Sunday, 25 June 2017

Hello! Here's a big, juicy update.



So... I haven’t blogged in absolutely forever, and I was going to write this big long post about why, and my feelings about blogging. Then I just realised that it was taking me ages to write because I didn’t really want to write it, because everyone and their insta-boyfriend has written a post about their feelings about blogging... so I thought I’d just talk about what I’ve been up to instead.

And so I knocked this post out in ten minutes while waiting for Matt to come and pick me up from work the other day, so I think we all learned something there.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

REVIEW: Pizza Express, Berkhamsted

Review of new Pizza Express in Berkhamsted by food blogger based in Tring, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, The ChilternsReview of new Pizza Express in Berkhamsted by food blogger based in Tring, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, The Chilterns
Review of new Pizza Express in Berkhamsted by food blogger based in Tring, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, The Chilterns

We're settling in nicely to Tring - it's just such a lovely area, and I'm so excited to explore more places nearby, both in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire... the Chilterns is full of picturesque villages and excellent pubs. We keep promising we're going to strap on our walking boots and go proper exploring (I just bought some new ones from Spartoo, so I have zero excuse) but it hasn't happened yet. Actually, so far it doesn't feel like we've ventured that far (every time we go out to eat in Tring, we go to the same place!) but we've managed to make it into Berkhamsted a couple of times, which is just up the road.

It seems like this area is quite up-and-coming. Berkhamsted will soon be home to the second branch of one of my St Albans favourites, Tabure (and Matt's barbers are opening a branch there too, which he is very excited about) and Tring will be getting another St Albans fave, Lussmanns, later this year too (which I included in my St Albans restaurant roundup a couple of years ago). I love St Albans, but we were priced out of there when we wanted to buy property, which I think is the case for many people, so it isn't that surprising that independent businesses are moving this way too. And I am all for it, obviously.

We were invited to hop on the bus up to Berkhamsted to check out Pizza Express, which recently had a revamp. We timed our visit very poorly, as we tried a few items from the latest menu... about two days before they launched the new one. So unfortunately our main courses are no longer available to buy, but please join me in petitioning Pizza Express to rectify that, because I'm going to need their 'nduja mac'n'cheese and the Barbacoa pizza to be permanent menu items. SO GOOD.

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

WISHLIST: Dresses, bags and food for Spring

Spring Summer 2017 wishlist fit and flare dresses

Remember, back in the day, when I'd post regularly about clothes and shoes and bags and whatnot, and basically be a fashion blogger type person? Yeah, me too. I don't really see me going back to my ways completely (I never quite got over the awkwardness of taking outfit photos), but lately I've found myself falling in love with clothes again.

The problem of late has been that my kind of clothes simply haven't been in the shops. Honestly, my style hasn't changed all that much during the many, many, many years that I've had this blog (I actually wore a dress to a wedding on Saturday that I featured in an outfit post on here in 2012!) but what's deemed trendy has changed. I've been turning to online-only brands like Emily & Fin, Sugarhill Boutique and Collectif as my lunchtime wanders through my old favourites like New Look and Topshop have just turned up unflattering smock dresses, bodycon skirts that wouldn't go over my hips and midi frocks that would come down to the floor on me. Boo.

BUT! Suddenly, the shops are improving. I'm putting the blame at the feet of some of this year's most successful films - Emma Stone's wardrobe in La La Land was to die for (I now have a yellow flowered dress winging its way to me) and the dresses in Hidden Figures... oh, be still my heart. So here, for the first time in a long time, is a wishlist of some of the things I'm loving in the shops right now. Plus some food, because a girl's gotta eat, obvs.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

REVIEW: Chocolate making parties in Hertfordshire with The Choccie Drop





Okay, so it's way too early to start thinking about my hen party, but with my bridesmaids officially assembled now, I am pretty excited to spend a weekend with all of my favourite ladies. Can't we just have six-monthly mini hen dos until the wedding? It's AGES away.

One thing that got me thinking about hen dos was The Choccie Drop party I went to a few weeks ago with Matt. The lovely Kirsty holds chocolate making workshops in Hertfordshire, and we spent an evening creating items of chocolatey wonder and getting entirely covered with sugar. It was, predictably, great - because what could possibly be wrong with that scenario?
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Friday, 14 April 2017

RECIPE: Super chocolatey Easter cake

Best ever chocolate cake recipe for Easter weekend

Now, some bloggers are organised and think about their content months in advance. I am not gifted in that area. I'm not a big planner, and I often post recipes after just cooking them once. I like to think that it's my style - spontaneous! Crazy! And delicious!

Aaanyway, that's why I have had these photos of an Easter cake on my computer for a YEAR. That's right - last Easter Sunday, I made this chocolatey wonder, and then realised that it was far too late to actually share the recipe. Now, some might call that being disorganised, others might call it dedication. But I'm just going to call it the best gosh darn chocolate cake you'll ever have, and recommend that you make it this weekend. Or any weekend, really. Heck, make it on a Tuesday. It's a really good cake.

Obviously, it's ace covered in mini eggs and chocolate bunnies (a decorating tip which I totally didn't invent) but it's also ace with a slick of chocolate buttercream and nothing more. This is the only chocolate cake recipe you'll need.

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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

RECIPES: Sweet potato recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner

International sweet potato week - recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner
International sweet potato week - recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner
International sweet potato week - recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner

There are some foods I like so much that I could cheerfully eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of those foods is sweet potatoes, which is handy, as I was challenged to make a breakfast, lunch and dinner dish containing the most orange of potatoes as part of International Sweet Potato Week, which takes place from 1-13 April. Nope, I'm not sure why it's a 13 day week either. Maybe the greatness of sweet potatoes cannot be contained within one of your earth weeks, ever think of that?

I absolutely loved doing this challenge. I've been cooking a lot of the same meals lately - good meals, but samey - and it gave me a little nudge out of my comfort zone and I discovered some new recipes that will definitely enter our regular rotation. Just wait until you get to my dinner recipe, because daaaamn.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

RECIPE: Easy peasy falafels

Blogger challenge with Florette smoothie mixes - easy falafel recipe for Sunday lunch
Blogger challenge with Florette smoothie mixes - easy falafel recipe for Sunday lunch

Usually, when given a blog challenge to make something, I'm pretty obedient. That's how I learnt that I wasn't very good at cooking tofu in January. But this time, I'm afraid I'm going to break the rules.

You see, Florette challenged me to make a smoothie bowl with their new Smoothie Mix bags, and I just couldn't do it. Back when the smoothie trend was at its peak a couple of years ago, I was drinking a raspberry, apple, oat and almond milk smoothie for breakfast every morning and I completely ruined them for myself - I just got so sick of them. And then, a few weeks back, I was making falafel for the first time and broke my BlendActive smoothie maker. Turns out you need a food processor for falafel - anything else just can't handle those pesky chickpeas.

(On the day I broke my Blendactive, I actually had to pull on my new Spartoo trainers and speed up the A41 to pick up the food processor a couple of hours before our guests were due to arrive to grab it from where it was being stored at my Granny's. Not advisable. Bit stressful.)

So I thought it was fitting to post the recipe for my falafel instead, which is now a tried and tested recipe that's come out every time I've had guests for lunch. Which is a lot - everyone seems to want to see our new house, and we haven't even got round them all yet! When I had the family round a few weeks ago, I whipped them up in my Mum's ancient food processor alongside a perfect roast chicken, potato wedges and bowls upon bowls of delicious picky bits. Mmmm, picky bits. The best of all the bits.

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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

REVIEW: Miller and Carter steak restaurant, Rickmansworth

Review of Miller and Carter in Rickmansworth - steak restaurant in Hertfordshire

I cook and eat a lot of vegetarian food, and often think to myself 'Sure, I could go vegetarian,' and I truly believe I could. If I had to, I could. But I don't have to. And also there's steak. Consider steak.

I didn't get into eating steak until quite late in life, and when I started to order it more and more often, I was shocked to realise I liked it rare. My dad loves to tell the story of being told off by a chef for ordering his steak well done, and... well, I'm siding with the chef. I totally get why people aren't into rare steak, but I revel in it. Bring it to me pink, and juicy and barely cooked, and I'll be happy. Still mooing? Cool.

This is a post for carnivores, my friends.

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Friday, 24 February 2017

WEDDING: Honeymoon planning (well, fantasising)

Wedding planning blogger - honeymoon thoughts

It’s over a year until we’re planning to get married (I am like 73% sure the wedding posts will diminish during that time, I’m sorry I'm talking about it so much at the moment) and I can already tell that our planning is going to be anywhere but linear. We’re fixating on the little, insignificant details in a big way while giving rather less attention to the massive, significant stuff. Table names? Nailed. Venue? No clue.

And in that ilk, I’m idly planning our honeymoon. The honeymoon that we’re not actually intending to take until a few months after the wedding. I know why, of course. Hard savings this year means that exciting holidays has to take a backseat, and I’m getting all wistful for sunshine, interesting food and fun things. Currently I’m leaning towards an American road trip with a side of Disney, but there’s so much more out there to potentially choose from. The world is, quite literally, our oyster.

No, wait. That’s not literal at all. The world is not an oyster. Anyway, here’s some other honeymoon options that I’m toying with. I’m sure I’ll involve my fiancĂ© in these plans at some point.

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Monday, 20 February 2017

RECIPE: Slow cooked beef and ale stew

Beef and Guinness stew from Jamie Oliver's Superfood, Weight Watchers friendly

As much as I cheerfully kept my food blog going last year, I felt like I didn't cook all that much. Well, I did, but I didn't cook very many NEW recipes. I kept returning to old favourites over and over again, like chorizo pasta, peanut curry, coconut dhal and burrito bowls. Don't get me wrong, my parents wouldn't have minded if I'd made something different every night, but I minded. I didn't want to be under their feet all the time, so I relied heavily on batch cooking, which meant I'd spend a day once a month or so to fill up our freezer drawer with meals.

And it worked, but I missed what I love most about cooking - learning new skills, finding new flavours and experimenting with different things. So when we moved into our house, one of the first things I unpacked was my cookbooks. You see, having my own kitchen again is so much more than just space. It's having complete ownership of what's in the cupboards and the fridge, which sounds like a little thing, but when you're sharing that space it's sometimes hard to remember what's in there, or even to guarantee that what you left in there will still be there when you get home. We've all been in that position, right?

When we moved, I was convinced I wanted to replace the kitchen, but now I'm not so sure. Yeah, I'd love to replace the faux-wood cupboard doors with a calming cream, but it's actually a really good size with tons of storage, and lovely to cook in. I also get the impression it had hardly been used by the previous owner, apart from the oven which was pretty appalling. I attacked it with liberal amounts of Oven Pride (which I find terrifying but oh-so-satisfying) and it's much better, but I'm dreaming of replacing it eventually with a nice shiny hob (with no rust stains, the dream) and a big old oven. Currently eyeing up a nice cream double oven from Belling kitchen appliances, even though I'm not sure we can actually fit a double oven in. Oh well. One day I'll have my dream cream-and-wood farmhouse kitchen, I will. And until then, I must count my blessings, and remind myself that what we have now beats the oven we had in our flat by a long way, which was tiny, terrible, and only had one shelf. The wooorst.

Aaaanyway. I've already been racking up the new recipes since we moved. From curries to chilli to stew to meze, I'm loving experimenting again. I think my favourite new cookbook is one of Jamie Oliver's latest, Super Food Family Classics. You know when you just want to make EVERYTHING? That. Anyway, his beef and ale stew recipe is to diiiie for. He recommends serving it with mustard spiced pearl barley, but I serve it with mash, because I don't understand why you wouldn't have mash when you could have mash.

Here's my variation on it. It's pretty close to Jamie's, but I add a bit more beef and a bit more veg, and spend some time thickening it at the end, too. And I add mash. Did I mention the mash?

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

RECIPE: Vegan blueberry bircher muesli with Alpro

Alpro breakfast ideas - vegan bircher muesli with blueberries

I always have a little list of recipes in my head that I want to try out, but they're often the ones that it takes me the longest to get round to. One such recipe is bircher muesli. I love the stuff - I'm always buying the pre-made pots from M&S or Pret, and whenever I'm in Germany for work, I make a beeline for it at the hotel breakfast buffet.

Despite its name, it actually has more in common with porridge than muesli, and consists of oats soaked in milk, yogurt or both with grated apple. That's the basis of it, anyway, but you can add anything extra you like to it, such as fruit, granola or nuts. It's been around for years (it's a staple breakfast food in Switzerland) although it's had a bit of a renaissance recently under the guise of Overnight Oats, and there are hundreds of different variations - even versions where double cream or condensed milk is used instead of yogurt. Decadent.

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

WEDDING: Choosing my engagement ring

Story of choosng an engagement ring using bespoke design service from Purely Diamonds

It feels like absolutely ages ago now that I announced my engagement on here - and it kinda was, to be honest, as it was back in October. Well, if you remember, I was left with a little task... to choose my own engagement ring. Matt proposed with a beloved, broken ring of mine that he'd secretly had fixed, because he knew I'd want to choose my own ring.

He knew this because every time we idly looked in a jeweller's window or the conversation came up, I confessed that I had no idea what I wanted, just that I didn't want the standard cartoon emoji ring - you know, one square or round stone on a gold band. Of course, that's classic and beautiful, but I just wanted something a little different. And therein lay the problem.
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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

RECIPE: Vegan rice and pasta tofu bowls with Florette

High protein tofu salad bowls for Veganuary with Asian and Italian inspired flavours

I've never been very good at timing my blog posts properly. I've often had to turn my Christmas recipes into New Year's ones, and I have photos of an Easter cake sitting on my computer that I made last Easter Sunday and realised I'd have to wait a year to post if I wanted it to be at all timely. And all that explains why on this, the last day of January, I'm talking about Veganuary!

I didn't go vegan for January, but I know plenty of people who did. Eating a plant-based diet has plenty of potential health benefits, and ethical benefits too (you can see more at The Vegan Society). And while I don't plan to switch any time soon, I have found myself eating more vegetarian and vegan food in recent years. Florette recently challenged me to come up with some high protein, high vitamin vegan recipes, so armed with my block of tofu and some other vegan ingredients that they sent me, I got to work.

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Sunday, 29 January 2017

INTERIORS: A new bedroom

Tempur Love Sleep - tips to sleep better

I will freely admit that I am a tiredyhead. I am that person who falls asleep on the couch at house parties, dozes off every time I'm on a long car journey (as long as I'm not driving, obvs), and has a list as long as my arm of films I've missed the last half an hour of due to the alluring call of the Land of Nod. I once fell asleep at a friend's gig. Sleep is my bae.

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Saturday, 21 January 2017

REVIEW: Little Marrakech, St Albans

Review of Little Marrakech, Moroccan restaurant in St Albans, Hertfordshire

Oh, hello! I took a little bit of a Christmas break from blogging... that then extended into January. The first few weeks of January have actually been pretty quiet, and staying home and trying to remember how to make food that's not entirely made of cheese and booze isn't all that blog-worthy.

Of course, plenty's been going on. Obviously we moved into our own house in December, and we've made serious strides in making it our own. There's still plenty to do, but I've been sharing pics and vids on Instagram and I'm definitely planning a few posts about that. I'm probably most excited about having a decent shoe storage area (remember all those pairs from Spartoo I've been posting over the years?). I'm really looking forward to exploring Tring and the local area a bit more, too. It's so nice! And new for this year is a little thing called Wedding Planning. Eeeep. We're planning to get married next year, so we need to start looking for venues soon and ironing out plans. I'm a big planner, so I'm sure there'll be lots of it on here. But not tooo much, if that's not your thing. I promise.

Having my own kitchen again means more cooking, which I've already been doing plenty of. I must confess it's been a lot of tried and tested recipes lately but I've got a few new cookbooks and am inspired to try some new things. Anyway. That's all to come!

Today I'm sharing a review of one of my favourite restaurants in St Albans, Little Marrakech. This lovely Moroccan restaurant has been tucked away near French Row for quite a long time, and it's always stood out as one of the best restaurants in the area. Sure, now there's a pretty diverse range of restaurants in St Albans, but a few years ago it used to be chains as far as the eye can see, with a million Italian and Indian restaurants and not much else, so Moroccan food was exotic beyond our wildest extremely tame dreams.

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