20 January 2013

I knew you were trouble when you walked in

It's been a pretty lazy weekend.  After getting sent home from work by 11am on Friday, we spent the evening in the local with our friends (who had all been there since 2.30pm - damn having to work from home and not being able to join them earlier!) - it was great to have a catch up, have some lovely food and snuggle in the warmth by the fire.

Saturday mainly involved braving the snow to go food shopping and spending the rest of the afternoon/evening curled up on the sofa with a duvet watching movies.  Today's been the same in fact - I've been a football widow today so after doing lots of laundry and washing up, I'm back snuggled under the duvet in my onesie watching Tangled on DVD.  Spending the whole weekend like this is allowed when it's too cold to go outside, right?

Hope you're all either enjoying the snow or the warmth from avoiding it!


15 January 2013

Monday munchies: Black forest gâteau

A bit late with the post this week I'm afraid - primarily because I spent last night making this bad boy for my colleague's birthday today.  A somewhat unhealthier recipe today than last week but a little bit of what you fancy does you good, right? :)  This recipe is really easy.  And who wouldn't want to eat something looking this good if it's easy to make too?

Black forest gâteau
Serves 8-10

175g unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing tins)
200g dark chocolate
300g plain flour
375g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
200g buttermilk
350g frozen cherries
100g cherry jam
500ml double cream
3 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/160 degrees fan.  Add the caster sugar, flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda to a large bowl and mix together.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and buttermilk.  In a pan, gently melt the butter and 75g of the dark chocolate, stirring as the ingredients melt.

Add both the egg and buttermilk mixture and the melted chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients.  Add 100ml boiling water.

Whisk the ingredients together.  Distribute the mixture evenly between three 8" sandwich tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, switching the tins around after 20 minutes if they are on different shelves.

While the cakes cool, heat 200ml of the cream on the hob.  Break the remaining chocolate into a bowl and pour over the hot cream.

Stir the chocolate until it has melted.  Set aside and allow to cool until the mixture has thickened.

If the cherries have not defrosted fully, defrost in the microwave for 2 minutes on 20% power, stirring halfway through.  Mix the cherries and cherry jam together.

Whip the remaining cream with the icing sugar and layer on the cakes with the cherry mixture.

Pour the chocolate sauce on the top and place a few cherries to decorate.

Try to resist eating any within five minutes of finishing it!


This recipe was based on a recipe on the BBC Good Food website and adapted slightly by me

13 January 2013

10 random facts about me

Since I've been taking part in the #lbloggers chats and thanks to Emily, I've noticed that I have gained a lot more followers over the last week or so.  So welcome and thanks for reading :)

I did a similar post when I first started blogging but I thought this would be a good way for those of you who are new to get to know me, so here goes...

  1. One of my best friends punched my two front teeth out when we were five.  We were in the playground at school and she was apparently trying to punch one of the boys (I have no idea why!)  Foolishly I walked between them and she punched me instead.  Oh, and my teeth weren't even wobbly!  Some 23 years later we're still friends though - I'm a very forgiving person!
  2. I hate masks.  I don't like not being able to see a person's face so Halloween isn't a particularly enjoyable time of year for me!  Especially since all my colleagues are fully aware of my fear so do their utmost to scare me!  This does also cause a slightly strange reaction from me when the football club mascot is within close proximity.... 
  3. I learnt the violin for eleven years and passed Grade 7.  I stopped having lessons when I finished 6th Form (my teacher moved back to Ireland) and I really regret not continuing afterwards.  I still have my violin though - I should really play it!
  4. I've never broken any bones but I've sprained both of my ankles (at different times!) - my right one when I was five and my left one when I was twelve.
  5. I'm definitely a dog person as opposed to a cat person, despite being bitten by a dog when I was younger.  I'm wary of cats - probably as one jumped on my head when I was little and dug its claws in! (I had followed it into the greenhouse but in my defence I was only trying to stroke it!)
  6. I'm really competitive.  It's my dad's fault - he is so both me and my brother are too.  Unfortunately so is Danny - it doesn't make for good times at Christmas in our house when the games come out!
  7. I hadn't seen Dirty Dancing until I was 19.  And when I did see it I was underwhelmed (sorry!)
  8. Unless I'm on holiday, I won't wear my hair down unless I've straightened it first.  I have really wavy, unruly hair so it just looks ridiculous rather than all bohemian like I'd like.
  9. I once had tonsillitis so badly that I got blood poisoning.  I had tonsillitis a lot when I was younger so my tonsils are so damaged now that I often can't feel if I get tonsillitis.  Apparently I had it, didn't realise and the infection got into my bloodstream - I only realised when I got a rash on my knees and elbows!
  10. People think I'm outgoing and confident but I get really nervous meeting new people.  I have to do networking for work and it makes me really uncomfortable!
I'd love for you to share something about you in the comments!

7 January 2013

Monday munchies: Turkey and vegetable ragù

January is the start of busy season in the accountancy practice world, which means working late and wanting to do nothing but slob on the sofa when you finally do get home.  Cooking a healthy meal is often the last thing on my mind but this recipe ticks all the boxes - quick, easy and healthy.

Turkey and vegetable ragù
For 3 small bowls/2 large bowls

340g turkey mince (also works well with beef mince, but turkey mince is less than 3% fat)
1 white onion
1 courgette
4-5 mushrooms
1 clove of garlic
2 tins of chopped tomatoes (or 1 tin of tomatoes and 1 jar of ragù sauce)
1 tin of sweetcorn

Preheat a wok or frying pan with a drizzle of oil and then brown the turkey.

While the meat is browning, chop the vegetables.

Once browned, remove the turkey mince from the pan and set aside.  Add a little more oil then mushrooms, courgette and onion.

When the vegetables have softened, crush the garlic clove into the pan.  (Doing this before the vegetables have cooked will mean that the garlic will burn while the vegetables are cooked)

Add the sweetcorn and chopped tomatoes and stir well.  If you're using ragù, add this now too.

Add the turkey mince back to the pan and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Spoon into a bowl, head to the sofa and relax!  Carb free and delicious - trust me, you don't even miss the pasta.

5 January 2013

Eat in a Michelin starred restaurant: The Hand & Flowers, Marlow

Danny is really difficult to buy presents for.  He's a typical bloke in that as soon as he wants something, he buys it, despite the fact I put him on a December spending ban each year as his birthday is less than a week after Christmas.  This year I decided that rather than buy a present, I'd take him out for a meal - he loves cooking (if Masterchef, Masterchef Australia, Masterchef: The Professionals or Celebrity Masterchef aren't on TV in our house, it's Food Network!) so it seemed like a perfect idea.

One of our friends from work recommended The Hand & Flowers in Marlow.  Owned and run by Tom Kerridge and his wife, Beth, this cosy pub earned its second Michelin star last year and became the first pub to do so.

After taking our order, we were presented with an appetiser of whitebait with marie rose sauce and white and brown soda breads.

For starters, I chose the blowtorched scottish scallops with warm roast chicken bouillon, morels, nasturtium and apple.  This dish was featured on Masterchef: The Professionals last month when the contestants visited The Hand & Flowers for a masterclass with Tom Kerridge. (And I had to try not to grin knowing that we'd be going for a meal there a few weeks later!)

Danny picked moules marinières with warm stout and brown bread.  The mussels were hidden in the warm stout like delicious little treasures.

Tom Kerridge won The Great British Menu in 2010 with the next dish so I knew I had to try it.  Slow-cooked duck breast with savoy cabbage, duck fat chips and gravy.  Easily the best dish I've ever eaten.  I can't even put into words how good it was but you get the idea just by looking....

Danny plumped for fillet of Lancashire beef with Hand & Flowers chips, onion rings and béarnaise sauce.  You definitely don't get small portions at this place!

Danny couldn't face a dessert but I'm well known for having a second stomach exactly for this purpose - I went for the banana soufflé with gingerbread custard and yoghurt ice cream.

Wow.  It was incredible!

The whole meal was absolutely phenomenal.  I've been dreaming about going again ever since!  I would thoroughly recommend paying a visit - obviously Michelin stars aren't handed out lightly but the combination of wonderful food with friendly, unpretentious service and cosy surroundings really makes for a great experience.

Just make sure that if you do go, you invite me along....

The Hand and Flowers
126 West Street
Marlow SL7 2BP
(01628) 482 277

1 January 2013

It's been a while...

Well hello there!  It's been quite some time since I've posted on this little blog of mine, but with the new year my blogging mojo is back!  You may notice that my blog has had a bit of a redesign since you last saw it - hope you all like it!

I've got a few posts lined up already, including a new series of weekly posts, so I won't bore you by rambling now.  Hope you're all well and have had a great Christmas and New Year - here's to 2013!

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