Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #48

Happy December! How it’s the last month of the year I honestly do not know – I thought time flew by before the wedding, but here we are having been married for over two months! Our tree is up, the Buble CD is out and my festive PJs are firmly in rotation. I’ve not quite broken out the Christmas jumper just yet, but it’s coming…

 photo Happy Things 2_zpstx894dal.png

  1. Celebrating my birthday exactly how I wanted it. I saw family a few days before (and got a much needed haircut), then headed off to Tortworth Court for a relaxing weekend. I’d actually won a minimoon in a Love My Dress competition a while back, and so we cashed it in for my birthday treat. Divine.
  2. I also got to explore the Cotswolds, which has been on my list for ages. So beautiful.
  3. To top it all off, our mini-moon package included a spa day. We floundered about the pool, had a lovely massage and cosied in our room for most of Saturday.
  4. A new phone! After 3 years a rapidly deteriorating battery and a Black Friday deal coincided, so I treated myself to a Huawei P20. I’ve been so impressed with the brand previously I never considered looking elsewhere, and I have to say I’m impressed. Completely not sponsored by the way!
  5. Feeling like I have a whole new wardrobe. I bought *loads* of bits ahead of our honeymoon and kept it all new and fresh until then, so now I’m able to wear it all. I’ve loved combining more summery dresses with jumpers – this dress in particular goes so well with a black polo neck!
  6. Finally trying out the Brunch menu at Home SW15. It’s our fav spot in Putney (I’ve reviewed them for dinner a while back – have a read here) but we’ve never made it to breakfast. We finally did last weekend and oh my! So gutted it took us this long. I had the BEST brunch dish (crab cakes, poached eggs and hollandaise) that’ I’ve ever had in London.
  7. Whisky Smoked Brie. I don’t need to say anything else!
  8. Our Christmas tree makes me so happy – it’s coppery and rose gold and just so pretty. I’d love to decorate more of our flat with garlands and wreaths but we just don’t have the pennies this year, so I’ve gone all out with the tree instead.
  9. Making Gingerbread houses with Neff. I went to an event last Tuesday where we did a bit of a Bake Off between groups of bloggers. Whilst my team didn’t quite win, we did have an absolutely amazing time and our house didn’t collapse. A fab event, and I got to try the Bake Off ovens which are so fun (and would be insanely practical in a tiny kitchen).
  10. A surprisingly good pub meal in Northamptonshire for my birthday. I do find since loving in London I’ve become a little bit of a food snob, but this was genuinely lovely. I had some perfectly cooked sea bass, followed by a wonderful chocolate bomb dessert. Yum!

How is your December going? Have you cracked out the festive jumper yet?

Food: Three Ways with Rice [AD]

One of my favourite smells in the world is rice being cooked. I can’t explain why I love it so much, but I find it comforting, a smell which *always* makes me hungry and excited for dinner. It’s safe to say that because of this we eat a lot of rice! Whether it’s a meal we’ve batch-cooked and frozen for busy evenings (this Vegan Curry is perfect), or our bog-standard Stir-Fry, we love it.

 photo Veetee Recipes_zps14mxr47s.jpgBut rice can be SO much more than just a side for a curry. Rather than being there to soak up sauce you can turn rice into the main event of a meal, and that’s just what VeeTee challenged me to do here. Three different meals, each showcasing a different type of rice in their new rice pots. Each designed to be easy, tasty and made on a budget. Perfect for students, those who have limited time in the evenings, or those with titchy kitchens (hey most Londoners!).

 photo Veetee Taco Bowls  10_zpszspor2fb.jpg photo Veetee Taco Bowls  2_zpsnzgxo2ju.jpgTaco Bowl with Green Rice (serves 2-3)

The first up is one of my favourites, and something we eat quite often. Mexican flavours are so bold and fresh, but it can also be a wonderfully comforting meal with the black beans and a few cheeky tortilla chips! In the photos here we’ve got for ‘a bit of everything’ with some refried beans, spicy chicken, salad and pink pickled onions on a bed of super-green rice. And really, the rice is just the star of the show. Zingy and full of flavour, it’s the perfect base for taco bowl!

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Thai Jasmine Rice Pots
  • 3 generous handfuls of spinach
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch coriander, stalks and leaves
  • 1 can black beans, drained (but reserve the water!)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 4 chicken thighs, or 2 chicken breasts if you prefer (this is also fab with pork steaks or even thin frying steaks, just adjust the cooking time)
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • Toppings – cheese, pink pickled onions, tortilla chips, avo, soured cream, salad…

First up, make the rice. Pop 1tbsp olive oil, and the lime juice, spinach, coriander, half the onion and one of the garlic cloves into a small blender or mini-chopper. Blitz until you have a rough puree, add some salt and pepper, then transfer to small baking dish. Break in the rice and stir until evenly coated (and the rice has separated into grains) – I find it easier to use my hands for this. Cover tightly with tin-foil and pop into an oven at 120C until everything is ready. It wants at least 20 minutes, but can sit for up to an hour like this.

Then make the refried beans. I’ve posted my long recipe for these before, but here’s the quick way! Fry the rest of the onion and garlic in another tbsp of oil until soft, then pop into a blender (wiped down from the green puree, but no need to give it a full wash) with 2/3 of the black beans and some of the reserved water from the can. Blitz until smooth, then pop back into the frying pan with the rest of the beans and the cumin. Season well, and continue to fry over a low heat, stirring often, for around ten or so minutes whilst you prep the chicken or meat (or keep it veggie, roasted cauliflower works well here too!).

For the chicken, I simply chopped it into strips, fried the chipotle paste in the remaining oil, then added the chicken and fried over a high heat until cooked through. Super simple, but really tasty!

To serve, just assemble your bowls with the rice, beans and chicken, add your toppings and enjoy! The seasoned green rice really makes this dish into something special – it’s fresh and full of flavour, and great for sneaking some extra iron into your diet. It’s also fab used as a burrito stuffing…

 photo Veetee Taco Bowls  9_zpska23uuzj.jpg photo Veetee Cheats Risotto 8_zpsorvh1kwd.jpgCheat’s Butternut Squash Risotto (serves 1)

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know my all-time favourite comfort food is a risotto. I just love it, and I would eat one every night if I could. I do love the process of making one, and find stirring SO therapeutic but sometimes you want the comfort without the faff. Enter my cheats risotto!

I’ve paired butternut squash here with the wholegrain rice, as I think the nuttier flavour of the rice really cuts through the sweetness of the squash. It’s truly delicious!

  • 2 handfuls of frozen butternut squash
  • 1 pinch dried thyme and/or sage
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped (optional, but I seem to always have some going limp in my fridge!)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 Wholegrain Brown Rice Pot
  • Splash of milk
  • A good handful (or two!) of Parmesan cheese
  • Salad, to serve

Pop the squash in the oven as per pack instructions (usually around 25 minutes). With around 10 minutes to go, fry the onion and celery in the oil with the dried herb(s) until soft, adding in the garlic towards the blend. Pop the squash into a small blender or mini chopped with a splash of milk, then blend until smooth. You could keep some chunks back too for some texture if you like.

Add the rice to the frying pan with the onion mix and fry for a minute or so, breaking up with a spoon. Add the squash puree and stir well, thinning with a little extra milk if needed. Add in most of the cheese, season well with pepper, then serve with salad and some extra cheese. Perfect for a quick, virtually hands-free cosy supper!

 photo Veetee Cheats Risotto 4_zps5ey67hbf.jpg photo Veetee Biryani 4_zpsz8stnn2f.jpgQuick & Easy Biryani (serves 2)

I’m fairly sure Biryani, or ‘Curried Rice’ was one of the first things I learnt to cook for myself, when I was a pre-teen in the school holidays fed up of cheese sandwiches! Whilst this is a step-up in terms of flavour from that recipe (and probably presentation too!) it’s certainly just as easy. Best of all it only involves one pan so there’s minimal washing up!

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pepper, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons medium curry powder – or you could use a blend of spices such as ground coriander, garam masala, cardamom, mustard seeds etc
  • 2-4 chicken thighs, chopped into small cubes (depending on how hungry you are!) – this would also work well with leftover roast lamb, or even prawns with an adjusted cooking time. Or add some chickpeas or cauliflower and keep it veggie!
  • 2 Basmati Rice Pots
  • 3 good handfuls of spinach, or a few cubes of frozen spinach
  • A handful of coriander for garnishing, if liked

Simply fry the onion in the onion until soft, then add the pepper, garlic and curry powder or spices. Fry until fragrant, then stir in the chicken and continue frying until cooked. Stir in the rice with a small splash of boiling water, then add the spinach. Heat until hot, then serve sprinkled with some fresh coriander. Alternatively, if your frying pan is oven-proof, loosely cover with foil and bake for around 15 minutes at 200C to get a slightly more authentic texture.

And that’s it! Three quick and easy rice dishes that are firmly in our meal rotation. The Biryani in particular is so quick, and you could add all sorts of extra veggie in there. In fact I think it might have to be tonight’s dinner…

For more inspiration for cooking with rice, VeeTee have LOADS of recipes on their site. I’m especially intrigued by the Spanish Sausage Rice and the Korean Bipimbab!
 photo Veetee Biryani 8_zpszbjlkhab.jpg

*This post is in collaboration with VeeTee, however as always all opinions are my own. I only ever work with brands I know, love and would buy myself! 

Are you a rice fan? What’s your favourite rice recipe?

Recipe: Brussel Sprout, Bacon & Blue Cheese Pizza

I’m a bit lacking in Christmas recipes this year – I usually like to start testing and photographing them (getting myself firmly in the festive spirit at the same time!) during November, but lying on a beach in Hawaii until the end of October meant I felt firmly un-Christmassy until last week. There’s been no edible gift testing (so who knows what my colleagues will end up with!), we’re even well behind normal consumption levels of Pigs in Blankets.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza_zpshls8suso.jpgWhat I do have, though, is this festive pizza. And I’d like to think it makes up for all the other lack of festive recipes coming up in this space. It’s crunchy and cheese, rich and decadent, and really delivers a punch of festive flavours. The honk of blue cheese always reminds me of festive cheeseboards (and one particular hour-long car journey with W’s family and some potted Stilton, not something I care to repeat!). Cranberry sauce just because. And the sprouts.

Brussel sprouts are so reminiscent of childhood Christmases where I’d be made to eat “just one” – and actually this continues now as I still hate the things served up with a Christmas dinner. Shredded onto pizza, pasta, in a salad then fine. Steamed or boiled and covered in gravy and they are my foo of nightmare. But they DO work on pizza.

As it’s a no-tomato pizza it runs the risk of becoming a little dry, but we’ve both spread the base and dotted spoonfuls of mascarpone over to add some creaminess. It’s also fab with walnuts to replace the bacon for a veggie pizza.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 1_zpsnde98ss5.jpg photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 3_zpsmdqe38uv.jpgRecipe (for one)

  • 1 ready-made plain pizza base (or make your own, my recipe is here)
  • 1 rasher of bacon, diced
  • 8 brussel sprouts, base removed and finely shredded
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp of mascarpone
  • 25-50g blue cheese depending on your taste, you could substitute for brie or even mozzarella if you prefer
  • 1 tsp cranberry sauce, to serve

Fry your bacon in a small amount of olive oil or butter until crisp, then add the sprouts. Stir fry for a minute or two. Meanwhile spread 2 tbsp of mascarpone over your pizza base, and season with black pepper and the grated nutmeg. Scatter the spouts and bacon over the bacon, dot over more mascarpone, and sprinkle over the blue cheese. Bake for around 10 minutes at 200C, then serve with a drizzle of cranberry sauce.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 4_zpskj6spx1q.jpgI imagine this would also work well with leftover sprouts from the big day itself, certainly a step up from Bridget Jones’ mum doing a turkey curry buffet!

Are you a fan of brussel sprouts?

Recipe: Using Up Leftover Roast Pork in a Bánh Mì (Vietnamese Baguette)

We’re firm believers in this household that just because there’s only two of us we shouldn’t miss out on a traditional Sunday lunch – if fact we have all the more reason to indulge as the leftovers will give us at least a couple of days of dinners too! Last week I shared my recipe for a basic Roast Pork, a recipe that will usually serve us (very) generously on the Sunday and give a good two or three days of dinners throughout the week.

 photo Banh Mi with Leftover Roast Pork 8_zpsphxjvzoi.jpg photo Roast Pork 1_zpsy6ltxnuk.jpgPork has been, for many years, my least favourite cut of meat for roasting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a slab of belly pork, but can give or take a roast. It’s still perhaps my least favourite of a Sunday, but the leftovers are quickly becoming a lot more interesting! The meat can take a lot of flavouring, meaning some really, really tasty dinners. Best of all is that it’s quite quick to dry out, meaning these dinners are generally ready in a flash. Can’t complain if I can have the dinner on the table less than twenty minutes after walking through the door!

Based on the recipe in ‘Save with Jamie’ (one of my favourite cookbooks, which I’ll be featuring very soon!) this is the perfect sandwich. Hot and crispy pork, cool and crunchy veg, smooth pate, fierce with chilli, cooling cucumber, sharp from some light pickling and all in between a soft baguette. Part-baked works well here, simply bake then wrap in a clean tea-towel to avoid it being too crisp.

Recipe (Serves 2 generously, could probably be stretched to 3)

  • One carrot, peeled (we freeze the peelings along with onion skins/tops, offcuts of celery etc to make stock with a roast chicken carcass)
  • Quarter of a cucumber
  • Quarter of a cabbage, I’d go white over red here
  • One tablespoon caster sugar (avoid granulated as it may not dissolve)
  • Three tablespoons of cider vinegar
  • 100g smooth pate (we used chicken liver pate, I’d like to make our own for this recipe in the future to utilise the coriander stalks and reduce waste)
  • Half a bunch of fresh coriander, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 150 leftover roast pork
  • 3 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce (we didn’t have any, so I mixed 3 tablespoons of chilli jam with the zest and juice of a lime and a little bit of fresh ginger)
  • 2 part-baked baguettes

Bake the baguettes per the packet instructions, then cool wrapped in a clean tea towel. Meanwhile cut the carrot and cucumber into matchsticks (a Julienne peeler makes this super quick) and finely slice the cabbage. Pop in a bowl with the vinegar and sugar, along with a pinch of salt, and leave to lightly pickle. You want to leave the veggies for around ten minutes.

Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and add the pork. Fry over a high heat until hot, then add the chilli sauce. Continue to fry until golden and slightly crisp, then remove from the heat. Assemble your Bánh mì by spreading the baguette with pate, then piling in the pork, pickled veggies and some fresh coriander. Add some freshly sliced chilli for some extra heat too if you like!

 photo Banh Mi with Leftover Roast Pork 7_zpsg5dduprc.jpgThen just enjoy, but be warned. These do get messy! This is pretty much my dream sandwich, something I could eat night after night…

What is your favourite meal for using up leftovers?

Restaurant Review: Indian Fine Dining @ Trishna, London

For perhaps quite obvious reasons, we don’t go out for an Indian (or order one in) as often as I’d like – I find it’s probably the most difficult of all cuisines to eliminate tomato from, and so I tend to avoid it. However with a trip to one of London’s fine dining Indian restaurants on the top of W’s list for his graduation meal I sucked up the nerves, booked and table and made them well aware of my allergies.

 photo Trishna_zpsqpdsdgo4.jpgTurns out they were spectacularly able to cope with my allergies, though if a place has a Michelin Star I kind of expect that. But I was also able to eat just as much as everyone else, have just as much variety, and there was only a few things that were absolutely off limits, with other dishes either fine as they were or adapted to suit. We went for the 7-course tasting menu and, as this was over three months ago, unfortunately my memory isn’t quite doing the meal justice. I expect the tasting menu changes regularly anyway, so this is more an overview than an in-depth review!

It wouldn’t be an Indian meal, however fancy, if we didn’t start with poppadoms and chutneys. We had a selection, and all were excellent. I particularly enjoyed the surprisingly fiery green dip. It was bright, it was fresh, packed with coriander flavour and other subtler hints of spice, with a great big whack of chilli to finish.

There was a lot of seafood on the menu, with the first three courses being entirely fish-based for me (although the tasting menu does generally provide a choice for each course – I avoided the heavier meatier options, though the sweetbreads and venison did go down well with the rest of the table).

 photo Trishna London Review 4_zpsszg1sg1w.jpgI loved the prawns we had for our first proper course. Deep fried in a very light and flavoursome batter, served with fresh coconut and a nice spicy dip. Perhaps the most perfectly cooked prawns I’ve tried. These were followed by a huge and again perfectly cooked scallop with more coconut and a delicious sauce. Another dish I really enjoyed.

 

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Some dishes are too good to take off the menu – Hariyali Bream #TrishnaClassics #TrishnaLondon

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The Hariyali Bream is a bit of a signature dish for Trishna, and I personally loved it (although it was near on impossible to get a good photograph!). The deliciately cooked fish was covered in a green chilli and coriander coating served alongside tomato kachumber or, if you’re me, a sprouted bean salad that was delightfully fresh and light. The fish had clearly been cooked well, but it also had a lick of smoke suggesting there’s someone *very* skilled on the tandoor oven involved.

 

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Tandoor charred Lamb Chops – Kashmiri Chilli, Ginger, Crushed Onion & Kasundi Mooli #TrishnaLondon

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My Tandoori Lamb Chop was delicious, but this was back at a time when eating red meat proved a little difficult for me, so I did unfortunately give up after a bite or two. Don’t get me wrong – it was meaty, juicy, well-cooked, full-of-flavour and just the right amount of spice to compliment (and not over-power) the lamb. But right then I was not a fan of meat and just couldn’t do it justice. I did also feel the mooli salad on the side was overpowdered by the mustard spicing.

 

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Bater Shami Kebabs with mint, cardamom, ginger & tamarind chutney, quail scotch eggs #TrishnaLondon

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One of my favourite courses was the Bater Shami Kebab with mint, cardamom, ginger & tamarind chutney, quail scotch eggs. This really did feel like fine dining (perhaps the only course that truly gave that impression) with gorgeous presentation, and a fabulous mix of flavours and textures. The egg in particular – delicious.

My highlight, however, was our ‘main.’ Our chosen curry (I think we had a choice of three or four) arrived alongside a selection of rices, sides and naans. They’d thoughtfully cooked some sides separately for me, though I was so full by this point I merely tried them – finding the potatoes delicious but the dahl a little watery for my taste. The Crab Coconut Curry I chose (with Dorset brown crab, coconut oil, pepper, garlic, and curry leaf) was utterly delicious, and I’m beyond gutted I was too full to eat more than a couple of spoonfuls. The curry flavour was just enough to compliment the crab, which was sweet and tender. Every mouthful was bursting with both crab and spices, it was quite honestly the best curry I’ve eaten. Naan breads were also amazing, buttery and almost flaky. I could be served a bowl of the crab curry and a selection of these naan for my final meal and I’d die a happy lady…

 photo Trishna London Review 14_zpsbyxbric1.jpg photo Trishna London Review 1_zpslgfb7wpm.jpgDesserts were also delicious, with my Pistachio and Fig Kheer (cardamon rice pudding, pistachio kulfi and fig confiture) being just the right combination of sweet and refreshing to round off a very filling meal.

So, fancy Indian meals? Turns out it’s definitely worth it, and this was a really memorable meal – I know I’ll be back for more of that crab curry in the future! The service was, allergy wise, pretty excellent and I felt safe eating everything given to me (unlike many chain restaurants I could name). Atmosphere was potentially a bit light on a Friday evening, but for food this good I’m not sure I care.

Have you ever tried a ‘fancy’ Indian restaurant? What’s your go-to curry?

Recipe: Classic Roast Pork

I’ve mentioned this so many times, but we’re both massive fans of the classic Sunday Roast in this household. In my point of view, what’s not to love?! A cosy and comforting meal to finish off the weekend, something it would almost be wrong to enjoy without a glass or two of wine. Plus you get all sorts of yummy leftovers to use up throughout the week. We find cooking a roast on a Sunday will give us enough meat for at least two additional dinners, if not three.

 photo Roast Pork 1_zpsy6ltxnuk.jpgAnd whilst chicken is our go-to roast, we do like to mix it up a bit. I’ve already blogged about both our brisket and lamb roasts (a few years ago, so excuse the photo quality!) but today it’s the turn of Roast Pork. I would say it’s my least favourite as I find it particularly easy to dry out, and I’ve had some pretty bad versions of the dish in the past. Thankfully I’ve managed to perfect our way of cooking it, though I’m still finding the perfect crackling is a bit hit and miss…

 photo Roast Pork 7_zpshcz2oin5.jpgRecipe (would serve 4-6 generously with no leftovers, or do us one roast dinner plus 3 dinners of leftovers)

  • 2.5 kg joint pork shoulder with crackling, skin scored
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Vegetables for the base of the roasting tin, we usually use 2 onions, 2 sticks of celery, 2 carrots and an apple, all thickly sliced
  • 3 whole cloves of garlic, still in their skins
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • Splash of cider or white wine (or apple juice)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 pinch caster sugar

Pop the vegetables in a roasting tin and toss with a little oil and some salt/pepper. You could always add some herbs – sage is excellent with pork. Wipe the skin of the pork dry using kitchen towel, and rub the salt into the scored skin. Weigh the joint and calculate the cooking time allowing 30 minutes per 500g, plus an extra 30 minutes. Set the joint on the vegetables vegetables and roast for 30 minutes at 200C. Reduce the temperature to 170°C and continue cooking for the remaining calculated roasting time. Once cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes, covered in foil to keep warm.

While the pork is resting, make the gravy. Spoon any excess fat out of the roasting tin then place it on the hob, keeping the vegetables in the tray. Sprinkle over the flour and cook, stirring, for a few minute. Add the cider, wine or apple juice and sugar, and let it boil away, stirring and scraping all the delicious meaty residues from the bottom of the tin. Add in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for around 5 minutes until smooth. Make sure you bash the apple slices and garlic cloves so they release their flavours. Finally, strain the gravy through a sieve, discard the vegetables.

Serve the pork and gravy together with potatoes (I find mash is the best with pork – roasties are a little too greasy for this dish) and lots of vegetables. There’s something about pork and cabbage which I always love!

 photo Roast Pork 6_zpsxinaft9s.jpgAnd that’s it – our go-to roast pork recipe. Keep an eye out next week as I’ll be sharing some of my favourite ways to use up pork leftovers, including an amazing Banh Mi (Vietnamese bagette).

Are you a roast dinner fan? What’s your go-to roast?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #47

I’m back! Despite very good intentions to have all October’s posts scheduled in advance, sadly it didn’t happen. Happily, though, I’m back as a married women. Still thoroughly wrapped up in newly-wedding bliss, suffering deeply with the honeymoon blues (and extra honeymoon lbs!) but excited to be back writing in my little online space. I have an awful lot of *whispers* Christmas content to plan, write and photograph soon but I have a little goal to keep posting regularly until my regular Christmas-New Year break so here goes…

Let me know in the comments what you have been up to!

 photo Happy Things 2_zpstx894dal.png

    1. We all know what’s coming up first – getting married! I finally, FINALLY married my best friend at the beginning of October. The day, whilst it didn’t go without hitches, was everything we’d dreamt of and even more. Nothing prepares you for the feeling of walking into a full room knowing everyone is there for you, because of you. Getting ready with my closest girls was wonderful, dancing with my new husband a really surreal moment, and I just can’t quite believe we finally did it. We’ve started to get photos through and oh my, has our photographer done an amazing job
    2. Being surprised with the most perfect honeymoon. Many of you will know that I handed over every single jot of honeymoon planning over to W, with strict instructions that I wanted to be surprised on our wedding day. Somehow we made it over a year between booking and me finding out, with only one small slip up by a friend. Even then the details were a total surprise, it wasn’t what I’d have guessed but it was wonderful. Boston, a Fall road trip around New England, New York and then Hawaii. Bliss.
    3. Ticking off a restaurant from my bucket list. Our NYC stretch of the trip managed to include dinner at Eleven Madison Park. Three Michelin stars, listed as Number One restaurant in the world in 2017. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience, with some of the most exquisite food I have ever tasted. I won’t be reviewing it in full, but I will probably do some kind of post on it in the future.
    4. It goes without saying that most of the food in NYC was a highlight – I don’t think we ate a bad meal. In fact we only had one bad meal in our trip of nearly three weeks, so I don’t think that’s too bad!
    5. A helicopter tour over Maui, Hawaii. Another bucket list item ticked off in the space of a few weeks, though I was pretty terrified! We spent most of our time on the island flopped on a beach, but managed to squeeze in this sight-seeing flight and I’m so glad we did – it was stunning!
    6. Coming home to fresh bed sheets. I was so glad past Chloe made that decision during the madness of packing.
    7. Heading back into the office to be given more responsibility which, touch wood, seems to be going well.
    8. Being more inventive with lunchboxes. Whilst my usual lunches are by no-means bad, now W is no longer part of a ‘lunch club’ at university I’m now prepping for two and he gets bored having the same thing every single day. So far highlights have been a thick and funky Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup, and a Caesar Salad made with lentils.
    9. Baking sourdough – mainly my husbands (!) project but one I’m wholeheartedly supporting.
    10. The smell of a Pumpkin Spice candle. Utter bliss.

And that’s my quick catch-up. Please do tell me what you’ve been up to recently, I’d love to hear your news!

Recipe: Coffee & Walnut Cupcakes

Over summer I had a *massive* craving for coffee ice-cream. It’s a flavour I absolutely love, but avoid making or buying as W doesn’t react well to caffeine – and believe me nor do I when he keeps me up all night after having some! When I finally got round to grabbing some coffee, we had the classic British problem of ‘it went cold’ and so ice-cream went out of the window and these cupcakes were born.

 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes_zpstohzuo5f.jpg photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 15_zpsde4gi9re.jpgCoffee and Walnut is a classic sandwich cake combination, but I wanted to keep these a little daintier. I find cupcakes are far easier for sharing at the office too! These cupcakes are light, fluffy, full of coffee flavour, topped off with a delicious vanilla buttercream – giving a really creamy finish that reminds me of fancy coffee drinks. They are quite strong on the coffee front, as I used plenty of coffee grounds (Illy is my brand of choice, gifted as part of my Degustabox collaboration) – however keeping the topping coffee-free ensures, for me at least, they aren’t too strong. A perfect coffee hit, but not bitter or overpowering. Perfect as an afternoon snack!

 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 9_zpsmhb8dmtv.jpgRecipe (makes 9 cupcakes)

  • 100g soft butter, at room temperature
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp instant coffee, mixed with 100ml/3½fl oz boiling water, then cooled
  • 25g walnuts, chopped, plus more for topping
  • For the frosting – 200g mascarpone, 2 tbsp golden caster sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract

Line a  bun tin with 9 fairy cake cases. Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the egg in gradually, beating well. Add the flour and fold in, followed by around 4 tsp of the coffee and a pinch of salt until creamy. Stir through the chopped walnuts, then evenly spoon the mix into the cases. Bake for at 180C for around 20 minutes, then allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, pop the mascarpone, vanilla and the sugar into a large bowl, then beat together. Spread a dollop of the frosting onto the top of each cake, then finish with some more walnuts. Enjoy – though don’t do as I did and enjoy as an evening snack at gone 10pm!
 photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 7_zps2asjutb4.jpg photo Coffee Walnut Cupcakes 14_zpsr2997ttr.jpg

Are you a fan of cupcakes, or do you prefer a slice of a larger cake? 

Recipe: Dips for a Dinner Party

One of my favourite things to do, although admittedly we don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like, is to have friends round for dinner. Our dream is to actually one day host a supper club for charity, although I think we’re a way off doing that right now. I love it all – the meal-planning, conversation-starter planning, the enforced cleaning of the flat. I’m also a feeder, so filling people up with food I’ve prepared just makes me happy!

 photo Dinner Party Dips_zpsmeqryxh2.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 3_zpsrpgij66k.jpgI’m a fan of trying to keep things as relaxed as possible (whilst W is good at the fancy stuff – egg yolk ravioli being a memorable starter he once made – I like to keep things simple). My ideal starter is a mix of bits and bobs for guests to pick at, and this post is all about my go-to options right now. These recipes came about when we had another couple round for a Thursday night dinner. It was in the middle of the heatwave so I wanted to avoid having another hot thing to eat, but I wanted something to go vaguely with our Middle Eastern main (a roasted carrot dish). A trio of dips and various breads did just the job.

I think if you’re doing something like this, you do need at least three dips. Keep them different (no point doing three variations on hummus, no matter how tasty it is!), keep them interesting. Add in some spice, some creaminess, some zing, some freshness. Keep it exciting. Here’s three of my favourites…

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 11_zpsmg5uchoc.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 8_zpsznmkpicg.jpgRoasted Courgette & Tahini

  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • juice and zest of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • handful of mint, leaves only, chopped

Wrap the whole courgette in foil, then put in the oven and roast for 30 minutes at 220C, or until soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely – I did this in the morning, then just left them to cool whilst I was at work during the day.

Put the cooled courgette in a food processor (no need to peel), with the garlic and blend. Add the tahini and lemon juice and season, then blitz again. Transfer to a bowl, then stir through the yogurt and a little of the mint. Season to taste, and scatter over the remaining mint to serve.

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 9_zps6czpge6c.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 16_zpsbfmjyqvw.jpgTurmeric Spiced Hummus

  • 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground chilli
  • 2 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp tahini

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then add to a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until warm. Tip into a food processor and add the spices, lemon zest and juice, tahini and garlic. Blend whilst the chickpeas are still hot, then gradually add the oil and water until you have the consistency you want. Season to taste, then serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil.

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 19_zpsblrpn8mk.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 7_zpsc31viznm.jpgWhipped Feta

  • 200g feta cheese
  • 200g plain Greek yoghurt
  • Half a lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground sumac

Crumble the feta into a bowl, then add the yoghurt and whisk until the cheese is completely broken up and becomes creamy. You can do this in a blender, but I find the texture best if done by hand. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Put the ​dip in a serving bowl and dress the surface with the olive oil and then sprinkle over some sumac.

I tried to keep these varied – different colours, different flavours, which worked really well. Each had something different to bring to the party. The Roasted Courgette dip brings some freshness, whilst the Turmeric Hummus was full of flavour and subtle spice. The Whipped Feta – well, it brings cheese which makes everything better! Served with some pitta bread, some crispy baked pitta chips and some breadsticks I could have eaten this for hours!

 photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 10_zpshi9dblhc.jpg photo Vegetarian Dips for a Dinner Party 15_zps4kwk2ksx.jpgI warn you, though. Dips and breads are dangerous if you’re like me – I ate far too much of these and couldn’t finish the rest of my meal!

Are you a fan of dips and breads? Which one of these would be your favourite? I’m in love with the Whipped Feta!

Food: Recent Eats #4

It’s been a month or so since I did a Recent Eats post, and in that time there’s been a fair few exciting things we’ve tried. Admittedly the last few weeks have been a case of eating from the freezer in an attempt to save pennies (weddings are expensive) but we’ve still managed to try a fair few new things. On the drinks front, Gin in Rose Lemonade (found in a can in Sainsburys) was my go-to drink of choice for much of September, though I’m now slowly sinking back into my red wine habit of last winter…

 photo Recent Eats 4_zpsyuvn5fla.jpgMore Tomato Free Pizza From Waitrose

It looks like my favourite ‘trout and samphire’ pizza is no longer available (why do I always fall in love with the limited edition items?!) but it’s replacement for Autumn is also tomato free and also *really* tasty. The pumpkin and porchetta sourdough pizza is the perfect combination of salty meat, sweet pumpkin and creamy cheese – all on a delicious base. I’ll be filling my freezer with these for sure!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Crumble

Combining my favourite Autumnal/Winter pudding with peanut butter is definitely an inspired idea – it’s turned it super-comforting, super-yum and I can’t get enough. Recipe will be up over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled! in the meantime, have a read of my classic crumble recipe

Soft Boiled Eggs & Buttered Toast Soldiers

Having a cold and feeling sorry for myself in late September meant this was my breakfast/lunch/dinner of choice (particularly when I was home for the weekend and had my mummy to make it for me!) – so comforting.

 photo Recent Eats Oct18 1_zpsdfnqljrs.jpgA ‘Pot Pasta’

Having gotten through four years of student life without eating any kind of Pot Noodle, I ended up having to try a Carbonara ‘pot pasta’ on the night we dropped my sister off at university. It surprisingly wasn’t too bad – fairly creamy, soft pasta and reasonably filling. My main issue was the lack of cheesy taste – it SMELT super cheesy, but the overriding taste was vegetable stock peppered with a small amount of bacon.

Raspberry Marshmallows

Without a doubt, my favourite product from September’s Degustabox* was the Raspberry Mashmallows from Mallow & Marsh. Coated in quite a bitter dark chocolate there were fruity, soft, gooey and made for a really delicious Tuesday night (Bake Off night!) snack.

 

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Really Good Salads

Towards the end of summer,  when I wasn’t quite ready to stop eating salads but wanted something filling we came up with some cracking recipes. The one in the photo above was my absolute favourite, inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe. Shredded leftover brisket fried until hot and slightly crispy, tossed with lettuce, apple, pear and mint. We drizzled over a blue cheese dressing, added some fresh chilli slices and made some cheesy croutons too. Absolutely stunning, and something I’ve craved ever since eating it.

Completely Homemade Tacos

Talking about Bake Off, this series we’ve been trying, as far as possible, to bake along with the theme each week. For bread week I decided to dust off our tortilla press and make the tacos for our taco night – and they were delicious. Beautifully soft and so much more flavourful that the ones we usually pick up from Sainsburys.

 photo Recent Eats Oct18 2_zpsxz1oyawv.jpg

Hot Chocolate

Colder evenings have called for a warm drink before bed, and hot chocolate is of course my favourite. Again Degustabox* has come to the rescue with that – in August we received a tub of Cadbury’s Hightlights, and last month was a tub of Oreo Hot Chocolate. Both we have really enjoyed!

Chicken Tikka Masala

One of the things I *really* miss is a good Indian takeaway. I can make some fairly decent curries, but so far nothing has quite matched up to the takeaways I remember from my childhood and teenage years. The recipe in the first photo of this post, however, has pretty much cracked it. Inspired by a recipe in September’s issue of Delicious, it is thick and rich, heavily spiced without being chilli-hot and the perfect Friday night supper. I’m working on perfecting the spicing a little, and then I’ll be sharing the recipe…

And that’s it, just a little round up of the yummiest things I’ve eaten recently. No duds this time!

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?