Christmas Gifts For Foodies

With only a few weeks left until Christmas you will probably have started to think about what to buy friends/family/secret santa recipients.  I’ve got a great range of gift guides for you this year including gifts for herhimstocking fillers and this one which is for foodies.

foodies gift guide

Some of the items in this gift guide will have their own review which will be linked within the post.


Opies Products  -From £1.40

From cocktails to cheeseboards, there is an opies product for everyone use them as stocking filler or make a hamper.  Why not create a cocktail stocking/hamper and pop a jar of cocktail cherries in or you could do an ice-cream sundae stocking/hamper with wafers, voucher for ice-cream, bowl and some Opies black cherries or what about a cheeseboard stocking/hamper with a jar of Opies pickled walnuts, crackers, cheese knife and some strong cheddar.

Pickerings gin bauble

Pickerings Gin Baubles – £30

What better gift than gin-filled Christmas decorations. Each pack contains 6 different coloured plastic baubles filled with 5cl of Pickering’s Gin. You can give the box to one person or split between 6 stockings (or just buy them to keep for yourself).

Metcalfe's popcorn

Metcalfe’s Popcorn – From £1.49

Fill a stocking or hamper with a DVD and a couple of bags of Metcalfe’s skinny popcorn (The salted caramel one is delicious) and you have the perfect gift for someone this Christmas.

Milk and more gifts

Milk & More gifts – From £2.99

Who doesn’t like to get something to eat as a gift at Christmas? These beautifully packaged items would be welcomed by anyone and I personally can’t wait to get stuck into the Rhubarb and Custard boiled sweets this Christmas.

Glen Scotia Whisky

Glen Scotia Whisky – £19.99

You can buy this set of three 5cl tasters of the distillery’s finest whisky, The Double Cask (46%) , 15 Year Old (46%) and Victoriana (51.5%) – I’ll have the Victoriana please, it’s deliciously musky with hints of vanilla – perfect.

Chocolate Sprouts

Chocolate Sprouts – £9.99

Handmade from solid white chocolate, These sprout chocolates look exactly like the real vegetable and will make a great gift this Christmas although your recipient may be a little shocked at first as these are so lifelike.

Chilli advent

Chilli Advent Calendar – £35.00

Now although this is called an advent calendar it’s so much more than that.   24 chilli’s to ll take you on a world tour of heat with the smoky Mexican chipotle, fiery Indian bhut jolokhia, and sweet prik chee fah from Thailand – without even leaving your kitchen. You’ll experience a range of heat levels. From mild to lip-tingling, right through to volcanic, each day brings a new experience making this the perfect gift for chilli lovers.  There are recipes such as fish tacos, salsa, Rogan Josh, truffles and mince pies to make your festive period a chilli taste sensation.

Apples and Pear mug

Apples & Pears Mug – £9.50

This beautiful apples and pears design china mug would make the perfect gift for any retro lovers, pop it in a hamper with some good quality tea or coffee and biscuits and put a smile on the recipients face.

Coffee pot print

Coffee Pot Art Print – £10.00

This two-colour risograph print of a French enamel coffee pot will make a wonderful gift for anyone this Christmas.  Louise’s prints vary from print to print, making each one unique in texture and depth of colour.Limited edition of 50, signed and numbered


Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé mini champagne – £12

A perfect addition to a hamper or perfect popped in a stocking, these 20cl bottles of champagne will put a smile on the face of the recipient.  Of course you may find that the bottles are too perfect to gift and you could end up keeping them for yourself and that’s totally fine too.

Ultimate Christmas pudding

Team Tilda Christmas Puddings (Available from Andrew Davies bakery)

These puddings are made each Christmas to raise funds for Fight for Sight in the hope that more research can be made into corneal dystrophy.  Matilda is local 8 year old who has a corneal dystrophy and we support this charity each year by buying our puddings for Christmas.

Sourdough crackers

Peters Yard Crispbread – £6.95

This Sourdough crispbread Selection Box which contains 3 different flavours (Spelt & Poppy Seed, Charcoal & Rye and Original) and shapes of small sized crispbread in individually wrapped trays will complement the perfect cheeseboard.

Stag cheese biscuits

Stag bakeries

If you’re looking for something a bit different for a cheeseboard or to buy as a gift I can recommend the stag rich, crumbly, fruity cake which is delicious with a strong cheddar or brie and is a great alternative to biscuits with cheese. The seaweed water biscuits are so tasty and go so well with a nice ripe piece of brie.  If crackers and cake are not your thing please do give the cheese straws with Ayrshire bonnet a try, they are probably one of the most amazing things I have tasted!


Borgo Molino Prosecco – £9.99

Available to purchase from the co-op, this prosecco will get your Christmas party started with a bang.  You can purchase a bottle on it’s own or as part of a premium pack with either a 20cl or 75cl bottle and some rich truffles.

Belmio coffee

Belmio coffee pods – £16.50 (50 pods)

Luxury coffee brand Belmio combines intensely rich flavours with pod-ready convenience, bringing you Belgian coffee at its best at the push of a Nespresso-shaped button.  I’ve tried pods before in my machine and wasn’t sure if these would live up to my usual brand but I’ve been won over completely.  The Intenso and Allegro are my favourites, the pods look really luxurious and taste incredible.

Cheese and wine basket image

Prestige hampers Cheese and Wine basket– £29.99

Cheese doesn’t last long in my home that’s for sure but if you’re not a glutton like me you will be pleased to know that the items in my basket had really good shelf lives and the cheese best before date wasn’t until January and February 2018.  I’m not a huge fan of oatcakes I’ll be completely honest but I found that when topped with the cheese and chutney the Walkers ones were not as dry as oatcakes I’ve had in the past. You can read my review of the Hamper here.

*all products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. 

Bistrot Pierre – Leamington Spa

Leamington Spa is such a great place for eating out, with a wide range of countries to choose from you’re spoilt for choice. We tend to eat out a lot for Breakfast and Lunch which means when we do go out for dinner it’s nice to go somewhere special where the food is great and good value for money.

France is one of our most favourite places to visit, not just for the skiing but also for the food, Moules Marinieres, Cassoulet and pissaladiere are some of my favourites.  I find french food so flavourful and layered making you want to savour every bite.  Bistrot Pierre is surprisingly one of our favourite places to visit for breakfast and the one place that Baby Gourmand asks to go to when we pop into town as the scrambled eggs and pancakes are incredible.

bistrot pierre

If you’re eating at Bistrot Pierre on an evening, there are a wide range of menus to choose from and on this particular visit we ate from the Fin de Weekend which runs Sunday – Monday evening and offers two courses and a carafe of wine for £21.50 each.

olives and bread bistros pierre

Starting with the Olives marinées (£2.95) we perused the menu which had some delicious offerings like Crispy Squid, Ricotta and Truffle ravioli, 21 day aged rump steak and french style pizza.

French bread with good butter is always a winner in my book and there is no better way to start a meal.  I’ve always loved the bread at Bistrot Pierre, it’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, what more could you ask for?

Chicken liver parfait

A creature of habit, I started with the Parfait au foie de volaille which was the Chicken liver parfait with sourdough toast and red onion confiture.  It was a big old chunk of parfait with deliciously warm toast. The red onion confiture was a great accompaniment to the parfait which was light in texture and incredibly rich in flavour.

mackerel pate

Mr Gourmand was torn between the starters but made a good choice in the Pâté au maquereau which was the Smoked, sustainable mackerel pâté with crème fraîche, lemon and paprika.  Again this was a very generous portion and delicious in taste.  There is no skimping on portion sizes at Bistrot Pierre and although very light in texture the pate was incredibly filling.

Poulet chasseur

The Poulet chasseur, Pan-fried chicken breast in a classic chasseur sauce of red wine, mushroom and concassé tomato was my choice of main course.  There were several different mushrooms in the sauce which added great texture to the dish.  The chicken was seasoned to perfection and was so moist and juicy inside.

Boeuf bourguignon

Mr Gourmand went for a classic Boeuf bourguignon, Slow-braised beef with shallots, red wine, mushrooms and bacon.  It’s difficult to tell from the picture but the piece of beef was huge and just melted in the mouth, perfection on a plate is how this was described by Mr Gourmand.

The mains were served with roasted potatoes, parsnips, buttered carrots and broccoli which would have been more than enough but we saw that there was creamed spinach (£3.25) on the menu and couldn’t resist ordering.  There is more than enough in the accompanying side dishes so you really don’t need to order extras unless you’re greedy like us.

Creamed spinach

Creamed spinach is such an amazing dish and I could have quite easily ate a bowl of this as my meal and left happy.  Velvety smooth, creamy with so much flavour – this was the winner of the evening.

The meals were so delicious and filling that there was no room left for dessert, if you do have a sweet tooth there are some lovely offerings such as Lemon tart, chocolate brownie, ice-cream and Creme Brûlée.

The restaurant is the perfect place for an intimate meal or a relaxed get together with friends, it’s spacious and since the recent refurb the upstairs is really light and airy.

You can find Bistrot Pierre Leamington Spa at 28 Park Street, Leamington Spa, CV32 4QN.

The End of the Traditional Dinner

I consider myself to be adventurous in the kitchen, I enjoy experimenting with tastes and textures but I don’t always have time and that’s when I cook traditional meals, things that my mother and my grandparents cooked.

Today I read a piece that said “Lancashire hot pot, kedgeree and liver and bacon – are among a list of British meals which could soon be consigned to the history books” really? Am I the only one who still loves to make steak and kidney pudding? Kedgeree is a dish that both my children adore and Mr Gourmand is a huge fan of Gammon and pineapple (although he also likes a fried egg with his).  Could this really be the end of the traditional dinner?

Traditional Dinner

Researchers have discovered that a staggering 91 percent of the nation now claim to prefer “world food” to traditional British meals, with a further 73 percent saying the days of us sitting down to a dinner of meat and two veg are pretty much over.  I feel quite old fashioned reading this because sometimes I want nothing more than lamb chops, carrots, cabbage and potato which is something that my grandparents ate every Wednesday.  I don’t always fancy curry, pasta, chilli or Chinese food, sometimes I need something comforting that envokes childhood memories like corned beef hotpot.

According to research by Deliveroo, many much loved favourites could soon be consigned to the history books, with 70 percent of modern Brits having never tasted traditional British dish Devilled Kidneys (lamb kidneys cooked in Worcester sauce and mustard butter) now I have to admit here that I’ve never eaten a devilled kidney and I’m not sure I want to but to read that 36 percent have never sampled a steak and kidney pudding has shocked me.  For me a suet pudding is the ultimate in comfort food.  I don’t even need anything to accompany it just lashings of gravy and i’m in heaven.  This has got me wondering if people no longer buy pudding basins?

Almost two in ten modern Brits have never eaten Shepherd’s Pie, a quarter (24 percent) have not tasted a fish pie and 65 percent are unfamiliar with the classic smoked haddock, rice and egg dish, Kedgeree.  This I find unfathomable.  Shepherd’s pie and fish pie are dishes that you find in the ready meal section of Marks and Spencer and most pubs offer these as a standard choice so how have so few tasted them?


1. Devilled kidneys (70 percent OF Brits have never tried it)
2. Kedgeree (65 percent)
3. Potted shrimps (59 percent)
4. Suet pudding (55 percent)
5. Liver and bacon (54 percent)
6. Faggots (53 percent)
7. Steak and kidney pudding (36 percent)
8. Lancashire hot pot (34 percent)
9. Bubble and Squeak (34 percent)
10. Gammon and pineapple (29 percent)
11. Fish pie (24 percent)
12. Toad in the Hole (23 percent)
13. Ham, egg and chips (21 percent)
14. Mince and potatoes (19 percent)
15. Shepherd’s Pie (15 percent)

The research was conducted by Deliveroo to mark their Taste Tour campaign where people can win the chance to visit the city that inspired their favourite dish.
A spokesperson commented on the research:

“Deliveroo customers love foods from across the world and that’s why we’ve launched our Taste Tours campaign, so they can enjoy their favourite meal in the place it came from.  To win a holiday to food capital of the world customers just need to click the ‘Win A Taste Tours’ button and order from one of the participating restaurants”

* Deliveroo now offers customers the choice of 80 (81 if counting alcohol) different cuisine types, so there is something for everyone on the app.

For the next 8 weeks customers will just need to click the ‘WIN A TASTE TOUR’ button and order from a participating restaurant to be in for a chance to win a holiday to the home of their favourite Deliveroo dish. Customers just need to order a specific country’s cuisine and Deliveroo might transport them to that country.

Out of the 15 listed above how many have you never tasted? for me it’s 2 the Devilled Kidneys and the Faggots.  8 of the 15 are regular dishes on our dining table.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to promote this, I was just shocked at the results and wanted to share the findings

Greek Style Moussaka

Finding healthy recipes that your children will love is a really tricky thing to get right, I’m lucky that both of my children will try new flavours and dishes but there are still times when I have to improvise and disguise certain vegetables like Aubergine.

One of the healthiest, tastiest and most versatile ingredients that meat eaters can buy is lean red meat and experts actually recommend including it in children’s diets from weaning onwards.  Red meat provides a range of important nutrients that can be low in toddlers and children such as iron, zinc, B vitamins, selenium and potassium.


I was challenged to create a delicious recipe using beef, pork or lamb in the #HealthyRedMeat challenge sponsored by the Meat Advisory panel.  My brief was to bring a little variety and inspire some enticing ways to include red meat into my family diet.  As I don’t eat Pork that left me two choices, Beef or Lamb – a quick trip to the supermarket had me inspired to go Greek (or Greek style) with a tasty and nutritious Moussaka.

I must be honest and say that midweek we don’t eat a great deal of red meat, as I work full time I usually look for quick meals I can make using Fish or Chicken and as red meat often gets a lot of bad press we try to limit ourselves.  Dr Emma Derbyshire, a public health nutritionist and mother says: “Including a small portion of red meat in the diet a few times a week after weaning can help to bridge nutrient gaps and so help to maintain good health through childhood and beyond.”

Moussaka ingredients

To make my Greek Style Moussaka (I’m calling it this as i’m not sure how authentic my version is) you will need:

2 Aubergines (chopped into bite sized chunks)
2 jars of crushed tomato (tinned tomato would work well)
40g cheddar cheese (grated)
2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 Onion (finely chopped)
1 lamb stock cube ((Vegetable would work well)dissolved in 100ml of water)
1 bay leaf (dried)
1.5 tbsp Oregano (dried)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp sugar
10g Fresh Parsley (chop the stalks and leaves seperately)
400g Potato (sliced into discs)
400g minced lamb
60g Butter (unsalted)
60g flour (plain)
700ml Milk (Semi Skimmed)
Olive oil (vegetable or rapeseed works well)
Salt & Pepper to taste


Preheat your oven to 180 and get out an oven proof dish, 1 pan for potatoes, 1 pan for the meat sauce and one pan for the Cheese sauce.

Add your potato slices to a large pan of water and cook until they are almost tender, once cooked you can drain them and leave them to one side.

Heat a large pan with a drizzle of oil over a medium heat and add your onion and aubergine, cook until the onion starts to soften but not brown.

Moussaka cooking

Add the crushed garlic, lamb mince and cinnamon and cook until the lamb mince is browned.

Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, oregano, sugar and season with salt & pepper.  Cook until the lamb ragu has turned into a thick sauce.


Remove the ragu from the heat and add the parsley stalks, leave to one side while you make your cheese sauce.

Melt the butter in your final pan over a medium heat, add 60g plain flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a paste forms (this is called a roux).  Whisk the milk in a little at a time and cook until it has turned into a smooth thick sauce.

Add the grated cheese to the white sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Sliced potato

Now it’s time to layer up your Moussaka, start by placing a layer of potatoes in your oven proof dish, top with a spoonfull of the lamb ragu and repeat this process until you have layered all of the potatoes and ragu.

Moussaka layering

Top the dish with the cheese sauce and cook for around 20 minutes until bubbling and golden on the top.  Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes so that the flavours can develop and top with the chopped parsley leaves.

Moussaka finished

Baby Gourmand is a huge fan of lasagna but not so keen on aubergine so I told him it was a new type of lasagna that used potatoes instead of pasta.  Apparently it was the most delicious thing he had eaten and he asked for it again the next evening! Result.

Mini Gourmand is another aubergine hater (what is wrong with my children?) and again I decided not to inform her that the purple vegetable was hidden in my ragu. Guess what? She devoured the dish and said that I needed to make it again.

It will come as no surprise to you that Mr Gourmand had cleared his plate in record speed and was in the kitchen helping himself to more before I’d even had time to take my first mouthful.  It’s been a long time since I attempted to make a Moussaka, my previous attempts were very complicated and had more of an egg custard style topping (found on the Guardian website) this recipe although very simple really did seem to work well.

This post is an entry for the BritMums #HealthyRedMeat, sponsored by the Meat Advisory Panel.

Kitchen Must Have Gadgets

There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh bread in the morning but not everyone has time these days for kneading and proving, myself included. I love kitchen gadgets and if you asked me 10 years ago what my number one kitchen gadget was I would have answered “a bread maker“.

I last saw my bread maker 5 years ago when we moved from Newcastle to Warwickshire, I had always planned to replace it as soon as we moved but just never got round to it.  I now don’t have a choice but to get my hands dirty when I want the kitchen to fill with the smell of baked bread which isn’t as often as I would like.

I’ve baked a number of loafs of bread by hand over the past few years, my Olive and Walnut bread was probably my favourite, crispy on the outside and soft, fluffy and flavoursome on the inside – but it took a long time from start to finish so I’ve never made it again.


The Herby Garlic bread I made back in 2015 was a huge hit with my family, I can still remember how delicious it tasted when still warm from the oven and slathered in slated butter.  I’ve never made it since though as it was just too time consuming and my time is limited.

Herby garlic bread

There is a pattern here when it comes to making bread.  Both myself and my family love fresh bread but as I’m the one doing the cooking and I’m the one with the most limited time, it just doesn’t happen very often.

I must admit that recently I’ve been thinking about purchasing a bread maker and the one that I have my eye on is a fully automated Panasonic Bread Maker that not only bakes a standard loaf but also has settings for artisan and rustic breads and scones.  One function that’s really important to me is being able to create Pizza dough.  As a family we love homemade pizza so having a machine that can prepare the dough for me is a huge selling point.  The jam function isn’t a major “need” for me but it’s something that I would find incredibly useful especially in the months when the brambles are over producing and friends provide us with their excess rhubarb from their allotment.

Bread maker

The model I’m currently looking at is the Panasonic Automatic Bread Maker SD-2511K which retails at £149.99 and appears to offer all of the functions that I require from a bread maker.  I’d love to hear from you if you own this model.

Whilst researching bread makers I did discover that some models offer gluten free bread, pasta and cake modes which is something I’ve never seen before and it shows just how far kitchen gadgets have come on over the years, I know these machines will appeal to a lot of my friends who struggle with gluten.

Do you own a bread maker? What’s your favourite machine recipe?

*collaborative post

Basement Browns – Leamington Spa

Hands up if you love pizza

Here in the Gourmand household Pizza is a must, we love it. We even have our own President of the Pizza fan club.

Basement Browns

If you live in / visit / drive through Warwickshire and you don’t take a trip to Basement Browns you need to sort your life out. Seriously.

Basement Browns

The first time we ate here it reminded us of ordering pizza in America where you can’t eat it alone, it must be shared.  It might surprise you to hear that when it comes to pizza we are NOT creatures of habit. Sometimes we like to keep it simple, sometimes we like meat and sometimes we like to mix it up with a half and half and thankfully Basement Browns is always happy to oblige.

Basement Browns Pizza

The youngest member of the Gourmand Household usually manages one slice before his disco feet start moving and he feels the need to leave his seat for a dance (true story) which is music to mine and Mr Gourmands ears because we get the rest for ourselves.

Basement Browns pizza

Now I won’t like, i do like a sprinkling of herbs on my slices and Mr Gourmand likes a sprinkle of chilli flakes on his, it adds to the flavour you see. Whatever your tastes it’s probably worth me mentioning the price at this point. £12 will get you a Margherita in the size shown above and flavoured pizza such as pulled chicken, pepperoni, chargrilled vegetables will cost you between £14 – £16.  Toppings such as olives, peppers, onions, sweetcorn and mushrooms are free and you can add any of them to the pizza when you order. Bargain right?

Basement Browns Pizza

One of my favourite things has got to be the garlic bread. Oh my it’s so good. Soft, buttery, garlic laced – I hate sharing it!

Nutella Pizza

Now you’re probably wondering where the desserts are? Wonder no more as I present to you Sweet Nutella Pizza, £3.50 will get you the delight you can see above and believe me it’s worth every penny.

Basement Browns Takeaway

Stuck in the house and craving Basement Browns? No need to panic, they also do takeaway via Deliveroo so you never need to go without again!

If you fancy good pizza, a beer or glass of wine and really chilled surroundings make your way to Basement Browns 77-79 Warwick Street, Leamington Spa.

* I wasn’t paid to or asked to write this, I just love the pizza!

Revolution Birmingham Cocktail Masterclass

If you follow me on Instagram you will probably be aware that I’m partial to a cocktail or two.  My favourite is a Godfather followed by an Espresso Martini, I’m not a fan of iced slushy cocktails – brain freeze no thank you, creamy cocktails do nothing for me and I wouldn’t thank you for a cosmo as it’s just not my thing.  Cocktails containing Whisky, Gin or Rum I can handle, I like the hard liquor you see.

cocktail making

I love a masterclass as it’s always good to learn new skills so you can probably imagine that I jumped at the chance to participate in a Cocktail Masterclass with some fellow bloggers.  The last time I was behind a bar was in 2006 however it was mainly pints of ale I was pulling rather than mixing cocktails but that’s a story for another day.

The Revolution Cocktail Masterclass is an expertly guided tour through the world of cocktails. You learn a series of tips and tricks like muddling and mixing that you can easily try at home with the right equipment, does anyone know where I can buy an ice machine?.

Revolution Birmingham Cocktail Masterclass

There are a bunch of packages available for all price ranges, it’s probably worth pointing out that there is a fair bit of alcohol on offer so if you’re going for the basic package you might want to eat beforehand.  Most of us arrived at the masterclass after work and hadn’t eaten so we were surprised that we didn’t get offered any bar nibbles or snacks to have along side our cocktails which meant that we had to abandon most of them after the masterclass so we could go and grab some food.

Revolution Birmingham Cocktail Menu

The cocktail menu was a decent size and there is something for all tastes, if you can’t drink alcohol for whatever reason there are 4 delicious sounding mocktails to choose from.  When the masterclass started we were asked if any of us were not drinking alcohol or if we had any allergies which of course I do as I’m awkward like that.  I must admit that after I had explained my allergy to Strawberries I didn’t expect that one of the drinks would be strawberry based, I thought we could have tried a different one but I guess that’s what happens when you don’t inform in advance so do bear that in mind.

One thing that did surprise me was that we were not given a choice of what cocktails we could make, there were 3 couples at the masterclass so it would have been nice to have been given a choice as none of the cocktails on offer were to my taste however I did enjoy making them. I sound so hard to please don’t I!

So what did we make?


Before we started we were handed a Bubblegum Daiquiri which contained Bubblegum Revolution Handcrafted Flavour, bubblegum syrup, lemon and apple juice. Make sure you take the sweets out first and eat them or they melt into the drink quite quickly.  This is cold (Brain Freeze) and very sweet, to be honest it doesn’t taste alcoholic which is how we usually end up in a pile by 9pm because we don’t realise we’re getting drunk.

Pushing up dasies

The Pushing up daisies was a fun cocktail to make and it was actually quite tasty, it contains Cîroc Apple vodka, elderflower cordial, cranberry, apple and lime juice. Served with candy floss.  This is a showstopping kind of drink, if you love showing off then this is the drink for you!  I won’t give the secret away but the preparation is a bit like a magic trick.


The cosmopolitan contained SKYY Citrus vodka with Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime, garnished with an orange flame. Very fun to watch but not something to try at home when you’re tipsy.


The classic mojito contained Bacardi Carta Blanca rum, fresh mint leaves, sugar and lime juice, topped with soda water.

Two of the bloggers got to make the same base cocktail with a flavoured vodka shot to show how different a drink can taste when just one element is changed.

The Strawberry Woo Woo was one that I couldn’t try, it contained Ketel One and Absolut Raspberri vodkas, Teichenné Peach schnapps, strawberries and cranberry juice.

The Ciroc the Casbah was the final cocktail to make which contained Cîroc Pineapple vodka, banana liqueur, Coco Reàl, half and half, all topped with pineapple juice.  This cocktail was made in teams (I was on the winning team) and the losers had to take a vodka shot.

Vodka Train

We finished off with a Vodka Train with Cherry and Peach vodka which I had the pleasure of pushing, quite a lot of pressure is on you to do this right – thankfully it all went to plan.

cocktail masterclass

The little glitches aside like the lack of nibbles, lack of choice and cocktail that I’m allergic too, it was a really fun night and I’ve not laughed as much in a long time.

Cocktail masterclass certificate

After the masterclass we were all presented with a certificate and a cute little cocktail shaker which was a nice touch and I’d imagine this would go down really well with a hen party.  If you’re looking for a fun night out with friends, a birthday treat that’s a bit different or want an alcohol fulled work night out, the Revolution Cocktail Masterclass will be perfect for you.

Huge thanks to Clare from Where Mama Went for allowing me to feature her in this post

*I was invited to this masterclass as a guest in return for an honest review of the evening

Cajun stuffed butternut squash

Cajun stuffed butternut squash

In my humble opinion squash is such an undervalued vegetable, I personally adore it in all forms but my favourite way to eat it just has to be stuffed.

Mini Gourmand doesn’t like squash and Baby Gourmand is poorly at the moment so it was just myself and Mr Gourmand who were eating so quantities in this recipe are to feed 2 without any sides.

To make my Cajun stuffed butternut squash you will need:

1 Butternut squash

100g Lamb mince (any mince will work but I think Lamb tastes better in this dish)

1/2 Courgette chopped

1 onion chopped

1 vine tomato chopped

1 Tablespoon of Cajun Spice mix (I use garlic powder, smoked paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano and thyme)

Oil spray (I used coconut)

20g cheese


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Cut the squash in half and discard the seeds, pop on a baking tray and spray each half with oil.  Bake in the oven until the squash is soft (It took mine 40 minutes)

In a pan cook the mince and onion until the mince is cooked through.  Add the courgette and tomato and sprinkle in the spice mix.  Cook until there is no liquid left and everything is soft.

When the squash is soft spoon it out making sure you keep the shell intact.  Add the softened squash to the pan containing the mince and stir together well.

Separate the mixture between the two shells of the squash, top with cheese and bake until the cheese is melted.


Cajun stuffed butternut squash


Altoria Bar & Grill Leamington Spa

It probably comes as no surprise that birthday celebrations in the Gourmand household usually involve food of some sort, the most recent birthday celebration consisted of several meals out one of which took place at Altoria Bar & Grill in Leamington Spa.

Originally we had our hearts set on some American style grilled meat from the Bourbon Smokehouse (Altoria Bar & Grill’s previous name) but we were told they had changed hands the day before.  My dining partner Mama L is a bit like me, she likes decent food at a reasonable price so we were happy to stay and see what it had to offer and I’m pleased to say that Altoria Bar & Grill did not disappoint.

Altoria Leamington Spa

I don’t think we could have picked a better night to visit the restaurant, it was quiet which not only gave us a good opportunity to take some pictures but we got to gossip in peace.

The menu at Altoria Bar & Grill is simplistic, it’s broken down into sections like small dishes, salads, sliders, burgers, classics and sharers and there is nothing over £10 on the menu.  As much as I love gourmet food, there are nights when I just want something simple that wont break the bank and that’s what Altoria Bar & Grill offers.

The small dishes could be eaten as Tapas or starters and there is something for everyone ranging from chicken wings to breaded Goats cheese.  Prices are £3.50 unless you opt for a larger portion of chicken wings and at that price we couldn’t refuse a small dish as a starter.

Starters Altoria

Mama L went for the grilled tiger prawns in garlic and lemon which were served on a bed of spinach and I had the salt and pepper squid which was served with a garlic mayo.  I’d be really interested to try the mac & cheese as it’s one of my favourites but I have to admit I am quite particular about it and I like it to be cooked from fresh rather than out of a packet.

Burgers Altoria

Two 4oz beef burgers are served in a brioche bun with a homemade relish, salad and a choice of original or sweet potato fries.  You can add a range of toppings to your burger for £1 and both Mama L and myself went for the onion rings.

The cost of a burger really perplexes me as you can pay anything from £5 up to £15 in some local eateries.  The burgers at Altoria bar & grill were a purse friendly £5.95 and in my opinion were worth every penny, I couldn’t finish mine it was so filling.

Altoria Dessert

My only criticism came at dessert time.  I have a strawberry allergy and wasn’t expecting my brownie to come with the lovely juicy strawberry garnish.  Mama L helped me out by eating the offending strawberry along with some of the brownie it was touching.  Desserts are £3.95 and the brownie was incredibly rich, gooey and decadent – I would have this each and everytime.

Altoria Cocktails

Drinks are reasonably priced and the drinks menu is vast. At the time of our visit the cocktails were on 2 for 1 which is a huge bonus.


If you’re in the Leamington Spa area and fancy some good food at reasonable prices you can find Altoria Bar and Grill at 45 Warwick Street, Leamington, on the ground floor of Altoria.

Black Forest Cupcakes

Black Forest Cupcakes

Black Forest Gateau instantly reminds me of my grandfather, we often used to have it for dessert on a Saturday afternoon when I was younger after eating one of his mammoth dinners, I haven’t eaten it for years so when I was cleaning out one of my kitchen cupboards last week and came across a bottle of kirsch that we got for Christmas I had a huge urge to eat a black forest gateau.

I wondered if I could somehow transfer the black forest flavours of the gateau to cupcakes instead as they seem to go down much better in the Gourmand house than a huge cake and thus my black forest cupcakes were born.

My recipe made exactly 12 delicious cupcakes (made in muffin cases) and if like me you’re a fan of the retro black forest gateau you might like to give these a try.

70g unsalted butter

170g plain flour

250g caster sugar

50g cocoa powder

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

201ml whole milk

2 large eggs

12 tinned cherries

a good glug of Kirsch

300ml whipping cream

12 glace cherries

1 square of dark chocolate for grating

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a muffin tray with muffin cases, I pulled my 6 hole tray out first so made two batches.

Beat the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt together in a mixer until they form a crumb consistency. In a jug mix the eggs and milk.  With the mixer on slow gradually add half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and speed up the mixer to medium to ensure the mixture has no lumps. Turn the speed back down and add the remaining liquid until the mixture is smooth.

black forest cupcake mixture

using an ice cream scoop place a small scoop of the mixture into the muffin cases, pop in a cherry and half a teaspoon of kirsch, add another small scoop of the mixture to cover the cherry and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until springy to the touch.

When the cakes have cooled, remove from the oven and place the cakes on to a cooling rack.

Pierce the cakes with a skewer and carefully pour about a teaspoon of the kirsch over each cake.

black forest cupcakes

Once the cakes have cooled pipe the cream onto the cakes, top with a cherry and grate over some chocolate.

Black Forest cupcakes Black forest cupcakes