27 Sep 2013

Red Onion & Balsamic Focaccia Bread


"massively making the most of your mums' fancy kitchen equipment"

A couple of weeks ago, while summer was still in full swing and before the big move, I had the sudden realisation that I should probably be taking every opportunity to bake some yummy things in my parents' kitchen. It is nice and clean and full of available ingredients and lots of baking equipment (whilst I promise I do try to keep my own kitchenette here clean at least, I've not yet come across the appropriate moment in life to purchase, say, measuring spoons, a mixer, or a variety of tins/trays. That would be to accept adulthood) so I set about making a couple of favourite recipes. Namely - bread! Italian bread, focaccia, with lots of olive oil and caramelised onions on top. It's a classic Mary Berry (Maz Bez) recipe *bow down*.

For the bread:
 400g strong white flour
100g semolina
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 level teaspoon salt
7g dried yeast
300ml warm water

Measure all the bread ingredients into a bowl and mix (either by hand or with a dough hook in a mixer if you, like me, are lazy/besotted with a shiny Artisan minx) until you have a sticky but smooth dough. Knead for 5 minutes, before popping in an oiled bowl and covering with clingfilm. Leave to double in size (about one and a half hours).

 For the topping:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large sliced red onions
1 and a half teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 level teaspoon sugar
1 level teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
a sprinkle of sea salt

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the chopped onions and stir fry for a few minutes over a high heat. They look so pretty there glistening in the oil, don't they? Then turn the heat down, cover with a lid, and cook slowly until the onions are soft.

 Once your onions are cooked (and smelling divine) turn the heat back up and add the vinegar and sugar. Stir fry until it goes all brown and caramel like. At this point I realised we had approximately zero thyme in the house, not even dried, so I grabbed a handful of basil which worked just as well since we were eating this with Italian food anyway. Chop/rip up and chuck in your herbs (I'd forgotten I threw in some dried chives too, in case this wasn't onion-y enough...), plus a little salt, and leave to cool.

By this point your dough will have reached that gorgeous pilowy-soft stage. Unfortunately you must now pummel it a little. Knock it back by hand for about 5 minutes, before rolling it into a rectangle and popping it into your lined baking tray (about 16in x 11in) or - as I preferred - skip the rolling out and just smush it in there. It's rustic, a'ight? Spread the onion mixture over the top of the dough and - this is where breathtaking patience comes in - you must now cover it again and leave for another 30 minutes. It's a faff yes, but it's worth it. Because after you put it in the oven (200 degrees for about 25 minutes please and thankyou) when it comes out it looks like this!

Mine poofed up abit more than I'd planned, maybe I didn't put quite enough oil in there, but let me tell you this is the softest, tastiest tear-n-share bread. It makes the whole kitchen smell like you've TARDIS-ed it over to the Mediterranean, and is amazing with some cold wine and salty olives.

Next time I post a baking blog it will look a lil different being from the kitchen of my student pad!


PS I want to follow more baking blogs! So do please leave me yours in the comments! Thank you beauts.

21 Sep 2013

the MA diaries

part one

OK so I haven't actually started yet, technically, in that enrolment and induction is next week. That's when the nitty gritty starts. However what I have done is moved up to Sheffield, to the first place I've ever lived in totally alone (no housemates? no parents? then WHO WILL FORCE ME TO DO CHORES?) and got myself an actual paid part time job. I don't know how this all happened either, someone has obviously made a terrible mistake

But I was thinking today, as I went about my adult life doing adult things like an adult, about this time three years ago. I was a baby faced little wisp of a thing, who had never left home before, I'd been dropped off in a scary city down South that I didn't know, to find that my allocated flat was as yet completely empty. I was too timid to even go and explore so for the first week I ate only what I could buy from the corner shop I could literally see from my halls window. I was miserable, but worst of all I was doing nothing about it because I was too terrified/shy/paralysed with fear...young, basically. (Thankfully I ended up loving uni, having a whale of a time in Liquid/Popworld, with hilarious friends, and that's probably where I did all this mystical growing up!).

Nowadays, moving to a whole new city again excites me rather than scares me! Sure adults still get nervous about things. I feel old - but in a good way. Capable. Like I will deal with whatever needs dealing with. Come at me, life, I'm ready for you.


Party Like Jay Gatsby


"an exploration of Bourton-on-the-Water"

It's a weird old thing, being from the Midlands. Especially when you go to university and the North vs South wars start, and everyone tells you "the Midlands doesn't exist!" "Pick a side!" "Do you have curry sauce on your chips or gravy?!" etc ...to the Northerners you are Southern and vice versa.

Yet that fierce loyalty to your home town / city / region so prevalent in the extremes of North and South doesn't seem to exist, really, in the middle bits. Cos we're kind of equidistant to everywhere. Wales? Two hours ish. North? Two hours ish. South? Two...you get me. Anyway, I am a homebody, always have been. I might not be chanting "Worcester 'Til I Die", but I do feel privileged and (whisper it) a little proud to be from a county which is so full of countryside and natural beauty, and in such close proximity to other pretty places. One of the most beautiful, and one of my personal favourites, the Cotswolds

The Cotswold Hills are in Southwestern and Central Western England, the district being in Gloucestershire (don't worry I'm not going to try claiming that's in the midlands!) but beautiful towns made of Cotswold stone stretch right into surrounding counties. Basically, it's very charming.

As part of an attempt to explore the places closer to home this summer, on a warm day this July my famalam and I hopped over to Bourton-on-the-Water. I have been to a few Cotswold towns, and this was by far the most tourist-orientated I've seen. But its sometimes fun to be a total tourist so close to home!
It has a model village. This, apparently, is famous. I googled it and found that an Oasis video was shot there. I don't think this is why it's famous, but it was an interesting fact to me! It's in the back of an old pub, and to be fair was an amusing 45 minute excursion - maybe that is because I was with my ridiculous family and the larking about possibilities in a model village are almost infinite. "You wanna be a big cop in a small town?" etc...

There are other tourist attractions there, but we plumped for here (this is what happens when boys are in charge) - the Motor Museum. Which actually turned out to be, if nothing else, a pretty nifty photo op for a fan of vintage everything.

 I was as besotted with the floor-to-cieling (literally) old tin advertisements as I was with the cars! (Although the cars were pretty stunning. I wanted to do a Daisy Buchanan and speed off in one wearing something beautiful and beaded. The whole museum was obviously very well cared for.)

It is also the home of Brum! Actual Brum! Nineties kids will be with me on this.
There were also some pretty nifty props hanging around the place...

 We made the most of the endless selection of teashops and bakeries, before heading home. It's a very pretty place even if a little tourist-trap-y... the river runs right through the village centre so you have to walk over lots of footbridges to get to the shops on either side! I'll be making the effort to go discover more gems like this (although admittedly this may not be so much fun in the depths of winter!)

Have you discovered any close-to-home treasures recently? 

ps. found this, nearly died of laughter and cuteness 

18 Sep 2013



"seasonal excuses for self-indulgence"

I've been wondering if we have skipped Autumn all together and are headed full-pelt for Winter this year? It is, in fact, September - the leaves are falling, the jackets are appearing, and we are once again allowed to wrap up in cosy knitwear and be a little more relaxed with our leg-shaving duties (awh, come on, don't lie to me ladies). Putting clothing reasons aside (although that is particularly difficult for me to do, since plaid shirts and rich red lipsticks are practically my raison d'etre), here are some of the best things about this time of year.

Autumn is fire-smoke in the air and sticky-smokey food, maple syrup, train trips through golden countryside, chilli flakes, and fluffy socks. Autumn is chai lattes, sweet and spicy and filling your nose with that cinnamon scent, and the bubbling joy caused by Starbucks releasing their red cups. All the good TV series return, the heavy stuff, the ones you can get lost in (I'm lookin' at'chu Homeland), the period dramas. But also it suddenly feels acceptable, nay, obligatory, to rewatch old favouritesGossip Girl (even though you know what happens) and of course My So Called Life (Angela Chase & Jordan Catalano before they were Carrie Matheson and rock god Jared Leto, and school corridors, and all that FLANNEL. I mean, it literally is autumn in a show). It feels acceptable to cook casserole and stew with herby dumplings and bake crusty bread (not that summer holds me back on the baked goods front, but its definately ok now). I want to stomp around in lace up boots and dare the drizzle to do its best. I want to listen to Tom Odell. It's the time of year dedicated to new starts - if, like me, you've moved away to study (again) this seems sharper than ever before. But think of the fresh, lined notebooks you loved at school, as yet undented by biro, and watch the nights fade in, as summer fades away. 

 My make-at-home chai latte of choice, for when the pennies won't stretch to a fancy takeout. Somehow tastes even better in my own mug (adorable Emma Bridgewater beagle mug kindly supplied by Alice). Bobbing in the background, I've already brought autumn to my flat with some dark Blackcurrant jam, and a Next Home reed diffuser in 'New York', a housewarming present from my mama. It smells divine.


12 Sep 2013

Trashy Can Be More Fun Than Classy


"She Just Bein' Miley"

I know she's everything we hate about hyper sexualisation of women and controlled media image, and I know we all feel the same way about her tongue (girl, put it away), but then every so often she wears something amazing like this ugly yet brilliant bejewelled 'Beverly Hills' acid wash Tony Alamo denim, and I can't help feeling she's been pulling some self-referential, heavily ironic, society commentary stunt all along.
Or, like, maybe I just really like Miley's jacket.


9 Sep 2013

Sing the old Alma Mater, & think of how things used to be


'notes on headscarf appreciation.'

 I love headscarves. Since I discovered vintage shops at about 16 years old, I was always drawn to the scarves. Beautiful printed squares of silky fabric, ready to granny-up any outfit you please.  I used to throw them round my neck whilst wearing plain little dresses, but I always admired girls who neatly tied them around their heads, in rockabilly fashion. Recently, it's been my go-to style (not to mention a staple at festivals, it covers up a multitude of bad hair day sins). Not too 'out there', subtle enough to wear with your skinnies. Rifling through big baskets of scarfs at vintage shops to hunt out the prettiest one is still a pleasure, but I'm not averse to a high street scarf for an on trend print too.

Left to Right: lipstick print scarf - H&M, black/brown/hot pink border scarf - Christmas Vintage Fair in Worcester some years back, black & white bandana - Amazon here, brown paisley scarf - Primark, cream/pastel pink/pastel blue paisley scarf - Cow Vintage Sheffield, navy blue/ditsy floral scarf - Cow Vintage Sheffield.

The next question is how to fold and tie it? I struggled with a few messy guesstimates myself before I discovered this tutorial by the original youtube beauty guru Kandee Johnson (probably the first blogger I ever discovered!). 

headscarf folding

 Below are some of my favourite scarf-tying laydeez, including the inspirational Paloma Faith, Audrey Hepburn, Rosie Riveter and Her Maj.