I'm a bit gutted that I haven't managed to blog anything Christmas-y this year - these Christmas posts from blog years past are some of my favourite! I've worked with an interiors brand called Fishpools before on an inspiration post, and this season they're all about entertaining - having a big table and enough chairs to feed even a handful of friends can be a challenge; that's why I thought I would round up a few recipes for having friends over - recipes for finger food, when you can't get everyone squashed around the table and recipes for warming winter meals, when you're crammed elbow-to-elbow and bowl food is your best bet! p.s. here's hoping for this big dining table and a kitchen to fit it in from Father Christmas this year!
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Posting a little out of order here, but I wanted to squeeze in a little food post as it's been a while! Hands down the best thing we did on our 'second honeymoon' in Tokyo was go to a sushi making class. My friend's boyfriend booked the four of us into a class at the Tokyo Sushi Academy in Tsukiji and the school's close proximity to Tokyo's fish market (seeing this was the second best thing to happen that day) meant we had our pick of some of the world's freshest fish!
Monday, 31 October 2016
This post is actually what sparked all of my other wedding round-ups. I wasn't going to blog that much about the ins and outs of wedding planning and such, but a conversation on Twitter reminded me how much research I did into wedding dresses and that my encyclopaedic knowledge (and experience!) of online shopping might actually be useful to someone other than me.
Friday, 28 October 2016
Wednesday, 26 October 2016
Darren and I knew we never wanted a big, fancy 'do for our wedding: the only prerequisites were good food, lots of booze and nice lighting...oh, and not paying a hire fee! Early on, we decided a pub would be the right venue for us; all the hard work of staffing, seating and so on would be done for us, if the decor was nice we wouldn't have to spend much on decorations and a readymade venue comes with its own atmosphere, so we knew everyone would feel relaxed on the day.
Monday, 24 October 2016
One thing that made me slightly sad about the location of our wedding was that it just wasn't close enough to my parents' house to get ready there - they have the most beautiful home and it would have been lovely getting ready together there, but the journey times just didn't work out and I'm 100% sure it would have been stressful af. The next best thing was renting an Airbnb; it felt like being at home, which I preferred over a hotel, and it was 5 minutes' drive from the Town Hall. To be honest, on the morning I didn't even give a second thought to getting ready there. Here are a few of my favourite moments!
Friday, 21 October 2016
When we got engaged, it was a no brainer that I would ask my friend Jo to be our photographer. The day we pinned down our date I was straight on Whatsapp checking if she was free. And luckily she was! Jo works in a relaxed, documentary style and I think she really captured the mood of our wedding: intimate, easygoing and full of laughter. I have a few more wedding posts to come, but first I just wanted to share my favourite photos from the day - scroll right to the bottom for a few thoughts on choosing a photographer.
Monday, 10 October 2016
We're home from our honeymoon! If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen this snap already from our amazing wedding photographer (and friend!) Jo, but I wanted to share it here as well. Jo knew I really wanted a nice confetti shot so when she sent over this sneaky peek the day after the wedding I was sooo happy. We had the best day ever and we've just come back from 3 weeks away - being home is lovely...even if the dog did wake us up at 4:30! I think it will be a little while before I post much on the blog, but just wanted to drop in and share this little snippet of our day.
Monday, 22 August 2016
After a bit of radio silence on the blog, I'm excited to share this post with you! I haven't talked too much about our wedding, mostly because we haven't actually had to put too much thought into it...! The reception is in a pretty pub which doesn't need much decorating, but I always knew I wanted to find a way to show some of our favourite photos from our childhood and the 10 years we've been together. With bunting and chalkboards already on the agenda, I was a little worried about things looking too 'rustic', so when I found Lalalab online, I knew their big photo posters would be perfect for keeping things looking a little more clean and modern.
Lalalab kindly offered to gift me one of their framed posters and I'm so pleased with the result. I picked a 35-picture poster (you can also have 24 pictures, but the poster size is the same, so the photos just come out bigger) in a plain black frame. The 'glass' is actually plastic, which is better in some ways as it's super lightweight and doesn't create as much of a glare either. The process is also really easy - you can either download the app or use the desktop version to upload pictures straight from your phone/computer/social media and then reorder them to get your poster looking exactly the way you want it. I think it would look really cool to just pick pictures that are all one tone or create a graduated colour effect. We're going to display it on one of the mantlepieces in the pub; it's been so nice going through all the old photos together and getting our parents involved - I also think it's fun for family and friends who don't necessarily know both of us to get to see a bit more of us on the day!
Lalalab also offer a few other services, including Instagram prints, calendars and books; if you're interested, my referral code - PGBSYXPG - will get you €5 off your order.
Monday, 25 July 2016
Rye is tiny and absolutely charming. We stayed at The Standard Inn in the middle of the Old Town and, although I gave it a slightly unfavourable TripAdvisor review (due to it being too hot, too noisy and absolutely tiny - not great value for money), it was a lovely place to spend a night. We'll just bring a fan next time!
We spent an hour or so walking around the town - in the centre there is a small strip of antique shops which are mostly overpriced, but we couldn't resist a pair of large pink and yellow teapots at £10 a pop. We spent the evening dipping in and out of different pubs and had our dinner at The Standard, who offer a bit more than your standard pub grub; I had delicious scallops with a gratinated garlic and herb crumb and Darren had the most amazing chicken pie I've ever tasted, packed full of fresh chicken. A mini break breakfast is always something I look forward to and The Standard didn't disappoint with a really great full English, yoghurt and Dorset Cereals - just a shame we had to take breakfast in shifts as the dog was a bit restless and irked at having to watch us eat. Note to self: hotel may be dog-friendly, but bringing a dog isn't always hotel-friendly! I think we will wait until he is a bit older before trying that again.
Sunday, 3 July 2016
While not groundbreaking, I have sincerely been eating this on regular rotation in recent weeks and in the spirit of sharing the (carb)load, I thought this easy recipe was worth a bit of time in the blog limelight. When I was in kindergarten I had a Swedish Vietnamese friend who's mum made spaghetti with butter and yes, it is as delicious as it sounds. This version is slightly more sophisticated, but it's the addition of a splash of pasta water that gives it silky smooth, restaurant-quality appeal. Plus, cooking time is just however long you like to cook your pasta!
Originally we were making this a few nights a ewek as we couldn't let Baki out of our sight for more than a few seconds for fear of a wee on the carpet or a dalliance on the sofa, and it was the easiest thing to whip up in a squeeze - plus, when your dog wakes you up at 5am, it's pretty hard to think of an exciting meal to make come 7pm. However, now we've found that he loves to watch us cook and will sit nicely for up to 40 minutes, willing any scraps to fall from the chopping board, so hopefully that means more recipes in Sprunting!'s future.
At least 75g spaghetti
1tbsp olive oil
1 - 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced or minced
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Bring a pot of water to the boil with a big pinch of salt and add the spaghetti. Cook until al dente or to your liking - usually less than 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a very low heat and add the garlic. Stir occasionally and don't allow the garlic to burn, or it will get bitter. Just before draining the pasta, remove a small amount of the cooking water using a mug - about 50ml is enough for one person - and add this to the pan with the garlic. Drain the pasta, stir through the butter and add to the frying pan. The water should have mostly evaporated/soaked into the pasta. Serve immediately with a generous helping of sea salt and ground pepper - parmesan cheese is a nice addition, but I prefer mine without.
Friday, 24 June 2016
Long time, no blog! It's been a while since I got something up on the blog, mostly because we've had our hands full (overflowing, actually) with Baki and while I've been desperate to get some food posts up, there just hasn't been much time for cooking! One thing we have been speeding along with, however, is wedding plans. In the whirlwind of getting the dog, being bridesmaid at my brother's wedding and then going to Scotland for the wedding of an old school friend, I hadn't given our wedding much thought at all...until I realised it's less than 3 months to go! In an epic feat of 'getting my butt into gear', I've (we've - Darren has a surprising amount of opinions!) whizzed off endless questions to our venue, had my dress fitted by my amazing bridesmaid/chief seamstress, booked in a hair and make-up trial with a colleague's sister, decided on wedding invitations, ordered wedding shoes (the Sophia Webster beauties above, which I'm devastated to have to return as they're too small!), booked music, organised a bridesmaid/groomsmen knees up, booked honeymoon flights, squeezed in a photo booth booking and bought bridesmaids dresses and shoes. Phew! There's still much to do, but it's all come together in the best possible way and I'm only feeling slightly neurotic about the whole thing now.
Originally I had a very zen attitude towards the wedding, but I've come to realise that's because there were plenty of things I didn't think we wanted/needed. I hate to think of the stress levels of people who are actually organising a wedding, rather than just a big party, which is pretty much what we're having! We werent going to have much by way of decoration, just lots of flowers, but now that all the big things are out of the way I have gone into detail overdrive; yes, we need personalised beer mats, candles in the bathroom, silly straws and so on. However the day turns out, I can't wait for the day to get here and already getting sad because everyone says how quickly it goes past!
p.s. if anyone has suggestions for a stick on bra for big boobs, I will love you forever.
Sunday, 15 May 2016
Summer always has me thinking about refreshing my interiors. We have a long list of home improvements to make, but now they are on hold while Baki is still small (especially as it's looking like we'll have to replace the carpets now - toilet training is no joke!). Since going to ABC Home & Carpet in New York, I'm still obsessed with that shabby chic/industrial vibe, with a hint of New England summers thrown in for good measure. Seeing as we'll now be likely getting new carpets, there won't be much cash for other improvements, so I'm seeing a few upcyling projects and a bit of car-booting in our future! Here's what I've got my eye on at the moment:
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
These apple crumble sundaes are the second recipe that I shot with Jo (the first was these pesto breakfast pizzas!) and I love the way the photos turned out.
This recipe is inspired by an apple pie sundae I had at Soho House and I knew these pretty glasses from H&M Home would be perfect for the decadent layers of vanilla ice cream, spiced apples and crumbly, crunchy topping - which is taken from this recipe.
For the crumble
110g plain flour
A pinch of fine sea salt
100g cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
75g granulated or demerara sugar
50g medium oatmeal, ground almonds or porridge oats
For the apples
5 - 6 medium-sized apples - I used Braeburn
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground nutmeg
Half a lemon
1tbsp demerara sugar
Vanilla ice cream to serve
For the crumble, which you can make ahead, preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and rub together with your fingertips until you have a crumbly dough. Squeeze the mixture to form clumps, then crumble on to a large baking tray and spread evenly. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway, until golden and crisp. Cool and keep in an airtight container until ready to use.
Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and cut them into quarters or sixths. Arrange in a baking tray and sprinkle over the ingredients so that the apples are evenly coated. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until apples are soft to your liking.
To serve, simply layer the ice cream, apples and crumble topping and enjoy straight away. The topping will keep in an airtight container for a week or so and is delicious sprinkled over yoghurt and fruit.
Friday, 22 April 2016
Introducing the reason why I haven't blogged in ages! It's been a week since we picked up our puppy and life hasn't stopped, even for a minute, since.
First things first, his name is Baki - named after Darren's favourite Japanese manga character. We might have shot ourselves in the foot a bit as Baki is a wrestler and this boisterous little pup is certainly living up to his name! He's a Staffordshire Bull Terrier x Labrador cross - our two favourite dogs! We've been wanting a dog for years and decided that it's never going to be 'the right time'. The first night we got him we were a bit shellshocked - he has SO much energy - but we've settled into the swing of things. We've been getting up in the night with him to make sure he goes to the toilet in the right place and not in his bed...I'm not expecting to have a lie in now for at least a few months!
He chews absolutely everything so we had to do some serious puppy proofing after he arrived; there is literally nothing on the floor anymore as he wants to play with all of the things! Apart from a bit of nipping, he is a total babe and when he curls up in your lap to sleep...well there's just nothing better.
Tuesday, 12 April 2016
My lovely friend Jo (who's shooting our wedding!) came over a few weeks ago for a cooking and photographing day; I can't tell you how nice it was to have someone snapping along while I cooked, so I didn't have to stop to take pictures. And of course the photos are gorgeous! Scroll to the bottom - it's hard to choose between pictures when they're all awesome - for the recipe and some tips on how to get the perfect runny yolk.
2 flatbread pizza bases (recipe here)
A few tablespoons pesto (the homemade stuff is best - recipe here)
100g smoked lardons
Pre-heat the grill.
Make the bases using my flatbread recipe linked above. Make the pesto - also linked above. Fry the lardons until crisp. Separate the yolk and white of each egg - it's easiest to do this using a small bowl or ramekin to put the white into, and leave the yolk in one half of the shell, keeping it upright in an egg cup. Spread a tablespoon of pesto over the base and sprinkle half of the lardons over it. Pour the egg white onto the pizza and pop under the grill for a few minutes, until the white is nearly set. Take the pizzas out of the oven and pour the yolk into the centre of the whites - return to the grill for a few more minutes until the yolk is set to your liking.
This may seem like a bit of a faff, but after a little experimentation, I found that this is the best way to make sure the yolk stays runny, which is VITAL (in my humble opinion). One recipe I'd seen suggested baking the pizza (with both white and yolk added at the same time) - but the result was a strangely marbled, hardened yolk and a barely-cooked white, which you can see in my instagram snap here; still tasty though!
Thanks for the photos, Jo! Please can you come be my live-in photographer?
Friday, 1 April 2016
Cooking for other people can be a daunting prospect. For many people, food is their love language and cooking for friends and family is such an intrinsic part of who they are. For me, that natural confidence is often missing; having people over for dinner makes me anxious. What should I cook? Will they like it? What if they don't!? I love to cook and I'm sure the fact that I've cooked on telly for one of Britain's most famous chefs should point to the fact that I'm confident about my cooking, but the truth of the matter is - far from it!
Of course, there are compliments from friends, but most dinner guests (at least, the ones I like to have around my table!) are mostly likely to tell you it's delicious, even if it's only moderately so. Sometimes I have quite weird tastes...I love certain things together that shouldn't go together and I'm indiscriminate in my love of hotdog frankfurters and cheap greasy spoon sausages. Sorry, not sorry! So for that reason, it can be hard to tell if something I've made is good...or I just think it is! Having an honest boyfriend (whom I cook for most nights) definitely solves some of the mystery, but he can be brutally honest - for example, he didn't like the Vietnamese salad dish I made on Humble Pie!
I'm currently re-reading Cooking For Mr Latte, in which she makes the case for a signature menu. Like me, the author loves cooking; so much so, that she rarely cooks the same dish more than a few times, choosing to flit between newly-discovered techniques and ingredients. But, she notes, hosting a dinner party sends her into a spiral of panic, whereas having a tried-and-tested set of dishes ready to go takes the anxiety out of preparing food for others and leaves you open for being a relaxed, attentive host. I think that will have to be my next project – starting with making the perfect meatballs: I always come back to this article, about how having people over doesn’t need to be a ‘special occasion’ where you put on your best show. Really, it’s just about bringing people together. Amen!
So I'm curious; what gives you confidence in your cooking? Does cooking come naturally to you? Do you have a signature dish that does the job for dinner parties, leaving you free to be the perfect host? Any kitchen disasters that knocked your confidence?
Recipes from top to bottom: Mini lemon and blackberry cakes, Breakfast burritos w/ homemade tortillas, Double-wrapped spring rolls (as part of this dish), Bombay omelette inspired by Dishoom, Chipotle macaroni cheese, Homemade furikake rice bowls, Courgetti and halloumi.