Monday, 31 July 2017

Blackberry Jam with Lemon and Nutmeg

Making home made jam fills your kitchen with intoxicating smells and give you a sense of achievement.  We have an allotment where we spend loads of our free time and grow lots of our vegetables during the summer and fall growing seasons.

Something that does it's own this however is the rampant blackberry bushes.  These are wild but we do a bit of pruning and management resulting in a lush and fine crop each year. Some years are better than others and this year is looking like it will be epic with the branches laden with beautiful, ripe and lush purple jewels hanging down.

There are so many things you can do with blackberries (very high in Vitamin C) like crumbles, smoothies but of course the classic is a simple blackberry jam.  My first picking this season I picked around 2 kilos deciding to use 1 kilo to make some jam.
I like to get all my equipment ready before I start the jam making. It's best to be prepared rather than scramble looking for something such as having the jars ready etc.
Pectin is a chemical in all fruit however it is in higher concentrations in some fruits than others.  It is the main thing that makes jam set so if the fruit you are using is low in pectin you have to add some.  You can get liquid pectin or sugars with pectin however another way is to add a fruit that is high in pectin.  Apples are high in pectin which is why people very often make blackberry and apple jam.  Lemons also have a substantial amount of pectin and give a lovely flavour which complements the blackberries.  I use the grated zest and juice of 1 lemon per 500gm of fruit.
The fruit and sugar mixture need to boil rapidly for about ten minutes
If you use a jam making thermometer if the temperature reaches 104oC the jam will set.  If you don't have one you can drop small amounts on a cold plate, give it a minute to cool slightly then run your finger through the jam.  If it wrinkles it will set.
When you pour the hot jam into the sterilised jars, put the clear cellophane covers on and let it cool it will set.

For this batch of jam I used the rind and juice of 2 lemons and about a teaspoon of freshly grated Grenada nutmeg.  The result - a lovely fragrant blackberry jam with a subtle hint of the nutmeg and a pinch of sunshine from the lemons.
Blackberry, lemon and nutmeg jam:-

1 kilo freshly picked blackberries
75 - 100 ml water depending if the berries are picked shortly after the rain and full of water
1.2 kilo granulated sugar
2 lemons (grated rind and juice)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1. Prepare all your equipment, wash the jars and pop them in a hot oven for 10 minutes to sterilise.  

2. Put the blackberries in the preserving pan with the water and gently bring to the boil.

3. Boil until the berries start to fall apart and add the sugar, lemon rind and juice and stir until the sugar has disolved.

4. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes stirring from time to time to prevent it sticking on the bottom of the pan.  If using a thermometer boil until the temperature reaches 104oC or do the setting test on a cold plate.

5. If set turn off the heat and cool slightly before putting into the jars, if not set continue boiling for another 3-4 minutes.

6. I use jam pot covers to create an airtight seal to prevent the jam going off.  You can buy these in loads of places and follow the directions on the pack.  I know that in the US they pour a little layer of melted wax to create the seal.

7. The jam will set as it cools. Keep in a cupboard until opened then refrigerate until the jar is empty.  Taste the sunshine in each jar!

What is your favourite jam? Have you ever made you own jam. Please leave a comment below - I love hearing from you.

I was not required by anyone to write a positive post.  All opinions, photographs and recipe are my own and may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Tobago: Take Your Writer to Work Day

You may have heard of  'Take your dog to work day' or Take your child to work day'. Well as part of my visit to Tobago, the hotel we stayed in Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort wanted to treat me to a short cooking session in the kitchen with Chef Sandra and on the itinerary it was called Take Your Writer to Work Day!

Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort offers an international menu with each day having a special theme i.e. Italian Night, Tobago Night, Mexican Night and so on.  We were going in to the kitchen to cook one of the dishes one the Indian Night menu.

First of all we had to don aprons, hair nets and chef hats.  Mr R thought it really funny.
Everything was laid out and ready for us to get started.  We were going to be making a West Indian Chicken Curry and a potato dish for our lunch. Tobago has a very diverse population and cultural history giving a great diversity to the cuisine.
It was really interesting to talk to the chefs about the recipe and hear their little tips and hints.  It seemed a lot of chicken was going into the pot but it was intended to feed Mr R and myself, Chef Sandra, Chef Mago and trainee chef Michelle.
By now the aroma was intoxicating however it was a really simple recipe and it didn't take long to cook.
The finished meal was served up with a home made roti.  The chicken was slightly spicy but within my tolerances.  Mr R certainly loved it.
I loved the idea of sitting down with the chefs and eating the meal we had all cooked together.
This was my first 'Take Your Writer to Work Day' and I think it was a big success.  I am looking forward to making the main course here at home.
Thanks to Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort for a really fun morning!  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I paid to write this post.  I was a guest at Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort.  As usual all photographs are my own and may not be reproduced in any manner without my written permission .

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

London: The East End Regenerates - Eat at Est.India London

Home is where your heart is and although I wasn't born in London my heart really beats here.  There is something happening to areas in London in the form of a regeneration and the area around Borough Market (nearest Underground station is London Bridge) is really alive, vibrant and full of energy.

As my friend Nayna who writes at Simply Sensational Food and I searched for the restaurant Est.India London we were going to review we discovered a part of East London neither of us had known before. Flat Iron Square and Union Street have some great looking buildings, a case of  'New London' which is really 'Old London'.
And on a small triangle opposite the entrance to Flat Iron Square we found Est.India London the restaurant we were looking for -
From the outside it was busy with people sitting at tables enjoying the warm, sultry summer evening, trains passing overhead and the noise of revelers drinking and eating at the establishments in Flat Iron Square. If you want a relaxed atmosphere and a lovely meal you should pop in!
We were warmly welcomed. Poppadoms were delivered to the table.
For our starters I chose the Stuffed Paneer, beautifully presented however I felt it was a bit dry.
Nayna picked the Vegetable Samosa.
We liked our starters but were not bowled over.  Then the main courses arrived and the real fun began!  I often order Chicken Tikka Masala but really this can be hit or miss in my local Indian restaurants.  This however was superb.  The chicken was tender and moist and the masala sauce really tasty, buttery and creamy. I also had a pilau rice and a side order of raitha, the yogurt and cucumber sauce so essential to any good Indian meal.
When the owner came over for a chat I mentioned that the paneer I had for a starter was a bit dry.  He asked us to try the Kedai Paneer - wow it was amazing; the paneer was served in a tasty sauce with big chunks of green pepper. It was a bit spicy but not too much for my little taste buds. Full of flavour and really moist.  He explained that the paneer was made on site.

Nayna who is a vegetarian ordered the Sag Aloo - spinach and potato dish along with pilau rice and raitha. The Sag Aloo was served so beautifully in a bowl that complemented the colours really well (you don't expect a spinach dish to look so lovely)!
Lately when I eat out I am too full for a pudding or dessert. After this meal I was full but really fancied something refreshing so I ordered the Mango Sorbet.  Three large scoops of refreshing and home made mango sorbet.  The flavour was so natural and creamy and very, very refreshing.  (Nayna ordered the Pistaccio Kulfi Stick.)
The management were really friendly and went out of their way to make sure we had a really lovely meal.

I would certainly come back here for a meal and would really like Mr R to experience this fantastic food as well.  I want to discover more of the new East End of London!
I was a guest of Est.IndiaLondon.  I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.  None of my photos may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Read Nayna's review click here!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Watch Out - There is a Watchaholic about!

If there was a support group for people who love watches then Mr R would have to say "My name is Mr R - and I am a Watchaholic!".

Seriously he does love a good looking and quality watch and was more than happy to pose with the watch from Globenfeld that I was recently sent to review.
The watch is a beautiful Globenfeld Limited Edition Antique Rose Men's Automatic Watch with a  very 'in-vogue' rose gold body, blue & gold coloured Sun and Moon display to express the night and day and with over 110 individual intricately moving parts and 20 jeweled movements that do not need batteries and the strap is real leather.
I love the simplicity and the detail.  The minute hand sweeps silently around.
I really think the colourings of this watch absolutely suit Mr R's skin tone! Mr R is really happy to add this fine watch to his collection!
This limited edition watch is currently available on Amazon for an RRP of £79.99 instead of the usual £199.00.

I was sent this watch for review and 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.

Friday, 21 July 2017

nkd - Next Generation Hydration: Review and Giveaway

I love a water bottle! Taking water out with me in my own re-usable bottle helps me to cut down on the amount of plastic I need to dispose of.

I recently was given an nkd - next generation hydration pod+ bottle and filter.  The pod+ can filter any contaminated water such as rivers and lakes and leave you with a deep clean water completely suitable for drinking.
The anti-bacteria filter can take out up to 99.9% of contaminants and with the activated coconut carbon filter layer improves the water's taste and reduces chlorine without affecting the natural minerals.

But not only you will benefit from having  an nkd water bottle system but for every clean litre of water you enjoy their litre for litre programme provides the same for a child in need.
The bottles come in 6 different colours and is 585ml in size.  They will initially be available from Harrods retailing at £19.95 for the pod+ and replacement filters are £7.95 each but will last  approx two months before needing to be replaced.

If you would like to win one of these nkd pod+ water bottles for yourself follow the Rafflecopter instructions at the bottom of this post.  This giveaway is open to residents of the United Kingdom.
I was given a nkd pod+ water bottle to review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions and photos are my own.  No photographs may be reproduced without my written permission.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.