Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #64

I usually try to keep these Happy Monday posts true to their name. Happy. Positive. Free from negativity. Unfortunately I’m not quite feeling that way as I sit down to type this, despite it being a beautiful sunny warm Sunday. Nothing dramatic, I’m just horribly stressed with work and health-wise I’m not the best either right now. Hopefully it’s all about to improve – and luckily typing the little list below has cheered me up slightly. So, what has been making me smile lately…?

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    1. Finding what look to be my dream trainers to wear with dresses. Ok, a bit too late as I’ll be switching back to ankle boots shortly, but I’ll be ordering them to stash ahead for next year!
    2. As always, some Ottolengi recipes need a mention. In the last fortnight we’ve made four new ones, as well as some which were already favourites. This Courgette Feta Pasta is a real winner…
    3. A really good grilled cheese sandwich. Gooey melted cheddar, soft pear and salty prosciutto. So good!
    4. Making birthday plans. Yes, it’s not until December but I do like a good plan! So far it involves lots of food and a theatre trip too…
    5. Mars Bar Ice-Creams. I just can’t resist them!
    6. It’s almost pumpkin season! I’m determined to do a little more autumn-themed baking this year. So far I’ve earmarked pumpkin pie, pumpkin pasta, , pumpkin-spice cookies and I’m working on an idea for a lasagne too…What do you want to see first?
    7. Re-reading the Harry Potter’s. It’s made me feel all nostalgic!
    8. The smell of a roast chicken in the oven. I honestly don’t think there is anything better…
    9. Booking a restaurant for our anniversary dinner. It was such a tough choice but we’re so excited to be heading back to somewhere which did us an amazing meal a few years ago!
    10. Things from the internet I’ve loved lately:

    How was your summer? What are you looking forward to this month?

Review: Vegan Afternoon Tea @ Café Forty One, Kensington

I’ve already waxed lyrical this summer about my love of afternoon tea, but I’m not quite finished. I think this year I’ve managed to fix in more afternoon tea treats than any other, and I’m so not mad about that – and it means I’ve been able to share some of my favourite spots around London.

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea_zps3srlnzco.jpgToday, though, is my thoughts on a fully vegan afternoon tea. I’m not vegan, and don’t particularly plan on becoming one any time soon, but I love trying plant-based alternatives and this was no different. I was really excited to try some different finger sandwiches, and as Café Forty One is advertised as London’s only vegan patisserie I could not wait to try the cakes out.

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  12_zpsjrrvj3zy.jpg photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  13_zps21wjq7p3.jpgWe had the beautiful dining room pretty much to ours midweek, and it was so peaceful – though a little dark which was a huge shame as it was a beautiful day. We were presented with two beautiful stands of goodies for our tea – suitably allergy-free (given I’m allergic to tomatoes, and my sister is to citrus we aren’t easy customers!).

The alcohol-free bubbles were lightly flavoured with pomegranate and the perfect start. It definitely made the whole experience a little more luxurious.

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  9_zpsqixoen6v.jpg photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  1_zpsztfe0wwc.jpgFirst up was the sandwiches. The savouries are always my favourite part of an afternoon tea and these definitely didn’t disappoint. My favourite was the tofu with chutney – almost cheesy and just so perfectly balanced. We also really loved the pesto sandwich, always a winner whether vegan or not! The only one which we didn’t really rate was the ‘egg’ alternative – the flavour was great (surprisingly eggy) but the texture too soft. Definitely needed to be on some kind of seeded bread.

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  11_zps48buge1w.jpg photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  6_zpshurfnqce.jpg photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  8_zpstqhl3oj3.jpgObviously scones are pretty much essential to any afternoon tea, and I was worried I’d really miss the clotted cream. I’m a cream first kinda girl so it almost melts into the scone and so coconut cream was a real change for me – it pretty much all melted away. However it was so delicious, adding a totally new flavour dimension to the fluffy scones. The jam was pretty much just crushed raspberries so super fruity and sharp, they were delicious!

And now we come to the cakes and I have to say on the whole I was super, super disappointed. With the restaurant being paraded as a vegan patisserie I am a little shocked at the standard of these, as I felt pretty much all of them were dry, not particularly flavourful and (in the cake of the mini-loaf cake thing) almost stale. In fact the only enjoyable one was a little trifle pot – now that I could have eaten five or so of!

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  4_zps1yxzrnnc.jpgI don’t want to end on a bad note, because I loved the scones and sandwiches – but yep, this afternoon tea didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It’s certainly worth a visit, particularly if you’re looking for a completely vegan environment. But the cake part needs some work.

Have you tried a vegan afternoon tea? Did it live up to your expectations?

Travel: Where to Eat in Edinburgh

Oh Edinburgh. This place is my all-time favourite – I honestly love it. I have actually tried on more than one occasion to secure a job up there, but the powers above don’t agree. I’d also be wary of living there as I’d worry I’d lose the magic, if you understand what I mean? But why do I love it so much? It’s a hard on to answer, but the mix of buildings, the winding streets, the green spaces and the plethora of good food options all help!

 photo Where to Eat Edinburgh_zpsmydaltr7.jpgThis was actually our fourth trip to Edinburgh as a couple, and we’ve each been a couple of times separately too. We’ve definitely got a good feel for the city and where does the best food – through good luck and plenty of research! Here’s our top places…

 photo Loudons Edinburgh 5_zpspcfbxesf.jpg photo Loudons Edinburgh 6_zpswetbf3fs.jpg photo Loudons Edinburgh 2_zpsiyxwmo8q.jpgFor Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch: Loudons (link)

This was a place I was *really* pleased to find. The recently opened New Waverley branch was a short walk from our apartment, and conveniently placed partway up the Royal Mile. Well priced, a vast selected of breakfast dishes and a really interesting lunch menu too – anywhere that does mac’n’cheese on toast is a good’un in my books!

I highly recommend their Benny’s – my classic with smoked salmon was rich with a perfect hollandaise and couldn’t-be-better runny yolks. My husband also loved his massive Benny stack which came with haggis, black pudding, bacon, tomato chutney and the compulsory poached eggs…

 photo Hula Juice Bar Edinburgh  4_zpsdhp4bw1f.jpg photo Hula Juice Bar Edinburgh  5_zpsmzwnkpmq.jpg photo Hula Juice Bar Edinburgh  8_zpsmktemrni.jpgFor Brunch or Snacking: Hula Juice Bar (link)

This has been our go-to for years. Whilst I am very, very sad about the removed of the cheese-on-toast side to their soups (if their Haggis & Potato Soup is available you must order it), we still squeezed in multiple visits into our trip. Their smoothies are yum (favourites are the Nutty Professor and the Frangipani), the bakes on point. They also do really, really good porridge with a healthy portion of Nutella…

 photo The Gardeners Cottage Edinburgh  7_zpsqtirzflm.jpg photo The Gardeners Cottage Edinburgh  9_zps5n3stxdb.jpgFor a Fancy Dinner: Gardener’s Cottage (link)

I’m going to be doing a full review of this place, but if you’re a foodie then this is my biggest recommendation. The building was once a derelict cottage on one side of Calton Hill, and is now home to some bloody good cooking. The seating is communal style, there’s limited choice (particularly in the evenings) and you absolutely have to book – and pretty much everything we ate was delicious. Go hungry though, we ordered the five course dinner, but it turned into more like eight…

For a Really Fancy Dinner: The Kitchen (link)

This is where W took me on the weekend we got engaged, and it’s got it’s Michelin Star for very good reason. I still think about the dish involving the pig ear (3.5 years on!). Pricey but if you’re celebrating then why not?!

 photo The Outsider Edinburgh 5_zpsfbgxmz8z.jpg photo The Outsider Edinburgh 3_zpscvijcmwr.jpg photo The Outsider Edinburgh 1_zpszxqrxxzu.jpg photo The Outsider Edinburgh 6_zpsc7ioljq9.jpgFor Dinner with a View: The Outsider (link)

I really, really loved this place. What looks like a slightly shabby modern pub on the street opens up as you walk through – big windows with a lovely sunset view of the castle. Service was super-friendly – despite the only waiting staff we saw being rushed off her feet with a nearly full restaurant.

I ate a delicious dish of Sea Trout with Brie Risotto which was flavoursome, indulgent and yet still quite light, and W enjoyed a Hake Fillet with Chorizo and White Bean Broth. My Lime Tart to finish was delicious, and the *massive* cheeseboard W ordered was a gorgeous selection of cheeses, some very good oatcake, apple, grapes, quince paste AND a massive wedge of sourdough. Best thing was he couldn’t finish it, so I had to help. #winning!

This is another one where they will be a full review…

For Ice-Cream: Mary’s Milk Bar (link)

I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to visit Mary’s as it’s somewhat an institution, but we finally did. SO. GOOD. We somehow managed to arrive just as the sun broke through the cloud, so didn’t have to queue (by the time we’d ordered the queue was down the street) but it would be worth queueing for. Creamy gelato, crucially not too soft, and some really interesting flavours.

The blue cheese ice-cream in particular was wonderful – just a hint of blue cheese, then a stronger flavour in some mouthfuls, never over-powering. I’m wishing I could have some more of this! I paired it with a Cinnamon ice-cream which was the perfect balance of spicy and sweet. W’s choice of Peanut Butter & Paprika (so good!) with Whisky Marmalade (needed more whisky) was also solid.

Other Recommendations

In the past we’ve also had good meals at Urban Angel, The Dogs, and Pickles – though it’s been a good few years since we’ve visited these spots. I’ve also got The White Horse firmly earmarked for our next visit, and I really want to visit Makars Gourmet Mash bar too. Stockbridge Market on Sundays is a great visit, particularly if you have cooking facilities (the pie stall looked so good), and they also have plenty of street food options – the queue for the Japanese dumplings was huge, so I imagine they’re good…

Have you ever visited Edinburgh? Where do you recommend?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #63

Happy Monday! I’ve got all the “back to school” feels right now, and it’s probably the first time since I graduated university that I actually miss that September reset button.

Potentially it’s the fact that I’m no longer studying (because despite the fact that I’m so glad I’ve finally qualified, I do miss working towards something!). I kinda feel like my life is a tad empty to be honest – which thinking about it is understandable. This time last year I was juggling planning a wedding, starting a new role at work and studying hard. Fast forward a year and the wedding has been and gone, I’m fairly comfortable in my role and the studying has ended. I’ve even planned our holidays for another year. What next?!

Despite the moan, the best thing to come out of qualifying is time. I now have something called evenings and weekends to do whatever I want with. And that privileged is something I’ve been trying to make the most of. Sorry bank balance! So, what have I been up to lately…?

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  1. Date night at Home SW15. Of course we couldn’t not have our first date night in months anywhere else! We had cocktails and cauliflower croquettes to start (the dream!) and then I had a delicious lamb dish with peas, broad beans and courgettes. These guys certainly know how to make a huge hunk of meat taste light and delicate! I also had a bloody lovely dessert of some kind of Greek pastry with pistachio ice-cream. Dreamy!
  2. The Lamb & Feta Meatballs from my favourite cookbook, Ottolenghi Simple. So. Bloody. Tasty.
  3. An at-home brunch of Potato and Gochujang Braised Eggs. Absolutely amazing, and Gochujang is my new favourite thing. And this post is turning into the Ottolenghi Appreciation Post.
  4. Heading out for a midweek afternoon tea with my mummy. I’d wanted to visit Number Sixteen in Kensington for a while but it’s always fully booked at weekends – but it’s so worth taking a day off for! By far and away the best value afternoon tea in London, in such beautiful surroundings.
  5. Going a gym. This is quite a big thing for me with various body confidence issues, and it’s actually taken me 11 months since the initial enquiry to sign up. If anyone has any fitness class recommendations please let me know!
  6. Some really good veggie burgers. These in-season Beetroot Burgers from the Waitrose magazine were so, so good, though we’re trying out a couple of changes to the recipe this week. I’ll be posting my version soon. We also remade my absolute favourite bean burgers for our vegan lunch challenge. I’ve forgotten how tasty they were!
  7. A new Zara dress. No, not THAT Zara dress, but one I love far more. I’m saving it for our first anniversary!
  8. Speaking of our first anniversary, I’m trying to work out where to go to celebrate. Any Suffolk recommendations?!
  9. A morning spent repotting my houseplants in the sun. It felt so good to get my hands dirty!
  10. Things from the internet I’ve loved lately:

How was your summer? What are you looking forward to this month?

Recipe: One-Pan Cauliflower Salad for my #YearofVeganLunchboxes Challenge [AD – gifted]

One of the main things I’ve learnt so far on my #YearofVeganLunches challenge is that I need to get some decent variety of base carb in. Sure I could eat orzo most weeks, but it’s not the most nutritious of choices. Quinoa is great, but my digestive system doesn’t seem to want it to often. Couscous is just plain boring to have more often than monthly. Right now I have a bit of a thing for bulgur wheat – and this recipe shows it off wonderfully.

 photo Cauliflower Salad_zpsjybqtm09.jpg photo Cauliflower Salad  5_zpsewzuyajs.jpgAnd to be honest the star of the show really is the cauliflower anyway. Roasted to perfection so it’s tender, slightly charred and almost nutty, and basted in plenty of ginger, garlic and za’tar to make it sing. You may think you hate cauliflower but this recipe may make you think again. The best thing, though, is that it’s just so EASY. A few minutes of chopping and then it happily sits in the oven all in one dish, before being drenched in lemon juice. It’s wonderful warm (and if you’re not vegan I highly recommend sprinkling with a spot of feta in that case) but just as good cold with some almonds for additional crunch. Next time I’m going to whip up a quick tahini dressing to serve on the side I think, but it was delicious just as written too. And super easy too…

 photo Cauliflower Salad  12_zpslfxfwnzx.jpg photo Cauliflower Salad  15_zpstcqpk9jx.jpg photo Cauliflower Salad  11_zps2jyj7zdj.jpg photo Cauliflower Salad  13_zpsmqcfntjw.jpgAll-in-one-tin recipes are my thing right now, whether it’s for lunch prep or dinners. I have every single one of Rukmini Iyer’s Roasting Tin books and her latest release, The Quick Roasting Tin, is my favourite. In it is a Thyme & Sesame Cauliflower Tabbouleh which inspired this recipe – but to be honest I can see myself cooking my way through the book. And to make it even easier, Harts of Stur sent me over some of the Pyrex Cook & Go storage range. These make meal prep SO easy, I’m already tempted to order more. We have a couple of the small and medium boxes and they are SO useful. I can cook a batch of a one-pan meal, let it cool then pop the lid on and whack it in the fridge. The smaller ones I’ll then just take to work the next day. For a recipe like this the medium sized box we have is a little too small for the full recipe, so we split the amounts in half and roasted each separately. This worked quite well as we had half for dinner with feta, and then was able to stir the watercress and radishes through the cooled lunch serving before storing overnight. Having said that one of the large boxes is definitely going on my wishlist!

Recipe (serves 4 generously, adapted from The Quick Roasting Tin)

  • 150g bulgur wheat
  • 300-350ml of vegetable stock (suitable for vegans if necessary)
  • 1 large red onion, finely sliced
  • 3cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tbsp za’tar, plus an addtional tsp to sprinkle at the end
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large cauliflower – leaves roughly chopped, and florets separately (and chopped into small pieces)
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Around 8 radishes, sliced thinly
  • 1 bag of watercress, roughly chopped
  • a few handfuls of baby spinach
  • a handful of blanched almonds
  • Feta to serve (optional)

Tip the bulgur wheat into the roasting tin and pour over the stock. Scatter over the onion and cauliflower leaves. In a bowl, rub the olive oil, ginger, garlic and za’tar over the cauliflower florets, then scatter into the roasting tin. Pop the tin into the oven and roast at 200C for 20-30 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and the bulgur wheat is cooked – start with only 300ml of stock and add a little more mid-way through cooking if needed. Remove from the oven and stir through the lemon zest and juice, watercress and radishes. Serve scattered with almonds, extra za’tar and feta (if using).

If using for a lunch, allow the roasted mix to cool before stirring through the extras, I recommend adding a little extra olive oil too. I imagine this would also be amazing scattered with some pomegranate seeds too!
 photo Cauliflower Salad  7_zps01vjclvz.jpg

 What is your go-to lunchbox?

Eating Out: The London Afternoon Tea Guide

Regular readers will know that I just love an afternoon tea – I love it for the chance it gives to sit down and have a really good catch up. The chance to eat lots of little bits. The chance to really enjoy different speciality teas. In order to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week (running from 12-18th August 2019) I’ve put together a little guide of London afternoon teas I’ve enjoyed so far.

 photo Afternoon Tea Guide_zpsmhqyybfm.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 1_zpslgodecrs.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 16_zpsh6izs6ka.jpgThe Boozy One

And my favourite (so far)! Now rebranded as Lyanness, the bar at Sea Containers hotel on the Southbank serves up an afternoon tea based around cocktails. When we visited the quantity of alcohol was perfect matched with the delicious food, and it was just a glorious few hours. This would make an absolutely perfect hen do spot, and it’s definitely somewhere I’d revisit for afternoon tea. In fact I’m thinking of going for my birthday later in the year!

The Vegan One

I’ve not yet done a full review (not gifted), but back in June I treated my sister to afternoon tea at a vegan-only patisserie and cafe – Cafe Forty One at La Suite West in Kensington. Whilst the patisserie side disappointed us slightly, the sandwiches and scones really were excellent. We loved the non-alcoholic fizz too! If you want a fully vegan option in Instagrammable surroundings this is definitely one to go for…

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 10_zps5ug1lwgz.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 17_zpsbahrzabr.jpgThe Bargain One [gifted]

Until I was invited to review I wasn’t aware Whittard had a tea bar in Covent Garden, let alone served afternoon tea at a rather bargain price – yes the full afternoon tea is £30pp but you can get the Grocer’s Set (£45 and easily serves two) or opt for scones and sandwiches or scones and cakes for £15-£17. Not bad at all, and it really is an oasis of calm in that area of London! We definitely enjoyed our Grocer’s Tea, the sausage rolls were absolutely delicious!

 photo Hide Afternoon Tea  16_zpsonulolps.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  1_zpsq4osl1gr.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  2_zpsyq7i48jo.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  3_zpsoq1fpufw.jpgThe Michelin-Starred One

Oh, I did love the afternoon tea at Hide Ground! Not only did I get to stare at that iconic staircase but it really was an indulgent and high-class experience. Some really specialty teas were available (this place kick-started my Milk Oolong obsession) and the food was just so delicious. Definitely the best savourites I’ve ever enjoyed with an afternoon tea, the coddled egg was wonderful, the cheese puff sublime and the sandwiches spot on. We even got candyfloss!

The Ones Outside of London

I’ve also been lucky enough to sample a couple of afternoon teas outside of London – because why not! The atmosphere at Beckworth Emporium (Northants) might not be that relaxing as the venue is now super-popular, but I’ve never had a bad experience there. We enjoyed the Chocolate Afternoon Tea at Whittlebury Hall (also Northants), although a mix-up meant we never got the choc-chip scones I was so looking forward to. Just off the M1 is Catthorpe Manor, which is where I had one of my hen-dos – at £15pp this was a bargain and a really beautiful spot. And of course there’s the classic Tiny Tim’s in Canterbury. I’m not the hugest fan of this place to be honest, I don’t find the scones to be well made at all and it’s overpriced for the quality, but it is a must-do Canterbury experience!

And that’s my quick little round-up. I’m hoping to squeeze in another afternoon tea before the end of the month, and I’m sure I’ll keep sampling what London has to offer. Now the only question is…

Where do you recommend for Afternoon Tea?

Recipe: Popcorn Rocky Road [AD – gifted]

If I had to choose a favourite TV snack it would be popcorn. Bite-sized, not *too* messy and all too easy to eat a big bowlful whilst watching something trashy, to me it’s the perfect ingredient for a girls night-in with Mean Girls, a solo evening with some Disney classics, or a date-night binge-watching our current favourite (right now it’s Blown Away on Netflix – a little like Bake Off, but with Glass Blowing). And of course it’s absolutely obligatory to purchase an extra-large box when you go to the cinema, right?! Given my love for popcorn you can imagine my response when Popcorn Shed got in touch and offered to send me some goodies to use in a recipe.

 photo Popcorn Rocky Road_zpsibsgkcwv.jpgMade to a secret family recipe (and dear me, I’d love that recipe!) their popcorn comes in sharing boxes or snack bags which are perfectly portioned for lunchboxes or to control calories if, like me, you struggle to stop eating the stuff. It’s all natural ingredients and the variety of flavours is pretty good – there’s some cheesy savoury ones (I’m not a huge fan of these personally, but I’m a sweet popcorn gal anyway) and loaddssss of chocolately and nutty ones. My personal favourite is the Berry-licious – dark chocolate and raspberry is SUCH a good combo.

 photo Popcorn Rocky Road 4_zpsxuzcxqcg.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 9_zpspwsok4tu.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 15_zpsnsrrfjx7.jpgMuch as I wanted to just eat the stuff, I did manage to come up with a “recipe.” And recipe is in inverted commas because this is SO easy I struggle to think of it as a recipe at all. It’s quite a dangerous recipe as it takes no time at all and, after some tortuorous chilling, you have an amazing snack – it’s perfect for work bake sales or taking along to an event. I actually made one for a Youth Group social and it went down *extremely* well. I’m now adored by members as they loved it so much! Easy to make and a crowd pleaser, what’s not to love?!

I prefer a chunkier rocky road, more crumbly with biscuits and other treats but if you prefer a firmer, more chocolately one I’d suggest upping the quantities of chocolate and butter.

 photo Popcorn Rocky Road 8_zpswnlfdbmq.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 12_zpsnirsq5sl.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 14_zps7udxawbm.jpgRecipe – makes 16 generous squares

  • 200g Rich Tea biscuits
  • 150g butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g mini marshmallows (be sure to find vegetarian ones if needed)
  • 100g popcorn

Place 200g digestive biscuits in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin until broken up. You want some dust and some larger pieces, but nothing more than bite-sized.

In a large saucepan melt the butter, dark chocolate and golden syrup over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until there are no lumps of chocolate or butter visible, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once cool add the biscuits, marshmallows and popcorn and stir until everything is covered.

Tip the mixture into a 18cm square baking tin (greased and lined), and spread it out to the corners whilst pushing it down. Chill for at least 2 hours then cut in 16 squares.

 photo Popcorn Rocky Road 16_zpsembuc1iu.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 13_zpsatjbsbgo.jpg photo Popcorn Rocky Road 11_zpsknby80oe.jpgThis recipe is so easily adaptable too. Use dairy-free margarine and chocolate (I always use accidentally vegan Bournville anyway), and buy Freedom Mallows and you’ve got a vegan rocky road (without the Popcorn Shed popcorn, as unfortunately that contains dairy). And of course you can adapt to whatever you have… next time I’m going to use the Butterly Nuts flavour and add a little bit of peanut butter to the chocolate when melting – I think this salty-sweet combination will work wonderfully with some pretzels added for extra crunch!

*I was gifted some Popcorn Shed products to come up with a recipe for my blog. There was no payment for this post and all opinions are my own, as always.

Are you are sweet or salted popcorn person?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #62

Happy Monday! I’ve been absent from posting for a few weeks – a few techy issues with this space (hosting recommendations anyone?!) and life just got crazy busy, but yet again I’m hoping to be back for good. Since I last posted I’ve had some *amazing* news too which has distracted me slightly…

 photo Happy Things 2_zpstx894dal.png

  1. I qualified! Yes, right at the beginning of July I got the results for the final exam I took in April and I passed. I’ve essentially been working towards this goal since I decided on my career path at the age of 14 and it isn’t easy. A mathematical degree plus 15 professional exams – tick!
  2. A cheeky cookbook purchase. I couldn’t resist The Quick Roasting Tin and already it’s well worth it. The Courgette Orzo is a winner, and we’ve also loved the Cauliflower Tabbouleh.
  3. Making more Rosemary Focaccia. It’s just so good!
  4. A solo shopping trip. I treated myself to a couple of dresses, some new gym clothes and (because I’m oh so grown up) a coolbag for picnics. The few hours by myself wandering around the shops was bliss!
  5. Purchasing my first Charlotte Tilbury lipstick. Glowing Jen from the Hot Lips 2 collection is the perfect match to the limited MAC lipstick I lost a few months ago. I’m now guarding it with my life…
  6. Eating seasonally. August is probably my favourite month for this as I just love it. You only have to look at the Waitrose magazine for inspo – all the beetroot recipes are on my list to make!
  7. Picking blackberries on Wimbledon Common. They are quite early this year but still super tasty.
  8. Trying on *that* Zara dress and really loving it. I didn’t buy it as I see about 5 a day around London but I kinda regret it, especially now I’m seeing people dye it. I’m imagining it would look great in a mustard yellow or bottle green…
  9. A very rare takeaway treat – we got a big boneless KFC bucket to share and it was gooood. I’m in love with their gravy, and I have to say I think the move to slightly chunkier chips was a good one.
  10. Typing this blog post whilst eating a packet of Oreos. I love them!

What’s made you happy recently?

Review: Afternoon Tea at the Whittard Tea Bar, Covent Garden [invited]

Afternoon Tea is one of my all-time favourite treats. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours with a friend; catching up on all the gossip over plenty of yummy treats. I try to have one at least once a year with my best girlies, and it’s also something I like to treat my mum to. It’s the perfect present for a loved one– a lovely experience for them, some quality time and I get cake too!

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea_zpsi1jthwpj.jpgWith that in mind what better way was there to celebrate National Best Friends Day (8th June) that with afternoon tea?! Whittard of Chelsea kindly offered me and my best friend an afternoon tea experience at their Tea Bar in Covent Garden and so this was an extra special trip, as I was introducing my bestest friend to his first ever afternoon tea experience. Yep, I’m not entirely sure how my husband has known me for so long and never been for afternoon tea before!

Located in busy Covent Garden, I’d never even thought to visit the Tea Bar before – Covent Garden is an area I truly try to avoid as a Londoner as it’s just too busy and crowded for me! However this little spot really is a calming oasis. Hidden away downstairs in the piazza it was quiet, there wasn’t a queue for tables and it’s definitely somewhere to bear in mind if you need a spot to escape the crowds.

We had the choice between the Whittard Tea (a sweeter option priced at £30 per person, with sandwiches, scones and plenty of cakes each) or the Grocer’s Tea. As we both try and avoid eating *too* much sugar we went for the Grocer’s priced at £45 per set, which generously fed the two of us. The lack of scones also meant we avoided the age-old British argument of cream then jam versus jam then cream!

 

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The next choice was to select a tea. The menu has over 100 difference choices and so took a while to read through the menu! I’d say there was something for everyone, with green, fruit and plenty of black options too. I opted for the Black Tea with Rose, which I found very refreshing. The Whisky Tea my husband went for was also delicious, tasting almost milky. One thing we did note and appreciate was being told the right length of time to brew our tea and, crucially, being given somewhere to place the filter when brewing had finished. Nothing worse than a stewed cuppa!

We were also treated to big glasses of chilled Pimms spiked with black tea – it was oh so refreshing on a very hot afternoon, and I loved the added taste of the tea.

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 1_zpsbwyfuk38.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 5_zpsl353ulil.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 10_zps5ug1lwgz.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 17_zpsbahrzabr.jpgOur tiered display of treats soon arrived and we got stuck into the savoury pastries first, as these were served warm. The Grocer’s Tea comes with a choice of sausage rolls and a tart, as well as the usual finger sandwiches. It’s topped with four small sweet treats too, so it’s not all savoury!

The two sausage rolls we had were both delicious, and I’d struggle to pick a favourite. The Beef, Carrot & Horseradish was so much lighter than any other meaty sausage roll I’ve tried, but full of flavour. The Chicken & Mushroom was intensely savoury yet the mushrooms weren’t over-powering – evidently as my mushroom-hating bestie wasn’t complaining!

The tart certainly looked delicious, but as it came topped with tomatoes I left sampling this one to W. It’s a shame this wasn’t offered to be swapped out for another sausage roll given I’d mentioned my allergy, but I’m sure had I specifically asked it would have been…

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 21_zps4nztr2dp.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 20_zps3ur280yn.jpgSandwiches were a tad disappointing. The fillings were generous and delicious, but I felt the bread was a touch on the dry side, particularly the white bread. However it was a very hot day, which won’t have helped! Our favourites were the Coronation Chicken (after I’d picked out the sultanas!) and Salmon with Lemon Cream cheese. I definitely appreciated the crusts being removed too!

After a short pause it was time to share the cakes! I loved the little selection we were given, as everything was varied in taste and texture. The only slightly below-par one was the shortbread with cream, as it was a little soggy and bland. The others were pretty good though! I particularly loved the Passionfruit Tart, and the Brownie with Caramel and Pear was also delicious.

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 27_zpstojqs1yq.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 12_zpssuxuw1us.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 26_zps6rttb3gq.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 25_zpsmftvjyte.jpgAfter we’d finished we were given plenty of time to sit, chat and finish up our pots of tea. It’s this part of the afternoon tea experience I love the most; when you’re too full and enjoying each other’s company too much to move.

Eventually we heaved ourselves up and explored the other part of the Tea Bar – the shop! We were kindly offered the chance to each pick the other a gift, however my husband offered to combine the amounts so I could pick up the glass teapot I’d admired on our way in (he knows me so well!). We complimented that by choosing some loose leaf tea after much sniffing and comparing. I’m definitely looking forward to a cup of Milk Oolong and a cheeky slice of cake on a weekend afternoon…

*Whittard kindly invited us to join them in their Tea Bar for Afternoon Tea, and gifted us some items from their store. No money was paid as part of this collaboration and, as always, all opinions are my own!

Are you a fan of Afternoon Tea? How do you like to catch up with your friends?

Recipe: Seasonal Green Vegetable Tart

A few weeks ago a colleague in the office stopped me and asked why I always make my own lunch. This turned into a conversation about how we (as in my husband and I) cook from scratch 99.5% of the time we eat at home, and rarely eat out midweek. Said colleague eats a home cooked meal maybe once a week.

 photo Green Vegetable Tart_zpsewzsyk9m.jpgAnd this made me sad – because for me there is so much joy in both cooking and eating.

In a similar vein, I had a week at work before our holiday where I was just super busy. Working late, but also several evening events. It meant that I didn’t eat at home for 6 nights in a row, and it definitely had a poor impact on my mental health. I was grumpy, I wasn’t sleeping, and I wasn’t finding the time to switch off. I was also spotty, headachey and with a bad stomach due to too much pub food.

Basically, cooking from scratch is 100% necessary for me to function both mentally and physically.

 photo Green Vegetable Tart  5_zpspwcqv2m1.jpg photo Green Vegetable Tart  3_zps62bxym19.jpg photo Green Vegetable Tart  2_zps98xufsu4.jpgAnd this recipe actually really sums that up – making it made me so happy! Taking some beautifully fresh veggies and fancy-ish cheese, then a fairly quick throw together and let then oven take care of it. The result is comforting, but also so full of veg. It feels light, particularly when eating with the herb salsa, but it’s more than filling enough to have without anything else. A definite favourite, making the most of some of this season’s finest British produce.

Inspired by a Waitrose recipe, the finished version of mine was a tad messy but just as delicious!

Recipe (serves 2 for dinner with a side salad)

  • ½ pack puff pastry (we used half of a 320g pack, ready rolled)
  • 1 tbsp milk, for brushing
  • 150g Swiss chard, stalks and leaves separated
  • 75g taleggio cheese, rind removed, sliced
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 150g asparagus, woody ends removed
  • For the salsa: ½ small pack parsley, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp grated parmesan

Unroll the pastry, lay on a baking tray and, using a sharp knife, score a border about 1cm in from the edge, taking care not to cut all the way through. Prick the central area with a fork and glaze the border with the milk. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes whilst you prep the veg.

Boil the chard stalks for 1 minute, then add the leaves before draining immediately and rinsing in cold water. Dry on a piece of kitchen towel to ensure excess water is removed. Once the pastry is ready, layer the chard, taleggio, frozen peas and asparagus over the centre. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp water, brush a little more milk around the edges, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tart is crisp and golden.

To make the salsa, finely chop the parsley leaves and crush the garlic clove. Mix with the olive oil and grated parmesan. Serve the tart drizzled with the salsa, and alongside a simple side salad for some extra greens. It also goes perfectly with a glass of chilled white!
 photo Green Vegetable Tart  4_zpsgqcslpik.jpg

What makes you love cooking?