Sunday, 22 June 2014

Summer Solstice picnic

This weekend I'd invited a few of my friends round for dinner, as it was a good friend of mine's birthday. However with the weather being so beautiful and it being the summer solstice, I thought it would be much more fun to head to the local park (Wanstead Park), embrace the weather, and have a picnic! So we packed it all up and headed out- what could be better than good food, good company and champagne out in the sun? I'd baked some salmon with lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and vine tomatoes, made a fresh pesto and pine nut pasta and tender stem broccoli salad, a green salad, and avocado salsa. To finish, a huge summer berry pavlova. It was so picturesque that I had to take a few photos....

The Great British Summer!
Getting better at styling whipped cream- I find it so easy to over whip it

Mary Berry eat your heart out.

Simple and fresh- lemon baked salmon, green salad, radishes, roasted vine tomatoes and lemon vinaigrette.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Visit to Madrid

I've just got back from a lovely long weekend in Madrid, visiting a friend of mine who's working out there for a few months. I thought I'd take advantage of having her as a tour guide and the free accommodation, so off I went. My visit coincided with the Real v Atletico Madrid football match, so the city was buzzing, and we passed the days meandering around and exploring. Of course I tried to experience and document as much food and drink as possible (and did a pretty good job, eating at minimum 6 times a day). The gin and tonics were huge and all came with complimentary little tapas (olives, crisps, nuts etc.)...what more do you want?

Fishbowl g&ts in Lavapies

Spider crabs- a delicacy in Madrid

Empanadilla- the Spanish equivalent of a pasty.

Madrid is full of great little tapas bars, coffee shops and food markets. From the big and overwhelming choice of tapas and cocktails at Mercado San Miguel (definitely worth a visit- you could easily pass away a whole afternoon eating and drinking your way around here), to lovely hidden bars such as Los Chuchis in Lavapiés, which we accidentally stumbled upon and felt obliged to have a Tinto de Verano (red wine cocktail) in. The only reason we didn't order the slow roasted pork that kept floating past our noses was because we were full after having accidentally ordered a whole tortilla each in the previous bar- delicious, but filling.

Seafood plates at Mercado San Miguel- choose from garlic prawns, scallops, mussels, oysters and razor clams cooked fresh.

Paella to share at San Miguel market.

Tapas selection- Galician octopus, salmon and dill, anchovy and red pepper, herring and mustard on Melba toast.

Sangria cocktail.

Fried calamari, whitebait and langoustine cones at San Miguel market.

Paella time.

We also stumbled upon Mercado de San Fernando, a fairly small indoor market full of an assortment of independent eateries- from traditional Spanish food through to Mexican and Japanese. I was also impressed to see that the small beer store here sold a huge selection of imported beers, some that I recognised as local breweries from nearby my family home in Suffolk. The atmosphere in the market was brilliant- it was a Sunday afternoon, and there was life music, people dancing, and everyone eating and drinking. A great place to while away an afternoon.

Spinach tortilla to the left, chorizo to the right. Serious comfort food.

It's not glamorous but it does taste good.

Los Chuchis in Lavapies- 2 x Tinto de Verano's por favor

Other places to mention are Café El Mar, again in Lavapiés; a bohemian, laid back little health food (don't worry it tastes good too) shop and cafe, with really tasty cakes, coffees and juices, with some sweet personal touches- my coffee came with a teaspoon full of dark chocolate chips to stir in/eat, and each of our cakes came with a single red heart sprinkle dotted in the corner (I know, I'm a ridiculous girl- so easy to please).We also went for a less glamorous, but still delicious, calamari sandwich and beer, which I can honestly say had no nutritional value whatsoever, but tasted pretty good and soaked up some of the sangria.

Late night churros.

A great place to visit to escape the hustle and bustle of the city was the botanical gardens. As you'd expect they were really tranquil, and a lovely place to chill for an afternoon once you are tired of walking. There was a great herb garden, and some beautiful vegetables, so I enjoyed wandering around them.

Beautiful botanical gardens

Herb garden at the botanical gardens

One thing I did learn from my trip, is how much Spanish people drink and eat. They don't seem to do big's more about constantly grazing throughout the day. I was totally on board with this concept and felt it important to immerse myself in the culture, so we pretty much ate and drank our way around the kind of long weekend! I had a lovely time in Madrid, and although ate and drank far too much and spent rather alot of money, it was worth it. Now back to reality...!