Rosa's Cookbook

I’ve had a love affair with Rosa’s [Rosa’s Thai Cafe] from the very first day I stepped into its happily crowded and steamy doors in the heart of Spitalfields on a winter evening five years ago.

I was meeting friends for a long overdue catchup after work but downtrodden with a cold, wasn’t feeling my best. As I shrugged off my coat and cast my gaze at the tables next to me dotted with fragrant delights and let the gentle hum of the busy room wash over me – transporting me to the comforting warmth of the East, I slowly began to feel revived.

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Since then that day if in the vicinity of a Rosa’s – I have picked it over any other venue – never tiring of its mouthwatering sweet, spicy and sour fare.

The spicy Beef Salad with both its cooling and warming properties got me through my pregnancy cravings [see my ad-hoc Spicy and Sweet Thai Salad Dressing inspired by this from last year]. The soul-soothing Vegetarian Tom Yam soup sated me when I went off meat – and the Beef Mussaman curry with steamed sticky rice and hot gunpowder chillies [on request] filled me with goodness when I needed comfort food… not to mention the succulent summer rolls I could eat by the dozen when I am feeling healthy.

Started as a street-food stall in Brick Lane in 2008, the group was founded by husband and wife Saiphin and Alex, and now runs to six sites across London, including in Soho, Spitalfields, Chelsea, and Carnaby Street, serving plentiful bowls of home made Thai food with a modern twist.

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The librarian and Martha Stewart in me loves having a cookbook hanging around the house for comfort but there is rarely one that is well thumbed. I have been waiting since that day five years ago for this cookbook and just cannot wait to dig in and make it my own.

Rosas Small Bites

Stunningly photographed so you can practically smell the basil and the chillies emanating from its pages, the book is as simple as it is stunning. Despite the complex flavours of Thai dishes the recipes and ingredients are to my relief surprisingly accessible with the most exotic ingredient the ‘taro root’. Everything else from the 14 ingredient exotic list like green peppercorns, pea aubergines and pandan leaves I am pretty sure you can find at your local Waitrose!

Rosas Prawn Soup

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Rosas Curry

You can pick up Rosa’s Thai Cafe: The Cookbook at any good bookstore and follow their great Blog [which includes cooking tutorials] and their mouthwatering Instagram here.

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ByLoom

Kicking off the first in a series of posts from my trip to India, is a shop profile of a unique store nestled in a rambling mansion in the leafy alleyways of Kolkata [or Calcutta].

By Loom – run out of their family home by husband-and-wife team Rumi and Bappaditya Biswas is a treasure trove of intricately hand-woven textiles, handcrafted homeware and original fashion accessories. The couple work with weavers and crafters to marry Bengal’s rich craft heritage with contemporary design.

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With original patterned tiles and spacious marble staircases tying the space together, the ground floor is filled with hand-loomed scarves, embroidered soft furnishings, beautifully crafted children’s accessories and home-ware.

The upper floors are laid out like vast walk-in wardrobes, displaying rows and rows of lavish handmade saris, featuring intricate workmanship in a staggering array of colours and patterns.

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Since I visited the store four years ago, the store has become a hot spot for India’s design conscious and it has expanded with a bohemian cafe and courtyard serving delicate homemade Indian food.

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The spirit of By Loom is undeniably rooted in the building it inhabits and the locality – which retains the essence of an old Bengali neighbourhood. In the West, concept stores taking up premises of town houses and residential spaces to create intimate environments is a big retail trend – but rarely is it a natural evolution of the business.

Walking through the house is like visiting the artistic home of a Bengali relative. Old armoires are filled with handcrafted pottery and ceramics from makers all over the state and coffee tables groan with colourful heirloom-like textiles that look like they have just been taken out of closets for sorting.

The new courtyard, an overspill of the cafe is prepped for whiling away cool afternoons and balmy nights.

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58-B, Hindustan Park
Kalighat, Kolkata

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As much as I have delighted in a once in a lifetime maternity break, I have been itching to get back to design and my blog especially. It felt only appropriate that I kickstart it during the London Design Festival.

Having spent the past four months [has it been that long already?] in a haze of sleepless nights, playful days, much needed coffee mornings with new friends [lifelines] and a mind-altering education, it has felt like my brain hasn’t had the space for much else. The honest truth is that there were times that I found myself frustrated by the sudden lack of industry and inspiration. Spending over a decade working every hour under the sun at a job I really loved and then abruptly stopping was a very strange feeling.

But as with everything in life – hindsight is a beautiful thing and its only in looking back on my summer of love I’ve realised how amazing these last few months have been and not as devoid of inspiration as I initially believed.

A quick introduction to our bright star – Aarya [pronounced Ah-Ree-Ah] was born on the 24th of May and we grow more in love with her every day – we have been introducing her to our world and she to us. She has inspired me in a profound as well as a superficial way – her clothes, her nursery and making sure she is comfortable has opened up a whole new realm of sweet and playful design.

I kickstarted Aarya’s design education by inadvertently celebrating her 1 month birthday at the Ace Hotel [I went there for a launch]. She loved the hubbub of it all!

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Being a little more housebound than normal, I discovered the many charms of my East London neighbourhood [Wanstead] – a spate of new eateries and shops began populating our high street providing much needed respite.

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With everyone suddenly obsessed with sleep in our household, it became all about the bedding. We all had matching Metallic Polka Dot bedsheets from PB Teen, our bed was topped with West Elm’s Nomad Bedspread and Pillows with Aarya’s cosied up with a beautiful ruffle crib bumper from PB Kids. Stylish bedding promotes sleep in my opinion!

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I became obsessed with accessories for accessories – transforming my plain nursing pillow using Etsy store Modfox’s great selection of covers. Mine was the Grey Arrow Nursing Pillow Cover

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…weaning my baby off an ugly doll she loves using more stylish items like … Donna Wilson’s Foxleaf Toy at Mamas and Papas and a hilarious handmade Panda Puppet from the V&A Shop

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…with Baby Gap turning into my achilles heel… look at that whale print!

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… oh and not to mention very talented friends turning up with beautiful mobiles to treasure [a DIY on how to make these is upcoming this month].

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I hate leaving London in the summer when its at its best – every summer feels like a holiday in the city. This one especially – we spent so much time with friends, balmy evenings at launch parties and lunches at favourite eateries.

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…visiting exhibitions and capturing an alternative family portrait at the Digital Revolution at The Barbican…

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… a quick escape to the country with friends to celebrate Swedish crayfish season

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And of course my main inspiration…

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I’ll be reporting from London Design Festival this week so follow my Instagram and Twitter for updates with a post to follow on my new finds from the week. Till then – its good to be back!

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I have to admit I unashamedly stole this post’s inspiration from my friends at The Women’s Room Blog because I just love a party decor web-shop.

The Americans do party decor really well, with design doyennes like Martha Stewart and Grace Bonney making crafting and entertaining a national institution. Across the pond, the online landscape is filled with inspiring offers from the likes of BHLDN, department stores like Target and not to mention Etsy’s covetable craft shops.

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The UK on the other hand leaves a lot to be desired with creative shoppers left to cobble together their decorations from uninspiring resources like Ebay and Amazon.

Enter Pea Green Boat a beautifully executed online store founded by friends Tessa and Zoe based in North London.

Drawing on their backgrounds in interior design and film production, their decor collections are fresh, modern and on-trend. Divided into inspiring sections like Decorate, Lay The Table, Gifts, Accessories, Vintage and by curated Theme, covetable products like bunting, cake toppers, giant balloons and table decor are sourced from all over the world and where possible, made in the UK.

Now all I need is an excuse for a party…

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Ingredients

Like millions of people around the globe, I supremely over-indulged during the festive period. I know that trying to wean myself onto fresh salads and healthy options is going to be an uphill battle, especially since the weather outside is still pretty frightful.

Over the months of November and December, when I found myself battling the Christmas shopping crowd, I would often stop for lunch at the delicious Thai cafe Rosa’s in East London. My dish of choice to boost my vitamin intake was Yam Nuea Yang – a fresh and spicy beef salad – low on the carbs, high on the greens and flavour.

The dish consisted of a sirloin steak sliced and served in a basket of fresh lettuce, with slivers of red onion, chunks of tomatoes, cucumbers and other crispy vegetables. But the star of the dish was the sweet and spicy dressing with a huge kick that would have me choosing a salad over any other starchy comfort food.

I decided to explore making my own version of this dressing in a bid to kick start a healthy new year. So simple and so easy, you can make up a batch and use it all week in salads. Over the weekend I used it on a hearty green salad and gobbled it all up – and this week will be adding grilled aubergines for a substantial lunch. Be warned the dressing is really spicy but is beautifully counterbalanced by chunks of cold tomatoes and cucumbers and the addition of mint.

Spicy and Sweet Thai Salad Dressing [adjust quantities depending on how much you want to make]

The juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 Teaspoon white wine vinegar, or rice vinegar [I had Cider vinegar which worked just fine]
3 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chilli [leave the seeds in for more of a kick]
1-2 Teaspoons of Brown Sugar
1 pinch of black or white pepper

Whizz all ingredients in a mixer [or mince garlic and chilli on their own and add to the liquids], pour over salad and dress with mint and coriander. Delicious!

Dressing Salad

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