A Perfect Friday or A Cooking Class At Leith’s

For my birthday, my husband bought me a gift voucher for a cooking class at Leith’s called “Flavours of the Pacific Rim”. I had already been to a knife skills course there before and really enjoyed it so was really excited to go back. I don’t work Fridays and the idea of no work, A in nursery and a cooking course was basically my idea of heaven and I wasn’t disappointed!

Leith’s was founded in 1974 by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave, it offers professional (Lorraine Pascale is an alumni for example) and non-professional courses and a lot more (they have a shop, organise corporate events etc). If When I am rich, I will definitely be hiring one of their chefs to come to my house! They are based in West London and so off to Shepherd’s Bush I went on a rainy August Friday morning.

The school is at the end of a very pretty street, I was nosing into the houses as I went along

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The class was from 10 til 2.30PM and I have to say I was exhausted and elated by the end. Anyway back to the beginning! They provide tea, coffee and freshly cooked pastries, whilst you are waiting for the class to start

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All sorts of people go to these classes the first lady I met was house-sitting in Brixton (she lives in France most of the time) and then I was paired up with an American and a Anglo-American couple, I was really lucky, my group was really fun, we had a seriously good laugh, Tom, who I was paired with was super enthusiastic, I thought he was going to jump into the oil to eat a wonton at some point!

I won’t go into all the details of each recipe but point out the tips (I have provided photos of them all). After a safety briefing, we went off to start making dessert in the nice big room that was at the perfect temperature (I thought it might be stuffy). Our main teacher for the day, Jess was really great. She was very clear, hands on, miraculously seem to manage to spend time with all of us (we were 10) and had amazing eyelashes!

Everything is prepared for you, all ingredients weighed out etc

The menu we were about to make was as follows:

  • Deep Fried Wontons with Nam Prik dipping sauce and miso dipping sauce
  • Pan fried duck breasts with plum and teriyaki sauce
  • Sesame soba noodle salad
  • Mango and passion fruit pavlova

We started by making the pavlova as it takes 1h30mins to cook, here is the recipe:

img_0469The key tips I retained from this part are:

  • use  metal instruments and make sure they are grease free
  • older egg whites work betterimg_0374
  • start by beating the eggs slowly and remember to incorporate all the mixture and go round the sides or there won’t be an even consistency (Jess’s eagle eyes spotted I was making this mistake)
  • You can use some of the mixture to stick the baking sheet down in the corners
  • Always add icing sugar to the cream or it can taste a bit too savoury

Nope we didn’t do the over the head test but apparently mine was a really good consistency! I took to a party the next day and it was a great success.

Here is one the others made (I decided to not eat mine or the day but had some of theirs!)

And here’s a video of the cream whipping action:

We were then take through the wonton recipe including a little chopping demo:

The wontons were DELICIOUS! Fiddly but seriously delicious, so more-ish.

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The top tips for these amazing babies are:

  • You have to remove a  lot of the layers from the lemongrass and discard the top 3rd, what’s left should be pliable, soft and thin. I had clearly not been discarding enough! You can use the rest to add flavor to sauces etc but you cant eat it.
  • Expel as much air as possible to avoid exploding wontons! and make sure there are no holes
  • Wrapping them isn’t easy, use water to stick the edges together and aim for a “moneybag” shape.

We checked the first one but it was still raw inside so we turned the oil down so the inside would cook but the outside wouldn’t burn. The next ones were perfect and delicious!

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The main tips for the super easy sauces was to peal the ginger and roll the limes before juicing, both super efficient!

Finally, we made the duck, its sauce and the soba noodle salad (which was a doddle).

Here is the duck recipe and the beautiful meat:

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The duck was all about the rendering…I had never rendered any meat but it is so easy and worth it! You basically just get rid of the fat by really slowly heating the duck to get rid of as much fat as possible, you need to start with a cold pan and then wait about 8 mins on a low heat. I turned mine up a bit too high so it was slightly burnt…

We then put it in the oven and made the soba noodle salad , which could not have been simpler and prepared the delicious teriyaki, plum and red wine sauce:

And here it is all coming together:

I had such a great time, I’m really considering doing their Cooking with Confidence evening course and will definitely do some more day classes. They are super professional, friendly, organised and make it all seem so easy. If you like cooking, you can’t go wrong with Leiths!

Linking up with Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog posts because it really was a brilliant day!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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How I Got Over My Fear Of Investing With Nutmeg.com

*This post is not sponsored by Nutmeg, all opinions are my own however they did collaborate by sending me a few articles on women and investing. Also I’m not a professional financial advisor, this simply represents my experience and non-professional opinion.”

“It’s very important to have your own financial independence”, this is what the mother of my boyfriend at the time told back in 2003, I have never forgotten those and I have never forgotten him for that matter (we’re talking seriously hot French man…). However I bet if I did a quick poll of  my female readers most of them would admit that either:

  • their husband deals with their savings and investments
  • most of their money is in a safe cash ISA

Am I right? Who manages your family’s savings and investments? I would love to know!

I have worked in the City for 12 years, I even work for a data management company but I have no financial education and despite my job don’t feel comfortable with actively investing. I lack confidence and that seems to be a common trait amongst women, this sense of lack of knowledge and confidence, which we must overcome!

A few years ago I set up a stocks and shares ISA to try and make more money than the low interest rate I was getting on my cash ISA but I never used because I was just too scared and frankly uneducated about fund/bond/stock picking so I closed it. And I’m definitely not the only one, even though women are statistically better at investing as per a Nutmeg article, they definitely don’t believe it, I’m convinced testosterone levels have an impact on this!

A few months ago I saw an advert for Nutmeg who do the hard/complicated work for you by choosing what goes into your stocks and shares ISA portfolio. I read some reviews (including this one and this one) and decided to open an account (minimum is £500). It is super easy! They told me their number of clients is up 49% year on year as of the end of July 2016 so I’m not the only one who thinks its a great service! If you want better returns than the usual low interest rates you get on cash ISAs or savings accounts then I’d highly recommend you look into them. Here are some examples based on different risk levels:

I’d also highly recommend that in general women take more interest in their investments, you hear too many stories of women who realise too late that their other half has been taking crazy risks with their money, lost it or they just don’t know how much money they have saved and where. It is YOUR money and your future after all!

Back to Nutmeg, there are 3 main steps for setting up an account:

  • How much you want to put in (one lump sum or regular contributions)
  • What risk level you are comfortable with (this determines what they invest your money in)
  • What your investment timeline is
  • options

It also asks what your goal is so you can see if you will achieve it . Obviously nobody can predict the future (so it’s all in theory) but it tells you there is x% of chance that you will reach your goal. This also means that your investments can go DOWN. As the saying goes “past performance is no guarantee of future results”.

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It then builds a portfolio for you, they generally use “exchange-traded funds (ETFs) because they’re easy to trade, low cost and aim to track the movement of market indices with a high degree of accuracy”, you can find out more here: https://www.nutmeg.com/how-we-invest/etf-guide

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You can access your account 24/7 and take your money out at any time without exit fees. The fee that they do charge “starts at 0.95% and goes as low as 0.3%, including VAT, depending on the amount you invest. The more you invest, the lower your fee.” Remember that the full Stocks and Shares ISA allowance for the tax year 2016/2017, as of 6th April, is £15,240. If you want to invest more with them you can but it won’t be tax free.
There are 10 different risk levels and you can create multiple portfolios within the same ISA at different levels (which is what I have done).

All I know is that this ISA has gone up more in a few months than my cash ISA (that has 3 times more money in it) has in 2 years. That’s just my experience  and that’s all I’m trying to do with this blog post, let people know about a product I think is really easy and fills a gap in the market, if I encourage women to get more involved with their savings then all the better!

I’m seeing this as a medium/long term way of investing (ideally to be able to move house one day and the second portfolio is for a future amazing holiday, that one has a higher risk level because I’m happy to gamble more with that one, it’s the one with the better performance, the higher the risk the higher the rewards but you have to be OK with potentially losing some of the money, I can’t stress this enough!)

I think Nutmeg is a great way for women (and men of course!) to take charge of some of their savings in a simple way, everything is super clear and transparent on the website (and you can see what makes up the portfolio, how that portfolio has performed compared to other similar ones from other providers (this is called benchmarking, the only thing I really know about as I sell benchmark data!) and what the predicted outcome is.Here are some comparative examples:


Don’t be afraid! As per this article, lack of confidence often holds women back, which is a real shame, you can always use a low risk level to get comfortable to start with. Inform yourself is all I can recommend and of course there are plenty of financial advisers out there much more qualified than me!
My main point is to encourage you to take more interest in YOUR money and Nutmeg is a great way to do it in my opinion. If you want to know more, their FAQ section is very comprehensive. For some other tips and advice, you might find these posts interesting:

Working Mum Life Hacks

What To Buy For Baby

10 Things To Do Before Maternity Leave Ends

I Have Found The Perfect Work Dress

Dresses are my go-to outfit for work because you don’t have to think about more than one thing (just add tights in the winter)! I work in the City and have to look professional  but don’t have to wear a suit so smart dresses are perfect. Now, finding a dress that fits all my criteria (comfort, style and durable) and doesn’t blow the budget isn’t always easy. Over the years, I’ve found some great bargains at TK Maxx, had some great Isabella Oliver dresses when I was pregnant and also have some really nice ones from LK Bennett, however recently I’ve found one that tops them all!

Rose and Willard are a British premium workwear brand that creates modern, stylish and feminine clothes. I came across them on Twitter, noticed they had a 50% sale on and got browsing. I chose 2 dresses, the Helix Central Drape Dress and the Hiera Diagonal Panel Dress. So far I’ve only worn the first one and it’s PERFECT! The only downside is that it is dry clean only, I will just have to be really careful so it doesn’t have to be cleaned too often.
Here’s why this is one of my favourite dresses ever:
-the material is super luxurious, it’s soft and you can feel the quality. It’s made of soft Italian luxury jersey, designed and made in the UK.
-the cut is amazing, it’s definitely perfect for me. It’s tight and the top and then sits just right below.


-the V neck top is super flattering and as its right and lined, it gives a polished look

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-the colour is beautiful
– it’s super comfortable to wear and sit in for 8 hours straight!
-it’s super light
-it’s the right mix of modern/chic/feminine
– it was 50% off!

I haven’t worn the other one yet but will do soon and will report back! I’m also very tempted to buy it in black too.
Get shopping ladies!

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My Usual Post Girl’s Weekend in France Soul-Searching…

I grew up in France and left when I was 18 in the summer of 2000 after passing the infamous “Baccalaureat”, Bac S nonetheless… At “lycee” from 1997 to 2000 I became great friends with E and P and spent this weekend with them. The same thing happened 3 years ago last time we met up, the minute I step on the plane to go back to London, I question EVERYTHING! These are the thoughts that go through my head (some rational, some not, some philosophy 101, some ridiculous but none a reflexion of my friends’ lives…):

  • Could I ever live in the same place for ever?
  • Could I live in a small town?
  • Will I ever be happy?
  • Is London the right place for me?
  • Why don’t I live in France and have 40 days holiday?
  • Why do I feel the need for so many “things”?
  • Why don’t I do more cultural things?
  • Why don’t I make the most of living in London?
  • Isn’t it incredible how much your life can change in a few years?
  • Is my life how I imagined it to be when we were at school together?
  • Should I not do a job I am more passionate about?
  • What else do I want in life?
  • What is wrong with me? Maybe I just need a holiday?
  • Why didn’t I bet more money on Brexit and Iceland to beat England then I bet I wouldn’t be feeling like this, would I?!
  • Why am I listening to sad music on the train home, this is only making things worse…

I guess seeing them makes me think about my childhood and the different paths people take but every time it really disturbs me, it’s really weird. I miss my friends and I am super happy we are still friends nearly 20 years later and I hope our daughters all get to meet one day. In the meantime, it’s back to reality and enough with the questions!

Out of interest, anybody else ask themselves these questions?

That Time I Thought I Was In Love With a Chav…

I haven’t blogged for ages so I thought I would try and make this post a good one. Most of you will be familiar with “Facebook memories” and this week my trip to Abu Dhabi from April 2009 popped up and brought back quite some “memories” indeed…

2009 was a big year for me and I am not going to go into all the details here so I will stick to my funny “chav” adventure, an important detail to note is that I went to Abu Dhabi single for the first time in about 5 years.

So what happened? Who is this chav? Well he was nicknamed “Gav the Chav” by my BFF, part of me thinks he doesn’t even deserve a blog post but there are some funny parts to the story and the whole thing is so out of character for me I think it deserves a mention (plus it’s a bit more interesting than baby stuff…).

So here I am, a few months after a horrible breakup on my way to Abu Dhabi to work at a festival with my sister. There was no plan to find a man out there at all but somehow I ended up flirting with this liverpudlian with curly hair, I got drunk one night and ended up telling him I liked him. He was shocked (red flag number 1) but clearly delighted, anyway he lived in the UAE, I flew back to London and about a week later he arrived in London and came to stay. This was all very fast, I hardly knew him but it was just some fun. The whole thing lasted about 2 months until he dumped ME by TEXT but here are some “highlights” of this ridiculous infatuation:

  • he only had one pair of shoes and they smelt bad so he had the genius idea to put TCP in them to get rid of smell, my whole house smelt of the stuff
  • the morning after he arrived in London, we went out for a walk and he had music playing out loud through his phone that he had attached to his shorts, WHY DID I NOT SAY ANYTHING?
  • my dad thought he was a bit “dodgy” (BIGGEST RED FLAG IN HISTORY)
  • he didn’t really have a job or anywhere to live and I ended up giving him a weekly allowance that he was going to pay me back as soon as he got a job (WHAT WAS I THINKING?!)
  • we stayed in a hotel one night and he arrived before me but couldn’t check in because he didn’t have a credit card
  • he told me he thought he had a son, he had seen the kid and he had curly hair too and the mum was one of his ex-girlfriends (for some reason I didn’t think this was that bad?!)
  • a month in I googled “can you get married at Glastonbury?” just before we went there (Thank god it isn’t possible to get married there!!!)
  • I will never forget walking down the street in a nice white dress and expensive sunglasses whilst he was wearing an Everton shirt and smelly trainers
  • I should have known I was in a haze of delirium when I didn’t want to introduce him to my granny or admit to anybody I had leant him money, deep down I knew it wasn’t right but as they say “Love” is blind
  • there are more details I couldn’t possibly discuss here…

So after about 2 months, he sent me a text to tell me that I was making him feel crap about himself and always hassling him about getting a job etc and that he couldn’t take it anymore… A blessing in disguise really, did he ever pay me back? Nope. Will I ever be that naïve again? Nope. Do I regret it? Nope. Is it part of who I am? Yes.

There are people with stories and there are people without and clearly there are people who support Everton and who have smelly feet who are best avoided.