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the crowded house, ashby de la zouch.

Note: This establishment no longer exists and has been replaced by The Vine in Ashby de la Zouch.

The Crowded House is one of myself and my friends' favourite local place to go for drinks these days. with loads of brilliantly tasty cocktails as well as an extensive wine list, it's the right balance between having a buzzing atmosphere for twenty and thirty somethings - whilst still getting to wear a nice outfit that you aren't feeling horrible a stuffy wearing in a busy pub. the walls are covered in caricatures of various celebrities - fun to try and guess who's who! 

My personal favourite cocktails there is nuts & berries - made with hazaelnut liquor, chamboerd and topped up with bubbles! lovely! i used to really love dawn kiss - which was a strawberry version of this - which even though it isn't on the menu anymore the bar staff seem happy enough to make! :) 

So getting to the point - recently i went on a little dinner date with my mum and was pleased to see the lunch menu was just as appetizing. i decided the desserts looked too good to miss so went with a light main of soup of the day - french onion soup and crusty bread - and finished it off with a delightful lemon seville tart! (you may have noticed i'm a sucker for a lemon tart!) so sorry my main picture isn't that interesting - i promise it was very tasty. but be all means be jealous of the dessert!

nigella lawson's crab linguine with chilli and lemon.

Crab Linguine Recipe

I wish I could say that I invented this delicious crab linguine recipe but alas it another of the lovely Nigella's. 

With my fave combo ingredients of garlic, lemon, chilli, peppery leaves and of course seafood - I can't get enough of this dish. It's gorgeous as a main meal but any leftovers are amazing the next day served cold as a light lunch. 

Shopping list.
(Serves two)
♥ 120g linguine
♥ 170g white crab meat
♥ Two garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
♥ One red chilli, sliced and deseeded
♥ Half a lemon lemon, juice and zest
♥ Sea salt and pepper
♥ 75ml good quality olive oil
♥ Rocket, to serve

I do get a bit frightened of de-seeding chillis and wash my hands every 3 minutes. but other than that this is such a simple recipe. In short, you boil the pasta whilst putting the rest of the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar, tossing them all together with the crab meat at the end. 

I made it with white crab meat, not with a mixture of white and brown in Nigella's recipe. It is quite expensive at £2-£2.50 for a 170g tin but it's so worth it when you think about how much you might spend on this in a restaurant. I also used a mix of watercress and rocket but ended up using mainly rocket. It's becoming an addiction.

Nigella Lawson Crab Linguine

Click to try the crab linguine with chilli and watercress a la Nigella! Or try out my other seafood recipes here...

scallops with white wine, garlic and rocket linguine.

shopping list
♥ around six scallops each
♥ 150g linguine pasta
♥ 100ml olive oil
♥ 2 chopped garlic cloves
♥ 1 tbsp lemon juice
♥ one glass of white wine
♥ 100g rocket leaves

serves two

begin by boiling some water and cooking in a saucepan on a medium heat. 

next, begin to very slowly cook the garlic on a low heat, adding in the lemon juice and glass of wine. (treat yourself to one too!) remove from the heat and set aside.

in a third pan, begin to cook the scallops, for around 2 minutes each side. this is maybe the most tricky part - as i wanted to make sure they were cooked but did not want the rubbery texture. in hindsight, mine may have been over cooked and had i continued to cook them they would have developed nice chargrilled lines. however they turned out to be a soft texture - despite them shrinking a lot!

whilst the scallops are still hot, or just as they are about to be cooked, you then toss the olive oil in the pasta and add in the lemony garlic mixture, along with the rocket leaves. stir it all together and combine as the rocket slightly wilts. serve the scallops on top and voila! :)

although this recipe can be a little awkward with the timings of the scallops and final mixture - it really is a great way of showing off seafood with fresh, simple flavours. yum x

the bay tree, melbourne derbyshire.

classic lemon tart presented with a lemon sorbet and a sprinkling of fresh raspberries
finished with a drizzle of wild hibiscus syrup

just... mmm!

this was part the lunch menu at the bay tree in melbourne (derbyshire not aus). would definitely recommend!

sushi: how britain became addicted to raw fish.

Cast your mind to a breezy, summer afternoon. Feeling a little peckish, you stumble into your trusty local supermarket and begin to rummage through your pockets for loose change.

Your eyes dart towards a sign which reads ‘Food to go.’ Hastily, you dodge your way past a googly-eyed toddler absentmindedly devouring a precarious 99 flake and make a beeline for £3 lunch-time heaven. You hear a distant voice ask ‘Are you using your own bags?’ as you skim the inviting shelves.

Granary, oatmeal, wholemeal. Cob, bap, roll. Extra cheese, no mayonnaise, with cracked black pepper. A rainbow row of crisp packets fighting for your attention amidst stacks of granola and fruit medleys. As you reach for a trusty BLT and check your selections add up to the all important ‘meal deal’, you notice something a little different.

Rice? Seaweed? Wasabi? They definitely don’t come with a wholemeal option. And California roll, wasn’t that a song in the sixties?

Yet a few months later, you discover yourself swapping plastic forks for chopsticks and keeping a spare bottle of soy sauce in your car glove box just in case. And so this is how Britain became addicted to raw fish.

As crates of pre-packed sushi find themselves in garage forecourts and sushi plates are thrown onto conveyor belts, the slithers of salmon placed upon perfect parcels of sticky rice are more popular than ever.

Farewell to the suave snack between million pound Japanese business deals. Now sushi bars can even be found at Butlins resorts, between the fish and chip shops and candy floss vans. On a recent survey, 60% of 16-25 year olds admitted they’d like their own personal sushi belt. Is sushi becoming the new chicken tikka masala?

“I’ve always loved trying out new cuisine. I began by buying attractive sushi variety packs but now I’ve tried it in a restaurant I definitely wouldn’t go anywhere else.” 

And it’s true. It must go without saying, the comparison is rather like having the choice between a pre-made meatball sandwich and a freshly cut and panfried steak. Minus the cooking of course. But in this self-serve century we find ourselves in, we must cater for the masses, and quick. There is no way a supermarket could cater for requests of a freshly sliced yellowfin tuna and salmon roe selection. And why should they? When we’re happily munching on, essentially, rolled up tinned tuna, seafood sticks and fish-shaped bottles of soy sauce. The label proudly beaming ‘Not raw fish’ for us Brits to see. There’s no doubt some sushi lovers could be getting a raw deal.

Another worry is the celebrity get-fit-quick culture which sushi seems to have lent itself too. With actresses Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, model Lauren Conrad and even British actor Andrew Garfield hailing sushi as the new slim fix, there’s no wonder the dinky delights dance their way into the latest gossip magazines. Katy Perry took this part quite literally in this rather fantastic sushi ensemble.

No fear, certainly a couple of harmless plates of sushi and a few sips of saki would ever be akin to a night on the town with that essential kebab and chips. Well, what could be healthier than seafood, iron-packed seaweed and a bit of rice? But like all things, moderation is the key; sushi can be lumbered with calories and extremely high in salt. A single California roll, a Western favourite, can easily contain 400 calories and 5g of salt. Pretty shocking when a serving of McDonalds fries has around 450 calories.

Salmon and tuna sushi in particular is often saluted for its high levels of Omega three fats. However  the Food Standards Agency urges consumers that high levels of mercury found in these types of fish can be toxic and can build up in the body if overeaten.

Me loving life at the Sushi Awards 2011
Fortunately something is being done. In the last year, chains like Yo! Sushi are signed a Public Health Responsibility Deal with the government. Spokeswoman Renata Fukuthi explained, “We pledge to deliver a 15% salt reduction and responsibly sized portions by 2012 by adapting their menu.”

Another thing, those of you who screwed up their face at the idea of raw fish and feared seafood poisoning, will be pleased to know you can munch on the likes of hoisin duck noodles, chicken katsu curry and crispy prawn tempura.

But there's no stopping me... sushi lovers unite!

Now, where are my chopsticks?

chocolate macarons: a recipe in pictures.

just the right crunch, a little chewy and a whole lot of chocolatey. this chocolate macaroon (or is it spelt macaron?) recipe really is to die for. i stumbled across this recipe on my fellow foodie maria's blog the mixing bowl, where she reviewed secrets of macarons recipe book by josé maréchal. something i will certainly be buying in the near future!

from the aging of the egg whites to the grinding of the ground almonds, it really is true with macaroons; everything matters. 

here are some photographs of my culinary adventure. the recipe can be found here. i should add that this is my first time trying out this recipe and probably about my fifth time cooking with egg whites, meringue techniques etc. i'm pretty sure i made them a little too big aswell. but this is a fool proof recipes and if you are a more experienced baker i'm sure yours would turn out even better :) what's more - they tasted amazing!