Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream

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Okay, I’m well aware that it hasn’t exactly been “Ice Cream Weather” recently (it’s been so wet and windy here in Wales the past couple of weeks that I’ve had to dig my winter coat back out of storage)… so let’s call this post aspirational, shall we?  Mind you, I grew up slurping down Joe’s Icecream cwtched-up in the back of the car with my Mum and Mamgu parked up on the front in Mumbles in the dead of winter so I can’t say the weather’s ever really stopped me, so…

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that making ice cream is difficult – or that you need a special machine to do it – because they’re having you on (and trying to stop you from creating your own never ending supply of the good stuff…).  There are a lot of complicated recipes out there that involve creating the custard base with eggs, or stirring the mixture every hour as it freezes (ugh)… but this recipe?  It’s EASY.  Too easy, in fact.  All you need is some double cream and condensed milk, and with some restrained whipping you’ll have yourself a simple ice cream base that freezes like a dream (no need to break your wrist when it comes to scooping!) and can be flavoured any way you like it.

Since the weather’s been a bit… autumnal, I added some marshmallow fluff and toasted marshmallows to mine to make this Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream – which I bet would be absolutely awesome served up between two cookies as a kind of Smores Ice Cream Sarnie.  Yum! 😉

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Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 600ml double cream
  • 400ml sweetened, condensed milk
  • 100g marshmallow fluff
  • 200g large marshmallows (plus a few more to serve!)
  1. This recipe is so easy, it’s practically criminal.  To make the ice cream base – grab a mixing bowl and whip up your double cream (whip it good) until it’s nice and thick and forming stiff peaks (if the cream becomes foamy and starts to separate then you’ve whipped too much!).  
  2. Pour in the marshmallow fluff and condensed milk and whip until everything’s combined.
  3. Next, toast your marshmallows.  It’s completely up to you how you do it; you can either pop them in the oven under the grill until they start to brown and bubble, or you can (carefully!) scorch them with a blow torch.  Set them aside for a few minutes to cool down – then mix them into your ice cream!
  4. Pour the ice cream into tubs, then freeze for at least five hours.  Serve up in cones, or between a couple of cookies (yum!) or over grilled peaches with a couple of scorched marshmallows and toasted nuts on top. 🙂

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Have a great week!

How to Visit the Puffins on Skomer Island

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I finally managed to tick off the top spot on my Welsh Bucket List over the weekend and went to visit the Puffins on Skomer Island.  I hadn’t exactly been putting it off, but I’d always kind of set it aside as a tricky one to do given the fact that Skomer Island is way out west and the Puffins are only actually on the island from late April to early August.  But then last weekend, Sunny and I decided to go on a little a Pembrokeshire road trip and since we were going to be in that neck of the woods then we decided that we’d be idiots not to try and take the boat to Skomer too.  It was a really early start and involved a lot of driving back and forth between the hotel and the dock along narrow country lanes just to get a ticket – but it was SO WORTH IT.  Seeing the Puffins (which my Dad calls Welsh Parrots) for the first time was pretty magical – they’re such adorable little birds – and watching them flutter back forth from the sea to their burrows with fish for their Pufflings was such an amazing thing to see – and catch on camera!  I came back with over a thousand snaps on the camera SD card and plans to do the trip all over again (and again) – so get ready for Puffins-a-plenty! 😉

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About Skomer Island

Cut off from Pembrokeshire by the choppy waters of Jack Sound, Skomer Island (Ynys Skomer) is home to the largest Puffin colony in Southern Britain, the preferred nesting spot for half the world’s population of Manx Shearwaters and home to lots of other seabirds and wildlife – including grey seals, dolphins, glow worms and toads.  The whole island is protected – as well as the waters around it – and the only way to visit is by taking the fifteen minute boat ride from Martin’s Haven between April (when the wildflowers start to bloom and the puffins return) and October (when the grey seals have their pups).

Obviously the main reason I wanted to go was to see the puffins (and honestly, I could have watched them all day!), but there was so much more to see.  The coastal path over the cliffs around the island – full of bluebells and sea thrift – was beautiful, but we spotted seals chilling out on the rocks when we docked up and even saw rabbits and owls in the middle of the island.  It’s such a beautiful place 🙂

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About the Puffins

Atlantic Puffins arrive on Skomer towards the end of April each year to breed in the burrows on the cliff edges around the island (most of them dug by the rabbits!).  They spend their days fluttering back and forth between the island and the sea bringing sand eels to their Pufflings, who leave the burrow and fledge towards the end of July.  No one really knows what the puffins do the rest of the year when they’re out at sea; they tend to fly alone and are kind of difficult to pin down.  Puffins mate for life, but more out of ease than anything else!  They’re creatures of habit who like the familiar after all those months at sea; they like to return to the same island, the same cliff face and even the same burrow – so taking up with the same mate just makes things easier!  Once the Puffins find their mate, they spend a little time sorting out their burrow and billing (rubbing their beaks together – a Puffin snog), before the female lays one egg – which takes about 40 days to hatch.

Once a Puffling comes along the parents divide their time between fishing for food, protecting the burrow (the great black-backed gull is their biggest predator on Skomer), chatting with passing Puffins and making sure they look their best!  Puffins are apparently a bit vain – they spend hours spreading oil and making sure that not a single feather is out of place!

There are over 10,000 breeding pairs of Puffin on Skomer Island (I feel like one of the wardens said that there were 30,000 this year, but I might be wrong – their numbers are certainly increasing on Skomer since they seem to love it there so much!) and most of them can be found on the grassy cliff tops between South Haven and The Wick.  It’s not hard to find them; they’re constantly criss-crossing the footpaths to get to their burrows. 🙂

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Tips for Visiting Skomer

If you fancy seeing the puffins for yourself (or the grey seal pups in October) then do it!  It’s such an amazing day, and definitely worthy of its top spot on my Welsh Bucket List.  If you do plan on making the trip, do your research first (as there’s a little more to it than just turning up) and check out my top tips below…

1. Be prepared to get up early to get your ticket!

If you go on trip finder then you’re sure to find hundreds of reviewers complaining about the backward ticketing system and the fact that they made the long trip to Martin’s Haven only to miss getting a ticket.  Here’s the thing; Skomer is protected – for good reason – and only 250 people are allowed on the island on one day to keep it that way.  Three boats head over every day at 10am, 11am and 12pm from Tuesday to Sunday from April to October, and when the Puffins are nesting, getting a place on one of those boats is practically a sport.  You can’t book a ticket online, you have to wing it, turn up on the day and buy one from The Lodge in Martin’s Haven when it opens at 8.30am.  Because of this, some people start queuing from 5am(?!) to make sure they get one!  We’d read up ahead of heading down there ourselves and joined the queue at 6.45am (the queue was already long enough to fill the first boat and half of the next!).  The ticket office opened up at 8am (which sometimes happens if there’s enough of a queue) and we managed to get a ticket on the 12pm boat – and the last ticket went to a lady from Swansea who told us she turned up to queue at 8am.  Sure, it’s a pain queuing outside at the crack of dawn – but worth it to get on that boat.

Make sure you come with change – the way it works is that you buy your landing ticket in The Lodge for £11 (£5 for kids), and then pay for your passage by boat to Skomer on the dock in cash for £11 (£7 for kids).  If you’re driving, then you’ll also need to pay £6 to use the all day car park (once you’ve got your ticket, you can come and go).

2. Keep an eye on the weather

Unfortunately, you can turn up at 4am and queue for four hours only to be told by staff at 8am that the boats aren’t running!  There’s only one place to dock up on Skomer, and due to the treacherous waters around Jack Sound, if the wind is moving from the north then the boats can’t dock.  Plan ahead!  Keep an eye on the weather forecast and the Skomer Island Boat Information Twitter Feed to see if the boats are running.

3. Be prepared to wait!

Say you’ve queued up and have managed to get a ticket for the 10am boat – you’ve still got at least an hour and a half to wait until you actually get on that boat.  And that waiting time just goes up depending on which boat you’ve booked onto.  We bought our tickets at about 8.30am for the 12pm boat – so we had hours to wait before we needed to be down by the dock.  Luckily, we’d factored that waiting time in and drove back to the hotel for breakfast! 🙂

4. Bring a packed lunch

There’s nowhere to buy food or drink (only bottled water) on Skomer Island – so make sure you bring a packed lunch along with you.  You’ll be on the island for approximately five hours – so make sure you’ve got enough food and drink to keep you going!

5. Bring waterproof layers and sun cream

As I said, you’ll be on the island for around five hours and there’s almost no shelter or shade – so if it’s hot then you’re going to burn, and if it’s raining then you’re going to get very wet!

6. Dogs aren’t allowed!

Dogs aren’t exactly a sea bird’s best friend, so unfortunately they’re not allowed on the island.  However, you can do a boat trip around the island (a good option if you don’t manage to get a ticket!) and apparently you can take dogs on that.

7. Be prepared to climb

There are 87 steep steps up from the dock on Skomer, and a lot of the paths around the island are narrow and rocky.  Also, be prepared to be on your feet for most of the five hours that you’re on the island; there are delicate burrows everywhere and so – quite rightly – visitors are asked to stick to the paths and not to sit – just in case they plonk down on top of a burrow.  It’d be heartbreaking to crush a poor Puffling – so keep your butt off the ground until you reach The Old Farm, where there’s a lawn, toilets and places to picnic.

8. If you want to see the Puffins, turn left

I’ve heard that some guides tell you to head right towards the farm once you’re off the dock, but if you want to see those Puffins take the left path towards South Haven and then on to The Wick – that way, you’ll see them first and then have lots of time to see the rest of the island and then come back later if you like!

9. Puffin Crossing!

Kind of goes without saying, but be respectful towards the Puffins – it is their island after all.  As one of the guides told us when we arrived on the island, Puffins don’t pose – if you see one hovering around with fish in their beak then you’re probably blocking their path to their burrow and their hungry Puffling!  Step aside and let them pass before they get mugged by those thug seagulls you see hovering around.

10. Take Binoculars

Not vital, obviously – the Puffins are easy to spot, even if you’re short sighted – but if you want to get a good look at the other wildlife on the island then it’s worth packing a pair of binoculars.  The Manx Shearwaters all nest on the cliff face, so they’re hard to spot with the naked eye, and if you head to one of the hides in the middle of the island then you might spot owls hunting for voles.

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You can find more information about visiting Skomer Island on The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales website.  I’ve also popped up a little video of my trip Way Out West over on Instagram.  Have a lovely week!

Mexican Eggs Benny

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I’ve always kind of shied away from ol’ Eggs Benedict.  I’ve gotta say, I’m not the biggest fan of mayonnaise (that’s putting it mildly; come within ten feet of me with the stuff and I’ll whip out a crucifix and holy water) – and hollandaise sauce is pretty much a relative of the white stuff. Also, I’ve always been a bit nervous about making it myself.  I mean, combining egg yolks and hot butter whilst simultaneously poaching another couple of eggs to perfection is not the kind of stress I’m after on a Sunday morning.

Who knows what the hell possessed me to give it a go a couple of weekends ago, but after a bit of trial and error I found a really easy way of whipping up the hollandaise sauce – and I even livened it up a bit with some lime juice and chipotle paste.  Tada!  Really easy, stress free and scrumptious Mexican Eggs Benny (…Benito?).  I’ve served them up on a simple slice of toasted sourdough bread here, but they’d be even better with a layer of smashed avocado, salsa and bacon.  Banging! 😉

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Mexican Eggs Benny (serves 2)

Ingredients

For the Smoky Hollandaise Sauce:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • Juice from half a lime
  • 1 tsp of chipotle paste
  • 115g butter
  • salt and pepper

To serve:

  • Four poached eggs (check out my egg poaching tips here)
  • Sourdough bread, toasted
  • Chopped chives
  • salt and pepper
  1. To make the hollandaise sauce, blitz your egg yolks, lime juice and chipotle paste in a blender until combined. Next, melt your butter in the microwave and then very slowly pour it into the blender while it’s blitzing on a low setting.  This is a cheeky way of making the sauce without having to worry about faffing around on the hob and having the eggs scramble because the butter is too hot.  It works a treat, and allows you to set the sauce aside while you poach your eggs and toast your bread.
  2. To serve, heat the sauce for a couple of minutes on low on the hob – always stirring – then pour over your poached eggs and toast.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with some chopped chives. 🙂

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If you fancy watching a video of me whipping up this recipe, then check out my IGTV here.  Have a great weekend! 🙂

How to Make Smoothie Bowls

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So, here’s the thing.  I’ve been absolutely, bladdy awful at getting in my five a day recently.  Truly terrible at it.  I mean, I’d say I get about half that; I’ve never had trouble sneaking a healthy portion of vegetables into my dinner, but for the rest of the day, anything goes.  Fruit just isn’t what I go for when I want a snack.  Five doughnuts, no problem.  Five (squared) custard creams, easy mate.  Five pieces of fruit?  PASS.  I’m not sure what happened, because the truth is I’ve always really loved fruit – and when I do actually make the effort, I really enjoy eating it.  But over the past couple of years – either out of laziness or bad habit – I’ve just stopped reaching for it, and I’ve really noticed a change in my skin and my energy levels because of that.

I’ve been making it my mission recently to find easy ways of sneaking in those missed portions of fruit, and I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that breakfast and the mid-afternoon munchies are when I’m more receptive to scoffing a bit of fruit instead of dipping into the old biscuit tin.  So I started making the odd smoothie bowl for breakfast as a way of rekindling my love of fruit and – d’you know what? – I’ve enjoyed making them so much that I’ve even occasionally swapped out my lunchtime egg on toast for one!  They’re easy to make, can be prepped ahead of time and there are so many different flavour combinations that it’ll be a long, long time before you get bored of scoffing them.  Oh, and did I mention that they’re pretty? 😉

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The Idea

You’ll probably have seen smoothie bowls all over either Pinterest and Instagram and shrugged them off as essentially pretty but pointless – a lot of faffing around for something designed to be inhaled first thing on a Monday morning before you fly out the door.  They’re basically a bowl of blitzed fruit (and sometimes added flax seed or protein powder), mixed with fresh yoghurt (or a dairy-free alternative) and topped with more fresh fruit, nuts and granola. But they’re not as time-consuming as they look; the blended base recipe can be prepped and whipped up the night before, or even frozen for the week ahead.  That way, all you need to do is mix it into your chosen yoghurt and then add whatever toppings you fancy.

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The Basic Base Recipe

The base recipe is simple – provided you’ve got a blender handy – and uses only a handful of ingredients.  It’s adaptable; so if you’re not a banana fan then substitute it with 80g of another fruit, and the yoghurt can be swapped out for any dairy-free alternative (personally, I love coconut yoghurt).  You can also add in protein powder and/or flax, hemp or chia seeds if that’s your jam.  Once you’ve got the base figured out, you can mix it up and get creative!  As mentioned above, it can be blitzed up the night before or on a Sunday when you’re prepping your meals for the week ahead – letting you hit snooze on your Monday morning alarm! 😉

Ingredients (serves one)

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of your chosen fruit, chopped and frozen
  • 1 tsp runny honey, agave or maple syrup
  • 100 ml chosen yoghurt
  1. In a blender, blitz the banana, fruit and honey together on a low setting until the mixture resembles ice cream.  If you’re prepping ahead of time and plan on freezing the mixture now’s the time – just pour it into a portion size ziplock and freeze.  Just remember to pop it in the fridge to defrost slowly the night before you intend to eat it.
  2. Once you’re ready to serve up the smoothie bowl, mix in the yoghurt until smooth and combined – then add toppings.  Easy!

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Toppings

When it comes to toppings, there are so many different ways you can go – but a combination of fresh fruit, seeds and/or nuts and some kind of cereal or granola works really well – especially if you flavour-match your fresh fruit with whatever fruit you’ve put in your base recipe.  If you’re feeling particularly extra, you can even pop a couple of edible flowers on top or some grated chocolate.

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Recipe Ideas

By swapping out the base fruit and yoghurt flavour and then adding different combinations of toppings there are literally thousands of different recipes you could come up with.  But here are three I’ve been enjoying lately to get you started… 🙂

Pina Colada

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of fresh pineapple
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 100 ml coconut yoghurt 
  • Topped with: sliced, fresh pineapple, dessicated coconut, poppy seeds and marachino cherries.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

  • 2 large bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 100 ml toffee yoghurt
  • Topped with: sliced bananas, raspberries, pecans and raisins

Strawberry Bakewell

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of fresh strawberries and raspberries
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 100 ml almond yoghurt
  • Topped with: fresh strawberries, almond granola, dried cherries, white chocolate dots, poppy seeds

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Have a smoooooth(ie) week! 🙂

5 Eggcellent Egg Recipes

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Happy Easter Monday!  Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend enjoying the beautiful weather and scoffing plenty of eggs – whether they be the chocolate kind, or the regular kind!  Speaking of which, I bloody love a good egg.  We go through boxes and boxes of them in my house; I use them for baking, for brunches and lunches… and even Bungle’s a big fan – he gets a boiled egg with his dinner every night.  So, with that in mind, I’ve scrambled together (…see what I did there?) five of my favourite egg recipes, from pink poached eggs to pavlova. 🙂

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1. Hair of the Dog Shakshuka

Eggs in Purgatory, Shakshuka… whatever you want to call it, this is breakfast comfort food done right.  This recipe kind of reminds me of the “Wake Up Juice” that Marty McFly feeds to Doc Brown in Back to the Future Part III when he’s passed out in 1885 (one of my favourite movies of all time!).  It’s got a punch that’ll put you back on your feet after a heavy night out!  The egg and crumbly feta are just the kind of comfort food you need when you’re hungover, while the vodka, lime and chilli flakes give it a bit of a zing.

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2. Perfectly Creamy Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs was the first “meal” I learned to cook for myself; it was pretty much my go-to lunch whenever I came home early from school.  I was using exactly the same method (two eggs, splash of milk, knob of butter, stir) until recently, when I decided I could probably do better.  I’m talking super creamy scrambled eggs – so rich that you can forego the obligatory slice of toast.  And, after doing a little research and experimentation I think I’ve got it down.  All you need are two eggs, a tablespoon of butter, and a tablespoon of sour cream (…and a pinch of black pepper if you’re into that).  The trick is to whisk together your eggs and sour cream first, then melt the butter in a deep, nonstick saucepan on a low heat.  Pour the egg mix in and then use a silicone spatula to gently shove the eggs around rather than scramble them.  Serve them up BEFORE they set.  Yum! 🙂

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3. Halloumi Hash

You just can’t go wrong with a heavy helping of Halloumi Hash!  It’s one of those meals that’d work for breakfast, brunch or dinner since it’s got a little bit of everything.  Aside from the necessary potatoes and chunks of halloumi, fill it out with whatever veg you fancy – or whatever you’ve got in the fridge!  And of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a fried egg on top. 🙂

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4. Pink Poached Eggs

I’m going to be absolutely clear on this one; this recipe is purely for the ‘gram.  There’s nothing out of the ordinary here – bog standard eggs, bog standard toast and a little bit of spinach and seasoning – the only thing that’s different is that the egg is pink!  There’s absolutely no culinary reason to make your poached egg pink – it won’t taste any different to a normal poached egg – but, it’ll definitely bring a smile to your face. I mean, isn’t everything better when it’s pink?  The trick is to use beetroot juice instead of the water you’d usually use to poach your eggs and – voila! – pink whites!

If Poached Eggs are your nemesis, here are some tips:

  1. Crack the egg into a small bowl or dish rather than straight into the water.
  2. Use a deep frying pan – it’ll give you more maneuverability.
  3. If you really want to cheat, crack your egg into a very lightly greased square of clingfilm and then twist to seal – it’ll keep all the whites together (but obviously won’t work for for the above recipe!)
  4. Crack your egg into a sieve to get rid of all the wispy white bits before you put it into the water – that way you’ll get a nice neat egg!
  5. Use a dash of white vinegar in the water to keep your whites together, or – if you’re only poaching one egg – try the whirpool method (swirl the water, then plop your cracked egg in the middle).

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5. Pina Colada Pavlova

You weren’t expecting that, now were you?  But hey, it’s a recipe that makes utilizes the whole egg (no more wasted yolks!); the whites are used for the meringue and the yolks make a lovely pineapple curd.  If there’s one thing I remember about dinners in my house as a kid, it was the prepacked meringue nests my Mum used to buy from Sainsbury’s to make impromptu pavlova for afters (sorry, Mum, I know… I meant “pudding”).  So I thought I’d give it a go from scratch and make a pina colada flavoured one complete with pineapple curd, coconut cream and a healthy splash of rum.

Have an eggcellent week everyone! 😉