Product Review: Thornton’s Red Wine Hamper

I was recently contacted by Thornton's asking if I would like to try one of their new ranges of hampers. Being a bit of a fan of chocolate, I obviously said yes! I was even happier when I discovered that you could chocolate and wine together in a hamper.
I decided to try the red wine hamper as I was curious to know if red wine and chocolate complimented each other or not. The wine is a 2013 Berri Estates Merlot and it is sent with two packs of Viennese truffles, perfect for sharing as a couple while you enjoy the wine. The truffles were very rich and I could not of eaten many of them on their own. The Merlot cut through the richness of the chocolate and complimented it perfectly. The wine has a deep berry fruitiness and has hints of cocoa too, making it ideal with the chocolate. Although it is really early, I highly recommend this as an ideal Christmas gift for any chocolate and wine loving couple you know!
Disclosure: I was sent a red wine hamper for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review


Celebrating 20 Years of Freedom Food With Sainsbury’s – Spicy Sausage Pasta

Spicy Sausage Pasta

 I was recently contacted by Sainsbury’s asking if I could help celebrate 20 years of Freedom Food by making a recipe to feed a family of four for £10 or less. I believe greatly that all the animals we eat deserve a higher standard of living before they reach our plate and Freedom Food goes a long way in helping us achieve that. Sainsbury’s has the most Freedom Food products on its shelves than any other supermarket in the UK.


I was challenged to make a recipe using Freedom Food Sausages. There are a vast range of sausages in the Freedom Food range at Sainsbury’s and I was keen to show them off in my recipe to full effect. I decided on ‘Spicy Sausage Pasta’ and the ingredients and the costings for the recipe are below.

Taste the Difference Ultimate Pork Sausages £3.30 for 6 or 2 packs for £5 (used 3 sausages from the pack)

Taste the Difference Chorizo Style Pork Sausages £3.30 for 6 or 2 packs for £5 (used 3 sausages from the pack)

Fresh Egg Penne £1.20 (use whole pack for 4 people)

Chopped Tomatoes with basil, oregano and chilli 70p

1 large red onion £1 (for three)

2 cloves of garlic 30p for a bulb

Small bunch of Parsley £1.25 (used half)

Total cost to feed a family of four: £5.95

Well under budget as you can see. You even have enough to buy some garlic bread to serve with it or something delicious for pudding afterwards. It is really simple to make to so is perfect for an after work/school midweek meal. Here is how you make it:

Spicy Sausage Pasta

 Spicy Sausage Pasta

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • 400g chopped tomatoes with basil, oregano and chilli
  • Small pinch of sugar
  • 3 pork sausages and 3 chorizo style sausages, cooked according to packet instructions and chopped into chunks
  • Small bunch of parsley, stalks removed and finally chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh Penne pasta, cooked according to the packet instructions


  1. In a large pan, add the olive oil and then fry the onion and garlic until softened
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, a small pinch of sugar and a splash of hot water and allow to simmer away gently while you cook the pasta.
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and set aside. Then, add the sausages and parsley into the tomatoes, stir and then season to taste.
  4. Add the pasta into the sauce, stirring gently then serve in pasta bowls with garlic bread and a glass of red wine, if desired.

This recipe was commissioned by Sainsbury’s












Guest Post: Family Mealtimes Made Easy!

Family life is often busy, with barely a moment to spare. For some hectic households, family meals can be few and far between and while making do or grabbing a bite on the go may be indicative of modern life, snacking and skipping meals can lead to unhealthy eating habits.

By adopting bad eating habits, your children may miss out on essential nutrients. As such, it’s important to make regular, balanced meals part of your daily routine. Dinnertime needn’t be difficult though, and the following top tips are guaranteed to help make family meals easy and inexpensive.

Breakfast is best

Sticking to regular mealtimes not only eliminates the temptation to snack, it also creates a reassuring routine. The best way to start the day is with a healthy, balanced breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day and helps to give the body an all-important boost.

Enjoy eating together

Children learn by example and enjoying mealtimes together is the ideal way to instil good eating habits. Turn off the TV and take the time to talk to one another. If it’s not logistically viable to eat together at every mealtime, try to set aside a particular day that’s dedicated to your nearest and dearest.

Plan meals and save pennies

When doing the weekly shop, planning ahead can help to save pennies so make a meal plan for the week and watch your ingredients go further. Bulk cook and freeze portions for later in the week and remember that it’s perfectly possible to enjoy essential nutrients without purchasing fresh produce.

Canned, dried and frozen foods can all be just as healthy as fresh produce – not to mention easy to prepare and long-lasting. They also reduce the risk of waste and save you time and money.

Similarly, swapping traditional homemade roast spuds for easy to cook oven versions such as McCain roast potatoes can make cooking a Sunday roast a doddle. Classic family meals become even easier to prepare with these crispy roast potatoes – giving your kid the nutrients they need without handcuffing you to the oven for the entire afternoon.

Get your tots involved at teatime

Allow your children to get involved at dinnertime and encourage their input. From laying the table to deciding what to have for dinner, your children’s involvement and interest will make mealtimes much easier for all involved and ensure that they’re ready and eager to eat the second you dish up.




Great Bloggers Bake Off Week 3: Ciabatta

This week was the third week of the Great British Bake Off and the bakers had to make bread. They had to make rye rolls, ciabatta and filled centrepiece loaves. I do not like rye loaves and although I wanted to make a filled loaf, time is as always short so I made ciabatta instead. Ciabatta is my husband’s favourite and I have made it a couple of times before at bread courses I have been too.

I looked in my recipe books and online to find the best ciabatta recipe for me. Based on my previous experience, some of the recipes seemed over complicated so I looked to the Master, Mr Hollywood himself and found this recipe here. I made no changes to the recipe except for making it in my Magimix CS 4200 XL food processor. The food processor has a bread mixer which, according to the instructions, can make and knead bread in a minute or so. I was slightly sceptical about this so left for about 2 minutes in the machine and then took it out and left it to rise. Taking it out of the food processor was the hardest job of the entire procedure. It’s a very sticky dough and it was hard to move it from the food processor bowl to a normal bowl for rising.

I left the ciabatta to rise for 3 hours despite the recipe saying to only leave it for 2 hours. During the show, Paul Hollywood told the bakers to be patient and the one who left it the longest to rise was the best in the technical challenge so I took his advice. My electric fan oven is quite fierce so the ciabatta only took 20 minutes to bake. The ciabatta was delicious and perfect for dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar or for making into a steak sandwich for dinner, like we did on the day I made them. I will definitely will be making this ciabatta recipe again soon. It was easy and so quick to make!

As always I am linking to Mummy Mishaps and Supergolden Bakes

Disclosure: I was sent the Magimix food processor for review. All options are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Great Bloggers Bake Off Week 2: Nut Free Florentines

This week was the second week of the Great British Bake Off and the bakers were challenged to make biscuits. They started with savoury biscuits, had to make Florentines for the technicial challenge and finished with a 3D biscuit tower! I am baking along with the bake off again this year, along with Jenny of Mummy Mishaps and Lucy of Super Golden Bakes and many others.

Due to time constraints, a 3D biscuit tower was a bit beyond my reach and savoury biscuits are not really my thing either, so I settled on making Florentines. The only problem is that I do not really like nuts which are one of the main ingredients in a Florentines. After a bit of internet searching, I discovered that a few people had used oats instead of nuts. I also added in a bit of extra dried fruit into my recipe to give extra flavour and make up for lack of nuts. The traditional way of covering the Florentines with chocolate is to use a spoon to put it on the back and then make a swirl pattern with a fork. As my Florentines were anything but traditional, I decided to go for the dunking/smothering half the biscuit in chocolate approach. The majority of my Florentines are probably the fatter cousin’s of traditional Florentines, however a couple of them did have the lace effect that they normally. You just need to only put a small amount of mix for each one and flatten it slightly before baking. My NCT friends loved the biscuits and box was devoured in record time!!!

Nut Free Florentines

Ingredients (makes 12-14 biscuits)

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 10g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 65ml double cream
  • 80g jumbo oats
  • 50g candied peel
  • 50g mixed dried fruit
  • 25g glacé cherries, chopped
  • Milk chocolate, melted (I used 2 small child’s Easter Eggs worth but use what you have in the house)



  1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C and line two baking trays with baking parchment or grease proof paper
  2. In a heavy base saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and flour together then add the double cream. Keep stirring throughout
  3. Add the remaining dry ingredients (except the chocolate) into the saucepan and stir well
  4. Place teaspoons of the mix on the lined baking trays, well spaced apart and flatten down slightly
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 – 14 minutes (mine took 14 minutes) and then remove. Allow the biscuits to harden on the grease proof for a few minutes before putting onto a wire rack to cool completely. (I carefully removed the greaseproof paper with the biscuits on off the hot tray then used a palette knife to move them onto a wire rack).
  6. Once cooled completely, dip or spread the chocolate over them and allow to cool again so chocolate can set. Eat and enjoy with a cup of coffee and good company

Thank you to Getting Personal for my fabulous new personalised board from the Jamie Oliver range. I love it!!


Disclosure: I was sent the personalised board as a review item. A full review will be appearing soon. All opinions are my own.







Product Review: ‘Cheese’ Chocolate Pizza From Qwerkity

As I have said on this blog many times before, I love pizza and have eaten it in Italy and America. I love chocolate too so when I was offered a ‘Cheese’ Chocolate Pizza from Qwerkity (formerly Presents For Men), I was intrigued and eagerly awaited the package.

The pizza came well packaged in a pizza box, wrapped in red paper and held in a sealed plastic holder ensuring that it arrived in one piece. I was impressed with how pizza like it looked. The white chocolate cheese, the chocolate ball olives and the toffee chunks really added to the effect and were delicious too. The Belgian chocolate base was rich and creamy and was complimented beautifully by the differing textures of the chocolate balls and the toffee chunks. I would recommend a chocolate pizza for the pizza lover in your life who would like to receive something with novelty value.
Presents for Men offer a couple other chocolate pizzas and as the name suggests, plenty of gifts for men!
Disclosure: I was sent a chocolate pizza for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review




Great Bloggers Bake Off 2014 Week 1: Swiss Roll

Unless you have been living on Mars, you cannot have failed to notice that The Great British Bake Off is now back on our screens. Like last year, Jenny of Mummy Mishaps is challenged bloggers to cook along with the bakers each week and blog the results. This week was cake week and the contestants had to make a Swiss Roll, a cherry cake and 36 miniature cakes.

I was going to do the easy option of miniature cakes but Jenny encouraged me to have a go at making a Swiss Roll. I decided to keep it traditional and hopefully easy so went with this recipe from Queen Delia. I made the sponge in my Magimix CS 4000 XL food processor, putting all the ingredients in together and then mixing it. Bar from that, I followed the recipe to the letter and it worked quite well until the ‘rolling’ stage. I am not really sure what happened. It did not really roll, it just sort of folded, despite following Delia’s advice.
Despite this, the sponge was light, airy and very tasty. I took the Swiss Roll (I nicknamed it the ‘Swiss Sandwich’ to a picnic with friends. It was soon devoured and declared delicious! I will have ago at making a Swiss Roll again as I was surprised at how easy it was to make. I just might follow a different method for rolling it!


Star Fruit Parcels For Fruitdrop

I was recently contacted by Fruitdrop asking if I would like to receive one of their fruit boxes and make a recipe from it. Fruitdrop deliver fruit, milk and snack boxes to businesses across the UK. We received a large (well, large for a family!) that would keep a family in fruit, if stored correctly for at least a week if not more. There were two large bunches of bananas, strawberries, selection of apples and pears, plums, peaches and oranges. I unfortunately forgot to take a photo of the box but you can see a selection of the fruit in the photos. It was all high quality and fresh as a daisy when it arrived. I highly recommend them if you are a small/medium business or even a large family who eats a large amount of fruit.

 The inspiration for my recipe for Fruitdrop is a traditional fruit pie however I wanted to put a bit of a twist on it, and make a fruit pie that would be suitable for children’s lunch boxes or after school snack time. You could even serve the fruit parcels warm with a dollop of cream or ice cream at a dinner party. The pastry star covers the join where the four corners meet and gives a neater finish. Thomas also loves stars and there is more chance he will eat these if I put star in the title! Feel free to miss out though if you like.

Star Fruit Parcels
For the pastry
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • A splash of milk
  • Flour, for rolling dough out on
  • 1 egg, beaten to glaze and stick bits of pastry together)
For the filling
  • Selection of fruit of your choice (I used apples, oranges and bananas), finely chopped if required
  • Selection of seasoning’s to add addition flavour to the fruit if you like. (Cinnamon and sugar for apples, squares of chocolate for a chocolate/orange one and toffee sauce to go with a banana one – the choice is yours!)
  1. In a food processor, blend the flour and the butter together until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add in the icing sugar and the egg and blend again until a ball of dough forms. Add in a small splash of milk to help form a ball of dough if necessary. Remove from food processor, wrap in cling film and set aside (not in the fridge) for about half an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Once dough has rested, roll the dough out to a large rectangle shape. Then cut into squares about 8cm by 8cm, leaving a bit to cut out the decoration from. Turn the square round so looks like a diamond and put some filling in the middle. About tablespoon of the filling is enough or 2/3 orange segments or banana slices if using them and not chopped up fruit
  3. Paint the sides with the beaten egg and then stick the four sides together like you wrapping a present. Cut out a star (or other shape) from the leftover pastry and then place on top of the parcel, covering the join in the centre. Cover with the beaten egg.
  4. Place on a lined baking tray and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Serve warm with custard or ice cream otherwise leave to cool and take to school/work for a lovely lunchtime treat.

For other recipes using fruit from Fruitdrop please see:

Ren Behan

Maison Cupcake

Lavender & Lovage

This recipe was commissioned by Fruitdrop.


My Dream Kitchen

One day I would love to be able to design my own kitchen from scratch. My kitchen would be in a farmhouse with views over a valley, with lots of animals and a river to look at, if I’m lucky. I would have my own homegrown produce in the garden with my own chickens and pigs for meat and eggs.

My kitchen would be large and spacious with plenty of room so that my family could watch or help me cook without getting under my feet. There would be a large kitchen table where we could eat and spend time together as a family, playing board games and helping the boys with their homework.

I would have to have lots of kitchen cupboards, all organised and labelled with a place for everything so I could get everything quickly and easily. I would like the units to be made out of wood with marble work surfaces, giving a real country kitchen feel but with practical easy to clean finish.

Moving onto my dream appliances, I would need to have a range oven with lots of hobs and oven space as I enjoy cooking for lots of people on a regular basis. It will also make cooking Christmas dinner for the masses easier too. I would love an American style fridge freezer so I can have lots of space to keep a whole pig or lamb, in joints in the freezer for our Sunday lunches. As I am an avid baker and cook in general, I would need to have a KitchenAid stand mixer and food processor so I could whip up a cake or even some curry paste, quickly and easily. As I am useless in the morning, I would need to have a coffee machine so I can get up happy and ready to face the day. I would love to have a wine fridge so I can have a glass of wine, whenever I wanted and have it served at the correct temperature. Overall, I just want my dream kitchen to be a happy place to be, where we can cook, eat and have fun together as a family.

What would be in your dream kitchen?

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post, however all words and opinions are my own



Discovering A Different Side To Chardonnay With Hardy’s

A little while ago, Hardys challenged me to lead a blind taste test with six different bottles of Chardonnay and discover really what it is all about. I am more of a Pinot Grigio drinker myself normally as I have always thought of Chardonnay has being a bit boring. However, Chardonnay is having a renaissance in the UK and is the number one selling white wine in the world. In 1990, the number of litres that were exported to the UK from Austrailia was 7.7m btts and this has now grown to 340.9m btts in 2012.

As I cannot taste test six bottles of Chardonnay by myself, (although I would give it a good go!) I invited my mom and stepdad along for dinner and the wine tasting. Stuart was given the job as chief wine pourer once I covered up the labels with tin foil so no one except for myself, knew which wine was which. I deliberately kept the food simple to allow the wine to be the star and because of having two young children, I do not really have the time for elaborate dinner parties anymore. We had rosemary and garlic focaccia to start, followed by roast chicken, new potatoes and salad and to finish, a mixed berry crumble and custard. I actually forgot to take pictures of the food (too much wine LOL!) so you will just have to cope with pictures of wine bottles instead.

The six bottles of Chardonnay are listed below in the order that we tasted them. I have included the our tasting comments for each bottle too.

Stamp Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir NV

They say: ‘house style of sparkling wine, showing complexity, flavour, softness and elegance.’

We say: ‘dry and crisp flavour’ ‘delicious – can I have some more please’

VR Chadonnay 2013

They say: ‘The Varietal Range (VR) is made up of uncomplicated, everyday wines that display true varietal character’

We say: ‘not too dry’ ‘most innocuous’ ‘rich and peachy’

Stamp Chardonnay/Semillon 2012

They say: ‘The Stamp range showcases the winemaker’s passion and skill for blending grape varieties from diverse regions’

We say: ‘very clear’ ‘not very exciting’ ‘a bit boring’ ‘floral’

Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2013

They say: ‘The range is known for its consistency, approachable style and balance’

We say: ‘excellent’ ‘very dry’ ‘my favourite so far’

William Hardy Chardonnay 2013

They say: ‘This range highlights Bill’s passion for blending wines. Bill is the chief winemaker and figurehead of Hardy’s today’

We say: ‘less dry and quite clear in colour’ ‘bland’ ‘not as good as previous one’

HRB Chardonnay 2010

They say: ‘It displays the typically vibrant characters of Pemberton combined with the with the wonderfully zesty, citrus flavours from the Yarra Valley to produce a fully flavoured yet restrained and elegent cool climate Chardonnay.’

We say: ‘very strong smell and taste’ ‘very overpowering’ ‘don’t like this at all’


Overall, we were all very surprised at how different one bottle was from the next. Who knew that bottles of Chardonnay could taste so diffrerent? Bar from the first sparkling bottle, the bottles were drank in price order from low to high with the lowest price bottle starting at £6.49 with the most expensive one at £16. I had already guessed from the label that the last one was the most expensive one and I thought I would love it. However, it was our least favourite and the most overpowering in flavour. It just goes to show that price is not everything! I will definitely look at Chardonnay now and will not always go to my default choice of Pinot Grigio every time I want to order or buy white wine.

Why don’t you try a few different bottles of Chardonnay and see if you look at it differently too?

If you would like to cook with white wine (and not just drink it!) then check out these amazing recipes:

French onion soup with comte cheese toasts

Pasta in a creamy mushroom and white wine sauce

Lemon and Basil Chicken

Pan fried John Dory with creamy mushroom and white wine sauce

Spaghetti Vongole

Disclosure: I received 7 bottles of Hardy’s Chardonnay for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own or my fellow tasters.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...