Iso Birthday 2020

4/17/2021 10:26:00 PM

This post is almost a year late but better late than never! I started writing it shortly after my birthday in April 2020, and then, well, life got in the way, and it sat, neglected, in draft status since then. It almost feels like there's no point blogging my 2020 birthday now, but I know for sure in the future I'll want to look back on this birthday in the most bizarre of years and remember it. (And I'm now thinking of my upcoming birthday plans, so I've got birthday celebrations on the brain). So here we go.


I'm someone who really enjoys celebrating my birthday, and in normal circumstances I have lots of little traditions which I spread out over a few weeks. (Or even a whole month back in 2015; where on earth did I find the energy?) There's usually my annual free birthday Nando's, coffees and cupcakes with colleagues, the slumber party at home with my close girlfriends, and a fancy dinner with my parents. I also always seem to fit a few bonus impromptu celebrations - drinks, dinners, cakes - any excuse!

Things, of course, are very different this year. Not only do we have a newborn (although technically she's made the leap to "infant"), so the celebrations would never have been as epic as in years past, but of course Coronavirus restrictions have also forced a reduction in celebrations.

I literally only made one plan for my birthday this year - a Skype call with some close friends to replicate the slumber party tradition. However, over the day and the week that followed there were quite a lot of wonderful surprises and treats, most of a foodie nature and I'm excited to share them here on my blog! Let's take a look.

I decided to treat myself by baking a fancy birthday cake - the Beatrix Bakes "Notorious BFC" (Black Forest Cake). Incidentally, Nat from Beatrix is the only non-German baker I'd trust with a Black Forest Cake recipe. Her version comprises layers of light cocoa sponge brushed with kirsch, whipped cream, crème fraîche chocolate mousse, cherry jelly and cherry compote, covered in a chocolate glaze and decorated with chocolate curls. I luckily had a batch of the chocolate mousse in the freezer, as well as gorgeous pitted cherries from Wandin Valley Farms, which reduced the effort required. I started baking the cake the night before my birthday, assembled it and kept it in the fridge overnight, and finished off decorating it in the afternoon. What a treat! The description makes it sound rich but it was really light and airy (like a traditional German BFC, btw).

The Notorious Black Forest Cake
The Notorious BFC

For the day, Sandra said she'd take care of all the food, (apart from the cake). For breakfast, she made mee swa birthday noodles! This is the traditional Malaysian-Chinese birthday breakfast - with the noodles representing long life and the red mark on the egg representing good fortune. Soooo delicious and warming for breakfast.

Mee Swa Birthday Noodles
Mee Swa Birthday Noodles

For lunch, she organised a delivery of sashimi-quality tuna and salmon from Nosh. She served the salmon as plain sashimi, and marinated the tuna poké style on rice. I hadn't had sushi in ages and it was so lovely!

Sashimi from Nosh
Sashimi from Nosh

Sandra ordered dinner as well - a delivery from excellent local wine bar Mister Sandrino - but we were too full at dinner time to eat it (and I wanted to save room for cake, haha). So I ate the entrée while we were on the Skype call, and we saved the mains for the next night. The drink of choice was La Crema Monterey 2018 Chardonnay (again a gift from Sandra as she knows I looooove oaky buttery chardonnays), which matched well with Mister Sandrino's cured salmon. This was followed by caaaaake!

I was lucky enough to receive some gorgeous gifts throughout the day! Flowers from Sandra and also from my brother and his girlfriend in Japan, as well as some generous vouchers from friends. The big gift from Sandra was a selection of awesome spa products from Mecca Cosmetica - Drunk Elephant TLC Happi Scalp Scrub, Ren Kelp and Magnesium Body Scrub, Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mask, Posh Peel Pedicure Foot Mask, Ren AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum - so luxurious!

Birthday Flowers
Birthday Flowers

Spa gifts
Spa gifts

By sheer coincidence, I received a delivery of mini-gins from Imbue distillery - we follow each other on Instagram and Mel from Imbue kindly sent some gins as a Mothers' Day gift. They happened to arrive on my birthday so I'm claiming it a both a birthday and a Mothers' Day gift - hooray.

Imbue Distillery
Imbue Distillery Gins

The next night we ate the Mister Sandrino dinner - there was cassoulet (so delicious), slow-cooked beef cheek, broccolini, and couscous. It was all really great (especially the cassoulet), and I chose to order from them again for my Dad's lockdown birthday two weeks later, as I liked it so much.

Mister Sandrino Dinner
Mister Sandrino Dinner

My great friend An gifted us an "Amaru at Home" experience, which we enjoyed the weekend after my birthday. Some of you may remember that Amaru is one of my favourite high-end dining destinations, so it was such a treat to be able to enjoy it at home! (Even without lockdowns, there's no way that mums of a newborn would be able to get out to a degustation, so having it at home was a special treat). The food was, as expected, incredible. It is one of the more labour-intensive high-end home meals that we've had, so there was quite a lot of popping back and forth from the kitchen to assemble and finish off each course. We actually ate the food in our pyjamas, with a sleeping baby in Sandra's arms, while we binge-watched Masterchef UK: The Professionals. What a world we live(d) in.

Amaru Amuses Bouches
Amuses bouches - Quinoa & sea lettuce crisps with smoked eggplant & red pepper emulsion
Hemp & linseed crackers with sunflower hummus

Amaru Entrees
Dinner rolls with cultured and smoked butter
Turnip dashi, fermented daikon, shiso jelly

Amaru salt-baked celeriac
Salt-baked celeriac, white miso sauce (ZOMG INCREDIBLE), Swiss brown mushrooms, mustard leaves with dill pickle sauce

Amaru Jerusalem Artichoke Dessert
Jerusalem artichoke crisp & ice-cream, ginger crème, apple compote, dried honey & apple

I'm getting quite emotional looking back at all the generosity and deliciousness, especially in such a bizarre locked-down time! Thank-you to my lovely friends and family and wife for creating such a special vibe!

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My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.