Sunday, 31 August 2014

A look back at August

Just the like summer weather, August has come to end and I thought this month I'd do a post looking back at the month. I feel like I'm ready now for the autumn to come- nights in, loads of new TV series starting, warm jumpers and the 'September feeling' of the start of a new academic year.

What I've blogged this month
A summer drink, a flourless almond and coconut cake, the Festival of British Eventing, items from Sass and Belle, a swiss roll, chocolate florentines, a cream tea at Dolls House on the Hill and a goat's cheese and fig fougasse.

What I've photographed this month

Poppies at the Tower of London - Mum and I had an afternoon out in London to see this art installation. It is still growing with more and more ceramic poppies being added and it's here until November I think.

I don't always take the time to look at the scenery around me while walking my dog in the local area, so this month I paused to take a few snaps. Unfortunately Saffy has to stick to short walks on pavement at the moment after having an operation, so she won't be seeing these sights for a few more days.

Posts I've loved this month
Having plenty of free time to keep up with my Bloglovin feed, there have been so many posts I've enjoyed this month. This is a selection of ones I've especially loved.
Chocolate Viennese Whirls by The Lovecats Inc
A Beautiful Handmade Wedding by Daisychains and Dreamers

Favourite purchase
Despite starting the month without a bank card due to changing my account (long story!), I actually bought quite a lot this month- including new pajamas, a cosy, berry colour wool jumper from Dorothy Perkins, various make up bits and pieces and of course, my Sass and Belle items. My favourite purchase this month though has to be these Zebra Spotty Mugs from Bombay Duck. This was a new brand for me, but their collection is incredible and I want one of everything pretty please! I discovered Bombay Duck while at the Dolls House on the Hill, but due to being bank-card-less at the time, I couldn't buy anything there and then. Like I said in that post, my sister and I immediately searched for Bombay Duck when we got home and found these adorable zebra mugs. I love zebras, and I love mugs, so this was a match made in heaven. I had to wait a few days before I could order them, but when they arrived we were really excited (we're cool like that. Sorry sis, embarrassing you like this- it's what big sisters are for). We literally couldn't wait to use them, and gave them a wash before boiling the kettle for hot drinks. With beautiful packaging (and posh bubble wrap!) this was an excellent little present for myself! 

Hope you've had a lovely August!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Introducing Saffy

Seeing as she's already snuck into a few photos in my posts, it's only right I introduce Saffy sooner rather than later! 

She's a Jack Russell we adopted from Dogs Trust in 2009 as a three-month old puppy, picked out as the 'lively' one from the litter of girls. The centre named her Sapphire, but she's become Saffy- it suits her cheeky personality better! Her favourite things include swimming, tearing the faces off teddies from the charity shop and eating the leftover chicken after a Sunday roast. 

She's also a bit of a poser and recognises the click of a camera, so I'm never short of photos to look through when I'm away at uni and missing her! I often share the cutest/ funniest ones on twitter and instagram as well, so make sure you're following me to see them.

I did spend a bit of time training Saffy- she's not the brightest dog (just see the video below haha), but she can shake paw and crawl along the floor if tempted with something tasty! We've also attempted a bit of agility at home over some homemade obstacles, and teaching her to find a tennis ball hidden in the house. She's a slow learner for this kind of things, but had no trouble at all learning what 'walkies', 'sausages' and 'squirrels' mean. She also responds to the word 'plane' and I have no idea why...

So, that's Saffy. I'm sure she'll continue to appear in any posts that I write at home. I'd genuinely love to hear about your pets, so feel free to leave a comment- especially if you've got a similar post!



Tuesday, 26 August 2014

RECIPE: GBBO Inspired #3 - Fig and Goat's Cheese Fougasse

This week was bread week in the Bake Off tent. I have to say, I'm usually disappointed when they announce that the following week will be bread themed. I just don't get excited about bread in the same way I do with cakes and biscuits. I never have a craving for a slice of bread like I might do for a slice of cake. And you can't spontaneously decide to just bake a loaf of bread at nine o'clock at night. 

Then there's the problem that bread making just scares me. Kneading techniques, letting it prove for the right amount of time, not burning it... there's just so many things to worry about! If you're following me on twitter, you might have seen me half-seriously suggest that my 'bake' this week would actually just be some extremely simple plain chapatis. Later on I was even considering not bothering to do this week at all, and instead sharing with you a risotto recipe (which I will still be sharing in the future). 

Anyway, despite all my moaning and lack of confidence, I decided I would attempt an interesting bread after all, although I shunned King-of-Bread Mr Hollywood in favour of Sister-of-the-future-Queen Pippa Middleton. I found her recipe for a Proven├žal fig and goat's cheese fougasse in the May 2013 edition of Waitrose Kitchen. I love making fig and goat's cheese salads, so I already know the flavours go well together and it sounded like a bread I might just actually want to eat. And when I did get round to eating it, it was really very tasty! I'm a huge goat's cheese fan (like practically everyone at the University of Bristol if the orders at QED Bistro are anything to go by) and the figs give a really nice sweet, tangy taste to complement the salty, herby bread. It was so tasty I had to make another one the next day as well!

Ingredients for a loaf to serve 4-6
250g strong white bread flour (plus some for dusting)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp quick yeast
1 tbsp olive oil (plus some for greasing the cling film)
1 1/2 tsp herbes de provence
50g soft dried figs
50g hard goat's cheese

Weigh out the flour into a mixing bowl, then add the salt and quick yeast. Mix them all together, then create a well in the centre. Mix 150ml warm water with the olive oil and pour into the well. Mix everything to form a soft dough. It can seem a bit crumbly and dry at first, but don't be tempted to add more liquid- it will all work out fine!

Flour the work surface, then turn out the dough and knead for ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic. I actually kneaded for just a couple of minutes longer because my kneading technique is not all that good, but beware of overkneading. Chanting 'Push, Roll, Fold' in the style of Rosemary Shrager on An Extra Slice is optional...

Once kneaded, lightly oil a bowl and then put the dough in. Leave in a warm part of the kitchen to rise until doubled in size. The recipe said 45-60 minutes, I actually left mine for about 1hr 20 minutes.


And after

Chop the goat's cheese and figs into small pieces. Take the dough out onto the work surface again and knead in the rest of the ingredients, apart from 1/2tsp of the herbs.

Once everything is kneaded in, stretch the dough out to form an oval shape. Mine was probably about 2cm thick. Make a cut down the middle, and then about four either side in to look like a leaf. Line a baking tray with baking parchment, then put the dough on and stretch it out to open up the cuts.

Oil some cling film (I did this by painting it lightly with a pastry brush. I then tried googling it to see if that's right, but all I found was a load of 'don't diet- wrap yourself in cling film!' pages...) and place over the bread. I think this is the alternative to using those great big plastic bags the bakers use- I'd be curious to know what the difference is. The first time around, I left mine to rise for one hour as per the recipe. The second time though, I left it for seven hours in a warm kitchen and it was much better, so if you have the time to leave it that long, then do.

Lightly brush the dough with some more olive oil and sprinkle on the other 1/2tsp of herbes de provence. Pippa's recipe then says put in a pre-heated oven at 200°c, bake for 15 minutes on the parchment and baking tray, then for 5 minutes directly on the oven shelf. I was using a slightly hyperactive fan oven, so firstly did it at 180°c for 12 and 2 minutes, then repeated the next day at 170°c for more like the 15 and 5 minutes which turned out perfectly. Don't be afraid to adjust recipe instructions to suit your oven.

Remove from the oven and marvel at the fact you've made something that vaguely resembles the picture in the magazine, but with slightly more burnt figs...(or you could just not burn them I guess).

Aww the fig made a love heart on my bread <3

I left it to cool before tearing off a chunk to try. And it was good! Just the right combination of salty-sweet-herby-cheesy-goodness. I just ate this chunk plain, but it would probably go well with a soft goat's cheese, or dipped in olive oil, or possibly even with some sort of a chutney. I was wondering whether Pippa's ever made this for William and Catherine- could this be a bread fit for royalty?!

So the moral of this story is- bread is not scary! It did still take probably the best part of three and half hours to make, so I'm not really in a hurry to do it again unless I dig out the bread machine and let that do some of the hard work, but I felt like the time I put in was worth it. I'm just relieved that next week is desserts, putting me right back in my comfort zone!

What do you think? Did you try out any bread recipes this week? I would love to hear from you!



Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sewing Scraps: Bunting Cushion Cover

I had quite a few scraps of leftover fabric sitting on top of my wardrobe just waiting to be turned into something. I've already written about the lavender bag I made, and now I'm sharing this bunting cushion cover. This was a step up from the lavender bag, but is still nice and simple. Like I said before, I'm not much good at sewing, so easy projects are definitely my kind of thing. When all my friends took GCSE textiles and stitched dresses and all sorts of interesting things, I took art- pencils are far less scary than sewing machines! 

The actual cover was an old one that had been in our loft for years, and seeing as no one else wanted it, I thought I'd give it a new lease of life with some appliqued bunting. At the moment it's in my room in London, but if I was to take it back to Bristol, it would match the real bunting hanging on my wall!

 I began by cutting out a template to make the flags, making it big enough to be able to hem round the edges of each one. I made eight flags altogether. (Ten if you include the ones that went wrong!)

Yeah... those are paper scissors. I was swapping between those (because I can actually see what I'm doing with them) and a pair of sharp dressmaking scissors (because they actually the cut the fabric). Oh the struggles of lefthandedness... (I really ought to buy lefthanded fabric scissors now I think about it). 


Saffy helpfully guarding the cushion cover... or claiming it for herself?!

I hemmed some of the flags by hand, and some with the sewing machine. What can I say? I like to mix things up! (Or, more honestly, I still don't really know how to thread the machine and had to wait for my mum to help me. Like all twenty-one year olds, right. Right?!)

Not the neatest sewing, but it looks fine from a distance!

I pinned the flags to a length of ribbon slightly longer than the width of the cushion cover, and then sewed them on. I actually wanted ribbon twice this thickness, but bought the wrong one in the shop...

I then sewed the mini bunting onto the cushion cover. Not the easiest feat with a ready-made cover because this meant having to sew with one hand inside the cover. If you were making your own, you'd be able to stitch the bunting on before sewing up the cover.

She thought she was helping by holding the flags down 

 As modelled by Saffy... (I did tell her to look happier. She wanted to do a moody shot though)

And that's really all there was to it. I've still got a few little scraps of fabric left, so if anyone has suggestions leave them as a comment!


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