Sunday, 21 August 2016

Happy Hens Make Happy Eggs - The Happy Egg Co

Happy hens make happy eggs! Sounds like a cliché right, that's what I thought anyway.

I was invited to visit one of The Happy Egg Co farms recently and drove there with a smirk on my face. Happy hens indeed!!

Well let me tell you these hens are the pampered princesses of the chicken world!
The hens are let out of their houses/barns first thing in the morning and come running out making a gleeful clucking noise, a really happy hen noise.
The hens are shut up again when it gets dark and this depends on the season, maybe around 15:30 in the winter but could be as late as 22:00 on a fine summer evening however during the time between coming out and evening curfew the hens are free to roam around a huge area and pop back inside as they want. They have trees for shelter outside in their large 'yard' area and food and drink whenever they want it in the hen house.

Inside their 'patio' area they have a dust bath area which also disinfects their feathers and keeps them free of little mites,
whilst in the actual hen house there is plenty of fresh water and feed so they can just help themselves and comfy, semi-private areas to lay their eggs.

A normal laying hen will lay one egg each day with a day off every now and then.  The quality of the egg improves as they start getting older and their bodies get used to the hormonal changes they go through from 'teenage' hens to mature young ladies! You could say they have a 'henstral cycle'!
The Happy Egg Company follow strict environmental and health guidelines for their laying flocks diligently recording the yields compared to the feed and living conditions.  These hens get the most intense feeding regime of the best chicken feed which is all made 'in house' to exacting specifications.

Before meeting the flock we were dressed in fetching gear and along with cameras went to the first hen house. (You will notice I am not showing me in this fetching outfit.)
We stood in a large open field with one of the flocks and it was a really enjoyable experience. They have a natural curiosity and were soon mingling around us.
The only thing that bothered them was when an airplane flew overhead and they all turned tail and ran back into their shelter only to re-emerge a few moments later when the 'threat' was gone!

I have had a really busy stressful life lately however standing inside of the hen house, listening to the happy 'mumble' and the excited laying noises I felt the most wonderful calmness I have had in a long time.  I could have just sat there for hours soaking up all the happy, contented atmosphere, sitting with 'the girls' and maybe even clucking a bit to myself!

Following our farm tour we were treated to a wonderful meal produced by Jackson & Rye which of course featured The Happy Egg Co eggs in each course.
Canapes were Devilled Eggs
Our starter was Jackson & Rye egg Florentine and truffle Hollandaise sauce
Followed by a main course called Huevos rancheros but with poached eggs (sunny eggs, chorizo, avocado, spiced beans on a corn tortilla with a chipotle & tomato salsa and home style potatoes).
Our pudding was Jackson & Rye's signature pecan tart served with maple syrup rippled creme fraiche
Tired and full up we departed home with our box of The Happy Egg Co eggs and a new knowledge and understanding of 'happy hens'!

If you are interested to read some other accounts of the day see what my colleagues had to say:-

Kevin Chambers-Paston of The Crafty Larder writes about his Scotch Egg following his visit.
Travels for Taste, Manjiri Chitnis learned loads about the life and times of a happy hen!
Alex Ryder of Gingey Bites became knows as The Hen Whisperer after learning how to pick up a hen!

I was an invited guest of The Happy Egg Co and am not required to write a positive post.  All photos are my own.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Grenada: 3rd Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival

I was privileged to attend the 2nd Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival in 2015, the first time I had been to the Spice Island and I knew from day one it would not be the only visit!

I was so touched by the people, the spices, the local sense of belonging and of course the beautiful Caribbean sea that I spent the next 12 months talking non-stop about Grenada and planning my next visit!

The 3rd Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival was held in May this year and guess what - I was there again!
Last year we stayed first of all at Blue Horizons Resort near the amazingly beautiful stretch of Grand Anse Beach but more about that in another post.  We also stayed at True Blue Bay Boutique Resort last year where the Grenada Chocolate Festival was also held.

The Grenada Chocolate Festival is the idea and dream (and now dream come true) of Magdalena Fielden, who along with her husband Russ and members of their family run True Blue Bay Boutique  Resort. The resort is located on - you guessed it - True Blue Bay, as stunningly beautiful and serene resort with a combination of beautiful, colourful and well equipped rooms suites and villas.  Mr R came with me last year and we stayed in one of the villas - and fell in love with the place!

Each year the Grenada Chocolate Festival has a theme and this year it was Generation Cacao.  Cacao is one of the major products from the island however the three main chocolate farmers are over 65 years old with no one lined up to follow in their footsteps.

Many of the local children do not realise how important cacao (chocolate) is to their heritage and future existence from which the theme of Generation Cacao was born. The task Magdalena has set  herself is to educate the local children in the growing of cacao beans, production and exportation of the chocolate end product.

Magdalena officially opens the festival with music, Grenadian dignitaries and guests and the festival officially begins.
The opening of the festival includes chocolate food and drink including this chocolate porter beer and my chocolate martini, yumm!
The Grenada Chocolate festival is open to anyone who wishes to purchase a ticket for single events or all of them.  There is a whole collection of events sure to appeal to almost everyone who loves chocolate (and to be honest there are not many who don't).
This year Mr R and myself stayed the whole time at Blue Horizons Garden Resort and popped in to the festival in between  the other blogging opportunities I had lined up for the day's event.
I was also asked to participate in one of the events which was very exciting and a real honour and pleasure.  The resident chef duo at True Blue Bay and YouTube stars, Esther and Omega demonstrated a lunch dish which would of course include chocolate followed by the participants making their own dish which would become a collective lunch.
I was asked to be a small part of the festival and fill in the gap while the main meal was cooking by demonstrating a simple and quick chocolate and banana ice cream and a topping of chocolate covered nuts with chilli and sea salt.
As with any demo things don't always go to plan but I kept talking without getting flustered and everything was alright in the end.  The participants enjoyed their chocolate-banana ice cream topped with chilli and sea salt chocolate covered pecans for their puddings.

Other events that took part during the Grenada Chocolate Festival was a chocolate yoga session, the healthy benefits of cacao by visiting Mexican Chocolate Maker and Chocolate Museum Owner of MUCHO-Chocolate Museum, Ana Rita Garcia Lascurian,
a demonstration of bean to bar chocolate making from Hazel Lee (chocolate maker) and Dom Ramsey - owner of Damson Chocolate (two friends that I made last year on the trip that I have kept in touch with back in London),
a visit to Magdalena's latest project The House of Chocolate, a beautiful, innovative and educational museum dedicated to the humble cacao bean and beyond, located in St Georges, the Grenadian capital.
Last year (2015) I visited one of the island schools which really touched my heart and this year I brought them a whole suitcase of books and school equipment (British Airways kindly waived the extra suitcase fee for me to bring these items for which I am grateful).  The children are so friendly and do love visitors however you can read all about that on another post by clicking here.

The 4th Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival is set to be bigger and better than any before and the theme will be 'Heritage Chocolate'.  If you are passionate about chocolate, spices and wonderful people (and don't forget the sunshine!) then make sure you attend the 4th Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival in May 2017 - I will be there!!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Restaurant Review: The Gate Islington - A vegetarian paradise

When my vegetarian friend Nayna invited me to join her for a restaurant review of The Gate Islington, a vegetarian restaurant I was up for it.  Although we are omnivores in our family (we eat meat, fish, vegetables etc) I like to have 2 or 3 days per week without eating meat or fish and actually you don't miss it.  Mr R never complains if it is a vegetarian meal.

We went to The Gate on a Tuesday evening and were surprised to find it so packed full.  The Gate originally had one restaurant in Hammersmith before opening in Islington, a short walk from Angel Underground Station on the Northern Line.
As we went in it smelled really lovely and herb crusted if that makes sense!  It made me want to order something comforting and filling as well as delicious.

For starters Nayna had a sweet potato soup which was a beautiful orange colour and I went for the Pickled Asian Salad.  The salad was a mega pile of crunchy, vibrant and beautiful slices of candy beetroot, green papaya, heritage carrot, shimeji mushrooms, sweet peppers, frisee lettuce, fresh peach and mangetout with a sesame dressing
This dish was crispy and crunchy and required lots of chewing time, rather a good thing really as the more you chew your food the easier it is to digest.

For my main course I chose Aubergine Teriyaki which consisted of glazed and grilled teriyaki aubergine, stuffed with horseradish coriander pesto, roasted pepper, shitake mushrooms and ginger duxelles, with warm noodle salad with peppers, flat beans and carrots, and mango and coriander salsa. It was not what I was expecting (do you do this and make your mind up what something will look and taste like before seeing it?) but it was really nice, crunchy and satisfying.  It made you feel virtuous just for eating it!
We each had a side order of sweet potato wedges - these were huge and really we could have shared a portion.  At least Mr R got to sample some of this lovely meal!
Nayna had the Sweetcorn and Cilantro fritters which was served with black beans, roast pepper and grilled corn on the cob salsa, topped with char-grilled Mediterranean vegetables and chunky guacamole.
She said the sweetcorn fritter was a bit too large and thought that perhaps the dish would have been better with 2-3 small fritters. The whole plate had so much food on it she could not finish it!

We were both so full up but couldn't resist the selection of desserts.  I had Strawberry Eaton Mess swirled with a strawberry coulis.  This was the perfect end to a really lovely meal and was light and summery matching the summery weather outside perfectly!
Each of the desserts had a suggested dessert wine available by both the glass or bottle.  A dessert wine is often overlooked these days but a practice we should really revive!

You can find The Gate Islington at 370 St John Street, London EC1v 4NN (Tel: 020 7278 5483) and The Gate Hammersmith at 51 Queen Caroline Street, London W6 9QL (Tel: 020 8748 6932).

I was a guest of The Gate Islington.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions and photos are my own.

If you want to see what Nayna wrote about the meal just click here.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Aldi: Special Buys - Handmade with Love

Aldi, one of the the relaltive newcomers to the UK supermarket scene keeps prices low and quality high. They have a great meat section and their wines are winning all sorts of awards.

Alongside the produce they have a limited edition range of household, garden, DIY, clothes and many other essential items. They are called 'Special Buys' and when they are gone they are gone.

Starting on Sunday 14 August, Aldi are featuring 'Homemade with Love' a great range of kitchen essentials to help the budding baker and baking enthusiast alike.  The collection features essential cooling rack/oven shelf (RRP £5.99 each) in large and small,
Show stopping baking utensils (RRP £1.99 each) available in three colours
with a digital kitchen scale to match (RRP £6.99) which is available in two colours and weighs up to 5kg.
There will be a range of jam making essentials from the Maslin Pan to the jars and jar covers including a preserving starter kit (RRP £14.99)

Fancy making waffles for breakfast or pies for supper - this week there is a waffle maker (RRP £19.99), cool touch handles, non-stick cooking plates and available in two colours,
as well as the pie maker (RRP £19.99) in either the Twin (makes two small pies) or Family size with non-stick cooking surfaces and available in two colours.
Just pop in your pastry, fill it and put the pastry on top. Close the lid and let the pie maker bake your pie to perfection!

If you want any of these items or others in the range remember they are available from 14th August and all are limited stock so 'when they are gone they are gone'! Who knows what the next offers will be??

I was sent a selection of goods for review and was not paid to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Great Yarmouth - SeaLife - A Family Day Out

Up until the 1970's when cheap holidays to Spain took over, the British seaside was the place to go for most families for their annual holidays.  The hotels, restaurants and tea rooms were packed during the summer school holiday time and the shops with bucket & spades and brightly coloured candy rock did a roaring trade.

Alas nowadays the signs have faded and the lights are less bright but the Great British seaside resorts are still alive.

Helping Great Yarmouth to survive is the Sea Life Great Yarmouth which I was asked to review with my two grandsons recently.

It was pre-arranged that we would visit on the day however when we arrived they had no idea we were coming.  They did allow us entry when I produced the email but I do hate those awkward moments.

Once inside however the boys were enthralled.  There was a trail for them to follow and get their 'passport' stamped.  Small insisted on doing it himself as he usually does - very independent.
A huge walk through tunnel with sharks, sea turtles and other creatures swimming overhead.
We were there for feeding time of Noah the Greenback Turtle who although he was huge was only 11 years old with a life expectancy of over 100 years!! A mere youngster.
I have swam with the giant turtles in Barbados and believe me that is an amazing experience.  I don't like seeing creatures in captivity but Sea Life are doing a remarkable job of breeding and learning about a whole special range of sea life.

The boys loved the hands on section where they got to stroke a baby ray and a shrimp!
We were able to see tanks full of rays
(they are so friendly and come up to you wanting you to stroke their backs but we were not allowed to).

We were able to view some really colourful fish

And other interesting live exhibits.....

and some cheeky ones too!!
The boys had an awesome time and deserved a treat in the gift shop.

Some lunch,
 a quick bit of fresh air, an ice cream by the sea
and we had two very tired boys in the back of the car.
If you are in the Norfolk-Suffolk area and can get to Great Yarmouth it is worth a visit to the seafront and especially to Sea Life.

Sea Life is located at Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk NR30 3AH.  It is open daily from 10:00 am. Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Check website for opening times and ticket prices.

I was a guest of Sea Life Great Yarmouth and was not required to produce a positive review.  All opinions and photos belong to Heidi's Kitchen Talk.