Thursday, 28 June 2012

Sexy socks...!

Mmm, lovely...! These are my new compression socks, which I tried out on last night's run. Compression socks are meant to be good for giving extra support to your leg muscles, reducing fatigue, and helping with recovery. I do find that I get tight or tired calves after a run, especially if I've been running on uneven ground, so I thought I'd give them a go, and I have to say I think they worked really well! I ran a very hot and very slow 10 miles last night - the first time I'd attempted anything like that sort of distance for about a month - and my calves didn't feel tight afterwards at all, and this morning I don't seem to have any muscle soreness. So far, so good!

Now I'm just waiting for my new trail shoes to arrive so I can try those out on Saturday's 12-mile off-roader!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Veg Box Day: 26/06/12

I've got another really summery veg box this week, with wild rocket, vine tomatoes, a big red pepper, a pointed cabbage, a bunch of carrots and a bag of new potatoes. I've got a bit of a new potato mountain at the moment, as I haven't really used the ones from my last box, but I've made an effort over the last few days with a bright green spinach and potato frittata (which was totally excellent after Monday night's run)...
...and a lunchtime salad with new potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, black olives, tuna and a bit of mayo. I'm going to have some of the rocket with the rest of the salad for tomorrow's lunch, and I think the tomatoes might go into a pasta sauce tomorrow evening. For the first time in ages I actually have a reasonably quiet weekend coming up, so I'm hoping I'll be able to do lots of cooking!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Many mini muffins!

I'm off to Paris for the weekend for a hen do, and what do you do when you go to Paris? You bake things and take them with you. Because they really don't have nice baked things in Paris.

What? Oh.

Anyway, I made these mini blueberry muffins because we're all arriving later this evening and the plan for tonight is a girly night in with drinks and nibbles. The theme of the whole weekend is 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue' and the blue bit for tonight is the food and drink! Hence blueberry muffins. I used this recipe from A Bitchin' Kitchen, although I used buttermilk instead of sour cream because it turns out one carton of buttermilk is just about exactly 1 1/4 cups. Perfect! I used a silicone mini muffin pan (£1 from the pound shop near work!) and got 24 mini muffins with enough batter left over to make one normal-sized muffin, which may or may not have been eaten straight out of the tin.

I've also made yet another batch of coconut meringues - but with added blue food colouring! They're more of a very pale teal on the outside thanks to the gentle browning of the oven, but I think they're going to be nice and blue on the inside!

So I'll see you on the other side of the weekend with some photos from Paris! By the way, I'm on Instagram now, so if you fancy following me just search for alliesolskjaer.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Rhubarb and custard cake...

My parents still have tons of rhubarb growing in their garden, so while my dad and I were painting on Saturday afternoon, my mum made a rhubarb and custard cake for that evening's pudding. She used this recipe from BBC Good Food, and it was seriously lovely - definitely more of an indulgent puddingy cake than an everyday one, and it was absolutely delicious with ice cream. Mum thinks she'd drain the rhubarb more thoroughly next time, as it all ended up at the bottom of the cake, but then that's how it looks in the photo on the Good Food website as well, so I think it's fine. The sponge is incredibly moist, buttery and rich, so the tart pieces of rhubarb are perfect with it.
It was gorgeous straight from the oven, just as good cold the next day, and still perfectly lovely last night, so it lasts really well (if there's any left...!)

Monday, 18 June 2012

DIY and Father's Day...

I popped home to Somerset to visit my parents for the weekend, and lots of progress is being made on the new house! It's all coming together now - the gorgeous slate tiles for the kitchen and dining room should be fitted next week, the new bathrooms are done, the kitchen has new cupboard doors and beautiful granite worktops, and they've painted the dining room a lovely warm cream colour with new curtains. The sitting room was next on the list, and as I was home I became part of the painting party!
Wearing the most attractive and flattering outfit in the world, obviously...! I did all the cutting-in bits around the edges (very fiddly going round the beams!) and discovered a hitherto untapped talent for filling cracks using decorators' caulk. We spent the whole of Saturday painting, and it looks fab! The walls used to be a pale grey/lilac sort of colour, which was quite nice, but we didn't realise how cold and dark it made the room until the fresh cream paint went up.

An added bonus of going home for the weekend was that I got to spend Father's Day with my dad. My sister and I got him this brilliant mug with a biscuit dunkability guide (my dad does love a cup of tea and a biscuit!) and we put a little selection of biscuits in the mug so that he could conduct his own dunking experiments. We had amazing home-baked croissants from the farm shop up the road (they're absolute genius - they come frozen and you defrost them overnight before baking them to flaky golden perfection in the morning) for breakfast, and then (after a bit more painting) took Dad to our favourite local pub for a delicious Sunday lunch. I'm a bit knackered today after all that DIYing, but it was a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Veg Box: 12/6/12

Another lovely summery veg box!
This week's box had spring onions, cucumber, a salad bag, courgettes, broad beans, new potatoes and some very exciting carrots with their green tops still on. It's a shame it still isn't salad weather! We've had horrible drizzle and murk for ages now.

Nevertheless, I decided to make something summery with some of my veg, and eventually settled on baked falafel, which I had with a yogurty cucumbery raita/tzatziki/dip/sauce thing (just some fat free Greek yogurt with grated cucumber, garlic and salt and pepper).
I based my falafel on this recipe from The Intolerant Gourmet, which I used over the Jubilee weekend with great success, but as usual I just had to change it a bit! I wanted to use some of my veg box produce, so along with the chickpeas I added some of the carrots and broad beans, and as I didn't have any herbs I threw some of the carrot tops in as well for some extra greenery. I got 16 good-sized falafel out of my batch of mixture and I can't wait to have the rest for Thursday's post-haircut (my God do I ever need a haircut...) supper!

Baked carrot and broad bean falafel

100g carrots, chopped
50g broad beans (that's the beans themselves, out of their pods)
5 or 6 spring onions, roughly chopped
Handful of parsley/mint/coriander/carrot tops/whatever leafy herbs you have
400g tin chickpeas, drained
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce or mango chutney
Whatever spices you fancy - cumin, coriander, paprika etc etc
4 tbsp chickpea flour (gram flour)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Put the carrots, beans and spring onions into a food processor (one of those little ones will do, that's what I have!) and pulse until finely chopped.
3. Add the chickpeas, herbs, garlic, oil, sauce and spices and blitz until smooth (like really chunky houmous).
4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the chickpea flour and seasoning, and mix to form a dough (it will be slightly sticky but you should be able to handle it easily).
5. Line a baking tray with baking paper/greaseproof, then make little 2" patties with the falafel mix and place them on the lined tray.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time so they brown on both sides.
7. Serve warm or cold - they'd be gorgeous in wraps with a spicy sauce!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Spinach and ricotta pie...

As we were having a picnic as part of my friend's hen do at the weekend, I obviously decided to bake a whole ton of food, including this spinach and ricotta pie. It's has been a firm favourite in my family for years now, and it's a brilliant vegetarian option for buffets and picnics (and meat-eaters always love it too!) I can't even remember where the recipe came from originally, and we've tweaked it loads along the way anyway - it's gorgeous, if I do say so myself!

Spinach and ricotta pie
50g pine nuts 
2 x 260g bags spinach
250g ricotta
100g ground almonds
3 eggs, beaten
80g parmesan, grated
500g block puff pastry

1. Toast the pine nuts until golden brown and set aside. Preheat the oven to 220C.
2. Put the spinach into a large pan and cook until wilted (or do what I do and microwave it in its bags!) Allow to cool and then squeeze out the excess water. 
3. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, almonds, eggs and parmesan, then add the spinach and pine nuts and some black pepper. 
4. Cut the block of pastry in half and roll out each half to form the top and bottom of the pie - about 10"x8". Put the bottom layer of pastry onto a lined baking tray, then add the filling, leaving about an inch around the edge. Brush the edge with milk and then put the top layer of pastry on and press or crimp the edges with a fork. Add some pretty decorations using the trimmings from the pastry if you want! 
5. Brush the whole pie with egg or milk, then bake for 15 minutes before turning the oven down to 190C and baking for a further 30 minutes or until the top is nicely brown.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A very vintage hen...

My lovely friend Sarah is getting married, and so yesterday a big group of us went out for the day to celebrate. We started off at Drink, Shop & Do near King's Cross - I'd heard loads about it but had never been, and it was brilliant! We had tea and cakes and we made fascinators with ribbons and buttons and netting. It was great fun and a really good hen do activity as it got everyone talking and it meant we all left with our fascinators on, looking like a hen party, but a fairly classy hen party! 

The tea and cakes were lovely and they were really generous, and the Bellini cocktails were fab.

And here's the fascinator I made!
Then we headed to the park for a picnic - yep, yet more cake and fizz! We also managed a fab celeb spot, as Kate Moss and Jamie Hince walked past with their dog! 
And finally, after a bit of glamming up, we went into town to the Firefly bar, which hosts the Saturday Night Swing Club every week. The bar is spread over three floors and in the middle is a room dedicated to dance lessons - every hour you can just show up and they'll teach you the basics, and then you can go off and dance away to your heart's content! Everyone dresses up in 50s gear and members of the London Swing Dance Society show up every week - which is brilliant because you'll be dancing away and suddenly a proper bona fide swing-dancing man will grab you and twirl you around the floor and make you feel like you can dance really well! It was so much fun.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Jubilee eating!

As you might expect, I've done rather a lot of cooking, baking and eating over the holiday weekend!

First off, I made coconut meringues on Saturday, to take to yesterday's barbecue. The thought of throwing away a load of egg yolks always puts me off making meringues, but now some genius people have come up with the idea of selling cartons of egg whites! Fabulous. I used this recipe by Miss Igs and it was perfect...
Then I was inspired to make some scones by a conversation I saw on Facebook! I used Delia's classic recipe, but having read on the egg white carton that you can use three tablespoons of that to replace a whole egg, I decided to give that a go, and I didn't have buttermilk so I just used almond milk instead. And the scones were lovely! I had one as a cheeky afternoon tea, with some caramel apple jam, and froze the rest (I got eight scones out of my dough rather than the 10 Delia suggests).

And then there was the barbecue itself! We had salads, beetroot and carrot slaw, grilled halloumi, veg kebabs (and some lamb bits and sausages) and I made baked falafel. Everything was totally delicious and we even had red, white and blue crisps!

Boats and Beacons...

In case you hadn't noticed, this weekend we've had the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I've had a lovely weekend doing all sorts of things - including going to see the Jubilee Pageant on the Thames (in typically British drizzle!) and going to another fantastic towpath barbecue before seeing one of the Jubilee beacons being lit in Mile End.

The flotilla of boats that made up the pageant included the Spirit of Chartwell, which had the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and the other senior royals on it, but there were also hundreds of ordinary boats involved - rowing boats, working boats, narrowboats, military boats, all sorts. We probably would have been slightly more comfortable and warm watching it on TV (and we'd have had a slightly better view!) but it was great to be there on the banks of the river with over a million other people.

The beacon lighting was lovely, too - I also went to a little street party in Ealing before heading off to Mile End, and both that and the beacon really felt like proper community events, which was nice after the huge crowds of the pageant. There were fire-dancers and flares, and then the beacon was lit and everyone sang God Save the Queen!

Coming up...a whole blog post on the weekend's food!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Zoo Lates!

Despite having lived in London for 12 years, I'd never been to London Zoo. It's expensive and touristy and full of screaming kids, right? Well, yes, but not when you go to Zoo Lates. Every Friday evening in June and July, the zoo is open for adults only, and as well as being able to see all of the animals and all of the usual exhibits, there are bars and food stalls and all sorts of bits of entertainment.

I went with my friend Leonie and as neither of us had been to the zoo before, we decided to give the comedy/cabaret/silent disco bits a miss and concentrate on the animals themselves. With a glass of Pimm's, of course.
We saw SO MANY amazing things! Glittery pirahnas. Gorillas. Giraffes. Okapis. Zebras. Meerkats. Coatis being fed. A SNAKE eating a WHOLE CHICKEN. And then we went into the rainforest bit and oh my goodness, there's a SLOTH all reclined like he's asleep. And another sloth going on a sloth-about and climbing (slowly...) around above everyone's heads. It was brilliant!

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