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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Lamb, Dill Potatoes and Halloumi Salad

I've been very boring this past week. Poor Tomasz has exams so we've been snuggled up most nights. I made us a nice meal last night - minted lamb and dill potatoes with a halloumi and antipasti salad. It was great if I do say so myself! 
Just get a bag of new potatoes, a bunch of dill chopped roughly, add olive oil, black pepper and some rock salt and pop in the oven for 40 minutes or until crisp. Give them a shake occasionally to make sure they're not sticking. 

The salad is very easy. I just used a pack of those antipasti you can get from supermarkets - basically just mixed roasted veggies in herbs and oil. I grilled the sliced halloumi cheese, pan fried the antipasti, added in a load of fresh salad, and served with more chopped dill and a drizzle of olive oil. Gorgeous. Don't add salt as the cheese is already salty enough! 

I bought two huge lamb shoulder steaks. Added a load of mint and a bit more oil and grilled, leaving slightly pink.

Et voilà! Tasty meal in under 45 minutes.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

How to get into Advertising

I get a lot of emails asking me how I got into advertising. So I thought I would write a little bit about what I have learned in my 5 years in this industry. 

Linked In.
Get a Linked In account and update it to include everything you have done, places you have worked and get people to endorse you and write comments and recommendations about you. It's a valuable tool, and I can't tell you how useful it has been for me. 

Who do you know?

The way I got my job was by going to a bar for a drink with someone I didn't know that well (my hairdresser). I thought "sod it" and went for that drink. While I was out, I met a friend of hers who happened to work in the agency I work in now. Connections. If you have any, use them. If you don't have any, think who might have them. 

Once you have a lead, don't let go. 

After my drink, I sent my CV and an email to this lady who worked in advertising in London. She didn't respond. I waited, and waited. Instead of taking this silence as a "no" I called my hairdresser to get her to chase. I heard back with bad news - there were no jobs going. Instead of giving up then, I hounded her for any other names or people or contacts I could have to send my CV on to. She sent me a few names. 

Point being, people are busy at work. You need to get on their case and be the annoying one who just wont go away.

Be flexible.

Being busy myself with my job, I know what it's like to completely forget about a meeting you have, or have a deadline to work to. Cancellation of meetings and appointments happens. Don't be discouraged - just be around and on call whenever they snap their fingers. 

I had to come to London to have my interview, and when I got there the interview was cancelled. I had to go back to where I was staying and wait. I had a concert to go to, but when they called me at 7am asking if I could come in in half an hour I said yes. I was late for my concert, rushed and stressed, but I got there, and I got the job. 

Be realistic.

I would have loved to have a job near my friends and family. I lived in Chester. I had a decision to make - move to London and take the job, or stay where I was. I knew an opportunity like this wouldn't come along again so I took it. Sometimes we can't have it all, and we have to make sacrifices to get what we want. As it happens, 5 years on I have a great boyfriend and lots of friends here, so these things have a habit of turning out OK. 

Be willing. 

I started out as a Personal Assistant. This means getting coffee, photocopying and running errands. Be willing to get your hands dirty. It doesn't stop - as we move up, we all have to muck in, and the most popular people are the ones who don't mind pitching in and helping out when it gets busy. 


The best thing and worst thing about a company can be the people. They can help you out, or they can slow you down. A few smiles, coffees, favours and a sunny disposition goes a long way - your colleagues remember if you were the one who stepped in when they were in need. If you can help someone, do it. My Mum always used to say "be nice to those around you on the way up, because you'll meet them on the way down". I find the best way to peoples' hearts is to bake a batch of these bad boys

Have an opinion.
Read up about what is going on in the world of advertising. Look at Campaign or Marketing Week and of course watch TV to keep abreast of what's happening. You will learn as you go about process and how things work, but having something to say will get you noticed. Don't get too gobby though - no one likes a smart ass! Sometimes listening is the best tool too. 

Any other questions I'd be happy to help anyone who wants to know more! 

Monday, 11 March 2013

Baked Amaretti, White Chocolate and Coconut Cheesecake

For a wonderfully decadent baked New York style cheesecake, we decided to try adding a bit of extra jazz with Amaretti biscuits, white chocolate and creamy coconut. 

Use any baked New York style cheesecake recipe you like, but for ours we used:

For the base:
5 digestive biscuits
10 Amaretti biscuits
200g Melted butter

For the cake: 
900g of Philadelphia
4 eggs
120 ml double cream, whipped to very light consistency
Splash Disaronno almond liqueur 
Creamed coconut to taste 
White chocolate, cut into small chunks

Preheat your oven to around 190-200 degrees.
Crush the biscuits, and mix with the melted butter to make the base. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a spring form cheesecake pan and put to one side. 

Whip up your double cream so it's slightly stiff but still very light. You want it to be the consistency of thick sour cream. 

Add in your Philly and creamed coconut and fold in gently. Beat and add each egg one at a time so it's soft and creamy, but trying to keep in as much of the air as possible from the cream. 

Chop up however much white chocolate you like - we used about half a bar. Stir this into the mixture.

Pour the white cream mix into the dish on top of your biscuit base and pop into the oven for about 40-50 minutes. It should have a slight wobble when it comes out the oven, and it will then set further as it cools. 

Decorate as you see fit, but we used some extra white chocolate melted on top, with flaked almonds, dessicated coconut and crunched up Amaretti biscuits. It might be good with some fresh raspberries too... 

I have yet to try any as I was so full from my dinner... I will update you on how it tastes tonight!

Anyone else have any great cheesecake recipes I can try?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Tournedos Rossini

Ever wonder what to cook for your man, girls? Whether you have been dating for 2 days, 2 months or 2 decades, this meal is guaranteed to have your bloke rolling on his back so you can scratch his tummy. 
I was first introduced to this dish by my Dad at a wonderful restaurant we used to go to in Chester. Unfortunately it's changed hands and since gone quite downhill, but back then this was our go to favourite on the menu. 

To make this beast, you would typically use fillet steak, and technically a proper Tournedos Rossini calls for Foie Gras, but heck it was only a Wednesday night so we had to just make do with plain old sirloin and supermarket pâté. See how I can budget?
So, grab the following: 
2 steaks
1 pack of pâté
2 slices of thick white bread
1 chopped onion, beef stock, red wine and butter for the sauce
Fresh parsley to garnish
Olive oil - drizzle

Pop your oven on to heat up (200 degrees should do it).

Make your mushroom sauce first. Gently melt a good load of butter into a pan and fry the chopped onions until they are soft and sweet. Slice the mushrooms thinly and fry up (add more butter to loosen up if necessary). 
Once they are soft, add in enough wine to cover the mushrooms, the beef stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce so there is still liquid in the pan and the alcohol taste is no longer there and set to one side.

Then you make your croutons by cutting out a circle or shape from the bread (I used a little heart bowl to make mine). Brush with a little olive oil to help them crisp up. They go in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden while you cook your steak. 

Pan fry your steaks in a little more butter (healthy I know...), season and then take off the heat to rest a little. 

Once cooked, pull out your croutons from the oven and spread thickly with lashings of pâté. 

Cute eh? Little meaty pink hearts. So, whack some heat through the sauce to get it piping, and now it's time for stacking!
Place your steak on top of the pâté-covered crouton and place all the delicious mushroomy beefy sauce over the top. Sprinkle with a little fresh parsley et voilà! 

I served ours with creamy Dauphinoise potatoes and spinach, but do experiment - chips would probably be amazing too. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Morgan M

This weekend my parents were in town, and that means being taken out for an amazing meal, and amazing this place was...
Morgan M, a fine French eatery is a bright little place in the heart of Smithfield. Bleach-blonde wood floors, spotlights and fresh cream paint on the walls, this place is modern but not too cutting edge. 
The maître d' was a little bit pretentious and could have done with smiling more, but the other waitresses were extremely pleasant and genuine and made us feel completely at ease. 
We began with some delicious peach champagne aperitifs... 

We were served our amuse-bouche of tiny cauliflower florets in a silky bath of cauliflower soup (poured for us from dainty silver jugs). 

 My poor Dad hurt his hand a few weeks ago, so he was sporting the suave sling look. Lucky it didn't affect his paying arm...

My sister opted for the chunky Game Terrine with Pickled Vegetables, Apple Chutney and Toasted Pain Poilâne. 

The Ravioli of Snails in Chablis, Garlic Froth and Red Wine Jus entertained Dad's taste buds...

But this, this has to be one of the best starters I have ever eaten. Crayfish and Lobster Cannelloni with Tarragon,  Jerusalem Artichoke Soubise (an onion, butter and beef broth) and Shellfish 'Cappuccino'. Bursting with flavour, yet so light and beautifully balanced this was a favourite on the table. If you go to Morgan M, go soon and have this.

There were probably some other starters going on, but honestly I was so consumed with the exquisite splendour of my own creation that I didn't notice until everything was licked clean from my plate.
I was wetting myself with excitement when the main courses came,  because the only shortcoming of my divine little starter was that it was just that... too little! It was cruel to give me such a sensible portion with no promise of more. 
Quite lucky really then that my main course was almost, almost as good as its predecessor. 
Pave of Turbot 'au lait', Poêlée of Crêpes and Trompette, Mushroom Raviolo, Fondu of Leeks and Noilly Prat Sauce (which is made from a type of vermouth of the same name). 

This dish was delicate, buttery and an extremely subtle blend of flavours. Truly magical food.

They gave us a slight variation from the menu, as game season is over (apparently!) So Tomasz was served Oven-Roasted Rabbit, brushed with Liver and Chestnut, the leg braised with Raisins, Glazed Pear and Bread Sauce, with amusing bows of spinach leaves to smarten the dish up even more. 

My Mum had the Pot Roasted Fillet of Beef, Cream of Parsley Root, Pomme Poivre and Red Wine Jus. I didn't get to try this one, but I was assured of it's quality from the yummy noises coming from the other end of the table.

The only teensie negative thing I might say is that we were obliged to order our pudding with our starter and main course. As this is not usual protocol I found it a little pushy and it flustered me a little (oh how hard done by I am!) So I ended up choosing something I might not have had I been able to peruse at my leisure after my meal. 
We were offered gorgeous little Piña Colada pre-desserts (I never thought I'd use that word, but what a wonderful concept). 
Brandy-Snap Cones full of Rice Pudding, topped with scoops of Coconut Sorbet and bathed in ice cold Pineapple Syrup. Delightful.

And to end, the Blueberry and Pistachio Soufflé with Blueberry Sorbet and a Pistachio Crème Anglaise. Although it looked like a work of art, and with a perfect texture, I wasn't keen on the flavour of this unfortunately. Everyone else had cheese selections, but if I had my time again I would be inclined to try their Roasted Banana with Salted Caramel. 

Still, the meal was sublime. Sometimes a little frostiness from the maître d', but exceptional food that I cannot recommend enough. I will not tell you how much the bill came to, but let's not call it cheap...

Their website is here. Book on pay day, enjoy the food for one night only and hang the cost. Life is for the living. 

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