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Recipe – Sicilian Sardine Pasta

I had a tin of sardines hanging around in my cupboard so wanted to find a recipe to use them up that was not too ‘fishy’. I know that probably sounds ridiculous but I’m not a huge fan of the taste of oily fish on its own but mixed with other things, I quite like the saltiness it can add. I found a few versions of this Sicilian dish online and kind of mixed up a few recipes to create this one. We enjoyed this for dinner one night and the fennel and pine nuts add really lovely flavours and textures.


A generous handful of dried raisins or currants

1 can of sardines in oil

1 fennel bulb, chopped – save the fronds too!

A pinch of chili flakes

Diced bread – you could use normal bread but a sliced up French stick is better

One onion, roughly chopped

A handful of pine nuts

Enough pasta for two people (I used fusilli)

A small handful of fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

How to make it

  • Begin by soaking the raisins in hot water for about 15 minutes until plump then drain


  • Pour a little of the oil from the sardines into a large frying pan on a low to medium heat
  • Add the chili flakes and the fennel fronds then sauté for a minute
  • Add the diced bread and fry for about 5 minutes until crisp and golden


  • Transfer the croutons to some kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil
  • Add the rest of the sardine oil to the pan followed by the fennel and onion


  • Soften on a medium heat for about 10 minutes
  • In a separate pan, cook your pasta until al dente then drain
  • Add the pine nuts and raisins to the fennel and onion followed by the sardines (you can break the fish into smaller pieces using a wooden spoon)

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  • Cook for about 5 minutes then add the croutons back in and cook for another 3
  • Add the pasta and mix well
  • Season to taste then serve with fresh parsley sprinkled on top


Restaurant Review – Taplow House Hotel

It feels like I haven’t done a good restaurant review for ages! I think that’s probably because we keep eating at places I have already reviewed or just places that don’t lend themselves to a good blog post.

Anyway, today I wanted to share the amazing meal Ian and I enjoyed at Taplow House Hotel when we stayed there recently. We had a three course meal included in our hotel stay which I always like as it means you don’t have to have that argument about who will be the designated driver!


We started with a good bottle of Merlot while we perused the menu. There were 4 or 5 options for starter, main and dessert which were a nice variety of meat, fish and veggie dishes. The dining room was beautifully decorated but I have to say there wasn’t much atmosphere…maybe that was simply because it was a Wednesday evening though.

I am going to get my other niggle out the way now because I really couldn’t find fault with the food. The night we ate at the Taplow House Hotel, there was a large party in the other room which meant the service in the restaurant suffered a bit. We actually had to wait for almost an hour for our starters which normally would really annoy me but because we were ‘on holiday’ I didn’t mind too much as we were enjoying our wine and conversation.

Onto our (much anticipated!) starters…


I had a dish of lightly whipped goats cheese which came with salt baked and pickled beetroot, green apple, sesame seed sponge, blackberries and leaves. The pairing of goats cheese and beetroot is a favourite of mine and this was one of those perfectly balanced dishes with a lovely variety of flavours and textures.


Ian had the grilled mackerel (which were smoked in-house) which came with avocado, celeriac remoulade, mouli, pickled mustard seeds and shiso cress. Again, this was a well-balanced dish with the rich fish matched well against the accompaniments.

I think you can usually judge how good a restaurant is after you’ve had the starters and I have to say we were both really impressed with what we had had so far.

For my main, I really fancied fish so ordered the fillet of cod. This was a huge portion (not complaining!) and it just flaked away perfectly. It was served with artichokes, cockles, mini turnips, squid ink gnocchi and a smoked herring roe butter sauce. Whilst it did look a bit messy on the plate, this dish was incredible! The rich sauce brought everything together and I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.


Ian opted for the lamb which again looked a bit messy on the plate but more than delivered on taste. There was a braised neck of lamb fillet and loin as well as sweetbreads served with pearl barley, charred baby leeks, celeriac and a lovely rosemary gravy.


Onto pudding now and I had the white chocolate cheesecake which turned out to be a delightful deconstructed version and one of my favourite dishes of the night. The filling part of the cheesecake part was one of the balls sat atop the biscuit crumbs, the other being a rich vanilla ice cream. Surrounding the rest of the plate was a combination of chocolate ganache, shards of milk chocolate, hazelnuts, cocoa nib sherbet and cocoa marshmallows. It was truly delicious and every mouthful was different.


Ian doesn’t have as much of a sweet tooth as I do so opted for the cheeseboard which had a nice variety of local cheeses, crackers and a chutney.


If this hotel was nearby, I would be back to this restaurant in a flash. Although the atmosphere and service left a bit to be desired, I absolutely loved the food here and that would be enough to tempt me back. x

Restaurant Review – Mat Follas at The Casterbridge, Dorchester

Ummmm….where’s the sun gone?! Please tell me this rain/ hail/ wind is merely temporary and full sunshine service will be resumed shortly!!!

I have spent today sheltering indoors whilst upcycling some furniture; a new chair for our bedroom and a table for the hallway. I like giving old furniture a new lease of life this way but don’t usually have the time to spend a few days sanding and painting.


Today I wanted to share a restaurant we visited whilst camping in Dorset recently. For my birthday two years ago, Ian treated me to lunch at The Wild Garlic in Beaminster, a charming restaurant owned by Masterchef winner Mat Follas. I was desperate to go back again when we were in the area but learned that Mat is now cooking at The Casterbridge Hotel in nearby Dorchester so we headed there instead!


We started with cocktails in the lounge (a little bit formal for my liking) and I had ‘Mat’s Fizz’, a champagne cocktail with elderflower and lavender. This was very sweet but delicious with the lavender giving it a lovely purple colour.


Seeing as this meal was to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, we decided to push the boat out and opt for the 6 course tasting menu…because why not?!

To start, we had a cup of spiced roast tomato soup, served cold like a gazpacho. This had the aniseed-like taste of fennel and packed a punch with the chili. You could ask for this to be served hot but I liked the contrast between the heat of the chili and the chilled soup.

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Next up was one of my favourite things, scallops. These were small but cooked perfectly and served with black pudding, pickles and a creamy sauce.


More fish followed with this beautiful piece of plaice (which Mat told us was fresh off the boat that morning) in a brown butter and samphire sauce served with clams and new potatoes. This was a really simple dish that just allowed the natural flavour and sweetness of the fish shine through. I would definitely order this again if I returned.


We had a beetroot and carrot amuse-bouche next which was refreshing followed by triple cooked pork belly. Just typing that makes me hungry! This pork belly had been slow cooked for 18 hours and was falling apart when you cut into it. It was presented beautifully and served with roasted heirloom vegetables, a sweet potato puree and a big chunk of crackling.


We finished up with two puddings, the first of which both Ian and I hated but the second of which more than made up for it!

The dish was simply called ‘Elderflower and Gooseberries’ and was in fact a delicious elderflower jelly topped with the most sour and acidic tasting gooseberry cream. I can see that the sweetness of the elderflower was meant to complement the tartness of the gooseberries but the cream was just way too sour for my tastes. This was the only negative of the meal for me but the guy on the table behind us was raving about this dish so different strokes for different folks and all that!


I finished up with ‘Chocolate and Pear’, a lemon-poached pear and the most decadent and gooey chocolate brownie which was topped with peanut powder. I was pretty full at this point but could not resist practically licking the plate clean!


Ian was all pudding-ed out at this point so he had the cheeseboard to finish up which had a great selection of local cheeses and crackers.


The tasting menu was just under £50 per person which I can justify as it was a treat and the quality of the food was fantastic. The location is not as nice as The Wild Garlic but I get the impression that this hotel venue is only temporary. I did have a slight fangirl moment when Mat came out to talk us through some of the dishes and he was so keen to discuss the food and where it was sourced from.

Overall, this was a very decadent evening with a wonderful selection of food and I recommend this place if you find yourself along the south coast.


Our Birthday/ Anniversary Camping Trip!

We got home last night from the most amazing and relaxing mini-break camping along the Dorset coastline. Ian surprised me with the trip for my 29th birthday (last year in my twenties….aargh!)then it was our first wedding anniversary the next day so it seemed right to spend a few days together away from the daily grind of home, laundry and work!


I started the day with my favourite almond croissants from Bertinet Bakery in Bath. If you ever get the chance then just buy one and thank me later! Ian had paid for me the day before to get my hair cut and coloured but he also surprised me with a little black box…

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…the boy did good this year! (FYI Nars Orgasm blusher is the most beautiful item of make-up I own…review coming soon!)

Anyway, we packed up the car and set off to Osmington, a little village just outside Weymouth. We have stayed here before and love the views on the campsite and the great pubs nearby. When we arrived, we put up the tent, slapped on the sunscreen and enjoyed a picnic in the sunshine.

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As it was my birthday, we brought a few cocktails too!

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That evening, I was treated to minty lamb burgers, cooked on our little gas stove before heading out to our favourite pub, The Smugglers, to watch the sunset and have a few birthday beers.


The next day was our first wedding anniversary. As you know, we headed off to Vegas to say our ‘I Dos’ and this year has flown by! (You can read about our special day here!) Traditionally, you give paper gifts on your first wedding anniversary so I bought Ian a cool print of Bath Pubs (I think he sees this more as a ‘to do’ list!) and he got me some lovely things from Paperchase.


We enjoyed a fry up by the tent in the morning before heading to the beach. We stopped off at Chesil Beach, an 18 mile long lagoon for a spot of sunbathing and a picnic before driving on to Lulworth Cove for ice-creams (my Turkish Delight flavour was amazing!) and a dip in the sea.

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That evening we got our glad rags on and went back to The Smugglers for cocktails in the sun followed by a great meal (I’m going to write a separate restaurant review about this)

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We woke up the next morning to the pitter patter of rain on the tent at about 5am. For some, this may be your nightmare camping scenario but I love that feeling of being snuggled up inside while you can hear the rain outside! It wasn’t really that heavy and within a few hours we were back to glorious sunshine again.

That night, we had booked a table for Mat Follas’ (from Masterchef) new restaurant in Dorchester and enjoyed the most amazing 6 course taster menu. Mat came out to chat to the guests too and it was lovely to hear about the food and how locally everything was sourced.


On our last full day, we headed to Weymouth beach for a few hours of sunshine. It has a traditional seaside promenade although we sat slightly away from all the fairground rides and arcades. My highlight of this day was definitely our lunch on the beach…scampi for me, battered cod for Ian and a huge portion of vinegar-soaked chips to share!

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We spent our last night at the campsite enjoying the sunset and my rather tasty one pot chicken curry and rice…slightly different from the decadence the night before but just as tasty nonetheless!


We went old-school and played a few card games then had hot chocolates and marshmallows in our sleeping bags – an absolutely perfect end to a great mini-break!


Latest Purchases #51 – Urban Outfitters Rugs

Urgh – I had the most horrendous day yesterday. I had plans for some pampering and a haircut, followed by lunch with Ian, a wander around Bath and a spot of shopping…perfect.

However, my tyre blew on my way into Bath meaning I had to cancel said haircut, wait ages for the AA then spend an hour driving around with them trying to source a tyre for a Smart car! Not quite the relaxing afternoon I had in mind but to make things better I came home and baked then Ian took me up to the pub for cocktails and dinner.

I made the loveliest little carrot cake loaves (recipe coming soon!) and then had a wonderful Mojito, followed by tempura-battered belly pork and my absolute favourite fish stew which has reappeared on the menu at our local…serenity restored!

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Today, I wanted to share some recent purchases from Urban Outfitters home section. I am getting slightly obsessed with interiors at the moment and I love the way a statement rug can absolutely change a room.


The first, biggest and most expensive one I bought was my gorgeous green and cream chevron print rug, which is taking pride of place in my newly decorated conservatory. I love this modern print yet with it only having two colours, it isn’t too loud or in-your-face.

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My next two rugs are slightly smaller and haven’t found a permanent place in my home but it’s only a matter of time before I find one for them.

First up, continuing my love of chevron prints is this pink and cream version. This pink is actually much brighter than it appeared on the website but neons are on trend at the moment and against a simple carpet or floor, I think it will work.


Finally, a fun spotty option:

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I love the colour combinations on this rug.

All three rugs are quick thick and feel sturdy which bodes well for their lasting power.

I bought these in the Urban Outfitters sale, which I find great for picking up some bargains – I think all three rugs cost about £40 which is amazing when you see how much some larger rugs sell for.

Restaurant Review – The Snooty Fox, Warminster

This Sunday, despite having a huge pile of marking to be getting on with, Ian and I decided to head out for lunch. I love discovering new towns and villages near where we live and we chose to have a wander through Warminster before stopping off somewhere for a bite to eat.

This is a town near where we live but unfortunately it was pretty dead last Sunday. There were lots of pretty cafes and antique shops though so it looks like it may have much more character through the week!

I had heard good things about The Snooty Fox pub but must admit to not being overwhelmed when we first drove up to it. However, once inside I could see that it was busy (always a good sign!) and we took a seat in the bar area.

The menu was pretty standard which I now realise does the food a complete disservice because we both loved it!

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We shared a couple of starters. Ian ordered the mixed fish platter which came loaded with smoked salmon, king prawns, smoked mackerel and the most wonderful crispy whitebait with lovely marie rose and aioli dipping sauces.

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I had some bread and olives served with rapeseed oil and balsamic vinegar and a homemade basil pesto for dipping and a nice variety of olives.

For our mains, Ian had a classic roast leg of lamb served with a herby bread sauce which was really tender.

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I opted for the fish of the day which was sole in a creamy yet delicate almond and leek sauce. I absolutely loved this dish. The fish was perfectly cooked, it came with amazing, crispy roast potatoes and the sauce was perfectly balanced.

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Our main courses came with cauliflower cheese and seasonal vegetables which were lovely and al dente.

We were pretty stuffed at this point but after a little rest, we found room to share a pudding! We ordered the chocolate brownie which was served warm with a raspberry and lemon coulis and honeycomb ice cream. I am very fussy about brownies but this was very good; nutty, gooey and rich.

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Overall, this was an unexpected delight. The food was very good and reasonably priced and a Sunday lunch without the washing up to do afterwards is always a treat!

Restaurant Review – The Muddy Duck, Monkton Farleigh

Last night, Ian and I were planning on popping up to our local for our usual Friday night drink when we realised that we had yet to eat at the pub since its rebranding. It’s still pretty much the same pub to us but never one to turn down the offer of eating out, I agreed it was our neighbourly duty to check it out!

It was really busy when we arrived so we sat at the bar for a drink while we waited for a table. I really love the makeover the interior of the pub has had and it feels so much brighter and welcoming now.


The menu has been updated too and I love seeing how much local produce is on there!

We started with a small plate of Bath Pig chorizo, chipolata sausages and tiny onions to nibble on.


For our mains, I had the fish stew and Ian opted for the burger.

My fish stew was absolutely amazing! Crammed full of flavour, this tomato based stew contained clams, prawns, white fish and squid, topped with dollops of aioli and crusty bread. I really enjoyed this and it had so much seafood in it I think it was really good value for money. I can see this dish becoming a regular order of mine!


Ian’s burger was pretty impressive too! Served in a brioche bun and topped with two lovely onion rings, the burger was big and juicy and topped with melted blue cheese, relish and pickles. The triple-cooked chips were OK but I have to say I’ve had better.


Overall, it was a lovely end to the week/ start to the weekend and a delicious dinner too. If you are in the Bath area, I highly recommend a long walk followed by a meal at The Muddy Duck…try the fish stew! x

Recipe – Smoked Mackerel and Horseradish Fishcakes

Was that our summer then?! I am currently writing this with my pyjamas and woolly slippers on, a cup of tea next to me and rain pattering against the window…here’s hoping it’s just a blip!

I had a craving last week for smoked fish, after seeing a colleague eat the most delicious looking smoked mackerel salad. When I bought it however, I wasn’t in the mood for a salad so I decided to take this delicious ingredient and use it for fishcakes.


The flavour in these fillets is amazing so you need very few ingredients for this recipe. I added some red onion for crunch, fresh parsley and some horseradish to give it a lovely fresh tang!


The below amount made 8 decent sized fishcakes and these were great the next day too.



200g of smoked mackerel fillets, flaked

Half a red onion, finely chopped

A handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons of horseradish

250g of cold mashed potato

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

A small dish of plain flour

A small dish with a beaten egg

A small dish of breadcrumbs (I actually ran out so used some crushed up Jacobs Crackers…resourceful!)

How to make it

  • In a large bowl, mix together the smoked mackerel, onion, parsley, horseradish and mashed potato
  • Season wellfish5
  • Using your hands, roll the mixture into pattiesfish6
  • In a little assembly line, dip each fishcake in the flour, egg then breadcrumbsfish4
  • Drizzle some olive oil into a frying pan and lightly fry the fishcakes until they are golden brownfish8
  • If you didn’t want to fry these, you could grill or oven bake
  • Serve with a squeeze of lemon, salad and another dollop of horseradishfish9

Recipe – Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Like almost every British blogger will do today, I am going to start my post by mentioning the glorious weather we have enjoyed! The words ‘Bank Holiday’ and ‘sunshine’ don’t seem to go together very often so when we do get a sunny weekend, we definitely make the most of it!


Ian and I decided to spend as much time as possible outside in the garden, giving it some much needed TLC so he mowed the grass whilst I removed as many weeds as possible…teamwork!


I love drying our washing outside on the line


The whitest legs in the South West


As you probably know, I like to eat outside as often as possible and today we had our lunch on the picnic bench at the bottom of the garden, listening to the horses in the field behind us.


We had fresh melon and Parma ham


Freshly-cut French baguette and butter


The ubiquitous savoury eggs (!)


Fresh anchovies in a lovely vinaigrette


All washed down with a bottle of shandy! These little bottles are one of my favourite summer drinks and I always keep a few in the fridge. Gone are the days where I can drink beer or cocktails all day long and not be asleep by 4pm so these lovely little drinks are a kind of halfway house!


And for a pudding, I made these cheesecake stuffed strawberries. Now, I LOVE cheesecake. It is one of my favourite desserts and I am counting down the days until we can go to The Cheesecake Factory when we are in Las Vegas this summer. However, I am trying to eat as healthily as possible at the moment and so this recipe is a sort of deconstructed version of a strawberry cheesecake coming in at about 50 calories per strawberry.




A punnet of fresh strawberries

Half a tub of cream cheese (full fat works best, I found the low-fat version slightly too runny)

3 tablespoons of icing sugar

Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 digestive biscuits, crumbled

How to make it

  • Begin by prepping the strawberries. Chop off the top and then use a sharp knife to cut out the white inner part of the fruit, leaving you with a hollowed-out strawberrystrawb22
  • It’s a tiny bit fiddly but once you have done a few, you really get the hang of itstrawb21
  • Next, make the filling by mixing together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy
  • Then you can either fill the strawberries yourself ready to serve or have all the ingredients ready for your guests to put together themselves.strawb11
  • Spoon, or use a piping bag if you want full marks for presentation, the cream cheese mixture into the strawberries then sprinkle over the crushed biscuit to topstrawb12

As we were eating lots of finger food for lunch, I decided to leave the 3 elements to this pudding in separate bowls and put them together as we went…much more fun and hands-on if you are serving this with friends!


Restaurant Review – Raphael Restaurant, Bath

Last night, Ian and I had a mid-week night out…reckless I know! I had been really looking forward to this because we were going for dinner and then to see my favourite ever musical, Blood Brothers, at the Bath Theatre Royal.

I first saw this show in London about 4 years ago when I had a weekend away with my Mum for her birthday and I remember loving the music and the storyline, and keeping my eye out for it playing at a local theatre ever since.

Set in Liverpool, a city close to my heart, the cultural references to the places, shops and people are great and they have managed to capture that elusive northern humour perfectly. Although, I have to say that Marti Pellow’s scouse accent was questionable!

Due to a particularly attentive waitress continuously topping up my glass of wine during dinner, I was a bit tipsy when we arrived at the theatre (so cultured, ha!) which may explain why I had a good cry during the performance!

This show is on until Saturday February 2nd in Bath. I know tickets sold fast, but if you see this musical is showing at a theatre near you then I cannot recommend it enough!

Anyway, onto the food…

We ate at an old favourite of mine in Bath, the French bistro Raphael Restaurant. I have eaten here a few times in the past and have always enjoyed the ambience and food, and last night was no exception.

Being a stone’s throw from the theatre, they do a roaring trade in their 2-course pre-theatre dinner, priced at £14.95.

With 4 choices for both the starter and main course, there is a good selection of meat, fish and vegetarian options. I have to say that the menu is very classic, which is absolutely fine when they do it so well, but there were no real stand-out options for me so I just ordered what I knew I would like and played it safe with a savoury  tart then chicken.

I just reread that and I think I sound completely pedantic and fussy but I do like trying new flavour combinations which this menu didn’t offer.

For my starter, I had a Leek, Pea and Ham Tart with a well-dressed mixed leaf salad and a delicious celeriac remoulade, which was like a lovely, refined coleslaw to accompany the warm tart.


Ian had warm salad of smoked mackerel on a bed of potato and dill salad with a herby oil drizzled all over. The flavours in this were well balanced with the creamy potato salad and salty smoked fish working really well. (Sorry about the poor quality photo!)


For our main courses, I had a pan-roasted thyme and garlic chicken breast which was served on a bed of green beans, savoy cabbage and bacon and a delicious creamy mushroom and tarragon sauce. All elements of the dish were perfectly cooked and seasoned and the sauce brought it all together nicely.


Ian had a proper winter-warmer of Madeira and porcini mushrooms with braised beef and shallots, served with parsley mash and a lovely orange-scented sauce. I have had beef and orange together in Asian dishes but I wasn’t sure how well this citrus fruit would go in a rich, French-style stew. It turns out, very well! The orange running through the sauce lifted the whole dish and is something I would think about trying out in my own cooking next time I make a beef stew.


Overall, we enjoyed two lovely clean, fresh courses which were full of flavour and well-balanced. The portion sizes were perfect for me too as it meant I had just enough room for an ice-cream during the interval!