JUSTNICESTUFF has been dormant for a couple of weeks now, and for that I can only apologise and explain that the blame sits with countless essays (which I have avoided and deliberated with ease and enthusiasm) and a saddening lack of camera. This said, the minimal contact I’ve had with my readers has led to a feeling of reluctance, so I thought I’d create a post using some less than inspiring photographs (dare I say the words.. mobile and upload..?) instead of my usual ‘proper’ images.
So, last weekend was a heavy one on the waistline and presented me with multiple reasons to bake. First of all, Valentines Day allowed me to bake my staple cupcakes after a break of experimenting with patisserie and pastries. I asked my boyfriend what his favourite desserts were and transformed two into cupcake recipes. The above image shows the strawberry cheesecake variation which involved a biscuit base, strawberry spiked sponge and a cream cheese topping and the banoffee pie cupcakes which were made up of a banana sponge, a toffee centre and vanilla buttercream complete with handmade hazelnut chocolates and spun sugar. As you can imagine these elaborate and horrendously unhealthy treats went down well.
The second occasion I was asked to produce the goods for was my Granny’s birthday. As a huge fan of chocolate and coffee, I thought she would love this two tier mocha cake with chocolate dipped strawberries and fresh blueberries. The result was incredibly rich, but everyone loved it nonetheless.
After a rather ample helping(s) of each of the bakes, I can safely say my jeans were feeling a little tighter come Monday morning.
If you ever find yourself wandering around Shoreditch in search of a great meal, look no further than Dishoom. Serving a wide demographic of diners (not just those donned with suitably trendy bangs, beanies and beards), Dishoom kicks the common trend of fad vegan cafes and those restaurants littered around parts of East London where waiters often wear the all too familiar ‘I’m here for the vibe not the cash’ expression.
Open all day for Indian style breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dishoom offer a wide range of tapas-style plates as well as larger dishes. Everything on the menu is designed to be shared resulting in a sociable eating experience, perfect for big groups and couples alike. Some of my favourites from the dinner menu included the spicy and perfectly light breaded calamaris, juicy hot masala prawns and chicken biryani with mint yoghurt sauce. What I also enjoyed was that each table is provided with a range of fantastic chutneys and sauces which are mindfully explained and recommended for certain dishes by the staff. Not only are the waiters efficient and the food delicious, but the tasteful interior of the building boasts a distressed finish with modern touches which makes for an interesting and undeniably trendy environment to eat in.
Booking a table is not permitted at Dishoom, and you can expect a wait on busy nights due to its understandable popularity. Awaiting your table is made enjoyable at the restaurant’s vibrant cocktail bar though, where you are armed with a novel alarm which lights up when your place is set. The cocktail bar tenders are charasmatic and offer a huge array of cocktails unique to Dishoom including favourites such as Bombay Pimms and spiced rum punch.
So, if you love Indian food and fancy experiencing it in a slightly different way, why not head to Dishoom in Shoreditch or Covent Garden for a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner-feast soon?
At last I’ve tackled a strawberry tart (I promised I would after my recent trip to Paris). As the pinnacle of French patisserie, this is a staple you need to add to your baking repertoire. I am unsure of how it tastes yet, however after ‘sampling’ elements of the tart separately I am hopeful that it will be delicious!
The bake is made up of a sweet shortcrust pastry, vanilla creme patissiere (which I’ve never made before but it is much easier then I anticipated) hulled ripe strawberries and a redcurrant glaze.
If you’re after a challenge why don’t you select a patisserie classic and whip one up- you might surprise yourself!
When making Moroccan food, it’s nice to have all the accessories that go with it to enjoy the complete taste experience. With that in mind I decided to make some flatbreads spiked with middle eastern spices to accompany a beef tagine and fruity couscous. These bakes are soft in places, crispy in others and packed with ras-el-hanout as well as honey which adds a welcome sweetness. As a first attempt at flatbreads I am pleased with the result and think they will be great for scooping up sauces or dipping in oils and dips.
Featured below are the true beasts of the literary canon. Why I decided to morph Shakespeare into a wolf and Wilde into a lion I do not know- best not to question my thought processes.
These blueberry and lemon muffins are my own concoction. After browsing countless recipes looking for a slightly (not completely) healthier alternative to the buttery super-sweet muffins we see in Costa and Starbucks, I couldn’t find a happy medium between the ultimate sugar overdose and the oaty, no-sugar, no-calories, no-taste variety littered all over the web. So, instead of using a single recipe, I used a few components of classic muffins combined with some health-concious replacement ingredients. In place of butter, these are made with vegetable oil and a dash of buttermilk and instead of tonnes of white caster sugar small amounts of brown sugar with lemon zest and vanilla seeds are substituted to add taste without the calories. I also added a whole punnet of blueberries to the batter so these bakes are bursting with anti-oxidant super fruits; perhaps they could stretch to one of my five a day (one can dream)? I hope these muffins encourage you to bake a little leaner (if only sometimes) as you can create delicious treats by making small substitutions to full fat recipes- you don’t have to go completely mad on the ‘detox’ hype to be a bit healthier, it’s small changes that make a difference.
Although this post is really to draw attention to my bakes of the day, I also wanted to give my regards to my loyal (and new) readers. I passed the 2000 follower mark this week and am thrilled this completely amateur blog is of interest to so many people, thankyou!
These are not just any brownies. These are moist sour cherry and walnut brownies topped with chocolate meringue glaze, pistachios, tempered chocolate and summer berry coulis. Use any old brownie recipe and elaborate with luxurious ingredients to create a far more grown up, decadent version like I have here.
I know it’s January, I know we’ve all over indulged in the past month and I know many of you will have made resolutions to give up chocolate and drink green smoothies laced with multi-vitamin-superfood-health-kick ingredients…
But who can honestly say these resolutions ever last? Most people give up giving up the good stuff after a few weeks and if you are one of those people, you might as well ditch the detox in style with a delicious chocolate slab.
Easy to make and so delicious, these chocolate slabs make great presents and can be customised for individuals. I made two this afternoon as an additional treat for my flatmates to go with their other belated Christmas gifts.
The first ‘slab’ is made up of a milk chocolate base with hints of dark and white chocolate and a sprinkling of Maltesers (my friend Jo loves all things chocolate). The second has a white chocolate base and dark chocolate drizzle with a scattering of dried cranberries and pistachios (Zoe is a fan of fruits and nuts).
Try them yourself- just temper chocolate and pour into a lined tray, add any toppings you like and chill in a cool place (not the fridge).
You may or may not have noticed my distinct lack of posts over the past couple of weeks, although the chances are that you have not picked up on this as I am fairly certain JUSTNICESTUFF does not have any hardcore fans sat on the brink of despair awaiting any sign of movement or virtual activity.
Anyway, I have now emerged from the other side of the exam season (calling it a season seems a little ambitious as I only sat two exams and am now back at home, once again vegging out, baking and pretending to carry out important tasks whilst not really achieving much). Over the past fortnight I avoided my blog and poured my all into my greatest talent; thinking about revising and not doing any until the last 24 hours prior to an exam, resulting in unwashed hair and an unhealthy reliance on highlighters and tea.
The heroic effort I took to cram an entire terms lectures and readings into a day is now behind me and at last I have a couple of weeks of leisure without being riddled with the no-work-guilt.
I have started my work-free week by reading a book. Not too exciting? I read books all the time, right? Yes… only this time it’s a book I have actually wanted to read for some time; the words ‘linguistic development’ and ‘finish fetish’ and ‘syntactical structure’ and ‘what is art?’ do not feature in this book and there are images- yes, images!
The book I am referring to is ‘It’ by miss Alexa Chung herself and I read it in an hour (if only Marx and Nochlin could be so easy to digest). It follows Chung’s fashion evolution and her outfit choices make so much sense after reading about her influences. From Jagger to Bardot, Alexa discusses her icons in the style stakes and I can now see exactly where her perfect take on demure dressing with a masculine edge comes from. Among some serious style analysis, Chung recalls novel anecdotes from her childhood and adolescence with a witty charm and inserts typically ‘cool’ candid shots and stylised illustrations in between to create a book which is a total pleasure to read.
After reading ‘It’ I decided to go and browse some shops armed with some Christmas gift cards. I picked up this cute smock dress in Topshop for £24; it’s a nod to the florals of spring coupled with the colour palette I seem to live in (that is, anything dark). My bargain buy of the day were these leather ankle shoes from Deena and Ozzy- down from £75 to £25- perfect!
So, the start of my wild (not wild at all) couple of weeks has begun and I intend on doing absolutely nothing of any great importance. This will obviously include baking and pondering over more clothes I can’t afford; either way, I will keep you updated.
When my boyfriend placed the responsibility of creating his Mums 50th birthday cake firmly in my hands with a beach themed party in mind, I felt apprehensive having never worked with sugar paste or multiple tiered bakes before. Having said this, she was thrilled with the result and even though I say so myself, I’m not too disappointed either. A carrot sponge makes up the bottom tier and is topped with a lemon sandwich cake. These tiers are finished off with a vanilla sponge beach hut covered in meticulously crafted sugar paste and two lounging whippets (a personal touch for their particular family). I hope you like the idea as much as the party guests did!