In the Kitchen: Festive Gingerbread Biscuits

Since mid November my work colleagues have been begging me to make them Christmas Gingerbread biscuits. Over the last 5+ years it’s become an office tradition for me to supply the team with snappy gingerbread creations to nibble on through the Christmas weeks. I’m a huge gingerbread lover so I am always more than happy to cook up a big batch and spread the festive year, but I draw the line at making them before the 1st December. It just seems wrong. Of course I will still eat gingerbread during the rest of the year, I just don’t make it.

Anyway, last week I caved and got baking. It just seemed like the perfect time, not only was it the first week of December but it was also my work Christmas party and the only way to recover the day after is to eat sugar. Cue gingerbread biscuits! Let me tell you there were a lot of happy people in the office on Wednesday.

Ingredients:

  • 250g Plain Flour
  • 2tsp Baking Powder
  • 175g Caster Sugar
  • A few drops of Vanilla Essence
  • 1.2 tsp Mixed Spice
  • 2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 100g Clear Honey
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 4tsp Milk
  • 125g softened Butter
  • 125g Ground Almonds

Recipe:

  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
  • Add the sugar, vanilla extract, mixed spice, ginger, honey, egg yolk, milk, butter and ground almonds.
  • Bring the mixture together to form a soft dough, by stirring with a wooden spoon.
  • Use your hands to shape into a ball.
  • On a floured surface roll out the dough so it’s about 5mm thick and cut out biscuits.
  • Place on a lined baking tray and brush with beaten egg white.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes at 180°C or until golden brown.

The above recipe makes over 50 biscuits, which was more than enough to split between two offices and still have some at home for festive snacking.

What about you? Do you have any recipes that you always make this time of year?

Laura xxx

The Book Corner: My favourite wintery reads

It’s no secret that I’m a massive bookworm. Put simply you can’t beat curling up on the sofa and losing yourself in a good book. That couldn’t be truer in the winter when it’s dark by 4pm and the weather is dreadful, you have a legitimate reason not to leave the house, in fact it’s almost compulsory to wrap yourself in a blanket, make a hot drink and while away the afternoon by reading a good book. I’m not that fussy when it comes to books, I’ll read most things but there are certain books that I’m more drawn to when it’s dark outside.

Persuasion. This is my favourite Austen book and probably my favourite classic. Most certainly a must read in Winter.

The Ladybird Classics series. I’ve got an (almost) full set of these Ladybird Classics that are one of my favourite series of books, not least because they remind me of my childhood (Whilst the covers have been updated the story remain the same text as those little books we all remember fondly from childhood) and I love reading one or two on a Sunday afternoon. Some of them are quite short that it doesn’t take long and knowing a story so well already means you can savour the words without having to take days to read the book.

The Chronicles of Narnia. Clearly The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a festive read – with all that snow and frost, but the rest of the series also needs to be read at Christmas too. If you ask me anyway. I haven’t read these books for years so I’m now reading back through them all again and really enjoying it. Next on the list is The Silver Chair, which hopefully I’ll start over the holidays.

Harry Potter. Any book in the Harry Potter series is perfect for an afternoon snuggled on the sofa. After all when all you want to do is treat yourself it needs to be with old friends and a world that’s almost more familiar than your own. Also throw in a book containing a castle, tapestry’s, candle light, homemade jumpers and a festive feast and you know you’ve found the perfect book for winter.

Little Women. This book was one I read loads at Christmas time growing up and then the film came along and firmly cemented it as a Christmas story. After all Christmas is all about family, which is the main message of this book.

Which books are your must-reads in the darkest depths of Winter?

Life Rambles: Festive Inspiration

Oh the wonders of Pinterest! Isn’t it just amazing? Right now I’m pinning lots and lots of festive, Christmas images, all in the name of inspiration. I’m looking for some ideas on how to decorate my flat, as I’m half tempted not to have a tree this year. Honestly it just takes up so much space, and I think if I don’t have space for a real one then why bother? Plus all my decorations are currently at my parents house and while I can get them back, that won’t be happening until the 13th, so it’s not really worth it, especially as I’m away for the festivities this year too.

So yes, I’m brainstorming some other ideas. I’ve included a few of my favourites here, but you can see (much, much) more over on my Pinterest boards.

 

Decorated Twigs / Tree of LightsChristmas Tree Fabric with buntingWhite Twigs & Lights

My main inspiration seems to be twinkling lights, greenery or twigs and natural homemade decorations. One day I will do all of these things.

Twinkling Arches / Washi ReindeerBlurry Lights / Stockings

There’s just so much loveliness, isn’t there? I love this time of year, crunchy snow, roaring fires, festive colours and pretty lights. What’s your Christmas decorating inspiration? Do you have a Pinterest Christmas board?

Laura xxx

 

Smiley Happy Things: November’s Shenanigans

It’s Christmas time, hooray for this magical time of the year! I love it so much and I’m already fully embracing the festivities. But alas, before we can properly celebrate all things red, green and cinnamon smelling we need to pause and think about the wonders that were awesome in November. When thinking about this post and perusing all my Instagram pics I realised that my favourite parts of November revolved around five things: food, treats, friends, family and London explorations. Not a bad list really is it? So let’s look at all the fun shenanigans shall we?

Friends and family

  • -There was a day trip to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which was full of interesting things, geekery, good friends, yummy food and lots of catching up! {You can read more about the Harry Potter joy that was that day here}.
  • -Meals out for family birthdays with old friends. There’s nothing quite like setting the world to rights over four hours of food and drink!
  • -Meals out with old work colleagues – nine of us at one table for the first time in about three years – fun times!
  • -Afternoon tea for the Mumblita’s birthday treat at the Charlotte Street Hotel in Soho, you must all go asap. It’s the best, as you’ll know if you read this post about all the food we ate!
  • -The last weekend of November is fast becoming our annual Christmas weekend with lovely friends. We basically eat all of the things (literally, I think our giant box of Celebrations lasted all of a day…!), watch all of the Christmas films – The Snowman and The Snowdog, Love Actually, Frozen and Harry Potter – exchanged presents and cooked the biggest roast dinner possible. Amazing. This year the gorgeous Bella come along for the shenanigans and she was a very welcome addition – just look at those cheeks!

Food and other treats

  • -There’s been a lot of baking around these parts recently. With loaded blondies, gingerbread, pies, pies and more pies (of the cheesy pastry kind, yummy!) and biscuits galore.
  • -I went to a book event in Piccadilly earlier this month and got to hear one of my favourite authors speak. I just find Jodi Picoult so fascinating and would love, love, love to have a one-on-one conversation with her. She’d be so interesting to natter too.
  • -There’s also been a LOT of coffee going on. In the local Starbucks, for breakfasts on the run, of the red cup variety and of the sachet variety. All of it good. And I could do with a lot more now too!
  • – Splurging on myself in the Harry Potter Studio Tour was pretty awesome! I may have spent a lot but hey I didn’t spend anything the first two times I went there, so that’s got to count for something!
  • -Yummy nights out full of good food – be it meals gossiping over pizza or exploring the Taste of Winter festival and all of the wintry food we could find. Plus Tom’s Kitchen at night, I’ve been for brunch but dinner there is on a whole other level. Yummy!
  • -Oh yeah and then I headed to the Mockingjay – Part 1 premiere. Pretty cool and a major highlight for the month!

London explorations

  • -I never get tired of exploring my home city, there’s always so much to see and do and just when you think you’ve seen it all there are loads more to see and do. November was all about this exploration.
  • -I spent hours walking round this beautiful city searching for Paddington statues, staring at the beautiful Christmas lights and exploring the glorious Southbank
  • -I’ve never noticed the statue at St Pancras before, isn’t it stunning? As is the front of Selfridges this Christmas. I swear it’s calling me to go in… So many pretty lights.
  • -I’m used to seeing the city from ground level but seeing it from above is pretty new to me. It’s been a long while since I was on the Eye after all. Seeing the city from the centre of it, up Centrepoint was pretty special and I spotted so much – The Olympic Park, all the way Oxford Street, the Eye, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and so so much more.
  • -My final favourite part of London this month – Somerset house late at night decorated for Christmas. Just stunning.

So what did you get up to this November and what was your favourite bit?

– Fi xx

p.s, if you’re not following me on Instagram, why not? Get on that asap! Just head this way…

Out and About: Taste of Winter

So I’ve been a bit lax on this blog recently, but life has been so busy and I’ve not had time to type stuff up on here – so sorry about that! I will get better I promise! Anyway, let’s turn back to almost two weeks ago when I headed to Taste of Winter at Tobacco Docks in London. I was lucky enough to win tickets on Erica’s blog, courtesy of the kind folk over at Electrolux, to the first night of the festivities and it was brilliant!

A Christmas tree of meringues = GENIUS!

Something else that’s genius, decorating the tree with chocolate!

Festive cupcakes!

Look at the size of those cakes – amazing!

Before I start banging on about the ALL THE FOOD, can we just take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness that is Tobacco Docks? Having never been there I didn’t know what to expect so I just assumed that it would be like every other exhibition thing, a soulless dingy massive room, with lots of partitions. I could not have been more wrong, well I suppose there were partitions but the partitions and stalls were in these beautiful old brick warehouse building, with gorgeous arches, high ceilings and small hidden rooms tucked away in a warren of a building. The docks have been lovingly and sensitively restored and definitely hark back to the era of their build. It’s a fascinating building, so when you add a bit of Christmas sparkle and cheer and you’ve got yourself one amazing Christmasy exhibition space. Well done Taste of Winter.

And now let’s get down to the important stuff…what did we see, what did we do and, most importantly, what did we eat? Well we eased ourselves in slowly with a wander around upstairs, tasting the cheeses and snapping pics of the cake and of course the obligatory ‘TASTE’ sign photograph. We skipped all the demonstrations because I’m impatient and wanted to get to the actual food, plus I worried I’d be the one person to mess up… After more browsing and tasting we bought our first ‘plates’: the ribs from Barbecoa and a chicken croquettes from another place that I’ve forgotten the name of… And boy were they good, I could have happily spent my remaining ‘crowns’ at those two stalls! Thankfully Lau persuaded me otherwise and we wandered around some more trying the tortilla crisps and umpteen Green and Black tasters before buying truffle mac ‘n cheese from The Ember Yard, a BBQ Pork Belly bun thing from Kurobuta, Ostrich curry from Assado, Pumpkin Donuts from Andina and my personal favourite Barbecoa’s sticky date pudding. Talk about a taste of heaven. It was so delicious.

So there we have it, my first experience of Taste of Winter and it was pretty awesome. Have you ever been, what were your favourite foodie bits to test?

– Fi xx

Out and About: The Harry Potter Studio Tour – The Third Time is a Charm*

On Saturday I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford for the third time in three years and it was AMAZING.

Months and months ago a friend started moaning about marrying a muggle and how, while he would go on the tour with her, visiting with him just wouldn’t be the same as going with true Potterheads. Well after that all the Potter fans around the table were jumping up and down like Hermione with the answer to the question and suggesting a group excursion. As soon as the decision was made we all realised that we wanted to visit at Christmas time and see Hogwarts in the snow – I mean who wouldn’t, right?!

So, the months passed and we pulled up outside lots J and K at Leavesden Studios. Just like the previous two times it was magical and interesting and fun and full of joy and just perfect! Have you been? If you’re a Potterhead like me you’ll love it. If you’re not I’m sure you still will. l found it super interesting to see how special effects, sets and costumes work and look in real life. It’s fascinating I tell you. Now I must warn you if you continue with this post you may indeed see spoilers that may reduce the amazingness of this tour if you one day do visit. Consider yourself warned!

This is just a very very small selection of photos from the day. There’s just so much to see and do as you wander through the tour area. Like I mentioned this was my third visit and I still saw things that I didn’t notice last time; the back window in Dumbledore’s office, old desks from the transfiguration classroom and of course the new dark arts exhibit. If you’re a Potter fan then you must visit.

Laura xx

*So the title of the post is possibly a little bit of a lie as it implies that the first two times I visited the studio tour I was less than impressed, which is so totally not the case. They were both epic! I think I could go every year and still love each visit. Maybe that’s what I’ll do.

In the Kitchen: Cheesy Pastry Apple Pie

A few weeks ago I was intrigued by the lovely Char’s post about an apple pie recipe. I know what you’re thinking, what’s so special about apple pie? After all it’s a standard recipe, especially in the autumn as things are getting cooler and darker. Well the special thing is the pastry on Char’s pie included cheese. Yes, that’s right, cheese pastry on an apple pie. Colour me intrigued. So I mentioned on Twitter or in the blog comments (I forget where) that I just had to give it a whirl myself and lo and behold the lovely people at Pilgrim’s Cheese sent me lovely cheese vouchers so that I could. Talk about kind! I’m never one to miss out on a baking session, especially when cheese is involved, so this week I made my cheese pastry and yumminess ensued.

Before I share what I made can we just remind ourselves of how stupidly easy pastry is to make – I mean you basically bung it all in a bowl, rub it in, add water and you’re done. Why do I always forget this? I always think it’s a hard thing to make, well not anymore! I will definitely remember how easy it is in future – I fear I might be making pastry ALL THE TIME from now on! I wonder what other lovely things I can make? Maybe mini chicken and ham pies, jam tarts (not with cheese though) oh and maybe nutella and banana somethings. Oh yummy, I feel some plans coming together!

So down to the food, to make the most delicious apple pie you will need

For the pastry…

  • 50g butter
  • 75g lard
  • 225g Plain flour
  • 75g grated Pilgrim’s Choice Mature Cheddar Cheese

For the filling…

  • 450g cooking apples – peeled and cored
  • 450g braeburn apples – peeled and cored
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

And all you do is:

  1. Cut the softened butter and lard up into small cubes and pop it in the bowl with the flour.
  2. Rub the flour and butter between your fingers until they form breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the grated cheese and a tbsp or so of cold water and bring the mixture together to form a dough. (See I told you pastry was easy peasy!).
  4. Slice your apples and pop them in your dish
  5. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture
  6. Cover with the pastry, add decoration (Christmas trees are a must at this time of year) and poke a hole in the middle for the steam to get out
  7. Cook on 220 degrees for 10 minutes
  8. Turn down the oven to 190 and cook for a further 40 minutes or until golden brown
  9. Serve with COLD (always cold) custard and enjoy

I can guarantee the pie is scrumptious and adding the cheese to the pastry gives it a real contrast in  flavours. Yummy! I enjoyed the pastry so much that I’m determined to try it on Michelle’s scrumptious sounding steak and ale pie in the future. Surely it can only be delicious?

So tell me, what’s your all time favourite pie filling, what should I try next?

– Fi xx

*Thanks to Pilgrims Choice for the yummy cheese for the recipe. I love cheese!

 

Out and About: Afternoon Tea at The Charlotte Street Hotel

Being thoroughly British means that I absolutely adore a spot of Afternoon Tea. It’s practically an institution in this country and I am always looking for a reason to sample tea from a new place. So when it came to deciding on a birthday treat for our Mum, my sisters and I were quickly in agreement, we just had to go for afternoon tea. Not only would the Mothership enjoy it, but we would too – selfish I know but a couple of hours eating cake and chatting over our teapots? Bliss.

After a hunt around we settled on The Bloomsbury Tea at the Charlotte Street Hotel, just off Tottenham Court Road in London. While it’s not one of the obvious London afternoon teas it was exactly what we were looking for. We planned to be wandering around London for most of the day so we decided that we didn’t want to go anywhere too posh. We wanted to enjoy the tea taking experience without all the pomp and circumstance if you will. You may find this a little odd seeing as we were celebrating a 60th birthday but actually Mum was all for a more relaxed tea too – phew!

Amazing afternoon tea with this trio. #london #afternoontea

A photo posted by @lau_evs on

So now down to the important stuff. What did we eat? Well this was a classic tea menu; sandwiches, scones and cake, but with a twist. Some of the options were just a little more exciting than the usual cucumber sandwiches and Victoria sponge cake.

Sandwiches; Crab & Avocado rolls, Brie and Apple sandwiches, Croque Monsieur, Prawn in a Marie Rose sauce sandwiches 

Scones; fruit and plain with jam and clotted cream

Cakes; Gin and Tonic Granita, Raspberry Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Pie, Bitter Chocolate Ganache, Strawberry Pavlova

As for tea, we went with English Breakfast, Peppermint and Pistachio Iced Mochas. On a side note the scone option was very welcome as some odd members of my family don’t like raisins. Yes, seriously I speak the truth!

 

 

 

Laura xxx

Wishlists: In the Kitchen

The other day our kitchen scales broke. They were the really awesome free-standing kind that are metal with the silver bowl on top. Considering the amount of baking that gets done in the flat it’s a huge nightmare that we can no longer use them. On the plus side it’s meant I can start browsing the awesome kitchen sites that are filled with amazing items that I need in my life. Even though I haven’t quite found the perfect kitchen scales I have somehow found quite a few other bits and pieces…oops!

 

kettle / slate salad servers and bowlheart print glassespink pie dish / spotty mug  / pizza cutter / cake tinpineapple salt and pepper set / smeg fridge cake tin

The theme seems to be monochrome and red with a splash of metallic! I didn’t plan that, but somehow it happened anyway! So Santa, if you’re paying any attention to my corner of the internet please add some of these to my stocking…

Lau xx

 

Clothes Rail: It’s all about the Stripes

I love stripes. The fact that I own three black and white striped dresses and five blue and white striped tops makes that abundantly clear. Also the fact that, despite what’s already in my wardrobe, I still seek out striped tops and dresses whenever i’m in a clothes shop further supports this stripe love. What can I say, there’s something so simple and smart about stripes without having to make any effort whatsoever. I mean seriously what else looks well put together when you pair it with a statement necklace and skinny jeans? Not a lot, that’s for sure. Or correction, not a lot that doesn’t look super boring.

To continue this love affair with stripes I’m always pinning stripey outfits so I have inspiration about what to wear with my stripes. We wouldn’t want the outfit to get too samey would we! So here are some of my current favourite looks.

clockwise from top left: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7

As you can see I’m taking a lot of inspiration from the weather with the inclusion of blazers and plaid scarves that could also be rugs. So cosy right? How do you like to wear your stripey ensemble? What’s your current clothing obsession?

On Pinterest? And not yet following me? Well why not?! Head on over this way for lots of fun and pretty pins.

– Fi x