Friday, 31 October 2014

Thermos Overnight Coffee Challenge

Thermos brand flasks have been around for years, since 1904 in fact. I remember when I was younger, when the inside was a silvered glass container which broke if you knocked it. Now they are the leaders of the durable stainless steel flask and vacuum insulation technology.
Now a days Thermos are state of the art for keeping your hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold.  I have often wanted to buy a flask, looked at the price of the Thermos and bought a cheaper item only to wish that I had bought the Thermos, the best, in the first place.

I was recently invited to take part in the Thermos Overnight Coffee Challenge. Arriving at Prufrock Coffee in Central London where we were first taught all the hints and tips to be a top Barista (read Mr R's account coming soon).

When the event finished we were given a large Thermos flask (1.2L vacuum insulated beverage flask) with coffee brewed at mid-day and challenged not to open it until the following morning and to report whether the coffee was still hot. It should be because the flask keeps liquids hot for approx 24 hours.
As difficult as it was, I resisted the urge to see if the liquid was still hot!  The following morning we tried the coffee. It was warm but not hot.  I was disappointed but I had an inkling as to why it was not.  The amount of coffee in the flask was only about half capacity.
I decided to do my own coffee challenge. Firstly I filled the flask to the top with boiling water and put the top on. When the kettle boiled again I tipped out the boiling water and filled the flask with my coffee. Lid securely on and flask put to one side on the work top and left until morning.

The result the following morning .............. Coffee as hot as when it was made! The trick is to warm your flask and fill it with your hot coffee, tea or soup.

Many thanks to Thermos for the 1.2L flask and for the 470ml insulated travel tumbler we got to take home. I know these will keep us supplied with hot drinks on the allotment for years to come!

For more details find them on Twitter #OvernightCoffee

I was not paid to write a positive review and as always all opinions and photos are my own.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Falmouth Oyster Festival 2014

Falmouth held it's 5th annual Oyster Festival to mark the start of the oyster dredging season.  Because of ancient laws put in place to protect the local ecology the oyster boats (called Falmouth Working Boats) are prohibited from using engines and must use sail power and hand pulled dredges to harvest the oysters from October to March.

Mr R and I made the 5 hour journey to Falmouth in Cornwall to take part in this year's festival.

We arrived on the Thursday afternoon and after a quick cup of coffe in our B&B headed down to the town for the start of the festival. There was a fundraising event on featuring the well known Port Isaac group 'Fisherman's Friends' who sang a range of their favourite Sea Shanty Songs to a side slapping, hand clapping crowd.
Mr R had his first encounter with Skinners beers and the look on his face told me that their Betty Stogs was an instant success.
Over the course of the rest of the weekend we came and went into the festival tent, enjoying both the festival and the fantastic weather.  There we were able to try loads of good food from local restaurants and caterers such as:-

Sea Bream Goan style from id Diner & Take Away, a new diner in Newquay - contact them about their bistro nights.
Fresh mackerel sandwich from a local trader using sustainable fish locally caught.
Grumpies (seen here smiling!) make a fab range of hand made pies using locally sourced ingredients to create such tasty pies like Chicken, Gammon & Leek, Pork, Apple & Cider, Blue Cheese, Mushroom and Walnut (v) and a load more equally exciting combinations.
We tasted Worthy Cheddar cheese and really loved the cheddary taste that was both strong and creamy and their creamy Cornish Blue too.
The Cornish Salt Company, Cornish Sea Salt is naturally rich in minerals and lower in sodium making it a healthier choice over processed table salts.
I treated Mr R to the special festival shirt.

Me helping Chef Benedict Quinn on the Cookery Demonstration Stage!
The finished mackerel wraps - one for each person in the seating area! Chef Ben needed my help!
Some delightful platefuls from Savour & Relish, celebrating Cornish seafood in an innovative way. Mr R said the Ox Cheek & Oyster Cr4oustillant with Horseradish and Watercress was the best thing he had tasted in ages!!  I was a distinct fan of the Salt & Pepper Squid, Kaffir Line Leaf, Lemongrass, Raddish & Chilli.
And of course .... the oysters put in an appearance! Tender and sweet and so very fresh and truly the stars of the festival.
The festival was officially opened with a parade involving all the local school children.
Mr R and I had such a good time, the weather was perfect, the people we met really friendly, the local food fantastic and we decided that we would attend the Falmouth Oyster Festival again next year.  Want to come with us!!

Many thanks to everyone for all the samples of food and drink over the weekend.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Friday, 24 October 2014

‘How has being a savvy shopper changed my life’

When I first married I lived in a row of semi-detached Victorian cottages built in the 1660s for the workers of Queen Elizabeth I Palace in Enfield. The cottages had names like ‘Rose Cottage and ‘Abesynia Cottage but ours was ‘Frugal Cottage’!

I was not always frugal however being a young married couple we had to learn to make ends meet and make do and mend and the name of our house was always at the back of my mind!

Over the years we got out of the strict regime that we had set for ourselves, the arrival of children and holidays in the USA taking up most of my brain space.

Due to two years off work money was quite tight, no choice of whether to be a savvy shopper or not. I did not see eating cheap quality food from frozen food stores being an alternative, we both love food and I love cooking.

I made it my goal to provide Mr R with a nutritious and tasty meal each evening and to cook something special on the weekends.

I would plan my meals around what was in the freezer, cupboard and would visit my local Tesco late each day to see what was reduced in price. At the end of the day the price would be 10% of the original, allowing me to buy food for a few days at a fraction of the cost.

During that time I started blogging and was asked if I would like to receive cheese, meat, sauces, pasta and much more to cook and review on the blog. This helped to supplement our shopping bill.

I also became expert at money off vouchers. A voucher offering  £8.00 off a £40.00 spend would makes me pick offers that I could cook immediately, freeze or store so that the actual value of my shopping bill would, with planning come to £45.00-£48.00 but only cost £32.00!

We have a local allotment and Mr R and I grow much of our fresh vegetables to supplement our shopping bill. Last year we cultivated 1/3 of the plot growing most of our vegetables for the summer and early autumn with preserving and freezing keeping us going for some time. Limnited variety but fantastic quality. That first year we had over 15 kg of fresh blackberries which we used in pies, puddings, jams and chutneys. This year we cultivated another 1/3 of the plot giving a  more varied assortment of vegetables and fruit for our diet that was virtually free.

Recycle glass jars for jams and chutneys and forage outside for sloes for sloe gin and elderflowers for cordials making fantastic presents for everyone.

Pressure is somewhat lifted now that I am in a full time job. I love the ‘hunt for bargains’ and being inventive with recipes and meals realising that being a savvy shopper has now become a hobby as well as a way of life.

This post is in response to Savoo and their Savvy Shopper competition.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Halloween Tricks or Treats!

Unilever Kitchen are the guardian of loads of house hold names such as Knorr, Hellmans, Colemans, Flora and so many more.  I was invited to take part in a Halloween Challenge to make something using products included in the hamper they sent me.
I wanted to make a few things that would please a crowd after Trick or Treating on Halloween evening. When I grew up in America Halloween was a big deal however when I was first in this country hardly anyone celebrated.  But hurrah, it is now popular and there are loads of Halloween celebrations around.

What could be more autumnal than Sausage and Mash but with a difference. 

I marinate my sausages (mini sausages) in a mixture of 3 Tablespoons Colemans wholegrain mustard and 3 Tablespoons runny honey and leave in the bowl for at least 45 minutes. 
Pop onto an ovenproof dish and cook in a hot oven until cooked and sticky.

Meanwhile, whilst the sausages are cooking boil potatoes in salted water and cook until soft. Drain and mash until fluffy with a knob of Flora buttery, salt and pepper, a drop of milk and Helmann's Mayonnaise with lemon.

Serve the sausage and mash in little individual pots ready when the trick or treaters come home.
Something sweet: Ginger cupcakes with ginger icing.
I used the all in one method to make the cup cakes.  In a large bowl add all the ingredients:-
115g tub Stork
115g Castor Sugar
2 eggs
140g Self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
55g stem ginger chopped
2-3 Tbsp ginger syrup

Mix well until smooth and pour into 12 prepared cup cake cases.
Bake in a pre-heated oven 180o, 160o Fan, Gas 4 for 15-20 minutes.
Allow to cool before icing with:-

85g tub Stork
225g icing sugar
1 Tbsp ginger syrup
Pipe on to each cupcake and then decorate with a bit more chopped stem ginger.  Grate dark chocolate over the tops
My final piece for this Halloween is a Giant Spider Web Cake!

Cake mixture:-
230g tub Stork
230g Castor Sugar
4 eggs
185g Self raising flour
95g Coconut flour
4-5 Tbsp milk to bring a dropping consistency (using coconut flour you need a little bit more milk to get the right consistency.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, pour into the cake tins.
Bake in two prepared round cake tins in a 180o, 160o Fan, Gas 4 oven for 30 minutes.
When cool ice with a coconut icing with a bit of black food colouring. (I used a whole tube of Dr Oetker black food colouring and only got grey!) I added white squeezy icing to make a giant spider's web.
If you are not too scared of the spiders cut and serve!

Thanks Unilever Kitchen for the starter hamper and the inspiration to create. I was not paid to write this piece and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Earlier this year I attended Food Blogger Connect, an annual gathering of foodies who blog held in London. Aside from learning and networking we get a fantastic goodie bag to take home. One of the items in this year's was cocoa powder from Mortimer Chocolate Company.

I wanted to make brownies for tea and even though I have recipes I thought I would follow the recipe on the back of the cocoa powder packet.
This is a quick and simple brownie recipe that works!
100 gm Mortimer Chocolate Powder
125 gm butter
200 gm Caster Sugar
75 gm Plain flour
2 eggs

Pre-heat oven to 180o
* Melt butter over a low heat,
*Add chocolate powder and whisk until melted,
*In a bowl beat together eggs and sugar,
*Then stir in the melted chocolate,
*Sieve in the plan flour,
*Beat until smooth,
*Pour mixture into a lined, 9 inch (23cm) square tin.
*Bake at 180o for 20 minutes
*Allow to cool slightly and cut into 12 squares

This is an incredibly easy and quick way to churn out chocolate brownies and one that I shall be coming back to time and time again.

I did not receive payment to write this post and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Feeding My Addiction With The Atlantic Blanket Co

My name is Heidi and I love blankets! There I have said it out loud!! I love soft cuddly blankets and big warm comforting ones. I like home knitted blankets and hand woven ones. 

I take my ‘at the moment’ favourite blanket with me if we travel by car and pine for it when we fly away to some far away location.

As we entered the marquee for the Falmouth Oyster Festival recently, my eye caught the charity raffle display. It wasn’t the case of Skinners beer or the meal for two at a local restaurant but the beautiful blanket by Atlantic Blankets that got my attention.
Atlantic Blankets are a collection of blankets (funny that!) all made by crafts people along the Atlantic coast of Britain.

 "...Soft, warm, luxurious and practical, in a mouth watering range of colours and textures, our top quality products will provide you with years of delight and scores of special memories..." (from their website)

My blanket is too pretty to unwrap but then I could just sit and gaze at it and stroke it occasionally!
Jonty, my Bichon Frisee loves blankets and was only too keen to try this one out with me!

If you have a look at their website you can see the designs and sizes they have (they do a nice range in throws, nursery blankets and outdoor blankets too).
I'm just off to curl up with my new blanket!
Many thanks to Atlantic Blankets for my blanket. As usual I was not paid to write this and all opinions and photos are my own.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Falmouth, Cornwall - A Much Needed Long Weekend with Mr R

I hadn’t been to Cornwall since 1982, a very long time ago! I was invited to review the Falmouth Oyster Festival recently. Although it is quite a long way to go for us, Mr R and I needed a break away and decided to make the 5 hour car journey to Falmouth in Cornwall.  Before I had been to visit my sister, a 5 hour trip was a big deal requiring lots of preparation and planning however after a 12 hour road trip to visit relatives four states away I viewed Cornwall quite differently!

We drove west turning south at Bristol through stop-start hard rain with me thankful that at least I brought my wellies!  The other side of Bodmin Moor the sky was blue and stayed that way all weekend – definitely a gift from the gods!
I had reserved a Bed & Breakfast hotel which stated they were ‘2 minutes from the beach’ but I always take things like that with a pinch of salty sea water.  Our hotel, Chellowdene, was right on a road leading to the beach and yes surprisingly, it was about a 2 minute walk!  On the beach is a café called Glynvase Beach Café serving hot drinks, all major alcoholic drinks and a fresh and vibrant menu of food.  Considering it was out of the main tourist season it was very busy – I’d hate to be hungry when the tourists are in town! As we were visiting out of main tourist season the beach was really empty with people walking their children and dogs and a few even swimming in the icy Atlantic waters!

Falmouth is quite hilly with an easy walk into the town and Events Square where most festivals are held but could be quite steep for me as I suffer from asthma. The alternative to walking was a taxi ride back up the hill with the pleasant surprise that all local rides cost only £3.00! Mr R didn’t take long to work out he could have a few more pints of Betty Stogs from Skinners the local brew!

Falmouth is the third largest natural deep water harbour in the world, beaten by Syndey, Australia and Rio de Janiero in Brazil.  Because of this is it quite popular with cruise ships which can disembark their passengers and wait just off the coast until time to explore the next destination.  There is plenty of space for sailboats of all sizes, from small craft to larger luxury boats and then of course the big guys park there too.
The Argus, a Royal Navy auxillary ship was in harbour being fitted out to go to West Africa and offer aid to Ebola victims!
Falmouth is a foodie’s paradise with rows upon rows of eating places, small pop ins to grand dining, award winning fish and chips restaurants, loads of pubs and coffee houses along with foreign cuisine like Thai, Mexican, Chinese and South African (which I will definitely be trying next year) to name just a few.

We look at the menu boards outside of restaurants before making up our minds and the menu from The Hut looked inviting but the doorway was a small entrance down a short flight of stairs.  We went in to find that the whole restaurant opened out into a lovely, cosy and inviting place to eat.  The waitresses were friendly and knew their menu making suggestions and recommendations.  I ordered the Crab Fish Cakes, Plaice with Scallops and Prawns and the Meringue with fresh fruit for pudding.
Mr R ordered the Fish Cakes, Scallops with Catch of the Day (which was Plaice) and also picked the Meringue with fresh fruit.  We each had a large glass of wine and left feeling full enough without being bloated ready for a stroll around before getting our taxi back to the B&B.
Most of the food that we ate came from the Oyster Festival which I will be writing about soon.

We had four days in Cornwall and felt as it we had been away for a fortnight, relaxed and full of good food, wine & beer and beautiful weather.  In fact we are going to go again next year and I am already planning our itinerary!!

I didn't receive any payment to write this post and as usual all oopinions and photos are my own.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Fantastic Food For Less - Win a Copy

I have been sent a copy of a cook book called Fantastic Food for Less. This book is from DairyDiary.
It is suitable for vegetarians, freezing and loaded with hints and tips for easy recipes that don't cost the earth (literally with lots of ideas to cut down on waste and use leftovers).

The recipes have been written to minimise waste but pack loads of taste and flavour.  Recipes such as Kashmiri Butter Chicken (page 69),
Slow Cooked Asian Beef (page 102)
and Orchard Sponge Pudding (page 143) are all on my list of 'must try' for those cold winter days we have coming.
If you would like to win a copy of Fantastic Food for Less for yourself just follow the Rafflecopter instructions and a winner will be picked at random.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, 13 October 2014

Big Al's BBQ Ribs - a North Carolina Treat

 I visited my sister in her new home in North Carolina for the first time this summer and was looking forward to all the treats she had in store for me that she had been telling me about.
"They are the best ribs around" she said and that we would get some one night for dinner.
We stopped at Big Al's on our way home and ordered three racks of ribs.  I was thinking that three racks might not be enough for us so I persuaded her to get a fourth rack. I was thinking along UK racks of ribs.  I certainly wasn't expecting to see such huge racks of meat and wasn't ready for the flavour.  The meat just fell off the bone it was so tender. Oh the flavour!!

You can order BBQ Pork or Brisket that just melts in your mouth, ribs or chicken and a Southern favourite of Fried Catfish fillets!  They have side orders of exotics to us Northerners like Fried Okra, Collard Greens and Hush Puppies.
Whilst we were waiting for our order we were looking over the extensive range of sauces to take home (you fill a small container of a couple) a nice gentleman started to talk to us about the sauce range.  My sister said that was Big Al himself.
We chatted about his business and he invited me into the kitchen to see the pork that was slowly cooking, ready for the following day.
A huge oven/smoker which opened up to reveal its precious contents which cook for hours till the meat falls off the bones. This was a consignment of pork shoulder.
When I got back to the UK and told Mr R about Big Al's he said he had just watched the television programme 'Man-vs-Food' and it had featured Big Al and his ribs!

Big Al gave me a bottle of one of his sauces to take home promising me it wasn't "a real hot one"! I think I will open it with my son-in-law just in case it is too hot for me!

I am looking forward to taking Mr R to Big Al's when we visit my sister again.

You can find Big Al on Twitter and Facebook

I was not paid to write this and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.