New Year Kitchen Rules: But first, Banoffee Pie Anyone?

Banoffee pie, recipe

So, Happy New Year! It’s 2015, and I can’t believe how fast it flew by. I still remember this time last year believing that the year ahead will be a good one, and thankfully it turned out not too bad! Here’s to hoping 2015 will be even better. Now, onto the serious stuff- what have you got planned as your new year resolutions?

I’ve never really bothered with these, I always break them and I know that if I did spend the time to come up with some it won’t stick. But this year, I’ve had a lot to reflect on and a few ambitions have arisen that I would like to achieve in 2015. I started this blog only a few months back, and I’m so happy with how far its progressed! My plans for 2015 will hopefully be exciting to execute and see the blog grow into something.

So what are my resolutions? Firstly, I want to experiment more in the kitchen by trying out a few new techniques I’ve seen lately and try to make them my own. I’ve always been someone who barely follows instructions, perhaps my impatient side (I like to call it being creative!) would be wisely channelled into culinary skills. Second, Men are some of the best Chefs in the world. Statement. Resolution: Allow my husband to show off his skills more and admit that he might just know a thing or two more than me! This will be something I’ll be exploring in the next few blog posts.

Healthy. Limit the damage, but still make it taste super good and look super exquisite. My lunch, brunch & dinner posts will try to take a healthier approach- but speed is also quite important to me. I want to work on recipes that don’t require too much energy at the end of a working day, but still have such a good appeal to you and your family at the table.

On New Year’s Eve, Le Husband brought home 1kg of ripe bananas. They were discounted, and he thought it was a clever buy. It was, but just a little too much banana. We had enough banana milkshakes, banana in cereal, banana bread, etc the list is endless. Then I thought hey- blog post: 5 things you can make with ripe Bananas. I felt a little nauseated- and probably not the best post to wish my readers happy new year. Instead, I decided to kick off my blog with a Banoffee Pie with a wintery twist ~ made in less than 45 mins, served in under 2 hours.

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Crust~

200g crushed digestives

100g melted butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Steps:

1. Crush your digestives until they’re very crumbly. You can process them, or bash them up in a bag until they are in fine grains. Mix in your 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

2. Melt your butter and then pour over the digestives and sugar mix. Once fully incorporated, press into a 9inch pan making sure to cover the sides well. It won’t be too stuck together but that’s fine, push what you can and let it rest.

3. Place into the oven for 10 mins at 200c then remove to cool.

Banana filling~

4 Bananas, chopped

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup of crushed walnuts

Steps:

1. Place your bananas in a frying pan and sprinkle your 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over them evenly.

2. Let the pan heat up and the sugar melt, stirring once in a while and you’ll see the bananas softening.

3. Once softened, add your tablespoons of maple syrup, incorporate it well and turn off the hob after 1 min. Allow to cool.

Caramel & Cream~

50g melted butter

1/2 cup of thick cream

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1 cup of cream for whipping

Steps:

1. Melt your butter, then add your brown sugar and mix well until bubbles begin to form and the sugar has melted completely.

2. Add your cream, a little at a time and stirring after each addition, allowing for it to thicken and boil after each supplement.

3. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

4. Whip your cream until it becomes fluffy to mount on your Banoffee Pie.

Assemble~

1. Take your crust, and add the banana mixture from your frying pan into the centre.

2. Spread evenly over the bananas, your caramel.

3. Dollop on top the whipped cream, spreading to not cover the entire edges of the Pie.

4. Sprinkle cinnamon and decorate with bananas and walnuts for finishing.

5. Freeze for an hour before serving with a hot beverage.

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Quick & Easy: Mediterranean Sea Bream, Zucchini rolls & Ricotta Mushrooms

As a child, I used to love watching Ready Steady Cook– nice dishes, that were ready real quick and looked real good! They’d run around their kitchen area, messy desktops and a thousand pans on the hob and i’d eagerly anticipate how it would all come together.

A few days ago, it crossed my mind again. All I kept thinking about is how I haven’t had the time lately to make food that looked ‘complicated to make’. We all tend to take a look at a recipe, or have an idea and if we don’t feel like time will allow us to put this together at the end of a long working day, we overlook it and stick to the safe options that we know take less time, and less effort.

So on Friday I came home from the office fairly drained out, and upon my walk from the tube station to my flat, I realised I didn’t want to cook the expected meal of a tired Friday evening. What can I make that won’t take up too much time, but be more appealing to the eye and healthy on the body.

I know so many people who have the same thoughts. There is this common mistake that if we have never made something before, we like to take the easy option and think we cant. Well, let me tell you something- there are plenty of simple dishes out there that really require no hard work at all. So if your not a culinarian, don’t enjoy making savoury meals, running out of time or just feeling lazy- here’s an example of a quick dinner I whisked up and served in 1 hour.

Zucchini, rolls
Zucchini rolls stuffed with basil pesto, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes, topped with ricotta.
Italian marinated Sea Bream with roasted spicy potatoes
Italian marinated Sea Bream with roasted spicy potatoes
Ricotta & Spinach stuffed Portobello mushrooms
Ricotta & Spinach stuffed Portobello mushrooms

Mediterranean Sea Bream 

1 fresh Sea Bream, washed and prepared

2 onions

a hand full of coriander, chopped

3 cloves of garlic

1 medium – large onion

olive oil

1 tablespoon of italian lemon herb fish spice

1 tablespoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of mixed spices

salt

2 lemons

 

Method (5mins):

Chop your onions up, mince the garlic and smother your fish with olive oil and the onion and garlic, rubbing it against the skin.

Add all the spices, thoroughly mixing it into the fish proportionately.

Throw in your coriander and mix again, stuffing some onion into the fish.

Squeeze lemon all over and inside, and cut another lemon into pieces to cook the fish with in the oven

Place into a baking tray, and leave to marinate.

 

Ricotta & Spinach Portobello mushrooms

4 portobello mushrooms

2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves

150g ricotta cheese

2 pinches of black pepper

oregano

pinch of salt

a little olive oil

 

Method (7-10 mins):

1. Pour a little olive oil into your pan and let it heat up

2. Throw in your baby spinach, and keep mixing until it softens

3. add your oregano, salt and black pepper

4. Once softened, add to a bowl of your 150g of ricotta and mix all thoroughly through

5. remove the stem of the mushrooms and stuff the inside cap with your mixture

6. leave them on the side

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Zucchini rolls

1 large and long zucchini

1/4 sweet pepper

3 cherry tomatoes

1 spicy chilli

2 teaspoonsful of basil pesto (or if you want to make your own, check this blog post to find out how)

a little ricotta

 

Method (10mins):

1. grate your zucchini slices with a potato grater to the thickest possible slice when pressing your grater on the zucchini’s surface, cutting around 8 slices.

2. In a pan, add a little olive oil, then throw in your chopped chilli, chopped tomatoes, diced sweet pepper into a pan and let them cook.

3. Remove from pan, add a little mixed herb spice and salt and allow to cool for a minute. Then mix in the pesto thoroughly until well incorporated.

4. Place 2x slices of the zucchini on top of each other, then a tablespoon of the mixture into the edge, roll up as if you are rolling a swiss roll or a piece of paper then place them the right side up on a platter.

5. Repeat this process until your done with all your slices, top with ricotta cheese for flavour.

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Now, to ensure this is all done in less than an hour, you need to calculate what takes the longest to cook. I also added spicy roasted potato to this meal, which takes the longest to cook but easiest to prepare. I started off with the potatoes, washed and cut thoroughly, placed them into a lined baking tray with some smoked paprika and salt and let them sizzle while i prepared the fish and the stuffed mushrooms. At this point, 20-25 mins have past.

At this point, I then added the fish to the oven to cook as the potatoes were just under half way done. Whilst they were cooking, I worked on the zucchini and by the time I had finished this appetiser, I allowed a further 15 mins for what was in the oven.

I placed the mushrooms into the oven 10 mins before the hour struck, and 10 mins later all 3 trays were ready to take out.

English Spice & Everything Nice: Easy tea-time treats!

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Can you believe it’s December? How time has flown by- perhaps just for me! I’m in utter shock that we’re almost closing another chapter and embarking on a new year very, very soon. I’ve been taking much more time lately to just sit back and relax- which is quite difficult in a city that has too much to do and not enough time.

Following my Tea Parlour escapades,  I have been feeling very peckish for some English treats. As much of a fan I am of French labels and the classic parisian appeal, there is something quite indulging about everything English and traditional. One of my favourite brands, Cath Kidston engulfs just that. With everything painted English so beautifully the brand goes by the law of modern vintage. You can’t help but need a cup of Earl Grey and a scone with Jam & Clotted Cream to go with whatever you intend to purchase.

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Looking at all the floral patterns and cosy home furnishings I had been left to feel so nostalgic over my baking, leaving all my kitchen goodies in Tripoli and having a near-to empty kitchen canvas to start painting on again has been a tricky one to handle. Every time an idea sparks, I realise my Piper is half way around the world, or my sugar-paste modelling kit tucked away many miles out of reach. To the point of frustration, I headed out to try and find some reasonable bits and bobs that don’t cost too much and are easy to handle to try and ease away my bakingless cause of stress!

Whilst I ranted away to my friends about how inconvenient it was to not have my functioning kitchen in my reach, an idea was touched upon, when I was questioned: Do you really need all those expensive pieces to make something nice? Are you really heavily reliant on them or is it just a pretty excuse?

This had me reeling over it for a few days. Lets be real here, you don’t need a Kenwood Chef or a KitchenAid, a blow torch nor your top of the range god knows what to make something. Good old days where hand whisks and kneading with your bare hands were sufficient- why not try to live in the shoes of a chef in the days before Kitchen mixers were born. Thus, a challenge was born.

What’s easy, english, tastes great and can be made real quick?

– Traditional English Scones

– Traditional Victoria Sponge

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Out came the berries in the fridge, nothing suits more than fresh raspberries and blueberries. Heavy cream, whisked (yes, I cheated with a normal handheld whisk!) and Raspberry Jam to accompany the Victoria Sponge. The Recipe is probably the easiest the cake you can make. Ever!

In a mixing bowl throw in all together in the following order:

Victoria Sponge

150 g flour

150g sugar

150g butter

3 eggs

1 full teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

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Beat for a good 10 mins at least- until the mixture is very light, in colour and texture- divide over 2 tins and bake at 180 degrees for 30-35 mins.

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Whilst the Cake is in the oven, I started on my scones. I use an egg-free dough for these as it’s just quicker and much easier to make.

All you need is:

English Scones

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

100g butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup milk (and a little extra if needed)

Knead the dough gently not to over do it and cut to around 2cm thick circles (or hearts!) of a scone size. Lay on a baking tray and sprinkle some flour on top. My husband likes his scones with raisins, so I divided the mixture and incorporated raisins into one half. This mixture will make around 12-15 scones.

The scones need 200 degrees for around 20-25 mins in the oven. You don’t want to overcook them or when they cool they become too hard to eat. Allow them to turn slightly golden and take them out of the oven. There you have it!

Now, your cake will be cooked and your cream whipped ready to stick your two layers of Victoria Sponge together. I cut some berries and added them with the Jam and Cream then pilled a few more on top, dusted some icing sugar for extra sweetness (and presentation!).

I also tend to trim the edges of my cakes to reveal the paleness of the inside of the sponge. This is optional!

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Happy Baking!

 

A Cup of Tea & a list of London’s top Tea Parlours

It’s been far too long since I have posted anything, primarily because I have been overly occupied over the past month. I’ve moved into a new apartment (exciting!) and been on a few middle eastern excursions to the far east and the north of the Mediterranean but also a great opportunity to explore some new places and flavours. I’ve got a few blog posts in mind I’ll be working on for the next few weeks.

What’s been at hand for me lately? Well, I have missed baking- immensely! Uprooting to another country means I’ve left all my baking goodies behind (my KitchenAid couldn’t fit in my suitcase) but I’m all set to get back into the baking scene. I’ve got a new look for the blog and ideas to keep me busy for a while.

The winter is fast approaching, warm cuppas and hearty meals have been priorities to keeping it together through November. Libya was no place for zero degree mornings, so the new adjustment has taken me and my husband by surprise. It’s amazing how quickly the body adjusts to different climates, the cold is taking just that little longer. The naked trees dressed in fairy lights, thin blankets of dirty white covering the morning skies all the while London continues on, heating on the underground trains and christmas carol singers in the corners of city roads.

With all these new big changes in my life, it has been a time for huge self-reflection. What have I come to achieve in the past five years? What did I learn from my time in Libya and where do I want to be with my career, aspirations, hobbies, family for the years to come? The new year drawing near I’ve been spending a lot of time reeling over many a things. Starting a blog was one of my priorities as an aspiration, but the internal struggle of decided what to write about and what to focus on had been a huge one for me. What is it that I want to blog about? Is it art, photography, baking, travel perhaps, all these things I’ve tried to merge into one blog that represents it all.

With those thoughts, I have been meeting my friends and talking over cups of tea. From Hampstead to South Kensington, my tea adventures have taken me across all corners of the Capital. I’ve decided to put together a list of my top 5 favourite tea parlours in London, that I’ll leave for your discovery next time your in the city.

5. La Patisserie Des Reves ~ South Kensington

I stumbled upon this with a friend after we saw the Wildlife Photographer Exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Situated just across the road, this is a 21st century take on traditional french bakery and tea room. Exquisitely pink and intoxicatingly chic, this very modernised and simplistic Patisserie makes desserts from the heart of Paris.  Their tea menu is just as good as their edible creations- traditional yet stylish. If your in South Kensington or spending a day at the museums- stop by and give it a try. You’re advised to book a table as it does accommodate only a few customers.

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4. Camellia’s Teahouse ~ Carnaby Street

Away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford St and Regents St, tucked on the second floor of Kingly Court in Carnaby, this very english Teahouse has a lovely atmosphere about it, as well as a large range of teas- from herbal to traditional. Their offers of Cream Tea is just as good. They purely boast on tea- so no tasty desserts to show off here, just a refreshing experience with some calm and cosy ambiance.

3. Fortnum & Mason The Parlour ~ Piccadilly

Well, it doesn’t get more english than this really. A fabulously classic department store, with some fabulously classic tea. You can purchase your own loose leaf tea from their large tea selection, but if you’d like the Fortnum & Mason experience, a cup of tea here could cost you up to £7.00, but it is very much worth it.

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2. Bake-A-Boo ~ West Hampstead

Hampstead is perfect for a Tea Room, and Bake-A-Boo describe themselves as simply darling- I couldn’t put it better myself. A Bakery as well as caterers for social events, this splendid hideaway in West Hampstead has just the right level of cute, cosy, elegance and englishness! They serve some of the best Afternoon Tea I’ve had, this place has really nailed it.

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1. Ladurée ~ Covent Garden

This has to be top on my list, because I have an insatiable appetite for it. The tea is splendid, the atmosphere is beautiful, the tableware is charmingly picturesque. Ladurée Covent Garden is positioned in one of London’s hotspots. A very elegant place, and very french too. Some of the finest macaroons and desserts that compliment the tea perfectly. Not overly expensive, this has to be my favourite go to place for a good chat, good tea and in a beautiful location.

 

 

 

How to Keep Calm: Thoughts, Therapy & Shakshouka

Having spent all week running around London, from work to seeing friends and commuting to various places to complete various tasks, my date set with a friend on Saturday was much looked forward to from very early on. I had grown accustomed to getting up early in the morning, my body-clock functioning just as well as my subconscience.

Alas- the weekend crept in and the working rainy London weekdays were pushed under the rug for a momentary lapse of time. Saturday morning was blissful- it didn’t particularly differ in its reality, but subconsciously I believed the weather was much better. My efforts were much brighter, my interior and exterior was smiling. Out the autumn clothes, on the shoes and camera in the bag. I could feel its pain- finally a day out of being in the forlorn indoors.

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During my time in the UK before moving to Libya- art in all its forms was most appealing to me. Anything artistic to pass the time, be it an activity, music, painting, reading and writing I would always draw closer to on the weekends because there is something quite tranquil to the soul about them. I have found myself going back in time, reliving from where I left off when I moved to Libya. My friend who knew me quite well embarked on surprising me after a long and exhausting week- the instructions were to get off at West Hampstead Station and she took the lead from there on.

Shortly after we walked into exactly what I would call- therapy! The soft colours, the gentle music, the peacefulness all set the scene for a Pottery Painting environment. It doesn’t matter how good your artistic ability is, or how stressed you are, your age or your interest- pottery painting is actually a really enjoyable and relaxing activity. With some fresh and healthy snacks to keep us going, we stumbled inside, sat at the table near the window, released the heaviness of our bags and coats, sleeves rolled up and creative caps on!

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Painting Pottery- complete upheaval in my weekly thinking pattern. I had quite quickly moved on from the constant thinking of what was happening in my work-life, adjusting to a new city, my family and friends in Libya. For just a moment- I was mentally in the ‘nothing’ void. Serenity at its best.
I met someone this week who told me that the best way for us to face our problems or obstacles, is to imagine a large Elephant charging right in front of you. It’s coming at you, and you have no way of stopping it. How do you tackle this? Well.. starting off by imagining you have a teaspoon and that’s your only weapon. You start to eat bits of this Elephant, a teaspoon at a time, until eventually, it will disappear.

As I sat there, with each brush stroke, a thought that was lingering distanced its way from negativity to positivity and I was dealing with issues listed in in my head one at a time, the gentle chattering of young children matching their paints and the softness of the music was sensationally soothing. Art allows you to better understand yourself, reflect, and discover new patterns of thinking. Learning about yourself, the process of understanding you, deeper levels than the surface of everyday life. Those moments of painting pottery- a simple cheerful activity, can bring you face on with your deep self doubts, worries, and can provide a clearer thinking- although may not be brilliant initially, the thinking process, like everything else in life gets better and clearer as you forth, calm, collected. The sun stays out, your piece of pottery is complete and ready to be glazed into a beautiful ornament.
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Walking back home, full of positive energy and in total ease, my husband enjoying the animated wife that returned to him- I could only think of food- more importantly, I was craving something Libyan. Something I had missed dearly when my mind had been far from the Libyan Cucina and its experiences. My contentment and relaxed self couldn’t stop thinking of Shakshouka! Simple yet fulfilling for a Saturday evening. Libyan in its flavour, Italian in its content, tasty in its texture.

Shakshouka for those who haven’t crossed it before is an interesting middle eastern take on poached eggs. It is said to have originated from the neighbouring Tunisia- poaching eggs into a tomato salsa. I have added a British twist by serving it on toast.. Here’s a simple recipe!

Essential ingredients:

1 Onion

1 Large garlic clove

1 can of chopped tomatoes

3 fresh tomatoes

3 eggs

3 chillies

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of dried tomato, garlic and italian herbs mix

1 teaspoon of basil

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Method:

1. Prepare all your ingredients- dice your onions, some just sliced some longer as shown above.

2. Add olive oil to your pan (around 3mm thick) and throw in your garlic and onions together

3. Add your canned chopped tomatoes with your fresh ones and let sizzle for a bit.

4. Sprinkle on your herbs and spices, mix thoroughly and add your chopped chillies

5. Cover and let them bubble away for 5-10 mins. Water will rise from the tomatoes and your onions will soften- remove the lid and when you’re water is slightly reduced you’re ready to add your eggs.

6. Crack eggs onto the salsa (preferably one in each side and don’t ruin the yolk like I did!)

7. Cover, lower heat, and let the eggs cook!

8. When ready, toast some bread, and serve on top!

Autumn flavours: 5 best ways to use Pesto with this fresh Pesto recipe’

It feels as if I hadn’t posted anything in a only a short time- the days feel to go by so quickly at the moment and the weather is accentuating my emotions into a rather distant bubble of perceptions and far away from inspiration. My thoughts shattered all over the place, Libya taking up a large proportion and the events of my everyday life catching up with each other in this new realm I am exploring. Everything feels exciting. Overwhelming and a bit chaotic. From hostility to congeniality. A few behaviours remain constant: My camera continues to take pictures, my writing continues to be written and the kitchen continues to be cooked in. Perhaps it is these constants that keep me and my husband sane (other than each other!). My change in work environments has actually had considerable impact upon me and has made me reach out to my colleagues in Tripoli more, trying to get in touch with my normality. People seem strange to me- english speaking people. My sentences mixed with some Libyan dialect- the ‘mish arf’ and ‘mahoo’ slipping out of my tongue mid-meetings and mid-introductions to colleagues in the UK. What a strange phenomenon it is.

The rain has started, the leaves are beginning to crumble and soak in the puddles of the early morning showers and my head takes me back those years of splendidness in Bristol. There is beauty in the streets now, I see the raindrop filled petals on the flowers now, I notice the elements that make the inside of my teabag, the coordinated tabletops in restaurants and how my shoes look good with the leaves of Autumn. How I’ve missed this type of rain.

DSC_1641_Fotor_Fotor_CollageIn accordance to my current obsession with shades of green in this autumn weather, I put down my Umbrella and strolled into the local groceries store to gather the essential ingredients for something that matched the weather, the scenes and my mood. I stared at the Parsley, Spinach, Coriander but the Basil in the corner sparked the inspiration immediately. Pesto- Spaghetti with Pesto. The golden brown pine nuts, the beautiful softness of Olive Oil and the tender Green of fresh Basil leaves.
There is something very unique about Pesto dishes, the very little substance (which takes the slightest effort to make) creates such a booming flavour when prepared correctly. I tend to enjoy adding particular vegetables that emphasis the flavour to my taste but if you follow the below instructions you’ll get a good basic result you can then play with.

The quickest way to prepare Pesto

2 Fresh bunches of Basil

100g Pine Nuts

150ml Olive Oil

a little Sunflower Oil

3 cloves Garlic

Sprinkles of Parmesan

Salt and Pepper to season

Optional: Anchovies

Method:

  1. Toast your pine nuts in a low heat frying pan with a little sunflower oil.
  2. Once they turn golden brown- set them aside.
  3. Dice your garlic slightly and chop your basil. Have them ready.
  4. Put everything in a food processor and process until a paste is formed and all ingredients have been combined well.
  5. Add your grated parmesan and process for a few seconds until combined.
  6. Your pesto is ready! take what you need and store the rest in a jar, add 1cm of olive oil to the top and keep in the refrigerator. For a stronger flavour, add a few pieces of anchovies and process- this can be used for other recipes other than Spaghetti Pesto.

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Like this dish? Here’s how to prepare it!
For this tasty dish, I put a tablespoon of butter into a large wok/pan and added 1 clove of minced garlic to fry. I love the smell of butter and garlic! I then threw in some mushrooms I had in the fridge, baby plum tomatoes halved and halved again, a couple of chopped chillies (because we just love some spice in our food!). I let them cook for a few minutes then added the pesto into the pan. Allowing it to soak in the vegetables for a minute I put it to low heat and put my spaghetti on the hob.

Once your spaghetti is cooked, (you can read about how to cook the perfect pasta in a previous blog post) drain out the water and toss it into the wok- give it a good mix like a professional chef and serve onto a plate! Grate Parmesan for presentation and a few fresh Basil leaves. There you have it!

You can do so much with Pesto!

Here are 4 other simple and fast ideas to get your inspiration going:

  • Pesto topping for Pizza – there is nothing that makes your pizza more flavoursome than Pesto! adding it with fresh tomatoes on your pizza will transform your pizza’s taste to the next level.
  • Pesto Chicken – A great flavour to marinate your chicken in! No need to add anything else, put your chicken in pesto the Pesto sauce overnight and grill your chicken whenever you’re ready.
  • Scallops in Pesto & Anchovies– Get your pesto out, add some anchovies to it and process again- anchovies are brilliant with fish dishes. A little oil in a pan, scallops, add your pesto mix, throw in some breadcrumbs or croutons and you’ve got an awesome primi. Or you can skip the croutons and serve with Bruschetta.
  • Pesto Bread – Everyone loves Garlic Bread! But not too many know how good Pesto bread is. Buy yourself a loaf of italian bread, slice it spread some butter and pesto onto the sides and put in the oven until slightly crispy. You’ll come back for more, I promise.

Thoughts of a Libyan mind with the arms of London wide open

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Jumped on a plane and landed in the heart of London closing the box temporarily on my Italian escapades- the ciaos and bacinos of Italy were so hard to shake off. But luckily the cockney accent isn’t exactly difficult to ease into.  From peace, nature, serenity I had found myself thrown into the deep end, remembering what it was like in England, the rushing chatters of workers in the morning, the overheard languages from tourist scurrying to figure out which underground line would take them to Oxford Circus- and all the while I just stared and watched. Just stared. What had happened? How easily did I forget that in the other hemisphere time wasn’t wished away and every minute of your time is valuable.

I stood there- scanned my Oyster card and allowed the escalators lower me into the tunnels of the London Underground system- take right and allow those who cannot spare 60 seconds to rush down beside me. I had no words- no thoughts- just imagery. Remembering how easy it was to spend 4 hours playing Candy Crush and another 4 napping because it was too hot to do anything and having no electric power meant no will power.  What had become of us? It became so clear to me that time stops for no man- Libya was another candle lit left to burn in the background.

Libya wasn’t the ladies who complained in protest of the late train at the platform’s sole problem. We weren’t everybody’s priority. I realised so quickly there were other things happening around the world. The men who were so stressed because they were against the Scottish Referendum, the ISIS worries, the Rotherham abuse scandal. That awakening moment that normality, other issues than just Libya exists. We were just stuck between boarders and the mediterranean in a figure of the past while the world around us was moving on. As if Libya is going through a bad divorce. Libya, the homeless child who cries tears every time it wakes and every night before it goes to sleep. Libya, the fresh graduate that lost his job.

I saw Libya in every story I heard. Every complaint I witnessed, but not out of anger- out of sadness. I threw myself in this self-destructive sphere for a good few days; I casually dump myself in Starbucks ordered my hot drink, reminiscing reading my writing from 2011 and having back flashes of the first round of evacuations, mercenaries, long nights waiting for NATO to strike and early mornings queuing for bread after dawn. I remembered the cook book I had assembled from being housebound and taking the opportunity to be positive and try out all the recipes I never had time for being a full-time working woman.

My Chai Tea Latte was ready- snapping back to reality and taking my mug to my favourite spot with my laptop and trusted notepad. I imagined myself sat in Cafe Casa with my Sahlab on a Saturday morning with my husband. Sigh. Taking all this in and talking to friends back home I realised that negativity wasn’t what I was all about during the final period before leaving in August. It was about making the most of whats available and creating your own positive energy around you. Why was I feeling so down when I was exactly where I wanted to be 2 months ago?

Packed up my bag and headed out to explore the city. I thought about what foods I wanted to try, what hidden treasures London had to offer and window-shopping at all the stores with beautiful kitchenware! I thought about the friends I wanted to see, the things I wanted to do, being in a city like London that’s so vibrant and full of positive energy was something I should be thankful for. As the sun came out after quite a storm (as cliche as that sounds) I felt a sudden change and pathetic fallacy was definitely kicking in.

My camera’s battery had been dead for a week now, neglected and left to mope just like I had been. As of a few minutes ago- it’s fully charged again- and the memory card is full of things I am excited to write about during my time in London. I’ll be sharing my food experiences of trying hydrogen nitrate ice-cream, watching my pasta dish being made in front of me in a very cool restaurant, enjoying the english vintage-chic of Cath Kidston & discovering the beauty of the very quirky Camden Lock.

As I feel my mood is getting better; Libya seems to be brightening up again and hopes for a calmer and better few months ahead is prayed for in everyday and every waking morning.

How to cook the Perfect Pasta Dish

After venturing through Italy and putting my taste buds to the test, it has inspired me to put together some blog posts on my favourite italian dishes. Having visited Verona’s food market, Venice’s finest pizzerias, Rome’s perfect pasta places and Perugia’s home-cooking I have realised that italian cooking mostly adheres to the proverb less is more.

In my years of cooking italian cuisine I will have to admit it was far from what a real italian chef would put together. The pasta has a certain cooked texture, the sauce ingredients have a certain ratio, the basil leaves need to be just enough to blend the textures and flavours perfectly together. The right onions, garlic and oil can change the power of the flavour of your dishes immensely. Not to mention salt too. 

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Pasta overcooked loses what it’s meant to taste like- becomes more like eating a staple food to fill you up rather than eating a tasty dish of flavour. Generally the rule is to just cook it ‘to the bite’ or as chefs may call it ‘al dente’. Not too raw- but not too cooked either- just right!

The tricks I’ve found is to let your water boil to the extreme- add your salt in when its got to that point. Pour your pasta into the water and don’t turn the hob down, ensure it stays high and don’t cover your saucepan. Stir frequently so it doesn’t all stick together or to the pan.

I’ve always put oil or butter in my boiling water as I’ve always believed the pasta will stick together if I don’t. I’ve actually come to learn that if you do this, your sauce won’t stick to your pasta and instead be quite oily or runny..!

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What ingredients and spices make the best bolognese? well.. I had a long conversation with an italian lady in a food market in Verona earlier this year. She introduced me to the infamous Arrabiata mix and Bruschetta mix- an essential for most italian pasta dishes. The Arrabiata mix consists of dried chilli pepper, garlic, parsley and basil. While the Bruschetta mix is dried tomatoes, onion, basic, oregano, garlic, parsley, romano, parmesan, pine nuts, thyme powder and ginger. The mix of these 2 I love to throw into my Bolognese as it brings out a brilliant burst of flavours. I also love my pepperonico and black pepper!

Italian Bolognese Recipe (serves 2)

1/4 kg Minced beef

1/3 kg spaghetti

3 tbsp of olive oil

1 Carrot

1 large onion

2 garlic cloves

a stick of celery

1 can of diced tomatoes

4 fresh tomatoes diced and peeled

1 tbsp of Arrabiata mix

1.5 tsp of bruschetta mix

a pinch of dried pepperonico

Salt & Pepper

Basil leaves for presentation

Parmesan cheese for presentation

 

Very easy recipe!

1. Warm your pan: throw in the olive oil and dice your onion- allow to bronze up a bit!

2. Crush 1 garlic clove and throw in immediately after- mix about in your pan for a bit.

3. Put your minced beef into the pan, and mix into the onions and garlic. Allow to cook on a low heat for 40 mins- add salt and pepper to flavour.

4. Add to the pan your canned diced tomatoes- carrot and celery. If needed- add a little water.

5. Allow to boil for a few minutes until your carrots are soft to the touch of a fork. Add your arrabiata mix and thoroughly stir it in. Gradually add you Bruschetta mix as well- thoroughly mixing again.

6. If you like it spicy- add your pepperonico and leave to boil for a few minutes.

7. Add salt and pepper to your taste- and turn off the hob! Ready to serve!


*Ensure to cook the pasta moments before your sauce is ready so you can serve both hot at the same time. Follow the steps to cook your spaghetti the right way and i guarantee you a very tasty dish.

Top your plate with some parmesan and basil leaves- there you have it!

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If you’re feeling creative- serve with italian Bruschetta as a Primi! Which is simply slices of italian bread toasted, topped with tomatoes, lettuce leaves, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper!

Give this recipe a go and tell me your feedback!

Discovering Rome: Top sites to visit at night

Meandering through the stradas of Roma, red white and green coloured vespas aligned on the cobble stoned streets, as the leaning symmetrical trees gave shadowed shelter from the overwhelming sun beaming down upon Ponte Sant’Angelo’s passers by, in my head, humming Dean Martin’s On an Evening in Roma and watching the city unfold triggered so much thought, reminiscing my childhood dream of visiting the Eternal City after repeatedly watching The Lizzie McGuire Movie and her adventures of Rome.

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Everything is beautiful in Rome. The ancient elegant streets full of soul, culture and italian spirit as with each turn a new flavour of Italian history arrives at our footsteps. From admiring the beauty of the Trevi Fountain to discovering the Pantheon neatly positioned between Roman side roads makes you appreciate how extraordinary this city is. The best place for Pizza, may well be positioned on a site built in 1st century AD where ancient Romans watched the fierce games- such as the phenomenal Piazza Navona with its romanticised fountains of Baroque Roman architecture and light hearted Italian street music sounding in the background of the chitter chatter of tourists and locals.

The Colloseum– the largest amphitheatre in the world, appears from the distant walk from the grand Altar of the Fatherland also one of the largest monuments in the city. With a simple fee to enter, the views of inside this unique building is extremely impressive.

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But there is nothing like Rome at night. The sunset walk through the long hours of the night is more than just spectacular- it will be forever the most memorable walk through a city at night I have ever been on- regardless of the situation of my feet, I didn’t want to stop taking in the cities splendid atmosphere. I’ve put together a short itinerary which I enjoyed thoroughly whilst strolling through the city after sunset. No running, no sore feet, just pure enjoyment. If you haven’t seen Rome at night, you just haven’t seen Rome.

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A Night Time Walk Through Rome Itinerary:

1. Begin the tour at the Fontana Di Trevi – throw your coin, sit and enjoy and continue the walk down to the Via Del Corso.

2. Make your way towards the Spanish Steps and admire the fountain, continue down the main street full of top designer brands and admire its simplicity and the occasional horse and carriage that pass through.

3. Following directions to Ponte Sant’Angelo, on the way you’ll see beautiful government buildings such as the high court or as they call it- the Tribuna. The bridge holds statues of angels- these are spectacular. Pay attention to the dramatised expressions and powerful emotions conveyed in the sculpting.

4. The way down the bridge will lead you onto Castel Sant’Angelo– if you’re a fan of Dan Brown this will remind you of some of the best scenes in the films. In the Castle there is a museum and often Orchestra performances are held inside.

5. The return walk from the other side of the riverside is peaceful and quite the perfect ambiance that sets the perfect mood for Piazza Navona. The square is the definition of enjoying Rome by night. 3 fountains, of different sizes, with powerful sculptures that show the strength of what this Piazza once was. Now full of musicians, magicians and tourists, lined with restaurants serving finest food of Rome, a dinner here will make your roman experience complete.

6. To keep the walk light and short- take a turn towards the Pantheon next. Piazza Della Rotonda holds this grand building. It is one of the great spiritual buildings of Rome that has an unglazed oculus at the centre of its dome- allowing natural light to enter. As the sun moves, powerful patterns on the walls and floor illuminate. This is work visiting the exterior at night, and seeing the inside during the day.

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