Tag Archives: Italian

RECOMMENDED: Pasta & Sauces by Seriously Italian

24 Oct

One of the best lunches I’ve had in recent months was not in a Michelin-starred restaurant or within the welcoming decor of a much-lauded new café, it was devoured outdoors, quayside at St Katharine’s Dock.

This wonderful meal took the form of three flavoursome pasta dishes from Seriously Italian‘s market stall. A regular fixture at The Good Food Market at Marble Quay (close to The Tower of London), the stall is run by a married couple from Italy and offers a selection of mouth-watering lunch dishes.

Cooked on site, each carefully prepared dish features the couple’s handmade, award-winning, fresh pasta and homemade sauces (also available to buy should you wish to recreate similar meals at home).

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Giovanni cooks parpadelle in green pesto

It was a pleasure to meet one half of the Seriously Italian duo, Giovanni, during my visit to The Good Food Market last Friday. His passion for cooking was evident and his approach towards his produce was inspiring: Seriously Italian is the only UK outlet producing pasta made from 100% British durum wheat. Even the gnocchi is made with British potatoes!

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The Seriously Italian stall at The Good Food Market

Being artisan chefs, the provenance of their ingredients is key, sourcing the finest quality stoneground flour, organic certified produce and fresh vegetables to create not only hot dishes, but also packets of ready-to-cook pasta and jars of accompanying sauces.

The stall offers three hot dishes each week, and I was lucky enough to sample all three available options during my visit, beginning with a combination of two types of plump, Organic Gnocchi – beetroot, and a spinach and ricotta.

Tossed in a richly flavoured vegetarian red pesto, which looked deceptively like meat ragu, the gnocchi were perfectly cooked, with soft, fluffy centres melting against a mild heat of chilli in the sauce.

Organic Parpadelle with Courgettes, Speck and Homemade Green Pesto was bolder and equally enjoyable. The vibrant sauce looked fresh and inviting and just one bite confirmed its superior quality. Fragrant with basil, the flavour was nicely balanced by bites of salty ham and al dente pasta.

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Organic Gnocchi and Parpadelle

Whilst my first two pasta dishes were outstanding, it has to be said that Seriously Italian‘s Lasagne – made with pumpkin, sage and almonds – was nothing short of INCREDIBLE.

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Lasagne by Seriously Italian

The creaminess of the bechamel was worthy of a standing ovation for perfection, even without the addition of delicious sage-spiced pumpkin and fresh pasta.

Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of my box of assorted pastas – I was too busy shovelling enthusiastic forkfuls into my mouth! Whilst I chewed and sighed with pleasure (it was a bit When Harry Met Sally but I really couldn’t help myself), I wasn’t surprised to learn from Giovanni that Seriously Italian‘s pasta was honoured with a Great Taste Award earlier this year. Well deserved, believe me!

Unable to wait an entire seven days until The Good Food Market‘s return to Marble Quay the following week, Giovanni kindly gave me a jar of his homemade Pistachio Pesto to continue my Italian adventure at home – an outstanding concoction which transformed an otherwise bland bowl of Sainsbury’s penne into a gourmet meal.

Overall verdict? Seriously Italian could easily be renamed ‘Seriously Good’! It’s a five star lunch in a five star location – a beautiful marina, brought to life with authentic Italian food, hospitality and warmth.

Visit Seriously Italian at The Good Food Market, every Friday from 11.30am (Marble Quay, St Katharine’s Dock, London, E1W 1UH)

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Salon du Chocolat in London: The Gala Evening Review

23 Oct

As Brits rejoiced in celebrating National Chocolate Week, partaking in a range of cocoa-themed events in honour of our nation’s favourite confection, an indulgent finale was unveiled to the media on Friday 18th October: Salon du Chocolat. The world’s largest chocolate show opened its doors at the Kensington Olympia National Hall – its first London outing, despite gracing no less than 23 locations across the globe since its launch in 1994.

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Pralus' amazing praline bars

Attending the exclusive Gala evening, the exhibitor list encompassed esteemed UK and international brands, led by Rococo, Prestat, Demarquette, Lindt, Divine and Vahlrona. High expectations and greedy appetites were fulfilled within minutes of arrival: an assortment of Chocololo treats at the stall for Peckham-based chocolate shop, Melange; Château Vert truffles with citrus and caramel undertones at Chocbox; and Fudge Kitchen’s creamy Caramel Swirl. A sighting of chocolatier Paul A. Young in the crowd raised hopes that he was also exhibiting, but sadly not.

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Comptoir du Cacao at Salon du Chocolat

Samples of velvety truffles, crunchy pralines, chewy nougat, and decadent sauces were flaunted on every stand and it was difficult to move more than three paces without succumbing to a new temptation.

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Chocolate Treats at Salon du Chocolat

Notable discoveries ranged from a salted caramel chocolate slab from Au Palais des Gourmets to nougat made with lavender honey by La Maison du Nougat. A pistachio praline bar by French chocolatier François Pralus was superb, rivalled by Comptoir du Cacao’s Croustines (chocolate-coated crystal pieces with fruit and caramel) and Sparkling Chocolate Spread from Charles Chocolartisan.

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Delicious nougat by La Maison du Nougat

The media frenzy at event sponsor Hotel Chocolat’s stand was entirely justified – the sighting of a bath tub filled with molten chocolate heralded a provocative display. A bikini-clad blonde slid into the tub and proceeded to bathe seductively in the warm liquid, much to the delight of mesmerised photographers. The pheromones released from within the excited crowd were palpable, emphasising the aphrodisiac properties of the confection.

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Chocolate Spa Bath at Salon du Chocolat

Almost as awesome as the spectacle itself was the restraint of the model, who somehow refrained from insatiably slurping handfuls of the intoxicating, vanilla-scented river (willpower of which Rosemary Conley would heartily approve).

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Hotel Chocolat’s Chocolate Spa Bath

The evening’s highlight was a much-publicised Catwalk Show, hosted by pastry chef Will Torrent, where stunning female models, clad in chocolate couture, paraded innovative collaborations between esteemed chocolatiers and fashion designers. Whilst the addition of handsome men in praline loin-cloths or nougat waistcoats would have perhaps balanced the evening’s titillation, the beautiful dresses were clever and inspired.

Favourites included: a cupcake-studded head-turner by French chocolatier and pâtisssier Madame Trignon (it took six months to perfect); a Macaron-encrusted slinky number from baker Loretta Liu of On Cafe, made using Original Beans’ rainforest collection; an earthy, feather-themed gown from Demarquette, featuring a show-stopping headpiece by Vivien Sheriff; and a funky steampunk dress from bridal wear designer Hannah Wilkins-Webb and award-winning Shropshire-based chocolatier Julia Wenlock (owner of Toot Sweets).

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Cupcake Dress at Salon du Chocolat

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Cupcake Dress


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Demarquette's Chocolate Dress

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Real Choc Leaves on Demarquette's Dress


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Steampunk Dress - Bodice Front

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Steampunk Dress at Salon du Chocolat

A playful night of fashion, flavour, borderline eroticism and humour, the Salon du Chocolat Gala was a feast for all the senses … and a heavenly, if fattening, excursion for chocolate lovers!

Verdict: ★★★★★

Top 5 Things of the Week (September 2nd – 8th)

8 Sep

#1 Meatopia in London

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The annual New York meat and barbecue festival finally branched out to London and the result was an epic celebration with a carnival atmosphere.

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The intoxicating aroma rising from Tobacco Dock in East London must’ve been detected for miles around: grills sizzled with a mix of quail, beef, venison, chicken and an abundance of pork! There were too many dishes to choose from, and it didn’t help that queues were lengthy, but everything sampled was a juicy delight of smokiness and texture.

My full review of the event is posted on The Upcoming so read more here.

#2 Desserts at Vivo in Islington

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The Upcoming sent me to attend a private preview event of this brand new bakery, café and bar, set to open on Islington’s Upper Street at the end of the month.

The pizzas were fabulous but the desserts were out of the stratosphere! My particular favourite was a Cassata Siciliana: a fondant-like Italian meringue housing candied peel and contrasting cream and sponge layers – heavenly! Read more here.

#3 Hiver‘s Honey Beer

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This is the nicest craft beer I’ve sampled in aaaages! Discovered at Meatopia, it’s the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, with a pleasant floral undertone.

Made with urban and rural honey, the beer is long matured and unpasteurised. Hiver tone down the hops with an organic speciality malt to bring out the honey flavours.

#4 Spanish Manchego from Mallorca

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Ah, nothing beats food gifts from relatives returning from a sojourn abroad. Presented with a lovely wedge of fresh Manchego, one of my favourite cheeses, I’ve been layering it with Membrillo and crackers for the perfect daily snack. Delicious!

#5 Barclays Business Seminar
The amount of free seminars, workshops and courses in London never ceases to amaze and inspire.

This week, I attended a seminar sponsored by Barclays and hosted by my local borough council. Offering useful advice and tips on how to launch your own business, from funding opportunities to tax laws!

Top 5 Things of the Week (August 12th – 18th)

18 Aug

#1 Restaurant Reviews course at City Lit
Food writing is a delicate art, requiring balance and creativity – just like good cooking. Hidden in a discreet side street in London’s Covent Garden, City Lit adult education college offers a range of food-related courses, from cupcake decorating to food writing.

Under the supervision of expert tutor Nikki Spencer, a vivacious food critic and journalist, I spent a week honing my Restaurant Reviewing skills.

Gaining useful tips, advice, feedback and skills, the course included two visits to local restaurants – which, of course, we had to review. It was an inspiring week and my classmates were awesome: an amazingly talented bunch of food writers and truly lovely people.

#2 Chocolate Frozen Custard Shake at Shake Shack

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Rich, smooth and exceptionally delicious, the Frozen Custard Shakes at Shake Shake burger bar in Covent Garden actually taste better than their burgers!

I discovered the delights of their chocolate flavoured creation during a field trip in the Restaurant Reviews course mentioned above. Sitting within the bustle of Covent Garden, draining my carton of chocolate goodness in the name of education, I felt a pang of sorrow for all my classmates who had ordered a different drink – my shake was unbeatable!

#3 Music Paper Bread
Crunching out a pattern of addictive beats with every bite, I’m addicted to these wafer-thin bread discs from Sardinia.

Salty, crisp and as addictive as Pringles, these have become a storecupboard staple. Available from M&S stores for £2.49, they won’t break the bank and come in a handbag friendly box – result!

#4 Tiramisu at Polpo in Covent Garden

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It was a toss-up between Venetian-inspired Polpo’s cheese and onion Pizza Bianca or their creamy Tiramisu: the dessert only just clinched it! Creamy, light and served in a glass, every mouthful was superb – from the flavorsome cofffee-soaked sponge to what looked like a chocolate ganache lining the bottom. Heavenly!

#5 Gelati from Venchi

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Covent Garden certainly kept me well fed this week! A cone topped with two Chocolate and Chocolate and Hazelnut gelati from Italian chocolatier Venchi was rich, tasty and the perfect antidote to the scorchingly hot summer sun!

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Italian ‘Music Paper’ Bread – Baked in Sardinia

13 Aug

A new sound has invaded the streets of London. If you hear the staccato rhythm of a persistant crunch within your vicinity, fear not – it’s just me devouring my Sardinian Music Paper Bread as I traverse the Capital.

Known to Italians as Carta Da Musica, which translates to “music sheet”, these exceedingly moreish discs are thinner than poppadoms and mottled in colour (food blooger Kat vs. Food likened them to “giraffe skin”).

Crisp enough for you to hear a snap with every bite (music: geddit?), they smell and taste of mild olive oil, with a cunning sprinkling of salt to make them as addictive as Pringles.

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On sale in M&S stores (£2.49 for 100g), the small, square box is tucked away in the retailers’ international food section
– alongside delicious-looking Italian chocolates, Spanish condiments and continental oils.

It’s easy to forget (or in my case, deliberately ignore) their purpose as a quirky addition to a bread basket, as opposed to a conveniently-sized, carry-around snack. I’m sure they would prove wonderful dipped in oil and balsamic vinegar, plunged into any kind of dip, or simply layered with soft cheese and tapenade.

Unfortunately, that would require enough restraint to carry them all the way home without delving into my shopping bag to consume them throughout my journey.

Delivering a cracking rhythm that wouldn’t be out of place in a Will.I.Am or Pharrell Williams track, I’ve turned into a chomping music-maker who should be credited with the creation of a fresh new sound: Bread Beats. Will it take off in clubland? Probably not. But I’ll be playing my ‘instrument’ in many a tube station throughout the summer; I get rather peckish during my long journey home.

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Tinello

28 Jul

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I had my first experience of a traditional Tuscan Tinello after The Upcoming sent to me to experience the Sali brothers’ delicious eaterie of the same name. Read about my adventure here.

Top Things of The Week (July 22nd – 28th)

28 Jul

#1 London Anniversary Games

Getting to see Usain Bolt run 100m, after missing out on the Olympic final, was nothing short of exhilarating! I loved his victory lap afterwards; he threw his shoes into the cheering crowd and sent his fans into a frenzy, which I managed to catch on video.

I’ve been supporting Athletics since childhood and was a fan of Mr. Bolt long before he became a household name so this was a great night that I’ll always remember.

#2 Myddleton House Gardens in Enfield, North London

I cannot believe I was born and bred in North London yet never knew of this amazing oasis hidden in the borough of Enfield, created by owner E.A. Bowles, a self-taught botanist and philanthropist who lived in the house during the late 1800s until his death in the 1950s.

The gardens span eight acres and are breathtakingly beautiful. Walking through its different areas was genuinely awe-inspiring: the range of plants, vegetables and mix of sculpted and wild areas are a marvel.

There’s also a carp lake and the stables have been converted into a lovely cafe where you can enjoy, among other things, locally-sourced ice-cream and Afternoon Tea. What’s more, a visit to the gardens is FREE, as is on site parking.

A must-visit experience!

#3 Baked Alaska at Plum + Spilt Milk
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Baked Alaska is one of my favourite desserts of all time – so much so, I used to think that if I ever found love and got married, this would be the dessert on my big day.

Well, I haven’t found love and probably never will, but at least I know where to go to enjoy a perfect Baked Alaska in London: Plum + Spilt Milk in the Great Northern Hotel in the heart of King’s Cross.

#4 Fried Courgette at Tinello

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Chef Federico Sali provided an Italian feast at his restaurant Tinello. All the food was delicious, particularly a rich Chicken Liver Parfait on Toast but his simple dish of julienned courgette, deep fried in a light, perfectly seasoned, gloriously crispy batter was so moreish, I was in danger of becoming addicted.

I started eating them non-stop like popcorn and just couldn’t stop! In the end, I had to ask for the bowl to be removed from my line of sight lest I fill up too much before a main course!

#5 A Halloumi Brand Sharing My Name
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It’s not often I get to see my surname written anywhere beyond my own personal identification documents or mail, so discovering I share my name with a Cypriot Halloumi brand was such a pleasant surprise – and the cheese tastes great! 🙂