Eating well during the covid-19 lockdown

I love cooking and baking so being at home due to the covid-19 pandemic is giving me plenty of opportunity to do more than usual. I always take a homemade lunch with me to work but there is something much nicer about eating at home rather than out of a lunch box. Here’s what I had for lunch today:

Baba ghanoush

Baba ghanoush (or ghanouj) is a delicious aubergine dip that I first tried in Australia of all places, despite it being a Lebanese dish. It’s really easy to make and keeps for a good while in the fridge, developing in taste as the days go on.

  • 4 aubergines
  • 1 tablespoon of tahini
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • ground cumin
Start by halving the aubergines and scoring the flesh, being careful not to go through the skin. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and cook for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees (c) or until soft and brown.
Once the aubergines have cooled, scrape out the flesh into a food blender and add all of the other ingredients. If you don’t have a blender, you’ll be able to do it by hand as the aubergine flesh is very soft. And that is all you need to do!
Garnish with some chilli flakes (or powder if you don’t have any) and parsley.

Flatbread

No dip is complete without something to dip in it, so I tried my hand at making flatbread for the first time. Don’t be put off if you’re not a great bread maker like me, I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe and I can safely say it isn’t called ‘easy flatbreads’ for no reason.

I used 200g of plain flour (the recipe says to use self-raising flour – oops!), 200g of natural yoghurt and half a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix together to form a ball then knead for a minute or so on a floured surface. Separate the dough into small balls and roll out into circles (I rolled mine out to about a 5mm thickness). Using either a griddle or frying pan, cook the flatbreads on each side for a few minutes. No oil needed but I think I’ll add a bit of salt next time.

Guacamole

Who doesn’t love guacamole? I suspect you have your own way of making it, here’s mine. I very much make it to taste, rather than specific amounts of this and that so add a little more or less depending on your taste.

  • avocado
  • lime
  • fresh coriander
  • ground cumin
  • red chilli (which I didn’t have today 😭)
  • salt and pepper

Hope you enjoy!

 

Stay safe!

Homemade fruit and nut bites

I’m on a mission to be kinder to the environment and am always looking for ways to reduce my carbon footprint.

Nakd bars have featured fairly regularly on my shopping list for the past few years and I have no idea why I haven’t just made them. They do, after all, only contain five ingredients and the box very handily (is that even a word?) gives the percentage of each one so you can easily make up the exact recipe.

They are the simplest things to make – just blend everything together!

Here’s how mine turned out; they taste exactly the same but have a softer (and quite frankly, nicer) texture. I rolled them in desiccated coconut because they are rather sticky otherwise.

 

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I feel pretty ashamed about the amount of packaging I have unnecessarily contributed to landfill and would love to know if anyone else makes their own snacks or treats! Let’s swap ideas!

Amy

Low tox living

I recently bought a book on low tox living. It’s about trying to reduce the amount of chemicals in your life; be it from your diet, makeup or cleaning products. I have had so many messages about it on Instagram, from both people already ‘low-toxing’ and others wanting to, that I thought I’d write a blog.

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About a year ago I went to an evening class to learn about making household cleaning products using essential oils. Before this I had had a bit of a taste of using kinder cleaning products, like Tincture, but generally had a collection of bright coloured, toxic looking cleaning products from the supermarket underneath my sink. When I got home from the class that night, I chucked it all out and haven’t looked back. Here’s some of the stuff I use at home:

General purpose cleaner

This is the easiest thing to make – I use an essential oil concentrate from doterra and just add water. It’s as simple as that! You should keep anything with essential oils in dark glass (anything else affects the oils, apparently), which you can pick up easily on Amazon here. You can see from the picture below that the concentrate lasts well; you only need a couple of table spoons for each 500ml bottle. Oh and because it has clove, rosemary, orange peel and cinnamon bark oils in it, it smells like Christmas #winning.

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For kitchen hobs, glass and mirrors

  • 30 mls white vinegar
  • 200 mls cool boiled water
  • 25-30 drops of oil (I use lemon)

You can use whichever flavours you want, I think in my next batch I’m going to try eucalyptus, peppermint and orange. You might want to play around with the amounts a bit too, so your cleaner doesn’t just smell of vinegar. A word of warning for those of you who are lucky enough to have a marble kitchen worktop – vinegar damages marble so don’t use this cleaner on it!

Facial cleanser

  • 60 mls liquid Castile soap
  • 180 mls water
  • 10-15 drops of oil (I use eucalyptus and tea tree)

I use muslin cloths with my cleanser and am glad to see the back of my old cleansers and toners, which I have since discovered made no improvement to my skin anyway. I am also glad to no longer be using face wipes – have you watched Fatberg? O.M.G. – if this doesn’t put you off face/baby wipes nothing will. Catch it on More4.

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£4 in Boots

I didn’t feel like I could write this blog without talking (typing!) about food. I’m a really passionate foodie and just hate eating processed food out of plastic packets. I try my best to grow a few bits, with varying success, but I make all my meals from scratch as I really believe you are what you eat. I like to spend Sunday mornings doing a bit of batch cooking for the coming week, so here’s what I’ve been up to today.

Fruit compote

Compotes are a great way of using up fruit that is starting to shrivel up. Don’t worry about amounts, just chuck it in and simmer it down to the consistency that you want.

  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Zest and juice of an orange

Butternut squash and chickpea tagine

This is one of my favourite recipes from a Persian cook book that I have – Sirocco. All you need to do is fry off the onions and garlic in the spices, add the butternut squash and then put it all into tagine/casserole dish and cook. I’ll like to leave it cooking for a few hours, but it’s ready in one.

  • 2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 heaped teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into cubes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons harissa
  • 3 tablespoons clear honey
  • 2 x 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 400g chickpeas
  • 250g apricots
  • Seasoning
  • Lemon and parsley to serve

Et voilà!

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I hope you’ve found this useful/interesting. I’ve read a couple of chapters of the book and the next thing on my hit list is nail varnish, watch this space!

Amy 😊

 

Paris je t’aime

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that I recently went to Paris (#sorrynotsorry for the picture spamming!). I have been a few times before but never had enough time to do it justice, so off I went by myself (!!) for 3 days of just me and the city. I stayed at the Hôtel National des Arts et Métiers, a boutique hotel in the 3ème arrondissement found courtesy of my Cereal City Guide. Location and view are usually top of my list when it comes to choosing accommodation and I wasn’t disappointed. Oh and add wooden windows to that list, I was pretty much sold on this hotel by the windows.

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My perfect parisien balcony at Hôtel National des Arts et Métiers

 

 

Let’s talk about breakfast. Paris isn’t exactly short of cafés and restaurants but I’d like to share with you the amazing Holybelly. This place has two establishments tucked away on 5 and 19 Rue Lucien Sampaix in 10ème. It’s one of those places that has a simple menu but absolutely nails it. I went to Holybelly5 and hand on heart had one of the tastiest breakfasts I’ve ever had. They also do a wicked coffee and have Macaulay Culkin on their WiFi cards – what’s not to love! I should also mention that the staff are awesome; it seems a rarity these days for places to get the right balance between being attentive but not overbearing.

 

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Paris is brimming with stunning architecture and national moments, the most famous of course is Le Tour Eiffel. It took more than 2 years to build and really is an incredible feat of engineering. €10 will buy you a ticket to walk, or more like climb, to the second floor. I had originally intended to buy a ticket to go right up to the top, which you have to get the lift to, but decided against it due to the large crowds. It turned out to be a good decision as I felt rather queasy before I’d even reached the first floor! The view of course is stunning, my photos don’t do it justice so I won’t post them here.

 

 

Monmartre is a lovely place to spend a morning or afternoon wondering the streets up and around the Sacré Cœur. I’m always amazed how old buildings are so beautiful in Europe and you’ll find some gorgeous streets here.

 

 

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I didn’t use any public transport; I like to walk so I can find off the beat cafés and have a break from the masses. It also helps burn some calories so you can enjoy patisserie guilt free! I think Paris is totally walkable (my nifty apple products reliably tell me I walked 43.6 miles in 3 days) but the buses run with the regularity you would expect in a capital city and river cruises are popular to take in the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay and the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

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River Seine

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No sign of Quasimodo!

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Notre-Dame Cathedral

It goes without saying that those with a sweet tooth are in paradise in France. Here’s some of the tasty treats I tucked into.

 

On my last day I spent a few hours shopping on the Champs-Élysées and felt it would be rude not to pop into Ladurée for some sustenance. I had a glass of champagne with my coffee macaron and being the light weight that I am, it went straight to my head.

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Back on the Champs-Élysées you’ll find the magnificent Arc de Triomphe. It is engraved to commemorate various battles and the signing of treaties, which you are probably best to read about here if you’re interested as I am no historian!

On my way back to the hotel, I walked along the river and took in the Louvre again. With champagne still in my system, I walked into a bollard that was unfortunately at the perfect height to smash into my symphysis pubis (google it). I’m not sure if the pain or the humiliation of the large crowd who witnessed it was worse. Don’t drink and walk people!

Three days went too quickly and before I knew it I was back at the Gare de Nord to catch the Eurostar back to London. I don’t know if you’ve used Eurostar before, I guess it depends whether or not you are in or around London. But it is such a stress-free experience compared with flying. Efficient, no queues and quiet carriages – perfect! Gare de Nord is of course stunning.

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Audrey Hepburn was right, Paris is always a good idea. I can’t wait to go back as I don’t think I could ever get bored of those streets.

Have you ever been solo travelling? Would love to hear your experiences and where you’ve been if you have!

Thanks for reading,

Amy x

Bella Italia

Thanks for tuning into my first blog!

I was planning to write about my kitchen renovation. But it’s cold, wet and it’s February and I’m longing for some warmth so I’ve been looking through my summer holiday snaps and here I am about to start writing about Italy instead!

I had lusted to go back to Italy since I first visited in 2011, when I went to Monza (I’m a Formula One fan) and Lake Como. So in August last year, I packed my bags for another taste of La Dolce Vita.

Sorrento is on the northern coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula in Campania, southwest Italy.  It looks out over the Tyrrhenian Sea with the most incredible view of Mount Vesuvius.  It also makes for a fantastic base to travel to its more famous neighbours – Amalfi, Positano and Capri.

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Early morning view of Mount Vesuvius from my hotel room balcony

The main square in Sorrento is Piazza Tasso, a buzzing place with lots of bars and restaurants and a maze of pedestrianised shopping streets.  Now I don’t need much persuasion to support the local economy when it comes to shopping but whether you are after some Italian leather, beautiful linen clothing or a bottle of Limoncello there is something for everyone.

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There is no beach to speak of in Sorrento.  Instead, head down to Marina Piccolo where you can spend the day at one of the many lidos. €10 will grab you a comfy sunbed, clean showers & toilets and wifi. The lidos are a great place to watch the boats coming and going into the marina and of course have the fantastic view of Vesuvius.

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Lidos at Marina Piccolo

It’s from here that you can catch a ferry to Amalfi, Positano and Capri. I had visions of a glamorous entrance to these places by sea but seeing as I nearly fetched up my lunch on the ferry back from Naples the previous day, I had to take the bus. Seriously, can you believe that someone from an island has no sea legs!  I can highly recommend the cappuccino freddos on offer in the cafés at the marina though.

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Cappuccino freddo

The Amalfi Coast is on the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula. Amalfi itself has a small, volcanic beach and a busy piazza with restaurants aplenty and a stunning Duomo.  I found the food to be reasonably priced but the shops are definitely more expensive than in Sorrento, so if you’re looking for general souvenirs or gifts then I would suggest you don’t buy them here.  A quick bus trip up the road takes you to Ravello, where Villa Rufolo provides you with one of the most breathtaking and famous vistas on the Amalfi Coast.

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Positano is about an hours bus journey away from Sorrento.  I can’t imagine there are many other bus routes that are as beautiful as this one as it winds right around the coast. I’m pleased to report that the bus drivers aren’t maniacs either! When you jump off the bus and walk down into Positano, the road is lined with clothes shops and gelato stalls (Italy is up there for the best ice cream in the world, in my opinion! You must try it. Daily!).  As you get closer to the beach the road disappears and you find yourself in a maze of pedestrianised streets selling hand painted pottery, beautiful linens and paintings.  It really is worth a visit, you’ll recognise Positano from photos on social media but they don’t do the beauty of the place justice.

Isola di Capri.  Now due to the unavoidable fact that Capri is an island, I obviously had to get a boat there.  Fortunately the journey only takes about 20 minutes, which is about 10 minutes to the good before I start to feel my last meal creeping up my œsophagus.  I am led to believe that there are stunning grottos around the island that are a joy to swim in but I kept my feet firmly on the Capri ground.  Like everywhere in this region, it is stunning but Capri is particularly busy. And be prepared to pay through the nose, it’s very expensive.  I went up the furnicular and enjoyed an Aperol Spritz in the piazza, a drink that cost me €23 no less!

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€23 a pop!

Back in Sorrento for some calm, I enjoyed being surrounded by old buildings and sinking a few proseccos.  Because Sorrento sits on top of cliffs, with it’s marinas below, lots of the hotels make the most of their fantastic view with a bar on the roof.  My hotel was at the bottom of the cliff in Marina Grande, a deliberate choice so I could be as close to the sea as possible.  Marina Grande has 7 or 8 restaurants dotted along the sea front before a pretty 10 minute walk up to Piazza Tasso.

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Beautiful, old building

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Piaggio Ape

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A black cat having a snooze before the fishing boats return

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Rooftop bar overlooking Mount Vesuvius

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My hotel room and balcony in Sorrento. About as close as you can get to the sea!

It goes without saying that the food is delicious, but just in case you don’t believe me here’s evidence of what’s on offer in the region.

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If you like a bit of history and culture, Pompeii and Herculaneum are a short train ride away.  If you’ve seen the film you’ll have been led to believe that Pompeii was destroyed by lava from the erupting Vesuvius, but in actual fact it was destroyed by the pyroclastic flow (the ash) which subsequently helped to preserve the ruins. I would recommend a tour guide – the site is huge and I really wouldn’t have had a clue what I was looking at without one. I probably wouldn’t have been able to find my way out either, as I have no sense of direction whatsoever!

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After a week in Sorrento and the surrounding area, I really didn’t want to leave.  I don’t often like to go on holiday to a place that I’ve already been but I would definitely go back here.  Sorrento is a perfect holiday setting with the added bonus of easy transport links to nearby places of interest.  The weather is hot (it was around 30 degrees when I was there at the end of August), the sea is warm and the food is incredible . I’m going to leave it here, I feel a holiday booking coming on…

If you’re still reading this or have just looked at the pictures – thank you! If you’re thinking of visiting and have any questions or any recommendations for other places for me to visit in Italy, drop me a line!

Amy 😊