What a year it's been! As 2014 comes to an end I've been thinking about what I've been up to with my blog and food adventures. First of all a quick apology to those of you who read my blog for recipes - I've been eating out at so many amazing restaurants recently, and putting a lot of recipes I've come up with into my book (that I'm still writing), that I've hardly posted any recipes here at all in the past few months. So please bear with me as I will be redressing the restaurant review/recipe balance on here in the New Year...

The other thing I've been looking back on is my pop up restaurants. This time last year I'd done 4 events - 2 public pop ups and 2 private pop ups for a hen do and a birthday party. Now I've done a total of 13 public pop ups, and 12 private catering gigs, including a 3 course dinner for 60 people, and a vegetarian Thai feast for a hen do. I also had the pleasure of designing the food menu for a private party put on by MoneySuperMarket, which I'll be blogging about in the new year. I've had some great feedback from my events, and I've had some lovely reviews of my pop ups from the following bloggers and writers:

I am continuing with my pop ups in 2015, and already have 2 dates in the diary - the 24th January, which there's still a couple of tickets left for, and Saturday 14th March, when I'm doing a pop up as part of the Nose to Tail fortnight, using less common cuts of meat to prepare the following menu:

Welcome cocktail
Chicken & duck liver pate topped with madeira jelly, duck hearts, raisin puree & homemade bread
Oxtail and ox cheek stew, leeks, wild garlic & flageolet beans, purple sprouting broccoli and parsnip puree
Lemon posset with rhubarb jam and shortbread biscuits
Montgomery cheeseboard, homemade chutney, seeded crackers
COFFEE and HERBAL TEAS: Served with homemade chocolates
Tickets have started selling for the March event already (!?) but there are still plenty available here. I'm also looking to do a pop up in February so check Grub Club for details on that soon. I'll be doing a pop up once a month to start the year and will possibly increase them as the year goes on. Of course, all this is only possible because of the wonderful people at Grub Club who help and support me every step of the way, as well as making it easy for you guys to get tickets for my events. I might even venture into the world of Afternoon Tea in a more central location than my West London home, but of course, I'll post details here about those if/when they happen.
Here are a few photos from some of my most recent pop ups and private catering events so you can see what it's all about....
Welcome raspberry, vodka and prosecco cocktail from early Autumn:
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Who doesn't love a pizza?! It's probably the go-to "naughty" food that I eat the most, because crispy base and melty cheese = heaven! So I popped into Pizza Union near Liverpool Street last week to give their offerings a try. And they're so good that I have to tell you about them!

Pizza Union is tucked between Bishopsgate and Commercial Street near Shoreditch in East London. It's a huge space with a massive pizza oven where they promise superfast 12" pizzas, ready in 3 minutes! And that's exactly what they do. You order and pay at the counter, take a buzzer with you and within 3 minutes the buzzer starts flashing and your pizza is ready to collect. I went with Hugo; I ordered the Formaggi (tomato sauce, mozzarella, mascarpone, gorgonzola and parmesan) with extra artichokes and pepperoni, and Hugo had the Carne (tomato sauce, mozzarella, beef, chicken, pepperoni and onions). The bases are super thin, and crunchy at the edges, and the toppings plentiful and delicious. It was up there with some of the best pizzas I've tried. And they're super cheap too - they were £6.50 each!

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Kerbisher and Malt - the best fish and chip shop in London (?) I know it's a bit of a grand statement, but it's one I've been thinking about a bit recently. You see, I've been to Kerbisher and Malt twice now. The first time I didn't get it - it was good, but it was just fish and chips. But I went back recently and I've changed my mind. I've changed my mind because I've realised, that although there are a couple of places in London that sell excellent fish and chips, that's all they sell, and your arms normally stick to the tables because they're so greasy, and you clean up after yourself, because they're just takeaway shops that happen to have a few seats/tables. But Kerbisher and Malt is different. It really stands out from the rest. It's fish and chips but it's more, it's an actual restaurant for a start, where you pay after your meal, and where the waitresses bring your food to you and take it away when you're done. And they also bring you booze if you so desire. And their food is really, really good.

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ActionAid need our help, now.

This wonderful charity work tirelessly throughout the year to give a better and brighter future to children who need one most around the world. I've worked with them on previous campaigns, and the further we can spread the word the better. This Christmas I have the fortune of being with family and loved ones, in a warm house, with electricity and running water, opening presents we have given each other. A lot of us will think of this as normal but for so many children in the world this is a distant dream of something they've never had. I don't know how much you've spent on presents, but I'm sure it's more than what it costs to sponsor a child in desperate need. With ActionAid you can sponsor one of the world's poorest, most vulnerable children. ActionAid work in over 40 countries with kids who are hungry with no food, sick with no medicine and in danger with no protection. But with your help, for just £15 a month, ActionAid can provide support and help to these children, to give them hope and a better future. You can also give child sponsorship as a gift this year, so if you know someone who has everything, or someone you've yet to buy a present for, why not give them the gift that keeps on giving?

The ActionAid Christmas campaign is focusing on 6 of the 40 countries they work in - Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Afghanistan and Myanmar - where the children are most in need. You can make sure that a child has enough to eat, a safe place to live and the chance to go to school. So please, please help if you can.

One of the previous ActionAid campaigns I worked on was also supported by actress Fay Ripley. She spoke passionately about her visit to the poorest parts of Africa, where she'd met children who had literally been saved by ActionAid's work. For this year's Action Aid Christmas #giveafuture campaign Fay has put together a recipe to share. So please share this post far and wide, and if you make the recipe, why not make a donation as well?

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A few weeks ago, just before my holidays, I went along to an evening of whisky tasting at the recently opened Ramusake restaurant in Kensington. Cardhu whisky was new to me so it was fascinating to learn more about the brand and its history. Cardhu is a Speyside distillery near Moray in Scotland, which was set up on a farm by whisky smuggler John Cumming in 1824, and is now run by Diageo, the world's largest spirit producer. The distillery was originally run by John's wife Helen, before being taken over by their daughter-in-law Elizabeth, after it had been moved to a new site. The distillery produced so much whisky that the majority of it was sold to Johnnie Walker and Sons to add to their own blend. And in 1893 the distillery itself was sold to Johnnie Walker and Sons under the promise that the Cumming family would continue to actually run it.

Cardhu produce a range of single malt whiskies that vary between 12 and 21 years old. But we were at Ramusake to try their new product - Cardhu Gold Reserve, a single malt whisky made in hand-picked toasted oak casks. This creates an extra sweet, rich whisky, with notes of red apples, toffee, pear, clotted cream and tropical fig! It finishes on a dry note, and has a very rounded finish, unlike other whiskies I've tried that have a harsher finish. Cardhu Gold Reserve is perfect on the rocks, with or without ice, and is the first whisky I've really appreciated drinking straight.

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It's not often I go to a restaurant and come out declaring it's the best version of whichever food they're serving that I've tried, so it's a big deal for me to say I've found the BEST ramen that I've ever tasted, especially when it's a no-booking restaurant with food served so fast that you're in and out within 30 minutes. But that restaurant exists and it's Kanada-Ya.

I was invited to visit Kanada-Ya on a cold and rainy Wednesday evening. I arrived with Hugo at 6.30 to see a huge queue outside already, with probably more than 20 people queueing for this 24 seater ramen bar. The restaurant is small and compact with a semi open kitchen - there are bench tables in the centre and a few tables against the windows. The place is buzzing and no sooner has one table been cleared, than the next hungry diners waiting outside are ushered in.

The menu at Kanada-Ya is short and sweet. You choose from 3 options of tonkotsu (which means pork bone) ramen (noodle soup) - all made with the same creamy 18 hour pork bone broth, the toppings alternate slightly between the choices. Their three options of ramen are:

- Original ramen - broth, chashu pork belly, wood ear fungus, noodles, nori and spring onion (£10)
- Moyashi ramen - broth, chashu pork belly, wood ear fungus, noodles, nori and spring onion, topped with blanched bean sprouts (£11)
- Chashu men - broth, deluxe chashu pork collar, wood ear fungus, noodles, nori and spring onion (£12.50)

You can also add extra noodles (£1.50), black garlic sauce (£1), spicy miso (£1.50), Hanjuku egg - a soft boiled egg marinated in soy (£1.80) and extra nori (£0.50). We both went for the Chashu men with spicy miso, and an egg for me. You can also choose how you want your noodles cooked - extra firm, firm, regular or soft. Hugo went for firm and I had regular. The wait between ordering your ramen and it arriving at the table was less than 5 minutes. And when it does arrive you're greeted with a steaming bowl of goodness.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you might've seen that I went on the holiday of a lifetime a couple of weeks ago. The boy's mum very kindly took me, the boy, his brother and his brother's lady off to Mauritius for a break. It was the furthest I've ever travelled and my first time in the Southern hemisphere, so I wanted to share some of my photos, experiences and food discoveries with you here.

We took a night flight direct from Heathrow to Mauritius and arrived to be hit by a wall of heat and humidity, all slightly dazed from a sleep-lacking flight! We were picked up by our driver and driven from the airport, on the south-east of the island, to the hotel, on the north-west. Mauritius is in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, and is about 70km in length, so it only took an hour to reach the hotel. We were staying at the gorgeous Maritim, Balaclava, and were greeted with the most stunning view through the reception foyer, out over the infinity pool to the crystal blue sea. The views were unlike anything I've seen before, as was the heat!

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Peruvian food seems to be the new thing in London. Lima recently won a Michelin star and a handful of Peruvian influenced places have sprung up since then, including Pachamama in Marylebone which I visited a few weeks ago. You find Pachamama through a missable door off Thayer St, at the south end of Marylebone High St, and head downstairs into the light, bright, and really quite large space that Pachamama have created. The walls are decorated with flowers and a full size horse figure, and the tables by the bar sweep round the corner into a larger dining room, which has smaller, private, lounge type rooms coming off it. They serve fresh and delicious sharing dishes for lunch, and something a bit more substantial for dinner, when the lights go down and the music turns up.

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A couple of years ago I did a food writing course at Leith's cookery school. There were about 15 of us on the course, from all walks of life, each with our own food writing ambitions. Mine was to improve my blog, learn some writing techniques and brush up my skills in the hope of one day writing my own cookbook. 2 years down the line and I still hope to publish my own book, part of which is written, part of which is safely stored in my head!!!! But something exciting popped up on my facebook feed a few weeks ago - one of the ladies on the course, April Carter, has now written her 3rd book (!!), which has been published by Hardie Grant and is now on sale! Her name emblazoned across her book, full of her own recipes - that has to be the dream come true? I was thrilled when April said yes to me previewing one of her recipes from the book for my blog, in the hope that you might want to buy the book yourselves, either to further your own baking, or as a perfect Christmas present for a loved one.

April Carter's 'Decorated - Sublimely crafted cakes for every occasion' book is absolutely beautiful. A collection of recipes for cakes and sweet treats for all occasions and skill levels, the book finishes with a chapter dedicated to how to decorate your own cakes, going into great detail about icing techniques, how to melt chocolate and tips for that extra special finishing touch, all shown via gorgeous photos, taken by Danielle Wood. I know already that April's book is going to be my go-to book for cake making and decorating, and as I'm known as the world's worst cake decorator I can see myself learning a LOT from the last chapter of 'Decorated'. So when an email came into my inbox at work last week asking if I'd bake a cake for a bake sale in aid of Children with Cancer and St John's Hospice (for who they ended up raising over £400), I thought it the ideal time to give one of April's recipes a go, though as you'll see later, I've still got a way to go on the decorating side of things!! Looks aside, it was one of the most delicious cakes I've ever eaten, and April's recipes are a dream to follow - step by step, absolutely perfect instructions.

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I'm normally pretty good at Christmas shopping. I find things I know my nearest and dearest would love, and I either buy them and squirrel them away or keep a list of links to the items in my inbox and purchase a few weeks before Christmas to avoid that nail biting "will it arrive in time" last minute dash. This also means I can avoid Christmas shopping on the high street, which really is my idea of hell. However this year I feel a bit like I've lost my present buying mojo!! I hadn't had any brainwave ideas, and to be honest, I was struggling a bit to come up with any. So I've sat down, and I've done my research, and finally I've got a list together that I thought I'd share with you in case you too are struggling. Some of my ideas, naturally, are food orientated, whilst others are just great gifts I think most people would be happy to receive. I've also popped a couple of recipe ideas below of things you can make for your loved ones that will keep beyond the Christmas period so they can enjoy once the over indulgence period has stopped! The truffle recipe makes THE most delicious boozy truffles, and are from an excellent Christmas baking day I recently did in the Miele showroom, whilst the salted caramel recipe is my own, but also inspired by the Miele day where we made their version of the caramel - though I still think mine's better, and is already something I put in Kilner jars and give to people for birthdays. In fact, the last person I gave it to ended up using it to make a sticky toffee pudding, which they said was the best they'd ever tasted.

Anyway, on to the gifts....

For the foodies/kitchen lovers in your life, I've recently become obsessed with crockery (I know, I'm old!!) and found a wonderful website called Amara where I've been buying plates, cups, jugs and lots more from over the past few months, including these absolute beauties that I don't think any kitchen is complete without - Pols potten plates. I've also got the matching bowls, but if you order those beware that they are quite small!

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How much do you know about gin? I'm sure if you like to drink it then you know which your favourite brand is, but if you're like me, then not much more than that! I went to a gin tasting a couple of weeks ago at The Warwick in Soho, who've just had a refurb and have added a sparkly new Gin Emporium. I learnt so much about how to taste it, what to look for, and which gins they pair with different garnishes - a fascinating evening that I want to share with you.

Gin came to the UK from Holland in the 17th century and immediately became the drink of choice for many due to the fact that there was no tax on it, unlike other spirits. It has grown in popularity since then and has had a recent revival, with lots of small producers popping up due to the relative ease of making it.  I'm going to talk you through the botanicals used to create the flavours of the 8 gins we tried, as the lovely team at The Warwick did for us at the tasting.

We started with Portobello Road, which as you might've guessed, is made on Portobello Road, where you can go and make your own gin as well. It's made using botanicals including lemon, orange, nutmeg and liquorice, but if you go to the distillery you can make yours with whichever selection of botanicals you fancy. At the Warwick it's served as a gin and tonic with Fever Tree tonic (as all their G&Ts are) and with a ruby grapefruit garnish to bring out the citrus botanical flavours.

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It's not every day you receive an email asking if you'd like to send some interview questions through for Michel Roux Jr, but that's exactly what happened last Friday, much to my surprise and excitement. I love the Rouxs as chefs and always have done. I watch little live TV - only Attenborough, football and cooking shows - but have always loved what I've seen of Michel Roux Jr on shows such as Masterchef and Food and Drink, which I have on catch up in the background on Saturday mornings when I'm cooking for my pop ups. I was asked to provide questions for this interview as Michel is fundraising for a really great charity that he is a patron of, VICTA - a charity that fundraises to provide support and activities for visually impaired and blind children - by trading from an initial budget of £2,500 with City Index and trying to make as much money as possible - as stressful as a day in the kitchen I'm sure, just not half as tasty! Michel is a long term supporter of VICTA and has run several marathons for the charity too. I've enjoyed reading Michel's answers to my questions so much, and I hope you do too - he really seems even lovelier than I already thought he was:

1. Who has inspired you the most in your career? 
My first boss when I was an apprentice pastry chef, he was a man that led by example and rarely shouted. He was the first person in, in the morning and the last one out at night. 

2. What is the first thing you remember cooking? 
The first thing I remember cooking wasn’t actually cooking it was making ice cream as a child. My father had made the custard and I must have been about six and had to churn it by hand as we didn’t have an electric machine. It was churned on ice and was a very hard job. I was rewarded with a scoop of freshly made ice cream. 

3. What is your favourite restaurant in London? 
My favourite local restaurant is The Dairy in South London. I think it would be wonderful if every local restaurant was like the dairy. It’s affordable, run by a husband and wife team, and has a real homely feel. It ticks all the boxes of what I look for in a restaurant. 

4. What is your can’t live without kitchen gadget?
At the moment this would be a pressure cooker, I think they’re back in fashion now, when you say pressure cooker you usually think of your granny or old cabbage but these days they really are state of the art. 

5. What are your top three can’t live without ingredients? 
These would have to be venison, truffles and chocolate. 

6. What is your newest ingredient discovery? 
A forgotten vegetable, cardoons. 

7. What is your worst food intolerance to cook for? 
Working in a restaurant you have to cook for lots of different intolerances, but the one I have the most sympathy for has to be gluten, as I really couldn’t give up bread, pasta or any wheat products. 

8. Why did you choose to fundraise for VICTA today? 
Visually Impaired Children Taking Action - I’ve run marathons for VICTA for 16-18 years now. It’s about taking blind or partially sighted children out-and-about and getting them involved in sporting activities. It’s a small charity and I believe the smaller the charity the more of the money actually goes to the cause. I’ve had over four operations on my eyes myself and they really do deserve a little bit of help.
(I'm completely with Michel here with regards donating to smaller charities as I also believe that more money gets to those who need it this way) 

9. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to start a career as a Chef? 
The advice I would give is for someone in a job or apprenticeship to take notes - not necessarily recipes but just little notes as you go along, in the form of a little diary. I still look back at my notes I made when I was apprentice and it really is an inspiration to look back and to learn.
(This is such a nice answer from Michel. So many chefs answer this question with "don't become a chef" which is really unhelpful for those who've already decided that they do want to be a chef!) 

Such interesting answers! The first thing I did when I read them was look up cardoons - it's a vegetable known as the artichoke thistle, and both the stalks and leaves can be eaten, and have an artichoke flavour to them - something to consider for my pop up menus!

There was one question on my list I'd sent through that Will didn't have time to ask for me, which was what Michel thought of supper clubs, and would he like to come to mine one day?! So if you're reading this Michel, why don't you come and try it out?!?
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I got hit with the flu last week, and after sloping off early from work on Tuesday for my bed, I realised that I definitely wasn't going to be able to make the launch party of the newest branch of L'Eto later that evening. I was gutted to miss it, as I've tried their cakes before and they are seriously good, so was thrilled to find out that they wanted me to go in my own time to try out their full dinner menu. I chose last Sunday evening and took the boy along with me for a lovely dinner on a not so lovely evening.

We arrived wet and windswept and hungry for some food, and were greeted into a dining room that felt like someone's luxury drawing room of their home, rather than a formal restaurant setting. The leather panelled walls, gorgeous art on the walls and arm chairs mean that the restaurant is just as suited to those who want tea and cake as it is for those who want a 3 course meal, as we did. The front of the room has a buffet area, with piles of salads, cured meats and breads, while the front window is full of homemade cakes and delicatessens, as well as L'Eto branded jams and granolas.

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I've got some news about an exciting free event happening in London! On Tuesday 25th November and Tuesday 2nd December you can go to a free champagne tasting evening - how great is that!

I went to the first of these events this week and it was such fun and really informative. Tuesday evening's event was hosted by Notes who are a speciality coffee, food and wine bar, with 3 branches in London - Moorgate (where we went), Trafalgar Square (where the event on 25th November is being held) and Covent Garden (where the 2nd December event will be). All of the wine that Notes sell is provided by Liberty Wines, so they sent James along to teach us all about Champagne Devaux, one of the champagnes stocked and sold by Notes. All 3 tastings follow the same format and offer 4 types of Champagne Devaux to try.

The evening started with a bit of history about Champagne Devaux. This champagne house was founded in 1846, some 168 years ago and run by the Devaux family who sadly lost 3 of the men running the house at an early age. In fact by the late 1987 none of the Devaux family remained to run the house and it was sold to the Union Auboise, one of the biggest vineyard holders in the region. However, Champagne Devaux remains one of the top quality champagnes available. With all this talk of champagne it was definitely time to try some, and first up was the Devaux Grand Reserve NV, a 3 year old champagne (double the minimum required age for champagne). There are 3 grapes that can be used to make champagne - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Devaux only use Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for their champagnes and the Grand Reserve uses a blend of 69% PN and 31% Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir grape that Devaux grows is one of the finest in the champagne region. This produces a very gentle champagne, that's extremely drinkable! I often find bubbly can be great for a glass, but that I wouldn't want to drink more than that, whereas I could the Devaux Grand Reserve all night!! It retails at around £25 a bottle, but tastes like it's worth a lot more.

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Le Bun is a French American street food company who've recently taken up residency in the Three Compasses pub in Dalston, where they're serving some of the best burgers I've tasted this year. Sadly I missed their launch party a couple of weeks ago, but went along last Friday to see what all the fuss was about and to eat as much of their amazing food as I possibly could!

The Three Compasses is at the end of Ridley Road market, a five minute walk from Dalston Kingsland station. It's a lovely, cosy pub that serves really good beer - I was drinking a wheat beer called Wu Gang Chops The Tree that's made but local brewers Pressure Drop less than a mile away from the pub. It's made with foraged herbs (and wheat I guess) and tastes absolutely delicious. It had a real tang to it, and cut through the burgers, chips and mac n cheese so well.

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There are so many great things that come out of doing my own pop up restaurants, and going to other people's. I'm constantly inspired by food and always full of ideas of what to do next with it. But I think the best thing about the whole experience is the people I get to meet. I've had such a range of guests at my pop ups, from pop stars, to professional food writers, to bloggers, to food suppliers themselves. A couple of months ago one such food producer came to my pop up, and loved it so much that he booked the next one as soon as he got home. It was only when I got talking to him that I found he has just started a very special company - Shaun produces his own honey in Ealing, West London, and uses the honey to make his already much sought after HoneyBee chocolates.

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I was long overdue a catch up with Alex and realising we were both free on Bonfire Night, I booked the newly done up rooftop restaurant at Selfridges, Le Chalet.

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I feel very lucky to get some really great invites to wonderful events via my blog. I have been to brand new restaurants, farms where I buy produce from, wine tastings with top sommeliers, and lots of other exciting trips that I've written up on here. I only accept invites to events which I would've gone to anyway, and ones that I think my readers will be interested in. One event that really stands out for me though is the dinner I went to last week. I was invited to go to a chef's table with Anna Hansen, who owns and runs The Modern Pantry, a restaurant that has been on my (long) list of must-visits for a while. The lovely people at Miele invited 5 of us to their Mayfair showroom for a very intimate dinner cooked by Anna.

I was first to arrive (never normally happens!) and was greeted with a glass of bubbles while I waited for the others, and had a sneaky look at all the amazingly high tech ovens in the showroom. The others arrived in no time at all, and once there, we were fed some incredible canapés to start us off, beginning with soft boiled quail's egg, chia seed crostini, wasabi mayo and dukkah - I could've eaten a whole plate of these. The creamy egg and mayo went perfectly with the crunchy, seedy biscuit underneath. I would say these were my favourite of the nibbles, but I couldn't possibly choose between them, they were all so good!

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There are a lot of things I like about wine. When I fancy an alcoholic drink, it's normally wine, or sparkling something that I go for. A crisp glass of cold white is a wonderful thing on a hot summer day, as is a deep bodied glass of red when the nights draw in and winter arrives (now!). Sparkling wine is perfect for celebrations, while there are many types of wine that match with all foods I can think of. And when you think you've found your perfect or favourite wine, you can spin round the globe and discover different versions of the same, and/or totally new wines. It seems that wine and my discovery of it is limitless - there's always a new wine to try or a different situation to try it in. So when asked to go on a virtual wine tour of France, up on the 31st floor of one of London's most Central buildings, I couldn't say no (apart from my vertigo, which was solved by a - staying in the middle of the room at all times, and b - sampling 10 different wines in the space of an hour!)

This wasn't an evening just to drink wine though, we were taken on a tour around France via wine, and talked through the perfect food to match each wine so I wanted to share what I learnt with you. All the wines we tried are reasonably priced, and generally widely available to buy, so each wine name will be hyperlinked to where you can buy it if you want to try any of them.

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When I was contacted recently by the lovely ladies from Cakes by Robin to see if I wanted to receive one of their bespoke cakes to try out it didn't take me long to answer with a resounding yes! I love cooking, in all its forms - whether it's making a 4 course meal for a pop up, whipping up a quick dinner for 2 or playing around with canapés for special events. But when it comes to baking I feel my skills are a little lacking. Yes, I can make a cake that tastes good, but I still haven't quite mastered the art of decoration.... At work we have an annual bake off for Halloween and although I came 2nd last year, it definitely wasn't because of my presentation (see below - and no, I have no idea what I was doing, it was meant to be ghosts, but apparently looked more like Stay Puff from Ghostbusters?!?!) It was definitely the taste that won me a prize!

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I'm sure by now you all know how much I love Grub Club - here and here, for example! For those of you who don't know, Grub Club is a year-and-a-half old company that assists cooks who want to put on pop up restaurants, and guests who want to eat at them, in doing so. It is co-run by a good friend of mine, Liv, who has been an absolute rock of support to me while I've launched and worked out my own pop up restaurant, which I've now been doing for a year. I literally couldn't have got to where I am without Grub Club.

In 18 months Grub Club have fed more than 20,000 diners (!) at over 1,000 events. They have more than 200 chefs on their books and the events so far have taken place at 200 different venues. This isn't just supper clubs in people's houses, like mine. Grub Club have facilitated dinners in disused tube carriages, clock towers, boats, gardens and every type of venue you can possibly imagine.

So why I am telling you how great Grub Club are (again!)? Well now you have the chance to own a part of this incredible company. Grub Club are crowd funding via CrowdCube. They aim to raise a minimum of £250,000 (of which they've already raised over £100,000) and by investing in Grub Club you can own a piece of their company. If you invest, whether it's £10 or £10,000, you will get a proportionate amount of shares of their lovely, wonderful company!! I think that's a pretty good deal for a company that is only going to grow and grow over the next few years. Grub Club plan on using this investment to roll out pop up opportunities across the globe. Imagine going to Spain on holiday, and wanting to eat authentic home cooked food with locals - well with your investment in Grub Club that could happen.

And it's not just home cooks who are part of the Grub Club "chef" community - there are real, proper chefs cooking their amazing food too. They've got chefs from Michelin star restaurants already doing pop ups, there are Grub Club chefs who've now gone on to open their own restaurants, and there are food 'experience' events too. The other really exciting thing about the pop ups you can book through Grub Club is the experience itself. For example, at my pop ups, 20 people are seated around 1 table, a complete mix of people who've mostly never met each other before. I've had members of famous bands, prolific food writers, artisan food producers, pilots, teachers, mums, kids, local community heroes and so many more. The opportunity this offers for meeting locals and networking with people from all over the world is unrivalled. I've even had a couple from America book a pop up for a date they just happened to be passing through London on.  And this can only grow as Grub Club does!

If you have money to invest, I really recommend you think about investing in Grub Club. I've seen how fast they've grown already, with the 2 founders working so hard to get to where they are now. I can only imagine how far it could go with this much needed investment. There are 33 days left to invest, so have a look at the full details here and please invest anything you can!!

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I've got something a bit different for you on the blog today. Nothing to do with food, but a recommendation for a film you should all go and see.

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I made this delicious meal for dinner last night. The boy's been ill at home all week and I wanted to make something healthy, quick and tasty to feed us both (before we collapsed on the sofa to watch How to Train your Dragon 2 - perfect film for a 31 and 37 year old to watch!)

This recipe uses tuna as the main protein but you could make it veggie by omitting the tuna, or top it with some grilled chicken or beef if you want something meaty.

Serves 2

1 large tuna steak
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 broccoli
1 red pepper

3 cloves of garlic
Bunch of spring onions
2 nests of dry egg noodles
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 chilli (for mine only, the boy's allergic so I added this last)

Fill the kettle and put it on.

Rub the tuna steak with olive oil, a grind of pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Chop the broccoli heads off and slice into small pieces. Slice the pepper into rings. Crush the garlic and finely chop the spring onions.

Put the noodles in a bowl and pour over the boiled water. These will need to sit for 5 minutes while you cook the tuna and the veg.

Heat a small frying pan over a high heat. Once hot put the tuna in the pan and leave it to sear for 1-2 minutes, depending how thick the fillet is.

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I've spent more than my fair share of time in Gordon Ramsey restaurants this week. Wednesday night was an amazing 6-course meal at the very formal Petrus restaurant in Knightsbridge that I was treated to by a friend who I do a lot of cooking for. It was such a lovely evening, and we were absolutely full of incredible food by the time we left. I may blog about it if I can work some magic on the very dark photos I took! But last night was an altogether different kind of affair - I went along to the launch of the #breadstreetsessions at Ramsey's much more modern restaurant, Bread Street Kitchen near Bank, in the City. Throughout October Bread Street Kitchen are hosting a weekly pop up on Saturdays from 4pm with the Street Feast favourite, Bussan BBQ, who are serving up their incredible Korean cocktails and BBQ food. They invited us along last night to sample these delights.

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How time flies - I've just posted full details for my final public pop up of 2014! My October date has now all but sold out (there is still 1 ticket available!) so I've put up my final date for this year, on Saturday 6th December, as I'm skipping November in favour of sunning myself on a beach many miles away! So Saturday 6th December will be my last event this year (although I am going to be doing a Christmas fair, with food and drinks, at W7 Emporium in West Ealing on 13th December so look out for details of that one coming soon).

The menu for 6th December is as follows:

Winter cocktail, made with bubbles and cranberries
Gooey smoked salmon kedgeree 'arancini' balls with soft quail's eggs, curry mayonnaise and crispy toasts
Cider pot roast guinea fowl with leek gratin, pomegranate roasted carrots, salt baked celeriac & parsnip puree, and Yorkshire puddings
Passion fruit posset with winter spiced butter biscuits
Montgomery cheeseboard, apple and quince chutney, seeded crackers
COFFEE and HERBAL TEAS served with homemade "mince pie" chocolates
The event is £30 per ticket, and is bring you own booze so you can bring a bottle (or two!) of your favourite. If beer is more you thing, then you can come empty handed, as Peroni are sponsoring the evening by providing bottles of their new Alta beer.
If you'd like to come along and are a vegetarian, or don't like certain elements of the menu, that is no problem - while booking there is a comments section and you can just leave notes there as to what you can/can't eat and I will make an alternative meal for you. I don't think that I've done a pop up so far when I haven't cooked an alternative/veggie/vegan/gluten free main course, starter or pudding!

You can come on your own, bring a date, grab some friends, or book out a whole table for however many of you there are!

Tickets for my past few events have sold out crazily fast, so I do recommend getting in there early if you want to come along! I'm notoriously bad at taking photos at my pop ups (something to do with cooking 4 courses for nearly 20 people!) so I'll leave you with a photo of the table all ready and laid ready for guests to arrive:

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On Sunday 12th October there's a food festival happening in Wells, Somerset and I'm going to be there to give a talk about food blogging and pop ups!

Wells Food Festival launched last year and had over 3,500 people come along on the day. This year they're back - bigger and even better. The day focuses around showcasing local produce with a food market, lunches, talks, street food stalls and more. The day runs from 10.30-4.30 and everyone is welcome to this free event.

So, what can you expect from the day? Well first of all there's the artisan market, with over 50 stalls selling locally produced food from within 25 miles of Wells. There's locally produced organic wines, loads of Somerset cheese, flour, apples and cider, chocolates, pies, breads and sausage rolls, chillies, honey and loads more - I can't wait to roam around and buy one of everything to take back to London with me!

As well as all the stalls selling produce there'll be 13 street food vans on site selling hot food, ready to eat so you can pick up a wood fired oven pizza, a buffalo burger, veggie samosas or a plate full of Greek meze delights. But if you fancy something a bit more substantial for your Sunday lunch there are a few sit down banquets happening on the day as well.

Chef Valentina Harris is doing The Great Italian Sunday Lunch, using Somerset ingredients to cook up an Italian style feast. Tickets are £40 a head for this 5 course lunch which is sure to be an absolutely scrumptious feast.

Another option for lunch is Tom Hunt's Forgotten Feast Autumn Banquet that he's making using vegetables rejected by supermarkets for not being pretty enough, and a whole pig, fed purely on these same 'waste' vegetables. His starter of hot smoked pigeon breast with blackberry sorbet served with sourdough and truffle butter has already got my tummy rumbling! Tom Hunt's cooking is right up my street, and if you want to know why, then book a ticket for £30 each and go along and find out for yourselves. Tom is cooking his feast for 200 people, so there's plenty of tickets to go around.

If it's tea and cake you'd prefer there's afternoon tea at the banqueting room in the town hall, running from 2.45-5pm where you can pop in for hot drinks, finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. You'll also find Pearl Lowe and Trine Hahnemann signing copies of their newly released books.

The afternoon will offer the opportunity for learning as well - there's various talks and walks going on, covering subjects like foraging, truffles and how to grow great veg - full details of which can be found HERE. And from 3pm you can find me, along with 2 great bloggers - Anita, from A Lover of Creating Flavours and Vanesther of Bangers and Mash, - at the Parkes room in the town hall, doing a food bloggers workshop to talk you through starting your own blog, keeping it going and what to do with it from there. We will be there to answer all your questions and help you with anything you need blog-wise. Spaces are limited though so if you'd like to come along, then do send an email to the team.

If you are coming along, do leave me a comment below, and please do come and find me and introduce yourself - I'd love to meet you and learn your blog and/or foodie ideas!!

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A couple of weekends ago the boy and I were invited to France for a night. Deciding that we'd rather stay 3 nights instead of 1 our extremely generous hosts extended their invite to us for 3 nights in their hotel. The hotel is about 30 minutes south of Paris and 15 minutes cab ride (if the cabbie knows where he's going - ours didn't and it cost us 60 euros!) from Orly airport. The owners of the hotel, friends of the boy's ma's, were having a party there to celebrate their 75th birthdays on the Saturday night.

We arrived at Le Relais des Chartreux late on Thursday night and dumped our bags in our newly refurbed room, before gobbling down a very late dinner of lobster then scallops, and wandering the hotel's grounds for an hour or two, whilst being eaten alive by mozzies, before collapsing in bed. We'd made the decision that we weren't going to actually go into Paris while we were there, as having come from London we both wanted to make the most of some chill out time with just the 2 of us in the French countryside. This didn't stop me wanting to find the best possible place for food near the hotel so I spent hours on Tripadvisor, Google, blogs etc before we went trying to narrow down the endless and confusing choices to a place where we'd have dinner on the Friday. It's really weird searching online for somewhere to eat in a place you've never been, that's not the trendiest of areas to start with, but I struck absolute gold and found somewhere with over 95% either good or very good reviews. 

We lazed around on Friday during the day, wandered into the local town to pick up some amazing skincare items from the French pharmacy, that airport security then tried confiscate on our way back, and got ready for our night out in Villemoisson-sur-Orge (!) The hotel kindly arranged a car to pick us up and take us there (not even our driver knew where this mysterious place was until we whipped out the trusty iPhones and found it in the maps). But we got there in the end, and I'm so glad we did. Villemoisson-sur-Orge is beautiful little village/town set on winding hilly roads, with picturesque French houses lining the streets, covered in vines. The light was fading so my photos aren't great, but you get the idea.

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After a little break over August I can't wait to get stuck in to doing pop up restaurants again! My next date, 20th September, has already sold out, but there's good news - I've got another date now booked in for Saturday 25th October. But if you want to come you'll have to be quick, as half of the tickets for the October have already gone (I really can't believe it - thank you SO much to everyone who's booked this and all my other dates).

As normal the event will take place on Saturday evening at our home in Acton Town, where I will feed you 4 courses of homemade, seasonal food. I'm really excited by the menu I've chosen for October's pop up, and for starters I'm serving an old favourite - steak tartare with my secret mix - that has received rave reviews from past pop ups. Main course is a truly decadent game pie, full of meat that's in its prime season. And pudding is a crunchy, nutty crumble made with fruits straight from Somerset hedgerows, and served with my now almost-famous salted caramel crème fraiche. Here's the full menu in all its glory:

Blackberry cocktail, made with bubbles and something stronger
Steak tartare, quail's egg yolk, cauliflower puree & pickled cauliflower,
served with homemade bread
Rich game pie, creamy potato & celeriac truffle mash, buttered greens,
wild mushroom and shallot game gravy
Apple and blackberry nutty crumble with salted caramel crème fraiche
Montgomery cheeseboard, apple and quince chutney, seeded crackers
Coffee and herbal teas served with homemade chocolates

It’s bring your own booze on the evening so do feel free to bring a bottle (or two!). I provide soft drinks for anyone that prefers them. And you can put any drinks that need chilling in the fridge when you arrive.

And if you want to come along but you're veggie/GF/don't like something on the menu, then you can still come - if you book a ticket and mention in the comments section of the booking what it is you don't like/can't eat, then I can make something that you do like instead!

Tickets for 25th October are available here and cost £30, but do get in quick as they're selling really fast.

At my last pop up in July the food critic from the Chiswick Herald came for the evening and has amazingly given me 10/10 for the evening!! You can read the full review here.

One last thing to mention, if you're interested in all things pop up, is that Grub Club, the wonderful people who not only deal with all the admin and tickets sales for mine and many others' pop ups, but who encouraged me to start doing pop ups in the first place and have guided me all the way, are crowd funding. So if you want to be part of this huge food movement, and own your very own piece of Grub Club then follow this link and read all about what they're doing, where they're going and how your investment can help. So far, over 20,000 people have eaten at a Grub Club pop up and by investing a tiny amount you can help Grub Club grow and spread all over the world - !!

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