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.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Brit Decor: Travel / Grand Ferdinand

If like me, your wanderlust eyes are constantly scouring the globe for an elegant getaway where you can really kick-back and pamper yourself in style, then the Grand Ferdinand Hotel in Vienna may be just the place.

This, Weitzer's newest jewel in the crown, remains true to the design-conscious hotel brand's perfectly formed portfolio; Grand Ferdinand has its own unique identity. Located on the bustling Ringstra├če, the design philosophy applied here is one of a forward thinking approach to the celebration of Vienna's rich and elegant history 'by moving forward, not by looking back.'  

If beautiful interiors and mouthwateringly good culinary delights are as high on your holiday checklist as they are on mine, this 188 room-delight with a total of three restaurants, ticks all of the travel boxes. On the ground floor is the Grand Ferdinand restaurant complete with floor-to-ceiling windows which look out onto the historic cityscape. You can expect some of the best in traditional Austrian cuisine here, served on gold-edged porcelain and showered in light from the the handmade Lobbyer chandeliers, no less.

Next door to the latter is Gulasch & Champagne, interestingly this eatery serves fast-food, Viennese-style, ranging from sausages and Leberkase sandwiches to, you've guessed it, traditional goulash.  The third culinary offering from the hotel is the Grand Etage - Situated on the top floor, this hotspot is reserved exclusively for guests, who are rewarded with good food, incredible views over the city and a rooftop pool.

According to the hotel's owner, Florian Weitzer, the key design element to each of the guest rooms is one of 'timeless elegance, contemporary comfort and soulful extras'. I am certainly swooning for the charcoal grey walls and dark wooden flooring, married with must-have detailing, such as the simple marble sinktops, leather-framed mirrors and anglepoise lamps. 

Style is seeping from the very core of this glamorous hotel and I hope you've enjoyed checking in with me.

Images copyright / Grand Ferdinand

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

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Brit Decor: Loves/ 400 Rabbits / Crystal Palace, London, UK

As someone who usually specialises in residential styling, being asked to take a peek at an utterly gorgeous sourdough pizza and craft beer restaurant interior, was an opportunity I wasn't going to miss out on (not that I'm nosey!).

Situated in Crystal Palace, London, 400 Rabbits is a curious amalgamation of Italian, British and Aztec styles, yes I just said 'Aztec'. The latter reference is based on this quirky industrial-styled establishment's name, which is derived from Aztec folklore.

The design was the result of an exciting collaboration between Richardson Studio, who mastered the interior, whilst the uber-cool branding was delivered by Junction. The creative brief was to conjure up something that felt fun and a place where people would want to spend time.

Clearly it's worked - the fun-feel is fuelled by quirky graphic posters and pegboard panels with feel-good splashes of colour in every direction, but I also love the slight sense of rawness created by glimpses of exposed breeze blocks and joinery, which only adds to the appeal of this place.

Pop along and have a look for yourself;

Images / 400Rabbits

Monday, 19 October 2015

Brit Decor: Loves/ Monocle Speaker by Native Union

Since stumbling across the exciting wares of this brand back in the Summer, I have been lusting after some minimalist styling from Native Union. It didn't take me long to buckle under the weight of temptation and I ordered the Monocle speaker in copper. In fact, the full range of designs from this online store includes, leather and marble too, if it's trending materials you are seeking.

As well as the style aesthetics of this brand, I also love their ethos, which was to create a range of designs for the design savvy amongst us who were 'disenchanted by the nondescript'. Amen to that!

These days I tend to keep the majority of music on my iPhone, or more truthfully, I pretty much keep my life on my phone! So with this in mind, I felt I had the perfect reason to purchase the Monocle, because I can use it for listening to music and for taking conference calls - aiding a healthy work and play balance wherever I am in the world. That's got to be a good thing, right?

*This is not a sponsored post

All images / Mike Ahern

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