One of the things I look forward to is seeing my girls. Each month we meet up near one of our homes for a catch-up, usually involving a lot of tea and cake. We try to visit somewhere near as often as possibly, and recently we took a trip to Herne Bay to visit Alice & The Hatter.
This wonderland-themed tea room has its chequered floors, throne chairs, teacup stools, grassy nooks and even the food is themed with “open book sandwiches”, a vast tea selection, coffees, and handmade pastries and cakes. I have to say the large cakes looked amazing, so I know what I’ll head for next time I visit.
For our first visit, however, it had to be Afternoon Tea.
Sandwiches were some of the nicest I’ve even eaten – with the Chicken Pesto ones being moist, flavourful and completely addictive. I didn’t think too much of the Cream Cheese & Cucumber, as the cucumber was cut too thinly to provide any texture. My Ham & Cheese (without chutney) were generously filled, and the mini Bagel with Cream Cheese & Salmon was fresh and delicious. I found the Sausage Roll a little dry, but I’m not the biggest fan of them anyway!
Scones were good, if a little too big (I find big scones can suffer the fate of being a tad claggy). I had the Lemon & Poppyseed for which I was really grateful – it was something different, and the lemon flavour went perfectly with the clotted cream and strawberry jam.
The patisserie plate is where things got really exciting – but unfortunately for me it felt a little style over substance. The Drink Me potion reminded me of the Panda Pops we used to sneak as a child, bright blue, far too sweet and full of e-numbers. It gave me an instant headache if I’m honest! The little jam biscuit was tasty, though a little soft. The cupcake was good, moist and well-flavoured with a nice icing-cake ratio. The macaroon wasn’t great at all, with a bubbly matte finish and an overly soft texture. Finally ‘mousse’ – bright pink and purple, this was a gummy texture, far too sweet and just not good. A shame as the other plates on the stand had been lovely!
Would I go back to Alice & The Hatter? Certainly. I’d avoid the afternoon tea, but it’s still a lovely place to relax with a cuppa and a slice of cake!
Confession time – I love me a fish finger sandwich. Yes, I might be a food blogger, a food snob, a lover of fine dining (both out in restaurants and in my own home), but something about a slice of white bread (pre-sliced is best here, I reserve this stuff for fish finger sandwiches and crisp sandwiches only), lightly buttered, topped with blisteringly hot and crispy fish fingers with a splash of malt vinegar is a wonderful thing.
I also love adding salt’n’vinegar crisps to a fish finger sandwich too – my favourite study day lunch right there!
However, this is a slightly posher version of the fish finger sandwich. A soft tortilla wrap (I prefer corn ones), creamy yet spicy chipotle soured cream, a zingy slaw and pink pickled onions, wrapped around a couple of fish fingers. You can go all out and use the best ‘fish goujans’ you can find, but here I’ve used Young’s (not a sponsored post, just my preferred brand) and they worked perfectly.
The vinegar used to pickle the onions keeps it tasting like the fish finger sandwich I know and love, the slaw adds veggies and crunch, and the soured cream adds both spice and a bit of moisture. You could also stir the soured cream in to make a creamier slaw, but I’ve kept them separate.
The best thing? If you’ve got the onions in the fridge (they keep for a good month, just don’t tightly seal the lid) this can be whipped up in around 15 minutes. It’s the perfect midweek dinner!
Recipe (for two, leftover slaw is great on jacket potatoes)
For the onions – 2 red onions (sliced), 100ml cider vinegar, 100ml water, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 Scotch Bonnet chilli (finely chopped)
8 fish fingers
1/2 small pot of soured cream (about 4-5 tbsp)
1 tsp chipotle paste
1/3 of a red cabbage, finely sliced
1 salad onion, finely sliced
2 medium carrots, spiralized (or use a vegetable peeled)
Zest and juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges to serve if you like
To make the pink pickled onions, pop the sliced onion in a sieve and slowly pour over a kettle of boiling water, followed by rinsing under the cold tap. Transfer to a glass jar, add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Store in the fridge for up to a month, though they are best eaten within a week. You’ll need to let them rest for 2-4 hours before eating or they’ll be too crunchy and ‘oniony.’
For the tacos, simply cook your fish fingers according to the packet. Toss your sliced cabbage, spring onion and carrot with the zest and juice of a lime, stir through some chopped coriander and taste for seasoning. Stir together the soured cream and chipotle paste, and warm your tortillas briefly (either in a microwave or in a dry frying pan).
Once everything is ready you can build your tacos – I like a layer of soured cream, followed by a pile of slaw, then fish fingers topped with the pink pickled onions. Add a squeeze of lime – and that’s a wrap!
This is the perfect quick and easy dinner, but it’s also so tasty. It really hits the spot and I can imagine it being a staple in the summer when it’s too hot to be in the kitchen for long. Delicious!
I love me a good hash. Quite honestly, I could probably eat a hash every day of the week and not get bored. I mean, what’s not to love?! Crispy fried potatoes, oozy runny eggs and endless possible combinations of fillings to use. The best thing about a hash, though, is that it’s the perfect way to use up leftovers. Of course the best possible use of leftovers is a bubble’n’squeak, but a hash is a close contender.
Put it this way. You have a jar of roasted peppers you want to use up. Feta lurking in the fridge, possibly from the lunchbox salad during the week. An onion about to go past it’s best. You’ve cooked too many potatoes. What better way to revamp all of that than by frying it up and topping with an egg? Exactly.
This recipe is inspired by one from Dan Doherty (otherwise known as the brains behind Duck and Waffle), though I’d spiced it up with chilli, switched out the regular onion for salad ones, and added a load of coriander for freshness.
Recipe – serves 1 for a big breakfast/lunch/brunch, and easily scaled up
1 handful of cooked new potatoes, sliced thickly
2 salad onions, finely slices
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
30g feta, crumbled
Chopped coriander, to garnish
Fry the potatoes in a drizzle of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan until starting to crisp, then add the onion. Continue to fry until the onion is softened, before adding the chilli and pepper. Make two dents in the mix, and crack an egg into each. Crumble over the feta, then pop until the grill (covering the pan handle if necessary) until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Season well and serve sprinkled with coriander.
And that’s it – a comforting hash using up odds and ends in the fridge. This has become a regular study day lunch for me, though I have to say a hash made with leftover bacon and black pudding is my favourite…
2017 has, so far, been probably the worst of my life.
I started the year with all four grandparents. By the time the New Year fireworks had ended, I’d lost my beloved maternal Granddad. It wasn’t unexpected, in some ways it was a blessing, and I’d managed to say goodbye a few days earlier. On what would have been his 76th Birthday, my other granddad was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. He passed away at the beginning of May.
Loosing both my Gands and my Granddad in such a short space of time, having not really experience grief before, has completely and utterly shocked me to the core. Both were well-admired in their respective communities, both popular men. They’d been the limelight of family gatherings.
My Gands had had Alzheimer’s for many years, and unfortunately he’d had no recognition of anyone for over four years. The disease had altered him completely, his kind personality often destroyed. It was because of this that his death was, to me, almost a blessing. I’d give anything for a few more minutes with him, before his mind was taken, but I know he’s now sat in his scruffy clothes we all moaned about enjoying a pint.
My Granddad’s death was more sudden, his decline a lot quicker and that was something I struggled with. Throughout the other’s illness he’d always been a constant figure and I hadn’t quite caught on to the fact that he wouldn’t be around forever. Again, the whole family got together and managed to have one last celebratory meal but it was tough. What do you say to a man you know you might not see again, but who is full-on refusing to accept that?
In the last few weeks I’ve had a lot of conflicting feelings. I’ve felt guilty. I know I avoided my paternal grandparents over Christmas as knowing my Gands was in the latter stages of life was too raw. I felt guilty that I cried more for one than the other. I’ve felt guilty at not travelling up to be with my parents, at carrying on with work and life. I’ve obviously felt sad, but I’ve also managed to laugh about them. I’ve felt happy that I had so many years with all of my grandparents. I’ve felt resentful that some of my cousins had better relationships. I’ve felt guilty that I had a better relationship with my Gands than my cousins. But it’s taught me a lot about grief.
Grief is a form of love, and it shows itself in many different ways. Silence, tears, laughter. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Letting myself cry and going easy on myself helped – I got to work one morning and before I’d even logged on I was in the toilets in tears. I picked apart my to-do list down to the bare minimum and took the pressure off. I’ve hidden away from the world, and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily call that a totally good thing, it’s helped me. I’m a very private person, so cards and messages are not something I can deal with, so they go unopened, ignored, until I’m ready to share my feelings.
I’ve learnt it’s okay for grief to disrupt my life. It’s okay to feel sad. But it’s also okay to feel happy. I know that both of them would want me to keep them in their hearts and make them proud – and that’s what I’ll do.
Eek, it’s so nearly exam time now. With three weeks to go I’m pretty much studying none-stop. I’m finding it weird to be only studying for one exam (I almost miss having seven to study for – at least there was variety!) but I am looking forward to it all being over and getting a bit more of a social life back!
A burger and bride-to-be date. Lots of wedding planning chat with my friend who gets married in September got both of us over-excited!
Spending the whole day in bed. Admittedly I had THE most horrendous migraine I’ve ever had (seriously, I couldn’t ever walk/talk/eat) but I felt so relaxed the next day.
Chicken soup. W ran out the morning I was ill to stock me up on painkillers and soup for my lunch – by the time I could stomach food it was just what I needed!
Drinks with school friends. It had been far too long since we had caught up!
Finding the perfect white shirt. On weekends I like them pillow-y soft and the right balance between fitted and baggy. I’ve been looking for a replacement one for two years and H&M finally came good.
Booking our wedding transport – so excited to be driven to church in a cream VW Campervan!
Homemade pizza. I spread the base (recipe here) with soft goat’s cheese, topped with prosciutto, courgette, a teeny bit of mozzarella and some fresh basil. So fresh, so yum.
A massive Oasis spending spree. I love their work clothes, but they are a little on the pricey side. My bonus came in last week so I went hauling and now I feel so much happier with my work wardrobe!
I’m imagining that the next fortnight will be taken up entirely by revision (though having said that, I do have a cheeky trip to York booked!) – I hope yours will be more exciting! What’s made you happy recently?
I’m one of those people who really doesn’t think you can go far wrong with a good hunk of steak. For date nights, “I’ve had a bad day” meals, pay day treats, a steak is my go-to. I usually go for mine smothered in a rich and creamy mushroom pepper sauce, though if W’s cooking his whisky sauce is damn near perfection.
This recipe, however, gives my much-loved steak a pepped-up summery twist that I’ve fallen in love with. When challenged by Thomas Cook Airlines to come with up a Lanzarote-inspired recipe cooked using a volcanic rock I was initially a bit stumped. It’s been years since I’ve been to the Canary Islands, to the point it was the days of children’s hotel buffets rammed with chips and smiley faces. Whilst the sauce I’ve made is pretty potent, it’s just as delicious mixed through yoghurt for a child-friendly version – I wish this had been available to dip my smiley faces in!
I cooked the steak simply, oiling the meat (not the pan), seasoning well and searing over a smoking hot pan. Resting for a good five minutes gave an extremely juicy steak, just warm in the middle whilst still being lovely and rare. I was meant to be using a volcanic rock. Parcelforce seem to be having problems with delivered said rock, and so a pan had to do. Far less exciting, I’m pretty sure it will typically turn up today. Gives me an excuse to eat the second steak currently residing in my freezer I guess!
But the sauce (oh the sauce!) is the star of the show here. A little sharp, very garlicky, a good herby kick from the coriander and a creaminess from the copious use of a good olive oil. Pretty much the perfect sauce – it takes a good piece of blending to emulsify but it’s worth it. Perfect to drizzle over salads, spoon over steak – and scoop up with chips. I also enjoyed it stirred through yoghurt as a sauce for a falafel salad…
Ingredients (per person, plenty of sauce leftover!)
1 large rib-eye steak
1 medium potato
8 cloves garlic
1 handful coriander
2x 1/2 teaspoon cumin
35ml white wine vinegar
50ml olive oil (+ 1 tsp and some for cooking the steak)
Pop six of the garlic cloves (unpeeled) into a small pan. Pop the lid on and put over a medium heat, shaking every now and then, for about five minutes. They should feel slightly soft, with the skins just beginning to blister. Let them cool for a bit.
Cube the potatoes (around 1″ square) and pop into a pan with some heavily salted water. Boil for ten minutes, drain off most of the water, add a spoon of olive oil, half a teaspoon of cumin and a pinch of turmeric (for colour, saffron would be better/traditional but student budget). Boil vigorously, tossing around, until the pan is pretty dry. Tip onto a tray and keep warm in a low oven.
Peel the cooled garlic, along with the two raw cloves. Pop into a food processor with 1/2 teaspoon cumin, a good pinch of salt and the vinegar. Blitz to a rough paste, then slowly drizzle in the oil, blitzing regularly. Add the coriander, then blitz for a good minute or so until thickened slightly and creamy looking.There you have it – Mojo Verde! Set aside.
Heat a pan on a high heat under almost smoking. Season your steak on both sides, drizzle with a little oil then (if you like your steak rare) cook for around 2-3 minutes on each side. Wrap in foil and rest for 4 minutes whilst you prep your salad, then slice and serve drizzled with your mojo verde.
A point to note, however – whilst I softened the garlic taste by roasting within the skin, it’s still pretty strong. Not a recipe for a romantic night in!
Are you a steak lover? How do you like it cooked and served?
I’ve finally done it! I’ve finally started cooking whole joints of meat and, let me tell you, I don’t think there’s any going back. Nothing can beat the smell of a chicken roasting away, and the amount of meals the pennies buy is actually far, far better than I could have imagined.
We’ve been buying a 1.2kg chicken from Waitrose for just over £3.50 (thanks to the Pick Your Own offers), and this will generally do the two of us for three meals plus a couple of lunches. Considering you struggle to buy four good sized chicken breasts for that, it’s extraordinary value for money.
My standard roast chicken recipe is simple, it takes inspiration from a couple of Jamie Oliver recipes (if you own one cookbook, make it one of his!), my dad’s roast chicken recipe and the fact that I can use lemons away from my parental home. It makes tender meat, crispy skin and a really good homemade gravy. What more could you ask for?!
1 small chicken
1 bunch rosemary or thyme
2 celery sticks, 1 onion, 1 carrot
Chicken stock (1 litre, from a cube)
Spread a little oil in the bottom of a roasting tin. Roughly peel/chop the veg and space in the tin, seasoning with a little salt and sprinkling over some of the herbs. Place the chicken on top.
Heat the lemon until hot, either in the microwave or (my preferred method) by boiling with your potatoes. Pierce a couple of times and place inside the chicken.
Drizzle the chicken with a little more oil and spread to cover the whole bird. Season well with salt and pepper, sprinkle over more herbs and cook at 200C for around 70 minutes.
Take out the oven and place on a warm plate. Cover well with foil and leave to rest whilst you make the gravy.
Place the roast tin on the hob over a medium heat, and spoon out any really fatty bits (with chicken I find this is only necessary if the bird isn’t great quality). Add a good tablespoon of flour and stir to make a roux. I find mashing the carrots and celery in creates amazing flavour with a little sweetness. Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil and simmer until you have the thickness you want, then strain into a jug.
Serve your chicken and gravy with roast potatoes and lots of green vegetables. Pick your leftovers off the carcass and chill the bones/meat separately for use in leftover recipes…
Mix It Up: Harissa Roast Chicken
A few weeks ago, on that gloriously hot weekend (where it rained all Sunday!), we decided on a summery twist on the usual recipe. The basics was the same, but instead of seasoning with oil and herbs we rubbed the chicken with a couple of spoons of harissa.
Served with roasted onions and peppers, lemony potatoes and a minted yoghurt dip, it was light, spicy and flavourful. A lovely change!
Leftovers: Spicy Pasties
Whilst we did make this with the leftovers from the Harissa Chicken, it would work equally well with plain chicken. Simply soften an onion in a little oil, add a spoon of flour and a little chicken stock and reduce. Add some shredded leftover chicken and a little harissa (chipotle paste, curry paste or even powdered spices would also work well), and cook until you have a pasty-filling consistency.
Roll out some shortcrust pastry (I have a recipe here) into two rectangles. Pile on the filling, fold and crimp around the edges. Bake for around 25 minutes until golden and piping hot.
Leftovers: Quick Noodle Soup
Make up some chicken stock in a pan, keep simmering over a low heat. Add soy, fish and sweet chilli sauce to taste. Drop in some shredded chicken and simmer for five or so minutes. Add in a nest of noodles and some peas/soya beans, remove from the heat and cover. With two minutes of soaking time to go (check your noodle packet) add some shredded carrot. Tip into a bowl and top with slice spring onion and some seasame seeds.
Leftovers: Warm Chicken Parmesan Salad
A less creamy version of a classic Caesar, this is sharp with mustard and lemon. Tear some bread into croutons, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 180C for about 15 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile mix up a dress of mustard, lemon and olive oil to taste (I do a squeeze of lemon, half a teaspoon of mustard and a tablespoon of oil). Add the shredded chicken to a pan, turn on the heat and add the dressing.
Pile some leaves on a plate and grate over some parmesan. Scatter over the croutons and chicken, toss together and tuck in.
Leftover roast chicken is so versatile – it makes the best stir fries, stews and curries. My favourite leftover chicken recipe is so good it deserves it’s own post, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait for that!
Are you a fan of cooking big roasts then using the leftovers? What’s your favourite chicken recipe?
I rarely write wishlist posts, which is silly really – I have many wishlists on the go at any one time. There’s my ultimate lust list of things I’d LOVE. There’s my wedding wishlist safely housed privately on Pinterest. There’s my season wishlist of clothes that I’d love to update my look with. It’s the latter I’m going to share today.
I’ve put together an inspiration board, I’ve pinned countless pins, and now I’m also going to blabber on about it. Realistically I don’t have the money to buy myself a whole new wardrobe, so I’m trying this virtual shopping lark. Talking about it might help. It might result in a massive online shopping spree. Only time will tell…
The main thing I’d LOVE over the next few months is a new coat. I’ve recently gotten rid of a lot of coats due to my weight loss – including my beloved cape. A new cape is very much wanted, the nicest one I’d spied so far is this one, but the one-size-fits-all puts me off. I’ve just gotten rid of one that’s too big, so the last thing I need is another! I’ve also been eyeing up the Zara coat for months, but I’m not convinced that this cut is the most flattering on curvier figures…
New Look is my go-to for seasonal pieces, and with a gift-card burning a hole in my pocket I’m not sure why I haven’t picked up any of these yet… The scarf is gorgeous, a standard-sized one of my lovely Zara one of last year. And the oversized tunic is almost perfect. But the zip?! In past experience these only get cold and uncomfortable so I’m not quite ready to shell out the cash…
And finally, suits. I’m now applying for graduate roles and whilst I do have an interview outfit or two, I’d love a brand new one. This grey tweed skirt is gorgeous, though being Michael Kors is completely out of budget. The Oasis shirt is also lovely, though I have tons of pussy-bow blouses already! Realistically my go-to interview outfit is probably already a tweed skirt and pussy-bow blouse, some things never change season-to-season!
A quick mention goes to the polar bear socks – aren’t they adorable!?! A definitely must have…
What are you lusting over for AW15? Are you having a style shake-up or sticking to what you know?
I’m sure every girl has evenings where their boyfriend is distracted by his playstation/Xbox/computer…though having said that I quite like joining in! Gaming has built up a bad reputation over the years, what with the “detrimental impact” it has on younger children and any resulting lack in physical activity.
I do recognise the importance of exercise but active gaming is an area which is growing rapidly. I was sent over this infographic by HomeLeisureDirect who are passionate about health and gaming. They also run school campaigns, which I think is a fab idea!
Infographic created by Home Leisure Direct
Sponsored post, though all opinions are my own as always.
I probably say this every month, but I can’t believe how fast the year is going. It’s pretty damn scary to think that this time next year I’ll be facing my final university exams and preparing to start (hopefully!) a graduate job. This month’s been a bit odd for me. Most of it has been great, but this past week I’ve been pretty ill and down in the dumps. I always find a bad patch at the end of the month means I’ll think back on it negatively…but here’s the best bits!
Finding my perfect blushers. I only wish Max Factor had brought these out before I splurged on my Nars Douceur, though at least they are completely different and I’m still getting plenty of wear out of it. They are stunning – easy to blend, neutral colours, natural looking finish. Love, love, love!
Reading an actual book. I love my Kindle, I’d chose Kindle over smartphone if I could only have one, but sometimes I just love the relaxing feeling a real book gives. This ones not the most thrilling of storylines, but for a book given by a stranger on a train it’s pretty good!
Spending time with family. It was my dad’s fiftieth earlier in the month and we hired a large house in the middle of the Rutland countryside. Utter bliss…though not exactly relaxing with energetic dogs and children running around! Me and my sis also had a trip to Hogwart’s – pretty awesome!
My new Barbour jacket*. It was absolutely perfect for the weekend away, and despite it being a men’s version I adore it. Thanks Repertoire Fashion!
Realising how much weight I’ve lost. Since Christmas I’ve lost 23 pounds. My goal of fitting into my old size ten jeans got obliterated (they’re now too big) and I’ve even managed to fit in my sister’s summer shorts.
I’ve also grabbing McBusted tickets. Admittedly this could have been in March, but it’s going in this month’s! I’m of the age where I was a 9/10 year old when Busted were big (Charlie was my boy!), and just a little older when McFly made it (I remember them supporting Busted at the NEC many, many years ago). I was pretty excited when they merged to form McBusted and went to see their first tour – and yep, it was awesome. I didn’t manage to get time off work for a Sunday show this tour, so when I found out they were hitting Delapre festival just a few miles from my parents? I spent an anxious 15 minutes trying to get tickets. The outcome is I’ll be taking my sister to her first festival as long as she’s back from her Duke of Edinburgh in time (she better run!).
The best thing about the last month? Sorting out a flat in London for the summer! Yep, I’m living in London for just under three months. Me and W have managed to score a rather snazzy little place in Wandsworth, and I’m super excited. One, living in an amazing city. Two, actually living with my boyfriend of nearly five years. It’s making me feel rather grown up! Fingers crossed I’ll be able to make more blogger events too…
So yep, busy month! I made the most of the bank holiday weekend to relax and do some serious blog work. No rest for the wicked! How’s your month been?