As everyone knows, I really like the cooler months of the year rather than the blazing hot ones ( I don’t need to be told I’m strange – I already know that!) So I didn’t mind when it was pelting down with rain last Friday. I didn’t mind at all. I just wished I could have been at home watching the rain come down from the comfort of my own home rather than be outside in the rain, freezing in my lightweight summer clothes while carrying three times my weight in groceries!
Thankfully Mr. D. was on hand to give me a, um, hand with the shopping but even that couldn’t take away from the discomfort I felt as the rainwater slowly began to seep into my totally inappropriate ballet-style pumps. Just then an image of a steaming hot mug of chocolaty goodness with enough cream and marshmallows to concern Jamie Oliver flashed into my head.
“You know what?” I began as I turned to Mr.D. who makes carrying a multitude of grocery bags look so effortless, “this is perfect hot chocolate weather.” All I wanted to do was get home, change out of my damp clothes and into comfy pjs, and sit by the fireplace, sipping gloriously thick hot chocolate and munching on toasted goodies. OK, so I don’t have a fireplace but the radiator with a few candles around it would do! Then I realised – we didn’t have any hot chocolate. And we hadn’t thought to pick any up. But then again why would we? Summertime’s all about the Pimm’s and cider. Or perhaps I should say, it should be all about the Pimm’s and cider. But at that exact moment all I wanted was hot chocolate and I could very easily have kicked myself for not buying any, if it wasn’t for the fact that I felt as though I had a swimming pool at the end of each foot!
It seems strange to be writing a post that’s better suited to the Autumn months than in what should be a blazing hot July, but it did get me thinking about cosy and warming suppers; the kind that’d be a real treat after a trip out in the cold, wind, rain, and possibly even snow. Or when you’re indoors, all snug and cosy while it’s chucking down buckets outside. Or perhaps you’re just in need of some good old-fashioned comfort food. There’s no special occasion for this supper; you can prepare this when you need something warm and comforting. None of the following should be served cold; everything should be either piping hot, warm or lightly toasted. You could serve all the following courses as a kind of high tea if you really wanted to go to town, especially if you are having friends over. But the main idea here is to keep it simple (who wants to do a whole lot of cooking when you’re looking for some much needed comfort food?) so I would pick one or two of the food items and serve it with a hot drink. Furthermore, unless you’re going for your own brand of comfort food, a lot of the foods listed here are deliciously stodgy and high in carbs, so I would choose carefully! Oh, and a lot of it will most probably be dripping in butter…
The good thing about this kind of supper is that even if you’ve invited your friends to come over and join you, there’s really no need to go to town on dressing up or creating an elaborately decorated table. The key here is simplicity, comfort and warmth. So comfy trackies, sweaters, pjs, robes and slippers are ideal. Oh and don’t forget the blankets!
Sandwiches should ideally be made with thick-sliced, soft bread and toasted:
Bacon and tomato
Sausage and mushroom
Chocolate and hazelnut spread
Cheese and tomato
Cheese and ham
Serve with warm crusty bread:
Chicken and sweetcorn
BREADS AND PASTRIES
Don’t forget the butter, jam, marmalade etc:
Oat and raisin cookies
Jacket potato with cheese and bacon bits
Kipper with poached egg
Egg on toast
Mushroom on toast
Spinach and cheese muffins
Apricot tea bread
Tea – of any kind
Hot chocolate – with a splash of your favourite liqueur for the adults
Hot apple toddy
Hot milk with honey
And I’m well aware that we’re not all fortunate enough to live in a house with a fabulous fireplace (I know I don’t!) so we’ll just have to crank up the heating a notch and dream of romantic, roaring log fires! And you can always create that cosy glow with dimmed lighting, candlelight, and if you really want to push the boat out, fairy lights.
My hands are really in a shocking condition and I can’t understand why. Despite applying twice my weight in hand cream, and taking my vitamin E capsules religiously, my hands are extremely dry, rough and look as though they’re in danger of starting a fire if I rub them together! It’s actually quite embarrassing. My hands get used quite a lot in my job as they are always on show so I’m starting to feel more than a little self-conscious.
Feeling low at the dry condition of my hands, I’m considering hitting the bottle.
The milk bottle that is!
I’ve had dry skin pretty much my whole life and when I was in my late teens I developed a mild form of eczema. I only have flare ups maybe once every couple of years so I’m quite fortunate. But during periods when my skin is very dry, I use milk on my skin instead of water. It’s very moisturizing and hydrating, and I really notice the difference. After about two days, my skin comes back to life again.
So I’ll be resorting to this treatment for my dry hands but I’ll be using honey as well which is another ingredient I’ve found to be very effective for dry skin. And of course this treatment isn’t just limited to your hands. You can use it for your face, feet, elbows, knees, lips… anywhere where you’re skin’s a bit parched, isn’t looking it’s best and needs a much-needed moisture boost.
You can use any kind of milk or honey that you prefer. I generally stick to my favourite manuka honey. This treatment is so simple as it only uses between two to four ingredients, so it’s well worth giving it a go.
MILK AND HONEY TREATMENT FOR DRY HANDS
YOU WILL NEED:
1 tbsp. honey
Enough warm milk to fully submerge your hands in
- Apply honey to your to both sides of your hands. If you wish you could gently warm the honey before applying it to your hands.
- Leave for around ten minutes.
- Then place your hands in a basin of warm milk. Remember the milk should be warm not hot. You want to revive your hands not scald them!
- Leave them in the milk for about five minutes or until all the honey has rinsed off.
- Once you’ve taken your hands out of the milk, you can either give them a super quick blast with cold water to remove the honey-milk residue (with the emphasis being on super quick.)
- Or you could remove all traces of milk and honey with cotton wool soaked in rosewater.
- Slap on lashings of hand cream.
- Use this treatment once a day for as many days as you need.
- If you have any discolouration on your hands, rub a slice of lemon over it before applying the honey.
- If you are using this treatment for a part of your body that you cannot simply just dunk in a basin of water, wipe the honey of with milk-soaked cotton wool pads.
Passion fruit mousse is supposed to be the closest thing that Brazil has to a national dessert. It’s not hard to see why. Mousse? Great! Passion fruit? Amazing! I absolutely love tropical fruits, so this dessert is right up my street.
Prep: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time
- 4 passion fruit, pulp and seeds scooped out
- 150g sweetened condensed milk
- 175ml fresh whipping cream
- 4 lemon shortbread thins, to serve
- Put ¾ of the passion fruit pulp and seeds (reserve the rest for decorating) in a food processor or blender and whiz to a purée.
- Push through a sieve into a bowl, to remove the seeds.
- Add the condensed milk and stir until smooth.
- Pour the cream into another bowl and use a hand-held electric whisk to whip until stiff peaks form.
- Fold through the passion fruit mixture, 1/3rd at a time, until combined.
- Spoon into small serving glasses and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Spoon the reserved passion fruit over the mousses and serve with the lemon thins.
Summer has officially descended upon us and the weather is just making me want to drink… and drink… and drink! Forget food, I just want something to quench my thirst so no prizes for guessing what’s going to make up most of this week’s shopping list!
I came across some delicious sounding recipes for drinks which I thought I’d share with you, including one for a hot coffee drink which may not sound ideal for the warmer weather, but a girl always has to get her early morning coffee fix!
One of my fave coffee flavours – hazelnut!
A cup of whisked, warmed milk
1 tsp. coffee powder
A swirl of cream
- Put coffee powder into a latte cup.
- Add a tbsp. of boiling water to coffee and stir.
- Add hazelnut syrup.
- Top up with whisked, warmed milk.
- Add a swirl of cream.
I love mangoes and anything made from this delicious fruit so it’s no surprise that it’s something I always order when I go to an Indian restaurant – although I have yet to make it myself! This version also includes mint – something I’ve never tried in a lassi.
A small bunch of mint leaves
1 ripe mango, peeled, stoned and chopped
2tbsp. low-fat yogurt
1tsp. runny honey
- Whizz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
- Fill a tall glass with some ice.
- Pour lassi over ice – and serve!
Pretty much Bucks Fizz – something I usually have with breakfast Christmas morning but I bet an ice-cold glass of Clementine Fizz would go down very well on a hot day.
Juice of 1 Clementine
1tsp. triple sec
Prosecco or Cava
- Put the juice in a champagne flute.
- Add the triple sec.
- Top with Prosecco or cava.
Who wouldn’t like a glass of champers?
1 sugar cube
A dash of Angostura bitters
10ml brandy or cognac
Champagne or your favourite sparkling wine
- Place sugar cube in a fluted glass.
- Add Angostura bitters and brandy or cognac.
- Top with Champagne or sparkling wine.
WASABI BLOODY MARY
usually made with tobacco sauce, this version uses wasabi for an even more powerful kick!
1ltr tomato juice
3tbsp. wasabi powder
6 shots vodka
1tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 lemons, halved
6 celery sticks
Handful of ice
- Place ice in glasses.
- Put all other ingredients – except celery – into a large jug.
- Stir well.
- Pour into glasses over the ice.
- Serve with celery sticks.
Enjoy these gorgeous drinks. Enjoy the Summer!
All recipes from Woman’s Own, March 2014
All recipes serve one unless otherwise stated.
For someone who is as immersed in coffee-shop culture as a tea-bag is in hot water, I have only just tried bubble tea. Sure I’ve heard about it before but never had the chance to try it due to it not being sold in a lot of the places I frequent. I frequent a lot of places but maybe I’m just not going to the right ones!
On one of our rare super-hot days, I saw a poster on the window of a trendy coffee shop near where I live, advertising bubble tea: a drink that consisted of what I thought were little pearls of sago floating around in a milky liquid. It closely resembled the Indian dessert/drink falooda, and looked so delicious and refreshing – just perfect on such a hot day – so I thought I’d give it a go.
The drink came in three yummy sounding flavours: strawberry, mango, and coconut. The mango sounded especially delicious so I selected that and waited to discover the mystery that is bubble tea.
WHAT IS BUBBLE TEA?
Also known as pearl milk tea or boba milk tea, bubble tea originated from Taiwan in the 1980s. It’s typically a tea base mixed with milk or fruit with large tapioca balls thrown in – the ‘bubbles’! The earliest form of bubble tea was a mixture of black tea, tapioca pearls, syrup, and condensed milk.
There are many different variations of this drink. You can either get milk-based or fruit-flavoured teas, although some shops tend to sell a mixture of the two. There are fruit smoothies made using crushed fruit, and versions using blended ice which has a more slushy consistency. Milk smoothies are based on a similar concept except that they don’t contain any tea! In some drinks, the tapioca is replaced with jelly cubes, aloe, sago or taro balls. So many variations of one drink!
As I am quite familiar with the culinary delights of South-East Asia, I thought I knew what to expect and was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it was nothing like I had expected. The drink – which was not as chilled as I would have liked – had the consistency and taste of watered down milk and I very much doubt there was any tea in it. And watered down milk was the only real flavour I could taste; if I had not ordered mango, I wouldn’t have known what flavour it was supposed to be. And the ‘bubbles’ were not chewy tapioca at all but rather small balls filled with a syrupy type mixture which looked a lot like the gel balls I place in vases for flower arrangements. I have to say that although I was disappointed to have not had real tapioca or sago, I found these ‘syrupy bubbles’ to be quite interesting: the slightest pressure from your tongue would cause these bubbles to burst releasing the mango-flavoured syrup. It was like bubble wrap for your mouth – once you started popping them you couldn’t stop!
Has it put me off drinking bubble tea in the future? Of course not! This was in no way the real deal but a pseudo-bubble tea, created mainly, I believe, for the novelty factor.
I look forward to trying the real stuff at some point!
I love the pairing of chocolate and rose as a flavour combination. It works really well and tastes divine. So you can imagine my delight when I came across some recipes featuring the two.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge chocolate fan – who isn’t? But I also really like the delicate flavour of rose – the sweet fragrance alone is deliciously tempting. It’s not a common flavouring in most parts of the world, being more popular in Asia and the Middle East. In the UK, it’s probably more commonly known for being used to flavour Turkish delight and rose creams. However in the Far East where my mum comes from, it’s used to flavour a whole variety of sweet things including cakes, biscuits, ice-creams, jams, jellies, milk puddings and drinks. One of my favourite drinks is a rose milkshake made with a delicious rose syrup. My mum prefers to dilute the syrup with water to make a type of rose squash.
I’m not surprised that it’s not as popular here in England as it’s a very difficult flavouring to get right: too little and you won’t be able to taste it; too much and it will taste as though your food has been laced with air freshener! It’s got to be spot on. But when you get it right it’s just like the flower itself – beautiful.
So I found three gorgeous recipes which combine both chocolate and rose together. They’d be perfect for Mother’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, romantic meals – any occasions in which roses and chocolates are synonymous. But of course you can make them any time you want simply because they look and impressive and taste amazingly good!
CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES WITH ROSE MARSHMALLOW FILLING
- 60g – 2¼ oz unsalted butter diced plus extra for greasing
- 120g – 4¼ oz golden caster sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 20g – ¾ oz cocoa
- 125g – 4½ oz plain flour
- 1 rounded tsp baking powder
- pinch sea salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 medium organic egg white
- 75g – 3oz white caster sugar
- 1 tbsp sieved fresh orange juice
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 5 pink marshmallows halved
- pink food colouring optional
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
- Butter two baking sheets.
- In a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, then incorporate the egg.
- Sift together the next three cookie ingredients and add to the mixture followed by the remaining cookie ingredients.
- Mix until well combined.
- Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on to the baking sheets spaced about 7cm l 2¾ in apart to allow for spreading.
- Bake until just risen and firm without crisping at the edges – they should be soft and slightly cake-like in texture.
- Loosen them immediately with a spatula and leave to cool.
- If not assembling on the day store in an airtight container.
- Place the first four filling ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk using an electric hand-held whisk until combined.
- Set the bowl over a pan containing a little simmering water and whisk the filling at high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and moussey.
- Add the marshmallows and stir for several minutes until beginning to melt.
- Then whisk until smooth and combined, adding a little food colouring if wished to achieve your desired shade of pink.
- Remove from the heat.
- Sandwich the cookies in pairs with about a teaspoon of the filling, matching the top and bottom sizes as evenly as possible.
- Set aside for an hour for the filling to set.
CHOCOLATE AND ROSE PETAL JAM VICTORIA SPONGE
Makes 1 x 20cm (8″) cake
- 225g (8oz) diced unsalted butter
- 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 25g (1oz) cocoa sifted
- 4 medium eggs
- 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk
FILLING & TOPPING
- about 125g (4 ½ oz) rose petal jam or good quality pink or red jam of your choice
- 350ml (12 fl oz) double cream
- pink food colouring optional
- Butter a 20cm (8in) loose-bottom cake tin at least 7cm (2 ¾ in) deep.
- Heat the oven to 190C/170 C fan oven/gas 5.
- Place all the cake ingredients in a food processor and cream together, about 3-4 minutes, until completely smooth.
- Transfer the mixture to the cake tin, smoothing the surface.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Run a knife around the cake and leave to cool in the tin, then turn out.
- For the filling, work the jam in a bowl to loosen in slightly.
- In another bowl, whisk the cream with a couple of drops of pink food colouring until just starting to form soft peaks, taking care not to let the cream turn buttery.
- Slit the cake horizontally into three layers using a bread knife.
- Spread the bottom layer with half the jam, and then half the cream. Repeat with the middle layer using up the remaining jam and cream and set the top layer of cake in place.
CHOCOLATE ROSEWATER MOUSSE
- 125g – 4½ oz dark chocolate about
- 70 per cent cocoa broken into pieces
- 2 medium organic eggs separated
- 25g – 1oz caster sugar
- 100ml – 3½ fl oz double cream
- few drops rosewater to taste
- Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff using an electric whisk, then sprinkle over the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well with each addition until glossy.
- Fold the egg yolks into the whisked whites.
- Flavour the cream to taste with rosewater and fold into the chocolate in two goes.
- Now fold in a third of the egg mixture to loosen it, and then the remainder in two goes.
- Spoon or pipe the mousse decoratively into dessert dishes or glasses.
- Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.