Baby food classes

As many of you know I had a baby at the end of last year, we started weaning little Reya about in July by making all the usual purees with mashed fruit and veg. Favourites included apple and pear compote, avocado, papaya and banana, sweet potato, butternut squash and carrot.

I really want to make sure that Reya could eat some of the spices that we have in our food and was getting a little bored of the standard recipes/combinations…so was glad I came across: Spices for my Sweets – weaning workshops. The workshops are hosted by Kim Wilshaw, mother of two, who wanted her children from the beginning to experience different flavours, in particular spices and herbs. Kim runs several workshops from her home however was kind enough to run two classes at my friends place closer to home for our little ones teaching us how to make several recipes .

We learnt how to make several dishes that were baby friendly – and tasty such as: cauliflower cheese, vegetable pasta, spinach and potato curry, butternut squash with roasted cumin, lentils with courgettes. Food that we would happily eat with the addition of some salt and chilli.

I’d highly recommend approaching Kim to join her workshops – it not only helped me with making non-bland food for Reya but gave me the confidence to prepare a variety of freshly home-cooked food. Now at 10 months, I’ve started making one meal for us that I give to her first without the salt and chilli.

Tip – Start off by adding garlic to food, then some of the spices for example cinnamon to apple purees, nutmeg and pepper to cauliflower cheese. Before long you can even have the same meals!

Recipe for butternut squash with cumin: Take half a cup of chopped butternut squash and put in steamer. While the squash is cooking, take a separate pan and turn up the heat. Once hot add a pinch of cumin seeds – they will start to toast. Check the squash is ready by poking to feel how soft it is. Add to the blender along with the cumin seeds.

 

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Vietnamese Vynam in Finchley

London is a great place to live if you love food. Whether you prefer restaurant fine-dining or local cosy cafes, you can always find somewhere new! We were recommended Vynam Vietnamese Cafe on  Regents Park Road in Finchley by my family and loving the food at Pho, I was keen to try this place and see if it was as good! It’s on a quiet parade of shops in an area so it was great to see this place full of those in the know including many Oriental people.

The restaurant was simple as expected with minimalistic decor, white tablecloths, wooden tables and chairs. This had the casual look and taste of the east, and went down a treat. The only thing that was clearly missing was the weather!The menu is pretty comprehensive and we saw several Vietnamese dishes – there were lots of veg choices as well. We overheard someone on the next table recommending several Vietnamese dishes including the Bánh xèo  – savoury fried pancakes made of rice flour, water, tumeric powder, stuffed with either meat or tofu, diced green onion, and bean sprouts. They are served wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped in either a fish or soya sauce. 

Clockwise: pancakes, aubergine and tofu hotpot, noodles and sizzling platter

Clockwise: pancakes, aubergine and tofu hotpot, noodles and sizzling platter

We then shared pho noodles with tofu which was just like having pad-thai and an aubergine/tofu served in a clay pot with rice. Neil had the sizzling platter – chicken marinated with spices and stir fried in herbs and coconut milk topped with crushed peanuts – he definitely liked this finishing most of the dish. The clay pot aubergine was tasty but a little bland and definitely needed spicing up. It’s a shame that the Pho dishes are made with a beef and chicken broth as I’d like to have tried one of them. Another downside was that there were no desserts left!
If you live near Finchley, then I’d say it’s a great place to try Vietnamese food especially for the choice of both veg and non-veg dishes!

Pizza Pilgrims – pilgrimage to the best pizzas in London

Soho is completely changing with a raft of new dining establishments that’s helping shed it’s once seedy reputation. And in the middle of Soho, cheekily opposite the Pizza Express jazz bar, you’ll find the Pizza Pilgrims first permanent restaurant. 

So where did it all start – Two brothers went on a pizza pilgrim around Italy learning how to make the perfect Neapolitan pizza and which ingredients made an authentic pizza. The knowledge they built up from visiting restaurants in Italy (predominantly Naples) was used for the launch of the brothers’ van, Pizza Pilgrims on Berwick Street. It was the talk of the town with the two owners cooking out the back of their little green Piaggio Ape especially when the street food scene hit big a few years ago. Combining this following of fans and the traditional hand-built pizza oven makes this a restaurant to try.

Pizza Pilgrim

The decor is simple, in their signature white and dark green colours. As you walk in you’ll see the staff working in the kitchen around the pizza oven. The owners built the pizza oven from scratch, including the mosaics. The walls are mostly decorated with posters from Italian movie classics. Most of the restaurant is downstairs and was bright and colourful.

The menu is simple and small, focussing on what they do best: pizza. There are a few starter dishes like olives, salad and bread but its very much all about the main event. There is a basic drinks menu with Prossecco, wines on tap and Birra Moretti beer alongside San Pellegrino. Nothing too extravagent. So how were the pizzas:

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I went for the portobello mushroom and truffle pizza. In their authentic style, the dough was soft so you could eat it easily and the toppings were delicious. I’m not really a fan of pizza bianco, because it often loses the sweetness a pizza needs, but you could taste the truffle oil. I did add some chilli oil to give it some added flavour. The base tasted fresh with a crispy but not too crunchy crust. Apparently the flour is shipped in from Naples don’t you know. I did like the look of the artichoke and mozzarella pizza which had tomato in it – will have to try that next time.

We didn’t go for dessert as the pizzas were really heavy but I was intrigued by the options – nutella ring, ice cream with olive oil and salt, blood orange sorbets and ice cream from Gelupo. I did want to try the affogato however they didn’t make it with decaf so wasn’t going to risk a night of no sleep! Maybe a dessert for the next visit.

Outside of Naples, I would definitely say Pizza Pilgrims do the best pizzas in London. Mamma would definitely be proud of the brothers! Yummy yummy pizza….