The Breakfast Club: Banana, blueberry & almond smoothie

Everyone loves a good smoothie. The beauty of the smoothie is that you can bung most things (within reason) into the mix and it’ll taste fine. However, all smoothies were not created equal, so here’s the yummiest combination of classic smoothie ingredients I’ve found. The Greek yoghurt, almond milk and honey give this one the creamy edge of luxury, while the banana and frozen blueberries keep it tasting fresh. It’s so simple that I do kind of feel cheeky calling it a recipe though…

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Oh, and it’s a pretty colour too

Ingredients

1 banana, in chunks

A handful of frozen blueberries

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt (optional, I guess, but it makes it oh-so-creamy)

4 tablespoons Almond milk (you could use another type of milk, but I like the subtle almond taste)

1 teaspoon honey

Directions

–  Add all of your ingredients to your smoothie creator of choice (I use a handheld blender and jug combo) and BLITZ AWAY until your smoothie is… well… smooth.

– Now drink your smoothie. That’s it. I told you it really was embarrassingly simple.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Homeslice, Neal’s Yard

A little while ago, just before Christmas, a good friend and I went to the South Bank Christmas market; after working up an appetite browsing the stalls we wanted something to eat. Predictably, all of the nearby restaurants were packed and we decided to head somewhere off the beaten track in the hope of finding a table. And perhaps something a little different. We wandered quite far in search of the above, which I’m beginning to discover in earnest is something of an elusive quarry in London.

Eventually though, we came across Homeslice. We had to settle for a table outside, but we were suitably bundled up and the setting, on a tiny side street, meant that we were pretty sheltered and actually quite cosy. The service was fast and friendly —  and the waiter patiently deciphered the hipster chalk prices for us (yes, I am middle-aged, I know this) and brought us a generous bottle of tap water without any eye-rolling whatsoever.

We ended up going for one slice of each of the first three pizzas to share: Margherita/ Salami, Rocket & Parmesan/ Mushroom, Ricotta, Pumpkin Seeds & Chilli Flakes. As someone who is really not very adventurous, especially when it comes to savoury food, there were ingredients there that made me a bit antsy. Mainly ricotta and pumpkin seeds. I’ll admit I was sceptical. But I’m glad I branched out: the pizzas were all lovely. No grease in sight, just great flavours and ingredients which tasted really fresh. The base was light and just the right level of chewy vs. crusty in my opinion. And by buying by the slice, we had the perfect amount of food for a pretty reasonable price. (£12 altogether, so £6 each) The flavour combinations all worked perfectly, but my favourite was definitely the mushroom/ ricotta extravanganza that I’d been so wary of — adventurous choices rewarded. Homeslice’s website is here: you should definitely pay them a visit!

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Delicious, delicious pizza

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: The Haberdashery, Crouch End

Last weekend, my lovely friend Helen came to stay. We share an ardent appreciation of all things vintage, pretty and higgledy-piggledy — we spend a lot of time exchanging links to beautiful tiles and extravagant baking projects. Mainly on Pinterest. You get the picture. And so when she arrived off the train at King’s Cross from my home town, I really wanted to make the most of having her in London and go somewhere adorable and awesome. A quick Google search of something along the very predictable lines of ‘cosiest cafes in London’ yielded The Haberdashery: the name had me instantly hooked. It was only an easy half hour bus ride from where we were to Crouch End, so off we went.

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I didn’t manage to get my own photograph of the amazing interior; this one is from the cafe’s website

We loved it! The interior is stunning; vintage and chintzy in all of the best ways with excellent use of Victorian fireplace tiles and coffee bowls (yep, we saw people getting hot chocolate in what looked like breakfast bowls, heaven) hanging eccentrically behind the till. Our drinks came in glass bottles, and our food arrived on charmingly mismatched vintage plates. AND our butter came in an ancient looking ceramic tub that once contained ‘Sainsbury’s Freshly Made Bloater Paste’, which it turns out (thanks, Google) is a kind of fish paste made from Bloater fish, which is traditionally eaten on toast for afternoon tea. No actual fish paste on offer, sadly, so I had a Breakfast Roll with bacon and egg. The bread was lovely —  exactly the right level of toasted — sweet and chewy. The egg was fresh and cooked to perfection — the bacon just as good. I know, I know, it’s an egg and bacon sandwich. But that just seems like a massive understatement: it really was unlike any I’ve ever eaten.

I also had a yummy Elderflower Soda Jar, which of course came in an actual chunky jar with a handle. Again, it was like Elderflower cordial I’d had before, but just somehow better. The cakes looked amazing, but we were just too full after our delicious mains to sample any! I have vowed to return for afternoon tea very, very soon. Here’s the website: if you ever find yourself in Crouch End, definitely pop in. Actually scrap that, it’s worth making the journey especially, if only just to avoid another soul- destroying “Oh, I suppose we’ll just go to Starbucks, then” moment. I’ll certainly be back!

The Breakfast Roll of destiny

The Breakfast Roll of destiny

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Elderflower Cordial in a handy-handled jar

Helen with 'The Colonial' Juice: apple, cucumber, lime + mint

Helen with ‘The Colonial’ Juice: apple, cucumber, lime + mint

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015. Except the first photograph, which is from The Haberdashery’s website here.

Five signs that you’re a twenty-something home for the holidays

1. You’re suddenly drinking a lot of tea. On average 30 cups a day. Every self respecting Proper Home has tea constantly on tap. In my house, a mug just somehow appears in front of me every 15 minutes.
2. You know those sibling(s) that you get on really well with when you’re living in different houses and have actual adult conversations with about your lives via phone? Well as soon as you’re back under the same roof you’ll soon find yourselves reverting to squabbling like you’re 11 again. And wrestling. And pouring huge vats of mincemeat over each other.*
*not really
3. All of the skills and abilities that allow you to survive normally evaporate as soon as you pass the threshold of your family home. ‘I’m pretty sure I have no idea how to actually use a washing machine… Do I have to put the powder in before I turn it on, or…?’
4. You have a really weird miscellaneous collection of your possessions still in your bedroom; a combination of things too big or too random to make it into the thingstotaketotheonebedroomflat pile. The same goes for clothes. ‘Oh it’s fine, I won’t take many clothes back, I have loads still left there.’ Yes, yes you do. But they’re all things that you didn’t take with you when you moved out for a reason. Mainly bobbly jumpers and misshapen leggings, bras six sizes too small and those brightly-coloured tights you thought were a good idea when you were 14. They’ll look great at that family dinner party.
5. You’re eating foods you’d unthinkingly filtered out of your diet. Roasted meats? Things that require a food processor? You mean you can fit more than one baking dish in that oven? THREE DIFFERENT VEGETABLES FOR DINNER?

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Ginger & Eggnog: two Christmas drinks recipes

The days between Christmas and New Year are often a little bit of a weird time; some might even say they’re anti- climactic. It’s almost as though when Christmas day itself is over everyone remembers that December is, on the whole, cold and grey and (in Britain) also often quite rainy. In the build up to the 25th, it’s like all of the sparkle and mince pie making and carols have distracted us from this otherwise evident fact. So to fend off that strange Christmas-is-over-but-it’s-still-winter melancholy, here are two recipes for Christmassy drinks to raise your spirits. We’re only technically on the 5th day of Christmas, after all. And one of my favourite things about the Christmas period is having the time and the excuse to potter around in the kitchen. And I’d recommend some well- timed pottering to all feeling the after-Christmas blues.

Eggnog

Mum and I wanted to try making something that we’d never made before. And we chose the most stereotypical Christmas drink we could think of. There are a lot of variations on the eggnog recipe. We went for one where you make up the thin custardy part first, and then you can experiment with which alcohol you want to add to each glassful. We preferred brandy in the end.

Ingredients

1140ml/2 pints whole milk

6 free-range eggs

50g/2oz sugar

1 vanilla pod, split (or a decent glug of vanilla extract, which is what I opted for and went fine)

Brandy and/ or rum

Cocoa powder, for dusting

Directions

– Lightly whisk together the whole milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.

– Pour into a large saucepan and heat gently on a low heat until the mixture is thickened. Stir continuously, and don’t let the mixture boil.

– Once the mixture is thickened, take it off the heat but keep stirring as it cools down to stop it sticking or burning. (Remove the vanilla pod if using rather than extract). I poured it into a large bowl in order to stop the cooking and cool the mix down. Stir occasionally to stop a skin from forming.

– Chill the mixture in the fridge.

– Once cold, pour some into a glass and add brandy or rum to personal taste. Dust lightly with cocoa powder if you’re feeling fancy (I forgot!).

Eggnog!

Eggnog! And a mini glass! And some ivy!

 

Ginger Christmas Cordial

And a non- alcoholic alternative. This is a recipe which my Northern Irish Nana always made at Christmas time, and my Mum still makes it when she can get hold of the ginger essence which is the most important ingredient, but which is a bit elusive in England. This year she found it in a health food shop. This is gingery and spicy and perfectly festive! In pretty bottles it also makes a great gift.

Riddle's Ginger Compound. Sounds a little bit sinister.

Riddle’s Ginger Compound. Sounds a little bit sinister.

Ingredients

– One sachet blackcurrant jelly

– 900g/2lbs sugar

– 4 pints/2.4 liters boiling water

Directions

– Dissolve the jelly and the sugar in the boiling water.

– Cover, and leave to go cold.

– Stir in the ginger essence, and pour into bottles.

– When you’re ready to drink it, dilute it as you would cordial. It’s great with either water or lemonade.

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The finished product

And there you go. Two drinks perfect for any New Year’s Party. Or family gathering. Or, you know, drinking alone watching Bridget Jones’ Diary.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Christmas Baking: Mince Pies

I never used to like mince pies. But this year I’ve warmed to them considerably, for whatever reason. The shop bought ones we had in work were suddenly moderately enjoyable. But then I came home and had some of my mum’s. And they’re AMAZING. I know Christmas day has been and gone, but I recently learned in a Christmas quiz that apparently you’re meant to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas for good luck. But feel free not to limit yourself to one a day. In fact if you make these, I challenge you to limit yourself to one a day. Oh, and the crowning glory of a good mince pie has to be brandy butter. So I’ve included my mum’s recipe for that as well. She is, after all, the Queen of Baking herself. (Step aside, Mary Berry).

The amounts here make a lot of pies (six dozen i.e. 60, to be precise) so you might want to halve the amount if you’re not confident you’ll get through them all. Although they do freeze really well, and make lovely presents. Am I overselling? Never.

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You literally have no idea how long it took me to get that swirl of brandy butter to look aesthetically acceptable

 

Mince Pies

Ingredients

For the pastry

1lb/450g plain flour
6oz/175g lard
6oz/175g margarine
4oz/110g icing sugar
Grated zest and juice of one orange

For the mincemeat

1lb/450g cooking apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 stewed apples*

8oz/225g shredded suet

12oz/350g raisins

8oz/325g sultanas

8oz/325g currants

12oz/350g soft dark brown sugar

Rind and juice of two oranges

Rind and juice of two lemons

4 tspn mixed spice

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

*I don’t know if this is a universally recognised ingredient, or a Daley family thing. It’s just cooking apples which have been cut into chunks and cooked on a low heat with a bit of sugar or syrup until they’re really mushy. You might need a tiny bit of water if they start to look like they’re drying out before they’ve reached a decent mush.

Directions

– The day before you want to bake your mince pies, you’ll need to make your mincemeat. I know this is a time-consuming process, but that’s a big part of its beauty.

– Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

– Cover with a cloth and leave for at least twelve hours, covered with a tea towel.

– If you intend to make all of the mincemeat into pies straight away, or within the next week, then it’ll keep fine in an airtight container in the fridge.

– If you want to store it for longer, then you’ll need to place it a baking dish loosely covered with foil, and warm it in a cool oven at 120c for about three hours. This slowly melts the suet and allows it to coat the rest of the ingredients, which prevents fermentation from taking place if too much juice seeps from the apples while you’re storing it.

-Then allow it to get cold and spoon into clean, dry jars. Cover with waxed discs and seal.

– On the day selected for mince pie making, preheat the oven to 180c.

– To make the pastry, rub the fat into the flour and icing sugar

– Add the grated rind and enough juice to make a pastry consistency

(If you’re a pastry newbie, then check out this tutorial from Delia Smith for a better guide.)

– Wrap in cling film, then rest in the fridge for at least half an hour

– Roll out the pastry (again, the tutorial from Delia above has a few tips)

– Now use a circular cutter to make the discs that’ll hold the mincemeat, and stars for the tops of the pies (or you could use another disc if you prefer, but I like the less- pastry approach since it’s lighter and more interesting to look at).

– Place the discs in the bottoms of the cupcake tray, and push down gently so that they mould to the ‘cup’ shape. You don’t need to grease the trays since there’s a lot of fat in the pastry that’ll stop the pies from sticking.

– Divide the mincemeat equally between the cups, then top each with a pastry star.

– Brush the top of each star with a little milk, then bake for 10- 12 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

To serve, whip up some brandy butter. It’s very easy- in fact, it’s barely a recipe.

You need to make some buttercream by creaming together butter/ margarine and icing sugar. I don’t use a recipe for this, I just tend to start with some butter, then gradually add icing sugar until it’s quite a stiff buttercream. Then I add brandy to taste. To quote my mum directly, there’s only enough brandy when it ‘catches at the back of your throat’. So er, that amount. Beat it all together until lovely and smooth, and dollop generously on top of whatever you feel like; it goes well with anything Christmassy- Christmas pudding and Christmas cake as well as mince pies.

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The artistic bite

And now you can officially scorn shop bought mince pies. And forever wear the smug smile of somebody who ‘handcrafts their own mince pies, actually.’*

*I don’t actually recommend saying this out loud. It would make you an unbearable Christmas guest…

In terms of credit, the pastry recipe came from a family friend who was an amazing cook- she recently passed away, so it’s nice to make these and think of her and how she used to care for people by cooking for them. The mincemeat recipe is the one my mum has used for over twenty years, which she cut out of a supermarket recipe magazine, and has since adapted a little.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

The Friday Frame {10} Let your heart be light

Here are a series of Christmassy frames for Boxing Day (which is also a Friday, of course). And, as Judy Garland first sang in ‘Meet me in St Louis’: Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

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Snowman Christmas tree decoration; this was my favourite when I was little

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One of the cupcakes I baked for a Christmas gathering with friends

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Santa sledging

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Ballerina on the tree

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My mum’s tin of retro Christmas decorations

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Dates stuffed with marzipan

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Baubles and sparkly lights

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Baking is good for the soul

So it seems I am no longer a student. The proof is everywhere: I am the reluctant owner of an Oxford alumni card, I spend most days trawling the internet in search of an Actual Real Job and the government no longer gives me any money. And to cope with the lethal combination of little idea of what the immediate future holds, and a huge amount of time to dwell on that uncertainty, I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. So, today I did something for the first time, I baked bread from scratch AND it was edible. It’s amazing the sense of achievement I got from making these french bread rolls, but I guess it’s the little thing in life.

I followed a recipe from the lovely Mel at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, a blog which I’ve become addicted to recently. This lady knows a hell of a lot about everything cooking related, and she has become like my cooking experiment fairy godmother. Within the post on the french bread rolls which you can find here, she has also linked to a tutorial on yeast which I found invaluable being a bread beginner, and with her expert guidance I am now the proud creator of 12 admittedly imperfect but incredibly beautiful bread rolls. (Well, 11 now.)

Russian proverb: ‘With bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree’. I guess all I need to do now is find a pine tree.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Blenheim, Burgers and General Bumbling

Once we’d finished our exams, we found ourselves in the unfamiliar situation of being in Oxford with two weeks to go before the end of term and nothing in particular to do. Being in college with no essays to write and no exams to revise for was very weird, but with every intention of making the most of it, we set out to enjoy our last few days of university in the sunshine. I love a good list, so here are my three favourite things that I got up to in those last few weeks, with lots of photographs.

1. Blenheim Palace

I’ve loved visiting historic homes since I was little, and Blenheim was really interesting: it’s the birthplace of William Churchill so that’s a big focus of the exhibitions, but the guided tour also included lots about other residents of the house. There were collections of Churchill’s letters and diaries, giving an insight into his personal life and not just his well- known wartime persona. I was especially taken with the story of his life long love affair with his wife Clementine, including how he was so nervous about proposing to her that she had to be taken on a ride around the palace grounds by another member of his family while Winston worked up the courage to ask. Given that the main image I’ve always had of the wartime leader was of a rather gruff, forceful man, it was nice to see a different side to him. It made me like him more.

His iconic World War Two speeches were also playing throughout the exhibition, and although I don’t tend to think of myself as especially patriotic, his speeches, and the amazing sense of unity which they inspired, really get to me every time. The grounds were also amazing, complete with their own lake, a huge stone bridge, a chapel and a rose garden.

2.  Burgers

One of the places I’ve wanted to visit since I got to Oxford is Atomic Burger on Cowley Road, a burger place famous for its American style burgers, fries and milkshakes. I’ll admit that things like ‘Diners, Drive- Ins and Dives’ on the Food Channel may have contributed to me wanting to try it! So when my brother came to visit for a few days we headed down there, and we definitely weren’t disappointed.

My brother had ‘The Garfield’, which was basically a burger with lasagna on top: the menu describes it as ‘so wrong but oh so right’, which just about sums it up! I had the ‘Audrey Hepburn’, which was topped with a fried egg, bacon and an onion ring, plus fries and the BEST strawberry milkshake I’ve ever had. My boyfriend had the ‘Dead Elvis’, which was topped with Swiss cheese, American cheese, bacon and onions. He also went for the ‘Dirty Fries’, which were loaded with beef chilli, aged cheddar sauce & jalapenoes: he was pretty much in heaven with those.

So lunch was awesome, and the surroundings made it even better: the menu describes those behind Atomic Burger as pop culture junkies, and that sums up the place. A TV plays loads of old music videos, the cornier the better, and the walls are filled with geeky sci- fi memorabilia. My brother said that eating there was like being in ‘Pulp Fiction’, which he reliably informs me was a positive thing. They also had cool ketchup/ mustard bottles: tick, tick, tick.

3. General Bumbling

What do students do when they finish their exams? Go to pubs. Lots of pubs. Well we did anyway. One of my friends has a pub crawl poster with about fifty pubs on which she’d been ticking off gradually throughout our degree, but in the last two weeks she went on a one woman mission in a bid to visit every single one. We also spent a lot of time lying on the quad in the sunshine, sleeping, and going to formal dinners. At times it was quite emotional, since we knew this was the last time that we’d all be in Oxford together, but I really tried not to let it all get too much. I knew that once I let the emotion overwhelm me I’d be useless, and I really wanted to make the most of my last few days. The photographs below are from a lunch I had with two of my best friends in a beautiful pub by a meadow just outside Oxford. It was quite a long walk there, which we spent setting the world to rights and laughing a lot: exactly what friends are for.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.