BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: The Bake Off Bake Along is here!

The time has finally come - The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens next week - I can barely contain my excitement.

For the last month or so, Amanda of Rhyme & Ribbons and I have been working on a secret project that we're so excited about and are finally able to announce. Last year both of us baked along with the Bake Off on our own blogs so we put our heads together for this year to create a competition based around the same idea.

GBBO starts on Wednesday 5th of August (next Wednesday omg) and each week we'd like to invite all of our lovely readers and whoever else wants to get involved to bake along. You'll need to post your bakes by the Tuesday before the next episode, so our first link up post, with our favourites will be on Tuesday 11th August, and then the process will start again for the following week.

At the end of the series, in true bake off style we're going to be awarding prizes. We're currently in talks with some amazing brands so we'll be confirming the prizes and competition details next week ahead of the first episode.

We both think it's going to be LOADS of fun, and a good way for all of us baking enthusiasts to show how amazing and creative we all can be - with the added bonus of some prizes at the end - amazing!

Keep posted on both of our blogs for more details and we hope to see you there!

I have included in this post a button that you can put on your side bar if you're getting involved to help spread the word!

My Love For Pak Choi | & Testing Out the 50mm Lens

I didn't make a big deal out of it this year, shock horror, but it was my birthday a few weekends ago. I've been after a new camera lens for a while, especially with plans that are happening later this year, yeah those ones I keep referencing too but can't say anything about yet.

I've been umming and aahing over which lens to get for AGES. Like serious ages and for me it was between the blogger's fave, the canon 50mm lens or the 40mm pancake lens. For similar reasons, but in the end I decided to go for the 50mm, and received it from my lovely parents for my birth-dizzle.

I've not had much chance to practice with it yet but upon cooking a simple veg stir fry the other night, I decided to give it a whirl in what is my usual photo taking circumstances. Rushed, in a hot environment, with not much chance for error - especially with something that cooks as quickly as a stir fry.

This post isn't just about my new camera lens though, I wanted to relay my love for a particular ingredient. Pak Choi. At the moment I am seriously loving everything about it, maybe not the price, but the fact that it's grown in the UK (the pak choi in this particular post was from my home ends, Berkshire) and how it can spruce up any dish with a freshness like no other.

There's really not much to say about the dish in these photos, just that I chucked a load of veg in a wok with a splash of soy and hoisin sauce, and then added in some egg noodles - simple, and quite frankly boring. I wouldn't dare bore you with a recipe.

I'm currently on the look out for any recipes that involve this wondrous veg, so if you know of any please do point me in the right direction, I'm willing to go to the ends of the earth to satisfy this current craving!

What's For Lunch Today? Pilpel | Spitalfields

I cannot tell you how happy I am to be doing one of these posts again. Hooray for indulgent lunches!

After my redundancy I went straight into a role in Richmond, a very busy role that affected my capability to blog. But being in Richmond also meant boring lunches, a quick run out to the shop or in some cases no lunch breaks at all. Which is fine, but I am now glad to be working in Shoreditch where there is an ABUNDANCE of places to eat for lunch. On my first day I literally felt like a child in a toy shop.

Anyway, on with Pilpel. I'd been eyeing it up all last week. I used to get lunch from a place on Leather Lane called Chick which was a very similar concept of falafel in a pita, or container with loads of really delicious salad and hummus. I visited the Pilpel outside Spitalfields Market, although there's one also inside the market, near St Pauls and one on Fleet St too.

To say this place gets busy is an understatement, it's obviously popular and I now I know why. You get two options, falafel in a container or in a pita (white or brown), you get six falafels, and any choice of salad included in the price - it'll set you back £5.80 for a container which initially horrified me but I considered not finishing it there was so much. The salad ranges from a red onion herby thing to pickled red cabbage, a lettuce, tomato and cucumber concoction amongst others, as well as two chillis - give me chillis on anything and I'll be happy.

When I got my container back to the office, the smells coming from the fresh falafel were insane, and they tasted just as good. I was really pleased with my first choice on re-entering a foodie haven and it's going to be a struggle to try and avoid going back everyday.

I feel like I say this in every WFLT (What's for lunch today? ha) post but yes, I know, £5.80 is a lot of money to spend on a weekday lunch, but as a Friday treat, as we probably all know, I really don't mind. You can add on paid-for extras like an egg, and extra falafels and stuff like that but I really don't think it needs it. And also, falafel and egg? Someone please correct me if I'm wrong but, er gross? Anyway, if you're around the Spitalfields area and are looking for a delicious lunch, I'd definitely give this place some consideration, you'll be full and very happy at the end.

Yum Bun @ Model Market | Street Feast, Lewisham

I'm not quite sure how or why it's taken me quite so long to try steamed buns, but I finally did the other weekend and they've kinda changed my life.

A few weekends ago I popped along to the street feast in Lewisham for a quick bite to eat with a friend. I've been meaning to go back since it opened for the summer in April because I loves it. I won't give you the whole run down because I did that last year but it's basically everything I love about the London street food 'scene' if you will.

We only actually ate at one stall, that stall being Yum Bun, because when we had one, we had to try another and I had to give them a shout out here because honestly.... amazing!!! So we first tried the Shrimp Sambal bun which was my personal favourite. It was spicy in all the right places, a mix of textures with the crust on the shrimp and the shrimps themselves? Possibly the best I've ever had. They were cooked to utter perfection. Seriously, I've had dreams about them since.

The second bun we tried was a mushroom and miso option with cucumbers and a sprinkling of nuts which was also stunning.

Aaaaand now I just want to eat everything in a steamed bun. As well as seriously considering going back to the street feast just to munch on these again.

Prosecco, Sausages & Sun

There are few things I love more than feeling the warmth of the sun on the back of my shoulders; I'm a summer baby through and through. So when I found out it was going to be a bright, sunny 27c on my day off last Friday, well I immediately text shay and plans were put in place to celebrate by spending the day in the sun with bbq sausages and prosecco. Because, that's the only thing to do, right?

We set off early in the morning to the supermarket to fetch all the bits we needed, as there was only two of us for food, we didn't have to splurge and only really bought two packs of sausages, some buns and some mini portobello mushrooms, as well as sun cream, prosecco and I took a slight detour to New Look for some sun bathing attire.

We rushed back home, made a quick tupperware filled with salad, prepped the mushrooms for cooking and set off with a cool bag filled with ice, booze and our food, a few blankets and of course, a disposable barbecue... which by the way only cost a mere £2 from Tesco. Absolute bargain when you don't have a garden and need to improvise in the park.

I can't tell you what a lovely day we had, I made serious gains on my base tan, although it's definitely just a tan now and ate some seriously good grub. The two types of sausages were caramalised onion and then a spicy option from the Tesco Finest range - which I'd thoroughly reccommend. Our salad was made up of pretty much everything, leaves, cucumber, baby plums, spring onion, beetroot, olives, mozarella and a sweet pepper and chilli dressing. We also did our staple garlic butter mushrooms, literally just grated garlic mixed with butter and then smeared all over the top. So perfect.

The best bit about it was we were so close to home in our local park that I was able to take the plates back after we'd eaten and pop to the toilet at the same time.

Days like this are truly what summer is all about for me, we haven't got any big chunks of holiday booked off so we're making the effort to take days off here and there to chill out. I bought two disposable barbecues so weather permitting I might suggest another one for this weekend, although I'm sure no one will need convincing after seeing these pictures!

Roast Chicken, Garlic Fried Pak Choi & Chestnut Mushroom Salad

As I write this, it's probably the most grey day we've had in about a month and it's spitting, which doesn't tie in with the title of this post at all but I'm sure the hot hot hot weather and sun will be back with a vengeance to kiss our skin before too long.

You may or may not know, but I'm incredibly fond of a dinner salad, (evidence can be found both here, and here) one with lots of substance to it and a variety of elements to really fill a hole. The summer-time salads I love the most though, are the ones with both hot and cold ingredients because then it really does feel like a proper meal instead of a measly bit of greenery that barely even touches the sides. Ain't nobody got time for that, amirite?

Over the last month, we've gone a bit mad for veggies in our house and have barely touched a carbohydrate passed 6pm (bar any cake or biscuits because... well, after dinner treat anyone?!). I hate feeling stodgy in the excessive heat so it just hasn't really felt right. This salad however does feature roasted sweet potato, but only half a potato per person so it's not too much.

For me, salads are very much a spur of the moment thing, I'll literally just walk round the shop picking up whatever takes my fancy because it's really quite hard to mismatch flavours, that's why I ended up with pak choi. I love love love the inclusion of garlic fried chestnut mushrooms and pak choi in here, I think it really sends the dish from being great to brilliant, and the pak choi was grown in Worcester, which is a huge bonus, especially now asparagus season is well and truly over.

I used chicken thighs with a medium nandos marinade (yum) although because they were roasted and we took off the skin, the flavour was lost completely. I was in a bit of a rush but normally I'd take off the skin off and attempt to debone to make the post-roasting situation quicker and easier.

The base of the salad is a 'beetroot bistro' type salad bag from Sainsbury's with baby plums, cucumber and some raw red onion just for good measure. I'm looking forward to doing this salad again, but perhaps this time with grilled chicken breasts instead of thighs and ommitting the asparagus because, well, let's not talk about it shall we?! Boohoo.

What are your favourite ingredient combinations for dinner-sized salads?

Victoria Sponge Eton Mess Cake

Yes, you read that correctly.

It was my Mum's birthday last week (Happy Birthday again Mum) so what better way to celebrate than to bake a cake for the person who inspired my love of baking?

She asked for a Victoria Sponge, but I knew I had to make it a little bit more special, and after thinking about doing some mini pavlovas to show on the blog, I decided to incorporate meringue into the cake, ultimately making it a super-hybrid cake between the traditionally classic, Victoria Sponge and the summery influenced, Eton Mess. A match made in heaven, I think you'll agree.

So when constructing the cake, I knew I wanted to have a meringue layer in the middle, but also meringue kisses, inspired by the amazing Meringue Girls. I wasn't brave enough to attempt to colour them in the striped style but I'm sure it's actually quite easy once you get the hang of it. I searched for a meringue 'kiss' recipe and found this. I used the same recipe for the kisses as the layer, which ended up having a really hard, but almost pure white shell (probably from the use of icing sugar as opposed to caster), but was still satisfyingly gooey on the inside. To make the layer all I did was spread the meringue into a 7 inch circle shape.

I actually made two layers and more kisses than required for contingency, due to the glorious hot weather and being faced with a train journey home after work, I couldn't assemble the cake until I got home for the weekend. Amazingly the meringue travelled really well and I think about one kiss out of the 18 crumbled - result.

For the sponge I used the recipe from my Baking Basics book, as recipe that NEVER fails me and is utterly light and fluffy. The outside crumb was a little crumbly for my liking but I prefer substance over style so I'm not too bothered.

I bought 600ml of cream which I sadly over whipped. I got it to the perfect smooth consistency I wanted, but needed to add some vanilla, and my doing that I went over the point of silky whipped cream to... almost butter. But ho hum, you win some you loose some I guess. I also placed sliced strawberries on the cream layers and the whole on the top for decoration.

Despite it's slightly crown-like appearance, I'm really pleased with how the cake turned out lookswise, and I'll admit it tasted glorious! It really was a crowd pleaser, because I mean, who doesn't love cream, strawberries, meringue and cake? If there's anyone, then I don't want to know them.

I'd love to try doing this again, but refining the appearance to be more, ahem, polished. But I know for sure, that I won't be able to stop incorporating the beautiful British berries that have surfaced this year into my summer bakes - I can't get enough of them!