Thursday, 18 December 2014
I love every word in that recipe title.
Every. Single. Word.
If I'm ever offered a boozy little parcel of Christmassy joy I'm all 'yes please, can I have 3?' For me, mince pies are an irreplaceable part of the Christmas food smorgasbord. Over the festive period I try and eat at least 20. 30 - if I'm feeling ambitious. And whilst I'm up to my eyes in ribbons and empty Quality Street wrappers (let's just not talk about that...) I find there is always time to whip up some of my very own homemade mince pies. You can't beat 'em. Especially when they're made with crumbly, buttery puff pastry and are fit to burst with rum infused mincemeat. And while these look a little rustic *cough* obviously homemade *cough*, I kinda love that. I feel like the season is about getting stuck in with both hands putting a little love, effort and time into your festive food.
But if you've still got gift tags to write, you can use ready made pastry to make this recipe a complete doddle. And on the other hand, if you're on top of your game and happy to while away the afternoon making these little pies then go all out and whip up your own mincemeat too. I like this recipe.
Now as we all have stockings to fill, shall we hop to it?
For Boozy Rough Puff Mince Pies you will need (makes 24):
375g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
200ml chilled water
1 jar mincemeat
1-2 tbsp rum
Icing sugar to dust
2 shallow muffins trays, or the patience to do 2 rounds in the oven
Let's start by making our pastry. Puff gets a bit of a bad rap for being tricky, but it just takes a little patience and very cold ingredients.
Begin by sieving your flour and cubing your butter. I pop my butter in the freezer for 20 minutes or so before I cube, so my warm fingers don't soften it up too much.
Add in about 12 tablespoons of icy water (but not the ice cubes!).
Then bring together in the bowl with your hands or a round-bladed knife. If you find the dough is struggling to come together, add a splash more water.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a rectangle.
Then roll your rectangle out until it is doubled in length.
Then fold one end into the middle...
...and fold the other end over the top.
You need to repeat this process 3 times, turning 90 degrees each turn. I like to always turn clockwise and mark with a thumb print at the end of each turn, so I know where I am.
If you have time, chill your pastry for 30 minutes - 2 hours between turns. This will ensure you have a buttery, flaky pastry and the butter has time to chill before you start rolling again.
If you don't have time, pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes before you want to use it. The resulting pastry won't be as flaky, but it will still be delicious!
While your pastry is chilling grab your mincemeat.
Pop it into a bowl and add a slug of rum. You could also use whiskey or brandy, whatever is kicking about in the cupboard.
Make sure not to add too much, or your mincemeat will be runny.
Now turn your oven on to 200c.
Once your pastry is chilled and good to go, roll it out to 1.5 cm thick. Cut 24 pie bottoms and 24 pie tops. The tops will need to be slightly smaller. You can use cutters or go Heath Robinson like me and use a variety of clean jam jars.
Spoon in the mincemeat.
Pop the lids on and you've just assembled the most adorable little pies!
Put a slit in each lid to let steam escape and brush lightly with a beaten egg. Whack 'em in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
You can either leave them on a wire rack to cool or scoop them right out and shove them in your face. Obviously I did the latter.
Dust with a little icing sugar for a festive, snowy look and a kick of extra sweetness.
Serve with seasonal cheer and perhaps an accompanying glass of mulled apple and ginger rum?
Sunday, 14 December 2014
Instagram of the week: Mince pies in the making.
1. Sorry this post is a late one, it's been one of those crazy weeks. I'm looking forward to finishing for Christmas and relaxxxxing. And by relaxing I mean eating all the food.
2. Oh my goddd - did you see Jamie's Cracking Christmas? That uhhhh-mazing panettone pudding tart looks crazy! I mean COME ON.
3. This song makes me want to dance a lot. Whack it on and enjoy the jive.
4. Did you catch Kirstie's Homemade Christmas this week? It's a must for any Christmas crafter.
5. These revolutionaries are just born to rebel.
6. I've loved putting together my Gift Guides this year (for him, for her). I hope they helped you find something gorgeous for a special bear in your life (or totally used for a festive treat yo' self moment).
7. I love any kind of a cappella mashup and Us the Duo have done a wonderful version of the top hits of 2014 in 2.5 minutes!
8. Have you heard Greg James' Mulled Wines song? All sorts of festive hilarity.
9. Looking to spruce up your festive table this year? Why not try these gorgeous easy wire place card holders.
10. 19 Family photos gone wrong. I'd quite like to make one of these this Christmas. Sorry, Mum...
Have a happy weekend, friends! x
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
It's getting dangerously close to Christmas. Even the biggest of bah humbugs have had to accept the situation and reach for the wrapping paper. So as we tackled gift buying for those tricky gents last week, today it's the turn of those lovely ladies in your life. Who, by the way, are much easier to buy for in my opinion. We're still operating on the quality not quantity mantra but happily every gift in this guide is under £40. Gorgeous gifts, without the hefty price tag. Shall we get stuck in?
For the Festive Dresser
Ruby Check Blanket Scarf, £19, Accessorize
Currently I want tartan everything. Skirts, scarfs, socks - you name it, I want it. This scarf is perfect for Autumn and Winter as it isn't distinctly Christmassy but is certainly a Winter winner. I can also already vouch for this one, as my lovely Aunt kindly gave it to me as an early Christmas present. It is truly gorgeous, so soft and can be worn as a wrap too! Win, win, win.
Free shipping plus NUS student discount!
Ayaka Teacup, £12, Anthropologie
Do you know a lady who is a flawless hostess? Who loves quirky designs and is an afternoon tea enthusiast? Well perhaps she'd appreciate one of Anthropologie's Ayaka teacups. And at £12, you could grab her one in each colour. I think these teacups would look gorgeous in a hamper, maybe with some lovely Chai or Earl Grey tea and some homemade biscuits. I also love this A Real Hoot Owl Canister, the perfect place to store those biscuits. But to be fair, I love just about everything that Anthropologie sells. Have a little browse, I'm sure you'll find something to please!
For the Outdoorsy One
Black Bees Wellingtons, £39.95, Joules
As I mentioned in my Gift Guide: For Him, I looooove Joules. Their style is right up my street: a mixture of country practicality and gorgeous designs. These wellies are a particular favourite and 5% of the sale also goes to the British Bee Keepers Association, so hurrah for that! Perfect for the outdoorsy lady in your life who always look wonderful with windswept hair and rosy cheeks.
Joy The Baker's Homemade Decadence, £17, Amazon
This is a Christmas must for any baker. Joy's second cookbook looks mindbogglingly awesome. Full of pretzels, peanut butter and sugar. If your favourite baker is all about homemade decadence, as Joy is, then you need to pop this in their stocking ASAP. Check out Joy's wonderful blog for an indication of the deliciousness you can expect.
And hurray for free delivery!
For their Inner-child
Their favourite Disney DVD, £10, Tesco
Disney have opened their vault in time for Christmas! The Disney classics have been re-released on DVD and Blu-ray so it seems only right to get your lady her favourite classic Disney film. Without any hesitation my Disney of choice is The Lion King. NAAA zevenyaaaa, abba di dooba daaaa. Just to clarify - that's me singing Circle of Life.
There's also free delivery from Tesco. Yippee!
Serious Notebook, £8.09, Happy Jackson
If the lady in your life is a scribbler, you can never go wrong with a notebook. I have a growing collection and am still thrilled whenever I get a new one. There are loads to choose from but I love the fun designs from Happy Jackon. I also love this Get Shit Done notepad, perfect for the serial procrastinator.
For the Stylish Lounger
Mala Full Length Punjammies, $42 (approx. £27), Punjammies
Aren't these lounge pants just beautiful? I've coveted a pair of Punjammies for a long time and I think they would make the perfect gift for any stylish lounger. There are loads of designs to choose from, plus shorts and tops too! And Punjammies aren't just about gorgeous items of clothing. Their mission is to create pathways to freedom for women escaping the ravages of sex slavery to achieve lives of hope and dignity. Such a worthy cause and beautiful, beautiful products.
For the Gym Bug
Bend it like Bikram Tote, £16, Not on the Highstreet
Do you know a Gym Bug who loves a good play on words as much as an hour on the treadmill? Then this punny tote bag is for them! Need I say more?
For the Makeup Whizz
Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette, £37, feelunique.com
I'm the first to admit that I'm fairly rubbish at makeup. But thankfully beauty bloggers across the internet have recommended the subtle and sexy shades of Urban Decay's Naked 2 palette, making my recommendation for the Makeup Whizz easy as pie. Also, I think just about anyone can tell that this palette is just so very pretty.
For the Forever Joker
Comedy Print, £14.95, Ohh Deer
Ohh Deer is one of my favourite places to find quirky, illustrated gifts. From homeware to stationary to fabulously creative cards it has just about everything a quirky gift-hunter could dream of. I love just about everything on their site but this Gemma Correll comedy print might just be my favourite. You can browse their full range of prints here and enjoy a little giggle while you do so!
For the Crafter
An assortment of Paperchase goodies, £2-8.50, Paperchase
Calligraphy pens, sequins, washi tape, scrapbook.
Every crafter will have a box or bag or big old suitcase full of bits and bobs for crafting. They are the kind of person who attracts all sorts of craft items and loves each and every single one. With this in mind, why not give your crafty lady a selection of Paperchase goodies? From pens, to scrapbooks, to GLITTER (!!) you can't go wrong with an armful of arty bits. And if I haven't picked out your favourite from the Paperchase range, browse more of their crafting goods here.
And remember to use your student discount!
Ooh and if you too are a crafter, you might want to whip up your own 'Makers Gonna Make' cushion, which is beyond hilarious in my opinion.
Elf Christmas T-Shirt, £20, Asos
I'm not sure if novelty Christmas items will ever get old. I'm loving this Santa's Coming T-Shirt. An essential for jolly festive activities. And who wouldn't want an item of clothing with Will Ferrell's face on?
Free delivery plus NUS student discount!
Happy browsing, gift-givers! x
Sunday, 7 December 2014
Instagram of the week: Meet Fat Santa, my very favourite bauble.
1. We've decorated our flat! You will already know this if you follow me on instagram as I had a little photo splurge in my over-excitement. I love having our Christmassy lights up.
2. Potter nerds rejoice! JK Rowling is releasing 12 new stories in the lead up to Christmas.
3. These DIY Christmas projects look like so much fun. The instagram gift tags are winner.
4. I saw Paddington this week. It was the most adorable film and if you're a fan of the marmalade loving bear, then hop along to see it asap. I'd quite like my own little bear from darkest Peru now, please.
5. I'm pretty sure this is how everyone currently feels about me. Saaaarry. I love me some festivity.
6. I've enjoyed shopping for ribbons and wrapping paper this week. Colour coordinating a wrapping scheme is an oddly wonderful experience.
7. I love this We Never Met instagram account. Each photograph pictures a stranger the photographer will never see again and is accompanied by a random short story.
8. Peppermint Pretzel Marshmallow Fudge. OH MY WORD.
9. I've been watching a bucket load of Christmas films this week. I am slightly ashamed to admit I always want to try the maple syrup spaghetti that Buddy makes in Elf...
10. Wana see a turtle twerk? Yeah, thought you might.
Have a happy weekend, friends! x
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
It's that time of year again. The time when we spend frantic hours scouring shops and the internet for the perfect gift for the ones we love. It's time to dig out the ribbon and find out where the hell the sellotape lives for the rest of the year. It's an illusive little bugger... So yes, it is time to start thinking about gift-giving. And more specifically, finding a present for those lovely gentlemen.
But oh those boys, they can be so tricky to buy for. But you know me, I'm a festive whirlwind that cannot be stopped and with a little inspiration from House of Fraser’s handy little gift finder I managed to whip up a creative, festive gift guide for him. Without a token pair of socks in sight!
Even with all the festive help, buying gifts can still be a bit daunting. So this year I'm going to share a mantra I've inherited from my Mum that always guides me through any purchasing adventure: quality over quantity. From food, to interior design, to presents, this little mantra will look after you. And that's exactly what I've filled this gift guide with - quality gifts that the men in your life are sure to love. Cut the money-eating stocking fillers and this year, lets get our gents exactly what they're after. And as I'm still getting creative on a student budget, these gifts are all priced below £60. Hurrah! Now grab a mince pie and enjoy browsing.
The All-rounder Gift
Joules Rugby Top, currently £42, House of Fraser*
This is my top pick from House of Fraser's stock this season and is truly an all-rounder of a gift. It's also currently on sale for £42! I don't think you can go wrong with a gorgeous, great quality rugby shirt. Appropriate for boyfriends, brothers, dads, grandads, cousins, best friends and the rest of them! And currently Joules is one of my very favourite brands, it does country-chic like nobody else. You can browse all their products here. Be warned though, you may just while away your day window shopping...
For the Outdoorsman
Stanley Classic 1L Flask, £33, Blacks
Whether your outdoorsman is a hiker, biker or camper he will never say no to a cup of steaming coffee when he has a break from playing Bear Grylls. This Stanley flask was a no-brainer for me to include as I know my outdoorsy parents love and treasure theirs on each adventure they go on. I particularly love it in this cool, navy blue.
Oh, and NUS Extra card holders, redeem your 10% discount here!
For the Foodie
Jamie's Comfort Food PLUS (!!) a year's magazine subscription, £25.99, Jamie Magazine
I think everyone loves Jamie. And this book is full of recipes that should be shared. If the man in your life is a budding chef, be sure to include this one in his stocking. And then be ready to enjoy all of the treats whizzing out of the kitchen come New Year. Also the link above is for not only the book, but a year subscription to the Jamie Magazine, too! Double whammy and double points for you. I'm not sure how long this offer is running, so grab it while you can!
For the Gamer
Batman 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition or Grand Theft Auto, £44.99-49.99, Game
I have it on Jack from Player One's good authority that these are some of the top games out this Christmas. And they're available on Xbox One, PS 4 and more.
As I'm fairly clueless on this topic, Jack recommends that before you invest in a game, make sure you know what your gamer already has. And what they're interested in. As a loose rule, Batman 3 is more suitable for younger players, Dragon Age: Inquisition for more serious gamers and Grand Theft Auto is an all-rounder game, for those over 18 of course.
For the Sofa Bear
Don't Wake the Bear Pajama Top, £18, Fat Face
If the man in your life is similar to mine and can't think of a better way to spend a weekend by a lie in followed by a nap then they'll certainly need some new lounge wear this year. I love Fat Face's adorable range of festive sleepwear and for under £20, this pajama top is a winner!
NUS Extra card holders, receive your 10% student discount here!
For the Inner-child
Lego Superheroes, £30, Debenhams
It supposed to be for ages 6-12, but surely the rules are there to be broken by big kids, right? There is something Lego that apparently men can't grow out of. So if you want top present-giver points this Christmas, perhaps you should walk on past the swanky aftershave and high quality ties and reach for the Lego.
Boys are weird.
For the Smart Dresser
My Favourite Place Cufflinks, £55, Not on the Highstreet
To me, cufflinks are jewellery for men. Cufflinks are a chance to treat a gentleman in your life to something shiny. Whilst you can't go wrong with a classic design, I love these 'my favourite place cufflinks', that are engraved with co-ordinates of your choice. Choose from your home address, where you were born, where you met or any destination that is special to you and your man of choice. So thoughtful and every pair unique.
Also hurrah for free mainland UK delivery!
Classic Plattan Headphones, £49.90, Urbanears
If you know a man that is always on the move, it's a pretty sure bet he will like listening to music, podcasts or the radio on his travels. A sturdy, good quality pair of headphones is a must. Comfort is key, as is a great sound. Enter Urbanears' Classic Headphones. Super comfy headphones, ideal for those who are whizzing through the world. You can plug an extra set of headphones into these bad boys to share your listening of choice and they even fold down! Perfect for the busy traveler. Not to mention, they are just so cool - check out the cobalt pair too.
Free shipping - huzzah!
For the Gym Bug
Nike Air Max Vapor Duffel, £35, Nike
Is there a man in your life who is all protein shakes and do you even lift, bro? Then this next pick might be right up your street. This sleek, stylish duffel bag is ideal for the gym nut who constantly asks you to pop his towel in your bag, or whose holey drawstring desperately needs replacing. This duffel will ensure that his gym kit looks just as good as he does.
Free delivery on all orders *praying hands emoji*
For the Christmas Enthusiast
Ya Filthy Animal Christmas Jumper, £28, Topman
And finally, do you know a dude who starts counting down the days to Christmas once September rocks around? Yes? Well he undoubtedly needs a novelty Christmas item of some sort. While options like the classic Santa hat are good, this jumper is just about cool enough to be worn outside of the comfort of your own home. Wear it with pride, Christmas enthusiasts! And it is a likely to be a conversation starter, so get ready to reminisce about the antics of Macaulay Culkin if you add this to your chap's stocking.
Remember to use your student discount at the checkout, NUS card holders!
I hope that's given you a burst of inspiration! And if you're still struggling, hop over to House of Fraser's gift guide for him and have faith in their lovely ideas.
Sunday, 30 November 2014
Instagram of the week: Frosty mornings mean beautiful gilded leaves.
1. I cannot stop laughing at this Jeff Goldblum quote. Gets me every time.
2. Have you heard about Arthur the dog, who completed a 430 mile race and found a new home? So adorable.
3. I've started wrapping Christmas presents, it feels gooooood. (Also, 1st December tomorrow. Shall we get unnecessarily excited now? Yeah? Good).
4. Speaking of Christmas, these 14 decoration ideas for your uni flat are a must for festive students.
5. What's that? You want another Christmassy link? Well righto. I love Sam's independent brands gift guide. I love to buy from independent retailers, and Sam has some great picks!
6. I think my Dad would love these GF Salted Pecan and Bourbon Brownies. They're on my to-bake list, for sure.
7. I really, really wanted to say I loved The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 on this week's post. But I didn't... I thought it was a bit of an anticlimax. Anyone else feel this way?
8. BBC 1's The Missing on the other hand is a crazy roller coaster of drama! James Nesbitt is owning it. Go iPlayer it.
9. Planning any festive recipes? They will almost certainly need a cool stencil.
10. It feels appropriate to round off this decidedly festive Loves post with caroling minions. Ah, LOVE!
Have a happy weekend, friends! x
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
There is something special about a homemade gift. It feels like there is a little bit of extra love mixed up in those wonky mince pies and slightly burned gingerbread men. There is definitely something wonderful about a handwritten 'homemade' label that makes my heart sing with joy. With this in mind, I thought it was about time I shared a homemade gift idea with you here on the blog. And very handily, a homemade gift you can whip up a month in advance and then get on with enjoying the festive period! Enter Pickled Shallots!
So I popped home last weekend and my Mum was on top form and had stocked up with jars, vinegar and had grown her own shallots to boot! Mum is the creator, writer and photographer behind Gardening Jules. A beautiful, organic space in this big old internet, whose mantra is 'a productive gardening life'. She's your gal for all things creative-nature and gardening. I've been reliably informed that our Picasso variety shallots are Alan Titchmarsh's brand, in association with Waitrose. They were planted in early March and then harvested in August. If you'd like to grow your own next year, Mum says they are very easy to grow and advises a sunny spot in your garden. If you haven't grown your own, never fear! They are easy to grab in your supermarket.
So yes, pickled shallots. The ultimate accompaniment to a turkey sandwich on boxing day, or just wonderful eaten straight out of the jar (don't judge me). But be warned - pickled shallots are perhaps the easiest thing to throw together, you might just get addicted to pickling. I definitely want to try out Deb's Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw - so colourful and gorgeous!
I see pickled goods for everyone this Christmas, let's start the vinegar revolution.
For Pickled Shallots you will need (makes approx 2 medium jars):
1.4 litres malt vinegar
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
170g dark brown sugar
Begin by sterilising your jars. You can do this in the dishwasher, oven or microwave.
Then grab your shallots, top and tail them and peel them.
Cover them in salt and toss to make sure they are well coated. Cover in clingfilm and refrigerate over night. Do not leave them than longer for 1 night, or they will lose their lovely crunchy texture.
The next morning rinse off the shallots.
Blot them all dry and then set aside.
Now to make the pickling vinegar! Combine the sugar, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns and chilli flakes in a large saucepan.
Pour in the vinegar and put onto a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Make sure not to boil the vinegar.
Whilst the sugar is dissolving pack the shallots into your jars. You can either use uniform jars or go for a real homemade, motley crew collection.
Now it's time to douse those shallots in that lovely pickling vinegar. I like to transfer the vinegar from the pan to a jug to make this part a little easier, and reduce spillage.
Try and get an even distribution of spices in each jar.
Tightly seal the lids of each jar and pop in the cupboard until Christmas!
Once your ready, package with festive ribbon and jolly tag.
Well done you for being an organised Christmas hero.
Enjoy sharing such a gorgeous gift this Christmas. And what a piece of cake to throw together!