I always struggle to find the right Christmas gift during the festive period, like most people my friends and family buy everything they need during the year so it can be quite difficult knowing what to get them. We are a nation of food lovers and self confessed foodies (I hate that word) so I always think that when you have exhausted all other avenues go for something food or drink related as the market is just saturated with products. Most of the items featured in this gift guide are unisex and would suit a variety of ages, some are useful and some are quirky but best of all they are all affordable.
Cocktail Pastilles (£9.99) by Smith and Sinclair are a gift I’d love to find under my tree on Christmas Day, they are such an innovative invention and have quite a high alcohol content of 6-8% abv so not suitable for under 18’s. The box includes one of each flavour: Whisky Sour: A whisky pastille coated with a tart grapefruit infused sugar. Cake Icing: A whisky and amaretto pastille coated with sugar. Berry Daiquiri: A dark rum, strawberry and grenadine pastille coated with a pink peppercorn infused sugar. Spiced Rum: A dark rum and bitters pastille coated with clove spice sugar. Gin and Tonic: A violet infused gin pastille coated with a tart lemon sherbet. A Spring Clean: An elderflower and gin pastille coated with thyme infused sugar.
Sent with a loving kiss have a fantastic range of artisan chocolate presented in keepsake tins, I particually like O Christmas Tree (£24.99) which includes 1 x Personalised Milk Chocolate Christmas Tree Bar, 1 x Christmas Cracker containing Milk Chocolate Buttons, 3 x Mince Pie Flavoured Milk Chocolates and 1 x Milk Chocolate Snowflake Disc. SWALK currently have an offer on this product at the moment if you use the offer code H1403 at the check out you will receive a £2 discount.
Yankee Candles are always a great gift to give and receive, Fireside Treats (£14.99) evokes the joys of camp … mesmerized by the fire, singing and laughing, while toasting marshmallows to rich, gooey perfection! The large jar candle provides 110 to 150 hours of true fragrance enjoyment. I’m currently burning Red apple wreath which is filling my home with the smell of Christmas.
Coconut Grass have a great range of Tea Towels, the butchers tea towel (£9.95) is my favourite by far. It’s not only a funky tea towel but actually pretty useful to remind yourself where particular cuts of meat come from.
I adore this Italian Macaroons phone case (£8.95) by Lemur Cases on Etsy. The case is available for the following phones: Apple Iphone 4/4s, Iphone 5/5s, Iphone 5c, Iphone 6, Iphone 6 plus, Samsung S4, Samsung S4 mini, Samsung S5.
Do you know someone who loves cheese? Don’t we all? These cheese plates (£15.95) from The Cheeseworks in Cheltenham would be the perfect gift for any cheese lover. Each plate is 12.5cm in diameter and features a different design, if you’re looking for something a little larger they also come in 20cm (£23.95).
I have a fabulous collection of butter knives at home, I know a lot of people don’t use them but I love mine especially when entertaining and at Christmas when we have a selection of cheese and pate. This set of knives from Culinary Concepts (£24.95) features four of the Culinary Classic designs and is perfect for spreading, not just butter, but pates and other sandwich fillings.
Mr Gourmand would love this Home-brewed beer kit from Lakeland (£27.99), we have talked about brewing our own but have not got round to buying all of the equipment yet. No other equipment is required with this set, just add 25 pints of warm water and the sachet of ‘Moondust’ yeast to the unique brewing bag, wait 14 days and your all-natural real ale will be ready for drinking and each pint will have only cost you about £1!
And finally we have the perfect present for a couple 2 1/2 pint mugs by Emma Bridgewater (£27.95) These mugs in my opinion would make a perfect Christmas gift the only problem is who gets to keep which mug?
Will you be buying any of these Christmas gifts for your friends and family this year?
I relised today that I’ve had the Tefal Fresh Express Max for a long time now but have never shared an actual review of the product or shared my thoughts and feelings about it so I’m going to take this opportunity to do just that.
So what is the Tefal Fresh Express Max? The best way for me to describe it is to say it’s a little bit like a food processor without the ability to whisk or mix if that makes sense? It basically takes the hassle out of food preparation as it can grate, shred, slices and dice fruit, vegetables, cheese and even nuts.
I found the Fresh Express Max a little tricky to use at first, I spent a long time trying to follow the instructions and I’m still not convinced I’ve been using it right, it’s quite difficult to get the cones and green and white clamp to fit into the spout which is a little annoying.
I love the fact there are two speeds as it allows you to feel more in control, I have a problem processing some ingredients like courgette, onion and cucumber so I’ve stopped using the device for these vegetables.
The wide feeding tube is good as you can insert ingredients without having to cut them into lots of pieces, I also like the fact that you can pop your fingers into the spout to help items that can become stuck without hurting your fingers as the blades are on the outside not the inside.
It’s very easy to clean the Fresh Express Max and the removable parts are all dishwasher safe. All of the attachments can be stored on the appliance meaning that it takes up less room than a food processor, the cord can be stored inside the machine making the Fresh Express Max easy to store in your kitchen.
If I’m being completely honest I use this mainly to grate cheese because I’ve had so many problems trying to dice and slice vegetables, my vegetables either end up as a pulp or things like carrots seem to slow the machine down. it’s awesome as a grater and the only fault I have with this function is that cheese gets stick between the cone and the chute, it does clean well though so it isn’t too much of a problem. I have only ever grated the same type of cheese so have no idea how it would manage with anything a little softer or harder.
I did want to love this so much, I saw this in action at Tefal UK head office and I had visions of the beautiful salads I would be making and the diced vegetables I could put in my casserole but unfortunately we just don’t get on. I won’t give up though, I’m determined to make this eventually work for me.
If you own a Tefal Fresh Express Max I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, how do you find it? Have you encountered any of the problems that I have?
I have a little bit of a pan fetish, I love pans that do more than cook which may sound odd as the sole purpose of a pan is to cook food but I just find that if a pan can offer a little more than just plain old cooking it can capture my interest a little more and make me want to buy it. I’m an advertisers dream I know.
The Tower Housewares 24cm colour changing aluminium frying pan has really caught my attention, I wasn’t aware of the brand before and since using this pan and loving it I’ve researched more products and have an expanding wishlist of products, it just goes to show that when a pan does more than just cook a consumer gets excited about what the brand can offer next and will spend time researching more products.
The 24cm frying pan has a revolutionary CeraSure ceramic coating which ensures completely non stick cooking, quite often a manufacturer will say a pan is non stick and you find after a couple of uses that food has started to stick and it has become a nightmare to clean. I always take non stick claims with a pinch of salt and I like to give them a proper testing by cooking a wide range of items like scrambled eggs, sticky Chinese sauces and fried noodles.
The Tower fry pan has a colour changing rim which turns white from black when the pan reaches optimum temperature, this not only helps to save energy when cooking but cuts down the cooking time as you’re adding food when the pan is ready not heating up a full pan which takes much longer than from empty.
We’re a family of 4 and the 24cm colour change aluminium frying pan is a perfect size for us, I’ve cooked a range of successful dishes in it and I’m pleased to say you can clean it with minimal effort thanks to the non-stick ceramic coating which really is non stick.
You can view the vide below to see the pan changing to white when at optimum heat and you can see that even the most sticky sauces don’t stick to the pan.
The food being created in the video above was a vegetable chow mein and sticky plum chicken, you don’t need a 24cm pan by Tower to create this but it does help!
To make the vegetable chow mein you will need:
1 pack of beansprouts
1/2 head of broccoli
1/4 spring cabbage
1 carrot peeled into strips with a grater
handful of chopped peppers
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Red onion
Fine rice noodles (pre cooked)
Heat up some oil in a pan, add the vegetables and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cooked noodles and pop a lid on for a couple of minutes to allow everything to steam. Once the vegetables are cooked add the soy sauce and mix thoroughly.
I find it best to make the plum sauce in advance, grill the chicken and add it all together before serving on some boiled basmati rice. To make the plum sauce you will need:
1/2 glass of Red Wine
1 Bay leaf
1/2 jar of plum jam
2 Tablespoons of honey
1/2 bottle of reduced salt soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic pureed
2 plums pureed
Add everything listed above to a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until it starts to thicken. I recommend making this sauce in advance to give the flavours time to blend together and I find the sauce thickens and tastes better the second time around.
When you’re ready to eat add the sauce to a pan until it starts to bubble, add the grilled chicken and cook until the sauce has thickened and is sticking to the chicken. Serve immediately and sprinkle with some chopped spring onions if you have them to hand.
*Disclaimer* I received this product free of charge so I could create a culinary delight. To view the whole range of Tower Products visit the Tower Housewares website.
The Townhouse pub is situated on George Street not far from the South Side of the river in Leamington Spa, it’s not on the main shopping road so would require a bit of searching if you’re not local to the area. The deco inside has a real vintage feel about it and has my favourite J.H Lynch prints of the Mysterious and exotic lady known as ‘Tina’. I love the exposed bulb light fittings although they do make your eyes go fuzzy if you look directly at them!
Tables are adorned with retro candles with hardened red wax, something you might expect to see in an Italian resteraunt (or my kitchen). The furniture is mis matched which only adds to the quirky vibe that the Townhouse exudes.
Neither myself or Mr Gourmand had visited the Townhouse before but we had heard good things about the place from friends who had visited one of the open mic nights so we figured we would give the place a try.
Staff were very friendly and accommodating and the pub is family friendly although there is a step at the front door so bare this in mind if you have a pram or pushchair with you.
Mr Gourmand and I took advantage of the £5 lunch offer which consists of a very decent sized meal and a drink. It’s always a risk when you visit somewhere new for lunch as to what you are going to receive so we ordered blindly.
With a good selection of food available Mr Gourmand opted for the Broccoli and Cauliflower cheese which was served with chips and salad. The Broccoli and Cauliflower cheese was bathing in a delicious creamy cheese sauce and topped with what seemed like a whole packed of melted cheese on top. The meal was extremely delicious and satisfying.
I really fancied something different to what I would normally order and picked the Roast Beef and Horseradish sandwich served with chips and a side salad. The Roast Beef was pink in the middle which is exactly how I like it, the slices were thick and plentiful. The horseradish sauce was creamy and had a good heat to it which is just what I like, there is nothing worse than mild, smooth supermarket horseradish that has no flavour.
The beef was served on a warm ciabatta which had been buttered, I just managed to finish it all but I did let Mr Gourmand sample the beef as his eyes were drooling at my huge sandwich.
£5 doesn’t usually get you much even in a fast food eatery so if you’re in the Leamington Spa area, need lunch and have a spare £5 to spend you won’t go wrong visiting The Townhouse.
If I’m completely honest, these brownies were my best EVER! I didn’t think I’d ever be able to beat my stuffed cookie brownies but these were on another level. I tweaked my usual recipe a little and boom, a taste explosion in the mouth. The pecans added a bit of texture, the centre was fudgy and gooey and the top was crunchy. Perfection in a square.
To make these little squares of awesomeness you will need:
350g 70% Dark Chocolate, broken into pieces
250g Unsalted butter
3 large eggs
250g dark muscovado sugar
50g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
75g pecan nuts, chopped
Put the chocolate and butter into a pan and heat gently until melted. Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes.
While your chocolate mixture is cooling, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until light and glossy, you mind find this process easier if you use a hand mixer.
Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, stirring it in gently with a large spoon.
Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in with the pecan nuts.
Tip the mixture into a greased and lined baking tin and bake until firm. I test by inserting a skewer into the middle of the brownies, if it comes out clean I know they are usually done.-
Place the tin on a wire rack and cool then cut the brownies into squares, remove from the tin and cool completely on the rack.
You should get 8 or 9 decent sized brownies from this mixture, of course this depends on the size and depth of the baking tin you are using.
Lemon drizzle cake is a family favourite, usually I make a loaf cake soaked with lemon icing but on this occasion I made a layer cake filled with a delicious lemon cream curd.
To make this cake you will need:
200g of caster sugar
200g of unsalted butter
The zezt of 2 lemons
3 beaten eggs
200g self raising flour
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin
Beat the sugar, butter and lemon zest in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy, using an electric whisk.
Gradually add the eggs, whisking until the egg is incorporated into the mixture. Carefully fold in the flour.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
To make the filling you will need:
115g icing sugar
4 tablespoons lemon curd
Place the icing sugar and butter into a bowl and mix well until smooth, add the lemon curd and mix well. Split the cake horizontally in half. Spread the base cake half with the mixture and top with the second half of the cake.
To make the topping you will need:
55g icing sugar
Add enough lemon juice to the icing sugar to make a thick icing. Drizzle over the top of the cake and allow to set.
Yo! Sushi recently opened in Leamington Spa and the Gourmand family went along during the opening weekend to check it out. We’re a family of Sushi lovers and have visited Yo! Sushi branches in Newcastle upon Tyne, Birmingham and London so to have a branch in our town is very exciting for us.
Situated in Regent Court in the centre of town which is a pedestrianised street filled with a great selection of restaurants and shops, Yo! Sushi offers a fantastic range of hot and cold dishes, it’s not all just about the raw fish!
I love the décor inside this particular branch which has a mixture of industrial and cosmic influences as you can see in the picture above, there is a lot of stainless steel and the orbs hanging from the ceiling really captured Baby Gourmands attention (and mine too if I’m being honest).
As with all Yo! Sushi restaurants you can see the chef’s at work thanks to the open kitchen, the conveyor belt is huge and I love the buzzer noises at this branch.
Tables are set as standard and feature all of the usual condiments like Pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.
We started with some Miso Soup (£2.20) which contains seaweed, tofu, spring onion in a soy bean broth you can have unlimited refills of this soup which is fantastic value for money and incredibly tasty.
Mini Gourmand loves to select dishes from the conveyer belt and Cucumber Maki (£1.90) is one of her favourite dishes, Baby Gourmand was quite partial to these himself.
We asked for a couple of recommended dishes and the first of the dishes we tried was the Popcorn Shrimp Tempura (£4.30), this was a new dish for us and incredibly delicious so much so that our chopsticks were fighting for the last piece.
Mini Gourmand decided she liked the look of the Vegetable firecracker rice (£2.50) which was rather delicious although Mini Gourmand slightly underestimated the heat, Mr Gourmand and myself finished this off for her. Firecracker by name and Firecracker by nature.
Our second recommended product was the Beef and Garlic Teriyaki which was by far my favourite dish, the glaze on the beef was so tasty and one piece just wasn’t enough.
Baby Gourmand started to get a little cranky so to keep him quiet we picked a plate of Fresh fruit (£3.40) which he devoured, it’s really nice to see fresh pineapple included in a fruit salad rather than tinned.
The Salmon Selection (£5.00) was our next dish, this was extremely good value for money and tasted so fresh. It always surprises me how the most simplistic of dishes can often be the most tastiest.
Mr Gourmand took a shine to the Chicken Teriyaki (£3.90) which was succulent due to the meat being thigh rather than breast which can often be a little dry. The sticky sweet sauce really complimented the chicken and the crisp white cabbage was a nice addition to the dish.
Our final dish was the Scallop Katsu which was served with the most delicious wasabi mayonnaise which gave a fabulous kick. Scallops are one of my most favourite things to eat however I’m often scared to order them when I go out as they are often very overcooked. On this occasion the scallops were sweet, succulent and cooked to perfection.
It’s always deceiving how filling the food at Yo! Sushi actually is, between the 4 of us we had 8 plates of food and 4 bowls of Miso Soup and we were stuffed, we didn’t even manage any Mochi which is Mini Gourmands favourite.
Baby Gourmand loved the futuristic highchairs in Yo! Sushi which were a perfect size for him and had just enough space for his colouring book and crayons. The restaurant is very child friendly and the staff are great with children of all ages, one member of staff even helped me to secure Baby Gourmand into the highchair and showed me how the straps worked.
During our visit people were queuing at the door for a table, there were a mixture of all ages in the restaurant and it looked extremely popular. Each time I have walked past since my initial visit it has been bustling so there is no doubt in my mind that Yo! Sushi made a great decision by opening a branch in Leamington Spa. We will definitely be visiting again as a family and will be using the takeaway service very soon.
Disclamier: All food consumed during our visit was complimentary, our thoughts and feelings about the visit are honest and impartial.
I remember being around 8 and begging my mum to let me make Angel Delight at home, we didn’t have dessert very often as my mum preferred us to have a piece of fruit after dinner so to be allowed to make a packet of instant dessert was a real treat.
Chocolate was and still is my favourite flavour, it’s so versatile and super quick and easy to make when you’re in need of a quick chocolate fix.
The new Bubblegum flavour of Angel Delight recently launched in Tesco and I couldn’t wait to whip up some desserts for my family using it. The bubblegum flavour is made only using natural colourings and is suitable for vegetarians. Angel Delight is super easy to make, just take a sachet and mix with milk, leave for ten minutes to set and voila you are ready to eat.
The first dish I made was a Bubblegum cheesecake which was basically layers of crushed biscuit, chopped strawberries and angel delight folded in to whipped cream. Mini Gourmand ate two portions of this because she found it so delicious, she didn’t realise that the creamy mousse was Angel Delight.
My second dish was Angel Delight made the traditional way topped with strawberries, everyone loved the new flavour including Baby Gourmand. Mr Gourmand liked it so much that he requested the remainder of the Angel Delight be used to make a milkshake.
Angel Delight is actually very versatile and makes an incredible ice-cream which is how I like to use my leftovers.
This post is an entry for #AngelDelightMoments linky challenge.
Autumn is here with a bang, I could have been forgiven for thinking we were having a bit of an extended summer as the weather in Warwickshire has been glorious apart from the odd day of rain. I’ve not had to wear a coat yet this morning and I’ve noticed that trees and flowers are also a little unsure about what season we’re in.
Yesterday there was no mistaking that it was Autumn, cold, windy and dull. I had the heating on for most of the day and by 3pm it was so dark in my lounge that I needed the light on to see. I don’t know about you but on a cold, wet and windy day I always crave some sort of baked goods which can sometimes prove to be difficult when you have a toddler preventing you from doing anything that doesn’t involve him.
I had enough bread so didn’t want to make that so I made the next best thing which takes very little time to bake and very little time to cook and I suppose it also takes very little time to eat too. Cheese Scones.
Not blowing my own trumpet or anything but these scones were delicious and to make them you will need:
225g Self Raising flour
1tsp baking powder
55g salted butter
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
80 ml of milk
Egg for glazing
You can choose to top with extra cheese but I only had 100g so couldn’t on this occasion.
Preheat your oven to 200c. Pop all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and mix into the dry items with your fingertips until everything resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle in the grated cheese and mix in. Make a well in the centre and pour in enough milk to give a soft but still firm dough using a little bit at a time.
Flour your surface and roll out the dough until 2cm thick and using a scone cutter cut out your scones. Glaze the tops with a beaten egg and bake for 15 mins or until golden brown and cooked through.
Breakfast time is probably the most hectic time of the day in our household especially for me, I’m usually rushing around trying to get Baby Gourmand dressed and fed, making Mini Gourmand’s lunch and making sure Mr Gourmand eats breakfast and has everything he needs for work which leaves very little time for me.
It’s usually way after 9am before I even think about grabbing something to eat and usually by that time I’m either getting ready to leave the house or have housework to do.
A third of people in Britain skip breakfast, we’re always told it’s the most important meal of the day but in reality very few of us actually have time to eat breakfast.
My idea breakfast which very rarely happens now would have to be a great selection of pastries, cheeses and a full English with beef sausage and turkey bacon, copious amounts of sweet coffee and a chocolate muffin to finish.
Belvita breakfast comes in a range of ten flavours and I was recently sent three of the newest ones to try, Choc Chip, Apricot and Hazelnut. Baby Gourmand helped me polish off the Choc Chip ones before any of the family had a chance to give them a try, I thought they were my favourite until I tried the Hazelnut which are just delicious and my new go to breakfast of choice.
Belvita biscuits are clinically proven to regularly and continuously release carbohydrates over four hours which help to keep you going. Each box of Belvita contains individually wrapped portions containing 3 biscuits meaning you can enjoy your breakfast on the go with your drink of choice.
So how can you eat Belvita breakfast biscuits and still get a balanced diet? To be honest eating the biscuits alone have to be better than eating nothing but to make it more nutritious you can add a portion of dairy, a portion of fruit and a drink to wash it all down.
* This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more at http://bit.ly/belVitaUK *