Saturday 29 July 2017

Celebrating my birthday...

Time flies when you are having fun, or so the saying goes. I have been having fun over the past year, so that probably explains why it seems to have flown by so quickly. Work has been hectic and exciting, there have been a few major milestones in my career and suddenly here I find myself in my 36th year!
I wanted a quiet birthday celebration, so we booked a table at Fox, a restaurant I really like in Cheshire. I started the evening with a Spitfire gin with Fever Tree elderflower tonic and grapefruit zest, from their impressive gin menu. It was a refreshing gin and tonic, ideal for such a warm evening and the elderflower tonic added a floral flavour tothis classic drink. I am sure that calories do not count on your birthday weekend, so we started the evening with a garlic bread with cheese! Fox has a wood fired oven and their pizzas and garlic breads taste so good, with a slightly smoky flavour and a bubbly sourdough crust.

After the indulgent garlic bread, I continued the theme by ordering a margherita pizza, the beloved Napoli pizza is one of my favourites and the beauty of the simple flavours relies on great ingredients. The toppings of San Marzano tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella worked so well together and I loved every bite. Pizza with a gin and tonic is a good combination! 

My partner went for a calabrese pizza, topped with 'Nduya sausage, Calabrian sliced spicy sausage, buffalo mozzarella, tomato and oregano. We also shared some skinny chips and triple cooked I said indulgence was the order of the day! 

Time for dessert and I decided not to order one, but I did sample a bite of my partner's choice of lemon tart with mascarpone which was zesty and not too sweet, the ideal way to round off such a satisfying meal. 

For my dessert I thought I would sample another selection from the gin menu! I chose The Botanist Gin with Fever Tree tonic water, pink peppercorns and orange zest. 

It was another lovely meal at Fox and the perfect way to start my birthday weekend. I always love to go out for a meal to celebrate a special occasion

The Square
Hale road
Hale Barns
WA15 8ZN

How do you like to celebrate your birthday and which of these dishes catches your eye? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



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,