Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Giveaway - Hotel Chocolat Christmas Goody Bag

The lovely people over at Hotel Chocolat are kindly giving one lucky reader of this blog the chance to win this lovely Christmas Good Bag!
The goody bag contains a host of festive treats, including a Cookie Wreath studded with Florentines and biscuits; 6 Christmas Eton Mess truffles; 6 caramel supernovas, filled with runny caramel; and a bag of coconut snowballs – milk chocolate truffles covered in desiccated coconut.

Hotel Chocolat can be always be relied upon for their great range of luxury chocolate gifts.  I recently received the Milk Chocolate Advent Calender which contains 24 Christmas sculptures - Father Christmas, Snowmen and Reindeer to name a few, all made from delicious milk chocolate.

On with the giveaway!  You can see the full details of the Christmas Goody Bag here including dietary information.

How to Enter - Entries must be via the Rafflecopter widget:
Please note the prize can only be sent to the UK only. To see a short video on how easy it is to use Rafflecopter click here.
*Inappropriate comments will be deleted and entry/entries to the competition removed as will anyone that says they have left a blog post comment but really hasn't! 
For information on how to find the URL of your tweet click here - Entries that do not show the URL of the Tweet will be removed.
There is one main way to enter and several ways to get bonus entries, including bonus daily entries.
Competition end time is as shown on the Rafflecopter widget along with the terms and conditions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 24 November 2014

10 Ways to Spice up your Christmas - with JustIngredients

JustIngredients is an online store that delivers quality ingredients direct to your door.  They've come up with a really great infographic.  10 ways to spice up your Christmas - sounds good to me!  JustIngredients have a great range of culinary herbs and spices, botanical herbs, wholefoods and more.

This infographic features a selection of culinary herbs and spices, with which you can create exciting and delicious Christmas menus, drinks and fragrances around the home.  Click on the image for more details.
 Disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post for Just Ingredients.

Kitchen Gadget Gift Ideas - My Top Ten

If you're looking for the perfect kitchen related Christmas gift - here in no particular order, is my top ten small kitchen appliances list.  I'm aiming to do a similar post on smaller kitchen gadgets shortly.  You could just be having a look at buying yourself something, whatever it is take a look and hopefully my list might give you some ideas! 

1/ Portable Touch Control Induction Hob from Stellar Cookware - The perfect solution for cooking a big family Christmas or New Years Day dinner.  This induction hob is easy to operate and can be moved to wherever it suits you so even the tiniest of kitchens Christmas dinner won't be a problem. You can see my review here.    

2/ The Tefal Optigrill fantastic health grill enabling you to cook many foods from bacon, burgers, fish, chicken, steak, sausages and more.  The Optigrill takes the guess work out of cooking too - you can choose to have your steak, rare, medium rare or (if you must) well done with perfect results ever time. To read more pop over and have a read of my review.

3/ Also from Tefal the Cook4Me does just that, and is really easy to use.  Sausage casserole for 4 people is ready in just 9 minutes!  I love cooking but sometimes I don't have time and so this is perfect.  Cook4Me is pre-programmed with 50 recipes all of which are dead simple to follow but of course you can use it to cook full scales dinners to desserts.  Rice is perfectly cooked and I use mine pretty much at least 4 times a week for one thing or another.
The vegetables for the Sunday roast are made easy too.  I pile cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts into the machine and select cauliflower since it has the longest cooking time.  As long as you weigh the vegetables you can't go wrong - and once you've done that once you know that next Sunday the veg will be the same so you can visually know the weight if that makes sense.  Take a look at my review here.  

4/ The Tassimo drinks machine is great if you have little space in your kitchen.  Drinks are piping hot and ready in seconds.  A huge range of Coffees, Hot Chocolate, Tea and more are available in the form of discs that you insert into the machine which reads the barcode and prepares your drink for you at the press of a button.  See my review for more details. 

5/ The Tefal ActiFry hasn't long arrived at our house but we've loved everything we've cooked in it so far.  If you follow the instructions and use the recommended variety of potatoes then chips are soft and fluffy inside and crispy on the outside.  But it's not just for cooking chips - see how I got on making Sweet Chilli Chicken Wings in the ActiFry. 

6/ Fro-Fru from Judge Cookware - fantastic little gadget.  Frozen desserts made in minutes.  Great for kids and the warmer weather perhaps but with that said, I say any time is a good time for a refreshing dessert.
Pop over to read more on the Fro-Fru here. 

7/ Now this soup maker also from Judge Cookware is marvelous.  I know you can make soup without a soup maker but the fact is I personally wouldn't bother.  Just pop your ingredients into the soup maker along with a stock cube and cold water.  Press the button and piping hot soup is ready in just 20 minutes! Here's my review which has links to a couple of soups I've made using it.  Oh and before I forget, this soup maker also steams eggs which turn out perfect every time.

8/ This very stylish Stainless Steal Bread maker from Panasonic is in a word - brilliant.  Not only does it make many types of bread, dough and cakes but it also can be used to make jam - I tried it and it works.
Take a more detailed look at the Panasonic bread maker.

9/ Very nice looking Stainless Steel Stick Blender by Stellar Cookware - an immersion blender is great for making soups (if you don't have the soup make mentioned above)! Or gravy, sauces and purees. The already powerful 750W motor makes easy work of blending but it does have a Turbo boost function too.  read more about this stick blender in my review.

10/ Sous Vide Supreme - Sous Vide (pronounced "soo-veed") is a luxury kitchen appliance for the more serious cook.  I say that because it isn't cheap to buy.  To use a water oven you will of course also need a vacuum sealer.  I was lucky enough to have been sent both but I can tell you I love this machine.  Fantastic results every time.  You can see my review and some Sous Vide recipes here.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Tefal ActiFry - Sweet Chilli Chicken Wings

Much excitement in our house when a Tefal ActiFry arrived last week.  I've wanted one for an age as I've been curious to see if the ActiFry really is as good as people say.  I mean really?  Chips cooked in just a spoonful of oil can't taste good can they?  Fact is they do!
Chips was the first thing I cooked - within an hour of this machine arriving chips had to happen.  Soft and fluffy on the inside, crispy (yes really) on the outside, but we'll talk about chips another day.....

Chicken wings with a nice sweet and spicy coating topped with toasted sesame seeds are so good to eat.  But for good measure I wanted more - how about if they were coated in a Chinese Five Spice batter, fried using hardly any oil, and then coated in Sticky Sweet Chilli goodness - how does that sound?    

Would the batter actually stay on the wings or would my bright idea turn into a disaster?  Read on to find out.

My ActiFry arrived as a result of a challenge set by Tefal which was to cook my guilty pleasure.  The lovely Camilla over at Fab Food 4 All was sent an ActiFry for the challenge.  Once she had cooked her guilty pleasure she had to nominate someone else to take on the challenge and she chose me - Cheers Camilla!

On with my Sweet Chilli Chicken Wings. You will notice the batter is quite thick - I decided it would have more chance staying on the wings once cooking in the ActiFry.

Print Recipe

You will need a Tefal ActiFry:
20 chicken wings
40g plain
40g cornflour
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice
1 egg - free range of course and lightly beaten
50ml water

*You will also need 1 tablespoon oil for cooking in the ActiFry

The sauce isn't anything tricky - mix together in a small bowl and set aside:
100ml (half a bottle) Sweet Chilli Sauce (Blue Dragon original dipping sauce) available in any good supermarket.
1 tablespoon Ketjap Manis - Indonesian sweet soy sauce - just use dark soy if you can't get it
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
a couple of tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle

How to do it:
Put the flour and cornflour into a bowl along with the Chinese Five Spice and add the egg and give it a good mix.  Add the water and whisk till there aren't any lumps.  The batter will be quite thick but fear not - it will be fine. No need to add salt to this mixture just the five spice will be fine.  

Trim the very end part (the bit with no meat) off of each chicken wing and discard.  Pop them into a large bowl and pour over the batter.  Mix using your hand to coat each wing well.
Add the wings one at a time to the ActiFry.  Drizzle with one spoonful of oil, shut the lid and set the time to 30 minutes. 

Now after a few minutes of cooking I thought I'd done a wrongen - oh my, the batter wasn't looking good in the ActiFry.  BUT after 15 minutes it all looked okay and although the wings didn't stay perfectly coated they were looking good.
In any case these wings were going to get a coating of sticky sweet chilli goodness and since they weren't being judged by Monica on MasterChef it really didn't matter.

Once they emerge from the ActiFry using tongs as they are piping hot, coat each wing in the sticky sauce and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.  The wings were perfectly cooked and not at all dry.  Yep we're very impressed with the Tefal Actifry. 

The #ActiFry Guilty Pleasure Challenge:
I'm nominating Jo over at Jo's Kitchen to receive an ActiFry from Tefal and take on the Tefal #ActiFry challenge - can't wait to see what Jo will cook!

Pop over to see how Camilla got on with the #ActiFry guilty pleasure over at Fab Food 4 All.

Do you have a Tefal ActiFry?  If so please tell me your favorite recipe in a comments below.

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Tefal for sending me an ActiFry Family along with a few goodies and a Salisbury's gift voucher.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I was not required to write anything positive.  

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Telford Southwater Pizza Express - Review

Pizza Express recently opened a branch in the fancy Southwater development by the Telford town center.  Yep this Pizza Express is a lovely place to eat with a very relaxed atmosphere.  Of course I wasn't sent there to review the actual restaurant nor the service - just the menu.  But while I'm about it I think the excellent service, friendly and very informative staff need a mention!  This place is GOOD.

Spotlessly clean, tidy too.  Pizza express have an open style kitchen so you can see the food being prepared which I think can only be a good thing.
This was our second visit to Pizza Express Telford, the first being when they'd only been open a couple of weeks. We were pleasantly surprised then at just how knowledgeable the staff were, explaining the different pizza bases and topping and for example, how you can choose to have none, more, or less of the different types of chillies to make your pizza to suit you.
On our first visit Paul had chosen a pizza that had Tabasco sauce on it and when I reminded him just how HOT Tabasco sauce is - he chickened out!  But not wanting to miss out just in case it wasn't so bad after all, the waiter said he'd request that none was actually added to Paul's pizza, but he would instead bring a couple of bottles to the table - original and mild Tabasco sauce so Paul could decide for himself how hot or not he wanted it.  Now that's what I call going the extra mile - brilliant service.  

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Pure Chocolate Beads - for Drinking

Whoa!  This has to be the Most Creamy Chocolaty Tasting Drink ever - Pure Chocolate Beads that you simply melt in hot milk (or water) but it just wouldn't be the same.  Yes indeed, it's like drinking a bar of chocolate!

Anyone that reads this blog will know I'm not a one for anything chocolate but of course I did try it and it really is like drinking a bar of chocolate!  Paul (the husband) however loves chocolate, and declared Hans Sloane the best hot chocolate drink ever.  It's really rich and perfect for cold winter nights, you need about 3 tablespoons per mug but of course you can add more or less according to your taste.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Making Jam in the Panasonic SD-ZB2502 Bread Maker

Having recently reviewed the Panasonic SD-ZB2502 Bread Maker at the time of writing I hadn't tried making jam so as promised I gave it a go. 
Now, how marvelous it would be, but would it actually work?  Well folks I can tell you it certainly does.  No messing about with thermometers - just put the fruit in the bread pan along with jam sugar (sugar with pectin added) and Robert's your father's brother!

The supplied recipe book says to use sugar and powdered pectin.  Now could I actually find powdered pectin in Asda or Tesco, errr no.  But that said I'm sure if I hunted about a bit in the right shop I'd find it.  But I wanted to make jam now.  So not to be put off I fancied that if I used jam sugar (Tate & Lyle) it would be the same difference, after-all it's just sugar with the right amount of pectin already added.

So, to make jam in the Panasonic bread maker (please note not all models have a menu for making jam) simply layer fruit and jam sugar in the bread pan.
 Select the correct menu, press START and sit back while jam happens.

So with the jam making a success it was onto making a Spicy Fruit Loaf.  Once again, faultless - I love this machine!

Nice and spicy and while cooking the kitchen smelt amazing.  Am I impressed with this bread maker - it's a big fat YES from me.   

Disclaimer:  I was sent this Panasonic Bread Maker for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own and are not meant to influence readers buying choice.  I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Jus Rol Bake it Fresh - Pain au Chocolat Review

I'll be honest (as always of course) I'd never thought about buying Jus Rol 'Bake it Fresh' products before - although I always buy Jus Rol ready made pastry since personally I think it's the best out there.  But having been sent some vouchers to try a few Bake it Fresh products off out I went to get some, and I'm glad I did.
Oh my, it has to be said I am really impressed with the quality of the the end product and how very easy they are to prepare. 

The rather ingenious packaging consists of what looks like a tin but with cardboard sides.  All you do is pull down on a tab and the tin pops open and out comes the ready made dough and appropriate filling - marvelous!
For example the Pain au Chocolat dough is ready made and once out of the tin it just needs unraveling since it's rolled up like a Swiss roll.  The portions are ready marked out and almost cut through so all you do is separate them.  Included in the pack (amazingly since the package is really quite small) are sticks of chocolate.  You place one stick of chocolate at either end of each slice then roll towards each other.  Pop onto a baking sheet seam side down, glaze with beaten egg and bake for 12 minutes at 200c - simples. 

Jus Rol products can be found in all good supermarkets and are located near the butter.  The range includes Cinnamon Swirls, Apple Danish, Pain au Chocolat, Croissants, Focaccia, Crusty Rolls and even Pizza Bases with Tomato Sauce.  To find out more pop over to Jus Rol.

Disclaimer:  I was sent vouchers to buy some Jus Rol products.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.