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Autumn’s here – let’s get our cook on!

I mentioned in my earlier post that I feel autumn deserves a whole post dedicated to the food in this season – what am I on about? It needs about 10! There are so many lovely things to cover that we can cook in autumn so I’m going to start with a few of my personal favourites.

I’m a big fan of slow cooking food – what’s better than going for a walk knowing that when you walk back in the house with a red nose and cold face that there is a lovely warm smell to greet you?

Now this recipe may not be that autumnal for you but for me, as soon as it gets colder, this is one of my favourite dishes to cook – may I present to you the hearty jerk chicken with rice & peas. My Nan used to cook the BEST jerk chicken and try as I might, I’ve never quite got it to her standards but this is a pretty good recipe to follow. I add in a tin of chopped tomatoes before the chicken goes in the oven and a little bit of extra water then turn the oven right down to about 160C (fan oven)/gas 4 and cook the chicken for at least 2-3 hours (turning once or twice) because when you go to eat it, the meat just falls off the bone, delicious! It also makes this recipe a little more saucy and less dry, which is how I prefer it. I serve the meal with bowls of greens and cauliflower for everyone to help themselves.

Paste:

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Finished article:

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It getting colder is an excuse for me to eat pasta and one of my favourite dishes is chicken and tarragon pasta – I like this recipe, but I have made a few changes to this one. I roast chicken legs or thighs in the oven (instead of using chicken breasts) for about 45 minutes (covered with tin foil) with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh tarragon and lots of salt and pepper. I am a big fan of spinach but I’m not sure it works that well in this recipe so I substitute it for chestnut mushrooms (cook these in the pan before you make the sauce) then use plenty of salt and pepper to season the sauce. If you’re feeling extra naughty when cooking this dish use double cream instead of single. And finally, use fresh tagliatelle it is just the bomb! I find a nice glass of Malbec goes down a treat with this.

We need to talk about blackberries – they are amazing and I love nothing more than taking a bowl out into the country and picking them until my hands are red! Obviously I pick them above a certain height as I live in fear that a dog might have been there beforehand and cocked his leg…

Now I love pies and crumbles, who doesn’t? But I think this blackberry and apple cake is just yummy! Also, a brilliant time to be cooking with apples as well, so a win, win situation all round.

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It’s official: Onesie season has arrived!

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting for this day for a few weeks now. Officially, autumn started two weeks ago on the 22nd September, but seemingly, no-one told the weather. It’s been glorious and sunny, which is nothing to complain about but I so love the thought of being out in the blustery wind and rain, then getting inside and straight into my onesie!

Although I love the feel of autumn, I’m glad the weather held off this weekend so I could enjoy a few days walking the streets of the buzzing Cheltenham, kicking the leaves around. Cheltenham is a lovely place to be at the moment, as the Literature Festival is on and it really is not to be missed. Here is the festival on Saturday in all its glory.

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And here is another picture I couldn’t resist taking as I walked up the Promenade.

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Sunday was slightly less sunny, but still lovely so what else is there to do but get your trainers on and go for a walk? I decided the best place for us to go would be Leckhampton Hill, as I think it gives some of the best views over Cheltenham and I don’t think you can deny that it looks pretty good.

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I then properly got into the autumn feeling and had a beautiful homemade french onion soup with mature gouda for supper – it was truly yummy and extremely filling.

Did anyone else wake up this morning thinking their alarm clock was broken because it was so dark outside? I’ve been known to do an excellent hippo impression, which consists of me pulling the cover slowly down my face, peeking over the top of it, not liking what I see and then slowly pulling it back over my head. Let’s just say I perfected my impression this morning.

Once out of bed, I had a cup of tea and watched the rain fall thinking, tonight is the night I bring out the onesie :)

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Why eat organic?

Now I know there is a bit of a divide between people who think organic is just an excuse to charge more and those who really believe they are paying for produce that has less pesticides, better kept animals and is better for your overall health.

I admit previously that I may have thought that organic was a bit of a money-making scheme, but now after researching organic food, I am definitely an advocate and I think you might be when you read this article.

This article highlights what ‘free-range’ actually mean. Reading this opened my eyes because I thought, as I’m sure many of you do, that buying free-range eggs or meat is a good thing and that the animals have a better quality of life when in reality that is far from the truth. What really stuck with me is that ‘free-range’ egg-laying hens only have 11.1cm per hen – that’s half the width of an A4 pad, which is no space at all.

I saw that Outside Beauty Inside Health has done a post dedicated to Organic September in conjunction with Waitrose and felt that if we can take on board the campaign ‘Small Change, Big Difference’ that is being run by the Soil Association, we can help create a better food system encouraging the development of wildlife and better conditions for our animals.

It’s understandable that people overlook organic produce because of cost but there can be very little in it but if you think about it, our body is so precious and we need to be aware what we’re putting into it to fuel us.

I’m not suggesting we all go organic for everything (I’m sure not many of us could afford to!) but if we could make small changes like buying organic eggs, or substituting meat for a vegetarian option one day a week so we can afford to buy the organic chicken, let’s do it and have piece of mind that we’re contributing to better animal welfare and a higher standard of eating.

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This picture shows how our animals should be kept.

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The start of autumn!

I’m a big fan of summer – I love the warmth on my skin, BBQ’s, the good mood it puts people in and of course Pimms; but in my opinion autumn is truly the best season.

You can smell the change in the air, feel that slight dampness and see the leaves starting to change colour; it can’t just be me that still loves kicking their way through the leaves, even though I am 28.

Even better it’s an excuse to throw on your hat, wrap a scarf round your neck and go for a walk, which is exactly what I did at the weekend when I visited Westonbirt Arboretum. However, I might have been slightly too keen for autumn to have arrived as I went in a jumper over a shirt and a big woolly scarf, so after about 10 minutes of walking I was carrying more than I was wearing. Massive fail.

Westonbirt is a lovely place to go for a long walk and encounter lots of dogs and children on your way round; the changing of the leaves makes it one of my favourite places to visit in Gloucestershire in the autumn.

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Talking of events in Gloucestershire, the Crucible 2 exhibition is on at Gloucester Cathedral, which is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever visited and a place where they filmed some of the Harry Potter movies. Crucible 2 is a sculpture exhibition which  features some extremely well known artists such as Damien Hirst but also some lesser known but still incredible sculptors. It is free to attend and on until 31st October, so I suggest you pay at least one visit because I was walking round in complete awe of the cathedral and I definitely missed a couple of sculptures!

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This is definitely my favourite stained glassed window in the cathedral, I just love the colours and find it fascinating.

I know I’ve omitted to mention something very important in this post and that is, FOOD. The reason for this is that there needs to be a whole post dedicated to this, so keep your eyes peeled because that is what’s coming next.

In the meantime, enjoy kicking the leaves!

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Abi’s Brushetta

I love cooking, but being a busy bee with an extremely small kitchen makes it a little tricky. As the suns been out it’s made me crave brushetta which I learnt how to cook a few years back.

It’s incredibly simple, quick to make and can be made in advance, so what’s not to love!

This recipe should serve two as a lunch or light dinner.

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Ingredients:

5/6 tomatoes (room temperature)
1/2 a red onion
2 (or if you dare then 3) garlic cloves
1 bunch of basil
1 lemon
Good quality olive oil
Good quality balsamic vinegar
Maldon salt
Black pepper
1/2 ciabatta loaf

1. Start by preheating the oven to 180 degrees  to toast the ciabatta loaf , then cut the onion and garlic cloves into as small chunks as you can.

2. Slice the tomatoes in half and cut the middle out. The chop into small cubes. It doesn’t matter if it’s not the most precise chopping, it will still taste amazing.

3. Slice the ciabatta in half and put in the the oven to cook for about 10 mins.

4. Put the onion, garlic and tomato into a dish then tear up most of the basil and squeeze half of the lemon over it. Add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, a glug of balsamic vinegar and lots of salt and pepper.

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5. Take the ciabatta out when it’s ready, divide into two and place it on the plates. I like to drizzle a bit of olive oil on the bread before spooning the tomato mixture over the bread and some of the gorgeous juice. Add the last bit of remaining basil and voila!

Personally I prefer to prepare the tomato mixture the day before because the flavours really come out overnight. Just make sure when you serve it, it’s at room temperature.

 

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Weekend in Cheltenham

Hasn’t it been a glorious weekend?

The promise of rain today made it a little easier to go to work, however the weather forecast has now changed its mind and today is supposedly going to be the hottest day of the year! Go figure.

There was so much fun to be had this weekend that I simply must share. Friday night started with a long walk with Mr Darcy. We stopped in the picturesque Pittville Park, had a sit down and let the sun warm us whilst a young guy sat under a tree and played his guitar – truly heavenly way to end the week.

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This was followed by an impromptu drink with some lovely ladies at All Bar One in Cheltenham, however everyone seemed to have the same idea as us as the bar was rammed!

Saturday saw us take a stroll round Cheltenham Town Centre before having a little bite to eat outside La Tasca, complete with a glass of sangria. I was surprised by how nice their salad was (broad bean, chorizo and mushroom) and I will definitely be going back.

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Then in the afternoon we took a little trip to Daylesford Food Festival.

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I’ve never been there before but it’s safe to say that I will definitely be going back! It was full of gorgeous food stands and I tried the best smoked salmon I have ever tasted. They are called Hansen & Lydersen and they are going to be selling their salmon at Daylesford farm in the next month or so, so I urge you to get down there any try some!

There was also plenty of entertainment for the children (and me…) as they horses pulling carts, sheep shearing and animals to walk round and see!

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The bull was most unimpressed by our presence.

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The day of rest, also known as Sunday was particularly pleasant as the pooch and I explored the beautiful Cleeve Hill in the morning. This is such a great place to walk the dog and clear your head. A lazy few hours were then spent drinking copious amounts of tea and of reading the paper and magazines. I then went and met a friend to make the last of the sun in the Montpellier Gardens. The best part of these gardens, is that they have a bar to which we used to our full advantage. So we sat on the blanket, drank Pimms and talked away until the sun started to set. All in all, a fantastic weekend.

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Friday Fun

I am going to try and update this every Friday with anything funny or slightly amusing that I’ve seen or done. It’s going to be pretty hard not to just have a list of Buzzfeed links but I will try my best to keep it varied! Here it goes…

1.  This picture makes me chuckle every single time I see it – I just think it’s brilliant.

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2. We’ve all been at weddings and encountered at least 3 of these awkward moments. Click here, you won’t regret it.

3. I put this on my Instagram the other day because I thought it was hilarious and I hope for children that are this mischievous. My dog, Mr Darcy, is already there.
 

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4. When trying to take a nice selfie of you and your dog and it goes horribly wrong as he tries to get ‘French’.

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5. I went riding last weekend and got to take the gorgeous Bramble out on a lovely hack. His reaction makes me think he didn’t enjoy it as much as me…

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That’s it for this week! Have a great weekend lovely people.