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Autumn Sundays are made for this!

What ever happened to Sunday Roast...and all the trimmings?...
And to kicking orange and brown leaves around the park in your wellies? 
And to friends and family sitting around the table while the oven huffs and puffs, in full swing?
And to red, velvety beetroot that stains hands and faces? 
And to endless conversations about this, that and the other?
Having grown up in a Greek family, Sunday lunch has always been a sacred tradition.
When I was very young and my grandparents were still alive, we'd have at least fifteen people around the table, on any given Sunday. The setting was outdoors most of the time, under two trees that provided shade. Tables were joint together, chairs fetched from all rooms around the house and the shed, if needed. My grandma's biggest fear was to have mismatched crockery and glassware - if only she knew how "trendy" it is now she'd giggle and shake her head.
My grandma would be putting a roast in the oven first thing  on Sunday morning, along with countless potatoes and my mama would be whipping up all kinds of sweet treats, like millefeuille and her famous double chocolate mousse. Not for the fainthearted!
I love that Sunday roast has strong roots in the UK too, although nowadays it seems to materialise mainly in pubs rather than at home. And while cooking shows dedicate hours to Sunday Roast ....everybody works hard, everybody is busy, everybody is stressed; who's got time to tidy up the house and spend the whole of Sunday morning in the kitchen? All perfectly valid comments!

Here's the thing: you can make a roast without much fuss and you are allowed to invite around family and friends, or truthfully, anyone who won't focus on your messy house but on the welcoming hug, once you open the front door.

There is nothing better than entering a good-smelling house, with cooking fragrances finding their way tot he front door - it triggers the happiness censors in your brain. A bit of heartfelt hospitality goes a long way, to make someone's Sunday!
 Caramelised Beetroot Tart
- 3 Filo pastry sheets
- 600gr Cooked Beetroot
- 1 big red onion (or 2 small ones)
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
- 3 tablespoon melted butter & 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 100gr Feta cheese, crumbled
- Dried oregano
A word about cooked beetroot: in the UK it' easy to find pre-cooked beetroot in the supermarket;  if you are using fresh beetroots then boil them in water for 30 minutes and rub the skin off afterwards, it's easier than peeling them. Remember they stain!
Slice the onions and cooked beetroots down the middle and then slice again vertically to end up with thin half-moon shape slices.

Coat the frying pan with half of the butter-olive oil mixture.
Grate the three cloves of garlic straight into the frying pan.
Layer the onions on top of the garlic, salt and pepper and cover with the beetroot slices.
Sprinkle over the beetroot the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and dried oregano.
Cover the frying pan with a lid and cook in medium heat for about 20 minutes.
Don't keep opening the lid, you want the steam to cook down the onions and help release all of the natural beetroot juices that will help caramelise the onions.

After fifteen minutes if the onions seem soft enough give them a stir carefully and cook without the lid for another 5 minutes, you don't want to mash everything together.
Switch the heat off and let the beetroots and onion cool down.

In the meanwhile use a brush to coat the inside of a tart pan with the butter-olive oil mixture. Layer three filo sheets unevenly around the pan, allowing for the edges to hang over the sides, for a rustic feel.
If your pan is bigger, or the filo sheets quite small you might want to use 4 or 5 sheets.
Butter each filo sheet as you are layering with the remaining butter-olive oil mixture.

Once the caramelised beetroot is cool enough, carefully spoon the beetroot/onions mixture over the layered filo sheets in your tart pan. Make sure it's all evenly spread out and then crumble some feta on top and finish off with another sprinkle of dried oregano.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes, serve immediately!
My friends confessed that although they cook a lot at home, they don't cook lamb however, because they're worried it might smell and have this strong milky flavour.
They actually made these amazing chocolate puddings for dessert last Sunday, surely they are not going to let a little lamb scare them off, right? Right!
Well, here's a fool-proof, easy way to deal with roast lamb. It all depends on the piece of cut you'll choose and its' size, as well as your oven. This time, I actually found two smaller pieces of lamb shoulder, which cooked much faster.
Roast Shoulder of Lamb
- 1 Lamb Shoulder (on the bone), or 2 smaller ones for faster cooking
- Olive Oil
- Salt
- Pepper
- Garlic Cloves

Wash the lamb under running water and place it in a roasting tray. It's better to use a roasting tray proportionate to the size of the lamb, don't give it too much space. You want all the heat to stay concentrated and avoid the juices drying out because you'll use them for your gravy later.

Rub olive oil over the lamb and with a knife make 4-5 holes on each side. They need to accommodate a garlic clove each, so adjust the size accordingly.
Push the garlic cloves in all of the incisions you just made. 
Salt and pepper each side generously and cover the baking tray with foil, tightly.

Cook the lamb for 2 hours in 180C oven. Don't keep uncovering it to check it, it will be just fine! The smaller pieces will take 1.5 hours in the oven.

After the 2 hours of baking, uncover the piece of lamb and pop it back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes, for the skin to brown and get slightly crispy.
Switch the oven off, move the lamb to a serving dish and let it rest covered in foil for about 10 minutes. 

Use the baking tray juices to make  the gravy with some red wine and a bay leaf. 

You have yourself a Sunday roast!

Lamb shoulder, slow cooked, with garlic

The lamb is great for when you have a lot of people around because once you put it in the oven covered, you forget about it for the next 1.5 hours!

On Sunday, we actually had the Caramelised Beetroot Tart along with some drinks during this time, then switched the oven off, wet out to Burnham Beeches for a long walk and came back to give the lamb its' final 20 minutes in the oven. It was soft and fell off the bone, can't go wrong with this!

Have you discovered Burnham Beeches yet?
Robin Hood, Goldfinger and Harry Potter were all filmed there!
It's an old woodland, with paths cutting through the dense Beech trees. It's very diverse, walk down the Lord Mayor's Drive and on your left there is a pond-ecosystem with ducks, frogs and all kinds of birds. 

Sometimes you can even spot white cows in a distance, between trees and bushes, but they never stay for you to have a second glimpse...my friends said it was the ghost of Burnham Beeches....time to go home to our roast I think! x

Smiths of Smithfield

If you have been in London for as long as I have, you will agree that almost all of your university friends have scattered around the world, over the years. 
It's great when you are travelling to know that you have friends all over, but when you are the one left at the original spot, you can't help but miss them! 
So, one of my friends who has moved abroad for work was visiting London and we got  to have our annual catch up. Hours of fiery, non-stop chat with a lot of gesturing, laughing and the occasional cocktail sip!  Smiths of Smithfield proved to be the perfect spot this time!

I arrived around Smithfield's earlier than anticipated (how did that happen?) so I thought I'd stroll around the market.
If you are visiting London and you want a glimpse of the City of London's commercial (but non-banking) life, Smithfield's market is a good starting point. During the day you'll catch all the hustle & bustle and hear some "proper" east-end chatting and in the evenings, although the market is closed, it's a great time to have a good wonder around.

Not to mention that Smiths, across the street is always alive with a vibrant crowd, outside. The market building itself is so interesting if you slow down and take time to look at the carvings and decorations on the shutters and railings.

And then climbing up the stairs in Smiths, you have the most artistic view of the market dome. An impressive backdrop for dinner through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the second floor restaurant!

You guessed it right: we had dinner in the second floor restaurant, an open, industrial loft. Very easy going. The waiters are friendly and helpful, considering my friend left me waiting for half an hour, they came over to joke and make sure I've got everything I needed. Almond Daiquiri in other words!
A revelation: Almond Daquiry...I prayed it would be good and it was awesome! Perfect balancing act between hints of almond and citrus... very delicate and very easy to dink. It will knock your socks off too! 

The menu is mainly based around BBQ-ed meats with some impressive burgers and steaks coming out of the open plan kitchen, but the vegetarian Spinach, Mushroom & Ricotta Rotolo was delicious too!

If you happen to pop into the toilets you'll be taken aback by the view there too! The windows overlook the tube line, which curves and disappears between the old warehouse-style buildings making you think that the train is about to crash into them...fascinating! 
Forget about oh-so-trendy "toilet selfies", take a minute to look out of this window!

Last but not least: dessert! A crown of baked Alaska: just look at it, you really don't want to spoil this masterpiece, or do you...who am I kidding? 
Rum and raising ice cream, covered in soft, gooey meringue: attack! x

Date night: Everyman Cinema, Maida Vale

If you have a date night in mind, there is no better place than the Everyman Cinema, in Maida Vale!
You don't have to be on a first date for date night...I love taking my husband "out on a date";  
after all who said boys have to do all the work, all the time? And I'm always very excited to spend the evening here.

It's a bit more special than your average cinema, it almost feels like you are at a bar, but then you get to eat yummy, freshly prepared food and watch a movie all cuddled up on the double sofas in the screening room!  

Why so special?
Well, it's got this luxe retro vibe throughout but feels very relaxed at the same time; nobody checks your tickets at the door, for example.
You walk straight into this mini museum of classic movie posters and climb your way up the stairs to the little bar made to look like a library, with black and white movies playing in the background. 
Great conversation starters if you are on your first date! 

Chocolate coated raisins, honeycomb and popping candy come next! Ice cream comes from smaller suppliers in the cutest white cups.
The whole idea behind this cinema is that nothing feels mass produced, from the service to the food and drinks, everything feels more familiar and personalised.

Then you get to order a cocktail or bubbles and you sit back and sip it slowly, while watching the movie.
Don't forget your food...  pizza, burger & fries, nachos, calamari rings or a Greek salad...there is quite a bit of choice and you get to have dinner rather than junky snacks. 

I had the classic pizza margarita and although it looks small, it was delicious because the ingredients were so fresh; attention: the velvety, stringy mozzarella might distract your attention from the movie! Oh that's another good point: you can take your food inside and pop it on your little table too. 

Just before I go, I must admit that I love the neighbourhood around the cinema, it adds on to the overall charm factor. It's safe, quite and the terraced houses around Warrington Crescent provide the perfect backdrop for an evening stroll with your honey-bunny! x

ps: A couple of ideas on what else to do around Maida Vale right here.

Cheating Little Tarts

...or I could have said "Rosewater & Mascarpone-cream Tarts with wild cherries and berries"...but what's the fun in that?
Plus I kind of cheated, since I didn't make the pastry myself, so I'd like to come clean one way or the other!

Last weekend, around 15 of us went out for a pub lunch close to our home and then I invited everyone back for coffee and cakes.
I had these grand plans about baking, but the weekend got busier than anticipated and I needed a last minute cheat that wouldn't let down my reputation as a good cook. You know the feeling, right?

For 12 Cheating Little Tarts:
- 12 Sweet Pastry Butter Tartlets
- 300ml Whipping Cream
- 2 Tablespoons of icing Sugar
- 3 Tablespoons of Mascarpone cheese
- 1 Tablespoon of Rosewater
- Cherry Conserve (I used Morello Cherries, but that's up to you), enough to cover the base of 12 tartlets
- 200gr fresh Strawberries, cut in half
- 100gr fresh Blueberries

Lay out the tartlets and spoon enough cherry conserve to cover the bottom of each tart; two teaspoons in each, should be enough. Make sure that each tart has a couple of cherries, they're an unexpected surprise when you bite into the whipped cream!

In a deep bowl whisk the whipping cream with the icing sugar and rosewater, until you have stiff peaks. Whisk the mascarpone slowly in the cream until you are sure that it's evenly mixed. Try not to forget the rosewater, it makes all the difference!

Spoon two tablespoons of the mascarpone cream on each tartlet, smoothing it out with the back of a wet spoon. It doesn't need to be too perfect!
Finish off with the strawberries and blueberries. The pattern is up to you,
I thought it would be a good idea to make them look like flowers, hence I used the strawberries as petals and the blueberries as the centre.  

There you go, now you're a cheater too! x
© Life Love London

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