one of my favourite places to go camping is Anglesey in Wales because the mountains, beaches and forests make the scenery there incredible. 
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and I find that these pancakes are so filling which makes them a good choice if you have a long day of activities planned, as they keep hunger at bay for quite some time. Also, they are very photogenic which is sure to appeal if you enjoy taking pictures of food as much as I do. For an extra touch of elegance, serving these on pretty plates with wildflowers scattered on the table looks very impressive, without making too much effort. 

I would love you to check out my recipe in the Go Outdoors Camping Cookbook, I was so pleased to be a part of the book, thank you to Go Outdoors. As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post. 

Until next time, 



Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Lunch at The Bluecoat Bistro...

The Bluecoat in Liverpool is such a great place to spend a couple of hours in the city; it is a centre for contemporary arts which is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Liverpool which dates from the early 18th century. I often go to the downstairs café bar for a coffee and I have been meaning to try The Bistro for quite some time, so I was pleased to have an invitation to review it this week. The Bistro has recently introduced a new menu, which offers a wealth of seasonal choices, making it the perfect place for lunch in the city.

The architecture of The Bluecoat is impressive, it has an imposing grandeur which is immediately striking. The Bistro is reached by a wooden staircase, flanked by a wall filled with colourful prints which create an air of cheery style.

The Bistro space is bright and airy, with a long bar area, windows overlooking the courtyard and tables adorned with freshly cut flowers.

I opted for a classic starter of fried calamari with lemon mayo and chorizo oil, which was served in a generous portion. The light, golden batter was delicately seasoned and the zesty lemon mayo perfectly complemented the succulent calamari.

I sipped a glass of white wine as I watched the world go by outside; the team frequently came over to chat and they were so friendly and attentive. For the main course, I was undecided between delectable options such as linguine of butternut squash, risotto of smoked haddock and soft shell crab burger with spicy mayo and sweet potato fries. It was a sunny afternoon, so I decided on a light dish to reflect the weather, the frittata of summer greens with yoghurt and mint. The frittata was springy and tasty, served with a tempting array of green vegetables including tenderstem broccoli and asparagus, while the mint yoghurt added refreshing flavour which offset the frittata well.

I did not have quite enough room left for dessert, but I was sorry to miss out on such delights as individual raspberry trifle, caramelised apple tart and British cheese plate. Next time I will definitely be sampling the desserts!

The Bluecoat 
School Ln, 
L1 3BX

What do you all think, do you like the sound of a Bistro within an art gallery and which of the dishes would you like to try? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Monday, 5 June 2017

20th anniversary dinner at Carden Park Hotel...

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a very special dinner to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Carden Park Hotel in Cheshire. The luxurious hotel and spa lies surrounded by rolling countryside and we were welcomed for drinks on the sunny outdoor terrace, where we enjoyed Carden Old Gold, the sparkling wine which is made by the hotel at their own vineyard. A pianist played as we took our seats for dinner in the elegant dining room and we sipped Domaine de la Baume 2015 Merlot to start the evening. Executive head chef Graham Tinsley MBE has cooked for royalty and dignitaries and he had prepared a special three course menu for the evening, inspired by dishes which featured on the à la carte menu when the hotel first opened twenty years ago. He took the floor to talk us through the menu and it was clear that a lot of thought had gone in to the dishes. 

You cannot beat a classic prawn cocktail, and his take on the dish was a contemporary version of this well-loved favourite, which consisted of king prawns, cos lettuce, marinated cherry tomatoes and tomato sorbet. The striking presentation of the dish was matched by fresh and summery flavours from the juicy king prawns, while the cherry tomatoes and the tomato sorbet added tangy and refreshing elements. 

For the main course we moved on to perfectly cooked roasted beef fillet with sticky beef cheek, onion flavours, smoked mash & onion sauce. The creamy smoked mash and the subtle onion sauce worked well with the succulent beef and this was a superb main course, with well-matched flavours. I loved the crispy onions which adorned the centre of the plate; they added texture and irresistible sweetness. 

The finale was of the meal was equally spectacular, with a new take on the retro dessert Black Forest gateaux with duo of chocolate mousse, vanilla sponge, griottine rolled in chocolate soil and cherry ice cream. I love desserts which are not overly sweet and this one was delicate, with feather light sponge and griottine and cherry ice cream which added just the right amount of indulgence. 

There were further speeches from Graham Tinsley MBE and Carden Park General Manager Paul Bayliss MBE as we had coffee to round off the evening. This was a fitting twentieth anniversary celebration for this refined hotel and I wish the Carden Park team all the best for the future. Graham Tinsley showed off his culinary prowess with his impressive menu and and it was a lovely evening. 

What do you all think, do you like the sound of new versions of classics and which of these dishes would you like to try? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post. 

Until next time,