25 November 2014

New in my Kitchen #17

This is where I like to share my kitchen discoveries. The good, the bad and the ugly!

Mash Direct sent me a few of their products to try. Yes they do sell a variety of vegetable mash, but they sell so much more and we liked these baby potatoes coated in breadcrumbs and chilli.

Price:  £1.75 (Asda) for 370g
Score: 8/10

Cooper and I absolutely loved these. We'll be looking out for them to try again. A real treat. Crispy in the outside and soft, creamy and packed with flavour on the inside.

Price: £1.50 (Tesco) for 300g
Score 10/10

I've been working with Gresado, an online grocery shop that specialises in high quality chef ingredients. They kindly sent me a few of their products to try including these capers. Everything they've sent me so far has been excellent, so I have high hopes for these capers, but I haven't broken into them yet. 
Any suggestions on what dishes I should use them in?

Price: £10 for 400g
Score: ?

10% off all orders in November with the code kgnov14

I remember these from the first time around. These are sweetly spiced, almost a smokey BBQ flavour with a  little kick from paprika and jalapeno. Too, too easy to snack on! The crunch of handcooked crisps and suitable for veggies and vegans.

Price: 2 for £2.50 (Sainsbury's) 150g bags
Score 8/10

This cool red kitchen timer came from brabantia. I currently have two wind up kitchen timers. One is a metal one that looks like an egg and the other is a frosted cupcake. They may look great, but they are absolutely useless. They both start of well then run down with no indication that they have finished. So I have been doing a lot of running backward and forward to look at my laptop clock recently while baking.

It was time for something a bit more modern and accurate. This one runs for up to 99 minutes and has a 5 year guarantee, which I clearly need. I love the vibrant red and the fact it's magnetic, so it sits nicely on my fridge.

Price: £8.50
Score 10/10

Now you may not want to know this, but if you have a woven bread basket then chances are it's filled with bugs. Yes go throw it away this minute. Totally disgusting. Up until now I've been using a bowl with a napkin in it to avoid such a vile state of affairs. The great thing about this bread basket as well as being stylish, it is reversible and machine washable. Result! I went for the medium which is big enough for us, but it you have a bigger family Brabantia also sells these in a larger size.

Price: £9.25
Score: 9/10

Hot of the press. I bought these yesterday to serve filled with sour cream, salad leaves, homemade chilli and grated cheddar. I do like Mission flour tortillas, they are large, so easy for wrapping and lovely and soft. I'm not keen on the Tesco flour tortillas, which I find claggy, but Mission Deli Wraps Wheat and White are excellent. 

So when I saw wholemeal I thought "Brilliant!"  and immediately bought two bags. I always buy wholemeal if possible so it made sense, but ugh, I didn't like them, the flavour or the texture. Once warmed they were a bit flaccid and damp. Not a nice experience. Go for Wheat and White and steer clear of this flavour.
Price: 2 for £2.50 for an 8 pack
Score: 2/10 

Not in my kitchen, but food related. I rented this from work. Yes I work in a library where we rent DVDs and staff are made to pay. We used to get them free, but someone who shall remain un-named, abused this courtesy and it was stopped. Damn them! Anyway I really wanted to watch this, so I paid up. 
The film is about a chef who works in a fine dining restaurant, but isn't allowed to cook what he wants to cook and after a bad review and twitter going crazy he leaves, buys a food truck and travels around the country with his best friend and son cooking up great but simple food. This time using social media to his advantage. 

Graham and I really enjoyed this film and would heartily recommend it.

Price: £9.99 (Amazon)
Score: 10/10 

9. Homeware from John Lewis

On a recent trip to Edinburgh I had an uninterrupted browse around John Lewis (Graham and Cooper were in a toy shop). 
I was loving this colourful new range and couldn't resist treating myself. I was a little disappointed by the glass. It has dipped in sides in a white glass, which is rather nice to hold. I thought coloured smoothies would look excellent against, but it actually just looks quite clear.

Price: Various
Score: 9/10

I've been enjoying this fresh coconut milk that has no extras added. I've been adding it to dal and smoothies. The great thing is once it is open, you can just fold over the top (I sealed mine with a peg) and pop it in the fridge until you next need it. Very handy.

Price: £3.25 for 200g (Planet Organic)
Score: 9/10

11. Colin the Caterpillar

Now you know how I love jellies, but they aren't abundant for veggies, well there's a new one in town. It's in the Colin the Caterpillar range. Cherry flavours and a lot firmer than the butterfly jellies. I still like the veggie Percy's the best, but it's nice to have another option. The range also comes in chocolate, which is fun for little ones, but I'm not so bothered about that.

Price: not sure
Score: 8/10

Cornishware kindly sent me a little surprise ahead of Christmas. A personalised mug in a gorgeous pale blue. I do love a bit of cornishware with those classic stripes. What a kind gift.

Price: £10
Score 9/10

13. Salted Caramel Haagen Dazs

Number thirteen but not unlucky. This stuff is heavenly and I thought they could never beat Strawberry Cheesecake. "Salted caramel and crunchy caramel pieces swirl elegantly through delicious caramel ice cream". Oh yes! I've actually made this last two weeks. Just dive in for a few spoonfuls, then back in the freezer. Sheer bliss!

Price £2.25 instead of £4 at Tesco
Score 10/10

Have you any new discoveries in your kitchen?

Disclosure: I was sent some of this selection to try, the rest I bought myself. I only give my own opinion on products and I hope to inspire you.

22 November 2014

Stir up Sunday Recipes

stir up sunday 

Stir up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent and the traditional time to bake Christmas puddings, although it's also the time to bake Christmas cakes.

Urban Fruit and Great British Chefs challenged me to make a twist on a traditional Christmas cake. I decided what was needed was a rich spicy Christmas cake without the fuss.

My cake is based on one my mum has baked for us since I was little. I changed the recipe up with a darker sugar for a more caramelised flavour, more mixed spice and I used Urban Fruit. Cheeky Cherry, Blueberry and Blackcurrant and Smashing Strawberry instead of the raisins and sultanas my mum uses.  

So how is it faff free?

It's all made in a pot.

The butter is melted with the sugar, fruit and spices, then the flour and eggs are added, before it's poured into a loaf tin. Simple.

The cake sliced beautifully and was moist, spicy and delicious, especially spread with butter. I know, I know, bur I said it was simple, not low calorie.

And now a few more Stir up Sunday recipes:

To celebrate Stir Up Sunday, there's a twitter party this Sunday 23rd November between 2pm – 4pm where you can pose any question you like to @UrbanFruit on Twitter using the hashtag #StirUpSunday.  Throw in a question or two or just follow the chat. 

Get stirring!

In the mood for more than Christmas cake? Why not spend some time this week making some homemade advent calendars. You can find some inspiration here.

Disclosure: I write for Great British Chef and was asked to promote Stir up Sunday. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

19 November 2014

Melon, Spinach and Avocado Smoothie

melon and spinach smoothie 

I'm back on my smoothies.

Did I tell you I stopped making them for just over a week and came down with a chest infection? I was struggling with the dark winter days. I was so tired and mornings were a bit of a struggle so the smoothies were given the push. It was all I could do to get us out the door in the morning.

Big mistake!

I felt even worse for not having them and then the chest infection took root.

Well I'm still hating these dark dreich days, but now I'm back on my smoothies and definitely feeling better for it.

green smoothies

This one is a new combination for me. Honeydew melon, frozen spinach and avocado are the main ingredients. I had a wee taste of the avocado when I was making it. Well you have to don't you? It was difficult not to jut scoff the lot. I really do love avocado.

The smoothie itself is smooth and mellow. The flavour is fresh and creamy but there's no kick to it. You don't taste the spinach, but the melon and avocado do come through. A real pleasure to drink.

print recipe
Melon, Spinach and Avocado Smoothie
Melon, Spinach and Avocado Smoothie
A mellow and creamy cream smoothie with a hint of sweetness.
  • ½ honeydew melon
  • 1 cube frozen spinach
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 heaped tsp hemp protein powder
  • 200 ml apple juice
  • 200 ml water
1. Remove the flesh from the melon and avocado and add to a blender jug. 2. Add the frozen spinach, hemp powder, apple juice and water. 3. Whizz until smooth, 4. If you don't have a powerful blender like my Optimum 9400 defrost the spinach first as it could burn out the motor in your blender. 5. Pour, sit back and enjoy!
Total time: Yield: 4 - 6 glasses