Bath – Part 2

If you missed part 1 of my Bath adventures, you can read it here!

LUNCH AT THE MARKET CAFÉ

Bath pt 2

After spending over an hour in the Roman Baths, we got pretty peckish. Bath is pretty famous for its excellent restaurants, but unfortunately they usually come with a big price tag. Instead,  Harpall and I decided to venture into The Guildhall Market and found the Market Cafe – a no frills, standard-issue English caf. It totally didn’t disappoint – we fell in love with the piping hot Shepherd’s pie and cheesy chips with chilli.  Hearty food that totally didn’t hurt our wallets.

NO. 1 ROYAL CRESCENT

Bath pt 2 (1)

At lunch, it started to get pretty hot in Bath and we both got a little sweaty. So it wasn’t surprising when Harpall sighed a little when I suggested we take the 15 minute walk to Royal Crescent to check out the famous row of Georgian houses.

We relaxed in the park for a while, then prompted by my need of the loo, we soon headed into No. 1 Royal Crescent, an address that has been decorated in the style of the late 18th Century. We were greeted by a footman at the door, who slightly alarmed Harpall with his enthusiasm to play the role and his incredibly large (own-grown!) sideburns.

Bath pt 2 (2)

The house was meticulously and beautifully furnished with knowledgeable guides in each room. One guide scared me with her strict headmistress routine, shouting “DON’T TOUCH THAT” at another visitor across the room; she was absolutely terrifying. Anyway, I wouldn’t say this is a must-visit, but if you haven’t been to many old houses, this is a pretty good example of the Georgian period if you’re interested!

After we left, we relaxed a bit longer in the park, but raindrops soon fell and we thought ‘Ahhh heck, let’s just go back to Bristol’. I was pretty happy we managed to do the main sight-seeing bits of Bath, which leaves us for the other fun parts next time – more restaurants and the spa! I can’t wait!

Mint and choc chip crème brûlée

After my pretty successful experiment during bread week, I thought I would give another go experimenting with recipes this week! I thought about attempting the meringue cake, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve been making meringues today with the surplus egg whites and they’ve all turned out not great!

The boyfriend made his request for this week – mint and chocolate chip.

…Mint? Chocolate chip? A bit of a renegade request for your average crème brûlée novice. But I took it and ran with it. In hindsight, maybe should have just stuck with the vanilla flavouring.

Creme brulee 1

I took a pretty average crème brûlée recipe, but decided to boil the cream with a bunch of mint. The cream didn’t taste minty fresh enough so Harpall suggested ‘how about some mint sauce?’ Thank God I stopped him there. We decided to strain the cream and blitz in the mint leaves, then mixed it with the yolky mixture. Then to add the choc chips, we simply dropped a few into each ramekin just before it went into the oven.

How does it taste? Well it’s nice enough, it has the texture of crème brûlée, and it definitely tastes minty. However I’ve decided I don’t like my brûlées minty, despite only being a subtle flavour. There was a very satisfying crack when I whacked my spoon down, which always puts a smile on my face. And choc chip? Meh, I could’ve done without it.

I’m serving these crème brûlées to Harpall’s family for dinner later on – we’ll be eating it during GBBO. I hope some of them like mint, because I don’t think I’ll be getting the Star Baker prize later tonight.

Mint and choc chip crème brûlée

(to serve 4; adapted from here)

Ingredients:
600mls double cream
6 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
bunch of mint
30g caster sugar
dark chocolate chips
demerara sugar

Method:
1. Pre-heat oven to 150ºC. Put cream, vanilla extract and mint into pan and bring to boil over medium heat. Once boiled, strain the cream to remove mint. Optional: remove mint leaves and blitz leaves into cream for added minty flavour.
2. Whisk yolks and caster sugar in separate bowl. Once pale and fluffy, pour warm cream mix onto yolk mixture, stirring constantly to mix.
3. Ladle mixture into ramekins and pop in around 10 chocolate chips into each ramekin. Put all the ramekins into a baking tin and fill the baking tin with cold water up to 2/3rds of the side of the ramekins.
4. Put tin in oven and bake for 40 minutes until custard set (should only be slightly wobble on surface). Chill until cold, preferably overnight.
5. Take ramekins out of fridge and spoon demerara sugar over the top so there is a generous coverage. Place ramekins under grill in oven until sugar caramelises. Take out of oven and allow the crème brûlées to chill and cool before serving.

Bath – Part 1

Bath

It’s pretty unforgivable to go to Bath and not take a million pictures. How could you not?! It’s all pretty limestone buildings, little businesses and it was actually sunny. Properly sunny. Good one, England! We only spent one day there, but we ended up with so many photos that I’ve decided to split them into two posts. That way, I don’t crash your computers with the sheer amount of megapixels!

Bath

SALLY LUNN’S

Sally Lunn

(Sunglasses – Ray Ban / Top – Topshop / Dress – Avenue 1218 / Bag – Topshop / Shoes – Clarks / Jewellery – Accessorize)

Harpall and I headed straight for Sally Lunn’s for brunch when we got off the train. I was determined to get a table, after being put off by a long queue the last time I was in Bath. Sally Lunn was a 17th Century Huguenot who came to Bath and created her eponymous buns in this very shop. Apparently for years after, the recipe was lost until it was discovered in a cupboard above a fireplace in the 1930s. Since then, they have been world famous – so famous, that their menus have to be translated into Chinese on their website due to the sheer amount of tourists.

And was it actually any good? We both had half a bun each with a generous spread of cinnamon butter… and it totally exceeded any expectation I had. The buns are generously sized, fluffy, light with a brioche-like flavour. They are grilled on the top with cinnamon butter which bubbles and darkens. The cinnamon butter was SO GOOD that we decided to take two full shopping bags of buns and cinnamon butter back with us. YOU MUST VISIT HERE if you head to Bath, even if it’s just to get the bun and butter as a takeaway.

Bath 1

Look at that big smile – only cinnamon butter can do that.

THE ROMAN BATHS

Bath is home to hot springs, which is water direct from the Earth’s crust that rises to form these collections of heated water. The clever Romans took advantage of this fact and built whooping great baths from this water, which have survived until today. I hadn’t known how large this site originally was and how extensive the archaelogical finds have been, but it was incredibly interesting. It’s not just confined to the pictures of the large main bath that you see on many blogs! Definitely one of the best tourist attractions in the UK, but don’t wear silly shoes and try to avoid the weekends – it was mega busy.

Bath 2

Sunday round-up #2

Roman BathsBathBath

1. I went to visit the new hospital I’m working at, and from first appearances, it looks pretttyyy nice! A large Costa and canteen always bodes well for my future lunchtime breaks – and I gave my total approval to their spicy wedges with BBQ sauce.

2. The boyfriend and I went to Bristol this weekend to visit my friends. We took a day trip to Bath to see the sights and luckily it remained sunny for most of the day! What I’ve learnt? Cinnamon butter on Sally Lunn buns are the ultimate breakfast treat. Mmm…

3. We had the boyfriend’s famous baked eggs for breakfast this morning with my friends. It’s incredibly healthy with a good dose of feta cheese and cherry tomatoes. I promise, a recipe post is on its way!

4. Tonight we’re having dinner at a relatives’ house and watching Trainwreck. I still haven’t decided if I find Amy Schumer refreshingly funny or just a bit annoying.. I guess this film will decide it!

Standen House

Warning – this is a pretty picture-heavy post. It was incredibly difficult to pick the blog-worthy photos of the pretty special Standen House in East Grinstead, Sussex.

I’d say I’m a reasonably experienced National Trust member (I can run off a typical NT menu pretty easily!), but I really enjoyed how homely Standen House is compared to other grand houses. The volunteers relayed stories of how the Beale grandchildren used to climb on the conservatory roof and play cricket on the landing, and how one of the upstairs rooms was used as an art studio by one especially talented member of the family. Basically, it is one of the very few places that I can admire from an architectural and interior point of view, and also wouldn’t mind living there myself.

Standen House is particularly worth a visit if you like Morris prints – the house was filled with them! And for the architecturally minded, Phillip Webb designed the house and there were a few furniture pieces by him as well.

Standen House

Standen House

Standen House 3

Standen House 1

Standen House

Standen House 2

Standen House 4

Is anyone else a NT member? Have you been to Standen House?

Sundried tomato and black olive bread

Sundried tomato and black olive bread

Oh boy. This was the week that I was dreading – bread week.

Fellow bakers, I have something to admit. I have never made bread before (*gasp, shock horror*). I’ve never been a huge bread-eating person; I don’t like sandwiches, I don’t particularly enjoy toast and there’s never been a reason for me to bake bread for other people before. I knew that this week would come and I would just have to bite the bullet and go for it.

The boyfriend made an early request weeks ago for me to bake sundried tomato bread. So I scoured the internet for a suitable recipe, then decided mehhhh..I’ll just go with the flow. I took this BBC Food recipe and adapted it (Go me! Being all creative and stuff).

Sundried tomato bread (8)

So my impressions of the bread baking process – kneading is hard work, watching bread rise is actually quite fascinating and occasionally sprinkling flour over my dough whilst kneading makes me feel like a pro. I decided to take it a step further (I did say I was going to set myself some challenges!) and plait the bread.

Sundried tomato and olive bread

And KABOOM! That plaited bread just expanded and expanded in oven to this giant loaf! Considering the amount of ingredients I started with, I was impressed with the great big stonking loaf that would feed two large families quite easily. I do wish that it had kept its plaited shape a bit better; I think thinner longer sausages before plaiting may do the trick.

Sundried tomato and olive bread

I did the tap test on the bottom when it came out the oven – a good hollow sound and no soggy bottom! I think Paul would say I had some pretty good aeration in my loaf, but I think the taste of sundried tomatoes and olives was a bit lost. If you prefer a stronger taste, maybe pop a few more in. All in all, pretty proud as punch – and I think bread is definitely my new favourite go-to for baking!

Sundried tomato and black olive plaited bread

(as adapted from BBC Food)

Ingredients:
675g white flour
1½ tsp salt
1½ tsp sugar
3 tsp easy bake yeast
450ml warm water
1½ tbsp olive oil
100g black olives, sliced
50g sundried tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 egg, beaten
balsamic vinegar

Method:
1. Mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast in bowl.
2. Add olive oil to warm water. Create well and pour warm water mix into well. Mix with wooden spoon to soft dough.
3. Lightly flour clean worktop. Knead dough for 10 minutes and form into ball.
4. Place ball in lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
5. Once risen, put the dough back on the floured worktop. Sprinkle the olives, sundried tomatoes and tomato paste over the dough and knead for 5-10 minutes until ingredients worked in.
6. Form three long sausages and plait the bread.
7. Pre-heat oven to 220ºC/400F/Gas 7. Place plaited bread in tray with greaseproof paper. Cover with cling film and let it rise for 30 minutes.
8. Remove cling film. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar to the beaten egg and brush the top of the bread with the mixture.
8. Bake bread for 15 minutes.
10. Lower oven temperature to 190ºC/375F/Gas 5. Bake for a further 30 minutes.

Sundried tomato and olive bread

Sunday round-up #1

Sunday 16.08This is Charlie – my friend’s 9 month old puppy that he was puppy-sitting whilst his family were on holiday. He’s the most hyperactive, excited puppy I have ever met – he was literally jumping from sofa to sofa and his ears kept flopping over. What a cutie – wish I had a puppy in my life!

Sunday 16 (7)

I made a gummy bear cake for my boyfriend’s niece’s fifth birthday on Wednesday. I think she loved it! It was inspired by this gummy bear dance video that she loves dancing to (…and I love dancing to as well). The birthday girl also got a brand new scooter, so we took her and her little brother to the park to test it out. Although I did point out to her that testing it out on the skate ramps may not be the best idea!

Sunday 16.08

My friend and I went to Standen House, a pretty fabulous house filled with Morris print wallpaper and fabrics, and 20th Century gadgets. I probably am going to do a whole other post on this house, since its one of my new favourite National Trust sites!

SUnday 16 (8)

The boyfriend proving he is King of the Bouncy Castle this afternoon (during one of the very few moments the bouncy castle was empty!). This afternoon was another nephew’s birthday party. We had a couple of hardcore rounds of Pictionary – I was particularly proud of my depiction of the word ‘Eureka!’. Chuffed does not even describe it.

What have you guys been up to this weekend?

August ’15 playlist

August 15 Playlist

Photo credits (from L→R): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 67, 8, 9.

Happy Friday everyone! I’ve decided to add a monthly playlist to the blog (which you can see on the sidebar), just for all you other big music fans out there. I’ve been told I’m a bit of a music snob by friends, but actually, there’s a mix of a indie, electro, hip hop and Gabrielle Aplin – doesn’t sound too snobby, does it?

My favourite discovery this month has definitely got to be Jack Garratt’s ‘Weathered. An ultimate anthem for growing old in love that the boyfriend and I have been blasting nearly every time we turn our Spotify on.

Hope you guys like the music and I’d love to discover some new music from you too!

Gingerbread Biscotti

Gingerbread Biscotti 1

Unemployment is definitely treating me well at the moment. I thought this whole not working lark would leave me bored out of my mind, but this week, I’ve managed to fit in two bakes, three visits to friends and one date night. The unfortunate side effect is my revision for upcoming exams have gone to the way side for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll get my bum into action soon enough!

How did everyone like last week’s Great British Bake Off? Has everyone got their favourites? I think I have mine, but it’s still a bit early. I do however love watching Nadiya’s wide-eyed expressions of fear, trepidation and surprise (keep an eye out for them tonight!).

Gingerbread Biscotti 2This week on GBBO is Biscuit Week! The options were biscotti, arlettes or an edible biscuit box. I have never made biscotti before, so I decided to use Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Gingerbread Biscotti (because cinnamon makes any bake 10 times better). Deb from Smitten Kitchen outlines what you need to do so clearly that I really felt like I was in safe hands as a biscotti novice. I couldn’t help but dip my finger into the cinnamon sugar mix every once and a while – so addictive! And I can confirm after multiple taste tests over the past few days, they taste wonderful with hot chocolate and tea. Mmm…

If anyone wants to join in, there are a couple of Bake Off blogging link-ups happening – Anca from Cook Style, and #bakeoffbakealong with Amanda from Rhyme & Ribbons and Ala from This Particular. There are some particularly good-looking frosted walnut cakes and candied peels from last week’s show!

Gingerbread Biscotti 4

GIngerbread Biscotti 5

Bellissimo

Lake Garda

This year’s UK summer has been a little bit disappointing. Like many years before, I expected to be sweating, craving iced tea and dragging a fan behind me from room to room. Instead I’m currently wearing a smock dress and wistfully looking back at my photos from my Italy trip a few months ago. So I thought I’d share a few photos from my trip, in some sort of weird torturous reminder of what I’m missing (gelato, gelato and more gelato).

Lake Garda 2

LAKE GARDA

I went through this whole trip looking out for George Clooney and his house on the lake – I was wrong; he prefers a completely different Italian lake (whoops!). Despite that, Lake Garda was absolutely stunning in the 34ºC heat. We took the ferry from town to town, faltering by 2pm in the sun and having four hour naps in the afternoon. My highlight was discovering a completely random frog-themed restaurant/museum/hostel – but sadly I did not take any pictures of the aforementioned frogs.

There were a lot of middle-aged/elderly couples or young families around the Lake, not that it bothered us young 20-something go-getters (hah!). When we did find the young, tanned, lean Italians casually relaxing on a beach, I stayed at the back of the beach with my pasty, not-so-lean body covered up. It’s not that I have body insecurities, I just preferred being near the gelateria.

LakeGarda3

VERONA

Ahhh, the city of love and those star-crossed lovers Romeo & Juliet. Verona was pretty; I loved walking down pastel-lined lanes thinking ‘THIS IS ALL SO INSTAGRAMMABLE.’ As it was only a day trip, we tried to pack in everything into the space of 7 hours, which was a little tricky when it was so hot combined with the decision to walk everywhere. Red cheeks and blisters ensued.

Verona 1

^ My attempt at a gladiator-type stance in the Coliseum.

For lunch, we found the most dreamy small restaurant in the back alleys near Juliet’s House. Beautiful ivy lined the walls of the building – I only wish I took some proper photos. Lunch fuelled us for our next tourist-y thing of visiting Juliet’s House; I wrote my own gooey romantic message on the famous graffitied wall and touched Juliet’s boob (as you do). We then wandered around the markets, buying rude pasta and watermelon bites.

Verona 2

 THE FOOD

And I can’t do a post about Italy without talking about the food! I still get this hankering 2 months on when I think about the food I had. Not only was the pasta just above and beyond any pasta I’ve ever had in the UK, but the best dish I had was this beautifully delicate scallops in tomato confit. I licked that plate dry. Not to mention the tiramisu gelato, grilled seafood, anchovy-filled pizza, and on.. and on.. and on..

ItalyFood

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