Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Meringue kisses - Meringue Girls Recipe

This is a picture of pink vanilla mernigue kisses

I was so happy with how these little beauties turned out and they couldn't have been easier to make. I always eat shop bought meringues but they lack that chewy centre so I thought I would make my own. I spent ages searching for the perfect recipe and when I saw a photo of these I knew I had to make them because they were so dainty and pretty.

You only need two ingredients to make them. Unless you want to colour or flavour them. The possibilities are endless, I've seen them in all the colour of the rainbow and with flavours like pistachio, ginger and rose. It was my first time making meringues so I decided to keep it simple and make vanilla flavoured ones with a dash of colour.

This is a how to make meringue guide

Meringue Girls Mixture

Original recipe here
Makes about 30 kisses
150g free-range egg whites (5 medium eggs)
300g caster sugar
  1. Start by lining a large baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Line a deep tray with baking paper and heat 300g caster sugar at 200C until the edges are just beginning to melt. Heating the sugar helps it to dissolve in the egg white more quickly, creating a glossy and more stable mixture. Now, turn the oven down to 100C.
  3. Add egg whites to clean bowl of a free standing mixer (or a bowl and use a hand held like me) At first whisk slowly allowing small stabilising bubbles to form, then increase the speed until the egg whites form medium peaks.
  4. Using a large spoon, add the sugar spoon by spoon while continuing to whisk. It is ready once you have a full bodied, stiff and glossy mixture (5-7 minutes). Add any flavouring at this point.
  5. Turn a disposable piping bag inside out, and use a paintbrush to paint stripes of natural food colouring on the inside. Fill the piping bag ensuring there are no air bubbles, and cut the tip off to the size of a 20p piece. Pipe small kisses onto a lined baking tray.
  6. Bake for an hour and leave to cool fully before pulling away for the tray. If you cover them or pop them in a tub they will last for a few days.

This is a picture of pink mernige kisses on a cake stand

I grated a square of frozen 50-70% cocoa chocolate into my mix for cute speckled kisses. I used a few more squares melted and mixed with cream to make a sauce.

This is a picure of chocolate mernigue kisses

The recipe I used is the Meringue Girls one and they have lots of videos and tutorials online. If you make these yourself I would love to know how you get on.

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Monday, 18 August 2014

Recipe - Portobello mushroom & halloumi burger with homemade chilli jam

I spent most of my weekend in the kitchen, trying out new recipes and really enjoyed making new things and pushing myself. I've done loads of baking and I will be sharing some recipes later in the week but today I'm sharing a recipe for a jam/chutney with more than a little kick. This is something I improvised and came out as more of a chutney than a jam which is what I intended it to be. It makes a good accompaniment to meat or the veggie burger I made on Saturday night.

3 fresh red chillies
2 ripe red peppers
olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g brown sugar
4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

You can double this to make a large jar or add more peppers if you prefer it sweet.

If you want your chutney to last for a while, make sure you have a small sterilized jar ready to go. I just got a jar and filled it with boiling water, emptied it and put the finished jam in.

Place your chillies and peppers  under a hot grill, turning them now and then until blackened. Put the peppers and chillies into a bowl and cover with clingfilm. By the time they're cool enough to handle, you'll be able to peel the skin off easily.

Remove the skin and seeds and chop finely by hand or in a processor.

Heat a saucepan and pour in a splash of olive oil. Add the onions and season. Cook very slowly for about 20 minutes.

Add the chopped peppers and chillies, the sugar and the vinegar to the onions and keep cooking. When the liquid reduces and you're left with a lovely thick sticky chutney, season well to taste.
Either spoon into the sterilized jars and put them in a cool dark place, or keep in the fridge and use right away. In sterilized jars, the chutney should keep for a couple of months.

I used my chutney to add flavour to my portobello mushroom & halloumi burger. I simply cooked the cheese and mushrooms in a griddle pan for around 20 minutes, turning half way through and served them in a soft bun with some rocket. I added some lemon juice and crushed garlic to my mayonnaise with a dash of paprika on the top to dip my chips in. I loved this burger and the chutney had just the right amount of heat for me but I'm not sure Martyn (a committed carnivore) was entirely sold on a meat free burger.

Are you a keen preserver? What should this jam/preserve novice try next?

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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Life Lately - Birthday update

I celebrated my birthday last Tuesday with a lot less fuss that I normally do. Birthdays just aren't as exciting as you get older and I'm not really a fan of big nights out anymore. I followed Hollie's lead and baked my own cake this year (a bit less visually appealing than Hollie's though) so I got exactly what I wanted. I like simple cakes but I'm not a fan of shop bought ones so I made a basic sponge with a cream cheese frosting and a colourful surprise inside.

I was very lucky this year when it comes to gifts and I got a beautiful rose bush from Martyn's sister and Martyn bought me a bike so we can go for rides together and improve our fitness. I've been going to yoga and the gym and I'm hoping a bit of cycling will compliment that.

I had to work on my birthday this year so I tried to do it in style and treated myself to the Boden Nancy dress that I've wanted for ages and paired it with my favourite Mel Heart shoes which I've ordered in the navy blue too. Is having the same pair of shoes in four colours excessive? 

I got to see the premiere of the new Doctor Who episode, the first one to feature Peter Capaldi on Thursday at the premiere in St David's Hall. There was a red carpet and a Q&A with the cast after. It was the effect way to spend a morning for a Whovian like myself. I'm not going to share any spoilers but I did shed a tear at one point and Capaldi was brilliant. Make sure you watch it on the 23rd!

My birthday week was rounded off with a big shindig at my friend Oonagh's parents house in Monmouth. There was a BBQ, home brew, dancing and plenty of cake baked by Oonagh. Oonagh has been away in the Arctic doing a research expedition and I haven't seen her for a long time so it was nice to hang out with her and have lots of my favourite people all in one place.

I hope that you've been having a lovely time too, what have you been up to? Please leave some links so I can have a good snoop at your days out.

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Saturday, 9 August 2014

My 'can't live without' technology

I spend so much time at a computer in work you would think I would want to switch off at the end of the day but I use my laptop and technology in my life for so much more as I'm sure you all do.

I use my computer as a recipe book when cooking in the evening, I'm always on Good Food looking for something new to try out and things to keep my diet varied. I take my laptop to conferences, watch Netflix on it and I spend most of my time on it blogging. I just wouldn't be able to keep up with all my favourite blogs, breaking news or work from home without this device. I love how I'm not tied to one room with my laptop and I love blogging sprawled out on my bed. I saved up to buy my laptop but there is so much choice today and so many are entirely affordable, one of which being the Acer Aspire E 11

I remember my first laptop back in the early 00s and it felt like I was carrying a bag of bricks around college campus and that Acer is razor thin, things have some such a long way...

The most recent item I have acquired that I can't live without is my DAB Radio. I got this on special buy in Aldi fir £35 and it's constantly on in the kitchen whilst I cook and I take it upstairs so I can dance around my bedroom. It's only ever set to two stations: 6Music and Absolute Radio 90s. I ♥ indie and Brit Pop.

I have a love/hate relationship with my HTC One phone, I hate being someone who is always looking at my phone and not engaging so I leave it at home when I head to the gym, leave it in my bag when I'm with friends and I might enforce  no phone in the bedroom rule and buy an alarm clock. Despite all of that I find it incredibly useful for making the most of my time, I catch up on emails, read the news and reply to blog comments during my daily commute to work. I think our mobile phones are something we would all find it very difficult to live without now. 

I LOVE my camera. The Nikon D3200 is an entry-level digital SLR camera, I managed to get it from Very when they had an amazing deal on and saved about £100. It comes on all my day trips and holidays with me and me and my boyfriend have taken some amazing photos on it. I don't think having a fancy camera is essential, iPhone cameras are pretty good and my old Canon click and point had an excellent zoom but for someone who takes as many photos as me I felt like it was worth the investment. 

What items can't you live without?

*Collaborative post

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Monday, 4 August 2014

Summer Style - New Look kimono

 Kimono:c/o  New Look - Dress: ASOS (old) - Backpack: MoonyMood

Lots of people are doing 'Festival Style' posts but I'm not heading to any this Summer *sob* I'll miss you Bestival, but that's not going to stop me from taking inspiration and working festival-like essentials into a weekend friendly look.

My New Look kimono was the perfect lightweight cover up for a walk on a warm summer evening. The walk was a fairly gentle climb uphill but the walkway was shady so this was the perfect top to stay cool but not get chilly on the way back down. I've already got more outfits planned with this beautiful kimono, it's going to look great over bright pastel hues for a chic contrast and perfect for nights out with a black dress and some heels.

If you're wondering where these photos were taken it's Cwm Carn Forest drive. Cwmcarn Forest drive is only a five minute drive from my mums house and I spent a lot of time there as a teenager. You can camp there, fish, use the mountain bike trails and have a BBQ. Martyn took me and Sookie up for a walk and there are stunning seven miles of Forest Drive.This area used to be mined and it has been transformed. It is difficult to imagine that some of the surrounding hillsides were slag heaps with hardly a tree to be seen. The Forestry Commission started to plant trees here in 1922. Today Cwmcarn Forest in the Nantcarn valley is a haven for people and wildlife.

Look at my baby, so beautiful! I know I'm mad but I miss her so much now that I'm not living at home. She loved the drive and comes here often with my brother.

Martyn was looking very handsome in his new top and Vans. You can see a close up of his Jawbreaker tattoo here. Sookie loves Martyn and wont let him have a minutes peace, always wanting him to throw a ball for her or fuss over her.

I hope you're all enjoying your summer and exploring the great outdoors. What are your summer wardrobe essentials?

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