If you love a cauliflower cheese, this soup will be right up your alley, all of the deliciousness but with a lot less hassle and a little less guilt. The cumin brings a little warmth and the cheese and spring onion toasts add a little decadence to what is otherwise a rather virtuous soup.
The recipe makes roughly 1.5 litres of soup which is enough for about 3 portions and it takes all of 20 minutes to make, definitely a good one for when you have the isolation blues and need something speedy and soothing.
For the soup
- 750g cauliflower, chopped
- 2 teaspoons rapeseed oil (any other oil/butter works too)
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 big fat garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
- 1 litre chicken stock (or veg stock if you want to make it vegetarian)
For the cheese toasts (per toast)
- Slice of sourdough (or other bread of choice)
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- small handful of grated strong cheddar
- Dijon mustard
First off, sweat the onions in the rapeseed oil until they’re soft, then add in the cumin seeds and garlic and stir for a minute until fragrant.
Add your chopped cauliflower and toss to coat before adding your hot chicken stock.
Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the cauliflower is tender – roughly 15-20 minutes depending how big the bits are.
Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.
When you’re ready to serve, lightly toast your bread and spread with a thin layer of dijon mustard, top with chopped spring onion and grated cheese and pop under a hot grill until it’s bubbling nicely.
All that’s left to do is ladle the soup into bowls, top with a cheesy toast and enjoy!
Sometimes you don’t need to go away to get away, sometimes a little staycation is just the ticket. A couple of weeks ago my friend Sophie and I did just that, taking ourselves off to Shoreditch for a weekend of R&R.
We kicked things off with lunch at Som Saa, a cracking little Thai place on Commercial Street. It’s been around for a while but I’ve never made it before now, although I definitely won’t leave it so long before returning.Kicking things off with the most delicious salad of chicken, prawn, pomelo and herbs. Fresh and light, I could happily eat this every day.The main event was this showstopper. Whole deep fried sea bass with a punchy fragrant sauce and an abundance of herbs tumbling down. We picked this bad boy clean.Green paypaya salad came along side and was knock your socks off hot and not for the faint hearted but if you love your chilli like I do then it’s a must order.The only thing that left me a little cold was the stir fried veg, more mushroom than anything else it was just a little blah.
The weather was a proper February drizzle and so we wasted no time hot footing it up the road to our home for the weekend, The Curtain. Nestled down a side street, not far from Spitalfield Market it’s a hotel and private members club with a couple of bars and restaurants to boot.Upon check in you’re offered either a whiskey or a water – no prizes for guessing which one I went for. The bar for check in has officially been raised.Now let me give you a little tour.Big squashy bed of dreamsBlack and white bathroom, a classic design packed full of the most scrumptious smelling goodies. You can buy these at reception to take home with you and neither of us could resist stocking up before we left.The drink and snack bar was pretty well stocked too.As tempted as we were by the idea of a martini, the inner Brit won and we donned our dressing gowns and hopped into bed with big steaming mugs of tea.
A quick perusal of the in room literature led to this utterly brilliant discovery.Why doesn’t every hotel do this?
Heartbreakingly, the wheels of the trolley had broken on the night we were there but reception kindly sent us up some cocktails to compensate.Cocktails in bed with your bestie has to be one of life’s great joys.Just when we thought we couldn’t be any more content, there was one more knock at the door.Milk and cookies, of course!
Eventually we dragged ourselves up to the rooftop bar for a cocktail. Only open to members and hotel guests it was nice but pretty dead on a Saturday night although I bet in the summer it’s fab.In the mood for a bit more atmosphere we made our way downstairs to Red Rooster for dinner, a little bit of everything to share.Now if I’m honest the food isn’t that great, you’re not going to be raving about it. BUT, the restaurant is really fun. They have a live band every night and the atmosphere is buzzing. If you’re going with a group, ask for the table right in front of the band and get ready for a party. Also order yourself one of the slushie cocktails from the Mexican bar on the ground floor (they’ll bring it down for you), it’s kind of like a frozen negroni and it’s delish.
After a while, the squashy bed was calling and we sleepily hopped into the lift and surrendered to it.
Now I don’t know about you but for me one of the best things about staying in a hotel breakfast in bed. No need to hang anything on your door, just give reception a bell, tell them what you fancy and it’ll be delivered to your bed. Bliss.Whoever is in the breakfast kitchen is doing a much better job on the food. We went for a bit of a hodge podge (always a winner in my book) and it really hit the mark, the scrambled eggs being particularly good.
Before we knew it, our time was up and we had to check out.
So we headed off for a few hours of shopping in Spitalfields before eventually retiring to our new favourite restaurant – Androuet.
Now I should start by saying that if you’re not a fan of cheese then this is not the place for you (and also, we probably can’t be friends). Nestled at the side of Spitalfields is a cheese lover’s paradise. We wasted no time getting stuck into the menus.First up came the raclette – we went for the French over the Swiss as it packs more of a punch.And a classic fondue, so incredibly underrated, it’s essentially heaven in a hotpotAll washed down with a couple of delicious glasses of red and served by hunky French waiters, I’m not sure two girls where ever quite so content.
Where would you go on your staycation?
When my mum was in her 20’s she was a windsurfing instructor in the south of France so I’ve always thought it’s fairly ridiculous that I’ve never really tried it. With this in mind and once we learnt that Alaçati was one of the best places in the world for windsurfing, we had to give it a go.
Over breakfast, we asked our hosts where the best place to get lessons would be. By ask, I mean Annabel galloped up and down the dining room miming windsurfing and SOMEHOW they understood and produced a phone number.
Before we knew it we’d booked a lesson for that morning, hopped in the car and arrived at Alaçati Surf Paradise.
We donned our wetsuits, collected our kit and marched out into the sea. Where we spent half an hour falling in, and in, and in. After much laughter and several thousand expletives, we eventually managed to stay upright long enough to actually go somewhere.Before long we could turn and spent the next hour going back and forwards across the bay, happy as clams. Once our lesson was over, we sat in the sun and made the most of the view for the afternoon. Chatting with our lovely instructor Apo, (that man must have the patience of a saint to put up with us) we made plans to return for another lesson the next morning.Before wandering into town for an amble and a spot of shoppingIt really is one of those places where every street is prettier and more charming than the last.It wasn’t long before we wandered into the most mesmerising shop full of vintage glassware, definitely somewhere to return to once I have a large country kitchen to fill. As night fell we decided it was time for some sustenance.Opting for Asma Yaprağı as we’d consistently heard nothing but good things.The setting is nothing short of magical, set in a courtyard down a little lane, candles twinkle in the early evening light.
And then of course, there is the food. It goes like this. You sit down and make yourself comfortable with a glass of wine, like soBefore being called into the kitchen to select your dishesThe table groans with choices, each sounding more delicious than the last, making a choice nigh on impossible. The dishes are made every day on the same very table, changing depending on what looks good at the market that morning.From lemony broad bean dip, to stuffed aubergine, to artichokes cooked with orange, we mmmmed and ahhhed through our many mezze but it was the main dish that really stole the showThe most meltingly tender slow roast shoulder of local lamb, which I’m going to go as far as saying, was the best I’ve ever had. Slow roasted simply with handfuls of rosemary and garlic for hours, the quality of the ingredients shone.Especially when enhanced with a sprinkling of chilli and oregano from the little box of treats left on the table.Having declared ourselves far too full for pudding we were then remarkably easily talked into sharing a beetroot brownie with the quintessential cup of Turkish tea. I’d like to say I regret this but I really can’t.I can’t recommend Asma Yaprağı, or indeed Alaçati enough. When we first announced we were off to Turkey we had several people telling us it wasn’t safe, especially as two girls but I can honestly say I haven’t felt safer or more welcome somewhere for ages. The locals are friendly, it’s picture postcard pretty, the food is wonderful and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
I would say the best times of year to visit are late May/early June or September/early October. During the height of the summer the streets get so busy you can barely move and if you fancy a go at windsurfing you’ll be sharing the bay with hundreds of others, rather than just a handful.
We’d known that in late October the weather wouldn’t be boiling and we wouldn’t be spending all our days lazing in the sun so after a quick coffee down by the water we hopped in the car and headed to Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city and home to a bustling market.
What we hadn’t quite bargained for however, was the rain. Rain that can only be described as biblical; that decided to arrived almost the second we hopped out of the car. Note: this is another bad time for espadrilles, they survived the hill climb, not so much the flood.
Luckily there was more than enough to distract us.Abundant mountains of nuts, herbs and chillis as far as the eye could see. Which we obviously couldn’t resist.
Next to no one speaks English in this part of Turkey which makes such a nice change and leads to lots of hand gestures and attempts at mime, much to everyone’s amusement and something which Annabel particularly excelled at.There were, of course, sweet morsels to be had as well, much to Annabel’s delight.And a few more fishy options gleaming on their tables
As with any good market, it is LOUD. People yell, haggle and laugh at the top of their voices and one ingenious chap even cracked out the google translate in order to have a good flirt
Sodden and thoroughly weighted down with bags of spices, oils and loofahs we headed to a little restaurant for sustenance.Tucked down a funny little residental street we found a wonderful little place selling pide, a kind of Turkish pizza, rolled very thin and either topped or stuffed.With the obligatory pots of chilli and oregano that seem to reside on every table in Turkey for sprinkling liberally over everything. I’d be hard pushed to pinpoint my favourite thing about Turkey but if pushed, it could well be this.
One of the reasons we were drawn to Turkey was it’s history. Both self confessed classics geeks, we love a good ruin and handily, this region has one of the best. Just over an hour’s drive from Alaçati lie the ruins of Ephesus so after fuelling up with our usual breakfast feast we headed off.
Having naively thought it was just one ruin, we arrived to be told that it was actually a sprawling site covering several miles and the best thing to do was hop in a horse and cart to the top and then work our way back down.Our first stop was the Cave of the Seven Sleepers.
Legend has it that the Seven Sleepers were young men who were religiously persecuted and walled up in a cave. They fell asleep and miraculously woke up almost 200 years later, walking into Ephesus to delightedly find that they were free to worship. As a result, the caves have been a site of pilgrimage for hundreds of years.The views are pretty spectacular tooOne thing I would say if you visit (which you definitely should) is to make sure you go up the proper path. We managed to miss that and instead ended up going up a rather steep little track, not ideal in espadrilles.After a lot of laughter and trying very hard not to fall flat on our faces we made it back down to our trusty steed and continued on to the main event.Its crumbling beauty taking our breath away.Dating back to the 10th century BC, it’s incredible how much of it remains intact. Although some dedicated chaps are giving it a bit of a helping hand.Walking up through secret little passageways and emerging out into the middle of the amphitheatre was pretty special (until a South Korean tour group arrived and the peace was somewhat shattered).Being thoroughly mature and sensible as always.There is however, one major reason that people come to Ephesus. The Celsus Library.Built in 117 AD as a tribute to Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the Roman governor of Asia, it once house over 12,000 scrolls. Whilst those scrolls may be long gone, many of the beautiful statues and frescoes remain. After a few hours in the sun we decided it was time for a little water (and ice cream) break before heading on to our final stop of the day.
The Basilica of St John.Built a little later, in the 6th century, it once would have looked like thisBut I think its current state is pretty spectacular I’ll take this little house right here pleaseMainly because this is the view you’d wake up to every morning, and what could be better than that?
Apparently this is the time of year when most people plan their summer holidays, the cold, dark days making us long for the long lazy days of summer (myself very much included). With that in mind, I have somewhere to share with you if you’re in need of some inspiration.
At the end of October my friend Annabel and I found ourselves unexpectedly hopping a plane to Izmir in Turkey. We’d planned to go to Cuba but after we found out Annabel had a mini one on the way we had to have a rethink. Turkey was still warm, it wasn’t too far and I’d read a couple of articles about a little resort called Alaçati on the Çesme peninsula that made me think I’d found our spot.
Having checked the weather forecast, we were pretty sure the first day would be our only real sunbathing opportunity so we woke up early and hot footed it to the nearest beach for the day.Which didn’t disappointWe happily lazed away the morning reading our books before the wind picked up and eventually drove us off the beach. Handily we had plenty to explore.
The little town of Alaçati is virtually unheard of in England but it’s a big hit with the Turks, during the winter it’s a sleepy little town but the population swells tenfold in the summer months as people flock here from all over Turkey. It didn’t take us long to see why.Flowers tumble from every available surface, filling the air with their heady scents.
And every building has the most charming shutters, almost all painted varying shades of blue, the ones below being my favourite. I plan to replicate them on my future French chateaux. The only problem being that with all the beauty up above you have to be careful not to trip over your own feet. Something I’m not altogether sure I managed.Tiny side streets beg to be ambled down and it’s wonderfully easy to lose a few hours pottering around without even realising.Of course if you get hungry you can always grab a quick snack. This man sets up his little stall and sells every kind of pickle you can imagine. If only he’d set up shop in London.But don’t worry, if you’re in need of something more substantial, there are more than enough restaurants to choose from., each one prettier than the last.How great would this one be for a party?Some even come with your own private bodyguard, which is where we happily plonked ourselves for a nibble and a glass of delicious local wine. The region is famous across Turkey for its wine and I spent the next few days happily sampling them whilst Annabel acted as designated driver.Not a bad way to kick off the week!
Tucked down a side street just off High St Kensington lies the best little sushi place you’ve probably never heard of. The place in question? Yashin Sushi. Sleek and sophisticated, it’s a great spot for a date.Grab yourself a seat at the counter so you can see all the action and dive into the menu.Order yourself some saké (if for no other reason than it means you get to have it in this gorgeous decanter) and watch the chefs at work.Don’t worry, before you have time to get too jealous your food will start to arrive.A little crispy salmon amuse bouche, the richness of the salmon perfectly cut through by little slivers of pickled veg. This was one of my favourite parts of the whole meal, which, for someone who’s not a huge salmon fan, is really saying something.Miso cappuccino. Deeply savoury and satisfying and served in your granny’s finest china.Spicy edamame, I can’t say we were wowed by these, I’d skip them next time.Yellowtail with Orange Soy, light, fresh and almost too pretty to eat. Almost.Tuna with truffle infused ponzu jelly. This is an unusual one but a winner if you like truffle. One between two is plenty though, it packs a punch.Concentration faceChargrilled Chilean sea bass with sour miso. An absolute showstopper, I could eat this every day, make sure you nab yourself one of these.Chargrilled octopus with padron peppers and yuzu kosho, so well balanced, the sourness of the yuzu perfectly cutting through the smokiness of the octopus.Omasake eight, if there are 2 of you, you can opt to have 2 each of four different fish. We had salmon, grouper, fatty tuna and eel, each paired with a different ingredient to show it off best.
Yashin has a no soy policy meaning no little bowls for you to dunk into. The chef brushes on the ideal amount in the kitchen to really enhance the flavour of the fish.
Now, you may be thinking that sounds a bit pretentious and I’ll admit to thinking the same the first time I went but trust me, he knows what he’s doing and you won’t miss the extra. Also, the ginger is DIVINE, I’d be happy as a clam if they sold it in little take away pots.The Omasake comes with the roll of the day, which, happily for me, was spicy tuna. A roll I’d normally always order anyway owing to my spice obsession, this one didn’t disappoint.Now normally this is around the time i’d be extolling the virtues of the Sukiyaki roll. A beef roll served with a soy and egg yolk dipping sauce and my firm favourite dish. I nearly cried when our lovely waiter told me they’d had a massive rush on them at lunch and had run out. As a result, we went rogue from my normal ordering and went for the soft shell crab roll. Sweet, crispy crab, rich fatty avocado and a sweet soy dipping sauce. Really really wonderful and ideal if you’re feeling the urge to dip!To round things off we went full yuzu. Yuzu cheesecake with yuzu sorbet, with a yuzu saké on the side. Luscious cheesecake offset by the crunch of biscuit crumbs, we essentially fought over this.And the poor boy didn’t really get a look in with the yuzu saké, ooops.I’d recommend booking a table if you’re going later in the week, but earlier on you’ll probably get away with a walk in. I may well see you there, after all, I still haven’t gotten my Sukiyaki fix.
What’s your hidden gem we should all know about?
After our leisurely lunch in the sun we decided we were probably up for something a little more active so we headed for the water. We met Sara’s brother Rupert at their boat and hot footed it over to the Isle of Wight.
Never one to miss out on the action, we obviously brought Mr Darcy along for the ride as wellHe was very happy about this, having been thoroughly unimpressed about a lack of lunch invitationOnly a hop, skip and a jump from Lymington it’s easy as pie to get there with ferries running all day in the summer months. Of course, if you have your own transportation, that’s pretty fun too.20 minutes later we pulled into Yarmouth and set off through the town in search of refreshment. Boating is very thirsty work you know.During the summer its tiny streets are thronged with tourists but this time of year things are starting to quieten down and you can one again grab yourself a table in the sun without too much effort.Our spot for the afternoon was the Royal Solent Yacht Club, plenty of beach for Mr Darcy to run around on and swim up and down to his hearts content, and plenty of space for us to do this.Sadly the light was beginning to fade so we couldn’t stay too long but the blow was softened somewhat by the views we were treated to on the ride home (and the knowledge that we were heading back over for lunch the next day).Racing home in the soft evening light, our cares slipped away on the breeze.After a lazy night curled up in front of the fire we woke up ready and raring to jump back on the boat and head off in search of lunch.Luckily we had just the place in mind. Salty’s is an Isle of Wight institution and whilst all the food is good, there’s really one main reason you come here – just LOOK at that fishA true British classic, it’s the best fish and chips you’ll find. Perfectly cooked cod encased in the crispiest batter, all you need to do is add some peas and a few big bowls of chips and you have yourself the perfect lunch. Salty’s offers 3 sizes – kids, ladies and men but they’re generous so only order the mens if you’re feeling ravenous. We all went for the ladies and were stuffed to the gills, so to speak.All washed down with crisp French rose and ice cold beers.Pop in for a bite, I promise you won’t be sorry.
I am of the opinion that country weekends are the best weekends. Throw in best friends and some bubbles? Well then you’re really on to a winner.
As a teenager I was always desperate to get to London, fleeing the countryside at every opportunity for the bright lights of the big smoke. Things are a little different now, maybe it’s because I live here now or maybe I’m just getting old, but now the appeal of a weekend outside of London is often too strong to resist.
As a result, a few weekends ago, Friday afternoon saw me hopping in the car with my bestie, off to her parents house in Lymington for the weekend. After a lazy evening and morning we decided to get out the house so along with our friend Leila we headed down the road to Limewood for a spot of lunch in the sun. Nestled in the heart of the New Forest, we’ve been coming here for years. Great to come for dinner and drinks, there’s also a spa and rooms in case you fancy an overnight visit.Full of cosy nooks for curling up when the weather’s grim, I could quite happily laze away a Sunday morning here with a cup of tea and the papers.Light streams through the glass ceiling in the bar area, making it the perfect spot to while away the afternoon.And maybe grab a spot of afternoon tea….But as much as I love the interiors, today we were more focused on the outside, deciding to make the most of the last of the lazy summer afternoons whilst we still could.Grabbing ourselves a tables on the terrace we got on with the important work of the afternoon.The restaurant at Limewood is run by Angela Harnett and Luke Holder and, rather handily, you can order the small plates to the terraces. Naturally we only ordered one or two mouthfuls.Home smoked salmon with caperberries. There’s a smokehouse on site so the salmon and meats are all smoked just around the corner from where you’re devouring them.Vitello tonnato, delicate slices of veal in a tuna sauce, fresh with capers and lemon. If you’ve never had this before, I promise it’s more delicious than it sounds.Baby vegetable salad, ordered as a bit of an afterthought, it turned out to be one of the stand out dishes. Crunchy little veg, lying snugly on a bed of fresh cheese.Crispy fish fingers with tartare sauce, these resulted in burnt mouths all round as we tried, and failed, to wait until they were cool enough to eat.Bruschetta, another real winner, charred sourdough topped with smokey, rich aubergine.Homemade salamiThe perfect spot to spend a sunny afternoon, take some friends and make yourself at home. Just be careful not to leave anyone alone or you might find the call of the bar is too strong.