Potato Dauphinoise

I must have watched hundreds of episodes of Come Dine With Me and have seen countless ‘domestic gods / goddess’ proclaim to make the ‘best ever potato dauphinoise’ you have ever tasted …

So I decided – after mastering the roast potato and a buttery mash that I should diversify and attempt to make this decadent side. It was made to accompany a simple roast chicken and some veg (more on these in future posts) and did go quite well, although I do think some room for improvement.

And on to my haphazard / self-amended recipe which was inspired by that on bbcgoodfood – Original recipe link below: (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1789636/creamy-potato-gratin-with-caramelised-onions)

Required:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions – thinly sliced
  • 2 thyme sprigs- leaves only
  • 100ml double cream
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 kg large potatoes – thinly sliced
  • butter – couple of knobs
  • 100g crème fraîche
  • 85g parmesan, grated
  • Salt and Pepper – to taste
  • 2 tsps garlic powder

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 180C
  • Grab a frying pan and heat oil, add onions and thyme and cook until softened and slightly caramelised
  • Put potatoes, cream, milk, creme fraiche, garlic powder and salt and pepper in a bowl and combine
  • Layer half the potatoes in an ovenproof dish, top with the onion mixture and then the remaining potatoes
  • Pour the cream and milk mixture on to the potatoes – it should come level – if not add a little more milk
  • Cover with foil and bake for 1-1.30hrs (check periodically) until the potatoes are tender and cooked through
  • Once the potatoes are tender, uncover the foil, sprinkle on the parmesan and put back in to the oven until the cheese is melted and crispy and golden brown (approx 20-30 minutes)
  • The dauphinoise should be cut in to generous squares – this is an indulgent dish and should be treated as such!!
  • This works as a great accompaniment to roast meat – and works well as a change from the traditional roast potatoes in a Sunday roast dinner!

I hope you enjoy! As with all recipes, this is all about trial and error and making it work for you!! I’ll post pictures of this – when I make it again!!

TSM xxx

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Do It Today

So I had all these grand plans when I first moved home – and reading my idealised blog post from when I had just returned does make me laugh but also stress a little.

It’s been almost exactly 6 months since I came back – I had all these ideas:
– I was going to redecorate – not only my bubblegum pink room but also assist with the rest of the house
– I was going to lose tonnes of weight and be one of those Instagram posters always posting pictures of their abs
– I was going to learn how to cook fantastic foods and be this ultimate domestic goddess
and
– I was going to blog post weekly.

I have completed a grand total of zero of these goals / ideas. It’s really true when people say – ‘Life has a habit of getting in the way’. I couldn’t really agree with that statement more than I do after these 6 months.

So, here I sit with another goal and that quite simply is to be more productive.
To living each day as if it’s your last.
To not putting off til tomorrow, that which can be done today.

Without sounding too soppy, I’ve had a few things happen which make me realise I don’t want to look back when I’m older and have regrets or think about the things I could have done.

Hopefully, you’ll see me becoming more active on here and posting about those things which I’ve said I would in the past!!

Thanks for reading!

TSM xx

Moving Home

So after 4 and a bit years living in London the time has come for me to return back to my roots and move home!

A lot of things have led to this decision but the key has been the dissatisfaction at work. Everyone out there will have felt it at some point or another. Great company, great benefits, bright lights – the list could go on. But at some point you realise that the bright lights can’t cover up your own unhappiness. Role changes and new promises have come and gone and the sense that you are being I valued never quite goes away. And then the ball drops, it’s time.

And there you have it, so I have spoken to the parents, re-drafted my CV and now I’m sat at home in the kitchen I grew up in (albeit a renovated version), trying to decide how to redecorate the bedroom I last did up when I was a 13 year old girl in a “pink phase”.

This blog will hopefully keep me sane and will document my new life back at home, while I try and live harmoniously with my parents who I’ve not lived with in nearly 10 years.

Hopefully, I’ll keep you enthralled!

TSM xxx

Salvador & Amanda, Covent Garden

So last night I ended up at Salvador & Amanda in Covent Garden. I should probably correct that comment. ‘Ended up’ makes it all sound as though it was random and spontaneous, but it wasn’t really like that. It was booked in advance after a few emails back and forth.

Dinner plans were the first thing brought to mind for a catch-up with lovely friends I have been neglecting for some time. Second was the Tastecard** and that’s where Salvador & Amanda came in. Taking in to consideration the fact that my friends and I live at opposite ends of London, we needed something central.

Place: Salvador & Amanda is sold as a ‘Bar Y Tapas Y Fiesta’ place, (Bar & Tapas & Party) and it certainly tries to live up to the hype.
The only thing I would mention is that although the room is pretty big, the layout made the room and space feel very small. When we had a full table next to us, we could pretty much hear their conversations and they ours.

Service: was pretty good – I can’t really complain about it.
We were approached by a friendly waiter who was patient and understanding of our need to ask for 5 minutes three times as we were busy talking and not looking at the menu.
After finally consulting (each other and the menu), we ordered a jug of the house sangria (£10 a jug in happy hour) and several tapas.
A really positive point was that we were for the most part left to enjoy our evening – we didn’t feel rushed or as though the waiters were trying to turn-around our table.

Atmosphere: was lively from 6:30 when we arrived til 10:30 when we left. A flamenco dancer performing during the night (from about 8 onwards) was a nice surprise. A little difficult to see due to the layout of the room but was a nice feature.

Food: for the most part was of a good standard. There were definitely highs and lows to the selection of tapas we chose but I think some of it was marred by a heavy hand with the salt.
We ordered: chicken wings, meatballs, ribs, black rice with seafood, scallops, calamari, cod bites, patatas bravas and stuffed peppers. Between 3 people, this was a lot of food and we left stuffed. Most of the food arrived on stands (not too dissimilar to those you may see at an afternoon tea) but was very hard to access so we quickly got rid of them and kept the plates.
Highlights included the perfectly seared scallops, the black rice with seafood – a little over-salted and the ribs.
Lowlights were the chicken wings – dry, the calamari – a bit rubbery and the patatas bravas – could have done with a little more cooking as they were a bit hard.
I didn’t try the meatballs or the stuffed peppers but I was told they were of a high standard.

Price: was £105 including our jug of sangria and the tip – but with Tastecard it came down to £58. All in all, without the Tastecard I’d have been disappointed with the price but with it, I find it hard to complain. We left feeling satisfied and having filled our bellies with food, drink and conversation.

Would I go back? If on Tastecard, yes – but I’d order less food and ideally order a bit better than this time.

Score: 7/10

**For those not in the know, (my silent readers!) Tastecard is a restaurant discount card. In a nutshell, you book dinner at a restaurant which offers Tastecard and you can eat for a cheaper rate – sometimes as much as 50% of your food and drink bill, but usually 50% off the food – not including drinks or specials.

Vapiano – Restaurant Review

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I was really excited about going to Vapiano’s on Great Portland Street. I was first introduced to this “fast, casual restaurant with a twist” in 2006 back when I was studying / living in Berlin.

From what I remember, the food was good, there were always seats and the chefs were really helpful – especially accommodating my slightly strange amendments – “can I take this out but add this instead (even though it will become a completely new dish)?”

I actually think the concept is pretty cool and after I first went to Vapiano in Potsdamer Platz, I raved about it to my friends and family.
Simply, you walk in, are met by a greeter who hands you a swipe card. I’ve heard this likened to an Oyster Card and I suppose it’s not far off.
You simply decide what you want to eat and go up to the corresponding counter – Antipasti/Salads, Pizza or Pasta – you tell the chef/cook what you want to eat, if you want any extras, hold up your card to the chip reader and it will be updated with the amount you’ll need to pay later.
After you’ve eaten, you head to the door, give the card back to the server, they swipe it and tell you what you owe!
Simples!!

Fast forward six years and my excitement has been building all day.
Don’t get me wrong here, for what it is, it’s not bad. I just think there are some tweaks to be made!

1. Seating – not enough of a system here.
Please don’t misunderstand, I get the concept – it’s supposed to be fast and easy dining! But this concept really loses some of its lustre when for half an hour *at peak dining times* you are looking for somewhere to park your behind. Other restaurants do self-service in some format, but they will ensure you have somewhere to sit. I’d say its a one-off but after speaking to people I fear it’s not – I don’t know how to rectify this but I think offering the chance to sit in a bar area while you wait for a table is an idea, or simply advising that there is a wait for a seat.
The problem I found yesterday was that it became a bit of a free-for-all. People waiting 5-10 minutes were missing out on tables because someone else who had just walked in grabbed it first. I don’t think that’s right!

2. Food was lukewarm at best.
This is a big pet peeve of mine. For those about to jump in with “this should be served like this and that should be served like that”, I am a heathen. If food isn’t supposed to be cold, I like steam rising off it.
I also don’t really understand how you are literally taking the food from a hot pan and putting on to a plate yet it loses the warmth and heat.
Also on the food, I think there was a lack of seasoning. I know it’s a catering for all tastes thing, but a little salt & pepper action never did anyone any harm.

3. Wait time.
Me and my friend both wanted pasta. After choosing one of the four counters to queue at, I thought – oh this’ll only take 5 minutes … ! Not to be. 25 minutes later I finally got my food. For a “fast, casual” dining experience I feel there’s potentially something to be done here too!

***4*** This is actually the big positive and the one which I’ll remember to tell people.
Thor! No not the Norse god of thunder but the very lovely ‘chef’ who made my food! I asked for recommendations on the best pasta and he was happy to advise, he also and I know he probably does it for everyone, asked me if I wanted extra this or less of that. For me, with my very fussy eating habits sometimes always, this was one feature I liked!!

All in all …
Food 6/10
Service 6/10 (let down by seating)
Atmosphere 8/10
Would I go back? Yes! (Not during Peak and would request my food piping hot)

Vapiano
19-21 Great Portland Street
W1W 8QB

Opening Times
Mon – Sat 12-midnight
Sun 12-11

For 1 person, a main course, dessert and soft drink – approx £15

Chocolate Bark

Scrolling through Pinterest, I came across a really pretty looking picture – mine’s not too far off if I do say so myself …

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Chocolate bark! Now it sounds a little odd but let me tell you it’s simple, effective and generates a very “wow” reaction!

I’ll get to the recipe in a second but let me tell you why I made it.

My best friend is having a baby! As I’ve known her for 22 years (nearly 23) the first thing which popped in to my head when she told me she was expecting was “can I throw the shower?” Luckily she said yes and I knew I had to make something for the guests to take away … That’s where Pinterest and the Chocolate Bark came in!

Please note, the ingredients are approximate – I’m not that great at measurements. Also, I made a pretty large amount of bark – 5 slabs – all in your average size baking dish!

Needed:
Dark chocolate (I used 5 x 200g) – any make you like!
Wilton’s Candy Melts – you can get this from Hobby Craft in the uk!
Tin foil

Method:
Melt chocolate – I used the bowl over a pan of water method but use whatever you feel works best for you.
Melt candy melts – I did this in the microwave but again do this however you feel comfortable.
Line baking tray with foil.
Pour melted chocolate into baking tray. (Should be quite a thin layer)
Wait approx 5 minutes, give the chocolate a chance to get a bit set (this helps when adding the candy melts).
Using a spoon, place blobs of the candy melt (there is no technical way of saying this) on top of the chocolate – make sure the blobs are placed sparingly – it adds to the effect. Using a toothpick or chopstick lightly swirl the candy melt mixture into the chocolate.
Leave to set – I think it works better if you do this outside the fridge.
Once set, snap / cut the bark in to square pieces and enjoy!!

Note: I really like the bitterness of the dark chocolate against the sweet sweet candy melt but if you like it sweeter you can use milk chocolate!

K xx

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