Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Quick and easy breakfast for people on-the-go // REVIEW // Pulsin porridge oat bars

Golden leaves. Chunky knitwear. Pumpkin spiced candles. Steaming bowls of porridge first thing in the morning. These are just a few of my favourite things about autumn. So when the wonderful people at Pulsin sent me some of their porridge oat bars for review purposes, I was excited to mix up my morning porridge routine and instead try a portable on-the-go version!


Super Seed & Maple

I thought that perhaps this one would smell sweet (it did not). I was pleasantly surprised by the sweetness levels as I sometimes find maple too sickly sweet. The Super Seed & Maple porridge oat bars contained a hint of sweetness, without being too much. It wasn't too dry, and was a good of mix of chewy and crumbly. It did indeed taste oaty and like porridge - which is great for a porridge oat bar product!


Apple & Cinnamon

You can't get any more autumnal than the harmonious pairing of apple and cinnamon. Think smooth apple puree in a crumble or pie, with a little touch of cinnamon to make your taste-buds sing. Or chunky pieces of apple in a wonderfully flaky strudel with lashings of custard.

This was the bar I was most excited about! Admittedly I didn't taste a whole lot of apple, but the cinnamon really came through. This was drier than the other bars, and had more of crumbly texture than a chewy one. The Apple & Cinnamon porridge oat bar tasted wonderfully festive. Bring on Christmas!


Orange Choc Chip

I was a little nervous about trying this one because I don't normally like orange and chocolate as a flavour combination, however as this contained a subtle hint of orange which wasn't too strong, this converted me! The Orange Choc Chip porridge oat bar had a good texture and was a good mix of chewy and crunchy, without any dryness. The chocolate chips in it were lovely, and there was something in the smell and taste of the bar that felt quite festive. A nod to the Christmas clementine perhaps?

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I tried Pulsin's raw chocolate brownies before, however these porridge oat bars were even better and definitely something I'll be adding to my weekly grocery shop. Containing all the benefits of porridge, but as an easy grab-and-go sort of breakfast, these bars are great for those cold mornings where you can't be faffed with making actual porridge and opt for extra time in bed instead (we've all been there!). Oats provide slow releasing energy which is great for maintaining your energy levels throughout the morning and keeping you full for longer  - great for people like me who are serial snackers!

* Pulsin very kindly sent me the bars for review purposes, however all opinions and love of extra time spent in bed in the mornings all my own!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dining at the Gilbert Scott at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

If you ever find yourself in King's Cross, no doubt you would have marveled at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. It's architecture is a thing of beauty and is subject to many a tourist photo. I handed my notice in back in February and my ex colleagues knowing full well that I am a massive foodie, gave me Marcus Wareing restaurant vouchers as my leaving gift. There are several of his restaurants here in London, however I was drawn to the Gilbert Scott, intrigued to see inside this beautiful building that I walk past so frequently.

FOOD

Goosnargh duck breast, girolles, broad beans and smoked pea

Perfectly pink in the middle with crispy skin, this was a beautifully juicy piece of meat. My only slight criticism was that it could have done with a little more seasoning - I always find salt really helps compliment duck skin. I wasn't sure what the little crispy things were ("are they mealworms?!"), but they added a nice crunch to the dish. One of the few foods I don't like are peas however these was beautifully smoky which helped detract away from the fact that I was eating peas!

Dorset crab. nectarine, cucumber and sesame

I used to be a dessert girl through and through, but nowadays I have more of a savory palette and prefer a starter over a dessert. I don't like a heavy starter as I find it ruins your enjoyment of the main course if you feel full early on! This crab salad was the perfect choice. I'd never dreamed of pairing crab with fruit, but it was a beautiful pairing.  The lightest, freshest starter - and pretty as a picture.

Confit duck raviolo, tamarind, cashew and radish

I love ravioli, but wasn't sure how I felt about a single piece of it. But to be fair. it was the best I'd ever had. Rich, melt-in-the-mouth goodness. I just wish there was more of it.

ATMOSPHERE

Inside the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, it is as awe inspiring as its exterior, with high ceilings, and majestic staircases. I could happily have got lost in there for hours. But I didn't because food.

Initial reactions were good. We were greeted at reception with a smile and led to a lovely L shaped sofa, meaning we could sit next to each for once. Sometimes in restaurants it can feel a little claustrophobic, as despite all the empty tables, you can still be packed up close to other diners. This wasn't the case at the Gilbert Scott. Our nearest diners were two tables away, so being tucked away in our own little corner it felt deliciously private.

Image credit: David Collins Studio (please contact me if image removal required)

I think my greatest disappointment was with the sommelier. My wine of choice is usually a Malbec or a Côte du Rhone. On this occasion I chose a Malbec (which for the record, wasn't the cheapest of wines on their wine list!), but the sommelier directed us away from it. He suggested a Côte du Rhone, I pointed out my second choice wine (a Côte du Rhone), and he turned that down too, suggesting another Côte du Rhone (and yes, it was more expensive). I don't mind receiving recommendations for wine, however this sommelier had no idea what we were eating, and couldn't have known what would pair well. The Côte du Rhone he suggested was ok, but it was nothing special. It had no depth of flavour like a Malbec, didn't match brilliantly with the food, and was disappointing considering it cost us more. For improved service, I'd suggest their sommelier takes a little more time to find out what the guests are eating, and then make suggestions for pairings to compliment that specific dish. But at the same time, not push too hard. If a guest like myself wants a particular wine, let me have the wine I actually want. I am the one paying for the meal after all!

Sommelier aside, it was a lovely meal. Awe inspiring surroundings, delicious food and beautiful presentation. My advice: go on a quieter day of the week like a Monday or a Tuesday. Seated in such a magnificent room, it was serene, and as it wasn't busy, we didn't feel rushed or pressured.


The Gilbert Scott
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Euston Road
London NW1 2AR
For reservations click here

Monday, 2 October 2017

The autumn soup and bread recipes you KNEAD to have in your life // bread making class at the Jamie Oliver Cookery school

The other weekend I headed to Westfield in London for a bread making class at the 
Jamie Oliver Cookery School. But did I rise to the occasion? Read on to find out!


Before we started we were shown the kitchens we would be working in and noticed that the Jamie Oliver Cookery School kitchens were all fitted with Hotpoint ovens. A rep from Hotpoint spoke to us before our session and said that through customer research they identified that the one thing people find most frustrating with their ovens is a non-even bake. I for one know how annoying it is when a bake is burnt on top but also has a soggy bottom! People tend to blame themselves for a bad bake, however it's more likely the oven. Did you know that ovens' temperatures can vary up to 15 degrees? And this alone makes it all too easy to produce uneven bakes. Hotpoint’s new ovens offer Multi-Flow technology to regulate the temperature and to ensure better heat distribution and a good even bake every time.


Our bread making class was led by chef Gabby who gave us a demonstration of what we kneaded (ha!) to be doing that day. She taught us the signs of a good prove and how to work the dough so you get those perfect spider web like strands.


Fun fact: if you over work your dough or don't get the prove you were after, all is not lost. Bread dough is always salvageable. For example it can make a great pizza base

We were told we would be making bread rolls in different shapes to have with fondue and soup at lunch and also two focaccias. I did wonder how on earth we were going to make all those in the space of a few hours. I make bread at home and I know how long it can take to prove the dough. Luckily for us, the hard work taken out of bread making as Gabby had proved lots of dough in advance. That being said, we also made one dough ourselves which were able to take home with us. Mine proved very well on the Central Line. When I got home, the dough had essentially eaten the box and was making a break for it. I baked mine at home using fresh rosemary from the garden (because you can't beat rosemary focaccia!)

After our bread making 101, we were led away to individual work stations with the ingredients all pre-measured for us, which made things nice and simple regardless of if you were a seasoned pro baker or completely new to it all. It felt very Bake Off. But without the cameras and the pressure.

To make a dough all you knead (sorry!) is flour, water and yeast. At home I use dried yeast, however at the class we used live yeast. I had never seen it before in this form. It came as large blocks and smelt fragrant.

With the initial demonstration, it was a lot to take in at once. I wasn't sure how I was going to remember it all, but Gabby and her lovely sous chef were on hand, advising us when our doughs were done or if they kneaded (ha!) more work. Baking alongside other bloggers, there was a great sense of solidarity as we were all in it together. There were plenty of doh! moments when your mixture stuck to the table top because you hadn't floured it enough, and when you get more flour down you than on the table...

Rollin' with it

For our bread rolls, the dough was well proved and elastic (a good sign!), which made them quite difficult to shape as no sooner had you rolled out a shape, would it retract back. We were advised to use a knife with a little olive oil on the blade while making cuts to the dough (such as the score marks on top of the baguette) to make the dough easier to work with. One of the shapes we were shown was an Epi, but my dough wasn't having it (huge respect to anyone else who managed it!), so instead I made a spiral snail sort of shape. Which for the record, didn't look anything like the Bake Off "snail".  I also made a simple round roll, a baguette and a plaited loaf. The latter of which lost its definition when baked. Mine were egg washed to give them a golden colour and a sheen once baked. But we were advised that you could also use milk instead if you wanted more of a matte effect. If you are lactose intolerant, milk can be switched out for soy milk or other alternatives.


If you want to give these a go yourself, you can find the recipe below:

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Basic bread dough

Ingredients 
  • 1kg strong flour, or wholemeal strong flour
  • 30g fresh yeast
  • Water!

Method
  1. Making a well - Put the flour in a bowl and make a large well in the centre. Pour around 310ml of tepid water into the well, then add the yeast, 1 level teaspoon of salt and stir with a fork.
  2. Getting it together - Slowly bring in the flour from the inside of the well, being careful not to break the walls of the well. Continue to bring the flour into the centre until you get a stodgy consistency - then add another 310ml of tepid water. Continue to mix until it's stodgy again, then bring in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. With floured hands bring it together into a ball of dough.
  3. Kneading - Knead on a flour dusted surface for 4-5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.
  4. First prove - Flour the top of the dough and place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size in a warm, moist, draught-free place.
  5. Second prove, flavouring and shaping - Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 seconds by bashing it and squashing it. Shape it or flavour it as required - folded, filled, tray baked - and leave it to prove a second time for 30 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size once more.
  6. Cooking your bread - Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 410 degrees Fahrenheit / gas 6. Gently place your dough onto a flour-dusted baking tray and into the pre-heated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked and golden brown. You can tell if it's cooked by tapping the base - if it sounds hollow, it's done. If it doesn't then pop it back in for a little longer. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes. 

Makes a loaf - or in our case 4 rolls!

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We used an assortment of poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds for extra crunch. And what better topping to have with autumnal soup than pumpkin seeds?!

Focaccia gonna do?

The focaccia dough was a good work out. It was great to work out the week's stress and it felt very therapeutic.

We crushed the salt with rosemary to create rosemary salt, but also left some sprigs of the rosemary large. I love crunchy rosemary on my bakes. The kitchen smelt amazing during this time. There is no better smell that the smell of freshly baked bread and rosemary.


Focaccia is one of my favorite types of bread - especially when dipped in balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  For years my go to starter at Jamie's Italian has always been their selection of breads and oils. If you would like to try making your own focaccia, you can find the recipe for this below:

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Rosemary focaccia

Ingredients

  • 240g Italian tipo "OO" flour
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 10g fresh yeast
  • 1 sprig of rosemary

Method

  1. Combine the flour. yeast, 145ml of tepid water, 30ml of extra virgin olive oil, yeast and a good pinch of sea salt in a mixing bowl and knead gently for for 5-10 minutes until smooth.
  2. Cover the mixing bowl and leave to rest in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. While the dough is rising, prepare a baking tray by lightly oiling the base and sides with vegetable oil.
  4. Transfer the dough to the baking tray. Spread out evenly using the palm of your hands and gently expel the air from the dough, then rub 15ml of extra virgin olive oil over the surface of the dough using your finger tips.
  5. 'Dimple' the dough ensuring that you don't press all the way through to the base. Rip up your rosemary and poke them gently into the bread.
  6. Cover the dough again and leave to rest for a further 20-40 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 410 degrees Fahrenheit / gas 6.
  8. Place the baking tray in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Once cooked, carefully remove from the oven and drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil. Serve warm or cold.

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Whilst the focaccia was baking, we settled down for lunch with our bread roll creations. Naturally, the bread had baked perfectly - thanks Hotpoint! Our bread rolls were still warm and paired with fondue, a comforting bowl of soup each and red wine, we felt very toasty and autumnal (and sleepy!).


No doubt about it, I will be re-creating this soup at home. Hand on heart, it was one of the best soups I have ever had. If like me, you would like to try making this soup yourself, please find the recipe to this below:

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Roasted pumpkin soup

Ingredients

  • 2kg pumpkin or squash
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius / 325 degrees Farenheit / gas 3.
  2. De-seed the pumpkin or squash, then chop into wedges.
  3. Place the wedges on a large baking tray and lightly drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Gently squash the garlic cloves in their skins and scatter across the baking tray with the thyme leaves. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Roast for 1 hour, or until caramelised at the edges.
  6. Meanwhile, peel and roughly slice the carrots, chop the celery, and peel and roughly chop the onions.
  7. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large pan over a medium heat, add all the prepared ingredients, then cook with the lid ajar for 30 minutes, or until softened.
  8. Crumble the stock cubes into a jug, cover with 1.5 litres of boiling water, and stir until dissolved.
  9. Once cooked, add the pumpkin or squash to the pan and pour over the stock. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and add to the pan.
  10. Bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes until hot through, then remove from the heat.
  11. Using a handheld blender, carefully blend the soup until smooth. Season to taste.
  12. Divide between bowls, add a dollop of crème fraîche and extra virgin olive oil to each. You can top with thinly chopped red chilli if you like.  

Serves 4

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We each left with a Currys PC World goody bag filled with items to continue that autumn feeling. You can't get more autumnal than candles and tea. This candle for the record smells out of this world!


In summary, I really enjoyed my first Jamie Oliver Cookery class. The main thing I took away from my experience is that it can be really easy (and satisfying!) to make your own bread and it really doesn’t take that long. The chefs there were so energetic and passionate, and were a pleasure to work with. The Bread Baking: Knead to Know class is priced at £65 per person and they do plenty of other classes too where you can learn to prepare sushi, fish, pasta, curries and so on. You can view their full range of classes here where it details times and the number of slots available on a given date.

Thank you so much to Currys PC World, Hotpoint and The Jamie Oliver Cookery School for putting on a wonderful #AutumnalBakes event. I feel really inspired to get back into baking bread. Because crust me, I'm on a roll.


#AutumnalBakes

This post is not sponsored but the cookery class was complimentary

Monday, 18 September 2017

Serious interiors goals at Grand Designs Live and the Ideal Home Show

One year since becoming a home owner, I still haven't fully decorated and put my own stamp on the property. And in today's Instagram culture where you are inundated with picture after picture of interiors perfection, that alone has been hard. But I stick by my beliefs. I'm a firm believer of living in dwellings as they are for a bit, rather than making any structural or aesthetic changes right from the offset. It gives you the best chance to learn what works for you and what doesn't. And which rooms get the best light, compared to those that perhaps don't.

This house doesn't have the biggest of rooms and for this reason, I have shied away from bolder colours. I always thought that pale colours would suit these rooms better and make them seem less small. And it's for this reason I have always eyed up a palette of soft greys, looking to emphasise clean lines with white ceilings and white skirting boards.

That was until I got my house and home fix at the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live earlier this year.

Lots of the show rooms at both events featured rooms the same sort of size - if not smaller - with dark, bold colours. And they worked well. Contrary to popular belief, they didn't make the space seem smaller. These darker shades actually gave the walls a warmth that I never thought possible from a darker colour. I suddenly started liking colours I'd never considered before. Take this Blackadder inspired room for example.


I love the opulence of the dark blue walls against the
dark brown flooring and the metallic details.
And oh to have a bathroom like this...


That gold sink though
(M. told me right off the bat that I can't have one... boo!)


And how about this room for a celebration of colour? Not exactly the dark walls 
we have been nattering about, but an inspiring use of colour all the same. 


But now you see what I mean. I never once considered having dark or colorful walls (read: walls that aren't white!) but they inject so much soul and personality into a property. I have always been so scared to make that leap but what I've come to realise is that paint is just paint. It's not the be all and end all. What's the worst that could happen? That you don't like it and that you have to re-paint? That is part of the fun of decorating. Your sense of style will evolve over time, so it's not unreasonable to try something now and re-decorate again later. Be bold. Take a leap of faith.

*To Homebase for dark sample pots of paint!*

Grand Designs is in Birmingham from 11th - 15th October
Ideal Home Show will be back in November for Ideal Home Christmas

Friday, 8 September 2017

Listing my top picks from Lyst

Worst blog post title ever. You know what it's like at work when lunch time strikes. Other than being a hungry, hungry hippo, it's my time of the day to read blogs and have a nose online. One of the sites I use is a site I only first heard about last year at work when I managed an advertising campaign for them. Curious, I checked www.lyst.co.uk out online and loved what I saw.

Offering a wealth of brands, Lyst is a place to see all your favourite brands in one place rather than trailing the web looking at each site one by one. Their broad pricing range is a nice little touch, making the site accessible to all. When ogling over a £850 pair of Chloe boots, I also came across shoes as little as £10 which had been reduced in the sale. And you can often grab a designer bargain with their pre-owned section - so it's always worth looking around the Lyst site as there are bargains to be had! Here are my current top picks from the Lyst website:


Olivia Burton Wonderland watch - for obvious reasons! How beautiful is the watch face?!
Chloe sneakers - Converse these are not! I love the muted grey colour and the scallop edging.
YSL grey bag - I love all YSL bags, but this is the most beautiful colour of them all <3
White coat - the coat of dreams. Shearling and wonderfully wintry for the approaching cold snap
Chloé boots - I have coveted a pair of these for the longest time - I love anything Chloé!
Tan skirt - how perfect would this skirt be with a black roll neck and knee high boots?!
YSL red bag - because it would be nice to have a bag in my wardrobe that isn't black or grey!
Valentino flats - I'm not great in heels, but this pair of flats fits the bill for formal occasions!
Gucci belt - the ultimate #GirlBoss belt (perhaps a GB buckle would be more fitting!)

Appreciate this may be difficult given the amazing choice... 
but which items are your favourites?

Monday, 28 August 2017

The healthiest brownies I ever did eat


I'm no stranger to a brownie. Other than freshly baked bread, homemade brownies must be up there in the top five of best household aromas which make a house a home. Plus they taste damn good too. When asked if I wanted to review Pulsin's newly re-branded range of brownies, it was a pretty easy decision, let's be honest here.

For those unfamiliar with Pulsin, Pulsin offers a range of healthy snacks which focus on wellbeing as well as taste, providing a healthy way to maintain your energy levels across the day. With listed ingredients such as dates, green tea extract and grape juice, I  was intrigued to see what a healthier version of one of my favourite treats would taste like.

Containing xylitol - a natural sweetner found in fruits and vegetables - Pulsin have truly made their brownies guilt free. In a day and age where we have multiple intolerances and dietary requirements, each of the brownies I taste tested were:

  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Soya free
  • Vegan
  • 100% natural with no artificial colours, additives, preservatives or GM ingredients


Peanut Choc Chip brownie

I was a little nervous about this one as I hate peanut butter. As luck may have it, this brownie contained actual peanuts rather than the butter - so a thumbs up from me! This was the very first brownie I tried. Based on first appearances, it looked like your typical gooey brownie, but when you bit into it, it was a drier, more crumblier texture than I was expecting. The brownie itself wasn't very chocolately but it's saving grace were the peanuts which gave it some taste. As M very eloquently put; "it tastes healthy".


Super Berry brownie

The main defining factor of this brownie was its pinky red hue, due to the inclusion of goji berries and raspberries. The brownie itself didn't smell particularly berry-esque, but it did smell like raisins which was curious considering that raisins weren't listed in the ingredients! I found this brownie a little too sweet for my liking (probably as it contained berries, grape juice AND dates) and my only criticism was that I could strongly taste the dates but didn't really get any sort of berry flavour. To improve the recipe, I would add some larger cut cashews (another one of the ingredients listed here!) to soften the sweetness and add another texture.


Maca Bliss brownie

Compared to the super sweetness of the berry brownie, the maca brownie was a plainer affair. Contrary to my initial thought process, "maca" doesn't refer to macadamia nuts - Maca is in fact a Peruvian root herb which has been used for centuries to release stress. A brownie that helps with stress? Definitely my kind of product!


Almond & Raisin brownie

This was my favourite brownie as it was the only one where you couldn't taste the dates! This brownie was less dry and more gooey like a traditional brownie. The almonds were chopped much bigger than the peanuts or macadamia nuts in the other brownies, and there was a nice contrast between the soft, gooey texture and the crunch from the almonds. And surprisingly enough, despite this being the tastiest recipe of them all, this one was also the lowest in fat! WIN


In order of preference I would put these as:

  1. Almond & Raisin - the raisin taste was nicer than the dates, and the bigger nuts worked better!
  2. Peanut - the peanuts gave it a great taste
  3. Maca Bliss - fairly plain and inoffensive - better for those who want something less sweet!
  4. Super Berry - too sweet for me personally, less berries and more nuts required


Suggestions for improvement:

  • Use more raisins or currants instead of dates. Or use an alternative like dried figs, coconut, beetroot etc (I would personally love to try a beetroot brownie!)
  • If nuts are the main focus of the brownie, include larger chunks and enough of it! 
  • None of the brownies I tried tasted vaguely chocolately so maybe explore the chocolate balance?

In summary, I really enjoyed trying a healthier version of brownies. Whilst I won't be giving up the full fat version any time soon, I would definitely buy the Pulsin Almond & Raisin brownie and the Pulsin Peanut brownie again in the future. These two weren't too sweet and felt very substantial. They would be perfect as a late morning snack at work to keep your energy levels up for the day, or pre gym workout to give you a boost.

Would you give healthy brownies a go?

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The perfect summer picnic with Tesco

For someone who regularly shops with Tesco, I can't fault them. The other day I received the cutest little box from them. Designed in the style of a picnic basket, I opened it to reveal a red gingham print interior and very me treats.


I'm curious if Tesco looked at my purchase history and that dictated what they chose. Because my online shop does mostly consist of juice, squash, olives and cheese! (plus I love falafel). So these selections were spot on. It's been so manic lately what with wedding prep, so it was really nice to take some time out, sit in the sun, and do nothing. And what a lovely day it was to go for a picnic. It was the sort of heat where you don't want a huge meal and all you want to do is snack. So these tapas style treats from Tesco were a good shout.

Tesco mixed olives & cheddar cheese*
I'd never had a tapas style olive pack with cheddar before. Usually I find shops tend to package olives with feta or mozzarella as these are all very salty foods that complement each other well. Cheddar is a slighter harder cheese which has a strong flavour if you go for an extra mature, but doesn't quite have the same saltiness as say a feta or mozzarella. However I was surprised to find that it did go well with olives. Green olives aren't my favourites as I find them too salty. I usually prefer them cooked into a meal or bread rather than standalone. However the cheddar here helped to tone these down which is why I think these were the first green olives that I have actually liked snacking on as is.


Tesco chickpea, onion and broad bean falafel*
Falafel I only discovered about a year ago (massively late to the game!). If faced with a shelf of different falafel varieties, I wouldn't usually pick a broad bean one - but I am so happy I got to try these as I adored these. These were by far my favourite thing in the box that Tesco sent and I will definitely be ordering these again!


Robinsons Raspberry and Apple flavoured water*
I have never really been into flavoured waters. I would usually buy squash and do it myself, or have water as is. Because at least with squash you can dictate how strong it is (I prefer super strong over weak!). This Robinsons flavoured water was a bit of surprise to me. It was the first flavoured water that I didn't dislike. On the initial sip I found it quite artificial tasting and super sweet, but as I drank more of it, I become accustomed to the taste. I couldn't taste raspberries or apples as such, but it was fruity, pleasant and refreshing on such a balmy, hot day. Thumbs up from me!

Thank you to the lovely people at Tesco for the picnic treats and for a making a bright, sunny day even sunnier!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Maltesers chocolate pancakes

By the time you read this, I may be in a pancake induced coma (the best kind!). I love the fact that there is actually one day of the calendar year specially designated to pancakes. Granted it's part of a wider reasoning (Lent), nevertheless I love how everyone of all religious beliefs and backgrounds have embraced it. How tonight is the night to have milk, eggs and flour (if you're not vegan / gluten free!) in your home lest all hell break loose. I discovered yesterday that I'd ran out of flour and it was panic stations r us. Should I have been quite so panicked about the whole situation? Probably not. Have I been a last minute Nelly with getting said flour? Oh yes. It's been added to my online shop which hopefully Mr Tesco will swing by with tonight. However if my Instagram is empty of pancake porn later then you can be sure of two things:

  1. Tesco ran out of flour due to surplus demand
  2. me possibly crying into a bowl of cereal wondering where the pancakes at

I am especially on tenterhooks about the whole flour delivery situation as I have already purchased this wickedly naughty but insanely delicious looking jar:


Maltesers chocolate spread - currently reduced to just £1.50!

If the flour fails to materialise later then screw the cereal... I'll probably be spooning this directly into my mouth from the jar. Classy. And if Maltesers don't float your boat, there are plenty of other varieties to choose from. I'm talking: Cadbury Caramel, Twix, Bounty and Crunchie, to name a few.

Wish me luck! (and hope your pancake eve is better organised than my own!)

Friday, 10 February 2017

Charity // living on £2 a day with Zamcog & Voucherbox

Recently Voucherbox reached out to me, wanting to spread awareness of how much food we waste and the amount we spend in doing so. Did you know that it costs £2 a day to feed, clothe and educate a child in Zambia? Voucherbox has teamed up with Zamcog to present the £2 challenge.

The #2poundchallenge is all about encouraging bloggers to try living off of just £2 a day and for each blogger that takes part and writes a post on their experiences, Voucherbox will donate £50 to Zamcog. Which is amazingly generous. Working in the city of London, I am only too aware that a typical lunch can cost me £5 or more. And that's just lunch.


For the challenge myself and M. would need to live on just £4 a day (£2 each). The £4 would go towards three meals for two people and some form of snack. To save as much as possible, I made lunch and dinner in bulk so the below takes into account the costs of both of our portions for just one day.

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BREAKFAST

Toast & jam 


x4 slices of toast each - 16p
Butter - 13p 
Jam- 9p

TOTAL = 39p

I bought a loaf of supermarket own brand wholemeal bread which equated to 4p a slice. A very frugal lunch meant that I could stretch to jam as well as butter (albeit in small quantities!)

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LUNCH

Parsnip soup


Parsnips - 30p
Rosemary - free!
Veg stock - 12p
Onion - 6p
Milk  - 16p
Butter - 6p

 TOTAL = 70p

The rosemary was scavenged from the garden which was a good way of being resourceful and thrifty. Being a relatively simple soup with one vegetable and no meat stock, I did worry that it may be fairly bland, but the rosemary was great at counteracting this. This was in fact one my favourite soups I've ever made!

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DINNER

Gnocchi bake


Gnocchi - 38p
Cheese - 24p
Peppers - 39p
x1 tin chopped tomatoes - 31p
Garlic clove - 5p
Tomato puree - 5p
Spinach - 50p
Smoked paprika - 5p

TOTAL = £1.97

Who knew that a £1.97 dinner with the most basic of ingredients could be so full of flavour?! I picked up a value pack of gnocchi for just 75p from the supermarket and I only used half of it as gnocchi is brilliant for being really filling - so you don't need a whole lot of the stuff. Rather than being just a plain and boring stodge, cheese and tomato combo, the veg gave it some extra colour, texture and flavour. I shopped the 'farms' range of supermarket veg which is sourced from local farms and is considerably cheaper. I usually shop this range anyway as it's just as good quality as anything else. Not the prettiest dish to plate up, but that crispy cheese on top was the real MVP!

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SNACKS

Bourbon biscuits


x4 biscuits each = 2p per biscuit

TOTAL = 16p

In an ideal world I would have been snacking on fruit but have you seen how expensive fruit is these days?! Why spend 40p on an apple when you can spend 30p on a pack of 22 biscuits? Chocolate is a lot tastier than fruit anyway. This worked out at 2p per biscuit which were perfect for late morning nibbles and the afternoon slump!

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TOTAL SPEND = £3.22

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What I learnt from the experience is that living on just £2 a day is incredibly hard. Everything has a price and it was interesting seeing the monetary value of a splash of oil and a sprinkle of paprika, because everything adds up. It really made me re-think how much I spend on food and this is something I'm going to continue. This experience has proven that this is possible and that cheap food isn't tasteless or lacking. My shop was done in Tesco - so this proves it is possible in British supermarkets other than Aldi, Lidl or Iceland.

One of the conditions of the £2 challenge was to tag another blogger to continue on the good work. But I don't want to tag just one person - I invite you all to join and contribute towards this good cause. To date over £1000 has been raised which is an amazing achievement. You can read more on the £2 challenge here. If you participate in the #2poundchallenge, please do leave links to your experiences in the comments below as I'd love to see other ideas for money saving meals!