Pikelets

20161228_161237I have so much to share about our Christmas holiday in New Zealand and so many photos that I love of my friends, family and home. I will get all the stories uploaded in the next few weeks while they’re still fresh in my brain. We’re starting at the end though, with baking.

There was a lot going on, during the last morning of our New Zealand holiday. We were repacking our suitcases, this time fuller, with all the goodies we had picked up to take home, and getting ready for friends to come over to say goodbye before we went out to Wellington to catch our long flights home.

I was trying to hydrate lots as I thought that might help me during the flight and soaking up the last few hours with my mum and sister. We were meeting dad for lunch.img-1484428431624-vSo of course, I baked. Baking is always my stress relief, it’s good to keep my hands busy. I made pikelets. Probably one of the first recipes I ever learned and one that I hadn’t made since leaving NZ over 9 years ago.  Although I needed the recipe book for quantities, I definitely didn’t need the method. I still know that like the back of my hand.

I think there must have been a couple of years of my life when I made these weekly. Me and my friend used to bake these or chocolate fudge every time we met up. Then we would go on missions around the neighbourhood. We must have driven our parents crazy as I never remember doing any dishes…

As I was making the batter I found out that my best friend wouldn’t be joining us as she was in labour! She wasn’t due for a few weeks yet, so hope crept in that I might meet the little man. I told you, it was an eventful morning making these pikelets.

They tasted just as I remember them too. I ate a few straight off the pan like my friend and I did as teenagers. Hot and doughy and oh so good.

Pikelets are pretty retro now and I mostly only see them as dinky canapés with smoked salmon and cream cheese on top. This morning we served them with whipped cream, garden strawberries and jams. Granny chic for sure.20170115_104621I won’t share the recipe with you here as it’s pretty standard. But next time you’re thinking of having people over for morning tea, think of pikelets. I think we usually made a double batch to share as the mixture is pretty small.

As we tucked into our pikelets, my friend was going through labour. We got news of the arrival of her baby boy and a very cute pic just before we got on the plane bound for Melbourne. A very nice send off to a great holiday in NZ.

Gifting Christmas Brownies

It can come as no surprise that I love baking. It is without a doubt my number one hobby. But as much as a love it, it does come with its downfalls; what is made has to be eaten and it usually doesn’t last. I know what you’re thinking – that doesn’t sound like a downfall at all..? But when people are on diets around you and you know you should be eating healthy yourself it can be very hard to justify baking so much.

So I always try to make the most of special occasions, whether that’s making Banoffee Cake for Thanks Giving, Chocolate Nut Bars as a house warming gift or a three tiered Baby Shower Cake! The best kind of baking is baking to share.

Last weekend we had our annual Christmas dinner gathering with what Ben and I dub the ‘Aussie Crew’. An affectionate name for the first group of friends we made when moving to London nearly five years ago. They’re mainly Aussies but of course there is us and some locals too. Every year we celebrate with a boozy pub dinner before people start flying out for summer Christmases (there is always someone in a big group of expats).

This year I took the chance to make everyone little parcels of brownies. I made the tags from Christmas themed images I have collected over the years. I struggle to throw anything remotely reusable away, so it’s always good to be able to make use of the little bits I’ve kept.20161126_friends_christmas_lunch_0040The brownie recipe I used was, of course, Edmond’s. There are two recipes for brownies in the Edmonds Cookbook; Chocolate Brownie which uses cooking chocolate and Coconut Chocolate Brownies which uses cocoa. As I didn’t have enough cooking chocolate I decided to make the coconut ones and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. The universe had other ideas though and I burned my first batch to a crisp, so I still don’t know what the Chocolate Coconut Brownies taste like. As I had used the last of my coconut, I remade the recipe without it and luckily, they still turned out well.

^^^ I asked Ben to try and capture the icing sugar dusting as I thought it would make a nice photo. I should have thought more about the background though.. oops!

Here is the recipe:

Coconut Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

125g of butter

1/4 cup cocoa

1 cup icing sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Method

Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan. Add cocoa. Stir over a low heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and coconut. Sift flour and baking powder. Stir into mixture. Pour into a greased and lined shallow 20 cm tin. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 – 35 minutes. Leave in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Cut into bars and dust with icing sugar.

Note – It definitely did not need 30 minutes in my oven. We are slowly learning that our new oven is on the hot side though and especially on a fan bake option that is going to be a lot hotter than the oven that this recipe was written for. I would check after 15 minutes to avoid disaster – an overcooked brownie is the worst!

Oh and here is us in our festive hats and jumpers…

I can highly recommend these Racing Santa Christmas Crackers from Sainsbury’s too.

^^^ It all got quite competitive

I hope you all enjoyed your brownies guys. See you in the New Year!

Getting Festive

20161203_christmas_wrapping_0013Today things really started to feel Christmassy for me. I have had a day indoors wrapping presents, writing cards and drinking tea. It’s been bliss. I’m wearing my (non-brand) Ugg boots and my thickest woollen jersey and have been watching the winter sun’s slow decent through the sky out the window.

Oh… and did I mention the Christmas carols? I have had them on repeat all day. My new favourite is The Greatest Gift by James Corden and (I’ve only just found this out) NZ’s own, Bret McKenzie. It’s the song from the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad. So cute!

Christmas to me really is all about the people you spend it with and for the first time in four years, it will be with my family this time. Our Christmas trip has been one and a half years in the making and I’m so excited that it’s finally time. We fly out to Wellington in just over a week and a half now. Eeeek!20161203_christmas_wrapping_0023_1^^^ Ben bought me an advent calendar this year so I can count down the days…20161203_christmas_wrapping_001720161203_christmas_wrapping_0018It’s going to be nice to be there for the present opening in the morning and just be on the same time zone in general for the holidays. I always find it funny over New Year’s when I suddenly get bombarded with all these (usually drunken) messages midday on New Year’s Eve. I’m sometimes still at work and not even in party mode yet.

It looks like I may have gone slightly overboard with the present buying this year, but I can blame it on the excitement.. Plus, I have had a year and a half to collect these up.

Can’t wait to see you NZ xxx

 

6. Host friends for a grown up dinner party

20161119_195309Winner, winner, chicken (curry) dinner!

It has taken me a while to tick this item off my 27 List, after setting the goal in 2014, but last month I finally took the opportunity to make it happen. I chose a date, put out a Facebook invite to my netball mates and luckily some were free.

I cook dinner for friends quite often, and have done so many times in between 2014 and now but for this to feature on my goal list I decided it had to be planned, at a table and at least two courses.

I made three courses in the end, one main and two desserts! Desserts is always the easy part for me and as it was around Thanks Giving time I made two American desserts, Banoffee Pie which is possible my second favourite dessert (Pavlova is always first) and homemade peanut butter cups. I didn’t manage to take a pic of these, but they were so sweet and delicious.

I’m most proud of the curry I made for dinner though. It’s a recipe from Rick Stein’s India Cookbook. My friend bought this for me for Christmas one year when we were planning an epic trip to India* and it is one of my most used cookbooks. This is saying something because as you know, my baking books get a fair bit of use.

I made butter chicken with rice, naan and coriander, there was supposed to be beans too, but I forgot them. It got a thumbs up all round and filled us so completely we struggled to get a buzz on to go out dancing afterwards.

20161119_194828

20161119_210425Of course though, enough gin and prosecco will get you there eventually. We danced all night at Monarch in Camden. Saturday nights is ‘Songs from the movies’ themed so we were in our cheesy element.

20161120_000716

20161120_012110^^^ dancing to the Frozen anthem.. Let it go… Let it go…………………… !

Was a great night, thanks for joining me girls xx

*Note: We never went to India, it’s still on the travel wishlist… maybe one day.

My London: My Perfect Day in London

What would I do to create a perfect day in London? What would be my dream day if I was well prepared with money to burn….?

I’ve put some thought into it, so come and join me for a day to remember.

20151025_Kew_Gardens_0015Well firstly, the weather gods would need to co-operate. I don’t want any pea soup fog. My favourite days in London are early autumn. When the mornings are just starting to get cooler and the nights are drawing in, but the days are still warm and the skies are the clearest blue with white fluffy clouds. We did have a few of these this year and I relished every second on my walk to work.

So, now that the weather is sorted get ready for a full day. I said it would be perfect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean realistic. We’re going to have to teleport everywhere if we want to keep up with my itinerary, I’m also moving Wimbledon to autumn to fit my schedule. Oh and bringing someone back from the dead…

First let’s wake up and wander down to the new Granary Square development in Kings Cross and park our bums at my favourite cafe, Caravan, for some avocado on toast. Yum! You need all that fuel for your next stop, St Pauls Cathedral.

20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_0222We’re up with the larks so we’ve bet all the tourists. You can marvel at the splendour to your hearts content before heading up the spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery and higher to see the views of London from what was the highest point in London until 1967.

If you’re in need of more views from a higher vantage point, we can squeeze in a sky high view of the Thames from the Sky Garden. 20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_012120150705_WalkieTalkie_Lookout_London_0208.jpgWhile we’re in the east, a trip to Old Spitafields Market for a cupcake from Flavourtown Bakery is a must. Seriously they cannot be beaten!flavourtown-bakery-london-marketNext we need to hop, skip (or fly?) over to Richmond Park. We’ll rent a bike for the day (these guys are great) and pack a picnic lunch. We’re cycling around the park to the lake in the middle. It’s so secluded you will forget you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world for a moment. Be sure to make friends with the deer on your way.

Next up? Some world class sport. Yes! For once I won the ballot. Tickets to centre court in our hot little hands we’re off to one of the most quintessentially British events I know of. Be quiet as you go in, you don’t want to put Serena off.

You can’t spend a perfect day in London without catching some of the world class West End theatre. We have tickets to a matinee screening of my favourite musical Wicked. Enjoy!466516_10150800601007118_126440377_oPhew! You must be hungry. Time for a fancy dinner? My cuisine of choice is Japanese of course. I have always wanted to try out Roka, so guess where reservations are sorted..? We’ll be dining on sushi, prawn tempura and the Roka dessert platter tonight.p9040128-1024x745We’re finishing the day on my ultimate London high, a gig at Wembley! Because this is my perfect day, let’s see Bowie play Wembley. The gig of a lifetime, you must have sorted tickets out over a year ago for this…. You’re welcome.

It was lots of fun dreaming up ideas for this post. It’s a compilation of all the best things I have done in London, from the everyday to the fantastical, to those things that are still on my wish list. What would you do? What do you think I have missed?

The idea to talk about a perfect something came from the Travel Linkup bloggers. I’m too late to add my post to the link, but check out other bloggers ‘A perfect…’ interpretations through one of my favourite blogs Silverspoon London. Just scroll to the bottom of the post.

All pictures are my own aside from the below listed. Photo credits with thanks:

My London: My Commute

20160909_andiescommute_0015I said in an earlier post, that my lifestyle had changed heaps since moving from Tottenham to Tufnell Park, and one of the most awesome changes has been my commute.

I no longer battle the rush hour squeeze on the Victoria Line at 8am. Instead I leave the house and wander (or power walk if I’m late) for about 4k to get to Finchley Road station then catch a tube one stop north to Wembley Park.

It is bliss!

I listen to podcasts, random playlists from my Apple music subscription or go sans sound and get in touch with nature or what not. Nature? Who am I kidding? Cars, trucks, buses and trains are the soundtrack to my commute

When it’s raining or I’m late/lazy I swap the walk for a 10 minute over ground train ride. Easy as, except the train is really unreliable, which is what lead me to walking in the first place. Talk about turning a negative into a positive.

Anyway, enough of my smug commute loving, today I want to share my journey with you. Ben was doing lots of research on his next camera lens purchase and decided to do some experimenting with our 50mm lens by taking photos on his commute. I might share his effort with you next post. I thought it was a really good idea, so the next day I slung the camera around my neck and decided to get creative.

I need a lot more practice with the 50mm, but it was fun and taught me a lot about moving for the shot. I got so engrossed my 35minute walk doubled and I was quite late for work that morning, ooops!

So this is what my journey looked like in September 2016.

This was a bit of a moody morning, but we had been having really warm sunny days. I think it was said to be the warmest September on record? Or maybe it was that we hit a few of the highest temperatures for September? A quick google search hasn’t really helped me come up with any facts for you, so actually just know that we had a good summer. It was hot.

20160909_andiescommute_0050_1^^^ The most excited empty shop I’ve seen.

^^^ This is my favourite pair of pictures; walking past this pink flat makes me smile every time.

^^^ Empty train. This is such a rare sight in London. The other guy and I basically had the whole train to ourselves.

My commute ends at the iconic Wembley Stadium. As with all things you encounter daily it has become part of the furniture for me, but every once in a while an event will be on or it will be lit up on dark winter nights and I’ll get swept up in awe of it. It is always one of those moments I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I’m actually living in London.

 

My London: My Netball Team

dani-backWhen I first arrived in London, I knew no-one. Well that’s how I tell the story at least, I did know a few people. I have extended family here, an uncle and cousins that live in and around London. There were also a few acquaintances from high school, and an Aussie couple we met while travelling in Japan. That couple turned out to be a big part of our London life, but we weren’t to know that at the time. So for all intents and purposes we had no-one but each other so I knew I had to get out there and make some friends fast. I love Ben, he’s really good company but my London life was definitely going to need some girlfriends to get me through it.

How do you make friends in a big city? How do you make friends as an adult? I had no idea really, so I just thought, let me try and fill my days. We joined expat groups, and tapped into all the contacts we had for weekend meetups. But what I now count as my best idea, was to join a netball team.

I hunted for social teams in my area and much to my luck, got placed in a cobbled together team of awesome ladies from all around the country and the world. The team was called The Venus Fly Traps and they had already played a season or two together when I joined. Little did I know that five years on these girls would form the biggest constant in my shambolic London life and we would still be sporting the bewildering name of a carnivorous plant.

The name, assigned to us by a rogue club manager, has never sat well with us, but every Tuesday rain or shine, in stifling humidity or biting cold, we turn up to the courts. We shimmy into our Lycra and pull our hair into ponytails as the sun goes down on another day at the office. We get out into the, usually brisk, air, chatting about life lately and sizing up the competition. We have been winners, losers, injured and angered on the courts, but more important to me is the memories we have made off court.

So here’s to the memories girls! Looking forward to many, many more..

Tournament days with One Netball club…

 ^^ Pink Ladies

We have travelled together, danced together, seen beautiful marriages and supported each other through painful breakups. We have celebrated so many milestones; birthdays, new jobs and study and must have collectively moved flats over 20 times. Which is great, because that means flat warmings.

My favourite times are always those drunken, messy, gossipy girls nights though!

roadie^^ Roadie

Eat your heart out Michael

So much gin ^^^

We have changed and grown so much in our five plus years together as a team. People have moved back home, or to Bermuda and others have arrived in London for new challenges and jobs and joined for new friendships fitness and fun.  I’ve been lucky to get to know such an awesome group of ladies..

Yay for The Venus Fly Traps, past present and future…!

Check out my other posts about London Life, getting a visa and where I’m living. More to follow soon.