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Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Perfect Banana Bread - a text message recipe

Easiest banana loaf recipe

Sometimes I have a craving for some really specific foodstuff from my childhood. Now that my mum and dad both live abroad, I've had to make do with asking them for recipes rather than popping home for a dose of home cooking. It's at times like this that I will send one of them a frantic text saying something like this, "Dad, I need to know how you make that leek and ginger soup you used to force me to eat all winter when I was a child! It's urgent!" or "Mum can you tell me your recipe for banana loaf again - I've lost it..."

Thankfully, both of my parents are fairly tech savvy and understand the importance of urgent food cravings, so I usually get a response fairly quickly. They are both excellent cooks too - the kind of cooks who can just open up the fridge and make something fantastic, no matter what they find inside. I hope that one day I will acquire this skill - Dan is a bit better than me at this right now. I'm too scared of failure. Anyway, before this turns into a self-flagellation-fest, here's the response that I got when I sent my mum a text asking for her banana loaf recipe a few months ago:

easy banana bread recipe


So, you've got Owl Mother to thank for this one - although she probably prefers to go by 'Karen' since that is her name! This recipe is not very consistent with its measurements but there are plenty of nifty conversion tools online if you want to make it into cups or ounces or something like that. And yes, I did text my mum "<3 Ur a goody". It was (semi) ironic, I swear!

- 2/3 mashed bananas (we always mash ours with a fork)
- 2 tablespoons of margarine (you can use butter, but this recipe works really well with marg)
- 125 grams of caster sugar (I use golden, but white works too).
- 200 grams of self raising flour! (this is important!)
- 3 eggs (medium)
- Chocolate chips (as many as you want! I used a whole packet!)
- A pinch of nutmeg (you can replace with cinnamon or leave out altogether if you like).
- A pinch of salt.

Make sure you preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius/Gas Mark 4/350 degrees Fahrenheit! The basic method that my mum and I always follow is to start by creaming the butter and sugar together, before adding all of the other wet ingredients and mixing it up into a big gloopy yellow mess. Then we add the flour bit by bit until it's all incorporated. My mum says you can add a bit more flour if you think it's too wet, but like she said in her text, this is a pretty wet mixture, so don't stress out about it too much! Pour the mixture into a greased non-stick loaf tin, and pop it in the oven for about an hour. I always check mine with a skewer or knife after about 45 minutes to make sure it's cooking nicely, and then keep checking it every ten(ish) minutes until the skewer comes out clean (except for melted chocolate!) and it is ready! Pop it out of the loaf tin and onto a cooling rack before gobbling it all up with a pot of Earl Grey.

fresh banana bread

chocolate banana loaf recipe

This recipe is so easy, that you can pretty much whip it up WHILE dinner is cooking! A favourite Friday night tradition with my mum is to make tuna pasta bake and banana loaf all at once, and then devour them both whilst watching sitcoms on the television. I've tried so many banana bread recipes and none of them work quite as consistently as my mum's classic! So my question for you is this - do you have any 'family recipes' in your household? Are your dad's roast potatoes the best in the land? Does your grandpa make the most intense margaritas you've ever tasted? (Probably not - that's Dan's Nonno's territory!) I'd love to know if you've got any culinary secrets in your family!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Mock Turtle - delightful tea rooms in Brighton

best tearoom brighton

Stepping through the door of this traditional tea room in the centre of Brighton has been a complete delight to me for over 20 years now. For as long as I can remember, despite changes in ownership and expansion into the next building over, The Mock Turtle has fulfilled the same role in the Brighton cafe scene - it was doing twee before 'twee' was in style, darling! My parents would take me here when I was little, for a treat of toasted teacakes - I continued to visit through my teenage years, and still make an effort to stop off for a spot of tea whenever I'm in Brighton because it is just such a pleasure to eat here, even now!

twee decor cafe interior
vintage cash register
big vintage mirror brighton
Antique aesthetic decor

The crowded, mismatched decor and super-antique atmosphere in the Mock Turtle should not fool you into thinking that the service and the food are anything less than top notch here. There's a vast array of freshly baked cakes, pastries and scones on the menu, as well as tasty lunch snacks such as Welsh Rarebit (which is a gooey, fonduey cheese mixture on toast, in case you've not heard of it before) and cooked breakfasts.

Dan and I shared a deliciously traditional Welsh Rarebit (which we greedily wolfed down before we had a chance to photograph it) before indulging in a cream tea for dessert. We thought that we'd do a very scientific experiment and decide once and for all, which kind of scone is best, out of the Devonshire and Cornwall styles. There's an age old friendly (I think it's friendly anyway) rivalry between Devon and Cornwall regarding the correct way to assemble a scone with jam and cream. In Devon, they put the clotted cream on the scone first, followed by a dollop of jam, whereas in Cornwall, the jam is spread on the scone first, and then a thick layer of cream is liberally applied on top. Dan prefers the Devon method and I prefer the Cornwall method, so I can't say we came to any particular conclusions in our experiment!

Cream and Jam pots
Devonshire Cream Tea
Cornish Cream Teas

I'd really recommend visiting The Mock Turtle cafe if you're ever in Brighton. I've loved it since I was a child, and I'm clearly not alone, as they've expanded into a much bigger tea room recently. The prices are still incredibly reasonable (doubly so if you're used to sky-high London prices) and you get fantastically generous portions. You can find the Mock Turtle on Pool Valley in Brighton (BN1 1NJ). Let me know if you ever visit this tea room because it'll make me so happy!

Which type of scone do you prefer? Devon or Cornwall? And if you're not from the UK, exactly how ridiculous does this rivalry sound? Is there anything similar where you're from?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Cooking for the in-laws

food for husband's parents

The first time I cooked for my husband's family was when we'd only been together for about six months. His extended family were coming over to his parents' house and I offered to make a tiramisu for everyone. I hadn't considered the fact that they were Italian and that there was no whipping cream in the house for the topping. I managed to substitute cream cheese, single cream and a lot of whipping to make it, and it seemed to go down well, but I'll never forget the panic and horror that overcame me when I realised that I was making tiramisu for the first time, for my Italian in-laws.

Since Dan's parents are allowing us to stay with them rent-free, we're taking on a lot of the cooking duties. I've probably made it pretty clear from my previous posts about this whole moving fandango, but we're actually really happy with this arrangement because Dan's parents have a beautiful kitchen! On Friday night, we drafted a meal plan for the week, focusing on things that we would have had trouble making in the tiny kitchen in our old flat, as well as some of our favourite recipes that we really wanted to make for the family.

Last night's dinner was planned to be a butternut squash and chilli soup with freshly baked bread, and a rhubarb crumble for pudding. Any of you who follow me on twitter will know that the bread ended up off the menu as the yeast I used was a sachet we'd brought from our flat, which was lonnnnng dead. Sad times. Aside from that, everything went to plan. Cutting up butternut squash is always a hassle, but the soup was shaping up to be silky and flavoursome. Then Dan's sister dropped the bombshell that she didn't actually really like butternut squash or rhubarb very much. I want to please everyone all the time, and I hated the idea that I'd be making food that she wouldn't like! It's always a struggle to cook for people whose palates you don't know fully, I think. Plus, there's the added pressure that I really want my husband's family to love me and to like the things that I make for them!

Soup with creme fraiche

In the end, Dan's sister really liked the soup, which made me almost cry with relief! Dan's mum said "mmmm" a lot, and his Dad was very impressed with the concept of a butternut squash. My personal goal for the next few months is to improve my food presentation skills (for eating and photographing!) and this was my first time garnishing a soup with olive oil, and everyone said it looked pretty! (PHEW!!!) The rhubarb crumble didn't look as beautiful but it tasted good, and apparently Dan's sister is now also a rhubarb convert too. I'm pleased with how that went. Now to continue this positive streak for another two months worth of evening meals!

Have you ever cooked a meal for someone else? Did you find it at all stressful? Was it a disaster or did it all go to plan?

vegetable love

Thursday, 18 September 2014

I totally dig: Oatcakes in Autumn

nairns oatcake remix

So Autumn is here (did I mention that before? I don't think I did...) and something that I really crave when September rolls around, is oatcakes. When I was a teenager, I'd have oatcakes when I got back from school as a little post-education snack. My topping of choice is always cheese and Vegemite. Yeah, I do like Marmite, but if I had to choose between them for some reason, I'd always go for Vegemite, Marmite's Australian cousin. Anyway, this post isn't about Vegemite (that's a whole other post for another day, I think); this post is about my love affair with oatcakes.

I think what I love most about oatcakes - nostalgia aside - is how versatile they are. You can eat them for breakfast, with some peanut butter and banana on them; you can dip them in tinned tomato soup, like tea biscuits. But I think that where they really come into their own, is as a cheese biscuit. I made a few of my favourite cheesy oatcake creations, and let Dan be my official taste tester. What a lucky boy! I made a blue cheese and grape combo, a cheddar and chutney combo, and my old favourite, the cheddar and Vegemite (cheddamite?) combo.

oatcake cheese platter
man eats cheese biscuit

Now, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Our flat is full of boxes right now. We've been eating dinner off our laps for the last week, and there's nowhere inside where I can take pretty photographs. So I made a makeshift table scenario just outside our front door on the pavement. Passers-by thought we were having a really bizarrely situated oatcake picnic, which must have been interesting for them. The things we bloggers do for a good photo, eh?

A year or two ago, Nairns brought out a range of sweet oat biscuits (or cookies, for my American friends). I've got really fond memories of eating these after a long day at work during my teacher training. If you're looking for the most autumnal treat you can find this side of the Atlantic, the Fruit and Spice biscuits are what you need. Sometimes I feel like the UK hasn't capitalised on the concept of Autumn (or Fall, if you prefer) as much as the North Americans. I'm perpetually fascinated by the way America manages to market an entire season to customers. I don't know whether to despair at it, or throw myself into it wholeheartedly. I admit, part of me is jealous of the idea of pumpkin spice EVERYTHING...

cosy tea and biscuits

It's probably worth mentioning that this post isn't sponsored by Nairns, but I'm definitely not saying that I'd reject them if they wanted to collaborate with me in the future...! ;) Enjoy the rest of the week everyone, and let me know what you'd put on an oatcake!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Cool Cats' Café - the coolest café in Camberwell!

cafe review london

There are so many amazing cafés in London these days. Coffee culture has taken off here in a big way, and it's only going to get bigger, as far as I can tell. Sometimes it seems as if there's a gorgeous café with incredible home baked pastries on every street corner in this city, and a lot of them have a queue coming out of the door. That said, I don't think that there's enough love for cafés south of the river - there are some absolutely incredible family-run businesses in South London, but there's a misconception that everything south of Borough Market is some kind of barren wasteland full of bin-fires, rancid chicken shops, and people using their own shoes as telephones to the beyond... Basically, what I'm trying to say is that people are scared of South London, which is a massive shame.

I've lived in Camberwell for three years now, and I've visited a fair few cafés in the area. However, I actually only discovered Cool Cats' Café when I was frantically googling somewhere close to where we live that we could visit with my in-laws, since Dan's Mum is super allergic to our cat and can't come into our house! It has only just occurred to me when writing this that it was maybe a bit of an odd thing to do, to take someone who is allergic to cats, to a café named after cats. Oh well.

After a leisurely walk through the park and past a bustling baptist church, we found the Cool Cats' Cafe to be a perfect brunch escape. Dan's Dad was happy with the up-tempo jazz music that was playing, and I really loved how light and airy the place was. Dan and his Dad both chose the Camberwell Breakfast, which was a totally home made Full English Breakfast, right down to the baked beans. Dan's Mum had Eggs Florentine and I had Eggs Benedict - I'm pretty sure the hollandaise sauce was home made too, and it was absolutely decadent. I got chatting to Roger who helps run the place, and he recommended sprinkling a few drops of tabasco sauce on the top which was INCREDIBLE.

south london cuppa
fry up south london
family brunch cafe review

After we'd eaten, Dan and his parents had a lot of stuff to discuss about the logistics of us moving back to stay with them for a couple of months, as well as the new flat we'll be moving into when we come back to London, so while they got on with those discussions, I took the chance to snap a few photos around the café. We were lucky to be visiting at a strange time of morning, so there weren't too many people around. I chatted more with the people who worked at the café and they told me about all of the art exhibitions they've hosted, and some of the awesome live music events they hold in the evenings. I'd absolutely love to go back to experience the café in its restaurant incarnation because I can imagine that the ambiance is really different but just as comfortable and laid-back. The dinner and cocktail menus look really good.

bar glasses dof
cafe idea south london
cafe cool gig events
camberwell arts scene

Initially, I was going to write, "if you're in the area, you should visit Cool Cats' Café", but I'm going to revise that. I actually think that this place is worth travelling for. The people who work there are really helpful and kind, the food is gorgeous, and it strikes this fantastic balance between hearty south london fry up and modern sophisticated hangout. My in-laws loved it, Dan loved it, I loved it, and I think you would probably love it too. South London, I'm really going to miss you. <3

dancing chef picture

Cool Cats' Café can be found at 149 Southampton Way, Camberwell, SE5 7EW. If you go, tell them I sent you!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Behind the scenes on Owl Girl - The Blog Hop

blog secret behind the scenes

What do bloggers actually do all day? Blogging can't be that hard can it? Don't you guys just go to tonnes of parties and get given loads of free stuff?

Well, I can't speak for all bloggers, which is kind of the point. We're all different and we get up to a lot of different stuff, we've all got unique perspectives and outlooks on everything. (Funny that, what with us all being different and individual human beings...) Anyway, I was nominated by Hayley-Eszti, who is an absolutely fantastic blogger (are blog-crushes a thing? Because I think I might have one on her...), to do this little 'blog hop' challenge, which is where I get to give you guys a little insight into my creative process with this here blog! I hope you find it interesting! Oh and most of the pictures in this post are outtakes from other posts, because ~behind the scenes~...

Writing blog notes

1. What am I working on/writing right now?

At the moment, I am planning quite a few foodie posts, starting with a review of another amazing independent cafe in Camberwell, and a few recipes too. Food is a big part of my life - Dan and I love cooking together, and visiting lots of the amazing restaurants that London has to offer. I want to do more outfit posts because putting outfits together is such fun for me! I try really hard not to repeat outfits because I like the challenge. Once we've moved into our new flat, you will be able to expect a lot of home decor posts and a house tour as we about decorating our first proper home together. I mean, we've been living together for years and years now, but always in places that we've not been able to decorate! I can't wait to share that process with you!

2. How does my blog differ from others of its genre?

Like Hayley-Eszti, I don't really like to compare this blog to other people's! It makes me sad, and it doesn't do anyone justice. Some of the things I love about my blog is that it's packed with lots of pretty photos that I took myself (or that Dan took of me!) and it provides a great meeting point for some of my biggest interests: fashion, music, food, the city, craft, the countryside, travel... I feel like I can write with confidence about these things and do the topics justice. So that's what I love about my blog and my writing - I know I kind of cheated with my answer to that question, but it's my blog, so nyeugh...!

Cheeky Basil herbs

3. Why do I write what I do?

I blog because it is the apex of writing, photography and creativity. I am happiest when I'm making something, either physically, or on the internet. I can look at it and say, "I MADE that!" which is so satisfying. I've been making things and writing things for longer than I can remember (somewhere there's a cassette tape of me telling a long, long story about a princess who killed all of her prospective husbands by turning them into inanimate objects using magical powers. I don't remember making this story up but I LOVE that my parents thought to record me telling it!) and ultimately, I want my career to involve creativity. It would be a dream come true to be able to make things, create outfits, make music, write, and take beautiful photographs for a living. And hopefully with a lot of hard work from me, and a bit of help from all of you guys, that could become a reality some day!

4. How does my writing process work?

I start by making a big ol' list in my little notebook. There are so many lists of possible blog posts and fragments of ideas in there, and the lists are always growing. Sometimes something urgent will happen, like I go to an incredible cafe that I simply must blog about, or we go on a surprise holiday that means I HAVE to write a post about aeroplane fashion... But mostly I will blog about things that I think you guys would like to read. I block off some weekend time to take photos for a few posts, which usually involves a little trek to somewhere pretty, and then once I'm satisfied that there are enough photos to choose from (sometimes we take hundreds...) we come home. Dan makes me a cup of tea in my favourite mug, and I bury myself underneath a bunch of blankets to edit photos, write, and assemble my post. Once I'm satisfied, I check the previews and then publish it. Dan proof-reads it once it is live, which means I usually have to make a couple of tiny edits. When we're sure that it's okay, I promote it on social media and you guys come and read it! :)

Cat in shot! Ha!

I hope this was fun to read - I feel like I've been quite honest in this post, and I'd love to know what you guys think! Is there any kind of post that you'd like to see more of? After all, as much as blogging is for me, I want to create something that makes people happy!

I'd like to nominate Jessica, whose blog The Pyreflies is this incredible mix of gamer culture and twee fashion; Victoria from VVNightingale which is a blog packed with amazing fashion and lifestyle picks, and some honestly written posts; and Kerri, whose blog Crumbs in the Bed documents her adventures in academia and Belgium.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Boozy popsicle cocktails

alcoholic ice lollies

Storms one moment, blazing hot sunshine the next - that’s what we’re dealing with in the UK right now and I’ve come up with the perfect solution - cocktail ice lollies. When it’s sweltering outside, you can cool off with one of your favourite cocktails in a frozen format, and when it turns to storm, you can get tipsy enough to forget it’s raining…! Hurrah!
The main thing to remember when making any kind of frozen alcoholic treat, is that alcohol doesn’t really freeze properly in the average person’s freezer. So these ice pops aren’t actually going to make you drunk. There’s not that much alcohol in them. I’ve not given exact measurements, because I don’t know how big your ice lolly moulds are, but if you use the ratios I’ve given, you’ll be fine! We made Mojito, G&T, and Piña Colada cocktails, but you should get super creative and try your favourite cocktail in popsicle form!

mojito popsicle recipe

Mojito
1 part Rum (whatever type you prefer)
1 part Simple Syrup
4 part Soda Water
1 part fresh lime juice
Several sprigs of mint

gin and tonic ice lolly idea

Gin and tonic
1 part Gin
½ part Syrup
4 parts Tonic Water
Cucumber or lime (depending on what’s your favourite!)

pina colada popsicle

Pina Colada
3 Blended Pineapple
2 Coconut Cream
1 Rum

If you increase the amount of alcohol or syrup it probably won’t freeze and you will have a slushy. The mojito and G&T are about at the limit of what will freeze and they melt pretty fast! We froze ours for about four hours, but I’d recommend freezing them overnight.

So let me know if you give this a try - or if you’ve got any secret frozen cocktail recipes you want to tell me! This is a really simple and fun recipe to prepare for parties, or just to have a fun twist on your evening cocktail! Oh, and if you love ice cream, why not check out my top 5 ice creams in London?!

UK ice lolly moulds

Friday, 11 July 2014

Food and coffee in Oslo

tim wendelboe review

Every holiday is a culinary tour for us. We spent our whole honeymoon hopping from cafe to restaurant to ramen bar to street food cart, and our anniversary mini-break to Oslo was no different. Read of our wondrous foodie adventures, and if you stay tuned until the bottom of the post, you may or may not be treated to an accidental 'Marilyn moment'...
We arrived at our hotel very late at night, although there was still a glow in the sky, it being midsummer Norway and all, so after what felt like the shortest night's sleep ever, we ventured downstairs for the most incredible breakfast buffet of our lives. There were eggs and a hot plate to fry them on, a build-your-own muesli bar, countless different types of cheese, and mountains of cured salmon. After all that, we didn't feel like we would ever be able to eat again. (But don't worry - we could!)
We bought a couple of all-day bus tickets from a convenience store called Narvesen and hopped on a bus to Grünerløkka, which we had been informed was the "Shoreditch of Oslo". I actually thought it was much more laid back and family-orientated than Shoreditch, but it was still definitely very trendy. We walked up the river for a bit and then stopped for an iced coffee at Tim Wendelboe. Despite coming in a martini glass, my iced cappuccino was in no way a novelty drink. This was seriously smooth, creamy coffee and it was perfectly brewed. Dan got a different type of iced coffee that came with some kind of aniseed twist. It was just as incredible as mine. The decor at Tim Wendelboe is minimal, with very few spots to sit - the room was dominated by an enormous coffee bean roaster, all clean and industrial looking. The counter tops were functional and wooden - everything was designed to make sure that the coffee spoke for itself, which it really did.

Oslo Street Fashion
Pattern mixing Summer
City break in Oslo
Grunerlokka Hipster

After a lot of wandering and mooching, a trip to the Munch museum, and a visit to the amazing Fram museum (a museum dedicated to the first successful mission to the south pole - more on this at a later date), we changed for a little date night dinner at Elias mat & sånt. This was recommended online as a reasonably priced, modern take on traditional Norwegian food, and it did not disappoint. We amused ourselves between delicious courses, with children's books in Norwegian, and browsed the extensive collection of board games. I'd really recommend this place and enjoyed the fabulous smoked salmon and poached egg salad - Dan had reindeer stew, which was served with a mountain of delicious, buttery mashed potato.
We were only in Oslo for a day and a half, but we managed to squeeze in trips to visit two gorgeous sandwich shops, the Grünerløkka Bakeri, and Godt Brød. Both did fantastic sandwiches. Perhaps Scandinavian sandwiches should be called Scandwiches? Anyway, this sample of two has convinced me that Oslo is the sandwich capital of the world. Fresh ingredients, beautiful flavour combinations and real passion about food. (I sound like a knob).

Date night Oslo
Asparagus date
Norwegian disney

We visited another coffee shop the morning before we left, called Mocca. Again, the design inside the shop was clean and slightly industrial but perfectly executed. We both ordered iced mochas and enjoyed them surrounded by young families and hip students scribbling in Moleskines. I enjoyed every single food and drink experience I had in Oslo even though it is a very expensive city. I would love to go back when I am richer and experience more of the culture that Oslo has to offer!
Yeah, I know basically all of the photos in this post are of my outfits and not food!!! Whatchoo gonna do about it? Stay tuned for more Oslo adventure posts as well as my packing essentials.

Oslo coffee shop
iced mocha oslo
Scandinavian minimalist chic

Striped top - h&m
Skirt - Dorothy Perkins
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Party dress - Dorothy Perkins
Cardigan - I have no idea... It used to belong to my mother. Ask her!

Oslo station tiger
Accidental upskirt
Windy day dress

Ooops.

P.S. Take a look at our vlog! There's bling! And licking!