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RAMBLINGS: Who says romance is dead? Parents everywhere.

Who says romance is dead? Parents everywhere.

Facebook tells me that five years ago today me and Mr Husband were lying in the garden by candlelight after our first BBQ of the year. The comment from a friend: “You two are so romantic”.

Well what a difference 5 years and 2 children makes.

We might struggle to lie down in the garden now without fishing numerous plastic toys out from underneath us which have been swallowed up by the grass we don’t have time to cut. And of course the small thicket of sticks that the little man finds necessary for, it seems, everything.

As for candlelight, that is strictly reserved for dinner parties. Although even Mr Husband recently asked why I was bothering with them. The virtues of soft lighting not on his radar apparently. Lucky for me the other husbands both happily piped up with “oh I like a candle” (thanks boys, you know who you are), so I got my way. Until one of them burnt a little too fiercely and we had to repaint a wall. It’s all fun and ambient lighting until the house burns down.

And the BBQ? Let’s just say nibbling on a burnt sausage isn’t a big priority right now.

Truth be told I’m not sure we’ve ever been a very romantic couple. Some highlights might be when I had to ask him to propose again because he wasn’t actually looking at me the first time. Or on date 3 when he arrived with a bit of a beard (as opposed to the healthy stubble I’d seen previously), I announced that it suited him because “it covered up some of his massive face”.

Love is most readily shown at the moment by agreeing to change 3 pooey nappies in a row, even when it’s definitely not your turn. Lovely, but not very romantic. But then how much romance do two tired parents need? I’m absolutely delighted when Mr Husband comes home with a cheeky Boost in his pocket for me. Dozens of red roses it isn’t, but it’s enough.

We could whisper sweet nothings into one another’s ears in the evenings I suppose, but we have a TV in our bedroom and a joint crush on Jed Bartlett. And then there’s the matter of the other woman. The small one with the dirty laugh who won’t sleep anywhere but in between us.

The definition of romance, google tells me, is ‘a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love’. I’m not sure how excited you’re supposed to be able to get on 5 hours of broken sleep, but I’ll settle at not very. And as for mystery, 2 childbirths later and an ability to pick each others farts out of a line-up and I think the mystery has probably got up and left. So, excitement: knackered. Mystery: long gone.

But look what they’ve left behind. Two gorgeous children and the wonderful man with a massive face I couldn’t be without.

As for romance? Mine’s a Boost.

 

For more from forkinglovely:

Instagram: @forkinglovely

Twitter: @cpickworth

 

 

Review: Pop Brixton

Nights out as a couple are rather rare these days when you factor in the noisy toddler, the bottle refusing baby and fairly epic levels of general tiredness. But when a friend’s birthday plans were cancelled last minute we found ourselves with a Friday night babysitter and nowhere to go. This could mean one thing only: DATE NIGHT.

My priority was alcohol. Lots of it. The husband’s was being able to sit down. If we were to step away from the comfort and convenience of a full wine fridge, a 9pm bedtime and several episodes of the West Wing we needed to be inspired.

After much debate and googling of options we decided on a rather reckless approach of heading to Pop Brixton and seeing what happened, with an aim to try Kricket (for the sitting down bit) if we could get a table. These crazy levels of spontaneity meant a smear of red lipstick later and I was running out of the house still wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and a teething necklace. It felt like one of those unexpected drunken student nights out when you go to the bar in a jumper and roll in 2 days later wearing someone else’s clothes. We were thirsty, we were out of the house, Pop Brixton needed to deliver.

On arrival the place hummed with promise. A good scattering of happy customers, but short to no queues and plenty of food and drink options to whet appetites and whistles, from Baba G’s Bhangra Burgers to Made of Dough pizzas and more.

There was a bit of a wait for a table at Kricket so we put our names on the list and sought out drinks. I had a couple of lovely Sav blancs from The New Zealand Wine Cellar, and the husband went for a nicely hoppy Brixton APA from the Brixton Port Authority. I grabbed us some pork gyoza from Koi Ramen for some stomach lining, and at £2.50 for 3 (or £4.50 for 6) I could have eaten a dozen. I’m a bit of a gyoza fanatic and these were more than up to scratch.

Gyoza, Koi Ramen

Gyoza from Koi Ramen

Before we knew it Kricket was calling and we headed to their little space on the upper level. A handful of diners share two long tables and we’d not been sat for more than a minute before our neighbours were giving us all their dish recommendations, which was basically everything. The concept is Indian tapas, so we chose 5 plates from the small menu. We started with Samphire Pakoras with chilli garlic mayonnaise and date and tamarind chutney. Crispy, salty and very moreish, they were the perfect texture opposite the second arrival of Grilled Sweet Potato which was soft and creamy and smothered in cooling labneh. Then came Venison Rump with pumpkin pickle, burnt onion raita, jerusalem artichoke and morels which was exquisite, the meat incredibly tender and the accompaniments so good we actually had to mop up the remains with fingers to get every last smudge of flavour. Keralan Fried Chicken was next, nothing not to like here, and then a comforting Kichri – smoked haddock, yellow moong dal, pickled cauliflower and a raw egg yolk, which, when mixed through added another layer of warmth and richness. All this washed down with a couple of pale ales (him) and lagers (me), and for less than £60.

Keralan Fried Chicken, Kricket.JPG

Keralan Fried Chicken, Kricket

Venison Rump with pumpkin pickle, burnt onion raita, jerusalem artichoke and morels, Kricket

Venison rump with pumpkin pickle, burnt onion raita, jerusalem artichoke and morels, Kricket

In the spirit of our Pop Brixton outing we decided to head back downstairs to the open space for afters where the funky brass band were now playing. Some lovely gins for me and Peckham Pilsners for the husband, and for something sweet we indulged in crepes from L’Amuse Bouche for a bargainous £3.50 each. I opted for Nutella, which was lovely, but the husband made the better choice of Salted Butter and Caramel which was phenomenal and what I urge you to plump for.

We wobbled home full, drunk, and very pleased to have opted for something more exciting than just the local pub.

Yes it’s a little bit chilly, yes you have to stand up at times, and yes you have to wee in a shipping container, but hey, it’s not just dinner, it’s an adventure.

http://www.popbrixton.org/

Originally published at Brixton Blog: http://www.brixtonblog.com/36652-2/36944

Recipe: Yorkshire puddings

I love a Yorkshire pudding. Roast beef, roast chicken, roast anything really, and a Yorkshire pud is a very welcome addition in my book. My favourite recipe is this one from BBC Good Food: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/9020/best-yorkshire-puddings

Amazing results every time, and any you don’t eat can be cooled and frozen. Just pop them in the oven for a few minutes from frozen and you’re good to go!

RECIPE: Chocolate Easter bark

Looking for a nice homemade Easter gift or something to do with the kids over the long weekend? Chocolate Easter bark is just the thing!

200g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

100g white chocolate

Mini eggs

Sprinkles

1. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Do the same with the white chocolate in another bowl.

3. Pour the dark chocolate onto the baking paper and spread out. Swirl over the white chocolate and scatter with mini eggs (I left some whole and broke others up) and sprinkles. Put the tray into the freezer to cool.

4. When the chocolate is set it will lift easily from the paper. Either wrap as a whole slab, or break into shards and wrap. Keep it cool or it will melt.

Have fun experimenting with your favourite toppings!

  
 

REVIEW: Salon, Brixton

As the mother of a toddler and a four month old who, so far, isn’t keen on the bottle (she doesn’t get this from me), going out for dinner isn’t that easy. But when it is possible it’s extra glorious. Tuesday night was such an occasion.

I met one of my oldest friends from school at Salon, Brixton. I’d heard good things about this place, mainly from murmurings on social media, and in an effort to feel that I wasn’t completely out of touch with things that don’t involve small people, I went out on a limb and suggested it to my (much trendier) friend. I’m delighted to say that Salon didn’t let me down.

With suitably soft and candlelit lighting all fears of obvious bags under my eyes were gone and I could focus on the stunning set menu and glass of fizz in front of me. There’s no choice with the set menu, but if you’re a foodie (and a very tired person) then being presented with delicious courses as a fait accompli is just the ticket.

The place itself is one of the very well-put-together establishments on Market Row, and the fact that you can book a table (many take no reservations) meant I didn’t have to worry about not maximising my limited drinking time. For a British person I am a terrible queuer, especially where food and drink (and, let’s face it, sitting down) are concerned. Happily we could get straight to it.

The first indication of the loveliness of things to come was in the form of an amuse bouche so bursting with orange, on, I think, chicory and curd cheese (I was still dizzy from actually being out of the house on my own), that the citrus hit was like a wave of sunshine. Then followed perfect Squid, Monk’s Beard and Ramsons, the soft garlickyness more delicious with every forkful.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

Squid, Monk's Beard, Ramsons

Squid, Monk’s Beard, Ramsons

Next was a tumble of Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Hazelnuts and Cured Egg Yolk, which had been shaved over the dish like creamy yellow confetti. The show-stopper was the melt-in-the-mouth Venison, Jerusalem Artichoke and Wild Garlic. I think you could have cut the meat with a feather.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Hazelnuts, Cured Egg Yolk

Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Hazelnuts, Cured Egg Yolk

Rhubarb, Buttermilk Pudding, White Chocolate, Oats

Rhubarb, Buttermilk Pudding, White Chocolate, Oats

Finally to finish, bright Rhubarb, smooth Buttermilk Pudding, White Chocolate and Oats, all washed down by lovely wine and easy chatter. Then pots of tea, homemade chocolates and a sense of contentment at an evening very well spent.

Salon you made me feel like a grown-up again, thank you.

Two set menus, two glasses of fizz, two pots of tea and a few (4, 6?!) glasses of wine, plus service, was £112.50.

Follow me and my food exploits on instagram @forkinglovely

For more information on Salon have a look at their website: http://www.salonbrixton.co.uk/

Salon, Brixton

Salon, Brixton

Easy puddings to make (and serve when drunk)

I have been extremely neglectful of this blog over the last year (by neglectful I mean totally absent). I had to have a bit of a break from my love of cooking when I got pregnant with my little girl. The first four months were spent spewing, and the last three I had such terrible back/pelvis issues that standing up for long enough to make a sandwich was sufficiently painful to put me off cooking. I guess for the middle bit I just wasn’t so keen on entertaining when it seemed inappropriate to drink bucket loads of wine. At least not in front of people.

But the bun is now out of the oven and somewhere in between running a business, looking after two small people, and not losing my mind, I thought I’d give it another go. And what better way to jump back into it than with some gloriously easy puddings for when you want to stuff your face and impress your dinner guests all at once.

These can all be made well in advance, or rustled up in moments on the night, so you can serve up something lovely at the end of the meal with minimal fuss. Perfect if you’ve had a few wines!

HONEY SEMI-FREDDO

This Nigella recipe was a recent find, and while we’re counting the pennies a short (and cheap) ingredients list is always appealing. I have also become a bit obsessed with honey since being back on porridge for breakfast (the one food I couldn’t stand when I was pregnant) and this dish lets the honey shine. This is a doddle to make and absolutely delicious.

Serves 6-8

1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
100g honey (plus extra for serving)
300ml double cream
25g pine nuts

1. Line a loaf tin with cling film.

2. Mix the honey, egg and egg yolks in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until it’s pale and thick.

3. Whip the double cream until thick and then carefully fold the honey mixture into the cream. Tip into the load tin and cover with more clingfilm. Freeze for a few hours (or make the day before).

4. Toast your pine nuts in a warm frying pan until golden and put aside.

5. To serve, turn the semi-freddo out onto a plate, drench with more honey and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Slice and gorge!

Honey semifreddo

Honey semi-freddo

ICED BERRIES WITH A HOT WHITE CHOCOLATE AND LIMONCELLO SAUCE

Another Nigella special. This takes moments to prepare and is rich and refreshing all at once. Be careful not to overdo the limoncello. I would never normally advocate frugality on the booze front but with this one less is more.

Serves 4

250ml double cream
4 tbsp limoncello
200g white chocolate, broken into bits
500g frozen mixed berries (unthawed)

1. Mix 2 tbsps of the limoncello and the double cream in a saucepan and heat gently (don’t boil). When warm add the white chocolate and stir while it melts.

2. Meanwhile put the berries into bowls and sprinkle with the remaining limoncello.

3. When the sauce is ready pour it over the berries and serve immediately – before the berries thaw!

TIRAMISU

Who doesn’t love tiramisu? Booze, coffee and cream in pudding form. Heaven. This quick version from Gino D’Acampo is even better if you make it the day before so everything has a bit longer to ooze together. This was the pudding I missed the most while I was pregnant (because of the raw eggs) and it was the first dessert I made afterwards.

Serves 8

3 cups of strong black coffee, cooled
3 tbsp caster sugar
6 tbsp Amaretto liqueur
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
250g/8¾oz mascarpone cheese
250ml/8¾ fl oz whipped cream
cocoa powder, to dust
1 packet of Savoiardi (sponge lady finger biscuits)

1. Put the cold coffee in a shallow bowl (big enough to lie the savoiardi in) and add three tbsps of the amaretto.

2. Beat together the sugar and egg yolks until pale and thick. Add the mascarpone and mix well. Fold in the whipped cream gently with a metal spoon.

3. In another bowl beat the egg whites until you have soft peaks. Then fold the egg whites carefully into the cream mixture. Add the rest of the amaretto and mix gently so as not to lose the volume.

4. Soak each biscuit in the coffee mixture, shake off the excess and line the bottom of your serving dish. Cover with the cream mixture, then add another layer of biscuits and another layer of cream. Dust the top with cocoa powder.

5. Refridgerate for a couple of hours or until firm. I think it’s even better the next day!

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

LITTLE ICED LEMON MOUSSES

Perfect for serving in pretty glasses or teacups as you only need a little per person because they are quite rich. They literally take 10 mins to make!

Serves 6

300g or 312g jar lemon curd
zest of 1 lemon
300ml whipping or double cream
25g lemon flavoured biscuits

1. Put the zest and cream in a bowl with two thirds of the lemon curd and beat until it just holds its shape. Spoon over the rest of the lemon curd so it marbles with the mixture and divide into 6 little serving dishes. Cover with clingfilm and freeze for an hour (or more if you’re making them ahead).

2. Bash the biscuits up to make chunky crumbs. When you’re ready for dessert take the mousses from the freezer, top with the biscuit crumbs and serve.

Iced lemon mousse

Iced lemon mousse

POACHED PEARS IN ROSE SYRUP

I always thought poached pears seemed such a grown-up pudding. I made these the other day as part of a Persian-inspired menu and they were syrupy and gorgeous. The hint of rose makes them really special.

Serves 6

220g caster sugar
6 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon quill
6 small pears, peeled
2 tablespoons rosewater
A few drops pink food colouring
Vanilla ice cream, to serve

1. Put 750ml of water in a saucepan with the sugar and heat on a medium-low setting, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and pears, and cover the surface with a sheet of baking paper. Poach the pears until tender (probably 10-15mins depending on how ripe they are). Remove the pears and set aside.

2. Simmer the poaching liquid for a further 10-15 minutes until it is reduced and syrupy. Mix in the rosewater and food colouring, then return the pears and allow to cool.

3. Halve the pears and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Poached pears

Poached pears in rose syrup

RECIPES: Entertaining on a budget

I love entertaining and feeding people. If I had my way we’d be dining on lobsters and venison and all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients because I like to try new recipes and experiment. But invariably they come with a hefty price tag and at the moment that’s not a price tag we can afford.

So I wanted to write a few entries here and there about entertaining on a budget, and how by utilising things you already have in your fridge/freezer/store cupboard it’s possible to put together menus that are tasty but don’t break the bank.  Obviously these are based on what I already have in MY house, but hopefully they might provide some inspiration (as well as some favourite recipes).

The first is for a dinner party for 6 people, achieved on just £20, with some extras for my toddler.

MENU:

Canapé – Meatballs with spicy tomato sauce, grated parmesan and basil on canapé spoons.

Starter – Pesto and mozzarella bruschetta with watercress and a honey and balsamic drizzle.

Main – Fennel and chilli roast pork with butternut squash pureé, olive oil roasted potatoes and a watercress, pistachio, chive flower and viola salad.

Pudding – Vanilla panna cotta with stewed rhubarb and crystallised ginger.

CANAPÉ:

Easy peasy. Buy mini ready made beef meatballs – Sainsburys sell a pack of 20 for £2.85, cook as per instrictions – http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/sainsburys-beef-meatballs–8%25-fat-400g

For the sauce just roast cherry tomatoes (I’d stuck some in the freezer before we went on holiday or they’d have gone off), along with some red onion and garlic from the fridge, until soft. Blitz in a blender with some fresh basil (we always have a pot growing on our window sill) and taste. Season and add some spice from your store cupboard if you like – perhaps a little paprika and cumin.

Put a meatball on each serving spoon, trickle the sauce over and top with grated parmesan and a small basil leaf.

I actually cooked 40 meatballs and mixed the majority with the sauce and froze into portions for my toddler (or an easy supper for grown-ups works too). Serve with pasta – they are delicious!

STARTER:

Easy peasy. Make your own pesto – http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2494/pesto-sauce

You can make a big batch and freeze little portions in an ice cube tray for future use too (again perfect for toddler portions or use a few for bigger ones).

Buy some bread of your choosing, something that will slice nicely, and toast lightly. Top with mozzarella and melt under the grill. Drizzle with the pesto.

This is lovely with a few salad leaves on the side, topped with a honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing – if you’re serving a salad with the main you don’t even need to buy separate salad! We usually have pesto and salad dressing ingredients in the cupboard so this was just mozzarella and bread for the shopping list.

MAIN:

Again easy!

I used this lovely House and Garden recipe, substituting butternut squash for the pumpkin. This was my best utilisation of stuff already in the house with a big loin of pork my parents had brought up on one for their visits from a farm in Kent – which went straight in the freezer for such an occasion! Otherwise I’m always looking for deals on meat at the supermarket for things I can buy on offer and freeze to be used for an appropriate meal – and it always spreads the cost then if you’re cooking for a few.

http://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/recipes/main-courses/fennel-and-chilli-roast-pork-with-pumpkin-puree

I served it with some lovely new potatoes roasted in their skins in olive oil and some salt, and a salad of watercress, pistachios from the cupboard, and some home-grown chive flowers and violas. Drizzle with a salad dressing of your choice – something that will cut through the richness of the squash puree. I used olive oil, white wine vinegar, freshly squeezed orange juice and a little sugar.

Watercress, pistachio, chive flower and viola salad.

Watercress, pistachio, chive flower and viola salad.

PUDDING:

Easy – honest!

I usually have some vanilla pods and gelatine leaves in the cupboard as panna cotta is a favourite in our house. It’s really quick and easy to make and looks pretty impressive. Other ingredients are just double cream, milk and sugar.

My fail safe recipe is always this one from Simon Rimmer – http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/vanillapannacotta_87907

We are lucky to grown some of our own fruit, and I am spoilt by a very green-fingered father-in-law and his allotments that send fresh fruit and veg our way for most of the year.

I had some lovely rhubarb in the freezer from the most recent crop which just needed thawing and warming with some sugar to make a sauce – but you could use whatever fruit you like. Serve with the panna cotta. I added a sprinkling of crystalised ginger from my baking cupboard, just for a little crunch.

I only needed to buy the double cream on this occasion.

I hope this just shows what you can pull together on a budget when you raid your cupboards!

Total ingredients needed (* indicates what I didn’t have in the house and needed to buy):

Ready-made meatballs*
Tomatoes
Red onion
Garlic
Olive oil
Spices of you choice (I used cumin and paprika)
Salt
Pepper
Parmesan*
Basil
Pine nuts
Mozzarella*
Bread*
Watercress*
Balsamic vinegar
Honey
Pork
Butternut squash*
Fennel Seeds
Dried chilli flakes
Mascarpone*
Pistachios
Chive & viola flowers (or perhaps some spring onion if not available)
Orange*
White wine vinegar
New potatoes*
Vanilla pods
Gelatine leaves
Sugar
Double cream*
Milk
Rhubarb (or other fruit)
Crystalised ginger (optional)

REVIEW: Le Pont de la Tour, London Bridge

My husband and I snuck in a rare weekday lunch a couple of weeks ago – child-free and everything!  It was a beautiful sunny day and all our Burger Lobster plans went out the window as we decided it would be rude not to sit outside.  So to the Southbank we headed and got ourselves a lovely table overlooking the river and Tower Bridge (although admittedly in the shade!) at Le Pont de la Tour. We plumped for the Menu du Jour, which is £25 for two courses, as we sipped on beer and a very delicious Fresh Peachy mocktail, and nibbled on gorgeous olive bread and soft, creamy butter.

Wood roasted pigeonCured Salmon Gravalax

In the end I deviated from the menu de jour slightly, starting with the roasted wood pigeon, confit leg tortellini, celeriac and pear, which was melt in the mouth, meaty and delicious. The husband had the cured gravalax which arrived pretty as a picture and was quickly demolished. He then went for the ragout of rabbit, broad beans, radish, wild garlic & pea veloute which was spring on a plate, while I devoured pan fried fillet of sea bream, piquillo pepper, courgette ribbons & mussel veloute. My only criticism of the sea bream was that, while the piquillo pepper and courgette ribbons were tasty, it was the unannounced spring onion which lifted the dish and I would have happily had a few more of those, along with lashings more of the mussel veloute (I’m a sauce obsessive). We washed this down with two lovely glasses of Malbec, and ordered some token broccoli on the side.

Ragout of rabbitPan fried sea bream

Surprisingly full (for us!) we shared dessert – a dark chocolate & coffee parfait, hazelnut soil and blood orange sorbet, which had us murmuring with delight. The richness of the chocolate and the sweet sharpness of the orange were triumphant.  A classic combination but no less delicious because of that. A coffee to finish and we were two very satisfied customers.

The service was excellent throughout and all in all it was a lovely way to treat ourselves on a random Wednesday afternoon. The Menu du Jour is great value for the quality of the food (three courses are £30), it’s just the drinks and the extras you have to watch if you are looking to keep the costs down – two glasses of wine were £20.

Our meal was £106 excluding service.

http://www.lepontdelatour.co.uk/

 

 

 

REVIEW: The Leather Bottle, Earlsfield

When the sun comes out and we’re hungry (or just thirsty!) our default South London beer garden is The Leather Bottle in Earlsfield.  Easter Monday was one of these delicious days and we scurried out of the house in search of perfect outdoor sunshine and BBQ food.  Rows of picnic tables basking in the sun greeted us happily, and we were delighted to see that the BBQ was indeed fired up and churning out it’s trademark burgers and chips.

Quickly I was tucking into a cheeseburger with chunky tomato relish, ale onions, and salad, which was so tasty and comforting it was like all the best bits of a Macdonalds (the plastic cheese!) in a poshed up version for the sunglass wearing South London market. The chips are of the yummy skinny fries variety, and there are lots of them.

Pub burgers are often rather hit and miss, but this one nailed it, although it does come with a price to match – two burgers (one with relish, one with bacon) with fries, a child-sized hotdog and chips, a pint of shandy and a large orange juice and lemonade came to £42.

I think the setting makes up for the price hike though – a big suntrap garden with a sandpit for children to run merrily to and from, is worth it’s weight in gold when the sun is shining but you can’t be bothered to light up the BBQ yourself. I hope this is our first visit of many this summer – there are too many other dishes I want to try.

http://www.leatherbottlepub.co.uk/