Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Nigella's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Hello everyone! I have got more cakey loveliness to share with you today, in the form of a dark, dense, devilish little loaf. This particular recipe is from Nigella Lawson's 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess' book and it's an absolute cracker. This is another recipe I tried out while making treats for my university friends, therefore, once again I apologise for the student-chic saucepan-cum-mixing bowl in the pictures! Uni life. I can confirm it went down very well indeed, so well that it was all gone in one sitting!

I brewed up some Twinings Earl Grey to drink with it, the lemony flavour was a nice zingy contrast to the rich chocolately cake. It's an extremely wet cake mix, but that's exactly what creates the cake's delicious moist texture. And don't fret if the cake collapses in the middle, Nigella says that's exactly what it's supposed to do!

Ingredients (Serves 8)

225g/8oz Unsalted Butter/Stork
275g/9.5oz Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
100g/3.5oz Dark Chocolate, melted
170g/6oz Self-Raising Flour
200ml Boiling Water

Method (Takes about 60 mins)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190c/gas 5. Carefully line a loaf tin (8 x 21cm/9 x 5 inch) with grease proof paper. Take your time with this - this is a very wet cake so you don't want it to escape! Melt your chocolate and put to one side. 

2. Cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon or electric hand whisk. Add the vanilla extract and eggs one at a time, and beat thoroughly. 

3. Fold in the melted and now slightly cooled chocolate. Blend carefully, making sure you don't over beat, a nice smooth batter is the aim.

4. Add the flour spoonful by spoonful, beating as you go. Then add the boiling water and gently combine until you have a smooth, thin batter. Pour in to your prepared loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes.

5. After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 170c and cook for an extra 15 minutes. (Don't trust the skewer test here, the cake is supposed to be a bit gooey inside so it won't come out clean!)

6. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool in its tin. It will look like this when it comes out...

But it will look like this after a few minutes!

There's that sinkage that Nigella warned about! It's a really dense, damp cake so this is what should happen.

I can't recommend this recipe enough! Once again it's dead easy, pretty inexpensive and a lovely alternative to a normal chocolate sponge or fudge cake. It's almost like a chocolate pudding rather than a cake. When I try this again I will make sure that I have some good quality vanilla ice cream in and serve it slightly warm with a scoop. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Cafe du Soleil

This weekend was a very special weekend indeed for me; I was finally reunited with my most bestest favouritest girl and old housemate Polly, after a total of 4 months apart. She has also recently started a brand spanking new degree in a totally new city too, but being the Wonder-woman that she is, she took the 3 trains and 2 bus journey to come to see me. She steamed in to Canterbury West on Friday evening, wine and Terry's Chocolate Orange in hand. (That's why I love her!)

After chattering excitedly and filling each other in the whole way home, we ate a speedy supper as it was soon time to don our spooky fancy dress outfits and head off in to the night to boogie with Kent's finest. 

After a very boozy first night I decided that it would be nice to show Polly the more cultured side of Canterbury. Where better to do so than at the Cathedral?

We made friends with Stuart the very friendly (and very very cute) steward, who told us that there was going to be a fun run through the city centre that evening, and wondered if that was what we were in town for. We chuckled and told him that we honestly most definitely would, if it hadn't been for our pre-made dinner plans. 

I had asked my trusted Canterburian coursemate where in the city centre I could go on Saturday night that did good food in sophisticated surroundings, that wouldn't break my student budget. Cafe du Soleil immediately came with the highest of recommendations!

After a long day of shopping, spending and being generally indulgent, we were famished and ready for a Meditteranean feast. The restaurant is right by the river, with punts going leisurely passing by the windows. 

Converted from an old barn, there are beams and rustic exposed brick, elegantly countered by twinkly fairy lights and contemporary furniture. We arrived at 8pm and were showed to our reserved table in the ideal spot at the side of the restaurant; this was the perfect time as it immediately started to get more energetic, busy and bustly. 

My beautiful date. That's a happy face if ever I saw one. Wine time!

Here I am smiling away for two reasons: first, the wine. Second because I am wearing my brand new Dorothy Perkins collared tea dress, with little geisha fans all over it.

Shortly after our wine had arrived, so did the starter. We went for a classic margherita pizza to share, and I'm glad we did. It was enormous! 

Hot, cheesy, thin crispy dough. My perfect pizza really. I had been told that Cafe du Soleil's pizzas were good, and I can confirm that this true! They're made in wood fired pizza ovens which I am told gets them super hot, hence the gooey lovely cheese. The kitchen is open meaning that you can see the chefs working away pushing and pulling them out with big pizza spades.

And finally, after the perfect interval, the main arrived. Both of us went for Moules Frites which were amazing. If I see moules on a menu, there's a 90% chance I'll go for them. 

Cooked in wine, cream & herbs. 

Chips with saffron aioli.

This feast made for two very full and very happy girls, all for a very reasonable price indeed! Which meant that we could wrap up once more and head out for grown up cocktails. The perfect girls' night! I probably won't get to see Polly again until at least Christmas as we are both so busy, but it was amazing to have her and show her around my new city and hear about her escapades. It's just as well she only stayed for the weekend really, my stomach is done for from laughing!

The restaurant offers a good discount for students throughout the week. If you are on the lookout for somewhere to take a friend or date in Canterbury to impress them I highly recommend Cafe du Soleil! 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Keeping it Simple

Today I'm going to do my first beauty-related post! I've got quite a few exciting little ideas of different posts I can do soon but I thought this would be an excellent one to start off with. 

My beauty routine is admittedly pretty simple (a fact I'm actually quite proud of!) As far as daily skincare goes I'm a big advocate of taking your makeup off every night, cleansing toning and moisturising (Simple is my favourite brand hands down), and sipping plenty of water throughout the day. But as far as fancy creams and lotions that cost the earth go, I'm not convinced. They're far too expensive for my student budget and more to the point, I'm not sure they actually work! 

Some days if I'm feeling particularly fresh-faced I won't even bother with foundation. However, one thing I always like to focus on is eyes. For daywear I like a clean, nude eyeshadow with a hint of sparkle and a good swipe of mascara. Mascara is one product I think it's worth spending a little more money on to get a decent one!

Or my other favourite item, and the one I wanted to talk about in particular, is liquid eyeliner. It's a look that you can wear during the day and at night, and I think it looks very classy for the minimal effort that is required!

Just start at the outside to create the shape of the flick, then slowly and carefully create your line moving from the outside in. And that's it!

I've tried out a number of different brands, some much more expensive than others, but I have to say I have always been a bit disappointed. With some of the more pricey types I would blink the liquid from my eyelid everywhere before it had dried. There is one type however that is very inexpensive and gives consistently good results, which I never have this blinking problem with. It was actually the first type of liquid eyeliner I ever bought, and is... 
Collection 2000 Fast Stroke Eyeliner!

The shape of the brush is perfect for the thickness of the line I like and the applicator is easy to use. 

It's just £2.99 for 10ml. I like to get a new one every few months to stop it from going gloopy and hard to apply, which is about as often as I change mascaras. But at that price I don't feel in the slightest guilty, it's an absolute bargain of a product! 

I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend! I'm attending my first Halloween party of 2013, complete with spooky cocktails, tacky decorations and even tackier fancy dress outfits. I can't wait!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Chorizo and Chickpea Stew

Hello everyone! I hope the weather isn't getting in the way of crisp walks or Halloween parties that are going on. It's rather wet down South at the moment!

I'm very excited to share today's recipe with you all. Since stumbling upon this about a year ago on one of my most favorite foodie blogs it has been almost a weekly appearer. Chorizo and chickpeas are two of my most favoured ingredients, so combining the two and throwing in a whole load of veggies for good measure seemed like a bloomin' good idea to me! If I were to describe this recipe in 3 words it would be chunky, warming and delicious. 

It has become a thing that my house and our neighbours take it in turns to cook for each other on Sunday nights. We worked out that between the 9 of us, we hail from 6 different countries! It's like a UN of food. 

When I was deciding what to cook for my night I needed something relatively inexpensive, something that could be made in bulk, and that most people would probably like. This recipe came to mind immediately! 

Serves 6
1 large chorizo sausage 
3 red onions
2 red peppers
3 garlic cloves
2x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained 
800ml vegetable stock
A pinch of paprika 
A generous sprinkling of basil
Salt and pepper

1. In a large saucepan, fry the chorizo on a medium heat until it begins to release it's oil and crisp

2. Add the onion, peppers and garlic.

3. Cook until the onion turns translucent. Then add the paprika. Stir occasionally

 4. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the stock and bring to the boil.

5. Add the chickpeas, basil, salt and pepper. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve those hungry guests! 

This stew is winning no beauty contests, but it hits the flavour spot head on! It was hot off the hob and very very steamy, as you can see! I served it with plenty of warm crusty bread for dipping, and extra basil sprinkled on top. I always try my best to get fresh basil as it takes this bowl of loveliness to the next level, but if you can't get your hands on any dried herbs will do just fine. My lovely neighbour Jane bought over a couple of bottles of wine unexpectedly, too! What a lovely little treat. (We might have finished them off between us..!)

Now I know that chorizo isn't the cheapest of ingredients, so might seem unfitting for most student budgets. However, I assure you that a little goes a very long way, and it really is very tasty. It perks up any boring dish and is more often than not on offer in the supermarket. 

Everybody was asking what the delicious sausagey stuff was. I am more than happy to have let chorizo in to some more peoples' lives!

Friday, 18 October 2013

An Afternoon To Explore

Earlier in the month before the weather turned completely rubbish I took up my camera, popped on my sunglasses and headed off on a mini adventure. The city of Canterbury is famous for lots of things but perhaps top on the list is the Cathedral. When I turned up at the gate on a very sunny afternoon I could see why!

She's a beauty. The outside looking gorgeous in the sun. 

The grounds outside were a good level of busy, families, students and older couples all milled around enjoying the surroundings. Lots of people had brought their cameras along to get a shot of Canterbury Cathedral against that sky.

It's huge! The whole thing just keeps going and going. Inside the atmosphere is wonderfully peaceful. Some Churches I find can be a wee bit stern or even intimidating to be in, but this one is an exception with a calm under-chatter of friends talking quietly to one another.

Stunning stained glass windows. Perfect to get some camera practise in.

The gardens are equally as stunning. Cool and calming, a perfect spot to relax for a moment or two away from the afternoon sun. It doesn't feel at all like you are in the middle of a city.

Just like a scene out of Harry Potter.

Broomstick practise starts in 5!

If you are visiting Canterbury make sure you put aside an hour or so for a visit. It might be a smidge busier on weekends but on this Monday afternoon there were no queues. Make sure you charge and pack your camera! Next time I'm going to bring along a picnic blanket and a book. The perfect place to relax and people watch.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Zesty Lemon Curd Cake

I'm one of those people who watches the Great British Bake Off in total awe. The amazing things those people come up with, where on earth do they get their ideas I'd like to know?! It's one full hour of bakespiration.

The creations and flavours on the show can get pretty elaborate, but the recipe I want to share with you today goes back to basics, but with a fresh little twist. Everyone loves a nice lemon drizzle, so I've adapted the good old drizzle cake recipe by adding in a smidge of lemon curd for extra zestyness. 

This recipe is easy peasy (lemon squeezy!) to make. It tastes miles better than any dry shop bought lemon sponge, and it costs next to nothing make!

Ingredients (Serves 8)

225g/8oz Stork
225g/8oz Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
170g/6oz Self-Raising Flour
Zest of 1 Lemon, finely grated
2 Tablespoons of Lemon Curd

Method (Takes about 70 mins)

1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. (Use a pan if you lack a mixing bowl!)

2. Add the eggs one at a time, slowly mixing through. Sieve in the flour and combine. 

3. Add the lemon zest and your lemon curd and give a good stir until thoroughly combined.

4. Line a loaf tin (8 x 21cm) with grease proof paper. Spoon half the mixture in and blob a little extra lemon curd on. This will really let you know your eating a lemon cake and ensure some lovely gooey moisture. 

5. Top with the remaining mixture and even out the top.

6. Bake for 55 mins. Until it's a deep golden brown colour. This seems like a while, but the cake is quite wet so you want to take it steady to ensure it's cooked through.

And that's it! The lemon curd sinks down in to the centre giving you a lovely gooey centre. Heavenly! Eat whilst still warm or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, if it lasts that long! 

Or like me, enjoy with extra lemon curd and the Great British Bake Off.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Kitsch Kitchen

I love food. Eating it is obviously the highlight, but I really like cooking it, buying it and planning what I'm going to try out next. Lakeland is one of my favourite places in the universe!

Student houses are not famed for their good utensil or cookware selection, but I'm wasn't about to let that hinder my culinary experimentations. My housemate Livvy and I quickly realised we shared the same foodie leanings; we've already made nutty banana energy muffins and fig pizza together, and are already planning a gourmet burger session. Stay tuned for that!

Yesterday afternoon I took a trip in to Canterbury city centre for a lunch date with an old friend and afterwards I had time for a snoop around the shops. 

I needed a couple of bowls which could be used for pasta and noodles, but also for cereals and soup. They needed to be good quality china, aesthetically pleasing, and under £5 each. I laughed to myself as I walked in to Cath Kidston, but then I walked in to the sale section (literally, I think the cashier saw but she had the decency to pretend otherwise).

The perfect bowls! And just £4 each. I couldn't believe it.

I also picked these little lunch boxes from Paperchase. Much prettier than your average transparent Tupperware box. I plan on filling these with pasta salad or sliced fruit for snacking when I am having long days in the library and making everybody very jealous. Not in the sale this time but students get 10% off, so it's all good.

Just think how perfect this one will be for Paris! It's an investment, see.

Finally, in search of vanilla scented tea lights, I took an obligatory trip in to, ahem, *Poundland*. But I'm so glad I did as I found this delicious little tray!

All different flavours of Macaroons! At just £1 you genuinely cannot go wrong. I don't think it looks out of place alongside Paperchase's or Cath Kidston's offerings.

The great thing is that because Christmas is fast on the approach all the pretty gifty bits and bobs have landed. And my oh my are they pretty! I could have bought so much more, I think I was quite restrained really. It took strength to walk away from the matching teapot and cups and saucers. 

I'm all set to cook up a storm!