Homemade Chocolate Box.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Freshers is back. All of the newbies keep telling me how they've stocked up on tinned food and Dominoes menu. I sighed, wrote my blog on their arm in permanent marker, next to the artistically ejaculating penises and told them to log on and widen their nutritional net. I don't think any of it really registered what I was saying through the vodka hazes, so I've decided to tempt them in.
I've made a freshers chocolate box.

Tempted right?
These little gems are a student proof alternative to getting up and walking to Thorntons. And they are also much more cost effective - and tastier.

For Freshers Chocolate Box you will need (makes around 30):
175g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1tsp cinnamon
50g butter
115g caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk

For the decoration:
150g milk chocolate
150g white chocolate
100g plain chocolate
Whole nuts/raisins

To begin with, preheat the oven to 180c.
Then put the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and butter in a bowl. If you have a food processor, use this and blend together, it makes life slightly easier.

If you don't have a food processor, like me, pinch the ingredients together to form a crumble. 

Add in the sugar and the already beaten egg and extra yolk. Mix together to form a sticky dough. 

Said dough, looking sticky. 

Knead gently on a floured surface and then split into two equal pieces. 

Roll out into 30cm logs. Resist the temptation to roll up and leave on a housemate's bedroom floor. It's a hard one, I know. 

Cut into 1cm approx segments, chill for about 30 minutes and then put in the oven for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and then get ready to decorate. 

Melt half of your chocolate to dip your biscuits in, save the other half for decorating/eating. 

Dip half of them in chocolate and cover the rest completely.

Jeeeeez. Don't stick your face in the melted chocolate, you'll only regret it.
I found out the hard way, with a face covered in chocolate.  

Be careful when you lean over and decorate. Casualties may occur. 

I bought myself a £1 piping syringe from Wilkinsons to decorate my little wonders, but if you prefer to buy 100 penny sweets then you can use a plastic food bag and cut a small slit in the corner.
Decorate to your fancy. I opted for stripes, swirls and the occasional raisin or nut. 

Some of them turned out beautifully. Christmas present worthy, I'd say. 

Select the prettiest and serve with a cup of tea. You'll have to eat all of the ones that aren't decoratively up to scratch, it's only right.

Make with your flatmates, get chocolate everywhere and recover from a hangover with a handful or three and a Harry Potter marathon.
L. xxxx

My Sister's a Grownup.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

This week, my sister turns 21. We celebrated early because she's in Paris for her birthday, pretty jammy, right? My Mum gathered up the troops and we got ourselves down to Bar Azita. Trip Advisor review here, highly recommended. 

Josie. 21 year old. Grown up. Scary. Looks lovely though doesn't she. 

The boys, browsing the menu. They didn't fair well with the constant presence of the camera as the day went on. Non-relatives often find this on days out with the Shutterbugs.

Looking like I'm having the time of my life sitting next to the open kitchen. Smelt great and the chef kindly posed for a photo, see background.

Josie and the reason she made it to 21. Our Mum.

Now, food. Bar Azita is Mediterranean/Spanish/Greek. Wonderful combinations of flavour. Platters were passed out to the kitchen piled with lamb, marinated chicken and delicious spiced sausages. The table was topped with baskets of hot, griddle pitta breads that billowed steam when torn to pieces. I hope I'm painting the picture well. If not, check this out...

Skewers were heavy with swordfish and bowls of chutney and marinades were handed around for dipping breads in. Or just fingers. It's exciting to eat tender, smokey meats straight off a charcoal grill, close your eyes and pretend you're somewhere hot. Mm, some damn good food.
Food, drink and merriment. 

So we ate, we laughed and sang happy birthday. Then headed back to my family home. I'd made cake. Any excuse, and what's a better one than a 21st birthday?!
My boyfriend thinks if I added a tier or four more it would look like a Dalek. He's requested a Dalek cake for his 21st, so stay tuned readers if you're interested.

If you want to make this one, just follow my regular cake recipe here, add two extra tiers, cover it in butter icing and then add buttons in whatever pattern tickles your pickle. It's so easy you may as well make one to celebrate it being a Sunday.   

We toasted Josie with three, yes three, bottles of champagne, my Dad made a speech and we sang happy birthday. Again. It was delightful and all were tickled pink.
For those who have met me, or my Mum, they will be aware that any event warrants a serious amount of photo taking. We set our cameras to self timer and continuous capture. Managed to get some right gems, but I've selected a nice few to share. 

Me, Josie, Calvin. Sisters and cousin in situ.

Calvin, Grandad Brian and Uncle Craig. Spot the difference.

Josie and Lauren looking rather lovely. You'll notice that Lauren is quite a bit shorter than the rest of us. She isn't related.

Not posed. What's going on here?

Some of the family. It's intimidating for outsiders to meet all of us at once. We're a big crew in height and numbers. Well done existing boyfriends, girlfriends and others.

So I've shared a family photo album with you today. Hope you've enjoyed it. More food close ups next. I feel like making something naughty...
Maybe another chocolatey something for Josie, for when she returns home from Paris. 
L. xxxx

5 Rules for Freshers.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

1. Embarrass yourself. That's what you do at home with your friends at home, right? There's a reason why they love you so much. It's funny, you're funny. So lose the inhibitions and act like the crazy person you are. It's honest and (luckily) endearing.

2. Be kind. There's no know-it-all girl from A2 biology or boy who fancies himself from the common room. This is a new start, so drop the defences a little and offer people cookies and a funny anecdote from home. You'll find yourself rolling in friends.

3. Be driven by your ambitions. This is your time. There are so many new opportunities that crop up. Grab them with both hands and throw yourself into new things. The year will melt by, so make sure you have something to be proud of at the end of it to go alongside your 'Drunk Faces/Naked People' album, not that you shouldn't be proud of that too.

4. Keep in touch with your family. Your Mum still cares about what your doing and it was damn hard letting you go, so Skype her every so often and remind her why she let you leave. Make her proud. Remember to drop your sister a text too, she misses you as much as you do her.

5. Remember yourself. Remember that you actually can't cope with drinking 10 nights in a row and it is ok to just kick back with a lemsip and something off your reading list. Remember that you're a kind, funny and intelligent person (you're at uni for God's sake!) and honour that when at University. Don't pretend to be someone you're not, because eventually you might just lose the real you, and nobody wants that.

Enjoy it, freshers.

And a little PS, keep reading Lottie's Little Kitchen. I'll try and help you survive with plenty of money left over for vodka. Promise.

L. xxxxxx

Sweet and Sour.

Monday, 10 September 2012

For a long time I've been afraid of chinese cooking. I've never felt I can justify buying fish sauce, seasame oil and Shaoxing rice wine just for me to chuck it about like salt and pepper, not really knowing what I'm doing.
Luckily for me, Lorraine Pascale and her wonderful new series, Lorraine's Fast, Fresh and Easy Food has made one of my favourite Chinese foods accessible. In the second episode, 'Feel Good Food' the delightful Lorraine shared Sweet and Sour meatballs with the world. It instantly caught my attention and I thought this was the time to dive into Chinese food. Fork first.

I've adapted Lorraine's recipe, but only slightly.

For Sweet and Sour meatballs you will need:

4x sausages
75g breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tbsp chilli powder
3 handfuls long grain rice
1 red pepper
1 clove of garlic
1 lime
75g tomato ketchup
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Drizzle of honey
1 tin pineapple chunks
3 spring onions
Salt and pepper

Begin by removing the skin from your sausages. I went for sausages that were seasoned with some fiery chilli to vamp up the heat factor.

Add in your breadcrumbs. I don't usually use breadcrumbs in meatballs but they made all the difference today. There was no falling apart once they hit the heat. I'll be using them again.

Crack in your egg.

Add salt, pepper and some chilli powder.

Mash together against the side of your bowl with a spoon until the ingredients are all combined.

Roll into about 20 balls.

Incredibly little mess when breadcrumbs are involved - I'm a convert!

Heat a pan of oil and when it's hot, put in your meatballs. Keep turning to brown evenly.

Now to prepare your veg. Deseed and slice the pepper and finely chop the garlic. Once the meatballs have browned, chuck them into the mix.

Squeeze in the juice of one lime. If too tough to squeeze, Lorraine advises 10 seconds in the microwave to soften it up.

Add in your ketchup. If you don't want to measure it out it grams, just give it a few generous squeezes. Pour in the balsamic for the lovely sour tang.

And drizzle the honey in for the sweetness.

Pour in all of the pineapple juice from the tin and half the chunks. If you're looking for something to make with the leftovers, check out my Emergency No Yeast Pizza here.

Stir together and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Make sure to taste before you serve. If it's a little too sour then add a pinch of sugar to take off the edge.

If you're completely taken by Lorraine and her wonderful recipes (as I am) then serve with her suggested spring onion and peanut rice. Simply cook your rice as usual, drain and stir in a handful of roughly chopped roasted peanuts and 2-3 spring onions.

Serve together with more spring onions chopped over the sweet and sour. 

Tastes, smells and looks wonderful. From one L to another, thank you Lorraine!
Enjoy readers and remember to tune on Monday, 8.30pm BBC2.
L. xxxx

Owlin' about.

Friday, 7 September 2012

It may interest you to know, I have other leisure pursuits outside of the kitchen. One of these interests is in animals. I've always loved them, when I was growing up my nickname was 'Veterinary', but pronounced more like 'Vetnree' with a farmery twang. I spent my weekends pond dipping and adopted strays left right and centre. So I was a right animal geek.

I've had to refine my animal lovin' since going to university as I'm no longer near a pond and my student accommodation operates a no-pet policy (heartbreaking, I know). BUT this summer my animal fix didn't go unfulfilled, courtesy of my Mum and Shuttleworth's Bird of Prey Centre.  

We went on an "Owl Experience". Sounds a little random I know, but I love owls. I've got owl socks, owl jewellery, owl clothing and pipe dreams of one day having an owl that delivers my post.
So yeah, I'm a fan...

To begin with, we flew the owls. This is Dougie, sportingly modelled by my Mum. Nice job, Mum.   

Classic barn owl in flight shot.

We flew the owls for about an hour and then went on to handling. 

This little chap fell asleep on my arm. Twice. I'll forgive him though because he's absolutely gorgeous. 

In situ owl handling shot. Posed and appropriate for a profile picture.

This gorgeous little Tawney was my favourite. She was beautiful, and a little bit of a poser. I couldn't help having a soft spot for her.

We also held this fella, an eagle owl, who was pretty big. I haven't got a picture to share with the world because both Mum and I both look alarmingly alert/scared. But to be fair, look at those eyes, they're intimidating!  

I think this owl looks like he's wearing a cloak. He was one of our favourites.

We had a hoot!
More food next.
L. xxxxx
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