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Friday, 12 September 2014

Meet Cat from Oddly Lovely

One of the many reasons I got into blogging was to meet new people and I've got to know, and now follow, a number of different bloggers, whose blogs I really enjoy and look forward to reading their new posts each week. There are so many great new blogs out there, I'd thought I'd introduce you to some of my favourites and offer an opportunity to get to know the bloggers behind the scenes.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to Cat from Oddly Lovely. A blogger from across the pond in San Francisco, Cat is a lifestyle blogger/superwoman covering everything from fashion and beauty to her dog Ru, while also having a good eye for food photography. Sharing a love for correct grammar and punctuation, as well as eclectic music tastes I'm pleased to introduce Cat as my first featured blogger.

What inspired you to have your own blog?

Actually, it’s a bit of an unusual story. I work in social media marketing and part of my job is coordinating sponsored posts on blogs for brands. After doing it for a couple of years and getting super inspired by all the awesome blogs I saw, I decided to give it a shot! I’m actually pretty well-equipped to blog, since I’m a writer and social media marketer by trade and have plenty of experience with photography and Photoshop editing. The biggest challenge has been designing and coding the blog itself. After investing probably 100+ hours, I ended up hiring someone to do it for me, haha.

My favourite posts of yours have to be your recipes, some of which are really unusual (i.e., strawberry balsamic tart with goat's cheese), where do you get your inspiration from? 

I post about a lot of different things on my blog (fashion, beauty, movie, etc.), but in real life, my best strength is probably my cooking. The kitchen is truly my “happy place” and I find working on a foodie project to be incredibly therapeutic. So much of learning to cook is learning what flavour profiles just work together. For example, I love the combination of fruit and cheese, which inspired my recipe for fig, prosciutto and gorgonzola pizza. Or I knew that caramel and oatmeal would taste amazing together, which is how I came up with my caramel chunk oatmeal cookies. My best advice is don’t be afraid to try unusual foods when dining out and actually think about what makes the dishes you like “work.” 

Your recipes appear to be going from strength to strength, can we see this continuing and what recipes do you have planned that we can  look forward to? 

Right now, I’m planning to share my mochi coffee cake, some different smoothie combos, and 3 dessert popcorn recipes! You can bet I’ll never stop sharing my foodie creations.

What are your favourite posts to write about?

Haha, is it okay if I admit my favourite posts to write are the ones that have great photography? I usually come up with a post concept, do a photo shoot and then write the post itself. If the pictures turn out beautiful, I always feel more confident and excited about the post. I am truly interested in a variety of topics, which is why I have a lifestyle blog and not a beauty blog, fashion blog etc. It’s fun to write about a new subject every day!

Are there any skills from your work life that you have incorporated into your blog?

I went to university for creative writing and I absolutely utilize that every day in my job in social media marketing. I work in a pretty small agency and am the resident copywriter, which involves creating websites, apps, promotions, blog posts, and social media posts for brands. My job, blog and creative projects absolutely overlap and I utilize the same skills for all three.

What's your favourite dish?

Without question my favorite recipe is my chicken pot pie. It’s a little time consuming to make but totally worth it. I also have a really delicious enchilada recipe, which I have yet to share on my blog because even though it tastes delicious, I can’t imagine it would look very good in a photograph, haha! When I’m eating out, I absolutely adore beef bone marrow and calamari.

What are your short-term/long-term goals for yourself and your blog and what are you currently doing to achieve them?

I have two goals - make my content spectacular and reach more readers. Having more followers is awesome, but I truly think that you need to have really stellar content first. Right now, I’m making a point to try a lot of things on my blog to learn what works and what doesn’t. I’ve already seen noticeable improvement in my photography and how comfortable I sound when writing. I’m also learning how to 'market' my blog on social media and other avenues. There’s plenty of trial and error involved in that, but a lot of it is just about being patient and putting in the time. 

What's your favourite thing to do in San Francisco?

If you’re here visiting, I definitely recommend going to Haight Ashbury (the centre of the 1969 hippie movement), getting a chocolate sunday at Ghirardelli Square, and checking out some of our really incredible museums like the California Academy of Sciences or the de Young Museum of Art. As a local who lives in the East Bay, I love hiking up in the hills with my dog and the delicious ethnic restaurants like Burmese and Pakistani food.

What up and coming blogs have you followed recently?

I’m not normally a big follower of beauty blogs, but I have a soft spot for Allison of Mercuteify. She has these gorgeous clean, bright pictures and just a warm and friendly voice when writing. I kind of want to be her friend. I also just discovered the blog Wildlandia by Nicole. She’s another SF Bay girl, and her blog has this wonderfully whimsical style. Plus I might try and steal her dog.

To find out more about Cat, and follow her dog Ru's escapades, visit her blog Oddly Lovely.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Street Feast Dalston Yard

With three weeks till Street Feast Dalston Yard in Shoreditch closes for the Summer, it's about time that I share our night out  for Dan's birthday at this food market with you. If you have not been to a night food market in London before you might think I'm confused saying we went on a night out there. However, night food markets have exploded onto the London food scene and Street Feast at Dalston Yard has a great array of traders. 

Held in an abandoned car park every Friday and Saturday from the middle of May to the weekend of the 26-27th September, Dalston Yard comes alive with the hustle and bustle of London's young professionals at the end of the working week eating, drinking and dancing the weekend away together. Despite being a large open space they've used the stalls and long (Harry Potter-esque) dining tables to break it up into smaller themed areas, and as the sun goes down, with drum bonfires, music and fairy lights, the food festival comes alive!  

There are so many amazing traders at Dalston Yard, you have fixed traders like Bob's lobster and Pizza Pilgrims who are there every week, and then there are several stall holders that change weekly such as Smokestak and Yum Bun (best steamed buns around!). With so many different types of food (and drink!) available I advise you to just go with the flow factoring in a visit to Yum Bun, if they're there, and grabbing a couple of festival-sized cocktails. Soak in the atmosphere and maybe get pulled into a few chilli tequila shots (thanks Dani and Clarky).

If it was just me I could have happily eaten nothing but bao or hirata buns or Chinese steamed buns, however, then this post wouldn't be about Street Feast and would just be about my addiction to bao. Yum Bun offered an interesting selection of bun fillings, we opted for the classic pork, spring onions, cucumber and hoisin option. 

The buns were soft and fluffy..and sweet..and delicious..and now you can see why I'm addicted to them. The pork was juicy and tender, drizzled with hoisin, and the sharp crunch from the cucumber and spring onions kept it light and refreshing. Yum Bun are nailing the bao trend and at a reasonable price too!

The boys loved Rola Wala's topped naans with bbq coriander chicken and goan-style pulled pork, served with yoghurt, fresh coriander and pickled red onion. They loved the spiciness and full flavour from the dish. Personally I thought the pork was too heavily spiced, the flavour was overwhelming. However, the chicken was nice and tasty, and very succulent.

Take a break from eating to check out the Cocktail Shed for a Kamm and Sons on ice and a boogie to Journey. 

Other traders to check out are Randy's Wing Bar for it's buffalo wings with smoky cheese sauce for some seriously saucy chicken, and Yum Jungle's Thai fried chicken pieces with mango, mint and chilli chutney for spicy Thai pieces of delight. 

What to say about Bob's Lobster?

Well for a start it's the best damn lobster I've had in town. Second to that, look at the layout, it was incredible! Buoys were hanging on the ceiling, lobster pots built up a wall between Bob's Lobster and Smokestak, and and fishing nets hung between the metal rafters. Plus did I mention they have a Prosecco bar?

Do you see the foam finger on the back wall in the photo above? That now lives in my house. 


The reason why Bob's lobster is so great is because it tastes so simple but having caught up with one of the chefs behind the scenes I can tell you a lot of love goes into their lobster. First there is their home made lobster butter made from the lobster shells, then you have the sweet cooked lobster claws and flesh meat, topped with the lobster roe, fresh oregano, celery salt and paprika which all comes together to be served on a brioche bun smeared with English and Dijon mustard! It tastes beautiful and I probably ate most of the bun that we shared (sorry guys!). 

There are lots of reasons to go to Street Feast Dalston Yard, a few of which I've covered here. So go, take some friends and find out the other reasons for yourself. Overall it was a great night, I just wish it was there all year round. I need Street Feast with mulled wine!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Eat Raspberry Rose Ripple Marshmallows

As the Summer has come a close my sweet tooth has suddenly gone into overdrive. Having missed out on my share of ice lollies and creams, my body finally caught onto this fact and I started baking the most sugary treats I could imagine. Marshmallows.

This was the first time I made marshmallows and I was pretty intimidated, which says a lot as my friend said today I am an 'intimidating' woman (in the way that woman who know what they want in life are often described by others as intimidating, not that I bully people into submission..although I may have forced these marshmallows down a few colleagues throats and those of you that have seen them on my instagram account).

However, I did not need to be nervous because look how these beauties turned out! And with no electric whisk I'm pretty well pleased with myself (and my boyfriend's arm power!). Despite not using an electric whisk myself I really would recommend using one for this recipe as whisking for 30 minutes by hand is not constructive to a happy baking day.

This recipe was adapted from the BBC's marshmallow recipe to flavour them with rose water and freeze dried raspberries. Unlike other marshmallow recipes it does not contain any egg whites, which they say gives a lighter fluffier marshmallow; however, I couldn't see a difference between the marshmallows I made without egg whites and the ones you buy at the store. With the exception of the rose and raspberry flavouring of course.

It's been so much fun making new treats that I haven't tried to make before, and I'm excited to try my hand at different marshmallow combinations. Chai marshmallows for your hot cocoa madam? 

Raspberry Rose Ripple Marshmallows
(makes 20-30 large marshmallows)

450g caster sugar
12g powdered gelatin
(*for vegetarian/vegan marshmallows use 12g powdered agar-agar)
275ml water
50g icing sugar
50g corn flour
Vegetable/sunflower oil
40g freeze-dried raspberries
1/2 teaspoon rose water
Dried rose petals to garnish
(I used these ones from the Spice Mountain also located at borough market)

Step 1. In a bowl, set aside 100ml of water and the gelatin* until the water takes on a jelly-like consistency. In a separate bowl, sieve the icing sugar and corn flour together. Grease a 20cm baking tin with half the sunflower/vegetable oil and line the tin with baking paper. Then grease the baking paper with the remaining oil and evenly dust the tin with the corn flour/icing sugar on all sides, keeping some bake to roll the marshmallows in afterwards. You can use any oil to grease the tin but you might want to use sunflower/vegetable oil as it does not have a distinctive flavour that it could impart to your marshmallows.

Step 2. In a saucepan, mix together 20g of the freezedried raspberries with 4-5 tbsps water on a low heat, breaking up the raspberries with a back of a spoon. Simmer on a low heat until the raspberries have broken down completely and the mixture has thickened. You could also use fresh raspberries for this step.

Step 3. In a saucepan on a high heat mix together all of the caster sugar and the remaining water, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until a sugar thermometer when dipped in reaches 113°C. 

Step 4. Once the syrup is at 113°C, start whisking the gelatin mixture until it has a smooth consistency and then slowly pour in the syrup, whisking as you go till the mixture has combined. 

Step 5. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of rose water and whisk until the mixture is thick and glossy, and the mixture has completely cooled (15-20 minutes with an electric whisk 30-35 by hand).

Step 6. Pour half of the marshmallow mixture into the dusted tin and  level it out by tilting the mixture or using a palette knife. Drizzle over the raspberry syrup and swirl it into the marshmallow by running the toothpick through the mix. Then pour on the remaining marshmallow and again smooth it out so the marshmallow is all even. 

Step 7. Dust the top of the marshmallow with a little of the reserved corn flour/icing sugar, cover with cling film and leave for 8 hours in a cool place until set. 

Step 8. Crumble up the remaining freeze-dried raspberries and rose petals. Once the marshmallows are set, turn them out and cut them into 20-30 squares (depending on how hungry you are this could be one marshmallow) and roll them through the crumbled topping of raspberries and roses. Then roll the marshmallows again in the remaining corn flour/icing sugar. 

These marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. But if you leave marshmallows uneaten for that long shame on you.

Remember to work on the ultimate marshmallow principle one for the airtight container, one for you.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Oh You Pretty Pins

A Summer Ode
Alas poor (Mr) Whippy
I knew him well

It's officially September. I'm heartbroken Summer nights are dying on us into dark Autumn days. Don't get me wrong there are lots of things to look forward to, for example, I am very excited to visit Dan's aunt and uncle in the Isle of Skye in a few weeks, get back into baking, roasting and making lots of chicken mole to keep warm, and, of course, there's Halloween. But I just want a little bit more Summer, hence the pins of playsuits, tropical prints (incuding these fab nails from Wondrously Polished) and ice cream, lots and lots of ice cream. It has been said that I am a warm house plant, mostly by myself, so a tiny smidgen more hot weather that I could enjoy a lolly in while wearing a tropical playsuit would be lovely!

Work has been a bit hectic recently but I'm trying to get myself organised before we go away. And there's so much to organise!! Packing for our trip to the Isle of Skye on a sleeper train (I cannot wait to go over the bridge the Hogwarts Express does!), booking the flights for our university girl's reunion in Hamburg, and sorting train tickets to visit my friends and their baby girl (named after me...yes I AM causally dropping that in, I'm responsible. Baby responsible). Lots of travelling coming up. 

So in order to focus my organisation skills I thought what better way to do so than pulling together a selection of my top ice cream pins.

1. Helen over on The Crazy Kitchen has come up with an excellent suggestion for how to have a Mr Whippy ice cream in the colder months. Make it into a cupcake.
2. I want these honeycomb ice cream decorations from Peach Blossom on Not on the High Street to be at every party I ever have.
3. I agree whole heartedly with this print by the Old English Company on Not on the High Street.
4. Style Me Pretty Living's entire ice cream party had me at this banana split cake.
5. If you're more of a lolly person then Style Sweet CA's popsicle cake is for you.
6. Sweet on these gumdrop ice cream cake toppers from Oh Happy Day!
7. Studio DIY is my fave and so is this iron on ice cream elbow patch DIY.
8. I obviously think about baking way too much, or I need to have this ice cream cookie cutter from BKDLondon on Etsy.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Dishoom Covent Garden - 6 Years Together!?

One month and a few days ago Dan and I celebrated our 6 year anniversary together at Dishoom in Covent Garden! How it's been 6 years I don't know (not in the I don't know how we're still together way...I do know how and Dan is excellent!), it doesn't feel like it was that long ago since we were giddy teenagers and I was meeting his parents for the first time. Who, coincidently, we went to visit last weekend and are pushing for us to get married in 2016 the idea of us being anywhere near this stage is crazy (houses before marriages). However, 6 years on I'm still head over heels for him (forgive the sap) and to celebrate this cartwheel turning romance we decided to go to Dishoom for our anniversary. 

In danger of being seriously overemotional and revolting a few of you let's move on to Dishoom because Dishoom is excellent. However, I cannot guarantee that Dishoom's excellence won't make you emote if you visit them. 

Dishoom self-describes themselves as a take on the cafes of old Bombay in India. Despite it not being a small restaurant with its large open plan ground floor and high ceilings, the black wood panelling, exposed duck egg brick walls, dark wood floors and the busy hurry of customers in and out give you the impression of it being a bustling cafe smaller than what it is. And having never visited India myself, I think the decor captures the exotic atmosphere I would expect with chandeliers of hanging lights and gold guilded picture frames containing 70s Indian family portraits, which transport you into that family's dining room.

I have been lusting after the menu at Dishoom for over a year and am glad that we finally managed to get to try it out. Serving street style Indian food, their menu of small plates and larger sharing dishes really caters to the way Dan and I eat out (Tapas style!). Alot of restaurants are opting for small plates on their menus and I personally love them because it means I get to try double the amount of dishes I would if we ordered separate meals (we RARELY order separate meals). 

There are so many great dishes on offer at Dishoom and we struggled to order a select few. However, we managed to make our choices in the end and the dishes that made the cut included fragrant Dishoom Calamari, Spicy Lamb Chops (not pictured), Chicken Berry Britannia Biryani and Gunpowder Potatoes, with raita and garlic naan on the side.

The Dishoom Calamari was surprisingly refreshing from the lime juice and fresh herbs despite it's crispy cornmeal-like crumb coating. If not one of the best calamari I've ever had (with squid cooked to perfection!) then it was certainly the most original.

Of the four dishes we ordered I couldn't pick a favourite. But if there is one dish that I recommend you try at Dishoom, and indeed it is the dish I'll definitely be getting again next time, try the Gunpowder Potatoes. For meat lovers and vegetarians alike these potatoes were very spicy from the green chilli, sharp from the lime, and smoky from the charred potato skins and various toasted whole spices. It was absolutely delicious but I was very grateful that we ordered a soup bowl of raita (just visible on the right in the photo above) to go alongside it. Definitely not a dish for the faint hearted.

The Spicy Lamb Chops are not to be missed by lamb lovers, black and charred from the tandoori oven and succulent on the inside from the marinade their gorgeous alone but accompanied with fresh lime juice and pomegranate seeds it's a tastebud extravaganza. These came later on in the meal and unfortunately we'd already eaten them before I realised I'd forgotten to grab a photo, but really that's just a testament to how good they were.

Don't be fooled by the pretty appearance of this biryani, lurking just underneath the top layer of rice are huge steaming chunks of moist chicken. With the chicken, earthy rice and sweet cranberries it's a great dish. As a Chicken Berry Britannia I was expecting more berries in the biryani as opposed to on top as a garnish because the rice and chicken alone, though cooked well, did need the sharp sweet lift of the berries. 

All the food was great and we dined with a crisp citrusy bottle of white wine recommended to us by the waiter which really cut through the spices. However, the garlic naan bread was really disappointing, greasy and tough it did not make for pleasant eating.

For dessert we shared a Kala Khatta Gola Ice and a pot of green tea. The Kala Khatta Gola Ice was an Indian version of a granita with large ice flakes and a rich syrup made from kokum fruit, 
blueberries, chilli and lime, sprinkled with salt. Dishoom's description really hits it on the head the first mouthful is weird and you're not sure whether you like what you're eating but the second makes it sweet, salty and delicious all in one. The only other thing I'd add is that by the fifth spoonful it's sickeningly sweet as the syrup collects at the bottom of the glass.

Overall the food and service at Dishoom surpassed  my expectations. We were not the easiest customers that day but they accommodated us really well (moving us upstairs from the den downstairs, filling water bottles and answering all our questions) and we spent the good part of an afternoon there. 

Now to plan our next anniversary meal...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

DIY Pineapple Cross Stitch Racerback T-shirt

I have been so excited about sharing this DIY with you. I won't lie, it's taken about 3-4 weeks of drawing out the pattern in the evening, sewing on the design and then finding the right time to pounce on Dan to take some photos of me in it (if you want to know this was during half time on Soccer Saturday) to bring this DIY to you. But it was 100% worth it!

Since seeing this pineapple t-shirt over on The Working Girl earlier this year, I've been needing a statement pineapple t-shirt in my life. And after shopping around, I just haven't been able to find one that I like, or I have and it's been out of my pineapple budget. But then I saw this pin, which I may have accidentally pinned onto my Cakes Galore board, and got so excited about cross stitching a pineapple that my other cross stitch project was demoted as I tried to copy the cross stitch and make my own pineapple pattern.

Can you tell I'm really proud of myself and this DIY? Does my pride sicken you a little? It kind of sickens me but I also don't really care because I made my dream pineapple t-shirt! And so can you!

You might be thinking this girl is just too crazy about pineapples, and I'd like to tell you you're wrong. But then I painted my nails with pineapples so I can't.

I drew this pineapple pattern straight onto the t-shirt but have made a pattern for future use as it is a lot easier copying it onto tracing paper than drawing it onto the t-shirt. Feel free to use my pattern to make your own pineapple cross stitch T-shirts or other creations. Options include, pineapple curtains, pineapple cushions, pineapple dresses, pineapple pineapples?! If you do use the pattern I'd appreciate it if you could link it back to me and send me an email/insta/tweet so I can check it out, but onwards to the DIY!
Pineapple Cross Stitch Racerback T-Shirt

Racerback T-shirt
Gold thread
Embroidery needle
Pineapple pattern
Tracing paper
Sewing pins
Piece of cardboard as your shirt

Step 1. Print the pineapple pattern to the size you want and tape to the cardboard, then using the pencil trace the pattern onto the tracing paper.

Step 2. Once you've got your tracing paper pattern, pin it to the front of the t-shirt. Double or triple thread the gold thread through the needle, I used double thread and am happy with how it appears although if you want it to be more prominent you may need to triple thread it. Cross-stitch over the pattern, if you don't know how to cross stitch you can just criss cross sew over it OR take this as an opportunity to learn a new skill (I found this video tutorial to be really instructive!). 

Step 3. As Paul Hollywood said tonight on Great British Bake Off, 'Be patient'. I separated this out into 4 (it was a lot more than 4) sewing sessions to prevent too much sloppy stitching and bunching of the thread in my rushing to complete the task.

Step 4. Once you've finished sewing and the end is in sight, carefully tear off the tracing paper and remove the pins. The stitching on this t-shirt is delicate but it can be machine washed with care, my advice would be to wash it on the hand wash setting putting the t-shirt in a white pillowcase to prevent the strings catching on anything in the machine drum.

Step 5. Plan your pineapple outfit. Whether it be shorts and a trilby like me. Blazer and trousers. 

If you make this t-shirt or use the pattern, I'd love to see how you styled it via Instagram, Twitter or email!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Eat Minted Asparagus and Courgette Summer Tart

I am a huge lover of Summer as I think most Britains are (there's only so much rain we can take!). And for me, alongside the classic barbie, this tart is possibly the epitomy of what I love so much about food in Summer (except there is no ice cream in sight). Minted courgette strips with my favourite green vegetable, asparagus, salty Greek feta cheese and mellow lemon zest, it's like tasting a garden in the height of Summer. 

I like to cook seasonally and right now this is, but it doesn't mean it can't be cooked seasonally all year round. You could swap out the asparagus for chard in Autumn or try it with Brussels sprouts in Winter, there are lots of opportunities to be had with this dish. And grilling the vegetables till charred before you bake them adds a great depth of flavour with their smoky taste.

I may have also used this dish as an excuse to trim back my mint plant and use its leaves. As the large window in our living room acts like a green house, our herbs are growing out of control, especially the mint and Vietnamese coriander. When we bought the Vietnamese coriander he was the same height as all our other plants, but no word of a lie he's not far after a metre (I've had to trim and repot him twice!). I'm not entirely sure why he's a he...

Minted Asparagus and Courgette Summer Tart
(serves 4 for lunch or 2 for dinner, both with salad) 

250g puff pastry
100g young asparagus spears
Half a courgette sliced lengthways
50g feta
A handful of mint leaves
Zest and juice from half a lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle and place on a lined baking sheet.

Step 2. Heat a griddle pan on a medium to high heat. While heating the pan take your courgette and with a peeler, peel half of it lengthways so you have long thin strips (I turned the courgette as I did this so I would have the skin on every strip to add some colour colour). 

Step 3. Season the courgette strips and asparagus spears with salt and pepper  (if your spears look a bit woody at the bottom you can cut that section off, alternatively you can always cut the spears in half lengthways) and toss them in a little olive oil. By lightly coating them in oil and not adding it to the grill pan you are preventing the vegetables from sticking but not frying them. 

Step 4. Once the pan is hot place the vegetables in it perpendicular to the direction of the griddle marks, making sure the vegetables have enough room between each other. You only want to grill the courgette for less than a minute on each side till you get the black griddle lines on them, likewise you don't want the asparagus to be completely cooked or lose their snap so only cook them till their stripy. 

Step 5. Finely chop half of the mint and mix it by hand with the courgette, asparagus, and lemon juice and zest. Arrange the asparagus spears and courgette on the rolled out pastry leaving a 1cm edge on each side. Crumble the feta over the tart, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Step 6. When cooked, remove the tart from the oven and serve hot or cold with the remaining torn mint leaves and a large pile of salad.