Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #22

I’m not going to lie, over the past few months these posts had become quite hard for me to write. Whilst I’d like to think I’m usually a reasonably positive person, I’ve found the events of this year to have got on top of me. I’ve been demotivated (for blogging, for study, even for going out and seeing friends), and spent far too many evenings just mindlessly scrolling down my Instagram feed. This last fortnight I’ve had some good news for what feels like the first time in a while (which I’m sure it isn’t, but when the sad things start rolling in it’s far too easy to concentrate on those). This is definitely the happiest I’ve felt whilst penning up this post in a while!

So, what’s made me so happy…

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  1. I passed my exam! I mentioned an exam pass last time, but if I’m *really* honest – that one doesn’t count. I have to do it to qualify but it’s not particularly difficult nor time consuming. However last Thursday the results came out for the exam I took way back in April and I passed! I wasn’t expecting to if I’m really honest, but it was a nasty exam I had no wish to sit again (5 lever arch files full of notes, 6 hours of exam time over 2 days – no ta!). I’m looking forward to sending the folders up to my parents garage asap!
  2. Possibly shouldn’t class as an additional one – but not only passing the exam, but getting pretty clear over the pass mark. It’s upped my confidence for sure!
  3. Oh, and all the emails I got from my team at work. I have actually had study days since the results came out so I’m looking forward to actually seeing people today!
  4. My current role at work. Being on graduate scheme I get the opportunity to rotate into different areas – and whilst some aren’t exactly for me, the role I’m in for July is SO interesting.
  5. Getting my hard around a particularly nasty mathematical proof. It’s been a while since I’ve done proper statistics, it took me a couple of hours, but fully understanding it was worth the stress. (Yep, studying again. September’s going to be here before I know it!)
  6. Fresh fish. I love fish but it’s pricey – I’ve discovered mackerel which is both super-healthy and super-purse friendly. Two whole ones (head removed because W got squeamish the first time I bought them!) cost us less than £2 and were perfect with an orange, chilli and watercress salad.
  7. Brighton. Perhaps one of my all-time favourite places. I met my girls for a catch-up in the beach, a spot of shopping and a flight on the i360.
  8. Ben & Jerry’s Topped Salted Caramel Brownie ice-cream. Perhaps my favorite flavour. Soooo tasty!
  9. Wedding chats with a fellow bride-to-be. Being a young bride I do worry about talking too much about it with most of my friends, so it’s good to spend a whole evening talking all things wedding.
  10. Buying a pack of sausages for 34p on yellow-sticker. Sausage, mash and veg for £1.50, with plenty of veg leftover was my idea of a bargain (tasty too!).
  11. Duck & Waffle. My mum bought us a giftcard for Christmas and we finally booked ourselves in for breakfast. Worth the wait! It also turned into a bit of a celebration as I’d coincidentally booked it for the Saturday after results day and after Will’s diss hand-in. Perfect!
  12. Buying a matching set of luggage. Am I a fully-fledged adult now?!

What’s made you happy recently?

Recipe: Vegan Chickpea & Coconut Curry

Now, I’m not a vegan, I’m not a vegetarian. I love meat, and I also find I need it in my diet. When I was in my poorest years of university I rarely ate meat and it showed – I was tired, grumpy and I just didn’t function as well. That said, over the last year or so I’ve been pushing myself to cut out meat more. At least one meal a week is veggie, and I try my hardest not to eat meat for weekday breakfast and lunches (unless I’m taking leftovers in a lunchbox).

 photo Vegan Curry_zpsvpescgd7.jpgAnd do you know what? I’ve really enjoyed it. We’ve made some absolutely delicious recipes that have become firm favourites – and this is one of them. I’ve had it sitting in my drafts for a while (hence the slightly over-edited photos, shooting at 8pm in February wasn’t easy!) and yet I’m not sure why. It’s delicious! Creamy and hearty, whilst still being light and healthy.

If you want to up the vitamins even more, you could make with a tin a chopped tomatoes (or add some fresh ones) but for obvious reasons I don’t! It’s also good with sweet potatoes or butternut squash – in the photos here I added a small potato that needed using up. Of course, if you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan it would be delicious with meat. I’ve added some leftover roast chicken with great results! Non-vegans could also replace the coconut milk with a few spoons of natural yoghurt.

 photo Vegan Chickpea Curry 5_zpslc5mxyxl.jpgIngredients (makes 4-5 good-sized servings – enough for a dinner and a few days lunches for the two of us, it freezes well too)

  • 3 white onions
  • 2 sticks celery
  • Ginger (around the size of your thumb, peeled)
  • 1 red/yellow/orange pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic (reduce if you’re not a huge fan!)
  • 1 chilli (taste it to test how hot it is!)
  • Spices – I used 1 large tsp each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, tumeric, garam masala, ground coriander, and ground fenugreek, but even a few spoons of curry powder will do!
  • 2 tins of chickpeas
  • 50g dried lentils
  • Any veg needing using up – sweet potatoes, squash etc.
  • 500ml vegan-friendly stock
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 1 small bag of spinach, chopped, or 5-6 cubes of frozen spinach (if using frozen spinach, be wary about freezing leftover portions!)
  • 1 pack fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Roughly chop 2 of the onions, the celery, ginger, pepper, garlic and chilli. Fry in a little oil for 5 or so minutes until softened, then tip into a blender and blitz until smooth. Meanwhile finely slice the remaining onion and fry until starting to soften. Add the spices and fry for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic and toasted. Add the puree, along with the chickpeas, lentils, veg and stock before simmering for around 30 minutes. At this point, most of the stock should have evaporated, though if it’s starting to catch add a little more.

Stir through the coconut milk gradually (so it doesn’t split) and warm on a low heat for around 5 minutes. Add the spinach and most of the coriander. Continue cooking until the spinach is wilted, check seasoning, and then served garnish with the remaining coriander and some almonds, if liked.

 photo Vegan Chickpea Curry 1_zpsrxlcuknv.jpgHere I’ve served with cauliflower rice (simply whizz up some raw cauli in a mini-chopped, then fry with a little garlic for around 5 minutes or until cooked), but my favourite is to toss florets of cauliflower with a little oil and some tumeric, then roast for 20 minutes. Yum! If course, you could use normal rice too – and I can never say no to a good naan bread…

What’s your favourite curry recipe? What veggie meals do you recommend?

Travel: 10 Things in Brighton

Oh Brighton. With the exception of Edinburgh (and London of course!) it’s probably my favourite UK city. I mean, gorgeous shops to browse, sea to paddle in AND fish’n’chips to nom on?! There’s not a lot more this gal can ask for!

Now, generally I just spend a few hours. With one of my best friends living close to Brighton, the other in Kent and me in London, our meetups are split over the three locations. It generally means we spend a lot of time catching up (and shopping!) and not a huge amount of time enjoying where we actually are. That said, my main holiday of 2016 was a few days in Brighton – and there’s definitely enough for a short-break…

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1. Go up the British Airways i360

Now, I’m in two minds about this one. We went up a few weeks ago, and whilst the views are stunning – it’s over-priced. At £13.50 for an on-the-day student ticket it was an expensive half-an hour. With no shade in the ‘holding pen’ before you board and it being basically a fish-bowl it was also extremely hot. Perhaps as a date-night (taking advantage of the cocktail bar) or timing it for sunset would be better!

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2. Wander Around The Lanes

Oh, the lanes. My favourite part of Brighton. I’ve enjoyed many hours spent wandering around the jewellery lanes, staring at all the sparkly-pretty things. However it’s the ones further away from the seafront that I love. Cute homeware stores, vintage clothing, mulled wine in winter – it’s my idea of heaven.

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3. Relax on the Beach & Explore the Pier

Obviously I can’t do a post on Brighton and mention either the beach or the pier! I’ve spent many hours on Brighton beach – watching the sunset with W way back in 2012, sunbathing, catching up with my besties and eating far too many fish and chips! If you’re there for the day then I recommend pitching up early to get a good spot (it gets insanely busy in the summer – though walking towards Hove means it’s a lot quieter!). I’d also spend the pennies on some chairs, at only £2.50 for the day they are definitely worth it.

Then there’s the pier. I can never resist a round on the two-penny machines – and whilst the rides are over-priced they can be fun. There will be forever a soft-spot in my heart for my first loop-the-loop rollercoaster!

4. Play Mini-Golf

I do love a bit of mini-golf, and Brighton’s one was a goodie – and not just because I won! I’d recommend avoiding the one half way down the Volk’s Railway as we thought it was horrendously expensive for a game!

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5. Get the Train to the Marina

The Volk’s Railway, just to the east of the pier, is Britain’s oldest electronic railway. Originally built in 1883 it runs from near the pier to the marina – so is a great way to see more of the seafront. Note that it’s currently closed for restoration!

Fun fact: me and W took a picnic up to this end of the beach last year. We were halfway through before we realised we’d stumbled into the nudist area…

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6. Visit The Sealife Centre

Now again this is something that I question is worth the money – but only because I think the other centres are a little better – Brighton’s is a little small and cramped for my liking. That said we enjoyed a turtle feeding demonstration and, as we got in at 9am, it was a relatively quiet way to spend a few hours before the sun came out.

7. Walk Through the South Downs

I confess I’ve never actually done this – but this bit of countryside looks SO pretty from the train (and i360!) that I’ve always wanted to do it. There’s plenty of routes, plus the 100 miles of the South Downs Way to explore. There’s even foodie routes connecting pubs and afternoon-tea rooms! Perhaps that’s a goal to achieve in 2018…

8. Have a Night On the Town

Another one I confess I haven’t done, but Brighton is famous for it’s nights out. If you’re up for a quieter evening, try the alcoholic milkshakes at Burger & Cocktails, or All Bar One for strong cocktails and decent music.

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9. Explore the Museums

Whilst I much prefer to enjoy my time in Brighton outside, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some proper English weather. Whilst not really marketed well, Brighton does have some pretty good museums. I’ve visited and enjoyed both the Booth Museum of Natural History and the Toy & Model Museum. The Booth Museum is not for the faint-hearted (it’s basically full of taxidermy) but it’s free and I personally found it super-interesting.

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10. Eat – Lots!

The key to my heart, if you’ve not already guessed, is food. I’m definitely one of those people who live to eat! Luckily Brighton has a vast array of restaurants to keep all tummies (and budgets) happy. It’s home to some great chain-restaurants (Wahaca and Franco Manca I’m looking at you…) as well as some independents. We’ve loved Wai Kika Moo Kau for vegetarian and vegan food, and there’s enough cake shops in the Lanes to try a new one each visit. We’ve enjoyed afternoon tea, fish’n’chips, and of course there’s Choccywoccydoodah. I’m also desperate to eat at The Salt Room too…

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Have you ever been to Brighton? Any hints and tips for my next visit?

Lifestyle: Heatwave in Numbers

I can’t be the only one that’s ever-so slightly glad London has cooled down now! The heatwave of mid-June was, was frankly, a little bit too much for me. And that’s coming from someone with an air-conditioned flat, who gets the District Line to work (also air-conditioned) and an air-conditioned office. Even my 10-minute walk to/from the station was a little bit too much – and a midday walk to the highstreet left me feeling physically ill. In hindsight, going out already thirsty wasn’t the best plan, but what’s a girl gonna do when she realises she’s all out of moisturiser?!

 photo Battersea Park 1_zpsgnpzsvwe.jpg photo Leeds Castle 10_zpshikrmzbv.jpg photo Leeds Castle 7_zpsd5btlglp.jpgInspired by Rhyme & Ribbons ABC of Summer I’ve penned this little post. I want to try and be a little less scripted/organised when it comes to blogging, a bit more spur-of-the-moment (I kinda need to do that in general, but hey-ho).

15+ flat viewings. Not pleasant in the heat.

3 naps. It’s the only thing I have energy for when it’s hot.

1 dumped duvet. It lived on our sofa for nearly a fortnight as it was too hot to even sleep on top of it.

4 loads of extra washing. Cos apparently we have a limited number of summer clothes.

2 snapped scrunchies. I like to pineapple my hair overnight when it’s hot, but I have a LOT of hair.

8 early alarms. I refuse to get even the relatively cool District line in rush-hour, so was leaving at least half an hour early each morning.

 photo Leeds Castle 9_zps1hxwcprr.jpg photo Cronut_zpsaa7nzudk.png1 evening picnic in the park. Very middle class with falafel, quinoa salad and fresh strawberries (+ cream and homemade meringues).

5 lunchtime picnics. Various parks.

184 (approx!) moans of “It’s too hot.”

2 arguments with dogs owners. Do NOT leave your dog in a car, and do not talk it for a walk along the pavement in 33 degree heat. The poor thing was hopping as it’s feet were so hot! Grrrrr.

4 nights when I refused to put the oven on (1 where I refused to eat anything hot). Our Cusinart grill machine was a life-saver!

25 seconds in the flat each evening before I turned the air-con on.

 photo Battersea Park 2_zpsdwrkex5x.jpg3 Mars Bar ice-creams. 1 Mr Whippy 99. 1 tub of sorbet. 1 bowl of semi-frozen lime jelly. Basically ALL the frozen things.

And now I have a craving for a Mars Bar ice-cream…! How did you find the mini-heatwave? Are you enjoying the slightly cooler weather or praying for it to get blisteringly hot again?

Food: Recent Eats #2

I thought it had been absolutely ageesssss since I wrote one of these posts. Nope. Turns out it’s not even been two months – I’ve just eaten SO MUCH good food recently I can’t wait to share it. From some amazing meals out to some products I’ve been sent to try – and of course some home-cooked meals it really has been foodie heaven for a couple of weeks.
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Coffee*

Lyon’s recently sent me some of their instant coffee bags, and they’re a revelation. Decent coffee with a good, smooth taste and just so easy to make. Okay, so I still prefer a flat white with some pretty patterns in the foam, but a good and cheap(er) alternative!

Kale, Red Onion & Feta Frittata

This has been one of my go-to lunches recently. Healthy and filling, it travels well in a lunch-box and is super easy to make. Plus it’s just so, so delicious. Far more than a sum of it’s slightly boring parts, I reckon it would also make a fabulous quiche filling…
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Bistro Vadouvan, Putney

Let’s start with the highlight – and what a highlight it is. This French-Indian restaurant opened a short (<5 minute) stroll from our current flata month or so ago, and we finally visited at the weekend. A little pricey, particularly my starter, but absolutely delicious. One of the best meals I’ve had in London, and rivaling our meal at Skosh back in April. We’ll definitely be back – I’ll post a full review soon but it’s highly worth a trip out to Putney just to eat here.

Rocksalt, Market Harborough

A family meal to celebrate the end of my sister’s exams (how is she doing the first year of A-Levels already?!), we slipped out of our Italian-chain comfort zone and headed to Rocksalt. Specialising in fish, we’re not entirely sure why we’ve missed it before but we’ll definitely be heading back. My Haddock Scotch Egg (with spiced cauliflower puree) was divine – the only complaint was the seafood risotto with my main was over-cheesy. A rare complaint from me! Whilst I’m not planning a full review, there will be some Instagram shots posted soon.
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Dominque Ansel’s Cronuts

Other than missing one month, I’ve been really enjoying my ‘New Year’s Resolution’ of trying every month’s Cronut flavour. I particularly enjoyed May – Blush Peach and Elderflower was a gorgeous combo. Just a shame that their cafe appears to have had a bit of a drainage problem every time I visited. Periodic wafts of smell aren’t exactly what I want when I’ve spent a not inconsiderable amount on some cake…

Homemade Chicken Satay

One of my favourite meals, I’d been meaning to try making my own Satay chicken for ages. Turns out its super-easy, amazingly tasty and I wish I’d done it sooner. As soon as I’ve managed to make it look half-pretty I’ll get my recipe live!
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Meze Lunches

One of the things I LOVE in the hot weather is pick-y lunches. Bits and pieces I can nibble on, nothing too heavy (though I obviously end up eating much more than I would normally). My study-day lunches have been looking a little bit like the above – some kind of salad, hummous, carrot sticks, flatbread. Some cold meat if I’ve got it, some cheese. Basically anything I can get my hands on.

Tandoori Chicken, Mango & Lentil Salad

One of Jamie Oliver’s recipes (they always work so well), and we managed it in 20 minutes – so not bad for a fifteen minute meal! Spiced and flavourful lentils, a mixture of spinach and shaved carrot and cucumber, grilled tandoori chicken thighs and a gorgeous turmeric-mango-yoghurt dressing. Just delicious. I’m playing around with some of the flavours and a lunchbox-friendly version will be on the blog soon!

La Chapelle, Spitalfields

I’ve added another Michelin Star to my list, and this French classic was a goodie. The signature starter of Crab Lasagne was utter perfection – silky, buttery and just so, so good. My tea-smoked fillet of beef was a little overdone for my liking but it’s bone marrow, mash and onion puree accompainments were gorgeous. The dessert was back to faultless, with a super-light strawberry souffle and basil ice-cream. If only the service had lived up to the food (I found the head waiter to be a little rude with his allergy comments).
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Vienna Cheesecake*

The Polish Bakery recently sent over some goodies for us to try. Whilst I’ve really enjoyed their Chia Seed bread (the Rye & Prune is scaring me slightly – I’ve no idea how to serve it or what to have it with!), for me it was their Vienna Cheesecake which stole the show. Soft sponge, a light filling, a spot of jam and a thin layer of chocolate. It was addictively good.

And of course there was my Cinnamon Buns too (some of the best things I’ve ever baked!) It’s a wonder I’ve not put on more weight that I have done over the last couple of months – from now on in I’m on a strict regime of healthy eating. No more Vienna Cheesecake for this gal!

What ‘good eats’ have you enjoyed recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #21

I have a feeling these next few months are going to be busy! I’m trying to catch up with the study I should have started a while back, we’ve got a little holiday planned – and now we’re moving. Around 8 hours after arriving back from our holiday. With no free weekends in which to pack. Impeccable timing!

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  1. 460 days to go until the wedding! I know it’s still ages away but the days seem to be flying by now.
  2. A new flat. We’ve found a lovely one, had an offer accepted, now we’ve just got to get through all of the referencing bits and bobs. They don’t make it easy, do they?
  3. Brunch at The Dynamo. I had the same as last time (with an extra slice of toast) and it was just as yummy as I remembered!
  4. Go Ape at Leed’s Castle. A beautiful location, a demanding high-ropes course (physically and mentally – with no upper body strength and a fear of heights/wobbling I found it tough) and my best girlies. I’m so proud I got all the way round with only a bit of sitting back in my harness and pulling myself along!
  5. A night in. W stayed at a friends so I watched girly films, had a bit of a pamper evening and…cleaning the kitchen. I know how to have a good time!
  6. Some good books. The Murderer’s Son was a highlight last weekend.
  7. Spending some time with my future in-laws. It was good to catch up and hear about their recent trip!
  8. Passing my first professional exam. It was a weird one – I had to take part in an online forum for two weeks, do a bit long workbook, and then finally a multiple-choice test a month later. It’s all done and dusted now and my name should be on the pass-list when it goes live later today. I also find out about the biggggg one I took in April next week so I’ve got my fingers crossed!
  9. An ice-cream shop has opened in Putney. I plan to make the most of it!
  10. My office summer party, in the grounds of the Tower of London. Such a gorgeous backdrop!

That’s it for now – hopefully next time I’ll be able to talk about a signed and sealed flat, packing, study and other dull things!

What’s made you happy lately?

Recipe: Herby Quinoa Salad with Nuts, Feta & Pomegranate

This is one of my favourite salads at the moment. Quick and fuss-free to make, goes with most things, travels well in a lunchbox. It’s also full of fresh ingredients and pretty damn good for you. No oily dressing, just a spot of feta cheese (which could be removed if you wanted the veganise the recipe – though as a cheese fan I think I’d miss it too much!). Plus it looks super pretty and is really rather Instagrammable – what more could you want in a recipe?!

 photo Quinoa Salad_zpshgf1hlnd.jpgWe quite often serve this with grilled meat (turkey and lamb work particularly well, especially in a harissa-style marinade) or some homemade falafel, but I also love it on it’s own, perhaps with some carrot sticks and hoummous to snack on later in the afternoon. The only thing I will say is it’s best to serve it at room temperature – when fridge cold I find the quinoa can be a little stodgy in texture.

Recipe

  • 250g quinoa (I prefer to use a mix of white, black and red quinoa – it seems to have a better flavour and texture)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 50g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 small pack of pomegranate seeds (I find them cheaper than prepping your own)
  • 50g toasted flaked almonds
  • 50g pistachios (unsalted)
  • 1 pack each of coriander and mint
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 pinch each of sugar and salt

Cook the quinoa, following the instructions on the packet. I tend to pop it into a pan with twice the amount of cold water, bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until the water is all absorbed. Let it cool completely.

Finely chop the onion and the herbs. Mix the citrus juice with sugar and salt. Mix everything together with the quinoa, adding more feta if you’re greedy like me. This keeps for a good 3-4 days in the fridge, in fact I find it tastes better the day after being made.

 photo Herby Pomegranate Quinoa Salad 8_zpsoewoohnx.jpg photo Herby Pomegranate Quinoa Salad 7_zps9e8wr6ui.jpgPS – in the photos on this post I’ve drizzled it in a simple yoghurt dressing (1tbsp yoghurt, black pepper, pinch of salt, pinch of cumin) as we’d miscalculated the amount of lemons we needed to buy and it was a little dry. It’s not entirely necessary so no worries about adding a dressing.

I’ve already earmarked this as my go-to recipe for picnics and barbecues this summer – I can imagine I’ll be making it lots!

What’s your favourite summer salad recipe?

Lifestyle: The Art of Sleeping Well

Sleep is something which, in phases, evades me. Most of the time I’m a pretty good sleeper. I can drift off within half an hour of so, and generally stay asleep most of the night. I’m a tad grumpy if I don’t get 7-8 hours a night, so it’s best for all those around me! That said, the stress of the last few months have meant my sleep has been disrupted.

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I’ll still fall asleep easily, but then I’ll be up and awake a few hours later. Still exhausted, but too many thoughts rushing around my mind to drop back off again. And that will be it, until around an hour before my alarm is due. I’ll listen to the planes starting to land at Heathrow again and know that I’ll feel dreadful in the morning. This will go on for a few weeks, myself getting more and more grumpy and irritable, then it will suddenly stop. I’ll go back to sleeping through. Peace will be restored.

I like to claim that my general good sleep can be credited to a decent bedtime routine. That said, with my recent stint of dreadful nights spent tossing and turning, I’ve switched things up a bit. Thankfully I’m back to *just about* sleeping properly, though the hot and muggy nights aren’t helping!

A Good Bed

Oh, this is key! I very rarely have a good nights sleep in a non-comfy bed – and as I’m quite particular that’s a bit of an issue. I like quite a firm mattress, nothing soft at all. I hate too thick-duvets. I’m one of those people who likes to have a summer weight duvet (say around 4.5tog) then a slightly thicker one for winter. And it can’t be higher than my neck.

I’ve been lucky so far in that all my university rooms and rental places have had fairly decent mattresses. In fact, the one in our current flat is almost too firm for me. I’m not entirely lying when I say the floor might be softer… We recently received an Eve Mattress Topper* and it’s shared the bed entirely. The mattress is still firm, but there’s now a supportive layer to sink into. It’s made getting up in the morning VERY difficult! I’m so, so gutted that we’re moving to a flat with a different sized bed now…
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Wind-Down Time

There’s no point me typing up a blog post, or watching an exciting TV drama (how gripping was Three Girls?!) and then trying to get straight off to the land of nod. It just won’t work. My brain will be too fired up and I’ll be up for hours with my mind racing. Better is to spend half an hour really getting ready for bed. I’ll light a candle, put on my fairy lights (I have a cheap-y Primark set wrapped around the ladder shelves that W built for me) and read a book.

Having said that, I’ve recently had to change the style of books I’m reading – turns out gripping psychological-thrillers aren’t conducive to a good night’s sleep!

Washing Before Bed

Linked in with wind-down time, I like to wash before bed. I actually shower in the evening, when I get home from work – I find this works best as I don’t have to rush, my hair is fully dry before sleeping, and (more selfishly) there’s a full tank of hot water! However I do like to redo my face before bed, washing with water (I’ll take my makeup off earlier) and moisturising. Obviously if it’s been a particularly warm evening I’ll also wash other more personal areas too!

My bed is so cosy this morning. If I am late for work I am blaming @sleepypeopleuk!

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Sleep Inducing Smells

Obviously lavender is high on the list for most people, but for me this breaks me out into insanely angry acne – it’s the worst thing for my skin! Instead one of my ‘sleepy’ smells is the Bodyshop’s Argan range. I find it so soothing and calming! I keep the Solid Oil by my bedside and apply a little to my wrists if I’m feeling particularly stressed. It’s also great rubbed into my nails and the ends of my hair!

Another one is malty, milky drinks. A favourite is warm milk with honey but, as I don’t have a microwave (and heating milk in a pan is a faff) I do like a mug of Horlicks made with boiling water and topped with plenty of milk. Of course, I’d prefer a hot chocolate but I’ve got to make some kind of an attempt at gaining a summer bod right…?

Cutting Out Sugar & Caffeine

This is something I really need to do – I’ve managed to cut down my cuppa addiction over the last few years, but since January my sugar habit has gone through the roof. I’ve used some difficult personal times as an excuse but now I’m craving sugar constantly and I’m pretty sure it’s affecting my sleep. I’ll keep you posted on how cutting down helps!

What do you do to make sure you get a good night’s sleep?

Review: Skosh, York

I left planning York far too late. We booked trains, booked hotels and then pretty much forgot about the holiday until the week before we left. And that caused panic. We’re both massive foodies so arriving somewhere without any real idea of where we’re eating is a nightmare, not to mention I need several days to look at a menu and decide on what I’m ordering. Not to mention it seemed like a lot of places were closed on Sunday/Monday nights! I panic-asked around (a.k.a tweeted…) and got a few recommendations. Including Skosh.

 photo Skosh_zpsv9pzgchb.jpgA quick glance at the menu and we had to visit. The seasonal menu was just full of things we love to eat, all with innotivate little twists, and the price point was so much lower than anywhere similar in London. Problem? The website showed it was fully-booked. I rang anyway (nothing like the lure of delicious food) and secured their Chef’s Table for Sunday lunch. We were sat on high-stools overlooking the cooking and plating area – and actually it was perfect. The stools were comfortable and we could see all the action. I’m definitely doing to be cooking cabbage on a griddle pan in future! But the food. Oh the food…

 photo Skosh York Review 21_zpsfmuscwpc.jpgSkosh is full of ‘snacks’ and ‘small plates’ – the idea is you order 2-3 each (ideally sharing between you!), they are brought out in the most complementary sequence and you can then order more if you fancy. As the menu is (quite rightly!) seasonal a few bits and bobs have changed since we left, and I can’t remember the exact ingredients of some dishes – but there were no duds at all. Absolutely everything was delicious, it was a dining experience I really didn’t want to end! The style of the food is difficult to describe – they’re taking classic British ingredients and giving them a slight Indian and Middle-Eastern twist. Whatever it is, it works!

We started with bread, served with a smooth and creamy butter and gunpowder spice. This was addictively good. Some swear you can tell the quality of the restaurant by it’s bread, and whilst I’m not completely convinced (I’ve had excellent bread and poor food) it did give high hopes. The star here was the gunpowder spice. I couldn’t tell you what was in it, but it was good. So good. Bread and butter hasn’t been the same since.

 photo Skosh York Review 7_zpsdjls1lye.jpg photo Skosh York Review 8_zpsccrwn1bu.jpgOur first ‘plate’ was cured halibut, wild garlic, watermelon and black sesame. This salad was light, fresh, flavorsome and delicious. Despite the sweetness from the melon, it was also intensely savoury. Yum. I’ve only recently been able to stomach cured/raw fish and this is the best example I’ve tried. It was also a stunningly presented plate of food – everything we ate was beautiful, but watching this be plated up, flowers placed on using tweezers, really showcased the care and attention used by the chefs.

 photo Skosh York Review 10_zpsfbhlmxmv.jpg photo Skosh York Review 14_zps5wx4odu6.jpg photo Skosh York Review 15_zpsuouyekub.jpgSecond was another ‘snack’ – Skosh fried chicken with a brown butter hollandaise. The chicken was extremely crispy whilst remaining juicy, and the hollandaise so good I scooped the leftovers up with a spoon. It had been passed through a siphon gun so it was light and fluffy, almost mousse like. Perfectly seasoned and just delicious.

Next up was something else from the fryer – crispy saddleback pork and rhubarb ketchup. The ketchup is switched up throughout the seasons, but I thought the rhubarb we ate was spectacular. It cut through the pork with a really sutble sweet-sharp flavour. The pork also fell apart with the slight press of a fork, it’s outer crispy and it’s inner so soft and melt-in-the-mouth.

 photo Skosh York Review 18_zpsavfjj8by.jpg photo Skosh York Review 17_zps6ekxgpjq.jpgWhat followed was W’s dish of the day – Skosh’s take on kedgeree. Some more cured fish (smoked haddock this time), mixed with radish and samphire, served with a crisp, spiced rice cracker and a cured egg yolk. Light, tasty and just delicious. Unfortunately I don’t think this is on the menu anymore, but it was a definite highlight of the meal.

 photo Skosh York Review 28_zpsh1rn930r.jpg photo Skosh York Review 24_zpsqej1jgs6.jpgNext was my favourite – and one of the two ‘bigger plates’ we ordered (only really differentiated on the menu by their price point, being around £5 more than the smaller plates). Crisp lamb belly, sumac yoghurt, pickled onion and pomegranate were served with a griddled hispi cabbage. The burnt ends of the cabbage had a bitterness than was perfectly tempered by the sweetness of the pomegranate and richness of the lamb. A kind of summery roast dinner, I loved it!

 photo Skosh York Review 34_zpsglygggmv.jpg photo Skosh York Review 32_zpspgdfsqee.jpgWhilst not hungry by this point, we did decide to add in another big plate to our original order – mainly because it sounded so intriguing we didn’t want to miss out. A large piece of cod was served ‘tandoor style’ with grilled pineapple, fresh coconut and a perfect lentil dhal. I was a bit suspicious of the pineapple combo (it’s not a fruit I particularly like as it is!) but it worked so well with the heavy spices and the delicate fish. This is a plate that could have easily been inedible had the balance not been right, so it really shows the skill level of the chefs.

 photo Skosh York Review 39_zpsankof4wh.jpg photo Skosh York Review 35_zpstckjmj2k.jpg photo Skosh York Review 37_zps6quxw582.jpg photo Skosh York Review 40_zpsiolxs57r.jpgAnd then, of course, it was pudding (we were on holiday after all!). We ordered the Peanut Milkshake with Caramel Donut to kick-start out sweet fix. Both perfectly made, though perhaps the less exciting option…

Much more interesting was the white chocolate sphere with roasted banana and yuzu – a balance of textures, temperatures and flavours that got more delicious and more intriguing as you ate. By far and away one of the best puddings I’ve ever eaten.

We stumbled out, slightly over-full and wishing we could have eaten more. Now if only we had something this good, at this price point, in London…

What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever visited?

Recipe: Cinnamon Buns

I think Cinnamon Buns are one of my all-time favourite sweet treats. It has to be good though – a flaky supermarket cinnamon swirl won’t cut it. It needs to be soft and bready, heavily spiced, sweet, sticky. There’s a Swedish Cafe in Putney that makes insaneelyyyy good ones (Blabar is also damn Instagrammable!) and quite honestly it’s a good thing we’re moving a teeny bit further away. Longer walk = more room for cake, right?!

 photo Cinnamon Rolls_zpseyjrrgca.jpgOne thing I’ve never done, however, is bake my own. Up until a few weeks ago that is! I’ve always shied away from sweet bread recipes. Enriched doughs tend to be horribly sticky and my slightly intolerant nature means I’m likely to swear and strop at it rather than lovingly knead until smooth. I subscribe to the generally knead-free bread bible written by James Morton, but this approach doesn’t exactly work for sweeter recipes.

 photo IMG_8322_zpsaizebahe.jpgEnter my new Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer.*

The dough hook means I don’t need to get up close and personal with sticky dough, my worksurfaces stay smear-free and I genuinely get to keep me cool. A definite bonus given this last week of heat – kneading dough is the last thing I want to be doing! However if you don’t have the lifesaving mixer, simply knead by hand for 15-20 minutes until smooth…

 photo Cinnamon Buns 19_zpsjkzjxhju.jpg photo Cinnamon Buns 6_zpsish6ndaw.jpgThe end result is a soft, bread-y roll, heavily spiced, sticky-sweet and totally delicious. I enjoyed mine for dessert, for breakfast, as a snack. Warm, cold, alone, with ice-cream, dipped into hot chocolate. All delicious. Very addictive. You have been warned!

Ingredients (Made 8 hugeeee ones)

  • 65g caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 325g plain flour
  • 10g dried instant yeast
  • 1 medium egg
  • 100ml “blue” (full fat) milk
  • 45ml single cream – mix together with the milk
  • Filling: 40g caster sugar, 60g unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • For glazing: 1 medium egg, 30ml golden syrup, 2 teaspoons caster sugar

Make the dough: beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Mix the flour, a pinch of salt and the yeast together. Gradually add the milk and cream, and the flour mixture, alternating and mixing well. The dough will be sticky! Then knead until smooth. Cover with a clean tea towel leave to rise for an hour before rolling out to a rectangle (around 1.5cm thick).

Fill and shape: beat together the sugar and butter for the filling until light and fluffy. Spread over the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon. Use a knife to cut the dough into strips, around 1.5cm to 2cm wide. We went for 2cm and they were a little big for my liking! Roll up the strips like a snail and place on a baking tray (line with greaseproof!). Leave to rise for around 45-60 minutes, then brush with beaten egg and bake for 15-20 minutes at 200C.

Glaze: mix the golden syrup with an equal amount of water. Brush over the rolls, sprinkle with the sugar and allow to cool slight. Best eaten within a day or so – though they freeze quite well (and make a good on-the-go breakfast…).

 photo Cinnamon Buns 20_zpsircskul6.jpg photo Cinnamon Buns 12_zpsblutyly7.jpgNow, whilst I wish I could take all the credit, this recipe was inspired by The New Nordic (the perfect coffee table book!); I’ve removed the cardamon as I’m not the biggest fan, cut down the sugar a little and of course upped the cinnamon! Yum, yum yum! I’m craving these right now as I sit here typing!

What’s your favourite sweet treat?