Food: #WhatAStudentEats (Round 2)

Way back in October I posted a #whatastudenteats round-up, and after so long I thought it was time to do another. There’s been a lot of new meals, including some that have become firm favourites. There’s also been a few disasters, a lot of cake and a couple of very yummy burgers.

 photo Eating Lately 2_zpswhykduu4.jpgDuring exam season, what I wanted most of all was comforting meals, meals that if I couldn’t be bothered to cook a side dish would do. Casseroles were a favourite, packed with veg and just needing some greens as an accompainment if I was so inclined. Mushroom risotto was my go-to “I’m really stressed” dinner, and carbonara was a quick “in and out in 20 minutes” meal between library stints. Now I’m done, I’ve been indulging in a few too many desserts (my mum makes the best fruit crumbles, and W’s mum alwaysssss has B&Js in the freezer). And obviously, there was the excess of cheese whilst in France too…
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Quick Meals

As I’ve already mentioned, carbonara is my go-to quick meal. However I really upped the veg content (because vitamins) in my recipe, as well as reducing the washing up, with my Springtime Vegetable Recipe. So good, so yum. Other quick meals I came up with involved a take on my Chorizo-Crusted Cod – turns out blitzing toast crusts with chorizo slices and a little parmesan has pretty much the same effect. And it coats a flattened chicken breast amazingly well. Perfect with a crisp green salad as a fakeaway style meal. Oh, and my Vegan Chickpea & Spinach curry went down amazingly well too – ready in 15 minutes, it was a lovely spicy hug in a bowl!

Too Much Cheese & Wine

Being in France for a few days gave me a cheese passion I didn’t really know I had. Sure, I pretty much always have cheddar and parmesan in, but I never eat a chunk of cheese, wouldn’t really make a cheese sandwich. Now it turns out that I adore Brie, even enjoy a soft blue cheese. I’m still not quite grown up enough for goat’s cheese yet, however…
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Veggie Sausages

One of the slightly more disastrous meals, although to be fair to Granose I did enjoy the taste and texture of the Lincolnshire Sausage Mix*. The issue? They were horrendously messy to shape, stuck to whatever I tried to cook them in, and generally looked a bit off-putting. I found them quite dry with the usual mash and gravy, however loved them with a mushroom-lentil-chicken stock mix I came up with. Now that has become a regular on my menu!
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A Version of Shakshuka

Oh, how I drool a little over pictures of the classic dish. Unfortunately with a tomato-allergy it’s just not really one for me, however I did discover a little hack which means I can enjoy something similar. Having FINALLY honed my tomato-free baked bean recipe (which I need to photograph and share asap), I decided to spice it up, add a few chorizo slices lurking around, crack in a few eggs, add parmesan and see what happened. The result was the perfect big lunch, and I’m guessing with a good salad would make a pretty acceptable light dinner too.
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Other Highlights

So much good food in the past eight months or so – I went back through my recipe posts and there’s much more than I originally thought. The steak with the seriously garlicky sauce, the leftover roast lamb flatbreads, and too many burgers to be strictly acceptable. There’s been some lovely light fruity breakfasts on warmer mornings, lots of comforting dippy eggs, and many a cheeky fry-up. Oh, and an ice-cream sundae bigger than my face…

You wouldn’t have thought I have to squeeze myself into a figure-hugging graduating dress in less than a fortnight, would you?!

What foodie highlights have you had lately? Any cheap(ish) London recommendations for me?

Lifestyle: Room Tour

Finishing university in May and not starting my job until September (and having no money for London rent in the meantime!) has meant that I’ve had to do some serious sorting and chucking-out in order to squeeze four years of accumulated stuff into my childhood bedroom.

 photo Room Tour Summer 2016 1_zpscbjysfmu.jpgIt might have taken 10 hours (including sorting the garage out, in the cold early May bank holiday drizzle), it might have involved lots of swearing, repeatedly dropping heavy items on the same foot and re-shuffling furniture multiple times, but I’ve finally gotten it just about right. Including the dressing table of this little blogger’s dreams…

My room is a difficult one to get looking right – it’s not the biggest, I have a chunky wardrobe (that we can’t move around as the back has fallen off and we’re pretty sure the whole thing will collapse if moved!). I also have a sofa bed – bought to replace my child-ish single a few years ago. So whilst I probably could put the sofa in a better place, I need to be able to expand it out into a bed each night. Hence difficulties. That said, I’m super happy with how it’s looking at the moment.

 photo Room Tour Summer 2016 7_zpscskggm1j.jpg photo Room Tour Summer 2016 10_zpsebpv67jz.jpgI’ve got my bookcase in one corner – this was the first purchase I made with my first ever pay packet! I’m a huge reader in my spare time and this took a LOT of sorting out. Hopefully my local charity shops are pleased with the two huge boxes packed full of books I’ve donated! I’ve kept just my favourites, as well as some I want to read again and then pass on. And yes, I organise into colour order…I also have a little area where I’ve put all my wedding bits and pieces (I really need to sort through this stuff at some point!).

 photo Room Tour Summer 2016 4_zpsblxrzfzp.jpg photo Room Tour Summer 2016 3_zpsmd7mskvu.jpgThen there’s the dressing table, which is just my fold-up desk from uni put into another corner, with the storage box that came with my sofa bed (which hides away bedding) as a seat. This also gives me a hidey-hole for any mess too! I’m loving that all my makeup and skincare bits are a bit more to hand, and it also means I don’t have to rely on the family bathroom being free to get ready.

 photo Room Tour Summer 2016 5_zpsjpzqktae.jpgOh, and no childhood bedroom is complete without childhood best friend – meet Bear! He is actually a Baloo from the Jungle Book, but as you can see he was very well loved…

 photo Room Tour Summer 2016 9_zpsobhceih8.jpgA few little touches, including the gorgeous cushions my sister got me and W for Christmas, and I’ve really made this into a lovely little spot for relaxing and blogging in over the summer. Now I just have to placate my dad for the loss of his home office for the summer…!

What’s your bedroom like? How do you make the most of limited space?

University: Why I Went

Going to university was probably the hardest decision I ever had to make. Sure, perhaps not the most life changing (that one goes to asking a tall, skinny boy to help me get to grips with A-Level chemistry), but probably the one that needed the most thought. It definitely wasn’t a decision I took lightly, it was far from easy, and I’m rather hoping I don’t have to make such a huge decision again!

 photo Why I Went to University_zpsncsnldpd.jpgYou see, I was never planning on going to university. I’m not a fan of alcohol (give me a glass of wine with dinner, or a cocktail and a burger and I’m your girl, but getting beyond tipsy is not something I enjoy), I’m not keen on crowded social situations (things like standing in a concert crowd gives me palpitations). I get insanely stressed over exams, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to coursework. And I like shopping. I honestly thought an apprenticeship scheme was the way to go for me.

 photo University Goals2_zpsrujei6ip.jpgAnd then I discovered a career. A job I thought I would love. A job that appealed to all the skills I thought I had at the time, that at the age of 16 I could see myself doing. A job that very much requires a degree.

Nearly six years on, preparing to graduate with a First Class Honours, with that job all lined up for September, I couldn’t be prouder of myself. I pushed myself to move away from home to get the best degree possible, I made the decision to put myself and W through an LDR for four years. I stayed true to myself under pressure to “drink more and enjoy myself,” I finally beat my own demons and realised that I don’t need to make myself ill to get the grades I want.

 photo FB_IMG_1466251622119_zpslhkyvahi.jpgI didn’t go to university for the ‘student lifestyle.’ I didn’t go to university to meet new people, to experience new things. The only reason I went was to get the degree I needed to get the job I wanted. Possibly not the best reason (what if I hated the job? At least a placement year means I don’t have that worry anymore!), but that’s why I went to university.

I don’t regret it. Yes, I might not have experienced the typical university lifestyle, but I’ve made some of the closest friends I could imagine having. The past four years have defined me as a person. I’ve learnt how to cook, how to eat properly. I’ve learnt how to study until the early hours of the morning, how to put up with working in groups where no-one pulls their weight. I can do food shops on less than £15 a week and still afford the bus home, I’ve become a whizz at finding discount codes.

 photo 2015-12-08 12.03.46_zps7ankjz1y.jpgMaking that decision to go to university is highly personal. I’d never, ever suggest doing it because “everyone does it” – I know that for me, had I not decided on this career route, university wouldn’t have been the path for me.

Why did you decide to go (or not go!) to university?

Lifestyle: High Tea @ Tiny Tim’s Tearoom, Canterbury

A bit of a Canterbury institution, I can’t believe it took me four years to get to Tiny Tim’s. So many people have recommended it to me, via word of mouth, here on the blog, at university. It’s almost embarrassing that next month I graduate, and very nearly did so without visiting this charming little tearoom.

 photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 1_zpsuuc4oqlh.jpgLuckily, myself and housemates decided to celebrate end-of-exams with a girly few hours of gossip, tea and sugar. Arriving seemingly before the rush (as soon we were seated, an out-of-door queue for tables formed), we oggled the massive slabs of cake on display, slightly over-awed at the scones the size of our faces. The good one of us ordered soup and a single slice of cake. The other two had already decided on the High Tea. No prizes for guessing that I wasn’t that sensible person…

 photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 2_zpsrndszfqk.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 10_zpsz9gyr44u.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 11_zpstvnfixwn.jpgI’m not too sure whether this is an example of a traditional High Tea (or even if such a thing exists!) but a Tiny Tim’s High Tea is simply an afternoon tea, with the finger sandwiches and savouries being replaced by two buttered crumpets topped with a poached egg.

My experience of afternoon tea has always found the savoury element a bit disappointing, so this option sounds perfect – and indeed I found it far more enjoyable. The crumpets (though I doubted they were homemade) tasted fresh, were grilled to a slight crisp, soaked in butter and topped with a perfectly poached egg. I thought a heavily buttered crumpet couldn’t be topped – runny yolk filling the holes somehow manages to make it even better. A combination I’ve dreamed of ever since.

 photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 4_zpsibshy0vt.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 13_zps0ev7a4ik.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 12_zpsl39mzpjy.jpgAdvised to eat from the bottom up, the next ‘course’ was the scones. I’ll put this out there now, I’m not a huge fan of scones. I find them too often dry, heavy and just a bit boring. Other than my mum’s, I’ve never fully enjoyed a scone – but these were good ones. Still warm from the oven, so much so that the clotted cream (I’m a cream before jam kinda gal!) melted into them. The jam wasn’t too sweet, and actually tasted of strawberry, and the whole thing was light with a crunchy exterior. So good, but saving room for the final tier, I only ate half…

And it was well worth saving the room for – without a doubt my favourite part of an afternoon tea is the pastries. Here we had a cream-filled shortbread (buttery and crisp), a tart seemingly filled with apricot jam topped with a meringue (sticky, fruity, with a perfectly dry meringue), and a brownie (gooey, rich, one of the best examples of a brownies I’ve eaten outside of my own kitchen).

 photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 7_zpsk8xfeonp.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 5_zpsk9y8qhrx.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 6_zpsv9k8zpb4.jpgService was friendly and quick, although I would have liked a refill of the teapot – we only managed to squeeze two cups each out, which I thought was a little mean. The atmosphere was wonderful, with enough background noise to chat whilst still feeling relaxed, and an old chap playing the piano to add to the experience. I’ll definitely be heading back before graduation to sample their epic looking coffee cake – I only wish I’d visited sooner!

Are you a fan of Afternoon Tea? I’d love some London-based recommendations to add to my list!

Recipe: Energy Bites, Two Ways

Quite a while ago, I poo-pooed the idea of energy bites as a fad, said that they didn’t appeal to me at all, vowed to never make them. Embarrassingly, I’m now going back on that. Turns out that, yes they may be a bit of a fad, but I actually quite like them, and made them on a number of occasions during exam season.

 photo Energy Bites 5_zpswagmdahi.jpg photo Energy Bites 10_zpsxc7ohzvo.jpgI’m the kind of person that doesn’t really have a huge sweet tooth, until around 9pm at night. Whether I’m watching TV, reading or studying, at that point I like a little pick-me-up. And trust me, I get super hangry without it! If I’m at home, a small instant hot chocolate does the trick without inducing guilty feelings, but when I’m in the library? I need snacks and I need them quickly.

Right at the start of exam season, I’m made the mistake of treating myself to ‘just one’ packet of half-covered hobnobs. Several packets later, skinny jeans starting to feel a little uncomfortable, enough was enough. I pulled out my favourite ‘healthy eating’ books, threw some bits into a blender, and discovered that energy bites weren’t as horrible as previously feared. I’ve now honed my recipe, and now is the time to share it…

 photo Energy Bites 4_zps0viehj6n.jpg photo Energy Bites 1_zpsmm3xn7gk.jpg photo Energy Bites 3_zpsuheif4ot.jpgIngredients

  • 75g ‘dry stuff’ – I use equal measures of oats, almonds (flaked as that’s what I tend to buy), hazelnuts, chia, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  • 50-75g pitted dates, soaked in a little boiling water then drained
  • 50g nut butter
  • 2 teaspoons cacao powder, for chocolatey bites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon – for ‘plain nut bites’ (a drop of vanilla extract is also good!)

Blitz the dry stuff in a blender (I use the grind function on mine) until you have a coarse powder. Tip into a large bowl and stir through the cacao, if using. Blitz together the dates and nut butter, adding a little of the soaking liquid if the mix is too sticky to blend.

Personal preference – I like to leave a few good-sized chunks of date in there for a fruity hit (says the person who hates fruit!).

Tip the sticky mix into the bowl, then mix together with your hands. Trust me, a spoon does not work here! I find some actions similar to bread kneading works well to combine the ingredients. Roll tablespoons into balls, place on a lined baking tray, and chill in the fridge for a few hours, before transferring to a sealed container – keep in the fridge, though I prefer to bring them to room temperature before snacking!

 photo Energy Bites 7_zps1v1xampg.jpgThe chocolatey ones are (surprise surprise!) my absolute favourites. Super chocolatey, rich and squidgy, I’ve even warmed them until melty and eaten with a spoon for a real ‘treat’ without any of the guilt. I’m planning on making them infused with some orange next time, for a healthier take on a Terry’s Chocolate Orange…

Are you a fan of energy bites? What’s your go-to sweet snack?

Fashion: Sun-Seeking in Floral Dresses

Would someone like to inform the sun that it is now June, and an appearance would be most appreciated?

 photo House of Fraser Dress5_zps1qkmykpz.jpgSince I came back from France, I’ve seen the sun for a total of two hours at the very most. I’ve gotten soaked in the pouring rain. Dug out my cosiest winter pyjamas. Even turned the heating on for a cheeky hour. Whilst it’s lovely to snuggle up with a warm drink and a good book (oh, how I’m loving reading for pleasure instead of studying!), I’m now positively aching for a bit of sunshine, a hint of warmth. I have new clothes to wear, and so far every time I’ve tried I’ve ended up scampering back upstairs to throw on something slightly warmer…

Despite the not-so-nice weather, I simply couldn’t resist sharing my newest dress*.

 photo House of Fraser Dress3_zpss3mmnnl7.jpgMade of the floatiest material (i.e. one that makes me feel rather feminine and pretty, but that shows my knickers with the slightest breeze), cut to gentle pleats, and with just enough dark to toughen up the soft pastel floral pattern, this is my new favourite summer dress. Or it would be, if it was warm enough to wear it!

Whilst the vast majority of my wardrobe is floral dresses and skirts, this is still very different to my usual style. It’s high-necked, with a collar and slightly ruffled detailed along the bust – both things I ordinarily avoid. It’s yellow, again something I’m not overly keen on. But for some reason, I fell in love with it. The length sits perfectly just a couple of inches above my knee, the waistline pulls me in.

 photo House of Fraser Dress2_zpsnb6rryen.jpgStill unable to buy myself the correct size after loosing several dress sizes last year, I took a chance and used the House of Fraser “how will this fit you personally” guide – and it worked! I popped in my favourite dress manufacturer and size, and a few other measurements, and out popped my size. Despite my sceptism, it really is the perfect fit. And surprisingly, so is the other dress I also bought using the guide – a tighter, figure-hugging showstopper for graduation.

Until the sun comes out, I’ve been pairing this with skin-coloured tights, navy flats and a navy cardigan, grabbing a brown or tan satchel for good measure. However I’m looking forward to wearing the dress bare-legged, with some delicate sandals, for a good ol’British picnic. Now I just need the weather to play along…

What have you been wearing lately? Are you struggling with the British weather at the moment?

University: Finishing Up with BBQs, Summer Balls and Cleaning

“It’ll fly by” they said.

“It will be over before you know it” they said.

They weren’t lying!

 photo 2016-06-01 17.26.38_zpsgqsyavao.jpgIt’s hard to believe that four years of university are over and done with. Grades have been confirmed, graduation gowns ordered, and my house is pretty much all packed up and ready for me to leave. Whilst I’m quietly relieved that the hardwork is over, whilst I’m loving being able to read actual books again, I’m also struggling a bit a lot. It’s finally sunken in that I’ll no longer live with my friends, that there won’t be any more of the late-night girly chats. I’ll miss moaning about coursework deadlines, I’ll probably even miss my Friday-night train journeys up to W. Yes, I’m super excited to move in with him. Yes, I’m thrilled to be starting my dream job. But I don’t feel quite ready to let go of university, and right now, sitting at home, I feel a little lost.

That said, we finished off university in the most perfect way. A big BBQ (complete with cute bunting – oh so Pinterest!), dressing up for the summer “ball”, sunning ourselves for a few days in France.

 photo 2016-06-04 15.00.18_zpss3jxl8sy.jpg photo 2016-06-04 15.00.28_zps95hapdpu.jpgWith our final year house having a decent-sized garden and a massive conservatory, since paying the deposit we’d be planning a BBQ to end all BBQs for our final weekend. Armed with a fridge-full of burgers, a whole lot of Pimms and multiple disposable BBQs, we cooked up a storm. Tortilla chips and dips kept guests happy, soaking up the first batch of Pimms. Potato wedges and couscous salad bulked things up, peri-peri chicken drumsticks went down a storm. We may have slightly over-catered, but we weren’t complaining when the 2am munchies hit and there was plenty of garlic bread left!

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The day of our BBQ also coincided with Kent’s Summer Ball – or rather the Party in the Car Park. I’ll be doing a full(er) post on my outfit soon as I LOVED my dress (once I’d tweaked it – the slit was so high it showed off rather more than I was comfortable. Including my belly button… ) but I will say we had a wonderful night. Us girls looked fabulous, our men looked smart, and of course we made the most of our outfits by making the bumper cars our first port of call!

It’s not all been fun, games and lying in the sun however. Packing up a house, particularly one which holds such good memories, is probably one of the most depressing things I’ve done. And that’s before we get started on all the cleaning… Luckily this year I’ve had help on hand to make it that little bit easier.

 photo 2016-06-05 13.05.21_zpslbnlv4fn.jpg photo 2016-06-05 13.05.30_zpsyuazohgg.jpgI wrote a post a while ago on getting your rental deposit back, and I’ve been following my own advice over the last few weeks. When Oven Pride got in touch to send me over their signature oven cleaner, I jumped at the chance. Call me weird, but cleaning an oven is probably my favourite part. Mainly because I don’t do it regularly, so when I do do it, I can see a difference. Whilst I haven’t used it yet (I’m waiting until the last minute!) it’s the brand I used way back in first year. And if it could clean that cooker, it could clean anything! I’m tempted to do a before-and-after once it’s done, if I can brave showing anyone just what it’s currently like without a clean! I’ve always considered oven and fridge cleaning to be one of the most important jobs when leaving a rental property – making an effort to tackle the ‘big’ things shows that you do care about the property – and these are always the more costly items for agents to sort out themselves. Fingers crossed we get all our deposit back – it’s earmarked for holiday money!

 photo 2016-05-24 14.52.33_zpsbi5fck6l.jpg photo 2016-05-24 14.52.00_zps1g6mp42m.jpg photo 2016-05-24 14.52.42_zps9zjpurcx.jpgAnd then there’s hoovering. A house of three girls should come with a hazard warning – there’s a LOT of hair shedding going on! The provided hoover just isn’t quite up to the job, so when Dirt Devil offered to send me their Stick Vacumn I was pretty relieved! In all honest, a hoover isn’t something I ever expected to be excited about (might as well start sending me slippers and chair lifts now guys, old age is clearly approaching fast!) I do like this one. It’s taking a little getting used to as it’s very top heavy, but it’s powerful, relatively quiet, and tucks away nicely into a cupboard or corner (it’s going to be ideal when we find a flat in London!).

Whilst the past few weeks have been taken up with cleaning, tidying, packing and sorting, there’s been fun, lots of food and a whole lot of laughter. There’s also been huge celebrations – finding out I’m graduating with First Class Honours bought me to tears last week, and there’s been plenty of champagne consumed since!

How did you celebrate leaving university? Do you have any tips for making sure you get all your rental deposit back?

How To: Perfect Poached Eggs (& My Go-To Pre-Exam Brunch)

Exam season has now ended!

 photo Poached Eggs 3_zpstbebxr5o.jpgFor some reason, I’ve really lost my blogging mojo. If I’m honest, I’m struggling a little with the thought of not going back to university – I don’t really know what to do with myself other than mope about! Yesterday morning I realised there were plenty of things I do, every single day, that could very definitely be blogged about. I mean, what’s more instagrammable than #yolkporn?! (Fun fact: Instagram clearly knows I love those pictures as the vast majority of grams in my ‘discovery’ feed are eggs…). This is the breakfast/brunch/lunch that became my go-to before an exam. Full of protein, yummy and quick, it’s comforting and simple flavours means I can stomach it even with a nervous, churning tummy.

Whilst I covered poaching in my How To: Eggs guide a while back, I thought I’d go a bit more in-depth now. I know it took me forever to master then, but I think I’ve got it pretty much perfect now.
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Poaching Eggs

Get a pan of water onto boil. I always bring it to a fast boil, then reduce to just a little more than a simmer once the eggs are in. Meanwhile prep the eggs – lay a piece of cling-film loosely over a ramekin or teacup, and spray with Fry-light (or lightly wipe over some oil using kitchen towel). I also like to add a teeny bit of black pepper – and having followed Jamie’s advice, fresh chopped red chilli is pretty awesome to, just maybe not prior to an exam!

Crack your egg into the clingfilm, then carefully twist the ends of the clingfilm to form a parcel. Using the ends, lower the parcel into the boiling water and reduce the heat slightly. Cook for 3 minutes (medium eggs at room temperature), adjusting for 30 seconds if the eggs are particularly large or have been kept in the fridge. Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the water, and carefully slice open the cling-film with a knife (serrated blade works best). Serve immediately, drying with a bit of paper towel if necessary.

I’ve also found out this week (yesterday!) that the cling-film-egg-parcels can be made the night before, popped in the fridge, then cooked for around 3.5 minutes the next morning. Perfect for pesky 9am exams…
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The Exam Breakfast

So, my perfect exam breakfast? As you pop the pan on to boil, throw some toast into the toaster and whack the oven up to around 100C. Once the toast is cooked, top with a slice of ham and place in the oven to warm and slightly crisp whilst the eggs cook. Top with the poached eggs, and enjoy the yolk porn! Also excellent with fried/grilled mushrooms if time allows…I ate a LOT of eggs throughout exam time!
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What’s your go-to breakfast when you have an important day? How do you like to serve your poached eggs?

 

Lifestyle: A Few Days in the South of France

Sun. Sleep. Cheese. Wine.

This was pretty much all I planned to do with my time in the South of France, and I wasn’t disappointed. Add in the company of two of my best friends, a lot of chats, plenty of good books, and my half my bodyweight in ice-cream and you’ve got the makings of a pretty fabulous holiday.

 photo South of France 2016 23_zpspjmuiti5.jpg photo South of France 2016 22_zps3ctqtx76.jpg photo South of France 2016 12_zpsabaigxgm.jpg photo South of France 2016 21_zpsoro8yqtm.jpgWe stayed in a villa in the sleepy village of Agel, two hours from Toulouse and without even a boulangerie. This suited us perfectly, as we had no intention of doing anything more strenuous than reapplying sun-cream! The pool was the perfect size for a quick refreshing dip, the sun that perfect temperature for sunbathing – hot, but not so hot it gets unbearable after 10 minutes.

 photo South of France 2016 15_zpswa7mwjdt.jpg photo South of France 2016 24_zpshitcx7br.jpg photo South of France 2016 26_zpsb2jpnlem.jpgWe stocked up on fresh bits and pieces to pick at over breakfasts and lunches – plenty of fruit, some of the most delicious bread, and far more cheese than three girls should eat! I reignited a love for proper, full-fat cream cheese. Give me a spoonful of that, some cracked black pepper and some vegetable crudites and I’m a happy girl. Add in some ham, some salami and proper, good bread and that’s my idea of a perfect lunch.

Then there’s the cheese. We bought a cheese selection, alongside an additional hunk of brie. We worried it was too much, would some go to waste? Turns out another block of brie would have been more than appropriate – although we perhaps would have sunk as opposed to floated in the pool on our last morning! Some days we ate a massive lunch, other days we split it into two, indulging in a ‘snack’ of cheese and wine in the late afternoon.

 photo South of France 2016 27_zpspyaskae5.jpg photo South of France 2016 4_zpsi4armcxz.jpg photo South of France 2016 3_zpsuew00ni8.jpg photo South of France 2016 2_zpsdinlgepe.jpg photo South of France 2016 5_zpsusbz8rpl.jpg photo South of France 2016 7_zpskgdzjl9x.jpg photo South of France 2016 8_zps8vuvfc5n.jpg photo South of France 2016 20_zpshpmez2ln.jpg photo South of France 2016 18_zpsyppmwgem.jpg photo South of France 2016 19_zpsk71ya854.jpg photo South of France 2016 10_zpsaehvtixl.jpg photo South of France 2016 13_zpshouwudip.jpg photo South of France 2016 14_zpskofesv1e.jpg photo South of France 2016 9_zpsvgoubpas.jpg photo South of France 2016 11_zpszw9koauk.jpgOne evening we got adventurous, heading for a wander around the next village before driving to a riverside restaurant. Admittedly the pizzeria we chose was not the most French menu available, but it was busy, the smells coming from the kitchen were incredible, and the outside seating was just too pretty to turn down. The pizzas were huge, with generous toppings on a thin woodfired base. But the puddings! These were something else. Ice cream sundaes served in flower vases, with a cheeky crepe ordered to share for good measure. My Nute’lce was a mix of chocolate, hazelnut and salted caramel ice-creams, whipped cream and what seemed like a good half jar of nutella. Unbelievably good, well worth feeling slightly sick for!  The area was super pretty, with instagram-worthy houses and boats every few yards, just adding to our evening out.

Other evenings were not so adventurous – with the villa being fully stocked with old-school Disney videos we made full use of them!

 photo South of France 2016 16_zpszu3v7ot7.jpgIt was so lovely to completely switch off and unwind for a few days. With limited internet, no revision, and a Kindle full of new books I came back completely rejuvenated. It was definitely needed! Now it’s time to stress over degree results and finding a place to live in London…

Are you off on holiday this year?

Baking: Snickers Brownies

Another bit of procrastination baking, these came about when W left me alone in his flat for the entire day. He came back to moan about the fact that I’d depleted his chocolate supplies, though once he realised I hadn’t just eaten then all he came around quite nicely…

 photo Snickers Brownies 6_zpsvwywdsdc.jpgI did come up against a few difficulties whilst baking these. Mainly the oven, which is pretty dreadful in his flat (nothing to do with the flat that I failed to turn it on at the wall!). It resulted in these being a little overbaked, the ultimate brownie sin. Microwaved, though, these turned out pretty good! I had also planned on having the snickers layer in the middle, but managed to pour all the mix into the tin before remembering. Revision scrambling the brain you see!

These are based on my ‘storecupboard’ brownie recipe, using cocoa as the base rather than tediously melting bars of chocolate. In fact, the recipe is exactly the same – just doubled and topped with slices of snickers. I’m prepared to bet that swirling through a spoon or two of peanut butter would go down quite nicely too…

 photo Snickers Brownies 2_zpspihinare.jpgIngredients

  • 140g salted butter, melted (coconut oil also works, though does make the brownie slightly oiler)
  • 225g sugar
  • 75g cocoa powder (I’ve been using some raw, unprocessed, unrefined stuff – it’s insanely rich and chocolatey!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 70g flour
  • 3-4 snickers bars, sliced

Make up the brownie batter based on this recipe. Decide whether you want a gooey layer of snickers sandwiched between brownie, or a more crunchy caramelised layer on top. For the former, spread half the batter in a greased/lined tin, top with the snickers, then spread over the remaining batter. And for the latter? Tip all the batter in, spread evenly, top with the snickers. Bake for around 25 minutes at 180C, and cool completely before cutting. Perfect warm with a little ice-cream.

 photo Snickers Brownies 4_zpseildzjlc.jpgOh, and for those on a budget? Tesco do ‘Snicker’ type bars, £1 for 8, and they are absolutely delicious…

Are you a peanut-chocolate-combo fan? What would be your favourite chocolate bar to bake into brownies?