Friday, 15 August 2014

Top 10 Tips to Make a Meal Sexy (or at least how to avoid tears)

Having visited www.match.com aphrodisiac café in Soho square, I started thinking about what makes a meal sexy!   Sadly I’ve come to the conclusion it isn’t all about the food, it is about the experience.  So herewith the collective wisdom of my friends and I:

  • Bear in mind the reason for the meal – Ultimately, this is not an opportunity for you to challenge Marco Pierre White but to show the person you love that you care about them so think modest and tasty! Someone huddled in the corner of a kitchen sobbing over choux pastry is rarely sexy.
  • Think about allergies and dislikes – Nothing kills a mood faster than anaphylactic shock or hives, it just isn’t very conducive so think about what they generally won’t eat and look out for hidden nasties. Having attempted to kill one of my friend’s girlfriends (now wife) by feeding her pesto bread (forgot about the pine nuts), I can testify that it is not great for the love life.
  • A little planning goes a long way – While spontaneity is obviously great, a little planning (even if you don’t tell her/him) means you have what you need in the kitchen and you have the time to make it.
  • Clean up as you go – When my ex used all the pans in the kitchen to cook spaghetti and even managed to cover the cat in pomodoro, my libido was not increased by having to clear up the mess and the moggy.  We are no longer together but I blame his desire to be a samurai knight rather than his cooking ….. probably best to leave it at that.
  • Set the scene – For some this may be candles, chocolates and fancy wine!  But for others – and I’m thinking of those who are married with lots of hyperactive little people – it might be something as simple as getting the grandparents to baby sit or tidying up the lounge so your beloved can enjoy a guilt-free pre-dinner drink.
  • Portion Size – Faced with a man-sized portion of pasta, my friend picked around the edges only to be asked if everything was okay.  The food was lovely, the portion which was roughly enough to feed a small family was not.   Also, too much heavy food tends to make me sleepy which again is a turn-off to most normal people.
  • Drink in moderation – A little alcohol to loosen yourself up can be great for a fun night but falling asleep in your soup, being sick or declaring your undying love through choked sobs is unlikely to get you the end result you wanted.
  • Make it your own – Some couples love a night with moonlight, candles and bubbles but to others a good movie, homemade pizza and beer is just as much fun.  Don’t force it – just because you haven’t superheated your upstairs neighbours flat with the sheer power of the candles you are using – doesn’t mean that it won’t float your boats so to speak.
  • It you can’ make it – fake it – While, everyone would love to be able to produce glorious crispy duck and pancakes, the run up to a romantic meal is not the moment to learn!  So good cheats from M&S, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose are the way forward – you can hid the dishes if you want to as well!
  • Be yourself but better – A seduction meal is not the time to discuss political differences, interrogate your date about their love life or tell them that you’ve always thought they had a fat bottom!   The nice man who shared his thoughts on my derriere did qualify the statement by saying ‘but I like fat bottoms’ but sadly this did not result in what he was hoping for.


With this knowledge under your belt, go forth and seduce your other half
Lx

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @littleofwhatyou

Thursday, 14 August 2014

So what does an Aphrodisiac Cafe look like?

When Match invited me to join them at their Aphrodisiac Café in Soho Square, I could not resist and trotted across town to see what it was all about!  A little pop up restaurant selling combinations of food that they - with the help of Michelin-starred chef, Pascal Aussignac - had identified as being good for the libido.



The menu swerved from asparagus to duck egg (with frosted beer) to Flamed Oysters and Chocolate Truffle and Armagnac.   I started with black crisp and aioli which was dried tapioca with squid ink aioli.  Now I don’t eat tapioca – lets just say I don’t like the look of it – but dried and crispy it was like rather weird crisp bread.  Not something, I would sign up for again but the aioli was a revelation – something about the squid ink made it just so very morish.



Then my Cured beef onglet, mulled wine and pomegranate arrive with my pomegranate appletiser (very nice btw) appeared.  What a revelation, the cured onglet was soft and meaty with a hint of Christmas due to the mulled wine drizzle and the pomegranate seeds gave it that crunch.  Glorious and about to be recreated in a house near me.



I skipped dessert and wandered back to the office – if not in a haze of desire, at least having enjoyed a tasty meal!

Yum – and Match does a regular aphrodisiac events so I may well check one of these out - www.match.com/events

L xx


Don’t forget to follow me @littleofwhatyou 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Galvin La Chapelle - why I need to marry the chef!

It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you sit on when it comes to the validity of the awards, if you get the opportunity to visit a Michelin starred restaurant, you get that little frizz of excitement. So when I booked a table at Galvin La Chapelle for lunch, I was rather enthusiastic to say the least.

The restaurant is at the edge of the achingly-cool Spitalfields market and situated in an old Chapel which gives this – the third restaurant opened by the Brothers Galvin – a soaring roof and touches of sheer elegance.   On arrival (having gotten a little lost as they also have a Brassiere attached), I was greeted warmly and then escorted to my table by the delightful servicing staff – really friendly but professional.

With thanks to www.cwconsult.co.uk
The table was arguably one of the best in the house – against the wall in a little protected cocoon of soft seating.  So glorious was the view and atmosphere in fact, that when my lunch guest was 10 minutes late, I simply ordered a G&T and enjoyed being in the moment (as those nice psychologists say).

When he arrived – having learnt not to be libellous or to be libellous depending on how you thought about the training – we perused the menu and I realise I had made an error.  I had tried to do Michelin star on the cheap – yes, we had vouchers for the Prix Fixe which was £24 per person including a glass of champagne.

Now the champagne was buttery, light and gorgeous but the choices were a little limited (3 per course) and as they were tacked on to the main menu, I rather felt like a child outside a sweetshop peering in at all the goodies I couldn’t have.  We chose veloute of English peas and truffle cream as well as grilled mackerel, fennel, grapefruit and cucumber to start.

Both were pretty as a picture when they arrived but I did find the veloute a little confusing as I had through it was a sauce but it had far more in common with a light pea soup.  The mackerel was good, it was nice and it was sadly just mackerel done well.  Now I know that I am being picky but I had rather hoped for more.

For mains, I went for the Grilled tranche of calves liver, pomme purée, Alsace bacon and girolles while my dining companion when for Pavé of  Icelandic cod, Puy lentils, carrot and cumin purée.  As we enjoyed a glass of white wine we discussed our choices and furiously googled Pave only to find this referred to any rectangular or square food – less exciting than we had imagined.

The liver arrived and I immediately resolved to marry Eric Jolibois.  I don’t know the man and he may have many bad habits but if he can prepare liver like this, I am prepared to overlook almost anything – potentially everything.  The liver was cooked to perfection with that almost slightly might be a little under done texture and the pomme puree was like very very good sex.   In fact, my dining companion did look a little worried as I was making happy noises as I ate it.

The Pave of cod also looked good and apparently the carrot and cumin puree was spectacular but I think that I got the better deal [that marriage offer still stands].   We finished with tea, coffee and little French truffles, macrons and cakelets.

So, would I go back?  Most definitely but I would probably order from the wider menu, potentially order the liver for starter, main and desert before wandering into the kitchen to enquire about Eric Jolibois marital status.

L xx


Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @littleofwhatyou


Square Meal

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Alternative Algarve - Olhao

Stereotypes play a huge role in our collective cultural consciousness.  Yes, the British can’t cook, the Americans only eat fried food, the Portuguese are obsessed with salt cod and the Italians can’t eat anything that doesn’t involve pasta.   

Right, anyone who has travelled (or read a fair bit) knows this is utter rubbish (this is a family blog or I would have used a far ruder word) but even if we get past this, people still seem to lump nations together.   They refer to the Americans or the Portuguese as homogenous groups of people but again they are wrong as while I am proudly South African, my culture is definitely Capetonian.

Now why am I offering you my theories on individual cultures?  Well, I’ve fallen in love with Olhao in the Algarve, Portugal and want to introduce you to the glorious culture of Southern Portugal
.  
With thanks to theportugesenews.com

So herewith a 10 top tips about the Algarve for those who haven’t visited:
  •  You fly into Faro Airport which hands down produces has the WORSE burger I have ever eaten in my life.  I have no idea but in departures, they made a burger which is dry, tasteless but reminiscent of dog food.  Honestly, when you fly home, eat before you get to the airport.

  • When you leave the airport, you can head left towards Albufera (which is stag-do heaven), Vilamore (which is golfing heaven) or Lagos (which has a huge marina but is really lovely)  Alternatively, You can take a right towards the Spanish border towards Olhao (Largest fishing port in Algarve) or Tavira (very popular with British Expats with a glorious beach).
  • Olhao (especially the old town) has captured my heart.  It’s white-washed buildings (complete with flat roofs) and little streets makes it charming to get lost in.  And you should expect to as all roads seem to lead to the seafront and the numerous restaurants as well as the two food markets.
  • Built in 1915, there are two food markets.  One which sells fish and meat and the other selling some of the most beautiful fresh food I’ve ever seen.  To add to this bounty, they have a farmers (not one of those which are popular in some parts of Europe but an honest to gosh actually grown by proper small farmers) market.  They sell some of the best strawberries I have ever tasted and the honey is truly special as is the home made peri peri sauce.
  • As the largest fishing port in the Algarve, the fish is hugely fresh (i.e. it’s just been brought across the road from the harbour) as is the other seafood.  I particularly like their take on Octopus and the razor clams are so sweet.  Now this isn’t posh seafood, but generally served with a few potatoes and a little salad.  Trust me this is enough to let the food shine.
  • However, if you have had enough of seafood, there is also a good steak restaurant, an Italian and an Indian which provide a respite from the seafood overload.  The Italian on the seafront is particularly good and while some of their pizza ideas (who puts peaches and condensed milk on a pizza) may seem bizarre, they do an amazing steak pasta with mustard sauce. 
  • Now Olhao isn’t a party town but that does mean it doesn’t have some glorious bars.  In front of the food markets (next to the sea) there are a selection of bars which serve really really good cocktails and occasionally host jazz nights.  They are incredibly friendly, all speak English and there is little better than gazing across the water to the islands.

  • A perfect day trip from Olhao is to visit the Islands which you can access from a ferry at the far end (i.e. the other end to Faro) of the sea front.  The Islands are part of the Ria Formosa nature reserve and you can visit Cultura, Farol, Deserta and Armona.  I visited Farol and we made the treck to the beach (and the beach bar). It was glorious – in fact so glorious, we missed the last ferry and phoned a water taxi to take us back.  This was so much fun and I felt  very glamorous as we zipped across the water.
Beach at on Faro
  • Admittedly, I do love the old town but the new areas of Olhao are also very sweet and some of the shops are great.  I personally love shoe shopping and there are some excellent bargains to be had in the local shoe store in the shopping centre in town.  Alternatively, there is the Algarve shopping centre which is stocked full of glorious stores and on the way to the airport so a really easy stop on the way back.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to say ‘Bon Dia’ to those you meet and smile, the Algarve is friendly and the people in Olhao are amongst the loveliest you will ever meet.


Honestly a trip to the Alternative Algarve is one you can’t afford not to take.


Lx

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Easy Black Forest Traybake

While I am not a hugely religious person, I am fairly certain that there is a special place in hell for those people who write vague cake recipes.  Yes, those who glibly say “whisk ingredients together” but don’t tell you what the end consistency should look like make me want to perpetrate extreme violence on their body.  This is probably because I’m not a sweets person – give me a nice desert liquor over a nasty sticky sweet concoction. 

Although I am not a fan of cakes, I do work with men who I’ve found work far better if they are rewarded with cake so I decided to make Black Forest Traybake as a thank you for looking after an intern!  So herewith the recipe for what is a simple, lovely sticky chocolate cake.

Cake Ingredients:
  • 75g of cocoa powder (although I didn’t quite have enough so used a little drinking chocolate as well)
  • ¾ tsp of bicarb
  • 4 medium free Range Eggs
  • 370g light muscavado sugar (again I underestimated my store cupboard so used a little castor sugar)
  • 180ml groundnut oil
  • 200g self-raising flour

Icing
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp syrup
  • 100ml cherry yoghurt


Dried cherries to garnish.

  • Mix the cocoa powder and bicarb into 200ml boiling water.
  • Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes

  • Then start by greasing a 30cm x 24cm x 4cm tin (I used a disposable one as I’m lazy)
  • Put the eggs into a mixing bowl with the sugar and oil.
  • I whisked until fully combined and glossy
  • Then sift in the flour before adding the cocoa mixture



  • Mix and then pour into the tin
  • This goes into the oven for 30 – 40 minutes or until the skewer comes clean.
  • Let this cool!
  • Add the dark chocolate, syrup and cherry yoghurt to a glass bowl
  • Pop into a pan full over boiling water and melt the chocolate
  • When it is glossy, artfully decorate the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with cherries.


Personally, I think it looks beautiful  and I’m fairly certain that when I present it to the hungry actuaries they are likely to be pleased

L xx

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @littleofwhatyou

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Taste of Summer 2014

Now I love wine in a happy non-co-dependent way but there is something about a gin and tonic which makes me smile (and occasionally grin like a fool but that takes more than one). 

That first bubbly sip with a hint of lemon and the sharp tang of good gin is pretty much as good as a back massage so I was delighted to be invited to join Chivas Brothers – the Scotch whisky and premium gin business of Pernod Ricard – to sample their take on Summer 2014!

I arrived at Hixter in Devonshire Square (the latest in Mark Hix excellent invasion of the UK restaurant scene) at 6:15 to see a few other bloggers, glamorous PRs and Global Brand Ambassadors for Chivas, Beefeaters and Ballantine’s chatting.  Global Brand Ambassador for a drinks brand?  Not sure if this is discussed at school career days but wow, what a job!

Devonshire Square is a former warehouse that with the addition of a glass roof is a calm oasis in the frenetic Liverpool Street Area and while I would have loved to show you a photo, I was warned off by a security guard as ‘this is private property’.  The proliferation of restaurants and a Planet Organic rammed with people did not seem to change his mind - #logicbypass.

The evening started with Max Warner talking you through the 'Escocia' which is a glorious cocktail (inspired by Scotland and the Spanish summer) with Chivas and Manzanilla Sherry mixed with white grape juice, pear essence, apricot essence and Lemon Tincture. 


Admittedly, this cocktail does take a little preparation as the recipe contains the words ‘sous vide’ but it does produce a dreamy indulgent grown up drink which allows the Chivas to come through without being overpowering.   The suggestion is to pair this with smoked salmon and crème fraiche but I might suggest that other strong slightly oily fish like mackerel and eel might be good too.

As we continued to sip our cocktails, Tim Stones (@Ginisawsome) steered us towards my first love (gin) introducing the infinitely easier 'Apple of my Eye'.  This drink combines apple with fresh lemon juice, thyme and a drop of saline solution to produce an all too quaffable slightly tart cocktail – lethal in the wrong hands I would imagine.



The suggestion was to pair this with beetroot galettes with goat's curd and hazelnuts.  Being a little lactose intolerant (and not a great fan of goats anything), I skipped this but think that perhaps a beetroot and caramelised onion tartlet might be nice?

Finally, we arrived at Ballantine's Cobbler which mixes whisky, port, raspberry and cherry to create a fruity summer cocktail with a very adult kick mixed by Fredrik Olsson (@freddieolsson). Sprinkled with berrys and mint it was served with some seriously good sirloin steak sliders with scrumpy fried onions.

And thus the evening drew to a close and I pondered whether I might make any of these cocktails at home for friends.  

My answer is perhaps most reminiscent of goldilocks - the Escocia is a little too complex (and no one wants to arrive to find their host crying in a corner muttering sous vide), the Apple of my eye is little too simple but the Ballantines's Cobbler is just right.

Yes, a little whisky and a little port with a sprinkling of berries is just what my next party needs

L xx

Don't forget to follow me on twitter @littleofwhatyou


Thursday, 26 June 2014

A hat trick of Cocktails to Celebrate Summer 2014

Escocia
Escocia Cocktail Image
  • 130ml Chiveas 12 infused with Raisins (300ml/50g sous vide at 45 degrees)
  • 130ml Manzanilla sherry
  • 193ml fresh white grape juice
  • 130ml Pear essence (1:1.5 fresh pear/water sous vide at 45 degrees)
  • 85ml Apricot essence (1:4 apricot jam/water sous vide at 45 degrees)
  • 45ml Lemon Tincture (1:10 Fresh Lemon Peel/water sous vide at 45 degrees)
  • 45ml Citric acid solution
  • Lemon and orange oils from zest

Add all ingredients together, except for the sherry and charge these with CO2.  Serve immediately or seal into a Champagne Bottle.  Add Sherry to serve.
Apple of my Eye Cocktail Image


Apple of my Eye
  • 50ml green apple inflused Beefeater Dry
  • 15ml fresh lemon juice
  • 15ml lemon thyme syrup
  • 4 drops of 2:1 saline solution

Shake and strain into a small coupette glass





Ballantine’s Cobbler Cocktail Image


Ballantines Cobbler
  • 50ml Ballantines Finest
  • 15ml Ruby Tawny Port
  • 3 bar spoons maraschino cherry syrup
  • Dash of sugar syrup
  • 15ml raspberry puree
  • Berries to decorate
  • Mint for decoration


Lightly shake and strain into a hurricane glass filled with minted crushed ice. Load up the glass with berries and a sprig of mint.

Thanks to the lovely people at Chivas Brothers for the recipes!