Mixtape: July


July Mixtape · via Spotify

I was just thinking the other day that I hadn't been listening to much music this month, but when I went to write up this post I realised that most of the stuff in this mixtape is actually new stuff (well, new to me anyway). I think my favourite discovery of the month is The White Buffalo, who I first heard (rather embarrassingly) on the soundtrack for Safe Haven. Perfect blend of acoustic folksy rock, which is pretty much my favourite genre.

I also have a little bit of a soft spot for Sleeping At Last's cover of 500 Miles after hearing it in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. The ceremony itself was completely daft, a wee bit embarrassing but strangely entertaining and it couldn't have been more Scottish in spirit even if it tried. I already love the Scottish Ballet so was pleasantly surprised to see them appear, accompanied by the beautiful arrangement of 500 Miles (raaaather different from the original!).

Royal Blood · Figure It Out
Delta Rae · Bottom of the River
Hard Girls · 996 Tears
Broken Records · I Won't Leave You in the Dark
The White Buffalo · Sleepy Little Town
James IV · Ammunition
JAWS · Be Slowly
Blondie · Dreaming
Blue Rose Code · Come the Springtime
Sleeping At Last · I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
Listen to "July" here.

What have you been listening to this month?

Gillian x

Edinburgh Fringe Picks 2014: Music & Theatre


With the Fringe now just days away, I thought it was high time I got round to writing up part two of this series (see part one Edinburgh Fringe Picks 2014: Comedy here). I must admit, the majority of Fringe shows I go to are usually comedy ones, but there are loads of great music and theatre shows on too and I'm determined to make it through as much of my list as possible this year.

Hot Dub Time Machine - Underbelly, Bristo Square, 12.30am
Hot Dub Time Machine has become a little bit legendary at the Fringe. I went to it last year and it was SO GOOD. Well, I think it was really good - I can't remember most of the night, which is usually a good sign. The basic idea is that the DJ plays a song from each year, starting in 1954 and going all the way up to present day. Lots of fun and lots of dancing. Naturally, my favourite part was the 1980s section.

King Creosote - The Queen's Hall, 8pm
I always forget there are "proper" gigs on as part of the Fringe, but alas there are. One this year which I'd love to go to is King Creosote, whose new album, From Scotland With Love, is part of a documentary of the same name. The film weaves Scottish archive film footage with King Creosote compositions – and vice versa.

The Bunker Trilogy: Macbeth - C Nova, 10pm
The First World War is pretty much my specialist subject, and Macbeth is by far my favourite Shakespeare play, so I love the sound of The Bunker Trilogy: Macbeth. The play re-imagines the classic tale in the setting of the trenches of the Great War. The trilogy also includes reworkings of Agamemnon and Morgana.

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho - Assembly George Square Gardens, 9.10pm
The idea of Margaret Thatcher getting lost in Soho and accidentally becoming a cabaret superstar makes me laugh, and Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho sounds like it will be a wonderfully over-the-top cabaret show. Described as a "camp odyssey about gay rights, the 80s and disco", I'd expect nothing less from the Fringe!

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Pleasance Courtyard, 4.30pm
As a teenager, this used to be one of my favourite books (and films). I'm not entirely sure how Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will work as a play, but I'm very intrigued to find out. If you're not familiar with the story already, Fear & Loathing follows writer Hunter S. Thompson on a legendary drug-fueled journey through Las Vegas to "the heart of the American Dream".

Sanitise - Underbelly, Cowgate, 10pm
My pal Lianne is on the production team for Sanitise, but even if she wasn't I'm sure I'd be heading along to this show anyway as it sounds really interesting. Set in a bathroom, the play follows one woman as she questions what it means to be clean and what it means to be dirty. Rather than being a traditional play, Sanitise combines physical theatre, dance, music and even illustrations! The Sanitise team are also doing a wee bit of crowdfunding to make the show better than ever, and you can donate here.

The Addams Family - Assembly Hall, 11am
Who doesn't love the Addams Family? I certainly love a bit of kitsch gothiness, so The Addams Family musical sounds right up my street. Wednesday is behaving like a "demented Disney princess" and the Addams clan are on a musical mission to get her feeling like her usual macabre self again.

Alternotives a Cappella - C Venues, 4.40pm
If you're a fan of Pitch Perfect and Glee and the likes, you'll love Alternotives a Cappella. The award-winning a cappella group are back for their fifth year at the Fringe with mash-ups galore and unique arrangements of everything from 90s classics to indie rock and jazz to top 40 hits.

More Fun Stuff
Broken Records · Snakes! The Musical · Ben Hart: The Vanishing Boy · The Anatomy of Murder

Sunday Summary #135


1.Frisky froyo at the Google City Experts event 2.Mary's Milk Bar 3.Indoor Picnic Party 4.Mexican night 5.Pancakes for breakfast 6.Train selfie 7.Vodka watermelon slushies 8.Gin tasting at 56 North

Hi guuyyysss. It seems this week has been another busy one, but it has all been pretty fun so I can't complain. On Thursday I went along to my very first Google City Experts event and it was so good. An indoor picnic party held in the Signet Library sounds pretty great, right? As well as little picnic boxes (shaped like boomboxes!) filled with sandwiches and snacks, we also had fancy sodas from Cry Baby Soda, macarons from Madamoiselle Macaron and froyo from Frisky. Frisky is one of my fave Edinburgh eateries, so I was very excited to be able to have a go at using the froyo machine to serve my own dessert!

On Friday evening I headed through to Glasgow for my pal Gill's leaving night as she's moving down to London very soon. Weep! Before getting the train, Laura and I stopped off at Candy Bar for some food (and also M&S for some cocktails in a can...). Thankfully we didn't have any wine this time so didn't wake up with sore heads on Saturday morning. Saturday in general was a pretty lazy day, but we did go for a mooch around the Grassmarket and had some gelato from Mary's Milk Bar. We also bought a (very heavy) watermelon from the market there so we could make homemade watermelon cocktails in the evening. Let's just say they were VERY boozy!

I won a competition with Gloworm Drinks a couple of weeks ago for a gin masterclass at 56 North, so this morning I headed along with Laura, Terri and Kirsty to sample rather a lot of gin. Not my usual Sunday morning routine! I don't really know very much about gin at all, so it was great to learn a bit about different ones and which mixers and garnishes worked best with each gin.

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Review: MAC Crosswires Lipstick


mac crosswires lipstick review 2
mac crosswires lipstick review 3
mac crosswires lipstick review 4

Compared to most bloggers, my MAC lipstick "collection" is rather small at, erm, four lipsticks. Small, but perfectly formed I'd say. My latest addition, Crosswires, is possibly my favourite of the whole bunch. It's a gorgeous coral-pink colour which is perfect for summer, and it's easy to wear both day and night too.

MAC Crosswires is a Cremesheen formula, which means it's creamy without being too glossy and opaque without being too matte. It's not the longest lasting lipstick in the world, but as Cremesheen style forumlas go it's not bad at all. You'll get a good couple of hours wear out of Crosswires before needing to reapply, and it fades pretty evenly which is useful if you can't be bothered checking yourself out in the mirror every hour or two.

I love the colour of Crosswires; it's wearable for everyday use, but it's also bright enough to stand out with heavier night-time makeup. For day wear, I'll usually apply plenty of lip balm beforehand then dot on Crosswires over the top for a light wash of colour, and at night I just go straight from the bullet to build up opaque colour. On my ghostly skin, Crosswires looks like quite a pink shade, but (from Googling swatches) it seems to suit a whole range of skintones and on some people it looks more orange/coral.

If you're looking for an easy to wear colour with a nice finish, I'd definitely recommend trying MAC Crosswires.

What's your favourite MAC lipstick shade?

Gillian x

Toast of the Town: Photography Workshop


glasgow photography workshop 3
glasgow photography workshop 10
glasgow photography workshop 9
glasgow photography workshop 5
glasgow photography workshop 7
glasgow photography workshop 4

glasgow photography workshop 2
glasgow photography workshop 1
glasgow photography workshop 8

A couple of weekends ago, I caught an early train through to Glasgow with Laura and Jade for a photography workshop with Dreghorn Photography. The Toast of the Town campaign hosted by Millenium Hotel Glasgow aimed to celebrate Glasgow in the run up to the Commonwealth Games, as well as the hotel's recent refurbishment. We spent the morning learning some of the basics about how to use our cameras (no automatic mode allowed!) and trying out a few easy exercises to get to grips with things like shutter speed, focus and ISO. We then headed downstairs to the hotel's Brasserie for lunch, and we tucked into a buffet of venison hot dogs, haggis bonbons, beef burgers and lots more. Yum!

After lunch, we then headed outside with Stuart and Hamish from Dreghorn Photography to take some photos around Glasgow city centre. We had a wander round George Square, Buchanan Street and Royal Exchange Square and happily snapped away using some of the techniques we'd learned earlier in the day. I think I'm getting pretty good at taking photos of things that don't move (like product photos for my blog), but taking photos out and about is definitely something I want to do more of. In the last 6 months or so I've really stepped away from using any of the automatic settings on my camera (it's a Lumix G3 if you were wondering!) but even though I almost always use manual now, I'm still learning lots about the best settings to use for different types of photographs. If you're based near Glasgow and fancy making the most of your camera too, Dreghorn Photography offer lots of different photography courses covering the basics right up to advanced techniques.

I had a great day improving my photography skills and snapping away in Glasgow, which was looking lovely in the run up to the Commonwealth Games. Big thanks to Dreghorn Photography for their expert guidance, Millenium Hotels for hosting us (you can read more about the day in their blog post), and Joe Blogs Blogger Network for organising it all!

Have you got any top photography tips?

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #134


1.BBQ platter at The Blackbird 2.Burgers at Burger 3.Topshop nail polish rainbow 4.Rainy Edinburgh 5.Costa breakfast 6.Misty

This feels like it's been a really busy week, but I actually haven't done very much at all. I've mostly just been busy with work and flat stuff. Laura is all moved in now and we've spent the week building furniture (who knew flatpack dining chairs were SO DIFFICULT to make?), decorating, tidying and throwing out several binbags worth of stuff I've been hoarding for the past 5 years. Oops.

Yesterday I headed to Costa to meet up with a few blogger pals and take part in Lynsey's focus group for her dissertation. The discussion was about blogging and social media in relation to beauty purchases... so basically just the same as a normal chat for us! If you've got a spare 5 minutes, you can help out by filling in Lynsey's online survey here. After the focus group (with added croissants of course) and a chat, Laura and I headed off for a wee mooch around town. We spent ages in Oliver Bonas cooing over their beautiful homewares, then headed to Marks and Spencer to stock up on picnic food and fancy bread for a lazy Saturday evening lounging on the sofa. I had intended on going clothes and makeup shopping, but the horrible misty/rainy weather put paid to that so we went straight home to eat our food. Typical.

Last Sunday evening we headed to The Blackbird for some post-moving celebratory drinks (and food, of course), and this Sunday we're planning on doing the same. Looks like this might become a weekly routine?! Hopefully the sun will reappear so we can sit out in the beer garden.

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Edinburgh Fringe Picks 2014: Comedy


I can hardly believe it's nearly Festival time already, but August is just a couple of weeks away and soon the madness will descend again. I've tried to be organised this year and pick out as many things I want to see as possible, so I thought I may as well turn this into a mini series of blog posts to share my picks with you too. If you're heading to the Fringe, hopefully this will give you some ideas (but don't blame me if some of them are rubbish, obviously I haven't seen any of them yet!). Let's kick things off with some comedy.

The Axis of Awesome: Viva La Vida Loca Las Vegas - Gilded Balloon, 9pm
I would looovveeee to see Flight of the Conchords at the Fringe, but failing that Axis of Awesome are also pretty great. This Australian comedy music trio certainly know how to write a good pop parody song and their shows are always full of original tunes that will make you laugh. I saw them a couple of years ago and loved the show (which included probably their most famous song, 4 Chords), and this year they're back with lots of new songs.

Dan Clark: Me, My Selfie and I - Pleasance Dome, 8.20pm
I used to be a huge fan of How Not To Live Your Life, but had entirely forgotten about its existence until I spotted Dan Clark whilst scrolling through the Fringe website. I think I'll have to give it a rewatch to remind myself of Dan's quirky style of humour before heading along to see this.

One Man Breaking Bad - The Famous Spiegeltent, 7pm
If you know me at all, you'll know Breaking Bad is my favourite. So a 60-minute comedy version of this in the form of Miles Allen's One Man Breaking Bad sounds right up my street. This is definitely top of this year's must-watch list for me.

Frankenstein: UnBolted - Just the Tonic at The Caves, 7.25pm
A couple of years ago I saw potentially my favourite ever Fringe show (high praise indeed), Last Chance Saloon's Dracula: Sex, Sucking and Stardom. It was a tiny show with three actors playing all the parts in one of my favourite stories, Dracula, but with plenty of comedy and musical numbers to the tune of Lady Gaga and Copacabana. AMAZING. I was very excited to see that they're back this year with another gothic tale, Frankenstein: UnBolted which is filled with "grotesquely twisted pop songs, an assortment of ridiculous characters and a nod to the golden age of classic British comedy".

BJ Novak: One More Thing - Assembly George Square Studios, 9.10pm
Now, the idea of a spoken word dramatic reading wouldn't normally be top of my to-do list, but when it's BJ Novak doing the reading I'm sure I can make an exception. Best known as Ryan from The Office, Novak's Fringe show this year is a series of comedy stories taken from his new book, One More Thing.

Miranda Sings - Venue150 @ EICC, 6.30pm
If you're an avid Youtube watcher, you'll have probably already heard of Miranda Sings. Now Youtube and real life collide in Miranda's bizarre and hilarious stand up show which combines comedy, hit songs, magic tricks and dramatic readings of hate mail. Fun.

Thünderbards: Seconds - Pleasance Courtyard, 4.45pm
I know absolutely nothing about Thünderbards, but the description of their time travelling sketch show made me think of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, which in turn makes me think that this show might also be excellent. Party on, dudes.

More Fun Stuff
Paul Foot: Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major · Chris Ramsey: The Most Dangerous Man On Saturday Morning Television · Winter Is Coming · The Room · Simon Amstell Tour Previews · Frisky and Mannish: Just Too Much · Boxman

What's on your Fringe list this year? Keep your eyes peeled for my music and theatre picks soon!

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #133


1.New shoes 2.Train dinner 3.Sunny Edinburgh 4.Saturday evening drinks

Somehow it's Sunday again already, where has this week disappeared to? This seems to have been quite a busy week and I'm definitely in need of a day lounging around the flat today. It's moving day today (I'm not moving anywhere, Laura is moving in with me HIYYAAAA) so after lots of tidying, building furniture, moving stuff and trying to find new homes for all our belongings, I think we're definitely going to need to treat ourselves to a wee takeaway this evening.

On Thursday I headed through to Glasgow with Lynne for an evening of karaoke at Lucky Voice to celebrate Roisin's birthday. Now, usually when you go to karaoke everyone is an equally terrible singer and you can all laugh at how awful you are. But, no, everyone was an amazing singer this time - apart from me of course! All of Roisin's pals put me to shame with their excellent singing, but never mind I still got sing a bit of Bonnie Tyler and Bryan Adams and that (plus cocktails) is more than enough to keep me happy. You can see a little bit more of the evening in Lynne's vlog.

Saturday morning saw another trip to Glasgow, this time for a photography workshop with Dreghorn Photography, organised by Joe Blogs. I'll be doing a full post on this soon sharing some of my (hopefully amazing new and improved) photos from the day. We started the morning by learning some basic tips and how to set up our cameras, then (after some lunch downstairs in the Millennium Hotel) in the afternoon we went out and about around George Square and Buchanan Street to put our knowledge into practice. It was great to pick up some tips, and lovely to meet some new bloggers too!

After the photography workshop, Laura and I did a wee bit of shopping (or in my case just browsing) before heading for some dinner. We were getting pretty tired by this point so just went into more or less the first place we saw, which happened to be Di Maggio's - unfortunately I can't say I was very impressed with the food (I ordered nachos and swear it was made with cheese sauce from mac & cheese with a side of whipped cream instead of soured cream...) but like the old ladies we are, we were definitely grateful for a seat after a busy day! We then headed along to Horton's for a drink and catch up with Roisin, Lynsey and Nikki (and briefly Gill!) before catching the train back to Edinburgh.

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

A Trip to the Highlands


trip to the highlands 8
trip to the highlands 9
trip to the highlands 16
trip to the highlands 7
trip to the highlands 15
trip to the highlands 10
trip to the highlands 12
trip to the highlands 4
trip to the highlands 14
trip to the highlands 11
trip to the highlands 1

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll probably have noticed my weekend scenery was a bit different than usual. I caught the train up to Aviemore on Friday afternoon to spend a few days with the family, celebrating my Granda's 80th birthday. I'll try to keep this post short and sweet, and let the photos (and vlog) do the talking!

My grandparents, brother and I were staying at The Old Minister's House B&B just outside Aviemore. The B&B itself was lovely, and I rather enjoyed having French toast and bacon for breakfast every morning, but the customer service from the owner was a bit lacking. Never mind, we spent most of the time outside anyway! Mum and Dad were staying down the road at Glenmore Campsite with the dogs which is perfectly located for walks through the woods and spending sunny afternoons by Loch Morlich. Despite a few rain showers here and there, we were really lucky with the weather (I, of course, managed to get sunburnt and midge-bitten - JOY) and even managed to squeeze in two barbecues over the weekend.

On the Friday evening we went for dinner at One Pot Borrowed, which is a sort of pop-up restaurant in what is usually (in the daytime) the Rothiemurchus Shop & Cafe. The food was excellent, I would definitely recommend it if you so happen to be looking for somewhere for a nice meal near Aviemore! We had another meal out on Sunday night and this time tried the Rowan Tree Country Hotel which was also really nice.

I always love a wee trip to Glenmore; it was one of our annual holiday spots when I was a child, and it has remained a firm favourite ever since. There's nothing quite like dipping your toes in Loch Morlich on a scorcher of a summer afternoon, then watching the sun set over the Cairngorms. Beaut.

Gillian x

The Filling Station


the filling station edinburgh 5
the filling station edinburgh 6
the filling station edinburgh 4
the filling station edinburgh 3
the filling station edinburgh 2
the filling station edinburgh 1
A couple of weeks ago (actually, I think it was about a month - always so behind on my blog to-do list!) I headed along to the Filling Station in the Omni Centre for a little cocktail masterclass, hosted by expert mixologist Andy Pearson of Intoxicology and Paul Harper from Heart Radio. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a sharing platter of Filling Station BBQ favourites and a cocktail. I opted for a Pear & Vanilla Fizz, a prosecco, pear and vanilla vodka mix, which was lovely - although I was rather jealous of the huge daquiris and mojitos some of the other ladies opted for!

After finishing our food and drinks, we all headed over to the bar to watch Andy work his magic and learn more about the art of cocktail making. A few of the bloggers had a go at helping to make some of the Filling Station's classic drinks from their cocktail menu, like the Red Berry Cheesecake, Whisky Sour and Mojito. After the cocktails had been sampled (just to make sure they weren't poisonous, right?), we were then tasked with coming up with our own concoction. We all shouted out some ingredients and Andy (sensibly) chose a few that would work well together. And so, the "Edinburgh Handbag" was born! Now, I would be lying if I told you what was in it because I really can't remember... but I think it was a mixture of Absolut Peach, Cointreau, raspberries and probably some other stuff. Next time you're at the Filling Station ask for an Edinburgh Handbag as it was pretty tasty, whatever was in it! (P.S. not my fault if they stare at you blankly and tell you that it's not a real thing).

I quite often make my own cocktails at home, but usually stick to easy ones which require minimal ingredients and equipment. It was great to pick up some easy tips and techniques to try out myself - although, let's be honest, getting a mixologist to make them for you is always better! I finished off the evening with one of the Mango Daiquiris I'd been eyeing up earlier and it didn't disappoint. Perfect summer cocktail!

Then, a couple of weeks later, we were invited back to the re-opening of the Filling Station's Royal Mile branch. We were treated to a 3 course meal (although, I was so stuffed I only managed 2 and a half - opted for a milkshake instead of dessert!) and some drinks to celebrate the revamp and help raise some money for CHAS. We shared the same BBQ platter that we'd had last time, and then for my main course I opted for the Lux Burger which was topped with rocket, Emmental cheese, garlic mayo, bacon, red onion, sunblushed tomatoes and pickle. If I'm completely honest, the food was okay but nothing amazing; I've definitely had better burgers, although I did like the combination of flavours that went with it. There was a live band playing for the opening night which was a nice touch, but they were SO LOUD you couldn't even hear what the person next to you was saying. I know they won't be there all the time, but loud music in restaurants is one of my pet hates (yes, I am old) and it really spoilt the atmosphere of the evening. Maybe if it wasn't a super busy opening night, the Royal Mile restaurant would have a nicer atmosphere but in general I much preferred the more relaxed, brighter and more open feel of the Omni Centre branch.

Have you been to the Filling Station before?

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #132


1.En route to Aviemore 2.Train scenery 3.The Old Minister's Housse 4.French toast for breakfast 5.The Cairngorms 6.The Cairngorms and Loch Morlich from a slightly different angle

This week's Sunday Summary is coming to you straight from the Highlands...hiya!! I got the train up to Aviemore on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with my family in order to celebrate my Granda's birthday. So far, our weekend has mostly just involved food and wine, but that is my favourite kind of weekend!

Yesterday, we all went on a walk through the woods with the dogs and I spent most of the time snapping away on my camera. And also videoing - potential vlog?! After that we had a relaxed afternoon in the sunshine (I am lobster red, seriously, I don't think I could be any more vampiric even if I tried) before a barbecue in the early evening. You really can't beat some Highland beef and venison, yuuummm! Mother dearest had course after course ready for the barbecue, so of course I felt obliged to sit and eat it all whilst sipping on my wine - it's a hard life!

Today is my Granda's actual birthday so we're going out for a meal tonight, but before that I'm sure we will be puddling around down by Loch Morlich and taking the dogs for walks through the woods. I've just had breakfast at the B&B (The Old Minister's House) and am having a little lounge in my room at the moment, but I suppose I better go get ready soon!

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

DIY Tinted Moisturiser


diy tinted moisturiser 3
diy tinted moisturiser 4
diy tinted moisturiser 2
diy tinted moisturiser 1
I'm not sure if I'm really allowed to call this a "DIY", it's more like a "oh hey, take three products you already own and put them on your face at the same time". It's a pretty basic idea, but not something I had thought about trying until recently. So, now I bring my wisdom to you. You're welcome.

First, you'll need a moisturiser. I've just used my regular daily moisturiser, which at the moment is the Una Brennan Rose Hydrate Radiance Day Cream. This is especially good for making DIY tinted moisturiser as it has SPF in it already, plus it comes in a squeezy tube which makes it easier to dispense the right amount. Now it's time to add foundation. I still swear by my all-time favourite, Estee Lauder Double Wear Light. As you're using extra moisturiser, you'll want to choose a foundation that's long-lasting and semi-matte so Double Wear Light is perfect for this. The final step is to add a wee bit of highlighter to get that summery glow, and I love NARS Orgasm Illuminator.

Give everything a good mix together on the back of your hand (I usually use the end of a pair of tweezers - very technical equipment here - but you could use a brush, a cotton bud, or just your finger) and apply it to your face. I then blend it in with the Real Techniques Buffing Brush, top up with concealer where needed, and I'm good to go. The benefit of creating your own tinted moisturiser is threefold (hey, am I selling it to you here?). Firstly, you don't need to go spend £20 on a new base just for the few short weeks of summer we seem to get. Secondly, you know it'll be a perfect colour match as you're using a foundation that already suits you. If you've got a bit of a tan, this is the perfect opportunity to get some use of a foundation that's a teeeeny bit too dark for you. And thirdly, you can customise the ratio of moisturiser to foundation to highlighter depending on what you need that day. Usually I do equal amounts of moisturiser and foundation with a little squeeze of highlighter, but if I'm having a rubbish skin day I'll just up the foundation slightly.

Have you tried mixing your own DIY tinted moisturiser?

Gillian x

Recipe: Rhubarb & Custard Muffins


rhubarb and custard muffins recipe degustabox 3
rhubarb and custard muffins recipe degustabox 2
rhubarb and custard muffins recipe degustabox 5
rhubarb and custard muffins recipe degustabox 1
Okay, so these aren't the most photogenic things I've ever baked, but they taste pretty good so that makes up for it right? When this month's Degustabox* arrived on my doorstep, one of the first things that caught my eye was the Dr Oetker Madagascan Vanilla Grinder. This is such a nifty idea for a product as it means you get the taste of real vanilla without having to faff around with vanilla pods, and you don't waste any as you can just use as much as you need rather than a whole pod. I decided I wanted to make some creamy vanilla custard with this, and of course the best accompaniment for that is rhubarb! After a little bit of Googling and amalgamating a couple of recipes, I decided to try my hand at rhubarb and custard muffins.

You Will Need (Makes Approx 10 Small Muffins):
For the muffins:
200g rhubarb
75g brown sugar
35ml vegetable oil
150ml soured cream
1 egg
150g self raising flour

For the custard:
150ml milk
1 egg (yolk only)
1-2 tablespoons caster sugar
Vanilla, to taste (I used about 15 turns of the Dr Oetker Madagascan Vanilla Grinder)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Chop the rhubarb into pieces about 2-3cm long and place on a baking tray. Sprinkle over a couple of spoonfuls of the brown sugar and then mix together to coat the rhubarb. Roast in the oven for around 15-20 until the rhubarb has softened but still keeps its shape.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the rest of the brown sugar, oil and egg, then stir in the flour and soured cream. Once the rhubarb has finished roasting, gently mix that in too.
3. Add the mixture to paper cases in a muffin/cupcake tin and bake for around 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, make your custard by gently heating the milk and vanilla together in a pan over a low heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar.
5. One the milk is almost at boiling point, pour it into the bowl with the egg and sugar and whisk to quickly mix it all together.
6. Return the mixture to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens. Do this over a very low heat - don't be tempted to turn it up otherwise you'll end up with scrambled eggs! It should take around 5 minutes of continuous stirring for the custard to thicken. Then remove from the heat and decant into a bowl or jug.
7. Once you're ready to serve the muffins, make a small cut in the top of each one and add in a couple of spoonfuls of the custard.

Yum! These didn't rise quite as much as I'd have liked (thanks mostly to my terrible oven, I suspect) but they taste great and are so moissssst. They're also (relatively) healthy as they've got no butter and not too much sugar in them. This, paired with the soured cream and the tartness of the rhubarb, stops them from being too sweet so the vanilla custard adds the perfect amount of sweetness without making them too sickly.

Are you a fan of rhubarb and custard?

Gillian x