Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Holiday Gems - Barcelona Blogger Challenge

The Challenge is simple: write a blog post about my ideal itinerary for 4 days in the Catalonian capital city of Barcelona.

Who would I take with me? Where would I go? What would I do? What makes my schedule so spectacular that Holiday Gems would be crazy not to send me off for my dream Barcelona break?!  Let me begin ............

First and foremost I am a Foodie and a food blogger and would use a trip to Barcelona as a perfect vehicle to feed my habit (bit of a play on words there!).  I would of course take my long suffering husband Mr R - he does love a nice cold glass of cerveza with some tapas!

I haven't been to Barcelona since 2004 and I am sure there have been changes and it is certainly a city of vastly different pieces of culture eg, Gaudi's cathederal La Segrada Familia and a short train ride out of the city will take you to Salvador Dali's residence and museum.

But back to my ideal visit.  Day 1 after checking into my hotel I would try to locate a nice little tapas bar to settle my taste buds into the local cuisine and a crisp, cold glass of sherry.  There are so many great restaurants in the city and I love to walk around the restaurant area reading the menus outside and making the difficult decision of what to have for dinner.

Day 2 after breakfast I would start wandering around the streets off Las Ramblas to find a nice little bar serving Churros, a sweet donut made to order that you dip into a thick, delicious cup of hot chocolate.  This would set us up for an afternoon of food market hunting.

The food market Mercat de Sant Josep/La Boqueria is a short stroll off Las Ramblas and is open Monday to Saturday.  It is a complete assault on the senses and will keep you busy for hours tasting olives and salami and all sorts of local specialities and deciding what to bring home.  If all that food made us peckish I think we would look for a small bar for tapas but I would always prefer one where local people go rather than on the tourist track.

If we had the energy I would like to visit another food market - Fira Artesana which is open the 1st Friday and Saturday of the month.  It is sometimes called the Honey Market and locals sell their wares there including loads of home made cakes and honey infused cheeses.  If we were too tired we could always visit this on Day 3!

Day 2 after strolling around markets and visiting little bars set in the side of little alleys we would retire to our hotel to get ready for dinner.  I would want to walk to the area known as 'Little Barcelona'.  At the end of Las Ramblas and turn left and walk about 10 minutes.  Facing the port is a little restaurant called 'El Rey de la Gamba'. The have a menu featuring the most amazing aray of prawns and seafood and serve prawns on huge platters.

Day 3 I might take a train trip about an hour from the city centre and visit a seaside town like Blanes or Loret del Mar for some fresh and fantastic seafood.

I will of course fit in a visit to the department store El Corte Ingles to see what cooking pots they may have, I like to add to my terracotta collection on each visit to Spain.  They also have a food hall and on the off chance that they may have something I had not come upon yet I will make a short visit.

All of this activity will of course be interspersed with frequent coffee stops and after 3pmish it will turn into beer and wine stops!

If we were there for any festivals there would be fireworks on the beaches and beach parties to gate crash! The best ever fireworks I have ever seen were on the North East coast of Spain!

With the luggage weight restrictions on flights these days everything in my suitcase will have to earn a place.  I will take the last few squirts of deodorant, sliver of soap and squeeze of toothpaste so that I can discard these to leave precious room for my foodie bargains.  Each item of clothing will have to work for two days (I don’t mind washing clothes in the hotel bathroom to save space) and if possible I will wear a coat and sweater to board the plane. 

I love buying food and sometimes drinks that we cannot get easily or at all in the UK when I am abroad and take great pleasure in making meals when we get home that will remind us of our foray into a new foodie arena.


I am entering this post into a competition set by Holiday Gems and would really love to win!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What's your favourite sandwich?

Recently I was at The Cake and Bake show and one of the stalls was the well known jam makers Duerr's.  Duerr’s is the oldest family owned jam maker in England, making quality preserves to their family recipes for over 130 years

Whilst chatting with one of the women on the stand I noticed that they made peanut butter, both smooth and crunchy.  I always thought it was only jams and marmalades.

I love peanut butter in sandwiches, cakes, cookies and bars.

The woman I was talking to asked me what was my favourite jam and without hesitating I said raspberry especially paired with peanut butter.  With this in mind she gave me a jar of both raspberry jam and peanut butter.

And with those I will be enjoying peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

You can either put jam in one slice of bread and peanut butter on the other or do it my way, a small amount of butter on each piece.

Spread one piece quite liberally with peanut butter.

A couple of spoonfuls of jam on the peanut butter and swirl with a knife.

 Place the second piece of bread on the peanut butter and jam and cut into triangles.

And enjoy with a cup of coffee or a nice cold glass of milk! This makes the perfect office lunch or me or school lunch for little people.

Thanks Duerr's for the peanut butter and raspberry jam. I didn't receive any payment for this post and the opinions are my own.


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sunday Soup - Roast Pepper and Tomato

It's Sunday and as usual when we stay at my father-in-laws for the weekend I like to make a soup in the afternoon.  We usually have a roast Sunday lunch so tea time we just have soup and sandwich or roll and butter.

This week I bought some of those long red peppers that usually sell for £2.00 for two in a packet but I got them at the end of the evening Friday for £0.20.  I bought three packs and today put three of the peppers into roast for the basis of my soup.

I roasted the peppers drizzled with olive oil and filled with chopped tomatoes (home grown so free) and chopped garlic, salt and pepper.  They roasted in the oven at 160o for about 45 minutes then turned up to 200o for 15 minutes to caramelize the edges.

To start the soup I used the oil from the pan of peppers to gently fry the onions, carrots, rainbow chard stems (chard from the allotment) and when they started to brown I added the tomatoes chopped up, the peppers chopped up and the rainbow chard.

I added water and let the mixture simmer until the carrots were tender then seasoned with some chilli paste from Mexico, tomatoe puree, salt&pepper and let it continue to simmer for about half an hour.

A quick wizz up with the stick blender and a delicous bowl of nutritious, tasty food which didn't cost very much at all.  We had it for tea with bread and butter and FIL has two portions for his freezer for another day.

Add a glass of red wine and the perfect way to finish the weekend!

Asda Butcher's Selection Chicken in a Bag - Great for Leftovers

Asda have a range of chickens in store at the moment in their Butchers Selection.  The chickens have a seasoning on each one such as Zesty Lime & Corriander, Smoky Mexican, Extra Tasty and Piri Piri.  They recently asked me to try one of these chickens and to follow the suggestions on the back of the pack to use the leftovers.

We chose the Smoky Mexican.  The packets direct you to pierce the bag the chicken comes in and put the whole thing in the oven.  The chicken is sitting in its own foil tray which enables you to cook it in the bag and keep the oven clean, this is a great plus point as far as I can see.

The chicken cooks in its own steam chamber and comes out cooked to perfection in 1.5 hours and is juicy and tender.  I used the juices in the pan to make a quick sauce and served it with rice and roasted red peppers.

The back of the package suggested making the left overs into fajitas or wraps. Mr R and I had enough for our dinner and there was loads left over. Even though the seasoning was on the outside of the chicken on the skin, the meat underneath had a subtle taste of the Mexican paprika.

I sauteed some pepper, onions and celery plus a half teaspoon of chilli paste and when browned I added the left over chicken.

I added some grated cheddar cheese and a couple of tablespoons of bar-b-que sauce to keep it from being too dry.  I popped a packet of the small tortillas into the microwave to warm them through

Wrapped the chicken into the tortillas, sprinkled with cheddar cheese and served with a quick microwave rice and a dollop of sour cream.

The Butcher's Selection Simply roast in the Bag are priced at £5 for a limited time - 24th October - 6th November 2013.

Thanks Asda for the chicken and the ingredients to make the most of the left overs.  I didn't receive any payment to try the products and the opinions are my own.

Dinner for 4 - £0.40 per person

I have mentioned many times before, you can make a meal that is tasty and nutritious and doesn't cost a lot.

Every now and then we pop up to our local supermarket about 8:30pm to see what is reduced.

For our meal tonight we had burgers that were priced at £3.50 for a four pack but they had been reduced to £1.25 and were Buy One Get One Free so that meant £1.25 for 8 burgers.

Add to this a pack of four jacket potatoes reduced to £0.18, some garden grown tomatoes and a meal for less than £1.45 that would feed 4 people.

My advice is to keep your eyes open for those bargains and feed your family some great food that won't break your budgets!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Kelly Bronze Turkeys - Thanksgiving is coming - How to cook the perfect turkey!

It's that time of year again when my thoughts turn to turkey! Not for Christmas although that isn't far away but for me Thanksgiving is my big turkey day. Some years I cook for up to 25 guests and this year I am planning on having the best tasting turkey I have come across in years. 

A couple of years ago I tasted a Kelly Bronze Turkey at a food show I attended and the memory of the taste, so reminiscent of turkey meals as a child, has stayed with me.

Recently I had the pleasure to visit Kelly Bronze Turkeys at their Essex headquarters and I can honestly say I learned so much about turkeys!

Paul Kelly saying hello to one of his birds!
We arrived at Kelly Bronze Turkey farm and gathered in the Board Room with a cup of coffee and listened to Paul Kelly tell us all about his family turkey business.  His passion and sense of humour kept us enthralled whilst we talked about rearing turkeys, inseminating them, breeding them, pioneering their future and the final performance on your platter on Christmas Day!

Trust Paul Kelly when he says two hours is the time needed to cook one of his turkeys!
At this time of year he has about 2000 turkeys on a local 10 acres site roaming freely through the fenced off forest and living the 'good life' which will result in a tender, delicious turkey meat.

But there is more to just breeding turkeys on their site, they research blood lines and send eggs all over the world.

A consignment of eggs readyto go to Eastern Europe
They know the parentage of each of their eggs and keep an eye to make sure they select the perfect eggs for a high yeild.

We took a tour around the establishment and this was the 'maternity unit', where thousands of eggs are being incubated, uniquely monitored with state of the art technology.

Resulting in these little cuties! There were squeels of delight when the other bloggers got a chance to hold some of these tiny turkey chicks. There were some normal 'white', 'mix' and 'true bronze'.

The chicks go from cute and fluffy to the gang below in a very short time. But the life they live is as good as it can be.  They are free to roam naturally and develop strong muscles and good taste.  They have a protected area but are free to roost in the trees of the forest area.

At first you see a couple then more

And more and you are soon surrounded by turkey!

Then off for a spot of lunch!  A Kelly Bronze turkey is plumper and tastier and weighs typically 5kg compared to a traditionally reared turkey at 10kg.  Paul Kelly is very proud of his product and very keen to get acoss to us and everyone else the correct way to cook a turkey and insists that his 5kg bird takes only 2 hours to cook.

A meat thermometer is an essential piece of kitchen kit, so much so that each Kelly Bronze turkey comes with cooking instructions and a meat thermometer.

Then there is the matter of carving. Paul demonstrated the best way to get the most meat from your roast.

The neck and giblets cooked with the  juices from the roast and served simply with a large salad and a glass of cold white wine.

One thing is for sure I want a Kelly Bronze turkey on my Thanksgiving table next month! Who's bringing the cranberry sauce?
Many thanks to Paul Kelly and all at Kelly Bronze Turkeys for an informative day and a really, really lovely and tasty lunch.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

It's Lunchtime - Tasty and Frugal

Frugal food doesn't mean sub standard or lowering your standards at all. It means using food in such a way that you don't throw good food away.

Today as I was hungry at lunchtime and decided to make some scrambled eggs.  Well simple scrambled eggs was the plan but it soon took on a plan of its own.

Last night we had a rare treat and got an Indian take-away.  Mine always comes with a bag of salad and a bag of finely chopped onions.  I usually eat half of the salad and never the raw onion.

So, I put a knob of butter and a tsp of oil into my small frying pay.  I added the bag of chopped onions and a small amount of chilli paste. 

Once  nicely browned I added the eggs, mixed with seasoning and 2 Tbs of milk and scattered chopped ham on top.

When the main body of the eggs were cooked I popped it under the grill to finish cooking in the middle and topped with cheese slices.

Served with the remaining salad from last night's take-away and there you have a lovely, warming lunch and I used two items that most people probably pop into the bin.

I try to be frugal with our food and look for ways to use up smaller items or look in the reduced section of the supermarkets for bargains.

Watch this blog for more ways to be frugal coming up.

What do you do to make the food £s stretch. Please leave a comment and share with other readers.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Roast Shoulder of Lamb - Saturday Supper

My friend's father is a butcher and her dad asked me if I would like a shoulder of lamb to cook for the weekend.  Of course I said yes but as we are going to be out tomorrow I am cooking it for a Saturday Supper.

G Gibson, Butchers is in Charter Place in Watford, Hertfordshire and they specialize in BBQ meats and meat packs as well as manufacturing their own sausages. They are a butchers like the old days (if you are my age you will know what I mean!) a time when service was an everyday word.

Shoulder of lamb is a fattier piece of meat than the leg however long cooking will turn it into something that will melt in your mouth! And of course it had a great flavour.
Buying a different cut of meat now and again enlarges your meal repertoire giving the family a wider range and also helps stretch the budget.

When you pop into a local butcher you can ask all sorts of questions such as cooking times and how to use cheaper cuts in your recipes and to help finances, something which we are all struggling with these days.

I was quite excited to get the piece of lamb and decided to roast it on top of sliced onions and potatoes. Kind of an upside down hotspot!

As usual I made some slits in the meat and pushed slivers of garlic inside.

I rubbed the outside with a small amount of olive oil, salt and chopped fresh rosemary (from my allotment).

Place shoulder on top of the veg and pop into the oven 150oC for about 90 minutes.  Then turn up the oven and cover the meat with foil and continue cooking for another hour.

beautiful, tasty and tender roast shoulder of lamb

Be prepared for some great smells coming from the oven in the meantime! Whilst this was cooking I got started on the carrots and the last of the yellow courgettes from our allotment.

Mr R enjoying his roast shoulder of lamb Saturday supper!!

Then again there are the left overs. I made a soup by boiling up the bones to make a stock, skim the fat when it had cooled and fresh vegetables and let it simmer.  I also popped in the bits of meat I couldd scrape off the bones and finely sliced rainbow chard from the allotment.  The soup makes a few more meals for my father-in-law to put in his freezer for a cold, autumnal lunchtime that cost almost nothing to make!

You can Like G Gibsons on Facebook and strike up a relationship. They will be more than happy to look after you.

Many thanks to G Gibsons for my lamb.( I received it for free and was not required to write about it. All the opinions are my own.)