Sunday, 23 October 2016

My Top 7 Travel Tips

This is a list of my favourite travel tips - little things that help make the journey or time away from home a little more bearable!

1. Clear Glasses Cases
2. Condiments
3. Cosmetics
4. Be Prepared
5. Coconut Oil - A travellers best friend
6. Pack-A-Snack
7. Travel Essentials - travelling in comfort

A few travel tips from friends, fellow bloggers and family here for you too ......

Neil says " wear cargo shorts or cargo trousers - plenty of pockets to put your things in ready to hand" and "chill out - delays etc are out of your control so don't waste time worrying"!

Mr R never travels without his 'Puzzler' magazine.  He loves the range of puzzles and finds it great to do when you are not allowed electronic devices or smart phones or when there is little to no wifi or internet connections.

Choclette Ammar Travel as light as you can for easy manoeuvrability - take layered tops that are interchangeable and go with everything and suitable for every occasion.

Kavey always splits the money between her and her husband so if one gets theirs lost of stolen you still have some to tide you over.

Caroline makes a 'Busy Bag' for the children - a new bag with colouring books, crayons, reading book, small packets of sweets or snacks and a little toy along with a fruit drink to keep them busy on the journey. They really look forward to it at the start of a holiday.

Nayna says "I always take my fave shawl on the airplane to keep warm".

Becca Pusey Take some spare underwear in your hand luggage, just in case your suitcase gets lost!

Penelope Reader - If you have food allergies or healthcare needs, do a quick google translate of key words phrases and save them on your phone in advance. Saves stress & panic if you need them in an emergency

Do you have any favourite travel tips? Please feel free to leave yours in a comment below.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

It is National Seafood Week with Birds Eye

I sometimes buy frozen fish, especially if I am making a fish pie but very rarely would I buy a fish in a ready made sauce.

We all know we should eat more fish, at least two portions per week and that fish is rich in omega-3 a compound that helps to boost our brain power and is really good for our hearts.

Well, Birds Eye asked me to try their new Haddock in a white wine, mustard & spring onion sauce and to show how you can make a quick, simple but delicious mid-week meal and would I use their recipe as well.
The recipe takes only as long to make as it takes for the pasta to cook.

2 Haddock Fillets White Wine, Mustard & Spring Onion Sauce
180 gm brown cap mushrooms
180 gm dried tagliatelle
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1. Preheat the oven to 190oC, gas mark 5
2. Cook the Bake to Perfection Haddock for 30 minutes
3. Wash and slice the mushrooms and fry in the oil until soft (I also added some finely chopped onion at this point)
4. Cook the tagliatelle as per pack instructions and drain
5. Stir the mushrooms and the sauce from the haddock into the tagliatelle and stir through the flaked haddock.
This recipe serves two and with a side salad or portion of vegetables it makes a quick and tasty supper without any fuss.  I grated fresh parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano) on top.  It was tasty and we will certainly be having this again.
If you want more recipes from Birds Eye click HERE.

Birds Eye have a whole range of frozen foods, new ones and of course our favourites like fish fingers and frozen peas!  Personally I feel like a fish finger sandwich for lunch!

I was not required to write a positive post although I was asked to try Birds Eye's own recipe.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Halloween Caribbean Voodoo Cake

I love walking through my local TKMaxx  and it is always worth stopping at my nearest Homesense (which is in Watford) when I am passing through. Both of these stores have an ever changing, limited edition range. If you see it, you like it then buy it. It may not be there tomorrow!

I am always on the look out for things that will enhance my blog photos which could be tea towels, little dishes, cookie cutters etc or the Holy Grail of bakeware - NordicWare!  Some of my recent purchases -
Every now and then they will have a NordicWare bundt tin or other interesting baking tin. I was so excited recently to find the standing skull baking pan - this would be perfect for Halloween a few weeks away! 
I made my every day sponge cake mixture but added some Caribbean influence i.e. freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger along with a few tablespoons of dark island rum!

Here is my recipe for a Halloween Caribbean Voodoo Cake

185 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
185 gm sugar
185 gm Self Raising flour
3 medium size eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 1/2 Tbsp dark rum
25 gm little crystalised ginger pieces

500 gm icing sugar
250 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp dark rum
2 Tbsp nutmeg jam (or apricot jam)

* Mix the flour and spices together in a bowl and set aside
* Cream butter and sugar until very light and creamy ( do this for between 2 1/2 - 5 minutes)
* Add the eggs one at a time, if they start to curdle add a little flour after each one.
* Add the flour and mix well then add the maple syrup, dark rum and ginger pieces.
* Pour into the well prepared (greased and floured) skull baking pan.
* Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean
* Cool for about 5 minutes on a wire rack then remove from baking pan and continue to cool completely
* Cream the butter and icing sugar together until smooth and creamy.
* Slowly add the rest of the ingredients and mix well
* Put a small amount of icing on a plate to act as a glue
* Spread a thick layer of icing on the back of the head then press the two pieces together and stand on the icing on the plate.
* Completely cover the entire skull head with the icing paying attention to the join and smooth all around it.
* Put the skull in the fridge for a couple of hours to set the icing before decorating.
* With the back of a spoon clear the indents for the eyes and nose and teeth.
* Decorate with edible colours or chocolate writing icing.

I wanted the finished cake to look a bit scary and a bit voodoo but I think it was a bit more like a clown!  At least it tasted fantastic, try it yourself and let me know with a comment below!
At least it tasted fantastic, try it yourself and let me know in a comment below how you get on.
If you are near a TKMaxx or Homesense pop in whenever you can - you never know what you will find!
This is a sponsored post but all opinions, photographs and decorating skills are my own!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Cooking with Yuki Gomi and Yutaka and a copy of Yuki's cook book to giveaway

I have known Yuki Gomi for a couple of years now. She is a lovely and very talented Japanese chef and cookbook writer and now also a mother to a lovely little girl. Yuki works with Yutaka ingredients, authentic Japanese ingredients since 1995 allowing home cooks to re-create fresh and delicious Japanese food as found in homes and restaurants all over Japan.  Yutaka means 'good harvest' allowing specialist products to be available.  They are here in the UK in most major supermarkets for anyone who likes Japanese cooking to buy.

We were invited to cook four recipes with Yuki that were quick and simple and incredibly delicious and after a quick introduction by Mr Ken Furukawa, Managing Director of the Tazaki Foods Ltd of which Yutaka is part we were shown by Yuki how to get started producing our 4 dishes.
Working in small groups we chopped, measured, sautéed our way through the recipes to make our meal for the evening.  I worked in a group with friend and fellow blogger Manjiri and Lebinh.
Getting messy is always good fun!
The soup was so full of flavour and really easy to make plus it was filling and comforting.
The side dish of green beans had so much flavour and really, really easy to prepare.  The flavours just seemed to pop in your mouth as you chewed.

We had the best quality salmon to work with and made a really simple and effective ceviche.  The longer you leave the salmon in the marinade the more 'cooked' it becomes and you control the temperature by deciding to use the chilli seeds or not.
The finished sweet potato croquettes and an amazing dipping sauce.  The dipping sauce was made with ingredients readily available in most adventurous kitchens and I thought with the addition of crunchy peanut butter would make the best BBQ sauce I could imagine.  I will be using this sauce a lot this summer and may even add chopped pineapple!
The table was laid and places set for us to enjoy the dishes we had prepared.  There was so much food that we were provided with take-away containers to have some for lunch the following day!
Yutaka products give you all the help you need to re-create these and other authentic Japanese dishes at home giving you the confidence to step out of your comfort zone. Close your eyes and you could be eating in a Tokyo restaurant!

If you would like to win a copy of Yuki's book 'Sushi at Home' then follow the rafflecopter instructions below and fingers crossed.  This giveaway is open to residents of the UK only.
I was a guest of Yutaka and Yumi Gomi and was not paid or required to write a positive review - all photos and opinions are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ciao Gusto - Italian Food & Drinks Brands Come Together

If we call a group of geese a gaggle and a field of cows a herd what do we call a gathering of food producers from Italy? ...... a banquet of course!!

Ciao Gusto is an organisation made up of over 30 of Italy's most well known brands in the UK such as Barilla pasta, Lavazza coffee, Cirio tomatoes, Philippo Berio olive oil, Riso Gallo rice and of course Parmareggio parmesan cheese and many many more household names found in most UK kitchens.
Ciao Gusto has brought these major players in Italy's food scene together to share their passion and have teamed up with Ocado, the online shopping supermarket to offer these products in a special 'Italian Shop'.

To celebrate the fusion we were wined and dined at Giovanni Rana's London restaurant with a menu featuring most of the highlighted producers and a treat to be able to meet Giovanni Rana himself.
We were wined ... Zonin Chianti Classico DOCG Castello d'Alboa 2013 (incredibly smooth and easy drinking) and Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, valdadige DOC.
And fed so much food I thought I would burst!!
Freshly made bread, ciabatta and foccaccia which were placed on the table with Flippo berio Gran Toscano EVVO

My dream - chunks of 30 month old Parmareggio from Parmigiano Reggiano
A selection of fried ravioli, polenta fritters with a pecorino cheese sauce and an arrabbiata sauce
A selection of cold meats from Negroni with Ariccio Pecorino cheese
Giovanni Rana ravioli with Amalfi lemon and ricotta
Riso Gallo risotto with cured sausage
Barilla cannelloni with asparagus
After all the above and more there was pudding!
Panna Cotta with cherry jam, black cherries and biscuits - Tiramisu with Pandoro
The evening went on to include Lavazza coffee and Vecchia Romagna brandy after which good byes were said and carriages called.  

If you want to try any of the products in the Ciao Gusto Italian Shop in Ocado I recommend you do log on and give it a try.

I was a guest of Ciao Gusto and the Giovanni Rana. I was not paid to write this review and was not required to write a positive one.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.