Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Mojitos


We all love a mojito, right?! It's my cocktail of choice whenever, and whenever I'm presented with a menu at a cocktail bar chockablock with all sorts of unknown drinks with weird and wonderful names, I always seem to return faithfully to my M because it's so darn delicious. This is another recipe which has been taken from Lorraine Pascale's 'Fast, Fresh and Easy Food' slightly and ever so slightly adapted. I love this book as there are so many fun, tasty and easy to do recipes such as this. 

Next time you're celebrating or you are in need of an extra special treat on an evening you can knock up these in minutes at home. You need very few ingredients, most of which you'll probably have on hand anyway, and it's guaranteed to hit the spot every time! (Ps, the rum can be replaced with extra soda water or lemonade for a non-alcoholic version of you lean that way).

(Makes 4, takes 15 minutes)

Ingredients

3 limes
8-12 tbsp demarara sugar
400g crushed ice
Generous handful of fresh mint
300ml white rum
300ml soda water or lemonade

Method

1. Cut the lines in to quarters lengthways and out three pieces in the bottom of each medium serving glass. Ensure the glasses are wide enough to fit the end of a rolling pin in. (You'll see why).

2. Add 2-3 tablespoons sugar to each one. Then, using the end of a rolling pin, squash everything together to squeeze the lime juice out and mix with the sugar.

3. Fill the glasses almost to the top with crushed ice. Pick and reserve a few pretty mint sprigs from the bunch and then tip the remaining mint leaves on to the ice. Divide the rum evenly between the glasses and then top with the soda water or lemonade.


    

4. Mix everything together with a spoon, then add a sprig of mint to each glass and serve.


Et voila! Looks like a party to me! Emerge with these on a tray like the bonafide cocktail-maker you are and serve your delighted guests. 

These drinks are sure to go down a treat. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Instagram Update

Hello lovelies! I've been mighty mighty busy in the last 10 days whizzing around Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Sheffield doing work placements, interviews, skills tests an even managing to have a shopping sesh and a couple of nice meals in there too; but I haven't had much time to sit down and have a good old blogging sesh. 

I always make time for Instagram though so I thought I'd give you a little update of what I've been up to in picture format :)

Visiting a dear friend in Birmingham and walking through my old campus at night.


The leaves quickly falling from the trees and showing that autumn is upon us once more. 


Shopping fuel. Delicious nibbles for a late lunch in Sheffield.



A day trip to Manchester and stumbling upon the famous big wheel.


Getting back in to soups seeing as the weather is chilly. Brocolli and Stilton is just delicious.


I've seen lots of extremely early mornings the past couple of weeks which equals beautiful skies like this. 


Reigniting my love of the Croque Madame (et pommes frites!) Divine.


Shopping in Leeds Trinity after work.


Treated to a meal out by my lovely Gran, and chose possibly the nicest burger and biggest burger known to man. Bacon and blue cheese. MmmMmmm.


Evening cuddles with this furry madam.


And that's what my last ten days have looked like! 

See you soon for the next update :) xo

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Coq au Vin


If you're planning a dinner party or want to make a special meal to impress, then look no further than this French classic. Don't be fooled by the fancy name, this recipe is really easy to make and you can leave it blipping away in the oven while you socialise.  

It's elegant haute cuisine made easy!

(Serves 4, takes 25 mins to prep)

Ingredients

1 large free range chicken 
500 ml red wine
Glug of olive oil
6 rashers thick unsmoked bacon, chopped
2 onions, finely diced 
200g sliced or button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp flour
300ml chicken stock
Sprinkle of thyme
Salt and pepper

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190c/gas 4. Add a glug of olive oil to your largest saucepan and add the bacon. (It needs to be big as you're going to need to get the chicken in). Sizzle for 2 minutes and add the onion and garlic. Cook for 5 mins until starting to brown. Add the mushrooms and stir gently, cooking the mixture for a further 2 mins.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour. Then gently lay the whole chicken on top of the onion mixture. Pour the red wine in to the pan along with the chicken stock, thyme and seasonings. 

3. Cover the pan with a lid and place in the oven for 2 to 2.5 hours or until the chicken is golden on top and cooked through.


Then decide who is for breast and who is for leg, and plate up for your hungry guests! I served mine with rustic mashed potatoes which went with the Coq au Vin beautifully. 



Proper French chefs may disagree but I really don't think it matters what kind of wine you use in this recipe; it's only going to be boiled within an inch of its life so the less expensive stuff is grand. When you're serving though, it would be nice to have a glass of something very nice to compliment the dish.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Broccoli and Stilton Soup


As the nights are starting to draw in and there is a bit of a nip in the air, I'm starting to crave warm, comforting food for my evening meal. I'd fancied having a go at making this soup for a while now, and I have to say it hits the comfort food spot perfectly. It's perfect for chilly autumn evenings with a lovely big hunk of warm homemade bread for dipping. Soup is still very much underrated in my humble opinion, being so easy and inexpensive to make, but also tasty and good for you! This one in particular is all those things. 

For blue cheese fans, this is a dream come true, but for those of you who aren't a fan or prefer a milder flavour using mature cheddar would also work nicely. 

(Serves 4 as a starter, 3 as a main. Takes 30 mins)

Ingredients 

A generous glug of olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 potato, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed 
A large head of broccoli, cut in to florets and chop the stalk 
800ml veg/chicken stock
200g Stilton cheese (plus extra for sprinkling)

Method

1. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil and throw in the potato, onion and garlic, and cook on a medium heat for 10 mins.

2. Add the broccoli and stock and cook for a further 8-9, until the veg is tender and retained its colour. (This recipe is particularly great and thrifty because it uses up the broccoli stalk too, which is packed with nutrients but which usually gets thrown away). 

3. Crumble in the Stilton and stir through. Zizz with a hand blender until smooth. Season to taste and crumble extra Stilton on top if you really really love Stilton.

Serve with freshly cut homemade bread for a gorgeous, hearty winter tea.



Easy, hearty, delicious soup made from scratch on to the table in less than 30 mins. It's a perfect after uni/work pick-me-up meal that will rejuvenate you and satisfy your tastebuds too. 

Let me know if you've tried this or have any soupy recommendations! 



Saturday, 11 October 2014

Feathery and Furry Friends


Home is where the animals are! Last weekend I went with my mum to the next village along to have a look at some new chickens, to get some new friends for our old ones. The nights are drawing in fast now and it's eating chillier day by day, so we wanted to boost our flock so they can all cuddle together at night and keep one another nice and warm. 

The problem is with chickens, there really is a "pecking order" between them and they can be rather nasty when they want to be! If you have smaller/younger chickens they are likely to get bullied and pecked by the bigger and older ones (something we have learned through experience) so we wanted some chunky ones to stand their ground against our original feisty girls!

We have had them nearly a week (!) so now that they've settled nicely I thought it would be nice to introduce you to our new lovely feathery ladies.


And these are the girls we chose!


Aren't they pretty ladies?! The white ones are Sussex hens and the greys are Bluebells. 


We got 2 of each, which is good because our original chickens are still quite bossy! Here is Annie the Maran chasing them away from a feeder... the naughty girl.


This is often the scene - a ginger tearing across the lawn chasing a white hen! The white Sussex's are much more friendly than the Bluebells. The white ones will try and be mates with the gingers but the Bluebells are very timid and know better. It doesn't stop them being chased aswell though! 



Someone is always running away from someone else. It's chaos out there! But they're really fun to watch strutting all over the grass and having a good scratch and a flap.




Our other girls were out and about in the garden to see what was going on.

Tabitha, wearing her camouflage.



Molly the Collie, having a snooze.




As usual I took far too many photos, it was difficult to decide which ones to include so in the end I nearly included them all. The girls are all just too photogenic!

Thank you for reading/looking :)

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Thai Green Curry


This dish is one of my favourite ever teas. I'm a big fan of Thai and this Green Curry is as easy and healthy as it is delicious. 

I've cooked this many times for myself, university friends and my family and tweaked and improved the recipe over time as I've gone along. I'm very happy with the result, which is packed with all sorts of healthy elements such as fresh ginger, garlic, lemongrass and lime. 


(Serves 4, takes 40 minutes).

Ingredients

4 heaped tsp Thai Green Curry paste
1cm lemongrass, finely chopped (I cheat and use a squeeze of Very Lazy Lemongrass paste)
1tsp brown sugar
400ml coconut milk
Glug of fish sauce
450g skinless and boneless chicken thighs
150ml fish stock
2cm piece of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 lime
150g mangetout 

Method

1. In a large pan, add the curry paste, lemongrass and sugar and sizzle for 2-3 mins until the flavours begin to be released.

2. Pour in the coconut milk, fish sauce and stir. Then add the diced chicken thighs and fish stock, and simmer for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has thickened slightly. 
(*For the fish stock I use a Knorr fish stock cube and boiling water. Does the job nicely!)

3. While the chicken is bubbling, peel and finely chop the garlic and ginger and add to the pot. Zest and juice the lime and add, and give the mixture a stir. 

4. Finally, about 3-4 minutes before the end throw in the mangetout and simmer. Ladle in to big bowls, add some fluffy rice and serve!



For a twist I think prawns would work well with this recipe, or if you want to go veggie the chicken can be substituted for new potatoes, baby sweetcorn, butternut squash, or a combination! 

I also served naan bread alongside this dish, which I put in the oven for 5 minutes before serving. Not exactly Thai I don't think, but they were lovely to soak up the sauce with.

Enjoy!


Monday, 6 October 2014

Lorraine Pascale's Lemon and Lime Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake


Ages ago I bought a packet of poppy seeds with every intention of making some lemon and poppy seed muffins like the ones in Caffe Nero that I love so much. Time went by and the sadly the seeds got pushed to the side of the cupboard and forgotten about, until today.

I'm a big fan of lemon and lime flavoured bakes, so I love a lemon drizzle cake; they're very quick and easy to make and I love their moisture and zinginess* (*not sure if that's a word, but it looks cool). I was thinking that I hadn't done any baking in a while, well over a week, which is too long for me! I had a rummage in the baking bits cupboard and found the seeds, so instead of just going for lemon and poppy seed muffins today I decided to make Lorraine Pascale's Lemon and Lime Poppy Seed from her Fast Fresh and Easy Food book. 


I spotted the recipe last week and thought it sounded a really lovely cross between muffins and the classic drizzle cake.  

Ingredients 

125g/4oz soft butter/stork
150g/5oz caster sugar
Few drops of vanilla essence
3 medium eggs
150g/5oz self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 lemon
1 lime
4 tbsp poppy seeds
100g icing sugar 

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180c (fan 160c, gas mark 4). Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla essence and 2 of the eggs and beat until thoroughly combined. 

2. Add the last egg, the flour, baking powder and finely grate in the zest of the lemon and the lime. Stir the poppy seeds through. 



3. Pour the batter in to a lined loaf tin. 


Bake for 35 mins, or until the cake is cooked (use the skewer technique to check this, when inserted the skewer is inseterrwd in to the centre of the cake it should come out clean). 

4. Meanwhile, put the icing sugar in to a small bowl and squeeze in the juice from your lemon and lime. Mix together and set aside. 
*Lorraine says to use only the juice of the lemon or the lime, which creates a really pretty and quite thick white icing effect on top. However, I've included both juices because I wanted a really runny icing mixture which would run in to the cake easily and soak it like a classic drizzle cake. 

5. When the cake is out of the oven, leave it to cool for a few minutes. Then skewer the top of the cake randomly to create lots of little holes. Pour the icing drizzle all over the top until completely soaked up. 



Then slice up, sit down with a cup of coffee in your favourite mug and enjoy!
The cake fills the kitchen with the most delicious smell and the cake itself it's fab. Lemony and limey, with plenty of moisture and the wonderful texture added by the crunch of the poppy seeds. Yum! 





Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sherwood Forest

Last week my lovely boyfriend came up to Lincolnshire to pay me a visit, and we squeezed a lot in to 5 days! It was our 10 month 'anniversary' on Wednesday so to celebrate I wanted to take him somewhere he'd never been before and wracked my brain and asked my family for suggestions. My Mum suggested we take a trip to Nottinghamshire to visit the Major Oak. 


We both love the Disney version of Robin Hood (we're both equally as weird and special) so a trip to Sherwood Forest sounded like the perfect option to me!


We had a very lazy morning after a lovely evening at Meadowhall the night before and then chilling with DVD's and Breaking Bad. The Major Oak is located near to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire and takes just under an hour to drive from my parents' house, so it was the perfect little day adventure for us. The Sherwood Forest park is free to get in to and the Major Oak is about a 15 minute walk away from the visitor centre and entrance. There are also other longer walks you can go on if you're feeling energetic.



We had leftover Millie's Cookies which we got from Meadowhall so we took them along to munch on and have a mini picnic. We had a few certain other 'people' interested in our cookies!


A cheeky male Chaffinch. Luckily we had brought plenty of bread for any friends we made along the way, and left lots of bread on bird tables and gate posts on the walk. 

I wrapped up warm in my most favourite Joules jacket. I remember being in this exact spot precisely 6 years ago when I was starting out on my Duke of Edinburgh's Award, eating my picnic with my team and with no idea how testing the 2 night expedition would be, or how gross my pasta for tea would be (I'm still having boil-in-the-bag nightmares... Never again). It was nice sitting and having a little think about how much has changed since back then!



You used to be able to go inside the Major Oak but now to preserve the tree and its roots you just have to admire it from afar. We wondered how old the tree must be and we guessed around about 700 years old! It's pretty cool imagining Henry VIII bobbing around while the tree was there.

This is definitely worth a visit if you're after something lovely to do with your boyfriend/girlfriend or friends and you like wildlife and a bit of a walk now and then.  
It's open from 9 until 5pm in the summer but in the winter there are shorter opening hours. 

A lovely and very peaceful day out with my favourite boy.