December, 2013


19
Dec 13

The Westin Mina Seyahi, Dubai

1Westin

Dubai is one of the world’s hottest holiday destinations right now. It’s also a great destination for families to visit due to the fantastic weather and extremely wide range of activities available. It’s also really not too difficult to get there, too – you get great weather but without a long-haul flight to get it.

The Westin Hotel Mina Seyahi is a top family-friendly hotel offering a brilliant combination of 5 star luxury with its own private beach. Rooms are spacious with large marble bathrooms, and ones with a sea-view look out over the Palm Jumeirah and the hotel’s manicured gardens and pools. The hotel operates a super-efficient concierge service from a Bedoin tent in the lobby, which is on hand to help you plan your perfect holiday in Dubai. The Westin is a favourite with Emirati high society and is an extremely popular place to meet for tea and evening drinks. The Arabian influence is felt from the moment you arrive, and are greeted with a delicious local drink of chilled apple juice with cinnamon and juicy fresh dates.

All bedrooms are spacious with large beds, bathrooms and all the facilities you might need to hand, including large televisions, Nespresso coffee machines and a small terrace with a table and chairs. There is an excellent choice of restaurants on site with Spice Emporium Thai restaurant a must for its delicious, authentic food and fun atmosphere, complete with authentic Thai dancing every night. The menu offers a wide selection of dishes which diners choose to share between the table, and then the portion size is adapted accordingly. The Thai coconut soup and Beef red curry are superb. Breakfast is a very extravagant affair with practically every type of International cuisine you can think of available for guests to enjoy and is served buffet style. There is an emphasis on superfoods, and the fresh, super-healthy juices are a definitely worth trying.

If you are in need of being pampered, then a trip to the Spa is a must. Treatments are highly relaxing, featuring unusual but very enjoyable Swedish massage techniques and gorgeous Aromatherapy Associates products.

The real draw of The Westin is the beach. The hotel has green gardens and a white sandy beach and safe, clear bathing area in the sea, looking out to the Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah. There are a good number of shaded sun loungers available, and a good choice of water sports available from the beach. There is a choice of lovely swimming pools in the hotel gardens, with a super shaded children’s pool available, and a Penguin Kid’s Club to give parents a rest.

Despite being an enormous hotel, the service is friendly, helpful and keen to please.

For more information on activities in Dubai, take a look here.

Getting there:

Dubai is around 7 hours away from London and there are regular flights running from all over the UK.

Flight Centre (www.flightcentre.co.uk / 0844 800 8624) offers 5 nights at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, including flights with Emirates Airlines and private transfers in resort.

Prices for 2014 from £1039* per person based on two sharing (*based on travel between 3-24 July 2014).

 


10
Dec 13

Festive entertaining – Christmas lunch

1xmas

Without wishing to pile on the pressure at this time of the year, Christmas lunch is probably the most important meal you’ll cook all year. If you are a meat eater, like me, choosing your meat can be very stressful. I want to ensure I choose the best meat that I know will cook perfectly and taste divine on the day.

So, here are my tried and tested top recommendations for Christmas lunch.

Starting with turkey, the obvious choice for Christmas meat, there is nothing better than a Copas turkey. Self-titled “very, very special turkeys”, these juicy, finely flavoured birds are reared to the most scrupulous standards, resulting in a superior Christmas turkey. These magnificent turkeys are delivered to your home with complete cooking instructions and a pop-up cooking timer which are really easy to use and ensure perfectly tender meat. All products in their range are excellent – I favour the turkey crown, which involves much less waste and mess than cooking a whole carcass. Worth every penny.

 12xmas

In my house, we love beef for our Christmas lunch as it is simply our favourite roast of all.  The very best beef we have tried is from The Traditional Beef Company, who supply multi award-winning beef to your door. Based in Wiltshire, the cattle is grass fed, and the meat is hung for a whopping 4-6 weeks, then expertly butchered, resulting in the very finest meat. The beauty of this is that you’re buying your meat direct from the farmer, too. The two best cuts for a roast are the fore rib, with a deliciously rich flavour, and the super lean and tender sirloin joint.  This beef is melt-in-the-mouth tender with an exquisite flavour. The best money can buy.

For all the other bits and pieces for a perfect Christmas lunch, here are my favourite recipes:

Vegetarian lunch

Roast potatoes

Roasted vegetables

Sprouts

Cranberry sauce

Bread sauce and gravy

Next: Top Christmas drinks


10
Dec 13

Gastronomy of Italy, by Anna del Conte

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Gastronomy of Italy…a distillation of my personal reflections on the many recipes I have cooked, foods that I have tasted, books I have read and regions I have visited” Anna Del Conte.

Anna Del Conte is widely recognized as the leading authority on Italian food in the UK. Although not a household name like some celebrity chefs, she is the author of a number of cookery books which have been widely praised for their detail and authoritative voice on Italian cookery.  Over the years, she has won many awards, including the Premo Nazionale di Cultura Gastronomica Verdicchio d’Oro prize in 1994 for her contribution to the dissemination of knowledge around authentic Italian cooking, and in 2011 the Guild of Food Writers Lifetime Achievement Award.

Del Conte is also the muse for many celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, who describes her as “beyond doubt, the best writer on Italian food”.

Del Conte’s latest book, Gastronomy of Italy is an up-to-date definitive guide to regional Italian food, covering the regions in detail, ingredients and techniques, including the classics: pasta, polenta, gnocchi, risotto and pizza, and Anna’s versions of favourite Italian dishes, such as peperonata and osso buco. Gastronomy of Italy is a beautiful book featuring over 200 recipes with plenty of gorgeous photographs to accompany the recipes. It is a truly invaluable book for all those who enjoy Italian food, and would make a great Christmas gift for any keen cook. Read from cover to cover and take part in Mastermind.

I’m delighted to be able to share a wonderful recipe with you with kind permission from Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy, published by Pavilion. Photography by Laura Edwards.

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Milanese vegetable soup

You can add small tubular pasta to this soup instead of rice, although the classic Milanese minestrone is always made with rice.

Serves 6–8

150g/5½oz/¾ cup dried borlotti beans, soaked for about 12 hours in
cold water

50g/1¾oz/4 tbsp unsalted butter

50g/1¾oz pancetta, chopped

3 onions, sliced

4 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 courgettes, diced

100g/3½oz green beans, diced

100g/3½oz/2⁄3 cup shelled fresh peas

200g/7oz Savoy cabbage, shredded

1.5–2 litres/3–4 pints/1½–2 quarts meat stock (page 61) or chicken stock or 3 good-quality bouillon cubes dissolved in the same quantity of water

350g/12oz floury (starchy) potatoes, cut in half

225g/8oz ripe fresh tomatoes, blanched and peeled, or canned plum tomatoes, drained

salt and freshly ground black pepper

175g/6oz/scant 1 cup Italian rice, preferably Vialone Nano

75g/2¾oz Parmesan cheese, grated

 

Drain and rinse the beans.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot, preferably earthenware, and add the pancetta and onions. Sauté gently for 5 minutes or so and then add the carrots and celery. After 2 or 3 minutes, add the borlotti beans. Sauté for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the courgettes, green beans and peas. After 5 minutes or so, mix in the cabbage. Stir everything together for about 5 minutes to coat in the fat.

Add the stock, potatoes, tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer over a very low heat for about 3 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, lift out the potatoes, mash them with a fork, then return them to the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the rice and cook for about 10 minutes, until al dente. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the Parmesan and serve the remaining cheese separately.


9
Dec 13

Sausage, chorizo, butternut squash and lentil casserole

Chorizo stew

This casserole is wonderful at this time of year. It’s full of tasty morsels and is good for you too, being a complete meal in one. This casserole is very easy to make – it is best cooked slowly for as long as possible, but the amount of time it takes to prepare is fairly minimal. I assembled all the ingredients and left it to bake in my lovely new cast iron casserole dish from Pro Cook. It looks rather smart and is it makes life even easier, as it looks good enough to serve on the table.

This is a seriously delicious, hearty winter-warmer that is great served with some steamed vegetables.

Sausage, chorizo, butternut squash and lentil casserole

Serves 4 generously

Ingredients

2 tsp olive oil

8 good quality pork sausages

200g chorizo, chopped into 1 cm dice

1 butternut squash peeled, seeds removed and diced

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

300ml chicken stock

400g cooked green lentils, diced

2 tsp thyme leaves, fresh or dried

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 140C.

Start by adding the oil to a large non-stick pan. Add the sausages and cook for 10 minutes until the skins are well-browned. Now, add the chorizo and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Transfer the sausages and chorizo to a large, lidded casserole dish. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir well and bake with the lid on for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve with fresh vegetables. Any leftovers keep well, freeze well too and taste even better the next day.

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