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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Le Boudin Blanc, Mayfair

Tucked away in the intimate Shepherd Market area of Mayfair is the cosy and bustling Boudin Blanc. Our family will be spread across the world this year; India, Poland, London and Holland so we had our Christmas meal a little early. Noisy, romantic and warm, this place is a firm favourite of ours, and deservedly so. 

Hailed by the press as a little piece of Paris in London, Le Boudin Blanc's food is really special. It's hearty yet refined, so despite being on the expensive side you come away feeling satisfied and suitably fuzzy! We started with escargots de Bourgogne persill√©s - snails in garlic butter - and a rather entertaining moment watching Kate trying one of Ben's Jersey oysters for the first time! Served with fresh lemon juice and Tabasco, they're an acquired taste. 


The Cornish crab meat with mayonnaise, spring onions and cucumber was creamy and fresh, and the wild mushroom risotto with truffle cream and parmesan shavings superb and earthy. Served with lots of freshly baked bread, we set about trading taster bites. 

We're a family big on our meat; we enjoyed succulent and rare 8oz fillet steaks, grilled and served with a tangy and smooth b√©rnaise, and lots of garlic butter and wilted spinach. We also tried a braised lamb shank with dauphinoise potatoes, mushrooms, onions and lardons which was tender and falling off the bone.  

The steamed sea bream fillet was butter soft, cooked to perfection and drizzled with a light ginger butter sauce, The fat and juicy cod cheek came with an unusual mushroom mousse and a decadent and rich lobster bisque sauce. Beautiful. 

The waiters were brilliantly attentive (perhaps a tiny bit pretentious, but it's Mayfair - we'll allow it). We shared dishes of crisp and fluffy frites, melt-in-the-mouth spinach and sprouts jazzed up with bacon and lashings of butter. We drank a fresh and dry 2012 Sancerre 'La Croix du Roy' wine which was delightful, and fast becoming one of my favourites - at £53 a bottle - eep! We managed to put away a few during the night - it was going down very easily. 

After such a lot of food Kate had to twist my arm (well, only a little) to share the hot chocolate fondant with praline ice cream and caramelised hazelnut dust. It was wonderful - just the right amount of bitterness, and nice and oozy in the middle. 

Full of Christmas spirit (and a double Baileys, Amaretto on the rocks, and couple of Jack Daniels) we waddled back home to open our presents and another couple of bottles of wine. 

Le Boudin Blanc's website is here. Book a table, this place is popular and is understandably busy.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Arabian Nights

For the Christmas party season we were transported to an Arabian paradise. Dripping in beads, belly dancers and bucking rodeo camels we partied the night away in style. The events company had pulled a blinder - we were surrounded by colour, glitter and even a genie if you could find the lamp... 

Images supplied by events company

Temptresses shook their hips and swayed to the music holding live snakes (I didn't touch). Thick red and gold carpets and tented ceilings added to the atmosphere, and trays of tinkering glasses made their way through the crowds, balanced expertly on waitresses heads. 

We were told to don our own costumes of silks, sequins and saris... some people got quite creative, naturally.

Miniature Moroccan masterpieces were served on giant silver platters - lamb and herb meatballs with fluffy couscous and tagine baked vegetables, and a falafel version for the veggies.

We were treated to a spectacular show of exotic dancing and sword swallowing. The way their bodies bent was incredible, and enough to make you want to start yoga! The beautiful ladies gracefully twisted and turned, grabbing the shy ones from the audience to dance with them. 

The evening descended into debauchery, naturally but I managed to slip away before the doors of the magic cave closed. A fantastic celebration of 2014... 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Chocolate & Orange Torte

If you're looking for a decadent Christmas showstopper to take to the in-laws, I'll show you how to whip up this rich torte in 10 minutes. About an hour in the oven and you've got a rich, gooey treat to impress, finished with a dusting of icing sugar, a scatter of toasted nuts and even some holly if you've got it. Why not?

To make you'll need:
250g (9oz) caster sugar
250g (9oz) butter
250g (9oz) chocolate (dark is best)
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tin drained manderins
2 tbsp self raising flour
4 eggs
Zest of 3 oranges
Icing sugar, cocoa to dust & toasted hazelnuts 

Preheat your oven to a low heat - around gas mark 3 or 4 (about 150 degrees). 
Gently heat the chocolate, mandarins, butter, sugar, zest and cocoa powder in a pan until the mix is all melted. Make sure it's nice and smooth by squashing the mandarins up against the sides. 

Gently whisk in the flour, and add one egg at a time while still beating. The mixture will thicken up and go nice and glossy. 

Grease and dust a large flan tin with cocoa and pour in your mix. 
To bake, sit it in a large roasting pan and fill with water up to 1 cm below the lip of the flan tin. Cooking with this 'bain-marie' method will half steam half bake your torte and keep it nice and moist. Pop in the oven for 50 minutes and check on it - you want it to be firm, but spongy on the top. Mine needed just over an hour because our oven's a bit crap. 

Whip your torte out the oven and let it sit and cool - don't worry if it's a bit wobbly; as the butter and chocolate sets it will get firmer. It should be a bit squidgy in the middle though - that's the best bit! 


Once your torte has cooled, slice it up and serve with a scatter of toasted hazelnuts, a dusting of icing sugar and a drizzle of cream. Yum.

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