New York City

I recently was lucky enough to travel to New York as part of a trip with my local culinary college. I had an absolute blast and cannot believe how much I saw and did in just 4 days away! I’ve definitely found my new favourite travel destination and cannot wait visit the USA again soon with my family – I’m planning many more future visits! I had such a brilliant time in New York, I absolutely loved the feel of the city, the sights and of course the food! Over the last week I ticked off many dreams on my bucket list – seeing the Statue of Liberty, going up to the top of the Empire State Building, watching a basketball game at Madison Square Gardens, meeting and visiting Jacques Torres and his chocolate factory and watching Wicked! on Broadway were a few highlights!

Here are some snapshots taken from my trip. I hope you enjoy – I wish I’d brought my camera with me more times – I didn’t get to photograph Central Park and some of the other places we visited, but maybe next time!

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Statue of Liberty on our sightseeing boat tour down the Hudson River 

catherdral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – on our first full day in New York it was St. Patrick’s Day and it was pretty hectic around 5th Avenue – where the St. Paddy’s Day parade was taking place later in the day. 

statue of liberty 2

empire state building

empire state views

Going to the top of the Empire State Building was great fun. I loved seeing the New York skyline! 

views from empire state

nyc street views

new york nyc

new york pics 2

towers

nyc towers

museum

The 9/11 memorial museum was a great and overwhelming experience. It was a very heartwarming and emotional visit. 

nyc streets

washington park

Washington Park

madison sg

I saw my first ever basketball game at Madison Square Gardens! We saw the New York Knicks vs the Minnesota Timberwolves. The atmosphere was brilliant and it was great to experience for myself one of America’s national sports.

ts scene

Times Square – it’s super exhilarating walking around at night, there’s so much going on and lots to see! 

times square by night

jacques torres choc

On one of the days my dream came true! We met the legendary Jacques Torres aka “Mr Chocolate” and had the chance to tour his chocolate factory in Brooklyn. Being a self-confessed chocoholic this little factory trip was perfect! We indulged and tasted many treats – we were given little taster pots of roasted almonds dusted with a rich and decadent cocoa powder, Jacques famous chocolate chip cookies (which are absolutely amazing!), we also enjoyed chocolate coated Cheerios and toffee/caramel covered popcorn drizzled with chocolate – my two personal favourite picks!

jacques torres

Being given a tour of the factory by Jacques Torres 

popcorn pics

bunnies

Lots of different Easter chocolate ready to be packaged and sold 

fish choc

Some of the coolest looking chocolate I’ve ever seen! These hand crafted chocolate fish are simply so creative and delicious!

chocolate factory snapshots

We were in charge of finding restaurants and places to eat for most days. I loved looking around and tasting new foods as I like to do on most holidays I go on. We had a really early start in the middle of our holiday visiting a New York fish market at 5:00am! After that we had a few moments to go and search out somewhere to eat breakfast before our trip to see the Statue of Liberty. We found this amazing deli selling an array of different cuisines from all over the world and whole foods. This traditional Italian-American sandwich/roll made me really hungry and I really couldn’t wait to try it out. Consisting of crisp salad leaves, the sweetest sliced tomato, smoked ham, salami and mozzarella incased in a crunchy sesame ciabatta-style bun. Incredibly good, great fresh produce and extremely yummy.

salami sandwich

(My breakfast and lunch for one day!)

pizza slices

Fresh mozzarella pizza and barbecue chicken pizza 

giant pizza

I ate my fair share of pizza whilst away in NYC – New York is definitely the city for pizza lovers outside of Italy (I could’ve easily swarmed this post with never ending pictures of pizza!…) I’ve always loved American-style pizzas! This pic above is of one my friends pepperoni pizza – it was massive, but he still managed to eat it all!

bubba gumps meal

(Sorry about the quality of this photo! Phone picture of our meal at Bubba Gump Shrimp The restaurant is located in the heart of Times Square with great views of Broadway.) I love a good all-American cheeseburger with fries and this certainly lived up to my expectations. It was smoky, with a lovely flame-grilled flavour, the gooey oozy cheese was a perfect and the fries and dip were seriously so tasty! Definitely going to try to share a burger like this on the blog soon!

carlos bakery nyc

Walking past Carlo’s Bake Shop – the queues for his cake and goodies was out the door! Next time I visit a slice of cake will be on the menu for sure!

new york goodies

Some of the goodies I bought back from New York! I’m slightly addicted to that 42 oz bag of M&M’s and the Hershey’s cookies ‘n’ creme chocolate bars AND all the Oreos! (+ don’t forget those amazing Reese’s too!) 🙂  I’ve got many recipes lined up with all these delicious treats! 

The last day was spent shopping on 5th Avenue in Manhattan! One of the best days – it was nice to relax in some retail therapy before the long flight home later that night. Unfortunately, New York was forecast for snow on the Friday we were going home! It was a bitterly cold end to the holiday but we still made the most of it and had fun. I had an absolutely brilliant time and bought back many great gifts and memories home!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading! Have a great weekend guys!

jess

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Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce

Homemade marinara sauce with spaghetti. A delicious dinner recipe served warm with a sprinkling of Parmesan and garnished with basil leaves. Comfort in a bowl! 

marinara sauce recipe

I don’t know why, but it’s taken a little too long to finally get round to sharing my family favourite tomato sauce. This tomato sauce is absolutely perfect to serve and toss into pasta or top pizzas with and it’s also a recipe I’ve been making for many years now. I guarantee, once you’ve tasted this divine sauce you will never reach for a pre-made tomato sauce ever again!

The sauce is rich, sweet and incredibly delicious – this is thanks to the cooking time which allow the flavours to develop and enrich. I think pasta with any kind of sauce is the epitome of comfort food for me. Marinara tossed into the cooked pasta and topped with Parmesan is the best meal and transports me back to summers spent in Italy.

I wanted to share a simple and basic recipe because these types of recipes always great to have in your cooking repertoire. As I said this marinara sauce can be used in mostly any Italian dish. As I mentioned above, I top homemade pizzas with it but you could also replace the pasta and use courgetti (zucchini noodles) and enjoy a low-carb meal. I also love to toss in a few grilled or roasted veggies to the mix. The choices are really endless, this tasty sauce is extremely versatile! If you don’t want to use pasta, just simply dip some good crusty bread into the sauce for a quick and tasty lunch/snack.

spaghetti pic

tomatoes bowl

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium white onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

A large pinch of dried oregano and any other dried herbs you like (approx. 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon)

2 bay leaves, torn

2 tablespoons tomato purée

Pinch sugar

Juice from 1/2 lemon

400g (14 ounce) can chopped tomatoes

1/2 can water (roughly 200ml), add more if needed

To serve –

400g spaghetti (or any other pasta you like – short pasta like fusilli or penne both work well)

Freshly grated Parmesan or other cheese of your choice, to serve

Fresh basil leaves

Method:

1. Gently heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté the diced onion until soft – about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and herbs and continue to cook until fragrant (another minute or so). Season to taste.

2. Add the tomato purée and a pinch of sugar and cook out for another minute. Add the canned tomatoes, lemon juice and half can of water and bring the sauce up to the boil. Once boiling, turn down to a low heat and simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours. It should be thick and glossy by the end of the cooking time.

3. To serve, remove the bay leaves. Boil some water and season well with salt. Cook the pasta until al dente, this is usually a couple of minutes less than the packet instructions suggest. Drain the pasta well, reserving a little extra pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed. Add the tomato sauce and toss together with the cooked spaghetti. Season if it needs and serve up in bowls. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and garnish with basil leaves.

Best eaten warm, but the sauce is also great packed up for lunch the next day. This sauce will store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

bowlful pasta

I love serving this pasta with a slice of homemade Rosemary Sea Salt Focaccia!

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jess

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Damson Crostata {Italian-style Jam Tart}

Since being home I’ve missed the Italian lifestyle and most importantly the food. There’s one classic recipe in particular I’ve always wanted to bake and subsequently eat, the classic Crostata. If you were wondering, a Crostata is a delicious jam tart. It’s simple, but so good and possibly one of my most favourite desserts now. I have fond memories of eating jam tarts from my childhood, I remember my favourites were blackberry and lemon curd and I would always pester my Mum to buy me some- she always gave in! Traditional British jam tarts are so similar to the classic Crostata you can buy in Italy, the pastry is just as light, buttery and zesty and the filling, perfectly sweet and oozing full of jammy goodness. I was really pleased with the finished result, not bad for my very first attempt!

crostata slices

This Crostata recipe uses the very best pastry, it’s light, sweet and short and the addition of lemon and vanilla gives it that unique Italian flavour. I’ve used a rotella- which I bought home from Italy. It’s perfect for Italian jam tarts, because it gives the authentic and beautiful lattice design.

Perfect to slice up for that afternoon-pick-me-up, but I also have to admit I very much enjoy a slice for breakfast.  If you make this recipe, you will find it’s sweet, zingy and the absolute reminder of Summer days.

tiptree jam

I found a taste of home (quite literally) whilst I was visiting Volterra. I grew up eating Wilkin & Son Tiptree Jam and the actual factory is not that far away from where I live, so I made sure this recipe was a fusion between Italian and British produce. This Crostata wouldn’t be as special if it didn’t use British jam! And as you can tell from this photo there are so many different flavours and varieties of jam, but I love Damson jam so that was my choice.

homemade lattice crostata

Love how the pastry is speckled with lemon zest and vanilla bean

crostata icing

jam tart fork

Ingredients (Makes 1 Crostata)

Recipe adpated from italyonmymind

125g of unsalted butter, softened 

20g of icing sugar, sifted

240g of plain flour, sifted

1/2 tsp of vanilla bean paste

Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Pinch of salt

1 large free-range egg

1/2 jar of good-jam- I used Damson (use any of your favourite jams, this recipe is very versatile)

To serve-

Clotted cream, lightly whipped cream or vanilla bean ice-cream

Method- 

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C Fan (350F). To make the pastry, in a stand mixer beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the flour and salt and beat until crumbs form. Add the eggs and just mix until it’s comes together- try not to over mix at this point. Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes or until a little firm.

2. Once the dough is fully chilled, lightly dust a work surface with a little icing sugar, roll the pastry until it’s slightly larger than the tin. If your pastry reaches more than half-way up the case, trim away gently using a knife. Roll the excess pastry into a ball and place in the fridge for the time being.

3. Spoon the jam onto the pastry base. Take the remaining pastry, roll out and then cut strips with a zig-zag cutter- the lattices should be long enough that the strips touch the edges of the crostata.  Brush with beaten egg yolk. 

4. Bake for 40-50 minutes, remove from the oven when the the tart is nice and lightly golden on top- if it’s colouring too quickly, just cover with foil. Cool in the tin, then carefully remove, cool completely to room temp. Dust lightly with icing sugar, then slice up!

crostata

Happy Weekend!

jess

Tuscany, Italy

I’ve just got back from 2 weeks holidaying in beautiful Tuscany, Italy! Here I thought I would share a little bit about my holiday and travels with some (or quite a few!) of my favourite pictures.

The last two weeks have been absolute bliss for me, I LOVE everything about Italy, it’s one of my top travel destinations- not only for the amazing food, but also the stunning scenery and cities. I’ve come home, with my case packed-full of delicious culinary treats (too many packets of pan di stelle- those biscotto are TOO addictive!!) and some kitchen untensil’s ready to get back to baking and sharing some amazing recipes for you all. So enjoy my photos guys- I’ve decided to take you through all the places we visited whilst on holiday!

You’re going to fall in LOVE with Italy and this beautiful region!

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Firenze (Florence) 

Florence is one of Italy’s most beautiful and stunning cities. Full of artwork, cathedrals, history and amazing food, it’s a city not to be missed on your Tuscan adventure.

firenze

italy flag

Italian flag flying high above the Arno river 

 panini

Panino is one of my favourite foods to enjoy in Italy. I eat these all the time for lunch back at home- they’re so good especially filled with spicy and salty salami or some of the famous Porchetta (pronounced por’ketta). But I also love my panino filled with the best fresh, Italian mozzarella, sliced tomato and dried origano. So good to eat whilst enjoying the sights of Florence!

produce florence

The most amazing and colourful fresh fruit and vegetables on street corners 

florence pomodoro

cat picture

Siena

Siena, another one of the my favourite places to visit. We enjoyed some of the best Pizza we’d ever eaten whilst sitting in the famous Piazza del campo (square)- one of Europe’s greatest Medieval square’s. Though Florence supposedly makes the ‘best’ gelato in Tuscany, I thought the ice-creams we tried in Siena were very good competition- definitely worth the price! Full again of lots beautiful historic buildings- this city is another tourist paradise.

siena duomo

Siena Duomo (Cathedral)

siena

fresh fruit stall siena

pizza siena

siena gelato

(Not the best looking ice-cream, but strawberry (fragola) and chocolate is one of the best combo’s!)

Pisa 

We visited Pisa for my 18th birthday. I enjoyed a great day, packed full of sightseeing and happily devoured an amazingly good margherita pizza, which was HEAVEN! Though the weather wasn’t too great that day, the fact I got to eat pizza made up for that for sure! The evening was enjoyed back at our private villa with many glasses of proscecco!

leaning tower of pisa

pisa pics

Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square)

pizza in pisa

As you can tell we ate quite a bit of pizza on this holiday! In this photo, me and my Sister ate classic Margherita, Mum enjoyed Marinara and my Dad ordered proscuitto e funghi. All were divine- but I couldn’t manage the whole thing! 

becky pizza

Becky enjoying her Pizza!

Also, if you have room for ice-cream, do visit De’Colelli for amazing gelato!

San Gimignano 

We stayed just outside of the medieval town, San Gimignano. The town is lovely and idyllic and is home to one of the world’s best ice-cream shops, Gelateria Dondoli– of which we enjoyed our fair share (probably a little too many ice-creams per trip!). I definitely preferred the smaller towns, to the the more well-known or more visited cities, there was something about wandering off the beaten track or down quiet little streets that I love.

san gimi black n white

san gimi st lucia

View of San Gimigiano from St Lucia 

san gimi night sky

san gimi

The famous towers in San Gimignano 

pizza san gimi

gelato

Gelato from Gelateria Dondoli (the gelato world champion)- my favourite flavours cioccolato and pistachio 

pinachio

pottery in san gimi

leather bags

Volterra 

A beautiful windy, hilltop town, well worth a visit if you’re in Tuscany. Explore wandering off to the many quiet streets. Best known for it’s alabaster (marble) and also the famous Twilight films (and of course Assassin’s Creed!!).

volterra streets

volterra

Palazzo del Priori

volterra

volterra tower

ampit volterra

o

The coolest photo ever!

tiptree jam

I found a little taste of home in Volterra!

 

Monteriggioni  

A small, but pretty Medieval walled town. Views overlooking Siena and great place to indulge in some interesting history. Definitely worth a look!

monte pic

monteg

Piazza Roma 

sunflower fields

Beautiful sunflower fields on the car journey home 

Chianti (Radda & Castellina)

We visited these two small, quaint towns which lie within the famous Chianti region of Tuscany. I definitely recommend you visit the medieval town of Radda, the town itself is so quiet and peaceful, not your typical ‘touristy’ town, so perfect to walk around and get lost in your thoughts. Walking further through the narrow streets,  you will come across the amazingly stunning and peaceful Church of San Niccolò. The church is famous for it’s Romanesque origins and wooden crucifix from the 15th century. Also, I found lots of amazing pastas and foods whilst walking through Castellina- which reignited my passion for cooking again.

 church chianti

Church of San Niccolò, Radda, Chianti

chianti shops

chianti food

risotto

Risotto ai funghi is a Tuscan classic 

pasta

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli flakes) seasonings. These are great tossed into fresh pasta for a filling dinner!

flowers chianti

chianti art

Inspiring artwork in Castellina 

chianti 

Colle di Val d’Elsa 

This is the town we visited quite a lot and spent many evenings walking through the peaceful streets, completely away from the tourist trails. It was so beautiful, many amazing viewpoints and you actually get the chance to go down a lift and walk through the underground tunnels, then treat yourself to a gelato, sit by the fountain and watch the sun set. So cool and a perfect end to the day.

colle val di elsa streets

colle val d'elsa pics

colle di val d'elsa

Also, I like to thank the lovely Margherita who writes one of my favourite food blogs, La Petite Casserole. Margherita is from Florence, but currently lives in Montreal. She very kindly sent me an email sharing with me all the best places to eat in and around Tuscany, which I thought I would share with you all too as well.

Gelato: Rivareno ( borgo albizi)
Easy lunch: Macelleria Falorni ( avevo di San pierino)
Easy lunch or easy dinner: 5&5 ( piazza della Passera)
Mercato di San Lorenzo ( they’ve just renewed it, is full of small restaurants and local food productors)
For an aperitivo: Easy Living ( the open bar along Arno river, close to San Niccolo)
Dinner with amazing view (Fiesole): terrazza 45 or Pensione Bencistà!

Ristorante il Pozzo (Montereggioni)

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Thank you for reading…

I really hope to have inspired you to get out there and explore beautiful Toscana! I’m now very excited to get back in my own kitchen and cook lots of amazing dishes inspired by my time in Italy this year. From fresh pasta recipes, to the best homemade pizza and ice-cream- I’ve got a lot of recipes all lined up for you to enjoy in the coming weeks!

Grazie per la lettura!

jess

A Day in Bruges: Food & Travel Highlights

So Saturday just gone, I went on an amazing day trip to Bruges. And as I love sharing my travel articles, I thought I would write an article all about the food and my time exploring this beautiful city. It was brilliant day, we travelled through three different countries in just one day and sampled some really amazing food and also saw some brilliant sites. To take you back to the start of the day, we woke up early (4:30am!) and travelled to the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone. Then it was good bye England and bonjour France just 35 minutes later. We arrived in Calais, and then travelled about an hour journey along North-Eastern France and arrived in Bruges just before mid morning local time. I was really excited to travel back to Belgium, I’ve visited once before for a Battlefield’s trip which was an amazing experience, so coming back again was really great fun. It was also my first time visiting Bruges/Brugge. The day was really lovely and Bruges is such a lovely & idyllic city worth visiting!

bruges water

bruges

The beautiful Koning Albertpark full of tulips

bruges flowers

bruges sites

bruges tower

The Belfry/Belfort of Bruges- Medieval Bell Tower

brugge lace

Bruges is famous for it’s lace making 

belgian break

Walking around the Sint-Salvatorskathedraal (Holy Savior Cathedral) 

bruges canal

ROZENHOEDKAAI- this is one of the most photographed spots in Bruges

bruges

Walking around the Markt (market square)

Now for the food…

I’ve picked my three top foods to try in Bruges. All of these foods included are street foods- so you can enjoy eating whilst walking around the city. I really love the simplicity of Belgian food, it’s edgy, quick to make and tastes really good.

Traditional Belgian Frites & Mayo

This is a traditional Belgian food- if you thought the French created this, then you’re wrong. The locals are very proud of their cuisine and as a tourist I couldn’t wait to try! Make sure you buy your Frites from a Friterie and I recommend eating the frites, or frietjes as they’re known in Flemish with some sort of condiment (we LOVE mayo, so that was our choice!), but there are other sauce choices such as ketchup, curry ketchup and tartare sauce. Enjoy whilst sitting or strolling around the Markt and soak up the atmosphere. As you can see from the picture below, the Frites are mega in Belgium, for very little money you get a really generous portion. The frites were also really well salted and the homemade mayo was the best I’ve had. I’m now going to try my best to recreate a recipe for you, so do watch out for that very soon!

frites and mayo

Classic Waffles

We were actually in a chocolate shop just by the Waterways and we noticed the shop sold waffles. I’ve had Belgian waffles from Ypres before, and these waffles were equally as tasty and very luxurious! We had a choice of chocolate sauce, caramel or whipped cream. So of course, as the Belgians are famous for their chocolate I had no other choice but to dig into a delicious and very moorish chocolate sauce-drizzled waffle. Between us, we also tried a caramel waffle and a whipped cream topped waffle (looking at the picture, they’re very generous with the cream!). I would’ve loved all the three different combinations on one waffle! These waffles were also cooked to order and you could definitely tell they were freshly made to order. Amazing, buttery, and one of my favourites for sure!

waffles

Belgian Chocolate

I think we can all agree that Belgian chocolate is probably some of, or if not the best chocolate in the world. Rich, smooth and full of so many different chocolate flavour/filling combinations. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different chocolate flavours ever before, anything from Tia Maria Cream (I love coffee and chocolate!), to hazelnut and to the classic sea shell chocolates. Also, when you go to Belgium there is literally a chocolate shop around every corner you turn- so you’re spoilt for choice! There are some benefits to travelling to Bruges at Easter, many of the chocolate shop windows are full of Easter chocolate displays- I love the tea cup full of Easter egg truffles in the below photos! Next time I’m in Bruges I will definitely visit the Chocolate museum- as I read about it and it sounds great fun.

easter and chocolate in bruges

Look at all that chocolate heaven…you can even buy your own chocolate bar to remember Brugge by! 

Even though I’ve listed three of the must try foods, you can also try looks of other things! I took a few photos as we were walking around the city…

sweet and savoury in bruges

Lots of sweet and savoury food…and how about some chic cupcakes too?

cupcakes brugge copy

 

I loved everything about Bruges, the atmosphere, culture, the friendly and welcoming people, and of course the brilliant food we got to try! We decided to walk around the city, but you could cycle around or tour by boat- both choices being very popular.

After one day in Bruges we’re already planning another trip back in the Summer and we would also LOVE to explore more of Belgium as well. I would definitely recommend Bruges as a lovely break. Whether it’s for one day or more, you’ll love it!

To find out more about the city click here.

jess