Wednesday, 30 November 2016

"Cheat" baked cannelloni in tomato sauce

Years ago Delia hosted a TV show How to cheat at cooking, which was followed by the cookbook with the recipes featured in the show. What she had to say was quite liberating for many foodies, as she suggested re-thinking a way of shopping, with the emphasis on the storecupboard ingredients and re-stocking the freezer.
I didn't agree with all of her suggestions. For example, I think pre-grated cheese is absolutely rank, and is not worth the money. How long does it actually take to grate cheese? I'm not overly keen on ready-made fruit salads either. But ready-made pasta makes total sense to me.
Even in Italy many don't have time or energy to stay in the kitchen for hours, making their own pasta. They just go to the local little pasta shops and buy pasta, handmade by someone else who does it for living. Or buy ready-made pasta in supermarkets.
A quick tomato sauce could be prepared very easily, you just need a decent tomato product like tinned tomatoes or passata.
Cirio tomato products are among my kitchen staples, always handy to have for a quick pasta or soup.

I often cook from scratch, but I make exceptions for pasta. There is no way I can make pasta myself. OK, I have given it a go when I had a masterclass in Southern Italian cooking in Sartoria last September. It was great fun. But time-consuming it is, and time is a precious commodity.
For midweek meals I sometimes go for a "cheat" version like these baked cannelloni, prepared with a pack of ready-made cannelloni, tomato passata and a pack of vegetables in oil. It did taste delicious nevertheless.

1 pack of ready-made cannelloni
1 pack of Cirio passata
1 pack of Waitrose sunshine vegetables in basil oil (mix of semi-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, artichokes, peppers - 130g)
2tbsp olive oil
a handful of fresh basil leaves
Grana Padano, to grate

I used Waitrose spinach & ricotta cannelloni, but any brand of cannelloni would do. There are 6 cannelloni in a pack.
First cook the sauce by simmering passata with added olive oil, a pinch of sugar and seasoned with salt for about 5 minutes. Chop fresh basil and add to the sauce. Mix in a pack of vegetables in oil
Oil 3 ceramic dishes, place two cannelloni in each, and scoop the sauce over. Bake at 180C for about 20 minutes.
Serve hot, with some Grana Padano cheese grated over the cannelloni.

What are you midweek "cheat" meals?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Sudocrem Winter goodie bags giveaway (c/d 15 December 2016)

Image credits: Sudocrem
November is almost over, which for many compers means one thing - daily advent competitions lovingly called advents. Christmas is always one of the busiest times of the year. Are you one of the hero compers who enter hundreds of competitions every day? I confess I often start very enthusiastically, then my mojo vanes after a week or so. I do try to limit the comping time, and choose only those daily competitions which reflect my interests and hobbies - food and drink, books and toys.
Christmas-themed competitions have started already. As of yesterday, Sudocrem has launched their Christmas Chaos game.
Beat the Sudocrem Christmas Chaos. You will have a chance to win £100s worth of instant prizes. In this exciting mobile Facebook game, users are asked to save the North Pole from the Nappy Rash Gremlins.
To stop the gremlins, users must tap the parachutes to stop them in their tracks and earn points.
If you manage to collect enough points, you could win an instant prize.

I have tried the game on both laptop and ipad, and found it much easier to score 50 points on the ipad. For some reason, my mouse clicks were not counted well. I didn't win a prize either. :)

The Nappy Rash Gremlins have been joined by two new characters - Scrapes & Graze. These pesky critters take two taps to earn a point, so users must keep their eyes peeled for them.
Prizes include
10 x Amazon Kindles
5 x £20 Mothercare vouchers
15 x £10 Amazon vouchers
25 X Sudocrem goodie bags
and much, much more

To take part in the Christmas Chaos game, all entrants have to do is:
1. Find Sudocrem on Facebook
2. Click on the Christmas Chaos app
3. The user must enter their details and begin to play
4. If the user beats the game, they will be entered into the instant win prize draw
5 Entrants can play every day and earn extra goes too.

Competition ends on 31 December 2016.

To thank me for spreading the word about the competition on my blog, Sudocrem has kindly offered two Winter goodie bags worth over £40 each as giveaway prizes for my blog readers.

Image credits: Sudocrem

To be in with a chance of winning, please enter via a Rafflecopter gadget.

Only one entry per person is allowed (however, you can tweet daily to increase your chances).
The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winners, I will check if the winners have done what was requested. I will contact the winners, if they do not reply within 28 days, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Please don't forget to leave a comment, as it is the only mandatory step, I will make sure the winner selected by Rafflecopter has complied with T&Cs.

The giveaway will close on 15 December 2016 (at midnight)
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

The magic of The Portable North Pole

Image credits: PNP
When you're 6 years old, you still believe in magic. Santa is real. Full stop. You might have read recently some academic droning pompously that we must tell our children the truth about Santa, or apparently our children will be scarred for life. What a load of bollocks nonsense. Children have vivid imaginations, and reconcile magic and real life perfectly well.
My Mum loves to tell the story that when I was in the nursery (where all the personnel was 100% female), one of the nursery teachers dressed up as Santa (known as Ded Moroz or Father Frost in Russia), with a fake beard etc. So, we are having a party, Santa enters the hall and greets everyone "Hello, dear children! Have you been good?!" And we all pipe in "Hello, Elena Mikhailovna!" We all knew who it was, but it didn't prevent us from believing in the magic of Christmas.
Eddie believes in Santa. He does some questions though. When last year we met different Santas in town, he asked why they looked different, and if they were brothers.
He can't wait for Christmas day, and each morning we say how many sleeps it is left until the big day.
The Christmas countdown is on. You don't have to be a child to believe in magic.
And having a message from Santa himself might bring that magic to life.
The Portable North Pole (PNP) website and mobile app is back once again to thrill and bring happiness to children and their families across the world.

Image credits: PNP

PNP is a well known and much loved Christmas entertainment brand which sends personalised video and call messages from Santa. You choose a video from a range of themes, customise it by adding a child's name, age, add a few photos and make a unique message.

With the Magic Pass you will receive unlimited premium videos including Santa's verdict, the Reaction recorder (with the mobile app only), unlimited Santa calls with lots of different scenarios to choose from, HD downloads of all your videos and Storytime with Santa (a video each week in December).

So far we haven't explored the Magic Pass to its full capacity, we did two videos and a phone call message. I also plan to create more videos and organise more phone calls during the advents.
Yet we had a taster of the things to come.

A few days ago, Santa called Eddie to tell him that the new baby reindeer was born on that day, and that they called him Edgar. Eddie was a little bit shy at first, almost whispering his greetings. He was delighted to hear from Santa. It was a wonderful surprise.

He was slightly less enthusiastic about the story of the Red Star as read to him by Santa, probably because the only personalised aspect of this video is the child's name.

Yet he was absolutely thrilled with a video Secret Places. He was amazed that Santa knows where he lives, and what his most wanted gift is supposed to be.

We haven't installed the PNP app on our ipad, as we've run out of space (too many games on that ipad). I took several photos of Eddie watching Santa yesterday night, and as you can see from his expressions, he was blissfully happy.

My heart melted, truly. It was priceless to see him so delighted.

You can get a Santa-approved certificate to print for each of your videos.

Will you be sending a PNP message to your little ones?

Disclosure: We received a free Magic Pass for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

New Haagen Dazs flavour and baked apples with mincemeat

We are big fans of Haagen-Dazs and you can find a couple of tubs of Vanilla in our freezer at any time. Their Vanilla is a classic flavour, purely indulgent and perfect on all accounts. We have tried Vanilla ice cream as made by all major brands, here and abroad, and this is the one we return to again and again.
I'm also very fond of Dulce de Leche, it is absolutely decadent. I can't say we have tried every single flavour from Haagen Dazs, but definitely most of those which are widely available in supermarkets.
In summer we often eat ice cream with fruit salads, in winter we enjoy it with baked apples, hot puds and stewed fruit.
Haagen-Dazs has recently released a new beautiful seasonal flavour for Autumn/Winter 2016 - Honey, Walnut & Cream. It should be available now in all leading supermarkets and online. I found it in Sainsbury's locally.

I first discovered Haagen-Dazs over 14 years ago, when we lived in New Haven, Connecticut. I was pregnant with Sasha, and this delicious ice cream was one of my big cravings.

What did we all think of the new seasonal flavour? It proved to be a great success.
It is an inspired combination of flavours and textures. You get smooth creamy ice cream, speckled with crunchy pieces of walnut. It tastes wonderful too, sweet and aromatic.

I have served it with baked apples, as well as with plums roasted in sweet cider, and both desserts were temptingly tasty, yet very simple to make.

If you go out in our garden, our old apple trees are now naked, all the leaves have fallen. Yet there are still some very stubborn red apples clinging to the branches at the very top. Last week I picked a good amount of windfalls from the lawn. They wouldn't keep long, as some of them are slightly bruised from the fall. However, they are perfectly fine for cooking.
I have recently made a batch of mincemeat (recipe courtesy of Tate & Lyle) and had 1/3 mincemeat leftovers in one of the jars.

Baked apples with mincemeat
5 small to medium apples
5 heaped tsp of mincemeat
75ml apple juice
good quality ice cream to serve with

Set the oven to 180C. Slice tops of the apples and core them using a small knife, taking care not to cut right through to the bottom.
Place the apples in a deep ceramic dish or smaller size roasting tray. Fill each apple with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Put the apple lids on. Pour the apple juice around the apples.

Bake in the oven for 40+ minutes until the apples are soft and fluffy inside.

winter dessert

winter dessert

Serve with a good dollop of ice cream. We are never patient enough to wait until the ice cream is soft enough to make a perfect ball-like scoop.

You might also like to try serving this ice cream with plums roasted in sweet cider.

Of course, you might just enjoy eating it straight from the tub, without any additional fruit.
This new Haagen Dazs flavour gets top marks from us.

Have you tried the new Haagen Dazs ice cream flavour?

Disclosure: I received two vouchers to buy two tubs of new ice cream. All opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Curd cheese & orange zest cookies and Sainsbury's Taste Dictionary

teatime treats

These days when you eat out, you won't bat an eyelid, when someone takes photos of their food. In many cases those images go straight on the social media, shared with friends and followers. I've, ahem, done that, though in my defense I usually do it with a blog post in mind. My husband who was first embarrassed by my behaviour, now takes it easy. And I do try to do it as discreetly as I can (meaning that I don't stand on the chair over the table to take a better photo).
Recent research revealed some fascinating data about our obsession with food. Apparently we think and talk about food about 16 hours a week on average, which is almost six years of our adult lives. Like many foodie bloggers, I probably spend even more time reading about food on food blogs, in magazines and books, writing recipe posts and food reviews etc.
While we spend a considerable amount of time on food culture in general, our food vocabulary is not varied, with "delicious, tasty and nice" being our top three food adjectives. If anything, Britons use only six different words to describe meals each week.
To remedy this situation, Sainsbury's has created a Taste Dictionary to help us expand our foodie vocabulary.
The dictionary was written by wordsmith Susie Dent and illustrated by Rebecca Ohta.
Sainsbury's Taste Dictionary: 101 ways to describe each mouthful is a useful resource and a splendid compilation of words, ranging from quite common "bittersweet, succulent, luscious, candied and gooey" to such gems like amarine (bitter and sour in taste, when talking about cooking apples, grapefruit, pomegranate molasses and gooseberries), angular (i.e. highly acidic when describing lemon, vinegar, pickles and kimchi) and medulline (relating to the soft pulp or pitch of a fruit, for example, oranges, persimmon, lemons and lime).

There are some words that I personally never used in my blog posts like
- uliginous (creamy, soft and smooth to taste, e.g, poached eggs, avocado, creme caramel and chocolate mousse);
- suaveolent (deliciously scented and sweet-smelling- tarte tatin, passion fruit and hot chocolate)
- piscose (fishy in taste, e.g. Thai fish sauce, tiger prawns and anchovy essence)
and my new favourite -
mordacious i.e. sharp and possessing a real bite, for example, Worcestershire sauce, Granny Smith apples, gooseberries and mustard.

This little book is a useful source of information on how to improve your foodie vocabulary.
Sainsbury's Taste Dictionary has been created as a limited run of books and is available to download as a PDF (<--- visit the page for the PDF download, if you fancy to learn new ways to describe food). If you're lucky to see it in the supermarkets, grab one for future reference or to give as a gift to your foodie friends.

Today I baked curd cheese and orange zest cookies. They are aromatic, indulgent and toothsome.

Curd cheese and orange zest cookies (makes about 34 cookies)
zest of 2 oranges
100g curd cheese
100g margarine (Flora light)
180g caster sugar
1 medium egg
1tsp vanilla bean paste
325g self-raising flour
60g oats

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the foil or greaseproof paper on two baking trays.
In a big mixing bowl mix together the orange zest, curd cheese, margarine, caster sugar and egg. Add one egg, vanilla bean paste, flour and oats and mix well until you have a soft dough.
Divide into walnut-sized pieces, roll into balls, then flatten them and place on the trays. Using a fork, make a slight indentation on top of each cookie.
Bake for 15+ minutes until lightly golden. Cool on the wire rack.
Eat warm, or cold. They will keep well in a tin for a couple of days.

teatime treats

Disclosure: I received Sainsbury's Taste Dictionary and a supermarket voucher to buy the ingredients. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Ravensburger Santa's Christmas party 1000pc jigsaw puzzle

Christmas gift ideas for puzzle lovers

32 days until Christmas, and counting! Our town is already bedecked with garlands of Christmas lights. Eddie and I enjoy looking at the window displays. It feels so festive. Last week I baked our first mince pies of the season (all gone now) and made some foodie gifts for friends too.
To put me in a festive mood, I have also tackled a beautiful Santa's Christmas party 1000pc jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger.

Whenever I get a Ravensburger puzzle for reviewing, you can almost hear my sigh of content. Opening a new box of a jigsaw puzzle is a wonderful experience.
This colourful puzzle shows Santa's Christmas party in full swing. In the centre you see Santa and his Mrs dancing and looking at each other lovingly. This is a more traditional Mrs Claus, not the one delivering gifts in a super cool helicopter as seen in the latest M&S ad.
The elves are dancing too. There is a snowman watching all the fun, and the wild animals too came out of the forest to join the party.

The windows of the beautiful lodge in the corner shine invitingly, and the festive lights illuminate the dark blue background.

The puzzle comes in a sturdy box. Jigsaw pieces are made from high quality cardboard, using the softclick technology.

This 20th anniversary limited edition jigsaw puzzle will make an excellent gift for any puzzle lover. If there is such a person in your life, how about treating them for Christmas.

It is nearly finished, I just need to find the remaining three pieces which have mysteriously vanished from the box. I usually work on a puzzle a little bit at a time, and keep the puzzle on a big puzzle mat which I tuck under the sofa. I am still not sure how the pieces might have disappeared from under the sofa, and today I've spent a lot of time, looking in all the corners. Maybe the elves have been playing a joke on me?!

Disclosure: I received the puzzle for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Plaice in tomato saffron sauce

Last Friday I went to Waitrose with a recipe in my mind, from an old cutting from Taste Italia.
It used to be one of my favourite food magazines, and I was very sad when they stopped publishing it, and combined it with the travelling magazine. I don't care much for expensive villa holidays or luxury spa days.

It was a recipe for skate wings in tomato sauce with saffron. Skate wings were there all right, but after much deliberating over the cost, I changed my mind and went to the frozen fish section to look for a less expensive alternative. I couldn't find any frozen skate, but found a pack of 4 plaice fillets for £3.99, which I thought was pretty reasonable. I have adapted the recipe to suit my purchase.

Plaice in tomato sauce
5tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 tin of cherry tomatoes (Cirio Pomodorini)
10g fresh basil leaves, chopped
a pinch of saffron
a handful of sultanas
1tsp cider vinegar
sea salt, a pinch of sugar
4 plaice fillets (454g pack)

Heat the oil in a big frying pan, add the chopped garlic and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the contents of the tin of cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, which has been chopped. Add a pinch of saffron, sultanas, vinegar and season well with sea salt and a pinch of sugar. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and cook on low, simmering for about 20 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, add a bit of water.
Place the defrosted plaice fillets in a slightly oiled ceramic baking dish, pour the tomato sauce over it.
Place the dish in the oven preheated to 180C for 20-25 minutes.
Serve hot, with a nice chunk of bread to mop up the sauce.

In this recipe I used Cirio Pomodorini (cherry tomatoes). I have slightly squashed them with a wooden spoon, while cooking the sauce. You might easily swap them for tomato passata or tinned chopped tomatoes.
Cirio pomodorini are sweet and intense in flavour, they were canned in tomato sauce to preserve their beautiful taste.

The addition of saffron and sultanas made this tomato sauce extra special. Saffron is an expensive spice, but you can find it for less, if you buy supermarket own variety, I found a jar of saffron for £2 in Sainsbury's.

Disclosure: I received a selection of Cirio products for the purposes of testing in recipes. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Crabbie's raspberry delight and The Big Smoke Winter Cocktails

ginger beer based cocktail

When you think about Christmas drinks, what first springs to mind? Mulled wine, champagne, eggnog, "obligatory" sherry and port at the end of the meal, Baileys and Advocaat. At this time of the year numerous magazines publish food and wine pairing guides, and often overlook beer and cider. Yet these alcoholic drinks make a perfect alternative to Christmas wines, and could be used as a great base for a big selection of cocktails too.
Jane Peyton, founder of the School of Booze, drinks educator and writer, and Friends of Glass (community campaigning for the glass packaging for drinks) have created a useful guide for Christmas dining with beer and cider. They have suggested an inspiring pairing of beer and cider with all the Christmas dinner courses including dessert and cheese course.
As this inspired guide says, "With the huge range of brilliant bottled beers and ciders now available, there's never been a better time to try a different taste sensation this festive season".
"Christmas is a time for eating a wide range of delicious treats. These are often rich and heavy and need a liquid lift, which is why anything carbonated performs such a miracle in lightening the richness. So this coming Christmas dinner, why not take a holiday from wine and turn instead to beer and cider? With the huge range of brilliant bottled beers and ciders now available, there's never been a better time to try a different taste sensation this festive season".

Crabbie's alcoholic ginger beer comes in a variety of flavours. It was created by the Scottish pioneer John Crabbie who invented the recipe by combining exotic spices from the Far East with the finest steeped ginger. It has a very pronounced ginger taste, sharp and pungent. The ginger beer is spicy and refreshing, best served in a glass with ice cubes as a perfect thirst-quencher.
On the run to Christmas, I'm testing seasonal recipes for food and drinks.
Crabbie's-based cocktails would be perfect at any Christmas party.

I had a look at the Crabbie's cocktails, and loved the sound of Crabbie's Raspberry Delight.
I have slightly adapted the recipe, first of all by reducing the amount of rum from 50ml to 40ml, and even that was pretty lethal strong for me.

You will need:
4 fresh or frozen raspberries, mashed with a fork
40ml or less spiced rum
3tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
25ml raspberry syrup
Shake all the ingredients together and pour in a wine glass with fancy ice cubes, or just crushed ice
Top up with Crabbie's ginger beer
Garnish with a slice of lemon

The original recipe suggests using Crabbie's Scottish Raspberry Flavour ginger beer, I used the original ginger beer.
From the image above you can see that I have used Bacardi Oakheart spiced rum and Lowica Malina (Polish raspberry syrup, which I found in Tesco for £1).

It is a flavourful cocktail, just use the rum a bit more sparingly or add more ice than I did.

If you like the idea of beer-based cocktails, Jane Peyton and Co have produced a delightful festive recipe of The Big Smoke Winter Cockt-Ale, which I present here with their kind permission. It looks splendid, and is beautifully presented in a fancy glass.
It can be served warm/mulled or cold.
Serves 3-4
1 x 500ml bottle of porter (a dark beer brewed by several breweries such as Fuller's)
1 x 500ml medium dry cider (such as Cornish Orchards Gold)
Add a sprinkle of smoked paprika
If serving mulled, gently warm the drink on the hob
Serve in a tulip or snifter glass
Garnish with a cinnamon stick as a stirrer
Accompany with a couple of slices of crisp smoked apple to nibble on (sprinkle the apple with smoked paprika too if desired).
Isn't it just a beauty?

beer cocktail
Image credits: Friends of Glass

Which cocktails do you enjoy at Christmas parties?

Disclosure: I received a bottle of Crabbie's for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Marmalade cookies

When my older son arrives home from school, he makes a bee-line for the kitchen, looking for something to eat. He loves cookies the best, and I often bake them as an afternoon treat for my boys.
As Eddie's off this week, being poorly, I haven't been out for the last few days. I had a good rummage in the kitchen today, thinking what should I bake today.
I've been putting away the jars of quince jam and mincemeat, when I discovered I still have a set of boozy marmalade I bought last year before Christmas in what-is-now-extinct Cargo (I still feel sad about its demise, I bought quite a few pieces of furniture there in the past, a lot of kitchen bits and bobs as well as jelly beans and preserves).
I used the remains of a bag of oats, and some sultanas (left over from the recent mincemeat making), so it was very much throw it all together kind of recipe. The resulting cookies are soft, crumbly and tasty.

Marmalade cookies (makes 20+ cookies)
90g caster sugar
90g margarine (e.g. Flora light)
1 egg
1 small jar of marmalade (42g)
50g oats
200g self-raising flour
30g sultanas
juice of 1/2 orange and enough icing sugar to make a runny icing

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the foil or greaseproof paper on two baking trays.
Beat together sugar and margarine, add the egg and mix until smooth. Add the marmalade, oats and the flour, mix together. Finally add the sultanas, mix until you have a soft dough.
Divide into walnut-sized pieces, roll into balls, then flatten them and place on the trays. Using a fork, make a slight indentation on top of each cookie.
Bake for 15+ minutes until lightly golden. Cool on the wire rack a bit before drizzling icing on top of each cookie. Make a simple icing by mixing orange juice with the icing sugar until you get a runny icing.

In this recipe I used two types of sugar - caster and icing, both Tate & Lyle brand. I probably use the caster sugar the most when baking cakes and cookies. It is light bodied and delicate in taste, and works well in all kinds of bakes.

Adding this recipe to #KitchenClearout linky run by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews, since I used quite a few bits and bobs that needed using.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Party cocktail with Lambrini - Brini Bliss

Christmas drinks

Lambrini is often associated with girls' parties. You might remember the Do Lambrini ads from a decade ago. This light sparkling perry comes in a variety of flavours. On its own, this refreshing alcoholic drink is quite sweet.

Yet it is a perfect base for a good number of cocktails - you can find an inspiration for making your own creative cocktails at Lambrini Cocktails.
Lambrini Peach is a flavourful fruity smooth drink, it smells like an essence of summer - ripe peaches and sunshine.
While looking at the cocktail recipes, I liked the refreshing Brini Bliss the most, as it contains such ingredients as apple juice and cucumber water.
I have slightly adapted it, as my flutes are quite narrow and wouldn't accommodate the amount of liquid and ice suggested in the original recipe. I also skipped the ice altogether and just used all the ingredients chilled.

For one cocktail you will need:
50ml apple juice
25ml cucumber water
top up with Lambrini
decorate with a fresh cucumber skin ribbon

First pour the apple juice, then the cucumber water. You can make your own cucumber water by infusing the cucumber ribbons in cold water for 15 minutes or buy a ready-made one. I used Nuva cucumber and mint flavoured spring water and fresh pressed apple juice. Top up with Lambrini, decorate the glass with a fresh cucumber skin ribbon. Serve immediately.

It is a delightful cocktail, sweet-scented, fragrant and nectarous. My husband and I enjoyed it at dinnertime yesterday night. It is easy and quick to prepare, and doesn't need expensive ingredients and a whole collection of wine and other alcoholic drinks.
Are there any Lambrini cocktail recipes that you enjoy and would like to share with me?

Disclosure: I received a bottle of Lambrini Peach for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Teletubbies: Tubby Snowball (review + competition E: 1 December 2016)

Teletubbies hit out screens back in 1997. By now many of those who watched the first series as young kids, have kids of their own. And it's not just the kids who adored this iconic show.
A friend of mine has recently confessed that she was 19 when Teletubbies made their grand entrance. She still keeps a soft Teletubby toy she bought then, and she used to buy Teletubbies magazines for the colourful stickers. She asked me not to laugh.
Our 14-year-old son used to watch Teletubbies with great enthusiasm when he was a tot. Our younger one was less keen to watch the cute multi-coloured creatures with big tummies and antennae on their heads. He is more of a Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly generation.
Since Teletubbies were relaunched in 2014, sixty new episodes were ordered.
A new generation of families can enjoy the iconic Teletubbies. The latest Teletubbies: Tubby Snowball DVD featuring six episodes was released on October 31.

The DVD includes bonus content - a Teletubbies Holiday Song We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Behind the scenes for grown ups featurette: Building the set.
"It's a cold day in Teletubbyland and snow falls on the Teletubbies! Join Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po as they find big snowballs, dance with a snowman and watch children make a caterpillar out of snow"
Moving along with the times,Teletubbies can play with the Tubby Phone and have new Touch-screen tummies.
Six episodes included in the DVD are:
Number Four
Teletubbies: Tubby Snowball has a run time of approximately 1hr12 minutes.

This lovely DVD will make a lovely gift for a preschooler.

To coincide with the release of the latest DVD, I have 3 prizes (one copy each) of Teletubbies: Tubby Snowball DVD for my blog readers.
This is a creative competition aimed at young children.

Terms and Conditions:

1. To be entered in the competition, please design/draw your own Teletubbies Snowball picture.
2. Post it on Twitter with your child's name (just first name), a hashtag #teletubbiessnowball tagging me @maximka25 or on Instagram tagging @realmaximka25 with the same hashtag
3. The winning entries will be chosen randomly from all entries.
4. Once you have entered, please leave a comment here to say that you have entered.
5. The competition is open to UK residents only.
6. Once the competition winners are contacted, you will have 28 days to get back to me with your address details.
7. The DVDs will be posted by the PR running the promotion.
8. The competitions ends on 1 December 2016 at midnight.
Good luck!

Disclosure: We received a copy of the DVD for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Slow Dough: Real Bread by Chris Young and Earl Grey tea loaf recipe

The last GBBO confirmed once again that great bread takes time to produce . The contestants had such limited time that often their breads and pastries were not cooked through and had what they all delighted in calling "soggy bottoms". It was often too hectic and rushed.
Yet time is one of the most important ingredients when it comes to bread making.
Chris Young, the coordinator of the Real Bread Campaign, is encouraging people to bake bread at home.
In the course of his work he has met many talented bakers, and put out an open call for long-rise recipes to form the basis of a book celebrating real bread. Thus Slow Dough: Real Bread by Chris Young and the bakers of the Real Bread Campaign was born.
Slow Dough: Real Bread is a cook book which would appeal to bakers who already have some experience in bread making and mastered the basics.
The book includes chapters on Real Bread Campaign, Terms and Techniques, Troubleshooting, Pre-Ferment, Sourdough, Leftovers etc

bread baking cook book

According to Chris Young, a long-proved dough has more time to develop flavour and tends to produce a less crumbly loaf.
The book shares the recipes from classic to modern and innovative.
You will learn how to make the sourdough starter and other pre-ferments as well as the fundamental processes of kneading, proving and baking.

Do you remember the famous Fougasse challenge from the last GBBO?! I have never baked one in my life, but if you fancy recreating this flatbread from Provence, there is a recipe for your reference.

There are so many inspiring delicious recipes to choose from: I'm definitely going to try a Saffron cake and Christmas bread.

The recipes cover many different countries and cultures - French (Pain de Campagne), Dutch (Fryske Sukerbole), Italian (Ciabatta), Indian (Naan), Turkish (Simit), Finnish (Lihapurakka) etc.
The photos are quite minimalist, taken on plain backgrounds, so that nothing distracts from the beauty of the bread products.
I also loved the chapter on Leftovers with clever ideas for what to do with crusts, crumbs and chunks.

This book will make an excellent Christmas gift for any foodie.

I have bookmarked several recipes to try. The Earl Grey Tea Loaf has been my first choice as it is made with my favourite tea. How could I resist?!

I have slightly adapted the recipe, by adding a bit of sugar, using the dry yeast rather than fresh and also swapping pumpkin pie mix for Christmas spice mix (I couldn't find fresh and pumpkin pie mix anywhere).

baking bread

Earl Grey Tea Loaf
125ml Earl Grey tea, freshly brewed (I used 2 teabags for this amount of hot boiling water)
50g sultanas
50g raisins
for the dough:
350g white bread flour
1tsp and a half of dry yeast
1tsp fine salt
3tsp caster sugar (optional)
1 medium egg
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
50g softened butter + more for greasing
100ml milk
75ml water
1 heaped tsp of Christmas spice mix (ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, star anise, black pepper, tangerine oil and cloves)

First brew a small cup of strong Earl Grey tea (either leaves or teabags). Pour the hot tea over the dried raisins and sultanas in a bowl, and let it soak overnight.
Next day, make the dough by mixing the dough ingredients together thoroughly. Knead it for 10-15 minutes until smooth and elastic. Don't be tempted to add more water.
Drain the soaked fruit and add to the dough. I found this part a bit tricky, as the wet fruit didn't get incorporated in the dough easily. I had to poke the fruit bits in the dough. Knead until all the fruit is distributed evenly inside the dough.
Cover the dough and leave it to rise for 3 hours at a room temperature.
Give it a single fold after 3 hours, cover again and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Grease a bread tin with butter, place the loaf-shaped dough in the tin and leave it to prove for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 210C. Brush the loaf either with milk or beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes at 210C, then lower the temperature to 190C and continue baking for another 15+ minutes.
Check if it's ready with a wooden skewer, if it comes clean and dry, the loaf is ready.
Once slightly cooled, mix 3tbsp of lemon juice with icing sugar and brush over the warm loaf.

Eating freshly baked bread smothered in good butter is truly one of life's greatest pleasures.
I loved the Earl Grey tea loaf, and will be baking it again.

Disclosure: I received the book for the purposes of reviewing. all opinions are my own.