Baking: Cherry Bakewell Tart

I’m not a huge jam-lover, but I do love it in bakes and when I was sent a selection of conserves from Mackays new Hand Stirred range arrived my whole family was instantly clamouring about what to make first. In the end my parents vote won, and a Bakewell Tart was made up with the Cherry Conserve*.

 photo 2014-07-26184519_zps1a23b789.jpgCompletely different to the kind found in packets (covered in icing with a glace cherry on top!), proper bakewell tart is crisp pastry spread with jam, and topped with an almond filling which is then baked. Pretty simple, but it looks spectacular. I’m afraid I have no pictures of the making process as my dad actually did the baking for this one; I was busy packing ready for the start of my placement year!

 photo 2014-07-26184624_zps9403d933.jpgIngredients

  • Pastry case – we used a ready rolled sheet of pastry, but adapt this recipe here by replacing the savoury ingredients with a spoonful of sugar if you want to make your own!
  • 2 tablespoons of cherry jam or conserve
  • 1/2 cup each of – butter, caster sugar, and ground almonds
  • 1 egg
  • Almond extract (if you have it, we didn’t!)
  • A handful of flaked almonds

 photo 2014-07-26184605_zpsf3376978.jpgHow to make Bake!

First you want to prep your pastry case. Line your chosen flan dish with the pastry, and blind bake; top with baking paper, fill with baking beans and bake for 10 mins, then remove the beans/paper and continue until golden and crisp. Let cool, then spread the pastry with the jam. Use more/less depending on your judgement!

Now for the almond filling. Melt the butter, and then let cool slightly. Stir in the sugar, followed by the ground almonds, egg and extract. Pour into the pastry case, scatter over the flaked almonds, and bake at 200C for 30-35 mins, covering in things are browning too quickly. There’s no pictures of the inside of our tart as it was slightly underbaked, but still pretty yummy!

 photo 2014-07-26184528_zps5a730d9f.jpgAs for the jam, the unanimous decision was that it was nice, but nothing special. It didn’t seem to have much of a definitive cherry flavour, and instead just tasted of a generic fruit jam. Perhaps a little disappointing, but it was well-rounded with a good balance of sharp and sweet. The texture was also pretty spot on – thick and sticky, but not dry. A bugbear of mine is runny jam, so even for someone on the gate about jam this was pretty good! I’m looking forward to baking with the other flavours – raspberry next!

What do you like to bake with jam?

Lifestyle: Weekend in Devon

Last weekend I was lucky enough to head off to the seaside with my family for a few days. It’s actually been three years since I’ve been away with them, and almost seven years since I’ve been down in Devon despite virtually twice-annual visits as a child – so it was a lovely chance to see how things have changed and spend some quality time together!

 photo 2014-07-18131043_zps2964ceee.jpg photo 2014-07-18132844_zps4adad749.jpg photo 2014-07-18133705_zpsc3a6abd0.jpg photo 2014-07-18140238_zpscf5a27d7.jpgWe spent the Friday wandering round Babbacombe; a quiet seaside town with a scarily steep incline down to the seafront. We were a little lazy and only walked down; there’d been a huge thunderstorm at home the night before, so a four-hour drive coupled with little sleep left us all a little worse for wear! Being lazy did have its advantages though as both my sister and dad faced their fear of heights and used the Cliff Railway with us…with the bribe of fish and chips at the top! Delicious fish and chips too, from a shop that supposedly came second in the country in some kind of competition.

 photo 2014-07-18212135_zpse2324295.jpg photo DSC_0267_zps6069e774.jpg photo 2014-07-20214752_zpsf7ff75dd.jpg photo 2014-07-20211719_zps87c1db50.jpg photo 2014-07-18205749_zps6ad39741.jpgWe stayed in a chalet on Devon Valley Holiday Park - believe it or not this was actually a Daily Mail holiday, so we paid £15 each for the three nights…and then a £30 supplement to take the dog! Definitely good value, and our accommodation was much better than expected. We’d booked a minimum of a one-bedroom place, but ended up with two good sized bedrooms, a lovely living space, and a clean if bright (lime green!) bathroom. The park itself was quiet, but with just enough to keep any kids busy. Me and my sister made use of the indoor pool a few times, and also visited the two-penny slots every night! The views of the river were also pretty spectacular, as was the surround lanes.

 photo 2014-07-19123420_zps357ccb88.jpg photo 2014-07-19133908_zps9261d4c3.jpg photo 2014-07-19124219_zps70610d2d.jpgOn the Saturday we visited what is perhaps my favourite British beach. Parking in a rather secluded carpark, we proceeded through a damp and dingy tunnel in the cliff face before coming to a lovely cove. Ness Beach allows dogs all year round, but its pretty quiet compared to other beaches. A little pebbly (most Devon beaches are!) with plenty of seaweed for someone to roll in, it was picturesque and just lovely. After getting a little burnt we headed back through the tunnel and towards lunch at The Ness – I have a separate post planned for this!

 photo 2014-07-20123548_zps4cd57972.jpg photo 2014-07-20141931_zpsc4d666dc.jpg photo 2014-07-20145104_zpsbc9c7b4d.jpg photo 2014-07-20143719_zps9bef744e.jpg photo 2014-07-20143824_zps39af775e.jpgSunday was a bit of a mixture. We first headed to the dog-friendly beach in Teignmouth. We didn’t find this particularly dog friendly as it was ram-packed with families; my dog finds children quite stressful so after an unsuccessful swimming lesson (he will not, unbribed, get more than his paws wet!) we headed to Dawlish. Dawlish is a lovely little town; a little like a mini Bournemouth. A lovely lunch consisted of a slice of mustardy Chicken & Ham Pie from Gay’s Creamery, followed by an ice-cream (one scoop peanut butter, one scoop snickers) from Sticky Fingers. Pretty immature of me, but I did giggle at those neighbouring shop names! We wandered around the gardens trying to get a decent picture of the black swans, getting distracted by how photogenic my dog is, and then wandering along the sea front. More sunburn followed Sunday!

 photo 2014-07-20180811_zps6700a982.jpg photo 2014-07-20181329_zps18de20fa.jpgSunday also saw us purchasing a bargain take-away Cream Tea (from Gay’s). Four scones, four portions of jam and a tub of clotted cream for £3.50 was great value, although we did go and buy our own jam (raspberry over strawberry any day!). We found this excellent, with the scones being some of the best I’ve eaten. Yum yum!

 photo 2014-07-21110514_zps4a52e08d.jpg photo 2014-07-21110555_zps1b7abcf2.jpg photo 2014-07-21114049_zps5eca651b.jpgWhilst we had to be out of the accommodation by 10am on Monday, we decided to still make the most of our break! We travelled along the coast to Sidmouth, to pay a visit to the Donkeys. Again, I’ve not been here for many years – it was lovely to see how many donkeys have joined since my last visit, and also the new stables. We then travelled onto Seaton; not a typical tourist town, but one we know well from annual March visits due to the Grizzly! To be honest I actually didn’t recognise the area as so much has changed since I was last there; but the scampi & chips, and lemon meringue ice cream, were all pretty good!

 photo DSC_0282_zpsf5ebc4fd.jpgA chaotic journey home followed, with iced tea split all over the car (oops), driving off motorway services with the boot open, and hanging heads on the car door (double oops). But it was a lovely weekend, wonderful to spend time with my family and I hope its not as long until we head away again!

Have you been away anywhere nice?

Lifestyle: Long Distance Love

I’m sure most of you know by now, but I’m in a long distance relationship due to university. I told the details in full a few months back, but basically we met at the beginning of sixth form at the sweet age of sixteen, got together within a few months, spent two years together before we travelled to university 200 miles apart. We’ve now been long distance for nearly two years, and we have at least another two years ahead of us. This Sunday will mark the start of our third year apart, as I move to Surrey to commence my placement. It’s bittersweet – the end of a short summer together, but we’re hopefully over halfway there! Here’s my tips for going long distance, and how to cope:

 photo 1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_n_zps74278bb0.jpgDon’t compare yourself to other relationships. Be they people who live together, or people who are in an LDR with a lesser distance between them, you don’t know the details of their relationship. I’ve had people look down on me when I’m struggling ‘cos he’s still in the same country; yes, but that doesn’t mean I can see him, it doesn’t make me feel any closer! Yes, its only 200 miles, but its also a minimum of four years – I’ll be nearly 23 by the time I can even think about trying to move in with my boyfriend. Equally I know I’ve gotten extremely jealous of couples living closer to each other, but I do try not to show it. Most of my friends are coupled up, I’d soon see them and their partners as opposed to sit sulking on my own!

Try to have a long-term plan. I know where we are going in the future, and that helps an awful lot. Wanting the same things is ultimately what keeps a LDR going; if you are about to embark on one its probably a good idea to have a frank discussion.

In terms of a plan, it’s also useful to try and plan out visits in advance. This is easier when you are in the same country, but even international relationships should try and have an idea about when they will see each other next – even if its ‘by XXX date’. When we first started university our plan was to see each other every four weeks. That never happened, and we see each other every fortnight, with the occasional three-week gap.

 photo 2014-04-26123410_zps4e0140e9.jpgCommunicate. This is really the main point, and its a must-do. You need to make time to speak to your partner. Not just a quick chat, but real conversation. What you’ve been up to, what’s been the highlight of your week, everything and anything. Really listen to what they have to say too. We try and call each other every other night, and have a Skype around 3 times a week (Skype will seriously become your best friend!) – I’ll also call my boyfriend if I’m walking home in the dark on my own!

That said, try to communicate in ways other than through your phone. I found that when we first went long distance I become unhealthily attached to my mobile, it was like having a relationship with a handheld electronic object! We try and write each other old-fashioned letters – and I loved it when I used to be surprised with a parcel of goodies he’d baked!

 photo 27918_10151267754238516_1513098207_n_zps73521391.jpgMeet each other’s friends. Obviously you need your own friends, but introducing your partner and vice versa means you feel a little more involved in each other’s lives. My boyfriend seems to naturally have more girls as friends than boys at university; whilst I know that’s just him, I can truthfully say that meeting them all, hearing them say “we’ve heard lots about you” made me feel a lot better!

Have boundaries. We trust each other absolutely, but we do ask that neither of us put ourselves in certain situations. These will be different for different couples – I have no problem with my boyfriend going out with just a few of his girl mates, but I know others would. Above all though, you really do need to trust each other. If you don’t you will be eaten alive with jealousy, and to me jealousy isn’t a good thing in a relationship.

 photo 10464251_10201833358628057_7137741447011300528_n_zpsda2dc99f.jpgMake visits exciting. Sure you might want to spend the whole weekend cuddled up, but building memories means you’re far more likely to look forward to the next visit. Explore their area, go for brunch, cook for each other. One of my favourite weekends was when we paid (a ridiculous amount) and caught the bus to Whitstable. A day by the sea with ice cream and a giant sausage roll just can’t be beaten! If you can’t manage a whole weekend, arrange a day-trip in a central location. During my exams I knew I couldn’t cope with a whole weekend off of revision, so instead we met up in London – got soaked in the rain, explored Borough Market and had a yummy dinner at Wahaca.

My biggest tip of all – have fun! Whether it be together in person, laughing along on the phone, giggling over Skype, or apart and with your friends. Try not to mope away when you’re in need of a cuddle, but do something to cheer you up and remember: if it’s meant to be, you will get through it!

What are your relationship tips?

 

Baking: Peanutty Chocolate Chip Cookies

 photo 2014-07-10113127_zpsdf574723.jpgThe eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed some colourful bits looking out of place in last week’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Here’s the explanation;

 photo 2014-07-10113141_zps98925580.jpgYou see, whilst my sister let me photograph (if I did the annoying bits – the creaming, the dolloping, and the washing up…) “her making” cookies I wasn’t actually going to be allowed any. We halved the recipe and she needed 12 to take to the stables (lucky horses!) BUT there was a little bit of mixture leftover. I quickly claimed it, but then spied some Peanut M&M’s on the side. Knowing we had peanut butter in the fridge I got mixing, and after a quick bake I had chewy, nutty, salty, chocolatey, crunchy delights. Not quite as good as my boyfriend’s cookies, but pretty damn good all the same!

 photo 2014-07-10110419_zpsafb3566d.jpgTo make these delicious cookies, you simply need to follow the recipe above, adding in a couple of spoons (I used a tablespoon for a small amount of mixture, so use your judgement) of crunchy peanut butter at the butter-sugar stage, and peanut M&M’s with the chocolate chips. Dollop onto the baking trays and bake – I found these took slightly less time.

 photo 2014-07-10112459_zps6291bb7c.jpg photo 2014-07-10113127_zpsdf574723.jpgThere you have it – a quick and easy adaptation that takes a simple recipe a step further. And it combines peanut butter and chocolate, what could be better?!

What do you add to your cookies?

Lifestyle: Packing A Small Suitcase

 photo 2014-07-17164523_zps39cee783.jpgAs I’ve mentioned before, my long-distance relationship often means I have to back a small case/bag for a weekend quickly (I have managed to pack and make a train 85 minutes after a lecture finished once, though never again!), and I often need to pack sensibly. I’ve been caught out by heatwaves, and become stranded due to snow, so a few extra outfits is a must! Recently I went away to Devon with my family and was told I could take one case and one satchel only. As this case is a cabin-sized wheel-on I thought it would be a great post opportunity as I can show you just what I can cram into a small space!

 photo 2014-07-17165349_zpsdc3e81da.jpgI actually ended up getting seven outfits into this case, as well as shoes (two pairs) and toiletries. The only thing I didn’t fit in was my walking boots – but they take up half the case so I decided to wear them! Oh, and just to point out that although we only went for a weekend I spent the surrounding nights at my boyfriends so packed extra, I didn’t just go too mad! My key packing tips are to stick to ‘convertible’ outfits. I went for dresses that look great with sandals, but work equally with black tights, shoes and cardigan – perfect in most weathers! I also picked neutral colours cardigans, so the few I took went with everything. You may notice that I also stuck to florals, they’re definitely my favourite kind of print! Finally I stuck to rolling everything up. This saves so much space, although it is a little time consuming!

 photo 2014-07-17181404_zps674b85a2.jpgIn terms of makeup I pretty much followed what I took to Edinburgh, but without foundation (I just relied on concealer and Java Rice Powder instead!) and with a hair gel instead of tousle cream. I’m still loving the Wilkinson’s plastic bottles I bought – I’ve noticed them still on sale in my store so if you’re going away I’d highly recommend you pick some up! There was a new addition of an MUA cream blusher, and I also stuck to just MUA power pouts for a more sheer wash of colour – I have a dog that seems to love the smell of the Revlon Matte Balms, and sitting next to him in the car would not have been an enjoyable experience had I been wearing them! I ended up having a great time – posts to come soon!

Are you off on holiday this summer?

Beauty: Pampering with Lush

Confession time: I’ve never really liked Lush. I don’t particularly like the bath bombs (without fail all the ones I have tried have left me with sore skin), and the smell really, really puts me off. I can’t stand the smell of the bathroom after one has been used, let alone a full shop of them. I’ve used a couple of products in the past; Volcano foot mask (effective, but messy); King of Skin (probably my favourite, but hard to use – I would repurchase this if I could brave the store again!); and some form of solid cleansing bar that I can’t find on the site (caused spots galore). You get the impression, I’m just not a Lush kinda gal! Even so I couldn’t help get excited when my boyfriend came home from work with a bag crammed full of goodies. Here’s my mini-reviews of what I received.

 photo 2014-07-08103846_zps74c21797.jpgDisclaimer: These products were given to my boyfriend free of charge by our local Lush store, something to do with the neighbouring shops helping each other out. They were unaware of my blog, and all opinions are my own. I haven’t marked this with a * as it isn’t really a blog ‘freebie’ as such!

 photo 2014-06-28212331_zps1e8baf15.jpg photo 2014-06-28212650_zps7b2898dd.jpgCupcake is a chocolatey face mask, and was the product I was most excited about. The day of receiving this I happily slapped it on my (normal-dry) skin, and persuaded my boyfriend (combination skin) to try it too. Not sure if it was a coincidence, but my trip to see Coldplay at the Royal Albert Hall had me fashioning a side-fringe to hide the growing mountain on the side of my forehead. It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t come alone. Yep, pretty sure this mask broke both of us out. My love for Lush certainly wasn’t growing at this point…

Things started to look up with the Brightside Bubble Bar. I love all things citrus but rarely get to indulge seeing as my sister has a severe allergy. This zingy bar produces loads of bubbles and bright orange water, smells delicious and leaves my skin soft. It does feel odd to soak in orange water so I do shower down afterwards – but this did win me over.

 photo 2014-07-08103827_zps6f7b2e86.jpgOnto another facemask; Oatifix has actually really impressed me. The smell isn’t pleasant, but it isn’t the typical overpowering Lush smell so I can cope. Yes it looks like you have spread sick around your face, and it does make a bit of a mess, but for me the results are worth it – this leaves my skin soft, hydrated and glowing. And, wait for it, it doesn’t break me out! I’d actually buy this again, if I could work out how on earth you could use it all before the best before date. I was unable to, and I only had a teeny tester pot…

Now soap. I love bar soap, I’ve even confessed to use one as my cleanser of choice. I was intrigued by Noriko soap, particularly as I can only find this one the US site. Having said that, mine looks nothing like what is featured there, so I wonder what I’ve actually got! I actually adore the smell as its subtle, fresh and just rather nice. It’s also a pretty moisturising soap too – I’ve taken to using it instead of a shower gel as it also has a teeny amount of scrubby bits. Bonus, it looks great on the bathroom side too!

 photo IMAG2306_zps1496a0b4.jpgI’ve still got a couple of products to try; Mask of Magnaminty (the one I have is self-preserving, something I’m quite intrigued by as one of my problems with Lush is the short shelf life) and Hair Doctor. I can’t say I’m particularly willing to try Hair Doctor due to reports of it stripping colour out – I’m pretty picky about my hair colour, and having had my preferred and back up colours both discontinued I’d sooner not dye my hair unless absolutely necessary!

I have to admit, some of these products have changed my mind slightly about Lush. I still won’t be tempted to venture into a shop, but I’d consider an online order if I needed a gift for someone and a few treats for myself.

What are your favourite Lush products?