Thursday, 30 May 2013

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Have you ever been to paradise? I have. The Gili Islands are three islands (Air, Meno and Trawangan) nestled just off the coast of Lombok. There's no traffic on Gili T and you can walk all the way round this perfectly tranquil island in under two hours. I am currently sitting by the pool at The Pearl of Trawagan (unfortunately not where we are staying) munching on a feta and black olive quesadilla.

After a fairly terrifying boat journey from Bali our first two nights on Gili T were spent at Gili Nyepi, a collection of small bungalows run by a woman called Denise from Holland. I cannot sing enough praises about this place - incredible value for money and the staff are so lovely, helpful and honest.

We've spent 5 days on this incredible island, snorkelling, cycling and sunbathing and went to some pretty incredible beach parties. 

Ciao for now amigos. x

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Bali, Indonesia

So firstly, apologies that I've been silent for so long! I've just started my 7 week jolly around south east Asia. I don't really know what to call it - I don't really feel like I'm doing the full blown travelling thing (let's face it, I am not backpacker material) but it is longer, and slightly less comfortable, than a holiday. 

Our first stop is Bali. It's just Becca and I at the moment, Kat and Kate are flying down from Hong Kong later tonight. It's a small island, I've been told you can drive round the coast in a day but so far we've stayed in the south, exploring Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Sanur. I am not so keen on heat (Asia may be an odd choice you might say) so the sunny mornings and overcast afternoons (about 30c) have been a perfect mix for me. We've mainly spent the mornings lazing around on the beach and getting over jet lag and the afternoons wandering around the little  'gangs' (side streets to you and I) seeing what the various market stalls have to offer. 

Traffic is a nightmare and persistent hawkers the bane of my life but so far Bali is a perfect place to sit back and relax. Although billed as the 'vulgar Oz ghetto not actually found in Australia', southern Bali is definitely not a place to pass by - rooms for under £10 and beers for a mere £1.30 why would you say no?! x

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Brunch at The Riding House Cafe - W1W

The weather in the last week has turned London into some sort of leafy paradise: trees are full of blossom, the grass seems so much greener and people have a new bounce in their step that only the sunshine can bring. On a sunny bank holiday the only thing I want to do is meet friends for brunch. This particular bank holiday it was Tara's  birthday (lucky thing) and her choice was the Riding House Cafe, near Oxford Circus. 

Anything you fancy the Riding House Cafe serve, from eggs benedict to good old hunky beef burgers as well as the most amazing looking smoothies and milkshakes served in their own old fashioned milk bottle.

Website here. x

Friday, 10 May 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Bites with a Salted Caramel Dipping Sauce

Now hold on there young whippersnapper, this recipe isn't just for anyone. It comes with a serious warning: this recipe is moreish. I mean REALLY moreish, bowl-scrapingly, plate-lickingly good...

You still want it? Okay well don't say I didn't warn you.

Pretzel Bites:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (out the tap is fine)
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 pack active dry yeast
  • 3oz unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg, beaten mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

Caramel Sauce:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 6oz butter
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp salt flakes (whatever you put in the grinder)
(Serves 4)

First of all, sorry for the slightly complicated recipe - it was originally from an American blog. You can buy a cup measure from a lot of places, Sainsbury's, Wilkos etc. or you can just use a mug or glass you have in the house - sounds silly but a 'standard' size, not a small teacup but not your huge coffee mug either. As long as you use the same mug throughout you'll be fine and can always adjust the mixture with a little more water or a little more flour if the mixture is too dry or too wet - it's definitely not an exact science.

Combine the water, sugar, yeast and butter in a bowl. You can do this in a mixer if you're lucky enough to have one or you can dive straight in with your hands like I did. Mix until the dough is smooth and can easily be kneaded into a ball without it flaking. Add more water/flour if you need too.

Coat a second bowl with the vegetable oil and add the ball of dough, making sure its coated. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough doubles in size. An hour should be fine, or you can leave it longer. 

While your dough is rising you can make your caramel sauce - this should take you 10-15 minutes. Make sure you have all your ingredients in front of you as once you start cooking it's so easy to burn the sugar so you need to keep a close eye on it. Warm a heavy saucepan on a medium heat and add the sugar, constantly mixing with a wooden spoon. The mixture will start to clump but this is normal, it will melt completely soon enough. 

Once the sugar is a deep amber colour add the butter and keep mixing until melted.  The mixture will bubble violently so be careful! Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream. It will bubble up again so when it's calmed down then add the salt, I like using big flakes to give the sauce more texture. Leave in the pan and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 220c/Gas 7. Place a large pan of water onto boil and add the bicarbonate soda. Place the dough on a floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a sausage and cut into one inch pieces, you should get 6-8 out of each sausage. With any luck yours will be a lot neater than mine!

When the water/bicarb mix is bubbling away slide in the pretzel bites and boil for 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and place on kitchen towel to allow the excess water to drain away. They will look horrible and slimy at this point but don't worry, they'll turn out fine. 

Place on a well greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove and brush over with the egg wash and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar - put back in the oven and bake for another 8 minutes. Fill a dish with your caramel sauce and you are good to go!

Please don't be put off by the long recipe - it's actually quite easy, especially the caramel sauce! x

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Malteaser Brownie Cupcakes

I made these a few weeks ago for a birthday and I for one loveddd them! Cooking the brownies as individual cupcakes actually worked out really well, they were still soft and gooey and I thought white chocolate was also a nice change to the usual dark chocolate.

What you'll need:

  • 225g butter
  • 60g white hot chocolate powder or cocoa powder
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g plain flour
  • 50g chocolate chips
  • 12 malteasers
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 100g horlicks or other malt drink
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 12 malteasers

(Makes 12)

Preheat the oven to 180c / Gas 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases. Place the butter in a saucepan with the cocoa powder (or white hot chocolate) and cook over a low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Beat in the eggs and vanilla and then fold in the flour and salt. Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Transfer the mixture into a jug, this makes it way easier to pour. Pour into the cupcake cases until three quarters full and then nestle a malteaser in each one. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a crust has formed on the top but the middle is still gooey. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. For the frosting, beat the butter, icing sugar and malt powder in a large bowl. When the mixture has come together add the milk and whisk until piping consistency. Spoon the icing into a piping bag and pipe swirls on top of the cakes and top each one with a malteaser. 


Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Flask - N6

Last week I headed up to The Flask in Highgate to meet some family for lunch and to soak up this gorgeous sunshine we've been having. Tucked away behind a high hedge is The Flask's beautiful courtyard where old church pews serve as benches and mirrors bounce the sunlight off your pint glasses; the perfect place for a lazy pub lunch in London.

Image courtesy of The Flask website

Image courtesy of The Flask website

Summertime pub lunches for me only mean one thing, Ploughmans. There's something wonderful about this simple dish with fresh bread providing the perfect base for pates, cheeses and tangy home made pickles. Everyone else went for the cheese and harissa beef burger, which I must admit did look pretty tasty and came with some pretty good chips.

Can't say I was really impressed with the pudding selection but we all dived into coffee and the most gorgeously sweet sticky toffee pudding and left feeling very full and satisfied. 

Website and info here. x

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Country Cottage: The Basics

I haven't done an interiors post for ages, odd as that really was one of the main reasons I started this blog. I am obsessed with interior design but I don't have my own house yet so have to be content with endless magazines and Pinterest

Being a country girl I have naturally always been drawn to the country-cottage look, mixing shabby chic and vintage French design. The classic country cottage should be light but warm, breezy yet cosy. Layering is the key here: paint your walls an off white colour and then accessorise with quirky soft furnishings and stacks of blankets. 

By creating a neutral base it is so easy to instantly reinvent the look of your home just by changing your accessories and its such a great way to stay on trend. I love the raw look that's coming in this season, rough-sewn finishes (perfect for an amateur sewer like me!), exposed brick or concrete contrasted with soft tones of linen, wool and wicker. Now don't get me wrong, I do have a particular soft spot for Cath Kidston but it can be so easy to over do it so make sure you mix your prints with plenty of muted colours and fresh flowers always go down a treat. 


All images courtesy of Pinterest / Not On The High Street..