28 April 2014

A French Breakfast - Le Pain Quotidien

When I was little, my family and I used to go on holiday to France. I made scrapbooks to take back to school in September, and my dad helped me stick all my tickets and wrappers from every aspect of the holiday in my special book. One thing I remember glueing onto one of the pages was the thin paper of a french stick of bread. Every morning we would walk to the boulangerie to get fresh bread for the day, and, sometimes, for a special treat - a pain au chocolat. We would eat bread for breakfast, lunch and tea, (with other things), smothering it with Boursin, butter or eating it plain, on its own. My favourite way was to stuff it with squares of chocolate - soft, chewy, crispy, sweet and delicious.

I haven't been to France in years, and I miss it! So, on our last day of our trip to London a few weeks ago, I dragged my sister Sarah along to Le Pain Quotidien for a breakfast reminiscent of hot summer mornings in an isolated village in France. It is one of my favourite places to go for breakfast and as true to a French breakfast experience as any that my memory serves.

At Le Pain Quotidien there is a decent range of dishes to choose from for breakfast, but I knew what I wanted: bread, coffee and orange juice.

It was a good thing the Petit Déjeuner was listed on the menu because it was exactly what I fancied. I ordered a black Americano and a pain au chocolat as my choice of hot drink and pastry.

I love how they serve their hot drinks in little bowl cups. I think this is a particularly French thing, although I have never had coffee from a bowl anywhere else.

Sarah ordered a spelt and quinoa scone – which sounds healthy for something usually indulgent – and a cup of tea.

One of my favourite things about Le Pain Quotidien is the range of spreads and condiments they have laid out on the table. I asked for more, because I wanted the entire range to choose from, and the waiter happily obliged, going into a secret cupboard where lots of jars of chocolate spreads were hidden. Pictured above is just a few of them. My favourite was the Noir spread – a dark chocolate spread, thick and delicious like a slightly hardened ganache.

My basket of bread and pastry arrived and I devoured all but two slices of the bread which I just had no room for. Why is bread for breakfast so good? I'd like to go to France this summer. Even if it's just to Calais, a trip through my childhood town of Dover and a journey on the ferry would be a nostalgic treat in itself.

Have you been to Le Pain Quotidien? I would love to visit some other French restaurants for breakfast (or lunch/tea!) so if you know of any, please let me know in the comment box below or tweet me @hello_flower

27 April 2014

What I've Learnt From Daytime TV

This week I have been ill. So ill. I had to take three days off work – three days! I have been feeling very sorry for myself indeed. After countless naps, energy drinks, dry toast and bagels, and a much needed shower, I am sort of on the mend... *clutches hot water bottle*

In between all the confusion that come with being ill, I managed to squeeze in quite a bit of daytime TV. I used to love watching This Morning and Jeremy Kyle when I was at university, and when I was looking for a job afterwards. It was entertaining, and somewhat therapeutic – filling in job applications, writing blog posts and emailing potential employers while listening to Holly and Phil natter in the background. But something has changed.

Maybe it's me, maybe I've caught the full time work bug, maybe I really am a grown up now (ahhhh!) or maybe being ill just sucks the fun out of everything, but daytime TV has lost its easy watching appeal, and I only realised it this week when I was whinging all over Twitter about how much I missed food and needed someone to bring me Coca Cola. However, this boredom and disinterest in "reality" TV pressed me to think about why I ever watched it in the first place. It was then that I realised a few things...

  1. I have a job. When everyone throughout school and uni warned there would be nothing for my generation, I finished uni and got a job. I'm on the "career ladder" or whatever it is they call it. I guess all the stress of exams and coursework was worth something.
  2. I have a strong, loving family who have and never will betray me or hurt me. They will always be my family and they may not be my friends but that's not exactly how family always works anyway.
  3. Happiness isn't intrinsically reliant on money or experiences. The relationships with the people in your life are what glue all the pieces together. I might not be exactly where I want to be in my life right now, but I have everyone I need – no one has died or is seriously ill – and I am fortunate enough not to have experienced the death of a close loved one. Surrounding yourself with positive people makes for a positive outlook.
  4. Being ill isn't fun. No one wants to be at home while everyone else is at work. As human beings we like to be where there are people – where everyone else is. It's solidarity – togetherness. A television screen shows images and sound and makes it appear like there are people with you, keeping you company, but it's robotic and, at times, hypnotic, however engaging, however persuasive it may be.
  5. No one wants to be out of a job and relying on benefits to pay the bills, feed families and just to live. No matter what you think, no one wants that kind of life.
  6. A cliche, but one worth reminding ourselves of as often as possible – life is short, precious and unpredictable.
At the end of the week I was glad I had just had a stomach bug. The things I had seen on daytime TV – arms being ripped off by sharks, children dying, murders, missing people – all seemed unbearably horrific. It made me thankful for what I have.

25 April 2014

Brunch at Ottolenghi – Islington

I find the morning is the only time I can really relax. I realised this when reading one of Sally's blog posts on Sallytangle (one of my favourites - do check out her blog) and being fully relaxed when eating makes the whole experience of brunch much more enjoyable. Brunch is especially good because you can get away with having something sweet, savoury, or both, and I got to do exactly that at Ottolenghi.

I had only heard of Ottolenghi before I got the chance to visit the Islington branch a couple of weekends ago. My expectations were high, and I was so hungry by the time we got there I was ready to eat about anything on the menu (and I could have – it all looked amazing).

Fortunately, this is what we were greeted with on that sleepy Sunday:

SO many colours – isn't this exactly how salads should be done? Needless to say, I was sold.

And all the croissants... I had had enough pastries that weekend but these were so tempting. 

It was busy, which is always a good sign, but we were seated straight away on a communal table. I prefer to have my own table with whomever I am dining, but in this setting it was appropriate. It's a busy place where food is coming and going everywhere you look. Everyone was chatting and toasting their own bread (yep, toasters on the tables - very niche). 

We ordered a selection of bread to start and although I can't say for sure the difference between them all, they were fresh and delicious, and the addition of the olive oil made it.

I ordered an Americano to wake myself up – it had been a long weekend of eating and shopping.

And when I saw french toast on the menu I knew there was nothing else that could tempt me more. My cinnamon french toast made with brioche served with creme fraîche and mixed berry and Muscat compote, was the most interesting take on french toast I have ever had.

Unsurprisingly, it was a very sweet dish, but the compote had a tartness to it, and the tang of the creme fraîche toned the sweetness down too, so it was pretty perfect. The french toast itself was fluffy and light, with just the right amount of eggy-ness.

Sarah and my mum ordered a selection of salads. They have one of Ottolenghi's cookbooks and I really want to have a go at making some of these salads as they look amazing.

My dad ordered a fancy looking tuna dish. I tried a bit but the almost raw state of the fish put me off and I didn't enjoy chewing on the uncooked flesh... *shudder* – still, it looks delicious, and I'm sure for all tuna lovers it tastes just so as well.

Once we had finished our food and drink, admired the bathroom facilities (it's sad, isn't it?) we carried on exploring Islington at a leisurely pace and stopped off for ice cream not long after... But that's a story for another time :)

Have you been to any of the Ottolenghi restaurants or delis? I think they are exclusive to London but if you're ever in the area, you should check it out because it is just such a luxurious – but not too indulgent – place to eat. You can find out more about Ottolenghi here.

23 April 2014

Lime & Mint Iced Tea

This recipe was inspired by the mojitos I made a couple of weekends ago, which were delicious but for a non-alcoholic and much healthier version, check this out: lime & mint iced green tea. I'm amazed at my own creativity. 

I used jasmine green tea because I was also trying to recreate the amazing iced tea I had at Ping Pong a few weeks ago, but also because it is my favourite kind of green tea. For a mintier flavour, use peppermint tea, or green tea with mint. You can use just about anything for this, actually. I love iced tea any time of year, but it's especially good for the warmer months.

Recipe for Lime & Mint Iced Tea
Makes about 6 glasses


  • 4 limes
  • 4 tbsp sweet freedom (or sugar)
  • One packet of fresh mint, (or about 40 leaves)
  • Three teabags of your choice – I used jasmine green tea
  • Ice
  • Water

1. Put your teabags in a jug and let the tea steep in boiling water for a few minutes. Because I used green tea I didn't want to leave it in too long because it can leave a bitter taste. So I left mine in for two minutes. Then put it in the fridge to cool. Add some ice to speed up the cooling process.

3. While the tea is cooling, juice the four limes, wash the mint and put it all in another jug. Bash it all up with a wooden spoon – this will release the mint oils.

4. Add the sugar or sweet freedom and mix it all together. Pour this into another jug in which you'd like to serve your tea and add some ice.

5. Add the cooled tea and garnish with extra mint leaves and lime wedges.

6. Pour and serve with even more ice and mint. Healthy, delicious, refreshing and perfect for these beautifully light evenings we're getting. I am definitely making this when I finally get round to having my first barbeque of the year.

Do you think you'll have a go at making this? It's really easy and sooo yummy. Lime and mint just work together. What's your go to recipe for iced tea? Let me know in the comment box below or tweet me @hello_flower – I am loving iced tea at the moment and would love to know all your recommendations.

21 April 2014

Family Reunion at Canteen – Southbank Centre

It's only right that I eat fish and chips in the company of northern relatives. My memories of visiting my Grandma and Uncle in Scunthorpe are mainly evenings in front of the telly, eating fish and chips, drinking Ribena and Coca Cola, while playing with a doll's house from goodness knows how long ago and reading the latest issue of Girl Talk.

Ten to fifteen years later, and a lot has changed. Namely, my Grandma is no longer alive, and my Dad and Uncle are both grandparents themselves now. My cousins are proper grown ups with real jobs (I suppose I am too...) and everything is a little more civilised than us being squashed into a four seater living room. But eating British food is one thing that has stayed constant, and that is exactly the kind of food served at the restaurant Julie picked for us to visit.

All eleven of us, including two babies, piled into Canteen in the Southbank Centre and sat at a table that had been laid especially for us. 

There was a lot to choose from on the menu, but the fish and chips were calling to me, and my Dad too, apparently.

The fish was cooked perfectly. The batter was crispy and garnished with sea salt and the tartar sauce was creamy and citrusy. And the chips. Ohhhhhh the chips. 

I usually find it hard to finish chips when I eat out. Not these. These had their skin on and were the crispiest, fluffiest, yummiest chips ever –  the perfect accompaniment to the fish. I am writing this prior to eating my dinner and it is making me sooo hungry.

I couldn't get around the whole table and photograph what everyone ate, but this is what Julie and my sister Emily ordered – the pie of the day which I think was chicken and leek. I love the presentation of the mash. All the food, in fact, was presented beautifully. 

I would love to visit Canteen again. It was the perfect setting for our little family reunion and the food was fresh and delicious. Great for when you want something a little more close to home in a relaxed setting. Have you ever been to Canteen? Where would you go/have you been for a family reunion?

20 April 2014

Word of the Week

I often forget where I see these words that I love so much. I almost always have my phone to hand, and can make a note on my phone, and instantly forget where it came from. It usually happens at work, where I learn new words almost every day. 

Sometimes I wish I didn't have such easy access to technology, and could spent a little longer writing with a pen and paper, ingraining into my mind what a word means. But we live in an increasingly hasty world where everything must always be done with speed and precision. 

Still, I enjoy writing these posts on a Sunday afternoon, spending the time trying to remember where I first saw the word I am writing about. There's nothing interrupting me now.

I don't think I have ever heard this word used in spoken language. It sounds like a verb more than a noun, but to be an exponent sounds very important. I think I'll be waiting a few more years 'til I could ever call myself one.

What do you think of the word exponent? Have you got a word of the week? Hope you are all having a chocolate filled Easter Sunday!

18 April 2014

Chocolate Orange Easter Nests

When I was at uni I had a lot of free time so I used to go all out and buy pretty much every treat in the shop at Easter, for friends and family (and myself, heh), but this year it really crept up on me and before I knew it there were no good eggs left in the shops :(

However, I managed to grab a few bags of mini eggs, creme eggs and Lindt bunnies for the weekend, as well as a few ingredients to make something to celebrate the holiday. I love Easter. I love chocolate, I love eggs, I love chocolate eggs... I love lambs, chicks, all things spring. I love Jesus too, which is the reason we celebrate Easter at all, so make sure you don't forget about that part ;)

I am a big fan of the creme egg/caramel egg cupcakes and brownies, but they require more time than I have (sigh – no four day weekend for me) so I decided to go old school and make some chocolate nests... with a twist.

Dark chocolate orange Easter nests. These are so easy and quick to make, not to mention really yummy. They are a little bit more sophisticated than the ones you made in pre-school, and quite rich. I used sweet freedom and Green & Black's Maya Gold chocolate to add an orangey-fruity kick to these nests. Making these reminded me of being a chubby little four-year-old. I don't remember shredded wheat ever having any other purpose than to be used for chocolate Easter nests.

Recipe for Chocolate Orange Easter Nests


  • Five nests of shredded wheat
  • A bag of mini eggs
  • 200g Green & Black's Maya Gold chocolate (or whatever chocolate you fancy)
  • 2 tbsp sweet freedom (or honey/golden syrup)

Break up the chocolate and add to a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water (or use a microwave) with the sweet freedom and let it melt, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, break up the shredded wheat with your hands in a bowl 

Add the melted chocolate and syrup to the shredded wheat and mix it all up.

Spoon the mixture into paper cases.

Press three mini eggs into the top of each nest.

Pop the nests into the fridge for half an hour and bob's your flippin' uncle.

Reckon you'll have a go at making these? What's your favourite Easter treat? I'm using this blog post as my entry for a competition over at The Pink Whisk and Two Little Fleas where hundreds of pounds worth of John Lewis vouchers are up for grabs. The closing date for entries is 20th April so if you've got an Easter treat worth sharing, get on it and write a blog about it. I know if I won I would have no hesitation in blowing the whole lot on a Kitchen Aid (dreaming).

Happy Easter! N xo 

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