A tapas feast.

Since buying our own home, my kitchen is now my best friend.

Living in rented places previously I never felt like I could really be myself in the kitchen. When you share that space with another person (not your other half) you feel an obligation to just cook and be quick and tidy and move on. At least I did anyway!

This kitchen however, is mine. My boyfriend knows how to cook, and does like to be involved, but he claims “but it tastes so much better when you make it…”.

Luckily for him I love to cook.

Another perk of having our own place is being able to throw dinner parties. Something I dreamed of doing since I was old enough to be left alone in the kitchen. I can remember planning dinner parties for my mum and dad when I was just knee high to a grasshopper, locking them out of the kitchen while I made a mess, mainly, and a 3 course dinner for them.

The satisfaction of cooking a great meal and people enjoying it is something I just love.

So, on to the dinner party. Tapas. I love tapas. I love Spain. Last year I went 3 times, this year I’m going twice. I love everything about it. I love going to tapas restaurants here in Manchester. But strangely enough it’s not something I ever cook at home. I spent some time researching recipes and came up with the following menu:

  • Chicken and Chorizo Stew
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Garlic Mushrooms
  • and “something with aubergine”
  • Flatbreads

I started with the chicken and chorizo stew in my slow cooker in the morning. I found the recipe on BBC Good Food. It’s quite often my first port of call for recipes, it’s really reliable. I fried off the chorizo and chicken thighs first to get a bit of colour and then just threw it all in! Recipe is here. The only thing I changed was that I used boneless chicken thighs (I hate taking meat off the bone on my plate!!) and I only put in 6 as the slow cooker was pretty full! 8 hours later, and it smelt absolutely delicious.

The Patatas Bravas was another BBC Good Food recipe. Amazingly I’ve never made this before, but it was so simple. Even greater that I could make the sauce the night before – a dinner party advantage!

The garlic mushrooms were my own creation. Simply a whole loads of mushrooms, a combination of white and chestnut mushrooms in a pan with some Frylight (not sure why I’ve only just discovered this!), garlic, and garlic salt, lid on and just simmered them down til they were soft, then chucked a load of chopped fresh parsley on top.

The “something with aubergines” turned into simply just roasted aubergine. I cut them into 2 inch strips, coated with some olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper and whacked them in the over for 30-40 mins. Perfection.

Finally, flatbreads. These are actually from a greek recipe I discovered a few months back. They are DELICIOUS. I’ve made them several times now for a few different people and the response has been unanimous. I added them to my tapas menu as I needed something for people to mop up the stew with. The recipe is on this page here. (Incidentally if you want a Greek feast over a Spanish feast I’ve previously made the Greek Chicken off the same page which was also delish.) You simply mix together flour, yeast, olive oil, warm water and warm milk until a smooth ball is formed. I obviously use my stand mixer so it’s done in minutes. You then leave to stand for an hour or so. Then divide the mixture, roll out into rough circles, and cook in a dry pan til coloured on each side. The only slightly tedious thing is that you can only do one at a time (unless of course you have multiple pans!!) and the recipe makes 8, so takes a little while, but if you do it whilst sipping Prosecco I find you barely notice the time…

A last minute addition to my menu was a butterbean mash. I needed some sort of starter, and found a recipe in my Nopi cookbook. The recipe is actually on his website here. A friend of mine kindly gave me some fresh rosemary from his garden and I served it on toasted slices of a Co-op Mediterranean Bloomer. (The Co-op have a surprisingly great selection of fresh breads!)

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And there we go, a table filled and ready to go. What pleases me most about the photo below is the table. The table belonged to my Grandma, I inherited it when she passed away a couple of years ago. I love that the table is marked, and scratched, and faded, and uneven. Every blemish on this table is an enjoyed moment at my Grandma’s house. It’s a family Christmas dinner, or a birthday celebration, or just a cup of tea looking out of the window. Some people might see it as scruffy table that needs a good up cycling, but to me it’s beautiful memories.

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My various tapas dishes I have accumulated from markets in Spain. There’s a gorgeous market in Frigiliana every week, and my traditional tapas dishes and my green salad bowl were all about 3 or 4 euros each!  I try to sneak a few into my luggage each time I go.

So there we have it, my tapas feast was a success. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading, and hope I’ve inspired you in some way to recreate some of the recipes, or to just take a trip to Spain to try the food! Happy eating! xoxo

 

 

 

 

A City Break.

I always seem to be having a bit of a competition with myself to squeeze in more holidays in the year than I did the previous year. Last year I managed a fair amount (New York, Curacao, Barcelona, Andalusia, and then Andalusia again!) so when Ryanair cancelled my boyfriends flight for a lads holiday he had in October, and gave him £80 compensation in vouchers, I was well on the way to booking our first holiday for this year!

In 2007, I went interrailing, an amazing experience, which I urge anyone and everyone to do! 6 weeks, several trains, and 10 different European destinations. After a whistle stop tour of the various cities, there’s always been a few I’ve wanted to go back to. Budapest was one of those. Here’s a flashback to 2007. And here’s a quick delve into our first 2018 adventure.

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We arrived late on Sunday evening, and got a taxi straight to our apartment, taxi cost a whopping 6900HUF, seems a phenomenal amount, but it’s actually only 20 quid, the currency is bonkers. We stayed in an apartment in Buda, which we found through booking.com. A really nice, spacious, modern flat, situated just at the bottom of Castle Hill, and a stones throw from the Chain Bridge that takes you over the Danube into Pest.

Day 1. 

Some friends were coincidentally in Budapest at the same time, so we arranged to meet up and head to the Szechenyi Spa, you know, the big famous yellow building you see on all the postcards. Interestingly it has about 5 different entrances, and they are not universal! After doing a 360° tour of the building we finally found an entrance that would accept our online booking and we went straight for the outdoor thermal baths.

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We’d also booked their Thermal Beer Spa. Ultimately, it’s 45 minutes with a beer tap, some Hungarian snacks, and a hot bath. Brilliant. The bath water actually includes malt, hops and yeast; so the water mixture helps to rejuvenate your skin, reduce the appearence of acne and cellulite, and cleans your pores supposedly. It was good fun anyway!

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Now that we’d had the taste of beer the obvious choice was to head here for some wine, and here for some dinner, and then onto the Ruin Pubs. If you drink the local sparkling wine (closest thing to prosecco) it will set you back around £1.50 a glass! Beers and ciders are around £2.50 a pint, so you can imagine how sore our heads were the next morning.

 

Day 2. 

Brunch. I am a brunch fan if you didn’t already know. Brunch > everything. Obviously I had researched the best place for brunch in Budapest and it told me it was Cirkusz. The reviews were spot on, and it sorted us right out.

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Next, to the Great Market Hall. I remember going here all those 11 years ago, and being slightly overwhelmed by the amount of salami on offer. A really impressive building and an even more impressive amount of paprika available to buy! Naturally I bought a tin.

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Onto St Stephen’s Basilica, a gorgeous building – you get neck ache in there! Goes without saying that it’s worth a visit!

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I’d been dying to try one of the local delicacies – Kürtőskalács – AKA the Chimney Cake. It was huge, quite sickly, a bit tough, and quite expensive. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have bothered. You can see the size of it in this pic!

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Day 2 was finished off with an amazing meal at KonvyBar & Restaurant. A small, quaint, friendly restaurant in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. The interior is like a library, and they base their menu off a book each month (KonvyBar is translated to Book Bar). The thought and dedication that goes into each course is amazing, and their service is everything you could want. I would happily give it 10/10 and would recommend anyone planning to visit Budapest to go there. Reasonably priced as well – £75 for the two of us to have 3 courses and wine, given the standard of the food!

 

Day 3.

The sun was shining!!! So to the top of a hill we went! Castle Hill, right behind our apartment. We lined our stomachs with Langos, a traditional Hungarian cuisine, it’s leavened dough fried in oil, basically like a big flat donut. So feeling slightly sick, we sauntered up the hill. The views were amazing.

The hill features Matthias Church, and we splashed out 3000HUF (£8.50…!) to go to the top of the tower. 194 steps up, and very narrow and steep. But 100% worth the panoramic views from the top. Fun fact: One of the bells in the tower weighs over 4 tonnes (4 tonnes!!!) so they only ring it 4 times a year!

Now the next place had been recommended to me by everyone I spoke to about Budapest. New York Cafe at Boscolo. It’s dubbed the most beautiful cafe in the world, and it is just breathtaking. It wasn’t cheap – £30 for two drinks and two cakes, but it was definitely worth the trip. Entertainment in there alternated between a pianist, and a small group of musicians, playing the violin, harp, piano and double bass, creating a fantastic atmosphere. Definite thumbs up from me, patisserie cakes to die for.

And as if we’d not had enough food for one day, we needed to have some goulash. Can’t go to Hungary and not have some goulash!! At a cool little street food place – Karavan – we spotted a bloke serving goulash in a loaf of bread. Yum. Goulash = ✔. Washed down with a quick pint in a bath tub back at Szimpla Kert, one of the amazing ruin pubs.

Day 4.

The weather turned on us on day 4, must’ve known it was home time. Fortunately we found a cute little coffee shop to sit in, really hipster little joint, hidden away in a courtyard behind a main road – Fekete Brew Bar – really nice coffee, and we chilled in there for ages without feeling any pressure to buy anything else.

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As the rain was preventing us from doing any more exploring there was only one other thing to do – eat. And our final meal was a big one. Mazel Tov, part of the whole ruin pub scene in the Jewish quarter, a beautiful place, and the food was just great. It more than filled us up for the rest of the day, for our flight home.

It was a great little holiday, Budapest is a great place, as great as I remember, a lot of historic and beautiful buildings, some great restaurants, and some awesome views. View pictured below is from the Szechenyi Chain Bridge looking over to Buda.

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xoxo.

The Great Big Baguette Off

Ok, so the title is a slight exaggeration. But this weekend, I successfully made baguettes and I’m really proud.

For Christmas all my dreams came true, and I became the proud owner of this beautiful stand mixer. If you’re feeling pangs of jealousy you can pick one up here! I’ve used it a grand total of 6 times so far this year so would say it is a well loved pressie already!

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With this gift creating a theme for my Christmas pressies, I received a whole selection of baking goodies, including this – so a sudden need to attempt baguettes was apparent!

Imagine waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread and bacon sizzling under the grill? Well, that’s what my boyfriend experienced on Saturday morning.

I woke at around 9ish, and popped some ingredients into my magical mixer. I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe, what with him being the oracle of bread and all. It’s a surprisingly simple recipe; flour, dried yeast, salt and cold water. Most other breads I’ve made (mainly pizza doughs!) have oil, and warm water, and often sugar to activate the yeast so I was surprised by the lack of ingredients.

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After 7 minutes of letting the mixer do it’s thing, I was left with a “glossy, elastic dough”, just like Paul said I would. Amazing! Next stop is to leave it to rise in a tupperware, and to make a brew! An hour later, what looks like a tub of ice cream is in fact my dough ready for the next stage.

The next step was slightly scary – the shaping. Paul talks quite matter of factly about rolling the baguettes into a sausage shape – but to be careful to not knock the air out of the dough. You don’t knock it back and knead it like you do with other breads, you have to be quite delicate, which is not really my forte!

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I “delicately” cut the dough into three. And pretty much threw it onto the baking tray! It was so gloopy and soft that I was struggling to keep it in a specified shape. In hindsight I think I should have been slightly more generous with the flour measurement. Anyhoo, there they are on the tray, ready for baking.

Time for another cup of tea during the second prove. Hoping that said prove irons out some of the lumps and bumps currently present. However I was at this stage feeling better about them after watching a few youtube videos that said that in fact the lumps and bumps create extra crusty bits – so there is in fact nothing wrong with them! Result!

After the final prove, I sprinkled some flour over – for the professional bakers touch – and attempted to slash those trademark cuts in the top of the bread and into the oven they went. Gave myself a quick facial as I opened the oven to get them out – forgetting that you add a tray of water into the oven to produce steam. Note to self, don’t put face right next to oven door when opening.

But here we are – I hope you agree that the final result is really quite good. I made sure to do the whole crust test by breaking a baguette in half just to hear the crustiness, and check out that irregular texture Mr Hollywood is banging on about!

A fab Saturday morning treat, and to be honest not actually difficult to do, you just need time and patience!

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Happy baking!

xoxo