In June I blogged about Enough Food IF with Action Aid UK, a campaign that raised awareness about global hunger and food issues. A campaign that led to land grabs being put on the G8 agenda for the first time ever and the UK government finally delivering on their promise to spend 0.7% of national income on Aid, which was a brilliant result.

I've always tried to do what I can to support various charities, and have always had such admiration for the work that Action Aid do. When I got an email telling me about their latest campaign, REBUILD, I had to do all I could to help. Action Aid have over 2,200 children in the most war affected African countries waiting for sponsorship. Sponsoring a child costs less than £4 a week, and helps provide life saving medicines, water, education and a safer home for them - all things they deserve. Sponsoring a child can also give them something else they deserve - a happy, innocent childhood. Over 10 million children have experienced and been psychologically damaged by war in the last 10 years alone, and sponsorship supports both the child and their community through and after such trauma. 

Action Aid suggested that I blog about childhood memories. I thought of princess dresses and leaving food out for hedgehogs, horse riding and enjoying time with generations of my family. And just being happy. 

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I don't think there's anything that sums up British Autumn more than an apple crumble. British apples in these months taste just like apples should - sweet, ripe and juicy. And having grown up in Kent and then Somerset, I've always been surrounded by orchards full of apple trees, dropping their apples around now. Unfortunately I don't know where in the UK the apples I used for this crumble came from, but I do know they were fresh and British. I like a golden, crunchy crumble topping and if you follow this recipe you should end up with one too.

The crumble needs to be made in 2 parts, as you need to allow the apples to cool before adding the crumble and cooking in the oven.

Serves 6 using an 8" cake tin.

For the filling:
8 medium British apples (I used a mixture of Discovery and Braeburn)
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 tbsp caster sugar
Knob of butter

For the crumble:
3 tbsp porridge oats
3 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp salted butter
2 tbsp caster sugar

(Sorry for the lack of weights - I don't have my scales in the house we're staying at! Use heaped tablespoons for all measurements)

Cut your apples in half, and then each half into thirds. Remove the cores. I don't like peeling apples as most of their goodness is found in and just under the skin, but feel free to peel yours if you want.

Put the apple slices in a saucepan, with the vanilla seeds, 1 tbsp caster sugar, a splash of water (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and a knob of butter. Cover, and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. You can speed up this process by pouring the apples into the dish you'll make your crumble in, as this will be cooler than the saucepan you've just cooked them in!

Meanwhile make your crumble topping. Mix the oats and plain flour in a large bowl. Add the butter and using your fingers, incorporate the butter into the oat and flour mix until your left with breadcrumb like crumbles. Tip the sugar in and mix with the crumble.

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan).

When the apples have cooled pour your crumble mix over the top. Tap the dish so it settles evenly, but don't press it down too hard.

Cook, uncovered, in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until it looks golden like this:

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I must've been told about The Princess Victoria pub on Uxbridge Road by more than 10 different people over the last year, recommending that I eat there. And having booked a table about a month ago which we weren't able to make, it was high time I got myself down there to see how good it really was.

So that's where we headed for lunch on my birthday.

The Princess Victoria is halfway down Uxbridge Road, between Shepherds Bush and Ealing Common. It's an unassuming building, with frosted windows facing the road, and is somewhere you could easily walk straight past if you didn't know what was hidden inside. But don't let that put you off - once inside it really is quite impressive! Wood panelling lines the walls, and a large circular bar swoops into the first room you enter. Past the bar area is the main restaurant, full of solid wood tables with wooden chairs. A long serving table goes up one side of the restaurant room, with various homemade breads out, ready for service. 

It was Monday lunchtime when we went, and although not busy, there were a few people eating. I was surprised they were serving food at all, as most gastro pubs I know don't do Monday lunch.

We were offered a table in the main restaurant, but opted for a cosy table in the bar. The ratio of staff to diners was about 1:1, and the staff were all really friendly and welcoming.

I could've sat and tried to work my way through their entire menu, as it's really my type of food, made with responsibly sourced ingredients. But we had a lot of unpacking to do, so decided to share a starter and have a main each.

The menu at Princess Victoria is split into Charcuterie; Oysters, cured and smoked fish; Starters; Mains; and "From the ageing room....".

We went for the Tamworth pork and peppercorn pate with pickle and toast to start (I'm a sucker for a pickle, and this one was perfect!) I could've done with a little more of the crispy toast on the side, but that's probably just because I'm a little greedy! The pate had an excellent texture and just the right balance between salty and sweet.

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I know, I know. It's another non food related post... Sorry! But firstly, I still can't cook all that well with my broken arm, and secondly I just have to tell you about our amazing weekend away!

I started planning my birthday weekend in about January this year. I know this seems like a ridiculously long time before my actual birthday (September) but I also know how quickly my friends weekends get booked up, and my birthday weekend is one of the most popular weekends for weddings, so I wanted to make sure I had my accommodation booked for our weekend away. A flurry of emails went out to friends and most came back saying yes, they'd love to come. So the next task was to find somewhere that would house 20+ of us for 3 nights. I always knew I wanted to stay in the UK, preferably within 90 minutes of London and Brighton, where 90% of my friends are. I looked on various websites including Canopy and Stars, and had I known about Airbnb in January I probably would've booked something via there, but I didn't, and ended up booking Manor Farm House in Kent, via Rural Retreats. The property boasted 3 houses, a swimming pool, jacuzzis, a sauna, pool table and 2 acres of land. It sounded perfect!

The 'summer', weddings, festivals and parties, came and went and I could eventually get excited for my birthday weekend. It's not every year you turn 30 - I think this might be the last birthday I actually want to make a big deal of!!

So Friday arrived, and off we headed, with a van full of enough stuff to last us for weeks! The rain cleared as we drove East, and we arrived at Milstead in Kent, the tiny village that's home to Manor Farm House. I was so, so excited about seeing the property, and wasn't disappointed when we arrived. Each of the 3 houses had 3-5 bedrooms, most with en suites, and all done to a really high spec. We poured ourselves a drink, settled on the terrace and waited for the others to arrive.

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My cooking abilities are still limited. 6 weeks post bike fall, 5 hospital visits later and my wrist is still broken. In fact, one of the bones has healed but that's no use when the other one hasn't! So a quick change of plaster cast and the wait to be able to cook, clean, wash properly, and all those other things I took for granted, continues!

However, I was pretty pleased with myself when I managed to make this last night, home alone, and without anyone to help peel, cut or lift trays. It's not ground breaking, but it is delicious, and pretty easy to assemble. If you wanted to have this with meat instead of fish it would be great with thinly sliced rare steak. And if you don't want meat or fish, this is perfectly yummy on its own - just leave out the anchovies too.

I've called these putta potatoes as they have a lot of the same ingredients as the Italian puttanesca pasta sauce.

Serves 4.

4 large potatoes
1 pack green beans
1 pack of English mini red peppers
Handful black olives
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp capers
6 anchovy fillets
2 tomatoes
Good olive oil
2 lemons
Salt and pepper
4 responsibly sourced tuna steaks 

Get a pan of water on to boil, and turn the grill onto a medium high heat.

Peel the potatoes and slice into 3cm cubes. Boil in salted water (they should take 12-15 mins).

Slice the peppers in half, remove seeds and stalks, toss in olive oil and grill for 5 minutes.

When the potatoes are nearly cooked (soft when poked with a knife), chop the green beans in half and add to the potato pan. Cook for 90 seconds and drain.

Take the peppers out of the oven and sprinkle with paprika. Add the drained potatoes and green beans, and the crushed garlic, sliced black olives, capers and anchovies. Slice the tops and bottoms off the tomatoes and slot these in too. Top with a good grind of pepper - you don't need salt as the olives, anchovies and capers are all quite salty anyway, and a generous glug of olive oil. I did all of this on a foiled baking tray, so there would be less for the boy to wash up (I'm definitely still off washing up with my cast on!)

Put the tray of vegetables under the grill for around 8 minutes.

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We're about to have our house refurbished (floors, carpets, bathrooms, kitchen - yey! etc), and have to move out to do so, so spent the whole weekend packing, boxing things up, trying to work out what should go to recycling, and getting the house as empty as possible (again, I'm less than helpful with a broken hand, but I did try!)

Lifting might not be my forte for another few weeks, but I am now able to whip up a few basics in the kitchen as the strength of my thumb/finger grip is getting better. I therefore decided to do my part to help with the weekend move by keeping everyone well fed. The move also forced me to empty the freezer, which is what inspired the first dish I cooked, as I found half a side of salmon in the freezer which I'd got when it was on special offer at Ocado.

It still feels like summer to me, so I made a huge, healthy salad to keep everyone going on Saturday.


Makes enough for 6-8 people

1 half side of Scottish salmon
2 lemons
Handful basil leaves
Tablespoon of capers
Couple of anchovy fillets
Olive oil

300g puy lentils
1 cube vegetable stock
1 tsp garlic granules
Basil stalks
3 carrots
2 spring onions
Handful of tomatoes
1 cucumber
Salt and pepper

1 part lemon juice
2 parts olive oil
Large pinch sea salt
1 crushed clove of garlic

I actually made this in 2 parts - I cooked the salmon on Friday evening and cut off a fillet each for me and the boy, which we had warm with green beans, new potatoes and homemade hollandaise sauce. Then on Saturday I made this salad.

To cook the salmon, preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan).

Slice 2 lemons thinly to create discs. Put the lemon discs onto some tin foil on a baking tray. Sprinkle the capers over the lemons, and add the basil and anchovy fillets. Drizzle with oil and a good grind of pepper. Place the side of salmon skin side up on top of the sliced lemons. Rub the salmon fillet on both sides with olive oil and another good grind of pepper. Put the salmon in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes (I did ours for just over 10 minutes and it was perfect). Gently peel off the skin when you take the fish out of the oven.

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