Crosstown Doughnuts

It's been a LONG time since I did a post like this, focusing solely on the amazingness of one brand, in fact I think the last and only time I ever did something like this is when I spotlighted the work by HAM.

I seemingly spend a lot of my time sampling the foods, meals and products from various London street food vendors - not because they ask me, just because I like trying new things and am hungry. Always hungry. And I love supporting independent business. It definitely helps working in Soho too, where there is an absolute abundance of street food vendors dispersed among Soho's many markets, particularly on Fridays.

Crosstown Doughnuts are an amazing brand selling high-quality, 'gourmet' doughnuts to the London masses. They have three of their own outlets and many stockists across the capital. I'm lucky in the fact that one of their own outlets is on my way to and from work, well-placed in Piccadilly Circus station.

The doughnuts aren't just your average, bog-standard fare. Crosstown's doughnuts are made using sourdough... and I'm pretty sure I could leave the post there and it would convince you to go and find one of their stockists. They also have the most amazing array of flavours; from rocky road to belgian truffle to autumn crumble as well as the humble vanilla glazed. But this isn't ANY vanilla glazed, it's Tongan vanilla glazed. Which just so happens to be my personal favourite.

And I know what you're all thinking, the answer to the big question that's on your mind... on a scale of one to Krispy Kreme, where do Crosstown sit?

My friends, Crosstown knocks the socks off of Krispy Kreme. Not only because they're an independent company, but also because their doughnuts really are that good. The kind of quality you can't really find with mass-produced sweet treats, I'm afraid.

Needless to say a lot of thought and effort has gone into their branding - even the stalls in their Piccadilly branch is in the shape of their doughnut logo. They are just effortlessly cool, or I think they are anyway.

I highly recommend you finding your nearest doughnut stockist - sorry to those reading who don't live in London - because it may (or may not) change your life.

Dark & White Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies

Now there's a mouthful... quite literally.

Now I've made proper cookies, I can't really envisage making anything else, because it was *so* easy, and quite a lot of fun really. I still have a fair amount of salted caramel leftover in the fridge from our Christmas Hampers, so I'm desperately trying to use it up - without throwing it away because that would be an utter waste. On Sunday I couldn't really be bothered to walk to the shop, but knew I had enough ingredients to make something so I looked up salted caramel cookies and came across these

Sally's cookies look absolutely divine, with an actual caramel centre thanks to the rolo inside (ingenious I'm sure you'll agree); they have an element of surprise to them. Because I used a pocket of caramel that wasn't encased in chocolate, mine turned out a little differently, but are still absolutely delicious. In fact we both had two cookies after dinner last night (they're not small) but it was totally instigated by me. I just can't help myself, they are that good. I've even packed one in my bag to have after lunch today at work - I need to stop.

I also decided to use a mix of dark chocolate chunks in the cookies and then pressing white chocolate chunks onto the top after creating the well of caramel. A well of caramel - if that doesn't convince you these cookies are worth it, then I don't know what will.

I used the recipe from Sally's site so you can have a look for it there, but I have included some pictures of how I went about putting caramel in the middle without it getting too messy. I separated the mixture into 15 balls, using 2/3s of each ball for the 'well' then the last third to keep it all together as much as possible by pressing on top. And the best thing about baking cookies is that they take like hardly any time at all in the oven!

Have you ever made any indulgent cookies before? Link me any recipes below - I'm hooked!

A Few From The Lake

A few weekends back Shay and I travelled back to Surrey to celebrate his sister's birthday, starting with a walk round the Virginia Water lake - or more like only half way round - then an amazing late lunch back at home, which included a steak and stilton pie!!! Yes.

I only managed to snap a few photos - there were SO many people walking, with their kiddies and dogs, cycling and running, but then again it was about 12pm on a Sunday afternoon and when I have my camera out I find I spend a lot of my time running to catch up with the people I'm with.

I really want to make it the whole way round sometime, maybe in the summer so watch this space. Until then, here's just a couple of pictures to show you what a lovely place Virginia Water lake is.

They Call Me Mellow Yellow

So here it is, my first ever home made piece of clothing!

I used a vintage Kwik Sew 1750 pattern - at the time I didn't really realise vintage patterns were a thing but I loved the 80s/90s look of the illustrations on the envelope. 

I knew I had to attempt something super simple like a skirt for my first garment as everyone does, but what I didn't take into consideration was the type of material that is suitable for a beginner. I bought this mustard ponti roma jersey from myfabrics for £3 a metre (absolute bargain) - it's quite thick and heavy but I like it. The skirt is perfect for this time of year plus I love the colour. I tried my best not to stretch the fabric whilst sewing which I think I did a fairly good job of, especially for a first try.

I used a wider elastic for the waistband than was suggested for the pattern so took that into consideration when cutting and I like the size of it, but given the chance I would change the waistband to make it not as bulky. 

I love the length (I will hopefully learn to get the camera angle correct to show a truer view) and it feels so cosy when worn with tights. In fact I'm only not wearing tights with it for the purpose of these pictures! I personally think the skirt looks best with a cropped top like the one I'm wearing from Topshop. 

Let me know what you think and if you'd like to see more of these posts, and maybe it'll give me a chance to learn to feel less awkward in front of the camera :)

What's For Lunch Today? Burger Boy | Rupert St Market

If you've been following this series, you'll probably have realised that I've been to pretty much half the stalls on this market now. There's only a few places left to eat at, and then I'll be the ultimate Rupert St Market connoisseur although, I'm not sure how proud of that I am. Fairly I guess.

ANYWAY, after running a couple of errands on my lunch, I decided to swing by the market to see if my beloved Yogiyo had returned... alas, twas not meant to be. But armed with £5.60 in my purse I was determined to find something else from the market instead of ending up at Wasabi (especially now they've changed their Katsu curry bento salad boxes... for the worse and I'll never know why).

I knew I'd struggle with that amount, and didn't really fancy settling for a measly curry wrap - measly in size, but definitely great in taste - and then I saw Burger Boy. Which normally has a queue half way down the street, but as it was nearing the end of the major lunch time rush, it was quieter.

Their prices are definitely on the better side of good value for money on the market, a classic burger costing £5 and a cheese burger with the choice of swiss, blue cheese or jalapeƱo cheese at £5.50. If I had more money I would have gone for the cheese and bacon burger because it looks like heaven in a bun. Still I went for swiss. And as a side note, you can double up your burger for £8 or more depending on the burger type, which i don't think I'd ever do but it's nice to have the option, y'know?

The first thing I love about Burger Boy is the bun. None of your farty brioche here, these are proper burger buns with sesame seeds on top for good measure. The second thing I love is the size of the beef patty - seriously thick, juicy and just lovely, it's clear to see cutting corners is not a priority here. In order to cook the cheese on patties quickly they place a bowl over the patty on the grill - ingenious.  Something I have seen before but am still impressed by, because it works and melts the cheese perfectly.

My only qualm at this point is that when assembling the burgers, they had actually ran out of salad (time was 1:30pm just FYI), bar a few strands of lettuce - I missed out ever so closely on the tomato, the last person to get it was about 3 people ahead in the queue. They had also run out of gherkins; a cheeseburger without gherkins is just upsetting. I do understand that the demand is very high, I've seen the queues for myself, and I also understand the limitations on food preparation having a stall brings, it's just a little disappointing.

Nevertheless, I WILL be returning, 12pm on the dot next week to get the full Burger Boy experience, because everything else about the burger was top notch. And their fries look pretty tasty too (which they had also run out of). I'd like to say thank you to the people at Burger Boy for not being a complete rip off too, which some of the stalls down that market are. I'd happily choose one of your burgers over Byron's any day.

Sewing For Beginners | What I've Learnt

I get an immense sense of satisfaction from doing creative activities like sewing, baking and even taking visits to the ceramic painting cafe in Greenwich. I love the feeling of focusing on something solely for any certain amount of time and not having to think about anything else than what is in front of me. And doing it well - I'm a perfectionist, I can't help it.

I realise I'm yet to share with you some of the things/garments I have made so far... fear not, I've plans to share a couple of bits or maybe just one or two this week, but I thought I'd share a few pearls of wisdom from my own journey into making my own clothes and other handmade wares.

Do Your Research - I spent a long time, but not too long researching into what I would need to get started, the right kind of sewing machine for me and my ability as well as what was in budget. I made myself excited over the prospect of what I might be able to make and set myself goals in my mind of the kind of clothing I'd like to make. I also thought about the practicality of taking up such a hobby... for example where I would be able to sew (our flat isn't the biggest) and where I'd be able to keep all of my fabric and sewing box when it's not in use - to be fair I'm still fine tuning this but a little preparation goes a long way :)

Get The Right Equipment - As mentioned in the last point, I looked at reviews of machines that were in my price range and that would start me off. As we all know, there is no point in paying over the odds to start a hobby that may turn out to not be for you, and if it does end up floating your boat, you can reinvest in better equipment as time goes on. In the end I went for this machine, the reviews were good and was about as much as I expected to pay. And I actually went into store (shock horror, who does that these days?!) to check it out before going ahead, which meant lugging it home on the bus but it was worth it. I was also able to have a look at fabrics and pick up everything else I needed to get going. Superb.

Start Simple - I can remember the projects I made in textiles at secondary school, and at the time not only was I completely uninterested in sewing (mainly because of the teacher) but my efforts were horrendous. I didn't excel, not one bit. So I knew I'd have to start off really simple considering I couldn't even remember how to thread a machine. I bought myself a super simple shopper bag pattern and some lovely fabric (but not too expensive for a first try) from John Lewis and as soon as I got back I got to work on my first creation.

Read The Instructions - The most boring bit of any new project for me. I'm the type of person who likes to rip everything out of the packaging and get going straight away, I've always been like that and I probably always will be. But with something like this, I knew I had to read the instructions first, learn what each part of the machine did and how to set it up correctly in order to get the best out of it. My machine is fairly straight forward to use - a great one for beginners - so didn't take too long, but then there is the matter of deciphering the patterns.

Be Patient - It's safe to say, trying to understand the language in some patterns - particularly for beginners - can be less than helpful, to say the least. But more often than not, common sense prevails and after reading over some sentences almost a dozen times, you'll start to understand. It can be frustrating, but I find it best to try and keep calm (wow sounds like I really enjoy sewing...) and go slowly, because it always works out in the end.

Enjoy It - Probably the most important tip and also the one that could go without saying. With a hobby that requires you to start from scratch and learn a lot of new skills, it can be easy to get bogged down in the technicalities of it all. But I find pushing myself to learn new techniques and constantly taking on new, and more challenging garments, makes it all worth while, giving a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of each project.

I hope anyone who's considering taking up sewing finds this useful, or if you already sew, what did you come up against when you first started?

Franco Manca | East Dulwich

After what was quite frankly, an emotional roller coaster of a week, I was glad to get back home to London on Saturday. It's always a bit of a revelation when you call somewhere that isn't where your parents live, 'home' isn't it? But I stick by it, it's good to be home.

We pretty much chilled out on Saturday night, and then decided to go for a walk to East Dulwich on Sunday morning. Which ended up being just before midday, but you can't have it all can you?! We don't utilise East Dulwich enough really, we live only a 30 minute walk away, which translates to a 10 minute bus ride...! Such a short amount of time to reach all those lovely restaurants, cafes and bars.

Anyway, we took a stroll down Lordship Lane, meandering (yes, meandering) in and out of charity shops, looking for bargains. We stopped outside Franco Manca, as they always seem to be giving away tasters - even on a day as cold as Sunday, it must have been near freezing. So we sampled some of their lovely sourdough bread (I dipped mine in their chilli oil which consequently burned my mouth) and after a bit more walking, we found ourselves making a beeline for sourdough pizza.
It was lunch time, so unsurprisingly the restaurant was packed, mainly with young families - there was an obscene amount of pushchairs outside - but they managed to squeeze us in on a table at the back of the restaurant, a little further away from the hustle and bustle, which was quite nice.

What is instantly apparent about Franco Manca, is that they run a tight and completely unfussy ship. Their menu is simple with only a few pizza options, small and side plates with a small range of locally produced wine and beer. And this ultimately means that they can keep the prices simple too. With all of their pizzas (apart from the specials) ranging between £6 and £7... you can't really go wrong. But what is really amazing is the quality of food, way out-weighs the expectation of the prices. The sourdough bread pizza base is quite frankly untouchable, it is so moreishly fluffy and light, I thought I might be able to only eat half and be able to take the rest home, but I was wrong, I ate every last morsel. 

Shay and I tried to guess what each other was going to pick before ordering, and it's safe to say we either know each other really well, or are completely predictable, and although I'd like to think it's a mix of the two, it's probably more of the latter. I decided to go with the chorizo pizza and Shay went for the anchovy and olive pizza. Both pizzas were absolutely divine, with a rich tomato sauce and enough toppings to not make the pizzas overcrowded. But I think we were both mostly amazed by what amazing value for money the pizzas were.

We both washed our pizzas down with a Portobello Pale Lager which came in about £3.60 - which is about average for any bottled drink in a restaurant, or even on the better value side. The lunch came to £20 overall which I'm still so pleased about. I just don't know where else in London you could find even just a casual lunch at this quality for the same price - if you know please inform me!

If you get a chance to visit a Franco Manca, as there's a number of them dotted around London, I'd recommend you swing by. The value for money is amazing and for an easy, relaxed and maybe even impromptu lunch like ours was, you won't be disappointed.

Just Doing It

And by 'it', I don't mean "it"!

Bit of a different post today, but I've had this idea swirling around my head since the first of the month and I still think it will be relevant, so here goes...

January is very much a time - as we all know - of self-renewal, starting afresh and finding the courage to do things that fall by the wayside at other times of the year. Although I did write a post on my resolutions, to better myself and enjoy myself more, I actually found that the latter part of last year was more of a turning point for me than January has been, or will be yet. In the second half of last year, I finally realised why exercise is actually really bloody amazing, the importance of looking after my body and well-being and picked up a couple of new hobbies to boot. I threw myself in at the deep end and am really glad I did so.

As probably most of you who might be reading this do, I read a lot of blogs. And a few thoughts and sentences I keep coming across recently are around wanting to bettering oneself, whether it's getting fit, trying a new hobby, keeping in contact with people... you get the picture. The words I keep reading are more often than not 'I hope to do', 'I want to do' or 'This will help me to do this'. And although these sentiments are noble, I feel like we've all got a case of the procrastinitis, as I'm certainly guilty of it too.

But we're all intelligent, thinking and functioning people and if you really, and I mean really want to do something - just do it.

Lets not allow the lure of procrastination stop us from getting ahead and starting something new, even if it's just about getting into the right head space, acquiring the right equipment or attaining the required knowledge.

I realised last year that in order for things to happen, you need to make them happen and that's what I'll be continuing to do this year.

Just doing it.

Mele e Pere | Soho

Armed with some Christmas money that had been burning a hole in our pockets for over two weeks, Shay and I ventured to Soho on Saturday night for an indulgent meal out. Because if you can't spend Christmas money on good food, what can you do?

Earlier in the week we had planned to head to a tapas bar, but upon arrival decided to go elsewhere - we were bordering on hangry, and fancied main meals as opposed to sharing small plates. So after a quick stroll around Soho to find another eatery and suitable cuisine, we ended up on the doorstep of Mele e Pere, an Italian trattoria and vermouth bar on Beak St.

Due to working in Soho, Mele e Pere has been on my list of places to try for a good while now, and I'm so glad I finally got the chance - because not having a reservation and looking for a table for two in Soho on a Saturday night is risky business. Nonetheless, we were greeted with open arms by the front of house staff and shown to a table downstairs in the hustle and bustle of the restaurant.

It was barely two seconds before our coats were off that a waiter was over to see if we would like some water for the table, which I liked because it gets it out of the way so you can sit down straight away and worry about the more important stuff, like the food... and the WINE. Oh the wine. Mele e Pere has a good-sized list of unique and interesting wines. Red is the name of the game when it comes to myself and the boy so we settled for a bottle of Pinot Nero after being offered answers to any questions we may have by the wonderful waiting staff - a running theme throughout the night you'll be glad to hear. Upon tasting, the wine was deliciously spicy and still fairly light at the same time but most importantly, at the perfect temperature.

We ordered our starters - we decided to go for three small sharing plates of bread & focaccia with oil, spicy Ascolana olives and deep fried squid with smoked aioli. All three dishes were as delicious as you'd expect, but the star of the show for the both of us was the slices of focaccia - still slightly warm, completely light and fluffy with sun dried tomatoes and olives on the crust. That's not to say that the olives and squid weren't a delight though because, they really really were.

We gobbled up the starters probably quicker than we should have done because of our state of hunger, but had a nice break before our mains arrived. Which is probably something quite hard to get right because it's completely subjective, but I don't like to be rushed at all from one course to the next, like they're willing you out of the restaurant. No, we had a good chance to let our starters go down and sip on some of the lovely wine.

For mains I went with the potato gnocchi with umbrian black truffle and Shay went for the black ink fregola with squid, prawns clams and mussels. Which I definitely would have gone for had I not been lured in by the black truffle. Both dishes were delicious and enjoyed equally with fab portion sizes. We opted to share a mixed leaf & tomato salad as a side, which I ended up eating to balance the creaminess of my dish.

And after finishing our mains, and being thoroughly stuffed... especially me with ALL the carbs, we ordered dessert. Which we had actually both picked out before ordering our starters... :) And we both ended up going for the same dessert, the baked mascarpone cheesecake with wild berried and white chocolate foam - which we were assured upon its arrival to the table in fact wasn't washing up bubbles - although it did resemble fairy suds ever so slightly. Either way, the dessert was absolutely divine, and I could definitely eat baked mascarpone again, and again... and again.

The restaurant itself had a lovely relaxed vibe with a range of different diners, from families with teens to groups of twenty-something friends to old and young couples, all enjoying themselves. As mentioned, the staff were attentive, friendly and relaxed, offering help on choices for wine and food. In fact the waiting staff at Mele e Pere are probably the best I've encountered in a while.

Overall, as I'm sure you can tell, we really enjoyed our evening at Mele e Pere and I wouldn't hesitate to return, perhaps for some nibbles, lunch or even just drinks. If you're looking for somewhere on a whim like we were, I'd recommend a visit.

This Last Week #7

Wowie, look at me and this recurring series, and it's going quite well if I say so myself. As per usual, this will not just cover the last week as there's been lots to talk about.

Life throws you a curveball sometimes, and the last month has not just provided a curveball, it's been a ball with many sides and one that has been particularly hard to catch. Maybe I'll divulge more on this in the future, but for now all I can say is, it's been tough. And not necessarily in a 'the end of life as I know it, things will never be the same again' type way (yep I can be fairly melodramatic sometimes), which I always imagine tough bits of news to be like, and how I might react. But I've felt the pressure in other ways, namely my skin has gone crazy, I've had countless mouth ulcers in really awkward positions and my back muscles are extremely tense. I'm looking forward to starting up my exercise again tonight, in order to relieve some of the tension a bit.

Although the thought of going back to bootcamp after not going for just over a month (with Christmas in between) is enough to give me a mouth ulcer. On Sunday the pain will be very real.


After returning from the Cotswolds, Shay and I made sure to enjoy the last few days at home by relaxing to the full. He spent the majority of his time (and by that I mean all of his time) playing GTA V which was my Christmas present to him - God knows why I agreed to that - which afforded me some precious sewing time.

I had my eye on some gorgeous floral woollen knit fabric from John Lewis at the end of last year, but at £18 a metre, I couldn't quite justify the expenditure... cue the January sales. I picked up 2 metres for half the price and made a dress with it. I need to sew some elastic to the waistband for a better fit to my shape but I'm looking forward to wearing it!

I've been pondering on whether or not to show any of my creations on here, but not sure if anyone would be interested as it might be pretty niche? Let me know if you'd be interested in that.

For New Years, Shay and I had a relatively chilled evening and planned it pretty much down to a tee. I don't have many, if any pictures of the evening because whilst in the Cotswolds I dropped my WATERPROOF phone in some water for all of 2 seconds and the screen lost all touch responsiveness. Great - but on the upside it has been fixed by Sony under the warranty so for that I am grateful. 

I digress. The importance of going out and spending loads of money has kind of lost its magic for NYE so we got in plenty of booze (mainly prosecco) cooked a Beef Wellington - which was absolutely delicious, and lasted about 5 meals for the two of us - then when our food had settled, we popped to our local to meet some friends for a couple of drinks then headed home about 9pm, got really drunk and saw the New Year in with the help of Jools Holland. Perfect.

Despite the *slightly* heavy head the next morning, we managed to make it up and go to watch The Hobbit which was, mind blowing. Not my favourite of the three Hobbit films, but still gripping. I especially loved seeing Billy Connolly as a muck-mouthed, hammer wielding, war-mongering dwarf. What fun.

I went back to work on the Friday and then it was the weekend again - the best work week... ever?! And not much has really happened this week. How boring. BUT as I said I'll be returning to Barry's Bootcamp tonight, then I'm hitting up a Nike Training Club in Victoria Park on Saturday morning - run by Nike Woman and the classes are completely free! Then we're heading to Virginia Water Lake for a mammoth walk on Sunday morning for some family birthday celebrations. So I guess some baking is in order for Saturday afternoon, don't you think?

How have you all been? Hope the transition back to work hasn't been too painful for you all!

Looking Back Over 2014

Just before we get on with looking forward to the coming year and being in the present, I wanted to take a quick look back at some of my favourite posts from 2014 through some of my favourite photos.

Plus, I'm counting the start of my year to be this Friday as that will be my return to Bootcamp and me getting back on the wagon properly... especially as the packet of biscuits on my desk is not helping anyone right now apart from my sweet tooth.

Malaysia Kitchen Supperclub Food52


Looking back at the passed year, it's easy to see that it has been an absolute blinder. I have had the best year yet and am so excited for what this year has is store for me.

In January last year I wrote some belated resolutions that really marked the proper inception of this blog, writing regularly about things that I love doing, creating and mainly eating. I set myself the goal of becoming physically and mentally stronger, which I can safely say I am well on my way to achieving. I have come to realise that exercising isn't about losing weight, and the focus has shifted on to becoming fitter, stronger and pushing myself to improve. I never in a million years thought I could be good at any kind of exercise, and now here I am, talking on my blog about it.

I did also spend a lot of time focusing on me and doing things that make me happy. I baked a lot, I got back into reading books, discovered some pretty cool new music, and took up a new hobby in learning to make my own clothes which I absolutely adore doing.

This year also saw Shay and I venture on our first proper holiday since being together. We also moved in together, which was the best decision we've ever made and hit a half a decade milestone in our relationship. What a year.

I also couldn't complete a roundup without mentioning how proud I am of this online space. It has grown and developed into a place I love sharing snippets of my life on, and has also lead to so many amazing opportunities (with this probably being the absolute highlight, as well as winning a KitchenAid). Last year I met some wonderful people through blogging, which I hope is something that continues on into the coming year. And finally, thank you for every comment, tweet, like and whatever else you lovely lot leave me to read. Reading comments and seeing people engage is my favourite aspect of blogging, every time I get a notification I get so excited - so thank you.

So now for some more resoultions; this year I resolve to:

Challenge myself creatively - I want to become a better baker, better at sewing, and a better blogger. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone to achieve more, especially with sewing and baking and really start to master the skills required to be... well amazing.

Take myself (a bit more) seriously and have confidence in myself - Bear with me... Seeing how far I have come over the last year has been a bit of an eye opener in what I am capable of achieving, so why not take myself and my capabilities a little more seriously in order to become even more successful at the things I love doing?! I still promise to chat absolute nonsense 90% of the time though.

More of a personal one; Save money - This is a tough one, living in London and always having the temptation of meeting someone is so detrimental to saving money, but this year I'm going to make some good headway to put some money aside for a rainy day.

These resolutions go hand-in-hand with all the usuals of constantly attempting to better ourselves - it goes without saying.

I hope you all had a fantastic time over the festive period and saw the New Year in, in style. Here's to a super fantastic year to come!