Thursday, August 30, 2012

Le Poisson Lunchbox Of The Week!

There's not much cooking going on in blissful sunny Croatia. Too busy sun bathing, recovering from the storm and eating. So it was up to Mr.Moustache to organise the Lunchbox Of The Week...He was chuffed with himself. If you squint a little you'll see his catch of the day. 

Le Poisson Lunchbox Of The Week

Monday, August 27, 2012

Croatia Day 1 - 3

Croatia Day 1 - 2: Sunrise. Sail. Swim. Sunbathe. Sail. Swim. Sunset. Sleep. Sunrise. Swim. Sail. Sunset.

Croatia Day 3: Sunrise. Sail. Swim. Storm.

Yes, day 3 brought a little surprise. Out of nowhere winds of 47 knots arrived. And we got our first taste of proper sailing. Our skipper, Le Frère de Mr. Moustache, brought us calmly back to safety while I hid downstairs in the cabin, hanging on for dear life and promising all the things I'd do and what a good person I would become if we could just get back to land. Now, if like me, you're not familiar with sailing terms, 47 knots is a pretty BIG storm. Think like a mini tornado. Well that's what it felt like. We could hear cries of Mayday Mayday on the radio, waves crashing, and my teeth chattering. But, merci au Skipper, we're safe and sound. 

There're worse places to be stranded...

And now we're stranded on an idyllic island until the weather improves. And to make it even worse the only restaurant serves fish carpaccio, salads with chunks of fresh feta, panna cotta au Cointreau and some of the best wine(s) I have tasted. La vie en rose...tough times. Sails crossed things improve.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sail away with me, but have breakfast first...

Excited? Me? Possibly. We're off on our summer holidays today, hip hip hip hooray! To Croatia, sailing to be precise. When I say sailing I use the term loosely as I plan to be spending the time sun bathing (turning a lovely shade of red) and catching up on my reading. I've a tonne of books. I can see the glares from Mr. Moustache already if we're over the baggage allowance at the airport, whoops. And it's thirty three degrees over there. Oh dear, I'm going to melt and turn into a little lobster. Factor 50 at the ready.

Now, to set us up for travelling, this week's Lunchbox Of The Week had to be something traditionally Irish...what else but an Irish breakfast? Oh yes. But adapted for a lunchbox, of course.

The Full Irish Lunchbox

A filo pastry egg filled parcel, Parma ham, mushroom pâté puddings. And some (fancy-ish) baked bean ragu - flageolet beans with leek and chive sausages. Mr. M's verdict? 'Allez Irlande!'. 

And Croatia here we come!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If Carlsberg did weeks in London...

Phew. My week as a tour guide with my teenage cousin. Done. She's fallen in love with London too. But we always knew that was going to happen, right? Poor girl never had a choice...

Our view of Tower Bridge at lunch. What's not to love? (I shrieked at her)

Some highlights of our practically perfect London week, more details to follow once I've recovered: 

  • Walking 800 miles in a 8 mile radius
  • Crawling onto bus and boat tours thankful for a break
  • Singing our hearts out at Singin In The Rain. Possibly just me singing...
  • Experiencing the most fabulous breakfast at The Wolseley
  • Exploring the wonders of the National Theatre at a backstage tour (a must-do)
  • Visiting Paris in the middle of Piccadilly at Brasserie Zedel
  • Watching The Goonies under the stars on one of our hottest days of the year
  • Dining in a rooftop car park bar at Frank's Cafe
  • Taking in the beauty of London 40 floors up at Duck and Waffle
  • Flying across London in a cable car
  • Discovering hidden gems in the middle of The City in Postman's Park
  • Shopping
  • Shopping
  • Eating
  • Shopping
  • Eating
  • Eating
  • Shopping
  • Eating

We seemed to spend a lot of time up high...

But came back to ground level for places like this
Peace in The City, Postman's Park

So while I showed off London to her, she introduced me to things such as Fangirling, a bizarre game called Ninja (not the Teenage Mutant Turtle kind), Google Goggles and Sminky Shorts. If you're from Ireland, or familiar with our lovely dialects, you have to watch this YouTube video, trust me. 

Sometimes I felt a little old and not so down with it, but then classics such as The Goonies and Ferris Bueller's Day Off united us. And we bonded over our love of shoes, food, shopping and stationery shops. Ah the little sister I never had. Ahem, if my brother is reading this (and he'd better be, I'll know, I always know...) then of course, big brothers are the best. I'd love to tell you her trip to London was my idea, but it all started with The Godfather. So this one's for you GD. It was perfect. 

I loved every minute of it. A fun-filled, sight-packed, gourmet tour. So much food, it's dancing in front of my eyes. One such delight, the signature dish at Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower:

The Duck and Waffle, yes that is maple syrup 

So while I take a little break from eating out, I need something simple to snack on. Something easy and tasty but healthy. I should really be checking myself in for a food detox about now, but this will have to do instead.

The Snack Attack

Ingredients (Serves 1 - 2 adults as a snack)
1 aubergine
Olive oil
Ciabatta (or pitta bread)
2 tablespoons of greek yogurt (or your preferred type of yogurt, I sometimes use coconut)
Cumin and coriander

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/400 degrees Fahrenheit/gas mark 6. Slice the aubergine in half length ways and drizzle in olive oil. Be generous, like the glass of wine you pour yourself, not a bar measure.

Place on a baking tray and roast for 45 minutes, or until they look a little like this. 

5 minutes before the aubergine is finished, brush the ciabatta with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin. Place in the oven with the aubergine until lightly toasted.

Remove the ciabatta and aubergine from the oven. Leave to cool slightly. Then roughly chop and stir in the yogurt. Do leave it to cool, I never do and end up with sticky burned fingers.

Serve and attack. If you have time before scoffing the lot you could add a little coriander.

Serving suggestions
As a dip with pitta breads
As a side with fish or chicken
But I mostly like to eat this still warm, beside the oven.

Now, back to reality after a blissful week in London. Ah to be 16 again. Sigh.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gone Fishing...

Well not quite fishing, but I promise I haven't abandoned you dear Reader. I'm a little busy you see,  entertaining my fabulous younger cousin and showing off my London to her.

She's sixteen and makes me feel a little elderly, nonchantly throwing out one liner gems such as 'I'm a trained abseiler' and 'I was in China in April'. Even introducing me to the concept of a YouTuber gathering. Say what now? When I was that age France was an exotic destination and I was officially trained to make the best friendship bracelets. Ever. And the internet? We had one computer in school with it...Oh dear. 

Since when did I become ANCIENT???

Fear not,  I will always be twenty four in my head, forever and ever. Amen. And London has so much to show (and impress) even a well travelled abseiling teenager.

I'm bringing her on a whistle stop tour with plenty of obligatory cheesy photos and my favourite restaurants. Day three and I've eaten my body weight in Eggs Benedict, ice cream and churros already. Details to follow. In the meantime I better get back to being cool and down with it. Totes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Come with me down my gold-tinted Olympic memory lane

So that's it. Job done. Due to overload of Olympamania I said I'd limit myself to 2 posts on it - one at the start (take a look here) and one to finish.

It started with a lunchbox like this

Now I didn't get any tickets. And I'm still a little bitter. Many's a foolish hour I spent refreshing my browser, watching the evil little timer twirl and twirl, keeping me waiting for 30 minutes and then telling me, oh no, no tickets for you my dear. Then trying again, even putting the crazy priced ones in my basket, just for the craic, £1,500 for the race walk? Sure who wouldn't?

Luckily I wasn't able to get those pricey ones either. But the Olympics experience? Oh yes, even without the tickets. OK, it wasn't all perfect, who can forget that faux North-South Korea pas, or all the empty seats. But for a few minutes let me take you down my memory lane in all its gold-tinted and starry eyed glory. 

1. Relight my fire: Dragging Mr. Moustache out of the bed at 6.30am on a Saturday to watch the Torch arrive in Greenwich. Worth it for a five second glimpse? Oh yes. Oh YES. And of course we got to have a righteous breakfast afterwards while posting smug photos on Facebook about how great we are living in London and look what we just saw na na na nah-na.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, first man to sail solo around the world,
carries the Torch past the Cutty Sark, Greenwich

2. Not quite the Opening Ceremony: Determined to be in the thick of the maddness, we got tickets for the BT London Live Concert in Hyde Park. What better way to watch the Opening Ceremony on the big screen and be serenaded by Duran Duran (yes!), Stereophonics, Paulo Nutini and Snow Patrol in between? Don't mind if I do. But the most memorable part was counting down with the crowds and seeing the flypast over our heads just after it was on the screen. Hello London.

 Our view in Hyde Park, Opening Ceremony at BT London Live

3. Being a (sorta) Games Maker: Ooops, not really. But in my own little way I like to think I helped. I turned into one of those people. Those people who cheerfully offer you directions, when you haven't even asked. Although this has been coming since I've arrived in London. I literally cannot keep quiet when I hear people lost or discussing the wrong tube route. No! Go this way I cry! Mr. M normally restrains me. Interfering busybody, some might say, I prefer helpful Londoner if you must. During the last two weeks my interference became completely acceptable.  

4. MoMania: Watching Mo Farrah win the 5,000 metres. Packed in with screaming fans, we sat alongside Tower Bridge and soaked in the electric atmosphere. Have you ever been in a Moxican Stand? It's when thousands of people jump to their feet in waves, while screaming themselves hoarse and erupt in a unionised cry of 'Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo'. 

It's alright for a view, Potters Field Big Screen

5. Team Katie: Go on you girl in green! Or red perhaps. Watching Katie Taylor bring the Gold for Ireland. I turned into a little strutting peacock, aren't we Irish the best? What's that UK? Tonnes of Golds already? USA looking to regain your title of the most medals? Doesn't matter one bit, we got ourselves a Gold. Cue mania and hysteria in all the Irish pubs in London. Let's just call it an enjoyable evening and leave it at that.

Irish Food Flag, fit for eating, not waving

6. Ringside view: Eventually we got our front row view of an Olympic event. Final Day - the marathon and there was no way we were missing this. We pitched ourselves along Cannon Street. Elbows out to save our places. Seeing the Olympian athletes up so close was unbelievable. And best of all, Ireland's very own Mark Kenneally was taking part. Which may have been why I got a bit too excited. Have a look at the video and you'll see what I mean. Didn't realise I sounded quite like that...

7. Closing Time: And then all of a sudden it was Sunday night. Our last chance (until the Paralympics) to savour it all on the big screen. So we squeezed our way into the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Got ourselves a few spare inches in front of the screen. And it began, or rather ended. Counting down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and singing along to 'Imagine' with the crowds is one golden rose-tinted memory I will always keep. 

My new friends in our united singalong last night

Thank you London. But damn you, I think I love you even more now. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sunny summer nights, an obligatory Pimm's and a Lunchbox

Do you remember your last lazy sunny summer night? For those of us in Ireland or the UK they can be a rare event. 

Lazy summer night in London, Frank's Cafe Bar

You get home and dust off your summer clothes. I'm sure I saw those flip flops somewhere...and then...get the barbecue out. It's a known fact in Ireland that once the sun dares to show its face you must have a barbecue. And sit there shivering a little, munching on burgers, chicken kebabs or whatever BBQ special was in the supermarket. So you have a few rosés or an ol' cheeky cider (has to be a summer drink) and chat about how mad hot the weather is. Can you believe it? But sure it's a little bit too hot though isn't it? Couldn't bear it like this all the time. Don't worry, summer happens in Ireland from 12.10pm - 4.06pm, generally on a Tuesday in July, when you're stuck in work. It'll be back to normal on the Wednesday.

Ooooh lucky me, I'm living in London now. Where we're having another week of temperatures in the twenties. Sorry dear Reader if you live in Ireland. I hear it doesn't last here either. So while it does here's a little snapshot of what we've been up to.

Taste the sunshine, it's Pimm's O'Clock
Made for sharing

Eat the sunshine, blue banana and pistachio ice cream
We normally only get as far as the pavement with it. Not made for sharing.

And there's nothing I love more on a lazy summer night then a very bold treat...traditional fish and chips. It always reminds me of when I was youngER and my Dad would get us a chipper and the best bit was all the extra chips hidden around the bag. Little crispy bits, soaked in salt and vinegar. I can't spell the sound, but you know the sound of licking your lips? Yep that one, I'm doing that now. Can't beat a fish and chips. 

This week I wanted to recreate the experience for our lunchbox, but the smell of a chipper is not really appropriate for the workplace. And so the Fish and Chips Lunchbox was born and swam its way to the Lunchbox Of The Week.

Cod sprinkled with golden, crunchy breadcrumbs. Roast potato crisps and chips. And it would hardly be a proper fish and chips without some mushy peas. Mr. M's verdict? ' J'adore a bag of blocks and a swimmer'. Well said Mr. Moustache, well said. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Looking for an easy midweek dinner? Better nut look any further...

Roast Butternut Squash Surprise

The perfect dish for an easy midweek meal. So simple even a Mr. Moustache can make it...

Picture this: roasted butternut squash cooked to perfection so that it has nearly caramelised. Filled with a little crème fraiche and topped with golden crunchy bread crumbs and crispy cheese.  

Just pop into the oven when you get home from work and by the time you've unwound it's ready to scoop into. Quicker than the time it takes you to ring and wait for a takeaway. 

Ingredients (serves 1 very hungry or 2 less hungry adults)

1 butternut squash
2 handfuls of bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of crème fraiche
70 grams of cheddar or feta cheese (leave out if you want a low fat version)
Olive oil

  1. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius/425 degrees Fahrenheit/gas mark 7.
  2. Take 1 butternut squash and cut in half lengthways (you might need a bit of elbow grease, they can be a bit tricky when they're not cooked).
  3. Scoop the seeds out of the hollows.
  4. Drizzle each half generously with olive oil.
  5. Spoon the crème fraiche into each hollow, top with the cheddar and then the breadcrumbs.
  6. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 50 minutes.


If the breadcrumbs start to burn but the squash isn't cooked just cover loosely with tinfoil 

Serving suggestions

Green salad (maybe add some pine nuts), great with chicken and fish too.

Dinner for one?

You could use the other half to make a rich and creamy butternut squash soup. Scoop out the roasted butternut squash, add 500ml of vegetable stock and blend. Add a little ginger and coriander (or not if you prefer). Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. There's your lunch for tomorrow sorted.

Roast Butternut Squash Soup
This photo is of an amuse bouche portion by the way...
Not sure about you but I eat a LOT more than this for my lunch.

Monday, August 06, 2012

The 230 Metre High Club

I wasn't really one of the cool kids. But maybe I am now...or was for a few hours on Saturday night at least. At Sushisamba London. On the 38th  floor of the Heron Tower to be precise. Take a look and see what you think...and don't worry, even non cool kids are made very welcome here. 

Perfect dinner view - the highest outdoor dinner dining in London, the UK...and Europe

Richard: Hello, gorgeous. In a wildly optimistic gesture I ordered you a Dirty Martini.

Samantha: Dirty Martini? Dirty b*st*rd. (Throws drink over him and leaves).

Sound familiar? Ah yes, the New York branch of Sushisamba shot to fame in this Sex and The City scene. Who doesn't love a bit of martini throwing? And now we can share the love in London.

Dirty Martini, we didn't even throw it. Promise.

Sushisamba's first European branch opened last week and I have a feeling it's going to get very popular and hyped up very quickly. So the website blurb says it's a mixture of 'Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, culture, music and striking design to the City of London'. Oooh. I saw it on an events email a while ago and thought I'd bring my lovely friend when she was came over to visit. OK, yes, I wanted to show off my London to her. It worked. Times one thousand. 

You arrive and glide up to the 38th floor of the Heron Tower in a scenic, AKA glass, lift. Very quickly. Already you're thinking 'this could be good...'. You're greeted by a gaggle of ladies in orange dresses, perhaps more one for the men. And then take a seat in (and I promised myself I wouldn't gush too much) possibly the most amazing restaurant dining room I've been in. In case you think I've lost the plot, here's a glimpse: 

Sushisamba London, 38th Floor 

Pick your jaw up. Order a cocktail to recover and continue the pleasure. My only niggle is that they were a little slow arriving, but they were excellent cocktails. 

Mojitos for deux

The staff are very helpful and knowledgeable about the dishes and cater to your tastes and for allergies. Our party of six opted to let our waiter choose for us. Perhaps not the most wallet friendly choice, the high altitude must have been getting to us. But it was worth it. 

It's food made for sharing, rather than having your normal one starter, main and dessert please. A range of small and larger plates are on offer of seafood, sushi (really?) and meats, with vegetarian options too. A Japanese grill is used for some dishes, like the char grilled scallops (full menu is available here). Some more of our favourites: 

Yellowtail, jalapeño and lemongrass

Simply Perfect Seviche

Yes, it is expensive. There's also a 15% service charge.You're talking £70 per person for dinner, wine and possibly an obligatory sake. Sake is always obligatory when you're 38 floors up gazing out across London. And you get a mini lesson on which one would be best suited for you. Many suited us.

The Restaurant Manager is the most second most charming French man I have met. Ahem. And of course Mr. Moustache had to show off and have a little chat en Francais with him. He told us they want to keep the atmosphere welcoming and friendly. So I'm really hoping it doesn't turn into one of those 'too cool for school' places. We also learnt his insider tip for securing a wife - two pints and a French accent. Simple. Mr. M was taking a few notes. 

One gripe though - no ketchup. Although my friend Richard did request some for us. Sure what goes better with crunchy rock shrimp tempura and melt in the mouth tuna? 

Tuna, no ketchup

Psych. We're not that bad. 

You won't want to leave and that's just fine, they're open until 3am at weekends. Spend the rest of your evening on the bar terraces or wander up to the 39th floor if you really must go higher and enjoy more cocktails, with a very friendly bar man, unlike on the 38th floor where he must have been having a bit of a bad night. Even the toilet trip here is something special...check out the view. Seriously. 

We will be coming back...table booked...but hurry, apparently they have thousands of bookings already so samba onto the SushiTrain STAT. Doesn't sound like your cup of tea? Sosumi. Last Sushi joke I promise. I warned you I wasn't very cool. Ah sigh, going to our local pizza place is going to feel rather boring now. 

PS: If the menu doesn't appeal (strange) then you could always try its sister restaurant Duck and Waffle on the 40th floor. We're going there in a few weeks, I'll let you know what it's like. When to go? Anytime, it's open 24-7. And what's with the name? Its signature dish of fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup that's what. 

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate
London, EC2N 4AY
Monday - Wednesday 11.30am - 1am. Thursday 11.30am - 2am. Friday - Saturday 11.30am - 3am. 
Liverpool Street tube station, three minutes walk. Bank station, seven minutes walk.