Wine Tasting at Veeno

Wine Tasting at Veeno

 

DSC_0309

A few weeks ago an exciting email popped into my inbox. An invitation for myself and a friend to try the Selezione wine tasting at Veeno in Harrogate. Exciting on two counts. Firstly, I like wine as much as the next classy lady. Secondly, although I have had many wonderful opportunities via this blog they are rarely so easy that I can walk home from the venue. (Also as a bonus it let me consider what level of wine drinking I feel is appropriate for my hen do next year). I invited my friend Amelia along as she is a fellow foodie, wine enthusiast and all round good egg.

Anyway, back to the wine. Veeno is situated in the heart of Harrogate and while it is part of a new development, the interior definitely gives the feel of a cosy wine cellar. This intimate setting would be perfect for a date, a girls night (like I had) or as part of a larger party. The setting was very relaxed and everybody who worked there was extremely friendly, enthusiastic and knew a lot about wine.

Veeno was established in 2013 by two Italian men in Manchester who loved and missed the Italian Aperitivo. All the wines come from the family vineyard (Caruso and Minini) and there is certainly a sense of pride in the Sicilian wine and food. The business is founded on the Italian idea of relaxing with wine and nibbles after work. Something I think us Brits should get on board with! There are currently 17 Veeno locations across the country and I do highly recommend you visit if you love wine and Italian food.

DSC_0298

The Selezione wine tasting is perfect for those who want to try a range of wine colours – two whites, two reds, a rose followed by a dessert wine. Each wine is paired with a meat or cheese from the Spuntini board of meats and cheeses. Our sommelier (who I seem to remember being called Jake) was helpful and friendly and guided us through the wine tasting experience, but in a relaxed manner. Perfect for a Friday night.

The first wine of the night was a lovely The first wine was a white, a Grillo (“Our Driest”). This was a very dry white but the fantastic thing was that unlike some wines on the drier side it had a fresh, rather than cloying after taste. This was paired with creamy buffalo Mozzarella. We both loved this one the most. Amelia actually ended up buying a bottle of this to take home – needless to say we were impressed!

The wine that followed was “The Wine of Love” Zibibbo. This is one for true Romantics as it was the wine one of the founders Granfathers was drinking in the vineyard when proposing to his wife. This is slightly more of an acquired taste. A very citrussy wine with elements of Earl Grey tea. This was certainly an unusual wine. It was paired with the pecorino and I must say, the saltiness of the cheese cut through this wine nicely.

The whites were followed by the lovely “House Rose”. This was paired with some delicious Speck. I never would have considered pairing a rose with ham (except when I’m sitting at home drinking wine and eating snacks in my pjamas). This wine was crisp and refreshing and I could have gladly drank this all night.

We then moved onto the red wines. I must admit that I have only recently started to like red wines. However the “Experts Only” Perricone was enough to convert me. Although this wine was paired with a delicious Bresaola, we were given some dark chocolate to try with this wine. A revelation as it brought out rich flavours in both the wine and and the chocolate.

Our penultimate wine “The Richest” made from a Nero D’Avola Riserva. Paired with gorgonzola this wine was indeed rich, with different levels of flavour. The smell and taste of this wine were phenomenal and perfect for relaxed drinking. Probably not one I could manage in a great quantity as it was somehow filling. Certainly one I’d recommend to true wine lovers though.

To finish we were given a dessert wine (although not the one in the book as they had run out of this). It was an unusual dessert wine as it was not as sweet as other dessert wines I have had. Nevertheless it was delicious and somehow tasted a bit like cider. I had this with a piece of delicious Tiramisu. Amelia was given lemon sorbet due to dietary requirements (which Veeno were lovely and accommodating about).

As I mentioned above, we were delighted with the level of service we got as well as the fantastic food and wine available. We were already planning our next visit part way through our wine tasting experience.

Click here to find out more about the different Veeno locations across the UK.

There are multiple wine tasting experiences available. Click here to find out more.

We were invited to review Veeno in exchange for a review. However all opinions are our own.

Advertisements

Banana, chocolate and raspberry muffins

Banana, chocolate and raspberry muffins

Sometimes baking inventions come from slightly healthier intentions. We have been eating a lot healthier and going to the gym 4-5 times a week. We actually have a couple’s gym membership (although I categorically deny that we sit side by side on the exercise bikes!) As such, there has been a lot more fruit and vegetables in our shopping basket. Enter these muffins. I had some raspberries that needed eating and a hankering to adapt a tried and tested muffin recipe. After all life is about balance and a little of what you fancy does you the world of good.

To make 13 muffins you will need:

3 bananas (slightly overripe is best)

2 large eggs

113g butter, melted

150g caster sugar

230g self raising flour

150g raspberries (fresh or frozen)

150g milk chocolate chunks

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with cake cases. Mash your bananas and the eggs together until there are only small lumps of banana. Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly. Add the sugar, flour and butter to form a nice batter. Once it is mixed in with no dry bits add the raspberries and chocolate.

Put the mixture into the lined cake cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out of your test cake clean.

Best enjoyed

Ginger Whisk Cookery School – A Review

Ginger Whisk Cookery School – A Review

If you love food I’m sure you can appreciate that even the most confident cooks sometimes benefit from a bit of help and guidance to improve in certain types of cooking. Personally, I find using pastry a challenge (curse my naturally warm hands). As such I was absolutely delighted to attend a Pork Pie making class 2 Saturdays ago at the Ginger Whisk Cookery School in Chiswick, West London.

The Cookery School hosts a wide range of classes ranging from baking; teaching university students to cook; children’s cookery classes; soap making; food photography and many more. The class list is diverse and classes are run by a range of people and can include guest teachers.

The pork pie class was hosted by Lucy Cufflin, one of the founders of Ginger Whisk and Lucy Lee-Tirrell. Both were excellent teachers, friendly, encouraging and open to questions. The class sizes are small which gives them both opportunity to offer tips to individuals in an area where they may have been struggling. For example, I have been rolling out pastry too aggressively for years which has led to slightly shrunken pies and tarts as the pastry sprang back in the oven.

The small class sizes gave a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and it was lovely to spend time with other people who enjoyed talking about food as much as I did. As it turns out pork pie making, which previously I was wary of, is actually pretty methodical and it is a pretty perfect thing to make around Christmas time or for a celebration. As somebody who is collecting ideas for a wedding it quite literally gave me food for thought and home made pork pie might make an appearance on the menu in the course of the day.

It was a lovely touch that not only did we get to sample a range of pork pies and local beer.; we also had cheese and wine from Lucy and Lucy’s recent travels to France. As well as being a great way to learn about cooking on an individual basis, attending a cookery class would be a fun idea for a date or even a great corporate team building event. Not only does Ginger Whisk offer cookery classes, there is opportunity for prop hire and a photography studio – used in food magazines and in the production of cook books. So if you’re the next Delia or Jamie Oliver get in touch with Ginger Whisk.

I had a great time during my trip to London and I left with a large pie and instructions on adding the jelly which was a fun post pie activity. I actually made a video of my visit which will be appearing on my Youtube channel soon!

Thank you so much for my invite to your lovely cookery school. I had a great time!

Click here for details of classes.

For information on prop or studio hire click here.

For any general enquiries or business enquiries click here.

I was kindly invited to visit the Ginger Whisk Cookery School to review a class. All opinions stated here are my own.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive?

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive?

Do you ever get the same feeling as me that you’re constantly running behind? Like you have a long to do list, you complete 90% of it and yet you still have a niggling feeling like you should have pushed that extra bit to get everything done. Sometimes you do have the energy to finish everything off or but some lucky stroke things take less time than you imagined. On those days the sense of achievement is pretty great, but it leaves me asking a question, why do some of us put so much pressure on ourselves?

I don’t actually know where this drive to be busy came from. If I’m honest at times I was a bit of a sloth. I was happy idling my time away, spending time binge watching Game of Thrones and expecting nothing more from my free time than just relaxing and seeing the boyfriends I had at the time.

I’ve noticed most of my female friends and a lot of the blogging community seem to be reluctant to give themselves a break. I don’t know if its crept up on me as I’ve got a bit more mature or whether its actually finding a job that I’m pretty good at and a pretty cool niche in blogging that I really enjoy. I’ve found myself in breaks at work keeping on top of blog emails and wedding research. If I stop my brain feels like its literally breathing a sigh of relief. Perhaps that’s why spa days are so immensely popular?

I am surrounded by so many wonderful people in my life stuck in the same predicament, some tired mothers who accomplish so much; some people managing multiple jobs and people running their own businesses who seem to achieve so much. Everyone seems to have the same worry that they’re not productive enough , not doing enough.

I think I mentioned nearly 2 years ago about having to take a hiatus from blogging and I had to pull back from work as I pretty much worked myself into the ground during a stressful time at work. The day in A&E that followed was at best hilarious as it was so surreal and at worst a warning sign about overdoing it.

So, to all the worriers, the list makers and the people who upon completing their to do list add another 5 things to it. You’re doing a pretty great job, keep it up. The world needs more people who care. But don’t be afraid to sit down and have a tea break, the world won’t stop if you don’t finish everything.

Plus, you can maybe cross a couple of the more unattainable tasks off the list and get some sleep?

Healthy alternatives: wholemeal pizza bases

Healthy alternatives: wholemeal pizza bases

We love pizza in this house. Frozen pizza, takeaway pizza, proper Italian pizza, pizza when drinking, hangover pizza, this list goes on. However, I think its pretty common knowledge that pizza isn’t the healthiest option and anything that increases the nutritional benefits of our Friday night favourite has a big fat thumbs up from us.

On top of the nutritional benefits homemade pizza is an absolute steal compared with buying pizza from a takeaway or restaurant and taste better than supermarket pizza so it is better for household economising. It is also a fun thing to make with children as it would allow them to pick their own toppings so there are lots of benefits to making your own.

Pizza dough is so easy to make, even for notice bakers. The only advice I can give is to really follow the instructions about water temperature and yeast and also to allow plenty of time for the dough to rise.

We made steak and rocket pizzas, but obviously mix it up as you wish.

To make 4 pizzas you will need:

500g strong wholemeal flour

2 teaspoons of salt

25g butter, cut into small cubes

13g (1 sachet of dried yeast)

250ml tepid water

For the topping

Passata with garlic and herbs added

1/2 ball buffalo mozzarella per pizza

Parmesan cheese

1 sirloin steak per 2 pizzas or 1 frying steak per pizza

Rocket

 

In a jug, mix together the lukewarm water and yeast. To a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt and butter. Add the water and use your hands to mix this together into a rough dough. Once the flour and water is mixed, remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. At this point you can half the quantity of dough if needed and freeze for a later date. Return to the bowl and least it rise for an hour, or until the dough doubles in size and springs back when poked.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Split into 2 and roll out the dough so that it is about 1/2 cm thick. Top the dough with the passata and cheese and cook for around 15-20 minutes or until the base is cooked. While it is cooking grill or fry your steak. (Leave this to rest before cutting). When the pizza is cooked stop with the steak, Parmesan and rocket.

This pizza tastes delicious but is slightly more difficult to eat in slices so you may want to consider using a knife and fork.

Dane actually told me that this pizza was one of the best ones I have made for him, which is high praise indeed.

 

Wedding planning part one

Wedding planning part one

As I mentioned in my recent travel posts D and I are engaged and planning our wedding. Full disclosure; there hasn’t been any major stresses and we have disagreed on approximately 3 things. These were centred around the usual minor things; the food, the music etc etc.

I have a very helpful fiance who has done a lot of work organising. With music being a major influence in his life he was never going to let me organise wedding entertainment (although I have input) just like I was never going to let him have the final say on the flowers.

I have to say, I haven’t found the initial stages of wedding planning particularly stressful, when you plan a wedding in 11 months its more efficient to be decisive and do your homework. We had already planned and discussed what we wanted while we were away and as such it has been relatively straightforward to put everything into place.

So far the venue is organised, the registrar is booked, we have one band booked (with a few more to consider) and we have a guest list. D is doing a lot of homework with his photographer and music contacts (what a love!)  We have a cake organised. I am wedding dress shopping in a few weeks with my mum, although I have absolutely no idea what type of dress I want.

I am by no means a wedding planning expert. I feel like we’re sort of making it up as we go but in a good way. My only tips so far are:

  1. Wedding planning doesn’t have to take over, our way of tackling it is to have regular check ins but not have it all consuming.
  2. On the back of this is is important to make time to be a couple. It doesn’t have to be expensive, a movie night at home or a gig won’t set you back much. Having fun together sets some good foundations for your marriage (or so I’m told).
  3. Work out what (if anything) you want to DIY. Price it up, eBay is your friend, but also consider how much you’re prepared to do. Do you actually enjoy crafting? How will you feel having to tie 100 ribbons and just how handy are you with a glue gun? If you like arts and crafts this is your time to shine, but don’t feel like you have to make anything if its not your bag.

Its all getting very exciting! I might even try to get D to write some tips on picking a wedding band.

The Hobbit Themed Chocolate Birthday Cake

The Hobbit Themed Chocolate Birthday Cake

Hobbits are well known for their love of food. So is my family. As the Hobbit is one of my Dad’s all time favourite books it seemed pretty fitting to have a birthday cake themed around the part of the Hobbit; although the execution of it was something of a lucky fluke. Fortunately although it is not an exact replica of how Smaug or his hoard looking in the film, or how I imagined it in the book, it is a pretty good approximation.

This cake is a perfect birthday cake for any chocolate lover. You wouldn’t necessarily have to make this exact cake, you can adapt this around other themes as you wish.

To make this cake you will need:

170g caster sugar

170g butter

150g self raising flour

20g cocoa powder

3 eggs

For the filling

100g white chocolate

50g double cream

For the ganache topping

200g dark chocolate

200ml double cream

50g milk chocolate

To decorate

3-4 packs of chocolate fingers

Chocolate such as Malteasers, Minstrels or similar

Kinder Eggs (basically I wanted a Minion from one)

Gold lustre cake spray

Gold cake decorations

To make the cake preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 medium cake tins. Whisk your eggs and sugar until light and fluffy so they leave a trail on the surface of your cake mix. Melt your butter and fold this into the mix, along with the flour and cocoa powder. Bake for around 12 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean and the cake is springy to touch. Once cooked set aside to cool down. It is nigh on impossible to decorate a warm cake.

While the cake is cooking make the chocolate ganache and filling. To make the white chocolate filling melt the white chocolate and cream together. Set aside to cool. Take the same approach with the darker and milk chocolate and cream to make the ganache topping. Melt the chocolate and cream together until thick and glossy and then leave to cool before putting on the cake.

Once the cake and ganache are cold sandwich together the 2 cakes using the white chocolate filling. Cover the cake and the sides with a smooth layer of ganache. Line up the chocolate fingers on the side of the cake (this looks attractive and hides the fact that decorating cake sides tidily is a chore). Half the Kinder egg and place on top of the cake as a cracked egg. Add the chocolates as treasure at random, however bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect and most people will want a bit of chocolate topping on their cake. Spray with gold lustre spray and add your cake decorations.

Put in the fridge to chill to firm for several hours before serving. Add a dragon if one is available.

Serve as part of second breakfast, elevenses or similar. Hobbits need to know there is decent fare in the pantry at all times.