Foodie penpals – May 2016

img_6544.jpgFor May’s parcel, I sent to Erica, who wanted some easy snacks, and said she also loved lavendar. So I put together a parcel which included Welsh treacle toffee and Welsh cakes (with Andrew’s heritage I always like putting these into my parcels), plus some of my favourite Lotus Biscoff biscuits (and oh my God don’t even get me started on their sandwich spread!!!), some munchy seeds for quick snacks, lavendar to cook with (I am not fond of the idea of this as I don’t really like perfumed food, but hopefully Erica will enjoy it) and some of my favourite pasta which looks like a looped telephone cable!

I received a parcel from Sabine in Germany, which I am annoyed to say was so snack-tastic that I forgot to take a photo, which I have never done before and has really annoyed me as I have eaten most of the contents!

She sent me two different Ritter chocolate bars (which, when they have melted in the summer heat, you simply have to eat immediately – it’s the law), plus some chocolate wafer biscuits, some healthy soups, and a cute little Eiffel Tower keyring (not sure how that is German but I won’t complain :)). With my combination of baby brain and lack of photo I cannot remember what else she sent so apologies for not doing her parcel justice!

Alphabet Adventures – K is for Korean

img_6551.jpgWhen Jo, Charlotte and I started Alphabet Adventures there were no marriages or kids in our little triumvirate. Life has changed considerably in the last couple of years, and we’re taking bets that hopefully we’ll reach ‘Z’ by the time Henry, Charlotte’s eldest, starts university!

So we’re up to K now, and decided on a Korean night of goodness in the West End. Jo had booked us into Jin Juu, which is a trendy little place on Kingly Street … probably too trendy for us as we wanted to eat and chat, not listen to the booming beats as the restaurant turned clubby at 9pm, but that’s not to say that the food wasn’t excellent.

Starters are not really starters here – they are whopping dishes on their own, but that didn’t stop us from each ordering our own. I’d checked out the menu in advance and decided I wanted to try Korean fried chicken. I wasn’t disappointed. Boneless thigh meat coated in a savoury batter was utterly gorgeous. The meat was tender, the coating was crispy, and the sauces accompanying the chicken were great – I didn’t really like the spicier sauce but I am off anything spicy in this pregnancy, but the thick soy sauce was beautiful. I have actually been dreaming of this dish ever since I tried it.

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Charlotte chose sliders which were again little meals in themselves. Sadly they were too difficult to share, but I am pretty sure when I come back here with Andrew, he’ll choose them and let me have a bite.

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Jo went for fried dumplings (she can never resist a dumpling) and these were also lovely and tasty, with the right amount of spice for her (she’s a brave girl when it comes to spicing), and don’t they look gorgeous too?

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For our main dish we all ordered Bibinbap, along with a side of kimchi – you can’t go to a korean restaurant without ordering these two staples I don’t think. I have made bibinbap myself, which you can try here, and this was along the same lines of rice, veg and meat, stirred together with a spicy sauce (I hardly had any) and a fried egg (sometimes a raw egg is stirred in as that cooks in the heat of the stone dish in which the bibinbap is served.

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The waiter kindly stirred up the dish for me according to how you should eat it:

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Okay it looks a bit messy, but tastes fabulous!

For pudding (not that we needed any) Charlotte and I ordered a snickers dessert, which was a fried doughnut with peanut ice cream and chocolate ganache. It sounded delicious, but for me this was an unsuccessful dish. It could be that my palate is all over the place with a baby on the way but I found that the doughnut had an unpleasant almond-y taste and the chocolate ganach was too rich for me to eat more than a tiny portion of it.

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Overall, Jin Juu is a great place to go – it’s not particularly good value but not overly pricey either – I’d definitely go back to try more of the dishes on the menu … but plan to leave before it gets too lively in the evening …

Next up is L for … Lebanese?

Foodie penpals – April 2016

img_6391.jpgOnce again I am late with my Foodie Penpals reveal, but slowly catching up!

April’s foodie penpal parcel came all the way from bonny Scotland from Debbie, and was once again a fantastic mix of pregnancy friendly treats and snacks.

My parcel included an Old El Paso stand and stuff kit (which Andrew loves because even he can make these!), some gorgeous tattie scones (one of my favourites!), a selection of jam and lemon curd which are the perfect size for a couple of bagels, oatcakes – also delicious and cheesy, a couple of bars of tablet (like Scottish fudge) which I actually shared with my colleagues as I was about to have my Gestational Diabetes test at the hospital and didn’t fancy spiking my blood sugar too badly!, Irn Bru which was immediately stolen by Andrew, Oreo cookies, coconut macaroons and fudge, which I have been slowly working my way through since receipt, and some marinades which I haven’t yet tried but will be useful as post baby easy meals.

As you can see from the picture, Debbie also made me a beautiful card to go with the parcel. It turns out that she makes wedding cards and favours, so here’s her website in case you fancy getting in touch with her about making you some personalised wedding goodies.

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I sent the following to Michelle, and funnily enough also included in my parcel a stand and stuff kit, which as I said we love for quick and easy meals. I also added:

  • Jelly Babies (currently a pregnancy addiction of mine)
  • Jelly
  • Rice pudding
  • Ambrosia custard
  • Welsh treacle toffee
  • Welsh cakes

A bit of a Brit-feast!

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Cravings

img_6812.jpgI think when someone is a naturally greedy person, such as myself, it’s natural to crave food. While eating my lunch I can be thinking about what I am going to have for dinner, and sometimes I’ll find myself in a kind of reverie of food, imagining a delicious slice of cheese or piece of thickly buttered bread.

Pregnancy, however, has taken my cravings to a whole new level.

I haven’t been craving strange combinations of food, like pickles dipped in chocolate or peanut butter with sausages, but I have experienced an unrelenting desire for some foods, which initially I found hard to deal with as our kitchen was being renovated at the start of my pregnancy and so I had nowhere to cook. A disgusting McDonalds put me off fast food, and an epic 2 hour round trip for a Gregg’s sausage roll cured that habit as well, but one of my favourite ‘meals’ when my oven was installed was simple poached eggs on toast.

img_6925.jpgEggs featured strongly in my cravings: runny yolked poached eggs were a favourite (I know pregnant women should avoid under-cooked eggs but I was always comfortable to eat my favourite Clarence Court eggs with soft yolks).

img_6037.jpgI also became utterly addicted to egg and salad cream sandwiches: hard boiled eggs mashed with salad cream, mustard, salt and pepper.

On the way to Wales on one trip, I ended up begging Andrew to stop at a services which had a Waitrose so that I could buy Clarence Court eggs and Heinz salad cream so that I could indulge in my craving when I arrived at Andrew’s parents’ house.

Then I started to get a hankering for salt and vinegar crisps, and despite not having had them for years I got it into my head that I wanted Discos crisps. Do you know how difficult it is to get Discos? They don’t seem to be for sale in large supermarkets so I had to buy individual packets from garages, until I was saved by my brother who managed to find a multi-pack supplier and helped me to keep my cravings at bay.

img_5971.jpgIt’s not just been savoury food I have been craving though: as well as lovely red Jelly Babies, I have also taken to have a Magnum ice cream almost every evening for pudding. The ice cream seems to ease my heartburn which can only be a good thing. As you can see from the gorgeous picture of me below (thanks Andrew!) I have really been enjoying them …

img_6899.jpgYou may remember that I have also had a hankering for hot cross buns and fruity bread:

img_6060.jpgMy main craving though has been for things I am absolutely not allowed to eat at the moment: most particularly ripe camembert cheese, rare steak, and pate. As soon as I have the baby I am going to treat myself to all three: I will buy the nicest camembert I can find and leave it out of the fridge so it goes all gooey and runny, and might eat the whole thing myself. I have eaten baked camembert to slightly relieve my craving:

img_6225.jpgFor the pate, I adore brussels pate (the smooth one) and fancy it spread thickly onto buttered bread or crackers (or maybe both …).

I want a huge thick steak which is seared on the outside and bloody on the inside: I’d like to have it with a gorgeously tangy homemade bearnaise sauce, and perhaps some crusty bread to mop up the bloody juices.

What I really don’t want, however, is curry. I can just about tolerate Asian spices but the idea of an Indian curry absolutely does not appeal to me at all, despite it being one of my favourite foods before. I just hope I manage to get my curry tastebuds back when the baby comes into our lives.

Of course, I am not unique in my cravings – during one of my NCT classes we shared details of our cravings and discovered that Natasha is loving Slush Puppies and Jo likes potato smileys. I also asked fellow food bloggers about their pregnancy (or non-pregnancy) cravings, and discovered:

Laura from Kneadwine craved dairy, and Becs from Munchies & Munchkins craved steak and … brushing her teeth! Although they haven’t blogged about their cravings, the following bloggers shared with me what they were most tempted by: Helen from Casa Costello loved black pudding and cried when the butcher had run out (I know that feeling), Helen from Family Friends Food wanted mint choc chip ice cream (I did have to stop myself buying mint flavoured Magnums because I knew Andrew wouldn’t want them), Claire from Foodie Quine wanted Chupa Chups lollies, Jo from Jo’s Kitchen enjoyed McDonalds, Janice from Farmers Girl Kitchen loved Dairylea triangles (I could imagine eating them), Mary from Goodie Goodmother wanted courgette fries (quite healthy actually)

However, I think my favourite craving story goes to Katherine from Veggie Desserts who took to sneakily drinking the juice from pickled beetroot as her husband was so shocked by how much she was getting through! Top tip, the crinkle cut beetroot yields more juice!

What  cravings have you had … either pregnancy, hangover, or just generally?

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Week 31 – birthday celebrations at 9 months pregnant

img_7047.jpgAndrew celebrated his 41st birthday in the week, and it was a very different one from previous years what with me being less than a week from my pregnancy due date (18 July). Almost all of our NCT pals have had their little ones and that’s really brought it home for us that we don’t have long left before we’re a mum and dad as well. So even though Andrew usually spends at least a whole month celebrating his birthday, he’s been too nervous to let himself go this year, and has subsequently celebrated a sober birthday for the first time since he was 15 years old (apart from the odd pint)!

Of course it’s as much his fault as mine that we’re in this predicament, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty that his birthday wasn’t going to be as celebratory as usual, so I wanted to make an effort with his birthday meals.

We were planning to go out for dinner on his actual birthday, but ended up not bothering as Andrew didn’t even want to risk dinner locally in case the baby decided to make an appearance, so I made us cheese on toast instead!

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To make up for this, I organised two celebratory meals, and the first was on Saturday night, where the choice of food was his. For a starter he requested one of our favourites: prawn cakes with sweet chilli mayo:

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I first made these after following a Nigella ‘How to Eat’ recipe, but it’s such a doddle that I now make it according to eye. You just need to whizz up the basics of prawns, flour, port, spring onion, chilli, salt and pepper, and then gently fry them until cooked through. I always serve them on a bed of salad with mayonnaise mixed with sweet chilli sauce.

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For the main course, Andrew requested lamb rump steaks, which I haven’t cooked since I became pregnant. I always fry the steaks with rapeseed oil, garlic and rosemary.

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This time I served them with roasted new potatoes (I added a chopped onion to the roasting tray), and green beans which I had par-boiled and then tossed in tomatoes and capers.

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Andrew’s not really a pudding person, so I am always a bit limited in terms of what I can make for him (apple pie, poached pear, angel delight!). I decided to make a creamy panna cotta, using my favourite Jamie Oliver recipe, which I served with rhubarb which I’d poached in prosecco (so Andrew got a bit of booze!).

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On Sunday, our friends Isi and Michael treated us to sunday lunch at their house, which included a birthday cheesecake for pudding:

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As you can see, young Johnny particularly enjoyed the chocolate!

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Our second celebratory meal was on Wednesday, when my mum also joined us for dinner after spending the afternoon obliterating the overgrown hedges in our garden (she wouldn’t let me do anything to help, so I focused on making homemade pasta in the kitchen while she chopped and pruned).

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For a starter I decided to make a simple anti-pasti dish of grilled aubergine, courgette and tomato with some mozzarella cheese. I served it with some rapeseed oil and good balsamic vinegar, and bread to dip into all of those lovely oily juices.

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Birthday fettuccine with peas and bacon

For main course I made fettuccine pasta in my KitchenAid. For the dough I mixed 300g type 00 flour with 3 eggs and a touch of salt (too much pasta – I should have just used 200g flour and 2 eggs but I have enjoyed leftovers for the rest of the week!), and kneaded it with the dough hook for 5 minutes until smooth, then rested it in the fridge before rolling and cutting into fettuccine strips, and cooking for just a couple of minutes in salted boiling water.

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The sauce was so simple: a packet (200g) of free range smoked lardons fried in a teaspoon of olive oil until crispy, along with a finely chopped medium onion and half a teaspoon of lazy garlic. Then I chucked in two large handfuls of frozen peas and 50g pine nut kernels, 150mls of half fat creme fraiche and 50g of grated parmesan cheese. Finished with some white pepper, this was utterly delicious (even if I do say so myself!). I grated some extra parmesan cheese on top of the pasta when dished up.

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I still had some rhubarb in the fridge from Saturday, so, inspired by this recipe, poached it in some sugared water. Once cool, it sat atop a puff pastry base which had been spread with more half fat creme fraiche mixed with dark brown muscavado sugar. I baked the tart at 180 degrees for around 40 minutes, and served it warm with chantilly cream.

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So Andrew ate well over his birthday, even though he remained sober.

This coming week is a bit up in the air as the baby is due tomorrow … although of course that doesn’t mean he will actually arrive then! We made a trip to an M&S foodhall in a local retail park to stock up on easy cook dinners (including a couple of dine in for a tenner packages), so now have the following options for the week (mainly chosen by Andrew because he can cope with heating them all in the oven!):

  • Leftover chicken from today’s roast dinner
  • Pork steaks with potato croquettes
  • Chicken en croute
  • If the baby doesn’t make an appearance on time then I’d like to pop to the fishmonger to buy some hot smoked salmon for one of my favourite meals: salmon on a potato rosti with a poached egg.

Hopefully for my week 32 update, I’ll be able to share some baby news with you!

Foodie penpals – March 2016

img_6030.jpgSorry for the delay – am finally catching up with my Foodie Penpal posts!

For the March edition of Foodie Penpals I was paired up to send to Alison and receive a parcel from Caitlin who blogs over at The Pocahontas Files. As we were visiting the Cotswolds for a break with our lovely friends Niasha and Jigi, and their one year old Georgie, and Jo and Billy, I obviously had to buy some local specialties.

Cotswolds delis are expensive, so my £10 didn’t go far, but I did buy some beautiful smoked garlic, real ale chutney, and honeycomb, plus a Lindt bunny as it was around Easter and who doesn’t like a chocolate bunny?

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From Caitlin I received a gorgeous pregnancy friendly parcel of posh pasta and sauce, some quick to eat snacks for when pregnancy cravings take hold, a kit to make my own marshmallow (so cute, I must buy these as little presents for people) and a cute spatula to add to my collection.

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As always I was delighted with my parcels, although you wouldn’t believe it considering how long it has taken me to write about them. I blame the baby!

Week 30 – stocking up the freezer for baby

img_6967.jpgBecause I am a greedy pig, one of the things I was most looking forward to about maternity leave was stocking the freezer with meals in preparation for when our baby arrives. The thought of having a freezer stocked with healthy meals which simply need to be defrosted and heated fills me with happiness, so I allocated my first day of maternity leave to a cooking extravaganza.

A kilo of minced beef and a kilo of minced pork slowly cooked with onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, seasoning and herbs made five portions of bolognaise sauce. Combined with homemade bechemel and lasagne sheets I had one large and one medium lasagne as well.

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Another kilo of minced beef, more tomatoes, onions, chilli powder, chilli flakes, cayenne and kidney beans made six portions of chilli (albeit a very mild one as I am not very into spice during this pregnancy).

Two packs of boneless chicken thighs, a chorizo sausage, carrots, onions, pearl barley, stock and paprika made four portions of chicken stew.

A kilo of minced lamb, swede, carrots, onions and tomatoes made enough for four shepherd’s pie fillings (although they could also make even more of my shepherds pie jackets) – they’ll just need to be topped with freshly mashed potatoes and then baked.

I also made three corned beef pies (recipe on the way), using two tins of corned beef, four potatoes, two onions and a kilo of shortcrust pastry (I couldn’t face making my own during this particular cooking extravaganza!).

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I stewed enough rhubarb for four portions (either to eat with yoghurt or as crumbles), and even more bramley apples with cinnamon for a future appearance in apple crumbles.

Then I made two madeira cakes, a chocolate loaf cake and a lemon drizzle cake for the freezer for when people come visiting our little one (or when healthy and nutritious meals won’t cut it, and I just want cake!).

img_6956.jpgAll the cooking took a full day while Andrew was at work, and then I had to leave everything to cool before I could portion and freeze it, so it was a bit of a labour of love, but each time I open my freezer it makes me smile with satisfaction to see the shelves full of good food. I’d also like to make some cookie dough to freeze so that I can have freshly baked biscuits in minutes, but I’ll save that for this week as I ran out of butter and sugar!

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I am just finishing off the last random bits and pieces in there (the odd spring roll, a couple of potato waffles, some random pasta, one chicken breast and a pack of chopped chorizo) before I do a final shop of ‘easy to cook’ food which can live in the freezer for Andrew to cook for us. His culinary skills are limited so is likely to include fishfingers, sausages, fishcakes and pizzas. Then I’ll have some salmon steaks, meat and shellfish for when I have the time / inclination to actually get back into the kitchen and cook from scratch.

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I also always have frozen fruit and veg in the freezer for smoothies and side dishes, so will make sure there is plenty of both in stock.

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So to finish those last bits and pieces in my freezer, and making the most of my extremely full larder, I have the following plans for the week. I am not specifying days as it’s Andrew’s birthday week and the baby could arrive at any time, so we’re not planning meals or celebrations, but hope to eat the following, bulked out with veggies from the fridge:

  • Steak and stilton bake (using up half a pack of minced beef and some puff pastry, with some stilton from the fridge)
  • Ravioli (random pack from the freezer) with chorizo (also from the freezer) and fresh tomatoes
  • Thai green chicken curry (chicken breast from the freezer with store cupboard goodies)
  • Pea and ham soup to use up the ham stock in the freezer, with cheese toasties
  • Spring rolls with … I do not know what!

What are your plans for the week, and do you have any tips for what I could dish up with the spring rolls?

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Week 29 – an evening with Antonio Carluccio and Cirio

img_6911.jpgWhen I went out on Thursday night to celebrate the 160th birthday of the Cirio tomatoes brand with Antonio Carluccio, I didn’t expect to end the evening with him giving my bump a crafty pat. Some pregnant women have that kind of thing happen to them all the time (not necessarily courtesy of Carluccio) but I’ve only had someone grope my bump once, and that was an incredibly drunk woman at a Manic Street Preachers concert.

I won’t say I was entirely happy about it, but he was a friendly chap apart from that, and even had his photo taken “with the two of us”, so I’ll let this one slip.

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In case you hadn’t guessed, this wasn’t an evening just with Antonio Carluccio and me, but a press event for Cirio tomatoes. I am a big fan of the brand already as they sell passata in small cartons which are perfect for using to spread as a tomato base for homemade pizza, without any wastage. My blogging friends have also raved about the high quality of their tinned tomatoes, although I have never tried them (I want to now though). Antonio Carluccio confirmed that they are the only brand he has ever worked with, because he has enjoyed Cirio tomatoes since his days in Italy.

Carluccio gave us a cookery lesson on the evening by cooking two very simple dishes for us: first up was Pappa al Pomodoro, which is a dish of stale bread, tomatoes, olive oil, stock and basil, cooked until soft and then chilled and served with more olive oil and basil.

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His second dish was mussels cooked with tomatoes, garlic and wine, and served with olive bread.

I tried the Pappa al Pomodoro, doubting how much I’d like it, but it was delicious and refreshing and I actually went back to swipe a second portion (I blamed the bump)! I didn’t want to risk trying the mussels due to my pregnancy but I must say they smelt delicious, and I heard several of the other guests raving about them.

After our cookery lesson, Carluccio indulged us with a Q&A session. Although I hadn’t a question in mind for him, when someone else asked about the impact of Italian food culture on the UK, I couldn’t resist asking him what his favourite British food is. I would not have guessed he would choose a bacon roll, but that is apparently his favourite dish. However, he then started waxing lyrical about other British classics including steak and kidney pudding and our wild game.

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Overall I had a lovely evening and can’t wait to use the Cirio products to recreate the Pappa al Pomodoro at home. I love simple dishes which taste great and this was no exception – it should be perfect for one of our meat free Monday meals.

For the rest of this week, which is the start of my maternity leave (yay, I finished at work with a lovely meal with some of my colleagues) I am intending to spend some time filling the freezer and cooking healthy and nutritious meals we can enjoy al fresco in our garden, which has finally been finished (photos to follow as soon as we sort out the plants).

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My plan for meals this week is as follows:

  • Monday – Simon Hopkinson’s cheese pie with salad
  • Tuesday – plaice with lemon and capers, courgette and potato cakes
  • Wednesday – venison meatballs  with tomato pasta
  • Thursday – as long as I am feeling mobile enough I have another press event to attend, with Youngs fish

The weekend is TBC as it’s Andrew’s birthday next week and we want to celebrate, but where and how depends somewhat on whether our little one decides to make an appearance …

Here’s a picture of our first al fresco breakfast this morning:

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Week 28 – escaping Brexit pain in Paris

img_6825.jpgLiving in a democracy is a wonderful thing, but when a result is not what you’d hoped, it can be hard to see that … especially when you have listened to months of political rhetoric that you find hard to stomach. We woke up on Friday morning to a result we had been dreading, but had luckily booked an overnight trip to Paris to say a pre-baby goodbye to friends and colleagues, so were able to escape the worst of the Brexit horrors.

Regular readers will be aware that I travel to Paris frequently because of my job (how my job and that will change in our new world is yet to be seen), and we also have a lot of French friends thanks to the fact that they have been able to travel freely to the UK to work until now (okay I promise, no more Brexit talk), so we had wanted a little break to see them before our son makes his debut appearance.

I did have a little worry that the baby would come early (I have a smidge over three weeks to go if he comes on time) but luckily he stayed put and I was able to enjoy our 36 hours in Paris: we didn’t bother with too much tourism as we know Paris so well – this trip was really about seeing our friends.

I’d booked us into the Scribe hotel near Opera – it’s run by Sofitel and so a chain I am familiar with for my business travels – and it’s perfectly located for a short trip as it’s so central and easy to get to and from.

As I was paying for the hotel using some of my hotel loyalty card points, I contacted them in advance and mentioned that I was visiting for a babymoon. I didn’t expect a lovely 3-person welcome committee which made us feel like (rather grubby) VIPs, and a gift of a 30 minute pregnancy massage in their luxury spa and some lovely toiletries.

We had to head out to my office to see friends and colleagues so managed a quick, delighted giggle at our luxurious hotel room and then legged it to La Defense where my company is based. However, we did have time to wander there via Jardin des Tuileries to buy ourselves a nostalgic ham and cheese crepe, which we ate sitting in the shade of the park.

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Rather ambitiously, we decided to walk to the Champs Elysees to get the metro to La Defense, which was probably a bit too much for me in my 9 months pregnant state. Luckily someone on the metro gave me a seat so I was able to recover a bit, and I left Andrew to the bar and shops while I went to see my friends in the office.

I had taken some homemade oat shortbread (I’d promised cake, but biscuits were so much easier to carry – even though Andrew was my slave for the trip and I didn’t actually have to carry anything myself), and expected to have a quick chat and farewells before we headed off to dinner at a friend’s house. However, it turned out they had organised a little collection for me, and had bought me a fantastic little machine – a Babycook – for a few months time when I am ready to start on weaning my little one. It was completely unexpected and nearly made me cry (bloody pregnancy hormones!).

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Then we had to head off to nearby Colombes for dinner with my ex-colleague and dear friend Sophie and her husband Franck, plus my boss (and also my friend!) Odile.

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Due to the lovely weather we had the opportunity to eat al fresco in the garden, which was wonderful. Food made by Sophie is always a treat, and this was no exception.

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We started with a lovely fresh tomato and mozarella salad, plus aubergines mixed with soy sauce – both of which were so delicious I tucked in without taking photos! Our main course was pork marinated in herbs and slow cooked in veal stock and onions, which was spectacular. This was served with a pot of garden vegetables which are cooked in olive oil: Sophie had picked peas, carrots and turnips, and was fresh, light and delicious. I’ll be making both at home.

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Sophie did let me down with her cheese course: she had picked the most perfect camembert which was ripe and buttery and absolutely my dream cheese, but of course I cannot eat it because of the baby, so I was left with the pasteurised goats cheese while Andrew tortured me with lumps of camembert!

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Strawberries with chantilly cream were the perfect end to the night, and we left Sophie’s well fed but not over fed, which is perfect in my current state.

And then when we got back to the hotel we had some complimentary fruit juices and fruit salads left out for us.

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These helped refresh us before we slept like stones in our beautiful room (of course that means I was up every 1.5 hours to go to the loo, but in between the toilet breaks I slept like a stone!).

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The following morning laid in and then ate a gorgeous breakfast in the hotel. To walk off the breakfast before my massage we wandered around the local area and discovered the Eglise de la Madeleine which is a spectacular Roman Catholic church which we’d never noticed before (amazing because it’s bloody massive!).

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So we popped in for a peek, before checking out the flowers and swiss chard growing on the steps (random!) before wandering back to the hotel spa for my maternity massage.

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Well the spa was 30 minutes of loveliness and I felt like a new woman afterwards. The masseuse focused on my poor swollen legs and feet, and back and shoulders, and when I went back to the room afterwards Andrew said I definitely looked like the cat who’d got the cream!

Then we were off out again for an afternoon drink with our friend Alex, so again we walked down to the Jardin Palais Royal (right by the Louvre) to have an al fresco drink on a terrace. This was another address we’d never before discovered, and it was great to catch up with our friend and I even treated myself to a little glass of rose.

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Then we had to head back to the hotel and check out, although we did have time to enjoy a quick complimentary cocktail from the hotel (a virgin mojito for me).

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Feeling thoroughly spoilt and relaxed, we made our way back to Gare du Nord and our train journey home (with a final beer for Andrew).

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And back to the realities of Brexit, and those lying bastard politicians.

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Weeks 23-27 – birthday celebrations and nurturing my bump

img_6785.jpgThese last few weeks have flown by as Andrew and I prepare for the imminent arrival of our baby boy, and it seems like there’s hardly any time to fit blogging around cooking, cleaning, sorting out the garden, sorting out the nursery, working, and finding the energy to grow this baby inside of me, as he (and the associated indigestion and decreased bladder capacity) stops me from sleeping.

In just two weeks I start maternity leave, which, providing the baby arrives on time, will give me a further two weeks to finalise the preparations for the baby (and binge-watch the latest season of The Walking Dead and Making a Murderer) before my estimated due date. That means my latest priority is to empty the freezer so that I can start to re-fill it with homemade ready meals so we can eat well when we have the chance during parenthood.

img_6804.jpgMeal preparations by day are getting a touch beyond me now, so instead here’s a snapshot of my freezer, and some ideas:

Various dimsum left over from our visit to Hoo Hing earlier in the year, ham stock, frozen raw tiger prawns, sausages, half a pack of beef mince, venison meatballs … and then heading down to the bargain basement section: a chicken pizza (I won’t eat this so it’s for Andrew), 2 fishcakes, lightly dusted plaice, potato waffles, frozen chips, and a packet of puff pastry.

I also have the usuimg_6799.jpgal range of frozen fruit and vegetables which don’t have to be used up as they will form part of our meals going forward. And my store cupboard is utterly STUFFED full of dried goods and baking ingredients (plus the ‘odd’ packet of crisps, biscuits and chocolate!).

Finally, our fridge includes some perishables which need to be eaten asap, including lamb meatballs, nduja, goats cheese, beetroot, aubergine, courgette and asparagus.

So the plan is to make some or all of the following meals over the next two weeks, which include some home-based lunches as I have a scan and a consultant appointment at the hospital this week:

  • Ratatouille with lamb meatballs
  • Prawn linguine with nduja
  • Dimsum
  • Sausage, potato and vegetables tray bake
  • Venison meatballs, cooked Swedish style with chips
  • Griddled vegetable, beetroot and goats cheese salad
  • Dusted plaice with jacket potatoes
  • Waffles and fishcakes!

I think I’ll save the mince to bulk out some bolognaise sauces I plan to make and freeze, and the ham stock can be used for a pea and ham soup which will also live in the freezer.

Otherwise, what’s happened recently? Well, full blog posts are to follow when I find the time, but here’s a snapshot of my foodie few weeks.

I had delicious Korean fried chicken for my K foodie Alphabet adventure:

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I made corned beef pie (recipe coming soon):

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My lovely friend Jo took me out for a birthday meal at Bob Bob Ricard:

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I ate a lot of comfort food … chocolate digestives dunked in tea:

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And beans on toast:

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I realised that I need a pedicure as painting my toenails is now IMPOSSIBLE:

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I celebrated by 40th birthday at a fisherman’s cottage in Whitstable:

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Including a fantastic celebration dinner at The Sportsman pub in Seasalter:

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My lovely friends helped me celebrate my 40th at a house party this weekend (I roasted a chicken, boiled a ham, baked sausage rolls and a corned beef pie, made a cherry and coconut cake, brownies, welsh cakes and blondies, knocked up a potato salad and coleslaw, and plated cheese, salad, vegetables and pickles):

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Jo made me an awesome cake (which made me cry – oh god these bloody hormones!) and I was thoroughly spoilt by all my friends and family. Turning 40 has actually been pretty wonderful, despite drinking Gaviscon rather than champagne!

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