Superdrug Autumn Bargain Haul

I actually shopped in Superdrug the day before I filled up my Boots Haul basket, but I wanted to try a few of the products out a bit more before I shared these with you, and they were all bought with autumn in mind! 

  
I actually came out with what I went in for (sort of) which has to be a bit of a win! 

1. Makeup Revolution Beyond Flawless Palette – £8.00 

This guy is my biggest autumn success story so far. 

  
So many pretty, blendable shades (32 in all). There is quite a bit of fall-out, but I’d say if that’s the worst problem with it you can totally deal in exchange for this ridiculous range of pretty shades, in shimmers and mattes. I particularly love Zorba, Spice and Brunette, but the range of looks you can achieve with this is mad. I’m wearing a combination of Cocoa, Teddy and Immaculate today and think it might be my new favourite subtle plum neutral. Buy it! 

2. MUA Glitterball Palette – £4.00

  
I’m not really reaching for this pallette as much, although I really love the two green shades and the plum. At £4 it’s worth having, even if you just want to pick out the odd colour to blend with other products. Use your own brushes though!

3. Collection Sheer Loose Powder in Translucent – £2.99

   
This is a hardly pigmented sheer loose powder. It’s light and fairly finely-milled, so it’s great for setting your foundation without adding colour. I’m still working on the best way to get it onto my brush though – the packaging doesn’t work very well. It comes with a flat puff applicator but powder needs a brush!

Oh and apparently it contains vitamin E!

4. Maybelline Colour Tattoo 24hr in Pink Gold and Metallic Pomegranate – £4.99 (but on buy one get one half price)

 
Whilst these are beautiful, they’re a little glitzy to use every day. That said, they are great in a hurry. The key is not to overthink them. I chose these two colours because they effectively give you a crease colour and base colour which compliment each other really well, and they work perfectly in that way. I’ve seen a lot of Youtubers using these as a base for an overall smoky eye (using On and On Bronze, which I just can’t get my hands on!) but they are gel-cremes so blending in dry powder shadows is beyond difficult. Still, they get a thumbs up!

5. MUA Undress Your Skin Shimmer Highlighter – £3.00

  

This is another lovely low-cost find. It’s very well-pressed so the powder is lovely and creamy and doesn’t give you fall-out. Whilst it appears very pale in the pan, it gives a beautiful goldy shimmer on the skin. I’m still working out the best way to apply it, but a finger and a brush seems to be working for me. The only question is longevity – you may need to reapply through the day or night.

6. Collection Precision Colour Lip Liner in Clover Pink – £1.99

This wasn’t expensive, but don’t waste your money. It is so hard and dry that it’s almost impossible to apply. 

  

7. Gosh Velvet Touch Eye Liner in Rebellious Brown – £4.99

I was slightly disappointed in the quality of this but I am still using it fairly regularly. It’s only subtly brown which is nice for the autumn but it’s slightly dryer and harder than I’d like whilst still being prone to smudging despite being waterproof. That said, as a water line liner, it has great staying power and is a gentler contrast to a neutral eye than a cold black kohl. It’s not really worth the money though. 

Let me know your favourites this autumn!

Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Excuse me if this is an obvious post, but I haple end upon the need to whip up a nice protein-rich hot lunch mid revision, and all I had in my kitchen was a couple of slices of ham, some cheese and a carton of eggs. As I’m trying to keep up a healthy diet, the only bread I have is in the form of homemade loaf leftovers in the freezer, and I certainly wasn’t in the mood for cooking up some pasta. And so I landed on the scrambled egg solution – the ultimate in fast food. You could of course serve this with toast for a heartier, more filling meal. 

  
The thing about scrambled eggs, though, is that there’s a certain knack to avoid rubberiness and achieve perfect creaminess. 

Here’s how I do it:

2 eggs, at room temperature 

A small knob of butter

2 tbsp cold water

A grating of nutmeg

A pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika 

A crack of black pepper (if you like white pepper you could add a pinch to the raw egg mixture)

  
1. Crack the eggs into a bowl, making sure you remove any accidental shell shards (the easiest way is to use the shell itself to attract its splinters).

  
2. Add the salt, nutmeg and paprika (and white pepper if you’re using it) and whisk together with a fork. The fork is crucial!

  
3. Add the water and continue to whisk until well-mixed and slightly airy. The water is slightly controversial but I know I’m not the first! In my experience, adding water instead of milk gives a creamier texture and much more flavour. Plus you actually avoid that horrid leaking egg juice (although this is primarily caused by overcooking).

  
4. Put a small saucepan on a low heat. Again, these two points are fairly crucial. To avoid rubbery eggs you should cook slowly and gently. Using a small saucepan will help to limit full-on exposure to the heat. I set my hob to 3 (where 9 is screaming hot). Add the butter and allow to melt, then swirl around the saucepan. 

  
5. Pour in the egg. As soon as you see it start to set at the edges (which will be pretty much immediately) start stirring. I always use a wooden spoon but a spatula or silicone spoon would do the job. What you are essentially trying to achieve here is scraping the egg that is starting to set away from the bottom of the pot before it overcooks or forms a brown skin, breaking it up into that scramble texture, and replacing it with the uncooked egg. 

  
6. Continue this process until the egg is ready. This should only take a couple of minutes. 

  
7. Remove from the heat while the egg is still soft and shiny, but once it has reached a largely solid (as opposed to runny) consistency. 

  
8. Serve on a warm plate with a crack of black pepper (and a dollop of tomato ketchup). 

I’m off to hit the books again (and brace myself for another egg debate with Mr Brooker, the king of breakfast) – happy Sunday!

Soda Bread (or bread for impatient people)

Sometimes you want decent bread, made at home, but you don’t have the best part of an afternoon to make it. Well, help is at hand!

This takes about 40 minutes to make and is absolutely delicious with soup, salad and cold meat, pâté or butter and jam.   

You will need:

170g self-raising flour

170g wholemeal flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 

290ml buttermilk

  
 
  1. Preheat the oven to 200c making sure the shelf is low enough to fit the loaf in the oven! 

 
  2. Weigh out the flours, bicarb and salt and mix together.  
  3. Add in the buttermilk. Hint: the carton I bought was 284ml but it gave me 290. Mr Brooker suggested adding a dollop of yoghurt but I didn’t need to in the end. It’s a good plan if you’re running short though.  
  4. Mix everything together with your hands, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl for any spare flour. Do not over knead! 
  5. Remember that this is an unyeasted bread so please don’t over work it. You just need to knead it until it has formed a consistent dough. Roll into a ball, flatten and place on a floured baking sheet or stone. (Hilariously I just thought about using a baking stone…ah well…next time). I just added baking parchment to make cleaning up easier – it’s not essential.  
  6. Cut a cross into the bread, fairly deep so it will bloom out nicely. This is easiest if you make 4 separate cuts.  
  7. Sprinkle the top with flour (I added a sprinkle of rolled oats as well but that’s optional) and bake for around 30 minutes until hollow sounding when you tap it on the bottom. I’d advise leaving it to cool for 10 minutes or so to let the residual heat move through the bread and prevent doughiness. 
   Enjoy fresh, or toast the next day.

Sweet Potato and Pepper Soup

It’s almost autumn! It’s getting colder, there’s infighting about whether the heating should be going on and you might just want something a bit warmer and heartier to eat than a chicken salad. 

Soup time!

  
I’ve already started off the season with tomato and pepper soup, but you have that recipe already, so here’s some sweet potato and pepper soup. You can add as much spice as you like, or replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock if that’s your preference. 

You will need:

1 onion

1 leek

1 clove garlic 

1 knob ginger 

2 large red or orange peppers (or 3 small ones)

3 carrots

3 large sweet potatoes 

2 litres of chicken stock (I used 2 stock cubes and boiled water)

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp chilli powder 

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Chopped fresh parsley 

Salt and pepper 

  
1. Chop the onion and add to a little rapeseed or olive oil in a large soup pot. Grate in the garlic and ginger. 

2. Repeat with the leek, carrots and peppers, and cook out over a medium heat. 

  
3. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and add in. 

4. Add the stock, making sure the vegetables are covered. If not, add some more water. 

  
5. Add in the thyme and black pepper.

6. Simmer for around 45 minutes. Add the rest of the spices including a pinch ofsalt then add the chopped parsley. Blitz with a stick blender or food processor. If it’s still quite thick, add some more water and spice and season to taste. 

  
Easy! And it freezes like a dream. Have a go!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

 I’ve loved banana bread for a long time. And not because it makes me feel pleased with myself for eating a fruity cake. It’s a great one to have in the cake tin, as it’s simple, delicious and keeps moister for longer than your average Victoria sponge. Ironically, you have to bake it for longer!

The chocolate added to this isn’t necessary, but it adds a bit of another dimension, making it altogether much more luxurious. 
 

You will need:

125g butter, at room temperature 

150g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

2 large, ripe bananas

1 egg

190g self-raising flour

60ml milk

75g chocolate chunks or chips 
  
  1. Grease and line a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 160C fan. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Crack in the eggs and whip them into the mixture until airy and moussey.

 
  2. Break the bananas in, mushing a little with your thumb. 

 3. Add the vanilla. Mix in well  

4.  Add the flour and fold in gently. Being careful not to overwork the mixture. Overworking will make the cake dry and heavy. Mix in the milk. 

5. Add the chocolate and mix gently.  
 
  6. Pour evenly into the loaf tin and put it into the middle shelf of the oven. 
  7. Bake for an hour, then check if the loaf is cooked by inserting a skewer or narrow knife into the centre. It can be hard to check, as sometimes traces of banana will cling to the skewer which might look like raw cake batter. If in doubt, bake for an extra 5 minutes. If this user cooked enough, it’ll collapse in the middle. 

 
  8. Slice and serve. It is especially delicious still warm from the oven. (Particularly if the chocolate is still slightly melty!). 

This loaf, if well covered, will keep for around a week.

Prawn Curry in a Hurry

Ok, it isn’t a curry per se, but you get tonnes of Indian flavour and a light healthy supper in 20 minutes – no need to stand over a steaming pot for hours. Perfect for after a long day at work. If you’re not into shellfish, you could use chunks of salmon or chicken, just step up the cooking time a little for the chicken. 

  
You will need:

1 red pepper 

10 king prawns (I used frozen ones and defrosted them in a bowl of water while I was working out)

2 tbsp Greek yoghurt

2 tsp curry paste, whichever you prefer

Few drops lemon juice 

  
1. Chop the pepper into chunks. Clean the prawns and dry them, making sure you remove the black vein on the inside and just inside the tail. Preheat the oven to 180C.

  
2. Mix the yoghurt, curry paste and lemon juice in a bowl. 

  
3. Add the prawns to the mixture and mix in.

  
4. Take two wooden skewers and run them under the tap or soak in water. This will stop them drying out and burning. If you don’t have skewers, you can just bake everything in a dish. 

5. Carefully thread the chunks of pepper and coated prawns onto the skewers, dividing them evenly between the two skewers and spreading them evenly across each skewer. 

  
6. Bake in the oven for 7 minutes and serve with rice and vegetables.

 

H&M Autumn Staples

I went a little bit crazy in H&M, but you know what, every now and then the season changes and you remember how relieved you were when summer came around last time because you were so sick of your warm clothes, and then you have to go and buy some new stuff. At least with H&M, you know their prices won’t make you feel too guilty!

  
I was primarily looking for some basics – jumpers, jeans, tshirts – and was pleasantly surprised because although I’ve had some real gems from H&M in the past, I have also been massively disappointed in their ranges. Luckily, this was a good shopping day, though I did spend £108. But when you consider how many garments I ended up with…meh. 

I apologise for the photos coming up – I took them all when I was trying everything on after a long day at work. My hair is a total mess, but the makeup you see was applied about 10 hours before and held up relatively well. 

To provide some context, everything here was in a UK size 12, or medium where they decided not to use dress sizing.

  
First up, a pair of £14.99 skinny jeans and this £29.99 jumper. It’s really cosy, and contains a very small alpaca content which should mean it stays soft and holds its shape. The jeans were a keeper at that price. The fit isn’t startling but they’re skinny so it isn’t so crucial especially as they aren’t mid rise.

GAP jeans are my favourite jeans of all time. However I’ve been disappointed in them recently as they seem to be favouring jeans of the mid rise persuasion, which do nothing for my short frame, and they replaced their line of jeggings with a 4-way stretch jean which loses its elasticity after a couple of months. Jeans with stretch marks…not good! I’ve tried one pair of H&M light coloured skinnies and have been pleasantly surprised. Although they were a little tight over the upper thigh when I first got them, they’re grand now. 

  
I did opt to return the jumper though as it was doing this funky swing thing at the front and was generally quite boxy. 

Next…….

  
This is a cheap as chips £3.99 tshirts which has a slightly marled texture. I wanted the grey/black one but it was ridiculously thin and see-through so I picked this lovely maroon/burgundy colour, thinking it would be nice for the autumn. This is a medium and it does actually fit when I’m standing up straight! It is pretty cheaply made, but lovely and soft.

These beige trousers describe themselves as slim rather than skinny, so they have a bit more substance and a little less stretch. Being a beigey colour, they’re a little bit smarter too she would look awesome teamed with a shirt and jumper combo.

  
 Next, a denim shirt dress which may be the softest thing in the entire world (please excuse the nobbly knees). I thought it would be too long for me but it actually gathers really effortlessly at the waist when you tie the belt.  It’s not bad at £29.99. This is part of the “H&M Comscious” range and is made of Tencel Lyocell, which is s fabric made from recycled wood pulp. Which is sort of unbelievable. 

 

Lastly, black skinnies for £14.99 which are almost a dupe for my old style GAP black skinnies but they are a bit stretchier. The hoodie was pretty thin but a good bargain. (I actually ended up returning this one as I found a cracking deal on a navy GAP zip-up at the outlet store).

So that’s us! Let me know if you have any current H&M or other autumn clothing favourites!

Brown Butter Lemon Sole 

I went to the fish counter yesterday and it was lemon sole which jumped out at me. I’ve had a lot of salmon recently! So I decided to buy a piece for Sunday dinner. There are two traditional recipes for lemon sole: Sole a la Meunière and Sole Veronique. But let’s keep things a bit simpler. Fish needs a light touch. Delicate cooking. Fresh flavours. 

So I present to you my Brown Butter Lemon Sole. It’s a bit naughty with all that butter, but it is low carb!
  
You will need:

1 lemon sole fillet

A good knob of butter

1 small clove garlic, grated or chopped

2 tsp lemon juice

2 sprinkles of parsley

A handful of plain flour

A sprinkling of smoked paprika

Salt and pepper

  
1. Put the flour onto a plate and add the paprika, salt and pepper and one of the parsley sprinkles. Mix it all together and spread over the plate a little. 

  
2. Make sure your fish is nice and clean, then place it on the flour and turn in the flour until covered lightly on both sides. 

  
3. Put a medium sized frying pan onto a high heat and add the butter. Turn the heat down to medium so it doesn’t burn.

  
4. Add the garlic and parsley, and fry for a few minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. 

  
5. Add the fish to the pan and fry for a few minutes on each side, letting the flour brown a little. The butter will also brown (the French call it “buerre noisette” – nutty butter).

  
6. Add the lemon juice and serve. Be careful when you lift it out of the pan. If it’s fresh abs perfectly cooked, it’ll break up when you lift it. It ruins the presentation a little but just means it will be all the more delicious! 

  
Enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine and some steamed or boiled vegetables. 

End of Summer Boots Haul

I’m so excited to finally own a couple of Real Techniques brushes. I actually went in for a Seventeen blush brush (which I think was £2.99) for setting my undereyes and found these guys on ‘buy one get one half price’ so I had to (HAD to) invest in the Expert Face Brush and the Blush Brush. Though I am slightly convinced I’ll go back for both of the Core Collections. I won’t tell you how much they cost in case my fiancé is reading this and it loses me some wife points but 25% justifies it!

  
I also picked up this cheap little angled brush from Seventeen, which is soft but firm and has a lovely angled point for precision work. 

  
To be honest, although these look gorgeous, I found them slightly disappointing on their first trip out. They are rusticity soft, but I wonder if they’re too soft. The face brush isn’t quite buffing as hard as I’d like. Saying that, they’re still pretty dry and unused so I’m hopeful that I’ll slowly fall in love. Either way, I wouldn’t have been happy until I bought them.

Thankfully, I still have a use for my trusty old Benefit Foundation Brush (paintbrush style) as it’s perfect for getting between my shadow abs eyebrow (I’m weird, I know, but I feel like adding some base in that gap really defines the edge of my shadow, so it’s blurred out but also contained).

  
I also picked up some moisturising nail remover pads because I go through them almost as quickly as I go through Haribo Roulettes (in the ducking braved aisle in Tesco – trust me). They’re just so much more convenient than a bottle and cotton pads, although they’re not very good at handling glitter polish. 

 
Finally, I found these guys on 3-for-2 at £2.50 each, and at that price you can’t really say no. I won’t claim to be an expert on hair care, but I’ve been using John Freda’s Frizz Ease for as long as I can remember and found it to be a tiny godsend for my ridiculous mess of hair. However, I’m increasingly finding my hair to be drier than an old tortilla wrap, so I’m going to try something new. 
I’ve never used a Garnier shampoo before but I used to be a big fan of their moisturiser just because it smelled so good, and I think they make Fructus, now that I think about it, which Mr Brooker swears by. Anyway, they offer various different formulas which are made up of differing ‘natural’ extracts. For obvious reasons, I opted for the “nourishing repairer” for “very dry, damaged hair” with avocado and shea butter. I can’t pretend I’m not excited about trying this. It smells lovely in the bottle. And my conditioner just ran dry so I can start on one of these bad boys tomorrow. Hurrah!

Happy weekend everyone!

Lasagne for Friends

I always love the idea of entertaining, but when it comes down to it, there never seems to be enough time -especially when your friends tell you that a Friday night after you’ve been working all week suits them best. Not to worry. There are different types of recipes and different ways of cooking for a reason. And it’s exactly why the Italians invented lasagne. It’s hearty, it’s filing, it’s great for sharing. It can be delicious if made well. Everyone has their own recipe. And, best of all, you can make it ahead and reheat it. Or even make the components ahead and make it up and bake it fresh. Add some garlic bread and a bowl of salad and you have the perfect supper for friends. You don’t even need any other courses because it’s so filling. (I had the ingredients to whip up some cheaty strawberry tarts, but no one wanted them!)

This was a pretty massive recipe which would feed 8 easily. 

  
You will need: 

1 brown onion

1 red pepper

2 small carrots

2 cloves garlic

1 small knob ginger 

2 tsp tomato purée 

2 rashers smoked bacon

750g steak or beef mince 

1 regular carton of mushrooms 

Lasagne sheets, dried or fresh, 1 needed about 10 dried sheets

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 jar passata

Chicken or beef stock

Glue red wine

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder

Sprinkle sugar

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 

1 tsp dried oregano

5 or 6 leaves of fresh basil (or 1 tsp of dried)

A couple of pints of milk

A good knob of butter 

2 bay leaves 

A grating of nutmeg

Cheddar cheese, as much as you like

2 tbsp plain flour 

Seasoning 

(It’s a lot when you write it all down!)

  

1. Slice the onion and add to a large pot with a drizzle of heated olive or rapeseed oil. Allow to hear through, then add the chopped carrot and pepper. Continue cooking on a low to medium heat until the veg has started to soften.

  
2. Add the tomato purée, grated ginger and garlic, stir, and cook out for 10 minutes or so. 

3. In a separate pan, add a little oil and turn up high. Fry off the bacon, chop into small pieces and add to the pot. Brown the mince in small batches, to avoid crowding the pan and resulting in it boiling. Then add to the pot.

4. Add the cinnamon and stir through. Add the chopped tomatoes, passata, oregano, chilli powder, balsamic, sugar and lemon juice and stir. Add the stock. Loner beef stock pots are great for this as they stir in and melt away. If you don’t have one of those, regular beef or chicken stock can be poured it, or a cube dissolved in hot water in the tomato can. Just be careful not to add too much liquid at this stage. You can always add more once it has cooked down.

  

5. Put the lid on and allow to simmer for half an hour or so at a medium to low heat.

6. Finely slice the mushrooms and stir them in. Allow to cook out for another half hour or so.  Add the chopped basil just before you take it off the heat.

 

7. Meanwhile, if you’re putting this together straight away, you’ll want to make the bechamel sauce. Put a medium saucepan on a low heat and melt the butter in it. Put the flour in a mug or jug and add just enough cold water to cover it. Stir until evenly mixed and add to the butter. Be careful here as you want to stir it through without hearing it too quickly. Too much heat, too quickly and not enough stirring will give you a lumpy mess!

  
8. Once combined, gradually add the milk, a glug at a time, and stir stir stir into the floury butter mixture. Allow to slowly come to the boil to thicken, stirring all the while. Add more milk gradually and repeat until the sauce is the desired consistency. If you go too thin or if you don’t have enough at the right consistency, mix more flour with water, stir in and repeat the milk process. When you’re happy with the consistency, turn down the heat, season, add nutmeg and bay leaves and allow the flour to cook out. Stir fairly regularly. Set aside. 

  
9. Now you’re ready to layer. Grab a big rectangular or square casserole dish. Wet the lasagne sheets a little (3 at a time) and lay in the bottom. Add a thin layer of mince, then repeat (meat, pasta, meat, pasta) until you have either run out of mince or got to very near the top of the dish. 

  
You may want to break off small pieces to fill in any gaps.  

Keep going!

  
10. Once at the top, remove the bay leaves from the bechamel and spread over the top carefully so the sauce doesn’t merge too much with the mince. 

  
11. Top with grated cheese and bake in the oven at 180C fan for at least half an hour, but basically until the cheese is melted and golden and the sauce is bubbling at the sides.

 Serve with garlic bread, salad and lots of wine!