A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Making Welsh Cakes For St. David's Day

Having munched our way through many a pack of Tan y Castell's finest Welsh Cakes, we decided to have a go at making our own.  We found our recipe on the trusty BBC Good Food website here.

You'll need the following ingredients:-

*  225 g plain flour

*  85 g caster sugar
*  1/2 tsp mixed spice
*  1/2 tsp baking powder
*  50 g butter cut into small pieces
*  50 g lard cut into small pieces plus extra for frying
*  50 g currants
*  1 egg beaten
*  splash of milk

Since I didn't have baking powder, we used self-raising flour and we substituted the lard for butter, but this didn't affect the recipe in the slightest.

Add the flour, sugar, mixed spice, baking powder and a pinch of salt into the bowl.

Rub in the butter and lard with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.  Then add in the currants and work the egg in until you have a soft dough with the consistency of shortcrust pastry.  If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of milk.  We had to add quite a bit of milk to our mixture.

Once you have your dough, roll it on on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of your little finger. Use a 6 cm cutter to cut out the cakes.

Grease a flat griddle pan or frying pan with lard (we used butter) and put on a medium heat.

Cook the Welsh cakes in batches for about 3 minutes each side until golden brown.

The Welsh cakes will stay fresh in a tin for a week.  If you don't eat them all in one go, that is!


Friday, 27 February 2015

Embrace Your Floral Side This Spring

I love this Vivienne Westwood Red Label Agency Dress in a stunning floral print which is new in for SS15 and it's inspired me to inject a little 'floral' into my wardrobe.  

Decorated in a scribble check with what is described as a 'Trompe-l'oeil' style floral print, it's an edgier way to wear floral without looking too 'mumsy'!

Vivienne Westwood Red Label Agency Dress
Vivienne Westwood Red Label Agency Dress - £995

The dress is made from a comfortable cotton stretch weave and has an internal corset to help give you a feminine silhouette.

Or what about this gorgeous bag?

Vivienne Westwood Beaufort 6653 Small Envelope Cross Body Bag
Vivienne Westwood Beaufort 6653 Small Envelope Cross Body Bag in Powder - £270
This faux croc bag in powder leather features Westwood's signature gold orb detail, has a mains compartment with a zipped pocket and logo plaque detail and a detachable strap so that the bag can be used as a clutch.

Both these items are in store now at Vivienne Westwood, Cardiff.

But just in case your budget doesn't quite stretch, there are plenty of floral alternatives on the high street.

Lipsy Floral Print Shift Dress
Lipsy Floral Print Shift Dress - £60 at Next Online

Fashion Union Floral Sleeveless Shirt Dress
Fashion Union Sleeveless Shirt Floral Dress - £24 - at Next Online

Missguided Floral Dress
Button Through Crepe Swing Dress Black/Floral - £25 - Missguided
Oasis Amelie Dress
The Amelie Dress - £75 - Oasis

Red Herring Light Pink Patent Clutch Bag
Red Herring Light Pink Patent Asymmetric Clutch Bag - £12 reduced from £15 at Debenhams

Asymmetric Flap Clutch River Island
Pink Panelled Asymmetric Flap Clutch - £25 - River Island
Top Handle Across Body Bag Marks & Spencer
Top Handle Across Body Bag - £35 - Marks & Spencer
Love Moschino Pale Pink Small Clutch
Love Moschino Pale Pink Small Clutch Quilt Cross Body Bag - £99 - House of Fraser
Happy shopping!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ideas For A Mother's Day Mani With Nella Milano

Mother's Day falls on Sunday 15 March this year and already I am thinking carefully about what to get my mum and mother-in-law (the Husband needs some strategic prodding), plus what exciting items to put on my 'list' for the kids. 

This generally results in a hot cross bun and a cup of tea in bed prepared by the Husband under instruction from Caitlin and Ieuan, said bun being duly eaten by the pair of them with me having to brush spiky crumbs from the bedding for about 15 minutes afterwards.

Nella Milano

Anyway, over the next couple of weeks I will be bringing you one or two ideas with which to treat your mum and first up are these lovely nail varnishes from new label Nella Milano who I am reliably informed, were the darlings of London Fashion Week Show's end party.

Independent label Nella Milano offers stunning colour rich nail lacquers that are "effortlessly stylish, elegant and long lasting", taking inspiration from the Italian fashion capital of Milan. 

The varnishes are long lasting and there is a gorgeous range of colours which should please those of us that like something a little funkier on our nails than light pink.

For the more adventurous mum Nella has bright yellows, zingy oranges and verdant greens in their popular Four Seasons range that retail at £8.95 per bottle.

Nella Milano Four Seasons Collection
The Four Seasons Collection - Evergreen, Lemon Sherbet, Chilli Blaze & Crystal Coral

The Amador collection colours range from girlie pinks to the vibrant 'Fiery Flamenco'.  

This collection includes soon-to-be classics such as the subtle 'Pinkiefield' to the audacious 'Cheery Bon Bon', as well as three other bang on trend colours.

Nella Milano Amador Collection
The Amador Collection - Cheery Bon Bon, Sweetie Darling, Pinky Ponk, Pinkiefield and Fiery Flamenco

Nella Milano Cheery Bon Bon
Cheery Bon Bon - £8.95

Nella Milano Pinkiefield
Pinkiefield- £8.95

Nella Milano Fiery Flamenco
Fiery Flamenco - £8.95

If your mum loves her lilacs and purples you won’t go wrong with Nella’s Forget-Me-Not and Tyrian ranges of delicate lilacs and punchy purples and hues of blue. 

I love the head turning deep violet shade of Madame Pompadour and a Royal Affair which is a rich and sumptuous purple.

Nella Milano Madame Pompadour
Madame Pompadour - £8.95
Nella Milano - A Royal Affair
 A Royal Affair - £8.95

I particularly love that each varnish comes with its own back story.  For example:-

"Pinkiefield - Nella loves the gig and the gentle, easy-going pink of her Pinkiefield nail lacquer. 

There is not one man who doesn't want to dance with Nella and there is not one woman who doesn't want to borrow her light pink nail varnish".

"Madame Pompadour" - Nella wants to turn heads with a show-stopping look for a big night out. 

She knew that the deep violet had just the right head-turning, dramatic decadence for a bold appearance worthy of the red carpet!

At £8.95, these beautiful varnishes are reasonably priced and a little piece of London Fashion Week fabulousness.  (I can only assume the kids shredded my invite).

And besides, how can you fail to love a label that names one of its varnishes "Pinky Ponk".

Nella Milano varnishes are available from nailpolishdirect.co.uk.

*PR samples were received for the purpose of this post.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Pasta Masterclass with Gennaro Contaldo at Jamie Oliver's Restaurant, Cardiff

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to learn the art of pasta making and Italian cookery skills from the legendary Gennaro Contaldo, Jamie Oliver's business partner and one of the BBC Two's "Two Greedy Italians", the other being Antonio Carluccio. 

A restauranteur, chef and author of long standing, Amalfi born Gennaro has lost none of his passion and enthusiasm for cooking. "I am a cook", he says,  "but I am a chef when I need to be". 

He is accredited with teaching Jamie all he knows about Italian cookery and regularly appears on Saturday Kitchen,  BBC One's weekend food show.

Gennaro Contaldo & Pasta Protegees!
The Jamie Oliver restaurant chain is going from strength to strength, with 35 UK outlets and with plans to open internationally. At his masterclass in Jamie's, Cardiff, Gennaro told us how his and Jamie's philosophy is to make good food affordable and available to everyone. 

Gennaro has a particular fondness for Wales because he says 'all the ingredients are here', excellent fish, flavoursome vegetables (particularly leeks) and a wide range of funghi (which are a particular passion of his).

Each dish at Jamie's is carefully constructed with health and flavour in mind, for example, gluten free pasta is now available as a matter of course. 

Jamie Oliver's restaurants have a family friendly ethos (as you would expect from an authentic Italian background) and the children's menu offers organic sustainable fish fillets organic chicken and sausages.  

Fresh fruit or ice cream is available as a dessert for them.

Jamie Oliver's Restaurant, Cardiff
The restaurant is light and airy with an atmosphere which encourages good conversation and lingering over a cappuccino.  

In fact, the Husband and I had only eaten there a week or so ago, greatly enjoying the daily special of Slow Cooked Belly Pork. 

Funnily enough I had not had the pasta there, until today when it quickly became clear that I have been over-cooking tasteless shop bought pasta for years!

Gennaro (who incidentally as of 2014 holds the Guinness World Record for the most ravioli made in two minutes, assembling 24 parcels to beat Gino D'Acampo's previous record of 22), made a batch of fresh pasta with breathtaking speed. 

He assured us we could do the same using the simple ingredients of 150 g 00 flour, 50 g semolina and 2 medium sized eggs.  (You can watch Gennaro make pasta here).
Mix eggs, flour and semolina for pasta dough
Mix by hand
Of course, given the number of covers Jamie's copes with each day, a pasta machine is used for speed but the dough mix is the same.

The Pasta Machine

Then it was our turn and I was quite proud of my tagliatelle nest. Much better than my attempt at being a barista at Wyndham Tea Room at the CoffeewithCurrys event!  

A proud culinary moment!
Before we were whisked off into the kitchen, we had an opportunity to ask Gennaro some questions and, of course, mine was a subject dear to my heart, how to encourage children to eat healthily. 

Having children of a wide range of ages, from grown up to eleven, and seeing how Jamie encourages his children to eat, Gennaro suggested blending vegetables into the passata for a pizza topping but, in general, recommends creating an atmosphere where children learn to love and appreciate food.  

His philosophy is that cooking is a form of love;  we show our children love when we invest in the time to cook fresh, healthy ingredients; to make our own pasta; to sit down round a table and share a family meal time.  

He believes that when we take the time to educate ourselves about cooking, we create a legacy for our children to pass on. 

"Imagine",  he said, "taking your children to a restaurant and them saying, mama you make better pasta at home". [Believe me I was imagining this with all my might!] 

Then it was into the kitchen to show his students how delicious, healthy, family meals could be assembled in minutes.  Yes minutes.

Take a selection of fresh vegetables & herbs
Gennaro created three dishes for us, a tagliatelle with tomatoes, chillis and basil, a spaghetti with a trio of mushrooms (button, oyster and porcini) and cod with white wine, pancetta, anchovies, capers and tomato accompanied by crusty bread.  

Of course the pasta was the fresh pasta we had just made.  

Incidentally, the recommended portion sizes for adults are 74 g of uncooked pasta and around 46 g of uncooked pasta for children.  

The restaurant portions served are bigger though, to satisfy the appetite of the hungriest pasta lover.

Each dish was full of flavour, whilst tasting fresh and light.  

The pasta was served al dente, literally cooked in a couple of minutes (note to self: not boiled to death in a saucepan).  

The garlic was chopped into quite generous slices rather than finely chopped or minced - again for its health-giving properties. 

The tomatoes were roughly chopped. 

The cod was simply seasoned and fried in olive oil for a couple of minutes.

Tagliatelle with Tomato & Basil
We learned that olive oil should be extra virgin and not to worry about using it because it is much better for us than butter.  

Also, tomatoes should not be kept in the fridge.  

No idea why I do this but Gennaro says it makes them taste like cucumber.  

The deliciously earthy tasting Spaghetti with a Trio of Mushrooms

Three amazing dishes in a matter of minutes
Then it was time for lunch and it was difficult to know which dish to choose first. 

The tomatoes with the tagliatelle were sweet but added a welcome bite,  the mushroom spaghetti was deliciously earthy and the cod melted in the mouth.

Far away from the standard tea time fare of fish fingers and baked beans prone to appear in the Hobbis household and cheaper and quicker to assemble too.  

"Have you tried pasta with truffles?"  Gennaro asked, brimming over with passion for his dishes.  

We admitted we hadn't and within about four minutes flat, he reappeared with yet another tasty dish.

Tagliatelle with Truffles
In a way, this dish captures Jamie's and Gennaro's ethos about good food being made available to everyone at a reasonable cost. Gennaro told us that a comparable dish in London would cost around £45 but here it was around £12 for a main sized portion and £6 for a starter sized portion.

Our time with Gennaro was at an end but as we parted, he reminded me of his philosophy for cooking for children. "When you cook for your children, it's about love, education, passion".

Love.  Education.  Passion.  And pasta.  Lots of pasta.

For further information about Gennaro Contaldo, please visit www.gennarocontaldo.com. Information about Jamie Oliver's Restaurants can be found at www.jamieoliver.com.  Gennaro's latest book, Slow Cook Italian was released on 5th February 2015.

*post contains affiliate link


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Rainy Day Chic

It's freezing and windy. Yesterday the kids and I got caught in a huge hailstorm which covered the roads with icy hailstones and stung our faces as they bounced off us.  I'm hopeful that the weather will soon improve but I definitely think a full length coat or mac is in order.

Hayden Panettiere in trench coat
Hayden Panettiere

Anne Hathaway in trench coat
Anne Hathaway

The trouble with wearing short jackets, however warm, is that your legs still get soaked.  I'm thinking of investing in one of these beauties, particularly the trench coats which seem to be so popular with the celebs.

Karen Millen Denim Effect Trench
Karen Millen Denim Effect Trench - £299

Boden Rainy Day Mac
Boden Rainy Day Mac - £119

Joules Woman's 100% Waterproof Parka
Joules Woman's 100% Waterproof Parka, London Bus (Longer Length) - £129 

Barbour Skipper Coat
Barbour Skipper Coat - £329

M&S Limited Edition Collared Neck Belted Mac
M&S Limited Edition Collared Neck Belted Mac - £79

Belstaff Georgina Parka
Belstaff Georgina Parka - £650

LK Biker Zip Mac
LK Biker Zip Mac - £59 - Marisota
Simply Be Joanna Hope Daisy Jacquard Coat
Joanna Hope Daisy Jacquard Coat - £95 - Simply Be 

Topshop Cotton Trench Coat
Cotton Trench Coat - £79 - Topshop
There is so much choice out there.  Which is your favourite? 
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