Recipe - Broccoli Pearl Barley Risotto with Seared Chicken

This dish is perfect for a cold winter's evening, it's heartwarming and packed with delicious flavour. A Donna Hay recipe with a twist, I've used pearl barley instead of quinoa flakes, which is nice and affordable so you can bulk this one out for some weekday lunches. The thing that transforms this is the cashew nut pesto! Its soooo scrummy and makes the whole dish come together, you have to try it! Recipe below, happy munching x

Ingredients - Serves 2 with some extra risotto for lunch!

  • 2 chicken breasts - more if you want some for lunches
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 brocolli heads, cut into florets
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 750ml of chicken stock
  • 100g pearl barley
  • 100g cashews, save some for sprinkling at the end
  • bunch of basil
  • large handful of grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
  • 60ml water

Method

  • Blitz the broccoli in a food processor and pulse until it looks a little something like rice.
  • Heat some oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 3-4 mins. Add the pearl barley and fry for a minute.
  • Add in the broccoli, cook for another minute. Then add the stock, turn down the heat and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, adding more water if necessary. This should take around 20 mins to cook.
  • Whilst the risotto cooks, make the cashew pesto. Place the cashews into the food processor and whiz for 2 mins or until a paste forms. Add the basil, parmesan and slowly add water until you get a nice, smooth consistency.
  • Now to fry you chicken. Season with salt and pepper, the place the chicken in a medium-hot pan with oil. Around 5-8 mins each side, depending on how big your chicken pieces are. Pop them on to a chopping board to rest.
  • The risotto should now be ready, the pearl barley should have a little bite to it, but not too much! Take it off the heat and stir in the cashew pesto.
  • Slice the chicken, serve the risotto in a nice wide bowl and place the chicken on top. Scatter the remaining cashews and give a little sprinkling of parmesan. Bon appetit!
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A Foxes Tale

Since April we've enjoyed the company of some beautiful urban foxes in our back garden. It all started with just a occasional sighting of a vixen, very timid, she would rarely hang around for more than a few seconds when we opened our back door. One morning I opened my curtains to see her with 4 dozy little cubs out feeding. I was quietly screeching with excitement, it was such an amazing thing to see but as soon as I caught her eye she huddled them all back beneath the raised decking. From then on I would wake up and immediately look out into our garden, slowly but surely they'd be there without fail, she would be feeding them and we would see them every morning as we came into the summer months. 

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As the cubs confidence grew, we would often catch them exploring our back garden, playing with each other or leaves etc, SO CUTE! Sometimes we'd be able to sit in the garden without alerting them and watch them from just a few metres away. There seemed to be this one cub who was just that little bit braver than the others. I'd always catch him basking in the sunshine or when mum had huddled them back to the den, he would always cheekily stick around for just that little bit longer. 

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One sunny afternoon, I went to sit out and soak up some sunshine when this little cub came out from behind our fence. He was inquisitive, keen to see what I was up to but also very nervous. I was so excited to be so close I quickly grabbed my camera to take some snaps. To my surprise, he sat and posed, it was extraordinary being so close to this beautiful creature. This lasted for around 10 minutes till he set off on his way, I was so elated from the whole experience I decided to give my friend a name, Arnie.

From then on Arnie comes to visit me daily, he sits outside our back door, no doubt hoping for any scraps we may have left over from dinner. He's now so used to my company I can sit pretty much next to him whilst he has a little snooze. He clearly feels our garden is a little safe haven, we always catch him sleeping here in the afternoon. He also has a friend (presumably a brother) that will relax with him, but this little fella is far more wary of us!

I've read that fox cubs start to become a lot more territorial towards the end of October and flee from their original homes, so there is a possibility we may begin to see less of this little fella, well actually he's quite big now! Despite the smelly presents they like to leave us, it has been wonderful to have an opportunity to get so up close to these beautiful animals. 

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Recipe - Chocolate and Walnut Banana Bread

There's nothing quite so homely than spending a dull and grey Sunday afternoon baking. I made a lovely little treat for us yesterday, a scrumptious chocolate and walnut banana bread.  Taking influence from a quick google search of recipes, I decided to do something with those brown bananas I had hanging around and whipped up this delicious loaf. Recipe below, happy baking! x

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Ingredients

  • 3 bananas (slightly squishy and brown are the best!)
  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of creme fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 cup of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan) and grease your loaf tin with some butter. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, mush up two of your bananas, leaving some lumps. Slice up the remaining banana and leave to the side for the moment.
  • In another bowl, mix your sugar and butter together. Mix in the eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add in the creme fraiche, mashed bananas, baking soda and salt until blended nicely. Next incorporate the flour.
  • Gently fold in the chocolate chips,  walnuts and sliced bananas.
  • Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  • Cool for 15 minutes, then turn out your loaf, slice and enjoy! (preferably with a cuppa!)
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Glasgow and Edinburgh Fringe

Towards the end of August we decided to book a little trip to Scotland to visit some good friends and check out the infamous Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

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Starting off in Glasgow, we spent a whole day wandering the streets, taking in the architecture that it so unique to this city. We visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, inside you can find a mishmash of taxidermy, Ancient Egyptian artefacts, galleries dedicated to Glaswegian artist, Charles Rennie Macintosh and various exhibits relating to Scottish history and culture.

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Then the rain came so we huddled in a nearby bar for some tasty lunch. Fortunately the rain passed and we made it to the city’s Botanic Gardens which features several glasshouses filled with exotic plant species. This is cactus heaven and there’s also a whole bunch of other weird and wonderful fauna to feast your eyes on. Check out this little snippets video that I made...

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In the evening we caught up with some friends at a quaint little pub found just South of the River Clyde called The Old Toll Bar. Here we played board games and scoffed some delicious some Asian dumplings!

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For the Fringe, we spent the day strolling around the hilly streets, catching a glimpse of the street performers and ducking into various venues. It was quite overwhelming, and I think we agreed that next time, we would try and visit midweek for a few days to really soak up the atmosphere. We had some giggles but the highlight was catching John Robins over at the Pleasance Courtyard. His show was an insight into the dark, witty mind of a broken hearted man. I would love to visit Edinburgh again, it seems like such a vibrant, beautiful city!

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Boomtown Fair - Chapter 9

The usual wet weather found here in UK meant that Boomtown 2017 got off to a muddy start but fortunately August decided to pull out some sunny rays for another weekend of music and mayhem. This was my fifth year heading to the festival and fourth with the ASBO Disco crew. I think the main reason I keep coming back is that it just gets bigger and better each time. The dystopian town has slowly grown over the years and features so many districts it now feels more like a city. So much effort goes into the look and feel, sets are painted with such attention to detail and the ongoing storyline gives the weekend an unusual sense of narative not found at other events.

Districts include the Town Centre, Trenchtown, Old Town, Wild West, Mayfair, Barrio Loco and Sector 6. that's not even all of them! Each have amazing sets that almost make you feel your in the Disneyland's of festivals. Music varies from Ska, Reggae, Hip-Hop, D n B, Jungle and Garage, plenty to keep you entertained over the weekend.

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Toots and the Maytals kicking off the weekend on the Lion's Den stage.

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Old Town district.

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Cypress Hill performing on the Lion's Den stage.

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The Wild West!

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The Banghai Towers and artwork in Distrkt 5.

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I was photographing the seedy madness that took place at The ASBO Disco venue found in the Barrio Loco district.

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Robotika stage in Distrkt 5.

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Hidden Woods stage plays a variety of Dub, Reggae and Dancehall over the weekend.

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Slipmatt playing Old School on the Bang Hai Towers.

Barcelona

I've been fortunate to visit Barcelona a few times previously but my boyfriend had not so, for his 30th birthday I surprised him with a trip to this beautiful city.

We started our trip with a late afternoon visit to the infamous Sagrada Familia designed by Catalan architect Gaudi. The structure has been in making for over 130 years and it's still not completed. It's easy to see why this structure has taken so long, the intricate stonework is fantastic, we were blown away by the details. We took a tour up the Nativity Tower which faces out toward the sea. The cathedral feels quite modern, especially on the inside but is also clearly influenced by traditional architecture found in many churches. 

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We wandered the streets during the day, exploring the gothic quarter, making sure we took regular stops to enjoy some tapas and the odd cervesa. One evening we decided to venture down La Rambla and found a beautiful, vibrant square called Place Reial where we relaxed and had a few drinks.

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Our trip to La Boqueria was high up list, especially after hearing about the infamous meat cones. Yes, a meat cone! La Boqueria is a large public market found just off La Rambla, here you can find a very diverse selection of food including fish, meat, cheese, spices and ice cream. We ate the most delicious chorizo and I found my favourite Kinder Bueno ice cream, so yum!

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We sat and watched skaters outside the Musuem of Contemporary Art, also know as MACBA.

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Possibly my favourite part of the trip was our visit to a botanical garden found near the coast, known as Jardins de Mossen Costa i Llobera. We were fortunate to stumble upon this amazing collection of cacti, there weren't many people around so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. The garden specialised in species found in the desert and other tropical areas, it felt quite unruly in places, the plants had taken over! The views from here were also great as it was situated on the Montjuic hillside, we could clearly see the cities Port Vell.

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On our last day we wandered over to the Arc de Triomf, a triumphal arch originally built for the cities 1888 World Fair. As you walk to the end of the strip you enter one of the largest parks in the city, Parc de la Ciutadella. This is a lovely area to hangout and get away from the hustle and bustle. We sunbathed for a while but there's plenty to do, from statues and fountains, the city zoo, you can even row a little boat around a cute pond. 

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We ended our trip by heading to the notorious tourist hot spot Park Guell. We wandered Gaudi's park for an hour or so, soaking up the views and giggling at the cheesy tourist photo ops! As expected, it was very busy so I felt we didn't enjoy this as much as the botanical gardens but it was interesting to see more of the Catalan born architects work.

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We spent a total of 5 days in Barcelona, a perfect amount of time to relax and soak up the sights. The food was frankly some of the best I've eaten in a long time, tapas style eating enables you to try so many different things, you can tell the city has an underlying proudness about the style of food they produce. The sun shined the whole time and made me smile so much, nothing better than a big injection of vitamin D to pick you up!

Glastonbury Festival 2017

Birthday solstice celebrations with cider, sunshine and Katy Perry, what more could you want? My second Glastonbury got off to a good start due to the amazing weather, it usually rains on my birthday so I was expecting the worst. The factor 50 was on and we we're sizzling! It was nice to go to a festival with no responsibilities and I have to say my camera spent a lot of time tucked away in my bag but here's a couple of shots from the weekend. 

Katy Perry on the Pyramid Stage
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Crowds gather as the solstice sun sets in the King’s Meadow’s Sacred Space.

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One of our favourite spots to be over the weekend was at Shangri-La's Clash stage which featured sets from Boom Sound, 24hr Garage Girls and the Born on Road crew.

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Me and the boy eagerly waiting for London Grammar in the John Peel tent. Definitely a highlight for us and the perfect finish to a wonderful weekend at the farm.

Can't Do Without You

Seeing your bestie marry the one will give you all the feels. Lindsay and Sarah tied the knot at a beautiful farm in Somerset, exactly 3 years after getting together. The day was perfect, chilled, boho and we also got to enjoy the pawfect company of their mini dachshund, Bruno. I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful, kind friend and I'm so happy she's found the one!

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"That" rag bunting!

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Hunstile is a working organic farm, here's one of their piggies and some of the goats who made the day just that extra bit special.

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Bruno looking handsome in his flower collar.

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Lindsay's mum read the cutest speech on the day, I've found it and posted it below. Love indeed is like owning a dog!

First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Somethimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Taylor Mali

Australia

Back in February I went to visit my sister and her family who live in Melbourne. Only my second visit since she moved over 10 years ago, I hate that it's so far and expensive to get to. This trip was filled with BBQs, Kangaroos and the odd creepy crawly...pretty Aussie by nature!

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Friendly kangaroo says hello at Mansfield Zoo.

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Meeting my niece and nephew was so special, I really hope that they'll remember my visit.

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Boat trippin' out on to Lake Eildon, a favourite spot for the family and where my sister tied the knot with her hubby. It's great to get out on to the lake, especially on a hot day as we can water ski and wakeboard to our hearts content. The weather reached a whopping 40 degrees whilst we were up at the lake, my poor baby niece, only 3 months, struggled in the heat a bit, luckily we had air-con up at the house to keep him cool.

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One of the days we decided to a bit of off-roading and head on up to Craig's Hut. The Hut is situated at the top of Mount Buller and was built as a part of the set for The Man From Snowy River film. The route was very bumpy and we almost got ourselves stuck on a very steep rocky incline. The 4x4 had us covered though and we eventually managed to reach the top. Lands are still recovering from the 2006 bush fires but contrast of colours are amazing and the views are fantastic! The one thing missing from Craig's "little hut" was a chai latte! 

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During my visit, I took the time to visit a good friend who lives over in Sydney. We spent a day exploring the city, we did a coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi, caught the ferry to the Opera House and ate soooo much tasty food.

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My friends delicious homemade Shakshuka.

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I cannot wait to return to Australia for another trip, next time I'll be heading with my partner in crime and we hope to see even more of this beautiful country.