Wednesday, 31 July 2013

15% Off Of All Ad Spaces & (New) Services with SUMMERSUN

As all of you who use the service Passionfruit to sell ads on their blogs will know, they have made a few changes. One of these is to open up the option for bloggers to offer more of their services through Passionfruit, so I though in celebration of both this and the weather I would offer 15% off of all my existing ads, new sponsor spaces and blog services if you enter SUMMERSUN until August 30th at my handy checkout page.
Photo by Nicole Anderson: Newport Beach, Orange County CA, May 2013

Now, as well as the 1 month 300x250px ad spots I have been offering in my sidebar which have been proving really popular, I have decided to open up 2 640x100 ad spots in each of my fortnightly 'Weekly Love' posts. This is an experiment, because once ads are actually up I want to see about how both I and you guys feel about them. They'll cost $20 each and they will appear in the next post with an opening in the order I receive them. Also, I am opening up the service of designing ads for you to these two specifications for either on my site or somewhere else. These will cost $8 per ad and I will work through these in the order they arrive.

Finally, as I get so many questions about where I got/ who designed my blog layout I've decided to open up one more design feature. My blog design was designed by me, with some coding help for elements like the navbar at the top of the page done by Little White Whale Design Studio. I don't pretend to be an expert in web design, I'm totally self taught and most of what I do is through trial and error so I'm never going to feel comfortable offering full blog designs for people. However, due to very popular request I am now offering my services to design blog headers. These are really great when you are just starting out and you don't want to commit to a full design, but you want a custom header to install to give your blog identity and make the whole thing look more professional. I will be offering these at $40 each.

Again, you can look through all these services and get 15% off with SUMMERSUN until August 31st on this page. Also, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these new additions and services, and if you have any questions feel free to drop me an email or ask on Twitter

Monday, 29 July 2013

An Evening At The Underground Cookery School: Preparing Artichokes, Making Fresh Pasta & A Baked Blueberry Cheesecake

On Tuesday night after an unbearably hot day spent in East London in and out of meetings and chasing up paperwork along with my friend Sherin headed down to a basement near Old Street Station. The reason we were headed in that direction was to spend an evening I had been invited to cooking and learning at The Underground Cookery School. I figured, while I may not have certain skills but I can cook, and as Sherin can't cook at all (though I did buy her Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book for her birthday, lets see how that turns out!) I thought we'd be the perfect pair to test out one of their evening cooking classes. 
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The premise of The Underground Cookery School, (set up in 2003) is that 'Everything Is Salvageable'. The whole operation is overseen by Matt Kemp, a fantastically fun chef who trained under Michael Guerard and worked at The River Cafe, The Ivy and Pont De la Tour, for people who pay attention to things like that. However, he told me that he actually consideres himself self taught, as he was picking up and playing around with recipes long before he went and trained in an actual kitchen. He said that this means that he has made all the mistakes of working things out for yourself, which means he is very well placed to help people salvage things that have gone slightly wrong as he has been there himself; hence 'Everything Is Salvageable'. What they offer at Underground are mostly Team Building and big group sessions, and smaller group sessions for things like birthdays and hen parties. I'm also enjoying at the moment Matt's new video cast: 
In this post I'm going to go over our starter and out dessert. Our main course was Guinea Fowl with a fantastically light vegetable base but I think I might share the vegetable recipe at a later date. As for the Guinea Fowl, the skill learnt was how to joint a bird. I'm hoping to practice this skill I picked up on Tuesday night on chickens in a few weeks time on an Ottolenghi recipe for my annual Summer dinner party, so I'll keep you posted how that goes. Anyway, so this above is me making pasta. While I did freak out I was doing it wrong the whole way through, I realised that it is actually a pretty easy thing to achieve  all you need it to make sure you buy special pasta flour, and now I have seen it done with a machine, while I might invest in the attachment for the Kenwood Chef to make my own at home, I think I might work on a machine-less recipe for you all. Now I've made it, I can't believe how easy it was. 
The actual dish we put together was Fresh Tagliatelle with Black Pepper and Globe Artichokes. Now, up until that evening I had never prepared or contemplated preparing an artichoke in my entire life, and only the other evening I was discussing with my Mother how difficult it is supposed to be. So, I was so glad to discover I would be learning, and, like fresh pasta it is actually easier to do than you think it will be.  
So, you take your globe artichoke, and grabbing the leaves (?), tear them all off until you have something that resembles this. Take a spoon, and scoop out all of the fuzzy bit in the middle. Chop the stem of at the bottom do the bottom is flat. It should look something like a portobello mushroom shape around about now. Rub the middle with a lemon to stop the artichoke from discolouring, and with a sharp knife peel the hard outer section from around the outside of your artichoke piece. Chop into large chunks. Below they have been boiled in water until they were cooked the whole way through, then tossed in truffle oil, salt and lots of black pepper. 
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For desserts we made baked Blueberry Cheesecake  First I'm going to give you a few tips and more photos, but the full recipe is below. Serves 6. I was in charge of the first part of one of the two cheesecakes. Below shows me discovering that you have to get your hands dirty to keep going when you try to beat together cream cheese and creme fraiche with a balloon whisk when the cream cheese is not at room temperature. It will get stuck. So, always make sure your ingredients are prepared. 
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  • 50g (1.8 oz) Unsalted Butter
  • 225g (8 oz) Digestive Biscuits (Graham Crackers) 
  • 100g (3.5 oz) Fresh Blueberries
  • 1 tbsp Plain Flour
  • 400g (14 oz) Cream Cheese, at room temperature
  • 150g (5.3 oz) Caster Sugar (Granulated Sugar)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 tbsp Cornflour
  • 225g (8 oz) Creme Fraiche 
  • 1 Lemon  

Pre heat your oven to 150 Celsius (300 Fahrenheit). Lightly grease a 30cm cake tin (the type that spring open with a buckle at the side.) Dust the blueberries with the flour so they are all coated. In a food processor, break up the biscuits into fine crumbs. Melt the butter and add it to the food processor, whizzing it for about a minute until it is all combined. Using the back of a spoon, or if you are me your fingers press this mixture into the bottom fo the tin and leave in the fridge to set into a base for about half an hour. This is the technique I was talking about in my Nutella Cheesecake Cup recipe, if you wanted to make it on a larger scale for a crowd. 

While the base is chilling, make your filling. Add the cream cheese and the creme fraiche to a bowl and whisk or beat together until combined and smooth. Beat in the sugar, the eggs one at a time, the cornflour and the lemon juice. Pour over the base and sprinkle the floured blueberries over the top. Bake in the oven for about half an hour. It should be slightly firm to the touch, you can leave it in a little longer if need be. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven then refrigerate until chilled before turning out of the pan, slicing, and serving. 

I think we both thoroughly enjoyed out evening cooking (always with a glass of champagne constantly being topped up in hand); myself because I learnt several skills that I probably would have never learnt without being shown, and Sherin because she discovered that she is more frightened when confronted with a plucked, gutted and trussed Guinea Fowl to joint than she is in the moments before abseiling down the Bishopsgate Tower. if you have a birthday or special event coming up and you are looking to do something fun and different with your friends and colleagues  I would really recommend you book yourself an evening in the Underground kitchen. You can find out more about what they offer on their website. 

Friday, 26 July 2013

Weekly Love: Week 139

I would like to apologise about the slightly thin nature of this weeks 'Weekly Love'. Yesterday I'd had a very long day; I had a horrible dentist appointment. I had a rather substantial and stressful business with  an up until I threatened to blog about it customer service experience and several long meetings. As a result, when I went to put the pictures into this post, I accidentally deleted with no way of getting back all of the links I had been collecting over the past two weeks, so this post is just what I managed to put together after dinner last night. Really, after the week I've had, after a wonderfully relaxing week in France I have really learnt that some of the best things in life are amazing friends to hang out with at the end of a long day. 
1. Lavender in full bloom in the Pilgrims Nook Gardens. | 2. The very best way to cook a steak. | 3. Watching the sunset on the beach with a bottle of wine and perfect company. | 4. Pizza break between flat viewings in London. | 5. An after dinner stroll along Whitstable seafront with two of my best friends. | 6. Picking out Rose wine in the French supermarket.

7. The view out over the Oyster beds and down the coast in Cancale. | 8. The carnage created by going out for tapas with old school friends at Williams & Brown. | 9. A Mr. Whippy by the seaside. | 10. Picking wild Sweet Peas for the French kitchen table. | 11. The view out over East London from the Greenlight offices in Bishopsgate Tower. | 12. The Ginger Ale Ribs from the What Katie Ate cookbook.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have for the weekend. Tonight I'm heading into London for Sherin's birthday drinks (Happy Birthday Sherin!) and tomorrow I'm off for my first proper clothes shopping trip with my Mummy for almost a year! Oh, and before I forget, last Sunday over on The Glossy Guide I shared a peek inside my beauty bag, featuring some of my current beauty favourites.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Recipe: Loganberry (Or Any Other Soft Fruit) Crumble

In the hedgerow running along the side of our French house is a large loganberry bush. It is not wild, someone must have planted it once upon a time, but it might as well be. I honestly can't believe that we only just spotted it a few weeks ago. A productive half hour was spent plucking the fruit from among the brambles and they sat in a bowl on the kitchen counter whilst my Mother lamented for a while that she did not have a suitable pan or any jamming sugar to make a jar or two of quick loganberry jam.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Light Supper Idea: Caprese Salad (Dinner At My French Home)

One of the main features of weeks out from real life, regardless of the time of year at my French house in Brittany, are long French lunches. We eat out, usually for me this means bread and rose wine (red if it is Winter), a big dish of my beloved Moules Marinières, sometimes with chips, followed up with a butter and sugar crepe. Also sometimes I'll have a Foie Gras or seafood starter. So, you can probably guess that while we want to eat something, suppers at the French house are always, especially in Summer something light and fresh. 

Friday, 19 July 2013

An Extra Special Afternoon Tea With Whittards of Chelsea

When 19th century tea company Whittards of Chelsea asked me if I would like to try a couple of teas and put together a recipe to go with them I automatically started planning afternoon tea scenarios in my head. I told them that I favoured fruit teas and white tea and fruit blends, and sat back to see what they would send me. The resultant teas, and the super showstopper but still super simple to make mini cupcakes came together one Sunday afternoon to create what I think is a super special Summer weekend treat for two or more.
These floral topped cupcakes look fantastic, but are so stupidly easy to make. I must take a moment to thank Lucinda and Zita at Zita Elze Flower School for giving me the inspiration for this bake when I met them doing to simply stunning flowers at the beginning of the week at The White Company Christmas Press Day. 
I must confess here that this is not how I dress to bake, and I only dress for afternoon tea like this on special occasions! When I was shooting this little tea I was actually dressed and on my way to a garden party in Bloomsbury. As a couple of people asked me while I was wearing it, so you will no doubt be asking now, the dress was my first purchase after arriving back in England from Los Angeles; I found it in the Ted Baker sale. I can't see it on their website (though they do still have a top and blouse in the same print) but you might get lucky in store. My cake stand was a gift from the guys at ACHICA, from the Nigella Lawson collection.
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The tea Whittards sent me that I am most excited to try, but I have not had a chance to yet is their Loose Pomegranate White Tea Blend. Just the leaves themselves smell absolutely delicious and divine, as well as being rather pretty.I am ashamed to admit that because we are a teabag family, we don't actually have the facilities to steep tea leaves,. However, next time I see one I am going to get a single cup tea leaves holder and get down to the brew; I'll be sure to let you all know what I think of it and if it tastes as good as it smells!
The fruit tea bags I was sent have become two of my favourites. Usually, I drink Twinings like it is water and before now they were my favourite tea bags for everyday (Tea Pigs for special occasions!) However, the blends I was sent; Acerola Cherry and Raspberry & Peach had much more fresh and refined flavours I enjoyed so much more than the steaming cups I usually drink at least once a day. Even if you like your everyday tea bags and you don't want to switch, I would really recommend carrying at least one special Whittards tea to enjoy when you actually get a chance for a sit down and a nice piece of cake.  
The cupcake recipe is actually, as like most things like this, is a basic Victoria Sponge Cake. As for the floral toppers, I've just pulled them out of the garden so you can see whatever is seasonal. If you dont have the facility to grab something from a garden, have a look at what flowers you can get in small pots at the garden center, at a florists or in the supermarket. Go for things that can last a while without being left in water. This recipe makes about 9 to 10 small cakes and can easily be doubled up.

  • 50g (2 oz) Margarine
  • 50g (2 oz) Caster Sugar (Granulated Sugar)
  • 50g (2 oz) Self-Raising Flour 
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 50g (2 oz) Icing Sugar (Confectioners Sugar)
  • 1 tbsp Warm Water
  • Pink Food Colouring (Optional)
  • 10 Decorative Small Cupcake Cases

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit). Add the margarine, caster sugar, flour, baking powder and the egg to a large bowl and beat together with a spoon for a few minutes until all the ingredients are combined, and the mixture is a little light. Fill each case up half way with the mixture (about a heaped tablespoon full) and flatten out with a clean finger in each case to make sure they bake easily. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool outside of the cupcake tin on a wire rack to cool. To make the icing mix the icing sugar and the hot water together to make a smooth paste. It may look a little thick, but it will spread flat on top of the cakes, and if you add too much water the icing won't set. To colour half the mixture, divide it up and use the tip of a cocktail stick to add the smallest amount of colour to each bowl, adding a little more each time in order to get the colour you want. It can go too bright in an instant, so add the colour slowly and in little inclements. Once the cupcakes are cool use a teaspoon to flood each case carefully to the top with icing and leave to set before gently pressing your decoration into the top of each. 

When was the last time you had a good, proper afternoon tea, and what are your favourite tea blends?

This is a sponsored post. To read my policy on sponsored posts, please click here.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Breakfast Time: Introducing Graze's Breakfast Boxes

In my post about eating ethics I mentioned that when I am not snacking on homemade treats, instead of buying things at the store I get a weekly Graze box instead. I thought now would be a good time to reintroduce you all to the Graze box as they have some exciting new boxes and features they have recently launched that I am really excited about. Graze is a subscription box that fits through your letter box at least once a week featuring little balanced treats such as seeds, popcorn, chocolate and dried fruit mixes, olives, and even tiny pieces of focaccia and flapjacks. They are all healthy and delicious, and you can choose what you get in your boxes depending on preference. They are a favourite snack food of mine and they have been for years, I've also turned my Mother onto them so when I am staying with my parents there are always a couple of boxes scattered around our kitchen! You can cancel any time (though I can't see why you'd want to!), they cost £3.89 each, and you can get your first Graze nibble box for free if you sign up using the code N7RCXLW.
I got the email about it when I was still in America and ordered my first one to be here when I got back to England, but Graze have recently launched Breakfast Boxes featuring four different fruit and nut flavoured porridge portions, each served with a spoonful of honey. Mine is set to arrive once a month, and they cost £2.99 each. Breakfast Boxes are only available to people with an existing Graze account, but this can be created with your first box free using my code mentioned above. Once you have signed up, you can use the code 34FZJJK to join your first Breakfast Box for free, too. Basically, you get a free Nibble Box and a free Breakfast Box with no obligation, though I guarantee you you are going to want to keep up with your subscriptions! I think I've had mine for over three years now, only breaking for the USA.
DSC_1817 Each breakfast box comes with a portion of porridge  most of which come with a drizzle of honey. The little booklet that comes in each Graze box in this instance has cooking instructions. You measure your milk (or in my case water) out using the tub your oats came in, so the whole process is deliciously low fuss. From the above photos you can see that my Apple and Cinnamon portion I had in the morning before heading to London for the day last week does not make for the most aesthetic breakfast, but it did taste wonderful. This box typically arrives once a month so you can have about once portion once a week. I'm more of a fresh fruit, yogurt and bagel person for my breakfasts, but I find these little portions are perfect and simple if I'm in a rush or I don't want to think about what I'm doing if I have an early start. Also, if you don't want to bother cooking them, they are great sprinkled dry over a bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt, too. 

As well as breakfast boxes, Graze have launched their service in the USA. Just my luck it launched just as I was leaving, I suffered my year in America without my weekly snacks. Anyway, it is the same nibble box service, and it costs $5. It is a wait list service at the moment with a promo code to sign up; visit this web page to add your email address to the wait list, and get your first box for free. They also sometimes put sign up codes as specials on their Facebook page, so it is also worth keeping an eye on that for a chance at early access. 

How many of you guys are already Graze subscribers, and how many of you, especially among my American readers are now thinking of signing up to the service? Who has already had a chance to try the Breakfast Box? 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Recipe: Mummy's Classic Victoria Sponge Sandwich Cake

As well as sharing the recipe for what has to be the most popular cake in our house, today I want to talk about food blogger pressure. First week back in England, I had a simply terrible day in the kitchen. Basically the only thing that went right was the final blast at my Lavender Vodka Lemonade. I got really stressed out, and while at the time I put it up to being in a kitchen I have not cooked in for a long while and being out of practice, now I've had a week or so to calm down a bit, I've realised it was something else. The problem with the internet; all these food blogs, Pinterest is it puts people who post their recipes online under so much pressure to perform. It was okay in the days when there were just cooking shows and professionally put together magazines and cookbooks to aspire to, because it was okay for the rest of us not to have to produce creations up to their standard. But food bloggers, while many of them are actually trained chefs, food photographers and stylists, too many of them are just like you and me. There is just too much pressure to product the best photos, best looking bake that we forget all about the actual food. 
So, why have I chosen to talk about this in the introduction to a Victoria Sponge Sandwich recipe? I actually have something to admit here. While some of the recipes on this blog, such as my Hot King Prawns In Garlic Butter and my Easy Lunchtime Bruchetta are collaborations that I have put together with my Father, the only hand I had in baking the cake you see before you is I measured out the flour. I don't feel guilty sharing it with you, as it is super easy and delicious, as I have made it for countless family afternoon teas with just the three of us, or for friends or for big family events countless times before. The reason my Mummy baked this cake in the photo and not me? Because I felt I need to step back and remember that baking is something I can actually do, regardless of whose kitchen I'm in, and remember why I cook and bake in the first place, and stop worrying about how many times a particular recipe may get Tweeted, shared or Repinned. I also don't feel guilty that she baked it because it is her own recipe. Well, it is pretty similar to many other traditional recipes out there, because it is how she has always made it.

  • 170g (6 oz) Self Raising Flour
  • 170g (6 oz) Caster (Granulated) Sugar
  • 170g (6 oz) Margarine 
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • Hot Water
  • 110 g (4 oz) Icing Sugar (Confectioners Sugar)
  • 55g (2 oz) Unsalted Butter at room temperature
  • Vanilla Extract 
  • Homemade or Bonne Maman Raspberry Jam

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (355 Fahrenheit). Lightly grease two 6 1/2 inch sandwich tins with a little butter or margarine and place a small circle of baking parchment in the bottom of each one. I know this might fall on deaf ears, but my American readers, please I implore of you not to use cooking spray. It may be safe to eat, but it does not necessarily mean you should. Beat together the caster sugar and margarine until it is all combined and it has lightened in colour. Whisk the eggs together in a jug and gradually, bit my bit beat the beaten eggs into the sugar and margarine until the mixture is smooth. If it looks like it may have curdled (how milk looks like when it has gone off), don't panic. Just add a teaspoon of your measured out flour and it should come good. Add a splash of vanilla. Sieve the flour into the bowl and fold it into the mixture. Folding is essentially drawing the spoon down the middle of the bowl as if cutting the mixture, and bringing it, scooping mixture up around the edge of the bowl up to the top again, then repeating until all the flour is combined. Doing this instead of just mixing the flour in ensures the air from beating stays in your cake so you will achieve the lightest sponge as possible. Equally divide the cake mix between the two tins, using a spatula to make sure the tops are even and flat (so you have an even bake) and all the mixture is pushed right to the edge of your tin. Tap each tin firmly on your work surface a few times to make sure you have no air bubbles. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The tops should be golden brown, spring back lightly to the touch and you should be able to insert a cake tester or a cocktail stick into your sponge and it to come away clean. So your sponge does not sink when it is coming out the oven make sure all your kitchen doors are closed so you can keep a constant temperature until the cake is out of its tin. As soon as you have removed it from the oven gently run a very sharp knife around the edge of the tin to loosen the cake to make sure it does not stick to the sides. The sponge should spring back slightly as it cools. Choose the better looking sponge to be your top. Turn this one out of the tin by placing your hand over the top, turning it upside down, pulling off the tin and the paper and putting it back down on a wire cooling rack, top side up. Place do the dame but place the bottom layer of your sandwich top side down. Allow to cool while you make the butter icing. 

Butter icing is so stupidly simple. Lots of recipes use milk to get it creamier, but by omitting it your cake will last longer, and you should not really need it if you are using really good quality butter. Your butter needs to be room temperature  and all you need to do is beat the icing sugar into it with a splash of vanilla until smooth. To fill your cake (I've recommend you do this on the plate or stand you are going to be serving it on) smooth the butter icing almost to the edge of the bottom half (it will spread out when sandwiched) and as much jam as you fancy on the bottom of your lid, then carefully flip and sandwich them together. You can just leave it like that, or you can sprinkle a bit of sugar on top. We personally like to use vanilla sugar. 

Once you've got this cake down you can do practically anything with it; we like it as a family with buttercream and raspberry, but you can use any jam you like, or fresh stiff whipping cream, with jam or fresh berries. Serve with a tall glass of my Lavender Vodka Lemonade or my Summer Iced Tea, and enjoy an extra special afternoon tea! 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Weekly Love: Week 138

I don't think I have ever been happier to be home. Everyone has been thanking me for bringing the weather back from Los Angeles with me, and lets hope it lasts a bit longer! I've been up to London twice, both for press days, after work drinks with friends and for garden parties. Back down in the countryside I've been enjoying long afternoon walks through the fields, lazy evening barbecues and warm days moving the office out onto the patio. As you read this, I'll actually be en-route to the French house so be prepared for lots of food and travel photos when I return. I've scheduled some posts to go online while I'm gone, and you can catch up with my Brittany archives here. However, if I've set everything up right on my new iPhone 5, I'll still be posting Tweets and Instagrams from France, so be sure to follow me on @makingmewonder and @missrachelphipps.
1. My first day back in London last week, spending some quality time in my old stomping ground of East London. | 2. Lemon Dover Sole perfectly cooked from my favourite country pub for food, The Griffins Head in Kent, just outside of Canterbury. | 3. Fresh cherries picked right from the trees at Pilgrims Nook. | 4. A picnic lunch in Regents Park from the Selfridges Food Hall. | 5. Choosing from my first box of Hotel Chocolat in what feels like forever.  | 6. After work cocktails at The Drift Bar in Bishopsgate.

Also, while I mentioned this one Wednesday I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who nominated me, because Rachel Phipps has been nominated for 'Best Food Blog' in the Cosmopolitan Magazine Blog Awards 2013. I would really appreciate it if you could take a moment out of your day to lend me your vote over at Cosmo.

I've had quite a few questions about which cookbooks I absolutely love, have in my collection and I cook out of all the time. Rather than do a one off blog post on my favourites that won't get updated or get lost, I've created a page for My Favourite & Most Used Cookbooks that I will keep on updating which includes books out of my personal collection, and books from my Mothers massive collection that I either used growing up and I still refer to, or that I always reach for when I am at my parents house and cooking a family meal.  If you click on each book on the page it will take you to Amazon so you can get your own copy, and while I have linked to the page above, you can usually find it linked from my About page.
7. The main gate of Canterbury Cathedral, one of the most important buildings of my childhood and where I will always associate with home. | 8. Enjoying my Mothers homemade strawberry ice cream. | 9. Enjoying English buildings again running errands in the little historic town of Sandwich. | 10. Freshly picked strawberries from the Pilgrims Nook vegetable gardens. | 11. A lunch suitable because it was Summer, it was sunny and it was a Sunday. | 12. A slice of the Tarte au Citron I made last weekend to enjoy after our Chicken, Bacon & Honey Mustard Barbecue Skewers, served with homegrown raspberries.

I know one of the reasons you guys love 'Weekly Love' so much is because you enjoy finding new blogs to read through the sites I link to. So, below using the 'Simply Linked' widget you can submit your own links to be shown at the bottom of each 'Weekly Love' post. If you have a blog post that you've posted during the two weeks since the last Weekly Love post; be it a recipe you are particularly proud of, photos you've posted from your recent travels or an outfit you are particularly proud of styling, I, as well as the rest of your fellow readers I'm sure would love to see it. Just a note, to make this fair on everyone, please only submit one link per website, link to a post and not just your home page. Any spam links I will take care of. Also, just to help with my little level of blog post consistance OCD, I would really appreciate it if you could title your link the exact title of your original blog post.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend. My plan is lots of good French food, wine, aperitifs and a good political biography out on the patio under the walnut tree. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Rachel Phipps Has Made The Shortlist For 'Best Food Blog' In The Cosmopolitan Magazine Blog Awards 2013

On Monday night I got the absolutely amazing news that Rachel Phipps had been nominated in a shortlist of 12 as 'Best Food Blog' in the Cosmo Blog Awards 2013. I've been following the awards since I started, and websites I've written for have managed to scoop up nominations, The Glossy Guide was nominated for 'Best New Beauty Blog' last year, but you all have no idea how much it means to me to have the last four and a half years of work I have put into this blog to be recognised in such a way. It has honestly made my week. 
I would really appreciate it if you could take a bit of time out of your day to lend me your vote, you can do so over on the Cosmopolitan website. I also want to take the time to say well done and congratulations to the 11 other nominees in my category, as well as everyone else in all of the other categories. There are some great blogs and bloggers I have adored for years in there such as The Londoner and I Covet Thee, and so many amazing blogs I've only just discovered via the shortlist such as Elle Frost and Love Cloth.    

Monday, 8 July 2013

Recipe: Barbecue Chicken, Bacon & Honey Mustard Skewers

I have been wanting to barbecue for the past 10 months. Do you know how hard it was having barbecue suitable weather that we don't always get in England this past year in Los Angeles and not being able to do anything about it? I'll admit I'm not the best barbecuer in the world, and while I can handle marinating different meats, preparing vegetables ready for the heat and I have no trouble whipping up potato salads to go on the side, when it comes to actual cooking while I can manage, I much prefer to leave it to my Father if I am at my parents house, or a lot of Kathryn's assistance if we are cooking on the beach. 

Friday, 5 July 2013

Places To Eat In London: The Drift Bar, Bishopsgate

I calculated last night that over the past month or so I have eaten in at least 14 restaurants in England and America. Even for me this is a little excessive, and as I'm off to France this time next week, (which usually for me means lots and lots of good food and wine) I could probably do with a bit of a break. However, I was in London for meetings and press previews yesterday (members of the press get to do Christmas in July. Thanks for the mulled wine and mince pies, White Company!), and as so many of you have been emailing me to ask when I will start doing 'Places To Eat In London' posts again, I thought I'd meet my friend Sherin out of work and grab a bite to eat somewhere undiscovered to hopefully share with you. 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Cocktail Hour: Lavender Vodka Lemonade

So my arrival back in England means the launch of my 'Cocktail Hour' column, posting different seasonal and timeless cocktail recipes for you all to all make and enjoy. There have been some requests for non-alcoholic (virgin) cocktails in this column, and while I have decided that I am not going to compose recipes specifically geared to non drinkers, I am going to be sure to mark all the recipes that work just as well if you leave the alcohol out, or suggest alcohol alternatives whenever possible. 
Lavender Vodka Lemonade | @rachelphipps
For my first cocktail I decided to add vodka, arguably the most versatile spirit of them all to some ingredients that I have been playing around with a lot recently. I was making pitchers of homemade lemonade practically every single week leading up to when I left Los Angeles because I was getting such big beauties at Westwood Farmers Market every Thursday afternoon. I put together a recipe for Thyme infused lemonade for the Birchbox blog (coming soon!), which made me start thinking about other herbal infused lemonades; rosemary and basil. On arriving back home for the Summer I found I could go down the floral route with all the roses and lavender in bloom. I have yet to think about how I'm going to cook with the rose petals, but lemon and lavender became fast friends as a flavour combination in my head when I started composing another recipe using them both as the star flavours in another guest post spot. It was really a natural progression! Apparently, though it is Wimbledon at the moment which usually means rain, I've managed to bring the weather back from Los Angeles with me so this boozy lemonade served over lots of ice is the perfect cooling cocktail to enjoy this weekend. Also, this works well without vodka, also for those of you who like a little less booze.  
Lavender Vodka Lemonade | @rachelphipps Lavender Vodka Lemonade | @rachelphipps
This recipe makes about a medium jug of fresh lemonade. As for the lavender, thyme can also be used but if you don't have fresh lavender growing in your garden ready to cut, small pots of it already flowering can be purchased reletivly inexpensively from any garden center, and will look pretty in your window.

  • 6 Fresh Lavender Heads, plus extra to serve
  • 1l (4 cups) Boiling Water
  • 75g (1/3 cup) Granulated Sugar 
  • 2 Large Lemons
  • 10-14 tbsp Vodka

Place the lavender in a small bowl and cover with 250ml (1 cup) of boiling water and set aside to infuse. Meanwhile, add the rest of the sugar and water to a small saucepan and simmer over a low heat, stirring gently until all the water is disolved. Take off the heat. Juice the lemons and add the juice to the sugar and water mixture. Remove the lavender stems and any additional stray pieces from the smaller bowl of water and stir it into the lemon mixture. Allow to cool, and add the vodka to taste/ personal preference. Enjoy served over ice, and preferably watching the tennis. 

I have a couple more planned, but does anyone have any particular cocktail recipe requests to make? 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Retrospective: Goodbye, Los Angeles

And so comes to the end of my posts from Los Angeles. I've settled back into life in England okay; I never really suffer from jet lag, so once the first day was over and I got my new phone set up, I was good and ready to go. I'm almost sorted with the unpacking and paperwork, and enjoying being back to work my first week on site, rather than working remotely for Pilgrims Nook Holiday Cottages. I'm rather excited to be off to London for the first time since I got back tomorrow for a few meetings and errands, and I hope you enjoy this last LA post, which is something of a round up of my favourite posts from the past 10 months in the city.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Instagram Diaries: The Glossy Guide Girls Do Los Angeles

So for the last of my Los Angeles blog posts (though I am going to post a round up of some of my favourite posts from Los Angeles over the last 10 months on Wednesday) I thought I'd put together a little Instagram Diary with photos of my last two weeks in the city, spent with my best friend, and actually one of my oldest friends Kathryn who flew out to visit (or as she put it, fetch me back to London!) and fly back with me. To explain the title of this post 'The Glossy Guide Girls Do Los Angeles', the 'Glossy Guide Girls' are us; Kathryn is my co-Editor and partner in crime over at our beauty blog. Thank you LA for giving me one of the best years of my life.