Thursday, 6 July 2017

Aldi: Limited Edition and Retro for your Kitchen

Aldi are known for their weekly deals.  They produce a booklet weekly with the coming offers helping you plan your shopping for the upcoming week.  They call them 'Specialbuys' and include at least 6 fruits or vegetables at a really low price and various foods that are on offer.

The 'thing' with the 'Specialbuys' is that they are limited in quantity and when they are gone they are gone! Starting today (06 July 2017) the kitchen items are retro influenced.  The main range comes in three great colours; red, cream and light blue.

I was sent a selection from this retro collection.

The Retro Juicer takes me back to my early married years when I really wanted to get a hand press juicer with the lever arch. Available in red, cream, light blue or orange and will retain at £12.99.
I think I shall visit the market on Saturday to stock up on oranges!! I will be juice happy!
Enamel has always been a favourite of mine. I have built up a collection of enamel mugs, individual serving dishes, pots and pans and more.  I was really excited to get this enamel oven dish.  It is available in three colours and oven safe up to 250oC.
It is a good size for a lasagna for a family of four or roast chicken pieces and really so much more.  The retail price is £12.99.
Also in the enamel with a lid  range is a Casserole Dish with Lid, a 16cm pan with lid and as shown below a 14cm milk pan also with a lid.  The pans retail at £9.99 each and also come in three colours
Retro Storage Jar, each 1.1 litre capacity and come in a range of five designs.  They have lids and would make great tea and coffee containers.
Mr R was excited with this 3 in 1 Retro Grill.  It has a hotplate, griddle and kebab grill.  It comes with skewers and the skewer rack is detachable
This immensely popular and really versatile and useful electric item will retail at £29.99 and comes with a 3 year warranty!
Also in the range is a Retro Under Counter Fridge, Retro Microwave, toaster and kettle, stick blender with accessories and more.  Pop down to your local Aldi and remember they are only available while stocks last!

I was sent a selection of products from the current Aldi Specialbuys.  I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all photos are my own and may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Pizza Express Live - Coming to High Holborn Soon

Imagine a Friday or Saturday evening - you want to go to your local Pizza Express for pizza and a few drinks, listen to the background music and then either go on somewhere else or make your way home.  What if that could change?

Let me start by telling you about the pizza making evening I was invited to at Pizza Express at the High Holborn branch.  Easy to reach from the Central Line Underground Station, a few hundred metres from the entrance (99 High Holborn actually). This branch has recently undergone a refurbishment and the downstairs has had a complete makeover including comfortable upholstered seating and bespoke artwork - keep reading to find out all about that.

Most branches of Pizza Express offer pizza making parties especially popular with children but also great for office team building, hen parties and in this case a group of bloggers. I recently wrote about my granddaughter's birthday party at a Pizza Express - you can read it by clicking here.

It's always fun when you are with a group of bloggers - as food is put on the table all the phones and cameras come out and no one touches anything until we have all taken our photos.
There were ten of us and after a few glasses of Prosecco, olives and the famous pizza dough balls
we put on our aprons and seriously stylish hats and started to learn the basics of pizza making.
Let the pizza making begin!
Ready to do the toppings.
Now to bake
and finally eat our creations.
After our creations were made and eaten we went downstairs to see the new venture! It's called Pizza Express Live.
This is the latest one in a series of innovative space changes in the Pizza Express family.  The Pizza Express Live Holborn will open early September.  You will be able to book a table for a great night of comedy live and a great selection of live music acts (in fact every kind of music except jazz as this is the specialty of Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho) and once seated at your table the full Pizza Express menu and drinks menu will be available so you can sit back and enjoy the evening.

Sit around the stage
or take a table, enjoy the entertainment, food and your companion(s) company.
The bar is fully stocked
The sound system is state of the art producing a crisp and clear sound to ensure you don't miss a beat or a joke!
I will certainly be taking Mr R to Central London as soon as we know the list of performers and can book tickets.  What could be better than entertainment, pizza and prosecco?  Will you give it a try?

I was a guest of Pizza Express and was not required to write a positive report of my evening.  As usual all opinions are my own as well as photographs.  No photographs may be reproduced in any way without my express written permission.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

London: Mango Indian Restaurant - A Review

London is such a fantastic place for food and Mango Indian Restaurant which is just a 5 minute walk from London Bridge Station on the Jubilee Line was a wonderful restaurant to review on one of the hottest evenings of the year. I was invited to review Mango and my friend and fellow blogger Nayna from Simply Sensational Food accompanied me.

I was lovely to arrive when it was still light outside and we were seated at a window seat which meant great light for taking photos - a blogger's dream!
We had poppadoms with the usual accompaniment like the very thinly sliced onion, mango pickle and raita - yoghurt and mint sauce. Nayna was really taken by the red sauce which was too hot for me however she asked the waiter for the recipe!
For some reason I thought I didn't like paneer - an Indian cheese however I have been trying it when an opportunity arises and I find I really do like it.  I even chose it for my starter - Aachari Paneer (V) slices of paneer marinated with pickling spices and slow cooked in the tandoor oven.
Nayna had the Aloo Tikki (V) - typical Mumbai street food - potatoes and chick peas spiced with fresh coriander and cumin seeds served with a coriander & mint chutney.  We swapped a bit of each so I do know how tasty this one was too.
I often order a biryani in Indian restaurants but have never had it served the traditional way with a dough cover.  The cover creates a steaming environment which not only cooks the chicken but keeps it moist and tasty.
You don't eat the dough cover but once you pull it back you smell the lovely aroma and digging into the bowl you find huge chunks of lovely tender chicken. A biryani includes the rice therefore only a bowl of raita is needed as an accompaniment.
Nayna is a vegetarian so she ordered the pilau rice and three vegetable dishes.
The dishes selected were (from the front) Dall Makhni - black lentils in a creamy sauce, Sag Aloo - Baby potatoes and spinach lightly spiced with garlic and cumin seeds and Dhai Baingon - Baby aubergine cooked with yoghurt, lightly spiced with turmeric and fresh coriander.
The bread basket was a mixture of naan breads all freshly cooked and very delicious.
We were unable to eat all of the food as the portions were really generous so ended up with takeaway boxes as we made our way home.  Since we were full we didn't try the puddings however they offer traditional desserts like Matka Kulfi and Gulab Jamon and lighter things like sorbets and gelato.

We dined there on a Tueaday evening not expecting it to be heaving but almost every table was full and there was a great atmosphere. I would certainly dine there again if I was in the Borough Market area!

If you want to read Nayna's account of the meal click here for her review.

I was an invited guest at Mango Indian Restaurant.  I was not expected to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photography are my own and no photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Best Potato Salad You Will Ever Make - Perfect for Summer BBQs

I don't really like mayonnaise and most potato salad recipes use mayonnaise to make the dressing.  On a trip to the US last year my sister and I ordered a sandwich which came with a side of potato salad.  I tasted it like I always do, not expecting to like it, but WOW it was really good.

The waitress explained how they made it and as soon as I got back to the UK I set about trying to re-create the recipe.  I must say I am particularly pleased with the result which has now become my signature, bring to any event potato salad!

You can boil any potatoes but the new, waxy type are best.  I usually boil about about 1.5kg. There is no need to peel them but that is optional.  Once boiled let the potatoes cool.

In the meantime I fry up some smoked streaky bacon until crispy then put that aside to cool on a piece of kitchen towel to help absorb any bacon fat.
I usually only use one Philadelphia and one sour cream however for a big family gathering I cooked 3kg of potatoes so doubled up on the dressing.

Initially I whipped the Philadelphia (cream cheese) until thick.
Slowly beat in the sour cream and pour over the potatoes and at this point add crumbled bacon. Check salt and pepper as the bacon can be quite salty so you won't need quite so much.
If any of my guests are vegetarian I take some out before adding the bacon.  Often I  chop chives or spring onions for the top before setting on the table to serve.
I hope you enjoy this mayonnaise free potato salad as much as our family do.  Please leave a comment below to let me know what you think.  Will you try it this way?

I was not asked to write this post and as usual all opinions and photos are my own and my not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Tobago: Harvest Sunday

When we think of Harvest Sunday in the UK we think of something in the autumn when schools and churches collect non-perishable foods for old people's homes and underprivileged families.  In Tobago Harvest Sunday is a food, family and friends gathering that happens somewhere on the island every Sunday!

Each village has it's designated Sunday which falls on the same Sunday each year.  The village holding Harvest when we were there on the 1st Sunday of May was called 'Belle Garden'.  There is no set number of families taking part, its just if you want to you get together with other family members and cook large pots and cauldrons of food, stock up the fridge with local beer and soft drinks
and crank up the music ready for an afternoon to evening of eating, drinking and music.

The Sunday we were in Tobago we (Mr R and I) were invited to a family's home in Belle Garden.
Shorn Richards is the chief cook for the day and with a big smile he beckoned us to come closer and see what he was doing.  Shorn would have a taste and deftly sprinkle a little more of spice or tomato puree or whatever was needed!
When we arrived there were huge bowls with various meats and fish marinating waiting for their turn in one of the great pots.  Shorn was planning on cooking tuna, chicken, pork, local blue crab,
rabbit and iguana.  I must admit I was not too upset that the iguana wasn't ready by the time we left!!

When recipes call for coconut milk no one opens a can but in true Caribbean style they grate the flesh from the coconut, put it in the blender with water and blitz.  Next you strain the milk from the pulp and use that in your recipe.  Nothing is wasted though as the pulp will be squeezed out and used in cakes and sweet breads.
As the pots were so big and the fires so hot you need a very long wooden spoon/stick to stir.  Of course you just know I wanted to get one of these and bring it home with me.  It's a long story but I am happy to report that my spoon made it home safe and sound!
As the food starts smelling amazing and the day heats up friends and family as well as other villagers start to assemble ready for the festivities! Each family provides this feast absolutely free in the spirit of sharing.

As well as the large pots cooking there were several of the women in the family in the small kitchen cooking what the locals call 'provisions' - a mixture of plantain, dasheen, casava and sweet potato.
Mr R had a good time making new friends in spite of the difficulties understanding some of the local dialect. Clinking a couple of beers together is the same in any culture so he was happy waiting outside, drinking beer and chatting while the food preparations were in full swing.
Tobago is an island rich in culture and traditions and it was an honour and a pleasure to participate in this traditional Sunday lunch.

We came to this village as strangers and left as friends with hugs all around and a promise that I will come back the first Sunday of May next year and help with the cooking!  It's a date!
The event comes to an end when the food and drink are finished or the music stops!  Then it's all about planning for next year.

I was a guest of the Harvest Sunday celebrations in Belle Garden.  I was not required to write a positive post and as usual all photos are my own and are not to be reproduced without my written permission.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Kent: Celebrations The 350th Anniversary of The Battle Of Medway

I was invited to the launch of the celebrations for the 350th Battle of Medway (click here for full program).  Ironically we lost the battle so you might question why are we celebrating.  Well this battle signified a radical change in the course of the Anglo-Dutch war for the Royal Navy.

Until the defeat the purse holders (the government) was reluctant to put money into the fleet however following this defeat the government of the time were able to recognise that they needed to develop the fleet and it eventually turned into the first class Royal Navy that we know today.

To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway I was invited to the official launch which started at Upnor Castle in Kent.  We assembled at the castle entrance whilst we waited for the guest of honour, HH Prins Maurits of Holland to arrive.
At the castle, on a warm windy day
the VVIPs pose for a phot-call
Prins Maurits unveiled a plaque to commemorate the celebrations
There was a sail past of a couple of dozen small Dutch craft to show support for the celebrations and to get a salute from the prince.
We moved to Royal Chatham Dock, which incidentally is a great family day out with loads of interactive exhibits and a chance to learn about this battle and many others in British naval history.
As with all good British celebrations it is important to have a marching band.  First up was the Dutch naval band,
followed closely by the British naval band.  They both entertained us, the VVIP guests and selected members of the public.
The Dutch naval frigate was in port and we waited for the arrival of HH Prins Maurits
who was intending to tour the ship and meet some of the crew.  A salute and permission to come aboard.
His Highness showed a good deal of interest in the workings of the bridge and I must admit feeling rather special to be there.  This ship has only 50 crew members due to the fact that it is so digitally advanced.
The press photographers were rather hoping that the prince would jump aboard the rescue boat and take it for a spin. However he was just interested to hear all about it from the crew member.
At Chatham Royal Dockyard on the 17th June 2017 there will be a huge re-enactment of the battle with flames, smoke and gun fire.  Even if you cannot make it to the display on the 17th take the family to Chatham for a great day out.  There is ample parking on site or you can get a train from St Pancreas station in London and arrive in just under 35 minutes!

I was a not required to write a positive review and as always all photos are my own and may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.