Thursday, 28 August 2014

Bon Appetit...

We were lucky enough to be invited to Three's French cooking class in celebration of their new Feel At Home tariff. We sent our self-confessed Francophile features writer Amy along and she wasn't disappointed...

"On a hot Saturday afternoon I arrived at Madame Gautier cookery school to learn how to cook Filet de Boeuf En Croƻte. (Or beef wellington to you non-foodies). Our lovely teacher Adam began with a demonstration, showing us firstly how to cook the mushrooms with shallots and thyme (seriously the most amazing mushrooms I have ever eaten), then prepare and seal the beef and finally demonstrating how to wrap it up in puff pastry. Then it was down to us to attempt our own; cue lots of questions asked and answered with plenty of patience by Adam.

"I learnt so much in this class including my favourite tip on chopping onions without tears; leave the root on until the last minute and breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose. I only started eating meat last year after a number of years as a veggie and have never cooked beef before. The class gave me so much confidence in handling and cooking beef, which was an added bonus for me.  And we all got a taste of Adam’s demo dish, which was delicious.

"We took away our dishes to bake at home – this resulted in me carefully carrying it home on the tube, nursing it like a small child.  It made it home in one piece and was baked and eaten the following night… it was damn tasty and earned me some brownie points from the boyfriend!"

If you would like to attempt to make your own, here’s the recipe.

Beef Wellington
500-600g beef fillet steak
350g ready to roll puff pastry

For the Mushroom Duxelle
150g mushrooms (any)
1 small onion – finely diced
2 cloves garlic
1tbsp Dijon mustard
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

For the Pancakes
4oz (115g) flour
2 eggs
Half pint of milk
Pinch of salt
Pinch of mixed herbs

Start by rubbing oil, salt and pepper onto the steak, then fry the fillet in a dry pan until it has caramelised and has a deep rich brown outside. Remove the steak from the pan and place to one side to allow to cool.

In the same pan, fry the finely diced onion, thyme and garlic for 1-2 minutes until the onion has softened. Add the mustard and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Remove the onion and garlic from the pan, add a little oil and turn the heat up before add in the mushrooms.

Fry the mushrooms in small batches, so that they fry quickly and caramelise, rather than stewing and leaking all of their water into the pan. Once the mushrooms are cooked, introduce the onions back to the pan and mix together until even. Put all of the mix into a food processor and blend until smooth enough to spread. If you like, you can add a splash of cream to help.

To make the pancakes, crack the two eggs into a jug with the milk and whisk until combined. Add the herbs and salt to the flour.

Slowly pour the milk and eggs on to the flour, whisking continuously until a smooth batter. Pass the mix through a sieve to remove any lumps.

Fry 3-4 pancakes in the same frying pan again. This will ensure that all the flavour from the beef and mushrooms is kept, rather than going to waste

Once all of the components have cooled, you can start to build the Wellington. Roll out the pastry, until it is roughly the thickness of a pound coin.

Lay the pancakes out, so that there is enough surface area to fully coat the beef. Spread the mushroom duxelle over the pancakes before topping with the beef.

Finally, roll the pancakes and pastry around the beef, before sealing the pastry at the bottom, and trimming away any excess pastry.

When you are ready to cook, egg wash completely and place in the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven at 220C for 35-40 minutes.

The longer it is cooked, the more well done the beef will be. For a medium cook, 35 minutes should be sufficient; however this does vary from oven to oven.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

By Amy Peck

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Limeade Ice Lollies

As we kiss summer goodbye and welcome all the beauty of autumn, why not take a last tasty bite out of this season by trying these three frozen limeade ice lollies?

The Californian 
(Passion fruit, spicy limeade ice lolly)

This first recipe is like a little trip to California, where you can eat sweet fruits with chili pepper and lemon. This passion fruit, spicy limeade ice lolly is a beautiful mix of sweet and citrus with a lingering taste of cayenne pepper.

1/3 cup of water
1/3 cup passion fruit juice
The juice of half a lime
Small pinch of cayenne powder
2 big spoons of your sweetener of choice (we like honey and brown sugar)

(Lime and basil ice lolly)

The second one is not your regular limeade, although it is refreshing like a typical limeade it has a twist of basil. The herb adds extra tastiness and makes it lets just say unforgettable.

1/2 cup of water
The juice of one whole lime
2 big spoons of your favorite sweetener
1 full basil stem*

*You can drain the basil leaves out before freezing it but we like to leave them in.

Herbal Sweet 
(Rosemary, mint and kiwi limeade)

Last, but certainly not least, is this sweet, herbal and fruity ice lolly  This one is so full of flavour! The cool, fresh mint, earthy sweetness of the rosemary and the subtle tangy-ness of the kiwi makes it our favourite!

1/2 Cup of Water
The juice of one full lime
1/2 stem of rosemary (cut in small pieces)
a few mint leaves
2 big spoons of your favorite sweetener
1/4 of a kiwi (diced in very small pieces)

When you are making these, keep in mind that your juice should always be a little more sweet than the limeade you normally drink, because when it freezes, the taste changes a bit. We hope you try it and let your palette go on one last refreshing journey this summer!

By Valerie Moreno 

You can find her blogging over at Nuance andBubbles Blog, taking daily snaps on Instagram, Tweeting away or pinning inspiration here

Monday, 28 July 2014

Burgers, Burgers, Burgers

Never before has the burger been in the spotlight quite like now. As street food trucks appear to entice tourists and those on their lunch breaks alike, restaurants promising indulgent burgers and sides are popping up across the country.

Once considered within the same vein as kebabs, burgers were the guilty pleasure bought in a drunken haze at 2am but now they ooze elaborate flavours and toppings ranging from caramelised onions to chillies. Like macarons and cupcakes, burgers are having their moment as a fast-food fad which doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

Moving away from their processed predecessors, the burgers themselves are made of British beef, often locally sourced alongside other ingredients such as cheese, bacon and even haggis.

Vegetarians need not worry though, many places are also catering to those without a penchant for meat and that’s part of the appeal. 

While it may be just another example of street food having its day, burger joints are encouraging anyone and everyone to ditch the knives and forks as they bite into a mountain of flavours. If you're after something to brighten up your Monday, head over to your nearest diner and indulge!

By Victoria Rodrigues O’Donnell
Image sources 1,2

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Clap Clap Sing

There's nothing better than receiving something sweet in the post and LA paper pros Clap Clap Design have left the whole team smitten! Their cute range of greeting cards, wrapping paper and notebooks are handmade and created using environmentally-friendly, recycled paper. They make the perfect gifts.... and will you feel a lot less guilty if you decide to keep a few for yourself!

Have a peek at the rest of their items here

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Meet... The Girl in the Bowler Hat

For the next instalment of our Meet the Blogger... series we grilled fashion journalism student, Amy  from The Girl in the Bowler Hat. Read on to find more about the girl behind the blog... 

Ok, first up who is 'Girl in the Bowler Hat' for those that don't already know?
My name is Amy, and I'm a 21 year old blogger currently living in the North East of England. My blog, The Girl in the Bowler Hat, is a bit of everything really, but I focus mainly on taking plenty of personal style posts in hidden gems I've found in my hometown.

How long have you been blogging, and what made you want start it in the first place? 
 I've been running my current blog for just over 18 months and I am loving it more than ever at the moment! This isn't actually my first blog, as I've had a few in the past, but none of those ever felt right. So, I racked my brains and The Girl in the Bowler Hat was born and I'm very proud of it. I began my blog after spending years reading them and thinking 'Oh hey, I could do that' so I decided to give it a whirl. It felt like a nice sideline while studying my degree in fashion journalism.

 What inspires your blog posts?
A lot of my inspiration comes from other blogs, as there is such a huge amount of talent and a lot of what I know I've learnt from fellow bloggers. You name it, it's been blogged before. I also gain a lot of inspiration from just day to day life, if I've had any exciting days, if I see someone in the street wearing an outfit I love, that sort of thing. Although I probably should, I rarely plan ahead with my blog posts - I tend to just go with what I want to post about at the time. Of course, I love the usuals too, with my fail-safe inspiration places being Pinterest and a good film marathon. 

 How would you describe your style? 
 I think my style changes quite a lot, and there's no fixed 'look' I tend to go for. My favourite era is the 60s, and I think I'll always have a love for a-line skirts and collared dresses. Think Alexa Chung meets Audrey Hepburn meets Emma Watson (and a little bit of Blair Waldorf thrown in there for good measure).

What three items can you not live without? 
 My Macbook, which pretty much contents my whole life. I'd also say magazines, as I'm a big of a magazine junkie (and currently own more than 150 - eek). Finally, my iPhone, not just because of Twitter, or Instagram( although I'm massively for social media) but to listen to music on. I'm always listening to music! 

 What do you get up to when you're not blogging?
Just the usual really, spending time with my friends, reading, watching an obscene amount of television. I also love photography, it's an area I'd love to branch into in the future.

Tell us something no one else knows about you...
I'm a little bit (a lot) obsessed with Gossip Girl, and also Criminal Minds… you know, because the two programmes are so similar. 

 What other bloggers are on your reading list? 
 Oh gosh, there's so many! My favourites have to be Wish Wish Wish and What Olivia Did - I've been reading both of those blogs for as long as I can remember. There's a whole host of NE bloggers I love too, such as Talking About M, The Lovecats Inc, and Thumbelina Lillie

 And lastly, as we've just released our travel issue, we want to know your favourite holiday destination. 
Well, I'm not the most travelled unfortunately! However, me and my family have been to the island of Menorca many times, and it's a beautiful place.