Tearoute

Autumn is well and truly underway and what better time to fully embrace the wonderful drink that is tea than on a cold evening in November. When the lovely people at Tearoute offered me a change to try their tea I jumped at the chance. Tearoute is a mail order tea service with a Greek twist. They use Mediterranean sourced ingredients in a wide range of tea blends that are so fragrant they smell incredible.

I got send some Rooibos Abyssinia which had chocolately notes and was pleasantly spicy. I became obsessed with it the week I had a really bad cold as it sorted my scratchy throat and blocked nose right out. Which is funny because on the website rooibos is described as being something that improves headaches, asthma and allergies.

In addition, the fact you can see the leaves and spices in the blends is really something and having larger tea leaves really enhances the flavour of the tea and improves the overall clarity of the flavour.

I can’t wait to try more from this range and I think it would be the perfect Christmas gift for tea lovers of the world wishing to try something a little different.

For more information about the range of Tearoute products visit here. I promise you tea time will never be quite the same again.

Check yourself this Movember

14 November may be a little late to start growing a moustache to raise money for Movember. Its also probably futile for approximately half of the population. However, Movember is an extremely worthy cause. The charity aims to prevent early death in younger males by 25% by 2030 by raising money for testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.

img_2281

The lovely people at Heck Sausages contacted me to ask me to write a post about their Check campaign where proceeds from each pack of their Chicken Italia Chipolatas goes towards the charity. As well as tasting brilliant (and being low fat and gluten free to boot) the staff at Heck started to raise money as one of their staff members Jamie has recently undergone treatment for testicular cancer. Read the full story here. Heck have also renamed themselves Check for the entire month of November to raise awareness for self checking of men. They also aim to raise around £25000 for the charity so don’t forget that the more sausages you eat the more money that goes to charity (talk about win win).

img_2282

Frankly, men are dreadful at self checking and even worse at speaking to the GP. Depending on where you live between a third and a half of men would not know what to look out for when checking their testicles and a similar proportion of women wouldn’t know how to check their partners testicles. Even more scarily 85% of men would be embarrassed to speak to their GP if they did notice a problem.

img_2285

 

Information about checking yourself or somebody your partner can be found here. Its worth being mindful that early diagnosis and treatment increases survival rates of testicular cancer and also prevents loss of both testicles in males.

I actually have an MSc in Cancer Biology and Therapy and one of the facts that will always stick with me is that despite cancer being more diagnosed in women worldwide, the survival rate in men is so much poorer. Men often won’t see their doctor until its too late, which I suppose ties in with suicide rates also being higher in men. Movember is a charity that aims to raise awareness of such issues and on top of that helps fund research into male related cancers. More effective male cancer treatment increases the quality of life of men of your boyfriend’s age, or your brother’s age or one of your friends. On top of that attempting to reduce the stigma of men talking about their feelings and speaking up about mental health issues also improves lives and helps people who are truly suffering see a light at the end of the tunnel.

While I identify as a feminist and I can speak for days about women’s rights and political issues I am also extremely vocal about equality and men’s quality of life. We should all try to support Movember and encourage more men to check themselves and seek help when needed whether it be through raising money for the charity by cultivating a moustache, donating to the charity or even eating rather a lot of sausages for a worthy cause.

For more information about the work Movember is doing please browse their website. It is absolutely fascinating looking at all the causes they are contributing to.

For more information about Heck sausages including stockists please visit their website.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A few weeks ago D and I went on a jaunt to Amsterdam. I think its safe to say our 4 days in the city reflected its vibe really well. We stayed at the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy, a design hotel that overlooks the waterfront. Within the hotel itself (which is a bit like a maze or like something from a film) there is a chance to explore various art installations dotted around the hotel. But I think given the short duration of our stay I will split the rest of this travel blog into sections.

Getting around: Amsterdam is famous for its cycling, however we actually ended up walking an awful lot so take comfy shoes! There is also a decent and relatively inexpensive tram network which makes the city pretty easy to get around. The train link to the airport is very reliable so getting to your hotel takes only a little bit of forward planning.

Culture: we visited the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. I really would recommend buying tickets for these in advance, particularly the Anne Frank House as they only let limited numbers of people in at once. The Van Gogh museum tells the story of his rather unusual and sad life and his artistic development through a collection of wonderful paintings. Something about being there and actually looking at the texture of the paintings as well as the actual paintings is probably pretty educational for artists of all experience levels. The Anne Frank museum was sad and uplifting all at once. Something about seeing the impact of the holocaust through the experience of 8 people rather than by reading statistics and other historical sources makes it easier to understand on a more personal level. The Anne Frank house has been restored to how it was when they were hiding there and while there are stark reminders of a family who were living in extreme difficulty, it tries to bring home a message of understanding others to try and prevent something on this scale happening again. Anne Frank was a rather wonderful writer and the museum definitely tries to encourage the view of her as a witty, clever but very real girl with her own faults rather that making her seem perfect.

We also had a trip to the Zoo (it was nice to be out in the sun after being inside a lot) and it provided a bit of light relief after being overwhelmed with culture and history. We also stopped by the Sex Museum (it was very cheap) which was as you’d expect. If you’re from Yorkshire and I say it was like the Yorvik Centre but with an 18 Certification you’d understand what I mean but it is extremely tongue in cheek.

Boat trips: you must go on a boat trip. This is a city with canals and you can see so much at a slower pace. There are also dinner cruise options if you’re feeling fancy.

Food and drink: The Netherlands are famous for bakeries and waffles (why do you think I went) and Amsterdam did not disappoint! Lovely cake, lovely stroopwafel. I cannot enthuse too much about it. It is also really inexpensive to eat out in restaurants and there are some amazing options for snacking and street food. Buy patates, you won’t regret it.

In terms of drinking and bars there is really something for most tastes and the atmosphere is really relaxed. Early evening drinking for the win!

Shopping: Amsterdam is amazing for shopping! Take full advantage (unless your debit card was frauded the week before like mine). Also not to be missed – trips to cheese shops, bakieries and the Bloomenmarket.

Where do you recommend we visit next?

Adding some pizzazz to your Halloween drinks

With Halloween coming up on Monday (and with the weekend fast approaching) I have a couple of easy and festive drink recipes you can try at home. They can be scaled up or scaled down really easily so would be perfect for smaller gatherings or larger groups (just make sure these are kept out of reach of little ones!) These won’t require lots of complicated spirits and a lot of ingredients you might already have in. I think mulled cider is a wonderful drink around Halloween and Bonfire night, while the vodka and grenadine looks pretty spooky. Perfect for all you vampire lovers.

To make mulled cider you will need

2 cans cloudy apple cider

2 shots spiced rum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Heat the ingredients on a low heat until the sugar has fully dissolved and the spices have started to release aroma. Strain with a sieve and serve (Initially I forgot this and let me say, it is not pleasant! I call it witches brew at this stage).

Scale up or down depending on how thirsty for cider you are.

img_2233

To make bloody vodka you will need

The vodka of your choice (we had vanilla)

Grenadine Syrup

Ice

The mixer of your choice – we had coke

The fun of this recipe is obviously that it looks a little bit like blood. However, unless you’re really trying to “get on it” you might want to add a mixer, otherwise you could end up falling asleep in a corner or something. Anyway all you need to do is mix 1 part grenadine syrup and 1 part vodka and serve over ice for the red effect. Then dilute a bit with something to make it more palatable.

img_2232

img_2235

While these are no means the most complicated cocktail recipes and you will probably not win any mixology awards with these, they were pretty fun to make and drink. The simplicity of these makes these great for any budding party host!

Love Food Boxes

I was recently offered the opportunity to review a Love Food subscription box. The idea is simple in that you get sent ingredients to bake some seriously delicious (and instagrammable) treats in the exact quantities needed to prepare each recipe. You will, of course need to provide your own chilled ingredients such as eggs and butter. However, I find it a beautiful idea for people looking to start baking or for those who enjoy cakes fresh from the oven, but who want to make it a treat to have and really enjoy once in a while rather than a staple in their diets.

My box contained ingredients for S’mores Brookies. A brownie/cookie hybrid sandwiched together with melted chocolate and marshmallows. A most excellent way to end a busy Monday (and something nice to take into work on a long Tuesday). I found the recipe really easy for my tired brain to follow and I thought it was nice that it was something new and a bit different that I had not tried before.

I have actually has this box for a few weeks as I have been waiting for the perfect opportunity and you know what? I love them – as well as being simple for bakers of experience levels, the food looks so decadent and tastes amazing (I might be on something of a chocolate high right now). I can imagine the boxes being something you could make with your friends on a cosy night in, or give to an older child with minimal supervision. They’re probably also the sort of activity that some would find enjoyable as part of some sort of home based date night.

So here are the practical bits of information: when you subscribe the money will be take out of your account on the 1st of each month and the box will be delivered on 21st. The subscription can be cancelled at any time and the code FIRSTBOX  can be used to get 50% off your first box.

IMG_2241[1].JPG

I was sent a Love Food subscription box to review the service but all opinions are my own.

The Great British Bake Off Gifts

I have had a good run from Mr Postman lately. One of these was an insight into the Great British Bake Off gift range currently available to buy at Debenhams. While the format for this show will almost certainly be different next year (something that we will all have to wait and see about) this is a range that is perfect for avid bakers of all ages. With fun touches such as a cute cake shaped kitchen timer and cake tins to personalise these are the sort of fun gifts that are perfect stocking fillers at Christmas (although I’m not too sure a cake tin will fit into many stockings). Who knows, it might also be a hint to your baking gift recipient to make some sort of cake or pie for your enjoyment? (A win win situation in my opinion).

dsc_0024

I was sent this lovely grey apron from the Debenhams range. I think it will be used in my kitchen to show who is boss! Although there’s no contest really as the last time Dane baked was about 12 months ago!

To shop the full range click here.

I was kindly sent this as a PR sample.

Giant scone cake

I’m ready to admit it. Blogging can be a funny business. While some people do really well cooking up elaborate meals and writing about them, I always find the most success in terms of number of visitors based on recipes that are straightforward to make at home with ingredients with easy to substitute ingredients; rather than the much more elaborate cooking I originally did when writing this blog.

On that note, I can spend hours making and decorating a cake and, yes, quite a lot of people will show interest. Then on another occasion I can make a giant scone cake due to burning something else, which takes all of 45 minutes to make, bake and decorate and it gets the most interest of any cake recipe I have made. You really cannot predict blog views!

img_2199

This cake recipe as mentioned before is really quick to make. Nobody expects a pretty scone so it doesn’t need hours of elaborate decoration. This recipe is also eggless, pretty low on sugar and can be easily adapted into a vegan recipe if you switch the milk and butter for non dairy substitutes and use this gem instead of whipped cream. Pretty much a winner for several dietary requirements then.

To make a large scone cake you will need:

450g self raising flour

100g salted butter

85g caster sugar

Approx 300ml milk

50g sultanas

2-3 tablespoons raspberry jam

200ml double cream

1 tablespoon icing sugar

Heat your oven to 200°C. Line 2 cake tins with grease proof paper. In a large mixing bowl use your fingers to rub the butter into your flour. Add your sugar and sultanas. Pour in about 2/3 of your milk and then gradually add the rest of your milk until just before the point when the mixture goes too sticky and soggy. If this happens add a little flour to stiffen up.

Diving your scone mix between the two cake tine and spread the mix to the edges as scones do not really spread during baking. Bake for about 11 minutes until the scones go golden brown. Allow the scones to cool.

To decorate whip the icing sugar and cream until thick and spreadable. Spread jam on one half of the scone and spread cream on the other half. Sandwich together et voila. A giant scone!

img_2197

This is a great crowd pleaser, especially amongst my Yorkshire friends. My grandma served this cake with champagne (this cake was a moving present for her and my grandpa) but it also goes really well with tea of coffee – as scones are traditionally served with tea.

img_2198

img_2200