In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Kick the Bucket.”
In the last few years, the world has gone bucket list mad – including me! There’s tons of things we all hope to do before we ‘kick the bucket’.
I’ve always been a bit of a bucket list girl and I’ve already managed to tick quite a few things off my list including being front row at a concert; visiting certain countries; going to a New Kids On The Block concert; finding my dream job, and marrying the love of my life.
But there’s still plenty of things that I haven’t done and am still waiting to tick more off my list, such as spending NYE in Time’s Square; writing a book; becoming a really good baker and confectioner; reading the entire Bible, and becoming fluent in another language… and many, many more! In fact I don’t think I’ll ever have a completely crossed-off list as I keep adding to it.
But the thought of an anti-bucket list had never occurred to me until I saw The Daily Post’s writing prompt, and it got me thinking about things I would never in a million years want to do, want to have, or want to go to!
So here’s my selection of twenty (that’s right, twenty) things – in no particular order – that complete my anti- bucket list!
1. LEARN TO MAKE QUICHE
I absolutely hate quiche with a passion. If you came to my house for lunch, you can be sure that you won’t be served with this vile savoury tart/flan/whatever you want to call it. Why the rest of the world is quiche crazy, I’ll never know. Even though I want to hone my baking skills, this is one area of baking I don’t feel I need to even bother trying to learn let alone improve upon.
2. BECOME A BIGOT
Obviously no one goes through life intent on becoming a bigot. And even when most people do have an extreme intolerance towards others, they naturally won’t admit to it or even realise how offensive their views are- though you will get a few who don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with having such prejudicial views and will defend these views to the hilt. What they don’t seem to understand is how ignorant they sound.
Going through life with an open mind is so important on many different levels and for so many reasons- at the very least it makes the world a far better place.
3. APPEAR ON THE APPRENTICE
Don’t get me wrong – I love watching The Apprentice and tune in every year to find out who will be Lord Sugar’s new business partner. It’s addictive, and as someone who’s keen to go into business, it is of great interest to me.
There are times I think, fleetingly, about applying to go on the show but I know I never would. The other contestants show way too much arrogance, ruthlessness and attitude, and many of them are nowhere near as good as they claim to be. I really don’t think I could handle so many huge egos under one roof.
I’ll still continue to watch the show though!
4. VOTE UKIP
The media would have you believe that the whole country is full of UKIP supporters even though I know that that’s not necessarily the case. I can see why a lot of people have fallen under the spell of Farage and co. but those who can look at things objectively can see that they clearly lack credibility, so whether they are the flavour of the month or not, I will not be jumping on the bandwagon and be voting UKIP.
And is it just me, or does their logo resemble something similar to a budget supermarket chain?
5. READ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
It’s meant to have enhanced activity in the boudoir and had women buying the E.L. James novel in droves. Nothing wrong with that of course. However, unlike Christian Grey, I am a hearts and flowers kind of person, so this isn’t a book that will be gracing my bookshelf, and I prefer old-fashioned though slightly corny romance rather than raunchy in your face erotica. Give me Mills and Boon any day!
6. WATCH WHAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HOT ON BRITISH TV RIGHT NOW
The Only Way Is Essex, Made In Chelsea, Big Brother, The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celebrity… these might constitute compulsive viewing at the moment but quite frankly I find it all quite boring. I used to watch shows like these a long time ago but then it started to lose a bit of its gloss and I just gave up. However, I can’t escape these shows entirely because the ‘stars’ are always in the media. Even though I can’t profess to be a National Geographic kind of girl, this sort of telly really isn’t for me either.
7. BABYSIT A SPOILT CHILD
I like children as much as the next person but when it comes to children who lack discipline, don’t know the meaning of the word no, and think that all adults should do as they’re told (by them)… forget it! I once had the misfortune of babysitting a child (and not just any child, but a relative!) who was a complete and utter nightmare but clearly thought that his behaviour was cute. And when his mum was told about his behaviour, she clearly couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to handle a spoilt child. I’m obviously not one of them.
8. BECOME ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY
There’s no denying that we’re in the digital age and we all use technology to some degree. But to become addicted to gadgets to the point where it overrides common sense and courtesy is unacceptable. I really don’t wish to be that kind of person.
9. APPEAR ON MASTERCHEF USA
Once again, Masterchef USA is a show Mr. D and I tune into religiously every year, and we’ve actually picked up a few tips from this cooking competition. However, I would never want to be a contestant on this show, even if I did live in The States, because Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich could very easily reduce me to tears and turn me into a nervous wreck. No thank you!
10. ATTEMPT TIGHTROPE WALKING
There are a lot of adrenaline junkies out there but I’m not one of them and heights are not my thing, so you won’t see me on a tightrope anytime soon.
11. SWIM IN SHARK INFESTED WATERS
As I’ve said I’m not an adrenaline junkie and clearly do not have a sense of adventure, so once again not for me.
12. RETURN TO WORKING IN RETAIL
Before anyone accuses me of putting down people who work in the retail sector, let me explain. I spent more years than I care to think about working in retail, so I have a lot of respect for those who work in retail because I know how tough it can be – especially at this time of the year.
In theory, it should all go swimmingly. After all it’s not the worst job in the world; you get to meet people every day; and there are some exceptionally enjoyable tasks i.e.- going to trade shows, generous staff discounts etc.
However in practice I’ve found it incredibly draining. Dealing with the general public is not easy. Dealing with those in head office is even harder. Sometimes your colleagues don’t understand the importance of working as part of a team. And let’s not forget with more and more stores open for longer hours and seven days a week, it leaves you with little time for yourself, family and friends. I still like the idea of owning a shop of some kind but I doubt I’ll ever do it as I found it incredibly draining.
13. WORK FOR A NATIONAL NEWSPAPER
It was my childhood ambition – until a careers officer said after a consultation that I lacked the ruthlessness and forceful character to be a journo. That and the fact that I didn’t like to pry into other people’s business!
Yep, I think I’m better suited to teaching English!
14. HAVE BOTOX
I know I’m getting older and I can see the signs. I don’t look or feel twenty one any more. However, I don’t believe that Botox is the answer – why would I want to inject poison into myself? I don’t believe in putting anything into my body that really shouldn’t be there, so I will fight aging with happy and healthy living.
15. BUY SUPER EXPENSIVE CLOTHES
When I was a teenager I was into labels and brand names as most of my peers were. That didn’t always mean I’d get them though and fast forward several years, I’m very grateful that my parents didn’t give into my every whim. I still love clothes and probably have more than I need but I don’t spend a fortune on each item and love spotting a bargain. I’d hate to spend a grand on a coat and then feel I’d need to wear it for the rest of my natural life and then be buried in it just to get my money’s worth!
16. BECOME A POLITICIAN
Where do I begin???
17. BE PART OF THE IN-CROWD
During the course of my life, I’ve met some exceptionally interesting people who seemed to have it all. They said all the right things, had all the right things, looked the right way, surrounded themselves with all the right people and were seen in all the right places. In a nutshell, they were the in-crowd.
The only thing is that their hearts weren’t often in the right place and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised what’s important.
18. TO WATCH ANY MOVIE THAT’S BOUND TO LEAVE ME TRAUMATIZED
Twelve Years A Slave and The Passion Of The Christ are out as interesting and as fascinating as they are. When I watch a film, I want to be entertained not left feeling depressed.
19. OWN A FLASHY CAR
We’d all like a flashy car parked on our drive but I can’t help thinking what a waste of money it is. Unlike houses, the value of a car generally tends to go down not up. So I think I’ll invest my money in bricks and mortar, thank you.
20. RIDE A BIKE AROUND LONDON
I am most definitely not hot on two wheels at the best of times but riding around London with its super busy streets which I don’t believe is really ideal for cyclists… I’ll give it a miss. I’ve heard a great deal about accidents on our roads and even been at the scene of one, and my heart really goes out to those who have been hurt or worse. And I take my hat of to those who are far braver than me and are willing to have a go.
What’s on your anti-bucket list?
The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.
I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously, who am I trying to kid?
SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?
There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:
- 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
- 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
- 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
- 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
- 2 plums or kiwi fruit
- 1⁄2 a grapefruit
- 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
- 1/2 an avocado
- 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
- 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
- 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
- 3 dried apricots
- 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
- 1 small bowl of salad
With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.
But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!
To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?
I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!
USE REAL FRUIT INSTEAD OF ARTIFICIAL SYRUPS IN DRINKS
I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.
Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!
2. GET SPIRALIZING!
Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being cooked and eaten a lot like pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.
3. CAULIFLOWER ‘RICE’ ISN’T JUST FOR THOSE DOING ATKINS!
When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.
I don’t really think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!
4. SNACK ON DRIED FRUIT AND FROZEN BERRIES INSTEAD OF SWEETS
I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.
5. ICE ICE BABY
Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.
6. GO BANANAS!
Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!
7. DREAM TOPPING
Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.
I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.
9. SWAP POTATO CHIPS FOR APPLE CRISPS
Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.
10. BLEND VEG INTO SHOP BOUGHT FOOD
There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!
11. MAKE VEGGIE DESSERTS!
It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!
12. CHIPS AND DIPS
Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.
13. FEEL THE PULSE IN A CAN!
These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?
14. LIVEN UP THAT SALAD
Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!
15. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO WITH AN AVOCADO???
When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.
Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!
In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition. Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.
When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is! The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Ham and English mustard
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Rare roast beef and horseradish
- Rose petals with honey
- Prawn mayonnaise
- Smoked salmon soufflés
- Mini sausage rolls
- Blinis with smoked salmon
- Mini Cornish pasties
- Parmesan thins
- Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
- Goats’ cheese rarebit
- Spinach and parmesan muffins
- Cheese straws
- Potted shrimp on melba toast
- Trout pate on melba toast
- Mini chicken and asparagus pie
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Tea loaf
- Tea cakes
- English muffins
- Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Victoria sponge cake
- Apple pie with cinnamon cream
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Lemon drizzle cake
- Cherry Cake
- Jam tartlets
- Battenburg cake
- Rose and raspberry or chocolate macaroons
- Fruit cake
- Mini Bakewell tarts
- Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
- Mini English trifles
- Pink and lilac iced buns
- Lavender shortbread
- Chocolate éclairs
- Strawberry shortcake
- Custard slices
- Frozen strawberry daiquiris
- Mixed berry tea
- White chocolate mocha
- Jasmine tea
- Pink lemonade
- Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
- Raspberry bellini
- Cava with nasturtiums
- Pomegranate Martini
- Chamomile tea
- Champagne with hibiscus
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.
Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree
ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES
60 dried organic rose petals
Few drops of rose essence
25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature
12 slices of soft white bread
6 tsp lavender honey
1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.
2. Drain and set aside.
3. Butter the bread.
4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.
5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.
6. Top with remaining slices.
7. Cut off crusts.
8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.
9. Serve immediately.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!
Here in the UK, Mother’s Day was way back in March. But the rest of the world -including Mr. D. – will be honouring their beloved mums on Sunday. But whether we’ll be celebrating or not, we’ll definitely be keeping our mums in mind.
Everyone says I’m my mother’s double. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve actually been mistaken for her. No it’s not that I look so old (well at least I hope not!) but Mum looks so young. She really could pass for my (slightly older!) sister. But I always felt that our looks are where our similarities begin and end as personality-wise we couldn’t be more different. I’m definitely more outgoing whereas Mum’s a bit reserved. Our style in dressing is very different: I probably dress a little too young for my age (why not? I can get away with it. I think!) whereas Mum dresses in a way that makes the Queen look like Avril Lavigne (which always frustrates me!) I like a good drink and can really put those cocktails away but Mum’s a teetotaller who just has to look at a glass of wine and her head starts to spin. I like my music loud and angry while Mum’s the queen of the easy listening classics. We couldn’t be more different – or so I thought…
I was in bookshop this afternoon, perusing the cook books and wondering what to add to my already ever-increasing stack of cook books when it dawned on me where I got my addiction from – Mum! As a kid Mum had a whole load of cookery books (and I do mean a whole load of books) which I used to pore over, looking at the pics, while Mum would be putting the recipes to good use. All these years later, I’m doing the same (all I now need is the little girl to sit on the kitchen worktop and pore over the books…)
It got me thinking about other ways in which I’m a lot like my mother. I’m often so busy focusing on the differences that I don’t think about things that we have in common. It’s the same with the majority of my friends – they love their mums to bits but don’t think that they’re anything alike. Maybe one day they’ll also discover that they’re more alike than they think.
1. MUM AND I ARE BOTH FEEDERS!
This is where the cook books come into effect. When you come to our homes, you’d better be coming with an empty stomach. Just don’t think you’ll be leaving with one. In fact you may need a crane to carry you out because we’re in danger of overstuffing you! Nothing makes us happier than cooking for other people and having people around our table (something we both get from Mum’s mum and my lovely grandma) and we feel really humbled by the appreciative comments we get.
2. WE WATCHED ALL THE SOAPS RELIGIOUSLY… BUT DON’T NOW!
I got my love of soaps from my mum who used to watch them all: Coronation Street, Crossroads, Dynasty, Dallas, Emmerdale Farm… and naturally I’d watch these too and became something of a soap addict myself, especially with the advent of EastEnders, Neighbours, and Home And Away. It was amazing because I couldn’t remember my six times table but I could remember what caused Sue Ellen to slap JR six episodes ago!
However over the years our love of soaps dwindled. In Mum’s case it’s because she’s too busy to keep up with what’s happening in Weatherfield or Albert Square, and in my case it’s because I just don’t watch TV as much as I used to, and on the odd occasion when I do tune in, I’d much rather watch something other than soaps (which in my opinion aren’t as good as they used to be anyway!)
3. WE’RE GREAT WHEN IT COMES TO THE OLD HOSPITALITY!
I only invite people into my home if I really like them, so it’s very important to me that everyone who does come to our home, whether it’s for a quick visit or to stay for a while, is made to feel very welcome and know that we are happy to have them over. So we go out of our way to make sure they’re happy, comfy and that they treat the place like their second home (even though all of the above meant that Mr.D. and I once had to sleep on the sofa. Not good but hey – it was for our friends!)
And looking after guests is something I learned from Mum. However I think most people prefer to go to Mum’s than mine because she’s a much better cook than I am!
4. SPORT IS NOT OUR THING.
Just about everyone in our family is into a sport of some kind. And just about everyone supports a particular football team.
All except Mum and me. I’ve tried to get sporty in the past but it just wasn’t happening. Mum didn’t even try! It’s a good job I don’t live in California or I really would be in trouble.
We do however tune in to watch the World Cup especially when England’s playing. That’s as sporty as we get!
5. AND NEITHER IS DRIVING!
Mum never learnt to drive and nor has she ever wanted to. I once asked her why and she said that if she learnt to drive then that would be one less thing that Dad did – and he doesn’t do much as it is!
I did get my licence but sadly I’m a real hazard on the road so I tend to leave the driving to those who are less of a calamity.
6. WE’RE NOT ONES TO COMPLAIN
OK maybe not strictly speaking true as we have been known to have the odd grumble. But compared to a lot of people we know, we hardly ever complain. If life’s getting us down, something seems unfair, or we’re just having a bad day, we just suck it up and get on with it.
And on the rare occasions when we do complain, it’s only because it’s absolutely necessary. I guess you could say that we know how to pick our battles.
7. OUR BODIES ARE MADE UP OF NINETY SEVEN PER CENT SUGAR!
It’s not just my looks I got from my Mum but my incredible sweet tooth. Thanks to her, I’m a real sucker for sugar and it’s virtually unheard of for me to go to a restaurant and not end a meal with a dessert. And if I’m too stuffed for dessert, I at least take a peak at the dessert menu to see what I’m missing out on!
8. WE’RE USELESS WITH TECHNOLOGY
Oh my goodness, where do I begin with this? At least with Mum, she was born way before technology took hold of us the way that it has. She didn’t grow up in an era where people stopped breathing if they were clinically detached from their iPhones. I however, have no excuse especially as I’m a blogger as well. I’m not as bad as I’m making out as given a certain amount of time, I can usually figure things out. That said, I’m still far from good!
9. ADVICE IS OUR MIDDLE NAME
For as long as I can remember, people having been calling on my mum whenever they had a problem of some kind – and they still do. Perhaps it’s because Mum’s very understanding, a good listener, gives good advice, and tries to help out in any way that she can.
Well it’s a good job I’ve been trained by the best because at I’ve had all sorts of people – friends, family, colleagues, clients, random people on the bus – confiding in me about their problems.
I guess I just have one of those faces!
10. WE’RE REAL HOME BIRDS
Mum was always a home bird. I don’t think she even went to the pub as a teenager. I, on the other hand, was a real night owl, and once I got a taste of London night life there was no stopping me.
However now that I’m older, those wild nights out are pretty much a thing of the past – although nothing comes between me and my rock gigs! I’d much rather stay at home and cook for friends. and believe it or not, we still manage to have a great time!
Hope all the mums out there enjoy their special day!
Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Chicken salad
- Chicken and pesto
- Ricotta and apricot jam
- Egg and asparagus
- Prawn cocktail
- Scotch eggs
- Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
- Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
- Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
- Bite-size lamb samosas
- Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
- Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
- Cheese and spring onion scones
- Broccoli and spinach mini quiche
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Hot cross buns
- Fruit loaf
- Apricot muffins
- English muffins
- White chocolate and raspberry scones
- Rosewater and vanilla scones
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Lemon cupcakes
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Carrot cake
- Simnel Cake
- Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
- Crème egg chocolate brownies
- Pastel coloured macaroons
- Chocolate whoopie pies
- Lavender shortbread
- Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
- Mini chocolate and cherry trifles
- Lemon tea
- Raspberry tea
- Vanilla latte
- Mint tea
- Elderflower cordial
- Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!
- 130g pure icing sugar
- 110g almond meal
- 2 egg whites
- 65g caster sugar
- 4-5 drops of pink food colouring
White chocolate and raspberry ganache:
- 50ml double cream
- 100g white chocolate
- 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 140C.
- Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
- Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
- Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
- Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
- Add food colouring.
- Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
- Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
- Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
- Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
- Stand until a crust begins to form which should take around 5 hours.
- Bake macarons until firm.
- Cool completely on trays.
- Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
- Remove from heat.
- Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
- Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
- Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
- Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.
I bought a book today which is absolutely, fantastically, smack-you-in-the-face awesome! It’s called The Vintage Tea Party Book and it’s by – I just love her name – Angel Adoree.
I’m a huge fan of books about tea parties, dinner parties and home entertaining because it’s based on something I love to do – have a house full of people eating, drinking and having a bloody good time! Angel says in her book that her parents ‘ have always been motivated by feeding people’s souls with food laughter and cocktails,’ – and that pretty much sums up the story of my life! And like Angel, I think my own parents played a big part in my love of home entertaining as it wasn’t unusual for them to have dinner parties and gatherings at home when I was growing up. I was allowed to join in even though I should have been tucked up in bed. But I grew up with memories of Dad’s awful jokes; raucous laughter; happy people, and empty dishes as everyone loved Mum’s cooking. So it’s no surprise that when I grew up I had an overwhelming desire to recreate those fabulous evenings.
The first thing you notice about the cover of The Vintage Tea Party Book is the shades of red, white and blue, and the images of top hats, monocles, pocket watches, Union Jacks, pipes, a cake stand, china teacups and teapots, pearls, butterflies and rose buds. What you get is a cross between a quintessential British vibe with full-on vintage glamour – two themes which feature heavily in this book. This suits The Vintage Tea Party Book down to a, well, tea!
The cover also explains that The Vintage Tea Party Book is ‘a complete guide to hosting the perfect tea party,’ but in reality it is so much more than that. What you essentially get is Angel Adoree between a hardback cover. We get a glimpse into the author’s life with pictures of her family, friends, and some childhood snaps. There are also quite a few pics of the present day Angel; a buxom lady with cherry red lips, and hair the exact same colour worn in a victory roll.
We hear about her childhood, work, entrance into the world of business, appearance on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, and her business venture, The Vintage Patisserie. And as if her appearance wasn’t enough of an indicator, the reader also learns about Angel’s lifelong love affair with all things vintage.
The Vintage Tea Party Book contains more than just recipes for a good tea party. There are ideas about how to host a party; helpful hints about sourcing vintage items; fashion and beauty advice for those who want to look 1940s; grooming advice for men; a little about the history of the Union Jack, and suggestions for games to play. There’s also arts and crafts with instructions for sewing aprons; drying edible flowers; making a butterfly display, and more. And let’s not forget templates for invitation and thank you cards. All this before we even get to the recipes.
And you won’t be disappointed with the recipes. They’re divided into three parts: brunch, afternoon tea, and evening tea.
The usual tea time treats are still there but they’ve been elevated to a more sophisticated level. So instead of your usual cucumber finger sandwiches, you’ve got cream cheese and cucumber heart-shaped, open sandwiches, and there are lemon scones with lavender cream instead of your usual run-of-the-mill (but nonetheless delicious) scones with clotted cream. There are some really unusual and delicious sounding treats such as hot baked grapefruit; chilled raspberry soup; crab choux, and pork and lemon quail scotch eggs. I especially liked the sound of the romantic sounding rose panna cotta, and the very unusual rose petal sandwich. There are also recipes for a selection of drinks including iced teas, smoothies, cocktails and hot drinks. I particularly want to try the white chocolate mocha and the bourbon slush.
The Vintage Tea Party Book is most definitely going to be one of the most inspiring books I own, and I can’t wait to try out the recipes and put the other suggestions to good use.
And just to give you a hint of how awesome this book is, I’ve posted Angel’s recipe for the divine sounding cherry and dark chocolate trifle shots. Yum!
Angel Adoree, we adore thee!
CHERRY AND DARK CHOCOLATE TRIFLE SHOTS
6 sponge fingers, broken into small pieces
100ml cherry brandy or chocolate liqueur
50g dark chocolate, grated
1 pack of dark cherry jelly, made up according to instructions, then chopped up
jar of morello cherries
100ml whipped cream
- Arrange sponge finger pieces at the bottom of 6 shot glasses.
- Add 1 tablespoon of chosen liqueur to each one.
- Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon chocolate.
- Once the sponge fingers have absorbed the liqueur, add a heaped tablespoon of prepared jelly to each shot.
- Top with a few cherries and more grated chocolate.
- To serve, top each shot with a heaped tablespoon of custard, and a tablespoon of whipped cream.
- Finish with decorative sprinkle of grated chocolate.
The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree
I never thought of myself as a fussy person when it comes to food, especially when compared to Mr.D, who has a list of food dislikes that’s almost as tall as he is! I considered myself to be the kind of person who’ll eat anything – or at least give it a try. But a conversation about food the other day made me realise that I had an awful lot of food hates myself. In fact after sharing them with you, I doubt I’ll ever be invited to dinner again!
1. Glacé cherries
This might seem a little ironic considering I love cherries, but they have to be either fresh or dried – I can even live with the tinned variety. But glacé cherries for me are a huge non-no. Their bright, tomato-red colour just puts me off as I know that real cherries aren’t supposed to be that colour. In fact for years I thought that they’re weren’t ‘real’ cherries as they didn’t look or taste like the cherries that I love but they are – they’re maraschino cherries that have been stoned and candied in a sugar syrup.
Even as a child I’ve never liked them, and my dislike for glacé cherries still continues. As much as I adore cherry bakewells, fruit cake and Christmas pudding, I always pick out the offending glacé cherries.
2. Smoked salmon
I love, love, love salmon. It’s one of my fave foods. So you’d think I’d be a huge fan of smoked salmon, right? Wrong! Smoked salmon and I never really hit it off. I never liked the taste or the texture. I know it’s considered a luxury delicacy, but I could never acquire a taste for it. In fact, give me a tin of salmon over the smoked stuff any day!
Oh my goodness – if there’s a food I really cannot stomach, it’s quiche. I’ve never liked it and they used to serve the horrid stuff for school dinners on a regular basis. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a whole slice of quiche. I’ve given it a good go but that taste, that smell… no, just not happening!
4. Green banana
Green bananas are usually served in savoury dishes and feature in Caribbean, South American, African and South Asian cuisines – cuisines I enjoy a great deal. I don’t come across green bananas very often, thankfully. But when I have, I’ve never really enjoyed them so tend to pick them out. I don’t like the texture – and the fact that I believe bananas should be yellow and sweet probably has something to do with my dislike of them!
5. Cooked peppers
Now I can eat raw peppers without any problem at all, and I don’t believe that a salad is a salad without them. But for some reason, I don’t enjoy peppers when they’ve been cooked. Unlike many of the foods on this list, I can actually eat cooked peppers but then again I’ve had to – you won’t believe how many dishes contain cooked peppers. It’s just that I’d prefer not to! I don’t really like the flavour or texture of peppers when they’ve been cooked.
6. Non- peeling oranges
I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with oranges. One of those things in life that just can’t be explained. But even though I’m happy to OD on oranges when I have a really bad cold, they have to be of the peeling variety. I can’t be doing with all that cutting malarkey. And since childhood, I’ve never been able to stand the sight of those navel oranges – definitely not for me!
7. Soft jelly sweets
Now I’ve always had a sweet tooth so naturally I love sweets. But I don’t like those ultra soft, sugar-coated jelly sweets. I’m not totally sure why – I vaguely remember being sick after eating too many of these as a child so I’m sure that’s got a lot to do with it – but they’ve always made me feel a bit queasy after tucking into a few, so I tend to give them a miss. I prefer the jelly sweets with a harder texture.
8. Curried/stewed fish
OK, so I love fish, I love curries, and I love stews. I even like fish stews and curries. But I’m very fussy about how the fish is cooked. It has to be in chunks rather than steaks, and there shouldn’t be any huge bones and certainly no skin, as I hate the texture – all slimy and nasty. Not good!
Duck is very popular with many people but I personally have never understood the appeal. It has a rather strong flavour that I really don’t like but if I did have to eat it, I’d prefer to have my duck cooked a bit longer than most people would prefer. I’ve tried to get into it but I’ve accepted that my tastebuds are different to everyone else’s and duck just isn’t for me.
I reckon it’s a small minority of people who can stomach offal – but I’m not one of them. The smell alone is horribly off-putting, and although I’ve tried classics such as steak and kidney pie, and liver and onions, it’s not something that I’m in a hurry to sample again.
If any of you have any ‘food nasties,’ I’d love to hear about them!
Travel and food are two things I love. And one of the things I love about travelling is sampling all the local delicacies. So it’s no wonder that I’m addicted to a TV cooking show that combines my two favourite things. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of cooking shows but World Kitchen hosted by Nici Wickes is refreshingly different. Not only does Nici whip up interesting and exciting dishes from around the world – and make it look so easy – but she takes viewers on a culinary adventure as she heads off around the world, visiting fantastic places and learning about the local cuisine. Nici then heads home where she recreates many of the dishes that she’s learned to make from the comfort of her own kitchen. Each episode usually sees her rustling up one main and one dessert from the country she’s just visited.
The New Zealand-born chef is an absolute joy to watch with her sunny personality, mile wide smile, abundant energy, and her enthusiasm for cooking just shines through. But Nici is not just a pretty face, and neither is she just another TV chef. As well as being a seasoned traveller, Nici is also a cookery writer, business woman, actress, motivational speaker, owner of a cooking school, business coach and runs workshops in leadership! Wow – does this lady ever sleep???
Nici has a multitude of fantastic recipes but I chose to include the dishes she made after her visit to Trinidad. I love the awesome flavours of Caribbean cooking, and I was famished just watching Nici cook these! But for more amazing recipes check them out here. And tune into World Kitchen if you can.
TRINIDADIAN CHICKEN CURRY
A delicious fusion of Indian and Caribbean flavours, this curry is perfect for those who prefer a milder, yet flavoursome, curry.
1 green capsicum, de-seeded and chopped roughly
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 bunch of fresh coriander (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
¼ – ½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
3 Chicken Breasts – skin on, cubed
1 cup green sauce (recipe below)
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1-2 teaspoons garam masala
½ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 fresh mango, skinned and cut into 2cm cubes
Steamed rice and store bought roti
- Blend all ingredients for the green seasoning in a blender or food processor.
- In a bowl, marinate the chicken in the green seasoning.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium-sized, heavy based saucepan.
- Add the onion and sauté until soft then add the spices (cumin, turmeric, garam masala) and fry for 2-3 minutes until aromatic.
- Add the chicken and green seasoning and stir until coated in the spice mix and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Finally add the coconut milk, mustard (if using), salt and pepper.
- Gently stir in the mango and heat through.
- Serve with rice and roti.
CARIBBEAN BLACK CAKES
This is one of my favourite cakes. One of the things I like about this cake is that the dried fruits are blended so you get the flavour but not the appearance. This is great for me because although I love which I’m not that keen on! This cake is usually served during special occasions in the Caribbean. Good reason to make every day a special occasion!
2 cups mix of raisins & currants
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup rum
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons aromatic bitters flavouring
150g unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons lime or lemon zest
Prepare the fruit: Place the raisins, currant and prunes in a large bowl, pour in rum, warm water and bitters.
- Leave for the fruit to soak up the liquor while you make the batter.
- Preheat oven to 150 C.
- Grease a 12 hole deep muffin tin.
- Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing well to incorporate.
- Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, mixed spice and nutmeg), golden syrup, vanilla essence and lime zest.
- Mix gradually into the creamed mixture to form a batter.
- Set aside.
- In a food processor, pour the soaked fruit and juices and blend until thick and still a bit chunky.
- Now add the fruit puree to the batter and fold in until well mixed.
- Spoon batter into greased muffin tins.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
- Serve warm with sour cream sweetened with brown sugar.
As much as I’m a cappuccino and cake kind of girl, I do love a good tea party – especially if it’s done properly. I know in the States, an afternoon tea party is considered to be a quintessentially British pastime. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news guys, but most of us here in the ‘old country’ don’t even own a piece of fine bone China, never mind drink from it every day. And I really cannot remember the last time I used a saucer. On the rare occasions I do drink tea, it’s usually from a cardboard cup – just like my cappuccino!
But I do know a typically British afternoon tea party can be a fabulous occasional treat. We don’t have them every day or every week, but they are very popular for birthdays, bridal showers, little girls dressing-up tea parties, and just generally when you feel like being a little bit girly and going overboard with the hats, gloves, tea dresses and pearls. Told you it’s not an every day thing!
Tea parties can vary in terms of theme, style and food served, and there’ll be more about that in later posts. Although they are usually considered to be quite formal occasions, they don’t always have to be. They’re just great fun and a chance to have a cup of tea and a natter with a huge slice of cake. However formal or not, there are certain rules (for want of a better word) which need to be taken into account for a smooth running party.
So here’s the low-down on tea party etiquette.
TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE
IF YOU’RE THE HOSTESS:
1. Depending on how formal you want to be, you may want to send out invitations. Make sure you send these out in plenty of time.
2. Greet your guests as they come in. I don’t really think a handshake and a ‘how do you do?’ is necessary as one book suggested. Hello and a smile work just fine!
2. Show guests to the table and invite them to sit down. Whether you give them assigned seating or allow them to chose their own seats is up to you.
3. As the hostess, it’s your job to serve each of the courses and pour the tea. Make sure the conversation is flowing and your guests are eating and drinking.
4. It’s fine to arrange for someone else to do the serving if you wish so that you can concentrate on just having a good time with your guests.
5. If you are not able to get outside help and you have a fairly large number of guests, you can nominate a couple of friends to help serve – especially if you know that they are happy to do so!
IF YOU’RE THE GUEST:
1. It’s always nice to bring a small gift for the hostess.
2. Take your place at the table and wait to be served.
3. Keep your purse or handbag on your lap or behind your chair but not on the table.
4. When the party’s over, always send a handwritten note of thanks to your host – preferably within a week.