Delicious Alpro yogurt toppings #Alprotops

I love yogurt. It’s refreshing, of course, but to me, it’s like a blank canvas. From plain to fireworks of flavours…

Sprinkle, season, drizzle, flavour… An easy way to cook and experiment. My kids are allowed to make the funkiest creations as long as they eat them. In our fridge, a favourite is the Alpro simply plain – just the right texture and ideal in curries and soups as a final touch. I also do an express Eton Mess with their vanilla one (between the soya and the meringue, I figure we reach a balance on the calorie count).

For their new campaign, Alpro Tops (#AlproTops), I tried their two new editions. An excellent strawberry with rhubarb, slightly sweeter than their usual ones, with a girlie pink hue my daughter already adores in smoothies. And a lemon & lime, quite refined that I simply need to try with chicken breast. Or even as a dip.

Alpro - #alprotops Alpro - #alprotops
This morning quite a vast selection of toppings arrived in the post, chosen by Alpro to shake and jazz up breakfast time (you can win your own here, by the way). Wow, what a range – and these are only a few. Quite a few I had not really considered so far: mulberries, goji berries, chia and flax seeds, cranberries… Endless combinations.

alpro, #alprotops, yogurt, soya, toppings
And so we had fun creating a few.

Like this savoury one. Eat your 5 a day! Well, herbs count too and they work really well with yogurt. This one uses fresh coriander and thyme with just a sprinkle of dried mint. Enjoy straight with a spoon or with poached eggs and a salsa.

Alpro - #alprotops
Ispahan remains a constant inspiration to me. Lychees at the bottom of the bowl, a drizzle of rose syrup and the day is already much nicer isn’t it? Give it a twist - violet syrup and blackberries, elderflower cordial and green apple…

Alpro - #alprotops Alpro - #alprotops
I found these edible dried petals in a Parisian épicerie. Delicate, each a different taste. A breakfast bouquet, simple but such a lovely effect on a table. It’s almost lavender season so try flavouring sugar with it. It’s also super easy to make homemade flavoured syrup with sage, basil, rosemary or spice (I have a recipe just here, effortless).

Alpro - #alprotops Alpro - #alprotops Alpro - #alprotops
Comfit ginger is quite a treat. I mix the yogurt with the syrup before adding some, thinly sliced. Succulent with mango cubes or, my favourite, really juicy pear.

Alpro - #alprotops
Fan of Bounty bars? Try this, much healthier: Alpro simply plain with coconut dust and dark chocolate curls… Add some icing sugar and it makes quite a nice cake icing too!

5 more ideas this Sunday. Meanwhile, have a look at hashtag #AlproTops to find inspiration!

Alpro - #alprotops

A week-end in London: April 18-21

4 days of freedom. Hoorray! Chocolate treats, BBQs, long walks, picnics, there is so much to do. Staying in London? Quick, scroll down to read our 20 fun ideas for this weekend…

1. A fab world street-food festival will settle on Southbank for the weekend. With… a wine bar, a cocktail bar and a craft beer bar!

2. Friday and Saturday, Sadler’s Wells has a special family program with rather magical kids shows.

3. Did you know the V&A owns a collection of historical puppets? On Saturday, they will take them out of the archives and do a small show around Shakespeare’s work.

4. Go on a chocolate egg hunt in the Design Museum, through the Paul Smith exhibition. Rewards will be sweet from the amazing Rococo chocolatier.

5. On Saturday, raise your glass at Ciderfest, a festival around 15 ciders and delicious hot smoked meats.

6. Don’t miss the new Saatchi exhibition, Pangaea, putting forward fantastic African and South American artists.

7. How about some Thai? The best London restaurants are listed here. We particularly love Rosa’s and The Blue Elephant.

8. Mess Gallery launches an Easter afternoon tea, absolutely delicious and it will not break the bank at £12.50! Oh, and there’s a terrace where the kids can run and jump and give you a break…

9. It’s record store day on Berwick street this Saturday so go looking for a gem while listening to DJs and live music.

10. There’s a new mini-adventure in London, Fairground. 3 levels of mouthwatering food, music and fun workshops.

11. The Tate Modern has just opened one of the largest exhibitions ever done on Matisse. An absolute must-see for art lovers.

12. Need chocolate? Try Paul A Young’s afternoon tea. Divine and really surprising.

13. An IFO (Identified Flying Object) just landed near King’s Cross: a cage made of rainbow neons, a beautiful art piece by Jack Rival. Nice little detour to make.

14. Kensington Palace will also have an Easter egg hunt - a lovely place to keep the kids busy. All weekend.

15. You know the Chelsea bun. But did you know there is also the Hackney bun? You’ll find the recipes here. You can also join the bun fight by voting for your favourite on Twitter, the winner will be baked Monday at 17.00 on Trafalgar Square.

16. There’s a rather different pub crawl happening on Sunday. The Christathon. Yep. Come as Jesus.

17. Have a stroll through the Barbican conservatory, only open to the public on Sundays. An exotic break!

18. On Sunday, have a bite of the Ox Roast, a collaboration between The Ship, Wandsworth and Flat Iron, Soho. Expect a giant BBQ with superb meat basted over 24 hours with London Stout…

19. Kids are going to love Shakespeare on Monday. To celebrate his birthday, The Globe Theatre is turning into a giant super-playground.

20. Celebrate St George’s day on Trafalgar Square with a food market and a few concerts.

♪♫♪♫ Click on the map to locate the events ♪♫♪♫

WE in London

Tate Modern – Henri Matisse, the cut-outs

In Matisse’s work, I see Tahiti. The vibrant colours. The ferns, the corals. The hibiscus blooms. The tifaifais, the local patchworks.

This is what I expected from the new exhibition opening at the Tate, one of the largest ever dedicated to the artist. I discovered a different artist in the process. When his health problems stopped him from painting, he became a sculptor. Not of stone, but of paper, cutting straight into it, scissors becoming an extension of his soul as the brush had been before. He could reposition the shapes on the canvas, trying different angles. You read about it beforehand but it only really makes sense when you see it.

Henri Matisse, the cut-outs is like glancing though the looking glass. Step closer – you’ll notice how the shapes are collaged, the meandering charcoal lines, the experimentation. Experts, when analysing Acanthuses, have counted no less than one thousand pin holes… On others, you can imagine a spiral, a grid to better grasp the architecture he had in mind.

A few more things that I held dear… The stained windows he made for the Vence chapel, glass not being a material I associate with Matisse, how the idea consumed him for a while. Oceania, a piece that started randomly, simply by not willing to discard a shape, putting it on the wall to hide an annoying default. Being inspired, transforming the whole room by adding corals, leaves, birds. And of course, the absolute must-see, the four blue nudes, reunited for the very first time. These voluptuous female silhouettes have a Picasso side to me, a de-constructed geometry carefully reinvented.

If you are not familiar with the artist’s work, this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see 130 pieces at once, fully absorbing his art (which you really should follow by a visit to the Matisse museum in Nice to fully grasp the colours, so very different in the light of the south of France, where they originated). If you already admire him, you will learn so much more about this techniques, be touched by his slight hesitations, his repositioning… This makes him curiously more human.

Henri Matisse, the cut-outs
Until September 7th 2014
Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG

m1 m3 matisse_drawing_with_scissors

Cooking with Vini and Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces – lamb, sage and jeera sauce in papillote

Ah that extra spoonful of sauce with so much magic it turns a simple recipe into memorable mouthfuls… Well, that is exactly the power the Vini and Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces have: you may have bought them but your guests would swear it is home made. So you can… cheat a little, like for these lamb papillotes, which only require a few minutes preparation. Perfect for Monday evenings when you feel you have already lost all energy!

For 4 papillotes, you will need…
- 500g lamb medallions, thinly cut
- 1 onion peeled and sliced
- sage and tarragon, 10 leaves of each
- salt and pink peppercorns
- 1 tbsp of Jeera sauce by Vini and Bal’s
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved

Cut a rectangle of baking paper and add everything: lamb, salt and pepper, tomatoes, a few leaves of sage and tarragon. Close tightly. Cook 35 min at 180 C (just enough time to enjoy a bubbly bath) and serve with rice and a rocket salad. Just what you need to remember the countdown to the week-end which, after all, has already started. Sit back and relax… Try this recipe with some white fish too.

Vini and Bal’s
Sainsbury’s, Booths, Ocado

Cooking with Vini and Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces – lamb, sage and jeera sauce in papillote Cooking with Vini and Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces – lamb, sage and jeera sauce in papillote Cooking with Vini and Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces – lamb, sage and jeera sauce in papillote Cooking with Vini and Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces – lamb, sage and jeera sauce in papillote Cooking with Vini and Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces – lamb, sage and jeera sauce in papillote

Barbican conservatory

You don’t expect it there. The Barbican. A maze of grey concrete. You have heard of it, glimpsed it from the outside but it was always closed. Vibrant green in a surprising conservatory, exotic flowers, Japanese carp, palmtrees, ferns. Discreet stairs lead you to the upper floor, offer an even better view. You almost expect colourful birds to fly by. It’s like a little holiday from the city…

The conservatory is open to the public every Sunday, free entry.

Barbican Art Gallery
Silk Street, London

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Dutch Pancake with fresh pineapple and spiced syrup

So what’s a Dutch pancake? It’s all in the name. Pan-cake. Between a French crêpe and a cake, baked in a pan, but wait, in the oven. Why? You’ll be able to give it a really nice curve. Think edible plate! It’s a lovely effect on a kitchen table. Or for dessert. Imagine that with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce… You can make them a few hours in advance, they will hold the shape quite well.

But for this one, why not try a pineapple carpaccio? Give it a twist with a spiced syrup: cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, pink peppercorn, saffron. So good you will seriously consider drinking a glass of it.

You will need…

1 fresh pineapple, sliced thinly

For 2 Dutch pancakes:
- 10g butter
- 2 eggs
- 100ml single cream
- 120ml milk
- 125g flour
- 2 frying pans, 15cm diameter (The Tefal ideal mini chef is great for this, small base, high sides)

For the spiced syrup:
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1 pinch of pink peppercorn
- 4 saffron stalks
- 200ml water
- 50g sugar

In a bowl, mix flour, eggs, cream and milk until smooth. Preheat your oven to 200 C. On you normal cooker, warm your frying pans, putting a little butter in each. Scoop some of the batter in, let it settle a few seconds then swirl it to the sides, slowly, letting it be cooked by the heat. When you have the shape you like in both pans, put them in the oven for 20 min. Careful when getting them out, the handle will be super hot! You can also use a muffin tin to try and do mini versions. Butter it first and cut the cooking time by half. Add a little chopped mint.

The syrup is super easy to do. Heat the water and sugar in a pan until it simmers. Turn the heat down, add the spices, wait 10 min, then take it off the stove and allow to cool down for another 10 min.

Try these Dutch pancakes on their own too with a mix of icing sugar and cinnamon…

Bon appétit!

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Ecotools launches 5 super styling Hair Brushes

My hair refuses to be tamed. Each morning brings a fight. And anti-frizz serum. Another one to make it smooth. There is a lot of sighing.

A hairdresser recently whispered to me “Sometimes, it’s all about the brush…”. Point taken. To be fair, having a 8 year old in the house meant a huge collection of Hello Kitty ones. I’m not even sure where they all came from. I can only remember buying one. The one I’m mainly using. It’s bright pink, the first I see when I am still on autopilot in the morning. If you’re a mum, you know. Some details you happily forget when you haven’t had a coffee yet.

Time to go hunting for a high tech adult version. Luckily, Ecotools, my beloved make-up brushes brand, has just launched a new range. Yes, you guessed right – 5 beautiful hairbrushes, each with a different skill. You’re sure to find the perfect one!

Why fall for these? Because they’re light but offer a good grasp, thanks to their ergonomic bamboo handle. Because the brand is eco-conscious (renewable bamboo forest, recycled and recyclable paper for packaging…) and yes, this is compatible with beauty. But also because they are equipped with an aerodynamic Eco-Vent system that dries hair 20% faster. Really? Yes. I have tried it and on still damp hair, do not even need a hair dryer any more. It’s brilliant!

Which one to choose? Depends on what you need. In order of appearance on the pictures… Styler and Smoother if you love styling your hair. Sleek and Shine finisher, ideal for longer hair, distributing the natural moisturisers nicely. For a brushing, two sizes of round ones: Quick and full volume styler. The first is better for short to medium hair, the other for more volume in the curls. And the magic touch, Smoothing Detangler, will make your hair knot free without tears.

The bonus point? Ecotools has created a synthetic versions of boars’ hair. Cruelty free but wow, what a shine!

Ecotools, chez Boots Ecotools at Boots

Ecotools, beauty, hair, hairbrushes Ecotools launches hairbrushes Ecotools launches hairbrushes Ecotools launches hairbrushes Ecotools launches hairbrushes

Esther Taylor, interior designer – Interview

Her father was a carpenter by trade. From him, she learnt to see space differently – lines, levels, a clear, precise vision. She uses fabric colours like others a brush, mixing textures, daring a bolder hue or pattern, breaking through the classicism of a room. She has 3 kids which to me would mean constant chaos (house and mind) but she creates superb contemporary rooms with a sense of inner light… Meet Esther Taylor.

Your father was, you say, your first inspiration. Tell us a few childhood memories, what did you learn from him?

I used to love spending time in his workshop. It felt magical and I remember the wonderful smell of freshly cut wood and I was mesmerised by all the machinery. From a young age, my dad would take me to the park and quiz me on my rules of perspective drawing always guiding me softly. I grew up alongside this creativity and spent many hours sketching my own designs on the back of envelopes and spare paper. My creativeness is all down to him.

When did you know this would be your life passion?

For as long I remember. I remember putting schemes together from such an early age and I knew interior design would be my passion as well as my vocation.

Your eyes sparkle, as if you were filled with constant inspiration. How would you define your style, your signature?

Clean and concise, I always like my lines and levels to be perfect when it comes to the structure. When it comes to the interior, I like to layer textures from a similar palette and I give it a pop with colour.

Esther Taylor -  Interview

What kind of project do you prefer? A specific theme? The freedom to do anything you want with a room?

A specific theme. I love being challenged and being taken out of my comfort zone. I find I produce my best work when I have to adapt my taste to that of what the client wants.

How do you reinvent a room? Do you have a specific starting point – a feature in the room, a first piece of furniture?

I always try and start with a point of inspiration, be it a fabric, colour, texture or piece of furniture. I then look at that item and see what various directions I can take in terms of design, colour and texture. I will very often ask the client what they have in mind and work with that because ultimately it is the clients’ space. I once designed an entire master suite based on a pillow case!

Esther Taylor -  Interview

You have three children – how do you combine design and children in a house? The theory is easy but practically… any tips?

Lots of storage is essential and make sure everything has its place. When the kids are in bed, I make sure that the toys have their own place so that it can all be cleared away in the evening to create an adult environment. There are many amazing wipeable fabrics out there such as vinyl wallpapers that look like silk so you can be clever with your finishes.

Which redesign are you most proud of?

I would say my biggest highlight was designing a boutique hotel in North West London. The building had not been touched since 1874 and whilst I was tasked with creating a contemporary feel, I also had to be mindful of maintaining the Victorian charm which makes it so special. It was a big responsibility and I was extremely proud of the end result.

Monochrome or daring colours?

Definitely monochrome with a fab pop of colour.

Esther Taylor, Interview

Looking at pictures of your work, I have to admire the beautiful angles. How do you use geometry in decoration?

I always ensure that my lines are accurate and picked up correctly on various levels. I think about the point at which two textures, joins or levels meet which I call ‘junctions’ and work back from there.

If you could choose one iconic place to redecorate, which would you go for?

Babington House

Esther Taylor -  Interview

Cooking with Lea and Perrins – crunchy tomato biscotti

Every British home, I’m sure, has a bottle of Lea & Perrins in the kitchen. They may not use it everyday but it’s an essential. Ask anyone and they will answer: Cheese on toast and Welsh rarebit! Lasagna! It’s fruity, tangy and only a drop or two jazzes up a salad dressing, a pasta sauce. Oh, and of course, the Bloody Mary would not be the same without it…

But tonight I needed crunchiness. How about trying a savoury version of biscotti, mmmh?

You will need…
- 180g self raising flour
- yeast (if substituting plain flour)
- 10g sugar
- 100g sundried tomatoes
- Herbs, whichever you have in stock, thyme, oregano, basil…
- 1 egg
- 4 tbsp olive oil (I used the oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes)
- 1 tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce

In a large bowl, mix, well, everything really (my favourite kind of recipe!), keeping the egg, oil and sauce until last. Mix well, the dough is rather easy to make, dos not stick too much. Divide it in two and make a baguette-like shape with each half.

Put these two pieces of dough on some baking paper in the oven for 30 min at 180 C. Leave to cool – approx. 30-40 min – then slice thinly. Keep the crumbs, by the way, they freeze very well and will prove handy next time a recipe calls for breadcrumbs. You’re almost there, just a few more steps! Put these tartines back into the oven at 180 C, 10 min on each side. This will give them the super-crispy touch (bis-cotti: baked twice).

The tomatoes and sugar caramelise slightly in the process, the Lea & Perrins rebalancing it back towards savoury. Kids love these (and remember, mine are fussy eaters), calling them crunchy clouds. They’re gorgeous with a soup, Greek yoghurt with chives, or simply goat’s cheese…

Cooking with Lea and Perrins - tomato biscottiCooking with Lea and Perrins - tomato biscotti Cooking with Lea and Perrins - tomato biscotti Cooking with Lea and Perrins - tomato biscotti Cooking with Lea and Perrins - tomato biscotti Cooking with Lea and Perrins - tomato biscotti Cooking with Lea and Perrins - tomato biscotti Cooking, Lea and Perrins, tomato biscotti
More Lea & Perrins and Sorted Food recipes this way, presented with a lovely sense of humour too…

Saatchi – Afternoon Tea at the Mess Gallery

I prefer dream-like moments to last a little longer. After exploring the Saatchi Gallery, my mind was still contemplating parallel words, constellations of artistic details, tracing improbable lines between artists, opening drawers of memories, comparing, another filter on reality. Real life could wait…

Did you know that Gallery Mess, the restaurant of the Saatchi, also serves an excellent afternoon tea and even better, at quite a good price? Under the arches, you’ll see more art work too, eclectic, framed by a timeless spring. A neon cockerel, a bust made of stained windows, a giant, lonely shoe… The outside terrace makes it the perfect place for pushchairs and kids.

There will be delectable sandwiches: mini bagel with rich salmon, brioche-like bread with eggs and cress, a hint of salt, cucumber, mint and salted butter ribboned with pea shoots. On the second tier are the sweets, of course: lemon tart with a crème brûlée topping, mini chocolate/caramel macaron, so, so good… and in a box with a bow, two irresistible surprise truffles.

A seasonal treat had replaced the usual scones: hot cross buns, warm, rich in cinnamon, apple and raisins. Add clotted cream and jam – ah, pure happiness! Especially as all this is at £12.50/person. For that quality, it’s almost unbelievable in London… Count £17.50 to upgrade to a glass of prosecco (because it’s worth celebrating!)

*Scoop* Between April 12 and 27, this afternoon tea will be Easter themed. Cupcakes topped with chocolate eggs, shortbread covered in chocolate, rainbow bright macarons alongside the irresistible sandwiches and scones. Same price.

Gallery Mess restaurant
Saatchi Gallery
Duke of York’s HQ
King’s Road
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