Cliched I know, but I genuinely feel like my life is flashing by before my eyes!
This time last year I was battling my way through the final year of my degree, sobbing my heart out with each final-stage job rejection and confused as to why W was acting secretly and my mum was hardly talking to me. Fast forward to now. I graduated with a First (and by a good margin too!), got offered two graduate jobs, am working in a job I love, and I’m living in London with my fiancé. Because a secretive long-term boyfriend and a shift mum meant a proposal was in motion, of course! I look back to last November/December and I just can’t believe how much my life has changed. I’m pretty much a full blown adult!
(I say that wearing my PJs, whilst drinking a hot chocolate that’s more marshmallows than drink…)
I turned 23 yesterday and it got me thinking – I have so much I want to do, several different bucket lists, and I really should start getting them ticked off. It also made me realise that life is passing me by quickly. In under two years I’ll be married and, whilst that in itself is the start of something very exciting, I equally want to make the most of these next two years, of being engaged and of having slightly less of those big scary responsibilities!
Get married. At least I know I’ll tick something off!
Get a dog. Or at least set up a doggy share…
Be at least a little bit closer to buying a house.
Paint a painting.
Make good progress with my professional exams – finishing them is looking very unlikely unfortunately!
Volunteer. I’m planning on helping out at a ‘Supper Circle’ in the new year, cooking meals for families in need.
Go glamping. I’m not into tents, but something a bit more glamorous might be more my cup of tea…
A bit of a varied list! Who knows if I’ll be able to afford some of the bigger items, and right now I cannot imagine hosting Christmas dinner in our little flat (where would everyone go?!). But I’m going to try my damn hardest to tick as many of these off as I can before I turn 25. Note that finding a grey hair is not on the list!
Being 22 turned out to be the best year of my life, and I’m hoping the rest of my twenties continue along in the same vein! What do you want to tick off in the next few years?
I love risotto. The carbines of the rice, the creaminess of the whole dish, the cheesiness. The fact you can eat with a fork, bowl in hand, snuggled on the sofa. A bowl of risotto is my ultimate comfort food and my go-to meal if I’ve had a bad day.
And it so happens that the one bad thing about living with W is that I can’t indulge my passion for mushroom risotto. I’ve loved all things mushroom since my early teens and despite trying, nothing will convince my fiance to eat them. Rather than give up my risotto love-affair, we’ve come to the agreement that I can try numerous other recipes on him. This is the second and was the one I was most nervous about – the last time I tried butternut squash (four years ago) I hated it. I’ve pretty much avoided it, apart from in spicier soups, ever since. Now it’s my new obsession.
This butternut squash risotto is slightly different from my usual recipes in that some of the squash is blended down, which adds an extra creaminess and cuts down the need (though not my desire!) for excessive cheese. The goat’s cheese stirred through adds a savoury tang which in my opinion is completely necessary against the sweetness of the squash. The celery adds a bit of bite. The roasted squash adds texture and a different layer of flavour. And of course, it’s scattered with parmesan for that salty kick.
This meal was only made better than I timed it to perfection. It was just ready for dolloping into bowls when W walked through the flat doors AND Bake Off was just starting. Doesn’t get much better than that! It does take a little bit longer than my standard risottos, just under an hour, but that’s because of the faff that comes with prepping a squash. It’s completely worth it and standing there stirring (with wine) counts as therapy, right?!
Ingredients (for 2)
1 small butternut squash
750ml stock (we usually use chicken as I have a minor reaction to most vegetable stock cudes)
30g unsalted butter
2 celery sticks
4 garlic cloves
3 dried bay leaf
150g risotto rice
2 tsp soft goat’s cheese
parmesan to serve
Peel the squash and separate the rounded send from the slender top. Chop the slender end into 2cm cubes, toss in a little oil, season lightly and roast in the oven with two cloves of garlic (peeled and halved) at 200C, stirring occasionally, until golden brown on the outside and soft in the centre. I found this took around the same length as the risotto did to cook. Cut the fatter end in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Again, chop the flesh into 2cm pieces and pop into a small pan with the stock and bay leaves. Poach on a gentle heat whilst the risotto cooks.
Finely chop the onion and celery, then fry gently in the butter until soft. Add the garlic and risotto rice and increase the heat slightly – stir constantly for around two minutes before adding a ladle of stock from the pan (try not to add any of the squash). Keep stirring until the stock is absorbed, add another ladle and repeat until the rice is almost cooked; around twenty minutes.
Discard the bay leaves and transfer the poached squash into a blender. Process until smooth, then add to the risotto along with the goats cheese. Stir to combine, season with plenty of black epper, cover and leave to rest for 4-5 minutes. Divide into bowls, scatter with the roasted squash pieces and finish with a lot of little parmesan.
This was the perfect warming dinner for a cold Autumnal night – which really took us by surprise here in London in early October! All of a sudden the balmy summer evenings were gone, I needed a scarf to walk home in, and I just made it to the flat in the light. I do love Autumn, but I also miss the lighter evenings. Still, not too long to Christmas now… #24sleepstilSanta! We also found this recipe great for using up a super-cheap pumpkin following halloween. At 30p I couldn’t resist!
What’s your ultimate cosy-night-in comfort food? Also, how on earth do I get someone to eat mushrooms?!
I can’t quite believe we’ve held the keys to our little flat for three months now; it’s gone so quickly, but equally it feels like it’s been our home forever.
We’re only renting so are a little restricted with what we can and can’t do – no painting or banging things into the wall. Luckily everything was already in a very ‘us’ colour scheme – netural but with splashes of colour (red in the kitchen and living area, purple in the bedroom). We’ve played on this and added in bits and bobs in those colours and now you’d never tell this wasn’t “our” place.
Of course, I had to add touches of grey and copper everywhere too. So blogger-esque. We picked up some lovely desk lamps in IKEA that work really well at the side of the bed – and I spent hours hunting down the perfect floor lamp for the lounge area. I found it: one with an exposed bulb, wire cage, copper AND marble. For under £40 this was a bit of a steal. I’m forever hunting down cushions that would work and our bedding took a lot of research. I find my skin is super sensitive to bedding material (I still have the scars from a reaction to Primark sheets three years ago), so if anyone finds a super-soft and cosy white set I’d love to know about it!
One of my favourite areas in the flat is, I say rather lazily, my bed. I’ve created a really cosy little corner and there’s nothing I love more than snugging up with a warm drink and a good book. W built me some ever-so-on-trend ladder shelves to fit in my tiny gap between bed and wall. Dressed with fairy lights, I think they look pretty damn good! They’re perfect for storing all my bits and bobs: bridal magazines; books;lip balms and probably a few too many used mugs!
And the best thing about living with W? I get part-ownership of his Kitchen Aid – when he’s out of the flat at least! (Or, as he says, I get to use his Kitchen Aid). It makes whipping up a batch of his famous cookies far too easy, plus we have an ice-cream attachment. He made a Chocolate & Whisky ice-cream a few weeks back and it was divine. I definitely need to keep up my exercise regime now baking is such a huge part of our lives.
For what is essentially a studio flat, we have far too many things, far too much stuff. We have a lot of much-loved nick-nacks (we’ll be looking for a bigger place if we I bring home any more). You’d never know from our bookshelves that half of our cookbook collection is actually still in Northampton. The majority of my clothes are stored in boxes under the bed (though shush, I’m not sure W is aware of how many clothes I actually have!). Yet we have a gorgeous flat, with equally gorgeous views – and of course our “pets!”
Where do you get your homeware bits from? Any recommendations for copper pieces?
Woo, less than a month til Christmas! And even more importantly, my birthday is this week. I am the kind of person who inwardly gets so excited about their birthday, and this year is no exception. I have the day off work (and the day before off for study – yay for double lie-ins!). I plan to spend the weekend seeing some of my favourite people and eating more food than appropriate. Oh, and brunch which I’m hoping will involve a reinvented Eggs Benedict which incorporates black pudding. Yum!
Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…
Brunch with some blogging gals to celebrate Jasmin’s birthday. It was so nice to see some new faces, and catch up with everyone else. It had been far too long!
Pretty flowers. I came home one Friday to a bunch of flowers on the table. I’d had a grumpy week so this really made me smile.
Making a potato-dauphinoise-cross-cauliflower-cheese-bake-thing to go alongside roast pork. It was super yum and I now have a mandolin to damage myself with!
Booking our wedding photographer. It’s one of the most important parts to me and it’s resulted in a LOT of Instagram stalking over the last few months.
Scallops. I love them, but rarely get to eat them as I’m never hugely tempted by the sound of the entire dish on the menu. These, however, were served with black pudding and a smoked aubergine puree. Cooked perfectly, they were delicious.
Stir-up “Sunday”. Despite seeing Christmas Cake and Pudding as Devil’s Food (dried fruit = ick!), it was great to spend a Saturday evening baking, making a mess of the kitchen and breathing in festive smells.
Sticking to the Christmas theme, we headed out for lunch at Costa to try out their festive specials. I love the Christmas Dinner Toastie I chose, though we were both a little disappointed at the Pigs in Blankets pannini – bacon and sausage together doesn’t equal PIBs, right?!
A wander around Spitalfields and Brick Lane. Definitely a place I want to revisit.
Watching The Missing. The series has been so, so tense. If you haven’t seen it, get in iPlayer now! The ending of last week’s episode was so frustrating I screamed.
Meeting old friends and *finally* visiting Honest Burgers. Was so nice not to have to remove relish (#allergyissues), the burgers were yum, chips amazing, and the company awesome. A good night!
An extra little one this fortnight. Katy put out a shout for Happy Things a while back and her post was so, so uplifting. She got over 150 replies and reading through it put a massive smile on my face.
What has been the highlight of the last few weeks for you?
Scotland is somewhere super-close to our heart. And I love burgers. So when we found out about a Scottish restaurant who made London’s best burger of 2015, there was no question about where we were spending our anniversary. We donned some fancy-ish clothes (me bringing out a dress I love, but is too dressy for every-weekend wear, too low-cut for work), I whacked on the date-night makeup (because wearing Mac Diva is great for eating a burger…) and we headed out for a much anticipated evening.
And it didn’t disappoint.
I could just finish the review of Mac & Wild here, by telling you to go, to go book a table, eat plenty of meat, drink lots of whisky and feel very merry, very happy and very full. It would sum up exactly how I felt about the place. But obviously I’ll have to tell/show you exactly why you should make the effort to get to this Scottish gem in the heart of London.
It’s small, it’s cozy, it’s ‘trendy’ lighting didn’t make for great photos. Walls were adorned with stag’s heads and rather graphic photos. Staff were outstandingly welcoming and friendly, taking the time to talk us through the menu and ask about our days. And the food was damn good.
We started by splitting a ‘lighter’ choice alongside a heavier one. The Bone Broth was deceptively heavy, in a good way. Rich, unctuous, this is the kind of thing you crave when ill. I’d happily bulk buy and store in the freezer. The Scotch Egg was a heavier choice. A perfectly cooked egg (no set yolk here), encased in wonderfully flavourful venison meat, covered in crisp breadcrumbs and served with a mustard so perfect I’m tempted to contact Mac & Wild and find their supplier. I was a little wary that the meat was rare, but it was piping hot, tender and worked well all together. Definitely a filling portion!
W went ‘date-night suitable’ for his main, choosing the Venison Steak with Bearnaise. The steak arrived pre-sliced, and cooked as it’s meant to be cooked (there was no choice given upon ordered, so be warned if you aren’t a fan of rarer meat!). It was gorgeous – extremely tender and beautifully rich in flavour rendering the silky and buttery Bearnaise unnecessary. I stoke a piece and almost, almost regretted not suggesting sharing a Chateaubriand.
The reason for not regretting? Well, London’s best burger of course…
Whilst I’m not quite sure it deserves that title (more research needed, you see), it was a damn good burger. Both patties were cooked well – tender and moist, a slight hint of pink to the beef. They were well-season whilst remaining a good ‘meat’ flavour; you could tell which was which. The Bearnaise added moistness and richness, the cheese and mustard (more of that addictive mustard!) adding a salty kick. I usually pick the pickles out of a burger, but here they worked perfectly to add a much needed tang. I added the Candied Bacon, but honestly I’d say it’s not really necessary (shock horror!) – I found it got a little lost amongst all the flavours, and wasn’t quite crisp enough to add an extra texture. The bun held it all together, but the big issue with the burger? It was just too big. It was impossible to eat all elements at once and ultimately I felt it suffered. And date-night suitable? Definitely not. My lipstick was down my chin before I was halfway through the burger…
We both went for sides of Haggis Mac & Cheese. I’m a huge mac’n’cheese fan (if you hadn’t already guessed), and haggis is a major foodie love of mine. The two together was something I’d never considered (though I’m now anxiously awaiting Burn’s Night) – it’s a pretty good combo! The Mac was cheesy and rich, the haggis moist and peppery, and the crispy topping by far the best topping on a restaurant one I’ve tried. My only complaint? It was a little dry, though I saw ones at different tables that looked a lot looser and creamier. I was a bit jealous if I’m honest!
Puddings were also a success. The Cheeseboard came with a good selection, though we were a bit perplexed at the lack of biscuits considered one of them was a softer cheese. My desert, however, was the winner. The “I Shouldn’t But I Will’ was a dark chocolate Nemesis, salted caramel sauce, orange, almonds, & taffy crumble base. I was recommended a side of salted caramel ice-cream; I declined but rather wish I hadn’t as the portion did need something to break it up a little. That said, we both enjoyed it – I just preferred the savoury options and rather wished I’d tried the Haggis Pops instead!
We paired our food courses with whiskies, generally going with their suggestions (apart from my desert; I was recommended a smoky Islay whisky of which I’m not a fan, so went with my favourite tipple). All were deliciously drinkable and did complement the dishes perfectly. We left clutching our stomaches and swaying slightly…
Mac & Wild definitely impressed us, and it’s certainly left us wanting more. I know without a doubt I’ll be back to sample more. Their Sunday Roasts sound rather intriguing, they have a delicious sounding brunch menu, and their Dirty Buttery Mash sounds too good to miss.
Have you ever tried Haggis? What’s your favourite London restaurant?
Yup, S’mores brownies. I’ll pause for a second to let that sink in.
S’mores brownies. Super fudgy chocolate brownies (with milk chocolate chips, because chocolate), baked on a digestive biscuit crust and topped with toasted mini marshmallows.
S’mores have been a major love of mine since my Girl Guide days. Contrary to popular belief, we never went camping camping, and our weekly base was in the town centre. That didn’t stop us having fire pits in the church-hall courtyard, and s’mores always made an appearance. We tended to go for the easy option of setting fire to toasting marshmallows and sandwiching between chocolate-covered digestive biscuits, though I’ve since discovered that spreading digestives with nutella is a rather delicious alternative. These brownies pretty much recreate those s’mores, but in a bigger and slightly more convenient way for eating in a ladylike fashion.
I was originally invited by The Co-Op to do some spooky Halloween-themed baking, but a migraine put an end to that so we compromised on Bonfire Bakes instead – just as well as the marshmallows instead the box were crying out for a flame and some chocolate. With the inclusion of a free-from brownie mix, we set about recreating one of our favourite Autumnal treats.
The buttery biscuit base of these s’more brownies is crispy and crumbly – and the flakes of sea salt running through (which was originally a total accident, I meant to grab the finely milled stuff) break things up, stopping it from being too sweet. Whilst we used a mix for the brownie layer, you could easily use any of your favourite recipes (even lighten it up with my lower-fat mayonnaise brownies – old post alert!). Last year W first created a s’more brownie and added a good measure of whisky to the brownies before baking, definitely worth a try… You underbake the brownies, even more so than usual, popping a good layer of mashmallows and then baking for a few minutes longer. If you liked the scorched effect, pop under the grill or a blowtorch for a few seconds too. Yum.
For the crust: 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, 8 digestives, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/3 teaspoon sea salt flakes
For the brownies: use your favourite recipe designed for a 20cm square pan
A bag of mini marshmallows (around 100-150g)
To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 160°C and line an 20x20cm pan. Melt the butter in a small pan. Crush the biscuits (I find using a mini food processor the quickiest and tidiest way, though bashing with a rolling pin will always be a great stress reliever!), then mix with the sugar and salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir until well combined. Pour into the lined pan, and press evenly along the bottom and sides – the amounts here make for quite a thin base, but increase the proportions if you want more of a crunch. Bake for around 18-20 minutes until lightly golden and staring to crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
To make the brownies: Increase the oven temperature to 180°C and prepare the brownie layer. As I said, we were lazy and used a mix but just go for your favourite recipe, adding whisky if you fancy. Pour the batter over the crust and spread out evenly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes depending on how gooey you like your brownies.
To make the marshmallow layer: Leave the oven on. Arrange the marshmallows over the top of the part-baked brownies. Continue to bake for 5 or so minutes, until the marshmallows are melted and light brown on top and the brownies are cooked to your liking. If you fancy the more charred marshmallow taste, grill or blowtorch for another minute. Just be careful if blowtorching – a quote from W: “I didn’t notice it was on fire…”
These really are utterly delicious – sweet, sticky and insanely moreish. We’ve pretty much decided that making these will become a little bit of a Bonfire night tradition, as will wrapping them up and taking them with us to watch a local fireworks display. S’mores brownies. I want s’more right now…
What’s your favourite Autumnal treat? Did you celebrate Bonfire Night?
I’ve been doing my daily commute for just under three months now. It’s not a part of the day I particularly enjoy; I pretty much despise the tube, despite having a relatively ‘easy’ journey. But one thing that has made it bearable is the opportunity to people-watch – I’m such a nosy lady! Over the last month or so I’ve been jotting down humorous notes from my commute, purely because I couldn’t bear not to share them on here!
So, ladies and gents, mind the closing doors and welcome to the life of my commute…
To the Lady with the Earphones
Please be so kind as to NOT run for the train again. For one, you clearly weren’t going to make that train. And two, if your earphone hadn’t gotten caught inside the train, with you on the platform, you wouldn’t have to continue running along the platform attached to the train. If that does happen, please be so kind as to detach your earphones from your phone. You know, the easier option. Rather than wait for someone to hit the emergency stop buttom.
You found your misfortune hilarious that morning. What you don’t seem to understand is that for all those people on that packed train, and the people waiting for the City-bound train behind it, you delayed us all for half an hour. So please, don’t run for the train again.
To the Man Reading an Erotic Novel
Just no. And if it makes 50 Shades look like a fairytale, no, no, no, no, no!
I admit I should probably stop glancing over people’s shoulder to see what they are doing (discreetly, I must add, and only on this particular occasion because I’d left my Kindle on the sofa at home). But what I don’t need to see are a few, ahem, naughty words. What I really don’t need hear after seeing this is your heavy breathing. Please leave it until you’re home.
To The Tube Network (TFL I guess!)
I honestly don’t mind if there are severe delays, as long as I know about them. Being on the platform for 30 minutes with no tube and no explanation isn’t fun. Being stuck halfway to work, unable to go towards work, unable to go backwards to an alternative route, is even worse. If I know that the District Line isn’t going to get me to work on time, I have plenty of options – including one that gives me this view. Far nicer than a sweat armpit (joys of being short!), I’m sure you’d agree…
To The Tourists at The Barriers/Escalators/Doors
Please refrain from getting your map out and checking it whilst blocking the way for people who do know where they are going. Please don’t stand and have a conversation just outside the ticket barrier. I apologise if I bump into you, but if you stand directly in the way there often isn’t enough room to get around you at rush hour.
To The Teenagers on Halloween Weekend
It was 11.30am. It was cold. You were already drunk, very scantily clad (what’s wrong with a ghost costume?!). I appreciate I sound like a moaning minnie here, and actually I don’t mean to be. I’m just very impressed at their dedication to Halloween.
To All Those Who Saw Me Struggle & Looked Away
One thing that has really surprised me has been the amount of guys, usually in their twenties/thirties, who will offer a seat to any females before sitting down themselves. Yes, feminists may be outraged, but I kind of like this old-fashioned chivalry.
Now, let me get one thing clear before I start this rant; I don’t expect to be given a seat. I don’t have a disability, I’m certainly not pregnant, there are many people who normally need a seat before I do. I will always offer my seat up if I feel someone needs it more.
But the other day I clearly could have done with a seat, or a hand, or just some extra space. My study materials had been delivered and I was carrying a very heavy (with weight printed on the side of the box), very awkwardly sized box. It was very difficult to hold, being bigger in circumference than my arms could reach. I managed to get a seat straight off and was unbelievably grateful. Then a heavily pregnant women got on. No-one offered her their seat, so I did. She saw the box on my lap and tried to say no. Still no-one offered her a seat. In the end, she took my seat. I have no problem about that, I don’t really have a problem that the other passengers saw me struggle to stand with said box and continued to ignore it. What I took objected to was the man, who saw me give up that seat, dart in and claim it when the pregnant lady left. Thanks mate.
To Cross-Word Man
There’s a guy I see almost every morning who sits and does the crossword in whatever newspaper he picks up each day. By the time he gets off the tube he invariably has finished it – utmost respect to this man from someone who has never finished a crossword yet.
To The Bum-Squeezers
I’d read a couple of Rachel’s posts about sexual assault on the Tube before, but still had quite a naive attitude towards it. Since September, I’ve had my bum squeezed on no-less than three occasions. I’ve not managed to catch anyone at it yet (they’ll get an earful), but apparently this is acceptable behaviour.
This is one of the reasons why I prefer to get a seat. At least then no-one can grab my ass.
And that is just the result of a few short months commuting from Putney to City. I’m sure they will be a lot more over the coming years, as a shorter commute is unlikely to ever be viable (because I like living on the outskirts – I get a seat!). I have to admit it’s nicer that my previous commute from last summer. And hey, at least these amusing moments lighten up the identical journey, day after day…
PS – all of the pictures within this post were shot on my weekday commute – with the exception of the Putney Bridge one. Because trust me, the platform is NEVER that empty on a weekday! And in the week between scheduling this and getting it live – there’s been a guy with a portable DVD player (I’d forgotten they existed!) alongside a stack of 10 DVDs, and the hilarious platform guy usually found in Victoria was working at Monument. He definitely brightened up my journey home!
Do you have a long commute? Any funny stories to tell?
Playing tourist in what is now our home town felt a little strange at first; dashing around London sight-seeing. The day was born out of us not having a clue what to do – one of the weirdest things about finishing our LDR and moving in together is not making weekend plans in advance.
I decided that I’ve never seen Big Ben close-up (and also thought I’d get a good Instagram shot, #lifeofablogger). Will wanted to go further down the Thames to take some snaps of the architecture for uni. Taking a riverboat tour was the perfect answer – and despite it being the first chilly day of Autumn, it was a good shout. I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t feel my hands by the time we got off the boat, and a steaming cup of tea was pretty much all I could think about. Moaning aside, I loved the tour we went on. It was the cheapest option we found from Westminster Pier (I’m still a student at heart!) and didn’t include a specific tour guide. What it did include, however, was boat staff who knew the interesting little titbits such as where scenes in Oliver Twist were filmed, and that the Spinx around Cleopatra’s Needle are actually the wrong way round from what was intended.
One thing I loved about taking a boat along the Thames was the different perspective I got of the city. It was so obvious how London is a mix of old and new, yet that’s something that’s totally overlooked when I’m wandering around on a daily basis. I couldn’t believe how traditional the buildings in the City were at the waterfront, compared to the modern Walkie Talkie and Cheesegrater. I could also see my own office – I wasn’t aware how tall the building was until I saw it from this perspective!
We got the boat all the way to Greenwich, where we stopped for a quick picnic underneath our umbrella. I feel in love with the bit of Greenwich I saw, and have popped it high on the list for returning to on my next spare weekend (the food market looked insane!). I can imagine it’s pretty magical in the run-up to Christmas too…
Our tourist-ing continued the following weekend, with us heading to Camden for a spot of shopping and street-food eating. We decided to make the most of the unexpectedly warm and sunny day (seriously, it was NOT forecast, but greatly appreciated!) and walk along the canal from Kings Cross. This is undoubtedly one of my favourite walks in London, especially as it involves walking through the spot where W popped the question.
A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on
We lunched on Korean Burritos (him) and Fried Chicken & Chips (me) – a decision I did come to regret an hour of so later as my stomach apparently doesn’t love SFC as much as I do. I’m gutted as it meant I couldn’t quite appreciate my Ice-Cream Sandwich as much as I wanted. Guess there’s an excuse to head back…!
I’ve loved playing tourist in London, sure the hoards of actual tourists are annoying (I got jammed against a wall at one point whilst a group were trying to get by, not a highlight of the weekend!), sure there are other European cities that are far prettier. But if definitely made me a bit more appreciative of London, and I’ve now got plenty of other spots on my bucket list to tick off. Kew Gardens is next (thanks Katy for that bit of London based wander-lust!)…
I love me a pizza. Franco Manca is becoming a date-night favourite when I meet W from his studio, and having The Dynamo a whopping 3 minute walk away is down-right dangerous. The good news? I’ve finally perfected my perfect at-home pizza base. Not only does it taste great, it’s super easy to make, fitting in around our schedule and making homemade pizza all too easy on a work night.
It does “take a while” but in all honesty there’s hardly any hands-on work. The vast majority of the time involves bunging it in the fridge and forgetting about it – the actual prep you could do in the morning or (if you’re more sleep-inclined) the night before. If you want to me majorly organised then you could even go as far as part-cooking the bases in advance and freezing. Now that’s given me the idea of holding a pizza party…
The slow-rise is essential for creating an almost sourdough-flavoured base. It’s puffed up, slightly crisp on the base, and soft and chewy. This is not your takeaway American-style base, it’s not ‘deep-pan’ and it’s not ‘thin and crispy.’ It’s proper, pillowy, Italian homemade pizza. Maybe not ovely authentic, but it tastes good and fits in with my lifestyle. Basically, it’s a big thumbs up from me. Here I’ve showcased two toppings. One is my Spicy Lamb, perfect for leftover Sunday roast meat. The second is a fresher take on my Black Pudding & Goat’s cheese, using less meat, more cheese and a little courgette to lighten things up. Leaving the black-pudding off and going courgette+cheese (+fresh basil if I have any) is also super good. And my go-to comfort food pizza option? Red pepper pesto and chorizo slices is always a winner!
Ingredients (serves 2)
300g strong white bread flour
3g dried yeast
200ml water (warm, but not too hot)
Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, and then pour in 150ml of warm water. Stir the wateruntil a rough ball forms, then bring it together with your hands. The dough will be sticky, and you will get messy and annoyed with it. Sorry!
Knead the dough. I like to alternate between normal kneading and stretching it in the air, over and over again. You should end up with a smooth, not-so-sticky dough after around 10 minutes. Once you get to this (or even before if you feel like your arms are about to fall off, or you need to run and get to work on time) place the into a clean and well-floured bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and throw in the fridge.
After around 10 hours (i.e. when you get in from work), the dough should have doubled in size. Gently press all the air out of the dough using your hands, adding in a little flour if it’s still super-sticky. Split into two, and on a floured work surface press out a section of the dough into a rough circle. I tend to do this by hand rather than use a rolling pin (mainly to save on the washing up) – again I tend to do it up in the air, letting the weight of the dough stretch it out. Lay the dough on a floured surface and then begin to work on the second piece. After this, the first will have had chance to rest, you can stretch it again – you want super-thin sections, but also a thicker ‘crust’ around the edge. Repeat with the second piece.
Heat up a large, dry non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, and then carefully lay in one pizza base at a time. Cook the bases for 2-3 minute per side. Each side of the base should be a pale biege colour, with a few dark brown spots – I cook at a slightly lower temperature for longer just to get the base a little crispier, but if you prefer a stronger “wood-fired” flavour and texture then cook for less over a high heat. Repeat for the other base.
Add on any toppings, and then cook the pizzas for 5-7 minutes in an oven at 220 degrees. I’ve discovered that 1tbsp of creme fraiche mixed with black pepper and a small amount of parmesan makes for a divine topping, but for these black-pudding pizzas I simply spread with goat’s cheese to form a ‘sauce.’ You definitely don’t want the toppings to outshine the base here!
And that’s is, perfect homemade pizza for two. Multiply up the quantities for more, freeze half of the dough (either shaped and part-cooked or just as it is) or one. And if you’re holding a pizza party? Part-cook, stack with greaseproof and keep in an air-tight container until the evening – then serve with a vast array of toppings. I’m thinking different pestos, meats, veg, maybe even the mac’n’cheese pizza topping I came across recently…
What’s your favourite pizza topping? Are you a fan of homemade pizza?
We’ve lived in London for nearly three months (I know, I couldn’t quite believe it either!), and my “to-do” list is getting longer and longer. Disappointingly we’ve hardly ticked off anything, yet it grows at a seemingly exponential rate. There’s no rush to complete it (I have no plans to move out of London anytime soon, if anything I’m here to stay!) but I do have some bits I really want to try and do over the next few months.
Some are perhaps a bit weirder than others. Rather more than a couple involve food. Some are big and fancy, others are small. Some may take longer to tick off.
Go up the Shard. Even if just for cocktails.
Visit a flower market. Think of the Instagram shots!
Visit all the tube stations. This was inspired by my first trip to Mornington Crescent a few weeks back – it’s quite honestly is the strangest tube station I’ve visited! In an ideal geek world I’d take a selfie at each and put a film together with Jay Foreman backing it….
Explore Greenwich. Looks like a lovely place – and the observatory is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.
Wander around Portobello Market. Because who wouldn’t want to?!
Eat brunch at Duck & Waffle. I’ve been dying to go for ageeesssssss.
Buy and devour a Cronut. Though I’m waiting until the hype (and queues) die down a little.
Go to Richmond Park in the frost and/or snow. Just imagine how pretty it would be!
Go on a stay-cation.
Eat a LOT of street food. I’ve finally visited KERB but there’s so many more vendors I want to try…
Find my “London’s Best Burger.” I ate the 2015 winner at the beginning of October and now feel I need to do more research. Send over recommendations!
Visit Kew Gardens. I also really want to experience their Bee Hive!
Watch The Lion King. I’m so excited to finally tick this one off in December with my besties!
Fly over the city in a helicopter. A girl can dream!
Make use of the gorgeous streets for outfit photos.
Eat at The Grain Store. We got engaged in Granary Square so it’s natural to try the nearest restaurant, right…?!
Explore more hidden areas. I love the canal walk between Kings Cross and Camden.
Have Afternoon Tea in a posh hotel. Because British.
Go “metal-detecting” on the Thames Shoreline. We can see the river from the flat (it’s just 50 yards away!) and I’d love to give this a go!
Row along the Thames. I’ve always wanted to give rowing a go, and there’s so many rowing clubs nearby in Putney…this is my goal for summer 2017!
What’s on your bucket list? What would you love to do in London?