Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #16

Ahhh, the sweet, sweet taste of freedom. Somehow the end of exams isn’t so great when the next run are only 5 months away (and you’ve got an online one in 4 weeks) but it was SUCH a relief to get these ones out of the way. Not least because my arm felt horrendous after 6.5 hours of constant writing. Now just the long wait until July to find out if I’m one of the 40ish% who pass! Here’s what else I’ve been loving recently…

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  1. A whole day of meetings on the top floor of our office. We had stunning views of London all day.
  2. Vegan Mushroom & Lentil Bolognese – based on my best-ever tomato-free bolognese recipe, this was a delicious meat-free version. So good…though even better when I made it non-vegan and covered it in parmesan.
  3. Early morning study sessions. I might be weird for this, but I love getting up ridiculously early to revise. I’m so much more productive in the mornings!
  4. Buck’s Fizz & Pain au Chocolat. We went to the sunrise service at our local church on Easter Sunday, followed by bubbles and pastries. It was such a lovely way to start out a day of revision and chocolate!
  5. Lamb. I practically fought with another woman over the last half-leg in Putney, then roasted it with plenty of garlic in a bed of hay. It was perfect – especially with a rich potato boulangerie and green veg.
  6. Exams being over. Nuff said.
  7. Pizza & Cocktail date. We saw my exams off with an evening at The Dynamo. As usual the pizza was great despite the special being unavailable (my fav is there prosciutto, fennel and pomegranate white pizza) and our drinks were strong and delicious. Shame about the dreadful service that evening though!
  8. A day of spring cleaning. Little jobs that had been overlooked have now been done – and my shower is sparkling!
  9. Lunch at Pollen Street Social. Delicious, and nice to add another Michelin Star to my list! We had to scrap our afternoon plans and nap instead, as 3 courses turned into 7…
  10. A date with my besties! We wandered around Putney, enjoyed pizza, cinnamon buns and hot chocolate and planned next month’s trip to Go Ape.
  11. Homemade ice-cream. We’ve been using the ice-cream maker attachment on the Kitchen Aid to make an ice-cream each month. This weekend we may Hay & Strawberry inspired by Chin Chin Labs. Sooooo yum!
  12. The London Marathon – it’s one of my favourite sporting events. Congrats to all who took part!

What’s made your last fortnight happy?

Lifestyle: Quotes for Keeping You Motivated

Today is the day I sit my first proper professional exam. Well, the first half of it anyway. Two three hour papers over two days – so the torture isn’t over until tomorrow evening! Then it’s a break for a few weeks before a practical one in May, then straight back into studying ready for September’s exam – all before the results of this one are released! They weren’t joking when they said the first few years of my career would be intense…

 photo Motivational Quotes 4_zpsucybvoxz.jpgWhen I finish my first exam later, I know I’ll have to come back home and hit my notes again ready for tomorrow. I know that it won’t be very long before I need to start prepping for my practical exam. I know that studying will start all over again very quickly. And for that I’m going to need some serious motivation. It’s not easy studying on top of full-time work (I’ve got a post coming soon – once exams are over and I’ve had time to write it!) so I keep a list of quotes on hand for when I need a good kick up the arse.

I’ve got these typed up on my phone, handwritten in my diary and there’s a few on post-it notes doted around my flat, work desk and study notes. They’re surprisingly uplifting when you randomly happen across one!

The first few quotes have been taken from Becca Rose (there’s loads of great motivational quotes on her post here).

“Inhale confidence. Exhale doubt.”

“Set some goals. Stay quiet about them. Smash the shit out of them. Clap for your own damn self.”

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

“Small progress is still progress.”

“Don’t wait until you’ve reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal.”

“Don’t think about what can happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be.”

“If you get tired; learn to rest, not to quit.”

“We don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.”

 photo Motivational Quotes 7_zpsjzsxpxbr.jpgThe rest of the quotes I’ve picked up from Pinterest and Instagram over the last few months. Where I found them with a source, I’ve added it in – as well as adding in any I could easily find. If you know where the rest of them are from, feel free to share!

“The Way Get Started Is To Quit Talking And Begin Doing.” -Walt Disney

“Don’t Let Yesterday Take Up Too Much Of Today.” -Will Rogers

“You Learn More From Failure Than From Success. Don’t Let It Stop You. Failure Builds Character.”

“Whether You Think You Can Or Think You Can’t, You’re Right.”- Henry Ford

“You Are Never Too Old To Set Another Goal Or To Dream A New Dream.”- C.S. Lewis

“Don’t stop when you’re tired. STOP when you are DONE.”

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

“Good things come to people who wait, but better things come to those who go out and get them.”

“If life was not meant to be a puzzle it would have come with an instruction manual.”

 photo Motivational Quotes 1_zpsbfoa71h9.jpgI also picked up a Motivational Desk calendar for W last year, just as a little stocking filler from Santa, but I’ve kind-of adopted it. It’s been so nice to have something motivating displayed in the flat – it’s one of the first things I see when I come home and I find it spurs me on to do just that little bit more after a long day.

How do you keep yourself motivated? Do you have any quotes to share?

Lifestyle: Lately #2

I remember when I did the first of this ‘series’ I said it would be regular – and that was 8 months ago now. Whoops!

 photo Lately 2_zpssv073arh.jpgI genuinely can’t believe how quickly time is going; I’ve been working at my graduate job for over seven months now, which is just insane. Some days it feels as though I’ve only been there a week! I’ve found it quite tough going if I’m honest; I love my job and my team, but I do think I’m learning a bit too slowly. During my placement year I picked things up really quickly, likewise with studying, so I’m a bit frustrated with my progress. Everyone has told me not to be so hard on myself, but it’s difficult to break the habit!

The last few weeks have been virtually all taken up with studying for my first professional exam – it’s probably the chunkiest one I will do (and with 400 hours minimum recommended study time, I’m glad!) and quite frankly I’m reallyy nervous about the exam. Strange really, as this is the first exam where I can just retake without any serious problems, yet I’m more nervous than I’ve been before! Other that studying, I’ve concentrated on cooking (SO many new recipes to share). My exploring of London has slowed right down over the revision period, though we did visit York for a few days which was wonderful. So, pretty quiet, pretty uneventful here!

Doing – studying. Revising. Studying.

Visiting – York.

Watching – Broadchurch, Bond films.

Reading – Dorothy Koomson’s “My Best Friend’s Girl” (a.k.a. my all time favourite book). Old issues of Perfect Wedding. Revision notes.

Eating – a homemade Mexican feast (Pork Pilbil, refried beans, pickled onions and green rice). Lot’s of Heck products. Their vegetarian Thai Bites* are delish!

Lusting – Tarte In The Bloom palette. Midi skirts.

Craving – Brunch (I’m planning a treat visit to Duck & Waffle after my exams!). Sunshine. A nice long lie in.

What have you been up to lately?

Recipe: Nomato Sauce & My Ultimate (Tomato-Free!) Bolognese

Since becoming allergic to tomatoes, one of the biggest things I’ve missed has been spaghetti bolognese and lasagne. I love pizza as much as the next person, but white pizzas are pretty damn good. Sure, I can’t eat regular curries any more but I’ve developed a love for tandoori chicken instead. But Bolognese? Try finding a tomato-free version and you’ll see what I mean!

 photo Nomato Sauce_zpsxouvsbyd.jpgBut then I used the excuse of W being away to get a bit creative in the kitchen (i.e. make a shit tonne of mess). I’d been eyeing up various ‘nomato’ and ‘nightshade-free’ red sauces for a few years, but I’d always been scared to make them. Actually, I tried once but it was overly carrot-y and not a success. This time I did a lot of research, then ignored everything, combined a few recipes and hoped for the best…

And it worked.

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 17_zpsblvxht2k.jpgMy God, is this red sauce a wonderful thing! Apparently it doesn’t taste exactly like tomatoes (I don’t remember) but it is pretty damn close. It’s amazingly versatile and works in all kinds of recipes – including on a pizza to make the best pepporoni one I’ve had in years (sure, I love white pizzas, but there’s something about a greasy pepporoni one that I hadn’t realised I was missing out on!).

The tomato-free Bolognese, though, is where this nomato sauce really shines. The Bolognese is rich, almost creamy. The meat is soft and tender, the sauce is silky. You would never guess it’s lacking what is supposedly a vital ingredient! Everyone has their own secrets to a good Bolognese. Katy adds HP Brown sauce, and both soy and Worcestershire sauces to hers. I have seen many people add chicken livers, something I’m determined to try the next time I get control of the shopping trolley.  And of course, there is Marcella Hazan’s recipe, often described as the Holy Grail of Bolognese. All I can say is that we love this recipe; full of flavour and just damn delicious. I’m now craving it as I type!

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 12_zpshvewulti.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 7_zpsmahrrmdy.jpgOh, and if you’re feeling more virtuous? I can highly recommend this Bolognese served over courgetti and boodles (softened in a little garlic olive oil for 2 mins). Just don’t skip the parmesan!

Ingredients (Nomato Sauce – generally makes 4 big portions and 1 smaller one)

  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 white onions (big-ish ones if possibly, if yours are smaller chuck another one in)
  • 5 sticks of celery
  • 6 carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3/4 of a vacuum pack of beetroot

I’m afraid there’s a lot of chopping here (though you could definitely use a food chopper to save time!).

Slice your peppers and pop in a baking dish. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the skin is blackened. Transfer to a bowl, over with sling-film and leave to cool before removing and discarding the skins.

Finely chop your onions, celery and carrots. Pop into a large pan with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, and saute over a low heat for a good twenty minutes. You want them to soften and sweeten, but not brown. Add the garlic and bay leaves and increase the heat; fry for two minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and let it bubble away, before adding the stock and the cooled roasted peppers. Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer for half an hour, or until the vegetables are soft. Top up with more water if necessary.

Slice the beetroot into smaller pieces, then add to the pan along with the soy sauce. Cook for around 10 more minutes, then leave to cool before pureeing until smooth. Portion up and freeze. I find this works amazingly well in my Bolognese recipe (below), but I’ve also used it in curries, tagines and to top a pizza. It’s a great way of adding extra vegetables in too!

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 16_zpsydavykal.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 10_zpsgnwpmn5p.jpgIngredients (Ultimate Bolognese, for two greedy people, or two normal people with leftovers for lunch)

  • 250g beef mince
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • 50ml full-fat milk
  • 1 portion of nomato sauce (around 3 ladelfuls)
  • 1/2 beef stock cube
  • Dried herbs – I usually go for a pinch each of basil, oregano and thyme

This isn’t a quick Monday-night dinner, I’ll admit. This is a lazy Saturday evening meal, or a Friday night treat. I’ll usually crack open a bottle of red and stand stirring, wine glass in hand. However, for a quicker version: omit the celery, carrot and milk, only simmer for as long as you have time for. It’s definitely worth trying the full recipe though…

Finely chop the vegetables. Pop a fry pan onto a medium head and add the mince (no added oil!) – fry until browned all over, then tip into a bowl. Add a little olive oil to the pan, then add the vegetables and fry until soft and the onion is slightly golden. Add the garlic and herbs, along with the mince. Fry for a few more minutes, then tip in the glass of wine. Allow to bubble away, turn the heat down, then add the milk. Cook, stirring, until the milk has almost evaporated away before adding the nomato sauce and the stock cube.

Turn the heat to the lowest setting and allow to simmer away for at least an hour, stirring every now and then, adding a touch of hot water if it’s starting to catch. The end result will be melt-in-the-mouth, super savoury and almost creamy. A proper bowl of comfort food served over spaghetti – and even better added to homemade cheesy bechamel in a lasagne!
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What’s your secret to a good Bolognese sauce?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #15

As predicted, these past few weeks have been crammed with studying, revising, panicking and more studying. I am beginning to feel SO grateful for only having summer exams at university, the thought of doing this all again in September is pretty depressing! That said, it’s actually be a lovely couple of weeks. I’ve managed to catch up with some friends and take a mini-break away. After all, can’t be all work and no play…

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  1. York! We went away for a few days and it was LOVELY. Lots of pretty buildings, quaint streets and far too much cake.
  2. Skosh. AKA one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I managed to get a last minute table, we ordered about two-thirds of the menu and it was great. And a bargain. If you’re ever in York, I highly, highly recommend a visit!
  3. Wine & Cheese Bars. In York we visited Pairings on the Sunday night. I had a red wine flight, he had 4 (!) glasses of port and we built our own cheese and meat platter. If only they had (affordable) places like this in London…
  4. Pancakes at Brew & Brownie. Probably the best ones I’ve ever eaten! They also did Terry’s Chocolate Orange brownies…
  5. Catch up with friends. We had an evening out in Covent Garden. I ate a gorgeous fried chicken burger, then had a hot coffee cocktail before a wander along the South Bank.
  6. Sunshine. Over the weekend I’ve worn short-shorts, gone sans tights and had picnic lunches in the park. I only wish I couldn’t see the sunbathers from my revision spot in the flat!
  7. Living by the river. Admittedly now the trees have leaves I can no longer see the river, but sunny wanders along the banks of the Thames make any day better!
  8. Rhubarb. It reminds me of my childhood and I do like it (when its grown and cooked properly). W made a fancy dessert which was well worth the ridiculous amount of washing up it caused!
  9. Finally using my Stila Perfect Me palette that I got at Christmas. It’s ideal for travelling with!
  10. My fiance getting the highest mark in his year for a project – I posted a pic of his chair on Instagram and although I am biased he definitely deserved it!

I bet you can guess that the next entry of my Happy Post will feature end of exams?! Hope you all have a fabulous few weeks!

Food: Dominque Ansel, Victoria

I mentioned a while ago that one of my resolutions for 2017 was to try each month’s Cronut flavour. I know, I’m pretty pleased with that resolution too! Most of the time I tend to just pick up a Cronut or two (because I can’t imagine I’d have a very happy fiance if I didn’t share the experience) to takeaway, but when Mummy B visited a while back I decided it was high time for a cake marathon.

 photo Dominique Ansel_zpsljbrynx0.jpgThere were a few items on the menu at Dom A’s patisserie that I knew didn’t travel well and that I’d wanted to try since first visiting a while back, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Camera in tow and an empty stomach, we rolled up ready for sugar overload.

First up, it’s not the cheapest of places. Two drinks and 3 sweet treats was quite a hard hit to my card (considering nothing lasted long!). Secondly, expect to queue. Every visit I’ve queued, from a rather nice 5 minutes to over half an hour. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why as there are plenty of staff around – I have a sneaky suspicion it’s to stop the seating area being overloaded with an influx of people and a lack of tables. Either way, once you’ve eventually chosen your treats (another advantage of the long queue!) there isn’t usually a wait for a table too.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 8_zpssjqlic8s.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 11_zpsskvozyso.jpgDrinks wise, we went for a hot chocolate (me) and English breakfast tea (for Mummy B). I missed a trick with the hot chocolate and just ordered the ‘ordinary’ one, so didn’t get the excitement of the ‘Blossoming Marshmallows’ – as always I’m using this as an excuse to go back. That said, my hot chocolate was delicious – smooth, rich, and chocolatey without being thick and cloying. It was nicely unsweetened too, giving a caffeine-like hit.

And now it’s time for the important bit, the food.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 5_zpshlfbosre.jpgObviously there was the Cronut. Because I’m a bad blogger, we actually visited wayyyy back in January when the flavour of the month was Lemon Verbana. It was just the right balance of zingy and sweet, with a good enough lemon kick to make you suck in your cheeks. As with all of Dom A’s Cronuts, the pastry was both moist and flaky, buttery but not overly rich. Both me and W have tried other patisseries’ versions, and I have to say nowhere else has managed to get the balance of indulgence and lightness just right.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 3_zpsklvrmm6m.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 6_zpsudiwtpis.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 7_zpsqftu1wld.jpgNext up was the Frozen Smore, something I’d been looking forward to since Jordan posted about it agessss ago. This is quite possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to eat (and impossibly to do in a lady-like manner, especially when sharing!), but it is worth the effort. Perfectly toasted marshmallow, golden and with no char in sight. Creamy ice-cream. A touch of chocolate from the wafer crisp. This was the perfect marriage of temperatures and textures and it tasted amazing. Surprisingly not over-sweet either…

 photo Dominique Ansel London 4_zpsuipimc6f.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 10_zpsvu5bfvuu.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 12_zpswopxzrms.jpgAnd finally. Last but not least. Our favourite of the bunch, and a recipe exclusive to London (I believe). The Liquid Caramel & Peanut Butter Mousse Cake could possibly be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. First off, it’s so pretttyyyy. Just look at it! The finish was so shiny I could almost see my reflection in it. It’s even attractive on the inside, with a perfectly symmetrical finish that wholly appealed to my mathematical and slightly OCD nature. It’s sweet but not sickly. The mouse isn’t at all rich, but airy and light. The peanut butter flavour comes through, as does the caramel, and again there’s the slightest hint of chocolate. I could have eaten several of these – and I probably would have done had we not snagged the last one.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 20_zpspfzihfsf.jpgUnfortunately for my bank balance, we’ve been back several times since. My goal to try each month’s Cronut is the main driver, although sadly February’s offering was a tad disappointing. Raspberry & Orange Blossom sounded like a great combo, but unfortunately I found it all a little over-sweet and one dimensional. March’s Rhubarb on the other hand…a dream! I’m excited for the rest of the year’s flavours… #bestresolutionever

Have you been to Dominique Ansel’s bakery? Have you tried a Cronut yet?

Personal: Things I Would Tell My Teenage Self

I’ve seen a lot of posts like this floating around, and now I’ve finally sat down and written one myself. I’d been meaning to for a while, but actually it was surprisingly hard. It was difficult thinking back over my teenage years as there were a lot of hard times for me. It was difficult writing it all down, then editing out the bits I really, really don’t want out there.
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Don’t Give in to Pressure

Whether it’s pressure to straighten your hair because it’s ‘cool.’ Pressure to do things you don’t want to do. Pressure to pretend not to know the answer in class. Just be yourself.

I only wish I’d felt freer to be myself when I was younger. I know without doubt that no-one I went to school with knew the ‘real’ me at all, and I was SO much happier at university when I wasn’t pretending to be someone else.

Be Kinder to Yourself

Actually, I should practice what I preach – even now I’m way too hard on myself. An assignment that’s not the top grade? Not good enough. A piece of work that has lots of room for improvement? I’ll beat myself up about it for weeks. Having an evening off to relax instead of studying/blogging/working/being productive? There’s virtually no chance I’ll let that happen.

I’m my own worst enemy, but I know I was far, far worse as a teenager. I cried for days over my final A-Level maths exam (and it actually still stings now – sitting here with a first class actuarial degree…).
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Mum Knows Best

Unfortunate but true! Your mum really does know what’s best for you, particularly during the teenage years.

When I was 16 and looking round Sixth Forms, I was adamant I didn’t want to try and get into the (very good) local Boy’s School. Sure, it had excellent results, but I didn’t want to go to a school just because it was good. I didn’t want to be surrounded by boys. My mum nagged and argued until I eventually gave in and went to the Open Evening. She still champions the fact that I gave in that night, that I loved it. It took a lot of tears and shouting, but eventually doing what she’d been telling me all along got me into a school I loved, got me doing the A-Levels I really wanted to do, and I’m pretty sure that it paved my life path.

I also got together with W three weeks after starting at the Boy’s School – so mummy found me my future husband too…

Don’t Cut Your Hair Short

Seriously. Just don’t. The worst thing I ever, EVER did was cut my hair to a bob at the age of 13. It wasn’t a good look for me at all, those few months of growing it out (forever thankful that my hair grows super-quickly!) were awful.
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Be Open to Possibilities

That spotty sixteen year old you’re dating? Those butterflies that don’t go away the further you get into your relationship? Yeah, you should have probably taken a bit more notice of them and realised just how much he meant to you.

I never expected to find my soulmate at 16. And I didn’t let myself think that way for a long time. I can actually pinpoint the exact day, the very afternoon that I realised W was the ‘one.’ It was nearly three years into our relationship. And our parents cottoned on before we did that this was ‘it’ for us.

But I also never expected that I could manage to do a mathematical degree. University wasn’t really a possibility for me until just a few months before applications opened (another part of my life when Mum knew best!). I didn’t expect to be able to train to be an Actuary – it was just a pipe-dream. Now I’m hoping to qualify in 2019.

 photo Letter to my Teenage Self 5_zpsblqmwkau.jpgI look back on how I was as a teenager (shy, anxious, petrified of classmates and extremely self-conscious) and I realise how far I’ve come. I definitely needed to have more self-belief back then! I don’t think I’ll ever look back on my early-teen years fondly, but they taught me a lot, they made me the person I am now – and it’s onwards and upwards from here!

What would you tell your teenage self? Any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share?

Lifestyle: The Perfect Weekend

And first a disclaimer – my weekends definitely do not look like this at the moment! The day this goes live my alarm will be set for 7am (which I guess is a teeny lie-in compared to weekdays!). I’ll be out of bed and dressed by 8, and at my desk studying by 9. Taking regular breaks, of course, but I’ll study for most of the day. I might head out for a quick walk, I might do some cleaning. I’ll probably cook something like a chilli or casserole, something that I can portion up and freeze for later in the week when (yep, you’ve guessed it) I’ll be studying! Oh, the life of a student actuary…

But enough of that. Here’s my perfect weekend day. I took forward to one of these in just three weeks time!

 photo Perfect Weekend_zpsfmqrb6in.jpg9am – wake up. Encourage W to fetch me a cup of tea (preferably in my giant Jungle Book mug). Read the papers in bed. Generally be lazy.

10am – up, but still in PJs. Hopefully W will also cook me a yummy brunch. I love everything from a simple fruit-yoghurt combo to a full English. Lately we’ve been making a Jamie Oliver recipe which is like a cross between a crumpet and a muffin. Served with butter made from Goat’s milk (thank’s St Helen’s Farm!) they are delicious!

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11am – by this point, we’ll be awake and dressed. Usually we like to get out and about when we’re not too busy – now we’re living in London there’s so many areas to explore. I love Spitalfields and Portobello, but we’re trying to tick off as many places as possible. Any suggestions?

Saturday’s lunch of Tartiflette. Carby, cheesy goodness. With a side of carbs…

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1pm – time for lunch. Street food is generally our pick of choice, with Maltby Street being out current favourite. If it’s colder the Tartiflette there is delicious, but if the weather isn’t great a trip to Wholefoods for some soup is always a winner.

4pm – we’ll head home for a good cuppa and a cheeky slice of cake. Or if I’m lucky we’ll head to our favourite cafe in Putney for a Hot Chocolate and Cinnamon bun. Seriously, they are SO good!

5pm – time to start cooking dinner. We pretty much always have a roast on Sundays, even just the two of us. I just can’t resist having the leftovers to be creative with during the week! Usually it’s chicken, but we also love brisket and lamb. Whilst dinner is cooking I’ll usually do some blogging or wedding planning (or studying!) or I’ll have a nice, long pampering shower.

 photo The Perfect Weekend 6_zpsfgl0swpv.jpg7pm – dinner time, preferably candlelit with a glass or two of wine. We’re romantics at heart!

8pm – after we’ve washed up, we’ll usually put a film on. We’re currently trying to get through all of the Bond films – there’s some brilliant ones. I also love The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game.

9pm – I’ve got a terrible sweet tooth at the moment, so at this point I might give in and let myself have some chocolate. I’m really trying to kick this habit though!

11pm – bed time. I’ll probably read my Kindle for a bit before I head off to sleep.

Writing this has made me realise just how much I miss a relaxing weekend! Remember to follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with me, I’m not promising hugely regular blogging until after exams now…

What does your dream weekend look like?

Recipe: Homemade Focaccia, Two Ways (Rosemary & Seasalt and Red Onion & Feta)

When exam season rolls round, one of my favourite things to do is bake bread.

 photo Homemade Focaccia_zpsfflgjlps.jpgFirst up, there’s the procrastination aspect. Everyone loves a good way to get out of studying – and why not make something yummy in the process? But there’s other slightly more sensible reasons to. It forces me to take regular breaks. Almost like the pomodoro approach, I can concentrate for forty minutes whilst the dough rises, have a quick break whilst I knead it, then get back to work. But then best thing for me? Kneading really helps with with my RSI. So exams = lots of homemade bread in this house. And right now my ultimate favourite is focaccia.

 photo Homemade Focaccia30_zpsiydr3nif.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia31_zpspcxgppw8.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia34_zpstn8i4uwy.jpgIt’s super easy, doesn’t require too much shaping, can be eaten hot from the oven (priorities!) and it is damn delicious. I like it on it’s own, dipped into balsamic vinegar, made into a sandwich (sliced lengthways and filled with pesto and salami – it’s amazingly good), as part of a meze board or even dipped into soup. I can imagine it would with great with my tomato-free bolognese too!

As with most of my bread recipes, I’ve adapted this from James Morten’s Brilliant Bread. I just love his approach to baking bread, how simple his recipes are, and the amount of explanation he gives to the science behind it. By far the best bread book I’ve tried, though I’m still yet to be successful with sourdough!

 photo Homemade Focaccia8_zps7jd1br8n.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia7_zpsfiyjzawb.jpgIngredients

  • 500g bread flour
  • 7g salt
  • 7g yeast
  • 400g water (around the temperature of a warm bath, nothing too hot!)
  • 40g olive oil
  • Toppings – either sea salt, extra oil and half a packet of fresh rosemary, or use some of my red onion chutney and a sprinkling of feta).

Mix the water and olive oil together. Weight out the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Rub them together, then quickly add the water-oil mixture and stir to combine. James gives a health warning here, and I agree – the mixture is very wet (particularly compared to the bagel dough). Don’t add any extra flour. Instead, wet your hands slightly and give it a little knead. Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave to rise for an hour.

Drizzle one hand with a little olive oil, then use this to separate the dough from the bowl. Knead for a few minutes (I keep it in the bowl, saves me making too much mess!) – you want the dough to be able to support itself, and it should also feel a lot smoother when you are done. It doesn’t need to be perfect though! Re-cover and rest for another hour – or if you’re not studying, you could throw it in the fridge for 8-12 hours instead.

Add around a tablespoon of olive oil to a baking tray, and make sure the base is fully covered. Tip your dough into the tin and flatten it out – you want to try and fill the whole tray, so you might need to give it a quick knead first. Leave to prove for a final half hour (or again, throw in the fridge for 8-12 hours).

Once proved, make indentations in the dough by pressing all the way down to the tray. Sprinkle with your chosen toppings, drizzle over a little more olive oil, then bake at 220C for around 20 minutes, until golden and crisp on top. Try to let it cool a little before tucking in!
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Do you make your own bread? What’s your favourite procrastination method?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #14

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!

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  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Drinks with school friends. It had been far too long since we had caught up!
  5. 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.
  6. Booking our wedding transport – so excited to be driven to church in a cream VW Campervan!
  7. 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.
  8. 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?