Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Make it last, make it count, make it one more round...

I didn't really enjoy cooking lessons at school. Don't get me wrong - our teacher was great and I was interested in the subject, but between the time constraints, the grotty equipment and the crowded kitchen I never really came home with something I was proud of. I remember in year 9 we spent about a term making pasties - constantly planning, then baking, batches of pasties until myself (and my poor mother who had to try my 'delicious' creations every single week) were sick to death of the damn things! Just the memory of getting home and opening up the plastic container (which had condensed and turned my greying pastry a bit soggy) brings back all too visceral a reaction, and not an entirely pleasant memory, although quite a funny one.

As this week's bakeoff is pastry week I decided to give pasties another go, in the hope that one day I wouldn't shudder at the very thought of a homemade pasty! I opted for a cheese, leek and potato filling as I thought that would be a great basic recipe to master and please everybody at dinner time. (Truthfully I seem to be using this Blogger Bakeoff challenge as a way to learn new recipes rather than produce showstoppers, but hopefully it's fun to read nonetheless!)

This recipe makes 5 cheese, leek and potato pasties. (You could make more or less depending on the desired size of the pasties!) For this recipe you will need:

500g shortcut pastry (recipe here, omit the tomato puree)
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 leeks, finely sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp double cream
150g cheese (I used Cheddar!)
1 egg, beaten
Flour, for dusting
Dried thyme, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Firstly, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, and soften the leeks. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water for approximately 8 minutes, or until tender but still in shape.

Once cooked, drain the potatoes and add them to the leeks. Stir in the mustard, cream, cayenne pepper, thyme, and season well with salt and pepper, leaving on the side to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to the desired thickness (no thicker than half a centimetre!) I used a tea plate as my template, and used a knife to cut around the plate, dividing the dough into 5 circles, arranging these on the baking tray.

Grate the cheese and stir it into the potato and leek mix, making sure it is thoroughly mixed in.

Spoon the mix onto the centre of each circle of pastry, leaving space at the edges to seal the shape. Gather the edges of the pastry together, and crimp the edges together, forming a pasty shape.

Beat an egg into a small bowl and glaze each pasty using the egg and a pastry brush. Pierce the pasties with a knife for ventilation, then put in the oven to bake for approximately 40 minutes.

When the pasties are golden brown, take them out of the oven.

Transfer the pasties onto a wire rack to cool, or serve warm. I was really pleased with how these turned out: it's the kind of recipe that is so simple you wonder why you haven't tried it sooner, and the fact that they can be eaten hot or cold gives them extra versatility.

I'll be having one of these for dinner tonight with a side salad (I also gave one to my boyfriend this morning to take to work for his lunch, cos I'm a nice gal like that.)

I was out for dinner last night celebrating a friend's birthday so I've not even tasted these bad boys yet, but my rents took one for the team and seemed pleased with my efforts! Many thanks Mum for eating all those bloody pasties back in year 9, I only hope you enjoyed these a little more..!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Welcome to hell.

Hi dolls! Today is a follow-up to yesterday's post about Rock and Religion selecting me as their blogger of the month: yesterday I spoke about the goodies they sent me in a gift box, and today I'll be reviewing the item of clothing they hand-picked and sent to me. Enjoy!

Stained Glass Shirt - Rock and Religion*

One of my best friends was with me when I received my Rock and Religion goodie box, which contained this gorgeous silky stained glass print shirt in it which the team picked especially for me (good choice, ladies, I love it!) Upon seeing the shirt, Lorna's analysis was "it's kinda cool... but maybe don't wear it with a cross as you'll look like a full-blown church." So, naturally, when I went to style this shirt that was exactly what I did: this layered cross necklace is an ancient Topshop affair that's older than this blog, but for me a buttoned-up shirt requires a statement necklace and these just fit perfectly together. With their ornate architecture, lavish attention-to-detail and beautifully painted windows who wouldn't want to look like a church? Find this outfit on Lookbook here...

It's kind of funny because in my last outfit post I wrote about style maturing after uni, but this is an absolute textbook example of what I'd wear during uni: stater skirt, statement necklace, creeper wedges every damn time. Guess I'm not ready to grow up just yet...

Monday, 15 September 2014

I lay back in a glittering mist...

When Rock and Religion emailed me last month to ask me if I'd like to be their September Blogger of the Month I was rather excited, not to mention flattered! I've been following them on Instagram for a while and one of the notable things I liked about the brand is that they have a real personality and interaction with their followers, something other brands often lack sorely. To be featured by such a customer-focused brand really excited me: they offered to send me a goodie box as a thank you for being their featured blogger, including an item from their collection to review - I couldn't wait for it to arrive!

When I first opened my goodie box, attached to the lid was this flyer describing their brand motive. Sounds pretty cool right? And the website doesn't disappoint: the moment you click onto the Rock and Religion website the first thing you see is an old-gold, sequined maxi paired with a black leather biker. I love the grunge-glam feel of it! Whilst the website is up-and-coming, you can shop for Rock and Religion at Spoiled Brat, The Light Room, or Pure London amongst other retailers. And now for the contents of my goodie box...

I loved the thoughtful inclusion of little notes explaining why the R&R girls thought each gift would be perfect for me. I was so excited to find this little nail kit in my box: I love nail art but have never tried this kind of 3D manicure. It will be particularly perfect as we head rapidly towards the party season, but I'll certainly be trying it out long before then!

I always look at these Montagne Jeunesse face masks and want to buy them as they look so appealing, but as I have sensitive skin I've always been too nervous to try them! Has anybody tried these masks, can you advise me on whether they are suitable for sensitive skin?

Woohoo! The girls over at R&R clearly have been reading my blog and know how I am a die-hard fan of Lipcote! This is a product that I buy over and over again, so I'm so pleased that they've treated me to a new one!

I'm an illustrator as well as a blogger so I can never have too many notebooks! I love the iridescent look to this, it appeals to my inner magpie!

Despite the fact that I love trying new beauty buys, if I was told I could only ever buy my beauty products from Lush I think I'd be fine with that! They are ethical, natural, cruelty-free, and these values are really important to me. Receiving a Lush bath ballistic in my parcel was the perfect final touch as I treasure my little hoard of bath bombs!

It was so exciting unboxing this gift as I had absolutely no idea what to expect in my goodie box, and everything was so thoughtful and perfectly selected. There was even a belated birthday card and badge which was so, so kind of them! As for the clothing sample? I'll be featuring that this week so keep an eye out for it: until then I've been featured over on their Tumblr so feel free to check that out!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I want blood, guts and angel cake...

So, this week's Bakeoff theme was European cakes leavened with yeast. I think these type of bakes are likely to be unfamiliar with most people, I've never used yeast in anything aside from bread, but after some pondering I decided I'd make a Panettone.

This was the first time I've ever made a Panettone - or anything remotely like a Panettone - and I improvised the recipe: as I'm not a fan of traditional dried-fruit flavours I flavoured it with white chocolate and raspberry instead. I'm really pleased that it rose (I couldn't get hold of any fresh raspberries and the frozen ones I had to use made the mixture quite wet) but in this case the way I improvised with the recipe didn't quite work, it's not as sweet as I'd have liked and the cooking times/temperatures need re-evaluating slightly.

Whilst my Panettone isn't a bad attempt for a first effort, I wouldn't make it again without altering the recipe a little so today I'll just be sharing photos and omitting the usual instructions! I hope you like the look of it nonetheless!


I still think that I'll have another go at a Panettone soon, admittedly I've had no time to bake this week: I made this late last night and didn't get to try it until this morning so there's been no time to rectify any problems! I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I can't bring myself to post a recipe unless I'm completely sure of it, but if I give this another go I'll make sure to update it here. I guess at least I gave it a try! Have you ever tried making something similar? How'd it go?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Think old thoughts from yesterday...

Hi dolls! Today's outfit post is long overdue, I know, but things are getting back on track! I'm getting really excited about dressing for my favourite time of year and my wardrobe shifting back to tons of black, layers and textures. Yeah, I can't wait!

Shirt - Urban Outfitters via Depop

 Necklace - Camden Town*
Truthfully I've lusted over this kind of Scrabble-tile jewellery for over a decade now, ever since I first discovered quirky accessory websites with gummy-bear pendants and stoppers full of sprinkles as a teenager. But this necklace is much more appealing to me than a simple letter printed onto a pendant: Camden Town offers a whole host of products with quotes or images printed on the tiles, including Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and fantasy-inspired pictures and text. Most of all I wanted this Red Clover Fairy necklace, surely from the Flower Fairy books I fell in love with as a child: Cicely Mary Barker must have been one of my main influences to become an illustrator myself. The chain hangs at a perfect length and is beautifully eye catching, I'm so pleased to have this as part of my collection.

Since having taken to Depop to sell my own clothes (please do check out my profile and help me in my quest to clear out my wardrobe, by the way) I've managed to purchase several items at bargain prices. This shirt is one of them: I snapped it up in great condition for a third of it's RRP and I haven't wanted to take it off since. Myself and my ex-housemates recently were discussing whether our styles would mature after student life. Just as I started to suspect that might be true I felt a huge urge to pair the shirt with DMs and overknee socks (arguably a bad idea given my thunder thighs) but it was fun to wear something 'student-y' again for the first time in ages. Find this outfit on Lookbook here...


What are your thoughts on this outfit? Graduates: how did your style change after university?

Monday, 8 September 2014

Straight through the eye of a needle at night...

Hi guys! So little time, so much to post. I just can't believe we're already a week into September, so my August favourites are well overdue. There was a real chill in the air this morning, and you can tell that the season's definitely shifting. Now, as August is my birthday month it's actually been bizarrely difficult to pick favourites for the past month as I was horribly spoilt really, and I've featured lots of these favourite items either here or on Instagram and I didn't want to repeat myself. However, I've selected a few key items to write about today: enjoy!

I've featured this bag before in an outfit post but I couldn't resist posting it again as it truly was one of my August highlights. I don't need to tell you guys how much I love Fatchels, I write about them enough as it is, but I was so grateful to the lovely ladies over at Rhodesian for gifting me with this bag as a birthday present. Kind doesn't begin to cover it! I love the colour scheme, the personalised nature of the bag and, as always, the craftsmanship is impeccable.

Temporary Tattoo - Camden Town*
I'm craving a tattoo so badly at the moment and I really, really want something floral like this. However until I can afford it, temporary tattoos will have to be the way forward for me. Camden Town have such a gorgeous collection and I couldn't get over how many of their designs I wanted!

Necklaces - Gifts
These necklaces were gifts from when my parents went on holiday to Italy. Their choices were perfect: I love the (functional) pocket watch necklace with it's old-gold colour, and the heart necklace on the cord seems to be crafted from shell and can be worn long or as more of a choker. Swoon. (They also brought back some Italian chocolate, but admittedly that disappeared fairly quickly...)

Amy Lee - Aftermath
It's no secret that I'm a huge Amy Lee fan. Recently she gave birth to a baby boy(!!) so she's clearly had her hands full: therefore I was really shocked that she also released a film soundtrack so recently! Now, anything that Amy Lee releases now on her own is always going to be compared to Evanescence but this is very different and needs to be listened to in it's own right without comparisons. Being a soundtrack, much of the album is instrumental, a great thing when you're as talented as Amy when it comes to creating and layering dark and brooding melodies. In the opening track, Push The Button, Amy's love for Depeche Mode is more noticable than ever. Overall it was a surprise, but a pleasant one: this album won't be for everyone, but I love it as it's so atmospheric and emotive.

So there are my August favourites! Will you be trying any of these items?