Lasagnathon round one: breakfast edition

31 Jan

Tonight, Craig cooks the lasagne for the first lasagnathon and his theme is breakfast. This could be a pork-packed spectacle, taking the humble fry-up to the lofty heights it was always capable of, or it could be a sloppy, fatty, hideous mess. Who knows.

I was actually fantasising about how I would make a lasagne on this theme in the meditation section of yoga yesterday. Lasagne-world has become my happy place. Before my vision is tainted by the other contestants’ interpretations later, I thought I’d better get mine down on paper:

(Excuse the image. I may have mentioned that I’m rushing off to a very important culinary event this evening)

So, here’s what I’d do:

  • Make a delicious tomato sauce packed with smoked bacon and mushrooms.
  • Layer with pasta sheets
  • Add a layer of Heinz beans
  • Cook some good quality sausagemeat into a loose sauce (may need tinned toms or stock so it’s not a rock-like layer of pork)
  • Top with a very thin layer of non-cheesey white sauce
  • Cook until almost ready.
  • Fry some lardons.
  • 15 mins before serving, crack eggs onto the top of the lasagne and bake.
  • Five mins before serving, sprinkle and a small amount of parmesan over.

Would that be nice? Would it? Hmm.

Tonight’s chef is Craig. Reports tomorrow.



31 Jan

For several years I’ve been involved in a never-ending game of Ready, Steady Cook, which involves competitive cooking limited by weird and ever-changing parameters with some friends. Three of us each cook one course in 20 minutes to make a full meal. Sometimes we choose each other’s ingredients, sometimes we limit the cost, sometimes (rarely) we stick to ludicrously low calories. We’ve had tremendous successes (beef wrapped in pancetta and stuffed with mushrooms) and hideous failures (edam and edamame risotto). But the time has come to move on, and some hungover food-dreaming on new year’s day led us to an entirely new challenge: THE LASAGNATHON.

We’re not talking switching beef ragu for chicken in white sauce here. We’re talking high concept, high impact, towering monsters of lasagne. Tonight sees the launch of this (hopefully never-ending) event, so we’ve had to set some rules.

Lasagnathon rules. The lasagne must incorporate one or more of the following:

  1. Lasagne pasta
  2. Bechamel sauce and ragu
  3. OR be in layers and oven-baked

We’re taking it in turns to cook one lasagne per session, by the way. More than one concept lasange in an evening wouldn’t be a good idea for anyone.

I know it means there’s something wrong with me to be this excited about a culinary challenge, but I am.

I’m on Mollie Makes’ blog!

20 Dec

I had a sick day last week so I did what I used to do when I was off school when I was small: a little bit of crafting, tucked up in bed. I loved this gorgeous decoration on Mollie Makes’ blog:

but I didn’t have a glue gun (or the stamina) to make the whole thing. I think it looks pretty on its own anyway (and I guess the Mollie Makes team did, too!)

Here’s mine on the blog, and you can find out how to make it here. Thank you, Mollie Makes!

Gingerbread cottages

19 Dec

A sneaky peek at my Christmas baking. So much fun!


Drinkable goodies

19 Dec

It’s almost damson vodka and raspberry gin time! I’ve been stirring and sniffing (and occasionally tasting) these little beauties since September and I’m so excited to finally be able to swig give them away.


This jewel-coloured beauty was packaged up for my secret santa present. I couldn’t find any nice glass bottles anywhere (any tips, anyone?) so a mini Blossom Hill bottle had to do. A brown paper label helped it look a bit less, erm, desperate singleton in a corner shop, and I finished it with a hand-stitched label I stupidly forgot to photograph. I’ll be sure to snap the next one!

Christmas dinner number one – The Temperance, Marylebone

15 Dec

I am MAD about Christmas dinner and, as soon as December comes round, I try and squeeze as many as possible down my fat froat. I kicked things off nice and early this year with the work Christmas lunch at The Temperance in Marylebone, London.

Set menu, group dining scenarios are often disappointing, but this Christmas menu got me excited:

Traditional roast turkey, pigs in blankets, bread sauce & cranberry relish served with traditional roast potatoes in duck fat, chestnuts & sprouts, carrot & swede mash and braised red cabbage 

Those details set my expectations high. Pigs in blankets! Yeah!

But unfortunately this dinner fell at all of the traditional group menu hurdles: the veg were overcooked and stone cold, and the turkey was bland. Edible, but certainly more school dinner than gastro pub. The Temperance has some good reviews for food elsewhere so I’m not going to write them off over this most difficult of challenges. Let’s be honest, work Christmas parties are more about this sort of behaviour than perfectly cooked sprouts…

The staff were incredibly tolerant even at the end of our 11 hour drink-a-thon, and that’s really what counts in these festive times…

The Temperance, two courses for £19.95, three courses for £23.50 (Christmas menu only)
74-76 York Street, London W1H 1DP

London goes Latin

5 Dec

I first noticed El Vergel on a summer Sunday, as live music and happy diners spilled onto the street from this colourful corner cafe. I didn’t get a chance to visit until yesterday, when I went to try their new(ish) brunch menu with two old friends.  I loved the place as soon as I arrived.

The menu is packed with my favourite dishes and ingredients  – chorizo, salsa piquante, empanadas and avocado – and the bright walls and Latin music reminded me of fun cafes I visited in South America (although the menu is mainly Mexican). I got REALLY excited. This was it! My brunch place! I cancelled every Sunday plan I’d made, immediately imagining El Vergel as the centre of my social life from now on. That artful pile of baskets really did something to me.

Fresh salsa piquante, lined up and ready to be spooned over eggs. What could be better?

El Vergel’s village bread, similar to an English muffin.

I ordered the Special Latin American breakfast – scrambled eggs in a mild piquant sauce with chorizo, kidney beans, village bread and coffee.

It was… nice. The bread was soft and still warm. The chorizo was nicely spicy but a bit sparse. The eggs were good, but the mild piquant sauce couldn’t have been milder. My friend ordered the same dish but with fried eggs, and they certainly had been fried – probably for about 20 minutes. Yolks like rocks. It was all fine, but the final dish didn’t live up to the lively surroundings and exciting menu. I mentally cancelled the wedding booking and vowed to continue the search for my perfect brunch joint.

El Vergel, you’re too nice not to give a second chance, but you didn’t blow me away like I’d hoped.

El Vergel, 132 Webber Street, London, SE1 0QL.
Brunch with coffee and juice, under £10