A gorgeously healthy, summer quinoa salad topped with gooey griddled halloumi and a zesty lemon and thyme dressing Who doesn’t love halloumi when the sun comes out to play? This simple, summer salad recipe is so easy to make and … Continue reading
A beautifully spicy, creamy baked eggs brunch with peppers, crispy kale and chunky chestnut mushrooms – brunch recipes don’t get better than this!
Weekends are built for brunches. Whether it’s devouring a crispy bacon sarnie slathered in HP sauce or tucking into deliciously decadent, creamy Eggs Benedict, indulgent brunching never gets boring. It’s one of my favourite meals of the day − especially when it comes to lazy weekend lounging. So naturally I’m working on building up a moreish selection of brunch recipes to add to to my culinary kitchen collection.
This is a little leftovers classic, using up whatever I could find in the fridge − turns out it was a good ‘un! I’m a little obsessed with kale at the moment, so threw in a handful to add a splash of colour and texture, but you can use spinach, rocket or any other greenery that takes your fancy. You can also add a little more or less spice, depending on how much your tastebuds can handle. I finished with a dollop of crème fraîche for extra creaminess, but again if you don’t fancy this, the baked eggs will taste great on their own.
This serves one but just up the ingredients depending on how many you’re cooking for.
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Half a red onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- Half a red pepper
- 2 chestnut mushrooms
- Handful of kale
- Salt and pepper
- 2 eggs
- A spoonful of crème fraîche to finish
- Chopped fresh basil to garnish
1) Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2) Finely slice the onion, garlic, peppers and mushrooms.
3) Place the onions and garlic in the oven in a heat-proof dish, with a good glug of olive oil, for around 2-3 minutes.
4) Remove from oven and mix together the peppers and spices. Place in the oven for another 2-3 minutes to heat through. Make sure the spices are coating the veg evenly.
5) Remove from the oven and mix in the mushrooms and kale with a little seasoning of salt and pepper, making sure to mix the ingredients well so the spice mixture evenly coats the vegetables.
6) Place back into the oven for around 1o minutes. Take out after 5 minutes and give the veg a little stir.
7) Remove from the oven and break two eggs on top of the pepper mix. Place back into the oven for 10 minutes.
8) Spoon a generous dollop of crème fraîche on the top of the eggs, sprinkle with a delicate dusting of paprika and a scattering of fresh, chopped basil leaves. Eat on their own or with crusty baked bread. Delish!
Marvel at the rich, cultural delights Spain has to offer on a weekend city break to Málaga
Sitting on the beach devouring freshly caught fish is one of life’s simple pleasures, and the Southern Spanish region of Málaga is a marvellous place to do it. Málaga’s stunning coastline provides a beautiful backdrop for laid-back beach basking, alfresco seafood suppers and romantic sunset strolls. With rustic beachside eateries offering deliciously fresh seafood and local Spanish delicacies, Málaga offers an authentic taste of traditional Spanish culture.
As a renowned ‘Brits abroad’ destination, most British beach dwellers flock to the Costa del Sol in search of sun, sea and sangria. But with many holidaymakers herding to the popular sandy beaches of Marbella or Torremolinos, Málaga is often overlooked as a city break mainstream holiday destination. Wistful wanderers in search of lively Spanish culture, fabulous food and beautiful architecture will be overwhelmed by Málaga’s rich delights. From flamboyant Flamenco street dancing to Pablo Picasso’s inimitable works of art, there’s a wealth of history and culture to be discovered in the heart of Málaga’s bustling city centre.
What to do
There’s nothing more relaxing than sprawling out atop soft, golden sands serenaded by the sound of breaking waves. Málaga’s beautiful beaches are family friendly and brimming with character. It rarely gets cold in Málaga with temperatures seldom dropping below 17°C. With an average of about 300 days of sunshine each year and only 50 days of rain, it’s often dry and warm enough to sit outside during the day even in January and February. But the spring and autumn are ideal times to visit if a beach break is on the agenda.
The lively city centre is vibrant and picturesque with beautiful marble walkways paving the pedestrianised car-free streets. You’ll find a plethora of traditional taverns, sleek boutiques, cafés and trendy gastrobars hidden amid winding lanes in the heart of the city. Families and friends gather together to share platters of tapas and sumptuous Spanish wine whilst locals twirl gleefully to Flamenco music in the streets. It’s the ideal spot for aimless wandering; a place where you can really kick back and relax whilst soaking up the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
Take a stroll through the city’s ancient Roman fortress. Built between the eleventh and fourteenth century, the Alcazaba served as a defence aid for the city as well as a grand palace for Muslim rulers. Discover magnificent archways, lush greenery and marble pillars as you roam through the cavernous walkways of the towering Roman ruins.
Adjacent to the fortress lies a traditional Roman ampitheatre, which is still used for theatre and musical performances. If you’re lucky enough to catch a performance, the setting is stunning and well worth a visit.
The Museo Picasso boasts an enviable collection of work dating from the late 19th century up until his death in 1973. A truly fascinating collection illustrating the versatility and progression of his extensive body of work.
The city’s towering Cathedral is another breathtaking sight not to be missed. A combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, the intricately carved exterior is a true spectacle to marvel. Inside is equally as grand, with two enormous 18-century organs stretching high into the ceiling as far as the eye can see, as well ancient religious artworks and beautiful sculptures.
For a touch of rest and relaxation, a gentle stroll around the Botanical Gardens should set the mind at ease. This tropical paradise is one of the largest gardens in Europe and takes around an hour and a half to walk around, although you could easily spend all day there. With gorgeous greenery and vibrant blooms, it’s an easy place to lose an afternoon to.
If you find yourself with a few hours to spare during your trip, a visit to the Automobile Museum is great fun. Admittedly, we were a little sceptical about the venture, but the hordes of classic cars are well worth a peek. The kids will assuredly have great fun here. But the museum is more than just cars and engines. There’s also a collection of vintage designer fashion pieces to drool over, if the cars don’t quite provide enough entertainment.
If the trek across the city starts to take its toll, rest weary feet at the Málaga Hammam Arabian baths. A tranquil retreat tucked away from the bustle of the city, where you can relax in steaming saunas and hot baths, take a dip in the pool or indulge in a blissful massage. A bath and massage experience costs 38 euros and lasts for one hour.
Where to eat
For spectacular panoramic views of the city and delicious, local food head to the Parador de Gibralfaro Hotel. A delicious selection of sharing tapas plates will be served with freshly baked bread and exquisite local wine.
For lunch al fresco, a visit to the Pedregalejo area is an absolute must. Brimming with locals, there’s a vibrant, buzzing atmosphere with fishing boats moored along the sand serving up freshly caught barbecued fish.
The Atarazanas food market is well worth a visit. A vast labyrinth filled with sumptuous Spanish delicacies. Be sure to save some room in your suitcase to take some tasty titbits home!
For an even sojourn, El Pimpi Bodega bar serves up gorgeous tapas with local wine. The building is a cavernous warren of rooms adorned with historic posters and enormous wine barrels, all signed by a catalogue of famous folk. A seemingly popular haunt for Antonio Banderas.
For a more formal evening affair, venture to the swanky Patio de Beatas restaurant. A trendy wine bar and restaurant with a fusion of Spanish and European cuisine.
Where to stay
For a central location that’s within walking distance of the centre, stay at the Hotel NH. Elegant and contemporary in style, the rooms are spacious and comfortable with beautiful city views overlooking the river. There’s also a gym and sauna facilities for guests to take advantage of.
Monarch airlines operates flights to Malaga from Birmingham, East Midlands, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £32.99 one way (£60.98 return)
For further information or to book Monarch flights, Monarch Holidays or Monarch hotels visit monarch.co.uk
A sizzlingly spicy homemade pizza with creamy mozzarella, Italian sausage, kalamata olives and fresh basil leaves There’s nothing more delightful than a quiet, cosy weekend night in curled up in front of the TV with a freshly baked, crispy pizza. Homemade … Continue reading
A killer breakfast or brunch recipe of sticky, smoky beans with griddled sausages and poached eggs
Nothing tastes better on a Saturday morning than sizzling sausages paired with perfectly oozy poached eggs and gorgeously sticky, saucy beans. This punchy Boston beans recipe combines all my favourite flavours. Smoky pancetta, piquant chilli, tangy Worcestershire sauce and a drizzling of indulgently sweet, sticky treacle. Divine! So naughty but oh-so-nice. A weekend breakfast or brunch recipe that’s set to wow.
- 1 x 400g tin of cannellini or butter beans
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 1 x red onion
- 2 x garlic cloves
- 70g pancetta, diced
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 heaped tsp hot smoked paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp dark treacle
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- Fresh parsley (to garnish)
- Salt and pepper
- 2-4 x good quality sausages or chorizo sausages
- 2 x eggs (or more, depending on your appetite!)
1) Lightly boil the beans in water for about 5 minutes, just to heat them through and soften.
2) Fry the garlic and onion in the olive oil on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, until the onion has softened.
3) Add the pancetta and cook until browned.
4) Add the sugar and wait for the onions to slightly caramelise.
5) Add the paprika and cayenne pepper, together with the treacle, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and give it a good stir. It should have a thick, gooey consistency.
6) Add the tomatoes, warmed beans and a little salt and pepper. Pop a lid on the pan and leave to cook on a low heat for about 15-20 minutes and the tomatoes have reduced by half.
7) Heat the griddle pan on a high heat and start to griddle your sausages, turning often. You want a smoky, chargrilled finish so a little blackness is fine! You can grill or oven cook the sausages if you’d prefer.
8) Poach the egg in some boiling water and a little vinegar. (Here’s how to poach the perfect egg)
9) Once the beans are cooked (they should be sticky, gloopy and delicious) serve with one or two chargrilled sausages, a poached egg and a sprinkling of fresh parsley, and devour!
A city chic wine tasting experience in London
I’d love to refer to myself as a bonafide wine expert, but the reality is that despite my father owning a wine business, (vision of him slapping my hand here springs to mind) I’m a little dense when it comes to identifying a snazzy bouquet. Don’t get me wrong, I love a decent bottle of plonk. Malbec is the usual, favourite tipple but generally, I tend to get distracted by the discount deals in Waitrose or whichever I deem has the most artistically striking label (cue father gasping in despair).
I’m even more hopeless when it comes to identifying flavours in wines, which as a self-confessed food fanatic, I’m at loss to understand why. I can only whittle it down to the fact I haven’t (before now) ever really tried. With every slurp of Shiraz I’m probably more immersed in singing Fleetwood Mac and dancing around my kitchen than recognizing heady accents of smoky wood (another disappointing sigh from dad).
Having said that, I wholeheartedly would love to know more about wine, if anything to make a decent choice in the supermarket, and of course to impress my friends with my fountain of wine knowledge at the next dinner soirée. So naturally, when invited to sample the wines at London’s Vinopolis, I jumped at the chance.
Tucked away beneath the railway arches of London Bridge, a not-so-secret wine tasting lair awaits eager wine enthusiasts to challenge their tasting notes, (or in my case learn from scratch) by sampling their vast selection of vintages. It’s a striking building, steeped in history and oozing character. Softly lit with a calming atmosphere, we’re more than ready to get sampling as soon as we walk through the towering glass doors.
The wine tour begins with a brief introduction, revealing expert tips on how to slurp wine. Drawing in a large gulp and really slurping around the back of the mouth releases the wine’s various flavours, so in theory, you should be able to identify some key ingredients. In truth, I found the art of slurping hard to master, culminating in an embarrassing choking fit in front of the whole class (much to my friend’s amusement). Fallen at the first hurdle. This did not bode well! Despite persevering, I couldn’t quite master the slurping technique, but I did mange to successfully identify a few key flavours, leaving me to feel less of a hopeless failure before the start of the tour.
With my student hat on, I carefully memorise the tasting notes, and how to distinguish a sweet, floral bouquet or a dry, citrus aroma. Frankly, as soon as we enter into the tasting realm, most of the student tips and notes diminish into thin air as we slurp and guzzle our way through the maze of tasting rooms. We indulge in sample after sample of Argentinian Malbec, French Bordeaux and refreshingly crisp Sancerre. With 12 tokens of samples, you can really get your teeth stuck into some delicious vintages. For those who also find it hard to identify flavours, the bottles are accompanied by in-depth descriptions to help you along the way, as well as the friendly, helpful staff who are on hand to assist throughout the whole tour.
There’s a decadent Champagne lounge, which I’d highly recommend starting the tour with, as well as a tapas station serving up olives, bread and cured meats, if you feel a little peckish along the way.
Despite my hopeless slurping attempts, and the fact that I’m still unable to identify an exceptional bottle of plonk, the whole evening was thoroughly enjoyable. With a great selection of delicious wines to sample, you’d be hard pushed not to have a good time, but the beautiful surroundings and eager wine aficionados just add to the whole experience. Whether you’re a total wine buff or complete novice, Vinopolis will add the fun factor to an evening of unashamed wine guzzling.
Vinopolis is located at No.1 Bank End, London, SE1 9BU. Packages range from £32 – £42 with the option of 7, 12 or 16 tokens. For further information and bookings visit: vinopolis.co.uk
5-star spa decadence in the heart of Oxford
There really is nothing more invigorating than an indulgent spa weekend. From soft, fluffy bathrobes to soothing steam rooms, a weekend escape of lavish spa lounging is the perfect tonic to a busy, stressful week. And when those pesky blues start to kick in, a relaxing facial or heavenly massage is sometimes all we need to get back on top of things. What better way to indulgently relax and unwind than with some sensual spa time?
What’s the hotel like?
Offering a touch of 5-star decadence, the Macdonald Randolph ticks many a spa weekend checklist. Located in the heart of Oxford’s charming city centre, the Randolph’s towering landmark building is steeped in history. Boasting beautiful architecture with ancient brickwork, the hotel is oozing with charm and elegance. From the luxurious wooden-clad lobby and winding staircase to the sumptuously decorated Morse bar, the ambience provides the perfect backdrop for a wonderfully tranquil getaway.
Tucked away from the main area of the hotel, the Randolph’s spa is an intimate oasis. Tranquil and deliciously calming, the walls of the spa are dark and sultry with softly lit, glimmering lanterns paving the way through the cavernous walkway. At the end of the passageway there are steam rooms and saunas, as well as a hydrotherapy Jacuzzi to sit and swelter amidst effervescing bubbles. The scented sensation shower is a lovely treat, and – if you’re feeling brave – there’s an ice setting that will boldly awaken the senses following a hot sauna session. There is also a small gym available if you fancy a more energetic workout.
The spa boasts a generous selection of treatments, including detoxing facials, pedicures and massages. With my back tangled in knots, I opt for the Macdonald Signature Treatment, which combines a deep tissue massage, anti-ageing facial and nourishing foot treatment.
The gorgeous 90-minute treatment begins with a tension-relieving back massage. Having slept awkwardly the night before, the top of my back is uncomfortably sore. The vigorous strokes applied to my back and neck work wonders on the tight knots in my body. Concentrating on the problem areas for the most part of the 30-minute session, my therapist slathers layers of scented Elemis lotions onto my skin. Gentle piano music softly chimes in the background, as I drift into a deeply relaxed state.
I can’t wait for a boosting facial to transform my skin from dull and lifeless skin into radiant and gorgeous. I snuggle underneath a cosy fur throw as the cushioned massage bed starts to radiate warmth beneath me. My therapist gently removes my make-up, then massages scented Elemis products into my skin. My skin feels energised and silky smooth after an exfoliation treatment, and the rehydrating lotion plumps my skin with added moisture.
The final element of the treatment is a heavenly foot massage. The bottoms of my feet are lightly doused in soft trickling water, and a gentle scrub removes the winter build up of hard skin. Using a fragranced lotion, she works her fingers into the balls of my feet as I ease into a blissful state of serenity.
Food and drink
The three AA Rosette restaurant serves up mouthwatering British-inspired cuisine. From succulent Scottish smoked salmon to rich braised pheasant, the hotel’s ecclectic menu has a great variety of choices. The towering cheese trolley made a particular impression – creamy, soft and ripe cheese paired with a robust dessert port left a delightful, lingering aroma on the palette. Delicious!
How much does it cost?
A classic room in the Randolph starts from £146 per room, based on two people sharing. This includes breakfast in the restaurant. Car parking is available upon request and costs £28.50 (recommended to pre-book in advance), but the hotel is located within walking distance of Oxford train station, or a very short taxi journey.
The Elemis Signature Face & Body treatment costs £84 Mon-Thurs, and £94 Fri-Sun. Spa break packages are also available. A Revitalise Spa Break costs from £378 per room for two people. This includes an overnight stay, dinner, breakfast and an hour long treatment each. Stay on a Sunday night and enjoy late check out and a glass of chilled Prosecco on arrival. Choose one 60-minute spa treatment per adult from Stress away muscle massage, Fruit active glow facial, Hot stones full body massage, Jessica deluxe manicure or Jessica deluxe pedicure.
To book or for more information visit macdonaldhotels.co.uk