Daytrippers: Whitstable

Sometimes, you just have to get out of London.  So on a clear, crisp October day we got on a train from St Pancras to Whitstable, a small fishing town on the north coast of Kent, and spent a lovely day wandering the crooked streets and crunching along the pebbled beach.  It’s the ideal seaside town for window shopping, with endless tiny shops filled with beautiful things, and we were incredibly lucky with the weather – sunny enough to enjoy a pint (of Diet Coke, in my case) on the shingle outside the only pub on a beach I have ever come across.

It may have been cold enough for me to regret saying yes to ice in my plastic pint glass, but there’s something lovely about being bundled up warm in coats and scarves, looking out at the white horses and listening to the pebbles skittering along the shore with each wave that turns. We finished the day with fish and chips from a painted hut on the shore, followed by hot doughnuts out of a paper bag, complete with sticky fingers and sugary cheeks courtesy of the chaotic sea breezes. So here are some pictures from our day at the seaside – I hope you enjoy them.

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Listening to Sax by Fleur East, Sister Rosetta goes before us by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift.

All words and photographs are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie?  But all chocolate chip cookies are certainly not created equal. I actually actively dislike supermarket cookies. They are horrifically sweet (and this from somebody with a very sweet tooth) and taste resolutely artificial. But here is a chocolate chip cookie that is all grown up. Or as grown up as a chocolate chip cookie can be. Chunks of dark chocolate leave milk chocolate chips in their wake in this particular context I’m afraid. And the flakes of sea salt take the edge off the sweetness and add an extra layer of deliciousness.

Do enjoy with a glass of milk though, because who actually wants to be a grown up anyway?

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This recipes makes about 14 fairly decent-sized cookies.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (50 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (165 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (220 grams) plain flour
1/2 pound (225 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks
Flaky sea salt, to sprinkle

Directions

  • Heat oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with grease proof paper.
  • Cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and the vanilla, beating until incorporated, and scraping down the bowl as needed.
  • Beat in salt and baking soda until combined, then add the flour until just mixed, and then fold in the chocolate chunks.
  • I scooped the cookies into heaped tablespoon-sized mounds, spacing them apart on the baking tray.
  • Sprinkle each with a few flakes of sea salt.
  • Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, until golden on the outside but still soft on the inside.
  • Let the cookies rest on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring a cooling rack.

Tip: I froze extra dough in scoops on a plate lined with greaseproof paper. Once they’re solid, you can transfer them to a freezer bag.  This allows you to pin a note onto your noticeboard saying ‘Bake frozen cookies for 11 minutes’ and feel like a domestic goddess whenever you take advantage and have freshly baked cookies within 20 minutes.

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Listening to Hello by Adele (obviously!),  Totally by Joe Stilgoe and I’m not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you by Black Kids.

I adapted this recipe very slightly from Smitten Kitchen, but it’s originally from Ashley Rodriguez’s Not Without Salt. The photographs and other words are  © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Be Thankful

Thanksgiving.  It’s not a holiday we celebrate on this side of the pond, but I’ve seen enough American films and read enough décor blog posts to know the deal. Pumpkin pie, cinnamon-scented candles, turkey, more pumpkins, and that episode of Friends where Rachel crucially misunderstands the ingredients of a ‘traditional English trifle’ and everyone pretends to like it. Oh, and then there’s the thankfulness part. Taking a moment to reflect on everything that you have to be grateful for in your life – a way to end the year with a focus on the positives.

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Although as a British person I am duty-bound to view most US traditions with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned grumpy cynicism (sorry guys!), I really like this one. And in that spirit, I was tagged by the lovely lady over at White Walls and Wanderlust to complete the ‘Be Thankful Challenge’. So here goes.

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Rules

– Share this image in your blog post.
– Write about 5 people in your life you are thankful for.
– Write about 5 things in 2015 that you are thankful for.
– Spread the love and challenge 5 other blogs to take part.

Five people I am thankful for (in no particular order!)

  • The Boy. My partner in crime, my best friend and the person who makes me laugh most in the world, who seems to be able to fix everything from broken taps to broken hearts and who makes every day better just by being in it. I’m so soppy.
  • My family. Some more of my very favourite people.  Being with them is like being wrapped in a great big blanket and protected from everything that is wrong with the world. They’re quite funny too.  And as my brother once said in one of his more profound moments, “Families aren’t made to be apart.”
  • My friends! All here together because picking one or two favourites wouldn’t seem fair. I love them all for different reasons, and they all mean the world to me. They are the most intelligent, kind and funny bunch of people, and I’m so glad I’ve been lucky enough to collect them along the way.
  • Dan. Perhaps it’s odd to have somebody on your list you’ve never actually met, but I know this person is patient, kind and incredibly good at his job. Dan is the therapist who helped my boyfriend through his serious and very scary struggle with anxiety this year, and I could not be more grateful to him.
  • Everyone reading this. Too clichéd? Sorry. But honestly, I’m truly thankful for everyone who reads my blog, and for the conversations we have in this little corner of the internet about cakes and fairy lights and adventures and everything in between.

Five things I am thankful for

  • My flat. It’s been my first home away from my family, and my first with Matt. It’s warm and cosy and clean and finally feels like home. It’s our safe little nest for the end of the day, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
  • Challenges. My first year after graduating hasn’t been without its fair share of struggles, some of them very big and real and scary. But I’ve faced them all, overcome them, and my life is better as a result. I’m grateful for everything those hard times taught me.
  • My job. I’ve found a job and a team that I absolutely love. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that a terrible job can make you truly miserable. If you hate your job I beg you to leave right now if you can find a way. There is much better out there for you, you just need to find it.
  • Britain. For all of its faults – and there are many – I’m incredibly thankful that this is my home. I’m thankful that I live in a generally peaceful, liberal country where my rights are preserved and protected. I’m thankful that medical care is free and available to everyone who needs it. And I’m also grateful for the wry humour, the conversations about the weather and that wonderful British awkwardness.
  • Language. I love the intricacies of language, discovering new words and unusual sayings, and that feeling of immense satisfaction when you find the right words. I’m also evidently a windbag, given I’ve basically written a paragraph for each of these!

Five nominations

Fuelled by Oats – a lovely positive sunbeam of a blog and blogger

The Thankful Heart – such a fitting blog name, her blog really encapsulates this whole theme perfectly.

Persephone H – a fellow foodie

With all my Affection – one of the prettiest blogs around

A Cornish Mum – this blog has a little bit of everything for everyone

Listening to: Hold my Hand by Jess Glynn, Ashes and Wine by The Civil Wars and Masochist by Ingrid Michaelson.

The words and the images apart from those relating to the challenge are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Wanderlust {Warsaw}: painting in the street

While I was in Warsaw I took a lot of pictures of walls, and a few of the ground. Luckily I wasn’t just going mad — the walls and the floor were more interesting than they are in most places. That’s the round about way of saying that there was a lot of street art around and about, and here are some photographs of it. Enjoy!

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We saw this as we arrived, and it warmed my heart 🙂

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Red balloon

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Why is the sky dark at night?

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A bit of a scarier one

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Lady in pink

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Blue bird, umbrellas

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Godzilla?

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Warsaw, what you’ve done to me

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Yes, Beyonce

All images © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Blackberry and Bramley apple tart

Autumn is here!  My favourite season of them all. So it was with great glee that I managed to pick enough blackberries on a walk a few weekends ago to bake the king of all British, autumnal fare: the blackberry and apple tart.

It’s a rare moment when all of these ingredients crowd together and demand to be baked into a rough-hewn pie, bubbling purple from beneath a golden pastry lattice. The blackberries have to be wild — picked from hedgerows and piled into baskets, or scattered into the bottom of plastic carrier bags. Their cost is bramble scratches, nettle stings and fingertips stained purple, but they are a million times sweeter and tarter than the strangely tasteless shop-bought variety.  And the apples have to be Bramley, ‘cooking apples’, with their intensely tart quality which renders them edible only when tamed with sugar and heat. You can’t use normal apples here, sorry.

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Ingredients

For the sweet pastry
  • 900g butter, softened
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 200g flour
For the filling
  • 600g bramley apples, peeling and sliced
  • 200g blackberries, washed and gently patted dry
  • 100g caster sugar
  • A pinch of cinammon
  • 1 egg, beaten with two tablespoons of milk

Directions

– Heat oven to 190c / 170c fan oven / gas mark 5.

– Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until well combined and then beat in the egg yolks one at a time until fully mixed in.

– Mix in the flour until the mixture comes together as a ball of dough.

– Tip the mix out onto a floured worktop and knead briefly until smooth.

– Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

– Once it’s chilled, roll 2/3 of the pastry out on a floured surface, before using it to line the bottom of your favourite tart dish (about 23cm is ideal). Leave a slight overhang – the pastry will shrink when you bake it so you don’t want to trim it right down at this stage. (GBBO knowledge right there.)

– Save any pastry scraps, and return the tart to the fridge for 10 minutes. Prick the base lightly with a fork, then line with baking paper and baking beans or a suitable alternative (I used rice).

– Place in the oven on a baking tray for 20 minutes, remove the beans and paper, then bake for 10 mins more until sandy brown and almost biscuity.

– Tip the apples into a large bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes to soften.  Toss in the berries, sugar, cinammon and 2 tbsp flour with a pinch of salt and mix well before piling into the case, saving 14 berries for later to go in the gaps of the lattice.

– Roll the remaining pastry and trimmings together into a square. Divide into eight strips of pastry.

– Weave the strips of pastry evenly over the fruit to create the lattice, and push the ends into the edge of the tart. Trim the overhang of pastry, brush the lattice heavily with the egg / milk mixture then scatter generously with more sugar.

– Push the remaining berries into the gaps, then bake for about an hour until brown and bubbling.

– Leave to cool for about half an hour, then serve with cream or ice cream.  Leftovers survive pretty well covered in cling film for a few days, and are also yummy cold.

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Tip: If you like, use leftover pastry to decorate your lattice. Take a small, sharp knife and cut out suitably autumnal shapes. Leaves are always a safe choice.

Listening to Sort of by Ingrid Michaelson, Brave by Sara Bareilles and Sister Rosetta goes before us by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.

This recipe is an amalgamation of two from BBC Good Food, which you can find here and here. I made a few changes, namely reducing the amount of filling. Everything else is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Warsaw: the Botanical Gardens

When we were in Warsaw a couple of weeks ago, we spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the Botanical Gardens, part of the University of Warsaw.  A short bus ride from our hostel, the gardens were the perfect haven after a few days’ sightseeing in the bustling city. We spent a lovely few hours reading on a secluded bench amid the trees and flowers.

It was one of the times recently when I’ve felt most relaxed – it was lovely to just switch off and just be in a beautiful place.  It’s moments like that which really nurture us, I think. When I wasn’t daydreaming, I powered through much of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling!), which, incidentally, I LOVED and would thoroughly recommend.

If you happen to be in Warsaw and would like to visit the gardens yourself, the  website can be found here.  There is a small charge to venture inside – I can’t remember how much it was, but I’m pretty sure it worked out at less than £1 in the good old GBP.

Here are some of my photographs which I took – take a botanical wander with me!

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This is actually the beautiful open boulevard just outside the gardens themselves

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Listening to I like this one by Joe Stilgoe, Waitress Song by First Aid Kit, Everyone is Gay by A Great Big World and Sister Rosette Goes Before Us by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Everything is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Brockley Market

A couple of weeks ago, the boy and I headed to Brockley Market on one of our weekend adventures.  It was a bit of a trek from North West London to Lewisham, but it was worth it for this lovely market, which was an absolute food geek’s paradise! Stall upon stall was laden with fresh, gorgeous produce, from artisan sourdough to homemade cordial, and almost every one was manned by a friendly stall holder, passionate about their wares and eager to explain the painstaking processes of producing their food.  It was great to talk to so many people so clearly pursuing their passions, and so proud of what they had to sell.

One lady explained to us what makes sourdough different from normal bread, before advising us on the best loaf for sourdough beginners (n.b. it was delicious). Another guy explained how he made his beautiful cheeses, while M made himself at home getting endless advice about different craft beers. We also tried some very VERY hot BBQ sauces, touted by some very eager guys who took great glee in our reaction to their mildest offering!

There were loads of street food trucks to choose from for lunch — our resolutions to save money and eat at home having rapidly disintegrated. After much deliberation, we went for the Saltwood Fish Bar. Matt had the fish and chips, which he declared to be one of the best he’d ever had. I had the calamari and chips — squid coated in polenta and deliciously crisp — alongside some wonderfully garlicky aioli. We ate this on several large wooden benches set at one corner of the market, alongside people enjoying everything from burritos to huge burgers from the other stalls.

I’d thoroughly recommend taking a trip to Brockley if you find yourself in the area. It’s a lovely way for anybody who likes food (isn’t that everybody…?) to spend a Saturday morning.

For the where, when and how, the website is here.

And now, for many many photographs…

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Listening to There is an Answer by A Great Big World, Wonderful Unknown by Ingrid Michaelson and 22 by Taylor Swift.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Breakfast Club: Blueberry compote

You know when you buy lots of blueberries, forget about them in either the fridge or freezer — forgotten blueberries in the freezer being infinitely less of a tragedy — and then remember just in time before they become rather too blue and a bit fluffy?  Just me? Okay. Well this is the perfect answer to an entire punnet of blueberries — two cups to be exact. You can even buy them especially, if you want to be that organised person who puts me to shame! Bubbled up with honey and a dash of cinnamon, this compote is wonderfully versatile.  Pile on top of porridge or pancakes for a weekend breakfast, or drizzle over creamy Greek yoghurt for a dessert that tastes far more indulgent than it really is.

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Ingredients

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

3 tablespoons water

2½ tablespoons honey

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  • Place all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan over a medium -high heat.
  • Stir everything together gently using a plastic spatula, gently squishing the blueberries against the side of the pan to help them reduce more rapidly.
  • Keep stirring, bringing the gloriously purple mix to the boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat and keep stirring for about 10 minutes, or until the berries are fairly well broken down.
  • You can serve this warm or cold — warm for breakfasts, and cold for yoghurt I’d say!  My latest batch lasted for about 3-4 days in a tupperware in the fridge.

Tip: I like to let maybe around 1/3 of the berries hold their shape for a compote with a tiny bit more bite, but you can keep cooking and squishing until the compote is smoother, if you like.

Please see below for the compote before and after swirling…

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Listening to I Don’t Wanna Love Somebody Else by A Great Big World, Love is on the Radio by McFly and Hard out Here by Lily Allen.

This recipe is a simplified version of an already simple recipe by A Sweet Pea Chef.  Lazy, me?

Everything is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie adventures: Beam Cafe, Crouch End

Last Sunday, I went for a wonderful brunch with one of my best friends in one of my favourite parts of London. Could a Sunday morning get much better? I love Crouch End for its abundance of pretty cafes and cute card shops – perfect for a weekend wander. Unfortunately it was a bit of a rainy morning when we headed to Beam Cafe for breakfast, so there was less wandering and more eating brunch in the cosy confines of this lovely eatery. Not a problem in the slightest.

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I ordered the Eggs Royale: fluffy muffins lightly toasted, topped with perfectly poached eggs, smoked salmon, delicately creamy hollandaise sauce and a tumble of chives. It was delicious. Thinking about it now (8pm on a Monday evening) I could eat it all over again. In fact, I’ve thought about this dish an unhealthy number of times since I polished off the last forkful. This is what brunch was invented for.

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Freshly squeezed orange juice: sweet and tangy at the same time with a pleasing amount of froth

My friend had the avocado, egg and bacon on toast — she enjoyed it very much. I’d thoroughly recommend this little cafe: the interior was simple and cosy and yet felt chic at the same time. Even a couple of tight-fisted northerners like ourselves conceded that the prices were pretty darn reasonable, especially given how genuinely exquisite the food was and what a nice part of London this is. We’re already devising excuses to return soon!

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Fork – ACTION SHOT

Listening to Holding Back the Years by Gretchen Parlato, Let’s hear it for the boy by Deniece Williams and Put the Gun Down by ZZ Ward. All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

{The best} microwave chocolate chip cookie

I think like most people who have craved a late night freshly baked snack, I’ve had mixed results with microwave ‘cakes’ and ‘cookies’. I’ll just say ‘rubbery’, and leave it at that.

This cookie is different. And without wanting this post to devolve into histrionics, it has changed my relationship with the microwave forever. Having a delicious chocolate chip cookie available within ten minutes is, admittedly, dangerous, but well — you only live once. And if you’re going to have an evening treat, make it this wonderfully gooey, deliciously sweet, ridiculously easy microwave cookie.

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon (14g) butter
1 tablespoon (13g) sugar
1 tablespoon (13g) light brown sugar
A tiny splash of vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons (30g) plain flour
2 heaped tablespoons (30g) chocolate chips

Directions

– Grab a ramekin or mug that’s microwave safe (this won’t rise, so no need to use something big)

– Place the butter in the ramekin and melt in the microwave; do this in short intervals at about 70% power until just melted.

– To the melted butter, add the sugars and the vanilla. Stir together until combined ( a teaspoon is easiest on this scale!)

– Add the egg yolk and stir well.

– Add the flour, and stir in. The consistency should be similar to real cookie dough; if it’s too runny add a little more flour, and if it feels too stiff add a splash of milk.

– Add the chocolate chips and stir in. For this cookie I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate chips – use whatever you fancy. Flatten the surface of the cookie.

– Microwave at about 70% power for between 30 and 40 seconds.

Tip: You don’t want to overcook this as it will dry out. The first time, only cook for 30 seconds; if it’s still looking quite wet on top, microwave for another 10 seconds. The cookie will continue to cook after you remove it from the microwave, and retains its heat for a while so be careful!

– Devour with a side of ice cold milk. Pretentious mini milk bottle not obligatory.

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Listening to Black Magic by Little Mix, Sugar by Maroon 5 and Hit me with your best shot by Pat Benatar.

This recipe is from Sweetest Kitchen with a few very tiny tweaks. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.