Category: Food Glorious Food

BREAKFAST REVIEW: Comptoir Libanais, T4 Heathrow Airport

When you have an early start at an airport it makes sense to get there, check in and have something to eat while you’re waiting for your flight. I usually get the fear of not knowing when I’m going to eat again (this also happens to me on car journeys of more than 1 hour) so not eating is not an option.

I’m not much of a traditional breakfast person, I really have to fancy the sausage/bacon/eggs combo that is so prevalent at breakfast time, so when we were going to Malaysia last year and the husband told me he’d researched eating options at Heathrow terminal 4 and found something that was right up my street I was intrigued.

(as an aside, the reason I didn’t know what was there myself was that I thought we were flying from T2, had booked our pre flight hotel near to T2 and had looked at breakfast options at T2. D’oh)

Comptoir Libanais is classed as a Lebanese canteen, serving traditional Lebanese cuisine alongside more traditional options. Now, this is a chain restaurant, and a chain in an airport at that, plus I’ve never eaten Lebanese food, so I don’t know how good it is compared with other Lebanese restaurants, but I really enjoyed it!

The restaurant is decorated with lots of bright colours, tiles, wicker and storage tins, with wooden tables and chairs.

Comptoir Libanais table close up

Comptoir Libanais Heathrow

Table service is offered and the waitress was incredibly friendly and smiley (2 things I couldn’t be if I was serving food to people going on holiday while I was stuck working).

So, what had the husband found that was right up my street? Shakshuka with Sojok. Don’t go thinking he picks out what I do and don’t eat, because that definitely doesn’t happen, but as soon as I saw the menu I said “I want that” and he told me that was what he thought I’d go for. The combination of Middle Eastern spices and flavours with the lamb sausage had my name written all over it (well, not really, my name isn’t Sojok, but you know what I mean), with pita bread to mop up all that delicious sauce.

Shaksuka with sojok

I said at the time, and till stand by this, that it would be a nice thing to try and recreate at home, but being as it’s 11 month since we we had it the chances of me realistically doing it are probably slim.

Lebanese beer and Minta frozen vodka

I paired my food with a Minta frozen vodka (don’t judge me, I was on holiday!) which, honestly? Was a bit like drinking alcoholic grass, because it contained all the mint, shredded up into leafy mintness and it was so overpowering that I couldn’t taste any other flavours (lemon, lime and orange blossom, apparently) but I drank it anyway because it contained vodka (I don’t like to waste alcohol) and it cost £7.95 which was as much as my breakfast.

The husband had a beer, so he looked like an alcoholic whilst I looked like a health freak.

 

Conclusion – I’d definitely recommend it if you fancy something a bit different, but have a different drink!

Are you a traditional breakfast person? Or do you prefer something a bit different?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

January sales round up

I don’t know about you, but for me the January sales have lost a lot of the appeal they once held, because it seems like High Street stores always have some kind of offer, discount or sale and so you don’t feel like you have to hold out until after Christmas to pick up a bargain.

In fact even the term January sales is now a misnomer, because most sales start before Christmas, or at least on Boxing Day, which is still firmly December on my calendar.

Not that I’m complaining…!

In years gone by I’d have stocked up on dresses, jackets and funky shoes for my office wear wardrobe, but now I work at a company with a casual dress code there’s no need for that kind of attire in my wardrobe. So now I probably shop less buy fewer things than before.

Here’s what I’ve acquired in this year’s sales.

New Look

Je T’aime t-shirt – £3

Red Je Taime tshirt

Teal velvet t-shirt – £6

New Look teal velvet tshirt

Burgundy floral flare sleeve dress – £7

New Look floral flare sleeve dress

H&M

Orange chiffon dress – £6.99

Orange chiffon dress

Jersey leopard print trousers – £4.89

Leopard print jersey trousers

Khaki lightening strike top – £8.99

Lightening khaki top

Dorothy Perkins

Floral velvet platform boots – £12

Dorothy Perkins floral velvet boots

Black floral boots – £10

Dorothy Perkins floral boots

Of course I have been buying other stuff too, but technically purchases from Everything 5 Pounds barely count, right?

What have you been buying? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

5 things I eat as an adult that I wouldn’t touch as a child

As I sat eating my fish, chips and mushy peas on Friday night, I had a flashback to being about 6 years old and sitting in the school dinner hall while a boy from my class flashed a luminescent green grin full of mushy peas. I’m not sure if that was the point at which I decided I didn’t like them, but it sticks in my head as the reason, for many many years, I always told people that I didn’t eat mushy peas. Everything about them seemed wrong to me – the colour (why were they so bright?!), the texture (so sloppy) and just the very concept.

Mushy peas

Fast forward to probably as recently as last year, and the husband assured me that I was missing out. So, one night, I had a taste and he was right! I really liked the flavour. The texture, which I had been so against, was the perfect accompaniment for fish and chips and, was it just me or did they look less nuclear green too?

What changed? Was it my tastebuds? My perception? My greedy approach to life and fear of missing out?!

Here are some more things I wouldn’t eat as a kid, but have big love for now.

Parsnips

Probably my most favourite meal in the whole wide world is my Mom’s beef stew and dumplings, with boiled potatoes, lashings of Worcestershire sauce and fresh white bread for mopping up the gravy (mouth actually watering). When I was little, my Dad used to like parsnips in it. I hated parsnips. They were too perfumed and spoilt my favourite dinner. Taking the parsnips out of my bowl of food wasn’t good enough, I could still taste them! And heaven forbid they appear on a roast dinner!

Parsnips

These days I’m all for parsnips. My Mom doesn’t put them in stew, but that’s because other family members don’t like them. I’d wolf them down! Roast parsnips are an integral part of a roast dinner, and I’ve been known to make and eat parsnip mash in the past too (it’s nice on top of a shepherd’s pie). Beautiful.

Tomatoes

Even getting a tomato seed on my hand used to freak me out, and they always tasted so bitter and wrong. I would only have tinned tomato juice on my English breakfast, not any of the tinned tomatoes.

Tomatoes

Now tomato is an integral part of a good salad (especially sweet cherry tomatoes), delicious when it’s the tinned variety and a welcome addition to a juicy burger.

Gherkins

Going to McDonalds always involved opening the burger, removing the top bun and fishing out the gherkins to be thrown away. It could be a messy business in a cheeseburger or Big Mac, feeling about in the sauce for the offending critters.

Sliced gherkins

I think the turning point must have been when I’d forgotten to take it off one time and wasn’t offended by it. Now I love pickles on a burger, and my go to Subway sandwich always has a generous handful on top.

Black pudding

I used to watch my Nan cooking black pudding for my Grandad’s greasy fry up breakfast and wonder why on earth anyone would want to eat it. It’s pigs blood and fat, for goodness sake! Then, at a wedding a few years back, the starter included of small pieces of black pudding, which I ate to be polite and found out I really liked.

Black pudding

It can be over powering, so best in small quantities, but is a REALLY good accompaniment as a burger topping, and also works well when dry fried on a none greasy full English breakfast.

How about you? Have your tastebuds changed over the years? Are there things you eat now that you hated when you were younger, or the reverse? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

A taste bending hot dog

I’m going to share a little secret with you; one that I was introduced to in summer (you remember summer, it happened briefly). You might wrinkle your nose or make vom noises. But bear with me.

A hotdog with peanut butter and jam is a thing of beauty!

I KNOW!!! I was shocked/horrified/disgusted/intrigued at the thought as well, but it’s true!

Here’s how it came about.

The husband and I went to Moseley Jazz Festival in Moseley Park & Pool and had a wander around the food stalls looking for some scran. We spotted the ingeniously named Piggie Smalls, and their menu of greatly named hotdogs.

Piggie Smalls hotdogs

Now I’m not a traditional hotdog lover, frankfurters aren’t my bag usually, but we spotted the Pig Daddy Kane with it’s PB, cherry jam and bacon bits and curiosity got the better of us. “Let’s share one,” we said, “in case it’s all kinds of wrongness.” Which, in truth, it should be.

Except it wasn’t. It was a revelation.

So we went back the next day and had another, in case the first one was a fluke. It wasn’t. We oohed and aahed and licked our lips and proclaimed it to be the BEST. HOTDOG. EVER.

And then, on the walk home, the husband had the genius idea to try and recreate it at home (we weren’t even that drunk). So we hotfooted it to Sainsbury’s and bought the closest ingredients we could get:

Pork and herb sausages

Whole Earth crunchy peanut butter

Seedless raspberry jam

White finger rolls

And the next morning we sat with trepidation at our barbecue, wondering whether the difference in fruit and the lack of bacon bits and the herbs in the sausages would be the undoing of our tasty memory. But it worked! Oh my god it worked! And it was so indulgent and naughty and guilt inducing but also so right and tasty that we had another one each!

What do you think? Does it work in your head? Would you try it? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

The Moseley Decline into Commercialisation, part 2 – Prezzo

You may remember a while ago (in what actually turns out to be more than “a while” when I looked back at previous posts) I wrote a review about Pizza Express in Moseley (where I live), which had caused great controversy by arriving in what is traditionally a very “independent” area and daring to lower the tone of the village into high street chain territory (!!!) My conclusion was that they hadn’t done a great job, and I wouldn’t be in a rush to return. Which is why I’ve been putting off going to Prezzo, which opened at a similar time.

I’ve never been to a Prezzo before, but last week curiosity got the better of us so, armed with Tesco vouchers for “free” food, we decided to check it out.

Wow!

When expectations are low it’s not difficult to surpass them. I had honestly pre-judged Prezzo on the standards set in my head by Pizza Express, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The restaurant is large – it used to be a Halfords service and MOT centre which I used to use, so I’m familiar with the space and location.

There’s an attractive outdoor terrace and a big interior which has industrial elements, lots of light, lots of mirrors, cosy intimate booths, small tables, good lighting and an open kitchen area to the rear. The décor is really well done, the whole place has a high end feel that I hadn’t expected.

We were greeted warmly, shown to our choice of table (it was late-ish on a Thursday evening so not very busy) and given menus. Prezzo has an Italian focus so there are lots of pizzas and pasta dishes, alongside some chicken and fish and a range of side dishes too. The kind of place where there’s something for everyone.

I ordered an Aperol Spritz to drink ( a new find of mine!) and the husband ordered a Negroni.

I nipped to the loo and when I got back the husband regaled me with one of the best acts of customer service I’ve ever known in a restaurant. After delivering our drinks, the waitress returned to ask if everything was ok, and the husband said he wished he hadn’t ordered a Negroni, because he didn’t like it (he’s never tried one before). The on duty manager came over and told the husband to order another drink of his choice, and that he wouldn’t be charged for the Negroni. He didn’t want our visit to be spoilt by a bad decision. How amazing is that? (I was all for drinking the Negroni as well, but apparently that would have been bad etiquette).

Next came the food – starters of crab cakes for me (delish, with a tangy garlic mayonnaise for dipping) and giant meatballs for him (also delish, made from a mix of veal, beef, pork and pancetta; oh and how we laughed at giant balls, we’re nothing if not immature).

Main course was a “posh pepperoni” pizza from the Prestigio section of the menu for the husband (crisp, light, fresh and oh so tasty) and Chicken Calabrese for me, with a side of truffle fries which were new to me, and an absolute taste sensation.

Neither of us had any space for dessert, but were both in agreement that we’ll most definitely return. We spent £40 in vouchers on food (which, with Tesco’s clubcard boost was only £10 worth of points) and £13 cash in addition, plus a healthy tip for such great, friendly and welcoming staff.

Great experience, that has made me very hungry whilst writing this post!

Are you a Prezzo fan?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x (more…)

The Moseley decline into commercialisation, part 1 – Pizza Express

I’m not technically supposed to support Pizza Express expanding into where I live, because Moseley is and always has been a village that prides itself on supporting independent retailers and being a bit different to your usual High Street.

In fact, when Pizza Express announced it would be opening a restaurant, local campaigners and Moseley stalwarts were up in arms (they seem to forget that we already have a Wetherspoons, a Boots and a Sainsburys local).

I, on the other hand, was quietly delighted (shhh, don’t tell anyone) because it means I can use my Tesco clubcard points to pay for food! I’m nothing if not cheap!

On a serious note though, it’s much better to have thriving businesses than empty premises, and one thing Moseley does have a habit of doing is pricing itself out of the market with high rents, so it’s no wonder that chains with big bank accounts are going to find their way in.

I’ll start by saying I rate Pizza Express pretty highly. OK, so it’s not an authentic Italian experience. But I find the food to be good, with lots of choice, low calorie options and the (few) restaurants I’ve visited have always been quite quirky and cosy with a nice feel. So I had high hopes.

The interior has been designed in tribute to Frederick W. Lanchester, who lived in Moseley and ran a factory at nearby Sparkbrook. The Lanchester Motor Company Ltd was started by Frederick and his two brothers in 1899 and elements of the restaurant’s design take inspiration from the early Lanchester cars, including the large air inlet grills.

Which is a really nice idea.

Imagine, therefore, my disappointment to find that the Moseley restaurant has no charisma. Personally I just found it bland and lack lustre. It’s overly bright, there were only a couple of other diners (not their fault I know, but the atmosphere was non existent), the waiter was too cocky and overly friendly for my liking (I enjoy a bit of banter with restaurant staff but this was too much), and the décor was quite insipid.

Almost worst of all, their Christmas tree was pathetic!

What a missed opportunity (and I don’t just mean the tree).

The food was ok, standard fare, we tried the Christmas special starter of a Manzo croquette and some calamari (is it just me who thinks the starters are very overpriced? If I hadn’t been paying in points I’d have definitely questioned the value). There was a special offer on for a free dessert with a starter and a main course, but we were a bit too tipsy full after our starters and pizzas, so we asked the waiter to give our desserts to an elderly man and his son who were also dining (I did ask them if they wanted them, didn’t just send them over unannounced!)

We also now have a Prezzo and a Costa, much to the disgruntlement of some locals. Costa doesn’t interest me in the slightly because a) coffee and b) we have loads of pubs where I’d rather spend my money on wine! But I’m sure I’ll give Prezzo a visit, in the interest of fairness and all that (and because they also accept Tesco vouchers!)

Do you like chain restaurants? What’s your favourite? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Simple summer sides

Since we’ve had our electric barbecue / outdoor grill we’ve been cooking outside as much as possible; steak, chicken, sausages, even griddled vegetables (yum!)

As part of the appeal is actually being outside, any accompaniments need to be quick and easy to maximise outdoor time. Here are some of my recent faves.

Crushed potato salad

Crushed potato salad

This was inspired by a visit to Pietanic at Digbeth Dining Club last year; their potato salad was skin on and light on mayo. For this I sliced and boiled some new potatoes then used a potato masher to break them up into chunks before adding sliced spring onion, grated carrot, a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and a couple of tablespoons of light mayonnaise. So tasty, healthier than shop bought potato salad and a good way to squeeze some extra veg in as well.

Tomato and onion salad

Tomato and onion salad

So simple yet so delicious! I first had this on holiday with my parents in Cyprus when I was about 14. It always tastes better in the Mediterranean due to their big juicy sun ripened toms, but it’s still a viable side dish at home. As simple as slicing up veg and sprinkling with a dash of olive oil. You could also sprinkle with a few dried herbs as I’ve done. We always order this at my favourite Moroccan restaurant near where I live; it brings a freshness to meats and potato.

Purple slaw

Purple slaw

A tasty and healthy alternative to shop bought coleslaw, and the colour is brilliant! Blitz equal measures of red and white cabbage in a food processor (or grate by hand), add grated or blitzed red onion, a touch of seasoning and some low fat mayo and mix together.

Obviously food always tastes better outside and you could make these in large portions if you were having a barbecue or party or, in my case, are just really greedy!

Let me know if you have any other tried and tested summer dishes.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

Barbecue on the balcony

As soon as the sun comes out, Brits love to barbecue. It’s a like a rite of summer passage. If you have one planned and the weather forecast changes, tough. You grit your teeth and do it anyway.

Living in an apartment I don’t have a garden, which suits me most of the time. I have a perfect little space in the sky for a garden furniture set for two and plenty of flowers, with views of lovely gardens that I don’t have to do anything with (we have a gardener darling 😉 )

Of course we have to pay a monthly service charge for said gardener and are at the mercy of the dictatorship management company, who come up with all sorts of silly rules like you can’t leave your car parked in the same place for more than 48 hours and…more importantly…you can’t have a barbecue.

Now part of me understands the logic in this, because our balcony railings are made of wood and, if one flat goes up in flames, it’s likely to spread quickly. I also believe that, as a responsible adult (ahem) with a mortage and an insurance policy and a lack of desire to burn myself and all my possessions, I should be allowed to make decisions about my own property and what’s best for it. Unfortunately the gestapo management company obviously has spies everywhere, because last time we flouted the rules and cooked like cavemen, with fire, we received a letter in the post within two days reminding us that we have no power to live autonomously and they will send hungry wolves round to tear us limb from limb if we do it again (exaggeration may have been used here).

Undeterred, the husband has a plan B. An electric barbecue.

Now, the purists and pedants amongst you will spot this for what it is – a grill! But, in the face of adversity, it’s better than giving in to the despots management company and cooking all our meals indoors. Husband is already chomping at the bit for someone to report us so he can gleefully wave the plug at them and smugly return to sizzling his sausages. I think he secretly hopes that we get “busted” so he can go all gangsta and shout IN YOUR FACE. And I would secretly like it too because, although I really love where I live, it can get tiresome worrying if you’ll come back from holiday to a big fat telling off sticker on your car window because you didn’t put it in the garage (yes, that’s another thing, you tell the autocracy management company that your car will be parked for longer than 48 hours and they ask you why it isn’t in your garage? Bloody cheek!)

Now, said electric barbecue was ordered when we had that blink and you’ll miss it couple of days of sunshine earlier this month. By the time it arrived it was raining, and seemingly has done ever since. If it’s been raining where you are then just blame my husband and his silly Amazon ordering finger. Nothing like making summer plans to put a halt to summer, eh? We’d be better off sticking a pole in the lid and using it as an umbrella for all the use we’ve had from it so far. But we clung onto the fact that things can only get better, right? It can’t rain forever! And filing that, we’d just bring it inside and use it on the dining table. An indoor barbecue! You can’t do that with real flames….

Unbelievably, despite the fact I needed an ark rather than a car to get to work this morning, this afternoon tuned into a beautiful summer day which continued into evening, and were able to christen our new purchase. Hurrah!

Here it is all set up, and in cooking action!

You can find the Andrew James electric barbecue on Amazon.

Are you a barbecue fan?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

How to make cloud bread

If you follow me on instagram you may have seen me post some pictures a couple of weeks ago of cloud bread.

Apparently, cloud bread is “taking the internet by storm” (really?!).  I saw it on a link on Facebook and checked it out purely out of curiosity (3 ingredient, low carb bread? HOW???) And then I decided to give it a go.

It’s made with cream cheese, eggs and cream of tartare or bicarbonate of soda. This sounded completely unfeasible to me. How could that make anything resembling bread? But further research (i.e. google) insisted that the end result was a light and fluffy bread substitute.

Here’s what happened when me and my sous-chef (the husband) made it on a Sunday afternoon.

Separate three eggs – whites in one bowl, yolks in another.

Add three tablespoons of full fat cream cheese to the yolks and mix with a fork until it’s a smooth creamy consistency.

Egg yolks and cream cheese

Mixed egg yolks and cream cheese

Then add a quarter teaspoon of cream of tartare to the whites. I had no idea what cream of tartare was! When I first read the recipe, I thought it meant tartare sauce, which obviously made no sense at all. But you can find it in the baking aisle. Or use bicarbonate of soda, apparently.

Egg whites and cream of tartare

Whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks (oo-er).

Whisking egg whites and cream of tartare

Whisked egg whites close up

You could probably do this with a fork or a hand whisk but it would take ages and result in a very achey wrist. With an electric whisk it takes about a minute.

Egg whites in stiff peaks

Then, add the yolk and cheese mixture to the whites and fold it in. Don’t stir or mix. Just gently fold to keep everything light and fluffy.

On a baking tray, spoon the mixture into blobs.

Spoon mixture onto baking tray

Ready for the oven

Our mix made 8 cloud blobs. Then pop it in the oven on a low heat – around 150 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Keep checking as you don’t want them to get too brown or crispy.

Et voila! Little flat rounds of fluffy loveliness!

Cloud bread fresh out of the oven

Cloud bread close up

As with any substitute, don’t expect it to taste exactly the same. I mean, you only have to look at the ingredients to realise it’s not going to taste like bread. But it is really light and fluffy with a nice texture. Think of it as a vehicle for a filling and you’re more likely to get it. They’re also not as rigid as bread, so don’t overload them.

We had grilled chilli turkey burgers and salad on ours and they were lovely. Really nice.

Cloud bread burgers

I’m going to try making some with garlic powder as a garlic bread substitute. I also think adding some mixed herbs would work well for dipping in a stew and soaking up all that lovely gravy. And I’m going to try them with bacon too.

I think these are ideal when you want that feeling of eating bread without the carb overload or the sluggish feeling that some people get. I don’t have any gluten or wheat allergies but sometimes feel bloated after eating it, so these are a nice alternative.

Have you tried cloud bread? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

My weekend in pictures

Hey, how was everyone’s weekend? I had quite a busy one, with two Mother’s Day celebrations, and a night out for a friend’s birthday. As a result I’m rather jaded and tired today – roll on hometime!

On Saturday afternoon we went to a pub about half an hour drive from us, called the Warwickshire Lad, with my Mother in Law for lunch. She’s not big on Mother’s Day, and doesn’t like doing anything on the day itself, so Saturday afternoon was ideal. It seemed a few people had the same idea.

The pub is both traditional and contemporary inside; lots of wooden beams and a big original fireplace mix well with sunny windows and big mirrors for a really spacious and bright feel. The menu is a mix of good solid pub grub and gastropub specials.

I went for honey glazed duck breast with rum and blackcherry sauce and new potatoes. The duck was cooked perfectly, not too pink, a bit of crispiness to the skin and succulent and juicy meat. The sauce was subtle; no over riding flavour of either rum or cherry, but it was sweet and not too thick.

Duck with rum and blackcherry sauce

The husband went for Fillet Steak Boston,. which he was incredibly excited about (steak, scallops and whisky sauce; all box tickers for him) but unfortunately it didn’t quite deliver – the steak was medium to well done, rather than medium as requested, and the sauce lacked flavour. A bit disappointing for a £20 main course.

What wasn’t disappointing was my new most bargainous dress – just £6 from the New Look sale! It has bell sleeves, which I love, and a pleasingly swishy skirt. I matched it with tan suede boots and a tan fringed bag.

Looking forward to the weather being warmer and being able to bust this out with bare legs and sandals.

On Saturday night we went to a rock bar in town. I debuted my new Collection Lasting Colour lipstick, which actually isn’t new at all – I bought it months and months ago after seeing it on Holly’s blog (Closing Winter) but haven’t got round to wearing it.

Collection Aubergine Kiss lipstick

Aubergine Kiss lipstick

It’s called Aubergine Kiss and is much darker in real life – a deep black cherry which is very vampy and gothic.

I also wore my new tassel jacket, which is frickin’ awesome, and received many compliments (as well as a description of a gothic Big Bird from Sesame Street!). It was, believe it or not, from Tesco, and reduced to just £20.

F&F tassel jacket

There’s no way I couldn’t keep it. It’s actually the same fabric as my feathery skirt from H&M, but don’t worry, I won’t be wearing them together!

Sunday morning loomed too quickly and I was feeling somewhat delicate, but had to pull myself together to celebrate Mothers Day with my own Mom. She and my sister came over, I cooked baked lamb and potatoes (so much yum) and we drank lots of wine, took lots of selfies and laughed a lot.

A most enjoyable Sunday afternoon and evening.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x