Bubble & Squeak: My new (old) favourite thing ever

When I was still at primary school, whenever we went out for dinner, it was to the same pub. It was called The Grapes, at a tiny village near where we lived called Wrea Green. In Year 3 we went on a geography trip there to see an example of a ‘typical’ village. As the officious seven year old that I was, what I remember most from that trip were the bright red clipboards, and the difficulty I had filling in my worksheet neatly on them. Seven year old troubles, eh? I must have been a ball as a child… But I digress. Whenever we went to The Grapes, I had Bubble & Squeak. A food surely named for children, and completely unrelated to what it actually is, of course! Leftover mash, plus lots of yummy veg and some stuff to bind it all together, fried until golden in butter. I loved it every time. Then we moved house, stopped going to The Grapes, and I promptly forgot all about Bubble & Squeak.

Then recently I rediscovered and made it myself, and it was as yummy as I remember.

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Arty Stack. Perfect Fried Egg. Win.

 

Ingredients

(Very flexible: you can throw most things in, that’s kind of the point)

– 2 medium potatoes

– 1 carrot

– 1 onion

– About half a leek

– 4 or 5 leaves of cabbage

– 1 tbsp flour

– 1 egg

– Salt and pepper, to taste

– Oil or butter, for frying

Directions

– You can of course use leftovers, in which case the veg would already be cooked, and you can skip the first few steps, but if you’re starting from scratch:

– Prep the potatoes and carrots as you prefer, then simmer in a big pan of boiling, salted water for about 20 mins or until they’re soft

– While they boil, chop up your other veg (I favour the onion, leek and cabbage combination) pretty finely, and saute in a different pan using oil of your choice

– Once the potatoes and carrots are cooked, drain and tip them back into the pan. Add the other veg and give it all a thorough mix/mash.

– Add the egg and the flour, as well as salt and pepper to taste, and give it another thorough mix until everything is combined.

– At this point, it’s best to refrigerate the mix to firm it up (I learned this the hard way…! It’s fine if you fry up the patties straight away, but you’ll have to make peace with them falling apart somewhat.)

– Once you’re ready to fry, heat some oil or butter in your pan (no need to wash after frying up the veg in my opinion…) and scoop in a burger-sized dollop of the mixture. Press it down gently with the back of a fish slice or a fork until golden and crispy on one side. Then carefully flip and cook the other side until that’s golden too. (Unless you have a million pans and hobs, you’ll probably need to do this in batches)

– Wahoo. You’re done. I’ve made these quite a few times now, and can thus say from experience that they are amazing with a fried egg. I’ve also had them with sausages, and once with bacon. But whatever else you choose, I’d say that tomato ketchup is absolutely essential.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from A Girl Called Jack; Jack Monroe is a very cool lady and a fab food writer specialising in yummy budget recipes. Definitely check her out if you haven’t already!

Everything else is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Well, the excitement is actually almost too much. (Even to me, that sounds sarcastic, but it’s really not!) And so, minus the sparkly dress and sequinned shoes I would have favoured for the occasion, I need to say a great big thank you to Osyth for giving me a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. One of the best things about blogging, or life generally, is surely to find that somebody whose work you admire also admires yours. Honestly, it made my week. In her own words, Osyth’s is a ‘story-telling blog’: the stories she tells are a joy to read, packed with witty insights and warmth. Keep telling stories please, Osyth!

So here are the rules for the award:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you
  • List the rules and display the award
  • Share seven facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 other blogs you enjoy, then comment on their posts to let them know that you have nominated them

Here’s the very pretty award, I’m excited to add it to my sidebar!

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So now: seven facts about me. Hmm…

1. I currently live in London, but I’m yet to become a city person. I miss clean air, open space, Northern accents and recognising everybody I see in the street.

2. I feel most at peace when I’m by the sea. Or preferably in it. The times I have felt most content to just be have been when I’ve been swimming in the sea. The freezing cold, crystal clear, British sea.

3.  My mum is Northern Irish, and I have visited Ireland every summer since I was born – it has some of the best beaches around… And hearing Northern Irish accents is the most comforting sound ever.

4.  I don’t tend to call the people that I love by their actual names. I make up alternatives, and not just one alternative, but loads of interchangeable ones. I also make up words. I kind of like not speaking properly…

5. I love to dance. I haven’t danced properly since I left university, but often just dance in my flat when the mood takes me. There is nothing more freeing. Weirdly, when I’m not dancing, I am beyond clumsy. To the extent that I feel I should have higher home insurance allowances than normal people.

6.  I cry a lot. And not necessarily because I’m sad! It really doesn’t take much. I cry at songs, films, adverts on TV, books — anything poignant. Sometimes I laugh until I cry. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I cry at the drop of a hat. No shame.

7. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my own work, and my handwriting is super neat, but yet I’m really messy. This is one of those strange contradictions that people seem to find odd.

And finally, the best bit: nominating fifteen other blogs for this award. Here goes! (and only numbered because otherwise I’ll lose track, these are in no particular order)

1.  The Little Library Cafe — Kate bakes and blogs her way through the foods in her favourite literature. An ingenious concept in my opinion, and she writes mainly about books she enjoyed growing up, so her blog is often a delightful trip down memory lane. With food. What more could you ask for?

2.  Pointes of View — Lani made the move from the big city to a sleepy suburb, and documents her everyday life on this blog. Lots of beautiful photography, wry humour and tales of everything from tepees to kitchen renovations!

3. Steph and Penny — A fellow lady who likes to bake, with a KitchenAid to die for named Penny. This blog is all about having fun in the kitchen, and Steph’s recipes are almost always enough to tempt me to get the scales out…

4. Storyshucker — This guy can write. I mean, really write. I love his view that there is a story to be found in almost all of life’s moments. It’s something I want to implement more in my own approach to writing/blogging, and his stories have honestly made me both laugh out loud and cry.

5. Leaf and Twig — A marriage of poetry and photography, these posts are short but always sweet, insightful and beautiful.

6. Something like a storybook —  Morgan writes in a way that is searingly honest and really, really good. She inspired me to write and actually send Christmas cards by good old fashioned snail-mail last Christmas, and recently her poetry has been just exquisite.

7. Listful Thinking — A blog revolving around lists (one of my primary passions) that is also my favourite kind of hilarious. Literally, all of it is funny. Please read it.

8.  Taste of Colours — First of all, points for a fabulous blog name. And second of all, as you’d expect, the photographs on this blog are beautiful. And the recipes are in grams. Any British people who read a lot of (often American) food blogs will appreciate that fact a LOT.

9. The Ordinary Cook —  She is actually far from ordinary. Great recipes and an infectious zestiness (is that an appropriate word? I feel it sums it up…) make this blog one of my favourite new discoveries.

10. Cafe Argentique — Helen is a bit of a blogging newbie, but as she is one of my best friends in ‘real’ life, I am confident that her blog will grow into something that I will very much enjoy visiting. She’s a talented artist, and takes amazing photographs. And she likes cake.

11. Life of Sarah Beth — A kind of lifestyle blog crossed with a beauty blog with some general musings thrown in: just the kind of thing I enjoy. Sarah has also been very brave and upfront about her struggles with depression, which I really admire. Keep going, Sarah!

12. Luce Luxe —  Lauren is a fellow history lover, as well as a northerner living in London, so I can relate to much of what she writes about! We also share a bit of a beauty product addiction, and I really enjoy her beauty posts.

13. Glitter Bunnies — Another beauty blog (I love ’em). Heather has a great eye for design: her blog theme is gorgeous and her posts are always beautiful to look at.

14. Daisy Chains and Dreamers — A recent discovery, I have fallen in love with this blog.  It’s another lifestlye/ beauty one, but with a bit more craft thrown into the mix. Everything on it is just so pretty. And sometimes, well, that’s really just what you need.

15. Butter Baking — Last, but my no means least: this blog is another yummy delight of a baking blog. Beautiful photographs and loads of lovely recipes to tempt you.

To my nominees: of course, I hope that you’ll take part! But many of you may not want to, or have been nominated already. In that case, please take this as a friendly nod in your direction and a kind request to please keep doing what you’re doing. I love reading your blogs!

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Friday Frame {13} From the ground, up.

The understated grandeur of the painted fronts of Poznan townhouses almost made the unbearable 35 degrees centigrade heat worth it. When we told people we were going to Poland in July, most people suggested it might be a little chilly: we took coats. They were so incredibly wrong (and we were, evidently, so incredibly gullible for taking their word for it!) Of the four cities we visited, Poznan was the hottest — after the first day we took to going out at around 6.30am to fit in sightseeing before the hottest rays hit. By around 10am it would be searingly hot, sending us fleeing back to the hostel to lie around in very little, trying desperately to cool down and resolving to return to Poland only in the dead of winter. Beautiful buildings though.

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Townhouses in Poznan, Poland, Summer 2014.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Friday Frame {11} Reflecting

Well, this one really speaks for itself. But who am I to let a photograph do that when there’s a ready- made rambling opportunity? Onward… The breathtaking Loch Achray on a cold and clear morning in early January. We were in The Trossachs for four days over New Year. For the first three days, this mountain, and indeed the loch itself, were for the most part impossible to make out amid the slanting rain (/hail/blizzards) and low, steel grey cloud. But then, on our last morning — as if Scotland couldn’t quite let us leave again for distant London without reminding us of how perfect it can be — the clouds cleared, the sun came out, and the loch and the mountain were finally revealed. Worth the wait.

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Loch Achray

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 {9} Wedding laughter

I managed to capture this fabulous moment at my cousin’s wedding: my mum and her two sisters, and my cousin’s slightly overenthusiastic glee at trying to take a photograph with the three of them. Wedding dress + wine + giddiness of family all being together for the first time in ages = high chance of overbalancing, apparently. Photographs like this, the ones between the posed shots, really are the best.

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All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Design in small spaces

Our flat is pretty nice. It’s also pretty small. Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom… That’s kind of it. This, my friends, is what two graduate salaries in the Arts/Humanities can rent you in London town. I really shouldn’t complain, we’ve actually got a very good deal: a lot of the places we looked at only had two rooms, and would have involved waking up, rolling out of bed and seeing your reflection in the oven door immediately opposite. One place I looked at online genuinely had the shower in the bedroom i.e. cubicle next to the bed. Quite a lot had no fridge or washing machine. The city should really employ me to advertise the perks of London living… Anyway.

To me, home is important: I’m definitely a home bird at heart. So even though this place is rented, and we can’t hang anything on the walls or have our own furniture or replace the dodgy extraction fan on the hob, I was determined to make it nice. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune (you know, Arts salaries, see above), so I used a lot of what I already had. I thought I’d share some of my efforts with you, in a handy numbered list of unfortunate home scenarios, and how to make them nicer.

Scenario One

A small, cheap white table. Quite wobbly, with a very warped and bubbled top from where the previous tenant has spilled something. Or been using a blowtorch. The letting agent promised to remove this on the day we moved in. It is now two months later and it’s still here, so I thought I’d make the best of it.

I made a kind of runner with a scarf which I’ve had for ages- it was a present and I think it originally came from New Look. I love books as decoration, so I piled up some of my prettiest ones. On top of the pile is a candle teacup which my mum made with a teacup and saucer that they were selling for about 50p at the local British Legion, melted down tea lights and string. Next to it is a vase that I bought for £5 from Next while I was at university because somebody bought me flowers too nice for a plastic bottle. Et voila.

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Scenario Two

A space which is small enough that you put down your bag at the end of the day and it feels like the messiest and most cluttered space on earth, combined with a slight make-up/cosmetics addiction. Solution: put it all in a massive box, but preferably a pretty box. With old maps on. That you got from TK Maxx for a tenner. The space instantly looks neater and all of your stuff is still easily accessible. I used all kinds of mismatched stuff to store my makeup and brushes inside, including a mustard tin and a makeup box that is straight out of an S Club 7 dressing room in the ’90s. This is a good tip for desks and stationary, as well as dressing tables. This is my kind of tidying, just hide it all away…

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OH MY GOSH SO MUCH MAKEUP DID NOT SEE THAT ONE COMING

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Scenario Three

Your heating is externally controlled by a mysterious being/ force that does not exist along the same space/ time continuum as we do. Thus it’s sometimes freezing, especially in November. Solution: get a throw in your life. This one is from BHS. It is so snuggly and warm it will change your life (no overstatement there) and make you choose activities based on whether you can complete them from under the aforementioned blanket of joy. TV/YouTube/reading are in. Washing up is probably out.

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Just looking at it makes you feel warm

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

 

The (almost) Friday Frame {7} Wildflowers

Yes, okay, it’s Saturday. But that’s almost Friday. Anyway, here’s a photograph of summer to offset the winter blues. These purple wildflowers are a common enough sight along the coast of Northern Ireland, a fact which does little to diminish their beauty, especially in the late summer sunshine.

‘The earth laughs in flowers’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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Purple wildflowers, the Northern Irish coast, Summer 2013.

 

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

The Friday Frame {6} Tramlines

The trams in Krakow, Poland, are just like the rest of the city they zig-zag through. They manage to beautifully combine the charm of a bygone era with the efficiency of the modern age, and they are irresistible to anybody with a camera. Wins all round.

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A tram winds its way through the streets of Krakow in Poland, Summer 2014.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.