Sunday, 24 June 2012

Weekend #4

This weekend was a good one as we FINALLY spent it in London after J managed to get the weekend off call. I have a trip to France next week so won't be seeing each other for a while so it was nice to get out and see the sights. We had a lovely day planned on Saturday where we were going to go to Richmond and hire out a boat on the river as the weather was supposed to be lovely. Long story short, it wasn't. We didn't realise the boats aren't in the park bit of Richmond, they are in fact on the Thames so we were wandering around for ages and the the heavens opened! Lucky we both had a sneaky coat in our bags.

After our afternoon of sunshine and fun was rained off, J (shockingly) suggested that we head to Westfield. Now this is a man, like most others, that has a loathing of shopping and all related locations so I thought I would grab the most of the opportunity as I had never been before, even after living in London for nearly a year now! We weren'r really on the hunt for anything but it was somewhere indoors that we could mosey around for a bit, and a sight to see if you haven't been before - it's HUGE! We followed this up with a big scrummy burger and skinny fries from Gourmet Burger Kitchen (also somewhere I had not been before) and headed home for a much needed sleep.

Today we went to Oxford Street, again on J's suggestion - I don't know what is getting in to him?! We just went for a mooch around and to see if there was anything in the sales that we fancied. Although there wasn't much, it was still nice to have free time walking around Central as usually I'm only there at work or rushing around like a crazy thing at lunchtime. We had a very naughty lunch - a 'Wox Box' which is basically a box stuffed with Chinese/Asian style food so naturally lots of caramel chicken and special fried noodles went my way! We figured we could justify it as we were walking it off ;)

We spent the afternoon ambling around the National Portrait Gallery (another new spot on my map, I am sounding rather useless here) and then walked through Trafalgar Square and along Whitehall (past Dave's house!), past Big Ben and in to St. James Park which was nice. Again being touristy is not something I do often so it was really nice to take in some sights, especially as the weather was on our side this time.

After a tense game of Football (Can't say I was paying too much attention as I had my head buried in my comp!) and a long weekend of walking and sightseeing, I am exhausted! I think that this song is one that is extremely apt. for this weekend in particular. I love the soothing voice of Joe Purdy and his songs bring back some very good memories so this is the Sunday sound I am loving this evening.

E x

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Roebuck Pub, Chiswick

After a really positive work, my housemate suggested that we should go out for some dinner to celebrate. She also managed to do all of the weeding around our house (a mammoth and well overdue task) so a well deserved treat was needed. We toddled our way down to Chiswick High Road and in to a pub called the Roebuck.

This pub has a really lovely feel with big oak tables outside the front and little mini church pews and rickety tables inside. The main feature, and the one we headed right for (wine in hand) was the gorgeous beer garden. This little gem also stays full of sunshine in to the late evening which is handy thing to note. It was practically idyllic, sipping on a lovely citrusy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and chomping on some chilli stuffed olives in the sunshine - heaven!

We were getting a bit peckish for something more than olives so had a quick squiz over the menu and were both very taken by the char grilled cote du bœuf, big chips, served with chop house butter (which was amazing!). I did order my steak rare, however when it arrived it was more medium but luckily the meat was so tender that this did not matter too much. It was seasoned perfectly and the house butter was so yummy - lots of finely chopped parsley and red onion in it as well so lots of delicious flavours.

Aside to the scrummy flavours, it was also presented in a really great way - this pan weighed a tonne!

I just managed to get this quick snap (although you can see I had already sampled the corner!) before diving in, it was smelling far too good to hang about. I would definitely return for this yummy steak - I would just insist on it being a little less cooked next time. All in all, it was the perfect end to a really positive day which could have gone a lot worse!

E x

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Weekend #3

So today has been a perfect mix of relaxing and being productive. I was down in Southampton this morning until this afternoon and then waved goodbye to J as he went off rowing and I stayed in bed with a cup of tea, reading some of my favourite blogs. I planned to make my way back to London but the weather was lovely and sunny so I sat in the garden and painted my nails and generally relaxed. I also managed to catch up on writing lots of blog posts which was nice as I don't often get time for this. It's usually a last thing at night jobby.

Getting back to London before nighttime means that I have managed to get on top of the mountain otherwise known as my washing pile. It's a good job I have lots of clothes/underwear or I would run out all the time!

An exciting thing that happened this week is that we moved offices at work on Friday. This was a very long and very tiring day - if you were in or around Covent Garden you would have seen us shifting everything down the road! I very glamourously piled my tower, screens, keyboard and mouse on to my desk chair as a makeshift trolley and wheeled it down the road to the new office space. Sadly there is no lift so four trips up and down four flights of stairs later I was set up and it was time for a cup of tea. Although not before I made another trip back for the coffee machine, I then proceeded to spill the contents on the dregs tray all down myself - smooth.

The new space is really nice so going to work tomorrow will be a bit different. Even though it is still in Covent Garden, it is at a different end so I'm sure there will be lots to explore. Sadly for my bank balance (not for me!) I now have to walked past Zara AND Mango on my way to the tube and will find this hard to resist.

I like to end of my weekend with some Sunday style music, chilling myself out before heading back in to central for another hectic week at work. At the moment I am really enjoying listening to Julia Stone. I have always been a fan of her music, with her brother Angus (making up Angus and Julia Stone) but her solo stuff has really caught my attention. I know their music often divides opinion but for me, it is just what I want to listen to when driving/relaxing/unwinding. It is good weekend stuff! One of the comments reads "she sings like butterflies and honey" and I think this sums her voice up just perfectly.

Goodnight, E x

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Happy Birthday Joey!

Today is my baby sister's birthday so I thought I would dedicate this post to her, featuring some lush pics of the two of us ;) 

Sadly I can't be at home to celebrate with her so here is another cheeky gift...muahaha!

Happy birthday Joey, Love Lizzo x

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Turtle Bay, Southampton

One of the perks of making a relationship work when you live in far apart cities (I can assure you, there are not many!) is that when you do see each other you use your time wisely. You now allow all those little extras you wouldn't normally - such as going out for dinner, cinema etc. all those extra splurges.

Whenever I am in Southampton, or J is in London, we always end up buying the nicest foods and going out for a scrummy dinner somewhere to spoil ourselves and catch up. Southampton was our university city so I know it fairly well. When I was a student, I used to lust after eating in all of these lovely places but being a student - budget did not allow! 

Towards the very end of my final year, up popped this cool looking Jamaican, Caribbean style bar and restaurant called Turtle Bay. I was always very keen to go to but I never did get around to it before leaving. When J got a job back in Southampton, we finally got around to going. I had been a few times for drinks (I can recommend the peanut butter and banana smoothie!) and always poured over the menu, thinking how delicious it all looked and saying we should come back for dinner sometime. On Tuesday evening, we did just that!

The last snap was me trying to get a shot of the cool bar in the middle of the place but our food starting arrving (that's it right there!) so ended up a little blurry! Thought it was a good action shot so kept it in though)

Turtle bay boasts a fantastic array of cocktails, smoothies and fruit punches that are to die for so I was hoping their food menu would match up. In case you weren't already won over, they have a happy hour on their cocktail menu where they are 2-4-1, a great thing to do for a night out with the girls, summer drinks outside or just if you fancy it.

I went for the hand pulled Chicken burger which came with bbq glaze in a grilled bun, served with Caribbean slaw & fries.

J had a jerk chicken flatbread which was topped with coriander, grilled tomatoes and fresh thyme.

We also had a bucket of sweet potato fries to share - who could resist these from any menu ;)

That is the end of the snaps as we couldn't wait any longer to tuck in - J was already annoyed enough that I made him take a pic of his flatbread - already tucking in there with that bitemark hey!

The food came out on wooden boards, and little metal buckets which I thought was a really nice touch. The food was absolutely delicious, but a little word of warning - not for the weak hearted when it comes to spice! I should have really figured that jerk chicken was quite spicey but I just saw the BBQ bit and was sold. The burger was so full of yummy flavours and the chicken was super succulent but damn, it was hot! We both found it super fiery but still yum. The flatbread was a lot more mild but still had a bit of a kick to it.

Both of the portion sizes were really generous considering that they were from the 'lunch 'n' light' section of the menu. We both left totally full up and satisfied. Couldn't quite manage a pud but the ones we did see whizzing out looked super scrummy and again, very generous portions. All in all, great value for money :)

I would definitely love to eat here again, the food was beautifully served up and came out really quickly - especially considering that it was a bank holiday weekend and there was hardly an empty table in the house. There is a large food and drinks menu to suit all tastes. The decor is so chilled that you could smarten up for a date or wear it casual for hanging out.

It's so nice to find places like this in Southampton popping up. There seems to be a lot of effort going in to 'doing up' certain areas of the city and if there are more places like this, I will certainly be happy.

E x

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Weekend #2

Well I have to say, four days off is sometimes more exhausting than four days at work! J and I have packed as much as we possibly can in to those four days and now I am back at home, I can safely say that I am absolutely cream-crackered and totally ready for bed.

We had a lovely couple of days in London over the weekend, spending Saturday in East London, wandering around the markets, down Brick Lane and walking through Shoreditch and then on in to the City. It was nice to see this end of town as I do not usually get the time to explore as weekends are pretty hectic. We grabbed some picnic stuff and had lunch by the river and then walked along the Southbank in the sunshine. My favourite thing about this area is the fantastic Borough Market - so much to see and taste it's a whole different world down there. I would have loved to buy everything but I made do with sampling as much of everything as possible ;) .

After catching a small glimpse of the Flotilla on the Sunday, we headed down to Southampton as J was on call and so has to be 1hr away. It was a shame to miss London and all of its festivities but we ordered a cheeky Dominoes and then watched Queenie and co. in all their glory on telly. It was a good laugh to see the poor singers looking like drowned rats but being undeterred by the weather! Monday was a bit of a fail, starting off with locking ourselves out of the house and having to call back housemate from 30 miles away to come and help us back in! Thankfully it was saved by a nice wander around then shops and then rustling up a scrummy roast dinner followed by the rest of the Jubilee celebrations, toasting dear old Liz with a few glasses of wine.

Had a quiet day today, watching films and unwinding before heading out for some dinner and then on to a friends housewarming/birthday party - great to see some old friends and catch up. Then back on the M3 again for me in time for work tomorrow!

Goodnight all,
E x

The Perfect Roast Dinner

Along with most of Britain, my Sunday evening is not complete without a Sunday roast, with all of the trimmings. I don't care if it is Chicken and stuffing, Pork and apple sauce, Beef and Yorkshire puddings or Lamb and mint sauce - it's all yummy to me. I know that most people have a certain family way of cooking their roast dinners and it is something that is different in every household, but I thought I would do a post on how I do mine. Along with the meat, a lot of effort goes in to making the perfect roast potatoes (the highlight of the meal for me!!).

Here's a bit of background for you - I was lucky enough to grow up with a Mummy who has an Aga, this multi-functional appliance makes light work of a roast dinner (and many other treats too) and is something that instantly makes me think of home. It is definitely a style of cooking that most people find a bit daunting, if you are someone who likes recipes and timings then these are not for you! You basically get an idea of how long things will take and which oven to put them in and then you just play it by ear from then! It is not easy to change the heat on these meaty machines in a hurry, it takes a long time to heat up and a long time to cool down. You basically just have to wing it. Then, I moved out.

Seeing as there are not many student halls that have Agas (!) I had to learn how to cook conventional style. A few burnt dinners and raw sausages later, I just about got the hang of it. Once a bit confident, in my later years of being a student, I took a crack at a roast dinner all of my own, upon the request of my new boyfriend! I think I have just about cracked it now and this is how it goes...

To make a scrummy dinner for two (hungry adults) people:
    • Meat of choice (we went for a 1.3lb of roasting Pork Loin)
    • 3 large baking potatoes (I find these fluff up the nicest on the inside and get nice and crispy on the outside)
    • Seasonal vegetables (we had green beans, Chantenay carrots and cauliflower cheese - J's fave!) 
    • Oil
    • Salt
    • Flour
    • Gravy granules
    • 1 medium onion
    • Sauce for your meat (we had Bramley apple as it was Pork)
    • Tasty bottle of wine/non-alcoholic beverage of choice
Take your roasting meat and follow the instructions on the packet. Most supermarket packaging will give you weight and timings for your piece of meat. Butcher's meat will be a bit more illusive but you can ask your butcher to weigh your meat for you and then you can apply the following cooking times:
  • Chicken - 20 minutes per lb + 20 minutes resting time.
  • Pork - 25 minutes on highest heat + 35 minutes per lb + 30 minutes resting time. 
  • Lamb - 20 minutes per lb for rare, 30 minutes per lb for a more well done meat + 30 minutes resting time.
  • Beef - Rare - 11 minutes per lb, Medium - 14 minutes per lb, Well done - 16 minutes per lb + 30 minutes resting time.
Be aware that these times are approximate, if you are unsure then check that your meat is throughly cooked through before serving. As a general rule of thumb, if the juices run clear, the meat is cooked.

As we chose Pork, we wanted some crackling. For this - pop your oven up to 240 degrees. Cover the Pork in salt and oil, rubbing it in to the skin. The skin usually comes scored, if not then add a few deep cuts diagonally across the fat on the top of the meat. Put the Pork in the oven at this high heat for 25 minutes. After this, turn it down to 190 degrees and apply the above cooking times.

For example: our piece of Pork weighed 1.3lbs so cooking time was 25 minutes + 46 minutes + 30 minutes resting time.

You should have perfect crackling by following the above guidelines but if not, fear not! Carve the skin and fat off of the top of the meat and lay out flat on a baking tray. Pop this under the grill for about 10 minutes and it should crackle up nicely. Keep your eye on this though as it can catch and burn very quickly!

Peel your potatoes, allowing 1.5 large potatoes per person as a generous helping. Chop in to rough chunks - you should get around 4 chunks per potato. At this point, cover a sided baking tray in about 0.5mm of oil and stick in the oven, below the meat. You can use Goose fat for this if you are feeling fancy, but normal oil will do just as well. 

Par-boil the potatoes on a simmering heat for about 10 minutes. The potatoes should not be cooked all the way through but just softening around the edges.

Take off the heat and drain them. Sprinkle on a light handful of flour and a generous sprinkling of salt.

Pop the lid back on and grab a tea towel as the pan will still be hot. Now shake the potatoes vigorously, holding down the lid. Have a check to make sure that every potato has softened around the edges and is now covered in flour.

When your meat has around 30 minutes left to go, get your heated tray of oil out of the oven, being very careful not to spill it and spoon the potatoes out on to the tray. This may cause the oil to spit so do be careful. Pop them back in the oven, turning every 15 minutes or so until crispy - usually taking around 40 minutes at 190 degrees.

Depending on what vegetable you chose to cook, follow the instructions on the packet. For the vegetables we chose - I bought a pre-made cauliflower cheese (cheeky, I know, but not many people really have the time!) which took around 30 minutes in the oven, and I boiled the carrots and the beans for about 10 minutes in the same pan. These can be cooked whilst your meat is resting.

Once you have taken the meat out to rest, pour the juices in to a small saucepan. Chop up your onion and cook it off in the meat juices. For ease, I like to add gravy granules now but you can always make your own gravy with flour etc. Stir in the gravy granules and top up with boiling water. You can add more of each to make the gravy the right consistency that you like. I also like to add wholegrain mustard here or sometimes a few herbs.

All that is left to do now, is carve your meat and serve up. Pour yourself a nice glass of wine or a fruit juice spritzer and enjoy!

The before and after gravy pictures - yummy!
Now, seeing as it is a bank holiday, I couldn't let this pass without whipping up a plate of Rosie T's Slutty Brownies - a thing of marvel and legend! They are the perfect thing to scoff on if you have any room left after your roast dinner. Or even to have later on with a cup of tea :)

E x

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Blueberry Pancakes

I have always been a huge fan of breakfast, everything from a cereal bar to a full blown English and everything in between. I cannot start the day without at least a small bite to eat. During the week, I usually just grab some cereal before dashing off to work - stuffing a banana in my bag for elevenses, and I am sorted.

Breakfast at the weekend is a whole new ball game. I am either at home in London or in Southampton with J (who is equally keen on the whole breakfast thing). I absolutely love rustling up something special for breakfast, especially as we only have weekends together so it seems only right to make the most of our time.

My go-to is usually poached eggs with crispy bacon on toasted English muffins with lashings of hollandaise sauce (if your mouth isn't watering right now...). If not all the trimmings, then it is something loosely based around this, maybe a bacon muffin or just poached eggs. Of course, any breakfast would not be the same without a big cup of tea and a glass of juice. As much as I adore this breakfast combo, I thought it would be nice to try something different this weekend as there is the luxury of four whole days off! Yippee!

Cue blueberry pancakes. These are two things in life that I adore equally and happen to go so well together. The recipe is so easy and pretty much fool-proof as you can be pretty slapdash with measuring the ingredients. I usually just make the batter by eye as I am lazy and cannot be bothered to weigh it all out first thing in the morning!

All you need to make these little treats (makes around 6 pancakes) is:

    • 120g flour (you can either use plain or self raising, if you use plain - don't forget to add a dash of baking powder so that they will be more spongey than a usual pancake!)
    • 1tsp baking powder (only needed if using plain flour)
    • pinch of salt
    • 30g sugar
    • 1/4 pint of milk
    • 1 egg
    • 1 punnet of blueberries
    • dash of oil
  1. Firstly, pop a pan on the hob and start heating the dash of oil.
  2. Sieve out the flour and the baking powder if you are using plain flour, in to a bowl.
  3. Fold in the sugar and add the pinch of salt.
  4. In a separate jug, whisk together the milk and egg.
  5. Create a well in the middle of the flour mix and slowly pour in the milk and egg, adding bit by bit and stirring all the time to avoid lumps.
  6. Chop your blueberries in half and stir in to your batter.
  7. Depending on how thick/large you want your pancakes, use a ladle to spoon out your pancakes (it is advisable at this point to do a 'trial run' and drop in a small teaspoon full of batter just to check that your pan is hot enough/not too hot).
  8. Flip the pancake when you cant start to see bubbles popping up through, if your batter is too thick, this may not happen so watch out as they can burn rather quickly! About 20-30 secs each side should do.
  9. Pour yourself a big glass of orange juice and a brimming cup of tea, you could even smother your stack of pancakes in whipped cream and/or syrup if you fancy, pop on some trashy telly, sit back and enjoy :)

These are a seriously yummy way to start your day, so much so that we actually make two batches this morning - pancake overload!

E x