Sunday, 31 August 2014

As I Was Going to St Ives...

On a rainy Friday morning, we packed the car full of Haribo and ridiculous 80's driving anthems and headed once again over the Severn Bridge and down the long stretch of M5 to Cornwall.

After 5 long hours, we jumped out of the car to be met with a warm gust of sea air, glorious sunshine and wall to wall blue skies. Completely overdressed from the Welsh weather that we left behind, we launched ourselves down the hills to the crowded beaches tearing off layers and pulling on flip flops as we went.

Being Bank Holiday Friday, St Ives was incredibly busy. The car parks, beaches and pubs were spilling over at the seams. But there was only one thing on our minds to fight our way to first...

Ice cream! Coconut, and vanilla with salted caramel. Unbelievably creamy and lovely summery flavours.

Instead of joining the crowds, we dawdled our way through the intermingling streets, taking in the sights and a little window shopping.

And as per usual, it didn't take me too long until I got sidetracked from the cute cottages by all the beautiful food on display.

St Ives is full of tiny little streets, with quaint little cottages in every nook and cranny. Some with the funniest of street names too!

Starting to feel a little weary after all the travelling, we headed back to check into our caravan and crack open some cider and fizz with our feet up. The girls rustled up a picnic style dinner from bits and pieces picked up from our dawdling around the local delis. The main star of the meal that we always look forward to however, is Jo's mums quiche. It's starting to become a bit of a tradition that she makes these for us when we go away, so if you're reading this, thanks Jan!

Bellies full of food and sleepy heads from the long drive, the girls snuggled on the sofa while the boys popped out for a cheeky pint. We fell asleep with the curtains open, staring at the stars and hoping for another lovely sunny day tomorrow to make the most of...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cappuccino Cupcakes

I'm finally attempting my first recipe post! I'm currently raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support, for which I'm doing a zipwire challenge in September, and inspired by the Great British Bake Off, I decided the best way to raise some funds is to ply the public with sugar.

I'm not a very big baker by any means. I generally lack the patience. I love everyday savoury cooking but every now and then I do like to indulge in an afternoon of cupcake baking! Who doesn't love a cupcake?

To make 12 cupcakes you'll need:

110g self raising flour
110g margarine
110g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 large free range eggs (I demand free range eggs. Happy hens = better cakes)

For the icing:

425g icing sugar
200g unsalted softened butter
4 teaspoons of instant coffee, dissolved in as little amount of boiling water as possible
A grating of dark or white chocolate

First things first, whack your oven up to 160c and line your cupcake tin ready with the funkiest cases you can find.

Then chuck all the cake ingredients in a bowl, mixer or food processor. Having first started in my tiny flat kitchen making cupcakes, I seem to always get my best results with a wooden spoon and a big ol' bowl. Either way, it gives my arms a good work out! Keep at it until it's nice, fluffy and really well mixed.

Divide the batter evenly between the cases, and bake for about 15-20 minutes. They need to be nicely golden brown on the top, and spring back at you when you give them a poke. Let them cool a bit while you have a cup of tea.

When the cakes are ready for you, it's time for the fun bit. Beat all the icing sugar and butter together in a bowl or food processor to make the buttercream icing. Add in the coffee a teaspoonful at a time, until both the flavour and the consistency are correct.

Then it's up to you to decorate your cakes how you want! I've gone for big swirls of piped coffee buttercream, topped with a dark chocolate disk and a sprinkling of white chocolate to give that cappuccino look! You can do this or pile on a smooth buttercream layer topped with dark chocolate. Let your creativity run with these!

If any of you lovely people wanted to check out my fundraising for Macmillan, then please visit

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Urban Taphouse, Cardiff

Yet another gem lying on Westgate Street is Urban Tap House. Directly opposite gates 2 & 3 of the Millennium Stadium, you can't miss this big red building.

Inside, this place is huge. Full of random rooms to get lost in, bare brick walls covered in old gig posters and exposed ceilings, it ticks all the hipster boxes. Except it's really hard to not feel so comfortable at the Tap House. It's the type of place to just sit back, chill out, and make it your home for the rest of the day.

In my search for great Cardiff food, this name has popped up more than once. I'd been for a drink before, but as yet hadn't tried out anything from the kitchen. Saturday was the day after my littlest brother Ryan's 19th birthday, so after a day of spending his birthday money, this was the perfect place for him, my mum and I to plonk ourselves down and refresh.

The Urban Tap House is run by the Newport based Tiny Rebel Brewery, so it stocks a plethora of great craft beers and ciders. Expect to be stood at the bar for ages like me while deciding what to go for. (For the record, I recommend the Boho).

The menu is pretty small and simple, which I like. They know what they do well and stick with it. 8 burgers, including a veggie and a fish option, and a handful of exciting sides to go with.

My mum and I went for The Big Welsh, and Ryan went for The Plain. The Big Welsh consisted of a beef patty topped with crispy bacon, welsh cheddar and pan fried leeks. All burgers came with a side of red coleslaw and fries, all falling between the £7 - £8 mark, which is great value.

Especially when you see the size of them.

The burger really was excellent. The beef patty was thick and juicy, and had that lovely charcoal grilled taste without being too overpowering. The toppings were just the right size, enough leeks to add to the juiciness and two slices of crispy, smoky bacon to add some crunch.

Let's get to the real winner of the meal though, the sides. I upgraded my fries to...*drum roll please* pizza fries.

Just look at them. I'm completely unashamed as to how much I love these. Home cooked skin on chips, covered in a tomato sauce, topped with gooey melted cheese and a few slices of pepperoni.  Next time, I could totally skip the burger and just eat these. As it was, I couldn't finish them all on top of the burger. Rest assured, I gave it a good go though.

Ryan ordered the stand out side dish, the onion rings. I managed to sneak one from him and they were incredible. Chunky slices of white onion encased in a Tiny Rebel beer batter. The batter was so light and sweet, it reminded us of the little Dunkin' Donuts that you get at the fair.

The menu has a range of other exciting sides, mostly all covered in this fairy light beer batter, including gherkins and chillies. The best way to enjoy the food here definitely seems to be on a lazy afternoon, working your way through the incredible craft beers from their own brewery, supplemented by the sides and bar nibbles available.

I mean, candied bacon anyone? I've got to try that with my next pint...

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Pizza Hunt...Zero Degrees, Cardiff

Ever since that epic gooey pizza heaven moment at The Stable, Newquay, I've had a serious obsession with finding the best pizza I can a bit closer to home. Cardiff has an epic food scene at the moment, and every time I go, there's somewhere new I need to try.

Recommended to us during the week was Zero Degrees on Westgate St, opposite the Millennium Stadium, so we decided to give this a try.

We managed to get a table easily, as the restaurant was quite empty even for late on a Saturday afternoon. I ordered a pint of the speciality beer on tap, which was a mango beer, and the husband ordered the black lager.

The mango beer was surprisingly lovely. Light and fruity, but still retaining the thickness of a beer. Not as sweet as you'd imagine, I much preferred this to any other fruit beer I've tasted so far.

The black lager tasted like a light Guinness, with a big hit of cappuccino. Lovely to start with, but it got a little heavy on top of the pizza.

Zero Degrees hosts an exciting looking menu, with the emphasis clearly on the pizzas and the pastas. There were many items that caught my eye, but I came with a challenge in mind! The pizza menu has around twenty different toppings, all on top of a wood fired base.

In the end, I chose the old faithful Parma (Parma ham, rocket and parmesan shavings) and he chose the Spicy Mexican (Mexican sausage, roasted mixed peppers, red onions, sweetcorn, jalapeños, smoked cheese), at £10.75 each.

The pizzas were huge, and I ended up giving a slice or to away to the other side of the table, where he was more than happy to oblige, after polishing his off!

The base was well cooked, thin and crispy on the outside, and still soft and malleable in the middle (I do like to roll my pizza...)! The parma combo is an age old one, so you can't really go wrong, unless I'm being really picky. The tomato base could have done with a little more flavour and seasoning however, especially with the rocket being such a tangy leaf.

Both pizzas were really good value for a shopping lunch break, and more than filled us up happily. However, with the Cardiff food scene being as good as it is right now, I'd have preferred the menu to have included a few specialities, maybe showcasing a little more fresh local produce.

I'd definitely give this a try when I'm after a quick lunch away from the St Marys/Hayes hustle and bustle, and another pint of that lovely mango beer would be just the thirst quencher on a sunny day.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Sunset Views

As sunsets go, Marmari packs a mean one. The village is based around the huge beach, an expanse of sand that seems to stretch on for miles. This means blissfully uninterrupted views in the evening when the sun dips it's head behind the islands of Pserimos and Kalymnos.

However, the most spectacular sights on the island are to be seen from the mountainside village of Zia. A short bus journey on a lazy Friday evening and we were looking down on Marmari from a few more hundred metres above sea level.

Zia is a teensy tiny village, not much more than a single street lined with numerous tourist shops and roof top tavernas. But really, that's all it needs. This place is all about the views.

We had a little wander around to see the sights and get our bearings, but the tourist buses were arriving in their droves, and the best sunset spots were being filled up. We eyed up the rooftop terraces, but there was only ever going to be one winner...

Taverna Oromedon boasts the best views of the sunset in Kos. If you've never heard of it, I'm pretty sure you'll have seen these iconic steps.

We managed to get a fantastic table at the front of the restaurant, sticking out over the mountain. This meant great views for us, although often interrupted by a few amateur photographers sitting on our laps!

Chilled rosé and a plate of calamari to snack on, we chatted the night away and watched the shimmering panoramic views change before our eyes.

Appetite woken, we ordered mains. I've actually never eaten moussaka in Greece before, despite my numerous visits in the last few years. I decided to remedy this, and I'm so glad I did!

Mr P wasn't too happy with the lack of lamb kleftico on the menu, however the slow oven roasted lamb that he did have proved quite the match! I love the meltingly soft meat that the Greeks do so well!

Snuggled up in our front row seats with full stomachs, we watched as the main event unfolded before us.

Have you ever seen a sunset like that? The pictures just cannot do it justice, watching the sun slowly slip behind the islands in front, leaving a glittering gold aura around everything.

Once the spectacle was over, we dragged ourselves away from our comfy chairs, and headed off for a bit of tourist shopping before jumping on the bus back down the mountain. Late night shopping is high up on the list of my favourite Mediterranean pastimes.

Kalinixta Kos. I'll be back...