Some eggxtremely valuable advice

Sometimes when we start addressing our mental health issues, we’re able to pinpoint the little things we may do ourselves that aren’t necessarily helping us to recover.

A biggy for me is that I put faaaaar too much pressure on myself. In every sense. Socially, academically, physically. So, when I don’t live up to that pressure, it’s as if I look for someone to blame. But, I wouldn’t dare blame anyone else for what I’m going through, so the only person left to blame is me.

With depression and anxiety, I experience a lot of internal noise. I think about what I have to do, worry all the time I’m not doing it, once I am doing it I don’t feel I’m doing enough, and the spiral of negative thoughts continue and continue until it feels as if my head will explode.

… and, again, that could be about anything and everything. Revision… replying to messages… work…

I feel like I should be able to just pull myself together. Like up until now I simply haven’t worked hard enough to shake off the depression, and I should just be able to fix myself. I think of it as if it’s the easiest thing to do, and that I’m the problem- that maybe I’m lazy or don’t want it enough- but the truth is (and it’s very hard for me to recognise sometimes, but The Blurt Foundation round it up pretty damn nicely):

Living with depression is hard work. Every single day we get up and do our best to live our lives alongside an illness which is determined to drag us down. 

Regardless of what our brains may tell us, we’re achieving so much simply by carrying on. We should be proud of ourselves, rather than being ashamed.

Sometimes I just need a shake, to remember that this is an illness. As with any illness, the symptoms we suffer with depression and anxiety are not our fault, and we shouldn’t self-blame or beat ourselves up. THAT lets the depression win.

Again, *disclaimer*: I’m terrible at- what the Black Eyed Peas sing in their 2003 banger-  ‘practising what I preach’.

Trying to have self-compassion is really, really bloody hard, especially when you can’t help but feel unworthy of it. The way I try to look at it now is to treat myself like I would treat my best friend. If they were in my position, I wouldn’t shame them, I definitely wouldn’t expect them to snap out of it and fix themselves in the click of a finger, nor would I get angry at them or think they’re horrible.

So, what’s the answer? The million-pound question. Well, maybe there isn’t an answer as such, but something you can- and should- do is forgive yourself. Or, at least, try to. No one is perfect, whether they suffer a mental illness or not. Give yourself a well-needed break and remember that Blurt Foundation wisdom: you should be proud, not ashamed of what you’re dealing with.  You’re doing bloomin’ marvellously.

 

Creme Egg Cupcakes 

Cupcakes:

  • 4 tbsp Water (boiling)
  • 40g Cocoa powder
  • 3 Eggs
  • 175g Butter (unsalted) (softened)
  • 165g Unrefined golden caster sugar
  • 115g (gluten-free) Self-raising white flour
  • 1 tsp Baking powder (rounded)
  • 6 creme eggs (frozen until needed, then halved)
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cases. Sift the cocoa powder into a bowl, pour in the boiling water and mix into a thick paste. Add the remaining cake ingredients and mix with an electric hand whisk (or beat with a wooden spoon).
  2. Divide 2/3 of the mixture between the 12 paper cases. Place half a crème egg in each, then cover with the remaining mixture. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C (400°F, Gas mark 6) for about 15 minutes until well risen and springy to the touch. Cool in the cases on a wire rack.

 

Icing:

Fondant 

  • 165g Golden syrup
  • 90g Softened butter
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1tsp Vanilla
  • 375g Icing sugar
  • Yellow food colouring

Buttercream 

  • 100g Butter
  • 300g Icing sugar
  • 1tsp Vanilla
  • Splash of milk
  1. Mix together the butter, golden syrup, vanilla and salt together for the fondant until the mixture becomes pale(ish)
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar into the mix to create a thick fondant (you might not need all the icing sugar), then use enough yellow colouring to create a nice yolk colour, set aside
  3. Mix together your butter and icing sugar together to create your buttercream, add a splash of milk & the vanilla and beat on a high speed to get lots of air into your buttercream, giving you a light fluffy frosting.
  4. Use both the icings to decorate in the design of an egg (or however you wish!)
  5. Use extra creme eggs for decoration

 

 

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Girls, dough-nut forget your worth

Today we celebrate women. On International Women’s Day it is a chance, more than ever, to champion female achievements; inspire girls to dream big; cheer on your girl gang to be confident and comfortable in their own mind and skin; and show ourselves a major dose of self-lovin’.

It turns out that our movement to gender parity and our growing awareness of mental health aren’t so very different after all . We recognise that we won’t have complete gender equality or a complete understanding of mental health overnight- in fact, we’re apparently still 200 years off gender parity (blimey). However, in the year of #MeToo and Time’s Up, Heads Together and Fearless Femme, we can definitely say that we are far from giving up on either cause.

On a day where women should feel strong, empowered and supported, it’s hard to fathom why so many can very easily feel the exact opposite. With depression, it is far too regular that one can instead feel powerless, weak and alone.

Something which I struggle with and makes me feel particularly weak is that, due to my mental health, I’m sometimes unable to do as much as I used to. Whether work, social activities or even the basic tasks of getting out of bed, bathing etc., sometimes it is just too hard. As much as I can remind myself that my depression isn’t forever and that the storm will pass, it is terrifically hard to come to terms with not being able to cope with as much responsibility or stress as I was able to when I was well. It makes me feel a failure.

During my third year at university, a culmination of things meant that I hit a very hard dip in my mental health. It felt a little like I was an old faulty car, the type that has such a place in your heart that you refuse to get rid of it. Every time I experienced another emotional knock, it was as if the engine had given out again. I’d have to collect myself, patch myself up, and keep on trucking. Another knock would come. Again, I’d put a brave face on, take some time out and try again. Soon enough, the knocks added up and the pushing on became harder to do. Finally came the fateful diagnosis: the old banger needs more than a patch up. Translation: you really need take some time out and care for yourself.

With the help of my supportive personal tutor, that’s what I did. I was able to take several leave of absences from university. I was able to delay some of my exams, and after months of support, I came to the decision to add another year to my university saga, and now study my remaining modules from home.

I can’t say that I never compare myself to my peers or that I never feel incredibly far away from where I want to be… but I will happily say that these last months have been a breakthrough in the way I think about, and tackle, my depression- and that is something I can only be grateful for.

Truth is, however much you feel the contrary, you are doing the most courageous and brave of things: you’re surviving. You are doing the best you bloody can, and there is no way that is never enough.

On a lighter note, I have not only a recipe but a book to recommend this week. ‘Everything I Know About Love’, Dolly Alderton’s debut book, is a delightfully real depiction of how, no matter what young adult life throws at you, the love of your friends will always carry you through. I mean, what better for IWD?!

Now, it’s time you dough-nut worry and be happy with this recipe from blue-eyes himself, Mr Paul Hollywood…

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Ingredients
For the doughnuts 

  • 250g/9oz strong white flour, plus extra for flouring
  • 25g/1oz caster sugar
  • 20g/¾oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 5g salt
  • 75ml/2½fl oz warm milk
  • sunflower oil, for deep fat frying

For the icing 

  • 200g/7oz icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest only

To serve 

  • 1 lemon, zest only

Method 

  1. For the doughnuts, place all the ingredients into a large bowl (except the sunflower oil) with three tablespoons of water.
  2. Stir with your hands to make a dough.
  3. Gradually add another another tablespoon of water and massage in the bowl for four minutes.
  4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Place into a bowl and leave to rise for 40 minutes, covered with a damp tea towel.
  6. Tip the dough out, again onto a very lightly floured surface.
  7. Divide the dough in half.
  8. With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough quite thinly to about 1cm/½in thick. Cut into rounds using an 8cm/3¼in straight sided round cutter, then use a 2cm/¾in cutter to cut holes out of the middle.
  9. Spin each doughnut on your index finger to expand the hole.
  10. You should be able to cut out about eight doughnuts from this dough. Place all circles onto an oiled baking tray, loosely cover with cling film, not allowing it to touch the top of the doughnuts and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  11. Preheat a deep fat fryer, filled with sunflower oil to 180C/350F (Caution: hot oil can be dangerous; do not leave unattended.)
    If, like me, you don’t own a deep fat fryer, have no fear! A deep heavy-based frying pan filled to a 1/3 with the oil works just as well.
  12. Drop each doughnut in separately, cooking each side for about a minute or until golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a plate lined with kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil.
  13. Leave to cool.
  14. For the icing, gradually add 25ml/1fl oz of cold water to the icing sugar. It will eventually turn into a thick paste. Stir in the lemon zest.
  15. When the whole doughnuts have cooled, brush the tops of the doughnuts with the icing. Sprinkle over a little more lemon zest.
  16. Leave to set on a cooling rack, to cool completely.

 

Follow this recipe to the letter, and (trust me) you’ll have some delightful results. Tip: throw out the diet for a day and eat these while they’re at their freshest and most divine.

Big love, and happy International Women’s Day ladies! X

 

 

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Always look on the bright slice of life

Happy 2018! Or, should I say, Happy 20-GREAT-een!

Many people set themselves New Year’s resolutions, wanting to capitalise on the opportunity to try new things, improve on current things, but ultimately hoping the year starts off the best it can.

So, when we set our resolutions with our expectations too high, we can leave ourselves feeling failures. When you suffer with depression, this kind of failure can trigger a spiral of negative thoughts about ourselves, and we feel more deflated than ever.

That’s why this year my resolutions, or more ‘promises to myself for 2018’, are solely based around self-care, and include a few simple bits of guidance to myself, making sure I approach each ‘resolution’ positively and, importantly, without the pressure.

EXERCISE

Mid-way through December 2017 I saw this:

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Now, it’s said that ‘curiosity killed the cat’, and there was a thought of mine that ‘running may kill the Meg’. BUT, my overriding thought was…

‘Hey, I could promote better mental health, influence people to take better care of themselves, spread awareness and understanding of depression and anxiety- AND all the while get myself in a better physical and mental state’.

… So I signed up, and, for over 2 weeks now, I’ve plagued social media platforms with selfies (classic Meg) and videos of my running journey.

And you know what? I’ve loved every bloomin’ minute.

This hasn’t always been my mindset. Gosh, no. Having suffered with depression since age 16, I would be a millionaire- well, out of my overdraft- for all the times a doctor has told me the benefits of physical exercise on your mental health. But that wasn’t me, no. I hated exercise. I was that girl that would go to the gym regularly for a month, lose interest, and pay for 3 extra months without visiting, before finally admitting defeat and cancelling my membership. It’s because of this that I coined the label of ‘exercisephobe’, which I really think should be considered an entry into the English Dictionary at some point.

With that self-assigned title, and knowing how much of a flake I am at sticking to ANYTHING, I did worry I wouldn’t be able to complete #REDJanuary. Was I setting myself  up for a fall? As it turns out, no, I wasn’t. The beauty of #REDJanuary lies in its name: ‘Run EveryDay January‘. Running everyday, and not just 2 or 3 times a week, makes it a commitment you cannot avoid or ‘blow off’ until another day. Its also shown me how quickly your body can adapt to exercise. On Day 1, I couldn’t run 2 minutes without needing a break/walk. Maybe it was the NYE hangover or the- frankly hideous- amount of pigs and blankets I devoured over Christmas, but I felt so unfit. 2 weeks on, I can go for 15-20 minute runs. Yes, I’m knackered afterwards, but more importantly I am so, so proud of myself. That feeling is something that can really escape you when you’re going through dark times, so to feel it again genuinely means the absolute world.

So, here’s to the rest of #REDJanuary, and to the 5k I plan to take part in next week! You really, really can surprise yourself.

 

You can visit my JustGiving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/meg-manganaro2017

 

SLEEP

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Those suffering from a mental illness can have their sleeping patterns affected in different ways. You can experience insomnia, feeling you’re unable to switch-off from your thought processes. When this happens, it is a very dark and lonely place to be. Conversely, you can find yourself more tired than usual, and therefore needing more sleep than your ‘norm’.

Either way, disturbed sleep can have a massive knock-on effect to your mood and functionality. Because of the power a good night’s sleep can have, it is really worthwhile practicing good sleep hygiene.

During my days as a student, I can admit I definitely neglected the importance of sleep. Now, however, I’ve adopted my very own toolkit:

  • Screens away an 30 mins/1 hour before bed. Exposure to light in the late evening tends to delay the phase of our internal clock and lead us to prefer later sleep times. So, pop that laptop, TV or mobile phone away for the last part of your evening- Instagram can wait until tomorrow.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. I now swap my normal cuppa tea for a herbal one, or even a hot chocolate when it reaches 4/6 hours before my desired bedtime.
  • Keep to a general bedtime. 
  • Use sleep-inducing fragrances. I use a lavender spray over my bed linen, and ‘Sleepy’ body lotion from Lush, just for that extra bit of snooziness. Zzzzz.
  • Herbal tablets. I occasionally use Kalms Night tablets when I’m experiencing a period of sleep deprivation, just to help me get back on track and sleepy around my desired bedtime.
  • De-stressing activities. Have a bath, read a book. Chill.

 

As with any symptoms you might experience as a result of mental illness, keep your doctor in the loop. I’m lucky enough to have a lovely doctor, who clearly cares a lot about my wellbeing, and now also- in my eyes, at least- she’s a sleep guru.

 

ALCOHOL

A few months ago I wouldn’t want to admit that sometimes I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. However, I also made a pact to myself not too long ago to be open and honest about as much as I can- because it really is liberating and healing.

I have occasionally used alcohol as a way to self-sabotage. It is something I can abuse, so that I feel more relaxed, or even to ‘numb’ myself. Equally, I have sometimes found that alcohol relaxes me in social situations, and when enjoying myself I can sometimes mistake that more alcohol equates to a better time.

The difficulty is that doing so, hurting myself in this way, feeds into my depression. On nights out, detrimental thoughts I have internalised can emerge, such as feelings that I’m undeserving of friends. This obviously affects the way I’m feeling, and no doubt those whom I am with, who have no idea why all of sudden I may have changed in mood. I think we can all agree, that is no fun for anyone.

As a response to this, I have decided to treat alcohol with a great deal more care in 2018, and beyond. I have limited my drinking to weekends and social occasions, and already feel better for doing so.

It’s far from the end of addressing my drinking behaviour, but it’s most definitely a steady and positive step in the right direction!

 

BASICALLY… BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Before experiencing depression to the severity I have, I never realised it could be such a triumph to just get up in the morning. But, it is.

The most simple of everyday tasks can, and should, be celebrated. Looking after yourself should be celebrated. Fighting for those better days in the future- that WILL come, you cannot lose sight of that- should be celebrated, especially when depression has sapped you of your self-belief.

I know all too well that saying this stuff is far, far easier than believing it, let alone practicing it. If, like me, you struggle to be kind to yourself, here’s a great place to start: An open letter to anyone currently struggling with their mental health. Equally, if you know someone suffering with depression or just simply want to understand more about it, this is a super helpful insight.

Other, frankly soul-warming, resources worth taking a peek at include:

Why we need to celebrate small act of ‘boring self-care’

Why surviving deserves more credit than we give it

How to be a friend to ourselves

Or, if you fancy self-care you can literally get your hands on, I could not praise this book enough. The Blurt Foundation has always spoken to me in the most raw, understanding way- and now they have a book! The reviews speak for themselves.

 

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And if, or when, you’re ready to put that self-care into motion: when you wake up tomorrow, do what I plan to do. Tell yourself just 4 words:

‘You are good enough.’

Because, you really are.

 

From ingredients for my happy and healthy 2018, to ingredients for this week’s bake:  Lemon & Elderflower Marble Cake 

 

 

With a showstopper of a cake comes a lot of work, so I baked over 2 days. On the first I made the lemon curd and the macaroons, and stored them until the following day, but it is completely up to you how you tackle it…

LEMON CURD
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 large egg
90g caster sugar 
55g unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
¾ tsp cornflour 

Lightly whisk the eggs in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat.

Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens – about 7-8 minutes. Next, lower the heat to its minimum setting and let the curd gently simmer for a further minute, continuing to whisk.

After that, remove it from the heat. Now pour the lemon curd into hot, sterilised jar(s)*, and seal while it is still hot. Allow to cool and set before using it later to sandwich your cake.

Any leftover curd will keep for several weeks, but it must be stored in a cool place.

* To sterislise jars, they should be washed in mild soapy water, rinsed and dried and heated in a medium oven for 5 minutes.

 

ROSEWATER & WHITE CHOCOLATE MACAROONS
Makes approx. 50

180g ground almonds 
175g icing Sugar  
4 egg whites 
½ tsp rosewater 
3 Drops pink food colouring 
50ml water 
160g caster sugar 
150g white chocolate 
75g double cream 

Mix the ground almonds in a food processor for 30 seconds and then sift to ensure they’re as fine as possible. Sift the icing sugar into the ground almonds.

Measure 60g of egg whites and stir in to the almonds and icing sugar along with the rose water extract and colouring to make a thick paste.

Place the water and the golden caster sugar into a small saucepan and heat. Bring to the boil and cook until the temperature reaches 118°C. Do not over stir or the syrup will crystallise. Remove from the heat.

Place the remaining egg whites in a bowl. Whisk into soft peaks, gradually adding the sugar syrup. Whisk on high until the mixture has thickened and stands in firm peaks. Fold the mixture into the ground almonds.

Heat oven to 170°C (fan 150°C, gas mark 3). Line three baking sheets with baking parchment and pipe your mixture in rounds roughly the size of a 10p piece (or, for a cleaner finish, I used a silicon macaroon mould). Leave for 30 minutes at room temperature before baking.

 

Bake for 10 minutes then cover with baking parchment and bake for a further 4-5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Place the cream and white chocolate in a small saucepan and heat until melted and smooth. Leave to cool and then use to sandwich your macaroons together.

Store in an airtight container.

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CAKE
250g butter
300g caster sugar
4 large eggs
zest of 2 lemons
350g (gluten-free) self raising flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp elderflower cordial 

DRIZZLE: 
juice of 3 lemons
200 g icing sugar
2 ½ tbsp elderflower cordial

BUTTERCREAM 
100g butter
250g icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp elderflower cordial 

Preheat your oven to 180C/ gas 4. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins.

Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each, and then lemon zest, beating again. Sift the flour and the salt together and then fold them into the mixture. Once combined, add the cordial and mix again.

Divide the batter between your tins as evenly as you can, and bake for around 45 minutes, or until the cakes are risen, golden, and firm.

While the cakes are baking, make the drizzle. Put the lemon juice and icing sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly, and then add the cordial.

Immediately after you take the cakes out of the oven, puncture all over with a skewer or a fork, and pour the syrup over the cakes while they are still warm. It will seem like there is too much liquid, but the cakes will eventually drink it up.

Once the cakes have cooled completely, remove them from the tins. To make the buttercream, beat the butter with an electric whisk until it’s completely soft. Sift the icing sugar over the butter, then add the cordial, and beat. Add the lemon zest and blend again.

Up-end one cake on a plate and spread lemon curd over the surface. Repeat with the buttercream (be careful at this point to leave enough buttercream to cover the cake with a thin layer of icing, known as a crumb coat), then top with the remaining cake. Now the cakes are sandwiched together, cover completely with the remaining buttercream.

 

MARBLE FONDANT  

Assortment of coloured royal icings  

-OR- 

1 pack of white royal icing 

Assortment of food colourings 

If you have bought white royal icing, tear into several chunks. To dye, use a few drops of your desired food colouring and knead.

Press pieces of coloured fondant icing/roll-out icing together. Knead briefly to blur the colours.

Dust your worksurface and rolling pin with icing sugar then roll out the icing.

Carefully transfer to your cake, smooth down the surface starting at the top then trim the base with a small sharp knife.

See how it’s done right here: How to make marble fondant

 

A great way to further decorate your cake while attaching your macaroons is with…

WHITE CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
100g unsalted butter
¼ tsp vanilla extract
250g/1lb 10oz icing sugar
50g/5½oz white chocolate, melted 

Cream the butter, vanilla and icing sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in the melted chocolate.

 

 

 

Decorate as desired; I used an edible glitter spray to add that little bit of extra sparkle!

 

Until next time,

Meg xoxo

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All you knead is love

Christmas is the perfect opportunity to let the people you love know how much you cherish them- I mean, that’s practically the whole plot of Love Actually right?! That’s why this year I decided to do just that, by sending Christmas cards to all those that have supported me this year. These are the people that listened and comforted me, stayed by my side through the tough times, and loved me unconditionally. It is never a bad thing to let people know you’re grateful for having them in your life for just being them, and them accepting you for you.

Recently I’ve felt angry at depression. I somewhat had a hold on it; I had battled with it long enough to understand it and recognise the warning signs of a dive in my mood. I had even managed to keep some things ‘mine’ in the sense that they weren’t affected too severely by my depression. But slowly and surely it managed to bully its way into those parts of my life too, resulting in breaks from studying, delaying of exams and ending of relationships. It is impossible to express how demoralising it is to feel like you have lost control over your own life in this way. Inside, I am furious. I’m furious that depression swoops in uninvited, this great big dark enigma dragging you down. That it isolates you, makes even the simplest of everyday tasks harder to do, turns you against yourself. That it makes you see yourself as a burden, that you’re not worthy of happiness, and at its worst it can even make you want to hurt yourself. It literally makes you you’re own worst enemy. And why does it think it can have that kind of control over you?

Luckily, there are ways to take back that control. The bully that is depression loses its power in a manner of ways. For instance, the fact that the stigma around mental health has been challenged- it is recognised as an illness that you can be prescribed medication for, just like anyone would for their ailments. Equally, talking to someone about how you are feeling-although initially it can be daunting- can feel like a massive weight off your shoulders, whether you talk to a counsellor, friend, family member, or a charity helpline, like the Infoline provided by Mind.

It is those charities that deserve massive appreciation. Mind dedicates it work to ensuring that everyone struggling with their mental health has the support and respect they need, and deserve. They do this by working towards improving services, raising awareness and promoting a greater understanding of mental health. Their relentless work has supported over 513,000 people across England and Wales, all the while relying on donations. So, in an effort to give back to such an incredible foundation I am doing some fundraising myself! I’m taking on Run Every Day January to start 2018 healthily and positively, and because no one should face a mental health problem alone.

How do I work to take back the control in my life? I’m on medication and meet with a counsellor each week, but most of all I’m lucky enough that I am able to surround myself with friends and family who understand without pointing it out, who treat me normally but recognise that everyday life can be a struggle sometimes. It is that kindness that deserves to be thanked.

So, all I can say is to be kind. Most of all to yourself. After all, a simple act of kindness creates an endless ripple.

Every week after counselling I choose to self-care through baking. This week I decided was bread week- so here is my particularly festive Pesto, Sundried Tomato & Feta Tear and Share Bread. Enjoy!

Pesto bread

Ingredients 

Bread Dough

  • 300 gr strong white flour
  • 180 gr water
  • 30 ml oil – I use rapeseed oil
  • 7 gr of fresh yeast
  • 6 gr of salt
  • Feta
  • Sundried Tomatoes
  • Mixed herbs

You can either use shop-bought pesto, or make your own.

Pesto

  • 50 gr of herbs chopped – I used mostly basil and some parsley
  • 50 gr of pine nuts toasted
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 50 gr grated parmesan cheese
  • 100 gr rapeseed or olive oil (approx)

 

Instructions

  1. First start with the bread dough.
  2. If you have a thermometer, weigh the water. This water should be around 24C. This will feel cooler than you would imagine.
  3. Weigh the flour out into the bowl of your stand mixer or a large bowl if you are making it by hand. Add the salt and yeast keeping them well apart from each other.
  4. Add the oil and water.
  5. If using the stand mixer, mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes, then increase to medium speed for a further 3 minutes. The dough should detach itself from the sides of the bowl. It will be smooth and elastic.
  6. If mixing by hand, use a dough scraper to mix all the ingredients together and knead until smooth.
  7. Cover the bowl with plastic and set aside for 45 minutes to one hour away from drafts.
  8. Next make the pesto. You can use a food processor to make this or chop everything as finely as possible.
  9. Lightly toast your nuts and set aside to cool.
  10. Roughly chop the nuts, herbs and garlic, grate the parmesan and add to the processor bowl. Add approximately half of the oil and pulse until smooth. It will be very thick. Add more oil until it becomes a spreading consistency. Set aside.
  11. Set your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  12. After 45 minutes to one hour, your dough will have risen and when prodded will be soft and any marks will disappear.
  13. Roll the dough out to about 1/2 cm thick into a long rectangle. You will be rolling up the long edge.
  14. Cut the edges of the dough to make the rectangle equal. Save these pieces to make the sun-dried tomato and feta ‘baubles’.
  15. Spread the pesto all over the dough.
  16. Roll the dough up tightly into a long sausage. Place in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour. This will ensure both the filling and dough are the same temperature and will be easier to cut.
  17. Roll the off cuts of dough and scatter with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled feta and mixed herbs. Roll into a sausage and place with the pesto dough in the fridge.
  18. With a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut slices that weigh 70 gr. You want them all to be the same weight to create an even tree. Set aside until you have cut all the pieces. Retain any underweight pieces to cut out a pot and star.
  19. Cut the tomato and feta dough into small pieces.
  20. Layout on silicon paper on a baking tin, with one in the first row, two in the second and so on. Leave space for the rolls to expand before baking as shown, then place a small ‘bauble’ between the pesto bread.
  21. Brush the dough with beaten egg and leave for 45 minutes before baking. You’ll note how they have expanded.
  22. Brush the dough a second time with the beaten egg before placing in the oven. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden. Check after 15 minutes. Gently remove the bread from the tray and place on a serving platter. These are best served just warm.

 

Recipe from: Savoury Tear and Share Rolls Recipe

Fundraising page:  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/meg-manganaro2017

 

 

 

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Hap-PIE-ness is a choice

With depression, you naturally go through ups and downs. I’d like to think that over time I’ve grasped how to cope with it, but it’s only over the last year or so that I developed anxiety too- and it’s this combination of the two that really blindsided me. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve felt I’ve struggled to function. It got to a point where I knew, and those close to me recognised, it was time to get some help again.

That first step can be really hard. It’s tough to open up and talk about such sensitive, personal issues. BUT (and it’s a big ‘but’), it can be so very liberating.

Fortunately, I’ve sought help before- from NHS and private counselling to hypnotherapy- so it was less of a hurdle for me to speak up this time. For me, I needed more than medication and self-help to get me by, I needed to talk it through and learn some coping mechanisms so I could feel I was leading a ‘normal’ life again. As I mentioned in my last post, the doctor put me in touch with Time to Talk, who in turn offered me group sessions on ‘Keeping the Balance’ while I was popped on a waiting list for independent treatment.

At first, I was apprehensive. Talking about yourself can be tricky at the best of times, but talking about your struggles with strangers? That’s a whole different board game, and not my typical cup of tea. So, despite admittedly dreading it a little (maybe a lot), I went to the sessions and learnt a lot, not only about depression and anxiety, but about myself in general- the effect my thoughts have on me, what steps I could take to get better, what support I need etc.

What I’ve realised is that the most important thing for me is feeling understood and accepted in my entirety. With mental health you can feel isolated, worthless and ashamed. It makes such a huge difference for someone to be open to your struggles, be a listening ear, talk things through but also continue to see you as YOU. Mental health isn’t a simple or straight-forward thing, but its human- surely we can all relate to that?

What I also realised was what a wonderful support I am fortunate enough to have. The day of my final group session I happened to appreciate the little things for the pretty big difference they made to my day. I woke up to a post-it note from Mum telling me to ‘go sparkle!’. I received a call from my brother during his lunch break, just wanting a catch-up. I had a message left on my phone from my Dad enthusiastically informing me that the cakes I baked him were- I quote- ‘THE BEST CAKES I’VE EVER EATEN’. High praise indeed. And if the best family in the world wasn’t enough (I’m biased, but they are great), I also have some invaluable friends who over the last few months have helped me more than they know with Facetimes, housing me for weekend visits, letters and even flowers- FLOWERS!!!- delivered to my house. I can’t thank them enough.

So, it’s a few weeks on now, and it’s still not the easiest of times, but it is far from the worst. I’ve taken some knocks, but I will work my way through them. After all, I’m not alone. I’ve got my own dream team behind me. As long as I’m looking after my health, I know I will be okay.

And it may have taken a little while but I’m ready. I’m ready to give it my all, give that anxiety the boot, send off those dreaded applications, be more productive with uni work, keep treasuring my truly wonderful friends and family- and importantly learn to treasure myself. Be the Meg I know I am and want to be.

Now, with my waffling it’s probably sur-PIES-ing this is a baking blog (you really thought I would pass up the opportunity to slip a pie pun in there?). To celebrate Pastry Week of the Great British Bake Off- whatever number week that was. Let’s face it, we’ve all forgotten- I wanted to make one of my Dad’s lunchtime favourites: pork pies. Now I’m not a pastry pro, so I went straight to the King of Baking for a recipe, Mr Paul Hollywood of course…

Pork Pies 2

Makes 12
Prep 1 hour
Bake 50 minutes

Ingredients

For the hot water crust pastry:

– 265g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

– 55g strong white bread flour

– 55g unsalted butter, cubed

– 65g lard

– 1 tsp salt

– 135ml boiling water

– 1 egg, lightly beaten for glazing
For the filling: 

– 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

– 380g pork loin, finely chopped

– 100g unsmoked back bacon, finely chopped

– Small bunch of parsley, leaves only, chopped

– Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

– 1 large or 2 small sheets of leaf gelatine

– ½ chicken stock cube

– 300ml boiling water

 

  1. Heat your oven to 190°C. Have a ready a 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. First make the pork filling. Put the onion, pork, bacon and parsley into a bowl with some salt and pepper and mix well. To check the seasoning of the mix, fry a tiny nugget of the mixture in a frying pan until cooked through. Leave to cool, then taste and adjust your mixture accordingly. Cover and set aside while you make the pastry.
  3. For the hot water crust, put your flours into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips. Heat the lard in a pan until melted. Dissolve the salt in the boiling water, then add to the melted lard. Pour this liquid into the flour. Mix with a spoon then, as soon as it is cool enough, tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and work together into a ball. Be careful that the dough is not too hot when you start to work it. Once the dough ball is formed, leave it to cool slightly. If it’s still lumpy, work it a minute or two longer. Divide the dough in two, making one piece slightly bigger than the other.
  4. Working as quickly as you can, roll out the larger piece of dough to about 3mm thickness; it should be glossy and still warm enough to touch. Using an 11-12cm cutter, cut out 12 rounds to line the muffin moulds. Put them into the moulds, shaping to fit the sides. The pastry should come slightly above the rim of each mould. Roll out the other piece of dough and use a 6-7cm cutter to cut out 12 lids. Lift away the trimmings and re-roll the pastry if you need to cut more, but only once. As it cools, it stiffens and becomes more brittle.
  5. Put a heaped tablespoonful of the filling into each pastry case. Use a chopstick or something similar to make a good-sized hole, about 5mm in diameter, in the middle of each pie lid. Brush the pastry case rims with beaten egg and place the lids on top. Crimp the edges together well to seal. Brush the pastry lids with beaten eggs. Bake the pies for 50 minutes until golden brown.
  6. While the pies are in the oven, soften the gelatine in cold water to cover for 5 minutes or so. In a jug, dissolve the chicken stock cube in the boiling water. Drain the gelatine and squeeze to remove the excess liquid, then add to the stock and stir in completely dissolved.
  7. When the pies come out of the oven, enlarge the holes in the top if necessary, then carefully pour in a little of the gelatine mixture. Leave the pies to cool and settle overnight before serving. Or once cold, chill for a couple hours.

 

Pork Pies 3

Feast your PIES on them!

 

These little lovelies received a great reception not only from my *biased* taste-testers (I.e. the family), but also customers at my Mum’s Deli. The recipe was honestly a godsend to follow, and although perhaps not the prettiest or PIES-winning (sorry for that one) pork pies ever, I felt I achieved a pretty damn tricky bake! So, if you fancy a bit of a challenge, and the opportunity to make A LOT of terrible puns, this is the bake for you.

 

Ciao for now xoxo

Visit my Instagram: megmanganaro

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Cutting yourself a slice of self-care

Last week we celebrated World Mental Health Day, and it was wonderful to see so many people sharing their experiences and encouraging others to talk. It certainly feels, at least to me, that gradually the stigma surrounding mental health is being broken. Its definitely seeing such compassion that helps me to lower my barriers-which I’m notoriously bad at doing- and speak about how I’m feeling. Its incredibly brave to talk to someone and to take that first step in getting yourself well again. After all, just like if you’d broken your leg, you’re unwell and need to recover- and it’s incredibly hard to do so alone.

I spent my World Mental Health Day baking some scrummy gluten-free millionaire’s shortbread. This is one of the ways I show myself some self-care. If you haven’t heard me talk about self-care then firstly I’m surprised, because I could and do talk about it until the cows come home. Basically its all about giving yourself a break. Sometimes our biggest bullies can be ourselves, but fun fact: we are all human, and the more we accept that about ourselves the happier we can be. So accept that humanness, and show yourself some positivity. The best part? Self-care is completely tailored to you. If you enjoy getting lost in a book, set aside some time to do so. Relax if you just need that time out- I find meditation really helps me. Push yourself! If there’s something you don’t particularly want to do but you know you’ll feel better if you just do it, push yourself to do so. It could be seeing friends you haven’t met up with in a while, or maybe the more boring stuff of getting the housework done, or doing that work you’ve been putting off. You’ll thank yourself later. Nothing is as scary as you make it, even if that anxiety is telling you it is.

But you know what, I don’t want to preach to you. I can’t say that I’ve been there in that dark place and I got through it. Sure I have done that in the past, been at my worst and fought back on top. Depression doesn’t have to be a constant thing; it can come in waves, peaks and troughs, it can lurk in the shadows and rear its ugly head whenever it pleases. So, I can’t say right now to you that I’ve been in a dark place and I’m okay now, because I’m not okay. Right now, I’m in that dark place, right in the rut of it. I can’t preach about self-care, because I regularly ignore it or lose sight of it, or even do the opposite of it: I self-criticize; I isolate myself; I break.

I’m trying to change that though, to break those bad habits and show myself the same compassion I’d show others in my condition. That’s why a couple of months ago I took my first step in doing so and got in touch with Time to Talk. Since then I’ve completed a three-week workshop aimed at learning more about your negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings. More than anything, being in that group setting has made me realise how important it is to be open. The people around you love you, and want you to be well, so don’t be afraid to tell them something you think might upset them. They will honestly be happier that you’re sharing it, and will understand its part of you getting yourself better.

Anyway, this is a baking blog and with that should be some baking! So if taking some time to bake or eating your well earned treats sounds right up your self-care street, then try my millionaire’s shortbread…

For the shortbread:


200g gluten-free plain flour

100g rice flour

100g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp fine salt

200g butter, cut into pieces

 

For the caramel:

200g granulated sugar

90g salted butter, room temperature and cut into 6 pieces

120ml heavy cream

1 tsp salt

 

For the topping:

200g dark chocolate

 

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark four, and grease a 20x20cm tin.

 

First, make the shortbread…

Put the flours into a bowl with the sugar and salt and mix well, then cut in the butter and rub together. Press to form a dough. Spread flour over a clean surface and roll out the dough until roughly the same size as the tin. Press into the tin, prick all over with a fork and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden and crisp. Allow to cool.

 

Then, the caramel…

Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. A whisk helps if you find the butter is separating from the sugar. Very slowly, drizzle in the heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down. Pour over the shortbread and smooth with a palette knife. Leave to set.

 

To finish, the topping…

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave, and spread evenly over the set caramel. Leave until solid, then turn out and cut into squares.

 

The perfect treat with your cuppa tea!

 

Lastly for this week, I want to share with you some goals I’m keeping in mind as I continue to my journey to good mental health…

1) Continue being open and accept help from loved-ones

2) Continue exercising self-love

3) Push myself, without rushing myself back to health

 

Happy self-care! See you next time xoxo

 

 

 

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Oh (ginger) snap!

If you can cast your mind back to Week 2 of Great British Bake Off, you’ll remember some contestants triumphing while others crumbled over biscuit week. Usually I am very much in the latter camp, biscuits are not my forte. But as I said in my last post, this project is very much trying to break out of the habit of being a flake because, other than being a delightful choccy bar, flake-life isn’t for me. So this week, it was out with the flakes and time to battle with biscuits…

Despite my empty threats I would ‘boycott Bake Off’ after its switch to Channel 4, they were just that- empty threats. Week 2’s episode again did not disappoint. Sandi and Noel are still giving it a good old (viennese) whirl, the bakers are some of the best to have graced the tent with their wow-worthy showstoppers, and if at 71 I’m still shaking my stuff and sippin’ on cocktails like Flo, I’ll be a very happy woman indeed.

Now, there was NO way I was even going to attempt to compete with the board game showstopper- I mean how, HOW, did Steven create a whole chess board in that time? I genuinely need an explanation. So, signature bake it was, and I plumped for these gorgeous ginger creams- a favourite of my smart cookie of a mother who has recently opened her very own cafe on wheels (and doing one hell of a job!)

IMG_8330

Ingredients
225g self-raising flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 level tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp cinnamon
100g soft brown sugar
125g butter
100g golden syrup

For the filling
125g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1 ball stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
1 tsp stem ginger syrup from the jar

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and cinnamon. Stir in the sugar.
Heat the 125g butter and golden syrup in a pan until melted and just warm, but not hot. Add to the flour. Stir to make a stiff dough.
Put heaped teaspoons of the mixture on the baking trays, leaving plenty of space for them to spread out. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Leave the biscuits to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 At this point… If the biscuits aren’t as uniform as you’d like, use a cookie cutter (or I used the rim of a glass) to make them more circular
Just before serving, mix the icing sugar with the unsalted butter and the stem ginger and syrup. Use to sandwich the biscuits together. Leave to set.

Or… dip half in melted dark chocolate- leave to set.

The reviews I’ve heard from mother hen is that the biscuits are selling like hot cakes (well, biscuits) at the cafe. So, although admittedly I approached biscuit week gingerly, it wasn’t the battle I expected at all. Instead, with the help of a super-simple Asda recipe, it was really quite…

nice biccy

 

For news and updates on the cafe, visit Deli In The Garden on Instagram, Twitter and soon Facebook!!

See you next week xoxo

Recipe: Asda Good Living

Instagram: MegManganaro

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