No-Cook Chocolate Traybake

What it is about being crazy in love and the desire to eat myself comatose?

I’ve had the luxury of having my boyfriend to stay this week, which gives me perfect the excuse to cook (and eat) the most ridiculous amount of food. More specifically, it’s the perfect chance attempt eating my own weight in chocolate.

Left to my own devices, I swear I usually eat pretty healthy, but when lovely boyfriend is over, I just want to be cuddled up in my duvet eating horrible amounts of chocolate traybakes to the dulcet tones of Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs, great TV).

These super-simple, lazy-ass chocolate traybakes are perfect for when you couldn’t be bothered to make anything that takes effort, or, God forbid, requires your to get out of your PJs.

Guaranteed favourite.

No-Cook Choccy Traybake

birds

Ingredients:
Cocoa Powder 3Tbs
(Milk/Dark) Chocolate 300g
Rich Tea Biscuits 250g
Golden Syrup 3-4Tbs
Margarine 250g

Utensils:
Saucepan
Glass/Pyrex Bowl
Baking Tray 3-4cm Depth
Mixing Spoon

Method:

1. Crush Rich Tea biscuits finely.

2. Melt marg in a saucepan on low heat, and add cocoa power, crushed biscuits, syrup. Mixture together thoroughly

3. Pour this sticky biscuit base into a baking tray with 3-4cm depth, and press down gently to help it set solidly.

4. Rinse the saucepan (or use another) to bring a 4cm depth of water to a steady boil – place the glass bowl on-top.

5. Tip in chunks of chocolate to bowl and melt for topping. When melted spread over the biscuit base.

6. Put the tray into the fridge to cool for 15-20mins.

Now, boil that kettle and brew yourself a cuppa. It’s traybake time.

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Wishing you all chocolatey joy,

Signature

Year Abroad: Suzhou Sunshine!

OFF TO SUZHOU!
苏州

Shanghai Honqiao – Suzhou: 79¥

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to take a break and update on my travels here in China, but with the pesky Midterm Exams over I can finally take a look at the rainbow array of photos from my October trip to Suzhou!

With my 79RMB return ticket from Shanghai Hongqiao Station to Suzhou clutched in hand, our group of five make our way though the mid-National Week holiday masses to the train station.  Suzhou has been cheerfully sold to me as the ‘Venice of Shanghai’, and to add to my natural scepticism of such Chinese claims, there’s a scuffle of conjecture that it’s actually Shanghai’s other water town, ZhuJiaJiao. A quick (and exasperated) description edit later, we’re back on track: to one of Shanghai’s two Venices…

Snacks and drinks packed in my trusty rucksack and sunglasses at the ready.

Train to Suzhou, Shanghai Railway Station

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WATER TOWN

The Old area of Suzhou around 石路夜市场 ShiLu Nightmarket and its surrounding canals is a beautiful area of dainty Chinese bridges and street markets that sweep up out of the water in streets that weave alongside cloudy-watered, narrow canals. With it’s white and dark wood traditional buildings, cobbled streets and streams of red paper lanterns – the town Old Town sections are beautiful in the sun.

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Suzhou Canal Boats, China

Suzhou Streets

Suzhou Canal City

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TRADITION & THE TOWN

As we make our way from the East of Suzhou town through the backstreets to the West, we criss-cross through silent, thin streeted residential areas (stopping for the odd 1.50RMB Green Bean ice lolly sold through a front door) and bustling open squared Pagodas where embarrassed tourists pose in traditional Chinese clothing and awkward couples shuffle in suits for wedding photos.

We watch a man in his late 50s twist blobs of hot coloured sugar into beautifully delicate, edible animal shapes with some lickity spit and dubiously clean hands around the Temple of Mystery (which in itself is not that mysterious, and probably not worth the walk if the Temple is all you want to see…).

Comfortable shoes an absolute must.

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SUZHOU LUNCH

Lunch, one of my three favourite times of day, greets us in the form of the famous hundred-year old Zhū hóng miànguǎn 朱鸿面馆 as we battle with the locals stopping off between work shifts, wrinkled and fresh-faced alike who fold over their steaming noodle broth bowls and inhale their juicy lunch. I try the recommended salty pork and noodle soup 香辣排骨面, 14RMB and exact sighs of exasperation as I take pictures of the chilli sauce bowl.
That’s some mean chilli.

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COLOUR-MAD MARKETS

In a refreshing, zesty break form Shanghai’s concrete forest, Suzhou markets are packed bursting with colourful flowers, tea-shops and stalls around the Suzhou Watertown Hostel area (苏州浮生四季青年旅舍). Besides a treat for the snap-happy photographer (myself), it’s also a sensory delight for anyone who loves nibbling at sweet street-food snacks (also me) as their speciality steamed desserts, candied fruit and sugar stewed lotus root are light, yummy treats that should keep most children (and easily satisfied twenty-one year olds) happy.

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For a bit of formal history, and light culture we stop off at:

HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN
Adult 70RMB/Student 35RMB

Unfortunately, being peak holiday season, what we actually see is thousands of other tourists and energetic, flag-flailing guides, filing wildly and haphazardly in droves along the well-trimmed verges of the Humble Administrator (who certainly had a very big garden indeed). We become a garden highlight as we naively stop for a rest at this pagaoda, and are subjected to the flashes of Chinese tourists from all over the country.

We do however, pose for this little girl who solemnly asks in perfect English if we would mind her mum taking a photo of her with us.
Cute!

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As the sunlight sets over the Humble Administrator’s Bonsai’s we make for the end of our day-trip to Suzhou in a slightly mad dash back to the station after dinner. Taxi after taxi refuses to stop for the boys, who wave desperately at them. As the token Asian, I manage to hail one eventually (supporting our theory that some Taxi drivers are very suspicious of foreigners – actively avoiding picking them up) and we make it in time for our 40min train back home.

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Bonsai in the late afternoon, Suzhou

Good Bye, Suzhou!

It’s been a great day out, but I’ve got class in the morning.

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Charlotte xx

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Mourne Mussel Feast

If you’re squeemish, mussels may not be the meal for you. As my grandma has always said, (and look away if you’ve got as weak appetite!) mussels look like snatters – and that’s bogeys to you non-Northern-Irish English speakers. Personally, I reckon it’d be pretty worrying if I was blowing fluorescent globs of orange out my nose; I suppose I see where she’s coming from but I’m not sure I agree. While there’s not much escaping the visceral when you’re eating meat, seafood is definitely less cute-and-relate-able than lambies.

mussels

Mussels have grown naturally in Dundrum Bay off the East coast of N.I. for hundreds of years, and my family own a rustic, weather-beaten cottage in the Mourne Mountains (no running water; no electricity; not many female visitors), the drive to which passes the bay. We’ve made it tradition to now and then stop off at a small mussel farm, the back door of which is tucked between new-built, luridly pastel seaside flats on a road pot-holed with concrete dust soupy puddles. We’re served through a gritty back-trap (between machinery that would look great on the set of a horror movie) 3kg of mussels for £5 – take that for local sourcing. I may never eat mussels in a restaurant again…

On a less bodily note, this ‘recipe’ can barely be called such, it’s so simple. We can get you from tub to table in less than 30 minutes!

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Ingredients:
White Wine – 500ml
Mussels – 3kg
Garlic – 4 Cloves, crushed
White Onions – 2, Cubed to inch sq
Pepper

Method:


1. Give the mussels a good wash and scrape seaweed/grit off with a blunt knife (your local fishmonger may have already done this for you).

2. Golden the onion pieces so they separate and add crushed garlic cloves.

3. Bring a 250ml of water to boil in a pot and add onion, garlic and pepper and bring back to boil.

4. Add the mussels and seal lid for 12 minutes.

5. After 7 minutes, check the pot – some mussels will never open because these are already dead before cooking (live mussels open in the heat and cook) so under no circumstances eat unopened or not sufficiently opened mussels – keep cooking  until nearly all of the mussels have opened

6. Plate and serve with white wine and thick-cut bread with butter to mop up the sauce!

Open fire to Open Bowl: Guest Chef Dad!

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Bon appetit all!

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