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The Emperor's New Clothes & Looking Forward

On Tuesday, Shay and I went to see the first showing of the new documentary by Russell Brand & Michael Winterbottom, The Emperor's New Clothes.



If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen my support for Russell Brand and his youtube channel The Trews, because quite simply I think it is brilliant. On Saturdays and Sundays Shay and I catch up on the previous week's trews, almost like a ritual.

Anyway, about the documentary. I don't want to give away too much because I really think every single person should go and see it, because everything in this documentary is relevant to our lives in Britain. The documentary isn't preachy or depressing, in fact quite far from it, it's enlightening and inspiring and gave both of us a lot to think about.

The best part about the documentary is that it's not all serious, there were parts where I was genuinely laughing, almost belly-laughing, and so was the rest of the packed cinema.

Goals

There's a couple of things I have decided on after watching the documentary that I'm now going to live by; one being that I'm no longer going to be shopping at Topshop. Phillip Green, the owner of Topshop is a British citizen, and yet doesn't pay any taxes here because he's a greedy bastard and his millions clearly aren't enough for him. So there's that.

I'm also going to make a conscious decision to research into companies that offer zero hours contracts to their employees and avoid shopping there. I know that's quite a bold claim to make but I just think it's wrong.

Moving forward

After going to a Trew Musings event in March, I came away feeling like I wanted to help change things but never really made any headway with putting it into practice. One thing that Russell said though (first name terms... lol) has stuck with me, and in order to make change we don't have to go all out, but instead take a few things you feel passionate about and 'get lairy about them'.

So this is me getting lairy #thingscanchange

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Hello! The sun is shining and it's a brand new week, hooray for that.

As promised in my last post, here is the post on my homemade strawberry jam.

I've veered away from making jams previously, apart from marmalade but it's not really a jam, is it? Purely because I thought they were an utter ball-ache to do. Oh how wrong I was, in fact I'm struggling to up the word count on this post because I know when I explain how easy it was to make this jam, the post will be over.

My venture into jam-making was very spur of the moment when I decided on making the Victoria sponge, and after perusing a few recipes which I decided to scale down it didn't seem so hard and scary.

All you need for this jam is equal measures of strawberries (washed, prepared and chopped up) and jam sugar (not to be mistaken with preserving sugar) and then a sprinkling of lemon juice depending on how much you're making - just for reference I used 300g of strawberries and 300g of sugar and about 20ml of lemon juice (from the bottle). How easy is that? And all you do is basically bung it all in a pan, heat it up on a low heat until the sugar dissolves and then boil it for 4 mins until it's at the right consistency then let it cool. I mean it's hardly even worth writing a blog post about...

My proportions made one jar of jam plus just the perfect amount for my cake, so now I have a jar of homemade strawberry jam in the fridge, just waiting for me to make scones or something :)

Have you ever made jam before? Is all jam this easy to make? As you can tell, my mind is still blown!



Victoria

Happy Friday!

Today I have pictures of a cake - there's a surprise! But a glorious one, if I say so myself. 

When I first started baking a few years ago, I remember attempting a Victoria Sponge and to be quite honest, attempting and failing. Miserably. In fact the words, 'flat' and 'biscuit-like' come to mind, it was very frustrating. I hadn't actually tried it since, but a few years on and I'm a lot more confident in my skills and ability so here we are, a lovely well-risen sponge with a vanilla 'cream' (I prefer using elmlea) and a homemade strawberry jam. Oh yes.

I've got a separate post planned for the jam, but it was so unbelievably easy to do that now I want to make all the jams. All of them.

This cake wasn't for any particular occasion, just a bake for baking's sake, and it was SUPER sunny last weekend and when I saw those strawberries in the supermarket, I just had to snap them up. Victoria sponge is a very spring/summer cake, the traditional British summer-time, afternoon tea, all-round winner, wouldn't you agree?









Gems from Joules

I don't necessarily consider myself a fashion follower, but I certainly have 'a style'. More often than not, it's jeans and a cami with either boots or flats (flats always from New Look), and my style varies from that anchoring point really.

My wardrobe consists of a mix of charity shop finds, vintage shop wins mixed with pieces from the high street, mainly Urban Outfitters, Topshop and  River Island, with the odd deviance to New Look for price. So when I was offered to try a few bits from Joules to show on this here blog, I was initially dubious. My though process went like this: 'Joules is for... country folk.... it doesn't fit in with my style, whatever my style is'. But after a gander on their site, I was pleasantly surprised. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to start rocking a gilet with my chelsea boots and skinnies but what I found was, despite the mainly distinct look of Joules clothing, a lot of it is really quite transferrable to different looks and styles depending on how you wear it.

Challenge set, I picked out three different items for different occasions. So hands up who's ready for some awkward posing....    







And that concludes this post on how NOT to pose for outfit photos...

Only joking. I am in love with these clothes, the first thing I noticed upon receiving the trousers, dress and top was the amazing quality. These clothes are well made and won't fall apart or fade after two washes, so even though Joules clothes can be pricey, I'd very much say they're worth the investment.

I actually ordered a size up in the navy snake print trousers, after perusing their measurements online, I knew a pair of 12s would not have fit me well round my Eastern European hips and thighs... this is an issue I encounter quite frequently and therefore have to compromise on fit round the waist band (boo-ya small waist). However, it's nothing that a belt or even a slight alteration (hello sewing machine) can't fix. They're comfy and perfectly smart enough for work, heels or no heels, as well as being easy to wash (so practical, me) and iron !

My favourite item is absolutely the nautical inspired linen dress. I actually wore this on Easter Monday, me and Shay took a trip to Greenwich as it was hot hot hot out. I felt so comfortable and cool I cannot wait to wear this more often. In fact this dress is TOTALLY 'my style' and I think looks great with those pink pumps from New Look (last year). Again, after looking at their online measurements I decided to go a size up with a size 12, purely down to the fit on my hips. Whatever, I love this dress.

Last but not least, this amazingly comfy long-sleeve jersey top. In the link URL I've just noticed it's in the nightwear section... lol?! This is totes wearable in the daytime, and I loved wearing it on the weekend just doing odd jobs round the house and down to the supermarket. I paired the top, which I got in a size 12, with my Topshop Mom jeans (again, big thigh issues) for a super casual weekend vibe.

As mentioned, I was sent these clothes to feature but have genuinely fallen head over heels with each item, especially the dress *heart eye emoji*. I love coming across and being surprised by brands and shops that I normally wouldn't come across due to being set in my own ways. 

Have you ever been totally be surprised by the offerings of a particular shop?

Chilli & Pesto Salmon, New Potato and Boiled Egg Salad

How utterly glorious was the weather yesterday?


I am undoubtedly a sun-chaser. I can't get enough of it, but aside from the sun rearing it's long-lost self from behind the clouds, there's one other aspect of Spring and Summer I really love and its salads.

I'm not talking side-salads, or a few leaves that barely promise to fill you up, I'm on about salads with loads of ingredients that allow you to get creative (and use up what you have left over in the fridge) - so when Florette got in touch to see if I could create a salad recipe for them, well I was all over it.

Last week we had salmon fillets for dinner which I had added a chilli and pesto slathering to before cooking. There were two fillets leftover in the fridge which were screaming out to be used in the salad. We also had new potatoes and asparagus to use up, which all went together nicely.



What You Need:
Salad leaves - I used Florette's Sweet & Crispy salad
Cucumber
Baby plum tomatoes
Black olives
Spring onion
New potatoes - about 2-3 per person
1 egg per person
Asparagus - about 4-5 stems per person
2 Salmon fillet
1 small red chilli
Basil pesto

What You Need To Do:
Fill a pan of boiling water and bring to the boil
Chop the chilli and mix in a small bowl with a couple of teaspoons of the pesto 
Spread the paste evenly over the salmon fillets, wrap up in a foil parcel and bake in the oven on 170c (fan oven) for about 20 mins
Chop your potatoes in half and add to the boiling water and let cook for 20 mins or until soft
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, place on a baking tray, spray with low cal oil and season ready for grilling
Prepare your salad so chop your cucumber tomatoes and spring onion, rinse your olives (if briney like mine were) and lay on your salad leaves
When you're about 7 mins from the end of your salmon/potatoes being done, turn on your grill to a low/medium heat for the asparagus, keep an eye on it, they shouldn't take longer than 7 mins
Get a small pan of boiling water on the go and boil your egg for 5 minutes (for soft boiled)
When your potatoes, salmon, egg and asparagus are done turn them all off, drain the potatoes, add a small knob of butter, season and toss in their pan; remove the skin from the salmon and flake it up with a fork; carefully crack the egg shell and peel (have a bowl of cold water ready as the egg will be hot hot hot) and add all these elements to your salad
Dress according to taste - we used an Italian dressing from Sainsbury's !

Serve & Enjoy!

Little Bull Kitchen @ The Urban Bar | Whitechapel, London

If you've ever been to Whitechapel, it's probable you've walked passed or at least looked at The Urban Bar directly. How do I know? Because it's slap-bang right opposite the entrance to the station.

The Urban Bar is admittedly, a pub that is very close to my heart. My friends have worked there, still work there, have lived upstairs, played gigs there, held parties and charity events... long story short, I've had more hangovers from this place than I'd definitely care to admit. So I was absolutely overjoyed when I found out they were undergoing a refurbishment, including revamping the menu and food.

The Little Bull Kitchen have taken up residency at the Urban Bar and have been operating in the pub for a good few months now. Seeing as I'd heard nothing but rave reviews from some of my dearest pals, I knew a visit was in order. So after work on Thursday, Shay and I welcomed in the Easter weekend by heading down for a few pints after work and sampling the new menu.

The main offering on the menu is the burgers, oh the burgers. But there is also a range of super tasty looking mains with an array of sides, and on Sundays they offer up a roast dinner - which I totes can't wait to try. But to accompany our pints, Shay and I both opted for a burger each which are served in *homemade* *brioche buns* *yes*. 

We went tactical and ordered two that we both liked the look of and shared, a 'bravas burger' and the 'firebrand'. We also got a side of Skinny Fries and Bravas Fries which we definitely over ordered on; one portion of fries is more than enough for two very hungry people. Although you can't go wrong with either fries, the Bravas fries really hit the spot with a sour cream and smoked paprika infused 'bravas' sauce on top - I won't ever hesitate to order these again. And I'm pretty sure I saw someone walk past our table, see the fries, dribble and order some of their own.

I honestly think that the burgers can rival that of MEATMission and in Shay's words 'kicks the shit out of GBK'. The sweet and smokiness of the bravas burger was beautiful, especially alongside the medium-rare cooked burger patty and fluffy bun. A true winning burger, but only topped by the firebrand, again boasting a medium-rare patty (medium-rare comes as standard) with chargrilled jalapeƱos. They give the burger a real kick but not like anyway I've had before - there's something special about this but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Oh yeah, and did I mentioned that all of their burgers come with bacon and cheese as standard? Heck yes.

The best bit about eating at the Urban Bar, is that you get to wash down your meal with your favourite pint in a chilled and relaxed pub environment, and I guess the fact that the burgers won't set you back more than £8, which in comparison to the top burger joints in London is a snip because Little Bull could really be compared against them.

I honestly won't be surprised if the Little Bull Kitchen puts the Urban Bar on the burger joint map of London, and we all know how London loves a burger. Just refer to the evidence in the photos below, then let me know where the burgers sit on your scale of 1 to best burger.





Pork Bibimbap with Crispy Seaweed Kale

Kale really is the lady in the spotlight at the moment isn't it? Like it's super food predecessors, blueberries, pomegranate, spinach, coconut (to name just a few), there's a long list of reasons why we should be eating kale, like, all the time right?!

So naturally any chance to include it in our day to day lives is a winner, but I'll be honest, I'm not a huge fan of just simply boiling it. Bleurgh. But luckily, I've got an alternative to serving kale that you can use in a whole host of ways. My favourite is using it as a replacement for crispy seaweed wherever it is called for in Asian style dishes, because seaweed isn't the easiest thing to get a hold of in reality. Or at least I've never come across it in the supermarkets.

In a similar vein to this post, my seaweed-alternative makes full use of the grill. Love the grill. And it really is as simple as placing the kale on a baking sheet, spraying with a little oil, seasoning and putting under the heat. You have to keep an eye on kale under the grill as it tends to be a quick burner this way, but a minute-or-two under a medium grill heat should to the trick. 

The outcome is a light and crispy leaf that melts in the mouth. In the pictures I've used it on a pork bibimbap, the recipe for which I found here, but have amended after a few tries to my own taste. I particularly love the substitution of beef for pork.

How do you serve kale best? I'd love to know of any other ingenious and interesting ways of serving up these greens.





Valerie's Afternoon Tea

Did you know Patisserie Valerie does Afternoon Tea? Neither did I, but as a general lover of cake this is only good news. 

Patisserie Valerie is a firm favourite with my family, it's a treat but a very approachable treat, not too expensive but still good quality. I've previously had lunch at one of their cafes - scrambled egg and bacon on toast with a vat of tea, and the bacon was sooooo crispy (my favourite). So when I was asked if I'd like to attend an evening preview of their new afternoon tea offering in Soho, I was sold. I truly believe that making decisions to have cake for breakfast, lunch or dinner is what being an adult is all about. 

The tea costs £25 for two people and for an extra £5 you can have a glass of prosecco each... which I actually think is fantastic value. Considering how broad the selection of teas is, how wonderful everything looks and tastes and how full I was at the end, £12.50 or £15 per person is one to take a mental note of. In fact it's a shame I didn't know about this sooner as I definitely know of a certain mother of mine who has a soft spot for Patisserie Valerie and probably would have really enjoyed this for a Mother's Day treat. But I guess it just means we'll have to go and try it another time...

So what's on the menu? To start with there's the selection of teas, I was safe and went for the english breakfast because sometimes there's just nothing more comforting. As with all classic afternoon teas there's a selection of savouries, then scones then your sweets. My favourite of the savouries has to be the chicken & pesto sandwiches as well as the mini quiches, but all of the sandwiches were classics and delicious. The scones were beautifully fresh fruit scones accompanied by clotted cream and an individual pot of raspberry jam, which if I'd have had room I would have eaten many more of. Then the sweets, there was a range from mousse cake to victoria sponge to a mini eclair. My favourite was probably the vicky sponge, but again, all absolutely to die for. If your tastebuds are tingling like mine now, you can read the full menu here

The Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea isn't available in all of their cafes but you can find a full list of locations here too.

I've now been lucky enough to have a fair few afternoon teas over the years and I honestly think for the accessibility, value for money and quality of food in a relaxed atmosphere, you can't really go wrong with Valerie's Afternoon Tea.



Poached Egg & Grilled Asparagus

The fact that we are coming up to asparagus season has been playing on my mind. I like to try and eat as seasonally as possible but there's one veg that has really wormed its way onto my agenda for good, and it's asparagus.

Whilst I was binging on Pretty Little Liars at the back end of last week, whilst sewing, eating biscuits and drinking loads of tea, I managed to make time for lunch. The day I had this, I actually went for a mammoth 5.2 mile run in the morning so this was a really lovely post-workout snack, partnered with gallons of water.

I only ever do asparagus one way, and that's grilled. It's literally the easiest thing to leave on a low heat whilst you focus on other elements of the dish, in this case making sure the eggs are poached to perfection. As a side note, the other egg was perfectly gooey, the one I cut was a little hard but still a good amount of gooey yolk there.

This dish is perfectly light for spring, in fact I wish I worked from home every day to be able to make this.



What You Need:
Half a pack or a pack of asparagus - depending on their size and your appetite
Two eggs
Salt
Pepper
Low fat oil spray

What You Need To Do:
Lay your asparagus on a small baking tray after snapping off the woody ends
Spray with the cooking oil and season - I like to add more salt than usual when grilling
Place under the grill on a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes
Poach your eggs
Season and serve

How easy/delicious is that?