This post is slightly belated but this recipe will be great if you are having a bonfire night party this coming weekend or you can make it at anytime of year without the spooky bit! Pumpkins are the main source of everyone’s enthusiasm at this time of year and although they look great as lanterns, they are quite fiddly to prepare and there are only so many ’50 ways to use up leftover pumpkin’ posts that I can read.
Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to the humble carrot. In the UK, We produce 700,000 tons of carrots per year (source here) and I wonder how many of those get thrown in the bin? I used to buy a bag of carrots from the supermarket then use 3/4 out of the bag and throw the rest away. I am sure I am not the only one who has done this. Anyway, I have the solution to this problem, my simple carrot soup recipe. The recipe is below and my simple carrot soup recipe has been made even easier by being sent a VonShef Premium Digital Soup & Smoothie Maker
Until I had one, I always thought that soup makers were a gadget too far. I mean how hard is it to make soup really? However, in the two weeks that I have had the soup maker, my views have been transformed. A soup maker is basically a blender that cooks. You add in all the ingredients, add the stock, turn on and 40 minutes later you have hot puréed soup ready to go. I have been using it to make soup for me to take to work and heat up in my Crockpot Food Warmer. It is a great way of using leftover vegetables and saves money too.
The only downside I have found to soup maker is that when I fried onions and garlic in it before adding the other vegetables and stock (which it says it can do in the instructions), it fried them very fast and burnt them, leaving a nasty taste in the soup and tiny black specks in the soup. However I discovered the soup maker has enough power to cook everything, just by putting all the ingredients and the stock in and leaving it to cook. The soup maker blends as it cooks so you do not even have to touch it when it is has finished unless you want to purée it more. The soup maker can cook eggs and rice too (although I have not tried these functions yet).
Tell me, what gadget did you think you could live without in the kitchen but then once you had it, you discovered it was the most useful appliance ever? I would love to know!
Spooky Carrot Soup
Ingredients (make 2 large or 3/4 smaller portions)
For the soup
For the spooky bit
Disclosure: I was sent a VonShef Premium Digital Soup & Smoothie Maker for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review
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.
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’
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’
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’
They say: ‘The range is known for its consistency, approachable style and balance’
We say: ‘excellent’ ‘very dry’ ‘my favourite so far’
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’
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:
Disclosure: I received 7 bottles of Hardy’s Chardonnay for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own or my fellow tasters.
I love Sunday dinner but sometimes the cooking of it can cause great stress to many people. For some reason, gravy can sometimes be hard or stressful to make as you make it last and you are worrying about keeping everything else warm while you are doing it. However, Knorr have come up with the answer to reduce stress in the kitchen and still have a great tasting gravy to go with your dinner.
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.
The hamper contained:
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.
A little while ago, I was invited by Experience Days to try out one of their experiences in my local area. After much debate, I decided to do a chocolate truffle making workshop held in a hotel in Birmingham. The workshop lasted 2 1/2 hours and was led by Simon from Experience Chocolate. I have made truffles in the past but have never had 100% success with them so I was keen to learn some tricks of the trade.
We started by melting Belgian dark chocolate and mixing it with cold double cream. This instantly brought down the temperature of the chocolate and meant that a good truffle piping consistency was achieved almost instantly as opposed to way, I have made truffles before, where it is left in the fridge for hours to set. We then piped the mixture in long lines onto trays and then left them to set up a bit.
While the truffles set, Simon gave us a lesson in chocolate tempering so that the chocolate maintains its shine once set. Simon tempered a massive amount of chocolate on a cold slab using tools that you would normally find in your local hardware store. It was amazing to watch. I wish I had recorded it now!
After the truffles had set, we cut up our sausages of truffle mix and rolled them into balls ready for dipping into the tempered chocolate. Next up came the very messy stage where we had to dip them into the chocolate and various toppings. The toppings were caster sugar, icing sugar, cocoa and coconut.
Finally, once all our truffles were dipped and set, we put them into bags and tied them up with the ribbon. In total, I think I made about 40 truffles of various sizes. I had an amazing time at the truffle workshop and I would do something similar again with my friends. Many thanks to Simon and Experience Days for a wonderful time
Disclosure: Experience Days provided me with a chocolate truffle workshop experience free of charge in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
Stuart and I are both cider drinkers so when I was to try new Press 81 cider from Aston Manor cider makers in Malvern, Worcester I jumped at the chance. My first impression was of how modern and interesting the bottles were. It is the first cider to ever be sold in an aluminium bottle and has cold activation technology in it which tells the drinker when is the perfect time to drink it. As cider is considered a traditional drink, I think the bottle design will go a long way into making it trendy and appealing to a younger generation of drinkers.
We tried both the apple and pear varieties and were very impressed with the flavour of both. The flavour was crisp and sharp. Stuart and I both agreed we could enjoy a few of these on a warm summer's day in a pub beer garden. I shall be seeking them out when I go out in the future and I recommend that you do too!
Disclosure: I was sent 4 bottles of Press 81 cider for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to review my shopping experience at my local Midlands Cooperative supermarket in Dibdale Road, Dudley, West Midlands. I planned an entire week of dishes purchased when we went shopping there. Now we have tried all the food, I am now ready to give you my verdict on our entire experience.
Shopping Experience: We arrived at the store at about 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. The store car park was quiet and we were able to get a parent and child car parking space with ease. We went in and got a trolley and put Thomas in it. Unfortunately, we discovered that the trolleys did not have a lap strap to hold Thomas in so all the round the shop, he was able to move about quite easily. I did not think he would fall out but I was a bit on edge as he was moving about quite a bit.
The store was well laid out and despite not being as large as some other supermarkets in the wider area, it had a good selection of products which were all easy to find and logically laid out. I was impressed to find Iberico Chorizo and some Dorset Cereals porridge which I have been looking for a while. The baby area was small but had everything you needed. The fruit and vegetables had some empty areas but staff were refilling the shelves as we went round the store. When we got to the till to pay, there was only one person on. We did not have to queue for long but the people behind us did. (We had a trolley load!!) I think they should of brought someone else onto the till to assist the people behind us quicker.
Food Experience: For a week, we ate every dinner and some bits in between from the store (see meal plan) and I have to say, we were generally very impressed. We loved the Hot and Spicy chicken breasts and the tear & share garlic bread. All the meat and fish was of the highest quality. We were slightly disappointed by the steak and ale pie and the chilli con carne sauce as they were lacked in flavour and slightly bland. They both have the potential to be improved and I am sure with a few minor tweaks they would be amazing. The fajitas were from Discovery and were are on offer at the time of our visit. They were gorgeous and we will have them again in the future.
Overall Experience: We were very impressed with our overall experience. The store had a wide ranging selection of products, was well laid out and all the food sold there was of the highest quality. I wish we lived closer to this supermarket as I would probably go there quite a bit if I did not need to do a big shop but needed more than a corner shop range offered. I am going to keep my fingers crossed that they open one nearer to me soon!
Disclosure: I recieved a £10 gift voucher to put towards my shopping at the Cooperative. I have told them about the shopping trolley issue and they are looking into it. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review
I was recently contacted by Palmers and asked if I would like to try out one of their products. I have been trying to find a decent sauté pan for ages, so when I saw the Stellar 7000 Sauteuse Pan on their site I jumped at the chance.
I love my cast iron casserole pot but do find that it struggles with cooking things like paella and risotto as the high sides prevent the liquid evaporating off quickly enough. I was hoping the low sided sauté pan would stop this problem happening. The pan arrived very well packed with very clear care instructions. I took it out of the box and immediately loved the look and feel of it. It felt strong and the stainless steel looked stunning. I immediately put it work making two of may favourite dishes; Chicken, Chorizo and Seafood Paella (recipe to appear soon) and Chorizo, Red Wine and Pea Risotto. I was impressed with the speed it heated up and how non stick it was. I have had apparent non stick pans before but this is the first one I have seen to work properly. After use, I washed it quickly and then put it in the dishwasher. It came out perfectly clean and ready for its next use. I am very impressed with the pan and am already planning what I am going to cook in it next!
Many thanks to Liam for sending me the saute pan to review. It is much appreciated