Archive for the ‘Food and drink’ Category

Shout for sprouts: Fresh new recipes for leftover Christmas sprouts

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Shout for sprouts! Check out these delicious recipes for using up leftover Christmas sprouts.

At this time of year, I’m always fooled into thinking the members of my family love sprouts more than they really do. After everyone’s eaten the obligatory five for Christmas dinner, I’m often left with a fridge drawer stuffed with those controversial vegetables well into the new year.

This year, I’m aiming to get ahead of the game with these fresh new recipes, designed to please even the most ardent brassica hater.

Smoked sprout soup

Smoked sprout winter soup makes a filling lunch or starter

For this smoky, filling winter warmer, you’ll need:

  • 100g Brussels sprouts, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 small potato
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 250ml turkey or chicken stock – if you’re feeling virtuous, you can make some from the turkey carcase
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1 standard 400g tin of chestnuts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 40g butter

What to do:

Cut the sprouts into small pieces. Peel and chop the onion, and put that and the sprouts into a large heavy bottomed pan with the butter.

Cook gently until the onions are soft. Peel and crush the garlic, and add it to the mixture along with the paprika, stirring for a few seconds.

Meanwhile, peel the potato and cut it into small pieces.

Add the stock to the pan and let it come to the boil. Add the potato, and reduce the heat until the soup is just simmering. Cook for around 20 to 25 minutes or until the potato pieces are soft. Add the chestnuts, and cook for another five minutes.

Tip the mixture carefully into a blender, and liquidise until smooth. Return to the pan, and stir in the cream. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with crusty bread.

Sprouts and bacon bake

Sprouts and bacon bake

This makes a great side dish, or even a light main meal when served with salad and crusty bread.

What you’ll need:

  • 60g butter
  • 2 sticks of celery, washed, trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces
  • 1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 700g Brussels sprouts, peeled, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 60g flour
  • 200ml milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 rashers bacon

What to do:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Cut the bacon into small strips, and fry it gently, adding a tiny dab of butter if necessary, until cooked and crispy. Remove from pan and put on one side. Add the remaining butter, onions and celery to the pan, and gently saute until soft.

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the Brussels sprouts for four minutes until they’re a little soft but still bright green in colour. Drain the pain and put the sprouts on one side.

Add the flour to the onion mixture, and stir until you have a smooth paste. Stir in the mustard and add in the milk, and continue to stir until the sauce thickens.

Add the nutmeg, sprouts and bacon and give everything a good stir round. Spoon it all into a baking dish, and bake for around 10 minutes until golden on top.

Roasted sprouts with almonds

Crunchy caramelised roasted sprouts

This makes a delicious side dish, and the crunchy, caramelised roasted sprouts will convince even the most hardened of sprouts haters!

You’ll need:

  • 100g split almonds
  • 700g Brussels sprouts, peeled, trimmed and cut in half lengthways
  • 50ml vegetable oil or 2 tablespoons goose fat, depending on taste
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon

What to do:

Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Put the almonds on a baking tray, and put them in the oven for around a minute – watch them closely as they are quick to burn!

Put the sprouts and vegetable oil in a large bowl and toss together with spoons until the sprouts have an even coating. (If you’re using goose fat, melt it for 30 seconds in the microwave first).

Add salt and pepper to taste, then tip the sprouts on the backing tray you used for the almonds, and turn them so they’re facing cut side down. Put them in the oven and let them roast for around 20 minutes, checking occasionally, until browned and cooked through.

For the last five minutes of cooking time, sprinkle the sugar over the tray and return it to the oven.

When cooked, tip the sprouts into a serving bowl and add the almonds, cheese and lemon juice. Mix well.

By Sara Walker

Make your own cinder toffee this November 5th

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Along with toffee apples, treacle toffee and parkin, cinder toffee is a traditional treat for Bonfire Night. It’s a great project to make with children, and the process of making it is an appealing mixture of science and magic. If you haven’t tasted it before, it’s best described as ‘the inside of a Crunchie bar’ – a beguiling mixture of chewy and crunchy. Here’s how to make your own!

What you’ll need

  • 160g Demerara sugar
  • 160g caster sugar (you can use all caster sugar, but adding the Demerara gives a more caramelised taste)
  • 60ml golden syrup or runny honey
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

You’ll also need a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and ideally, a sugar thermometer. Don’t use too small a pan, as the mixture will treble in volume at the end and if you’ve used too small a pan will overflow onto the counters, monster-from-the-black-lagoon style.

Homemade cinder toffee should be chewy, crunchy, not too sweet and full of bubbles. Photo: Londonsista/Wikimedia Commons/public domain

How to make cinder toffee

Put all the sugar plus the water, butter and syrup into the pan, and heat them very gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Don’t rush this stage, as burning sugar means you’ll have to bin the mixture and start again, and good luck getting it out of the pan!

Stir with a wooden spoon, and when you can no longer hear the sugar granules scraping against the bottom of the pan turn the heat up very slightly and bring the mixture to the boil.

Let it simmer for around 12 to 15 minutes until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on a sugar thermometer – it should also turn a nice rich golden brown colour.

If you do heat it to a hotter temperature it will still work but might be more brittle – take care not to burn it, as well. Adding water to the mixture stops the toffee becoming too hard and brittle.

If you don’t have a thermometer, you can do a good old-fashioned ‘drop test’ – once the mixture has turned golden brown, drop a little spoonful into a bowl of cold water.

Remove the hardened droplet and break it to check the texture – if it’s hard and crunchy the toffee is ready, if it’s still soft and sticky it needs more cooking.

Cinder toffee is what gives Cadbury’s Crunchie its distinctive honeycomb taste. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/public domain

Meanwhile, prepare the tin. You’ll need a 20cm square tin, and grease it very generously with butter (this is so the finished toffee turns out easily. Don’t base line it with greaseproof paper, or it will stick to the toffee! If you do want to line it, foil works better.)

When the mixture reaches the right temperature, take it off the heat and quickly tip in the bicarbonate and whisk it in thoroughly.

This is the exciting/magical bit, when the mixture will bubble up like a volcano, triggered by the heat of the sugar.

This is what puts all the bubbles into the toffee. If you’re making this recipe with young children, let them tip in the bicarbonate but do the stirring yourself in case any specks of hot sugar fly out.

Amongst treacle toffee, parkin and sparklers, cinder toffee is a traditional favourite. Photo: Pixabay

Pour it into the tin, smoothing it well out into the corners. Leave it to set for 10 minutes or so then score it into largish squares. Leave it to set completely, then turn it out and break it into pieces.

If you want to increase the Crunchie flavour, drizzle the squares with melted chocolate.

By Sara Walker


Make refreshing iced tea with a Whittard cold brew T bottle

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

How to make the perfect iced tea

T’is the season for refreshing cold drinks – a nice glass of iced tea, anyone?

If it’s not something you’ve ever fancied, or maybe have been put off by attempts in the past, then now’s the time to think again. Iced tea has been revolutionized (okay, well, made a lot easier to make at least…) by the arrival of the Cold Brew T bottle.

The cold brew T bottle was designed for Whittard by Hario, experts in brewing technology, and looks similar in appearance to a wine bottle. In fact the packaging suggests you could even use your cold tea brew as an alternative to wine at a dinner table…

Whittard cold brew iced tea filter bottle

The idea is that you use loose leaf tea to make your brew. Whittard stock a whole host of loose leaf teas***, including herbal infusions, green tea, fruity infusions and special blends designed for iced tea making.

We tried a mango and bergamot green tea, and a fruit infusion, both of which worked wonderfully well cold and were very refreshing.

How to make perfect summer iced fruit tea

Brewing the tea is easy, here’s a useful step-by-step guide:

Iced tea making guide from Whittard

Depending on the tea you use, it can look quite colourful in the bottle and, once thoroughly chilled, it does make a refreshing summer drink.

The one important thing to remember is that you need to think ahead. Unlike hot tea, which is best made and served fresh, iced tea is better after it’s had time to steep and brew. Don’t worry, this doesn’t make it end up stewed and undrinkable, far from it in fact.

The cold brew bottle is ideal to take to work, to drink for refreshment and hydration during the day. To ensure it’s ready when you need it, you might find it useful to make it the night before and refridgerate it overnight, or make it first thing in the morning and cool in a work fridge ready for the afternoon.

Overall, the cold brew T bottle is a fab concept and a great idea. It brews a gorgeous healthy drink and can be reused time and time again.

The secure top ensures its easily portable without worry about accidental spillages and it’s ideal for taking to work, on a picnic or for summer dining (although we’ll admit that we’re not quite ready to give up wine in the evening in favour of iced tea – one has to indulge a bit!). Give it a try and let us know what you think.

The cold brew T bottle retails for £20 at Whittard of Chelsea.

***Special limited time offer: Spend £10 on loose tea at Whittard and receive a complimentary caddy. Use the promo code “CADDY” when placing an order online (check out their terms and conditions)

(Disclaimer: We were supplied with a cold brew T bottle and teas to test for the purpose of this review, but all views and opinions are our own). 

Friday tipple: Gin-tastic homeware and drinks

Friday, May 1st, 2015

What’s your favourite tipple? Ours has to be a good old, ice cold, refreshing gin and tonic. Come Wednesday Friday we definitely can’t resist indulging and with the Bank Holiday looming, now seems like the perfect time to crack open a bottle.

So to celebrate the end of the week gin fest, here are some gin inspired home ideas. Plus, to make it all the more authentic (well, it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?), we happened to stumble upon some delicious looking gins too.  Cheers!

Gin-tastic home ideas

Fresh Design Friday tipple gintastic gin and tonic

Top row, from left to right:

Celebrate your favourite tipple with a gin cup and saucer – £34 from Yvonne Ellen

Stir your tea with this hand stamped vintage spoon and dream of gin o’clock – £9.50 from Goozeberry Hill

Dry your dishes with gin (well, kind of…). Gin quote tea towel – £11.16 from Of Life and Lemons on Etsy

Middle row, from left to right:

Make Mine a Gin and Tonic typography print – £16 from Oakdene Designs

“When life gives you lemons…” gin inspired typographic print – £14 from Old English Company

Bottom row, from left to right:

Try your hand at making your own homemade gin with this trusty kit – £45 from Urban Outfitters

“Gin to my tonic” print – £14 from Old English Company

Every discerning gin needs ice and why not liven the look of yours up making it with a gin and titonic ice tray – £9 from Oliver Bonas

The gins

Fresh design artisan gin guide

1. Treat yourself to some homemade, award-winning raspberry gin – £18.95 from Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods

2. Bring a touch of summer to your glass, with this Elderflower Edinburgh Gin – £18 from John Lewis

3. Learn about the history of gin, with a tasting set – £21.95 from Master of Malt

4. Get fruity, with a lemon and ginger gin infusion – £29.50 from Gin Tales

5. Try an award-winning German gin, in the form of Monkey 47 dry gin – £35.06 from TheDrinkShop.

6. Go pink, with some artisan Pinkster gin – £35 from Pinkster

Liven up breakfast time with these imaginatively designed products

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Liven up breakfast time with these ideas from Fresh Design Blog

Not a morning person? Help motivate yourself to get on and eat breakfast, by adding some fun to your table, with these imaginative breakfast sets. Perfect for the old and young alike and a quirky gift to give someone.

1. Turn breakfast into a playground, with the train breakfast set – £14.95 from The Letteroom

2. Let the knights out to do battle, with the Arthur egg cup and spoon – £7.95 from Luckies

3. Serve egg and toast in style, with an optimus prime egg cup and toast cutter – £14 from Little Ella James

4. Saddle up your horses and look after your castles, with an egg and soldier breakfast set –  £24.95 from Takae Mizutani and Sons

Fresh and cool: ice cubes with style

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

We love iced drinks, and with a little creativity the ice can become a focal point rather than an afterthought. Here are a few ideas to try.

Floral ice

Grace clear drinks like gin and tonic or Pimms with these pretty floral ice cubes. You’ll need a range of edible flowers – borage works particularly well as the flowers are a very attractive blue, but thyme or basil flowers, marigold petals and shreds of mint and lemon balm leaves will work too. Wash the flowers and put them in a square or shaped ice cube tray. Freeze, turn out into a plastic bag and keep in the freezer until needed.

Coffee ice

Iced coffee is delicious, but watery, diluted coffee is less so. Make some coffee ice cubes, and use them to chill your iced coffee so you get the temperature without the dilution. Make a quantity of fresh, strong, black coffee, leave it to cool then simply fill the ice cube tray and freeze.

Spicy ice

Make the ice cubes into a component of the drink. Perfect for adding to gin and tonic, brandy sours or just mineral water or lemonade, these ice cubes taste as good as they look. With a sharp knife, cut strips of zest from a large, washed, organic lemon, trying not to take any of the pith. Repeat with two organic limes. Peel and finely chop a one inch piece of root ginger. Divide everything between the ice cube trays, top up with water and freeze.

Fruity ice

Freeze fruit into ice cubes to serve with lemonade, soda or fruit punch. Fruits that work well are blueberries, strawberry chunks, diced melon, cubed pineapple, orange segments and apricots. Avoid anything too over-ripe or soft, such as raspberries, as they’ll disintegrate as they thaw.

Flavoured ice

Fruit juice such as apple, orange or pineapple, fruit squash or water with a few drops of mint or orange flavouring added are all perfect for adding to a fruit punch, and children can eat them as mini ice lollies as well.

Chocolate ice

Put a few tablespoons of chocolate syrup into a pan, and add at least twice the quantity of water. Gently heat together until fully combined, then cool and freeze. This also works well with other syrups such as caramel or Amaretto, and these sweet flavoured ice cubes are great for adding to iced coffee.

Coloured ice

Ideal for a child’s birthday party or a kitsch summery lunch party are coloured ice cubes. Add a few drops of food colouring – pink works well – then freeze as usual. You could also add a slice of strawberry or cube of cucumber for a three dimensional effect.

Top icy buys

1. Giant ice cube tray, Hunter Gatherer

Make a statement with this giant ice cube tray

This outsize tray makes large 2″/4cm blocks of ice, which melt more slowly than standard-sized cubes. Made from silicon so the blocks are easy to remove, the tray costs £12.75 from Hunter Gatherer.

2. Nuts and bolts ice cube tray, Whisk Hampers

Sure to raise a smile are these nuts and bolts ice cubes, ideal for the worker in your life to enjoy in that end-of-the-day drink. £5.95, available from Whisk Hampers.

3. Gin and titronic ice cube tray, Maiden

Iceberg ahoy!

Of all the novelty ice cube trays we’ve seen, we love this ‘gin and titronic’ set. With four icebergs and four ocean liners, your ice cubes will be the talking point of the party. £8, available from Maiden.

4. Pea pod ice tray, Red 5

This neat little pea pod ice tray makes perfectly round ice ‘cubes’, ideal for use with our recipes. £9.95, available from Red 5.

**For more great icy ideas to help you keep cool this summer – including ice cream makers, ice cube makers and ice lolly moulds – check out our Ice Cool collection on eBay.

By Sara Walker

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