29 June 2014

a proper garden

O U T F I T ||

This is no ordinary garden chair, this is Paycocke's House & Garden's garden chair. Pretty cute right? I think so too. I would love to own one of my own… one day!

On my last trip to Coggeshall [part of the Essex Way] it was really hot and I got to wear this checkered little number. It's quite a safe choice for me: my go-to dress shape & muted colours. Relatively toned down from my usual colours but I quite enjoyed sporting it. Feminine, fitted and light - perfect for the great weather. Shame the summer rains are ruling our skies again, otherwise I would wear it more.

dress [River Island]
bag, necklace & sandals [Primark]
bracelets [Accessorize]

thanks & shout out to one of my favourite bloggers Patricia of patriciabright.co.uk who enticed me back into Primark after an on-purpose year off - she's right though, they do have some really great pieces in at the moment. Generally, the High Street is doing an excellent job right now so check it out.

The cute Essex town of Coggeshall is full of some beautiful National Trust gems, Paycocke's being one of them. The house and the garden are stunning, kept looking well by volunteers. The house is a museum where you can view the rooms laid out by the different eras its been lived in. The garden is a lovely place to walk around, play a spot of croquet or have a little read in. It's a proper English garden full of roses, lavender and all sorts of green. To top it off, we even had scones and coffee under a lovely tree in the shade. A proper afternoon!


25 June 2014

good morning kuching

D I S H Y #10 || "Goood morning from Kuching!"

Oh how I wish I'd had this beautiful bowl of delicious goodness this week. Sadly, this is a throwback. Way back to January when I was on my first ever trip to Asia, ending up in Sarawak [Borneo] to be precise. A lovely family friend took me in for a few days and introduced to me to some not only amazing places but also some of the tastiest food I've had yet. I've always been a big fan of Asian flavours but this particular dish blew my mind. Believe it or not, this was my breakfast. That's right, my BREAKFAST. Jun-Lin's favourite dish: the Laksa Sarawak. A breakfast of champions, if I might add. There are many different types of Laksa; this was a lovely coconut broth with a tangy twist, with noodles, chicken, prawns, omelette, calamansi, sambal, fresh coriander and many more tasty ingredients swimming around all happy. It should have been called HAPPY NOODLES [copyrighting that]. Basically, it was super delicious and I would have it every morning if I could. This has also made me realise that I should really get on and write about my little Malaysia adventure. Six months later, bear with me...


23 June 2014

the essex way

T R A V E L || Coggeshall, Essex

Let's take a walk into the country. Only an hour away from London's Liverpool Street is the cute town of Coggeshall filled with many a country walks and beautiful national heritage sites. I decided to head up to visit some family friends over the weekend. As much as I love London and city life [and I really do], I am also a green girl at heart. Walking, exploring and being in amongst the green-on-green makes me happy. Pollen barriers at the ready… read on to see what we got up to along the Essex Way.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend too.

the essex way ||

I have never watched TOWIE which means that that hasn't either encouraged or discouraged me from going to explore the good old county of Essex. I would have never heard of any of these places hadn't it been for my knowledgable locals either. From stepping off of the train, you are in amongst beautiful fields, cute country cottages framed by roses and fun winding country roads. What's not to love?

The town of Coggeshall is not only home to lovely public paths-slash-walks, but also some beautiful national heritage sites. We decided to go on a late afternoon walk to look around The Abbey, one of the finest medieval buildings in the country. The Abbey itself is amazing and is surrounded by some of the most characterful outbuildings [barns and stables] and sister buildings like the gorgeous Mill [first picture below]. Across the way, you can also find the very handsome and dominant Grange Barn, one of Europe's oldest timber-framed buildings. It's quite something and I would highly recommend going to see it if you are ever in this part of England.

As well as the beautiful buildings, our walk also had us bump into a few animal friends. There were lots of happy horses hanging out in the fields and majestic swans being extremely pensive by the river. It was quite postcard picturesque and made for a very relaxing chilled outing.

The only thing I wish is that pollen was kinder to my eyes and nose. Otherwise I would spend every weekend in the country! Either way, it's a great way to just escape the rush-rush-rush of the big smoke and take time out to refresh.

Onto another busy week… hope you've all managed to have a relaxing weekend and have a good week ahead!


18 June 2014

it's loveski

D I S H Y #9 ||

On the first weekend of June, the sun shone at exactly the moment one of my oldest friends Jess got married to her ski-bunny George [they met on Ski-son seven years ago, so cute]. The weather forecast the night before had predicted rain-slash-thunder so we were so happy when the sun shone all weekend for such a great couple. This week's dishy is therefore a little bit special, because it's actually the main course at Jess & Georgie's wedding: pan fried sea bass with creamy mash, wilted spinach and salsa verde. When I've heard of what friends have eaten at weddings before, it's never got me that excited [think buffets, chicken and veg, roasts]. So when this beautiful dish arrived in front of me at Jess &Geogie's, I was really impressed. It looked good and tasted amazing [starter and dessert also!]. So much so, I am still thinking about it a week and a half later. Future weddings, take note.

It was such a special day [yes, a few tears were shed] and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. Congratulations Jess & Georgie, you wonderful lovebirds!

wearing ||
dress [River Island]
white blazer [M&S]
flower crown [homemade]


15 June 2014

cooking by pixels

F O O D || how-to, some classics

Two weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to learn how to cook from the pros at Leiths cooking school but with a little twist. I was invited along with a few other food bloggers to take an evening class led by trained cookery tutor and food stylist Jessica MillsThe event #FoodiesOnTour was aimed at not only how to make great food but style it too so that we had great shots to remember our experience. I pretty much take snaps of everything I eat and am always up for learning something new so this seemed an offer I couldn't resist. Here's what we got up to...

PHOTOS || all photos taken using the Nokia Lumia.

learning time ||

On arrival, I was greeted by the lovely Nadine and immediately handed a new Nokia Lumia [1520 model I think] which would become my new best friend for the evening. Given the event was sponsored by Microsoft Devices, it only seemed right that I put away my usual lenses and find out what the Lumia was all about. Before the event, I had also received a personalised apron in the post [a really nice touch] which I quickly put on before we were briefed on what we would be doing.

Jessica quickly got our attention and talked us through the three course menu, the health & safety rules and a quick run down of her top tips for food styling. She went through a lot of detail for each course - what we would be using, tips for cooking and then tips on how to make it look great for when we came to photographing the dish. At the end, I was a little intimidated by the task [this really was the deep end then] so cannot tell you how relieved I was when she then said we would be forming teams and attacking one course each. PHEW [there were a few other sighs of relief!]. Either way, I knew this was going to be a challenge and I was a little nervous.

After Jessica's introduction, we were then shown how to properly prepare a rack of lamb [the most complex of the prep] by another talented tutor at Leith's. Jenny took us step by step through which bits to cut off, how to properly "clean" the bones and how to make the herb crust. Some people quickly knew they wanted to try out the lamb - my team mate Su-Lin [of Tamarind and Thyme] was one, so I ended up joining her and Rosana [of Hot & Chill] as I really wanted to attempt the dessert. Learning complete, we stationed ourselves at one of the kitchen islands...

the starter || by Rosana

on the menu: spinach and bacon salad with red chilli and mango

Rosana took on our starter and made a very colourful and fresh salad. I'm not the biggest sweet and savoury food fan but I thought the salad was well balanced and I enjoyed the dressing Rosana made to go with it. A tasty teaser for the main meal.

Once ready, Jessica showed Rosana how to style the salad using various dishes, pieces of cloth and cutlery. The key rules for styling : 1) pre-decide the angle and lighting you will be using for the final photo 2) think about the colour and texture combinations, both for the food itself and the props you'll use as you prep and plate & 3) make it interesting, add some height and use odd numbers to catch the eye.

the main || by Su-Lin

on the menu: rack of lamb with a mustard crust, accompanied by a tomato and mint salsa

From the start, Su-Lin really wanted to have a go at preparing the rack of lamb. It was a lot of work but sounded satisfying once she'd conquered it. A good classic skill to have in my opinion and one I'm looking forward to trying out one of these days [it's a little less daunting now I've seen how it's done!]. You'll notice that all three of us did two types of styling: 1) a dish for one & 2) a sharing platter. Both girls had a really good eye for presentation, whereas it took me a while to feel happy with my final dish. Su-Lin did say that she preferred sharing dishes because they were just easier to style for dinner parties!

the dessert || by me

on the menu: individual pavlovas with papaya, pomegranate and passion fruit

Finally, it was my turn to come up with the dessert. I'll admit that although I love all food, I do have a sweet tooth. Meringues are one of those things I've always wanted to try out and never had the confidence to attempt for the first time on my own. This therefore seemed like the best opportunity. With all my ingredients measured out [a massive perk of cooking school], all I had to do was whisk and chop. The meringues were actually really easy and I had lots of fun making the various shapes. I attempted quenelles, nests and [my favourite invention] the hedgehogs [see main picture at the very top] - I really liked the last shapes because they looked like the meringues had had a bad hair day, ha. I then had fun deseeding pomegranates [tip: tap and squish it before deseeding to loosen the pips] and passion fruits, before cutting my papaya six ways. I clearly had no vision of how I would style the end dish so it made sense in my head to make every shape possible so that the girls and I got a good choice!

final thoughts & thank yous ||

After all the cooking and styling, we got to sit down at a big table and enjoy each course with a glass of wine. The PR team also got to try our dishes and am sure had a good giggle watching us all attempt to cook and style throughout the evening. On the evening - I felt the dishes were complicated enough but still accessible for beginner cooks. Though styling was fun, I think I'll eat the lamb as soon as it comes out the oven next time - cold food is not the one, even if I want the prettiest dish and best picture. On the phone - I enjoyed using the Nokia Lumia and the photos turned out better than I expected. It's a great phone for people who want a good camera with a bigger viewing pane [though the short zoom annoyed me], but to be honest I missed the flexibility of my camera and couldn't see myself switching to smartphone-only photography.

Overall, it was a really fun evening - I definitely learnt some new skills [I still can't believe I made my first meringues!] and met some great bloggers [check them out below]. A huge thank you to the Microsoft Devices PR team for inviting me, to Jess, Jenny & the lovely team at Leith's and finally to Su-Lin & Rosana for making some pretty tasty dishes with me.

Su-Lin || Tamarind and Thyme
Rosana || Hot & Chilli
Andrew || Motley Spicer


11 June 2014

bento win

D I S H Y #8 ||

NEWS FLASH! Dotori is back people, it's BACK. Can you tell how excited I am?! If you're a North Londoner [or know me], you will know. If not, then unlucky. This place is in my list of top restaurants in London [big call, I know]. Nothing fancy here, just delicious food at great prices in two of my favourite styles: Japanese & Korean. Is this a bento box? Who knows. This particular winning dish is made up of [from top left quadrant] pan fried dumplings, salad, sticky black sesame rice and teriyaki chicken [NOM]. I'm not going to tell you where this magical place is, you will have to go on a hunt [Google's a good bet]. When you finally find it, your efforts will be repaid handsomely. The restaurant has also recently gone through some renovation but midway had to reopen because people started to leave voicemail complaints about it taking too long. "Where's my chicken teriyaki?!" I hear them cry. It's THAT good people, trust me.