31 March 2013

Recipe | Using Chocolate Moulds, Easter-stylee

Let's be honest, I don't need an excuse to eat chocolate. I mean honestly, it's like my whole family turn into enablers at Easter-time; I get showered with so much chocolate even I struggle to keep up. Struggle, but manage. I do have unnatural chocolate-consuming capabilities, even if I do say so myself.

Anyway, back on topic.

Oh, wait, chocolate IS the topic.

That's right folks, it's Easter and that means it's chocolate all round! 

This can pose quite the dilemma for those looking for a vegan option. Don't get me wrong, they are out there. Dark chocolate Easter eggs do exist, and some of them are vegan. They're just fairly few and far between, and often not very exciting. So, I decided to make mama siddalee some vegan eggs from some adorable little moulds I'd seen in Paperchase (were £4, now £2. Typical. Go and stock up now!). This was...not quite as simple as I'd envisioned.

I used dark chocolate drops for the egg shells as they melt so easy and were the cheapest vegan option (necessary when you're buying as many hundreds of grams of chocolate as I was!). I made some hollow eggs, some filled with peanut butter & chocolate and some filled with mint chocolate (melted Green&Blacks peppermint fondant dark chocolate).

I'm not going to lie, the process was long and labor-intensive, not least because I foolishly felt certain I would be brilliant at this as I used to make eggs loads as a kid with my nan. Wrong. Here are some tips and pointers for using chocolate moulds I wish I'd known before I began my egg-making journey, as opposed to discovering them halfway through (oops)...

1. It's better to build up your chocolates in thin layers. Fill your mould with a thin later of melted chocolate and, when this has hardened, add more chocolate if desired.

2. If using a mould that makes two halves, leave the mould to stand upside down on some baking parchment - this is more likely to help a thicker edge to form which you will wish you had when it comes to sticking the two halves together, believe me.

3. Have a heated baking tray at the ready when it comes to sticking your halves together - you can slightly melt the edges of your halves as opposed to adding chocolate to stick them, as I did.

I added a bit of oil to the chocolate that was filling the eggs so that they didn't harden completely and break any teeth. They went from saucepan to fridge pretty quickly and changed temperatures a lot, hence the slightly 'dusty' look. Overall though, they were tasty and cute and I think something homemade just shows that little bit more thought, which everyone always appreciates when it comes to gifts!

Mmmm, egg-cellent!

30 March 2013

Nails | Give it a Polish and Add a Bit of Shine!

Oh dear, I've become obsessed again.

Apologies for the blog-abandon, this week has been more than a little hectic. I've also been having a little think about the look and style of the place and I think a name change and blog-update are in the pipeline. Oh, and I discovered The Nailasaurus. NEW FAVOURITE BLOG ALERT.

I can't even begin to count the hours I've spent trawling through back-posts on The Nailasaurus this week. Needless to say it's been a fair few. There is just so much bloomin' awesomeness to scroll through!

Anyway, taking some inspiration from this gorgeously edgy post I decided it was high time I shook myself out of my colour-less nail rut and got a bit creative.

I'm fairly certain I picked this nails inc matte polish up at a bargain price a couple of years ago...and judging by the website they don't stock 'Brick Lane' anymore, more's the pity. It's a very dark brown-y plum which is slightly more rich than a matte black and not quite as harsh. After two coats I finished it off with an Orly 'glosser' tip. Simples.

Unfortunately this didn't last long. By the end of the day there were a couple of substantial chips and a smattering of little ones. Wahh. I'm definitely thinking about investing in a matte top coat... Ahh the possibilities!

22 March 2013

Recipe | Double Chocolate Cake Balls!

Is there anything more exciting than cake balls?

I mean, let's be rational here.

Cake + buttercream + chocolate.

Perfect combo, non?

Not that I needed an excuse, but a little party at work called for something special and I decided cake balls were the thing to bake.

What is a cake ball you ask? A cake ball is a cake pop without the stick.

Still confused?

Essentially what we're talking about here is cake...in a ball...covered in chocolate. What more do you need in life!?

I used Betty Crocker Devil's Food cake mix and Betty Crocker Chocolate Frosting as the cake ball process is fairly time consuming and the idea of whipping up my own cake on top of that made me want to scream. If you are more patient, with more time set aside for this bake and are less prone to stressed-induced outbursts, feel free to use your favourite cake recipe!

Double Chocolate Cake Balls!

1 packet chocolate cake mix and ingredients needed - in this case 3 eggsvegetable oil, water (or make your own cake)
1/2 tub chocolate frosting (or make your own buttercream)
300g white chocolate
decorative sprinkles

1. Cook chocolate cake. Let it cool completely, preferably on a wire rack.

2. Crumble cake completely, until it is in fine crumbs. (I had to remove the top of the cake which had formed a harder crust.)

3. Mix in your buttercream and combine thoroughly (best done with your hands so you can keep a better eye on the consistency and add buttercream where needed).

WARNING: This step is messy. Get involved.

I used x4 heaped tablespoons of the Betty Crocker chocolate frosting here and it was perfect. Anymore and I would have had buttercream-with-a-slight-hint-of-cake balls. Add one tablespoon at a time so you can stop when it's perfect.

4. Roll mixture into fairly small balls in your palms and lay on greaseproof paper.

WARNING: If you weren't messy before, you will be now.

5. Freeze balls for 15-30 mins.

6. Melt white chocolate in the microwave, 100g at a time with a dash of oil (so it doesn't cool to be rock hard) and stiring after every 20 seconds until completely melted and smooth.

7. Using two spoons (one to hold and one to pour), cover each ball with melted chocolate and place back on baking parchment.

This step was tricky and definitely needs practice. See the little blobs surrounding my cake balls? I was not aiming for that.

8. Sprinkle with your decoration! (after each ball, before they harden)

9. Leave to cool, preferably just in a cool kitchen as opposed to a fridge.

And eat.

I was so thrilled with these little balls of joy! They are part cake, part truffle, and utterly delicious. Leave yourself plenty of time to make them (my cake went into the oven at 9pm...I was finished just before 1am) - cakes take a whiiiile to cool, especially if you don't have a wire rack like me! If you want perfect balls I suggest making cake pops, as dipping the balls in the chocolate whilst holding the stick will give a much neater finish. I'm sure I'll give these a go soon!

I stored the balls in my new Happy Tin (from Joy) with some tissue paper that contrasted the pink sugar sprinkles and the lilac tin. I couldn't tell you how long these keep as they were gone in 24 hours, but I would say 3-4 days in a sealed tin.

Mmmmmmm. Balls of cake-y joy.

Review | The Gate, Islington

Present, sorted. Exhibition, sorted. That only left one thing.


Last year I took mama siddalee to one of our favourite veggie haunts, Tibits (see my review here).

This year, I wanted somewhere new. I went on the hunt for a veggie/vegan restaurant in faiiirly central London. My internet wanderings led me to a little place called The Gate.

The Gate already has a fairly established restaurant in an old studio in Hammersmith (currently being refurbished) and has recently opened up shop in Islington (read: Angel, liars). Priding itself on not being a 'good vegetarian restaurant' but simply a good restaurant, The Gate serves up a seasonal menu that changes monthly. The flavours are Indo-Iraqi Jewish-inspired, with distinct French and Italian influences. Are you sold yet?!

The restaurant was bigger than I thought it would be, but the decor of woods and warm colours is cosy, helped along by a large fern growing by the door.

Unfortunately since our visit two weeks ago the menu has already changed, so I will try and remember what we had where they aren't on the menu anymore!

For starters I went with stuffed & fried artichokes with a lentil salad and the most deliciously creamy aioli I've ever had.

Mama siddalee went for baked polenta cake with mustard and a red pepper sauce (I think). It must have been good as I wasn't even offered a bit! Although considering my option was distinctly non-vegan maybe that was fair. Maybe.

My main was an amazing beetroot ravioli stuffed with sweet potato with crispy kale and shavings of hard cheese. I have absolutely no idea how they made beetroot ravioli but it was so, so tasty. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the dish wasn't dry at all, despite not swimming in sauce.

That little dish at the back is mama siddalee's root vegetable & chickpea tagine which, once again, I wasn't allowed to try. Although once again I had decided against picking some vegan-friendly...maybe it was subconscious!? Having stated 'pomegranate, pistachio and herb tabbouleh, that sounds really unusual doesn't it?', she decided she had to give it a go. She absolutely loved it!

My new obsession is crème brûlée. Oh boy. This stuff is gooooood. There was crème brûlée on the menu. Naturally I went for this.

This absolutely scrummy maple syrup crème brûlée was topped with mincemeat which I found...a little strange. I couldn't believe the chef would be right about this combo, so I ate the mincemeat off the top and tucked into the crème brûlée after. It was pure, creamy perfection.

This little pile of perfection was mama siddalee's warm fruit compote with vegan cinnamon ice cream. Cinnamon makes everything awesome!

I wasn't sure I would need to book a table for The Gate but it filled up really quickly after we arrived at 6pm. The food was unbelievable; I completely agree that it is a great restaurant, vegetarian or not, and is definitely worth a visit by meat-eaters and veggies alike. Book in advance to avoid disappointment and be sure to have room for all 3 courses!

20 March 2013

Lustlist | Keeping time

I am consistently late. I'm not very consistent in many, many ways but it's always fairly guaranteed I won't make it somewhere on time.

Hey, I need something in my life that's constant; lateness is that thing.

It's not something I'm proud of, and it's not like I don't want to change. I do. I really do. I just...can't. I've tried, hard, but I just underestimate how long everything and anything will take me. Except for interviews and any kind of course/talk, where I purposefully overestimate EVERYTHING to ensure I'm at least 25 minutes early.

I feel it may be time to get a watch.

Even if it doesn't help (and I am fairly sceptical about this), they're pretty darn attractive. There are some seriously cute styles out there at the moment. I wasn't sure what I was looking for when I first went hunting, but I think it's pretty clear I didn't end up going for plastic, neon, metal or chunky.

I guess I've found my watch style.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

How cute are these?!?! Prices range from £15-£240 so there's definitely something for everybody. Personally I think my choice would between 3 and 4. £240 or £20... Hmm, tough decision.

Which is your favourite?

What arm candy are you sporting at the moment?

13 March 2013

Recipe | Winter-spiced Nuts

I needed a recipe for Mother's Day which was vegan and fairly simple. I found this recipe for some 'Party Nuts' over at Food Coma (you can now find Emma at A Beautiful Mess, my favourite little virtual place in the world right now) and they fit the bill perfectly. I used sunflower spread instead of butter and plenty of sugar and cinnamon - delish!

Winter-spiced Nuts

Nuts - I went for roughly a cup each of Almonds, Pecans and Walnuts
(Roughly) 4 tablespoons melted sunflower spread (can use butter)
Brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Sprinkle of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt

1. Toast nuts in a dry pan, making sure to keep them moving to prevent them from burning.

This should be done over a medium heat for about 5 mins. I started on the lowest heat and it took for fricking ever. Thank goodness I'd decided to use walnut pieces as the pecans and almonds were pretty difficult to work out if they were toasting or not!

2. Melt sunflower spread (/butter).

3. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. I had used a full mini tupperware of each of the nuts, and used about 1/2 this tub of sugar.

4. When toasted, take nuts off heat and add melted sunflower spread. Be careful! I forgot the pan had JUST BEEN TOUCHING FIRE and the butter bubbled and spat a LOT. Stir thoroughly when it's calmed down.

5. Add sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg mixture, making sure to mix well.

6. Sprinkle a tiny amount of salt (not entirely necessary if you don't want to).

I found this little glass jar in a cookery shop nearby and it's perfect for storing these little nuts, and to give away as a present!

And there were even a few nuts left over which couldn't fit in the jar... Oh no...

These are SUPER yummy. I put a lot of cinnamon in my recipe so they are really festive and tasty. The only thing stopping me calling these Festive Nuts was that I didn't want to only be able to eat them in during the festive period!

08 March 2013

Recipe | Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

I have become obsessed with recipes on blogs.


There are two birthdays at work this week and I wanted to make some chocolaty treats as presents, so naturally I turned to the big-netty-webness on a hunt for something suitably simple but yummy.

Having whiled away hours over at A Beautiful Mess, I discovered Emma's Food Coma where I stumbled onto this recipe for homemade peanut butter cups.

How could I possibly resist anything that involved mini cupcake holders?!

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Makes 24 mini cups
400g dark chocolate - I used Bourneville
Peanut butter (I'd say you only need about 1/4 of a tub)
Icing sugar*
Brown sugar*

1. Melt 200g chocolate with a tablespoon of oil. I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until it was all melty and awesome.

2. Put a teaspoon-ish of chocolate in each mini cupcake holder.

3. Tap the tray gently on the work surface to evenly distribute the chocolate. Put in the fridge, making sure the tray is balanced until the chocolate has set.

Here's where everything gets a bit tricky. The original recipe said to melt peanut butter, butter, sugar and slowly add icing sugar until you have a thick, creamy batter, at which point you need to roll it into small balls.




This did not work. Obviously. To be honest I think you'd be fine just using peanut butter alone, although perhaps some added icing sugar would help to thicken it? Unsurprisingly, this next step was...messy.

4. I used my two forefingers to gently blob the peanut butter mixture into the cases, careful to make sure there was space all the way around for the top layer of chocolate. This started to harden pretty quickly on the cold chocolate and I slightly flattened the blobs with a knife so that they sat lower than the top of the cases.

5. Melt the rest of the chocolate with the oil and fill the cases. Tap to evenly distribute. Add more where necessary to ensure flat surfaces before popping back in the fridge to set again.

I found these super cute individual cupcake boxes in Asda, and they were perfect for these little beauts!  With some tissue paper, these boxes held 8 cups.

When I was at uni my housemate was a keen baker. I, on the other hand, was a fiend when it came to the butter icing. In my eyes it was the perfect coupling. I would eat and eat and eat. I'd be sat there, still dipping my spoon into the bowl long after the rest of my housemates had thrown in the towel. Basically, I don't know if you've ever put icing sugar in peanut butter but it turns out you end up with peanut-y butter icing. See that empty mug? Yeah, that happened.

I was wary that I hadn't added enough oil to the chocolate to really...do anything. I don't think I added more than a teaspoon (the original recipe called for a tablespoon) but it stopped the chocolate from hardening properly so these were easy to bite into. You could definitely add more if you wanted them even gooier but I thought it was a decent amount.

* Personally I'm also not convinced you need the extra sugar and butter to make the filling. I thiiiink you could get away with just using peanut butter, which would also make this slightly less messy! I will report back after my next batch...!

And what about any leftovers?

All I have to say is:


02 March 2013

Recipe | Roasted Veg & Hummus Tart

Quickly rising to the top ranks of my list of favourite lazy foods is ready-rolled puff pastry. Have you seen this stuff?! You just put it in the oven and it's like you're Jamie Oliver. Sort of.

I thought it was high time I mixed some of my favourite things - roasted Mediterranean veg, hummus and pastry - for a quick and easy hummus tart. Not being a fan of goats cheese (it tastes like licking a goat) or feta (only slightly less like licking a goat) I'm a bit screwed normally when it comes to vegetarian tarts - this is the perfect alternative!

Roasted Veg & Hummus Tart

Recipe is as thorough as ever-
Ready-rolled puff pastry for 1 (I used 1/3 of the packet)
Enough hummus to spread (again I used 1/3 of a tub)
Drizzle of olive oil
A selection of your favourite veggies! I used:
1/2 red bell pepper (capsicum)
1/2 courgette
2 spring onions
3 mushrooms

Balsamic glaze

1. Preheat the oven to around 200°c (I like to roast veggies like this high & fast because I'm a greedy, impatient so-and-so)

2. Chop your veg and drizzle a small amount of olive oil over, mix.

The hummus will get a bit melt-y in the oven so we don't want too much extra moisture. The olive oil is just to help the veg along a bit in their roasting.

3. Roll out puff pastry sheet on an oven tray

4. Lightly score a rectangle to separate inside & crust.

5. Spread a dollop of hummus inside the rectangle

6. Add vegetables!

This looked like a LOT and was piled high but all of the vegetables shrink down in the oven so make sure you pile on more than you think you need.

7. Pop in the oven!

I cooked mine for about 17 minutes until it looked like this -

8. Plate up! I fancied a bit of balsamic glaze with this (it is un-believeeeeable and I use it whenever I can) but I wasn't convinced it would go with the hummus so I did a bit of fancy hand-wiggling-work for decoration and dipping. 

Turns out, balsalmic glaze and hummus is HEAVENLY. This would have been immense drizzled over the tart.

The hummus melted slightly and was creamy but tangy. It was the perfect partner for fresh & juicy roasted vegetables and the sweet yet sharp balsamic glaze just brought the whole thing together. So simple, but so delicious. It was light but filling, a perfect weekend lunch dish!

I used Sainsbury's own puff pastry - it didn't seem to have anything non-vegan on the ingredients list (although it also didn't say it was vegan...) but according to the jus-rol website, their puff sheets are definitely vegan - yum yum yum!

What are your favourite easy lunch recipes?