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Recipe – White Chocolate and Chai Tea Bread

After root canal treatment this week, I am feeling very sore and very sorry for myself. Ian has been lovely, making me a huge pile of cheesy mashed potato when I asked for ‘soft food’ for dinner. I’m hoping I will be back to my old self soon as I’m not used to feeling so glum!

I’m not a regular bread baker but add white chocolate and chai tea to the mix and I will give it a go! I love chai tea to drink and it adds a very delicate layer of spices to this bread.

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Ingredients

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275g of self-raising flour

A 7g sachet of yeast

50g of caster sugar

200g of white chocolate, broken into chunks

25g of butter

150ml of boiling water with 2 chai teabags steeped in it and left to cool

How to make it

  • Being by putting the flour, yeast, caster sugar and white chocolate chunks into a large bowl

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  • Add the butter and cooled tea then mix with a wooden spoon until it has turned into a sticky dough

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  • Tip out onto a floured surface and begin to knead. This is a very sticky mixture at first but keep going and after 10 minutes or so, it will all come together

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  • Next, leave the dough under a clean tea towel for 20 minutes to rise
  • After it has risen, place in a lightly greased loaf tin and leave to prove in a warm place (I always use the airing cupboard!) for about half an hour

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  • While it proves, preheat the oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4
  • Pop the dough into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and your kitchen is filled with the delicious smell of warm bread!

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Recipe – Easy Mini Victoria Sponges

A bit of a cheat recipe today but one that I think is perfect to take on picnics – what is better on a summer’s day than a little Victoria sponge?!

I was in TKMaxx recently and picked up this baking tin for my cupboard, not realising it contained a baking kit inside too! I made my vanilla cakes as per the enclosed instructions but you can find a simple cupcake recipe online or buy some plain fairy cakes ready-made.

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I made my cakes, let them cool and removed the paper cases.

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To turn your plain cakes into Victoria sponges, you simply need to slice them in half and add jam and cream. I mixed mine up a bit and used strawberry jam, blackberry jam and lemon curd – I have to say the lemon curd ones were the winners for me! Not strictly speaking a Victoria sponge but a lovely summery twist on a traditional cake.

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You can either used freshly whipped cream or butter icing for the other filling – I find that fresh cream is good if you are going to eat the cakes that day but butter icing lasts a bit longer.

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Enjoy with a cup of tea or pack them up in your picnic basket and eat in the sunshine! x

Afternoon Tea in London

Anyone else a big Timehop fan?! I am really enjoying this app which gives you little snapshots of what you were up to years ago. I have linked my blog to it and it is lovely rereading recipes, nail art and weekends away that we enjoyed and to see how my styles and tastes have changed over time. It is also for this reason that I like to document my mini-breaks, especially when they are to celebrate best friends’ 30th birthdays!

This weekend, Ian and I headed up to London to enjoy some time with our besties. We decided to catch a slightly later train up from Bath on Friday evening which gave us enough time to grab a quick bite at Grillstock. I opted for ribs and a root beer which truly hit the spot whilst Ian had a chilli dog.

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Our train journey was pretty uneventful; chai tea, a bit of reading, a quick podcast then before we knew it we were at our friend Lucie’s flat with a cup of tea in hand. I gave Lucie one of her birthday presents which I handmade and which, quite literally, took me weeks. It may seem a slightly strange option but I cross-stitched my friend a map of Serbia! It was my neatest ever cross-stitching effort and that surely wins some good friendship points?!

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The next morning was glorious sunshine so after a lovely lazy breakfast at Owen’s and a browse around their deli, we headed up to Alexandra Park for views of the city and a fresh brew.

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That afternoon we met the rest of our party at The Mandeville Hotel for afternoon tea. We started with white peach bellinis before deciding between the ‘Vintage’ and ‘Gentlemen’s’ afternoon tea.

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I opted for the Vintage as I just love posh finger sandwiches with no crusts! A couple of people in our party ordered the Gentlemen’s and I have to admit to having a bit of food envy when I saw their steak and snails, fish fingers and sausage rolls arrive!

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I would recommend this place for a group booking as the service was excellent. Several people at our table had booked the unlimited champagne option and the waiters kept their glasses topped up throughout the afternoon.

The Vintage came with roast chicken and stuffing, smoked salmon and cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches, a beautiful scone with jam and cream and a selection of mini cakes. My favourites were the apple and custard pots with crumble topping, the Battenberg and the coffee and walnut slice.

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There was also a good selection of loose tea; I had the pear caramel tea which was delicious.

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After all those cakes, we headed out for a few drinks then back home for a takeaway and Cards Against Humanity (so wrong, but so funny!)

I think I am a well-established country girl now but I do love a city break and time with good friends is pretty much priceless. Right, onto the next cross-stitch…

Sunday Catch-up #10

If I’m being honest, it hasn’t really been the best week. I’ve been stressed and busy and to top it all off I’m feeling really run down and knackered. However, these weekly posts encourage me to look for the positives in weeks like this (we all have them!) and it has had its highlights, namely some beautiful sunny days and a great weekend in London with my nearest and dearest. Every cloud and all that!

This week I have been…

Making: Ian come to Pilates with me for a good old post-marathon stretch

Going: for afternoon tea in posh London hotels

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Wearing: stripes…in fact, we all did!

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Eating: ribs (I needed my fix!)

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Drinking: root beer

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Reading: this amazing series of books (for the second time)

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Watching: Fortitude – I love my bleak, Scandi dramas!

Buying: more Breton tops

Planning: which TV drama to start on next – House of Cards please!

Cooking: ham and cheese toasties (my comfort food when I’m not feeling 100%)

Baking: nothing this week although lots of staff room cakes have been consumed!

Writing: birthday cards

Favouriting: more home décor websites as I’m now after a new rug for our living room

Working on: feeling better – lots of OJ, early nights and zinc tablets

Trying to decide: whether I need a duvet day or not tomorrow!

Wishing: this beautiful weather lasts so we can spend more time outside without layers upon layers on

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Enjoying: ALL THE CAKES

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Needing: to go back to making to-do lists as it’s the only way I can function properly

Feeling: so happy when I have all my family sat around the table enjoying a meal together

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Giggling at: this tube stop (Londoners will roll their eyes I’m sure!)

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Sunday Catch-up #5

I cannot believe I am writing this in February! I’ve got a really stressful fortnight at work but then it’s half term and time to breathe and reboot with friends coming to stay and a weekend away with Ian.

This week I have been…

Making: myself go to bed earlier

Going: out for pizza with my bestie Lu (and Ian!)

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Wearing: hats and scarves to try and keep warm

Eating: my salmon, pea and leek quiche…very tasty if I do say so myself

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Drinking: this delicious elderflower gin

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Reading: Gone Girl…I cannot put it down!

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Watching: the new series of Girls

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Buying: sensible things like a new car headlight, black tights and a new phone

Planning: hotels, train tickets and travel plans…our weekends are getting booked up quickly for the next few months!

Cooking: for a curry night this week…I tend to panic when I have all four hobs on the go but it all turned out fine

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Baking: Coca Cola Cupcakes

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Writing: a blog post every day in January! I didn’t think I’d be able to keep it up but I feel like my blogging mojo is back

Favouriting: Before and After work-out stretches to save my aching legs from keeping me awake

Working on: a new recipe to try out this week…it’s Thai-inspired and spicy!

Trying to decide: between tulips and daffodils…tulips won!

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Wishing: I could find the magic formula (or lip balm) for non-chapped lips

Enjoying: how pretty floral tea towels look

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Needing: to get ‘Uptown Funk’ out of my head…singing it all day every day!

Feeling: ready to tackle another DIY project in our house

Giggling at: the things the children in my class say…in stitches most days!

Recipe – Parma Violet Cupcakes

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It feels like ages since I baked but truth be told we received sooooo many chocolates and biscuits for Christmas that we have spent the last few weeks working our way through them. I still have one Chocolate Orange lurking at the back of the cupboard but am pretty much done with the various M&S biscuit tins and Miniature Heroes so I felt it was time to dust off the Kitchen Aid and get baking.

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The trouble with being a keen baker and trying to eat a bit healthier is that the two just don’t go together. However, we all need a sweet treat now and again so I am going to try baking half batches of cupcakes and treats in order to ration myself slightly.

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Now, I know this recipe will invoke somewhat of a love/hate reaction in people as rose and violet flavours tend to be that way. I personally love these delicate tastes and these cupcakes are definitely for those that love Parma Violets as there is violet flavouring in both the cakes and the icing. If you are somewhere in the middle of the love/hate spectrum then I would advise replacing the violet flavouring from of the cakes with vanilla extract and just have the violet-flavoured icing.

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As well as using my new violet flavouring (thanks Mum!), I was also able to bake in my new pop-art cupcake cases (thanks Lucie!)…my friends and family know me so well!

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Ingredients (for 6-8 cupcakes)

For the sponge:

40g of butter or margarine at room temperature

140g of caster sugar

120g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

A pinch of salt

Half a teaspoon of violet flavouring

140ml of milk

1 egg

For the icing:

125g of icing sugar

40g of butter at room temperature

1 teaspoon of violet flavouring

15ml of milk

Edible glitter to decorate (optional)

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4 and line your muffin tray with cupcake cases
  • I used my Kitchen Aid for the mixing but it can obviously be done by hand too! Whisk together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt until combined

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  • In a separate jug, mix the violet flavouring, milk and eggs then gradually add this to the dry ingredients in the mixer until smooth
  • Pour the batter into the cupcake cases (about half to two-thirds full) and then pop them in the oven

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  • Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked throughout

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  • Allow to cool while you make the frosting

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  • Whisk together the icing sugar and butter
  • In a separate jug or cup, mix the violet flavouring and milk then add it to the icing until it is light and fluffy
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled, spread the icing on top with a knife or teaspoon

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  • I sprinkled some pink edible glitter on top for decoration too

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Sunday Catch-up #4

I seem to have spent this week feeling constantly tired so have been trying to switch off a bit earlier and read before bed in the hope of a more restful night’s sleep. It feels like it’s working but I could just do with an hour or so more in bed each morning before that alarm starts to blare!

This week I have been…

Making: A start on my next cross stitch pattern

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Going: For lunch dates with Ian

Wearing: My hair straight this weekend

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Eating: Burgers, sweet potato fries and blue cheese slaw (a day off the diet, clearly!)

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Drinking: This delicious, if a tad too sweet, Rose Milk Tea picked up on a whim from the Chinese supermarket

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Reading: Gone Girl (a bit late to the party I know!)

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Watching: American Sniper at the cinema – I really enjoyed it

Buying: Space NK goodies

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Planning: Places to eat at and visit along the East Coast

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Cooking: Roasted vegetables, in an attempt to cut down on carbs in the evening

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Baking: Parma Violet Cupcakes

Writing: More to-do lists…I think I’ve found the only way to keep me organised!

Favouriting: H&M homeware…so much I want to buy for our house

Working on: Reducing our never-ending laundry pile

Trying to decide: What colour to paint my nails tonight #firstworldproblems

Wishing: That Page 3 really had disappeared rather than using this issue to create a huge publicity stunt…seriously, who still reads The Sun?!

Enjoying: Burning my new Yankee Candles…I know they are really festive but they smell so good!

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Needing: More sleep

Feeling: Grateful to my Dad for filling our freezer with his home-cooked food…these mozzarella-stuffed meatballs were amazing!

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Giggling at: How ridiculous we all look wearing Liverpool hats to cheer on our team!

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Restaurant Review – The Diner, Dalston

Just as everyone is turning to a diet of kale and quinoa , I am going to tempt you back to the dark side with a very tempting restaurant review!

Ian and I visited The Diner in Dalston for a late breakfast when we were there for a weekend recently. As a lover of all things American, I found this place online and when I saw it was right next to Dalston tube station, I knew we had to go.

It was mid-week so pretty quiet but absolutely up my street in terms of the menu and décor. It has a typical American diner look and feel to it from the red leather booths to the neon signs and the menu was actually quite authentic with a good selection of Mexican influences too.

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We started with milkshakes (they also do alcoholic ‘hard shakes’ but it was only 11am when we went!) which were served in traditional milkshake glasses with the leftover shake brought out in the tall metal cups…a nice touch. Ian opted for pistachio and I had peanut butter – both were delicious and really filling!

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For our breakfast/ brunch option, we were really torn about what to order. I went for eggs and bacon on corn bread with smashed avocados whilst Ian had the Mexican Breakfast Pan with some hash browns on the side.

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Mine was delicious and what I would call ‘proper food porn’…just look at that yolk! Mmmmmmmm

For me, it was a perfect brunch dish with a lovely balance of flavours and textures. We don’t often get corn bread over here but I for one am a fan of this sweet bread.

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Ian’s dish had a little bit of everything: spicy chorizo, crispy potatoes, eggs, onions, black beans, guacamole, salsa, jalapenos, cheese and some tortillas on the side.

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We both kind of knew we didn’t really need the hash browns but they were so crispy and tasty that I’m glad we did order a portion!

I absolutely loved our meal here and would definitely recommend it if you are in the area. It does have a certain amount of kitsch-factor but the food was good enough to merit a return visit.

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An Easy-Peasy Breakfast Treat

After tomorrow, I have one more week of work left before we break up for the Christmas holidays. Given how chilly it is first thing in the morning and how hard it is to get out of a warm and cosy bed, I foresee lots of lazy mornings and breakfast in beds coming up.

I wanted to share a little breakfast secret of mine that makes you look like an amazing pastry chef for absolute minimal effort. These cheat-croissants will impress any houseguests, fill your kitchen with the smell of freshly baked pastry goodness and taste pretty wonderful too.

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Available from most supermarkets in the chilled aisle, this nifty little box contains everything you need for oven-fresh pain au chocolat. I made a batch of these last weekend when we had a friend to stay and I have another in the fridge ready to go for this weekend too!

All you need to do is pop open the tube and unroll the dough. You will see the perforated line to pull apart then simply add the chocolate strips and roll them up.

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After 20 minutes in the oven, you will have golden pain au chocs which are most definitely best enjoyed straight away whilst still warm. I think these would be a lovely treat to serve on Christmas morning…although any Sunday morning is always made better with the addition of French pastries.

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There is also a plain croissant variety too which is good if you don’t have such a sweet tooth; I have mine with butter and jam whilst Ian goes all continental and has his stuffed with cheese and ham.

Restaurant Review – Afternoon Tea at BRGR.Co, London

I love afternoon tea but Ian isn’t as much of a fan so in my search for a more man-friendly version of afternoon tea I found BRGR’s offering. Priced at £17, it really isn’t too bad for a treat and I think it is a cool and original way of combining two of my favourite things: burger and cake!

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BRGR is a cool exposed-brick, hot-Spanish waiters kind of place near Oxford Circus where I could easily spend an evening with friends, gossiping over burgers and milkshakes.

Our afternoon tea began with two drinks; a raspberry and bellini and a refreshing ice tea. If I’m being picky, I would say that service was a little slow to get our drinks and food in front of us, especially as the restaurant wasn’t that busy but we weren’t in a rush so it didn’t matter too much.

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Our tray arrived and my first thought was that everything looked very ‘miniature’ but I got stuck in to the burgers straight away. First up was a southern fried chicken and coleslaw slider which was delicious. Crunchy yet juicy in a perfect brioche bun.

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Next up, a cheeseburger which was enough to convince me to return for the full-sized version! I saved the best for last – a lobster and crayfish slider. Overall, the three burgers were the star of the show, well the tray, and I could have eaten another three of them!

I liked the way the puddings were separated on their own little tray to avoid burger-juice contamination and there was a lovely mini vanilla milkshake too.

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The puddings were great actually; a raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, a mini doughnut with a salted caramel sauce and a chocolate brownie.

Overall, this was a perfect pre-theatre treat and a nice twist on afternoon tea if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth.