Trick or Treat Cupcakes

The title of these cupcakes is a little deceiving as the cupcakes should actually be called Trick and Treat cupcakes.  The play on words came about when I wanted an alternative to the usual vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing that I use as my go to recipe.  I decided that as it’s October I should get some of the warming spices out of the cupboards and decided to add some cinnamon to my cupcake batter which is where the trick comes in to play.

Halloween Cupcakes

What’s really lovely about the flavour of the cake is that the cinnamon isn’t an overpowering flavour, in fact you don’t really get the hit of it until you’re ready to take your next bite when you realise that the chocolate and vanilla taste has faded and you’re left with the warming aromatic taste of cinnamon.  I’ve provided my basic recipe below, I use this as the base of all of my cupcakes and it hasn’t failed me yet.  The recipe makes 12-15 cupcakes (I use muffin cases)

240g cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
120ml whole milk
120g unsalted butter (I use stork)
200g  sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°c.

Place paper cake liners in a 12-cup muffin pan (you may need to use this again)

Sift the flour and baking powder together.

Place the milk in a small bowl and stir in the vanilla.

By hand or using a mixer which is my preferred method, beat the butter and  sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until the batter is light and creamy, and scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl after each addition.

Add the flour alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using an ice-cream scoop or a spoon fill the cake liners, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the top of the cakes springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out free of cake mix.

Let the cupcakes cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

The cakes are topped with chocolate buttercream and decorated with Halloween sprinkles and orange smarties.

Halloween Cupcakes



How to make amazing food when your cupboards are almost bare

When I was growing up my mum was a housewife and the cupboards were always stocked with ingredients, the fridge filled with food but I’m sure she wont mind me saying this – dinners were often bland and not inspiring at all. Things have changed a lot from back then in my house.  I no longer have a pantry cupboard since moving house and I don’t have nearly enough space in my cupboards or undercounter fridge for my liking.  For some people, their reality is pantries and kitchen cupboards bursting at the seams with enough ingredients to last for weeks at a time and sadly for others they don’t know what they will be eating that week until they visit the food bank.

Most households have ingredients in cans, bottles and jars.  I use a lot of dried beans and pulses, granted they are not as convenient as cans but they are a lot cheaper and take up less space when kept in a glass jar.  I also like to have tinned tomatoes on hand and of course a good selection of dried herbs and spices (purchased from asian supermarkets as you get so much more for your money).  Having a few things in the cupboard if you can means that you can put something together quickly if the need arises.

If I’ve got a really busy week at work I do tend to run out of things or lack inspiration when it comes to making lunch or dinner.  Sometimes a cupboard or bottom of the fridge lucky dip ends up being one of the tastiest meals we have had in a while.  I can never recreate these type of meals though as nothing gets measured and herbs and spices get thrown in haphazardly. I do consider myself to be a pro at the amalgamation meal as I like to call it and I always pretend that I know what I’m doing.

Here are my simple ideas on how you can cook with what is left in your kitchen and how you can serve some amazing meals that your guests will enjoy, it just takes a bit of creativity.

1 – Always have some dried rice or pasta in the cupboard, this can be the base for lots of dishes.
2 – Keep some dried herbs and spices to add amazing flavour to dishes
3 – Have a carton of UHT milk in the cupboard for “emergencies”
4 – Keep the stock off boiling vegetables or boiling ham/chicken in the freezer to use as stock cubes if you run out of stock cubes.
5 – Stock cubes are a great way of adding instant flavour to dishes
6 – A packet of homemade or shop bought pastry in the freezer can be a lifesaver
7 – When you bake a cake, double up on the cake batter and freeze one (I do this a lot for drizzle cakes)

My top five dishes using leftovers, bottom of the fridge items or cupboard staples are:

Cous-Cous Salad
Cous-cous is my families favourite’s and I’m really bad for buying a packet before the previous one is finished so end up with a lot of 3/4 empty cous-cous packets in the cupboard. Cous-Cous is so quick and easy to prepare and it goes with everything. I add it to a bowl with a stock cube and some boiling water and leave to soak up the liquid.  Once it’s ready I add chopped celery, peppers, grapes, iceberg lettuce, spring onion, a spoonful of pesto (red or green) and either chopped turkey bacon or crumbled feta cheese.  I top it off with a handful of toasted almonds.

Fried Rice
Leftover rice is great for this recipe (fresh cooked works too but you really need to chill it). I add some onion, mushrooms, peppers and whatever else I have at hand into a frying pan, pop in the rice and cook through, crack in an egg if you wish and sprinkle with soy sauce to taste.  Instant fried rice.

Pasta and sauce
If I have fresh tomato I’ll add that to a frying pan with some garlic until it starts to break down, add some dried herbs and stir through pasta.  If I’m out of fresh tomato but have some tinned I’ll add them to a pan with a sprinkle of sugar, dash of balsamic vinegar, some garlic and dried basil and simmer then stir it through pasta.

Noodle Soup
This is like a really bad version of a Chinese noodle soup but my children love it so who am I to complain.  If you have any leftover miso you can use that as a base or a stock cube will do.  I usually add miso, tin of sweetcorn, dried noodles, pak-choi, leftover chicken and a splash of soy sauce and there is never a scrap left in the bowl.

Spanish Omelette
If you have some eggs and leftover or fresh vegetables, a Spanish omelette won’t be far behind.  I usually start off by frying the potatoes so they get nice and cripsy, I add the rest of the veg (usually onions, green beans and mushrooms), add beaten eggs and when it’s cooked through on the bottom/middle I pop under the grill to cook the top.  I really don’t like cheese in an omelette but feel free to add some if it suits your taste.  I like my omelettes sprinkled with chilli sauce!

What are your favourite cupboard or bottom of the fridge dinners?



Top 3 places to eat in Leamington Spa

Hands up who loves to eat out in the town where they live *holds up hand*

I’m really lucky that I live in a town with some great independent eateries and a few tried and tested chains thrown in for good measure.  I would be lying if I said I was loyal to one or even two places to eat because I’m not.  If I can’t get a seat or if a restaurant or cafe is closed when it’s advertised to be open I’ll just find somewhere else (I’ve found some favourites this way).

I read this piece by The Tame Hare about local businesses struggling and I do really feel for them, it must be really difficult for chefs who have a real passion for food and local fresh ingredients to make a living in our current climate.  I need to be honest at this point and say that we have not got round to visiting The Tame Hare, we tasted some of their food at the Leamington Food festival one year before they had opened and it was delicious so we really should make a point of visiting.

Should we all be making an effort to visit more independents? I think if your wallet can afford to do so then yes.  We’re really tightening our purse strings at the moment as we’ve just bought a new house aka the money pit so our days of eating out several times a month will be reduced to one or two meaning I get to put my numerous gadgets and expensive knives to good use again and I’ll be making use of loyalty cards and early evening specials at the local chains.

Anyway I digress, eating local is great if you can afford to do so but there isn’t anything wrong with a chain now and again.  If you’re visiting the fabulous Royal Leamington Spa you will be spoilt for choice with all of the eating establishments.  We have chains, independents and a Michelin star bistro so if your time is limited do choose wisely.

In no particular order my current top 3 places to eat….

1. Procaffinate

Procaffinate

We used to visit this venue when the previous owners had it before it became Procaffeinate  for amazing tapas.  We were really sad when it closed down but from the ashes a new favourite was born.  Situated canalside, Procaffinate is a Coffee Shop with a difference.  You will find a SMEG fridge just beside the entrance, go through the fridge and you enter Ape Hangers which is home to over 100 beers including one of my favourites – Lucky Buddah beer.

Procaffinate is child friendly, they even have a box of toys for your little ones to entertain themselves with whilst you get your coffee fix.  Did I mention how amazing the cakes are? Prices are purse friendly and the food is delicious, it’s also open until 11pm so if you fancy a late night caffeine hit this is the place to go.

2. Warwick Street Kitchen

Warwick Street Kitchen

Situated as the name suggests on Warwick street, this cafe is the place to go if you’re looking for locally sourced, homemade products.  I’ve never actually visited for lunch yet only breakfast and I think we’ve tried all of the breakfast dishes on the menu.  I love the ethics of this place and they make a cracking cup of coffee.

The Shakshuka is incredible but my favourite is the Avocado smash experience (pictured above), I have it without the bacon and replace them with mushrooms.

 

3.  Basement Browns

Basement Browns

Basement Browns has probably been in our favourites list since it opened in Leamington Spa.  You can find them on Warwick Street but do book ahead if you can as this place fills up fast.

Our order is always the same, Margarita, half with olives and onions and when it comes to the table it’s doused in herbs.  £13.50 will get you a family sized pizza and you can add up to 6 toppings free of charge.

If you’ve visited Leamington Spa or if you live here, I’d love to know your favourite places to eat.



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

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

Champagne

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!

Prosecco

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

Mrs Larger 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

Mrs Larger 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 Mrs Larger.

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?

15 TRADITIONAL BRITISH MEALS WHICH COULD SOON BE CONSIGNED TO THE HISTORY BOOKS

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.

Moussaka

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.

Moussaka

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 Grandma Gourmand had cleared her plate in record speed and was in the kitchen helping herself 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.

Olive-and-Walnut-Bread

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 Mini 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 Mini Gourmand likes a sprinkle of chilli flakes on hers, 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?

BUBBLEGUM DAIQUIRI

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.

cosmopolitan

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.

mojito

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