Lifestyle: Happy Things #37

Happy Monday! It’s probably not surprising to you that I’ve had yet *another* quiet fortnight. Exams are just about to get into full swing – I have a computer based on over two days this week, then a big written paper in another two weeks. I’m not feeling overly confident with these as getting the flu really knocked the stuffing out of me – I forgot a lot of what I’d covered, lost a lot of time, and it took me ages to be able to study at my full pace again. Fingers crossed it will be alright!

The past two weeks have involved a lot of time at my desk, but some fun also. And of course, it was Easter which meant chocolate, hot cross buns and a long weekend…

  1. More Bourek and Hummus from Balkan Bites at Borough Market. I first tried this when we did our doughnut workshop, then went back the following weekend for me. It’s definitely my favourite street-food lunch at Borough Market. It’s relatively light, steaming hot (but I bet lovely if left to cool too), the hummus is *amazing* and the green chilli packs a punch. Get the spinach and feta bourek and you won’t be disappointed!
  2. Finally getting round to watching the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. Have you seen it yet? What did you think?
  3. Doing a spot of baking. I made a (perhaps excessive) Easter Cake for the office and it went down well. Sponge filled and covered in buttercream (courtesy of Green’s Cake Mixes*), the topped with a giant chocolate-cornflake nest and filled with mini-eggs. Yum!
  4. Winning a couple of blog competitions. I’ve recently managed to win a Bill’s voucher and also a mini-moon getaway in the Cotswolds for a couple of nights.
  5. A sunrise church service on Easter Sunday. Our church does it with a Bonfire next to the Thames and despite the early start it is a lovely occasion. Helped by the pastries and Buck’s Fizz afterwards I guess!
  6. Dinner Party planning and eating – without the stress of cooking! We planned a bit of a get-together for a few friends last week, I help W plan the menu (always fun) and then left him to do the cooking. He did a wonderful job and make egg yolk ravioli, a chicken dish with pan-roasted thighs, mashed potato, malt crumble, crispy skin skin and a chicken jus. Then dessert was a chocolate-cherry concoction that was simply heavenly…

What’s been making you smile lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #36

Happy Monday! Again, this fortnight’s been quite a quiet one – exams are just around the corner so evenings out and weekend plans have been at a minimum. That said there’s still been a lot of good food. My sense of taste came fully back after my illness (can’t believe that struck four weeks ago – time has flown by!) so I’ve been making up for the bland meals with lots of yummy eats!

    1. Feeling better again. I can’t quite believe how ill I felt – being unable to walk properly from bed to kettle was a low point to say the least.
    2. Homemade sausage rolls. We switched out the traditional pork for lamb mince, and spiked them with harissa. So good, though I’d be tempted to add a bit of finely chopped apricot for some sweetness next time.
    3. A date night out in Putney. We had cocktails at Home SW15 (my review is coming soon, promise!) including a bizarre but tasty combination of rhubarb, tequila and caper. We then ventured to Yum Saa, a newly opened Thai place. It wasn’t quite as good, yummy food but a rather cramped table, uncomfortable seats and a pricey bill left us feeling a bit deflated.
    4. A very, very yummy Vietnamese Duck & Blood Orange Salad. W just needs to taste fresh chillies before adding them as we both struggled with the heat of this one!
    5. Lunch at Borough Market. I tried something new and got a Spinach Bourek with Humus from Balkan Bites – and it was the best lunch I’ve eaten at Borough Market. Light yet filling, super tasty and indulgent, and the humus was just delicious. I’ll be eating more of them for sure!
    6. Wandering around Hever Castle with one of my besties. We snapped loads of photos, patted loads of puppies (I saw FIVE, including the most adorable baby huskies!). I have some photos I’m really proud of, so keep an eye out on my Instagram!
    7. A Doughnut Making Workshop at Bread Ahead. Not only was Justin Gelattly himself running it (fan girl moment), it was genuinely one of the best cookery classes I’ve done. We came home with 13 doughnuts, plus one eaten fresh from the fryer in class, and dough for another 12. And four big bags of honeycomb. I think I did well with W’s birthday present this year!
    8. Ordering a deep fat fryer. Mainly to make the rest of the doughnuts, but I’m also thinking proper fried chicken, onion bharjis and scotch eggs…
    9. Making a big batch of my favourite soup. It’s a simple combination of bacon, chopped carrots, celery and onion, garlic, cumin, chicken stock, red lentils and lemon juice – and it’s delicious.
    10. Picking up a dress I’ve *loved* in Oasis for months, at 70% off. Winning!

What’s making you happy right now?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #35

This fortnight has been a pretty weird one, as most of it I’ve spent being rather ill with a severe cold/flu illness. In fact this was the same illness than led to my previous happy things post being cut short halfway through – apologies about that. It’s been kinda difficult to see the good things when you’ve spent so long in bed, especially when you’re too ill to walk the length of your flat or even read a book, but I’m hoping writing this post will cheer me up.

  1. Chicken soup. The best medicine you can buy!
  2. Starting with (another) new team at work for the next few weeks. I may have only managed half a day before I headed home ill, but I’m excited to start a new project and see where things go.
  3. Sausages in Cider. I had very little taste for over a week with this illness, and this was the first dinner where I actually managed to appreciate it.
  4. Chicken & Ham Pie topped with Cheesy Mash. I needed comfort food, and this worked.
  5. Finding a 20% off code to coincide with when I needed to reorder Pixi Glow Tonic. Every little helps!
  6. Lemon Meringue Pie. Coupled with a lack of taste I had very little appetite, but I was craving this – so my wonderful fiance made me one fro scratch.
  7. Ordering some pretty pyjamas for the morning of the wedding. At least I’ll look decent in the bridal preparation photos!
  8. A pamper evening. If you’re feeling ill then an evening with candles, a warm bath and facemasks might not make you feel better, but it does help a little.
  9. Receiving our pre-wedding shoot photos back. Our photographer has done an absolutely amazing job, I’m planning on sharing a few over on Instagram during the week!
  10. Blood Orange Curd Tart with Dark Chocolate Pastry. This was our Sunday night dessert yesterday and it was goooood!

Sorry for the slightly depressing Happy Things post! Hope you’ve had a better fortnight than me!

Lifestyle: Happy Things #34

Sunday night, it’s cold outside, I’m cosy-ed up on my sofa with a hot chocolate and looking back over all the good things in the last fortnight. Not a bad end to the weekend!

      1. Doing a menu tasting for our wedding. All of the food was wonderful, especially our chocolatey dessert. I can’t wait!
      2. A Valentine’s night in with a current favourite casserole (pork, lemon, mustard and dill with parmesan dumplings – it’s delicious) and cheat’s chocolate mousse.
      3. Bright skies and sunshine. It feels like Spring is just round the corner!
      4. Having a clear blog inbox for the first time in months…
      5. Having a first measurements session for my wedding dress – eek. I am so looking forward to seeing it all come together.
      6. It’s been all go with the wedding stuff recently – we also had our pre-wedding photoshoot with our wonderful photographer. The sneak peek was wonderful, so I imagine there will be lots of happy tears when we get the rest of the snaps!

What’s made you happy recently?

Food: Favourite Foodie Instagrammers and Hashtags

One of my favourite past-times is scrolling through Instagram. Sure, it drives me mad as I’m finding it impossible to grow my own platform, but I love looking at people’s food styling, people’s pretty plates, yummy bakes and creative dinners. I quite often do round-ups of my favourite accounts on my Stories, but thought I’d do a proper, more permanent one on here too…

What I’ve done is included an embedded picture on their account – choosing on of my favourites from recent weeks. I hope you find new accounts you can follow! (above photo is the un-squared version of my most liked ‘gram of 2017)

Figs & Pigs – blog link

A post shared by rebecca (@figsandpigsinsta) on

Rebecca is one of the people that has really inspired my own photography style – I’ve followed her for a while, but her dark photography really stood out for me. It’s the styling that does it as it always looks both perfect, effortless and totally in keeping with whatever plate of yumminess she’s snapping. And her recipes sound delicious too. I mean, Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Sourdough, Leek and Pancetta Stuffing

Onelifetobake – blog link

A post shared by Hazel Rodrigues (@onelifetobake) on


Hazel’s grid is the perfect mis-match of food and lifestyle photos – very much a heavy focus on food, but like me she seems a sucker for a pretty building! One of my favourite things about this feed is the captions – it’s like a mini-blog and I love the personality it gives! Oh, and she has a recipe for Gin & Tonic Cheesecake. Nuff said.

Kaanunalmiser

I genuinely don’t know how this profile doesn’t have more followers! Every single picture is perfectly thought out and styled, everything looks yummy. I love the usual backgrounds used too – not the usual tea towel or chopping board (I’m guilty of both!).

LettuceFlourish – blog link

This one is quite different from a lot of the styles I love – I’m really into dark and moody photography, this is lighter, brighter and more cheerful. But how damn good do Annette’s Turkish Eggs look?! Her pics almost always make me click straight through to her blog and I plan to make a lot of her recipes.

Nordic Food Tales – blog link

I mean, just go and look at this feed! It’s absolutely stunning, I could spend hours scrolling down it  – and yep, it was a real struggle to only choose one recent photo to embed. In the end I couldn’t resist this photo of a sexxed up hot chocolate. They’ve made a bog standard hot chocolate completely seasonal with chesnut puree and orange. If someone could whip me a great big mug up right now that would be very much appreciated, please and thank you!

And that’s it – a quick round-up of just some of my favourite Instagram accounts. And now onto hashtags – I love #darktablemood, #darkfoodphotography, #foodandflatlay, #foodieflatlay, #beautifulfood, #storyofmytable, #scrumptiouskitchen, and #platedpics.

I’d love to know your favourite Instagram accounts and hashtags too!

Lifestyle: Happy Things #33

I’ve gotten into such a lovely, lovely habit of writing these cosied up on a Sunday night. I find it really starts my working week off well the next day, as I’m in such a good mood having remembered all the lovely things that have happened recently. And it just so happens this last fortnight has been absolutely amazing!

    1. My Hen Do being planned. It’s a total surprise right now but I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen, and just to spend time with my best girls.
    2. Bridesmaid shopping. I actually found the idea of this really quite stressful (no idea why – my girls are lovely, but I just don’t enjoy shopping when I have to buy something in particular), but it was a really lovely day. I just know the three of them will all look completely and utterly gorgeous on the day!
    3. More wedding things – but my hair and makeup trial. Again something I was nervous about as I’m not really one to have a nice hair-do and lots of makeup on, but I think I found a gem in the lady I’ve booked.
    4. Taking part in The Little Plantation Winter Instagram Challenge. I haven’t participated in every single challenge, but I’ve been enjoying being inspired to think of different foodie things to post.
    5. A few weeks of awesome lunches. There was a Cauliflower Salad inspired by a recipe in Fress, then I made up a glorious taco-inspired quinoa salad for a few days. Yum!
    6. Going to Flip Out in Wandsworth. It was an awesome Sunday night workout session!
    7. A Cheese & Onion Chutney Grilled Cheese. So, so good.
    8. A Tasting Menu lunch at Roganic. It was my Christmas Present from W and the boy did goooood! I’m not going to be blogging about it as it was such a treat meal, but I can highly recommend it if good, tasty and slightly fancy British food is your thing.
    9. Snuggles with my pup. At 12 he’s starting to get a bit older now, but that means he’s more up for cuddles!
    10. Trying Aligot for the first time. It’s basically an insanely cheesy mashed potato, made with Alpine Cheese. It’s super-rich and filling, and quite possibly one of the most delicious things to have some out of my kitchen

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #32

I’m sat here writing this on a Sunday evening. I’m in my cosiest PJs (they’re from Next and they are the softest things I’ve ever worn), I’ve got a wee dram of whisky and I’m feeling delightfully sleepy and cosy. That pretty much sums up my January to be honest – cosy. Lots of evenings in, snuggled with a good book or Silent Witness. Lots of comforting, seasonal food. It’s been wonderful!

    1. Afternoon Tea with my besties. We visited Alice & The Hatter Tearooms in Herne Bay and whilst it wasn’t exactly a refined afternoon tea it was yummy enough. A bit of a sugar overload, but we very much enjoyed it!
    2. Trying to squeeze in some daily exercise. I’m struggling a bit with the daily, but I’m doing something more often than not. I’m alternating between Yoga and more HIIT style work-outs which feels more sustainable to me.
    3. An exercise mat. My dad picked one up for me from Aldi and it’s made the aforementioned yoga workouts so much more enjoyable – no more bruised back from our wooden floors!
    4. A payday treat at Honest Burger (previous review here). I remembered exactly why I consider The Honest to be my favourite burger so far, and how addictive their rosemary chips are. Any other burger places you can recommend?!
    5. Silent Witness. It’s my guilty pleasure – I usually wait until later in the week then watch the two episodes back to back…
    6. A Cauliflower Cheese Risotto. Quite possibly my favourite thing I’ve cooked so far this year.
    7. A belated Burn’s Night celebration. We cooked up Haggis, Neeps & Tatties and a Whisky Peppercorn Sauce, then finished with Cranachan. Delicious – and all the more so with bagpipes playing in the background!
    8. Finishing off a really difficult but enjoyable project at work. I had to learn a new software and start a fairly complex project all within four weeks, and I’m proud to say I achieved this. Coupled with an unexpectedly good annual performance review I’m feeling fairly #girlboss right now.
    9. Getting loads of wedding-related things pencilled into our diary. I’m having a hair/makeup trial later this week, a dress-fitting is booked for February, we have menu-tasting in a few weeks and there’s a date for my hen weekend.
    10. Homemade Pitta breads. I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat bought ones again!
    11. Tacos. We made Duck & Pineapple Tacos a few weeks ago, and last week we used leftover marinade to make Pork Pibil ones (recipe here). I do love a good taco!

What’s made you happy lately?

Food: How My Cooking & Ingredient-Shopping Has Changed Over Time

I started this blog way back in 2012, before I headed off to university, before I was responsible for my own food shop. I’d like to think my cooking has gotten a lot better in this time (it’s certainly got a lot more adventurous!), but I know a whole lot has changed about what I buy, what I cook, what I order in a restaurant. I’ve grown up and my tastes have changed – which considering I was probably only 17 when I started writing makes a whole lotta sense!

Budget

Back when I started university, and in fact most of the way through my degree, my weekly food budget was a maximum of £20. And it worked. Most weeks I spent around £15, some weeks it would be £25 but more often that not I came in on budget. Nowadays I am part of a pair, but our weekly food budget is still a fairly thrifty £50. We try to include “housekeeping” in this too, be it loo roll or cleaning items. Obviously there’s weeks it’s over, like the time someone (ahem, me) accidentally over-ordered in the butchers to the tune of £40 worth of meat for what was meant to be one meal – there’s still nearly half of that in the freezer. I actually quite like sticking to a budget, it’s made us more inventive, we eat more seasonally (it’s noticeably more expensive to buy out-of-season and imported produce) and when we do treat ourselves it feels more special.

Herbs

This is where I’ve probably changed the most. At the start of my cooking journey, a tub of dried mixed herbs would do for everything and anything. Yep. It actually makes me cringe to think back as I’m sure most of my dishes must have tasted exactly the same. As I started to enjoy cooking more and more my dried herb collection grew, but now I’ve gone in completely the other direction – fresh herbs. Whether it’s coriander to garnish curries (usually blitzing the stalks into the paste), or thyme up a roast chicken’s bottom, the flavours are just so much better.

One of my major points of embarrassment is that I used to try and replace fresh coriander in recipes with the spice. Nope. Just no.

Spices

Likewise, my spice rack has grown considerably. I’m pretty sure my go-to spices when I moved to university were curry powder, cumin and chilli flakes. Which was probably more than some of my housemates had in first year (given the amount of times they used to go ‘missing’), but even so – I know have a whole cupboard dedicated to spices. And it’s not even a small cupboard. From the individual whole spices (so we can make our own distinctive blends of curry powder no less), to two types of paprika, three jars of cinnamon (not entirely sure why), and fancy thinks like za’tar and sumac. I genuinely don’t think I’d get through a week with such a basic spice rack anymore!

Meat

Now, I’m not ever likely to be vegetarian. I love animals, I really do, and I’m also very environmentally concious – but I also recognise that my body runs best when I eat some meat. However over the last year I’ve cut down the amount I eat and started buying from local butchers rather than supermarkets. No doubt about it, it’s pricier BUT I can tell you want farms it has come from, exactly how the animal is kept and it also tastes so much better. We try and eat vegetarian dinners at least twice a week, if not more, and I am absolutely loving experimenting a bit more with veg. Expect a lot more veggie recipes in 2018!

Things I “Don’t Like”

When I met W at 16 I was a reasonably fussy eater – in particular I ate no fruit, and was picky about what vegetables I ate. I didn’t like peas or carrots, cauliflower was a no go and I never really ate pulses. Nowadays I’m a lot better. I still don’t like plain boiled/steam carrots, but will eat them roasted, stewed, raw or stir-fried. I’ll eat roasted cauliflower. Peas are no problem. My fruit intake is better (not that that’s difficult!) but I do find it irritates my stomach so don’t eat a huge amount. I do now like cooked fruit through – helllooooo crumbles!

I also really, realllyyyyy used to dislike fruit in savoury dishes – however the above Cauliflower, Caramelised Onion and Pomegranate Salad is one of my current fav lunchbox dishes!

Fruit & Veg

Keeping on the topic of fruit and veg, I know buy a LOT more. We try and buy loose pieces where possible, to avoid excessive packaging and also to pick out the freshest bits. We also try to eat seasonally – it’s not always easy, given you can pretty much buy anything your heart desires in the Sainsburys aisle, but we do try. Our next plan is to find a veg delivery box we are happy with. We’ve tried a couple and been sorely disappointed so any recommendations would be great!

The long term plan? I’d love to have an allotment or veg patch to grow our own. This isn’t going to happen for a long, long time, but it’s been a dream of mine for a while. My paternal Granddad kept an allotment until very late in his life, and I guarantee there is nothing better than vegetables picked on the day. Homemade grown rhubarb in particular is a delight.

Buying Premium

As I said earlier in this post, we do still stick to a budget when it comes to food shopping – living in London means despite my good graduate wage we don’t have a huge amount of spare cash. However there are some things we do splash out on. We buy decent eggs, particularly for breakfasts. I’ll still buy supermarkets own (free range, of course) for baking, but I’ll treat us to some extra special ones with bright golden yolks for a good brunch. Our biggest “extravgence” however is pasta. Own-brand pasta just doesn’t cut it for us any more, so we’ll buy premium brands or make our own. I think it’s because we don’t tend to have hugely flavoured sauces, veering to more delicate choices (like this Fennel Linguine) – so the pasta needs to taste good. This brand is particular good (available in Sainsburys).

And that’s pretty much it. On the whole I’ve got a lot more adventurous with my cooking, trying out new cusines, new flavours, new recipes. How has your cooking style changed over the years?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #31

Wow, hasn’t the past fortnight gone quickly! Maybe it’s because my Christmas ended up being not-so-festive, but I’ve found easing myself back into work, a routine etc a lot easier than previous years. I mean, if you ignore the horrendous 2.5+ hour journey to work last Monday morning, it’s been pretty much a breeze! Though if you could send me an excuse to eat vast amounts of cheese again, that would be wonderful…

  1. Long walks. Both on New Year’s Day, then again last weekend, me and W wrapped up warm and went for a long walk. Our go-to route is along the river (heading West out of London), but we also spent a lovely 4 hours zigzagging across Richmond Park, before walking to Ham and then onto Petersham Nurseries. Gorgeous, though trying to make our own sandwiches on a picnic bench in sub 5C was perhaps a mistake.
  2. Buying pretty plates at Petersham Nurseries. Anything for the Instagram!
  3. Speaking of Instagram, I’ve been loving curating my feed lately. If only I could reach the small but elusive 1k though!
  4. Joining a new join at work (albeit temporarily) – it involves a lot of techy and code-y work so it’s been a challenge, but I’ve really appreciated it.
  5. Booking onto a Doughnut Making Workshop as part of W’s birthday present. It’s not until the end of March but I’m already excited for it!
  6. Being challenged to cook a ‘local meal’ – more on this soon…
  7. A birthday night out at Home SW15. The food was lovely, the seasonal cocktails (mine involved parsnip and white chocolate) were yummy and I definitely want to visit for brunch now!
  8. Oh brunch. We also managed a birthday brunch at our favourite, The Dynamo (read my previous review). I tried their Turkish Eggs which were AMAZING, just lacking a big enough toast portion…
  9. Cosying up with a homemade lasagne made with my tomato-free bolognese. Cheesy, creamy, and full of all the carbs!
  10. Burning my favourite candle. It’s Rose & Oud scented and I’m so gutted it’s now ran out.
  11. Enjoying my new armchair. I now finally have a mustard-y yellow armchair. It’s just the right size to curl up on with a book, it’s super comfy and makes my flat feel 10x more cosy. I love it!
  12. Making progress with wedding bits and bobs. With less than 9 months to go we actually need to plan stuff rather than just book vendors. I have my hair/makeup trial, first dress fitting and our ‘engagemnt’ shoot with our photographer all in the next few weeks, plus a shop to try and find dresses for my ‘maids. So exciting!

What’s made you happy recently?

Food: My Kitchen Goals for 2018

As a food blogger I’m pretty much always in the kitchen or reading cookbooks. Thinking up new flavour combinations, easier ways to make classic dishes. Or I’ll be reading some of my favourite blogs, putting even more restaurants on my list… either way, food is a massive part of my life and there’s still so much more I have to try. Here’s just a few of the things I want to tick off in 2018!

Embarrassingly, some of these I’ve probably mentioned as goals before on this blog. However, as it’s a New Year, let’s wipe the slate clean and start again!

  • Improve my cake decorating skills. I shamefully tend to get W to ice any cakes that need it (case in point: my birthday cake last month). I’d love to be at the stage where I feel comfortable with a piping bag, although I’m not sure how likely it is that I’ll achieve such a goal this year!
  • Make our our pasta more often. It tastes SO much better than shop-bought.
  • Eat amazing food on our honeymoon. I don’t actually know where we’ll be flying off to, as W has booked the whole thing as a surprise, however I am pretty damn sure that there will be yummy food involved! Stay tuned in October and you’ll find out!
  • Make a “proper” pie from scratch. We quite often have a pie during the week, but the filling will be a quite casserole of leftovers, with a sheet of puff pastry baked on top. I’d love to make a pie from scratch, with pastry all the way round the perfect filling.
  • Learn more about Chinese and Asian cooking. In particular I’d love to give dumplings a go!
  • Tick off one or two more Michelin Starred restaurants. I managed to visit Pollen Street Social and Galvin La Chapelle in 2017, so I’d love to try a few more this year. Where would you recommend?
  • Make sure I eat a vegetarian dinner at least once a week. We’d like to make our meat purchasing more ethical, but to do that we need to eat less of it purely from a cost perspective!
  • Find a decent fruit and veg delivery system. Do you get a weekly food box? We’ve tried a couple and haven’t been overly impressed so would really appreciate some recommendations!
  • Actually manage to make and keep a sourdough starter alive. It’s alluded us several times in the past…

What do you want to achieve in the kitchen this year?