Thursday, 14 August 2014

Trip Up Town

Though I live in London, I don't often get to see 'the sights,' so last week my friend Grace and I took a trip Up Town to take photographs and enjoy the general atmosphere of a city summer. Its an interesting mix of people who work here and have a destination to get to, and those who are following a more relaxed sightseeing pace. Street dancers, artists and musicians add to the mix, as well as the contrasts of old and new archetecture. I enjoyed myself so much, that I'm going to try and take you on a tour through our photographs and words.

The view of the London Eye from the rather crowded Westminster Bridge.

'Big Ben' is a nickname for this iconic and ornate clock tower and is actually the name of the biggest bell inside it.

This area is full of monuments like this one which remembers the service of those who gave their lives for the freedom of our country.

Walking on to Trafalgar Square you see the Blue Chicken, a recent, quirky, and fun art installation.

These street dancers attracted a large crowd outside the National Portrait Gallery. For this photo I held the camera above my head and hoped it would turn out ok!

These street artist were completing the flags of many nations, and people would put a few coins onto their flag.

This is Trafalgar Square. This picture beautiful architecture, dazzling fountains and many sightseers, but I think it also gives an idea of the lovely atmosphere in the square.

 Perspective from outside the National Portrait Gallery looking down onto Trafalgar Square.

One of the many brightly coloured stalls at Covent Garden Market, just a few streets away.


We saw this cute cute truck in Covent Garden, Milo & Hectors Tremendous Ice Cream Sandwiches. I love the colours.

This guy was dressed up as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, with a tea party set up and a real doormouse in his teacup! 

To me this picture really captures the brightness and energy of London streets in summer.

Back in Trafalgar Square in the dazzling sunlight. Here I was playing around with manual focus on my camera.

A mounted guard on the famous Horse Guards Parade. I didn't realise the light had come out that way until later, but I like the effect it gives.

This statue on Whitehall remembers the service of the women during World War II, because although they didn't fight, they drove ambulances, worked in factories and supported the troops in many other ways for the war effort. It's such a beautiful monument.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream

One of the things that excited me about moving into a bigger house a few years ago was being able to give hospitality more easily. We've kind of got into a rhythm preparing for Sunday afternoon company, so it's probably the food that takes the most effort. But my favourite thing to prepare is dessert. In winter I like to go for big chocolate puddings, fruit crumbles, and pies. Summer bring more variety, with an abundance of fresh fruit to serve. I love the food of summer: light buffets, barbecues, and eating in the garden. I sometimes think about the food heritage we have and how I might be serving these dishes to my children one day. 


Last Sunday my mum asked me to make dessert, and when I was thinking about what to make she suggested ice cream. I have helped my older sister make ice cream a few times before so I was excited to give it a try myself. To make ice cream you make a flavoured custard and then freeze it, and that takes time. But it really is worth it, homemade ice cream just can't be compared to shop brought, the flavour is so much more intense, and it's so smooth and creamy! The finished product was served with strawberries, and all fifteen tasters said it was really good. In fact, I couldn't resist a sneaky teaspoon straight from the freezer that evening!


I changed a few things from the recipe in Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes. I used real vanilla extract with seeds instead of a vanilla pod, because it's cheaper and easier to get. When my custard curdled a bit (I hadn't been paying enough attention to it!) I whisked it with electric beaters until it was smooth again. I had forgotten to put the ice-cream maker bowl in the freezer for the vanilla ice cream, and you can't just stick cooled custard in the freezer and expect it to turn out smooth. Thankfully, this video recipe showed a method of making smooth ice cream without an ice cream maker, and even though I didn't have time to chill the custard overnight, it worked great!



Vanilla Ice Cream 
Adapted from the 'Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes' book. Makes 6 servings.

250ml double cream
250ml full cream milk
2 tsp real vanilla extract with seeds
3 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar
Note: If you are using an ice-cream maker, make sure you have frozen the bowl for the required amount of time before starting on the recipe.

   Pour the milk, cream and vanilla into a large saucepan an bring to the boil, then leave it to infuse cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Cover the surface with a layer of clingfilm to prevent a skin forming. 
   While you wait for the milk and cream mixture, separate three eggs, setting aside the egg whites for another recipe. Whisk the eggs yolks and sugar until they become thick and paler (this won't take too long.)
   Add a small amount of the milk and cream to the egg mixture and whisk until incorporated, then pour over the rest and continue to whisk until blended. Return the pan to a medium heat, stirring very often to prevent curdling until the it thickens up enough coat the back of a spoon. 
   Leave the custard to cool, and then churn in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, then scrape into a tub and freeze until firm enough to scoop. Or if you don't have an ice cream maker, you can put it in the freezer and take it out every hour (for the first three hours) to whip it up until smooth, creating a perfectly smooth ice cream. You made it, now enjoy sharing it!

Chocolate Ice Cream
250ml double cream
250ml full cream milk
3 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar
125g quality dark chocolate

   Use the same method for making Vanilla ice cream up until you have a thick custard. 
   Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl short bursts in the microwave. Then add it to the custard and stir until combined. Leave the custard to cool in the fridge before churning.
   Churn the custard in your ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, scrape into a tub and freeze until firm enough to scoop. Or if you don't have an ice cream maker, you can put it in the freezer and take it out every hour (for the first three hours) to whip it up until smooth, creating a perfectly smooth ice cream. You made it, now enjoy sharing it!


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Plum and Oatmeal Loaf Cake

Every summer we receive plums in abundance my granddad's orchard and a few from our back garden plum tree. Ripe plums are soft, juicy and not too sweet, but however delicious they are, there are only so many we can eat. So a large proportion get turned into cakes, my older sister and I each having a preferred recipe.  I was a bit rushed in taking photos but I thought I'd share this recipe anyway as it's such a favourite of mine.
It's always nice to use seasonal produce, especially when you know where its come from, and plums are perfect for cakes as they stay soft but not soggy. This madeira cake is made with oatmeal which gives it a really good texture as a loaf.


There's something I really like about loaf cakes, which I can't really put my finger on. They're a good size and easy to serve, a look nice plain and unadorned. The little drizzle of orange icing makes this a little more elegant and adds a small extra texture and sweetness. My drizzling isn't very neat, and the cake isn't a great looker, but often it's the more rustic cakes that taste the best. Sugary perfection in cake decorating doesn't always to taste as good as it looks! And I can promise you this delivers on flavour, deep plum with hints of orange. I added ginger to my last cake and thought it went nicely with the plums. 




Plum and Oatmeal Loaf Cake

250g English plums
100g butter, softened
1 orange, zest and juice 

2 medium eggs
125g self-raising flour 
1⁄2tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger, optional
50g medium oatmeal*
100g icing sugar

*To make oatmeal yourself, grind up 125g porridge oats and then pass through a sieve to remove any remaining whole oats.


   Preheat your oven to 170C and line a loaf tin. I've found these loaf liners from Lakeland very useful. Halve the plums and take out the stones, then slice them into medium pieces


   Beat together butter, orange zest and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, plus a tablespoon of the flour with each to prevent curdling. Sift in the remaining flour and the baking powder. Add the oatmeal and mix to combine.
   Stir in two-thirds of the plums and tip into the loaf tin. Scatter remaining plums on top. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Carefully remove from load tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. 
   While the cake is cooling make the icing: beat together the icing sugar and enough orange juice to make a smooth paste. Once the cake is cooled, drizzle over the icing and enjoy!