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Friday 30 May 2014

The Boy and His Poison: The Watermelon Baja

Hangovers, together we can all beat them. That was the mantra I repeated to myself as I crawled out of bed following a stag-do chiefly populated with Scotsmen determined to drink the entire of East London dry. Bloody Marys were out (too dense and savoury) my blood was 30% gin (so no Corpse Revivers) and by that point I was beyond even the help of champagne. What I needed was a boozy, sugary fix with a hint of bitterness to wake up my beer-deadened tastebuds. When I read the ingredients of a Watermelon Baja I knew I'd found my saviour.

The first thing that hits you is the amazing freshness from the watermelon but what really makes this drink moreish is the way the ingredients complement each other. The honey balances the sourness of the grapefruit, which in turn accentuates the bitterness of the Aperol and that cuts into the sweetness of the watermelon. It's a damn fine drink and a hangover crushing machine, with all its parts working in perfect harmony. Now, ideally, you should use Cachaca for this but seriously, you try finding Cachaca in a Sainsburys Local. White rum works just fine.

You will need:
  • 50ml white rum
  • 25ml Aperol
  • 75ml grapefruit juice
  • 200ml chilled blended watermelon
  • A squeeze of honey
  • Mint (optional, it really depends how crap your Sainsbury's local is)
Make it:
  1. Pulp your watermelon using a hand blender, reserving a wedge for a swanky tiki style garnish. If, like me, you don't have the sort of fridge real estate for a whole watermelon, you're going to want to chill the pulp for at least half an hour before you use it. 
  2. Next add the rum, Aperol, grapefruit juice and honey to a cocktail shaker.
  3. Dry shake until the honey has mixed in.
  4. Add ice to the shaker.
  5. Shake until chilled.
  6. Now to assemble the drink. Pour 200ml of your watermelon pulp into a tall glass.
  7. Strain the rum and Aperol mix over the watermelon.
  8. Stir for a few seconds with a bar spoon.
  9. Slice a wedge of the reserved watermelon and rest on the side of the glass and finish with a smacked sprig of mint. It's best enjoyed through a wide straw.

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

The perfect dress. £158 from Anthropologie.

The perfect bag. £38 from Urban Outfitters.

The perfect roasting dish. £49.50 from Richard Bramble.

The perfect sunglasses. £15 from Joy.

The perfect mobile. £23.50 from Howkapow.

The perfect shoes. £100 from Esska.

Sluttery Sales Spy: Joy, Boden & Tatty Devine

Step 1: stop what you are doing.
Step 2: pick up your purse.
Step 3: extract credit card.
Step 4: buy everything.


Yumi Lovely Lemurs dress, £38 (was £63), ASOS

From afar, I look at this photo and think three things.

1) That's a nice red dress
2) That's a nice bag.
3) Those are god-awful shoes.

Up close, however, I think only one thing. It may be the most important thought I have ever had, so brace yourself, dear reader. It's profound, it's philosophical, it may just change your world forever. It is:


Louche Carys dress, £25 (was £45), Joy

The chevron explosion on this Carys dress from Joy reminds me a little of the colourful tessellation of some of Bridget Riley's later works. You'll be pleased to know that's the sum of my serious art chat for today, but I'll be back next week with an in-depth critique of why International Klein Blue is a hard colour for anyone to pull off.


Delilah heels, £75 (was £104.99), Miss L Fire

These beautiful shoes look like the sort of not-that-high heels I can actually walk in without the aid of a zimmer frame/local anaesthetic. What has happened to me? Between the years of 1996-2009, I could trot around on massive heels, being all tower-like. I was the Eiffel, the CN, sometimes Blackpool if it was an off-day. And now? Put me in anything over a few centimetres, and I am at best Pisa, and at worst the Pharos Lighthouse. Sometimes I'm Babel, but that's only when I've been on the gin.

Poiret heels, £65 (was £99.99), Miss L Fire

When I found these gorgeous green suede heels from Miss L Fire, I was all set to tell you that it had been a Herculean task to find them. That it took a lot of detective work on my part, that at times it felt like murder (on the Orient Express). My little grey cells were almost Belgian out of my head after Suchet difficult investigation.

Yes, I was all set to tell you that. And then I looked at the name of the shoes again, and realised they're called Poiret. Not POIROT.


Striped skirt, £55.20 (was £69), Boden

Striped out after our round-up earlier this week? NAH! We've always got room in our cloth hearts for a few more stripes. I really like this Boden skirt. Box pleats can be a little too school uniform when they're in a solid colour, so hallelujah for this combo, which is described as 'fruit punch and pearl' because Boden works with a different palette to the rest of us. Of course it does.

Burnout floral skirt, £52.50 (was £75), ASOS

I ADORE THIS SKIRT. You can't tell from this photo, but there's some sort of devoré thing going on (the word 'burnout' in the description may have alerted you to this fact. It doesn't mean the skirt is going to rehab for 'exhaustion'). The whole thing is stupendously pretty and I want it on my lower half right now. I'd even settle for it on my top half. I could wear it as a cape.


Tatty Devine gin brooch, £12 (was £15), Red Door Gallery

The first Tatty Devine piece I ever bought was their Gilbert & George gin necklace. I still love it. I may be forced to buy the matching enamel brooch, but I promise I'll only wear them together when I'm very, very, very drunk.

Lady Muck honeycomb and bee necklace, £35 (was £43), Red Door Gallery

Thanks to this Lady Muck honeycomb and bee necklace, I have been reminded of Billie Piper's 1999 magnum opus Honey To The Bee. And because I alone can't be haunted by this all afternoon, here's a reminder:

Thank heavens she found out she was quite good at acting.

Let Her Eat Cake: Bourbon Vanilla Cake

Bourbon! We love it. Any liquor that shares a name with a biscuit is alright in our book. That and it's brilliant. The Boy and his Poison has put it in so many of our cocktails that there's always a bottle (hmm hmm or 1/4 of a bottle) hanging around in the kitchen. We've even put it in the best cold remedy ever, our Hot Toddy Traybake. 

Now, I know that Bourbon Vanilla doesn't have anything to do with actual bourbon, but I thought it was about time that they get better acquainted. And guess what, they're BFFs. Like gin and tonic or Tesla and Edgar Allan Poe*

Do try to use real vanilla if you can; it's one of the star flavours of this cake.

*they'd totally get along well.

Bourbon Vanilla Cake
Preparation time: 25 minutes

Baking time: 30-35 minutes

You will need:
For the cake:
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 4 generous tbsp bourbon whiskey
  • 50ml double cream
  • 1 1/2 tsps cinnamon 
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
For the filling:
  • 50ml bourbon (plus extra for drizzling or DRINKING)
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
Make it!
The cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Grease and line a 23cm, 9 inch deep cake tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. 
  4. Add a quarter of the eggs, along with a tablespoon of the flour and beat well. Repeat with rest of the eggs, beating well in between. 
  5. Add the bourbon, cream, cinnamon and vanilla and stir in well.
  6. Add the rest of the flour in thirds, folding in lightly in between until it is just incorporated and no streaks are showing.
  7. Dollop into the tin, smooth over the top and bake for around 30-35 minutes, or until it's golden and risen, and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  8. Cool in the tin for a few minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
The filling:
  1. When the cake is cool, carefully cut it in half using a serrated knife. 
  2. Drizzle each half with 2 tbsp bourbon.
  3. Place the cream, remaining bourbon, vanilla and icing sugar in a bowl and beat together until the cream is stiff. 
  4. Spread the bottom half of the cake with cream, then sandwich the other half on top. Use the rest of the cream to pipe or frost the top with a pallet knife. 
  5. Decorate with a dusting of cinnamon and serve with... MORE BOURBON. 

Thursday 29 May 2014

Sluttery Travels: The Old Manor Hotel, Bradford upon Avon

On that ridiculously sunny weekend we had a few weeks ago, my new husband and I went on a weekend 'mini-moon' trip to The Old Manor Hotel in Bradford upon Avon, just outside Bath. Bath is one of my favourite British towns - it's an absolute delight for all Jane Austen enthusiasts with the annual festival taking over the town every September. The thermal spa baths are also worth a visit, as is the beautiful fashion museum.

The Old Manor Hotel is just one train stop or a short drive from Bath, but suddenly you feel a million miles from the bustle of the town. I could totally imagine the Lizzie Bennets of yore living here! We occupied what used to be the main bedroom of the oldest part of the hotel - having a flag flying outside your window is a delightful novelty. The room was spacious and full of little treats like Neal's Yard toiletries, and - more importantly, the room 'tuck shop' which featured a bottle of wine, pork scratchings, honeycomb and fudge. All the major food groups.

The hotel has only recently changed hands and you can see all the personal touches the new owners have made an effort with: in the room there's this lovely hand-drawn map of the site including the rooms that are situated where the old farm's pigsties and cowsheds used to be.

The house is full of beautiful decor: walls of antique pictures, vintage alarm clocks and phones in the bedrooms and original Singer sewing machines in the corridors all add to the charm of the place.

How cosy is this little nook, in the communal drawing room? Again, I can instantly imagine a Jane Austen heroine sitting here to read or sew or watch for visitors coming up the garden path.

The garden is really the hotel's crowning glory. There's a stunning front garden which includes the kitchen garden, but there's also a nature trail thought the field behind the hotel. Much of the food served at the hotel comes from the kitchen garden and the wild land surrounding it - there are wild mushrooms, herbs and berries from the hedgerows which are used for jam.

There are also plenty of herbs grown in the garden - I had great fun walking around and seeing what I could identify with my eyes, or more often, my nose. Whole beds of mint and wild strawberries (sadly not quite ready yet) had my mouth watering.

They grow over six types of both carrots and beetroots as well as all sorts of other vegetables and fruit including pears, cherries and figs. They also have their own smokery where they hay-smoke salmon, ham, sausages and cheese.

We got to taste some of the delicacies from the garden in chef Matthew Briddon's five course tasting menu. If you're in the Bath area, I'd absolutely recommend popping out to the Old Manor Hotel restaurant, The Milking Parlour to dine, even if you don't need somewhere to stay for the night. Starters included marinated pears with whipped truffle goats cheese and pickled beetroot with nuts. We got to sample the hay-smoked salmon which was exceptional - and that's coming from someone who's not generally a big 'smoked' fan.

The main course was slow cooked belly pork with crispy pigs head and a wasabi and lime dressing. The best testament to how delicious all the courses were is perhaps the fact that I have no photographic evidence of any of them. We just didn't have the will power to fiddle around with cameras before tucking in!

The hotel is looking to become even more self sufficient in the coming years, with their own animals as well as fruit and vegetables. They already have their own bees, so honey will hopefully come soon.

I have a real sweet tooth, and the desserts didn't disappoint. We had a cinnamon coated banana bread doughnut, a treacle tart made according to the chef's grandma's recipe and - my favourite - a dark chocolate crème brûlée. I am now totally spoilt and don't think a regular crème brûlée will ever quite hit the spot again.

After a very comfortable night's sleep ( I sleep very badly at night in general so am a fierce judge of beds and mattresses as I spend longer lying there awake than most people do - this one passed with flying colours ) came breakfast - my favourite meal of the day. If the hotel hadn't already won me over, their homemade muesli would have done the trick. Thick with chunks of dried figs and rich with both oats and bran flakes, it was served with delicious yoghurt and homemade berry compote - that's a splash of berry compote on the table in the photo below, not the remnants of a crime scene. But the food really was to die for.

The Old Manor Hotel is truly beautiful and a very relaxing place to spend the weekend. You might even get to meet Camber and take him for a walk - he's moved from The Gallivant in Sussex and is making himself at home here. You should do the same.

We were guests of The Old Manor Hotel. Standard rooms start at around £95 a night, while deluxe rooms start at around £135.

Tall Girl Treat: ASOS's Amazingly Cheering Clothes

It's raining. It's grey. It's the sort of weather where you just want to go home, turn the heating on, and make a shepherds pie (totally did that last week, it was amazing).

But it's also May! June is next week and summer should be back any moment now. So let's hold on to that thought with some insanely cheering clothes from ASOS's Tall brands. That beyond awesome My Little Pony tunic top is £25 in sizes 4 to 18. You are WELCOME!

My fondness for kimonos is well-documented around these parts. This lovely twisted floral kimono is £45 in sizes 4 to 16, and if you're feeling optimistic/matchy, the matching shorts are £25 in sizes 4 to 18.

Oh I am MAD about this Hawaiian pencil skirt. "It's just grey? WTF?" you say. Negative ghost rider, that fantastic floral pattern has subtle pinks, yellows and greens and an explosion of flowers. And it's £16.50 in the sale. Fetch it, immediately.

Pineapples. Need I say more?

This mesh jersey t-shirt is fabulous, and £20 - only size 8s left, so run. I'm a sucker for what I call "night time florals", which is basically bright flowers on black with a bit of border. It reminds of Lily, Lily, Carnation Rose.

Sigh. I flipping love this pattern - it's wonderful, and great colours. But I can't get away with dresses that short because I look like a giraffe who has borrowed a hand towel and is trying to style it out. If you are braver/less giraffe-like of leg, this lovely botanical dress is £45 and available in sizes 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 18.


And a TRIO of gorgeous ice cream sherbety sorbet skirty goodness to end with. First up, this gorgeous, cool blue midi wrapover scuba skirt (£30). Next, those scrumptious premium prom midis, first in pink and in mint (both £75). All three are available in sizes 4 to 18.

Still feeling grey and crappy?
Summer is just around the corner, promise.

Sluttishly Savoury: Roast Chicken Soup with Sweetcorn Dumplings

I had the MOTHER of all migraines on Sunday. It was prosecco induced, so I couldn't even get any sympathy for it. After 10 hours, I lay there like something out of The Excorcist. If you haven't had a migraine, it sort of feels like you're being hit in the head repeatedly by paintballs — and you're not wearing a helmet. Plus your stomach rejects anything you dare put in it, even H20.

So now that I've painted that lovely picture for you, let's move on to the recovery food. Chicken soup was my medicine of choice.

We've covered Jewish Penicillin and more exotic and speedy Thai soup here at Sluttery. But there's another one that needs adding: this roasted chicken soup, which is gloriously chickeny. It takes some time to make, but it's quite a therapeutic process that isn't remotely challenging. It gently bubbles away in the background — filling your kitchen with tremendously soothing l'eau d'chicken while you get on with life admin. The sweetcorn dumplings sit on top are just the ticket - sweet, soft and cuddly.

Roast Chicken Soup with Sweetcorn Dumplings (serves 6)
Preparation Time: 30 mins
Cooking Time: 4+ hours

You will need:
  • a whole free-range chicken, roasted for about an hour and a half - keep the juices!
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 400ml chicken stock (I used the fresh stock you can get in tubs in the supermarket)
  • white wine (I used leftover prosecco cos' I sure as hell wasn't drinking it ever again)
  • Handful of peas
  • Whatever veg your fancy adding to your soup
For the dumplings:
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 50g suet (I used Arora)
  • 100g sweetcorn
  • 120ml cold water
Make it!
  1. Sweat the vegetables and garlic in the fat (or olive oil) from your roasted chicken until slightly softened.
  2. Sit the roast chicken on top of the veg and pour over stock and wine, add enough boiling water so the chicken in mostly submerged. Throw in the bay, lots of salt and pepper and simmer for 4 hours. 
  3. After about 4 hours, strain the soup and discard the vegetables. Pick the chicken meat and return it to the broth. Add a handful of peas, and some bite-sized vegetables 20mins before serving (if you want veg in it that is).
  4. For the dumplings, mix the corn with the suet, a big pinch of salt and bring together with enough cold water to make it sticky but not wet. Roll into 12 balls with floured hands.
  5. To cook the dumplings, steam for about 20-25 mins or add them to the soup with the lid on 20 mins before serving. 

Shop In The Spotlight: Laundry Boutique

I spent last weekend drifting lazily around Brighton, mainly eating ice-cream and buying trinkets and touching tiny fancy dogs on the beach. I also stumbled across brand new shop Laundry, who confirmed they were my kind of shop by offering me a glass of cava as I walked in. (Take note, all other shops.)

Laundry has only been open six weeks and already has the new summer wardrobe you've been wearily searching for, and cheerfully removes all the dreariness of clothes shopping. Beautifully laid out clothes? Yes. Staff who make a fuss of you without feeling like stalkers? Yes. Bright sunshiny colours that err the right side of children's TV presenter? YES. I'd say it was a boutique experience at high street prices if it didn't make me sound like a terrible media tart.

If you can't get to the shop, thankfully their website is almost as fun to play in as the store itself.

Nothing says "yes hello I am ready for summer" like a shift dress covered in sunflowers worn with optimistically bare legs. This dress is £29 and ready to fling on as soon as the rain stops.

We have firmly hitched our wagon to this season's floral star, and this black midi dress covered in gothic flowers proves you can join in even if you don't like soft pastels and creams. It's £25 and you can absolutely wear it with tights until summer restarts.

Guys, don't panic, but I'm showing you patterned trousers. These hummingbird and rose print trousers are entirely wearable with a plain top. They're £42 and should really not be worn with the (lovely) matching top unless you enjoy looking like you're wearing pyjamas.

This yellow box top is both immensely flattering and guaranteed to attract confused butterflies all summer. It's pleasingly loose so wear it to picnics and eat all the scotch eggs. It's £25 and comes in approx. 5748 other colours too (fine, 10).

Petal prints stop this heart design top from being too cutesy. It's £18 and you could wear it with any plain skirt (so not the printed trousers, ok? TOO MUCH).

The only thing stopping me from getting these gold and red sandals is the heel, as I immediately topple off anything higher than 2cm. If you have a better sense of balance and £25 to spare, you'd be the actual queen of summer in these.

And finally, it's what I actually bought from the shop: a black lace jumpsuit, an item I never thought would grace my wardrobe. Petite girls: this fits me perfectly and doesn't look like I'm playing dress-up with my mum's clothes. It's £45 and I want to wear it everywhere. I already have a meeting scheduled with my manager entitled "are lace jumpsuits suitable for work?", to which I hope the answer is simply "hell yes".
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