Thursday, 20 October 2016

#LakeDistrictSeries: Buttermere - getting away from it all


If you've read my last #LakeDistrictSeries post, you'll know that we were on our way from Keswick Park Run to Buttermere, in hunt of a good walk.

A friend had recommended we head that way and we ended up roughly following this walking route :

http://where2walk.co.uk/lake_district/lake_discoveries/a-walk-round-buttermere/
We started off a little outside of Buttermere (it's a tiny hamlet), about a five minute walk to the main sheep farm and cluster of pubs, and set off for a walk around the lake.



If you're looking for a decent walk that's got flat ground, a few hills, forest, water, sheep, and stunning scenery, this is the one.

We went the wrong way at first and headed towards Crummock water but turned round after about 20 minutes, which added to our total 'hike' time. We were walking from 12pm to 3pm, so it was a pretty decent hike!


About half way, we stumbled across a waterfall and decided to climb it. How incredible is this view from the waterfall? I took this on my iPhone and I'm soo impressed with the quality - I've not edited this at all. Our world is beautiful sometimes!



I cannot explain how beautiful it was - it was serene and really calming. It felt like we were in the Alps or somewhere remote in Scandinavia.

After the climb back down we followed the track round and after twenty minutes or so came to an icecream / sorbet / coffee shack and got a little tub of sorbet (told you before, they love it up here!).

Walking back down the other side of the lake takes you to the water's edge which is beautiful:



We got back to Buttermere village and headed straight to the Bridge Hotel for food and drinks in the sun. A pint of Thatchers, soup and a sandwich later, it was time to head back to the car and set off down to Windermere, for the final stop in our trip...

Buttermere is definitely a perfect walk for those people who don't have 'full on' hiking gear (poles etc). I also think it would make a perfect winter walk route - yes, it was exceptionally beautiful when we went and we were so lucky with the autumn sun, but because there aren't any real hills (along the lake, anyway), it means that bad / wet weather wouldn't put you off. I'd definitely recommend going if you fancy a big walk in the Lakes!
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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Negroni tasting with House of Peroni @ Harvey Nichols


Well. If ever there's a cocktail that can help solve a sore throat, I think I had it tonight. I was invited to Harvey Nics by The House of Peroni, to celebrate bringing a little bit of Italy to Manchester.

House of Peroni create cool, quirky pop up events around the UK to celebrate Italian lifestyle, culture, food and drink. If you've read my posts on Rome or Elba Island, you'll know how much I'm absolutely in love with the country. The food, culture and lifestyle absolutely resonates with me and I love the quote "buon cibo, buon vino, buoni amici", which roughly translates as good food, good fine, and good friends.

House of Peroni are offering lots of quirky events throughout November, and tonight for us was all about 'The Love Of Negroni' - trying five different negroni cocktails before choosing our favourite.

I'll admit. I don't think I've ever knowingly drank Negroni, so I was intrigued to say the least. I had a stonking cold and headache, and was brought a really warming Winter Garden cocktail upon arrival (their take on mulled wine - Peroni, Brandy, Falernum, lemon, apple and sugar) - and it was lovely.


If like me you aren't too familiar with Negroni, allow me to introduce you... 'sweet vermouth and bitter notes define this bold yet refreshing drink' - a classic recipe would involve;

20ml gin
15ml Peroni Nastro Azzurro
20ml sweet vermouth
20ml Campari
Garnished with an orange peel twist.

It's sophisticatedly sip-worthy and would be the perfect pre-dinner palate cleanser.

After the Winter Garden cocktail, we had some beautiful canapes, including beef tartare, salmon & avocado mousse.



We then moved over to the bar to learn about the history of Negroni and got to try the five variations of the cocktail. Peroni's Master of Mixology, Simone Caporale, talked us through the different notes and flavours in each cocktail.


My favourite two were the Negroni Secco (lime, Peroni, rum, campari & sugar) (pictured below), and the Fruttato (bllueberry extract, Peroni, Vermouth, gin, campari).


It was such a lovely evening, and affirmed my amorous feelings towards Italian culture. Maybe it's the Negroni talking, but regardless - it's definitely worth a visit!

It's not just Negroni tasting though, there's a private dining experience with a 'feasting' menu, Italian brunch (including something called Purgatorio - spicy baked eggs with njud, YUM), a pasta making course and more.

To grab your own slice of Italian action, you need to book on to the events:

The House Of Peroni's Amare l'Italia pop-up from the 9th - 12th November at Harvey Nichols Manchester, here's the link: http://www.harveynichols.com/news/2016/09/27/italian-living/?restaurant=manchester-dining



The guys at Peroni kindly paid for my Negroni experience - but as ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own!
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Sunday, 16 October 2016

#LakeDistrictSeries: Keswick - getting away from it all


Sometimes, I'm such a contradiction to myself. Here I am, writing a post about getting away from it all, the beauty of escaping busy life and chilling right out, but at the same time feeling at a loss because my phone is broken.

I've been thinking quite a bit about the impact not having my phone has had on me. The top three emotions I feel are paranoid, isolated and really disconnected from everything. And yet, last week, feeling disconnected was exactly what I wanted. So, I guess I'm writing this for my present self, to look back on last week and try and think a bit bigger, to think outside of the iPhone box.

So. To take you back with me... Last Friday after work, James & I drove up to The Lakes to Keswick, to stay at the Highfield Hotel.

We arrived bang on 8.30, just as the kitchen were taking their last orders, and so we scrambled through to the dining room to quickly place our orders. I'd tried (and failed) to order over the phone, but the phone signal was pretty bad. The hotel manager was really accommodating and ushered us straight through so we could place our order. Living in Manchester, where food is pretty much 24/7 ‘on’, you forget that more remote places don’t have the need to function until really late on in the evening. 

The dining room is split over two rooms, and we were in the quieter of the two, with just one other couple. We were definitely the louder couple, and it did feel like we had the room to ourselves, which was nice. I thought it might be a bit awkward but actually it felt like we had hired caterers into our house! The staff were really lovely and despite the initial rush, let us settle down and set the pace for a really relaxed meal. 

Scallops & King Prawns
Wood Pigeon
We started off with a really rich bottle of Rioja, and gorgeous canap├ęs - including a lovely paprika hummus crisp bread. For our first courses, I opted for wood pigeon, and James had the scallops and king prawns. The kitchen at the Highfield pride themselves on using locally sourced, seasonal food, which is always a winning act with me.

My pigeon was amazing. The meat was so tender it almost melted in your mouth, and the chorizo and vegetables that accompanied it were gorgeous. 

We swapped half way through (much to my dismay), but I wasn’t disappointed with James’s choice. It was light and fresh, very easy on the ‘palate’ and the prawns were a) huge and b) really, really juicy. You could tell a lot of care had gone into the presentation of the food, and it didn’t go unnoticed. 

We were then brought a sorbet to cleanse our palates, which was a nice, refreshing twist (and the first of three sorbets over the two days… I think it’s a Lake District thing?!). 

When our waitress brought the mains out, I couldn’t believe the size of our portions - hearty to say the least! It would definitely set you right after a long day’s walking in the Lakes. I always associate high end restaurants with small portion sizes but this blew expectations out the window. 


Anyway. I went for the beef with sticky red cabbage, mash root vegetables and carrots.The mash was incredible, rich but not overpoweringly so, and the gravy was perfect - excellent shout with the wine too, it went down a treat! I'd describe mine as a really good, ’posh roast’. Beautifully presented, and with substantial portion size to boast.

Roast Beef
James went for the Venison, with dauphinoise potatoes, carrots and green beans. Again, we halved it, and I was so glad we did - this was insane. The meat was beautiful and tender, and the crunchy green beans worked well with the creamy potato layers.

Venison
I was so full after the two courses, but James was swayed by the Thunder & Lightening ice-cream, so he got that. Again, this was huge, with a decent helping of a hot chocolate bomb (with delicious molten hot chocolate sauce in the middle), ice-cream and berries. 

I instead ordered coffee, which came with a little selection of petit fours; Lake District specialties including tiny bites of flapjack and fudge - which was just enough for me. 


The Highfield Restaurant has won lots of national awards and it's easy to see why. I love the fact they use locally sourced, seasonal food (the dinner menu changes daily - but you can view a sample menu on the website). 

Our room was gorgeous. We were told by the manager our views were something incredible, and arriving at night gave it that extra special feeling, wondering what was beyond the dark. The room itself was done up really nicely. 




It was your typical old English style (it was built in 1885!), cute bed and breakfast hotel, with a big bay windows, high turrets, and balconies in the front rooms (one of them being ours!). Our room had been nicely re-done, with a huge bed at the centre piece. 

I found some info on the hotel in the welcome pack - in the 1950s it functioned as a Vegetarian hotel (?!?) but before its use as a hotel, the property was two houses bought for two sisters. The character of the hotel didn’t disappoint in this respect, and I had a newfound appreciation for its quirky stairs and ‘homely’ feel. I'd definitely recommend staying here if you're looking for an independently run, homely feeling hotel. The food is absolutely outstanding, too.

Our bed was beautifully comfy. But before it was time for shut eye, I had a present for James! Debenhams had got in touch a few weeks before to ask if I’d like to promote their men’s gift guide, and I thought it would be a really nice idea to get James a present. The present was to say thanks in advance for having to take a load of photos of me in the Lakes for the blog (Instagram girls, and blogging pals whose boyfriend's take pics, you know...). The team let me choose a gift for James and I got a bit silly and ordered a really (really really) big remote control red La Ferrari (he loves cars).




He got it up and running in no time (it was soo loud and we did wonder whether the staff would be up to check on us..), and it's now happily on our dining room table. Ha. Anyway. Thanks to Debenhams for keeping James happy as I spent ages snapping our food for Insta before we were allowed to eat it...

THIS was the view we woke up to!



You can see right out onto Derwentwater and the valleys either side. How beautiful is that? It was absolutely stunning and the photos really don't do it justice. It felt like we were in the middle of the alps. 

Breakfast was a hurried affair, on our behalf, as we overslept and wanted to do the Keswick Park Run which started at 9. James still managed two rounds of cereals and fruit, and a hot kipper and toast. I opted for granola and yoghurt, which hit the spot as a pre-workout treat!




Keswick park run is beautiful by the way. Really picturesque and not too hilly - as I expected. It was a gorgeous dry morning and a perfect way to see Keswick. The run is along Keswick Railway Path and if you don't fancy jogging it, would also make a really nice walk (it's 5km in total and you turn round at the 2.5km mark).

We ran back and packed up, and then it was on to Windermere via a walk round Buttermere... the adventure continues!


The Highfield Hotel kindly paid for my accommodation and food for this review, but as ever, all views, thoughts and opinions are my own. Debenhams very kindly gifted me with the present for James, again - opinions are my own - you should check out their guide if you're stuck on present ideas for your partner / dad / brother.
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Saturday, 15 October 2016

My Perfect Smashed Avocado Recipe


It's been a phenomenal year or so for the humble avocado. You can't go into any cafe, restaurant or coffee shop now without assessing the smashed avo options, and to serve poached eggs without it is quite frankly a crime.

It's my absolute go-to brunch option and a frequent weekend favourite. If I'm not eating out for brunch, recreating a delicious smashed avocado dish at home is something I love doing.

Here's my go-to smashed avo recipe that's sure to live up to your fave independent coffee shop standard!

(Serves two)

- 1 large avocado, ripened
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon
- Sprinkle of large rocksalt
- Sprinkle of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Sprinkle of Sumac, to top

Cut your avo, scooping out the stone. Make sure you spoon out all the flesh near the skin too. Using a knife and fork, chop and cut your avocado in a bowl until it's been broken down into small pieces. Using the back of your fork, mash your avocado.

Squeeze in your lemon juice and mash this into your avocado. Add the salt, paprika (it's important to used smoked paprika here, as it gives a really nice smoky taste) and pepper and continue to mix.

Once mixed, top with your sumac and scoop out onto your plate.

Top with a toasted, buttered bagel and two poached eggs. Breakfast goals everyday...



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Sunday, 2 October 2016

#LesMillsLive


Last Saturday Sophia and I were invited to the Les Mills Live convention in Manchester. It was one of those events that came round really quickly and I hadn't had too much time to think about it, so when Sophia sent through the workout schedule and asked which classes I wanted to go to, I didn't know where to start - the classes ran from 10am - 6.30pm!

I hadn't realised just how much of a cult there is around Les Mills. My gym offers their classes, so I'd done a couple of GRIT classes before, and when we were away on our little blogger weekend a few months ago, Sophie & I were asked to come along and try the local Les Mills Body Balance class - where I'd mused that the thought of the same class being taught all over the world on the same day was a really nice idea.

Les Mills Live then, a global fitness festival, was the perfect way to be immersed head first into what the movement is all about. Picture a huuuuge convention space, thousands of people in lycra, really loud music and lots and lots of squat jumps. I was in my actual element!

Soph and I were whisked quickly upstairs to get changed before being ushered into a GRIT strength class, with what seemed like a hundred other people. What struck us both (as we sweated profusely through bent over rows and squat presses), was that there were soo many people in the room who knew all the moves. Before our instructors could shout them out, people were doing press ups and onto the next before we'd even dropped  to the floor.

The class was great, and truly got us in the Les Mills zone.

Pic: Sophia Hall
I loved that there was a real mix of men and women at the festival. I'd say it leaned towards there being more females there but there was a huge guy presence too, which was really nice to see such an encompassing movement that appeals equally to women and men.

What also struck me was the varying ages of people there. Girls in groups, mums out with other mum friends, loads of lads and older blokes - the day was for everyone. It really felt like a big community. The international element struck a chord too, with American, Australian and English accents.

After walking around some more and a quick coffee stop, we braved it to the front of Sprint - a 30 min cycle class that mixes speed, power and strength exercises on the bike. It. was. touuugh. Really really sweaty, but I was totally pumped for it - the music was great and everyone was buzzing!

pic:Sophia Hall
They've also just teamed up with Reebok to launch a lush new activewear collection - which Reebok very kindly gave to us so we could blend in at the event!

My top is a deep berry with 'leave them speechless' emblazoned in purple and gold lettering, and the leggings are reversible (I later found out); black on one side, with Les Mills in white writing, and a rainbow of black, berry, red and yellow on the other side - very power hour! I'm also being sent some gorgeous trainers too, and can't wait to get them on.

I had such a great day, and it completely encompassed one thing I love most about fitness movements - the sense of community and togetherness. It was totally uplifting - so thanks so much to Reebok & Les Mills for letting me be a part of it!

Pic: Sophia Hall

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Asian Spiced Pork


I'm absolutely in love with this dish. It's soo tasty, packed full of gentle spice and delicious flavours. It's a great go-to meal now the night's are drawing in, and so simple to cook - you only need one pan!

Whenever I make this I always batch cook so that there's at least four or five portions worth, so it's perfect to make for the week ahead.

To make, you'll need:

  • 500g lean pork mince (I use 5%)
  • 1 large red onion, sliced finely into small pieces
  • 4 big carrots, diced into small cubes 
  • 1 courgette, diced into pieces
  • 1 glove garlic, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons tamarind sauce
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons reduced salt soy sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Black pepper, to season
Chop all your veg into tiny chunks. Heat a large frying pan with the sesame oil and add your onion and garlic. It should start to smell amazing. After the onions have turned a golden brown, add your carrots and courgette. Sprinkle over the garam masala, stirring so all the veg is covered. 

Next, add your pork and break up the mince. Let everything mix together for five minutes, then add the tamarind sauce, coating all the ingredients. After this, add the fish sauce and soy sauce and again, stir thoroughly. 

Pop the heat on a medium level and cook for a further 15 minutes until the pork is cooked through.

Serve, and enjoy!


The other great little thing about this is its versatility - it goes with so much. I like it simply with warm rice, but black beans would go really well for a bit of a 'taco' feel. It's also great in a wrap with iceberg lettuce, or on its own with a simple green salad.


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