Sunday, 21 June 2015

Recipe: Almond pressé

almond presse orgeat spritzer recipe | Oyster and Pearl blog

I'm at the end of my Snack Happy Challenge with the Almond Board of California. After three weeks of carrying a neat little tin of almonds in my handbag (particularly useful at Blogtacular, which I'll be writing up very soon!) and eating a handful every day, I've really noticed the positive effect on my energy levels and wellbeing.  And so, I'm celebrating with a glass of this delicious fizz.

One of my most vivid memories of childhood holidays in rural France involves food and drink (n'est pas). The heat of the car on long drives would prove too much (this was long before air conditioning was commonplace) and so my brother and I would beg our parents to stop at one of the picturesque little roadside cafes found in every village we passed. The more rustic of cafes did not serve the 7-up or Orangina that we craved; instead, our options were limited and, out of necessity, we grew to love the classic citron pressé. The raw ingredients - fresh lemon juice, ice cubes, sugar and water - would arrive on a tray, ready for us to mix to our own taste. Can you imagine anything that could possibly feel more sophisticated to two rather lumpen English pre-teens? Perhaps superseded only by the Brut de Pomme (an apple drink we swore made us drunk).

Fast forward many years to the cafe at the newly opened Lido. The drinks menu was as beautiful and innovative as the Lido itself, with pineapple and mint coolers or cucumber seltzers on offer to the thirsty swimmers and spectators alike. The standout drink was an almond pressé - a sweet, lemony fizz with a marzipan seam running through it. My friend Alice and I used to go there regularly, mainly just for the almond pressé as it was so unlike any drink we'd tried before. And then the fateful day arrived - the almond pressé was taken off the menu.

Here it is, recreated using homemade almond syrup from scratch. You can also buy almond syrup - look out for Monin orgeat syrup.

almond presse orgeat spritzer recipe | Oyster and Pearl blog

First, make a lemon syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Juice of eight lemons

Put the sugar and water into a pan together and heat until the sugar dissolves.
Set aside, and add the juice once the syrup mixture has cooled a little.
Pour into a bottle, seal and store in the fridge.

To make the almond syrup (or 'orgeat' as it's known in the cocktail trade):

680g almonds
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 tbsp orange flower water

Toast the almonds in a large pan over medium-high heat, tossing frequently until fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the almonds, sugar and water to a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for at least 12 hours. Strain repeatedly through muslin or coffee filters until the syrup is free from almonds and discard the solids. Add the orange blossom water, transfer to a bottle and store in the fridge.

To make the almond pressé:

Fill a glass with ice cubes.
Pour over 50ml almond syrup and 75ml lemon syrup.
Top with soda water, garnish with mint leaves and slices of lemon.

Cheers! Here's to almonds :)

And, for the perfect cocktail hour snack, try this Bloody Mary almonds recipe.

almond presse orgeat spritzer recipe | Oyster and Pearl blog

Read the previous Snack Happy Challenge post and recipes here.

More vegan recipes.

This is a sponsored post.


Friday, 12 June 2015

Review: Timbrell's Yard, Bradford on Avon

There is something about a train journey that fascinates small children. The excitement builds on the way to the station, luggage to be negotiated, tickets bought, and platforms located. And when the train pulls into the station… well, the thrill is just too much. The best train journeys with small children are short ones, however, as the novelty of the question ‘is this our stop?’ can wear off after a while.

Bristol to Bradford on Avon is about the perfect distance to go when outnumbered by two small, overexcited boys. At the end of the May half term week we headed to Wiltshire for a night away from the city. As we hopped off the train onto the platform we decided to follow our nose to the hotel, which turned out to be a very quick walk. Left and left again and we arrived at Timbrell’s Yard.

Open for just nine weeks, Timbrell’s Yard has the feel of a country pub that’s been there forever, the big sandstone facade standing straight and tall overlooking the river. Newness could be felt in the interior design, just modern enough to feel special, just traditional enough to feel in keeping with the picturesque country setting.

After a quick drink in the sunny outdoor garden (not a beer garden, exactly, more a sun trap with elegant tables and chairs, perfect for drinking beer), we were led to our room - 106 - up at the top of the hotel. No lift, but we’d travelled light-ish. The room was a big square double room in the spacious eaves, with a giant roll top bath by the windows. Nothing delights kids like exploring a hotel room, and so beds were duly bounced upon, ideas hatched (‘let’s watch TV while we’re in the bath!’), and sweet treats found in the form of a little jar full of boiled sweets and labelled (perhaps a little unnecessarily) ’eat me’.

The sun shone and so we took a little photo walk around Bradford on Avon. The church on the opposite side of the water to the hotel is a picture perfect country chapel and is open for visitors to have a peek. T announced ‘I think the king lives there’. Well, he is only four. Then, we passed chocolate box houses framed by roses in bloom, buildings dating from the mid-nineteenth century, and interesting shop signs. There isn’t a huge amount to entertain small kids in the town itself - they were rather mesmerised by the gold post box (painted to celebrate the town’s Olympic gold medal winner, Ed McKeever), and, although we were too late for the museum, we found boxes of decommissioned books outside the library on sale for just 30p each. The kids could not believe their luck - nine new books for £2.70? Cool!

Walking the path between the hotel and the river, under the railway bridge and across a meadow takes you to a giant playground with pretty good play equipment, where the boys threw themselves about for half an hour before our 6pm dinner reservation.

The dining room is bright and modern - bit industrial, bit modern antique - and the staff could not be friendlier. Both kids (with napkins tucked into jumpers) were treated so kindly, and ordered from the dedicated kids’ menu: sausages and chips for A, fish and chips for T. Aged nearly eight, A is perhaps too old for children’s menu portions now, and had to order an extra portion of chips to fill that growing tummy of his. Their food arrived at the same time as my starter, a delicious asparagus risotto with a crumbly nut topping that was the perfect combination of textures. Just as they were finishing their main courses, mine - chicken with an heirloom tomato salsa - arrived, and was so fresh and full of flavour, and worked well with my glass of hauntingly pale Provencal rose.

A large blackboard hung from the ceiling, visible to the kids from our table, listing the pudding options. The spectre of ice cream hanging over our meal did not disappoint. T picked two scoops of chocolate while A went for the salted caramel. I chose a puckeringly zingy lemon pudding with a sweet shortbread biscuit, accompanied with a glass of Riesling. It was perfection.

Bedtime loomed, and we all headed up to the bedroom. As predicted, bath time with telly is a hit, and we all hopped into our pyjamas and cwtched up in the giant, extraordinarily comfy bed to watch Britain’s Got Talent. Guess who fell asleep first? Certainly not T who was ice-creamed up to the max. Yep, me. But the boys soon settled down and we all slept well.

The next morning, we headed down for breakfast, back to that big-windowed dining room. Pastries from the Bertinet Bakery, juice, jam and fruit were laid out on a central table from which you can help yourself, whereas cooked breakfasts are ordered from the table. We went with both. T loved the scrambled eggs, I swooned over the silkiest vanilla yoghurt, while A wolfed down rashers of bacon, describing his meal as ‘epic’ and ‘legendary’. That’s some review.

Again, staff were super kind to the kids, treating them with so much respect and the boys loved ordering their own meals. Although not specifically a kid-friendly hotel (there is nothing on offer just for children, no toys or DVDs so you might need to take your own), the boys were made to feel so welcome. It didn’t go unnoticed.

Although heavy rain hammered down all morning, we headed home to Bristol feeling relaxed and happy. Timbrell’s Yard - we’ll be back.

In association with i-escape.
We received a complimentary stay and meals for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Recipe: Homemade almond butter & Snack Happy Challenge update

Two weeks into my 21-day Snack Happy Challenge with the Almond Board of California and I'm feeling perky. A few people have commented on how good my skin looks which I put down to the vitamin E content of the almonds, but could equally be the high levels of magnesium (which contributes to reducing tiredness and fatigue) or linoleic acid (omega 6) found in this tasty little nut.

As well as snacking on a handful of almonds each day (30g or so is about right), I've been looking for other ways to incoporate them into my meals. One very easy way to use almonds is to make them into nut butter. Really, it could not be easier - only one ingredient is required and the food processor does it all for you.

Homemade almond butter

For a large jar you will need:

450g (3 cups) almonds
Salt - optional


1. Put the almonds into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with the most deadly of blades (I think it's called an S blade).

2. Switch on the machine and watch and listen as the almonds tumble about and clatter against its plastic sides.

3. The almonds will start to break down and become sandy in texture, a little like a crumble topping.

4. Keep going, stopping only to push the mixture down the sides of the bowl if it looks as though they're being left out.

5. Before long, your almond butter will start to look less grainy and more smooth, and will clump together like a dough. Keep going, keep going!

6. The dough consistency turns into a smooth paste. At this stage, I poured a teaspoon or so of salt gradually down the funnel into the mixture. The almond butter is ready when you see it turn shiny - this is when the oils are released and the process is complete. It will feel warm to the touch, and tastes creamy and delicious.

Use as you would peanut butter, and store in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It probably won't last that long, though.

Read the previous Snack Happy Challenge post and recipes here.

More vegan recipes.

This is a collaborative post.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Five reads for June

Maker Spaces - Creative interiors from the homes and studios of inspiring makers and designers

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of heading to The Hambledon at Cowley Manor for a workshop with Emily Quinton. I first met Emily last year at Walnuts Farm and she is just one of the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet. Turns out she's even more talented than I ever imagined, evidenced by her beautiful book, Maker Spaces. Emily talked a lot about the process of putting together this book, the travelling involved and how she whittled down her long-list to reach the selection of homes that made the final cut. The book itself is spilling over with lovely shots of amazing interiors, alongside carefully constructed words detailing the personality of each space. A must-read.

How to be both

This one was a contender for my book group choice this month but there's something about all those accolades - WINNER OF THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2015! SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2014! - and a handful more, that put me off. I'm contrary like that. Although not reading it for book group, I'll definitely give it a read soon as the experimental structure sounds fascinating.

The Daughterhood

Mother-daughter relationships are notoriously complex - hello mum! - and this book attempts to unpick some of the issues faced by many. The Daughterhood was written on the back of hundreds of reader letters responding to Irish writer, Roisin Ingle's call out in her newspaper column. Part memoir, part live psychological research project, this book is bound to encourage better communication across the generations.

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

This is just the sweetest book. A visual representation of what it means to be whole and happy in yourself when you meet a partner, I've found it a good way to illustrate something of the complexity of adult relationships to a child still confused about his parents' separation. It's uplifting, smart and simple.

Lifesaving Poems

A very dear pal of mine introduced me to one of the defining cultural reference points in my early years as a parent - a poem by Anthony Wilson called Parenthood After Theodore Roethke. Lifesaving Poems is an anthology selected by Wilson, made up of poems that moved him in some significant way. I like the idea of a poet responding to the work of others in the way that I found myself responding to his. Synchronicity of sorts.

What are you reading this month?

Contains affiliate links


Friday, 5 June 2015

A peek at Boden AW15, top picks for summer 2015 and GIVEAWAY!

A few weeks back, I was in our fair capital for a few events, one of which was the Boden AW15 press day. What a treat!

The Boden Autumn/Winter collection is really quite special. With heritage running through it - from the Celia Birtwell-inspired print dress to the red London bus jumper - the AW15 range is all about New British. Contemporary shapes and reinvented classics. Modern art-inspired prints and a sophisticated palette. Unexpected details (of course) and creative combinations.

And the thing I loved most of all? A bright red wool cape. That one's going in my basket the second it goes on sale. True fairy tale stuff.

But seeing as it's (supposedly) summer, here are my top picks from this season.

I adore this blue cat-eye sunnies and these polka dot plimsolls - don't they just say summer? That geometric tote would make the perfect beach bag, and I'm more than a bit in love with the sweet print of that swimsuit - close up it looks a little like ice lollies. And throwing on a towelling tunic is all that's required when a la plage.

Boden beach picks, clockwise from top left:

Selina Sunglasses / Slip-on Trainer / Hexagon Canvas Tote / Sorrento Swimsuit / Towelling Tunic Dress

One of the things I think Boden does particularly well (and my all-time favourite wardrobe staple) is the dress. Here are nine gorgeous examples of print, pattern and cut. Which would you choose?

And no outfit is complete without shoes, is it? Here are seven pairs that caught my eye.

Seven Boden shoes and sandals, clockwise from top left:

Sofia Wedge / Holiday Sandal / Tassel Gladiator / Slip-On Trainer / Alice Mid Heel / Erin Heel / Ballerina Flats

While at the press day, there was a bright yellow telephone box stuffed full of books from Penguin. We were invited to take one away, and I chose Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook - packed with incredible recipes all beautifully photographed by David Loftus - which I'm including in a rather lovely giveaway to you, my dears.

WIN: A £100 Boden gift voucher, Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook, and a Boden AW15 press day tote bag!

To be in with a chance of winning this lovely swag, just enter below before the end of Sunday 28 June 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contains affiliate links

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Review: Kano computer and coding kit for all ages

Kano computer review | Oyster & Pearl blog
Kano computer review | Oyster & Pearl blogKano computer review | Oyster & Pearl blog

Kano computer review | Oyster & Pearl blogKano computer review | Oyster & Pearl blog
Kano computer review | Oyster & Pearl blog
Kano computer review | Oyster & Pearl blog

Kano computer review | Oyster & Pearl blog

I am writing this blog post on a computer built by my seven-year-old. Yep, you read that right.

This is Kano, a computer and coding kit described by its inventors as being 'simple as Lego, powered by Pi 2'. I'm not entirely sure what the last bit means but my kids do.

They had the best time setting it up, building it from scratch and then learning simple code. The design of the packaging, the kit, and the interface itself were just perfection - friendly, fun and easy to decipher.

"Mum, what does gender mean? I have to choose boy, girl or wizard. I'm definitely choosing wizard."

Oh, this is the way to get kids going on this stuff. Build your own computer and play Minecraft on it? Genius.

The kit costs £119.99 and postage is free - buy online direct from the Kano site.

Thanks to Kano for sending us a kit to review.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Pale blue perfection

Last night, I was mooching about on Pinterest when I realised something. I think I may be an aquaphile, as there were pictures of pools, oceans and swimming pinned to many of my boards. There was only one thing to do... Make a whole new board dedicated to the pale blue perfection of swimming.

Once, I read a word that I've never been able to locate since. The definition was the feeling of diving into water, as the cold hits your warm, dry skin. I need this word! It would be the perfect description for nearly all the pictures on my new board.

On closer inspection, some of the pictures don't appear to be pools at all. There's the hammock/pool/cactus combination above for a start. And three amazing wild swimming options in Tenerife: Bajamar has two natural pools, one specially for children, while Costa Martiánez Complex and César Manrique Maritime Park both feature several saltwater pools, many for kids, and are the work of famous architect, César Manrique whose work is all over Tenerife and the rest of the Canary Islands. I'm immediately booking flights to Tenerife on basis of pics alone!

And this weird pool within a pool with built in lounger. I'm not sure where in the world that is but I'd be throwing my towel on that one first thing:

But I'm most in love with the seventies-style US pools - Palm Springs and LA - with their faded glamour and hazy sunshine:

The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs is supposed to be amazing (if a little hipster) and I LOVE the look of the Parker. And the Riviera is where the Rat Pack used to stay, apparently.

And isn't this picture of Faye Dunaway at the Beverly Hills Hotel the night after she won her 1977 Oscar just the best?

A little reminder for my fellow aquaphiles - don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a float session at Bristol Floatation Centre!

Oh, and if you happen to come across that word, you will let me know, won't you?

Follow Lottie | Oyster & Pearl's board Pools | Pale Blue Perfection on Pinterest.

This is a collaborative post


Monday, 1 June 2015

Recipes: Top five NutriBullet smoothies PLUS 21-day Snack Happy Challenge

A few weeks back, I finally took the plunge and ordered a NutriBullet. After seeing so many tempting instagram snaps and Pinterest recipes, I couldn't resist. About the same time, the Almond Board of California got in touch with me to ask if I'd like to take their 21-day Snack Happy Challenge. The stars had aligned perfectly.

I've been snacking on a handful of almonds every day this month, and including them in my favourite smoothie recipes, which I'm sharing with you today in the first of three posts.

Why almonds? 

  • A handful of almonds (30g) provide approximately 65% of your daily requirement of vitamin E.
  • Almonds are a high source of fibre, are packed with healthy, unsaturated fats and are a natural source of protein.
  • Almonds are rich in calcium, which is needed for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth.
  • Almonds are a high source of magnesium, which contributes to reducing tiredness and fatigue.
  • Almonds provide linoleic acid, which contributes to maintaining normal cholesterol levels.
  • Just a handful of these noble nuts is all you need to up your daily nutrient intake. Pop them in your handbag to snack on-the-go in your moments of need.

Mango and coconut smoothie

This is a really delicious and filling breakfast smoothie, one to try if you're a fan of more exotic flavours. 

Handful spinach
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1 banana, peeled
60ml coconut milk
250ml coconut water
1/4 tsp turmeric
30g almonds

Blend, adding ice if you like your smoothie cool. 

Strawberry shortcake

I've tried quite hard to sneak all kinds of nutrient-rich ingredients into my kids' smoothies - sometimes they buy it, other times not. This is a failsafe recipe that always goes down a treat.

Half a cup of frozen strawberries
1 banana, peeled
1 orange, peeled
30g almonds
Fill to the max line with juice or water of your choice

Blend and serve in little bottles with straws for extra cute effect.

Peppy Citrus Smoothie

This is a lovely one to keep you zippy til lunchtime

2 oranges, peeled
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
3 tsp maple syrup
30g almonds
Ice cubes

Blend until smooth.

Oaty Breakfast Smoothie

Slightly heavier smoothies can be great if you've got a packed morning ahead.

1 handful of spinach
1 banana
1/2 a cup of almond milk
1 handful of oats
30g almonds

Blend and seal with the flip top lid if you're on the go.

Pineapple and Cinnamon Smoothie

1 handful kale
1 banana, peeled
30g almonds
1 handful pineapple
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Coconut water, to max line

Blend with ice cubes if you prefer a colder smoothie.

Do you have any favourite smoothie recipes? If so, I'd love to hear about it. Please do leave me a comment!

This is a collaborative post
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