Friday, 14 November 2014

Fruity Soda Bread

I have been a really terrible blogger. I tell you that CIC is a food blog, yet how much food has appeared on it recently? Next to none. 

I decided that it was time for change, so I bought some Smarties and prepared to make rainbow cookies for eating warm with milk. 

... Until I realised that I didn't have enough butter! (Isn't that just the most disheartening thing?)

After some quick thinking I came up with this fruity soda bread, inspired by a loaf I had at a cottage near Coleraine. It's the perfect bread recipe as it doesn't require any proving at all, yet it's a bit more special than your average loaf. I made it on Sunday morning and let it bake while I got ready for church, then took it out of the oven and left it to cool while I was away. You can also bake it in a rectangular tin if that's more your thing, though I like the rustic appearance of baking it in a round. 


It's a good solid loaf. There's a hint of bitterness from the bicarb which contrasts with the juicy sultanas and cranberries, and it's given a refreshing twist with a little bit of orange. Eat warm (or toasted) with butter and a milky cup of tea. 



Fruity Soda Bread
450g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2tsp caster sugar
25g butter
About 350ml buttermilk or ordinary milk soured with some lemon juice
50g cranberries
50g sultanas
50g dried apricots,  chopped
Zest of 1 orange or 1/2 tsp of orange extract
1. Heat the oven to 220 / 200 Fan. Lightly flour a mediumm sized baking tray.
2. Sift the flour , bicarb and salt together into a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Cut the butter up into small pieces and rub in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
2. Stir in the dried fruits and orange extract. Slowly add the buttermilk and combine until the mixture forms a wet dough.
3. Flour hands and a work surface. Tip the dough onto a work surface and lightly knead three or four times, then shape into a round.
4. Place on the baking tray, score an X across the top and sprinkle with flour. Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown and it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack before eating.






Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Autumn Reads

I thought I'd do a little round up of what I've been reading recently, just to share my thoughts with you! I've tried to make time for a chapter of a book every night; I find that it relaxes me before dropping off to sleep. However much I may love late-night Pinterest sessions, I do find that it takes me longer to get to sleep so I've tried to make my bedroom a technology free zone. It's hard but I can feel the benefits!

Anyway, let's get down to the books! 

Photo from here.




A Clash of Ice and Kings, by George R.R Martin. 
(I suppose I should warn you that GoT is going to be on pretty much every book list of mine for a while. #sorrynotsorry)
Seriously, though, these books are great. I wrote a longer review of the first book (here) but the second was just as good. Some of you may not be keen on fantasy but I love it and it provides the perfect opportunity for me to escape from the real world for a while!

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.
You've probably heard of this book by now and I'll admit that the only reason I bought it was because there was so much hype about it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this Pulitzer Prize-winning book (it got the award for a reason!).  The narrative is sweet and innocent, and it's lovely to see the relationships between the characters develop. I haven't finished it yet but I am going to continue on. 

The Complaints, by Ian Rankin. 
I read this book whilst I was in France because I needed a paperback that wasn't too heavy to carry around in my hand luggage! I hadn't read anything of Ian Rankin's before, but for a girl who does like a good murder mystery this book ticked all the boxes. It was full of action and intrigue, with touches of humour and the occasional moment of peace to get to know the main character. The only criticism I have is that I found the actual plot slightly difficult to get hold of; I felt as if it ended quite quickly and I didn't quite understand how it had resolved! Still, maybe that's down to my teenage mind - maybe a later read will reveal a bit more. 

Longbourn, by Jo Baker.
I'd wanted to buy this book ever since reading about it in a magazine a few months ago. I love Jane Austen so I was excited to read this book, which is about the servants in Pride and Prejudice. It's well written and easy to read, and I found that I really enjoyed learning a bit more about what might have been happening in the Bennet household. It certainly made me look at the girls in a new light! It didn't take me very long to read and I'd recommend it for a little escapism. 

Blogs! 
I love discovering new blogs.  I've definitely been influenced by blogs in the past (though not always in a good way!), but here are a few new discoveries of mine.

I Believe In Miracles
This is a blog written by my best friend, Erin. - No, this isn't just a promotion! - Erin has struggled recently, battling diabetes, major spinal surgery and depression. She's been hospitalised twice but is now back at home, trying to get on with her A-levels and experiencing some of the exciting opportunities the world has to offer. I find her perspectives on anxiety and individuality truly moving, and it's helped me to think more about people suffering from depression. It's something that affects many people we know, and it's so important that we understand how they're feeling and why they may be feeling that way so that we can help them. 
I'll let her do the rest of the talking!

Alphabeth
Also a blog with a personal link. It's written by my friend's sister Beth, and it's just such a lovely blog, filled with her gorgeous photographs and little thoughts. (Also, I'm in love with her blog header!)

The Tea Drinking English Rose
I've been following Charlotte for a while now, but recently I've found myself going back to her blog more and more. She has such a unique style; she's honest and isn't afraid to tell you if she's had a bad week. I love reading what she's been up to and her blog always feels like an oasis of calm amongst other bloggers who are busy flying to Paris or Morocco or taking long weekends abroad. Don't get me wrong - I love reading about exotic travels, but sometimes it's nice to read about a blogger who seems a little more 'real'. 

Do you have any reading suggestions? 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Be prepared.

I'm going to be really revolutionary here, and mention something I've never talked about this early before on CIC. 

I think you might know what it is. 

If not, I'll give you a bit of help. It's spelt C - H - R - I - S - T - M -

- Oh, you've got it now! 

Anyway, I was reading Charlotte's lovely little blog earlier this week and she really inspired me to make some of my own gifts this year. I've done it occasionally in the past, but last year there was a bit of a disaster with fudge.... I made three batches, and it still didn't turn out how I wanted it to! 

So, my Christmas gifts last year weren't great. 

I also have a slight problem in that most of my friends don't really want a pot of spiced plum jam, or a  jar of chutney. I would have no problem with jam at all - but then I'm not your average teenager! 

I've been trawling Pinterest for inexpensive homemade gift ideas, and here are a few that I've come up with. If you have any more suggestions or recommendations please let me know  - I would really love to hear them. 

The 'cake in a mug' concept has been rolling around the Internet for ages, but it looks like such a great idea. All that's needed is a quick trip to the pound shop for a few plain mugs and it's sorted! I may need to work on my handwriting a bit, though... 



Ever since reading about this last year, I have wanted to make my own lipgloss. I know that no handbag of mine is ever complete without some form of lip nourishment, and I'm sure many of you would agree with me! 



Continuing on with the theme of homemade beauty... how about a homemade body scrub



Button bookmarks, for the bookworm in your life. Perfect for all of those spare buttons! 



How cute are these hand warmers? Small and perfect for carrying in your pocket on the way to school. 

Teacup candles are very popular, but I love this spin on them



Alternatively I could skip making gifts altogether and just buy them from Etsy. It depends on how much time (and money) I have. I'll keep you posted! 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Life lately - October

October really brought a change in the weather. One day we were able to wear a t-shirt outside; the next, it was scarf and coat time!
Still, I'm trying to embrace the colder weather with all of my heart - and that may or may not include some new autumnal purchases.



So, this month I have....

... spent a week in France with a lovely French family who really made me feel at home. 

... eaten a delicious fish board at Robinson and Cleaver in Belfast. I can't recommend it enough! 

... hosted a dinner party for a few of my close friends. It's so important to make time for activities outside of school (or the workplace).

... spent a night at the Culloden Estate and Spa on the other side of Belfast. Such a treat! 

... finally mastered the art of the crown braid. Dress it up, dress it down, add a hat or a flower crown; the possibilities are endless. 

... had my first official driving lesson!! 

... eaten pumpkin for three nights in a row. Pumpkin and quinoa salad, anyone? 

... spent my half term holiday catching up on work and writing English Lit coursework. Oh well -  I need something to do, I suppose. 

... donated just under a litre of blood through the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service. Giving blood is so important, and your 450ml of blood could save not just one life, but several. Also, it barely hurts at all; I found that the finger prick to test my haemoglobin levels was actually more painful than the donation itself. The staff were lovely and I had a suitable excuse to eat several biscuits afterwards - what's not to love? I'll definitely be going back. 

How has October been for you? 

Monday, 3 November 2014

A Italian lunch

In mid September I turned seventeen. To celebrate, I took some of my friends out to a little Italian restaurant near the centre of Belfast.

I'd never been to Esperanza before but, having recently dined at their sister restaurant Villa Italia, thought I'd give it a try.

Their lunch menu was excellent - a good variety of foods at good prices. Your first soft drink even came free! There were traditional Italian options such as lasagne or pizza, as well as slighty less Italian chicken nuggets.

I picked a vegetarian ciabatta filled with roasted vegetables, pesto and mozzerella cheese. It was delicious.



Other choices included:

Pizza slice


Lasagne



BLT on ciabatta


As well as pasta in tomato sauce and some crispy chicken goujons. 

Of course, we couldn't go out without having dessert. Especially not on my birthday! 

I decided to share a chocolate brownie with salted caramel and tiny chunks of marshmallow. Such a treat and an absolutely divine dessert. 



My friends chose Eton Mess and a rich chocolate cake which appears to have been caught in a snowstorm.



So much chocolatey goodness!

I must mention that we had a great waiter who made us laugh every time he came over. Don't underestimate the power of good service.

I left Speranza full of delicious food, laden down with thoughtful presents and thankful for conversation and laughs with good friends. It was so good to catch up with the girls - most of them aren't in my classes this year so I've missed being able to talk to them. 

I encourage you to take a few hours out of your weekend and make time to meet with friends. You'll come away feeling happy, carefree and looking forward to the week ahead - whatever it may bring! 

Find Speranza here. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Perspective

I've only been back at school for two whole months, but it feels like an age. I think that the past few weeks have felt the most draining because they've been filled with music rehearsals for the school show, English Lit coursework and endless amounts of French and Spanish vocab.

Last year, when I picked my AS-levels, everyone told me, "You'll have a lot of essays". I shrugged it off with a smile and said, "Oh, I like essays," but I think that now the novelty has worn off and I do  feel a bit exhausted. Think about writing an essay on equality in the home in English. Now how about writing it in Spanish?! 

Taking two languages is difficult, but I have to remind myself of the (hopefully achievable) end result: being able to speak a language fluently.  It's all very well living in the here and now, but when I feel as if my life consists of nothing other than schoolwork and music practices, it's important to look ahead and think of the places I want to go, the people I want to meet and the impact I want to have on the world. I have my whole life ahead of me, and focusing on what I want to achieve in the future helps me to focus on what I actually need to do, right now, in order to be able to meet my targets. 

So, what are my dreams? 

To find a job that I enjoy and one that I feel makes a difference. (link)


To eat good food with good friends. 


To take leisurely weekend breakfasts. (link)


To travel as much as possible. (link)


To live abroad and visit lots of markets. (link)


To obtain joy from the simple things in life! (link)


... I think this picture sums it all up pretty well. 


This post sounds like a mixture between a cheesy self-help book and a careers lesson, which wasn't my original intention; but it's something that was on my mind and I thought I'd express my feelings. Blogging is all about being honest, after all! Perhaps my future will look completely different to how I imagine, but that's alright. The world would be boring if we didn't have change!

What do you do when you're feeling swamped?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Le marché

For me, markets are definitely one of the highlights of going to a foreign country. And the best markets are found in France. 

We saw stalls full of juicy peaches, ripe pears, miniature bananas and large grapes. 



There was freshly baked bread of all sorts. Sadly I couldn't buy any as it would have gone stale but the smell coming from the stalls was incredibly tempting. 




I'd never seen so many different spices before! And there was such a variety of peppercorns; almost every colour you could dream of. Naturally I had to pick up some herbs de Provence for my family!





There was also a whole stall dedicated to salami-style sausages. Here in the UK we don't go in for cured sausages in a big way so it was really interesting to see that there were so many varieties. My French family kindly let me try a pork and pork liver sausage one evening and whilst I wouldn't eat it on a daily basis, it was good to be able to taste some of the local food. I'll definitely be less afraid of eating cured sausages in the future!



I thought this was a really lovely photo - I think it shows the unpretentious character of the market. In France, visiting the market or the local bakery is just a way of life, whereas at home we tend to go to the supermarket and buy everything all at once. 



I loved how each stall was filled with different foods - some had paella bubbling away for lunch, others sold cheese (I almost picked up a few rounds of goats' cheese) and there were still others selling mushrooms freshly picked from the mountains that same morning. 



The markets alone are reason enough for me to move to France when I'm older!