5 Things I’ve Been Loving Lately

My January and February Favourites, from books, to food, to TV…
Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden

It’s been a while since I’ve done a bit of a round up of all the things I’ve been enjoying lately – and what better day to show a little love for my daily loves than on Valentines Day? I mentioned in this post that I enjoyed a very slow, quiet January of self care and gratitude for the little things that make me smile every day, and February has started in much the same way… just with a few more plans scribbled into the ol’ diary and goals for the year ahead. I saw a meme going around saying that January 2020 was a free trial month – well, now I’m officially subscribed and ready to go. Anyway, here are a few things that I’ve been really enjoying lately. 🙂

Pho Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch

Pho

I can thank my husband for this one. We’re both big fans of Asian Food – ramen in particular – and a few weeks ago he stumbled into Pho looking for something different to take back to the office for his lunch. He came home that night gushing about the bowl of awesome sauce that he ended up slurping down at his desk, insisting that I had to try it – and that I’d love it more than Ramen. Challenge accepted.

If you’ve never tried Pho before (pronounced “Fuh”), then it’s basically a Vietnamese Noodle Soup with lots of fresh herbs and vegetables including bean sprouts and coriander. It is a lot like Ramen, but it’s lighter and fresher.

Anyway, we popped to Pho on a date night, I ordered the Spicy Chicken Pho and – whaddya know? – I did love it. And now I’m obsessed. I had a craving for it the other night and picked up one of the Blue Dragon Pho Meal Kits and it was a pretty good dupe for what I had at Pho.

Pho Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch - Spicy Chicken
Les Parisiennes - Anne Sebba - The Cardiff Cwtch

Parisiennes

You guys know how much I love Women’s History – my shelves are packed full of biographies about History’s most badass babes – and early in January I ended up watching Inglorious Basterds for the hundredth time (I’m also a big Tarrantino fan FYI) and kind of fell down a French Resistance hole. I picked up “Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s” by Anne Sebba to read up a little bit of what it was like for the women of Paris under the Nazi Occupation during World War 2, and so far it’s been a really interesting read. Lots of stories of survival and bravery – as well an interesting dive into why women chose to collaborate with the Germans. I’ve nearly finished reading, if you want a full review, let me know in the comments.

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

I feel like I kind of escaped the dreaded winter skin until recently. It’s been a really mild winter until the past couple of weeks where the weather’s been a bit whacky, and in terms of my skin? Everything suddenly started to dry out and give up. (Thank God for the Elemis Facial I had last week!) I’ve had to double down on hand creams, lip balms – and I’ve even had to fish out the old anti-dandruff shampoo. But in terms of my face, I’m actually doing okay – and I think that’s all down to this tub of magic.

I mentioned the Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base in my Best of the Decade Skincare post – I had a small tester of the stuff after picking it up at a Bobbi Brown Makeup Masterclass last year, and completely fell in love with it. A couple of weeks ago I decided that I couldn’t live without it and bought a tub of the stuff. It’s gorgeous stuff. It smells like grapefruit, smooths on over my usual moisturizer, and as well as sinking into the skin quickly and creating the perfect base for my makeup (and a lot more staying power), it also provides an extra boost of moisture. Also, you don’t need a lot of it – a small blob goes a long way!

Patriot

I don’t know about you, but I’ve kind of been stuck in TV limbo recently – there’s been absolutely nothing to watch. Vikings is limping towards its finale (it’s just not as good as it used to be), I’m patiently waiting for the new season of Outlander to start (can’t wait!), and for Westworld to return… but in the mean time, it’s been slim pickings. And that’s meant that Sunny and I have been spending night after night of scrolling through the TV Guide/Prime/Netflix trying to find something – anything!- to watch. PAINFUL. And then we stumbled on Patriot. No, not the cheesy Mel Gibson flick.

Patriot is unlike anything I’ve ever watched. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s weird – and those are all boxes I like ticked when it comes to TV. The series follows John, who works off the books for the Government (for his Dad) as a spy. He’s asked to get a job for a company that send their employees overseas to sell piping in order to prevent some kind of arms deal with Iran (…or something, I’m a bit sketchy on the deets). But John’s father uses him like a machine when all John really wants to do is sing country music (he writes his own songs which often feature sensitive spying info). Anyway, he gets into all kinds of sticky situations having to pretend to be an employee of a pipe company (most notably from the bloke he pushed under a car in order to steal the job from him in the first place…!), all the while continuing to work as a spy. Definitely worth a look if you fancy something a bit different.

Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden Catch

Morning Walks

Simple, but probably my favourite daily love at the moment: taking Bungle into the field for his morning walk. Until recently, Sunny and I have been walking him on the lead around our village – which is fine for Sunny, but not so much for me because Bungle just doesn’t behave on the lead. He pulls, he lies down, he humps… it’s a struggle. Anyway, just before Christmas Bungle put on a few pounds and so we decided that he needed to run a bit more, rather than just settle for a stomp around the block. I’ve been taking him in the field to run off the lead every morning and – as well as being far easier – it’s quite possibly one of my favourite parts of the day. Bungle loves it, I love it – and we’ve scored some pretty funny burst shots out of it to boot! 🙂

Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden Catch Fetch

Happy Friday, guys! Enjoy the Valentines Day weekend whatever you’re up to! ♥

Blood Orange Caramel Upside Down Cake

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Firmly on the Blood Orange bandwagon and no sign of jumping off.  Sorry not sorry.  How was your Valentine’s Day?  Did you celebrate?  Do you celebrate?  I didn’t even get a card, you guys.  Sunny was really busy working in London all day, and to be honest we don’t really celebrate it.  Doesn’t mean I wasn’t just a teeny bit jealous when I watched one of my lovely neighbours squealing over the massive bouquet that turned up on her doorstep… but whatever!  Although, to be fair, Sunny did take me to the opera over the weekend, and since he was willing to sit next to me and endure three hours of Mozart being screamed at him, I think we can call it even… Also, he never gets a chance to buy me flowers because I’m always buying them for myself! 😉

I guess it’s those little gestures all year round that really count, right?  Like, Sunny always walks Bungle on a Saturday morning so I can have a lie in.  He always lets me have the extra cream egg when we buy three (not that he’d really have much choice on that one…).  He de-ices my car and fills up the screen-wash when it’s running low, and he knows how to pull me out of a rut.  My little gestures tend to be food-related; I’m a total feeder.  Last week I made this really easy upside down cake and topped it with blood oranges.  It’s sticky and sweet, and if you choose the juiciest blood oranges then you’ll get the prettiest topping.  The hardest part is making the caramel – but really, as long as you’re not tempted to stir, it’s a doddle. 🙂

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Blood Orange Caramel Upside Down Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 Ripe Blood Oranges, thinly sliced
  • 125g Butter
  • 125g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 100g Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 50g Ground Almonds
  • 100ml Buttermilk

For the Caramel:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 75g butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 100ml of water
  1. Set your oven to 170° and grease a silicon baking tin (I used a heart shaped one because, Valentines Day!) – it’ll make things easier when it comes to flipping the cake.  Sprinkle with a little flour and then set aside.
  2. Make the caramel by putting your caster sugar in a saucepan with water.  Bring it to the boil on a medium heat without stirring (don’t be tempted!).  Once the sugar has all dissolved and the mixture has started to turn a lovely tawny, amber colour – stir in your butter.  As soon as the butter has melted in, pour the caramel into the bottom of your cake tin.  Now, evenly layer your orange segments on top.
  3. Hard part’s over!  Now to make the cake, you’re going to cream together the butter and the sugar in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the egg.
  4. Now, in a separate bowl sift together most of your dry ingredients; that’s the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.  Combine with the wet ingredients.
  5. Stir in the buttermilk to make a light batter, and then pour it into the tin over the orange and caramel base.  Smooth over the top, then bake for 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).  Leave to cool.
  6. When you’re ready to serve, flip your cake so the caramel and orange base is on top.  Serve with cream… 🙂

Have a great week!

Blood Orange and Rosewater Curd

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You know me, I’m a big fan a bowl of oats in the morning.  I wouldn’t dare call it boring, but hey, I’m always looking for new ways of livening my morning porridge up a bit, y’know, without chucking a load of chocolate in the bowl ;-).  Well, it’s Blood Orange season – one of my absolute favourite fruits.  They’re great on their own, but they’re even better when they’re in an upside down cake, on top of muffins, or used to make a pink icing for donuts, and it turns out that they make a pretty great curd too.

This Blood Orange Curd would be great in a cake, but a hefty dollop makes a great topping for a hot bowl of porridge.  It’s got a strong, citrus taste (as you’d expect) which is sweetened slightly by the addition of a little rosewater.  Just in time for a Valentines Day breakfast in bed. ♡

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Blood Orange and Rosewater Curd

Ingredients

  • zest and juice of three blood oranges
  • 1 tsp of rosewater
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter (melted, then cooled)
  • 4 egg yolks, whisked
  1. Sterilize a large jam jar with boiling water, then set aside.
  2. Whisk together all the ingredients in a saucepan, then cook over a low heat.  Keep stirring gently for about ten minutes, or until the curd begins to thicken.
  3. Pour into the sterilized jam jar and then leave to cool.

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For more Valentines recipes, check out this post.  Happy Valentines!

Mini Nutella Palmiers

Nutella Palmiers

Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day!  Or, for the uninitiated, Welsh Valentines Day!  I went into a little bit more detail on why exactly we celebrate Valentines Day a little earlier than the rest of the world here in Wales in this post (along with a little recipe for Blood Orange Doughnuts 🙂 ) – but it’s basically a Game of Thrones-esque story about a time when Kings had 24 daughters and princesses routinely ran off into the woods and turned their lovers into blocks of ice.  As you do.  😉

For me, I celebrate it in much the same way I’d celebrate Valentines Day; I hunt down a non-soppy card and hand it to him first thing in the morning along with something sweet that I’ve baked.  This year we’re heading off on a little road trip for the weekend so I wanted to make something bite-sized that we can scoff in the car – so I made these sweet little Palmiers filled with Nutella.  They’re as easy to make as rolling some puff pastry and cracking open a jar of Nutella (something I’m very, very good at…) and almost look like hearts… well, I tried! 🙂

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Mini Nutella Palmiers

Ingredients

  • Ready-made Puff Pastry
  • Plenty of Nutella
  • Icing Sugar
  1. Roll out your puff pastry until it’s about half a centimeter thick and then cut off the rough edges so your sheet is shaped like a rectangle.  Thinly spread (and rarely do I use the word “thinly spread” when Nutella is concerned…) your Nutella over the sheet, making sure you go right up to the edges.
  2. To roll your palmiers, think scroll; carefully roll each end into the middle until you’ve got what looks like a rolled up scroll.  Pop it in the fridge to chill for an hour, and then cut it into rounds about a centimeter thick with a sharp knife.  
  3. Spread the palmiers out evenly on a baking tray and then bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 220°.
  4. Leave to cool, then dust with icing sugar.

Nutella Palmiers

Happy St Dwynwen’s Day!

10 DIY Foodie Gifts for Valentines Day

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“If music be the food of love, play on”, so famously wrote a certain Mr Shakespeare, and while music definitely has the power to shuffle my mood, food is capable of doing just as good a job.  So what better way of treating your favourite someone this Valentines Day (or Galentines Day!) than to cook up something sweet (or spicy!) for them?  So, if you’re like me and feel that food is the uh, food of love… then scroll on 😉

1. Chilli and Red Pepper Jam

Simple to make, these jars of spicy jam make great DIY presents all year round and are perfect with cheese, or even drizzled on sausages, burgers and even homemade chips.

2. Blood Orange Glazed Doughnuts

Blood Oranges are in season right now, and are perfect for making a very Valentines appropriate pink glaze for these mini ring doughnuts.

3. Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can’t go wrong with a fresh batch of cookies, especially when they’re crisp on the edge and gooey in the middle like these ones.  They’re flavoured with mint and chocolate, but the recipe is easily adapted for any filling you fancy!

4. Orange and Almond Loaf Cake

A perfect bring-along treat for Galentines Day, this simple almond loaf cake has a bright pink, blood orange glaze.

5. Marshmallow Teacake Cupcakes

Remember those chocolate and marshmallow tea cakes from when you were a kid?  Well here they are in cupcake form – only with the boring biscuit bit ditched in favour of cake!  What’s not to like?


6. Chocolate Orange Flavoured Welsh Cakes

If you’ve got any chocolate oranges hanging about in your cupboard (…is that even possible?), then why not chop up a few segments and put them in these heart shaped Welsh Cakes?

7. Praline and Chocolate Dipped Madeleines

Madeleines are normally flavoured with lemon, but these are a little bit fancier dipped in chocolate and hazelnut praline.  Easier than they look, they’re a great little treat to box up and gift to your favourite people.


8. Bakewell Tarts

Everyone loves a good tart (…steady now…) and Bakewell Tarts are one of my absolute faves.  This recipe makes two individual tarts that would be perfect as a dessert if you’re planning on cooking a special dinner on Valentines Day.

9. Brigadeiros (Easy Chocolate Truffles)

These are dangerously easy to make, and easily adapted too!  Just combine condensed milk, chocolate and butter in a pan and heat to combine.  Leave to cool then roll into these bite-sized balls.

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10. Lemon and Gin Blondies

I’m not sure whether it’s true that Blondes have more fun, but these bite sized lemon and gin-flavoured Blondies are a zesty alternative to Brownies. 🙂

Happy Valentines Day everyone! ♡