Wednesday, 31 July 2013

RECIPE: Pineapple, passion fruit and raspberry jellies^

I love jelly. Strawberry jelly with vanilla ice cream always makes me think of my childhood, which can also be said for Ribena. So when the lovely people from Unity PR got in touch and asked if I wanted to try out a jelly recipe using their new Ribena flavour, naturally I jumped at the chance.

Jelly is such a fab refreshing pudding, and perfect if you want something a little lighter than, say, Eton Mess (mmm Eton Mess). The new Pineapple and Passion Fruit flavour Ribena is just ideal for summer. I also think fresh raspberries are the perfect compliment to the tropical flavours.

I was sent this recipe concocted by Emily Coates, it serves 4-5 - I used a cute array of mismatched glasses - and here's how I got on:


500ml Ribena Pineapple and Passion Fruit (two bottles)
200g raspberries (I just used 4-5 in each glass)
5 gelatine leaves (or use a vegetarian alternative)
100ml boiling water
3 tablespoons cold water


Cutting up the gelatine
1. Break up the gelatine leaves into small cm squared pieces - I found the easiest way to do so was actually to cut with scissors, and I did a couple of sheets at a time to speed up the process.

Dissolving the gelatine
2. Put them in a large plastic jug with 3 tbsp cold water. Stir and hold over a saucepan of boiling water to start dissolving.


Stirring in the yummy Ribena
3. Pour 100ml of just boiled water into the jug followed by the Ribena - obviously have a cheeky sip yourself first, it's delicious! Stir until the gelatine leaves have fully dissolved.

4. Scatter a few raspberries into each glass and pour the jelly mix into the individual glasses, filling up to just below the top. Cover with cling film then leave in the fridge for 4-6 hours and enjoy!

So, what was my verdict? I'd never worked with gelatine leaves before, but they were relatively easy to use. Despite leaving my jellies over night, they didn't turn out as solid as jelly should be. The flavour was yummy, if a little subtle. But maybe that's my fault for having a sip of the Ribena... Oops.

Let me know how you get on if you try them out!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

My top 10 favourite breakfasts

Mini Chocolate Weetabix covered with fruit. YUM
Ahh breakfast. Petit déjeuner. Frühstück. Whether you prefer a British fry-up, French viennoiseries or German-style bread, cheese and ham, you can't deny that breakfast is great. I'm not going to harp on about how important it is, as we all know that, don't we? Don't we, breakfast skippers? Hmm? *raises eyebrows*

Seemingly every nutritionist on the planet will tell you eating breakfast is crucial in maintaining a healthy weight, and it just makes sense, doesn't it? You haven't eaten all night, you need to set yourself up for the day ahead - why wouldn't you eat breakfast? And quite frankly, it's just blimmin' delicious. Most of the time when I can't get to sleep at night, I'm thinking about what to have for breakfast. Don't judge.

A lot of people seem to eat the same breakfast every single day, but I don't understand why. You wouldn't eat the same dinner every day, would you? Sure, sometimes convenience and need for speed plays a role, but a lot of the time you can quite easily and quickly whip up something far more interesting.

Muesli with banana and blueberries
I LOVE breakfast, and far from eating the same thing day-in day-out, I usually find myself spoilt for choice. I generally try to choose something relatively healthy to start the day, but I will not compensate on deliciousness, that's for sure. I like to mix it up, and have actually been complimented on the interestingness of my breakfasts by past housemates. For real.

I'm not going to tell you how to make a bowl of cereal or spread jam on a bagel, as much as I enjoy both those breakfasts (particularly cereal topped with loads of chopped fruit ooh yeah.) But, if you're stuck in a breakfast rut and could do with a spot of inspiration, I hope you will enjoy perusing my top 10 favourite breakfasts:

1. Yoghurt, berry and granola parfait

I'm convinced half the yum factor of this parfait comes from how it looks. Of course, you can just toss all the ingredients into a bowl, but if you've got a bit of time I recommend concocting yours in a glass. Simply layer up berries, yoghurt of your choice (I prefer natural or vanilla) and granola and away you go. Add a squirt of honey if you're feeling extra adventurous. Super duper tasty. Best eaten ASAP though, as otherwise the granola will go a bit soggy. No-one wants that.

2. Banana and peanut butter smoothie shake

Matching straw to my nails. Natch
Oooh this is a goodie! I often make it as a bit of an energy-boosting, refreshing snack too. I call it a smoothie shake as the thickness really depends on your preference - if you like yours thicker and more smoothie-esque, use less (or no) milk, but if you'd prefer a milky shake just add more (and you can skip the yoghurt if you like.)

Simply whack half a glass of milk, a chopped banana (best if it can be frozen already chopped over night as it will make the shake thicker and more refreshing), a couple of ice cubes, a spoonful of smooth peanut butter, a squirt of runny honey (add more to taste - it may depend on the ripeness and thus sweetness of your banana) and 100-125g natural or vanilla yoghurt into a blender, whizz it all together (the longer you blend for the thicker it'll be), et voilà.

In a rush? Make like I did and pour your smoothie into a travel cup and take that shake to work with you. Your colleagues will be jealous, trust me.

3. Nutella and banana toastie

Ooh this is a winner. Such a good combo, and tastes extra good when you've got really ripe bananas. The banana takes on a whole new flavour when cooked (it's amazing), and it reminds me of these barbecued chocolate praline bananas.

Preheat your toastie machine, and mash half a banana. Spread one slice of bread generously with nutella and place it on the toastie machine. Carefully top with the mashed banana, spreading not all the way to the edge of the bread. Top with a second slice of bread and close that toastie machine. Leave until golden brown.

I once made something similar using sliced banana and a Warburton's Brown Squareish wrap. It was also delish.

4. Banana and peanut butter muffins with chocolate chips and hazelnuts

I've made a lot of muffins in my time, the best of which you can find on my recipes tab, but I think these babies are my faves for brekkie. (Are you noticing a chocolate/peanut butter/banana recurring theme?) When I was younger, mum would give us freshly-baked muffins and home-made banana milkshakes for the odd treat breakfast. It was fabulous, and certainly made school mornings more enjoyable.

Check out the recipe here.

5. Soaked oats

This takes a smidge of forward-planning, but it sure is worth it. I originally wrote this recipe in a blog about healthy post-Christmas meals back in January - check it out here. Soaking the oats overnight gives them a super duper texture the next morning, and stirring in the yoghurt in the morning makes them extra creamy. Realistically, you can add whatever you please: nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, cinnamon, honey... GO WILD!

6. Healthy peanut butter banana pancakes

Seriously, they're healthy, and such a delicious, energising breakfast. Super fluffy in texture and super tasty. Drizzle with golden syrup, sprinkle with cinnamon or maybe even spread with nutella. The possibilities are endless. Check out my recipe here.

7. Fruit and yoghurt (in various guises)

This is a fab breakfast for when you've over-done it the night before - maybe there was a buffet involved, I'm not judging - and want something light.

a) Simple chopped fruit with yoghurt of your choice. Add some muesli or granola for extra energy.

b) Fruit compote with natural or vanilla yoghurt - my fave is this Bonne Maman peach. My own bonne maman occasionally treats me to it from Waitrose. So very scrummy. It's hard not to eat the whole jar by itself in one go.

c) Mashed banana, natural yoghurt and honey. This is divine. I love the texture when it's all mixed together, and if you fancy pushing the boat out, it's best with Greek yoghurt. Heck, if you're in a rush you could even buy a tub of pre-mixed Greek yoghurt and honey and save approximately 30 seconds.

8. EXCITING porridge

Coconut porridge served with a banana milkshake and fresh strawberries
HOLD ON, PEOPLE! Don't skim over this section! Porridge needn't be boring. Here's how I like to make mine interesting: stir in a spoonful of nutella or peanut butter, add a mashed banana (great as well as the nutella), add cinnamon, honey, desiccated coconut, dried fruits, fruit compote, golden syrup, or - most excitingly - frozen berries. They will defreeze and once stirred in, they'll turn your porridge the most fabulous pink colour. Try it.

This was my pre-10K breakfast (in a smiley face, obvs): porridge, banana, chocolate milk and tea.

9. Sweet pitta pockets

These are a fab, quick alternative to pancakes, and especially delicious when the pitta has been warmed first. Then they take on something of a crêpe vibe, which, unsuprisingly, I enjoy very much. Mine above is half peanut butter and sliced banana, half nutella and strawberries. Serious win. And the pitta is wholemeal, so it's totally healthy.

I'm afraid to say they're not actually home-made pitta breads. I just warmed one in the oven for a few minutes, cut it in half, then spread each half with my fillings and popped some chopped fruit in there too. Simple, speedy, scrummy.

10. French toast

This was my sister, Holly's concoction.
This one's for you, Imogen. I've told her I'd write up a French toast recipe for aaaaages, and finally, here it is.

Beat an egg in a bowl and pour it into a flat dish. Dip a slice of bread in the eggy mix and let it soak. Meanwhile, heat a bit of butter in a frying pan. Pop the soaked bread into the frying pan and leave to fry until golden brown before flipping over to do the other side. Whack it on to plate and serve with simple icing sugar or whatever else you fancy - in the above picture my sister went for melted dulce de leche and sliced banana. I had some, it was deeeeeelish.

So there ya have it. Breakfasts a-plenty. Anything take your fancy? I'm certainly looking forward to tomorrow morning now. What are your fave ways to start the day? I'd love to hear your best breakfasts!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Our summer holiday in Lagos, Portugal

Well, that's that then. My family fortnight in Portugal is over and we're on our way home. Having devoured all the magazines, books and audiobooks I had with me, I'm on plane with nothing by way of entertainment - aside from the ever amusing company of the fabulous Hosie ladies, of course - alors, blog time.

Travelling with my Bombay Duck passport cover, Paperchase laptop case and a slick of Chanel nail varnish from duty free
I'm surrounded by fellow home-goers, the large majority of whom appear to have skipped on the sun cream - there's a lot of skin resembling tan leather, and while I'm a huge fan of said material, I prefer to keep it to my accessories rather than my body. Silly silly people. A tan looks good, sure. Elephant skin does not.

My sister jumping for joy
As I sit here tapping away on my iPhone there is a large, white-haired man of around 50 across the aisle from me. He's been giving me disapproving stares for a while, and I have continued to glare back with an expression as if to say "what?" I do not enjoy unwelcome male stares, especially when they fail to stop despite me repeatedly glaring back. Somewhat rudely, he has just turned to me, as if speaking to a child, and said in a very condescending manner, "Is that on flight mode?" I replied with the truth: "Yes," not that it's his place to be asking. If I was, say, the age of my mother, there's no way he would have said such a thing in such a manner, and I hate being treated like a child by old people who think they know better. Hmph.

Oh, this view's calmed me down.
God, I really went off on one then, didn't I? Sorry. It's rare that I rant about anything, but that must have just got to me. Let's get back to my holiday, shall we?

We've had a delightful two weeks of doing, well, nothing. Our routine has been: breakfast, pool, lunch, beach, dinner, bed. And then the next day we'd mix it up by swapping the pool and the beach around. To quote my sister: "On holiday, because we don't really do anything, meals are like our activities."

I adore the sea. Really, so so very much. I'm sure I could've been a mermaid in another life. I like to swim relatively far out, where all around me is beautiful blue. The sea is so clear that I can still see the nail varnish on my toes, and the colourful people back on the beach look tiny. Sometimes, and only for a few moments as I wouldn't want to get swept away out of my depth, I like to just lie back and let the water hold me afloat, the gentle bobbing motion of the sea lifting me up and down. Bliss.

On the rare occasions when we weren't on the beach, in the sea or by the pool, mum, the sis and I got our explorer hats on. Exploring the town, that is - we'd call them shopping trips, but as all that's on offer are the usual touristy souvenirs, we didn't actually buy anything. Well, except for much needed consumables by way of refreshment.

A freshly squeezed orange juice, Portuguese custard tart and catching up with the Royal Baby news
Fabulous fresh fruit for sale
That said, every year for as long as I can remember, I've admired these amazing chandaliers in the same little pottery shop. If I didn't have a silly suitcase and baggage allowance to contend with, I so would've bought one by now. Actually, I probably would've bought a fair few.

So preeeetty, no?

I love pretty cobbled European cities. They have such a charm about them, but of course, it's hard to look anything but lovely set to a backdrop of flawless blue sky and sunshine.

We've been staying near the western Algarve town of Lagos, and I absolutely love it. Sitting outside at a restaurant or café, at any time of the day, there's always so much to look at, so much entertainment.

Off out on the town. Not really. (Dress is from topshop a couple of years ago)
I could quite happily stay in one place for hours and watch the world go by. Well, in high season anyway. I can't imagine it's as brilliantly bustling and buzzy in January...

A man making giant bubbles is one of many street entertainers

Despite having come to Lagos most summers for the past 15 years or so (god, that makes me feel old), every year we discover new places, whether they're new to the town or just to us. One of which this year was a fab little tapas place called Meu Limao - not authentic Portuguese, but we didn't care.

It was delicious. I don't know about you, but I often find myself struggling to choose just one dish off a menu, so tapas is just perfect for when you can't make your mind up. I seriously think "pudding tapas" needs to become a thing though, as I always want pretty much all of them. Sometimes I feel like I'd rather have three puddings rather than a starter, main and dessert.

Before we arrived in Lagos, I said to my family "I bet a fro-yo place has opened up in the town," because I just knew one would be really popular there. Lo and behold, I was correct, and naturally my sister and I found it ASAP.

Mine was topped with strawberries and smothered in melted white chocolate. Mmm
Unsurprisingly, we've had quite a few foodie treats over the fortnight, and it only seems fair to share some more with you. Food just tastes better outside somehow, doesn't it?

This was incredible. I kid you not. Supposedly an ice cream, but as far as I could tell it was more nutella than ice cream. Naturally, I loved it. And this is ONE scoop's worth. Maybe the picture doesn't do it justice, but this was HUGE. (Again, I loved it.)

See, we ate healthy foods too! I love exploring the supermarkets abroad - heck, I love going round Waitrose! - and it's always interesting to see unusual foods. Just look at all these apples! All the fruit and veg was just BIGGER in Portugal. Red peppers the size of my head? For sure.

This dear friends, is an Oreo mousse. Nuff said.

Also in an old topshop (pathetic excuse for a) dress - flimsy and cool, I live in it over my bikini on hols
Smoothie in my fave beach bar? OH, GO ON THEN. Twist my arm...

Just on the edge of the main town lies Lagos' marina, and it's one of my favourite places to, you guessed it, sit and observe. I love watching the boats coming and going, and it's extra pleasant if you've got a refreshing drink in your hand...

Liking the look of all this? I wouldn't blame you if you were, we had a LOVELY time. Last year I wrote a blog about some of my fave eateries round Lagos - check it out here.
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