Saturday, 19 August 2017


Last weekend we wanted to do a family activity, however it is quite hard to find something relatively inexpensive, local and suitable for a baby, a tween and two adults! After much deliberation, we settled on a trip to Battersea Park as there is mini golf and a great playground. We decided the winner of the golf, could choose the restaurant for lunch. I wanted to go to Tendido Cuatro but Bella was desperate for us to try Valentina which is her favourite restaurant near her father's house. In the end Pascal won and he went for Bella's choice.

Valentina started as a small family delicatessen in East Sheen in 1991 however it soon expanded into a restaurant as well and now there are 8 branches in London and Surrey.  

We went to the one in Putney and I was impressed as soon as I walked in as there were tasters of mortadella and mozzarella on ciabatta in the entrance...I love a bit of free food. The Valentina concept reminds me of Carluccio's with the blue and white colour scheme and the gorgeous appetising food on display. I wanted to pull up a chair there and then!

There was a fantastic musician playing to the diners and it was a pleasure to listen to him while we perused the menu. There was a lot to choose from - antipasti, salads, pizza and pasta. There is also a children's menu for £6.50. It was a spacious airy restaurant with an outside terrace that looked very inviting.

We decided to share the pizza fritta to start which is fried dough sprinkled with rock salt and rosemary and served with garlic aioli. This was really good - even the baby liked it although we had to wipe off the salt. We were fighting over the last bits. It made a great change from garlic bread.

For mains Arabella had her usual all time favourite, spaghetti carbonara served English style with cream. I have to say I had serious food envy. It was a huge portion with big chunks of bacon and a heavenly creamy, cheesy sauce.

Pascal had the veal Milanese with spaghetti in a tomato and basil sauce. Like Arabella, it is his all time favourite dish. However unfortunately he wasn't very impressed. The veal was greasy and there was too much sauce on his pasta.

I ordered the Cappella Romana which is al forno tagliatelle with Italian sausage meat, cherry tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan and wrapped with smoked speck ham. I have mentioned in my blog before that I love Parmesan and I really hate it when you aren't allowed to keep the cheese at your table. The waiter very kindly covered my pasta with Parmesan but it still wasn't enough. My dish was lacking something - I am not sure what as to me it sounded like the ideal pasta recipe - sausage, cheese, ham and tomato but it wasn't as good as I was expecting. I think it needed more cheese! It wasn't bad but I just didn't love it and didn't finish my plate which is unheard of for me.

We had no room for pudding unfortunately, I had my eyes on the Italian pastries in the deli but decided to give it a miss and tuck into some ice cream at home. I was surprised when the bill came, it was nearly £70 for 3 of us which I thought was extremely steep considering we had only had one starter, no alcohol (just water and a Diet Coke) and no puddings. 
However the service was very friendly and efficient, the music was fantastic and we had really enjoyed half the meal. 

I wouldn't rush back but if a friend wanted to go, I wouldn't say no. Maybe I am just spoilt because there are so many good Italians around London. Having said that I am keen to try the deli......especially the pastries!

Valentina Putney

75 Upper Richmond Road,
SW15 2SR
Tel: 020 8877 9906

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


My one year old Olympia tried a blueberry muffin the other day and she absolutely loved it so I decided I should bake some. I haven't made any since I was about 15 and so searched online for an quick and easy recipe. I feel I am cooking all the time at the moment. I like to cook in batches and then freeze it for Olympia but she seems to get through it all so quickly....a little piglet like her mummy!!

This recipe is from Inspired Taste website.

Ingredients for 10 muffins:

195g plain flour
150g granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
80ml vegetable oil
1 large egg
80ml-120ml milk (dairy or non dairy)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200g fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Line a muffin tray with 10 muffin / cupcake paper cups. Fill the remaining two cup holes with a couple of tablespoons of water to help the muffins bake evenly.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. I just used a handheld whisk.

Pour the oil into a measuring jug, crack in the egg and then add enough milk to reach the 240ml line. I added about 120ml. Next pour in the vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Add the milk mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients and use a fork to combine. Do not over mix - you want the batter to be quite thick and "scoopable". If the batter is too dry, add a little bit of milk whereas if it is too runny, add a little flour. I had absolutely no idea whether my batter was the correct consistency, but I just went for it. Finally fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes. I did 20 minutes. To check if the muffins are cooked, the tops need to dry, not wet and if you insert a toothpick, it comes out with crumbs not wet batter. Mine didn't come out with crumbs but it wasn't wet either so I took that as a sign they were cooked.

Transfer to a cooling rack and then tuck in.

I gave one of these to my baby Olympia to do the taste test....and I am proud to say they passed with flying colours. She devoured it in a matter of minutes. I loved how many blueberries were in each muffin (so they are not too naughty). They will only last a few days at room temperature before going stale but they can be frozen. A great snack for the baby (and me)!!

Saturday, 12 August 2017


I have many Jamie Oliver books although I will admit I am not crazy about his recipes. They generally taste very good however I find he always needs so many ingredients and they aren't written in a very straightforward way.....not like my beloved Fay Ripley!! Anyway - good news - in the Sunday Times last week, Jamie shared a few recipes that only need 5 ingredients - heaven for me. Plus they are quick ones too, this one took about 15 minutes. I did alter it slightly as my husband thought it looked a little "light"!

Ingredients for 2 people:

2 tbsp pine nuts
400g rump steak
2 heaped tbsp green pesto
90g rocket
40g Parmesan

Put a large non stick frying pan on a high heat, toasting the pine nuts as it heats up, tossing regularly and removing when golden. This is quite a quick process so watch the pine nuts carefully.

Cut the fat off the rump and chop it finely. Place it in the pan to render and crisp up.

Meanwhile place some cling or greaseproof paper over the steak on a chopping board and bash with a rolling pin or mallet until the steak is about 1cm thick. This tenderises the meat as well. Season generously.

Scoop the fat out of the pan and place to one side. In the same pan, sear the steak for 1-2 minutes on each side (depending on how you like your steak cooked) but ideally you want it golden on the outside but still blushing in the middle. I did Pascal's for a couple of minutes as he likes his steak as rare as possible (still mooing in fact) whereas I prefer mine a little more cooked. Once ready, remove to a board/plate and cut into strips.

Spread the pesto between two plates, add the rocket and steak, and finally scatter over the Parmesan, pine nuts and crispy fat (if you like). Drizzle with some olive oil and serve.

This was a beautiful dish, so simple yet so flavoursome. Individually all the ingredients are strong flavours, yet they mesh so well together. Whilst it felt like a proper supper, it didn't sit heavily in your tummy due to the lack of carbs. Perfect for my husband as he needs to increase the protein intake and cut the carbs which isn't easy when you are a pasta fiend!!

Monday, 7 August 2017


My husband needs to eat less sugar and less carbs....basically his two favourite things. Whilst I believe I am healthy and in pretty good shape, I could do with a little more "clean living" however I love comfort eating, covering everything in cheese and I am addicted to milky coffee with sweetener. 

Anyway the sun was shining yesterday so we decided to barbecue some beef to up our protein intake and then as a side I made these rarebit cauliflower steaks. This is a recipe from Olive magazine although I omitted the beer (!) and it took about 25 minutes.

Ingredients for 2 people:

1 large cauliflower
25g butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
100g grated mature cheddar
1 tsp wholegrain or Dijon mustard
1 small egg yolk
A couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C / fan 180C / gas mark 6.

Chop the cauliflower in two down the middle and then cut a thick slice from each half to make 2 steaks. You will have some cauliflower left over - we ate this dipped in hummus.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Season the cauliflower steaks and then fry on each side until golden. This took about 8 minutes.

Lift the steaks onto a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Next time I will cut the stalks off the the cauliflower steaks as they are pretty tough.

Meanwhile put the cheese, mustard, egg yolk and Worcestershire sauce (if using) into a bowl and mash together. Season once again. Spoon the cheese mix over the cauliflower steaks when they are ready and grill for 4-5 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

These were really good and could be a meal in itself. I love welsh rarebit, it is something we had at weekends for lunch during my childhood and using cauliflower here is certainly a healthier version. I reckon my daughter Arabella would also be a fan. A great alternative side dish.

Sunday, 16 July 2017


I love a pudding, in fact nowadays it is my favourite part of a meal and at a restaurant, I have been known to choose my pudding before my starter and main. When we had our friends round for supper on Friday I was tempted to go to Cook and buy the Chocolate Salted Caramel Vacherin but it was a bit extravagant as it served 10-12 and there was only 4 of us.....and I didn't want to spend the rest of the week pigging the leftovers myself as I have to get in a bikini in a week!

Instead I decided to cook Fay Ripley's lemon and raspberry tart as I also adore a lemony pudding. This feeds 6-8 people and it took just over an hour to cook and prepare.

Ingredients for 6-8 people:

1 x 375g pack of sweet pastry (this needs to be taken out the fridge about 45 minutes before using)
3 medium free-range eggs
75g caster sugar
220ml double cream
Juice and zest of 3 unwaxed lemons
200g fresh raspberries
Icing sugar, for dusting (I forgot this part)!

24cm loose bottomed flan tin
Baking beans

Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas mark 6.

If your flan tin isn't loose bottomed (sounds quite rude!), I would recommend that you line it with baking paper - I didn't which meant the tart was tricky to cut at the end. My tin was also 28cm and so a little big for the pastry.

Roll out the pastry into the flan tin, cover with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and then pop back in the oven for 5 minutes to dry out.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180C / 160C fan / gas mark 4.

Meanwhile whisk the eggs, sugar, cream, lemon zest and juice together.

Scatter raspberries evenly over the base. Pour the filling over the berries and bake for 30 minutes. Cool and then dust with icing sugar just before serving.

I also served the tart with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. 

I have always been a fan of Fay Ripley's cookbooks, in fact her first book inspired me to learn to cook and this recipe did not disappoint. I had made this the day before and I was a little worried as to whether it would still taste as fresh. Thankfully it did. We all loved the combination of the lemon and raspberries and it was light and delectable. A couple of days later, I am just finishing off the last much for the bikini diet!!