Sunday, 15 December 2013

Recent Eats

It's taken a while to catch up on everything after I was in hospital - then with trying to do some Christmas socialising I just haven't had the time to blog.

I've eaten out recently at Trinity Kitchen and Las Iguanas.  We also had a walk round the Dickensian market in Wetherby last weekend and picked up some treats from The Pastry Stall.

At Trinity Kitchen I had some cocktails with the lovely Mrs P, at 360 Champagne and Cocktails and then scoffed a lovely burrito from Tortilla (and a margarita!).  I really liked Trinity Kitchen, I like that there's some fixed places, and I don't mind the pop up ones.  I'm looking forward to the change over next week and getting some lovely fish and chips from Fish&.  

This weekend I had my annual christmas meet up with my school friends.  We went to Brewdog, Las Iguanas and then Duck and Drake to watch a band.  I was driving so had a mocktail in Las Iguanas, and pop everywhere else - but that was fine.

I was impressed with the quality of food at Las Iguanas - I usually find that food is rubbish during Christmas party season, but we really enjoyed our meal.  We had to use the set menu, but all found something we liked.  I had the crab and crayfish gratin to start, then festive fajitas.

I have a works christmas do this week, but I'm undecided if I'll go - we couldn't get in anywhere to eat (or agree where to go) so it's just drinks after work, but on the Thursday.  I don't fancy trying to get through Friday at work with a hangover!

I'm now on the final stretch of prep for Christmas.  I have to make my carrot chutney, onion marmalade and some sweet bits to go in my hamper.  I need to buy some cheese for it, and also buy cheese for Christmas day.   I'm making a bacon and egg pie for boxing day, and the desserts, so I need to get cracking at deciding what I will make!

Wharf Valley rapeseed oil

I was sent some Wharf Valley rapeseed oil to review a few weeks ago.  I have a garlic rapeseed oil that i use a lot, but I hadn't tried any of the wharf valley ones. When I saw they did a lemon one I asked to try that.

I used mine to make some hummus, using the recipe from the wharf valley website.

It smells delicious on its own, I'm definitely looking forward to using it in salad dressings.  The hummus it made was lovely too.

The original rapeseed oil has been used a lot in my every day cooking - I think I prefer using it to olive oil now.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Gourmet Garden

I was recently sent some Gourmet Garden fresh made easy herbs and spices to review.

I've used the garlic and ginger before, they're always really handy to have in the fridge. I've used the garlic, ginger, hot chilli, basil and coriander ones in various meals we've had so far and even in the chutney I've been practicing for Xmas hampers.

I haven't tried the lemongrass one yet, but love the look of this coriander and lemongrass salmon recipe on the gourmet garden website, and the lemongrass and chicken soup one.

For us these work much better than buying fresh herbs - we either don't use all of the small packs, and they get wasted, or I buy a plant and then end up killing it - I can't seem to keep any indoor plants alive!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Recent eats

A few weeks ago we went to Kirkstall Deli market.  The weather not being that great meant the market was fairly quiet, so we could have a good look at everything.  As usual I bought a salted caramel brownie from The Yummy Yank, then picked up some cheese from Cryer & Stott, and finally grabbed a couple of buffalo burgers from Snowden Hill Water Buffalo.

A couple of days later I had tea at The Adelphi with the girls.  I had a cracking blue cheese and bacon burger.

At the beginning of November was Daisy's first birthday, the cake was a joint effort - I did the cake and Phil did the decorating.  We chose not to have a birthday party, but had friends and family drop round instead.  I made some buns to go with the cake, trying out the lakeland duo icing kit - not as easy as it looks, well not for me!

On bonfire night we went to my cousin Marc's wedding at Otley Chevin Country Park Hotel, I'm never usually that impressed with hotel  food at weddings, but the food there was gorgeous.  We had a fantastic day.

This last week we've not done anything, I've been ill since Friday - seem to be on the mend now, and actually looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Chocolate Cake with Ginger icing

In honour of it being Chocolate Week last week I wanted to bake a chocolate cake.  I'd fully intended doing a chocolate victoria sponge, using a recipe from my Good Housekeeping Baking book.  As I made the sponge I realised I didn't fancy chocolate icing (I was feeling a bit sickly after sampling a little too much of the mixture...).  After enquiring who does and doesn't like cherries in the house I decided to go with a ginger icing instead.

I won't post the recipe for the sponge, as it isn't mine to share.  For the icing I used 75g butter, 150g icing sugar, chopped stem ginger and some of the sugar syrup my stem ginger had been in.  I made up the buttercream icing as normal, adding the sugar syrup, then divided the mix into two.  I then added stem ginger to the half I was using to sandwich the cake, but kept the top layer of icing without the ginger pieces.  For a little bit of extra decoration I added the little gingerbread men.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Chocolate by Genevie

A couple of weeks ago I was sent a box of chocolates to review from Chocolate by Genevie

It's never occurred to me to buy chocolate online, after seeing this website it's definitely something I'll be looking at for Christmas presents though - what could be nicer than some chocolates waiting on the mat for you when you get in from work?  Beats a pile of bills any day.

I was sent a mixture of truffles, as I don't like praline, or anything with coconut in, Phil had those ones, and I had the remainder of the truffles.

They were nice, around the same quality as Thorntons.

There's a good variety of choice and price on the site, at £3.50 the delivery isn't cheap - but I'd rather pay that than have to go to the post office and queue for half an hour to save £1! My box came well packaged so I wouldn't be worried about chocolates arriving damaged.

All in all, a good product and service, one I can see me using in the future.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Chiquito - Breakfast Menu

I was sent a voucher to review the new breakfast menu at Chiquito's months ago, I finally got round to using it on our way to Wales a couple of weeks ago.

If I'm honest I wasn't really expecting it to be up to much, but I was proven wrong.

I had the Mexican Ranch Eggs and Phil had the Breakfast Feast.

My ranch eggs were spicy, but not so much that I couldn't eat it.  This would be a complete hangover cure for me, I'll have to make my own version next time I've hit the wine train too hard.

Phil enjoyed his breakfast, the only thing he'd change would be to have a bigger portion of beans!

Daisy was made a fuss of, and I was pleased that we were asked if we'd like a plate for her when our food came out.  She chomped on some of Phil's breakfast, and would have given mine a go if I'd let her - slightly too hot for her delicate tastebuds just yet!

The service was quick, efficient and very friendly. We were made to feel welcome but not overly mithered by our waitress  (one of my pet hates, being too fussed over while I'm trying to eat).

I also quite liked the beer bottle chandelier!  Sadly I don't think it will go in our dining room....

Monday, 7 October 2013

Recent eats - holidaying in Wales

We had a little holiday in Wales at the end of September (coinciding with my birthday).  We stopped in a Superior caravan at Presthaven Sands.  I'd never stayed in a Haven before so I wasn't sure what to expect.

The caravan was of a higher standard than I'd expected, but wasn't as clean as I'd have liked.  Thank goodness I brought my flashwipes with me!  Inside the van the floor was dirty, the cupboards had dried on food over them and inside the fridge hadn't been cleaned.  Outside the van there was also loads of cigarette butts.  I was disappointed mostly by that - it's not really the first thing you want to see upon arriving.  I noted all of that in the feedback form, I hope my comments are taken on board.  

The site itself was great, very friendly and helpful staff, and so many activities for children.  We took Daisy swimming, to the soft play and she went on the swings with Phil every day.  We went to the evening entertainment on 2 of our 4 nights, Phil managed to win the bingo on the second night.  We visited family, went to Llandudno, Conwy and Rhyl, and on my birthday went into Chester.

I'd definitely do another static caravan holiday - but I'll never become a caravaner!  Towing, packing and unpacking a caravan is not my idea of a holiday!

Onto the eating.... we had to have the standard caravan tea - corned beef hash.  

Phil also did us a lovely spag bol one of the nights.

I picked up some fudge in Conwy, the salted caramel was my favourite.

I had a Conwy Cream Tea - which surprised me to come on the same plate - but it saved room on our table so was fine with me.  Not sure about the whipped cream though...

For my birthday lunch I had a hankering for a burger, so we had burgers at a pub in Chester, and picked up a slice each of chocolate gateaux from Patisserie Valerie for our pudding.  I then had pizza for tea (piggy)

We didn't go wild with eating out, and with having Daisy with us we didn't want to eat out at night.  

We had a nice break,and it was lovely to see family.

Tarte Tatin

Last month I took part in the Titan Supper Club making a Tarte Tatin.

I'd never attempted one before, so when I was contacted to ask if I'd like to take part I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go*.

Whilst I love baking, I'm not much of a dessert maker - I tend to stick to Tiramisu as my signature dessert.

I didn't fully follow the recipe.... I didn't have to to make the pastry, so I used bought puff pastry.

After peeling, coring and chopping the apples I can see that my kitchen is lacking in a vital utensil - a corer!  It took much longer than I was expecting.  I slightly burnt my caramel - but I prefer a darker one anyway.

I was a bit shocked when I took my Tarte Tatin out and saw how much the pastry had risen, but it dropped slightly with the change of temperature after coming out of the oven, and then when I turned the tart out it didn't matter anyway.

The finished result was absolutely delicious.  The ginger didn't overpower, but gave a lovely heat that went well with the sweetness of the caramel.

It was heaven with some vanilla icecream and a couple of sprigs of mint!

*I was reimbursed for ingredients

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Tomato Sausage Stew

I love sausages, and I love a good stew, particularly as the weather gets colder.  I threw this one together recently for a tasty, warming tea.

Tomato sausages, buttnernut squash, cannellini beans, tomatoes and herbs made up my stew.  I left the sausages whole and browned them off with some mustard seeds while I chopped the squash, then added that to the pan.  I then added the tomatoes - tinned and passata, then the beans and then the herbs.  The eagle eyed will notice there is a distinct absence of onion from my stew....  I'm trying out using onion powder, having unwittingly landed myself with an onion hater - who reached the end of his tether with me not chopping the onions small enough, and threatened to serve me sprout soup - argh nightmare food.  I don't do sprouts and I only do cabbage in a teeny weeny amount, drowned in soy sauce as part of a stir fry.

This is a particularly bad picture of the finished article - and one of the sausages has an odd phallic look to it!

Six of those fat tomato sausages was far too much for the two of us, we ended up with leftovers (leftover sausage is unheard of in this household).

Do you have a favourite sausage stew?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Betty's Treacle Tart

A chance tweet the other day during Great British Bake Off brought about a lovely exchange with the Betty's twitter account, and an offer of a Treacle Tart to review.  You'd be stupid to turn down anything from Betty's so I jumped at the chance.

I was very disappointed when I realised I'd missed the package arriving on Friday,but it turned out for the best - it meant I got to have some during my afternoon off today.

As soon as the box arrived I ripped it open to have a look - it took a lot of will power not to get stuck in straight away - it being lunchtime when the package arrived.  I'd mentioned on our email correspondence that we'd be away soon during my birthday week, so the note was a lovely gesture too.  The tart was packaged very well, plenty of protection to ensure the tart arrived in one piece!

I had a huge slab with a cup of tea mid afternoon, and very naughtily had another piece after Daisy had gone to bed - in my defense I wasn't sure how much longer it would last...... any excuse....

So what was it like?  Well - delicious.  Gooey centre, delicate pastry, treacle sticky loveliness at it's finest.  I haven't yet tried something from Betty's that I didn't enjoy.

I'm looking forward to finding an excuse to go back for another afternoon tea (we went for my 30th birthday when I was too heavily pregnant to do anything else).  Of course next time I'll be selecting the champage option!

 Me, outside Betty's 26.9.12 - 3.5 stones heavier than now!

A huge thank you to Kelly for organising my lovely treat - it was much appreciated!

Spam in a tub

Quite a few weeks ago I came home from work to find a surprise package for me, I opened it to find something new - Spam in a tub!

I love how easy to open it is, and it was much easier to pop in the fridge and re-use.

I used mine in lunchtime salads, and a pasta dish (spamonara).

I'd definitely purchase the tub over the original can, and we'll probably get some for our little mini break to Wales coming up soon - Spam is most definitely caravan food!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Beanies Flavoured coffee review

After I'd done a review for the Work Perk I was contacted by Beanies to see if I'd like to try some more.  I've really been enjoying flavoured coffees recently so I was happy to do the review.  I have some chocolate truffle coffee from Whittard's at work at the moment, which smells divine but alas doesn't have any chocolatey taste.

The Beanies coffees smell great, but they also have some taste too.

The Cinder Toffee is definitely may favourite of the two, it's lovely.  I'm drinking the Irish Cream one as I type, and because it tastes like Bailey's it feels quite wrong to be drinking it before 10am!  I prefer to have this one on an evening.

I'd definitely buy the Cinder Toffee again, but only after I've tried the Caramel, Double Chocolate and French Vanilla ones!

Do you have any flavoured coffees?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

I'm in chains...

I've had a week of eating in chain restaurants/pubs.  I didn't purposely set out to do that, it's just what's happened.  I'm not snobby about eating in chains, I have a lower expectation of the standard of their food - but I expect them to be worth the money we're paying.

On Tuesday last week we ate at Frankie and Benny's at Crown Point in Leeds.  On Friday I ate and had drinks at Tiger, Tiger in Leeds and on Sunday I had food at Flying Legends in York.

Predictably the worst food was at Flying Legends - and I only had a jacket potato with cheese and beans.  Two jackets, a vast amount of cheese and barely any beans.  But this is the place I'm most accepting of the food being bad.  I didn't have any expectation of it being good.  The place was chosen as an easy option, eating out in a large group at short notice with a large amount of children.  It is what it is, is all I have to say.

Tuesday's meal at Frankie and Benny's has really turned round my opinion.  After our disastrous meal at the York one last year I wasn't in any hurry to eat there again, but we needed food, and needed somewhere with enough space for the push chair and that would have a high chair.

They had normal high chairs, but also had these ones that clip to the table - Daisy loved being so high and right up with us.  Because of our bad experience I wasn't expecting the food to be OK - but it was, we ordered from the lunch menu, it arrived quickly, and was very pleasant.  We had a mixture of pizza and pasta dishes between us, some dough balls and a couple of puddings.  It didn't set the world on fire in culinary innovativeness, it wasn't likely to be locally sourced, but it was quick, decent lunchtime grub and that's all we were there for.  I can't say I'll be rushing to go back on an evening, I'm still annoyed with what happened last time, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at going for lunch again.

On Friday I went out for after work drinks for the first time in over 2 years.  I had no clue of where to go in Leeds, so my friend and I picked the safe option and ended up in Tiger Tiger, Mrs P had been in there for after work drinks/food a few times recently.  On an evening there is 50% off food and drinks between 5 and 9, which is exactly the deal we were looking for.  We shared a jug of cocktail - Raspberry Beret and ordered our food - Chicken Fajitas for me, and Chilli Glazed Lamb Rump for Mrs P.  The high point for us was being in the restaurant - which meant on a busy Friday tea time we could sit down, eat and drink and hear each other, so we could have a good old gossip.  No fighting at the bar, no noisy people, no struggling to find seats.  The food was enjoyable, lots of fajita filling and plenty of tortillas, Mrs P enjoyed her lamb.  The 50% off made it all the more enjoyable though really.   Walking through into the main bar was a culture shock from our chilled evening, lots of people enjoying their evening in the main bar, a very different atmosphere to the restaurant with a younger group.  I heard myself exclaiming "Ooh look at all these young people" and realised ten years back I was one of those young people - I struggle to accept I'm no longer young!

Before we headed home we popped into North Bar, if I had to pick one bar to go to in Leeds it would always be North Bar, fantastic selection of drinks and a laid back atmosphere - perfect.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Old Amsterdam Cheese

I was recently invited to a blogger event where some Old Amsterdam cheese was being sampled.  Now I have Daisy I won't be attending many events, if any at all, so I politely declined my place.  I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted back and given the offer of some cheese being posted to me so I could still try it - I wish all companies wanting to work with bloggers did this (especially booze ones....)

Old Amsterdam is an aged gouda cheese.  I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't looked at their website though - I thought it tasted more like a mature Edam cheese - maybe just my taste buds though?

I used mine on some crumpets, in with some pasta, on a salad and ate it on it's own.  I think it was most enjoyable in the salad or on it's own though.

It's not a cheese I would have been drawn to, but now I've tried it if I saw it on offer I would definitely get some more.  After looking at the recipes page on the Old Amsterdam website I definitely want to get some more to try doing a few of those!

I was also sent some info on Old Amsterdam's Top Tips for a perfect cheeseboard (let it be known I do not agree with the slate.....serve it on a plate or a wooden board, please!)

Old Amsterdam’s Top Tips For The Perfect Cheese Board 

• The best cheese boards are made up of blue, aged, soft and hard cheeses. 
• Combine different milk types to create variety: cows, goats and sheep. Also 
consider the variation in shape and color between the cheeses. 
• Serve approximately 50 grams of cheese per person. Follow the one-bite rule 
when preparing appetizers and platters for your guests. 
• Choose three to five different types of cheese to give your board some 
• Eat the light cheeses first; Bries and Chevres for example. You can then make 
your way through the spectrum of flavours ending with the hardest cheeses; 
the Old Amsterdam and Gorgonzolas. 
• Serve cheese at room temperature – remember to take it out of the fridge in 
good time before serving it up. 
• Cheese should be served on a board, but why not try a fun alternative. Using 
slate tiles from the hardware store, write the names of the cheese on the tiles 
with chalk. 
• When pairing wine and cheese, it’s important to cleanse your palate. Offer 
some fruit, vegetables or almonds on the cheese board to fully enjoy the 

Pairings on the board 
• Pistachio nuts or almonds to clear the palate 
• Sweet condiments like honey-mustard or a fruit chutney. Use baked goods 
such as fig cake. 
• Seasonal fruits such as red grapes, apples and pears. Or try dried apricots. 
• Water crackers, slices of rustic bread and raisin nut bread. 

Pairings in the glass 
• Local Ales or darker Belgium beers. 
• Red port for dessert. 
• Buttery white wines like a Chardonnay. 
• Bold red wines like a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. 

For more information;

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Cheese Place - Boston Spa Cheese

Boston Spa is a small village very near to where I live in Tadcaster.  There's a bustling high street, which is fantastic to see, but it could be busier (although part of me doesn't want it to be busier - I find it hard enough to park as it is!).  When I can I like to use my local shops over the supermarket - I'm lucky to have a great butcher, a farm shop, a bakery and a cheese shop to buy from.

I like cheese, but I don't know much about it - other than I enjoy eating it.  Having a good local cheese shop The Cheese Place is fantastic for me, and having a friendly face running the shop means I can go in and admit to being a bit clueless and it's not too much trouble to get some advice.  

In the last few weeks I've had some Yorkshire Blue, two different goats cheeses and a Buffalo Blue.  This week I think I'm going to be in the market for a hard cheese - I'll be tweeting @bostonspacheese in advance to see what is recommended for me to pick.

There's also a selection of pickles and chutneys to purchase, and a very tempting selection of wine - I was gazing wistfully at a very expensive bottle when I was last in.

I was very exciting to see a tweet about a cheese club starting up soon too - I'd love to go along to that, I find it hard to get over to Leeds on an evening now so haven't been to the Leeds based club Homage2Fromage.