Recipe(s): Chorizo & Prawn Risotto and Pizza Breads with SACO Apartments*

Having lived in student halls for nine months too long (bad experience) I know just how difficult it is to cook with a dodgy oven, little space, limited food storage and below-par equipment, so when SACO contacted me about their latest challenge I couldn’t not accept. They wanted bloggers to create a two course meal for two, under £20 and only using equipment found in their holiday apartments. Got to say, those apartments are better stocked than the kitchen in my halls was! Most look pretty cool too!

 photo 2014-09-17184532_zps5ce3fe8e.jpgI decided to go for something relatively simple, something I’d cook often but with a summery twist. Plus they compensated the cost of ingredients, so I couldn’t resist splashing out on chorizo and prawns. I planned a paella, but I had the wrong type of rice, the wrong type of pan. Plus I burn things easily. Risotto it was. As for the starter, this was something born out of an accident last year when I ended up with extra mozzarella. I love it, and quite often eat it for dinner (after an office lunch at Prezzo) or cold in my lunchbox. I also wanted something that would work well alongside the risotto if timings get difficult (they often do away from home), so I’m happy to say they go together perfectly. A really yummy meal!

Now I didn’t weigh anything, and got on with it straight from work. I had two courses on the table in under an hour – so it’s a pretty quick dish. Here we go;

 photo 2014-09-17180111_zpsabd40eaf.jpgGet in, throw your bags on the floor and preheat the oven to 180C. Dice a small onion and soften in olive oil over a low heat.

 photo 2014-09-17180342_zpsa1036e17.jpg photo 2014-09-17180732_zpsce3a1551.jpgSlice a part-baked roll (one for each person) in half, spread each half with a teaspoon of red pesto, and top with slices of mozzarella. Throw in the oven, they want 15-20 minutes; keep an eye on the cheese as you don’t want it to burn.

 photo 2014-09-17181228_zpsc50c255a.jpgBy now the onions should have soften. Tip in some chorizo (I’m loving the pre-diced little packs from Sainsburys at the moment, as it means I’ll actually eat the amount before it goes off) and let it release its oils. Add sliced garlic, paprika and whatever herbs you have to hand. Stir a spoonful of the red pesto in too.

 photo 2014-09-17181533_zpse50f4d93.jpgTip in the risotto rice (150g is good for two portions) and stir constantly for two minutes. Pour 1/2 pint of boiling water into a jug, then add 1/3 of this to the pan. Stir well, cover with a lid and leave for about ten minutes.

 photo 2014-09-17184352_zpsd6264d85.jpg photo 2014-09-17184526_zps4014002a.jpgAdd another 1/3 of the stock, stir well, leave for ten minutes, then repeat. Leave the lid off for the last ten minutes, add a handful each of prawns, and stir as often as you can bear to. You want it to be slightly less wet than a usual risotto, a little more paella like.

 photo 2014-09-17183607_zps77f92627.jpg photo 2014-09-17184532_zps5ce3fe8e.jpgCheck the rice is cooked to your liking, season to perfection (is it Jamie Oliver that says that in virtually every recipe?!) and serve up.

Disclaimer: I was invited to take part and reimbursed for my ingredients. I wasn’t expected or asked to add an opinion on SACO apartments, and I’m not affiliated with them in any way. 

What do you cook on holiday?

 

What’s Occurring Wednesday: Modern Street Food and a Traditional Village Show

It’s no secret that both me and my boyfriend are massive foodies, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some part of our weekends always revolves around food. Whether it’s a trip to a farmer’s market or cooking a nice meal together, food is a big part of relaxing together. These past two weekends have been no different, though we’ve done completely different things!

 photo 2014-09-13093105_zps8795a740.jpg photo 2014-09-13150354_zpsb756f772.jpgThis past weekend was his village’s first “annual” show, and my it was very traditional. Lots of classes to enter (I was unfortunately unable to enter due to not living in the parish), an old-fashioned tombola, and lots of lovely cups of tea being handed around. I was quite taken with the vegetable classes, until I noticed the table with all the dahlias on. These are my absolute favourite flower, so I got a bit snap-happy. Definitely prettier than the ‘funny shaped vegetable’ class!

 photo 2014-09-13150222_zpscf8356a1.jpg photo 2014-09-13150145_zps6a3c57b6.jpg photo 2014-09-13150111_zps368cabb0.jpg photo 2014-09-13150039_zps437ef433.jpg photo 2014-09-13150001_zpsace7f21f.jpg photo 2014-09-13145910_zps54dc8b87.jpgOf course we also spent plenty of time near the Cakes and Bakes classes. My boyfriend actually entered two – the Victoria Sponge, and the Decorated Cupcakes. Now I personally think the sponge class was a bit of a con – it was a set recipe, but not one of them worked. Very little rise to the sponges, though I’m sure they tasted delicious. Cupcakes, now they are more my thing. Turns out they’re my boyfriends thing too, as his Caramel Apple Cupcakes won first prize! And don’t they look delicious?

 photo 2014-09-13093140_zps2fc9557c.jpg photo 2014-09-13093226_zps98ea998f.jpg photo 2014-09-13093125_zpse195806e.jpgMaybe if you all ask nicely he’ll share his winning recipe?!

 photo 2014-09-13144744_zps78bc8f5d.jpgOutside we were impressed by the ‘Heaviest Pumpkin’ class – look at the size of that beast! Though take a look at the perfectly round orange one in the corner; we suspect this was a bought-in specimen!

 photo 2014-09-13150654_zps2250ba99.jpgThe weekend before was significantly less traditional. In line with my aim of getting out more during my placement year, when I found out about a Street Food festival in the next town/village from me there was no question about what we’d be doing. Reigate Street Eats it was! Now I didn’t take many photos, for the simple fact that it took place in a tunnel, it was dark (and slightly smoky, thanks to the pub who set up a BBQ and clearly didn’t know quite how to use it). We also didn’t eat much, only (horror!) sampling one vendor. We did have a massive curry planned for that evening after all!

 photo 2014-09-06131702_zps93760273.jpg photo 2014-09-06131832_zpsbdcbefdd.jpgHaving spent much of the summers of my young teenage years in Turkey, I was excited to find out that The Tinderbox were doing Lahmacun. I immediately sent out a tweet pretty much begging for a tomato-free version, and after a bit of a mixup at the van I had my hands on something I’d been craving for over four years.  Spicy mince pressed into excellent dough, served in a wood burner, then scattered with lemon, pine-nuts, herbs, seasoned yoghurt and pine nuts before being folded. What could be better?!

 photo 2014-09-06131754_zpsf6eaf407.jpg photo 2014-09-06131740_zps67dfa056.jpg photo 2014-09-06130328_zps650b30cc.jpgStreet food at its finest – fresh, hot and tasty, easy to eat, quick to make, relatively healthy and extremely tasty. Thanks for making a tomato-allergic girl very happy Tinderbox! And just look at the woodburning van too – we want one! Having experienced one street food festival I’ve got my eyes set on some of the London ones now – where’s best to go?

Have you been a foodie lately? Would you like to see a recipe for Caramel Apple Cupcakes? Trust me, they were delicious!

Beauty: Budget Facemasks for Sensitive Skin

My skin is strangely sensitive. It isn’t (overly) spotty if you ignore the hormonal breakout that occurs with impressive regularity, but it definitely objects to certain ingredients. I’ve not managed to quite work out all of these ingredients, although one of them appears to be Vitamin E oil – strange I know, but this brings sore, swollen eczema-like patches all over my face. Ever-so attractive of course. Now, in the past six months or so I’ve loved nothing more than snuggling up to a #lbloggers chat whilst pampering myself with a face mask. It’s the perfect chance to treat any issues my skin decides to present (which varies from oily blackheads, to hormonal pimples, to dry patches), and I’ve managed to try a few different masks. You can read about my Lush experience here, but here’s my latest loves and hates.

 photo dec2879f-3ec2-47a9-b769-b0717ac569f0_zps011d59aa.jpgMy favourite mask of the bunch just so happens to be the first one I ever purchases. Bodyshop’s Warming Mineral mask is very spa-like – smells gorgeous (a little spicy) with just the right amount of warming to feel tingly without worrying my face will fall off. It’s a little difficult to rinse off, but the results are worth it. Any muck is drawn out of pores, and my skin is left feel soft. It is a little drying, but I’ve found even if I don’t moisturise and go off to bed my skin is fine the next day. I’ve also found that I get little spots if I don’t use this at least twice a week, so it’s now firmly in my bathroom for after-hairwash use. Love love this one!

 photo 8955f3a5-a301-4212-8a6d-b1f5409204fd_zps3bc5f81a.jpgNow it’s on to the hates. I was probably inappropriately excited when I found out Aldi were releasing two facemasks. Something affordable and that I can pick up on my weekly shop, what more could I want?! The first disappointment was the price. They were £3.99 which I felt was a little pricey for Aldi. The boxes seemed big enough though, so I trundled off to the tills with both in my basket. Second disappointment? The size of the actual bottles. These are pretty tiny, and I can’t say I’m impressed. Most of the money seems to go on the brush, which in my opinion is just a gimmick. The worst thing though was the reaction I had to the Nutri-Build-Up mask – a bright red face, swelling, itchy and a lot of discomfort. If I’m being kind, it did leave my skin nice and soft, but so, so, so not worth it. I’m now scared of trying the Anti-Fatigue one, has anyone tried it?!

 photo 86ce84e2-3617-4f75-b418-9be7ad7aea25_zps719e33ce.jpgI always want to finish on a high note, so now I’ll talk about my latest purchase – Bodyshop’s Aloe Protective Restoring Facemask. A bit of a mouthful to say, but (other than the play-doh scent) it’s comes with a definitely highly recommended by me! Moisturising without making me feel oily, this is great for repairing my skin after several days in the air-conditioned office. This is my favourite for relaxing in as it doesn’t need to be washed off, I also tend to apply a small amount before bed instead of a moisturiser which is working well. So it is possible – a moisturising mask that doesn’t cause breakouts, don’t aggravate sensitive skin, and doesn’t break the bank compared to some I could name…a winner in my eyes!

What facemasks do you use?

Student Summer: Logitech Speaker Adapter* (Sneaky Money Saving Tip!)

Now, speakers aren’t an essential bit of kit to take to university, but when you come to second year and living off campus it’s a good idea if you have a set in your house. They are great for parties, but also improving the sound quality during a film night, or even (in my case a few years ago) when the speakers on your laptop break. Now, wireless ones are best, purely because it doesn’t matter if you need to use the device, and its easy to pair up other people’s devices too. But wireless ones are often more expensive, and cheap ones aren’t too reliable. Here’s where Logitech come in.

 photo 2014-09-10175827_zps9e95ae3c.jpgThey’ve created a wonderful little device that converts your wired speakers into wireless. I won’t pretend to understand how it works (though in reality it’s probably quite simple) but it works well.

 photo 2014-09-10175524_zps89d9f317.jpgI was lucky enough to be spent some gorgeous (is that a legitimate way to describe speakers?!) speakers* as I didn’t have any, just so I could test the adapter* out! The speakers work really well, I’ve always loved Logitech’s pieces anyway, and the build and sound quality of these is second to none. From what I’ve tried at least!

 photo 2014-09-10175510_zpsc050e64e.jpgWhen using the adapter the sound quality does drop slightly, but it’s only noticeable if you go from one to the other virtually immediately. It definitely doesn’t detract from whatever you’re playing. My only niggle with the adapter is that I’d love it to match my speakers – the white and black look is a little strange in my opinion! But I keep the speakers out on show, and only use the adapter when needed so it’s not a huge deal. Something to consider if you’re buying both at the same time though.

 photo 2014-09-10175806_zpsf591d325.jpgIn terms of whether to pick up an adapter for your existing speakers or buy a whole new set, I would wholeheartedly recommend the adapter. Probably cheaper in the long-run, as I find cheaper wireless speakers just aren’t great. Definitely something worth picking up!

 photo 2014-09-10175854_zps77f2e7c7.jpgDisclaimer: I was sent the speakers and adapter for the purpose of this review, but I genuinely enjoy using them and do think the adapter is a great bit of kit for students! I also love how the speakers don’t out of place in my new shabby-chic room! And now I shall stop writing…and dance around the room to what is probably excessively-loud Bon Jovi. Yep, weird music taste alert!

What music do you listen to?

Student Summer: What to Take to University #4

I really hope these posts have been useful to you! I know I’d have loved blog posts like this when I started university, but for some reason I only really started reading blogs well after starting this one. Strange I know! Today I’m going to witter on about stationery to take to university. So grab a pen and paper (aha!) and we’ll begin…

 photo 2014-09-11174233_zpse91a20d3.jpgPaper and pens. I have to say this is quite important to me. I’m a leftie so a decent pen is a must or I will smudge everything to an illegible smear. It’s happened before, even with biro. Pilot Frixion erasable pens are my weapons of choice, being able to rub out makes my lecture notes so much neater too. I’m also not a huge fan of colour until I revise, so I stick to black. But it’s up to you. I also like doing rough work in pencil, so I always have a handful of those on the go. As for paper I go for Ryman’s giant refill pads, bought on 3 for 2 with student discount they are the best value I’ve found, and the quality is high enough so you don’t get that dreadful scratchy sound when you writ.

Now, I’d just go with the organisational basics until you get started and learn what the module layout etc is going to be like. Pick up a single folder and some plastic wallets; buy more as you go. I have a system now (as an actuarial student) of one folder per module, with that upgraded to a lever-arch it the module is a thirty-credit one. My original plan of one lever arch per year is far from achievable; sometimes I fill a lever arch with a module!

 photo 2014-09-11174312_zpsbf6cbb15.jpgNext up is a diary. This is so, so, so important – you will absolutely have deadlines to write down. By all means use your phone if it works for you, but most people I know have to write it down physically. Me? I couldn’t live without my Filofax. I was bought a Pink Personal Malden for my A-Level results (over two years ago!) and I’m virtually never without it. Not only does it look pretty (and matches my satchel) it’s also so, so functional. I’ll be doing a post specifically on how I use it for university soon, if you like, but I do highly recommend a Filofax if you’re a stationery geek like me. With only the inserts to buy (or make) after the initial purchase you have a full customisable diary for a relatively decent price. Mine is always by my side or in my bag, it genuinely keeps my life on track!

Stapler, hole punch, ruler, rubber, pencil sharpener, scissors. Basics that are just handy to have around – you’ll probably need to secure coursework together at some point so a stapler is a must.

Now, a printer is something I’m unsure about. I had one in my first year, then sold it in the carpark whilst packing up as it was that one thing that didn’t quite fit. In my second year we shared one. I *think* I’ll pick up a cheap one for my final year as it’s just so much easier to have one. Printing on campus is extortionate in my opinion, and I can rarely bring myself to do it. I’ll admit though, most of my printing is saved up til I’m at home and then someone else foots the ink bill!

 photo 2014-05-09174211_zpsc2453d48.jpgBooks. No doubt you’ll have a long list of ‘recommended’ books that you ‘have’ to purchase at the ‘reasonable’ price of 10 billion pounds…sarcasm is a strong point here. I’d leave off ordering any until you get there and work out what’s in the library, and whether you actually need them. In terms of recommended books, I’ve only bought one in two years (and it was worth it), and borrowed one from the library. My tip is to google your module name and find other books on Amazon (quite often just older editions of what you need) – you’ll find similar books, and quite often you’ll get used copies for a fraction of the price. I bought loads and loads of books for second year this way, I paid around £40 for 10 books including delivery. Great for when I was recovering from my operation that summer as it gave me something to do! Even though the books can be quite old, they are normally fine though I’d avoid if you’re doing a degree with changing information..I was quite amused when one book came not with a CD, but a floppy disk…

 photo 2014-09-11174422_zps284c6e51.jpgIn terms of revision gear, I’d recommend buying it when you need it. But I use erasable highlighters, erasable colour pens (sensing a theme here?), post-it notes, record cards and lots and lots of paper.

What stationery do you use at university/college/school/work?

Lifestyle: Date Night at Bombay Mela, Redhill

The month of September marks four years since me and my boyfriend starting talking (we met at school, and spent evening after evening chatting on MSN – does that even exist anymore?!), and two years since we starting university and our long distance relationship. This year I’m out on placement and so we’ve had less of a summer than usual, and I’ve really been trying to make our visit weekends more special – nice food, funny films, romantic walks…so I was delighted when I was invited to review one of my now-local curry houses, Bombay Mela*. I’ve been itching to try some of the restaurants nearby, and what better way to do it than with my bestie and partner-in-crime?

 photo 7a59aa17-0cc5-4090-9353-6c972eddb89a_zps40b10a9e.jpg photo 4b8343ee-c4bb-4714-9dda-422731b93615_zpsadc0c83c.jpgThere’s no other way to start an Indian meal, you have to have Popadoms. Preferably with mango chutney, though I enjoyed the mint-yoghurt type sauce we were served here too. Coupled with Mango Lassis (which are, by the way, delicious and I’m craving another) this was a great start to the meal – they were obviously fresh too, hot and with a great snap. I’ve been served slightly stale popadoms far too often! Minor niggle – I would have like the chutney pots to be bigger, we were scraping them out at the end!

 photo 2014-09-06185423_zpsb3daca29.jpgWe went all out and ordered starters – three of them. No word of a lie, portions at Bombay Mela are big! Four massive Onion Bharjis were the best I’ve ever had – they included potato, spinach and sweetcorn, were crisp, and amazingly light. Well flavoured too, not spicy but with plenty of aromatics in there. And served with a lovely dip that worked well, although was a little sweet for my taste.

 photo 2014-09-06185430_zpsaf1b2550.jpgGarlic & Pepper Calamari was specially made to exclude tomatoes. The menu version may be different, but this was outrageously spicy – both of us really struggled to stomach it and definitely avoided the peppers it came with! That said the squid was wonderfully cooked, soft and springy, it melted in the mouth. I’d love to try more seafood cooked by this chef!

 photo b39c5e2a-1cbf-4c22-a581-cfa85f0339ae_zpsc61b80d8.jpgFinally my boyfriend picked Shami Kebab (new, and not on the online menu) – this was two giant balls of lamb mince, well spiced. It was lovely in flavour, though for me a tad too dry and crumbly. W clearly enjoyed it though as is disappeared pretty quickly! He says; “a tad too dry, but adding the accompanying sauce made it come together quite nicely – the pickled veg was some of the nicest I’ve eaten.”

Thankfully we had a pretty big gap between starters and mains, as I was already feeling pretty stuffed! I took the chance to inspect the loos (as you do) and the rest of the restaurant – they have a pretty cosy looking Shisha garden which looks lovely, although that isn’t really my thing. They also have a large room at the back that can be hired to parties, a 1st Birthday Party was in full swing when I was there, so this would be a great place to hold a gathering. As for the loos, can’t say I was too impressed – they are a little dated compared to the rest of the restaurant, and I would strongly suggest they purchased some new bins/brushes (and got rid of the giant eight-legged beast in the ladies, thank you very much!). Mains then arrived, so I dutifully snapped away before tucking in.

 photo b605c9a7-bbe9-4ba8-95d1-319fce954bf2_zps9aa1adcb.jpgI’d ordered the only tomato-free item on the menu, the Korma. I do wish I’d been offered more of a choice, or perhaps an adapted dish, as I’m actually a lover of spice and Korma is just a bit bland for me. This is one of the better ones with a good background flavour, and the king prawns were again amazingly well cooked – juicy and sweet. However the sauce was too thick, and so a little cloying. I definitely needed rice and naan bread with this!

 photo adcfcdd9-724b-45b0-98ed-63e33ac88890_zps35f545d6.jpg photo b83681b0-0eef-4b85-b87d-2534a5bd751f_zps730531cd.jpgMy boyfriend went for the 3-chilli Lal Mass, along with Aloo Gobi. Greedy boy! Both of his dishes contained tomato, so you’ll have to take his word. His main was very nice, not as spicy as expected but with a lot of warmth. He says his side was nice, although he gives a carb warning as he was struggling with the amount of food by this point!

 photo 7830138a-272c-486a-9af8-b90a3779d918_zpsf958127d.jpg photo 7122cc9d-6b19-42bf-a4a0-4f6d6c11c325_zps3248ac51.jpgAs for sides – we shared a Pulao Rice (a good decision, we didn’t finish it between us) and had a naan each. Garlic for me, defeating the point of a date night as garlicky it was indeed! Bombay Mela win the title of the best naan I’ve had, and coming from Leicester (and having eaten a lot of curry) that means a lot. It’s thin, chewy and crispy, and charred just to right side of the burnt line. Simply yummy. W had a Peshwari naan. Now, I don’t like this stuff, it’s far too sweet for my liking and this naan was no different. But his view? “It was very good, although with the rest of my food I really didn’t need a naan as well. It needs a robust spicy curry, or it would be too sweet.” Another minor niggle is that I would have served different types of naan bread in different baskets – mine took on a little of the sweet flavour which I wasn’t too enamoured with. But minor, because the naan bread are so, so good!

 photo 2014-09-06201357_zpseb8c5bfb.jpg photo 4baa5f68-e171-41e5-aa77-6e39c33ded12_zpsbeee48c7.jpgWe were completely stuffed by this point, and after resorting to some playful funny places hoped we could quietly crawl out clutching our bellies. No such luck, we were presented by this stunning dish and (thankfully) two spoons. Inside was some of the yummiest frozen goodness I’ve had in a restaurant, and hands down the best sweet I’ve ever had at an Indian. From examining the menu we *think* it was Matka Kulfi – either way it was delicious. Creamy but not heavy, slightly fruity, slightly sweet, but just nicely balanced. Surprisingly it really settled out full stomachs and actually made us feel better – we appreciated it!

 photo 0ff5770b-e305-4ad3-8312-a63c587d79f0_zps51a5d6f1.jpgOur bill came to just shy of £54 – slightly on the expensive side for a curry in my opinion, but we’d never order that much if (or when!) we go back. Starters aren’t really necessary (maybe the Bhajis to share, as they are amazing), and lassis, although gorgeous, probably should be treated as more of a desert. Service was excellent – very friendly, but not over the top or too attentive, there’s nothing worse than being asked if something is wrong the second you put your cutlery down for a breather. Yes, we were there for a complimentary restaurant for this blog (and as always my opinions are 100% honest) and yes, they knew who we were, but having observed other tables I’m pretty sure service would be just as good another time. And there will be another time – it was a really yummy dinner! I’m definitely tempted by ordering a takeaway over the coming winter months…

If you’re ever in Redhill, I’d highly recommend a trip to Bombay Mela. Whether its worth a journey, I’m not quite convinced mainly as it’s the down curry house down South I’ve tried – but it definitely rivals some of my old favourites from home. And I’ll be back, I’m already craving bhajis and naan…

Do you like Indian food?