From Paris, with Love

With Paris only a few hours away from London I’m surprised that I’ve never seen Paris in winter. So a few at the end of last year (I know I’m a little late posting!) some friends and I decided to cross the channel for a day and explore the city (as best as one can in a day) outside of its busiest summer season and experience the festive cheer. Luckily we didn’t go with plan A for travelling around Paris (=totally winging it on the day) and instead I had devised a rough plan of the day, mostly to be spent shopping at the Arc di Triomph and the Christmas markets, but stopping off at some of the usual touristy hotspots along the way. BeFunky_DSC05174.jpg I would HIGHLY recommend using the ratp journey planner website beforehand which is equivalent to London’s TfL site– as it maps out how to get from one station/landmark to another, clearly stating any changes of rail lines etc. The last thing I wanted to do on a day trip is to waste time deciphering which route to take to our next destination at each station. It completely took out any stress of making sure you have enough time to get back to the Gar du Nord for the train back home. After an early start to the day and breakfast on the Eurostar we decided to make brunch our first stop at the Latin Quarter (Metro stop; St Germain de pres). The area there for me was quintessentially “French”, lined with cobbled pedestrian only streets flowing with mellow Parisian ambience and many independent shops selling hats, jewellery, books, antiques etc. Food places were aplenty and we stopped by for omelettes and croissants. FotorCreated8 SONY DSC There was a small Christmas market set out along here too which was still opening up as we were walking by, but it was nice being able to chat with the stallholders that were open before things got busier during the day. DSC05159editSONY DSC

After a quick flurry round the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysées was our last stop, and really I was most looking forwards to the Christmas markets but after an hour long diversion in Sephora we weren’t left with very long to take a look. The Christmas Market on the lit up Champs-Elysées runs from the middle of November till the start of January each year and is made up of loads and loads of wooden chalets set up along the Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde and offers a great selection of food, hand-made, decorations, gifts and toys. One thing to bear in mind here however is it’s a pickpocket hotspot so do keep valuables near and out of sight, particularly with the area being very congested.

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With all Christmassy stuff done with and time running short we had to head back to the station, not without suffering a very packed train ride (Parisians really haven’t sorted out their- “please move down the carriage” move yet!!) back to the Gar du Nord and home. FotorCreated0 I’d never been to Paris with friends- it’s always been with family or as school excursions so it was lovely just strolling the win   ding cobbled streets of Paris, awaiting what stirs around each corner. My memories have always been of Paris, roads lit in sunshine, blue skies and sitting on the Batobus when younger and then sadly the beggars and scammers as I grew older. Nonetheless it was a lovely seeing Paris in the winter and would highly recommend it even as a day out somewhere different.

Steal the Style- Watches Edition

 

If you’re after that latest designer watch, but can’t afford it- don’t despair! Heres a rundown of a few designer watch brands alongside their cheaper counterparts brought to you by the high street at a fraction of the price.

I was really surprised at how similar the watches were and with some of these, the branding is really the only major difference meaning you can get that luxe design without the price tag.

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From top to bottom; Skagen, Next, Casio, Newlook, Michael Kors, Newlook, Michael Kors, River Island, Michael Kors, Next, Skagen, ASOS, Olivia Burton, Newlook.

The choice is yours, spend a little more on something you really want, but it’s very easy  to grab a slice of a new trend and mix up a look without spending a fortune. There really is a great deal on offer, so much so that there’s a second part to this post yet to come!

 

Thai Meatballs with Noodles

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I came across this recipe a while back and immediately decided to make a mental note to try this one day. I think the sheer number of ingredients put me off initially, but the actual cooking part didn’t seem too hard and it looked far too delicious not to try.

As for the ingredients- admittedly I had never heard of a few of these and initially thought they might be tricky to find after making a trip to the food hall in Selfridges with no luck, I was amazed to come across everything I needed only a stone throws away in Sainsburys.

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Galangal

Galangal resembles ginger and is frequently used in Thai and Indonesian cuisine. It in fact branches from the ginger family but is much tougher to cut through and carries a stronger, peppery taste than ginger. Recipes often call for both ginger and galangal, such as this one so when possible I would try to source both. A paste form is available also. (£2 per 100g at Sainsburys)

 

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kaffir lime leaves

These come from lime trees and are readily available dry, but pack most flavour when fresh. They add a pungent citrus aroma to dishes and are widely used in Thai cuisine. I think it’s definitely worth trying to track down the fresh lime leaves as they impart a gorgeous flavour to the meatballs. (£1.50 per pack at Sainsburys)


This recipe is adapted from the Reza Mahammed meatball noodle dish and can be found here on foodnetwork.co.uk.

THE RECIPE

  • 700g minced lamb
  • 1 egg white
  • 60g ground peanuts
  • 2 tbsp red Thai curry pasteS8001251useme
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2/3 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp grated galangal
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 2 small red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp of oil for frying

For the Thai Noodle Salad:

  • 1 packet thick rice noodles (Pad-Thai), pre-soaked
  • 1 bag of mixed stir fry vegetables
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp grated gingerBeFunky_S8001246.jpg
  • 1 red chilli finger
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp crispy shallots
  • Oil for frying

For the Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

 

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METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
  2. In a large bowl combine the mince lamb, egg white, ground nuts, curry paste, fish sauce and corn flour. Mix well then set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine all of the red onion, ginger, galangal, garlic, chopped chilli, lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaf and spring onions and mix well. Then add this mix to the lamb mixture and combine together well with your hands.
  4. Roll into 2 inch diameter balls about the size of a golf ball (they will shrink in size during cooking).
  5. Heat a large non-stick and oven proof frying pan and then drizzle with a good amount of oil. Place the meatballs into the hot pan and sauté until golden brown, finish off in the oven for about 20/25 minutes turning meatballs over half way through cooking time.
  6. Whilst this is cooking, prepare the noodle dish.

Pad Thai Noodle Salad:

  1. First make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together (soy sauce, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce, sesame oil and lime juice), then set to one side while you make the noodle salad.
  2. Heat a large wok or frying pan on a medium heat and add a good drizzle of oil, once hot, add the red onion and sauté from 3/4 minutes until soft and just turning golden brown, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, chillies, and sauté for a further couple of minutes to soften the garlic combining well with the onions.
  4. When the onions and garlic are soft, turn up the heat on the wok and add the mixed stir fry vegetables, mix and cook for a minute. Then add your noodles, carefully mixing in with the vegetables.
  5. Just before serving, drizzle over the dressing mix well and serve with a sprinkling of spring onions and crispy shallots.
  6. Serve with the meatballs.

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Personally if I were to make it again I would cut back a touch on the fish sauce in the noodle dressing as it left a slight after taste and would recommend leaving the meatballs to rest, covered in foil once out of the oven to prevent them from drying out. But overall the dish was lovely and fragrant, warm from the heat of the chillies and packed full of fresh citrus flavours provided by the lemongrass and lime leaves.

I may have only touched the tip of the iceberg of Thai cuisine but I’m really looking forward to experimenting with Thai flavours and trying out a few other recipes.

 

 

Most pinned 2013, Strawberry Nutella Poptarts- 4,237 repins

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Ok, so it’s on to our next Pinterest recipe- Strawberry and Nutella pop-tarts by thenovicechefblog.com delivered us this gorgeously adorable looking yet simple no nonsense bake, which was super quick to whip up and what is even better- requires no real baking skill. All of which makes it easy to understand how it takes 19th repined position of 2013. Anyone can do this one, trust me.


THE RECIPE

1 packet of short crust pastryS8001185l                                 2 large strawberries, sliced lengthwise and carved into hearts                                                       1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
A few teaspoons of Nutella
A few teaspoons of strawberry jam
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

 

I don’t like buying strawberries out of season (as well as bearing a large environmental footprint they’re never as good as they are in summer) but the recipe would not be the same without them so reluctantly I bought a small punnet thinking I could use them for a few more bakes to come as a reason to not feel so guilty.

The full recipe can be found here.

1.) Preheat oven to 350°F/gas mark4 and line a baking tray with paper.

2.) Roll out the shortcrust pastry and cut into rectangles. With the strawberries, slice them up lengthways, cutting a small ‘v’ shape at the top to create the heart shape.

3.) Cut out heart shapes through half of the rectangles, using each strawberry as a guide.

4.) Then spread the Nutella and jam over the uncut pastry- leaving a border around the edges.

5.) Cover with second sheet of pastry, then using a fork mark along the edges. Then make an egg wash whisking the egg yolk and water, brush over the tops of the pastry and sprinkle with sugar.

7.) Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve once cooled.

VERDICT:  I found the strawberries, once baked shrank away from the edges a little so it might be an idea to place them once baked if you want them to look like how they did in the original photo. But apart from that, this was a super easy, quick bake that would quite happily satisfy a sweet tooth. Each are incredibly moreish, with a soft crumbly texture, teamed up with a classic chocolate and strawberry flavour combination is certain please everyone. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity, personally I would choose this over an overly processed, sickly sweet Pop Tart any day.

Indulgent peanut butter and Nutella filling

 

You could really go to town with the fillings (I made a few chocolate and peanut butter slices) and just by changing the cut-out shape make it suitable for any occasion…I’m thinking mince pie pop tarts for Christmas would work just as well!

What I wore…

 

Recently with my clothes I’ve found it’s the simple things that catches my attention, like clean cuts, classic styles and really utilising those staple items in my wardrobe. The best part of such items being you can generally throw these pieces on and still make a look work.

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Fortunately for me, one frantic Sunday morning blind rummage later I think the outfit worked out ok, even with it being of those “I said left the house 10 minutes ago” days.

 

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My Rotary watch was a bit of an impulse buy. I think the romantic in me fell in love with the quaint notion of a moon phase function on the watch- admittedly one which I have never used nor even set correctly, but like how it reminds me of an old pocket watch.

  • Jumper- H&M with this one definitely order a good few sizes smaller
  • Trousers- BHS- similar
  • Trench- H&M (Sold out) similar
  • Crossbody bag- Zara
  • Watch- Rotary
  • Sandals- Bertie (Sold out) similar

 

Let there be CAKE!

Confession time… I have a serious sweet tooth- one that could quite easily have desert for breakfast lunch and dinner and in fact, given a restaurant menu, I realise now I unknowingly flick past the starters and mains to adorn the desert menu, wondering which sweet treat to choose. Come to think of it I can’t remember ever favouring a packet of crisps over a bar of chocolate!

And that’s when I saw it, The Cake and Bake show 2014must for a girl with a serious sweet tooth.

So it was decided, a friend and I visited the show last Sunday to sample the delicious offerings the show had to offer and maybe pick up a few tips on how to improve my (somewhat mediocre) baking skills along the way.

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Pretty as a picture… Inspired by the simple presentation, these little cupcakes could easily be done at home and would make a great little addition to a party.           

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Winding past an array of baking/party/gifting goodies, there were hundreds of achingly scrumptious looking bakes and treats tempting enough to take home. There were display tables , classrooms where you could learn from some celebrity chefs, loads and loads of baking supplies, boxes, tins, cases, absolutely anything and everything!

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I bought a few cupcakes from Ms Cupcake stall which is a vegan bakery based in Brixton and my goodness I could not tell there were no butter in sight. This icing, piped sky high was thick rich and very sweet, just like butter-cream. My personal favourite item from her, the ferrero rocher “ambassador” monster of a cupcake was utterly delicious (though did require taking excess icing off).

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The Ms. Cupcake stall. Filled with vegan and some gluten free bakes.

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A selection of different brownies and bags full of supplies later I left inspired to attempt to craft some sugar flowers with the sugarpaste I bought and bake something new.

What I wore…

I adore turquoise (it is my birthstone after all) in jewellery, particularly when paired with gold and find it can change and brighten an outfit, whether its worn with a white outfit for the summer or with this seasons burgundy tones it can really add interest to a look. I picked up the one I’m wearing from Shoreditch market but here are a few I’ve seen online that I really love.

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Necklace- market, breton stripe top- h&m, trousers- m&s, shirt- Primark, sunglasses- Rayban and sandals-Bertie

 

Here are a few of my top picks available to grab now… and yes I did go Forver 21 mad!

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  1. Etsy-
  2. Forever 21– £9.90
  3. Forever 21– £5.65
  4. Forever 21– £13.90
  5. Forever 21– £10.65
  6. Etsy– £15.98