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It’s finally picnic season and I could not be happier, I LOVE picnics! BBQs are great, but picnics are so damn easy and, for a sloth like me, eating while you lay under a tree in dappled sunlight is pretty much as good as it gets. Not to mention the fact that picnics are insanely easy to prepare – if you’re really not into cooking, then all you need to shop well and it’s job done (same goes for cheese boards).

I had my first picnic of the season a couple of weeks ago, we had cheese, olives, pistachios, hard-boiled quail’s eggs, chorizo, broad beans with lemon and ricotta on garlic bruschetta, warm roasted chicken and lemon and herb cous cous. It was pretty damn good, I don’t mind telling you! And I’m already planning the next, so I was smitten with this photo shoot when I stumbled across it on Roost. Shot for Kinfolk magazine, it perfectly sums up how simple and heavenly a picnic can be…

Reverie_2956 Reverie_2957 Reverie_2958 Reverie_2960 Reverie_2959

{ images by Caitlin @ Roost }

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Yes, you read that title correctly, chocolate pie with salted peanut caramel IN it. That’s just how we roll round these sweet-toothed parts.

The pic above doesn’t really do this pie justice, but trust me when I say “yowsers it’s good.” It’s a combination of two different recipes, and as such the name is too long, so The Sister and I decided it shall henceforth be called Pants Pie (if you don’t get this reference then I feel sad for you. Sad I tell you.)


for the crust
1 x packet of digestive biscuits
8 ounces butter – melted

for the caramel
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or glucose
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup  finely chopped roasted salted peanuts

for the chocolate filling
4 ounces butter, cut into cubes
8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs


Crust – Crush the digestive biscuits to a fine crumb and mix with the melted butter. Press the mixture into a 9″ loose-bottom pie dish (or similar) and put in the fridge to set.*

Caramel – Put the sugar, water and glucose in a heavy bottom pan over a moderate heat, swirling only if the heat is uneven – do not stir! Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up and keep an eye on the pan, removing from the heat as soon as the caramel starts to darken. Immediately add the cream and stir well, but WTACH OUT, as it will hiss and splutter.

Roughly chop the salted peanuts and add to the caramel. Once the caramel has cooled, but is still pourable, pour it on top of the biscuit base and return the dish to the fridge (or freezer).

Chocolate filling – Preheat the oven to 160c/325f.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan over a very low heat, or in a Bain Marie. Once melted add the sugar and mix well to combine. Add the vanilla and salt and stir.

Add the eggs one by one, stirring until smooth each time. Remove the pie from the fridge and pour on the chocolate filling.

Bake in the oven for 40mins, so the pie is ‘almost’ set.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Or cold. Or any which way.

* The Sister and I agreed that this might be better with a thin pastry crust, we’ll give it a go and get back to you.

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This weekend I baked my butt off for my friend Mary’s baby shower. This was no ordinary baby shower though, when the mother-to-be is an event planner extraordinaire, things have to be done to a whole new level!

I baked coconut macaroons, mini heart-shaped pecan pies, lamb & baby bib iced cookies (the lambs are too cute, even if I do say so myself), Oreo cupcakes, pink velvet cupcakes, green tea cupcakes and finally vanilla bean and coconut cupcakes which were the best cupcakes I’ve ever made, and some of the best I’ve ever eaten. No word of a lie. 

So it only seemed fair that I share the recipe with you. 
*note* The recipe uses 2 cans of coconut milk that you boil and reduce. I’m not sure if you could use coconut cream instead, (NOT creamed coconut, which is different) but I’d be willing to bet that you could, thereby cutting out the step of having to reduce it.  

Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting

Reduced coconut milk:
2 x 13 to 14 ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup reduced coconut milk (see above), room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup reduced coconut milk (see above), room temperature
Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted (for garnish)

For reduced coconut milk:
Bring coconut milk to boil in large deep saucepan over medium-high heat (coconut milk will boil up high in pan). Reduce heat to mediumlow; boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat; cool completely. Transfer to small bowl. Cover; chill (coconut milk will settle slightly as it cools). DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

For cupcakes:
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line eighteen 1/3-cup muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar; beat on medium-high speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in seeds from vanilla bean and remaining egg. Add half of flour mixture; mix on low speed just until blended. Add 1 cup reduced coconut milk; mix just until blended. Add remaining flour mixture; mix on low speed just until blended. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake cupcakes until tops spring back when gently touched and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes in pans to rack; cool 10 minutes. Carefully remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely on rack.

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, 1/3 cup reduced coconut milk, seeds from vanilla bean, and salt. Beat on medium-low speed until blended, scraping down sides of bowl. Increase to mediumhigh and beat until light and fluffy.

Using pastry bag fitted with large star tip, pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (Alternatively, top each cupcake with 2 tablespoons frosting. Using small offset spatula, swirl frosting over top of cupcakes, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.) 

Sprinkle with toasted coconut and enjoy!
{recipe via Epicurious }
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Our last fling. Our final indulgence before we binned the butter and stocked up on veggies.

Since Jan 1st doesn’t count (everyone knows that) The Sister and I spent the day lounging, eating stuffed croissants and left over canapes, and our final meal of the day – baked cheese (just typing that sentence makes me feel a little queasy now!)

But not just any baked cheese, oh no.

We couldn’t find a brie in a box that we liked the look of at Waitrose (I’m too picky for camembert) so we opted for this L’Explorateur triple cream cheese instead. If your cheese comes in a box, simply remove the paper wrapping and pop it back in the box to be baked. We unwrapped our cheese and popped it in a small enamel tray lined with parchment. After slicing off the top (and eating it!), we studded the cheese with slivers of garlic and sprigs of thyme, before splashing with champagne, seasoning and popping into a hot oven.

After 20 mins, remove and serve with whatever takes your fancy. We had ours with crunchy french stick croutons and mulled wine (well, it was our last hurrah).

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The sister and I spent countless hours travelling over 1,000 miles this Christmas, all in the name of family. And I was driving for most of that. Never again! Of course there were some wonderful moments in between all that travelling, and some pretty fabulous meals. So it wasn’t all bad.

Our very last trip of the season involved lunch at Marco Pierre White’s newly acquired Black Boy Inn in Milton on the very edges of the Cotswolds. At least they say it’s the Cotswolds, but my dad, who lives one village over says it isn’t, and his sister, who lives one village over the other side also says it isn’t. But who are we to argue.

The pub restaurant reopened about 3 months ago, and has received mixed reviews from locals (locals being my uncle Brian who has very strong opinions on the mater) but seems to be a general hit. The local gripe may stem from the fact that what was once a local pub for local people, with a nice long bar and log fires, is now a restaurant with a teeny bar at one end and some rather sour faces. It’s been my dad’s local for years, he doesn’t seem to mind, there’s still room for him and the dog, but the place has definitely lost it’s cosy & familiar pub vibe.

We were there for Sunday lunch, and the menu had all the staples you’d expect – roast beef with Yorkshires, steak and ale pie, fish and chips etc. along with some delightfully narcissistic and self-indulgent dishes such as Belly of pork Marco Polo (yes, I know that’s an actual dish, but you see where it’s going…), The Governor’s this, The Governor’s that, Mr White’s rice pudding, Sherry triffle Wally Ladd recette Michel Bourdin (oh please) and Cambridge Burnt Cream (yes, I know that’s a thing. It’s the same thing as crème brûlée only less pretentious).

We’d been warned that the food was rich and the portions generous (and we’d only recently finished second breakfast) but we didn’t let that deter us, we’re Taylors after all. We started with Potted duck with green peppercorns & hot toast (me), Finest Quality Smoked Salmon with brown bread and butter (The Sister) and Warm baked St. Marcellin with hot sourdough toast, parsley (Dad).

It was all pretty delicious. And rich. And filling (lesson learned). The toast for my duck came wrapped in a napkin, which I thought odd as although it kept it warm, it also kept it nice and soggy from the steam. Warm and crisp would have been better than hot and damp.

We followed that with Belly of pork Marco Polo with butter beans & roasting juices (me), The Governor’s fish & triple cooked chips with mushy peas and sauce tartare (The Sister) and Roast Bronze Turkey with stuffing and red wine gravy (Dad, because he didn’t have turkey on Christmas day, bless him).

The pork was incredible. So tender and moist, and the intensely flavoured pan juices and genuinely buttery butter beans (which are so often dry and mealy) were the perfect compliment. The sticks of cracking on the top were the kind of thing people give their grannies for, and if I had any grannies to spare I’d have handed one over in return for seconds.

The Sister’s fish and chips was pretty good, but not stellar. The fish could have done with draining on paper before it hit the plate, it was pretty greasy, and the ‘triple cooked chips’ had been barely cooked all 3 times, resulting in pretty average pub chips (but at least they weren’t stacked on the plate, a saving grace). The veg was beautifully cooked (if a little over seasoned) and served in mini cast iron pans.

We even managed dessert (we Taylor’s are made of pretty tough stuff you know) and opted for the Cambridge burnt cream and the Bitter chocolate mousse (which both came with a handful of raspberries and a teeny spring of mint, yawn. Is there no other way to serve dessert? The restaurants I worked in 15 years ago weren’t boring enough to serve desserts like that.) The burnt cream was heavenly, the custard was quite softly set, but still sublime. The chocolate mousse was also pretty great, but just that bit too rich (which I’m guessing would have been the case even without two breakfasts).

The service was very good – friendly, not at all formal and hard to fault. We drank 1 beer, 2 glasses of prosseco and a lovely bottle of Côtes du Rhône, and our bill was just shy of £125 for the 3 of us.

We’ll definitely go back (more out of habit than anything) and I daresay we’ll have plenty more delicious meals.

Black Boy Inn, Milton, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 4HH
Tel: +44 (0)1295 722111
Email: enquiries@theblackboyinn.com

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We’re not ‘BIG’ present givers in our family, Christmas is much more about time spent with loved ones, good food and good times. The kids will get spoilt, but for the adults, a good book, an indulgent bottle of bath oil or a box of homemade goodies is all it takes.

I’ll be looking forward to getting in the kitchen and baking up a storm for my loved ones. This year I’ll be making…

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies (they’re kind of too easy, but sooooo tasty)
Pistachio & Earl Grey Macarons (I’ll be adapting this recipe)

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Like most women I know, I take it upon myself to spread my birthday celebrations across as many days as possible. And I figure that the older I get, the more important this is as the number of people making a fuss of you on your birthday tends to drop significantly after the jelly and ice cream days are over (although I did have jelly on my birthday this year, because I was at a one year old’s birthday. I love jelly.)

So, Thursday night celebrations, actual ‘on my birthday’ Saturday celebrations, and then Tuesday night was just the sister and I on the town.

We started at the Chanel pop-up store in Covent Garden, which was a massive disappointment. What I’d imagined to be a sleek and luxurious beauty emporium filled to the brim with lots of my favourite products and lots more I’d yet to discover, turned out to be a mediocre department store counter slung in the corner of a tiny shop that was otherwise filled with glossy black plastic shop fittings, inattentive staff and more security blokes than you could shake a stick at. Which I’m assuming is what they were there to prevent since theft of any product would have required actual product. Fail.

Onwards and upwards! We headed straight to Dean Street and the newly opened Burger & Lobster. The sister and I had agreed beforehand that we would eat early (the restaurant doesn’t take reservations and we both have an aversion to queuing for food), so we were seated immediately and got stuck into the cocktail menu, the sister ordering a ‘summer’ something and me going for a dirty gin martini. Deeeelicious.

The staff were incredible, friendly, joking, efficient and above all, informed. The menu here is pretty self-explanatory, you can order a burger or… a lobster (or a lobster roll). The burger is 10 ounces of beef heaven, topped with bacon and cheese, the lobster is steamed and then finished on the grill and served with plain or lemon & garlic melted butter. And both are served with chips and a salad.

Ordering was a no brainer for the sister and I, we had one of each and then shared. The one and a half pound lobster was beautifully cooked, juicy and moist, the lemon and garlic butter sublime. I was a little amused when our (very lovely) waitress tried to teach me how to break open a lobster claw – lady, this ain’t my first time on this gravy train, jog on. The chips were golden and crunchy, and the salad unexpectedly delicious with parmesan, croutons, red onion and a delicious balsamic dressing. Onto the burger – oh me oh my. Cooked to perfection, juicy without being soggy, the bacon was smoky and delicious, the cheese just so. I honestly couldn’t fault the food. At £20 a dish, you could argue that it’s pricy for a burger, but for the heart of Soho, and service that good, it’s not a price I’d begrudge.

We skipped the 2 dessert options in favour of walking down through China Town to the St John Hotel, where we had more cocktails and shared a scoop of their previously amazing but on this trip rather average chocolate ice cream.

And with that we made our way home, complaining all the way with smiles on our faces, about how full we were.

Burger & Lobster // 36 Dean St, London, W1D 4PS
The St John Hotel // 1 Leicester St, London, WC2H 7BL

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Let me start by saying that if you don’t think that this chocolate ice cream is the best chocolate ice cream you’ve ever had, then I don’t think that we can be friends anymore. Harsh, but true.
That said, bring on the ice cream!!

This recipe comes from the genius minds at St John, via Bon Appetit. The handful of times that I’ve been to the St John hotel have been purely so that I can have a scoop of this ice cream. It’s so frickin’ good that it should have it’s own national holiday.

That said, it takes some love to make, and involves days of waiting so that the ice cream can “ripen” (although the first time I made it I skipped the waiting and it was still mind-blowing). But, you know, you’re worth it…

// Ingredients 
7 ounces dark chocolate (70% to 75% cacao), finely chopped 
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
6 large egg yolks 
13 tablespoons sugar, divided 
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream 

// Method
Place chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside; let cool slightly. 

Whisk milk and cocoa powder in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat until mixture begins to boil; set aside. 

Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in another medium bowl until very thick ribbons form, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add hot milk mixture to egg yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Add melted chocolate and whisk to blend. Stir over low heat until slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 175°, about 5 minutes. 

Transfer chocolate custard to a large bowl and place over another large bowl of ice water. Stir until chocolate custard is cool. 

Bring remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a small heavy, deep saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush (do not stir), until a dark amber color forms, about 5 minutes. 

Gradually whisk in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk caramel into chocolate custard. Strain into a large container; cover and chill for 2 days. 


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{ finger lickin’ } red pepper sauce…

See that piece of meat on the left? It’s about to be BBQ’d like meat has never been grilled before. And that jar on the right? Well that’s my little secret. It’s one of the most versatile things you’ll find in my fridge and it tastes good with pretty much everything. 
It’s so incredibly easy to make that you don’t really need a recipe, although I will let you in on the tricks that make it so good. 
Take a couple of big red bell peppers (UK peeps, I don’t find that supermarket ones do the trick here, so I buy them from my local Italian deli where they are dark ruby red and HUGE) and instead of blackening the skins on the gas ring or under a grill, put them on a tray in a scorching hot oven and roast until the skins are blackened and the peppers have collapsed. Remove from the oven and transfer to a heatproof dish, pour on any juices from the pan and cover the dish with clingfilm.
Once they’re cool enough to handle, slip the skins from the peppers and discard along with the seeds. Put the peppers into a blender, along with a good glug of olive oil and some salt and pepper, and blitz until smooth. I like to add a clove or two of raw garlic as I’m a garlic fiend and love the heat it gives it, but you can leave this out if you don’t fancy it. And that’s it. Simples.
Pop it in a a jar in the fridge and you’re good to go. In the pic above, I’ve mixed a few tablespoons with some chopped anchovies and more garlic and smothered a half shoulder of lamb with it. Once it’s comes of the grill, I’ll serve it with more of the pepper sauce, a broad bean salad and some crunchy fried potatoes. And a chilled glass of white wine. Bliss.
So, what else do I use it for:
It’s great with steak and a salad.
It’s great thinned with some oil and vinegar to make a salad dressing.
Stirred into an omelet just before it sets in the pan.
Top a dish of chunky hummous with a couple of tablespoons of the sauce before serving as a dip.
Stir into pasta and top with parmesan shavings and rocket.
Serve with grilled fish or vegetables…
…and so on and so forth. Yummy…
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{ finger lickin’ } cinnamon bun pancakes…

I just made these pancakes…
…and then I died and went to heaven.
What’s that you say? 
There’s some left? 
Don’t mind if I do Lillian…
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