Full disclaimer: I actually asked Dan to take part in a Creative Showcase back in February to which he fully obliged. I can only apologise that it has taken me this long to actually showcase Dan, what he does, and why he’s worthy of a Creative Showcase of his own.
I met Dan through Tom when we first started dating seven years ago, and he’s been a close friend ever since. An extremely talented musician (guitarist, bassist & drummer), he’s usually either in a studio, on stage, or on tour somewhere. His favourite place is on the road, waking up in a different city or country every day. Currently he plays drums for AAAK (As Able As Kane) who came off a pretty awesome European tour supporting Pixies earlier this year. Not content with that, Dan also currently plays bass for Coroner for the Police. If there’s someone more heavily vested in getting involved in the art of music than Dan, I’d like to meet them.
Continuing the spirit of Creative Showcases that have come before, here’s Dan’s special piece and the story behind it:
“My chosen piece is my denim jacket. It started off looking pretty great in the first place, but I’ve added a few bits to it to make it a little bit more “me”.
“It’s made by Vans, which is my all time favourite brand or clothing and footwear. The jacket was a collaboration between Vans and Iggy Pop, released under the banner of Vans Raw Power which as some of you may know, ties in with the album Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges. I found it at the back of a clothing rail in a Vans store and it’s the only time I’ve ever seen one of these jackets.
“It’s had some alterations since I purchased it. It was originally a patch jacket but I’ve taken a couple of the originals off and added a few of my own.
“Firstly, I added a couple of Daggers for Teeth patches. Daggers for Teeth is the brainchild of a mega-cool designer called Craig Robson, in Liverpool. I met Craig at Forever True Tattoo studio at one of their studio parties and he gave me a couple of free bits and bobs including a leather key fob, which never leaves my belt! Since then, I’ve bought loads of things from Daggers for Teeth, including patches, artwork and a few other thing – go check out Craig’s stuff!
“I also added a Queens of the Stone Age patch. QOTSA are my favourite band, hands down. The design of this patch particularly suited the jacket, so I had no difficult decisions as to whether or not it was going to go on. It was a no brainer!
“Overall, this jacket really suits my style. You’ll either see me wearing this, or a leather jacket. It’s been with me all over Europe on tour in the past 12 months and I can’t see me retiring this jacket any time soon.”
When an email landed in my inbox inviting me to celebrate National Baking Week with a little ‘Get Baking for A/W14 with Topps Tiles‘ competition, it felt only natural to take up the challenge of creating an autumn-themed dessert and to really make the most of my kitchen.
Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year. I love it when I get to bring out the cardigans, filter out last year’s holey tights and generally start hankering down for the cooler weather.
My kitchen, meanwhile, is one of the best places to be in autumn and winter. The layout of our flat means that the kitchen and living room open out in one space, so all of the cooking smells and the warmth from the kitchen radiate into the living room and keep us cosy during the evenings. We get to sit at our little table with our little blue chairs that I salvaged, sanded and painted, with a couple of candles flickering away while we eat our meals as the nights draw in.
Most of all, I love that autumn brings with it most of my favourite flavours in the form of my favourite desserts. Apple crumble with custard; Latvian ginger cookies; extra chocolately brownies. They all start entering the fold of afters on the household menu. Autumn is all about the warm and the spiced desserts and these start to tick all the boxes.
But alas! More was needed for the competition. I needed to up my game. I started the search on Pinterest, searching for my favourite autumn flavours: ginger, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg. Spices and tastes that come as naturally to autumn as the leaves turning shades of orange.
After searching and pinning variety of recipes, the rabbit-hole of Pinterest finally led me to a recipe for Caramel Apple Blondies that started to feel like I was heading in the right direction. Only, the recipe needed walnuts and they’re a big no-no for a nut allergy sufferer. I had to start to think a little outside the box.
So I got to thinking. What if I replaced the walnuts with stem ginger? Pumpkin spice is hard to find in the UK, so let’s use mixed spice (which is essentially what pumpkin spice is – sort of) instead. Let’s make the apples chunky and then let’s replace the caramel with some Thornton’s vanilla fudge because it’s super tasty, and then there I had it: Fudge, Apple and Ginger Blondies.
But did it come together? Yes! I was more than blown away with how amazing these guys tasted. They have the perfect blend of textures; from the slightly tart baked apples combined with the subtly gelatinous ginger – the caramalised fudge next to the soft, spiced blondie. They’re incredible.
AND these things are versatile! We tried some when they were fairly fresh out of the oven with some Cornish clotted cream ice cream when they were still warm and ridiculously gooey. The next morning when they had cooled, they were great for cutting into squares for taking and sharing at work where they went down an absolute treat.
I couldn’t be more pleased with how they turned out.
So now, to celebrate National Baking Week and all things autumn, I bring you my Fudge, Apple and Ginger Blondie recipe! Go celebrate your kitchen and give these a bake!
FUDGE, APPLE & GINGER BLONDIES
PREP TIME: 30 MINS | COOK TIME: 40 MINS
115g (1 stick) salted butter
125g (1 cup) all-purpose plain flour
1½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
95g (¾ cup) light brown sugar
30g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg
60g (½ cup) crystalised stem ginger
2 large apples (I used Bramley)
20 fudge chunks (I used Thornton’s vanilla)
20 x 20cm (8″ x 8″) square cake tin
A large bowl and a medium bowl
A peeler and a sharp knife
Electric whisk or stand mixer
Normal whisk or fork
Silicon spatula / wooden spoon
1. Preheat the oven to 180º C (170ºC for fan oven / Gas mark 4).
2. Line your cake tin with the baking paper paper and set to one side.
3. Peel your apples and chop into 2 cm / ½ inch chunks. Chop up the stem ginger into even smaller chunks and set to one side.
3. Pop the butter in the small saucepan over medium-low heat to brown. Light brown specks will start to appear at the bottom and it’s ready when it starts to smell a little nutty and goes deeper brown colour. Remove from heat to prevent it from burning and let it cool.
4. In your medium-sized bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients: the flour, mixed spice, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
5. In your large bowl, beat together the cooled browned butter, both sugars, and egg with a hand mixer until creamy and well-combined.
6. Gently fold in the apples and the stem ginger into the butter mixture:
7. Now gently add in the flour mixture a little at a time, folding it in until just combined. Don’t overwork it!
8. In your prepared cake tin spread the batter out evenly. It’s going to be pretty chunky but don’t worry – it should rise! Set this to one side.
9. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, microwave the fudge candies in small bursts of 15 seconds until it goes gooey enough – it should be like a thick, melted sauce but not exactly runny. (I don’t have a microwave, so I popped mine in the warming oven for a few minutes until it was gooey enough!).
10. Once your fudge is soft enough, drizzle (or more like splat) blobs over the batter.
11. Bake the blondies for 40 minutes, or until golden and set in the middle. They will be super moist and soft, and a little gooey and wiggly because of the ingredients, but you don’t want them to wiggle too fluidly when they come out of the oven. A skewer through the middle of a blondie section that comes out clean should be a good indicator that they’re good to go.
12. Let cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. If you want it as a warm dessert, carefully slice and spoon out a few squares and serve with some clotted ice cream. Alternatively, let them cool overnight (if you can resist!), and then carefully cut them into squares in the morning!
If you give the recipe a go I’d love to hear how they turn out. I promise you these are well worth the effort to make!
A big thank you to Topps Tiles for inviting me to take part in the competition. I got to spend always-enjoyable time in my kitchen and discovered a new delicious dessert to add to my autumn menu. I hope you enjoy!
In an attempt to shift the few stubborn pounds I gained when we went to Crete, and to generally eat even better that we usually do, I decided to take a leaf out of Tom’s book and give the paleo lifestyle a full and proper go, at least for a couple of weeks.
Paleo is a healthier approach to eating that focuses on eating clean and eliminating refined foods, trans fats and sugar from your diet. You build your meals around lean proteins, plenty of vegetables and fruit, and getting healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, fish oil and grass-fed meat. Meanwhile you cut out grains, legumes, and, if you’re strict about it, dairy.
I’m not going to lie, it can be a bit of a pain to get your head around, but it all comes down to planning. Planning is definitely key.
As it turned out, I didn’t need to change too much of my diet. I decided to keep dairy in my diet, so it was predominantly the snacking that I had to switch out. Turns out you don’t need to constantly nibble throughout the day! It’s mad how much it reveals your bad habits and forces you to break them for better ones.
I don’t really like to think of it as a ‘diet’ as you’re eating so well that you’re not missing out. There’s so much experimentation you can do. I got back into the swing of baking last month, having been invited to a Macmillan cake and coffee morning, and I didn’t want to miss out so got to trying coconut flour as a replacement for wheat flour with some interesting results.
I had a go at making coconut flour pizza bases, and they were an ultimate disaster (no idea what went wrong!), but it was really fun to give them a go even if Tom and I went a little hungry that evening.
I then tried something a little easier to manage with some coconut flour blueberry muffins and they were delicious. Still need a few tweaks with the recipe to make them a little more moist (coconut flour needs a tonne more moisture in the mix than regular flour) but definitely a little too easy to eat!
Then one Sunday I had a rustle through Tom’s Incredible Spice Men recipe book a made a more paleo-friendly version of their meatball masala. Such a warming and flavoursome dish – I just switched out the lamb for lean mince (I’m not a huge fan of lamb) and used coconut oil instead of vegetable. Totally yum and perfect for these autumn evenings drawing in.
Over the 10 days I followed it strictly I shifted four pounds just eating better; eating right. I also had a lot more energy which I really noticed when I had a naughty weekend this past weekend. Eating sugary things and a pizza at an Italian on Friday have really taken it’s toll on me, which just means I’m even more encouraged to stick to a healthier diet.
I’ve also been giving myself an immune system boost with bimuno prebiotics that I was kind enough to have been sent to try. I got a couple of packets of their IMMUNAID which is designed to energise the good bacteria in your gut and help support your natural defences. I’ve been taking them for the past few weeks while eating healthier, and as it’s coming to the colder season and I have a fairly shoddy immune system (darn allergies!) they’ve been a nice addition to my health kick. They’re easy to take – just chew a couple after breakfast – and off you go.
As paleo goes, I think the main principles are great, but I’ve come to learn that I have to adapt it to my body and my body’s needs. As I can’t eat raw fruit, nuts and some raw veg, I did find it difficult sometimes to really make the most of the lifestyle. There are so many wonderful, wonderful resources online for if you wanted to get started with a paleo style of living and I couldn’t recommend it more if you’re wanting to maintain a healthier disposition. The recipes are boundless, but I found that quite a few were off-limits unless I wanted an epi-pen episode!
I’ve got some great paleo recipes I’ve tried that I’d like to share, but I’m also planning some definitely-not paleo recipes over the coming weeks now we’re heading into Autumn and I’m getting back into the baking groove, though I have some more coconut flour to get cracking on with too so I’m hoping to throw some of those in the mix.
I’d love to get your thoughts on whether you’ve tried paleo, or are interested in trying it? Let me know your thoughts or fire over some questions if you want. I realise this post is a little of a general waffle about the subject, but there’s just so much you could write about with paleo that I needed a place to start!
Beef brisket might be one of my most favourite things to make in the slow cooker. It never fails to be satisfying after a long day, and nothing beats opening the door to the smell of a warm evening meal being cooked with little to no effort at all.
After getting the Meat Lust Barbecue Marinade in the post, I figured that the best time to try it out would be for cooking the last meal I’d make for my sister before she went off on her 6 month travels around South East Asia. It was a Monday evening and I knew I wanted something delicious that wouldn’t need too much time spent over it when I got in from work, so it seemed like the perfect choice.
The pack itself has a recipe on it which recommends using the marinade for making beef brisket burgers, but I’m a huge fan of wraps so decided to go down that route instead. Boy, were they good!
What you’ll need for four people
780g brisket beef
1 pack of Meat Lust marinade
Mini tortilla wraps (three is a good amount each; you can get four at a push!)
Some fresh lettuce (I used Romaine)
Sauces / Condiments of your choosing
It’s such a simple recipe.
Start with your brisket beef: we had 780g between for of us and it turned out to be plenty. Tom and I have a small slow cooker that fits about 2-3 portions in and that amount of beef filled it to about 2/3 full.
Unwrap your brisket and cut any strings off it. Place it in the slow cooker and then cover with the pack of Meat Lust marinade, turning the beef around in it to get it coated. Pop the lid on the slow cooker, turn it on low if you’re planning to have it going for about 8 hours or so (which I definitely recommend) or high to get it cooking in about 4-5 hours.
When the time is up, your brisket should be browned, juicy and smell divine. Take two forks to it and gently pull the meat apart and leave it in the warm cooker.
Pop the mini wraps in a warm oven to soften, chop up your lettuce leaves into strips, and get your pickles and condiments at the ready. Then load them up!
I think my favourite thing about these is the combination of the meat and the pickles. The Meat Lust Barbecue marinade made the meat just the right amount of flavoursome without being too overpowering or sweet, and the pickles gave a great vinegary crunch and bite to the tacos.
It was an all round winner, and I think my sister enjoyed it as one of her last British-based meals before she embarked on her South East Asian adventure. I’m going to miss her tremendously, but will luckily keep in touch with the wonders of modern technology and reading the travel blog she’s started!
Meanwhile, if you give the Barbecue Beef Brisket Tacos a go let me know, or if you have any other great brisket recipes send them my way–I’m always on the hunt for new ways to flavour it, and Meat Lust was definitely a simple and delicious way to go!
For our seventh anniversary this year, I bought tickets for Tom and I to see This Will Destroy You at the Deaf Institute. Tom introduced me to TWDY years ago as he knows I like relaxed music and TWDY are post-rock on another level.
As an extension of the date night, we decided to grab some food in Manchester before the gig started, and so head off towards Oxford Road in search of a place we hadn’t yet tried out. Initially we head over to Gorilla but they were full and weren’t sure of the wait, so we wandered round the corner for our second choice, Kitchenette, and weren’t disappointed. The Kitchenette is part of the Mud Crab Industries family of restaurants which includes Grinch in Manchester and Mud Crab in Didsbury, both of which we’ve visited and enjoyed in the past.
All of the Mud Crab restaurants, Kitchenette included, are really wonderfully decorated. There’s a really nice sense of style about each of them, with laid back, modern colour scheme and some great pieces of artwork. To start, we ordered some of the Chilli Crab & Asian Slaw Tacos with mango and avocado. Ever since we visited London last year and I had some amazing little tacos in a mexican place–that I cannot for the life of me remember where it was or what it was called–I’ve wanted to try tacos on every menu I’ve seen them on. The ones from Kitchenette were really tasty, especially the crab itself. The only disappointing thing was wanting more! For our mains, Tom ordered the Duck & Sweet Potato Hash with two deep fried eggs, sriracha and lime sour cream. The eggs were perfectly cooked, just the right amount of gooey yolk and a great accompaniment to the unusual hash. Tom’s only critique was that he’d have liked to have had more sweet potato in the dish, but other than that it was delicious. I opted for one of Mud Crabs’ Hirata Steamed Buns which are an alternative to burger buns in that they’re a lighter steamed bun which lets you eat a little more of them without feeling too guilty.
I opted for the Tempura Fried Seabass as I’ve never really tried seabass with anything. It came with coriander and yuzu mayo, a little bottle of sriracha sauce, house kimchi pickle and gem lettuce. It was such an unusual dish, but so tasty! The seabass was so nicely cooked: a nice crisp batter but a perfectly flaky fish inside. You basically build the buns up with filling and go to town. The yuzu mayo was my favourite; I don’t really like plain mayo, but have always been a fan of it when it’s flavoured. I had to look up what yuzu is and it turns out it’s a citrus fruit originating in East Asia, believed to be a hybrid of sour mandarin and Ichang papeda. Paired with the sriracha and the seabass, it was delicious!
The hirata buns were a really interesting taste, in that they don’t really taste of much. It worked well because it helped to bring out the flavours of the fish, sriracha and mayo, but it’s definitely something you’ve got to get used to as the usual sweetness you come to expect from the brioche buns and sweeter burger buns that are more commonly used. Not bad though!
We ummed and ahhed about getting dessert, but after seeing the Baked Alaska, a blowtorched soft meringue filled with cookie crumbs, strawberry jam and vanilla ice cream, I couldn’t resist. It was just heaven. ‘Nuff said. Afterwards we wandered down to the Deaf Institute with very full bellies for what ended up being an amazing gig seeing This Will Destroy You.
I’d definitely head to Kitchenette again. It’s ideally located if you’re doing anything around the Oxford Road area–it’s practically opposite the Palace Theatre for a pre-show meal!
Great service, friendly staff, delicious food. All good stuff, and a perfect venue for a date night or a catch up with friends & family!
Tom and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy last week, and I got hooked on the soundtrack. It’s filled with some great 70s and 80s songs that fit in with the film perfectly.
I thoroughly recommend going to see it if you can. I’m a big fan of the Marvel comic films, but Guardians of the Galaxy may have pipped the post as my favourite so far. It had a really fun, Firefly kind of feel about it, and was packed with action, humour and also some great tender moments.
I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack and actually recommend listening to the soundtrack and then having a go at starting a Spotify radio based on it. It ended up being the best radio I’d ever had on Spotify.
I recently got introduced to Behance at work and keep finding myself scrolling through pages and pages of amazing designs in awe at what’s there. I happened to stumble across 826 Valencia Pirate Supply Store‘s recent new design identity in collaboration with Office in San Francisco and couldn’t resist sharing it here.
I particularly like the “Beards are the New Black” poster and the miniature spy-glass, and I love the fact that all the products are sold in an actual independent store dedicated to pirate supplies! It’s an odd venture, but for a good cause – the store runs in order to benefit the free programming that happens at their writing-tutoring center at 826 Valencia and in classrooms all over San Francisco. I’m big on promoting and encouraging reading and writing skills, so this struck an inspiring nerve with me.
Here’s how the project came about, according to the Behance project profile:
“Office collaborated with 826 Valencia, a nonprofit tutoring center for youth, to reinvigorate its storefront, which houses San Francisco’s only pirate supply store. We developed the store’s new identity, and conceptualized and designed nearly 50 new products. “Office has produced some of the most ravishing and funny buccaneer supplies yet known to man,” said Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia founder and McSweeney’s editor. Reflecting the store’s wildly imaginative experience, the products represent 826’s mission to support creative expression. All proceeds directly benefit 826 Valencia’s writing programs.”
Such an inspiring and fun venture. You can listen to the 826 Valencia founder, Dave Eggers, give a TED talk on his inspiration behind the project. It’s great stuff.
If ever make it to San Francisco I’ll be sure to hunt this place down for a visit.