Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Autumn days

All that I try to deny it, the slow slide into winter is beginning. It snowed yesterday (only a tiny bit, and it didn't stick), and I daren't leave the house without mittens now. But, as Autumn is my favourite season, I'm going to make the most of it while it's still here...
 I've been trying to eat seasonally as much as possible this year, and at the moment that seems to mean...


I never used to enjoy sprouts, but I think that's probably due to the boiled-within-an-inch-of-their-lives treatment that they were getting more than anything else. But I have been scouting about for recipes, and have found some that are really delicious!

Sprout recipe #1. Roasted Brussel sprouts with sweet chilli
This one is super-easy. I made it yesterday and ended up making it into a pasta dish (just cooked pasta, a little butter, salt, pepper and these sprouts)

Sprout recipe #2. Sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta
This is my current favourite sprouts recipe, because apparently nothing makes a vegetable better than throwing a load of bacon at it! The recipe I originally worked from was from Nigella Lawson's Feast (a brilliant cookbook), but this one is altered a bit because she has a tendency to put marsala in everything (and use lots of other fancy ingredients that I can't afford!) 
1kg Brussel sprouts 
1 pack vacuum-sealed chestnuts
1 pack bacon (or pancetta)
knob of butter
salt and pepper 
Cut the ends off the sprouts and shed the outer leaves (they'll probably just come away by themselves) while bringing a pan of water to the boil. Once boiling, tip the sprouts in and cook for 5 minutes, so they've still got a bit of bite. While they're cooking, cut the bacon into cubes and break up the chestnuts a bit. Melt the butter in a pan big enough to take everything afterwards, and fry the bacon bits. Add the Chestnuts and sprouts, and stir-fry for a few minutes more. Season to taste and eat with lots of crusty bread!


Thursday, 7 November 2013


 ...There has been a lot of work. Some of it fun work, some of it less fun (I'm looking at you, incomprehensible cultural theory reading!). But here are some non-work-related things that I've been enjoying recently: 
  1. Being on my good friend Alex Cumming's folk and acoustic radio show 
  2. Eating lots of soup! I adapted this recipe for sweet potato soup to include chorizo recently - t'was most delicious!
  3. Listening to Salsa Celtica and The Chair 
  4. Watching Ender's Game at the actual cinema - it's been ages since I've been to see a new film! It was pretty good, not a patch on the book though (yeah, sorry I'm one of THOSE people)
  5. Re-reading His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman - one of my favourite sets of books
  6.  Been pinning excessively... give me a follow
  7. Making plans to go to Thought Bubble - a comic con in Leeds. I've never been to one before, so I'm pretty excited! Kate Beaton is going to be there and I LOVE her work. Especially this. It makes me laugh every time I see it. And also...
  8. To cosplay or not to cosplay? I have a pretty awesome Fionna outfit from Hallowe'en:
    With Peppy being a very uninterested Cake.


Thursday, 4 July 2013

Dateland: Butterfly Cabinet

Before writing this post, I had to look through the entirety of my dateland posts to make sure that I've never written one for the Butterfly Cabinet before, and was then astounded that I haven't. For me, it represents the base-line standard of just how awesome a cafe can be - the fact that on weekend you have to queue for about half an hour just to get a table (and that people do so) attests to just how good it is! I have taken an executive decision not to witter on about how it was better when it was Belle and Herb's (when I was in high school, it was known under a different name, was incredible, and one of the people who ran it ran off with much of the embezzled funds, it closed down for a while then reopened under a new name), because it's still amazing and doesn't need qualifying any further! 

Our most recent date there was for brunch on a Monday because no queues and hurray summer holidays! I'm currently loving the brunch dates as the biggest treat ever - expect more brunch dateland posts soon!

Weirdly, we both chose the exact same meal on this trip - elderflower and fresh lemon ice teas and "The USA" - buttermilk pancakes with butter, maple syrup, sausages, bacon and hash browns. ENTIRELY over-the top, but loved it! Other favourites from their menu include smoked salmon and scrambled eggs served on an English muffin with hollandaise sauce, french omlette, Bury Benedict - poached eggs and black pudding on an English muffin with hollandaise, I could go on forever... But I'll not. Just suffice to say if you're ever in Newcastle, get yourself down there. They do incredible lunches too, and often have live music nights as well. 


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Comfort food: Fish Pie

I don't think anyone can deny the comforting power of mashed potatoes - stodge and creaminess all in one! Not to mention the fact that there is a lot you can do to make it more interesting - add pesto, cheese, garlic, mustard and so on and on. However, one of my favourite uses for mash is as a pie topping - usually Shepard's pie, or in this case, fish pie!
This recipe is really easy and makes a massively comforting fish pie in under 40 minutes.
fish pie mix (most supermarkets carry some kind of fish pie mix, the one I use being about 450g of fish. If you can't find this, just use a mixture of some white fish, some salmon (fresh) and some smoked fish)
500ml milk
50g butter
50g flour
400g potatoes
a little extra milk and butter for the mash
cheese for grating
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180/gas mark 4.
If you didn't get a fish pie mix, cut the fish into 3cm cubes and place in a saucepan. Cover with the milk and heat until the fish is cooked, about 5 minutes. Try not to let the milk boil as it will impair the flavour. Once the fish is cooked and flakes apart easily, fish (no pun intended!) it out of the milk with a slotted spoon and place it into a casserole dish. Pour the milk into a jug and wash out the pan.
Peel and chop the potatoes, then put them in a pan full of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. When the potatoes feel tender but not too sloppy, drain the water and pop them back in the pan. While the potatoes are on the boil, make the white sauce for the fish. Melt the butter in the pan over a low heat, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour to make a ball. Don't let this burn! Return to a low heat and add the milk, bit by bit, stirring it in thoroughly so that there are no lumps. Once all the milk is added, increase the temperature and let the mixture thicken, stirring all the while. Add salt and pepper to taste, then pour over the fish in the casserole dish. Mash the potatoes with the butter and a splash of milk, then spoon over the top of the fish-and-sauce mixture. Grate cheese over the top, and put in the oven for about 20 minutes to half an hour, until the top is lightly browned and crisp.
I usually enjoy the pie on it's own, but if you were feeling virtuous, it would go well with some steamed green beans, broccoli or peas. 

Music pairing - The Toy Hearts: Bring on the Swing

Thursday, 7 February 2013


...I have been eating:


Making pancakes of fun!



How-to: Moustache Wax

Moustache wax is very easy to make, using these simple ingredients!
You will need:
  • Beeswax
  • Vaseline
  • Essential oil
  • A small tub or pot to put it all in!

  • Sharp knife
  • Chopping board
  • Scales
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon
Chop the required amount of beeswax and place in the bowl. We used 15g of beeswax, and really should have chopped it up a bit smaller so that it would melt better but didn't think of that at the time!
Put it into the small bowl and add the same amount of Vaseline (15g) to the bowl.
Now melt together the beeswax and the Vaseline in the microwave - don't worry about burning it, but check after every two minutes or so. Also bear in mind that once the wax has melted, it won't stay that way for long, so you'll have to work quickly after this stage.
At this point, it will smell pretty bad, but try to exercise restraint when adding the essential oil! We went for three drops but the smell in the finished product is pretty overwhelming, so maybe limit it to just one or two drops.
Mix the oil in thoroughly, then scrape the wax into your pot.
Voila! Your moustache wax is now complete! Use sparingly on the tips of your 'tache for shaping and enjoy.
 We used petitgrain essential oil for a citrussy, musky scent, but I would also love to try one with a peppermint or sandalwood essential oil. Try out your own to see what you like best!

Friday, 5 October 2012

House biscuits

I got this lovely french biscuit stamp a while ago, and decided to share my ultimate simple biscuit recipe. The thing I like best about this recipe is you can alter pretty much all the aspects of it and still get some pretty tasty biscuits!
You will need:
100g sugar (caster, granulated, demerera, dark brown, doesn't matter)
100g butter (or margerine, I used stork for these)
1 egg
200-220g of flour (it changes from time to time)
Anything extra you'd like to put in! This can include:
  • Spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, allspice)
  • lemon zest 
  • vanilla essence
  • peanut butter
  • cocoa powder
I try not to put things like chocolate chips or fruit in, because then the stamp doesn't work as well.

  • Preheat the oven to 180/gas mark 4
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
  • Beat the egg, then mix in - add any extras at this point. 
  • Sift in the flour bit by bit until you have a good consistency - not too floury because the biscuits will be dry, but not too sticky or the stamp will stick
  • Form the dough into a ball and put in the fridge for 30 minutes - DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. It makes the dough much easier to handle
  • Form the mixture into 9 or 10 little balls on a greased baking sheet, then stamp each ball down into a flat cookie shape
  • Bake for 8-12 minutes, until they are golden-brown. Enjoy!

     The stamp I have says "Biscuits Maison" which means "Biscuits of the house" or "house biscuits", which is a nice concept I think! I like to have some about the house :)

    The biscuit will keep in a tin for about 5 days, but mine never last that long! You can also freeze the dough for 1 month and whip up a batch any time you feel like it! Let the dough defrost thoroughly before stamping and baking it.