Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Folly Tearoom, Norfolk

At the weekend, my friend Ayesha and I went to visit our good friend Frannie. Frannie was working at a family friend's tearoom in Norfolk for the summer and so had promised us a day of relaxing on the beach in the sunshine, followed by tea and cake at The Folly Tearoom. However, upon our arrival, our plans quickly flew out of the window and we found ourselves having a rather fabulous time, a long way from any sand.

We met Frannie at a little Norfolk pub where we were introduced to some new friends of hers. Soon after, we were invited back to theirs for a dip in their pool. Conveniently remembering my pet hate for sand, we eagerly accepted...

...and ended up at one of the most beautiful houses I've ever seen!

Not a bad place for a dip!

After a rather happy splash around, we were invited to a pool party that evening...at another estate! Feeling a little blown away at this point, Ayesh and I happily went along with the flow and found ourselves dancing (and swimming) the night away.

The next morning, after a little paddle in the pool, we went with Frannie to work and finally got to see the little tearoom she'd been raving about. It really was incredibly pretty. The whole place was kitted out in a vintage style (without being too fussy) with beautiful mix and match tea cups and cake stands. I especially loved the duck egg blue and gold theme running throughout the whole establishment. It was very apparent that a lot of care and attention had been taken in putting The Folly together, and our little Frannie looked at home amongst the home made cakes and brownies (some of which she'd baked herself!).

Ayeshie and I tucked in. I'd gone for a slice of Frannie's very elaborate chocolate cake (decorated with live flowers and glitter!) and Ayesh went for cheese scones with caramelised onion chutney on the side, all washed down with pots of tea, I have to say, the chai tea I ordered was incredibly delicious- I'd been told the teas had been specially blended for The Folly and I wish I'd asked if they'd sell me some of the tea leaves to take home with me!

Ayesh salivating over her scones

Sadly however our trip had to come to a close, partly because we couldn't eat any more, but also because the car park meter was running out... So we said our goodbyes and headed homewards.

Ayesh and I had a wonderful trip. We'd met some lovely people and had a fantastic brunch at The Folly. My only regret was that I hadn't bought my proper camera (sorry!) but needless to say, I will be going back as soon as I possibly can!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Graduation Dinner: The Brunswick, Cambridge

Last week, after three years of hard work, I finally finished my university career, graduating with a 2:1 in Law! It was a day of celebration and of saying goodbye to some of my good friends.

Earlier that morning, we'd donned our gowns and caps, transforming us into giant, smiling bats. We'd then sat through a two hour (fairly boring) ceremony, where each of the many graduates made their way onto the stage to receive congratulations from the chancellor of the university. After, we'd posed for countless photos, before entering a marquee to tuck into Pimms with strawberries and cream, little sandwiches and other rather tasty nibbles.

Jossi and I then attacked the photo-booth...

...and found balloons!

Before long however, it was nearing feeding time and so my mother and I went to find The Boyfriend and go to dinner. I'd picked The Brunswick, a restaurant in Cambridge which I'd never been to before.

We arrived around six and started with a round of mojitos in the jungle of a garden out back, while perusing the menu.

Then, we headed inside to settled down at our table and were shortly joined by our beautifully presented starters.

Don't you just want to gobble them up?

Then onto mains, where half way through my little sister called saying that she'd finally escaped the train (she's had a nightmare journey of delays and cancellations, the like of which, thanks to Sod's law, are never seen unless you need to get somewhere important, quickly!). So after I dictated the menu down the phone to her, the waiter kindly took her order and had her food on the table barely ten minutes later, just as she walked in the door!

Upon arrival, my sister entertained us with her jibs about the British public transport system while I snorted with laughter into my burger.

Before long, we were all browsing the pudding menu. My lemon tart was delicious but by the end I was struggling to munch my way through it all. Eventually, it defeated me!

The Brunswick was lovely. The staff were incredibly attentive, accommodating and, as my boyfriend pointed out to me, struck the balance well between being helpful and intrusive. The food was also all tasty and beautifully presented. On top of that, it was apparently all sourced within a rough ten mile radius of the restaurant! All in all, I really enjoyed our experience there- it rounded off my graduation day perfectly and I would be more than happy to return!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Recipe: Homemade Caramel Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Icing

This simple recipe consists of three parts. Firstly, we have to tackle making a rich caramel. Secondly,  this caramel is used to make the perfect little caramel cupcakes and finally, used to make the creamy salted caramel buttercream. Put together, you have one delicious teatime treat!

The Caramel 

You will need:
50g caster sugar
a splash of water

1. Start by coating the bottom of a large pan with an even layer of your sugar. I've found it's easier if you use a light coloured pan as you can monitor the colour of the sugar more easily.

2. Trickle some water over your sugar so that it is all wet, but not drowning in water.

3. Slowly and carefully begin to heat your pan, until it reaches a medium heat. Keep stirring the sugar and watch carefully for colour change. It should start to turn a light brown and then continue to darken. Beware! The colour can change quickly so don't abandon your pan throughout this process. You want to remove the sugar from the heat when it reaches a rich brown. However, remember that sugar retains heat and so will continue to cook when you remove it from the stove. Therefore be careful to remove it long before it burns! It is much better to be over cautious and remove the sugar a little early and have to reheat than end up with a burnt pan!

4. You will now have a pan of runny caramel which can be spooned into the cake and buttercream. If it sets a little, you can add a dash of water and gently reheat it to re-melt the caramel.

The Cupcakes

You will need:
100g brown sugar
100g self raising flour
100g butter
2 eggs
1tsp baking powder
3tsp caramel
optional scoop of caramel chunks

Note: I used my cupcake maker to cook my cupcakes to ensure they were uniform. However, if you don't have one of these, simply preheat your oven to 180C and cook your cupcakes in paper cases for 10-15mins or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. 
1. Simply bung all your ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until thoroughly incorporated. We've used brown sugar instead of the usual caster in order to give the cupcakes a richer flavour, and I like adding the extra caramel chunks for a little gooey surprise. These are widely available in supermarkets.

2. Cook!

3. Leave to cool in preparation for icing.

The Salted Caramel Buttercream

(Here comes the best bit!)

You will need:
200g icing sugar
100g butter
4tsp caramel
a generous pinch of salt flakes (I used shavings from a rather special rose pink block of salt, found in Fortnum & Mason).

1. Simply cream all your ingredients together! Your buttercream should be reasonably stiff so if you're finding it a bit runny, it could be because it needs a dash more icing sugar or it's a bit warm (which can be countered by letting it set for a little in the fridge).

2. Pipe onto your cold cupcakes.

3. Enjoy!

I have to say I am a massive fan of these homemade cupcakes- they're perfect with a pot of tea (chai is my favourite!) and a gossip!

Tell me what you think and also, what are your favourite flavour cupcakes?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Malta: Part Six

Our final day's adventures took us off to Marsaxlokk, a traditional fishing village at the south of the island. After a fairly lengthy bus journey (and some slight confusion over stops!) we found ourselves walking along the pretty sea front of the village. 

Floating in the bay were brightly coloured, traditionally hand painted fishing boats. Many of these had eyes painted on their bows, which superstition says protects the boats from danger. These little traditional boats provide the fresh fish cooked up in the numerous restaurants spaced out along the sea front.

After wandering the length of the village, we settled down in one of these little restaurants and tucked into some of the local produce, all of which tasted wonderfully fresh! 

The village was incredibly pretty and it was interesting to see how the fishermen still used the traditional boats to catch fish. However, before long, it was time to return to our hotel and hunt down dinner!

That evening (our last evening!) we walked into the centre of St Julian's and chose a restaurant called 'Zest' which turned out to be a real treat! The menu was, as far as I was concerned, perfect. Advertised as 'east meets west', it was full of sushi, Thai curries, Japanese grills and noodle-y dishes. I was in heaven!

We ordered off one of their set sharing menus and tucked in to the mountain of food which then appeared.

Firstly, an amuse-bouche and cocktails.

Then, we started with sushi, sticky chelsea buns, chicken and lamb satay, dim sum parcels and a fantastic glass noodle salad. 

Followed by a trio of thai curries (Lu had another noodle dish as well but I can't quite remember what it was!).

And then delicious deserts which included a fiery chocolate and chilli fondant with raspberry sorbet.  

I just wish I'd had more room to eat more- by the end I was bursting!

Zest was fantastic- the food amazing and the staff incredibly accommodating. They had delivered a truly wonderful last meal on Malta. 

I had a brilliant holiday visiting Malta. Not only was the island beautiful, but everyone we met was incredibly friendly and willing to share something about the island and its fascinating history. I learnt more than I could have expected from such a short stay and I would love to return in the future to find out more!