Exploring Scotland: The Japanese Gardens

9 August 2021

I love finding out about a beautiful place and the Japanese Garden at Cowden is no exception. I’m not sure how I found out about it, which annoys me but I’m really happy I found out about it. Residing in Dollar, Clackmannanshire, The Japanese Garden has a really simple history behind it, in the 20th century inspired by a recent trip she had taken, Scottish adventurer Ella Christie decided to build a Japanese Garden. She enlisted the help of a female design, Taki Handa, and the result was a seven-acre site on the grounds of Cowden Castle. As a result, the garden is the first and only garden of its size to be designed by a woman. You can find out so much about the history and more recent happenings of the garden by visiting the website. 

5 recipes I've tried and loved 2021

25 January 2021

I know I use this blog infrequently, but I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since my last ‘5 recipes I’ve tried and loved’ post. I really thought this had been posted in the last 3 years! It was fun to look back at that post because I was able to see if I still used any of those recipes, the short answer is no. But really, it’s ‘kind of’. I hadn’t made the Roasted Red Pepper & Goats Cheese Alfredo in years, but at some point, in 2020 I did make it after years of not doing so. I’m not sure why I stopped making (probably due to my laziness of peeling the red peppers) but when I made it this time around I didn’t *love* it. Maybe I was just out of the practice of making it so didn’t adjust things according to my taste but it didn’t blow me away. I’m willing to give it another go this year though.

The other recipe that I’ve made now and then is the RicottaMeatball Sandwich, but again just the meatballs, I never bother putting it in a sandwich! I did make it recently because I was typing up this blog post and fancied them. They are truly delicious and NOT DRY, something I think a lot of meatballs suffer from. The recipe also makes so many that there's some for the fridge and the freezer, this will definitely be showing up again for my meals in 2021. As for the other recipes Mexican Beef Fajita Salad, Turkey Meatballs with a Tomato Sauce and Chicken,Broccoli and Mushroom Stir Fry, I all but forgot they existed. Well maybe not the Turkey Meatballs, I just know my boyfriend isn’t a huge fan of turkey so I don’t lean towards wanting to make it but I will try and add it into our meals at least once this year. As for the other two recipes they have fallen off my radar completely and I have to say – I don’t mind that. I have plenty of other yummy recipes that I use now and I am sharing details of them below! 

Gordon Ramsay’s butter chicken
I love this recipe; I don’t know how authentic it is but it tastes lovely! My only gripe with the recipe is the call for 275ml of tomato puree, to me, this is weird because tomato puree is weight in grams, but the measurement is easy enough to do. However, what is insane is that it calls for nearly a whole tube of tomato puree which I find insane lol. I’ve only ever used the required amount once and that was in 2020 just to see what it tastes like, all other times I’ve just added it into my liking. This recipe is gorgeous though, the addition of the butter (obvs) and the cream makes it really silky and the spices are just perfect for this. I often end up using a bit more cream because I like it creamier but other than that (and the tomato puree bits) I follow the recipe exactly. I also can now have regular cream, so no longer have to use an alternative. This recipe is one that does require some prep time as you need to marinate the chicken twice essentially, then grill the chicken and then make the sauce. I typically do the marinating the day before and then I can just whip out the chicken the next day and put it into the grill whilst I work on the sauce. I’ve been making this recipe for years, my brother loved it when I lived at home, I made it frequently when I lived by myself and now living with my boyfriend, I still make it loads because he loves it. 

I LOVE this recipe, I’ve made similar sauces myself when I’ve just been using up leftovers, but I still think this is a fantastic recipe. The measurements are so on point so you get the tasty spicy creamy tomato sauce. And as you should because this is a recipe that calls for tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and passata (at least I assume this is what the tomato sauce refers to and not tomato ketchup lol). It’s a lot of tomatoes but there’s also a lot of pasta and sausage used in the recipe so it’s all perfectly balanced in the end. I love the balance of the spicy and creamy. I typically use any sausages for these, so my version is never really the true Italian Sausage recipe. I just use Lincolnshire or whatever sausages Lidl has in store. Maybe one day I’ll go to a butcher and use real Italian sausage. Maybe it’s just me but I find Italian sausage isn’t as readily available in supermarkets in the UK as they are in the US. I know Heck does Italian chicken sausages but pork ones are a bit of a mystery. I know Morrisons used to have some but they took away some flavours a while back. This is a recipe I’ve discovered in the past two years or so, but have made it a handful of times. 

Yummm burgers! I absolutely love the pictures used in this recipe; it manages to make me want to make this recipe all the time! I only really used the chicken recipe, I don’t like sriracha so don’t make the sauce. I also don’t really like bacon so don’t add that in my burger, however, you can make this your own by adding your own condiments to make the burger to your taste. I love the batter for this recipe and I adore anything that uses buttermilk, it makes the chicken so tender and really amps up the taste. The recipe uses smoked paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper along with corn starch to make a tasty and crunchy batter. I honestly cannot fault it. Sometimes I mix some self-rising flour in the mix to amp up the crunch factor on the batter but honestly, the recipe is perfect as is. It’s a great way to have homemade chicken burgers and once you get confident with the recipe you can adjust the seasoning to your taste, adding in other bits or taking something out. I discovered this recipe about 3 years ago and I made this occasionally when I still lived at home and me and my brother couldn’t get enough of it, now it’s my boyfriend who requests this! 

I adore recipes that use chicken thighs, they are juicy and flavoursome and I am here for them! I like this recipe for a mid-week meal, it’s relatively quick to whip up and can be paired with rice and veggies. I adore garlic and whilst I’m not overly keen on sweet sauces in savoury dishes this does work well, HOWEVER, only if I reduce the amount of honey called for in this recipe. I just find 110g of honey way too much for me. However, reduced to something like 60g and it’s delicious. I reduced the amount the first time I made this purely because I didn’t have 110g left of honey left, the next time I made this I used what was called for and well, we ate it but it was very sweet. My only complaint with this recipe is I find it takes more than the 20mins time stated and that I don’t find that the corn starch amount is correct. I need to use more corn starch, and I guess because I’m anxious about cooking the chicken through, overall, it ends up taking me close to 30-40mins. Aside from that really happy with the flavours in this and so nice to have leftovers to eat during the week. I discovered this recipe in 2020, so it’s a fairly new one but one that is firmly rooted in our staple meals.

Now this one is a bit of a cheat because I love this recipe but I haven’t made it in well over two years! I only recently took my pie base from London back in October of 2020. But I definitely will be making plenty of it this year. This is such an easy recipe to follow and although it calls for 4 tarts, I just make one big one. I don’t make my own pastry so that makes the recipe even easier. Really the hardest bit here is caramelizing the onions, it’s still something I have to master but I give it a good go each time and I love making it. Caramelized onions paired with goats’ cheese and tomatoes is a winner and this dish is a refreshing changing from all the pasta and chicken I make! I made this recently, again because I'd been working on this blog post, and it was just as good as I remembered. I always pick a mild goats cheese so it's never overpowering in the dish. 

Exploring Scotland: Isle of Arran

28 September 2020

I genuinely cannot believe it's been so long since I've written a blog post, I definitely got caught up in my BookTube channel and studying. I've completed my Master's degree now and at the moment I am on a break from YouTube (I took time off to write my dissertation) and I really wanted to share these photos I took when I visited Arran back in July. 

We drove from Glasgow (I actually managed to drive us partway there) to the Ardrossan Ferry Terminal and got the ferry to Arran for about 11am. We had no real plans other than to just wander around and sometimes have no plans is just my favourite way to explore places. We ended up driving to Blackwaterfoot which is a village in Arran. It was so lovely to be so close to the sea, I know the last time I was near a sea before that was in Italy when I was visiting my friend in Latina. It was a pretty mild day when we went, it was raining in the morning but tapered off to a drizzle and then nothing in the afternoon. 

Exploring Scotland: The Kelpies

20 March 2019

I mentioned in my Edinburgh post that between moving and everything else I felt like I had abandoned my blog. I have quickly realised that this is very much true (blame, my BookTube channel) but also that I never officially mentioned that I was moving on the blog. I moved from London to Scotland in September to study for my masters and it’s been a whirlwind! I live in a quiet old town in a flat beside a beautiful river and I get to study the one industry I’m totally passionate about – publishing!

Best books of 2018 (to read in 2019)

15 January 2019

It’s been a long time since I talked about books on this blog, in fact, the last time was about 11 months ago, sharing my Man Booker Prize 2016 video. With 2018 done, I thought I would share some of my favourite books of the year. I have done full videos on all my books, so I’ve just handpicked a couple from the video, you can check out the videos at the end for more books and full details about why I love them.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

This is should be mandatory reading for everyone, not only is it about Britain’s history with racism and slavery (very few books are) but it explains to white people the frustrations black women face when it comes to talking (let alone dealing) with racism. This non-fiction read is short, to the point and informative. I want to read more like it.

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