Thursday, 31 January 2013

Tropical Sun takes me to the Caribbean in Winter!

Recently I was browsing on Facebook and someone had shared Tropical Sun's virtual vending machine. The video showed a tropical beach scene with a vending machine filled with Tropical Sun products. You clicked on a button and the product fell into the bottom of the machine, a man came along (wearing a bright yellow apron - see above) and put your product into a box to send to you.  I thought it was a gimmick but clicked on Tropical Sun Coconut Milk.  How surprised was I when about a week later a small box arrived with a tin of Tropical Sun Coconut Milk (and a brightly coloured friendship bracelet) inside!! How funny!!

Why don't you try the virtual vending machine and see what you can receive.

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Tropical Sun subsequently sent me a few more of their products and a recipe book.

And as I am particularly fond of the Caribbean (especially Barbados) I wanted to try some of the recipes in the book.

You can find loads of recipes on Tropical Sun's web site.

The first thing I tried recently for supper was roasting a small chicken, rubbing the outside with rapeseed oil and sprinkling Tropical Sun Rub Rub for Meat over the top. Into a roasting dish and around the outside I added chopped celery, a couple of tomatoes, onion and half a red pepper.  I roasted this all in a hot oven for about 1 hour 30 mins.

Whilst the chicken rested I put all the veggies, oils and juices into a sauce pan and added a tin of Italian plum tomatoes, some tomato puree and 1/2 teaspoon of Gran Luchito Mexican chili and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

This made a meal of roast chicken, pasta shells and sauce for myself and Mr R. There was enough for Mr R's sandwiches to take to work, some morsels for the dog and a carcass for me to make my soup broth.

We do eat a lot of chicken and it is a nice to do different things with it so we don't get bored.  I wanted to use the Coconut Milk and using the recipe booklet I had received from Tropical Sun Foods I decided to make Coconut Chicken.

This is a quick and easy recipe and makes a lovely mid-week chicken dinner.

1.5 cups double cream
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp Tropical Sun Hot (or mild) Curry Powder
1 400 ml tin Tropical Sun Premium Coconut Milk
1 tsp brown sugar
 a dash of cooking oil

Rub the curry powder onto the chicken. Heat some oil in a frying pan and lightly cook the chicken for about 10 minutes or until evenly brown, alternating sides occasionally.  In a sauce pan, gently heat the remaining ingredients. simmer the mixture until it dissolves. Add the chicken to the mixture, cover and simmer gently for a further 3-5 minutes.  Serve with plain or coconut rice.  I served ours with noodles and broccoli

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Be A Connosieur with Cono Sur

A fantastic menu at at classic restaurant

If I could arrange my perfect evening then the evening I spent at Le Pont De La Tour restaurant at Buttler's Wharf near Tower Bridge would be as close to perfect as it gets.  Le Pont De La Tour offers luxurious French cooking coupled with impeccable service in an ideal setting on the River Thames.

I was there as a guest of Cono Sur wines for an evening of fantastic food and a tasting workshop in Chilean wines from Cono Sur.

This restaurant has its outside patio along side the Thames under the guradianship of Tower Bridge which was perfectly lit up this evening and absolutely beautiful to stroll over on such a fine evening.

A beautiful backdrop 
There were bottles of wine everywhere but we were guests of Cono Sur wines from Chile which meant we had to focus our attention in one direction but it surely was tempting!

The purpose of the evening was to introduce us to some of the wines that Cono Sur have to offer and each wine was matched perfectly to each course.  There was a mixture of food bloggers and wine bloggers at the meal giving the conversation a nice balance.  The food bloggers eagerly taking photos before eating anything and the wine bloggers just tasting!

We were offered a gentle aperitif of a delicate sparkling wine from the Bio Bio Valley, the southernmost vinyards in Chile, made with Chardonnay, Reisling and Pinot Noir grapes and whilst we were sipping this we fired questions at Tom the Head Chef about how to cook the perfect Christmas turkey and side dishes.

Our first course was Smoked Salmon and Trout Paupette, Caviar Creme Fraiche with Herb Salad and Lemon Dressing, light and refreshing way to start the meal. With so many different foods and wines to try it's good to start out light.

There just seemed to glasses of wine everywhere!!

Next we had grilled halibut with pommes galette, buttered kale and red wine jus.  This was delicious! I  haven't been a great fish fanatic in my life time but I am trying to eat more over the last year or so and this piece was certainly something I would love to eat again.  The potatoes were thin and crispy and very tasty. and with two red wines to taste a very enjoyable course. The wine served with this course was 20 Barrels Pinor Noir Reserva, Casablanca Valley, Vina Cono Sur2008.

Succulent tasty fish with crispy potatoes
Our main course was Roast Turkey, Brussel Sprouts, Alsace Bacon, Potatoes Roasted in Duck Fat which was served with two vintages of the same red wine; Ocio, Vina Cono Sur, Casablanca Valley, 2008 & 2009.

Tender slices of turkey and crispy bacon 

Such a warming and pleasant sight to see so many glasses of wine!!
Pudding was White Chocolate & Passion Fruit Buche de Noel served with a dessert wine Riesling "Consecha Noble", Vina Cono sur, Bio Bio Valley.  Sweet after dinner wines are often ignored but are designed to go perfectly with pudding and complement the sweetness perfectly.

Finally we had home made biscuits and chocolate truffles with coffee but there was still plenty of wine to drink up!

We made our way home with a lovely goodie bag provided by Cono Sur including two of the bottles we had tasted and some other great Christmas gifts! Definitely a highlight of my Christmas 2012 season!

Time to Go Out Shopping in the Snow!!

A couple of times a year I like to use up what is in the freezer, cupboard and shed storage to ensure everything is replenished regularly and as fresh as possible.  To this end I have been making some unusual meal combinations but so far everything has been really tasty as I do have a wide selection of ingredients and spices to call upon.

Well with the current dump of snow we have recently had I have not been out shopping for the required fresh ingredients lately but I think today really is the end of the line.

Mr R is having a few days off as holiday and he does love soup for lunch (lately I have been having my lush soup creations for lunch all by myself!). Mr R also was moaning last night that when you buy broccoli you get so much stalk which is a waste.  Not at all, the stalk makes a good start to a broccoli + soup.

I didn't have any onions but found a couple of spring onions lurking in the veg drawer along with half a tomato, clove of garlic and a couple of sad looking stalks of celery.  Perfect start so get that cooking in a little oil/butter combination whilst I finely chopped up a small piece of chorizo the broccoli stalks and three small mushrooms.  When this had been cooking for about 5 minutes I added stock to the pan, a couple of charlotte potatoes and some broccoli florets.  Let this simmer away for about 20 mins, cool and whizz up with my kMix Tri-blade Hand Blender (extra useful for small amounts of soups and sauces).  Season with salt and pepper and some chilli and away you go - a really lovely, warming and inexpensive lunch!

I gave Mr R some to taste and he immediately went to the kitchen, poured himself a huge bowlful and with a tower of bread and butter sat down to lunch.

It didn't last long!

Guess I will get myself some!!

What is your favourite winter soup? If you have any good soup stories or recipes let me know and we can link up at the end of February!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Farmhouse Breakfast Week with 'Shake Up Your Wake Up'

Breakfast  the most important meal of the day, but it often gets skipped or becomes a high sugar intake which does not satisfy you all morning. Farmhouse Breakfast Week is 20th-26th January, 2013 and I have been asked to think about and create some tasty breakfast meals for me and Mr R. 

I have been guilty of skipping breakfast for many years but have been trying to change that for the last 6 months or so. To get inspired I have been sent a breakfast box containing Denhay Farm’s award winning bacon  made using only British outdoor bred pork, cured by hand with sea salt and matured slowly. Denhay's bacon rashers are full flavoured and succulent.

Although bacon is an integral part of the great British breakfast 5 million people eat sausages every day.
 spoiltpig sausages are produced using pork approved by Freedom Food to strict RSPCA welfare standards. 

Clarence Court eggs are free range with superior flavour and quality. The are free to roam and forage and lead a happy and health chicken life!

For our Sunday morning breakfast I made us creamed mushrooms (with some chopped onion and parsley and a splash of Tabasco sauce) which I put on top of ready made potato cakes and Denhay bacon. On top of the creamed mushrooms I sat a couple of poached eggs and served them with some Tracklements Salsa on the side.  Very filling and a nice idea for a lazy lunch.

This morning we had what I call French Toast but I think the English call Eggy Bread which I served with maple syrup (an essential accompaniement) and some Spoilt Pig sausages.

Mr R is certainly enjoying these breakfast treats ( he is currently on holiday today and tomorrow) and I am thinking blueberry pancakes tomorrow morning with Denhay bacon.

You can follow Shake Up Your Breakfast on Twitter at @breakfastweek.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Tapas at Condesa London

Recently opened in Central London just behind Covent Garden, tucked away down Maiden Lane you will find a small, unassuming restaurant serving a lovely collection of Spanish tapas with a Mexican influence and fine wines from Spain, Chile and Mexico.

Daniel Caballero (originally from Mexico City) opened Condesa London approximately three months ago in the worst possible economic climate to start a restaurant but has a formula that I think will withstand the test of time and the economy.

His formula is to keep the menu simple, offer great tasting food with innovative ingredients and a collection of wines from Spain, Chile and Mexico.  We had the opportunity to each pick from the menu but we asked Daniel to surprise us with his recommendations.

To drink we had small carafes of different wines so we could taste a bigger selection. We had Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and my favourite a white Rioja (Genoli Organis Rioja Vivura from Spain). We finished with a dark sherry that tasted of thick chocolate and figs and I could have kept drinking that for hours!

We started with Ceviche of salmon and finely chopped herbs and onion, followed by platters loaded with Lomo (cured Iberian Acorn pork loin) Cecina de Leon (Lightly smoked wafer thin 12 month cured beef) and Chorizo Iberico (Iberian Acorn Fed Chorizo)

To eat we tried quite a lot of things from the menu including three items from the specials board; Chicken Mole Tostada - a chicken, chocolate and chilli served on little corn crackers,

Mushroom Con Truffle and Mozzarella - quesadilla filled with cooked mushrooms, green herbs and grated truffles

and something I had not tried before Pig Cheek in a Pedro Ximenez (sherry) sauce. The pig cheek has to be slow cooked and it fell apart on our plates full of flavour and tender.

My favourite was the Pulled Pork Pibil Sliders, very tasty on their own but the addition of the green pepper sauce with a slight warmth (!) was absolutely divine.

We finished with a platter of cheeses, Manchego, mahon and Valdeon with a fig conserve and quince jelly.

You can visit Condesa at 15 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London EC2E 7NG and follow them on Twitter (@condesalondon)

I will certainly  be popping in next time I am in or around Covent Garden/The Strand area of London!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

It's cold outside but I have soup for lunch!!

With the current cold weather outside looking beautiful through the window it is necessary to keep warm when you go outside.  I came back from walking the dog this morning and very much in need of warming up inside!  So naturally I went straight to my pot of chicken stock.

Last night for supper I roasted a small chicken, rubbing the outside with rapeseed oil and sprinkling Tropical Sun Rub Rub for Meat over the top. Into a roasting dish and around the outside I added chopped celery, a couple of tomatoes, onion and half a red pepper.  I roasted this all in a hot oven for about 1 hour 30 mins.

Whilst the chicken rested I put all the veggies, oils and juices into a sauce pan and added a tin of Italian plum tomatoes, some tomato puree and 1/2 teaspoon of Gran Luchito Mexican chilli and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

This made a meal of roast chicken, pasta shells and sauce for myself and Mr R. There was enough for Mr R's sandwiches to take to work, some morsels for the dog and a carcass for me to make my soup broth.

With my broth made (carcass now ready for the hedgehogs to feast on)

I added some of the tomato-vegetable sauce and chicken pieces and blitzed this together. In my bowl I added some left over pasta shells, a dollop of the sauce and some Total Greek Yoghurt sprinkled with a sweet paprika. Heaven in a bowl and just what I needed on a cold, wintery day.

I had thought of saving some for Mr R but it was so good I ate the lot for my lunch today!

Tropical Sun can be found using the link above or follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@TropicalSunFood) for more details.

Gran Luchito can also be found on Facebook or Twitter (@Luchito_Mexico) to find out about the magical Mexican chillis used to make this essential ingredient.