Simplest Eton mess

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It’s not summer yet, but the sun has finally come out and I am SO HAPPY. Eton mess is one of my favourite desserts to throw together because nothing says sunshine like strawberries and cream. Don’t limit messes to warm days though – they taste just as good on the dreary, grey ones as well.

You can play around with this recipe to make it perfect for you. Put more or less meringue in. Mix up the fruits. Whatever you fancy, the mess can take it!

Eton mess, serves 4

1 punnet strawberries (about 400g)
1 – 2 dessertspoons caster sugar (I prefer a tart coulis so I only put one in)
300ml of double cream or whipping cream, depending on how decadent you’re feeling
1 – 2 dessertspoons caster sugar (again, depends on your sweet tooth. I always err on the side of less sugar)
3 meringues nests, broken into chunks

 

Wash and chop the strawberries into bite size pieces

Take two handfuls of berries and place into a saucepan. Add enough water to just cover the berries. Sprinkle in 1 (or more) dessertspoons of caster sugar.

Simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens

Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and set aside to cool.

Add 1-2 dessertspoons of sugar to the cream and whip with an electric whisk on medium until it forms stiff peaks.

Fold in the remaining strawberries (reserve a few to garnish at the end) and the meringue.

To assemble, I like to pour some coulis to the bottom of my dish and then add the cream mixture on top. You could fold the coulis into the mix or pour on top, if you prefer.

Sprinkle a few strawberries on top to garnish, with a sprig of mint or two.

Enjoy

 

A very Mexican new year

New Years Meal, tres leche cakeNew Year Meal, dips

I spent 8 hours in the kitchen on Saturday, cooking up a storm for our annual New Year meal and I loved every minute of it. I only took two photos all day but trust me, the food was immense (if I do say so myself) and much merriment was had.

Some notes on the food:

The lamb. Oh my, the lamb. I was aiming for something reminiscent of my beloved picante lamb at Panchos and I ended up making something that I like even more!

I used this meat rub to marinate a leg of lamb and slow roasted it using these these instructions.

Once it had completed the first roast for 4.5 hours (the leg weighed 2.4kg) I removed the meat off the bone, or at least the meat that was left on the bone, most of it had melted off into a delicious puddle, and shredded it. I mixed in generous amounts of this barbecue sauce which I had made earlier in the day, along with a little of the juice from the roast to keep the meat nice and moist. It went back in the oven for half an hour, covered with foil, to heat through. The barbecue sauce was delicious although a tad too sweet for me. Next time I think I will try decreasing the amount of honey and hoisin. I doubled the amount of garlic suggested – I couldn’t help myself, it’s an Asian thing.

I used this old favorite chilli recipe, with double the amount of garlic (obvs) and no red peppers. I used half the amount of hot water they suggest because I wanted a thicker chilli that could be used for burritos.

I prepared some chicken using this recipe.

I made this dip (so goooood, but so bad for you) and this one (with a regular tin of tomatoes to which I added some minced garlic and onion). We had guacamole but I bought that ready-made because avocados stress me out.

The meal was rounded out with a big pot of rice, pico de gallo, a black bean salad, some pickled red onions (shake 125ml of both water and red wine vinegar with 1tbsp salt and sugar in an old but clean jar, add half a thinly sliced red onion, leave for at least 1 hour/up to a day before you eat) and tortilla chips.

We had a tres leches cake for dessert. I cut a little of the sugar out, maybe about 50g? It still tasted amazing. I accidentally cooked it a little longer than it needed though. I had expected it to brown on top as it baked, like a regular sponge, so after checking on it at 18 minutes and assuming it was a bit under cooked, I left it for another 4. However, since the cake is mostly egg whites, I don’t think it picks up much colour as it bakes so I should’ve tested it with a skewer a bit earlier.

Sadly it was pretty damp that day so we couldn’t string up the pinata outside. Instead, four of us grabbed a bit of the donkey and pulled on three. There’s something a bit depressing about holding a dismembered, piñata donkey’s leg in your hand though. Next time I’ll get one that’s not as cute, so I feel less mean beating it up for sweets.

 

Gluttony, recently

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It has been a good/bad week for food.

Good because I love to eat, but bad for my wallet and heart health. So much cheese!

Husband and I shared a platter at Nando’s. Medium spice with peri-peri chips, every time.

We had a cheeky Five Guys one evening when we went to the Trafford Centre to pick up some shoes.

Baked Camembert shared with a friend.

Food not pictured – the fish and chips that followed the Camembert. TWO trips to Panchos for burritos – the picante lamb is delicious! An original glazed Krispy Kreme  doughnut which never disappoints but I was sad to see their drink and a doughnut deal only gets you one doughnut now instead of two. And finally, two cupcakes. Although they were for charity so those calories don’t count, right?

 

The best way to spread Christmas cheer

Elf at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green Events

We loved seeing Back to the Future at the Victoria Baths this summer, so when I saw that the Village Screen were returning with Christmas films this season, I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale. I’ve been looking forward to this night for weeks. Can you believe I’ve never seen Elf before?

Mac Daddies at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green Events

We didn’t get to indulge in the food offerings last time but I more than made up for it on this trip. I had the most deliciously indulgent mac and cheese from Mac Daddies and a festive doughnut filled with jam and mincemeat.

Elf at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green Events

I absolutely loved seeing the place decked out with Christmas cheer. It was however, bloody freezing and I’m so glad we brought a blanket to snuggle under – I know they tell you it’s going be cold when you book but jeepers, it was icy.

In fact, it was so cold that by the end of the film it snowed inside!

Elf at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green EventsElf at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green Events

It was such a magical evening and I am eagerly awaiting the next time we get to visit.

In Monton

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This weekend has been the first one we’ve spent at home in  Manchester, just the two of us, in forever. It has been lovely and much needed.

Today we decided to head up the road to Monton. We spent a couple of hours walking the streets, imagining what it would be like to live in one of the fantastic gigantic old houses in Ellesmere Park. I would have one room for shoes and another one for dresses. And a library with floor to ceiling bookshelves.

I spied a couple of Qubek’s pieces just off Monton high street and made husband wait an age whilst I took far too many pictures.

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We ended our afternoon with a cream tea at a tea room – good, strong tea but not so great scones. As a personal preference, I do not think any thing is made better by glacé cherries.

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Los Angeles, eating

A few of the things I ate in LA.

Grand Central Market, Downtown LA

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I loved this place and was so sad that we were only able to visit once. I already knew where I wanted to eat, but made sure I circled the market a few times to take in all the sights and smells, before heading over to Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. I was going to get two rounds of tacos but at the last minute decided that I would only get one, and then go try some food elsewhere. It turned out that was wishful thinking because the portion was unexpectedly huge -was surprising because it was so cheap! I still think about these tacos, months later. R had a platter of fish tacos from another of the vendors and loved every bite.

Jinya Ramen, Santa Monica

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Since we were staying in an AirBnB we thought it would be fun to order in one evening. After perusing UberEats we decided on ramen from Jinya Ramen. It was hearty and nourishing.

Blue Star Donuts, Abbot Kinney

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I’m normally not very adventurous with my donut choices, favouring plain glazed or if I’m feeling fancy, jam filled. I branched out of my comfort zone and got the Old Fashioned. I chose well.

Whole Foods, Venice

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We were feeling the need for something green so we hit up the salad bar. It hit the spot.

EP/LP, West Hollywood

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We had dinner at the restaurant adjoining the Melrose Rooftop Cinema where they served the best mango and coconut pudding and lush cocktails.

The Queso Truck, Downtown LA

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We saw a few food trucks parked opposite the LACMA and even though I was in no way hungry, I couldn’t help myself from having a nosey. I didn’t bother checking out the other trucks once I found this one – they were serving up pots of hot cheese after all. I went for the classic yellow with chips and although I tried my hardest, I couldn’t finish the whole portion.

Halloween in Hollywood

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Our time in Vegas was fabulous but all too short. We ventured on to Los Angeles and spent Halloween in the city.

Apart from going to see the Hollywood sign, we didn’t have any specific plans for LA. We mostly wanted to soak up the atmosphere and, as seems to be the theme with all my holidays, eat some good food. We spent some time in West Hollywood for the Halloween parade. We found a bar with a couple of free seats and people watched for an hour or so. I really enjoyed seeing how much effort  people put into their outfits.
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I had hoped we would be able to see a film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery but the timings didn’t work out. Instead, R found a roof top cinema that was showing the 90’s miniseries version of IT.

After a few drinks at the parade, we ventured to Melrose. Our tickets included dinner at adjoining restaurant where I had the best mango and coconut pudding.

Melrose Menu

And then it was upstairs to the rooftop for the screening where I fell asleep half way through – those beanbags were so darn comfy! The bits of the show that I did see were hilariously cheesy and not at all scary, which is good because I’m actually a massive scaredy cat.

Rooftop Cinema

Sadly we didn’t dress up for the occasion because we had spent the morning sightseeing and didn’t have time to head back to our AirBnB to get changed. But we did put on some ears so we looked a little festive.

Las Vegas, eating

It’s lovely remembering how much fun I had on holiday last month, as I sit here this evening in cold, rainy Manchester, wearing a million layers of clothing to try and keep warm.

Here are some of the foods we enjoyed in Vegas. I would love to go back to the city one day soon just so I can get through more of the food that’s on offer there.

Fried chicken at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, Grand Bazaar

Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken

Exactly what we needed after a day road tripping. Super juicy fried chicken and crispy fries with a cracking selection of sauces. If I were to go again I’d skip the mac and cheese – it was fine but not great and it used up some belly space I would have rather filled with chicken.

Sandwiches at Eggslut, The Cosmopolitan

Eggslut

Every Eggslut we passed on our trip had stupidly long queues outside it, that’s how good it is. We arrived at the one in the Cosmopolitan at half 9 expecting it to be fairly quiet, because who gets up early on the strip? Plenty of people, it turns out. On seeing the size of the queue, R had the genius idea that we should pop round the corner to Milk and pick up some milkshakes to keep us going while we queued. 30 minutes later, I had a tasty, drippy, egg sandwich in my hands and all over my face. Lovely! I highly recommend.

Milkshakes at Milk Bar, Cosmopolitan

Milk

Full of calcium so basically a health drink, right? My soul certainly felt nourished after a White Russian.

A slice at Secret Pizza, Cosmoplitan

Half the fun of this place is trying to figure out where it is. The pizza was decent and at $5 a slice, well priced considering how expensive everything else is on the strip.

Afternoon tea at Mandarin Oriental

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One of my favourite experiences of the whole trip. I love an afternoon tea and I was super excited when R, after the success of our tea in Belfast, suggested one for this holiday. I chose the Madarin based purely on pictures I saw online of the view you have of the strip. The Tea Lounge is set on the 23rd floor, and the floor-to-ceiling windows give you a fantastic view of the strip and the desert beyond. We arrived at 3 and left late, after the sun had set. It was quite magical watching the city light up as the skies darkened. My only (small) complaint would be that there wasn’t enough cream to go with my scones – I like them to be piled sky high with pillows of cream and a dollop of jam on top. I’m sure I could’ve asked for more but I was too busy drinking endless mimosas to be bothered.

Sushi Burritos at Jaburritos

Linq Promenade, High Roller

I was excited to try Jaburritos after seeing pictures on Instagram but I was a bit overwhelmed by the menu when we got there.  I ended up picking the Long Beach because it was the first burrito that I saw that had spicy tuna in it. I accidentally picked very well, it was delish. Its setting on the Linq promenade made for some excellent people watching whilst we ate.

Cupcakes at Sprinkles

Sprinkles Red Velvet

Sprinkles Cupcakes

Sprinkles was a place that I wanted to try because I’d seen and heard so much about them over the years. We had a selection of the small cupcakes. They were tasty enough, but not life changing so.

Burger and fries at In-N-Out

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My google map of places for us to eat was so long, you probably couldn’t have hit all the spots over the course of a month, never mind the two days we were actually there. Despite that, we went for a repeat trip to In’N’Out because we enjoyed the burgers our first time round that much!

In'N'Out