The Best Laid Plans

Diet plans, that is. Last week, I decided to get a head start on the January fitness rush by getting a “customised” nutrition plan from a personal trainer through his website. I have done so much reading on fuelling my workouts and weight loss, weight gain, maintenance etc that it took several weeks of convincing myself to even justify the cost (not exactly breaking the bank at £35) but as with most things in life, I doubt my own ability to put my knowledge and ability into something workable. There’s also something reassuring about having the back-up of someone who does this as a living.

Nonetheless, my excitement was short-lived when I saw the plan. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but it’s clearly just a generic template with my macros worked out and inserted in the form of varying size portions of chicken and veg spread over SIX MEALS A DAY. I know that I need to fuel my workouts, but I also need to run a business, raise my children, take care of my ‘zoo’, fulfil my volunteer responsibilities, etc. I barely have time to sit down and eat 3 meals a day (and so generally don’t!) and so 6 meals is never going to work.

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Such chicken. So wow. Much gains.

Despite my cynicism, it’s still a breakdown of what I need in terms of protein/carbs/cals etc that I’ve never had the mental energy to work out myself, and so I’m determined to see it through for at least the first 4 weeks (Christmas Day indulgences aside). I’ve “cheated” and modified the plan based on the stats provided, doubling up a couple of the meals to bring me down to 4 meals a day, which is eminently more workable. I can’t find any science to justify eating 6 meals a day, aside from the possible issue of maxing out protein absorption, but as I’m eating more protein than I normally would I can’t imagine that negatively impacting my workouts, which is my main concern anyway.

On that note, Fitness Savvy got in touch with me this month to mention some supplement giveaways they’re running to celebrate their launch; there’s more information on their Facebook page (I’ve not been compensated for mentioning this, it’s just “of interest” to much of my audience…)

With my upcoming nutrition in the bag, the next step is to figure out how to take my fitness forward. I have a couple of races booked in 2018, but as I’ve demonstrated time and time again I absolutely suck at training for them, somehow winging 10ks and half marathons by the skin of my teeth. I’ve tentatively considered getting up half an hour earlier each morning to clock a steady 5k – my logic being that although short in distance, some running is better than no running – but I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination and the prospect terrifies me.

On top of that, having cracked the bodyweight squat earlier this year (and beyond) I’d like to reintroduce deadlifts to my routine in 2018 and beast a bodyweight deadlift. I stopped doing them because I was worried about my form, but I have so many resources available to me to fix this, I just need to suck it up and ask for help. I’d also like to start benching, which is something I’m terrified off.

Lofty goals.

Currently Loving…

With recent posts over here all a bit glum and gloomy, I thought I’d make September (or what’s left of it..!) a bit more chipper, starting with the things I’m loving right now.

String & Velvet’s Vintage Maxi Dress

I absolutely adore Zara’s Vintage Maxi Dress on String & Velvet. It’s not my size so I can’t snatch it up, but the splashes of colour are so fucking awesome; who doesn’t want to wear rainbows? String & Velvet is a new online store focusing primarily on plus size vintage.

Nintendo Switch

I had a really good month in June and after putting some money aside for bills, debt and taxes (urgh) I was able to stick enough money in my ISA for a Switch, which Tesco released stock of shortly after. I couldn’t afford any games to go with it, because that would be too lavish(!) but Gaz being the gentleman that he is bought Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2-Switch.

I have already sunk hundreds of hours into Zelda, getting basically nowhere because it turns out when you don’t play serious games for 10+ years you actually lose all skill.

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Still fucking awesome though.

This AMAZING burger

The Kreme De La Kreme burger from Severn Social in Shrewsbury:

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DIVINE. I am reliably informed that this is what’s known as a “Luther Burger” – a hamburger or cheeseburger with one or more glazed donuts in place of the bun. In this case, triple stacked burger, American cheese, streaky bacon, mustard and ketchup all sandwiched between a Krispy Kreme donut bun. These were supposed to be limited edition but were so popular they added them to the menu.

Severn Social recently opened up as a “dive bar”, replacing Biggies Diner. Live sports on various big TV screens, a fantastic menu with a variety of burgers, wings and hot dogs (and a token veggie option) with REALLY good prices for what you get. I’m not easily impressed when it comes to food, and the previous incarnations of restaurant in this location were all a bit pants, but I’m a big SS fan.

Double Chocolate Cookie Mocha Thingymabob

So in love with Costa’s double chocolate frostino thing it actually hurts.

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However, there’s two problems with these bad boys: One, they don’t come in a super huge “in a bucket” size. Two, each barista seems to make them differently and I’ve had a couple where they’ve missed the cookie bits and a couple without the chocolate sauce on top and URGH why bother if you can’t have ALL THE GOOD BITS?! Sort it out, Costa.

Fnnnghhh I want a bloody frostino now.

Recipe: Gluten Free Lemon Mousse Cheesecake

A recent(ish) meeting with some of my BFFs necessitated the creation of a cake, and there’s no cake like a cheesecake, but I could not for the life of me find a cheesecake recipe I liked the look of. I wanted a baked cheesecake for flavour, but something super tangy to offset a sweet lemon mousse I envisaged to go on top. Unable to find that perfect recipe, I concocted my own – with a gluten free buttery biscuit base to boot!

Ingredients

Biscuity Base
1 pack gluten free digestives (I used a 160g pack but in hindsight ~200g would be better)
100g butter

gluten free cheesecake ingredientsCheesecake
min. 400g marscapone (I used 500g but it was huuuge)
360g cream cheese
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs
2 lemons

Lemon mousse
2 lemons
300ml double cream
2 large egg whites
60g caster sugar

Method

Making the buttery biscuit base

  1. Melt the butter gently in a pan.
  2. While that’s melting, put the digestives into a freezer bag, then bash the shit out of them til they’re crumbly.
  3. Mix the butter and biscuit crumbs together and press into 9 inch cheesecake pan.
  4. Refrigerate.
  5. Ask on twitter why ‘fridge’ has the letter D in it.

Making the cheesecake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (or approx 170 if it’s a fan oven)
  2. Separate the eggs, keeping both yolk and white.
  3. Whisk the whites & caster sugar together until soft peaks form.
  4. Mix together the soft cheese, marscapone, and egg yolks.
  5. Zest the lemons and juice them into the cheese/egg mix. If you want a really lemony flavour, fish the lemon seeds out of the juicer and then tip in any pulpy lemony bits too.
  6. Fold the egg white mixture into yolky cheese mixture, aiming for a nice even mix without beating the air out of the eggs.
  7. Tip the mixture into your cheesecake pan on top of the biscuit base then place in the oven.
  8. Cook for 40 minutes then turn off oven, but leave the cheesecake in there (this means it cool down slowly, which helps prevent cracks and stops it from sinking – but my first one did anyway and it was still gorgeous).
  9. After approx 1hr remove cheesecake and refrigerate.

Making the lemon mousse
I used the lemon mousse recipe from Penny’s Recipes for this bit – it was so simple and exactly what I needed, so I didn’t see the point in re-inventing the wheel.

Don’t start this bit until the cheesecake is completely cool!

  1. Grate the zest from the lemons into a bowl and then whisk together with the cream and sugar until thick but still soft.
  2. Stir in the juice from the lemons.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.
  4. Fold the egg white into the cream mixture.
  5. Spoon the mousse mix onto the cheese cake, level out and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours.

And tada! It’s ready…

gluten free lemon mousse cheesecake

This is a very decadent cheesecake, perfect to share with friends. Or eat it out of the tin with your fingers, I’m not going to judge.

Children’s birthday parties are exhausting

That’s it. The milestone I was dreading has come and gone. We have a lot of ‘seven’ left to go, but that initial mountain has been climbed and conquered.

Not made any easier by the organisation of the birthday party, because some bright spark thought that’d be a great idea.

For some reason, when I do stuff like this, I don’t like to do it by halves. Why buy a couple of frozen pizzas, some biscuits and sausage rolls when you can make your own pizza dough, bake your own mini quiches (that none of the kids will eat anyway), dip pretzels in chocolate and create breadstick ‘sparklers’..?

sparklers-and-pretzels

And indeed, why stop there? If making your own party food isn’t hassle enough, why not spend 3 days building an elaborate rainbow layered My Little Pony birthday cake featuring fondant icing that you will inevitably roll too thin so will fall apart when you try to put it on the far-too-tall birthday cake…

img_20161117_140452

Still, I’m nothing if not a show off. And we got through the party without death, disease or tragedy, so it’s a win for a month that has been otherwise pretty crap so far.

And I only drank 4 glasses of vodka & lemonade to get me through it.

All the meat, and Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash 10k

I travelled up to Leeds with Gaz to see my brother at the weekend, figuring I should probably make the effort as we’re getting close to C.. Chr… nope, can’t say it.

We celebrated our mutual awesomeness by booking a meal at Fazenda, a Brazillian Rodízio style restaurant. In case you have no idea what that is (I didn’t) it’s basically an all you can eat buffet where you pay a set amount and the waiters constantly bring food to your table. I basically ate my weight in ALL THE MEATS and haven’t felt hungry since.

Given the sheer amount of meat hulked around on big skewers, Fazenda would be a vegan’s worst nightmare, but they do offer non-meat options and an all you can eat salad bar (which included sushi, grains, and the typical leafy salad stuff) is included.

fazenda_salad_bar

(image Fazenda’s own)

The food was amazeballs, the staff were attentive and friendly, and I can’t wait for an excuse to go back. Unfortunately they only have locations in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester so it’ll probably be some time before I get to repeat the experience.

The following day (Sunday) we completed the weekend with the only logical follow-up to a night of gluttony: we ran. A lot. Having pre-arranged to run the Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash 10k (and as per usual, with me doing no training whatsoever) we lined up with over 10,000(!) other people in the freezing rain for an opportunity to run up and down the roads of Leeds.

The course was mostly flat, which meant that despite intense DOMS from an ill-timed Friday workout and feet numb with the cold, I managed to complete in 1:04:20 – faster than my last 10k but not close enough to beat my 10k PB of 1:01:32. Of course, I know the answer is to RUN MORE, but time and bla bla excuses.

To be fair, the only reason I managed to complete in 1:04 is because I set myself the goal of keeping ahead of the 65 minute pacer. Towards the end I was run-walk-running and every time he caught up I’d surge on, but it did the trick (just about). The guy was a huge motivation and a much needed voice of enthusiasm towards the end and I completed the race and gave him a hug.

That said, it’s a good job I wasn’t following the 60 minute pacer, as she shot off way ahead of our ‘ability’ grouping and was nowhere to be seen. Even my brother (who did finish just under an hour) said he couldn’t find her. I get that it’s a voluntary thing but if you’re going to carry a pacer flag, it helps if you actually stick to that pace.

Pacer complaint aside, it was a good route and I’d definitely do it again next year, if only to give me the excuse of another night out at Fazenda.

Opening night at Novello Lounge, Telford

For a large town, Telford has a pretty poor nightlife. With an estimated population of 155,000 (according to Wikipedia), which makes it the largest town in Shropshire, it beggars belief that we Telfordians have to travel to Bridgnorth, Shrewsbury and beyond if we want a few cocktails and some decent music to start a night out.

When I found out, via the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Facebook page “We want bars and nightlife in Southwater Telford”, that ‘The Lounges’ were bringing a lounge to Telford and that as well as being a “friendly, informal café” they also served good food and most importantly — cocktails — I was beside myself with glee.

So, imagine my excitement when I found out that Telford’s new Novello Lounge was opening on Wednesday: the school night that the kids are with their dad. Seizing the opportunity I unsubtly hinted to Gaz that we should check out the launch:

and post-run (I know, Gaz… running!) we drove over to check it out.

It was gone 8pm by the time we got there, and the venue was already packed. The people of Telford were clearly making the most of the novelty of this new café-cum-bar.

I’ve never been to one of The Lounges before so hadn’t really got a clue what to expect. Not disappointed: the interiors are cosy and eclectic, somewhat reminiscent of my Nan’s living room with its over-sized lampshades, art-packed walls and random mix of chairs (Novello Lounge, not my Nan’s living room. My Nan has been dead a while.)

busy-novello-lounge

Despite being very busy, we were immediately shown to a suitable table and after ordering food and drinks at the bar, it took virtually no time at all for our ‘starter’ of some bread and oil to arrive (post-run carbs!) The bread was warm and my request for butter was met with a generous handful of little packets. I’d already been won over at this point: I was glad to receive soft butter, rather than the little yellow hardened blocks you often get in pubs and restaurants.

bread-and-oil

Bread demolished, I nipped up to the bar to order a couple more cocktails (I would traditionally order one of everything “to try” but I’m skint at the minute) and while I was away from the table the main course arrived. Gaz and I had both plumped for the Steak Frites: 8oz 28 day-aged Black Angus sirloin steak with garlic butter, wild rocket & parmesan salad and fries.

I ordered my steak rare, and rare it was. You wouldn’t believe the variety of well-done-ness I’ve hard served on my plate masquerading as rare before, but this deliciously pink piece of meat ticked every box. The garlic butter was laden with garlic and packed a punch and the fries were crisp and delicious. No complaints here.

steak-cooked-rare

On several occasions throughout the meal we were asked if everything was OK with the food, drinks etc by multiple members of staff, which was impressive given how many people were in. While it was beginning to get a little annoying (is it just me, or do people always ask how the food is when you’ve got a massive mouthful and can’t possibly talk?) towards the end I will forgive it as first night enthusiasm. It’ll be interesting to see if the staff are as attentive in a few weeks time!

The cocktails were tasty, with the Cherry Bakewell in particular going down well, although I found the Honey & Orange Cosmopolitan a little stingy in its size (see below) and the Espresso Martini only had one shot of vodka, which is an offense to vodka lovers everywhere (AKA me). Neither complaint enough to stop me ordering them again (and again) mind you.

honey-orange-cosmo

All in all I was pretty impressed with the Novello Lounge on its inaugural night, and look forward to popping back soon to sample more of its delights.

Apologies for the low-light photos, I only had my phone on me and the lounge was dimly lit.

Recipe: Chocolate Orange Cake

A blogger I follow on twitter recently tweeted a link to her frugal chocolate orange cake made with a jar of value marmalade (amongst other things).

I didn’t have time to read through the recipe when I first saw it, but it came to mind when I was stood in my kitchen earlier this week desperate for some comfort food. With a full jar of ‘reject’ marmalade in the cupboard (Oliver asked for it, and then decided it was too tangy) I was inspired to experiment. And tada, I came up with my own (not frugal) chocolate orange cake recipe…

chocolate orange cake slice

Ingredients

For the cake
250g butter (room temp)
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
80g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb. soda
370g jar of marmalade
3 tablespoons milk (optional)

For the filling/icing
2 tablespoons shredless marmalade
250g butter (room temp)
500g icing sugar
2 tablespoons orange extract (I used this one from Tesco)
orange gel food colouring (optional)
dark chocolate chips (optional)

Method

BAKE IT
Turn the oven on to preheat – 160 degrees C (150 fan oven).

Cream together the butter and sugar until completely combined. Next, add the 4 large eggs and gently mix.

Add the jar of marmalade and stir in, slowly adding sifted self-raising flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder as you go until all of the dry ingredients are mixed in with the creamy sugary eggy goo.

At this point you may find the mixture is quite thick/stiff – I added a splash of milk at this point to loosen it up (approx 3 tablespoons) but it would be fine without.

Pour the mix into lined, buttered 9″ sandwich pans and pop into the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes depending on how good your oven is. Test by inserting a skewer (or a piece of dry spaghetti) into the centre of the cake: if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

Leave to cool completely before turning out of the pans.

DECORATE IT
Make your delicious orangey buttercream icing by mixing the butter, icing sugar, orange extract and food colouring. I suggest adding the icing sugar slowly or your kitchen will look like an explosion in a cocaine factory. If you don’t have food colouring, or want to avoid the E numbers, the icing will be fine (just paler).

Once the cake is completely cool, spread the shredless marmalade on top of one of the cake layers. Spoon roughly a third of the icing onto the shredless marmalade, spreading carefully so as not to cause the orangey marmalade goo to ooze down the side of your delicious chocolate orange cake.

Place the second cake layer on top and refrigerate for about half an hour (it’s easier to ice a cool cake).

After your half an hour is up, spread a very thin layer of icing around the outside of the cake and on top, cleaning off the knife/spreading implement between each go. Don’t worry too much about crumbs – this thin layer will catch the crumbs making it easier to add the rest of the icing. Refrigerate again for 10-15 minutes.

Spread the rest of the icing evenly around the sides and top of the cake. Finish off with a handful of chocolate chips. Tada! One chocolate orange cake.

chocolate orange cake

Wedding Antics

So who got married last week? Just me? Oh :)

jaz-wedding-web

On May 16th at 11:30ish (we were early) Gaz and I officially tied the knot (as they say; no actual knots were tied). In a short and sweet ceremony where I agreed to love and cherish my “awfully” wedded husband, we exchanged rings, had a quick snog then went for yummy grub at my favourite pizza restaurant.

On Saturday night we made it all the more real with a celebration for family and friends who very kindly travelled from as far away as London, Scotland and even Belgium.

We ate a big hog roast, expensive cheeses, locally made cupcakes and the best tasting popcorn I’ve ever eaten from Joe & Seph’s. Seriously, that stuff is adictive. I don’t even eat popcorn normally and now I’m thinking about getting the catering size packs in for “emergencies”.

Music was provided by local band Lost the Plot and was heartily enjoyed by all guests. Huge thanks to these guys for entertaining us all evening, and for playing (by special request) Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”. There’s something particularly amusing about 3 ageing muscians (sorry guys) playing a song about curvy young women.

Here are some of my favourite photos from the night, including one of me dancing like a bellend (for your personal enjoyment):

what kind of dancing is that

team gazza

the look of love

And there are tons more photos are up on Facebook, if you know where to look.

Teach your children to cook

Would it be controversial of me to suggest that failing to teach your children to cook is neglecting a hugely important of parenting? That is, missing out a huge part of a range of life skills that should be imparted upon your kids.

homemade lasagne

As I lovingly prepared a homemade lasagne earlier (by which I mean threw it together to satisfy my own cravings) I caught myself yet again feeling utterly indebted to my mum and my nan (dad’s mum) for having given me both culinary skills and the encouragement to experiment, which is the root of most of my dishes.

Don’t get me wrong, my mum was no Michelin star chef. She can’t cook meat (anyone who eats beef and lamb well done might as well not bother, sorry mum), and turkey twizzlers were regularly served in our house growing up til that bastard Jamie took them away, but her spaghetti bolognese is rivalled only by my own (of course) and she makes a mean syrup sponge pud.

My nan was of the generation that hand made everything and grew a whole lot of what she cooked too. I have fond memories of my nan’s rhubarb crumble, with fresh fruit straight from the garden and proper custard made the way you’re supposed to.

While I’m not naive enough to believe everyone has the time to both grow and prepare their own food these days, I think relying on the freezer section in your local supermarket and introducing your kids to fresh stuff just once a week alongside your roast does everyone a disservice. It robs children of the opportunity to experience and help with meal prep and robs the whole family of tastes beyond miscellaneous processed yellow crap.

Cooking at home is cheaper and better for you than ready meals and takeaway, and a necessary skill as a self-sufficient adult. Teach your children to cook.

Am I being unreasonable? (Poor customer service)

Gaz and I picked the kids up from Karl’s earlier today a little later than I would normally do so, so we decided to head out for some lunch. I left the decision up to Gaz as I was feeling a bit dodgy (self-inflicted, don’t ask .. or look at Instagram) and so he drove us out to the Two Henrys near Battlefield in Shrewsbury.

I have a bit of a soft spot for The Two Henrys. It’s a generic chain pub but it’s where Gaz took me on our first not-a-date (which obviously went quite well). Since that not-a-date date, we’ve eaten there a couple of times. However, the last time (prior to today) that we went to The Two Henrys, we only nipped in for a post-walk drink and so went straight to the bar. It was relatively busy so we expected a wait, but after what felt like roughly 20 minutes where several waiting staff walked past and completely ignored us, we walked out.

Unfortunately our experience earlier today was much the same. We were seated relatively quickly (it wasn’t busy), but then completely forgotten about. In the time we were waiting, three other groups were brought in to nearby tables, seated and had their drinks order taken (one also placed their food order). After about 15 minutes — during which Olly was getting progressively more silly because sitting still is a big deal for a 3 year old boy — Gaz went to the bar and asked when we would be served. We were reassured that the waitress would be along shortly. Another 10-15 minutes passed before we gave up and walked out (and ate at Frankie & Benny’s instead). The biggest irony was that as we were seated, the waitress told us she’d need the tables back by 2pm because there had been reserved, so serving us quickly would have been quite important.

Am I being unreasonable to expect our drinks order to have been taken as we were seated (or shortly after)? To have had some crayons provided (as it is a family-friendly pub)? Or indeed to have any sort of service at all?

Either way, I think despite my emotional attachment to the place it’ll be a long time before we go back there.

Recipe: Eton Mess Cake

Yesterday was Gaz‘s birthday and in true birthday tradition (AKA any excuse for cake) I decided to bake, with the “help” of the kids. Normally for this sort of occasion I would find a recipe weeks in advance and fail attempt to make something spectacular. However, with work and kids to contend with, time was not on my side, so I thought I’d modify my basic victoria sponge and turn it into Eton Mess in cake form. Here goes…

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 200g butter
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the filling / decoration

  • 1 tub of mini meringues
  • 300ml (ish) double cream
  • 3 tbps icing sugar
  • 300g (ish) strawberries
  • A tablespoon or two of seedless strawberry jam or some nice strawberry coulis

Equipment

  • Two 8″ or 9″ round cake tins (I can’t find my tape measure)
  • Bowl and spoon or your nan’s Kenwood Chef
  • Greaseproof/baking paper OR butter for greasing

Top tip!
You can make a fantastic, rich & tasty sponge for the majority of occasions by using equal parts butter, flour and sugar with 1 medium egg for each 50g. Don’t be afraid to experiment: e.g. make a chocolate cake by replacing 50g flour with 50g of cocoa powder.


Method

Is it just me that thinks ‘method’ makes it sound like a science experiment?

  1. Stick your oven on to pre-heat at around 150-170C.
  2. Either by hand or with a magic mixing machine, combine the butter and the sugar in a bowl until it turns into a creamy soft sugary goo. Fish your childrens hands out of the bowl and remind them that nobody wants to eat cake that’s had fingers poked in it.
  3. When combined, slowly add the egg, mixing gently as you go. Remove the chunks of broken shell from the mixture. When the egg and buttery mix is combined, add the vanilla extract.
  4. Sieve in the flour and baking powder.

baking-eton-mess-cake

  1. Gently stir the flour into the mix until smooth and delicious looking. Fish your childrens hands out of the bowl and remind them that nobody wants to eat cake that’s had fingers poked in it.
  2. Line your baking tins or grease with butter. If I’m making a cake with butter as the ‘fat’, I just grease and don’t usually have any problems getting the cake out of the tin.
  3. Divide the mixture between the two tins roughly equally and using the back of your spoon, level it out as best you can. Give the spoon and bowl to the children for “cleaning” duties.

cake-mix-in-tin

  1. Pop the cakes in the middle of your pre-heated oven with the kid’s fish fingers that they’re having for tea, and cook for around 20-30 minutes. To test if the cake is done, stick a skewer / cocktail stick / piece of dry spaghetti into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean it’s cooked. If it’s black, you’ve burnt it.
  2. Let the cooked cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Answer the question “is it cool yet?” 500 times a minute with the word “no”.
  3. Remove the cakes from the tin and allow to cool on a rack. I cheat at this point and stick the rack in the fridge because the cakes cool quicker, and cold cakes are much easier to trim…
  4. When completely cool, remove any bumps and lumps from the top of the cakes as best you can (it doesn’t have to be perfect, nobody is going to see it under the cream anyway) using a sharp knife or cake trimmer thingy (posh git).

cooked-cake

  1. Whisk the shit out of your double cream. As it begins to firm up, whisk in the 3 tablespoons of sieved icing sugar until the cream is fairly stiff and leaves a hole when you stick your finger in it (for “testing purposes”). Don’t tell the people eating your cake it’s had 3 pairs of hands in it.
  2. Slather your jam or strawberry sauce on the top of one of the trimmed sponges and then chuck a few dollops of cream on top. Spread it around using the back of your (now washed) spoon — or a palette knife if you’ve got one. If you’re really fancy, you could also pipe the cream on to the cake at this point. Snob.
  3. Break 2 of the merginues over the cake, sending lovely crunchy meringue bits everywhere.
  4. Chop up a handful of strawberries into quarters and chuck them on top of the cream meringue layer, resisting the urge to dip spare strawberries into the cream as you’ll need that later.

strawberry-layer

  1. Stick the other sponge on top, pressing it down slightly to make sure it’s not going to slide around (but not so hard that your middle cream layer spurts out the sides)
  2. Dollop lots more cream on the top, vaguely attempting to spread it round. Decorate with several mini meringues and whole strawberries. If you were able to buy strawberry coulis you might consider drizzling it over the top cream layer. I did not think it’d work quite as well with blobs of jam…

finished-eton-mess-cake

Tada!

Friday Night Treat: Peepo Pizza

I treated Gaz to some pizza on Friday night at one of our favourite local food places — Peepo Pizza, in Bridgnorth — to celebrate finally invoicing some jobs that have been on my list for a while (note how I say invoicing… cross your fingers they actually get paid!) Anyway, I rang and booked a table for 7:45 (and it’s usually advisable to book) and off we went.

peepo-pizza-bridgnorth

After we arrived we were seated promptly (which I have to admit, doesn’t always happen even with a booking) and an eager, cheerful waitress asked if we were ready to order some drinks. She was happy to give us time while we ummed and ahhed, returning swifty to get our choices and a food order shortly after.

I ordered an Italian Stallion, 9″ calzone style (no olives) and some sweet potato fries, and Gaz had the Mucho Meat (no cheese, no jalapenos, with pineapple). I’d like to tell you this is a refined choice after many varied visits, but it is in fact what we have Every. Single. Time.

peepo-menu-example

Having placed our orders, I couldn’t help notice the stream of young girls in party dresses buzzing back and forth to the nearby toilets, seemingly just finishing up a birthday party. Now, I’m not one of these adults that thinks kids shouldn’t be seen in public, and I certainly don’t have any expectations of a pizza joint (however upmarket compared to the likes of Pizza Hut et al.) being childfree BUT I think it would have been nice if the person who took my table reservation had mentioned on the phone that the place would be hosting a kids birthday party around the same time as I may have chosen to book a later table.

I know, I’m being utterly, ridiculously harsh here.

Small children aside we were given complimentary bread sticks and “truffle hummus” which, to my untrained palette, basically tasted like… well, hummus. Oh well. Hummus and breadsticks consumed, our meals arrived quite quickly and I was keen to dive in as quickly as possible:

italian-stallion-calzone-style

Unlike the last time we visited, they remembered to not add the olives to mine this time (although this isn’t a complaint, I got that pizza free!) and it was — as it always is — delicious to the last bite. Generous toppings, rich italian meats, just the right amount of gloriously gooey cheese. Gaz seemed to enjoy his too but I was too busy stuffing pizza and fries in my mouth to ask.

Pizza devoured, we decided we’d indulge in pudding too. I asked for a Tiramisu off the specials board (one of my favourite desserts) but they were unfortunately all out, so instead opted for a Bailey’s Cheesecake. Gaz had chocolate fudge cake.

baileys-cheesecake

The cheesecake was delicious. Not too heavy after the richness of the pizza but with a thick biscuity base that gave me something to sink my teeth into. I thought that it was a bit light on the Bailey’s, but I imagine it’s tailored to a broad range of tastes rather than those who like a tipple or 12. Either way, I would’ve probably had a second piece if I hadn’t already been stuffed.

Plates cleared and bellies full, I paid the bill and we made our exit. Another pleasant visit, and no doubt we’ll be back soon.