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The weather in London is beautiful at the moment so it meant a lovely walk this evening to Berkley Square and to Bocconcino Restaurant.  Bocconcino had invited us for a complimentary meal to try their Italian fare and ,as that’s my favourite cuisine I was very excited! I love Mediterranean flavours and fresh seafood and Bocconcino Restaurant promised it all.

As we arrived the first thing that stood out was the beautiful flower display outside.

I love a flower wall!

We walked in, were greeted and shown to our table down the spiral staircase.  Bocconcino restaurant is light and airy with lots of exposed brickwork.  It’s  very modern, yet cosy at the same time.

We sat down, took a look at the menu and the sommelier came over and asked our wine preferences.  We were ordering a lot of seafood so we decided to go with a white tonight.  He selected a bottle of Ca’Rugate, San Michele, Soave Classico from Veneto, 2018 (£ 12) for us to complement the food we had picked.

For starters we had decided on three to share between us.  We’d chosen the Salmon Tartare, the Seared Tuna and the Burrata

The Burrata (£ 16) was served with fresh cherry tomatoes and was everything I’d hoped it would be.  Gooey and creamy and it paired perfectly with the acidity of the tomatoes and the saltiness of the pesto.  Next up was the Seared tuna with avocado and spicy tomato (£ 17).  This was probably my least favourite dish of the three.  The tuna was cooked perfectly but the spicy tomato sauce completely overpowered the delicate flavour.  We ended up finishing the dish without the sauce which meant we could really taste the freshness of the tuna and the creaminess of the avocado.

Finally, the salmon tartare (£ 23), which was in fact, salmon and crab and fish roe, all served in avocado halves, topped with the yolk of a quail’s egg.  I loved the mix of flavours in this dish.  From the delicate crab to the rich egg yolk, to the creamy avocado ,to the salty pop of the caviar, everything was delicious.  Not a cheap starter at £23 but worth it for the flavours and ingredients which were so incredibly fresh.

Next up was the main course.  Dan had gone for pasta and had chose the Linguine alle Vongole.  Not being able to eat pasta, and deciding to be adventurous I had gone for one of the house specialities.  I love octopus and this one sounded delicious as it was served with braised escarole, olives and pine nuts (£ 30).  And wow – was it a special dish.  Firstly it was enormous and secondly it was so tasty!  They certainly don’t scrimp on the portions here.  In fact it was so huge, Dan had to help me finish it.  The octopus was so tender and I loved the crispiness of the ends of the tentacles.  The olives  and vegetables were the perfect accompaniment and it’s definitely a dish I would order again.  It was the perfect summer evening meal!

Dan’s Linguine alle Vongole (£ 24) was actually billed as a Primi course – (Italians usually eat a starter, then a primi, then a main course, then dessert!)  Because of this he thought that it might be a small portion but he needn’t have worried. The linguine came out loaded with cherry tomatoes and clams and plenty of garlic.  He said the pasta was definitely fresh and cooked perfectly al-dente.  Another great summery dish that he managed to finish completely (and then help me with the octopus!)

Then it was time for dessert.  I really wasn’t hungry in the slightest but I can never resist a cheese board (£ 15) when there’s one on the menu.  Maybe I should have!! This again was enormous – 5 different Italian cheeses along with grapes, honey and crackers.  The cheeses were Gorgonzola, Taleggio, Pecorino, Truffled Pecorino and Robiola.  Top tip – the Gorgonzola and the Truffled Pecorino were the stand outs!  I also had to order a glass of delicious Nebbiolo to go with it because you have to have a glass of red wine with a  cheese board!

Dan shocked both of us by choosing the Millefoglie (£ 9).  He normally doesn’t eat dessert or like sweet things very much but he said he just fancied a dessert tonight.  This was pastry filled with a creme patissiere, chocolate and hazelnuts and for a guy that doesn’t like sweet things he had no problem polishing off the lot – and then helping with the cheese too!

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This time of year there are so many beautiful squashes around and squash is so versatile.  I love courgettes (zucchini) and usually use them as courgetti instead of pasta in most dishes.  I like to roast butternut squash and use it in dishes like my Chorizo & Butternut Squash Frittata.  You can use them in salads, bake them, roast them and they all bring something different to a meal.  Today I’d decided to do a Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Gremolata as a summery and meat-free alternative to something like a Lasagne or Melanzane Parmigiana.  It has very similar flavours but cooked in a much lighter way.

To make the Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Gremolata you need to preheat the oven to 200C (400F).  Next, you slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds.  (You can discard these or save them for later and roast them with some salt and spices!)

Then, rub one teaspoon of the olive oil all over the flesh of half of the spaghetti squash. Repeat with the other half and pop them into the oven on a baking tray, skin side up.  Roast them for 30 mins and then flip so the flesh side is facing up and roast for a further 15 mins until soft inside.

While the spaghetti squash is roasting you can make the Gremolata.  Add the parsley, garlic clove, lemon zest and 1 tbsp lemon juice to a food processor. Add the oil, bit by bit and blend until you have a smooth paste adding more or less oil as necessary until you have the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now that you have all the elements prepared it’s time to assemble the dish. Dice the cherry tomatoes and add to the lentils along with half of the gremolata. Mix and season well with plenty of salt and pepper and spoon into the spaghetti squash. If you like a bit of spice you could also add some chilli flakes or fresh chilli to the sauce.

Finally, drizzle the remaining gremolata over the top and sprinkle on the grated parmesan.  Return the spaghetti squash halves to the oven to warm through until the cheese starts to brown (around 10 mins).

When you dig into this dish you’ll find the flesh comes away in strands, a bit like spaghetti (hence the name).  This makes this dish almost like a pasta dish with sauce so it’s perfect for a summery evening meal.  I served mine with some roasted vine cherry tomatoes but you could serve with a salad or some garlic bread?

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Gremolata
Servings2 people
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Ingredients
For The Gremolata
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).
  2. Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthways. Scoop out and discard the seeds.
  3. Rub one teaspoon of the olive oil all over the flesh of half of the spaghetti squash. Repeat with the other half.
  4. Roast skin side up for 30 mins, then flip so the flesh side is facing up and roast for a further 15 mins until soft.
To Make the Gremolata
  1. Add the parsley, garlic clove, lemon zest, 1 tbsp lemon juice and the olive oil to a food processor.
  2. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Assemble the dish
  1. Dice the cherry tomatoes and add to the lentils along with half of the gremolata. Mix and season well with plenty of salt and pepper and spoon into the spaghetti squash.
  2. Drizzle the remaining gremolata over the top and sprinkle on the grated parmesan.
  3. Return to the oven to warm through until the cheese starts to brown (around 10 mins).
Dietary & Allergy Information for Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Gremolata

This Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Gremolata recipe is Grain-Free, Gluten-Free  & Refined-Sugar Free.  Also suitable for Paleo, Low Carb & Vegetarian diets.

See my Products Page for Ingredients & Bakeware that I recommend.

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Emma Eats & Explores by Emmaeatsandexplores - 1M ago

It was a beautiful summer’s evening as Dan and I strolled to Marylebone.  We’d been invited for a complimentary meal at Fancy Crab to taste the food and we’d come hungry!  We walked up and well, we couldn’t miss it.

I loved the decor outside so whimsical and playful.  It was like going for dinner on the set of the Little Mermaid!  We went in and were greeted warmly and shown to our table by the window.

We decided to get some drinks while we looked over the Fancy Crab menu and decided what to order.  I went for the Royale Fancy (£12), which promised to be a delicious twist on the classic Pimm’s.  It was made from Gin, Antica Formula and Champagne.  Dan went for the G&T option as he ordered a Hendrick’s & Tonic.  A much manlier drink than the gorgeous cocktail I was presented with!

Looking at the menu there was so much choice.  Fancy Crab offers seafood galore and even some meat options too – we were spoilt for choice!

We decided to start with a couple of appetisers while we decided what else to order.  Dan opted for the King Crab Bon Bons with Tomato Marmalade (£12)  and I chose the Guacamole (£6.50) with added King Crab (£ 5.50) -obviously.

The crab Bon Bons were so beautifully presented!  Crispy on the outside and absolutely stuffed full of crab, Dan said that they melted in the mouth and tasted delicious.  The tomato marmalade was also the perfect level of sweetness to compliment the crab without overpowering its delicate flavour.

The guacamole said that it was made with smoke infused avocado which sounded so intriguing that I had to try it.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any smokiness in the avocado and there was just the teeny tiniest bit of crab in the dish so this was probably my least favourite plate of the evening.  Next time I’d probably opt for the Lobster Claw instead!!

After our appetisers we decided to order a bottle of wine.  We chose the Maggio Chardonnay from Oak Ridge Winery (£37).  It was a Napa Valley Chardonnay from 2016 and the perfect accompaniment to the food we had decided to order next!  Slightly oaky and buttery but still with enough crisp freshness, it was delicious when paired with the seafood sharing platter we had opted for.
Fancy Crab offer 4 different types of seafood platter but we chose the Premium Platter (£36).  The Grand Platter and the Deluxe Platter seemed like too much as we wanted main courses too and the House Platter didn’t have oysters (my fave) so the Premium Platter was perfect.
When it arrived – WOW!  The huge platter was delivered to our table and then water was poured over the dry ice.  The whole thing began to smoke!  What a spectacle – they sure know how to deliver a seafood platter at Fancy Crab!

The Premium Platter contained Mussels, Crab Claws, Clams, Tiger Prawns, Shell-on Atlantic Prawns, Scallop Ceviche, Octopus Carpaccio and those – oh so delicious – oysters.  We were in heaven!  Tucking into our seafood and Chardonnay was such a treat!  The oysters were my favourite closely followed by the Tiger Prawns, so meaty and fresh!
Next up we’d ordered main courses and still had some room left for them!  Dan had gone with the Singapore Chilli Crab (£28).  Well, when at Fancy Crab, it makes sense to try the crab!  I’d opted for a lighter dish of Pan Fried Cod (£20).  My cod was beautifully cooked.  It was meaty and juicy and came with a rich Jerusalem artichoke puree and a light, fresh sauce vierge.  The sides provided the perfect balance of buttery earthiness and crisp acidity!  It was absolutely delicious!
Dab’s Chilli Crab was both sweet and spicy.  The King Crab meat was cooked with chilli, garlic, lime and spring onions and served with some rice is was a tasty, hearty dish!

By that point I was so full but when Dan suggested sharing the Cheese Plate I suddenly found a bit more space.   The perfect end to a delicious meal.  The cheese platter consisted 4 different types of cheese, including my favourite (goat’s cheese). Each cheese was a stark contrast to the others and we polished off the platter with no trouble!  Guess I hadn’t been that full after all!

We had a really lovely time at Fancy Crab and I’ll definitely be back – I’ve got my eye on that Deluxe Platter!

I was invited for a complimentary meal at Fancy Crab in exchange for a blog post, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Fancy Crab

92 Wigmore St

London

W1U 3RD

0203 096 9484

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Emma Eats & Explores by Emmaeatsandexplores - 2M ago

NYC has been top of my bucket list for a long time.  Last year, Dan surprised me with a trip there for my Christmas present and straight away I set about planning the most amazing holiday!  5 days seemed like a long time for a city break but we soon found out that it wasn’t enough time to even scratch the surface of this amazingly, vibrant city.

One of the best ways to see a city is from up high.  You can really get a feel for the layout of a place when you can see it all beneath you.  Because of this I hunted down recommendations for all the best views of New York City.  Having never been before I knew that I wanted to do all the usual touristy things.  Think Central Park, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty etc.  Dan who had been before had different ideas!  He’d already done the Empire State Building and wasn’t keen to do it again.  So for the best vantage point we settled on Top of The Rock!

Top of The Rock

This is the viewing platform on the top-level of Rockefeller Center.  We had been offered City Passes by the New York Tourist Board and this was one of the attractions included in the Pass price.  They suggest booking your time in advance so we headed on over to Rockefeller Plaza for our allotted time slot.  I actually think this is better than heading up the Empire State Building for one main reason.  You can see the Empire State Building from it.  It’s such an iconic part of the New York Skyline that you can’t really appreciate when you’re standing on top of it.

There are three levels when you get to the top.  The first is an all enclosed level with huge windows to look out over the skyline.

The next floor up is out in the open air with huge glass surroundings and the third level is completely open.  There are telescopes all around the edges so you can zoom in on your favourite attractions and you really can see the whole of the city from up there!  Don’t forget to take a photo or two!

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

This was another touristy must-see that I had on my list.  Again, it was included in our City Pass and we headed down to the southernmost tip of Manhattan Island to catch the boat.  We sailed with Statue Cruises and picked up the ferry from Battery Park.  It really was incredible to look back on New York as we pulled out of the harbour and see it grow smaller and smaller in the distance.

There are plenty of ticket options depending on whether you want to stop off at the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island – or both.  You can also purchase tickets that allow you to go to the top of the Statue and look out of her crown.  We got the ferry quite late in the day and so didn’t have time to stop off but it was a lovely cruise to do anyway and of course, the views of New York were stunning!

The Highline

The Highline is a re-purposed disused freight railway set above New York City.  It was saved from demolition and has now been turned into a public park.  As you wander along the length of it there are food and coffee vendors, lots of street art displays and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the views.  Being a few stories up above the City gives you a totally different view than being at ground level.  You can peer into windows and watch the traffic flow underneath you.  It feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city beneath you.

It’s well worth a couple of hours wandering through the Meat Packing District high above the city. 

A Helicopter flight over the City and the Empire State Building

This one was a bit more extravagant but there really is not better way to see the city.  Up high in a helicopter really does give you one of the best views of New York City.  You’ve got to work for it though! We had to get the train out to Westchester (a northern suburb) for about an hour to get to the heliport.  We flew with Wings Air and they made everything so easy. I’d booked a sunset flight as I thought that would be the most beautiful time to see the city.  I wasn’t wrong…

We turned up and within 10 minutes we were walking out onto the tarmac.  A few photo opportunities later and we were in the helicopter.

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I love this dish! It has all the flavours of a delicious Italian pasta dish with none of the pasta.  Plus it’s grainfree, glutenfree and refined sugarfree!  Watch out when ordering it in at a restaurant though as sometimes they mix in breadcrumbs to the cheese layer or they breadcrumb the aubergines before cooking them.  Rather than take the risk I like to make my own and then I know exactly what’s gone into it. And in the case of this Melanzane Parmigiana, it’s extra extra extra cheese – three types to be exact!

So why three different types of cheese.  Apart from the fact that cheese is one of the best food groups ever that you can never have enough of, there is more to it.  The Parmesan provides the strong cheesy flavour, the ricotta gives a creaminess and the mozzarella melts and gives that delicious stringy cheese which is so prevalent Italian cooking.

So how do you go about making the Melanzana Parmigiana?  There are quite a few steps to this recipe.  First you need to make the tomato sauce.  You can bypass this step and buy a pre-made tomato sauce but it’s so much nicer when it’s homemade.

Start by dicing the onions and slicing or crushing the garlic.  Cook these in a saucepan on a medium heat with half a tablespoon of the olive oil until they are softened and browning.  Then you add the tinned tomatoes, oregano and plenty of salt and pepper to season.  Allow the tomato sauce to simmer slowly on the stove, (preferably for about an hour to infuse and concentrate all the flavours) until you are ready to assemble the Melanzane Parmigiana.

The next job is to cook the aubergines (eggplants).  Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Slice them into rounds about 1/2 cm thick and arrange on baking sheets.  Brush each piece with some oil (it will all soak in but don’t worry) and season well with salt and pepper.  Pop into the oven for around 6-8 minutes and then flip each slice over.  Brush the other side with oil and cook again for another few minutes on the other side. You want them to be softened and browning but not falling apart.

You should have lots of aubergine slices, so depending on how many baking trays you have you will need to repeat these steps quite a few times until all the slices are cooked.  Once the aubergines are softened and browned, place them on a plate in layers with a piece of kitchen roll in-between each layer to soak up some of the oil.

Meanwhile you can prepare for the final assembly by grating the parmesan and slicing the mozzarella.  Mix 1/2 of the grated Parmesan into the ricotta and keep the other half separate.  Then you’re ready to start assembling the Melanzane Parmigiana.  You need to arrange the various ingredients in layers like you would for a lasagne.

Start with a layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish and then add a layer of the cooked aubergine slices.  Top with a layer of the ricotta Parmesan mixture.  Then more tomatoes, more aubergines and this time a layer of the mozzarella slices.  Then repeat the whole thing so that you end up with mozzarella on the top.

Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and pop the whole dish into the oven for around 30-40 minutes until the cheese on the top is melted and bubbling!  Serve while it’s piping hot with a side of salad!

This is such a great dinner party dish which is why I make it in such huge portions.  Also it freezes amazingly well so it’s a great one to make more than you need and freeze the extra portions for another night.

Three Cheese Melanzane Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)
Servings12 people
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
To make the Tomato Sauce
  1. Dice the onions, slice the garlic and cook in a saucepan on a medium heat with 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil until they are soft and translucent.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes, oregano and season well with plenty of salt and pepper.
  3. Allow to simmer on a low heat until you are ready to put the dish together (preferably for around an hour).
Cook the Aubergines
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
  2. Slice the aubergines into rounds about 1/2 cm thick and arrange in a layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Brush each slice with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake in the oven for around 6-8 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, flip each slice over, brush with oil and season again.
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I love a Margarita but traditionally they’re filled with so much sugar that there’s NO WAY I could enjoy them before.  With Cinco de Mayo coming up I decided that I didn’t want to miss out celebrating with a delicious Margarita again this year!  I knew I had to create my own version that was refined-sugar free so I set about attempting it with honey as a sweetener.  (This Mezcal Margarita also works well with Agave Syrup if you can tolerate it!)  This version has no refined sugar in it so you can enjoy (responsibly of course :P) to your hearts desire.

I used Mezcal in this Sugarfree Margarita as it has a slightly smokey taste that you don’t get with traditional tequila.  It is still made from the Agave Plant like traditional Tequila but it undergoes an extra step.  The agave plant is heated and cooked slowly in a charcoal pit over a number of days to impart the smoky flavour into the Mezcal.  I think it goes really well in this cocktail and you can really taste the smokiness in the final Mezcal Margarita.  If you don’t have any Mezcal you can always just use traditional Tequila though!

I also like the fact that the salt is incorporated into the drink rather than just stuck around the rim.  It means that you don’t get one really salty sip at the beginning and then have to keep turning the glass round to continue to get salt for the rest of the drink.  It’s infused throughout the whole drink so the flavour is always the same.

So how to make it.  Start by squeezing the limes., You need equal parts fresh lime juice to Mezcal.  Add to a cocktail shaker with the salt and honey and stir to dissolve the honey.  If you add ice at this stage the drink will be too cold to dissolve the honey and it will all clump together.

Once the honey is dissolved, add plenty of ice cubes to the cocktail shaker and shake well.

Taste to see whether you need to add more salt or not at this point.  Pour into a short glass, neat – or over more ice depending on your preference. Garnish with a wedge of lime and serve!

This is the perfect balance of salt and sweet and is really refreshing.  The perfect summer cocktail with no refined-sugar!  Serve alongside some Salsa and Crackers, a big bowl of Guacamole or my Chicken Fajita Lettuce Wraps for a proper Mexican Fiesta!  It’s great made in advance too so you can make a huge jug of it for a party and then just pour it into glasses over ice as needed!

If Sugarfree Cocktails are your thing, check out my SugarFree Cocktail Round-Up for more ideas!

Mezcal Margarita
Servings2 people
Prep Time5 minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Squeeze the lime juice into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add the Mezcal/Tequila, salt, and honey. Stir well to dissolve the honey.
  3. Add a few ice cubes and shake well.
  4. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
  5. Pour into a glass over ice cubes or neat depending on personal preference
  6. Garnish with a slice of lime and Enjoy!
Dietary & Allergy Information for Mezcal Margarita

This Mezcal Margarita is suitable for the following diets:

Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Refined-Sugar Free, Dairy-Free, Paleo, Primal, Specific Carbohydrate Diet – SCD, Vegetarian & Vegan.

See my Products Page for Ingredients & Bakeware that I recommend

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Easter is around the corner and the shops are full of chocolate eggs, bunnies and hot cross buns.  It’s a sugar-overload everywhere you look!  So what can you treat yourself with at Easter if you can’t tolerate refined-sugars?  Look no further as I have some fantastic suggestions for you to have a Sugar-Free Easter!

Hot Cross Bun Muffins

Easter wouldn’t be the same without a toasted Hot Cross Bun, slathered with butter at tea time.  I didn’t want to miss out this year and the regular ones are full of refined flour and sugar so I came up with this alternative recipe.  Perfect for a Sugar-Free  Easter, the only sweetener in them is honey and the sultanas!  And the extra bonus is that they’re grain, gluten and dairy free too and even suitable for SCD and Paleo Diets!  Now you can have your ‘Bun’ and eat it too!!

OCTO Chocolate

OCTO Chocolate is a fabulous new brand (only 6 months old) that is making organic, raw, vegan chocolate.  I recently came across them at a trade fair I was at and they provided me with some samples to taste.  The only sweetener is coconut blossom sugar and the cocoa beans are ground by huge rollers, not heated to high temperature, to preserve the rawness!  Dairy free as well, this is natural chocolate production at it’s finest, and the taste is out of this world.  They come beautifully packaged in chic, white, black and gold packing with airtight bags inside to retain their freshness.  They really do look like an exclusive luxury product and opening each one is a treat!

And, with no refined-sugar in sight, this is one treat you can enjoy guilt-free.  They do chocolate covered nuts and fruit as well as whole bars of chocolate with amazing ingredients so there is plenty of choice.  My  personal favourite are the Cashews coated in Raw Coconut Chocolate and the White Bar with Pistachios and Salt.  The chocolate doesn’t look white but it tastes creamy and vanillary, just like white chocolate.  It’s creamy and delicious and melt in your mouth and you’d never know it was a healthier version.

And the chocolate bars themselves are a work of art!  Just look how beautiful their  Raw Chocolate with Goji Berries & Cocoa Nibs bar is.

You can buy OCTO Chocolate online on their website via this link or it’s available in Harrods!  It’s definitely worth treating yourself to a box or bar (or two!)

See my Shop Page for more products that I recommend!

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder

Easter lunch in our house is always Lamb and this Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder is the perfect recipe.  With Rosemary and Garlic it’s incredibly tasty and so easy to make.  Once it’s prepped (10 mins or so) you can just put it in the oven and forget about it for a couple of hours!  Plenty of time to go hunting for Easter Eggs before lunch is ready!  Crispy on the outside and so tender inside that you barely need a knife to cut it, it just falls off the bone.  It really will make a show stopping centre-piece to your Easter Table.  Serve it with Honey Roasted Carrots or Cauliflower Mash for a traditional Sunday Roast Lunch!

Coconut Ice

If you’re desperate for something incredibly sweet this Coconut Ice will be the highlight of your Sugar-Free Easter.  It tastes so sugary but again, the only sweetener is honey meaning you can indulge away.  Made with only 3-ingredients it will give you the sugar fix you’re after without all the nasties!

Chocolate Brownies

Made with Cacao, you can still have your chocolate fix with these delicious Healthy Chocolate Brownies!  They’re made with nut butter, honey and are just as gooey and fudgey as the real deal!  You definitely wont feel like you’re missing out when you have one of these!

So there you go – just a few tips for having a Refined Sugar-Free Easter!  Hopefully you’ll get all the deliciousness and indulgence that we all crave at Easter without having to eat refined sugars!  Enjoy and Happy Easter!

See my Products Page for Ingredients & Bakeware that I recommend

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Stocking up on wine for a party or a wedding…or just because?  A wine trip to Calais is definitely worth doing if you are purchasing a significant amount.  Dan and I are getting ready for our wedding at the end of August and with 200 guests we’re going to need a lot of wine!

Having done wine courses before, we know what we like and what we want to serve to our guests.  With the tax and duty that is levied on wine when it comes across the Channel you can save at least £4 per bottle compared to UK prices!  This meant a huge saving overall on the amount we would be needing for the wedding so we headed over to Calais in a three-car convoy to do some shopping.  A family booze cruise was underway…

Getting there

Now if you’re off to Calais to stock up on wine you’re probably taking a van or a car so you have two travel options…Le shuttle or a ferry.

The Ferry This takes about 2 hours and departs from Dover.  The bonus is that if its a nice day you can sit outside while sailing across the channel.  Also there are restaurants and bars on board as well as duty free and other shops.

Le Shuttle (EuroTunnel) – This is the train that runs under the channel and takes cars / vans / lorries etc, departing from Folkestone.  It’s a much faster option at 35 minutes from start to finish and the trains run every 30 minutes.  They’re also very accommodating if you arrive early, (which we did) and will endeavour to get you on an earlier crossing if there’s space.  Once inside there is nothing to  do but the crossing is so quick that it doesn’t matter.

Some of the wine warehouses in Calais offer to pay your Channel crossing if you commit to spending at least £250 so it’s well worth looking into this if you know you’ll be spending that much.  The Calais Wine Warehouse, Pidou and Majestic all offer this option.  We decided to take Majestic up on their offer and did a lot of pre-tasting at their store in London (they have stores all over the country) of the stock that we knew that they would have in Calais.

We pre-ordered our red from them but they are very flexible.  If you find something you like more, once you’re over in Calais, you can change your order (depending on availability) as long as you still spend the minimum amount to guarantee the free crossing.  It will save you around £50 per car so it’s well worth doing if you know you’ll be buying enough wine.

The Wine Merchants

There are plenty of wine merchants to visit on your wine trip to Calais and we did our research in England on the best ones to go to:

Calais Vins is the closest wine merchant to the Le Shuttle terminal (less than 5 minutes).  It’s a really good stockist of French wines and has a great fine wine section too!  We stopped here first as we’d looked online and seen that they had a great selection of sparkling and white wines.  Feeling pretty comfortable with the red we had chosen from Majestic, our main aim was to hunt down bubbles and whites.  We arrived and were greeted warmly by the owner Jerome.  He took us to the tasting area and asked about our preferences.  We told him out likes/dislikes and our budget and showed him a list of wines we thought would be suitable that we’d seen on the website.

We started with the bubbles and he opened a bottle of the one we had seen and also another that he recommended.  Actually, we ended up going with his recommendation as it was a delicious Crémant, made just a few kilometres outside of the champagne region (A Crémant is a sparkling wine made in the same way as Champagne but doesn’t come from the Champagne region.  A very similar product and much more reasonably priced!)

Next we moved onto the whites and he opened a few bottle that we had suggested and also a couple of his own suggestions.  We felt so welcome and really enjoyed the tastings along with his impressive knowledge of the wines and their producers.  We settled on the white and promised to come back the next day to collect as we didn’t want the wine sitting in the car overnight.

The next day we went back and his colleague Stephane allowed us to taste the wines we had picked again, just to ensure we were still 100% happy with our choices.  I really can’t praise Jerome and Stephane enough for their customer service.  Nothing was too much trouble and they really took to heart our comments and needs.  We’ll be back as we saw they had a great fine wine section too!

That afternoon, we headed to a different area, more like a retail park,  to visit Majestic.  Having already tasted quite a few wines from Majestic in England we were fairly set on the red we wanted.  Walking in they had a tasting table with about 50+ wines open that you could try.  It was more of a ‘help yourself’ affair but there were staff around if you wanted any advice or recommendations.  It was through this tasting table that we found a second white for our wedding (yes we’re serving two whites!  We couldn’t pick and we know that our love of oaky Chardonnays isn’t to everyone’s preference so we’re offering a choice of whites.  A rich oaky one and a lighter, fresher one!)  Without this tasting experience we might never have found the fresh white that we are both huge fans of now.

The Majestic Tasting Table

The tasting table also gave us the opportunity to taste some others that maybe weren’t suitable for the wedding but are definitely suitable for our wine cellar.  We ended up with cases of a white Rioja, a red Rioja Reserva, some rose and a few more bottles for personal consumption!

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Tonight I was in the mood for eggs and we settled on a kind of ‘breakfast for dinner’ type dish.  If you like this kind of idea then my Shakshuka (Moroccan Baked Eggs) is also a great breakfast recipe that I often eat in the evening!  I love frittatas, they’re so easy to make and very quick to cook, they only take about 10 minutes to ‘bake’.  Also, you can add almost anything to them depending on what you have in the fridge that needs using up.  I settled on a Chorizo Butternut Squash Frittata, thinking that the salty, spiciness of the Chorizo would pair well with the earthy, sweetness of the Butternut Squash.

To make the frittata you first need to roast the butternut squash.  You can do this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge to make assembling the frittata faster.  You need to preheat the oven to 200C (390 F) and peel and chop the butternut squash into small squares.  Then, drizzle over the olive oil, season well and roast the butternut squash in the oven for about 30 mins until it is tender and slightly caramelised.

Meanwhile, chop up the chorizo and slice up the onion.  Fry these both in a dry pan on a medium heat (the chorizo will release a lot of oil as it cooks) for 5 minutes until it has cooked and turned a darker colour and the onion has softened.

Then, remove the chorizo and onion pieces from the pan leaving the delicious smoky spicy oil behind to cook the frittata in.  Crack open the eggs into a large bowl, add the yoghurt, paprika and plenty of salt and pepper.  Whisk everything together so that it is all combined.

Turn on the grill at this point so that it is ready to cook the top of the frittata when needed.  Next, heat the chorizo oil back up and pour the egg and yoghurt mixture into the same pan.  Then, you sprinkle in half of the chorizo, onion, butternut squash and thyme and leave to cook for a couple of minutes.  Finally, sprinkle in the other half.  This ensures that everything doesn’t just sink to the bottom and you will have tasty pieces throughout the whole frittata.

Once you have everything in the pan and it has been cooking for 5 mins or so, transfer the entire pan so that it is under the grill which will give the top half of the frittata a chance to cook and brown.  It will also make the frittata puff up and be light and fluffy.  After another 3-4 mins or so the frittata will be set all the way through and ready to eat.

Delicious, warming and comforting and full of flavour this meal is satisfying and full of protein but still very light and healthy.

This Chorizo Butternut Squash Frittata served 4 people, cut into quarters.  I served it with a side salad and some roasted vegetables but would also make a great weekend brunch.  It’s so easy to change-up the flavours to suit your specific tastes as well.  My Cheesy Courgette(Zucchini) Frittata Muffins are a great grab and go snack or breakfast idea!   Or you could try smoked salmon and dill or roasted vegetables or ham and cheese – whatever takes your fancy.  Let me know your favourite flavours in the comments section.  I’d love some more inspiration!

Chorizo & Butternut Squash Frittata
Servings4 people
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (390F).
  2. Peel, dice and toss the butternut squash in the olive oil and seasoning.
  3. Roast for about 30 mins in the oven until caramelised and tender.
  4. Chop and fry the onion and chorizo for about 5 mins on a low heat. Remove from the pan, leaving the oil behind.
  5. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, add the yoghurt, smoked paprika, plenty of salt and pepper and whisk well to combine.
  6. Heat the chorizo oil back up in the frying pan and pour the egg mixture into the pan. Meanwhile, preheat the grill.
  7. Sprinkle in half of the cooked chorizo, onion, butternut squash and thyme, cook for about 5 mins and then sprinkle in the other half.
  8. Place the entire pan under the grill to cook and brown the top of the frittata (about 3-4 mins)
  9. When it is set all the way through it is ready to serve.
Allergy & Dietary Information for Chorizo Butternut Squash Frittata

This Chorizo Butternut Squash Frittata is Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, & Refined-Sugar Free.  It’s also suitable for Low Carb, Paleo & SCD Diets.

See my Products Page for Ingredients & Bakeware that I recommend.

Pin Chorizo Butternut Squash Frittata for later
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There’s something about a roast lunch that makes a Sunday so special.  And it’s even better when you can just pop it in the oven, forget about it for hours, spend time with your guests and just take it out when its done.  Previously I’ve done Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Rosemary & Garlic and Slow Roast Lamb Shanks before so I decided to mix things up a bit.  Today we were going spicy with my Indian Spiced Leg of Lamb.  I decided to marinate the leg of lamb in curry paste before cooking it to add an extra flavour element to the dish.

Making the Curry Paste

To start with you need to make the curry paste.  If you’re short on time, you can use a store-bought one but I prefer the freshness of making my own and it really is very easy.  Start by roasting the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are toasted and fragrant.  Crush these toasted seeds in a pestle and mortar until they are finely ground and add them to a food processor.

Next, peel the garlic cloves and fresh ginger and add to the food processor.   Add the roasted peppers (from a jar is fine, unless you want to roast your own), tomato puree, oil, red chilli and greek yoghurt to the food processor aswell.  Finally,  add the spices (the smoked paprika, turmeric, garam masala & salt) and blitz in the food processor until you have a paste.

Prepare the Leg of Lamb

Start by peeling and slicing the onions and arranging them in a layer in the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Score the leg of lamb with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern through the fat layer. Rub your curry paste all over the surface of the lamb, coating it thoroughly.   Finally, place the leg of lamb on top of the layer of onions, cover the dish in foil and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge. (You can skip this step if you don’t have the time and just cook it straight away although I really do think it helps to add more flavour to the meat).

Cooking the Lamb

The next day, preheat the oven to 200C (390F). When the oven is up to temperature, place the foil covered lamb dish inside and turn the temperature down to 140C (280F).  Roast the Indian Spiced Leg Of Lamb for about 6 hours until the meat is tender and falls off the bone.  Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your leg of lamb  but for a leg or shoulder of lamb, a good guide is approximately 1 hour for every 500g.  It’s not an exact science and will depend on the fattiness of the meat, size of the bone etc but if in doubt err on the side of cooking it more rather than less!

To Serve

When your lamb is deliciously tender, remove it  from the oven and sprinkle over the chopped pistachios, pomegranate seeds and chopped fresh mint just before serving.  This adds a bit of freshness and lightens the dish up a bit.   I like to serve this with some Raita (a cucumber and yoghurt sauce), my Lemon & Coriander Cauliflower Rice and my Sweet Potato, Lentil & Goats Cheese Salad.

Slow-Roasted, Indian Spiced Leg of Lamb with Pomegranate, Pistachios & Mint
Servings7-8 people
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time6 hours
Passive Time12 hours
Ingredients
For the Rogan Josh Curry Paste
Toppings
Instructions
Make the Rogan Josh curry paste
  1. Roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a dry frying pan over a medium..

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