Monday, 31 December 2012

Crockpot slow cooker

I was sent a Crock Pot slow cooker to review way back in November, but didn't get round to using it until mid December.  Cooking anything for Daisy's first few weeks was completely beyond us - we lived off ready meals and take aways.

When I finally got round to using the Crock Pot I made a Fridge Forage Stew - using chorizo and any vegetables that needed using up which I served with rice, a beef stew, and a Beef Thai Green Curry.  I didn't take a picture of the thai beef curry, because I went slightly wrong by not adding fresh coriander when making the paste - I used dried and it really didn't give that green colour - the curry ended up being a sludgy brown colour - but it tasted fantastic!  I'll be trying to do it again in the next couple of days so will blog it properly then.

I have a slow cooker already, but the big difference between that and the Crock Pot one is the Crock Pot has a timer.  You set the cooker going, set how many hours to cook for and off it goes.  When that time is up the cooker switches into Warm mode and keeps the food warm.  I do sometimes worry about overdoing things in the slow cooker, if I set it before I went to work at 7am then we didn't get back till 7pm - so this function is a big improvement on my old slow cooker.

I'd definitely recommend this slow cooker, just for the timer!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Jamie Oliver 15 Minute Meals

I was kindly sent the 15 minute meals book to review, although this displeased Mama B as she'd planned on buying me it for Christmas... If you're planning on purchasing the book it's available on amazon but I do think I've seen it cheaper in WH Smiths.

After a quick flick through the recipes I decided to make the Sausage Gnocchi and Greek Chicken.  I liked the main components of these recipes, but not the side dishes - I find this a lot with Jamie's recipes.  I don't think he'll mind me improvising - and I really hope he doesn't hold me using a packet of couscous - I couldn't find the plain couscous on the Tesco website to get with my delivery, so I used an Ainsley Harriott one!

Both meals were delicious, but I would need to practice making both before I could make them in 15 minutes!

I've really enjoyed the series, so I was very pleased to have the book to go with it.  There's a lot of recipes in there that I'll make, or adapt to our tastes.  My only slight criticism of the recipes are that the ingredients are very expensive.  I certainly couldn't afford to do a full week of these meals.

Like all Jamie books the recipes are easy to follow, and the appearance of the book is lovely.  

This won't take the title of my favourite Jamie book though - that's still controversially the Jamie's Kitchen book.  

Do you have a favourite Jamie Oliver recipe book?

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Come SPAM with Rach!

I was contacted by the PR firm for Spam to let me know about their frugal 5p canapés using Spam.  Gloriously dubbed "SPAMapés".  (They had me hooked at the name).

Spam isn't something I eat much of, but I liked the idea, and I loved the name so I had to give them a go.

I was some cans to use and set about making some canapés this evening.  The press release sent by their PR company had the two recipes on to make the 5p canapés, but in true Come Dine With Rach style I wanted to make the recipe my own so added a few extra touches.  This, of course, will mean these no longer come in at a purse friendly 5p each - but tis the season of excess, so why not.

Goats Cheese and Tomato SPAMapés

Ingredients as per press release below with additions:

Half red onion, finely chopped
chilli flakes
Goats cheese

I substituted the spring onions for red onion then added the chilli flakes in with the other ingredients for the batter and then followed the method as below.  The goats cheese was added at the end with half a cherry tomato.

My version is a bit more rustic than the ones below, and bigger than a canapé should be really!

I wasn't sure what to expect with the spamapé but they're actually really tasty, and very easy to do. I'll be making more of these for boxing day, serving with the tomato, chilli and ginger chutney I'm making this week!

Press Release

Christmas canapés that will wow your guests but at a bite-sized cost
With hectic Christmas and New Year festivities rapidly approaching, the last thing you want to think about is food preparation. That’s why we have created these quick and simple SPAM
apés made with SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham, so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time getting ready for your party guests.

Make your party one to remember by using SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham in your canapés. These perfect finger foods will entice your friends to the buffet table, and what’s just as impressive as the taste is the price! Just one can of SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham makes up to 40 canapés - that’s a tiny bite-sized cost of just 5p per canapé!

Indulge your guests with these mini SPAM® Cakes and Bruschettas, which can be made quickly by mixing SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham with other simple ingredients.
For fuss free festive nibbles, check out the recipes below.


1 x 340g can of SPAM® Chopped Pork & Ham - cut into 1/4" cubes
100g Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 egg beaten
150 ml milk
1 small tin sweetcorn - drained
4 spring onions finely chopped (use green bits as well)
Vegetable oil for frying
small cherry tomatoes for garnish - sliced in half
cocktail sticks


1)  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, egg and milk.
2)  Mix in the cubes of SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham, drained sweetcorn and chopped spring onions
3)  Heat a non- stick pan with 2 tsp oil and cook spoonfuls of the batter until golden
     Turn over and cook the other side. Continue this until all mixture is used up
4) Drain on kitchen paper - keep warm to serve straight away otherwise allow to cool, spike a tomato half with a cocktail stick and garnish each SPAM® Cake
Recipe should make approximately 30 canapes


1 X 340g tin of SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham - cut into 1/4" slices and then into triangles etc.
4 mini baguettes cut into 1/2" slices - should get 10 slices per baguette
1 x 190g Jar Basil Pesto
1 x 190g Jar Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

1) Toast slices of mini baguettes on both sides and allow to get cold
2)  Spread half the bruschetta with Basil Pesto and the other half with Sun dried tomato Pesto
3)  Place a triangle of SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham on each bruschetta
4)  Garnish with the olives and sun dried tomatoes. Put onto serving plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley

Makes approximately 40 Bruschetta

SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham is available in Classic, Bacon, Black Pepper and Garlic varieties and is available in 200g and 340g cans from all major UK supermarkets with an RRP of £1.49 and £1.69 respectively.   For further information on SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham products follow us on Facebook or visit our website

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Chunky Onion Marmalade

I made the next additions to my Christmas hampers last week using an Ainsley Harriot recipe but didn't quite chop the onions finely enough, so my offering is called Chunky Onion Marmalade.  I didn't alter the ingredients, quantities or method from the recipe - unusual for me, but I don't have time to do a few versions to get perfect so I had to put my faith into Ainsley...  My gamble paid off though, I had a sneaky taste of what didn't make it into the jars and it was delicious!

 The onions I used came from my Yorkshire Farm Shop vegetable box.  A weekly email gets sent out with the vegetables available from the farm and then you get to choose what size box you want, and if you want a box that week.  There's also breads, dairy and a beers and sundries list that comes out that can be ordered from too.  I'd definitely recommend the vegetable boxes, using organic veg really makes a difference to the flavour and has definitely improved my onion marmalade and carrot chutney!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Meal Planning Monday

It's been a long time since I linked up with Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday - I have been meal planning for the last few weeks (although not really sticking to it) I just haven't had time to get a blog post done on it.

Monday - Slow cooker Chorizo stew (as inspired by Charlie)
Tuesday - Stuffed chicken with roasted veg (potatoes, carrot, tomatoes & beetroot)
Wednesday - Paella (Chicken & chorizo)
Thursday - Sweet potato and chilli soup
Friday - jacket potato, cheese & beans
Saturday - haddock & cheesy leeks
Sunday - slow cooker beef stew, cauliflower cheese & mash

I'm not doing anything too taxing this week because I also have my Christmas Hampers to finish (and a 5 week old to look after!).  I did the onion marmalade last week, this week is more carrot chutney and chilli jam.  I'll be making the baked goodies nearer to Christmas.

Is anyone else making goodies for Christmas hampers?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Cowboy Casserole

Looking after Daisy is meaning that cooking isn't a great priority at the minute.  After living off ready meals/take aways for the first couple of weeks I've been trying to make sure I cook most of the nights - but things have to be quick and easy.  We've been having a lot of one pot meals, and last night I quickly whipped up a quick version of Cowboy Casserole.  If I was making this with more time I'd add a better selection of beans, and some more veg - onions, carrots etc but I just wanted it to be simple and easy.

Six good quality sausages, I used pork & sage
One tin tomatoes
One tin beans
Good squirt of tomato puree
black pepper
cayenne pepper

I chopped the sausages in half and then browned them in my large casserole pan for about 15 minutes.and then threw over the tins of tomatoes and beans, squeezed in the tomato puree and seasoned with black and cayenne pepper.  I let that simmer for about 10 minutes and then served.

A posher version of a tin of sausage and beans really!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Visit Leeds Foodie Guide to Christmas Eating in Leeds

I was contacted by Visit Leeds and send a copy of their Foodie Guide to eating in Leeds this Christmas.  I hope to check out Friends of Ham at some point, having not been yet due to being pregnant.

Compact and cosmopolitan, Leeds city centre boasts a huge selection of restaurants and places to eat, all within walking distance of each other.   

It’s a city of gastronomic stalwarts, with many of the same names being recognised year-after-year for their fine fodder.  Names such Anthony’s, Sous le Nez, Hansa’s, Brasserie 44 and the 4th Floor in Harvey Nichols would all feature on this list.

However, this Christmas it’s well worth looking a little harder for some of the city’s shiny new gems and surprising suppers. Here are a few of the new(er) kids on the Leeds culinary block.

Friends of Ham
The Only Craft Beer Bar & Charcuterie in the UK (we think). No pretentions here, just good beer.

You could call Friends of Ham a Craft Beer Deli, a Charcuterie Ale Bar, or even a Continental Bier Cafe (if you’re feeling fancy)... all we know is that every single item on the food, beer and wine menus has been chosen because the team there hopes that you’ll enjoy it just as much as they do.

They source air dried ham, charcuterie and cheese locally where possible, but aren’t afraid to ship in cheeses and meats such as authentic Iberico Ham from further afield if they really can’t be matched.

4 New Station Street, Leeds, tel: 0113 242 0275


Create is an award-winning social enterprise, which develops innovative catering training courses and creates jobs for people who have been homeless, marginalised or who are vulnerable.

The flagship restaurant in the heart of Leeds offers fantastic food in a lively, friendly atmosphere. Opened in August 2011, the restaurant was developed and is overseen by Richard Walton-Allen, its National Executive Chef. From contemporary decor and furnishings to a menu of modern British classics, it has designed every detail to provide diners with a unique and memorable experience.

It also recently won the Observer Food Monthly Best Ethical Restaurant of the year 2012.

31 King Street, Leeds tel: 0113 242 0628

Kendells Bistro

Unashamedly French and unmistakably Yorkshire, it is relaxed, eccentric and informal. No waiters topping up wine glasses after every sip, or sneaking up behind you with a six foot peppermill. There are cloth napkins, but not starched, blackboard menus, an open plan kitchen, and intimate cosy candles flickering friendly. It’s also won Best Chef for Chef Patron Steve Kendell, Best Fine Dining and Best Overall Restaurant in the 2012 Oliver Awards.

3 St Peters Square, Leeds tel: 01132436553

Bird by Vineet, at the Alea Casino

The award-winning Bird Restaurant is run by twice Michelin-starred chef Vineet Bhatia. Named Best Indian Restaurant in 2011 by the Oliver Awards, and listed in the prestigious Michelin Guide 2013, the Bird delivers exceptional food and an overall dining experience second-to-none. Dramatic design and exquisite presentation leave diners in no doubt this is a far cry from the local curry house!

The Bird offers a wide variety of main courses as well as delicious street food platters and a selection of exotic deserts.

Add an exciting twist to your visit by learning how to cook your favourite street food dish on the tak-a-tak grill with head chef Vivek Kahsiwale.

The Bird, Alea Leeds, 4 The Boulevard, Clarence Dock, Leeds, tel: 0113 350 5296


An authentic steak house, bringing you all the tradition behind the original Brazilian way of serving meat. Top gaucho chefs expertly grill 15 cuts of meat, and offer customers continuous tableside service – diners have a green and red-sided card on their table. Show the green and the chef will bring out skewers of sizzling meats to the table; show the red side to indicate you need a rest. Fill up on the gourmet salad bar, traditional Brazilian side dishes and an excellent wine list – and remember to bring a good appetite.

Waterman's Place, 3 Wharf Approach, Granary Wharf, Leeds, tel: 0113 247 1182

Leeds Corn Exchange
Leeds Corn Exchange is one of Britain's finest Victorian buildings and a Grade 1 listed structure. Recently restored with its stunning and unique roof, the Corn Exchange hosts three different and exciting venues, from the more formal brasserie style Anthony’s Piazza, to the unabashed Americana of Primo Gourmet Hotdogs and the self-service style Rib Shakk with its homemade ‘Slaw’ and skin on fries.

Corn Exchange, Call Lane, Leeds, tel: 0113 234 0363


Notes to Editor
1. Contacts for further information/images
Nina Hands, Aberfield Communications
T: 0113 357 2072
M: 07971 598904

2. Leeds and Partners
Leeds and Partners works to raise the profile of Leeds on the national and international stage, promoting the city as a key destination for inward investment, business and leisure tourism.  The organisation works with key private and public sector partners to attract new investment and drive economic growth – helping to create and sustain jobs and employment opportunities in the region.
For corporate and consumer information see

Monday, 3 December 2012

Swizzels Christmas Sweets

Stuck for inspiration for the sweet lover in your life?  How about some Swizzels sweets...  I was sent some of their Christmas collection to review, and they've gone down a treat in our house.  Drumsticks are a favourite of mine so those have been earmarked for me!

Press release:

Calling all festive sweet fanatics. A new range of Christmas tins and tubes, that make perfect presents and stocking fillers, have been launched by Swizzels Matlow, the makers of Love Hearst, Parma Violets and Drumstick Lollies.

The festive collection sees Swizzels Matlow putting some of their most iconic brands into 750g tins. The new Sweet Shop Favourites product, which includes the popular new Squashies range, has an RSP of £5 and is available in Costco, Asda and Nisaway. The varied selection of well known brands is perfect for families to share and makes a fun gift.

Other products available exclusively in Tesco include750g The Superstars tin with an RSP of £5, a 324g Selection Pack with an RSP of £3 that includes a variety of Drumstick Lollies, Love Hearts and New Refresher Bars and  finally a 700g All Time Favourites Jar for £5. These family favourites are bright, with a modern design that's appealing to parents and children alike.

The Christmas range also includes three different 108g tubes of Mini Love Hearts, New Refreshers and Drumstick Lollies, all have an RSP of £1.49 and are all available in Waitrose and Asda. The products' festive snowflake and ribbon packaging has been designed to attract seasonal shoppers and convert traditional chocolate eaters.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Blogging Break

I'm going to be taking a blogging break for a few more weeks while I get used to being a Mum.  I'll be back towards the end of November with some Christmas related posts.

Baby Daisy was born on 3rd November.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Carrot Chutney version 2

In an attempt to make the perfect carrot chutney for Christmas I tried to iron out the mistakes I made last time.  I used a finer grater, and halved the amount of vinegar.  Then used caster sugar rather than the brown sugar - so it at least stayed orange this time, rather than muddy brown.

500g carrots, peeled and grated
 1 medium onion, chopped very finely
2 bay leaves
200g caster sugar
100ml white balsamic vinegar
200ml boiling water

I peeled and grated the carrots, and then peeled and finely chopped the onion.  I popped the onion and the carrot in the pan to sauté, in a small amount of olive oil.  When the veg had cooked for 20 mins I added the bay leaves, the sugar, vinegar and boiling water.

I let that all cook off, until the mixture was sticky, and no liquid spilt out when I ran a spoon through.

The result was a stickier less vinegary version than last time - but it's very, very sweet.  Tasted pretty good with some cheese though!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Mushroom and Pea Risotto

150g arborio rice
1 litre vegetable stock
leftover wine
Onion, finely chopped
squeeze of garlic

Phil chopped the onion finely and sautéed in olive oil with a squeeze of garlic.  When the onion had cooked off for a few minutes I added  the arborio rice to the pan and then the wine.  I'd say it was about a quarter of a bottle, so probably a glass of wine.  I let the alcohol cook off while Phil chopped the mushrooms, then they were added to the pan, along with a small amount of stock and a generous sprinkle of dried thyme.

I kept adding the stock, a small amount each time, until the liquid had cooked off.  With the last addition of stock I added the frozen peas.

We served it with some bread, and a good helping of grated cheese (Phil doesn't eat parmesan so I don't have any in the house).

It was delicious, warming, gooey and tasty.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Sweet Potato Curry

I adore sweet potato, I could eat it most meals.  One of my favourite quick curries is sweet potato and pea, which during the week when I'm working I'll use a curry paste for - but if I have the time I'll do it from scratch. I did have one lazy bit to this though - I used lazy chilli, so I didn't have to chop one up!  Phil heated this up for me and forgot to add the peas, so this is a pea-less version.

2 sweet potatoes
4 small potatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
tbsp turmeric
tsp cumin seeds
tsp ground cumin
tsp ground coriander
squeeze of lazy chilli
squeeze of garlic puree
coconut milk
half pint vegetable stock
corn flour

Chop the onion finely while the cumin seeds are heating in some oil in a large pan.  When they start to sizzle add the onion, the garlic and the chilli.  Let those cook off while you peel and chop the sweet and normal potatoes.  Add the spices to the onions and coat them well, then add the potatoes to the pan and let them cook off for a couple of minutes while you make up the vegetable stock.  Pour the stock in and then cook the potatoes for 20 minutes until they're soft.  Add the coconut milk for the last five minutes of the potatoes cooking, and if the curry needs thickening add some cornflour to thicken.  I would normally add peas for the last couple of minutes, and if I have it, serve with fresh coriander.  We had this with a naan bread, I love dipping in the sauce.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Swizzles Spooky Sweets for Halloween

I was sent some Swizzles Spooky Sweets to review.  I'm trying my best not to open them and get stuck in - once I get started with sweets I find it hard to stop!  I'm going to use some of these as decorations for some Halloween cupcakes, but while there's still work going on in our house I can't do too much baking - it's very dusty here today!

These sweets will be great for dishing out to kids coming round for Trick Or Treating - we get lots round here.

Spooky Halloween sweets
British confectionery giant and king of the trick or treat season, Swizzels Matlow Ltd, is gearing up for the Halloween season with a range of ghoulish party delights.
This year's terrifying treats include special treat bags and tubs of Swizzels Matlow's perennial favourites, including Love Hearts, Drumsticks, Fizzers, New Refreshers and Fruity Pops. There are also big bags and tubs of treats for party goers or families to share, including Trick or Treat Lolly Mix, Monster Treats and Spooky Treat or Trick Mix.
Mega Drumsticks now have a black and orange wrapper, while Double Dip becomes Spooky Dip, with a blackcurrant flavour leaving tongues black!            

Products are available in a host of national supermarkets.

Sarah-Louise Heslop, marketing manager at Swizzels Matlow, said:
"This year's Halloween range is perfect for any hellish Halloween parties. Our lollies, dips, sweets, tubs and packs are all adorned with creepy packaging - ideal presents for hungry trick or treaters. Don't forget to stock up for fright night!"
Swizzels Matlow is the UK's largest family-owned independent sugar confectionery business and one of the few confectionery companies to still manufacture sweets in the UK. The company makes a range of well known products including Love Hearts, New Refreshers, Drumstick Lollies, Rainbow Drops, Double Lollies and Fruity Pops.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Press Release: Yo Sushi, York

I don't normally like to put up press releases, unless I've either been invited to go to the opening, or I've been sent the product to review.  But I'll make an exception with this one - because I'm really excited about it opening.  I adore Yo Sushi, it's one of my favourite places to eat when in Leeds.  I know it shouldn't be, with it being a chain, and I should be supporting local independents.... but I love watching the dishes go round that conveyor belt and then making a grab for one as it comes past!


YO! Sushi is delighted to announce the opening of its newest restaurant in the heart of York.

Set within the old Ponden Mill retail outlet, the finishing touches are being put in place at the

2 storey, 3000 sq ft restaurant on Church Street, ready for the grand opening on Thursday 18th

October at 12noon.

YO! Sushi has something for everyone, with a range of over 90 hot and cold Japanese inspired

dishes customers can choose from a variety including delicious soups, Yakisoba noodles and

Katsu Curries along with some of their signature sushi and sashimi dishes ranging from £1.80

to £5 - as well as a wide range of Japanese beers, a carefully selected wine list, Sake or soft

drinks to accompany your meal.

Simply choose a seat next to their world famous ‘kaiten’ conveyor belt, take a dish, eat and pay

– it really is that easy. Or you can order from the menu and watch your dish be prepared in

front of your very eyes in just a few minutes.

The new restaurant is located on the busy Church Street and designer Philip Watts has

described its unique design as “a beautiful building in a conservation area packed with great

restaurants so we wanted to design something that felt peaceful, modern and minimal and to

use materials that were in influenced by the existing building. Then we added a few YO! Sushi

touches to give the restaurant a new and fresh feel that gently nods to our original urban Tokyo


Laura McMahon the new Assistant Manager, has lived in York since she was 6. She said:

“York has always been a great place for restaurants and I’m delighted to be involved in

bringing YO! Sushi’s fantastic range of Japanese inspired food to the City I grew up in.”

To celebrate this brand new opening, YO! Sushi has planned lots of fun activities to encourage

locals to join in the fun that YO! Sushi intends to bring to this cultural and historic city. YO!

Sushi’s friendly casual dining experience has something for everyone, making it the perfect

place for a quick bite or a leisurely dinner with friends and family.

YO! Sushi York will be open from Thursday October 18th at 12.00. Opening times will then be

Friday - Saturday 12pm-11pm and Sunday - Thursday 12pm-10pm.

YO! Sushi York

15-17 Church Street,



Tel: 01904 966663

Issued on behalf of:


For further information, contact Lauren Felber at Chocolate PR,,

0113 2361835

Monday, 8 October 2012

In search of the perfect Parkin

I love bonfire night, not just for the excitement of the fire and fireworks, but for the food too.  Pie and peas, jacket potatoes and parkin - who could want more?

I'm going to use Parkin for one of my upcoming Clandestine Cake Club events, so I'm trying to get my recipe perfected.  I think Parkin can be quite individual - I like mine to be quite spicy and very treacley and sticky.

My first attempt of the year was using a waitrose recipe but I used oats rather than oatmeal, and increased the amount of flour - the mixture seemed too runny.  Predictably I got quite a dry cake.  For my next attempt I'll keep to the 200g of flour, but will use wholemeal instead, and use 200g of treacle and 100g of golden syrup.

Do you have a special Parkin recipe?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The quest for the perfect carrot chutney

My favourite Marks and Spencer sandwich is the Wensleydale and Carrot Chutney.  I could eat it every day.  I decided many, many months ago that I really wanted to try and recreate that carrot chutney for myself, so I could include it in mini hampers for my friends at Christmas.

Fast forward several months and I still hadn't given it a go, so last weekend I bit the bullet, found a recipe to tweak and off I went.

I used this recipe as the basis for my chutney but made some alterations:

600g carrots, peeled and grated
Squeeze of lazy chilli
half an onion, chopped very finely
2 bay leaves
200g demerera sugar
100ml white balsamic vinegar
100ml rice wine vinegar

I sauteed the carrots and onion in with a squeeze of lazy chilli for 30 mins - I added a splash of water to keep everything moist because it was sticking to the pan, then added the sugar and both the vinegars.  I let the liquid all cook off, simmering until it was sticky.

Whilst all of that was going on I sterilised my jars, washing them in soapy water and then putting them in the oven at 150 for 20 mins to dry out.

When the liquid had evaporated from the mixture I spooned it into the warm jars, popped the lids on and then turned them upside down - as the recipe I was following stated to do.

I managed to fill 5 of my small jars (Lakeland), I've had one jar for testing, given another jar to my boss at work for testing and will give another to my parents.

Upon tasting it I wasn't fully happy with the results - for a start it's too vinegary, and then I didn't reduce the sugar accordingly - so it's far too sweet.  Lastly, using the brown sugar made my carrots look murky, which doesn't make them look very appetising.

My next batch will use one full onion, have only 100ml of vinegar, with 200ml of water and use caster sugar.  I'll also use a finer grater for the carrots - the feedback I had was that it's too chunky.