North Northamptonshire based food blogger who is obsessed with good food and proper cooking. I'm part of the Midlands Blogging team for the BBC Good Food Shows. This is where I share my own recipes and carry out recipe development and product reviews for brands, including food and wines. Please contact me using the link below.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Aldi Wine Review

There's nothing better than being sent a bottle of wine, other than being sent 4 bottles of wine that is! Thanks to Aldi's PR company, that's exactly what I was sent; two bottles of red and two of white to review.

Aldi has long been a 'go to' place to buy our wine and I know several of our friends rate their wines highly too, so it was lovely to be sent 4 different ones to try.
The first to be opened was the Bordeaux Supérieur 2011 at £4.99 a bottle. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes from the Bordeaux region of France.  Hubby is the red wine drinker in the house and found this to be both richly fruity and well rounded; a perfect accompaniment to a roast beef dinner, perhaps. Though it's equally enjoyable after a long day at work.  The tasting notes detail this wine as having the aroma of raspberry & blackberry with spicy notes and a tannin structure. 
The white I chose to open first was the Chardonnay from the Limestone Coast of South Australia at £5.99 a bottle. This was a 2013 What Food/What Wine winner that they matched with a Chicken Korma. In my opinion, it's certainly a light, crisp and well balanced wine which is very drinkable when nicely chilled, with your feet up & relaxing after a day in the office. What comes across initially from this wine are the flowery scents followed by a light fruity taste. The tasting notes actually tell you that these come from honeysuckle, white peach and pineapple.
It's my birthday this Sunday, so, as I'm sure you can imagine, a glass or two will be enjoyed with family and friends and a toast raised to the generosity of Aldi and their PR company who kindly sent me these wines to review.  I'll let you know how we find the Rioja at £6.29 and the Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier at £5.99.

These wines were sent to me free of charge by Clarion Communications; the PR company for ALDI UK. I was under no obligation to provide a favourable review of the products that I was sent. The opinions stated are those of myself and my husband.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce

A favourite in our house that I've been making since my son was a baby 18 years ago. Over the years I've changed it slightly and added a little chilli to make it for a more grown up palette, but feel free to exclude the chilli (or even add a little more if you prefer).

500g Minced beef
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1tsp ground Garlic
1tsp dried Oregano
1tsp dried Mixed Herbs
1tsp Chilli powder
50g Breadcrumbs
1 Egg
2tbs Rapeseed oil
1 Onion, roughly chopped
540g Passata sauce
2tbs Tomato purée
1tbs Balsamic vinegar
1tsp dried Oregano
1tsp dried Mixed Herbs
1tsp Sugar

1. In a blender, place your onion, Passata, tomato purée, balsamic vinegar, herbs & sugar.
2. Blitz all these together until smooth (alternatively you can put your sauce ingredients straight into your saucepan and use a stick blender).
3. Pour into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cover with the lid whilst you make your meatballs.

4. In a large bowl, place your minced beef, onion, garlic, herbs, chilli, breadcrumbs and egg.

5. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
6. Form small balls (you should be able to get 30-40 out of this mixture).  I generally use a 15ml (tbs) measuring spoon to portion my mixture out before rolling them into balls and setting to one side.

7. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry your meatballs in batches of 8-10 until browned all over.  Don't add too many into the pan or they'll steam rather than brown.

8. Tip your browned meatballs into the sauce and gently shake the pan to submerge them.
9. Continue to fry the batches of meatballs until they're all browned and you've transferred them all into the sauce.
10. Simmer the sauce and meatballs, without the lid on, for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.  Try not to stir the meatballs as it may break them up, instead give the saucepan a shake every so often.

11. While your meatballs are cooking, you have time to bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook your spaghetti until 'al dente', then drain.
12. Serve the meatballs on a bed of spaghetti, sprinkled win some freshly grated Parmigiana Reggiano.

FREEZE: Once cooked, you can cool & freeze the sauce and meatballs for up to 3 months.  Allow to thoroughly defrost and then heat through gently in a saucepan until hot.  Serve with fresh pasta.
This is the perfect recipe to double up for another day's easy meal.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Chocolate Fudge Cake

This is an incredibly moist chocolate cake that's not too sweet.  The chocolate fudge icing is a wonderful topping which balances it out perfectly.

300g Plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
450g Granulated sugar
2 Eggs
5ml Bicarbonate of Soda
125ml Milk
15ml Lemon Juice
250ml Water
250g Butter
3tbs Cocoa
5ml Vanilla
150g Butter
30ml Water
5ml Vanilla
30ml Cocoa
325g Icing sugar

1. Heat the oven to 180C
2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar, eggs, bi-carbonate of soda, milk and lemon juice.
3. Set aside for 5 minutes, whilst you:
4. Heat the water, butter, cocoa and vanilla extract together until the butter has melted.
5. Add the butter and water mix to the bowl and mix well to combine.
6. Grease a 25x30cm deep dish.
7. Pour the cake batter into the dish.
8. Cook for approximately 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
9. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the dish.
10. Melt together the butter with the water and vanilla.
11. In a large bowl, mix together the icing sugar and cocoa.
12. Add the water and butter mixture into the icing sugar and cocoa and beat until thoroughly mixed, with no lumps.
13. Pour over the cake and leave to set.

I chose to make this for my daughter's 13th birthday in a bundt tin.  After cooking, I left it in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a cooling rack until cold.  It was then transferred to a cake stand and the fudge icing poured over the top.  If you leave the fudge icing to set and cool for a few minutes you will find that it thickens up a bit and therefore coats the cake better.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Cheat's home made sausage rolls

Do you love sausage rolls?
Don't you dislike the poor quality meat used in shop bought ones?
Do you prefer a better tasting sausage roll?
Do you want to make them quickly and fool your friends with your culinary talents?
If you've answered yes to the above questions, then let me show you how using just 4 simple ingredients:

1 pack good quality shop bought sausages
1 500g pack ready made puff pastry
1tsp Maile Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat your oven to 200C.
2. Remove the sausage meat from the skins and place it into a bowl. Discard the skins.
3. Add the Dijon mustard.
4. Using your hands, squidge the sausage meat and mustard together until thoroughly mixed.
5. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the puff pastry out to a rectangle about 50cm x 40cm.
6. Roll the sausage meat between your hands into lengths and place them approx 2cm from the edge of the pastry, along the longest length.
7. Fold over the 2cm of pastry to cover the sausage meat.
8. Brush the remaining pastry with the beaten egg and roll up your sausage roll, fairly tightly and evenly, pressing the edge to seal.
9. Cut into equal sized pieces.
10. Place on a baking tray on some baking parchment (easier to throw the parchment away than to scrub a tray!) Leave a little bit space between them to allow the pastry to expand without them sticking together.
11. Score the tops of the sausage rolls once/twice.
12. Brush the tops with beaten egg.
13. Bake for 20 mins until golden brown.
14. Serve warm or cold, sit back and accept the praise!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Port & Wensleydale with Cranberries

When the busy build up for the Christmas season seems to take away your days in the blink of an eye. When the endless round of shopping, cleaning, cooking and (for some) working over the Christmas season seems to consume your waking hours and all of your energy. The early morning awakening with excited children, desperate to see if Santa has made his visit, not to mention the preparation that goes into cooking the gargantuan proportioned dinner that we all seem to indulge in. No sooner is the 'big day' over with than preparation begins to herald the start of the New Year. Whether its preparing for a party at home, or getting ready to join friends and loved ones, or very simply having a quiet night at home surrounded by those closest to you.

We all seem to eat more of the things that we would only ever eat once a year, like chocolate for breakfast perhaps, or pâté, chutney, and Stilton.

This year I was kindly sent a bottle of Aldi Fletcher's Fine Ruby Port and a truckle of their Wensleydale with cranberries to try. These have been expertly paired by Master of Wines, Sarah Jane Evans. With all the hubbub of Christmas and the New Year, as well as me working over the festive period, we decided to leave our treat until everything had settled down and we could sit peacefully together and really enjoy it.

So, with yesterday being my husband's birthday, the wax was peeled back, the crackers brought out, the cork was popped and the glasses were filled. We put our feet up, put a DVD on & sat together to finally relax, bring in 2014 and to toast the year ahead.

We are partial to a glass of Port in this house but had never tried Aldi's before.  We found it to be a dark ruby in colour and compliments the colour of the cranberries. The rich, smooth flavour of the Port is a perfect match to the creamy, crumbly Wensleydale. I would thoroughly recommend a bottle of this, and at £6.29 it can more than hold its own against the more expensive brands. The cheese is flavourful, creamy & crumbly. It's certainly one that should adorn your cheese board, at any time of the year!

To 2014 and the year ahead. May it be a healthy & happy one for you all. Cheers!

The bottle of Port and the truckle of cheese were sent to me free of charge from Aldi's PR company. I was not under obligation to either publish a post or to provide a favourable review of them.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Yule Log Birthday Bundt

My hubby celebrates his birthday on 3rd January, and although I know this is after Christmas, I'd bought a new Nordic Ware Yule Log baking tin half price in the Lakeland sale, so just had to try it out today to make his cake, didn't I?

I used the basic bundt cake recipe from Rachel McGrath (aka Dolly Bakes), but added 1/2 tsp of orange oil in with the yoghurt & vanilla to give it an added element.

If you're careful to take the time to properly butter and flour the tin, as you can see here:

Then your cake will turn out a dream with not a crumb left sticking to the sides, as you can clearly see.

For a simple decoration (he doesn't 'do' fussy cakes), I simply sprinkled it with a bit of icing sugar. I just wonder if it'll last until his birthday on Friday or whether some (or indeed all) of it will have gone by then.

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