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.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Product Review - OXO Good Grips Hand Held Mandoline

After posting a review recently of the OXO Good Grips Y Peeler that I'd bought, I was contacted by OXO and asked if I'd like to review their Hand Held Mandoline Slicer.  As this was something on my wish list of quick and easy kitchen gadgets that I wanted, I said yes and duly received one a few days later.  Along with this, they also kindly sent me a Jar Opener too.  As I had had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome a few years back and have slightly less grip in my right hand than I'd had prior to my operation, this was a perfect thing for me to be sent as a little bonus product to try.  My hubby will now no longer be pestered to open jars for me, and I will no longer destroy one rubber glove trying to get into them when he's not about. (As well as previously knocking on the door of a neighbour to ask for their assistance!)

Preparing tonight's dinner, I set my Mandoline to setting no.2 then peeled and halved my onion, ready to slice. This stainless steel blade is so incredibly sharp, that relatively little effort is required to cut through the onion with ease and in no time at all my onion was prepared and ready to cook.  I found that you need to be continuous in your movement and fairly quick in speed to get the best cut from it.  The small ridges on the surface ensure that your food doesn't stick to the Mandoline as it creates a slight air gap to raise the food up. 

Not content with preparing the onion for dinner, I hunted in the fridge to see what else I could slice, and test how good this Mandoline really was with harder vegetables.

Firstly a courgette. Again no worries to be had with this, and as you can see from the photo below, it was sliced so beautifully thinly on setting no.1 that your can see through the flesh.

Ok, so it can handle relatively soft onions and courgettes with ease, but now let's see what it can do with a carrot, shall we? 

Well what can I say that the photograph below can't say for itself? So perfectly and evenly sliced on setting no.1 that, when held up to the light, it's like a stained glass window of the vegetable world.

It had no trouble dealing with the carrot on any of the settings and I can imagine that preparing dinner is going to get a whole lot quicker when food needs slicing from now on, don't you? I have to mention how glad I am that this has a finger guard to hold the food securely when slicing, as I can imagine the damage it could cause if you were daft enough to slice without it.  Flesh is softer than veg (and more painful when run across a blade this sharp!)

The Mandoline slicer has a soft grip handle and foot to prevent it slipping in your hand (even if wet) whilst you slice.  It also has a groove on the back so, that you can pop it over a bowl to slice directly into it.  It retails currently at £15.00.  The Jar Opener currently retails at £7.50 and both can be bought both online directly from OXO, or from good cook shops /stockists.

The OXO Good Grips Mandoline Slicer and the OXO Good Grips Jar Opener were sent to me free of charge to review. I was under no obligation, however, to provide a positive review. The comments above are my own personal and honest opinion of the items sent to me.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Cake Pops with Rangemaster

When you get home from a long day at work and find this waiting for you, it can only put a big smile on your face, can't it?  Well.... what was inside? Do you want to see?

This is what was inside.  A recipe sheet from Rangemaster and pretty much all the ingredients needed to make a batch of cake pops, including butter, flour, vanilla extract, icing sugar, cocoa, cake pop sticks, chocolate and sprinkles. Just add egg, a bit of love and an oven.

Obviously (but sadly) the box wasn't big enough to fit a Rangemaster oven in, so my own kitchen one had to do! Although they did send me a brochure full of their ranges which I could only dream of buying. The brochure was strategically left open and marked at the relevant page for hubby.  Soon be Christmas, don't ha know! Haha!

The recipe sheet and instructions were easy to follow, so I stood back and allowed my daughter and her friend to create these fabulous looking cake pops.  They didn't last long, and I'm lucky that I actually managed to photograph four of them before they were devoured!

Thanks to Rangemaster for sending me the box of ingredients, not to mention giving me green eyed envy at what my kitchen NEEDS to continue to help me create plates of amazing (but easy) food. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

BBC Good Food Show Ticket Winners

What a fabulous amount of entries for my ticket giveaway to the BBC Good Food Show, Winter 2014 at the NEC in Birmingham. Thanks to everyone that took the time to find the answers and send them to me.  I'm delighted to announce that a pair of tickets for the show will be going to each the following three winners (chosen from the 'hat' by my lovely daughter):

Helen Bailey
David Burke
Zoe Goodwin

The tickets will be sent directly to you using the address you provided in your emails.

Enjoy the show!


Wine Review - Central Co-Operative - Bio Bio Valley Malbec

It’s Saturday evening, the oven is on and the smells of a rich & spiced Lamb Tagine is filling the kitchen.  The red wine I’ve chosen to go with tonight’s dinner is the Bio Bio Valley Malbec from Chile.  Specially selected and imported by the Co-Operative, it’s a dark, dense and robust wine, perfect with tomato based meals such as casseroles, quality burgers, sausages and red meats.

The Malbec grape wines sit between a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot.  It’s detailed as having a mix of sweet blackberry and boysenberry fruits laced with incense and cigar box.  We found it to be dark in colour with ample tannins, smooth on the palate and silky in texture.  It complemented the flavours and spices of the tagine and certainly wasn’t intimidated by the bold meal with which it was served and was equally enjoyable on it’s own with a second glass after dinner was finished.

This review was carried out on behalf of the Central England Co-Operative.  You can find other wine reviews on the We Like Wine Blog and by following them on Twitter @we_like_wine.

I was sent a voucher with which to purchase the wine and was allowed free choice of the bottle that I chose and meal that I paired it with.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Produce Review - OXO Soft Works Y Peeler

Being an avid cook, you can imagine I have a few bits of equipment that I love to use.  For many years I had the most amazing potato peeler which was comfortable to hold and use in my small hand, remained incredibly sharp and so a pleasure to use.  That was until my husband decided to throw it away with the peelings (although he still denies doing that to this day!) Since that fateful day, I've been through about 8 different ones in search of the holy grail of peelers, only to be disappointed with every purchase and resigning them to the bin as a waste of money.

A true dilemma of a cook in the kitchen, indeed!

Well, that was until I bought myself an OXO Soft Works Y Peeler a few weeks back.  OMG! What a tool!!!!! It's comfortable to hold, speedy to use and incredibly sharp. So good in fact, that I actually don't mind peeling the potatoes and other veg again now.  It's the first time I'd tried a Y Peeler and I'm glad that I did.  I won't be looking back and going to a 'stick' peeler again.

So here's my top tip: go and buy yourself one. Like me, I'm sure, you won't be disappointed.

I'm so impressed with the quality, that I'll be buying their tin opener as that's the next essential tool that drives me insane due to inefficiency! 

This post was not sponsored in any way by OXO. The Y Peeler was purchased personally.  I just wanted to share a positive product review with you.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Restaurant Review - Castle Inn, Caldecott, Leics

One Friday evening a short while ago, just before my son left home to start his studies at the University of Nottingham, we, as a family, went to a pub/restaurant that my husband and I have been frequenting since we first met in 1984.  Since then it's changed hands several times and the restaurant has gone through a whole range of food styles over the 30 years we've been going there.  Actually - typing that last sentence has just made me feel incredibly old!  Did I really meet my husband 30 years ago?! WOW!!!!

Anyway, back to the restaurant review.  We went to the Castle Inn in Caldecott set in the heart of the country in the beautiful Welland Valley on the borders of Northamptonshire/Rutland/Leicestershire where the restaurant can be found in the shadow of Rockingham Castle and serves food in an Italian theme.  You walk in the door to find the old fashioned flagstone tiles on the floor, the oak beamed ceilings and a friendly smile from the staff.  To the right you'll see the impressive stone baked pizza oven.  The smells that welcome you are evocative of any Italian Trattoria - garlic, tomatoes and stone baked pizza dough; truly delightful!

There's nothing nicer than a crusty based pizza, stone baked to perfection and topped with tomatoes, cheese and herbs.  My daughter chose a Margarita pizza, whilst my son went for a Hawaiian.  These both came in immense portions - a whole dinner plate full and I did wonder if my daughter would be able to eat more than half.  Her brother, on the other hand, was more likely to eat his and then devour the remainder on her plate!

I went for the beef Lasagne and salad, whilst my husband chose the Pollo Alla Castle; chicken wrapped in parma ham and stuffed with mozzarella, garlic and tomato sauce served with gratin potatoes.  Both of these meals were very generous in portion size and tasted delicious.

How any of us had room for dessert, I really don't know, but the kids and my husband did!  I had to settle for a coffee as there's no way I could have moved if I'd had dessert too. My daughter enjoyed the chocolate brownie and ice cream, my son had tiramisu and my husband the creamy pannacotta. Again these came in generous portion sizes and were tasty (yes, I did have a little taste of each of them - purely for review purposes, you understand!)

With drinks, our meal came to £81.20.  None of us were disappointed with our meals or the service we received or the atmosphere. We'll certainly be back again!

The meal was paid for personally by ourselves.  We were not invited to dine at the restaurant nor did we receive any compensation for our visit.  All views are personal to myself and my family.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Venison Tagine

We love venison as its such a rich and lean meat that's full of flavour and I was lucky to have been given a 3kg haunch of venison a while back by a colleague in exchange for making her daughter's Christening cake. Her husband shot and butchered the venison, so I can be sure of it's provenance.

After boning the joint of meat, I divided it and used one portion to make a tagine in my slow cooker as follows:

500g Venison, cubed (you can use beef or lamb if you prefer)
30ml Rapeseed oil
2 Onions, sliced
2 Cloves of garlic, crushed
1tbs Ground coriander
1tbs Ground cumin
2tsp Ground ginger
1tsp Ground cinnamon
250ml Beef stock
400g tin Plum tomatoes
100g Dried apricots, chopped
2tbs Ground almonds
400g tin Chick peas, drained and rinsed

1. Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan and fry the venison in batches until browned.
2. Transfer the venison into the base of your slow cooker.
3. Gently fry the onion & garlic in the pan for 5 minutes until softened, then add the ground coriander, cumin, ginger and cinnamon and fry gently for 2 minutes.
4. Add this onion & spice mixture to your venison in the slow cooker.
5. Pour your stock into your frying pan to deglaze and heat until just boiling.
6. Pour this stock mixture over your meat and spice mixture.
7. Add the plum tomatoes, chopped apricots, ground almonds and chick peas.
8. Stir well then place the lid on top.
9. Cook in the slow cooker on low for 12 hours or on medium for 8 hours.

Serve with cous cous and a little fresh, chopped coriander to garnish.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

BBC Good Food Show, Winter, 27-30th November 2014 - NEC Birmingham

As an official BBC Good Food Show Blogger, I have three pairs of tickets to give away for the Show at the NEC in a few weeks time.

To enter is simple.  What I want you to tell me is three things from this blog post reviewing the BBC Good Food Show in Summer 2014:

1. What date did I go to the Summer 2014 show?
2. What is Paul Hollywood's favourite 'dirty food'?
3. Who arranged for myself and the other bloggers to meet Mary Berry?

Answers must NOT be posted in comments here, but should be emailed to:

The closing date is 5pm on Sunday 16th November 2014.  Winners will be chosen at random from all entries received and tickets will be posted to home addresses.

Good luck!

Food Review - PG Tips 'The Rich One'

Have you seen the new teas from PG?  Did you take the quiz to see if you're 'Mellow', 'Rich', 'Fresh' or 'Strong'?  I did and apparently I'm RICH!  Er.... hello, have you seen my bank account, not yours, Monkey?! LOL!!

Well, a little while passed after I took the quiz and I came home to find this 'tea chest' in my hallway, waiting my arrival.

Now, if you're like me, you get straight in there, none of this delicately unwrapping the goodness that's contained inside; No siree, I just jump straight in!  Not very 'Mellow', nor in the sophisticated realms of being 'Rich', but I found myself more of the 'Strong' type as I ripped the tape off and opened up the box to see the contents with a pair of 'Fresh' and excited eyes.

And greeting me was this lot of goodies:  A silky, smooth and decadent dressing gown in which to relax after using my Molten Brown shower gel, whilst my feet slip into my Marks & Spencer Per Una slippers as I sip my PG Tips 'Rich' tea from my delicate Royal Albert cup and saucer whilst waiting for my sparkly Essie nail polish to dry on my finger nails.

Not content to allow me to drink my tea in peace, this little cheeky chimp, Monkey, decided to have fun with the boxes of tea, initially being very well behaved and sitting nicely to have his photo taken.

He rapidly decided that that was too much effort and was soon found laying down on the job.

Before hiding behind the boxes, threatening to knock down the tower of tea and create mayhem!  Cheeky boy!

Thanks to Unilever and PG Tips for sending me my 'Rich' box; it's very much appreciated, by me (and Monkey!)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Brown Banana Muffins

Having bought a couple of packs of reduced price bananas (20p for 5!) recently and not wanting them to go to waste, I've slightly changed my Banana and Choccie Chunkie Muffin recipe, which incidentally was the first ever post on my blog back in May 2011, to produce these:

Instead of using butter, I've substituted it 80% for Farrington's Mellow Yellow Rapeseed Oil and 20% milk.

280g Plain flour
5ml Baking powder
5ml Bicarbonate of soda
2.5ml salt
125g Soft brown sugar
3 large, over-ripened bananas (about 450g peeled weight)
1 egg, beaten
90ml Rapeseed oil
60m Milk

Fan oven: 170°C.

1. Line a deep, 12 cup, muffin tin with tulip paper cases.
2. In a large bowl place the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar.  Mix these together thoroughly with a fork to get some air into the dry mixture.
3. In another bowl mix together the mashed bananas, beaten egg, rapeseed oil and milk.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add all of the wet mixture.  Mix both together quickly for no longer than 20-30 seconds until just combined.  Make sure that you scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl properly to incorporate all of the dry mixture but DO NOT BEAT the mixture or worry about small lumps.
5. Fill each muffin cup to about 3/4 full.  This will then make 12 muffins.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are slightly browned and spring back when touched.
7. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack until cool.

I also made up a batch of blueberry muffins using oil and milk as the butter substitute, so I'll share the recipe shortly for those too.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Event - Unilever Kitchen

I was one of 12 food bloggers to attend a rather special event at the Unilever headquarters in Leatherhead, Surrey on 13th October.

After an early morning start, 2 trains, the Underground and 3 hours later, myself, along with the other bloggers, were met by minibus at a very wet and rainy Leatherhead station for the short transfer to their impressive building.  The atrium at Unilever opens to reveal a light and airy space complete with hairdressers, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream lounge and Unilever staff shop which you can't fail to be impressed with.  We were met by the Clarion Communications team and taken into the kitchen where pastries, tea and coffee awaited our arrival as we dried out from the rain.

We were treated to a talk on the history of Tea by Jane Pettigrew. Who knew that servants were paid in tea as part of their wages as it was so expensive originally?!  I'll write up a few of these interesting facts of tea in a separate post for you soon.

We were taught to taste tea, which teas should be served with or without milk, what temperature your water should be at for the various types of tea, and where the teas come from in the world.  We were also given the history of PG Tips from inception in the 1930's through to today and what we see on our supermarket shelves to buy and enjoy.

Next came an exciting introduction to seasonings and flavourings in a masterclass by Marco Pierre White.  We were treated to two tastes of fillet steak; one with only salt used as the seasoning, the other with a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot rubbed on as the flavouring.  The taste is more rounded with the stock pot as it contains a blend of herbs as well as the meat seasoning.  We were then shown how to cook the perfect fillet steak with a wonderful, rich and creamy 3 Peppercorn Knorr Flavour Pot sauce (not for those dieting as it did contain a fair bit of double cream and a whole bottle of Worcester Sauce, but nevertheless, it did taste fantastic!)

Oh, and guess who got caught taking a sneaky photo of Chef? Yep, me!

His reaction?  'Madam, if you're going to take a photo, let's do it properly and do a selfie!'  What a gent!

We were then split into pairs to prepare lunch under the guidance and critique of Marco.  Teams cooked Risotto al Funghi, Curried Parsnip Soup, Bruschetta with Tomatoes and Herbs, whilst my team-mate Layla and I cooked a simple bolognese sauce.

Our afternoon was completed with a talk and demonstration by Sue Batty, the Stork expert.  We were then invited to choose our flavourings and make our own batch of cupcakes to take home with us.  the 7 of us on the train back to London had a bit of a cake swap!

My fellow bloggers were Kirsty (Hijacked by Twins), Lucy (Supergolden Bakes), Amy (She Cooks She Eats), Leyla (Motherhood Diaries), Dominic (Belleau Kitchen), Agata (Barktime), Fiona (London Unattached), @GlutieBaker, Jack (koukouvaya), Manjiri (Slice Of Me) and Heidi (Heidi Roberts Kitchen Talk).

Thank you to the Unilever Kitchen, Jane Pettigrew, Marco Pierre White, Sue Batty and to Clarion Communications and all my fellow bloggers for a fantastic event.  A very long day for me with 6 hours spent travelling but a lovely day too.  Thank goodness for the trains so I could sit and chill out on my journey home with Monkey to keep me company!

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