Thursday 31 December 2015

New Year's Cocktail Recipe: Baileys Flat White Martini

Baileys Flat White Martini Recipe for New Year's Eve

Just what is it about Baileys that seems so Christmassy? Is it simply the fact that drinking what is ostensibly alcoholic cream just isn't acceptable the rest of the year? I'm not sure. I do know that I don't tend to choose creamy cocktails when I'm out and about, but as soon as December hits, I am all about that boozy creamy deliciousness. I must confess my favourite creamy cocktail is the classic combo of Baileys and ice... okay, that doesn't strictly count as a cocktail, but why mess with a classic?

This is an excellent NYE cocktail, though. The espresso means that it's the perfect pre-drink to give you energy for the evening ahead, and a damn sight more tasty than a Red Bull concoction. Shudder. And even if you're not a coffee fan - like me - the creaminess of the drink means it's not overpowering. I'm currently sipping mine down before I go and get ready - expect some creative makeup experiments from me tonight.


Wednesday 30 December 2015

Recipe: Baileys and salted caramel chocolate trifle

Salted caramel and Baileys chocolate trifle for New Year's Eve

Friends, I have a sad story for you today. You see, for the longest time, I didn't think I liked trifle. The mess of different things together, the creepy way the cold custard wibbled... I didn't think it was for me. Then one day, I tried a trifle, and realised that fundamental rule of food - that if all the components are good, the finished product will be awesome.

I haven't looked back, but this year is the first time I made my own trifle. But while I do enjoy a traditional trifle these days, I'm still not sure why you'd choose it if you could have something chocolatey instead. So the logical next step? Chocolate trifle. I found this recipe in Good Food magazine about a month ago, and as soon as I mentioned "Oh, it includes brownies soaked in Baileys," not making it for Christmas was unthinkable. My sister would have disowned me, Matt would have dumped me, my parents would have put me up for adoption. So, you know, it's for my own good.


Tuesday 29 December 2015

Christmas breakfasts

Christmas decorations with real tree, red and gold star baubles
Christmas breakfast with Brioche Pasquier, pastries, brioche, pain au chocolat, croissants, nutella, strawberries
Christmas decorations with real tree, handmade red and gold baubles

So Christmas is over for another year, and now we're in that weird in-between period where some of us have to work and the rest of us float around like lost teenagers, suddenly with no idea how to get dressed before noon or wash any dishes. For the next few days, chocolate is still a reasonable option for breakfast and, while the fridge isn't as impressive as it was a few days ago, there's still enough leftover meat and cheese to ensure some epic sandwiches.


Sunday 20 December 2015

Review: Honest Christmas Burger and Meat Liquor Christmas Menu

Honest Burger London Christmas Menu Seasonal Food

Now, if you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that I love me some Christmas themed food. I’d probably love Easter and Halloween themed food too, but no one really seems to DO that as much, apart from chocolate. It’s a shame. Let’s make it happen, world.

Throughout December, I’ve been enjoying working in a busy town centre a little too much. So many M&S and Pret seasonal sandwiches to work my way through! It’s been wonderful. As well as Christmas sandwiches though, there are also Christmas burgers to consider. I’ve already talked about the ones at The Snug, of course, but with London only a stone’s throw away, I had to try a couple.

The Honest Christmas burger was top of my list. Actually, ANY Honest burger was – I still hadn’t been, even though I kept hearing wonderful things... especially about those rosemary chips. Well, I can confirm that the chips are indeed fabulous. Proper chip shop, squishy chips – NOT FRIES – sprinkled with a rosemary salt. A few were on the saltier side, but it all evened out in a happy tasty lunchtime.


Wednesday 2 December 2015

Review: Honey & Co, Warren Street, London

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Anne suggested that we tried out Honey & Co on Warren Street, London. I hadn't heard of it before, but I took a look at the menu and was sold. Just take a look. You want to go now too, don't you?

It's a tiny, cafe-style establishment, which sells hearty Middle-Eastern food with delicious, fresh ingredients. While it's not vegetarian, it absolutely could be - either you're confused at that statement, or you totally know what I mean. Vegetables are a big part of the menu, and although there are plenty of meaty stews, I don't feel like it's the key component. I had a purely vegetarian meal (because that's what I fancied) and it was wonderful - I feel like this is a place that knows their veggies.


Monday 30 November 2015

The Snug, St Albans - Christmas menu review

If I had one regret from the festive season last year, it was that I didn’t get to try all the seasonal food. I’ll never get to try all of it, to be honest – every year, more and more places bring out Christmas sandwiches and burgers and other fantastic festive fancies, and I feel both excited and saddened that it’s not possible to try everything. The one that stung the most last year was The Snug Christmas menu, because not only did their Christmas burger sound pretty mindblowing, it was LOCAL. But we just couldn’t fit it in. Devastating.

I’ve reviewed The Snug before – it’s a pub in St Albans that does excellent burgers and hot dogs, and the only reason it didn’t make it onto this list was because I’m planning to do a similar one at some point on the best foodie pubs in St A (there are just SO many places to eat, you have to put them into categories sooner or later). Anyway, I’m happy to say that I was invited to try out their Christmas menu, and I got to try EVERYTHING.


Wednesday 25 November 2015

Tea advent calendar by Victoria Mae Designs

Ah, December. That joyous month where it’s legitimately fine to eat chocolate every single day thanks to the wonder of advent calendars. But it’s not just chocolate! You can get advent calendars for all sorts of things these days – the beauty ones seem to do big business, if the excitement of my Twitter feed is anything to go by.

Speaking of all sorts of things, I was recently sent a tea-themed calendar to review. Victoria Mae Designs sell two different advent calendars, one with just English Breakfast tea and one with mixed teas. The former seems a bit pointless to me – where’s the fun in that? But the mixed teas are plentiful. Out of the 25 included, there are six or seven different types including Moroccan Mint, Earl Grey and Mountain Honey Bush.


Tuesday 24 November 2015

Molecule-R R-evolution edible pearls and foam review with I Want One Of Those

I know what you're thinking - "What the heck is THAT?" All will become clear, I promise.

A few years ago, I got really into baking and then rued the day I mentioned it. Every birthday, every Christmas, all I got was baking books, cupcake stands, icing nozzles and anything remotely related to it until I was inundated. I know, that sounds really ungrateful, but the truth is that if someone has a hobby, they usually have more than enough supplies to do it and won’t really thank you for buying them more. After all, buying supplies is one of the best bits about starting something new.

Anyway, I quietly asked my loved ones to stop, and they did. I only get cookbooks these days if I’ve put them on my wishlist and I haven’t been bought a cupcake stand in six years (which is good, as I haven’t made them in about three years). But it does mean that I rarely get bought adventurous bits of kitchen gadgetry, and sometimes it’s fun to experiment.

So the chaps at I Want One Of Those (IWOOT) must have read my mind, as they sent me some delightfully random kitchen weirdness to play with. And then shamefully, I left them on a shelf for a couple of months, a bit frightened to push my boundaries. Bad SBV. There's so many unusual gift ideas at IWOOT - have you looked lately?


Sunday 22 November 2015

Exploring Newcastle with Travelodge

Any excuse for a mini break, eh? I go on quite a few every year, but why not - we live in such a well connected part of the world. Our country is home to some amazing history, astounding sights and incredible areas of natural beauty and that's not even considering how quickly we can hop across the channel to another country. We're pretty lucky, really.

I'd love to go away more, though. Hopping in the car and visiting somewhere in England really isn't a big deal - you can get pretty much anywhere in an afternoon. The other weekend, for instance, we went about as far North as we could get without crossing over into Scotland, to Newcastle. It took about five hours in the car - not the shortest of journeys - but accompanied by old Adam & Joe podcasts and the Book of Mormon soundtrack and lots and lots of chocolate, it really wasn't so bad.


Thursday 19 November 2015

Recipe: Peanut and coconut chicken curry

I've totally embraced this whole Autumn/Winter thing. As the days have become colder and crisper, I've been spending more time in the kitchen. When it's cold outside, spending an hour or so over a hot pan is quite a nice time to spend your time - I'm all for being toasty.

Lately, I've been making a lot of curries - funny, as they really weren't my thing a couple of years ago. But the more I make, the more I learn about spices and flavours, and this post is the result of me completely improvising one. I was aiming for something a little like a massaman curry, and... well, this is a LITTLE like that. But it's something else, really - milder, creamier, and with more of an Indian mix of spices than a Thai one. Let's call it fusion food, shall we? Or just a mad improvisation that worked, because that's totally what it was.

But it DID work. It was so very, very tasty that I grabbed my laptop and wrote the recipe up the second I finished eating because I wanted to make sure I remembered it. Mostly for you guys, obviously, but also for me - I am absolutely making this again.


Wednesday 18 November 2015

Review: Duck & Waffle - lunch at the highest restaurant in the UK

I have wanted to go Duck & Waffle forever. It's constantly popping up on my Instagram feed, and taunting me with how awesome it looks. We've even tried to go a few times, but it's been booked up, or the timings haven't worked out - you know how it is.

Anyway, it occurred to me to book it for lunch on Matt's birthday back in September, and so I just booked it straightaway, with a month to go, no more thinking about it. I DO like that you can book, by the way. So many places don't allow it, and I understand that it's fairer - in a way - because everyone comes in that day as equals. But, you know. Queueing. UGH. It was so nice rocking up and knowing we had a spot reserved for us. God bless reservations, that age old wonder.


Friday 13 November 2015

Review: Tefal Optigrill and the perfect steak

I'm happy eating vegetarian food a lot of the time. It's healthier, cheaper and usually contains cheese - I'm up for that. But I'm not a vegetarian, and the reason why is that every now and then, I. Just. Miss. Meat. And so when I eat meat, I do it PROPERLY. Whether it's a massive rack of ribs, a messy, oozy burger or a steak. Oh, a steak. It's always horrified my staunchly 'well done' father that I like my steaks rare and bloody. Still mooing? Perfect.

I love to order steak when I go out to eat, but it's always the priciest option on the menu, so it's nice to cook it at home sometimes too as it's so much cheaper. Even if I get a couple of steaks from M&S along with sides and desserts, I'll generally still spend less than one portion of steak in a restaurant! Plus, I get to eat it in my pyjamas. Win.

Tefal sent me their new Tefal OptiGrill to review, and I instantly decided to test its steak-cooking abilities. Matt isn't quite as carnivorous as me - he likes his steak medium, I like mine rare, so it meant I could see how the OptiGrill stood up to cooking two different levels of doneness.


Tuesday 10 November 2015

Weight Watchers Update: October

Now, stop me if you've heard this before. "I just don't seem to be losing weight at the moment. I'm eating well, and I'm exercising, but the scales aren't going down. I mean, there was that night out the other day. And then we went out for lunch a couple of days ago. Oh, and we did order pizza the other night. But seriously, why aren't I losing weight?"

This is me right now. Over the last month, I've lost my discipline and I'm really only admitting that to myself now. The thing is, I am being fundamentally good most of the time. But treats are slipping through, and I'm not tracking. I don't think you need to track what you're eating to lose weight, but me? I need to. Recording what I'm eating in my Weight Watchers app can be an eye opener - so many things can slip through the cracks. And doing it properly usually means I'll have enough points left for a Kitkat or some extra cheese on my dinner, so it doesn't mean I can't still have treats.


Sunday 8 November 2015

Review: The Pudding Stop and The Pudmobile, St Albans

Approximately 80% of working adults in St Albans commute into London. OK, I just made that number up, but if you're from around here, you believed it, right? The thing is, you can get a train into St Pancras in 20 minutes from St Albans City - less time than it takes to get from some parts of London to others - and as St Albans is a nice, safe, pretty town, it has a lot of allure.

The trains are also extortionate, which is why I'm happy to drive to my Hertfordshire office every day, but that's not the point I'm trying to make. The point is that commuters! There are many! And so the area around the station is starting to become quite bustling, with property developments and new restaurants and whatnot. That was quite a dull sentence, sorry.

If you hop off the train at St Albans on a weeknight, you might spot a little van waiting by the back entrance. That's The Pudding Stop. It sells puddings. Just puddings. It was set up by an ex-GBBO contestant who thought that people getting home after a long day working in London might like to pick up a pud on their way home, to have after dinner (or just on the walk back from the station - this is a no judgement zone. Now gimme a bite.). Mr Pud mans the van himself, advising you on the best way to prepare your pudding and what to have it with. He's ace.


Thursday 5 November 2015

Boozy apple crumble with amaretto and Jack Daniel's

I love Bonfire Night, even though I rarely celebrate it on today's date - it's usually on the nearest Saturday, when the St Albans fireworks display happens. It was only a few years ago that I realised it wasn't just your standard fireworks display, and people come from all over the local area to see it. One of the best in the country, apparently - I feel so sheltered that I don't know any different! But also, you know, super lucky and stuff.

We usually wrap up warm and bring flasks of mulled wine and cider along to drink as we "Oooh" and "Ahhh" at the glittering lights in the sky, then spend the rest of the evening in the pub. It's one of my favourite nights of the year. This year though, because we're all in our thirties now and life stuff happens, we've got pregnant ladies and small kids along for the ride and need some non-alcoholic alternatives so I'm packing a flask of Taylors Apple Tea too. Apple tea is the only tea I like, fun fact.

Taylors challenged me to spice up an appley recipe and, in the spirit of my somewhat boozy bonfire night memories, I opted for an apple crumble. The apples are caramelised first in butter, brown sugar and a splash of amaretto and Jack Daniel's, another splash of amaretto, before being topped with my mum's classic crumble.


Sunday 1 November 2015

Review: Sheba Curry House, Brick Lane

I really enjoy going out for a curry or ordering in at home, but am always very aware that it's my least adventurous food. I think I'm generally a pretty adventurous eater - I'll try anything once, apart from snails - but whenever I eat Indian food, I always go for a very safe chicken korma, mushroom rice and peshwari naan. I know I'll always enjoy it, so I order it again and again, but that nagging voice is in the back of my head saying "Stop playing it safe, woman!"

When I was invited to review Sheba on Brick Lane recently, I resolved to do just that - stop playing it safe. Sheba is one of the oldest curry houses on Brick Lane, and has a window full of signs listing all the awards they've won. Walking down Brick Lane on a Saturday night is a lot like walking down the strip at popular tourist destinations, as almost every restaurant has someone outside trying to persuade you to eat there. I usually find these to be the most disappointing restaurants on offer, so I was reassured to find that there was no one outside Sheba - and no need, as it was full already.


Friday 30 October 2015

10 great recipes to batch cook for busy people

I am all about the batch cooking at the moment. I started a new job a couple of days ago, and I had a bit of time at home beforehand. It was nice to hang at home with no commitments, safe in the knowledge I'd be starting a new job in a couple of weeks, but I'm someone who likes to keep busy, and I was determined to use the time efficiently. I know, I'm so fun. But batch cooking was a priority - I wanted to make sure our freezer was full of meals so I didn't have to worry about cooking for the first few weeks.

I've posted about batch cooking here before - I'm a big fan of it. It's a great way to eat healthily, cheaply and it makes your life easier too. It hasn't changed much since that post - I cook for two, instead of one, but I just squeeze two portions into a box instead of one (and often don't freeze the pasta or rice with it).

Not everything suits batch cooking though - there are some recipes that taste better fresh, don't reheat well or aren't freezer friendly. But these are my favourite 10 at the moment, so pop down to your local supermarket and get cooking this weekend. It'll warm you up - always welcome on a cold day - and you won't have to cook all week. Even more sofa time for you. Bliss.


Wednesday 28 October 2015

Review: Dylan's at The King's Arms, St Albans

I've been walking loads lately, and I tend to do the same route around St Albans. The problem is that as I've mentioned, there are loads of great restaurants around here, and walking past them at dinner time is a killer. They all smell amazing and I spend just as long gazing at the menus as actually walking. I tend to come home with a long list of 'Places We Must Eat' which gets longer every time I go out.

One such place is Dylan's at The King's Arms. I go past it pretty much daily, and it's rapidly risen to the top of my list of places I need to go to. Now. This instant. I'm hungry. Spoiler alert: I got to go!


Sunday 25 October 2015

Recipe: Avocado and Feta Pasta

I've recently had to accept that summer is over. I feel we've been able to fool ourselves for a few weeks - there's been a few sunny days, the heating's only had to be turned on a few times and I only got out my winter coat the other day. But it's getting colder and colder, the evenings are getting darker and I'm about ready to commit to putting the heating back on its daily timer again.

It's okay though, because this is a lovely time of year. It's cold but not unbearable, nature is all about the beautiful colour as the leaves change, and we still have Halloween, Bonfire Night and freaking CHRISTMAS to look forward to. It's January and February you've got to watch out for. That's when the colder weater stops being cosy and delightful and starts being grey and depressing. And this is why I don't do Dry January.

Anyway, if the cold weather IS getting you down, then make this nice summery pasta for dinner tonight instead. It's light, fresh and tasty. And there's cheese in it. What more could you want?


Thursday 22 October 2015

Finally learning to use my Nikon D3200 with Pink Lady Apples

I've been using a DSLR since 2009, and I'm ashamed to admit that I've never really learned how to use it. I mean, I've kind of always thought I knew enough. I can frame a photograph fairly decently, I can get in super close and make the background go blurred, and I can fix most things on Photoshop. But it's always bothered me - I've read countless tutorials and blog posts on gettinng better with a DSLR, but I've never quite understood it. For instance, I know that a lower aperture creates a softer background, but I've never figured out HOW to actually change it. And manually focusing is haaaard.

So! When Pink Lady Apples organised a photography masterclass with Aspire Photography Training, I jumped at the chance. It was never something I'd organise to go to by myself, but having it RIGHT THERE - it was impossible to resist. I know what you're thinking - "Apples? And photography?" Well, Pink Lady sponsor the food photographer of the year competition, and were hoping that by teaching myself and some other bloggers some improved photography skills, maybe we'd tap into our unrealised talent and win the whole thing!


Monday 19 October 2015

Review: The new Autumn menu at Pizza Express, St Albans

I've always been a big fan of Pizza Express - they do an excellent job of offering proper, healthy food without sacrificing flavour. That's what I'm all about. Even a lot of the non-Leggera options aren't bad for you. But I love that if I am trying to follow the diet, I can still have pizza without feeling guilty about it. Plus, their Superfood salad is amazing. And huge.

Anyway, I was invited recently to try out their new Autumn menu, which I was all for - and even more so once I took a look at it. Chorizo and butternut squash pizza? Salted caramel profiteroles? Speaking my language. So off we popped to the St Albans branch, for a most excellent meal.


Friday 16 October 2015

New York City - wishlist and planning

Excitingly, I've booked myself a week's holiday in New York! I'm flying out at the very end of November, so we'll still be there for the first week of December when all the Christmas windows are going up and the big tree at Rockefeller Centre will be lit. I CANNOT WAIT.

I visited NYC in 2013 and had a pretty amazing time, but as is always the case when you visit somewhere that big and bustling, I felt like I barely scratched the surface. There's so much more I want to do and see and EAT - I'm going to be in serious planning mode this year.


Tuesday 13 October 2015

Weight Watchers update: September

Well, it's been a month since my last post about Weight Watchers, and I feel like I've made some good progress. It's reached the point where it doesn't feel like a diet any more - this is a lifestyle change, and living a bit more healthily is part of me. And it's made a difference - I feel so much healthier in myself.


Saturday 10 October 2015

BYOC - Bring Your Own Cocktail, Covent Garden

It was Matt's birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I excitedly launched myself into planning an excellent day for both of us. I know, I know, his birthday should be about HIM, but I want to have fun too! It was always going to be difficult to top the Burger Crawl - truly one of the best days ever - but I worked hard to turn it into a great experience.

After brunch at home, we headed to Duck & Waffle for a late lunch, which I will write up at a later date (but I was super impressed). And then - BYOC. BYOC is a cocktail bar with a twist, as they don't have an alcohol license. Instead, they have a room full of unusual mixers and the guests are tasked with bringing their own spirits. I LOVED this concept when I read about it on Curious London, and felt pretty confident that Matt would too so I booked us a couple of places. It's £25 a head, plus whatever booze you choose to bring, and they aim to give you five cocktails each. Five cocktails for £25 in Covent Garden is pretty much a bargain, even when you're supplying the alcohol.


Wednesday 7 October 2015

Recipe: Caramelised chorizo and sweet chilli butternut squash salad

Here's the thing with cooking - if you're working with lots of different components that you like, then you're pretty much guaranteed to like the final product. That's science, that is.

But sometimes, those ingredients surprise you and do something magical in the cooking process to surpass your expectations, and that's exactly what happened here. I was just using up some bits to make a warm salad for dinner, and didn't expect it to be anything special, but it was amaaazing. The oil from the chorizo seeped into the butternut squash, giving it a smoky, spicy flavour and the sweet chilli sauce took to the edges of the chorizo, making it all sticky and almost caramelised. It was SO good. So this, really, is barely a recipe, but I reeeally want you to try it, because I think it'll blow you away too.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Afternoon tea and cake delivery with Betty's Tearooms

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to enjoy afternoon tea in London with Betty's and a lovely group of bloggers. I'm a big fan of Betty's tearooms - we missed out when we were in York last December as I was poorly, so my last visit was five blinking years ago. I've been itching to go back ever since, so I was very happy to be invited to their London event. I dressed up in my finery - because pretty dresses and shoes are a must for afternoon tea, right - and hopped on the train. I wore this dress from Mela and these shoes from Spartoo, in case you're wondering.

Sadly, it doesn't mean that Betty's is opening in London - they're Northern, through and through - but they have just launched a delivery service, so if you're jonesing for some epic cakes, you can get them to your door. In teams, we set up our own afternoon teas from boxes of goodies packed as if they were to be delivered, and so I can vouch for the quality and the packaging. Wouldn't an afternoon tea in a box be an excellent present?


Thursday 1 October 2015

Flower delivery with Appleyard London (plus 33% off)

I've become obsessed with buying fresh flowers this year - I just think they brighten up a room and make it seem extra happy. There's also something grown-up about buying flowers for yourself, I've always thought. It might only be a few quid here or there, but it seems luxurious to me. I always feel like having a vase of fresh flowers in my living room makes it look like I have my shit together.


Tuesday 29 September 2015

Cooking eight Indian-inspired dishes in one night with StressFreePrint #TryMyMenu

I'm getting a little addicted to throwing dinner parties. It's fun to challenge myself to make lots of different dishes, set to a deadline, and as I'm a show off at heart, I can't really get enough of the praise when my meal is well received. Plus, there's always lots of eating and drinking involved, and you may have noticed that I'm a fan of both.

My latest venture was an Indian themed dinner for our friends, and I went all out. I may have mentioned before that it's usually suggested to make a tried-and-tested dish when you have friends round for dinner, and I completely see the logic - there's far less chance of getting it wrong when you know a recipe like the back of your hand. But for those of us who like trying out new recipes, where's the fun in that? There's none. None at all.

Also, part of the reason for throwing this dinner party was because I had real, proper menus printed by Stress Free Print. I had to go all out, or it wouldn't live up to the MENUS. I didn't want to be judged by the menus, you understand. And that's how I ended up making eight different dishes for four people. Don't do things by halves, me.

Behind the cut is my review of the dishes I cooked, which I picked up from all over the place. Not everything went to plan, but it was all tasty and well received, so if you're planning on making any of the dishes, hopefully I've given you a few tips to manage it all a little better. I still considered the night a success - learning is all part of the process!


Tuesday 22 September 2015

LBD with The Galleria

I was asked recently to pick out an outfit inspired by London Fashion Week. Both parts were somewhat challenging - I'm quite the stranger to an outfit post these days, and can't say I've felt the urge to attend LFW for several years now. It's not really my thing any more - I mean, I can barely walk on cobbles in flats, let alone heels. Also, I've just never been THAT much of a fashion person, despite the fact I blogged about fashion for many years. Because so much of fashion - especially the LFW brand of fashion - is about standing out and pushing the boundaries, which while I think is pretty admirable, it's not really me. I just like to be comfortable and look vaguely presentable. Sometimes just the first one will do.

Anyway, I headed to The Galleria - which is an outlet mall of sorts in Hatfield, that I remember fondly as being the first inside mall in our area. It was a big deal. It had one of those shops with a crazy candy selection and I bought one of those giant gobstoppers and kept it in a plastic box for an unhygienic amount of time. But I turned out okay, so I condone that activity!

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