Monday, 30 May 2016

Gin Mondays: Caorunn Gin and Rosy Cheeks Cocktail

Last Thursday and Friday, the garden of The Imperial in Chelsea was transformed into an edible 'Gin Garden' filled with plants, fruits and botanicals ready to be picked and used to flavour and garnish a delicious gin cocktail. 

The garden was created by Caorunn (ka-roon!) and they invited me along to sample some of the cocktails and take in the atmosphere of the garden. After tasting the yummy gin I felt it only appropriate to make Caorunn the latest gin to feature in Gin Mondays, along with a cracking cocktail recipe I've developed for you to try at home.

We arrived at The Imperial and walked straight through into the beautiful garden. Unfortunately, it took a while for one of the waiting staff to notice I was trying to get their attention and when someone did eventually come over, she told me she couldn't help with the gin and had to get someone else! 10 minutes later and a waiter arrived; unfortunately, he could barely speak English so trying to explain why we were there and order drinks was a challenge... However, eventually we did manage to order two G&Ts to start with; I always try new gin in a G&T first so I can really taste the flavours. They arrived garnished with sliced apple which really enhanced the flavours.

Caorunn is the Gaelic word for the rowan berry, which is just one of the 5 unique botanicals foraged in Scotland and infused in the gin during the distillation process. As well as rowan berry, Caorunn is also infused with bog myrtle, heather, coul blush apple and dandelion leaf. They give the gin a really nice, earthy and slightly 'wild' flavour which I really love! 

Once the G&Ts were gone (I don't know what happened to them, honest...), we ordered two of the gin cocktails. Adam went for the 'Goodness Rose' and I opted for the 'Mint Julep'. Both arrived looking great but we had a lot of fun picking more botanicals to compliment the flavours in the cocktails.

Goodness Rose: Caorunn Gin, Raspberry Jam, Rose Water, Orange Bitters, Pink Grapefruit Juice.

Mint Julep: Caorunn Gin, Sugar, Mint Leaves, Peach Bitters, Dandelion & Burdoch bitters.

The cocktails provided delicious combinations of flavours I've never really tried before and most definitely a cut above the usual cosmopolitans and mojitos available in most 'cocktail bars' these days. I've always been a little scared of using rose water in recipes; it's really easy to overdo it and end up with something that tastes like grandma's potpourri dish. Not good.

However, inspired by the Goodness Rose, I set out to create a rose-flavoured cocktail at home that could be created by anyone with just a basic cocktail cabinet and a few fresh extras. Leaning on the collective wisdom of Google and Twitter, I decided on my flavour combo of rose, cucumber and pomegranate and spent an evening blending them to achieve what I felt was the perfect combination for a sophisticated yet delicious drink. The Rosy Cheeks was born!

So, want to learn how to make your own Rosy Cheeks? Here we go...

print recipe

Rosy Cheeks Cocktail
A fun yet sophisticated cocktail, blending the delicate flavours of rose and cucumber with juicy pomegranate.
  • 1 handful whole ice cubes
  • 1 long slice of cucumber
  • 50ml Caorunn gin
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 0.5tsp rose water
  • pomegranate juice
  • To serve:
  • 1 long slice of cucumber
  • 1 glass lightly crushed ice
  • A few pomegranate seeds
1. Using a vegetable peeler, take a long slice from the whole of the side of a cucumber. Place the ice cubes and cucumber into a cocktail shaker and, using either a muddler or the end of a rolling pin, smash the cucumber into a pulp. The ice will help with this process. 2. Add the gin, bitters, rose water and a splash of pomegranate juice to the shaker, add the lid and shake until mixed and a mist of condensation has formed on the outside of the shaker. 3. Take another slice of cucumber and twist around the inside of a glass; the moisture from the cucumber will help it stick to the glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice. 4. Strain the cocktail over the ice into the glass and top up with more pomegranate juice if required. Sprinkle over the seeds and serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: One cocktail

I hope you've enjoyed this instalment of Gin Mondays. Stay tuned for more gin-related fun!

Disclaimer: Caorunn invited me for complimentary cocktails at The Imperial and supplied a bottle of gin for recipe preparation and photography. As always, I wasn't expected to write a positive review and all views expressed are my own personal opinions.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Vegetarian BBQ Recipe Roundup

When a reader recently asked me for some veggie recipes for the BBQ, I must admit I was a little stumped. My BBQs tend to be pretty meat-heavy affairs... However, I'm trying to eat more vegetarian food in general these days so I decided to do a little research and some fab bloggers came to my rescue with their brilliant recipes.

My first stop, of course, was with the brilliant Tinned Tomatoes. If I ever want a veggie recipe for something, Jacqueline's blog is the first (and usually the last) place I look. She has a number of veggie BBQ recipes, but my absolute favourite has to be these Cajun Spiced Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers. Don't they look delicious?!

Laura's Moroccan-Inspired Halloumi and Vegetable Kebabs over at Knead Wine also provide a brilliant alternative to the usual chicken kebabs I would serve.

Back over at Tinned Tomatoes, there are more veggie kebabs and more halloumi. One look at these Falafel & Halloumi Kebabs with Spiced Peanut Butter Marinade and my mouth is watering already. Mmmmm!

I'm always amazed at the range of recipes Sus over at Rough Measures cooks as she lives on A BOAT! How cool is that?! This Beetroot and Orange Salad she's created is the perfect accompaniment to a veggie BBQ.

Another brilliant side dish comes from Tinned Tomatoes in the form of these BBQ Apricots with Goats' Cheese. *drools*

Of course, we mustn't forget dessert and these BBQ Waffle S'mores from Claire at Foodie Quine would certainly fit the bill for me.

Our final recipe comes from Fab Food 4 All. Bananas and chocolate are a classic flavour combination and Camilla shares her version of Banana S'mores with us.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this round up of Vegetarian BBQ recipes. I know I have! I now have loads of insiration for my next BBQ get together with family and friends!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

REVIEW: Glorious! Cuban Creamed Corn Soup

When I sat down to plan my latest post for Glorious! Soup, I took a look through their range once more. As soon as my eyes fell on the big yellow car and bright, cheery colour of the Creamed Corn Soup I just knew that was the one to review this time.

It's almost 8 years since I went to Cuba on holiday for the first time, but I can still remember certain parts of the trip like it was yesterday.

Several things stuck out for me during my visit:

  • The people; I met so many people during the course of my 2 week holiday. Some were extremely poor, some a bit better off but almost all of them were incredibly welcoming and friendly. The Cuban people welcomed me into their country, they were appreciative of the money spent by tourists and I'm pretty sure the rum added a certain amount of happiness too!
  • The vehicles; since the U.S. placed a trade embargo on Cuba in the 60s, the Cuban mechanics had to come up with new and innovative ways to keep the old cars and trucks moving. This, combined with the hot and dry climate, meant there were lots of old classics to be seen. At the time I was a big fan of VW Beetles and it felt like I found one parked on every street in Havana. I loved it!
  • The hurricane (eek!); that's right, I did say hurricane. You see, I didn't earn much back in 2008 but I wanted a big adventure. I found that Cuba was pretty cheap in September and promptly booked a holiday. A couple of weeks later I discovered precisely why it was cheap: September is the heart of hurricane season! Oh well, I thought, a hurricane is possible but it's never going to happen to me. It did. 

    2008 was the year that Hurricane Ike hit the shores of Cuba and passed right over the resort of Guardalavaca where I was staying. As the hurricane approached, the women and children were shipped off to local 5* hotels which had secure hurricane-proof shelters. However, us men were piled into a disused kitchen store room, with the door nailed shut. All there was to do was to sit in the darkness and wait until the hurricane passed. Quite simply, the most frightening thing I have ever been though up to that point and even since. Screaming, glass smashing, the winds ripping the boards off the door and total darkness. Not nice!

Despite my brush with Ike, I loved Cuba and I'd really like to go back there someday. I think I would even like to go back to the same hotel, Club Amigo Atlantico, though maybe not during hurricane season this time...

Anyway, back to the soup. Not only did the vintage car and cheery colour of the soup remind me of Cuba, the flavours were very evocative too. I ate a lot of pulses when in Cuba, including a lot of sweetcorn, and sweet potato and cayenne pepper were also prominent features on the menu. So, when I tasted this soup and closed my eyes I could almost imagine myself there once again! It is delicious and is made better by the fact there are just 300 calories in the whole pot. YUM!

I've come to the end of my time reviewing Glorious! Soups now, but I hope you've enjoyed reading about them. The links below will take you to my other reviews. As I've said before, if I buy a pre-made soup then it is ALWAYS fresh and ALWAYS Glorious! and I hope yours will be from now on too.

Disclaimer: Glorious! sent me some of their soups to try and compensated me for my time in writing this review. As always, I wasn't expected to write a positive review and all views expressed are my own personal opinions.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Walkers Tear 'n' Share & LIFEHACK: Wrapping Paper Gift Bag

You MUST have seen these new Walkers Tear 'n' Share crisps in the shops. Have you been wondering what they're all about? Why they're different to other bags of Walkers crisps and why you should buy them? Well, fear not, because Walkers have asked me to tell you all about them!

The crisps themselves are just like the Walkers we all know and love, except they are thicker cut. What does this mean? Well, it means the crisps are sturdier, crunchier and more appropriate for sharing. I found them to be about halfway between the likes of Kettle Chips and traditional Walkers Crisps.

Of course, being thicker cut means they're a lot less fragile and can be used to dunk in a wide variety of dips. Yum!

The other trick this product has up its sleeve is the bag doubles up as a bowl... Rather than having to use a serving bowl to pour the crisps into, you can just open the pack at the top and it'll form a standalone bowl for guests (or you!) to dive into. I don't know about you, but anything that reduces the amount of washing up required after having friends over is always a winner with me; and this is no exception!

All in all, I really enjoyed Walker Tear 'n' Share crisps and I love the idea of the bag becoming a bowl. I hope you'll love them too.

Walkers also asked me to share with my readers a little lifehack of mine; something that I do that makes my life easier or less complicated but other people might not think about doing. When I knew that the bags of crisps turned into a bowl, I instantly knew what I wanted to show you all; how to make a gift bag from ordinary wrapping paper!

LIFEHACK: Wrapping Paper Gift Bag

We've all done it; bought a rush gift for a friend's birthday without any consideration for wrapping it up. Perhaps it's a really weird shape. Maybe it's a small gift and you don't want to look too tight-fisted. Whatever your reasoning, this gift bag is the answer. I bet you've already got some wrapping paper hanging around from another birthday too, so this will even save you money; Perfect!

I'll talk you through this in words, but the images are below too just to make it completely clear.

You'll need:
  • Good quality wrapping paper; the sturdier the better. It's harder to work with stiff paper but the results are so much nicer.
  • Tape; I've used washi tape in this example, mainly because it's pretty but also because you can see it clearly in the pictures.
  • Scissors.
  • OPTIONAL: Hole punch and ribbon for a bow.

To make the bag:
  1. Cut a sheet of wrapping paper so that it will fit the present. It needs to fit around the item easily with some overlap and also around twice as tall as the item to allow for folding etc.
  2. Fold over the two sides so they overlap. Crease the folds in both directions, to make sure the paper behaves itself. Tape down the join.
  3. Fold the bottom up. Again, use the item to decide how much to fold. The amount you fold will determine the depth of the bag from front to bag.
  4. Pull down the top sheet of paper and allow the folded piece to turn into a diamond shape. Crease the edges.
  5. Fold the top and bottom points over so they overlap slightly. Tape all of the joins. Don't worry if it isn't perfect; this is the bottom of the bag after all!
  6. Open out the bag, pushing the bottom flat and creasing the two sides to make the bag square.
  7. Place the gift in the bag and fold over the top of the bag a couple of times until it feels like the right size for the item. Tape down the top.
  8. OPTIONAL: Punch two holes in the top of the bag and feed through some ribbon for the perfect finishing touch. Voila!

I hope you enjoyed this lifehack. If you make a bag, why not share it with me on Twitter or post about it in the comments below?

Disclaimer: Walkers sent me some of their crisps to try and compensated me for my time in writing this post. As always, I wasn't expected to write a positive review and all views expressed are my own personal opinions. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

REVIEW: Glorious! Fragrant Thai Carrot Soup

Have you ever eaten something and been instantly transported to a specific place in your memory? Of course you have! I have too and when I tasted the first spoonful of this soup I really was transported back in time.

I know what you're thinking... Must be a holiday in Thailand, right? Nope! I wish it was but I've never been; instead, it took me back to my favourite Thai restaurant here in Norwich. You see, I didn't eat Thai food for the first 20 or so years of my life. My parents never cooked or ordered it and it just didn't occur to me that it would be something I like. How very wrong I was!

Now that I'm 27 (shh! don't tell too many people) I've had many years of both good and bad Thai food. When it's good it's been very very good but when it's bad I've wanted to never eat it again! So when I bought this soup, I was really hoping it would be good Thai; and I needn't have worried, it was delicious.

The moment I tasted the soup I was transported back to the spicy coconut soup I usually have as a starter in a Thai restaurant. Creamy and delicious but also spiked with spice and aromatics. The garlic, ginger, lemongrass and lime leaves all remind me of so many stir fried dishes there too. These flavours really are the essence of Thai food for me and are so important for a chef to get right; Glorious! have definitely got it right with this soup.

The only minor criticism I'd make about the soup is that it needs a little more heat for my taste. However, a few shakes of some good hot sauce and that problem is easily solved. Now, I'm no Beyoncé and I don't keep hot sauce in my bag but I am pretty addicted to the stuff; I just love spicy food.

You'll see I've served the soup in a little bread 'bowl'. This isn't nearly as fancy as it looks... I simply took a shop-bought loaf (a pumpkin seed boule, in this case), cut off the top and hollowed out the insides to make space for the soup. The bits you've removed can be used for dipping and as you eat the soup, you can eat bits of the bowl too! Yum! Give it a go and all of your friends will think you're fancy too.

Have you tried this soup? Do you love Thai food? Why not leave me a little comment below to let me know?

Disclaimer: Glorious! sent me some of their soups to try and compensated me for my time in writing this review. As always, I wasn't expected to write a positive review and all views expressed are my own personal opinions.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Pineapple and Coconut Cheesecake Slices

So, a while back I showed you how to make Pineapple and Coconut Curd. A lot of you really loved it but some of you spotted the intriguing looking baked goods hiding at the pack of the image. Some of you wanted the recipe, so here it is!

This is a great 'whack it in the oven and forget it' recipe. When cooked, it requires no decoration at all and provides a deliciously gooey-centred treat with great flavour. Best of all, it has a ripple of cream cheese running through it which makes it extra yummy.

You could use any kind of curd for this you like! Just substitute a couple of extra tbsp flour for the coconut if you want to remove it. I'm thinking lime and coconut would be amazing, as would lemon and blueberry... Let your imagination run wild and create a real treat for you and your friends.

print recipe

Pineapple and Coconut Cheesecake Slices
The perfect 'bake it and forget' traybake. Soft, gooey and really moreish. Great for afternoon tea or even a bake sale!
  • 200g full fat cream cheese
  • 3tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 175g baking spread
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 1 tin pineapple chunks, drained
  • 250ml jar jar pineapple and coconut curd
  • A little extra dessicated coconut, to top
1. Preheat oven to 180C. 2. Beat the cream cheese, 3tbsp caster sugar and 1 egg together until smooth. The mixture will be quite liquid. Don't panic! 3. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining eggs, spread, sugar, flour and coconut together until completely combined. 4. Grease and flour or line a 28 x 18cm or similar sized baking tray. Spread half of the cake mixture in the bottom of the tin, then swirl through half of the cream cheese mixture, half of the curd and top with half of the pineapple chunks. 5. Top this mixture with the remaining cake, then again swirl through the remaining cream cheese mix, curd and pineapple chunks. Top with a sprinkle of dessicated coconut. At this point, the mix will look like a sloppy, gloopy, unmixed mess. DON'T PANIC. It will all turn out delicious in the end. I promise. 6. Bake in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes until risen and just firm to the touch. Don't over-bake or you'll lose the gooey centre that makes these slices extra special. 7. Leave in the tin to cool completely then remove, cut into slices and enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: One Large Tray (Around 12 Slices)

Thursday, 28 January 2016

REVIEW: Glorious! SkinnyLicious Soups

Each month, I've been trying out some of the fab soups from Glorious! and sharing some of my favourites with you. This month, with it being January and all, I'm concentrating on the 'SkinnyLicious' range of soups.

These are delicious soups with a little secret; they all contain less than 2% fat and are under 150 calories per portion. For soups packed full of flavour and ingredients, this is amazing! It almost feels like they've got this wrong when you eat the soups as they are so creamy and filling.

I've been eating these soups for my lunches. With a high street sandwich having a calorie count of anything up to 600 calories, to have a bowl of soup for 150 calories is an amazing alternative. Even if you add a bread roll and some butter, it's still much better for you than that limp soggy 'meal deal' sandwich!

I'm sharing my 2 favourites in a bit more detail here...

Vietnamese Supergreen is a light, fragrant soup with peas, spinach and Vietnamese spices but it's still very filling due to the addition of lentils. I usually shy away from anything labelled 'green' and 'skinny' as so much of this tastes like I'm just eating blended grass and I'm not a cow! I needn't have worried though; this soup is far from that. It's delicious and really full of flavour.

Texan Four Bean Chilli is my absolute favourite of the SkinnyLicious soups. It is delicious; not too spicy, but definitely carries the flavour of the ancho chillies well. Again, the beans and basmati rice in it make for a filling meal in a way that won't see your waistline expanding and the added spices and red pepper pack a big flavour punch. I've had a whole tub of this for dinner with some bread on the side, felt completely stuffed and still been well within my calorie allowance for the day. Winner!

The SkinnyLicious range has 7 soups in total. For me, some other highlights are New England Butternut Squash and Cuban Creamed Corn. Give these or some of the other flavours a go; I bet you won't regret it!

If you do try these soups or the rest of the range, drop me a comment below. I'd love to know what you think of them.

Disclaimer: Glorious! sent me some of their soups to try and compensated me for my time in writing this review. As always, I wasn't expected to write a positive review and all views expressed are my own personal opinions.

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