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Let's Cook: Cauliflower & Broccoli Mac n Cheese

24/02/2019


Whether you’re thinking of going vegan, vegetarian or just cutting down your meat intake, there are plenty of great reasons to reduce your consumption. I have always been conflicted between having the knowledge that an animal had to die for it be on my plate, and enjoying the benefits of the high macronutrients and the taste itself. I know enough to know that’s not a system I want to support, and for a long time, I knew that but didn’t take any action to stop supporting it.

That is why at the start of 2019 I made a decision to reduce my week-on-week meat consumption and begin to incorporate more vegetarian dishes into my meal plans. This has enabled me to expand my food horizons and discover exciting new main dishes - whilst being more cost effective too!

When cheesy, creamy sauces meet pasta, magical things really do happen. This is your favourite comfort food, revamped with fewer calories and more veggies. Keep reading to see how I make my Cauliflower & Broccoli Mac n Cheese.



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Ingredients 
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- 350g Uncooked Macaroni 
- 500g Cauliflower & Broccoli Florets 
- 30g Grated Light Cheddar Cheese
- 20g Golden Breadcrumbs

For the sauce:

- 500ml Semi-Skimmed Milk
- 90g Grated Light Cheddar Cheese
- 10g French Mustard
- 30g Plain Flour
- 20g Melted Butter

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What To Do
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1. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C or 180°C if you're using a fan-assisted oven.

2. Add the melted butter and plain flour into a saucepan and whisk to form a paste - This is known as a Roux and is one of the basic thickening agents in cooking.

3. On a medium heat add the milk gradually, continuously whisking to have a lump-free sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes whisking all the time until thickened.

4. Take off the heat and stir in mustard and cheese. Seasoning if necessary.

5. To boiling water in a saucepan add the macaroni pasta and cook as per the packet instructions. Drain once cooked.

6. In the same saucepan fill and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Add the vegetable florets and cover for 2-3 minutes. Drain once cooked.

7. Combine all ingredients together and add to a large ovenproof dish. Scatter over the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 30 minutes or until crisp and golden.

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Nutritional Information
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Per Serving

587 Calories | 30g Protein | 90g Carbs | 15g Fat | 8g Fibre

The Lord Crewe Arms | Blanchland, Northumberland

10/02/2019


We all crave a break from the stresses of normal life every so often, and it is times like these where it is good to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience something different. What better way to enjoy a couples retreat than visiting 'one of the fifty most romantic hotels in Europe' by the Sunday Telegraph. Our bags were packed, the engine started and we headed for the wilds of the North Pennine moors where you will find tucked away The Lord Crewe Arms Hotel in the peaceful and picturesque village of Blanchland.

It can be easy to forget just how beautiful the UK is, especially when we’re always seeking the next available flight abroad. Now don't get me wrong I love travelling; it is important to immerse yourself with different cultures, ethnicities, accents and the atmosphere that comes with visiting an exotic location, as it helps broaden your mind. However, to explore Northumberland you don't need to book tickets to board your next flight. And so, you'll be saving money and reducing your carbon footprint at the same time. All whilst experiencing something just as magnificent.

Walks and cycle routes are on your doorstep, while Derwent Reservoir - for picnic spots and sailing - is two miles away. A car is essential for other sights - Corbridge, Hexham and Hadrian’s Wall are around 30 minutes - but the isolation means a quiet night’s sleep. You don't necessarily have to be the outdoors type either to visit Northumberland. You can enjoy a three-tier high tea at a local patisserie, treasure hunt at weekend markets or attend one of the many festivals that are hosting in the region.


Blanchland is an isolated huddle of honey-coloured stone buildings nestling in a hollow in the rugged moors; housing a population of no more than 100, 25 miles south-west of Newcastle. When we arrived you feel as though you have stepped back in time, detached from the rest of the country and the 21st Century. We were happy to welcome this feeling of isolation with open arms.

The Lord Crewe Arms Hotel is a building synonymous with history and with the advantage of age-old hospitality oozing from its very foundations. An abbey was founded here in the 12th Century and what is now the Lord Crewe Arms hotel was built as the abbot’s lodge, guesthouse and kitchens, becoming an inn in the 18th Century. There are 21 rooms available at the hotel, located across the main abbey building, an adjacent square of former lead miners’ cottages, and an old inn.


Our home for the night was in one of the 'Cosy' rooms - the smallest of rooms available to book at the hotel. However, it was more than enough for our stay. With its rustic furniture, natural materials and soft colours the decor they have succeeded in bringing the countryside indoors. In addition to being beautifully decorated, everything has been well thought of in preparation for a guests arrival. From fluffy bathrobes to a spare umbrella and walking boots you really are able to make the most of your stay, no matter what experience you are looking for.

The views from our room provided us the best of both worlds;from the bathroom we were able to observe the beautiful grounds of hotel, whereas from our bedroom we could observe all those coming to and from Blachland. Furthermore I am a huge advocate for supporting local businesses and the community as much as I can. The commercial world is full of companies that all offer basically identical options. It’s hard to find anything that is in essence, completely unique anymore. When you drive across country, and all you see is the same scene… same brand, same big box stores, same products on the shelves. Very disappointing, isn’t it? Therefore, one of my favourite observations of my stay at the hotel which really enhanced the overall experience was to see that many of the products used; such as the amenities, coffee and ingredients were locally sourced. I particularly enjoyed the delicious slab of fudge that was amongst our hot drinks tray in our room!



The food we received for our evening meal was nothing short of exceptional. The head chef is Simon Hicks, who was head chef at Mark Hix’s place in Soho. The dinner menu offerings was stripped back to a select number, but did not hinder my ability to decide what I wanted to eat that evening. In all honesty, I wish I had the stomach capacity to had eaten more. On a cold winters night, what more can you ask for than to be sitting by the fireplace with a burning wood crackling away made the whole experience a true delight.

I also have heard very positive things about their Sunday Lunch and Afternoon Tea - Definitely something I will be looking into returning for!


Overall, I would highly recommend the Lord Crewe Arms Hotel. It really has got everything absolutely right. It's atmospheric, so stylish and true to the character of the village and the history of the building. If you are looking for a remote retreat, then this is the place to visit. Book yourself a room!

My only regret is that I didn't get to explore the Lord Crewe Arms famous gardens due to the weather at the time of our visit. I can imagine in the peak of summer it's nothing short of fantastic to sit on the benches outside with a cold drink and take in the country views. That being said, there was something quite tranquil about observing snow falling from the window. However, there is nothing remotely relaxing about trying to get home in it the following more (but that is a different story entirely).



Disclaimer - I was invited to the Lord Crewe Arms for a press review, all words are my own.

Let's Cook: Chicken Katsu Curry

20/01/2019


Eating well should be a sustainable habit, but it can sometimes feel challenging if you're also on a budget. It has been three months now since I moved into my own home with Liam and it's been important for us to ensure when we plan our weekly meals they are nutritious, keep our taste buds happy and our budget on track!

When we chose to eat out one of our favourite cuisines to enjoy is Japanese. If you were to order a Chicken Katsu Curry from a chain restaurant it would typically set your bank balance back by £10 per person, however, we were able to replicate this for a fraction of the price for approximately £2.60 a plate!

Would you like to know how I made it? If so, keep reading...


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Ingredients
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- Two Chicken Breasts 
- 125 ml Buttermilk
- 1 Heaped Teaspoon Medium Curry Powder
- 1 Garlic Clove (Minced)
- 60g Panko Breadcrumbs
- 160g Basmati Rice 
- 12g Creamed Coconut

For the sauce:

- 1 Garlic Clove (Minced)
- 1/2 White Onion
- 1/2 Carrot 
- Teaspoon Of Oil
- 1 Teaspoon of Garam Masala
- 1 Teaspoon of Medium Curry Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Turmeric 
- 1 Heaped Tablespoon of Plain Flour
- 1/2 Heaped Teaspoon of Mango Chutney

For the pickle dressing:

- 1/2 Red Onion
- 1/2 Lemon
- 1/2 Red Chilli
-15g Coriander

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What To Do
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1. Flatten and tenderise your chicken breasts by placing them in between sheets of greaseproof paper and bashing them. 

2. Mix the buttermilk, curry powder, garlic and a pinch of sea salt together in a bowl and place in the chicken breasts to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours. 

3. Sprinkle your breadcrumbs onto a tray/plate and cover your chicken breasts, pressing down to help them stick more. 

4. If you would like to save on time you can fry your chicken breasts in the saucepan with 1/2 cm oik and cook for 8 minutes, turning in between. However, I prefer to oven bake for 25 minutes on 220 degrees in a fan-assisted oven.

5. Whilst this is cooking you can begin with your sauce! Cut all of your vegetables finely and fry in a large pan on a medium to low heat with oil. Add the spices and keep mixing until the vegetables begin to caramelise. 

6. Stir in the flour and mango chutney and pour in 400ml of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

7. In a saucepan add your rice and add 320ml boiling water. Break in the creamed coconut and stir. Place on the lid and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Make sure to turn that when you turn the heat off that you leave the lid on to keep the moisture inside. 

8. Finally, add all the onion and chilli into a small bowl and squeeze in the lemon and mix with your hands as this will help pickle the vegetables to add more depth to the flavour. 

9. All that is left to do is plate up and tuck in.

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Nutritional Information
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Per Serving

621 Calories | 54g Protein | 85g Carbs | 9g Fat | 4g Fibre

Let's Bake: Leftover Christmas Chocolate Fudge Brownies

06/01/2019

Christmas may be over, but the excessive quantities of chocolate that remains are not. Rather than consign them to the back of the cupboard, why not turn your chocolatey treats into delicious cakes and bakes instead?

For my first bake of 2019, I decided to make Leftover Christmas Chocolate Fudge Brownies using a load of random chocolates that I had left over such as Lindt Lindor, Malteaser Truffles, Terry Chocolate Orange pieces and more.

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Ingredients
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- 24 Leftover Chocolate Pieces
- 200g Melted Chocolate (Dark/Milk)

- 100g Softened Unsalted Butter
- 250g Caster Sugar
- 4 Large Eggs
- 95g Plain Flour
- 25g Dark Cocoa Powder
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Essence

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What To Do
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1. To begin with grease and line a baking tin (or a brownie tin if you have one) and preheat your oven to 180°C or 160°C if you're using a fan-assisted oven.

2. Break up your chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl and melt gently. Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat and leave to cool until needed.

3. Into the bowl of a food mixer place your sugar and butter and beat on a medium speed until fluffy in texture.

4. On a slow speed add your vanilla essence and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Stir in the cooled melted chocolate and add the sifted flour and cocoa until combined.

7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Placing each piece of leftover chocolate evenly into the mixture.

8. Bake for about 22-25 minutes until firm to the touch but still a bit fudgy – the chocolate will continue to cook slightly for a few minutes after coming out of the oven.

9. Remove the tin from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Leave to cool completely before cutting into pieces and enjoy!

Recommended servings | 24

#HollysMustHaves: Winter Edit

16/12/2018


Photography by Sophie Lobban



Winter seems to add an extra element of complexity to looking good. On the one hand, you can play with layers, textures and contrasting colours. Yet on the other, you have to dress warm enough to walk from one place to another but not so warm that you find yourself completely undressing every time you walk into a heated room. But you can be both stylish and comfortable during the winter. That doesn't mean going bare-legged or refusing to bundle up — It just takes a little creativity.

Your clothing and outfit choices can affect your personality, mood, and emotions. In winter it can become our natural instinct go grab the darkest pieces in our wardrobe, in an attempt to absorb heat and keep warm. However, subconsciously over time, it can become quite a depressive colour to wear, and I think as the colder months already can be more difficult on peoples moods due to the dark nights I think we all need to inject a little colour into our winter wardrobe! I love wearing colourful clothing because it either lifts the mood or expresses a mood that I am feeling that day.

Marks and Spencer create some amazing trend-led pieces and their latest collection with Holly Willoughby is no exception. Her winter launch reflects her signature style, comprising of 14 versatile pieces; jam-packed with colour, that if you were to add to your wardrobe would be guaranteed to last the whole holiday season and beyond. With prices starting from just £17.50, if anything that has caught your eye I'd recommend acting fast.

As I've always been a huge fan of a jumper and skirt combo I was immediately drawn to this pairing and had to have it. I decided to pair it with a leopard print faux jacket to add another layer to the look, playing with contrasting prints and textures. Which is your favourite item from the collection? Let me know in the comments.

SHOP THE LOOK





This post is in collaboration with Marks and Spencer - all words are my own.

Let's bake: Toffee Apple Cake

28/10/2018



Autumn is finally here. The nights are becoming darker, leaves are turning crisp and the air is slightly colder. So, as the nights draw in lets retreat to the warmth of the kitchen and bake treats with all the flavours of the season.

This Toffee Apple Cake is perfect for any part over the Autumn season; whether you're hosting a frightful feast for Halloween or a banging showstopper on Bonfire Night. This show-stopping bake is a marriage of flavours of classic apple desserts with spiced sponge, vanilla icing and a sticky caramel icing. If you bake only thing this autumn, let it be this cake.

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Ingredients
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For the cake:

- 400g bramley apples peeled and roughly chopped
- 250g light muscovado sugar 
- 225g softened salted butter
- 375g self-raising flour 
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
- 3 medium eggs, beaten

For the buttercream:

- 70g softened salted butter
- 250g sifted icing sugar

For the toffee icing and decoration:

- 3 small apples
- 50g salted butter
- 100g dark muscovado sugar
- 3/4 tbsp milk
- 100g sifted icing sugar
- 5 bay leaves to decorate

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What To Do
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1. To begin with grease and line 3 x 18cm round sponge tins and pre heat your oven to 200°C or 180°C if you're using a fan-assisted oven.

2. Place your chopped apples (no additional water needed) into a microwaveable dish and heat up for five to six minutes or until the apples are well-cooked and softened.

3. Mash the apples to a coarse puree and set aside to cool slightly.

4. Sieve the self-raising flour into a large mixing bowl and add all of the remaining cake ingredients together. For the apple puree, it doesn’t matter if it is slightly warm, but should not be hot or the baking powder will work before the cake mixture is in the tin.

5. Beat the mixture together until it is just starting to come together and then divide the batter between the three tins ensuring they are levelled out before placing in the oven. Bake the cakes between 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, risen and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then turn the cakes out to cool on a wire rack.

6. Once the cakes are completely cool, make your buttercream ensuring the consistency is creamy and thick enough to spread. Sometimes it may be beneficial to place your buttercream in the fridge to completely cool if your kitchen is quite warm.

7. Weigh your buttercream mixture and divide by two, using a palette knife to spread the mixture into each layer of bottom two layers of cake.

8. For the toffee apples, put the apples in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Swirl around to remove any wax, then drain. Once they are completely dry, insert lolly sticks into the stalk end and set the apples on a sheet of baking paper.

9. Weigh and sift the icing sugar, and get the cake out of the fridge. It’s important to get the apples and icing sugar ready now, as you need to work quickly with the toffee icing.

10. Put the butter into a small saucepan with the muscovado sugar and 2 tablespoons milk. Heat gently until the butter has melted and sugar dissolved, then bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes (it’s best to use a timer) or until it reaches about 113-116°C on a thermo-pen or sugar thermometer (although it’s not essential to be completely accurate).

11. Remove from the heat and quickly dip the apples into the toffee, rolling them around in the toffee to coat. Place on baking paper to set. Immediately add the sifted icing sugar plus 1 tablespoon milk to the pan, whisk until smooth (you may need to add another 1 tablespoon milk), then immediately pour the icing over the chilled cake, spreading it to the edge to allow it to drip over the sides. Allow to set.

12. Make a small hole with a skewer near each apple stalk and poke in a bay leaf. Place the apples on top of the cake to serve and once cooled grab a knife, cut into your servings and tuck in! 

Recommended servings | 12-14




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