Lemon and Duke, Dublin

You know yourself, sometimes you just find a place that you fall in love with the second you go in – well the Lemon and Duke is mine. Having been taken there by The Boy as Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Rob Keraney and Dave Kearney (Ireland Rugby players if you didn’t know) own it, it has since become a favourite.

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The setup is a chic, vintage, cocktail feel. But it’s so much more.

It’s Guinness is smooth, refreshing and most importantly clean. You would be surprised the number of pubs and bars that don’t clean their lines which makes the beer dank and well, gross! It’s the perfect place to go to after work for a couple. Or, as it’s just off Grafton Street, the perfect place to duck into when your shopping, it’s the best form of bribery if you are with someone who doesn’t enjoy shopping! 😉

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They have their “Tank Beer”, which they also have in The Bridge 1859, a fresh, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell. It’s so nice! Plus, if you go on match day when Ireland is playing you might have a chance of winning an Ireland Rugby signed jersey. They give you a raffle ticket for every pint you buy during the match. When I went we edged our bets and 7 pints later, between two I might add, our number, “126”, was called! Even better that The Boy was wearing is England jersey at the time. They all took it well and everyone had a great laugh. Another thing that makes the L&D so great is it’s staff members. All helpful, kind, and great craic.

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Though I know they do food, I have only ever had chips –  they are my kryptonite what do you expect! They are AMAZING with their dip and crispiness. My friend has had the children’s (don’t judge!) chicken goujons and chips. She seemed to enjoy them. But more importantly, the staff got them for her, none of this “but you’re an adult”, they just gave it to her as that is all she fancied. I swear we are grownups, even if we only wanted the picking, bad for us, foods.

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It’s open seven days a week serving brunch (well they say brunch they open at midday which in my eyes really is just lunch but whatever), lunch and dinner. Their little bit outside gets the sun in the afternoon/evening, making it a fab place for a post work beer.

Head down, say hi and get an ice cold beer (or cocktail, or coffee…..)

 

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Top Travels I Want to Do

We all have those lists, things we wish we could do tomorrow but work, funds and well general life stop us. This is my top 10. Some have crept onto this list in the last 6 months, some I have been dreaming of for years and others, well, these are dreams…

1) Visit Antarctica: I mean who doesn’t want to do this – penguins, wales, stars, ice burgs! I’ve had a guide book for about 3 years now, maybe even longer. If I ever get married this is the only destination I want for my honeymoon.

2) Go interrailing: or at least see a lot more of Europe, it’s on my door step and I feel like I have just not seen enough of it. There is so much history there, so much culture, and I have only seen such a small fraction of it.

3) Trek Machu Pichu: it’s old, it’s beautiful and there are LLAMAS. I mean come on, llamas, who doesn’t want to see these guys with an epic back drop.

4) Road Trip Canada: Two months, a campervan, wildlife, who could say no! Yes I have been planning this is my head for a while now… stupid work, stupid funds.

5) Head back to Cape Town for Robben Island: I was gutted that I couldn’t go when we were there so it’s definitely on the list of places I want to see now. The history of South Africa has fascinated me. I just can’t get over how this happened, and how it really was not that long ago.

6) See the Northern Lights: they just seem so magical, and I want to stay in one of the glass igloos! “the skies awake so I’m awake” – I just want to be able to say this to The Boy!!

7) Visit Switzerland: It just looks gorgeous! literally ever part of it looks amazing.

8) Be a giant child at Disney Land or World for my birthday: who says just because you’re an adult you can’t do these things!

9) Lake Bled: okay, let’s be honest here this is because of Instagram! I’ve seen so many photos that just make it look like the most romantic place!

10) The World, with my backpack and my boy……

This list could go on so much!

What are the places you dream of going? Do you chase the sun, or happy to have all the layers on? Is it just more, or does work get in the way of all the fun?

Safari with Chasin’ Africa

In mid-April, my family and I went to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Safari has been something I have always wanted to do. I love elephants, to the point that I shake when I see them. I get so nervous and excited all at once. I think they are just the most majestic animal, so wise and massive and if you look into their eyes you can see into their souls… okay, I digressed a little then. OBSESSED is the word you are looking for. But basically, I’ve always wanted to see them in the wild, so a safari has always been one of the top things I want to do.

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The Kruger National Park is situated in the most North East of South Africa, bordering Mozambique’s national park, Limpopo. They have a partial fence between the two, most of it has been taken down to encourage natural migration of the animals. It is 19,485km², making it the largest game reserve in South Africa. It was originally established in 1898 by Paul Kruger, the President of Transvaal as the Sabie Game Reserve. Later in 1927, it merged with Shinwedzi Game Reserve, and became the Kruger National Park.

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We were collected from our lodge by Donald, who is one of the owners of Chasin’ Africa at 5.20am – an early start but 100% worth it. They get you in before the gates open so the park is quieter and you don’t have to queue to do all of the fun paper work. Something you don’t really think about when on safari, but everyone has to go through the same gates and have the same checks which can take a while to do. We were off and through the gates by 5.50am. Only 10 minutes before the rest of the crowd, but this really was our own fault as we weren’t the fastest at leaving the lodge, ooops! Either way though, we were in! We were also incredibly lucky in the fact that there was nine of us, the exact number that fit in their trucks! So it felt more like a private tour. We were also provided with blankets to snuggle under as it was a little chilly (okay not UK chilly but still!) that early in the morning which was great.

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Donald was AMAZING! I must admit, I was mostly interested in the mammals that live in the park – elephants, cheetahs, lions etc but he got us looking at all the birds, the plants and the bugs. All these animals and foliage help make up a remarkable eco system. It’s easy to forget that even the smallest of creatures make a massive difference to the Kruger. It also helped that when we didn’t recognise a bird he put it in context by using the Lion King – red-billed hornbill aka Zazu! It was just brilliant that he knew the best way to get people to take note of the smaller, but just as important, animals. From then on, we looked at so many different birds – fish eagle, lilac breasted roller, saddle billed stork. It was great to see so many different animals up close, that otherwise I would never have known about. His knowledge and professionalism definitely made the trip, it just made those stretches where we didn’t see much just as great as when we save the wildlife. I’ve learnt so much from him and loved every second of it. Though gutted we didn’t get to ask any questions that stumped him, next time!

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The skill of Donald also meant we got to see the Big Five in one day. An old hunting term referring to those animals most dangerous to hunt ie they kill the hunters – Lions, Rhinos, Elephants, Leopards and Cape Buffalo. It was pure magic seeing them all. Obviously, elephants were my favourite, they always were going to be, but seeing the others (and the cubs of the lions and buffalo) was extraordinary. I never really believed we would see them all. Apparently if you drove every road in the Kruger and could see 500m either side of the road you would still only see 5% of park! Isn’t that just crazy!! You then realise how fortunate you are to see ANY animals.

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The lunch available in the park is fairly average – sandwiches, pies etc, almost what you were expect in an airport. I advise you take your own, and DO NOT forget water! Super important! And mozzy spray for the sunrise and sunset part of your dive, you don’t want to be eat alive. Would take away from the joys of the Kruger if you are scratching the whole time.

We were out in the park for 12 hours! Initially supposed to be dropped back off at our accommodation at 4.30pm but Donald gave us more time so that we could we a Leopard and Lion cubs right at the end. We ended up leaving at 6.30pm!!

Hopefully I will one day be returning to the Kruger and if I do I will definitely be booking another trip with Chasin’ Africa, and I really think you should to.

Have you been to the Kruger before? Would you love to? What would be your favourite animal to see?

 

Cape Town – My Top Things To Do 

At the beginning of April I was lucky enough to go to Cape Town! We were there for five days and everyday was JAM BACKED! It was hard to pick a few top things but here they are…

Table Mountain 

There are lots of different routes for you to choose from, depending on how long you wish to take and your fitness pick accordingly . We took the Platteklip Gorge route, right around the corner from the cable cars. It’s hard work, but the views you get make it worth it. In total it took us about 2 hrs. We range in fitness but I would say we are all average or above. We never rushed and did take loads of water breaks! That’s one thing you need to make sure you have lots of- WATER. This hike is said to be the one that gets the most sunshine! Try to avoid doing it in the midday sun (something we failed at!). Take your time up at the top, the views are incredible. There is a place you can get more water, food and ice cream. Plus all the other facilities you need after a long walk. There is also a gondola you can take up and down. We had planned to take it down but some one had set four fires along the mountain so it was closed. For some crazy reason we decided rather than waiting we would walk back down. Something my legs regretted for the next four days! Try to pick your timings when you go up – you’ll want a clear day though this can sometimes be unpredictable. If you are in Cape Town for a few days try to stay flexible  so you can pick the best time to climb up.

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Boulders Beach 

Penguins, penguins and MORE penguins! What is not to love. It costs R65 to get in, but this can be used at any of the 3 entrances so you get to see as many penguins as you want. The first gate we went through went onto the beach. Here you can actually, paddle/swim with the penguins. But remember these are wild animals. They will bite and they do get stressed. Try to keep a safe distance and NEVER cut off a penguin from his buddy. It’s not fair on them, they are only little! Also, whatever you take with you make sure you take away, think plastic bags/bottles and wrappers. It’s hard when you get excited to remember these things but it’s better for everyone if you do. The second entrance we went into takes you along the boardwalk. It takes you right up to the beach where (during April) you can see the baby penguins as well as ones sitting on their eggs. It’s an amazing site! You’ll see nature at it’s best. I loved just watching them all. I could have stayed for hours but the entrances close at 5pm during April and varies throughout the year so make sure you get your timings right.

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V&A Waterfront 

So we actually ended up here for the day as our tour for Robben Island was cancelled due to poor visibility . Apparently this is quiet common. Something you should remember when you book your tickets. We were all gutted that we couldn’t go but it means we will be back! But as we couldn’t make it we did Jerry 1, which is only small but still moving. This is actually the original site where people were taken before they were taken to Robben Island. It’s full of letters and people’s requests to see loved ones on the island. Really powerful stuff.

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The waterfront has a fair amount to do. We started with breakfast at the V&A Food Market. Literally heaven. Has something for everyone and seating where you can all reconvene when you’ve picked your food! Plus it’s cheap! A win win in my world! I personally loved the coffee from the Coffee Power Station. And if you bring your reusable cup coffee only costs R20!

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Just behind this is the Water Shed – a huge hall filled with craft bits. There was some lovely stuff here from cushions to clothing to jewellery. You’ll definitely be able pick up some nice items for people or something for yourself of course.

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If you enjoy your rugby the Springbok Experience is a must! You start with fun games where you try to get on the team (remember those sore legs from our hike… This did not help). But we had fun looking silly and laughing the whole time. You then move on to learn about the history of the sport in South Africa. With the Apartheid being such a prominent part of the sports history it’s incredibly interesting to see the changes it went through. The most moving part is South Africa beating the New Zealand favourites in the 1995 World Cup and the handing over of the cup by President Mandela to Peinaar, the Springbok captain. The embrace and smiles reverberated through all of South Africa. An incredibly moving piece of history. Oh and if you’re an adult you get a free beer with your ticket to have down on the Water front she you’re done.

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If your lucky or bold enough like my sister and brother-in-law were try to get up to the rooftop bar at the top of the Silo Hotel. The views are incredible! The perfect place for an afternoon drink in the sun.

Wine Region – Franschhoek and Paarl

This is the perfect day out … wine and (hopefully) sunshine. There are so many different vineyards you can choose from. As we had locals taking us round, we let them pick as they definitely know what they are doing. We started at the Haute Cabrière vineyard in Franschhoek, where for about £3 you get a tour, wine tasting for 4 wines (red, whites and sparkling!) And you get so see them open a bottle in the old French style, Sabrage, they cut the top off with a sword. It’s great. Plus the view is pretty spectacular.

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Once you are done here head into the town. It’s fill of small shops and there is a great little coffee shop, The Hoek, where I would recommend you get an afrogatto from. It’s incredibly refreshing after all the wine. Plus gives you a little boost to carry on.

A little further out is the Spice Route in Paarl. A vineyard with so much more… They pride themselves on having other small independent business all in one place, where neither two are the same! Here you can do more wine tasting, beer tasting at CBC brewer or even ice cream tasting!

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I would love to go back soon, I feel like we only scratched the surface of this amazing city. Have you been to Cape Town? What was your favourite thing or things to do? 

My Favourite Coffee Spots, Dublin

If you didn’t realise this already I have an obsession with COFFEE!! It is my help juice, my comforter and my energiser. So naturally I love to go out for coffee. It’s a cheap date, whether with friends, family or the boy. It creates a place to chat or gives you something warming if you like to go for a walk instead. It’s the perfect pick me up. Since moving to Dublin my love for coffee has only grown. So this are my top picks (and it was a hard one to narrow down!!)

Meet Me in the Morning

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Just off Camden Road, this is the perfect gem. They have also recently opened up their take away section making it even easier to just pop in for a cuppa on the run. And it helps that their cups are super cute. The staff are also unbelievably friendly and helpful! Also, if you are peckish go for their doughnuts, or their seasonal brownie (I recently had the pumpkin brownie… for breakfast… it was incredible!)

Il Fornaio

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A small cafe based just down the road from Trinity (though they have another four dotted around), it is the perfect place to grab a coffee for a walk around the collage, or a pick me up if you are a student there. Not just is it beautifully velvet, doing the Italians proud, they give you a small amaretti biscuits to go with it. Perfect piece of Italy in Dublin.

Clement and Pekoe

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Their main cafe is based on South William Street, but they also have one within a small shop in Temple Bar, “&”. They use Climpson & Sons Coffee which is roasted in London, which is a fantastic roasters… and also nice to see something other than 3FE, not that I don’t love that roasters but good to mix it up! Their Mocha is a thing of beauty. You are presented with a mug of warm milk, with your espresso shot and a lollipop of the most amazing chocolate – mix and watch as it melts away to create the best Mocha in town!

 

Dollard and Co

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The new kid on the block… well sort of, I think it’s been opened a few months now! Getting their coffee from TwoFifity Square Coffee, they make a brilliant Flat White. Plus they open at 8am so it’s great for that walk to work. They also sell their coffee which is great if you like to have a brew a home every now and again.

 

Which is your favourite coffee spot? 

 

 

 

Pink Gin Jam

Love Gin? Love Raspberries? Love Jam? This is the recipe for you!! It’s so ridiculously tasty it’s hard not to eat it off the spoon… or if you do make sure you wait for it too cool first, just some advice! And this is slightly cheating as I use frozen berries as I can never manage to get my act together to go berry picking! And well, they are cheaper, I’m not a millionaire (YET!) so can’t afford fresh berries every time I want to make jam.

This makes two 2 x 350g JarsScreenshot_20171025-130800

Ingredients

500g Frozen Raspberries

50ml Water

335g Caster Sugar

120ml Gordon’s Pink Gin

 

Method 

Place the raspberries and water into a pan, on a medium heat and leave to slowly soften up. This should take about 10 minutes.

Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Boil steadily for about 10-15 minutes, or until at setting point, 105C/220F. Though if you don’t have a jam or digital thermometer, spoon a little onto a cold plate, leave for a minute and then push the jam with your finger. If the jam crinkles and separates without flooding back, setting point has been reached!

Add the gin, watch out, those fumes are the alcohol burning off, and stir until well mixed in!

Pour into your sterilised jars 🙂 This will last up to 6 months unopened. Once opened keep refrigerated and consume within 4 weeks.

 

 

Custard Tart, a family fav!

The tart originated in England (or France) but let’s stick with England today, as to me, they are such an English treat. A crumbly shortcrust pastry filled with a creamy egg custard. Back in the day, if they were made for the rich they would have the addition of spices. Now days you can’t imagine it without them. They even (apparently) inspired the famous Portuguese version, the Pastéis de Nata. Though for me this week it was the other way round, inspired by the Portuguese tarts on GBBO I wanted to make the English version.
Also my stepdad absolutely loves custard tarts! For years when we would go to the bakery that’s what he would get. So this is dedicated to him (even if he only got a small slither that had to travel on a plane to him).

So this is my version, and let’s hope it lives up to my stepdads expectations.

Ingredients

Shortcrust Pastry
225g Plain Flour
150g Butter, cubed and chilled
1 Large Free Range Egg

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270ml Whole Milk
30g Plain Flour
1 Lime Leaf
1 Cinnamon Stick, broken in half
130ml Water
265g Caster Sugar
5 Large Egg Yolks

Whole nutmeg

Method
For pastry, sift the flour into a large bowl and add the cubed, chilled butter. Rub together using your finger tips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg and add, mix to form a soft dough. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, till it is about 3mm thick! Line a rectangular 30cm fluted tin, press the pastry lightly to the corners and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Now for the custard, in a small pan add the sugar and water and heat gently. Bring to the boil, so it creates a syrup, approx 106-112C.
In a large saucepan, add the milk and flour and whisk. Add the lime leaf and cinnamon stick, and bring to a simmer, keep whisking! Cook for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat.

20171006_141708Gradually whisk the sugar syrup into the milk mixture.
In a large bowl whisk up the egg yolks. Slowly pour over the milk mixture while continuing to whisk. Do this super slowly otherwise you can curdle the eggs and end up with a sweet , milky scrambled eggs! Place a sheet of cling film over the surface of the mixture to stop a skin forming. Leave to cool.
Pre heat the I’ve to 180C. Blind bake your pastry. Do this by lining the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with ceramic beans (or in cooked rice or lentils!) And bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove the parchment and bake for a further 7-10 minutes. Pour over the custard and bake for another 15-18 minutes. You want it slightly golden on the top while still slightly soft.
Leave to cool and remove from the tin. To serve, chill and grate over a little nutmeg!