Friday 30 October 2015

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Italian Apple Pie

I'll make no false claims about this bake being a ground-breaking or brand-spanking new creation, because it simply isn't. But what I am serving up today is unadulterated, warm your cockles, comfort food. 

This is one of my favourite bakes to whip up when the weather outside is looking dismal, the temperature has dropped to an uninviting chill, and I'm overwhelmed with the urge to indulge. For a Winter dessert, this easily enters the realms of heavenly puddings when served warm - or if you want to really throw restraint into the kitchen bin, add a spot of homemade vanilla custard!

Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope there's a spot of indulgence in there...

250g plain flour
175g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter (softened)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
1tsp vanilla extract
3 apples
100ml milk
3tsp ground cinnamon
1tbs brown sugar

To make:
Preheat the oven to 1800c and grease a 23cm baking tin before lining. Place the sugar, eggs, butter, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract and begin mixing together, adding the milk slowly until a smooth batter has formed.

Peel, core and roughly chop one of the apples before adding to the mixture and scooping into the baking tin. Place to one side.

Core the two remaining apples but do not peel (the skin makes for a crispy addition to the topping). Divide up the apples by slicing into thin wedges. Place these on top of the cake batter before sprinkling with the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes but keep an eye on the apple segments in case they begin to catch towards the end of the bake.

Monday 26 October 2015

Brit Decor: Makes/ Sloe Gin

All images / Mike Ahern

I tend to do quite well at resisting the temptation to jump into Christmas early, even when many of those around me have already begun hunting down pressies. However, making up my first ever batch of Sloe Gin recently induced a minor twinge of festivity within me.

The Sloe berries came courtesy of a good friend's Mum, the wonderful Mrs Foxwell, handpicked from a hedgerow somewhere in the depths of the beautiful Wiltshire countryside. Mrs F also kindly provided the recipe for Sloe gin, which I am sharing with you today. 

When I say this is a simple one to make, I mean it! To begin, I placed the berries in a deep bowl and stabbed them with a fork to release the juices. I then took one empty bottle and filled it with 1/3 of sugar, followed by a 1/3 of the Sloe berries, and finally I topped up the bottle with Gin.

After securing the lid on the bottle, I give this a little shake and turn every day (it's my new workout!) and will continue to do so until all of the sugar has dissolved. Mrs F recommends leaving the Sloe Gin for at least two months before straining into a new bottle and serving either as a liqueur or adding a small amount to a glass of Prosecco.

I think my batch should be ready just in time for a Christmas tipple with friends!

Friday 23 October 2015

Brit Decor: Goes to print/ With

It's been over a month now since my Summertime adventures came to an end, and like many of us hard working folk, these have given me the #wanderlust for further travels and escapes. Here in the UK, as we head from Autumn towards Winter, I've been keen to keep some of these Summer jaunts fresh in my mind. However, I no longer have to rely upon flicking through my iPhone photo library...

With the help of my friends over at Zazzle, I have been able to quite literally bring to life some of my favourite images from the Summer, as my very own homewares! The choice of products to choose from and the design options available are vast, so I could be as creative as I wished.

I have to be honest, when I was first asked by the team at Zazzle to make my selection of homewares, I was a little reticent about just how well some of my photos would translate into print, in terms of quality. However, as soon as the first delivery arrived, I was in for a visual treat. The standard of printing is amazing and the quality of the products are of an equally high standard. Most importantly, each piece looks great in my home.

So which items did I select?

For the porcelain plate (see 'below'), I opted for one of the many photos I snapped during my stay at the industrial-style retreat, Hotel Daniel, in Vienna. This one depicts a shot of the concrete ceiling in my hotel room, as I wanted to create a graphic industrialised 'look'. The plate also includes holes on the reverse so it can easily be transformed into a wall mounted work of art.

Before placing my order, the bath mat was one of the products that I feared would not look good, or at least, that my original photo of some Viennese floor tiles might not transfer very well. I was totally wrong! As you can see (also 'below') the photo, taken at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, is crystal clear.

The set of 8 postcards can be fully customised front and back. I love postcards as a quick way of bringing a touch of art, colour, and fun to a space. Whilst I opted for a monochrome design here, these cards delivered just the mood I wanted and even look great in a frame.

Last but not least are the four cotton placemats - for these I wanted to bring home a memory of my trip to Kew Gardens. I am absolutely smitten with the finished items, which bring a touch of the #foreverfoliage trend to my tabletop.

Which product is your favourite?

Please check out the full range over at

All images / Mike Ahern

Friday 16 October 2015

Brit Decor: Something for the weekend/ Bath, UK

One of my favourite things to do on a weekend is one of the simplest - to take a Sunday stroll about town, or city, to be precise. Here on Brit Decor I try not to over-egg the visual delights of this bustling heritage city on my doorstep, but from time to time, the urge to share some of my favourite images is irresistible!

Last weekend I was determined to be an early bird and beat the daily throng of tourists by photographing first thing on a Sunday morning. It worked - the streets were still and I was free to work my way around the Georgian architectural delights unhampered (it felt a bit like I was walking through the pages of a period novel with a surreal air of silence).

My enduring memory from my mini-photo essay is of the townhouse 'below' draped in a vivid fiery red climber, set against the crisp white paintwork of the sash windows and front door - almost Christmassy in terms of colours don't you think...?

Whatever you are planning this weekend, I hope it inspires you.


All images / Mike Ahern

Monday 12 October 2015

Brit Decor Bakes / Sticky Toffee Cupcakes

 Images / Mike Ahern

I whipped up these finger-licking-good handheld treats at the weekend and in no time at all, which makes this bake all the more dangerously appealing. Sticky toffee pudding was one of my Sunday favourites in my younger years but these days I frequently find the full-sized dessert version to be a little too rich - cue these wicked little cupcakes for a seriously good sweet snack.

I hope you'll give this one a go - let me know how it turns out if you do!


185g self-raising flour
150g light muscovado sugar
85g unsalted butter (softened)
2x eggs
150g chopped & pitted dates
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

(Caramel topping)
85ml double cream
130g caster sugar
60ml water

How to make:

Preheat the oven to 180oc and line a 12 hole cake tin with paper cases. Pit the dates (if necessary) and then roughly chop. Place the chopped dates into a bowl and add the vanilla extract. Then add the muscovado sugar, eggs, and softened butter and whisk together. Slowly add the flour and the bicarbonate of soda. Mix well using an electric whisk. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until light and springy on top.

For the topping, place the caster sugar and water in a saucepan and gently bring to the boil. As the sugar begins to heat, this will caramelise after a while and turn a brown colour. As soon as this happens, remove from the heat and add the double cream. As the cream hits the caramel it will create large clumps but mix vigorously until smooth.

Finally, pour or drizzle the caramel sauce onto the cupcakes.

Friday 2 October 2015

Brit Decor: Gets Industrial with Out & Out Originals

All images / Mike Ahern

Industrial styling is here to stay. Once preserved for loft living and trend-setting urbanites, this powerhouse of interiors styles has now well and truly infiltrated suburbia and beyond - courtesy of exciting high street finds and some eye-popping collections *high fives*.

As a minimalist at heart, I love the raw simplicity of industrial styling with exposed brickwork and swathes of concrete throwing grainy textures in every direction. But how to translate this 'look' on a smaller scale?

When I was recently approached by Out & Out Original, an online store specialising in contemporary designs for eclectic British tastes, who asked me to demonstrate how to apply some industrial-inspired accessories at home, I took an industrial leap at the chance to roll up my stylist's sleeves and set to work! 

My regular readers will know that I live in a cottage, so the challenge was to incorporate their Lab desk table lamp and the Briggs black adjustable stool into my own home without either of these industrial-inspired items looking out of context. Easy-peasy, no seriously, it was!

I love the idea of versatile and multi-functional furniture pieces, and the Briggs stool doubles up as the perfect compact occasional table. With it's solid steel framework and rich black wood, this stool has a surprisingly commanding presence. 

Another great way of creating impact in a room is to explore the potential partnerships between accessories and furnishings - experimenting is a huge part of the fun! I found that placing the Lab table lamp on top of the stool offered the perfect 'fit' and a double-whammy in stylistic terms. 

Aware of the surroundings and the need to keep a check on over-industrialising, I incorporated a super-cute African violet planted in a mono-striped enamel mug, along with a natural wool rug I picked up in Vienna, to soften the tone and keep a homely feel.

Industrial-chic here we come!
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