Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Special Post - Fashion in Durham

Like what? A special post? You bet. Fashion in Durham's this week and there's a heck lotta events on ranging from catwalks, samples sales to after parties with special celebrity guests. I'd been working with the organization that's hosting this fashion extravaganza for a while in many different fields. One of the things I did was design the goody bag. I may be an amateur anthropologist, but I didn't say that I wasn't a fashion illustration addict/ lover/ somewhat-amateur. 

Female figure - first drawn on paper
Photoshop treatment - I present to you the final female figure (and yes that is my name on the top - parts of it because I've cut some bits off to make it shorter :-)
And soooo, after many sleepless nights of drafting and planning (all of which I enjoyed - art to me can NEVER be a hassle or a stressful thing to complete), I came up with the goody's bag final design which involved a mix of photos showing Durham's highlights and my drawings/ fashion illustrations. And I am very pleased/ touched/ proud to say that the manufacturing of my goody bag came out perfectly/ out of my expectations. I think this all really does go to show that hard work eventually does pay off - even if it isn't immediately.

The final logo - designed and drawn by me :)
My The goody bag!
If anyone is around Durham (England), please come along to our events! The timetable of the events can be accessed here: www.fashionindurham.co.uk

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Fudgy, (pure) Chocolate Brownies

Death by Chocolate

Quite simply, the best way to die in my opinion. I'd have chocolate in anyway - milk, dark, white (I don't care if it doesn't have cocoa in it, it's still an amazing type of chocolate), fruity, nutty, you name it. Chocolate and I are definitely  best friends. And what could be better than spending a day indoors baking something extra chocolatey whilst listening to the pouring rain outside? That basically summarizes one of the many highlights of my Saturday. I was in the mood for brownies but didn't have any cocoa powder. After a quick google search, I managed to find the perfect brownie recipe (from the website, journeykitchen.com) that didn't require any cocoa powder - just pure dark chocolate (delicious, period).

Mmm...melted chocolate... :)

Quintessentially easy-to-purchase essentials are needed for this recipe. I didn't have any walnuts in my pantry but otherwise I would have definitely added some/ a lot into the brownies for an extra bit of crunch and texture.

Note: I could only make half the amount because I only had 100g of dark chocolate - definitely worth making the whole amount or even double that (dieting can start another day ;)

Yields: 12

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 130g all purpose flour
  • 325g caster sguar
  • 3 eggs

  • A baking tin (33x23x5cm is the recommended size)
  • Pot
  • Scales
  • Wooden spoon
  • Rubber spatula
  • Baking paper
  • Whisk
  • Knife
  • Metal bowls x 2

1) Preheat the oven to 170°C
2) Line the baking tin with baking paper
3) Measure the needed ingredients using the scales
4) Boil water in the pot and place one metal bowl on top of it.
5) Place the chocolate and butter into the metal bowl and let them melt; stir until well mixed/ incorporated

Resist the temptation to eat the entire mixture immediately (not as easy as it looks!)

6) Take the bowl off the heat and whisk in the sugar
7) Pour in the flour and mix until well incorporated
8) Whisk in the eggs until thick and smooth
9) Pour the mixture into the prepared pan - use the rubber spatula to scrap every last bit into it (wasting is a big no no in my household/ kitchen).
10) Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes.
11) Cool before cutting it up into squares or rectangles. 

Before the oven treatment :)

And c'est tout! Very simple and obviously delicious. I do advise everyone to wait until it's cooled down to eat as the brownies can burn your tongue if they're too hot. Although...I wouldn't say that it's necessary to wait too long because then you'll miss out on having a brownie with a crunchy top, a chewy interior and a minutely but perfectly moist centre. I basically melted as I had my share of the lot. 

Death by chocolate, literally.
Definitely a keeper and a great thing to share with friends/ eat by yourself when you're feeling down or is simply craving (a lot of) chocolate ;)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Trendin' The Lovely Bones

Travel companion

My little Scottish weekend getaway
I think it's fair to say that I'm an explorer by heart and practice - I just love travelling, especially if it involves castle hunting! It's a solo job technically, but it's not to say that I wouldn't mind having a companion or partner with me. No no. Being alone helps you to concentrate better (which is good if I'm doing a post about where I went) but being with a special someone else would definitely double the amount of fun I have every time - I do feel a bit lonely when I see happy couples walking past smiling and holding hands, ready to delve into whatever's ahead of them. I think for me, my ideal travel companion would have to meet the three following criteria:

1) Patient - has to be able to wait for me when I'm appreciating x monument and talk to me only when I feel like it

2) Comforting - will cheer me up when things don't turn out right during my trip

3) Flexible - won't get upset if my plans change, be it for a minor issue like not being able to see x monument during the trip or the worst case of cancelling the entire voyage.

A friend you can call on whenever
Perfection is something I always strive for - a travel companion for me wouldn't be ideal until the three above criteria are met. Perhaps I haven't found the perfect person for this job yet (or maybe I have...shh! ;P). But in cases like this, we have to think out of the box. Perfection mightn't be something that's easily achievable by people, but in the case of a book, I'd it's definitely possible.

The Lovely Bones

Next stop, Glasgow.
by Alice Sebold. An unusual read to choose for travelling but nonetheless brilliantly written.The story revolves around what occurs before and after the death of fourteen year old Susie Salmon ("like the fish"). Raped and murdered by Mr. Harvey, a man who lived alone opposite the Salmons and spent his time building doll houses, Susie narrates the story from heaven based on her feelings and struggle to reconnect with her family and friends. At the same time, she talks about her family and friends' refusal to believe her death and how they themselves struggle to live without her. It is only when everyone is able to let go that a thin line of peace resumes in the Salmon household.

Reality meets fantasy

To me, I think the realistic nature of this book is definitely what grabbed my attention. When I go travelling, I fantasize about the impossible - images of mythical and enchanted creatures, of magic and of simply first love or secret romances flood into my mind particularly when I'm walking alone in a forest. Travelling for me is my ultimate getaway, my little time of peace and pleasure. Sebold's book is a clear antithesis to the fairytale I've described. And I guess that's what I liked, that I was able to go on all these amazing trips and forget about reality for a minute. Reading The Lovely Bones during my outings was a way of reminding myself that not everyday and every moment can be a fantasy. That in reality, awful things can occur out of the blue. I think travelling and the book itself helped me strike a balance between reality and fantasy; I wasn't too full of one side and not the other - ultimate perfection.

Lunch in Edinburgh

There's a reason for everything

Though it may seem hard to believe why exactly something had to happen at this time and to that particular person, Sebold reminds us that there is a reason for that incident. It may not be that clear and obvious at first, but if we all give it sometime, it'll slowly uncover themselves. It was a sickly relief for me when the tables turned and all the misfortune Mr. Harvey had caused others fell all upon him at the end (if you want to know exactly what happened, you'll have to read it yourself). There's a reason for everything, and I've quite simply lived to believe that even if it seems ridiculously impossible to do so at times.

Never forget the dead

This definitely has to be the ultimate moral or message of the book (to me at least) - it's what made it the pinnacle of perfection. Susie's struggle to reconnect with her family and friends by showing herself during instances in their lives after her death basically illustrates the message above. It's a comforting thing to think - that the dead can choose to not give up on us no matter how impossible it is. And I guess, at the same time, it's kind of our duty to not give up on them. Perhaps it's a bit too much to say that we should try to find a way to reconnect with them in reality - it's not possible because they are unfortunately not alive anymore. But I think, it is possible for us to believe that at least their spirit still lingers around us and will be there for us during our toughest times. And for me, it makes me feel happier to know that even though those that I wish were with me during my travels and in general life aren't technically there for me physically, they are in spirit. 

At The Scott Monument, Edinburgh
And through that, I know that I am never truly alone.

A compendium of emotions and experiences with a graceful dash of reality, Sebold's book is a chillingly comforting read for anyone who feels alone or is simply looking for an absolute work of literary art.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Madeleines (chocolate and walnuts)

When life gives you lemons
An overly used saying (well, at least in my life anyway) but often accompanied with the ending "make lemonade". Normally I'd agree with that - lemonade is an absolutely amazing drink! But, with the incoming cold weather, lemonade for me was definitely off the menu - lemonade and summer is the most inseparable combination, definitely not so much for autumn (feels like winter to me already though!).

Hide and seek - can you spot the madeleine tin? :)
Thinking hard of what to do, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eyes. I have a variety of baking tins in my house from a normal muffin tin to a butterfly shaped one - they're an absolute essential for any (amateur) baker. But on this occasion, it was the classic and oh-so-Français madeleine tin that appealed to me most. When life gives you lemons, I say, make madeleines :-)

Lemons - to use or not to use :)

Attention s'il vous plaît

I think that there's a tendency for people to think that French food is difficult and strenuous to make. Rest assured that this recipe is a complete foil to this common misunderstanding; you mightn't even need to go shopping for anything as what it calls for are simple ingredients that should be found in any household! It might be more tricky without and egg beater, but it's definitely possible (it's a good workout if you don't have one like I did - actually I did have one but I was too lazy to use it/ forgot that I had one. The recipe I used taken from Judy Farris's (2002) French Butter Cakes (Madeleines) recipe on allrecipes.com with some (yummy) alterations by me. A dozen light and lemony French cakes coming right up!

Geting started...


  • 2 Eggs
  • 3/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 White sugar
  • 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour, plus some extra for the madeleine tin itself.
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup butter plus some extra for buttering the madeleine tin
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar for decoration
  • 60g dark chocolate, melted*
  • 35g walnuts or almonds, crushed*
  • Icing sugar for decoration (use as much or as little as you want)*
* things I added that weren't used in the original recipe - you don't have to use them but it's highly recommended if you do :-)


  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Dessert spoon
  • Egg beater (an electronic one is preferable if you have one)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Sieve
  • Rolling pin or kitchen mallet (to crush the almonds or walnuts -- alternatively you can get packets of pre-crushed walnuts or almonds in most supermarkets)
  • An oven
  • Madeleine tin (I got mine at Lakeland  which had 12 very cute madeleine molds- you can use a mini muffin tin if you want but it seriously isn't the same)
  • Saucepan (to help melt the butter and chocolate - I was worried about burning my chocolate and butter so I put the e.g. chocolate in a goblet and then placed it in a bowl of boiling hot water; If I'm not making sense, which is usually the case, Lesley Waters's tutorial on the BBC Food web is pure genius).


  • Preheat the oven to 190°C, then butter and flour the madeleine molds
  • Melt the butter in the saucepan and let it cool to room temperature before use.
Mixture + tin = delicious baked goods in the making
  • In the mixing bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla and salt at high speed until light 
  • Whilst beating, add the sugar; continue beating until the mixture is thick and pale. Ribbons should form when the beaters are lifted; beating should take 5-10 minutes (if you don't have an electronic egg beater, you can use a normal egg beater instead - just takes a much longer time, and more muscles!)
A dozen golden madeleines ready for the oven treatment
  • Sift the flour into the egg mixture in three portions (hence 1/3 at a time); fold each portion in gently with the wooden spoon.
  • Add the lemon zest and pour in the melted butter. Gently and quickly fold the butter into the batter.
In the oven...
  • Using the dessert spoon, spoon the mixture into the molds. Do not over fill them - put enough so that there's still a 10mm gap between the mixture and the top of the mold.
  • Bake the madeleines in the oven for 14-17 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the saucepan and crush the walnuts or almonds using a rolling pin or mallet.
Freshly baked and ready to be decorated!
  • When the madeleines are done, take them out of the oven and place them onto a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Place in the fridge for a further 10 minutes to cool.
mmmm...melted chocolate :)
  • Take the madeleines out of the fridge and dip each of them into the melted chocolate; roll half or all of the madeleines in the crushed walnuts or almonds.
  • Let the madeleines chill up in the fridge before consuming

Et voila! Your madeleines are complete! I packed mine in a cute, vintage styled tin to bring to my friends - sharing is caring and it makes me happy; plus it's a great way to get people to unintentionally become your personal guinea pigs :)

So simple and scrummy, madeleines are seriously the perfect teatime treats for anyone who wants to live a slightly more classy life.

C'est vraiment la vie en rose une belle vie :)

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Seaham - County Durham

A mild case of writer's block

A bit of an unusual way to start a blog post, particularly if it's about a lovely little town next to the sea (hence Seaham I guess). I'd planned to write about Seaham ever since I got back from it Friday a fortnight ago ('twas the start to my little travelling weekend). But, for some reason, words failed me and no matter how hard I tried, there were no melodious sentences coming together nor could I streamline on with what I had already written (trying to relate a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to my description of Seaham was a lot more difficult than I'd imagined).I decided then that I'd take a couple of days off from it and get back to it eventually.

Arrival in Seaham
Perhaps it's because of a (or several) good night's sleep, or because the gloomy, dark and mysterious weather today reflects the atmosphere on the day I'd visited Seaham, but I woke up feeling really inspired. Maybe, I thought, it's time for a change of tactics - rather than describing simply the view, perhaps it's time to base my view of Seaham on my feelings. And that, my dear readers, is how this blog post will (hopefully/ maybe/ should be/ fingers-crossed-nothing-bad-happens!) roll.

The one-way passage to paradise

Great Expectations

They're totally normal - they help us prepare for the unexpected (obvious but yes, that's what they do). The schema I'd developed through my visits to other seaside towns in England (think Whitby, Brighton, Saltburn etc.) had me (I'd thought) well-prepared for whatever Seaham had to offer. Perhaps it was the quirky sign that I'd seen at the train station, or because the route I'd taken to the town's centre was a hidden passageway sheltered by the strong arms of trees that pushed the apex to meet the sky (an absolute visual feast that I gorged on immediately), that slowly, I got the feeling that expecting the usual (e.g. amusements, cliff lift etc.) was unnecessary and in fact, would divert me from enjoying Seaham to its ultimate potential. I abandoned my assumptions and prior thoughts about what to expected, and began my adventure.

One of the many quirky sculptures at Seaham
The feeling I’d use to describe my first impression of Seaham’s high street is homely. It was comforting to see the signs of familiar shops like Asda, Gregg’s, The Salvation Army etc. – its similarity to home made it easy for me to fit in. At the same time, the amount of independent retailers set off sparks of happiness inside me (I am definitely all for independent shops). The combination of types of shops was perhaps the most satisfying feeling in the most subtle way, something of which definitely had me starting to resume my bubbly and happy-self.

Seaham's own little art gallery - revamped from an old public toilet
But the satisfying feeling didn’t end there – oh no. If you arrive at the end of the high street and take a left from the art gallery (which itself was another satisfying find – not only because of the quality and uniqueness of the art displayed inside, but because of the genius behind the construction of the gallery itself – who would have guessed that such a colorful and beautiful place had been transformed out of an old and unused public toilet?), you’ll be standing in the middle of a long road stretching faraway into the distance, in the direction of (I think) Sunderland. At the same time, the sea and beach themselves quietly behind the road, waiting patiently for those to venture towards them. But if I were you, I’d delay this gratification and spend time exploring what lies ahead of you beside the road itself.

Wicked temptations - sweets from Tutti Frutti, The Sweet Shop

The Lamp Room cafe @ 20 North Terrace, Seaham
Whether you’re looking for interesting architecture, buildings oozing with history, a spot of tea, or simply a little bit more time to reunite yourself with a bit of materialistic luxury, everything was laid out neatly for the family, couple or lone traveler (i.e. myself – in a good way of course!) to utilize, all in one perfectly formed line (technically road). Who’d had thought that this little town by the sea would actually share similar features to what I’d witnessed and thoroughly enjoyed at Yarm?

The different shades of the rainbow - products from the shop, Leaf Bark and Berries

Humbles - another cute cafe at Seaham
The edible rainbow - sweets from Tutti Frutti, The Sweet Shop

The Black Truffle

If you do end up in Seaham for lunch, I suggest going to The Black Truffle – their scones are absolutely irresistible (luckily I don’t actually live in Seaham – otherwise I would undoubtedly gain quite a few pounds!) and they also have a small boutique selling designer-styled clothing with a touch of vintage, hidden behind the tables and chairs forming their cute café.

The Black Truffle - an eclectic clothing boutique and cafe; a girl's ultimate getaway

I absolutely loved the retro-ey (I don’t care if this isn’t a word!) feel of their café’s design, and was really surprised to find out that the place had been revamped out of an old phsyio’s clinic (when see a shower standing proudly in an unusually big bathroom, you know you just have to find out the story behind the place – or maybe I’m just a very nosey person in general ß probably the case).

Examples of the quirky design of The Black Truffle cafe

Perfect solitude

The lone traveller
I'm often recognized as quite a talkative person...hmmm...probably an understatement of how much of a chatterbox I really am. The point is, the gift of the gab can't flourish without contact with others. I'm comfortable with chatting to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. But sometimes, I like to spend some time being alone - seeing others that I know during that period would kind of tick me off (so stay back!!). It's not like I find solace in loneliness, but simply tranquility in solitude. Its a way for me to remind myself that not matter how many time life puts you off living, you can always do things to make yourself happy. And, THAT is perhaps the best and most satisfying feeling anyone could EVER feel in life.

Normally, my perfect solitude would be walking through a huge forest or at least somewhere with a lot of trees - it gives me time to imagine and think. In Seaham, I was left with the beach. I was a bit reluctant at first seeing as the weather was a bit rough. I soon fell in love with the ambiance there - waves crashing onto the rocky surface that formed the basis of the beach, gray clouds lingering just above keeping us hidden from the sun whilst visually contrasting with the multicolored rocks, pebbles and stones (excuse my lack of knowledge in geological terms), the sounds of dogs barking to their owners sounding more like a faint echo as I moved further down the coastline... All of these things might be less preferred to most - people often envision beaches with golden, soft sand, ice-cream trucks, colorful deckchairs etc. But for some reason, I absolutely LOVED it - Seaham offered a chance for me to be alone (and to go rock shopping - I seriously went home with a bag of rocks, no joke) without being near the hustle and bustle of daily life, and crowds of people.

Rocks - hours of fun produced by mother nature
To be charming results from, in my opinion, two key ingredients - 1) genes and 2) someone to fall for it, someone out of everyone else to notice it. Seaham may not necessarily be the ideal beach in everyone's mind, but I challenge you to give it just a little bit of time. For it's said that the patient one is often rewarded with great treasures. And THAT is undoubtedly applicable to this little town by the sea - you'll be longing to go back for many times more once you're, quite simply, charmed by Seaham.

Seaham's beach - the place for personal rejuvenation and thinking

Friday, 27 September 2013

Never forget...

Whether it was romantic, breathtaking or on the spur of the moment, we (well, the lucky few that have had theirs already anyway - sobs!) will never forget our first kiss. Photo taken outside the Hollister store (one of my favorite shops) on George Street in Edinburgh - it was originally a photo of the entire building as I thought it looked pretty (I take random photos - deal with it). As I looked more into the photo however, I noticed something different. There were characters, there was a scene. There were emotions, there was time - the photo held a hidden story, something of which I felt I had to share with everyone. It is indeed satisfying to find surprises like these - sometimes it just takes a little bit of patience and attention to notice the beautiful things that are already around us. Forget about perfection and strategy, let whatever wants to come to come and try to see it through different angles. Sometimes, the best way to live each day is to accept fate and take on chances - it adds color to everyone's lives, and a chapter to everyone's stories.


I'm back! Sorry for the sudden hiatus - I've had bit of writer's block + have been really busy with my life (there's just not enough time everyday to do everything!). I'm writing to everyone from a faraway land (that I travelled to via my personal chariot/ the East Coast train service), where castles lie just behind the town centre and figures of the past still roam the street (or maybe they're just actors trying to get people to sign up for the Edinburgh dungeons tour...hmmm...). I've got new ideas and plenty more things to talk about so please continue to follow and read my posts - blogging has become a part of me now and it's been devastating not being able to write for the past few days, so I'm totally glad that I'm back.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A very food good morning to everyone...

It's Sunday - the start or end of the week (depends on how you see it/ remember your days of the week). Who started off this morning with something homemade and yummy/ setting-the-fire-alarm-off-because-the-muffins-in-my-oven-were-apparently-"too"-hot-but-oh-well-at-least-they-tasted-fine-so-be-quiet-and-leave-me-alone-because-I-really-can-actually-cook-and-bake-without-setting-the-house-on-fire?


Friday, 20 September 2013

Red Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

A Brand New Day =

Waking up and turning my alarm off to go back to sleep - snoozing for another 1-2 hours is essential and healthy :)

Nah...just kidding! A new day means a new recipe to try of course! This time, I found myself getting very/ over excited about the recipe I'd found in a leaflet from Tesco's the other day in Durham. Emma Laver's (Bakery Manager at Tesco Milton, Cambridgeshire) vegetarian background and experience as a pastry chef led her to propose the following: Red Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

On today's menu...
(if you've never taken a leaflet before or have even heard of it until now,I suggest that you go into a large supermarket like Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Morrisons etc. and keep your eyes out for it or to ask one of the staff members to get you one - they really are very nommy recipes!)

I'm definitely all for bread of any sort really. But grapes and rosemary? Now that I had to pause and think for a bit - normally focaccia for me is made up of black olives or red onions, so putting a fruit in with one of my favorite herbs was a bit of a new combo. After looking it up on the net and finding that Laver's recipe was actually quite popular, I decided that I'd save the red grapes I'd purchased earlier and use it to make the focaccia. Let's hope it turns out alright, I thought.

The early stages of the dry mixture

Rules of the Baker

There was nothing overly complicated about this recipe for me - I'd made bread before so it was simply a matter of applying what I do know to a new situation (skills - checked!). For this recipe, Laver asks for the folowing:

Serves: 4, Duration = 2.5 hours (2 hours for proving the dough -- trust me, it's worth the wait!)

Mixing the dough...


  • 1 tsp dried active yeast
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 350ml (12 fl oz) warm water (not lukewarm, WARM water - I used 230ml cool water + 120ml hot water)
  • 450g (14.5 oz) plain flour PLUS extra to garnish
  • 1 tsp rosemary, chopped, PLUS extra sprigs to garnish (if you can't find any sprigs, like what happened to me, get a bottle of rosemary that's available in any supermarket and use that instead - works just as well!)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed, plus extra to garnish (I didn't have JUST fennel seeds; I had a bag of mixed seeds - e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, fennel etc. - I used that instead and d'you know, I reckon it was BETTER than just chucking fennel in it :-) be bold and take risks, people!
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g (8oz) red grades
  • Plain flour, for dusting
  • Sea salt (I used a box of sea salt flakes - really gave it the added flavour that this recipe just needed to make it a perfect focaccia)
Covering it before proving...


  • 2-3 medium-sized bowls (I reused one of them so I only used 2 bowls)
  • Measuring beaker
  • Large baking tray (if you have an oven, it should come with it)
  • Baking parchment (size is dependent on the size of your baking tray)
  • Measuring spoons (you'll need 1 tsp and 1 tbsp - or, in my case, 1/2 tbsp because my 1 tbsp melted the other day; don't ask why)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Bread knife
  • A granite or marble work board* (this isn't 100% necessary if your worktop or island is made out of either of the mentioned materials but they're really handy when you're dealing with flour as you can simply tip all the leftover flour away and into the bin without having to dust and wipe down the entire table - I highly recommend everyone getting one of these - they can be bought in pretty much any supermarket e.g. Asda Home Living; note that they can be quite heavy).
  • Rolling pin (FROM YESTERDAY's EXPERIENCE -- make sure you use a rolling pin that is JUST A BIT smaller than your oven tray or else you won't be able to roll out the focaccia to it's full extent -- that happened to me :-(

Proving in the oven that's OFF for 2 whole hours (I'm not kidding)
Now, NORMALLY, I would say "okay kids, let's start off with preheating the oven". But, like with pretty much all kinds of bread, preheating the oven is unnecessary because your dough won't be able to go in until literally 1-2 hours later (you don't want to burn the house down by turning the oven on too early!). 


(note: a scientific word for a fool-proof recipe, literally :-)

After proving (it's grown!!!)
  • 1) Combine together the yeast and sugar in a bowl and pour in 350ml water; stir and set aside.
  • 2) In a larger bowl, combine the 450g flour, 1tsp fennel or mixed seeds (I actually added a nice hand full - that's fine too), 1 tsp rosemary and 1 tsp salt - give it a good mix.
  • 3) Pour in the yeast mixture -- FROM EXPERIENCE: it's easier to handle if you add in the yeast mixture a little bit at a time (it prevents any lumps from forming thus making it easier to mix) -- and mix using the wooden sppon.
  • 4) Sprinkle some flour over the worktop or marble/ granite work board
  • 5) Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it on the worktop for 10 minutes until smooth (there are bread machine recipes for focaccia too but not in this recipe - I don't have a bread machine so I have the KNEAD my way to success/ get food; it's fun but does require time and practice to get it right -- I'm still not perfect but watching The Great British Bake-Off and Paul Hollywood on the telly have definitely helped :-)
  • 6) Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into a bowl (I reused the one I had the yeast mixture in earlier).
  • 7) Roll the dough in the oil to cover the entire entity.
  • 8) Cover it with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours until the dough has double in size (for me, it was 2 hours in my oven that was TURNED OFF)
Before rolling the dough...
  • 9) After 2 hours, take the dough out and remove the clingfilm before roughly kneading half the amount of grapes through the dough (very smart thing to do as it gives the dough a splash of color inside than just on the outside).
  • 10) Scatter a baking tray with some flour
  • 11) Using the rolling pin or your hands, stretch out the dough so that it is roughly the size of the tray (that was a bit difficult for me -- will need to improve on that in the future!)
  • 12) ***Gently slide the dough off the tray and onto the worktop (this step WAS NOT part of the recipe but made sense to me because Laver later tells you to preheat the oven WITH the baking tray and baking parchment - that wouldn't have worked for me unless I took the focaccia off from the tray it was on because I only had that one tray; if you have two or more trays, do NOT follow this step - skip to step 13)
  • 13) Cover the tray with a tea towel and it rise for 30 minutes
  • 14) Preheat the oven to its highest temperature and put a lined baking sheet on a baking tray in to heat up.
  • 15) Press the remaining grapes and some rosemary sprigs into the dough
  • 16) Drizzle the remaining oil and scatter with sea salt and fennel seeds onto the dough.
  • 17) Slide the dough onto the preheated tray and bake for 5-8 minutes (yes, it's a very fast bake but takes a lot of time to prove).
My freshly baked (odd-shaped because my rolling pin was too big - pooh) focaccia
When it's finished baking, take the tray out of the oven. It should come out with an even rise and golden-brown on the top; hopefully yours will have a better shape than mine (must buy a rolling pin that's SMALLER than my tray for the future!). Cut, using the bread knife, the required amount of slices. Serve whilst hot (yes you can eat it when it's cooled down but seriously, what's better than freshly baked and hot bread?!?!?!)

Who want's a slice? :-)
You can have it with cheese (goats' cheese is highly recommended), red pickle spread, Nutella etc. or peanut butter like I had this morning (I made the bread last night and so, I didn't have to worry about breakfast :-)  if you make it the night before, I suggest that you cut out the required amount of slices and then chuck it into the oven to heat up (it'll come out nice and crunchy on the outside but soft and springy on the inside; plus it's hot! Emphasis on the deliciousness of hot bread intended!)

If you want to know if you've made the bread correctly, follow these simple tips:
  • 1) Cut out a slice and see if there are air pockets inside the bread (I think the more there are the better -- correct me if I'm wrong).
  • 2) Using a finger, press firmly on top of and inside the bread and see if it bounces back each time; if it doesn't leave a mark, you've done it right - congratulations :-D
Note the air pockets - a professional made one has better looking and I think bigger air pockets (but I'm an amateur so leave me alone :-P
A truly delicious and easy bake - perfect for anytime of the day and undoubtedly a great way to get ANYONE up and going in the morning.

Breakfast is served :-)