Parkin Cake

This traditional Parkin Recipe is everything you could want for your Bonfire Night celebrations! Dense, sticky and sweet, filled with Autumnal spices, this is the perfect fall recipe.

Hi guys! As some of my readers will know, it is Bonfire Night this week! For my international readers, Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night) is an annual celebration here in Britain on the 5th of November.

Typically us Brits will spend Bonfire Night huddled around a bonfire, freezing our you-know-whats off and watching fireworks; all to celebrate that some guy failed to blow up parliament back in 1605.

I actually love bonfire night. Most years, my family and I make our way down to a local bonfire and fireworks display that is held on a nearby park. It’s one of the most popular fireworks displays in my town, and there’s usually a few thousand people who attend.

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Bonfire night wouldn’t be complete, however, without some traditional edible goodies! Foods such as honeycomb, treacle toffee and Parkin cake are very popular on November 5th (at least in my household!).

Parkin cake is a dense, sticky cake which is very popular in Lancashire and Yorkshire. It’s similar to ginger cake, and contains oats to give it a unique texture. With ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice, Parkin cake is what can only be described as the perfect autumnal comfort food.P1230439

Fancy making your own Parkin? Find my recipe below:

Ingredients:

  • 100g self raising flour
  • 80g oat flakes
  • 10g ground ginger
  • 2.5g ground nutmeg
  • 2.5g mixed spice
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 50g black treacle
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g light soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 10ml milk (I’d recommend using full fat or semi-skimmed milk- not skimmed)

Method:

  1. As per usual, start by preheating your oven. For this recipe you want a temperature of 140C/275F/Gas Mark 1. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
  2. Sieve your flour and the three spices into a bowl. Add your oats and combine.
  3. Place your butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a pan. Stir regularly with a wooden spoon until all your butter and sugar has melted. Bring your mixture to a simmer, still stirring but do not allow it to boil!
  4. Remove your syrup mixture from the heat and mix it into your dry ingredients.
  5. Crack your egg into a cup and beat with a fork, before adding the milk. Pour you egg/milk mix into the rest of your mixture. Combine thoroughly before pouring your mix into your prepared cake tin.
  6. Bake your Parkin cake for around 1 hour 15 minutes. Mine usually takes between 1 hour 10 minutes and 1 hour 25 minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on it. When fully baked it should be firm in the centre.
  7. Leave your cake to cool in the tray for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to fully cool.

I find Parkin is better if left in an air tight container for a few days before eating, a week is best. This will allow it to become really sticky and moist (oo-er). Seriously though, this stuff is so good.

Parkin also tastes great served warm with ice cream. Whatever you fancy really! 🙂

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I’d definitely recommend that you give this traditional Lancashire treat a try- you won’t be disappointed!

I hope you’re all having wonderful days,

Maddie x

A rather bad attempt at pumpkin carving! (What else?)

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Hey guys! So it’s finally here, the scariest night of the year, Halloween! It’s been a weekend of fun filled Halloween activities up here at uni; I may have not taken part in the clubbing, but I have been getting in the Halloween spirit nonetheless. (Probably the saddest sentence of my life right there, I do go out clubbing sometimes, I swear…)

Jason actually came up to visit this weekend, so most of my time has been dedicated to watching films under heaps of blankets, eating lots of food and going for coffee. I did, however, manage to squeeze in a bit of pumpkin carving before he arrived.

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Ok, so this guy is supposed to be a little hanging bat. I know, I know, this is NOT up to my usual artistic standards. Unfortunately, my pumpkin carving process this year was a much more rushed affair. I usually spend a few hours at in, but this year I had to squeeze it into a mere forty minutes. It was just a consequence of the sheer amount of work I had for uni, and trying to get everything done before Jason came to visit on Saturday.

I’m not as proud of the result as I have been in previous years, but it still ain’t half bad. And besides, it’s the process that makes pumpkin carving so fun! I had loads of fun creating this little bat design, even though I didn’t get to spend as long on it as I’d have liked!

Typically, being at uni, I’m also not allowed naked flames in my bedroom, so my pumpkin is sans candle. I’m pretty gutted that I couldn’t take any funky pictures of this little guy glowing eerily in the dark, but I did put my phone inside with the torch on and that looked pretty cool, haha!

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I love pumpkin carving. I think it’s such a fun and creative activity at this time of year! I’d never actually tried pumpkin carving until fairly recently, in the big scheme of things. I may have done it when I was really little with my mum, but throughout most of my childhood and early teenage years I don’t remember doing it. I guess my mum didn’t want to leave me to do it until she could trust me to handle a knife on my own (which in actual fact she still doesn’t; I almost sliced my thumb off at the start of uni last year, but thats a whole other story). But she trusts me a bit more with knives now. Ish.

For the past five years (I know this exactly, thanks to good old Facebook’s ‘look what you shared five years ago’ posts), I’ve had a go at pumpkin carving on my own. When I’m at home I always take the time to sit down and plan my design out, before merrily setting to work hacking away at my pumpkin. I actually really enjoy getting all the guts out, which I know is some peoples least favourite part of the whole process. But for me its super satisfying, whilst being really gross and slimy; perfect for Halloween, am I right?! 

So that’s all from me today, I hope you enjoyed this post guys, despite it not being my usual style! Would you like to see more of this type of chatty post, or should I just stick to making stuff? Haha!

Best wishes to you all for this Halloween, whether you be spending it Trick or Treating, partying or just watching a scary movie and hiding behind a cushion. Or if you’re just staying in with the lights off pretending your not home to avoid the Trick or Treaters!

Have a wonderful and blessed day guys, best wishes to you all!

Maddie x

 

Cardboard tube bats!

Hello you lovely people! Today we have a spooky halloween DIY. Say hello to my cardboard tube bats!

Copy of DIY

Ok, so they’re not that spooky…they’re actually pretty cute in fact, I love their little faces! I’ve named them Bert and Eric; I feel that suits them.

Now would you believe me if I told you that Bert and Eric started life as toilet roll tubes? Well, you probably would judging off the title of this post, but still, they look pretty good for some recycled cardboard tubes!

Fancy making your own bats?

You will need:

  • Cardboard toilet roll tubes (as many for however many bats you wish to make!)
  • Black or dark grey acrylic paint
  • White acrylic paint
  • A black marker pen
  • Black card
  • Wire
  • A glue gun (though regular PVA or a glue stick would work too!)

Method:

  1. Paint your toilet roll tubes using your black or grey paint- I used a dark grey colour. Leave to dry.
  2. Once your toilet roll tubes have dried, fold the top of your tube in on itself to create the bat ear shape as shown. Do the same with the bottom of your tube.
  3. Paint two white circles on your tube for your bats eyes, and two small triangles for fangs. Once your white paint has dried, draw pupils and a line for the mouth of your bat using the marker pen.
  4. Cut out your wings. Fold a piece of card in half and cut out a wing shape, when you open your card out you will have a perfectly symmetrical set of wings! Do this for however many bats you are making.P1230515.jpg
  5. Glue your wings to the back of your bat. I used  glue gun for this, but PVA glue should work fine too.
  6. Glue two pieces of thin wire to the bottom of your bat for its legs! Curl the bottom of the wire over to allow your bats to hang upside down from things around your house! (Eric and Bert have been living quite happily on a lamp shade for the past month! 😉 ).

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I absolutely love how these little guys turned out, and they really were so simple to make, a perfect DIY for the kids to help with!

I think these look especially great hanging from the fancy light we have in our snug at home; super creepy right?

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That’s all from me today guys, and also my last Halloween DIY for the year! I hope you’ve enjoyed all of my posts leading up to Halloween, and if you’re looking for some inspiration over the weekend why not check them out?

Related posts:

DIY Witches Cauldron, DIY Halloween Party TreatsDIY Halloween Candles.

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

Slow cooker roasted red pepper, tomato and red lentil soup

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Hello everybody! Today’s post is my first proper recipe. As in, this recipe doesn’t involve the word ‘cake’ anywhere. (Except right there, because I do love cake, and couldn’t go a whole recipe post without mentioning it).

Today I am bringing you my homemade roasted red pepper, tomato and red lentil soup. This soup is vegetarian, vegan and super healthy, as well as being so easy to make for a soup novice such as myself. Being a student, I find that it’s hard to find cheap and healthy meals, whilst also keeping enough time for all that important studying (or drinking alcohol, whatever’s your jam really). Plus, there are few things as satisfying as coming home to a hot bowl of tomato soup at this time of year- especially with all that Fresher’s Flu flying around!

My timetable this year involves an absolute shedload of five o’clock lectures, which only finish at six. I’m the type of person who likes to eat pretty early, so I can keep my evening free for yoga and blogging, so I wanted some quick and easy meal ideas that I could be eating within five minutes of walking in the door; after a bit of thought, I decided to get a slow cooker. Luckily enough for me, my gran owned a small, two person one which she never used. Being the best gran in the world, she decided to give it to me.

Today’s recipe was my first time using a slow cooker, and I was so impressed by how easy it was! I don’t know what I expected really, like, it literally does what it says on the tin, it cooks food slowly. But I’m the sort of person who gets excited over mundane things like managing to use a slow cooker without my uni accommodation burning down, so I was pretty impressed.

I prepared this soup in the morning before leaving for my lectures, and left it in the slow cooker for about seven hours. I’d say 6-8hrs would do the job perfectly, great for students like me who are only getting home late. To save even more time, you could always roast your red pepper in advance, or used the preprepared sort.

So what do you do? Find my recipe below:

Ingredients (makes enough soup for two people, so for my slow cooker size. You can easily double the ingredients for a larger slow cooker!):

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 220g chopped tinned tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Smoked paprika (approx 1/2tsp)
  • Ground cumin (approx 1/2 tsp)
  • 60g red lentils
  • 375ml boiling vegetable stock
  • Black pepper (optional)

Method:

  1. If you have not already done so, begin by roasting your red pepper. Cut it in half, remove the seeds and place on a tinfoil lined baking tray, with the inside of the pepper facing down. Drizzle with some olive oil and place in the oven on 180C/ 356F/ Gas mark 4, for approximately 20 minutes,
  2. When your pepper is almost roasted, so that the skin has turned brown and began to look loose, fry your onions in some olive oil. Fry for about five minutes, until they have begun to look translucent.
  3. Add your paprika and cumin. (I use approximate quantities here because I usually just throw everything in and see how it turns out!) Add your chopped tomatoes and your lentils.
  4. Bring your mixture to the boil.
  5. When your peppers are roasted, remove them from the oven. Leave until cool enough to handle, then pull the skins off. They should come off pretty easily. Chop up your peppers and add them to your mixture.
  6. Make your vegetable stock. Pour your soup mixture into your slow cooker before pouring your boiling vegetable stock on top and mixing it all together.
  7. Place the lid on your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8hrs.
  8. Before serving, blend your soup if you wish (I always have my soup blended!). If you own a hand blender, a good idea is to blend the soup while it is still in the slow cooker. This helps save on washing up!
  9. Season as you wish and garnish with coriander if desired. I like to serve my soup with lots of black pepper and some granary bread!

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Well there you have it guys, my first every proper recipe post! What did you think? Would you be interested in seeing more of what I eat as a student? Let me know in the comments! 

As always, thanks for reading!

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

 

 

Carcassonne Citadel- A real life Disney castle

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The Medieval Citadel, pictured from across the river Aude.

Hey guys! So as some of you may know, last month Jason and I visited Carcassonne in the South of France. It was the most incredible holiday, and now that I’m home in wet and windy England, I can tell you that there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to be back there.

Jason and I love travelling, and over our four years together we’ve accumulated a pretty big list of places we want to visit. Carcassonne, however, was completely unknown to me before Jason mentioned it a few months back when we were looking for our latest holiday.

 

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Jason and I standing on the Battlements of the Citadel.

I think the fact that I hadn’t heard of Carcassonne prior to our trip sums it up pretty well- you probably haven’t heard of it either (or if you have, you’re a much more well travelled and well educated person than myself, and I take my hat off to you). It’s a hidden gem in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, possibly lost to most tourists under the shadow of the more well known, nearby cities of Montpellier and Toulouse. The town itself is pretty much what you would expect from any French market town, but the true magic of Carcassonne lies just outside the town centre and across the river Aude, surrounded by vineyards for as far as the eye can see. Here you find the Cité de Carcassonne, the medieval citadel, where the first Roman defences were in place by 333 AD!

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The beautiful battlements!

The citadel is steeped in history, and such a fantastic place to visit. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Inside the walls are a multitude of shops, cafes and restaurants. Bustling with tourists, the citadel is a vibrant and lively place to visit throughout the day and well into the evening; and it’s easy to see why. The beautiful medieval architecture accompanied by the quaint shops, selling local produce and stylish souvenirs, makes you feel as though you’ve just stepped into a Disney tale. There’s also several hotels located inside the citadel, for those wanting to immerse themselves in these beautiful surroundings!

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The entrance to the citadel. Often, horse drawn carriages will be found here waiting to take tourists on tours!

I couldn’t begin to describe all the different shops that are situated inside the walls of the citadel. Locally produced biscuits, infused oils, soaps and meringue to name a few, can be found in abundance in many of the countless businesses located here. I could’ve gone wild buying goodness knows how many Languedoc-Roussillon produced preserves and foods.

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Outside one of the many shops inside the walls! 

At the very heart of the citadel, you will find the Battlements. The Battlements are open to visitors, and the best bit was they were free for EU citizens under 26 years old! Free entry to look around this medieval fortress, steeped in history, was a wonderful experience without a doubt! There is plenty of information and signs to read as you make your way around the battlements, detailing the history of the Cité de Carcassonne. If you’re into the history side of things more than the shops, this part of the citadel is perfect for you!

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Inside the battlements.

To be honest with you, I could carry on talking about the citadel all day- but this post is already long enough! The sight of the towers and turrets rising above the vineyards is something quite surreal. I cannot recommend the Cité de Carcassonne enough! Be sure to visit if you are staying in the area, you won’t regret it!

I hope you enjoyed this post! I’ll be back with a post on Wednesday, but why not check out some of my other travel posts in the meantime?

Best wishes to you all!

Maddie x

 

 

 

Halloween Party Treats- A Collab!

Hey guys!

Get in the Halloween spirit with these great party treats! Impress your guests with spiderweb cupcakes and ginger spiced truffles!

It’s already getting dark at ridiculously early hours here in Lancaster, and I’m cranking the heating up to full on most nights to prevent my toes dropping off.
But there is one small glimmer of joy on these bitingly cold autumn days- Halloween of course!
You may have already seen some of my recent Halloween posts, but today is a super special post because not only are we talking Halloween, we’re talking Halloween parties! And, making it even more special, is the fact that we are joined by the lovely Yara over on Little DIY Projects!
Yara’s blog is amazing, and guys should totally check out- I am endlessly inspired by her posts! Today we are teaming up for a Halloween party collab, where she’ll be doing the decorations and I’ll be doing the treats!

So let’s get started!

I knew when Yara and I decided to do this collab that I wanted to make spiderweb chocolate cupcakes. Spiderweb cakes are a staple bake for me on Halloween, and one that I’ve been doing for years. I love the simplicity of them, and how effective the chocolate spiderwebs look!

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However, I also decided to spice things up a bit (quite literally!) and make something completely new for me. Enter my spiced ginger white chocolate truffles. I have never made truffles before, so it’s fair to say these were complete guesswork… Well, that’s a lie, I technically have made truffles once before. I made a chocolate ganache a few years back that went completely wrong and ended up solidifying into a soft creamy chocolate mixture. I ran with it and rolled it into truffle balls. 

But this time I wanted to try and come up with an intentional truffle recipe- so that’s what I did. These little guys did turn out a little rough around the edges, there’s no denying it, but I’m still pretty happy with the final product (plus, it’s Halloween! Surely a bit rough around the edges just makes them more creepy…right? Right?). They taste exactly how I think an autumnal truffle should taste; gingery, cinnamony, spiced creamy goodness, all coated in a very generous layer of white chocolate. So ok, maybe the white chocolate layer wasn’t meant to be quite that generous. But like my last truffle attempt, we’re rolling with it.

So first things first, my Spiderweb Chocolate Cupcakes! 

Get in the Halloween spirit with these great party treats! Impress your guests with spiderweb cupcakes and ginger spiced truffles!

 

You will need:

  • 12 cupcakes. Make your own or use shop bought- I’m not going to judge! I used my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe, found here
  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate
  • A piping bag. I use disposable piping bags, allowing me to just snip a small hole in the end, no nozzle required!
  • A sharp knife or cocktail stick

What to do:

  1. Break your milk chocolate into a microwaveable bowl and heat in the microwave for one minute. Take the chocolate out, stir with a spoon, and pop it back in the microwave for a further minute.
  2. Spoon your milk chocolate evenly onto your cupcakes, to coat the top of each. If you need to, spread it out with the back of your spoon to achieve a smooth finish.
  3. Melt your white chocolate in the same way as your milk chocolate.
  4. Spoon your melted white chocolate into your piping bag. Snip a small opening in the end of the bag.
  5. Pipe a spiral of white chocolate onto the top of each cake. Work quite quickly to ensure your milk chocolate doesn’t harden.
  6. Using your knife or cocktail stick, on one of your cupcakes, drag a line from the centre of your spiral outwards, towards the edge of your cupcake. Do this at regular intervals around the cupcake, to create your spiderweb effect!
  7. Repeat this on all your cupcakes, creating the perfect creepy treat for your party guest!

There you have it guys- how simple was that?! I love spiderweb cakes for this, they’re so quick and easy to do, perfect for when you have a lot of guests coming over!

Now to my Spiced Ginger and White Chocolate Truffles!

Halloween party treats- spiced ginger and white chocolate truffles

 

Ingredients (makes approx 20 truffles):

  • 125g ginger snap biscuits
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 350g white chocolate
  • Orange food colouring

What to do:

  1. Start by smashing up your ginger biscuits into really really fine crumbs. You could use a food processor for this, but my preferred method is putting the biscuits in a freezer bag and bashing them with a rolling pin-  a great stress reliever, am I right? 
  2. Combine your biscuit crumbs and your cream cheese in a bowl. Mix together thoroughly before sieving in your icing sugar and mixing together once more.
  3. Add in your cinnamon, before covering the mixture with some clingfilm and putting in the refrigerator for an hour. OK, so I didn’t actually do this with my truffles, and resultantly had to struggle trying to roll a very sticky mixture into balls, hence the rough, messy appearance of my finished truffles. DON’T DO WHAT I DID. Learn from my mistakes, guys.
  4. Once you have refrigerated your mixture, begin to roll out small truffle sized balls using your hands. Alternatively, use a little scoop so make life easier. Another lesson from my mistakes: don’t make your balls too big! (Ey yo…) But seriously, this mixture is very sickly. You want small balls of delight, not something so big that its a struggle to eat. 
  5. When you have your truffle balls, pop them on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray, and place them in the fridge for further 15 minutes.
  6. Just before taking your truffles out of the fridge, melt 300g of your white chocolate. I did this in the microwave, heating the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl for one minute, then taking it out and stirring with a spoon, before popping it back in the microwave for a further minute.
  7. Now it’s dunking time! Scoop up your first truffle ball using a teaspoon. Pop it in your bowl of melted chocolate and spoon the chocolate on top, so it is covering your ball. Lift out of the chocolate, tap it on the side of the bowl to get rid of the excess, then pop it back down on the greaseproof paper.
  8. Continue with this dunking method until all of your truffles are coated.
  9. Once you have covered all of your truffles in chocolate, place them back in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened. Leave them for another 15 minutes.
  10. Melt the rest of your white chocolate. Add your orange food colouring and spoon the mixture into a disposable piping bag. Snip a hole in the end and pipe your decorative stripes on top!

Again, I had a bit of an issue here! I actually ran out of white chocolate, and so had to do my stripes in icing instead, hence them looking a bit runny. Don’t worry though- I’ve included plenty of chocolate in this recipe to stop you from making the same mistake!

So there you have it guys, my first attempt at truffle making. It’s fair to say that these weren’t plain sailing, but I’ve definitely learnt for next time! I absolutely will be making more truffles in the future, as I looooveee different flavoured truffles so much. My brain’s already going into overload with cute festive ideas for over the Christmas period!

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I would’ve absolutely loved to have done some Halloween party savoury snacks to go with this post too, but sadly being back at university both time and money are limited. I hope you enjoyed this post though and it has given you some inspiration to get making this Halloween!

Be sure to check out Yara’s post over on her blog and go and say hello! We’ve had loads of fun putting this collab together, and I hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it for you!

Best wishes to you all!

Maddie x

 

DIY Gingerbread Sugar Scrub!

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Hi guys! Today’s post is probably one of my favourite DIYs/recipes that I’ve posted. This DIY gingerbread sugar scrub was sooooo easy to make, and mainly consisted of ingredients that you can find around your house!

I think this would make a wonderful, thoughtful homemade gift for your family and friends over the coming festive season, and it doesn’t break the bank! It turns out that those fancy sugar scrubs that brands have been charging us loads for can actually be made for a fraction of the cost at home- and you can tailor them exactly what you want!

When I was brainstorming ideas for this weeks blog posts, I decided I really wanted to make a festive smelling, spiced sugar scrub. For my regular readers, it will come as no shock that I love ginger and cinnamon; you may have noticed that I put them in a lot of my bakes at this time of year. And I thought, what could be better than having extra smooth skin and smelling like one of my freshly baked gingerbread men?! Hence today’s post 🙂

Make time- 5 minutes

Ingredients (makes one tub of sugar scrub):

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2tsp almond oil
  • 1/2tsp ginger
  • 1/2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Soften your coconut oil in the microwave, heating for about 20-30 seconds.
  2. Combine all your ingredients in a bowl. Mix together using your hands!
  3. Pack your sugar scrub into a Kilner jar or a tub and pop the lid on! Left at room temperature in an air tight container, this stuff should last a few years!

There you have it guys, I told you it was super easy!

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I plan on doing a few other sugar scrub recipes over the coming months; I’d love to try adding a few different essential oils to see what combinations I can come up with!

To use simply spoon a bit into your hands when wet, rub together in your palms before applying to your legs in circular motions! I’ve used this scrub a few times already, and it is wonderful! You only need about two teaspoons to do your arms and legs, and you come out of the shower feeling super soft and smelling like gingerbread!

Have you ever tried making your own sugar scrub? What flavour- that’s not the right word, scent? ..Oh you know what I mean- did you make? Let me know in the comments!

Lots of gingerbread scented hugs to you all!

Maddie x