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Home page: http://splodzblogz.co.uk
Posts by Splodz
Tomorrow I go on a very important motorcycle ride.
I will be riding my F650GS alongside LincsGeek, Veronica, Edward, Rick and Paul, approximately 2,000 miles around Great Britain in memory of my father-in-law.
The Graham Homes Memorial Motorcycle Ride is raising money for Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.
I have not scheduled any posts to magically appear on Splodz Blogz while I’m doing the ride, so while I am away, please head over to the GVH Ride Blog to see what we’re up to each day – we’re going to try and update it as we go.
And most importantly, please donate what you can to these very important charities in Graham’s memory. You can donate anything from £1 – every single penny counts and each donation will be split equally between the two charities.
Oh, and if you want to join in the conversation on twitter we’re using the hashtag #gvhride to chat about what we’re up to.
The other day I wrote about my inability to walk in high heeled shoes these days (see here), and while I have been trying to retrain my feet by wandering around the house in them (yes, I am wearing my green suede courts as I run about my house trying to get everything ready for my motorcycle trip starting tomorrow), a number of you suggested that I chose some nice wedges as a compromise.
I never need any encouragement to browse for new shoes, but in the interests of blogging (and not shopping… honest) I had a look to see what wedges caught my attention.
I spotted these first. A nice thick cork wedge, chunky straps without being over the top, a great orange colour. And I love that they say “have a nice day” on the insole! I could wear these.
Another traditional sole this time with rope outline – you know these Hush Puppies will be really comfortable, maybe even for all day wear.
Raffia wedges have a county-feel to them but I don’t think I’ll be walking over a green meadow in these UGGs any time soon. They are very pretty, though.
I still like a court shoe and these by MTNG would give me the height nice and safely… hopefully! The burnt brick red is a really great colour too.
The thing about wedges is there’s a whole load more shoe to go pattern-crazy on – just like these 70s inspired courts by Desigual. I’d recommend a pretty “plain” outfit to go with these!
If the psychedelic colours of Desigual aren’t your thing you can still go a little bit crazy in wedges with these Lola Ramona bow wedges – and why not!
This is a review written by my father, David Radford, who was very happy to give Bounce Coffee a test on my behalf.
With the explosion of varieties available these days, coffee lovers I fear are heading for confused overload and will eventually crave ultimate relief in a simple cup of instant! Not only do we need to cope with a dictionary of semi-technical words for the way coffee is prepared and served, but we need to handle the new vocabulary that is growing up around the coffee bean and the way it is roasted, ground and blended. Traditional suppliers compete for our attention with multi-national café brands and coffee machine makers all hoping to condition our taste-buds and commercialise our aroma detecting noses.
So trying another variation of the humble bean as something ‘new’ was perhaps asking too much from me. The brand name ‘Bounce’, the pouting, in your face female and the wide eyed, wide mouth monkey with big ears on the packet, did give it a different look but my advert-scepticism was not moved. Although its easy resealable packaging (that actually worked) did give me a fun moment. At least the packaging, I thought gave the brand a slight edge over other premium espresso coffee suitable for all coffee makers.
But in a sense of fair-play, and because I am naturally inquisitive, the tasting process commenced. Whatever variety used, the art of making a proper cup of coffee should only really be surpassed by the ritual of tea making. And so Latte and Cappuccino and, of course Espresso, were duly created. The results were surprisingly good: not bitter, not mild, and no strong after taste yet with enough punch to separate it out from the froth and steamed milk. Overall a good ground coffee that I would pick out from the supermarket shelf, even if I still don’t get its name. Why Bounce? Can such a word ever be part of the international language of coffee? I still think of ‘Bounce’ as a fabric softener, no disrespect intended.
Whenever anyone tells you that chocolate is good for you (and they’re not just trying to help you in a crisis moment…) then they are probably talking about good quality dark chocolate, eaten a little at a time(!). I do enjoy a bit of proper dark chocolate, there is normally some in the fridge at home and also often some in my desk drawer (no stealing!!).
These two bars have come from Elizabeth Shaw – both are based on their lovely dark chocolate (that I’ve reviewed before) but with some surprising (and definitely not mint) flavour additions.
To start with I must mention the lovely packaging. I know it’s only chocolate but the card outer sleeve is lovely – it makes this chocolate good enough to give as a gift and keeps it more intact than the usual waxed paper packaging you get on nice dark chocolate.
To the chocolate, then. There are two bars here – Blackberry and Ginger, and Pear and Almond. Elizabeth Shaw have chosen two very different fruits to impress your chocolate taste buds.
The Blackberry and Ginger one has a real sharpness to it courtesy of the fruit, and a warmness thanks to the ginger. The flavours have been added by way of little bits set inside the chocolate, which gives it some texture as well as added flavour. You get little bursts of blackberry and hits of ginger in every little nibble. Lovely.
The Pear and Almond chocolate (pictured above) has the same rich dark chocolate as the Blackberry version but because of the choice of fruit it is much less sharp. I adore pear and dark chocolate together anyway, and Elizabeth Shaw have really hit on something here with this bar. The tiny nuggets of pear and slices of almond are quite gorgeous. Definitely my preferred choice of the two.
Both of these bars are still all about the chocolate, but the addition of the fruit and nut is impressive and makes these lovely treats. A square or two of one of these is an ideal way to end a day.
You all know that I cannot resist a nice cup of tea. I am a) British and b) brought up in the Salvation Army – tea was inevitably going to be a very important part of my life! But one thing I have never been able to do is enjoy herbal or fruit tea. I simply can’t drink it. Smells amazing. Tastes horrible.
…sounds like these teas are exactly what I’ve been looking for! Traditional black tea that you serve with milk, with a hint of redbush, peppermint, green tea, or echinacea. You get the benefits of drinking herbal, with just a hint of flavour in amongst the Everyday tea. Sounded intriguing. And as Twinings even sent me a mug with which to test the tea out, I put the kettle on immediately!
The Everyday Tea by Twinings is designed to put a smile on your face. It is a bright and refreshing blend of fine tea leaves from around the world, great for any time of the day. It is a tea I buy regularly because I enjoy it, although normally in the decaffeinated version – it is the best decaf black tea blend I have found so far (and I drink a lot of it!).
The three “with a little extra” Everyday Tea blends I received were the Peppermint Blend, Echinacea Blend, and Green Tea Blend. Each has the same full bodied rich and vibrant flavour of Twinings standard Everyday Tea but with the benefits associated with the additions on top. All three had slightly different flavours, but the blends were subtle and not overpowering at all. You can’t really smell the added extras until the tea is brewing, and you can then taste them in the background. All work very well as combinations; they are a great alternative to “ordinary” black tea.
Apart from tasting really lovely there are also added benefits by using these three different ingredients inside a teabag. Peppermint is associated with digestion, echinacea with your body’s defences and immune system, and green tea is said to have healing properties. Twinings saw the addition of these things to their classic tea as something of a tea challenge, to help those of us who really can’t stand herbal teas to benefit from these things too. I think they succeeded. Assuming there is enough of the relevant ingredient to help my insides, then Twinings have done a great thing here.
And if you’re wondering – all the teas look the same when brewed… tea with milk coloured!
Of the three I have found the peppermint blend to be the most satisfying, I am genuinely enjoying drinking that particular tea. It has a fresh and clean taste; the peppermint is there in the background giving the tea a palette cleansing and refreshing after taste. It is perfect for drinking in the afternoon as a bit of a pick-me-up. The echinacea has the least extra flavouring in my opinion, and the green tea has a background note that I recognise from trying (and trying) to like proper green tea. They are all nice, and I would recommend that anyone who is like me and always prefers tea with milk over anything else gives them a try – you don’t even have to be that brave because they’re just like normal tea.
EDITED TO ADD - Discussing the Everyday Tea Peppermint Blend with a colleague we decided one excellent thing about these teas was that you can still dunk a biscuit your mug! Traditional herbal teas like peppermint tea are simply no good for dunking your digestive… but these Everyday blends work perfectly. Get drinking and dunking!
Quark is a naturally fat free spoon-able soft cheese. The Lake District Dairy Company, who have launched their new range of Quark in the last week, sent me a hamper of goodies so I could try using it in one savoury and one sweet recipe.
Quark is actually a completely new ingredient to me – I’ve never tried it in any of its forms. My colleague at work, who is Polish, explained that she uses it a lot and it comes in different types – the one she uses is the consistency of cottage cheese, but you can also get it in a wedge and like soft cheese. This Quark from the Lake District Dairy company was rather like mascarpone in texture.
The hamper contained all the ingredients, and I mean all… fresh meat, vegetables, dairy products, store cupboard ingredients (well except the eggs were completely scrambled – who sends eggs by courier?!), I needed to make a Lamb Moussaka and a New York Baked Cheesecake. The recipes have been developed by The Fabulous Baker Brothers who say that Quark is a truly versatile fridge staple. Thankfully the instructions seemed easy to follow!
Quark was used to make the cheese sauce for the Lamb Moussaka. I used butter, flour, milk, bay leaf, salt and pepper and a tub of Quark to create the creamy sauce to layer up with the lamb mince and aubergine. It worked really well – the soft Quark easily melts into the sauce, and when baked gave the dish a lovely depth that complemented the mince and vegetables. The Lake District Dairy Company say that using Quark in this recipe instead of crème fraiche means you have 53% less fat, 158 fewer calories and 26% more protein per portion. That’s quite significant, and as it was really delicious I would definitely make it again this way.
In our house we generally prefer a chilled, set cheesecake. The one I normally make is a white chocolate full-fat affair with mascarpone, soft cheese, double cream and chocolate. If we are out for dinner I would definitely choose a chilled cheesecake over a baked one, and have never attempted to make my own baked cheesecake at home. But this version of New York Cheesecake was very easy to make – the topping is basically four pots (1000g) of Quark, butter, sugar, eggs, the zest of a lemon and some vanilla extract. Using Quark instead of cream cheese means there are a whopping 438 fewer calories, 76% less fat and 2.4 times more protein PER SLICE!!!! Wow. That is incredibly significant – an entire meal’s worth of calories saved by replacing one ingredient with another. No brainer.
And the cheesecake was good! The use of lemon zest and vanilla gave it a really lovely flavour, quite refreshing and not too sweet. I tried it out on family at the weekend, who do say baked cheesecake is their favourite, and they were very impressed with the Quark and how little difference it made to the flavour over using traditional ingredients. They didn’t even mind that I obviously didn’t cook the base long enough before adding the topping (sorry Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry – it had a soggy, and in fact leaky, bottom) – it might not have sliced perfectly, but it tasted good.
The idea of me receiving this hamper of goodies and trying out those recipes was of course for me to say whether or not I’d choose to cook with Quark again. And the answer is simply yes, I would. I’ve got quite a selection of recipes here from The Fabulous Baker Brothers that I’ve been sent, and I am hoping there will be more to come once the Quark website is up and running (it does seem odd to launch a product with only a holding page online).
It is great to have discovered a new-to-me ingredient that can be used as an alternative to cream cheese, crème fraiche, mascarpone, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, fromage frais, double cream and even soured cream – it is better for you than all of those, scoring “all green” on its on-pack Guildeline Daily Amounts information, and holds like the full-fat versions of those other products. I was also impressed with the flavour it provided; it does seem like the perfect product to keep in your fridge for all your cooking! Marvellous.
Thank you very much to the Lake District Dairy Company for sending me a hamper so that I could give Quark a proper test at home. If you want to try it for yourself, and I recommend that you do, you can buy it in Tesco and Morrison’s (in the cheese fridge!).