Wednesday, 30 April 2014

cooking with malibu


Now I don't know about you but Malibu reminds me of my teenage years... in fact even a whiff of coconut can trigger hazy drunken memories! Now I'm a little older (and far less exciting) I'm using it in my cooking. Oh how times have changed! This makes the perfect Friday night curry (that's curry night, right?!) and is so easy to throw together. I used king prawns but chicken would also work well - just add the chicken a little earlier, with the chopped tomatoes and water, to allow it to cook through.

You will need:
Onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Frozen spinach (4 balls)
150ml Malibu*
Balti paste
Chopped tomatoes
Yogurt or Creme Fraiche
King prawns


Start by frying the onions and garlic in a pan with a little oil until golden. Stir in half a jar of Balti paste and cook for a few more minutes. Now add your Malibu - I didn't really measure, just glugged a load in! If you're not a huge coconut fan, maybe don't add quite so much. Stir until fully combined before adding a tin of chopped tomatoes, and then refill the tin halfway with water and add. Add your frozen spinach (or fresh if you prefer!) and leave to simmer for about 15/20 minutes or until thickened. I like my sauces quite thick, but again its down to personal taste. 

Mix in a few tablespoons of yogurt or creme fraiche to turn your sauce gorgeously creamy then add the prawns - I usually buy cooked, frozen king prawns which I just defrost on the side in a bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes. They literally need a couple of minutes to warm through in the mixture, or they start to shrivel up! If you use raw prawns, just make sure they are opaque and pink before you serve. 

Garnish with coriander and more creme fraiche. Enjoy!

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Friday, 25 April 2014

sweet thing



For me, carrot cake is The One. My youth was dominated by chocolate cake, but the older I get, the more I prefer fruity and spiced baked treats. Over the long weekend I celebrated my little nephew's second birthday, and as well as making his birthday cake I also threw these together for a more bitesized sweet treat. Now, I have to 'fess up. I had every intention of making the carrot cake mix from scratch, but I found myself in Sainsburys... and my shopping list at home on the kitchen table. Sigh. So I grabbed a box of Betty Crocker's Carrot Cake Mix and hoped for the best. Luckily, these turned out to be super tasty, and oh-so-simple!

First up, I bought a mini muffin tin. I went for a cheapy tin from Robert Dyas (a steal at £2.99), but you can find similar here and here. As well as lightly greasing the tin with a little oil I also cut out small circles of greaseproof paper to put at the bottom of each hole, just to ensure they came out cleanly. Luckily, all went to plan and they came out with no teasing at all! As I said, I used a shop-bought cake mix, but here's my favourite carrot cake recipe:

250ml sunflower oil
225g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
250g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

Method: Using an electric whisk, whisk the oil and sugar together before adding the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and spices and gently fold in. Tip in the grated carrots and gently combine. Simples!

This recipe will make a huge amount of mixture; enough for two regular cake tins, or about 50 mini carrot cakes! I used half to make the mini cakes, and threw the rest in a regular round cake tin to bake and take to work. 

For the frosting - two tablespoons full fat cream cheese, with enough icing sugar to taste and set. Without fail I always make too much, but it can be frozen and used again. Just make sure you leave it to defrost naturally for a couple of hours, not in the microwave.

To cook - spoon about a teaspoon or so of mixture in to each hole, don't overfill! Bake on 180c for about 10 minutes - a knife should come out clean. If they need a little longer, just keep an eye on them and check every couple of minutes. Transfer onto a cooling rack, and once fully cooled you can ice them. Top with seeds or blueberries... or anything you fancy! I convinced myself they look almost healthy with these toppings... right?

Not only do they taste great, but they look impressive! Perfect for drinks parties, birthdays and bake sales. I was pretty impressed with the Betty Crocker mix for the record - lightly spiced and super moist, perfect! I'd definitely use it again for a quick and tasty bake. They are a bit of a faff to ice and decorate, so anything which saves a bit of time is most welcome!

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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

travelling circus


You may have heard me talking about my saggy bags before. Sorry, that sounds so gross I know! I have wrinkly eye bags, which I often have to rather cheekily airbrush out of my pictures. Don't judge me! In recent months I have got increasingly fed up with them, and have been trying to find ways to manage/reduce them. Rather straightforwardly, lots of people suggested using a decent eye cream morning and night, as dehydration can play a big part in leaving your skin looking tired. Makes sense, no?

Anyway, when shopping with Kat a while back she recommended the Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream after hearing good reviews. At £31 it aint cheap, but I rarely invest in high-end cosmetics or skin care, so the odd splurge isn't too painful! I've used a Simple Eye Cream in the past, but if I'm entirely honest after a while I fell out of the habit of using it after not seeing a huge difference. I'm only in the first few weeks of using the Bobbi Brown cream, but am really impressed already. It is super hydrating (as the name suggests) but doesn't leave my skin feeling heavy or greasy, and makes a great base for concealer around my eyes. Rather than the concealer appearing dry and sticking to the wrinkles around my eyes, this allows it to glide on smoothly and look fresh. I may only be 26, but now is the time to start taking care of your skin! As they say, it's a lot harder to reverse the signs of ageing than it is to prevent ageing. 

Do you use an eye cream?
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Sunday, 20 April 2014

bookworm #25


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

A little while ago I was signed off work for a few days and needed something to take my mind off things - my current read just wasn't hooking me (Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn - anyone read?) and when buying a few bits in Sainsburys I picked up this. I'd seen a bit of a buzz surrounding it, but knew nothing about the story line or even what genre it was. Now I've read the book and know a bit more about it, I keep seeing it everywhere! They've made a film adaptation which will be hitting British cinemas in June this year. 

The Fault in Our Stars is a story about a girl, Hazel, who meets a boy, Gus. The truth is Hazel has cancer, and they meet at a support group. Gus is a cancer survivor with something to show for it - a prosthetic leg. This tells their story, and boy is a rollercoaster of emotions! As always, there are no spoilers here, merely a recommendation. I really enjoyed this read, and whizzed through it in a brief three days, something of a record for me! I loved Hazel's obsession with An Imperial Affliction, a story that somewhat mirrors her own, and her search to find the author to complete the ending for her. This is not a rosy, idealistic account of a cancer-sufferer - it is sad, raw, frustrating... and lovely, all at once. It shows that sometimes life (and its actors) is a bitch. Prepare to shed a little tear, folks.

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? I'll be interested to see how the film turns out, and whether they Hollywood-ise it at all. It really isn't that kind of story. Let's see!

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

never tired


Last week we celebrated Rich's birthday by popping in the car and heading to Bath for a couple of days of relaxation. I really love Bath - the architecture, Roman Baths and quaint feel in places really appeal to me, and love visiting! We spent Thursday afternoon mooching round the shops, having some lunch (meat meat meat), more mooching and then a drink sat outside, does that make it summer now?!

In the evening I had booked us into Marco Pierre White's Pear Tree Inn just outside of Bath for the night, and we left suitably impressed. Think beautiful old building, traditional yet modernly-sparse decoration, amazing food and friendly hosts. Perfect! Food-wise, we both had steak for dinner in the restaurant followed by a simple but delicious honeycomb ice cream. Breakfast was equally delicious with crumpets and poached eggs for me, and waffles with fresh fruit and maple syrup for Rich... its making me hungry just thinking about it!

We finished our time away by visiting Lacock en route home, which is a gorgeous village not far from Bath. Again, gorgeous buildings, scenery and best of all the sunshine beating down on us. 

Oh how I love the Easter Holidays! I've got the rest of this week off and am just loving having something that resembles a life! Tomorrow I'm popping to London to see my good pal Mel, and Thursday will be spent looking after my gorgeous nephew William. It doesn't get much better than that!

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Monday, 14 April 2014

fiery-sweet


I love butternut squash, and with bacon is one of my favourite combos! Almost two years ago to the day I shared with y'all a butternut squash and bacon soup, and today is something different using those two ingredients. 

You will need
Butternut squash
Bacon
Hard goats cheese
Garlic
Chilli flakes

Chop your butternut squash down the middle and scoop out the seeds - harder than in seems, they're slippery little buggers! Score with a knife and drizzle over a small amount olive oil, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. In the little hole I threw in some chopped garlic and a bunch of coriander. You could use thyme or rosemary instead, I just used what I had to hand. Pop in the oven on 180C for about an hour, or until soft. Scoop out the middle of the squash and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the cooked, crispy chopped bacon and cubes of cheese - mix/mash well before putting back into the squash shells. Pop back in the oven for about ten minutes, with a sprinkling of Parmesan on top if you fancy!

Now in terms of serving - its up to you. I had this on its own with salad, whereas Rich had it with a small portion of steak chilli. Garnish with coriander and dig in! PS, don't eat the skin, yuck. 

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Saturday, 12 April 2014

deals deals deals


Introducing the latest pair of shoes I've fallen for! A mere £32 from Next, and they also come in tan suede and monochrome leather. The lovely Tabitha brought my attention to a pretty awesome deal Next are running from 19th April - 10th May, whereby new online customers receive £10 off first time orders. Check out the details here

I don't know about you, but this deal is something not to be missed and would take these down to just £22. It's hard to say no!
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Thursday, 10 April 2014

doing our thing


Earlier this week, the flood damaged Wagamama in Guildford re-opened. Hurrah! Rich and I were lucky enough to be able to go along to a preview afternoon last Sunday, showcasing the newly refurbished restaurant and menu. We tucked into some pretty tasty grub - our favourites being pulled pork gyoza (steamed, grilled dumplings from heaven), lollipop prawns and the chicken raisukaree - a coconut and lime curry. The atmosphere was, as ever, buzzing and the waiters super-friendly and helpful. Since Sunday I've been again with Kat (I know, working on my bikini bod) where we once again basked in the gastronomic delights of pan-Asian cuisine. Perhaps a little too far, but you get my drift. Wagas = good stuff. 

Have you tried any of the new season menu at Wagamama?

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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

a brief spell


Sometimes you just have a day when the little details are better than the big picture. I wore this Zara dress for an afternoon of shopping with Kat, with the aim of buying birthday presents for various people. True to form, I ended up buying nothing for anyone else and a load of things for myself, including the Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream. I was assured it's tip top at dealing with dehydrated saggy bags (sorry, couldn't resist) and am feeling hopeful! Although I'm a young-looking twenty-six, the skin around my eyes is very thin and I'm pretty useless as regularly using moisturiser of any kind. Lets hope this marks a turnaround!

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Monday, 7 April 2014

in the air


So this month has started positively with me spending far too much money in Zara! Despite there being a Five Guys (of all things) in Guildford, we are lacking a Zara... which quite honestly devastates me. I mean, really? What's going on! So when I was in Southampton last weekend I made sure I popped in to dose up on sartorial happiness... oh, and IKEA, naturally.

Denim Shirt Heeled Sandals Striped Dress Tan Sandals

Over the past few summers I've lived in my denim shirt; but the poppers don't seem to hold up to much pressure these days leading to more than one embarrassing peepshow type moment! This one is a really nice dark, thick denim with cute peter pan collar - and the best bit, £19.99. The dress was a great find, as I'd tried on this Topshop version a few weeks back but wasn't wowed by the fit. This has fancy sleeves, is a little baggy and oversized (even in a Small) and would look great with tights and boots, but also in summer with bare legs and sandals. Dreaming of warmer weather...!

And lastly, onto the sandals. The flats I tried on in store and loved, again £19.99, especially the sort of asymmetric look they've got going on. I've ordered them online along with these beautiful heeled sandals which were a complete bargain (in my eyes) at under £40. Heel height - tick, buckle detail - tick, colour - tick. It's love!
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Sunday, 6 April 2014

tray bakin'


Apologies for the recent radio silence, life (read: work) has completely taken over of late with exam deadlines and study leave fast approaching. Trying to get everything done by mid-May is proving to be pretty exhausting, as it always is this time each year. Saying that, last weekend I found some time to bake not one, but two, incredibly delicious cakes... if I do say so myself! One was a simple Victoria sponge with buttercream icing covered with fresh fruit (see my instagram), and the other was this lemon and blueberry number. 

I picked up the recipe from the BBC Food website which I love for a good range of usually straightforward recipes. I followed the recipe completely, aside from the icing where I used about double the amount of icing sugar in order for it to set totally. In hindsight, you don't need nearly as much cream cheese (note: you must use full fat, not light, for it to set!) to cover the cake, so you may want to cut the quantity in half. 

This cake went down really well with my family on Mother's Day - it really is tasty! Just the right amount of citrus, with fruit and frosting. I used my super incredible amazing lemon zester which I can't recommend enough! Sadly, I'm not even being sarcastic. You can get it from Lakeland, and it just makes zesting fruit so much easier - and its really easy to clean. Winner! 

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

waga

Image source: KatherineLouise

Something rather exciting for those of you living in the Surrey area (like me) and love a bitta pan-Asian cuisine (again, like me)!

Wagamama is re-opening in Guildford next week after flood damage, but with this here blog you could get your mitts on two preview tickets! You and a pal could get the chance to see the newly refurbished restaurant before anyone else and each enjoy a main, side and drink of your choice this Sunday (6th April). The restaurant will be serving all of the Wagamama favourites, including classic ramen, traditional teppan cooked noodles, Japanese kare plus a whole load of sides and salads. There's even a kids menu if you fancy bringing along a little one!

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is use the entry form below. Obviously, you must be free this Sunday and able to hop on down to Wagamama, Guildford. I will announce the winner on Friday. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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