Friday, 28 February 2020

AD | Chilli and prawn linguine recipe with Schwartz

Our house (well its inhabitants) loves food but naturally, with some foods you can agree to disagree. My husband loves pepperoni pizza whereas I can't stand meat on pizza. He loves spicy foods whereas I have always struggled with spice. Fast forward some years and my husband is now equally as enthused with veggie pizza as I am. And me? I am getting braver and braver with spice.

Previously I was removing chilli from recipes and instead having chopped chilli / chilli flakes on the side so my poor husband didn't miss out on my behalf. Nowadays I find myself craving the addictive nature of spice and even pouring more and more of our household staple - chilli flakes - onto my plate to give food that is lacking that extra something.

With spices like crushed chillies, I like to keep the meal itself quite simple so the chilli has a chance to sing. Prawn and chilli linguine is always a dish that goes down well in our household. It doesn't need too many ingredients, it's easy to clean up from (largely a one pot meal), it's simple to rustle up and doesn't take long.

Schwartz chilli flakes * 

CHILLI AND PRAWN LINGUINE

INGREDIENTS
  • 300g linguine
  • x2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Tomato puree (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Schwartz chilli flakes * 
  • 225g pre-cooked prawns (larger / king prawns will offer a meatier taste)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Small handful of parsley, chopped
  • Seasoning 

METHOD

1. Start the sauce first. The key to a fantastic sauce is giving it time to reduce and develop a wonderful rich flavour. Start by frying off the onion (I like mine golden and just 'caught' for extra depth of flavour)

2. Add the garlic, it won't need long (approx 2 mins or it will burn). Up to you if you crush or chop your garlic (in Italian dishes I love bigger pieces of garlic so chopped is my preference!)

3) Add the chopped tomatoes and the chilli flakes. Leave the sauce to reduce for 10-15 minutes

4) Do an initial tasting of the sauce. If not tomatoey enough, add a dollop of tomato puree. If too tart, you can counteract this by adding sugar (do a teaspoon at a time though!). Add more chilli flakes if you feel it needs it. Season to your liking (I find a generous sprinkling of salt really helps bring out the flavours!)

5) Start cooking your linguine (we used fresh pasta which only takes 4 minutes, but most dried versions take 10-12 minutes)

6) Prawns can over cook really easily (especially already cooked ones) so it's important to get the sauce as far along as possible beforehand as the prawns won't take long. Once you are happy with your sauce, add the prawns (they will only take a minute or two to warm, but will take longer if raw) and the chopped parsley.

7) Do a final taste test of the sauce which will now incorporate the flavour of the prawns. Again, add extra seasoning, chilli etc if you feel it needs it

8) Once you are happy with the sauce and the pasta has cooked, drain the pasta. You can either mix the pasta into your sauce to generously coat it (what I do), or dish it up separately and ladle the sauce on top. Don't forget to take salt, pepper and the chilli flakes to the table with you! 

Schwartz crushed chillies
Chilli and prawn linguine

We really like this meal as it largely uses ingredients we already have in the house (I usually only have to pick up prawns and parsley) and it's low in fat so good and healthy.

And to quote my husband:
"If I ordered arrabbiata in a restaurant and this turned up, I'd be very happy!"
"You know what? This would be just as nice without the prawns"
And for his latter comment, I'd have to agree. A plain tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce may sound basic and boring, but using the Schwartz chilli flakes, it would be anything but! The beauty of the sauce is that it's full of flavour so would be great with seafood, meat, vegetarian substitutes or as is. For a cheaper / vegetarian version, omit the prawns (something we plan on doing next time!). Whether you use seafood, meat or keep it vegetarian, the sauce does require some patience while it simmers down, but trust me, it's worth it!


 * Schwartz have sent me the crushed chillies for review, but all views are my own

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

10 things I've learnt from my Casper mattress // Casper mattress review

Shopping for a new mattress presents a plethora of options. Should you go for foam, springs or a mix of both? And which brand is better? As luck may have it, my search was refined a little in that the new mattress in question had to fit up the tinniest staircase and live in the loft. So with that in mind, this ruled out a fair few mattresses and focused the search around a 'mattress in a box' solution. With so many out there, it was tough deciding whether to go for a Simba, Eve, Leesa, Casper or Emma.


My advice? Go to your local retail park or bed store (checking first if they stock them) and trying as many as you can. Whilst many of these one box mattresses have a 100 day guarantee (you can return at any point in the 100 days, no questions asked), purely picking one out blind online and not trying them first, you won't get a sense of how they compare (some are foam only, some are hybrids i.e. foam AND spring-loaded). My original MVP was the Simba, but then I went to John Lewis and had a chance to try a try a few more of the others and then Casper came up on top.

Said Casper mattress has since arrived and as I didn't really see much in the way of Casper reviews online, I wanted to put my thoughts to paper (well screen) in case anyone else had any questions around the Casper range.These are the 10 things I have learnt from my Casper mattress:

That springs were not for me

I've never had a foam mattress before, but when I went to try out different mattresses locally, I learned that springs weren't for me (each to their own). I couldn't even get on with the hybrid versions (springs AND foam). My advice? Seek out these online brands and try each for yourself before you place that online order.

Quite how bad my previous mattress was

I only learned recently that you should replace your mattress every 8 years. The mattress I was using before was 13 years old (so hardly surprising that I started getting lower back pain!). I knew it was old, but I forgot quite how old and when it was no longer comfortable, I just stuck a mattress topper on it rather than addressing the problem head on like I should have done.

Since I've been sleeping on the Casper, my back pain has completely gone. Admittedly it was still a little sore on the first night (these things take time), but I find the new mattress is supporting me a lot better in the small of my back. When I went to John Lewis, they advised me to lay flat on my back and place my hands under the small of my back. Basically there shouldn't be a gap there, the bed needs to be supporting you in this crucial area. And that's exactly what the Casper does.

It's not just me who rates this mattress

My in-laws knew we were looking at the mattress in a box brands ("aren't they expensive?"). We told them how comfortable The Casper was (their mid range mattress) and how much of a difference it has made to us, and we just found out that they went to look at mattresses themselves and loved the Casper so much, they ordered one for themselves too!

It IS possible to have a hotel style bed at home

Never has my bed compared to the comfort of an exceptional hotel bed. The mattress topper I bought a couple of years back extended the life of my knackered former mattress a little longer, but it wasn't a permanent fix / solution. The Casper needed 24 hours to fully expand once released from the box, but I did cheekily have an initial lie down and I think my face says it all. ABSOLUTE BLISS


24 hours later the mattress was even thicker, but every bit as comfortable. I dressed the bed with a silky smooth fitted bed sheet and grey velvet Matalan bedding, and that night we had the best sleep we'd had in ages. I found myself sinking deliciously into the mattress - but not too much - whilst still being supported in all the right places.

It smells a bit funky

Having seen plenty of mattress in a box reviews and unboxing videos on Youtube, I was fully prepared for this. I'm not sure if it's the wrapping used or the machinery used to vacuum pack the mattress into the box, but something gives the mattress a distinct smell. It's strongest when you first open the box and unload the mattress, but I found the smell was still there even when I lifted onto the bed and added the fitted sheet and duvet (adding bedding doesn't seem to stem it). The scent does linger, however after a week of being in the room, I am noticing it less now. It only seems to resurface if I plonk down on the bed particularly heavily. I hear the smell goes in time, and obviously it's still early days yet.

The pets love it as much as I do

Cats are curious creatures so naturally they came in to investigate. They were sniffing around (clearly clocking the weird smell) and reluctant to jump up on the bed initially, but lately I've woken up to find two cats on the bed. One nestled in-between us and the other either in the bed or sleeping at my feet. They also love the box it came in (as I'm sure you will have seen here!).

How it fits in a box will blow your mind

The box was as big as I am, however I still couldn't get my head around the fact that a mattress was in there. Seriously impressive use of vacuum packing right there!


I can still use my same bedding 

Some of the reviews I read for the other mattress in a box brands mentioned how the expansion of the mattress meant it was too thick to accommodate their existing bed sheets, so the reviewer(s) had to purchase new fitted sheets in a larger size. I was a little nervous about this because after an expensive mattress purchase, I didn't really want to be spending more money on bedding. As luck may have it, my existing bed sheets fit on the Casper like a dream (cue a big sigh of relief!)


It IS possible to get a mattress up an impossible staircase

When we first moved into our home, it was such a faff getting our mattress up the stairs. Our room is in the loft conversion with the narrowest, most awkward staircase known to man / woman. We caught the hallway walls on the way up (luckily we are due a refresh so this didn't matter!) and at one point were wedged into a corner. We learnt our lesson from this and when ordering furniture for our room, opted for flat pack furniture so we could get the components up the stairs easily and build in the room. When it came to replacing our mattress, the 'mattress in a box' solution was a great one for us. Yes the box was ridiculously heavy and quite awkward to get up the stairs on account of being as big as me, however it was much easier than a full sized mattress, let me know tell you that now.


A mattress in a box is expensive

Any of these brands will cost you a pretty penny and whilst I write about money saving tips, there are some things in life worth spending money on (anything to do with your health and well-being shouldn't be ignored). I could have bought a much cheaper mattress which wasn't half as comfortable, however I know people who have long term (and irreversible) back problems stemming from a poor mattress. So whilst this purchase was an eye watering one (I paid for the mattress myself and am not working with Casper or affiliated with them in any way), I knew that I needed to take action sharpish to nip any potential future back problems in the bud.

Saying that, there are ways to help reduce the cost of your new mattress. Casper had an online sale at the time so I managed to get a discount, plus I managed to get cashback as well. Definitely check out TopCashBack and Quidco who frequently have 10-15% cashback offers. My in-laws purchased their Casper mattress through John Lewis who gave them 15% off and a £100 John Lewis voucher so do check with your local store (our local John Lewis sadly didn't have this offer at the time of our visit which is unfortunate)

IN SUMMARY

It's easy to think all these 'mattress in a box' brands are all the same, but on the contrary, each have different ranges with different price bands, so it's worth doing the research and trying each of them out. Whilst I love my Casper, I'm not necessarily going to recommend them to you because what works for me won't necessarily work for you. But promise me one thing. Don't let your mattress reach it's 13th birthday like I did.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

4 things I have been loving lately

I used to have pink phobia (or pinkophobia according to Urban Dictionary) and now I find myself making an online order and 3/4 of the items are pink. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME

Pink coat here (currently in the sale, selling fast!) // over-sized cardigan here //
lace trim pink crop top here // Pink military style coat here

PINK COAT

Nothing screams spring more than a soft pink coat. I love pink coats paired with light blue denim and a simple white top. I couldn't decide between the above two (aren't they beautiful?) so naturally I ordered both. Which coat gets your vote?

OVERSIZED CARDIGAN

I love a slouchy cardigan for true dressing gown / robe vibes. I love the monochrome colour blocking on this one and the gold buttons - it looks so much more expensive than it was! (also comes in the cutest soft pink shade here)

LACE TRIM KNITWEAR

Again with the soft pink.. WHO AM I. I usually prefer a v neck / scoop neck / off the shoulder on knitwear for a flash of skin, however I love the higher neck and lace trim of this one. It would look amazing with an updo like a high pony tail, don't you think?

What have you been loving lately?