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.

Baked eggs with spinach and chorizo

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I’m all for winter warmer type recipes but I dont believe they always have to be overly stodgy. There’s something wonderful and cosy about baked eggs and they’re certainly very popular in this household! We tend to have these for our tea (dinner if you’re fancy) but they also work as a breakfast or a brunch (if you’re instagram fabulous).

Anyway, there’s not much more to say except using the oil the chorizo gives off when heated and using low fat cheese makes this a healthy and delicious recipe. I don’t actually think you can even tell it is particularly healthy.

Anyway to make enough baked eggs to serve 2 you will need:

4 eggs

1 tin chopped tomatoes (or 1/2 a large jar of passata)

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

Approx 50g cooking chorizo

Approx 100g frozen spinach

A handful of low fat cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to about 200°C. Peel and slice your onion, crush your garlic and dice your chorizo. Fry this with no oil in a non stick pan over a medium heat. Your chorizo will release oil which you can cook your onion and garlic. Once the onion and garlic have softened add your spinach and tomato. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the spinach has cooked. Season with the salt and pepper.

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Add the tomato sauce to a heavy ovenproof dish. Make indentations in the sauce and crack the eggs into these indentations. Top with cheese. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the eggs have set.

To serve eat with crusty bread.

The Co-operative Christmas Event

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So last Friday (27th November) I was late for a blog event like I have never been late before. Driving from Leeds to Manchester was a nightmare, with whole stretches of the M62 gridlocked. I spent most of my journey bashing my head against my steering wheel cursing myself for not taking an afternoon off to drive over. But you know, I actually had a pretty great evening. The Co-op PR team, SEO and other head office staff adapted the even really well (apparently the traffic affected a lot of attendees) so that everything as timed for later in the evening.

I was greeted in the Foyer of the Head Office (which FYI looks like a giant beehive), by friendly Co-op employees bearing Prosecco, which was delicious. Sadly I was drving so I had a thimble full of the (award winning) stuff. I was delighted to find a bottle of it in my goody bag.

Anyway, I was absolutely starving when I arrived so I set about stuffing myself with pate and then my first Christmas dinner of the season. I could happily have eaten more of the turkey in particular. I adored the stuffing. I also really liked the salmon (which for a seasoned salmon hater says a lot, possibly I am growing as a person?)

 

Anyway, this was followed by some pretty nice festive party food. (I wish I had a second stomach sometimes). Anyway there was dim sum, sausages with popping crackling – apparently somebody’s Grandmother had a recipe for this and it was developed for this Christmas and some sausage roll swirl type things. I think sadly the food had been cooked much earlier in the evening but I think it tasted decent considering and it certainly looked pretty.

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What I thought was to finish was dessert (and dessert wine) and a panel with more seasoned bloggers answering questions based on their experience. I actually find the panel really interesting and informative, as was talking to other bloggers. I think its always worthwhile discussing experiences within the blogging community, there’s always something you haven’t considered and I always find you meet such lovely and interesting characters. It also made me feel better knowing that within this network of interesting and articulate people (mostly writing parenting bloggers) that people do get tired and sometimes a hiatus is needed so you feel refreshed and ready to write new content.

If you are a regular reader you know I have a sweet tooth and it was certainly true last Friday. What I really liked most though was the dessert wine. It wasn’t as cloying or syrupy as I expect dessert wine to be. It was light and citrussy and I would imagine it would work wonderfully with mince pies or Christmas pudding.

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To finish there was wonderful cheeseboards and some demonstrations. I entirely regret not being able to eat very much cheese at all, but in my defence I was full for most of the following day.

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Sadly all good things must come to an end and I was soon back home with D and we opened the loveliest goody bag. We have way less to stock up for at Christmas now. Thank you!

I would like to give a massive thank you once again for the generosity of everyone at the Co-operative. Most especially I think I will be stocking up on Christmas wine with you! It really was a shame I couldn’t try much at all. In addition I would like to say thank you to my fellow bloggers.Its been a while since I attended anything on my own and you all made me feel so welcome, gave me tips and made me appreciate the community spirit there is online.

Pancakes!

So today is pancake day and I expect the blogosphere is already inundated with pancake recipes. I for one am now so full of pancake that I can barely move from my sofa and it’s only Monday (we had pancakes a day early as we’re at a gig tomorrow). However, the combination of raspberry sauce and chocolate in these babies is truly decadent as well as delicious. Be warned though, they are rather filling so pace yourself rather than piling your plate high.

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To make your own pile of pancakes you will need:

200g plain flour

2 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

30g melted butter (you might need extra for frying)

300ml milk

1 large tbsp caster sugar

100g milk chocolate chips or milk chocolate chunks

For the raspberry sauce

150g frozen raspberries

1 tbp brown sugar

To serve

Vanilla ice cream/cream

(This recipe serves 4)

 

Put your chocolate in the freezer (to stop it melting too fast). Place your dry pancake ingredients in a bowl and mix leaving an indentation in the middle of the bowl for the egg, milk and butter. Beat together your milk and eggs and add to the dry ingredients along with the melted butter. Whisk until relatively smooth and put this batter to one side for at least 30 minutes.

During this time make your raspberry sauce by heating together your raspberries and sugar until the sugar and raspberry juice combine to form a syrup but while the fruit still has its texture.

Add your frozen chocolate to the batter. Put a non stick frying pan on a medium heat. If you have a really good non stick pan you shouldn’t need to use butter; but if not melt some butter in your pan. Pour a small amount of batter into the pan to form your first pancake. You can cook more than one pancake in your pan if you keep them a couple of inches apart. Cook until the batter is bubbling. Turn your pancakes over and cook the other side of the pancake until golden brown.

Serve with your ice cream and warm raspberry sauce. Any leftovers can be kept to eat later as these also taste pretty good cold. Just cover them and store in a cool place.

The good thing about pancakes is that they are so cheap to make and they feel like a massive treat. If you really want to keep the cost of this recipe down you could skip the berriy sauce in favour of a  sliced banana and use chocolate from the supermarket value range (most supermarket’s value chocolate is really decent).

Ferrero Rocher Tart

This is one of those post festive period posts that feels a little late to the party. I ended up making this dessert when we had friends round on New Years Eve and its one that’s a little bit special. All the chocolate makes this a pretty decadent dessert – it’s actually a bit of a rehash of the  Chocolate and salted caramel hazelnut tart I made last year as the chocolate pastry and basic ganache recipe is pretty much the same. The praline in the Ferrero Rocher goes well with the chocolate and pecan nuts in the ganache. I must admit though, although the chocolate pastry is pretty difficult to work with, overall this recipe is easier than the original (both are good for a special occasion, this one is better if you’re pushed for time).

This time I made my pastry using my food processor as it is less time consuming. If you want to make the pastry by hand, there are instructions in the original recipe.

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“Monsier Ambassador you are really spoiling us with these Ferrero Rocher”

To make your own Ferrero Rocher Tart you will need

For the pastry

175g butter

75g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

250g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

35ml water

For the ganache

200g good quality dark chocolate (I used a mixture of 70% and 85%)

200ml double cream

200g soft brown sugar

70g chopped pecan nuts

For the topping

Approx 16 Ferrero Rocher

Chop your butter into small pieces and add to your food processor along with the caster sugar. Mix thoroughly – keep scraping the sides while using the food processor to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Add the egg yolks and water and mix well. Then gradually add the flour and cocoa powder. Once your pastry has come together gather into a large ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge or freezer for an hour until the dough is firm.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a half cm thickness and line a loose bottomed tart tin or cake tin. Leave the pastry to rest again in the fridge for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake your pastry lined with baking beans for 20 minutes and blind for a further 6 – 10 minutes.

While your pastry is cooling make your ganache by heating your sugar and cream and allowing to simmer for 2 minutes. Take off the heat and melt in your dark chocolate. Allow to cool slightly and add your chopped pecan nuts. Top your pastry with the chocolate ganache and leave to cool – the ganache will thicken as it does so.

Half your Ferrero Rocher and decorate your tart. I did this at random and added the crumbs I made while chopping the chocolates, but if you want you can eat these (nobody will know!).

This tart works very well with cream, ice cream or creme fraiche – D prefers his served on its own. We ate slices of this after approximately 3 hours of drinking and playing games so you can imagine the high spirits going on.

If anyone wants to see the old advert for Ferrero Rocher click here.

Very quick mince pies – perfect for Christmas Eve

I am a terrible girlfriend. Unbelievably so. When I first moved in with D a few weeks ago I made a grand promise of doing him a homemade Christmas cake as he is extremely partial to one. November rolled on and I kept being sidetracked. By mid December I had purchased (an admittedly rather nice) one from Lidl during a rather impractical Christmas shop. The truth is the spiced fruity baking traditionally associated with the festive period isn’t something I particularly enjoy. However, I do love the smell of it and I was happily sniffing the air. Plus they were pretty popular with D, I made them on a Friday evening and by the next afternoon 4 were gone. I also made a batch for my family (the mincemeat is enough for 2 batches made with 1 pack of pastry) and they were pretty fond of them too.

To make these you will need

1 pack pastry (makes 18 – 24 depending on your pastry cutter)

200g icing sugar

Cake cases

For the quick mincemeat (this makes 2 batches so you can keep some back in the fridge)

250g mixed fruit (including mixed peel)

4 tbsp dark or spiced rum

50g pecan nuts or walnuts (chopped finely)

50g butter

100g Demerara sugar

a pinch ground cinnamon

a pinch ground allspice

the zest of 1 orange

a peeled and grated Granny Smith Apple

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put your dry mincemeat ingredients in a bowl. Heat the rum in a small pan until it simmers. Remove from the heat then add the butter and use the residual heat to melt. Return to the heat again briefly so that it simmers again. Pour over your dry ingredients and mix well.

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I bought ready rolled out dough (I was feeling lazy) but if not roll out your dough and cut out circles using a large pastry cutter. If you have dough left over smush it back together and roll out again to make more circles.

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Place the circles in a lined cupcake tins (I didn’t line mine at first then had to rescue them) and prick with a fork in the middle so it doesn’t puff up as much.

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Fill each circle with a teaspoon of mincemeat. Then bake in the oven for approx 20 minutes (until the pastry is golden brown).

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While the pies are cooling combine the icing sugar with water (add a tiny bit at a time) and ice your mince pies.

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Serve these bad boys with a cup of tea, coffee or a glass of mulled wine. Stored in an airtight container and they will keep a good number of days.

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Merry Christmas to all of my lovely readers. I hope you have a wonderful festive period and get everything you wish for xxx

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Christmas Gift Ideas for the Lady (especially if she is a total magpie!)

So I can’t claim to be a style expert or a representative of what women everywhere might want; everyone is different (variety is the spice of life etc.) but mainly this is a list of things that have caught my eye. Possibly because they are shiny or smell lovely. Anyway, if you’re stuck for ideas there are some things that I hope somebody would find lovely to open on Christmas morning.

1. Shakespeare Literary Quote Art Print

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Basically I think this is incredibly cool. At home I like to think I am in charge and i can be a bit bossy at times. This quote from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” shows that Shakespeare’s words can still fit into a more modern context. (Just look at his Sonnets, for example).

2. Lightening bolt hairband

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This falls safely into the category of “I like this because it’s shiny”. If your hair is anything like as unruly as mine gets then the glitter will distract from the fact that your hair is sticking out in about 6 different directions. Always a winner.

3. L’Eau D’Issey Gift Set

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My parents (in particular my Dad) are absolute legends when it comes to choosing fragrances. Last year I asked for something girly and they surprised me with this. Not only does it smell divine, but I get complimented on it a lot too. It has a spacial place in my heart as I wore it on my first date with D so the smell brings back happy memories.

4. L’Occitane Fabulous Oil

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I can’t remember when it was but I was in L’Occitane Harrogate with my friend ED not too long ago and I was sniffing all of the lotions and potions they sell and this one grabbed me. It’s a bit pricey but if you want to give someone a treat, this is the one for you – perfect for women of all ages. Like I said in my previous post, sometimes with Christmas gifts the real treat is more about buying someone something they long for that they would never buy themself.

5. A throw (I like this one quite a lot)

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Basically my mother and I are both quite partial to snuggling up under cosy things watching tv in the winter. When I shared with 2 other girls we used to sit watching tv under fleece blankets. It’s an enjoyable part of winter, especially on the coldest days. Plus a pretty throw can update a tired old sofa more than you’d think (something I found out when I was renting).

6. Arran jumper

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I love a traditional looking jumper and this red one brightens up any cold january day (plus it is handily baggy so you can hide your post Christmas stomach).

7. Modern Family Box Set

This is genuinely going on my Christmas list this year. It is one of my favourite shows – I think its hilarious and occasionally touches on “issues” but without being patronising.

8. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran and NW by Zadie Smith

Anyone who knows me even a tiny bit knows I have always got a book on the go and spend a lot of my spare time reading. These are two books I could not put down – I recall stirring absent mindedly while cooking with my Kindle in one hand.

9. This Necklace

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So frigging pretty! It will go with everything and basically class up any outfit. Plus its a bit of a one off, what’s not to like?

10. This ring

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I like cats as much as the next pet affictionado, but I am not one of life’s “crazy cat ladies”. So why can’t I stop looking at this ring? Imagine how happy it would make someone who owned a cat (or 3!)