HonestlyLucy – Hitting the Market?

baking, blog, career, childline, cookies, cooking, cupcakes, doughnuts, festivals, lifestyle, naughtiness, naughty recipes, nottingham, wellbeing

Recently I’ve been having a think about my career, and whether or not I’m on the path I want to be on. Not headache inducing at all, she says, words dripping with the thickest sarcasm known to man. The thing is I do enjoy my job. I like the team I work with and I’m pretty lucky to be given some quite cool opportunities. I’ve been working in my role for about 2 years and I like to think I’m pretty damn good at it. It’s taught me an awful lot about working in an office and at events, the importance of details and the art of juggling professionalism with a ‘quirky’ personality; and I’m really grateful for all of that. The thing is, as much as all of those statements are true, my job is largely an admin role, and it’s not really what I did my degree for. At uni I studied Psychology with English Literature, whilst volunteering as a counsellor at Childline and an assistant at The Stroke Association’s weekly group meetings; whilst also being a programme rep for both the Psychology department and the English department. It was hectic but I really, really loved it. I’m used to having a billion and one things to juggle, and right now I only have a couple, and it’s starting to make me itch. So it’s time for a new challenge.

The idea of selling the things I bake has been loitering around the jumble sale that is the back of my mind for months now. I’ve even got a food standards agency certificate for my kitchen to prove it – 5 stars I’ll have you know! I just haven’t known where to start. The closest I’ve ever got to studying business is watching The Apprentice, and I’m fairly confident that Sir Alan has no interest in my cookie topped brownies. I’ve had fleeting thoughts about maybe applying for a stall at Summer food festivals, which I’ve then shooed away. I’ve attended enough of those to know that they get busy as all hell, and I don’t know that I’m quite ready for that yet.

I’ve worked enough manically hectic Christmases in a discount store to know how to handle a queue of customers – I ain’t scared! The retail side of things I can solidly say, I have down – references upon request. It’s more the production I’m concerned about. How much of everything do I need to bake? Do I buy boxes to put customer’s stuff in, or are bags better? Do I need an adapter for my phone so I can take card payments? I have been knocking around good old planet Earth for long enough now to know that these are the kinds of questions that can only be answered with experience. I’ve also picked up and dropped enough hobbies to know that it’s all too easy to end up severely out of pocket with not a great deal to show for it if you move too fast, too soon. And hello, I’m a broke millennial, I ain’t got time for that!

When I first moved to Nottingham, Andy discovered a company called Phat Doughnuts (which swiftly changed to The Nottingham Doughnut Company after a few name related legal implications). Their premise was essentially: doughnuts on delivery. We ordered from them for my birthday one year and fell in love. In addition to the delivery service, they traded at local markets. That company eventually grew into a pretty massive business success story. Within about 18 months, they went from delivering doughnuts by hand, to running a hugely successful store and having several employees. These days I am 100% convinced that they are the sole reason I will never be a size 8. Seriously. If you’re ever in Nottingham you absolutely NEED to track them down and try one. Anyway, I find their story really inspiring. They really did start from nothing and build what has the potential to be an empire. Far be it for me to assume that every story will be as successful as theirs – this much I have learned from Sir Alan. But it certainly gives me food for thought – no pun intended. Ok, pun definitely intended.

So I had a think about the local markets they used to trade at, and paid a visit to the vegan version of Sneinton market which takes place on the first Saturday every month. I imagine the vegan market is a bit smaller than the regular market, but visiting helped me to realise that it’s not out of my reach. With all of that in mind, I’ve just submitted my application to trade there, which feels very bizarre. I’ll have to wait to hear back of course – maybe they have no use for yet another baked goods stand? But if they do, I shall be sure to blog about it.

 

 

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The Bull’s Head – Repton, Derby

blog, cookies, dinner, food, lifestyle, restaurant reviews, reviews

I recently took a week off work and decided with my usual brand of reckless abandon: nerd edition, to change my long, dark brown hair style into a short, platinum blonde hair style. After several years in my late teens during which I bleached the s*** out of my hair at home, and then dyed the frazzled leftovers orange in a failed attempt to resemble Hayley Williams; I knew that booking a salon appointment was essential. (Hopefully I have a slightly tighter grasp on reality now too). My hair dresser, Ben Brown, is nothing short of a miracle worker, so I booked myself into his self-named Derby salon. As I was in the area, I decided to grace my mum with my presence. Lucky lady. Things just got better and better for her, when I graciously allowed her to take me out for lunch. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

On the outskirts of Derby is a small village called Repton. You might be familiar with its boarding school. It’s the one where Roald Dahl went to school. And Jeremy Clarkson too, but the less said about that the better. In addition to having an exceptionally fancy school, Repton is also home to The Bull’s Head, a pub come restaurant that has a collection of local and regional foodie awards under its belt.

The Bull’s Head is bloody lovely. Their mantra is ‘Seriously Good Food in an Unserious Way’ and it definitely practises what it preaches. It’s the type of place where you can order from a selection of gins, rather than being immediately given the house choice; but also order a speciality cocktail which comes served in a mini bath tub. Whilst the Bull’s Head feels like a slightly more upmarket place, you could comfortably visit in your jeans and vans of a lunch time and not worry about looking under dressed. Yes, it has to be said that given its close proximity to a boarding school; you do occasionally come across a gaggle of customers with upturned noses; who generate a slight whiff of Lacoste Por Homme and faux arrogance; but don’t let that put you off. The staff always go out of their way to make everybody feel welcome. They are the same type of friendly that is usually reserved for Starbucks baristas: warm, accommodating, accepting of all.

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My Nan would be proud!

The Bull’s Head has two kitchens – the main kitchen, and the pizza kitchen. I’ve ordered the pizza before, and can confirm that it is indeed awesome, but for me it’s the main kitchen that really sets it apart from the gastro pub crowd. On this visit, we started with some honey and soy glazed chorizo. I still think about that chorizo a lot when I’m feeling down. Instant joy! Juicy, tangy, savoury, sweet, meaty goodness. God, I can’t even put into words how good they were. Which is a pretty poor show for a food blogger, but let’s sweep that one under the rug and move on.

When it came to ordering mains, I went for a crushed chickpea, cheesy tofu and avocado sandwich; which was served with a generous hand full of proper, homemade chips like Nan used to make. Now, I know tofu might seem like a weird choice for a sandwich filling, and I know it has close connotations to tree hugging vegan types; but seriously, it was SO good. Plus, I think it’s probably time we all took a leaf out of the vegan handbook anyway, but that’s a tale for another time. (I know how ridiculous that sounds coming from somebody who regularly uses the thought of chorizo as a tool for happiness). Anyway! There was a happy contrast between the fresh, creaminess of the avocado and the melty, gooey, naughtiness of the cheese. The crushed chickpeas were just warmed up with a hint of spice.  It was a taste sensation, let me tell ya!

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A particularly friendly member of staff called Abbie (Hi Abbie!), recommended the chocolate skillet cookie for a sharing dessert, and oh sweet mama. I am not a particularly religious person, but after tasting this dish I think I’m a believer. The dish was comprised of rich, gooey, just cooked cookie dough served warm in the skillet; topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and fudgey chocolate sauce. I’m fairly certain I gained 5 pounds that day, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it.

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Whilst you’re probably safe to head to The Bull’s Head for lunch on a week day without a reservation, you’ll need to book ahead of time for dinner bookings or weekend lunches. One of the downfalls of undeniable popularity I guess. In terms of how much you can expect to pay at The Bull’s Head, you’ll pay significantly more for a meal from the main kitchen than you will if you order a pizza; but that’s just the cost of ingredients and skill required from the chefs I suppose (happy to be corrected!). So if I’m going for dinner it will be for a special occasion; but as I’ve said in other reviews, you pay extra for the higher quality food and service. It’s as simple as that. Scores on the doors as follows:

Ambience: 9/10

Food: 9/10

Bang for Buck: 7/10

Would I Go Again: Without a doubt!

 

Healthy Junk Food: Banana, Oat and Peanut Butter Cookies

baking, cookies, healthy

My relationship with bananas is a bit unfortunate really. As a person who is quite into fitness, I come across approximately 832 recipes a week for post workout smoothies, oaty breakfast bakes etc; all of which are laden with banana. I’m not a fussy eater at all. In fact I’ll pretty much eat anything you put in front of me. Unless it happens to have the faintest trace of banana. I literally can’t bare it, and that fact irritates me. I want to join in on the one ingredient banana ice creams of the world. The sliced banana sandwiched with peanut butter dunked in chocolate. Oh cruel world, why did you curse my taste buds like this?!

With that in mind, it probably seems a bit odd that I’m posting a recipe for something with a banana base. This is explained by the simple fact that my boyfriend loves bananas, to the extent he buys 14 a week, and inevitably realises 5 days into the week that 2 bananas a day, every day, is a bit much even for a banana lover. Underneath bananas on my list of things I hate, is food waste. Overripe bananas shall not escape from this household regardless of my dislike for them.

Previously I’ve used leftover bananas to make a delicious chocolate and banana loaf cake, laden with cocoa powder, brown sugar, melted dark chocolate and an array of chocolate chips. But alongside my cursed taste buds, I was also gifted with a snail paced metabolism and an intense love for food, meaning the battle to not look and feel like a beached whale is quite the bloodbath for me. To combat my ‘cuddliness’, I try to eat healthy most of the time (she says, with a duck slow roasting in the oven). So instead I had a search for healthy banana bakes, and came across a recipe for oaty banana cookies. One of my favourite things about this recipe, is it only contains ingredients which you’ll probably have in the house anyway, so no going out to buy any ingredients especially. Yay!


The recipe and method are simple:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
  • Use a fork to mash 2 very ripe bananas into a large mixing bowl
  • Stir in half a cup of peanut butter
  • Add a cup and a half of oats and a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Mix together until combined, then use a spoon to form ‘cookie dough’ balls
  • Bake on 180 degrees for 12-15 minutes (until firm)
  • Leave to cool on tray, et voila.


As a side note, I decided to whizz up a cup of the oats in the nutribullet to make a sort of oaty flour. I wanted these cookies to veer more towards the cookie side of things than the flapjack side, so I figured the smoother blitzed oats would help to achieve this. I also used 2 different types of peanut butter. Not might I add, before having to hoist myself onto our kitchen counter and clamber without the merest hint of elegance to my feet, in order to reach the peanut butter at the top of the cupboard. And here lies the problem with having a 6’6 boyfriend when you are 5’3. Anyway, once I finally reached the peanut butter, I decided to use a mixture – quarter of a cup of cinnamon and raisin flavour, and quarter of a cup of mighty maple. I’d come across a few recipes which called for cinnamon or maple syrup, so this was a handy shortcut. The peanut butter I use by the way (if you’re interested to know where such magical flavours come from), is Peanut Butter & Co .*

Obviously, my banana aversion means I can’t tell you from personal recommendation whether these were good or not, but given I was only able to photograph 4 of them (the others had mysteriously disappeared), I assume they’re pretty tasty. As a bonus, nutritionally the ingredients all point towards a great post workout treat. Oats contain carbs, peanut butter contains protein and banana has lots of potassium, so your torn muscle fibres will thank you for munching one or two of these after a heavy gym sesh. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

*Fun fact – I met my boyfriend online. When we met for the first time in person, he bought me a jar of their dark chocolate dream flavour peanut butter. A bit different to flowers, but it’s a year and a half later and we’re still together so…

Chocolate, Coconut and Walnut Cookies.

baking, cookies, food, recipes

I have a half enforced rule in my house that we don’t buy junky snack foods. Crisps, cookies, chocolate bars – all the processed treats of my youth – banned. Between me and my boyfriend, who both have a tumultuous relationship with food, it’s just better to not have it on hand; that way if a craving occurs, there’s no instant gratification option available. However, on occasion my sweet tooth rules the roost so much so, that when there is nothing in the house to satisfy it, my mind assumes that the only logical solution is to bake something. And that my friends, is how today’s chocolate, coconut and walnut cookie creation was conceived.

I used this recipe:

¾ cup of plain flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

113g unsalted butter (room temp)

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large, free range egg

¾ cup desiccated coconut

½ cup chopped walnuts

The original recipe (link) asks for ½ a cup of chocolate chips too, but alas, my cupboards could not stretch to such luxury, so there’s a good chance this batch weren’t quite as delicious as they could have been, but still…

To make:

First and foremost, I set the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and lined two baking trays with greaseproof paper. As a child, I always neglected this step, my eager little head in too much of a rush to get to the good bit – the mixing and sieving and making a mess for my poor mum to clean up. As you might imagine, this lead to some pretty damn poor baking creations. Take it from Lucy (age 8), always get the boring bits out of the way first.

Next, I mixed the flour, cocoa, bicarb, baking powder and salt into a Barbie pink bowl. (Barbie pink colour not necessary.) At this point I also combined the ingredients with a fork – handy, as I also forgot to sieve my cocoa – the fork technique breaks up a lot of the bigger lumps.


I then added both types of sugar and the butter (cubed) into the bowl of my standing mixer. My mixer is by Andrew James – I’m a recent graduate in my first post uni job – my KitchenAid dreams will have to wait until my bank balance has recovered a little. I then used the whisk attachment to beat these on mid/high speed until the ingredients were soft, fluffy and smelling like heaven.


At this stage, I added the egg and vanilla extract to the sugary buttery mix, and then whipped the whole lot together using the stand mixer again. Just a little tip, it’s always worth cracking your eggs into a separate bowl before you add them to any other ingredients. This way, if you’re unfortunate enough to come across a bad egg, or even if you just drop a bit of shell, you haven’t wasted any other ingredients.


Next, I added in the flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Once everything in this bowl was combined, I used a big spoon to mix in the coconut and walnuts. Don’t bother trying to use the mixer to mix these in – the walnuts will cause havoc and it’s just not worth the fuss. A bit of elbow grease is all you need.


Now for bake. I found this recipe to be quite unusual, because it didn’t require the cookie dough to be chilled. It’s usually cookie baking 101 to chill the dough, at least for a little while before baking. As I once read – it helps the flavours get to know each other. Both cute and disturbing imagery depending on how you think about it. I decided to do a bit of ‘sperimenting. I baked half the cookies straight away, and chilled the other half of the dough overnight and baked the next morning. I suppose it depends on personal preference, but the cookies baked straight away were a lot more thin and chewy, whereas the chilled dough gave a more soft but crunchy cookie. I definitely preferred the latter. To each their own though.


Left: chilled. Right: baked straight away.

Either way, the end result kind of tasted like a cookie version of a Bounty bar. I’m sure that will divide opinions, but for me, not a bad little bake considering it was derived purely from ingredients I happened to have in the house.