Monday, 3 October 2016

Homemade Salted Caramel Buttered Popcorn


After recently attempting Laura Amos’ Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart from her Dessert Deli, and giving the caramel at least three goes, I was more confident to try this on my own. So when we decided on a relaxed ‘cinema afternoon’, with the big cushions pulled off the sofa onto the floor, the shutters closed and the Lego Movie on the box, it seemed the perfect opportunity to try out a quick caramel to top our popcorn.

I’d highly recommend buying the corn kernels to pop yourself. They’re so cheap and easy…and fun, especially if you have a glass lidded pan so you can see them popping. Take care to put less than you think in – a layer over the bottom of the pan will be fine -  turn the heat up and keep shaking so they don’t burn on the bottom. As soon as they begin to burst, turn the pan lower and keep shaking that pan til popping slows.


As for the caramel. you could make a simple sugar syrup…stop after the sugar has melted, or continue to make a richer caramel sauce. Pour a layer of caster sugar over the bottom of a saucepan and keep the heat on medium. Try not to stir the sugar, simply wait for it to melt and turn a golden orangey colour. If you end up with a lump of unmelted sugar, gently swirl the pan. Once all the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and quickly stir in a lump of salted butter – this will cause the mixture to bubble, but don’t worry and keep stirring. You can also stop at this stage or add a splash or two of cream. Again, keep stirring. If you get a few lumps, return to a low heat and stir, stir, stir. The more cream you add, the runnier the finished caramel. Once finished, add the popcorn into the pan and coat each piece thoroughly using a spoon.

Don’t forget to have some wipes handy for those sticky fingers afterwards!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Turtle Bay, Chelmsford–A Review


20160915_212452People know how I feel about chain restaurants, but with so many opening in Chelmsford recently, and about to in the very near future with the Bond St development, you just can't get away from them. The first phase to open has been The Exchange, home to Cote, Carluccios and Turtle Bay so far, and I was excited to have the opportunity to review the latter, especially as we have more Italians than we can shake a stick at! I hadn't heard of this chain before so was looking forward to seeing what Caribbean flavours were on offer, and I wasn't to be disappointed. 

From the outside, the restaurant looks vibrant and fun and that theme continues inside when you enter the bar area. By 7.30pm on this Thursday evening, there was already an hour and half wait for a table. The bar and restaurant itself was packed and the noisy chatter and easy music gave a brilliant atmosphere. The cocktail list is huge...mainly rum based for obvious reasons, and the Jamaican Mule with ginger beer and Koko Colada were delicious. I usually opt for beer or wine with food rather than a cocktail, but the creaminess and fruitiness of the Colada was just right to help tame the jerk spices! The other half chose a peanut butter and banana smoothy to accompany his meal, and had to order a spoon to go with it as the straw just wasn’t wide enough to actually suck  up any of this delicious drink.

















Our waitress, Millie, introduced herself and was lovely all evening, even checking how well we coped with spice before placing our order. She also asked someone else to speak to me regarding the dryness of the Rosé, just in case I fancied a glass with dinner, and he was happy to provide a taster for me. The bar staff were jubilant and efficient, balancing the right mix of friendliness and professionalism, even high fiving my husband! One of my favourite things was the size of the napkins...big. Think tea towels. This is especially important when dealing with jerk chicken, I have discovered! 

We chose the Beach Food Platter to share for starters, purely in the interest of you readers of course, so I could feed back on several of the starters rather than just two! Priced at £12.95, you get three of each taster: jerk chicken wings, pepper roti, sweet corn fritters and garlic and herb flatbread. A word of advice...have the wings last. They are incredibly flavourful, but also incredibly spicy. The flatbread had a chilli and mango drizzle across it, which was delicious and the pepper roti was nicely warming. The sweetcorn fritters certainly were tasty but still doughy in the Paul Hollywood says, I could squish the centre and turn it back to dough. Maybe that's how they serve them in the Caribbean, but a flatter shape would have ensured the middles were cooked through. 


My husband couldn't resist the 24hr marinated whole jerk chicken served with Caribbean slaw and sweet potato fries while I opted for onepot Curry Pork Cheeks with sweet potatoes and pineapple chunks. The chicken was amazing, marginally less spicy than the wings for starters but probably because there was less surface area proportionately for the spice to stick to. It was grilled nicely and cut into easy to eat quarters which the OH attempted with knife and fork. I, on the other hand, just used my fingers. The slaw was crisp and crunchy and the sweet potato fries were crisp, and stayed that way, rather than soggy. My pork cheek curry was served in a one pot enamel bowl, half rice n peas and half curry. It didn't look a lot of food when it arrived but, after finishing, I realised it was just the perfect amount. I liked the fact it came with two small squares of flatbread too to mop up any leftover sauce. The pork was slow cooked but on the dry side rather than fall-apart tender. The cubes of meat were quite small so maybe slightly larger pieces would have ensured a more moist bite? The sauce of coconut, however, was delicious, as were the rice n peas. 



I didn't have too much room left for dessert so chose a lighter option of BBQ Pineapple with a caramel sauce and coconut ice cream. The pineapple was just the right side of barbecued, and was really tasty, though I just couldn't finish it off. My husband had the Rum and Raisin Bread Pudding which, despite claiming the inability to eat any more after his whole chicken, he polished off in no time! 



Bearing in mind my husband chose the priciest thing on the menu, the chicken at £17.50 (a similar price to full rack of ribs and Frankie and Bennys) we averaged £36 per head, which included two drinks each and three courses. I don't think that's bad value at all...if you took my two cocktails off, that's £22 for three big courses! 

Service was consistently good throughout the evening, and the atmosphere was buzzing, especially considering they've only been open a few weeks. A few outdoor heaters would have meant we could have had one last cocktail under the stars (well, streetlights) before heading home, and I think all tables should come with a stack of tissues to help mop up the spice tears! 


Will we return? Well, as I said, there are a few other new restaurants I'd like to try out first, but yes, we will. I'd like to bring my little girl back to try out the Little Turtle menu as I think she'd love the beach theme and buzziness of it.


Disclaimer: Our meal was complementary for review purposes. All opinions given are my own, honest and truthful. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Strawberry Season

Yes, it’s that very short, but ever so tasty season again – Strawberries! We are very lucky, living just 15 minutes walk from Lathcoat’s Farm, predominantly and historically an apple growing farm producing it’s own juice, but also in summer a PYO farm for strawberries, raspberries, plums, cherries, and many more delicious fruit.

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You simply turn up with your container, or take one from the little picking hut, and pick til your heart’s content. We can never resist just one last berry, and always go home with far more than we can possibly eat, usually making jam from the remains. One of the best things about this farm is the fact that the strawberries are not along the ground, but on chest-height troughs making it far easier to find and pick, especially if you have a small 5 year old who is the perfect height to wander underneath and find all the ripe fruit! This punnet cost around £2.75.

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This year, due to the earlier wet weather, the season has been quite short-lived and much of the fruit now is going mildewy, but there are still a few lovely strawbs to gather in, and the plums will be ready soon too!

One of the things that irks me about the prep of these red berries is having to hull them. I’ve tried picking out the leaf with fingers but this always seems to leave the thicker green inner core. Another method with which I’ve had some success is to use a straw. Simply push up from the bottom of the berry, through the leaf and pick out. This works well but sometimes you still don’t get all of the green. I’ve resorted to simply using a knife to chop the top off, but am always upset by how much wastage there is of the actually berry.



So, when I heard about the Oxo Good Grips Strawberry Huller, I couldn’t wait to give it a try. The instructions seemed pretty easy – push out the blades, stick them into the leaf section, twist and pull out, then push the end to release. And it really was that easy too. Even my 5YO could do it.


It works better on bigger, firmer berries: when they are too soft, you can’t pull the hull out without squidging the rest of the berry, so choose your fruit carefully when picking!


I’ll definitely be keeping this little tool alongside my Oxo Avocado Slicer as something I use rarely, but that does it’s job fantastically, making my work much faster and easier, and much less messy. A good little tool, especially if you can’t get enough of those summer strawberries. 

I’m going to be making mine into a Strawberry Prosecco Salad. Heat a pan with a little tiny drop of flavourless oil and add those squashed berries with a sprinkle of sugar and a splash of prosecco to make a strawberry sugar syrup. Chop some mint finely, sprinkle over the strawberries before drizzling the syrup over the top.

Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Reason...

Here she excuse for lack of recent posts:

A few weeks early, but classed as term. All fit and healthy. We're back on the road to becoming a normal family again after the shock of no sleep, birth, stitches, feeding, etc. But I'm nowhere near being able to cook and blog! 

And prep. ahead has disappeared...or, as I now call it, very expensive Charlie Bigham ready meals (just like home cooked) but someone else has done all the prep! [] I don't care at the moment tho, whatever feeds us as I feed her works for me! I've also gone back to my supermarket home deliveries, finding I spend less as am less inclined to purchase impulse buys. I am, however, more likely to buy pre prepared stuff as it's easier to find and add. Pluses and minuses. 

There will be more cooking and posts...keep an eye out. There'll probably be more baby posts too!

Looking forwards to getting back to blogging, but with a 4YO too, it may be a while. 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Slow Cooked Bolognaise

This is another throw-it-all-in and do as much or as little cooking as you want at the end of the day. You can do a whole slow-cooked lasagna, but I’m not quite brave enough to try that one yet, and we never have spaghetti (pasta) bolognese, so that’s what I’m going to use this mince for. You could make it into a lasagna, or change the flavours slightly for a more Taginey feel. Simply add harissa, chopped apricots, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and honey instead of the red wine, mixed herbs and tomato puree.

I ground my own mince earlier this week, seasoned, and divided and froze suitable sized portions. So once I’ve remembered to retrieve it from the freezer, all will be well! If you’re super organised, this is a really good one to use your Prep. Ahead skills on. Finely chop celery, onions and carrots and bag up ready. I did this whilst preparing the veg for the wraps – let the little ones get chopping using a safety knife on some pepper, celery and cucumber strips, whilst you complete the chopping for the rest of the week. Again, you could freeze mixed bags of these to whip out the night before and simply stir in.

Fry off the beef mince, throw in the slow cooker with the veg, glass of red wine, tomato puree, salt, pepper and mixed herbs and a can of chopped tomatoes. Add a small teaspoon of sugar to take the acidity from the tomatoes. Top up with beef stock, making sure the liquid just covers the meat and veg, but no more. You want a rich sauce, not a loose, sloppy one. Leave on low in the slow cooker for the day and serve as you will! If you don’t have a slow cooker, put on the hob and leave to simmer and reduce for about an hour – stir every so often to stop the meat from sticking.

Again, once the prep. is done, there’s noting more to do apart from put it all in the pot and leave it to do what it does best.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Wraps n Chips

How much easier could this get…I mean, really? Packed full of veggie salad stuff with a tasty dressing and oven baked chips, it’s not even bad for you!

Get your little ones to help with the prep too…this always means they’ll eat more as they’re chopping and be far more likely to try new ingredients. Make sure there are some firm favourites too – red peppers and carrot sticks in our house – but throw in a few unfamiliar ones, maybe some avocado for a change, and see what happens. You’ve got nothing to lose!

The shopping list for today suggests you buy cheese, pre-cooked chicken or ham, but really it’s up to you. Cut all your veg. into batons and long strips for the chicken. If you’re using ham, leave it in slices. Now, what turns a boring wrap into a tasty one is the dressing. I’m going for a spicy mayo, simply combining mayonnaise with some curried seasoning such as tikka powder or cajun spices. Add dash of lime or lemon juice too and some sharp red onions to the wrap for extra zing.

Either use normal or sweet potatoes, and peel and chip, or leave the skin on and wedge. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil and bake until cooked.

My little one loves these for dinner and she’s even convinced her best friend too – who’s had them every night for the past week!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Little Dish Go Gos - review


I was recently sent three trial packs of Little Dish Go Gos, a new oaty snack biscuit, perfect for toddlers on the go! I wasn't convinced as when we were originally sent a range of 'in the process' development products, my LO was not convinced. They were too solid and 'cardboardy' so I was a little hesitant that these would be given the four year old's seal of approval...but they were! She chose the ginger flavour to try and wolfed them down. Although still rather close textured, they seemed to hit the spot and she was caught an hour later debating which flavour to try next!

go gos

The little ring biscuits have been created with the help of Little Dish’s nutritionist and are wheat and dairy free with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, or refined sugar, but instead use whole grain oats, molasses, honey and a flax and chia seed mix. And because of that, each 25g bag is filled with 3g of protein too, 20% of a 1-3 YO's recommended daily intake. They're sold as suitable for children over one and even come with a little sticker to reseal the bag, or stick on 'small t-shirts' , which is where ours went! 

You can buy them in single packs (60p) or multipacks of 5, priced at £2.50 and choose from three flavours: raspberry, vanilla or ginger, which isn't too gingery or strong. I've been looking for something a little more grown-up for my four year old, but biscuity based to combat those after school sweetness craving, so will definitely be investing in a few more packs! 

Disclaimer: Although I was sent complimentary products, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

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