Chilli Mac & Cheese

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Happy Monday (and Happy 1st of July!)!  Here’s a recipe to bookmark for later, because – well – firstly, Mac & Cheese isn’t exactly the kind of thing to be scoffing in the middle of summer, is it?  It definitely falls under the category of cold weather comfort food; it’s perfect for gloomy, November night’s in rather than a sticky, July suppers scoffed alfresco – right?  (Although, honestly my appetite knows no season, and – besides – you never know when the Welsh Weather’s going to trip you up…) And secondly, it’s two recipes in one!  Definitely one to keep up your sleeve. 😉

Chilli is one of my absolute favourite meals to make because it’s a one pot wonder that’s easy to whip up mid week when I’m feeling too tired to cook and tempted to reach for that takeaway menu.  It’s also perfect for batch cooking; the recipe makes more than enough to sort both one dinner and a couple of lunches for the week.  Make it meaty with beef mince if you like, but I actually prefer the veggie version using Quorn Mince.  I’ll usually serve it up with some rice, grated cheese and sour cream (my husband likes to add a couple of crushed nachos to his too for some extra crunch), but it’s also pretty fabulous served up on a bed of gooey, super-cheesy Mac and Cheese.

I feel like Mac and Cheese gets a bit of a bad rap from all those cardboard microwave versions (bleugh!).  I mean it only takes a little extra effort to make it yourself, and it tastes so much better!  Especially if you use the right kind of cheese.  Lucky for me, the guys from Dragon Wales (who make my favourite vintage cheddar – my fridge is always stocked with a block!) sent me a lovely little hamper full of their brand new range of cheeses, including a Maple Smoked Cheddar that was born to make the smokiest, creamiest cheese sauce for Mac and Cheese. 👌

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Chilli Mac & Cheese (serves 2 – with plenty for leftovers!)

Ingredients

For the Chilli:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 350g mince (sure, beef’s traditional, but I personally love Quorn mince)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 500g tomato passata
  • 225g black beans
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ancho chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • chopped fresh coriander
  • salt and pepper to season

For the Mac & Cheese:

  • 100g macaroni
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated (I really like Dragon’s new *Maple-Smoked Cheddar)
  • 100g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 200ml milk
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. To make the chilli, heat up your olive oil in a deep pan – then add the diced red onions and fry on a medium heat until they’re glossy.  Add the garlic and fry for one minute.
  2. Next, add the mince and fry it for a couple of minutes until brown, then add the bell pepper and black beans.  Add the chipotle paste, honey and passata and stir until combined.  
  3. Season the chilli with the paprika, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and chilli flakes – then turn down the heat, whack on the lid and allow the chilli to simmer for twenty five minutes.  If it’s looking a little dry, pour in a little cold water.
  4. Once it’s cooked, you can stop there, season it with salt and pepper and serve it up with some fresh coriander, rice and sour cream… or you can keep the lid on and whip up some Mac and Cheese to scoff it with! 😉
  5. To make the Mac and Cheese, first get your macaroni boiling with some salt.  While it’s cooking, grab a fresh saucepan and gently heat the butter until it’s melted.  Next, add the flour and whisk to make a roux (fancy-pants term which basically means a sauce base). 
  6. Keeping the heat down low, slowly pour in the milk and whisk until everything’s combined.  Add the grated cheddar, season and stir to make a lovely, thick and cheesy sauce. 😉
  7. Stir in the cooked (and drained!) macaroni, then serve up with the chilli and fresh coriander.  Yum!

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Have a great week everyone!  And thanks to Dragon Wales for the lovely cheese!  💛💛💛

*This post isn’t sponsored, but contains gifted items.  To find out more about what this means and to read my disclaimer, click here.

How to Organise your Life using Instagram

How to Use Instagram to Organise Your Life - The Cardiff Cwtch

Okay, I know, I know!  You’re looking for more reasons to step away from Instagram – not towards it.  But hear me out.  If you’re like me (i.e. OBSESSED) then it’s probably one of the first apps you open up and choose to have a quick scroll through first thing in the morning – y’know, during those ten or so minutes in bed after the alarm has gone off but before you’ve resigned yourself to crawling out and facing the day.  Whereas Twitter is the go-to for up-to-the-minute news and the latest talking points (kind of like ye olde newspapers – remember them?), Instagram – on the other hand – is the glossy magazine alternative; the place to go for (mostly) real lives, viewpoints and stories, holiday spots, styling tips and food.

As a teenager, I loved cutting up magazines.  Once I was finished reading the latest issue of Marie Claire, Glamour, Seventeen or Mizz (yikes, remember Mizz?!) I’d get snippy with the scissors – flicking through and cutting out my favourite pictures, from clothes to quotes, to photographs of food I wanted to make and faraway places I wanted to visit.  I’d blue-tack them all to the walls of my bedroom (permanently pock-marking the paintwork and forever putting me in my Mum’s bad books…) – and it was a kind of my own mood board, and a scrap book of ideas; Instagram and Pinterest before they even existed.

Nowadays, I can just use Pinterest and Instagram – and I do!  And while Pinterest is great when I’m on my computer or tablet, I wouldn’t dare put it on my phone (buh-bye monthly data allowance!).  Instagram on the other hand is far more portable.  It’s not just a social media app or a tool I use to promote my recipes and my blog, but now that you can create collections of saved photos it’s also become a handy tool to organise my ideas, interests and inspirations.  Much like Pinterest, I use it to collect recipes that I fancy trying out, outfits I want to recreate, places I want to visit, as well as photos that I love – all to create my own little mood board to inspire my own photography.  If you’re on the app all the time then you might as well use the features to help make life easier, right?

If you’ve never heard of the save function on Instagram or have never used it, then hold tight; I’m going to show you how to use it, and how I use it to organise my life!

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How to Save/Bookmark Photographs on Instagram

Scrolling through Instagram, if there’s a photo that you really like the look of – whether it’s an interesting outfit (ooh, I fancy getting a coat like that), or a recipe you really fancy – you can save it to your own private collection.  All you have to do is click the little bookmark symbol in the bottom right hand corner.  No one will know that you’ve saved it, so don’t worry about feeling like a creep!  Just clicking it once will save it, but if you hold down, then a little menu will pop up at the bottom of the screen, giving you the option to organise that photo into a specific folder that you can label yourself.

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To see your collection of saved photos, head to your profile page and click the little symbol made up of three horizontal lines in the top right hand corner.  A menu will slide out and from there you’ll be able to access your saved photos by clicking “saved”.

This is where you can get as creative and as organised as you like!  What you save and how you save it and organise it is entirely up to you – but here are a few collections I like to keep.

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Midweek Meal Ideas

I’ve got quite a few collections of recipes that I’ve stumbled across on Instagram (I’m a food blogger, after all!).  I’ve got a collection full of recipe ideas for Christmas, and one full of desserts, but the one I keep on adding to and tend to dip into the most is the one I’ve labelled Midweek Meals”.  I love cooking, but sometimes coming up with something to cook in the middle of the week when I’m knackered and tempted to call in a takeaway is TOUGH.  So what I like to do is save some ideas from the food accounts that I follow on Instagram – that way, I’ve always got something up my sleeve when I come to plan my meals for the week and can’t think of anything to cook. 


Holiday Rec List

Before I go away somewhere – whether that’s a city break or a beach holiday – I like to create a new collection on Instagram full of ideas on places to visit and to eat!  Before Sunny and I flew out to Vancouver last year for our Canadian Roadtrip, we knew we were only going to have a day at most to explore the city and so we used Instagram to decide what we wanted to see and where we wanted to eat.  By doing that, we found this tiny, tiny Taco Bar for dinner that we never would have known about had it not been for photos of their crazy cocktails and tacos on Instagram.  It’s such a great way to plan a trip – or even collect places you’d like to go in your own Home Town!  Plus, you’ll always – hopefully – have your phone on you – and with the added locations and maps feature, it’ll be like having a curated and personalised guidebook in your pocket! 🙂

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DIY and Interiors Projects

I’ve been thinking about giving my office a little bit of an overhaul recently and so I’ve created a collection full of ideas on how I’d like to decorate it.  Instagram is full of interiors and DIY accounts as well as brand accounts selling home furnishings.  So as you can see, I’ve saved lots of photographs of home offices, storage ideas, lamps (gotta find that perfect desk light!) and even colours for the wall via the Pantone and Farrow and Ball accounts!

Seasonal Outfits

I follow a lot (A LOOOOT) of fashion accounts because I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to creating outfits for myself.  I organise any fashion posts that I save into Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter collections – so everything’s easy to find.  Not only are these collections great for creating outfit mood boards and collecting ideas for outfits, but I use it to inspire my future wardrobe.  If I can see that I’ve pinned a lot of white blazers in my summer collection, then I know that that’s perhaps something I’d like to add to my wardrobe next season.  By scrolling through what I’ve saved, I can get real idea of which styles I tend to like and might like to buy into, and also how to wear them!

That’s it! Have you ever used the save function on Instagram?  Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

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!

Snapshots from Tenby

Snapshots from Tenby / Dinbych y Pysgod

It’s absolutely crazy that Tenby is less than two hours away by car from Cardiff (…a little less if the roads aren’t bad around Carmarthen and you don’t get stuck behind any coach-trippers), and yet, the last time I went down there was on a Brownie Pack Holiday (as a Brownie, I might add – it was that long ago).  We stayed in this massive guest house around Castle Rock, wore jelly shoes to explore rock pools on South Beach, and made kites out of plastic bags from the local spar and a couple of sticks (these were the days before Pinterest, you know).  They didn’t work – surprise, surprise.

A few weeks ago, Sunny and I did a bit of a road trip out west to Pembrokeshire to see the puffins on Skomer Island and decided to make a little pit-stop in Tenby.  I totally forgot how pretty Tenby is!  From the painted Georgian Townhouses, massive harbour and beautiful sandy beach – it’s no wonder it’s been the favourite seaside holiday haunt of people like George Eliot and Roald Dahl, and it’s kind of criminal that I don’t head down there more often to be honest! 🙂

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Have a lovely week! 🙂

Why we all want to be a bit more Villanelle (minus the murder)

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My husband and I always tend to have our most deep and meaningful conversations in the car.  It makes sense; you’re wedged together for anything from a few minutes to a couple of hours where at least one person isn’t allowed to scroll the time away on their phone.  Conversation is going to happen, and when you’ve known each other for ten plus years, it’s not going to be about the weather.  In between mini-arguments over who’s Spotify Playlist has got the best mix (mine, obviously), bouts of road-rage and scrambling around to find that fruit pastille I dropped between my legs (it was a black one, no!) – we tend to get a little deep.  Last weekend – road tripping back from West Wales – we somehow got onto the subject of murder.  “Could you ever kill a dog?” I asked.  “No, never – not unless it was in pain,” was our united stance on that one.  Even then, I’d struggle and sob myself silly; I couldn’t even bear the thought of it, because, well… dogs.  And then we played that game you always play when pondering moral dilemmas; you go to the most extreme situation you can think of.  I shrugged my lips, “Alright then, could you kill a person?”  

Now before you start thinking that my husband and I are psychopaths who spend every single car journey plotting murder, I should probably explain that we don’t.  We’ve just been watching waaaaaay too much Killing Eve.

It’s back this weekend for Season 2; are you as excited as I am?  I’m so ready for another helping of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s razor dagger-sharp script-writing, more scene stealing fashion and two of the most complex, well-written female characters on the box (three, if you include Fiona Shaw’s Carolyn – which I totally think you should because she’s awesome).  But mostly because, finally, more Villanelle!  Played by the brilliant and beautiful Jodie Comer, she’s become a bit of an unlikely icon and – yikes, dare I say it? – role model?  Probably not for the cold blooded killer bits, but for just about everything else.

I mean, there’s a reason why tailored suits are everywhere at the moment, along with frou-frou pink tops and dresses (who can forget that psychiatrist scene from Season 1?).  And it’s not just the fashion, it’s her playful, devil may care attitude that we’re all hooked on; she does and wears whatever the hell she wants, speaks her mind, and is as tough as the Balenciaga Biker Boots she stomps around in.  There’s a beautiful brutality to her that I think we all fancy injecting a little of into our own lives – whether that’s wearing something eye-catching and extravagant, to telling someone exactly what you think of them.  To their face, with a serene smirk.  Sorry not sorry, baby.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge explained in an interview that crafting the character of Villanelle (originally created by the writer Luke Jennings in his book Codename: Villanelle) came from continually asking herself the question, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”  And I think that’s the question we should all probably be asking ourselves every day in as many variously worded ways as possible.  It’s the only way to acknowledge the fear holding you back from being the most explicit and honest version of yourself, and then shake it and be that person – devil may care. “What would I wear today if I wasn’t afraid of being stared at?”, “What project would I take on at work if I wasn’t afraid of failing?”, “What would I say to that person if I wasn’t afraid of being rejected?” ad infinitum.  As long as the question isn’t, “Who would I kill today if I wasn’t afraid of being caught?” then you’re golden.

Killing Eve is back on BBC One this Saturday at 9.15pm.  Smell you later.  🔪