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Monday, 12 December 2016

Gousto–worth it?

I’ve been looking into all these new recipe box ideas recently and, in particular, the Gousto scheme, which I signed up for at Taste of London. I’d chosen this as there are options to choose your recipes from a selection, rather than just receive what is sent, and the fact that I got a great offer at the festival – first box half price, third free, so essentially. first three boxes for half price, making it just £1.88 per portion if you chose four meals for four people. Now, the Ella’s Kitchen baby food pouches are £1.40 each so this seemed a brilliant opportunity to give these a try.

Each week you choose from the selection of recipes. There are some tried, tested and rated recipes, and some brand new ones, meaning you’re not always cooking the same things every week. You can also put your subscription on hold and just log into order when you feel like it with no obligation to reactivate it. This seemed like a good idea to me so opted for this as soon as I signed up so I didn’t need to remember to cancel it, if you see what I mean!

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The box arrived, finally, at just after 6pm, which is absolutely no good if you want to use it for that evening’s tea, especially if you have little ones who’re hungry, even though the box sticker said delivery by 5pm. Therefore, I’d advise you plan an alternative meal for the delivery day. The meat and products do last past the 4 days worth of meals – my delivery was on the 1st and the date on the chicken breasts was not until the 8th, so it does give you flexibility as to when to have them during the week.

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Meats, fish and perishable items were stored in one half of the box in that lovely wool keep cool packaging, while veggies and other items were in the second half. Everything is pre portioned in sachets or bags which makes it really easy but does create an awful lot of plastic waste. Surely its not that important to have exactly 100g of carrot – one medium carrot would do the job, and be fine on it’s own in the box without the need to be wrapped in a plastic bag. Me and Effie had great fun un-bundling it all to see what we had, then decided to re-bundle it into meal kits as all the ingredients for all the meals come in one package, so you’ll need to sort out what foods belong to which recipe, which is made much easier by the inclusion of the recipe cards for each chosen meal.

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We chose a Persian Lamb Quinoa Pilaf, BBQ chicken, Haddock Linguine and Bacon Wrapped Chicken. Cooking times varied from 20 minutes to 45 and, I timed as I cooked each one, were fairly accurate. All the recipes were tasty and pushed me to try flavours and ingredients I wouldn’t usually choose. The ras el hanout added to the the Persian lamb was absolutely delicious, and we enjoyed the Gentleman’s relish as part of the BBQ chicken sauce too. It certainly stopped me from cooking the same things week in, week out and meant I didn’t have to buy a whole jar or spice just for one recipe, as is so often the case if cooking Indian, Asian and African dishes. It was also brilliant not having to even think about what we would be having for dinner. I simply got our pre-prepared bag out from the fridge and followed the instructions. Yes, you still have to chop and actually do the cooking, but it’s easy. Either follow the recipe cards or use the app, which is well designed and intuitive.

And there’s no waste. Not one bit.

Effie ate them all, as did CC – I just made sure I kept a smaller pan aside, or removed stuff before adding salt, for her, then mashed or blended into a rough, textured puree. I chose recipes for 4 people to include the children and because I have a husband who eats double portions. I was a little worried that 1 chicken breast was sent as a serving for two people, but each one was huge and fed us adequately, especially with other ingredients padding it out, such as the huge amount of coleslaw and potato wedges! I had enough Lamb Pilaf for two huge adult meals that night, plus we both had second helpings, and two lunch portions the next day.

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Will I be using this after my three half-price boxes? Probably not on a weekly basis: at full price (£60 for four meals for four people, £3.75 per portion) I feel that I can do similar much cheaper myself. But throw in the time taken to shop, the idea that you don’t throw anything away, the new recipes each week and the fact that you don’t have a three year old pot of ras el hanout in the cupboard, wondering what to do with it, I will certainly be using it on those busy weeks, especially when I return to work at the end of February.

And they sent me a big bag of free popcorn too!

If you want to try, simply click this link and get £25 off your first box…

https://www.gousto.co.uk/join?promo_code=HANNA188010 

Or go to the website and click the ‘have a special code?’ link under the menu button on the homepage and paste in this code: HANNAH188010

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Taste of London: The Festive Edition

I’ve coveted tickets for the Festive Edition of Taste for the last couple of years, but finally got my hands on some via a Big Green Egg Facebook competition this year – winning a pair to the Tobacco Dock extravaganza. And boy, was I excited!

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I packed up the children and the grandparents, ensuring Papi was driving, and took us off early on the Sunday morning for the 40 minutes drive to Wapping. I wanted to begin by taking my 5YO to the Beas of Bloomsbury gingerbread man decorating workshop in the Patissier’s Pantry, which was free, but you needed to book after arrival. Luckily, they managed to squeeze us on an end as it was already fully booked ten minutes after the doors had opened, and what fun we had!

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We then headed through the lower ground floor, sniffing out smoky aromas from the Big Green Eggs and choosing places to visit later on, before heading for the Great Gallery where we found 3 restaurants, many stalls, and plenty of seating. The LO enjoyed a Chicken Schnitzel Sub from Tom’s Kitchen, followed by Crispy Cod Cheeks from Tredwells. We had the Icon Dish of Smoked Rare Rump Cap from here too, which was delicious, our own portion of Cod Cheeks since monster had eaten the first plate, Adobo spare ribs and a Crispy Pork Belly Taco from Mole Taco Bar. All washed down with a couple of glasses of Prosecco, which was to be found everywhere!

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Next was a wander round the stalls, stopping particularly at Pan-n-Ice to order Oreo and Nutella ice cream rolls made in front of our eyes! I think the stall holder was a little fed up with having to demonstrate what it was all about without people actually ordering, so didn’t realise we really did want an ice cream from him. The grumpiness did fade in time!


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By the end of lunchtime, the whole building was buzzing. Live music, a dj, delicious smoky aromas all adding to the festive atmosphere. By far the tastiest morsel was something I grabbed on the way past … a Big Green Egg cooked Pork Belly Bun from Kurobuta. This really was just scrummy. My mouth’s watering just looking at the photograph again! I nearly went back for seconds but had lost the rest of my family by this stage so thought I should really catch up!

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To top if off, a hot mulled cider, oh yes, and a little chat with Marcus! A thoroughly enjoyable day…just fantastic. Thank you Big Green Egg. The perfect start to the Festive Season.

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Monday, 5 December 2016

ASK Italian, Chelmsford … A Review

What, with all these new chains opening up in Chelmsford, I can barely keep up! But one thing that will set a good restaurant apart from the others, since the food is is usually comparable, is the service. One of my main bug bears is the fact that there aren’t more independent places here, but when there are, it seems they struggle to get the service right too. Take for example A Canteen. It used to be a fab little place, perfect for a hungover weekend brunch. Then they expanded … too fast: huge premises, wildly long opening hours, three menus throughout the day at first, and new staff, who were awful. And the food went downhill too – with so large a choice, the chefs just couldn’t do it all, And the lack of communication between front of house and kitchen is still very poor.

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Anyway, I digress. At many of the new chains, I have also experienced poor service. From tables not being served at the same time, some people having finished before others were served and the excuse being, “Well, we are very busy”, to poor knowledge of product from the waiting staff. At the press night at ASK, however, the staff and service was excellent. Way above anything else in Chelmsford. Staff were trained at the Billericay and Colchester restaurants for several weeks beforehand and comprised a mixture of experienced and new, which just seemed to work. Now, I know it was the press night and everyone was on best behaviour, but from product knowledge, personal experience and professionalism, to asking if we wanted the remnants boxed to take away without us asking, they were really superb. Difficult to find staff this good in when the market is saturated with new restaurants. We even received an email to say my partner had left his rucksack and that they had it safe for us to collect!

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And the food wasn’t too bad either! I’ve never been to an Ask before and was pleasantly surprised. The new mixed antipasti board was delicious, the tomatoes served at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge, so they actually had taste, and the mozzarella was soft, squishy and simply delicious. I chose a pizza with mixed salami which was exactly as expected…crisp and tasty, as was the super thin garlic bread we chose to accompany it. The OH decided on a meatball pasta, which was ok. A little more sauce would have gone down a treat as it was a bit dry, but came with a lovely side salad instead of having to order this separate and he ate it all.

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But the real star of the show was the Etna Dessert – I'll let the picture speak for itself, but if you go, you must leave a pudding space for this!

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The interior is the right side of industrial with open piping in the roof space but nicely finished wood and metal surroundings. There are a combination of booths and tables and plenty of space to fit buggies…always useful for a girly lunch!

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Here’s what ASK had to say about the opening …

“The new restaurant features seating for 140 guests, with capacity for an additional 60 covers outside in the warmer months, overlooking the river Chelmer. The imposing glass frontage floods the restaurant with light during the daytime and showcases a very impressive hand built wooden staircase.

Serving a range of dishes from starters such as Butterfly King Prawns, Antipasti boards and Dough Balls to mains including stone baked pizzas, pasta and salads, busy Chelmsford shoppers will be spoilt for choice at ASK Italian. One of the highlights has to be the very ‘instagrammable’ Chocolate Etna dessert where hot toffee sauce is poured over a dark chocolate cup at your table to reveal a hidden scoop of vanilla gelato on top of a hot chocolate fondant.”

We’ll see how they cope over the festive period, but if you fancy it, all 3 ASK Italian Christmas menu options are available to view online here

Classico – 3 courses for £18.95

Festivo – 3 courses for £22.95 or 2 courses for £14.95 (Mon-Fri until 5pm)

Super Festivo – 3 courses for £24.95

I’ll be visiting again next time I’m in town for lunch…here’s hoping the service is just as good!

Disclaimer: Our meal was complementary for review purposes. All opinions given are my own, honest and truthful.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Our Local Butcher … at last!

Something Chelmsford has needed since I moved here over 15 years ago is a decent butchers. A couple are in and around...the farm shop on Moulsham St. has a selection of meats and Lathcoats farm shop on Beehive Lane also sources and sells local meat. There are a couple of butchers in the market and a few  independents in most of the surrounding areas, such as the Vineyards at Baddow and the shops at Galleywood.

Now, Stock is much further out than 'Chelmsford' and his new butchers is just on the far side of the village, based at Stockbrook Farm Shop and Nurseries. Its’ here that James has opened up a little butchers counter. Although small, he is happy to make up or prep. ahead anything available for you to collect, or order your leg of lamb for Sunday roast in advance. And with a new delivery scheme set up, there's really no reason not to.
I visited this week and was pleased to see quite a big range of meats, including several pre-prepped options, such as hunters or lemon chicken, fresh stir fry or stuffed lamb noisettes. These sauced and pre-prepped options are always homemade from natural, store cupboard ingredients and perfect to pop straight into the oven. The meat is sourced as locally as possible, with pork from Wicks Manor and other meats from Hanningfield and Great Leighs. James has developed relationships and struck up friendships with Smithfields Market, London, and ensures all meat is high welfare, even if it's not always possible, due to demand, to ensure it's as local as he would like. Talking of local, nearby customers are also currently given a 5% discount!

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I chose four lamb noisettes and a chunk of rib eye which James chopped in two for me and was pleasantly surprised they only came to £15! I would have posted pictures, but we gobbled them up far too quickly! the steak was great, and I’d advise you to cook quickly on a high heat first to sear the fat and begin to melt it down, then finish them off in the oven to medium. I usually eat my steak rare – as in, just touched the pan rare – but with a ribeye, it’s important that if you want the full flavour, you need to crispen the outside fat and melt it down to make the middle moist. As for the lamb, I fried this. On a high heat to begin to, again, brown the far, then on a lower heat to begin to cook the middle. I ate this pink and it was delicious. I served it with potato dauphinois, baked tomatoes and mushrooms and roasted vegetables. They were utterly delicious.

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You'd definitely be advised to follow James Facebook page, Our Local Butcher, and new website to view the full range of meats, and to check out recipe ideas and meal suggestions from him too. The delivery service has just begun, with different areas of Chelmsford being covered on different days. Free delivery for orders over £25 and a £5 charge otherwise.

This seems like the perfect answer to fresh, local meat for me, until they invent chilled meat lockers on every road anyway (!) , and I’m already looking forward to this week’s visit. 

Photographs taken from Our Local Butcher website.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Spicy Pumpkin Soup




I always struggle to use up the bits and bobs of pumpkin that are leftover from carving. Doesn't everyone just scoop out the seeds and gunk and leave most of the flesh inside, or is that just me? Anyway, this year, I had a few pieces that I refused to throw away, so topped them up with other things to make soup. It was sooo easy.



Fry off the leftover bits of pumpkin along with a peeled and cubed sweet potato, a few stalks of chopped celery and a red onion. That's it. Once beginning to soften, add a stock of your preference and simmer until cooked through. Blitz in a blender and serve to your little monsters. For a spicier kick, throw in some chilli flakes and chilli powder. That's our post rainbows, pre trick or treating tea made then! 

Monday, 3 October 2016

Homemade Salted Caramel Buttered Popcorn

 

After recently attempting Laura Amos’ Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart from her Dessert Deli, and giving the caramel at least three goes, I was more confident to try this on my own. So when we decided on a relaxed ‘cinema afternoon’, with the big cushions pulled off the sofa onto the floor, the shutters closed and the Lego Movie on the box, it seemed the perfect opportunity to try out a quick caramel to top our popcorn.

I’d highly recommend buying the corn kernels to pop yourself. They’re so cheap and easy…and fun, especially if you have a glass lidded pan so you can see them popping. Take care to put less than you think in – a layer over the bottom of the pan will be fine -  turn the heat up and keep shaking so they don’t burn on the bottom. As soon as they begin to burst, turn the pan lower and keep shaking that pan til popping slows.

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As for the caramel. you could make a simple sugar syrup…stop after the sugar has melted, or continue to make a richer caramel sauce. Pour a layer of caster sugar over the bottom of a saucepan and keep the heat on medium. Try not to stir the sugar, simply wait for it to melt and turn a golden orangey colour. If you end up with a lump of unmelted sugar, gently swirl the pan. Once all the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and quickly stir in a lump of salted butter – this will cause the mixture to bubble, but don’t worry and keep stirring. You can also stop at this stage or add a splash or two of cream. Again, keep stirring. If you get a few lumps, return to a low heat and stir, stir, stir. The more cream you add, the runnier the finished caramel. Once finished, add the popcorn into the pan and coat each piece thoroughly using a spoon.

Don’t forget to have some wipes handy for those sticky fingers afterwards!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Turtle Bay, Chelmsford–A Review

 

20160915_212452People know how I feel about chain restaurants, but with so many opening in Chelmsford recently, and about to in the very near future with the Bond St development, you just can't get away from them. The first phase to open has been The Exchange, home to Cote, Carluccios and Turtle Bay so far, and I was excited to have the opportunity to review the latter, especially as we have more Italians than we can shake a stick at! I hadn't heard of this chain before so was looking forward to seeing what Caribbean flavours were on offer, and I wasn't to be disappointed. 

From the outside, the restaurant looks vibrant and fun and that theme continues inside when you enter the bar area. By 7.30pm on this Thursday evening, there was already an hour and half wait for a table. The bar and restaurant itself was packed and the noisy chatter and easy music gave a brilliant atmosphere. The cocktail list is huge...mainly rum based for obvious reasons, and the Jamaican Mule with ginger beer and Koko Colada were delicious. I usually opt for beer or wine with food rather than a cocktail, but the creaminess and fruitiness of the Colada was just right to help tame the jerk spices! The other half chose a peanut butter and banana smoothy to accompany his meal, and had to order a spoon to go with it as the straw just wasn’t wide enough to actually suck  up any of this delicious drink.

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Our waitress, Millie, introduced herself and was lovely all evening, even checking how well we coped with spice before placing our order. She also asked someone else to speak to me regarding the dryness of the Rosé, just in case I fancied a glass with dinner, and he was happy to provide a taster for me. The bar staff were jubilant and efficient, balancing the right mix of friendliness and professionalism, even high fiving my husband! One of my favourite things was the size of the napkins...big. Think tea towels. This is especially important when dealing with jerk chicken, I have discovered! 

We chose the Beach Food Platter to share for starters, purely in the interest of you readers of course, so I could feed back on several of the starters rather than just two! Priced at £12.95, you get three of each taster: jerk chicken wings, pepper roti, sweet corn fritters and garlic and herb flatbread. A word of advice...have the wings last. They are incredibly flavourful, but also incredibly spicy. The flatbread had a chilli and mango drizzle across it, which was delicious and the pepper roti was nicely warming. The sweetcorn fritters certainly were tasty but still doughy in the middle...as Paul Hollywood says, I could squish the centre and turn it back to dough. Maybe that's how they serve them in the Caribbean, but a flatter shape would have ensured the middles were cooked through. 

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My husband couldn't resist the 24hr marinated whole jerk chicken served with Caribbean slaw and sweet potato fries while I opted for onepot Curry Pork Cheeks with sweet potatoes and pineapple chunks. The chicken was amazing, marginally less spicy than the wings for starters but probably because there was less surface area proportionately for the spice to stick to. It was grilled nicely and cut into easy to eat quarters which the OH attempted with knife and fork. I, on the other hand, just used my fingers. The slaw was crisp and crunchy and the sweet potato fries were crisp, and stayed that way, rather than soggy. My pork cheek curry was served in a one pot enamel bowl, half rice n peas and half curry. It didn't look a lot of food when it arrived but, after finishing, I realised it was just the perfect amount. I liked the fact it came with two small squares of flatbread too to mop up any leftover sauce. The pork was slow cooked but on the dry side rather than fall-apart tender. The cubes of meat were quite small so maybe slightly larger pieces would have ensured a more moist bite? The sauce of coconut, however, was delicious, as were the rice n peas. 

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I didn't have too much room left for dessert so chose a lighter option of BBQ Pineapple with a caramel sauce and coconut ice cream. The pineapple was just the right side of barbecued, and was really tasty, though I just couldn't finish it off. My husband had the Rum and Raisin Bread Pudding which, despite claiming the inability to eat any more after his whole chicken, he polished off in no time! 

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Bearing in mind my husband chose the priciest thing on the menu, the chicken at £17.50 (a similar price to full rack of ribs and Frankie and Bennys) we averaged £36 per head, which included two drinks each and three courses. I don't think that's bad value at all...if you took my two cocktails off, that's £22 for three big courses! 

Service was consistently good throughout the evening, and the atmosphere was buzzing, especially considering they've only been open a few weeks. A few outdoor heaters would have meant we could have had one last cocktail under the stars (well, streetlights) before heading home, and I think all tables should come with a stack of tissues to help mop up the spice tears! 

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Will we return? Well, as I said, there are a few other new restaurants I'd like to try out first, but yes, we will. I'd like to bring my little girl back to try out the Little Turtle menu as I think she'd love the beach theme and buzziness of it.

 

Disclaimer: Our meal was complementary for review purposes. All opinions given are my own, honest and truthful. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Strawberry Season

Yes, it’s that very short, but ever so tasty season again – Strawberries! We are very lucky, living just 15 minutes walk from Lathcoat’s Farm, predominantly and historically an apple growing farm producing it’s own juice, but also in summer a PYO farm for strawberries, raspberries, plums, cherries, and many more delicious fruit.

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You simply turn up with your container, or take one from the little picking hut, and pick til your heart’s content. We can never resist just one last berry, and always go home with far more than we can possibly eat, usually making jam from the remains. One of the best things about this farm is the fact that the strawberries are not along the ground, but on chest-height troughs making it far easier to find and pick, especially if you have a small 5 year old who is the perfect height to wander underneath and find all the ripe fruit! This punnet cost around £2.75.

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This year, due to the earlier wet weather, the season has been quite short-lived and much of the fruit now is going mildewy, but there are still a few lovely strawbs to gather in, and the plums will be ready soon too!

One of the things that irks me about the prep of these red berries is having to hull them. I’ve tried picking out the leaf with fingers but this always seems to leave the thicker green inner core. Another method with which I’ve had some success is to use a straw. Simply push up from the bottom of the berry, through the leaf and pick out. This works well but sometimes you still don’t get all of the green. I’ve resorted to simply using a knife to chop the top off, but am always upset by how much wastage there is of the actually berry.

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So, when I heard about the Oxo Good Grips Strawberry Huller, I couldn’t wait to give it a try. The instructions seemed pretty easy – push out the blades, stick them into the leaf section, twist and pull out, then push the end to release. And it really was that easy too. Even my 5YO could do it.

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It works better on bigger, firmer berries: when they are too soft, you can’t pull the hull out without squidging the rest of the berry, so choose your fruit carefully when picking!

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I’ll definitely be keeping this little tool alongside my Oxo Avocado Slicer as something I use rarely, but that does it’s job fantastically, making my work much faster and easier, and much less messy. A good little tool, especially if you can’t get enough of those summer strawberries. 

I’m going to be making mine into a Strawberry Prosecco Salad. Heat a pan with a little tiny drop of flavourless oil and add those squashed berries with a sprinkle of sugar and a splash of prosecco to make a strawberry sugar syrup. Chop some mint finely, sprinkle over the strawberries before drizzling the syrup over the top.

Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Reason...

Here she is...my excuse for lack of recent posts:


A few weeks early, but classed as term. All fit and healthy. We're back on the road to becoming a normal family again after the shock of no sleep, birth, stitches, feeding, etc. But I'm nowhere near being able to cook and blog! 

And prep. ahead has disappeared...or, as I now call it, very expensive Charlie Bigham ready meals (just like home cooked) but someone else has done all the prep! [http://www.bighams.com] I don't care at the moment tho, whatever feeds us as I feed her works for me! I've also gone back to my supermarket home deliveries, finding I spend less as am less inclined to purchase impulse buys. I am, however, more likely to buy pre prepared stuff as it's easier to find and add. Pluses and minuses. 

There will be more cooking and posts...keep an eye out. There'll probably be more baby posts too!

Looking forwards to getting back to blogging, but with a 4YO too, it may be a while. 


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Slow Cooked Bolognaise

This is another throw-it-all-in and do as much or as little cooking as you want at the end of the day. You can do a whole slow-cooked lasagna, but I’m not quite brave enough to try that one yet, and we never have spaghetti (pasta) bolognese, so that’s what I’m going to use this mince for. You could make it into a lasagna, or change the flavours slightly for a more Taginey feel. Simply add harissa, chopped apricots, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and honey instead of the red wine, mixed herbs and tomato puree.

I ground my own mince earlier this week, seasoned, and divided and froze suitable sized portions. So once I’ve remembered to retrieve it from the freezer, all will be well! If you’re super organised, this is a really good one to use your Prep. Ahead skills on. Finely chop celery, onions and carrots and bag up ready. I did this whilst preparing the veg for the wraps – let the little ones get chopping using a safety knife on some pepper, celery and cucumber strips, whilst you complete the chopping for the rest of the week. Again, you could freeze mixed bags of these to whip out the night before and simply stir in.

Fry off the beef mince, throw in the slow cooker with the veg, glass of red wine, tomato puree, salt, pepper and mixed herbs and a can of chopped tomatoes. Add a small teaspoon of sugar to take the acidity from the tomatoes. Top up with beef stock, making sure the liquid just covers the meat and veg, but no more. You want a rich sauce, not a loose, sloppy one. Leave on low in the slow cooker for the day and serve as you will! If you don’t have a slow cooker, put on the hob and leave to simmer and reduce for about an hour – stir every so often to stop the meat from sticking.

Again, once the prep. is done, there’s noting more to do apart from put it all in the pot and leave it to do what it does best.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Wraps n Chips

How much easier could this get…I mean, really? Packed full of veggie salad stuff with a tasty dressing and oven baked chips, it’s not even bad for you!

Get your little ones to help with the prep too…this always means they’ll eat more as they’re chopping and be far more likely to try new ingredients. Make sure there are some firm favourites too – red peppers and carrot sticks in our house – but throw in a few unfamiliar ones, maybe some avocado for a change, and see what happens. You’ve got nothing to lose!

The shopping list for today suggests you buy cheese, pre-cooked chicken or ham, but really it’s up to you. Cut all your veg. into batons and long strips for the chicken. If you’re using ham, leave it in slices. Now, what turns a boring wrap into a tasty one is the dressing. I’m going for a spicy mayo, simply combining mayonnaise with some curried seasoning such as tikka powder or cajun spices. Add dash of lime or lemon juice too and some sharp red onions to the wrap for extra zing.

Either use normal or sweet potatoes, and peel and chip, or leave the skin on and wedge. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil and bake until cooked.

My little one loves these for dinner and she’s even convinced her best friend too – who’s had them every night for the past week!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Little Dish Go Gos - review

 

I was recently sent three trial packs of Little Dish Go Gos, a new oaty snack biscuit, perfect for toddlers on the go! I wasn't convinced as when we were originally sent a range of 'in the process' development products, my LO was not convinced. They were too solid and 'cardboardy' so I was a little hesitant that these would be given the four year old's seal of approval...but they were! She chose the ginger flavour to try and wolfed them down. Although still rather close textured, they seemed to hit the spot and she was caught an hour later debating which flavour to try next!

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The little ring biscuits have been created with the help of Little Dish’s nutritionist and are wheat and dairy free with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, or refined sugar, but instead use whole grain oats, molasses, honey and a flax and chia seed mix. And because of that, each 25g bag is filled with 3g of protein too, 20% of a 1-3 YO's recommended daily intake. They're sold as suitable for children over one and even come with a little sticker to reseal the bag, or stick on 'small t-shirts' , which is where ours went! 

You can buy them in single packs (60p) or multipacks of 5, priced at £2.50 and choose from three flavours: raspberry, vanilla or ginger, which isn't too gingery or strong. I've been looking for something a little more grown-up for my four year old, but biscuity based to combat those after school sweetness craving, so will definitely be investing in a few more packs! 

Disclaimer: Although I was sent complimentary products, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Meal Planning Monday–22nd Feb. 2016

This week is a real mix with little cooking as it’s made up from an occasional left-over from previous weeks! Therefore, there is no shopping list as it’s mostly heating stuff that’s already been ready.

Monday: Shop-bought Piri Piri Chicken, Potato Dauphinois and Veg (leftover from husband’s roast dinner yesterday!)

Tuesday: Shop-bought Chicken and Chorizo Paella (frozen from Valentines meal that we never ate)

Wednesday: Hake (a nice chunky piece from Paul, my fish man who arrives every Wednesday evening) with butter and sage, wild rice and asparagus

Thursday: Sausage, Chorizo and Pepper pasta (for me and F as OH is out)

Friday: Out with friends

I’ll post the Sausage Pasta recipe as it’s one of the tastiest pasta sauces, and again, one of the simplest.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Steak, Salad, Coleslaw & Potato Dauphinois

More of an assemblage of stuff on a plate for tonight! Especially since I buy the potatoes frozen! I can never find them in Tesco, but Lidl has them in fours in the freezer (under their prestige range) and the local farm shop sells them frozen too. If you’re local, you’ll know Lathcoats Farm well anyway!
What I’ll focus on in this post is the coleslaw, since I’m fairly certain you can all pan fry a steak to your own liking and shove frozen potatoes into the oven! I watched James Martin make a dijon mayonnaise at the weekend and he made it look so simple, I thought I’d give it a go! So, this is the recipe I used … it’s a combination of the one on th video and the James Martin one online and makes quite a thick mayo, which I think is nice, especially if you’re eating it over a couple of days as the water from the veg. always loosens it anyway.
  • 2 free-range egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • 200ml/7fl oz rapeseed oil
  • 50ml/3½fl oz olive oil
  • ½ lemon, juice only
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper 
video

Watch it here on YouTube

Basically, in a processor, pop in your egg yolks, vinegar (cider or white wine) salt and dijon and blend until smooth. Gradually pour in the oil, drip by drip, until thickened. You may not need all the oil. Either grate or finely slice your veg: I used the traditional carrots and white cabbage but added red onions for a sharper taste. I slice everything on the slicer attachment on the processor for ease and speed. Combine everything with the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. It really was this easy. I ran the processor a little longer after adding the oil, just to thicken it up further, but the quantities worked a treat. I’ll definintely be doing it again…mayo without xanthan gum, stabilisers and preservative? Yes please.
This should be a fresh, crispy coleslaw to serve with a steak of your choice!

Monday, 15 February 2016

Meal Planning Monday–February 15th 2015

It’s half term so I’ve got a little more time on my hands, but don’’t really want to use it all for cooking! With that in mind, I bought prok, beef and chicken on Friday and spent a good hour or so mincing, seasoning and sausaging ready for the week. We have several playdates arranged for F and only one day free, so I’ve had to consider lunches as well this week.

Monday – Wraps and Chips

Tuesday – Steak, Salad, Coleslaw & Potato Dauphinois

Wednesday – Homemade McDonalds Chicken Burger

Thursday – Slow-cooked bolognaise

Friday – MacCheese & Sticky Sausages

So, you’ve seen the Chicken Burger before and the rest is fairly simple. Having made sausages and minced beef already, it really is a case this week of cooking or assembling. Quick, simple, tasty and easy family meals with fresh ingredients. Even the MacCheese has spinach and courgette. And I’ve got a speedy and simple coleslaw recipe too where you can choose to make your own mayo or not…it’s up to you.

Your shopping list link is here. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

February 8th Meal Plan

This week's an easy one for us as there's so much in the freezer. It's the last week before half term too so I'm planning on using that time to batch cook and freeze so when baby comes there may be an odd meal around! 

Monday: Charlie Bigham fish pie with peas and sweet corn
Tuesday: Toad in the Hole with homemade sausages frozen last week
Wednesday: Chilli from the freezer, homemade and slow cooked last week
Thursday: Homemade fish and shop bought chips
Friday: pesto salmon, brown & wild rice plus veg.

A nice easy week with nothing to #prepahead as its all already been done...perfect.

Enjoy your week. 

Friday, 5 February 2016

Peri Peri Chicken Pot (Homemade Pot Noodles!) Prep. Ahead Meals

20160121_195126This was a ‘staff room’ recipe from Beth, who turned up at school one lunchtime with a pot of rabbit food. Well, I say that, but actually, when I tried it, it was far more delicious than rabbit food and even had some meat in it! And what’s more, its one of the quickest recipes you’ll try, especially if you prep. ahead and get all the chopping done beforehand.

DSC_1417

You’ll need to slice peppers (yellow), carrots and spring onions. I used the mandoline so they were super thin, but thinnish strips will be fine. Pop these into a zipped freezer bag and add mange tout, corainder leaves and baby spinach. (I told you it was a little like rabbit food!) To fill the bags, put them into an empty large mug so nothing spills. Chop some ready cooked chicken (or leftover chicken from the roast if you have any!) and add that, along with a good splash of ‘sauce’. I used Nando’s Peri Peri Medium, but you could add a dollop of Hoi Sin, or Sweet Chilli – really, whichever flavour you fancy. Remember to check the date on the chicken so you know when to eat it before. DSC_1422

I really prefer to bag these as individual portions, then they become a ‘grab and go’ dinner or lunch. And I also freeze them all, but you’ll need to remember to thaw in the fridge overnight for the next day. If I ever need a lunch, I just get one out the night before and take it with me, along with a noodle nest and stock cube.

To make the ‘meal’ you add noodles and stock. That’s it! I prefer the vermicelli rice noodles, but traditional egg noodles work just as well. I also opt for the ‘soft’ straight-to-wok noodles rather than the dry ones as they simply require heating, rather than cooking, making the dish even quicker. You can even add these soft noodles to your ready-prepped bag, but in this case, I wouldn’t freeze them. It’s just as simple to grab a nest of noodles on the day of making.

So, the initial idea with these was that you store all the ingredients in a Kilner jar, even the noodles, and simply pour hot stock over the top and eat. We all agreed, however, that the dish just isn’t hot enough like this, so I’ve found the best method to be tipping out your prepped veg. into a shallow bowl and adding the noodles. Boil the kettle and add half a stock cube to around 200ml hot water. Pour over the veg. and noodles and microwave for a minute until piping hot. It’s essentially a homemade pot noodle, I know, but with all that veg. surely the little bit of salted stock is balanced out?!

And I promise, it’s much tastier than you might think!

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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Slow Cooked Chilli – Prep Ahead Family Meals

I’ve never made a chilli in the slow cooker before, but have a good standard recipe I’ve always used that a colleague passed on several years ago. It’s delicious and can cetainly be prepped ahead of time.

Pop an onion, courgette and red pepper into a food processor and blitz until they’re finely chopped. Keep in a sealed tub or zipped freezer bag until the morning you intend to cook it. This was another recipe that I also used the food grinder for and again, it worked well. Since I knew I was going to slow cook it, I chose a cheaper cut of meat, braising steak, that was prechopped into chunks, and fed it through the grinder. Don’t forget to check the date on the meat so it’s still in date on the night you need it!

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On the day you’re making this meal, pop the meat and chopped vegetables into the slow cooker. (If you have time, fry off the mince and brown it first – if not, don’t worry!) Add a drained and rinsed can of kidney beans, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some chilli powder to taste. Give it all a good mix around and check the liquid covers the ingredients. If it doesn’t, tip in just enough water to cover them. As it’s slow cooked the usual ‘lid-off’ reduction won’t happen as it’ll be covered, so you don’t want too much liquid. Turn onto low for the day and leave for at least 5 hours. If it is still too runny at the end, transfer the crock pot to the hob if it’s allowed, and bubble on high until it has reduced.

Serve with soft tortillas, soured cream and grated cheese.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Bangers, Mash & Spinach–Prep. Ahead Family Mealtimes

Now, this is one to try if you really want to know what goes into your sausages! Otherwise, it’s always a quick and easy tea, especially if you use ready mashed mash. I hate doing mash, the phaff involved in peeling, then boiling, then mashing the potatoes, only to produce a rather lumpy dollop of something. So I’ve started buying frozen – looking at the ingredients, it has exactly what I would put in: potatoes, salt and pepper and butter, so I don’t really see the problem!
Anyway, if you use it, this becomes a super quick meal. Pop the susages in the oven for a healthier ‘cook’, microwave the mash and spinach and knock up a ‘ready made’ Bisto-type gravy. Easy.
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, then why not have a go at making your own sausages? Jimmy recently demo’ed how to do this on Friday Night Feast with Jamie, so I couldn’t wait to give it a go! My first attempt involved ‘mincing’ the meat in the food processor and using a piping bag to fill the sausage skins. Now this does work especially if you’ve got a sharp blade on your processor, but the fat needs chopping very small before beginning, so it’s not a brilliantly quick option. Also, the effort required to squeeze the meat out from a piping bag into sausage skins is incredible – and you could do with another pair of hands to be honest. And so it came about that I ordered the Food Grinder attachment for my KitchenAid, along with a sausage stuffer! And I bought skins from Lakeland rather than the ‘natural’ hog casings suggested. 
sausage making
My second attempt took just as long, but was much less effort! I used a small shoulder of pork (from Tesco, about £3) and a small pack of strips of pork belly (again, about £3) . Use a sharp knife to cut this into small strips and feed into the grinder. I’ll post a video next time I make them so keep an eye out for it. Now, some reviews had said that the grinder sometimes grinds it’s own metal, leaving a grey metallic goo in the meat (! – yuck) but I found this is only the case if you don’t keep the fat from from entangling itself around the blade and ‘grater’ plate. If you keep this are free-flowing, it works a treat. Add a good handful of dried breadcrumbs to the mix, and much pepper. A little salt also helps flavour and a selection of your favourite dried herbs. This way, you know exactly what has gone into each and every sausage. Once combined, re-feed back into the grinder with the stuffer attachment attached. Guide the mince through, leaving a little space in the casings to twist into sausages, but no air. I made between 12-14 sausages, and you could divide the batches and use different flavourings for each if you’d like.
Cook in a high oven. Use the browning juices from the tray to begin your gravy. Simply chop some onions and fry off gently in the sausage pan with a spoonful of redcurrant jelly. Once softened, sprinkle a little flour over and add water or stock to your taste.
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