Author: Megan Hallinan

On Safari in Chyulu Hills, Kenya

In October last year I spent my 30th birthday at the spectacular Ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya with Tim. I wrote about our experience of staying at the lodge and the superb food and drink in an earlier blog post here. But now is the time to talk about the most exciting part of the holiday – the safari! We’d never been on safari before and we did a bit of research, helped very much by the brilliant Turquoise Holidays who we booked with. For us, we wanted an all round experience of a beautiful hotel, excellent food and wildlife. We certainly hit the bullseye with Ol Donyo. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Ol Donyo is on a reserve so you have the best of both worlds – plenty of wildlife around the greener grounds of the reserve, as well as out on the open plains. In this part of Kenya you don’t get hippos and rhinos, but pretty much everything else! And at Ol Donyo there are a number of different …

Blood Orange Sorbet with Solerno Liqueur

Towards the end of last year I was kindly sent a bottle of Solerno, the world’s first blood orange liqueur. It’s not like anything I’ve tried before, with a zesty but fruity kick. Hand-picked from the slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna, Solerno is made from blood oranges (Sanguinello, and known locally as Arancia Rossa, for the deep crimson hue of its flesh) harvested at the height of their season in the Mediterranean winter. I also love the bottle, inspired by Venetian Murano style glass. It’s certainly an impressive design for our growing collection of spirits! This drink makes me think of holidays in Italy on warm summer evenings spent on rooftop bars overlooking the Sorrento coast, or on leisurely boat trips around Capri. Italy is one of my favourite countries in the world and it holds a lot of special memories – we even got engaged in Florence, in the gardens of the Four Seasons hotel. I was thinking about how to use it at home and I decided I really wanted to try a recipe that …

Quick & Easy Beef Wellington Recipe

For Tim’s birthday this year, I thought I’d have a go at making a beef wellington. This was going to be no easy feat considering his birthday was mid-week and I’d have to prepare and cook it after getting back from work at 7pm. I’d never made one before so it was a massive gamble, but I actually managed to do a pretty great job – I don’t mean to sound arrogant, it’s more that I was genuinely astounded at how well it turned out, it may well have been a fluke! Either way, I got lots of lovely comments from people on social media when I posted photos of it, so I thought I’d share the recipe as it really wasn’t very difficult! Recipe: Makes 2 individual beef wellingtons, one per person Ingredients Jus-Roll puff pastry 320g ready rolled sheet 2 organic steaks, approx 200g each 150g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme 50g chicken liver pate 6 slices of Parma Ham 1 egg (beaten to make an egg wash) Olive …

Birthday Lunch at The Black Swan at Oldstead

Ever since my Mum moved back to Yorkshire, I’ve been dying to visit The Black Swan in Oldstead, but felt like I needed an ‘occasion’ given its Michelin-star quality food (and prices!). I finally had the perfect excuse for my 30th birthday in October and asked my Mum if a trip there for lunch could be my present (a bit cheeky, but it worked, and she got to enjoy it too!). I booked at the start of the year last year as it’s high in demand. Mid-way through last year it was voted the ‘Travellers Choice Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the World’ by TripAdvisor, so I was glad I got my booking in before then, as I’m sure the requests went through the roof. It all seems so baffling for a tiny restaurant in a humble little village such as Oldstead. Despite it being around 20 minutes from where my Mum lives and where I grew up as a child, we didn’t know anything about it until its incredible rise to fame over the …

A Sunday Lunch at Fire Stables, Wimbledon

This is a long overview blog post from late last Summer which I’m finally getting around to writing up. But it’s about a Sunday Roast, so maybe it’s actually more suitable as we’re now in Winter and chillier weekends when a good heart-warming roast dinner is just what you need. I say it’s about a Roast Dinner. It was technically a combo of roast and seafood. I’ll explain… We live in Tooting and while we often pop into the centre of Wimbledon for shopping or the cinema, we hadn’t explored the village before. That was until we visited Fire Stables. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the station into a very charming party of Wimbledon and looks out onto a quiet street – in the summer it quite literally opened out onto the street with folding back doors/windows and so that’s where we sat, soaking up the sunshine. It’s part of the Young’s network, but what I love about these pubs is that you would never know they’re part of a chain unless you really …

Making Snowballs with Warninks Advocaat

When I was a teenager growing up in Cyprus, my favourite Winter tipple was the mighty ‘Snowball’. I have absolutely no idea why it was a popular drink over there, but our go-to pub used to do a brilliant one which my friends and I loved. And I knew that somewhere deep in my photographic archives (aka Facebook!) there were some pictures. And dear reader, I found them. WHAT is that haircut? I think I was going for the Noel Fielding look… So to summarise, I really do love a Snowball but I have to admit, I’d forgotten my love of this Advocaat-based Wintery drink! Earlier in the month, the team at Warninks kindly sent me a Snowball ‘kit’ with everything you need to concoct one of these beverages, along with a Christmas jumper which has had a lot of outings for the past few weeks, including our annual friends’ Christmas jumper lunch! For those of you who’ve never tried Advocaat, you might be wondering what on earth it is (and why it’s so yellow!) …

A New Year’s Resolution: 12 Plays in 12 Months

Ok ok, I know this blog is supposed to be about food. And travel (when food is involved). So you might be wondering why on earth I’m writing about theatre? I can assure you that Got To Be Gourmet isn’t going to turn into a lifestyle blog, but on this one occasion I really wanted to share something I’ve been doing this year to hopefully inspire some of you to take action in January. Because in January of this year, I set myself a New Year’s Resolution of going to see a play or musical every month for the rest of the year. Why? I know it’s not the most typical of New Year’s Resolutions. I could have gone on some diet (which would have lasted a month I’m sure!) given up chocolate, or something along those lines. It all came about when I went to see King Lear at the Old Vic at the start of the year, when my friend Ceri invited me along. It reminded me how happy going to the theatre …

Staying at Ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

I really don’t know where to begin with writing about my 30th birthday. It was just one of the best couple of weeks of my life and I’m not sure how our holidays will be able to top it! We booked a trip to Kenya and Zanzibar with Turquoise Holidays (this is our fourth trip with them following the Maldives for our Honeymoon, St Lucia for Tim’s 30th and Jamaica for our anniversary, and they’re always fantastic!). And after plenty of planning, visas, jabs and tablets, we were ready and raring to go! We flew with Qatar airways – our first experience of flying with them and we were very impressed – comfy seats, good entertainment selection and surprisingly good food! We flew from Heathrow to Qatar in the evening, had a quick change and then flew on to Nairobi, arriving in the morning. We were greeted right off the plane, our bags were whisked away and we were shown to our private plane which we would be taking to Chyulu Hills! I don’t think …

Making Goat’s Cheese at Home

For those of you long-term Got to Be Gourmet readers (thanks for sticking by me!!), you might remember one of my very early blog posts about making halloumi at home. If not, you can take a read here (please excuse the low-res photos, it was a long time ago!). I made it with a handy kit from The Big Cheese Making Kit. Recently they got in touch again to ask if I’d be interested in trying out another one, and of course the answer was yes! The first time around my halloumi was a big success, which I was seriously surprised by considering I’d never attempted making any kind of cheese before. It did feel like a lot of effort but I was very proud to be able to dish up halloumi that I’d made with my own fair hands. The Goat’s Cheese Kit arrived with everything I needed to make the cheese – Step by step instructions (and a recipe booklet), Citric Acid, Organic Sea Salt, Butter Muslin, and a Dairy Thermometer. I just needed …

Dinner at Rijks, Amsterdam

At the end of September, I went on a girlie weekend to Amsterdam with two of my awesome former colleagues, Pia and Lieke – at 2K I really did make friends for life! We did lots of fun things during our trip (I’ll get to writing about these at some point!), with huge thanks to Lieke who is from the Netherlands and knew all the great spots to visit. One of those was Rijks restaurant. Rijks is located within the world famous Rijksmuseum. Just as the museum tells the story and history of the Netherlands with some influences from other countries from across the globe, the restaurant follows suit. It describes itself as being “the Rijksmuseum served up on a plate”. The kitchen is headed up by Joris Bijdendijk who you could see working hard away in the open plan kitchen with his team. He’s obviously well recognised in the cooking scene in the Netherlands, with a new book launching next week. So, on to the food! To try a little bit of everything, we ordered the …