Valentine’s Day at Lush- Video!

Hello kittens!

Apologies for the silence following my 2015 planning post. I’ve been very ill with the flu, and it’s taken me a while to recover and get myself going. As promised, I’ve made a video! I’ll still be writing here, but one of my goals for this year was to give YouTube another go.

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This time, I’m looking at all of the great products Lush have given us for Valentine’s Day- two bath bombs, three bubble bars, a soap, a shower gel and two lip products. Look out for DeeDee chiming in part way through!

As per the video, I am living for the Unicorn Horn. I’m a huge unicorn fan in all walks of life, so the name and imagery is right up my street. What wins it for me, however, is the cosmic, magic potion-y herbal fragrance- it’s very relaxing for body and mind.

The Kiss lipgloss is a super addition to my lip care products. I’m not much of a gloss girl, but this one I can get behind- it’s smooth and subtle, not sticky or tacky. It looks really pretty over colour, or on nude lips, and is really kind to your skin.

Prince Charming, Prince Charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of… not that I would EVER ridicule this guy. I LOVE this fragrance, LOVE the effect the combination of softening, soothing vanilla and enzymic fruit notes have on my skin, and love the sweet-tart fragrance on my skin. Yum!

All of the products in the video are being discontinued on saturday in the UK- Valentine’s Day itself. Therefore, if you love any of these, or want to try them, stock up as soon as you can!

That’s all for today- I’m going to go and rest up so I can bring you more content soon.

Later days!

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Advent Calendar 6 and 7: Christmas Chutney and Cranberry-Red Onion Marmalade

It doesn’t get much more festive than Cranberries. They’re in season over the festive period, they’re santa-suit red and they taste phenomenal with meats and cheeses- staples in many a Christmas feast. They also have a very high pectin count, meaning they make excellent additions to preserves, helping them to set beautifully.

Cranberry sauce is great and all, but we can do better at SWB this year. Plus, a good chutney or savoury marmalade is a fabulous addition to any cheeseboard or buffet. Here are two of my Christmastime favourites I’m making up for my own Christmas dinner, plus extra for gifts.

Christmas Chutney

This recipe is childsplay to throw together and packs a great flavour punch. It goes great with sharp cheeses or meats in sandwiches, and can be made, start to finish, in under 45 minutes., including any chopping.

  • 400g cranberries
  • 400g cherry tomatoes (you can use regular tomatoes, just chop them up first)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/2tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 100ml cider vinegar

Chop the onion into rough slices.

Pop the cranberries, onion and tomatoes into a saucepan over a low heat, and heat for 10 minutes, until the berries start to pop.

Add all the remaining ingredients and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Simmer the chutney for 15-25 minutes until the chutney is combined and pulpy.

Pot into sterilised jars, or store in the fridge.

IMG_6848Next up is a delicious red onion marmalade with the festive twist. If you don’t want to use the cranberries, use an extra 400g of onions instead for a true red onion marmalade.

Cranberry and Red Onion Marmalade

  • 500g red onions
  • Juice of an orange
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground gunger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 150ml ruby port
  • 100ml cider vinegar
  • 400g cranberries

In a glug of oil, fry the onions off until translucent.

Add the orange juice, port, vinegar, sugar and all the spices. Stir through to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Simmer the mixture gently for 35-40 minutes. The mixture should be nice and syrupy by this point.

Chuck in the cranberries and turn up the heat a little. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes, until all the berries have popped and the mixture is nice and thick.

Pot into sterilised jars and store in the fridge.

 

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 5: Mulled Cider

Sometimes the world is out to get you. Hard days and long nights don’t take a holiday because it’s Christmas. Therefore, here is a recipe that will cute your ills, soothe and warm you, and get you well on your way to being merry.

Mulled Cider

  • 1 litre still dry cider (I used Snakecatcher by New Forest Cider)
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, split
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Juice of an orange
  • 50ml calvados
  • 50ml pomegranate juice
  • 3tbsp caster sugar

Warm up the cider until steaming. Meanwhile, measure out your dry and wet ingredients.

Chuck in your spices and juice/booze mixture and give everything a good stir. Bruise the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod with your spoon as you do so.

Bring the pot up to a boil, then turn it back down to a simmer for 5-8 minutes

Serve piping hot in heatproof cups.

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This recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the same, with a few measurements tweaked, and an extra dose of booze to warm your cockles. It’s a damn good recipe, so I didn’t need to muck about with it much. Sweet, fruity, boozy and oh so quaffable- this is going to be my go to mulled beverage this year.

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 4: Christmas Cake

If you are anything like me, then the year has gotten away from you, and half a moment ago it was halloween, and you were overdue for making your Christmas cake, and now, BAM! It’s December 4th, and you still haven’t done it. Do not despair, dear ones. It is not too late.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t *need* to make a Christmas cake months and months in advance. Sure, you get more time to feed it to boozy godliness if you do, but it is not essential. So long as you make your cake 3-4 weeks before the big day, you will have plenty of time to get in plenty of feedings to have a delicious, brandy spiked delight to serve on Christmas Day.

The recipe below is adapted from Delia Smith’s age old and much loved Christmas cake recipe. I’ve really only removed the nuts (I prefer the texture nut free, personally), tweaked the spices to my preference, and altered the fruit a little (cranberries > currants).

Christmas Cake

  • 750g dried fruit (you can pretty use whichever dried fruits you like in this mixture. I used approximately 100g glacé cherries, 200g sultanas, 200g raisins and 250g dried cranberries)
  • 50g candied peel
  • 3tsbp brandy
  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1tsbp treacle
  • Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

9-12 hours before you want to make the cake, or the evening before, weigh out the fruit into a mixing bowl (If you like, you can chop your cherries, but I prefer them as whole gleaming jewels in the finished cake). Drizzle the brandy over the fruit and stir to ensure all the fruit is coated. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to steep. If you are able, the odd stir during this process will only help the absorption.

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Preheat the oven to 130-140c and double line an 8 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper. Prepare a double layer of greaseproof to sit on top of the cake in the oven too. This will help protect the cake from over-browing during its long and slow baking.

Weigh out your flour and measure out your spices. Sieve or whisk together to remove lumps.

In another bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat the eggs, and mix into the butter mixture in 2-4 parts until completely incorporated.

Add the flour mix into the wet ingredients and fold to combine.

Finally add the zest, treacle and fruit, and fold into the mixture until it is uniform.

Pour the cake batter in the prepared tin, cover with the paper ‘lid’, and pop it in the oven for 4 and 1/2 hours. If your oven is particularly fierce, check at 4.

Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing the cake to an airtight container. Poke the cake full of holes with a toothpick, and drizzle in a healthy plug of brandy. Repeat this process at least once a week until you are ready to ice the cake, flipping the cake over each time to ensure an even feeding.

 

Like a lot a festive recipes, this cake is super easy, it’s just time consuming, and contains a lot of ingredients. Making your own Christmas cake is a labour of love, and will rapidly become a tradition in your household, if for no other reason than the phenomenal scent of it baking for hours on end. With so many steps before the cake is baked, and after, theres plenty to get the whole family involved in. If you are tee-total, use strong tea instead of brandy in the first step, and simply don’t feed the cake. It will keep well enough if it is kept airtight.

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 1: Sbiten

To get the ball rolling on this recipe advent calendar, here’s a Russian winter warmer that’s great if you want something fruity this festive season.

Sbiten used to be the eastern european go-to warm drink. The recipe was first documented in the twelfth century, and wasn’t replaced by the now more popular tea and coffee until the 1800s.

Full of festive spices and sweet blackberry flavours, this inky drink is going to becomes a season favourite of yours, for sure.

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Sbiten

  • 115g blackberry jam or bramble jelly
  •  honey
  • 1tsp cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint, or a pinch of dried
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 625ml water

This recipe couldn’t be simpler. Put all your ingredients in a saucepan and bring it up to the boil, stirring to combine and to melt the jam.

Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Strain, and serve piping hot.

 

If you have leftover Sbiten, you can store it in the fridge for a day or two and reheat as needed. Realistically though, this sweet and spicy drink is going to vanish faster than you can say ‘Za zdorovje’!

Enjoy!

Lush Christmas review: Shower products

Hello kittens!

Today, I’ll be looking at the shower goodies Lush have put out for us this Christmas.

Beyond their ever popular shower gels, Lush have an array of innovative shower products to make you feel clean, fresh and adored. For Christmas they’ve released a bunch of these, including two Fun products, which directly help the children still affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Gold Fun

Rich in honey-caramel sweetness and pretty golden lustre, Gold Fun is as beautiful and decadent as it is, well, fun. Like all Fun products, this doughy soap can be used to wash your body, hair, as bubblebath and as a toy. The sweet and skin kind honey notes in this product are popular with kids of all ages, and this makes a great gift for someone who is young at heart.

 

Snowman Fun Kit

Looking for a Secret Santa gift that comes in at £5? The Snowman Fun kit is perfect. Sweet and fruity smelling but compliments moisturising carrot oil in this three coloured Fun set- black, orange and white. This kit can also make penguins! This is an awesome stocking filler for anyone who enjoys a bath (or a shower- fun works well in both). Also, you can make a beautiful inky black bath if you use just the black part of the product.

 

Snowman Shower Jelly

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Shower jellies are just shower gels with their water removed, and seaweed added to set them. They’re vegan, long lasting and tons of fun. This snowman has the same scent as the Snowman Fun Kit (which is the same scent as Carrot Soap, from 2014’s easter range) and the same ingredients- skin softening carrot oil and lovely fruity buchu. With all that seaweed, he’s extra moisturising too, and pretty darn robust. Either use him whole like a wobbly bar of soap, and allow to dry in his pot or on a soap dish, or break a piece off and scrub him inside a shower lily.

 

Rose Jam

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This is my favourite lush fragrance- floral yet heady and involved, grown up and sexy. This shower gel shares its scent with several year round products, but I am thrilled that this shower gel is back. Rich in organ oil, it is very moisturising, and makes a great shampoo as well as a shower gel. The double dose of rose is great for troubled winter skin and the vanilla is likewise very calming and gentle, while lemon brightens.

So White

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Crisp and appley, So White is as light as powder snow, and lovely as its name sake fairytale princess. This product was designed by the staff of the Kyoto Lush store, who were invited over to Lush HQ in Poole to work on a product. It shares its scent with the bath bomb of the same name. This is a great product to use in the morning, or any time you need a breath of fresh air. However, with soothing rose and moisturising rice bran oil, this is still a kind and caring product for the harsh winter months.

 

Hot Toddy

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I LOVE spicy scents and flavours, so I was thrilled to see this scent return (it used to be a bubble bar) as a glittery, festively red shower gel. This shower gel is like a big warm Christmas hug- warm and sweet clove, earthy patchouli, warming cinnamon leaf oil, aromatic and bright citrus notes and softening carrageenan seaweed. If you don’t love this product, I’m judging you. It’s like mulled wine, but for your skin!

 

Snow Fairy

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She’s baaaack…

You can hardly have failed to notice that the lady in pink has returned again this Christmas. Sweet and candy scented  and blissfully pink, she has a huge fanbase, and not just kids and teenage girls either. To me, Snow Fairy smells like pear drops. Other people get bubblegum or candy floss. Whatever she smells like, she’s delicious and adorable, and this year the shower gel is enriched with moisturising seaweed and pretty lustre.

 

The next and final part of the review will be all the other products Lush have brought out for Christmas this year- cleansers, lip and body care products.

See you soon!

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Cosy Crumble

Halloween has been and gone. Guy Fawkes’ Night is almost upon us. Christmas is just around the corner. Comfort food season has truly arrived.

When it comes to comfort food, some of the best dishes, whilst simple, take a long time cooking. That’s fine- gives you time to get on with Christmas card lists and catching up on Downton. However, I work pretty much full time, I’m surprisingly lazy, and I want my comfort food done quick. When it comes to main meals, that often means reheating portions, or pasta for me. When it comes to dessert, it means crumble.

You can’t go wrong with an apple crumble- they’re universally popular and extremely versatile. Autumn is apple season, but they are readily available all year round and as such are a kitchen staple, as are the rest of the ingredients in this simple but delicious pudding. Frankly, anyone who doesn’t like crumble is probably a cyborg, anyway, and as such should be cut from your social circle.

Here’s how I make a dessert in minutes, that goes in the oven to cook as soon as the main meal is out. Apologies for imperial measurements- this is how I was taught to make crumble by my mum, and it’s how I remember it.

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Cosy Crumble

  • 4oz Butter, cold
  • 4oz Caster sugar
  • 4oz Plain flour, plus an additional 1-2oz as required
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • 5 Eating apples (I used Braeburns. You can use cooking apples, but you will probably only need four, and you may wish to add additional sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 4oz Sultanas
  • Demerara Sugar and a further scant tsp Cinnamon to finish

 

Preheat the oven to 180c, or use a hot oven following cooking a main meal.

Rub the butter, caster sugar and flour together with your fingertips to form a crumbling crumb. If the mix is too soft and wet, add the additional flour an ounce at a time and try to crumble it again. Once the mix is working, don’t be too pedantic about crumb size. You don’t want to overwork the mixture, and I like the rustic look.

Next, peel and core your apples. Chop into bite size pieces- about 12 chunks per apple. Place the apple in your ovenproof dish, and acidulate as you go with the lemon juice.

Scatter over the sultanas, a good pinch of Demerata sugar and some cinnamon (a scant 1/2 tsp should suffice), and briefly mix the contents together. Try to even out the top a little.

Pour over the crumble topping in a thick layer, and sprinkle with another hefty pinch of Demerara and another scant 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to finish.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is crisp and slightly caramelised. Serve with lashings of custard, cream or ice cream, and scoff greedily.

 

If you really HATE sultanas, of course you can omit them. However, they plump up beautifully, and add a beautiful depth of flavour, and amber jewel tone quality to the dessert.

Go make this. RIGHT NOW.

Love and cuddles!

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Spiced Blueberry Jam

I have been teasing this recipe for too long, but here it is- Spiced Blueberry Jam. The timing is pretty good actually- british grown blueberries are coming into season, to the time is right to capture their sweet ripeness to savour year through.

Not so long ago I was preparing a gift for my father’s birthday, when I realised I hadn’t made him a cake. And looking around my kitchen, I actually didn’t have enough butter or eggs to make him one. Que Desastre! Well, not quite.

Preserves make wonderful gifts- they are artisan, and require if not ‘mad skills’, then at least concentration and timing. They’re also delicious and multi functional- jams especially can go on bread, in cakes, in yoghurt… They also last a wee while, unlike more perishable goods like cakes and bakes, so they carry on giving for some time. They’re also pretty darn customisable.

I love blueberries, not just for their colour but the sweet, almost buttery fresh flavour, so unlike red berries, or even other berries of a similar colour like Blackberries and currants. I also, if you haven’t twigged from reading this blog, j’adore warm, fragrant spices. This jam, and it really does jam up a treat, combines these two great flavours together to make sweet, aromatic, deep indigo goodness worthy of the finest of slices of toast.

Spiced Blueberry Jam

  • 700g Blueberries
  • 225mls Orange juice (about two oranges worth)
  • 2 Star anise
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 700g Jam sugar

If you haven’t already, thoroughly wash out 2-4 jars, depending on their size. Set them in a low oven (about 100-110c) to dry and warm.

Give your cinnamon stick a couple of whacks with the back of a knife to bruise it, then toss it in a pan with the blueberries, orange juice and star anise.

Cook the berry mixture on low to medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the berries are very soft and pulpy.

Add in the sugar, which contains all the pectin you’ll need, and stir it through until it dissolves.

Bring the mix up to the a rapid boil for three minutes, then remove it from the heat. Discard the spices, and pot the beautiful violet jam into your warm jars. Close the tops almost completely, then fully seal when completely cool.

Store in a cool place, or refridgerate.

 

So there you have it: a simple, but a little different, preserve that is fruity and bright for summer, and warmly spiced for winter. You can use frozen berries in this recipe- just allow them a few extra minutes to thaw in the pulp-ifying stage. You can also play with those spices- vanilla or cardamom would be divine.

Enjoy!

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Mango Chutney

I love Indian food. I used to be very suspicious of it (I have an intolerance to garlic, and have therefore had some very bad experiences) but got turned back on to it via the delicious fare at a friend’s wedding last year.

‘Indian’ food has long been a staple favourite in Britain, since the days of Empire, and today this persists in our love of the take away curry, as well as the homemade option. However, this neon food is a long way from the traditional flavours it was inspired by, and this is perhaps truest for the tango-orange gel that is called Mango Chutney.

My father loves a good Indian, and since it was his birthday last month, I whipped him up a batch of curry-changing sweet goodness in the form of a more traditional Mango Chutney. And, spoiler alert: it’s not bright orange.

 

Proper Mango Chutney

  •  145ml Cider vinegar
  • 250g Caster sugar
  • 180g Dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ground allspice
  • scant 1/4 tsp Ground cloves
  • 1 tsp Ground nutmeg
  • 1 red chilli
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 onion
  • 70g sultanas
  • 10g Root ginger
  • 500g mango flesh

First things first, get prepped. Wash up 4-6 jars to make sure they are super clean, then pop them in the oven at 100-130c to dry and sterilise. You can also put them through the dishwasher, but I recommend sticking them in the oven anyway, as hot food needs to go in hot jars, or the jar could shatter.

You also need a decent sized saucepan, and ideally to prep your fruit and veg in advance. The chilli needs to be deseeded and chopped finely. The onion needs to be chopped fairly finely. The ginger needs to be grated or very finely chopped. I bought my mango frozen because I am incredibly lazy, so all I had to do was defrost it, but if you are using fresh you need to chop your mango into 1cm cubes. You can do this as you go, but it’s much easier to get ahead.

Right, now to the cooking part- heat the vinegar and sugars to combine, and add the spices, chilli and salt. Bring up to the boil, and boil for 10 minutes.

Add everything else except the mango and boil for further 10-15 minutes.

Finally, add your mango and reduce the heat to a simmer for a further 15 minutes. Depending on how chunky you want the finished product, you can use a potato masher or your spoon to crush the mango into the mixture as it cooks.

Remove your jars from the oven and take the chutney off of the heat. Spoon the mixture into the jars and, ensuring the screw top is clean of drips, screw on the lids until closed, but not sealed. Allow to cool fully before tightening the top of the jar up.

 

The finished product is dark, spicy and sweet. You can play with the chilli content and spice balance if you know you like things hot, and add a clove of garlic or more onion if you want more punch, but this chutney is sweet and complex, and goes well not only with curries, but with meats and cheeses.

Enjoy!

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Golden Christmas Cake : Advent Calendar 23rd

My mother requested something a little different when it came to Christmas Cake this year. The traditional black, rich cake is yummy, but I agree that it divides people into lovers, tolerators and haters. Haters won’t touch it, tolerators will have a sliver begrudgingly, and lovers will eat half the cake themselves, before leaving it to moulder on the side til easter.I get the feeling that my mother is in the middle category at best.

So, to honour her wishes, and because I like a challenge, and because I kept forgetting to make my Nanny’s Christmas Cake, I gave a blonde fruitcake a go. I based my recipe on Nigella’s Golden Fruit Cake very closely. The only changes I have made are because I wanted a flour based cake, and due to fruit and spice preferences.

Please note that though I have used dried pears in my recipe, you can substitute dried apples, which are MUCH easier to get hold of. Of course, you can dry your own, as I did.

Golden Christmas Cake

  • 850g dried fruit (apricots, pears and sultanas. I used about 250g sultanas, 150g pears and the rest apricots)
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 175gsoft butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125ml Malibu
  • A glug of brandy
  • 200 grams ginger jam
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 35g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, or 3 pods worth
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • approx. 75g whole blanched almonds
  • 2-3 generous tablespoons apricot jam
  • Gold sugar balls and confectioners glitter to garnish

First, prep the fruit. Roughly chop the pears and apricots. Cut the cherries in half.

Put all the fruit, the butter, the rum, jam and sugar in a pan and bring up to a simmer, mixing until all the butter is melted. Simmer for 10 minutes, the add the brandy. Stir through, then turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool.

Double line a 9 inch pan and preheat the oven to 160 c.

In a bowl measure out your dry ingredients and mix them together. Mix them into the fruit mix, then beat in the eggs.

Spoon the gloriously bejewelled mix into your lined tin and even out. Decorate the top with the almonds as you please.

Bake for 1 hour 40 minutes at 150 c. Check at 1hr 20 minutes. To finish the cake off, turn up the heat to 170 c for 20 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden and an inserted blade or skewer comes out clean.

Cool completely in the tin- this will take some time as the cake is so dense and large. However, you can glaze it when it is halfway cool. Melt the jam in a milk pan and spread evenly over the top of the cake to give it a jewel like shine. If you like, you can now sprinkle over golden sugar sprinkles and confectioners glitter, for an extra touch of seasonal sparkle.

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Moist, richly fruity without the smoke of traditional cake; this is an excellent last minute wonder. It also avoids me having to marzipan and ice anything, and then being ‘made’ to eat everyone else’s icing and marzipan, as my family lack my sweet tooth to a degree.

Enjoy!

 

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