The Sunday write-up #3

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I know, it’s not actually Sunday. Forgive me!

1. There’s been some heartache – the boyfriend and I have gone our separate ways. I don’t really want to say anymore about this.

2. I went to Bristol to visit my friends who have a brand new flat there – we wandered around the historic limestone buildings of the university campus, visited the Clifton suspension bridge designed by Brunel and attempted to navigate Bristol in a car, which I have to say is slightly terrifying! I can’t wait to visit them again in November with a few other friends.

3. I had my Asian food fill this week with Thai food in Bristol. I went for a Pad Khi Mao, a spicy, soy sauce laden stir fried noodle dish with peppers and beans; it was really great comfort food when I needed it. Definitely a recipe to pin for the future!

4. I’ve watched: Gone Girl. I promised myself I would read the book before going to see it in the cinema, but considering I last picked up a fiction book a few months back, my housemate and I went for an impulsive cinema visit. I’m actually glad I’ve seen it now; there were a few shocking scenes that I think would have come across better on screen than in a book. And Rosamund Pike – I have so much respect for her as an actress now. I can’t really say any more without spoiling the movie! Has anyone read the book and watched the movie? What did you think?

Zoo life

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After trying to get up close and personal with the horses at the spa hotel last weekend, I remembered that I had promised to do another post about my visit to ZSL Zoo Lates in June – mainly to show all the amazing animals we saw!

It would be impossible for me to pick out my favourite animal, but I did enjoy the monkey enclosure where monkeys swing from bushes to trees all around you. You really didn’t know when they would appear right next to you! I also attempted my best waddle with my new penguin friend, who was the only one who didn’t mind getting close to the crowds.

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ZSL Zoo Lates really are a triumph and I’d recommend anyone who likes getting to know their fellow vertebrates and invertebrates to look out for tickets next summer. Apart from the added bonus of not getting run over by buggys, in the centre of the zoo, there’s a food market with a silent disco and little shops. There was even an area where field games took place! The boyfriend and I bought churros and watched fully grown adults do the sack race – cheering on random strangers can be quite fun!

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#spaselfie

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Hat – Topshop / Shirt – Topshop / Trousers – Topshop / Rucksack – Topshop / Loafers – Clarks

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29-9-14 (6)The boyfriend and I have become the unofficial ‘spa day’ couple in our close circle of friends. It’s become a little bit of a joke; the boyfriend has taken to doing ‘spa selfies’ at our various destinations. It’s not that we have lots of cash to splash, but we just can’t resist a day of pampering, lying in a hot tub and walking around hotels in a crisp white robe.

For the boyfriend’s birthday, I booked our *5th* spa day together (we’ve been together for just under two years!) at the Rowhill Grange in Kent. The boyfriend looked at me in disbelief when I broke the news that his birthday treat was going to be spent ‘somewhere near Dartford’, but the small country hotel is nestled in fields on top of a hill.

The hotel was lovely itself, a bit small and quite popular with groups of very lively women who were having lots of fun getting pissed at dinner. We had massages and the boyfriend had the chance to experience his first ever facial, of which he said afterwards “What was the point of that?”. Sigh… I mean if you’re not going to appreciate the application of a ‘breakfast smoothie’ mask to Zen music, you’re never really going to enjoy a facial.

After spending a few hours soaking in the hot tub and hydrotherapy pools, we got changed and had a bit of a wander in the surrounding hotel gardens. They weren’t spectacular and I had the feeling that the gardens were a bit low on the list of hotel priorities, but it all got better when we came across a field of horses grazing in a field. Even though we really wanted to make friends with the horses, I was a little scared we were going to spook them. I’d love to go horse-riding one day.

We finished the day in the hotel conservatory with dinner. I had the lamb, whilst the boyfriend had rib-eye steak; we shared a banana parfait with peanut brittle for dessert. Then we talked about when our next spa day is – some things never change.

The Sunday write-up #2

Roush Birthday

1. Yesterday was the boyfriend’s birthday! I’ve never known anyone to be more of a child at heart. We celebrated his birthday by going to a soft play area with his baby cousins (it was more the children were accompanying us, rather than us accompanying them!). It was incredibly fun going down the slides and jumping in the ball pits. We then went back to his aunt’s house to blow out the candles on the Radio 1 cake I made him.. although he was slightly miffed at how round my miniature model of him was!

2. I was a bit sniffly and a bit groany at the start of the week. Colds are not fun, but unfortunately, it is an occupational hazard.

3. I’ve been watching: Glue on E4. Attracted by the Alt-J ad soundtrack, I was worried this was going to be a bit like Skins (there’s only so many teenage drug-fuelled benders you can watch before it gets boring), but I do like how sinister they’ve made the countryside. Definitely puts a spin on farmers!

4. This week I became qualified in Advanced Life Support! It was a difficult two day course (doing chest compressions all day can tire you out!), but luckily I passed the exams at the end.

5. Today I’m heading off to a spa in Kent with the boyfriend as a bit of grown-up birthday treat for us both – I’m looking forward to a massage and facial!

The Sunday write-up #1

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake

I’ve realised I don’t really talk much about my day-to-day life on this blog. It is a lifestyle blog in that I do post a lot about baking, clothes and restaurants, but let’s get real – I’m a young doctor living outside of London – those are rare moments in the week! Here’s what really went down this past week:

1. I baked my housemate a sweet + salty chocolate cake straight out of a Hummingbird Bakery cookbook for her birthday. After taking a whole evening to make, we could only manage one sliver each, so we took the rest into work for our colleagues! It was so, so rich.

2. I went to see The Saturdays on Friday night at Wembley Arena! It was all sparkly costumes, male dancers in firemen costumes and belting out “THIS.. IS.. WHERE.. MY.. HEART.. TAKES OVERRR!” I also managed to get a fair bit of celeb-spotting done – Marvin Humes, Aston Merrygold, Jade from Little Mix and umm.. Vince Kidd?!

3. I spent yesterday lounging around my friend’s new deluxe house in South London – I love catching up on all the gossip with some of my second family, and it turns out that her landlord is quite a well-known period drama actor! Oooh, quite the namedrop!

4. I’ve been watching: Cilla on ITV. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been looking forward to this three-part drama. 50s rock ‘n roll + Sheridan Smith + Aneurin Barnard = TV magic. I’m just waiting for ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’!

5. I’ve been debating between renewing my gym membership or just finding a yoga studio to join. The treadmill and I are not friends and I have really been enjoying the unexpected challenges of yoga classes. Maybe another try of Davina’s workout DVDs?

What have you all been up to this week?

New look!

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Hi everyone! I’m really really happy to introduce the new Girl in Brogues blog!

I’ve been wanting to make a few changes to the blog for a while, but felt a little limited over on WordPress.com; so I decided to make the big move over to my own self-hosted domain. Despite a few initial glitches and a bit of stress moving my content over, I’m so proud to introduce this new look blog. Here’s what’s changed:

1. Girlinbrogues.com is now the only way to access my blog and I’m waving goodbye to my WordPress.com account – but don’t worry, I’m migrating all my WordPress followers to this website. If you’re an email subscriber, you do need to subscribe again though!

2. After a few weeks of browsing through various themes from web developers, I finally settled on this theme from Light Morango – it’s far lighter and airier and I like to think a little easier on the eyes! She has a lot of great themes and the installation was so easy – a definite recommend from me.

3. A new header, which is still pretty simple but I feel reflects the personality of this blog a lot better than the last one.

4. And finally, I’ve added the Disqus comment system! Hopefully it’s far less faff for everyone to comment now!

I’d love to hear what you all think of it – please follow the new blog here on Bloglovin!

The lazy girl’s spanakopita

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This week on Great British Bake Off is pastry week. Groan…

Now here’s my confession. I really don’t like making pastry. My impatient nature means I have never made pastry from scratch and to be honest, apart from the odd apple pie, the only proper pastry I’ve made is spanakopita – a Greek spinach and feta pie.

I’ve been making spanakopita for a few years now and although fundamentally tasty, they’ve always been a bit sub-par in my eyes. When Rosie from Cider with Rosie posted her version of spinach and feta pasties, I realised how lazy I’ve been with my technique! I was using shop-bought puff pastry, I wasn’t squeezing enough water out of the spinach and I was taking them far too early out of the oven. So having taken inspiration from Rosie, I’ve upped my game a bit for my last batch.. although I have to admit I am still using shop-bought puff pastry (I will never make pastry from scratch on the weeknight. Never.)

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INGREDIENTS

375g ready rolled puff pastry
500g spinach
200g feta
2 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
3 crushed cloves of garlic
Salt + pepper
Nutmeg
Milk

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TECHNIQUE

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200C.
  2. In a saucepan on low heat, add the crushed garlic cloves to a bit of oil, then slowly add the spinach to the pan, allowing them to wilt. Flavour with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg.
  3. Once wilted, place the spinach into a strainer and allow to cool slightly. Squeeze as much water as you can from the spinach.
  4. Break apart the cooled spinach into smaller pieces into a bowl and crumble the feta in. Mix with the lemon zest and the yolk of 1 egg. If you want, add a little squeeze of lemon juice for an extra tang.
  5. Cut the pastry into 6 equal squares. Divide the spinach between the squares and place in the middle of the pastry squares.
  6. Beat 1 egg and use the beaten egg mix to brush along the edges of each pastry square. Fold the pastry squares into triangles and fold the edges over to form a tight seal. No liquid should be leaking out of the pastry. You can use a fork to add indents to the edges.
  7. Brush a bit of milk over each pastry to help brown the pastries. Use a fork to make two holes in the top of the pastries.
  8. Put the pastries in the oven for 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven) until they have puffed up and brown.
  9. Enjoy with a salad on the side!

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Porcelain kimono

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Kimono – Tesco F&F / Vest – Topshop / Jeans – Topshop / Heels – Clarks / Necklace – Hong Kong boutique

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I have to admit, these photos had been long forgotten about until I did a little scour through my camera’s SD card today and found them! It was a pretty muggy day, and the boyfriend and I were heading off to visit his younger cousins for a relaxing hang-out day – cycling in the park, playing basketball in the garden and having an impromptu barbecue. The kimono was a lucky find from Tesco (I do like picking up nice clothes whilst doing my grocery shop!); light, airy and also reminds me of those antique blue porcelain plates.

My project this weekend is to start the process of a little re-design of Girl in Brogues and (eek!) moving it to a self-hosted domain! I love WordPress.com to pieces, but I’d like a bit more freedom with playing around my little piece of the internet. If anyone has any tips, please give me a shout! I need all the help I can get!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Toscakaka Swedish almond cake

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It’s Wednesday today and that can only mean one thing in my house – Great British Bake Off! Much to the disgust of my male housemate, us female housemates are glued to the telly from 8pm like our lives depend on it. He knows that if he so much as tries to change the channel, expletives and possibly violence may be used!

I think it’s wonderful the blogging community has such a devotion to GBBO. Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed bloggers have been taking part in #thegreatbloggerbakeoff, where bloggers bake a recipe that links up with that week’s episode. I’m taking part for the first time this week, which is European cake week.

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It’s very difficult picking a recipe from a whole continent of delicious bakes, but as I have a fondness for Sweden, I narrowed it down to Toscakaka cake (I haven’t been able to stop saying that word since I first found the recipe on the Telegraph website!).

The Toscakaka cake is a sweet-scented soft cake with a caramelised almond topping. There are a few variations on the internet, but the recipe I chose added an orange zest to the sponge. When I made this cake yesterday, I was trying to make a curry at the same time and managed to burn my almond flakes three times whilst trying to toast them! Lesson learnt – do not overstretch yourself in the kitchen if you are trying to only slightly burn something.

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If you are interested in other bloggers taking part in #thegreatbloggerbakeoff, I know that Megan, Jaclyn and Shannon are a few of the many I have found! Leave your link if you are taking part too!

Bistrotters

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Two months ago, I started writing about my little adventure to Paris for my birthday. A long break later, and I still haven’t written about the highlight of my trip, a cosy yet polished restaurant called Bistrotters.

It’s a shame that my memories are a little faded now and the photos are a little amateur; Bistrotters was carefully hunted by the boyfriend after being sold on Tripadvisor as one of the best new restaurants in Paris. Because the restaurant is the size of a small shopfront, you can’t just walk in; a table has to be booked weeks in advance and then you have to confirm your reservation 48 hours in advance. Sounds a bit over the top, but in a way, it made the anticipation a little more special!

When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly face from the website. François, the owner, was the perfect host; polite, charming and made all the guests feel like VIPs. He even surprised us with an additional taster dish of delicious minty samosas!

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For starters, I had the salmon terrine, which was a really refreshing combination of smoked salmon, goat’s cheese and.. wait for it.. mango! Totally unexpected, but worked so well. The colourful sweet potato crisps that were scattered across the plate also made this dish my favourite of the night. The boyfriend had the Bistrotters foie gras, which he assured me was excellent as well.

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For our mains, I had the squid risotto, which was a small, rich portion balanced out by the crunch from the fish and noodles. There was possibly an unnecessary side of butter/cream(?), as the risotto was already quite heavy with cream. I feel the the boyfriend had the better bargain of the night with his lamb shank – so delicate, it fell apart so easily and went well with the ratatouille beneath.

I have to say that at this point of the meal, I was already blown away by Bistrotters and crossing my fingers for a sister restaurant in London. But then François left us with one more surprise..

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What a lovely restaurant! Moist chocolate fondant with a side of Parisian charm. What more do I need to say?

Bistrotters
9 Rue Decrès
75014 Paris
France
bistrotters.com
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