Tag Archives: Christmas

In The Christmas Spirit at Pizza Express

A few weeks ago, we were invited to try the festive menu at Pizza Express. I jumped at the chance as Pizza Express is one of my favourite chain restaurants and we eat there quite regularly anyway. We went to our local branch in Intu Merry Hill at about 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and were seated promptly. Thomas and Daniel were given hats, stickers, crayons, a little colouring/puzzle book and some Christmas cards to colour in during our meal. After a look at the menu, we ordered and then eagerly awaited our meal.

For our starters, Stuart had Garlic Bread with Mozzarella and I had Pork and Pancetta Croquettes which is pulled pork belly, pancetta, cheddar and basil croquettes, served with arrabiata sauce. Stuart loved his garlic bread as normal and I was really enjoyed the croquettes. The arrabiata sauce really freshened everything up and cut through the richness of the pork. I hope they make it a regular dish on their menu. Thomas had dough balls and vegetable sticks from the normal kids menu and loved it.
For our mains, Stuart had a pizza from for normal menu (I have forgotten which one – sorry!) and I had Anatra Romana which is pulled duck, shredded courgette, red onion and mozzarella on a light plum hoisin sauce finished with rocket and fresh spring onion. I love duck on pizza (I order duck with hoisin and spring onions from one of our local takeaways occasionally) and the Pizza Express version was one of the finest I have ever tasted. My only negative was that there was far too much rocket for my liking. I love rocket but this was so overpowering for the rest of the ingredients on the pizza. If they reduce the amount of rocket on this pizza, I would love to see it on their normal menu.
For dessert, Stuart had Chocolate Tartufo which was a chocolate sponge topped with crispy waffle praline and dark chocolate and filled with a praline mousse. I had Mince Pie Cheesecake which was rum soaked fruit in a clotted cream on a shortbread biscuit base. We both loved our desserts and they did not stay around for long! Mine just simply tasted of Christmas (I might give it ago and make it myself next year!) Stuart’s was rich, creamy and full of chocolate. I hope they put both desserts on their normal menu. They were amazing! We finished our meal with a glass of prosecco each and enjoyed the start of the festive season. If you are looking for break during your last minute Christmas shopping dash and would like to try something diffrerent this festive season, then why not give Pizza Express a try?
For other Pizza Express reviews, please see:
Gary at Big Spud
We dined as guests of Pizza Express. All opinions are our own. I was not required to write a positive review

A Foodie’s Christmas Gift Guide

JK Gift Guide

Hello everyone! Here is my first ever Christmas Gift Guide. I am planning on making it at annual event from now on, so if you are looking a for a gift for the foodie in your life, then look no further! Here we go!

I.O.Shen Knives

Every cook knows that a good knife is a saviour in the kitchen. Stuart has treated me to an early Christmas present of this knife block and four knives from I.O.Shen. I have wanted some for ages and after meeting Natalie and Joe at the BBC Good Food Show Winter and talking to Stuart really nicely, I was able to get the knife block and personalised knives too. A knife or knives from I.O.Shen would be the perfect gift for any cook who appreciates good tools in the kitchen.
 

Selfridge’s Christmas Products

Self Hamper

This year Selfridge’s have a wide range of products guaranteed to please the foodie in your life (or anyone for that matter!) They have a wide range of hampers, interesting sweet treats including Toffee Coal (It’s delicious!), Brussels Sprouts made out of Marzipan and you can even get personalised jars of Nutella and chocolate bars made to your exact taste by Mighty Fine. Find out more about the personalised gifts available instore here.

Getting Personal Products

Over the summer I received some personalised products from Getting Personal. I love this Jamie Oliver Personalised Antipasti Serving Board. I have used for some of my food styling shots and it will shortly be hanging up on my kitchen wall. Perfect for foodie who has everything!
I always find that normal wine glasses are not always big enough and you have to keep on getting up off the sofa and refilling them. Such a hardship! This Giant Measures Personalised Wine Glass shows you the kind of glass I like!

I do not know about you but Stuart always tells me things, we have run out off when I get back from the supermarket. It is so annoying! I am putting this Personalised House Slate Chalkboard in the kitchen so he can leaves me notes and I can check it before I go shopping and hopefully stop any confusion. This is perfect for the disorganised person/family in you life!

Cookery Books

Here is a brief selection of some of my favourite cookbooks of the year that would make ideal Christmas presents:

Chicken: The New Classics By Marcus Bean – Think chicken is boring? You won’t if you read this book. Chicken is much more than just a Sunday Roast as Marcus Bean shows us. Perfect if you need more inspiration in the New Year

Southern Italian Family Cooking: Simple, healthy and affordable food from Italy’s cucina povera by Carmela Sereno Hayes – Looking for simple family food, then look no further! Tasty filling Italian food to feed all the family. Well done Carmela!

The Hairy Dieters Book 3 Good Eating By Simon King and David Myers – I am looking to lose a a bit of weight in the New Year and intend to use this book to help me. This book is full of inspiring ideas that are full of taste not calories!

Fifty Ways with Spuds: 50 brilliant ways to cook potatoes by Gary Fenn – I bet you thought that all you could do was mash, boil and roast potatoes? Well think again and let Gary show you how. Simple, easy and in Kindle format so you are never short of a potato recipe!

Kitchen Gadgets

Here are some of my most useful kitchen gadgets of the year that would make perfect Christmas presents:

Tefal Actifry Family 1.5kg - I have only received this recently but it is a very useful addition to my kitchen. I am even cooking my roast potatoes in it on Christmas Day. You can read my review here.

VonShef Premium Digital Automatic Multifunctional Fresh Soup Maker Machine & Smoothie Maker – This may seem a kitchen gadget too far, however it will turn quickly turn anything you have into a soup and you only have one pot to wash up. You can read my review here.

Magimix CS 4200XL Food Processor - This is the Rolls Royce of appliances in my kitchen. It can make cake batter and bread dough in seconds, whisk egg whites or cream and can even chop vegetables. You can read my review here.

Crockpot Digital Countdown Slow Cooker – as a busy working mum, I always have a smug face all day when I know I have dinner in the slow cooking waiting for me when I get home. This is one of the best ones I have tried. You can read my review here.

Tefal Gelato Ice Cream Maker – This is yet to receive the full Jo’s Kitchen test (review to follow asap), however, what can be better than homemade ice cream?

Beer 52 Selection

Image by Jan http://www.aglugofoil.com

Image by Jan http://www.aglugofoil.com

Stuart has recently been tasting a selection of craft beers from Beer52. They will send you a case of 8 beers, chosen by their experts from craft breweries around the world. Stuart is still working his way through the section above (his favourite so far is the DNA beer on the right). This would make an ideal gift for the beer lover in your life this Christmas.

Godiva Chocolates

HR Stocking

GODIVA_4

If you are after a gift for the chocolate lover in your life, then look no further then these from Godiva Chocolates. The stocking is very sweet and full of the finest white, milk and dark chocolate figures perfect for adults or children. Inside the snow topped house, you will find gorgeous little limited edition dark and milk chocolate carres filled with biscuit and puffed rice. Perfect for the chocoholic that has tried everything!

Thank you to Selfridges, Beer 52, Getting Personal and Godiva Chocolates for supplying samples for review. All kitchen appliances mentioned were sent for review purposes too. Everything else has been purchased by or for myself. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review. There are affiliate links in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goose Fat Roast Potatoes – Christmas #GuiltyPleasures using the Tefal Actify

I love potatoes especially if they are fried as chips or served as roast potatoes therefore I was happy to discover that I had been nominated by Jan at A Glug of Oil to receive a Tefal Actifry Family 1.5kg to review and to cook my guilty pleasure in it!
The Actify arrived and I eagerly set it up in the kitchen. I love homemade chips but hate the smell after you have used a deep fat fryer. Therefore, the first thing I tried in the Actifry was chips. It can cook 1.5kg of chips (enough for six people) with only one tablespoon full of oil. It has a paddle that rotates the food all round the pan and ensures even cooking throughout. The paddle did break a few of the smaller chips up near the end of cooking so I think I will be investing in a potato chipper so all the chips are exactly the same size.

My only negative with the Actifry is how noisy it is while it is in use. It sounds like an airplane is taking off! I am sure I will get used to it over time. However, bar from that it is really simple and easy to use. It has clear digital timer display and is easy to clean either in the dishwasher or by hand.

One of my favourite Christmas #GuiltyPleasures is goose fat roast potatoes. I love them and could quite happily eat a plateful of them and forget the rest! Did you know that goose fat is actually better for you than butter or lard? It is also high in monounsaturated (55g compared to 19.8g in butter) and polyunsaturated fats (10.8g compared to 2.6g in butter) which are both good for the heart (Source: here) However, all fats need to be eaten in moderation and although I usually cook roast potatoes the traditional way in lots of goose fat, I decided to see if the Actifry could give the same or similar result using a lot less fat.

Overall, I was very impressed. I let them cook for 45 minutes removing the paddle after 30 minutes to let them crisp up and prevent any smaller ones falling apart (using oven gloves and being very careful – you can remove it completely if you want to and turn the potatoes yourself using tongs. The Actifry pauses during cooking when the lid is opened.) I used two tablespoons of goose fat (it is Christmas after all!) although you could probably get away with one. I melted goose fat in a small saucepan before putting it in the Actifry as I wanted to ensure they were coated evenly. You can skip this step if you want too. I will definitely be making my roast potatoes this way on Christmas Day itself. They are healthier for you and it’s one less thing in the oven as far I am concerned!

I nominate Sarah of Taming Twins to take the #GuiltyPleasures challenge next!

Actifry Goose Fat Roast Potatoes

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 generous tablespoons of goose fat
  • 1kg of Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks (usually thirds or halves depending on size of the potato)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Melt the goose fat in a small saucepan until clear and runny.
  2. Put the raw potatoes into the Actifry, drizzle evenly with the goose fat (be careful, it is hot after all) and season with salt and pepper
  3. Set the timer to 50 minutes and either remove the paddle and turn manually during cooking or remove the paddle 30 minutes in (using oven gloves and being very careful!) and then turn manually a couple of times until cooking is finished.
  4. Serve with your Christmas dinner or with a quick midweek roast chicken dinner like I did above. Enjoy! (And remember the pleasure is not so guilty now!)
I received a Tefal Actifry Family and a hamper for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review. There are affiliate links in this post.

 

 

Chocolate Christmas Pudding Cupcakes

Christmas pudding cupcakes
As I am sure you all know by now, I love a good cupcake especially ones that are very easy to make but look impressive at the same time. These Chocolate Christmas Pudding Cupcakes really hit the spot on both accounts!
They are a basic chocolate cupcake underneath topped with glacé icing, fondant holly leaves and half a glacé cherry each. They are so simple even children could make them!
Time is of the essence at this time of year with present shopping, card writing, present wrapping, nativity plays and so on, you sometimes just need a quick festive thing to make for presents (your children’s teachers!) or an impromptu festive gathering. These are quite quick and easy to make and are sure to please everyone.
Chocolate Christmas Pudding Cupcakes
Ingredients (makes 12)
For the cakes
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
For the decoration

 

  • 200g icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
  • 20-30ml of cold water
  • 100g of green fondant icing
  • 6 glacé cherries, cut in half

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a cupcake/muffin tin (I used this one) with cupcake cases
  2. In a food processor or in a big mixing bowl with a handheld whisk, add in the ingredients for the cakes and mix together until a batter is formed
  3. Divide the mixture equally between the cupcake cases and then bang the cupcake tin on your work surface to remove any air in the cake mix. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until a knife inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.
  4. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature. Remove them from the cupcake tin as so as it is cool enough to do so and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, make the holly leaves. Dust some icing sugar on your work surface. Next, roll out the green fondant to about half a cm thick, then using a holly leaf cutter (I used this one), cut out the 24 leaves individually and set aside to harden for a few minutes while the cakes cool and while you make the glacé icing.
  6. To make the glacé icing, put the icing sugar and a small amount of the cold water into a bowl and whisk until a smooth thick paste is formed. Add a tiny bit more water or icing sugar if required.
  7. Using a teaspoon, spoon the icing on the top of the cooled cupcakes, followed by two holly leaves and a half of a glacé cherry each. Set aside and allow to set for as long as you have. Store at room temperature. Eat and enjoy!

What festive bakes/cakes are you making in preparation for Christmas?

There are affiliate links in this post

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recipe-of-the-week

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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

 

Christmas Bloggers Bake Off: Mincemeat Flapjacks

Hands up, who has a jar or 1/2 jar left of mincemeat in your cupboard? I did and I am sure many of you do too. This year I was determined to put my leftover mincemeat to good use. With a baby due any day now (hopefully ASAP!!) I have been looking for easy to make filling snacks that I can eat while chasing round after a toddler and a newborn baby. This fits the bill nicely and I think it proves that mincemeat is not just for Christmas but can be used all year round to make delicious treats!

Mincemeat Flapjacks (makes 12-16 small squares)

Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 300-350g mincemeat
  • 350g jumbo oats
  • 100g glaice cherries, chopped

Method

  1. In a saucepan, put the butter, golden syrup and mincemeat and heat gently until melted. Turn off the heat.
  2. Stir the oats and glaice cherries in until well combined. Then pour into a foil Traybake tin (from Lakeland) or a well lined small roasting dish.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on top.
  4. Allow to cool completely then cut into squares. Eat and enjoy!

Thank you to Jenny from Mummy Mishaps and Helen from The Crazy Kitchen for hosting the Christmas Bake Off.

 

#bloggersknowbest – 3: Christmas: Traditional Honey Glazed Gammon

Sorry I am really late with my entry into #bloggersknowbest -3: Christmas. This is the monthly recipe linky I host dedicated to the Hairy Bikers. The joys of being heavily pregnant and getting ready for Christmas and the new baby at the same time leave little time or energy for blogging. The baby can make an appearance whenever it likes now as I have cooked the Christmas dinner, had bubble & squeak, had turkey curry and made my traditional Boxing Day gammon which are my food traditions every Christmas.

This year, for my Boxing Day gammon I adapted this recipe from the Hairy Bikers. I kept the cooking method the same by boiling and then roasting the gammon with the glaze on. However, I added a couple of extra mustards to the glaze including wholegrain and a Dijon mustard with honey already in it. I roasted the gammon with the glaze for about 40 minutes, adding more glaze on top at regular intervals. Once cooked and cooled, I took the gammon to my mom and stepdad’s, they said it was my best Christmas gammon yet so I will definitely make it again soon!

There is still a few days left to enter into the linky so if you have cooked anything from the Hairy Bikers this Christmas, then why not take part. More information and the linky here.

 

Product Review: Vintage Holly Christmas Hamper from John Lewis


I was recently contacted by John Lewis and asked if I would like to try one of their Christmas hampers. A few days I received via courier a Vintage Holly hamper. The hamper was well packaged in an outer box and the items were well secured in the box pictured above with lots of polystyrene balls which went all over my living room as I opened the box the wrong way. (Muppet LOL!!) The hamper contained the following items:

  • Brookford Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, 75cl
  • Brookford Chardonnay Semillon, 75cl
  • Edinburgh Preserves Shortbread with Cinnamon & Demerara, 160g
  • Maxwell & Franks Christmas Pudding with Cider, 454g
  • Chocca Mocca 100% Real Belgian Milk Drinking Chocolate,150g
  • Buiteman Cheese & Sesame Crumbles, 75g
  • Cartwright & Butler Cheese Biscuits, 75g
  • The Dormen Caramelised Almonds, 95g
  • Lily O’Briens Sticky Toffee Chocolates, 110g
  • The Original Cake Company 4″ Round Top Iced with Gingerbread Star
  • Rural Foodies Vanilla Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Discs, 90g
  • Cottage Delight Mini Mince Pies with Almond Topping

I was very impressed with the selection in the hamper and most of the brand names in the hamper were well known to me beforehand. I am looking forward to trying the Christmas pudding on the big day itself and my friends and I loved the mini mince pies on our coffee morning. The Christmas cake is very sweet and is the perfect size for a treat for a couple of people. The toffee chocolates, cheese biscuits and shortbread will give you plenty to nibble on over the festive period. I think this hamper would make a lovely gift for a foodie couple or one lucky person if you do not really know what to buy for them this Christmas.

Disclosure: I received a John Lewis hamper for review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

Hairy Bikers Bloggers Know Best #3 – Christmas

Hairy Bikers badge

Many thanks to Madhouse Family Reviews and Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me for taking part in the last challenge. Your support is greatly appreciated and I hope you will take part this time.  The theme of this linky is ‘Christmas’. This may seem quite early to start a Christmas themed linky, however I am due to give birth in early January so will be doing most of my Christmas cooking and baking in early December. The Hairy Bikers have a Christmas book which they released a couple of years ago called The Hairy Bikers’ 12 Days of Christmas: Fabulous Festive Recipes to Feed Your Family and Friends (affiliate link) which I shall be using for my recipe inspiration. I am sure they will have a Christmas special too.

tree

This linky will run from now until 3rd January 2014 so you have loads of time to take part. Here is a reminder of the rules:

    1. You cook any recipe you like from the Hairy Bikers as long as it is related to the theme
    2. You must not copy the recipes word for word onto your blog posts. Quite a few of the recipes are already online so please link to them if they exist or put the book and the page number on your blog post so other people can find the recipe.
    3. If you make a couple or more adaptations to the recipe then please put the new version of the recipe on your blog if you want to, but always link to the original recipe in the same way as described in 2.
    4. You can submit the recipe to other blogging challenges as long as the other challenge allows it.
    5. It must be a new post published in the month of the linky. You are allowed to reblog old posts if you want to.
    6. You can enter the linky as many times as you like
    7. Please link to the post announcing that month’s linky in your blog post or to the Hairy Bikers Bloggers Know Best page on this blog if someone else is hosting the linky.
    8. You must display the badge (see below) on your blog post
    9. If you are on Twitter, please tweet about your post using the hashtag #bloggersknowbest and include @Jos_Kitchen in the tweet. I will retweet any that I see.
    10. Please try and comment on a couple of the other entries in the linky. I am sure your fellow bloggers will appreciate the visit.
    11. I will add all the entries to my Hairy Bikers Bloggers Know Best Pinterest Board
    12. Any questions, please email jo@joskitchen.co.uk

Please grab the badge and tell all your friends!!!

Jo's Kitchen
 

Product Review: Christmas Hamper from hampergifts.co.uk

Hamper 1

A short while ago, I was sent a Christmas hamper from hampergifts.co.uk. As I am pregnant I decided to try a non-alcoholic hamper called The Noël. We were very impressed by the speed of delivery (via courier) and how well packaged and presented the hamper was. Everything is held in place with cellophane and there is a large bow on top suggesting that there are lots of treats inside.

Hamper 2

The hamper contained:

  • Olives Et Al Chilli & Garlic Olives 150g
  • Dark Chocolate Coated Marzipan Loaf 100g
  • Cottage Delight Spicy Mango and Ginger Chutney 340g
  • Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Co. Fresh Ground Breakfast Coffee 56g
  • Large Christmas Fruit Cake 500g
  • Milk Chocolate Coated Almonds 150g
  • Alice McPherson's Petticoat Tails Shortbread 150g
  • Olive and Sesame Savoury Breadsticks 100g
  • Triple Chocolate Gourmet Cookies 100g
  • The Wooden Spoon Cranberry and Orange Sauce 113g
  • Walkers of London Milk Chocolate Fruit & Nut 240g
  • Buchanan's Chocolate Russian Caramels 100g
  • English Breakfast Tea x 10

hamper 3

Overall, we were very impressed with the hamper. There are lots of well known quality brands inside and the contents was very varied so there is something that everyone will like in it. The free teddy bear that came with the hamper is a nice touch especially for a younger member of the family. I have not sampled every product that came in the hamper yet but I can confirm the triple chocolate cookies, shortbread and Russian Caramels are divine! This would make an ideal present for a family who likes foodie things but who you are unsure what to get them.

Disclosure: I received a hamper to review. All views are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

 

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