Eat: Sourdough

“I believe wholeheartedly that we can change the world by baking with ethical and sustainable ingredients… one bite at a time.” Vanessa Kimbell

This is the best argument for baking homemade bread I’ve heard in a long time

Vanessa runs bread making classes from her home in Northampton, The Juniper and Rose Kitchen Garden School, complete with an organic kitchen garden. I’m dying to book onto one of Vanessa’s sourdough bread making courses

Check out Vanessa’s Facebook page and website to learn more, there are also plenty of these beautifully produced videos available on the wild yeast Vimeo page.

I’m off to bake some sourdough!

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MAKE: Allotment Lemonade and Loaf Cake

Today we have a guest post from the lovely Ruth from Clarendon Spark – we’re a little late in posting it (oops!) but hopefully you’ll still be able to find the ingredients in season…

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I live a literal stone’s throw from Queens Road Allotments in Clarendon Park in the south of Leicester. I’ve been fascinated by the allotments since I moved to the area and couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get a peek inside, so I jumped at the chance to pop along to their open day and produce sale.

I was immediately captivated by the place and spent over an hour exploring the plots, taking photos and talking to the allotmenteers. You can find out more about this little oasis of green tranquility in my article, Queens Road Allotments, over on my Clarendon Spark blog.

I came away from the produce sale with a bumper crop of goodies and I was determined to do them justice with some tasty makes that really capture the late summer season.

These two recipes are simple, speedy, and a great way to showcase a glut of gorgeous home-grown ingredients…

MAKE: Blackberry Lemonade

Blackberry bushes were everywhere at the allotments, growing in between all the plots and bursting with glossy ripe fruit. This timely recipe is simplicity itself but the result is super tasty and seriously refreshing. Serve your lemonade in jam jars for extra hipster points and garnish with plenty of ice, fresh lemon slices and whole blackberries.

If you want to make it boozy you can add a few glugs of vodka to the mix and you’ve got yourself a homemade blackberry lemonade cocktail.

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You will need:

  • 20-30 blackberries
  • Juice from 3 lemons
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Still or sparkling mineral water.

What to do:

  • Simmer the lemon juice and the sugar together in a pan over a low heat for about five minutes until the sugar has dissolved, then leave the mixture to cool
  • Add the blackberries and blend the whole lot together then strain it through a sieve
  • Pop the ‘cordial’ in a jug along with some ice and add water until the drink is your preferred strength.

BAKE: Apple, Plum and Courgette Loaf Cake

I’m a big fan of simple loaf-style cakes which have a slightly savoury feel to them.

Using wholewheat self-raising flour in this recipe gives the resulting cake a satisfying bready quality, and a hefty slice with a mug of tea makes for a substantial mid-afternoon pick-me-up. If you prefer, you can use white self-raising flour instead and drizzle a bit of citrusy icing over the top for an altogether more delicate dessert.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use pretty much any combination of fruits and vegetables depending on what’s in season and what you have to hand. The addition of mixed spice gives the whole cake a warm, spicy, slightly autumnal flavour.

I was a little too impatient to scoff my cake and cut it while it was still warm which is why it looks a bit scruffy on the photo – leaving it to cool completely will give you a neater looking slice!

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You will need:

  • 70g apple, grated
  • 70g plum, grated
  • 70g courgette, grated
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp mixed spice.

What to do:

  • Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin
  • Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, bicarb and mixed spice together, then stir in the grated fruit (yes – it really is that easy!)
  • Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

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These incredibly straightforward, rustic recipes are such a great way of showing off home-grown fruit and veg, and knowing that the key ingredients I used had been loving produced just across the road made me extra proud when sharing these makes.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I have and that they prove a great showcase for your own home-grown hand-picked harvest.

Thanks Ruth! And just a reminder you can find more of her words and pictures over at Clarendon Spark

And for another idea about how to use up blackberries with an adult twist, take a look at E’s Blackberry Gin recipe

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Eat: Healthy on the road

Lunch from Iydea, Brighton

For the past few months I’ve been travelling pretty heavily for work around the UK

In fact, over the past few weeks in particular I’ve spent more time in hotels than in my own bed!

Constantly being on the road is a standard behaviour for many people, but it’s a new to me – so I thought it might be useful to pass on a few tips I’ve learnt along the way… starting with food

I’m pretty health conscious at home – I avoid processed food, buy local and organic foods where I can, monitor the amount of sugar and bad fats in my diet, try to eat mainly whole foods…

I’m no saint – I find it hard to turn down ice-cream or homemade cakes, but I was worried about what it would mean to not be able to have so much control over my diet and cook for myself

** Disclaimer – I’m not a nutritionist – feel free to disagree with my choices! **

Toast for breakfast

BREAKFAST

I love breakfast – it’s probably my favourite meal of the day – quite often once the thought of it pops into my head, I just have to get out of bed and put the kettle on

This means it’s a particularly dangerous time for me to overeat, when every day I’m now faced with multiple options in the form of a buffet table and/or delicious sounding menu

I’m not a massive fan of fried food or eating meat in the morning, so at least I largely duck the eternal pull of the Full English

But I still have had to reign myself in, and these are some of the “rules” and tips I’ve been living by…

  • Avoid the bread, unless freshly baked on site (it will only be the rubbishy stuff)
  • Check if the eggs are free range, ask for them to be freshly poached, boiled or scrambled
  • Ask if they do porridge (they usually do, even if not on the menu) – ask for it to be made with half milk/half water
  • Read the cereal packets and yoghurt tubs – you’ll be surprised by how much added sugar there is
  • Fresh fruit is good (especially if you can nick some for a mid-morning snack!)
  • Ask for still water, rather than sugary juice
  • Monitor portion sizes – avoid ‘eyes bigger than stomach’
  • If you’re staying at a posh hotel with an amazing menu, this is the time to go wild and have the flaky pain au chocolat or smoked salmon and scrambled egg!
  • If you’re staying at a budget hotel with a very processed buffet, don’t be scared to sneak in your own food (and just use their milk) No one will notice!

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DINNER

I’ve got no problems with eating alone – I’m quite happy to take a book along to a restaurant with me and just get on with my meal

  • TripAdvisor is your friend – it’s such a great app to have on your phone to search nearby restaurants and check out the reviews
  • Try to eat at independent restaurants where you’ll get more of an experience and feel for the place
  • But don’t feel bad about going back to trusted chains – sometimes it’s easier to know what you’re getting
  • If you are going to a chain, check out the nutritional info on their website to work out some of the healthier options
  • Be demanding again! Don’t want much dressing on your salad? Ask for it on the side

Having said that, most of the time I choose to eat my evening meals in the hotel – getting a selection of food from a nearby supermarket and having a mini picnic in my room

(Sometimes I’m just forced to ear in my hire car, on my knee – see photo above from a service station on the A1 earlier this week!)

Usually this is because I’ve had a long day of work and just want to relax in my own space

I’ve heard about people doing all kinds of crazy things with hotel kettles and producing meals, but I tend to stick to cold stuff…

  • Use Google Maps to search for nearby supermarkets (I have to say Waitrose and M&S in particular are my favourites!)
  • If, like me, you have an expenses budget, don’t feel you have to spend ALL of it – avoid buying more than you really need to eat
  • Check packaging – how processed is the sandwich you’re about to buy? Sometimes it’s healthier (and cheaper) to buy the bread, filling and a side salad separately
  • Whenever you see free plastic cutlery, take two sets – always handy on the road! (Eating with proper plate, knife and fork has become a bit of a luxury for me)
  • As in general life, I try to stick to largely veggie food in the week – and I often find searching for local veggie and vegan restaurants turns up some good options (Brighton was amazing for this – you have to visit Iydea!)

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GENERAL TIPS

  • It’s easy to think, ‘I’m away from home so I definitely deserve to eat a big bar of chocolate in  my hotel room… every night’
  • Try to avoid the tempting hotel freebies – instead of eating the free biscuits, I usually take them home with me – I’ve not had to buy a new packet for ages
  • Not a fan of UHT milk? Ask the hotel bar or reception for a little jug of fresh – much nicer!
  • Following on from this, one key thing I’ve learnt when staying in hotels – is don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want, they’ll probably be able to accommodate!
  • When your actually travelling make sure you take a big bottle of water with you, plus some healthy snacks – bananas and nuts are good, if you have time cut up some carrots
  • Know someone in the place you’re visiting? Drop them a message in advance. I’ve arranged breakfast, lunch and dinner with several friends and former colleagues during my travels – much more fun than a table for one, especially if they can show you the sights!

Do you travel for work? What tips would you add for eating on the road?

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Q&A: Eleven things

E + B

One of our favourite bloggers, Janet at Words That Can Only Be Your Own kindly nominated us for a Liebster Award last week – which is good news as we love a good questionnaire!
So, the rules of the award are:

- List 11 random facts about yourself (we of course have made this a joint effort)
– Answer 11 questions given to you by the nominator
– Set 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate
– Tag your chosen bloggers and wait to read their answers

Raspberry Sherbet Bundt cake

11 Random Facts About Us!

1. A shared love of photography and cake brought us together
2. We both prefer noting our ideas with pen and paper, than keyboard and software
3. Yesterday E dyed her hair pink (temporarily)
4. B studies French at night class, but is never brave enough to speak it
5. E had a green front door, B has a blue front door
6. E makes her own ice-cream and sorbet, B doesn’t own a freezer
7. We’re both terrible at the geography rounds in Articulate
8. Until earlier this week, B genuinely thought K2 and Kilimanjaro were the same mountain
9. We are both big Kasabian fans (the extent of this will be revealed in November…!)
10. E hates bananas, yet really loves those foamy banana sweets
11. B hates horseradish sauce, but has a bit of a wasabi pea addiction

Loughborough, Great Central Railway

Janet actually asked us 13 questions (just disguised as 11!), which were…

1. Why did you start blogging?
B: I’d tried unsuccessfully to get a blog going on my own in the past – just as an outlet for some creative urges – but it was joining up with E that really gave me the momentum
E: I too had dipped my toe into the blogging sphere, without great success. Meeting B through Leicester lo-fi helped me realise there are many other people out there who had the same ambition and B helped me get the kick start I needed to put myself and my ideas out there
2. What post are you most proud of?
B: My post that has had the most hits is oddly one I wrote in just 10 minutes, so it feels odd to be proud of it. I really like looking back at our posts and remembering all the things we’ve done – like the fun of our steam train and cake ride, and the patience involved with baking Herman
E: It’s a great feeling to write a popular post, one that gets people coming back to visit your blog time and again but my favourite posts are the more personal ones, Mutley springs to mind instantly, as does the post I wrote about My Grandpa,..
3. What’s your favourite thing about blogging?
 B: That it has inspired me to try new things and meet friendly new people, online and in ‘the real world’ – and as a space to share creative thoughts with those outside of my direct circle of people
E: I love the freedom it gives you to express yourself creatively and to write about what really matters to you, (No matter how mundane!) this isn’t necessarily an easy thing to achieve outside of the blog world
4. And a least favourite?
B: The feeling that we don’t always keep on top of writing posts as perhaps we should do
E: Yes to the above, time is precious and you’d think with two of us we’d be churning out at the very least 1 post a week, sadly sometimes work and  life get in the way. That’s my least favourite part, so many ideas, so little time
5. Important matters now: what’s your favourite colour of sweet?
B: It always used to be green, but at some point in the past 10 years I think I’ve moved over to red (or red and yellow ideally – I’m a fan of rhubarb and custards!)
E: I adore this question! I love sweets, though I’ve learnt a lot about what goes into them in the last 10 years that should really put me off ever eating them ever again. Purple wins for me, every time
6. And what’s your least favourite?
B: White. I never trust what flavour it could be
E: Blue, billiant blue. It’s really and truly not natural, seriously. Google E133… in fact Google the Southampton 6, it may change how you feel about all sweets, or at least make you check the packet first!
7. What is your favourite flower?
B: Tough one! Tulips are lovely (especially after my trip to the Keukenhof last year), as are violets, and I do love a simple daisy
E: Daliahs! No, wait. Maybe sunflowers…….actualy, can I change my mind? Ranunculus. These are definitely my favourite, this week.
8. Did you have a favourite dressing up outfit as a child (or, indeed, as an adult)?
B: Definitely my Grease outfits – I made up one for both Sandy (in her pink, frilly phase) and Danny (I spent ages cutting out a ‘T Birds’ logo from white sticker paper to attach to my uncle’s old leather jacket!)
E: As a child I was heavily influenced by my Dad’s musical taste, this involved a lot of jazz and an obscene amount of opera. My go to fancy dress outfit was always Carmen. It was only in my teenage years that I was enlightened to the fact that Carmen, my childhood heroine was actually a prostitute. Oh the shame. Dalmations featured heavily too.
9. Zayn or Harry?
B: I genuinely don’t have an opinion on this – so let’s go with neither
E: Who? Seroiusly, I just had to Google them (my god daughter would be so disappointed!)
10. What was your best holiday, and why?
B: Such a hard question! One of the stand outs was a two week road trip around Canada – only some of which I managed to post about – the highlight of which was going dog sledging!
E: All childhood holidays in Menorca win, hands down. Such magical memories
11. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
B:This questionnaire is really highlighting how indecisive I am!  There’s so many places in the UK I’d love to live, let alone thinking about the wider world. Just a few – Bristol, Amsterdam, Montreal, Edinburgh… and Leicester, of course
E: Leicester is home, but I have strong family links in Norwich so this would absolutely be my second choice, I’m a home bird at heart
12. What’s your favourite Christmas tradition?
B: I love practically everything about Christmas (minus the crazy present shopping stress) – I love the morning in particular – when I was a kid I’d shake with excitement about opening my presents from Father Christmas. I’ve calmed down a bit, but I still can’t wait to sit with my family, in our PJs with mugs of tea, and share gifts with each other
E: The best, and perhaps most traumatic thing about Christmas is the build up, so I’d have to say Reading the Night Before Christmas en famille on Christmas Eve. Then more recently, Christmas Hampers
13. Do you have a nickname?
B: Well, B is actually one of my nicknames – despite the fact my full name doesn’t actually begin with B!
E: Jelly

Ice cream

Many of our favourite bloggers seem to have already been nominated – luckily there’s still a few we can target!

So we’d like to nominate Kerry from Kerry Cooks, Fiona from Big Hungry Gnomes, Holly from Holly Loves Cake, Bridget from Thinking of the Days, and Ruth from Clarendon Spark to answer these 11 questions…

1. What’s the best thing about blogging?
2. And the worst?
3. What do you like most about the area you live in?
4. Spring/summer/autumn/winter, which season is your favourite and why?
5. What’s your favourite form of transport?
6. Your top three most-loved pieces of clothing?
7. What was the last thing you watched at the cinema? And theatre?
8. Favourite childhood book?
9. What one piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about starting/just starting a new blog?
10. Now for the important question – whippy or scooped ice-cream?
11. Which flavour?

Do: Look up!

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Sometimes when I’m walking along the street I play a game

It’s really very simple – as I stroll along I make sure my head is lifted up and as I pass by someone else I look at their face and attempt to make eye contact

And if I get it, I smile – and if it’s early in the day, maybe even throw in a ‘good morning’

(For some reason I never quite know what to say post-12pm, ‘hello’ seems a bit awkward and ‘good afternoon’, very formal!)

Sometimes my smile is met with an unfriendly deadpan stare, sometimes people look away awkwardly, sometimes they genuinely look surprised that you’re acknowledging them 

I win the game if I get them to smile back

Try it – you’ll be surprised by how many people walk along staring at their feet – or at their phone

As well as the dangerous possibility of walking into the road, they’re missing so much of the world around them!

And if you do get a friendly response, you’ll be amazed by how much it can brighten your day

On a vaguely related note

The perils of not looking up when you’re taking trendy shoe shots…

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