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My London 2015 Bucket List

31 Jul 2015

'When a man is tired of London, a man is tired of Life'
- Samuel Johnson

Some wise words from Samuel Johnson there.

There is nowhere else I want to be when I graduate. Of course, I have to be realistic and consider living costs and a graduate salary, but I really, really want to live in London in my early twenties. There's just no place that's as buzzing, as full of life and as full of endless possibilities. As I live just over an hour away, I've decided to write a little bucket style list of things to do and places to go before I go back to university in September. Please comment below with your recommendations if you have any, I know there are a lot of London bloggers out there!

1. Sky Garden
- Complete! You can read about it here.
We all know what it is and every blogger in existence has probably blogged about it. I can now confirm that The Sky Garden is officially BOOKED for two weeks time. Eeeee!

2. Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon
She's just great, isn't she? I absolutely need tickets to see this exhibition and I will not set foot back in Leeds for University until I have been.

3. Pillow Cinema
I don't understand how people can just 'not be a film person'. Going to the cinema is a hobby, no matter what anyone says (although I probably shouldn't write it on my CV).

4. Go and see a show 
- Bend It Like Beckham has been seen and was spectacular. My post on it is here.
I've been fortunate enough to see The Lion King and Matilda in the past twelve months, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to go to another show! At the top of my list now are High Society, The Importance of Being Earnest, Billy Elliot, and Bend it Like Beckham.

5. Urban Food Fest
Are you surprised that it took me till number five on my list to mention food? International street foods in Shoreditch car park apparently, what's not to love?

6. Sample the London Nightlife
Despite having friends who go to uni in London, I've never actually properly sampled the nightlife and I'm getting old now. Well, too old for clubbing.

7. Go on the London Eye
I think the first and only time I went on this was ten years ago.

8. The Shard
This has been on my list f o r e v e r. One day!

9. See a film under the stars
I think I might need to find myself a boyfriend for this one, but there seem to be lots of open air cinemas in London this year and I would love to try one out myself.

10. Fancy Afternoon Tea
At either Bea's of Bloomsbury, Mandeville Hotel, Selfridges or The Delaunay.

11. The Emirates Air Line Experience
Apparently there is a 'night flight experience' which happens after 7pm and you get extended time in the cable cars to see the city at night!! Fantastic!

Remember to let me know your suggestions!

Imogen x

A Sunny Sunday At Kew Gardens 'Full of Spice': Part I

23 Jul 2015
Those of you who have followed my blog since this time last year may remember my previous visit to Kew Gardens during Plantasia, which taught me a lot about healing plants, and featured a slightly peculiar but fun Barefoot Walk. I also checked out 'Christmas At Kew' in December which was lovely, colourful and all things Christmassy.

Well, this year Kew is hosting a Spice Festival called 'Full of Spice' and my Mum, Tash and I decided to drive down one sunny Sunday to see what was happening. There's a lot to do with kids but also as adults, to the point where you would definitely need a whole day to get through everything! We mainly just wondered around in the sunshine and enjoyed the pretty flowers

As soon as I got the programme my gaze landed upon the 'Gin Garden' and I ran. No, I didn't actually, that would be weird. And completely unnecessary exercise. But I did make sure we went to everything else we wanted to see via this peculiar Gin Garden. I don't really know what I was expecting and my imagination did slightly trail off into images of gin bottles hanging from branches, but it turned out to be an adorable little van serving delicious No3 Gin cocktails. Slightly more realistic than an actual garden of gin.

I went for the Royal Rose because Rose seems to be the done thing right now and I figured there must be a reason for that. Cardamon is also a winner and, as they rightly quote, the 'Queen of Spices'. It was probably the best gin cocktail I've ever had and I am determined to recreate it at home in my new mason jars.

Next stop was wondering around the Plant Family Beds, wishing that Kew was actually my back garden, and taking pictures of the most colourful of flowers. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot more to see when we went last year, but there was enough.

There were also a few things like this dotted about the gardens, with fact sheets for the different spices that you might have spotted in a supermarket or two!

We had a late lunch in the 'Orangery Restaurant' which was fantastic. It's pretty pricey there, as you would expect, but the food is delicious and reasonably healthy. In the picture is my chicken, bacon, avocado and tomato sandwich on some gorgeous bread which I've completely forgotten the name of.

I'm going to really try to motivate myself to blog more over the next few weeks. It's not a case of lack of time, it's more lack of confidence in the topics I write about and in my writing in general. I don't know whether it's because I'm an English student, or whether it's just me in general, but I tend to hate a lot of what I write and I never feel like it's good enough. Probably a lifetime of being judged on my academic writing...

So anyway, make sure to look out for Part II which will be coming up in the next few days! 

Imogen x

Simpler Than You Think: Chai Spiced Macarons

18 Jul 2015

Does the idea of baking anything other than your simple, taught the recipe when you're 10 years old, cupcakes fill you with dread? Do you avoid any baking that looks like it could be too tricky for you?

Well, I have a confession to make. Despite writing a baking blog, I'd never even attempted dough until two Christmases ago, I'd never attempted meringues until last Summer and I only braved Macarons this Christmas. Each time I attempted these slightly trickier bakes, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the first batch came out and it has encouraged me to share with you my favourite recipes for some impressive, simpler than you think recipes.

Now, I'm not saying that these kinds of things don't still require a lot more time, effort, trial and error than the classic bakes. What I am saying, is that they are possible, even if you're not a confident baker.

Take my Mum, for example, who claimed that she has 'never been able to make meringues', which I initially took to mean they were incredibly difficult to make and only worked for the most experienced of bakers. When I then attempted them myself and managed a half decent first batch, I asked Mum exactly why she thought that they were impossible. She replied by saying that she never whisked them enough. So it was a problem of lack of patience, rather than lack of skill.

Macarons are dainty, sweet, light, and impressive. You can be creative with their colour and flavour and it will only take you a few attempts to get them perfect, I promise. So, without further ado, here is my favourite foolproof recipe for Chai Macarons:

You will need:
(Based on the recipe)
4 egg whites
70g caster sugar
225g icing sugar
120g ground almonds

For the Chai Buttercream filling:
75g unsalted butter
175g icing sugar
4 tsp Drink Me Chai Spice (available in most supermarkets)
a few tsp water
a sprinkling of cinnamon

Step One. Carefully separate the eggs, being careful to make sure that you have no yolk in your mixing bowl. Pour in the sugar and whisk with an electric whisk or mixer until stiff peaks form. The way I judge this other than by appearance, is to tip the bowl over one of my family member's heads and hope the mixture doesn't fall out. If you're using food colouring then add this in and mix a bit more.

Step Two. Sift the icing sugar with the ground almonds and a pinch of salt. Carefully pour into the meringue mixture and fold gently until all is combined and the mixture is not lumpy but not over smooth.

Step Three. Pour your mixture into a piping bag with a large round tipped nozzle and pipe onto baking trays lined with baking paper. It would help to draw out some template shapes, so they end up slightly more uniform in appearance than mine! Once done, firmly whack the tray onto a surface a good few times, this will help the surfaces of the macarons to be smooth and uncracked.

Step Four. Place your macarons in the oven at 150 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until they come off the tray easily without sticking.

Step Five. To make your buttercream simply mix the butter, icing sugar and spices together and add enough water to make it a smooth consistency. Then, sandwich your macarons together.

Tip: I always put the cracked ones at the bottom so it looks like I'm an awesome baker and have baked them all to smooth perfection.

These quantities tend to make a heck of a lot of macarons, I'm talking 20 - 30 depending on the size, which is perfect for first-time bakers because you can pick the best ones to display!

If you fancy another Chai spiced recipe, then check out my yummy Chai Tea Cupcakes...

Imogen x


3 Jul 2015

Is that... an actual recipe? On 

Well yes, yes it is. If you've been following my Instagram then you will already know that since I've been back I've been very much back on the baking hype. I've been making a chocolate raspberry cake, a victoria sponge cake, pavlovas, pancakes and now a Chocolate Orange Cake. I actually only made it because I found an offer on Chocolate Oranges in Sainsbury's and couldn't physically remove myself from the store without picking up two. 

The last few weeks in France were spent at many, many cafés, restaurants and bars eating and drinking probably slightly too much. Although I have absolutely no regrets when it comes to food and drink, it did mean that my weight rocketed up and I was faced with a really tricky dilemma when back in England. Do I attempt an ultra healthy diet in order to lose the weight I put on? Or do I say what the hell and bake anyway? Obviously, I chose the latter. 

Chocolate Orange Cake

Cake Mixture
Adapted from Mary Berry's recipe
200g butter
4 eggs
200g caster sugar
200g flour
60g cocoa powder
6 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp vanilla essence

Chocolate Orange Ganache
150g dark chocolate
Zest of an orange
150ml double cream

1. Preheat oven to 180C or 160C for a fan oven.
2. Mix the butter, eggs, flour, vanilla essence and sugar in a large mixing bowl until combined.
3. Add your cocoa powder to the boiling water and mix until a smooth paste is formed, then add this to the mixture.
4. Pour into two sandwich cake tins and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
5. Make the ganache by heating up your cream to almost boiling and then pour over the chocolate chunks. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and combined. You can use it for the middle of the cake as well, or do what I did and mix up a quick buttercream with more orange zest, butter and icing sugar.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe as much as my family enjoyed the cake itself! There will be more recipes going up soon and I might even attempt some slightly healthier ones!