Portobello Road: Lives of a Neighbourhood (book review)

According to the author, Portobello Road achieved world wide fame from a movie. It’s not the same movie that makes Portobello Road attractive to me. Apparently there is a blue door and a book store that inspired a book store in the movie Notting Hill. Having never seen Notting Hill I have no idea what it’s all about.

The movie that made me want to visit Portobello Road and to read this book was Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I do realise that in the movie it was probably a set somewhere in America. However, the idea that there was this magical road where you could get anything you wanted with a catchy song was enough for me to day dream about visiting this road. 

Portobello Road has changed over the years and Julian Mash author, creative writer, journalist, musician, bookseller, manager and an events manager felt it important that these changes or history should be recorded. 

This is a book I wish I had written, the amount of people who talked to him and allowed him a glimpse into their lives is amazing. This book is more then facts or statistics on how time has changed a single road in London, it’s life. It shows the stuff beyond the gorgeous architecture and gives us a history; a history of food, fashion, music, and art! 

Portobello Road: Lives of a Neighborhood 
by Julian Mash
published by Frances Lincoln Limited (2014) 
RRP: £9.99/$15.99 

notes: the book was sent to me to review - all opinions are my own please see my contact/policy page for more information

Blueberry Cheesecake Strudels

The theme for this month’s Pastry Challenge was something that could be baked fairly quickly and with minimum fuss. It’s summer so usually it’s too hot to be heating up the oven to bake, but this last week has been pretty horrible actually.

We needed the rain, the back yard/garden was brown and already after a few days of rain the grass is already turning green. As green is my favorite color I’m all for rain and green grass. Let’s just hope we get more sun soon!

I bought filo (phyllo) pastry without having a plan for it. It was an assumption that it would be a quick pastry to work with; an assumption proved right!

Not 100% sure when I decided to also use blueberries, but it was only a matter of time before the idea of adding cream cheese came about. The longest part of this recipes is the cooling of the blueberry mixture. Either make it before hand or buy blueberry pie filling.

These are actually pretty big as well so be sure you have people to share with, half was plenty for me!!

Blueberry Cheesecakes Strudels

360g fresh blueberries
60g sugar
2 tablespoons of corn flour
pinch of salt
12 filo (phyllo) pastry sheets
about 100g unsalted butter, melted
280g cream cheese, whipped with 1 tablespoon sugar

In a medium saucepan boil the blueberries, sugar, corn flour, and salt until the berries have burst and it has thickened. Cool completely.
Heat oven to 205C and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Cover the pastry sheets with clingfilm and a damp towel. On a work surface lay the first sheet of pastry with the short side facing you, brush with the melted butter. Lay a second sheet on top and brush with butter before laying a third sheet on top. Gently spread 1/4 of the whipped cream cheese on top leaving a decent border around the edges. Then spread 1/4 of the cooled blueberry mixture on top. Fold the short end of the pastry nearest you up and then fold in the sides before rolling up. Lay seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat again until all the pastry sheets are used will make 4 in total. Use the leftover melted butter on the top and sprinkle a little sugar on top of each. Cut 2 slices into each as a vent before baking in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Challenges: The Pastry Challenge hosted by Jen over at Jen's Food and by myself. 

Orange & Raspberry Muffins: Inspiration

When one ventures into a creative field, occupation, career, hobby or whatever you want to call it inspiration is pretty crucial to success. If creativity is forced it’s hardly ever good, sometimes it’s good if you know what inspires you. Some people have a “muse” that brings endless inspiration and others, like myself, have it smack them in the face from unexpected places.

Perhaps this wasn’t as unexpected as I perceived it to be at the time, however at the time it was a bit like a light bulb moment. First I should explain about this stuff called “squash” or “cordial” depending on what part of the UK you are from. Growing up in America the only thing I can compare it to is possibly Kool-Aid and that’s a bit of a stretch. Squash is a concentrated flavored liquid that is diluted by water.

It’s alright. I don’t personally rate squash as anything special. It is a suitable alternative to carbonated fizzy drinks and can be a change from water if needed. Anyway after trying a new flavor of orange and raspberry I had the light bulb moment! One word came to mind “muffins!” Orange and raspberry muffins to be exact.

Muffins are one of the easiest things to bake. It’s mostly a case of mixing dry ingredients in one bowl and the liquid ones in another before mixing together. No complicated instructions here! These turned out better then I expected and I already have added raspberries to my shopping list so I can make them again!!

It’s one thing to be inspired by something, but when it’s made into something all your own it’s even better!!

Orange & Raspberry Muffins

125g fresh raspberries
icing sugar, to coat raspberries
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
1 orange, zest & juice
1 large egg
250ml milk
50g unsalted butter, melted

Heat the oven to 200C and line a muffin tin. Coat the raspberries in a dash of icing sugar (you don’t need much to cover them.) Zest the orange, cut it in half and juice only half the orange.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and sugar together before folding in the zest and raspberries.
Mix the egg, milk, melted butter, and the orange juice.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg/milk/butter/juice mixture. Stir until just combined. Using a medium ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into the muffin cases.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes… it’s easy to know when they are done by the amazing smell that will fill the kitchen. Leave to cool slightly before sampling and finishing them off!

Tip: mix the dry ingredients the night before and then when you get up in the morning heat the oven add the wet ingredients and bake for a great breakfast treat!

Other Fruity Muffins: 

notes: inspired by a recipe from 100 Magnificent Muffins & Scones by Felicity Barnum-Bob

Five on Friday: Five Reasons to Love Hawaii Five-O

It’s all my friend’s fault! Sometimes when the girls are in bed I sneak out to my friend and neighbour’s house for a chat and a cup of tea. Sometimes when things get bad it’s a bottle of wine or vodka with apple juice. Don’t judge it’s tough being a mom. 

The said friend watches Hawaii Five-O and when I stop over it’s usually always on. Then without knowing I found myself watching it in the afternoons when I have that random hour with nothing to do before the school run. With just an hour it’s pointless to start anything and by the then I have a load of laundry out on the line another in the wash, dinner prepped etc… I could read one of my many books still waiting to be read or write a blog post, but I have found myself watching Hawaii Five-O instead. 

Here are the main five reasons I keep going back to it. 

1. It’s set in Hawaii. 
    Hawaii is beautiful. Some of the landscape shots are breathtaking. I would love to live here one day! 


2. Alex O'Loughlin as Det Steve McGarrett 
    He's a super smart ex-Navy Seal who is basically a cop ninja. Which makes him sort of cool.

3. Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly
    I loved loved loved him in Lost and I love him all over again in Hawaii Five-O

4. Entertainment
    It’s a bit corny at times and even a little far fetched, but it’s entertaining. When I watch TV, which isn’t often, it’s to be entertained. I am always up for a bit of crime drama! The characters are loveable too, you start to care about what happens to them.

5. Did I mention Alex O’Loughlin??? 

notes: images are not my own, but links to sources are included in the caption. 

Dual Nationality and Cookies & Cream Rice Krispie Treats

Today my little family and I went to London, not to see the Queen, but to see the President. Not really. We had to make a trip to the London American Embassy to renew my youngest’s American passport. 

Our girls are dual citizens which is something I felt was important. It could be considered a little bit odd for the fact that I myself have retained only my American citizenship. Even though I am married to a British citizen and have lived here for a decade. 

Why them and not me? It’s not that I think that America is better, each country has it’s pros and cons. However, I still even after a decade, refer to America as home. It’s possible to have two homes. One there with my family and one here with the family I made for myself. For them they have family here and there in a more rooted fashion. 

It is important to me for them to have the choice of which country they’d like to live in the future. It’s not a decision my husband or I can make for them. Even though I know one day they may live very far away from me. 

My parents let me go. Not that they could have stopped me. I am only just realising how hard that must of been for them as the girls get older. Although it could be years before that might happen I’m already dreading it. 

One could argue that even without dual nationality they could make that choice as I did, but at least  for them it will be a lot easier. One of the pros, the big one, is that they will never have to worry about tedious yet necessary paperwork like I did and will do if we ever make the move back. The cons come really when things are bad. Like if either of the girls become criminal masterminds - different laws and stuff or if another world war rears it’s ugly head - as loyalties could be questioned. 

Until they are full grown adults and I know longer have any official say in their decisions I will continue to take them every five years to renew their passports for each country. There will always be non-threating treats to accompany us. Like these Cookies & Cream Rice Krispie Treats or squares. Rice Krispies and Oreos are the same thing in both countries. So, you don’t have to be a dual national to enjoy these! 

Cookies & Cream Rice Krispie Treats

75g butter
250g marshmallows
200g (approximately) chocolate sandwich cookies
1 tsp vanilla extract
130g Rice Krispies

Line an 9x12 inch baking pan with grease proof paper. Blitz about 150g of the chocolate sandwich cookies aka Oreos in a food processor until they are nothing but crumbs. Place the remaining 50g in a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted add 200g of the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Take off the heat and mix in the blitzed cookie crumbs and vanilla until smooth. Add the Rice Krispies and the remaining 50g of marshmallows mix until it’s all covered. Moving fast put in your lined tin and smooth the top with a spatula or large spoon. Sprinkle the rest of the smashed cookies on top and press down. Leave to sit for 2 hours or more on warm days. Cut into squares. They keep up to 5 days in an airtight container not that they would last that long.

Zero Degrees - BrewMasters - Microbrewery Tour

Zero Degrees is a microbrewery - a brewery which produces limited quantities of beer, typically for consumption on its own premises - sometimes to referred to as a brewpub. They aren’t a new concept. A lot of pubs have brewed and sold their ale on the same premises since the Middle Ages. 

It’s funny because I felt that Zero Degrees had an old world-y vibe with modern look. They invited to me to visit in the Reading location for a tour and tasting. They fed and watered us. We tried their various pizzas and starters along with their ales, lagers, and beers. 

Then we went on a tour and they explained how they brew the beer right there. They kept repeating the fact that there are no added ingredients and it really stuck with me. Even the carbonation is natural and not added in afterwards. 

This video basically sums up the tour. We met Alex from Cardiff and Kani Naim who has been with Zero Degrees for years and was happy to answer any of our questions. He was very passionate and enthusiastic when talking about what Zero Degrees is and what they are selling. 

We tried all of the on tap drinks and I would have to say my favourite is the Mango Beer, but it would be wouldn’t it. It’s obvious I have a sweet tooth! The food was good too. The wide variations of pizza was adventurous and delicious! 

It was a good and informative night for more information check out the Zero Degrees nearest you! They will be out and about over the next few months hosting brewery tours- just ask in store or follow on one of their social media sites to find out more! 

Zero Degrees: Reading
9 Bridge Street

notes: as mentioned above I was invited out, but was not asked to write or give a favorable opinion - please see my contact/policy page above for more information

Muesli Flapjacks: what to do with yourself

Lately I have been in a weird “I just don’t know what to do with myself" mood. Today I have a sort of day off and I start having stressing or feeling anxious of what I “should” be doing with my time. I should be doing the laundry and food shopping and going to the bank and doing all these things that need to be done. Because that’s my roll as a mature adult (whatever that means.) On top of that I have three or four posts that are waiting to be written. I also have a cupboard filled of baking supplies that are calling out to be used. Along with the stack of books sitting next to my bed waiting to be read. 

It’s the stress of these various things I should be doing vs things I want to do vs things I never seem to have time for that make me just want to lie down and take a nap. So, basically nothing gets done and I feel rushed and claim I have no time for anything. When actually I am just terrible at time management and my “I just don’t know what to do with myself" mood stems from having too much choice of stuff to do.

The practical part of me says I should be doing all the responsible things and the other part me of is writing this blog post. I also did get a shopping list written… it’s now just going to the store. Perhaps I can keep procrastinating by doing something I want like baking or reading a book. 

Every once in a while it’s okay not to do anything. It's just that I feel like someone somewhere is judging me for being lazy and not spending my time wisely. As someone who promotes not caring what others think, it’s a mystery to why fictional people who can’t see me matter. 

So, if you find yourself with “free time” and need to fill it with something so you don't get judged by "them" or "they" - these flapjacks are super easy and delicious. They make you feel like you at least accomplished something during the day. Everyone needs to eat! 

Muesli Flapjacks 

175g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
150g demerara sugar
300g muesli 
pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line a 8x8 square pan with grease proof paper
Melt the butter in a sauce pan with the golden syrup and sugar on a low heat, stirring continuously until combined but the sugar is still a little grainy. 
Remove from the heat and stir in the muesli and salt. Dump into the prepared pan and smooth it down with a spatula as evenly as possible. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes if after a chewy flapjack. Give it 5 or more minutes if after a crunchy flapjack. 
Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares. 

I love a good muesli and even more so baked with sugar and golden syrup. Dorset Cereals make a small trial box of their simple range that sells for £1. It’s just enough to make these at 350g a box and have a bowl of cereal. However, any muesli would work! 

notes: recipe comes via The River Cottage Cakes Handbook or on their website; Dorset Cereals have not endorsed this post, it was just I found that for £1 it was a good deal that I would share with you. 

Five Ways to Keeping it Cool in a UK Heatwave.

Let’s face it the UK isn’t known for it’s weather, but it’s forever predictable. I know many who would disagree with me. For instance: You wake up look outside and it’s raining, by the time you get the bus it’s blue skies, by the time you get the office it’s sunny, then by lunch it’s raining again and then it’s nothing by grey skies until the sunsets and you get a gorgeous one as big sun rays shoot across the sky. 

This doesn’t scream consistency, however the process is consistent. In England you prepare for every type of weather as you step out of the house! At the moment we are experiencing the yearly heat wave. It comes about this time every year. Since I now live in a country that doesn’t believe in central air here is how I keep cool in a UK Heatwave.

1. Shopping.
Chilled and freezer isles are your friend. Take as long as you need picking out your dinner and stock up on all sorts of cool treats! 

2. Fans. 
If you ever take any advice from me do not wait for the predicted heatwave to go out a buy a fan. You will be shit-out-of-luck. I don’t know who gets all these fans because someone somewhere must have come to the store and bought them. But every year there is a fan shortage. If you are smart you will buy your fan in the middle of winter. You can never have enough fans. 

3. Iced Treats. 
Ice lollies/popsicles or ice cream are your friend during a UK heatwave. Make your own or buy them and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We used our favourite soda, Cherry 7-UP, for the ice lollies pictured. Just added a few cocktail cherries and you have a great iced treat. Use this theory will work with any of your favorite soda's. Leave them out for a while so it cango flat if you don't want the bubbles.

4. Water. 
Water is not just for drinking! Water gun fights are fun and a great way to stay cool. If you want to be a real dick just put ice in yours to watch everyone freak out when you get them! Water balloons, sprinklers, paddling pools, anything that hoses you down! 

5. Statue. 
If all else fails find a cool place in the shade and sit as still as possible. Your body will eventually adjust to the temperature that’s outside. If you don’t have a shady place outside to chill in, find the darkest and coolest place in the house place a fan directly on you and don’t move. Might sound lazy, but it’s a great time to relax and mediate or read a good book! 

The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson was my sit and do nothing book. 

How do you keep yourself cool when it’s super duper hot? Please leave a comment below, I’m always looking for ways to not be hot. Also just so you know I’m not one of these annoying people who always complains about it being either too hot or too cold. Especially the latter, as I love a good cold day! 

Tips: Do be sure to wear sunscreen and hats and sunglasses! Drink water to keep yourself hydrated and cool!  

The Pastry Challenge June Round-Up! {Breakfast}

Last month I asked for you to share your breakfast pastries with Jen and I for our Pastry Challenge. We started the challenge because we both felt out pastry skills could use some work or improving. Mine definitely did and do! I struggled with my pastry this month it just didn’t turn out how I wanted. I, of course, am my own worst critic and perhaps they were okay. So, even if you’ve tried out a pastry and it didn’t turn out how you expected please still enter it, we’re all in this together! 

Breakfast pastries are the best way to start out the morning! Here are a handful of great recipes to try out at home! 

I don’t know what goes on in Angela’s kitchen, but if she’s making Gin & Tonic Cronuts I want in! These look amazing and must taste amazing too! If you like these she has some more great recipes over on her blog Patisserie Makes Perfect! 

These All-Day Breakfast Bites from Cakeyboi literally could be eaten All-Day! I know I would! If you found yourself having to serve a lot of people breakfast, I think these would be the way to go! So, simple and it has everything you’d want in one bite! 

Quiche for breakfast makes perfect sense, it’s eggs (which we all associate with breakfast) and whatever takes your fancy. Why not start your day right with Bellau Kitchen’s Oven roasted Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Quiche with gluten-free pastry! 

Joanna over at The Keen Cook gave us a pastry recipe and a couple of different ways to use it! I hope one day I find that recipe that just works right every time and it seems like she may have!? Check out her Danish Pastries and find out how she used up her leftover pastry! 

When I think of Croissants, I think of many breakfasts while traveling through Europe. They are great with butter, deli meats, and jam! A simple yet delicious breakfast pastry that should be savoured at every opportunity! 

Bear Claws were my pastry of choice. As I mentioned above they didn’t quite turn out how I expected or wanted, but I posted them anyway. They probably needed to rise more or maybe I over rolled or kneaded. Or perhaps I left it in the fridge too long. Know matter what I did I do need to try making them again. It’s the whole point of this challenge! 

For July Jen’s asking for any Quick Pastry recipes. Ones that you can just throw together and ta-da dinner or breakfast or snack! It’s basically really hot and no one wants to be in the kitchen for long so get your pastry out and quickly make something to share with us!