Keep Calm and Cook on – Banoffee Pie

Food, Lifestyle, Opinion, Recipes

Banoffee pie is one of those desserts that can be executed so bloody awful that it puts you off a slice for life. Plasticky squirty cream, Dry pre-made shortcrust pastry bases, and my personal worst nightmare, the deconstructed versions that tend to crop up at “cool” gastropubs. Done right? It’s a gloriously indulgent, American style pud that makes your teeth ache but still has you raiding the fridge for another slice before bed.

In my family, it’s the thing we all gun for at a party, it’s the pudding that we sneak out of the fridge before someone else steals the last slice, but, on one condition, Mam’s got to have made it. Banoffee Pie is admittedly 90% assembly and 10% cooking but ask anyone that has tried my Mam’s Banoffee Pie and they will tell you, it’s the best you’ll ever have. She frequently has to assemble two, because none of us can possibly only have one slice. That is unless Uncle Mark is around. If Mark is around then you have zero chance of a second slice, that is unless you fancy losing a finger.

For me, it’s a dessert that will forever remind me of my family, one that both sides absolutely adore. The sight of tins of boiled condensed milk on the kitchen counter will forever be one of my favourite sights and fighting my brother off to clean the tin of toffee with my Mam shouting at us to get out of the kitchen will forever be one of my favourite (and most dangerous) memories.

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Banoffee Pie

  • Roughly half a pack of digestive biscuits
  • 125g salted butter, melted
  • 1 tin of condensed milk
  • 275ml of double cream
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp of instant coffee
  • 3-4 ripe bananas
  • 1 Dairy Milk Flake

The first bit of this recipe is the best bit, the best option is to do this step the day before you need the dessert, that way the toffee has adequate time to cool. Pop your tin of condensed milk, still sealed in the tin, into a deep pan of cold water making sure the top is covered. Bring to a light boil. Leave it that way for 4 hours,  just checking in between that the tin remains submerged in water. Once the time is up, let the tins sit in the water until cool.

Do not let the pan boil dry. I have fond memories of my Nan and Mum scrubbing toffee of my Auntie Donna’s very pristine, white kitchen walls/ceilings. I don’t suggest it as a decorating technique.

In the meantime, shove the digestives into a sandwich bag and smash them into a fine crumb with the help of a sturdy rolling pin. yes, you could use a food processor but this is much more fun. Empty the biscuit crumb into a bowl before pouring in all of your melted butter. Mix. Your biscuit should be visibly coated in butter but not too wet. Grab a flan tin/cake tin, whatever you have really and pour the biscuit mix in. Press it down to create a level and compact buttery biscuit base. Refrigerate this for at least an hour.

Open up your tin of cooled and now deliciously sticky condensed milk toffee. The result should be a medium/dark golden brown toffee. Scrape the contents out onto the biscuit base and level out. Grab a teaspoon and eat the remnants of toffee straight out of the tin. Chefs prerogative. Pop your cream into a separate bowl along with a tsp of caster sugar and a tsp of coffee granules. Whisk until it forms into stiff peaks.

Chop your bananas into circles around 1cm thick and place onto your toffee layer. Then top with the cream. Finally, crumble the Flake over the top, half of it at least, the other half can be for the Chef.

Finally, refrigerate, half-hour will do.

Best enjoyed quickly and in a secret spot, family members become very aggressive when Bannoffe pie is on the line.

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Keep Calm and Cook On – Mushty Egg Sandwiches

Food, Lifestyle, Opinion, Recipes

In the midst of the global COVID-19 madness, something odd seems to be happening. Ask many of us six months ago what we do in our spare time when at home and the answer would be Netflix and chill or lying on the sofa scrolling through our phones. Then, in what still seems like some kind of awful dream the UK was put into lockdown and many of us stepped away from our usual permanent state of comatose fixation in our devices. Instead, We have picked up mixing bowls, started growing sourdough starters, slow-cooked cheap cuts of meat and took utter pride in sharing photos of our seasonal veg boxes.

An odd sort of wartime spirit has fought through and food seems to be at the helm of it. It got me thinking about the comfort that food brings, both subconsciously and consciously. The circumstances outside our doors are so uncontrollable right now but that fresh tomato soup on your stove will be comforting and delicious regardless, the big wedge of farmhouse white bread and raspberry jam will remind you of being in your Nan’s kitchen as a child and bring you a moment of solace and, yes, that banana bread WILL make you feel bloody amazing when it comes out of the oven because you baked something and it is absolute perfection to you, regardless of any flaws.

So, I want to share some recipes, and the stories behind them, that bring those tiny moments of bliss to me and hopefully to you. I hope this brings you a little moment of nostalgia in this crazy world and gets you cooking recipes that mean something, even if only to you.

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Egg Sandwiches

Everyone has a sandwich that brings them nothing but pure unadulterated joy. It’s usually something simple; thick slices of cheddar cheese with red onion, tuna straight from the can, mixed with a big blob of mayo, pre-sliced breaded ham stacked so thick you basically use an entire pack to yourself.

Mine is the good old-fashioned egg sandwich. Boiled to be exact, although I am also partial to a fried egg bap. A boiled egg sandwich though, always remind me of my Dad. He fondly calls them “Mushty egg” sandwiches because he boils the egg and then “mushes” them up with salad cream (his choice) or mayo (my choice) then plenty of salt and pepper. They remind me of being at home with him. Admittedly, he does wheel out these sarnies at every family event he can but mainly it reminds me of watching Formula One on a Sunday with him, Mam would be cooking Sunday Lunch but we’d be ‘starving’ by midday so he’d make us sandwiches. Let me add, that is the only ‘cooking’ he has ever done, But, he does it well so I would never complain.

Recipe

Makes 1

  • Slices of medium-thick soft white bread. (Nothing with too hard of a crust)
  • Two room-temperature eggs.
  • Hellman’s mayonnaise (my choice).
  • Salt.
  • Black Pepper.

Use whatever white bread you have. Dad usually would use the white packaged variety and that works just bloody lovely, there is nothing wrong with a slice of Mother’s Pride. Place two room-temperature eggs into a saucepan of cool water. Bring it to a heavy simmer. Once simmering set a timer for 7 minutes. When your timer is up, plunge the eggs into cold water for a minute or two then peel. Pop the eggs into a bowl and mash them into small chunks with a fork (or an egg masher if you’re fancy). Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper and finally a big blob of Hellman’s mayonnaise. Mix to combine lightly. Spread a thin layer of mayo over both pieces of your bread and grind a bit of black pepper onto them. Stuff all of the “mushty egg” onto the bread and assemble your sandwich. Finally cut into two triangle pieces. Everything tastes better in triangles.

Enjoy preferably whilst watching reruns of the 2015 Grand Prix.

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Me, Myself and I

Lifestyle, Opinion

Do you know what movies taught me about being a woman? They taught me that we can sort ourselves into one or two boxes. Box A – Single, you have a kooky group of girlfriends who you will see almost every night and go to fun parties and cool clubs with. Any nights alone are sat eating cold noodles, watching tv and contemplating how utterly pathetic you are. Box B – Single, you have basically zero back story but you are about to meet the absolute love of your life (It’s Hugh Grant, by the way, it always is) and he will make you complete. Up until that moment, you will be sad, lonely and eating cold noodles.

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See the theme here. No, it’s not the cold noodles, although that does have relevance. Whether you are single or in a relationship, being alone is something that we all experience, whether that be for long periods of time or for small periods of time, but the word ‘alone’ just sounds so sad doesn’t it? Speaking from a female perspective, we have no representation of a woman being comfortable and happy spending time by herself.

As most of you know, I am in a long term relationship, one that I am sickeningly happy in, like really, I even make myself nauseous sometimes but how enamored I am; but, much to my disgust, I cannot physically attach myself to him like some kind of crusty old barnacle on a ship. So when faced with time alone, what do I do? I watch endless episodes of Real Housewives, I eat an entire bar of dark chocolate and I go to bed early and sulk. That is far from my perfect existence I can assure you.

It was only last year, when Joe went on a last-minute trip to Japan, that all of a sudden I realised, I am that girl eating cold noodles and wondering why I’m so pathetic and it is all because we know no bloody different! We have no positive examples of why spending time alone can be bloody wonderful. So, I made a conscientious effort to think about what I wanted to do with my weekend, what could I do that I wouldn’t do if Joe was here, how can I make the most of my alone time. The outcome? A bloody good weekend. Even if the extrovert in me was screaming “BUT YOU’RE ALONE!!!!!”.

So, whether you are single or not, introverted or extroverted, I hope this little list helps you enjoy a bit more ‘me-time’ and leaves those cold noodles confined to the world of Rom-coms.

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The Art of Being Alone

Plan your day.

I have an awful habit of spending days alone doing absolutely nothing other than watching terrible television shows, films starring Kate Hudson and drinking endless cups of tea purely from boredom. It is, not a choice, it is me going into moping mood. Instead, really think about what you want to do with your day. Sure, by all means, do the things you need to do (laundry, spring cleaning, etc) but don’t make it arduous, try to make it therapeutic rather than a task. Organise your dresser, clear out your wardrobe or have a clear-out and take a trip to your charity shop. Clear conscious, Clear mind. 

Find small joys.

What makes you happy? Not the huge idealistic things. The little things. Mine include:

  • Getting up early and going downstairs to watch James Martin Saturday Kitchen with a fresh pot of coffee
  • Taking my dogs out when it’s cold out but dry and sunny.
  • A hot bath and a glass of red.
  • Exploring museums

Each of these things I actually enjoy more when I’m on my own, with my own thoughts. It’s like therapy for me. Remind yourself of what those things are for you! Take the time to enjoy them.

Get out of the house.

You don’t need to watch that third episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. You don’t need to sit in your crusty pyjama buttons eating those cold leftover noodles. You also don’t need to not do either of those things. You do need to stay sane however and that may mean leaving the confines of your bedroom.

Get yourself out of the house, if you have dogs then you have a perfect excuse! if you don’t, find an excuse. Need some basics from your local corner shop? Great. Been putting off that trip to the post office? fine. Just love to get outdoors and don’t need an excuse? even better!

I hope these little tips help you even in a small way. In the busy world, we live in its so important that we enjoy every single moment, even when we are alone! Let’s take away the negative stigma from that word. Let’s see it for what it is, an opportunity for me time and self-care. A break made for us and no-one else. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: If cold noodles are your happiness then you do you huns. I support all small happiness’. Except those of you that enjoy HIIT. I don’t condone that. Stop making me look bad…

 

 

A Woman’s Right to Choose

Lifestyle, Opinion

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We all remember the Sex and the City episode don’t we? Carrie is made to remove her silver jeweled Manolo’s at a party so that she doesn’t tread in any nasty street germs that could infect the children waltzing about in this Upper East Side perfectly styled townhouse (So obvious they have kids, duh). The episode rolls on and Carrie is torn between wondering whether she should have the 1950s housewife life with the husband that works late with his twenty-something secretary, two children in coordinating outfits and a dog, most likely a golden retriever. Or, does she go against the strain? Should she feel guilty for spending $465 on a pair of shoes and not a week’s worth of Peppa Pig novelty toys? I’m assuming Peppa Pig was about in 2003. It does seem like she’s always been somewhere, lurking in the shadows, ready at any moment to hypnotize toddlers and drive parents to the brink of insanity.

Exactly sixteen years on and the silver Manolos are incredibly out of fashion but somehow the question still lingers. Do women have a right to choose? This year’s gender pay gap data showed that women in full-time executive roles in FTSE 250 firms fell to just 6.4% whilst in FTSE 100 firms it flatlined at a woeful 9.7%. Director roles look mildly better, coming in at 29% for FTSE 100 and 23.7% for FTSE 250. I could go into a never-ending Ted talk right now about factors and policies that are needed to change this but each time I think back to Carrie and that god awful pair of silver Manolo’s I always come back to the same thought. Do we have to choose? Children or career?

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In 2015, the UK government introduced shared parental leave, allowing parents to share up to 50 weeks leave between them and 37 weeks of statutory pay. Fantastic right? Well, the uptake has been less than 1%. Personally, I didn’t even know this existed until I started researching this post but nonetheless it at least provides female employees with a choice. To some respect… Of course, we still need to consider the gender pay gap, men still earn more in around 75% of all male/female couples. Financially speaking, it just isn’t feasible for many people to take a household pay cut so severe when having a baby. Let us digress from the stats a little though, as much as I want you all to ‘Stay Woke’ I don’t want you to lose the will to live.

I am twenty-nine right now, at the peak of fertility apparently, after this, it’s a downhill slope of ‘don’t leave it too late’s and ‘do you really want to be a geriatric mother?’. By the way, whoever introduced the term geriatric mother needs to be seriously dealt with. Not a fan. Every man and their dog are obsessed with what we, as young women, are doing with our wombs and that includes in the workplace. But the pressure doesn’t stop there, does it? 

I consistently battle two demons:

  1. Do I prioritise career overall?
  2. Am I a cold-hearted bitch who prioritises career overall?

It’s a lose/lose situation. I feel motivated and successful in my career but selfish in my home life. Or, I feel fulfilled in my home/family life but like I am letting myself down as a woman who has always dreamt of that high flying career. Perhaps a Woman’s right to choose is to actually have to make no choice at all. Do we have to always compromise? Am I a bad mother if I work 9-5, 5 days a week and leave the children with childcare? Am I a disappointment to the modern woman if I sometimes prioritise my love life and home life in place of my career? Can’t I be both?

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Compromise is something sadly we have all grown very used to. I choose a career yet I must accept the fact that women effectively work for free for 65 days of the year due to the gender pay gap. I choose a family yet statistically I will earn less than my counterparts who are not Mothers.

What is glaringly obvious through all of this though is that we do, of course, have a choice but it isn’t a fair one. It certainly doesn’t come without stigmas but yet we still make that decision. Men do too. We make a decision that we know in some way will be detrimental to us. Yet we still make it.

What can we draw from all of this? Make the decision but make it with only you and your world in mind. Every decision is hard. Every decision comes with a disapproving look from some bitch that thinks they know best. Every decision will make you feel so proud some days and absolutely awful the next.

We have the right to choose.

We have a right to choose from fair and equal options.

Let’s just keep fighting that good fight for the last bit. All whilst wearing those silver Manolo’s of course.

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Thursday 14 November was equal pay day. As of last Thursday, all women effectively work for free. Check out The Fawcett Society for more information.

 

 

5 reasons why we just ‘love to love’ Love Island

Opinion

With the final episode approaching this evening, we will all soon be plunged into that Love Island-less pool. Distraught. What do we talk about now? What do I do with my evenings?

I read an article by The Guardian a while back that had a fantastic line in it describing our favourite reality show of the moment as “chess with tits”. Fantastic isn’t it because like it or not, that is exactly what it is but yet we absolutely love it. The show is so iconic it has even featured in the newest series of OITNB.

The premiere episode this year brought in a whopping 3.7 million of us, all tuning in to watch a beautiful parade of twenty-somethings in their latest quest for love, or 50k, you decide. But what exactly is it about Love Island that has a nation transfixed? Here are my 5 reasons why we love to love Love Island.

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1.The Office Chat FOMO

I only started watching Game of Thrones because I got so sick of not being able to join in on the coffee break analysis of last nights episode every time a new series was aired. Now imagine that FOMO daily! “No Karen, I didn’t see Malin make a surprise return to the villa and who the f*** is Terry?”. Now I’m a sheep, I know how Molly Mae ties her hair bun, I know Jordan’s middle name. I will never miss out on a weekday office Love Island debrief ever again.

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2. They are like us, but pretty.

“Omg Amber is me, that’s sooo relatable”

Except she’s spilling out of her DD cup bikini like a Sports Illustrated model and I’m a proud gold member of the Itty Bitty Tittie Committee. What is more watchable though than watching Amy confess her love for Curtis when he’s shacking up with someone else back in the villa? Or Molly Mae having a breakdown shouting ”she’s a ring girl!” as Maura comes in the villa, eyes set on Tommy? I’ll tell you what’s better. Watching it and getting that smug little feeling of ”Thank God I am not the only absolute nutter that has behaved like this over a boy”. We’ve all had our moments, haven’t we? Watching Love Island is basically self-validation therapy. We are all exactly the same!! Except these people are basically chiseled from stone and live on diets of kale and Joe’s Juices. I’m sat on my sofa in a dressing gown with hobnob crumbs down my self.

3. We are all romantics at heart.

We love love. It’s a fact. Whether we like to admit it or not, we have all had a bit of a blub over Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts at the end of Notting Hill and if you watch First Dates, don’t you wait for the end with the small, heart-filled hope in your eyes that one of the couples have found their perfect match? We love to have an “Aww” moment. Its that little glimmer of feels in this big, bad world.

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4. “It’s the drama Mick, I just love it”

Zara losing her Miss GB crown. Terry and Malin falling out over toastie gate. That feminism row between Jonny and Camilla. If there is one thing Love Island isn’t short of, its the drama and we simply cannot get enough. We all know we zone out when the producers spend too long showing the dates or the heart to heart chats. Give me the tweet challenge or a love triangle any day.

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5. The Lingo.

Chivey. It is what it is. Messaggeeee. Dead Ting. Drop me out. Loyal. The list goes on. It may sound like a foreign language to many but not to you. You know the ins and outs of the Love Island catchphrase book and you aren’t afraid to use it. What would we do without Olivia introducing us to the concept of ‘Dicksand’ or Maura bringing the word ‘Fanny flutters’ back? Well, I can tell you one thing for sure, that’s not a world I want to be in.  Sorry though Lucie, Bevvy just isn’t going to work.

And with that, I bid you goodbye. Enjoy the finale. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried & we have looked on in absolute horror but it’s been a hoot. Now to go and find where I left my social life…

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When did the word ‘Influencer’ get so dirty?

Opinion
influence
/ˈɪnflʊəns/
noun
1.
the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
 
It’s a word that makes some of us cringe more than hearing the word ‘moist’ or ‘mulch’ said out loud. It’s certainly become a dirty word in the blogging and journalist community in recent years but what exactly is the stigma behind this 21st-century business model for marketing?
 
Hands up if you are someone that skips past an official ad on social media…
Keep your hands up if you still find yourself following Instagram accounts that post ads or recommendations for products…
 
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We all consider ourselves super ‘woke’ when it comes to the big green monster that is corporate advertising, a small percentage of us even use ad-blockers or incognito mode in order to keep our cookies firmly in the jar and out of targeted ad campaigns grasp but yet psychologically we do not have the same aversion to a post by Selena Gomez holding a glass bottle of coke or Zoe Sugg using her KitchenAid mixer to make a pancake recipe from her own book. One huge difference, these are posts on their personal Instagram accounts, they are “real”, or at least they feel real. So, the kings of manipulation changed their tactic and the influencer was born. Big or small, it doesn’t really matter, this is advertising and it’s delivered directly to a concentrated market.
 
The demise of the Influencer bubble seems to have started with the widely publicised Fyre Festival fiasco which tarnished the name of many a high profile celeb and brought Influencer marketing into the spotlight for questioning. I’m not sure that the wave of ‘Influencer hate’ is thrown at the likes of multi-millionaires Kendall Jenner or Emily Ratajkowski though. Whilst they certainly have influence they are not Influencers, they are models, actors or performers. Let’s be perfectly honest here when we talk about Influencers what we really mean is that circle of Instagram where Bootea is a food group and cheap, fast fashion is king (I’m looking at you Pretty Little Thing).
 
Vacuous beautiful people posting beautiful photographs of beautiful things. Did I hit the nail on the head? I can’t begin to pretend that some ‘Influencers’ aren’t just that, looking for the next quick buck off an easy upload of a protein shake that will most certainly rot your insides. In a world where we are obsessed with removing labels, we are all too happy to label bloggers, Instagrammers and social media fanatics with the Influencer label along with all of the negative connations it carries. 
 
Just researching this piece I found comments like “Influencer scum”, “freeloaders”, “one of the vainest, inefficient, unreliable jobs ever”. Do a quick Twitter search of ‘blogger’ and it’s not all too dissimilar. Yet, some of the comments I found about Influencers are written by bloggers. Oh, the irony. The main grievance seems to be the concept of Influencer marketing, not so much with brands reaching out to bloggers/influencers for collaboration but rather the other way around. Sadly there are all too many examples on social media of restaurants/brands publicly shaming people for reaching out to do a collab, many are rude and hurtful, many stories like the one in the press recently about charging Influencers double drum up hateful and often insidious comments and surely that is the real horror behind it all.
 
For generations Creatives have been asked for free work for ‘exposure’ or ‘experience’, Some of the best internships in the world are still unpaid but this power shift toward Influencers and Influencer marketing is really rubbing people up the wrong way. Again, I digress. I’m not writing this to have a Question time debate on the ‘blaggers, not bloggers’ scandal. I’m here to understand when the word Influencer got so dirty.
 
 
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Scan back to the top and read the dictionary meaning again. It’s neither a positive or negative word, stick an -r on the end though and you’re in a whole new world. Bloggers shake in their boots at anyone daring to call them by the I word, they balk at the mere mention of the word and hasten to stick it on others in big red letters. I’m taking the word back. It’s fetch and it’s going to happen.
 
Influence, as long as it is positive, is such a wonderful thing to have on a person. One post of a coffee and cake can bring tens, even hundreds of people to a local business they would have never discovered before, sharing a cool eco-friendly product can influence people to be more responsible with their shopping and a mental health post can influence someone to go and have a chat. Influence is a powerful thing, for both the good and the bad. If you are able to make an impact or influence a decision toward something good then go you!!! Social media is so often tarnished in a bad light and maybe I’m just annoyingly positive but isn’t there something very pure about a platform that gives so many people of all different opinions, creeds, races the opportunity to share their opinion? Isn’t it sad when that is torn down simply because someone doesn’t agree?
 
Please don’t sell Bootea though, use your powers for good, share things you love, rant about plastic pollution and veganism, promote lovely little independent businesses. Just don’t tear others down. You aren’t perfect, I’m not perfect, but we can all influence each other to be a little bit more so.
 
See what I did there…