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Friday 28 February 2014

Friday Wishlist: Gorgeous things you'll want to buy RIGHT NOW

The perfect dress. £29.99 from H&M.

The perfect throw. £9.95 from West Elm.

The perfect grumpy hedgehog. £35 from Le Crib.

The perfect spring coat. £85 from Warehouse.

The perfect kitchen timer. £35 from Heal's.

The perfect leather bag. £95 from & Other Stories.

The perfect skirt. £40 from Joy.

The perfect hologram shoes. £160 from ASOS.

Sluttery Sales Spy: People Tree, Irregular Choice & French Connection

Rabbits and ponies and lambs, oh my! The wonderful wizard of sales is here again to lead you down the yellow brick road of bargains! 


Hey Presto dress, £32 (was £55), Sugarhill Boutique

This Hey Presto dress from Sugarhill Boutique is MAGICAL. No, really. Let's have a look at that print up close:

I love it. I also have I Wish by Skee-Lo in my head because of it. And...

... Now you do, too! You are so welcome. No, stop thanking me now. It's getting embarrassing. 

I went to have a little look at the lyrics just to check that I hadn't misremembered the rabbit in a hat line (OF COURSE I hadn't, duh) and came across these gems in the comments:

"I always felt like this song was a not-so-subtle criticism of Communist regimes. The symbology draws on Western values that overcame oppressive anti-materialism, especially in the post-Cold War context. It then becomes the optimistic anthem of an unrestrained world era."

Brilliant. Me too. Directly below it, this:

"I think that this song is about a guy who wishes that he was a little bit taller. He also wishes that he was a baller. And that he had a girl who looked good so that he could call her."

DON'T BE SO RIDICULOUS. Clearly this is not what the song is about AT ALL. Pah.

Louche Zaza pony dress, £30 (was £45), Joy

Unicorns last week, hornless unicorns this week (some people call them "ponies", apparently). Oh, and by the way - Joy's free unicorn dress offer is ongoing, so get to it, people.

I mean, you could tippex on some horns if you really want. Lord knows, I already have.


Irregular Choice Octavius pumps, £29.50 (was £64.99), Let's Buy Shoes

Spring has almost sprung (I have seen lambs already, everyone!), so we must celebrate by wearing rabbits not just in our hats and on our dresses, but also on our feet, courtesy of these Irregular Choice Octavius pumps. This all works out quite well with the calendar, doesn't it, because tomorrow is the 1st of March and we have to bound around shouting WHITE RABBITS like a bunch of loons. Might as well have pink rabbit shoes on while you do this, I think. Or black and gold ones.

Poetic Licence Barnard Oxfords, £35 (was £89.99), Let's Buy Shoes

Ooh, these are good. I couldn't decide whether to show you the greeny-grey or the purple, but in the end I came to my senses and realised that purple leather trumps pretty much everything else that exists in the entire world. So here you are.


Louche house skirt, £25 (was £39), Joy

More joy from Joy because, in my expert opinion, their sale is one of the best at the moment. This house skirt looks really long, but in the model shot it's just above the knee (the model's 5'10", but, whatevs). So it's not a marquee in real life, I promise.

Claudia skirt, £32.50 (was £65), People Tree

Hello, you're cute, Miss Claudia. Also you have pockets, or pockicks, as Tiny Laura would have called them. Big Laura sometimes calls them that too. Quite often, actually. OH OKAY, most of the time. LEAVE ME ALONE.


Louche Memphis bag, £30 (was £49), Joy

I do enjoy a tooled non-leather bag, like this Memphis bag. I'd probably keep a few tools in there. No, Hilary and Derren do not count as tools. HOW RUDE.

French Connection satchel, £35 (was £65), ASOS

I have absolutely no need for another satchel in my life, but, oh, I do like this tomato red one. I could just call it a laptop bag, couldn't I? Then there would definitely be a need for it in my life.

What have y'all been buying this week, my little lovelies? And has anyone else seen a lamb yet this year? (Those in the supermarket chiller cabinet don't count.) Let the Domestic Sluttery Lamb Census commence.  

Let Her Eat Cake: Breakfast Martini Cake

Before you point fingers at me for being a cake lush, IT'S NOT MY FAULT! It was Boy and his Poison, I tell you, with his Marmalade Mule, tempting me into thinking about boozy orangey things.

We've already got the drink version of a Breakfast Martini covered here. Someone once tried to make me one of these with just vodka and marmalade in a glass. I wouldn't recommend that. But I would recommend this cake, because it's an unashamed mash up of cocktail booze, buttery sponge and sticky, orangey syrup topping. We will not apologise for art.

Breakfast Martini Cake
For the cake:
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 220g self-raising flour
  • 25ml milk
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp muscovado sugar
  • Segments of 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp marmalade (preferably thick cut)
For the martini topping:
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsp gin
  • 3 tbsp Cointreau (you could replace with orange juice if you like)
  • 2 tbsp marmalade
  • Lemon zest, to decorate
Make it!
 The cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Grease and line a 20cm, 9 inch deep cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, along with tablespoon of the flour with each to stop the mixture from splitting. Beat well.
  4. Gently fold in the remaining flour until it is just incorporated and no streaks are showing.
  5. Stir in the milk and the orange zest.
  6. Sprinkle the muscovado sugar over the bottom of the prepared tin.
  7. Spread the marmalade over the top, then layer the orange segments in a pattern, whatever you feel like.
  8. Dollop the batter over the top, smooth over and bake for around 30-35 minutes, or until it's golden and risen, and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  9. Cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out and peeling off the paper.
The syrup:
  1. Here's the boozy part!
  2. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir together.
  3. Bring to a simmer and reduce for 10 minutes or so over a medium heat, until the consistency thickens.
  4. Whilst the cake is still warm, prick holes all over the surface with a skewer and spoon over the sticky, boozy syrup so that it soaks in.
  5. Decorate lemon zest, make yourself a real breakfast martini (you know, since you have the ingredients and everything).

Thursday 27 February 2014

This Is Awesome: Squirrel Nut Grinder

Yes, this really is a squirrel grinding up your nuts ready for cooking.

I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! And that last sentence might need rephrasing.

I'm going to call him... Squirrel Nutkill.

(Too late, done it, you can't prevent it. It was inevitable.)

You tilt his head up, fill him full of nuts and then wind his tail to grind them. This is INFINITELY better than my usual tactic of "put nuts in bag, bash them with pestle, cry when nuts invariably break free from bag all over the floor."

The accompanying jar has measurements on so you know how much you're grinding. I might just keep going. Kill, squirrel. KILL.

It's £24.99 from Firebox. Thank you Firebox, for making me smile today.

Sluttishly Sweet: Coconut Rice Pudding with Blackened Mango

There are two kinds of pudding in the world.

The first is pudding we make to impress. We're talking meringue towers, ice-cream castles, things made with choux pastry. The other is the sort that you eat from a bowl whilst standing up, alone. 

This pudding is the latter. 

It's soft, nourishing and delicately spiced. Proper familiar nursery style comfort, with a nod towards the tropics. And the BEST part is, aside from an the occasional stir, it makes itself! 

Coconut Rice Pudding (serves four)
You'll need:
  • 400ml can of coconut milk
  • 150ml coconut cream (1/2 carton)
  • 100g pudding rice
  • a handful of sugar (this depends on how sweet you like it, so taste as you go)
  • a good grind of fresh black pepper 
For the mango skewers:
  • 1 mango 
  • metal skewers
Make it!
  1. Rinse the rice in a sieve under cold running water.
  2. Bring the rice, coconut cream and coconut milk to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer.
  3. After about 20mins, check the rice is tender, then stir in the sugar and a good grind of black pepper. This might sound odd, but it gives it a lovely spicy warmth. 
For the mango skewer:
Thread your mango pieces onto a the skewers and toast the fruit over a gas ring until nicely blackened. Or if you're feeling particularly rebellious, get the barbecue going and whack it over hot coals. No mango? This recipe would also work well with pineapple.

Top Ten Mint Recipes

Of all the herbs, I think mint is the most versatile. Savoury or sweet, mint is always there to brighten up our food. Yes, we've used some of the other herbs in sweet recipes (strawberries with rosemary or blueberries with thyme, anyone?) but really, mint is our herb of choice in desserts, cakes, salads and main courses alike. We're almost bursting with suggestions of how you can use mint in your cooking today.

Let's start with some classic mint recipes, like our old favourite, mint sauce. It's just not roast lamb without mint. Oh, and tzatsiki! We love tzatsiki more than is probably healthy. You'll find mint in our salsa verde, too, it's great with fish or new potatoes.

Let's not forget the quintessential combination of mint and chocolate. It's a marriage of flavours that we've loved since our very first after dinner mint. Actually, pop your After Eights (other after dinner mints are available) into a brownie mixture and we're basically yours for life. Prefer a mint Aero? We've got cake for you, too.  If that's not enough to satisfy your mint-choc cravings, you'll need some minty millionaire's shortbread and chocolate and mint fudge

Before you say it's too cold for salad, try our brilliant haggis winter salad. The citrus and mint in the dressing in the perfect accompaniment to all manner of salads, from warm grilled vegetable to chickpea and feta.

We're partial to Moroccan food, and Morocco are partial to a bit of mint in their recipes. Use chopped fresh mint to flavour these Moroccan parcels and our gorgeous Moroccan lamb rice for a taste of somewhere a whole lot warmer than Blighty. Not Moroccan, but still deliciously warming, our lamb chorizo pie uses mint jelly to brighten up a rich and filling dish.

Have you tried Thai basil? It's not easy to get hold of so we often use a combination of fresh mint and coriander to approximate the flavour in our Thai inspired recipes. If you're in a hurry this evening, try these Thai noodles, they're ready to eat in just a few minutes. Thai noodle soup is our cure for everything from hangovers to the common cold, we've even got a gluten free version for you.

Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that our love of all things mint stems from our obsession with the Mojito. This cocktail is the inspiration for some of our favourite recipes (we like to add rum to our food). This Mojito cake is a real crowd-pleaser, and one of our most popular cake recipes. For a bite-sized taste of Cuba, try some Mojito marshmallows or chocolate truffles.

Mojitos aren't the only mint cocktail we love. The Ivy Gimlet Royal is a gin based cocktail with some of the Mojito's great flavours. The Gentleman's Julep is a refreshing alternative to the old fashioned Mint Julep, while the Caged Mint and Peach Julep is an invigorated version of the original. Whether you prefer gin or vodka, you'll be extra excited when you infuse it with mint to create the brilliant Brighton Rock.

What's your favourite use for mint?

Need more inspiration? Check out more of our top ten recipe posts.

Great Sewing for Spring

The Great British Sewing Bee is back on the telly. And while, yes, it isn't quite Bake Off, it does provide a much needed weekly dose of niceness, plus the incentive to get busy with a sewing machine again. I know I'm not alone. John Lewis are cashing in on the nation's enthusiasm celebrating their haberdashery heritage with a new branded sewing range. And it's really rather lovely - I fell in love with their heritage sewing machine when I saw it on Retro To Go earlier in the week and its adorable button and scissors decoration. Priced at £89, it's aimed firmly at beginners.

The theme is continued with this sewing tin, only £9, perfect for your sewing bits and bobs, or a secret biscuit stash. While I can't help but feel some of the range owes a little too much to Merchant & Mills, it's good to see John Lewis celebrating their haberdasheries (go on, make them bigger and better!) and sewing using a colour other than pink.

Even cheaper than the John Lewis tin and a sweet gift for someone who is picking up a needle for the first time is this vintage crafts travel sewing set, a mere £3.95 from Dotcomgiftshop. There are some equally charming accessories too - such as this coloured pin set, only £1.95.

Tools covered, then you reach the exciting - and potentially expensive - and exciting business of picking your fabrics. Is anything nicer than a crisp cotton in spring and summer? The Liberty range is always gorgeous (cheaper fabrics are available) and the latest collection includes the Forget-Me-Nots design shown above, available for £22 a metre.

Those wanting to whip up something for their home can also get mega excited about Heal's relaunching their fabric collection - the collection goes on sale on 1 March, and includes reissues alongside new designs. The pattern above is by Hvass and Hannibal.

Now the important issue of what to sew? Well, the Sewing Bee of course does have its own book out, but you can find a whole stash of useful tips and inspiration on Tilly and the Buttons, the blog of one of last year's former Sewing Bee contestants (remember her lovely face?). She also designs and sells her own patterns - she's modelling the latest release, the Coco. The pattern is available as a PDF for £7.50 or £12.50 as a printed pattern (she's also got a book coming out in May).

Colette always produce beautiful patterns, and we love both DIY Couture and By Hand London, but I've been really excited to recently discover the range at Backstitch which covers all levels (and some gorgeous designs for kids if you've got a little person to sew for). The pattern for the Tallis Gather collar illustrated above is £6.

I've never heard of Victory patterns before but their designs are fun and young. The Hazel dress looks gorgeous, while the Madeleine skirt is just dying to be made up and taken out for a good time.

Anyone else got a sewing bee in their bonnet? What are you planning on making this spring?

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Sluttery Travels: London's Best Boutique Hotels

London has so many gorgeous hotels. And indeed, many features written about its offerings. But every time I stumble across a list of London's boutique hotels, they're always high end luxury and often pretty massive. Yes The Charlotte Street Hotel has quirky decor, but 'boutique' it is not. The Sanderson is a gorgeous giant. Dean Street Townhouse has 39 rooms. They're all lovely, but here are some truly boutique hotels in London.

Hazlitt's, Soho
Hazlitt's is a perfect hotel. It's a 'blink and you'll miss it and walk down the street three times' townhouse in Soho. There's no hotel bar open to the public, there are only 13 rooms and for just a night, you'll feel like you've gone back in time to the 18th Century. Rooms start at £227 per night from Mr & Mrs Smith.

Rough Luxe, Kings Cross
The location is a huge draw for Rough Luxe. This part of Kings Cross is still more rough than luxe. You choose the level of luxury - right down to the wine in your room and the art on the walls. Prices start at £159 for a night.

40 Winks, Stepney Green
It's still the most fashionable hotel in London, and easily the most glam thing in Stepney (this isn't really a stretch). There are only two rooms and you'll have to wait an age for one to become available but I still want to stay here and I only live half an hour away. There are regular events if you can't wait, and rooms start at £120.

Church Street Hotel, Camberwell
I'm still so pleasantly surprised that this little south London neighbourhood has its own boutique hotel. Also very excited by Communion - their new underground bar. Prices start at £125 a night.

The Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell
I can't stress just how beautiful The Zetter Townhouse is. It's my favourite hotel in London. The bar is perfection (and their house red both affordable and drinkable by the bottle). Yes, that's a four-poster bath in that room. Prices start at £190 a night.

The Hide London, Hendon
I was surprised to find a boutique hotel in Hendon. It's not as luxe and fancy as some of the others on the list, but it looks good and prices start at £100 a night.

Russels of Clapton, Hackney
Oh, I love a hotel dog photo. Especially one one a squishy sofa. It actually aims to be a modern B&B and I like that. It's classy, it's not fancy. And it's only £98 per night with brekkie.

One Leicester Street, Soho
Odd as it may seem, there really are lovely places in Leicester Square. One Leicester Street looks absolutely perfect. They have 'after dinner rooms' which is basically a way of saying 'I'm drunk, don't make me go home, let's go out dancing!' It'll cost you £225, though.

The Fox & Anchor, Clerkenwell
One of my favourite pubs in London (even though it's always far too busy) also has rooms upstairs. And gorgeous rooms they are too. Get a room facing away from the street if you want a proper night's sleep - it can get noisy. Prices start at £120 a night but the Market Suite is only £160 so if you fancy spending a little more cash, plump for that one.

The Grazing Goat, Marble Arch
Another hotel to add to the 'can't be arsed to go home' pile (seriously, who can afford to do this so fequently that it's become 'a thing'?) To be fair, The Grazing Goat looks lovely, I might come here for my tea. And then I'll probably get the night bus home. If you decide to stay, it's £205 a night.

The Fox Club, Mayfair
The Fox describes itself as 'London's cunning alternative' (alternative to what exactly?) It's actually a members club, but non-members are allowed to book themselves into the lovely hotel rooms. Prices start at £200 which is pretty standard for Mayfair. Still, it's cheaper than The Ritz.

San Domenico House, Chelsea
There are only sixteen rooms in this quirky west London hotel. There are a lot of hotels in this part of town - Blakes, Number 16, No 5 Maddox Street, The Baglioni - but they all feel so showy. I like this townhouse for being a little bit different in an area where everything all looks the same to me. The prices are still suitable for Chelsea, though. It's £230 a night for a single room.

The Rookery, Clerkenwell
This is Hazlitt's sister hotel so obviously without having stayed here I think it's going to be splendid and never ever want to leave. Rooms start at £239 so it might be one that I save for a special occasion when I want to hide in a hotel room and abuse a minibar.

Fish Court, Hampton Court Palace
Give me a choice of all the fancy hotels in London and I'd probably still choose to stay at Fish Court. It's in a palace! It might not be a real hotel, but you can play princesses and knights when all of the tourists have gone home for the day. Fish Court sleeps 6 for £749 over four nights so it's a bargain as well. But hurry: they're not taking any booking after 2014 and I'd hate for you to miss out on staying in such a gorgeous place.
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