Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Rachel Allen: Bake!

Is it quite sad that I am excited for the start of a new series on UKTV Food about baking? Well, I don't care, because I am! Me and my sister have always been slight fans of Rachel Allen, what with her soft irish voice, homely style cooking and the lovely kitchen she cooks in too. Anyway, I was watching UKTV Food while puppy sitting, which has been an all too frequent occurance lately (I even watch Rick Stein's French Odyssey which I usually ignore...just because daytime TV is dire), and an advert came up with 'Too Good To Be True' playing with lots of delicious cake on it - it got my attention!

It was an advert for Rachel Allen's new tv programme - Rachel Allen : Bake! Apparently she is trying to revive baking and make it seem 'cool' again. As the blurb says :

'If you think baking is just for grannies and housewives – think again! Baking is the hottest new trend and in this new series exclusively for UKTV Food, best-selling cookery author Rachel Allen shows us exactly why.'

I'm still looking forward to this programme though as it will be solely focused on baking recipes! Whenever I watch these food programmes, I sometimes secretly get bored and only pay attention when there is a dessert or cake on the screen so it should have my full attention! There is also a book to accompany the series so that may make it's way onto my christmas wishlist...

Tea revives you!

Indeed it does! Now that the weather has been getting colder I've been drinking 5+ cups of green or white tea a day, it is getting to be quite a terrible habit and my room is full of mugs and teapots, but I am certainly revived. This poster is so adorable, I've added it to my list of things I need in my house when, or if, I ever move out of the nest! I can see it in my cutesy kitchen just over where I'd keep the kettle...

It's available here as a poster and also here on a mug.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

I finished reading this last night and loved it. It was on my reading list for Contemporary Writings which is a module I'm taking this semester, and as I went to buy it from Borders, so did Scott's brother. We ummed and ahhed over whether we should just buy one copy between us but figured we should just get seperate ones anyway and I am glad I did! This is a monster of a book and it accompanied me on all my travels from Scotland to Italy and back and hence has a few pages which tried to escape from it that I had to sellotape back in.

What is the book about anyway? It is a 3 volume novel about the revival of English magic in the early 19th century, focusing on the relationship of the two eponymous magicians.
The first volume is dedicated to Mr Norrell, an old Yorkshire magician who believes he is the only one who can save English magic and has an obsession with owning all the books on magic in England. However, at the end of the first volume we meet Jonathan Strange, a young gentleman who is told he is the man who can revive English magic. 
Susanna Clarke took 10 years to write this novel and you can tell. There are endless footnotes about various spells, magicians, books, historical events and magical tales that link seamlessly together and gives you the impression that England was once a magic country. When I first started reading it, I was immediately reminded of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, especially as there are quaint little illustations dotted throughout. She uses archaic orthography such as shewed and sopha and the characters are sometimes caricatured, such as the politician Sir Walter Pole, or the society gentlemen Lascelles and Drawlight.

Anyway I highly recommend this book, it is probably compared to Harry Potter loads but do not be disenheartened! Think of it as a cross between Harry Potter, David Copperfield and a factual book about the history of English magic.

Monday, 29 September 2008

I am currently loving this dress and am dreaming up ways to wear it, dressing it up and dressing it down. It reminds me of Ranna at Only Shallow's Vivien of Holloway dress, yet a bit more punky and modern. It would look lovely with some pearls and my favourite yellow shoes or with my boots maybe. Or with smart flats and a chunky cardigan. It's only £40 and is in petite sizes!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Apple, Cider & Sultana cake

Hmmm autumnal foods! I've made this cake to have for dessert after Sunday dinner today, but of course I've tried a bit before then! It is really delicious and moist. The sultanas are soaked in cider overnight to make them lovely and plump. I used dark soft brown sugar rather than light soft brown sugar, only because it was all we had in, but it made it darker and I think it had more depth of flavour because of it.

The recipe is from Good Housekeeping that my Mum bought and she pestered me to bake it!


225g sultanas
150ml cider (I used Henney's Frome Valley medium cider)
125g butter, softened
125g soft brown sugar (dark or light really)
2 large eggs, beaten
225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
2 cox's apples, cored & thinly sliced

1. Put the sultanas in a non-metallic bowl with the cider. Cover and leave overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180c). Grease a square baking tin (I actually used a rectangular one, rebel). Put the butter in a bowl with the sugar and whisk with an electric whisk until fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs until incorporated.

3. Sift in the flour, mixed spice and baking powder and fold in gently. Add the sultanas and any cider that hasn't been absorbed and mix.

4. Pour into the tin and level with the back of a spoon. Arrange the apple slices over the top of the batter and bake for 30-40 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin slightly, then turn out onto a wire rack before serving. Enjoy!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

20 little things to treasure in the Autumn

Following up from my last autumnal post, Melissa @ The Inspired Room has asked us what 20 things we treasure in the Autumn, so I decided to share mine too.

1.Trips to Delamere Forest with Scott and Pepe, and watching Pepe enjoy playing in the leaves.

2. The thoughts of new beginnings and fresh starts as I return to uni.

3. Buying new pajamas, dressing gowns and cosy socks to snuggle up in.

4. Adding cinnamon to nearly everything, especially baked apples and porridge.

5. Being inspired to take lots of photos in the bright yet cool daylight.

6. Making healthy, warm soups, such as butternut squash and ginger soup. Hmmmm.

7. Layering up with opaque tights, boots and scarves.

8. Making pumpkin cupcakes.

9. The days getting shorter and watching the sun set over Liverpool when I get the train home from uni.

10. All the new winter clothes coming into shops and investing in a new winter coat.

11. Buying new stationery. It gets me too excited really!

12. Late-night trips to Ikea to buy candles to get that cosy feeling when I'm reading in my room.

13. Delayed trains because of leaves on the tracks (actually I really hate this but it is one of those very autumnal things for me!)

14. Autumnal runs, because the sun is shining yet it isn't too hot and unbearable to go at midday.

15. Buying The Times and doing the crossword with Scott on train journeys.

16. Indulging in long baths and stocking up on Lush bubble bars.

17. Mine and Scott's anniversary (2 years in 10 days!)

18. Using a hot water bottle to warm up my bed before I get in it.

19. The smell of bonfires and leaves being burnt.

20. The walk up to uni, listening to music on my mp3 player and abercromby square in the autumn.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Feeling exceedingly autumnal

1. holga-pumpkins, 2. one autumn evening, 3. books+Autumn*, 4. leaving autumn behind., 5. autum one..........., 6. +

I went out for a lovely walk with Pepe before (Nina is still not allowed on walkies because she isn't fully vaccinated yet). The sun is shining more than it ever did during the summer, yet there is a cool chill in the air that means you need to wear a cardigan and soon I will be able to wear my new coat that I ordered yesterday and I am excited for the autumn.

Raspberry ricotta cake (low fat!)

It was Scott's sister's birthday yesterday and as always, I offered to make a cake and asked Scott what she would like. He said 'something low-fat, she's on a diet!'. I thought, pah, it's her birthday, low fat cakes are always rubbish and I'm sure she can break the diet for her birthday. But I was looking through 'Gorgeous Cakes' by Annie Bell (which I highly-highly recommend) and it has a section at the back called 'No such word as can't!' which is a selection of cake recipes that are low-fat, gluten free, sugar free, etc. It said this cake was virtually fat free, but I'm not sure with all that ricotta... It is certainly better than a normal cake as it has no butter in it and no flour, but uses ground hazelnuts instead.

It was so delicious and light and fluffy! The cake was very moist too because of the ricotta cream inbetween and ontop. I was too lazy to type the whole recipe out and since I have a snazzy new wireless printer/scanner/copier, I decided just to scan in the recipe which you can see here.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Billie The Vision & The Dancers

I have just discovered this swedish band today, despite them already having released 4 albums! As most people who know me know, I can't resist a cute swedish band. But sometimes they can all sound a bit samey and they need to have a bit of extra pizzazz to make me love them, but I think I love Billie The Vision & The Dancers already. They sing cute songs yet with witty and intelligent lyrics that aren't too sugar-sweet.

What makes it even better is that their album is FREE on their website! All four albums actually! Which is quite good considering the album is £17 from Amazon... I am currently loving the song 'Lilly from the middleway street'

They are certainly a cure for my post-holiday, pre-return to university blues.


Nina is now with us! She's been at home tormenting Pepe for 2 weeks now and has settled in very well. Pepe, however, has took his time getting used to her. When I arrived back from Italy though I think that helped him settle and he now plays with her lots, barks at her to run around so he can chase her and growls at her when she's trying to disturb his quiet time.

It's very cute and lovely to see their relationship blossom, they both have such different personalities! Pepe is very calm, submissive and quiet, whilst Nina is loud, bolshy and very feisty. Despite their differences though, I think they will be the best of friends once Nina gets older.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

I am now home from my travels and am suffering with the post holiday blues, but who wouldn't after visiting such a beautiful place as Lake Bracciano!


Friday, 5 September 2008


Apologies for being absent for they past week, but I have been spending a very relaxing time in Scotland, near St. Andrews; home of golf; with my friend Emma and her family. I arrived back to dreary old Widnes this afternoon to Scott waiting on the platform with a bunch of flowers, yellow flowers no less.

But it isn't all horrible and grey, because tomorrow I'm jetting off to Italy with Scott and his family. I am so excited to be having a bit of sun on my skin and more quality time to do nothing except eat good food and read. I shall be back again next Saturday and we will have Nina, the new puppy, with us by the time I get back. I will leave you with a few photos and will hopefully update with many tales of my adventures!


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