Tuesday, 30 November 2010

London Baby!


Last weekend I went on one of my many jaunts to our nations capital, London.  I love London, I really really do.  I wouldn't want to live there but to visit? It's one of my favourite places in the world.  I try to have a few weekends there each year interspersed with the odd day trip.  If it's a warm day we'll sometimes just mooch around - last year on an excruciatingly hot day we decided to visit Portobello Market and managed to walk from there down to Notting Hill Gate, meandered our way through Kensington and Hyde Park, down past the Royal Albert Hall to South Kensington, over to Sloane Square, back up to Knightsbridge and finally to Green Park. We were absolutely cream-crackered, but I do love a good long walk around London.

Unfortunately this visit we decided to pick the coldest weekend of the year but we still managed to spend a fair amount of time outdoors.  The main point of the trip was I had booked tickets to see Wicked.  I have wanted to see this for so long and finally decided to drag Mr M along to see it. Well, we loved it - and yes I say "we". It's completely not his bag but he was able to appreciate how great a show it is.  I enjoyed every minute of it and would thoroughly recommend it if you enjoy a West End show and haven't seen this one. The cast were great and there was a good bit of humour in it which I wasn't quite expecting.   



As we would have a babysitter for the night we decided to make a weekend of it and do something touristy.  You may or may not know that I love Henry VIII and generally the whole Tudor period. It's a little bit of an obsession, in general I just love British history but this is my favourite time in history.  With this in mind I decided we should visit The Tower of London. I've wanted to go ever since I was a young girl but never got round to it - but now I have.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I couldn't feel my feet for most of the day (however leg warmers from Topshop - genius!). 


I bet he was perishing stood there all day. 

I'm a geek and of course I bought the guidebook, I even got the audio tour, but I found the whole place fascinating, you almost feel that these stories you hear are fairy tales, not the lives of people that really existed.  I enjoyed seeing the Crown Jewels. I've always wondered if they were the real deal but I have to say, I'm convinced. One of the travelators that normally whizz you past wasn't working so we were able to stop and look at the jewels a bit better.  The Koh-i-Noor diamond, currently residing in the late Queen Mother's crown, is stunning. I can see why Indian politicians want to returned...



(Pictures from the BBC & The Telegraph - no cameras allowed)

I found it quite moving to stand at the memorial at the execution site on Tower Green, it's hard to imagine the things that have gone on there.


'Gentle visitor pause awhile : where you stand death cut away the light of many days : here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life : may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage : under there restless skies'.


The church in the background is St Peter ad Vincula and is the final resting place of Anne Boleyn, her brother George, Catherine Howard, Thomas More and Lady Jane Grey.

Other highlights were the White Tower (pictured below) which housed an exhibition entitled "Dressed to Kill" displaying royal armoury over the centuries. The White Tower is a wonderful 11th century building, with some great stories like the Princes in the Tower.  More impressive was the size of Henry VIII's lunchbox. I mean, come on.



We finished the day off with a trip to one of the Historic Royal Palaces gift shops where I had to tear myself away from buying Christmas tree decorations of Henry VIII and his six wives. I wanted them so so badly but at £50 for the set it was a bit too much. Anyone generous benefactors out there? No, didn't think so.


We finished our trip to London with a visit to Camden Market on Sunday. This is such an experience - some really nice stalls and some gorgeous dresses that I might have looked at if the weather was warmer so we'll be having a trip down again in the spring. The best thing about Camden? The food! There is possibly too much choice - I wanted to try it all but I settled on a warm mince pie and mulled wine first, before finishing off with a tub of black bean chicken and singapore noodles although I really wanted to have some falafel too but resisted due to the elastic on my leggings groaning.

If you've never been to see Wicked, The Tower of London or Camden Market - you should. Top weekend!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

PS The homemade cake from the New Armouries Restaurant at The Tower of London is amazing, which leads me to believe the rest of the food would be good too - it certainly looked it.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Chicken Chasseur





I'm right in the swing of all things hot and one-pot at the moment and this warming dish from James Martin is no different. 

This was amazingly simple and whilst not quick as such (it takes a good two hours to prep and cook) it requires very little effort at all, which is great.  I've read that it's not authentic to use red wine in chicken chasseur and that it should be white wine but do you know what? I don't give two hoots about authenticity. This worked really well with the red wine, tasted great and everyone loved it so boo yah sucks you.

Instead of the suggested chicken legs, I used breasts so that's what I've listed in the recipe, feel free to use other bits of the bird if you so wish. I just don't do well with legs and thighs, I'm a breast girl.

Recipe is to serve 4.

Chicken Chasseur

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil
25g butter
4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
200g button mushrooms or sliced chestnut mushrooms
225ml red wine
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 thyme sprigs
500ml chicken stock

Method

In a large casserole dish (that has a lid) heat the olive oil and about half of the butter. Season your chopped chicken and fry for about 5 mins on each side until golden brown. Remove the chicken from the dish and put to one side.

Melt the rest of the butter in the pan and add the onion. Fry this for around 5 mins until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for about 1 min, then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2 mins before adding the wine.

Stir in the tomato puree and let the liquid bubble and reduce for around 5 mins.  Stir in the thyme and pour in the chicken stock.  Put the chicken pieces back into the casserole and cover and simmer on a low heat for around an hour, until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the dish and cover with foil to keep warm.  Bring the sauce to boil and keep it on a rapid boil for around 10 mins until the sauce has thickened into a syrup.  Put the chicken back into the syrupy sauce and serve immediately.

I served this with green beans, mashed potatoes and thickly buttered crusty bread.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Santa baby...

Okay, so this is going to be the first of probably many Christmas posts. I'm sorry.  I can't help it.  I unashamedly LOVE Christmas. I'm being nosy on this one and I want to know - what's on your Christmas list this year?  Do you write an actual list?

I know it takes some of the fun away but I have to write a list. Actually I don't write a list, I create one on Kaboodle, but there is always a list. Mr M insists on it as he proclaims I am very difficult to buy for (in fairness, I probably am) and I don't really mind because a) lists are an obsession of mine and b) I know I'll get presents I love. It's a win/win situation.  It still manages to be a surprise as I won't get everything off my list so I never quite know what I am getting and he does have some creative license in that I might say I want pyjamas or gloves and then he chooses which ones.  We also do stockings for each other which means he does have to put a little bit of his own thought into present buying...

So here are some of the things on my list this year.

The Tudors Season 2. Always have to have a box set on the list.


Alison Weir books. I love them all & these have been on my list for ages.
Okay. I know it's really naff but I loved it at the cinema, alright.

Nice big mug for my winter hot chocolate.  Emma Bridgewater naturally.


Mini morsel set from Lakeland. Possibly one of the strangest things I've ever asked for from Old Saint Nick.

A must have. I have a copy already *cough* but I need the real deal.


Gorgeous new perfume is always a staple present for me. Can't wait for this one. (Mr M if you're reading...don't forget it).

New Jamie O book. I nearly bought it a couple of weeks ago but Mr M said why not save it for a present. What's the betting he doesn't even buy it?

Urban Decay Naked palette. I already know I have this as I made him order it a few weeks ago in case it went out of stock. Pushy? Who? Me?

Philosophy smellies. I ask for these every year and never get them as he leaves it until last minute and then they go out of stock. Might have to pick some up myself this week in John Lewis.


 Chunky socks - don't laugh, it's my thing.


New Moon 2011 calender. I'm saying nothing. It's not for me. Honest ' guv.

So there, that's the highlights from my list. Looking at it now, it's slightly odd isn't it? C'mon, share with me - what are you hoping that Santa brings you this year?

love & kisses
Mrs M x
 
PS This is not a sponsored post, however if anyone does want to send me large amounts of Twilight-related gubbins and strange kitchen implements - please do feel free.  

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Book: I Love Curry


I was recently sent a review copy of the newest book by Anjum Anand, "I Love Curry".  Having already bought two of her previous books (Indian Food Made Easy and Anjum's New Indian) I kind of knew what to expect.  Anjum's books are always well presented, clear and full of interesting sounding recipes. This one was no different.  The recipes in the book range from the ubiquitous Chicken Tikka Masala to the more exotic sounding Green Sindhi Fish Curry. There is literally something for everyone in this book.

If you've never cooked an Indian dish before, I'll admit the list of spices and ingredients you need for these can be daunting, however most are pretty standard like cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli powder or garam masala and once you have these in your cupboard you'll find you keep coming back to them time and time again.  The book does however contain a few ingredients like kashmiri chillies which may be a little hard to find and not likely the type of thing you'll find in a small supermarket.  I do find that off-putting at times as I don't really have time to visit lots of different shops hunting down ingredients so it's likely I'll never make those recipes.

At the start of the book there is a really helpful section called "the secrets" which is full of really good hints and tips - the basics for curry making if you like and at the back of the book there is a nice section on the different types of spices. These sections make this is a good book for someone who is perhaps not very experienced at cooking Indian food.

There are several recipes I'd like to give a try, amongst them the salmon tikka lettuce wraps, Punjabi yogurt and dumpling kadhi, prawn pathia, chilli chicken balti, tamarind duck curry and the keralan pork curry so I will of course report back when I have tried some of these out!

On the whole, I like this book and it would make a great gift for a curry lover as would any of Anjum's previous books.  The only negative for me is I find the tone of her writing comes across as a little superior at times and as an avid reader of cookery books, that's a bit of a turn-off for me.

Anjum Anand's I Love Curry is published by Quadrille and is out now. RRP £16.99.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Lest we forget...


I'm sure we're all aware it's Remembrance Sunday today.   If you've turned on the television today there's every chance you will have caught some of the touching service at the cenotaph today, or seen Prince William in Afghanistan. Perhaps you watched the extremely moving Songs of Praise and shed a few tears this evening like I did. I'm sure we've all remembered "the glorious dead" in some way today and of course all those families affected by the wars that this country has fought and is still fighting today.

Today is also an incredibly poignant day for the people of Coventry and Warwickshire as it marks the anniversary of one of the most devastating raids of the Blitz "Operation Moonlight Sonata", so named because its success relied on bright moonlight.  70 years ago, right now, Coventry was under a most ferocious and vicious attack by German bombers, 515 of them.  The raid was intended to destroy Coventry's factories and industries however the impact was widespread with the loss of 4,000 homes and many of the cities important and significant historical buildings.  

Picture from the BBC

The destruction of Coventry Cathedral is famous and it was from the ruins and the new Cathedral that tonight's moving Blitz service was held.  Unfortunately I was unable to make it into Coventry this evening but listened to the broadcast by BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio.  My 4 year old was fascinated by the air raid siren that was sounded around 19.20pm - the time of the first drop, and so ensued a lengthy conversation about bombs, air raid sirens, anderson shelters and the like.  Wrongly or rightly, I don't tend to sugar the pill as I think children want to know the truth, and should know the truth. She took it on the chin, asking lots of questions and clearly trying to understand.


It's unclear how many people died that night, the official figure is around 600 but it's thought it could be around the 1,000 mark.  Many more were injured and thousands of lives were affected by the raids.  Coventry still bears the scars of that night and of course the raids that came before and after the 14th November 1940.  Coventry was rebuilt during the 1950's and 1960's and became one of the first places in Europe to have a traffic-free shopping precinct, however the harsh concrete architecture of the 1960's does not do the city many favours now.  Fortunately a few historic medieval buildings have survived and it does make me wonder what Coventry was really like prior to the war. Such was the impact on Coventry that a new phrased was coined "to Coventrate" meaning to annihilate or reduce to rubble.

That Night of Death 
by John J Rattigan, November 1940

Who can forget that night of death,

Wrought by the sky devil's fiery breath,
Who can forget that night of pain,
Dealt out by a madman's twisted brain.
We shall not forget as our homes we rebuild,

On bomb-scarred ground where innocent were killed,
We shall not forget as we look at the land,
Where once stood a building so stately and grand.
Even God's house is not safe from this Hun,

Who bombs and destroys at the setting of the sun.
So let him send over his cowardly hordes,
Who shatter the homes of paupers and Lords.
That night was severe, there is no doubt,

We had a hard blow, but they can't knock us out.
For our men are of steel, our women won't kneel,
Nor children for mercy plea.
A new hope will arise, when the world is free,
From the rubble and ashes of Coventry.


The bombing of Coventry was relentless and designed to break the morale of the people, which it did for a while.  The government at the time were concerned that an aerial raid would destroy civilian morale and in the weeks following the raid, panic set in and half of the population of the city fled. However, nobody expected the resilience of the people of Coventry and so tonight, along with all those men that have died fighting for our country, I'm also thinking of the innocent civilians who also lost their lives, and those brave people of Coventry, that rose up and continued the war effort - rebuilding their factories and continuing to make the aircraft parts that were so crucial.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Let's get physical!



I don't know if it comes across on this blog or not but I'm not the most active of people. I never have been. I'm just not that way inclined.  I was always last to be picked for teams at school, I'm short so was rubbish at netball, I have a fear of water and can't swim, I have no real hand/eye co-ordination and am left-handed so I struggled immensely at ball games. I just never really found a sporting activity that suited me, aside from a random stint when I was eleven years old as a cross country runner.

Throughout my teens I danced several nights a week (disco dancing of course). That certainly was an activity I enjoyed and one I was good at, it helped keep me fit through my teens but once I hit 17 and gave that up, aside from a few half-hearted gym attempts, I've never really done any physical activity and man, is it starting to show.


I've had such good intentions over the past fews years, but nothing has ever come to fruition.  I bought a bike but since having children have struggled to find the time to get out on it (and the roads here aren't really bike friendly), I bought new trainers with the intention of starting jogging/running....I don't know why I ever thought that was a good idea, and my best idea - I bought a Wii so I could use Wii Fit.  In my defense, I love the Wii Fit but now find it a bit boring, however Just Dance on the Wii is an incredible workout and thoroughly enjoyable so it wasn't a complete bust.  I also invested in a Davina DVD which I have to say is incredible and by far the best workout DVD I have ever owned, however I nearly killed myself the first few times I used it and now I've scared myself.

My recent knee troubles and subsequent operation has meant that exercise now has to be low impact. I can't really do anything pounding like running (thank heavens!) and cycling makes my knee click in an unfortunate manner that makes me want to barf.  I can manage the Just Dance and Wii Fit, especially if I use a knee support and if I follow the lovely Jackie, I can do the Davina exercises - just leaving out all the lunges and star jumps.



I seriously want to get fit. My mummy tummy is taking over, my knee needs more exercise - my muscle tone still isn't perfect and the fact that my mum had two heart attacks and heart failure by the age of 42 and a double bypass by 45 is niggling away in the back of my mind. I woke up the other day and it hit me - I'm going to buy a cross-trainer! I ran it past Mr M, fully prepared that he'd rubbish me but surprisingly he's totally for it.  When I used to have a £55 per month gym membership it was all I ever enjoyed using anyhow and buying a new one will be less than an annual gym membership. I'm strangely excited and hoping this will be the making of me, and not just something that I will hang my clothes off (like the old exercise bike *ahem*).  Of course, now I want to get an all-singing all-dancing model that I can dock an iPod in and install personal workouts via iFit SD cards... I don't do anything by halves!



What do you think? Do you do a lot of exercise? Do you have any home gym equipment? Do you have any cross-trainer words of wisdom?

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 8 November 2010

Music of the HOT variety

I planned to write this post a while back when my love for the AWESOME Prince had been reignited.  There's a few songs outthere that send me to another place, for a variety of reasons. Some have nice memories, some are from films, some are just plain HOT.  Indulge me, and let me share if you will.

Santana feat Rob Thomas "Smooth". This makes my knees go wobbly everytime I hear it and it's fair to say I'm a fan of neither artist.


Maroon 5 and "Secret". Adam Levine's voice makes me melt and a little.


"Kiss" by Prince & The Reveloution may or may not be a conventially sexy song (or is it? I don't know) but it is for me. 


Justin Timberlake "My Love". I have a little thing for the Trousersnake, it's true.

Muse and "Supermassive Black Hole". This has absolutely nothing to do with vampires. Nothing. At all.


Peggy Lee has one of the sexiest voices ever, or so says me. Fever. So hot it hurts.


Chris Issak's Wicked Game. Hot video, hot song.

and finally, my love for Michael Buble is no secret. He seriously makes me swoon each and every time I hear him sing (6 times and counting...let's not forget that last month HE SHOOK MY HAND!) so it's hard to pick just one song of his but I'm going with "Feeling Good" because this is amazing live. There's a competition on Heart FM to win tickets to see him in NYC and if I don't win them I am going to cry. For a very long time.


So there you go, that probably truly seals my fate as "blogger with the worst taste in music - EVER", especially following this post.  But tell me, what are your sexy songs?

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Book: Alice's Cook Book


I received a copy of "Alice's Cook Book" to review this week.  I was actually able to pick to review from a list of 2010 cookbooks and settled on this one as I already had it on my Amazon Wishlist.  I admit I'm not of the "never judge a book by it's cover" school of thought and I was initially won over by the rather whimsical cover however as always, I had a read through the Amazon reviews and as the majority were positive I thought I'd give it a try.

Alice Hart is a young woman  a "new young voice on food".  This is her first book aiming to encourage young people to cook original, modern food.  Alice is no novice though, she was once the youngest editor of the highly successful Waitrose Food Illustrated Magazine and along with a friend she met at Leiths created The Hart and Fuggle, one of the many new pop-up restaurants/cafes that are so popular right now.   Alice clearly knows her food and this book features some very inventive and original recipes.

First impressions of the book were good - after all, we've already established I liked the cover and I'd probably pick the book off the shelf based on cover alone (I'm fickle, yes).  In the flesh the book was a lot smaller than I'd imagined, certainly thinner and more compact than most other cookbooks I own.  There are not a lot of pictures in the book, this is generally somewhat of a turn-off for me but I understand that not everyone wants to see pages and pages of photos of perfectly set-out food.  The few pictures that the book did have however were very good quality.  

One of things I liked about the book was the introductions to each recipe. As an avid cookbook reader (yes, a reader), I do like to read about the history or inspiration behind a recipe so it's a nice touch that each recipe has an intro in the authors voice.  I also like that the book is littered with other helpful little touches, like how to mix up a garlic & herb oil and has lots of "quick ideas" as well as good menu plans and help with timings.

To be quite honest, I probably won't make the best use out of this book but it is a nice book nonetheless, perhaps just for someone with a far less fussier husband!  To me, a lot of it is special occasion food rather than every day dining but then the book doesn't really try to disguise this, the emphasis is on special events and entertaining.  It's what I would call "aspirational" in many senses however not necessarily practical. I'd like to think I'm going to go and catch a fish or two and take it back to the campsite but in reality gutting a fish in a camper van isn't really my idea of a holiday.  

With two small children I don't do a lot in the way of entertaining these days, unless they are 4 year olds and a bowl of Wotsits present but there are certainly a couple of nice recipes that I may roll out for Christmas or Easter celebrations.   Recipes that I'll probably have a go at include the crisp maple sugared bacon with oven hash browns & poached eggs, very garlicky roast chicken and the  cherry tart with almond pastry.

On the whole, it's a nice book but not one I would say is for the novice or very amateur cook.  However if you are more of a confident cook and a bit more on the adventurous side with  your food you might well enjoy this.

If you own this book, I'd love to hear what you think of it.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 5 November 2010

RIP Beryl



Yes, I've lost one of my girls, the very lovely Beryl. She died of natural causes last night. She'd been off colour for a little while and with hindsight I probably should have acted quicker but it became apparent last night that she wasn't going to make it so I brought her into the house for some comfort and warmth.  She didn't even flinch when I picked her up to bring her in and when I came down this morning she had died in the exact same place I left her.  She was such a sorry sight yesterday that I'm kind of relieved that she has gone now, I didn't want her to suffer and at least she died peacefully and not at the hands of savage fox.

I'm amazed at how sad my hen passing over to the other side has made me feel, she'll be very missed.

A cheery post coming up next I promise!

love & kisses
Mrs M x