FRUGAL RECIPES: pilau rice

Monday, 30 June 2014
Five minutes after I'm through the door, the smell of gently frying onions and Indian spices wafts through the flat. Ten minutes later, I'm breathing in lavender shampoo and then wrapping myself in a big fluffy towel. And then, ten minutes after that, I'm sitting down to one of my favourite suppers, a big hearty bowl in my lap, catching up on the day with my boyfriend and thinking about soft sheets and an early night.

This supper is an adaptation of one of my favourite ever easy suppers, BBC Good Food's one-pan prawn pilau. You have to make that recipe - it will change your life! But when it's getting to the penny-pinching last few days of the month, I like making this simple version - I realise avocados are not exactly a 'frugal ingredient', but we always have them in the house (they go with EVERYTHING), so it's a no-brainer for me. I always cook this to serve four people so that my boyfriend can have an extra helping and I can take the rest to work for my lunch the next day, and it's always on the table in less than 30 minutes, with hardly five minutes spent slaving at the stove.

Ingredients for 4
1 onion
2tbsp Patak's korma curry paste
300g rinsed and drained basmati rice
700ml water or stock
A few tablespoons of frozen peas
A handful of cherry tomatoes
2 avocados
4 eggs
Coriander and sea salt to serve

Finely slice the onion and dry fry with the curry paste. Add the rice to the pain and stir to coat before pouring in the water or stock. Bring it to the boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes* until the rice is fluffy and all of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn the heat off, chuck in the frozen peas and cover for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil your eggs. Every person I know has the best way to boil eggs, but I like to pop my eggs in a pan with 2 inches of cold water (it doesn't cover the eggs, so it certainly doesn't look like the best way at first). Put a lid on the pan, bring the water up to the boil and (without taking off the lid - v. important), switch the water off and leave to stand for 5 minutes for 'nearly hardboiled, but not quite' eggs. This method uses less gas for when those bills are running a bit high but, y'know, your usual method is probably a safe bet.

Serve the rice with half an avocado each, a boiled egg and lots of salt and coriander.

Cost per portion: 95p (varies according to ingredients used)

Once you're down with the basic method of this recipe, it is so versatile. You could change the spices with a Thai curry paste or some paprika and chorizo for a paella-style dish.

*3 things you can do in 15 minutes: play with your pet, clean out your junk drawer, watch a Zoella video on YouTube (#guilty pleasure). Is it gross to clean your bathroom while your dinner cooks? Probably (yes).


Friday, 27 June 2014
Ché is the gorgeous creator of indieBerries, a creative destination featuring bespoke illustrations, quirky products and THE FUNNIEST blog. That girl is so much fun, so I'm super excited to share three things she'll be doing this weekend.

EAT: Weekends are our "indulge" days! I'm thinking a delicious breakkie of poached eggs, salmon and hollandaise. (Husband, ahem - did you hear that?) And if this gorgeous weather holds out...  a sneaky ice-cream!

DO: As per usual, I seem to leave my weekends to catch up on freelance work; this weekend I have some indieLoveBook enquiries to catch up on! On the "fun" side - I have been working on an up-cycled moon bag to take to a festival we are going to this summer. I LOVE projects that are hands on! And definitely a spot of yoga too!

LISTEN: There are a few Fizzle podcasts that I have bookmarked. They are super helpful podcasts for creative entrepreneurs

Thanks Ché!


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

When my I visited Marrakech with my friend last September, the first thing we did when we arrived at our riad was dump our bags and head out to the Jemaa el Fna to orient ourselves and start exploring. I love market shopping, but haggling is something that mortifies me. Confrontation makes me squirm and up until the age of 16, I was painfully shy and would rather buy two similar products than ask a shop assistant which one they would recommend. I've written before about choosing memorable souvenirs and I thought I would share a few tips about how to haggle without feeling bad about it.


Monday, 23 June 2014
I frame a lot of random stuff in my house, so I thought I'd share a few ideas for framed affordable art beyond the usual Etsy prints. I think when you don't have a big budget for art, it makes you think a lot harder about the things you do put on your walls, and ultimately makes your home feel more personal. What kind of things do you have in your home?

Beautifully made letterpress or premium print greeting cards usually have the quality finish of an art print for around £5. Obviously they're much smaller, but I like grouping them together or even framing one in a large frame with a small aperture in the centre, which gives an expensive illusion and creates a nice, clean focal point. Aren't these queen illustrations from Rifle Paper Co absolutely beautiful! Try Liberty and Anthropologie for unique cards.

I have a couple of tea towels that I'm planning to get framed - they're perfect for the kitchen and you can often find limited edition versions by artists, like this Russian doll one, at places like The Calm Gallery. I recently bought this yellow heart which I LOVE - it's by Rachel Castle, an Australian artist I completely adore. Her felt art always sells out instantly so I was stalking her site and found this tea towel; I paid rather a lot for it, but it is handprinted and hand-embroidered with its limited edition number so is a piece of art in itself. Also, this one is lol

I saw this framed paper bag in a Selby house tour 4 years ago (FOUR YEARS, people. Can we take a moment to appreciate the 40 minutes I spent trawling the archives to dig out this picture). I love the idea of just framing random shit - in fact after I saw this, I framed a gorgeous black and gold carrier bag I had in one of Habitat's floating frames. This would work so well with ticket stubs or book covers and instantly gives childrens' art a luxe gallery feel. 

Charlotte Trounce does the most fun illustrations, but doesn't sell many prints so I ordered this fun wrapping paper from Wrap. The graphic colours are really striking next to each other and I've been noticing lots of too pretty to use wrapping paper in places like Paperchase

A note on frames: my favourite places to buy standard-size frames is IKEA because they're just so darn cheap, but hardware stores like Homebase and B&Q have good solutions and you can easily pick up art at charity shops and repurpose the frame (though I definitely feel like throwing away art is bad karma). 

I've also been wanting to try making my own abstract art for years - I love this post by Oh Happy Day. In fact, I e-mailed her to ask if she'd be willing to sell them to me as I just don't think I have an abstract bone in my body. I didn't hear back. Boo. 


Friday, 20 June 2014

EAT: Kerbisher & Malt serve the most amazing fish and chips and they’ve just opened their third branch in my neighbourhood. Embarrassingly, there is another where I work and one where my parents live too!

DO: Have you heard of Nike Training Club before? As well as the app, there are also free fitness bootcamp classes across London (and one in Glasgow). I’ve been going for a year and a half now – it’s an amazing way to get fit and there’s a real ‘girls rock!’ attitude about it, too. 

LISTEN: To chirping birds. You’d think this would be a nice thing to wake up to, but the nest of baby birds in our carpark have been waking us every morning at 4am – it would be realllly nice to get a lie in this weekend!

{above – my sweet new Stephanie Cole print} 


Monday, 16 June 2014

Last season, the Kids section at Zara caught my eye thanks to a healthy helping of Breton stripes and sizes up to age 14 (at 5'1, I apparently fit into the age 12 bracket). I was back on the site checking out the Ladies' offering and couldn't help but sneak another look at what's new in the juniors department. While I can't quite squeeze my bum into a pair of children's jeans, there's a couple of tops I've got my eye on and at a fraction of the price, I can buy them all!

Hot tip: It's worth checking out other stores like Gap for basic pieces at a lower price, plus loads of shoe brands go up to adult sizes too (Nike sneakers are available to UK5.5)!


Friday, 13 June 2014

Hooray – it’s Friday! It feels like forever ago that I was in Cornwall, but it was just the beginning of this week. I had such a relaxing long weekend and I didn’t take a single picture – I didn’t have my phone on me the whole time and I didn’t even have to carry keys! It was very liberating. In light of Freya’s blog post this week on keeping the freedom of travel and relaxation mode in motion once the vacation is over, I’m making plans to make no plans this weekend (but here’s what I would do if I was making plans…)

EAT: I’m taking a leaf out of Jo’s book and thinking about a little Franco Manca treat – I live between 3 different branches, so it would be rude not to, really!

DO: This week I was invited to the press opening of Return of the Rudeboy at Somerset House, hosted by the creators of the exhibition. I don’t often get to go things like this, especially on a Thursday morning, so it was a bit of a treat (with croissants and orange juice!). The exhibition is amazing – and free – and Somerset House is the perfect place to escape the heat in London this weekend.

LISTEN: My music taste is a little embarrassing and I don’t often add new songs to the repertoire, but this song will always be the one

p.s. I wrote a feature on Kerry from Seventy Tree’s sweet home in the latest issue of 91 Magazine, if you’d like to see. I’m really proud of it and love contributing to this wonderful publication.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014
The other weekend when the weather was glorious, I set about sprucing up our balcony garden and found out about Battersea Flower Station, an independent garden centre about 10 minutes away from me. It feels like you're going to a friend's garden, which I suppose is exactly what it is as it was set up and self-funded by a group of local residents with a passion for gardening and supporting local businesses. As well as a floristry service and a beautiful selection of pots, there are also experts on-hand to offer advice for all types of garden, and you can even get a window box made up just for you! Doesn't it look magical? Plus, there was a sweet dog there who I couldn't resist giving a pat on the way out.


Monday, 9 June 2014
Lately I've been going back to basics on my beauty regime in a bid to reduce the number of products I use. I'm already trying to take a more natural approach to what I put into my body, so it only makes sense to be more careful about what I put on my body too. Last winter I was having trouble with my skin, and a new regime sorted that out, and just recently I found the holy grail of shampoos (gentle, subtle smelling and cheap!) that reduced London-water build-ups that were leaving my hair lank and stringy. Now it's time to kick my skin into gear!

I've read about the benefits of body brushing in a few different magazines - increased circulation, smoother skin and even decreased cellulite thanks to even distribution of fat cells (if you can believe it..). Especially if you like to fake tan, it's  an amazing way to exfoliate and get rid of all those dead skin cells. For the best results, you're supposed to brush in long strokes up towards your heart for 10 minutes before taking a shower or bath. I've been doing it for a few weeks now and while it feels weird and uncomfortable at first, once you get into the routine it's amazing. I picked up this body brush from The Body Shop and it's served me well so far!


Friday, 6 June 2014
Michelle was my first 'blogger friend' and it's been so fun watching her develop her photography through her blog, MY Creative. Last year, Michelle and her soon-to-be husband Tim moved to Trieste, in Northern Italy, so this week's three things have a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Buon Appetito!

EAT: Gelato - we try (mostly unsuccessfully) to limit gelato to the weekends. Currently, my favourite flavour is the pinolata (pine nut with vanilla, tastes like candy popcorn) from Zambolli.

DO: Visiting an osmiza. They hark back to the days when Trieste was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and there are a whole bunch dotted around the area. Open for a few days/weeks a year, they sell their own fresh produce (cheese, meat, boiled eggs, wine, etc.) and are marked by a bunch of branches hanging from the building; the freshness of the branches is indicative of how long the osmiza has been open!

LISTEN: Paolo Nutini's new album. I've always loved his voice and I'm enjoying the bit of funk sound it has. 

I think it's about time for a blogger's retreat in Trieste, don't you? Cheese, meat, gelato - all sounds good to me. Thanks Michelle!


Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Apparently #shelfies are a thing. Who knew? Thanks to instagram, the humble bookshelf is no longer just a place to stack your books. Oh no, it's a vsco cam-filled photo-op just crying out to be shared. Or, in my case, the long overdue storage I've been waiting for for two years that we finally bought and installed over the last bank holiday. But of course you want it to look nice, whether it's going on instagram or not. 

I chose the Ivar system from IKEA because it is made of pine and my boyfriend, being a carpenter, objected to the prettier cabinets that were made of flimsy particle board. I'm glad we went for it in the end though, as it's totally customisable and was a third of the price. I gave it a single serving of undercoat for a whitewashed finish that still shows through some of the natural wood, and luckily it just fit into the space behind the door. Phew! Yes, I went for colour coding my books - I think it looks really pretty and I have no qualms about trashy chick lit sitting next to my favourite food memoirs, thank you very much. We also picked up a couple of spare shelves, so when my dad finally succeeds in getting me to move my books over from my parents' house, there will still be plenty of space.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Heads up! Motel does the prettiest vintage-style swimsuit and it comes in a bunch of colours too. I got this daisy print one for my trip to Malaysia back in March, but I think the plain black one is really chic and timeless. Wearing a one-piece is a refreshing change to a stringy bikini, plus it actually stays put when you're swimming. This one is cut longer on the leg for a super flattering fit, while the material is double-layered to smooth and skim over any lumps and bumps. I thought the moulded cups might not work for me as I'm small with big boobs, but the cups don't have an underwire so it fits well without giving that double boob effect (you know the one).

Are you going away this summer? I'm crossing my fingers for lots of sun in Cornwall this week and thinking about squeezing in a long weekend in Toulouse at some point too!

p.s. Need an extra reason to order this swimsuit? ASOS are offering 20% off all orders with the discount code EPIC20 TODAY ONLY!