Recipe: Toad in the Hole (+ Yorkshire/ Pancake/ Fritter Batter)

This is a great recipe, one of my favourite meals, and a complete British classic. It is wonderfully simple to make, the basic recipe is ridiculously versatile, and yet so many people shy away from it as (1) they say it is “difficult to make” and (2) apparently it uses “expensive ingredients.” I’m hoping this post will blow both of these concerns out of way!

Firstly, it is so, so, so easy to make, and my recipe requires no scales, no measuring, just a jug, spoon, fork, and a tin. And an oven of course. If your kitchen doesn’t have these, its not really a kitchen.

Secondly, a lot of the ingredients are really basics that you would already have. 1.5kg of flour (ASDA smart price at 45p) lasts me more than a term, salt and pepper at also cheap (and realistically every meal needs them, so I haven’t included them in my costings per portion), milk lasts my house of four a week (6 pints at £1.48). Eggs are £1 for six, and that’s buying free range, as I utterly refuse to buy intensively farmed eggs. I use lard for my toad, but any flavourless oil such as sunflower is fine. Then sausages need not be expensive. Buy the best you can afford, obviously, as the best you buy the better your meal will taste. But you can get 8 decent sausages for under £2. You can get away with using two per person in this recipe but I was greedy and used three for me (but I bought my sausages from Waitrose heavily reduced – 8 for 90p!). I’m going to attempt to include some rough costings within this recipe, but I apologise if these are wrong. I’ve based everything on ASDA prices, using smart price flour, but their standard range everywhere else. My costing will also include some vegetables and gravy (and I use Bisto, so this could be a lot cheaper for you – although Bisto is available in the £1 shops!) I will also include the cost of EVERYTHING if you are making from scratch with an empty kitchen. I hope none of you are doing this though! My estimations are very generous, so the recipe will probably be cheaper!

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I hope I have convinced you to give this recipe a try. It takes little to no time, a tiny bit of pre-planning (although if you are really pushed it isn’t necessary!) and results in a filling and tasty meal that really does remind me of home. Definite comfort food for this dreary, rainy, grey weather. By the way, the photo above is an old one, but the recipe is still the same!

The batter recipe can also be used for individual Yorkshire’s (cook in a muffin tin, for around 5 minutes left), fritters (add your ingredient, I like sweetcorn, and fry in a pan until crispy), or pancakes (leave out the salt and pepper, and fry in flavourless oil for around 1 minute on each side). So it is definitely a good recipe to learn!

Ingredients (I would eat this amount on my own, but with mashed potatoes would serve two!)

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  • 2 eggs (£1 for six, 33p in recipe)
  • 2 spoons of flour (45p for 1.5kg, approx 5p for amount used)
  • Milk (£1.48 for six pints, approx 15-25p for amount used)
  • Salt (29p for 750g, negligible in recipe)
  • Black pepper (29p for 25g, roughly 1p in recipe)
  • 2 sausages (based on £2 for 8, 50p in recipe) – ignore me being greedy and having three!)
  • A chunk of lard, or some oil, around 25g/ml (39p for 250g, approx 5p)
  • Gravy – I use Bisto’s Onion (£1.75 for 170g, approx 30p in recipe)
  • Vegatables – I would have around 1/5 of a cabbage, 1/4 of a broccoli head, and a handful of frozen peas (roughly 50p maximum)

Total cost of recipe – £1.99 including vegetables and gravy, per portion. Starting from scratch would be around £10, but this would leave plenty of ingredients left for other dishes. Scaling up this recipe wouldn’t double the cost, particularly if you just made mashed potatoes instead of extra batter.

Method

Take your two eggs and crack into a jug. Ignore my bloody, plastered finger – I decided to slip with a knife earlier in the day and have badly sliced my finger. Typically I am left handed and it is very painful to write, so am instead drafting lots of blog posts (lucky readers!).

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Add two rounded tablespoons of plain flour to your eggs, beating between each spoon, and trying to beat out all of the lumps (though lumps don’t hurt!).

Add in around 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. The batter will go a funny colour if you use ground pepper, but I find it gives a better flavour.

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Add enough milk (no more than 1/2 a pint – I used two ‘splashes) until you have a thick but pourable consistency that coats the back of a spoon, similar to this next photo.

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If you have time, cover the batter with cling film and leave in a cool place. I like to make this on days (i.e. Wednesdays) when I finish at lunchtime. I will make it as soon as I get in, winding down from lectures, then get on with some work until dinner time. Come then my batter is nicely rested and I have very little prep to do. Here’s my batter resting by the window, with our pretty little garden – we got lucky for a student house!

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When you are ready, heat your oven to about 200 degrees.

Throw your lard in the pan, and let it melt in the oven.

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Once melted add your sausages, and throw back in the oven. If you are using oil, add the sausages straight away.

Cook your sausages until browned all over. This takes about 10 or so minutes, and you may want to poke them with a spoon to ensure they brown evenly.

When your sausages are browned, removed the tin from the oven then quickly pour in your batter.

Put back in the oven, and set your timer for 15 minutes – do not open the oven in this time, or you will end up with a soggy bottom (to your Yorkshire!).

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Try and time your veg and gravy to be ready at roughly the same time (cabbage wants 4-6 minutes boiling, broccoli 2-5, peas 5-6). You can prep your veg whilst it is cooking (here is what I had tonight!)

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Occasionally your Toad may stick to the tin slightly – if it does then add some washing up liquid and pour in boiling water before it cools, and it should just scrub off easily. Mine stuck tonight – it is a rare but annoyance!

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Serve up your toad, add your veg (drain it well) and cover in gravy. Then devour and enjoy!

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Does anyone have any tips for making the perfect Yorkshire Puddings or Toad in the Hole?

Baking: Cinnamon Swirl Banana Muffins

As you all know from this post, I have a touch of Fresher’s Flu. And what does this student do when ill/stressed/annoyed/grumpy/all of the above? She bakes! My house had lots of very brown and mushy bananas to use up, but I wanted a change from the usual Banana & Nutella Muffins (much to some of my housemates disgust!). Thanks to Wahaca and Hula Cafe (a lovely little place in Edinburgh that do the best smoothies – I’ve not blogged about my summer holiday, but maybe I should!) I have a rather strong addiction to cinnamon, so decided to incorporate that. My brainwave was these Cinnamon Swirl Banana Muffins, some with a hidden surprise!

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Next time I personally would double the amount of cinnamon, and possibly use another banana and lose an egg (thrifty tips here guys!). But definitely err on the side of caution when it comes to cinnamon – you can always dust with more after baking, but can’t take it away. I used this recipe as a brief guide, but didn’t really follow it at all – but I’d thought I’d show you as there are some great recipes on the site!

I haven’t costed this recipe exactly – but relying on the fact that you may have cinnamon in your cupboards (it is a useful spice to have, mainly because I like spoons in porridge, but a little does add a nice fruity note to a curry) and some baking powder (if you bake a lot, it really is useful – I ran out and all I could get were stupidly expensive sachets, so it is worth buying a pot) it shouldn’t be too expensive, as there are no special ingredients. The soft brown sugar can always be substituted with generic sugar you throw in your tea if you don’t want to splash out anymore.

 

Anyway, here’s the recipe!

 

Ingredients (Makes 12 big muffins)

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  • 3 bananas
  • 2 eggs (medium)
  • 115-125g butter (about half a pack, I used salted)
  • 225-240g (I have very unreliable scales at the moment!) plain flour
  • 100-120g sugar (I always use the cheapest I can find here)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Optional – a handful of oats, some dark chocolate
  • For the swirl/topping – 50g soft brown sugar (or normal if you prefer), and 1+tsp of cinnamon (to taste)

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to around 180 degrees.
  • Peel your bananas and mash into a bowl.

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  • Add your eggs to the bananas and beat up.
  • Melt your butter, let cool slightly (we don’t want scrambled eggs!) and add the the mixing bowl.
  • Add in your flour, sugar and baking powder, and mix to combine.

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  • If you are using them, throw in your handful of oats. If the mixture gets a bit stiff and sticky cooking, beat in a splash or two of milk.

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  • Make your cinnamon mixture – mix the brown sugar (or alternative) in a bowl with the cinnamon.

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  • Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cases (I bought some really pretty ones from Wilkinson’s recently – and don’t use silicone ones with banana recipes as they tend to stick more).
  • Add a tablespoon of the muffin mixture to each case.
  • Sprinkle over some of the cinnamon sugar.

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  • Add another tablespoon of mixture to the cases (they should be almost full – the actuary in me estimates around 5/6 full).
  • Swirl your mixture slightly with the top of a teaspoon – they won’t swirl as readily as the nutella version, so don’t worry.
  • If you are making some with a chocolatey surprise, push a square of dark chocolate (I used ASDA’s own smartprice version) into the centre.
  • Sprinkle more of the cinnamon sugar onto the top.

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  • Put in the oven, for 20-25 minutes. I turned mine round halfway as the oven in this new house cooks unevenly.
  • Cool before eating, although they are good blasted in the microwave too.

Perfect as a pick-me-up when you realise that going into second year is a big jump in terms of workload (one class test and piece of coursework already done, AND they count towards my actual degree!).

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For more baking recipes, check out my aforementioned banana and nutella oat muffins, and my lemon-and-lime drizzle cupcakes – I’m sure there will be plenty of baking over second year, as it’s the perfect method of yummy procrastination!

Do any of my readers have any recipes they recommend?

Review: Stationery Haul from Elba & Oxford Campus Notebooks

Over my summer break I was contacted by two lovely ladies who offered me a range of stationery items from Elba and Oxford. I obviously squealed with excitement, and waited patiently for the postman to arrive…which he duly did with a very large box. Here’s what was inside…

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As you can see, I have a lovely big haul there! I’m a stationery lover, but what really appeals to me about these brands is the functionality of their goods. Much as I do enjoy looking at it, I’m not one for really pretty stationary. For one I’d be too scared to use it, and quite often it is out of budget. If that is your thing though, I recommend you try out Wilkinson’s, as they always seem to have a great range.

Here’s what the lovely ladies sent me:

 

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A Campus Notebook from Oxford. As a lot of stationery-lovers will know, this is a brand well known for its thick and good quality paper. I personally have never used it – I HAVE to use narrow ruled and so I will be gifting this to my lovely housemate and blogger Libby (check out her blog here, and the amazing amount of make-up I get to borrow!). I also have an issue with spiral bound notebooks being left handed – it’s refill pads all the way for me!

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There was a couple of these in the box (one in a lovely sunny yellow, the other a vibrant red). They are nice and sturdy document holders, secure but still extremely lightweight.

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As all sides of anything inside is protected, these are slightly better than the cheap ones you can buy on the highstreet, and so I would definitely recommend these.

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Next up is one of my favourite products, or at least the one I needed immediately. This is again a pretty generic product, but with an Elba twist. Here is is the usual plastic folder with plastic pocket inserts, but the addition of an elastic closure just keeps it looking neat and professional. This will be used to hold my CV, exam certificates, and all other things I may need for an interview.

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Very similar to a previous product, this blue folder actually takes the form of a box, closed by elastic. I would definitely not recommend this for carrying around stationery, but for storing things in the home I find it useful – it currently housing my spare plastic wallets perfectly!

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Then there was a couple of again pretty generic items with a twist. First up is the black ringbinder (above, the blue one on top is from WHSmiths). As you can see, it is a good deal wider than regular ring-binders, and so it easily accommodates the extra wide dividers I love so much. A word of warning; if you wish to use dividers with plastic pockets you will need extra wide ones, or to make your own as I did last year. Comment if you want a tutorial in this!

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Next up is a lever-arch folder. Again pretty generic (not extra-wide this time!) but with a twist; the side is curved, making it easier to grab off your shelves. An interesting innovation, perhaps not something I would pay extra for (unlike the extra width), but it does seem to make things easier. Again, I will be donating this to one of my housemates for their use, as it upsets my folder colour scheme…more about that in another post!

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Next up is a prettier folder; this has become my everyday to-uni folder. I’m a little disappointed it isn’t extra wide, but it is still a little wider than regular binders. This is nice and strong, very sturdy rings (beats WHSmiths by a mile!), and the two sets of rings close independently of each other, which does take some getting used to.

 

Now, a little word about the promotions these companies are currently running (exciting stuff hey);

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First up there is the free cinema ticket, with two qualifying purchases. All you do is peel back the sticker to reveal the code, plug into a website and off you go (after a bit of waiting obviously). As the cost of two products will be less than a cinema ticket, it really will save you money!

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Finally there is the Oxford Big Project. Unfortunately entries have now closed, but you can still view and then vote (from the 15.10.13) here.

 

And that is my little review of my lovely stationery haul. Thank you so much to Elba and Oxford for sending me your items – I highly recommend these companies as the products really are of a fantastic quality, and with little twists are actually a lot more functional than items which are readily available. Check them out on Amazon!

 

If you liked this post, check out my post previously on student organisation. Any stationery loving readers out there? What brands do you recommend?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresher’s Flu Alert: Cook Some Chicken Noodle Soup!

This is going to be a really rushed and vague recipe. I didn’t take any photos of the making, didn’t note down ingredients or timings, as I wasn’t going to be sharing it – I did not expect it to be good. It actually turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve ever cooked! I have slight Fresher’s flu, made worse by the recovery from my operation, and all I wanted was something comforting, fragrant, and easy to cook for my lunch. This fitted the bill perfectly, and I will definitely be making it again. I really recommend anyone suffering to try it!

 

Ingredients (to serve 1, with a huge greedy helping):

  • Chicken (maybe half a breast, I used uncooked but you could just use cooked if you have any) – you want this is small pieces
  • Chicken stock (around 500ml)
  • Garlic (I used powder)
  • Chilli (I used crushed dried chillies)
  • Soy sauce
  • Sweet chilli sauce
  • Peanut butter (no more than a teaspoon)
  • Carrot
  • Noodles (1 nest)
  • Any other vegetables/seasonings you fancy, although for comforting purposes I felt these ingredients were fine

Method:

  1. Put the stock in a pan and bring to the boil. Add the seasoning as its warming, and stir in the peanut butter.
  2. Once boiling, throw in your small bits of chicken.
  3. If using raw chicken, simmer for around 10 or so minutes (check to make sure your chicken is cooked – I recommend cutting to large marble sized pieces in this recipe).
  4. Add in any extra vegetables where necessary to ensure they cook.
  5. Break up your noodles (I know this is apparently bad luck, but I don’t fancy crunchy ones!) so they fit fully submerged in the pan.
  6. Add your noodles and carrots to the pan, and cook following the noodle instructions. Mine involve turned the heat off, so I just covered my pan and left it for 5 minutes.
  7. If you want to jazz up this recipe to impress, I suggest a scattering of something crunchy (sesame seeds, or cashew nuts), some fresh coriander, and maybe a squeeze of lime.
  8. Now just serve up, slurp up the noodles, and let the spicy warmth sort out your Fresher’s Flu. Or any other kind of cold.

If you are unfortunate to have the dreaded Fresher’s Flu (and don’t try to avoid it, most people get it!), I suggest drinking lots of orange juice, eating well, keeping warm and maybe having a few early nights. And definitely try this soup!

 

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Hope you enjoy this recipe! What do you cook when you need comfort food?

Follow me on BlogLovin’

After a few weeks of serious technical difficulties (in which I may or may not have forgotten my password to this account!) I believe I have finally set up my connection on Bloglovin. I use Bloglovin’ a lot to read blogs I enjoy (more about that in a second), and I think it is a really good reader-orientated platform, so I do suggest following me on there, particularly if you are a smartphone user.

Here is the link, and you’ll also find one taking a permanent place on my side bar!

 

Now, I thought I’d be ultra-lovely and show you a guide to some of my favourite blogs of the moment:

  • Lottie’s Little Kitchen – this is one of the blogs that actually inspired me to become more active in my blogging when I began university as a little Fresher last year. Some of her recipes look amazing, and the Treacle Tart is on the menu for my house Sunday lunch in a few weeks!
  • Philofaxy – the source of all things Filofax related. I have a big post coming up on how I am using both of my Filofaxes over my second year at university, and I have to say this blog and the people behind it have helped me hugely!
  • Handbags and Cupcakes – I just love this girl’s writing style, and her taste in Handbags!
  • Life of Libby – this is the blog belonging to a lovely housemate of mine, it’s only four months old and I think it’s wonderful! And it means I can easily work out what she has in her make-up bag for me to try!
  • The Sunday Girl – wonderful make-up reviews, incredibly professional style!
  • A Girl Called Jack – full of amazingly cheap recipes. She has inspired a lot of posts that are coming soon to my blog, and which I hope will be handy for students on a serious tight budget! I’d had to adapt a lot of her recipes, but please check this blog out.
  • The Londoner – probably the most well known blog on this list, and the source of my Nutella and Banana Oaty Muffins. Just take a look at these beauties, and then get baking with my recipe here.

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Budget Beauty Buys: Skincare

This is a post for the girlies out there! Over the last few months I’ve realised I’ve never taken care of my skin properly. Sure I’ve cleansed reasonably often, but definitely not morning and night, and even more naughtily I’ve often forgotten to take makeup off. Not only has this left me with blocked tearducts, but I feel it has had a drastic effect on my skin. Dry patches, oily patches, a few lots spots. This has been made worse over the past summer by bruising and swelling from my operation leading to me wearing more foundation, not taking it off, and then really clogging up my skin. So I’ve recently began to revamp my skincare items, on my tight student budget, and here are my favourite products so far.

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Firstly, I’ll mention the ‘stand out’ item in that photo – the multi-vitamins! Now we all know students may not have the best diets, and although I still manage to eat well I always recommend a multivitamin supplement, particularly in the months leading up to exams. I use one with extra iron and Vit C, as I find it works well for me. Now onto the more exciting things!

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First up is something I have used for many years, and despite occasionally venturing to other newer products (cleansing balms and oils currently have my attention – does anyone recommend any?) I always come back to it. It is cheap and cheerful, probably around £2-£4 depending on offers, lasts a long time, and is simple to use. None of these complicated instructions, I feel some beauty products these days require a degree to use! It has a light floral fragrance which doesn’t last when applied, is gentle on the skin, easy of the eyes (although I don’t recommend you use it directly on the eye area!), and is reasonably moisturising for a cleanser. It removes just about all traces of my makeup, and whilst it struggles a little with mascara it is my go-to cleanser when I need a simple one-step can’t-be-bothered refresh.

I also occasionally use the toner of this range, but it tends to dry my skin out and so for that reason I don’t thoroughly recommend it (although it sorts out caked foundation when gently pressed on, so possibly worth having for emergencies!). The moisturiser is also very good, but being in a pot lets it down big time for me – I can just imagine a lot of germs!

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This is a product you won’t see on most student’s dressing tables! Due to my operation I have had increasingly puffy eyes and dark circles, which I’m desperately trying to do something about – so recommendations of a decent concealer would be gratefully received! This moisturiser is light enough for my young skin, but seems to be slowly solving my problems. It stings a little if it goes in your actual eye, but is nice and refreshing, lasts for ages and is a great budget buy. I shall definitely repurchasing, as for an eye cream it is spectacular value for money.

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Recently I have developed a liking for good old traditional soap used to wash and cleanse. Granted this can be a little drying, but it seems the most natural thing to do (especially with my favourite range at the moment – Dr Organics) and is proving a lot cheaper. I buy these soaps at Holland & Barratt, and their full price is roughly £2.50, with offers pretty much constantly appearing. They last for maybe 6 weeks, depending on the storage you use (I definitely suggest a soap dish!) and obviously are easy to transport as they don’t have to be packed into a suitcase for flying. To use, I splash my face with warm water, lather the soap in my hands, and then massage in. I either wash off straight away using a flannel (rubbing for a bit of exfoliation) or leave it to dry (ala a face mask) before rinsing away. I also use this all over body in the shower, and find it wonderfully cleansing without feeling sticky or smelling sickly – and it doesn’t make the shower slippy which is a massive bonus for someone as accident prone as me!

My usual buy is the pictured pomegranate soap, which I love as the ingredients seem to combat a genetic skin condition that I have been lucky enough to inherit. I have however recently purchased the Vit E version, which I look forward to trialling soon.

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As mentioned above, washing with soap can be a littleeee drying on the skin, so I’ve been on the hunt for my perfect moisturiser. The hunt has been unsuccessful, but I have found four which I like to keep on hand, and then alternate depending on how my skin is feeling. The Garnier Moisture Match range has been around for a few months now, but for me is a revelation, particularly as a few formulas are oil-free. It isn’t exactly the cheapest option, with full price tubes being £5.99. However a limited range of the selection can often be found in Wilkinsons or Savers for £3, and they are regularly on offer in Boots, Superdrug (which they are at the time of posting, plus remember your 10% NUS discount students!), and various supermarkets. As with all things, it pays to shop around! I’ll give a brief overview of the moisturisers I love (keen eyes will note one is missing, as the formula was definitely not for me!) and you can choose the ones you’d like from there! Going from left to right…

We have the blue one! This is a pretty simple and generic moisturiser, for normal to dry skin, generic fragrance-free smell (doesn’t there always seem to be a smell?!), and I tend to use this after my nightly cleanse if my skin isn’t too dry, or if I used the Garnier cleanser above.

Then there’s the yellow one! This is probably my current favourite. It’s been an absolute revelation to find an oil-free moisturiser with SPF and illuminator. I have been using this both with (mixed in) foundation, and instead of foundation, and it really does give a lovely finish and glow to my skin. I wouldn’t recommend this for bedtime use due to the SPF, and it feels a little sticky, but I definitely can’t complain!

To the orange tube! This is a gel based formula, very light and non-greasy, and lovely and refreshing on hot days. It also gives a good glow to the face, although at the same time manages to be matte (nope, I don’t understand either!). It mixes well with foundation, and spreads out evenly (probably better than the other types) but I definitely wouldn’t say this should be the only one you should buy as it definitely isn’t very moisturising, although I do have drier skin. Oily types, this is definitely one to try! One thing I will say is that I’m not a huge fan of the smell, it reminds me of the bright yellow antibiotic medicine I used to force down as a child…

And now to the pink corner! This is the richest moisturiser of the bunch, for dry to very dry skin. I have to say this is true – I wouldn’t use this except at night, and definitely not every night. But it is wonderfully softening and soothing, and gets rid of all my dry patches. I’ve found to excellent for the dry places on my body too, particularly the elbows. I believe that for dry skin this moisturiser could be a godsend!

 

And that is my best budget skincare (so far!). Does anyone have any recommendations?

 

 

Failure of a Student Lifestyle Blogger

I have huge apologies for not having posted much over the summer. The series about starting university I meant to write (as an effort to help new Freshers) just didn’t happen, and nor has the collection of student suppers than I have (honestly!) been practising and photographing for you.

I cannot pretend that all of this failure lies in the fact that my health still hasn’t been wonderful. On top of this I worked an awful lot over the summer (unfortunately not doing a high-powered internship, but gaining some pretty valuable skills at an old retail job of mine), and may have also forgotten my WordPress password…! But all is well now, and I hope to be blogging a little more in the coming weeks!

For now I leave you with a picture of my lovely satchel, which you can read about here, here and here, and remember that you get a cheeky little discount when you quote the code 2KVEAQQ3YXPJW when ordering directly from the Leather Satchel Co.

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Restaurant Review: Mexican Night Out at Wahaca

This is going to be a very odd kind of restaurant review. Mainly because it will not focus on one visit to the restaurant in question, but several, and so will skip over all but the most outstanding points about the service received. It really is a foodie post, but a foodie post is well deserved by London restaurant chain Wahaca!

 

I can’t quite remember how we discovered Wahaca, but two summers ago me and the boyfriend first visited their Covent Garden restaurant, and were immediately blown away. The service is friendly and quick, the food absolutely delicious, and the prices more than reasonable (which can’t be said for most places around Covent Garden!). I can’t say its the perfect place for a date, as eating some of their tacos can get a little messy, but its the perfect informal night out for friends, families, established couples, or if you want to see whether your new girlfriend actually can stand to look less than perfect in front of you. On that last point – I once read a book where a man took his future wife to Nando’s for a first date as he wanted to see if she was afraid to get messy. I like that idea!

Anyway, we’ve had an almost 100% satification rate when it comes to eating out at Wahaca. In fact, the one meal that wasn’t brilliant (and to be honest, it was the worst kind of meal if you understand me!) was dealt with amazingly by staff, and I have utmost confidence in the company. I would recommend them unreservedly!

 

What I’m going to do is run through some of the items I’ve eaten, and what I loved. There’s pictures of a few things, but not of everything (I’m too greedy to wait!). I will point out that some pictures will have half-eaten dishes in the background. This is because Wahaca bring things out as they are ready. A strategy I like, in that food is fresh, but if you want to control the timing and pace, I suggest you order a few dishes at a time. We did this at our last visit (to the Charlotte Street restaurant, which is great on a summers night, and offered the best service ever!) and it worked well. Throughout this post I will also give a quick guide to eating at Wahaca when avoiding tomatoes, although please bear in mind you should always double check with your waiter, as recipes do change.

First of all, you can’t book a table at Wahaca, so at the busiest restaurants you can be waiting quite a while to sit down. We’ve never waiting for longer than 15 minutes, although I have read reviews of people that have, so do bear that in mind! While you wait you can generally perch in the bar area and enjoy a delicious cocktail. For those of you not drinking I highly, highly recommend the Virgin Mojito – so good!

When you sit down, you’ll be asked if you want any nibbles while you read the menu. We always go for Frijoles and tortilla chips. Wahaca’s Frijoles are basically refried black beans, and are probably one of my favourite things in the world. I crave them virtually constantly, although luckily have managed to recreate a close-ish version, a recipe that I will share soon. Wahaca’s tortilla chips are also very good, freshly fried and crisp, and perfectly seasoned. But the Frijoles are definitely the star, I’m getting hungry just thinking about them! Mmm…frijoles.

2013-06-25 18.23.53They aren’t exactly the prettiest of foods, but they are so good! They are dark, creamy, and rich, but feel quite good for you (which I highly doubt they are, really!), topped with crema (which is a not-so-sour kind of soured cream) and then some crumbled salty cheese. I’ve heard on the interwebs that they used to come topped with cubes of chorizo, but I’ve never seen this on the menu.

Also pictured above is my favourite drink at Wahaca – a virgin Mojito. I try not to drink when I’m in London, as often I’m an hour plus away from home/bed so its really not a good idea (as otherwise I’d be having a proper Mojito!), but this is lovely and refreshing, with lots of apple, mint and lime. Also good is the traditional Horchata, a rice milk drink flavoured with cinnamon.

 

Now, what should you order? We’ve mainly ordered street food in the past. I’ve had one dish of the main menu, and that is the one that caused the bad experience, so we’ll skip over that as the thought still makes my stomach turn slightly. Don’t let that put you off though, as it was a delicious dish and I hope I’ll be able to try it again at some point!

So, street food. It comes in a couple of categories – tacos, tostadas, tacquitos and quesadillas. There is also the Wahaca selection, which is a preset deal of various dishes. I would suggest this for beginners (who don’t have a tomato allergy!). Then there are ‘Street Food Specials’ which change with the seasons.

First, I’m going to discuss the Street Food Specials, and will also mention Wahaca’s Southbank Experiment. It’s impossible for me to give you an up-to-date review of the specials, but they are occasionally repeated so I’ll give you a brief low-down on what I’ve had in the past. A couple of years ago they did fried squid rings with a chipotle dressing, which were amazing crisp, and for a non-seafood restaurant pretty spectacular. No idea if the dressing was tomato-free as back then I was still risking small amounts of tomato. There were some delightful pulled pork tacos with a tomatillo salsa, which were absolutely stunning – just the right amount of texture, and a huge spicy kick. I loved these! Also a variation on pork tacos, the Pastor’s tacos (pictured below) served this spring were well received. Chunks of pork, various other things, although with a pineapple salsa was definitely refreshing, although I found that anything more than tiny dices of pineapple was a bit too fruity for my taste. On the non-tomato-free front there was a kind of spaghetti/noodle dish that didn’t receive huge praise from my boyfriend – I think it was quite spicy, served quite hot, but didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the food.

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Onto the Southbank Experiment now! This is a teeny tiny pop-up style restaurant in shipping containers, in a great location, with a great atmosphere. It includes most of the regular menu, but also some experimental dishes which may end up in more restaurants if they get enough likes – this is where the pulled pork tomatillo tacos were born. Out of the many dishes I’ve eaten at the Southbank experiment, one stood out hugely. It was a sharing platter, included taco ‘shells,’ some green rice, some frijoles, and then a hot casserole pot full of spicy, warming, perfectly flavoured pulled stewed steak. This was absolutely delicious, the best thing I have EVER eaten, and something I would love to see on the menu. Wahaca take note!

Now, tacos. At Wahaca tacos don’t come in those horrible hard shells that are impossible to eat. They come in thin, mini tortilla wrap style things, which you can bite through and not lose (all of) your filling. Yum yum! The selection is – pork pibil, chicken tinga, a steak one (with or without cheese), a cactus and courgette concoction (which I cannot wait to convince my other half to try) and a plantain one. Out of these, my stand out favourite is the pork. It might run down your arm, but it sure is good! Drooling a little just thinking about it… The chicken tinga is very tomato-ey, so obviously I avoid it. The steak isn’t my favourite, mainly due to the texture, and I positively disliked the plantain – mainly because I had it in a sweet taco at the Southbank once and loved it served with salted caramel, chocolate and peanuts!

Excuse the bad photos, I was too busy wanting to get stuck in, but here are some pork pibil tacos

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Toastados are something that I’ve never been particularly keen to try, however I sneaked a non-boyfriend (sorry W!) visit to Wahaca in with my dad recently and we tried the seafood ceviche version. This was lovely and light, with a great kick, and seemed perfect for summer – I will definitely order again!

Onto taquitos. These are tortillas filled with a filled, deep fried, and topped with a crema dressing and some salad. I ask for these without salsas to avoid tomatoes, but unfortunately they are better with.  I love, love, love this dish! The tortilla is lovely and crunchy, the salad still makes it feel healthy. Both versions are delicious – one is a potato one, and the other is a seasoned chicken – not as spicy as a lot of things, but a great dish for starting out with Mexican.

Finally, quesadillas. I must confess I’m not the biggest fan of these, as I find them too rich. However the broad bean and potato version is quite light, gooey with cheese and reminds me a little of a pizza – I do enjoy it, but not at the expense of some of the other amazing things Wahaca serves up!

That’s my street food selection – if I was choosing I’d say pork pibil, both tacquitos, and a seafood ceviche, followed by a quesadilla if there’s room. You can order a pre-set selection, but obviously with my allergies that’s out!

Now, what you must absolutely, no arguments, do is order pudding. Churros to be specific.

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These are Mexican doughnuts, dusted with cinnamon, and dipped into either a dark chocolate sauce, or a rich salted caramel (my preference). Definitely save room for these, as they finish a meal off perfectly. And if you have even more room, the tequila hot chocolate is pretty good too!

So if you are near one and feeling a bit peckish, I thoroughly recommend Wahaca. The food is spicy and sharing-friendly, making it great for a gathering. And the prices are equally as good – the only time I’ve ever spent more than £35 on a meal for two (which in central London, eating so much your boyfriend moans about how full he is, isn’t bad at all!) is when I had a £50 voucher to burn, and ended up supplementing my meal with goodies bought from the shop in Charlotte street.

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Mmm, Wahaca food at home…and that’s a blog post coming soon!

Has anyone eaten at Wahaca? What would you recommend?

Square Meal

REBLOGGED: Diary of an (Actuarial) Undergrad – Trials and Tribulations of a Good CV

I was recently asked to do a couple of guest posts for my university’s careers service blog, which can be found here. I must say, the support I have already received from the University of Kent in terms of careers has been outstanding. I reccomend a look on their website even if you aren’t a student, as there is some amazing advice. Definitely check out their blog too, and here’s my original post.

 

I’ve just finished my first year in Actuarial Science (which is, to put it very simply, a mixture of mathematics, applied statistics, economics and finance) and will be beginning a yearlong placement in the summer of 2014 as part of my degree. As of yet applications are only just starting to open, so I’ve been concentrating on getting my CV up to scratch.

 

The simple fact is you will be asked to produce a CV for potential employers at some point in your life.

I’ve held two part-time jobs whilst studying, and both of these were obtained by handing my CV to a prospective manager, so I know firsthand how crucial these ‘little bits of paper’ are. I also know that having to quickly produce one to hand over is probably one of the most stressful things in existence. So even if you ignore everything else I write in this post, at least do one thing; prepare your CV now, when you have a spare minute, and then update it as and when needed.

 

So, the perfect CV. What’s in it? What definitely shouldn’t be in it? How long should it be? What font should I use?

There’s a list of endless questions you could ask, and I’m not going to pretend I have all of the answers. But I have been told my CV is strong, and I’ve also had some fabulous advice from Nikki Ellis (the industrial placement adviser in the Schools of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science) so I hope I can guide you to the right direction.

The general consensus is that a CV for industrial placements (and indeed graduate roles) should be 2 pages in length. That should be a full 2 pages. Not 1.5 with hugeeee writing. And not squished-up-with-tiny-margins-and-tiny-font 2 pages. You shouldn’t be altering the layout of your paper and the size of your font to compensate for too short/long CVs. On that note, go for a standard font (something like Calibri or Arial) – none of the fancy swirly stuff! Keep the size between 10 and 12, any smaller and it will be difficult to read, any larger and you run the risk of it looking a little child-like.

The layout used is a bit more personal. I went for a tabular style CV, with section headings down the left. I also made important details (sub-headings such as educational results and job titles) stand out by putting them in a bold type face. One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to  break up large chunks of text, either through bullet points or some other means. A hunk of text will be off-putting, you want something easy to scan, something that will easily highlight how wonderful you are.

Content is a bit easier for me to advise on. I’ve been told that the order of the section in a CV should be as follows; contact details and profile; education; experience; skills; interests; and references. This is the order in which I will discuss the sections, just to make it a little easier for both me and you…

  • You want to start with your name and contact details. Make sure you include a phone number, email address and postal address.
  • Then go with a short paragraph (or maybe two even shorter ones) called a profile. This should briefly introduce yourself, summarise your experience and education, and state your current career goals. This section should be brief and to the point, and no more than a few sentences. Now is not the time to waffle (actually, at no point should a CV contain waffle!).
  • Then comes the education section. This should be in reverse chronological order, i.e. the most recent first. A good piece of advice, particularly if you find yourself short of space, is that the most recent qualifications should be talked about more, and the ones you took years ago the least. Hence I have just two lines devoted to my GCSE’s on my CV; the institution I sat them at, and the grades received. I haven’t mentioned specific subjects (although it is a good idea to clarify that they do include Mathematics and English), but I did mention the subjects I studied at A-level and devoted a little more space to these qualifications.
  • University modules and grades are often far more important. If your degree is directly relevant to the roles you are applying for, I’ve been told to detail the modules you have taken. I was also advised that, if ALL of your module grades are of a high standard, to include them in your CV. However, I really wouldn’t advise doing this if one is significantly lower than the others, or if they should any kind of inconsistencies in your academics. Best to use your own judgment to make that call!
  • Again in reverse chronological order comes your work experience. This can be anything from volunteering roles to employment. My personal advice would be to head each section with the place of work and the timescale, then briefly evaluate which skills you have gained from the role.
  • Following this section should be where you detail your key skills. My opinion is that bullet points are best for this, but at the same time make sure you write in full coherent sentences. Steer clear of clichés, and make sure you don’t repeat yourself. I know when I first got my CV reviewed by Nikki Ellis she counted a ridiculous 21 “I am”s in mine! Keep things clear, to the point, and relevant to the kind of roles you are applying for.
  • Next is the interests section. I’ll admit my CV actually lacks this, as I was short on space and it the thing that should be compromised on as opposed to nixing part of your education or employment history. This section is more important to some companies than others (do your research when applying!) and remember that any hobby or interest you list will give an impression about you as a person so think carefully about any potential implications.
  • Finally references. Here you have a choice; include full contact details of your chosen referees (make sure they are happy to provide references prior to submitting your CV if you chose to do this!) or state that you have references available on request. At university I’ve been told I need to include on academic referee (check with your department who the appropriate person is) and one employment referee; I have stated these two referees, and also mentioned that I am able to provide further employment references on request (as I have held done more than one job in the past).

 

And so that’s it, my not-so-brief guide as to what a CV should look like and include. I hope it helps at least one of you to create an excellent CV and hopefully gain a job! I’ll hopefully be back in a few weeks with a post on application processes, and those lovely online logical and numerical reasoning tests that a lot of companies implement into applications. Until then, have fun updating your CV…

Student Shopping: Tips on Auction Sites (And My EBay Addiction)

Sorry it’s been so long again. This operation really has taken a lot out of me, and coupled with trying to get on top of shifts at work (I don’t qualify for sick pay anymore, so wanted to make up for the shifts I missed!) I’ve had little time for blogging. I really have missed it, but my energy has been non-existent and the last thing I want is to be posting flat and tired posts. Hopefully this one won’t be too bad…

 

Over the few weeks between getting home and having my operation, I was tasked with clearing out my room. My parents aren’t planning on chucking me out anytime soon, but they are well aware I’m a little bit of a hoarder, and they also plan on redecorating my room next year. Embarrassingly, it took 3 trips to the dump to throw all of the non-decent stuff (and even more embarrassingly, only half of my room has been done – and it’s a small room!) and many black bags to house the various piles labelled ‘sell’ and ‘donate.’ Quite a decent pile of my stuff made its way to various charity shops, which always makes me feel like I’m doing my bit. I can’t say I give to charity as much as I’d like, sadly I can’t afford to donate often, but giving my unwanted goods for shops to sell makes me feel a teeny bit better. I also try and check out their clothing rails when I pop in – there’s often some excellent deals to be had!

I also had a lot of really, really good bits and pieces) that I felt I could get a bit of money for. I mean, most bits still had tags on! I have a really bad habit of buying things that I ‘might’ wear and then never wearing/using them, and although I’m growing out of that phase now (mainly as it’s my own money I’m spending!) it’s still left me with a lot of things to get rid of. Enter EBay. Not only did I find it an excellent way of getting rid of my unwanted things, I also found myself acquiring a few bits and pieces others didn’t want, which I did. This blog post will be a not-so-short guide to buying and selling on EBay.

 

Selling On EBay

  • Make sure it’s something that someone will want. Cheap items do sell, but is anyone really want to buy a broken Primark dress, pay postage, and repair it when they could buy a brand-new one for under £10. Special occasion items, like this here (I love it!), seem to sell well.
  • Set a reserve price just right. No point starting off your old ‘best’ leather jacket at 99p. But equally no point starting a well used t-shirt at £5. Judge it properly, and you’ll get interest.
  • Don’t charge ridiculous postage fees. It costs me £3 to post a small parcel (shorts/dress/t-shirt) and £3.50 for a pack of five postage bags. So to me, when someone asks for £5.50 postage for similar items, I get annoyed and put-off bidding. The ones EBay suggest are good estimates, and there for a reason, so do consider using them!
  • Take decent photographs, and lots of them. If you’re selling a patterned item, make sure your photos show it clearly. I also suggest taking photos of size/brand labels if possible, to avoid being accused of false advertising.
  • If selling clothing, please wash it before posting it off. I know people (me at least!) will most likely wash it when they receive it, but no-one will give you positive feedback for items with your dinner down them!
  • Make sure any items don’t smell. I won’t state which, but a clothing item I have received in the last few weeks had clearly been stored in a damp environment. Three washes and airings later it’s far improved, but I can’t stay I was impressed upon opening!
  • Don’t be disheartened if things don’t sell – list again, and again, and again, adjusting the reserve price if you feel it needs it. Remember that at certain times of the year (holiday periods) bidding will be less.
  • Ensure items are posted out quickly after payment is received. I always try to time my auctions to finish on a Saturday or Sunday, ensuring I have postage bags ready, so I know I can send them out the day after payment is received.
  • Keep an eye on items, as potential bidders may ask questions. It annoys me hugely when I ask a seller a question, they don’t respond, and so the item goes unbid on.

 

Buying on EBay

  • When searching, always try to be specific – don’t search for skirts, search for ‘floral skirt’ or ‘maxi skirt.’ No point wading through hundreds of entries you’re not interested in! Ideally, search for your favourite brands/shops too.
  • My biggest piece of advice is to include the size you’d want as a search term -you don’t want to find the perfect item and then it be miles too big/small for you.
  • Ask questions before bidding, especially if the seller won’t accept returns.
  • I don’t bid on things I like straight away. I add them to my watch list, set a phone alarm for just before bidding ends, and then bid at the last moment. This helps me to avoid a bidding war, and keeps me to a budget.
  • To keep to a budget, decide on a maximum bid and stick to it. Entering the auction with minute to go lowers the chance of you being outbid, and so removes temptation to spend more than you would have.
  • Don’t bid on everything you like – consider where it is from, and how well it will be made. I’m sorry if you think I’m a snob, but I would not buy a second-hand, used item from Primark for £5+postage, as I know perfectly well I could get one for the same price that hasn’t been worn before.
  • Last of all, always, always, please, please, please give feedback to your seller!

 

That’s my basic guide to selling/buying on EBay. I will admit the majority of things I have been interested in are clothes (I am a girl after all!) and here are the three items I have won this summer.

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A lovely vintage-style Urban Outfitters skirt. I just adore the different buttons on this, plus it’ll be far easier when I inevitably lose one!

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A less vintage, but equally lovely (and apparently one-off) unbranded skirt. This is a little on the tight side, but I got overexcited and ignored the ‘to fit sizes 6-10’ in the description as it was the first item I bid on.

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An absolutely gorgeous (the photograph doesn’t do it justice) mini-dress from Mango. I can’t wait until the winter to wear this with thick tights and boots!

 

I have also used EBay to try and find some items of sentimental value.

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Since I was very little, I’ve had one cuddly toy, and it’s the only one that I ever truly loved. It, or he, came everywhere with me, experienced things a bear shouldn’t have to experience (being stuffed in a drawer after getting lost in Marks and Spencer’s, and being posted from Cornwall for Leicestershire after I left him in a holiday cottage) and was basically glued to my hand when I wasn’t losing him. I loved, and still love, Bear. Yes, my bear’s name is Bear. I was an imaginative child (the story is, he was actually bought for my mum when she announced she was expecting me, I fell in love with him as a child, but I wasn’t allowed him until I said the word ‘bear’ – it ended up being my first word, and the name stuck). Anyway, I decided to search on EBay to see if I could find another, and found several straight away. I duly purchased, not to replace my Bear (he is irreplaceable!) but to store for the future day I have children, in the hope that they too have a cuddly best friend to see them through their childhood and beyond. See, EBay can be used for sentimental reasons too, and that just shows how soppy I am at heart…

 

For all of you Filofax fans out there (and I know there are a lot thanks to Philofaxy publicizing my blog on their round-up posts) EBay is also a great source of cheaper Filofaxes. I greatly aim to get hold of a vintage Filofax one day, and probably spend a little bit of time twice a week searching for these on EBay. I’ve not found the perfect one at the perfect price, yet, but I’m sure I will one day.  I want something like this…

Filofax

Image from here.

I will say though, I’ve seen a few try to sell non-leather folders expensively by mis-describing them. I’ve also seen multiple sellers listing other folders (i.e. cheap store bought ones) as “Filofax-style” in order to try and gain more money. So do be careful with what you are buying – Philofaxy has a great advisory post here. My biggest piece of advise if buying a Filofax is to definitely ask on Philofaxy, or on one of the Facebook groups, just to check that you are getting the real deal.

 

So that’s it, my rambly guide to using EBay. Hope that helps the potential bidders in my readers!