November Nuances

November has felt like the month everyone wants to be over and done with to let the festivities begin. Aldi started selling their Christmas trees with well over 1 week until the big countdown, carols are jingling out the speakers in shops (indeed Bublé is in the mix) and maybe I have already started on the mince pies? For us in Britain, unless we have any American relatives, November is a bit meaningless. No thanksgiving, just a large empty space between November 5th and December 1st. Time spent saving up for the gifts for your beloveds, ie a month of having no money, stashing up on booze and slowing down on the cheese consumption, as soon there’ll be enough in the fridge to feed an army of mice. I’m sad that we don’t celebrate thanksgiving here, the chance for another turkey dinner I wouldn’t pass up, and don’t get me started on all the fruit and pumpkin pies. Perhaps another celebration would be overkill, and Christmas wouldn’t be as special, I’m going to keep telling myself that but if anyone fancies adopting an English girl for next year’s thanksgiving meal, I’d appreciate it very much!

I’ll bring the stuffing.

The past week or so we have been trying to avoid any talk of Santa Claus and what we would like for Christmas, but starting today, don’t know about you I’m ready to throw myself headfirst into the Christmas pudding. The supermarkets and takeaway lunch options are giving us some seasonal mix-up to our lunch routines. Pret offering three Christmas sandwiches and a salad alongside a whole host of drinks and treats, Leon also have two festive wraps (one of them vegan), a dinky mince pie with 20p of each sale going to Save The Children’s Make the World Better with a Sweater campaign, and a brussel sprout soup too. Find yourself in Tesco, Eat, Boots and M&S where you can eat your Christmas dinner between two slices of bread (or stuffed in a wrap), you most definitely won’t be allowed to do that any other time of the year, so get some whilst you can!

A round-up now of some highlights to my month, I have some nice seasonal posts coming up soon, but enjoy this meanwhile. I hope you have eaten your first advent calendar chocolate this morning, or if you have a gin calendar treated yourself to a rather cheeky G&T at 7 in the morning. Isn’t that what Christmas time is for…

 

#1 The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 1) by Patrick Rothfuss

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A good long read. One that slowly draws you in, you make new friends along the way to only feel saddened that they’ve left your life once the book is over. But not to worry there is another in the trilogy, and one book still in the making. A fantasy world has been created by Patrick Rothfuss, a combination between The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter best describes it. There’s magic, demons, faeries, murder, and mythical creatures there’s not much else I want from a book, oh and a bit of murder is in there for good measure too. Reading this on the busy commuter train has been the perfect escape for a good half hour twice daily, too busy to notice all the surrounding bodies when i’ve been so engrossed in the story. For a much better description and some ratings here it is on goodreads and if that tempts you enough buy it here.

 

#2 Persimmon (or Sharon Fruit)

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The bulbous bright orange fruits many of us walk past in the supermarket, wondering what on earth thy are and what on earth to do with them. Leave to ripen until very soft, some say they must feel like a water balloon when ready, if caught earlier they can be sliced in a salad and have a much firmer texture. A strong honey flavour with a jelly texture, just pierce the skin with your teeth and suck out the flesh. Or as I’ve seen others do, stick one in the freezer and once frozen slice the top off and scoop out the sorbet innards with a spoon. As delicious as it sounds I reckon.

#3 Jam from The Old Cow Shed  in Chisworth

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Seeking out local producers and adding their products to my cupboards and fridge makes me rather happy and contented. In a small little village called Chisworth, drive down a rough and bumpy road for a few minutes until you come to a farmhouse and there you shall find the 17th century converted old cow shed. A husband and wife team singly making all the sausages, black pudding, cured and smoked items, jams, chutneys, sauces and pickles all changing with the seasons. Their sausages are the best ones I’ve ever come across, meaty but not dense, made from free range rare-breed pork, they will amp up your regular meal of sausage and mash for sure. I’m not here today though to talk about sausages, this month has been all about the jam. A plum, orange and cardamom jam, but almost verging on marmalade territory with the bitter rind of the orange and lime. Sunday brunch has recently been ending with a half slice of toasted sourdough, salted butter and some of this jam. My idea of pure autumnal heaven and a little (not so) guilty pleasure 🙂

#4 The Handmaid’s Tale

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I’m quite late to the show here as this series featuring Elizabeth Moss, based on the book by Margaret Atwood has already finished on Channel 4 and I’m watching the re-run. The story-line disturbs me deeply, I’m not sure if that’s just me as a woman and relating to it in that way or if men get the same uncomfortable feeling too. I don’t want to give anything away, there’s not much for me to spill as of yet, but for a little background info: set in Gilead, a near-future United States of America which is under a christian military dictatorship. The story of Offred, a handmaid, whose place in the world is to have two functioning ovaries and provide a child for their owner. It gets complicated, too much for me to explain on here, way much more than I understand myself! It’s great watching though, dark and mysterious and leaves you itching to watch the next and the next one after that.

 

#5 Earrings from Geo Heaven

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A visit to the Christmas markets at the Hepworth Gallery over the weekend, intending to buy plenty of Christmas gifts, to only come away with gifts for myself. Don’t we all? A selection of the UK’s best crafters of home wares and accessories, a few hours were spent oohing and ahhing and a slight sense of jealousy building for all those talented people showcasing their goods. My standout buy, these earrings from Geo Heaven. They are 3D printed, rose-gold plated and made in Yorkshire. Ticks all the boxes of coolness and look pretty amazing on too. Head on over to their website to see all the other jewellery available or pop over to their instagram page for some lust-worthy ideas for Christmas gifts, or do as I did and treat yourself.

#6 Faux Fur scarf from Pretty Little Thing

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I’m going to be frank with you, Pretty Little Thing isn’t my first port of call when shopping for clothes and accessories. The world of Boohoo, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing and the likes may have changed a lot since they first appeared on our web browsers but I still picture them as the cheap bulk clothing they once were. After talking to a girl who was wearing some awesome leopard print flares and she said how long they are, too long in fact, well that got me clicking away. I’m in desperate need of a new pair of flares so ordered some in black and some in red, plus a faux fur scarf just to bulk up the price for free delivery (don’t we all?). In the end, the flares were returned and the one item I wasn’t intending on keeping has stuck. A powder pink and grey-blue fluff, when wearing it I was told I looked like I was being strangled by a raccoon, does that paint a good enough picture? Well it’s pretty snazzy and keeps your neck warm too, plus it doesn’t look cheap. It’s no Fendi or even Shrimps but it’ll do until the day when I can justify paying top dollar and still have money leftover to feed myself for the month. It’s now sold out sadly but instead there’s this bundle of joy that is still available, but don’t delay!

With as much festive jingley love that I can muster, crack out the mulled wine and mince pies it’s time to embrace Christmas!

X

January Jams

In order for me to keep on top of the blog, and to keep things fresh, I’m starting a new series. So every month I will be writing a list of things that I’m vibing on, and it won’t just be food related don’t you worry!

In the early stages of 2017, it seems a common trend that everyone is feeling slightly under the weather, missing some sunshine and (even though I don’t believe in it) is on a relentless diet that is draining you of all frivolity and joy. These are some of the things that are ‘getting me through’ January, filling up my evenings and brightening up my days.

#1

Fuss-Free Moisturiser – Clean Beauty Co.

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Get in from work, go in the shower, wash hair, get out and slather body in moisturiser, if not legs will soon be scaling, as the winter leaves you looking like a lizard. Go to bed, only to wake up in the middle of the night really sticky, really really sticky but so COLD.

Anyone else?

I never end up putting moisturiser on because I hate the routine of prancing around with nothing on, swinging my arms around until the said cream has sunk in and it’s safe to put some clothes on without a trail of white rings left on my tights.

So, here’s the miracle product: an in-shower moisturiser that’s completely natural. At the end of your shower rub liberally allover, then hop out (no need to rinse) and just pat dry. Your skin will feel utterly smooth, and no sticky residue leftover. I think Clean Beauty Co. have sadly stopped selling this product as they are going on to bigger and better things (see this book), however you can find the recipe here for a little Sunday DIY. I can tell you, once my next jar has run out (will probably only take a month, it’s that good) I will be making this on the regular. Watch this space, everyone who knows me will probably be receiving a tub!

 

#2

Hotel Chocolat Tea

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This came along with a few other gifts from a good friend for Christmas, tea tends to feature always in her gift buying which = V. happy Thea.

Recently I’ve been quite obsessed with the Hotel Chocolat rare and vintage chocolate bars (and the free samples every time you visit the shop) but was yet to try the tea. There are five different varieties which you can either buy a single for 75p or a pack of 10 for £5.00. Each catering for a different time of day or specific need, in the Teaolat range: Energise, Invigorate, Refresh, Cacao Breakfast, Unwind and Spice. All containing one specific ingredient, cacao nibs. The cacao nibs come across strongest in the aroma, a whiff of hot chocolate but mingled with divine spices and herbs. Next time you pop by Hotel Chocolat grab some of the samples to try and when you have a spare minute boil the kettle and let one brew for a few moments of bliss.

 

#3

The OA

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How could I leave out something to binge on on Netflix. That’s what January is all about right? On the sofa, under a duvet with some snacks and a cuppa. After watching (and LOVING) Stranger things, up popped Netflix’s next recommendation (they’re onto something there I think) for me and my mum. A series called The OA, with not much explanation as to what it is about.

‘Having gone missing seven years ago, the previously blind Prairie returns home, now in her 20s with her sight restored. While many believe she is a miracle, others worry that she could be dangerous.’

So four episodes in, it’s GOOD. Brad Pitt is one of the producers, I think that says it all. It’s most definitely weird, really odd at first, but stick with it. If you’re a Sci-Fi and mystery fan like me, you will be hooked!

 

#4

Pink Puffer Coat – Monki Exclusive to Asos

I attempted to buy this coat on many occasions with no luck. It seems everyone else wants this big, soft, pastel pink duvet to wrap themselves up tight in the cold.

With no luck of buying it, as Asos kept selling out and only the larger sizes were left in stock, I gave up on my dreams of becoming a big marshmallow. UNTIL, on Christmas morning my last present to unwrap was a huuugeeee surprise and out came this coat. It has not been off my back since. In the UK we’ve had all sorts of weather the past few weeks and even during the heavy snow fall it has kept me warm, snug and cosy without any complaints (actually OVERHEATING has been the biggest thing, but rather that than be cold any day). On the Monki website they also have the coat in black (sadly the mustard and dark green tartan print has gone), but hop to it and you might bag yourself a beauty.

 

#5

Microplane Grater

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I love cooking. Can you tell?

I’m not a big gadget fan, however there are a few little things which make the process much speedier and oh so more satisfying. Queue my Microplane grater. Whenever a recipe calls for the zest of some citrus the overall result will be so much zingier and tarter. Picture a lemon drizz but with a real zippy tanginess that cuts through the sugary sweet topping, or if you’re making a stir-fry lumps of ginger and garlic aren’t overly pleasant, so whizz some across the Microplane and it will be distributed evenly to leave a good heat in its wake. I understand you’re reading this and thinking, ‘how sad’ yes it is. I don’t really care as I’ve got my Microplane and that makes me happy.

 

#6

Maple peanut butter – Pip N Nut

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Of course I couldn’t do this post without jamming on a food product. If you’re from the UK, I’d assume you will have heard of this new brand which has been growing exponentially over the past year. Now stocked in Sainsburys, Waitrose, Wholefoods, Holland and Barrett, Plant Organic and many other health food shops nationwide. Currently there is a peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, coconut almond butter, honey cinnamon cashew butter and this limited edition, crunchy maple peanut butter.

DONE

It’s sweet, that’s expected, but slather on some carrot or celery sticks for a snack, swirl into zoats or porridge topped with tart berries. It’s mighty mighty fine. As this one is a limited edition I don’t think you’ll find it on the shelves for much longer, but then of course another genius new flavour will be on the market. Whilst you have the chance, grab a tub and spoon and you’ll thank me later.

So that’s it for this month’s jams. I will be back in February with some new and old discoveries which I can’t wait to share. Please do comment, email or find me on Instagram and let me know what you’ve been obsessing and jamming on recently. I’d love to hear and have a chat!

Much love

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soup for the soul

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Rummaging through the fridge I found a lump of cheese, wrapped tightly in clingfilm (thank GOD, think of the odour) yellowing on the edges and blue tufts sprouting up in many patches. I thought to myself, “I don’t remember this blue cheese, I know we have a Stilton but that’s with all the other cheeses in a paper bag”. Then it clicked, yep it’s that Peakland White Stilton that I brought home from work as I dropped a huge chunk on the floor.          

.It wasn’t intentional.

I am that person. I’m not wasting it, there’s always a home for dropped sausage rolls, ciabattas and Peakland White Stilton Cheese. << What I’ve collected so far and I’m sure the list will grow longer.

A cheese that’s supposed to be a creamy soft white in colour is mild in flavour with a slight pepperiness you would get from a mature Blue cheese. It was destined to be made into a soup.

However the little bacteria suckers beat me, they’ve been feasting on it for a good while now…I’m going to leave them to it.

 

So here’s a quick and easy soup recipe to use up some cheese leftovers. I’m sure we all have a fridge full at his time of year, when you can’t bear the sight of any more cheese and crackers or cheese and a slither of Christmas cake. I’ve used Cropwell Bishop Stilton, but any blue cheese would work really well. For example, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Harrogate blue, Yorkshire blue, I could go on and on (I do work in a deli with cheese!!) or even that white Stilton that was waiting rather too patiently. Just be sure to taste before you serve as some blues are much stronger so you might need less, and others are creamier and less piquant.

At this time of year, a soup is on the lunch menu weekly, preferably served with a slice of warm-in-the-centre sourdough from my local bakery and a big smattering of butter, or some rye toast (I like Biona rye), possibly a smear of hummus, perhaps even baked sweet potato wedges dipped in hummus. It makes the perfect satisfying lunch and you can rest in peace knowing there was a good amount of veggies thrown in the mix. I added a few large handfuls of spinach as I wanted to UP the veg quota, if you’d rather stick to the traditional, leave out the spinach all together and possibly use two heads of cauliflower, or to go along with the green thing use broccoli instead. Just make sure to add in those stalks, this is frugal feeding at its finest.

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Cauliflower and Stilton soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp ghee or rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large head of cauliflower (substitute broccoli or use a mixture of the two)
  • Around 500ml-750ml of vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few large handfuls of spinach
  • 50g Stilton (or any other blue cheese)

 

Method

  1. Finely dice the onion and cook in the ghee in a large pan until softened. Up to 10 minutes.
  2. Whilst the onion is cooking, chop the cauliflower into florets and chop the stalk into small chunks.
  3. Before the 10 minutes is up, add the stalks to soften for a few minutes.
  4. Put the cauliflower florets in the pan and stir around then pour in the stock, start with 500ml you can add more later if it needs it. There’s nothing worse than thin soup.
  5. Bring to the boil then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid ajar, until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through.
  6. Turn off the heat, add the spinach to the pan give it a good stir around and pop the lid on for a few minutes to let it wilt.
  7. Crumble the Stilton into the soup.
  8. Using either a stick blender or an upright blender (the latter will make a smoother soup, I used my Nutribullet in a couple of batches) blend until completely smooth adding extra stock/boiling water if necessary, until its at a consistency you like.
  9. Reheat slowly on the hob, stirring to prevent sticking on the bottom and serve in bowls with extra black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Oh and some bread for dipping is obligatory.
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Clean bowls all round

Keep warm this winter, take a flask of soup to keep the shivers at bay.

Much love

X