Chilli Actifry Style

Chilli (1)

When you think of Chilli, cooking it an actifry is probably not the first method of cooking that would come to mind, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out if I’m completely honest but it was delicious and actually tasted a little bit nicer than my usual stove top chilli.  I would assume that my version could be made in any sort of hot air fryer, you just have to be careful of timings, I gave my recipe to two friends to test because they both have an actifry, one friend found that hers took longer to cook and the other said she had to do her onions twice because they had burnt so use your own judgement ass you know your own machine better than I do.

To make this you will need:

500g minced beef
1 onion chopped
2  garlic cloves crushed
2 chilli peppers
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin mixed beans
1 tbsp of tomato puree
1 tsp Cumin & cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika & Chilli powder

Method:

Brown the onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon oil or some frylight and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Add the mince and cook for  a further 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, puree, chilli and spices and cook for 3-4 minutes

Add the mixed beans and season.

Add 400ml water and cook for 20-30min until nice and thick.

Serve with rice and chopped coriander for taste.

 

It’s as simple as that!  If you decide to make Chilli in your actifry please let me know how you get on.

 

 

Chilli_Rice



Moroccan Chicken Gourmand Style

This dish was created after a spice cupboard clear out, spices are fabulous but 9 times out of 10 after opening a jar it goes unused until expired and I realise I need it for a dish.  Don’t you wish that dried herbs and spices came in smaller jars?

I noticed that some of my herbs and spices were getting close to their best before date so figured I would throw them together and thus Moroccan Chicken Gourmand Style was born!

While I appreciate this was not cooked in the traditional Moroccan way and it was not served with any real Moroccan ingredients other than the spices, it tasted good and surely that’s all that counts!

This recipe will serve two people, just double the quantities if feeding more.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts (make 3 slits so the spices can infuse into the meat)
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Tumeric
2 Cardamon pods crushed
grating of Nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 peppers (Any colour)

Place the spices in a bowl with the oil and rub all over the chicken breasts, squeeze the lemon juice over and leave in the fridge for 4 hours for the flavours to infuse into the chicken.

placed the chicken breasts on a bed of chopped peppers in a Pyrex dish or suitable baking dish and cook for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

I served the Chicken and Peppers with a Lebanese style salad of chopped parsley, onion, tomato and cucumber and Sweet potato chips

The dish took 30 minutes including preparation time.



The Almanack Kenilworth

Kenilworth is the next town over from us, it’s not somewhere we visit often but it has some great restaurants  and I can now include The Almanck in my list of favourite eateries outside of Leamington Spa.

Almanack Kenilworth

If you’re a fan of gastro pubs that offer something for everyone and are also child friendly then The Almanack in Kenilworth is the sort of place for you.  We didn’t have children with us during our visit but some of the other diners did and they did not look out of place.

I love a restaurant where you can dress up or down and you won’t feel uncomfortable in occasion wear, straight from the office or in jeans.

Staff are incredibly friendly without being too overbearing and there is a fabulous open kitchen so you can see the chefs at work.  We had a great seat which was right in front of the kitchen so I could see all of the delicious dishes going past, in hindsight it might not have been the best choice of seating as it made my course choice all the harder as I wanted everything off the menu.

Almanack Bread

While we perused the menu (it took a long time) and sampled some of the red wine and real ale we enjoyed the warm mini loaf with roasted garlic butter (£3.00) which was incredibly delicious and I’d recommend ordering 2 if your dining partner wishes to share and orders something that you can’t eat.

Almanack Pork Scratchings

Mr Gourmands eyes lit up when he saw the pot of crackling and apple sauce (£2.75) on the menu, he would probably have also ordered the sausage roll with piccalilli (£2.75) too but I had to remind him that we were out for dinner and not just dining on snacks.

Almanack Croquettes

Deciding what starter to have is difficult when your usual go-to options are not on the menu, as you know if you’re a regular reader we are creatures of habit and if there is Chicken liver pate or prawn cocktail it’s a no brainer that we will order those.  It’s probably a good thing that the Almanack don’t sell either of those so we had to think outside the box when deciding what to eat.

Mr Gourmand rarely gets any pork based products at home and his crackling had given him a taste for something of the pork variety so it was obvious to me that he would go for the free-range ham & cheddar croquettes (£6.75) which were served with a tomato relish.

Mr Gourmand was suitably impressed with his choice, I on the other hand was not happy that I had to share a taste of my dish and got nothing back in return – you win some you lose some I guess.

Almanack Duck Salad

When it came to choosing my own starter I was faced with a conundrum, if I was going to have fish/seafood for my main course did I want to have it for my starter in the form of the Devon crab gratin (£8.75) or if I opted for the rack of lamb with minted peas (£21.50) for my main did I want a meaty starter? In the end I decided to try the free-range Duck and crunchy vegetable salad (£7.75) and boy was I glad I did.

The salad was delicious and everything worked so well together, there was crunch, sweetness, nutty flavours and super soft duck all mixed together – perfection.

Almanack Fishermans

Mr Gourmand really struggled to pick his main course but after a quick chat with our waitress decided to try the market fish mixed grill, which on this occasion consisted of huge prawns, fish, squid and mussels served with skinny fries and salad.  The dish was delicious and must have caught the eye of some other diners as we saw quite a few going to other tables after ours arrived.

Almanack scallops

Torn between two dishes I decided to order the Pan-fried monkfish and scallops (£18.50) which was served with bombay potatoes, Indian salad and mint yoghurt.

The scallops were huge, sweet and cooked to perfection, the bombay potatoes had just the right amount of spice and the nigella seeds on the salad really finished it off.

I’m always a little dubious when I eat Indian spiced food outside of an Indian restaurant but if I’m being completely honest I could have happily ordered this from my local Indian restaurant and I would have been very happy with the flavorings. (I tried to recreate this at home but the least said about that the better, stick to The Almanack).

Almanack tart

Mr Gourmand likes his sweet desserts and I can take or leave them, I don’t mind a bite or two but that’s usually all I can manage so we always share when it comes to dessert time.

The dessert menu at The Almanack was really good and there were more than a couple of things that I would have liked to order but we settled for warm treacle tart (£5.75) served with clotted cream.

Treacle tart is probably Mr Gourmand’s favourite dessert so I did have to be quick with my spoon.  The tart wasn’t heavy like some I’ve eaten before, it had a lightness to it, the pastry was thin and buttery and the filling didn’t taste like your teeth were about to drop out which sometimes can happen with this type of tart.

Almanack cheese

A cheese plate is always a winner with me and as they are usually quite large we went for the individual cheese plate (£7.75) where we could choose 3 of the 5 cheeses available which was served with apples, celery, chutney and crackers.

We picked the Camembert Gillot AOC which I’ve had before, it’s incredibly creamy and doesn’t give you that nasal ache from the strength (it can’t only be me who gets that?), the Double Barrel Poacher is another favourite of mine, it’s like a really, really strong cheddar and can give you a lip tingle (again surely it’s not just me who this happens to?) and finally we had the Tor which is a goats cheese and one that I’d never tried before, it was really light and fresh tasting and one that I would definitely try again.  I don’t usually eat chutney with my cheese as I like to savour the cheese flavour but this chutney was really yummy and nice to scoop up with the celery.

We don’t eat out in Kenilworth very often but this needs to change as gastro pubs like The Almanack really are worth driving to the next town for.

If you’re in Warwickshire or passing through and need a great place for food, The Almanack can be found at Abbey End North, Kenilworth, CV8 1QJ

*Meal was provided in return for an honest, impartial review


Plaited Milk Loaf

A milk loaf is one of those breads that is loved by every member of the Gourmand family, I love a fresh loaf of bread but I don’t always have the time to make it as Baby Gourmand is guaranteed to do something he shouldn’t while my back is turned in the kitchen.  I’ve recently taken to making this loaf rather than a typical loaf of bread as I can get Baby Gourmand to help me knead and plait it and he’s more than happy to wait while I do all of the boring bits like pour the ingredients into the bowl and stir the mixture if he knows he can participate.

Milk Loaf

To make this loaf you will need:

500g strong white bread flour
30g unsalted butter
25g caster sugar
320ml whole milk (warm)
7g sachet of instant yeast
1 tsp salt
Vegetable or coconut oil
1 egg and some extra milk for a egg wash before baking (If you have an allergy to egg just use milk)

I’m lazy and make my bread in a food mixer but you can quite easily make this by hand it just takes a little longer.

Place the butter and flour into the mixing bowl and mix until no large lumps remain. Add the salt to the left of the bowl, the sugar in the middle and the yeast to the right of the bowl. Add two thirds of the milk a little at a time, and mix on a low speed until a soft dough is formed.

Oil your work surface and knead the dough until it is soft, smooth, silky, and elastic. I tend to do it for a few minutes, let Baby Gourmand have a turn and then finish it myself. Place the dough into an oiled mixing bowl and cover loosely with cling film, leave it to rise for a couple of hours.

For some reason this dough is a champion riser, it’s almost magical going back into the kitchen to see how much the dough has grown and Baby Gourmand is always mesmerised by it. You are looking for the dough to have tripled in size.

Put the cling film covering the bowl to one side and knock back the dough as gently as possible and turn out on to an oiled work surface.  Divide the dough into three even portions, I usually let Baby Gourmand do this and as you can see by the photograph they are not even at all but he’s learning and I’m confident that one day his 3 sections will be perfect.

Squeeze your 3 pieces of dough together at one end and start folding the sides towards the centre to form your plait, again I let Baby Gourmand do this as his reward for being so

Place the plaited loaf on a lined baking tray, cover loosely again with the same oiled cling film as before, and set it aside to rise. Once the plait has at least doubled in size but not so large that it spills from the baking sheet brush gently all over with a little egg wash, and pop into an oven at 180 and bake it for 25 minutes until the crust is a dark brown colour and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Pin this recipe for later.

plaited milk loaf recipe

 

 



Yo! Sushi Leamington Spa

Sushi is a favourite of the Gourmands, even Baby Gourmand likes to get in on the action so when we were invited to try some of the new Tokyo menu items we jumped at the chance (literally).  To be perfectly honest you don’t have to love raw fish to enjoy Yo! Sushi which may surprise some people, there is so much more on offer and hopefully this post will make fish-o-phobes realise that there’s more to Yo! Sushi than sushi.

Yo Sushi Leamington Spa

The Leamington Spa branch is situated in Regents Court which is the perfect place to grab lunch or dinner and is one of my favourite places to eat as there is so much on offer.  The Leamington branch of Yo! Sushi isn’t huge so booking is probably a good idea if you have plans to visit.

Yo Sushi, Tokyo menu

The Hoisin duck rolls (£4.45) are filled to brim with duck and cucumber with a delicious spring onion, hoisin and orange sauce for dipping it’s new to the menu and both of my children would love these. (117 calories)

I must admit that I love some of the names on the new menu like the fish no chip roll (£4.45) which is basically Japanese seabass tempura, onion, cucumber and wasabi sauce filled rice, this was a particular favourite of mine because it’s incredibly simple but so tasty. (139 calories)

kimchi ika

Now the first two dishes were good but it wasn’t until I tasted the Kimchi Ika (£4.00) that the new menu really stood out for me.  I’ve tried to make Kimchi at home as it’s basically the same process as making sauerkraut but my version is pretty rubbish compared to this.  (71 calories)

Some of our other favourites included the Potato Salad (£2.00) which may seem like a bit of an odd dish but it does really need to be tasted to be appreciated (210 calories), the Dynamite Rolls (£4.00)  which are super hot but super delicious (168 calories), the Teriyaki salmon (£4.45 which is simple, sweet and tasty (222 calories) and the Chicken Chahan (£4.00) which is an incredibly tasty fried rice (411 calories)

The new menu is a great accompaniment to the range of dishes already produced by Yo! Sushi, the flavours are fresh and flavourful and there is something for everyone whether you’re a sushi lover or not.

Have you tried any of the new dishes yet? Which ones appeal to you?



Dining Al Fresco in Colder Weather

We all love to dine Al Fresco – However, living in the UK we always face the threat of a rainy day, anytime of year so it’s best to be prepared. There’s something inviting about going against the odds, especially when it comes to food and dining. Especially when you’ve already been cooped up inside for months, itching to get back outside and mix up your dining experience, away from the same old dining table experience.

So, why not take your delicious dinners to a setting close to home? Say, the garden? or in our case our balcony which is perfectly positioned between the lounge and kitchen so food can be passed through the kitchen window. Forget the temperatures and the looks of disdain from the family. It’s time to mix things up with Al Fresco dining, even during colder weather and extend that outdoor season, we all know and love.  We’re lucky that our balcony is protected from the elements by a roof but what do you do if you don’t have this luxury?

Dining al fresco in colder weather

Here’s some tips to getting it right…

Making your garden another room

The way to pull off dining outside, is to create the illusion that you’re not really outside – you’re just in another room of your house. Whilst giving a plan ‘B’ to jump back inside if the heavens do open!

Having the ability to open up your kitchen into your garden is an excellent tool for this, as it shows the two spaces as one large area and becomes a little more inviting come dinner time. This can be done with folding doors that give a direct and open route to your garden, joining the two spaces together.

Keeping everything on the same level

Depending on the structure of your home, having the option of walking out of your kitchen into your garden (without taking any steps up or down) helps aid the feeling of your outdoor space being another room of the house. If this is a viable option, then the use of decking can spruce up your garden and provide the perfect platform for a fancy dinner or something a little different for the children to enjoy.

It will also add value to your home should you be thinking of moving on, as the garden is usually the most neglected part of the home. And, unless your potential buyer likes a project, they will be slightly put off by a garden that is neglected and void of a use.

food on a plate

Winter warming recipes

The promise of good food will get most people to venture outside, even in colder climes but the food will need to be very comforting to make them stick it out for the long haul. BBC Good Food have compiles a list of top 20 winter recipes that are sure to entice your loved ones towards alfresco dining, here’s five to whet the appetite…

Other comforting winter recipes come from celebrity chef – and comfort food ambassador – Jamie Oliver. Sure to keep your family well-fed and nice and warm:-

Focus on keeping everything toasty

As well as scrumptious food, you’ll also need to set the scene for a dinner outside that won’t have you rushing back into the warmth. This is where you need to overdo it on the blankets, shawls and cushions to really hammer home the cosy vibes for your outdoor setting. Choosing warming colours such as burnt orange, red and browns will help to create the vision of heat.

When it comes to actual heat, you’ll need to make a decision on your outdoor heating that works with the space you have. A great item, that is prevalent in a glamping setting, is a chimenea. These can be bought for as little as £50 and take up very little space while offering the warmth you’re searching for and the added bonus of real flames.

Table top candles will also do the trick, along with a selection of warming drinks to warm the insides as well as the outside. Here’s a couple of drink recipes from The Guardian that are sure to warm the cockles…

  • Pure drinking chocolate
  • Mulled quince cider
  • Spiced hibiscus tea

vegan Barbeque alfresco dining

A cheeky…BBQ?

Again, we are back to food but it’s the focal point of getting the family on board with outside dining!

A BBQ off season is still a great idea, offering up the chance to use the BBQ outside of the usual strict June/July time slot each year and giving you the chance to show off your culinary skills to feed the brood. It’s also a great excuse for a no tech afternoon/night at home. Before your tasty grub is served, all mobiles and tablets need to be placed in the kitchen out of sight so that actual quality family time can be enjoyed without Facebook updates, Instagram browsing and loud phone calls with friends.

*Sponsored Post


Cote Brasserie Leamington Spa

Cote Brasserie is the newest addition to Regent Court which is becoming Leamington’s go to place when you want a catch up with friends, cocktails or a great family meal.  We’re great fans of French food so when we had the opportunity to spend a rare child free evening chatting over a glass or two of wine accompanied by some great food we decided to spend it at Cote Brasserie.

An evening at Cote Brasserie Leamington Spa

The interior reminds me of some of the lovely little restaurants I’ve visited in Paris, simple comfortable furniture, traditional décor featuring lots of wood and mirrors, low lighting and beautiful glazed tiles.  Even though this is a chain you quickly forget this as soon as you step through the door.

Some little touches really stood out for us during our visit, for me I liked having two hooks on the back of the toilet door so you could hang a jacket or cardigan and your handbag, the toilets were spacious with good lighting which is always needed when you have a restaurant that can take a lot of covers.

The tables were spaced very well, you know they can be moved together if you’re with a large party but they are far enough apart so you’re not imposing on anyone.  If you’re celebrating a special occasion there are some lovely little booths for a more intimate dining experience.

One thing that stood out for both of us was that Cote Brasserie had one member of staff who carried the food from the kitchen to the waiting staff, placed the food down then walked away leaving the front of house member of staff to go through the dish and answer any questions.  Both Mr Gourmand and I have worked in restaurants before and we know how difficult it can be to be out front and in the kitchen, you don’t want food standing but you don’t want customers to be waiting on tables for dishes to be moved so having this member of staff who acts as a go-between is a genius idea.

The interior of Cote Brasserie Leamington Spa

The restaurant had a great atmosphere and even though it was a Monday night when we visited which is usually a quiet night there were families, work colleagues, friends and couples all enjoying a meal in this vibrant eatery.

Kir Royal at Cote Brasserie

We were given a complementary glass of Kir Royal £4.95 to drink while we perused the menu which of late has become a task taking well over 15 minutes as I’ve become incredibly indecisive when faced with a menu which has several dishes I would like to eat.

Mixed olives at Cote Brasserie

As I had ordered duck for my main course I decided to have a glass of Cotes Du Rhone £5.75 and Mr Gourmand went for the Sauvignon Blanc £5.45 to accompany his fish.  While we waited for our starters to arrive we tucked in to some of the mixed olives marinated in garlic, olive oil and herbs £2.50 which were incredibly delicious and highly recommended.  The green olives had a mild garlicky flavour to them and the black olives had the most incredible woody/earthy flavour that I’ve never tasted before.

Chicken liver parfait at Cote Brasserie

It’s probably no surprise to regular readers that my choice of starter was the Chicken liver parfait £5.95 which was served with toasted brioche and spiced apple chutney.

Chicken Liver Parfait at Cote Brasserie

I say this all the time but there is nothing worse than ordering a pate or parfait and finding you have run out of bread/toast/crackers before you have finished.  There was a really good sized portion of parfait in the glass jar and thankfully there was the perfect amount of brioche to go with it.  Having said that I would have been more than happy with the pot of parfait and a spoon on this occasion, it was so incredibly delicious that I wasn’t really happy about offering a taste to Mr Gourmand.

Mr Gourmand didn’t surprise me with his choice of starter, torn between the Boudin Noir £6.50 and the Prawn Gratinee £7.50 the Boudin Noir prevailed.

Boudin Noir at cote brasserie

Sautéed French black pudding served with caramelised apples, a frisee salad and topped with a poached egg, this was food heaven for Mr Gourmand.

Both starters were incredibly good value for money unlike some restaurants where they believe less is more (it isn’t).

Roast Duck breast with gratin potato and griotinne cherry sauce

I very rarely order duck from a menu but while we were chatting we were talking about this blog in it’s current form and I spoke about one of the first dishes I ever published which was Duck in a port and cherry sauce I remembered that it had been a long time since I’ve had duck cooked really well and couldn’t resist the opportunity to order it.

My Roast Duck breast £14.50 was served pink and accompanied by gratin potato which is one of my all time favourite ways to serve potato.  The cherry sauce worked incredibly well with the duck which was cooked to perfection.

Roast seabass with braised fennel and a champagne beurre blanc

Whenever there is fish on the menu there is an 85% chance that Mr Gourmand will order it so you can imagine my surprise when he mentioned that he quite fancied a salad. Say what? A salad? You have all of these delicious meals on the menu and you want to order a salad? Not that there is anything wrong with salad and I’m sure the salad that Cote Brasserie serves is delicious but we have salad at home 3-4 nights a week.

Thankfully Mr Gourmand saw the error of his ways and decided to order the Roast Seabass £13.95 which was served with braised fennel and a champagne beurre blanc.  Mr Gourmand isn’t the biggest fan of fennel as it’s flavour is usually very overpowering but on this occasion the flavour was just right, not too strong and went incredibly well with the fish.

Cheese board at Cote Brasserie

I’m a savoury girl and to be honest would much rather have another starter at dessert time which is a bit odd I know but that’s just how my taste buds work.  Don’t get me wrong I do like sweet puddings but I prefer to eat them hours after a main course or just have a mouthful of someone else’s dish.  After explaining to the staff about my blue cheese allergy I was presented with the most delicious looking cheese board £6.50 which was served with French bread, grapes, Reblochon and Comte cheese.  Like the starter I would have been happy to sit with a plate of Reblochon and a knife and I would have been in my element, it’s one of my favourite cheeses, so mild, creamy and nutty – Delicious.

Creme Caramel at Cote Brasserie

There was only one contender on the menu for Mr Gourmand, Crème Caramel £5.50 is his favourite and it wasn’t surprising to see that it was also the Cote Brasserie speciality dessert.  I did have a little spoonful and the dessert was spectacular, no guesses that it didn’t last long on the plate!

Pear Digestif cote brasserie

Mr Gourmand and I have been on a bit of a health kick since December and we have changed the way we eat alongside incorporating fitness into our lifestyle so we can lose weight, eating rich food like this can make you feel incredibly full very quickly so when the Manager of the restaurant Joe offered us a complementary pear digestif it was most welcomed.

Madame Gourmand

I think this picture says it all about our visit! Mouth-watering delicious.

If you’re thinking of paying the Leamington Spa branch of Cote Brasserie a visit you can find them at 3 Regent Court, Livery Street, Leamington Spa, CV32 4NG.

*Meal and drinks were complementary


Olive And Walnut Bread

We love bread in all of its forms but artisan bread that is cooked without a tin is one of our favourites.  This olive and walnut bread was made to go with a mixed tomato and mozzarella salad and boy was it good.  I’m not great at writing down my recipes as my best dishes usually come from throwing in a little bit of this and a little bit of that so you may need to slightly adjust the measurements to get something that works for you.

Olive and Walnut Bread

To make the olive and walnut bread you will need:

400g Very strong wholemeal bread flour
250g Strong white bread flour
2tbsp light muscovado sugar
100g Walnuts chopped and toasted
100 mixed olives chopped
1½tsp Salt
1 yeast sachet
3tbsp Olive oil
450ml Warm water

Method:

I used a kitchen aid mixer with dough attachment to make this bread but you could also do it by hand if you don’t have a mixer. Combine the flour, salt, rosemary and yeast in the mixing bowl.  Add the water and oil, mix on low speed until a rough dough forms. Cover with cling film and let it rest for 10 minutes.

After the dough has rested, add the chopped olives and continue to mix until it is smooth.

Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and place on a floured surface, flatten it out with your hands, and sprinkle it with the walnuts. Knead by hand until all of the walnuts are incorporated.

Rub a clean mixing bowl with olive oil, place your bread dough in, and cover with cling film until it has doubled in size.

After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into two equal portions. Knead each portion and form into loaves.  Place your dough balls onto an oiled baking sheet.

Allow the loaves to rise for about 1 hour; preheat the oven to 180°c.

Slash the loaves 3-4 times with a knife before putting them in the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until well-browned and hollow sounding when you knock on the bottom. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes on a wire rack before slicing.

Let me know if you decide to try this recipe.

 



Five Ways to Make Your Kitchen the Social Hub of Your Home

When the kids get older, it can be hard to keep a sense of family in your home – especially with conflicting schedules and teenage angst. I find that being a parent of both a toddler and a teenager means that life really does get in the way of you spending quality time with the ones you love even though you live in the same house. But bringing the clan together could be easier than you think…

Here are five ways to use the busiest area in the home – the kitchen – to get the family socialising together, spending some quality time.

Curry with Tilda Rice

Food, glorious food

There could be no better place to start than with food; the true focal point of the kitchen. The promise of a big, family meal is the best catalyst for getting everyone in one room. There’s also something very satisfying about everyone eating the same meal, taken from big sharing bowls in the centre of the table.

When looking for some simple meal ideas that could provide to be tasty as well as worthy of a gathering, you can find inspiration from Jamie Oliver – including a yummy veggie chilli recipe – and a great selection from Netmums that keep to a strict budget. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a family meal together, and cooking in batch can provide a selection of meals for the next week or longer if you freeze.

Cosy vs open plan

If your home has a garden or yard off the kitchen, you have the option of creating a transitioning space. Bifold doors offer the option of keeping your kitchen as a cosy haven filled with warming foods – especially good in winter – or you can open up the doors to create an open plan space where your garden and kitchen become one large area. Wrap up warm and you could have a BBQ for the family or even enjoy a small fireworks display, with enough room for extended family and friends to join in on the fun.

The ability to change up your living space is a great way to ensure that kitchen is the go-to place for the family congregating.  We have a balcony off our lounge that backs on to the kitchen window which means that in the warmer weather we can just pass dishes through the window and enjoy some alfresco dining.

breakfast

Making the most of breakfast

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not make this the consistent, steady meeting time for your brood? With so many after school/work activities going on throughout the year, having a family breakfast could be the easiest option for quality family time.

Going all out with pancakes or a full English could be a little ambitious, but simply having your dining table packed full of cereals, toast and jams will be enough to entice them out of their beds and into your kitchen to fuel for the morning ahead.

And remember, time is your friend so try to prepare as much as possible in advance, especially if you fancy mixing things up a bit. This article from Buzzfeed is great for some time-saving ideas and unusual breakfast ideas.

philadelphia whipped

Gatherings to remember

It may seem as though this article is attempting to get you to bribe your children with food and fun to spend time with you, but these ideas are merely a starting point to getting everyone in one room communicating and enjoying themselves.

The fourth tip is to have regular gatherings that establish your home and your kitchen as a place to socialise and relax. You can mix it up with tea parties, garden parties, themed food nights – Mexican, French, Italian etc – or even drinks and nibbles for a cheap Saturday night in. Another great idea is to have a small buffet that leads to the main event: the dessert station. The idea of ‘make your own’ is so appealing to children and adults alike, and can be as simple as offering three or so desserts with a selection of accompaniments and toppings. A little glutinous, but definitely a crowd pleaser!

Mini Gourmand Tiramisu

Whipping up a storm

Even though we’re back to food (it is the best use of a kitchen after all), cooking, baking or learning the ropes is a great excuse to get the family together. Teach the little ones how to make cakes, or work with the older children to try out brand new recipes that excite the whole family. An afternoon in the kitchen together will provide an opportunity to make lasting memories, whether they be of burnt cupcakes or casserole triumphs!

This activity will also provide your children with the cooking skills that everyone should have when they leave home and begin feeding themselves. A few key recipes can be the difference between healthy eating and a constant dependency on the local takeaway…

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The Ultimate Grill Night At The Star and Garter

I love steak and for me there is nothing better than an Aubrey Allen steak, I’ve waxed lyrical about my love for Aubrey Allen butchers time and time again to the point that my parents who live in Newcastle upon Tyne stock up on their meat when they come to visit me so you can imagine my delight when I heard that the Star & Garter pub in Leamington Spa were going to hold a grill night every Thursday evening.

Grill Night

I went to the opening night with my friend Ms Teacher as Mr Gourmand was babysitting Mini and Baby Gourmand. I hadn’t seen Ms Teacher since last Summer so was looking forward to a catch up alongside some delicious food.

The Star & Garter has had a refurbishment since my last visit and although I liked the décor before it really is a lot more stylish and has a cosier, informal feel to it.

I briefly met Colin Barber who is the manager at the Star & Garter and it was apparent that he is a super friendly and welcoming man which is exactly what you want when you walk into a pub, there is nothing worse than feeling out of place and thankfully the vibe at the Star & Garter couldn’t have been more friendly.

Russell Allen

Russell Allen is a bit of an expert when it comes to butchery, after all Aubrey Allen are butchers to the Queen.  Learning about the different cuts of meat was incredibly interesting and just made our decision about which cut to have all the more harder.

After a lot of deliberating we finally made our steak choices.  I went for the 28 day dry-aged 10oz Onglet steak and Ms Teacher decided to try the 28 day dry-aged 8oz Spider steaks which was a steak neither of us were familiar with.  First things first though, we wanted to try the starters.

Dorset Smoked Duck Salad

Ms Teacher ordered the Dorset smoked duck, orange and almond salad (£7.50) which tasted like nothing we had ever tasted before.  The duck had the most beautiful flavour and it’s something I would definitely order on my next visit.

potted crab and prawns

A creature of habit, I went for the Potted crab & prawns with toasted sourdough (£6.75) which tasted just as delicious as it looks.  It’s always nice to get a decent chuck of bread when you order a dish like this and it didn’t disappoint.  The rocket added a lovely peppery kick to the dish and I was pleased that Ms Teacher had more table manners than Mr Gourmand and only took a small taste rather than half my dish!

Neither myself or Ms Teacher were expecting our steaks to look quite so delicious.  It was one of those moments when you have ultimate envy at the other persons dish even though your own looks amazing in its own right.

Spider Steak

Ms Teacher ordered sweet potato fries and blue cheese sauce on the side of her spider steaks.  She had only expected one of the steaks we were shown and was pleasantly surprised with the sheer amount of meat on her plate.  As steak goes this was delicious, so tender and flavourful and I was told that the blue cheese sauce was one of the nicest she has had.

Star and garter steak

Greed took over when I ordered my sides and I went for triple cooked chips, they don’t call me a gourmand for nothing!  Peppercorn sauce was my accompaniment and I always take a bit of a risk when I order this as I’m always looking for the perfect peppercorn sauce, believe me so many places get it so wrong.  Not on this occasion thankfully.

star and garter steak

There is so much I could say about the steak, I’m not actually going to though because the pictures really do speak for themselves.

onion rings

We ordered a side of beer battered onion rings (£3.50) as I have a bit of a thing for onion rings, we really didn’t need these as we had so much delicious food to munch through and I’m blaming these rings of deliciousness for the fact I couldn’t manage a dessert.

I do want to mention the desserts even though I didn’t actually eat one.  There is an incredible selection of cheese for the cheese board which contains two of my favourites baked golden Cenarth and Brie de Nangis.

When I go out for dinner at a pub or restaurant I look for a couple of things, these things are what makes me want to go back time and time again.  My first request is that the food is fresh and home cooked, the second is that the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming and the third is that the establishment is family friendly.  The Star & Garter ticked all three of my boxes and I can’t wait until my next visit.

If you happen to be in the Leamington Spa area and are looking for a friendly pub that serves delicious home cooked food I really do recommend Grill Night at the Star & Garter which can be found at 4-6 Warwick Street, Leamington Spa, CV32 5LL.

*Meal was provided in return for an honest, impartial review