Friday, 27 February 2015


Bara Brith
Time taken: Ten minutes, then ten minutes, then a long bake in the oven.
Ingredients: 175g currants, 175g sultanas, 225g light brown sugar, 300ml strong hot tea & an egg.

Hi Readers,
It’s Friday time! At last, Friday has come!! Everything is going to be A-OK now. A few hours left at work for most… and then you’re free. :) The sun’s shining outside and you could do anything with your weekend! The world is your oyster!
Is it just me or has everyone been incredibly productive this week?? It seems like everyone has been getting things done… and then more and more things! There’s been no stopping people! So, this week, my flatmate Godica journeyed down to London for a big interview aaaaaand… she’s scored herself an offer to study for a postgrad nursing diploma at South Bank Uni! Which she can defer for a year so that she can travel around Australia with my flatmate Brummanie!! Such great news! She was really nervous and so we’re all really proud of her. :) Also, Godica found out today that she's got a summer job at Buckingham Palace to help her save some cash for travels! Rubbing shoulders with royalty! Best news EVER.
ALSO my flatmate Dr Davies took a trip to London too (apparently, it’s the THING to have been doing this week). She also had big interviews for further study after uni… and she’s been invited to join a lab down in the capital city to study for her PhD!!! Dr Davies is ACTUALLY going to be a doctor. It’s terrifying! I don’t know quite where she’s been made an offer, and don’t at all understand what it is she’ll be doing her PhD on, but she’s doing one!
Such an exciting time. In Newcastle, me and Brummanie and Tiddy, we haven’t exactly been scoring ourselves big career offers this week. Not quite. BUT we battled through 2 ½ days without hot water for showers after Northumbria Water had a bloody disaster with a pipe nearby, which is achievement enough for me.
And this week I wrote a full draft of my dissertation. I actually wrote it. And yesterday I printed it. All 126 pages of it, complete with 97 figures and 107 references. My baby. So, this weekend, I’m taking a few days off to clear my mind and have a rest. Then on Monday I’m whipping the dissertation back out again for a big read through, and after final edits I can have it bound and submitted! This is very scary.
But the prospect of a few days break from my work is wonderful. It’s all winding down now. On Wednesday night, Woody took me out for pizza and to see Kingsmen (definitely a lads film) at the cinema, complete with back row seats and vegetarian sweets! Then, last night, I had my geography friends Floss and Fizz over for a dinner party. Two glasses of wine went straight to my head! But I still managed to pull together a veggie Thai green curry, with fruit salad for dessert. The girls were most complimentary. :)
And today… my Father Bear is driving up to Newcastle to visit! I’m so excited! Especially, to see me my dad’s taken a day off work and he’s embarking on a long drive up the country to Newcastle. I’m so lucky! Today, if the sunshine holds on, we’re going to take a big walk around the Quayside of Newcastle and hopefully find some cask ale bars to pay a visit to. And, for my dad’s arrival, I’ve got my bake on!
This morning, I’ve baked a Bara Brith Teabread. Mmm. Bara Brith is a reeeally fruity, traditionally Welsh teabread. My flatmate Dr Davies is half-Welsh and so she has introduced us to this! To make Bara Brith you soak fruit overnight in tea, before you bake this bread, and so it’s suuuper moist. Some fruit cakes can be quite dry and tough – this is not one of them.
Hopefully, this will be a good reward for my dad when he gets here after his long drive! I wanted to bake something for him coming up and, for once, give something other than banana bread a whirl. I’m not eating chocolate due to Lent and so my options were limited. But Bara Brith was the perfect solution! I can report that the teabread has baked superbly and now the house smells like a DREAM. Sooo homely.
To make your Bara Brith, which EVERYONE needs to do, follow these 10 easy steps…
1. Boil the kettle and then pour 300ml hot water into a measuring jug.
2. Chuck 3 teabags into your water and leave your tea to brew for 5 minutes or so.
3. Meanwhile, measure 175g sultanas, 175g currants and 225g light brown sugar into a mixing bowl.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: This recipe comes from my Mary Berry ‘100 Cakes and Bakes’ book. In the book, Mary calls for you to use light muscovado sugar. I found some of this sugar in the baking cupboard, but there was only about 50g of it left. So, the rest I made up with just light brown sugar. I have to report that both sugars look EXACTLY THE SAME to me. And the teabread seems to have turned out fine without all of the muscovado sugar that was requested. So I don’t think it’s all that essential. Just any light brown sugar you can find, that should do the job.
4. Remove your teabags from your tea and then pour it over your fruit and sugar. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave your fruit to soak overnight.
5. The next day, heat your oven to 150˚C.
6. Measure out 275g self-raising flour. Sift this over your bowl of fruit and then crack an egg into the bowl, too.
7. Mix it up!
8. Grease a loaf tin and line this with baking paper. Then spoon your mix into the prepared tin.
9. Safely transport into the oven to bake for 90 minutes.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Leave your kitchen door open and the smell of this lovely bread should seep through your whole house. Literally, it’s like you’ve lit ten scented candles.
10. When your bread is well-risen, firm to touch and a knife jabbed in the middle comes out clean, then your teabread has baked! Leave it to cool in its tin for ten minutes, before you tip your teabread out onto a cooling rack. Job done!
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Slice and butter your teabread, and serve warm or when cooled. Enjoy!
Here’s my wonderful Bara Brith…
So, this recipe is wonderfully simple. There are only six ingredients! And one of them is a brew! It’s very easy to bake. Plus, you can bake this recipe at incredibly little cost, and it only really requires twenty minutes of your time in the kitchen, so you don’t have to dedicate heaps of your work/study/relaxation hours to your teabread.
ALSO there’s fruit in Bara Brith. So it scores points for health in my books! And your house will smell, and your bread will taste, as if you’re in a country cottage in rural Wales. It’s the best.
I feel that everyone, each and every one of you, deserves Bara Brith this weekend. We’ve all worked hard this week and so a light spot of baking is most deserved. I hope you have a chilled, sunny weekend, readers. And that you have a wonderful start to March. And that my dad likes Bara Brith!!

Brew safely,


Sunday, 22 February 2015


Sweet Potato Salad

Time taken: Half an hour
Ingredients: A sweet potato, salad leaves, salad dressing, a tomato, a third of a cucumber, 4 spring onions, oil, salt & pepper.

Hi readers,
As I write this, I hope that you are having a wonderful weekend wherever you are. Today in Newcastle it’s a bright and clear morning, although it’s wicked cold outside! It’s freezing! Luckily, I am safely inside for now. Most warm. Today it’s Sunday and it’s the Day of Rest – so I am having a lazy morning in at home. Sunday Brunch is on TV and there is banana bread baking in the oven!

This afternoon I DO have to go to work and add some money to the holiday fund that I’m saving up. But the prospect of work isn’t filling me with dread today (for once) because at least I’m not headed for the university library. This is a blessing! Tomorrow will mark the start of the final week of crazed typing for geographers in Newcastle, as we finish writing up our dissertations. Gah.

This means that me and all of my friends are going to spend a hell of lot of time in the library this week. Then more time. And more. Soooooooooo much time. All of our time. Every waking moment. AAAARGH. The library has become my prison right now, and my dissertation is my absolute mortal enemy!!

So, anyway, things are a little emotional among the geographers up here. Everyone is anxious and tired, and wired from caffeine, and stressed to breaking point over word counts and analytical content. It’s awful. It’s so shit.

HOWEVER we’re near to the end. WE ARE. I’m taking a break from the library this weekend so that I can earn a living, but I will be back there on Monday! To cheer everyone up I hope. I will raise some spirits and offer a shoulder to cry on for all. Bringing POSITIVITY.

Honestly, I think everyone there needs to stop working into the night and just try to get a decent rest. This will improve everyone’s work SO MUCH. And people need to stop eating shit. Everywhere I look in the library people have sweets and snacks and they’re all sauntering off into town for some crisis food whenever they have a panic. THIS ISN’T HELPING. IT’S WASTING TIME.

So, I’m no angel. This week I have definitely eaten more carbs than my time spent sitting on my bum in the library has justified me eating. BUT I’M TRYING. Everyone, we need to feed our minds. A lot of treat foods, they taste nice, but they don’t make you feel good in an hour’s time. Not one bit. Give it an hour and you find yourself back at the vending machine. Or your head’s down on the desk. Or you’re at home in bed. AND THIS ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH, PEOPLE.

I will demonstrate this (a bit blurrily) in a format that many geography students right now will relate with. In figures.

Figure One – Selection of unhealthy snacks that many students in the library presently feast upon.

Figure Two – Selection of healthy snacks which I want to see more of in the library!

Basically, everything in Figure Two is generally cheaper, healthier and lower calorie than everything in Figure One. And it’s all still tasty, treat food! So why not make the switch??

Whether you’re a student here at uni or you’re a person anywhere in the world! Regardless, if you’re a person who snacks then this applies to you. Don’t wait until you’re stressed midday – be prepared with snacks and take some with you when you leave the house, in case they’re needed later on. In the morning, pack yourself up some cheap, healthy grub… and you’ll feel really good for it. I swear!

Even if all I eat this week is dates, they’re still a fruit. So they’re healthy. I’ll be healthy. Dates promise not to make me crash after I eat them! And I SERIOUSLY can’t afford to crash this week. No one can. We really need to power on.

And, after smashing it throughout a day in the library (or powering through a terrific day at work maybe), then here’s an idea for a tea you could head home and prepare that will continue your healthy streak on into the evening! This is a plate of food which is warm, green and tasty, and provides A LOT of brainpower. I ate this last night… and can report that I feel good.

Here’s how to rustle up a plateful of Sweet Potato Salad, readers, in ten easy steps…
1. Heat your oven to 200˚C.
2. Take your sweet potato and, with a sharp knife, CHANNEL YOUR RAGE and stab it thoroughly. Seriously, stab the shit out of that potato. You want to pierce it all over. Pierce it good.
3. Sit the remains of your potato upon a piece of kitchen towel and pop it in the microwave to heat on full power for ten minutes.
4. Take ten. Have a lie down and chill. Or I took a shower and sang along with Shakira, very badly.
5. Once your potato is done, whip it out of the microwave and chop it into cubes.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Unless you have a phobia of potato skin, leave this on! There’s a lot of goodness in the skin.
6. Sit your potato cubes on a baking tray. Drizzle a little oil over them, and season with salt and pepper.
7. Pop your tray into the oven so that your potato can bake for quarter of an hour.
8. Meanwhile, prepare your salad veg! Chop your tomato into bite-sized chunks. Finely chop your spring onion into little pieces. Slice your cucumber and then cut each slice into quarters.
9. Arrange your salad leaves on a dinner plate and then dish up your salad veg over the top. Drizzle this all with some salad dressing.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: At the moment I have an ASDA 70% less-fat Honey & Mustard Dressing. I highly recommend this because it tastes like THE BOMB.
10. Safely transport your sweet potato cubes out of the oven and tip over your plate of salad. Voila!

And you should have yourself a plate of salad that looks something like this :)

This is a big plate of food and it’s waaaarm. This salad is colourful and varied and flavoursome. So there you go! What’s not to love? It’s simple, easy and quick to make. No expensive ingredients required. All of your 5-a-day on one plate. Top marks for health. Bish bash bosh.

This is feel good food, people! And I really hope that this does make you feel good and positive and happy. Because everyone deserves to feel content with themselves, and their life and their work. Even while we’re passing the time until Spring and Summer. Let’s feel good.

Also, just in case the salad isn't enough, I've put together an hour-long playlist of upbeat tracks to cheer you up, too. Check it out HERE.

Stab safely,


Tuesday, 17 February 2015


Mushroom n Spinach Savoury Pancakes

Time taken: Quarter of an hour… then an unlimited break… then maybe half an hour
Ingredients: 125g plain flour, a pinch of salt, an egg, 150ml milk, 150ml water, a tablespoon of butter, a small onion, a handful of mushrooms, 120g spinach leaves, a tablespoon of crème fraiche, oil, salt & pepper.

Hi readers,
IT’S PANCAKE DAY!!! Happy Pancake Day, everyone! You can’t help but smile on Pancake Day. :) All Christianity aside, I feel like this is just a very nice, very jolly and British tradition. It brightens up the post-winter stretch to Easter quite nicely, I feel.
For those of us that haven’t aged yet in 2015 and who didn’t have a Significant Other to share Valentine’s with… this is the most excitement we’ve had since Christmas! It really is!
This morning, readers, and this feels like something terrible to admit… I didn’t really fancy pancakes. Honestly, I couldn’t say I was in the mood. My enthusiasm for pancakes was low. Then lower. And the more people talked about them the more disgruntled I got that I wasn’t in the mood. But peer pressure mounted.
And I thought, stuff it, I’m going to have to eat some. I would be a shame not to! It is THE DAY OF PANCAKES. And so I pulled myself together, threw my bodily instincts aside, and devised a cunning plan for how to get excited about Pancake Day.
My plan: savoury pancakes! Literally, this is something I don’t remember ever having tried. My Brother Bear has historically eaten his pancakes savoury with gravy on them, and to me this sounds just awful. Truly poor. Horrifying.
So I did some research, googling away, and in the end I decided upon a recipe by Chef James Martin from the Saturday Kitchen TV show (which I love) for pancakes served with spinach and mushrooms. My thoughts: Mmm. Double mmm. So I hit the shops for ingredients and this was on!
To whisk together a savoury pancake feast like mine, follow these fifteen easy steps:
1. Measure your flour into a mixing bowl, then use your fingers to swirl a well in the middle of the flour and crack an egg into this.
2. In a measuring jug, pour 150ml of milk and 150ml of warm water.
3. Spoon a tablespoon of butter into a mug and pop this in the microwave to melt for 30 seconds.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Today I was using skimmed milk and light sunflower spread. These were all I had in and, yes, they probably do make a slightly different tasting pancake to if you use whole milk and real butter. But I’m no pancake connoisseur and these worked fine for me, so I say just use whatever’s in the fridge!
4. Pour the contents of your jug and your mug into the bowl and mix everything together!
ChefBeHere Top Tip: If you have a whisk, get this out and do some whisking. You’re aiming to make a smooth and airy batter. So this requires some elbow grease! Crack on! No lumps like you see above.
5. When your batter’s looking fine, you can cover your bowl with clingfilm and take a break.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: The batter should stand for half an hour or so. So just come back whenever you’re free and feeling hungry!
6. Upon your return to the kitchen, prep your veg! Using a sharp knife, peel and chop up a small onion, and slice a handful of mushrooms. Try not to injure yourself.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: As a vegetable snob I advocate getting yourself a red onion and chestnut mushrooms. They are far superior. So true!
7. Let’s make your pancakes. Get your game face on. So, first, heat your oven to a low temperature and heat a little oil in a frying pan, which should also not be too hot. Arm yourself with a spatula.
8. Pour a ladleful of pancake batter into the pan and swirl this around until it covers the base of the pan. Fry for a minute or so until the underside of the pancake has set and is beginning to turn golden.
9. Then (however you can) flip your pancake over so that the other side can fry. When this side also looks golden, slide your pancake onto a plate and cover with foil. Pop this in the oven to keep warm.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: If (like me) you’re an absolute scaredy cat when it comes to pancake flipping, then it’s ok to fold your pancake in half instead of flipping it over onto its other side. This is a little sad, admittedly, but not the end of the world.
10. Add a little more oil to your frying pan and then repeat the process twice more. You should end up with three pancakes warming in the oven under a foil cover.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Don’t panic if you burn one pancake and have to chuck it away. This is ok. Two will do… stay calm.
11. Next, heat a little more oil in your frying pan. Take your spinach and crème fraiche out of the fridge. Add your onion and mushroom to your frying pan and fry them until they soften.
12. Season your veg with a little salt and pepper, and then add your spinach leaves into the pan. Cook for just a few minutes until your spinach wilts, stirring frequently.
13. Remove your pan from the heat and take your pancake plate out of the oven. You’re almost done!
14. Tip your pancakes over so that they’re sat on their foil and you free up the plate that they were on. Hoist one pancake over to the warmed plate. Spread it with a little crème fraiche. Then spoon half of your mushroom-spinach mix onto the pancake, and fold it over.
15. Repeat with a second pancake, so that you have a pair of savoury pancakes ready to eat! You’ve done it! Hurrayyyyyyyyyyyy.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: If you were a pro with the pan and you’re fortunate enough to have a third pancake left over, which you didn’t set off the smoke alarm with, then keep this pancake warm while you eat your meal, and then top it with something sweet for dessert! I suggest: Lemon and sugar … OR … strawberry and banana … OR … ice cream and chocolate spread. Enjoy :)
Your savoury pancakes might look something like these!

Readers, my pancakes, they tasted GOOD. They were reeeeally rich and it was a big filling plateful of food. But so, so worth the effort. And it was worth severely injuring my thumb chopping mushrooms – which was appalling. There was a lot of running around and some tearful plaster application this evening in the kitchen, but all in aid of a very decent plate of food.
Mushrooms and spinach on pancakes CERTAINLY works and tastes cracking in my opinion, too. This is a recipe that I would recommend to all, and I’ll definitely be trying it again. Hopefully, before next Pancake Day! Because we should all eat pancakes more often, people!
And I managed to make 3 pancakes from this mix without burning any (result!) so I snaffled a jam pancake after my tea today, too, and that helped make my thumb feel a little better. Just a little. Here’s wishing everyone good luck today with your pancakes! And, if you’re too busy today or you’re saving yourself for later on in the week, then there’s still time! Good luck for pancakes sometime soon, readers.

Chop safely,


Friday, 13 February 2015


Nana Mug

Time Taken: Ten mins or so
Ingredients: 4 tablespoons of plain flour, ½ a teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt, a good shake of cinnamon, a ripe banana, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of oil, a dash of vanilla extract & maybe a splash of milk. Optional: a handful of pecan nuts or raisins or choc chips, or anything you like really.

Hi readers,
It’s Fridayyyyyyyyyyyyyy! I have that Friday feeling already! Whoooooooo! Mexican wave! Everybody now! All together… FRIDAY! FRIDAY! FRIIIIIIIIIDAY!
Basically, I’ve got the weekend off work and this never happens. I’m ditching the dissertation and all my cares, bussing it home and it’s my lovely Father Bear’s birthday today. Most exciting.
I say to everybody, whether you’re working or studying or whatever you’re doing this weekend… ditch your cares. You don’t need them! Whatever anti-feminist messages there are in the Fifty Shades film… whatever rose prices are this year… whatever the weathers messing about doing… wherever we’re at with global warming… LAY IT DOWN, PEOPLE.
Just… let it all go. You’ll feel better. See if you can muster a proper smile. Have a go at a random act of kindness, maybe. Do something unexpected. Shake things up. Live a little.
And DEFINITELY eat cake. Because, why not? Always eat cake. This week, in the flat at uni, it’s been a tremendously good week for cake! Tiddy’s very lucky boyfriend turned 21 and so she baked him a 3-tier lemon and blueberry cake masterpiece. Then, Dr Davies took to Easter about 2 months early and baked us all a batch of Crème Egg brownies! How lucky are we?
I missed her brownies last year as I’d given up chocolate for Lent and so this was A BIG DEAL for me. So, so good. They were tremendous.
I haven’t had much time this week for any baking mastery myself. Althoughhhhh, I did come up with another wonderful cheat recipe for making cake in the microwave! I know… ANOTHER ONE. I definitely need to get it together and detach myself from the microwave. The Great British Bake Off is back this week and has DEFINITELY inspired me to stop cheating and get my proper bake on again. It has shamed me.
Howeverrrr, just for now, here’s one final way to cheat your way to CAKE using only a few ingredients from the cupboards. I won’t tell how you made it, if you don’t. This latest recipe is for a big favourite of mine, Banana Bread, and while it definitely doesn’t match the real deal… this recipe does taste magnificent. Really. And it saves you and actual hour of your life, compared with baking Banana Bread in the oven. An hour which you can spend carefree!
To get your cheat on and bake a Nana Mug in just ten moves, here’s wotcha do…
1. Take 2 mugs out of the cupboard.
2. In the first mug spoon in 4 tablespoons of plain flour, ½  a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add a good shake of cinnamon.
3. If you’ve got ‘em, chop up a handful of pecan nuts and throw them in the mug, too. Stir it up!
ChefBeHere Top Tip: No nuts? How about a handful of raisins or choc chips? Go wild!
4. In your second mug, mash a banana.
5. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of oil and a dash of vanilla extract. Stir it up!
6. Slide the contents of your mug of goo into your mug of flour. Stir it up!
7. Then, because there’s bound to be flour stuck in the bottom that you can’t reach, tip it all back into the other mug. Keep on stirring!
ChefBeHere Top Tip: If you’re mix seems quite solid then maybe add a splash of milk to loosen it up. It depends on how big your banana was, and so on. Just use your good judgement, chef.
8. Pop your mug mix into the microwave to warm for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, stick the kettle on for a brew.
9. After 2 minutes, does it look like cake or cake mix in your mug? If it’s cake then you’re good to go! If it’s mix then probably give it another minute.
10. Then with your mug of tea and your mug of cake, go get comfy and enjoy your lovely treat.
Here’s my very own Nana Mug!
And that’s all there is to it. This recipe barely even requires ten moves. It’s seriously simple! Plus, no butter or eggs so, unless you’re adding milk, this recipe is entirely cupboard-based. Nothing fresh involved. You could have been a hermit in your home for like a fortnight or more (though I don’t advise this) and still be able to make a Nana Mug. It’s that good.
And it tastes like home! Be sure not to heat for too long in the microwave, or to start with a really thick mix, because then I think this recipe has the potential to be dry. Because there’s no jam or peanut butter or applesauce for moisture.
But mine went great! Tasted like heaven. Quick, easy, cheap, simple. Very student. Very me. And, I hope, very you! Go give a Nana Mug a try and go have a good weekend, everyone. Shoo.

Cheat safely,