Thursday, 29 May 2014

Mamma Anna Cookery Class

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I have a slight confession to make. Over the last week, my at home dinners have consisted of cheese on toast, cheese and beans on toast, a bowl of Weetabix and a 2 minute bag of gnocchi with 3 minute sauce. I just find that once I get in from work it ends up being after 9pm before I’m eating and by then I just don’t want to spend time preparing a full blown home cooked dinner. I clearly love food, but in terms of cooking, I’ll admit, I’m lazy.


So when the invitation to come to Mamma Anna & Co for a cookery lesson landed in my inbox, my boyfriend may not so subtle hints that I should go – “maybe we can have something other than cheese on toast?”

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Mamma Anna & Co is a small family run Italian deli or as they describe it; a food lab, in the heart of West Kensington. Walking in it felt very much like I’d walked into one of the delis in back when I visited Italy; fresh pasta on display, tartlets and meatballs ready to be eaten up. This is no imitation, London take on Italian cooking; I soon learned this was the real deal.


Mamma Anna is the owner and a true Italian Matriarch. Declaring that there will never be any trans-fats, preservative laden ingredients in her kitchen as soon as we put on our aprons, I gave a slight gulp of guilt at the ‘low fat’ yogurt I’d scoffed on the way here.

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Today me and Nessa would be learning to make quiches. Pastry has always seemed a little daunting and to be honest, as bit of a faff. When even Mary Berry admitted to using shop bought pastry it just seems silly to make it yourself.

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However Anna and her son, Fabrizio carefully explained, with their pastry only having 4 ingredients including water, how can we justify using pastry that has over 20 on the label.

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Sure enough it was extremely simple. Chop up and mix together the butter and flour, then bit by bit add the water just until the dough stops being sticky. The key is to work it as little as possible to ensure a flaky bake.

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First up we were going to make a simple vegetable quiche. 3 vegetables, one beaten egg and traditional Italian, salt, pepper and parmesan to season.  Anna explained the key is to use simple and healthy ingredients. Always wonder how those Italian women look so darn beautiful and slim? Everything in homemade and simple. There is no low fat, sugar substitute crap there.

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Filling the case, I decided to give my quiche a nice crimped edge. I was rather pleased with me fancy efforts.

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Until I saw Nessa’s! Darn it woman!

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15 minutes later, out came our quiches from the oven. Oh and what a smell and sight they were! I’d say maybe 30 minutes from start to finish. However even better, they last for up to a week! Which Anna explained she often made a batch on a Sunday and then had dinner ready for the rest of the week. I think that may even be quicker than cheese on toast!

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We then made a second quiche of ricotta and mint which is a nice summer recipe, perfect for eating cold out and about.

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What was interesting is that while in Britain, quiche is associated with savoury pie like bakes, in Italy, they can be sweet too.


Using the same dough as before, we cut out round patties using a cookie cutter, and filled with a mixture if ricotta, chocolate, cinnamon and lemon zest. Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes and you have the quickest treat I thin I’ve ever made.

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Finally we scrapped up the left over dough to make some cheese twists. Mamma Anna is all about sustainability. There can be no waste in the kitchen, and so any left over dough or ingredients can be turned into something.

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Simply twist, sprinkle with parmesan and poppy seeds and bake.

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At the end of the class, we had 2 quiches, 4 sweet tarts, a handful of cheese twists and abundant of enthusiasm.

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Of course the proof is always in the eating.

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That’s the face of one very satisfied blogger.

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Skipping back home, with a bag full of food, I felt rather proud of my accomplishments. Presenting my quiche to Dan at dinner, he gave his nod of approval- "so can I expect this everynight then now?"

I cant recommend Mamma Anna & Co enough. If you fancy cooking up an Italian storm, make sure you book your class place, or if you are super lazy like me, then just pop in for one Anna made earlier.

Mamma Anna & Co
3 Charleville Rd
London
W14 9JL
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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Google BT Tower Trip

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I think everyone has a list. One of those long lists of things you want to do at some point in your life. I of course, have my list too. There are some fairly achievable things like complete the London Marathon, to the more exotic like swim with sharks.

However a fairly local one was to go to the top of the BT Tower. My dad works for BT so I was fairly versed in the Towers history from an early age. Sporting a 360 degree platform at the top, it boasts some of the best and most iconic views of all of London. The idea of a revolving restaurant at the top during the 70s also appealed greatly. Sadly though after a bombing in the 1971, the Tower was closed, and to this day, it isn't open to the public.

Yet the power that is Google got a group of us access to the Tower for one night only. One down, only about 299 more on the list to go. 

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Yet don’t think this is some blogger privilege, oh no. You see, Google have some very cool service that enable anyone to go to some very cool events indeed.

Google City Experts is a program brings together the most active users on Google Maps who write reviews and upload photos of local places. City Experts reward users who have left at least 50 reviews, and who produce at least five new reviews each month. What are the rewards I hear you ask? Well, its invites to events such as this! Past ones have been to go down into the tube tunnels after hours, and to the infamous disappearing dining club. So if you have been to a cool bar anywhere across the world, leave a review next time, and you could be going to the next cool event near you.

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Anyway, before we took the elevator up we listen to historian Leo Hollis who took us on a journey of the streets of London over the time.

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Following on was David Hay, Head of Archives at BT, who discussed the history of the tower.

Constructed between 1961-64, it stands 627ft tall which is the same as 37 floors.

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BT is officially the worlds oldest communications company, with some impressive accolades under its belt including that BT powered the BBC to enable the first ever live broadcast; the Queen's coronation.

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The tower was commissioned by the General Post Office for the primary purpose of supporting the microwave aerials that were then used to carry telecommunications traffic from London to the rest of the country.

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Hopefully there are some more technical drawings somewhere in the engineers office...

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You wouldn't get this now a days with 'elf and safety and all!

After we knew all about the tower, it was time to see it for ourselves.

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We took the elevator, which travels up to the very top of a 360 degree revolving platform to see to incredible views of London. Just take a look for yourself.

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It was a photographers dream.

You can literally see the whole of London. From The City, to Battersea. Harrods to Westminster. The views are awe inspiring.

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The famous revolving tower. Better watch out Wilkes- split trousers may occur!

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We were also treated to some traditional food such as fish and chips. And who can say no to a bar at 627ft up eh?

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High flying Pimms.

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We were there from 6pm till 11pm and so saw the whole of London's skyline change over the evening. The night was my favourite as its when the city came alive with lights and colour.

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Standing there, looking out over the city, really did move me. I know its silly to say, but there is just something so magical about the city from above. 

Its such a shame that the tower isnt open to the public anymore, however, please do join Google City Experts, as you get to do once in a lifetime things like this. Go on, what have you got to loose?


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