Saturday, 27 July 2013

Yoga is one of those things that I've been wanting to try for a while. I love keeping fit, attending upbeat dance aerobic and weights classes as I've become a little bit addicted to exercise. It makes me feel good and gives me an instant energy boost. I've only ever tried pilates a few times as high energy workouts are my thing, but it's best to do a variety of exercise to work and tone different muscles. I usually don't feel like I've had a good workout unless I break a sweat, until my first yoga class... It was harder than I expected but I really enjoyed it, lots of deep breathing, focusing on balance and even doing routines with our eyes closed (which felt very weird). However yoga won't send you to sleep, it involves various stretches, movements and holds working your entire body and muscles you don't usually use. These holds aren't easy and my legs were actually aching during the class. Whilst doing these moves you increase flexibility and strength, and boost your mental wellbeing.

And breathe... 

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

Friday, 26 July 2013

Strawberries and cream are a traditional British summertime dessert and these cupcakes with a delicious jam centre are a perfect picnic food. This recipe was adapted from BBC Food.

To make 12 cupcakes you will need:
100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
4 tablespoons of strawberry jam
Icing sugar for dusting
Whipped cream (you can either buy or make it yourself)
A few strawberries 

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas 6 and place 12 cupcake cases into a muffin tray. Mix the butter and sugar together and beat in the eggs one at a time before adding the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until they are half full, add half a teaspoon of jam and cover with the remaining mixture.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cupcakes are looking golden and slightly brown.

Carefully move the cupcakes onto a cooling rack and once they have cooled, dust them with icing sugar. I would definitely add the whipped cream and strawberries right before you want to eat them, otherwise you'll end up with a soggy cupcake.

When that sweet strawberry jam oozes out... Amazing!

Mini Jam Tarts and Shortbread

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Jam tarts are a sweet and a simple British treat to bake yourselves and pop in your picnic basket. Buttery shortbread biscuits are also easy to bake with practically the same ingredients used to make the pastry for jam tarts, even if they do seem like a winter afternoon tea snack. 

For both the jam tarts and shortbread you will need:
255g plain flour
28g caster sugar
140g unsalted butter
6 tablespoons of cold water
12 teaspoons of jam for the tarts (whichever flavour you like)
Icing sugar for dusting the shortbread

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas 6 and grease a muffin tray before rubbing the butter into the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl until crumbly.

Then add the water tablespoon by tablespoon until it is a moist dough. Roll out the dough onto a floured work surface (very floured) and use a cutter to stamp out circles to place in your cupcake tray.

After adding a teaspoon of jam into each tart, bake for around 12-15 minutes. 

Leave the jam tarts to cool properly before removing from the tray with a bit of help from a knife or the end of a spoon. These little delights taste so much better when you bake them from scratch with a buttery and crumbly pastry that tastes just like shortbread. If you don't want to make extra jam tarts you can use the remaining dough for shortbread. Roll the dough out again and cut into whatever shape you fancy.

Bake for roughly 12-15 minutes or until your biscuits are looking lovely and golden.

Wait until the shortbread is cool before dusting icing sugar on top of them.

Two quick and yummy recipes in one!

Vintage Picnic

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

As a hopeless romantic, I've been wanting to have a vintage picnic for a long time and decided to make the most of the sunny weather.

I was in Bristol last weekend visiting my boyfriend and The Downs is the best place for friends and families to have picnics and BBQs. It's a huge grassed open space with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the summer breeze.

Cloudy lemonade was definitely in our picnic basket as the perfect vintage summer drink.

Addictive homemade jam tarts with a crumbly shortbread pastry, recipe to follow shortly...

Chocolate swiss rolls and homemade strawberry cream cupcakes, the cupcakes were heavenly even if baking them myself gives me this opinion.

Traditional British snacks (a large scotch egg and sausage rolls), tiger bread loaf with cheese and tomato and quiche made up the rest of our yummy picnic. The floral party plates were bought from a Tesco Extra in Bristol and unfortunately they don't seem to have them online.

A lovely and romantic afternoon with another thing crossed off the little dream list!

Pamper and Indulge

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Thanks to Cosmopolitan and its great offers, my boyfriend and I spent the night at the Cheltenham Park Hotel as part of a mini spa break last weekend. As a natural 'worrywart', I'm always in need of some relaxation time, so this wonderful package including spa treatments, afternoon tea, dinner, bed and breakfast was perfect! We had a pretty good room which unfortunately had no air conditioning but luckily it was spacious and cool with a giant fan.

Pamper time... After a 30 minute back, neck and shoulder massage and a 30 minute facial we were feeling very sleepy. I'd never had a facial before and loved the face and head massage, my skin had also never felt so cleansed.

I brought along these cute little bottles of white wine for a cheeky drink in our hotel room before dinner.

Not forgetting our traditional pre-dinner appetiser of cheese puffs, how sophisticated.

All dressed up and ready for dinner. We were pleasantly surprised by our well-presented, yummy and filling three course dinner. I went for the smoked and cooked salmon to start.

Followed by the chicken pie with puff pastry, mash, asparagus and parsnip.

And this indulgent sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.

Breakfast was the usual variety of cereal, fruit, pastries and a cooked breakfast. I love hotel breakfasts, especially the mini croissants. We went for a walk around the centre of Cheltenham which mainly consisted of pretty parks and lots of shops, before making our way back to the hotel for our afternoon tea.

We were excited for tea and cakes but waited almost an hour for our afternoon tea to arrive, hence the silly photo.

Finally the goodies arrived!

Our massive afternoon tea definitely made up for the wait, but it was just too big for our bellies so we took the remaining treats home.

Overall we had a lovely, relaxing and indulgent two days!

Wireless Festival

Monday, 15 July 2013

My second year at Wireless festival in London..., Katy B, Jessie Ware, eating pizza and dancing to Justin Timberlake and Jay Z.

An amazing but hot day!

Chocolate Lover Cake

Friday, 12 July 2013

It was my sister Jodie's birthday yesterday (hopefully the cake tells you that) and I wanted to bake her a chocolate cake with extra chocolate as us girls in the house are chocoholics. Using an BBC Food chocolate cake recipe with added chocolate treats, the Chocolate Lover Cake was created.

For the cake you will need:
225g plain flour
350g caster sugar
85g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking power
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
250ml milk
125ml vegetable oil
250ml boiling water

For the chocolate icing you will need:
200g plain chocolate
250ml double cream

Decorations are up to you, but I used:
Milk chocolate Buttons

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas 4 and grease two 20cm sandwich tins (you may need to line the tins if you don't have non-stick tins). Mix all of the cake ingredients, except the boiling water, together until smooth. Then slowly add the boiling water to the mixture, a little at a time, until smooth again. Your mixture will end up being very liquid.

Pour the cake mixture into the cake tins, making sure that they are even, and bake for roughly 25-30 minutes or until the top of the cakes are firm or do the skewer trick. My tins were slightly bigger than 20cm so the cakes took longer to bake, although I like my cakes to be moist. 

Whilst the cakes are baking you can make your chocolate icing which is very simple and easy to prepare. You literally heat the chocolate and double cream together in a saucepan over a low heat until the chocolate has melted. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir the mixture, then set aside to cool for 1-2 hours. Once my mixture had cooled down, I put it in the fridge to thicken as it was a warm sunny day I didn't want it to melt again.

Once your cakes are ready, leave them in the tins to cool down properly before icing.

Carefully take your cakes out of the tins, it's very easy when you have non-stick tins with removable sides. Spread chocolate icing over the top of one cake and decorate if you wish. I put maltesers around the edge of the bottom cake to create the illusion that there was a full inner layer of maltesers, cheeky.

Place the second cake on top being careful not to break the cake, it's tricky. Then spread more chocolate icing on the top of this cake, you can go crazy as there will be plenty of leftover chocolate icing. I decided not to cover the entire cake with icing so that you could see the maltesers and decorated the top with buttons and spelt out my sister's name in smarties. I may have ended up eating a few that 'went wrong'.

A super chocolately cake for a chocolate lover!

Cake cake cake cake cake cake cake (Had to be done thanks to Rihanna).

Summer Cream Tea

Thursday, 11 July 2013

With the Wimbledon men's final last weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to be very British and have homemade cream tea at home with our freshly picked strawberries. We baked our scones using a quick and easy traditional scones recipe, the preparation and cooking time was only under an hour.

You will need:
225g self raising flour
25g caster sugar
150ml milk
1 egg, beaten, to glaze (or you can use a little milk)
55g butter
(a pinch of salt if you forgot to buy unsalted butter like we did)

After pre-heating the oven to 220C/fan 200C/Gas 7 and greasing a baking tray or sheet, mix together the flour and salt and rub in the butter, then stir in the sugar and milk. You will get flour everywhere and think that most of the mix is on your hands but it will eventually form into a soft dough.

Knead the dough lightly on a floured work surface, don't be shy with the flour as I've learnt you can never have enough flour. Pat the dough out so that it's roughly 2cm thick and use a cutter to stamp out circles or completely guess and use a muffin tray like we did. Brush the tops of the scones with beaten egg and bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden. The time it takes will depend on how many scones you've made.

Don't forget the jam and clotted cream (bought unless you're feeling adventurous).

An easy English treat, perfect with strawberries on a sunny afternoon and made even sweeter by Murray winning Wimbledon!