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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Review: Finding Iggy & Friends At Las Iguanas, Cardiff Bay

I have to confess I haven't eaten at Las Iguanas for years and was a bit unsure what to expect.  Back in the 90's (!) I remember lots of guacamole and refried beans.  Plus, there was now the additional challenge of two decidedly fussy eaters to consider.

Mat, Caitlin & Ieuan outside Las Iguanas Restaurant, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff
It's July so obviously we have an umbrella & this is Ieuan's "feed me now" face
Lured by the promise of one of the new limited edition collectibles from Aardman Studios, Iggy & Friends and the fact that kids eat free this summer when the adults choose a main course from the A La Carte Menu, we decided to try something other than pizza for a change.

Ieuan and Las Iguanas cocktail promo board at Mermaid Quay, Cardiff
No that is not a strawberry milkshake Ieuan
Las Iguanas in Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, is set on the corner of a run of restaurants and commands a great view over the bay and the crowds milling to and fro.  It is bright, airy and decorated in a kind of Brazilian feel with lots of wood and warm colours.

Interior of Las Iguanas Restaurant, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay
The restaurant was already full of lots of families with young children
When we arrived on a Saturday lunchtime, the place was already buzzing and we were given a great table right by one of the floor to ceiling windows.

The light, airy interior of Las Iguanas, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff
There is certainly plenty of choice.  In fact there is so much choice, it took us a good while to decide what to have. Luckily our server, Kasia, was friendly and patient, particularly when explaining to Ieuan that the cocktail he'd spotted with fresh watermelon in the glass was alcoholic and not served to 8 year olds.

I always think that kids menus can be a little unimaginative and our two are at the difficult age when, at 9 and 8, their appetites don't always match the portion size of either the adult portion or the child's. You are then faced with either ordering an extra side or an adult pudding to compensate.  

No such problems at Las Iguanas.  The 'Ninos Meal' costs £5.90 and includes a main course, dessert and a drink.  

The children's menu at Las Iguanas
The children's menu
The kids' menu has a number of vegetarian and one gluten free option (the Wacky Tacos) and in among the usual children's favourites there are a fair few 'different' choices - for example they can have a 'Crazy Quesadilla' which is a tortilla, folded, chargrilled and filled with a choice of cheese and cherry tomatoes, chicken and cheese or garlicky chilli, thyme mayonnaise and melted cheese, served with corn chips.

Although there is a lunch menu served until 6:30 pm each day featuring smaller versions of some of the A La Carte dishes, the Husband and I opted to eat off the main menu to take advantage of the kids eat free offer.

There is LOADS of choice - and at various levels of spiciness.

We had some Peruvian Botija Olives (in a herby marinade) whilst we made our selection.

Peruvian Botija Olives at Las Iguanas

Whether you want a Taco Plank (tortillas served with various toppings), a selection of Tapas, steak or chicken from the grill, burgers, Mexican classics, Brazilian dishes or salads, there really is something for everyone.

Sample menus from Las Iguanas
Just some of the wide range of menu options
In fact, I'd say Las Iguanas is not really a restaurant you can fully experience in one sitting.  The Husband is already planning to return to try the Tapas.

I chose Blazing Bird (£13.50), half a succulent spicy chicken kept nicely moist by a tangy barbecue sauce, served with my choice of curly fries and a creamy slaw.

Blazing Bird half chicken at Las Iguanas restaurant
Blazing Bird
The Husband had fajitas with marinated steak strips (£17.50), freshly cooked to order in a mix of spices, onions and peppers.  It came sizzling with guacamole, grated cheese, soured cream, jalapenos, roasted tomato salsa and wheat tortillas.

The steak was lovely and tender and nicely complemented by the selection of spicy accompaniments. The four tortillas made it a very generous portion.
Steak Fajitas at Las Iguanas
Steak Fajitas
Caitlin chose Cod Bites - battered cod chunks with a creamy mayonnaise dip and fries, whilst Ieuan is going through a 'cheeseburger phase' and opted for the beef burger in a toasted buttery brioche bun, topped with melted cheese and served with fries and a ketchup dip. The portion sizes were certainly generous for our two.

Caitlin and Ieuan enjoying their kids meals at Las Iguanas
t's safe to say the kids enjoyed themselves
The Husband finished his meal with coffee but I tried the Maracuya Mess (£5.00), layers of passion fruit mousse, berry compote and crushed meringue.  The kids opted for a Strawberry mini milk ice lolly and Raspberry Jelly.   Just enough after all we'd just consumed.

Maracuya Mess and kids desserts at Las Iguanas Mermaid Quay, Cardiff

The kids were introduced to Iggy and Friends designed by Aardman Studios. Iggy, is Las Iguanas' mascot and he and his Latin pals; Tumble the Tapir, Banana the Llama, Mick the Jaguar, Mischief the Monkey and Santiago the Sloth, were all named by diners in a recent competition. They have now come to life as 3D collectibles, each with an unmistakably ‘Aardman’ expression.

Iggy & Friends Aardman collectibles from Las Iguanas
Collect Iggy & Friends
There are six toys to collect and younger visitors (suitable for the over 3s) will be able to choose one character each time they enjoy a meal from the Iggy & Friends menu from 22nd July while stocks last.

Caitlin & Ieuan outside Las Iguanas Mermaid Quay, Cardiff bay

And don't forget that kids eat free if the adults choose from the A La Carte Menu.

We really enjoyed our meal and are looking forward to returning.  I've never seen Ieuan clear his plate so quickly.  

More information:  www.lasiguanas.co.uk.  Book online or for the Mermaid Quay branch
tel: 02920459165.  Email mermaidquay@iguanas.co.uk.

*We were invited to try the new kids menus by Las Iguanas.  All thoughts and experiences are, as usual, uniquely ours.
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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Win An Indulgent Box of Brownies From The Sweet Reason Company

Afternoon tea is a bit of a tradition in this country, isn't it - everything stops for tea as they say - and there's no doubt in my mind that a decent brew and a sweet treat (or two) has restorative powers when you hit the 4 pm slump and wine o'clock is rather a long way on the horizon. 

The Sweet Reason Company Afternoon Tea Box
And what could be nicer than sharing the benefits by sending someone you love an afternoon tea in a box? 

The Sweet Reason Company is a luxury gift company which has this all sorted by offering a delicious selection of gift boxes containing treats such as handmade brownies, bakes and Teapigs teas. These are all a little bit special - for a start you can have Millionaire's Shortbread topped with gold glitter and the Salted Caramel brownies just ooze soft squidgy caramel chocolatey-ness into your mouth.  

You can have an afternoon tea box for up to four people or send a mini gift box with a couple of brownie bites.  If you're throwing a party you can even have a tower of brownie bites.  This would have found greater favour with Ieuan than the Batman cake he had (again) for his 8th birthday.

There are gluten free treats, wedding favours and even a monthly box on a 3, 6 and 12 month subscription containing a selection of brownie bites and teas.

The Sweet Reason Company has been featured in Vogue, Delicious Magazine, Stylist and Sheer Luxe so I was expecting a luxurious treat box - and I wasn't disappointed.

I was sent an Afternoon Tea For Two Box (£14.50) which contained two lovely gooey brownies, two pretty sugar swizzle sticks (one brown sugar, one white) and two Teapigs teabags to match the bakes - Salted Caramel Brownie and Chocolate Chunk Orange Brownie.

Each brownie is a pretty decent size by the way although I did the altruistic thing (or made the grave mistake) or sharing mine with the Husband and kids.  Why did you think?  I asked.  Is there more, they said.  I'll be hiding my next box.

If you would like to try The Sweet Reason's brownies for yourself, then I have an Indulgent Box Of Brownies to be won by one sweet toothed reader of this blog.

The Sweet Reason Company Indulgent Brownie Box

Worth £34.90, the Indulgent Box has 15 bites in their popular Salted Caramel, Chocolate Orange Chunk, Peanut Butter, Honeycomb, Mojito and Oreo & Coconut flavours.

The brownies are presented in a luxury box and everything is hand wrapped and packed.  The outside of the box is personalised with your box name and there is a personalised greeting card inside.

To enter you MUST visit The Sweet Reason Company's website and sign up for their newsletter on their home page.  This will also give you a 10% discount off your first order. 

You can either sign up via the link below or via the Rafflecopter widget where you can earn extra entries towards this lovely prize.


The usual terms and conditions apply which can be viewed on my competitions page.  UK entrants only.  

The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 18th August.


Good luck!
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Organic V Free Range Milk - Do YOU know the difference asks Arla?

Lately, I've been talking a lot to Caitlin and Ieuan about where our food comes from. Caitlin's rainforest school project has put her on a mission to avoid Palm Oil at all costs - you'd be amazed how many products contain it - and of course we're now looking at where our food and drink comes from in this country too.

Caitlin & Ieuan tasting Arla Free Range Organic Milk
Happily, the kids are well aware of how most of their food is produced and Ieuan in particular is an avid milk drinker.  We got to see a fully operational dairy farm in action on a recent glamping holiday with Featherdown Farms but if there's one thing we are not sure about, it's the difference between organic milk and free range milk.

Caitlin and Ieuan know about pesticides and that these can be ingested by both humans and animals and I know that the organic label can be applied where there is a limited number of pesticides used, but other than that our knowledge is sketchy!

And we're not alone.  Arla recently conducted some research which revealed that Britain's parents aren't clear about the distinction - and it's quite an important one.

Arla's milks are both organic and free range so here's the difference.

Free range organic milk

The cows which produce Arla Organic milk are free range, meaning they are grazed outside whenever possible. They are only brought indoors when it would be detrimental to their welfare to be outside, for instance, if weather conditions are poor.

There's no specifically defined number of grazing days for the cows as conditions can be different on every farm and for every cow. Instead, the focus is on maximising the time animals are outside grazing and on average, organic cows are outdoors for over 200 days of the year. (Source: Arla Farmer Owner Survey of 84 farms, May 2017, Kingshay Independent study of 85 organic herds in the UK)

Milk can be free range without being organic as free range only relates to the ‘grazing’ requirements. By choosing to buy organic milk you also guarantee that in addition to already high standards, organic product requires additional standards are met on animal welfare, caring for wildlife, sustainability and production quality.

bee on a wildflower in a meadow
Image credit: Pixabay
Wildlife and Bee friendly

Arla's organic cows graze outdoors on grass and clover and no weed killers or artificial fertilizers are used. They use a system of farming which relies on crop rotation, well-timed cultivation and careful selection of crop varieties. This method is bee-friendly and encourages wildlife and biodiversity by avoiding manufactured chemical sprays. No GM animal feed is used and antibiotics are not used routinely.

Farmer owned

Arla is a farmer owned cooperative which means that the farmers own the business and 87 of their farms are organic. All their milk complies fully with controlled organic standards.

Arla Organic Free Range Milk & Cereal

As you can see there is a clear difference between organic and free range and I can report that the kids noticed a definite difference in the taste of Arla's Organic Free Range Milk. They both preferred it to their usual supermarket milk.

You can find Arla Organic Free Range Milk in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and NISA supermarkets and why not join their Twitter party this Wednesday 19th July at 8pm where you can chat more about family food using the hashtag #ArlaOrganicFreeRange and by following Arla on Twitter @ArlaDairy.

You can find out more about Arla milks at www.arlafoods.co.uk.
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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Tips For The Perfect Sunday Roast From A Head Chef

We Brits love our Sunday Roast and it's one of the most popular dishes in the UK. It’s a tradition that goes back centuries and one that can be enjoyed all year round - although some less than hardy souls won't touch a roast in hot weather, preferring a seasonal summer salad.

Here, Gary Durrant, Head Chef at Hunter 486 restaurant, located in the 5 star boutique hotel The Arch in London, shares his top tips for producing a Sunday Roast to be proud of.


Head Chef at Hunter 486 - Gary Durrant

The Meat

The crowning glory of Gary's Sunday Roast is the meat and at Hunter 486 it is cooked in a stone oven which has very high heat.

If you are buying a beef joint, ask your butcher for cod fat (from between the hind legs of the cow) as it is a natural way to baste your meat. Tie it over the top of the joint to keep it moist and enhance its flavour.

To add more flavour to your meat, rub with oil, salt and herbs or place the meat in the pan on top of halved red onions.

A Nut Roast is the fail-safe veggie option but it doesn’t have to be boring! Top with vegetarian blue cheese or goats cheese for an extra kick, or add mushrooms for a tastier flavour.

The Gravy

A Roast Dinner is not complete without a good helping of gravy! I must confess that I struggle with this every time and normally delegate gravy production to the Husband.

While the meat is resting you can get started on the gravy using the juices in the pan. Thicken this by mixing 1 tablespoon of flour and 250ml of stock.

If you would really like to impress, fry chopped vegetables in the base of the pan until caramelised.

Add flour, stir and then add red wine before gradually pouring in the stock. For additional flavour add herbs or a little splash of soy sauce.



The Potatoes

Some believe that roast potatoes are the star of the show when it comes to a Roast, so there can be a lot of pressure to get them right!

To get those potatoes fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, place them in a colander and rattle them around – this will help to make the skin crispy.

The golden rule is that you must cover your spuds in olive oil, butter, goose or duck fat for that wonderful golden colour.

While they are roasting, baste them in the fat every so often to keep them moist and make them extra crunchy. Once cooked, season them with sea salt and black pepper.

The Yorkshire Pud

A traditional Roast is not complete without Yorkshire puddings regardless of what meat you are cooking.

Yorkshire puddings can be easily made with flour, eggs and milk. Gary recommends using all milk for a softer and richer batter, and make the batter a day before as it will be lighter and rise better.

If you’re bored of plain Yorkshire puddings try something different by adding some ingredients to the batter. Gary suggests giving a twist to this classic dish by adding mustard for a fiery kick, grated cheddar and chives if you’re a cheese fan, or throw some chopped and fried bacon into the batter mix.

The Veg

Similarly to your Yorkshire puddings, you want to add extra flavour to your vegetables. There’s so many simple ways you can make really tasty veg!

Gary suggests cooking carrots in butter, fresh orange juice and parsley to enhance the flavour. If you have a sweet tooth try making honey-glazed carrots by roasting the carrots in white wine vinegar and honey. Or you can change things by baking cauliflower with onion, garlic and parmesan, or roast broccoli with cheese and drizzled with lemon.

In case you're wondering, Hunter 486 is named after the 1950s dialling code for Marylebone and the restaurant has been designed with an air of nostalgic London glamour fused with contemporary touches.

The kitchen is open plan and airy, allowing guests to watch the skilled chefs at work amongst the gleaming selection of copper pots and pans suspended from the ceiling.

You can find Hunter 486 at The Arch London, 50 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London W1H 7FD. For reservations, please call: 020 7724 4700 or www.thearchlondon.com.
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Friday, 7 July 2017

Bohemia's Guilt Free Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe For World Chocolate Day

This World Chocolate Day, I have a fabulous recipe for you from Head Pastry Chef Ellen de Jager-Smith at Michelin Starred Bohemia.  It's a delicious, healthy, gluten-free chocolate cake - which includes no cream, butter or sugar!

Bohemia's Guilt Free Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe


The Cake

Ingredients (To make 10 cupcakes or 1 small cake)

100g Ground almonds
45g Cocoa powder
5g Baking soda
5g Gluten free baking powder
3 Eggs
140g Maple syrup
200g Almond milk
200g Pitted dates
50g Grated courgette
200g Olive Oil
150g Dark Chocolate

Method

1. Sieve all of the dry ingredients together

2. Whisk the eggs and add the maple syrup

3. Blend the almond milk, dates, grated courgettes and olive oil together

4. Melt the dark chocolate

5. Add the dry ingredients to egg mixture to create a smooth batter

6. Fold the almond milk mixture carefully into the batter and pour in the dark chocolate

7. Preheat the oven to 160°C

8. Pour the mixture into a lined tin

9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes for cupcakes and 40 to 50 minutes for a cake

For the Chocolate, Avocado & Date Icing

Ingredients

2 Avocados
250g Dates
15g Cocoa powder
60g Maple syrup
350g Almond milk
A pinch of salt
400g Melted dark chocolate

Method

1. Blend everything (except the dark chocolate) in a food processor

2. Add the dark chocolate carefully whilst blending

3. Decorate as you please

Bohemia was the only restaurant in the Channel Islands to be listed in The Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants. The 4AA Rosette restaurant also received the highest score in the Channel Islands in the Good Food Guide with a glowing score of 7 and was listed as the best restaurant in Jersey in the guide’s ‘Top 50 Restaurants in the UK’.

Bohemia Bar & Restaurant, Green Street, St. Helier, Jersey JE2 4UH, Channel Islands
For reservations please call: 01534 880 588 or visit www.bohemiajersey.com
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Monday, 26 June 2017

Average Adult Glugs Down Five & A Half Baths Full Of COOKING OIL In Their Lifetime


Yes - revolting statistic of the day which makes you stop and think "what on earth am I putting in my body" because I think, for lots of us, our eating habits occur on autopilot.

Salad platter with spring onions, tomatoes and a glass container of oil


Research by Frylight, the low calorie cooking oil spray beloved of Slimming World fans indeed suggests that the average adult will glug down the equivalent of five and a half baths full of cooking oil in their lifetime.

That equates to six and a half litres or, for those of us (me!) who haven't gone metric, 11 pints of cooking oil per person every year - based on a study of 2000 adults.

That's 57,500 calories – equivalent to 320 bags of crisps per year or five and a half bathtubs worth of oil over a lifetime.

But despite this, the survey found just seven per cent of the population believe they are consuming too much oil, even though less than five tablespoons of oil equates to a woman’s entirely daily fat allowance.

Priya Tew, dietician at Frylight, which commissioned the study, said: "Oils have long been high on the food trends agenda, with coconut and olive oils often a talking point in press and on social media.

“So, it’s worrying that people are so in the dark when it comes to the level of fat and calories that oil can add.

“Fat is something our bodies need, but we don’t need a large amount of it.

“And while many cooking oils can offer health benefits when used in the right quantities, it’s important to manage the amount consumed.”

With the typical adult using two tablespoons of oil three and half times a week, the survey reveals a worrying lack of knowledge about the pros and cons of cooking with oil.

For instance, nearly 40 percent of people make no effort to avoid saturated fats which can increase cholesterol - carrying a risk of heart disease.

More concerning is one in ten people believe that trans fats are actually healthier than other types of fats. In fact, trans fats (generated by industrial processing) are considered the worst offenders by nutritionists and dieticians.

Both trans and saturated fats can increase levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood – trans fats have also been shown to lower levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body.

Conversely, one in five people aren’t aware that fats can have some health-giving properties, such as vitamins and essential fatty acids.

Surely we all knew about trans fats - didn't we?  

But it seems even coconut oil, widely regarded as a cross between a super food and a multi-purpose beauty product, has also come in for some criticism because of the amount of saturated fat coconut oil contains - largely via a study which is rumoured to have been funded by 'Big Pharma' it must be said.

It's difficult to know who to trust, isn't it?  I would feel a lot more comfortable accepting the results of these studies if they weren't commissioned by firms and organisations with a vested interest in seeing a particular result one way or the other.

I doubt we'll see an independent 'coconut oil think tank' anytime soon though.

In the meantime, reducing saturated fat is, according to the NHS the way to go.
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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

8 Quick & Easy Summer Salads You'll Want To Try

It's too darn hot and frankly who feels like cooking?  My blogger friends have come to the rescue with some quick, easy and delicious salads.

There's plenty of ideas here so why not indulge in some fresh seasonal produce which will do you - and the family - good.

Just click the link to be taken straight to the recipe....

Smoked Salmon Nicoise with Marks & Spencer  - Leanne at A Slice Of My Life
Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad from Leanne Cornelius, A Slice Of My Life
Image credit:  Leanne Cornelius, A Slice Of My Life
Smoked Salmon fillet combined with olives, tomatoes, Cannellini beans, fine french beans, Pembrokeshire Early potatoes and a honey and mustard based dressing, all whipped up in around 15 minutes.  Less, if you've got a couple of already boiled eggs in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS: [serves 2]

For the salad:

50g fine French beans
80g Santa tomatoes cut in half
20g olives
2g fresh parsley roughly chopped
150g smoked salmon fillet
50g tinned washed cannelini beans
2 fresh medium eggs
280g Pembrokeshire Early potatoes, washed and sliced
200g mixed leaf salad

For the dressing:

1tbsp olive oil
1tsp wholegrain mustard
Squeeze lemon juice
pinch salt
1tbsp white wine vinegar
pinch cracked black pepper
2g fresh basil
1tbsp clear honey

METHOD:

Whisk dressing ingredients and set aside.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch fine beans for three minutes before refreshing in ice cold water.

Cook potatoes until tender and allow to cool before slicing.

Soft boil an egg and cool in a saucepan under cold running water.

Once chilled peel egg and cut into half.

In a large mixing bowl gently toss tomatoes, the cannelini beans and the French beans, olives, potatoes, parsley & dressing.

Divide tossed leaves between two large bowls.

Flake peppered salmon on top and carefully place soft boiled egg on top.

Leanne is a photographer, blogger and first time mother from the South Wales Valleys, blogging about her family's loves, likes and life in general at www.asliceofmylifewales.com.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad - Cathryn at Cardiff Mummy Says
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad from A Cardiff Mummy Says
Image credit: Cathryn Scott, Cardiff Mummy Says
As Cathryn says, this recipe features super healthy butternut squash full of protein, iron and vitamin C.  It also has plenty of feta, olives and pine nuts.

INGREDIENTS: [serves 2]

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into bite-sized chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp of dried sage, or a handful of fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 bag of baby spinach leaves
1 block of feta cheese, either cut into chunks or crumbled
handful of pine nuts
handful of black olives, sliced
extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to drizzle

METHOD:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees, gas mark 4.

Put the butternut squash chunks into a large roasting dish, drizzle with the olive oil, crushed garlic and sage, and roast for about 45 minutes, turning once mid-way through.

When the squash is almost done, steam the spinach leaves for a couple of minutes. You want them to be warm, not wilted, so be careful not to over do it. Alternatively, place them in the microwave for around 30 seconds.

Put the leaves into bowls, add in the roasted squash and a handful of pine nuts (toasted if you wish, by dry frying them for a minute or so), the cheese, the sliced olives, the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cathryn writes Cardiff Mummy Says is a lifestyle blog for parents living in Cardiff and beyond. She is mother of three children aged six and under and a journalist and editor with more than 15 years of experience.

Cool Citrus Coleslaw - Debbie at My Boys Club.co.uk
Cool Citrus Coleslaw from My Boys Club.co.uk
Image credit: Debbie Sharratt
I suspect the eating is a bit more adventurous in Debbie's household as she says they have already enjoyed this summer’s slaw with jackfruit burgers, carrot and chickpea burgers, aubergine katsu curry, with mushroom quesadillas and as part of a family pizza night.

This Cool Citrus Coleslaw would be a great accompaniment to a traditional green salad or indeed any main dish.

Ieuan's 'fear of green' is going to have to be conquered!

INGREDIENTS:

For the salad:

1/2 red cabbage
1 red onion
4 carrots
1 clove of garlic chopped
pinch of chilli flakes
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil

METHOD:

Finely slice the onion, shred the cabbage, grate the carrot and mix all these together

Add the chopped garlic and chilli flakes to the oil and lemon juice together and shake before pouring over the vegetables.  Mix gently, but well.

Place in fridge for 30 minutes to let the flavours combine before serving.

Debbie's blog www.myboysclub.co.uk  is a family lifestyle, food and travel blog about enjoying life with her family of boys in North East England and on their travels.

Strawberry & Feta Salad - Wendy at Daisies & Pie
Strawberry & Feta Salad from Daisies & Pie
Image credit: Wendy Mallins
I recently posted about making the most of the strawberry season and Wendy's salad certainly fits the bill nicely. This one looks as good as it tastes.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 bag mixed salad leaves (such as rocket, watercress and spinach)
200g strawberries sliced into quarters
60g feta cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

METHOD:

Scatter the salad leaves onto the plates

Scatter over the strawberries and crumble over the feta cheese

Make up a quick salad dressing by mixing the balsamic vinegar with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle over a little dressing and serve.

Wendy's blog www.daisiesandpie.co.uk is a family food, home and lifestyle guide for real people, offering lots of easy tips, cheats and timesaving ideas.

Avocado, Bacon & Chickpea Salad - Charlotte at Charlotte's Lively Kitchen
Avocado, Bacon & Chickpea Salad from Charlotte's Lively Kitchen
Image credit: Charlotte Oates, Charlotte's Lively Kitchen
The UK has apparently gone 'avocado mad' so it only seemed right to include this gem of a recipe from Charlotte.  Plus we always stock up on Chickpeas when we go to Costco so the Husband will be pleased that we can make a small dent in my slight over-stocking.

Charlotte describes this as "a lovely combination of sweet cherry tomatoes, salty bacon, sharp lime and slightly bitter toasted sesame seeds, all pulled together by the super nutritious chickpeas.

It also has the benefit of being high in fibre keeping you fuller for longer and less likely to snack. Might keep me away from the Welshcakes!

INGREDIENTS: [serves 2]

400g chickpeas
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 rashers streaky bacon
60g cherry tomatoes (roughly 6)
1 avocado
juice of half a lime
salt

METHOD:

Drain and rinse the chickpeas (1 can) and place into a large bowl. Season with salt.

Roughly chop the avocado into bite-size chunks.  Chop the streaky bacon (2 rashers) into thin strips and cut the cherry tomatoes (60g) in half. Add the chopped avocado to the bowl of chickpeas.

Heat a small frying pan on a medium heat, add the sesame seeds (1 tbsp) and cook for a couple of minutes until they have just turned light brown, occasionally shake the pan to help them cook evenly (do not overcook the sesame seeds as it will give them a bitter flavour).

Once browned, remove the sesame seeds from the heat and add to the chickpeas and avocado.

Add the streaky bacon (2 rashers) to the pan and fry until cooked and crisp around the edges.

Towards the end of the cooking time, add the cherry tomatoes and fry for about 30 seconds to soften slightly.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the bacon and tomatoes to the chickpeas, avocado and sesame seeds.

Squeeze over the juice of half a lime and toss to thoroughly mix.

Serve immediately.

Charlotte's blog www.charlotteslivelykitchen.com is a blog dedicated to her experiments with food, recipe creation and cooking delicious and (mostly) healthy food for her family.

Low Cal Chicken Salad Made In Minutes - Nicole at The Mum Reviews.co.uk
Low cal chicken salad made in minutes from The Mum Reviews
Image credit: Nicole Edmondson
A simple but tasty low cal salad you can put together in minutes.  Ideal for those weekend teas when you're rushing to sort out homework and ironing and have forgotten to get something out of the freezer again!

INGREDIENTS: 

1 skinless chicken breast, pre-cooked
A large handful of broccoli or other leftover green vegetables
5 cherry tomatoes or half a normal tomato
1 spring onion or a sprinkling of normal onion
About 2 inches of cucumber
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
A sprinkling of chilli sauce to taste

METHOD:

Use your hands to pull the chicken breast into thin strips, then throw it in your salad bowl.

Add your green veg. It’s best to have smallish bite-sized pieces so you don’t have to make much effort once you’re eating.

Halve the cherry tomatoes (or dice your larger tomato) and throw that in. Dice up the spring onion – chuck it in. Dice your cucumber.

In a little bowl, vigorously stir together your fish sauce, lime juice and sesame oil. Then pour it over your salad and toss it up.

Sprinkle your chilli sauce on top if you’re into that sort of thing. You can also add salt & pepper, but fish sauce is already salty, so taste it first.

Nicole's blog www.themumreviews.co.uk is a blog about doing stuff as a mum and then writing about it!

Stilton Cheese & Red Cabbage Salad With Apple from Captainbobcat.com
Image credit: Eva Katona
This looks fantastic, doesn't it?  Not everyone likes the pungent aroma and strong taste of Stilton but the crunch of the cabbage and the sweetness of the apple combine wonderfully.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 red cabbage shredded

2 sweet apples cored and chopped

150g Stilton cheese crumbled

2 sticks of celery sliced

100g walnuts roughly chopped and toasted

3 tbsp of olive oil

freshly ground pepper to taste

METHOD:

Remove the outer layer of the cabbage before cutting and shredding it. 

Slice everything and add them to a bowl. Chop the apples the last, so they don’t go brown. (Once they are covered in olive oil they won’t.) 

Eva says that she never adds salt to this salad as the cheese gives a salty taste. 

Serve with wholemeal toast and butter.

www.captainbobcat.com is written by former hotelier and travel expert Eva Katona.  She writes about her journeys with her son, nicknamed Captain Bobcat and offers great advice on baby, toddler and family friendly travel.

Super Summer Salad - Hayley at Devon Mama
Super Summer Salad from Hayley Jones at Devonmama.com
Image credit: Hayley Jones
Another gorgeous summer salad which is so much of a meal Hayley even suggests substituting it for your Sunday roast if you want to feel particularly virtuous.

INGREDIENTS:

For the salad
Sun-dried tomatoes (a handful)
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumber
Mixed lettuce leaves (whichever you have in the fridge!)
Half a red capsicum pepper
Half a yellow capsicum pepper
Feta (cubed)
Garden cress

For the croutons
1 slice of white bread (slightly stale suits this to perfection!)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
Sea salt to taste

For the dressing
50ml olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I prefer white but regular is fine)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard

METHOD:

Making the croutons
Remove the crusts from your slice of bread and cube the bread into roughly 1cm cubes
Place your cubes into a container (I prefer a freezer bag for ease but anything with a lid is fine)
Add the oil and shake well to ensure complete coverage
Spread the bread cubes onto a baking sheet and sprinkle sea salt over them

Bake at 180ยบ for approximately 10 minutes, checking and shaking regularly to ensure even coverage.

Remove, allow to cool and store for up to 1 week.

Assembling your salad

Rinse and tear the lettuce into small pieces and place in the bowl
Quarter your cucumber slices, halve the cherry tomatoes and thinly slice the capsicum peppers before mixing them together and adding them to the lettuce.
Place all your dressing ingredients into a bowl and stir well to mix.
Add your dressing to taste (you won’t need all of it) and using your hands mix with the salad to ensure even coverage.
Scatter feta cubes and garden cress over your mixed salad
Pat the sun-dried tomatoes lightly with kitchen towel to remove excess oil and arrange these on the top
Finally add your croutons and serve!

Hayley's blog, Devon Mama is a parenting, food and lifestyle blog and Hayley describes herself as "a thirty year old mama, wife and recovering sleep addict". Hayley worked as a company director prior to maternity leave but gave it all up after maternity leave to concentrate on raising her son - and blogging.

So there you have it - some wonderful quick and easy summer salads - and check out the girls' blogs for more recipes and great advice by the ton. 
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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Review: Robins & Sons Luxury Handmade Chocolates & A Giveaway

Who doesn't love chocolate?  I've written before about how this product of the cacao bean has held us all in thrall for centuries.

Robins & Sons Dipped Oranges in Chocolate Display Box
Robins & Sons Dipped Oranges in Chocolate
But all chocolate is not the same.  These days I find some commercial chocolates have such a high, cloying sweet taste that it's hard to taste the chocolate for the sugar.  No surprise then that even Nestle is reducing the sugar content of bars such as KitKat to see if we can cope.

I prefer my chocolates to be a little more challenging, taste-wise and if they are beautifully packaged, so much the better.

I was recently invited to sample luxury handmade chocolates from Robins & Sons and they are a cut above many of the others I have tried (and there have been a few!).

Robins & Sons Mint Crackle
The one that started it all off - Robins & Sons Mint Crackle
Robins & Sons is a family business run by Andrea Robins, her husband and their two young sons and the company has an interesting origin.

In late 2012 Andrea was employed as a Clinical Scientist within the NHS and a visit to New York during ‘Thanksgiving’ led her to discover what she describes as "a wonderful ‘minty concoction' unlike anything I’d tasted before, thinly layered milk and white chocolate topped with crushed candy cane (aka Peppermint Bark)."

Being unable to find anything like it back home, Andrea decided to make her own and a slip up with recipe quantities led to her giving lots of her chocolate away - to a great reception.  This, the creation of the company's signature Chocolate Crackle and Mint Chocolate Crackle, led to a full time career as a chocolatier.

Now Robins & Sons have over 25 products, all of which have been meticulously sourced from around the globe for superiority in taste, texture and appearance.

Robins & Sons Very Berry White Chocolate Heart
Very Berry Chocolate Heart
They insist upon natural colours and flavours throughout, using only natural peppermint and Valencian orange oil extracts in their Robins and Sons Signature ‘Chocolate Crackle’, and fragrant Sicilian lemon oil in their Sicilian Lemon Crunch.

We tried a number of lovely Robins chocolates including:-

Available in Milk or Dark

Salted Caramel Nibble
Mint Chocolate Crackle (with peppermint oil and peppermint candy cane)
Dipped Oranges (whole candied orange slices dipped in milk or dark chocolate)

Available in Dark (70% cocoa solids)

Orange Chocolate Crackle (with orange oil and fruit candy cane nibs)
Sicilian Lemon Crunch (dark chocolate with lemon oil, lemon sugar crystals and meringue)

Available in Milk

Fruit & Nut Clusters (with almonds, cranberries & oranges)
Very Berry (white chocolate with dried Strawberries, Raspberries & Meringue)

The 'crackle' adds a great texture and little bursts of flavour on your tongue. We loved the natural fruit flavours and pieces of fruit and meringue which give a depth of taste and make you want to linger over each chocolate.

You can find the full range of their website at www.robinsandsons.com.  Sold in bags, bars and boxes, there's free delivery on orders over £30.  Even better, Robins & Sons chocolates are made just outside my university city of Swansea so it's great to keep the Welsh flag flying so to speak.

On the website you'll find a range of gift ideas, including gifts for Father's Day, all beautifully packaged and just begging to be hidden from the Husband who had to be forcibly restrained from munching his way through all the samples Andrea kindly sent.

And, if you would like to try them for yourself, I have a selection gift box (RRP £30) to give away to one lucky chocoholic.

Robins & Sons Small Gift Box Prize Photo
A selection gift box is up for grabs
Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget and the usual terms and conditions apply which you can find on my competitions page.  UK entrants only.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 9th July.

Entrants must sign up to the Robins & Sons newsletter to be eligible to win the prize.  You can either sign up on the link below (just scroll down to the bottom of Robins & Sons home page) or via the Rafflecopter widget.


Note: prize may contain traces of nuts and is not suitable for milk or soya allergy sufferers.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!



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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Top Tips on Squeezing the Most out of Strawberry Season

With strawberry season in sight, household fridges across the UK will soon be jam-packed full of Pavlovas, Eton messes and Strawberry shortcakes. 

A strawberry dessert on a china plate

Boasting an abundance of vitamins and antioxidants, strawberries are undeniably delicious, yet equally nutritious. 

The cherished red fruit has proven itself a key ingredient in several traditional British recipes over the years, yet few of us are aware of the humble strawberry’s versatility in the kitchen. Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, the vibrant fruit can transform any meal from mundane to mouth-watering in minutes.

For those wishing to branch out this summer, Gary Durrant, Head Chef at Hunter 486 restaurant in London's The Arch Hotel,  has lent his top tips on how to make the most of the sweet strawberry season and create unique strawberry-centric dishes at home. 

Hot and cold

Roasting strawberries can create tremendously tasty results, particularly when paired with a generous scoop of Cornish vanilla ice-cream. 

To make the most of the oven-baked fruit, ensure the stem is sliced off, cut into quarters and then whisk together with a dash of maple syrup. 

Presentation is important with this pretty summer dessert, so let the strawberry slices cool down slightly before scattering them neatly on top of the ice cream. 

Nutella French Toast with Strawberries from The Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife
Nutella French Toast With Strawberrys credit: The Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife

Begin at breakfast

For a decadent breakfast treat, combine sliced strawberries with rhubarb pieces and spread over two thick slices of toast. 

To ensure a thorough fusion of flavours, press the fruit gently into the bread then chill in the fridge overnight. 

Fry your bread slices the following morning in a frying pan with plenty of butter. Feel free to add dashes of cinnamon and brown sugar too. Serve with a generous helping of Greek yogurt. 

Preparation is key with this dish but it’s worth the fuss!

Scoop it out

Strawberry cheesecake is a well-loved classic and a popular party pudding for any occasion. Why not re-invent the traditional recipe and try a new dinner party dessert? 

Simply scoop out the centre of the strawberry and fill it with a cheesecake filling. The classic combination of cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract will hold perfectly inside the fruit when served fresh out of the fridge. For extra wow-factor, serve with a cinnamon glaze. 

Alternatively, if it’s a romantic snack you’re after then swap the glaze for a white chocolate dipping sauce. 

Strawberry Kulfi - Image Credit Kalaiselvi Murugesan
Fruity refreshment

As the weather warms up, homemade strawberry ice-lollies are a refreshing sunbathing snack. 

Simply combine crushed strawberries with a spoonful of sugar before mixing into a cold jug of lemonade. Pour the liquid into ice-lolly moulds and place a wooden stick in the centre. 

Alternatively, simply add strawberry slices to your ice cube tray and freeze overnight, a trick that will transform your summer beverage from simple to spectacular in a split second. 

You could also try a refreshing strawberry kulfi lolly.

Salad garnished with strawberries
Image credit: Corey Harmon
Seasonal summer salad

Contrary to popular belief, strawberries are not strictly reserved for the sweet-toothed. Inject a zing into your leafy summer salad by adding balsamic glazed strawberries into the mix. Gorgonzola cheese and pecan nuts both work particularly well with this dish. 

I don't know about you but I'd love to try all of these!

Further information: The Arch London, 50 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London W1H 7FD. For reservations, please call: 020 7724 4700 or www.thearchlondon.com 
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Monday, 5 June 2017

Win Krombacher Beer - Beer With A Great German Heritage


Now that summer is here and barbecue season is upon us (weather permitting), we've been trying some new beers from Krombacher.

Krombacher Pils being poured into a tall glass

Krombacher is a beer with an impressive heritage. 60 glasses of Krombacher are drunk every second in Germany and it has been produced by the biggest family owned and operated brewery in Europe since 1803.

55 master brewers are involved in its production and the beers have 100% natural ingredients including the finest two row summer barley, Siegel hops from Hallertau and a specially cultivated yeast.

Krombacher beers are made with the local Felsquellwasser® found in 48 wells within 3 km of the brewery and the range includes the Pils, Hell, Dark, Weizen, Radler, Low Alcoholic Pils and low alcohol Weizen.

We tried three beers from the range - the Pils, the Dark and the Weizen (wheat beer).

Selection of Krombacher beers

The Pils is light and refreshing with a delicate taste whilst the Weizen has a delicate wheat flavour with no cloying after-taste. It's one of the most subtle wheat beers I've tried.

My favourite is the Dark, smooth, sweet, malty and almost dark chocolatey and we added it to a spicy beef curry for an extra kick.

Here's Mat's recipe.

Spicy Beef Curry with Krombacher Dark

Ingredients:

500g minced beef 
1/2 pint beef stock 1/2 pint
1/2 pint Krombacher Dark Beer 
1 tablespoon medium curry powder (or more if you want a hotter curry)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 chopped onion
1 teaspoon of salt

Method

Fry the minced beef till brown
Drain the fat from the meat and remove from the pan
Chop and fry the onion
Add the beef, chopped tomatoes, beef stock and beer
Cover and simmer for approx 40 minutes until the liquid has reduced to form a rich sauce

Mat kept everything simple with this dish so it would be suitable for a family tea but you could obviously ramp up the taste with more spice - or more beer.

The Krombacher Dark added an extra depth to the curry with a slight hint of treacly sweetness.

Mat's Spicy Beef Curry With Krombacher Dark Beer
Mat's Spicy Beef Curry With Krombacher Dark
Or, if you've a sweet tooth, what not try a Krombacher Tiramisu?  The dark sweetness of the beer is a great substitute for the coffee or liqueurs in this recipe.

Tiramisu (adapted from www.prima.co.uk)

Ingredients:

About 15 sponge fingers
300 ml (1/2 pint) Krombacher Dark Beer
600 ml (1 pint) double cream
250g (9oz) mascarpone
5 tbsp good quality chocolate shavings (I love Green & Blacks)
2 tbsp icing sugar

Method:

Lay the sponge fingers in a flat 1 litre serving dish and pour over 200 ml Krombacher Dark Beer. Leave them to soak.

In a separate dish, whip half the cream, half the mascarpone, 4 tbsp chocolate and 1 tbsp icing sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks.

In another bowl, whip the remaining cream, mascarpone, beer and icing sugar to soft peaks.

Remove the sponge fingers from the dish.  Spoon the chocolate cream mixture into the dish then layer the sponge fingers on top, followed by the remaining Dark Beer / Cream mix.

Dust with the remaining chocolate to serve.

Tiramisu portion on plate with Chinese Gooseberry
Image credit: Kurosawa Michiyo
Lest you're wondering which beer goes best with what, here's a brief food matching guide to allow you to explore Krombacher Beer fully!  There's a great giveaway too, at the end of this post.

Krombacher Pils

Krombacher’s Pils is light and golden, with a thin ribbon of sweetness running through a crisp, dry body which crackles with peppery spice and bitterness. It’s a great beer for barbecues and goes best with juicy burgers and steaks.

Pilsner is a very versatile beer which goes as well with Thai and other Asian foods as it does with subtle dishes such as shellfish.  Whilst it's great with burgers and perfect with pizza, it can also be an interesting accompaniment to light desserts.

It also works well with a cheese sarnie, or how about a combination of mature Cheddar with apple and a good British ham or a baked Brie with cranberries and Walnuts?

Krombacher Hell

This is another golden lager but with fewer bitter and spicy hop notes.  A delicate beer, this one goes well with lighter foods from the grill such as vegetable kebabs or chicken.

Krombacher Dark

The prominent treacly sweetness of this beer makes it an ideal complement to desserts such as grilled bananas and chocolate, but it also works well with meats slathered with sweet, sticky coatings, such as spare ribs with BBQ sauce.

Krombacher Weizen

The best complement for this one's crisp tangy notes is the great British banger (or the Bavarian weisswurst - if you're close to a well stocked Deli). The banana and clover aroma of this particular beer works well with pork.

Wheat beers also work well with Mexican Food such as cheesy quesadillas, spicy sweetcorn and chunky guacamole, or brunch dishes such as eggs Benedict, ham and cheese omelettes, sausages, gammon or ham, perhaps with a sweet or spicy glaze.

We used the Krombacher Dark for our curry but if you want something lighter, you can match your wheat beer with a chicken curry or even a vegetable curry.

Krombacher beer bottle and filled glass outside in a garden

Krombacher is available via Majestic www.majestic.co.ukwww.beersofeurope.co.uk, and www.noblegreenwines.co.uk and it's highly praised non and low alcohol range is available from www.drydrinker.com.

If you would like to try a tasting box of Krombacher beers comprising 2 Pils, 2 Dark and 2 non alcoholic beers, then enter my giveaway via the Rafflecopter below in the usual manner.

Terms and conditions apply which you can view on my competitions page.  UK entrants only and you must be over 18 years of age to enter.

The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 2nd July.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and let's keep our fingers crossed for a 'barbecue summer' at last!


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