The Biscuiteers of London

I don’t know about you, but there are few things that make me smile in this digital age quite like receiving a really good package in the mail.

Recently, instead of the usual acknowledgement email or notecard, a lovely person sent me a gingerbread biscuit dressed like Her Majesty as a thank you card. It was so cute (and such a lovely surprise) that I nearly squealed with glee when I opened the package (and then smiled the whole way through eating her, with a cup of tea of course – it’s the only fitting way for a Queen to go). I may be a bit of a food snob, but there’s something so wonderfully silly about food that doesn’t take itself too seriously. 


I thought the idea (surprise edible thank you gifts) was so cute, I tweeted Biscuiteers to tell them. They so kindly sent me one of their Paris tins (regular readers will know how most things French make me swoon), and I couldn’t help but literally “oooh!” out loud when I opened it to find little chocolate iced Eiffel Towers, Moulin Rouge can can girls, and so on.

Because they’re (almost) too cute to eat, they warrant being savoured a little. So one rainy Sunday, the Clever Boyfriend and I decided to make the day a little more fun and made a pot of tea, set the table, put on Midnight in Paris and threw a little mini French tea party (any excuse really) just for ourselves, with these adorable biscuits in place of cake. They are just the right side of fun and silly, sweet but not saccharine, and such a cute idea for next time a friend deserves a ‘thank you’ or a little surprise mail to make them smile.

Thank you Barbara and Biscuiteers for the happy surprises to make me smile!

Do you love getting good packages in the mail as much as me?

Love, Miss B xx

Recipe: Delicious and Healthy Granola

It’s been a long time since I shared a recipe, which isn’t really representative of how much I love cooking. When I’m craving something delicious, homemade wins every single time – it’s always a hundred times more delicious, and the process of creating something (and filling the house with a delicious fragrance) is immensely relaxing and satisfying.

As soon as the weather warms up, I make great batches of granola almost every fortnight. It’s scumptious, healthy and sustaining (read: keeps 11am sugar cravings at bay) as a cereal (just add milk and fresh berries), or wonderful as a topping on plain greek yoghurt with honey or fruit compote, sprinkled on ice cream, or just poured into a little dish as it comes as a healthy nibble when you’re craving a snack, but not a zillion calories (I’ll pick at this when watching a movie, instead of a bag of sugary snacks). Just as importantly, it is infinitely customisable and the combinations of ingredients is entirely dependent on personal taste/what is at hand in the cupboard.

I’m never precise with the measurements – I just throw a pile of oats, some seeds and nuts in a bowl, add whatever dried fruit and juice I have to hand and stir until it looks about right. Feel free to change the ingredients to suit (delicious combinations are dried cherry and hazelnut, apricot and almond, or dried berries with choc chips added after cooking is a delcious combination if you don’t mind the calories, or just omit the dried fruit altogether and serve with fresh fruit instead).

Ingredients:

A few cups of plain rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1 cup roughly chopped nuts (any combination, such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios)
A good handful of mixed seeds (such as pumpkin, sunflower, linseed)
1 cup roughly chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, peach, cranberries, dried cherries, sultanas, raisins)
1/2 cup apple juice (though any  juice will do really)
2 tbs honey + 2 tbs maple or golden syrup (or 4 tbs honey if preferred)
2 tbs oil or melted butter
Small handful of dried coconut (shredded of flaked)
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
A large handful of rice bubbles, wheat flakes, chocolate chips or any other preferred additives

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius (35o farenheit). Lightly mist 2 large baking trays/sheets with cooking spray.
Combine the oats and cinnamon in a bowl until you’re happy with the proportions (no need to be too precise).
In a separate small bowl, combine the juice, vanilla extract, honey, syrup, salt and oil/butter. Add this to the dry ingredients, and stir well. Taste, and if it seems a little dry or not as sweet as you would like, add a touch more juice or honey (the mix should be moist and combined, though not saturated).
Spoon evenly into two large baking trays, and bake for approximately 20 minutes – or until almost dry and golden. At this stage, add the nuts, seeds, dried fruit and coconut (stirring in to combine and break up the baked mix slightly – you want a mix of small pieces and chunks). Bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until the nuts and dried fruit look slightly baked (do keep checking regularly, as the fruit can quickly burn) and the whole mix is a nicely crisp and golden.
Allow to cool completely in baking trays, then stir through rice bubbles (or whichever ‘unbaked’ ingredients you wish) – these will lighten the whole mix, and add another textural layer against the crunchy oats.

Makes 2 large mason jars worth.

What is one of your favourite versatile recipes?

Love, Miss B xx

Small Pleasures: Happiness is a Box of Laduree Macarons

I truly believe that small pleasures make life infinitely more fun. I am constantly in pursuit of them, and discovering a new small treat (or returning to one of my favourites) never fails to bring a smile to my face. It might be something such as a new bright pink lipstick, a cup of tea somewhere decadent, buying a bunch of peonies at the farmer’s market, acts of kindness, or simply the luxury of time to spend an entire weekend reading a book and organising your shoe wardrobe. Whatever it is, the point is that although it’s a rare treat that doesn’t cost a lot of money (this isn’t about frequent consumerism or emotional spending), but it’s something which always makes you smile on a grey day or when you’re in a slump.

So in recognition of the place small luxuries hold in living a charmed life, I’ve decided to start a new series on the litle things that make me smile. And for my first post on the subject, it seemed appropriate to mention Laduree, because exquisite French macarons (or almost anything Parisian, for that matter) always bring a smile to my face. I remember my very first trip to Laduree; I was 23, and travelling to Paris for the very first time on my own (it took 30 hours to get there from Australia, but I loved every second I was there). I vividly remember thinking that the shopfront was like the magical Land of Sweets from the Nutcracker that I used to dream of as a child, brought to life before me, right there in Paris. I went inside and felt as though I’d arrived at my fantasy Parisian salon, complete with the most charming staff, the kind of attention to detail I worship, and desserts that blew my sweet-tooth into a whole other realm.

Ever since that day, a trip to Laduree (I choose the tiny gilded cave on Piccadilly when I can’t make it to Paris) is guaranteed to send me skipping home with glee, with that powdery green bag swinging from my arm. For opening one of those pretty little boxes (which I always save to store jewels and trinkets in, or to send a little packet of treats to a friends in cities deprived of Laduree) to find the light-as-air jewel-coloured treats within is surely the gourmand equivalent of a treasure box, or a Faberge egg.

Do you like this new series? What is your ultimate ‘small pleasure’?

Love, Miss B xx

London’s Best Afternoon Tea, pt. 3: The Royal Tea at Harvey Nichols

It’s official: England has gone Royal Wedding crazy. And I’m not going to lie… I love it! (Much to the Clever Boyfriend’s horror). Between the Union Jacks currently fluttering above the entire length of Regent Street, the bunting which fills every shop window in the land, the unashamedly kitch souvenirs, being able to see the venue itself (Westminster Abbey) from the window of my office in Parliament, and the prospect of an entire day off work when it will be practically obligatory to eat scones and drink Pimms while planting oneself firmly in front of the BBC’s coverage of the event, it’s impossible for me to resist the lure of the young royals and this modern day fairytale.

And other than standing outside Buckingham Palace (though believe me, there’s nothing glamorous about willingly sleeping in a tent on a public roadway – the measures one would have to take to secure a spot on The Mall on the day), if there’s a more English way to mark a Royal occasion than with Pimms and afternoon tea, I’m yet to find it.* So for the next week, Harvey Nichols are throwing a super fun Royal Afternoon Tea in all their cafes and brasseries. For the princely sum of £30, you will get an assortment of tea, sandwiches, pastries and scones. The only downsides are that it seems to be de rigueur for the Harvey Nicks waiters to be grumpy, and it took several phone calls to successfully book a place (none of the ladies who answered the phone seemed to know what I was talking about and had to go off to investigate – though this could have something to do with the fact I was surely the first person to book a place, such is my wedding excitement). That said, there is an awful lot of bunting (which pleases me greatly, and which somehow compensates for other failings), and taking a seat on the little grassy terrace to have tea is really rather lovely.

And the very best bit? Just look at the fabulously silly souvenir mug which the lovely people at Harvey Nicks will give you to take home a swill Pimms out of? Hurrah indeed!

Love, Miss B xx

* On the actual day, I myself will be eschewing my Parliamentary ticket to watch the wedding live from Parliament Square (in the rain) and instead donning some red lipstick and heels and having a day-long tea party with my girlfriends.

The Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea is available until the end of April in all Harvey Nichols stores. £30 includes tea, sandwiches, cakes and a souvenir mug (normally £20).