Funny bugger

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My stepdad died almost a year ago. Not unexpected but still a massive shock to us all. He was a big bluff Yorkshireman, who despite living down south for over thirty years, was still proud to be a Northener. The white rose of the House of York was always around him and so, as an act of remembrance, I decided to plant a white rose in my garden for him.

We visited several garden nurseries in search of the perfect rose. It had to be scented, not one of those new-fangled poncey scents but a proper rose smell. It had to have big, petalled blooms and glossy dark green leaves. And it had to be big and sturdy, just like he was.

Eventually we found one.  Called Meiburenac – Rose Swany, it promised a flourishing, prickly shrub of a metre tall, with dark glossy foliage, clusters of white double petalled cupped blooms and an old fashioned scent. So we bought it.

Today it bore it’s first flower. I sighed, and then laughed, as I like to think he would have too.

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Burger King – time to abdicate?

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In the words of the great Freddie Mercury, I’ve only got myself to blame. Well, myself and the hordes of people who decided that they too needed grilled dumplings from Sasha’s at Wednesday’s Gloucester Green Market at exactly the same time as me. At least fifteen other people were between me and glorious sticky meat filled dumpling heaven at the tail end of my lunch hour so I grumpily stomped off to Cornmarket.

I’m not entirely sure what happened at this point. I bypassed entirely Pret and Mission, avoided Heroes and Taylors, didn’t fancy sushi from Itsu and found myself in Burger King. Now, on occasion I do eat crap junk fast food. I have kids and they like MacDonalds which is okay once in a while. So I’m in Burger King and the menu looked alright, the Angry Angus burger even sounded good – a burger made with Aberdeen Angus beef, pepperjack cheese, jalapenos and crispy onion strips with a dollop of barbecue sauce. Obviously I went for the meal deal with fries and ironically a Coke Zero (don’t judge, people!) and ever suffering husband ordered the Steakhouse Double. Surprisingly, this lot was pretty bloody pricey adding up to almost £15 for the two of us – a meal deal being over seven quid!

Anyway, that was where it all went downhill FAST. The chips were apparently potato based but that’s debatable, it certainly wasn’t glaringly obvious. Hot is about the best thing I can come up with for them. The Coke was full of ice and essentially just coloured sugar water. And the burger? Well that was an insult to the word.

A grey, floppy and bizarrely knobbled patty, which despite being labelled Aberdeen Angus, had clearly never been north of Birmingham. It sat in a bun which managed to combine being fresh and yet so dry that it crumbled as soon as you looked at it. There was a couple of green iceberg lettuce leaves which had the most flavour in the entire meal. The crispy onion strips I took out and bit in to separately to see if I could identify them and even knowing what they were didn’t result in an explosion of taste. Just utterly, utterly bloody awful and yes, I do have myself to blame.

Next time, I’m just going to make damn sure that I’m front of that dumpling queue…

 


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Dale Chihuly at the Halcyon Gallery

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A friend recently posted a photo on Instagram that I loved. I first thought it was of a jellyfish but it was actually a glass sculpture by American artist Dale Chihuly. Although I’d seen one of his pieces in the V&A ,

Chihuly in the V&A

Chihuly in the V&A

it was only when I Googled him further that I realised he had an exhibition opening in London and by sheer coincidence, it had opened just the previous day!

It took me almost two months to get round to seeing it but boy I’m glad I did. These are definitely going on my lottery winnings shopping list! Even his paintings were stunning. Prices ranged from £19,000 for one of the bowls to over half a million for the large pieces. Absolutely worth it though.

You can see the exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street until 18th May.


The Fishes Spring Menu – a review

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Having spent several hours drinking lots of exceptionally good coffee and with ninety minutes to spare before the school run, we decided to do a quick stop off at The Fishes in North Hinksey to check out their refurb and new spring menu. When we got there, the tubs outside were being replanted to fit in with the new spring theme, although the plants were about to get battered by a massive hail storm. The glorious vagaries of the English weather.

The last few times I’ve been to The Fishes, I’ve always sat in the bar area so have to confess that the decor didn’t really register as having changed that much, apart from a new smell, a lingering waft of Farrow and Ball in the loos (lovely loos and decent hand wash and moisturiser by the way!) and considerably more fish themed ornaments, such as the lamp shades. But it was fresh and clean and modern and contemporary etc etc. All very nice. And of course they have that wonderful garden which makes them a winner in the summer months.

But I was there to eat and to cast a beady eye over that new menu… Bit of an odd one for me I have to admit. Nothing really grabbed me as an “oooooh, I need that NOW” but I put that down to being mindful of the time I had and probably not in a particularly good eating mood. However, I was impressed to see something different on a menu instead of bloody confit of bloody duck yet a-bloody-gain and that eternal favourite *insert rare breed* belly pork which I love but you can’t really go wrong with belly pork. It’s a cheap cut which gets tarted up to Jodie Marsh levels and presented pretentiously, which always gives me eyestrain with the number of eye rolls involved.

I finally decided on a Cold Cuts Board at £13.50. This comprised of a mini Shepherd’s Pie (not cold obviously, but let’s not quibble over descriptions too much, a cold cuts board with a random ramekin of hot stuff wouldn’t be descriptive enough on the menu), which was surprisingly tasty considering it’s a dish you generally make far better at home. Mince and shredded meat in a savoury gravy with creamy and crusty mash, I would have eaten more happily but I wouldn’t order it as a main purely because I could make my own at home! Also erring on the side of warm rather than cold was a mini wholegrain loaf which was lovely but didn’t come with any butter and I was almost finished before I realised so there was no point in asking! Anyway, the cold stuff was Iberico salami which I didn’t find particularly flavoursome, Aubrey’s rare roast beef, Aubrey being the butcher that supplies their meat. This was lovely, rare, soft, great flavour and plenty of it. Then there was a confit Tiddenham duck and rabbit ballotine (so they did get a bloody duck confit on there somewhere after all!) which I hadn’t registered on the menu and ate happily, thinking it was pressed pork. Whatever it was, it was good. Capers and dinky little cornichons were scattered around and there was some salad-y garnish and a pot of home made piccalilli which was really sweet and tart with vegetables that you could recognise.

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Hubby had gone for the manly dish of a steak sarnie £9.50, only here it was Aubrey’s peppered steak ciabatta with fried onions and mushrooms and a bowl of leek and potato soup – spring weather, remember! He’d asked for his steak blue and of course it came out medium rare. Lesson to be learnt here, if you want a blue steak, ask for it raw – you might get it blue! However, it had a good flavour, a delicate peppering and was absolutely fine. Soup passed muster too!

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No time for dessert despite the neighbouring table’s enticing looking steamed honey pudding with clotted cream £6, but I’m sure we’ll be back at some point, hubs wants the fish board, £14.50 just for the kedgeree arancini! The cheese board looks pretty impressive too, £13.50 to share.

http://www.fishesoxford.co.uk

 


Oxford Brookes Restaurant – a review

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The start of a new term means the start of a new season in the restaurant at Oxford Brookes University for those enrolled on the Hospitality Management course. In this restaurant, the public and other students get to enjoy a three course meal at a ridiculously low price and help the cooks, waiting staff and maitre d’s of tomorrow hone their skills.

Oxford School of Hospitality Management is recognised worldwide as being one of the top places to study hospitality. Students are expected to spend time in each area; kitchen, front desk, waiting tables and this provides an all round experience of how exactly a restaurant works. And this is just as it should be, how many times have you asked waiting staff a question about a dish and they’ve known nothing about it?

I visited on the first day that the restaurant was open this term and for a Monday lunchtime it was impressively full. This was of course down to the excellent reputation it has and the fact that three courses will cost you just £15.95!

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I chose the Kelmscott smoked ham with cauliflower cheese cream and garlic chives. Beautifully presented, the ham was rich and smoky, a perfect contrast to the ringed cauliflower cream. I was a little surprised by the cream being cold but that was probably my mind just focusing on the cauliflower cheese description. It could have done with being a little less cold and a little more cheesy but this is probably down to personal taste. My dining partner chose the shellfish risotto with a prawn fritter and sea vegetables. This got wolfed down so quickly I barely had a chance to look at his plate but definitely spotted some mussels, scallops and prawns in there. The rice was creamy with a good bite and the prawn fritter breadcrumbed with a lemon zing. So far, so good.

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Main courses were a choice between venison, chicken or a veggie alternative.  Predictably, we both went for the chargrilled Gloucester venison, served with braised wild mushrooms and star anise carrots. Again, personal taste but the venison was slightly overcooked. I like my venison to be medium rare and this was definitely the other side of medium. Lovely gravy, star anise carrots were really good and the mushrooms were, well odd. Bit too braised, so you couldn’t distinguish the individual flavours and a little slimy. Being a proper English woman, I missed my spuds! And the kale that the venison rested on needed a good drain, there was still water oozing across my plate.

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Rhubarb cranchan with a poppy seed tuile for dessert – overly sweet and this almost obliterated the rhubarb’s tartness. The tuile was also a little too thick, more of a biscuit than a shattery sliver. I chose the bitter chocolate cake with real ale ice cream and sticky marmalade, which was pretty good. The marmalade broke up the heavy chocolatiness and there was a really good kick of hops in the ale ice cream.

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This may all sound a little negative but I would still definitely go again. If I’m honest, I’m probably nit picking because I was looking for things that weren’t quite right. And I’d had dinner at a two Michelin star restaurant a few days before so it would be unfair to compare! Good flavours, excellent service and well worth a visit, especially at those prices. You could pay a lot more for something a lot worse in Oxford!

http://restaurant.business.brookes.ac.uk


Atomic Pizzas – a review

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Everyone always goes on about the original Atomic, “the best burgers ever” they say. “Awesome retro restaurant” comes up pretty often too. But not much is said about their sister restaurant in Oxford, Atomic Pizzas which is just a little bit further up the road, despite their full burger menu being available there too, as well as the purely genius idea of taking those burger toppings and whacking them on a pizza!

Bigger than AB, Pizza has the same random eclectic collection of geeky goodness, ranging from the welcoming full size Simpsons family, Han Solo in carbonite, a Tardis that leads you into Narnia and a pretty enviable My Little Pony collection. Spread over three rooms, Pizza has more space to navigate between tables and not inadvertently eavesdrop on your neighbour’s chat. The third room is available for larger groups so ideal if you have a birthday coming up as we were.

As we were celebrating, we decided to go all out and kicked off with nachos and chicken wings in barbecue sauce, proper finger licking good!

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The whole burger menu is available along with possibly the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. These are thick and have a thick skin like a proper German sausage which gives a nice bite without being the usual mouthful of mush we associate with hot dogs.

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There’s also some seriously scrummy pizza toppings such as the Gambit, which comes with Cajun spice, chicken, bacon, onion rings, mozzarella, bbq sauce and a tomato base. Or the one I had, the Lost Boys, pulled pork, red jalapeños, lime zest, garlic oil, coriander and a white base, which was darn good but gave even me a bit of a menopausal glow! These are good pizzas, full of flavour and texture.

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I shared the trailer park fries, fries topped with pulled pork, cheddar and tumbleweed onions and although these are good, you do have to eat them quickly whilst they’re hot. Once cold, they’re not quite as edible. Tip them out of the bowl and onto your plate, they’ll stay hot longer!

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We’ve never managed a dessert but have sampled the milkshakes and for us the Baconator is an absolute winner! A full on, creamy bacon flavour with a shot of maple syrup, and yet it’s vegetarian! Well, apart from the stick of caramelised bacon sticking out the top…. I’ve heard so many people be totally converted to this once they’ve tried it, so do give it a go.

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http://atomicpizzas.co.uk


Chilli Boo Chan’s Supper Club – a review

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One of the great things about social media is how you can interact with people whose paths you probably would never have crossed and how you can find yourself doing things that in normal life, you wouldn’t dream of. Such as going to a complete strangers home and paying them to cook you dinner! Being a far more sociable person when I have the safety of a screen and a keyboard, the idea of a supper club and interacting with people I don’t know is way outside my happy zone so it says something for the online personality of Chilli Boo Chan and the rather dribble inducing photos on the website, to make me experience a supper club for the first time.

This was the first supper evening they’d held but you wouldn’t have guessed with the candlelit entry, the warm welcome into their gorgeous home (major house envy!) and a cocktail to greet you. I had a non-alcoholic cocktail which consisted of fruit juices mixed with ginger beer and fresh mint leaves, a far better accompaniment to the later meal than the pedestrian bottle of Coke we’d taken along. Once everyone had arrived and done the round of introductions, we were seated and the starters of pork and prawn filled dumplings were served in two bowls, one with a rice vinegar dressing and one with a spicy garlic chilli oil. Now I’m a big fan of dumplings as my weekly trek across town to the market for steamed dumplings will confirm and these were just as good. A good meaty filling with a light dough and that extra kick of spiciness from the sauce. I could happily have sat and eaten those all night!

Pork and prawn dumplings with garlic chilli oil

Pork and prawn dumplings with garlic chilli oil

Next came a whole array of dishes. First up, the sublime red braised pork belly, a favourite dish of our host’s grandfather accompanied by homemade XO sauce and Northern style shredded potato. The pork belly was rich and sweet and spicy and just melted in your mouth. With steamed  rice and the salad of shredded potato, red pepper, fresh coriander, vinegar and hidden chilli, I could have happily stopped there. The other half raved about the potato, the freshness and the intermingling of the flavours, spicy, savoury, sour and yet light was a big hit for him. He seems to have developed a bit of a thing for potatoes since the dauphine potatoes at the Hand and Flowers…

Red braised pork belly

Red braised pork belly

Homemade XO sauce

Homemade XO sauce

Northern style shredded potato

Northern style shredded potato

Then came more dishes. Sea bass pan fried with ginger and spring onions, this was a real conversation starter as we figured out how to serve this without disturbing the bones or stabbing the fish in the eye with a chopstick… The fish was perfectly cooked and beautifully moist with the ginger crunch adding a lovely warmth and the accompanying soy sauce dressing completed the delicate flavour of the fish perfectly. Another vegetable dish accompanied this, the one that I was slightly unsure about, Tong Choi, also known as water spinach, in a fermented tofu dressing. Luckily for me, it wasn’t the renowned stinky tofu that even Anthony Bourdain struggled to eat! Our hosts had reassured me by describing the taste as more of an umami flavour, akin to adding anchovies to lamb as an enhancer. Somewhat tentatively, given that I haven’t yet found a tofu dish that’s convinced me why eating styrofoam is a good idea, I sampled a small piece. And then I ate some more. Possibly not something I’d rush home and make myself but I’d happily eat it if it’s on my plate! The final dish was a bowl of crispy beansprouts with garlic chives and Chinese sausage. The slivers of dried, hard sausage aren’t dissimilar to jerky but with a delicate pork flavour and added a sweet savouriness.

Flash fried ginger and spring onion sea bass

Flash fried ginger and spring onion sea bass

Somewhat stuffed after this feast, we had a short break before the warm chilli chocolate brownies and vanilla ice-cream was served. I’m picky about my brownies, they have to be the perfect balance of a flaky crust, fudgy but not stodgy and definitely not cake-like. These ticked all my boxes and added a healthy kick of heat with the chilli! I even managed to snaffle another one off the pyramid in the middle of the table, although not as discreetly as I hoped. Again, I could have eaten several more of these but would have complained all the way home about having eaten too much so am quite proud of my restraint.

Warm chilli chocolate brownie

Warm chilli chocolate brownie

Still not convinced by the supper club fad but with food like this, I’d happily do it again! Wonderful hosts, great food and interesting people to talk to. For £25 a head, this is way, way better than a lot of our local Chinese restaurants. If only they did takeaways!

Their next event is on Saturday 29th March – BOOK NOW!

http://chilliboochan.com

 


The Hand and Flowers, Marlow – review

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Back last summer, we were having a lazy morning snuggled up with the children in bed watching Saturday Kitchen. Tom Kerridge was the guest on that show and whilst I now can’t recall what exactly it was that he cooked, it was impressive enough for us to run downstairs and book a table online. That booking was for yesterday as part of Matt’s fortieth birthday gift. And oh my word, it was worth waiting for!

The Hand and Flowers is one of just twenty restaurants in the UK to have received two Michelin stars, the other notable one close to us being Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons.  They’ve also just been crowned the UK’s best gastropub for the third year running earlier this week. You can’t really call it a pub, it’s far too nice for that and they have an exceptionally well stocked bar, which made me extremely envious and rekindled my love of being behind a bar. The vodka range alone was fantastic and there was far less of those than there was gins, whiskies and bourbons! Anyway, not being drinkers, we were there for the food. We’d studied the menu in great depth prior to the visit so pretty much knew exactly what we were going to order. However the menu had a few changes to what had been posted online so it took us a few minutes to really decide. Eventually, we were ready!

For starters, Matt chose the crab ravioli with roast calcot onion. Normally Matt doesn’t like pasta so this surprised me and being a Channel Islands boy, he is VERY picky about his crab. When you grow up used to just-caught spider crab, the taste of most other crabs pale into insignificance! I went all out and chose the blowtorched Scottish scallop with beef and mead bouillon, trompettes, apple and nasturtium.

BUT… before this arrived, we were presented with warm, crispy, fat whitebait with a Marie Rose dipping sauce, warm bread – sourdough and brown, and butter all served in wooden blocks with H&F engraved on the side. These whitebait were more sardine size than the usual scrawny bitesized fish and were beautifully fresh.

Complimentary whitebait

Complimentary whitebait

These were devoured in seconds but there was just time for a short chat and glass of continually but discreetly filled water before our starters arrived. By this time, we could hear Tom in the kitchen shouting orders!

Crab ravioli

Crab ravioli

Matt was really impressed with his ravioli, a light citrussy sauce on plump pasta pillows stuffed with white crabmeat. The slight chargrilling of the onion counteracted the sweetness perfectly. And my scallops just blew my mind and made my toes curl with happiness. Three fat scallops, blowtorched to provide a caramelisation, just cooking the interior and giving a lingering smokiness in the mouth similar to a Lapsong Souchong flavour. The beef and mead bouillon was softly set with the trompettes giving a dark, earthy and slightly nutty flavour before the tiny cubes of Granny Smith apple give a little burst of acidic sweetness and a few nasturtium leaves provided pepperiness. I will admit to swiping my finger round the empty bowl to catch any last remaining flavours!

Scottish scallops

Scottish scallops

I could have stopped here, in utter happiness but we didn’t. Oh, we so didn’t! For our main course, Matt had selected tenderloin of Wiltshire pork with pickled mustard leaf, malt glazed cheek, garlic sausage and potato dauphine. This came as a thin slice of garlic sausage at the bottom, which allowed its flavours to permeate gently through. The pork loin was juicy, the pork cheek had an intense smoky, malted flavour and the potato dauphine – small balls of mashed potato mixed with savoury choux pastry then deep-fried to give little puffed balls of potato just made Matt smile a lot.

Wiltshire pork loin

Wiltshire pork loin

I chose Tom’s winning dish from The Great British Menu 2010. Slow cooked duck breast, a little glazed ball of chopped up duck, savoy cabbage with crispy duck, rich duck gravy and chips cooked in duck fat. I honestly don’t have the knowledge or vocabulary to explain how amazing this dish was. Just stunning. The duck breast was like velvet, honeyed sweet and tender. What I thought was a teensy piece of crispy duck skin exploded in my mouth with a massive amount of the most intense duck flavour ever. The buttery Savoy cabbage had crispy almost Peking duck scattered throughout. The duck fat chips were tubular, made with an apple corer, hot, greasy in a good way and fluffy. Perfect dunked into that rich gravy! And a long puff of something I don’t quite know gave the plate an extra crispiness. Like a long strip of pork skin puffed up – more on those later! The whole plate was ridiculously rich and flavoursome but there was no way I was leaving any.

Duck fest!

Duck fest!

Duck and those chips

Duck and those chips

We also had a side of curly kale with crispy ham hock. How two simple ingredients managed to taste so good is beyond my comprehension! Amazingly after all that, we still had room for dessert. Another addition to the menu was the warm pistachio sponge, accompanied with melon sorbet and marzipan. I went for the Hand & Flowers chocolate and ale cake, with salted caramel and muscovado ice-cream. Matt’s dessert came with a special message for the birthday boy! Pale green sponge with sharp sugar shards and a good pistachio flavour. Under the scoop of fresh melon sorbet was a checkerboard slice of melons, like a pressed terrine. A crunchy thin stick of marzipan completed the plate.

Pistachio sponge dessert

Pistachio sponge dessert

My cake and it really wasn’t fitting to have such a mundane description as merely cake, was a cube of rich darkness encasing a liquid salted caramel centre. Topped with a quenelle of muscovado ice-cream, smooth and treacly with a caramelised pecan, the waiter then produced a small shot glass containing a stout from Shropshire, apparently made with four different types of hops and coming in at a potent 10% alcohol! For a very occasional drinker like me, that’s a pretty strong drink! But paired with the “cake” it absolutely worked a treat. The maltiness cut through the rich chocolate, the sweet caramel and the creamy ice-cream perfectly. Again, I managed to clear my plate.

Chocolate and Ale Cake with accompanying stout in the background

Chocolate and Ale Cake with accompanying stout in the background

Stuffed to the gills by this, we decided to repair to the lounge for our coffee. Double espressos were needed by this point! The bar was full of glamorous ladies and men in suits waiting for a lunch table to come available. The couple behind us had been waiting so long for a table that they had given up and ordered bar snacks instead. First, a glass jar of spiced nuts was delivered to them and then came the pork and paprika puffs. Huge puffs of pork crackling, liberally dusted with smoked paprika. We couldn’t help ourselves. Despite being barely able to move, we discreetly asked the waitress if we could have a portion to take away. She explained that they wouldn’t reheat well at which point we guiltily admitted that we’d probably eat them on the drive home! Five minutes later, a foil parcel appeared on our table and we are probably the first people to leave the Hand & Flowers with a doggy bag! Of course, our dog didn’t even get a sniff of them….

So, how much did all of this gluttony cost? Well that’s the interesting part. Service charge was automatically included at 12.5% but given the extremely attentive yet unobtrusive staff, I was very happy to pay that. A five course similar lunch at our other local 2 star restaurant, Le Manoir, would set you back around £200. I can’t tell you how much local gastropub, the Magdalen Arms would be as they still don’t have a website but from memory, about £50 a head so £100 for two. The Manor at Weston on The Green also charges £50 for three courses. Local favourite, Jacob’s Inn would cost you around £70 for two people. Newly opened The Oxford Kitchen would be fifty quid a head. These places are all good but with the exception of Le Manoir, don’t have one, let alone two Michelin Stars. A grand total of £136 including our drinks, coffees and of course those pork and paprika puffs made me feel that not only had we had an exceptionally good meal but it was also damn good value.


Cinnamon Bacon Rolls Recipe

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1526834_10152161341578126_1106183867_nI finally got a new food mixer/processor for Christmas – A Kenwood Major KM6031 http://beccalaureate.co.uk/l1TtT and have been desperate to try it out ever since. There was one recipe I’d been meaning to try for ages but hadn’t got round to and last night was the perfect opportunity to test my new dough hook and the frankly genius idea of taking an American breakfast staple and making it epic! Cinnamon breakfast buns but with smoky salty bacon in every bite… Photos on social media got a lot of love so I’m going to share the recipe here. Bear in mind that it really is as simple as taking any cinnamon bun recipe and just inserting cooked streaky bacon before rolling up and baking!

Ingredients: 

500g strong white flour

1tsp salt

50g light brown sugar

15g fresh yeast or one 7g sachet easy dried yeast

75g softened butter

200ml milk

2 eggs, plus one egg yolk

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100g light brown sugar

1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

100g softened butter

Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Crumble in the fresh yeast or stir in the dry if using. If you’re using a mixer, pour in the milk and add an egg then let the mixer do it’s stuff for a few minutes. By hand, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients then pour in milk and add the egg, bringing it all together with your fingers. It’ll be a soft, supple dough and don’t worry if it feels a little sticky. I took mine out the mixer and gave it a good knead by hand as I like to feel the dough start to stretch. Kind of defeats the object of a food mixer but it did most of the hard work for me!

Once you can take a small ball of dough and stretch it thin enough to see through without breaking, it’s ready. Place in an oiled bowl with a damp tea towel over it (stops the surface of the dough drying out) and place somewhere warm for at least 90 minutes. Whilst it’s proving, cream your butter, sugar and cinnamon together. I might have forgotten to buy a new jar of ground cinnamon but luckily my husband came to the rescue with his Christmas gift of a James Martin Wahl Spice Grinder http://beccalaureate.co.uk/csVdo and the cinnamon sticks that we did have! At the same time, fry off your bacon until it’s just starting to crisp but is still soft and pliable. Drain off all fat.

When your dough has risen to double it’s size, tip it out of the bowl and knock it back. Then roll out on a floured surface into a rectangular shape the thickness of a £2 coin, 3mm with the short length being 12″ long. Spread your cinnamon butter all over, right up to the edges. Lay your bacon strips along your dough, slice and roll up tightly before placing into a greased and lined baking tin, spiral side up.

Now, I wanted my rolls for breakfast but there was no way I was going to get up and do all this for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. So I did all this, covered them with a damp tea towel and then left them for a second rise. About an hour later, I swapped the tea towel for some cling film, cleared a space in the fridge and left them overnight.

Saturday morning we woke up, let the dog out and took the buns out of the fridge to bring back to room temperature for an hour. Just enough time to wake up, have that first cup of tea, catch up on social media and watch the news. I preheated the oven to 200C, stuck them in for ten minutes and then turned it down to 180C for another twenty minutes. And then done! You could drizzle over a cream cheese frosting by beating together  115g room temperature cream cheese, 50g softened butter, half tsp vanilla extract, 1.5 tsp milk and 120g icing sugar but we didn’t want to wait any longer!

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Snail Gel!

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In a drastic departure from my usual foodie reviews, tech stuff or rants I’m about to willingly apply snail gel to my face. Not only that, but my notorious camera shyness will be revoked and total bare faced photos will be shown. You have been warned.

So, what’s this all about? It started when my dear husband made an extremely crude comment about women and yucky things on their faces yet happy to apply snail juice. Holland & Barrett, one of the sellers of Dr Organic’s Bioactive Skincare Organic Snail Gel in the UK saw the tweet and responded! It made them laugh and so a twitter conversation began which resulted in them sending a jar of snail gel and a jar of Horny Goat Weed out to us, free of charge! Not bad, considering the snail gel normally retails at £25 a pop….

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Fortuitously, both arrived today which just happens to be my 43rd birthday! And given my advancing age, this seems a good time to test this and see if it really does have an anti-aging effect. Plus, if there’s weird shit around, you can pretty much guarantee I’ll try it!

My mother and both my grandmothers had amazing skin with barely any skincare routines. I tend to wash my face with whatever face wash is on offer in Boots, usually Nivea, Johnsons or Olay, moisturise with whatever is on offer whenever I remember and that’s it. Occasionally I’ll exfoliate. Luckily, I’ve never had spots or any other skin problems. I am starting to get wrinkles though and they are wrinkles now, not laughter lines or any other feeble excuse. This is to be expected and it doesn’t bother me, I’m happy to age disgracefully!
So, this is me makeup free, fresh and pink faced after the bath.
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I actually can’t believe I’m about to smear snail jism over my face. To be fair, the description is that it’s Helix Aspersa Muller “a unique substance the snail produces to quickly regenerate it’s own shell and skin when damaged”. Yeah, whatever.
It also contains Aloe Vera (I like that) and their proprietary blend of bioactive ingredients to effectively soothe and hydrate the skin. And snail jizz.

You apply a small amount of gel, let it absorb (shudder) and then moisturise as normal. It’s a clear gel, which smells quite green and fresh. Apparently it’s quite popular in Korea.

I’m going to apply it every night and then update this with any results. Be grateful, I’m doing this for you lot!