Spring (well, Summer) Fever: A Risotto Recipe

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I’ve never done a recipe post before, but this risotto was so delicious I just had to share it. I ordered a glut of asparagus at the weekend, and had some arborio rice in the cupboard so immediately thought of a lovely, fresh risotto with spring flavours for dinner.

I’m aware that as it’s June 1st it’s now *officially* summer however the weather doesn’t seem to know (looks out of window at gloomy rain)…

This risotto recipe doesn’t take ages to cook – about 30-40 minutes max – but all that stirring of the stock may get a little tedious. Stick with it. It’s worth it.

The Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 6-8 asparagus spears, woody ends removed
  • 75g of frozen peas or petit pois
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 200g risotto rice (eg carnaroli or arborio)
  • 250ml white wine or vermouth (I used to work with Martini so I still have a massive bottle of vermouth that needed using up)
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 50g Parmesan grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Method:

Firstly, cook the asparagus whole along with the frozen peas in a saucepan of boiling water for a couple of minutes. Drain and allow to cool, then chop the asparagus into small pieces and put to one side with the peas.

For the risotto, heat the olive oil in a pan and gently fry the chopped onion and garlic until softened but not brown. Add the rice and fry for one minute, stirring frequently, until all the rice is coated in the oil. Add the glass of wine or vermouth and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice.

Now for the boring part – add the hot chicken stock a ladleful at a time, stirring as you do to ensure the stock is completely absorbed by the rice, until the rice is cooked and all the stock is absorbed. This may take 20-30 minutes so my trick is to get a good audio book or podcast to listen to whilst you stir (try Serial if you’ve never listened before. Amazing).

Once the rice is cooked, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the peas, asparagus and a splash of lemon juice to add freshness. Once mixed through, add the butter and parmesan and stir well.

Calorie wise, without the toppings off below, it comes in at around 550 calories so it’s a lovely light dish for dinner.

& To Top It Off:

I served mine with an avocado and peashoot salad with a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil. I also added about 30g of ricotta and 1-2 slices of parma ham, but you can leave it off if you’re doing #MeatFreeMonday.

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Prawn to Run: Dinner at Rex & Mariano

For my birthday dinner, I’d heard wonderful things about Rex & Mariano. Yes, from Rosie Londoner but also from Jay Rayner – my favourite restaurant critic.

He’s a South Londoner like me, and he was actually one of the few people to write about Brixton Village before the restaurant scene there exploded (and before Franco Manca decided to venture out to Westfield of all places). When he wrote a rave review of Rex & Mariano, I decided it was the perfect place to celebrate being 25.

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It’s situated in the same location where the god awful Vodka Revolution bar used to be, in St Anne’s Court in Soho. Spacious, with very on-trend white metro tiles, we were seated right next to the open plan kitchen and given an iPad on which to order on.

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We ordered oysters to start, followed by tuna tartare with avocado, chilli and sesame oil which was delicious and one of my highlights of the whole meal.

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This was followed by a plate of lobster ceviche, which was light and beautifully citrussy with yuzu and orange. We then opted for the grilled red prawns (we were too squeamish to order them raw) which were mind-bindingly good. Honestly, if you go, order two platefuls of these and some bread to mop them up with. Properly delicious stuff.

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We then went slightly off piste with the fritto misto. My boyfriend loves this dish and if it’s on the menu he’ll always order it but I find it a bit too heavy. We were going to opt for the scallops with a side of courgette fries but they’d run out of scallops which was a shame.

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However, when we were paying the bill, my boyfriend told the manager it was my birthday and this was where Rex & Mariano firmly marched themselves into my good books. Not only did she very sweetly give us a shot of limoncello each, but she said she couldn’t let us leave without a birthday pudding and so we indulged in a nougat affogato which was the perfect end to our meal.

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What a Week! Ft. Polpo, YSL & Wine…

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It’s been a busy past week, but then again when is it ever not? I still managed to squeeze in lots of eating, cocktails and shopping though so bit of a win all round. Oh and we said goodbye to April and hello to May, which is my birthday month so double win.

1. Dinner at Polpo (and the Negroni bar).

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Despite both myself and my boyfriend being self-confessed foodies, we hadn’t yet ventured into Polpo, even though I’m well aware it’s the bloggers choice of Italian small plate dining.

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Post-work, we headed to Polpo in Farringdon where the 45 minute wait for a table was happily spent in the Negroni bar downstairs. Polpo’s Negronis are strong as hell and come in a pleasing variety. I could have quite happily worked my way through the list but I think I’d probably have fallen off my chair after the third.

Dinner at Polpo was good – standouts being fried olives with anchovies because salty fried things are one of my five a day, and fritto misto. We got too full too quickly though so missed out on the spicy pork and fennel meatballs. We’ll just have to go back instead…

2. Falling In Love Again With YSL’s Touché Éclat.

A total classic of a product, I re-discovered my love for Touché Éclat this week when I found another discount code online and duly purchased. I’ve had a few sleepless nights this week and this gem has been a lifesaver for making me look fresh and awake once more.

3. Sales Sales Sales.

The gods of shopping have smiled upon me this week. I managed to score 20% off when repurchasing Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow foundation (a base obsessed girl’s dream). I then lucked off with the 25% discount at Warehouse with Grazia magazine. SCORE. I’m planning a little work-wear haul post next week to show you what I bought.

4. BIRTHDAY MONTH.

Ah, hello May. I turn 25 later this month and I’m very excited about it. I’m planning a quiet one, with dinner at Rex & Mariano planned with my other half, and a pre-dinner nails/Prosecco celebration with my best friend Phoebe. I can hardly wait.

5. Pub Saturday’s.

I love living in Dulwich for a myriad of reasons: the greenery, the almost villagey feel and the fact that we have SO MANY PUBS nearby. My favourite for food is the Tulse Hill Hotel, but our ‘local’ is the Rosendale which has an excellent cocktail list and a gorgeous sunny back garden.

I’m off to New York tomorrow but normal blogging service will resume as I’ve got several pre-planned posts going up.

Let me know if there’s any beauty products you think I should pick up while I’m stateside? I’m definitely treating myself to a pre-birthday present. Like I really need an excuse…

The Month That Was…

February

February was a pretty grim month. Amongst other things, my lovely grandma has been in and out of hospital with broken bones, my boyfriend came down with flu and poor little Miss Mog got hit by a car and ended up with a fractured jaw. She’s okay folks – I can’t say the same for my mother’s bank balance after seeing how much a feeding tube for a cat costs – but Mog will live to bite another day.

Still, we’re into March now, and whilst the grey skies are continuously lurking and it’s still freezing outside, I’m trying to think positively and focus on the good things in life. This is my solution – a look-back at the good bits from February.

  1. Brunch at Balthazar

I’ve wanted to go here for ages and it didn’t disappoint. After gawking at the wine list (£1300 for a bottle of champagne…), we both settled on a cocktail each and some brunch. I had scrambled eggs with Dorset crab on sourdough, which was simple, beautifully put together and delicious. The boy opted for Eggs Benedict, which I stole a mouthful of and can confirm was divine.

  1. Lipstick Queen Velvet Rope in Entourage.

God, this shade is a beauty. I spied it first on my lovely friend Carrie and just had to buy it. It’s a rich wine colour which dramatically glams up your look whilst simultaneously moisturizing your lips. It has a nice peppermint taste as well. It’s ruinously expensive for a lipstick though but I think I have expensive tastes…

  1. Gorgeous red roses for Valentine’s

Ugh. Smug alert – so I’ll keep this short, but just to say that he made a great choice and what girl doesn’t like roses?

  1. Stella Newman’s The Dish

I’ve read Stella’s previous two books (Leftovers & Pearshaped) and fell in love with her funny and touching writing style so was thrilled to see her latest novel was released in February. Her books always contain a foodie heroine, and they name check some of my favourite places like St. John’s (custard donuts FTW). I devoured her latest novel in one sitting.

  1. Looking forward: FOUR DAYS ‘TIL MEXICO

*Second smug alert klaxon*

Without a doubt, it’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for March. I’ve just done a bit of an epic holiday shop online, which I’ll share with you all shortly. I’m also trying to cover myself in fake tan after trying on a white bikini and realising I basically look blue. The good thing is that I’m going with my incredibly pale other half who once hilariously managed to get really sunburnt…in SCOTLAND. I’m stockpiling the aftersun already…

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Lounge-ing About: Brunch in Brixton

It’s bitterly cold in London at the moment. It’s the kind of cold that chills you right through, and makes waiting for a bus or a train particularly miserable. It also makes me keen to hibernate through the rest of winter until the first days of Spring, but I know from experience English winters have a habit of going on and on until April so I’d probably be sleeping for quite a while.

On Sunday morning, we woke up after a very fun, and quite tipsy evening out at the pop-up Forza Win (read my blogpost about it here) and immediately thought of breakfast. Sadly, the kitchen fairies had completely failed to replenish our dwindling fridge so despite the temptations to stay at home in the warm, we ventured out to grey London to grab some brunch.

We had debated the possibility of waking early and hunting down one of St. John’s amazing custard donuts, but given it was a Sunday neither of us could face the trek to one of the few locations they’re sold at. Particularly as the boy had to go into work for the rest of the afternoon (sob), we wanted to stay local to make the most of the morning without spending it waiting for a train in the cold. 

[Quick make-up side note, on my face here is the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Even Finish Foundation in shade Porcelain because I’m a ghost, Anti-Feathering Lip Pencil from Laura Mercier in shade Ruby, a coat of Ruby Woo from MAC and the brand new and incredible Roller Lash from Benefit. Full review of that wonder product is coming soon…] Perfect coffee

Brixton is always buzzing at whatever time of day so we headed to Lounge to grab a coffee, a chair and some food.

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[Image credit from here]

Lounge is a smallish cafe-cum-bar-cum-restaurant which really comes into its own in summertime. They throw up the massive windows you can see above and serve wonderfully inventive cocktails and a mean jerk chicken burger. However, in the absence of sun or heat, we went for a traditional full English instead to provide some much needed central heating. IMG_4930

Lounge is also great for people watching. You can sit right by the window and watch the world and his wife go by. As it was a Sunday morning we spotted more than a fair few clubbers sneaking home still dressed in last night’s attire and limping slightly from dancing injuries. Having filled our stomachs, and sufficiently increased our caffeine levels, the boy headed off to work (sigh), and I headed to Brixton market to buy some flowers for the flat and the Sunday papers to read away the afternoon.

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Murder & Meatballs – An Evening at Marco’s with Forza Win…

the Vaults

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to have more fun in London, and celebrate all the little things that make up my love for this great city. This means I’m undoubtably doing things outside my comfort zone, which last night’s date definitely was. I’d been acquainted with Forza Win previously, having been to their rooftop pop-up pizza restaurant back in 2012, and lusted after their wintery fondue pop-up in 2013 (but sadly couldn’t get tickets). If you’ve not heard of them before, their website succinctly describes them as creating “wood fired seasonal dining experiences in odd places”. IMG_4904

Their latest dining pop-up, I have to say, is definitely the oddest one yet. Forza Win has come to the Vaults festival, a creative space deep underground in the vaults of Waterloo. It took a little while to figure out how to get there, and did involve walking past the kinda ‘legal’ graffiti walls of Leake Street, being ever-so-slightly intimidated by the coolness of the young graffiti artists who were frantically painting, seemingly unbothered by the fumes. Marco's

Having arrived in The Vaults, we progressed through the tunnels until we reached the bottom of an iron staircase where we were told to wait to be seated by the waiters at Marco’s. Marco’s is the creation of Forza Win, a theatrical ‘murder mystery’ dining experience which takes you back to 1980’s Peckham by way of an Italian restaurant recently taken over by ‘Marco’ from his deceased papa ‘Toni’. They are multiple seatings throughout the night, and each setting is an hour-long. Inside Marco's

We were forewarned that we could get as involved or uninvolved as we liked, but both my boyfriend and I are fair game so we happily chatted to the charismatic Marco, as well as giggling at his quite brilliantly bitchy sister Arianna, who must have the best job in London given that she has total license to be as rude as she likes, in line with her character. IMG_4907

[The rather good house red at Marco’s, a glass or so is included in your ticket price.]

To be completely honest, the plot does involve some work given that it’s less of a ‘whodunnit’ traditional murder mystery and more just like interactive bar theatre. That aside, the actors were very entertaining and unsurprisingly given Forza Win’s reputation for damn good food, the spaghetti and meatballs were delicious. It’s hard to improve upon a classic like spaghetti and meatballs, but if you’re supplied with meat from the Ginger Pig and quite sweetly, basil from their mate Jim, you can certainly try.Marco's

I actually didn’t take any photos of the spaghetti, mostly because I was distracted by the goings on of the staff, and also because I was starving and inhaled it. However, the picture above from Forza Win’s site is actually quite accurate so as delicious as this looks, you can expect something similar if you go. If you can get tickets, I definitely recommend a trip to Marco’s. Each ticket is £15 each, and includes a plate of spaghetti and meatballs and about a glass and a half of wine. It’s well worth the price for a funny and unusual night out.

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What a Week! A Rewind of the Last Five Days

A photo collage of the past week's highlights? Sure, why not...1. Wednesday night dinner at Homeslice 

I met Carrie, my chum from university, for dinner so naturally we scoffed a 20″ pizza, and enjoyed wine in a magnum (they measure what you drink, don’t take it as a personal challenge). If you eat one thing, let it be the mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seed and chilli pizza. Homeslice, please tell me what you drizzled on top because I’m still talking about it. Wow.

2. Thursday evening at the Phene with Humphrey and friends.

I spent a large part of this evening taking selfies with Humphrey, my lovely friend Amelia’s gorgeous Norfolk Terrier. The Phene always makes me feel a little like I’ve gatecrashed Made in Chelsea but with Humph on my lap, and a glass of Fleur de Lys, I was in puppy cuddle heaven.

3. Friday night in with Gone Girl.

After a frankly knackering week, my Friday night consisted of a bath, a glass of wine and Gone Girl. I’ve read the book and loved it so I was always going to like the film. Although I have to admit I was so sleepy I fell asleep halfway, before we got to THAT bit with a certain part of Mr Affleck’s anatomy…

4. Nailin’ It on Saturday morning.

My nails have been looking in pretty shoddy shape this week so I took myself to my local nail salon to get them buffed into shape, and I’m pretty darn happy with the result.

5. Countdown to Mexico…

As of Monday, it’s only five more weeks until the other half and I hit up the sunny shores of Cancun and I CANNOT wait. At the moment it’s so cold outside in London it feels like it’ll never be summer again, so eight nights in 27 degree heat in March? Yes please. I am so pleased with my past self for having the foresight to book a holiday 10 months in advance that I can almost forget that I need to get into bikini shape soon. That’s the only slight cloud on the otherwise sunny Mexican horizon. Bring it on.

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