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Cupcake Mania

Fair Cake Cupcakes

And it really was. I, like most people am not averse to a cupcake. Especially a good cupcake. Cupcake fever hit London a couple of years ago and it’s showing no sign of abating. I think that for women, cupcakes have a multidimensional appeal, ok, so that’s very general and some people might accuse me of sexism, but I do believe I can embrace the gender divide here. They’re often bright, pretty, sweet, beautifully decorated and I just want to put them in my pocket and save them rather than eat them. Until I’ve had that first bite, that is. Then it’s game over for the cupcake.

I have tried many cupcakes in the past. Among my favourites are those that Michelle bakes at the Lavender Bakery. I’ve blogged about these before on a recent trip to the Covent Garden Night Market. This post is dedicated to those at Fair Cake, who are so busy at the moment that I’ve read that they can’t take any further orders until mid-November, but I managed to procure some, lucky me :)

You can imagine my delight when 3 boxes of gorgeous cupcakes were delivered for our TrustedPlaces food & wine bloggers meetup last week. I had to turn my back to them for I could not trust myself. They smelled so incredibly fresh (and they were). A lovely light sponge with a rich and sweet buttercream, they went down a treat, and you know how fussy food bloggers are.

Thanks to Shikhita at Fair Cake for squeezing our order into her busy schedule and delivering them to us. She made a nice day even sweeter.

My preciouses

My preciouses

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Leftovers on toast

Leftovers on toast

Leftovers on toast

Wandering home weary after a long day, the thought of the kitchen can be quite dispiriting. Even for me, a person who loves spending time in that room eating and playing with ingredients. Today was one of the very rare days that I just didn’t have the energy and after a long day in the office, I was only fit for laziness, so, I invested in a block of nice goats cheese and some red wine, and on my journey home I resigned myself to a pleasant end of evening tucking into both.

But then, I got home, and on opening the fridge remembered something I threw together yesterday and had a bowl of stored in the fridge: a very quick pancetta, chorizo, chickpea and spinach stew. Ridiculously easy and quick, I sauteed about 60g each of pancetta and chorizo, added half a tin of chickpeas, and a couple of handfuls of spinach at the end. The joy when I spied that bowl, all I did was reheat it with a little cream for moisture and luxury and ate it on a couple of slices of toasted ciabatta. Toast! Ah toast. Really, there’s some days that you really can’t beat it and today is one for me.

I’m happy now. And I’m tucking into that cheese with a glass of that nice red wine :)

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A Gastronomic Postcard from Riva del Garda

Riva del Garda

Riva del Garda

I’ve been a little absent from this little online home of late, in the past week that was because I was in Italy, Riva del Garda to be precise, to celebrate a friends wedding, or more accurately two friends weddings, only remove the plural as they were marrying each other :)

I’ve been to Italy three times previously, I love Rome and Naples, both buzzing with energy and with fantastic food, both cities to get lost, idle and indulge in. The furthest North I had been was Florence, which at the tender age of 19 was too quiet for me, so, I was looking forward to visiting Lago di Garda, somewhere quiet and visually spectacular with very different food to what I had experienced further South, the perfect counter to a hectic month in London. Added to this, I grew up next to the Atlantic and love being by water, I especially love ferries and boats, so I was very much looking forward to a first night relaxing with just my book, some good food and some nice red wine somewhere by the Lake.

Riva del Garda

Riva del Garda

This wasn’t to happen, certainly not as I intended, as I was very unlucky and I missed the only bus from the airport (there’s only one a day!), then the bank cancelled my cash card (due to a fraudulent transaction which was only me trying to withdraw money at the airport), so I spent my first few hours talking to my bank and various taxi drivers at the airport who were offering to take me to all corners of Italy for extremely extravagant sums. It all ended well, if differently to expected, with, following a ridiculously overpriced taxi journey, a three and a half hour ferry trip in the evening sun ending in Riva del Garda at sunset.

First impressions of culinary Riva? Good pizza that first night with nice red wine, all enjoyed in the company of a good book. The pizza was not as good as what I had experienced in Naples, but was on a par with the better ones that I have had in London and very fairly priced (Bella Napoli, should you visit). After this, it was a bit hit and miss, Riva being a tourist town and catering very much for German and Austrian tourists, lots of restaurants offered beef and roast potatoes or frankfurters, but, there were some gems, offering the likes of rabbit stew with polenta and wonderful fresh seafood from the lake. Veal was very common and any steak I had was very good.

Seafood Lasagne

Seafood Lasagne

My two favourite restaurants of the week offered the nicest dishes I tasted over my week there, had a lovely atmosphere and service, and are places I’d love to visit again. My favourite dish in the first restaurant, Osteria de l’Anzolim, wasn’t even my own, but I had a taste and was full of regret and main course envy, a beautiful and light seafood lasagne. I had a lovely linguine marinara that was so full of seafood I couldn’t even finish it. The service was great, the owner quite a character and lots of fun. I’d recommend. The second is slightly off the beaten track, Osteria La Contrada, and serves homemade pasta and bread with regional specialties. Here, they had a whole page of the menu dedicated to the truffle, how could I not indulge? So, I had Tagliatelle ai Tartufo and my friend Risotto, both divine, I am still thinking about them! For now, I’ll leave you with the images, until I can do a version to share with you.

Tagliatelle al Tartufo

Tagliatelle al Tartufo

Risotto al Tartufo

Risotto al Tartufo

Homemade maccheroni with tomato and buffalo mozarella

Homemade maccheroni with tomato and buffalo mozarella

Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese

Grilled King Prawns

Grilled King Prawns

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Chanterelles on Toast

chanterelles on toast

I love a decadent Sunday morning, that’s no secret. Lazy & grazy with big pot of coffee, the Sunday paper and a gorgeous brunch. Today I had lots of chanterelles to play with, courtesy of my lovely Italian grocer in king’s Cross. He has a friend who forages for them and kept some aside for me so that I could indulge this weekend.

This is really quick, easy and super tasty. For one person, all you need is a couple of slices of good bread, toasted. Serve atop a couple of handfuls of golden chanterelles, fried in a knob of butter for a few minutes until cooked, add a tablespoon of cream and a couple of tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley. Yum!

chanterelles on toast