Monday, 21 April 2014

My Little Easter Helper

I am very fond of home made soup and usually make some on Sunday for work lunches during the week.

This Easter I went to stay with my daughter, son-in-law and the two boys. Mr R was supposed to come with me but a last minute change of plan meant he had to stay home.

As soon as I arrived my grandson Boy G (4) asked me if I could make soup and could he help. Baby G wanted to stand on the stool as well but soon got bored and wandered off to play.

Boy G was very serious cutting up vegetables with his special child's knife which will cut veggies but not fingers. 


The funny thing is that Boy G doesn't really like vegetables but helping me with the cutting and stirring (I was always on hand to make sure he didn't burn himself) and turning the blender on when I had filled it with the soup made him very keen to have the finished soup.

We made some soup Friday when I arrived and again on Sunday with the bones from the Sunday lunch. A very happy boy who downed a mug of home made soup asked for more!  A great way to make sure he gets some of his 5-A-Day!


Next time we will try hiding some veggies in cake!



Thursday, 17 April 2014

Easter Cocktails from Aldi

I do like a glass of rum (or two!!) especially when I am on holiday but here is an excuse to drink some at home.  Aldi sent me a lovely hamper full of drinks and chocolate (well, it is Easter after all!) and some recipes for creating cocktails and also suggestions to enjoy some great drinks with our Easter food.

The hamper had goodies such as cider which would go perfectly with pork over the Easter holiday. Use to help deglaze the roasting tin if you are having roast pork or add to a pork and apple casserole.  The Orchard Cider is priced in store at £0.99 each.

Or a Sparkling Chardonnay wich would pair really well with a roast chicken or small roast turkey for this Spring holiday. The Sparkling Cardonnay is available in store for £6.99.

I decided to try the recipe that came with the hamper which used both the dark run and the white rum and coconut to make what I called the 'Easter Bunny'.  I got all the ingredients together and put Mr R on standby ready to taste an Easter treat.

This was a very simple concoction.  I grated some white chocolate and dark chocolate on seperate places to sprinkle on top and I also used the dark chocolate gratings to rim the glasses.

This cocktail was quite dangerous! It tasted lovely but was quite strong however went down far too quickly!

The Hopking Dark Rum costs £9.99 and the Cocobay Caribbean White Rum & Coconut Blend is £4.99 in most branches of Aldi.

There was also a bottle of Pinot Noir red wine to drink with a lovely leg of roast lamb this Easter or in fact any time.

What will you be eating and drinking this Easter? Please leave a comment below.

I received the hamper of Easter treats from Aldi but I did not receive any payment to write this post.  All opinions and photos are my own.

Eat, Drink and be MerryDown (Cider)

I was invited to attend the celebrated cooking school Foodat52 for an evening of MerryDown cider and cooking by the Celebrity Master Chef winner Ade Edmonson.  Ade is also well known for his television career with The Young Ones and Bottom - neither of them were something I watched but I had formed my own opinion about Ade and I must admit I was very wrong.  He was a genuinely friendly person and enjoyed sharing his recipe and cooking skills along with tales from his time on Master Chef with us.

I often drink cider cold over ice cubes in the summer and find it a really refreshing way to endure a hot afternoon. Fresh and refreshing MerryDown, brewed to a traditional Sussex recipe since 1946, now comes in two flavours, original apple and blackcurrent.

We were treated to some very fine Morris dancing by the MerryDown Men (notice everyone always seems to have a glass of MerryDown in their hands!)

Ade Edmonson took us through his really easy, user friendly recipe for Coq au Cidre (posh way to say Chicken in Cider).  All of the ingredients are available in most supermarkets including the most important - the MerryDown Cider.

Everything prepped and ready to get cooking.

And here is how he does it:-
Coq au cider
Ade Edmondson

"This is a take on Coq au Vin that worked even better than I expected – there’s a sort of delicious stickiness the Merrydown cider gives it (I use the medium cider) that makes it almost sweet ‘n’ sour. It’s also incredibly easy to prepare." (Ade Edmonson) 

Serves 4
4 chicken legs (complete with the thigh)
1 TSP mustard seeds
120g lardons
1 TBSP Olive oil
100g butter
3 cloves garlic –chopped
2 medium sized onions –chopped
2 sticks of celery – sliced
2 medium sized carrots – sliced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 TBSP flour
1large bottle Merrydown medium cider
200g small chestnut mushrooms

You need a heavy bottomed pan or casserole dish into which the chicken legs will fit snugly, and which is deep enough to cover the chicken legs in cider. You need a lid too, or some foil if you haven’t got one.

o   Pour a glug of oil into a heavy bottomed pan or casserole dish. Once it is hot add half the butter. Once that has melted add the lardons and fry until they are very nicely browned, then remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon.
o   Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown them in the oil, butter and left over fat from the lardons, then remove them from the pan too.
o   This is the fun bit – add a heaped teaspoon of mustard seeds to the fat and put on the lid. A glass lid is the most fun, as after a couple of minutes you can watch the seeds burst and fly about all over the place. The make shift tin foil lid is fun too though, as the exploding seeds cause brilliant indentations on the underside.
o   Once the seeds have all popped (after a minute or so) add the onions, garlic and celery, and gently cook them off until the onions are translucent.
o   Add a tablespoon of flour to the pan and stir until it has been absorbed –a kind of makeshift roux.
o   Pour in a little of the cider and stir, and keep adding more, stirring each time, until the cider has absorbed the roux.
o   Now add the carrots, return the chicken and lardons to the pan and add the sprigs of thyme and the bay leaves. You need to make sure the chicken is completely covered by the cider. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer, and cover it almost entirely with the lid – almost, but not quite – you want it to reduce, but not very quickly.
o   Leave to gently simmer away for an hour, checking occasionally – if it looks like it’s drying out too much add more cider.
o   When the hour is nearly up slice the chestnut mushrooms and fry them off in the remains of the butter – you want to get them nicely browned – once they are done, add them to the pan and leave it for a further 10 minutes.

Serve with boiled potatoes to soak up that delicious sauce.

The finished dish served with boiled baby potatoes and green vegetables. Very tasty and very easy to make. A great dish for a relaxed supper with friends and much of it can be prepared and started in advance.


I was the guest of Merrydown Cider and Foodat52 and was not obliged to write a positive review.  All photos and opinions are my own.

Friday, 28 March 2014

One Cup Cake - Not one cupcake or one cake in a cup!!

There have been loads of recipes lately for the ultimate cupcake and how to make one individual cake in a cup in the microwave but this cake is really amazing. It's quick and easy and very moist and tasty.

My friend Val gave me the basic recipe. Basically this cake is called 'One Cup Cake' because you measure almost all of the ingredients in a cup measurer.

Mr R is not normally a great cake eater but I cannot keep this cake in the house (or office for that matter - I took a loaf to work and it disappeared!).

I use an American cup measure but as long as the cup you decide to use is approximately 8 fl oz you should be OK.

I preheat my oven to 180oC and prepare my loaf tin. I use a loaf tin liner but if you don't have one you can grease and flour.

Into a large bowl mix:
1 cup cereal such as Bran Flakes, All Bran, Fruit & Fibre
1 cup sugar (I have used a bit less because my first loaf was very sweet)
1 cup raisins
1 cup milk
1 tsp mixed spices

Leave to sit for about 30 minutes.

Then add:
1 cup Self Raising flour
1 egg

Mix all together and pour into prepared loaf pan. The mixture will be quite runny but don't worry.

Bake for approx 35-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. (my oven took about 50-55 minutes).

When cool slice and serve with a lovely cup of tea.  I like a little butter spread on my slices.

To ring the changes you can use a variety of dried fruit. I had some very dry Greek figs so I soaked them overnight in tea.  I chopped up the figs and used 1 cup of tea instead of the milk. So far I like this one best.

This tea loaf is so easy to mix you can make one each evening for breakfast the following day!

Have you got a recipe you use whenever time is short and you need something to serve with a nice cup of tea or fresh coffee? Leave a comment below.



Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Steam Technology and not a train in sight!

I get sent some awesome products to review and some not so and funnily enough I gave away an old steam cooker last year.  I was therefore quite sceptical about reviewing the new Steama by Sensio Home.

What would I like about this piece of equipment when I didn't like the old one we had.  Well for a start the old one was Mr R's before we moved in together and I never felt it was completely clean (I do have the odd issue!!)

The machine has clean lines and not round which is a plus as far as I am concerned. Being rectangular it is much easier to put away in the cupboard although I am using is to often now it isn't getting put in the shed at all!

There is a timer and a water level to make sure you don't let it boil dry but it holds quite a lot of water and so far I haven't used even as much as half.

Potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, sugar snap peas and baby sweetcorn all cooking to perfection at the same time. Saves time, energy and space on the cooker.

A new one to me was to make rice in a steam cooker!  You get a rice container with it which you place in one of the compartments. As long as you use the same quantity rice to boiling water e.g. one cup of each you will turn out perfect rice!

I put carrots on the bottom layer and rice on top and had perfectly cooked carrots and rice after only about 15 minutes.

It's fast and fresh food keeping in loads of the nutrients and flavour and cooking really quickly too.

Apparently you can even steam a large piece of Sunday beef, something that I am planning to try soon.

This is one piece of kitchen equipment that will get lots of use in my kitchen.

Thanks Sensio for the Steama.  I was not paid to write this piece and all opinions and photos are mine.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Shaka Zulu - A South African Restaurant Review

I was recently given the opportunity to review a restaurant in Camden called Shaka Zulu.  It is a South African restaurant.

Camden Market hides a plethora of rather nice restaurants and not just the fast food outlets so I had a look at Shaka Zulu's web site before we went to see if I could get an idea of the place.  It didn't do justice to the actual restaurant. It it did look dark and interesting but the reality was far better.

As I often do I invited my friend Val to accompany me. We had just walked around the Knit and Stitch show at Olympia. It would have been a bit of a marathon getting from one to the other by underground but as it happened there was a bus stop outside of the Olympia. A quick look and we found that the number 27 bus went practically door to door and on such a beautiful sunny afternoon we enjoyed a tour of West London as well!

Once inside the restaurant we were delighted to see the authentic carving and statues (all brought from South Africa at a cost of millions of £s).

They had a very impressive and well stocked bar which was very busy with people just popping in for an evening of chat and a few drinks.


Our table was cosy and we looked at a very impressive and somewhat scary menu. Well I wasn't brave enough to order zebra or ostrich steak!

For starter Val had the crocadile cigarillos.  I tasted a bit to add to my repatoire that I had eaten it.

I picked the smoked salmon which arrived in a mysterious cloud as it was placed over a block of dry ice - very impressive!

The waitress was very helpful and described all the dishes we were not familiar with. Wanting a typical main course I decided on the Beef Bobotjie, a sort of mince with a thin egg custard layer on top served with saffron rice and a chutney. Val liked the sound of it and ordered the same!

We each chose a side dish and shared them.  We had roasted butternut squash with caramelised cinnamon and sauteed mange tout and red onion.

Crisp and crunchy mange tout and red onions.

They have a nice pudding selection and we picked a trio of authentic South African puddings.


You can contact Shaka Zulu in all the usual ways.  It is essential to book for Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday lunchtimes.

I was a guest of Shaka Zulu but was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Degustation box - A Monthly Surprise

The Degustation box is a new concept where you get a monthly subscription and each month you get a surprise box in the post. Its full of a number of random items and you don't know what's coming and it it changes each month. I was sent the February box with no idea what was going to be included.

I have been asked to make some recipes with the contents of the box, now this is really random group of products and very difficult to make anything, for instance there was energy drinks and apple crisps and  biscuits but I thought I would try and make a bread-and-butter pudding using the ready sliced malt loaf Soreen Tostie Bread. We love malt loaf and now you can get it ready sliced and I thought it would make a really nice bread and butter pudding.

I buttered the slices of the Soreen Toastie Loaf and layered them in the baking dish.

Mixing 5 eggs with approximately 1 cup of milk and poured it over the slices.

I let the egg soak in for about 20 minutes before baking in the oven at 180o for about 45 minutes.

It was bubbling when I took it out of thre oven, let stand for about 5 minutes before serving and a quick dust with icing sugar makes it look very exotic.

This pudding would be lovely sliced and served with cream, ice cream, custard or even yoghurt.

If you would like to try a Degustabox for yourself you can get a discount  of £3.00 using this code when you register online:-

You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for the surprise box Degustabox.  I did not receive any payment to write this and the recipes and opinions are my own.